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who showeth mercy to the poor doth lay his money in the bank to the Lord' for a large interest and gain; the gain being chiefly the possession of the life everlasting, through the merits of Christ."
When our Church has given us this strong dose of legality, that she may by a desperate remedy remove a desperate disease, and kill or cure the Antinomian spirit in all her children; lest the violent medicine should hurt us, she, like a prudent mother, instantly administers the following balsamic corrective :*
"Some will say, If charitable works are able to reconcile us to God, and deliver us from damnation, then are Christ's merits defaced; then are we justified by works, and by our deeds may we merit heaven. But understand, dearly beloved, that no godly men, when they, in extolling the dignity, profit, and effect of virtuous and liberal alms, do say that it bringeth us to the favour of God, do mean that our work is the original cause of our acceptance before God, &c. For that were indeed to deface Christ, and to defraud him of his glory. But they mean, that the Spirit of God mightily working in them, who seemed before children of wrath, they declare by their outward deeds that they are the undoubted children of God. By their tender pity, (wherein they show themselves to be like unto God,) they declare openly and manifestly unto the sight of all men that they are the sons of God. For as the good fruit does argue the goodness of the tree, so doth the good deed of a man prove the goodness of him that doeth it."
In justice to our holy Church, whom some represent as a patroness of Antinomianism; in brotherly love to you, honoured sir, who seem to judge of her doctrines by a few expressions which custom made her use after St. Augustine; in tender compassion to many of her members, who are strangers to her true sentiments; and in common humanity to Mr. Wesley, who is perpetually accused of erecting Popery upon her ruins; I have presented you with this extract from our homilies. If you lay by the veil of prejudice, which keeps the light from your honest heart, I humbly hope it will convince you that our Church nobly contends for St. James' evangelical legality; that she pleads for the rewardableness (which is all we understand by the merit) of works, in far stronger terms than Mr. Wesley does in the Minutes; and that in perpetually making our justification, merited by Christ, turn upon the instrumentality of a lively faith, and the evidence of good works, as there is opportunity to do them, she tears up Calvinism and Antinomian delusions by the very roots.
Leaving you to consider how you shall bring about a reconciliation between your fourth letter and our godly homilies, I shall just take the liberty to remind you, that when you entered, or took your degrees at Oxford, you subscribed to the thirty-nine articles; the thirty-fifth of which declares, that "the homilies contain a godly and wholesome doctrine, necessary for these" Papistical and Antinomian "times."
That keeping clear from both extremes, we may evidence the godliness of that doctrine by the soundness of our publications, and the exemplariness of our conduct, is the cordial prayer of, honoured and dear sir, your obedient servant in the liturgy, articles, and homilies of the Church of England, J. FLETCHER.
To Richard Hill, Esq.
HONOURED AND DEAR SIR,-In my last I endeavoured to show you, that our Church, far from warping to CRISPIANITY, strongly enforces St. James' undefiled religion: let us now see what modern divines, especially the Puritan, thought about the important subject of our controversy.
Page 13, you oppose the doctrine which you have, (p. 11,) so heartily wished to be firmly established in the mouth of two witnesses: "If Mr. Whitefield had been now living," say you, "I doubt not but he would have told you, that if need should be, he was ready to offer himself among the foremost of those true Protestants, who, you tell us, could have burned against the doctrine of a second justification by works. And as to the Puritan divines, there is not one of the many hundreds of them but what abhorred the doctrine of a second justification by works, as full of rottenness and deadly poison. Surely then it is not without justice that I accuse you of the grossest perversions and misrepresentations, that perhaps ever proceeded from any author's pen. The ashes of that laborious man of God, Mr. Whitefield, you have raked up, in order to bring him as a coadjutor to support your tottering doctrine of a second justification by works." And again, (91, 92,) “I am not afraid to challenge Mr. Fletcher to fix upon one Protestant minister, either Puritan or of the Church of England, from the beginning of the reformation to the reign of Charles the Second, who held the doctrines he has been contending for." "Sure I am, that you have grieved many a pious heart among our dissenting brethren, by fathering upon their venerable ancestors such a spurious offspring, as can only trace its descent from the loins of the man of sin,' by which it was begotten out of the mother of abominations, the scarlet Babylonish whore, which sitteth upon many waters.'”
Your charges and challenge, honoured sir, deserve an answer, not because they fix the blot of the grossest perversions upon my insignificant character, but because they represent the holy Apostle James, whose doctrine I vindicate, as "the man of sin," begetting his undefiled religion" out of the Babylonish whore." I begin with what you say about Mr. Whitefield:
I never thought he was clear in the doctrine of our Lord, "In the day of judgment by thy words shalt thou be justified;" for if he had seen it in its proper light, he would instantly have renounced Calvinism. All I have asserted is, that the most eminent ministers, Mr. Whitefield himself not excepted, perpetually allude to that doctrine, when their enlarged hearts, (under a full gale of God's free Spirit,) get clear of the shallows of bigotry, or the narrow channels of their favourite systems for then, sailing in deep water, and regardless of the rocks of offence, they cut their easy way through the raging billows of opposition, and speak ALL the truth as it is in Jesus; or at least "allude" (this was my expression, see Second Check, p. 73,) to what, at another time, they would perhaps oppose with all their might.
And do you not, honoured sir, allow that Mr. Whitefield did this in the application of his sermons with regard to my doctrine, when you say, (p. 15,) "All that can be gathered from his expressions is, that he believed there would be a great and awful day, in which all who sit under the sound of the Gospel shall be called to give a solemn account of what they hear, and every minister as solemn an account of the doctrine delivered by him?" To convince you that you grant me all I contended for, permit me to ask, whether this solemn account will be in order to a mock trial, or to the solemn justification or condemnation mentioned by our Lord, Matt. xii, 37? If you affirm the former, you traduce heavenly Wisdom, you blaspheme Jesus Christ: if the latter, you give up the point; our hearing and speaking, that is, our works, will turn evidence for or against us in the day of judgment; and, according to their deposition, the scale of absolution and condemnation will turn for heaven or hell.
Let, therefore, the public judge who wrongs Mr. Whitefield;-I, who represent him as speaking agreeably to the plain words of his heavenly Master, Matt. xii, 37;-or you, dear sir, who make him advance as a zealot, at the head of a body of prejudiced men, to burn against as explicit and important a declaration as ever dropped from the Redeemer's lips. I say important; because the moment you strike at our justification by works in the last day, you strike at the doctrine of a day of judgment; and the moment that fundamental doctrine is overthrown, natural and revealed religion sink in a heap of common ruins.
Pass we on now to the other reason for which you "accuse me of the grossest misrepresentations and perversions that perhaps ever proceeded from any author's pen." I have affirmed, (Second Check, p. 73.) that "all the sober Puritan divines have directly or indirectly* asserted a second justification by works ;" and you tell us, (p. 13,) "There is not one of them but what abhorred it, as full of rottenness and deadly poison." One of us is undoubtedly mistaken; for our propositions are diametrically opposite. Let us see who is the man.
To dispute about words is unbecoming men of reason and religion; and that we may not be guilty of this common absurdity, and oppose one another, when perhaps we mean the same thing, permit me to state the question as clearly as I possibly can. rious, but the instrumental cause of our justification, I ask, In the day Not considering the meritoof judgment, shall we be justified or condemned by the works which Christ did in the days of his flesh? Or, in other terms, Shall we be justified by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, as Calvin supposes it was imputed to David in Uriah's bed? or by the righteousness of Christ implanted in us, as it was implanted in David when "his eyes ran down with water because men kept not God's law?" Or, if you please, Shall we be justified by Christ's loving God and man for us? or by our loving God and man ourselves? The former of these sentiments is that of Dr. Crisp and all his admirers. That the latter was the sentiment of Dr. Owen, and all the sober Puritan divines, when they regarded Christ more than Calvin, I prove thus :
Dr. Owen, (the pious and learned champion of the Calvinists in
* These were my limited expressions.
the last century, whom you quote, p. 93,) speaking, in his Treatise on Justification, p. 222, of one justified at his conversion, says, “That God does indispensably require of him personal obedience, which may be called his evangelical righteousness. That this righteousness is pleadable* unto an acquitment against any charge from Satan, the world, or our own consciences. That upon it we shall be declared righteous in the last day; and, without it, none shall. And if any shall think meet from hence to conclude unto an evangelical justification, or call God's acceptance of our righteousness by that name, I shall by no means contend with them. Whenever this inquiry is made, How a man that professeth evangelical faith in Christ shall be tried and judged; and whereon, as such, he shall be justified? we grant that it is, and must be, by his own personal obedience."
This important quotation is produced by D. Williams, in his Gospel Truth vindicated against Dr. Crisp's Opinions, p. 149. It is introduced to confirm the following Gospel truth: "The Lord Jesus has of grace, for his own merits, promised to bring to heaven such as are partakers of true holiness, and do good works perseveringly. And he appoints these, as the way and means of a believer's obtaining salvation, requiring them as indispensable duties and qualifications, of all such whom he will save and bless; and excluding all that want and neglect them, or live under the power of what is contrary thereto." Here is evidently the pure doctrine of the Minutes, and the "undefiled religion" of St. James.
The same judicious author, in his preface, speaks thus upon the subject of our controversy: "The revival of these [Dr. Crisp's] errors must not only exclude that ministry as legal which is most apt to secure the practical power of religion, but also render unity among Christians impossible. Mutual censures are unavoidable; while one side [the sober Puritans] press the terms of the Gospel, under its promises and threats, for which they are accused as enemies to Christ and grace; and the other side [the followers of Dr. Crisp] ignorantly set up the name of Christ and free grace against the government of Christ and the rule of judgment.
"I believe many abettors of these mistakes are honestly zealous for the honour of free grace, but have not light to see how God has provided for this. By this pretence Antinomianism corrupted Germany: it bid fair to overthrow Church and state in New-England; and by its stroke at the vitals of religion it alarmed most of the pulpits in England. Many of our ablest pens were engaged against these errors :as Mr. Gataker, Mr. Rutherford, Anthony Burgess, the provincial Synod at London-with very many others, whose labours God was pleased to bless to the stopping the attempts of Dr. Crisp, by name opposed by the aforesaid divines, Saltmarsh, Eaton, &c.
"To the grief of such as perceive the tendency of these principles,
*I have shown in the Vindication how David and Ezekiel pleaded this righteousness before God. Another instance of this plea I lately found in Nehemiah. That man of God, after describing his royal hospitality, and tender regard for the poor, says, “Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that Ï have done for this people," Neh. v, 19.
+ Who indeed would contend with them, but such as are not afraid of flying in the face of St. Paul and Jesus Christ? See Rom. ii, 18, and Matt. xii, 37.
we are engaged in a new opposition, or must betray the truth as it is in Jesus. I believe many abettors of these notions have grace to preserve their minds and practices from their influence: but they ought to consider that the generality of mankind have no such antidote; and themselves need not fortify their own temptations, nor lose the defence which the wisdom of God has provided against remissness in duty, and sinful backslidings.
"In the present testimony of the truth of the Gospel I have studied plainness. To the best of my knowledge I have in nothing misrepresented Dr. Crisp's opinions, nor mistaken his sense for most of them he oft studiously pleads of each I could multiply proofs, and all of them are necessary for his scheme, although not consistent with all his other occasional expressions." I have carefully avoided any reflection on Dr. Crisp, whom I believe to be a holy man.
The whole work of D. Williams, and consequently the preceding quotations, have the remarkable sanction of the following certificate: "We, whose names are subscribed, do judge that our Rev. brother has, in all that is material, fully and rightly stated the truths and errors, mentioned as such, in the following treatise: and do account he has, in this work, done considerable service to the Church of Christ; adding our prayers, that these labours of his may be a mean for reclaiming those who have been misled into such dangerous opinions; and for establishing those that waver in any of these truths." Signed by, near fifty Puritan ministers, the first of whom is William Bates, and the last Edmund Calamy, two of the greatest preachers in the last century.
The following Appendix closes the certificate. "I have by me near as many worthy names, such as Mr. Woodhouse, Mr. Hallet, Mr. Boys, &c, who have approved of this work. But I think this number sufficient to convince the world that the Presbyterian ministers, at least, espouse not the Antinomian dotages. Yea, I am credibly informed, that the most learned country ministers, of the Congregational persuasion, disallow the errors here opposed, and are amazed at such of their brethren in London as are displeased with this book."
Now, dear sir, you must either prove that what Dr. Owen, D. Williams, and such a cloud of Puritan divines consent toc all an evangelical justification in the last day, by our own personal obedience, is not a justification; or, you must confess that you have given the world a true specimen of Geneva logic, when you have declared that "there is not one Puritan divine but what abhorred the doctrine of such a justification as full of rottenness and deadly poison." And you must do me the justice to acknowledge you did not give yourself time to weigh your words in the balance of brotherly kindness, when you accused me of "calumny and the grossest perversions, that perhaps ever proceeded from any author's pen," for asserting what I thought my quotations from Mr. Henry sufficiently proved, and what your groundless charge has obliged me fully to demonstrate. And now, permit me to apologize for the severity of your conduct toward me, by reminding my reader that your great Diana was in danger, and that on such a trying occasion, even a good man may be put into a hurry, and act, before he is aware, inconsistently with the Christian virtues which blazon his character.