AN EQUAL CHECK
PHARISAISM AND ANTINOMIANISM:
I. An Historical Essay on the Danger of Parting Faith and Works.
II. Salvation by the Covenant of Grace, a Discourse preached in the Parish Church of Madeley, April 18, and May 9, 1773.
III. A Scriptural Essay on the astonishing Rewardableness of Works, according to the Covenant of Grace.
IV. An Essay on Truth; or a Rational Vindication of the Doctrine of Salvation by Faith, with a Dedicatory Epistle to the Right Hon. the Countess of Huntingdon.
BY THE AUTHOR OF THE
CHECKS TO ANTINOMIANISM.
The armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 2 Cor. vi, 7.
PREFACE TO EQUAL CHECK
THE first piece of this Check was designed for a preface to the discourse that follows it: but as it swelled far beyond my intention, I present it to the reader under the name of the Historical Essay; which makes way for the tracts that follow.
2. With respect to the discourse, I must mention what engages me to publish it. In 1771, I saw the propositions called the Minutes.- Their author invited me to "review the whole affair." I did so; and soon found that I had "leaned too much toward Calvinism," which, after mature consideration, appeared to me exactly to coincide with speculative Antinomianism; and the same year I publicly acknowledged my error in these words:- "But whence springs this almost general Antinomianism of our congregations? Shall I conceal the sore because it festers in my own breast? Shall I be partial? No: in the name of Him, who is no respecter of persons, I will confess my sin, and that of many of my brethren, &c. Is not the Antinomianism of hearers fomented by that of preachers? Does it not become us to take the greatest part of the blame upon ourselves, according to the old adage, Like priest, like people? Is it surprising that some of us should have an Antinomian audience? Do we not make or keep it so? When did we preach such a practical sermon as that of our Lord on the mount? or write such close letters as the Epistles of St. John?" (Second Check, p. 107, to the end of the paragraph.)
When I had thus openly confessed that I was involved in the guilt of "many of my brethren," and that I had so leaned toward speculative, as not to have made a proper stand against practical Antinomianism; who could have thought that one of my most formidable opponents would have attempted to screen his mistakes behind some passages of a manuscript sermon, which I preached twelve years ago, and of which, by some means or other, he has got a copy?
I am very far, however, from recanting that old discourse. I still think the doctrine it contains excellent in the main, and very proper to be enforced, (though in a more guarded manner,) in a congregation of hearers violently prejudiced against the first Gospel axiom. Therefore, out of regard for the grand leading truth of Christianity, and in compliance with Mr. Hill's earnest entreaty, (Finishing Stroke, p. 45,) I send my sermon into the world, upon the following reasonable conditions: (1.) That I shall be allowed to publish it, as I preached it a year ago in my church; namely, with additions in brackets, [ ]to make it at once a fuller check to Pharisaism, and a finishing check to Antinomianism. (2.) That the largest addition shall be in favour of free grace. (3.) That nobody shall accuse me of forgery, for thus adding my present light to that which I had formerly; and for thus bringing out of my little treasure of experience things new and old. (4.) That the press shall not groan with the charge of disingenuity, if I throw into notes some unguarded expressions, which formerly used without scruple, and which my more enlightened conscience does not suffer me to use at present. (5.) That my opponent's call to print my sermon will procure me the pardon of the public for presenting them with a plain, blunt discourse, composed for an audience chiefly made up of colliers and rustics. And (lastly,) that, as I understand English a little better than I did twelve years ago, I shall be permitted to rectify a few French idioms, which I find in my old manuscript; and to connect my thoughts a little more like an Englishman, where I can do it without the least misrepresentation of the sense.
If these conditions appear unreasonable to those who will have heaven itself without any condition, I abolish the distinction between my old sermon and the additions that guard or strengthen it; and referring the reader to the title page, I publish my discourse on Rom. xi, 5, 6, as a guarded sermon delivered in my church on Sunday, April 18, &c, 1773, exactly eleven years after I had preached upon the same text a sermon useful upon the whole, but in some places unguarded, and deficient with respect to the variety of arguments and motives, by which the capital doctrines of free grace and Gospel obedience ought to be enforced.
3. With regard to the Scriptural Essay upon the rewardableness, of evangelical worthiness of works, I shall just observe that it attacks the grand mistake of the Solifidians, countenanced by three or four words of my old sermon. I pour a flood of scriptures upon it; and after receiving the fire of my objector, I return it in a variety of Scriptural and rational answers, about the solidity of which the public must decide.
4. The Essay on Truth will, I hope, reconcile judicious moralists to the doctrine of salvation by faith, and considerate Solifidians to the doctrine of salvation by the works of faith; reason and Scripture concurring to show the constant dependence of works upon faith; and the wonderful agreement of the doctrine of present salvation by Pure faith. with the doctrine of eternal salvation by GOOD works.
I hope that I do not dissent, in my observations upon faith, either from our Church, or approved Gospel ministers. In their highest definition of that grace, they consider it only according to the fullness of the Christian dispensation: but my subject has obliged me to consider it also according to the dispensations of John the Baptist, Moses, and Noah. Believers, under these inferior dispensations, have not always assurance; nor is the assurance they sometimes have so bright as that of adult Christians; Matt. xi, 11. But undoubtedly assurance is inseparably connected with the faith of the Christian dispensation, which was not fully opened till Christ opened his glorious baptism on the day of pentecost, and till his spiritual kingdom was set up with power in the hearts of his people. Nobody therefore can truly believe, according to this dispensation, without being immediately conscious both of the forgiveness of sins, and of peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. This is a most important truth, derided indeed by fallen Churchmen, and denied by Laodicean Dissenters; but of late years gloriously revived by Mr. Wesley and the ministers connected with him. A truth this, which cannot be too strongly, and yet too warily insisted upon in our lukewarm and speculative age: and as I would not obscure it for the world, I particularly entreat the reader to mind the last erratum; without omitting the last but one, which guards the doctrine of initial salvation by absolute free grace.
I do not desire to provoke my able opponents; but I must own, I should be glad to reap the benefit of my Checks, either by finding an increase of religious sobriety and mutual forbearance among those who make a peculiar profession of faith in Christ; or by seeing my mistakes (if I am mistaken) brought to light, that I might no longer recommend them as Gospel truths. With this view only I humbly entreat my brethren and fathers in the Church to point out by Scripture or argument the doctrinal errors that may have crept into the Equal Check. But if, upon close examination, they should find that it holds forth the two Gospel axioms in due conjunction; and marks out the evangelical mean with strict impartiality; I hope the moderate and judicious, in the Calvinistic and anti-Calvinistic party, will so far unite upon this plan, as to keep on terms of reciprocal toleration and brotherly kindness together; rising with redoubled indignation, not one against another, but against those pests of the religious world, prejudice and bigotry, the genuine parents of implacable fanaticism, and bloody persecution.
MADELEY, May 21, 1774.
AN HISTORICAL ESSAY,
Upon the importance and harmony of the two Gospel precepts, believe and obey; and upon the fatal consequences that flow from parting faith and works.
WHEN the Gospel is considered as opposed to the error of the Pharisees, and that of the Antinomians, it may be summed up in the two following propositions: (1.) In the day of conversion we are saved freely as sinners, (i.e. made freely partakers of the privileges that belong to our Gospel dispensation in the Church militant,) through the merits of Christ, and by the instrumentality of a living faith. (2.) In the day of judgment we shall be saved freely as saints, (i.e. made freely partakers of the privileges of our Gospel dispensation in the Church triumphant,) through the merits of Christ, and by the evidence of evangelical works. Whence it follows: (1.) That nothing can absolutely hinder our justification in a Gospel day but the want of true faith; and, (2.) That nothing will absolutely hinder our justification in the day of judgment but the want of good works. If I am not mistaken, all the evangelical doctrine of faith and works turns upon those propositions. They exactly answer to the grand directions of the Gospel. Wilt thou enter into Christ's sheepfold? Believe. Wilt thou stay there? Believe and obey. Wilt thou be numbered among his sheep in the great day? Endure unto the end: continue in well doing; that is, persevere in faith and obedience.
To believe then and obey, or, as Solomon expresses it, "to fear God and keep his commandments is the whole duty of man." Therefore, a professor of the faith without genuine obedience, and a pretender to obedience without genuine faith, equally miss their aim; while a friend to faith and works put in their proper place, a possessor of the faith which works by love, hits the Gospel mark, and so runs as to obtain the prize: for the same "true and faithful Witness" spoke the two following, and equally express declarations:--" He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him," John iii, 36. And, "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in their graves shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of condemnation," John v, 29.
See that sculler upon yonder river. The unwearied diligence and watchful skill with which he plies his two oars point out to us the work and wisdom of an experienced divine. What an even, gentle spring does the mutual effort of his oars give to his boat! Observe him: his right hand never rests but when the stream carries him too much to the left; he slacks not his left hand unless he is gone too much to the right; nor has he sooner recovered a just medium than he uses both oars again with mutual harmony. Suppose that for a constancy he employed but one, no matter which, what would be the consequence? He would only move in a circle; and if neither wind nor tide carried him along, after a hard day's work he would find himself in the very spot where he began his idle toil.
This illustration needs very little explaining: I shall just observe that the Antinomian is like a sculler, who uses only his right hand oar; and the Pharisee, like him who plies only the oar in his left hand. One makes an endless bustle about grace and faith, the other about charity and works; but both, after all, find themselves exactly in the same case, with this single difference, that one has turned from truth to the right, and the other to the left.
Not so the judicious, unbiased preacher, who will safely enter the haven of eternal rest, for which he and his hearers are bound. He makes an equal use of the doctrine of faith, and that of works. If at any the he insist most upon faith, it is only when the stream carries his congregation upon the Pharisaical shallows on the left hand. And if he lay a preponderating stress upon works, it is only when he sees unwary souls sucked into the Antinomian whirlpool on the right hand. His skill consists in so avoiding one danger as not to run upon the other.
Nor ought this watchful wisdom to be confined to ministers; for though all are not called to direct congregations, yet all moral agents are, and always were, more or less, called to direct themselves, that is, to occupy till the Lord come, by making a proper use of their talents according to the parable, Matt. xxv, 15-31. God gave to angels and man "remigiurn alarurn," the two oars, or, if you please, the equal wings of faith and obedience; charging them to use those grand powers according to their original wisdom and enlightened conscience. Or, to speak without metaphor, he created them in such a manner that they believed it their duty, interest, and glory, to obey him without reserve; and this faith was naturally productive of a universal, delightful, perfect obedience. Nor would they ever have been wanting in practice if they had not first wavered in principle. But when Lucifer had unaccountably persuaded himself, in part at least, either that obedience was mean, or that rebellion would be advantageous; and when the crafty tempter had made our first parents believe, in part, that if they ate of the forbidden fruit, far from dying, they should be as God himself: how possible, how easy was it for them to venture upon an act of rebellion! By rashly playing with the serpent, and sucking in the venom of his crafty insinuations, they soon gave their faith a willful wound, and their obedience naturally died of it. But, alas! it did not die unrevenged; for no sooner had fainting faith given birth to a dead work, than she was destroyed by her spurious offspring. Thus faith and obedience, that couple more lovely than David and his friend, more inseparable than Saul and Jonathan, in their death were not divided. They even met with a common grave, the corrupt, atrocious breast of a rebellious angel, or of apostate man.
Nor does St. James give us a less melancholy account of this fatal error. While faith slumbered, "lust conceived and brought forth sin, and sin finished, brought forth death," the death of faith, and consequently the moral death of angelic spirits and human souls, who equally live by faith during their state of probation. So fell Lucifer from heaven, to rule and rage in the darkness of this world: so fell Adam from paradise, to toil and die in this vale of tears: so fell Judas from an apostolic throne, to hang himself, and go to his own place.
Nor can we rise but in a way parallel to that by which they fell. For as a disbelief of our CREATOR, productive of bad works, sunk our first parents; so a faith in our REDEEMER, productive of good works, must instrumentally raise their fallen posterity.
Should you ask which is most necessary to salvation, faith or works? I beg leave to propose a similar question: Which is most essential to breathing, inspiration or expiration? If you reply, that "the moment either is absolutely at an end, so is the other; and therefore both are equally important:" I return exactly the same answer. If humble faith receive the breath of spiritual life, obedient love gratefully returns it, and makes way for a fresh supply. When it does not, the Spirit is grieved: and if this want of co-operation is persisted in to the end of the day of salvation, the sin unto death is committed, the Spirit is quenched in his saving operation, the apostate dies the second death, and his corrupt soul is cast into the bottomless pit, as a putrid corpse into the noisome grave.
Again: if faith has the advantage over works by giving them birth, works have the advantage over faith by perfecting it." Seest thou," says St. James, speaking of the father of the faithful, "how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?" And if St. Paul affirms that works without faith are dead, St. James maintains, "faith without works is dead also."
Once more: Christ is always the primary, original, properly meritorious cause of our justification and salvation. To dispute it is to renounce the faith, and to plead for antichrist. And yet to deny that, under this primary cause, there are secondary, subordinate, instrumental causes of our justification, and consequently of our salvation, is to set the Bible aside, and fly in the face of judicious Calvinists, who cannot help maintaining it, both from the pulpit and from the press.
Now, Faith in God as a Creator, Lawgiver, and Judge, was not less necessary to Lucifer and Adam, in order to their standing in a state of innocence, than faith in God as Redeemer, Sanctifier, and Rewarder of them that diligently seek him, is necessary to sinners in order to their [ y] from a state of guilt; or to believers, in order to avoid relapses and final apostasy. Faith, therefore, so far as it implies an unshaken confidence in God and a firm adherence to his will, is as eternal as love and obedience. But when it is considered as "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen," which are essential properties of a believer's faith in this present state of things, it is evident that it will necessarily end in sight, as soon as the curtain of the is drawn up; and terminate in enjoyment, as soon as God's glory appears without a veil.
The Rev. Mr. Madan does not scruple to call our faith "the instrumental cause" of our justification. (See his sermon on James ii, 24, printed by Fuller, London, 1761, page 18,) And if we shall be justified in the day of judgment by our words, they shall undoubtedly be at least an evidencing cause of our final justification. Hence it is that the same judicious divine speaks (p. 30, 1. 4, &c,) of our being if in the day of our conversion faith is the secondary, subordinate cause of our acceptance as penitent sinners; in the day of judgment works, even the works of faith, will be the secondary, subordinate cause of our acceptance as persevering saints. Let us therefore equally decry dead faith and dead works, equally recommend living faith and its important fruits.
Hitherto I have endeavoured to check the rapid progress of speculative Antinomianism that perpetually decries works, and centres in the following paragraph, which presents without disguise the doctrine of the absolute, unconditional perseverance of adulterous believers, and incestuous saints:
Saving faith, being immortal, can not only subsist without the help of good works, but no aggravated crimes can give it a finishing stroke. A believer may in cool blood murder a man, after having seduced his wife, without exposing himself to the least real danger of forfeiting either his heavenly inheritance, or the Divine favour; because his salvation, which is finished in the full extent of the word, without any of his good works, cannot possibly be frustrated by any of his evil ones.
It will not be improper now to attempt a check to Pharisaism, which perpetually opposes faith, and whose destructive errors, collected in one position, may run thus:-If anyone perform external acts of worship toward God, and of charity toward their neighbour, their principles are good enough: and should they be faulty, these good works will make ample amends for that deficiency. Upon this common plan of "justified in this three-fold sense of the word, meritoriously by Christ, instrumentally by faith, and declaratively by works, which are the fruits of faith."
The reader will permit me to illustrate the essential difference there is between primary and secondary causes, by the manner in which David became Saul's son-in-law. The primary causes of this event were undoubtedly, on God's part, assisting power and wisdom; and on King Saul's part, a free promise of giving his daughter in marriage to the man who should kill Goliah. The secondary causes, according to the Rev. Mr. Madan's plan, maybe divided into instrumental and declarative. The instrumental causes of David's honourable match were his faith, his sling, his stone, Goliath's sword, &c. And the declarative or evidencing causes were his works. He insists upon fighting the giant, he renounces carnal weapons, puts on the armor of God, runs to meet his adversary, slings a fortunate stone, brings his adversary down, flies upon him, and cuts off his head. By these works he was evidenced a person duly qualified to marry the princess; or, to keep to the Rev. Mr. Madan's expression, "by" these "works" he was "declaratively" judged a man fit to be rewarded with the hand of the princess. Now, is it not clear that his works, upon the evidence of which he received such a reward, had as important a part in his obtaining it, as the faith and sling, by whose instrumentality he wrought the works? And is it not strange that the Rev. Mr. Madan should be an orthodox divine, when he says that "we are declaratively justified by works," and that Mr. Wesley should be a dreadful heretic for saying that we are "saved, not by the merit of works, but by works as a condition;" or, in other terms, that we are finally justified, not by works as the primary, meritorious cause; but as a secondary, evidencing, declarative cause?
* The ingenious author of a new book, called "Essays on Public Worship, Patriotism," &c, does not scruple to send such an exhortation abroad into the world:--"Let us substitute honesty instead of faith. It is the only foundation of a moral character, and it ought to be the only test of our religion. It should not signify what, or how little a man believed, if he was honest. This would put Christianity upon the best footing." (See the Monthly Review for March, 1773.)
[doctrine, if the filthy sepulchre is but whitewashed, and the noisome grave adorned with a flowery turf, it little matters what is within, whether it be a dead man's bones, a dead heart swelled with pride. In all manner of corruption.]
It is hard to say who do Christianity most disservice, the Solifidians, who assert that works are nothing "before God;" or the Pharisees, who maintain that certain religious ceremonies, and external duties of morality, are the very soul of religion. O thou true believer, bear thy testimony against both their errors; and equally contend for the tree and the fruit, the faith of St. Paul and the works of St. James; remembering that if ever the gates of hell prevail against thee, it will be by making thee overvalue faith and despise good works, or overrate works, and slight "precious faith."
The world, I grant, is full of Galhios, easy or busy men, who seldom trouble themselves about faith or works, law or Gospel. Their latitudinarian principles perfectly agree with their loose conduct: and if their volatile minds are fixed, it is only by a steady adherence to such commandments as these:-" Be not righteous overmuch: get and spend: marry or be given in marriage: eat and drink: lie down to sleep, and rise up to play: care neither for heaven nor hell: mind all of earth, but the awful spot allotted thee for a grave," &c. However, while they punctually observe this decalogue, their conscience is sometimes awakened to a sense of corroding guilt, commonly called uneasiness, or low spirits: and if they cannot shake it off by new scenes of dissipation, new plunges into sensual gratifications, new schemes of hurrying business; if a religious concern fastens upon their breasts, the tempter deludes them, by making his false coin pass for the "gold tried in the fire:" if his dupes will have faith, he makes them take up with that of the Antinomians. If they are for works, he recommends to them those of the self righteous. And if some seem cut out to be brands in the Church-fiery, persecuting, implacable zealots-he gives them a degree in the university of Babel. One is a bachelor of the science of sophistry; another a master of the liberal art of calumny; and a third a doctor in human, or diabolical divinity. But if all these graduates have not as much faith as Simon Magus, or as many works as the conceited Pharisee, yet they may have as much zeal for the Church as the bigot, who set out from Jerusalem for Damascus in pursuit of heretics. They may sometimes pursue those who dissent from them, even "unto strange cities."
Has not the world always swarmed with those devotees, who, blindly following after faith without loving obedience, or after obedience without loving faith, have made havoc of the Church," and driven myriads of worldly men to a settled contempt of godliness: while a few, by equally standing up for true faith and universal obedience, have alone kept up the honour of religion in the world? Take a general view of the Church, and you will see this observation confirmed by a variety of black, bright, and mixed characters.
The first man born of a woman is a striking picture of perverted mankind. He is at once a sullen Pharisee, and a gross Antinomian: he sacrifices to God, and murders his brother. Abel, the illustrious type of converted sinners, truly believes, and acceptably sacrifices.
Faith and works shine in his life with equal lustre; and in his death we see what the godly may expect from the impious Church and the pious world. Protomartyr for the doctrine of this Check, he falls the first innocent victim to Pharisaical pride and Antinomian fury. "The sons of God" mix with "the daughters of men, learn their works," and "make shipwreck of the faith." Enoch nevertheless truly believes in God, and humbly walks with him: faith and works equally adorn his character. The world is soon full of misbelief, and the earth of violence. Noah, however, believes and works: he credits God's word, and builds the ark. This WORK "condemns the world, and he becomes heir of the righteousness which is by FAITH." Consider Abraham; see how he believes and works! God speaks, and he leaves his house, his estate, his friends, and native country. His faith works by love; he exposes his life to recover his neighbour's property; he readily gives up to Lot his right of choice to prevent a quarrel; he earnestly intercedes for Sodom; he charitably hopes the best of its wicked inhabitants; he gladly entertains strangers, humbly washes their feet, diligently instructs his household, and submissively offers up Isaac, his favourite son, the child of his old age, the hope of his family, his own heir, and that of God's promise. By these "works his faith is made perfect," and he deserves to be called the "father of the faithful."
Moses treads in his steps: he believes, quits Pharaoh's court, and suffers affliction with the people of God. Under his conduct the Israelites believe, obey, and cross the Red Sea with a high hand; but soon after they murmur, rebel, and provoke Divine vengeance. Thus the destruction, which they had avoided in Goshen through obedient faith, they meet in the wilderness, through "the works of unbelief." Nature is up in arms to punish their backslidings. The pestilence, the sword, earthquakes, fiery serpents, and fire from heaven, combine to destroy the ungrateful, Antinomian apostates.
In the days of Joshua, that eminent type of Christ, faith and works are happily reconciled; and while they walk hand in hand, Israel is "invincible, the greatest difficulties are surmounted, and the land of promise is conquered, divided, and enjoyed.
Under the next judges faith and works seldom meet; but as often as they do, a deliverance is wrought in Israel. Working believers carry all before them: they "can do all things through the Lord strengthening them." They are little omnipotents. But if they suffer the Antinomian Delilah to cut off their locks, you may apply to them the awful words of David, (spoken to magistrates who forsake the way of righteousness,) "I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High; but ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes;" like Zimri or Korah, Dathan or Abiram.
The character of Samuel, the last of the judges, is perfect. From the cradle to the grave he believes and works: he serves God and his generation. His sons, like those of Eli, halt in practice, and their faith is an abomination to God and man. David believes, works, and kills the blaspheming Philistine. He slides into Antinomian faith, wantonly seduces a married woman, and perfidiously kills an honest man. Solomon follows him in the narrow path of working faith, and in the broad way of speculative and practical Antinomianism. The works of the son correspond with those of the father. Happy for him, if the repentance of the idolatrous king equalled that of his adulterous parent!
In the days of Elijah the gates of hell seemed to have prevailed against the Church. Queen Jezebel had "cut off the prophets of the Lord," and appointed four hundred chaplains to his majesty King Ahab, who shared the dainties of the royal table, and therefore found it easy to demonstrate, that "pleading for Baal" was orthodoxy, and prosecuting honest Naboth as "a blasphemer of God and the king," was an instance of true loyalty. But then all were not lost: seven thousand men showed their faith by their works: they firmly believed in Jehovah, and steadily refused bowing the knee to Baal.
In the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah, wickedness, persecution, and imaginary good works prevailed, under a show of zeal for the temple, and of regard for the people of God. But even then, also, there was a small remnant of believing and working souls, who sat fire to the stubble of wickedness during the pious reign of Hezekiah and Josiah.
Follow the chosen nation to Babylon. They all profess the faith still: but how few believe and work! Some do, however: and by their "work of faith" and "patience of hope" they "quench the violence of fire," and "stop the mouths of lions." And what is more extraordinary still, they strike with astonishment a fierce tyrant, a Nebuchadnezzar; they fill with wonder a cowardly king, a Darius: and disarming the former of his rage, the latter of his fears, they sweetly force them both to confess the true God among their idolatrous courtiers, and throughout their immense dominions.
In the days of Herod the double delusion is at the height. John the Baptist boldly bears his testimony against it in the wilderness, and our Lord upon the mount, in the temple, and every where. But, alas! what is the consequence? By detecting the Antinomianism of the Pharisees, and the Pharisaism of Antinomians, he makes them desperate. The spirit of Cain rises with ten-fold fury against an innocence far superior to that of Abel. Pharisees and Herodians must absolutely glut their malice with his blood. He yields to their rage; and while he "puts away sin by the sacrifice of himself," he condescends to die a martyr for the right faith, and the true works: he seals as a dying priest the truth of the two Gospel axioms, which he had so often sealed as a living prophet, and continues to seal as an eternal Melchisedec.
The apostles, by precept and example, powerfully enforce their Lord's doctrine and practice. Their lives are true copies of their exhortations. Their deepest sermons are only exact descriptions of their behaviour. It is hard to say which excites men most to believe and obey, their seraphic discourses, or their angelic conduct. Their labours are crowned with general success. Judaism and heathenism are every where struck at, and fall under the thunder of their words of faith, and the shining power (might I not say the lightning?) of their works of love. Thus the world is "turned upside down" before faith and works; "the times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord;" and earth, cursed as it is, becomes a paradise for obedient believers.
Hell trembles at the revolution; and before all is lost Satan hastens to "transform himself into an angel of light." In that favourable disguise he puts his usual stratagem in execution against the believing, working, and suffering Church. He instils speculative faith, pleads for relaxed manners, puts the badge of contempt upon the daily cross, and gets the immense body of the Gnostics and Laodiceans into his snare. Sad and sure is the consequence. The genuine works of faith are neglected: idle works of men's invention are substituted for those of God's commandments: and fallen Churches, through the smooth way of Antinomianism, return to the covert way of Pharisaism, or to the broad way of infidelity.
Such was the deplorable condition of the western Church when Luther appeared. True faith was dethroned by superstitious fancy: and all the works of the former were well nigh choked by the thorns that sprang from the latter. The zealous reformer, with his sharp scythe, justly cut them down through a considerable part of Germany. His terribly successful weapon, which had already done some execution in the Netherlands, France, and Italy, might have reached Rome itself, if the effects of his unguarded preaching had not dreadfully broke out around him in the north.
There the balance of the evangelical precepts was lost. Solifidians openly prevailed. Our Lord's sermon upon the mount, and St. James' Epistle, were either explained away, or wished out of the Bible. The amiable, practicable law of Christ was perpetually confounded with the terrible, impracticable law of innocence; and the avoidable penalties of the former were injudiciously represented as one with the dreadful curse of the latter, or with the abrogated ceremonies of the Mosaic dispensation. Then the law was publicly wedded to the devil, and poor Protestant Solifidians were taught to bid equal defiance to both.
The effects soon answered the cause. Lawless believers, known under the name of Anabaptists, arose in Germany. They fancied themselves the dear, the elect people of God; they were complete in Christ; their election was absolutely made sure; all things were thein; and they went about in religious mobs to deliver people from legal bondage, and bring them into Gospel liberty, which, in their opinion, was a liberty to despise all laws, Divine and human, and to do every one what was right in his own eyes. Luther was shocked, and cried out: but the mischief was done, and the reformation disgraced. Nor did he perseveringly, apply the proper remedy pointed out in the Minutes, "Salvation, not by the merit of works, but by the works of faith as a condition."
Nevertheless, he was wise enough to give up the root of the mischief in the Lutheran articles of religion, presented to the Emperor Charles the Fifth at Augsburg, whence they were called, The Augsburg Confession. In the twelfth of those articles, which treats of repentance, we find these remarkable words: "We teach, touching repentance, that those who have sinned after baptism may obtain the forgiveness of their sins as soon as they are converted," &c. Again: "We condemn the Anabaptists, who say that those who have been once justified can no more lose the Holy Spirit."
This doctrine clearly opened, and frequently enforced, might have stopped the progress of Antinomianism. But, alas! Luther did not insist upon it, and sometimes he seemed even to contradict it.
In the meantime Calvin came up; and though I must do him the justice to acknowledge that he seldom went the length of modern Calvinists in speculative Antinomianism, yet he made the matter worse by advancing many unguarded propositions about absolute decrees, and the necessary final perseverance of backsliding believers.
This doctrine, which, together with its appendages, so nicely reconciles Baal and free grace; a little, or (if the backslider is so minded) a good deal of the world and heaven; this flesh-pleasing doctrine, which slyly parts faith and works, while it decently unites Christ and Belial, could not but be acceptable to injudicious and carnal Protestants. And to make it pass with others, it was pompously decorated with the name of the doctrine of grace; and free grace preachers, as they call themselves, insinuated that St. James' doctrine of "faith being dead without works," was a doctrine of wrath, an uncomfortable, anti-christian doctrine, which none but "proud Justiciaries" and rank Papists could maintain. Time would fail to mention all the books that were indirectly written against it; or to relate all the abuse that was indirectly thrown upon these two propositions of St. Paul, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," and, "If ye live after the flesh ye shall die."
Let it suffice to observe, that by these means the hellish sower of Antinomian tares prevailed. Thousands of good men were carried away by the stream; and, what is more surprising still, not a few of the wise and learned, favoured, embraced, and defended the Antinomian delusion.
Thus what Luther's Solifidian zeal had begun, and what Calvin's predestinarian mistakes had carried on, was readily completed by the synod of Dort; and the Antinomianism of many Protestants was not less confirmed by that assembly of Calvinistic divines, than the Pharisaism of many Papists had been before by the council of Trent.
It is true, that as some good men in the Church of Rome have boldly withstood Pharisaical errors, and openly pleaded for salvation by grace through faith; so some good men in the Protestant Churches have also steadily resisted Antinomian delusions, and publicly defended the doctrine of salvation, not by the proper merit of works, but by the works of faith as a condition. But, alas! As the popes of Rome crushed or excommunicated the former almost as fast as they arose; so have petty Protestant popes blackened or silenced the latter. The true Quakers, from their first appearance, have made as firm a stand against the Antinomians, as the Valdenses against the Papists; and it is well known that the Antinomians, who went from England to America with many pious Puritans, whipped the Quakers, men and women, cut off their ears, made against them a law of banishment upon pain of death, and upon that tyrannical law hanged four of their preachers, three men and one woman*, in the last century for preaching up the Christian perfection of faith and obedience, and so disturbing the peace of the elect, who were "at ease in Sion," or rather in Babel.
* Their names were William Leddra, Marmadiike Stephenson, William Robinson, and Mary Dyer. (See The History of the Quakers, by Sewell; amid New England Judged, by George Bishop.)
I need not mention the title of heretic with which that learned and good man, Arminius, is to this day dignified, for having made a firm and noble stand against wanton free grace. The banishment or deprivation of Grotius, Episcopius, and other Dutch divines, is no secret. And it is well known that in England Mr. Baxter, Mr. Wesley, and Mr. Sellon, are to this day "an abhorrence to all Antinomian flesh."
I am sorry to say, that, all things considered, these good men have been treated with as much severity by Protestant Antinomians, as ever Luther, Melancthon, and Calvin were by Popish Pharisees. The Antinomian and Pharisaic spirit run as much into one, as the two arms of a river that embraces an island. If they divide for a the, it is only to meet again, and increase their mutual rapidity. I beg leave to speak my whole mind. It is equally clear from Scripture and reason that we must believe in order to be saved consistently with God's mercy; and that we must obey in order to be saved consistently with his holiness. These propositions are the immovable basis of the two Gospel axioms. Now if I reject either of them, it little matters which. If I blow my brains out, what signifies it whether I do it by clapping the mouth of a pistol to my right or to my left temple?
Error moves in a circle: extremes meet in one. A warm Popish Pharisee, and a zealous Protestant Antinomian, are nearer each other than they imagine. The one will tell you that by going to mass and confession he can get a fresh absolution from the priest for any sin that he shall commit. The other, whose mistake is still more pleasing to flesh and blood, assures you that he has already got an eternal absolution, so that "under every state and circumstance he can possibly be in, he is justified from all things, his sins are for ever and for ever cancelled."
But, if they differ a little in the idea of their imaginary privileges, they have the honour of agreeing in the main point. For, although the one makes a great noise about faith and free grace, and the other about works and true charity, they exactly meet in narrow grace and despairing uncharitableness. The Pharisee in Jerusalem asserts, that "out of the Jewish Church there can be no salvation," and his companions in self election heartily say, Amen! The Pharisee in Rome declares, that "there is no salvation out of the apostolic, Romish Church," and all the Catholic elect set their seal to the antichristian decree. And the Antinomian in London insinuates, (for he is ashamed to speak quite out in a Protestant country,) that there is no salvation out of the Calvinistic Predestinarian Church. Hence, if you oppose his principles in ever so rational and Scriptural a manner, he supposes that you are "quite dark," that all your holiness is "self made," and all your "righteousness a cobweb spun by a poor spider out of its own bowels." And if he allows you a chance for your salvation, it is only upon a supposition, that you may yet repent of your opposition to the errors, and turn Calvinist before you die. But might not an inquisitor be as charitable? Might he not hope that the poor heretic, whom he has condemned to the flames, may yet be saved, if he cordially kiss a crucifix, and say, "Ave Maria!" at the stake?
And now, candid reader, look around, and see what these seemingly opposite errors have done for Christ's Church. Before the reformation Christendom was overspread with superstition and fanaticism; and since, with lukewarmness and infidelity. But let us descend to particulars.
What has Pharisaism done for the Church of Rome? It has publicly rent from her all the Protestant kingdoms, and secretly turned against her an innumerable multitude of Deists: for while bigots continue ridiculous bigots still; men of wit, headed by ingenious infidels, continually pour undeserved contempt upon Christianity, through the deserved wounds which they give to Popery. They represent Christ's rational and humane religion as one of the worst in the world, unjustly charging it with the persecuting spirit, and horrible massacres of those Catholics, so called, who, mangling the truth, and running away with one half of the body of Christian divinity, disgrace the whole by childish fooleries, and worse than barbarian uncharitableness.
And what does Pharisaism for the Protestant Churches? So far as it prevails, spreads it not around its fatal leaven, a general indifference about heart-felt religion? Turns it not the lively oracles of God into a dead letter, the sacraments into empty ceremonies, the means of grace into rattles, to quiet a guilty conscience with; the precious blood of Christ into a common thing, his hallowed cross into an inglorious tree, external devotion into a cloak for secret hypocrisy; and some acts of apparent benevolence into the rounds of a ladder, the bottom of which reaches hell, and behold spiritual fiends (all manner of diabolical tempers) are seen continually "ascending and descending on it?"
Does it not incline us to despise those who are eminently pious, as if they were out of their senses; to despair of those who are notoriously wicked, as if they were absolute reprobates: and to prefer a popular imitator of Barabbas to a meek follower of Jesus? Does it not prompt us to lay an undue stress upon trifles, and make an endless ado about some frivolous circumstance of external worship, while we "pass over judgment, mercy, and the love of God?" And by that means does it not confirm modern Herodians in their Antinomianism, and modern Sadducees in their infidelity? In a word, does it not render the stiff neck stiffer, the blind understanding blinder, the hard heart stouter, the proud spirit more rebellious, more indifferent about mercy, more averse to Gospel grace, more satanical, readier for all the curses of the law, and riper for all the woes of the Gospel?
But let us consider the other extreme. What has Calvinism done for Geneva? Alas! It has in a great degree shocked and driven it into Arianism, Socinianism, and infidelity. See the account lately given of it in the French Encyclopedia, article Geneva. "Many of the clergy of Geneva (says judicious Mr. D'Alembert) no longer believe the divinity of Jesus Christ, of which Calvin their leader was a zealous defender, and for which he had Servetus burned, &c. They believe that there are punishments in another world, but only for a limited the. Thus purgatory, which was one of the chief causes of the reformation, is now the only punishment which many Protestants admit after death. A new proof this that man is a being full of contradictions. To sum up all in one word, the religion of many pastors at Geneva is perfect Socinianism."
What good has Calvinism done in England? Alas! very little. When a bow is bent beyond its proper degree of tension, does it not fly to pieces? When you violently pull a tree toward the west, if it recovers itself, does it not violently fly to the east? Has not this generally been the case with respect to all the truths of God, which have been forced out of their Scriptural place one way or another? Calvinism, in the days of Oliver Cromwell, was at the very same height of splendour at which Popery had attained in the days of King Henry the Eighth, and they share the same downfall. Mole ruunt sua. At the reformation, the first grand doctrine of Christianity, (salvation by grace through faith,) which had been forced out of its place, and almost broken by the Papists, flew back upon them with such violence that it shook the holy see, frightened the pope, and made some of the richest jewels fall from his triple crown. In like manner the second grand doctrine of Christianity, (salvation, not by the proper merit of works, but by the works of faith as a condition,) which had been served by the Antinomians just as the first Gospel axiom by the Papists, recovering itself out of their hands, flew back upon them with uncommon violence at King Charles' restoration; by an indirect blow shook two thousand Calvinistic ministers out of their pulpits; and getting far beyond its Scriptural place, began to bear hard upon, and even thrust out the grand doctrine of salvation by grace. Thus the absurdity and mischief of Antinomianism began to drive again the generality of English Protestants into Pharisaism, Arianism, Socinianism, or open infidelity; that is, into the state in which most of the learned are at Rome and Geneva.
I grant that near forty years ago some clergymen from the university of Oxford returned to the principles of the reformation, and zealously contended again for salvation by grace, and for universal obedience. By the Divine blessing upon their indefatigable endeavours, faith and works met again, and for some the walked undisturbed together. A little revolution then took place: practical Christianity revived, and leaning upon her fair daughters, truth and love, took a solemn walk through the kingdom, and gave a foretaste of heaven to all that cordially entertained her.
She might, by this the, have turned this favourite isle into a land flowing with spiritual milk and honey, if Apollyon, disguised in his angelic robes, had not played, and did not continue to play his old game. Nor does he do it in vain. By his insinuations men of a contrary turn rise against practical Christianity. Many of the devout call her heresy, and many of the gay name her rank enthusiasm. In the meantime she drops a tear of tender pity, prays for her mistaken persecutors, and quietly retires into the wilderness. Lean obedience is soon driven after her, to make more room for speculative faith, who is so highly fed with luscious food and wild honey that she is quite bloated, and full of humours. Nay, in some she is degenerated into an impatient, quarrelsome something, which calls itself orthodoxy, or the truth, and must be treated with the greatest respect; while charity, cold, sickly, and almost starved for want of work, is hardly used with common good manners.
In a word, Antinomian Christianity is come, and makes her public entry in the professing Church. A foolish virgin, who assumes the name of free grace, walks before her, and cries, "Bend the knee, bow the heart, and entertain the old, the pure, the only Gospel." An ugly black boy, called free wrath, bears her enormous train, and with wonderful art hides himself behind it. While thousands are taken with the smiles and cheerfulness of wanton free grace, (for that is the virgin's right name,) and for her sake welcome her painted mother, a grey-headed seer passes by, fixes his keen eyes upon the admired family, sees through their disguise, and warns his friends. This is highly resented, not only by all the lovers of the sprightly, alluring maid, but by some excellent people, who, in the simplicity of their hearts, mistake her for the celestial Virgin Astrea. Mr. H. and Mr. O., two of her champions, fall upon the aged monitor; and to the great entertainment of the Pharisaic and Antinomian world, who do the best to tread down his honour in the dust.
While they are thus employed, a rough countryman, who had taken the seer's warning, throws himself full in the way of Antinomian Christianity, and tries to stop her in her triumphal march. Wanton free grace is a little disconcerted at his rudeness, she reddens, and soon shows herself the true sister of free wrath. To be revenged of the clown, she charges him with -- guess what -- a rape? No: but with being great with "the scarlet whore," and concerned with the Romish "man of sin." If he is acquitted of these enormities, they say that she is determined to indict him for murder or "forgery;" and if that will not do, for highway robbery, or "execrable Swiss slander." The mountaineer, who "counts not his life dear," stands his ground, and in the scuffle discovers the black boy, lays fast hold of him, and notwithstanding the good words that he gives one moment, and the floods of invectives which he pours out the next, he drags him out to public view, and appeals to the Christian world. Et adhuc sub judice us est.
But leaving England, the scene of the present controversy, I ask, What does Calvinism at this day for Scotland, where national honours are paid to it, and where for some ages it has passed for the pure Gospel? Alas! not much, if we may depend upon the observations of a gentleman of piety and fortune, who went last year with an eminent minister of Christ to inspect the state of spiritual Christianity in the north, and brought back this melancholy account:-" The decay of vital religion is yet more visible in Scotland than in England."
Should, by this the, some of my readers be ready to ask what Arminianism has done for Holland and England, I reply: If by Arminianism you mean the pure doctrine of Christ, especially the doctrine of our free justification through Christ, by the instrumentality of faith in the day of a sinner's conversion, and by the evidence of the works of faith afterward: if you mean, as I do, a system of evangelical truth, in which the two Gospel precepts, believe and obey, are duly balanced, and faith and works kept in their Scriptural place; I answer: That under Christ it has done all the good that has been done, not only in Holland and England, but in all Christendom.
Be not then mistaken: when ministers, leaning toward speculative Antinomianism, have done good, it has not been by preaching wanton free grace, and by shackling the free Gospel, but by powerfully enforcing "the truth as it is in Jesus;" by crying aloud, "Believe, thou lost sinner, and be saved by grace: obey, thou happy believer, and evidence thy salvation by works: and whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely, for all things are now ready." So far as they have started aside from this guarded, and yet encouraging Gospel, they have pulled down with one hand what they built with the other; they have tried to make up the Pharisaic, by widening the Antinomian gap; they have departed from what we call Christianity, and what you are at full liberty to call Arminianism, Baxterianism, or Wesleyanism.
To return: I observed, just now, that Antinomianism drives us into Pharisaism, Socinianism, and infidelity: but might I not have added fatalism, the highest degree of fashionable infidelity? And after all, what is fatalism, in which the greatest infidels unanimously shelter themselves in our day? Is it not the beginning or the end of high Calvinism, whose emblematical representation may be a serpent forming a circle while it bites its tail, with this motto, In sese volvitur error, "Aner a large circuit error ends where it began?" If high Calvinism is the head, is not fatalism the tail?
For my part I shall not wonder if some of our high Predestinarians find themselves, before they are aware, even at Hobbes' or Voltaire's feet, humbly learning there the horrible lessons of fatalism. Nay, if I am not mistaken, they perfectly agree with the French philosopher in the capital point. One might think that they have converted him to their orthodoxy, or that he has perverted them to his infidelity. Candid reader, judge of it by the following extract of his lecture on destiny:-- "Homer (says he) is the first writer in whose works we find the notion of fate. It was then in vogue in his the. Nor was it adopted by the Pharisees till many years after: for these Pharisees themselves, who were the first men of letters among the Jews, were not very ancient, &c. But philosophers needed neither the help of Homer, nor that of the Pharisees, to persuade themselves that all things happen by immutable decrees, that all is fixed, that all is necessary." Now for the proof: "Bodies (adds he) tend to the centre; pear trees can never bear pine apples; a man cannot have above a certain number of teeth." And directly flying from teeth to ideas, he would have us infer, that we can no more arrange, combine, alter, or dismiss our ideas, than our grinders; and that an adulterer defiles his neighbour's bed as necessarily as a pear tree produces pears. He even adds, "If thou couldst alter the destiny of a fly, thou shouldst be more powerful than God himself." (See Dictionaire Philosophique [ÑOrIat?] of Londres, 1764, pp. 163, 164.)
This impious infidel is quite as orthodox (in the Calvinistic sense of the word) in his article on liberty:-" What does then your free will consist in, (says he,) if it is not in a power to do willingly what absolute necessity makes you choose?" Nay, he is so staunch a Predestinarian, so complete a fatalist, that he maintains no one can choose even or odds without an irresistible order of all-directing fate. And he concludes by affirming that all "liberty of indifference," that is, all power to do a thing, or to leave it undone at our option, without the necessitating agency of fate, "is arrant nonsense." (See the same book, page 243, &c.)
Thus the most subtle, self-righteous infidel in France, by going full east, and the most rigid, thorough-paced Antinomian in England, by going full west in the ways of error, meet at last face to face in the antipodes of truth. May the shock caused by their unexpected encounter wake them both out of their fatal dreams, to call unto Him, who "takes the wise in their own craftiness," imparts true wisdom to the simple, and crowns the humble with grace and glory.
As high Calvinism on the left hand falls in with fatalism, so on the right hand it runs into the wildest notions of some deluded mystics, and ranting Perfectionists. Judicious reader, you will be convinced of it by the following propositions, advanced by Molinos,* the father of the mystics and Perfectionists, who are known abroad under the name of Quietists. These positions, among many others, were condemned by the pope as "rash, offensive to pious ears, erroneous, scandalous," &c. I extract them from the bull of his holiness, given at Rome, 1687, and published by the archbishop of Cambray at the end of his book called instruction Pastorale, printed at Amsterdam, 1698. (See page 192, &c.)
* He was a pious, but injudicious clergyman of the Church of Rome, who, in some of his works, spoiled the doctrine of grace by Calvinistic refinements; and that of Christian perfection by Antinomian rant.
"Velle operari active esi Deum offendere, qui viili esse solsis agens, &c. To be willing to be active and work, is to offend God, who will be the sole agent, &c. Our natural activity stands in the way of grace, and hinders the Divine operation and true perfection, quia theõs [íõlI] operari in nobis sine nobis, because God will work in us without us. The soul ought not to think upon rewards and punishments. We must leave to God the caring of all that concerns us, that he may do in us, without us, his Divine will. He that will be resigned to God's will, must not ask him any thing, because petitions savour of our own will, and therefore are imperfect," or, to speak in the Calvinistic way, sinful.
Again: "God, to humble and transform us, permits and wills that the devil should do violence to the bodies of some perfect souls, [i.e. established believers,] and should make them commit carnal actions against their will. God now sanctifies his saints by the ministry of devils, who, by causing in their flesh the above-mentioned violent impulses, makes them despise themselves the more, &c. St. Paul felt such violent impulses in his body: hence he wrote, 'The good that I would, I do not: and the evil which I would not, I do.' These violent impulses are the best means to humble the soul to nothing, and to bring it to true holiness and the Divine union: there is no other way, et hsxc est via facilior et tutior, and this is the easier and the safer way. David, &c, suffered such violent impulses to external impure actions," &c.
Who does not see here some of the most absurd tenets or dangerous consequences of Calvinism? Man is a mere machine in the work of salvation. The body of holy Paul is sold under sin. David in Uriah's bed is complete and perfect in Christ. Actual adultery humbles believers, and is an excellent mean of sanctification, &c.
When we see Antinomianism thus defiling the sounder part of the Romish and Protestant Churches: when the god of this world avails himself of these "Antinomian dotages" to confirm myriads of stiff Pharisees in their self-righteous delusions; and when the bulk of men, shocked at the glaring errors of both, run for shelter to Deism and gross infidelity; who would not desire to see the doctrines of faith and works, grace and obedience, so stated and reconciled, that men of reason might no longer be offended at Christianity; nor men of religion one at another?
This is again attempted in the following discourse, the substance of which was committed to paper many years ago, to convince the Pharisees and Papists of my parish that there is no salvation by the faithless works of the law, but by a living faith in Jesus Christ. With shame I confess that I did not then see the need of guarding the doctrine of faith against the despisers of works. I was chiefly bent upon pulling up the tares of Pharisaism: those of Antinomianism were not yet sprung up in the field which I began to cultivate; or my want of experience hindered me from discerning them. But since, what a crop of them have I perceived and bewailed!
Alas! they have in a great degree ruined the success of my ministry. I have seen numbers of lazy seekers enjoying the dull pleasures of sloth on the couch of willful unbelief, under pretence that God was to do all in them without them. I have seen some lie flat in the mire of sin, absurdly boasting that they could not fall; and others make the means of grace, means of idle gossiping or sly courtship. I have seen some turn their religious profession into a way of gratifying covetousness or indolence; and others their skill in Church music, their knowledge and their zeal into various nets to catch esteem, admiration, and praise. Some have I seen making yesterday's faith a reason to laugh at the cross to-day; and others drawing from their misapprehensions of the atonement arguments to be less importunate in secret prayer, and more conformable to this evil world, than once they were. Nay, I have seen some professing believers backward to do those works of mercy, which I have sometimes found persons, who made no professions of godliness, quite ready to perform. And O! tell it in Sion, that watchfulness may not be neglected by believers, that fearfulness may seize upon backsliders, and that trembling may break the bones of hypocrites and apostates; I have seen those who had equally shined by their gifts and graces strike the moral world with horror by the grossest Antinomianism; and disgrace the doctrine of salvation through faith by the deepest plunges into scandalous sins.
Candid reader, I need say no more to make thee sensible of the necessity of the additions and notes, by which I have strengthened and guarded my old discourse, that it might be an EQUAL Check to Pharisaism and Antinomianism, an equal prop to faith and works. If it afford thee any edification, give God the glory, and pray for the despised author. Ask, in the words of the good Bishop Hopkins, that I may so "BELIEVE, so rest on the merits of Christ, as if I had never wrought any thing; and withal so WORK, as if I were only to be saved by my own merits." And O! ask it again and again, for I find it a difficult thing to give each of these its due in my practice. It is the very depth and height of Christian perfection.
MADELEY, Jan. 10, 1774.
ABOVE fifteen years ago I looked into [Aa divide ter s] Aphorisms on Justification, and through prejudice or sloth I soon laid them down, as being too deep for me. But a few days since a friend having brought me Mr. Wesley's extract of them, I have read it with much satisfaction, and present my readers with a compendium of my discourse in the words of those two judicious and laborious divines.
"As there are two covenants, with their distinct conditions, so there is a two-fold righteousness, and both of them absolutely necessary to salvation. Our righteousness of the first covenant is not personal, or consisteth not in any actions performed by us; for we never personally satisfied the law, [of innocence,] but it is wholly without us in Christ. In this sense every Christian disclaimeth his own righteousness or his own works. Those only shall be in Christ legally righteous who believe and obey the Gospel, and so are in themselves evangelically righteous. Though Christ performed the conditions of the law [of innocence] and satisfied for our non-performance, yet we ourselves must perform the conditions of the Gospel. These two [last] propositions seem to me so clear, that I wonder any able divines should deny them. Methinks they should be articles of our creed, and a part of children's catechisms. To affirm that our evangelical or new-covenant righteousness is in Christ, and not in ourselves, or performed by Christ, and not by ourselves, is such a monstrous piece of Antinomian doctrine as no man, who knows the nature and difference of the covenants, can possibly entertain." (Baxter. Prop. 14-17.)
SALVATION BY THE COVENANT OF GRACE:
A DISCOURSE ON ROMANS XI, 5, 6.
"Even so then, at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace: but if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work."
INTRODUCTION AND DIVISION.
THE apostle complains in the preceding chapter that Israel was blinded, and did not see the way of salvation: "I bear them record," says he, Rom. x, 2, "that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge; for being ignorant of God's righteousness," i.e. of God's way of saving sinners merely through Jesus Christ; "and going about to establish their own righteousness," that is, endeavouring to save themselves by their own good works [so called, by works which, strictly speaking, deserve rather to be named Pharisaical than good;] "they hare not submitted to the righteousness of God:" to that faith in Christ which makes sinners righteous before God: "for Christ," adds he, "is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth," Rom. x, 4: that is, [since the fall,] it is the very design of the [Adamic] law, [the law of innocence given to sinless Adam; yea, and of the Mosaic law, when it is considered as "written in stones," and decorated with shadows or types of good things to come,] to bring men to believe in Christ for justification and salvation; as he alone gives that pardon and life which the law [of innocence] shows the want of, [and which the Mosaic law, abstracted from Gospel promises, points unto,] but cannot possibly bestow.
The apostle, resuming the same subject in the chapter out of which the text is taken, comforts himself by considering, that although Israel in general were blinded, yet all were not lost. Old Simeon and Anna had "seen the salvation of God," and had "departed in peace." Nicodemus, a doctor in Israel, had received the doctrine of the new birth and salvation by faith. "Three thousand" Jews had been "pricked to the heart" by penitential sorrow, and "filled with peace and joy by believing" in Jesus Christ. And "even at this present time," says the apostle, "there is a remnant [of my countrymen saved,] according to the election of grace:" that is, there are some of them, who, [like Nathanael and Nicodemus,] casting away their dependence on their own righteousness, [and trusting only in Christ's merits,] are numbered among the elect, according to that gracious decree of [election in Christ, which] God [has so clearly revealed,] in the covenant of grace, "He that believeth shall be saved," &c, Mark xvi, 16.
* (1.) When I say that God saves sinners "merely" through Jesus Christ, I do not exclude our faith, the instrumental cause of our salvation; nor our works of faith, the evidencing cause of it, any more than I exclude Divine mercy. I only meant that Christ is the primary, meritorious cause of our justification; and that from him all secondary instrumental causes receive whatever influence they have toward our eternal salvation. Nor do I take away from the Redeemer's glory, when I affirm, with the Rev. Mr. Madan, that "we are justified instrumentally by faith, and declaratively by works;" or that faith is the instrumental, and works are the declarative cause of our complete justification. For as I speak of faith in Christ, "the light of men and the Saviour of the world;" and as I mean the works of that faith, I secure his mediatorial honours; such works being all wrought through his influence, perfumed with his merits, and accepted through his intercession. Christ is then all in all still; the primary and meritorious cause passing through all the secondary and instrumental causes, as light does through our windows and eyes; food through our mouths and stomachs; and vital blood through our arteries and veins.
I. A. The parts of this discourse, which are enclosed in brackets, are the additions that guard or strengthen the old sermon which my opponent calls for; and the parts contained between the two hands, [II~] are the [ña~~Æ] which he has extracted from it, and published at the end of his Finishing Stroke.
(2.) My sentiment concerning election is thus expressed by a great Calvinist minister: "In the written word a decree of God is found, which shows who are the chosen and the saved people: 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.' The chosen people therefore are a race of true believers, convinced by God's Spirit of their ruined estate, endowed with Divine faith, by which they seek[?]
From thence the apostle takes occasion to show, that pardon and salvation are not, in whole or in part, attained by [the covenant of works, but merely by [the covenant of] grace. A remnant of those self-righteous Pharisees is saved, [not indeed by their self righteousness,] but by [the covenant of grace, according to which we must equally part with our self righteousness and our sins. "And if by [the covenant of] grace," then "it is no more [by that] of works," whether of the ceremonial law [of Moses,] or of the moral law [of innocence perverted to Pharisaic purposes;] "else [the] grace [of Christ] is no longer grace" [bestowed upon a criminal:] the very nature of [Gospel grace] is lost. "And if it be [by thy covenant] of works, then it is no more [by Gospel] grace: else work is no longer [the] work" [of a sinless creature,] but the very nature of it is destroyed [according to the first covenant, which requires perfect conformity to the law in the work, and perfect innocence in the worker.]
As if the apostle had said, There is something so absolutely inconsistent between being saved by [the covenant of] grace, and being saved by [that of] works, that if you suppose either, you of necessity exclude the other: for what is given to works [upon the footing of the first covenant] is [improperly speaking] the payment of a debt [which God, by his gracious promise, contracted with innocent mankind without the interposition of a Mediator:] whereas [Gospel] grace implies [not only] a favour [strictly speaking] unmerited [by us; but also an atoning sacrifice on the Redeemer's part, and a damnable demerit on [ something missing here ]to Christ for help; and seeking do obtain pardon, peace, and holiness." (The Christian World Unmasked, second edition, p. 186.) Judicious Christians will probably agree here with this pious divine, if he does not deny, (1.) That in the Divine decree of election this word "believeth" excludes from the election those who "have cast off their faith," or "have made shipwreck of the faith." And (2.) That this word "is baptized," implies "professing the faith in word and work;" or making and standing to the baptismal vow, which respects not only the believing the articles of the Christian faith, but also keeping God's holy will and commandments.
* (3.) 1 say Gospel grace, because it is that which the apostle means. It may with propriety be distinguished from the original grace which Adam had before the fall, and which Deists and Pharisees still suppose themselves possessed of. Some people imagine, that if our first parents had well acquitted themselves in the trial of their faithfulness, their reward would not have been of grace; they would (strictly speaking) have merited heaven. But this is a mistake. From the Creator to the creature, all blessings are, and must for ever be of grace, of mere grace. Gabriel himself enjoys heaven through free grace. Unless some gracious promise interposes, God may this instant put an end, without injustice, not only to his glory, but to his very existence. Should you ask what difference there is between original and Gospel grace; I answer, that original, Adamic grace naturally flowed from God, as Creator and Preserver, to innocent, happy creatures: but Gospel grace, that for which St. Paul so strenuously contends in my text, supernaturally flows from God, as Redeemer and Comforter, to guilty, wretched mankind: and here let us take notice of the opposition there is between Pharisaic and evangelical obedience, between the works of the law and the works of faith. The former are done with a proud conceit of the natural strength which man lost by the fall; and the latter with an humble dependence on Divine mercy through the Redeemer's merits, and on the supernatural grace bestowed upon lost mankind for his sake. When St. Paul decries the works of the law, it is merely to recommend the works of faith: and yet, the dreadful effects of confusion! In Babel people suppose that he pours equal contempt upon both.
our own:] so that the same benefit cannot, in the very nature of things, be derived from both [covenants.]
Having thus opened the context, I proceed to a more particular illustration of the text; and that I may explain it as fully as the time allotted for this discourse will permit:- First, I shall premise an account of the two covenants: the covenant of works, to which the Pharisees of old trusted, and [most of] the Roman Catholics, with too many false Protestants, still trust in our days: and the covenant of grace, by which alone a remnant was saved in St. Paul's the, and will be saved in all ages.
Secondly, I shall prove that the way of salvation by [obedient] faith only, or, which is the same thing, by the covenant of grace, is the only way that leads to life, according to the Scriptures, and the articles of our Church, to whose holy doctrine I shall publicly set my seal,
Thirdly, I shall endeavour to show the unreasonableness and injustice of those who accuse me of "preaching against good works," when I [decry Pharisaic works, and] preach salvation through the covenant of grace only.
Fourthly and lastly, after having informed you why [even] good works [truly so called] cannot [properly] deserve salvation in whole or in part, I shall answer the old objection of [some ignorant] Papists [and Pharisaical Protestants.] "If good works cannot [properly
* (4.) I prefer "properly" to "absolutely," the word which I formerly used; because "absolutely" bears too hard upon the second Gospel axiom, and turns out of the Gospel the rewardable condecency, that our whole obedience, even according to Dr. Owen, hath unto eternal life, through God's gracious appointment.
* (5.) I say now "properly merit us heaven," and not "save us, get us heaven, or procure us heaven," expressions which occur a few times in my old sermon; because (taking the word "merit" in its full and proper sense,) the phrase "cannot merit us heaven," leaves room to defend the necessity of evangelical obedience, and of the works of faith, by which we shall be saved, not indeed as being the first and properly meritorious cause of our salvation, (for to ascribe to them that honour would be to injure free grace, and place them on the mediator's throne,) but as being the secondary instrumental cause of our justification in the great day, and consequently of our eternal salvation.
Nor does the expression, "properly merit us heaven," clash with such scriptures as these: "When the wicked man turneth from his iniquity, he shall save his soul alive-save some with fear-save thy husband-save thy wife-we are saved by hope-work out your own salvation-he that converteth a sinner shall save a soul from deaths-thy faith hath saved thee-in doing this thou shalt save thyself, and them that hear thee." A preacher should do justice to every part of the Scripture: nor should he blunt one edge of the sword of the Spirit, under pretence of making the other sharper. This I inadvertently did sometimes in the year 1762. May God endue me with wisdom that I may not do it in 1774! I find it the nicest thing in practical, as well as in polemical divinity, so to defend the doctrine of God's free grace as not to wound that of man's faithful obedience, and vice versa. These two doctrines support the two Gospel axioms, and may be called the breasts of the Church. A child of God, instead of peevishly biting the one or the other, should suck them alternately; and a minister of Christ, instead of cutting off either, should carefully protect them both.
Should any one object, that if Calvinism is supported by the Rev. Mr. Berridge's distinction between if and if (see the First Check, second part,) the Gospel axioms, about which we make so much ado, have not a better foundation, since they depend upon a distinction between original merit and derived merit: I reply, that the distinction between legal if and evangelical if is unworthy of Christ, and not less contrary to Scripture, than to reason and morality. On the
merit us heaven,] why should we do them? There is no need to trouble ourselves about any."
I BEGIN by laying before you an account of the two [grand] covenants that God entered into with man. The first was made with Adam,
contrary, the distinction between original or proper merit, and derived or improper worthiness, far from being frivolous, is Scriptural, (see Fourth Check, p. 239, &c,) solid, highly honourable to Christ, greatly conducive to morality, very rational, and lying within the reach of the meanest capacity.
This will appear from the following propositions, which contain the sum of our doctrine concerning merit. (l.) All proper worthiness, merit, or desert of any Divine reward is in Christ, the overflowing fountain of all original undivided excellence. (2.) If any of the living water of that rich spring is received by faith, and flows through the believer's heart and works, it forms improper worthiness, or derived merit; because, properly speaking, it is Christ's merit still. (3.) Original merit answers to the first Gospel axiom, and derived worthiness to the second.
(4.) According to the first covenant, we can never merit a reward, because, of ourselves as sinners, we deserve nothing but hell; and that covenant makes no provision of merit for hell-deserving sinners. But (5.) According to the second covenant, by God's gracious appointment and merciful promise we can, improperly speaking, be worthy of heaven, through the blood of Christ sprinkled upon our hearts, and through his righteousness derived to us and to our works by faith. (6.) Hence it is that God will give some, namely, impenitent murderers, blood to drink, "for they are worthy," they properly deserve it; while others, namely, penitent believers, shall walk with Christ in white, "for they are worthy," they improperly merit it, Rev. xvi, 6, and iii, 4.
An illustration, taken from a leaden pipe full of water, may show how it is possible that unworthy man should become worthy, through the righteousness which Christ supplies believers with. Strictly speaking, water does not belong to a pipe, any more than merit or worthiness to a believer; for a pipe is only a number of dry sheets of lead soldered together. But if that dry, leaden pipe really receive some of the water which a river supplies, I make myself ridiculous by asserting that the man who hints there is water in the pipe confounds the elements, seeks to dry up the river, and is guilty of a dreadful philosophical heresy.
However, if our prepossessed brethren feel an invincible aversion to our Lord's word [á~iOò, meriting,] we are willing to become all things to them for his sake. If it may be a mean of restoring tranquillity to their minds, we cheerfully consent to use only the word of our translators "worthy;" and here I give full leave to my readers, whenever they meet the noun "merit," or the verb "to merit," in my Checks, to read "worthiness" instead of the one, and "to be worthy" instead of the other. It may indeed puzzle unbiased persons to find a difference between those expressions; but no matter. If others will expose their prejudice, we ought not only to maintain the truth, but to show our condescension. The word merit is absolutely nothing to Mr. Wesley and me; but the doctrine of faithful obedience in Christ, and of the gracious rewards with which it shall be crowned for his sake, contains all our duty on earth, and draws after it all our bliss in heaven. Therefore, only grant us truly the second Gospel axiom: --grant us, that God has not appointed his creatures to endless punishments and heavenly rewards out of mere caprice:--grant us, that while the wicked shall properly and "legally deserve their own [and not Adam's] place in hell," the righteous shall improperly and "evangelically be worthy to obtain that world," where they "shall be equal to the angels," Luke xx, 35:--grant us that man is in a state of probation, and shall be recompensed for, and "according to what he has done in the body, whether it be good or bad:"--in a word, grant us the capital doctrine of a day of retribution, in which "God shall judge the world in wisdom and righteousness," not in solemn folly or satanical hypocrisy, and we ask no more. This note is a key to all the doctrines which we maintain in the Minutes, and explain in the Checks.
[a gap] when he was in a state of innocence in paradise. The condition of it, which is excessively hard [nay, absolutely impossible] to fallen man, was easy before the fall. It runs thus:--" Do this [thou sinless man] and live: the [innocent] man that does these things shall live by them," Rom. x, 5: that is, "If thou [who art now a guiltless, holy, and perfect creature] yield a constant, universal, and perfect obedience to the moral law," now summed up in the ten commandments, "thou shalt be rewarded with glory in heaven. But if thou fail in any one particular, whether it be in thought, word, or deed, 'thou shalt surely die,' Gen. ii, 17; for 'the soul that sinneth it shall die,' Ezek. xviii, 4. 'The wages of sin is death,' Rom. vi, 23. And.' cursed is every one that continueth not in ALL things written in the book of the law to do them,'" Gal. iii, 10.
Nor does this covenant make any allowance for deficiencies, or pass by one transgression, great or little, without pronouncing the threatened curse; [for it made no provision for repentance, neither did it offer sinners the help of a sacrificing priest, or interceding mediator.] Whether therefore the sin be murder and adultery, or only eating some forbidden fruit, its language is,-- "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all," James ii, 10: that is, all the curses denounced against those who break the covenant of works hang upon his guilty head, [and will fall UPON him in a degree proportionable to the aggravations of his sin.]
This first covenant we have all broken in our first parents, for [" in Adam all die"] "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned," Rom. v, 12. We are then all born [or conceived] in sin, Psalm ii, 5. and consequently "we are by nature children of wrath," Eph. ii, 3. But this is not all. This root of original sin produces in every man many actual iniquities, whereby, as we imitate Adam's sin of rebellion, so we make the guilt of it our own, and fasten the curse attending that guilt upon our own souls, Rom. vii, 24.
Therefore, while we remain in our natural state, [or, to speak more intelligibly, while we continue in sin, guilt, and total impenitency, we not only trample the covenant of grace under foot, but] we stand upon the [broken] covenant of works; and consequently lie under the dreadful curse which is already denounced against every transgressor of the law, Gal. iii, 10, [as well as against every despiser of the Gospel, Heb.?, Thes;, 27.]
Hence it is that "by the deeds of the law," i.e. by the [unsprinkled good works commanded in the law [of innocence: or by the ceremonies prescribed in the law of Moses,] "shall no flesh living [no sinner] be justified: for as many as are of the works of the law [as it stands opposed to the Gospel; yea, as many also as rest, like the impenitent Pharisees, in the letter of the Mosaic law] are under the curse; the
* (6.) Whoever reads the [~criñtõrOs] without prejudice will be of Mr. Burgess' mind concerning this awful text. (See Fourth Check, p. 225.) n was evidently spoken with reference to Christ's law of liberty, as well as some of the passages quoted in the preceding paragraph; and if they guard even that law, how much more the law of innocence, which, though it cannot be holier in its precepts, is yet much more peremptory in its curses
Scripture having concluded all under sin," [i.e.. testified that all are sinners by conception and practice] and consequently under the curse of the first covenant,] "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty [i.e.. may humbly confess their fallen and lost estate] before God," [and gladly accept his offers of mercy in the second covenant,] Rom. iii, 19, 20.
In this deplorable state of guilt and danger, we [generally] remain careless and insensible, [when we have once taken to the way of vanity], making what we call "the mercy of God" a pack horse [if I may use so coarse an expression] to carry us and our sins to heaven, upon the filthy rags of our own [Pharisaic] righteousness.
Here we continue till Divine grace awakens us by the preaching of the Gospel, or by some other means, Eph. v, 14. Being then roused to a serious consideration of our fallen state in Adam, and to a sensibility of the curse which we lie under, through our numerous breaches of [the second as well as of] the first covenant; after many fruitless attempts to remove that curse, by fulfilling the law [of innocence;] after many [faithless] endeavours to save ourselves by our own [anti-evangelical] works, and righteousness, we despair at last of getting to heaven, by building a Babel with the "untempered mortar" of our own [fancied] sincerity, and the bricks of our wretched good works, [or rather of our splendid sins.] And leaving the impassable road of the covenant of works, we begin to seek [as condemned criminals] the way which God's free mercy has opened for lost sinners in Jesus Christ, Acts ii, 37; Phil. iii, ü, &c.
This "new and living way," [for I may call it by the name which the apostle emphatically gives to the last dispensation of the Gospel,] Heb. x, 19, 20, is the new covenant, the covenant of grace [in its various editions or dispensations. For, if the Christian edition is called new in opposition to the Jewish, all the editions together may well be] called new, in opposition to the old covenant, the covenant of works [made with Adam before the fall.] It is also termed Gospel, that is, glad tidings, because [with different degrees of evidence] it brings
(7.) Here that expression is used in the Scriptural sense.
(8.) This and the preceding clauses are added to guard the doctrine of the Gospel dispensations, of which I had but very confused views eleven years ago. (See Third Check, p. 139.) Leaning then too much toward Calvinism, I fancied, at this at least, that the Gospel was confined within the narrow channel of its last dispensation; which was as absurd as if I had imagined that the swell of our rivers at high water is all the ocean. But turning to my Bible, and "reviewing the whole affair," I clearly see that the Jewish and Christian Gospel are not the everlasting Gospel, but only two of its brightest dispensations. Should the reader ask me what I mean by "the everlasting Gospel," when I consider it in its full latitude, I answer, that I mean with St. Paul, "The riches of God's goodness, forbearance, and long suffering, leading men to repentance" for Christ's sake, who in all ages is the "Saviour of the world." Yea, and the severe strokes of his gracious providence driving them to it. I dare not insinuate that Jonah, one of the most successful preachers in the world, was not a Gospel preacher, when he stirred up all the people of Nineveh to repentance by the fear of impending destruction; and that St. John the divine was a stranger to true divinity when he gave us the following account of the manner in which a celestial evangelist preached the everlasting Gospel: "I saw another angel having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, [here is free grace!] saying, comfortable news of free salvation in Christ, to all that see they are undone in themselves.
(9.) The second covenant, then, or the Gospel, is a dispensation of free grace and mercy [not only to little children, of whom is the kingdom of heaven, but also] to poor, lost, helpless sinners, who, seeing and feeling themselves condemned by the law [of innocence,] and utterly unable to obtain justification upon the terms of the first covenant, come to [a merciful God through] Jesus Christ [the light of men, according to the helps afforded them in the dispensations which they are under,] to seek in him [and from him those merits and] that righteousness which they have not in themselves. For the Son of God, being both God and man in one person; and by the invaluable sacrifice of himself upon the cross, having suffered the punishment due to all our breaches of the law [of works;] and by his most holy life having answered all the demands of the first covenant,-- "God can be just, and the justifier of him that believes in Jesus," Rom. iii, 26.
Therefore, with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment," as well as of his mercy, "is come: and worship him that made heaven and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." Here is, if I am not mistaken, the Gospel according to which many shall come from the east, and from the west, and shall sit down at the heavenly feast with the father of the faithful, when the unloving Pharisees shall be thrust out notwithstanding their great ado about absolute election. This note will probably touch the apple of my reader's eye, if he be a rigid Predestinarian. But if he be offended, I entreat him to consider, whether his love does not bear some resemblance to the charity of those strong Predestinarians of old, those monopolizers of God's election, who despised poor "sinners of the Gentiles." How violent was their prejudice! They vastly admired our Lord's sermon at Nazareth, till he touched the sore that festered in their strait-laced breast. But no sooner did he insinuate that their election was not yet made sure, and that the poor Pagan widow of Serepta, and Naaman the Syrian were not absolute reprobates, than "they were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill, that they might cast him down headlong" He had touched their great Diana, and there. fore, to be sure, he had committed the unpardonable sin; he had spoken treason, heresy, blasphemy. (See Luke iv, 28.)
* (9.) Although there were some very unguarded passages in my original sermon, yet what was unguarded in one place was in a great degree guarded in another. Thus even in this paragraph, which is the first that Mr. Hill produces in his extract, by saying that "Christ has answered all the demands of the FIRST covenant" for believers, I indirectly assert, that he has not answered the demands of the SECOND; and that, according to the Gospel, we must personally repent, believe, and obey, to be finally accepted: the covenant of grace insisting as much upon the works of faith, as the covenant of works did upon the works of the law of innocence, in order to our continuance ana progress in the Divine favour. A doctrine this which is the ground of the Minutes, the quintessence of the Checks, and the downfall of Antinomianism. It was only with respect to the covenant of works and to the law of innocence that I said in the next paragraph, transposed by Mr. Hill, "This obedience, when we are united to Christ by a faith of the operation of God, is accepted instead of our own." How greatly then does he mistake me, when he supposes I asserted that the personal, Adamic, and (in one sense) anti-evangelical obedience of Christ, which sprang neither from Gospel faith nor from Gospel repentance, is accepted instead of the personal, penitential, evangelical obedience of believers! It is just here that the Calvinists turn aside from the truth to make void the law of Christ and follow Antinomian dotages. Because Christ has fulfilled the Adamic law of innocence for us, they fancy that he has also fulfilled his own evangelical law of Gospel obedience, according to which we must stand or fail, when "by our words we shall be justified, and by our words we shall be condemned."
if a sinner, whose mouth is stopped, and who has nothing to pay, pleads from the heart the atoning blood of Christ, [and supposing he never heard that precious name, if according to his light he implores Divine mercy, for the free exercise of which Christ's blood has made way,] not only God will not "deliver him to the tormentors," but will "frankly forgive him all," Luke vii, 41, &c.
Herein then consists the great difference between the first and the second covenant. Under the first, an absolute, unsinning, universal obedience in our own persons is required; and such obedience we [in our fallen state] can never perform. Under the second covenant, this obedience [to the law of innocence, payed by, and] in our surety Christ Jesus, when we are united to him by a faith of the operation of God, is accepted instead of our [O'íH..1~] For [as our sins were transferred upon the Redeemer's guiltless head,] so his merits are brought home to our guilty souls by the powerful operation of Divine grace through faith; and being thus "complete in Christ,"--[with regard to the fulfilling of the FIRST covenant,] we can "rejoice in God, who has made him unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." [I say, with regard to the fullfiling of the FIRST covenant, to guard against the error of thousands, who vainly imagine that Christ has fulfilled the terms of the second covenant for us, and talk of finished salvation, just as if our Lord had actually repented of our sins, believed in his own blood, and fulfilled his own evangelical law in our stead; a fatal error this, which makes Christians lawless, represents Christ as the minister of sin, and arms the Antinomian fiend with a dreadful axe to fell the trees of righteousness, and cut down the very pillars of the house of God.]
* (10.) If I say that penitent believers are complete in Christ, with respect to the first covenant, I do not intimate that fallen believers, who "crucify the Son of God afresh," may even commit deliberate murder, and remain "complete in him," or (rather as the original means also) "filled with him." Far be the horrid insinuation from the pen and heart of a Christian. I readily grant that the true believers are not less dead to the Adamic law of innocence, than to the ceremonial law of Moses; and that with respect to it, they heartily say as David, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." But mistake me not; I would not insinuate that they are lawless, or only under a rule of life, which they may break without endangering their salvation. No: they "are under the law of Christ, the law of liberty, the law of the Spirit of life, the royal law" of Gospel holiness; and according to this law they shall all be rewarded or punished in the day of judgment. Although this law admits of repentance after a fall, at least during the day of salvation; and although it does not condemn us for not obeying above our present measure of power; yet it does not make the least allowance for willful sin, any more than the Adamic law; for St. James informs a believer that "if he offend in one point, he is guilty of all." And indeed our Lord's parable confirms this awful declaration. The favoured servant, who had the immense debt of "ten thousand talents forgiven him," sinned against Christ's law only in one point, namely, in refusing to have mercy on his fellow servant, as his Lord had had compassion upon him: and for that one offence he was delivered to the tormentors, as notoriously guilty of breaking the whole law of liberty and love. "If he who despised the law of Moses perished under two or three witnesses, of how much, sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy, who" despises the law of Christ! This is the ground of the Epistle to the Hebrews. But who considers? Who believes that the Son of God will command even the unprofitable servant to be cut asunder? "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith upon earth?" Lord! help my unbelief.
From what has been observed, it follows, that before any one can believe [to salvation] in the Gospel sense of the word, he must be "convinced of sin" by the Spirit of God, John xvi, 8. He must feel himself a guilty, lost, and helpless sinner, unable to recover the favour and image of God by his own strength and righteousness, Acts ii, 37, 38.
This conviction and sense of guilt make the sinner "come travelling and heavy laden to Christ," earnestly claiming the rest which he offers to weary souls, Matt. xi, 28. This rest the mourner seeks with the contrite publican in the constant use of all the means of grace; endeavouring to "bring forth fruit meet for repentance," till the same Spirit, that had convinced him of sin, and alarmed his drowsy conscience, "convinces him also of righteousness," John xvi, 8; that is, shows him the all sufficiency of the Saviour's [merits or] righteousness to swallow up his [former sins and] unrighteousness; and the infinite value of Christ's meritorious death to atone for his [nasty] unholy life; enabling him to "believe with the heart," and consequently to feel that he has an interest in the Redeemer's blood and righteousness; [or, that he is savingly interested in the merit of all that the Son of God suffered, did, and continues to do for us.]
This lively faith, this "faith, working by love," is "that which is imputed for righteousness," Rom. iv, 3, and that whereby a soul is born of God, [according to thet Christian dispensation of the Gospel,]
* (11.) Without the words "former" and "past," the sentence leaned toward Antinomianism. It gave fallen believers room to conclude that their "future" or "present" unholy lives were unconditionally atoned for; contrary to St. Paul's guarded Gospel, "God hath sent forth Christ to be a propitiation, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past." Here is no pleasing innuendo, that the present or future sins of Laodicean backsliders "are for ever and for ever cancelled."
* (12.) This is the very doctrine of the Minutes and of the Checks. Is it not astonishing that Mr. Hill should desire me to publish my sermon, as the "best confutation" of both!
* (13.) The judicious reader will easily perceive that the additions made to this, and some other paragraphs of my old sermon, are intended to guard the inferior dispensations of the Gospel. Are there not degrees of saving faith, inferior to the faith of the Christian Gospel? And are not those degrees of faith consistent with the most profound ignorance of the history of our Lord's sufferings, and consequently of any explicit knowledge of the atonement? Although mankind in general had some consciousness of guilt, and a confused idea of propitiatory sacrifices; and although all the Jewish sacrifices and prophecies pointed to the great atonement; yet how few, even among the pious Jews, seem to have had a clear belief that the Messiah would "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself?" How unreasonable is it then to confine the Gospel to the explicit knowledge of Christ's atoning sufferings, to which both the prophets and apostles were once such strangers! Does not St. Peter intimate that "the prophets searched" to little purpose, "what the Spirit signified, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ;" since "it was revealed to them, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things which are now reported" in the Christian Gospel? I Peter i, 11, 12. And how absurd is it to suppose that nothing is Gospel but a doctrine, which the first preachers of the Christian Gospel knew little or nothing of, even while they preached the Gospel under our Lord's immediate direction? Did not John the Baptist exceed in evangelical knowledge "all that were born of women?" Were the apostles much inferior to him when they had been three years in Christ's school? Did not our Lord say to them. "Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear; for verily many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things that
John v, 1. By this faith the [Christian] believer being [strongly] united to Christ, as a member to the body, becomes entitled to [a much larger share in] the benefit of all that our Lord did and suffered; and in consequence of this [strong] vital union with him, who is the source of all goodness, he derives a [degree of] power, till then unknown, to do good works, truly so called; as a graft, which is [strongly] united to the stock that bears it, draws from it new sap, and power to bring forth fruit in [greater] abundance.
[If thou that professest the Christian faith, especially,] "show me thy faith by thy works," says an apostle: that is, show me that thou art grafted in Christ [according to the Christian dispensation] by serving God with all thy strength; by doing all the good thou canst to the souls and bodies of men with cheerfulness; by suffering wrong and contempt with meekness; by slighting earthly joys, mortifying fleshly lusts, having thy conversation in heaven, and panting every hour after a closer union with Christ, the life of all believers. If thou dost not bring forth these fruits, thou art not a Christian; thou art not "in Christ a new creature," 2 Cor. v, 17. Thou mayest talk of faith, and SURMISE that thou believest; but give me leave to tell thee, that [unless thou art in the case of the eunuch, who searched the Scriptures even upon a journey; or of Cornelius, who sought the Lord in almsgivings and prayer;] if thou believest at all, [I fear] it is with the drunkard's faith, the whoremonger's faith, the devil's faith,* James ii, ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear
*(19.) From such a faith may God deliver us, and give us, instead of this counterfeit, "the faith once delivered unto the saints, the mystery of faith kept in a pure conscience!" Get it, O sinner, who bearest a Christian name, and Christ and heaven are thine: [but if thou] die without it, [whether it be by continuing in thy present sin and unbelief, or by "making shipwreck of thy faith,"] thou diest the second death; thou sinkest in the bottomless pit for evermore, Mark xvi, 16.
the things that ye hear, and have not heard them?" Again: did he not testify, that in general they had justifying faith, i.e. faith working by love? Did he not say, "Now are ye clean through the word which I have spoken unto you: the Father himself loveth you, because you have loved me, and believed that I came forth from God?" Nay, did he not send them two and two to preach, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand: repent and believe the Gospel?" And would he have sent them to preach a Gospel to which they were utter strangers? But were they not perfectly strangers to what passes now for the only Gospel? Had they the least idea that their Master's blood was to be shed for them, even after he had said, "This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins?" When he spoke to them of his sufferings, were not they so far from believing in the atonement which he was about to make, that they were offended at the very idea? Is not this evident from the words of Peter, their chief speaker, who "began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not happen unto thee?" i.e. we do not yet see the need of thy blood. Nay, when Christ had actually shed it, and the atoning work was finished, far from having the least notion about what is called "finished salvation," and "Gospel," in our day, did they not suppose that all their hopes were blasted, saying, "We trusted that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel?" Luke xxiv, 21. Thus the very payment of their ransom made them despair of redemption;--so great was their ignorance of the doctrine of the atonement, notwithstanding their Gospel knowledge, which far exceeded that of most patriarchs and prophets! From these observations may I not conclude: (1.) That an explicit knowledge of Christ's passion and atonement is the prerogative of the Christian Gospel advancing toward perfection? And (2.) That those who make it essential to the everlasting Gospel most dreadfully curtail it, and indirectly doom to hell, not only all the righteous Jews, Turks, and heathens, who may now be alive; but also almost all the believers who died before our Lord's crucifixion, and some of the disciples themselves after his resurrection."
Having thus given you an account of both covenants, and laid before you the condition [or term] of each, namely, for the first a sinless, uninterrupted obedience to all the commands of the holy, spiritual, [and Adamic] law of God, performed by ourselves without the least [mediatorial assistance:] and for the second a lively faith in Christ, ["the light of the world," according to the Gospel dispensation we are under;] by which faith, the virtue of Christ's active and passive obedience to the law [of innocence] being imputed to us, and applied to our hearts, we are made "new creatures, born again," and "created in Christ Jesus unto good works," without which there can be no lively faith [under any of the Divine dispensations:] and having [by that important distinction of the two grand covenants] removed a great deal of rubbish out of the way, I hope it will not be difficult to prove, under the
That the way of salvation by such a lively faith only, or, which is the same, by the covenant of grace [alone,] is the one way that leads to life, according to the Bible and our articles of religion.
If you ask all the Pharisees, all the self-righteous heathens, Turks, Jews, and Papists in the world, which is the way of salvation? [with too many ignorant Protestants] they will answer, [without making the least mention of repentance and faith,] "Through doing good works, and leading a good life:" that is, "through the covenant of works;" flatly contrary to what I have proved in the first part of this discourse, namely, that "by the works of the law," by the first covenant, "shall no flesh living be justified," Gal. ii, 16. Or if they have yet some sense of modesty, if they are not quite lost in pride, [supposing them Christians,] they will varnish over the blasphemy [which, I fear, is indirectly couched under their boasting speech,] with two or three words about God's mercy. "Why," say they, "it is to be hoped we shall all be saved by endeavouring to lead good lives, and do good works: and if that will not do, God's mercy in Christ will do the rest," which means neither more nor less than this: "We are still to be saved by the covenant of works, by putting on [sinful and guilty as we are] the robe of our own [Pharisaic, anti-evangelical, Christless] righteousness and if it happen to be too short, or to have some holes, Christ [whom we are willing to make the Omega, but not the Alpha; the last, but not the first] will, in mercy, tear his spotless robe [of merits] to patch up and lengthen ours." [And this they say, it is to be feared, without the least degree of genuine repentance toward God, and heart-felt faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.] O how many dream of getting to heaven in this fool's coat, [this absurd dress of a Christian Pharisee!] How many, by thus blending the two covenants, which are as incompatible as fire and water, try to make for themselves a third covenant, that never existed but in their proud imagination! In a word, how many are there who say or think we must be saved partly by [the covenant of] works, and partly by [the covenant of] grace! giving the lie to God and my text! overturning at once the Gospel and Protestantism! No, no. If "a remnant is saved," it is by the covenant of grace; and if by grace, then it is no more [by the covenant] of works; otherwise grace is no more [Gospel] grace. But if it be [by the covenant] of works, then it is no more [Gospel] grace; otherwise work is no more work; [for the moment obedience is "the work of faith," it can no more be opposed to faith and Gospel grace, than the fruit of a tree can be opposed to the tree, and the sap by which it is produced.]
But "to the law and the testimony." Do the oracles of God, or the writings of our reformers, direct us for salvation to the covenant of works, or to a third covenant of [anti-evangelical] works and [evangelical] grace patched up together? Do they not entirely and invariably point us to the covenant of grace alone?
Hear first the word of the Lord: "He that believeth on the Son [according to the light of the dispensation he is under] hath everlasting life. He that believeth not, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him," John iii, 36. When the trembling jailer cries out, "What must I do to be saved?" Paul and Silas answer, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," Acts xvi, 31. "God so loved the world," says St. John, "that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," John iii, 16. "By grace," says St. Paul, "ye are [initially] saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not by [the covenant of] works, [nor yet by the proper merit only works,] lest any man should boast," [as the Pharisee; all who despise the way of faith, and put the instrumental causes in the room of the first and properly meritorious cause of our salvation, being no better than boasting Pharisees.] For "to him that worketh [without applying to the throne of grace, as a hell-deserving sinner] is the reward not reckoned of [evangelical] grace, but of [legal] debt. But to him that worketh not" [upon the footing of the first covenant;] to him who sees that he cannot [escape hell, much less] get heaven, by [setting] his good works, [if he has any, on the Redeemer's throne;] "but believeth [as a lost sinner,] in him that justifieth the ungodly; his faith is counted for righteousness:" he is saved by [obedient] faith, which is the condition of the covenant of grace, Rom. iv, 4.
Thus speak the Scriptures, and blessed be God! thus speak also our liturgy and articles.
In the absolution the priest declares that [in the day of conversion]
* (14.) I add the word anti-evangelical to point out the rise of the mistake of some pious Protestants, who, being carried away by an injudicious zeal for the first Gospel axiom, and misled by the conciseness of the apostle's style, get upon the pinnacle of the Antinomian Babel, and thence decry all works in general; unhappily quoting St. Paul in confirmation of their error: although it is evident that the apostle never excluded from the Gospel plan of salvation by grace any works but the ''works of unbelief," and sometimes pleaded for the "works of faith," and for the immense rewards with which they shall be crowned, in far stronger terms than St. James himself; denouncing 'indignation and' "wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that neglects them, or doth evil," Rom. ii.
God pardoneth and absolveth," that is, saveth, "not those [moralists] who [being ashamed to repent, and scorning to believe the Gospel, endeavour to] lead a good life, to get a pardon [by their own merits,].." but "all those who truly repent, and unfeignedly believe in his holy Gospel;" that is, all those who, by "true repentance," renounce [together with their sins] all dependence upon the covenant of works; and by a "faith unfeigned" flee for refuge only to [God's mercy in Christ, which is so kindly offered to sinners in] the covenant of grace. Hence it is that, in the communion service, we are commanded to pray, that "by the merits and death of Christ, and through faith in his blood, we and all the whole Church may obtain remission of sins, and all other benefits of his passion."
This holy doctrine is most clearly maintained, and strongly established in the ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth of our articles of religion. And upon these five pillars it will remain unshaken as long as the Church of England shall stand.
The ninth shows that since the fall of Adam "the corruption of our nature deserves God's wrath and damnation;" so that [being considered without the free gift that came upon all men in Christ unto justification of life, Rom. v, 18,] we are, of ourselves, evil trees ready for the axe of death, and the fire of hell.
The tenth adds that we cannot consequently get grace and glory, that is, save ourselves by bearing good fruit, [through our original powers, according to the first covenant,] because an evil tree can only produce evil fruit: [and that "we have no power to do works acceptable to God without the grace of God by Christ preventing us," according to the second covenant.]
The eleventh affirms that we are saved, that is, accepted of God, changed, and made good trees, trees of the Lord's planting, "only for the merit of our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works and deservings;" 'as we can do no good works before we are [at least] in a state of [initial] salvation.' "Make the tree good," says our Lord, "and its fruit shall be good." [In our infancy we are freely blessed with the seed of light from "Christ, the light of men;" and at the same the we are freely justified from the damning guilt of original corruption. As we grow up, and personally repent and "believe in the light" after a personal fall, we are again freely pardoned. Thus, so long at least as "the accepted time," and "the day of salvation" last,] God has first respect to our persons in Christ, and then to our sacrifices or works, [of faith,] Heb. xi, 4; Gen. iv, 4, 5.
The twelfth declares that good works, works which necessarily follow free justification, do not serve "to put away [or atone for] sins;" but to declare the truth of our faith: "insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit." A tree is first planted, and then it brings forth fruit. -- A believer is first saved, [i.e. freely made partaker of initial salvation,] and then he does good works. -- [A lively faith necessarily produces them, though a believer does not necessarily persevere in a lively faith.] If he do them not, his faith is dead; it is not [now a living and] saving faith; he is no [longer an obedient] believer; [but an Antinomian or an apostate, a Demas or a Judas.]
The thirteenth insists upon that point of doctrine which confounds the Pharisees in all ages, and lays our virtuous pride in the dust before God: namely, that [when we have sinned away the justification of infants] -- "works done before [that] justification, [is restored,] before faith" alone has put us [again] into a state of [initial] salvation not only "do not fit us to receive grace, but have in themselves the nature of sin," [nay, the worst of sins, spiritual pride and Pharisaic hypocrisy,] and consequently deserve death, the wages of sin, so far [are they] from meriting grace and glory.
This is agreeable to reason as well as to Scripture; for if, "of ourselves," as says our Church, [i.e. before any degree of grace is instilled into our infant hearts, or before God freely visits us again when we have personally fallen away from him,] "we cannot by our good works [so called] prepare ourselves in faith: if we are such crab trees as can bring forth no apples [without the grace of God by Christ preventing this, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will," it is plain that] by producing as many crabs [i.e. as many works of unbelief] as [blaspheming] Paul before his conversion; and of as fine a colour and as large a size as those which the self-righteous Pharisee bore; we cannot change our own nature, nor force from ourselves the sweet fruit of one [truly] good work. "Many who have not the true faith," says our Church, "yet flourish in works of mercy. But they that shine in good works [so called] without faith, are like dead men, who have goodly and precious tombs:" or, to carry on the allegory of our reformers, the fine crabs which such people produce please the eye of the spectator, who thinks them good apples; but God, who sees their hearts, tastes in the deceitful fruit nothing but the sourness of a crab. Such crabs are the alms of whoremongers, the prayers of unjust persons, the public worship of swearers and drunkards, the tithes and fasts of Pharisees, Isa. i, ii, &c.
* (15.) Those who start at every expression they are not used to, will ask if our Church admits the justification of infants. I answer: Undoubtedly, since her clergy, by her direction, say over myriads of infants, "We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it has pleased thee to regenerate this infant with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thy own child," &c. And in her catechism she teaches all children to say, as soon as they can speak, "I heartily thank our heavenly Father that he hath called me to this state of salvation." If my objector urges that our Church puts those words only in the mouth of baptized children, I reply: True, because she instructs no others. But why does she admit to baptism all the children that are born within her pale? Does she not vindicate her practice in this respect, by an appeal to our Lord's kind command:
"Let little children come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven?" This I had not considered, when I said, in my Appeal, that our Church returns thanks for the regeneration of baptized infants only [I should have said chiefly] upon a charitable supposition, &c. For it is evident, that she does it also upon Christ's gracious declaration, Mark x, 13, &c, the precious Gospel of her office, upon which she comments in a manner most favourable to children; concluding her charge on the occasion by these words:-" Wherefore, we being thus persuaded of the good will of our heavenly Father toward this [unbaptized] infant, declared by his Son Jesus Christ, and nothing doubting." &c. These words I had not attended to when I wrote my Appeal. I take this first opportunity of acknowledging my mistake, which shall be rectified in the next edition.
* (16.) Here is a short enumeration of good works, so called, which I decry in this sermon. Had my opponent considered it, he would never have supposed that my discourse is "the best refutation" of what I have advanced in the Checks, in favour of the good works maintained by St. James and Mr. Wesley.
Having thus shown you how self-righteous, unawakened sinners dream of salvation, either by the covenant of works or by a third imaginary covenant, in which two incompatible things [Pharisaical] works and [evangelical] grace, [antichristian] merits and mercy [in Christ] are jumbled together; and having proved by plain, unanswerable passages, and by the thirty-nine articles, that the Gospel and our Church show us salvation cannot be attained but under the second covenant, that is, by [obedient] faith only, and not by [the covenant of] works; I beg leave to recapitulate the whole in three articles, which contain the sum of the Gospel, and of the doctrine that I have constantly preached among you, and am determined to preach, God being my helper, till my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, [unless a flaw can be found] in any of them, by the word of God or the articles of our Church!
Upon the proofs before advanced, I solemnly declare, and publicly affirm: 1. That there is no salvation to be attained by [the covenant of] works since the fall. The best man, having broken a hundred times the first covenant, deserves a hundred times damnation by his works, and can no more be saved from hell by his obedience to God's law [of innocence] than a thief can be saved from the gallows, by the civil law which condemns him to be hanged.
2. Respecting the primary and properly meritorious cause of our salvation, [from first to last,] "we are saved," as it is written in our eleventh article, "only for the merit of our Lord Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our works or deservings: and that [in the day of conversion] we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort;" yea, the only doctrine that can melt down the hearts of sinners, and make them constantly zealous of all sorts of good works, [if it be not made to supersede justification of believers by the evidence of works, both in the day of trial and in the day of judgment. A doctrine this, which few Antinomians are daring enough directly to oppose.]
3. As all mankind are condemned by the covenant of works, "he that believeth not [in the light of his dispensation] being condemned already;" (' and as by the covenant of grace there is no salvation to be had but in Christ through faith: so there is no mixing these two covenants without renouncing Christ and his Gospel. He that stands with one foot upon the covenant of works, and with the other foot upon the covenant of grace; [he that talks of Divine mercy, while his heart continues as regardless of it as if he were sinless; he that ends his prayers by the name of Christ, while he remains unconcerned about his fallen state,] is in the most imminent danger of eternal ruin...
* (17.) The words enclosed in brackets are in my manuscript, and were written several years ago, when looking over my sermon I thought they savoured more of Christian modesty than those which Mr. Hill has in his copy: [and here I give a public challenge to any man living to find a flaw:] I challenge nobody now, but I promise that if any man living will be kind enough to show me my errors by plain Scripture and solid argument, he shall have my sincere thanks: for if I know my heart, pure and unmixed truth is the object of my desires and controversial pursuits.
He that says, "I will do first what I can to merit heaven-I will do my best-and Christ, I hope, will do the rest; and God, I trust, will have mercy upon me," is yet without God, and without Christ in the world; he knows neither the nature of God's law nor that of Christ's Gospel.
[This is, my dear hearers, the substance of the three articles which eleven years ago I publicly laid down in this church, as the ground of the doctrine which I had preached, and was determined still to preach among you. And I solemnly declare, that to this day I have not seen the least cause to reject any one of them as erroneous: though I must confess that I have found abundant reason particularly to guard the second against the daring attacks that Antinomians in principle, or in practice, make upon St. James' undefiled religion. To return:]
We are undoubtedly obliged to do what we can, and to use the means of grace at all [proper] times and in all [convenient] places; but to rest in those means [like the Pharisees;] to suppose that they will save us; and upon this supposition to be easy without the experience of [converting] grace in our hearts, is very absurd. It is a mistake as foolish as that of the man who supposes that his garden will be the most fruitful for pipes which convey no water; or that his body can be refreshed by empty cups.
The language of the penitent sinner is, "Lord, I pray, and hear [thy word!] I fast, and receive [the commemorative tokens of thy passion;] I give alms, and keep the Sabbath: but after all 'I am an unprofitable servant.' [I must 'work out my salvation with fear and trembling,' and yet] 'without thee I can do nothing,' I cannot change my heart; I cannot root up from my breast the desire of praise, the thrill of pleasure, and the hankering after gold, vanity, beauty, or sensual gratifications, which I continually feel; I cannot force my heart to repent, believe, and love: to be meek and lowly, calm and devout. Lord, deliver me from this body of death; Lord, save or I perish."
Christ will have all the glory [worthy of him] or none. We must be wholly saved by him, or lost for ever: [for although we must be "co-workers with him," by walking religiously in good works; and if we are not, we shall have our portion with the "workers of iniquity;" yet it is he that "worketh in us," as in moral agents, "both to will and to do of his good pleasure." It is he that appoints and blesses all the inferior means of our salvation; therefore all the glory properly and originally belongs to him alone.]
[All our pardons flow down to us in the streams of his precious blood. All our life, light, and power, are nothing but emanations from Him who is "the fountain of life, the Sun of righteousness, the wisdom and the power of God," and, in a word, "Jehovah our righteousness." All that gracious rewardableness of the works of faith, all that aptitude of our sprinkled obedience unto eternal life, all that being worthy which he himself condescends to speak of, Rev. iii, 4, and Luke xx, 35, spring not only from his gracious appointment, but from his overflowing merits. A comparison will illustrate my meaning.]
* (18.) See the first note upon the word MERELY. Í. B. Here begins the greatest addition to my old sermon. It is in favour of free grace, and runs through fourteen paragraphs.
[You see the cheerful light that flows in upon us through those windows, and renders the glass as bright as this spring day. You know that this brightness in the glass is not from the glass, which was totally dark some hours ago; a fit emblem THEN of" the works of darkness," the works of unbelief; such works being as much devoid of rewardableness, as those panes were of light at midnight. Let us not forget, then, that if our works are graciously rewarded, it is only when they are the works of faith, whose peculiar property it is freely to admit the merits of Christ, and the beams of the "Sun of righteousness;" just as it is the property of the transparent matter, which composes these windows, necessarily to admit the genial warmth and cheerful rays of the natural sun.]
[If I admire a poor widow, gladly casting her last mite into the treasury; or a martyr, generously giving his body to blood-thirsty executioners; it is only because their lively faith receives, and their pure charity reflects, the light of Him who, for our sake, became poor; and, for our sake, joyfully surrendered to his bloody murderers. But although this image of our Lord's meritorious holiness and sufferings does great honour to the saints who reflect it; yet the praise of it originally and properly belongs to him alone.]
[An illustration will make you sensible of it. You have seen a glass perfectly reflecting the beauty of a person placed over against it; you have admired the elegant proportion of features which composed her beauty: but did you ever see any man so void of good sense as to suppose that the beauty was originally in the glass which reflected it; or that the lovely appearance existed without depending on its original; or that it robbed the living beauty of her peculiar glory? And shall any, on the one hand, be so full of voluntary humility as to maintain that Christ is dishonoured by the derived worthiness of the works of faith, whose office it is to receive, embrace, and trust in the Redeemer's original and proper merit? Shall any, on the other hand, be so full of Pharisaic pride as to fancy that the distinguishing excellence of our good works, if we have any, springs from, or terminates in ourselves? No, my brethren. As rivers flow back to the sea, and lose themselves in that immense reservoir of waters, whence they had their origin; so let all the "rewardable condecency"* of our evangelical obedience flow back to, and lose itself in the boundless and bottomless ocean of our Lord's original and proper merits.]
He, he alone is worthy-properly worthy! Worthy, "supremely worthy is the Lamb that was slain!" Let us then always say, with the humble men of old, "Our goods are nothing unto thee," our good works cannot possibly benefit thee. "What have we," great God, "that we have not received" from thy gracious hand? And shall we keep back part of thy incontestable property, and impiously wear the robes of praise? Far be the spiritual sacrilege from every pious breast! As "thine is all the kingdom and power; so thine be all the glory for ever and ever!"
* (19.) 1 need not inform my judicious readers that I use the uncouth, barbarian expression of Dr. Owen, "rewardable condecency," to convey the meaning of our Lord, when he graciously speaks of our meriting or being worthy. If sick persons will not take a draught but out of a certain cup, made in the height of a queer fashion, we must please them for their good.
[If, therefore, my brethren, we have the honour of "filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in our flesh, for his body's sake, which is the Church: if we are even offered upon the sacrifice of each other's faith;" let us dread as blasphemy the wild thought of completing, and perfecting our Lord's infinitely complete and perfect atonement. As God, who is infinite in himself, was not made greater by the immense bulk of created worlds; nor brighter by the shining perfections of countless myriads of angels and suns: so the infinite value of that "one offering, by which Christ has for ever perfected [in atoning merits] them that are sanctified," is not augmented by the works of all the saints and the blood of all the martyrs. And as the heat of the fire adds nothing to the nature of the fire, or the beams of the sun to the sun; so the righteousness of the saints does not increase that of Christ, nor adds their holiness any thing to his personal excellence.]
[Keep we then at that awful distance from the gulf which self-righteous Pharisees set between themselves and the Justifier of those who, like the contrite publican, are sensible of their ungodliness. With indignation rise we against the delusions of the Romanists, who countenance the absurd and impious doctrine of indulgences, by the worse than Pharisaic doctrine of their works of supererogation. Let us not only receive and defend in a Scriptural manner the important articles of our Church which I have already mentioned; but with undaunted courage before men, and with penitential contrition before God, let us stand to our fourteenth article, which teaches us, after our Lord, to say before the throne of inflexible justice, refulgent holiness, and dazzling glory, "We are unprofitable servants," even "when we have done all that is commanded us." In point of strict equivalence, our best works of faith, our holiest duties, cannot properly merit the least heavenly reward. But, O! may the humbling truth keep us for ever in the dust! in point of strict justice our every bad work properly deserves infernal torments.]
[Therefore, while we earnestly contend for practical, pure, undefiled religion, take we the greatest care not to obscure the genuine doctrines of grace. With meekness let us maintain, unto blood, the honour of our Saviour's merits, against the hypocritical sons of virtuous pride, who cast the destructive veil of unbelief over the invaluable sacrifice of his body. And in our little sphere let every one of us testify, with the beloved disciple, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, in whom he is well pleased" with us; and for whose sake he works in us to repent, believe, and obey; when we yield to the drawings of his grace, and concur with his Spirit in the work of our salvation.]
[Through that dear Redeemer, then, we receive all the favours which the Father of mercies bestows upon us. Are our hearts softened? It is through the influence of his preventing grace. Are our sins blotted out? It is through the sprinkling of his atoning blood. Are our souls renewed? It is by the communications of his powerful righteousness. Are we numbered among God's adopted children, and made partakers of his loving Spirit? It is through a faith that receives him as the "light of the world," and the "life of men"]
[The very graces which the Spirit works in us, and the fruits of holiness which those graces produce in our hearts and lives, are accepted only for Christ's sake. It is he who presents them to God, sprinkled with his precious blood, and perfumed with his meritorious intercession. Nor are the defects of our holiest things any other way atoned for than by the full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction which he made upon the cross for the sins of the whole world.]
[For Christ's sake God has annexed certain rewards of grace and glory to the works of faith which Christ's Spirit excites us to; and, I repeat it, for the sake of Christ only we receive the rewards promised to humble, evangelical, sprinkled obedience. All Christian believers say, "Not we but the grace of God in Christ." So far as their tempers and actions have been good, they cry out, "Thou hast wrought all our works in us." They all shout, "Christ for us," and "Christ in us, the hope of glory." They all ascribe "salvation to the Lamb:" and while they "cast their crowns of righteousness" and glory at his feet, they join in the grand chorus of the Church: "To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever." Thus all is Christ; nothing without, nothing beside him. In a word, he is to believers, as the apostle justly calls him, "ALL IN ALL."]
[Indeed, in maintaining the doctrine of free grace he cannot but go even farther than our mistaken brethren, who suppose themselves the only advocates for it. They must forgive me if I cannot be of their sentiment, when they insinuate that they shall absolutely and necessarily be saved: for as reason dictates that absolute necessity vanishes before free grace; so Christ charges his dearest elect to "fear God" as a righteous Judge, who "CAN cast body and soul into hell;" yea, who can do it justly. No gracious promise therefore is made them, whose fulfillment in heaven, as well as upon earth, is not all of grace as well as of truth, and all through the merits of Christ.]
[O ye precious merits of my Saviour, and thou free grace of my God! I, for one, shall want you as long as the sun or moon endureth. Nay, when those luminaries shall cease to shine, I shall wrap myself in you; my transported soul shall grasp you; my insatiate spirit shall plunge into your unfathomable depths; and while I shall run the never-ending circle of my blessed existence, my overflowing bliss shall spring from you; my grateful heart shall leap through your impulse; my exulting tongue shall shout your praise; and I shall strike my golden harp to your eternal honour.]
[Nay, this very day I publicly set my seal again to the important truths contained in the following scriptures:] "There is no other name [no other deserving person] under heaven, given to men whereby we may [properly] be saved" in whole or in part, but only the name [or person] of Jesus Christ. "He trod the wine press of God's wrath alone, and of the people there was none with him. He alone is a Saviour, and there is none beside him." ["If he that converts a sinner" is said to "save a soul from death," it is because he has the honour of being the Saviour's agent, and not because he is "the original cause" of any man's salvation.]
[Wo then to those who teach sinners the double way, the Pharisaic way, the [self-righteous] way of salvation, partly by man's [anti-Christian] merits, [according to the first covenant,] and partly by the [proper] merits of Jesus Christ [according to the second.] "If we, or an angel from heaven," says St. Paul, "preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached," namely, that "we are saved [i.e. pardoned, absolved, and sanctified] by grace, through faith, [which worketh by love,] and that not of ourselves, [not without an atoning priest and the Spirit helping our infirmities,] it is the gift of God-let him be accursed," Gal. i, 8.
*(19.) He really denies his Saviour, and tears the seamless robe of Christ's righteousness, who patches it with the rags of his own [anti-evangelical, faithless] righteousness. [Or, to speak without metaphor, he denies our Lord's meritorious fulfilling of the law of innocence, he despises the Saviour's complete observance of the Adamic law of works, who, being forgetful of his aggravated guilt, and regardless of his palpable impotence, refuses to submit to the law of faith, and to embrace the covenant of grace with an ardour becoming a poor, self-condemned, lost, and undone sinner. Nay, I go farther still:] he takes away [or obstructs] all the efficacy of Christ's atoning blood, who pretends to mend it by adding thereto the filthy drops of his own [fancied] goodness, [in order to make a more complete satisfaction to Divine justice.] *
"It is mere blasphemy against Divine mercy," says our Church, "and great derogation from the blood shedding of our Saviour, to suppose that our works can deserve, or purchase to us remission of sins," and consequently salvation. No: "ii is bestowed on believers of the free grace and mercy of God, by the mediation of the blood of his Son Jesus Christ, without merit or deserving on their part," [although their final justification is not without the evangelical worthiness which their faith derives from that dear Redeemer.] (Homily on Fasting.)
* To conclude: by the covenant of works man has all the glory of his own salvation. Faith [in a Redeemer] is made of no effect, Christ is entirely set aside, and works are placed in the Mediator's throne. According to the imaginary, mixed covenant of salvation by our own good works, [so called, or, to speak with propriety, by our own faithless, hypocritical works] mended, [as we think,] with [some unscriptural notions and expressions about] Christ's merits; man has the first share of the glory; Christ has only man's leavings: [the Redeemer is allowed to be the last, but not the first: the Omega, but not the Alpha; the two covenants are confounded;] works and faith, [or rather, faithless works and faith, graceless works and grace] contrary to my text, and indeed to common sense, come in together for a part of the honour [as if they were the primary, meritorious cause of our salvation; whereas
*(20.) Eleven years ago I said "the Popish way" I drop the expression now as savouring of Protestant bigotry. Though the Papists lean in general to that extreme, yet many of them have known and taught the way of salvation by a faith that interests us in the Redeemer's merits. Many have discovered and attacked self righteousness in its most deceitful appearances. Many have lived and died in the most profound humility. I would no more be a bitter Protestant, damning all the Papists in a lump, than s bitter Papist, anathematizing all Protestants without exception.
the good works of faith themselves are at the best only the secondary, evidencing cause of our final salvation.*
But by the Gospel all is set in a most beautiful order and exquisite harmony. The merits and sufferings of Christ, the Redeemer of the world, are the only meritorious, [or, as says our Church, "original] cause" of our salvation. The glory is entirely ascribed to him; and he alone sits upon the throne as a Saviour; while proud man has his mouth stopped, or opens it only in the dust to extol redeeming love.- Faith, whose office it is continually to borrow the merits of Christ, and to receive the quickening power of his Spirit; - faith, I say, is the only instrumental cause of our free salvation, [in the day of conversion;]
* (21.) Should a prejudiced reader charge me with having mixed the two covenants in my Checks, in opposition to the doctrine of this discourse: should he say that I have taught the double way of works and faith, i.e. of faithless works and faith, I protest against the groundless assertion, and appeal to all my candid readers, whether I have not constantly pointed out the one Gospel way to heaven, the good old way of faith, which worketh by love. An unfeigned faith in Christ, according to the light of our dispensation, a faith shown by evangelical works, is the Scriptural condition of the covenant of grace, which I have all along, insisted upon; whereas anti-evangelical works, helped out by a feigned faith, are the imaginary condition of the mixt, fantastic covenant, against which I so justly bore my testimony eleven years ago, and against which I bear it now, fully designing so to do, "God being my helper, till my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."
As some persons through the force of prejudice, and others through some natural defect in their understanding cannot see any difference between "the way of faith working by obedient love," which I point out in the Checks, and "the way of works helped out by feigned faith," which I decry in this discourse, I shall, by a plain illustration, endeavour to show them the amazing difference. A good king pities two condemned malefactors just turned off; and, at the prince's request, not only gets them cut down from the gallows, but after restoring them by proper assistance to a degree of strength, he sets them up in a genteel business, which they are to carry on under the constant direction of the prince. One of them, who is a publican, deeply conscious of his crimes, and wondering at the prince's condescension, does with docility and diligence whatsoever he is commanded, frequently complaining that he does so little, and expressing the greatest thankfulness, not only for his life, but for the health, light tools, and skill he works with. The other, who is a Pharisee, forgets that he has been reprieved from the gallows. He is full of self importance and ingratitude; he wonders at the publican for making so much ado about the king's mercy, and the prince's favour. He pertly tells you that he dues his duty; and that if he has been guilty of some faults, he thanks God they were not of a capital nature. He perpetually boasts of his diligence, and though he does nothing, or only spoils his work, by doing it entirely against the prince's directions, he says, that he is determined to maintain himself by his own industry; and that if he do not find it possible to get his living without help, he will condescend to accept some assistance from the prince to make both ends meet; but it shall be as little as he can help; fur he does not hove to be under an obligation to any body, no, net to the king himself. Now who does net see, that while the king graciously rewards the humble diligence of the penitent publican, he may justly punish the proud Pharisee for his wretched hypocritical obedience? And that, when Mr. Wesley and I have some. times contended for the works of the publican, and sometimes decried those of the Pharisee, we have only done the work of evangelists, and declared with the prophets and apostles of old that "God resisteth the proud and giveth his grace to the humble;" and that "he will give grace and glory, and no good thing shall he withhold from them that live a godly life?" If this be an error, I ask, Wherein does it differ from that frequent and awful declaration of our Lord, "Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted?"
it receives Christ and salvation as the hand of a beggar receives an alms. And as for good works, [properly so called,] so far are they from being left out of the Gospel plan, that they have a MOST EMINENT place in it. They are the DECLARATIVE CAUSES of our free justification [both in the day of trial and in the day of judgment:] a constant, uniform course of all sorts of good works, with a holy and heavenly-minded conversation, being the only evidence of a lively and saving faith, [when it has the to show itself by external works.]
Thus, [to sum up all in one sentence,] Christ alone [properly] merits, faith alone [properly] apprehends, and good works alone [properly] evidence salvation. Yea, they are the fruit of salvation [begun:] for [all works meet for repentance spring from the free justification and initial salvation in which we are put in our infancy; and] "the love of God shed abroad in a believer's heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him," is salvation itself; this love being the tree on which all [the external] good works [of real Christians] grow, and making our gracious heaven below, as it will make our glorious heaven above.
[SINCE I give good works, as I have just observed, a most eminent place in the Gospel plan, even the place of the evidences that will, under Christ, cause our eternal salvation, I may well] proceed to show the injustice or unreasonableness of those who accuse me of preaching against good works. For "he exclaims against good works; he runs down good works," is an objection [which is still at this time] urged against my ministry.
[Although I confess with sorrow that, some years ago, when I had more zeal than prudence, I dropped among you some unguarded expressions, and did not always clearly distinguish between the "good works," so called, of unhumbled Pharisees, and the genuine obedience of penitent believers; yet I should wrong the truth, and undervalue my character as your minister, if I did not observe that, as professed Antinomians have always loathed the doctrine of a believer's justification by works, so the Pharisaical world has always abhorred the doctrine of a sinner's justification by faith. Hence it is that] the above-mentioned aspersion with abundance of cruel mockings, and pitiful false reports, have been in all ages the lot of all those who have [steadily] preached the Gospel of Christ, that is, the glad news of free salvation through [obedient] faith in his blood.
* (22.) The word CAUSE, left out by my opponent in his quotation of this part of my old sermon, evidently shows that even formerly I did not so far lean to Antinomianism as not to assert the absolute necessity of good works, in order to the eternal salvation of adults. For if works are the secondary cause of our final justification, they can no more be dispensed with, in the great day, than faith in the day of conversion, an effect necessarily supposing its cause. If therefore I call the justification of adults free, it is not to exclude faith and works, its instrumental causes in the day of conversion and judgment; but to intimate that all along we are primarily justified by Christ's merits, and that we never have one single grain of original worthiness.
"We preach Christ crucified," says St. Paul, "to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but to them that believe, Christ the power and wisdom of God," I Cor. i, 23. It is plain from this and several other passages in the epistles, that the primitive Christians suffered much reproach on this account. St. Peter exhorts them thus: "Have your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that whereas they speak against you as evil doers, they may glorify God by your good works, which they shall behold; for it is his will, that with well-doing ye put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, and make them ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ," I Peter ii, 12, 15; and iii, 16.
St. Paul had the same objection continually cast in his face. "Do we then make void the law through faith?" says he in his own defence, Rom. iii, 31; that is, by preaching salvation through faith do we hinder people from doing the good works commanded in the law? "God forbid! yea, we establish the law:" i.e. our preaching is so far from superseding good words, that it [enforces them by the greatest variety of motives, and] puts our hearers into [the best, not to say] the only method of doing them: for it shows them how, being "sprinkled from an evil conscience," and having their "heart purified by faith," they shall naturally [i.e. spontaneously] produce all sorts of good works, instead of bringing forth a few counterfeit ones.
The apostle answers the same objection, Rom. vi, l. "Shall we then," who are saved by grace through faith, "continue in sin that grace may abound?" Shall we omit doing good works; shall we do evil works because salvation is not [by the covenant] of works, [but by that] of grace? "God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein!" As if he had said, Is not the faith which I preach a "faith of the operation of God? Is it not a powerful and active principle, that turnst the heart from all sin to all righteousness? Is it not a faith by which we are made new creatures, and "overcome the world?" 1 John v, 1, 4.
* (23.) The Antinomians "by fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." Because St. Paul fully answers this objection, they make the injudicious believe that he was of their sentiment; though upon their plan of doctrine the objection which he starts is absolutely unanswerable. They say, "We establish the law by preaching Christ, who has kept it for us; and by extolling his imputed righteousness, through which we are for ever complete in justifying obedience before God." Now although we humbly and thankfully acknowledge with them that Our Lord has kept the Adamic law of innocence and made it honourable for us: yet we absolutely deny that he has kept the evangelical law of liberty for us.- Personal obedience to it is indispensably required .of every man, and if a believer do not fulfil it for himself, St. Paul and St. James inform us that a sorer punish. rent and a more merciless judgment await his disobedience, than if he had never believed, Heb. x, 29; James ii, 13. Thus those holy apostles fully make up the gap of Antinomian free grace, which some of our Gospel ministers make it their business to widen.
* (24.) How could I have had the assurance of asking these questions, if I had believed, as my late opponent, that a man who actually commits the greatest crimes may actually have as true, justifying faith as Abraham ever had? I should expect that if such a faith did not, as I said eleven years ago, "turn the heart from all sin to all righteousness," it would at least turn it from deliberate adultery, murder, and incest.
[When people "lie in darkness," doing "the works of darkness," which in the dark pass either for good works that Divine justice will reward, or for trifling offences that Divine mercy will overlook; then heart-felt repentance is totally neglected, and deep mourning for sin passes for despair. Few know what it is to "look on him whom they have pierced and mourn." Very few, if any, can experimentally say, "Being justified by faith, we 'have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement."]
[Suppose the lot of a minister, acquainted with the privileges of the Christian dispensation, is cast in a place where these Pharisaic and common delusions generally prevail: the first thing he has to do is undoubtedly to uncover and shake the false foundations on which his awakened hearers build their hope. He must show them that their partial, external, faithless obedience will never profit them. He must decry their imaginary good works, tear off their filthy rags of fancied righteousness, sweep away "their refuges of lies," and scourge their consciences with the curse of the law, till they see their nakedness, feel their guilt, and "receive the sentence of death in themselves." Then, and not till then, will they stand on a level with the poor contrite publican, and
Groan the sinner's only plea,
"God be merciful to me."]
[When a preacher is engaged in that important and thankful business, how natural is it for him, especially if he be yet young and inexperienced, or if he be heated by the opposition of obstinate Pharisees and bigoted Papists, to drop some unguarded expressions against good works; or at least not to make always a proper distinction between the Pharisaical works of unbelief, which Isaiah calls filthy rags, and the works of faith, which our Lord calls good and ornamental works * And how glad are his adversaries to have such a plausible pretence for throwing an odium upon him, by affirming that he explodes all sorts of works, even those for which our "reward will be great in heaven!"]
*(2?.) The devil fought against our reformers with such weapons. All the books that the Papists wrote against them rang with the charge of their turning good works out of Christianity... Hear good Bishop Lather, one of the best livers that ever were:-" You will say now, Here is all faith, faith; but we hear nothing of good works: for some carnal people make such carnal objections like themselves," &c. (Sermon on Twelfth Day.)
Of the same import is the following passage out of the Homily on Fasting: "Thus much is said of good works, &c, to take away so much as may be from envious minds and slanderous tongues all just occasion of slanderous speaking, as though good works were rejected."
Thus St. Peter, St. Paul, and our reformers were accused of despising good works, because they exalted Christ, [and with a holy indignation trampled upon the works of unbelief, which are the foundation of all Pharisaic hopes,] and [so far as I have not, by unguarded expressions, given a just cause of offence to those who are glad of any occasion to decry the fundamental doctrine of salvation by faith,] I own that I rejoice to be counted worthy of suffering the same reproach with such a cloud of faithful witnesses. Nevertheless, as the Scriptures say that we must "not let the good that is in us be evil spoken of," I shall advance some arguments, which, by God's blessing, will either convince or shame my accusers.
You say, [and this I speak particularly to you that are fully set against the doctrine of salvation by faith,] you say, "that I preach against good works--that I run down good works," &c: but pray, do you know what good works are? I am afraid you do not, or else you would [not accuse me so rashly.] Give me leave therefore to instruct you once in this point.
All divines agree that good works are of three sorts: (l.) Works of piety toward God. (2.) Works of charity toward our neighbour; and, (3.) Works of self denial toward ourselves.
[To say nothing now of the good works of the heart, such as good thoughts, good tempers, and internal acts of repentance, faith, hope, and love;] in the first class, [of external good works,] which includes "works of piety," divines rank public prayer in the Church, family prayer in private houses, and [meditation and] private prayer in one's closet: singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs: reading the Bible and other good books: hearing the word preached or expounded: receiving the sacraments: keeping the Sabbath day and festivals holy: confessing Christ before a wicked world: and suffering the loss of one's estate, of one's good name, or life itself, for the Gospel's sake.
For I appeal to every impartial hearer, yea, and to thy own conscience, O man, who accusest me of preaching against good works, whether I ever taught, directly or indirectly, that we ought not constantly to attend public worship in the house of God, as well as private worship in our own houses, and to perform secret worship in our closets: whether I ever spoke against singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; or against reading the Bible and other good books: whether I ever so much as hinted that we ought not to endeavour so to despatch our worldly business, as to hear [if possible] the word preached or expounded both on Sundays and working days: whether I have intimated that we can live in the neglect of God's ordinances, and break his Sabbaths, without bringing upon ourselves "swift destruction:" and, lastly, whether at any the I cried down suffering reproach for Christ, and parting with all things, even life itself, to follow him and his doctrine.
Nay, do not you know in your own breasts that my insisting upon these good works, and encouraging all I can to do them, is what makes me to be despised and rejected by many, and perhaps by yourself?
* (25.) Instead of these words [not accuse me so rashly] I formerly wrote [be ashamed to accuse me so falsely.] I reject them now, because a minister of the Gospel should not only speak the truth, but endeavour to speak it in the most acceptable manner. It is enough to give offence when it cannot be avoided. We should not provoke the displeasure of our hearers without necessity.
* (26.) My opponent has not only done this, but he has intimated that all believers may commit adultery, murder, and incest, not only without bringing upon themselves swift destruction, but with this additional advantage, that they shall infallibly "sing louder" in heaven for their deepest falls, which can never finally hurt them, because all their sins are unconditionally for ever and fur ever forgiven. Had I ever insinuated such loose principles among my parishioners, I should have had a brazen forehead indeed to look them in the face while I made the above mentioned appeal.
How can you then, without wounding [your own conscience,] accuse me of preaching against good works? Are you not rather the person who speaks against them? Are you not yourself one of these [loose moralists] who say, that "for their part they see no need of so many sermons, lectures, and sacraments in the Church; no need of so much singing, reading, praying, and godly conversation, in private houses: no need of such strictness in keeping the Sabbath day holy," &c. if you are one of them, you add [I fear] detraction to infidelity, and bearing false testimony to open profaneness, [or Laodicean lukewarmness.] You decry good works yourself by your words, your practice, and your example; and when you have done, you lay the sin at my door; you say that I preach against them! O how will you reconcile this conduct, I shall not say to Christianity, but to good manners, good sense, or even to heathen honesty!
In the second class of good works, divines place works of [justice and] charity; and these are of two sorts: such as are done to the bodies, and such as are done to the souls of men. The former are, [for the most part,] enumerated by our Lord, Matt. xxv. They consist in being true and just in all our dealings; in "providing things honest in the sight of all men," for us and ours; in paying our just debts as soon as possible; in protecting widows and fatherless children; in giving food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty; in entertaining strangers, easing the oppressed, clothing the naked, attending the sick, visiting the prisoners, [and burying the dead, from Scriptural and not Pharisaic motives.]
Now will any one, who scruples advancing an untruth, dare affirm, that I ever spoke a word against doing any one of these good works? Against doing them [at~mñrOñer thes], from bad motives, in a wrong manner, and to wrong ends, I have often spoken; and so have all the preachers who do not "daub the wall with untempered mortar:" Christ first, Matt. vi, 2; St. Paul next, I Cor. xii, 1, 2, 3; and our Church after them. (See the Homily on Fasting.) But I ask it again, Who ever heard me speak one word against doing them? On the contrary, have I not declared again and again that even "a cup of cold water, given in Christ's name, shall in no wise lose its reward"-should certainly be rewarded in eternal life? [And do not some of you know, that within these two years I have lost many of my religious friends, by making a stand for the evangelical worthiness of the works of faith?]
As for works of mercy done to the souls of men, such as [giving a Christian education to our children and apprentices,] comforting the afflicted, encouraging the dejected, strengthening the weak, exhorting the careless, succouring the tempted, instructing the ignorant, sympathizing with mourners, warning the stubborn, [detesting hypocrisy,] reproving sin, stopping immorality, rebuking profaneness, and helping each other in the narrow way; it is known to many that my name is cast out as evil by many Sabbath breakers, swearers, and drunkards, for endeavouring to walk in these good works myself, and to induce others to walk in them.
*(27.) Eleven years ago I said [common sense and common honesty.] I now discard the expression as needlessly offensive.
And yet you, [I still address myself to the inveterate enemies of salvation by faith,] you, who possibly ridicule all those good works, and dream of being saved without them; you, who do perhaps just the reverse of them, strengthening one another's hands in licentiousness and profaneness, in Sabbath breaking, swearing, or scoffing at every thing that looks like seriousness; you accuse me of despising or discountenancing good works! O tell it not in Gath, publish it not in Askelon, lest the very Philistines laugh at the glaring inconsistency of your words and conduct!
Good works of the third class relate to keeping under the flesh, and all its sinful appetites. The chief of these works are a moderate use of meat, drink, and sleep; self denial [in apparel, furniture, and equipage;] chastity [in all its branches; subduing our slothful, rebellious flesh, by] early rising, abstinence, fasting: and, in a word, "by taking up our daily cross," and following our abstemious, and yet laborious Lord.
[Permit me to do as St. Paul--"to speak as it were foolishly in this confidence of boasting."] Have I not enforced the necessity of these good works both publicly and from house to house? Have you not sometimes even gone away from this place of worship, secretly displeased at my insisting so much upon them; complaining, perhaps, "that I went too far, or that nobody could live up to what I preach;" and making a hundred such remarks, instead of meditating upon these words of our Lord, "With man indeed it is impossible, hut with God all things are possible?" And yet you now complain that I do not preach up good works. Pray, my brethren, be consistent; keep to one point, and do not say and unsay. I can no more be too strict, and yet make too little of good works, than I can go east and west at the same the. Only think--and you will perceive that your very complaints justify me, that your sayings overturn one another, and that "your own mouths prove you perverse."
You will probably say, "Have we not heard you affirm, more than once, that nobody can be saved by his works: yea, that a man may go as constantly to church as the Pharisee did to the temple, be as virtuous as he was, pay tithes exactly as he did, and be damned after all? Can you deny having preached this doctrine twenty times?"
Deny it! By no means. It is a doctrine for which, God being my helper, I am ready to go to the stake. It is the very doctrine that I have established in the former part of this discourse. How, then, can I deny it?
Here methinks a Pharisee replies in triumph: "Well, then, you plead guilty to the charge: you confess that you have preached twenty times against good works."
* (30.) From this objection, it is evident that the works which I decried eleven years ago were those against which I now bear my testimony, namely Pharisaical works.
+ (31.) It appears to me that my sermon, far from being "the best confutation of the Minutes," is consonant to that proposition, which has given such offence Not by the merit of works, but by works as a condition.
I deny the conclusion. Have you not understanding enough to see there is a vast difference between preaching against the [proper] merit of good works, and preaching against good works themselves? Between saying that obedience to the king will never get us the crown of Great Britain, and affirming that we owe the king no obedience? In a word, between saying that good works will never procure us heaven, [as the primary, and, strictly speaking, meritorious cause of our salvation,] and declaring that we ought not to do good works? Surely your rational faculties are not so impaired but you may perceive those propositions are by no means of the same import.
If I say that eating will never make me immortal, that drinking will never turn me into an angel, and that doing my work will never take me to the third heaven, do I so much as hint that eating is useless, drinking of no service, and doing my business unprofitable? O how does prejudice blind even men of reason and religion! How hardly does truth go down with us, when we do not love it! How gladly do we dress it up in a fool's coat, that we may have some pretence to despise and reject it!
If you would speak according to strict truth, my brethren, you would not say that I "preach against good works, that I run down good works," &c, which is a mistake, as I showed just now: but you would say, that I preach against the [proper] merit of good works in point of salvation. This is very true, so I do, and so I am determined to do, by God's grace, as long as I live. So did Christ and his apostles; so do our articles and homilies; and so the children of God have done in all ages. * Those of the Old Testament [far from mentioning any proper merits of their own, cried out, "Now mine eye seeth thee, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes," Job xliii, 5. "Wo is me, for I am undone, because I am" by nature, and have been by practice, "a man of unclean lips," Isa. vi, 5.] Those of the New prayed to "be found in Christ, not having their own [Pharisaic] righteousness which is of the law of works, but the [evangelical] righteousness which is by faith in Jesus Christ," Phil. iii, 9. And those of our Church profess, that they "are not worthy to gather the crumbs under the Lord's table," and that they "do not come to it, trusting in their own righteousness," or good works, "but in God's manifold and great mercies through Jesus Christ;" so far are they from thinking that they [properly] merit salvation [either in whole or in part.] (See Communion Service.)
* Yea, I declare it as," upon the house-top," of all the false doctrines that ever came out of the pit of hell, none has done such execution for Satan in the Church of God [as the Pharisaic conceit that we have, or may have any proper, original merit.] Stealing, drunkenness, and adultery have slain their thousands: but this damnable error, which is the very root of unbelief, its ten thousands.
* (32.) Instead of this addition, eleven years ago I said [owned that all their righteousnesses were as filthy rags, Isa. lxiv, 6.] For leaning then too much toward Calvinism, I supposed that the prophet in this passage spoke of the righteousness of faith: but since I have dared to read my Bible without prejudice, and to consult the context, I have found that text is spoken only of the hypocritical righteousness of the wicked; and in the Fourth Check, page 263, I have tried to rescue it from the hands of the Antinomians, who had taught me to wrest it from its proper meaning.
* Here I leave out those words: "It [the Pharisaic conceit of merit] damned them. It blinded the Pharisees, and hardened the Jews against Christ. It plunges into ever-lasting fire all nominal Christians, "who have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof."
Yea, strange as the assertion may seem to some, this [pernicious error] feeds immorality and secretly nourishes all manner of vice. The Scripture tells us, I Cor. vi, 9, that "neither fornicators, nor effeminate, neither thieves nor covetous, neither drunkards nor revilers, neither unrighteous nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." Now, how comes it to pass that so many, who are guilty of one or another of these abominations, remain as easy as if they were guiltless? Why, this damnable notion, that the merit of their works will atone for the guilt of their sins, makes them think that they shall do well enough in the end. "I get drunk now and then," says one, "but I am honest." "I oppress or cheat my neighbour," says another, "but I go to church and sacrament." "I love money or diversions above all things," says a third, "but I bless God, I am neither a thief nor a drunkard." "I am passionate, and swear sometimes," says a fourth, "but my heart is good, and I never keep malice in my breast; beside, I'll repent and mend some time or other before I die." Now the sum of all those pleas amounts to this: "I do the devil's work, but I do good works too. I am guilty of one piece of wickedness, but not of all: and I hope that through the merit of the good which I do, and of the evil which I have left undone hitherto, or purpose to leave undone by and by, Christ will have mercy upon me."
* Thus all our [Pharisaic] delays of conversion, and all our [self-righteous] remorseless going on in sin and wickedness, are founded upon the doctrine of [Pharisaic] merits. Well then may our Church call it "a devilish doctrine, which is mere blasphemy against God's mercy:" a doctrine which turns Christ out of his throne [by refusing him the honour of being the primary and the properly meritorious cause of our salvation.] A doctrine which [by crooked ways] leads first to [worldly mindedness or] licentiousness, as the conduct of many who cry up the [self-righteous] merit of good works [so called] too plainly shows; and next to Pharisaic morality and formality; and from both, except [a timely submission to] converting grace prevent it, into endless misery: for "no doubt," says Bishop Lather, in his sermon on Twelfth Day, "he that departeth out of this world in that opinion [or, as he expresses it in the same paragraph, those who "think to be saved by the law," by the first covenant] shall never come to heaven." For they set their hearts against Christ; and, like the Pharisees of old, not only mistake the words of unbelief for good works; but give them also the place of the primary, meritorious cause of eternal salvation; when, if they were the works of faith, they would only be a secondary evidencing cause of it. Now as such men cannot possibly do this, without the greatest degree of spiritual pride, impenitency, and unbelief, it is plain that, if they die confirmed in this grand antichristian error, they cannot be saved: for St. Paul informs us that pride is "the condemnation of the devil;" and our Lord declares that "except we repent we shall all perish," and that "he who believeth not shall be damned."
the foolish virgins and the man who had not on a wedding garment." And I do it because, upon second thoughts, it appears to me that the boldness of the foolish virgins, and the insolence of the men, who pressed to the marriage feast, without proper dress, exactly represent the vain confidence with which immoral Solifidians cry, "Lord! Lord!" and make a shining profession in the robe of self-imputed righteousness; despising the evangelical robe of real righteousness and true holiness, and calling them cobwebs spun by spiders out of their own bowels.
* I had the word Pharisaic and self righteous, to come at Mr. Fulsome and his numerous fraternity, whom I now should be glad to convince of their remorseless going on in sin, and of their Antinomian delays of conversion.
[HAVING thus laid before you the destructive nature of self righteousness,] it is the to come to the last thing proposed, which was to show why good works cannot [properly speaking] deserve salvation in whole or in part; and to answer the old cavil, "If good works cannot save us, why should we trouble ourselves about them?" [In doing the former I shall attempt to give Pharisaism a finishing stroke; and in doing the latter I shall endeavour to guard the Scriptural doctrine of grace against Antinomianism, which prevails almost as much among professed believers as Pharisaism does among professed moralists.]
And first, that good works cannot [strictly speaking] merit salvation in part, much less altogether, I prove by the following arguments:-
1. We must be wholly saved by the covenant of works or by the covenant of grace; my text showing most clearly that a third covenant made up of [Christless] merits [according to the first,] and Divine mercy [according to the second,] is as imaginary a thing in divinity as a fifth element made up of fire and water would be in natural philosophy!
2. There is less proportion between heavenly glory and our works, than between the sun and a mote that flies in the air: therefore to pretend that they will avail toward [purchasing, or properly meriting] heaven, [see the fifth note,] argues want of common sense, as well as want of humility.
3. God has wisely determined to save proud man in a way that excludes boasting. "God is just and the justifier of him that believes in Jesus. Where is boasting then?" says the apostle. "It is excluded," answers he. "By what covenant," does he ask? Is boasting excluded by the covenant of works? No, "but by the law of faith," by the covenant of grace, whose condition is [penitential, self-abasing, obedient] faith in Jesus Christ. "Therefore we conclude," says he, "that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law," Rom. iii, 27, 28. If our good works [properly speaking] deserve the least part of our salvation, we may justly boast that our own arm has got us that part of the victory; and we have reason to glory in ourselves, contrary to the Scriptures, which say that" every mouth must be stopped," that "boasting is excluded," and that "he who glories must glory in the Lord."
* (33.) This is strictly true; nevertheless, we must grant that as cold water, when it is put over the fire in a proper vessel, imbibes the fiery heat, and boils without damping the fire; so our works of faith, when they are laid with proper humility on the golden altar of Christ's merits, are so impregnated with his diffusive worth as to acquire "a rewardable condecency unto eternal life." And this they do without mixing in the least with the primary or properly meritorious cause of our salvation; and consequently without obscuring the Redeemer's glory.
*- That the works of faith save us by the covenant of grace [next to Christ and faiths] will be proved in the Scriptural Assam.
[If St. Paul glories in his sufferings and labours, it is not then without Christ before God, but with Christ before the Corinthians, and under peculiar circumstances. He never imagined that his works were meritorious according to the first covenant; much less did he imagine that they had one single grain of proper merit. He perfectly knew that if they were rewardable, it was not from any self excellence which he had put into them; but merely from God's gratuitous promise in the second covenant; from Christ's grace, by which they were wrought; from his atoning blood, in which they were washed; and from his proper merits with which they were perfumed.]
[To suppose that Adam himself, if he had continued upright, would have gloried in his righteousness as a Pharisee, is to suppose him deeply fallen. In paradise God was all in all; and as he is also all in all in heaven, we may easily conceive that with respect to self exaltation, the mouth of Gabriel is not less shut before the throne than that of Mary Magdalene. Therefore, if any out of hell Pharisaically glory in themselves, it is only those self-righteous sons of Lucifer and pride, to whom our Lord says still, "You are of your father the devil, whose works ye do," when "ye seek to kill me," and "glory in yourselves."]
4. Our evil works far overbalance our good works, both in quantity and quality. Let us first then pay a righteous God the debt [the immense debt of ten thousand talents that] we owe him, by dying the second death, which is the wages of our bad works; and then we may talk of buying heaven with our good works.
5. Our best works have such a mixture of imperfection that they must be atoned for and made acceptable by Christ's blood; so far are they from atoning for the least sin [and properly meriting our acceptance] before God [even according to the second covenant.]
6. If ever we did one truly good work, the merit is not ours, but God's, who, by his free grace, "prevented, accompanied, and followed us" in the performance. For it is God, who "of his good pleasure worketh in us both to will and to do," Phil. ii, 12. "Not I," says the apostle, after mentioning his good works, "hut the grace of God in me," I Cor. xv, 10, compared with James i, 7.
7. We perpetually say at church, "Glory be to the Father," as Creator, "and to the Son," as Redeemer, "and to the Holy Ghost," as Sanctifier. Christ is then to have all the glory of our redemption: but if our good works come in for any share in the purchase of heaven, we must come in also for some share of the glory of our [redemption.] Thus Christ will no longer be the only Redeemer. We shall be co-redeemers with him, and consequently we shall have a share in the doxology; which is a blasphemous supposition.
* (34.) Eleven years ago I said [and making us accepted.] I now reject the expression as unguarded, for it clashes with this proposition of St. Peter: "In every nation he that worketh righteousness is accepted of him." We should take care so to secure the foundation, as not to throw down the building.
+ (35.) This is the very doctrine of evangelical rewardableness, or improper, derived merit, so honourable to Christ, so humbling to man, which I have maintained in the Vindication, (page 48, &c.) Therefore, if I am a merit monger and a heretic now, it is evident that I was so eleven years ago, when I wrote a sermon, which, as my late opponent is pleased to say, (Finishing Stroke, p. 44,) "does me much credit, and plainly shows that I was once zealously attached to the doctrines of the Church of England."
8. Our Lord himself decides the question in those remarkable words, "When you have done all that is commanded you;" and where is the man that [according to the law of innocence] has done, I shall not say all, but the one half of it? say, "We are unprofitable servants." (1.) Now it is plain that unprofitable servants do not [properly] merit, in whole or in part, to sit down at their master's table, and be admitted as children to a share of his estate. Therefore, if God gives heaven to believers, it is entirely Owing to his free mercy, through the merits of Jesus Christ, and not at all through the [proper] merits of our own works.
9. I shall close these observations by St. Paul's unanswerable argument: "If righteousness come by the law," if salvation come by [the covenant of works,] "then Christ died in vain," Gal. ii, 21. Whence it follows, that if it come in part by the works of the law, part of Christ's sufferings were vain, a supposition which ends in the same blasphemy against the Mediator.
[10. That man might deserve any thing of God upon the footing of proper worthiness, or merit of equivalence, God should stand in need of something, which it is in man's power to bestow: but this is absolutely impossible. For God, being self sufficient in his infinite fullness, is far above any want; and man, being a dependent creature, every moment supported by his Maker and Preserver, has nothing to which God has not a far greater right than man himself. This is what the apostle asserts where he says, "Who has given him first, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" But much more in this remarkable passage: "Who maketh thee to differ from another?" If thou sayest, The number of my talents, and the proper use I have made of them: I ask again, Who gave thee those talents? And who superadded grace, wisdom, and an opportunity to improve them? Here we must all give glory to God, and say with St. James, "Every good gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights."
Upon this consideration the apostle proceeds to check the Christian Pharisee thus: "What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?" Whence it follows that, though St. Paul himself glories in, and boasts of his disinterestedness, yea, solemnly declares, "No man shall stop me of this boasting," yet he did not glory in that virtue, "as if he had not received it." No, he gave the original glory of it to "Him of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things." The glory of bestowing original gifts upon us belongs then to God alone; and the original glory of the humility with which we receive, and of the faithfulness with which we use those gifts, belongs also to him alone; although in the very nature of things we have such a derived share of that glory as gives room to the reasonableness of Divine rewards. For why should one be rewarded more than another; yea, why should one be rewarded rather than punished, if derived faithfulness does not make him more rewardable?
Observe, however, that although by this derived faithfulness, one man makes himself to differ enough from another, for God to reward HIM reasonably rather than another; yet no man can say to his Maker, without satanic arrogance, "I have made myself to differ from such a one, therefore I make a lawful demand upon thy justice: thus much I have done for thee; do as much for me again." For while God dispenses punishments according to the rules of strict justice, he bestows his rewards only according to the rules of moral aptitude and distributive equity, in consequence of Christ's proper merits, and of his own gracious promise; all men on earth and all angels in heaven being far less capable of properly deserving at God's hands, than all the mites and ants in England are of properly meriting any thing at the hands of the king.]
* (36.) I substitute the word "redemption" for the word "salvation," that I formerly used; because English logic demands it. By the same reason I leave out in the end of the paragraph the words "Saviour," and "joint saviours," which I had illogically coupled with "Redeemer," and "co-redeemers." For although it is strictly true that no man can redeem his brother's soul or even ransom his body from the power of the grave; yet, according to the doctrine of secondary instrumental causes, it is absolutely false that no man can save his neighbour; for "in doing this," says St. Paul, "thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee," I Tim. iv, 16.
+ (37.) I say [the law of innocence] to defend the works of the law of faith, by the instrumentality of which we shall be justified or saved in the great day. For these works flowing from Christ's grace, and never aspiring at any higher place than that which is allotted them, viz., the place of justifying evidences, they can never detract from the Saviour's honour or his grace.
[Lastly, what slaves earn is not their own, but the masters to whom they belong; and what your horses get is your property, not theirs. Now, as God has a thousand times more right to us than masters to their slaves, and you to your horses; it follows that, supposing we were sinless and could properly earn any thing, our profit would be God's, not ours. So true it is that, from the creature to the Creator, the idea of proper merit is as contrary to justice as it is to decency.] As the preceding arguments [against the proper merit of works] will, I hope, abundantly satisfy all those [modern Pharisees] who have not entirely cast away the Christian revelation, I pass to the old objection of [some ignorant] Papists [and injudicious Protestants.] "If good works cannot [merit us heaven, (see fifth note,) or properly] save us, why should we trouble ourselves about them?" [And in answering it I shall guard the doctrine of obedience against the Antinomians.]
As this quibbling argument may puzzle the simple, and make the boasting Pharisees that use it triumph as if they had overturned the Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith, without [the] works [decried by St. Paul;] I beg leave to show its weakness by a comparison.
Suppose you said to me, "Your doing the work of a parish priest will never [merit] you an archbishopric;" and I answered with discontent, "If doing my office will never [merit] me the see of Canterbury, why should I do it at all? I need not trouble myself about preaching any more:" would you not ask me whether a clergyman has no reason to attend his flock but the wild and proud conceit that his labour must [deserve*] him a bishopric. And I ask, in my turn, Do you suppose that a Christian has no motive to do good works, but the wilder and prouder notion that his good works must [properly speaking] merit him heaven? (See fifth note.)
If therefore I can show that he has the strongest motives and inducements to abound in good works, without the doctrine of [proper] merits; I hope you will drop your objection. You say, "If good works will never [properly merit us salvation,] why should we do them?" I answer, For six good reasons, each of which [in some degree,] overturns your objection.
1. We are to do good works to show our obedience to our heavenly Father. As a child obeys his parents, not to purchase their estate, but because he is their child, [and does not choose to be disinherited:] so believers obey God, not to get to heaven for their wages, but because he is their Father, [and they would not provoke him to disinherit them.]
2. We are to abound in all good works, to be justified before men [now, and before the Judge of all the earth in the great day;] and to show that our faith is saving. St. James strongly insists upon this, chap. ii, 18-20 "Show me thy faith without thy works," says he, "and I will show thee my faith by my works:" that is, thou sayest thou hast faith, [because thou wast once justified by faith;] but thou doest not the works of a believer; thou canst follow vanity, and conform to this evil world: thou canst swear or break the Sabbath; lie, cheat, or get drunk; rail at thy neighbour, or live in uncleanness; m a word, thou canst do one or another of the devil's works. Thy works therefore give thee the lie, and show that thy faith is [now like] the devil's faith; for if "faith without works be dead," how doubly dead must faith with bad works be!-- [And how absurd is it to suppose that thou canst be instrumentally justified by a dead faith, or declaratively justified by bad works, either before men or in the sight of God!] But "I will show thee my faith by my works," adds the apostle: i.e. by constantly abstaining from all evil works, and steadily walking in all sorts of good works, I will make thee confess that I am really "in Christ a new creature," and that my faith is living and genuine.
* (38.) This illustration is not strictly just. If the king had millions of bishoprics to give, if he had promised to bestow one upon every diligent clergyman; solemnly declaring that all who neglect their charge should not only miss the ecclesiastical dignity annexed to diligence, but be put to a shameful death, as so many murderers of souls, the cases would then be exactly parallel. Beside, every clergyman is not a candidate for a bishopric, but every man is a candidate for heaven. Again: a clergyman may be as happy in his parsonage as a bishop in his palace; but if a man miss heaven he sinks into hell. These glaring truths J overlooked when I was a "late evangelical preacher."
* Formerly I said [entirely] but experience has taught me otherwise.
* (39.) This argument is weak without the additions. Our Lord informs us that when the father in the Gospel says to his fair-spoken child, Son, "go work to-day in my vineyard," he answers, "I go, sir," and goes not: and God himself says, "I have nourished and brought up children, but they have rebelled against me." Woe to the parents who have such children, and have no power to cut off an entail!
* (40.) If this single clause in my old sermon stand, so will the Minutes and the Checks. But the whole argument is a mere jest, if a man that wallows in adultery, murder, or incest, may have as true, justifying faith as David had when be killed Goliah.
VOL. I. 31
3. Our Saviour told his disciples that they were to do good works, not to purchase heaven, but that others might be stirred up to serve God. You, then, that have found the way of salvation by Christ, "let your light so shine before men, that even they," who speak evil of the doctrine of faith, "seeing your good works, may glorify your Father who is in heaven," Matt. v, 16.
4. We are to do good works out of gratitude and love to our dear Redeemer, who, having [conditionally] purchased heaven for us with his precious blood, now asks the small return of our love and obedience. "If you love me," says he, "keep my commandments," John xiv, 15. [This motive is noble, and continues powerful so long as we keep our first love. But, alas! it has little force with regard to the myriads that rather fear than love God: and it has lost its force in all those "who have denied the faith," or "made shipwreck of it," or "cast off their first faith," and consequently their first love and their first gratitude. The multitude of these, in all ages, has been innumerable. I fear we might say of justified believers what our Lord did of the cleansed lepers:-" Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?" Alas! like the apostates mentioned by St. Paul, they "are turned aside" after the flesh, after the world, "after fables," after Antinomian dotages, after "vain jangling, after Satan" himself, I Tim. v, 15.]
5. We are to be careful to maintain good works, [not only that we may not lose our confidence in God, I John iii, 19, &c, but also] that we may nourish and increase our faith or spiritual life: [or, to use the language of St. James, that faith may work with our works, and that by works our faith may be made perfect.] As a man [in health who is threatened by no danger] does not walk that his walking may procure him life, [or save his life from destruction,] but that he may preserve his health, and [add to] his activity: so a believer does not walk in good works to get [an initial life of grace, or a primary title to an] eternal life [of glory,] but to keep up and increase the vigour of his faith, by which he has [already a title to, and the earnest of] eternal life. For as the best health without any exercise is soon destroyed, so the strongest faith without works will soon droop and die. Hence it is that St. Paul exhorts us to "hold faith and a good conscience, which some having put away," by refusing to walk in good works, "concerning faith have made shipwreck."]
* (41.) This argument is quite frivolous if my late opponent is right. "How has many a poor soul," says he, "who has been faithless through the fear of man, even blessed God for Peter's denial!" (Five Letters, second edition revised, p. 40.) Hence it appears, that denying Christ with oaths and curses will cause "many a poor soul to bless God," i.e. to "glorify our heavenly Father." Now if horrid crimes do this as well as good works, is it not absurd to enforce the practice of good works, by saying that they alone have that blessed effect? But my opponent may easily get over this difficulty before those whose battles he fights. He needs only charge me with disingenuity for not quoting the third revised edition of his book, if he has published such a one.
* (42.) Formerly I did not consider that as Noah walked into the ark, and Lot out of Sodom. to save their lives; so sinners are called to turn from their iniquity, and do that which is lawful and right to save their souls alive. Nor did I observe that saints are commanded to walk in good works lest the destroyer overtake them, and they become sons of perdition. However, in Babel such capital over sights did me "much credit."
6. Answer: We are not to do good works to obtain heaven by them, [as if they were the properly meritorious cause of our salvation.] This proud, antichristian motive would poison the best doings of the greatest saints, if saints could thus trample on the blood of their Saviour: such a wild conceit being only the Pharisee's cleaner way to hell. But we are to do them because they shall be rewarded in heathen 1. To understand this we must remember that, according to the Gospel and our liturgy, God "opens the kingdom of heaven to all believers:" [because true believers are always true workers; true faith always working by love to God's commandments. Next to Christ, then, to speak the language of some injudicious divines,] faith alone, when it works by love, takes us to heaven: [or rather, to avoid an apparent contradiction, faith and its works are the way to heaven.] But as there are stars of different magnitude in the material heaven, so also in the spiritual. Some who, like St. Paul, have eminently shined by "the works of faith, the patience of hope, and the labour of love," shall shine like the brightest stars, [or the sun:] and others, who, like the dying thief and infants, have had [little ~ or] no time to show their faith [or holiness] by their works, shall enjoy a less degree of glorious bliss. But all shall ascribe the whole of their salvation only to the mercy of God, the merits of Christ, and the efficacy of his blood and Spirit, according to St. John's vision: "I beheld, and lo a great multitude of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, with palms in their hands, clothed with robes that they had washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb: and"
[while our Lord said to them by his gracious looks, according to the doctrine of secondary, instrumental causes, "Walk with me in white, for you are worthy, and inherit the kingdom prepared for you, for I was hungry and ye gave me meat," &c,] they cried [according to the doctrine of primary and properly meritorious causes] not "salvation to our endeavours and good works;" but "salvation to our God, who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."
[Thus, by the rules of celestial courtesy, to which our Lord vouchsafes to submit in glory, while the saints justly draw a veil over their works of faith, to extol only their Saviour's merits, he kindly passes over his own blood and righteousness to make mention only of their works and obedience. They, setting their seal to the first Gospel axiom, shout with great truth, "Salvation to God and the Lamb:" and He, setting his seal to the second Gospel axiom, replies, with great condescension, Salvation "to them that are worthy! Eternal salvation to all that obey me," Rev. iii, 4; Heb. v, 9.]
* (43.) Here I leave out the word "selfish," as being ambiguous. It is not selfishness, but true wisdom and well ordered self love, evangelically to "labour for the meat that endureth to everlasting life." Not to do it is the height of Laodicean stupidity, or Antinomian conceit.
* (44.) Here I leave out [although not with heaven,] for the reasons assigned in the Scriptural Essay.
* (45.) Here Mr. H. triumphs in his Finishing Stroke, p. 50, last note, through my omission of those two words. But without having recourse to "magical power," or even to "Logica Helvetica" to reconcile my sermon with my Checks I desire unprejudiced Calvinists to mention any one beside the dying thief that ever evidenced his faith by confessing Christ when his very apostles denied or forsook him; by openly praying to him when the multitude reviled him; by humbly pleading guilty before thousands; by publicly defending injured innocence; by boldly reproving blasphemy; by kindly admonishing his fellow malefactor; and by fully acknowledging Christ's kingly office, when he was crowned with thorns, and hanging on the cross. Did St. John, did Mary Magdalene, did even the Virgin Mary show their faith by such glorious works, under such unfavourable circumstances? O ye Solifidians, where is your attention?
[Therefore, notwithstanding the perpetual assaults of proud Pharisees, and of self-humbled Antinomians, the two Gospel axioms stand unshaken upon the two fundamental, inseparable doctrines of faith and works--of proper merit in Christ, and derived worthiness in his members. Penitent believers freely receive all from the God of grace and mercy, through Christ; and humble workers freely return all to the God of holiness and glory, through the same adorable Mediator. Thus God has all the honour of freely bestowing upon us a crown of righteousness, in a way of judicious mercy, and distributive justice; while we, through grace, have all the honour of freely receiving it in a way of penitential faith and obedient gratitude. To him, therefore, one eternal Jehovah in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be ascribed all the merit, honour, praise, and dominion, worthy of a God, for ever and ever.]
* (46.) OBJECTION. "We have all the honour through grace! (says a friend of voluntary humility.) What honour can you possibly ascribe to man when you have already ascribed all honour to God? But one who begins his sermon by pleading for merit, may well conclude it by taking from God part of his honour, dominion, and praise."
ANSWER. I plead only for an interest in Christ's merits through faith, and the works of faith. This interest I call derived worthiness, which would be as dishonourable to Christ, as it is honourable to believers. I confess, also, that I aspire at the honour of shouting in heaven, "Allelujah to God and the Lamb!" In the meantime I hope that I may pay an inferior honour to all men, ascribe derived dominion to the king, bestow deserved praise upon my pious opponents, and claim the honour of being their obedient servant in Christ, without robbing the Lamb of his peculiar worthiness, and God of his proper honour, and dominion, and praise.
I FLATTER myself that the preceding discourse shows, (1.) That it is very possible to preach free grace, without directly or indirectly preaching Calvinism and free wrath: and (2.) That those who charge Mr. Wesley and me with subverting the articles of our Church, which guard the doctrine of grace, do us great wrong. Should God spare me, I shall also bear my testimony to the truth of the doctrine of conditional predestination and election, maintained in the seventeenth article, to which I have not had an opportunity of setting my seal in this work.
As I have honestly laid my Helvetic bluntness and Antinomian mistakes before the public in my notes, I am not conscious of having misrepresented my old sermon in my enlarged discourse. Should, however, the keener eyes of my opponents discover any real mistake in my additions, &c, upon information, I shall be glad to acknowledge and rectify it. Two or three sentences I have left out, merely because they formed vain repetitions, without adding any thing to the sense.- But whenever I have, for conscience' sake, made any alteration that affects, or seems to affect the doctrine, I have informed the reader of it, and of my reason for it in a note; that he may judge whether I was right twelve years ago, or whether I am now: and where there is no such note at the bottom of the page, there is an addition in the context, directing to the fifth note, where the alteration is acknowledged and accounted for according to the reasonable condition which I have made in the preface.
I particularly recommend the perusal of that note, of the first, and of the twenty-first, to those who do not yet see their way through the straits of Pharisaism and Antinomianism, through which I have been obliged to steer my course in handling a text, which, of all others, seems at first sight best calculated to countenance the mistakes of my opponents.
Sharp-sighted readers will see by my sermon that nothing is more difficult than rightly to divide the word of God. The ways of truth and error lie close together, though they never coincide. When some preachers say that "the road to heaven passes very near the mouth of hell," they do not mean that the road to heaven and the road to hell are one and the same. If I assert that the way of truth runs parallel to the ditch of error, I by no means intend to confound them. Let error therefore come, in some things, ever so near to truth, yet it can no more be the truth, than a filthy ditch, that runs parallel to a good road, can be the road.
You wonder at the athletic strength of Milo, that brawny man, who stands like an anvil under the bruising fist of his antagonist. Through the flowery paths of youth and childhood trace him back to his cradle; and, if you please, consider him unborn he is Milo still. Nay, view him just conceived or quickened, and though your naked eye scarcely discovers the punclurn saliens by which he differs from a non-entity or a lifeless thing; yet even then the difference between him and a nonentity is not only real, but prodigious; for it is the vast difference between something and nothing, between life and no life. In like manner trace back truth to its first stamina; investigate it till you find its punclurn saliens, its first difference from error; and even then you will see an essential, a capital difference between them, though your short-sighted or inattentive neighbor can perceive none.
It is often a thing little in appearance that turns the scale of truth; nevertheless, the difference between a scale turned or not turned is as real as a difference between a just and a false weight, between right and wrong. I make this observation, (1.) To show that although my opponents come very near me in some things, and I go very near them in others, yet the difference between us is as essential as the difference between light and darkness, truth and error. And (2.) To remind them and myself that we ought so much the more to exercise Christian forbearance toward each other, as we find it difficult, whenever we do not stand upon our guard, to do justice to every part of the truth, without seeming to dissent even from ourselves. However, our short sightedness and twilight knowledge do not alter the nature of things. The truth of the anti-Pharisaic and anti-Crispian Gospel is as immutable as its eternal Author; and whether I have marked out its boundaries with a tolerable degree of justness or not, I must say as the heathen poet:-
Est modus in rebus, sunt certi denique jlnes,
Quos ultra citraque nequit consideôe rectum.
* * Truth is confined within her firm bounds; nay, there is a middle line equally distant from all extremes; on that line she stands, and to miss her, you need only step over it to the right hand or to the left.