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SECOND CHECK TO ANTINOMIANISM.
HONOURED AND REVEREND SIR,-I cordially thank you for the greatest part of your Narrative. It confirms me in my hopes that your projected opposition to Mr. Wesley's Minutes proceeded in general from zeal for the Redeemer's glory. And as such a zeal, though amazingly mistaken, had certainly something very commendable in it, I sincerely desire your Narrative may evidence your good meaning, as some think my Vindication does your mistake.
In my last private letter I observed, Rev. sir, that if your Narrative was kind, I would buy a number of copies, and give them gratis to the purchasers of my book, that they might see all you can possibly produce in your own defence, and do you all the justice your proper behaviour at the conference deserves. But as it appears to me there are some important mistakes in that performance, I neither dare recommend it absolutely to my friends, nor wish it in the religious world the full success you desire.
I do not complain of its severity; on the contrary, considering the sharpness of my fifth letter, I gratefully acknowledge it is kinder than I had reason to expect. But permit me to tell you, sir, I look for justice to the Scriptural arguments I advance in defence of truth, before I look for kindness to my insignificant person; and could much sooner be satisfied with the former than with the latter alone. As I do not admire the fashionable method of advancing general charges without supporting them by particular proofs, I shall take the liberty of pointing out some mistakes in your Narrative, and by that means endeavour to do justice to Mr. Wesley's declarations, your own sermons, my Vindication, and, above all, to the cause of practical religion.
Waiving the repetition of what I said in my last, touching the publication of my Five Letters to you, I object first to your putting a wrong colour upon Mr. Wesley's declaration. You insinuate, or assert, that he, and fifty-three of the preachers in conference with him, give up the doctrine of "justification by works in the day of judgment." "It appears," say you, "from their subscribing the declaration," notwithstanding Mr. Olivers' remonstrances, "that they do not maintain a second justification by works."
Surely, sir, you wrong them. They might have objected to some of Mr. Olivers' expressions, or been displeased with his readiness to enter the lists of dispute; but certainly so many judicious and good men could never so betray the cause of practical religion, as tamely to renounce a truth of that importance. If they had, one step more would have carried them full into Dr. Crisp's eternal justification, which is the very centre of Antinomianism; and without waiting for the return of the next conference, I would bear my legal testimony against their Antinomian error. Mr. Wesley I reverence as the greatest minister I know, but would not follow him one step farther than he follows Christ.
Were he really guilty of rejecting the evangelical doctrine of a second justification by works, with the plainness and honesty of a Suisse I would address him, as I beg you will permit me to address you.
1. Neither you, Rev. sir, nor any divine in the world, have, I presume, a right to blot out of the sacred records those words of Jesus Christ, St. James, and St. Paul: "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life. Not every one that says to me, Lord! Lord! shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of my Father. Be ye therefore doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For we are under the law to Christ. Not the hearers of the law shall be just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." His very words shall undergo the severest scrutiny. "I say unto you, [O how many will insinuate the contrary!] that every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment, for by thy words shalt thou [then] be justified, and by thy words shalt thou [then] be condemned."
Can you say, sir, that the justification mentioned by our Lord in this passage is the same as that which St. Paul speaks of as the present privilege of all believers, and has no particular reference to " the day of judgment" mentioned in the preceding sentence? Or will you intimate our Lord does not declare we shall be justified in the last day by works, but by words? Would this evasion be judicious? Do not all professors know that words are works in a theological sense; as being both the signs of the "workings" of our hearts, and the positive "works" of our tongues? Will you expose your reputation as a divine, by trying to prove, that although we shall be justified by the works of our tongues, those of our hands and feet shall never appear for or against our justification? Or will you insinuate that our Lord “recanted” the legal sermons written Matt. v, and xii? If you do, his particular account of the day of judgment, chap. xxv, which strongly confirms and clearly explains the doctrine of our second justification by works, will prove you greatly mistaken, as will also his declaration to St. John, above forty years after, "Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to every man as his work [not faith] shall be.”
O, if faith alone turn the scale of justifying evidence at the bar of God, how many bold Antinomians will claim relation to Christ, and boast they are interested in his imputed righteousness! How many will say, with the foolish virgins, "Lord! Lord! we are of faith, and Abraham's children. In thy name' we publicly opposed all legal professors, traduced their teachers as enemies to thy free grace; and, to do thee service,' made it our business to expose the righteousness, and cry down the good works of thy people; therefore Lord! Lord! open to us!'" But, alas! far from thanking them for their pains, without looking at their boasted faith, he will dismiss them with a “ Depart from me, ye that work iniquity!" As if he said
"Depart, ye that made the doctrine of my atonement a cloak for your sins, or sewed' it as a pillow under the arms of my people,” to make them sleep in carnal security, when they should have worked
out their salvation with fear and trembling. You profess to know me, but I disown you. My sheep I know: them that are mine I know. The seal of my holiness is upon them all: the motto of it, (Let him that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity,) is deeply engraven on their faithful breasts,-not on yours, ye 'carnal, ye sold under sin!'
"And why called ye me, LORD! LORD! and did not the things which I said? Why did you even use my righteousness as a breastplate, to stand it out against the word of my righteousness; and as an engine to break both tables of my law, and batter down my holiness? Your heart condemns you, ye sinners in Zion! Ye salt without savour! Ye believers without charity! And am not Igreater than your heart?' And 'know' I not 'your works? Yes, I know that the love of God is not in you,' for you despised one of these my brethren. How could you think to deceive me, the Searcher of hearts and Trier of reins? And how did you dare to call yourselves by my name? As if you were my people? my dear people? mine elect? Are not all my peculiar people' partakers of my holiness,' and zealous of good works? Have not I chosen to myself the man that is godly,' and protested that 'the ungodly shall not stand in judgment, nor sinners,' though in sheep's clothing, in the congregation of the righteous?' And say I not to the wicked, though he should have been one of my people, Lo ammi, Thou art none of my people now. What hast thou to do with taking my covenant in thy mouth?' You denied me in works, and did not wash your hearts from iniquity in my blood; therefore, according to my word, I deny you,' in my turn, before my Father and his holy angels.'. Perish your hope, ye hypocrites: and utter darkness be your portion, 'ye double minded! Let fearfulness surprise you, ye tinkling cymbals! Let the fall of your Babels crush you, ye towering professors of my humble faith! Fly, 'ye clouds without water; ye chaff,' fly before the blast of my righteous indignation! Ye workers of iniquity! Ye Satans transformed into angels of light! Ye cursed, depart!'"
II. Nor is our Lord singular in his doctrine of justification, or condemnation, by works in the day of judgment. If it is a heresy, the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles are as great heretics as their Master. Enoch, quoted by St. Jude, prophesied, that when the Lord shall "come to execute judgment upon all men," he will "convince the ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds and hard speeches." This conviction will no doubt be in order to condemnation; and this condemnation will not turn upon unbelief, but its effects, "ungodly deeds and hard speeches." Solomon confirms the joint testimony of Enoch and St. Jude, where he says, "He that knoweth the heart, shall render to every man according to his works;" and again, "Know, O young man, that for all these things, for all thy ways, God shall bring thee into judgment."
St. Paul, the great champion for faith, is particularly express upon this anti-Crispian doctrine. "The Lord," says he, "in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, will render to every man according to his deeds; to them that continue in well doing," (here is the true perseverance of the saints!) "eternal life! Indignation upon every soul of man that does evil, and glory to every man who worketh good; for there is no respect of persons with God. We shall
all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in the body," not according to that he hath believed, whether it be true or false, but "according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." St. Peter asserts, that the Father, "without respect of persons, judgeth according to every man's work." And St. John, who, next to our Lord, gives us the most particular description of the day of judgment, concludes it by these awful words: "And the dead were judged out of the things written in the books, according to their works." It is not once said, "according to their faith."
Permit me, sir, to sum up all these testimonies in the words of two kings and two apostles. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter," says the king who chose wisdom, "Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man; for God shall bring every work into judgment, whether it be good or evil." They that have done good," says the King who is wisdom itself, (and the Athanasian creed after him,) "shall go into everlasting life; and they that have not done good," or "that have done evil, to everlasting punishment." "You see then," and they are the words of St. James, "that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." By faith he is justified at his conversion, and when his backslidings are healed. But he is justified by works, (1.) In the hour of trial, as Abraham was when he had offered up Isaac: (2.) In a court of spiritual or civil judicature, as St. Paul at the bar of Festus: and, (3.) Before the judgment seat of Christ, as every one will be whose faith, when he goes hence, is found working by love; for there, says St. Paul, as well as in consistoral courts, "circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God," 1 Cor. vii, 19.
III. This doctrine is so obvious in the Scriptures, so generally received in all the Churches of Christ, and so deeply engraven on the consciences of sincere professors, that the most eminent ministers of all denominations perpetually allude to it; yourself, sir, not excepted, as I could prove from your sermons if you had not recanted them. How often, for instance, has that great man of God, the truly reverend Mr. Whitefield, said to his immense congregations, "You are warned; I am clear of your blood; I shall rise as a swift witness against you, or you against me, in the terrible day of the Lord! O, remember to clear me then!" or words to that purpose. And is not this just as if he had said, "We shall all be 'justified or condemned in the day of judgment' by what we are now doing: I by my preaching, and you by your hearing?"
And say not, sir, that "such expressions were only flights of oratory, and prove nothing." If you do, you "touch the apple of God's eye." Mr. Whitefield was not a flighty orator, but spoke the words of soberness and truth, with Divine pathos, and floods of tears declarative of his sincerity.
Instead of swelling this letter into a volume, (as I easily might,) by producing quotations from all the sober Puritan divines, who have directly or indirectly asserted a second justification by works, I shall present you only with two passages from Mr. Henry. On Matt. xii,
37, he says, "Consider how strict the judgment will be on account of our words. By thy words thou shalt be justified or condemned,'—a common rule in men's judgment, and here applied to God's. Note the constant tenor of our discourse, according as it is gracious or not gracious, will be an evidence for us, or against us, at that day. Those that seemed to be religious, but bridled not their tongue,' will then be found to have put a cheat upon themselves with a vain religion. It concerns us to think much of the day of judgment, that it may be a check upon our tongues." And again:
Upon those words, Rom. ii, 13, "Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified;" the honest commentator says, "The Jewish [Antinomian] doctors bolstered up their followers with an opinion that all that were Jews, [the elect people of God,] how bad soever they lived, should have a glorious place in the world to come. This the apostle here opposes. It was a very great privilege that they had the law, but not a saving privilege, unless they lived up to the law they had. We may apply it to the Gospel it is not hearing, but doing that will save us," John xiii, 17; James i, 22. Who does not perceive that Mr. Henry saw the truth, and spoke it so far as he thought his Calvinistic readers could bear it? Surely, if that good man dared to say so much, we, who have "done leaning too much toward Calvinism," should be inexcusable if we did not say all.
IV. These testimonies will, I hope, make you weigh with an additional degree of candour the following arguments, which I shall produce as a logician, lest any should be tempted to call me a bold metaphysician, or almost a magician:
The voice that St. John heard in heaven did not say, "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, for their FAITH follows them:"no, it is their works. Faith is the hidden root, hope the rising stalk, and love, together with good works, the nourishing corn: and as the king's agents, who fill a royal granary, do not take in the roots and stalks, but the pure wheat alone; so Christ takes neither faith nor hope into heaven, the former being gloriously absorbed in sight, and the latter in enjoyment.
If I may compare faith and hope to "the chariot of Israel and the courser thereof," they both bring believers to the everlasting doors of glory, but do not enter in themselves. Not so love and good works; for love is both the nature and element of saints in glory; and good works necessarily follow them, both in the books of remembrance which shall then be opened, and in the objects and witnesses of those works, who shall then be all present; as it appears from the words of our Lord, "You have done it," or "You have not done it, to one of the least of these my brethren;" and those of St. Paul to his dear "You shall be my joy and my crown' in that day." Thus converts, it is evident, that although faith is the temporary measure according to which God deals out his mercy and grace in this world, as we may gather from that sweet saying of our Lord," Be it done to thee according to thy FAITH;" yet love and good works are the eternal measures, according to which he distributes justification and glory in the world to come. On these observations, I argue,