« PreviousContinue »
myself called upon to explain my-
John. I was very well persuaded, James, that your objection to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, had its origin in your mistaken view of the condition of man. Allow me, therefore, to express what I think of the connexion between the two doctrines, in the following terms: "Because all men are sinners and offenders against God, and breakers of his law and commandments, therefore can no man, by his own acts, works, and deeds (seem they never so good), be justified and made righteous before God: but every man, of necessity, is constrained to seek for another righteousness of justification, to be received at God's own hands; that is to say, the forgiveness of his sins and trespasses, in such things as he has offended. And this justification, or righteousness, which
so receive of God's mercy and Christ's merits, embraced by faith, is taken, accepted, and allowed of God for our perfect and full justification. For the more full understanding of which, it is our part and duty ever to remember the great mercy of God, how, that (all the world being wrapped in sin by breaking of the law) God sent his only Son our Saviour
Christ into this world, to fulfil the law for us; and, by shedding his most precious blood, to make a sacrifice and satisfaction, or, as it may be called, amends to the Father for our sins, to assuage his wrath and indignation conceived against us for the same. So that Christ is now the righteousness of all them that truly believe on him. He, for them, paid their ransom in his death: he, for them, fulfilled the law in his life: so that now, in him and by him, every true Christian man may be called a fulfiller of the law; inasmuch, as that, which their infirmity lacked, Christ's justice hath supplied *."
James. After what I have now heard, I can entertain no doubt, John, of your being fully imbued with the Evangelical Doctrine. This is the very cant that they, who hold the doctrine, are so fond of. They represent man as totally depraved, and completely ruined, in order to make way for their doctrine of faith. They reduce to the same level a whole race of beings, who ought to be classified upon a moral scale, according to the degree of their respective demerits; and not be all consigned, without distinction, to the same condemnation. This error pervades the whole mass of your divinity, and corrupts every part of it. If you were not completely deceived, how could you include, within the same boundary, a multitude of individuals, varying as much almost in their moral character, as they do in the expression of their countenances?
John. Notwithstanding this variety, James, yet they are all human beings; and for the same reason, that they may be physically considered as belonging to one class, so they may be morally. In point of disposition, they may be all disaffected to God; and, in point of condition, they may be
* Homily on the Salvation of Mankind, First Part.
all under the sentence of condemnation: and I feel no inclination, nor, indeed, consistently with my views of truth, no power to depart from what I have already said on that point, that " every person born into this world deserves God's wrath and damnation." And, as I said before, James, if you had a scriptural view of this, you would see a suitableness in the doctrine of justification by faith alone, that would commend itself to your judgment and conscience; and you would be ready to join me in saying, that the doctrine, we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort; moreover, James, there is another doctrine closely connected with these, the value of which depends so much on a just view of the condition of fallen man, that while you have inadequate notions of the one, you cannot duly appreciate the importance of the
Jumes. What is that?
John. The doctrine of regene
James. Regeneration! yes, I know that there is a great talk among you about this point; and that you entertain some mystical notions on the subject quite foreign from the received opinion. I wonder you cannot be satisfied with the sound doctrine of our Church, and there let the matter
John. I am satisfied, James, with the sound doctrine of the church on the subject; for which reason I cannot acquiesce in the attempts that are made to invalidate its truth. "When Christ said to Nicodemus, Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,' he was greatly amazed in his mind, and began to reason with Christ; demanding, 'How can a man be born when he is old, can he enter a second
time into his mother's womb, and be born?' Behold a lively pattern of a fleshly and carnal man. He had little or no intelligence of the Holy Ghost, and, therefore, he goes bluntly to work; and asks how this thing were possible to be true? whereas, otherwise, if he had known the great power of the Holy Ghost in his behalf, that it is he who inwardly worketh the regeneration and new birth of mankind, he would never have marvelled at Christ's words; but would rather take occasion thereby to praise and glorify God *" Such is the power of the Holy Ghost to regenerate men; and, as it were, to bring them forth anew, so that they shall be nothing like the men they were before. Neither doth he think it sufficient, inwardly to work the spiritual and new birth man, unless he also dwell and abide in him. "Know ye not," says St. Paul, "that ye are the temple of God; and that his Spirit dwelleth in you? Know ye not, that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, which is within you?" Again he says, "You are not in the flesh,' but in the Spirit; for why? The Spirit of God dwelleth in you." To this agrees the doctrine of St. John, writing thus: "The anointing which ye have received (he means the Holy Ghost) dwelleth in And the doctrine of Peter says you." the same, who has these words: "The Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you." O what comfort is this to the heart of a true Christian, to think that the Holy Ghost dwelleth within him! If God be with us, as the Apostle says, who can be against us? James. Is this your doctrine, John?
John. Certainly it is, James.
James. If so, then I think there is no occasion for us to proceed any farther. All intercourse
* Homily for Whitsunday.
between us must cease from this time; for it is impossible that I can view your sentiments with any other feelings, than those of disgust and indignation. I have heard, from time to time, a good deal of methodistical cant; but I do not know that I ever had a more delicious specimen of it, than that with which you have just favoured me. And now, John, as I have neither leisure nor inclination to pursue this subject any farther, there is but one point upon which I wish to know your opinion; that I may fully make up my mind about your present principles and religious character. What do you think on the muchdisputed points of election and predestination
John. These are points, James, upon which I would wish to speak under a deep sense of my incapacity to do them justice; and, before I state my views, I would wish to make a preliminary observation or two. If you imagine that the Scriptures furnish matter for philosophical speculation on this question, you are under a mistake. Whatever is said upon it is of a nature purely practical, and is intended to abate the pride of man, and to secure to God the whole glory of every spiritual communication, and of every part of the redemption of a sinner. This object being accomplished, the word of God is silent as to any thing else, and leaves the subject involved in impenetrable obscurity. So much of the veil is removed as is sufficient for the purposes of God; but nothing is disclosed to gratify the vain curiosity of the speculative, or to afford a legitimate pretext for the controversies of the polemical. Having said so much to show you, that I think the point in question a very different one from that of the fatalism of philosophy, I will now tell you what I think about it. "Predestination to life, I conceive to be
the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel, secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind; and to bring them, by Christ, to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour; wherefore they which are endued with so excellent a benefit of God, are called, according to God's purpose, by his Spirit, working in due season; they, through grace, obey the calling; they are justified freely; they are made sons of God by adoption; they are made like the image of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity*
James. This, John, is quite enough to enable me to form a decided judgment as to the nature of the doctrine which you have adopted; and leaves me no room to doubt of your being thoroughly imbued with that pernicious system against which the world so loudly and so justly protests.
John. You have not allowed me to finish what I had to say, James, or you would have seen, that I regard the subject practically. There is a godly consideration of this point, which has a beneficial operation; while proud speculation about it is dangerous in the extreme. Allow me, then, James, to explain myself as follows: "As the godly consideration of predestination and our election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons; and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members; and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it does greatly esta
* Seventeenth Article.
John. Let me go on, James, and finish my statement. "I hold, that, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they are generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture; and, in our doings, that will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared to us in the word of God†," which I think may satisfy you, that I am fully of opinion, that the general invitations and promises of the word of God will be made good to every individual, who practically recurs to them, notwithstanding any thing on the subject of election, that may be found in that word: I am equally persuaded that, in the plain meaning of the words, God "desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness and live;" and that when he says, "Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?" there is an ap
peal to something in man, which is common to all men, which makes him accountable; and which, if he prove finally disobedient, leaves him inexcusable.
James. That is, you hold two contradictories to be true, in opposition to every sound principle.
John. I deny them to be contradictory, James; and though I should confess I have not the secret, by which their consistency is explained; that need not prevent me from acknowledging both to be true. When once I am satisfied that the Bible is a divine revelation, my business is, with the blessing of God, to ascertain the meaning of its contents, and to submit my understanding to its communications. The proud reasoner is repelled by those awful words, Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” while the humble learner is taught by Him" who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not." This is a fair and practical view of the subject, and sufficient for all good purposes; and I therefore repeat the words I finished with before; namely, that " we must receive God's promises, in such wise, as they are generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture; and, in our doings, that will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared to us in the word of God."
James. I do not know why you should be so fond of expressing yourself in language which belongs rather to the time in which our great-grandfathers lived, than to
But whatever may be your language, my objection to the whole of your scheme remains unaltered.
John. Whose scheme, James? James. Your wild and fanatical scheme, to be sure.
John. And in whose language do you think I have been delivering my sentiments?
James I cannot tell.
John. I have been quoting the language of our church; and your objections have been to her doctrines; the very doctrines, James, that you have openly undertaken to publish and to maintain; the doctrines of her Articles and Homilies.
James. If this be the fact, I must only say, that you have not used me well. I told you that I had only read the Articles once, and that I had never read the Homilies; and you have taken advantage of my ignorance to bring me into a dilemma. Had I known what you were about, I should have been more upon my guard, and have examined more closely into the true sense of those expressions, which I too hastily admitted to bear the meaning you wished.
John. But did I put any sense of my own upon them? Did I do any thing but leave them to speak for themselves; and had you any difficulty in understanding them?
James. I admit this. But, if I had taken time to consider, I should have been in some cases able to show you, that the real sense of the words was quite contrary to its obvious one; and, in others, that certain qualifying terms altered the whole character of the passage. By this means, you would not have been able to accomplish your object, and lead me into unguarded concessions.
John. But my object, James, was to show you, that the obvious sense of the Articles and Homilies, is the sense in which those whom you term the Evangelical Clergy, understand them. And that object is gained; because you reasoned against the authorities which I produced, while you thought the language mine, as containing a doctrine decidedly opposed to your
James. You have, I confess, for the present, gained an advantage over me by surprize; but as I
have no doubt that, when I come to examine the documents which you have produced, I shall find, that they only seem to countenance your opinions; I mean to return to the charge, and expect not only to recover any ground I may have lost, but completely to drive you out of the field.
John. My earnest wish is, James, that you should take the authorized standards of our church-her Articles, Homilies, and Liturgy; and try my doctrine by that test; and, if there be not a strict coincidence between them, I am satisfied to be stigmatized as a heretic, or, if you please, a blasphemer. But, before you go, James, I cannot refrain from giving you a caution; though, in doing so, I may run the risk of increasing your displeasure against me. Remember, I beg of you, that the question between us is not of a speculative nature; on the contrary, that it is practical in the truest sense, and, above all others, important. Should you be able to silence or confute me, the inquiry, "What is truth?" would still return upon you: inasmuch as it would remain to be ascertained, whether you are right in your own views of the subject. I own, James, that I fear you are going to exert your ingenuity in putting a new sense upon words, which you received in their obvious and literal import, as long as you saw no reason for giving them an unnatural meaning. While you supposed the language I employed was my own, though you thought the phraseology affected, yet you had no difficulty in perceiving, that the sentiments it conveyed were decidedly opposed to your own; and you proceed to combat them without hesitation; but now that I have told you, that the language I made use of was identically that which our church has chosen to employ for the purpose of expressing her own sentiments on these subjects, you are driven to the ex