The Bond Child Brought to the Test;
and His Use of the Letter Considered.
William Huntington (1745-1813)
TO MR. WAKE, MINISTER OF THE LETTER, AT SMARDEN, IN KENT.SIR,
THE great apostle of the Gentiles tells us to beware of dogs, evil workers; and of the concision, or cutters, who, like poor Peter, take a carnal weapon, instead of a spiritual one, and cut at the high-priest's servant's ear, instead of the traitor's heart. You have been sent for, by Mr. Stonehouse, to Cranbrook, I find, the place of my nativity; and you have attempted, by a few of your own chimeras palmed upon the holy law of God, to ridicule and bring into contempt, what I believe to be the truths of the everlasting gospel. Mr. Stonehouse, it seems, was too much taken up in business; he wanted time: and, perhaps, ha wants truth, and the power and experience of it, as much as time. Be that as it may, You would go home, as you expressed yourself, and rummage up all your lumber for the expedition, though you was advised to the contrary. Surely, if you had been armed and equipped from heaven, you would have been fit for the field, without riding so many miles to plunder the arguments of the dead.
You report that you formerly attended Mr. C. to hear depths of doctrine; Mr. R. to have your graces stirred up; and Mr. Huntington, to hear oddities: and I believe they are oddities, and ever will remain so, to novices: "for the preaching of the cross of Christ, is to them that perish, foolishness." But did not all these depths, stirrings, and oddities, furnish you for the attack? Have you no truth, nor arguments, but what lay on the shelves of your study? If the Spirit and word of God had dwelt in you, and if God had sent you on this warfare, he would have furnished you both with armour and weapons. A good soldier of Jesus Christ is never without his armour, nor his artillery; nor does he go a warfare at his own expense. Fetching lumber from Smarden, plainly proves that God had no hand in the expedition: besides, arguments borrowed from authors by graceless men are never forcible, for want of a divine edge. If God be the sword of a man's excellency, the excellency and power of God will attend the man. Without this, however fine the reasonings, however nice the distinctions, however eloquent the language, the man can do no more than carnalise, legalize, or philosophize, the dispensation of the Spirit; and the soul-beggar)' of the man, whether he preach or write, will discover itself, in all he says or writes, to one who lives and walks in the Spirit of God. Many of our authors are not aware of this; they write and speak to display their abilities, and exalt themselves in the eyes of others; and, when they have done all, it can only be called the speech of them that are puffed up, for there is no power; and, in truth, they only expose their pride and ignorance, and the starving condition of their souls; and convince the spiritually-minded, that not a reformation in life, improvement in language, or even ministerial, which are called spiritual gifts, make a man a spiritual man. Nothing but a spiritual birth can do this: "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Such men, though they may be ranked, as they often are by ignorant professors and weak believers, with gospel ministers, yet neither their rank nor their gifts secure heaven to them, nor their souls from falling headlong into hell. Judas, says Peter, "was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry," and it was the worst part, the gift, not the grace, that is so necessary for the discharge of the office that he had taken: therefore from this part of the ministry Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. This coming and going from the place of the holy will be eternally forgotten in the heavenly Jerusalem, Eccles. viii. 10, though they have so done in Mount Zion.
Nor did you appear in well-set hair at Cranbrook, but in baldness: the shame of your nakedness was not hid; nor did your melody rise from the certain sound of the gospel-trumpet; but, like that of a drum, from the emptiness of the preacher.
Did God ever give you a message against me? Had you either your message or impulse from him? Did you once ask him either for matter or manner in this undertaking? Did your face shine or heart flow with grace in that work of naught? Did the fair beauty of the Lord appear in the meeting? Were the outgoings of God seen in it? or, did he once stir up his strength, and come among you? Were the ungodly alarmed, the unruly warned, the gainsayers confuted, the hypocrites exposed, and the bowels of the saints refreshed? Did you go home with the testimony and approbation of God in your heart? Had you nearness of access to him in prayer at your return? or did either scripture or conscience say, "Well done, good and faithful servant?" Do not you think that the freewill Baptists, the hypocritical Arminians, and some that are called members of that place, beside the openly profane, stood in more need of the sharpness that you used among them, than I did? Is there one mote in my eye that the beam in your own will allow you to pull out? If there is, get about it.
Wo to such wanton trifling! Remember the fall of him that you are gone to succeed. I heard him, about twelve years ago, at Kingston upon Thames; and said, as soon as he had finished his discourse, that he had run before he was sent: and I said the same of one since, who was ordained at Hammersmith, who confirmed it soon after; and the same of two since, whom God discovered in the same way, to let me know that my judgment of those men was from him. "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." I hope those who are going, according to report, to ordain you, will look about them; and not lay hands, suddenly on any man; nor countenance and recommend a man to the work of the ministry, upon a reason of his hope, and a confession of his faith, in general terms; without an account of his heart-felt experience of the truth; a confession of the faith delivered to him, and impressed on his soul, by God himself; and a testimony in the ordainers' consciences from God, and from men of experience, touching the testimony of God to the word of his grace by him; besides the witness of some converts, or living seals of his mission and commission from God.
Sodomites, adulterers, and fornicators, have been palmed upon the church of God heretofore, instead of ministers of the Spirit. If he that bids an erroneous man, who brings not the doctrine of Christ, God speed, is a partaker of his evil deeds; what must they be partakers of, who, upon a partial examination, a written schoolboy's confession, and perhaps an inexperienced people's call, or an attachment to a party, lay on hands, countenance and send forth a wolf in sheep's clothing, instead of an under-shepherd? It is well if this work does not one day recoil, with a double discharge both of grief and guilt, upon the consciences of many who in our day are called Presbyters. When God makes manifest the counsels of the heart, it will appear that this is no small part of the mystery of spiritual wickedness, in the propagation of errors, that will be unfolded in the great day, to the confusion of such deceitful workers and hypocrites, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation. Which pre-ordination of God is no excuse for a partial ordination by men.
I have not a single doubt of my effectual call, both to salvation and to the ministry of the everlasting gospel, and that by Jesus Christ himself: and I believe I may say that God has set his seal a thousand times to the ministry that I have received, by working a change in sinners' hearts, and ministering the Spirit unto them. But, who sent you, I know not. Where is your genealogy? Where are the credentials that the Spirit of the living God has written on the fleshly tables of your heart? Produce the twofold witness, that of the Spirit, and of conscience, and the mystery of faith held therein. Let us have some account of the signing and sealing you to the day of redemption, that we may know what image and superscription you bear. If you are destitute of these things, you run before you were sent; and, if acquainted with them, even but in theory, you sin against light and knowledge, by walking in craftiness, and handling the word of God deceitfully.
"The law is good, if a man use it lawfully." I know it is: but, what could you bring from that text against a man who loves the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth? What is there in that passage against one in covenant with God, under the dominion of grace, and that serves God in the newness of the Spirit? "Is the law against the promise of God? God forbid!" "The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient," 1 Tim. i. 9. "Whatsoever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law." If the law is not made for a righteous man, how could you apply it to me, whom God has justified? and if what the law saith, it saith to them that are under it, how could you level its voice against them that are under grace? The law speaks to such as you, who seem to be under it; and to them who are without the law of faith, and disobedient to the gospel, called lawless and disobedient. But "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts;" "and against such there is no law." What, then, could you make the law, in your text, say against me?
The law is handled lawfully when it is set forth as a transcript of the holiness, truth, justice, and immutability, of God.
When it is set forth in the hand of Justice, accompanied with God's glittering sword, in all its spiritual meaning, and with all its unbounded demands, and against every sinner that is out of Christ Jesus, whether professor or profane.
When it is preached as a revelation of the righteous judgments of God, a revelation of his just wrath and holy indignation against all sin, and sinners who are under the law, for they are under the curse; and whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them.
It is handled lawfully when its spiritual meaning is enforced, as reaching to the thoughts, words, acts, and workings of the very souls of men; working death in them by itself, which is good.
It is handled lawfully when the eternity of it is insisted on; so that devils and damned souls shall have a gaol delivery when God shall cease to exist, when his eternal sentence shall be recalled, and an everlasting law be repealed; but not till then.
It is lawfully handled when it is set forth as added because of transgression; that sin by the law might appear sin, and become exceeding sinful; that the offence might abound, being viewed in that perfect glass; that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world be brought in guilty before God.
It is handled lawfully when it is set forth as magnified and made honourable by the Saviour; who gave a perfect obedience to every precept of it in his life; and was obedient to his Father in submitting to the sentence of it in death, even the death of the cross.
When it is set forth in the heart of Christ, who is our Mercy-seat; and kept there, as the two tables of it were in the ark of old, never more to arrest them who put their trust under the shadow of Christ Jesus, who is the end of the law for righteousness to all that believe.
Again, It is lawfully handled when it is proved that the end of the commandment is charity; that love is the fulfilling of the law; and that all those who have laid hold on eternal life, in whose heart the love of God is shed abroad, and to whose faith the righteousness of Christ is imputed, that "the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
"If a man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God," saith the Spirit; and I will leave you to judge whether the law be not lawfully handled in this letter, and whether I have not spoken in it agreeably to the oracles of God: and if, upon examination, you find I have, then in future use all the lumber that you may rummage up, against the world, the flesh, and the devil; and leave me and my oddities to stand or fall to my own Master. There are plenty of sinners at Cranbrook to level your discourses at, without spouting or bending your tongue, for lies, at me; especially when you knew I was not present to answer for myself. If you will preach a discourse, and allow me to be present, I shall have no objection to come down; and, if I cannot put you to shame, you shall put me to it. I have done nothing against the truth, nor have I corrupted the word. Let us see if you can say the same.Your text is,
"The law is good if a man use it lawfully." First, You endeavoured to prove, Who they were that used it lawfully. 'The unbeliever could not.' Ergo, it must be the believer.'
'The believer having no more to do with the law than a woman with a dead husband, is black 'Antinomianism.'
'A non-entity may be a rule as soon as love.'
'Faith is a hand, an eye, a leg; Ergo, no rule.'
'The law is perfect; therefore perpetual and 'everlasting.''Angels are under it.'
Is this speaking as the oracles of God? Let us try it by "the law and the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
'The unbeliever cannot use the law lawfully.' Ergo, it must be the believer.'
This, sir, was as crafty a beginning as you could make. It was a cunning step to put the unbeliever quite out of the question; and then to introduce the believer, as the only person that could make a lawful use of the law, for this had the face of truth, and carried a very fair show with it; and, doubtless, this was as wise a course as you could steer to give your text a deceitful handling, in order to blacken your antagonist, and stumble the weak. But, though the context did not answer your end, it will answer mine, and therefore I shall produce it; and, without applying the words to unbelievers without restriction, I shall let them speak to suspected teachers, for to them they are directed, and especially to unbelieving, or faithless preachers, who run before they are sent.
"Timothy, as I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine; neither give heed to fables, and endless genealogies, which minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned; from which some having swerved, [or not aimed at] have turned aside to vain jangling; desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm. But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully. Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient," 1 Tim. ch. i.
If you had handled this context faithfully, and levelled its force against ministers of the letter, and spoken from your text, as the oracles of God, against such men, it would have established my doctrine, and saved you the trouble of making application; for every new-born babe in the audience might have replied, Thou art the man. But applying it to private believers instead of public preachers; and using it as their only rule of life, instead of using it as a charge to vain janglers, who have swerved from the faith, was the only method you could adopt in order to expose your antagonist to contempt; and it is a method that shall one day or other expose you to it.
"The end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." He who is blessed with this mystery, holds it fast, enjoys it, and preaches it; is the real saint, and true servant of Christ; and such a servant is to charge suspected persons, that they preach no other doctrine; and they who swerve, or aim not at this, are those that turn aside to vain jangling; novices, who desire to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm.
"The Law is good if a man use it lawfully." Let us see the lawful use that you have made of it. 'The unbeliever,' you say, 'cannot use it lawfully.' True: but, if you had made a lawful use of it, you should have levelled all its contents at his head, for to him it belongs; "Knowing," says Paul, "that the law is made for the lawless and disobedient." But you levelled all the weighty matters that you brought from it at me, who am a believer; for I can shew you my faith by my works, and the law is not made for a righteous man. If the unbeliever cannot make a lawful use of it, ergo, are you not that unbeliever, and, through ignorance, have handled it unlawfully? And, if so, ergo, Who set such a novice at it? But, if malice led you thus to pervert the text knowingly, your sin is the greater; and such walking in craftiness will make sad work for conscience another day. If to do as we would be done by, be the law and the prophets; perverting the Scriptures, to injure the just in the work of the Lord, can be no branch of that law. Ergo, Who, then, is the Antinomian? I, who have levelled the law's force at the sinner; or you, who have used it to slander the righteous?
'The believer having no more to do with the law than a woman with a dead husband, is black 'Antinomianism.' If it be, I think my own experience and the Bible furnished me with it.
"Know you not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if while her husband liveth she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but, if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ [ye were crucified with him, and died in him,] that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."
The apostle here compares the elect, before called, to a woman bound by the law to a husband; which is binding, and cannot be dissolved as long as either of the parties live. Secondly, That, if her husband be dead, she is free from that law, and may be married to another, man: so the elect sinner, who reckoned himself alive without the law in a state of nature, finds that, when the commandment comes, sin revives, and he dies. And, as soon as he is killed by the letter, or finds the law to be ordained unto death, Rom. vii. 10, he is become dead to the law; and the law is a killing letter, or death, unto him, for it cannot give life. He may then be married to Christ; not that he may live a loose, licentious life, for none .but the devil himself could ever father such things upon a spiritual union with the Lord Jesus Christ, but that we should bring forth fruit unto God; which the killing power of the law could not enable us to do, because it could not give life: "For, when we were in the flesh, the motions of sin, which were by the law, did work in our members, to bring forth fruit unto death." The apostle tells us that we are dead to the law, loosed from the law, and delivered from it, and that by the body of Christ; for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes us free from the law of sin and death.
If all this be true, that the believer is dead to the law, as a widow is to the charms of a dead husband; that the law can give him no more life than a dead husband's corpse can to a surviving widow; that, from this death, the widow is free from the law of her husband, as the believer is from the law of Moses; and that she may be married to another man, as the believer may to Christ; and bear fruit to the second husband, as the believer does to God; and be under the law of wedlock to the second husband, as the believer is under the law of eternal wedlock to Christ, who has made him free from the law of sin and death by the law of the Spirit of life, and brought him under grace, having espoused him to him for ever in righteousness, in faithfulness, in lovingkindness, and in great mercy, that he may know his Lord and Husband; I say, such souls can have no husband but Christ, nor be under any law but to him: and he gives us a sweet account of his easy yoke in various terms, such as his word, his law, his sayings, his commandments, &c. which all amount to one and the same thing, as we shall shew presently.
God's laws, which are his new covenant, are written in the believer's heart by the Spirit of the living God, which makes him a living epistle, not a dead formalist. It is a fountain of life, not a killing letter; and it makes him fruitful to God, not barren in the knowledge of him. The law, magnified and made honourable, is in the heart of Christ; and it is the law of the Spirit of life in him that makes the saint free; and he is under that law to Christ, whose word is life. "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting." "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me." "If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him." "Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death." "He that loveth me not, keepeth not my sayings," John xiv. 24. This is the law of the Spirit of life, that the believer is under.
If ever my own lust should entice me to a loose and licentious way of living, the right horse shall wear the saddle: the devil and William Huntington shall bear the scandal; for I will never palm it upon this doctrine, which has brought me from the drudgery of devils and the pains of hell, and has kept my soul in hope of heaven for now these twenty-five years: and, for my own part, I wish every one that calls me an Antinomian had got the same hope. I think the devil would have more cause to complain than he has now; and that less licentiousness, and more good works, would appear, than do at present, except in the talking part; for a fool is known by a multitude of words. "In all labour there is profit; but the talk of the lip tendeth only to penury."
'A non-entity may be a rule as soon as love.' Is this true, sir? Is a non-entity, a thing that never had existence, as good a rule as love, which is the fulfilling of the law? Divine love, impressed on the soul by the Spirit, is more valuable than the word, love, in the letter, or on tables of stone. Love in the heart to God and our neighbour is the grand hinge of all the law and the prophets, and a fulfilling of them, for it is both the old and the new commandment. But is it not strange that the word, love, in the letter should be the believer's only rule of life, and the Spirit of love in the heart be nothing but a non-entity? And is it not more strange, that he who holds the killing letter a rule of life, should be an evangelist; and he who holds that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in those who walk in the Spirit, should be a black Antinomian? You will no more live by your letter rule, than you would by the word, bread, in the midst of famine. It is the substance, not the shadow; the thing, not the name; the power, not the word, of him that is puffed up; the life, not the letter; God's own work in the heart, not the talk of the lip, that God looks at; and that must save you, if ever you are saved. The will of God in the gospel is a perfect rule. This mystery of his will, which is the mystery of faith, when revealed to the heart, and held in a pure conscience, is the law of faith on the believer's mind and heart. Such a man is a spiritual man, and has a spiritual rule; is a new creature, and walks in newness of life; is guided by the Spirit of God, and serves in the newness of the Spirit, not in the oldness of the letter. "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature: and as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God," Gal. vi. 15.
Query. If the law of Moses, or ten commandments, be the believer's only rule of life, should not a believer be said to walk, to live, and to work, by that rule? Does one text in the Book of God call the Pentateuch the believer's only rule? Or is there one text in that book which says that the believer is to walk, live, or work, by that rule? 'Does not the Scripture say that he walks by faith, and lives by faith, and works by faith? On which account his obedience is called the obedience of faith, his life the life of faith, and his works the works of faith. And the law of faith must be a perfect rule, if whatsoever be not of faith is sin.
Query 2. "They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments of the Lord blameless," Luke i. 6. If they were both righteous, they were justified by faith, for "he that believeth not is condemned already, and the wrath of God abides upon him." And if they walked in God's commandments blameless, the commandments was the way they walked in, and faith was the rule, by which they walked in that way.
"I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart." Unbelief and slavish fear contract the heart; faith, that worketh by love, enlarges it; love casteth out fear. Then he that walks in love, which you call a non-entity, walks the way of God's commandments, though he be called a black Antinomian, for love is the' fulfilling of the law; and he that lives and walks by faith, as his rule, is a righteous man, and walks in, though not by, God's commandments, blameless, though he be never so much blamed.
I will keep my readers in suspense, and my opponents at bay, no longer; but, for the comfort and establishment of the former, and the confusion of the latter, I will put a few Queries: for hitherto some have cried one thing, and some another; the assemblies have been confused, and the greater part have not known 'wherefore they came together, nor what they were come to hear. Paul says, we are "not without law to God, but under the law to Christ." Here the believer has a law to God, and is under a law to Christ. Query, What law is this that a believer has, and holds, toward God? Is it the law of Moses, which worketh wrath? Is it the ten commandments, engraven on stone, that minister death? Is it the covenant of works, by which no flesh living can be justified? Is it the killing letter, that stops the mouth, and brings the world in guilty before God? If you reply, yes, then, I say, we are just where we were; our faith is vain, we are yet in our sins, and Christ profits us nothing. And if you say, no, the believer is not without law to God, for he has his law in his heart, and holds a new covenant toward God; as it is written, "The days come that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers when I took them out of the land of Egypt which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my law in their inward part, and write it upon their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more," Jer. xxxi. 31-34. I say, if you allow this to be the law that the believer has toward God, you must say, as Paul does, we are delivered from Moses' law, that we may serve in the newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. Yea, you must allow that the believer is not under the law, but under grace; for this law is the law of faith, and this covenant is the covenant of grace: and if you allow this to be the law that a believer hath toward God (who is not without law to him), then what becomes of your only rule of life? yea, and you are as black an Antinomian as I. But if you reply, It is not this new covenant, it is not this law of faith in the heart, that the believer has and holds toward God, but the old covenant, or the killing letter, then I ask, What is that law that we are redeemed from, and delivered from, and are not under? What is that law that the child of grace is not under? My opponents must either make Christ's redeeming us from under the law, his delivering us from the law, and his easy yoke of grace, nothing, in order to hold their only rule; or else confess themselves Moses' disciples altogether. They must either give up their rule, agree with Paul, and become rank Antinomians; or else drop their present title, and assume that of ministers of the letter, and hold their rule by virtue of that office. By the other they cannot; grace must be no more grace, or work must be no more work: they must stick to the law, and give up the Saviour's yoke; or stand fast in Christ, and give up the yoke of bondage.
"We are under the law to Christ," I Cor. ix. 21. Query, What law is this that the believer is under to Christ? Is it your only rule of life? If so, what is that law, as was before observed, that Christ delivered us, and saved us, from? And if you say, It is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, that the believer is under, which makes him free from the law of sin and death, Rom. viii. 2; then you agree with Paul, and submit to what all my opposers call rank Antinomianism: and where, then, is all that reproach to fall that has been heaped upon my head?
God has writ his law on the saint's heart, and put it in his mind; and this is the law of faith: therefore he is not without law to God. The law of the Spirit of life, in Christ, makes him free from the law of sin and death, and he is under this law to Christ. Bring any other yoke, or rule of life, from God's book, if you can. I defy every opponent I have to do it, or to bring one text to prove it. This law of the Spirit of life in Christ goes by various names: it is the old commandment which is the word, and that is the word of life. It is called Christ's sayings, which is life: "If a man keep my saying he shall never see death." It is called the law of the wise, which is the fountain of life; the law of liberty, that makes us free from the law of death. It is called the law of truth, that was with Levi; the law of kindness, that comes from love, that we may not die, but live. It is called the law of faith: "The just shall live by faith." It is called Christ's Father's commandment: "He gave me commandment what I should say, and what I should speak; and I know that his commandment is life everlasting." Here is the Father's commandment, and here is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ. This is the law written in the mind, and put in the fleshly tables of a broken heart, where it appears a fountain of life springing up into life everlasting; while your only rule, engraven on tables of stone, ministers nothing but death.
Fighting against these things is only beating the air; and blowing the old trumpet is giving an uncertain sound, for the watchman knows not what he says, nor whereof he affirms; and who can prepare for the battle, in hope of gaining the victory, when it is not the fight of faith that they are called to engage in?
'Faith is an eye, a hand, a leg; Ergo, no rule.' Answer. The law of faith includes, and affords, every thing that the law of Moses requires. And it is a perfect rule; for whatsoever the law of faith doth not point out, and whatsoever is not done in the faith of the gospel, is sin. If it be no rule of obedience, how can the saint's obedience be called the obedience of faith? And how can men be punished with everlasting destruction for not obeying it; and be condemned as hypocrites and unbelievers, if it be not a rule of obedience? It appears to me, that it is both a rule of life and a rule of judgment. The Scripture says, we are to walk by faith, and live by faith. How can a man walk by it, and live by it, if it is no rule? The law of faith is a perfect rule, and the grace of faith directs the steps of the saints to walk by it. Nor is the law of Moses, or ten commandments, ever called the believer's only rule of life or walk; nor is the believer ever said to walk by the law of Moses, or by the ten commandments. A believer is said to walk by faith; and a just man to walk in the commandments, not by them; and to nm the way of them: and without faith there is no walking in these commandments; and, without love to enlarge the heart, there is no running the way of them; and both faith and love belong to the perfect rule that I contend for:'The law is perfect, and eternal.'
Both these are true: and, had you seen the perfection of it, and felt its force, you would have called it, as others have done, a yoke that neither Saint nor sinner is able to bear; and would have been glad to have found it magnified by, and secured in the heart of, a Mediator, rather than contend and desire to have your neck brought under it.'Angels are under it.'
Is this speaking as the oracles of God? The law was delivered by God himself to Adam, and by Moses it was delivered to Israel; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator. But I never read that it was delivered to angels; nor were they ever circumcised to become debtors to fulfil it; nor is there one inspired penman in the Bible that ever applied it to them. God's voice by them is to the sons of men; nor did I ever hear of any modern divine applying it to them, till Sir Ham Coltish and Mr. Wake appeared in orders. If angels are under any law, I think they are under the perfect law of liberty, or what Solomon calls the law of kindness. It is their liberty that makes their service perfect freedom; and it is the law of lovingkindness that makes them fly so swift as they do, and cover their faces and their feet, when they have done, in token of no boasting of merit: the glory is given to the Object they cry to; Holy holy, holy; Holy Father, Holy Son, and Holy Ghost. This law of liberty and love none but the real saint knows, and is most certainly the law of angels; and will be enjoyed in perfection by glorified saints when they come to be equal to the angels of God, being the children of the resurrection.
In these matters are manifested the children of the bond woman and the children of the free; the ministers of the letter, and the ministers of the Spirit. The minister that hath this new covenant made with him, and this law of faith written on his heart; who is made free from the law of sin and death by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus; is a minister of God's Spirit, not of the letter. He is an ambassador of Christ, and an ambassador of peace. He is an adopted son of God, and the Spirit of his heavenly Father speaketh in him. He is, according to the troubled sinner's wish, in God's stead. He takes forth the vile from the precious, and is as God's mouth. He has the Spirit and word of God, the keys of the kingdom of heaven. What his ministry binds upon earth, in heaven is bound; and what such a ministry looses on earth, in heaven is loosed. Christ is with such always, even to the end of the world. The gospel is the ministration of the Spirit to the end of time; and Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. As Christ was, so are such ministers in the world. He that receives them, receives Christ; for he dwells in their hearts by faith, and is in them the hope of glory; and they who despise them, despise Christ that sent them; and his Father, who sent him. They have power to shut heaven, that it rain not during their prophecy: for there can be no benediction from heaven but by the ministry of the Spirit. They have power to turn waters to blood as often as they will. Sinners, compared to water, must die in their sins, and in their blood, if they do despite to the Spirit of grace, or quench the Spirit in the Lord's ambassadors. And this power is not of them; they have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency and the power may appear to be of God, and not of them. Such men come not with excellency of speech, or men's wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power: not with the words that man teacheth, but with such as the Holy Ghost teacheth; not comparing themselves with themselves, but comparing spiritual things with spiritual; appealing to every man's conscience in the sight of God; not knowing the speech of them that are puffed up, but the power; declaring that the kingdom of heaven standeth not in word, but in power; and that a saint's faith stands not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. And who will make me a liar in this, and prove my speech to be nothing worth?
It is the blessed Spirit of God that testifies of Christ to us, and glorifies him in us; and it is in spirit and in truth that he will be honoured in us, and worshipped by us. Nor do I believe that God pays any regard to any one's vindicating his honour or his truth, but his own spiritual children; not allowing a hypocrite to take his covenant in his mouth, or even to declare his statutes; nor to offer a sacrifice without committing abomination.
When I first came to London, I heard strange things held forth for doctrines: but I knew that I was young, and durst not shew mine opinion; for I thought that days should speak, and that the multitude of years should teach wisdom. But I find, now, that old men are not always wise, nor do the aged understand judgment. Man must fetch his knowledge from afar, and ascribe righteousness to his Maker, if he does any good. It is the breath of God that gives a man life, and the inspiration of the Almighty that gives him understanding. Without this, a man reasons with unprofitable talk; and with words, or speeches, wherewith he can do no good. His conversation and arguments are blunt; and, if he cannot whet the edge with prayer, he must put forth more strength, Eccles. x. 10. But "by strength shall no man prevail." When the poor and needy, in spirit, speak right, how forcible are right words! But conversation, or argument, from a barren heart and a crafty head, are, like the white of an egg, unsavoury, and without a conclusion; and what doth their arguings prove, disprove, or reprove?
An unconverted man is no minister of the gospel; an uninspired man is no minister of the Spirit. An unbeliever cannot preach the faith of God's elect; he is not endued with power from on high; nor is there either excellency or power with him. Casting out devils is not conversion; the devil must be cast out of the heart, and Christ formed in it, before a man can be converted to the faith of Jesus. Such are no preachers of the kingdom of God, for that is not in word. Such can say no more than Judas could, that they have taken part of the ministry, the office of a minister, not the spirit of the ministry; and such are sure to make shipwreck of their system of faith, for a prating fool shall fall, and another shall take his office. The best titles that the word of God gives to uninspired men, are wells without water, boasters of a false gift, clouds without rain, virgins without oil, instruments without life, trumpeters without any certain sound, beaters of the air, runners at uncertainty, cutters, wolves, creepers into houses, haters of those that are good, vain janglers, ministers of the letter, deceitful workers, and false apostles. These are the best titles that men can claim from Scripture, who are sensual, destitute of the Spirit, and who have not the doctrine of Christ, for such have not God. And it is clear that the children of God and the children of the devil divide the whole world: the bond woman's bastards, and the free woman's sons; the ministers of the letter, and those of the Spirit; impostors of Satan, and ambassadors of Christ; goats and sheep; serpents and doves; children of the flesh, and children of promise; reprobates and chosen vessels; divide the human race. Nor is it in the power of either devils or hypocrites to break down this middle wall of partition, so as to lay the garden of Eden and the dreary desert together. The church will ever remain to be God's husbandry, God's family, and God's building.
I shall now take notice of a few learned and weighty sentences discharged against this doctrine, at different times; with a few queries on them.
'The daring Antinomian, who denies the law ' to be a rule of life, does despite to the Spirit of 'grace.' Query; How can a man who levels the force of the whole law at ministers of the letter and bond children, to whom the law speaks; and enforces, and insists upon, a spiritual birth, spiritual worship, a spiritual life and walk, a deliverance from dead works and lip-service, and a service of freedom in the newness of the Spirit; and who declares that, without holiness in heart and life by the Spirit of Christ, a man is no more than a hypocrite, do despite to the spirit of grace? I think, if such a man does despite to any, it must be to a dead formalist, and his dead works performed in the oldness of the letter.
'Let no man exalt Jesus at the expense of Moses.' Query; Is there any other way of establishing the honour of Moses as a faithful servant, or his law as a revelation of wrath, than by the righteousness of faith, which was witnessed both by the law and the prophets? If we would imitate Moses in faithfulness, must we not ascribe greatness to our God, seeing he is the Rock, and his work is perfect; and there is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heavens in our help, and in his excellency on the sky? And say to all those who cleave to the old veil, as Moses did, that they are blind, and destitute of faith; a nation void of counsel; children in whom is no faith? "I have led you forty years in this wilderness; and God has not given you eyes to see, nor ears to hear, nor hearts to understand, to this day." Does ascribing the whole of our salvation to the grace of God dishonour Moses, who has cursed, and still accuses every soul that breaks his law, and yet cleaves to it for life? Or is there any other way of exalting Moses, or ourselves, as God's servants, but by bowing down the mean man, humbling the haughty, and exalting the Lord of Hosts alone, seeing he only is to be exalted in gospel days? "They that honour me, will I honour; but those that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."
'The only rule of life is included in the law.' Query; Can you point the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, repentance toward God, justification by imputation, regeneration by the Spirit, worshipping the Trinity in spirit and in truth, self-denial, a daily cross, walking in newness of life, serving in the newness of the Spirit, and going to God by a new and living way which he hath consecrated through the vail of Christ's flesh: I say, can these things be made plain from the ten commandments? Does God promise to give grace and glory in or by that dispensation? Or is the shining path of the just discovered by blackness and darkness; or by looking with open face, and beholding', as in a glass, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?
'I would as soon let the Pope get into my pulpit, as a man that says the law is not a rule of 'life.' Query; Would you not, then, exclude the Saviour, and all his apostles, from your pulpit; and all the ministers of the Spirit who speak as the oracles of God? Do any of these send the believer to the law of Moses for their only rule to live, to walk, and to work by? Would not this doctrine have kept them halting between two opinions? Can the believer's thoughts be established by this? Has not God divided the world into two classes, children of the flesh, and children of the promise? Are not the children of the flesh under the law, and those of the promise under grace? If the law speaks only to those who are under the law, does not the gospel speak to the heirs of promise who are under grace? If the law is a rule of life to the bond child, This do, and thou shalt live; is not the law of faith the believer's rule, seeing he that believes has life, and shall never die; and as many as walk according to this rule, mercy on them, and peace, and upon the Israel of God? Is there any thing that the law requires which the promise does not give? Is there any thing by God's commanding will required, that his will of promise, called the good pleasure of his will, does not work in us? Does God's willingness to shew his wrath on the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, as revealed in thick darkness, bring any better tidings to sinners' ears than the good-will of him that dwelt in the bush; and who has since proclaimed from heaven, by his angels, glory to himself in the highest, on earth peace, and good-will towards men in the law of faith? The law of faith respects all, implies all, includes all, and fulfils all. There is nothing revealed in the law that faith is not obedient to; there is nothing required in the law that the law of faith doth not furnish the believer with. God's will of commandments reveals him "willing to shew his wrath, and make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath," Rom. ix. 22. "But this is the will of him that sent me," says the Saviour, "that whosoever seeth the Son, and believeth on him, might not perish, but have everlasting life," for it is not the will of our Father, which is in heaven, that one of these little ones, in faith, should perish. Here is God's will, and my rule; and it may truly be called the believer's only rule of life, for life everlasting accompanies this rule, and all who walk according to it.
'We have got some in our day who say the 'law is not a rule of life. For my part, I not how such men read their Bibles: I read that, without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.' Query; But does holiness come by the law? Are we sanctified thereby? Those who stick to the law are clew in their own eyes; but are they washed from their filthiness? They justify themselves; but, are they just before God? Can they be holy without being sanctified by the Holy Ghost? "And he that ministereth the Spirit, doth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" Is not the Holy Ghost the Spirit of promise? Does he go forth from Mount Sinai, or Mount Zion? Does he come by the law, or by the gospel? Are any cleansed but by the Saviour's blood? Is there any heart purified but by faith? Is it not by the exceeding great and precious promises that we are made partakers of the divine nature? Are not the sons of God made partakers of the Spirit of Adoption? Does not God chasten such for their profit, that they may be partakers of his holiness? And does not this all come from the ministration of the Spirit, which exceeds in glory? "For the ministration of death had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth; for if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious."
These are some of the weighty sentences which have at different times been thrown out against me, and the doctrine that God himself hath taught me. And it is evident they have confuted nothing, cleared nothing; nor hath any thing been established by this buffoonery, nor ever will; for Truth hath declared, that those who turn aside to vain jangling, desiring to be teachers of the law, know not what they say, nor whereof they affirm; and this chain of quotations is a sufficient proof of it. I shall now leave the priest, and speak to the people; or, drop a word to the reader.
Courteous and Christian Reader,
I LITTLE thought that, for dropping a single sentence from the pulpit, I should have been loaded with so much reproach, and have been led forth into so long a controversy; but we read of some who make a man an offender for a word, even when the poor and needy speaketh right. But, blessed be God, all that has been written or said has never in the least brought my mind over to long for Padan-aram, the land of Egypt, or for a second journey through the Wilderness of Sin. My face is still toward Mount Gilead; the land of Canaan; and Mount Zion, so beautiful for situation, hence called the joy of the whole earth: for I am persuaded that these are still in my road; knowing that those who are saved shall view the house of Isaac, see the land that is very far off, and inquire the way to Zion' with their faces thitherward.
I have as yet seen nothing in the writings, nor heard any thing from the pulpit, nor seen any thing in the life of my opponents, that has in the least influenced my mind to incline toward the yoke of bondage, but quite the reverse; and I bless God that he has not in the least permitted my soul to wander from the truth, in order to follow them in stumbling upon the dark mountains; but, contrariwise, all that they have said has drove me closer to Christ, and farther and farther into the mystery of faith. And I do in reality believe, that this controversy has been intended, under God, to make me search the covenant of grace more closely, and to bring forth those truths which are so contrary to flesh and blood, and so despicable in the eyes of the unconverted. And I must confess that I am greatly indebted to my numerous opposers for their close pursuit of me; for, had they let me alone, I never had, in this my pilgrimage, seen the beauty of the everlasting covenant, as I now see it; nor the rich displays of grace, as they now appear, especially in the muddy glass of my opponents' ignorance.
The law of God, so often mentioned in holy writ, as written on the hearts of his chosen people, is the covenant of grace, the mystery of faith, the new covenant, or the everlasting gospel, which is so little understood in this our day; and all the happy partakers thereof are under the grace of God, which shall reign, through righteousness, to eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.
There are five things, reader, which will make thee and me fruitful, and acceptable, even when it shall be made manifest that the kingdom of God is not in word; and these are, an union with the true and living Vine; a confidence in the blood and righteousness of the Saviour; the dominion of grace reigning through righteousness; the promise of God that we shall bring forth fruit in old age; and the certainty of the Holy Ghost abiding with us for ever,
Also, take no heed, reader, unto all the words that are spoken, for a vain jangler utters diverse vanities: but search the Scriptures for thyself; and they will inform thee concerning the two covenants, that of grace, and that of works; God's will of commandments, and his will of promise. God's will is man's rule: the former is a rule for the servant, and the slave; the latter is a rule for the son, and the heir. The servant must work and walk by the former, in order to get his wages, which is reckoned of debt; for it is the will of God that he should do those things, if he will enter into life. The latter is God's good will to the son; and the penitent son that obeyed, and went into the vineyard, did the will of his Father, Matt. xxi. 31. "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, which is in heaven," saith Christ, "the same is my mother, and sister, and brother."
To the servant God calls himself a Master; but to the son he calls himself a Father. "A son honoureth his Father, and a servant his Master. If, then, I be a Father, where is mine honour? and if I be a Master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of Hosts." If this be the case, reader, is not the Master's will the servant's rule? Let the Master's commanding will be resisted, or not obeyed or complied with, the place is lost, and the wages too, "for the servant abideth not in the house ever, but the son abideth ever." And is not the good-will of the father the son's rule, as hath been before proved; which is called our heavenly Father's will; his good will; the mystery of the Father's will, made known; the good pleasure of his will, which lie fulfils in us, and the work of faith with power? Henceforth Christ calls us not servants, "for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." Thou seest, reader, that the servant knows not this mystery of our heavenly Father's will: he is not acquainted with this rule; only sons and friends are entrusted with these secrets; God's secret is with them that fear him, and them only; and he shews them his covenant.
It is for want of knowledge in this mystery that thou hearest so much cavilling for the law being the only rule of life. They may have some knowledge of it literally and grammatically, but not spiritually nor experimentally. The natural man discerns not the things of the Spirit, nor does he know the power: therefore they do err, not knowing the Scriptures, which are spiritual, nor the power of God. If the law of Moses be the believer's only rule of life, the gospel has no rule at all: so they make God's good-will, which is the law of faith, a mere nothing; and so the life, walk, and work of faith, is no obedience at all; for there is neither will, law, nor rule, to be obeyed. Surely these good men do not exalt Jesus at the expense of Moses, but they exalt Moses at the expense of Jesus: for our King, Sovereign, Lawgiver, and Ruler, has left us no rule to live by; though the man that does the will of our Father which is in heaven shall enter into his kingdom; while the servant that comes with "Lord! Lord! open to us!" shall be shut out.
Christ's voice is to his sheep, and everlasting life attends it. His sheep hear his voice, and follow him; and such shall enter into life, for he is the way, the truth, and the life. On the other hand, whatsoever the law saith, it saith to them that are under it: and this way to heaven by works seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. This is not the voice of Christ, but the voice of words: nor is it the new and living Way that God has consecrated, but the contrary. Nor is the old cry, 'The law is the only rule of life,' Christ's voice, nor any thing like it; it belongs to the old wives' fables, not to the lively oracles of God by Christ Jesus.
Satan has gained a deal of ground by the repeated cry, 'The law is the only rule of a believer's life.' It has served to keep many seeking sinners in chains; and to blind some discerning people, who have been so hoodwinked by the old veil, that a little dry morality will suffice. It has armed legions of light, trifling professors, with malice, and matter for slander; so that, as soon as a gospel minister brings forth the mystery of faith, it is blasphemed, and loaded with the name of black Antinomianism; and the preacher of it is viewed as first cousin to Simon Magus. By these means the bond servant keeps the pulpit, and the devil the palace; for Satan knows there is no fear of truth gaining ground upon the heart and affections while it is ridiculed and blasphemed. If this is not rebelling against the light, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace, what is? The gospel is set forth as having no sufficient rule, Christ is divested of his sovereignty, the old law as the better covenant, and Moses as worthy of more honour than. Jesus: his ambassadors are represented as encouragers of vice, and the truths of the everlasting gospel as leading to licentiousness; and what can the devil himself do or say more?
I have in this little piece endeavoured to furnish thee, reader, with a few arguments, that thou mayest have somewhat to answer them that glory in appearance, but not in heart. Love thou the truth, and peace: and be not dismayed and terrified at every minister of confusion; such must come, but God will bring every work into judgment. If a preacher holds not the mystery of faith in a pure conscience, you know he has nothing to recommend him to the excellent of the earth: such always will be battering the middle wall, and warping to the flesh, and to the law; contending for no other holiness than a fair shew in the flesh, an outward reformation; dealing in general terms; drawing no line between the elect and reprobate, saint and sinner; obscuring the great truths of the gospel; dealing in invitations; speaking well of the erroneous, and ridiculing the just; aiming to affect and move the passions; coveting the name and applause of a gentleman of candid and liberal sentiments, and giving up nine doctrines of the Bible out of ten in order to gain it. But this is not rightly dividing the word of truth, nor doing the work of an evangelist; no real conversion work goes on here; God sets not his seal to this; this is not taking forth the vile from the precious, nor being valiant for truth; it is walking in craftiness, and handling the word of God deceitfully; and so it will appear when the great and terrible day of the Lord comes, in which he will "render his anger with fury, and his rebukes with flames of fire." The canting applause of hypocrites will be no shelter from that storm, nor armour proof sufficient to repel the force of those flames.
Take heed how, and what yon hear; anti, if a man hath not the doctrine of Christ, Truth declares that he hath not God: receive him not, neither into your heart, nor into your house, nor bid him God speed. Let others justify him, and caress him, as they may; be not thou a partaker of other men's sins; nor entail his evil deeds on thy head, by wishing him success.
Prize your liberty, and stand fast in it. If thou art a son of the free woman, with a great sum thou didst obtain this freedom; freedom from the bondage and curse of the law; freedom from the reigning and destroying power of sin; freedom of access to a throne of grace; freedom to call God Father; freedom of speech, and freedom of soul. Troth hath made thee free, therefore love the truth; the Spirit hath made thee free, therefore walk in the Spirit; Christ hath made thee free, and thou art free indeed. And may God bless thee with the. joys of his salvation, and uphold thee with his free Spirit; and then thou wilt say with truth and wisdom, what many have uttered in falsehood and ignorance, namely, that God's service is perfect freedom.
But, if thou once turn thy back upon the truth, thou hast neither shield nor buckler. He who keeps the Word of Christ's patience shall be kept from the hour of temptation. He that erreth from the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead. The prudent are crowned with knowledge; and they must hold fast that which they have, that no man take their crown. It is not candour that secures the prize, but faithfulness. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
The son and heir is not to be debased, nor reduced to a level with the bastard and the slave; nor is the servant to be exalted to a footing with the son. The son, who is lord of all, differs much from him: for he is not now under tutors and governors; for the time appointed of the Father is come, and the Spirit of adoption is given, Gal. iv. 2, 6. The son is not to wear the servant's yoke, nor is the easy yoke of the son to be applied to the servant. This is not rightly dividing 'the word. God hath mercy on whom he will have mercy; and this will of mercy is the good-will of God in Christ concerning his sons and daughters; it is the heavenly Father's will revealed, and is our rule. I will, and you shall, runs through the whole mystery of faith: it is his will of purpose, and his will of promise; and is the saint's perfect, unalterable, and eternal rule of life, walk, and conversation.
And whom God will he hardeneth. This is his will of commandments; by which he will by no means clear the guilty, but will make his power known on the vessels of wrath. This, will, never humbled or softened any sinner, nor does his good will ever harden any. This is the servant's rule of life, and rule of work for life, by which none can ever live: "Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live," Ezek. xx. 25.
When my opponents can make God's will of promise and his Will of commandments, his good will in Christ anti his will of displeasure in the law, his will of mercy and his will of judgment, the Saviour's easy yoke and Moses' unbearable yoke, the covenant of grace and that of works, the killing letter and the quickening Spirit, to be one and the same thing�then the elect and reprobate, the child of God and the child of the devil, are made one also. And, when this is done, all my rank Antinomianism is confuted, and scattered into all winds. Which is just as easy to be done, as to unite the two poles; bring Christ and Belial, the family of heaven and hell, together: God's good-will fixes the one in heaven, and his will of judgment fixes the other in hell.
Reader, fare thee well. Grace, mercy, and peace, be with thee. And, when it is well with thee, remember me in prayer, That I may speak of the glory of Christ's kingdom, and talk of the power; "to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom," Psalm cxlv. 11, 12; and thou wilt greatly oblige thy willing servant, in the kingdom and patience of Christ,
P.S. When the last piece on this subject appeared in the World, two young men, fearing to read it, laid it before God, and entreated him to convince them whether it contained the truth or not, that they might either embrace or reject it; and, after earnest prayer, they ventured to look into it, but proceeded with caution, as a man would over a bog. As God would have it, neither of them tumbled in; but they plunged, out of their bondage into that love, peace, and liberty, which they never enjoyed before. I wish every reader of this pamphlet would go and do likewise. There are no better appeals than those which are made to the Searcher of hearts; nor is there any fear of false or evasive answers from a throne of grace: a trial there is sure to discover the rottenness or soundness of the author.