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meet for repentance,' what does he do them for?" Permit me to answer it according to Scripture and common sense. If he do them in order to purchase the Divine favour, he is under a self-righteous delusion; but if he do them as Mr. Wesley says, "in order to find" what Christ has purchased for him, he acts the part of a wise Protestant.
Should you say that "such a penitent does works meet for repentance from a sense of gratitude for redeeming love:" I answer, this is impossible; for that "love must be shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him," in consequence of his justification, before he can act from the sense of that love and the gratitude which it excites. I hope it is no heresy to maintain that the cause must go before the effect. I conclude, then, that those who have not yet found the pardoning love of God, do works meet for repentance "in order to find it." They abstain from those outward evils which once they pursued; they do the outward good which the convincing Spirit prompts them to: they use the means of grace, confess their sins, and ask pardon for them; in short, they "seek" the Lord, encouraged by that promise, "they that seek me early shall find me." And Mr. Wesley supposes they "seek in order to find." In the name of candour, where is the harm of that supposition?
When the poor woman has lost her "piece of silver, she lights a candle," says our Lord," she sweeps the house, and searches diligently till she find it." Mr. Wesley asks, "If she do not do ALL this in order to find it, what does she do it for ?" At this the alarm is taken; and the post carries, through various provinces, printed letters against old Mordecai; and a synod is called together to protest against the dreadful error!
This reminds me of a little anecdote. Some centuries ago, one Virgilius, I think, a German bishop, was bold enough to look over the walls of ignorance and superstition which then enclosed all Europe; and he saw, that if the earth was round there must be antipodes. Some minutes of his observations were sent to the pope. His holiness, who understood geography as much as divinity, took fright, fancying the unheard-of assertion was injurious to the very fundamental principles of Christianity. He directly called together the cardinals, as wise as himself; and by their advice, issued out a bull condemning the heretical doctrine, and the poor bishop was obliged to make a formal recantation of it, under pain of excommunication. Which are we to admire most? The zeal of the conclave, or that of the real Protestants? In the meantime let me observe, that as all the Roman Catholics do now acknowledge that there are antipodes, so all real Protestants will one day acknowledge that penitents seek the favour of God in order to find it; unless some rare genius should be able to demonstrate that it is in order to lose it.
Having defended Mr. Wesley's third proposition from Scripture and common sense, permit me to do it also from experience. And here I might appeal to the most established persons in Mr. Wesley's societies; but as their testimony may have little weight with you, I waive it, and appeal to all the accounts of sound conversions that have been published since Calvin's days. Show me one, sir, wherein it appears that a mourner in Sion found the above described justification, without
doing some previous "works meet for repentance." If you cannot produce one such instance, Mr. Wesley's doctrine is supported by the printed experiences of all the converted Calvinists, as well as of all the believers in his own societies. Nor am I afraid to appeal even to the experience of your own friends. If any one of these can say, with a good conscience, that he found the above described justification without first stopping in the career of outward sin, without praying, seeking, and confessing his guilt and misery, I promise to give up the Minutes. But if none can make such a declaration, you must grant, sir, that experience is on Mr. Wesley's side, as much as reason, revelation, the best Calvinists, and yourself. I say yourself:
Give me leave to produce but one instance: page 76 of your sermons, you address those "who see themselves destitute of that knowledge of God which is eternal life," the very same thing that Mr. Wesley calls justification; and which you define, "a home-felt knowledge of God, by the experience of his love being shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us: the Spirit of God bearing witness with our spirits that we are the children of God;" and you recommend to them" to seek and press after it." Now, sir, "seeking and pressing after it" is certainly "doing something in order to find it."
I must not conclude my vindication of the third proposition without answering a specious objection. "If we must do something in order to justification, farewell free justification! It is no more of grace, but of works, and consequently of debt. The middle wall of partition between the Church of Rome and the Church of England is pulled down, and the two sticks in the hands of that heretical juggler, John Wesley, are become one."
I reply, (1.) That some, who think they are real pillars in the Protestant Church, may be nearer the Church of Rome than they are aware of: for Rome is far more remarkable for lording it over God's heritage, and calling the most faithful servants of God heretics, than even for her Pharisaic exalting of good works. (2.) If the Church of Rome had not insisted upon the necessity of unrequired, unprofitable, and foolish works; and if she had not arrogantly ascribed saving merit to works, yea, to merely external performances, and by that means clouded the merits of Christ; no reasonable Protestant would have separated from her on account of her regard for works. (3.) Nothing can be more absurd than to affirm, that when " something is required to be done in order to receive a favour, the favour loses the name of a free gift, and directly becomes a debt." Long, too long, persons who have more honesty than wisdom, have been frightened from the plain path of duty, by a phantom of their own making. O may the snare break at last! And why should it not break now? Have not sophisms been wire-drawn, till they break of themselves in the sight of every attentive spectator?
I say to two beggars, "Hold out your hand; here is an alms for you." The one complies, and the other refuses. Who in the world will dare to say that my charity is no more a free gift, because I bestow it only upon the man that held out his hand? Will nothing make it free but my wrenching his hand open, or forcing my bounty down his throat? Again: the king says to four rebels, "Throw down your arms; sur
render, and you shall have a place both in my favour and at court." One of them obeys, and becomes a great man; the others, upon refusal, are caught and hanged. What sophister will face me down that the pardon and place of the former are not freely bestowed upon him, because he did something in order to obtain them? Once more:
The God of providence says, "If you plough, sow, harrow, fence, and weed your fields, I will give the increase, and you shall have a crop." Farmers obey and are they to believe that because they do so many things toward their harvest, it is not the free gift of Heaven? Do not all those who fear God know that their ground, seed, cattle, strength, yea, and their very life, are the gifts of God? Does not this prevent their claiming a crop as a debt; and make them confess, that though it was suspended on their ploughing, &c, it is the unmerited bounty of Heaven?
Apply this, sir, to the present case; and you will see that our doing something in order to justification does not in the least hinder it from being a free gift; because whatever we do in order to it, we do it "by the grace of God" preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will; all being of free, most absolutely free grace through the merits of Christ. And, nevertheless, so sure as a farmer, in the appointed ways of Providence, shall have no harvest if he does nothing toward it; a professor in the appointed ways of grace, (let him talk of " finished salvation" all the year round,) shall go without justification and salvation, unless he do something toward them. (My comparison is Scriptural:) "He that now goeth on his way weeping," says the psalmist, "and beareth forth good seed, shall doubtless come again with joy, and bring his sheaves with him." "Be not deceived," says the apostle, "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap; and he only that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." David, therefore, and St. Paul must be proved enemies to free grace before Mr. Wesley can be represented as such for they both did something in order to justification; they both "sowed in tears," before they "reaped in joy;" their doctrine and experience went hand in hand together.
Having now vindicated the three first propositions of the Minutes, levelled at three dangerous tenets of Dr. Crisp; and shown, that not only yourself, sir, but moderate Calvinists are, so far, entirely of Mr. Wesley's sentiment; I remain, honoured and reverend sir, your obedient servant in the bonds of a free and peaceful Gospel,
HONOURED AND REVEREND SIR,-If the three first propositions of the Minutes are Scriptural, Mr. Wesley may well begin the remaining part, by desiring the preachers in his connection to emerge, along with him, from under the noisy billows of prejudice, and to struggle quite out of the muddy streams of Antinomian delusions which have so long gone over our heads, and carried so many souls down the channels of vice, into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. Well may he entreat them to "review the whole affair."
And why should this modest request alarm any one? Though error dreads a revisal, truth, you know, cannot but gain by it.
Mr. Wesley says in this REVIEW,
"I. Who is now accepted of God? He that now believes in Christ with a loving, obedient heart."
Excellent answer! Worthy of St. Paul and St. James; for it sums up in one line the epistles of both. In the FIRST part of it, ("he that now believes in Christ,") you see St. Paul's Gospel calculated for lost sinners, who now fly from the Babel of self righteousness and sin, and find all things" in Christ "ready" for their reception. And in the SECOND part, (" with a loving and obedient heart,") you see the strong bulwark raised by St. James to guard the truth of the Gospel against the attacks of Antinomian and Laodicean professors. Had he said, "He that shall believe the next hour is now accepted," he would have bestowed upon present unbelief the blessing that is promised to present faith. Had he said, "He that believed a year ago is now accepted of God," he would have opened the kingdom of heaven to apostates, contrary to St. Paul's declarations to the Hebrews. He therefore very properly says, "He that now believes:" for it is written, "He that believeth," (not he that shall believe, or he that did believe,) "hath everlasting life."
What fault can you then find with Mr. Wesley here? Surely you cannot blame him for proposing Christ as the object of the Christian's faith, or for saying that the believer hath a loving and obedient heart; for he speaks of the accepted man, and not of him who comes for acceptance. Multitudes, alas! rest satisfied with an unloving, disobedient faith; a faith that engages only the head, but has nothing to do with the heart; a faith that works by malice instead of "working by love;" a faith that pleads for sin in the heart, instead of purifying the heart from sin; a faith that St. Paul explodes, 1 Cor. xiii, 2, and that St. James compares to a carcass, ii, 26. There is no need that Mr. Wesley should countenance such a faith by his Minutes. Too many, alas! do it by their lives; and, God grant none may do it by their sermons! Whoever does, sir, it is not you: for you tell us in yours, page 150, that "Christ is to be found only by living faith; even a faith that worketh by love; even a faith that layeth hold of Christ by the feet, and worshippeth him;" the very faith of Mary Magdalene, who certainly had a loving and obedient heart, for our Lord testified that "she loved much," and ardent love cannot but be zealously obedient. There is not then the least shadow of heresy, but the very marrow of the Gospel in this article. Let us see whether the second is equally
"II. But who among those that never heard of Christ? He that feareth God and worketh righteousness, according to the light he has."
And where is the error here? Did not St. Peter begin his evangelical sermon to Cornelius by these very words, prefaced by some others that make them remarkably emphatical? "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him." Surely, sir, you will never insist upon a formal recantation of a plain scripture.
FIRST OBJECTION. But perhaps you object to those words which
Mr. Wesley has added to St. Peter's declaration, "according to the light he hath."
ANSWER. What, should it be "according to the light he has not ?" Are not there people enough among us who follow the wicked servant that intimated his Lord "was a hard and austere man, reaping where he had not sown, and gathering where he had not strewed?" Must Mr. Wesley increase the number? Or would you have him insinuate that God is more cruel than Pharaoh, who granted the poor Israelites daylight, if he allowed them no straw to make bricks; that he requires a heathen to work without any degree of light, without a day of visitaAnd that he tion, in the Egyptian darkness of a merely natural state. will then damn and torment him everlastingly, either for not doing, or for marring his work? O sir, like yourself, Mr. Wesley is too evangelical to entertain such notions of the God of love.
"At this rate," say some, "a heathen may be saved without a Saviour. His fearing God and working righteousness will not go for the blood and righteousness of Christ." Mr. Wesley has no such thought. Whenever a heathen is accepted, it is merely through the merits of Christ; although it is in consequence of his fearing God and working righteousness. "But how comes he to see that God is to be feared, and that righteousness is his delight?" Because a beam of our Sun of righteousness shines in his darkness. All is therefore of grace; the light, the works of righteousness done by that light, and acceptance in consequence of them. How much more evangelical is this doctrine of St. Peter than that of some divines, who consign all the heathens by millions to hell torments because they cannot explicitly believe in a Saviour whose name they never heard? Nay, and in whom it would be the greatest arrogancy to believe, if he never died for them? Is it not possible that heathens should, by grace, reap some blessings through the second Adam, though they know nothing of his name and obedience unto death; when they, by nature, reap so many curses through Adam the first; to whose name and disobedience they are equally strangers? If this is a heresy it is such a one as does honour to Jesus and humanity. SECOND OBJECTION. "Mr. Wesley, by allowing the possibility of a righteous heathen's salvation, goes point blank against the eighteenth article of our Church, which he has solemnly subscribed."
ANSWER. This assertion is groundless. Mr. Wesley, far from presuming to say that a heathen "can be saved by the law or sect that he professes, if he frames his life according to the light of nature," cordially believes that all the heathens who are saved, attain salvation through the name, that is, through the merits and Spirit of Christ; by framing their life, not according to I know not what light naturally received from fallen Adam, but according to the supernatural light which Christ graciously affords them in the dispensations they are under. THIRD OBJECTION. However, if he does not impugn the eighteenth article, he does the thirteenth, which says, that works done before justification, or before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of his Spirit, forasmuch as they proceed not from faith in Christ, are not pleasant to God, yea, have the nature of sin.'"
Nay, this article does not affect Mr. Wesley's doctrine; for he constantly maintains that if the works of a Melchisedec, a Job, a Plato, a