A very scarce and nicely preserved authorial holograph with un-published additions of an important letter by pioneer Methodist, James Creighton [1739-1819].
Originally ordained to the Anglican priesthood in 1765, from 1769 to 1783 he served as curate at Swanlinbar. Unconverted, it was in during this time he read the Appeals which John Wesley sent him in response to an enquiry, met Wesley himself in 1773 and was converted to Christ in 1776. His new-found enthusiasm for a living, present Christ, called his "Methodist irregularities," led to accusations of preaching beyond his own parish and preaching salvation by faith. It ultimately led to his being removed from his ministry. So, in 1783 he became one of Wesley's assistants at Wesley's Chapel, reading prayers and administering the sacrament there and elsewhere in the London Circuit and editing the Arminian Magazine from 1788 to 1792. In 1784 he was named in the Deed of Declaration as one of the Legal Hundred. He assisted that year at the ordination in Bristol of Thomas Coke and preachers for America, but in the 1790s was a moderating influence in the disputes that followed Wesley's death.
*The “Legal Hundred.” By the Deed of Declaration (1784) John Wesley defined the Conference for legal purposes as consisting after his death of one hundred preachers (including eleven Irish-based) listed by him, with provision for their succession in perpetuity. This numerical limit and his choice of names created some dissension and resignations. Some of the itinerants who were not named in the Deed initiated an appeal against it and at the Conference of that year feelings ran high, until an intervention by John Fletcher reconciled the opposing sides.
The present full authorial holograph, in Creighton's hand, was retained as his personal copy of a letter he submitted for publication to the Arminian Magazine for 1794, beginning page 437. It does contain minor additions not present in the published version, the original of which we believe to be lost.
"London, April 22, 1794.
Copy of a letter. Having preached at the Chapel in the City Road on Sunday the 13th of April 1794 I received an impertinent note a few days after from a man who has embraced the doctrine of Universal Restoration to whom I addressed the following letter in the Methodist Magazine.
“Sir. As this is a free-thinking age, you have undoubtedly a right to think for yourself and to publish your free-thoughts to the world, if you choose. But it is presumed you will cordially give the same liberty to others which you claim yourself.
When I preached lately at the Chapel in the City Road, I used some arguments to urge my audience to holiness of life and conversation in this world in order to their being happy in the next. Some things which I advanced, it seems, did not please you. Well, you might have let them pass, and think for yourself. I believe that ninety nine in a hundred of the auditors approved of what they then heard, and if you and two or three more were offended at some expressions, you and they have full liberty to abound in your private opinion. The doctrines which I advanced were briefly these.
1. The fall of man, which implies losing the favour and image of God, and so becoming miserable.
2. The possibility of his restoration in this life, both to the favour and image of God, and consequently of his being happy here and hereafter.
3. I pointed out the means or method to be used, in order to this end, or the terms required on man’s part, previous to his recovering the favour and image of God. These terms are repentance and faith, but the meritorious cause is the death and sufferings of Jesus Christ.
4. I showed the nature of justification, and how God is just in acquitting the hearer or in justifying him that believeth in Jesus. I likewise advanced arguments and quoted scripture texts to prove that when God pardoneth and absolveth all that truly repent and unfeignedly believe, it is their privilege to know they are forgiven or restored to the favour of God.
5. In speaking of sanctification I said that the blood of Christ is the only fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, and that the soul may and must be cleansed in this life from all its filthiness and from every stain which it hath contracted here, and that this is affected by a spiritual application, through faith in a Saviour’s blood. In speaking to this point I took notice of several kinds of purgatories, which have been adopted by men in various ages, some of which I had read of at school in heathen authors, which seem to me to be ridiculous and absurd.
These doctrines, I believe, are clearly contained in the Liturgy, Collectd, Homilies and Articles of the Church of England to which I had subscribed thirty years ago; and I do not yet see a reason to reject them. I believe them to be the doctrines of our Lord and of his Apostles, and to be consonant to the whole tenor of scripture.
It is allowed on all hands, I believe, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord: that the pure in heart (and they only) shall see God in glory. Now, Sir, if I point out to my hearers a meat or medicine whereby they may be cleansed from all unrighteousness before the soul and body are parted: and if I exhort them to lay hold of this their privilege now, and not to neglect so great a salvation, surely no person need be offended with me for so doing.
I believe that any opinions that tend directly or indirectly to cause men to slacken their pace in pursuit of holiness are dangerous. But they are more so if they tend by any means to encourage libertinism or licentiousness, which is hurtful to individuals, to the community at large, and derogatory of the glory of God. Men are prone enough already, nay, their heart is fully set in them to do evil, because sentence against them is not executed speedily, how much more so would they be when told that their punishment will some time have an end. Would they not still venture to walk in the broad way, and avoid the narrow one; notwithstanding Christ hath told them that the former leadeth to destruction and the latter to happiness and eternal life?
If you sir, and some others assert that devils and ‘all lapsed intelligences’ (to use your own expression) shall be restored in some future age; supposing that your assertions were even true; yet you must acknowledge that I point out to my hearers a more excellent way, when I tell them that they may be saved now, this day, this hour, this moment: and when I ground my assertion upon scripture, upon reason and upon the attributes of God.
You grant that there is a hell; and that the torments thereof are dreadful beyond description; but you suppose that they will have an end, though they may continue for some millions of ages. Now, Sir, if you can rescue those unhappy beings that are there from their misery, it will not hurt me or my hearers at all; but it would hurt us exceedingly if, dying without holiness, we should run the risk of being punished for a thousand ages, or even a thousand years in hellfire. But supposing your assertion or opinion to be false; then we run a still more dreadful risk if we die without recovering the image of God in this life; being, we believe that he ‘who dies unpurged forever dies;’ that he who is filthy shall be filthy still, and that there is no work in the grave wither we are going.
Whether, therefore, your opinion be true or false, I stand upon safe ground when I exhort my hearers to press after holiness in this life. Here I fix my foot: on this ground I stand, and neither men nor devils shall move me from it.
As you claim a right to think for yourself, you will, it is to be hoped, do to others as you wish to be done by; and will, therefore, allow me and my hearers the privilege of our birthright.