A SCRIPTURAL ESSAY
ASTONISHING REWARDABLENESS OF WORKS,
THE COVENANT OF GRACE.
I. A variety of plain scriptures, which show that heaven itself is the gracious reward of the works of faith, and that believers may lose that reward by bad works.
II. An answer to the most plausible objections of the Solifidians against this doctrine.
III. Some reflections upon the unreasonableness of those who scorn to work with an eye to the reward, which God offers to excite us to obedience.
To the law and to the testimony, Isa. viii, 8.
A SCRIPTURAL ESSAY
ON THE ASTONISHING
REWARDABLENESS OF WORKS
THE COVENANT OF GRACE.
HAVING particularly guarded, in the preceding discourse, the doctrine of salvation by the covenant of grace, and having endeavoured to secure the foundation of the Gospel against the unwearied attacks of the Pharisees, I shall now particularly guard the works of the covenant of grace, and by that means I shall secure the superstructure against the perpetual assaults of the Antinomians; a part of my work this, which is so much the more important, as the use of a strong foundation is only to bear up a useful structure.
None but fools act without motive. To deprive a wise man of every motive to act, is to keep him in total inaction: and to rob him of some grand motive, is considerably to weaken his willingness to act, or his fervour in acting. The burning love of God is undoubtedly the most generous motive to obedience; but alas! thousands of good men, like Cornelius, are yet strangers to that powerful principle shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost. In thousands of weak believers love is not yet properly kindled; it is rather a smoking flax than a blazing fire; in thousands of Laodicean professors it is scarcely lukewarm; and in all apostates it is waxed cold. Therefore, in the sickly state of the Church militant, it is as absurd for any preachers to urge no motive of good works but grateful love, as it would be in physicians to insist that a good stomach must be the only motive from which their patients ought to take either food or physic.
Our Lord, far from countenancing our doctrinal refinements in this respect, perpetually secures the practice of good works, by promising heaven to all that persevere in doing them; while he deters us from sin, by threatening destruction to all that persist in committing it; working thus alternately upon our hopes and fears, those powerful springs of action in the human breast.
The force of this double incentive to practical religion I greatly weakened, when, being carried away by the stream of Solifidianism, I rashly said in my old sermon, after some of our reformers, that "good works shall be rewarded in heaven and eternal life, although not with eternal life and heaven." An Antinomian error this, which I again publicly renounce, and against which I enter the following Scriptural protest.
If the oracles of God command us to work from an initial life of grace for an eternal life of glory, frequently annexing the promise of heavenly bliss to good works, and threatening all workers of iniquity with hell torments; it follows, that heaven will be the gracious reward of good works, and hell the just wages of bad ones.
I readily grant, however, that if we consider ourselves merely as sinners, in the light of the first Gospel axiom, and according to the covenant of works, which we have so frequently broken, heaven is merely the gift of God through our Lord Jesus Christ: for, according to that covenant, destruction is the wages of all who have committed sin. But if we be converted sinners, or obedient believers, and if we consider ourselves in the light of the second Gospel axiom, and according to the covenant of grace, every unprejudiced person, who believes the Bible, must allow that heaven is the gracious reward of our works of faith.
An illustration may help the reader to see the justness of this distinction. A charitable nobleman discharges the debts of ten insolvent prisoners, sets them up in great or little farms, according to their respective abilities, and laying down a thousand pounds before them, he says:-"I have already done much for you, but I will do more still. I freely give you this purse to encourage your industry. You shall share this gold among you, if you manage your farms according to my directions; but if you let your fields be overrun with thorns, you shall not only lose the bounty I design for the industrious, but forfeit all my preceding favours." Now, who does not see that the thousand pounds thus laid down are a free gift of the nobleman; that nevertheless, upon the performance of the condition or terms he has fixed, they become a gracious reward of industry; and that consequently the obtaining of this reward turns now entirely upon the works of industry performed by the farmers.
Just so eternal salvation is the free gift of God through Jesus Christ; and yet the obtaining of it (on the part of adults) turns entirely upon their works of faith; that is, upon their works as well as upon their faith. Hence the Scripture says, "He that believeth is not condemned;" and, "If thou doest well shalt thou not be accepted?" "We that believe are justified;" and, "He that worketh righteousness is accepted." Our Lord, speaking of a weeping penitent, says equally: "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much;" and, "Thy sins are forgiven; thy faith hath saved thee." As for St. Paul, though he always justly excludes the works of unbelief, and merely ceremonial works, yet he so joins faith, and the works of faith, as to show us they are equally necessary to eternal salvation. "There is no condemnation," says he, "to them that are in Christ by faith," (here is the Pharisee's portion,) "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Here is the Antinomian's portion.) Hence it appears, that living faith now and always works righteousness, and that the works of righteousness now and always accompany faith, so long as it remains living.
"I know this is the doctrine," says the judicious Mr. Baxter," that will have the loudest outcries raised against it, and will make some cry out, Heresy, Popery, Socinianism! and what not? For my own part, the Searcher of hearts knoweth that not singularity, nor any good will to Popery, provoketh me to entertain it: but that I have earnestly [?] use the word now, to stop up the Antinomian gap which one of my opponents tries to keep open by insinuating, that though a true believer may commit adultery and murder now, yet he will always work righteousness before he die.
I sought the Lord's direction upon my knees before I durst adventure on it; and that I resisted the light of this conclusion as long as I was able." May this bright testimony make way for an illuminated cloud of prophets and apostles! and may the Sun of righteousness, rising behind it, so scatter the shades of error, that we may awake out of our Laodicean sleep, and Antinomian dreams, and see a glorious, unclouded Gospel day!
That, in subordination to Christ, our eternal salvation depends upon good works, i.e., upon the works of faith, will, I think, appear indubitable to them that believe the Bible, and candidly consider the following scriptures, in which heaven and eternal life in glory are suspended upon works, if they spring from a sincere belief in the light of our dispensation; I say, if they spring from true faith, it being absolutely impossible for a heathen, and much more for a Christian, to work righteousness without believing in some degree "that God is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him," as well as the punisher of them that presumptuously sin against him. "For without faith it is impossible to please God;" all faithless works springing merely from superstition, like those of Baal's priests, or from hypocrisy, like those of the Pharisees. Having thus guarded again the doctrine of faith, I produce some of the many scriptures that directly or indirectly annex the above-mentioned reward to works: And,
1. To consideration, conversion, and exercising ourselves in godliness.-"Because he considereth, and turneth away from his transgressions, &c, he shall surely live, he shall not die. When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness, &c, he shall save his soul alive. Wherefore turn yourselves and live ye. Exercise thyself unto godliness, for it is profitable unto all things; having the promise of the life that now is, and that which is to come."
2. To doing the will of God.-"He that does the will of my Father shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. He that does the will of God abideth for ever. Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother and sister, i.e. the same is an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ."
3. To confessing Christ, and calling upon the name of the Lord.- "With the mouth confession is made to salvation. Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father: but whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father. Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
4. To self denial-"If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go to hell, &c. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, &c, for my sake and the Gospel's, but he shall receive a hundred fold now, and in the world to come eternal life. He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it, &c. He that hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal." And our Lord supposes that by "gaining the world" a man may "lose his own soul:" for, according to the covenant of grace, even reprobates are not totally lost till they make themselves sons of perdition, like Judas, i.e. till they personally and absolutely "lose their own souls" and heaven by their personal and obstinate pursuit of worldly things.
5. To diligent labour and earnest endeavours.-"O man of God, lay hold on eternal life. Work out your own salvation. Labour for the meat that endureth to everlasting life. Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life. In so doing thou shalt save thyself. Narrow is the gate that leads to life. Strive to enter in. The violent press into the kingdom of God, and take it by force."
6. To keeping the commandments.-"Blessed are they that do his commandments, &c, that they may enter through the gates into the city, i.e. into heaven. There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that worketh abomination. If thou wilt enter into life,* keep the commandments. Thou hast answered right; this do and thou shalt live. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: [some of whose laws run thus:] Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy. Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God, [and, of course, the heirs of the kingdom.] The King shall say unto them, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, for I was hungry and ye gave me meat, &c. Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: but he that does wrong, shall receive for the wrong which he hath done, and there is no respect of persons. Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children, &c, for this ye know, that no whore-monger, &c, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of God. The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, adultery, &c, of which I tell you [believers] that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
[ * See the excellent comment of our Church upon these words of our Lord, Fourth Check. ]
7. To running, fighting, faithfully laying up treasure in heaven, and feeding the flock of God.-"They who run in a race run all; but one receiveth the prize: so run that you may obtain. Now they are temperate in all things to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, fight, and bring my body into subjection, [that I may obtain;] lest I myself should be cast away;" i.e. should not be approved of, should be rejected, and lose my incorruptible crown. "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life. Lay up treasure in heaven. Make yourselves friends with the mammon of unrighteousness, that when you fail on earth they may receive you into everlasting habitations. Charge them who are rich that they do good, that they be rich in good works, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. Feed the flock of God, &c, being examples to the flock, and when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away."
8. To love and charity.-"Though I have all faith, &c, and have no charity, I am nothing. She [the woman] shall be saved, &c, if they [womankind] continue in faith and charity. Whosoever hateth his brother hath not eternal life. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. We know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. If any man love not the Lord Jesus, let him be anathema. The crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."
9. To a godly walk.-"There is no condemnation to them, &c, that walk not after the flesh. As many as walk according to this rule, mercy [be, or will be] on them. If we walk in the light [of good works, Matt. v, 15,] the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin. The Lord will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. Many [fallen believers] walk, &c, enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction."
10. To persevering watchfulness, faithfulness, prayer, &c.-"He that endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved. Be faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I will also keep thee, &c. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne. To him that keepeth my words unto the end, &c, will I give the morning star. Take heed to yourselves, &c, watch and pray always, that ye may be counted worthy to escape, &c, and to stand before the Son of man." In a word,
11. To patient continuance in mortifying the deeds of the body, and in well doing.-"If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap perdition; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, [not if we faint or not, but] if we faint not. He that reapeth receiveth wages and gathereth fruit unto life eternal. Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." God, at the revelation of his righteous judgment "will render to every man according to his deeds; eternal life to them who, by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory. Anguish upon every soul of man that does evil, &c, but glory to every man that worketh good, &c, for there is no respect of persons with God."
Is it not astonishing, that in sight of so many plain scriptures the Solifidians should still ridicule the passport of good works, and give it to the winds as a "paper kite?" However, if the preceding texts do not appear sufficient, I can send another volley of Gospel truths, to show that the initial salvation of believers themselves may be lost through bad works.
I know thy works, &c, so then, "because thou art lukewarm, I will spue thee out of my mouth." "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man [(tis) any one, and two verses below, any one [greek], James ii, 14, 16,] say he hath faith, and hath not works," know?] "Can faith save him, &c? Faith if it hath not works is dead, being alone. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned." [In the original it is the same word which is rendered damned, Mark xvi, 16.] "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us. Add to your faith virtue, &c, charity, &c. If ye do these things ye shall never fall, for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord. It had been better for them that [gap]e escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of our Saviour, [i.e. for believers,] not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is cut down and cast into the fire. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit my Father taketh away. Abide in me, &c. If a man abide not in me [by keeping my commandments in faith] he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and [he shall share the fate of the branches that have really belonged to the natural vine, and now bear no more fruit] men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." The fig tree in the Lord's moral vineyard is cut down for not bearing fruit. "Him that sinneth I will blot out of my book. Some, having put away a good conscience, concerning faith have made shipwreck. Such as turn back to their own wickedness, the Lord shall lead them forth with the evil doers. Toward thee goodness, if [by continuing in obedience] thou continue in his goodness, otherwise thou shalt be cut off."
Again: "For the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of my house, I will love them no more. Some are already turned aside after Satan, having damnation because they have cast off their first faith; the faith that works by love; the mystery of faith kept in a pure conscience; the faith unfeigned [that the apostle couples with] a good conscience;" the faith that is made perfect by works; the faith that cries, like Rachel, Give me children, give me good works, or else I die;-the faith that faints without obedience, and actually dies by bad works; the following scriptures abundantly proving that faith, and consequently the just who live by faith, may die by bad works.
"When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness and commit iniquity, &c, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered," Ezek. iii, 20. Again:
"When the righteous *, &c, does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All his righteousness that he has done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die," Ezek. xviii,
* That this is spoken of a truly righteous man, i.e. of a believer, appears from the following reasons: (1.) The righteous here mentioned is opposed to the wicked mentioned in the context. As surely then as the word wicked means there one really wicked, so does the word righteous mean here one truly righteous. (2.) The righteous man's turning from his righteousness is opposed to the wicked man's turning from his iniquity. If therefore the righteous man's righteousness is to be understood of feigned goodness, so the wicked man's iniquity must be understood of feigned iniquity. (3.) The crime of the righteous man here spoken of is turning from his righteousness: but if his righteousness were only a hypocritical righteousness, he would rather deserve to be commended for renouncing it; a wicked, sly Pharisee being more odious to God than a barefaced sinner, who has honesty enough not to put on the mask of religion, Rev. iii, 15. (4.) Part of this apostate's punishment will consist in not having the righteousness that he has done remembered. But if his righteousness is a false righteousness, or mere hypocrisy, the Divine threatening proves a precious promise; for you cannot please a hypocrite better than by assuring him that his hypocrisy shall never be remembered. What a pity is it, that to defend our mistakes we should load egregious nonsense and gross contradiction upon the only wise God!
24. Once more: "The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression, &c. When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live;*- if he trust to his righteousness, and commit iniquity, he shall die for it," Ezek. xxxiii, 13.
* These words are another indubitable proof that the righteous here mentioned is a truly righteous person; as the holy and true God would never say to a wicked Pharisee, that he shall surely live.
It seems that God, foreseeing the Solifidians would be hard of belief, notwithstanding the great ado they make about faith, condescended to their infirmity, and kindly spoke the same thing over and over; for setting again the broad seal of heaven to the truth that chiefly guards the second Gospel axiom, he says for the fourth time, "When the righteous turneth from his righteousness and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby: but if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby," Ezek. xxxiii, 18, 19.
If Ezekiel be not allowed to be a competent judge, let Christ himself be heard: "Then his Lord said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, &c; shouldst not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his Lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors," Matt. xviii, 26, &c.
All the preceding scriptures are thus summed up by our Lord, Matt. xxv, 46, "These [the persons who have not finally done the works of faith] shall go into everlasting punishment; but the righteous [those who have done them to the end, at least from the time of their re-conversion, if they were backsliders] shall go into eternal life." This doctrine agrees perfectly with the conclusion of the sermon on the mount: "Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand."- Nay, this is Christ's explicit doctrine. No words can be plainer than these; "They that are in their graves shall hear his voice and 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. All creeds, therefore, like that of St. Athanasius, and all faith, must end in practice. This is a grand article of what might, with peculiar propriety, be called the catholic faith-the faith that is common to, and essential under all the dispensations of the everlasting Gospel, in all countries and ages: "the faith which, except a man believe faithfully," i.e. so as to work righteousness, like the good and faithful servant, "he cannot be saved."
As some difficulties probably rise in the reader's mind against the preceding doctrine, it may not be amiss to produce them in the form of objections, and to answer them more fully than I have yet done.
I. OBJECTION. "All the scriptures that you have produced, are nothing but descriptions of those who shall be saved or damned: you have therefore no ground to infer from such texts, that in the great day our works of faith shall be rewarded with an eternal life of glory, and our bad works punished with eternal death."
ANSWER. Of all the paradoxes advanced by mistaken divines, your assertion is perhaps the greatest. You have no more ground for it than I have for saying that England is a lawless kingdom, and that all the promises of rewards, and threatenings of punishments, stamped with the authority of the legislative power, are no legal sanctions. If I seriously maintained that the bestowing of public bounties upon the inventors of useful arts; that the discharge of some prisoners, and the condemnation of others, according to the statutes of the realm, are things which take place without any respect to law; that the acts of parliament are mere descriptions of persons, which the government rewards, acquits, or punishes without any respect to worthiness, innocence, or demerit; and that the judges absolve or condemn criminals merely out of free grace and free wrath; if I maintained a paradox so dishonourable to the government and so contrary to common sense, would you not be astonished! And if I gave the name of Papist to all that did not receive my error as Gospel, would you not recommend me to a dose of Dr. Monro's hellebore? And are they much wiser, who fix the foul blot upon the Divine government, and make the Protestants believe that the sanctions of the King of kings, and the judicial dictates of Him who judges the world in righteousness, are not laws and sentences, but representations and descriptions?
A comparison will show the frivolousness of your objection. There is, if I mistake not, a statute that condemns a highwayman to be hanged, and allows a reward of forty pounds to the person that takes him. A counsellor observes that this statute was undoubtedly made to deter people from going upon the highway, and to encourage the taking of robbers. "Not so," says a lawyer from Geneva; "though robbers are hanged according to law, yet the men that take them are not legally rewarded; the sum mentioned in the statute is given them of free, gratuitous, undeserved, unmerited, distinguishing grace." Nay, says the counsellor, if they do not deserve the forty pounds more than other people, that sum might as well be bestowed upon the highwaymen themselves as upon those who take them at the hazard of their life. "And so it might," says the Geneva lawyer; "for although poor, blind legalists make people believe that the promissory part of the law was made to excite people to exert themselves in the taking of robbers; yet we know better at Geneva; and I inform you that the clause you speak of is only a description of certain men, for whom the government designs the reward of forty pounds gratis." The admirers of Geneva logic clap their hands and cry out, "Well said! down with legality!" but an English jury smiles and cries, "Down with absurdity!" (See Fourth Check, p. 273.)
II. OBJECTION. "You confound our title to, with our meetness for heaven, two things which we carefully distinguish. Our title to heaven, being solely what Christ has done and suffered for his people, has nothing to do with either our holiness or good works; but our meetness for heaven supposes holiness, if not good works. Therefore God's unconverted, sinful people, who have, in Christ, a complete title to heaven, by right of finished salvation, '"shall all be made meet for heaven in the day of his power."
ANSWER 1. I understand you, and so does Mr. Fulsome. You insinuate that, till the day you speak of comes, unconverted sinners and backsliders may indulge themselves like the servant mentioned in the Gospel, who said, My master delayeth his coming, and began to drink with the drunken; but alas! instead of "a day of power," he saw a day of vengeance, and his "finished salvation," so called, ended in weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
2. Your distinction is contrary to the Scriptures, which represent all impenitent workers of iniquity as having a full title to hell according to both law and Gospel; so far are the oracles of God from supposing that some workers of iniquity have a full title to heaven, absolutely independent on the obedience of faith.
3. It is contrary to reason; for reason dictates that whosoever has a full title to a punishment, or to a reward, is fully meet for it. Where is the difference between saying that a murderer is fully meet for, or that he has a full title to the gallows? If a palace richly furnished was bestowed upon the most righteous man in the kingdom, and you were the person, would it not be absurd to distinguish between your title to, and your meetness for that recompense? Or if the king, in consequence of a valuable consideration received from the prince, had promised a coronet to every swift runner in England, next to the prince's interposition and his majesty's promise, would not your running well be at once your title to, and meetness for that honour! And is not this the case with respect to the incorruptible crowns reserved in heaven for those who so run that they may obtain?
4. Your distinction draws after it the most horrid consequences: for if a full title to heaven may be separated from a meetness for the lowest place in heaven, it necessarily follows that Solomon had a full title to heaven when he worshipped Ashtaroth; and the incestuous Corinthian when he defiled his father's bed; in flat opposition to the dictates of every man's conscience, (if you except Mr. Fulsome and his fraternity.) It follows that St. Paul told a gross untruth when he said, "This ye know, that no idolater and no unclean person hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." In a word, it follows that believers "sanctified with the blood of the covenant, who draw back to perdition," (such as the apostates mentioned Heb. x, 29,) may have no title to heaven in all their sanctifying faith; while some impenitent murderers, like David and Manasses, have a perfect title to it in all their crimes and unbelief.
5. This is not all. Our Lord's mark, "By their fruits ye shall know them," is absolutely wrong if you are right: for your distinction abolishes the grand characteristic of the children of God and those of the devil, which consists in not committing or committing iniquity, from doing or not doing righteousness, according to these plain words of St. John, "He that committeth sin is of the devil. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil. Whosoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not [much less he that murders] his brother," I John iii, 8, 10. Thus the Lord's sacred enclosure is broken down, his sheepfold becomes a fold for goats, a dog kennel, a swine stye. Nay, for what you know, all bloody adulterers may be "sheep in wolves' clothing;" while all "those that have escaped the pollution that is in the world" may only be "wolves in sheep's clothing;" it mattering not, with regard to the goodness of our title to heaven, whether "filthiness to Belial," or "holiness to the Lord" be written upon our foreheads. O sir, how much more dangerous is your scheme than that of the primitive Babel builders! They only brought on a confusion of the original language; but your doctrine confounds light and darkness, promises and threatenings, the heirs of heaven and those of hell, the seed of the woman and that of the serpent.
II. As to your intimation that holiness is secured by teaching that God's people shall absolutely be made willing to forsake their sins, and to become righteous in the day of God's power, that so they may have a meetness for, as well as a title to heaven; it drags after it this horrid consequence: the devil's people, "in the day of God's power," shall absolutely be made willing to forsake their righteousness, that they may have a meetness for, as well as a title to hell. A bitter reverse this of your "sweet Gospel!"
To conclude. If by your distinction you only want to insinuate that Christ is the grand and properly meritorious procurer of our salvation, from first to last, and that the works of faith are only a secondary, instrumental, evidencing cause of our final salvation, you mean just as I do. But if you give the world to understand that election to eternal glory is unconditional, or, which comes all to one, that no sin can invalidate our title to heaven; from the preceding observations it appears that you deceive the simple, make Christ the minister of sin, and inadvertently poison the Church with the rankest Antinomianism.
III. OBJECTION. "You call the works of Christ the primary and properly meritorious cause, and our works of faith the secondary and instrumental cause of our eternal salvation. But according to your doctrine, our works should be called the first cause, and Christ's work the second: for you make the final success of Christ's work to depend on our work, which is manifestly setting our performances above those of the Redeemer."
ANSWER 1. When a gardener affirms that he shall have no crop unless he dig and set his garden, does he manifestly set his work above that of the God of nature? And when we say that "we shall not reap final salvation, if we do not work out our salvation," do we exalt ourselves above the God of grace?
2. Whether our free agency turns the scale for life or death, to all eternity Christ shall have the honour of having died to bestow an initial life of grace even upon those who choose death in the error of their ways, God to have made them gracious and sincere offers of an eternal life of glory. In this sense then Christ's work cannot be rendered ineffectual; it being his absolute decree that the word of his grace shall be the savour of life to obedient free agents, and the savour of death to the disobedient. Therefore, if we will not have the eternal benefit of his Redeeming work, we cannot take from him the eternal honour of having shed his blood even for those who tread it under foot, and who "bring upon themselves swift destruction by denying the Lord that bought them."
3. Christ is not dishonoured by the doctrine that represents the effect of the greater wheel as being thus in part suspended upon the turning of the less. The light of the sun shines in vain for me if I shut my eyes. Life is a far nobler gift than food. I can give my starving neighbour bread, but I cannot give him life. Nevertheless, the higher wheel stops, if the inferior is quite at a stand: he must die if he has no nourishment. Thus, by God's appointment, the preservation of all the first born of the Israelites in Egypt depended upon the sprinkling of a lamb's blood; the life of all them that were bitten by the fiery serpents was suspended on a look toward the brazen serpent; and that of Rahab and her friends hung, if I may so speak, on a scarlet thread. Now, if God did not dishonour his wisdom when he made the life of so many people to depend upon those seemingly insignificant works; and if he continues to make the life of all mankind depend upon breathing; is it reasonable to say that he is dishonoured by his own doctrine, which suspends our eternal salvation upon the works of faith?
4. Your objection can be retorted. Most Calvinists grant that our justification in the day of conversion depends our believing. Thus the Rev. Mr. Madan, in his sermon on James ii, 24, (p. 18,) says, "Though the Lord Jesus has merited our justification before God, yet we are not actually justified, till He be received into the heart by faith, and rested on," &c. Therefore, in the day of conversion, that great mediator being judge, our justification is suspended on the work which he calls "receiving Christ," or "resting on him." And how much more may our eternal salvation be suspended on faith and works; i.e. on resting upon Christ and working righteousness!
5. This is not all. Both Mr. Madan and Mr. Hill call faith the instrumental CAUSE of our justification, and every body knows that the effect is always suspended on the CAUSE. Now, if so great an effect as a sinner's present justification may be suspended upon the single CAUSE of faith, why may not a believer's eternal justification be suspended upon the double CAUSE of faith and its works? In a word, why must Mr. Wesley be represented as heterodox for insinuating that believing and working instrumentally CAUSE our eternal justification; when Mr. Madan wears the badge of orthodoxy, although he insinuates that believing instrumentally CAUSES our justification?
If Mr. Madan say that he allows faith to be an instrumental CAUSE, on account of its being the gift of God by which we receive Christ; I answer, that we allow the work of faith to be an instrumental cause, because it springs from the Spirit of Christ, and constitutes our likeness to Christ, and our evangelical righteousness; a righteousness this which Christ came into the world to promote. "For God sending his Son, &c, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," i.e. we walk in good works. If it is asserted that there can be but one instrumental cause of our salvation, that is, faith; I appeal to reason, which dictates that Christian faith implies a variety of Causes, such as preaching Christ, and hearing him preached: for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. This argument, therefore, carries its own answer along with it.
6. To conclude: Mr. Madan, in the above-quoted sermon, (P. 16,) says with great truth:-"Christ and faith are not one and the same thing; how then can we reconcile the apostle with himself, when he says, in one place, we are justified by Christ; and in another, we are justified by faith? This can only be done by having recourse to the plain distinction which the Scriptures afford us in considering Christ as the meritorious cause, and faith as the instrumental cause, or that by which the meritorious cause is applied unto us, so that we are benefited thereby." Now all our heresy consists in applying Mr. Madan's judicious reasoning to all the scriptures that guard the second Gospel axiom, thus: "How can we reconcile the apostle with himself, when he says in one place, 'We are saved by Christ,' and in other places, 'We are saved by faith, we are saved by hope. Work out your own salvation. Confession is made to salvation,' &c, for Christ and faith, Christ and hope, Christ and works, Christ and making confession, are not one and the same thing? This seeming inconsistency in St. Paul's doctrine vanishes by admitting a plain distinction, which the Scriptures afford us: that is, (1.) By considering Christ, from first to last, as the properly meritorious cause of our present and eternal salvation. (2.) By considering faith as the instrumental cause of our salvation from the guilt and pollution of sin on earth. And, (3.) By considering the work's of faith not only as the evidencing cause of our justification in the great day, but also as an instrumental cause of our continuing in the life of faith; just as eating, drinking, breathing, and such works, that spring from natural life, are instrumental causes of our continuing in natural life." Thus faith, and its works, are two inferior causes, whereby the properly meritorious cause is so completely applied to obedient, persevering believers, that they are now, and for ever shall be benefited by it. As I flatter myself that this six-fold answer satisfies the candid reader, I pass on to another plausible objection.
IV. OBJECTION. "Though you assert that from first to last the works and sufferings of Christ are the grand and properly meritorious cause of our salvation; yet, according to your scheme, man having a life of glory upon his choice, and heaven upon working out his salvation, the honour of free grace is not secured. For, after all, free will and human faithfulness, or unfaithfulness, turn the scale for eternal salvation or damnation."
ANSWER. l. In the very nature of things we are free agents, or the wise and righteous God would act inconsistently with his wisdom and equity in dispensing rewards and punishments. If, through "the saving grace of God" which "has appeared to all men," we were not again endued with an awful power to "choose life," and to be faithful, it would be as injudicious to punish or recompense mankind as to whip a dead horse for not moving, condemn fire for burning, or grant water an eternal reward for its fluidity.
2. Were I ashamed of my moral free agency, I should be ashamed of the noble power that distinguishes me from the brute creation. I should be ashamed of the Old Testament, and of Moses, who says, "Behold, I call heaven and earth to record, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life." I should be ashamed of the New Testament, and of Christ, who complains, "You will not come unto me that you might have life," i.e. you will not use the power which my preventing grace has given you, that you might live here a life of faith and holiness, and be hereafter rewarded with a life of happiness and glory. In a word, I should give up the second Gospel axiom, and tacitly reproach my Maker, who says, "Why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth; wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye."
3. To convince you that free agency, and a right use of it, arc by no means inconsistent with Divine grace and genuine humility, I ask, Did not God endue our first parents with free will? Are not even some rigid Calvinists ashamed to deny it? If free will in man is a power dishonourable to God, did not our wise Creator mistake when he pronounced man "very good," at the very time man was a free willer? For how could man be very good if he had within him a power that necessarily militates against the honour of God, as the Calvinists insinuate free will does!
4. I go one step farther, and ask, Did God ever endue one child of Adam with power to avoid one sin? If you say no, you contradict the Scriptures, your own conscience, and the consciences of all mankind; you fix the blot of folly on all the judges who have judicially punished malefactors with death; and when you insinuate that the Lawgiver of the universe will send all workers of iniquity personally into hell for not "doing what is lawful and right to save their souls alive," or for not avoiding sin, when he never gave them the least power personally so to do, you pour almost as much contempt upon his perfections as if you hinted that he will one day raise all creeping insects, to judge them according to their steps, and to cast into a place of torment as many as did not move as swiftly as a race horse.
If you answer in the affirmative, and grant that God has graciously endued one child of Adam with power to avoid one sin, so far you hold free will as well as Moses and Jesus Christ. Now if God has bestowed free will upon one child of Adam with respect to the avoiding of one sin; why not upon two, with respect to the avoiding of two sins? Why not upon all, with respect to the avoiding of all the sins that are incompatible with the obedience of faith?
5. Again: as it would be absurd to say that God gave a power to avoid one sin only to one child of Adam; so it would be impious to suppose God gave him this power, that, in case he faithfully used it, he should necessarily boast of it. Pharisaic boasting is then by no means the necessary consequence of our moral liberty, or of a proper use of our free will. Thus it appears that your specious objection is founded upon a heap of paradoxes; and that to embrace free wrath lest we should not make enough of free grace, and to jump into fatalism lest we should be proud of our free will, is not less absurd than to prostrate ourselves before a traitor lest we should not honour the king, and to run to a house of ill fame lest we should be proud of our chastity.
II. Our doctrine secures the honour of free grace as well as Calvinism. You will be convinced of it if you consider the following articles of our creed with respect to free grace:-(1.) Before the fall, the free grace of our Creator gave us in Adam holiness, happiness, and a power to continue in both. (2.) Since the fall, the free grace of our Redeemer indulges us with a reprieve, an accepted time, a day of visitation and salvation; in a word, with a better covenant, and a "free gift that is come upon all men unto [initial] justification of life," Rom. v, 15. (3.) That nothing may be wanted on God's part, the free grace of our Sanctifier excites us to make a proper use of the free gift, part of which is moral liberty. (4.) Thus even our free will to good is all of creating, redeeming, and sanctifying grace. Therefore, with regard to that glorious power, as well as to every other talent, we humbly ask, with St. Paul, "What hast thou, that thou hast not received?" (5.) This is not all: we are commanded to "account the long suffering of God [a degree of] salvation;" and so it is: for without forcing, or necessarily inclining our will, God's providential free grace disposes a thousand circumstances in such a manner as to second the calls of the everlasting Gospel. The gracious Preserver of men works daily a thousand wonders to keep us out of the grave, and out of hell. A thousand wheels have turned ten thousand times, in and out of the Church, to bring us the purest streams of Gospel truth. Countless breathings of the Spirit of grace add virtue to those streams; free grace therefore not only prevents, but also in numberless ways accompanies, follows, directs, encourages, and assists us in all the works of our salvation.
And yet, while God thus works in us as the God of all grace, "both to will and to do of his good pleasure;" that is, while he thus gives us the faculty to will, and the power to do; and while he secretly, by his Spirit, and publicly, by his ministers and providences, excites us to make a proper use of that faculty and power; yet, as the God of wisdom, holiness, and justice, he leaves the act to our choice; thus treating us as rational creatures, whom he intends wisely to reward, or justly to punish, according to their works, and not according to his own.
Hence it appears that we go every step of the way with our Calvinist brethren while they exalt Christ and free grace in a rational and Scriptural manner; and that we refuse to follow them only when they set Christ at naught as a prophet, a lawgiver, a judge, and a king; under pretence of extolling him as a priest; or when they put wanton free grace and unrelenting free wrath in the place of the genuine free grace testified of in the Scriptures.
V. OBJECTION. "One more difficulty remains: if I freely obey the Gospel and am saved; and if my neighbour freely disobeys it and is damned, what makes me to differ from him? Is it not my free obedience of faith?"
ANSWER. Undoubtedly. And his free disobedience makes him differ from you; or it would be very absurd judicially to acquit and reward you rather than him, according to your works. And it would be strange duplicity to condemn and punish him rather than you in a day of judgment, after the most solemn protestations that equity and impartiality shall dictate the Judge's sentence.
As to the difficulty arising from St. Paul's question, I Cor. iv, 7, "Who maketh thee to differ?" to what I have said about it in the preceding sermon, (p. 479,) I add: 1. According to the covenant of works "all fall short of the glory of God." And when any one asks, with respect to the law of innocence, "Who makes thee to differ?" the proper answer is, "There is no difference: every mouth must be stopped: all the world is guilty before God:, enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord." But, according to the covenant of grace, he that freely believes and obeys in the strength of free grace, undoubtedly makes himself to differ from him that by obstinate disobedience "does despite to the Spirit of grace." If this point be given up, the Diana and the Apollo, or rather the Apollyon of the Antinomians (I mean wanton free grace, and merciless free wrath) are set up for ever. However,
2. If the question, "Who maketh thee to differ?" be asked with respect to the number of our talents, the proper answer is, "God's distinguishing grace alone maketh us to differ." And that this is the sense which the apostle had in view, is evident from the context. He had before reproved the Corinthians for "saying every one, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos," &c; and now he adds, "These things I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos, that ye might learn in us not to think [of gifted, popular men, or of yourselves] above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another: for who maketh thee to differ?" Why is thy person graceful? And why art thou naturally an eloquent man, like Apollos, while thy brother's speech is rude, and his bodily presence weak and contemptible like mine But,-
3. If you ask, "Who maketh thee to differ?" with respect to the improvement or non-improvement of our gifts and graces: if you inquire whether God necessitates some to disbelieve that they may necessarily sin and be damned; while he necessitates others to believe that they may necessarily work righteousness and be saved: I utterly deny the last question, and in this sense St. Paul answers his own misapplied question thus: "Be not deceived: what a man [not what God] soweth, that shall he also reap;" perdition if he sow to the flesh, and eternal life if he sow to the Spirit. Nor am I either afraid or ashamed to second him, by saying, upon the walls of Jerusalem, that, in the last-mentioned sense, We make ourselves to differ. And Scripture, reason, conscience, the Divine perfections, and the trump of God, which will soon summon us to judgment, testify that this reply stands as firm as one half of the Bible, and the second Gospel axiom on which it is immovably founded.
Nay, there is not a promise or a threatening in the Bible that is not a proof of our Lawgiver's want of wisdom, or of our Judge's want of equity, if we are not graciously endued with a capacity to make ourselves differ from the obstinate violators of the law, and despisers of the Gospel,--that is, if we are not free agents. There is not an exhortation, a warning, nor an entreaty in the sacred pages, that is not a demonstration of the penman's folly, or of the freedom of our will. In a word, there is not a sinner justly punished in hell, nor a believer wisely rewarded in heaven, that does not indirectly say to all the world of rationals: "Though the God" of grace draws thee to obedience, yet it is with "the bands of a man." For, after all, he "leaves thee in the hand of thy counsel, to keep the commandments, and perform acceptable obedience if thou wilt. Before man is life and death, and whether him liketh shall be given him," Ecclus. xv, 14, &c.
But, although your obedience of faith makes you to differ from your condemned neighbour, you have no reason to reject the first Gospel axiom, and to indulge, a boasting contrary to faith and free grace: for your Christian faith, which is the root of your obedience, is peculiarly the gift of God; whether you consider it as to its precious seed, ("the word nigh;") as to its glorious object, (Christ and the truth;) as to the means by which that object is revealed, (such as preaching and hearing;) as to the opportunities and faculties of using those means, (such as life, reason, &c,) or as to the Spirit of grace, whose assistance in this case is so important, that he is called "the Spirit of faith." And yet that Spirit does not act irresistibly; all believers unnecessarily and freely yielding to it, and all unbelievers unnecessarily and freely resisting it. So far only does the matter turn upon free will. Thus it appears, that although the act of faith is ours, we are so much indebted to free grace for it, that believers can no more boast* of being their own saviours, because they daily believe and work in order to their final salvation, than they can boast of being their own preservers, because they daily breathe and eat in order to their continued preservation.
On the other hand, although your condemned neighbour's disobedience makes him differ from you, he has no reason to reject the second Gospel axiom, and to exculpate himself by charging Heaven with capricious partiality and horrid free wrath: because God, whose mercy is over all his works, and who is no respecter of persons, graciously bestowed a talent of free grace upon him as well as upon you, according to one or another of the Divine dispensations. For the royal master, mentioned in the Gospel, gave a pound to the servant that buried it, as well as to him that gained ten pounds by occupying till his lord came.
* There is a two-fold glorying: the one Pharisaic and contrary to faith: of this St. Paul speaks, where he says, "Boasting is excluded, &c, by the law of faith," Rom. iii, 27. The other evangelical and agreeable to faith, since it is a believer's holy triumph in God, resulting from the testimony of a good conscience. Concerning it the apostle says, "Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing [boasting] in himself alone, and not in another," Gal. vi, 4. [The word in the original is [êáõ÷çóIò] in one passage, and [êáõ÷çtIá] in the other.] These seemingly contrary doctrines are highly consistent; their opposition answering to that of the Gospel axioms. The first axiom allows of no glorying but in Christ, who has alone fulfilled the law of works, or the terms of the first covenant: but the second axiom allows obedient believers an humble [IIáõ÷çìá], "glorying" or "rejoicing," upon their personally fulfilling the law of faith, or the gracious terms of the second covenant, 2 Cor. i, 12. This rejoicing answers to what St. Paul calls the "witness of our own spirit," or "the testimony of a good conscience;" which, next to the witness of the word and Spirit concerning God's mercy and Christ's blood, is the ground of a Christian's confidence. "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God, &c, because we keep his commandments," I John iii, 21, 22. And yet, astonishing! this blessed rejoicing, so strongly recommended by St. Paul and St. John, who, one would think, knew something of the Gospel, is now represented by some modern evangelists as the quintessence of Pharisaism.
"But, upon that footing, what becomes of distinguishing grace?" If by, "distinguishing grace" you mean Calvinistic partiality, I answer, it must undoubtedly sink, together with its inseparable partner, unconditional reprobation, into the pit of error, whence they ascended to fill the Church with contentions, and the world with infidels. But if you mean Scriptural, distinguishing grace, that is, the "manifold wisdom of God," which makes him proceed gradually, and admit a pleasing variety in the works of grace, as well as in the productions of nature; -if you mean his good pleasure to give the heathens one talent, the Jews two, the Papists three, the Protestants four; or if you mean the different methods which he uses to call sinners to repentance, such as his familiar expostulation with Cain: his wonderful warning of Lot's sons-in-law: his rousing King Saul by the voice of Samuel, and Saul of Tarsus by the voice of Christ: (Samuel and Christ coming, or seeming to come from the invisible world for that awful purpose:) his audibly inviting Judas and the rich ruler to follow him, promising the latter heavenly treasure if he would give his earthly possessions to the poor: his shocking, by preternatural earthquakes the consciences of the Philippian jailer and the two malefactors that suffered with him: his awakening Ananias, Sapphira, and thousands more by the wonders of the day of pentecost, when Lydia and others were called only in the common way: if you mean this by "distinguishing grace," we are agreed. For grace displayed in as distinguishing a manner as it was toward Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida, greatly illustrates our Lord's doctrine: "Of him to whom little is given, little shall be required; but much shall be required of them that have received much;" the equality of God's way not consisting in giving to all men a like number of talents, any more than making them all archangels; but in treating them all equally, according to the various editions of the everlasting Gospel, or law of liberty; and according to the good or bad uses they have made of their talents, whether they had few or many.
To return to your grand objection: you suppose (and this is probably the ground of your mistake) that when a deliverance, or a Divine favour, turns upon something which we may do, or leave undone, at our option, God is necessarily robbed of his glory. But a few queries will easily convince you of your mistake. When God had been merciful to Lot and his family, not looking back made all the difference between him and his wife; but does it follow that he claimed the honour of his narrow escape? Looking at the brazen type of Christ made some Israelites differ from others that died of the bite of the fiery serpents; but is this a sufficient reason to conclude that the healeth men had not sense to distinguish between primary and secondary causes, and that they ascribed to their looks the glory due to God for graciously contriving the means of their cure? One of your neighbours has hanged, and another has poisoned himself; so that not hanging yourself, and taking wholesome food, has so far made the difference between you and them: but can you reasonably infer that you do not live by Divine bounty, and that I rob the Preserver of men of his glory, when I affirm that you shall surely die if you do not eat, or if you take poison?
Permit me to make you sensible of your mistake by one more illustration. An anti-calvinist, who observes that God has suspended many of his blessings upon industry, diligently ploughs, sows, and weeds his field. A fatalist over the way, lest free grace should not have all the glory of his crop, does not turn one clod, and expects seed to drop from the clouds into furrows made by an invisible plough on a certain day, which he calls "a day of God's power." When harvest comes, the one has a crop of wheat, and the other a crop of weeds. Now, although industry alone has made the difference between the two fields: who is most likely to give God the glory of a crop, the Solifidian farmer who reaps thistles - or the laborious husbandman who has joined works to his faith in Divine Providence, and joyfully brings his sheaves home, saying,-- as St. Paul, "By Divine bounty I have planted and Apollos has weeded, but God has given the increase, which is all in all?"
FLATTERING myself that the preceding answers have removed the reader's prejudices, or confirmed him in his attachment to genuine free grace, I shall conclude this Essay by some reflections upon the pride, or prejudices of those who scruple working with an eye to the rewards that God offers with a view to promote the obedience of faith.
"If heaven, (say such mistaken persons,) if the enjoyment of God in glory be the reward of obedience, and if you work with an eye to that reward, you act from self, the basest of all motives. Love, and not self interest, sets us, true believers, upon action. We work from gratitude and not for profit; from life* and not for life. To do good with an eye to a reward, though that reward should be a crown of life, is to act as a mercenary wretch, and not as a duteous child or a faithful servant."
* 'This is not spoken of pious Calvinists; for some of them are remarkably diligent in good works. They are Solifidians by halves;-in principle, but not in practice. Their works outshine their errors.* I lay nothing to their charge, but inattention, prejudice, and glaring inconsistency. I compare them to diligent, good-natured druggists, who, among many excellent remedies, sell sometimes arsenic. They would not for the world take it themselves, or poison their neighbours; but yet they freely retail it, and in so doing they are inadvertently the cause of much mischief. Mr. Fulsome, for example, could tell which of our Gospel ministers taught him that good works are dung, and have nothing to do with eternal salvation. He could inform us who lulled him asleep in his sins with the syren songs of "unconditional election" and "Finished salvation, in the full extent of the word;" that is, he could let us know who gave him his killing dose; and numbers of Deists could tell us that a bare taste or smell of Calvinism has made them loath the genuine doctrines of grace, just as tasting or smelling a tainted partridge has for ever turned some people's stomachs against partridge.
* The reader is desired to observe that we recommend working from life and gratitude, as well as our opponents. Life and thankfulness are two important springs of action, which we use as well as they. We maintain, that even those who "have a name to live, and are dead in trespasses and sins," cannot be saved without "strengthening the things that remain and are ready to die;" and that thankfulness for being out of hell, and for having a day of salvation through Christ, should be strongly recommended to the chief of sinners. But thankfulness and life are not all the springs necessary, in our imperfect state, to move all the wheels of obedience; and we dare no more exclude the other springs, because we have these two, than we dare cut off three of our fingers, because we have a little finger and a thumb.
This specious error, zealously propagated by Molinos, Lady Guyon, and her illustrious convert, Archbishop Fenelon, (though afterward renounced by him,) put a stop to a great revival of the power of godliness abroad in the last century; and it has already struck a fatal blow at the late revival in these kingdoms. I reverence and love many that contend for this sentiment; but my regard for the truth overbalancing my respect for them, I think it my duty to oppose their mistake, as a pernicious refinement of Satan transformed into an angel of light. I therefore attack it by the following arguments:-
1. This doctrine makes us "wise above what is written." We read that hunger and want of bread brought back the prodigal son. His father knew it, but instead of treating him as a hired servant, he entertained him as a beloved child.
2. It sets aside, at a stroke, a considerable part of the Bible, which consists in threatenings to deter evil workers, and in promises to encourage obedient believers: for if it be base to obey in order to obtain a promised reward, it is baser still to do it in order to avoid a threatened punishment. Thus the precious grace of faith, so far as it is exercised about Divine promises and threatenings, is indirectly made void.
3. It decries "godly fear," a grand spring of action, and preservative of holiness in all free agents that are in a state of probation; and by this mean it indirectly charges God with want of wisdom, for putting that spring in the breast of innocent man in paradise, and for perpetually working upon it in his word and by his Spirit, which St. Paul calls "the spirit of bondage unto fear;" because it helps us to believe the threatenings denounced against the workers of iniquity, and to fear lest ruin should overtake us if we continue in our sins.
If ever there was a visible Church without spot and wrinkle, it was when the multitude of them that believed were "of one heart and of one soul." The worldly mindedness of Ananias and Sapphira was the first blemish of the Christian, as Achan's covetousness had been of the Jewish Church on this side Jordan. God made an example of them, as he had done of Achan; and St. Luke observes upon it that "great fear came upon all the Church;" even such fear as kept them from "falling after the same example of unbelief." Now were all the primitive Christians mean-spirited people, because they were filled with great fear of being punished as the first backsliders had been, if they apostatized? Is it a reproach to righteous Noah, that "being moved with fear he prepared an ark for the saving of his house?" And did our Lord legalize the Gospel, when "he began to say to his disciples first of all, &c, I say unto you, my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, &c; but fear him, who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him?" Does this mean, "Be mercenary: yea, I say unto you, be mercenary?"
4. Hope has a particular, necessary reference to promises and good things to come. Excellent things are spoken of that grace. If St. Paul says, "Ye are saved through FAITH," he says also, "We are saved by HOPE." Hence St. Peter observes, that "exceeding great promises are given to us, that we might be partakers of the Divine nature:" and St. John declares, "Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as God is pure." Now hope never stirs, but in order to obtain good things in view: a motive this which our Gospel refiners represent as illiberal and base. Their scheme therefore directly tends to ridicule and suppress the capital, Christian grace, which faith guards on the left hand, and charity on the right.
5. Their error springs from a false conclusion. Because it is mean to relieve a beggar with an eye to a reward from him, they infer that it is mean to do a good work with an eye to a reward from God; not considering that a beggar promises nothing, and can give nothing valuable; whereas the Parent of good promises and can give "eternal life to them that obey him." Their inference is then just as absurd as the following argument: "I ought not to set my heart upon an earthly, inferior, transitory good; therefore I must not set it upon the chief, heavenly, permanent good. It is foolish to shoot at a wrong mark; therefore I must not shoot at the right: I must not aim at the very mark which God himself has set up for me ultimately to level all my actions at, next to his own glory, viz., the enjoyment of himself, the light of his countenance, the smiles of his open face, which make the heaven of heavens."
6. God says to Abraham, and in him to all believers, "I am thy exceeding great reward." Hence it follows, that the higher we rise in holiness and obedience, the nearer we shall be admitted to the eternal throne, and the fuller enjoyment we shall have of our God and Saviour, our reward and rewarder. Therefore, to overlook Divine rewards, is to overlook God himself, who is "our great reward;" and to slight "the life to come," of which "godliness has the promise."
7. The error I oppose can be put in a still stronger light. Not to strive to obtain our great reward in full, amounts to saying, "Lord, thou art beneath my aim and pursuits: I can do without thee, or without so much of thee. I will not bestir myself, and do one thing to obtain either the fruition, or a fuller enjoyment of thy adorable self." An illustration or two, short as they fall of the thing illustrated, may help us to see the great impropriety of such conduct. If the king offered to give all officers, who would distinguish themselves in the field, his hand to kiss, and a commission in his guards, that he might have them near his person; would not military gentlemen defeat the intention of this gracious offer, and betray a peculiar degree of indifference for his majesty, if in the day of battle they would not strike one blow the more on account of the royal promise?
Again: when David asked, What shall be done to him that killeth the giant? And when he was informed that Saul would give him his daughter in marriage; would the young shepherd have showed his regard for the princess, or respect for the monarch, if he had said, "I am above minding rewards: what I do, I do freely: I scorn acting from so base a motive as a desire to secure the hand of the princess, and the honour of being the king's son-in-law?" Could any thing have been ruder and more haughty than such a speech? And yet, O see what evangelical refinements have done for us! We, who are infinitely less before God than David was before King Saul;-we, worms of a day, are so blinded by prejudice, as to think it beneath us to mind the offers of the King of kings, or to strive for the rewards of the Lord of lords.
"Woe to him that striveth [in generosity] with his Maker! Let the potsherds strive thus with the potsherds of the earth: [but let not] the clay say to him that fashioneth it," "What doest thou when thou stirrest me up to good works by the promise of thy rewards? Surely, Lord, thou forgettest that the nobleness of my mind, and my doctrine of finished salvation, make me above running for a reward, though it should be for a life of glory, and thyself. Whatever I do at thy command, I am determined not to demean myself; I will do it as Araunah, like a king." What depths of Antinomian pride may be hid under the covering of our voluntary humility!
8. The Calvinists of the last century, in their lucid intervals, saw the absolute necessity of working for heaven and heavenly rewards. We have a good practical discourse of J. Bunyan upon these words, "so run that you may obtain." The burden of it is, "If you will have a heaven, you must run for it." Whence he calls his sermon, "The heavenly footman;" and Matthew Mead,-- a staunch Calvinist, in his treatise on The Good of Early Obedience, (p. 429,) says, with great truth, "Maintain a holy, filial fear of God. This is an excellent preservative against apostasy. 'By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil,' says Solomon, and he tells you, 'The fear of the Lord is the fountain of life, whereby men depart from the snares of death;' and backsliding from Christ is one of the great snares of death. Think much of the day of recompense, and of the glorious reward of perseverance in that day:
'Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.' It is not those that begin well, but those who end well, that receive the crown. It is not mercenary service to quicken ourselves to obedience by the hope of a recompense. Omnis arnor mercedis non est inercenarius, Isc. David said, 'I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments.' He encouraged himself to duty by the hope of glory, &c. Hope of that glorious recompense is of great service to quicken us to perseverance. And to the same end does the apostle urge it: 'Be unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.'"
* As a proof of his being sound in the doctrines of Calvinistic grace and confusion, I present the reader with the following passage, taken from the same book, printed in London, 1683, (p. 307:) "A believer is under the law for conduct, but not for judgment, &c. It is the guide of his path, but not the judge of his state. The believer is bound to obey it, but not to stand or fall by it." That is, in plain English, he should obey it, but his disobedience will never bring him under condemnation, and hinder him to stand in judgment. "It is a rule of life, &c, and therefore it obliges believers as much as others, though upon other motives, &c: for they are not to expect life or favour from it, nor fear the death and rigour that comes by it. The law has no power to justify a believer, or condemn him, and therefore can be no rule to try his state by." In flat opposition to the general tenor of the Scriptures, thus, summed up by St. John: "In this," namely, committing or not committing sin, "the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil." What this author says is true, if it be understood of the Adamic law of innocence; but if it be extended to St. Paul's law of Christ, and to St. James' law of liberty, it is one of the dangerous tenets that support the chair of the Antinomian "man of sin."
9. When voluntary humility has made us wise above what is written by the apostles and by our forefathers, it will make us look down with contempt from the top of our fancied orthodoxy, upon the motives by which the prophets took up their cross, to serve God and their generation. When St. Paul enumerates the works of Moses, he traces them back to their noble principle, faith working by a well ordered self love: (a love this which is inseparable from the love of God and man; the law of liberty binding us to love our neighbour as ourselves, and God above ourselves.) "He chose," says the apostle, "to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin," &c. But why? Because he was above looking at the prize? Just the reverse: Because 'He had respect to the recompense of reward," Heb. xi, 26.
10. In the next chapter the apostle bids us to take Christ himself for our pattern in the very thing which our Gospel refiners call mercenary and base: "Looking to Jesus," says he, "who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." The noble reward this, with which his mediatorial obedience was crowned, as appears from these words: "He became obedient unto death; wherefore God also hath highly exalted him." If the scheme of those who refine the ancient Gospel appears to me in a peculiarly unfavourable light, it is when I see them impose upon the injudicious admirers of unscriptural humility, and make the simple believe that they do God service when they indirectly represent Christ's obedience unto death as imperfect, and him as mercenary, actuated by a motive unworthy of a child of God. He says, "Every one that is perfect shall be as his master:" but we (such is our consistency!) loudly decry perfection, and yet pretend to a higher degree of it than our Lord and Master; for he was not above "enduring the cross [for the joy of] sitting down at the, right hand of the throne of God:" but we are so exquisitely perfect, that we will work gratis. It is mercenary, it is beneath us to work for glory!
11. I fear this contempt is by some indirectly poured upon the Lord of glory, to extol the spurious free grace which is sister to free wrath; and to persuade the simple that "works have nothing to do with our final justification and eternal salvation before God." A dogma this, which is as contrary to reason as it is to Scripture and morality; it being a monstrous imposition upon the credulity of Protestants to assert that works, which God himself will reward with final justification and eternal salvation, have nothing to do with that justification and that salvation before him: just as if the thing rewarded had nothing to do with its reward before the rewarder!
12. The most rigid Calvinists allow that St. Paul is truly evangelical: but which of the sacred writers ever spoke greater things of the rewardableness of works than he? What can be plainer, what stronger than these words, which I must quote till they are minded: "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, &c, knowing [i.e. considering] that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance. But he that doth wrong, shall receive for the wrong which he hath done; for there is no respect of persons," Col. iii, 23, &c. Again:
"Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap: for he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap perdition; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap everlasting life," Gal. vi. 7, 8.
From those scriptures it is evident that doing good or bad works is like sowing good or bad seed; and that going to heaven or hell is like gathering what we have sown. Now, as it is the madness of unbelievers to sow wickedness, and to expect a crop of happiness and glory; so it is the wisdom of believers to sow righteousness, expecting to "reap in due time if they faint not." Nor do we act reasonably, if we do not sow more or less with an eye to reaping: for if reaping be quite out of the question with Protestants, they may as wisely sow chaff on a fallow, as corn in a ploughed field. Hence I conclude that a believer may obey, and that, if he be judicious, he will obey, looking both to Jesus and to the rewards of obedience; and that the more we can fix the eye of his faith upon his "exceeding great reward, and his great recompense of reward," the more he will "abound in the work of faith, the patience of hope, and the labour of love."
13. St. Paul's conduct with respect to rewards was perfectly consistent with his doctrine. I have already observed, he wrote to the Corinthians, that he so "ran and so fought as to obtain an incorruptible crown;" and it is well known that in the Olympic games, to which he alludes, all ran or fought with an eye to a prize, a reward, or a crown. But in his Epistle to the Philippians he goes still farther; for he represents his running for a crown of life, his pressing after rewards of grace and glory, as the whole of his business. His words are remarkable: "This one thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." And when he had just run his race out, he wrote to Timothy, "I have finished my course; henceforth there is laid up for me [as for a conqueror] a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day"-the great day of retribution. As for St. John, when he was perfected in love, we find him as "mercenary" as St. Paul; for he writes to the elect lady, and to her believing children:, "Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward."
14. When I read such scriptures, I wonder at those who are so wrapt up in the pernicious notion that we ought not to work* for a life of glory, as to overlook even the "crown of life," with which God will reward those who are "faithful unto death." And I am astonished at the remains of my own unbelief, which prevent my being always ravished with admiration at the thought of the rewards offered to fire my soul into seraphic obedience. Au idle country fellow, who runs at the wakes for a wretched prize, labours harder in his sportive race than, I fear, I do yet in some of my prayers and sermons. A sportsman, for the pitiful honour of coming in at the death of a fox, toils more than most professors do in the pursuit of their corruptions. How ought confusion to cover our faces! Let those that refine the Gospel glory in their shame. Let each of them say, "I thank thee, O God, that I am not like a Papist, or like that Arminian, who looks at the rewards which thou hast promised. I deny myself, and take up my cross, without thinking of the joy and rewards set before me," &c. For my part, I desire to humble myself before God, for having so long overlooked the "exceeding great reward," and the "crown of life," promised to them that obey him and my thoughts shall be expressed in such words as these:- "Gracious Lord, if 'he that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall have a prophet's reward;' if 'our light affliction,' when it is patiently endured, 'worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory:' if thou hast said, 'Do good and lend, hoping for nothing again [from man,] and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest:' if thou animatest those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, by this promissory exhortation, 'Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven:' nay, if a cup of cold water only, given in thy name, 'shall in no wise lose its reward;' and if the least of thy rewards is a smile of approbation; let me be ready to go round the world, shouldst thou call me to it, that I may obtain such a recompense.
* Truth is so great that it sometimes prevails over those that are prejudiced against it. I have observed that Dr. Crisp himself, in a happy moment, bore a noble testimony to undefiled religion. Take another instance of it. In the volume of the Rev. Mr. Whitefield's sermons, taken in short hand, and published by Gurney, (p. 119,) that great preacher says: "FIRST, we must work FOR Spiritual life AFTERWARD FROM it." And (pages 153, 154) he declares: "There are numbers of poor that are ready to perish; and if you drop something to them in love, God will take care to repay you when you come to judgment." I find but one fault with this doctrine. The first of those propositions does not guard free grace so well as Mr. Wesley's Minutes do. We should always intimate that there is no working FOR a life of glory, or FOR a MORE ABUNDANT LIFE of grace, but FROM an initial life of grace, FREELY given to us in Christ BEFORE any working of our own. This I mention, not to prejudice the reader against Mr. Whitefield, but to show that I am not so prejudiced in favour of works, as not to see when even a Whitefield, in an unguarded expression, leans toward them to the disparagement of free grace.
"Since thou hast so closely connected holiness and happiness, my duty and thy favours, 'let no man beguile me of my reward in a voluntary humility,' nor suffer me to be 'carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men,' and 'cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.' And I whatsoever my hand findeth to do, help me to do it with all my might;' not only lest I lose my reward, but also lest I have not 'a full reward;' lest I lose a beam of the light of thy countenance, or a degree of that peculiar likeness and nearness to thee with which thou wilt recompense those who excel in virtue. So shall I equally avoid the delusion of the Pharisees, who expect heaven through their faithless works; and the error of Antinomians, who hope to enter into thy glory without the passport of the works of faith.
"And now, Lord, if thy servant has found favour in thy sight, permit him to urge another request; so far as thy wisdom, and the laws by which thy free grace works upon free agents will permit, incline the minds of Papists and Protestants to receive the truth as it is in Jesus. Let not especially this plain testimony, borne to the many great promises which thou hast made, and to the astonishing rewards which thou, offerest them that work righteousness, be rejected by my Calvinist brethren. Keep them from fighting against thy goodness, and despising their own mercies, under pretence of fighting against 'Arminian errors,' and despising 'Pelagian Checks to the Gospel.' And make them sensible that it is absurd to decry in word the pope's pretensions to infallibility, if by an obstinate refusal to 'review the whole affair,' and to weigh their supposed orthodoxy in the balances of reason and revelation, they in fact pretend to be infallible themselves; and thus, instead of one Catholic pontiff, set up ten thousand Protestant popes.
"Thou knowest, Lord, that many of them love thee; and that, though they disgrace thy Gospel by their doctrinal peculiarities, they adorn it by their godly conversation. O endue them with more love to their remonstrant brethren! Give them and me that charity which 'behaveth not itself unseemly,' which 'rejoiceth not in' a favourite error, 'but rejoiceth in the truth,' even when it is advanced by our opponents. Thou seest, that if they decry true holiness and good works as 'dung and dross,' it is chiefly for fear thy glory should be obscured by our obedience. Error transformed into an angel of light has deceived them, and they think to do thee service by propagating the deception. O gracious God, pardon them this wrong. They 'do it ignorantly in unbelief;' therefore seal not up their mistake with the seal of thy wrath. Let them yet 'know the truth,' and let the truth enlarge their hearts, and 'make them free' from the notion that thou art not 'loving to every man' during 'the day of salvation,' and that there is neither mercy nor Saviour for the most of their neighbours, even during 'the accepted time.'
"Above all, Lord, if they cannot defend their mistakes, either by argument or by Scripture quoted according to the context, and the obvious tenor of thy sacred oracles, give them more wisdom than to expose any longer the Protestant religion, which they think to defend; and more piety than to make the men of the world abhor thy Gospel, and blaspheme thy name, as free thinkers are daily tempted to do, when they see that those who pretend to 'exalt thee' most, are of all Protestants the most ready to disarm thy Gospel of its sanctions; to turn thy judicial sentences into frivolous descriptions; to overlook the dictates of reason and good nature; and to make the press groan under illogical assertions, and personal abuse!
"Let thy servant speak once more: thou knowest, O Lord, that thy power being my helper, I would choose to die rather than willfully to depreciate that grace, that free grace of thine which has so long kept me out of hell, and daily gives me sweet foretastes of heaven. And now, let not readers of a Pharisaic turn mistake what I have advanced in honour of the works of faith, and by that mean build themselves up in their self-righteous delusion, and destructive contempt of thy merits: help them to consider, that if our works are rewardable, it is because thy free grace makes them so; thy Father having mercifully accepted our persons for thy sake, thy Holy Spirit having gently helped our infirmities, thy precious blood having fully atoned for our sins and imperfections, thy incessant intercession still keeping the way to the throne of grace open for us, and our poor performances. Suffer not one of the sons of virtuous pride, into whose hands these sheets may fall, to forget that thou hast annexed 'the reward of the inheritance' to the assemblage of the works of faith, or to 'patient continuance in well doing,' and not to one or two splendid works of hypocrisy done just to serve a wordly turn, or to bribe a disturbed, clamorous conscience; and enable them so to feel the need of thy pardon for past transgression, and of thy power for future obedience, that, as the chased hart panteth after the water brooks, so their awakened souls may long after Christ, in whom the penitent find inexhaustible springs of righteousness and strength; and to whom, "with thee and thy eternal Spirit, be for ever ascribed praise, honour, and glory, both in heaven and upon earth-praise for the wonders of general redemption, and for the innumerable displays of thy free grace unstained by free wrath-honour for bestowing the gracious reward of a heavenly salvation upon all believers that make their election sure 'by patient continuance in well doing'-and glory for inflicting the just punishment of infernal damnation upon all that neglect so great salvation, and to the end of the accepted time dare thy vengeance by obstinate continuance in ill doing."
MADELEY, March 10, 1774.
YESTERDAY a friend lent me Mr. Baxter's Confession of Faith, printed in London, 1655. The third part of this valuable book extends through above one hundred and forty large pages, and the title of that long section runs thus:-"The Testimony of Reformed Divines, ascribing as much to Works as I; and many of them delivering the same Doctrine." He produces a hundred witnesses, some of whom are collective bodies, such as the assembly of divines, the compilers of the homilies of the Church of England, and even the synod of Dort. As the Antinomian spirit which flamed against Baxter's Works in the last century will probably sparkle against the preceding Essay, I beg leave to take shelter behind that great man, and a few of his numerous quotations. I shall cite only Baxter's page, to which I refer those who desire to see the original of his Latin quotations, together with the books, chapters, and pages of the various authors.
Page 322, he quotes the following words from Bishop Davenant:- "As no man receiveth that general justification which dischargeth from the guilt of all foregoing sins, but on the concurrence of repentance, faith, a purpose of a new life, and other actions of the same kind; so no man retaineth a state free from guilt in respect of following sins, but by means of the same actions of believing in God, calling on God, mortifying the flesh, daily repenting and sorrowing for sins daily committed. The reason why all these are required on our part is this; because these cannot be still absent, but their opposites will be present, which are contrary to the nature of a justified man. As therefore to the conservation of natural life it is necessarily required that a man carefully avoid fire, water, precipices, poisons, and other things destructive to the health of the body; so to the conserving of spiritual life, it is necessarily required that a man avoid incredulity, impenitency, and other things that are destructive and contrary to the salvation of souls; which cannot be avoided, unless the opposite and contrary actions be exercised. And these actions do not conserve the life of grace properly and of themselves, by touching the very effect of conservation; but improperly and by accident, by excluding and removing the cause of destruction."
Page 324, Baxter produces these words of the same pious bishop:- "We do therefore fight against, not the bare name of merit, in a harmless sense frequently used of old by the fathers, but the proud and false opinion of merit of condignity, brought lately by the Papists into the Church of God."
And again, (page 325,) "The works of the regenerate have an ordination to the rewards of this life and that to come: (1.) Because God hath freely promised (according to the good pleasure of his will) the rewards of this life and that to come, to the good works of the faithful and regenerate," I Tim. iv, 8; Gal. vi, 8; Matt. xx, 8.
Page 328, he quotes the following passage from Dr. Twiss:-"It lieth on all the elect to seek salvation, not only by faith, but by works also, in that without doubt salvation is to be given by way of reward, whereby God will reward not only our faith, but also all our good works."
Pages 330 and 334, he quotes Melancthon thus:-"New obedience is necessary by necessity of order of the cause and effect; also by necessity of duty or command; also by necessity of retaining faith, and avoiding punishments, temporal and eternal. Cordatus stirreth up against me the city, and also the neighbour countries, and also the court itself, because, in explaining the controversy of justification, I said that new obedience is necessary to salvation."
Pages 360, 361, he quotes these words of Zarichius:-"Works are necessary, (1.) To justify our faith [coram Deo] before God, &c. (2.) They are necessary to the obtaining eternal life, &c. (3.) They are necessary to inherit justification as causes, &c. (4.) They are profitable to conserve the increase of faith; also to pro[ gap]-merit of God, and obtain many good things, both spiritual and corporal, both in this life and in another." The words of Zanchius are, "Opera utilia suni, &c, ad multa bona turn spiritualia turn corporalia, turn in hac vita turn in alia a Beo promerenda et obLnenda." (Zanch. Tom. 8, p. 787, bc. de .11181. Fidsi.) How much more tenderly did Mr. Wesley speak of merit than the orthodox Zanchius, whom Mr. Toplady has lately rendered famous among us! I hope that if this gentleman ever open his favourite book to the above-quoted page, he will drop his prejudices, and confess that his dear Zanchius himself nobly contends for the Wesleyan "heresy."
Page 462, Baxter concludes his book by praying for those who had misrepresented him to the world, and obliged him to spend so much time in vindicating his doctrine. I most heartily join him in the last paragraph of his prayer, in which I beg the reader would join us both:
"The Lord illuminate and send forth some messenger that may acquaint the Churches with that true, middle, reconciling method of theological verities which must be the mean of healing our divisions. Let men be raised of greater sufficiency for this work, and of such blessed accomplishments as shall be fit to cope with the power of prejudice; and let the fury of blind contradiction be so calmed that TRUTH may have opportunity to do its work."
AN ESSAY ON TRUTH;
A RATIONAL VINDICATION
DOCTRINE OF SALVATION BY FAITH.
A DEDICATORY EPISTLE
RIGHT HON. THE COUNTESS OF HUNTINGDON.
Without faith it is impossible to please God, Heb. xi, 5.
Whatsoever is not of faith is sin, Rom. xiv, 23.
Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone, James ii, 17.
Good works spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith. (Twelfth Article.)
In Christ Jesus, &c, nothing availeth but faith, which worketh by love, Gal. v, 6.
A DEDICATORY EPISTLE
RIGHT HON. THE COUNTESS OF HUNTINGDON.
MY LADY,-BECAUSE I think it my duty to defend the works of faith against the triumphant errors of the Solifidians, some of your ladyship's friends conclude that I am an enemy to the doctrine of salvation by faith, and their conclusion amounts to such exclamations as these:
"How could a lady, so zealous for God's glory and the Redeemer's grace, commit the superintendency of a seminary of pious learning to a man that opposes the fundamental doctrine of Protestantism! How could she put her sheep under the care of such a wolf in sheep's clothing!" This conclusion, my lady, has grieved me for your sake; and to remove the blot that it indirectly fixes upon you, as well as to balance my Scriptural Essay on the Rewardableness of the Works of Faith, I publish, and humbly dedicate to your ladyship, this piece of my Equal Check to Pharisaism and Antinomianism. May the kindness which enabled you to bear for years with the coarseness of my ministrations, incline you favourably to receive this little token of my unfeigned attachment to Protestantism, and of my lasting respect for your ladyship!
Your aversion to all that looks like controversy-can never make you think that an Equal Check to the two grand delusions, which have crept into the Church, is needless in our days. I flatter myself, therefore, that though you may blame my performance, you will approve of my design. And indeed what true Christian can be absolutely neutral in this controversy? If God has a controversy with all Pharisees and Antinomians, have not all God's children a controversy with Pharisaism and Antinomianism? Have you not for one, my lady? Do you not check in private, what I attempt to check in public? Does not the religious world know that you abhor, attack, and pursue Pharisaism in its most artful disguises? And have I not frequently heard you express, in the strongest terms, your detestation of Antinomianism, and lament the number of sleeping professors whom that Delilah robs of their strength? Nor would you, I am persuaded, my lady, have countenanced the opposition which was made against the Minutes, if your commendable, though (as it appears to me) at that time too precipitate zeal against Pharisaism had not prevented your seeing that they contain the Scripture truths which are most fit to stop the rapid progress of Antinomianism.
However, if you still think, my lady, that I mistake with respect to the importance of those propositions; you know I am not mistaken when I declare before the world that a powerful, practical, actually saving faith is the only faith I ever heard your ladyship recommend as worthy to be contended for. And so long as you plead only for such a faith: so long as you abhor the winter faith that saves the Solifidians in their own conceit: while they commit adultery, murder, and incest, if they choose to carry Antinomianism to such a dreadful length; so long as you are afraid to maintain either directly or indirectly, that the evidence and comfort of justifying faith may indeed be suspended by sin; but that the righteousness of faith, and the justification which it instrumentally procures, can never be lost, no not by the most enormous and complicated crimes; whatever diversity there may be between your ladyship's sentiments and mine, it can never be fundamental. I preach salvation by a faith that actually works by obedient love: and your ladyship witnesses salvation by an actually operative faith. Nor can I, to this day, see any material difference between those phrases: for if I profess a faith that is actually operative, I cannot with propriety find fault with a faith that actually operates: I cannot with decency sacrifice its works to "Antinomian dotages*."
Permit me also to observe, that the grand questions debated between my opponents and me are not (as I fear your ladyship apprehends) whether Pharisaic merit shall eclipse the Redeemer's worthiness; or whether the doctrine of salvation by a lively faith shall be given up to mere moralists. I no more plead either for the one or for the other, than I do for placing the pretender upon the British throne. and for sacrificing the great charter to arbitrary power. No, my lady. What we contend about is: (1.) Whether Christ's law is not perfectly consistent with his blood. (2.) Whether we are to set him at naught as a Prophet, a King, and a Judge, under pretence of exalting him as a Priest, an Advocate, and a "Surety of the better covenant," that threatens fallen believers with a "sorer punishment" than that which was inflicted upon the despisers of the Mosaic covenant. (3.) Whether the evangelical worthiness, which a true believer really derives from Christ, is not absolutely necessary to salvation. (4.) Whether such a worthiness is not as consistent with Christ's original and paramount merit, as the light that shines in your apartment is consistent with the original and transcendent brightness of the sun. (5.) Whether that faith is living, which evidences itself by gross immoralities. (6.) Whether it is not rather the "dead faith" that St. James exclaims against. And (7.) Whether the Solifidians do not set up the "abomination of desolation in the holy place," when they directly or indirectly teach that all believers may go any length in sin, without losing their heavenly thrones, or the Divine favour: that a man may have the justifying, saving, operative faith which your ladyship pleads for, while he adds idolatry to incontinence, murder to adultery, and curses to the repeated denial of Jesus Christ: that fallen believers, who have returned to their sins "as a sow that is washed does to her wallowing in the mire," stand immaculate before God in a robe of imputed righteousness, even while they "turn God's grace into lasciviousness, and commit all uncleanness with greediness:" that they shall all infallibly sing in heaven in consequence of their most grievous falls on earth; and that a kind of hypocritical, lying free grace is to be preached to all sinners, which necessarily shuts up most 'of them under the absolute free wrath' of a God ever merciless toward the majority of mankind.
* The name which Flavel gives to Dr. Crisp's modish tenets.
**Mr. Hill has done it "directly" in the fourth of the Five Letters which he had inscribed to me, and all the Solifidians do it "indirectly."
Now, my lady, as I am persuaded that you do not admire such an immoral and narrow Gospel: as I believe that if at any time it creeps into your chapels, it is without your approbation, under the mask of decency, and only by the means of the specious phrases of grace Gospel, electing, everlasting love, finished salvation, and free distinguishing grace, which, according to the analogy of the modish faith, sweetly make way for the inseparable and bitter doctrines of a conjoined Gospel of everlasting hate, reprobating unmercifulness, finished damnation, and free, distinguishing wrath; and as I do your ladyship the justice to acknowledge, that your most earnest desire is to support what appears to you a free and holy Gospel, at the expense of your fortune, life, and character; I beg, my lady, you will also do me the justice to believe that if I oppose the Solifidian Gospel of the day, it is only because it appears to me a confined and unholy Gospel, calculated to foster the Antinomianism of Laodicean believers, and to render Christ's undefiled religion contemptable to the RATIONAL, and execrable to the MORAL world. If you grant me this request, I shall only trouble you with one more, which is, to believe that, notwithstanding the part I have taken in the present controversy, I remain, with my former respect and devotedness, my lady, your ladyship's most obliged and obedient servant in the Gospel,
MADELEY, March 12, 1774.
AN ESSAY ON TRUTH, &c.
EXCEEDINGLY sorry should I be if the testimony which I have borne to the necessity of good works caused any of my readers to do the worst of bad works, that is, to neglect believing, and to depend upon some of the external, faithless performances which conceited Pharisees call "good works;" and by which they absurdly think to make amends for their sins, to purchase the Divine favour, to set aside God's mercy, and to supersede Christ's atoning blood. Therefore, lest some unwary souls, going from one extreme to the other, should so unfortunately avoid Antinomianism as to run upon the rocks which are rendered famous by the destruction of the Pharisees, I shall once more vindicate the fundamental anti-Pharisaic doctrine of salvation by faith: I say once more, because I have already done it in my guarded sermon. And to the scriptures, articles, and arguments produced in that piece, I shall now add rational and yet Scriptural observations, which, together with appeals to matter of fact, will, I hope, soften the prejudices of judicious moralists against the doctrine of faith, and reconcile considerate Solifidians to the doctrine of works. In order to this, I design in general to prove that true faith is the only plant which can possibly bear good works; that it loses its operative nature, and dies, when it produces them not; and that it as much surpasses good works in importance, as the motion of the heart does all other bodily motions. Inquire we first into the nature and ground of saving faith.
A plain definition of saving faith, how believing is the gift of God, and whether it is in our power to believe.
WHAT IS faith? It is believing heartily. What is saving faith? I dare not say that it is "believing heartily, my sins are forgiven me for Christ's sake;" for if I live in sin, that belief is a destructive conceit, and not saving faith. Neither dare I say that "saving faith is only a sure trust and confidence that Christ loved me, and gave himself for me;"* for, if I did, I should damn almost all mankind for four thousand years. Such definitions of saving faith are, I fear, too narrow to be just, and too unguarded to keep out Solifidianism. A comparison may convince my readers of it. If they desired me to define man, and I said, "Man is a rational animal that lives in France in the year 1774;" would they not ask me whether I suppose all the rational animals that lived on this side the English channel in 1773 were brutes? And if you desired to know what I mean by saving faith, and I replied, It is a supernatural belief that Christ has actually atoned for my sins upon the cross: would you not ask me whether Abraham, the father of the faithful, who would have believed a lie if he had believed this, had only damning faith?
* When the Church of England and Mr. Wesley give us particular definitions of faith, it is plain that they consider it according to the Christian dispensation; the privileges of which must be principally insisted upon among Christians; and that our Church and Mr. Wesley guard faith against Antinomianism, is evident from their maintaining, as well as St. Paul, that by bad works we lose a good conscience, and "make shipwreck of the faith."
To avoid therefore such mistakes; to contradict no scriptures; to put no black mark of damnation upon any man, that in any nation "fears God and works righteousness;" to leave no room for Solifidianism; and to present the reader with a definition of faith adequate to "the everlasting Gospel," I would choose to say, that "justifying or saving faith is believing the saving truth with the heart unto internal, and [as we have opportunity] unto external righteousness, according to our light and dispensation." To St. Paul's words, Rom. x, 10, I add the epithets internal and external, in order to exclude, according to 1 John iii, 7, 8, the filthy imputation under which fallen believers may, if we credit the Antinomians, commit internal and external adultery, mental and bodily murder, without the least reasonable fear of endangering their faith, their interest in God's favour, and their inamissible title to a throne of glory.
But "how is faith the gift of God?" Some persons think that faith is as much out of our power as the lightning that shoots from a distant cloud; they suppose that God drives sinners to the fountain of Christ's blood as irresistibly as the infernal legion drove the herd of swine into the sea of Galilee; and that a man is as passive in the first act of faith, as Jonah was in the act of the fish, which cast him upon the shore. Hence the absurd plea of many who lay fast hold on the horns of the devil's altar, unbelief, and cry out, "We can no more believe than we can make a world."
I call this an absurd plea for several reasons: (1.) It supposes that when "God commands all men every where to repent and to believe the Gospel," he commands them to do what is as impossible to them as the making of a new world. (2.) It supposes that the terms of the covenant of grace are much harder than the terms of the covenant of works. For the old covenant required only perfect human obedience: but the new covenant requires of us the work of an almighty God, i.e. believing; a work this which, upon the scheme I oppose, is as impossible to us as the creation of a world, in which we can never have a hand. (3.) It supposes that the promise of salvation being suspended upon believing, a thing as impracticable to us as the making of a new world, we shall as infallibly be damned if God do not believe for us, as we should be if we were required to make a world on pain of damnation, and God would not make it in our place. (4.) It supposes that believing is a work which belongs to God alone: for no man in his senses can doubt but creating a world, or its tantamount, believing, is a work which none but God can manage. (5.) It supposes that (if he, who believeth not the Divine record, makes God a liar, and shall be damned,) whenever unbelievers are called upon to believe, and God refuses them the power to do it, he as much forces them to make him a liar and to be damned, as the king would force me to give him the lie, and to be hanged, if he put me in circumstances where I could have no chance of avoiding that crime and punishment, but by submitting to the alternative of creating a world. (6.) It supposes that when Christ "marvelled at the unbelief of the Jews," he showed as little wisdom as I should were I to marvel at a man for not creating three worlds as quickly as a believer can say the three creeds. (7.) That when Christ reproved his disciples for their unbelief he acted more unreasonably than if he had rebuked them for not adding a new star to every constellation in heaven. (8.) That to exhort people to [abide] in the faith," is to exhort them to something as difficult as to continue creating worlds. And, lastly, that when Christ fixes our damnation upon unbelief, see Mark xvi, 16, and John iii, 18, he acts far more tyrannically than the king would do if he issued out a proclamation informing all his subjects that whosoever shall not, by such a time, raise a new island within the British seas, shall be infallibly put to the most painful and lingering death.
Having thus exposed the erroneous sense in which some people suppose that "faith is the gift of God," I beg leave to mention in what sense it appears to me to be so. Believing is the gift of God's grace, as cultivating the root of a rare flower given you, or raising a crop of corn in your field, is the gift of God's providence. Believing is the gift of the God of grace, as breathing, moving, and eating, are the gifts of the God of nature. He gives me lungs and air that I may breathe: he gives me life and muscles that I may move: he bestows upon me food, and a mouth, that I may eat: and when I have no stomach, he gives me common sense to see I must die, or force myself to take some nourishment or some medicine. But he neither breathes, moves, nor eats for me; nay, when I think proper, I can accelerate my breathing, motion, and eating; and if I please I may even fast, lie down, or hang myself, and by that mean put an end to my eating, moving, and breathing. Once more: faith is the gift of God to believers, as sight is to you. The Parent of good freely gives you the light of the sun, and organs proper to receive it: he places you in a world where that light visits you daily: he apprizes you that sight is conducive to your safety, pleasure, and profit; and every thing around you bids you use your eyes and see: nevertheless, you may not only drop your curtains, and extinguish your candle, but close your eyes also. This is exactly the case with regard to faith. Free grace removes (in part) the total blindness which Adam's fall brought upon us: free grace gently sends us some beams of truth, which is the light of the "Sun of righteousness;" it disposes the eyes of our understanding to see those beams; it excite us various ways to welcome them; it blesses us with many, perhaps with all the means of faith, such as opportunities to hear, read, inquire; and power to consider, assent, consent, resolve, and re-resolve to believe the truth. But, after all, believing is as much our own act as seeing. We may, nay, in general do suspend, or omit the act of faith; especially when that act is not yet become habitual, and when the glaring light that sometimes accompanies the revelation of the truth is abated. Nay, we may imitate Pharaoh, Judas, and all reprobates; we may do by the eye of our faith what some report that Democritus did by his bodily eyes. Being tired of seeing the follies of mankind, to rid himself of that disagreeable sight he put his eyes out. We may be so averse from "the light which enlightens every man that comes into the world;" we may so dread it because our works are evil, as to exemplify, like the Pharisees, such awful declarations as these:-"Their eyes have they closed, lest they should see, &c: wherefore God gave them up to a reprobate mind," and "they were blinded."
When St. Paul says that Christians "believe according to the working of God's mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead," he chiefly alludes to the resurrection of Christ, and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost; the former of these wonders being the great ground and object of the Christian faith, and the latter displaying the great privilege of the Christian dispensation. To suppose, therefore, that nobody savingly believes, who does not believe according to an actual, overwhelming display of God's almighty power, is as unscriptural as to maintain that God's people no longer believe, than he actually repeats the wonders of Easter day, and on the day of pentecost. Is it not clear that the apostle had no such notions when he wrote to the Corinthians? "I declare unto you the Gospel, which I preached unto you, which you have received; wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory [if ye hold fast, as the original means] what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I declared unto you, &c, that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried, and that he rose again, according to the Scriptures, &c, so we preach, and so ye believed." Again: how plain is the account that our Lord and his forerunner give us of faith and unbelief! "Verily we speak what we do know, and testify what we have seen, and ye receive not our witness. What he [Christ] hath seen and heard, that he testifieth, and no man [comparatively] receiveth his testimony; but he that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true."
Two things have chiefly given room to our mistakes respecting the strange impossibility of believing. The first is our confounding the truths which characterize the several Gospel dispensations. We see, for example, that a poor, besotted drunkard, an overreaching, greedy tradesman, a rich, skeptical epicure, and a proud, ambitious courtier, have no more taste for "the Gospel of Christ," than a horse and a mule have for the high-seasoned dishes that crown a royal table. An immense gulf is fixed between them and the Christian faith. In their present state they can no more believe "with their heart unto righteousness in Christ," than an unborn infant can become a man without passing through infancy and youth. But, although they cannot yet believe savingly in Christ, may they not believe in God according to the import of our Lord's words: "Ye believe IN GOD, believe also IN ME?" If the Pharisees could not believe in Christ, it was not because God never gave them a power equal to that which created the world; but because they were practical Atheists, who actually rejected the morning light of the Jewish dispensation, and by that mean absolutely unfitted themselves for the meridian light of the Christian dispensation. This is evident from our Lord's own words: "I know you, that ye have not the love of God [or a regard for God] in you. I come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not, [though ye might do it; for] if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, who receive honour one of another? &c. There is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, [and submitted to his dispensation,] ye would have believed me, [and submitted to] my Gospel. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?"
The second cause of our mistake about the impossibility of believing now, is, the confounding of faith with its fruits and rewards; which naturally leads us to think that we cannot believe, or that our faith is vain, till those rewards and fruits appear. But is not this being ingenious to make the worst of things? Had Abraham no faith in God's promise till Isaac was born? Was Sarah a damnable unbeliever till she felt the long-expected fruit of her womb stir there? Had the woman of Canaan no faith till our Lord granted her request, and cried out "O woman, great is thy faith, let it be done unto thee even as thou wilt?" Was the centurion an infidel till Christ "marvelled at his faith," and declared "he had not found such faith, no, not in Israel?" Was Peter faithless till his master said, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona," &c? Did the weeping penitent begin to believe only when Christ said to her, "Go in peace, thy faith hath saved thee?" And had the apostles no faith in "the promise of the Father," till their heads were actually crowned with celestial fire? Should we not distinguish between our sealing the truth of our dispensation with the seal of our faith, according to our present light and ability; and God's sealing the truth of our faith with the seal of his power, or actually rewarding us by the grant of some eminent and uncommon blessing? To believe is our part; to make "signs follow them that believe" is GOD's part; and because we can no more do God's part than we can make a world, is it agreeable either to Scripture or reason to conclude that doing our part is equally difficult? Can you find one single instance in the Scriptures of a soul willing to believe, and absolutely unable to do it? From these two scriptures, "Lord, increase our faith;-Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief," can you justly infer that the praying disciples and the distressed father had no power to believe? Do not their words evidence just the contrary? That we cannot believe any more than we can eat, without the help and power of God, is what we are all agreed upon; but does this in the least prove that the help and power, by which we believe, is as far out of the reach of willing souls as the help and power to make a world?
Such scriptures as these: "Unto you it is given to believe: a man can receive nothing, except it be given him from above: no man can come unto me except the Father draw him: every good gift [and of course that of faith] cometh from the Father of lights." Such scriptures, I say, secure indeed the honour of free grace, but do not destroy the power of free agency. To us that freely believe in a holy, righteous God, it is given freely to believe in a gracious, bleeding Saviour; because the sick alone "have need of a physician;" and none but those who believe in God can see the need of an advocate with him. But ought we from hence to conclude that our unbelieving neighbours are necessarily debarred from "believing in God?" When our Lord said to the unbelieving Jews, that they could not believe in him, did he not speak of a moral impotency-an impotency of their own making? I ask it again, If they obstinately resisted the light of their inferior dispensation; if they were none of Christ's Jewish sheep, how could they be his Christian sheep? If an obstinate boy sets himself against learning the letters, how can he ever learn to read? If a stubborn Jew stiffly opposes the law of Moses, how can he submit to the law of Christ? Is it not strange that some good people should leap into reprobation, rather than admit so obvious a solution of this little difficulty?
From the above-mentioned texts we have then no more reason to infer that God forces believers to believe, or that he believes for them, than to conclude that God constrains diligent tradesmen to get money, or gets it for them, because it is said, "We are not sufficient to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God-who gives us all things richly to enjoy. Remember the Lord thy God, for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth."
From the whole I conclude, that so long as "the accepted time" and "the day of salvation" continue, all sinners, who have not yet finally hardened themselves, may day and night (through the help and power of the general light of Christ's "saving grace," mentioned John i, 9, and Tit. ii, 11,) receive some truth belonging to the everlasting Gospel; though it should be only this: "There is a God, who will call us to an account for our sins, and who spares us to break them off by repentance." And their cordial believing of this truth would make way for their receiving the higher truths that stand between them and the top of the mysterious ladder of truth. I grant it is impossible they should leap at once to the middle, much less to the highest round of the ladder: but if the foot of it is upon earth, in the very nature of things the lowest step is within their reach, and by laying hold on it they may go on "from faith to faith," till they stand firm even in the Christian faith, if distinguishing grace has elected them to hear the Christian Gospel. The most sudden conversions imply this gradual transition. As in the very nature of things, when "the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip" from the eunuch, and transported him to Azotus, he made Philip's body rapidly measure all the distance between the wilderness of Gaza and Azotus: so, when he helped the Philippian jailer from the gates of hell to the gates of heaven in one night, he made him rapidly pass through the fear of God, the dread of his justice, and the pangs of penitential desires after salvation, before he entered into the joyous rest that remains for those that heartily believe in Christ. Nor is this quick, though gradual transition from midnight darkness to noon-day light an unintelligible mystery, since we are witnesses of a similar event every revolving day. The vegetable and the animal world help us likewise to understand the nature of sudden conversions. Every philosopher knows that a mushroom passes through almost as many stages of the vegetative life in six hours as an oak does in two hundred years:- and those animacules, that frisk into life in the morning of a summer's day, propagate their species at noon, are old at four o'clock, and dead at six, measure the length of animal life as really as Methuselah did his millennium.
Saving truth is the object of saving faith. What truth is, and what great things are spoken of it. Our salvation turns upon it.
It appears by the preceding section that saving TRUTH IS the ground and object of saving FAITH; but "what is TRUTH?" This is the awful question that Pilate once asked of Him who was best able to answer it. But alas! Pilate was in such haste through the lying fear of man, that he did not stay for an answer. May I venture to give one. TRUTH is spiritual substance, and a LIE spiritual shadow. TRUTH is spiritual light, and a LIE spiritual darkness. Truth is the root of all virtue, and a lie is the root of all vice. Truth is the celestial tincture that makes spirits good, and a lie the infernal tincture that makes them evil. A lie is as nearly related to the devil, as infection to one that has the plague, or opacity to the earth; and truth is as nearly related to God as fragrancy to burning incense, and light to the unclouded sun.
According to this definition of truth and error, may we not give plain and Scriptural answers to some of the deepest questions in the world? What is God? The reverse of "the prince of darkness," and of the "father of lies:" he is "the Father of lights," and "the God of truth:" he "is light, and in him is no darkness at all." What is Christ? He is "the brightness of his Father's glory; a light-a great light to them that dwell in the shadow of death." He is "the truth; the true witness; the truth itself; Emmanuel, God with us, full of grace and truth." What is the Holy Ghost? "The Spirit of truth:" yea, says St. John, "the Spirit is truth," and "leads into all truth." What is Satan? "The spirit of error" that "abode not in the truth; in whom there is no truth," and who "deceives the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth."
Again: what is the Gospel? "The word of truth, the word of God the word of faith, the word of the kingdom, the word of life, and the word of salvation." What are Gospel ministers? Men that "bear witness to the truth;" that "rightly divide the word of truth;" that are "fellow helpers to the truth;" that "speak forth the words of truth;" and "are valiant for the truth upon the earth." What is the preaching of the Gospel? "The manifestation of the truth." What is it to believe the Gospel? It is to "receive the knowledge of the truth;" to "receive the love of the truth;" and to "obey the truth." What is it to mistake the Gospel? It is to "err from the truth;" to "turn after fables;" and to "give heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils." What is the Church? "The pillar and ground of truth, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail." What is the first fruit of sincere repentance? "The acknowledging of the truth." What are believers? Persons that are "chosen to salvation through the [unnecessitated] belief of the truth;" that "are of the truth;" that "know the truth;" that have "the truth in their inward parts;" that have "a good report of the truth; in whom dwells the truth; who have been taught the truth as it is in Jesus; in whom is the truth of Christ; who have purified their souls by obeying the truth;" and "walk in the truth." What are unstable souls? Persons "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth," with whom "the truth of the Gospel does not continue," and who are willfully "bewitched, that they should not obey the truth." What are obstinate unbelievers? "Men of corrupt minds, destitute of the truth; unreasonable men," that "resist the truth;" that" glory and lie against the truth;" that "walk in darkness, and do not the truth." "That are apostates? Men that "sin willfully after they have received the knowledge of the truth," and instead of repenting, "count the blood of the covenant, wherewith they were sanctified, an unholy thing." What are perfect men in Christ? Men that are "established in the present truth," i.e. in the truth revealed under the Christian dispensation, and that can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.
If all turns thus upon TRUTH, and if truth is at once spiritual light, and the object of saving faith, it follows: (1.) That to walk in the truth, to walk in the light, and to walk by faith, are phrases of the same import. (2.) That to be converted is to be "turned from darkness to light," that is, from the practical belief of a lie to the practical belief of the truth;" or, as St. Paul expresses it, "from the power of Satan unto God." And (3.) That the chief business of the tempter is to "take the word of truth out of our hearts, lest we should believe and be saved;" or, in other terms, to "blind our minds, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should shine unto us."
If Jesus Christ is the truth, the light, the life, and the Word, that "was in the beginning with God, and was God;" the Word "by which all things were made," and are preserved: if he is "the light that shineth in darkness," "even when the darkness comprehendeth it not:" if "he is the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world," while the day of salvation lasts: if he is the archetype, the eternal, living pattern of all saving truth: if he is the essential, almighty Word, from whom revealed truth and the word of our salvation flow as constantly as light and heat from the sun: do we not slight him, and despise eternal life, when we slight the truth, and despise the Word? And may not the great things spoken of the Word confirm what has been said of the truth, and help us to answer the questions already proposed in a manner equally Scriptural and conclusive?
Not forgetting that there is such a thing as "the word nigh, the word behind" us, the "still small voice," and "the word of that grace which has appeared unto all men, teaching them to deny worldly lusts, and to live soberly," &c, I ask, What are evangelists? Men who "bear record of the word of God," and "bear witness of the light, that all men may believe." "Sowers, that sow the word of the kingdom: holding forth the word of life." What are false apostles? Men that "corrupt the word of God," that "handle the word of God deceitfully," and "preach another Gospel; whose words eat as does a canker." What are believers? People that "hear the word of God and keep it;" that are "begotten of God by the word of truth;" that "are born again by the word of God;" that "hear the sayings of Christ, and do them; in whose hearts the word of Christ dwells richly; who receive it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which worketh effectually in them that believe" it. They are persons that "receive with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save their souls;" that have "tasted the good word of God," that "desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby;" that "gladly receive the word; have God's word abiding in them;" are made "clean through the word which Christ speaks" by his ministers, his Scriptures, his Spirit, his works, or his rod; and "in whom the seed of that word produces" thirty fold, sixty fold, or a hundred fold, according to their light, faithfulness, and opportunity.
Again: what are unbelievers? Antinomian hypocrites "that hear the sayings of Christ, and do them not;" or Pharisaic "despisers that stumble at the word, speak against those things which are spoken by" God's messengers; "contradicting and blaspheming;" and who, by "putting the word of God from them, judge themselves unworthy of eternal life." What are martyrs? Witnesses of the truth; "slain for the word of God." And what are apostates? Persons in whom "the word is choked by the cares of this world, or the deceitfulness of riches;" who "fall away when persecution ariseth because of the word; by reason of whom the way of truth is evil spoken of;" and in whom the seed of the word "becometh unfruitful." Thus all turns still upon truth and the word of God.
That according to reason and Scripture there is a saving, almighty
power in truth and the word of God.
SHOULD the reader ask here how it is possible the word and the truth should be so nearly related to our Saviour, that to receive them is to receive him, and to reject them is to reject him and his salvation: I answer, that in the spiritual, as well as in the political and mercantile world, signs are necessary by which to convey our thoughts and resolutions. Hence the use of letters, notes, bonds, and charters; of revelations, traditions, Scriptures, and sacraments. Now an honest man's word is as good as his bond or pledge, and as true as his heart; his word or bond being nothing but his mind or determination fairly conveyed to others by the means of his tongue or of his hand. Therefore, in the very nature of things, to receive the word of Christ is to receive Christ, who "dwells in our hearts by faith;" whom believers "know now after the flesh no more:" who commissioned his favourite apostle to say, "He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ hath both the Father and the Son;" and who personally declares, "My mother and my brothers are these," that "hear the word of God and keep it."
As the legislative power has appointed that pure gold duly stamped, and bank notes properly drawn up, shall represent the value, and procure the possession of all the necessaries and conveniences of life, which can be bought with money; so our heavenly Lawgiver has fixed that the "word of truth" shall answer, in his spiritual kingdom, the end of gold and letters of exchange in the kingdoms of this world; and this spiritual gold, this "word tried to the uttermost," he offers to all that are "poor, and blind, and naked, that they may be rich in faith. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich."
Again: as a will conveys an immense fortune; and a death warrant a capital punishment; so does the word of God convey "the unsearchable riches of Christ" to obedient believers, and the dreadful punish rents of the damned to obstinate unbelievers. I readily grant that a bank note is not gold, that a will is not an estate, and that a death warrant is not the gallows. Nevertheless, so strong is the connection between those seemingly insignificant signs, and the important things which they signify, that none but fools will throw away their bank notes, or the wills of their friends as waste paper; none but madmen will sport with their death warrant as with a play bill. Now if the written word of men, who, through forgetfulness, fickleness, impotence, or unfaithfulness, often break their engagements, can nevertheless have such force; how excessively fool hardy are sinners that disregard the word of the King of kings, "who cannot lie!" the proclamations of the "God of truth, with whom no word is impossible!" the promises and threatenings, the will and testament of the Almighty, who says, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away!"
Once more: although "no man knows the Father" immediately "but the Son," yet the Father may be mediately known by his works, his word, and his Son. For, leaving room for the liberty of moral agents and their works, God's works are always as his word. Hence we read: "God said, Let there be light, and there was light. Cursed be the ground for man's sake," and the ground was cursed. "For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." As God's works are the express image of his word uttered without,-of his outgoing word (if I may so speak;) so his out-going word is the express image of his immanent, essential word, which is his eternal mind, and which the Scriptures call indifferently, "the Word, the Wisdom, the Son of God," or "the express image of his Father's glory." Hence it appears that as the essential Word, Christ, is one with the Father; so the word of saving truth is one with the Son; and that David, Solomon, and St. Paul, spoke noble truths when they said, "Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed. By the word of thy lips I have kept me from the ways of the destroyer. The law, or word of the Lord, is an undefiled word: it is sure, and giveth wisdom to the simple; it is right, and rejoiceth the heart; it is pure, and giveth light; it is true, and righteous altogether; more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold: better to me than thousands of gold and silver: sweeter also than honey, and the honey comb. It is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path; by it is thy servant taught and made wise to salvation; and in keeping of it there is great reward, even the reward of the inheritance," a kingdom of grace here, and a kingdom of glory hereafter.
But let our Lord himself be heard, and he will join himself in mystic trinity to the word, and to the truth of God. He promiscuously uses the expressions truth and word, which make the burden of the last section. When he recommends his disciples to his Father, he says, "Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth." Hence it appears that the truth and the word are terms of the same import; that the word of truth is a sanctifying emanation from God, and the ordinary vehicle of the Divine power; and that our Lord uttered a rational mystery when he said, "He that receiveth you [the witnesses of my truth and the sowers of my word] receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." But "whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when he cometh in the glory of his Father." And imperfect believers he encouraged thus: "If ye continue in my word, &c, ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free, &c. If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." Important scriptures these, which show the connection of the truth with the Son of God! Blessed scriptures, which St. Paul sums up in the following words: "Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above;) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith the righteousness which is of faith? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach."
Nor is this doctrine of the apostle contrary to what he says on another occasion: "The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power," i.e. true religion does not consist in fine talking, but in powerful believing and holy living. For what is more powerful than truth? "Truth is great, and will prevail:" truth is the strongest thing in the world: it overturns the thrones of tyrants, and supports God's everlasting throne.
Again: the word of man brings strange things to pass. Let but a general speak, and an army of Russians marches up through clouds of smoke, flames of fire, and volleys of iron balls, to form heaps of dead or dying bodies before the intrenchments of the Turks. An admiral gives the word of command, it may be only by hoisting a flag, and a fleet is under sail; artificial clouds and thunders are formed over the sea; the billows seem to be mingled with fire; and the king of terror flies from deck to deck in his most dreadful and bloody forms.
If such is the power of the word of a man, who is but a worm, how almighty must be the word of God! "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made," saith David: "The worlds were framed by the word of God," adds St. Paul, "and he upholdeth all things by the word of his power." That word no necessary agents can resist. It rolls the planets with as much ease as hurricanes whirl the dust. If free agents can resist his word of command, it is only because he permits it for their trial. But woe to them that resist it to the end of their day of probation: for they shall feel the resistless force of his word of punishment: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." And who is the God that shall break the adamantine, infernal chains, which that dreadful word will rivet upon them?
We read in the Gospel that our Lord marvelled at the centurion's faith, as greater faith than he had found in Israel. But wherein consisted the peculiar greatness of that man's faith? Is it not evident, from the context, that it was in the noble and lively apprehension which he had of the force and energy of Christ's word? "Lord," said he, "I am a man under the authority [of my colonel and general, and yet] having soldiers under me, I say to one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh," &c. Now, Lord, if my word has such power, what cannot thine do? "Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed."
Why is Abraham called "the father of the faithful?" Is it not because "judging Him faithful [and almighty] that had promised, against hope he believed in hope, that he should become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be?" Is it not because "he staggered not at the promise, [or word] of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able to perform; and therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness? And shall not the like faith be imputed to us also, if we believe" the saving truth revealed, or the Divine record given under the present dispensation of the Gospel, viz. "that God raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification?"
O! who can describe the needless perplexities of those willful unbelievers that have the truth of their dispensation clearly brought to them, and yet, like Thomas, resolutely set themselves against it, saying, "I will not believe!" And who can enumerate the blessings which those childlike souls inherit, who, instead of quarrelling with, cordially embrace the word of God, and set to their seal that God is true? They seal God's truth, and God seals their hearts. "Their faith is imputed to them for righteousness; their faith saves them; it is done to them according to their faith; the God of hope fills them with all joy and peace in believing." Thus, "through faith, they [not only] subdue the kingdom [of darkness, but] inherit the [present] kingdom of God, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, received by the hearing of faith." Well disposed reader, if thou doubtest the truth of those scriptures, try it by believing now what appears to thee to be the saving truth of thy dispensation: believe it with all thy present might, be it little or be it much; and if in a little time thou dost not find thyself more settled and free, more able to fight against sin, and to take up thy cross, let me bear the blame for ever.
Did the success of God's word depend only upon him, the truth would always operate in a saving manner. If men were not to "work out their own salvation" by freely repenting, believing, and obeying, with the power "to will and to do," which God gives them of his good pleasure, all mankind would repent, believe, and obey, as passively as clocks go, and as regularly as the sun rises. But we are moral agents; and works morally good depend as much upon the concurrence of God's free grace, and of our free obedience of faith, as the birth of the prince of Wales did upon the marriage of the king and queen. Hence we read: "To whom sware he that they should not enter ink his rest, but to them that believed not? For the word preached did not profit them," not because the seed was bad, or because they had no power to receive it, but because "it was not mixed with faith in them that heard it. "Wherefore," says the apostle, "to-day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, &c. Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, &c, and exhort one another daily" to believe.
The genuine seed of the word is then always good, always full of Divine energy. If it does not spring up, or if, after it has sprung up, it does not "bring forth fruit to perfection," it is entirely the fault of the ground. "The words that I speak," says our Lord, though it should be only by the mouth of my servants, "they are spirit and they are life" to believing hearts. For "Christ gave himself for the Church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; if it continue in the faith, holding fast the faithful word,-the word of the truth of the Gospel, which is come in all the world, and bringeth forth fruit" since the day it is heard in faith; it being the grand office of the Spirit to make "the word of God," when it is mixed with faith on our part, "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit," and "to the discerning [and destroying of the bad] thoughts and intents of the heart."
Nothing, therefore, can be more certain than the connection between the power of God and the truth of the Gospel. "Truth (says a divine of the last century) is that eternal word of the Father which, in the Son, by the Holy Ghost, is revealed to us, to be our guide back again to that bosom whence it and" we first came: it is that Jacob's ladders let down to us from heaven to earth, whereby his angels (his messengers) lead up from earth to heaven: it is that Rahab's scarlet thread, let down from the window of heaven to wind us up by. The apostle calls it a girdle, 'the girdle of truth,' a girdle, that by many several links ending where it began, returning whence it first proceeded, clasps itself again in the bosom of its author, God." According to this noble description of truth, is it not evident that all the righteous power which works in the spiritual world is the power of God and of truth? And therefore that our Lord answered like Divine wisdom "manifest in the flesh" when he asserted that "to believe on him is to work the work of God:" that "he who believeth hath everlasting life:" that" though he were dead, yet shall he live:" that "he that liveth and believeth on him [which implies a continuance of the action] shall never die:" that "rivers of living water [streams of comfort and power] shall flow out of his belly [i.e. spring from his inmost soul;] and that he shall do great works, the Gospel being the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth;" and "all things being possible to him that believeth," because his faith apprehends the word, truth, and power of the Almighty.
There are various sorts of truths. Idolatry and formality consist in pulling inferior in the room of superior truths. Evangelical and moral, i.e. religious truth alone change the heart.
WHEN I said that living faith has saving truth for its object, I did not use the word "saving" without reason: for as every stone is not precious, so every truth is not saving. There are then various sorts of truths. "There is a sun," is a physical or natural truth. "Our ideas of the sun are mental pictures of the sun," is a metaphysical truth. "All the points of a circle are equally distant from the center," is a mathematical truth. "NO just conclusion can be drawn from false premises," is a logical truth. "Alexander conquered Persia," is a historical truth. "There is a God, and this God is to be worshipped according to the different manifestations of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," are two religious truths, the first of which belongs to natural, and the second to revealed religion. "Every man is to love his neighbour as himself," is a moral truth. "A spiritual Jew is circumcised in heart, and a spiritual Christian is baptized with the Spirit," is an evangelical truth, typified by the outward signs of circumcision and of baptism.
When natural and inferior truths raise our minds to the God of nature and of grace, they answer their spiritual ends: but if they are put in the place of their archetypes and antitypes, "the truth of God is changed into a lie." Take some instances of it: "The invisible things of God," says St. Paul, "are understood by the things that are made," or visible; but who considers the profound truth couched under his words? Certainly not those heathens who worship the material, instead of the immaterial Sun: nor those Jews who are regardless of the circumcision of the heart, and rest satisfied with an external circumcision: nor those Papists who pay Divine honours to a bit of typical bread which their fancy has turned into the identical body of our Lord: nor yet those Protestants who, being unmindful of the baptism of the Spirit, exert themselves only in sprinkling infants with, or dipping adults in material water: for they all equally forget that the letter of natural and typical things alone profiteth little, or nothing comparatively; and that it killeth, when it is opposed to the Spirit, and made to supersede the invisible and heavenly archetypes, which visible and earthly things shadow out; or when it causes us to set aside the precious antitypes which typical things point unto.
Thus thousands of sinners, like the rich glutton in the Gospel, are spiritually, if not corporally, killed by meats and drinks, which should raise them to their invisible archetypes, the heavenly manna, and the wine of God's kingdom. Thus conjugal love, which should raise married persons to a more lively contemplation of the mystical union between the heavenly bridegroom and his faithful spouse, has a quite contrary effect upon numbers. Absurdly resting in the fading type, they think that "I have married a wife," is a sufficient reason to give Christ a bill of divorce, or to show him the greatest indifference. Thus also the Jews committed the deadly sins of idolatry and murder, through their regard for their brazen serpent and the temple; an extravagant regard this, which caused them to neglect, and at last to crucify Christ, the invaluable antitype of both the brazen serpent and of the temple.
Hence it appears that the sin of formalists is not unlike that of idolaters. As God has blessed his Church with various forms of worship, and literal manifestations of his truth, that they might lead us to the power of godliness, and to the truth in the Spirit; so he has filled the natural world with a variety of creatures which bear some signatures of his own unseen excellences. But alas! if we are only formal and letter-learned professors, we absurdly set up our forms and the letter against the power and spiritual operations which they shadow out: and if we are idolaters, we "love and serve the creature more than the Creator," who has given us the outlines of his invisible glories in the visible creation, that in and through every thing we "might feel after him and find him." Thus formality and idolatry equally defeat God's gracious designs toward mankind, the one by opposing forms, and the other by opposing creatures to God.
To return: all sorts of truths, if they are kept in their proper places, may improve the understanding: but religious truths only have a direct tendency to improve the will, which is the spring of our tempers and actions. Therefore, "although I have all knowledge" but that which is productive of "charity, I am nothing:" the faith of God's elect being only the cordial, practical acknowledging of "the truth, which is after godliness-of the saving "truth, as it is in Jesus."
A total inattention to every kind of truth makes a man brutish. An eager pursuit of natural, mathematical, logical, historical truths, &c, attended with a neglect of religious truths, tends to make a man an infidel: and this neglect, grown up into an obstinate, practical opposition to moral as well as to evangelical truths, turns him into "an enemy of all righteousness," and a persecutor.
But when candour, a degree of which we may have through the light that enlightens every man; when free agency, assisted by the Spirit of power, that accompanies the word of truth; when candour, I say, and free agency thus assisted, attend and submit to the religious truths revealed under our dispensation; then the Divine "seed falls into good ground;" Christ begins to be formed in our hearts; and, according to our dispensation, "we receive power to become sons of God: for we [even as many as 'receive with meekness the ingrafted word'] are all the children of God through faith in the light of the world, "through faith in Christ Jesus, who is the Saviour of all men, but especially of them that believe unto righteousness;" whether they do it with meridian light and intense fervour, as true Christians; with morning light and growing vigour, as pious Jews; or only with dawning light and timorous sincerity, as converted heathens.
Some sorts of truth, like some kinds of food, are richer than others. Infants in grace must be fed with the plainest truths, which the apostle calls milk; but stronger souls may feast upon what would give a surfeit to "babes in Christ:" "for every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who, by reason of use, have their spiritual senses exercised to discern both good and evil," truth and error, as quickly and as surely as our bodily senses distinguish sweet from bitter, and light from darkness. Truth is spiritual light: too much of it might dazzle the weak eyes of our understanding. A parabolical blind[fold] is of great service in such a case. When the apostles were yet carnal, our Lord said to them, "I have many things to say to you, but ye cannot hear them now:" no, not in parables. "Howbeit, when the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all [evangelical] truth." A sure proof this that truth is the light, the food, the way of souls; and that the grand business of the Spirit is to "lead us into the truth," as we can bear it, and as we choose to walk in it.
Truth cordially embraced by faith saves under every dispensation of Divine grace, though in different degrees. A short view of the truths that characterize the four grand dispensations of the everlasting Gospel.
I HAVE signified that faith is more or less operative, according to the quality of the truths which it embraces. This observation recommends itself to reason: for as some wines are more generous, and some remedies more powerful, so some truths are more reviving and sanctifying than others. But every evangelical truth, being a beam of the "Sun of righteousness risen" upon us "with healing in his wings," is of a saving nature. Thus I am saved from ATHEISM, by heartily believing there is a God who will judge the world;-from PHARISAISM, by firmly believing that I am a miserable sinner, and that "without Christ I can do nothing;"-from SADDUCEISM, by truly believing that "the Spirit itself helpeth my infirmities;"-from ANTINOMIANISM, by cordially believing that "God is not a respecter of persons, but a rewarder of them that diligently seek him," and a punisher of all that presumptuously break his commandments;-and from DESPAIR, by steadily believing that "God is love," that "he sent his only begotten Son into the world to save that which is lost," and that I "have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
Hence it appears, (1.) That every religious truth, suitable to our present circumstances, (when it is kindly represented by free grace, and affectionately embraced by prevented free will,) instantly forms, according to its degree, the saving, operative faith that converts, transforms, and renews the soul. And, (2.) That this faith is more or less operative, according to the quality of the truth presented to us; according to the power with which the Spirit of grace impresses it upon our hearts; and according to the earnestness with which we receive, espouse, and welcome it to our inmost souls.
When God fixed "the bounds of the habitation of mankind," he placed some nations in warm climates and fruitful countries, where the juice of the grape is plentiful next to water. And to others he assigned a barren, rocky soil, covered with snow half the year; water is their cordial, nor have they any more idea of their want of wine than St. Peter had of his want of the blood of Christ, when he made the noble confession upon which the Christian Church is founded. "O," says a Predestinarian geographer, "the God of providence has absolutely reprobated those poor creatures." "Not so," replies an unprejudiced philosopher, "they may he as healthy and happy over their cup of cold water as some of our men of fortune are over the bottles of Claret and Madeira that load their festive tables. And some of those poor creatures, as you call them, may 'come from the east and from the west to drink' the wine of the kingdom of God 'with Abraham,' when 'the children of the kingdom shall be thrust out.'"
What I have said of water and wine may illustrate what the Scriptures say of the truths peculiar to the Gospel dispensation. God forbid that an antichristian zeal for the Christian Gospel should make me drive into the burning lake Christ's sheep which are "big with young:" mean the sincere worshippers that wait, like pious Melchisedec, devout Lydia, and charitable Cornelius, for brighter displays of Gospel race. For there are faithful souls that follow their light under every dispensation, concerning whom our Lord kindly said, "Other sheep I have which are not of this [Jewish] fold: them also I must bring [into marvellous light,] and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd." those feeble sheep and tender lambs I must take into my bosom; and to give them their portion of meat in due season, I venture upon the following remark:- If free will, prevented by free grace, ardently receives the truths of the Christian Gospel, Christian faith is conceived. If the heart fervently embraces the truths of the Jewish or Gentile Gospel, (those which are peculiar to the Christian Gospel remaining as yet veiled,) the faith of a Jew or of a heathen is begotten. Nevertheless, if this faith, let it be ever so assaulted by doubts, impregnates the soul with truth, and works by love, it is saving in its degree.
I say in its degree; for as there are in the earth various rich tinctures, some of which form diamonds, while others form only rubies, emeralds, or agates; so there are in the universal Church of Christ various tinctures of Gospel truth, which form various orders of spiritual jewels, as appears from such scriptures as these:-"They that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels. For in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him," according to the dispensation he is under, and the progress he has made in practical religion.
This Gospel, for example, "God hath made of one blood all nations of men, that they should seek the Lord [as the gracious Author of their being, and] love one another as brothers:" this everlasting Gospel, I say, has in all countries leavened the hearts of pious heathens with "sincerity and truth." This doctrine, "Messiah will come to point out clearly the way of salvation," added to the Gospel of the Gentiles, has tinctured with superior goodness the hearts of all believing Jews. This truth, "Messiah is come in the flesh," superadded to the Jewish Gospel, has enlarged the hearts of all the disciples of John, or the "babes in Christ." And these truths, "Christ died for my sins, and rose again for my justification; he is ascended up on high; he has received the gift of the Spirit for men,-for me. I believe on him by the power of that Spirit. He dwells in my heart by faith. He is in me the hope of glory. The promise of the Father is fulfilled; the kingdom of God, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost is come with power." These richer truths, I say, superadded to those which are essential to the inferior dispensations, tincture the hearts of all adult Christians, and make them more or less intimately one with Christ, according to the degree of their faith, and the influences of his Spirit.
The field of truth is as boundless as the Divine perfections; and the treasures it contains are as unsearchable as the riches of Christ, Here we may literally say, "Deep calleth unto deep-Canst thou by searching find out the Almighty to perfection? It is as high as heaven, what canst thou do? Deeper than hell, what canst thou know?" These three capital truths only-"God is-God is love-God is mine in Christ"-are more than sufficient to replace my soul in paradise. I know but little of them; and yet, thanks be to God! I know enough to make me anticipate heavenly bliss. Now, is it the least part of my present happiness to rejoice that there is an eternity before me to unfold the wonders of truth, and to explore the "mystery of God. Now I see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. Now I know but in part, but then I shall know even as also I am known."
[ CONTINUED ]