« PoprzedniaDalej »
ply of J. E. induced the Bishop to re-publish the Essay in a pamphlet form, to avow himself the author, and to append to it notes in vindication of himself. It is in this form that the Essay comes under review, in company with the Reply. We ask not leave of J. E. to say, that the Bishop always writes like a gentleman, and in a very peaceful style. He is not formed for controversy, with men of keenness and asperity. In the execution of the work before us, the principal defects arise from the want of controversial acumen, and a readiness to speak with decision. The Bishop's modest manner of styling himself, 'the present writer,' or 'the Author of the Essay,' instead of using the personal pronoun, renders his sentences for. mal, and sometimes obscure. He might have saved many circumlocutions too, by using the initials of his opponent, J. E. instead of invariably writing the Author of the Reply. Like the warp and the woof in a loom, these expressions are woven together through half of the pages. A few instances will be cited.
“ The author of the Reply infers from the paragraph under notice, that the author of the Essay did not consider the assurance spoken of as desirable.'»
“ The author of the Reply (p. 23), charges the author of the Essay with maintaining, that, baptism alone is an evidence of inward grace, sufficiently satisfactory.' He never said, nor thought so. It was said to be satisfactory, in the case of penitent and believing Saul.” p. 44.
“The present writer will not return the charge of illiberality, made on the part of the author of the Reply, by a heavier charge,
a but hopes, it was from some cause not easily conjectured, that he delayed his comments on this part of the Essay, to the conclusion of his own production. It would be easy to show, how much depends on juxta-position. People of different religious societies, become distressed under the weight of the tenet in question; taken up, as is here conceived, not from the reading of the scriptures with the aid of prayer, as the author of the Reply advises the congregations of the author of the Essay to read them; but from unscriptural preachings and books. The author of the Essay, disclaims reference to any individuals of the methodistick persuasion: for, although the society were incidentally mentioned under the tenth objection; the reader was there referred to an appendix, for further notice of them. It was natural, for the author of the Reply to make a similar
arrangement of his matter. His not doing so, gives an aspect to the passage unintended in the Essay. That it is so exhibited in the Reply, appears in the circumstance, that the author of it describes the people connected with him, as under accusation (p. 40) and as pleading— Not guilty.' He might have spared his remark, against arguing from particulars to generals. What was designed as argument directly bearing on the point, is arranged under ten heads. But it is not uncommon, after reasoning against a dogma, to point out its consequences.'
" Although, as the author of the Reply remarks, recrimination is no defence;' yet it would not have been unwelcome to the author of the Essay, had the other entered on what he calls-'a fair comparison of the practical effect of the opposite doctrine. This may be stated to be, that a man is to know his safe state, only by his possessing of the graces of the Christain character, and by their effect on his life; taken in connection with the declarations of divine mercy, in the Scriptures: which are now, what the witnessing of the spirit in miraculous gifts was to the first Christians; it being the same witnessing under another form. If this doctrine have been productive of evil, it is more than has come to the knowledge of the present writer."
This mode of writing renders it difficult, in many places, to apprehend the meaning of the Bishop, without repeatedly reading, and studying each portion of the text, and its context. The utter rejection of the little word I, occasions nearly every fault, which can be found with the language of the Essay; for when the third person does not interpose to make mischief, “it is conceived that the author of the Essay expresses his sentiments in a simple manner, without burying the bones and muscles of the truth in a profusion of muslin, bombazene, silk, and lawn. It is the plain presbyterian style of an aged and venerable man:-wholly destitute of the ingenious insinuations of his opponent, who must be a tight little fellow.'
Our principal business, however, is with the doctrines of the Essay; and we are pleased to find, that the main position of the Bishop is a defensible one, according to what has been called the Calvinistic System of theology, ever since the formation of the Westminster Confession of Faith. We make this our standard of Calvinism, in preference to all other human productions; and think it a correct exhibition, so far as it goes, of the doctrines of
divine revelation. We shall not, therefore, consider our. selves as relinquishing the Calvinistic ground, even should we dispute some of the tenets of Calvin himself; for al. though the scheme of doctrine which we think scriptural, has, in controversy, obtained his name, yet it is to be remembered, that the Calvinistic Churches have in their confessions included some things which he did not teach, and excluded others, which he did. These confessions, at the same time, more generally harmonize with the writings of John Calvin, than with those of any other uninspired man.
Bishop White is Calvinistic in maintaining, that the Holy Ghost does not by a direct communication assure a person that his sins are pardoned: and, that suving faith may be exercised by one who has not a present satisfactory assurance in his own mind, that he shall be saved. To the question, “How is the individual to be satisfied of his in. terest in the promises of this gospel??—he correctly answers—if by state he means, as we think he does, operation, — By a correspondency of the state of his mind, which is a subject of consciousness; with the requisitions of the gospel, which are a subject of revelation. Our own mental operations are subjects of con. sciousness; our state, strictly speaking, is not. He quotes with approbation the excellent remarks of Archbishop Usher. Is it not necessary to justification,' he asks, 'to be assured that my sins are pardoned, and that I am justified?'—and he answers,
“No, that is no act of faith as it justifieth, but an effect and fruit that followeth after justification: for no man is justified, by believing that he is justified, for he must be justified, before he can believe it: and no man is pardoned by believing that he is pardoned, for he must first be pardoned, before he can believe it. But faith, as it justifieth, is a resting on Christ to obtain pardon, the acknowledging him to be their only Saviour, and the hanging upon him for salvation.
" It is the direct act of faith that justifieth, that whereby I do believe: it is the reflect act of faith that assures; that whereby I know I do believe, and it comes by way of argumentation thus:
Major; Whosoever relieth upon Christ, the Saviour of the world, for justification and pardon, the word of God saith, that he, by so doing, is actually justified and pardoned.
“ Minor; But I do rely on Christ for justification, and pardon
"Conclusion; Therefore, I undoubtedly believe, that I am justified and pardoned." p. 8.
This doctrine J. E. professes cordially to receive; and Bishop White endeavours to corroborate it, by ten considerations; to which he subjoins in the Essay, a few remarks, concerning the effects which, he has learned by his observation, frequently result from teaching and believing, that the Holy Ghost gives to men an immediate, positive, and direct personal assurance, not founded on any consciousness that they possess the Christian graces, that their sins are pardoned. Assurance of salvation is desirable; and it is our duty diligently to seek it; for we are commanded to know whether Christ be formed in us the hope of glory, or whether we are reprobates; but all attempts to obtain a confident persuasion that our sins are pardoned, in any other than a scriptural way, we unite with him in discountenancing. He observes,
“The present writer has had occasion, during half a century, to remark the effect of the sentiment objected to, on those whose religious impressions began with the belief, that it is a matter to be laboured after and prayed for. Some of them have settled down in a consistent profession of Christianity; but always, so far as is here known, in silence as to the tenet in ques. tion, if not in open disavowal of it. Others have rejected, together with it, all regard to religion in any shape; which they have loaded with the odium of their former temporary delusion. A third sort have degenerated into the cast of character, which continues the language of enthusiasm without its sensibilities; and in which there is an indulgence of those passions, which the most conveniently admit the cover of a religious profession. There have been also persons who have gone on through life, hankering after an assurance which they do not affect to have received. And of these, some have been perceived to be apparently devout, without the consolations wherewith religion ought to be attended; while others have lived either in indifference or open sin, still hoping that their day of effectual visitation would come, and not a little hindered from seeking it in gracious affections, by the errour with which the subject had been incumbered. On the whole, the influence of the opinion is here judged to be pernicious. If it have been permanently entertained by any truly estimable people, the same has happened to many gross corruptions of Christianity; faith in which has been coincident with their earliest sensibility to spiritual subjects.
“Here, the writer of this will again put in a caution, against his being understood to deny the possibility of a Christian's knowing that he is within the terms of the gospel covenant. Faith and repentance are exercises of the mind, and subjects of consciousness; and the assurances of the acceptance of them in the gospel, are unequivocal. There may be counterfeit appearances of these graces; and their reality must be known by their effect of a godly, a righteous, and a sober life, proceeding from a corresponding bent of the will and the affections. The knowledge thus obtained, admits of degrees: and this accords with the property of grace, whereby it may be continually progressive.” p. 19.
We wish the writer had said, “faith and repentance are exercises of the mind, and subjects of consciousness; and the assurances in the gospel, of the acceptance of the persons who possess these graces, are unequivocal.' Faith and repentance are not so accepted of God that we are justified for them; but all believing and penitent persons are assuredly justified already, on account of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. This fact is revealed to us, by the Holy Ghost, in the Bible; and if any one is conscious that he does believe and repent, he may infer, from the testimony of the Spirit and of his own consciousness, that he is actually justified. The passage of scripture most frequently quoted by those who will oppose the Bishop, is that found in Rom. viii. 16.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. Here say some is authority to prove, that a man must have an inward voice, a suggestion, or declaration from God, that he is beloved of him.' The Rev. Solomon Stoddard of Northampton in Massachusetts, a right reverend bishop of a single congregational church, and the author of a Treatise on the safety of appearing in the righteousness of Christ at the judgment, thought differently. His words which are quoted with commendation by Bishop White, deserve to be reiterated.
“ The Spirit of God does not testify to particular persons, that they are godly. Some think, that the spirit of God doth