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I do not hereby intimate that I have done nothing displeasing to you. Far from insinuating it, I shall present my readers with a list of the manifold, but well-meant provocations, which have procured me your public correspondence. I say well-meant provocations; for all I want to provoke any one to is love and good works. And may not a minister use even the rod for that purpose? If you think not, please to inform me what the apostle meant, when he said "What will ye? Shall I come unto you with the rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?"
1. I have written my Checks with the confidence with which the clear dictates of reason, and the full testimonies of Scripture, usually inspire those who love what they esteem truth more than they do their dearest friends..
2. After speaking most honourably of many Calvinists, even of all that are pious, I have taken the liberty to insinuate, that the schemes of finished salvation, and imputed righteousness, will no more save a Calvinist guilty of practical Antinomianism, than the doctrine of general redemption will save an ungodly Remonstrant. Thus I have made no difference between the backsliding elect of the Lock, and the apostates of the Foundery, when death overtakes them in their sins and in their blood.
3. I have maintained that our Lord did not speak an untruth, when he said, “In the day of judgment, by thy words shalt thou be justified;" and that St. Paul did not propagate heresy, when he wrote,
Work out your own salvation!”
4. I have sprinkled with the salt of irony* your favourite doctrine, (Friendly Remarks, page 39,) "Salvation wholly depends upon the purpose of God according to election, without any respect to what may be in them," that is, the elect. Now, sir, as by the doctrine of undeniable consequences, he who receives a guinea with the king's head on the one side, cannot but receive the lion's on the other side; so he that admits the preceding proposition, cannot but admit the inseparable counterpart, namely, the following position, which every attentive and unprejudiced person sees written in blood upon that side of Calvin's standard which is generally kept out of sight, "Damnation wholly
If I make use of irony in my Checks, I can assure thee, reader, it is not from "spleen," but reason. It appears to me that the subject requires it; and that ridiculous error is to be turned out of the temple of truth, not only with Scriptural argument, which is "the sword of the Spirit," but also with mild irony, which is a proper scourge for a glaring and obstinate mistake. I have already observed, that our Lord himself used it with his apostles, when he came out of his agony and bloody sweat. Some other remarkable instances of it we find in Scripture, 1 Kings xxii, 15. Micaiah, a prophet of the Lord, being requested by King Ahab and pious King Jehoshaphat to tell them, whether Israel should go against Ramoth Gilead to battle: he ironically answered, " Go, and prosper; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hands of the king." Well known is that solemn, though ironical, or, as Mr. Hill would call it, sarcastic reproof of Solomon to a young prodigal, "Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, let thine heart cheer thee, and walk in the way of thy heart, and in the sig of thy eyes," Eccles. xi, 9. From these examples I conclude, that an irony dictated by love not only is no sign of "a bad spirit," but is a useful figure of speech, especially where the rapid progress of a preposterous error calls for the sharp rebukes mentioned by St. Paul in my motto.
depends upon the purpose of God according to reprobation, without respect to what may be in the reprobates." Here is no "inventing a monstrous creed," but merely turning the leaf of your own, and reading what is written there, namely, Damnation finished, evidently answering to finished salvation.
5. You have done more, says my opponent, (p. 47,) “You scarce write a page without unjust reflections. To follow you through all your accusations would be endless. One passage, however, which seems to me to shine conspicuous among the rest for calumny and falsehood, as the moon does among the stars, shall be the last we will notice."
I say, in the Second Check, "How many intimate, that Christ has fulfilled all righteousness, that we might be the children of God with hearts full of unrighteousness!" And you reply," How many? There are a generation it seems of these black blasphemers. [I would say, of these mistaken Calvinists.] Produce but a few of them."
Well, sir, I produce first the author of Pietas Oxoniensis, next yourself, and then all the Calvinists who admire your brother's Fourth Letter, where he not only insinuates, but openly attempts to prove, that David was "a man after God's own heart," a "pleasant child” of God, and that he stood absolved and complete in the everlasting righteousness of Christ, while his eyes were full of adultery, and his hands full of blood: consequently, while his heart was full of all unrighteousness. Now if this was the case of David, it may not only be that of many, but of all the elect. They may all be the children of God, not only with hearts full of unrighteousness, but even while they cloak adultery with deliberate murder.
Now, pray sir, do you not show yourself completely master of Geneva logic, when you assert that what is so abundantly demonstrated by your brother's Letters, and the well-known principles of all sound Calvinists, is a calumny and a falsehood as conspicuous as the luminary that rules the night? This imaginary moon of calumny, which you discover through the telescope of Calvinian prejudice, will help my judicious readers to guess at the magnitude of the stars of falsehood, with which, you say, almost all the pages of my book are bespangled.
I conclude by entreating you not to put any longer a wrong construction upon the Helvetic bluntness with which I continue to expose barefaced Antinomianism. Do not account me an enemy, because I tell you the truth as it is in the Epistle of St. James: and deprive me not of an interest in your valuable friendship, merely because I follow the word of God, and the dictates of my conscience.
I can with truth assure you, dear sir, that your groundless charges of "calumny, falsehood, bitterness, injustice," &c, instead of putting "a concluding bar of separation" between us, only give me an opportunity of fulfilling delightfully that precept of the evangelical law, according to which we shall be justified in the great day, "Forgive one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." I confirm my love toward you, by rejoicing in all your pious labours, and sincerely wishing you the most unbounded success, whenever you do
t give up the right foundation," or substitute Dr. Crisp to St.
James, and Calvin's narrow election to the free Gospel of Jesus Christ. And if I may trust the feelings of my own heart, which continues quite open toward you, I remain just as if you were not my opponent, dear sir, your affectionate friend, and obedient servant, in a pure Gospel, J. FLETCHER.
To Mr. Richard and Mr. Rowland Hill.
HONOURED AND DEAR OPPONENTS,-Do you hate that foul monster, Antinomianism? I know you cordially hate practical, and would cheerfully oppose doctrinal Antinomianism, if it were not inseparably connected with the favourite doctrines you have embraced. Yes, your true regard for holiness would make you wish me success, if (while I attack sin, our common adversary,) Calvinism, which passes with you for Christianity, did not justly appear to you to be sapped in its very foundation. For, to my great astonishment, I find that Calvin's doctrine of unconditional election, and Dr. Crisp's doctrine of finished salvation, are now substituted to Jesus Christ, and openly made the foundation of the present Calvinists. "Finished salvation and electing love, (says Mr. Hill, Friendly Remarks, p. 19,) is their founda
Is it, indeed? Alas! I really thought that all the Calvinists still maintained, with Mr. Wesley, that other "foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ," 1 Cor. iii, 11: but I now fear the breach between us is wider than I imagined; for it seems we disagree no less about the foundation than about the superstructure; and my younger opponent does me justice when be adds, " Surely you never mean to praise the Calvinists for guarding this foundation." No, indeed, sir, no more than I would praise them for placing two of Rachel's Teraphim upon the Mediator's throne.
You are both conscious that your two favourite doctrines will appear empty dreams, if the doctrine of the justification of all infants without faith is true; much more, if the doctrine of the justification of adult persons by works, both in the day of trial and in the day of judgment, is Scriptural. You agree, therefore, to bear your public testimony against the Third Check, where these doctrines are set in a clearer point of view, than in my preceding publications. Permit me to remind my readers of the reasonableness of the assertions which have so greatly excited your surprise.
In the Third Check, (pp. 161 and 162,) to make my readers sensible, that Calvinism has confusion, and not Scripture, for its foundation, I made a Scriptural distinction between the four degrees that constitute a saint's eternal justification, and each of these degrees I called a justification, because I thought I could speak as the oracles of God, without exposing the truth of the Gospel to the smiles of Christian wits.
I. From Rom. v, 18, I proved the justification of infants: "As by the offence of Adam, (says the apostle,) judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of Christ, the free gift
came upon all men to justification of life." In support of this justification, which comes upon all men in their infancy, I now advance the following arguments :
1. The Scripture tells us, that "Christ in all things hath the preeminence." But if Adam is a more public person, a more general representative of mankind, than Jesus Christ, it is plain, that in this grand respect, Adam hath the pre-eminence over Christ. Now, as this cannot be, as Christ is at least equal to Adam, it follows, that as Adam brought a general condemnation, and a universal seed of death upon all infants, so Christ brings upon them a general justification, and a universal seed of life.
2. I never yet saw a Calvinist who denied that Christ died for Adam. Now, if the Redeemer died for our first parent, he undoubtedly expiated the original sin, the first transgression of Adam. And if Adam's original sin was atoned for, and forgiven to him, as the Calvinists, I think, generally grant, does it not follow, that although all infants are by nature children of wrath, yet through the redemption of Christ they are in a state of favour or justification? For how could God damn to all eternity any of Adam's children for a sin which Christ expiated? A sin which was forgiven almost six thousand years ago to Adam, who committed it in person?
3. The force of this observation would strike our Calvinist brethren, if they considered that we were not less in Adam's loins when God gave his Son to Adam in the grand, original Gospel promise, than when Eve prevailed upon him to eat of the forbidden fruit. As all in him were included in the covenant of perfect obedience before the fall, so all in him were likewise interested in the covenant of grace and mercy after the fall. And we have full as much reason to believe, that some of Adam's children never fell with him from a state of probation, according to the old covenant, as to suppose that some of them never rose with him to a state of probation, upon the terms of the new covenant, which stands upon better promises.
Thus, if we all received an unspeakable injury, by being seminally in Adam when he fell, according to the first covenant, we all received also an unspeakable blessing by being in his loins when God spiritually raised him up, and placed him upon Gospel ground. Nay, the bless ing which we have in Christ is far superior to the curse which Adam entailed upon us: we stand our trial upon much more advantageous terms than Adam did in paradise. For according to the first covenant, "judgment was by one offence to condemnation." One sin sunk the transgressor. But according to the free gift, or second covenant, provision is made in Christ for repenting of, and rising from "many offences unto justification," Rom. v, 16.
4. Calvinists are now ashamed of consigning infants to the torments of hell they begin to extend their election to them all. Even the translator of Zanchius believes, that all children who die in their infancy are saved. Now, sir, if all children, or any of them, are saved, they are unconditionally justified according to our plan; for they cannot be "justified by faith," according to St. Paul's doctrine, Rom. V, 1, as it is granted, that those who are not capable of understanding, are not capable of believing. Nor can they be "justified by works,"
according to St. James' doctrine, chap. ii, 24, for they are not accountable for their works, who do not know good from evil, nor their right hand from their left. Nor can they be justified by words, according to our Lord's doctrine, Matt. xii, 37, because they cannot yet form one articulate sound. It follows, then, that all infants must be damned, or justified without faith, words, or works, according to our first distinction. But as you believe they are saved, the first degree of an adult saint's justification is not less founded upon your own sentiments than upon reason and Scripture.
II. When infants grow up, they are all called to believe in the light of their dispensation; and till they do, their personal sins condemn them. Here appears the absolute need of justification by the instrumentality of faith. This justification we preach to Jews and heathens, to Pharisees and publicans. Upon it we chiefly insist, when we address penitent prodigals and mourning backsliders. This the apostle chiefly defends in his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians. Our Church strongly maintains it in her eleventh article: and as we are all agreed about it, I shall only refer to some passages where it is evidently mentioned, Rom. v, 1; Gal. ii, 16; Acts xiii, 39.
III. Whoever hath present access unto that grace wherein they who are justified by faith do stand, is also justified by works. True justification by faith is then inseparable from justification by works; for "faith works by love," so long as it is living; and love is productive of good works. In the apostolic age as well as in ours, "the love of many grew cold," and "concerning faith they made shipwreck, by not adding to it brotherly kindness, godliness, and charity." But as they still professed the saving faith of God's elect, which works by love, St. James was directed by the Holy Ghost to enforce the justification of a believer by works.
Now, dear sirs, before you can reasonably explode this justification, you must execute the Antinomian wish of Luther, and tear St. James' Epistle out of your Bible. But as we can never give you leave to take this liberty with ours, we shall still oppose the justification of evil workers, or practical Antinomians, in the day of trial, by such scriptures as these: " Know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead: Rahab was justified by works: Abraham was justified by works;" and so are all his legitimate children; "for by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."
IV. As for the last degree of an adult saint's justification, it is so fully established upon the words of our Lord, " In the day of judgment by thy words shalt thou be justified," that Dr. Owen and multitudes of the Puritan divines, as I have made it appear from their own writings, avowed it as the Gospel truth, in opposition to Dr. Crisp's Antinomian error. Nay, during our controversy, truth has prevailed; for, notwithstanding the strong resistance you have made against it, you have both granted all that we contend for: witness the two first letters of this Check.
Now, instead of attempting to prove, at least by one argument, that these distinctions are contrary either to Scripture or reason, Mr. Hill, sen., says, in his Remarks, (pp. 5, 6,)" What really surprises me beyond all the rest, is, your having brought out two new justifications since the