« PoprzedniaDalej »
of hell; and many think they are just dropping into it, who are not far from the kingdom of God."
Yea, and as it is with real seekers, so it is with real believers. Did not they undervalue, yea, degrade themselves, by the remains of their unbelief; or, which is the same, did they live up to their dignity, and every where consider themselves as "members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven," "what manner of persons," yea, what angels "would they be in all holy conversation!"
Sometimes their light shines with peculiar lustre, like Moses' face, and they "know it not." Thousands "see their good works, and glorify their Father who is in heaven;" but the matter is hid from them: they complain, perhaps, that they are the most unprofitable of all his children. Let me instance in one particular: St. Paul, Mr. Whitefield, and thousands of the brightest stars of the Church, have called themselves both "the chief of sinners," and "the least of all saints." Now, as in a chain there is but one link that can be called the first, or the last; so in the very nature of things, there can be but one man in the immense file of Christ's soldiers, that is actually "the chief of sinners," and "the least of all saints." If a thousand believers, therefore, say, those two appellations belong to themselves, it is evident that at least nine hundred and ninety-nine undervalue themselves. For my part, I cannot but think they suit me ten thousand times better than they did St. Paul. I must therefore insolently think myself a less sinner and a greater saint than him; or of necessity believe that he, and "all that are partakers of the same convincing grace,” undervalue themselves in every respect.
One more article remains, and if it does not contain "the dreadful heresy," which hitherto we have looked for in vain, the Minutes are, from first to last, Scripturally orthodox, and you have given Churchmen and dissenters a false alarm.
"VIII. Does not talking of a justified and sanctified state tend to mislead men? Almost naturally leading them to trust in what was done in one moment? whereas we are every hour, and every moment, pleasing or displeasing to God, according to our works-according to the whole of our inward tempers and outward behaviour."
To do this proposition justice, and prevent misunderstandings, I must premise some observations.
1. Mr. Wesley is not against persons talking of justification and sanctification in a Scriptural sense for when he "knows the tree by the fruits," he says himself to his flocks, as St. Paul did to the Corinthians, "Some of you are sanctified and justified." Nor does he deny that God justifies a penitent sinner in a moment, and that in a moment "he can manifest himself" unto his believing people "as he does not to the world, and give them an inheritance among them that are sanctified, through faith in Jesus." His objection respects only the idea entertained by some, and countenanced by others, that when God forgives us our sins, he introduces us into a state where we are unalterably fixed in his blessed favour, and for ever stamped with his holy image; so that it matters no longer whether the tree is barren or not, whether it produces good or bad fruit; it was set at such a time, and therefore it must be a "tree of righteousness" still. A conclu
sion directly contrary to the words of our Lord and his beloved disciple: "By their fruits ye shall know them. He that sinneth is of the devil. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, [much more that beareth evil fruit,] my Father taketh away."
2. Permit me, sir, to observe also, that Mr. Wesley has many persons in his societies, (and would to God there were none in ours!) who profess they were justified or sanctified in a moment; but instead of trusting in the living God, so trust to what was done in that moment, as to give over" taking up their cross daily, and watching unto prayer with all perseverance." The consequences are deplorable; they slide back into the spirit of the world; and their tempers are no more regulated by the meek, gentle, humble love of Jesus. Some inquire with the heathens, "What shall we eat, and what shall we drink," to please ourselves? Others evidently "love the world, lay up treasures on earth," or ask, "wherewith shall we be fashionably clothed?" Therefore" the love of the Father is not in them.” And not a few are "led captive by the devil at his will;" influenced by his unhappy suggestions, they harbour bitterness, malice, and revenge; none is in the right but themselves, and “wisdom shall die with them."
Now, sir, Mr. Wesley cannot but fear it is not well with persons who are in any of these cases. Though every body should join to extol them as "dear children of God," he is persuaded that "Satan has beguiled them as he did Eve;" and he addresses them as our Lord did the angel of the Church of Sardis, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead, [or dying:] repent, therefore, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die; for I have not found thy works perfect before God." Mr. Wesley hath the word of prophecy, which he thinks more sure than the opinion of a world of professors; and, according to that word, he sees that "they who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God," and that God's Spirit does not lead into the vanities of the world, or indulgences of fleshly lusts, any more than into the pride or malice of Satan. Nor does he think that those are not "under the law" who can merrily laugh at the law, and pass jests upon Moses, the venerable servant of God. But with St. Paul he asserts, that when people are "under grace, and not under the law, sin hath not dominion over them." With our Lord he declares, “He who committeth sin, is the servant of sin ;" and with his prophet, that "God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity" with the least degree of approbation. In short, he believes that God, being unchangeable in his holiness, cannot but always "love righteousness and hate iniquity;" and that, as the heart is continually working either iniquity or righteousness, and as God cannot but be pleased at the one, and displeased at the other, he is continually pleased or displeased with us, according to the workings of our hearts, and the fruits which they outwardly produce.
Perhaps you object to the word "every moment." But why should you, sir? If it be not every moment, it is never. If God do not approve holiness, and disapprove sin every moment, he never does it, for he changes not. If he do it only now and then, he is such a one as ourselves; for even wicked men will approve righteousness and condemn unrighteousness by fits and starts. I may every moment harbour
malice in my heart, and so commit internal murder. If God winks at this one instant, why not two? And so on to days, months, and years? Does the duration of moral evil constitute sin? May not I be guilty of the greatest enormity in the twinkling of an eye? And is it not the ordinary property of the most horrid crimes, such as robbery and adultery, that they are soon finished?
Do not say, sir, that this doctrine sets aside "salvation by faith.". It is highly consistent with it. He that, in God's account, does the best works, has the most faith, most of the sap of eternal life that flows from the heavenly Vine. And he that has most faith has most of Christ's likeness, and is of course most pleasing to God, who cannot be pleased but with Christ and his living image. On the other hand, he that in God's account does the worst works, and has the worst tempers, has most unbelief. He that has most unbelief, is most like his father, the devil;" and must consequently be most displeasing to him that accepts us "in the Beloved," and not "in the wicked one." . Having premised these observations, I come closer to the point, and assert that if we are not every moment pleasing or displeasing to God, according to the works of our hearts and hands, you must set your seal to the following absurdities :
(1.) "God is angry with the wicked all the day," and yet there are moments in which he is not angry at them. (2.) Lot pleased God as much in those moments in which he got drunk and committed incest with his daughters, as in the day he exercised hospitality toward the disguised angels. (3.) David did not displease God more when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and imbrued his hands in her husband's blood, than when he danced before the ark, or composed the 103d Psalm. (4.) Solomon was as acceptable to God in the moment when "his wives turned away his heart after other gods," as when he chose wisdom, and his speech pleased the Lord, when he went after the goddess Ashtaroth, and built a high place to bloody Moloch, as when he represented our Melchisedec, and dedicated the temple. (5.) Again: you must set your seal to these propositions of Dr. Crisp : "From the time thy transgressions were laid upon Christ, thou ceasest to be a transgressor to the last hour of thy life; so that now thou art not an idolater, thou art not a thief, &c; thou art not a sinful person, whatsoever sin thou committest." Again: "God does no longer stand offended nor displeased, though a believer, after he is a believer, do sin often; except he will be offended where there is no cause to be offended, which is blasphemy to speak." Yet again: "It is thought that elect persons are in a damnable estate in the time they walk in excess of riot; let me speak freely to you that the Lord has no more to lay to the charge of an elect person, yet in the height of iniquity, and in the excess of riot, and committing all the abominations that can be committed." "There is no time but such a person is a child of God." (6.) In short, sir, you must be of the sentiment of the wildest Antinomian I ever knew, who, because he had once a bright manifestation of pardon, not only concludes that he is safe, though he lives in open sin, but asserts God would no more be displeased with him for whoring and stealing, than for praying and receiving the
Again: It is an important truth, that we may please God for a time, and yet afterward displease him. St. Paul mentions those who, by putting away a good conscience, "concerning faith made shipwreck," and therefore pleased God no longer, "seeing that without faith it is impossible to please him."
Of this the Israelites are a remarkable instance. "They did all drink of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. Yet with many of them God was not well pleased." Then comes the proof of the Divine displeasure; for "they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now," adds the apostle, "these things happened unto them for examples, and they are written for our admonition, that we should not lust after evil things, and tempt Christ as they did. Therefore, let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest," after their example, "he fall" into wilful sin, the Divine displeasure, and utter destruction.
Our Lord teaches the same doctrine, both by parables and positive assertions. He gives us the history of a man to whom his lord and king compassionately "forgave a debt of ten thousand talents." This ungrateful wretch, by not forgiving his fellow servant who owed him a hundred pence, forfeited his own pardon, and drew upon himself the king's heaviest displeasure; "for he was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors till he should pay all that was due to him;" and to the eternal overthrow of Dr. Crisp's fashionable tenets, our Lord adds, "So likewise shall my Father do unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." Agreeably to this, he assured his disciples that his Father "pruneth every branch in him that beareth fruit, and taketh away every one that beareth not fruit ;" and to show how far this displeasure may proceed, he observes that such a barren branch is "cast forth, is withered, gathered, cast into the fire, and burned."
Here, sir, I might add all those scriptures that testify the possibility of falling away from the Divine favour. I might bring the alarming instances of those apostates who once" tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come," and afterward "fell from their steadfastness, lost their reward, became enemies to God by wicked works, hated the light" which once they rejoiced in, because it reproved their evil deeds; "trod under foot the Son of God, forgot they were washed from their old sins, and counted the blood of Christ, wherewith they were sanctified, an unholy thing." But I refer you, sir, to the two John Goodwins of the age, the Rev. Mr. Wesley and the Rev. Mr. Sellon, who have so cut down and stripped the Crispian orthodoxy, that some people think it actually lies without either root, bark, or branches, exposed to the view of those who have courage enough to see and think for themselves.
Should all they have advanced to show that "we are every hour and every moment pleasing or displeasing to God, according to our internal and external works," have no weight with you, let me conclude by producing the testimony of two respectable divines, against whom you will not enter a protest.
The one is the rector of Loughrea. You tell us, sir, in your sermons, page 88, that the acceptance of Cornelius "was not absolutely
final and decisive ;" and you add, "So long as we continue in the flesh, we are doubtless in a probationary state. Even after Cornelius had been endued with the Holy Ghost, had he wilfully done despite to the Spirit of grace, he might have" [not only displeased God, which is all Mr. Wesley asserts in this proposition, but] "fallen as deep into perdition as ever Judas did."
I know one, sir, who was burned as "a dreadful heretic," that did not go farther in this heresy than you do. And that is good Bishop Latimer, my second witness. He not only affirmed that "Christ shed as much blood for Judas as he did for Peter," but roundly asserted, "We may one time be in the book, and another out; as it appeareth by David, who was written in the book of life; but when he sinned with a high hand, [which, by the by, we may do every moment,] he, at the same time, was out of the favour of God, until he had repented; out of Christ, who is the book in which all believers are written." (Latimer's Sermon on the Third Sunday after Epiphany.)
Thus, sir, have I looked out for "the heresy," the dreadful heresy, of Mr. Wesley's Minutes, by bringing all the propositions they contain to the touchstone of Scripture and common sense; but, instead of finding it, I have found the very marrow of the Gospel of Christ, so far as it is opposed to Dr. Crisp's Antinomian Gospel; which at this time would overflow our little Sion, if God did not sit above the water floods, and say to the proudest billows of error, Hitherto shall ye come, and no farther." I have showed that the Minutes contain nothing but what is truly Scriptural, and nothing but what the best Calvinist divines have themselves directly or indirectly asserted; except perhaps the sixth proposition concerning the merit of works; and with respect to this, I hope I have demonstrated, upon rational and evangelical principles, that Mr. Wesley, far from "bringing in a damnable heresy," has done the Gospel justice, an Protestantism service, by candidly giving up an old prejudice, equal contrary to Scripture and good sense, a piece of bigotry which th long hardened the Papists against the doctrine of "salvation by the merit of Christ," and hath added inconceivable strength to the Antinomian delusion among us. One difficulty remains, and that is, to account for your attacking Mr. Wesley, though you could not wound him without stabbing yourself. Reserving my reflections upon this amazing step for another letter, I remain your astonished servant, in the bonds of a peaceful Gospel,
HONOURED AND REVEREND SIR,-Having vindicated both some important doctrines of the Gospel, and an eminent servant of Christ, from the charge of "dreadful heresy ;" I will now take the liberty of a friend to expostulate a little with you.
When Brutus, among other senators, rushed upon Cesar, the venerable general, as he wrapped himself in his mantle, just said, "And art thou also among them? Even thou, my son?" May not Mr. Wesley address you, sir, in the same words, and add, “If a body of men must be raised to attack me, let some zealous follower of Dr. Crisp, some