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good, by God's secret will intimated to me; and supposing a dear friend strongly argued, not only that the surgeon is at hand, but that he would render my leg straighter, handsomer, and stronger than before; must I not be a fool, or a coward, if I hesitate throwing myself down?
O sir, if " the deceitfulness of sin" is so great that thousands greedily commit it, when the gallows on earth, and horrible torments in hell, are proposed for their just wages; how will they be able to escape in the hour of temptation, if they are encouraged to transgress the Divine law, by assurances that they shall reap eternal advantages from their sin? O! how highly necessary was it that Mr. Wesley should warn his assistants against talking of a state of justification and sanctification in so unguarded a manner as you and the other admirers of Dr. Crisp so frequently do!
You conclude this letter by some quotations from Mr. Wesley, whom you vainly try to press into the doctor's service, by representing him as saying of established Christians what he speaks of babes in Christ, and of the commission of adultery and murder, what he only means of evil desire resisted, and evil tempers restrained: but more of this in a Treatise on Christian Perfection."
REMARKS ON THE FIFTH LETTER.
This letter begins by a civil reproof for "speaking rather in a sneering manner of that heart-cheering expression so often used by awakened divines, the finished salvation of Christ ;" an expression which, by the by, you will not find once in all my letters. But why some divines, whom you look upon as unawakened, do not admire the unscriptural expression of finished salvation, you may see in the Second Check, p. 117.
I am thankful for your second reproof, and hope it will make me more careful not to "speak as a man of the world." But the third I really cannot thank you for. "You are not very sparing of hard names against Dr. Crisp," says my honoured correspondent; and again: "The hard names and heavy censures thrown out against the doctor, are by far more unjustifiable than what has been delivered against Mr. Wesley." The hardest names I give to your favourite divine are, the doctor, the good doctor, and the honest doctor, whom, notwithstanding all his mistakes, I represent, (Second Check, p. 85,) as a good man shouting aloud, Salvation to the Lamb of God! Now, sir, I should be glad to know by what rule, either of criticism or charity, you can prove that these are hard names, more unjustifiable than the names of " Papist unmasked, heretic, apostate, worse than Papists," &c, which have been of late so liberally bestowed upon Mr. Wesley?
I confess, that those branches of Dr. Crisp's doctrine which stand in direct opposition to the practical Gospel of Christ, I have taken the liberty to call Crispianity; for had I called them CHRISTIANITY, my conscience and one half of the Bible would have flown in my face; and had I called them Calvinism, Williams, Flavel, Alleine, Bishop Hopkins, and numbers of sound Calvinists, would have proved me mistaken; for they agree to represent the peculiarities of the doctor as loose Antinomian tenets; and if any man can prove them either legal
or evangelical, I shall gladly recant those epithets, which I have sometimes given, not to the good doctor, but to his unscriptural notions.
In the meantime, permit me to observe, that if any one judges of my letters by the 36th page of your book, he will readily say of them what you say of the Rev. Mr. Sellon's Works: "I have never read them, and from the accounts I hear of the abusive, unchristian spirit with which they are written, I believe I shall never give myself that trouble.” Now, sir, I have read Mr. Sellon's books, and have therefore more right than you, who never read them, to give them a public character. You tell us, "you have heard of the imbecility of the performance," &c,* and I assure my readers, I have found it a masterly mixture of the skill belonging to the sensible scholar, the good logician, and the sound anti-Crispian divine.
He is blunt, I confess, and sometimes to an excess. "Really," says he in a private letter, "I cannot set my razor; there is a roughness about me I cannot get rid of. If honest truth will not excuse me, I must bear the blame of those whom nothing will please but smooth things." But sharp (you will say abusive) as he is, permit me to tell you, that my much admired countryman, Calvin, was much
For my part, though I would no more plead for abuse than for adultery and murder, yet, like a true Suisse, I love blunt honesty; and to give you a proof of it, I shall take the liberty to observe, It is much easier to say, a book is full of hard names, and heavy censures, written in an abusive, unchristian spirit; and to insinuate it is "dangerous, or not worth reading;" than it is fairly to answer one single page of it. And how far a late publication proves the truth of this observation, I leave our candid readers to decide.
Page 38, you "assure me upon honour that Mr. Wesley's pieces against election and perseverance [Why did you forget reprobation?] have greatly tended to establish your belief in those most comfortable doctrines." Hence you conclude, that " Mr. Wesley's pen has done much service to the Calvinistic cause;" and add, that "some very experienced Christians hope he will write again upon that subject, or publish a new edition of his former Tracts."
You are too much acquainted with the world, dear sir, not to know that most Deists declare, they were established in their sentiments by reading the Old and New Testament. But would you argue conclusively, if you inferred from thence, that the sacred writers have done infidelity much service? And if some confident infidels expressed their hopes that our bishops would reprint the Bible to propagate Deism, would you not see through their empty boast, and pity their deistical flourish? Permit me, honoured sir, to expose by a simile the similar wish of the persons you mention, who, if they were "very experienced Christians," will hardly pass for very modest logicians.
The gentleman of fortune you mention never read all Mr. Wesley's Tracts, nor one of Mr. Sellon's on the Crispian orthodoxy.
* Some of the Rev. Mr. Sellon's Works are, Arguments against the Doctrine of General Redemption considered; a Defence of God's Sovereignty; and the Church of England vindicated from the Charge of Calvinism. All these are well worth the reading of every pious and sensible man.
am no more surprised to see you both dissent from those divines, than I should be to find you both mistaken upon the bench, if you passed a decisive sentence before you had so much as heard one witness out. The clergyman you refer to has probably been as precipitate as the two pious magistrates; therefore, you will permit me to doubt whether he, any more than my honoured opponent, "has had courage enough to see for himself."
Having so long animadverted upon your letters, it is time to consider the present state of our controversy. Mr. Wesley privately advances, among his own friends, some propositions, designed to keep them from running into the fashionable errors of Dr. Crisp. These propositions are secretly procured, and publicly exposed through the three kingdoms, as dreadfully heretical, and subversive of the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith. In Mr. Wesley's absence, a friend writes in defence of his propositions. The Rev. Mr. Shirley, instead of trying to defend his mistakes by argument, publicly recants his Circular Letter and his volume of sermons by the lump. Some of the honest souls, who have been carried away by the stream of fashionable error, begin to look about them, and ask, whether narratives and recantations are to pass for scriptures and arguments? The author of Pietas Oxoniensis, to quiet them, enters the lists, and makes a stand against the anti-Crispian propositions: but what a stand!
1. "Man's faithfulness," says he, "I have no objection to, in a sober, Gospel sense of the word." So Mr. Wesley's first proposition, by my opponent's confession, bears a sober Gospel sense.
2. He attacks the doctrine of working for life, by proposing some of the very objections answered in the Vindication, without taking the least notice of the answers; by producing scriptures quite foreign to the question, and keeping out of sight those which have been advanced; by passing over in silence a variety of rational arguments; jumbling all the degrees of spiritual life and death, acceptance and justification, mentioned in the sacred oracles; confounding all the dispensations of Divine grace toward man and levelling at Mr. Wesley a witticism which wounds Jesus Christ himself.
3. He acknowledges the truth of the doctrine that we must do something in order to attain justification; and after this candid concession, fairly gives up the fundamental Protestant doctrine of justification by faith: the very doctrine which Luther called Articulus stantis vel cadenlis Ecclesiæ, and which our Church so strongly maintains in her articles and homilies. The Rev. Mr. Shirley throws his sermon on justification by faith overboard. His second comes up to mend the matter, and does it so unfortunately, as to throw the handle after the axe. He renounces the doctrine itself. "I maintain," says he, "that believing cannot be previous to justification, that is, to complete justification." As dangerous a proposition as was ever advanced by Crisp, and refuted by all the sober Calvinists of the last century!
4. He opposes St. Peter's, Mr. Henry's, and Mr. Wesley's doctrine, that "Cornelius was accepted of God in consequence of his fearing God and working righteousness," and insinuates that Cornelius was
completely accepted before he feared God and worked righteousness. Upon this scheme, the words of St. Peter, "He that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him," may mean, He that dareth God and worketh unrighteousness is completely accepted of him!
5. He represents Mr. Wesley as a Papist, for having privately observed among his friends that we have been too much afraid of the word merit, while he allows real Protestants, the countess of Huntingdon, and the Rev. Mr. Shirley, to publish and sing, We MERIT heaven by the righteousness which Christ has supplied. Nay, he sings the same bold words at the Lock chapel. The Rev. Mr. Madan's "we merit" passes for Gospel; his hymns are every where recommended as evangelical: but" Popery is about midway between Protestantism and Mr. Wesley!" What strange prejudice! And yet, surprising! my honoured correspondent accuses me of betraying "no small degree of chicanery" upon the article of merit!
6. He attempts to "split the hair," which the Rev. Mr. Shirley is wise enough not to attempt. But how? Without ceremony he cuts off the middle term between being "rewarded according to our works," and "as our works deserve;" he throws out of the question this proposition, that we are rewarded BECAUSE of our works, though it is supported by the plainest scriptures.
7. Notwithstanding this unwarrantable liberty, when he confidently soars upon the wings of orthodoxy, to find his broad passage between "east and west," he directly falls into Mr. Wesley's sentiment about the rewardableness of works; and, before he is aware, shakes hands with the good Papist Scotus, and the good Protestant Baxter.
8. The last proposition which he attacks, is, that "we are continually pleasing or displeasing to God, according to the whole of our inward and outward behaviour." And what does he advance against it? Assertions and distinctions contradicted by the general tenor of the Bible; scriptures detached from the context, and set at variance with the clearest declarations of God, and loudest dictates of conscience: and, what is worse than all, dangerous enumerations of the good that falling into adultery, murder, perjury, and incest does to them that love God!
And now, honoured sir, let the Christian world judge, whether you have been able to fix the mark of error upon one of the propositions so loudly decried as heretical; and whether the letters you have honoured me with, do not expose the cause which you have attempted to defend, and demonstrate the absolute necessity of erecting and defending such a seasonable rampart as the Minutes, to check the rapid progress of Dr. Crisp's Gospel.
Permit me, honoured and dear sir, to conclude by assuring you, that although I have thought myself obliged publicly to show the mistakes in the five letters which you have publicly directed to me, I gladly do you the justice to acknowledge that your principles have not that effect upon your conduct which they naturally have upon the conversation of hundreds who are consistent Antinomians. See Second Check, page 111. If I have addressed my Three Checks to the Rev. Mr. Shirley and yourself, God is my witness, that it was not to reflect upon two of the
j most eminent characters in the circle of my religious acquaintance. Forcible circumstances have overruled my inclinations. Decipimur specie recli. Thinking to attack error, you have attacked the very truth which Providence calls me to defend; and the attack appears to me so much the more dangerous, as your laborious zeal and eminent piety are more worthy of public regard, than the boisterous rant and loose insinuations of twenty practical Antinomians. The tempter is not so great a novice in antichristian politics as to engage only such to plead for doctrinal Antinomianism. This would soon spoil the trade. It is his masterpiece of wisdom to get good men to do him that eminent service. He knows that their good lives will make way for their bad principles. Nor does he ever deceive with more decency and success, than under the respectable cloak of their genuine piety.
If a wicked man plead for sin, fænum habet in cornu, "he carries the mark upon his forehead:" we stand upon our guard. But when a good man gives us to understand that "there are no lengths God's people may not run, nor any depths they may not fall into, without losing the character of men after God's own heart; that many will praise God for our denial of Christ; that sin and corruption work for good; that a fall into adultery will drive us nearer to Christ, and make us sing louder to the praise of free grace:" when he quotes Scripture too in order to support these assertions, calling them the pure Gospel, and representing the opposite doctrine as the Pelagian heresy, worse than Popery itself; he casts the Antinomian net "on the right side of the ship," and is likely to enclose a great multitude of unwary men; especially if some of the best hands in the kingdom drive the frighted shoal into the net, and help to drag it on shore.
This is, honoured sir, what I apprehend you have done, not designedly, but thinking to do God service. And this is what every good man, who does not look at the Gospel through Dr. Crisp's glass, must resolutely oppose. Hence the steadiness with which I have looked in the face of a man of God, whose feet I should be glad to wash at any time, under a lively sense of my great inferiority.
And now, as if I were admitted to show you that humble mark of brotherly love, I beg you would not consider the unceremonious plainness of a Suisse (mountaineer) as the sarcastic insolence of an incorgible Arminian.
I beseech you to make some difference between the wisdom and poison of the serpent. If charity forbids to meddle with the latter, does not Christ recommend the former? Is every mild, well-meant irony a bitter and cruel sarcasm? Should we directly insinuate that it is the sign of "a bad spirit," the mark of murder in the heart; and that he who uses it to sharpen the truth,* "scatters firebrands, arrows, and death?" To say nothing of Elijah and the priests of Baal, did our Lord want either deep seriousness or ardent love, when, coming more than conqueror from his third conflict in Gethsemane, he roused
*This assertion is the grand argument of an evangelical writer, in the Gospel Magazine, and of a charitable gentleman (a Baptist minister, I think) in a printed letter dated Bath. If this method of arguing is Calvinistically evangelical, my readers will easily perceive it is very far from being either legal or Scripturally logical.