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I FLATTER myself that the preceding discourse shows, (1.) That it is very possible to preach free grace, without directly or indirectly preaching Calvinism and free wrath: and (2.) That those who charge Mr. Wesley and me with subverting the articles of our Church, which guard the doctrine of grace, do us great wrong. Should God spare me, I shall also bear my testimony to the truth of the doctrine of conditional predestination and election, maintained in the seventeenth article, to which I have not had an opportunity of setting my seal in this work.
As I have honestly laid my Helvetic bluntness and Antinomian mistakes before the public in my notes, I am not conscious of having misrepresented my old sermon in my enlarged discourse. Should, however, the keener eyes of my opponents discover any real mistake in my additions, &c, upon information, I shall be glad to acknowledge and rectify it. Two or three sentences I have left out, merely because they formed vain repetitions, without adding any thing to the sense.— But whenever I have, for conscience' sake, made any alteration that affects, or seems to affect the doctrine, I have informed the reader of it, and of my reason for it in a note; that he may judge whether I was right twelve years ago, or whether I am now and where there is no such note at the bottom of the page, there is an addition in the context, directing to the fifth note, where the alteration is acknowledged and accounted for according to the reasonable condition which I have made in the preface.
I particularly recommend the perusal of that note, of the first, and of the twenty-first, to those who do not yet see their way through the straits of Pharisaism and Antinomianism, through which I have been obliged to steer my course in handling a text, which, of all others, seems at first sight best calculated to countenance the mistakes of my opponents.
Sharp-sighted readers will see by my sermon that nothing is more difficult than rightly to divide the word of God. The ways of truth and error lie close together, though they never coincide. When some preachers say that "the road to heaven passes very near the mouth of hell," they do not mean that the road to heaven and the road to hell are one and the same. If I assert that the way of truth runs parallel to the ditch of error, I by no means intend to confound them. Let error therefore come, in some things, ever so near to truth, yet it can no more be the truth, than a filthy ditch, that runs parallel to a good road, can be the road.
You wonder at the athletic strength of Milo, that brawny man, who stands like an anvil under the bruising fist of his antagonist. Through the flowery paths of youth and childhood trace him back to his cradle; and, if you please, consider him unborn: he is Milo still. Nay, view him just conceived or quickened, and though your naked eye scarcely discovers the punctum saliens by which he differs from a non-entity or
a lifeless thing; yet even then the difference between him and a nonentity is not only real, but prodigious; for it is the vast difference between something and nothing, between life and no life. In like manner trace back truth to its first stamina; investigate it till you find its punctum saliens, its first difference from error; and even then you will see an essential, a capital difference between them, though your short-sighted or inattentive neighbour can perceive none.
It is often a thing little in appearance that turns the scale of truth; nevertheless, the difference between a scale turned or not turned is as real as a difference between a just and a false weight, between right and wrong. I make this observation, (1.) To show that although my opponents come very near me in some things, and I go very near them in others, yet the difference between us is as essential as the difference between light and darkness, truth and error. And (2.) To remind them and myself that we ought so much the more to exercise Christian forbearance toward each other, as we find it difficult, whenever we do not stand upon our guard, to do justice to every part of the truth, without seeming to dissent even from ourselves. However, our short sightedness and twilight knowledge do not alter the nature of things. The truth of the anti-Pharisaic and anti-Crispian Gospel is as immutable as its eternal Author; and whether I have marked out its boundaries with a tolerable degree of justness or not, I must say as the heathen poet :
Est modus in rebus, sunt certi denique fines,
* Truth is confined within her firm bounds; nay, there is a middle line equally distant from all extremes; on that line she stands, and to miss her, you need only step over it to the right hand or to the left.
A SCRIPTURAL ESSAY
ASTONISHING REWARDABLENESS OF WORKS,
THE COVENANT OF GRACE.
I. A variety of plain scriptures, which show that heaven itself is the gracious reward of the works of faith, and that believers may lose that reward by bad works.
II. An answer to the most plausible objections of the Solifidians against this doctrine.
III. Some reflections upon the unreasonableness of those who scorn to work with an eye to the reward, which God offers to excite us to obedience.
To the law and to the testimony, Isa. viii, 8.
A SCRIPTURAL ESSAY
ON THE ASTONISHING REWARDABLENESS OF WORKS ACCORding to THE COVENANT OF GRACE.
HAVING particularly guarded, in the preceding discourse, the doctrine of salvation by the covenant of grace, and having endeavoured to secure the foundation of the Gospel against the unwearied attacks of the Pharisees, I shall now particularly guard the works of the covenant of grace, and by that mean I shall secure the superstructure against the perpetual assaults of the Antinomians; a part of my work this, which is so much the more important, as the use of a strong foundation is only to bear up a useful structure.
None but fools act without motive. To deprive a wise man of every motive to act, is to keep him in total inaction: and to rob him of some grand motive, is considerably to weaken his willingness to act, or his fervour in acting. The burning love of God is undoubtedly the most generous motive to obedience; but alas! thousands of good men, like Cornelius, are yet strangers to that powerful principle shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost. In thousands of weak believers love is not yet properly kindled; it is rather a smoking flax than a blazing fire in thousands of Laodicean professors it is scarcely lukewarm; and in all apostates it is waxed cold. Therefore, in the sickly state of the Church militant, it is as absurd in preachers to urge no motive of good works but grateful love, as it would be in physicians to insist that a good stomach must be the only motive from which their patients ought to take either food or physic.
Our Lord, far from countenancing our doctrinal refinements in this respect, perpetually secures the practice of good works, by promising heaven to all that persevere in doing them; while he deters us from sin, by threatening destruction to all that persist in committing it; working thus alternately upon our hopes and fears, those powerful springs of action in the human breast.
The force of this double incentive to practical religion I greatly weakened, when, being carried away by the stream of Solifidianism, I rashly said in my old sermon, after some of our reformers, that "good works shall be rewarded in heaven and eternal life, although not with eternal life and heaven." An Antinomian error this, which I again publicly renounce, and against which I enter the following Scriptural protest.
If the oracles of God command us to work from an initial life of grace for an eternal life of glory, frequently annexing the promise of heavenly bliss to good works, and threatening all workers of iniquity with hell torments; it follows, that heaven will be the gracious reward of good works, and hell the just wages of bad ones.