A Letter to the Rev. Caleb Evans, M.A.
MASTER OF THE SEMINARY AT BRISTOL,
Having read and considered the circular letter drawn up by you, read and approved by the Association met at Horsley, in Gloucestershire, July 3rd and 4th, 1789; and finding myself, and some doctrines which I believe to be true, levelled at; I have presumed to make a few remarks on the performance; and humbly inscribe them to your Name, and submit them to your perusal. You inform us;
'There are two extremes in religion, which are too often fallen into by Christian professors, against which we think it our duty to guard you. The one is fiery, ungovernable, ill-natured zeal and bigotry; and the other, cold indifference. Tempers of mind which are both of them highly dishonourable to God and religion, and very injurious to our own souls.'
Pray, Sir, did you ever see or hear of any man that ever fell into more fiery, ungovernable, ill-natured zeal, bigotry, and I add, wrath and indignation, too, against any mortal living, than Mr. Evans fell into and discovered against William Huntington, when he preached at Bristol? And, pray, what provoked him? Nothing in the doctrine that he could overthrow; nor in the life of the preacher, that he could condemn. It must have been the crowded audience, and the power of God, that kindled his indignation: and, if so, his hatred had no other cause than that which the world may plead against the sovereign grace of God. Example, Sir, goes before precept. When thou teachest another, teachest thou not thyself also? He who binds a burden on other men's shoulders should touch it first with his own finger. The man who gets into Moses's chair, and bids others observe his precepts, while they are obliged to shun his works, exposes himself to the old taunting proverb, Physician, heal thyself.
'Let those who are in danger of the first of these evils remember the words of our divine Master to his disciples, when they were for calling for fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans; Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of! You think, perhaps, as though our Lord had said, that you are actuated only by zeal for me and my honour, but you are really influenced by a spirit of pride and self-importance. And is not this too often the case with fiery zealots now? Come, see my zeal! says Jehu; but self was at the bottom, and his zeal was more for his own glory than that of the Lord of Hosts. It is good to be always zealously affected in a good thing; but we should take heed that our zeal do not degenerate into rancour; and that we do not violate the mild and benevolent spirit of the gospel, under the plausible pretence of zeal for the truths of it.'
There is nothing upon earth that staggers me more than the consciences of some professing men. Had I been left to myself to discover in the pulpit such malice and indignation against any man, that I believed in my conscience to be a child of God, as Mr. Evans did against me, I could no more have sent such a paragraph as this into the world, than I could have expected to be saved without pardon, or hope for heaven without grace. My conscience would have condemned me for hypocrisy in every line, and made me lay down my pen: and so would yours, if she had done her office; and, as she did not, these smooth things of yours betray no small degree of insensibility, distance from God, and hardness of heart. Did you remember the words of your divine Master? Did you know what spirit you were of? Was you not influenced by a spirit of pride and self-importance, like Jehu? Was not self at the bottom? And was not your zeal and malice for your own glory, instead of the glory of the Lord of Hosts, when you fell, like lightning from heaven, upon the person, ministry, and reputation, of the coalheaver? Do you not, Sir, condemn your conduct by your own pen, and expose yourself to the judgment of the Lord out of your own mouth? For you can shew no just cause or impediment why I should fall under all your degenerate rancour, and be finally, excluded from the mild and benevolent spirit of the gospel, that you contend for, under your plausible zeal for the truths of it.
'But oh! beware of the opposite fatal extreme of cold indifference. Let no pretence of charity betray you into an indifference to truth. Load not with anathemas those that differ from you about what is truth, but do not give them reason to despise you for your indifference to what you profess to receive as truth. Without pretending to judge the state of any individual who does not receive as truth that which you do, you cannot slight or be indifferent about truth itself, any one known truth, without offering the highest insult to the God of truth, and precluding yourselves from those important advantages which those who receive it in the love of it are sure to derive from it.'
It is a good thing, Sir, to guard the saints against a cold indifference; but the doctrine of this letter will never stir up the hallowed fire of a lukewarm professor. Nothing can warm a cold heart, rekindle an expiring spark, or inflame the smoking flax, but a spiritual union with him who is Israel's holy flame, and Zion's refiner's fire. All fire that is not fetched from this altar will prove but sparks of our own kindling. You enforce heat without union: "If two lie together, they have heat; but how can one be warm alone?" When Jesus communes with us by the way, and opens to us the Scriptures, then it is that our hearts burn within us: but you are calling for warmth without union, communion, or fellowship; and, to tell you the truth, reverend Sir, this letter of yours is as much influenced by the climate of the frigid zone as any heart ever was in the Laodicean church of old. I would advise you, therefore, to procure a live coal from the altar first yourself: it is that which makes a minister a flaming fire; and, when a burning and a shining light is set on the candlestick, it will give a light to all that are in the house, and set the smoking flax in a flame. There is no communicating the sweet influences of Pleiades without removing the frozen bands of Orion, Job xxxviii. 31.
Seven times, in this short quotation, you enforce the word, truth. But pray, Sir, what is truth? A sevenfold knowledge, communicated by the promised light of seven days, Isa. xxx, ,26, will keep a saint from indifference about the truth. The first is, a cordial reception, in meekness, of the ingrafted word of truth, with a persuasion that it is in deed and in truth the word of God; being attended with the spirit and power of truth, who sheds abroad in the heart the everlasting love of the God of truth, which sweetly draws the soul to him that is the way to the Father, the truth of the bible, and the life of the saint; and all this accompanied with the true witness of the Spirit, in the court of conscience, that such a happy soul is justified, adopted, and sealed up by the Spirit of God to the day of eternal redemption; having the knowledge of the true God, which is eternal life. This is truth in the abstract, truth in the heart, and in the head; in the power of it, in the light of it, and in the experience of it, in the love of it, and in the enjoyment of it. If you do not discover and enforce the powerful application and operation of the Spirit of truth upon the hearts, minds, and consciences of men, as well as the word, how shall we know a true preacher of the kingdom of God, which is in power, from a mere pretender to it, who endeavours to make it stand in word? You know, reverend Sir, that Balaam prophesied truth, while he was united to the father of lies, in the very bond of iniquity: and others did the same in the apostles' days; on which account Paul calls, not for the speech of them that are puffed up, but the power; for the kingdom of God is not in word.
'Is the gospel a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, and shall we receive it as though it were of no importance whether we receive it or not? Shall we pretend to receive it, and yet scarcely think it worthy an inquiry what it is, what truth it contains, what hopes it inspires, what prospects it opens? Are there heresies which, without rashly pronouncing upon any individual who may fall into them, are in their nature and general tendency destructive, and shall we not be anxious to discover and avoid them? Are there truths revealed which are the wisdom of God, and the power of God unto salvation, and shall we not be desirous to know, embrace them, and feel the energy of them working in us?'
Shall we receive the gospel as though it were of no importance? &c. This Shall we, Shall we not, savours too much of the old cask. Arguments, bottomed on the old foundation, and enforced by the energy of free-will, never do any execution like those that are discharged from God's quiver. When you have spent all the forcible weapons of free-agency, then make use of a few from the sovereign and absolute will of God, and you will soon make way through the joints of the sinner's harness. A hardened sinner, or careless professor, will esteem such artillery as straw; and a brazen brow will repel them as rotten wood. If the reinforcements of free-agency had served you as they did Peter, we should have had a pure language from you, like that of the true circumcision, who rejoice in Christ, and have no confidence in the flesh. It is for want of being emptied from vessel to vessel that so much of the old lees appears in the cup: and for want of the springing well in the heart, the dregs of the old fountain make the streams run turbid: that which flows from the fountain of life through the throne of God and the Lamb, is clear as crystal, and may well be compared to a sea of glass, because it discovers every spot or wrinkle, both in body and soul; and so you would have said, if you had looked through it, as Paul, Daniel, and Job, did. The first was struck blind; the second had all his comeliness turned to corruption; and the last abhorred himself, and repented in dust and ashes.
Are there truths revealed which are the wisdom of God, and power of God unto salvation? And shall we not be desirous to know, embrace them, and feel the energy of them working in us?
The gospel, which testifies of Christ, who is the wisdom of God, and the power of God to salvation, is certainly revealed; but you will never desire to feel the energy of it working in you with a holy desire, until you are quickened by the Holy Ghost to feel the need of it. The dead, unawakened, unalarmed sinner, bids God depart from him, and tells him he desires not the knowledge of his ways. I cannot conceive how a man can be a minister of Christ, if he never experimentally knew, nor was ever quickened to feel, this energetic power of truth working in him. Can a man be a minister of the gospel who never embraced it? Can he be a minister of the Spirit without being endued with power from on high, by receiving the Holy Ghost? Does a desire to know, embrace, and feel this energy, make an Evangelist? I suppose not. It is not a desire after these things that makes a minister of Christ, or a member of Christ: it is the desire accomplished that is sweet to the soul; and it is that sweetness that makes a man both a member and a minister. He must eat Ezekiel's roll before he can handle the law lawfully, Ezek. 1; and digest John's little book, Rev. x. 9, before he can preach the gospel evangelically. Without knowing, embracing, and feeling this energy, a preacher is no more than a mere impostor; and a member is no better than a withered branch, or an active hypocrite.
'Are there those who hold the truth in unrighteousness, believe a lie, and receive the gospel of the grace of God in vain, and shall not we take heed to ourselves, lest we fall into so awful a condemnation? Are there any of you, brethren, either with respect to principle or practice, sinking into lukewarmness and indifference? Suffer us to sound an alarm amongst you. How long halt ye betwixt two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; but if Baal, follow him.'
If a man holds the truth in unrighteousness, or receives the gospel notionally into his judgment, while he remains in an unjustified state, the father of lies has certainly the possession of his heart; yet it is the truth, not a lie, that he is said to hold: nor will a hypocrite's taking heed prevent this awful end. Some are before of old ordained to this condemnation, Special grace and good heed always go together: it is the gracious man that takes heed to his ways.
'Are there any of you, brethren, either with respect to principle or practice, sinking into lukewarmness and indifference? Suffer us to sound an alarm amongst you. How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; but if Baal, follow him.'
Are lukewarmness and indifference two opinions? Can either of these be called opinions or sentiments? And can any man be persuaded in his mind that either of these your opinions is God? Are not lukewarmness and indifference one and the same thing? And are they not rather fleshly and devilish sensations than opinions? And which of these two opinions is God? If lukewarmness be God, we are to follow that; but if indifference be God, we must follow that. Lukewarmness and indifference are neither God nor Baal. These might as well be called carnal ease or sloth as opinions, and sensations instead of principles; and as to people's holding lukewarmness in practice, they rather hold it in death; for such souls, with respect to religion, are motionless. Away with Morpheus! and away with Baal! God never slumbers nor sleeps; nor is Satan ever idle. You have sounded an alarm, indeed! and an uncertain sound it is; and who shall prepare for the battle? For you have not told us which of these opinions is God, nor which we are to follow; and therefore we must go halting on, until you sound a second alarm, which, it is to be hoped, will be more clear, and give a more sure warning. I perceive there is a deal of difference between divinity distilled at a seminary, and that which is drawn from the alembic of an experienced, savoury, unctuous heart. But we must go on,..
'Surely it is high time for us all, ministers and people, to awake out of sleep, to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, to hold fast the form of sound words in a spirit of gospel meekness and love, to become valiant for the truth, and to direct our constant, warmest zeal, to the promotion of truth and holiness. Is not the enemy busy sowing tares? And shall we sleep? Shall we be less zealous in sowing good seed?'
It is certainly high time to awake out of sleep, when the alarm has been sounded; and it is absolutely necessary to tell the people which of your opinions is God, that they may know which to follow when they have bestirred themselves; and whether this imaginary deity be talking, and must be attended to; or pursuing, and must be joined with; or on a journey, and must be waited for; or peradventure in a sleep, and need an alarm to wake him, as well as the people. You have alarmed them, and called them forth to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; but have not told them which of your opinions is the object of faith; nor have you given any account of the Spirit of faith, the doctrines of faith, or the grace of faith, flowing from either of those opinions. They are to hold fast the form of sound words; which we must look a little farther for, for as yet we have found but few sound words, less sound divinity, and but little sound sense. Sound words are like nails fastened by the Master of assemblies, given forth from one Shepherd; and they must come to the heart in power, in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, to make a sound divine. Such souls, and only such, will hold the form of sound words, or keep the good thing committed to them by the Holy Ghost, which dwelleth in them. Telling people to be valiant for the truth, and to direct their warmest zeal in the promotion of truth and holiness, without sending them to the Lord Jesus for strength, armour, and fortitude, and for mercy and grace to help them in every time of need, is acting like an Egyptian taskmaster demanding brick without straw; and telling them to direct their warmest zeal, without sending them to the altar of fire, and pointing out that wisdom and arm of power that has promised to direct their work in truth, and hold them up in their goings, is only setting them to beat the air. You should, Sir, have set the Saviour before them, who is the truth, and made of God sanctification to his people; and enforce the necessity of the Spirit of truth, who sanctifies the elect, and makes them meet for the inheritance of the saints in
'Is not the enemy busy in sowing tares? and shall we sleep? Shall we be less zealous in sowing good seed?'
If the seedsman has nothing to encourage him, but this Shall we, Shall not we, he will soon fall asleep in the field. It is God that gives seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; and that sends the seedsman forth, instructs him to discretion, teaches him, and works with him. All this comes forth, not from We, nor from Shall we, but from the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working. When the Egyptians wept to Pharaoh for bread for their household, and seed for their ground, he sent them to Joseph; and you should send them to Christ, not to themselves. We, is not the Trinity; nor is, Shall we, the will of God. His powerful will must influence our Shall, or we shall do but little good.
'The two grand objects of your zeal should be truth and holiness, the one rising up out of the other, and both inseparably connected together.'
I think the grand object of a saint's zeal should be the glory of God. "Phinehas was zealous for my sake," saith Jehovah: "He was zealous for his God," Nor does holiness rise up out of truth. God is holiness and truth; Christ is the Holy One and the truth; the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of truth and holiness; and God's word is true and holy. "Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth." Truth and holiness come to the elect together, and both spring up and influence the life and conversation of the saint together. Truth comes to the elect in power, in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; and they spring up together. Holiness does not rise up out of truth, and leave truth at the bottom: holiness always takes truth with it; and, whether as an abiding principle or an influential power, they always abide or act in connexion.
'There are some who are for ever dwelling, in a dry, systematic, jejune, unedifying manner, upon what they call the doctrines of the gospel; but the spirit, the life, the power of the gospel, they are strangers to. And accordingly you will find such congregations, for the most part, made up, not of humble, godly, spiritual, active, useful, benevolent Christians; but of sour, ill-natured, carping, conceited bigots, and subtle casuists; no more, in their spirit and temper, like their blessed Master, than the gloom of midnight is like the beauty and splendour of the cheerful opening day.'
If this Letter had contained any thing like the pure doctrines of the gospel, I should have thought the author had been writing against himself; for this is as dry, unsystematic, jejune, unedifying, an epistle, as ever I perused in my life; there is neither spirit, life, nor power, in it. A good man's heart is generally known by the good treasure that comes from it, and a spiritual man by the spiritual fruit that he bears; but who can say that this Letter is either weighty or powerful, without belying his conscience, and giving flattering titles to the author? How can a people be humble, godly, spiritual, active, useful, or benevolent, when they have nothing to work upon but a miscarrying womb, nor any thing set before them but a dry breast? A false gift, saith the wise man, is like a cloud without rain; it can only disappoint the thirsty and dry land. If the preacher be humble, godly, spiritual, active, useful, and benevolent, the flock will partake of his grace; it will be, Like people, like priest: but, if he be an instrument without life, what can they be but a congregation of the dead? Dropping such dry fragments as these upon a lifeless people, is like committing the body to the ground; it is the dead burying the dead. A congregation made up of sour, ill-natured, carping, conceited bigots, and subtle casuists, no more, in spirit and temper, like their blessed Master than midnight gloom is like the cheerful day, can never belong to Christ. How then can the Saviour be the blessed Master of such a herd as this, who have no likeness to him, either in spirit or in temper? No more like him than midnight gloom is like the cheerful opening day. If a people he not at all like Christ, they can have nothing of his image; if not at all like him in spirit, they cannot be partakers of his Spirit; and, "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Then how can he be the blessed Master of such? And, if no more like. him than midnight gloom is to the opening day, they cannot be children of the day, nor children of light: they must be children of the night, and of darkness; they are subjects of the devil's kingdom, never being delivered from the powers of darkness, nor translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son.
Others, again, through an apparent zeal for holiness, too much seem to neglect the grand, leading, heart-reviving doctrines of the gospel, and insist upon nothing but duty and obligation. They erect a superstructure without a foundation to support it. They seek for fruit without making good the tree that is to bear it. They expect the end without duly using the means: they might as well seek grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles. The doctrines of the gospel must be explained, understood, and applied to your hearts by the good Spirit of God, before. you can bring forth fruit unto God, or shew forth his praise. Truth and holiness are what God hath joined together, and we should never, therefore, think of putting them asunder.'
This looks a little like sound doctrine; this is not so much tainted with the old cask as the greatest part is. There can be no true holiness, either in heart or life, till the soul-reviving doctrines of the gospel are applied to the heart by the Holy Ghost; nor can the superstructure go up on our most holy faith till faith mix with the word, and love unite the living stone to the glorious foundation. Insisting upon nothing but duty and obligation, enforcing moral duties, and bringing believing souls under an obligation to the yoke of bondage, as their only rule of life, is making them obligated and indebted to the law, and to the works of it, instead of the grace of God: whereas we know that we are debtors to grace, and are to be saved to the praise of his grace; and he will display the riches of it, even in glory, by Jesus Christ. But these are not the means which God hath appointed to obtain the glorious end: grace begins the work at first, and makes them meet to be partakers of the inheritance at last. I send thee, Paul, says the Saviour, "to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified, by faith that is in me." Here we have deliverance from blindness of mind, and from the devil himself; forgiveness of all our sins, the glorious inheritance, and sanctification, or a meetness for it, also; and all this by faith that is in Christ. Driving believers to the law, and setting that continually before them as their only rule of life; insisting upon nothing but dry duty and obligation; is building a superstructure without a foundation, as you justly observe, because it is drawing souls from an union with the foundation that God has laid in Zion, in order to gender their minds with the rock of Horeb. It is, as you assert, seeking fruit without making the tree good; and expecting a glorious end by means of the law, instead of making use of the means of grace. And they may as well expect grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles, as any fruit in that legal way of duty and obligation, to the moral law. The doctrines of the gospel must be explained, understood, and applied to the heart by the powerful Spirit of God, before any fruit can be brought forth to his glory; and the sinner must he created anew in Christ Jesus, and be a vessel formed for the Lord, before he can shew forth his praise: and this new creation consists in being renewed in knowledge; it is a new creation in Christ, a creation after his image, in righteousness and true holiness. He, therefore, who has a savoury, experimental knowledge, of God, has the righteousness of faith on him, and the Holy Ghost in him, and he is a new creature; "and as many as walk according to this rule," that is, who walk in the light of the knowledge of God, in the faith of his righteousness, and in the Spirit, they walk in newness of life, "mercy on them, and peace, and upon the Israel of God." Truth and holiness are to be found in such souls, and in no other. This last quotation, Sir, is a morsel of tolerably well-worded Antinomianism.
'It is lamentable to observe how much the progress of the gospel is obstructed by those who profess the greatest zeal for the advancement and spread of it. We confess, brethren, we cannot witness without a kind of secret horror the shocking manner in which the gospel is mutilated, tortured, and disfigured, by the Socinians on the one hand, and debased and put to open shame by the Antinomians on the other. May God help you in the Spirit of Christ to bear your steady testimony against both.'
It is lamentable, Sir, to see such men as the Socinians labouring so hard against the only Rock of salvation; and exerting all their parts, abilities, learning, time, and talents, to lava foundation for their hope in the dust: for, if the Saviour be not the self-existent, independent, and eternal Jehovah, he cannot redeem his brethren, nor pay a ransom to God for them. Vain is the salvation of man: no man can quicken his own soul. Trust not in man, saith the Lord; no: in the son of man, in whom there is no help. He who denies the divinity of Christ, and yet calls him a Saviour, and puts his trust in him, is cursed of God for making flesh his arm; and he who trusts in absolute, unincarnate Deity, flies to a consuming fire, and makes his bed in hell. The new and living Way is consecrated through the veil of his flesh, and it is only within that veil that hope can find an anchorage. Denying the Saviour to be God, is charging the family of heaven and earth with idolatry; and God with being the author of it, who has expressly commanded the angels of heaven, and the daughters of Zion, to worship his first-begotten. And, if he be not God to all intents and purposes, all are cursed by the eternal law who have obeyed the divine mandate, in falling down and worshipping him. But though the Socinian's neck cannot submit to the sceptre of Christ's grace, yet the time shall come when every knee shall bow to the iron rod of his justice: all that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him, and his enemies shall lick the dust; those generations of vipers shall share in the Serpent's doom.
But, is it not more strange, Sir, that we hear of Socinians and Arians bearing the title of Doctors of Divinity? If Christ be not God, it could not be the Spirit of him in Noah, and in all the prophets and apostles, that penned the Bible; and, if he be not God, the Scriptures cannot testify of him, nor can his word be spirit mid life. If the author be no more than a creature, the doctrine can only be natural. If' the author be not divine, the doctrine cannot be divinity. Then what becomes of D. D. Doctor of Divinity? It falls to the ground, and makes room for N. N, Natural Novice, or Novice of Nature. However, they fulfil the Scriptures as well as others. Some are of old ordained to this condemnation; some shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. The wise are to be caught in their own craftiness; false prophets must come; and strong delusions are to be sent, and credited, that all may be damned who oppose the truth, and take pleasure in unrighteousness. The prescience of God is the seal of the sure foundation; the elect shall never be finally deceived, nor can they ever be lost. It is lamentable to see such blasphemous heresies published; yet the lamentation, mourning, and wo, is the heritage appointed to such heretics; it is to be the portion of their own cup.
But, as to their torturing and disfiguring the gospel, the gospel still remains what it ever was. The crafty systems that are distilled from their brains is no more like the law of faith than the Alcoran is like the book of life. The everlasting Gospel will remain in the hand of the Spirit, and in the heart of the elect, to be the power of God to salvation, to the end of time; and will shine like the sun, without any adulteration or disfiguration, when Arians and Socinians are gone to their place; having filled up their measure, and brought on themselves the swift destruction denounced against all who deny the Lord that bought them.
What you have said, Sir, against the Socinian, is just: but it is not enough- to insist upon an "acknowledgment of the mystery of God; and of the Father, and of Christ," Col. ii. 2; but upon the experience and enjoyment of "the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost." This must be known and felt by every soul that enters the kingdom of God. Destitute of this, sinners are without God, without Christ, and without hope in the world: they are earthly, sensual, and devilish; having not the Spirit; knowing nothing but what they know naturally; and it is at the peril of their souls to take God's covenant in their mouth.
To dispute them out of all their profession, their religion, their assumption of the ministerial office, and out of all claim upon God, Christ, and the word, by calling for their experience, mission, and commission from God, is a more effectual way than following them through the regions of darkness, where Satan appears in the front, his armour-bearer in the centre, and the witness of truth in the rear: whereas the soldier of Christ should stand fast by the standard, and call for a reason of his hope, and the experience that wrought it; and palm him upon the kingdom of Satan if he be destitute of it.
'The Gospel is mutilated, tortured, and disfigured, by the Socinians on the one hand, and debased and put to open shame by the Antinomians on the other. May God help you in the Spirit of Christ, to bear your steady testimony against both!'
I do not know what sort of Antinomians you have got in that part of the country; but, if they debase the gospel, and put it, or Christ, to an open shame, they do despite to the Spirit of grace, are certainly entangled in the great transgression, and must be nigh unto cursing. But some who are called Antinomians in London are quite of another cast: they are charged with exalting Christ at the expense of Moses; instead of exalting him at the good pleasure of God, who hath so highly exalted him, as to give him a name above every name, that of Moses not excepted. Exalting Christ above Moses; contending for the doctrines of the gospel; enforcing the Spirit's work on the soul; and insisting upon good works, springing from union with Christ, the influence of the Spirit, and being performed under the dominion of grace; together with a service in the newness of the Spirit, worship in spirit and in truth; and all this without the works of the law, or even calling it the saint's only rule of life, are the heavy and dreadful charges which are brought in against some who are called Antinomians in London. You charge your sort with debasing the gospel, but, in this metropolis, they are charged with debasing the law, calling the covenant of grace the better covenant, setting the law of faith above the law of Moses, and the works of faith above the works of the law. Moreover, if any preacher dare to assert that the whole of the law's requirements is holiness, righteousness, and love to God and man; for which it promises life; but that it cannot give either life, or any qualifications for it; be is an Antinomian. And, if it be insisted upon that holiness comes by the Spirit; righteousness by imputation; love to God by the Holy Ghost; that they receive everlasting life by faith, which is the gift of God through our Lord Jesus Christ; and that "the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in such who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," then they are said to make void the law through faith. This is the judgment of our London evangelists at present: so that the righteousness of God, and eternal life, revealed in the gospel, applied by the Spirit, and received by faith that worketh by love, does not establish the law; nor is the righteousness of it fulfilled in such souls, but Antinomian leaven has fermented them;
'But, perhaps, we have more reason to guard you against the poisonous influence of a corrupt Antinomian leaven, than the more open attacks of Socinianism. Antinomianism comes to you under the guise of an angel of light, and is therefore the more dangerous. It pretends to exalt the free and sovereign grace of God, to reduce the creature to nothing, and make God and Christ all in all. Now this is very right; The grace of God is free and sovereign; we are all become guilty before God; and it is by grace alone we are saved through faith, not of works, lest any man should boast; But wherein does salvation consist? Is sanctification no part of it? Or, is sanctification not the work of God's ' Spirit in us, as our catechism asserts; but the holiness of Christ imputed to us, as the Antinomians maintain?'
But, according to your judgment, Antinomian leaven, which sets Moses at the foot of Jehovah the Saviour, is worse than the open attacks of Socinianism, which debases him to the level of a creature, if not to that of a vile impostor. This j6leaven comes under the guise of an angel of light, and is the more dangerous; In London, Sir, Antinomianism is called black, rank, devilish, and damnable; and, if it bears those dark colours, it cannot be compared to an angel of light; The legal preachers who brought the Corinthians into bondage, who tried to devour them, took property of them, exalted themselves against them, and smote them, either with the scourge of the tongue or the fist of wickedness, 2 Cor; xi; 20, Paul calls ministers of Satan; and says they were transformed into the likeness of the ministers of Christ, as Satan is into that of an angel of light, 2 Cor. xi; 13, 14.
'It pretends to exalt the free and sovereign grace of God, to reduce the creature to nothing, and make God and Christ all in all;'
If Antinomianism does this, it is from God, and is certainly worthy of a better name. The doctrine that exalts sovereign grace, lays the ax to the root of a proud legalist, his honour in the dust, and makes God and Christ all in all, must be the pure Gospel of Jesus to all intents and purposes; and this you own is right; But this, you say, it pretends to do; If you can condemn either the doctrine or the life of such an Antinomian, have at him, expose him, and down with him; but if you cannot overthrow his doctrine, prove him a liar, nor condemn his life and walk, you must judge of the tree by its fruit, of his faith by his works, take your notions of his heart from his conduct in life, and leave his pretensions, or sincerity, to the searcher of hearts, lest you become, not a doer of the law, but a judge.
Salvation consists both of justification and sanctification, and both are promised: "Thy people shall be all righteous, the work of my hands," and, "I the Lord do sanctify them;" And the Spirit of God, who reveals the righteousness of Christ to faith, sanctifies the believing soul; as It is written, "But ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God;" If any Antinomian denies sanctification by the Spirit of God, he denies a blessed doctrine of the Bible; and the happiness of the saint, which consists of a strong consolation by the Spirit of holiness; and, if he asserts, according to your charge, that the holiness of Christ is imputed to the believer, I think he makes use of an unscriptural phrase; which I shall not take upon me to defend, for I am satisfied with speaking as the oracles of God; I do not remember ever to have read of imputed sanctification: yet it must be allowed that the believer finds both righteousness and sanctification in his Covenant head; Christ is made of God unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; And it is plain, that he by his suffering without the gate, sanctified the people with his own blood;
'But, is it not as much the design of the free ' grace of God in Christ Jesus to purify a peculiar ' people, zealous of good works, as to justify them freely, and magnify the law, and make it honourable, in their justification?'
Wherever the grace of God appears, it teaches men to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world. Gracious souls are not only zealous of good works, but careful to maintain them, for necessary uses. We cannot shew our faith but by them; By our light shining before men, and by their perceiving the works of our faith, is our heavenly Father glorified. This no good Antinomian will ever deny, though some who excel in these things are stiled black Antinomians;
'The promise of the Spirit being the fruit of Christ's mediation, the purchase of his death;'
I do not understand this; nor do I remember that either the promise or the Spirit is ever said to be purchased; We have destroyed ourselves, and in the Lord is our help. We were in captivity, and it was a great ransom that delivered us; We had sold ourselves, and we were redeemed without money; We are bought with a price; and, when our bodies have slept their time in the grave, and the redemption of the body appears, we shall then bear the name of a purchased possession, which is called the redemption of the purchased possession; for the Lord's portion, inheritance, or possession, is his people; and this inheritance he bought, this possession he purchased: but I never read that the promise, or the Spirit, is either bought or sold. Christ ransomed us from captivity, and God gives us the Spirit of adoption; He redeemed us from death, and God gives us the kingdom;
'But, are not these blessings of justification and sanctification, in their nature, essentially different? Is not the one, as our catechism very properly defines it, the act of God's free grace towards us; the other, of God's free grace in us? Is not the one a complete act, the other a progressive work?'
Justification is God's act towards us, sanctification the work of God's grace in us. I do not understand this distinction of act and work, nor do I believe it to be scriptural. We are justified by faith; and it is God who fulfils in us the good pleasure of his will, and the work of faith with power; This is the work of God, that we believe on him whom he hath sent; God brings his righteousness near to the sinner; he imputes it to him, and covers him with it; It is God that justifieth; and this he calls, not his act, but his work: "Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever; the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified;"
'Is not the one a complete act, the other a progressive work?'
I believe all God's work is perfect; nothing can be added to it, to make it more so; nor taken from it, to make it less so: and that the weakest believer who holds the head is God's complete workmanship, and is complete in Christ; though, as considered in the body, he hath not already attained, neither is he already perfect, because he hath not attained unto the resurrection of the dead, Phil; iii; 11, 12. As to sanctification being a progressive work, it is best to consent to the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ, lest we set poor, weak believers, to inquiring how long this progressive work is to be on the wheels, what part of it is wrought, what measure of it is required, and how much remains to be done: and, like Sarah, with her bondwoman, they begin to forward the business by the works of the flesh, instead of lying passive to be worked on: "He that believeth shall not make haste;" but, "he that hasteneth with his feet, sinneth;"
We read of a growth in grace and knowledge, of a building up on our most holy faith, and of growing up into Christ Jesus, and that in all things. This growth ought to be enforced, with- out limiting the work of sanctification to a lingering progress; We may warrantably assert, that sanctification, as well as justification, is God's work, and sometimes an instantaneous work. The thief on the cross was justified, and made meet for paradise, in a few hours; If God cuts short his work in righteousness, he does it in holiness also: "There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days; for the child shall die an hundred years old;" Whom God calls he justifies, sanctifies, and defends: "And he that is feeble among them at that day, shall be as David; and the house of David God, as the angel of the Lord before him." These things will lead the babe in grace to be thankful for what God has done; and teach him to submit to his sovereign will, whether it be for a quick dispatch or a gradual progress;
'Few will deny the necessity of personal holiness and good works; but there are many who,. by their doctrine, degrade both the one and the other, and brand those with legality who express the least concern about them;'
If, by personal holiness, you mean the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in believers, as well s Christ being made sanctification to them in the purpose and covenant of God, you speak right; but, if you mean any kind of holiness, internal or external, which God is not the efficient cause of, it is something in opposition to what is called true holiness, which is either ceremonial or conceited; It is best to leave the word personal out of the question, lest ignorant people deify themselves, as there is none holy but the Lord; and call believers holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, and of the Spirit of Christ; and say, that the bodies of God's saints are the temples of the Holy- Ghost; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them. And whosoever denies this, either in heart, life, or doctrine, is a subject of the devil's kingdom; for, except a man be born again of the Holy Ghost, he cannot see, much less enter into, the kingdom of God.
Surely no good man, by his doctrine, will degrade good works; Good works are things that are profitable unto men; and, as self is the main concern of most men, they seldom degrade those by whom self is profited. "Every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts." But any faithful minister may degrade a mere pretender to good works, as the Saviour did the Pharisees: Whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not after their works, for they say, and do not; If people are branded with legality for expressing .any concern about good works, it is to be feared that they are not so concerned to perform them as they are to express them. Good works are never dumb, nor do they want a trumpeter. Many good works Christ sheaved from his Father, and told the recipients of his mercies to conceal their benefits; but, the more he charged them, the more they spread it abroad. Good works will praise the workman in the gates, without obliging him to sound his own trumpet. He has nothing to do but to go on with his works of faith and labours of love: all who partake of his benefits will bear witness of their benefactor's charity, even before the churches; He who degrades the works of faith is a daring rebel; and he that expresses a concern about them, and never performs, is a varnished hypocrite.
'If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.'
Can any man be in favour, in covenant, and in union with Christ, and not be a new creature? And can any man be a new creature, and be without holiness? And is there any other way of being sanctified, or made holy, than by being made a partaker of Christ, who is our sanctification; and by the Spirit, who renews and sanctifies all that believe? for we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith; Does an external observation of, and conformity to, the letter of the law, perform this Or, do the works of faith, labours of love, and patience of hope, spring from this new creation in Christ, and from the prolific and renewing operations of the Holy Ghost? It is God who creates us anew, sanctifies us, and works in us both to will and to do; and such souls can just as soon live in sin, and without the performance of good works, as the Spirit of God can fail from the elect, or his covenant of promise be broken, which saith, "They shall never cease from yielding fruit;"
'He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not ' his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.'
It is necessary, Sir, to tell believers what you mean by his commandments: Whether you mean the letter of Moses's law, which killeth, 2 Cor; 6; or whether you mean the Father's commandment by Christ, which is life everlasting, John xii. 50; Because there is a material difference between a legal commandment and an endless life, Christ is not after the former, but after the latter; "a priest, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life;" This distinction, Sir, is necessary: for, though it be a truth, that "he who saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;" so, on the other hand, he that subverts the soul of a believer, saying, Be circumcised, and keep the law of Moses, is a liar also, for God gave him no such commandment, Acts xv. 24;
'And, in the last day, Christ declares he will say to all such, depart from me, I never knew you, ye workers of iniquity; Would any one of this complexion dare to say, in that day, Lord, I knew that, if thou vast pleased to make me. holy, I should be so; and, if not, I could not make myself so? or, Lord, I thought thy holiness was imputed to thy believing people, and that none but blind legalists were greatly concerned about personal holiness and good works? Oh, with what shame will such wretches then appear! with what universal contempt will they then be covered! Their mouths will be for ever stopped; and their damnation, we have reason to fear, as sure, as it will appear to an assembled world awfully just!'
Before all these fall under the sentence of damnation, it will be necessary to examine whether the trumpet has given a certain sound, and the watchman delivered his soul by a faithful warning: if not, the blood of these Antinomians will be required at the watchman's hand; Have you shewn them the spirituality of God's holy law, its vast demands, the curse of it, the perfection it requires, and the necessity of flying from the wrath revealed in it? Have you pointed out Christ, his precious blood, and the Holy Ghost, as the only sanctification for saved souls? Have you insisted on an application of the atonement, living faith, Gospel hope, efficacious grace, and an union with Christ, as the only way to obtain purity of heart. and good works? Examine your Letter, reverend Sir; and, if you have not, the Antinomians, in their desperate state, speak more consistent with the oracles of God than the watchman himself; according to what you have put in their mouth;
'Lord, I knew that, if thou wast pleased to make me holy, I should be so; and, if not, I could not make myself so;'
This is truth: it is the Lord our God that sanctifies us. The Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots; no more can they who are accustomed to do evil, do good; The Pharisees made clean the outside of the cup and platter, and appeared a nation pure in their own eyes, but they were never washed from their filthiness; therefore publicans and harlots went into the kingdom of heaven before them. If you drive them to the works of the flesh, or to the works of the law, for holiness, sanctification, or good works, their sin lies at your door. "Who can say, I have made my heart clean:" Can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit? or, can a man sanctify or purify himself? They who purify and sanctify themselves, and they that eat mice and swine's flesh, shall both be consumed together, saith the Lord, Isa. lxvi. 17;
'Lord, I thought that thy holiness was imputed to thy believing people;'
If the Antinomians make such a reply as this, it is to be feared that the preacher had run among them before he was sent, and was no more than a letter-learned novice; for, if he had been a pastor according to God's own heart, he would have fed them with knowledge and understanding, Jer; iii. 15; and not have sent them to the bar of God with such an unscriptural plea as this; Besides, God hath promised, that if a man stand in his counsel, and cause the people to hear the word from his mouth, that he shall turn them from the error of their way, and from the evil of their doings: but, if men thrust themselves into the office, they can only travel, and bring forth wind; for, how can it be expected that they should work any deliverance in the earth, when God says he is against those who steal his word; and adds, "They shall not profit the people at all?"
'Lord, I thought thy holiness was imputed to thy believing people; and that none but blind legalists were greatly concerned about personal holiness and good works;'
This is a farther confirmation of the ignorance both of the tutor and the pupil: for how could any man, properly instructed in the way of the Lord, ever have imagined that a blind legalist is a zealot for personal holiness and good works, when the Scriptures declare that the legalist is under the law; has the veil upon his heart; is under the curse; cannot please God; is in the flesh; enmity itself; not subject to the law of God, nor can be; a child of wrath; condemned already; who bids God depart from him, he desires not the knowledge of his ways; is under the law; and the motions of sin, which are by the law, work in his members to bring forth fruit unto death; twice dead, plucked up by the roots! A likely matter that such a blind legalist should be concerned for personal holiness and good works, when he knows not what the work of faith, labour of love, or patience of hope, is; no, nor the root they spring from, nor the grace that teaches them, the decree that ordains to them, the living Vine that produces them, nor the faith and love which send them forth! Such a blind legalist can only be zealous for dead works at most; and we know that there can be no serving the living God, nor escaping his wrath and damnation, unless the conscience be purged from these, Heb. ix. 14.
You may well lament, Sir, but you have no room to marvel: for who can wonder at poor, simple souls, being led away by these wretched Antinomians, when an old established minister, the son of a minister, a master of arts, a master of39
'They willingly lived in sin, and abused the Gospel to the purposes of their own licentious hearts, instead of using it as the means of grace and holiness. This, this will be the awful subject and ground of their condemnation; They will then see, that whatever they could or could not do, they certainly could have done very differently from what they did; and that they are justly condemned for not doing it; their sins not belonging to God, but themselves;'
The man who willingly lives in sin, and abuses the Gospel to the purposes of his own licentious heart, instead of using it as the covenant of grace and dispensation of the Spirit, by which the grace of God, and the Spirit of inspiration, come, must be one of the vilest characters that ever existed, and his state more deplorable than that of Heathens and Pharisees; and, dying so, he can never escape the doleful regions of utter darkness.
'They will then see that they could have done very differently from what they did, and will be condemned for not doing it;'
For not doing what the law requires, the legalist will fall under the curse of it; and, as an opposer or abuser of the Gospel, after hearing it, he will undoubtedly fall under the dreadful damnation denounced against hypocrites and unbelievers. No man in his senses can ever charge his sins upon God. Evil cannot dwell with him. "Far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should commit iniquity." "God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempted he any man" to sin; Though it be said that he tempted Abraham, yet it was not to evil, but to a trial of his faith and love, when he commanded him to offer up his son for a burnt-offering, when he intended to accept the will for the deed, and receive him in a figure, but not in the fire;
'Another poisonous doctrine, tending to obstruct the genuine influence of the Gospel, and to nourish a secret spirit of licentiousness, is this: That, as God's love to his people is from everlasting, it must have existed when they were sunk in sin and sensuality, in as high a degree, and in the same manner, as it will when they are brought to glory; and that the sins of believers, therefore, are no evidence at all of their not being interested in the love of God. This ignorant, shocking doctrine, has been often openly maintained, and is still oftener secretly insinuated; and yet how glaring the absurdity as well as impiety of it!'
That God's love to his people is from everlasting, cannot be denied; and did exist when they were sunk in sin and sensuality most certainly; but what you mean by its existing in as high a degree, and in the same manner, as it will when they are brought to glory, I do not understand. The Scriptures inform us that God is love, and that he is without variableness or shadow of turning; and Christ says, "Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me;" But then it was in Christ Jesus that he loved them, and chose them; yea, he put them into his hands, and gave them life in him; on which account "both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one;" He made us accepted in the beloved; and loved us with an unalterable, unchangeable, and invariable us love, in him, from everlasting; and commended his love to us, in that, while we were sinners, Christ died for us; when we were enemies, we were reconciled by the death of his Son; yea, when without strength, Christ died for the ungodly; In this God is said to commend his love towards us; and one would think that his love was manifested in the superlative degree, when he sent his Son, out of his own bosom, to die for us.
If God's love did exist in as high a degree when we were sunk in sin and sensuality, as at any other time, it must be on the account of our being considered, in Christ, objects of God's love and choice, accepted in the Beloved: but, as considered in ourselves, we were by nature the children of wrath, even as others; aliens from the life of God, and enemies in our minds by wicked works; without God, and without hope, in the world; though, at the same time, preserved in Christ Jesus to future vocation; Nor could God take any pleasure in us while in such a state, though he took notice of us, and bid us live in our blood, till our breasts were fashioned, and our hair grown, Ezek; xvi; 6, 7; until the set time for our espousals; at which time his skirt was spread over us, the covenant revealed, and we became his: his love was then perfected in us; though, in Christ, it was perfect toward us from all eternity.
If this be the meaning of the persons you censure so highly, it does not appear to me to be an iniquity to be punished by the Judges; but, if you mean, they talk of God's love to them, and make a profession of Christ, and yet live in sin and sensuality, they are not worth disputing with, they declare their sin as Sodom, the shew of their countenance witnesseth against them, and every tender conscience will shun them, as they Would a fiery flying serpent;
'And that the sins of believers, therefore, are no evidence at all of their not being interested in the love of God; This ignorant, shocking doctrine, has been often openly maintained, and is oftener secretly insinuated; and yet, how glaring the absurdity, as well as impiety of it!'
If, by the sins of believers, you mean the old man, the body of sin, under which Paul, and all the children of God, have more or less ever groaned, being burdened with them; this is no evident token of perdition, but rather of salvation, and that of God. The keen sensations they have of their own corruption is a proof of their being quickened: they must be enlightened to see, quickened to feel, and raised to hope, before they will groan for deliverance; I hope, Sir, you are not a fleshly perfectionist? Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from indwelling sin? "There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not" in thought, word, or deed. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; In many things we offend all, Mr. Evans himself not excepted. The corruption that works in a real believer's heart is no evidence against his interest in the love of God; but contrariwise, the struggles of the old man chew the resistance of the new. The Shulamite felt the combat before she was called a company of two armies; Rebekah felt a contest before she was informed of the two nations. But, if you mean a course of sinning, under a profession of faith, being no evidence against an interest in the love of God, it is a sufficient proof that they arc strangers to Jesus, who bears that name because he saves his people from their sins; You should have inquired whether they mean the old man of sin dwelling in them, or a course of sinning practised by them, is no evidence against their interest in the love of God; or else you might have represented Paul, from his own confessions, in as bad a light as you have done these;
'What is the object of God's electing love, but the communication of holiness and happiness? Are not the elect spoken of as elected through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and that they may be conformed to the image of their Saviour?'
The first object of God's election was Christ; and in him the elect were chosen, sanctified, or set apart; "for both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one." And to these chosen souls the word and the Spirit always come in power; "As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord: my Spirit, that is upon thee, and my words, which I have put in thymouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth, and for ever;" This powerful application of the word by the Spirit manifests God's choice of them in eternity, and is a choosing them out of the world in time; and their election is made known, both to themselves and others, by this sanctification of the Spirit, and the obedience of faith; faith being a fruit of the Spirit, and the Spirit of grace making them obedient to the faith; Those whom God hath predestinated to the adoption of sons receive the Spirit of adoption in time, and are brought into the bonds of the everlasting covenant, and conformed to the image of the second Adam.
'How can we argue that, because God, of his free love determined to make his chosen people holy, that our being manifestly and prevailingly unholy, and having never experienced nor evidenced an inward divine change, is no proof at all that we are-not interested in this love?'
If either you, or those you accuse, are manifestly and prevailingly unholy, and never did experience nor evidence any inward divine change, neither you nor they can be in a state of salvation; If God turn a man from Satan to himself, and from disobedience to the wisdom of the just, and inwardly renew him in the spirit of his mind, it is that he may be holy, and without blame, before him in love. Without this inward change of heart, and a life consistent with it, a man can have no evidence of God's love to his soul; nor can he know either love or hatred by all that is before him, Eccles; ix. 1.
'Or, how can I possibly have any evidence of this love until I am made a partaker of the fruits of it?'
It might have been rendered thus: 'How can I prove my election, or predestination to the adoption of sons, without being made a partaker of the Spirit of adoption?' "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your heart, crying, Abba, Father." And how can I prove that I am a partaker of the Holy Ghost, without evidencing it by the fruits of the Spirit; the first fruit of which is love; the second, joy, peace, &c; But if you will have it stand as you have arranged it, you never can possibly have any evidence of this love until you are, not only a partaker of the fruits of it, but until you manifest the same to the church of God, by fearing his name, hating covetousness, loving your neighbour as yourself, giving one coat of the two to him that has none, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and receiving the poor home to your house: and, if you can find bread without it, in taking the oversight of a flock, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. But if, on the other hand, I find a man who shews the least sign of avariciousness; if fond of money; if, like the antediluvian professors, he will marry a daughter of Cain for lust, beauty, or any independency of God; and is busy in gathering together and heaping up; I am at once convinced that his trust is in uncertain riches; the root of all evil is still in his heart; Mammon is his master; where his treasure is, there is his heart; the friendship of the world is in the man; he is an enemy to God, and first cousin to Simon Magus. He may say, "Go, be ye warmed;" but he loveth only in word, not in deed, nor in truth: and how dwelleth the love of God in him?
This last quotation is mere nonsense; for it amounts to this: How can I believe that there is a fruit tree growing, till I eat the fruit of it? whereas the tree must be planted, and grow too, before it can bear fruit;
'How can I possibly have any evidence of this love until I am made a partaker of the fruits of it?'
Love, when shed abroad in the heart, and when it casts out fear and torment, is an evidence of itself; for "he that loveth is born of God," and the fruits of it are love to God and to his saints; the former makes the tree good, and the latter proves it to be good.
'The distinction which has been so ably illustrated and defended by our brother Hall, sen. in ' his excellent publication entitled, 'Help to Zion's Travellers,' betwixt the natural and the sovereign love of God, is of more importance than many imagine.'
Is this distinction insisted on in any part of Holy Writ? or is it a new doctrine coined at Athens, so famous for hearing and telling some new thing? "God loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment;" lets his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and unjust: they are all supplied by the bounty of his hand, and supported by his power; his kindness extends to the unthankful and the evil; and his mercy, says the Psalmist, is over all his works. But, is the sovereign love of God unnatural to God, who is love? or, does the natural love of God act without divine sovereignty? I trow not; for I think divine sovereignty is displayed in all that he does; it is seen in every part of his dominion and government, whether it respects his kingdom of glory, grace, providence, or power, in heaven, earth, or hell; God always acts and works as a sovereign: he creates and destroys, chooses and refuses, loves and hates, as a sovereign; His sovereignty is deeply stamped upon all these things; and into which we must resolve what we cannot account for, unless we would act as the Arminian does, debase him to a level with ourselves, divest him of sovereignty, cite him at the bar of carnal reason, call for an account of his matters, and contemn both his counsel and him that we may be righteous; The divine nature must accompany sovereign love, and sovereignty must attend natural love, if with propriety it may be so called.
'The natural love of God can only have for its object that which is agreeable to the nature and perfections of God, as the most excellent, the best of beings'
Then this natural love can have no objects to fix on but the elect angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect; for they come nearest to the nature and perfections of God of any; "God loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment:" he loved Israel, and called him out of Egypt; but not with this natural love, for there was no more in Israel agreeable to the nature and perfections of God than there was in the stranger.
'The sovereign love of God is the direction of his natural love of mercy, benevolence, and compassion; in such a manner, to such objects, and for the accomplishment of such purposes, as his infinite wisdom may best approve;'
Sovereign love directs natural love; the love of sovereignty directs the love of nature, or the love that is natural. Love that is purely natural, or flows purely from nature, generally runs with a rapid current; and so it must in God, who is love; yet sovereignty appears in it. But, why love should direct love, or sovereign love direct natural love, I know not. These are things which I do not understand; they are too high for me, I cannot attain unto them: nor did you, Sir, get them of God' upon your knees; they were not obtained in answer to prayer. Were you to receive the word at God's mouth, you would be better understood;
'The one may have the worst of sinners for the objects of it, but the other can only delight in such as are transformed into the divine image.'
Sovereign love may have the worst of sinners for the objects of it. Blessed be God, then, for this sort of love, and blessed be God for a comfortable foretaste, and a most sure part and lot in it, for this is unchangeable and everlasting. If the worst of sinners may, be the objects of sovereign love, what love is the moralist entitled to? And if natural love be confined to the heavenly inhabitants, who are the most holy; and sovereign love to the worst of sinners; what love is that which hath the stranger for its object, in giving him food and raiment? Natural love can only delight in such as are transformed into his own image; So the everlasting love of God fixed on the elect in Christ Jesus, who made them acceptable in the Beloved, and draws them to Christ in time, is not natural, nor can he delight in them, either as considered in Christ or in covenant; though I think God can delight in them as considered in Christ, even before they are transformed into his image, notwithstanding you say he cannot. "Thou shalt no more be termed forsaken, neither shall thy land any more be termed desolate; but thou shalt be called Hephzi-bah, [my delight is in her] and thy land Beulah [married]: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married," Isa. lxii. 4. Here is delight before wedlock, and consequently, before regeneration, or transforming anew. "The Lord had a delight in thy fathers, to love them." It is this way of arguing, not consenting to the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor speaking as the oracles of God, that has overrun the world with so many Arians, Socinians, Deists, and Devils, as now exist in it. God tells the preacher to stand in his counsel, speak as his oracles, and cause the sinner to hear the word from his mouth;
'Or we may call the one a love of compassion and benevolence, leading the great God to shew compassion to sinners, and particularly in making them holy in and by his blessed Gospel and Spirit, in order to their being happy; and the other a love of complacency, as made holy, and thereby happy.'
It is doubtless a wonderful blessing to the world, that there are such learned men in it, who can find out the Almighty to perfection; dive into the various affections of his heart; divide and subdivide him; and tell mankind how many sorts of love he possesses; which of these loves it is that leads the great God; what objects he can, and what creatures he cannot, delight in;
'The one is a love of compassion, leading God; the other of complacency, delighting in them;'
The first a forerunner, the latter a satisfaction arising in the mind on viewing some action worthy of his approbation. I believe God loved his people, as chosen in Christ, from everlasting; made them accepted in the Beloved; viewed them complete in him, as their covenant head;' commended his love to us in the death of him; and cloth perfect his love in us when he draws us to Christ, and unites our souls in the bond of love to him; Such souls were the objects of his love and delight, as considered in Christ, from eternity, though by nature they were the children of wrath, even as others; for Christ himself was the beloved Son of the Father; and his Son in truth and love even when all the waves and billows of his wrath went over his head. If Hephzi-bah was the Lord's delight before her espousals; if he calls them his sons and daughters before the north and south give them up; and, if he made them accepted in the beloved, and viewed them complete in him; it must be something like a love of complacency and delight from first to last. God sees no sin in Jacob, the everlasting Father; nor perverseness in Israel, as they stand in him. They sit in heavenly places in Christ, and are without fault in him even before the throne; though, as considered in themselves fallen creatures, it is otherwise.
'All men share, in a great degree, in the one; but none can have any evidence of their interest in the other but such as have the divine image and superscription upon them. By their fruits alone can we know them.'
All men share, in a great degree, in sovereign love; but none can have any evidence of their interest in natural love but such as have the divine image and superscription on them. I think the scriptures entail sovereign love upon the elect: "I have loved thee, and not cast thee away," as he had done others. When thou wast in thy blood, in the open field, neither suppled nor swaddled, I passed by thee, and thy time was the time of love. "I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: I sware unto thee, I entered into covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine," Ezek. xvi; 8. Nor do all men share, in a great degree, in this sovereign love: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated;" And Truth hath told us, that the reprobate, which are the greatest number, and the bond woman's family, who hath many more children than the married wife, have no part or lot in his sovereign and eternal love; for they are to be called, not great sharers in his love, but the people of his wrath, against whom he hath indignation for ever.
We may as well put these two loves together. We will call this natural love the love of God, or divine love, flowing from God, who is a divine person, Heb; i; 3; and then insist, that this love is sovereign and free: Jacob have I loved, but not Esau. " I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely;" God, as a master, loves the servant, in giving him food and raiment; but says, he shall not abide in the house for ever: but, as a father, he loves the son and heir with an everlasting love; and says, he shall abide for ever. This is settling the matter much better than talking of two loves, sovereign and natural; and of the one having the worst of sinners for its object; the other the family of heaven, which is perfect; lest we set some people to inquiring what love falls to the moralist, and what to the stranger; and so multiply loves till we fairly bewilder ourselves; We may, however, safely affirm, that no man can have any evidence, much less assurance, of a part in this divine, sovereign, and everlasting love of God, until it be shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;
'But the worst of all errors in the Antinomian heresy is setting aside the law as a rule of life.'
We have read, in this epistle, of Socinians trampling on the Lord's divinity, and making him a mere creature; of some debasing and disfiguring the Gospel; of their abusing it to their own vile and base purposes; and of ripening themselves for an awful condemnation thereby: but neither denying the Saviour's Godhead, nor debasing and disfiguring the gospel, is materially a crime or error when compared to this. The letter of the law goes beyond, and is more valuable than either the divinity of the lawgiver, the grace of God, or the dispensation of the holy Spirit; for the worst of all errors is setting aside the law as a rule of life; Before these worst of heretics are consigned over to perdition, it will be necessary to inquire whether these six words - ' the law the rule of life'; be in reality the great Shibboleth of the gospel; on the confidence, or rather the confession of which, hangs the everlasting wo or welfare of immortal souls; This error is the worst of heresies; consequently, the advancers of it are the worst of heretics; and an heretic, after the first and second admonition, is to be rejected; for he is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself, Titus iii; 10, 11; Some have been saved without ever hearing a sermon from this natural text; witness the thief upon the cross, and all others who have ever been enabled by grace to believe: "He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned;" If he that believes shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, and shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end, Isa; xlv 17, faith certainly is the only rule by which a-man can obtain salvation; He that believes, saith the Saviour, hath life; then, without all contradiction, faith is the rule of life. "We walk by faith, not by sight," saith the Apostle: then certainly faith is the rule of walk. "I live by the faith of the Son of God," says Paul: then, without controversy, faith in Christ was the rule by which he lived; "The law is not of faith," says God: of works it treats, and for works it calls; and "they that are of the works of the law are under the curse," for it is the ministration of death; Then, to the legal workmonger, it will be the rule of death, instead of life: . "For the law which was ordained unto life I found to be unto death." He who believes is justified from all things, and obtains justification unto life: then believing is the rule by which he obtains life; and grace provides that rule, and enables him to obey the same. We have received grace for obedience unto the faith. If it be true that he who believes shall be saved, but he that believes not shall be damned, I think the grand hinge of the gospel is faith. It matters not whether a man can say, the law is the rule of life, but whether he believes with the heart unto righteousness, and makes confession with the mouth unto salvation; And if it be true, what the Scriptures assert, that he who believes is justified; hath everlasting life already; is to walk by faith, live by faith, work by faith, or produce the works of faith and labours of love; to believe to the saving of his soul; to be faithful unto death; and that Christ will give him the crown of life, as he did to Paul, who fought a good fight, finished his course, and kept the faith; how can such a believer be said to hold, by adhering to the doctrine of the Saviour, the worst of heresies, and be the worst of heretics, when God declares that all shall be damned except such believers?
Nor are your six words�
'the law the rule of life;'
..the grand hinge of the law; for the weightier matters of the law are judgment and the love of God. The law requires strict justice between man and man; but nothing short of the grace and fear of God will make our officers peace, and our exactors righteousness; The law requires love to God and man; the gospel gives it: "I will circumcise their hearts to love me, that they may live;" and we are taught of God to love one another. "He that loveth dwelleth in God, and God in him;" and he shall be saved, for "charity never faileth;" But "he that loveth not, knoweth not God;" and "shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."
Nor is the law once called the believer's rule of life: if it was, I should certainly enforce it as such; as it is the desire of my soul, and prayer to God also, that I may declare the whole counsel of God; Some in old time, which were certain of the sect of the Pharisees, rose up, saying, that it was needful to circumcise the brethren, and command them to keep the law of Moses, but they were said to tempt God, in putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, Acts xv. 5; 10; and it is expressly affirmed, that God gave them no such commandment. And I will boldly venture to affirm, and appeal to your own conscience for the truth of it, that God never gave you any such commandment; that he never put such words into your mouth, nor bid you go and speak thus, Numb; xxiii; 16.
Pray, what do you mean by setting aside the law? Does preaching the faith of Christ make void the law? Does not the doctrine of faith set forth Christ as the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth; and that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them who walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit? And, what would you have more than the righteousness of the law fulfilled? fulfilled by Christ himself, and fulfilled in the believer by God? Does not the faith of Christ establish the law, as magnified and made honourable in the heart of the Mediator? And is not the testimony of this bound, and the law of faith sealed, in the heart of every real disciple? If faith establish the magnified law in the heart of the Saviour, and the righteousness of it be fulfilled in the spiritual man, the doctrine of faith can never set it aside; Pray, how have you established the law? In no sense whatever. You have told us, that the law is magnified and made honourable in our justification; but I rather think the law was magnified and made honourable by the perfect obedience of Christ; God was well pleased for his righteousness sake. But the obedience of the Saviour is one thing, and God's work of imputation is another. By Christ was this righteousness wrought out and brought in; to me it is imputed, and becomes mine. By the former the law was magnified and made honourable; by the latter the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in me; The former was Christ's work; the latter is the Father's; The first was completed by the Saviour; the latter fulfilled in me, This is one branch of your establishment of the law; and the second is like unto it;
'The law is the rule of life.'
I answer, What law? Is it the law of truth that was with Levi? Mal; ii; 6; The law of kindness? Prov. xxxi. 26. The perfect law of liberty? James i; 25. The law of faith? Rom; iii; 27; The law of life? Prov. xiii; 14; The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which makes us free from the law of sin and death? Rom; viii; 2; Or is it the law of Moses? If you say, Yea, it is the law of Moses that the believer is under, as his rule of life,' then the believer is just where he was before; the old yoke is on him; he is neither redeemed from it nor delivered from it; he is under wrath, and in bondage; and Moses accuses him still; But, if you reply, nay, but he is under Moses's law to Christ;' then Moses is the saint's only lawgiver, and Christ is his second master; though the believer is to call no man master, for one is his master, even Christ. We know that the Galatians went to the law, to perfect by their life what God had begun by his Spirit: but they were not ministers of Christ who sent them there; nor did that persuasion come from him that called them. Nor does this doctrine of yours come from him much that called me; nor do I believe that you ever got much of your doctrine or teaching from God's
'We, Shall we, and Shall not we.'
When a man has a believing view of Christ, and finds union with him, he leaves, 'We,' behind; he never brings such a stinking savour of the flesh away with him: "If any man come unto me, and hate not his own life, he cannot be my disciple;" Does the pronunciation of these six words,..
'the law the rule of life,'
..establish the law? not according to the Scriptures, for I do not find such a text in them. If this be establishing the law, then every blind guide in the world who has got Moses's veil on his heart establishes it, for he knows nothing else; and every bond child has it established in his heart also, for he adheres to nothing else. Both the blind leader and the blind led will tell you that the law is their rule of life, and that they expect life and salvation by the works of it, and no other way; for this is the way that seems right to them; the other is too high for a fool: " The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath."
"The law and the prophets were until John; since that time the kingdom of God is preached;" Which kingdom stands not in the letter of the law; nor is a real preacher of the kingdom a minister of the letter, but of the Spirit: nor does the kingdom stand in word, but in power, in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ;" Grace to deliver us from the old yoke, that we might not be under the law, but under grace; and truth to make us free from the bondage of the law, and from the fear of death. "Receive the truth, and the truth shall make you free:" and, if the Son makes us free, then are we free indeed; And such are cautioned against legalists, and counselled to stand fast in their liberty, and not be again entangled with the yoke of bondage. And need enough there is of this caution and counsel, when there are so many elder sons who never at any time transgressed the commandment; envying the kid, the kiss, the ring, the shoes, the robe, and the music and dancing, of the converted prodigals.
"Hearken unto me," saith the Lord, "my people; give ear unto me, O my nation! for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people; My righteousness is near, my salvation is gone forth." Pray, what law is this? Is it the law of Moses? No; that was in being long before. What, then, is this law that was to proceed from the Saviour? The Saviour was to bring forth judgment unto victory, and the isles were to wait for his law. His testimony was to be bound up, his law was to be sealed among his disciples: they were to be called a people in whose heart is God's law; and, having this law in their hearts, none of their steps are to slide. This law is called the Lord's judgment, which is to rest for a light of the people. But, is this light the law of Moses, which was a light to the feet and a lamp to the path of Old Testament saints? Or, is it the law of faith; the ministration of the Spirit, who is the Spirit of burning; the cloven tongue of fire, that consumes the love of sin, and brings salvation from the guilt and reign of it? Is this law the smoking furnace, or the burning lamp? Gen; xv. 17; Is it the law which is the lamp without oil, that every bond child and hypocrite takes? (for God doth not work miracles, nor minister the Spirit, by the works of the law, Gal; iii; 5;) Or, is it the law of faith, which reveals God's righteousness as the light, and his salvation as a lamp that burneth? Isa. lxii; 1. This is the lamp, Sir; and this lamp you must have in your heart, otherwise your lamp will go out with a stench, and the vessel be consigned to everlasting darkness, notwithstanding your outcry for holiness, and representing others as Antinomians; Outcry, I say; for I hear of no outcry from your good works themselves.
Twice the Holy Ghost has mentioned the believer's rule of walk: "Let us walk by the same rule." "And as many as walk according to this rule, mercy on them, and peace, and upon the Israel of God;" And I defy you, and all the divines in the world, to prove that the Holy Ghost means the law in either of those places; yea, he excludes it from the rule in both chapters. However, God hath promised mercy and peace upon every Israelite who walks according to that rule: and he shall enjoy it who thus walks, though he be called the worst of heretics; and he who walks not according to that rule shall be damned, though he should bring a thousand rules of his own.
'Some of them blend together and confound the permissive and preceptive will of God; by which means they really throw all sin, if they pursue the principle, from themselves upon God;'
This is another new-fangled morsel from Athens. I do not read the words permissive will in the Bible; nor the word permit, with its relatives, more than five times throughout the Scriptures: "I speak this by permission, not by commandment;" "I trust to tarry a while, if God permit;" "And this will we do, if God permit." "Agrippa said, thou art permitted to speak." "But it is not permitted to a woman to speak." But, what is permissive will? If this new-coined word is brought in to set forth the entrance of sin into the world, the havock it has made, the evil it has done, and the legions it has deceived and destroyed; we can make a shift without it, and adapt a scriptural phrase which is more proper; lest we begin to multiply wills, as well as loves; The word, suffer, will do; call it, therefore, the sufferance of God: "We also are men of like passions with you; and preach unto you, that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways," Acts xiv. 15, 16; "And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness," &C; Chap; xiii. 18. Pupils may well confound permissive and preceptive will, if the tutor confounds his disciples with a multiplicity of loves and wills, brought in by human wisdom, and used by those who are wise above what is written. God's preceptive will, or rather God's will of commandments, has respect to God as a master: "If I am a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of Hosts unto you, O priests!" Mal; i. 6; This master's will of commandments is given to the bond woman and her children, who are in a state of servitude; and all who are under this yoke are servants. And to the law, and what was written therein, the Saviour, in his days, always sent every self-important inquirer, as to his proper rule, with a - "What is written in the law? How realest thou? If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments;" that is thy rule of life. "This do, and thou shalt live;" "He that doth those things shall live in them." This is the Divine Master's will concerning the servant, and is the servant's rule of life, and for life; and a dreadful yoke it is, whether he feel the galling weight of it or not; and under this he must for ever remain, unless God work in him "the good pleasure of his will, and the work of faith with power:" which will in Christ is the easier yoke and lighter burden; and, when revealed, the case is altered; This good pleasure flows from our heavenly Father's will of purpose, and promise in Christ Jesus; and to such God speaks on this wise; "If I am a Father, where is mine honour? saith the Lord;" And again, "Thou shalt call me, My Father, [not, My Master] and shalt not turn away from me," Jer; iii. 19; Such are redeemed from under the law, that they may receive the adoption of sons; and, because they are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father. "Wherefore, thou art no more a servant, but a son; and, if a son, then an heir of God through Christ," Gal. iv. 7; Thus the son is no more a servant: He shall call me, My Father, says God. A free son he is, and an heir of God: and you may entangle him with the legal yoke of bondage again, if you can, but he never shall be a bond servant; for as soon as God's free Spirit operates on him, your yoke, as well as Samson's cords, will fly like tow; he will leap like a hart; and be more like a hind let loose, than a fool in the correction of the stocks, or a criminal in the cords of his sins;
'Men that blend together and confound the permissive and preceptive will of God, throw all sin, if they pursue the principle, from themselves upon God.'
If men blend or confound the sufferance of God, in suffering the entry and reign of sin, with his law of commandments, they throw all sin from themselves upon God; That God suffered the entrance of sin is clear, because sin did enter, and death by sin; and the law was added because of transgression, that sin, by the law, might become exceeding sinful; that the reprobate might see his just doom beforehand, and the elect their need of a Saviour. But, though God suffered sin to lie at man's door, that is no excuse for him who opened the door, and let it in, when he was expressly commanded, by the will of precept, to shut it out; no more an excuse for man, than God's promise of safety to all who sailed in Paul's ship was an encouragement for some of them to fly out when he suffered a storm to wreck the vessel; Neither he who let sin into the world, nor those who, under colour, would have fled out of the ship, could charge God with their folly, or throw their sins upon him: they were both actuated by the freedom of their own will, though the mariners were compelled to abide, and Adam suffered to go on; Adam had God's preceptive will before him, before his permissive will, as you call it, suffered the entrance of sin; and every fleshly child of free-will has got the same before his eyes, that he may not throw the sin upon God, who by commandment forbids it; but take it to himself, who willingly commits it.
'A very popular writer and preacher of this stamp, in order to prove that the moral law is not the only rule of life, if it be any at all, asks, with an air of confidence, if our Lord would ever have said to Peter, had the moral law been intended as the only rule of life, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt, putting the word shalt in capitals, deny me thrice?'
I do not know who this popular writer and preacher is of whom you speak; but, certain it is, that Peter was delivered from the yoke of the law, and the curse of it too, for the Saviour had pronounced him blessed before he fell. Had he been a child of the flesh, and under the law, he would have been without hope, and without help; and, consequently, would have risen no more; for,"Wo to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to help him up;" But, as he was delivered from the law, and the curse of it, and was in union, communion, and fellowship, with the Son of God, when Peter fell, the Saviour lift up his fellow; The devil was too much for Peter; but two shall withstand him: he cannot pluck the elect out of the Saviour's hand, nor out of the Father's hand; nor shall the Spirit of God ever be taken from them, and the threefold love of God is a cord that is not quickly broken, Eccles.iv; 12.
It is clear that our Lord never sent any of his elect to the law; nor did he call it their rule of life; nor did he ever say any thing to encourage self; the proud doer he always sent to the law; the humble supplicant and the serious inquirer were always pointed to faith; their usefulness and fruitfulness were to depend on their union with him, and abiding in him; and, as for Self, We, or Shall we, its impotence was often set forth, and its aid for ever rejected; "Without me you can do nothing." "He that will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." But this doctrine was not enough for Peter; he must make an application of it in the fiery trial; "Though all men be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended." "Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee." Peter stuck to Self, and the Lord withdrew his arm. I will, was Peter's bulwark; which, in the devil's sieve, was only chaff. Peter would not deny Self; nor would Self own the Lord, although Peter had been blessed by the Saviour, as is clear: "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonah, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father, which is in heaven." Which blessing must unavoidably have brought Peter from under the curse of the old covenant; Yet, it appears to me that there was in. Peter a cleaving to the law, as his rule of life, by the self-confidence that he boasted of, "Though all be offended, I will never be offended:" for, as Paul says, "Where is boasting, then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay, but by the law of faith." So that Peter's confidence sprang from his legal adherence to the law; and his boasting of more steadfastness than the rest of the disciples must come by that covenant, for it cloth not exclude boasting; it could never spring from the doctrine, nor from the Spirit, of the Gospel; both are averse to this; as it is written, "Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice." And your rule, Sir, would do no more for you than it did for Peter, if you were to be tried as he was. That king walks boldly against whom there is no rising up.
'As though Peter had been yielding as much obedience in cursing, and swearing, and denying his Lord, as ever he did when performing an act of obedience to any precept of the moral law. And, if so, his tears must either have been crocodile ones, or very criminal ones, when he
The Saviour did not speak to Peter here as a lawgiver, nor was he enforcing the law; but spoke as a King and Sovereign, being jealous of his own power and glory; which he will never give to another, by admitting a copartner; the Scriptures having, before Peter's fall, pronounced a curse on him that maketh flesh his arm; and branded him with the name of a fool that trusts in his own heart; together with a number of curses to them who continue not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them. That which follows, I find, is your own inference.
'As if Peter had been yielding as much obedience in cursing, and swearing, and denying his Lord, as ever he did when performing an act of obedience to the moral law.'
All the obedience that ever Peter performed in a state of nature, was, I believe, little worth; for he ranks himself among the revellers, banqueters, and abominable idolaters. It appears, by his resolutions, that he was going at that time to perform an act of obedience to the moral law: this may be seen by his confidence and boasting, which Paul says that covenant does not exclude, though the other really does. However, Peter clave to the law; and he found, as the Galatians did, that Christ profited him nothing in that way; he fell from grace, from supporting grace; though not from the habit of grace, nor from the bond of the covenant, nor from the faithfulness of the covenant Head: "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted [from thy legality, self-confidence, and fleshly boasting,] strengthen thy brethren;" not by sending them to the law for self-confidence and vain trust, lest they fall into the devil's sieve, as you will shortly do; but by pointing them to my powerful arm and faithfulness, which will most surely lift thee up when fallen, and abide faithful when thou dost not believe. And Peter remembered this; for, when certain of the sect of the Pharisees said the believers must be circumcised, and keep the law of Moses, Peter withstood them to the face, telling them, that God, who knew their hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost; and had purified their hearts by faith; that they tempted God in putting that yoke upon them; and that he believed that, through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, they would be saved, even as the apostles themselves, Acts xv. 8 --11.
I do not believe that Peter's tears were either crocodile ones or criminal ones. He had cause enough for grief and compunction when he reflected on his having made so glorious a beginning in the Spirit, and then foolishly attempted to be made perfect by the flesh. However, Peter gained more by his fall than he had done by any of his preceding acts of obedience to the moral law. This prophecy was fulfilled in Peter, and many others, "And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end." But this trying, purging, and making white, comes not from the law, nor does any act of our obedience thereto procure it; but, in mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
'Many there are, who do not at all scruple to assert, that believers have nothing at all to do with the law, as a rule of life, any more than as a covenant of works. We trust you have not so learned Christ. If you have truly drank into the spirit of the Gospel, you will be so far from considering it as a burden to be under the law to Christ, that you will esteem it as a privilege.'
I desire to declare what the word of God does, and nothing else. The Holy Ghost declares, that "whatsoever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law." That the believer is not under the law, but under grace, Rom. vi. 14. That the Son of God did redeem them that were under the law, that they might receive the adoption of sons, Gal. iv. 5. And that those who are led by the Spirit are not under the law, Gal. v. 18.
We are under the law to Christ, says Paul, 1 Cor� ix. 21. But, what law is that which, in Christ, the believer is under? "A law shall proceed from me," saith the Saviour, "and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people." This law and judgment is called a testimony bound, and a law sealed, among the Lord's disciples, Isa. viii. 16. Which testimony is the Gospel; the bond of which is love; and they are disciples who receive the true testimony in the love of it. The law is the law of faith; the seal is the Spirit of God: The day "ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise." Here is the law and judgment proceeding from Christ; ' and this is a testimony bound, a law sealed, among his disciples. This testimony and bond, this law and seal, is the everlasting Gospel in the hand of the Spirit; and under this law Paul was to Christ: for this is the law that is in the Saviour; He is not a priest "after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life." In being under this law of faith, in the hand of the Spirit, Paul glories, and calls it being not under the law but under grace: "For the law of the Spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death." This is the law of faith; this is the dispensation of the Spirit and life in Christ Jesus, which made Paul free from the reigning power of the law of sin that was in his members, Rom. vii. 23-25; and from the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, 2 Cor.iii.
There is not only a being made free, but a deliverance also from the law, and that for God's glory and our good: "But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." Men can make no more of the law of Moses than what is called the letter; and a killing letter; they cannot get the Spirit nor life from it, do what they will. It is opposed to the dispensation of the Spirit, and proved that it cannot give life. Men may make it their only rule of life, walk, conduct, and conversation, or what they please; they can call it no more than living, walking, and serving, in the letter; to which the life of faith, a walk in newness of life, a service in the newness of the Spirit, an union with Christ, and a good conversation in him, are opposed. Nor does this evangelical doctrine, or doing the work of an evangelist, lead the evangelized to a licentious life. If sin hath not dominion over a man, it is because he is not under the law, but under grace. Nor has Christ, in magnifying the law and making it honourable, altered the nature of the law: it is a covenant of works still; a killing letter, and the ministration of death, still; a yoke of bondage, and will entangle a foolish Galatian still,..
'I came not to destroy the law; I came to give my people an easier yoke, and a lighter burden: but you that cleave to the letter, you that do not believe Moses's killing writings, how shall you believe my words? You have one that accuses you, even Moses, in whom you trust; and, dying under that dispensation, heaven and earth shall pass away before one jot or tittle of the law shall fail.'
But, you add..
' We trust you have not so learned Christ.'
It should have been worded thus; We trust you have not, so learned Moses. The subject in hand is the law, and the doctrine you are defending is that of the law's being the believer's rule of life; but, whether the believer is to get life from this rule, or by this rule, or from a Saviour's fullness by faith, we are not informed: whether a supply of the Spirit, and grace to help in every time of need, are to be obtained by eyeing and living by this rule; or by looking to Jesus, and living by the faith of him; is not as yet made known to us. But, you should take care not to confound things: you have charged some with confounding permissive and preceptive will together; and you, Sir, do little less, when, in the character of a minister of Moses, enforcing an obedient life, or a service in the oldness of the letter, you conclude with an evangelical phrase,..
'We trust you have not so learned Christ,'
.. when the leading subject of your discourse is none other than Moses. No man who has tasted that the Lord is gracious will ever think it hard to be under grace, under the law of the Spirit of life to Christ: he knows that, whatever the Saviour commands he gives him power and grace to obey; for in this consists the easiness of his yoke, and the lightness of his burden.
'These empty declaimers talk of believers being under no other law than the law of love. We ask them, love to what? Love to their own lusts, or their own whims and fancies, and unscriptural, licentious principles? If they mean love to God, we ask them how they can express love to God if they do not love his law? And what ground can there be for their loving his law, if they have nothing at all to do with it? And, if it be not a rule of life to them, what can they have to do with it?'
If we are to judge of a man's heart-treasure by what comes out of his mouth, or flows from his pen, we can never say of Mr. Evans, that he comes forth to the world, or to the church, in the fullness of the Gospel of peace: for, if a folio volume of such doctrine as this was to be distilled into the spouse's flagon, it would not amount to one reviving cordial of comfort, nor stay a love-sick soul from fainting. Sending believers to the Law, is not comforting them with apples, nor staying them with flagons. The promises of the Gospel, and the love of Christ, which is better than wine, proceed not from Mount Sinai, but from Zion: and with these they must be fed, for they are heirs of the promises, and the bridegroom's spouse and friends; and, if debarred of the new wine, and the new bottle, there will be no more spirit in them. With deference to Mr. Evans; not to call him an empty declaimer: yet, surely, a more empty declamation than this elaborate Letter of his can no where be met with.
'Some talk of believers being under no other law than the law of love.'
God loved his people, in Christ, from all eternity; draws them to Christ in time; sheds abroad his love in their heart by the Spirit; and promises never to take his lovingkindness from them: and, when this is manifested to our hearts, he tells us we have found grace in his sight, and favour with God. And, pray, what is this grace and favour but the manifestation of love? Thus, to be under grace, or kept in the love of God, is one and the same thing; so that if they say, we are under no law but the law of love, such an assertion is consonant with the Bible, which says, "Ye are not under the law, but under grace." And again, "If ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law." Which Spirit is the Spirit of love, and of a sound mind; and the first fruit of the Spirit is love; and "he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."
But, why such should be called empty declaimers, I know not, since love is the fulfilling of the law: it is the old commandment's greatest requirement, and the new commandment's best treasure; love to God and our neighbour is the grand
'We ask them, Love to what? Love to their own lusts, or their own whims and fancies; and unscriptural, licentious principles?'
If you see an Antinomian making a flaming profession, when, at the same time, he is proud and haughty; a hater of, and declaimer against, those whom he knows in his conscience to be good; a lover of Mammon; aiming at wealth, or an independency on divine providence; following the antediluvian professors, in making an affinity with the offspring of Cain, or the children of the devil, either to gratify the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the covetous spirit of Mammon; and, at the same time, ridiculing ministers of the Gospel, whom Christ hath sent, traducing them as licentious, under a cloak of personal holiness and good works, you may well say that such men are in love with their owl lusts; and that all their harangues about the law are nothing but their own Whims and fancies, for they hold unscriptural notions, and live in the practice of licentious principles. But, you do not inform us that you have seen any such fruits as these brought forth by those against whom you exclaim; and, I trust, you never will, that the uncircumcised may not triumph.
'If they mean love to God, we ask them how they can express love to God if they do not love his law?'
The Christian loves the law of faith after the inner man, for he is a new creature. He is renewed in the spirit of his mind; and has this law put into his inward parts, and written in his heart, which, when placed there, is called the law of the wise, which is a fountain of life. And this law, put into their inward parts, is the covenant of grace, the law of the Spirit of life, or the law of faith, whichsoever you please; and is attended in the believer's heart, and doth produce in his life every thing that the moral law requires. The dispensation of the Spirit makes a man spiritual, as the law is spiritual; and holy, as the law is holy, The righteousness of faith makes us just, as the law is just; the Spirit of love draws us to love God, and all who love him in sincerity and truth; which are the law's requirements. The treasure of grace in a good man's heart makes him good, as the law is good; and the Spirit, by the Gospel, brings that life and immortality to light in us which the law promised to the doer, but never gave. Such a soul delights in the law of God after the inner man, Rom. vii,; and with the mind serves the law of God, Rom. vii. 95; for he has got in him, by the Spirit, all that the law requires; and, while he serves in the newness of the Spirit he serves the law of God. But he who serves in the oldness of the letter, serves the law of sin also; for such as are in the flesh cannot please God; the motions of sin, which are by the law, working in their members, do bring forth fruit unto death. The spiritual man has got the atonement in his heart, which is the substance of the ceremonial law; and faith, which is the great thing of the Gospel; and love, which is the fulfilling of the moral law: therefore such a new creature may well delight in the law of God, and in true holiness in heart and life, after the inner man; and to such souls God speaks, and to none else; "Hearken unto me ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart [not in whose head, nor in whose mouth, nor in whose hook, nor in whose pocket] is my law." Separate the law from the heart of the Mediator, or I from the operation of the Holy Ghost on the heart, and you act as a minister of the letter, set your audience to serve in the oldness of it, entangle them in the yoke of bondage, and veil them with ignorance; which veil will hang on their minds till their faces be turned to the Lord; and instead of bringing them to delight in the law after the inner man, the law will stir up the corruptions of their carnal minds, which are naturally enmity against God, and not subject to his law, nor, indeed, can be; and there can be no delight in that enmity, nor any delight in a killing letter, nor in a law that worketh wrath. And this the law really does, if once viewed out of the heart of the Mediator, or once separated from the operations of the Holy Ghost. In the Spirit the saint must live, in the Spirit he must walk, in the Spirit he must worship, and in the newness of the Spirit he must serve, if ever he enters heaven, or sees the face of God with acceptance.
'We might further ask, if the law of God be not a rule to them, what is a rule to them?'
The good-will of God in Christ Jesus is the saint's rule; which is called the mystery of his will, and is the mystery of faith, and the law of faith: and, if the father's will be not the child's rule, nothing is; and, if the law of faith be no rule, it is not worthy the name of a law; nor is it likely that men will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of God for not obeying it; nor can the saint be said to receive grace for obedience to the faith, if the law of faith be no rule of obedience. The good-will of God in Christ Jesus, made known in the mystery of faith, which is the law of faith, is the saint's rule; for it is by the Father's will that we live, walk, and work, by faith. To this the Holy Ghost bows the stubborn sinner's will. "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." "Son, go work to-day in my vineyard;" that is my will. "I will not," says the rebel, that made the cross; "but, afterwards, he repented, and went." This was a commandment that had life, and was attended with the grace of repentance. "Son, go thou, work today in my vineyard. I go, Sir;" said the self-important bond child, but went not. And which did the will of his father? This hath been asserted by the best of prophets; "This is the will of him that sent me, that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may not perish, but have everlasting life." This, Sir, is the Father's will; and this is the Son's rule: by purifying faith, which worketh by love, he is to live, to walk, to work, to pray, to stand, to fight, to overcome, and to die at last: "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." The believer is not to draw back to the yoke of bondage, nor to perdition, but to believe to the saving of the soul. And this, Sir, is so perfect a rule, that, without it, it is impossible to please God; for, "whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
'What standard is there of sin and holiness, vice and virtue?'
This is debasing the Gospel with a witness. Is the Gospel no standard of sin and holiness, vice and virtue? If it be not, how can a man be guilty of the great transgression, or the unpardonable sin, by doing despite to the Spirit of grace, if the law of the Spirit of life be no rule? How can men be punished with everlasting destruction for not obeying the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, if the Gospel of the grace of God be no rule? How can the infidel be damned for his unbelief, if the law of faith be no rule? Or, how can the believer be rewarded with the crown of life, if the law of faith be no rule? Surely, the Judge of all the earth will not do wrong in rewarding the faithful and punishing the infidel. If the Gospel be no standard of sin and holiness, the Gentiles who have fled to that standard for reconciliation and rest will be disappointed, and the rebel who has refused it can have nothing to fear; for, according to your account, it is no rule of life or obedience, nor any standard of sin or holiness, vice or virtue: then the holy and the virtuous cannot be saved by obeying it, nor the vicious sinner be damned for rejecting it. However, it is a dispensation that makes manifest the counsels of the heart; quick and powerful; and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, Heb. iv. 12, that brings in the alarmed sinner guilty, condemned of all, and judged of all; and makes him cry out, and report that God, of a truth, is in the preacher. It is a law that discovers a lascivious look to be adultery; anger in the heart to be murder in the abstract; a glass for the natural man to see his face in; a sea of glass, to discover every spot or wrinkle; reveals covetousness, -as the root of all evil; the self-righteous to be further from the kingdom of heaven than publicans and harlots; an outward appearance of holiness to be the varnish of the worst of hypocrites; the sin of unbelief to be the basis of damnation; and a covetous man to be the worst of idolaters�which the law of Moses forbids, but never discovers as the dispensation of the Spirit does, which convinces the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Nor did Paul find out the evil of lust effectually, though the Law had said, "Thou shalt not covet," until the light of the Gospel, from the face of the Saviour, shined round about him: for, before this light came, and the commandment in the blaze of it, he was alive without the law; and, as touching the righteousness of it, he thought himself blameless. You do, Sir, with reverence be it spoken! mutilate, disfigure, and debase, the glorious Gospel of the Son of God!
'And what becomes of the glory of the Gospel, as magnifying and making honourable the Law?'
The Law was made honourable by the obedient life and passive death of the Son of God; who trod the wine-press alone, when of the people there was none with him. When there was none to help, nor any to uphold, then his own arm brought salvation unto him, and his fury it sustained him; and, as there was no hand to help, nor people to uphold, there are to be no sharers in the glory of the conquest, though many share in the spoils: "My glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to craven images"
If Christ came to take away the law as the rule of life, is he not the minister of sin? And is not the law made void through faith?'
No: for Christ came to reveal God's will of purpose and promise, which terminates in glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, and good-will toward men. He came to reveal a better rule: "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, by the which we draw nigh unto God." If this rule brings glory to God, peace upon earth, and good-will to men; makes them perfect, and brings them nigh unto God, as reconciled through Christ, which the law never revealed, nor ever did; how can the glorious Redeemer, the author of it, be the minister of sin? The ministration of sin in the Scriptures is not applied to Christ, nor to those who preach him; but to such as blend his Gospel with legality. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners; is, therefore, Christ the minister of sin? God forbid! For, if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet, not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God; for, if righteousness came by the law, then Christ is dead in vain," Gal. ii. 16-21.
Christ cannot be the minister of sin: but the question is put to those who represent him as such; who frustrate the grace of God by their legality, and debase the Gospel by an outcry for good works before folks; but in heart, in power, and in practice, are inferior to others: nor have I a single doubt but Mr. Evans is inferior, in all these respects, to many of those whom he accuses.
Nor is the law made void through faith: for it is established in the hand of a just Judge, in the heart of the Mediator, as magnified and made honourable; and in the fleshly tables of every believing heart; as written by the Spirit of the living God: the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in such who walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. If it is thus established by the preaching of faith, and the righteousness of it fulfilled in the believer, how can it be made void Why, you write, Sir, like one who never had one glimpse of the Gospel mystery. I am obliged to speak to you as unto carnal, as unto a babe in Christ; for you seem to be not only unskilful, but altogether Unacquainted with the word of righteousness; and I question not that several Antinomian old women, who usually sit under my ministry, are able to dissect and anatomize this whole body of legality.
'And yet, what can be spoken of with more horror than this; " God forbid! we establish the law?"
Don't be shocked, Sir, nor tremble; for God will make you tremble much more before he takes you to heaven: Satan's sieve, or some fiery trial, will consume all this hay, straw, and stubble, before you are eternally saved. I have shewn you copiously how the law is established; and do you establish it any other way, if you can. Calling it the believer's rule of life has never established it yet, nor ever will. The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer, not by him; it is fulfilled in him by the work of God, not by his own works. If your notion establishes the law, then the Pharisees, who told the believers to be circumcised, and keep the law of Moses, were the only people that did it; but these were charged with coming in only to spy out the liberty of the saints, that they might bring them into bondage. Nor will you ever establish the law by the good works of the saints this way. Good works do not spring- from God's will of commandments, but from his will of purpose: " Created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them." Nor do they spring from the ministry of the letter, but from the ministry of the Spirit, by whom we are furnished unto all good works. Nor is the law the grand teacher of good works, but it is the grace of God that teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in the world. Nor is man the active agent of good works; but God, who works in him both to will and to do. Nor must the self-important, I, or We, or Shall we, run away with the glory of good works: "I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet, not I, but the grace of God that was with me."
'If the law be no rule of life to a believer, his breach of it can be no sin; and his pretending, therefore, to boast of the blood of Christ, as having ensured to him the pardon of his sins, when he can have none since he first believed, upon his principles, to be pardoned; is a piece of 'impiety on the one hand, or hypocrisy on the other, which wants a name to describe it, there is so much complicated guilt and impiety involved in it.'
Making the law of faith, and that of the Spirit of life, not worthy the name of a law, so no rule is another debasement of the Gospel; consequently, counteracting these laws can be no sin. At the great day, however, the following books will be opened.
The heathens are a law to themselves, their thoughts and consciences accusing or excusing one another. These sin without law, and shall be judged without law, when the book of Conscience is laid open, and the thoughts of their hearts are made manifest.
The blind legalist, who is under the law, and sins in the law, shall be judged by the law, when the roll of the Pentateuch is unfolded; and the awful contents of lamentation, mourning, and wo, are discovered.
He who hears the Gospel and believes not, or is not obedient to the faith, is condemned already. This is his condemnation, that light is come into the world, but he hugged the old veil, he loved darkness rather than light, because his deeds were evil. He believes not, and shall be damned. He obeys not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power, 2 Thess 1. 8. 9.
He who blasphemes against the Holy Ghost, sins against the greatest law, and the last Lawgiver; for he sins against the law of the. Spirit of life, which is the sin unto death, and the great transgression; and this will appear when the book of life is opened. But, how an unbeliever can be damned when the law of faith is no rule of life, or of obedience to life, is to me a mystery. And how one disobedient to the Gospel can be punished -with everlasting destruction, when it is no law to be obeyed; or how any man can be guilty of the great transgression, or the unpardonable sin, if the law of the Spirit be no rule; is what I cannot comprehend, and it is what this author can never explain. If the believer and professor of faith have no rule of life except the moral law, the Judge of all the earth, if he proceeds in judgment according to the above account, will hardly do right. And I will leave the righteous to judge where this reproach is likely to fall; and whether this advocate for the law does not mutilate, disfigure, and debase the Gospel of Christ, and the ministry of the Spirit, worse than any Antinomian ever debased the law? In all the treatises, ancient or modern, which I have ever read on this subject, I have invariably seen the propriety of the Holy Spirit's assertion, that those who desire to be teachers of the law turn aside to vain jangling, knowing neither what they say nor whereof they affirm, 1 Tim. 1. 7.
Nor has this author established the law on any one of its own proper foundations; neither in the hand of Justice, nor in the heart of the Mediator, who is both our Ark and Mercy-seat; nor in the hand of the Spirit, the heart of the saints, or the souls of the damned. I defy the whole world to prove that he hath established either the law or the Gospel. We are told that the law is the believer's rule of life; and that, if it be not, the believer, or hypocritical professor, for such are intended by Antinomians, can have no sin to be pardoned: consequently, neither the law of the Spirit, nor the consciences of Heathens, are either laws or rules; and therefore the damnation of both must be unjust; it cannot be a righteous judgment; nor can the hypocritical tribe, or heathen part of the world, be judged in righteousness.
And further, if the believer and the infidel, the son and the servant, have both one rule, the just God must be just to that law; and, as it is the saint's only rule, he must, as a just God, deal with the believer according to his sins, and reward him according to his iniquity; for that law will by no means clear the guilty, nor will truth and justice allow of passing by the transgression even of the remnant of God's heritage. But, if the good-will of the Father, in the mystery of faith, be the Son's rule, he can, in mercy, correct them in measure, and not leave them wholly unpunished. By this will the Father of Spirits can with truth and justice chasten them for their profit, that they may be partakers of his holiness: and these chastisements are called proofs of their sonship; and he never will take his mercy from them; nor will he ever impute sin to them in a legal way; nor shall these purged ones have any more conscience of sins in this way. The Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, deals thus with his children. But Justice, by the legal rule, will never do so; nor shall a jot or tittle of that law ever fail. The former is the voice of the Father in the promises to the heirs of promise; the latter is the voice of Justice to the slave: What the Law saith, it saith to them that are under it.
This author's rule made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better did. By this author we have seen what vain jangling does. Here is nothing said to the purpose, nor any thing affirmed; neither the Law established, nor the Gospel. The mystery of faith is debased, as being neither law nor rule; and the killing letter exalted above all. The rod of Christ's strength, out of Zion, rules no more in the midst of Jerusalem: the rod is still in the hand of Moses; and Mr. Evans props up his arm, that our spiritual Joshua may defeat Amalek. Blessed be God for his testimony bound, his law sealed, in the heart: and to pure records of that law and testimony, let us go, and they who speak not according to that word of life have no light in them; and we shall find our great apostle, who knew, what he said, and whereof he affirmed, giving the believer his only rule of life in a few words.
First, He purges out all such legality from the rule.
Secondly, Describes the real saint.
Thirdly, Sets his rule before him. And,
Fourthly, Affirms that mercy and peace shall be upon him. Which no advocate for the law could ever do.
First, He purges out all legality: "As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh [instead of the spirit], they constrain you to be circumcised [to reconcile the world to religion], only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ [or be called Antinomians]. For neither they themselves, who arc circumcised, keep the law [nor can they, unless the Spirit of God be in their hearts]; but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh," Gal vi 12, 13, as having made you reformed and conformable proselytes, instead of converted saints. By circumcision, they aimed at bringing the Galatians in debtors to fulfil the whole law. "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping the commandments of God," for life is what they meant. He next describes the real saint.
Secondly, "For, in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." This new creature is one renewed in knowledge, and created anew in Christ Jesus: which creation stands in justification by imputation, and in regeneration by the Holy Ghost; as it is written, "Created anew in Christ Jesus," "after the image of him, that created him, in righteousness and true holiness." These three things, Knowledge, Justification, and Sanctification, are such as avail a man, and entitle him to heaven. It is life eternal to know God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. He that believes is justified freely from all things, and shall never come into condemnation; and they who are partakers of the Holy Ghost have got a Comforter that shall abide with them for ever: and this law of the Spirit is a fountain of life; a well of living water, springing up into everlasting life. This is the man that is in Christ, and is a new creature; and these are the things which avail, though circumcision does not. By what law is this man justified, or made righteous? I answer, By the law of faith. By what law is he made a partaker of true holiness? By the law of Moses? Nay; God ministereth not the Spirit by the works of the law, but by the hearing of faith. Paul, who advanced these things, knew what he said, and whereof he affirmed, though our author does not.
Thirdly, What is the rule of this new man in Christ? Paul says, " In Christ Jesus, circumcision availeth nothing, nor uncircumcision, but faith, that worketh by love." Thus the law of faith is the renewed man's rule; nor did this apostle ever set any other before him. The ministers of circumcision, it is true, had sent some of them to the old rule for personal holiness and good works, or to make a fair shew in the flesh; and the Galatians thought to be made perfect by the flesh. However, they went, as Israel did against the Amalekites, without God. The Saviour went not with them to that rule: he staid behind with his Gospel; and wrought miracles, and ministered the Spirit by the hearing of faith.
Fourthly, Paul shews the safety of this new creature in Christ, who is blessed with this faith that worketh by love: "As many as walk according to this rule, mercy on them, and peace, and upon the Israel of God." The sure mercies of David, and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, be upon every new creature in Christ; who walks not by sight, but by faith; who treads in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham; a faith that worketh by love to God, and to all who love him in sincerity and truth.
'His pretending, therefore, to boast of the blood of Christ, as having ensured to him the pardon of his sins, when he can have none since he first believed, upon his principles, to be pardoned; is a piece of impiety on the one hand, or hypocrisy on the other, which wants a name to describe it, there is so much complicated guilt and impiety involved in it.'
Take heed, Sir, that you do not involve yourself in the worst of guilt and impiety, by thus debasing the law of faith. You have asked, If the law be not a rule of life, what standard can there be of sin and holiness, vice and virtue? And now, if the law be not a rule of life, a believer can have no sin to pardon. These are such awful questions, attended with such vile reflections, as I never read before. I will bring them to the touchstone. "A law shall proceed from me," saith Christ, "and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people." Is this law, which is the Lord's judgment, which shall rest, or remain, for a light, no standard? and is sin against this, no transgression? I think such are the worst of rebels: "they are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the way thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof," Job xxiv. 13. "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil," John iii. 19. If the spiritual man sins, he sins against light and knowledge; against the testimony bound, the law sealed, on his heart; and grieves the Spirit by which he is sealed: he sins against the good-will of the best of Fathers, who is offended at the provoking of his sons and daughters; he sins against the law of the Spirit in Christ Jesus; and against the strongest tie of all, namely, the everlasting love of God. The consideration of such base ingratitude, when charged home with fatherly severity, as the sins of David and Peter were, cuts the believer deeper, and gives him a more noble and effectual wounding, than all the shafts of Sinai, should God heap mischiefs, and spend his arrows, upon him, Deut. xxxii. 23.
A bond child is never humbled by an arraignment at the bar of Justice: such cry not when the. Lord bindeth them; but look up, and curse both their King and their God, Isa. viii. 21. It was against the law of faith, or the Saviour's judgment, that rests for a light, that Peter sinned; and this the Lord let him know, when, by a penetrating glance of his eye, he arraigned him. Peter understood it. The Lord need do no more than turn and look upon Peter, that shall wound him, and melt him too. Nathan aggravated the circumstances of David's crime, though he lived in Old Testament times, more, by repeating God's goodness and manifold gifts to him; 'And if that had been too little, I would have given thee such and such things; than by arraigning him at the bar of the Law. David sinned against the love of God, which is both the old and the new commandment, and which commandment is life everlasting; sinning against which brought David to the pains of hell; until a fresh manifestation of it sent him forth, like a child weaned of his mother.
Surely, gentlemen who write as this author does can never be experimentally acquainted with those high obligations, filial, tender, delicate, noble, and powerful, ties of the law of the Spirit of life, which bind the heir of promise so fast to the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort! God writes his law in the hearts of his children; and I thought this had been the better standard of vice and virtue; and that sins against this, had been the worst crimes, according to the deep sighs, heavy groans, and humble confessions, of Bible saints. Sure I am, that he who is made free from the law of sin and death by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, will be glad to kiss the Son, and cleave to this Sovereign; nor ever wish to break his bands asunder or cast his cords from him.
I think the Father's will of purpose and promise in Christ Jesus is the more perfect rule for us; and, when revealed in the mystery of faith, and applied by the Spirit, is a complete standard of vice and virtue. And submission to this is the first act of obedience: "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." Every cross, trial, disappointment, or chastisement, is to bring the believer humbly resigned to the sovereign will of God; while your rule, Sir, works wrath; and the bond child is as far from Gospel submission as the Father of Lies himself. The Saviour's highest act of obedience lay in submission to his Father's will. "Not my will, but thine be done." Nor is this act of obedience attributed to his servitude, but to his Sonship. It is not coupled with a, "Behold my Servant, whom I uphold;" but with a, "Though he were a Son, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered." Nor was this highest act of obedience given to the rule of the moral law, or to the preceptive will of God, as you call it; for that law does not require a just man to suffer or die for a "I come to do thy will, O God." He took away the first, God having explored both burnt offerings and the service of the Pharisees in the oldness of the letter, and established the second. It was the good-will of his Father, in purpose and promise, to which he bowed his dying head: "Father, into thy hand I commend my spirit." And by this will, "we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all," Heb. x. 10.
'His pretending to boast of the blood of Christ having ensured to him the pardon of his sins, when he has none.'
This is strange language! A believer cannot be ranked among the just until he has received the pardon of his sins: his blessedness consists in having his iniquity forgiven, and his sin covered; and his blessedness is confirmed by the good-will of God, in not imputing sin to the enlarged debtor any more, having imputed it to his surety: "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." Cometh this blessedness by your rule? Nay, but by the law of faith.
Pray, Sir, what is the Law? It is holy, just, good, and requires love. And does not the Father's will of purpose, or his decree, secure all these things to the elect? "Whom he did foreknow, he did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son," which image consists in righteousness and true holiness. The Holy Spirit, to make us holy; the gift of righteousness, to make us just; goodness laid up, to make us good, Psal. xxxi. 19; and the security of everlasting love, to draw us to Christ; are the four things which the law requires; and these are the things which the decree brings forth, Zeph. ii. 2.
Does not the covenant of grace secure these four things to us? I believe it does. "He that remaineth in Jerusalem shall be called holy," Isa. iv. 3. "Thy people also shall be all righteous," Isa. lx. 21. "My people shall be satisfied with my goodness saith the Lord," Jer. xxxi. 14. And I will circumcise their heart to love me, Deut. xxx. 6. Thus these things are found, held forth, and freely given to the elect, in the better covenant of promise.
And are not these things laid up for us in Christ Jesus? He says, "Thy law is within my heart;" and Paul says, it is the law of the Spirit of life, in Christ, that made him free. By his blood he shall sprinkle many nations; he received the promised Spirit of the Father, and poured it out, to make us holy; he is the end of the law for righteousness, to make the believer just; we receive the good treasure of grace from his fullness, to make us good; and the love of Christ constrains us to love God and one another. Here are the four weighty matters of the law included in the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
And does not the of faith, when sealed on the believer's heart by the Spirit of God, produce these effects under his own influence? I think he does. He is the Spirit of holiness; he testifies of and reveals the good treasure of grace in the heart, and sheds abroad the Father's love there. Thus the believer is holy, as the law is holy; just, by faith, as the law is just; good, by grace, as the law is good; loves God, as the law requires: and is a spiritual man, as the law is spiritual. These four things, which the law called for, which we could never produce, and which that dispensation could never bestow, are secured to all the elect in the irrevocable decree of God; which, when made known, is the good-will of him that dwelt in the bush; attended with glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, and good-will toward men.
As these things are held forth in a free, unconditional promise, the covenant of promise is called the better covenant, established upon better Promises.
When considered as treasured up in Christ, it is called by Paul, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
When revealed to the believer, it is called putting the law in his heart, and writing it in his mind, or on the fleshly tables of his heart, by the Spirit of the living God; which makes the saint a living epistle, known and read of all men.
Submission to the sovereign will of God in Christ is the saint's rule to which he first bows.
When these things are written in his mind, he is "not without law to God."
When made free from bondage by the application of these things, he is "under the law to Christ."
When these things are enjoyed under the operation of God's Spirit, the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in him who walks, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
This is the man, and no other, who loves the law of God after the inner man; for it is written on his mind; and with the mind he serves the law of God, by serving in the newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. This is the man that knows righteousness, the man in whose heart is God's law; he is zealous for good works, and performs them; worships in Spirit and in truth; walks in newness of life; serves with spiritual service; and produces the works of faith, labour of love, and patience of hope. All other professors are nothing but empty trunk-makers; criminals in chains, chattering about merit; bastards, jangling about the law; or sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, giving sound without life, Holiness righteousness, goodness, and love, are the weightier matters. Separate these, or attempt to fetch them from any other source than the purpose and promise of God, or from the Mediator's heart, the Spirit's hand, or the saint's mind, and you are no minister of the Gospel, but a vain jangler, or a spy, that entangles the saints in bondage; and, exclusive of these things in the purpose and promise of God, in the heart of Christ, or the hand of the Spirit, make the law any thing else but a covenant of works, a killing letter, or a yoke of bondage, if you can; I defy you. Let any rule of life be set before the saint but this, and the Spirit says you tempt God, subvert the souls of believers, bewitch them, imprison the children of the free woman, and render Christ unprofitable to them. Bring the believer under any other law to Christ; enforce any other law upon his conscience; set him to hold any other law to God; and to live, walk, or work, by any other rule than the above; and then publish it to the world; and, by God's help, I will undertake to prove that the whole of the performance is no more than vain jangling vain philosophy, inconsistency, unconcluded, unaffirmed notions, unscriptural fancies, and downright nonsense.
That I might have an opportunity of disputing this point with you, I have addressed this letter to your name; and shall subscribe it with my own, that you may know who your antagonist is, and where to find him; and that the Christian world may have an opportunity of judging between the taught of God, and those of man; ministers of the Spirit, and those of the letter; the learned philosopher, and the illiterate divine; the man of word, and the man of power; the master of arts, and the spiritual fool; the parson-maker, and the parson made. And, before you come forth again, take counsel, lay your schemes deep, and push your arguments home; lest God should enable me to speak like the piercing of a sword, and so get between the joints of your harness, and discover to the Christian world that this leading champion was never brought to Jehovah's banner, much less equipped for the front of the battle.
I have sufficiently proved, that what you term Antinomianism, which is involved with so much complicated guilt as to want a name to describe it, is the everlasting Gospel of the blessed God; and do you overthrow these arguments, prove me a liar, and make my speech nothing worth, if you can; and you may depend upon having the last word in this controversy, if you are the longest liver.
I am not ashamed of the Gospel that Christ hath taught me; I wish to publish the whole of it: and, if it appears that I am called and sent of God to preach his word, I must confess that I think nine parts out of ten that are called Gospel ministers in our days, never were, either called of God to the knowledge of the truth, the fellowship of his Son, or to the ministry of the word. And, with reverence to the gentility and learning of Mr. Evans be it spoken, by this performance of his, it does not appear that ever he was either called by the Holy Ghost to a savoury knowledge of the truth, the fellowship of Christ, or to the ministry of the Spirit. I wish it may appear that he is. We are allowed of Christ, Sir, not only to judge them that are within, but to try the spirits, and even them that say they are apostles, and prove them liars if they are not. "The Spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets." Let Mr. Evans publish, according to the oracles of God, his high vocation to the knowledge of the truth, the fellowship of Christ, the ministry of the Spirit, and to the higher office of qualifying vessels of mercy for the Master's use, or fitting out ministers of man and by man, which I know conscience and pride will never suffer him to do, lest he should be put to shame, if he does, I will, by the help of God, consider the performance, return an answer, and expose myself as an impostor for ever, if he disputes me either out of my rule, or out of the good hope through grace that God, in the multitude of his mercy, hath favoured me with.
'If the law be no rule of life to a believer, what privilege can it be, any more than duty, to delight in the law of God after the inner man? Or what ground of pleasure can arise from the hope of awaking in the Divine likeness?'
If the law be the believer's rule of life, the tenor of which is, this do, and thou shalt live; it can be no privilege, for the law worketh wrath, and the strength of sin is the law; for, where there is no law, there is no transgression. And, as to the duty it requires, its demands are such a yoke as neither the apostles, nor the fathers, were able to bear. And this Mr. Evans would allow also, if ever the commandment had come to him, to revive his sin, rout the consequential, We, and slay his legal hope.
Nor can the believer ever delight in the law of God after the inner man, as a covenant of works, and as a killing letter; which is the unlawful way in which you have handled it with respect to believers. The substance of it must be viewed in the purpose of God, the promise of God, the fullness of the Mediator, the hand of the Spirit, and in the mind of the saint, before he can take any delight in it.
Nor can he ever expect to awake in the Divine likeness by that rule.
But, like the proud Pharisee, the blind legalist, the carnally-secure hypocrite, go on in a state of insensibility, hoping in the law, and bearing about that lamp without oil, till it goes out in obscure darkness: and he, instead of awaking in the Divine likeness, lift up his eyes in hell.
'A notion more corrupt, more false, more full of evil and dangerous consequences, cannot in feet the human mind.'
Then, according to this paragraph, the only way of escaping all corruption, false doctrines, perilous evils, and dangerous consequences, which infect the human mind, is by confessing that Moses's law is the believer's only rule of life; which you shall never prove while I can read the Bible. This assertion amounts to this, that grace, to escape corruption; truth, to escape falsehood; goodness, to escape evil, and dangerous consequences; come from the law: but, as for the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ, the dispensation of the Spirit, it is neither a standard of sin or holiness, vice or virtue: that the sins of all believers against the law of the Spirit can be no sins, for there can be none to pardon unless the law be a rule; and that believers sinning against light, love, mercy, truth, and grace, are not culpable; nor can they want any pardon, for it is no rule of life, walk, work, or obedience; the only rule and standard of all which is the law, and that was given by Moses.
'The peace it brings is a false peace; and will be found, in the end, to be only the prelude of destruction. It may be sweet to a corrupt heart for a moment; but in the end, it will bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder.'
The Antinomian is charged with holding doctrines, that exalt the grace of God, debase the sinner, and make Christ all in all; only it is in pretence; and with calling faith, and the law of love, the only rule of believers; which brings a false peace, and is the prelude of destruction, which is only sweet to a corrupt heart for a moment; but, in the end, the law of faith and love will bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder. Then, where is peace, deliverance from destruction, from the sting of death, and the deaf adder, that stoppeth her ears, to come from? If it comes from the law of Moses, which is your only rule of life, why does Paul say, "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law; but, thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ?" If the eyes of the blind are opened, the ears of the deaf unstopped; if the lame man leaps as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sings; it is not because the fiery law is revealed, but because the waters of life break out in the wilderness; and the streams of love, righteousness, peace, joy, and praise, flow in the desert.
'This is the will of God, even your sanctification.'
True, Sir; but they will never obtain sanctification by your rule of life. Christ took away the law of commandments contained in ordinances, and nailed it to his cross, that he might establish the good will of purpose and promise: for your rule "made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God," who sanctifies us. "Then said I, Lo I come to do thy will, O God! He taketh away the first." God wills not burnt offerings, nor a service in the oldness of the letter, that he may establish the second, that requires faith and a spiritual service: which good-will of God wills us the body of Christ, and the gift of the Holy Ghost; "by the which will we are sanctified, through the offering up of the body of Christ once for all."
'And the great design of the truth of God in Christ, revealing to you a free and full salvation, is that you may be sanctified by it here, and be glorified by it in the perfect sanctification of your souls hereafter.'
I wish every minister of the letter, every bond child, and every Arminian, who are strangers to the high obligations of faith, and the cords of eternal love, would let the Gospel alone, and stick to their own rule; which is so plain, that he who runs may read it; "This do, and thou shalt live;" and not set the law forth as the believer's only rule of life; insinuating, that sanctification, personal holiness, and good works, are to spring from an outward observance of that; that the law of faith is no standard of vice or virtue; and that sins against it can be no sins that want pardon; for without the legal rule there is no transgression; and accuse those who talk of faith and love being the rule of life, as contending for love to their lusts, whims, fancies, and licentious, unscriptural principles; and that enforcing the law, or God's preceptive will, as the only rule to obtain sanctification and good works, entitles a man to the name of Orthodox; while all who cannot put into their mouth, stamp with their feet, bite with their teeth, and cry, peace! peace! must bear the scandal of empty declaimers, lovers of lust, Antinomians, and Heretics; and that by men who have neither light knowledge, power, nor experience; nothing to recommend them, or entitle them to pre-eminence, but their own noise! After all this, he tells us that;
'The great design of the truth of God in Christ, in revealing to us a free salvation, is, that we may be sanctified by it, here, and be glorified by it, in the perfect sanctification of our souls, hereafter.'
This, Sir, is coming over to the Antinomian heresy; allowing the sufficiency of the Gospel; and involving your soul in all the complicated guilt which you have charged them with. Degrading Gospel ministers, in defence of the bond child's rule, and then concluding with the very faith held by the heretics; is making the dispensation of the Holy Ghost a trap to entangle the just, and a mask to veil the hypocrisy of the author.
'That you may be preserved faithful unto the day of the Lord Jesus, shine as lights in a dark world, adorning the doctrine of your God and Saviour in all things, &c.'
If the law is the only rule of life, and fountain of sanctification, why do you wish them to abide faithful? The law is not of faith, but of works, for "he that doeth those things shall live in them." And how can you expect them to shine as lights in the world, when you have intimated that the light of the Gospel is no standard either of vice or virtue? What standard can there be of vice and virtue, say you, if the law be no rule of life? You have set Moses before them, and then tell them to shine in Christ; though the Scriptures declare that, to this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. In reading the Old Testament, the veil remains; which veil is done away in Christ. To expect people to be faithful to Christ, by exalting the Law, and debasing the Gospel; to shine as lights, when you have brought them to blackness and darkness; and to adorn the doctrine of the Saviour, when you have told them that it is no standard of vice and virtue; is, I conceive, building again what you have before destroyed, and making yourself a transgressor.
Your conclusion confirms all that you have charged the Antinomians with, overthrows all that you have said about the law, and proves the Author a vain jangler.
'We most affectionately commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance among them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus. And remain your affectionate brother, &c.'
If this conclusion be true, half the preceding arguments are false. How can you commend them to the word of God's grace, when it is neither a rule of life, nor a standard of right and wrong? And the contenders for it, you say, are in love with their own lusts. How can this word of grace be able to build them up, if personal holiness, good works, and sanctification, come by enforcing the legal rule? And, if they are to receive an inheritance by the word of God's grace, how can enforcing the grace of God involve people in such complicated guilt, as you affirm it does? And, if this sanctification is in Christ Jesus, why is the believer driven to seek it in Ezekiel's roll? Faith, purity, and good works, Sir, always go together. He who enforces faith, will soon perceive the fruits; he who possesses faith, will shew it by his works. God purifies our hearts by faith, and faith produces good works; on which account they are called Faith's works, in contradistinction to the Legalist's dead works; which appear to me to be the only works you contend for. Enforcing the law's requirements from the purpose of God, the covenant of promise, the fullness of Christ, the hand of the Spirit, and the experience of the just, shall never be excluding the law, setting aside the law, or making the law void. The good-will of purpose and promise secures the demands of the law to the chosen vessel's mind and heart by an irrevocable decree, which cannot be called excluding it. The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them who walk after the Spirit, which cannot be called setting the law aside; and preaching the faith establishes the law, which cannot make it void. This good-will of God in Christ Jesus secures not only salvation and glory, but is the grand cause of all the usefulness and faithfulness, good words and good works, that have ever been wrought or brought forth in the world, either in the saints or by the saints. They shall be willing in the day of my power, Psalm. cx. 3. "I will put my laws within them." "They shall keep my commandments, and do them." "They shall not depart from me." "I will direct their work in truth." "I will do them good with my whole heart and whole soul." "They shall love me, that they may live." "Thou shalt call me, My Father, [and My God,] and shalt not turn away from me." "The righteous shall hold on his way." From the belly will I bear you; to old age and hoary hairs will I carry you, Isaiah. xlvi. 4. This is the. doctrine that wounds the devil in his interest, and shakes the sandy foundation of the hypocrite: it brings glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace; which Satan cannot endure. Therefore the Pharisees were stirred up to traduce Christ, as paying no regard to the law in not keeping the Sabbath-day; and Paul, as affirming, "Let us do evil, that good may come." And, in our day, enforcing this irrevocable decree in Christ, and the branches of it, which are productive of every good fruit, is called licentious principles; and the maintainers of them are styled Heretics, Antinomians, and lovers of their own lusts; and all this under a mask of holiness and good works; which the devil knows none but Christ can give. Nor can my accusers shew any more power, knowledge, experience, holiness, or good works, by ocular demonstration, than I can, unless it be in word: "All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes, but the Lord weigheth the spirits." The time will come when the heretic and the sound divine will be weighed in an even balance; and, whatever advantage a disciple of Moses may have in the balance of human judgment, sure I am that the believer shall never be found wanting in this. Therefore "talk no more so exceeding proudly; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed."
We live in a time when things are upside down. In the Apostles' days, the work of an Evangelist was much insisted on, and a Christian sound in the faith was highly esteemed; but, since men have set up the trade of heaping to themselves teachers, matters are much altered. A man may be sound in the faith; sound in spirit, practice, and principle; be born again of the Holy Ghost; live in the fear of God, and in union with Christ; be circumspect in his life, and useful in his day; be owned and honoured of God as a preacher, and have a thousand seals to his commission; and yet be nothing but an Antinomian: he may walk in faith and love, as Christ hath loved him; which is walking in the commandments of God blameless; and yet set aside the law, ,and make it void, by a life of faith. The question is not, now, Whether a man be found in the faith? nor, Whether he handles the law lawfully? But, Whether he can say, and will maintain, that the law of Moses is the only rule of life for Christ's disciples? A man who can frequent a playhouse, play at trapball, be a gamester, a musician, or a mere impostor, may keep the pulpit, receive the right-hand of fellowship, and be deemed orthodox, if he can but enforce and maintain this point; and throw out the word Antinomian against those enthusiasts who contend for the Spirit's work; though, at the same time, he himself knows no more of the law than he does of the Gospel. Nor has any one that has written against me ever set the law forth in its proper light, handled it lawfully, or done justice to it; and, I may add, they never will, unless God establish their hearts with grace, and guide them by his Spirit.
Almost every week produces something new on this subject. It hath been lately advanced in public, that the evangelized law is the believer's only rule of life. A multitude of opinions, though widely different, by the slight and cunning of their authors, have produced a strange phenomenon, like Israel's jewels consolidated into Aaron's calf: An evangelized law is brought forth; that is, they have evangelized the ministration of death; and, by the sovereign influence of human wisdom, the nature of it is quite altered: it is now attended with a gospel power, to influence, quicken, enlarge, and evangelize, the human mind. So that this, as the better covenant, has the pre-eminence over the law of faith; and the works of this law shall reign, through this human transubstantiation of substances, or transmigration of powers, to life eternal! This is another branch of vain jangling.
While one thus legalizes the gospel to evangelize the law, others are nibbling at Providence, allowing faith to lay no warrantable hold there. Some have preached, and others published, that the believer has no right to ask, or pray, for temporal things. These things are promised; but they must not be prayed for; nor must God be inquired of to fulfil his promise, or to do these things for us. For a poor saint to say, Give us, this day, our daily bread, is declarative of an earthly mind. To cleave to God, as one's only overseer and provider; and say, "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then shall the Lord be my God," this is not acting like the saint. If God sent a famine, we must make no inquiry, like David; nor once ask the Gibeonites, either to pray, or bless the people of the Lord, that the famine may be removed; nor ask God to deliver us from strange children; and that our sons may be as plants grown up, and our daughters as the corner-stones of a palace: "That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store; that our sheep may bring forth thousands, and ten thousands, in our streets; that our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets. Happy is that people that is in such a case; yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord." God had promised by Moses that they should eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new, Levit. xxvi. 10. And David prays God to send the store promised. And Agur presumed likewise: "Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me; lest I be full, and deny thee; and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain," Prov. xxx. 7-9. But these Old Testament saints had the pre-eminence; it must not be so done in our days, though many of this sort of men take a worse step to get a supply; and others indulge a worse spirit, than that of prayer, in keeping what they have already hoarded up.
I wish Mr. Evans would receive the law from the Saviour's mouth, and lay up his words in his heart, Job xxii. 22. I believe he would find that law to be the law of faith, and that word to be the word of life; and, so far from representing the law of faith as no rule of obedience, he would acknowledge that the everlasting commandment of God calls for such obedience, as it is written, "Now to him that is of power to establish you, according to my Gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ; according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations, for the obedience of the faith."
This circular Letter will never bring glory to God, nor produce any good works in men: nor do I believe that it will ever do honour to the Author, the Judgment of the Association, or the Moderator. I conclude my Address with that distance and respect due to the gentleman and the scholar; and subscribe myself a minister, not of man, nor by man; and, whether a Heretic or an Antinomian, by the grace of God,
What I am,
W. H. S. S.