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ourselves; and as you probably place the arguments he has advanced upon that head among his "apparent mistakes," he takes likewise this opportunity of making some additional observations on that delicate subject.
How we can "esteem every man better than ourselves," and ourselves "the chief of sinners," or "the least of saints," seems not so much a calculation for the understanding, as for the lowly, contrite, and loving heart. It puzzles the former, but the latter at once makes it out. Nevertheless, the seeming contradiction may, perhaps, be 'reconciled to reason by these reflections:
1.. If friendship brings the greatest monarch down from his throne, and makes him sit on the same couch with his favourites; may not brotherly love, much more powerful than natural friendship; may not humility, excited by the example of Christ washing his disciples' feet; may not a deep regard for that precept, "He that will be greatest among you, let him be the least of all,” sink the true Christian to the dust, and make him lie in spirit at the feet of every one?
2. A well-bred person uncovers himself, bows, and declares, even to his inferiors, that he is their "most humble servant." This affected civility of the world is but an apish imitation of the genuine humility of the Church; and if those who customarily speak humble words without meaning, may yet be honest men, how much more the saints, who have "truth written in their inward parts," and "speak out of the abundance of their humble hearts !"
3. He who walks in the light of Divine love, sees something of God's spiritual, moral, or natural image in all men, the worst not excepted; and at the sight, that which is merely creaturely in him, (by a kind of spiritual instinct found in all who are "born of the Spirit,") directly bows to that which is of God in another. He imitates the captain of a first rate man of war, who, upon seeing the king or queen coming up in a small boat, forgetting the enormous size of his ship, or considering it is the king's own ship, immediately strikes his colours; and the greater vessel, consistently with wisdom and truth, pays respect to the less.
4. The most eminent saint, having known more of the workings of corruption in his own breast, than he can possibly know of them in that of any other man, may, with great truth, (according to his present views and former feelings of the internal evil he has overcome,) call himself "the chief of sinners."
5. Nor does he know, but if the feeblest believers had all his talents and graces, with all his opportunities of doing and receiving good, they would have made far superior advances in the Christian life; and in this view also, without hypocritical humility, he prefers the least saint to himself. Thus, although, according to the humble light of others, all true believers certainly "undervalue," yet, according to their own humble light, they make a true estimate of "themselves."
V. The vindicator having thus solved a problem of godliness, which you have undoubtedly ranked among his "apparent mistakes," he takes the liberty of presenting you with a list of some of your own "apparent mistakes on this occasion."
1. In the very letter in which you recant your Circular Letter, you desire Mr. Wesley to "give up the fatal errors of the Minutes," though
you have not yet proved they contain one; you still affirm, "They appear to you evidently subversive of the fundamentals of Christianity," that is, in plain English, still " dreadfully heretical ;" and you produce a letter which asserts, also, without shadow of proof, that the "Minutes were given for the establishment of another foundation than that which is laid;" that they are "repugnant to Scripture, the whole plan of man's salvation under the new covenant of grace, and also to the clear meaning of our Established Church, as well as to all other Protestant Churches."
2. You declare in your Narrative that, "when you cast your eye over the Minutes, you are just where you was," and assure the public, that "nothing inferior to an attack upon the foundation of our hope, through the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ, could have been an object sufficient to engage you in its defence." Thus, by continuing to insinuate such an ATTACK was really made, you continue to wound Mr. Wesley in the tenderest part.
3. Although Mr. Wesley and fifty-three of his fellow labourers have let you quietly "secure the foundation," (which, by the by, had only been shaken in your own ideas, and was perfectly secured by these express words of the Minutes, "not by the merit of works," but by "believing in Christ,") yet, far from allowing them to secure the superstructure in their turn, which would be nothing but just, you begin already a contest with them about" our second justification by works in the day of judgment."
4. Instead of frankly acknowledging the rashness of your step, and the greatness of your mistake, with respect to the Minutes, you make a bad matter worse, by treating the Declaration as you have treated them; forcing upon it a dangerous sense, no less contrary to the Scriptures, than to Mr. Wesley's meaning, and the import of the words.
5. When you speak of the dreadful charges you have brought against the Minutes, you softly call them "misconstructions you may seem to have made of their meaning." (Page 22, line 4.) Nor is 66 your acknowledgment" much stronger than your "may seem;" at least it does not appear, to many, adequate to the hurt done by your Circular Letter to the practical Gospel of Christ, and the reputation of his eminent servant, thousands of whose friends you have grieved, offended, or stumbled; while you have confirmed thousands of his enemies in their hard thoughts of him, and in their unjust contempt of his ministry.
6. And, lastly, far from candidly inquiring into the merit of the arguments advanced in the Vindication, you represent them as mere “metaphysical distinctions;" or cast, as a veil over them, a friendly submissive letter of condolence, which was never intended for the use to which you have put it.
Therefore the vindicator, who does not admire a peace founded upon a "may seem❞ on your part, and on Mr. Wesley's part upon a "declaration," to which you have already fixed a wrong unscriptural sense of your own, takes this public method to inform you, he thinks his arguments in favour of Mr. Wesley's anti-Crispian propositions rational, Scriptural, and solid; and once more he begs you would remove the veil you have hitherto "cast over all the apparent mistakes of his judgment on this occasion," that he may see whether the Antinomian gospel
of Dr. Crisp is preferable to the practical Gospel which Mr. Wesley endeavours to restore to its primitive and Scriptural lustre.
VI. Having thus finished my remarks upon the mistakes of your Narrative, I gladly take my leave of controversy for this time. Would to God it were for ever! I no more like it than I do applying a caustic to the back of my friends; it is disagreeable to me, and painful to them; and nevertheless, it must be done, when their health and mine is at stake.
I assure you, sir, I do not like the warlike dress of the vindicator, any more than David did the heavy armour of Saul. With gladness, therefore, I cast it aside, to throw myself at your feet, and protest to you, that, although I thought it my duty to write to you with the utmost plainness, frankness, and honesty, yet the design of doing it with bitterness never entered my heart. However, for every "bitter expression" that may have dropped from my sharp vindicating pen, I ask your pardon; but it must be in general, for neither friends nor foes have yet particularly pointed out to me one such expression.
You have accepted of " a letter of submission" from me; let, I beseech you, a concluding paragraph of submission meet also with your favourable acceptance. You condescend, Rev. sir, to call me your "learned friend." Learning is an accomplishment I never pretended to; but your friendship is an honour I shall always highly esteem, and do at this time value above my own brother's love. Appearances are a little against me: I feel I am a thorn in your flesh; but I am persuaded it is a necessary one, and this persuasion reconciles me to the thankless and disagreeable part I act.
If Ephraim must vex Judah, let Judah bear with Ephraim; till, happily tired of their contention, they feel the truth of Terence's words, Amantium (why not credentium ?) iræ amoris redintegratio est.* I can assure you, my dear sir, without metaphysical distinction, I love and honour you, as truly as I dislike the rashness of your well-meant zeal. The motto I thought myself obliged to follow was E bello pax ; but that which I delight in is, In bello pax ; may we make them harmonize till we learn war and polemic divinity no more!
My Vindication cost me tears of fear, lest I should have wounded you too deeply. That fear, I find, was groundless; but should you feel a little for the great truths and the great minister I vindicate, these expostulations will wound me, and probably cost me tears again.
If, in the meantime, we offend our weak brethren, let us do something in order to lessen the offence till it is removed. Let us show them we make war without so much as shyness. Should you ever come to the next county, as you did last summer, honour me with a line, and I shall gladly wait upon you, and show you, (if you permit me,) the way to my pulpit, where I shall think myself highly favoured to see you "secure the foundation," and hear you enforce the doctrine of justification by faith, which you fear we attack. And should I ever be within thirty miles of the city where you reside, I shall go to submit
* The misunderstandings of lovers (why not of believers) end in a renewal and increase of love.
We make war in order to get peace.
myself to you, and beg leave to assist you in reading prayers for you, or giving the cup with you. Thus shall we convince the world, that controversy may be conscientiously carried on without interruption of brotherly love; and I shall have the peculiar pleasure of testifying to you, in person, how sincerely I am, Hon. and dear sir, your submissive and obedient servant, in the bond of a PRACTICAL Gospel,
HONOURED AND Reverend Sir,-If I mistake not the workings of my heart, a concern for St. James' "pure and undefiled religion" excites me to take the pen once more, and may account for the readiness with which I have met you in the dangerous field of controversy. You may possibly think mere partiality to Mr. Wesley has inspired me with that boldness; and others may be ready to say as Eliab, "We know the pride and naughtiness of thy heart. Thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle." But may I not answer with David, "Is there not a cause?”
Is it not highly necessary to make a stand against Antinomianism? Is not that gigantic "man of sin" a more dangerous enemy to King Jesus, than the champion of the Philistines was to King Saul? Has he not defied more than forty days the armies and arms, the people and truths of the living God? By audaciously daring the thousands in Israel, has he not made all the faint hearted among them ashamed to stand "in the whole armour of God," afraid to defend the important post of duty? And have not many left it already, openly running away, flying into the dens and caves of earthly mindedness," putting their light under a bushel," and even burying themselves alive in the noisome grave of profaneness?
Multitudes indeed still keep the field, still make an open profession of godliness. But how few of these "endure hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ!"* How many have already cast away "the shield of Gospel faith, the faith which works by love!" What numbers dread the cross, the heavenly standard they should steadily bear, or resolutely follow! While in pompous speeches they extol the cross of Jesus, how do they, upon the most frivolous pretence, refuse to "take up" their own! Did the massy staff of Goliah's spear seem more terrible to the frighted Israelites than the daily cross of those dastardly followers of the Crucified? What Boanerges can spirit them up, and lead them on "from conquering to conquer?" Who can even make them look the enemy in the face? Alas!" in their hearts they are already gone back to Egypt. Their faces are but half Sion ward." They give way,they "draw back;" O may it not be "to perdition!" May not the king of terrors overtake them in their retreat, and make them as great monuments of God's vengeance against cowardly soldiers, as Lot's wife was of his indignation against halting racers!
But setting allegory aside, permit me, sir, to pour my fears into your bosom, and tell you with the utmost plainness my distressing thoughts of the religious world.
For some years I have suspected there is more imaginary than "unfeigned faith" in most of those who pass for believers. With a mixture of indignation and grief have I seen them carelessly follow the stream of corrupt nature, against which they should have manfully wrestled. And by the most preposterous mistake, when they should have exclaimed against their Antinomianism,* I have heard them cry out against "the legality of their wicked hearts; which" they said "still suggested they were to do something in order to salvation." Glad was I, therefore, when I had attentively considered Mr. Wesley's Minutes, to find they were levelled at the very errors which give rise to an evil I had long lamented in secret, but had wanted courage to resist and attack.
I. This evil is Antinomianism; that is, any kind of doctrinal or practical opposition to God's law, which is the perfect rule of right, and the moral picture of the God of love, drawn in miniature by our Lord in these two exquisite precepts, "Thou shalt love God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself."
As "the law is good, if a man use it lawfully," so legality is excellent, if it be evangelical. The external respect shown by Pharisees to the law is but feigned and hypocritical legality. Pharisees are no more truly legal, than Antinomians are truly evangelical. "Had ye believed Moses," says Jesus to people of that stamp, "ye would have believed me:" but in your hearts you hate his law as much as you do my Gospel. We see no less Gospel in the preface of the ten commandments, "I am the Lord thy God," &c, than we do legality in the middle of our Lord's sermon on the mount, I say, Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery in his heart.” Nevertheless, the latter "has in all things the pre-eminence" over the former. For if " the law," shortly prefaced by the Gospel, " came by Moses;" grace, the gracious, the full display of the Gospel, and truth, the true explanation and fulfilling of the law, "came by Jesus Christ.”
This evangelical law should appear to us "sweeter than the honeycomb, and more precious than fine gold." We should continually spread the tables of our hearts before our heavenly Lawgiver, beseeching him to write it there with his own finger, the powerful Spirit of life and love. But alas! God's commandments are disregarded; they are represented as the needless or impracticable sanctions of that superannuated legalist, Moses; and if we express our veneration for them, we are looked upon as people who are always strangers to the Gospel, or are fallen into the Galatian state.
Not so David. He was so great an admirer of God's law, that he declares the godly man "doth meditate therein day and night." He expresses his transcendent value for it, under the synonymous
* The word Antinomianism is derived from two Greek words, anti and nomos, which signify "against the law," and the word "legal" from the Latin legalis, which means "agreeable to the law."
+ The legality contended for in these letters is not a stumbling at Christ, and a going about to establish our own righteousness by faithless works: this sin, which the Scripture calls unbelief, I would no more countenance than murder. The evangelical legality I want to see all in love with, is a cleaving to Christ by faith which works righteousness; a "following him as he went about doing good ;" and a showing by St. James' works that we have St. Paul's faith.