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Thus hoped those pious divines concerning Dr. Crisp: and thus I once hoped also concerning his admirers. But, alas! experience has damped my hope; for, when they have been "calmly reasoned with,”, they have shown themselves much more ready to unsay what they had said right, than what the doctor had said wrong; and to this day they publicly defend those Antinomian dotages, which the authors of Flavel's preface could not believe Dr. Crisp could possibly mean, even when he preached and wrote them.
You express, honoured sir, a most extraordinary wish, p. 94. Speaking of Flavel's Discourse upon Mental Errors, which is also called A Plow at the Root, you say, "I should have been glad could I have transcribed the whole discourse." But as you have not done it, I shall give a blow at the root of your system, by presenting you with an extract of the second Appendix, which is a pretty large treatise full against Antinomianism.
"The design of the following sheets," says that great Puritan divine, in the discourse you should be glad wholly to transcribe, "is to free the grace of God from the dangerous errors, which fight against it under its own colours; to prevent the seduction of some that stagger; and to vindicate my own doctrine. The Scripture, foreseeing there would arise such a sort of men in the Church as would wax wanton against Christ, and turn his grace into lasciviousness, has not only precautioned us in general to beware of such opinions as corrupt the doctrine of free grace: Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid :' but has marked those very opinions by which it would be abused, and made abundant provision against them. As namely, (1.) All vilifying expressions of God's holy law, Rom. vii.. (2.) All opinions inclining men to the neglect of the duties of obedience, under pretence of free grace and liberty by Christ, James ii; Matt. xxv. (3.) All opinions neglecting sanctification as the evidence of justification, which is the principal scope of St. John's first epistle.
"Notwithstanding such is the wickedness of some, and weakness of others, that in all ages (especially in the last and present) men have notoriously corrupted the doctrine of free grace, to the great reproach of Christ, scandal of the world, and hardening of the enemies of the reformation. Behold, (says Contzen the Jesuit,) the fruit of Protestantism, and their Gospel preaching.'
"The Gospel makes sin more odious than the law did, and discovers the punishment of it in a more dreadful manner. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? It shows us our encouragements to holiness greater than ever; and yet corrupt nature will still abuse it. The more luscious the food is, the more men are apt to surfeit upon it.
This perversion of free grace is justly chargeable both upon wicked and good men. WICKED MEN Corrupt it designedly, that, by entitling God to their sins, they might sin the more quietly. So the Nicolaitans, and school of Simon; the Gnostics, in the very dawning of Gospel light; and he that reads the preface of learned Mr. Gataker's book, will find that some Antinomians of our days are not much behind the vilest of them. One of them cries out, Away with the law! It cuts
off a man's legs, and then bids him walk.' Another says, 'That if a man, by the Spirit, know himself to be in a state of grace, though he commit murder,* God sees no sin in him.'
"But others there are, whose judgments are unhappily tainted with those loose doctrines; yet being, in the main GODLY PERSONS, they dare not take the liberty to sin, or live in the neglect of known duties, though their principles too much incline that way. But though they dare not, others will, who imbibe corrupt notions from them; and the renowned piety of the authors will be no antidote against the danger; but make the poison operate the more powerfully, by receiving it in such a vehicle. Now it is highly probable these men were charmed into these opinions upon such accounts as these :
"I. Some of them might have felt in themselves the anguish of a perplexed conscience under sin, and not being able to live under the terrors of the law, might too hastily snatch at such doctrines which promise them relief and ease. (2.) Others have been induced to espouse these opinions from the excess of their zeal against the errors of the Papists. (3.) Others have been sucked into those quicksands of Antinomian errors, by fathering their own fancies upon the Holy Spirit. (4.) And it is not unlike, but a comparative weakness of mind, meeting with a fervent zeal for Christ, may induce others to espouse such taking and plausible, though pernicious doctrines.
"Let all good men beware of such opinions and expressions as give a handle to wicked men to abuse the grace of God, which haply the author himself dares not do, and may strongly hope others may not do: but if the principle will yield it, it is in vain to think corrupt nature will not catch at it, and make a vile use, and dangerous improvement of it!
"For example: If such a principle as this be asserted before the world, That men need not fear that any or all the sins they commit shall do them any hurt :' let the author warn and caution his readers, [as the Antinomian§ author of that expression has done,] not to abuse this doctrine; it is to no purpose, the doctrine itself is full of dangerous consequences, and wicked men have the best skill to draw them forth to cherish their lusts. That which the author might design for the relief of the distressed, quickly turns into poison in the bowels of the wicked. Nor can we excuse it by saying any Gospel truth may be thus abused; for this is none of that number, but a principle that gives offence to the godly and encouragement to the ungodly. And so much as to the rise and occasion of Antinomian errors.
"II. Let us view next some of the chief errors of Antinomians. (1.) Some maké justification to be an eternal act of God, and affirm that the elect were justified before the world had a being. Others, that they were justified at the time of Christ's death: with these Dr. Crisp
* This is, I fear, the very doctrine of your fourth letter, where an impenitent murderer is represented as complete in Christ, &c.
+ Here my worthy opponent is exactly described by Flavel.
My worthy opponent has publicly advanced, not only that sin, even adultery and murder, does not hurt the pleasant children, but that it even works for their good.
ý Dr. Crisp, who was publicly called an Antinomian by the Puritans, and his tenets loose, corrupt, and pernicious doctrine; Antinomian dotages, &c.
harmonizes. (2.) That justification by faith is no more than a manifestation to us, of what was done before we had a being. (3.) That men ought not to question whether they believe or no. (Saltmarsh on Free Grace, p. 92, 95.) (4.) That believers are not bound to mourn for sin, because it was pardoned before it was committed; and pardoned sin is no sin. (Eaton's Honeycomb of Justification, p. 446.) (5.) That God sees no sin in believers, whatsoever sins they commit. (6.) That God is not angry with the elect, and that to say he smites them for their sins is an injurious reflection upon his justice. This is avouched generally in all their writings. (7.) That by God's laying our iniquities upon Christ, he became as completely sinful as we, and we as completely righteous as Christ. (Dr. Crisp, p. 270.) (8.) That no sin can do believers any hurt, nor must they do any duty for their own salvation. (9.) That the new covenant is not made properly with us, but with Christ for us; and that this covenant is all of it a promise, having no condition on our part. They do not absolutely deny that faith, repentance, and obedience are conditions in the new covenant; but say, they are no conditions on our side, but Christ's, and that he repented, believed, and obeyed for us. (Saltmarsh on Free Grace, p. 126.) (10.) They speak very slightingly of trying ourselves by marks and signs of grace. Saltmarsh calls it "a low, carnal way:" but the NewEngland Antinomians call it a fundamental error, to make sanctification an evidence of justification. They say, that the darker our sanctification is, the brighter is our justification.
"I look upon such doctrines to be of a very dangerous nature; and their malignity and contagion would certainly spread much farther than it does, had not God provided two powerful antidotes.
"1. The scope and current of the Scriptures. They speak of the elect as children of wrath' during their unregenerate state. They frequently discover God's anger, and tell us, his castigatory rods are laid upon them for their sins. They represent sin as the greatest evil; most opposite to the glory of God and good of his saints. They call the saints to mourn for their sins, &c. They put the people of God to the trial of their interest in Christ, by signs and marks from the divers branches of sanctification. They infer duties from privileges; and therefore the Antinomian dialect is a wild note, which the generality of serious Christians do easily distinguish from the Scripture language.
"2. The experience and practice of the saints greatly secure us from the spreading malignity of Antinomianism. They acknowledge that before their conversion they were equal in sin and misery with the vilest wretches in the world. They fear nothing more than sin. They are not only sensible that God sees sin in them, but they admire his patience, that they are not consumed for it. They urge his commands and threatenings, as well as promises, upon their own hearts to promote sanctification. They excite themselves to duty and watchfulness against sin. They encourage themselves by the rewards of obedience, knowing their labour is not in vain in the Lord.' And he that shall tell them, their sins can do them no hurt, or their duties no good, speaks to them not only as a barbarian, but in such a language as their souls abhor. The zeal and love of Christ being kindled in their
souls, they have no patience to hear such doctrines as so greatly derogate from his glory, under a pretence of honouring and exalting him. It wounds and grieves their very hearts to see the world hardened in their prejudices against reformation, and a gap opened to all licentiousness. But notwithstanding this double antidote, we find, by daily experience, such doctrines too much obtaining in the professing world, Tantum religio suadere malorum.
"For my own part, He that searcheth my heart is witness, I would rather choose to have my right hand wither, and my tongue rot within my mouth, than to speak one word, or write one line, to cloud the free grace of God. Let it arise and shine in its meridian glory. None owes more to it, or expects more from it, than I do; and what I write in this controversy is to vindicate it from those opinions, which, under pretence of exalting it, do really militate against it."
Then follows a prolix refutation of the above-mentioned Antinomian errors, most of which necessarily flow from your second and fourth letters. When our pious author attacks them as a disciple of St. James, he carries all before him: but when he encounters them as an admirer of Calvin, his hands hang down, Amalek prevails, and a shrewd logician could, without any magical power, force him to confess, that most of the errors which he so justly opposes are the natural consequences of unconditional election, particular redemption, irresistible grace, Calvinian imputation of righteousness to impenitent murderers, the infallible perseverance of believers who defile their fathers' beds, and, in a word, salvation finished for all the "pleasant children," who go on frowardly in the way of their own heart. Thus it would appear that Calvinism is "the prov sudos," to use Mr. Flavel's words, "The radical and prolific error from which most of the rest are spawned."
He concludes his anti-Crispian treatise by the following truly Christian paragraph: "I call the Searcher of hearts to witness that I have not intermeddled with this controversy of Antinomianism, out of any delight I take in polemic studies, or an unpeaceable contradicting humour, but out of pure zeal for the glory and truths of God, for the vindication and defence whereof I have been necessarily engaged therein. And having discharged my duty thus far, I now resolve to return, if God permit me, to my much more agreeable studies: still maintaining my Christian charity for those whom I oppose, not doubting but I shall meet those in heaven from whom I am forced in lesser things to dissent upon earth.”
While my heart is warmed by the love which breathes through the last words of Mr. Flavel's book, permit me to tell you, that I cordially adopt them with respect to dear Mr. Shirley and yourself, hoping that if you think yourself obliged "to cut off all intercourse and friendship with me" upon earth, on account of what you are pleased to call my "disingenuity and gross perversions," you will gladly ascribe to the Lamb of God a common salvation truly finished in heaven, together with, honoured and dear sir, your most obedient servant, in the pure Gospel of St. James, J. FLETCHER.
To Richard Hill, Esq.
HONOURED AND DEAR SIR,-I have hitherto endeavoured to show that the exploded doctrine of a second justification by works, (i. e. by the evidence or instrumentality of works,) in the day of judgment, is Scriptural, consonant to the doctrine of our Church, and directly or indirectly maintained, as by yourself, so by all anti-Crispian Puritan divines, whenever they regard St. James' holy doctrine more than Calvin's peculiar opinions. I shall now answer a most important You introduce it by question which you propose about it, p. 149. these words:
"You cannot suppose that when Mr. Shirley said, Blessed be God, neither Mr. Wesley nor any of his preachers, (Mr. Olivers excepted,) holds a second justification by works, he intended to exclude good works in an evidential sense.' Indeed, sir, I did suppose it; nor can I to this moment conceive how Mr. Shirley could lean toward Calvinism, if he were settled in St. James' doctrine of justification by the evidence of works. You proceed :—
"Neither Mr. Shirley, nor I, nor any Calvinist that I ever heard of, deny that a sinner is declaratively justified by works, both here and at Why then do you at the day of judgment.". You astonish me, sir. the end of this very paragraph, find fault with me for saying, that it will be absurd in a man, set on the left hand as a rebellious subject of our heavenly King, to plead the works of Christ, when his own works are called for, as the only evidences according to which he must be justified or condemned? Why do you cry out in the fifth letter of Horresco referens," &c. Why your Review, "O shocking to tell! do so many Calvinists shudder with horror because I have represented our Lord as condemning, by the evidence of works, (agreeably to his own express doctrine, Matt. xxv,) a practical Antinomian, a canting apostate, who had no good works to be declaratively justified by in the day of judgment? Why do you maintain, that when David committed adultery and murder he was "justified from all things; his sins past, present, and to come, were for ever and for ever cancelled?" And why do you (p. 70) call me a " snake that bites the Calvinist ministers," because I have exposed the Antinomianism of those preachers who, setting aside Christ's doctrine of justification by the evidence of works in the last day, give thousands to understand, that they shall then be abundantly justified by righteousness imputed in Calvin's way, and by nothing else? You go on :
"Therefore, I say, if you utterly disclaim all human works, as the procuring, meritorious cause of justification, what need was there of addressing Mr. Shirley as you have done? Yea, what need was there of your making this point a matter of controversy at all? We are quite agreed both as to the expression and as to the meaning of it."
Are we indeed quite agreed, both as to the expression of a second