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LETTERS ON MISCELLANEOUS SUBJECTS.
To GEORGE WHITFIELD.' (The Preacher.)
On Faith and Good Works.
Philadelphia, June 6, 1753. I received your kind letter of the ed instant, and am glad to hear that you increase in strength; I hope you will continue mending till you recover your former health and firmness. Let me know whether you still use the cold bath, and what effect it has.
As to the kindness you mention, I wish it could have been of more service to you. But if it had, the only thanks I should desire is, that you would always be
"One of the founders of the Methodists; born at Glocester, 1714, died in New England, 1770. See a full account of him in the Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Franklin. Vol. I.
equally ready to serve any other person that may need your assistance, and so let good offices go round; for mankind are all of a family.
For my own part, when I am employed in serving others, I do not look upon myself as conferring favors, but as paying debts. In my travels, and since my settlement, I have received much kindness from men, to whom I shall never have any opportunity of making the least direct return; and numberless mercies from God, who is infinitely above being benefited by our services. Those kindnesses from men, I can therefore only return on their fellow men, and I can only show my gratitude for these mercies from God, by a readiness to help his other children, and my brethren. For I do not think that thanks and compliments, though repeated weekly, can discharge our real obligations to each other, and much less those to our Creator. You will see in this my notion of good works, that I am far from expecting to merit heaven by them. By heaven we understand a state of happiness, infinite iu degree, and eternal in duration : I can do nothing to deserve such rewards. He that for giving a draught of water to a thirsty person, should expect to be paid with a good plantation, would be modest in his demands, compared with those who think they deserve heaven for the little good they do on earth. Even the mixed imperfect pleasures we enjoy in this world, are rather from God's goodness than our merit: how much more such happiness of heaven! For my part, I have not the vanity to think I deserve it, the folly to expect it, nor the ambit tion to desire it; but content myself in submitting to the will and disposal of that God who made me, who has hitherto preserved and blessed me, and in whose fatherly
goodness I may well confide, that he will never make me miserable; and that even the afflictions I may at any time suffer shall tend to my benefit.
The faith you mention has certainly its use in the world: I do not desire to see it diminished, nor would I endeavour to lessen it in any man.
But I wish it were more productive of good works, than I have generally seen it: I mean real good works; works of kindness, charity, mercy, and public spirit; not holiday-keeping, sermon-reading, or hearing ; performing church ceremonies, or making long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments, despised even by wise men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity. The worship of God is a duty; the hearing and reading of sermons may be useful; but if men rest in hearing and praying, as too many do, it is as if a tree should value itself on being watered and putting forth leaves, though it never produced any fruit.
Your great master thought much less of these outward appearances and professions, than many of his modern disciples. He preferred the doers of the word to the mere hearers; the son that seemingly refused to obey his father, and yet performed his commands, to him that professed his readiness but neglected the work; the heretical but charitable Samaritan, to the uncharitable though orthodox priest, and sanctified Levite; and those who gave food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, raiment to the naked, entertainment to the stranger, and relief to the sick, though they never heard of his name, he declares shall in the last day be accepted; when those who cry Lord! Lord! who value themselves upon their faith, though great enough to perform miracles, but have neglected good works, shall be rejected. He professed that he came 'not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance ; which implied his modest opinion that there were some in his time who thought themselves so good that they need not hear even him for improvement; but now-a-days we have scarce a little parson that does not think it the duty of every man within his reach to sit under his petty ministrations; and that whoever omits them, offends God. I wish to such more humility, and to you health and happiness; being Your friend and servant,
To Miss STEVENSON, AT WANSTEAD.
Advice in Reading
Craven Street, May 16, 1760), I send my good girl the books I mentioned to her last night. I beg her to accept of them as a small mark of my esteem and friendship. They are written in the familiar easy manner for which the French are so remarkable; and afford a good deal of philosophic and practical knowledge unembarrassed with the dry mathematics, used by more exact reasoners, but which is apt to discourage young beginners.
I would advise you to read with a pen in your hand, and enter in a little book short hints of what you find that is curious, or that may be useful; for this will be the best method of imprinting such particulars in your memory, where they will be ready, either for practice on some future occasion, if they are matters of utility; or at least to adorn and improve your conversation, if they are rather points of curiosity. And as many of the terms of science are such as you cannot have met with in your common read
ing, and may therefore be unacquainted with, I think it would be well for you to have a good dictionary at hand, to consult immediately when you meet with a word you do not comprehend the precise meaning of. This may at first seem troublesome and interrupting ; but it is a trouble that will daily diminish, as you will daily find less and less occasion for your dictionary as you become more acquainted with the terms; and in the mean time you will read with more satisfaction, because with more understanding. When any point occurs, in which you would be glad to have farther information than your book affords you, I beg you would not in the least apprehend, that I should think it a trouble to receive and answer your questions. It will be a pleasure, and no trouble. For though I may not be able, out of my own little stock of knowledge, to afford you what you require, I can easily direct you to the books, where it may most readily be found. Adieu, and believe me ever, my dear friend, Your's affectionately,
To John BASKERVILLE.' (The Printer.)
Craven Street, London, 1760. Let me give you a pleasant instance of the prejudice some have entertained against your work. Soon
foun BASKERVILLE, the celebrated type-founder and printer, was born in 1706, at Wolverley, in the County of Worcester. Having a small estate of about sixty pounds a year, he was not bred to any profession; but in 1726, he became a schoolmaster at Birm, ingham, which he continued many years. Afterwards he entered