« PoprzedniaDalej »
John i, 12. However, from this extraordinary argument, you conclude that "the doctrine of believing before justification is not less contrary to reason than it is to Scripture ;" but I flatter myself that my judicious readers will draw a conclusion diametrically opposite.
XIX. A quotation from St. Augustine appears next, and secures the ruin of your scheme. For if faith be compared to a lantern, and Christ to the light in the lantern, common sense tells us we must have the lantern before we can receive the candle which is to give us light. Or, in other words, we must have faith before we can receive Christ: for you very justly observe, that "faith receiveth Christ, who is the true Light."
XX. St. Augustine's lantern makes way for the witticism with which you conclude your second epistle. "No letters," says my honoured friend, were sent through the various provinces against old Mordecai, for supposing that the woman, Luke xv, lights a candle, &c, in order to find her lost piece; but because he insists upon it, that the piece lights the candle, sweeps the house, and searches diligently in order to find the woman."
Permit me to ask, whether your wit here has not for a moment got the start of your judgment? I introduced the woman seeking the piece she had lost, merely to show that it is neither a heresy nor an absurdity to "seek something in order to find it ;" and that instance proved my point, full as well as if I had fixed upon Saul seeking his father's asses, or Joseph seeking his brethren in Dothan.
If it be as great an absurdity to say, that sinners are "to seek the Lord," as it is to say, that "a piece seeks the woman that has lost it;" let me tell you, that Mr. Wesley has the good fortune to be countenanced in his folly, First, by yourself, who tell us, page 7, that the knowledge of Christ, and our interest in him," is certainly to be sought in the use of all the appointed means." And, Secondly, by Isaiah, who says, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found." By St. Paul, who tells the Athenians, that "all nations of men are to seek the Lord." And by Christ himself who says, "They that seek me early shall find me:-seek that you may find," &c.
I leave you to judge, whether it was worth your while to impeach Mr. Wesley's good sense, not only by reflecting upon your own, but by inevitably involving Isaiah, St. Paul, and our Lord himself, in the ridicule cast upon my vindicated friend! For the same sinner, who is represented by the lost piece, is, a few verses before, represented by the lost son; and, you know, Jesus Christ tells us that he came from far to seek his father's pardon and assistance.
REMARKS ON THE THIRD LETTER.
You begin this letter by saying, "How God may deal with the heathen world is not for us to pry into." But we may believe what God has revealed. If the Holy Ghost declares, that "in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him," we may credit what he says, without being "wise above what is written."
If you cannot set aside that apostolic part of the Minutes, you try, however, to press it into the service of your doctrine. "There is," say you, "a material difference between saying, 'He that feareth
God and worketh righteousness is accepted, and shall be accepted;"" and because" the verb is in the present tense," you conclude, there is no need of fearing God, or working righteousness in order to find acceptance. This is exactly such another argument as that which I just now refuted, "We need not believe in order to be justified, because it is said, all that believe are justified, and not shall be justified.' You can no more prove by the one that Cornelius, provoking God and working unrighteousness, was accepted of him; than, by the other, that unbelievers ARE justified, because it is said that believers are so.
A similar instance may convince you of it: "All run," says St. Paul," but one receiveth the prize." I, who am a stranger to refinements, immediately conclude from those words, that running is previous to the receiving of the prize, and in order to it. "No," says a friend, "there is a material difference between saying, one receiveth the prize,' and 'one shall receive the prize.' The verb is in the present tense, and therefore the plain sense of the passage is, (not that by running he does any thing to receive the prize, but) that he who runs is possessed of the prize, and proves himself to be so." Candid reader, if such an argument proselytes thee to Dr. Crisp's doctrine, I shall suspect there is no small difference between English and Suisse
However, to make up the weight of your argument, you add, “Cornelius was a chosen vessel." True, for "God hath chosen to himself the man that is godly;" and such was Cornelius; "a devout man,” says St. Luke," and one that feared God with all his house." But if my honoured opponent speaks of an election which drags after it the horrors of absolute reprobation, and hangs the mill stone of unavoidable damnation about the neck of millions of our fellow creatures, I must call for proof.
Till it comes, I follow you in your observations upon the merit or rewardableness of good works. Most of them are answered, First Check, p. 47, &c, and Second Check, p. 95. The rest I answer thus:
1. If you do not believe Mr. Henry when he assures us David speaks of himself, "The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness," &c, Psalm xviii, believe at least the sacred historian, who confirms my assertion, 2 Sam. xxii; and consider the very title of the psalm, "David spake unto the Lord the words of this song, in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of his enemies, and from the hand of Saul."
2. But" when David speaks in his own person, his language is very different." "Enter not into judgment with thy servant," says he, “for in thy sight shall no man living be justified." The psalmist does not here contradict what he says of the rewardableness of good works, Psalm xviii. He only appeals from the law of innocence to the law of grace, and only disclaims all merit in point of justification and salvation, a thing which Mr. Wesley takes care to do when he says, even in the Minutes," Not by the merit of works," but by "believing in Christ."
3. My honoured correspondent asks next,-"Where is the man who has the witness of having done what God commanded?” I answer,
Every one has who "walks in the light as God is in the light," and can say with St. John, "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God: and whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight."
4. But Bishop Beveridge spoke just the reverse; for he said in his Private Thoughts, "I sin in my best duties," &c. That may be; for he was but a young convert when he wrote his Private Thoughts. I hope before he died he enjoyed more Gospel liberty. But whether he did or not, we appeal from his Private Thoughts to the above-mentioned public declaration and evangelical experience of St. John.
5. If many Roman Catholics do not ascribe merit to " mere external performances," I have done them "great injustice;" and, to repair that wrong, I declare my full approbation of that excellent passage upon merit which you quote in French, from the works of the bishop of Meaux. I say, in French, because your English translation represents him as looking on all opinion of merit as presumptuous, whereas he blames only opinion d'un merite presomptueux, "the doctrine of a presumptuous merit,"-of a merit which is not all derived from Christ, and does not terminate in the glory of his grace.
The dying challenge of Alexander Seton is answered in the Second Check, first letter. As to your quotation from Bishop Cooper, it does as little credit to his learning as to his charity; for St. Augustine, who had no more "the spirit of antichrist" than the bishop himself, uses perpetually the word merit, in speaking of man and his works.
Let us now see how you "split the hair," that is, fix the difference there is between being rewarded according to our works,* BECAUSE of our works, and secundum merita operum, "according to the merit or rewardableness which Christ gives to our works." "The difference," say you, "by no means depends upon the splitting of a hair; those expressions are as wide as east from west." Are they indeed? Then it must be the east and west of the map of the world, which meet in one common line upon the globe. This will appear, if we consider the manner in which you untie the Gordian knot.
"Good works," say you, "are rewarded, because God, of his own mere favour, rich grace, and undeserved bounty, has promised that he will freely give such rewards to those whom he has chosen in his dear Son." Now, sir, simplify this sentence, and you tell us just that "good works are rewarded because God freely promised to reward them."
And is this the east of my honoured opponent's orthodoxy? Surprising! It just meets the west of Popish heterodoxy. You know, sir, that Thomas Aquinas and Scotus are as great divines among the Romanists as Calvin and Luther among the Protestants; and in fleeing from Mr. Wesley, you are just gone over to Scotus and Baxter; for Scotus, and Clara, his disciple, maintain, that if God gives rewards to the godly, non oritur obligatio ex natura actus, sed ex suppositione decreti et promissi, "the obligation does not arise from the nature of the action rewarded, but from the decree and free promise of the
* See 1 John iii, 22, and First Check, pp. 47, 48. You have no right to throw out this middle term till you have proved that my quotations are false.
rewarder." "Though so much be given in Scripture to good works," says the council of Trent, "yet far be it from a Christian to glory in himself, and not in the Lord, whose goodness is so great to all men, that he wills those things to be their merits, which are his gifts.” (Can. 16, de Justif.)
Most Protestants," says Baxter, "will take merit to signify something which profiteth God, and which is our own, and not his gift and grace; but they are mistaken."
Some, however, are more candid: Bucer says, "If by meriting the holy fathers and others mean nothing but to do in faith, by the grace of God, good works, which the Lord has promised to reward, in this sense," (which is that which Scotus, Baxter, and Mr. Wesley fix to merit,) "we shall in no wise condemn that word."
Hence it is that whole congregations of real Protestants have not scrupled at times to use the words we merit, in their humblest addresses to the throne of grace. Congregations of real Protestants!" says my honoured friend. Popery is about midway between Protestantism and such worshippers. Who are they?" I answer, They are the orthodox opposers of the Minutes, the truly honourable the countess of Huntingdon, the Rev. Mr. Shirley, the Rev. Mr. Madan, and all the congregations that use their Hymns; for they all agree to sing, Thou hast the righteousness supply'd, By which we merit heaven.
See Lady Huntingdon's Hymns, British edition, page 399; and the Rev. Mr. Madan's Collection, which you frequently use, hymn xxv, page 27, last stanza. Come then, dear sir, while Mr. Madan shakes hands with his venerable father, Mr. Wesley, permit the vindicator of the Minutes to do the same with the author of Pietas Oxoniensis, and let us lovingly follow Scotus and Baxter, singing, "Christ hath the righteousness supplied, by which we merit heaven."
If you say, "True; but it is of God's own mere favour, rich grace, and undeserved bounty in his dear Son;" I answer, We are agreed, and beforehand I subscribe a hundred such clauses, being fully persuaded of the truth of Mr. Wesley's proposition, when explained according to the analogy of faith, "There is no original merit but in the blood and obedience of Christ; and no derived merit, or, (if you dislike that word out of the Lock chapel,) no derived rewardableness, but that which we are supplied with through the Spirit of Christ, and the blood of his cross." If Mr. Wesley meant any more by the saying you have quoted, he will permit me to use his own words, and say that he "leaned too much toward Calvinism."
I cannot better close the subject of merit, and requite your quotation from Dr. Willet, than by transcribing a third passage from the pious and judicious Mr. Baxter :
"We are agreed on the negative: (1.) That no man or angel can merit of God in proper commutative justice, giving him somewhat for his benefits that shall profit him, or to which he had no absolute right. (2.) N man can nerit any thing of God upon the terms of the law of innocency, (but punishment.) (3.) Nor can he merit any thing of God by the law of grace, unless it be supposed first to be a free gift, and merited by Christ.
"And affirmatively we are, I think, agreed: (1.) That God governs us by a law of grace, which hath a promise, and gives by way of re- 1 ward. (2.) That God calls it his justice to reward men according to his law of grace, Heb. vi, 10; 2 Tim. iv, 8. (3.) That this supposes that such works as God rewards have a moral aptitude for that reward, which chiefly consists in these things, that they spring from the Spirit of God, that their faultiness is pardoned through the blood and merits of Christ, that they are done in the love and to the glory of God, and that they are presented to God by Jesus Christ. (4.) That this moral aptitude is called in Scripture ağıa, that is, worthiness or merit; so that thus far worthiness or merit is a Scripture phrase. And, (5.) That this worthiness or merit is only in point of paternal governing justice, according to the law of grace, ordering that which in itself is a free gift merited by Christ.
"All orthodox Christians hold the fore-described doctrine of merit in sense, though not in words: for they that deny merit, confess the rewardableness of our obedience, and acknowledge that the Scripture useth the term worthy, and that agios and agia may be translated meriting and merit, as well as worthy and worthiness. This is the same thing, in other words, which the ancient Christians meant by merit. When godly persons earnestly extol holiness, saying that the righteous is more excellent than his neighbour,' and yet deny all merit, reviling all that assert it, they do but show that they understand not the word, and think others also misunderstand it: and so we are reproaching one another where we are agreed, and know it not; like the woman who turned away her servant upon the controversy, Whether the house should be swept with a besom, or with a broom.
"The partial teachers are the cause of this, while, instead of opening the doctrine, and showing in what sense we have or have not any worthiness or merit, they without distinction cry down merit, and reproach those that do otherwise. And if they do but say, 'Such a man speaks for merit and free will,' they think that they sufficiently render him odious to their followers; when yet all sober Christians in all ages have been for merit and free will in a sound sense. And is not this to be adversaries to truth, and love, and peace?
"I formerly thought, that though we agree in the thing, it is best to omit the name, because the Papists have abused it: and I think so still in such companies, where the use of it, not understood, will scandalize men, and do more harm than good. But in other cases I now think it better to keep the word, (1.) Lest we seem to the ignorant to be of another religion than* all the ancient Churches were. (2.) Lest we harden the Papists, Greeks, and others, by denying the sound doctrine in terms, which they will think we deny in sense. And, (3.) Because our penury of words is such, that for my part I remember no other word so fit to substitute instead of merit, desert, or worthiness. The
"It is a great advantage to the Papists," says our judicious author, "that many Protestants wholly disclaim the word merit, and simply deny the merit of Gospel obedience. For hereupon the teachers show their scholars that all the fathers speak for merit, and do tell them, that the Protestant doctrine is new and heretical, as being contrary to all the ancient doctors; and when their scholars see it with their eyes, no wonder if they believe it, to our dishonour."