Excommunication, and the Duty of all Men to Believe, weighed in the Balance.
IN A LETTER TO MR. RYLAND, JUNIOR. OCCASIONED BY A LETTER OF EXCOMMUNICATION SENT TO MR. ADAMS, MINE HOST, AT NORTHAMPTON.
William Huntington (1745-1813)
"...for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed" I Sam. 2:3.
MR. RYLAND'S LETTER TO MR. ADAMS. MR. ADAMS,
As we sincerely wish to meet you in the kingdom of heaven, even if we should never more meet in fellowship together on earth, we earnestly entreat you to attend seriously and impartially to the considerations we shall now lay before you. We will frankly avow the principles of our conduct towards you. Do, sir, examine if it may not possibly be found that you have given us sufficient cause to censure your spirit and behaviour, and that your conduct has obliged us to proceed against you contrary to our real inclinations.
As you profess, in general terms, to acknowledge that no man is infallible, that all men are totally depraved by nature, and that the best of men are very imperfect; you, consequently, cannot deny, that you yourself are liable to mistake; to act in a wrong spirit; to sin against God and man; and that you may be seduced by the artifices of Satan, and the deceitfullness of your own heart, into things that are really evil. Do, therefore, we beseech you, examine yourself rigorously respecting those particulars in which your brethren think you are much to blame.
But, before we point out those particulars, we wish you to reflect seriously upon the nature of your past connection with us, as preparatory to an inquiry into the duties of that relation. We are, you know, a voluntary society: you were not born in communion with us, nor forced into it by others; but it was entirely your own act and deed, when, by mutual consent, you became a fellow member with us. At the same time we profess to be a religious society, formed, according to the best of our judgment, upon the model of the primitive churches, as described in the new testament. We are associated for spiritual purposes, in obedience to the laws of Christ, with a view to the glory of our divine Lord, and to our own spiritual benefit. We are professedly separate from the world; united in hearty love to each other; and have solemnly covenanted to walk together in the profession of all gospel doctrines, in an attendance on all gospel ordinances, and in the practice and discharge of all relative duties; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. To this covenant you assented, by lifting up your hand towards heaven, and by voluntary subscribing your name.
We consider mutual love as the very bond and essence of all church fellowship. We conceive the ordinance of the Lord's supper as designed, not only to commemorate the dying love of Christ, but also to cement our love to each other. As, we suppose, it would be a profanation of that ordinance to approach the table without an habitual sense of the greatness of Christ's love, and a correspondent attachment to him; so we consider it as very sinful to attend together on that sacred institution, without sincere and special love to each other. We conceive that, when we surround the table of the Lord, our actions, which should speak louder than words, declare, in the most solemn manner, we are all brethren, children of the same Father, who have a peculiar affection for each other, and have bound ourselves to seek each other's welfare. Yea, we are fellow members of one body, of which Christ is the head; and if one member be injured, all the rest suffer with it. If, therefore, any schism be made in such a body; if a spirit of disaffection be indulged, and especially if it be openly discovered, and carried to such an height that the world around may perceive an evident antipathy has taken place; Christ is hereby dishonoured; and it were far better to have no gathered church at all, than one whose members were allowed to act in evident contradiction to the most solemn profession of unity that can be made.
Moreover, we account it one special privilege enjoyed by congregational churches, that every church has a right to chuse their own pastor, as well as other officers and members. In that case, indeed, as in all others, the minority must submit to the majority, or no voluntary society can long subsist. If the person chosen by the general voice is so disagreeable to any individuals, that they cannot acquiesce in the choice, they must apply for a dismission, and peaceably remove their communion to another society. But when our present pastor was chosen, no apparent opposition was made to the choice by any individual; and we had had the trial of his ministry for ten years before his election to that office. You appeared at the time to unite in our unanimous choice: nor do we know of any alteration of his sentiments that has taken place since that time. He then avowed expressly his opinion in that single question, on which he had once thought differently, at his first beginning to preach: a question which you had then never heard debated, nor did you know any thing of it for a considerable time afterwards; nor have we any room to believe you have impartially examined it to this day, though you have been disposed to make a great handle of his altering his ideas concerning it.
We cannot pretend to trace back your disaffection to its first rise: but we sincerely wish you would endeavour to do so yourself. And though some things we shall mention are conjectural, and not what we can undertake to prove; yet, as we shall only mean by them to assist your own conscience in the work of self-examination, and do not assign them as the ground of our church censure, we hope you will keep in mind this distinction.
We have now ground to believe that your prejudice began long before it was first suspected by the minister, or the generality of the people. And as we are sure that our minister has ever been far from opposing or from omitting the peculiar doctrines of grace, we are greatly of opinion that it was owing, not to his leaving out certain truths to which you profess an attachment, but to his bringing in other truths of importance, which you did not wish to be insisted upon.
When we consider how little you have attended our private meetings for prayer and religious conversation, for several years back, with certain other circumstances, we cannot but fear that a worldly spirit has increased upon you; and that you have wanted more unguarded comfort to be administered, and less duty to be insisted upon; and, therefore, we fear that you have indulged a growing dislike to our minister, and to his brethren, because they have so much exposed worldly-mindedness, and other sins incident to professors, and have insisted so much upon the obligations of believers to universal holiness.
For a time this prejudice was indulged more secretly, because you knew not how to justify it. Till a few years ago, when a neighbouring minister published a treatise on the duty of sinners respecting faith in Christ, you found that he and your own minister, with some others, had once thought differently on that subject; and that they now considered the duty of the unconverted as extending farther than they once conceived. We can scarcely doubt that it was on this occasion that you wrote your Lamentation, in which you throw out many slanderous charges against them, as if they had renounced the great doctrines of grace, which we, and their other hearers, can testify that they maintain as strenuously as ever.
A more favourable opportunity offering, you published these accusations, which all the country understood as designed against the ministers of our association, and which were justly and almost universally considered as glaring falsehoods, printed by a member of the church in College Lane.
On this head our pastor long ago expostulated with you by letter; and afterwards readily agreed to the proposal you made, by one of our deacons, to meet you, and converse in a free and friendly manner upon this subject, before some other minister of your own chusing; but from that proposal you presently flew back. It was consequently wholly your own fault, if at that time things were only patched up, as you lately asserted. However our minister then wrote you word, that he was so far satisfied with having told you his mind on the subject in his first letter, as to be willing to let the affair drop, so long as you should continue peaceable and friendly in future.
You had since then, for above twelve months together, a fair opportunity gradually to have re-commenced a friendly intercourse, and the cultivation of mutual affection, with your minister and your brethren, even without being constrained to the smallest acknowledgment. But, instead of thus silently examining and dropping a complaint which you could not make good, you appear to have determined you would, one way or other, make an opposition to the minister you sat under. As you could not prove that his thinking differently from what he had done, in his early youth, respecting the duty of the unconverted, was a capital departure from the gospel, you seem eagerly to have embraced a new notion yourself, concerning the duty of believers, viz. That the law of God is not the rule of their conduct: a sentiment which you never was taught in College Lane, but which all the ministers we have ever been acquainted with greatly detested.
While you persisted in shunning a social intercourse with your fellow members, you continued to maintain an intimate connexion with a person excluded from this church for his abusive treatment of our pastor; and who persists, as you must well know, in indulging the most Unchristian rancour against him and us. This man's house was first licensed; and a minister, famous for smiting his fellow servants with an envenomed tongue, was invited to come down and preach in it. The licensing of the house sufficiently indicated, that it was not expected he would be received by the ministers of his own denomination, any more than by ours. Nor can it be doubted, considering who gave him the invitation, but his mind had been previously prejudiced by slanderous insinuations, that we had not the gospel preached in the town, or only in a very imperfect manner. Mr. Ryland was asked indeed for the pulpit; but the Rev. Mr. Edwards avers that you yourself, as well as the person employed to ask it, acknowledged that Mr. Ryland had good reasons for not lending him his pulpit.
Who, indeed, could think otherwise? when this minister came down at the solicitation of one who had been excluded by us, for his virulent opposition to Mr. Ryland's ministry; and he had himself, just before he came down, been writing against Mr. Ryland, senior, in defence of the pernicious notion that the law is not the rule of the believer's conduct. Both the other ministers have, in the strongest manner, declared, in opposition to your false assertion, that they were wholly uninfluenced by Mr. Ryland, in not admitting him into their pulpits, and should never have been willing to have received a man of his spirit and principles.
Nevertheless, you openly appeared as the principal encourager of this stranger; not only attending on his preaching all the Lord's day, to the neglect of the Lord's supper, that day administered among us; but receiving and entertaining him, in such a manner as no other minister was ever entertained by you, though the town in general considered him as brought down by way of designed opposition to your own pastor, and, throughout the whole of his visit, shewing yourself as forward as possible in encouraging him: while Mrs. A. openly suggested, that there was room to dread the divine judgments for not admitting him into the pulpit which you allowed Mr. Ryland had good reasons for refusing. Though you afterwards would have pleaded to our officers that you had no hand in inviting him, we cannot be induced, by such an evasion, to suppose your heart was less in the affair than the persons that immediately solicited his coming down.
After his departure, we were informed that meetings of prayer were set up at this excommunicated person's house; which, by your absence from our lectures, we had room to suspect you attended. We were certainly informed that you had desired a person to look out for a place, for the occasional preaching of ministers, whose principles would render them unacceptable at College Lane. It was further rumoured, that you, or your intimate associates, had applied to another preacher to visit this town, who had lately embraced Mr. H.'s notion concerning the divine law. And, finally, you had expressly declared the minister who had already visited you, had come down, because he knew you were starved out, you had no food.
Can any impartial person be surprised that all these circumstances should excite in us a jealousy, that you had no cordial regard to this church or to it's pastor? Could you expect that the love of filthy lucre would lead any minister, who deserved the name, to connive at your conduct, and suffer you to spread infection, without daring to speak, lest he should lose your subscription? Our pastor declared, that it hurt his conscience to give the solemn pledge of christian love to one who gave such evidence of entire disaffection. And many of us felt the like pain. It seemed to us shameful mockery, to pretend to surround the sacred table as dear brethren, when you were known to speak more reproachfully of the minister than most of the profane would do.
But when we had consulted together on the subject, all we proposed to do, was to send you a mild admonition, observing, that many of us were so aggrieved by your conduct, that they could not be happy in the thought of sitting down with you at the table of the Lord, at the next return of the ordinance, unless you could give them satisfaction that you really felt that affection for us, that esteem for our minister, and that concern for our prosperity as a church, which we think essentially requisite to church-fellowship. At the same time adding, that, if you could with sincerity assure our brethren, who would wait upon you with that letter, that your heart was thus united with us, &c. we should be glad to walk with you in love as heretofore.
Can you justly call this harshness or persecution? Can you possibly say, we had no room to suspect your attachment to minister or people? Or, has a church no right, after such evidences of disaffection as your conduct had exhibited, to demand of a member some contrary evidence or profession? Surely an house divided against itself cannot stand. And could you think us all such children in understanding, as to be persuaded, it was consistent with cordial affection to us, to plan the purchasing of a preaching-place, for such ministers, as would not allow that we had the gospel, so long as our minister maintained, that believers ought to regard the moral law as their rule of conduct?
The letter which we meant to send you, Mrs. Adams heard, but then went out, and made such a misrepresentation of our design, as prevented your receiving it. You burst into the meeting-house in the utmost passion; and after throwing out abusive inuendos, and telling us you would stand by your slanderous verses to your dying day; you declared you would receive no letter into your house in such a manner, that almost every one understood you to refer to the letter on the table'; and then you ran off in the same heat as you came in. And soon after we left the meeting-house, the books and cushions were fetched away from your pew and your father's. Thus you voluntarily rent yourselves away from our connexion.
We, nevertheless, have since sent you an invitation to a calm conference with our officers at the meeting-house, which proposal was rejected. And some of our Deacons have twice waited on you at your own house, without being able to obtain any satisfaction; but rather, they were convinced of the greatness of your prejudices and disaffection, which you can neither justify nor conceal; though you meanly endeavoured to evade the evidence, and would have persuaded them at first, that the place now bought and licensed, was only meant for a warehouse.
Having thus convinced us that you have no sincere regard for our welfare, and that it is in vain to hope that you can be convinced by us of your mistakes, so as to be in future an useful member of this society; we have been constrained to separate you from it, by a regard to the honour of God, to our own ?self-preservation, and with a desire and hope that this ordinance of Jesus Christ, who has commanded us to withdraw ourselves from those who are unruly, and walk not in love, may prove a means of bringing you to repentance.
1 Cor. v. 6, 7, 11. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Purge out, therefore, the old leaven, &c. the leaven of malice and wickedness. If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one, not to keep company; no, not to eat.
2 Thess. iii. 6. compared with 1 Thess. iv. 12- 15. Rom. xvi. 17. Mark them that cause divisions and offences.
Do read these scriptures; and pray to God, that if you have acted contrary to them, you may be made sensible of it.
We beg you to observe, that we do not separate you from us, for merely absenting yourself from the Lord's table, though we think that was wrong; nor merely for difference of sentiment; though we think it very desirable that church-members should be nearly of one mind respecting the principal parts of Christian doctrine, and Consider the notion you have newly embraced as very erroneous: but we exclude you from our community, as having evidently proved yourself destitute of regard to our welfare, and as an enemy to our peace, who would gladly have caused divisions among us, or have set up an opposite interest, were it in your power so to do.
You have charged us with partiality, but we deny the charge. One member, who gave some degree of countenance to the preacher referred to before, does readily profess that regard to the church, to the minister, and to the law as a rule of life, which, with all your evasions, you have refused to do. Nor can we find any evidence of his ever speaking in that reproachful manner which you have done. We have not equal proof of the bitterness and malevolence of your own relations, as of yours; though their rending themselves away from the place, upon our presuming to admonish you, renders it too suspicious that they are allied to you in spirit, as well as in the flesh. Our messengers found your father much less bitter in his temper than yourself. We feel for him, in his advanced period of life, considering him as chiefly led away by the prejudices of others. We are therefore willing to wait a while longer, to see if their minds can be softened by forbearance.
You have spoken of yourself as persecuted for righteousness sake. But before you can take just comfort from such a consideration, you must prove that your conduct to us, to our minister, and to other servants of Christ whom you have attempted to lampoon, is righteous. You applied to your own case, Isai. lxvi. 5. But can you indeed prove, that you are such as tremble at God's word? that you have much godly jealousy of yourself? that you love those parts of scripture which tend to excite holy trembling, as well as those that are consolatory ? We shall rejoice if you can do this; though we should have ground for sorrow if you could prove that we hated you, and cast you out for the Lord's name's sake, or on account of your attachment to Christ.
We solemnly profess; that we hate you not, though we hate slander, and an unchristian spirit; and we hate sentiments that really tend to antinomianism, and to make professors set up privilege in opposition to duty. May the Lord teach you also to hate these things; and to hate all self-conceit, and all covetousness and worldly-mindedness. So soon as we can see evidence that you hate these things, which we are sure the Lord hates, we shall be glad to receive you in again: and whether you return to us or not, shall be glad then to consider ourselves as
Though now your grieved Brethren,
JOHN RYLAND, Pastor.
Signed by us, in behalf of the whole Church; at our church-meeting, Lord's Day, October 30, 1791.
EXCOMMUNICATION, TO THE REV. JOHN RYLAND, JUNIOR. OF NORTHAMPTON.
HAVING perused and considered the Letter that you sent to Mr. Adams, mine host; and finding myself frequently brought in, as that stranger, that minister, a man of such a spirit and principles: it evidently demonstrates you culpable, with respect to all the charges of calumny and reproach which you have brought against, and for which you have excommunicated Mr. Adams. "Thou therefore that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself also?" As I am a party concerned, I hope a few remarks on your spirit and principles will be no more offensive to you, than your letter is to me. We are to do as we would be done by, for this is the law and the prophets.
The gentleman that received me into his house at Northampton, is since that time, I find, excommunicated from your church; and his reception of me seems to be the chief cause of-that dreadful sentence, though the curse, causeless, shall never come. I went to him, sir, in the spirit of love and meekness, and you have been to him with a rod; and I have no doubt but, under the blessing of God, both will be of use to his soul, the former to attract his affections to the gospel of Christ; and the latter to raise an holy indignation against the doctrines and commandments of men; and teach him, not to settle his faith on human wisdom, but on divine power.
If you do sincerely wish to meet the gentleman you have cut off in the kingdom of heaven, prove your wish to be genuine, by doing as Christ bids you: preach the kingdom of God to him; and lay aside extorting evangelical obedience to the gospel of Christ from the unconverted, which is not fighting, but a beating the air. This obscures the gospel, starves the flock, and shuts up the kingdom of God against men; for the shepherd's labour is spent on the serpent's seed, while the subjects of grace are neglected. The blessing, sir, is not on him who preaches the evangelical duties of the unconverted; but blessed is that servant whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them a portion of meat, in due season, Luke xii. 42. The household, not the unconverted, are to have the meat.
You bring in Mr. Adams as having covenanted to walk with you in church-fellowship, by lifting up his hand, and subscribing his name. And likewise the church's choice of you as their pastor, after a trial of ten years; and no apparent opposition was made at the election. But pray, sir, did you, at your ordination, confess, or make it the chief article of your confession before the church, that you should set the law of Moses before every member of Christ, as his only rule of life and conduct? and that you should enforce the everlasting gospel as the only rule of duty for the unconverted? Or was the instant preaching of these things, in season, and out of season, the cause of Mr. Adams joining your church at first? Were these things mentioned in your confession of faith? or, was passive obedience and non-resistance, with respect to these things, required of Mr. Adams at his admission into your church? If not, who is to blame? If a minister goes from his confession to the church, no wonder if members go from their professed subjection to him. If he departs from the faith, the faithful should depart from him, Their faith is not to stand in his wisdom, but in God's power. He has no dominion over their faith, but is, or should be, a servant of the church, and a fellow-helper of their joy; for by faith they stand. If you have gone into these things since your ordination, or since the admission of Mr. Adams, you are the first offender. You have no warrant from Christ to feed the household of God with husks, nor to give the children's bread to dogs. If Mr. Adams exclaimed against these things, he did his duty in opposing walking in craftiness, and handling the word of God deceitfully. And, had you been Peter the apostle, you ought to have been withstood to the face.
The minority must submit to the majority, True, sir: and, when a pastor is going to leave the holy commandment delivered unto him, and to turn aside to vain jangling, he generally circulates his new leaven in a private way, and biases the minds of all he can, before he brings the dregs of his heart out: and, if the majority seems against him, the church door is often thrown open a little wider than common, and numbers are admitted who come to spy out the saints' liberty, and to bring them into bondage: by which means Christ is often turned out of doors; and, when he is gone, the faithful, by degrees, go after him; till, in process of time, nothing is left behind but stubble, the refuse of the harvest. "The congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate."
The most weighty charge against Mr. Adams, is said to be disaffection to the pastor. In this, I think, Mr. Ryland was the first aggressor, and is by far the most culpable. When Mr. Ryland was first chosen pastor of that church, he professed the occupation of a shepherd, not a herdsman. He took the oversight of the flock, not of the herds. He took charge of the Lord's household, not of the world; to feed the Lord's family with knowledge and understanding, as a pastor after God's own heart: and, doubtless, they expected that you would have laboured in the Lord's vineyard, not, in the forest; that you would have preached the gospel to the faithful, not the law; that they should have had the word of life, not the killing letter; that you would have appeared as a steward of the grace of God, not a frustrater of it; that you would have declared the whole counsel of God, not obscured it; that you would have done the Work of an evangelist, not of a blind watchman, or a foolish shepherd; and that, like Christ, you would have sought and fed the lost sheep of the house of Israel; or, like Paul, have endured all things for the elect's sake, that they might obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. But, instead of this, you appeared to be zealously affected to the unconverted. The gospel, from month's end to month's end, was set before the Hagarenes, as their only rule of duty; while the children of Zion were to bow their necks to the law of Moses: the children of wrath were sent to the promise, and the heirs of promise to the law. And, after many had shewed their dissatisfaction with it, and their disapprobation of it, and borne their protest against it; yea, and after some ministers had borne a faithful testimony against it, you persisted in it; which has been a grief of mind and an offence to hundreds, if not to thousands, of Christ's little ones. And what could the children of God gather from such conduct, but that your heart and affections were wholly alienated from the household of faith; for you would sacrifice the favour and affections of many ministers, and members of Christ, rather than suffer the gospel to depart, as the only rule, from the unconverted. If this does not exhibit alienation from, and disaffection to, the saints of God, what does? I am sure they had a just right to conclude, as the Philistine did from the conduct of Samson with respect to his wife, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her. This conclusion they might justly draw. And it shews alienation from the life of God too: for "the friendship of the world is enmity with God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God;" and he that hates Zion shall be desolate. And surely he must be a friend to the world who will preach the gospel as the only rule of the unconverted. Nor can he be a friend to the children of the free woman who robs them of their bread, and brings them into bondage. What could such souls say but this, 'Our pastor looks to us for his hire, but his labour is in the house of strangers. We have got his carcase, but the worldlings have got his affections. He took charge of us, but his great concern is for the unconverted.' And this brings Mr. Ryland in culpable of the next charge which he brings against Mr. Adams; namely, that a worldly spirit has too much increased upon him. For, if sacrificing the favour and affections of God's children, by perverting the gospel, to please the world, be not, in the worst sense, drinking into the spirit of the world, I know not what is. Paul would not give place for a moment, that the truth of the gospel might not continue with the Galatians; but your friends have suffered it to go out to the unconverted, and are contented with the law. The next charge is,
That Mr. Adams has not attended on prayer-meetings, &c. There is but little encouragement, sir, to attend on the lesser means, when the greater are attended with no power, no blessing, no entertainment, for the soul. The gentlemen that attended me to Northampton,' who heard you, said there was nothing but death in the pot: no power, no experience, no savour of Christ there: nor could it be expected, when Mr. Ryland had cast off his first faith, slighted his charge, and in heart gone over to the uncircumcised.
That Mr. Adams has wanted more unguarded comfort to be administered, and less duty to be insisted upon, is no more than what may be reasonably expected. Because little else had been heard of for some years, but the duty of all men, whom God hath concluded in unbelief, to believe the gospel. But why should the consolations of the God of all comfort be styled unguarded? Is not the comforter able to guard his own administrations? And, as for insisting upon the evangelical duty of the unconverted, Mr. Adams must see, unless he is as blind as a bat, that such doctrine had no good effect, either upon the saint, or upon the sinner: not to the saint, for he was sent to Moses for help; nor to the sinner, for he was sent to the physician before he was sick. Nor will God ever attend with his blessing and his seal such a doctrine as this to the conversion of any soul living; and this I shall attempt to prove.
If you have left out certain truths to which Mr. Adams professes an attachment, and have brought in other truths of importance which he did not like to be insisted upon; it is plain that you have not kept that good thing that was committed unto you. Certain truths, which I take to be the doctrines of the gospel, have been left out; and the duty of all men to believe, which are here called truths of importance, have been brought in, and substituted in their room. Then it is no wonder, if the children of God, and their affections, go from you; as the unconverted begin to affect and cleave to you. But still, in all this, Mr. Ryland was the first aggressor; he cast off his first confession, and then wanted Mr. Adams to cast off his first faith. He is the first man that ever found out that the gospel is a rule for the unconverted, and the law the only rule for the saint. The former is a parable in the mouth of fools; and the latter is liberty in irons.
As to your insisting too much upon universal 'holiness, Mr. Adams might be at a loss to know what you mean by the term, as I now am; for the bible has no such expressions: and, as for true holiness, any body that has read your sermon on the promises of God, might easily discern, if they had any eyes at all, that you had very little, if any, real knowledge of the Spirit of holiness. Holiness is no more universal than the gospel; but, as you have made it the duty of all men to believe, 'tis right that your holiness should be as extensive as your rule of duty.
'A few years ago, a neighbouring minister published a treatise on the duty of sinners respecting faith in Christ. You found that he and your own minister, with some others, had once thought differently on that subject, and that they now considered the duty of the unconverted as extending further than they once conceived.' From first to last, Mr. Ryland went no further into this matter, than thinking, it was not a matter or point of faith with him, but a point of thought. Should Mr. Adams wait patiently a few years, Mr. Ryland may in time come back to his old way of thinking again, and so finish where he begun; especially if God should gather his thoughts from the extensive latitude of the sinner's duty, and bring them into captivity to the obedience of Christ. However, let us try this doctrine which insists upon the duty of all men to believe in Christ.
1. This doctrine can never be established by the practice or example of Jesus: for though he called all that laboured and were heavy laden to come to him, and those that were sick, that were hungry, and thirsty, &c. yet it is clear that he always sent the curious, the pharisaical, and the whole-hearted inquirer, to the law. "What is written in the law? how readest thou? This do, and thou shall live." "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." And, if they asked Which? he replied, "Do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery; and Honour thy father and mother." This sending them to the law to work, is a sufficient proof that Christ made not his gospel the rule of these men's duty. Mr. Ryland and Mr. Fuller act contrary to Christ, who is the best example; for it is clear that the Saviour went a different way from them, in making the two tables of the law, not the gospel, the rule of these men's obedience.
2. I think, with respect to the unconverted, sir, that you begin at the wrong end. You tell them, it is the duty of all men to believe; but, as faith is produced in the soul by the Spirit, and is brought forth into exercise by a spiritual birth, I think you should tell the unconverted, that it is their duty first to beget themselves; then to quicken their own souls; then to make a new heart and a new spirit; and then by perfect love, to cast out fear from their hearts; and then their faith would work by their love. A child cannot walk before it is born, nor can any man walk by faith till he is born again. Marvel not at this: before a man can believe, he must be born again.
3. This extorting evangelical obedience to the faith from infidels shut up in unbelief; is a doctrine that cannot meet with the approbation, nor be attended with the impression, of the Holy Ghost; for he is the Spirit of faith, and produces faith: but, by this doctrine the unconverted are set to perform what none but the Spirit of God can effect. A man receives grace for the obedience of faith; but that which is produced by the Spirit's energy, is here made the carnal man's duty. Man is made the agent, where the Spirit is the efficient; and, can it be expected that the Spirit will attend with his seal a doctrine that brings no honour to him? He will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to the unconverted. This doctrine will never add one soul to the household of faith.
4. If it is the duty of all men to believe, they must believe that Jesus died for all men; that he will pardon all men, and save all men. If they believe not this, their faith is vain, and they are yet in their sins; and if all men do believe this, they believe a lie, for the bible affords no such warrant for the universal faith of these unconverted legions. "I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion." Were I to go to the condemned criminals in the cells of Newgate, and tell them, it is their duty, one and all, to believe; that the king will pardon them at the gallows, and that he will save them from death: should I succeed with this doctrine, and bring them all to believe the report, I should think that I had acted as the false prophets did in the days of Jeremiah, make this people to trust in a lie; and, when the rope came to be put round their necks, they would have just cause to curse my false doctrine, and me also as an impostor and a deceiver. And if all men believe Mr. Ryland's doctrine, they will go down to the grave with a lie in their hand; and he will appear but little better in their sight, when they lift up their eyes in hell, than I should in the eyes of the above criminals, when cast off at Tyburn.
5. It appears to me further, that this duty of the unconverted is attended not only with very great difficulties, but with some impossibilities; and, therefore, it becomes Mr. Ryland to give those labourers all the assistance that he possibly can give them, because the revealed will of God is point blank against his doctrine. "Behold I work a work in your days," saith the Lord, "a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you," Acts, xiii. 41. Hence it appears that they do not believe; not only because they will not, for if they would, it is not of him that willeth; but they believe not, because they cannot, and because they shall not. "They could not believe, because he hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts," John, xii. 37. 40. Hence Mr. Ryland's task appears more difficult than making bricks without straw; for he says, it is the duty of all men to believe wherever the gospel comes, what, God says, they shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it to them.
6. All labour bestowed on the goats, sir, will add nothing to the household of faith. It is best of all to seek the lost sheep of the house of Israel: these shall most surely believe; not by enforcing the duty of all men upon them, but the power of Christ in them. "As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me." "Thy people shall be willing in the day of my power." It is the sheep, sir, that must come for your hire in the great day; therefore seek these: the goats are the price of the field, but Christ is the price of the sheep. Do as you are bid; feed the sheep, feed the lambs; the goats will never believe the gospel, though they may believe your doctrine. "Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you." You shall as soon change their complexion by animal magnetism, as change their hearts with your doctrine.
7. The voice of the chief shepherd, sir, is directed to the sheep: "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold, and they shall hear my voice." "My sheep hear my voice, and follow me-" but, as for the law, the voice of that is directed to the unconverted. "Now we know, that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law." But you frustrate the grace of God on the one hand, and are partial in the law on the other; for you set the law before the believer, as his only rule of life and conduct; and the gospel is set before the unconverted, as their only rule of duty. The carnal man has got an evangelical rule, and the heir of promise has got a legal one; the life-giving commandment is palmed upon the congregation of the dead, and the ministration of death is saddled on the children of the resurrection; the believers are all sent to Moses, and the unconverted are sent to Jesus; Moses is to have the legitimate sons, and Christ is to have the bastards. This turning things upside down is esteemed as potter's clay. Should any person bring a company of vagrants into Mr. Ryland's house, and leave them there to claim his affection, and all the privileges of his own children; and at the same time carry his own offspring into the Indian plantations, and put them under the rigorous rules of a negro-driver, who accuses and whips them all day long; I question not but Mr. Ryland would be greatly incensed at the application of his own doctrine! The parallel holds good: the distinction is not so great between Mr. Ryland and the task-master, the vagrants and his children, as between Christ and Moses, saints and sinners.
8. This doctrine is making Christ the minister of a legal commandment, instead of the author of an endless life. It is making the covenant of grace, the mystery of faith, the ministration of the Spirit, the better hope, no more than a dead man's rule of legal duty. It is lessening, eclipsing the glory, and debasing the everlasting gospel to the level of carnal men. This wisdom is too high for a fool, and must never be debased to a level with him: it never can be known, but by God's shining into the heart, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
9. Preaching the law, as the only rule of the unconverted man's duty, is handling the law lawfully, for it speaks to them that are under the law; and it is imitating Christ: and I think that if Mr. Ryland could, by enforcing this rule of duty, produce love in the unconverted, it would answer the end that he aims at by his present doctrine, and would keep him from the sin of frustrating the grace of God. He legalizes the gospel, and makes it a rule of duty, I suppose, in order to produce faith in the unconverted; and, could he produce love by the law, it would be the same, for "Charity believeth all things."
10. I think, after all Mr. Fuller's and Mr. Ryland's logick is spent in the battle, that they never will be able to make the glorious gospel a legal rule of duty for the unconverted. There is a great difference between law and gospel, works and grace, the letter and the Spirit; and between a legal commandment and a life-giving commandment. The former bids us work for life, the latter bids us live: "When thou wast in thy blood, I said unto thee, live." At which command the sting of death flies, and life and immortality are brought to light. The former is of works, and was given by Moses: this latter is of grace and truth, and came by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is set king on the holy hill of Zion; and upon that hill God commanded him to give the blessing, even life for evermore, he sent his son Jesus Christ to bless us, and to lay down his life for us, and to give eternal life to as many as the Father has given him. This commandment he received from his Father, who gave him a commandment what he should say, and what he should speak: "And I know," saith the Saviour, "that his commandment is life everlasting." "If a man keeps my sayings he shall never see death." "My word is spirit, and my word is life," for the Spirit of life goes with it; "And they that hear the voice of the Son of God shall live." This commandment in the letter of it, and a speculative knowledge of it, attended with a gift of speech or utterance, has been given to many bond-servants, who have been sure to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them; which was only verifying the truth 'of the proverb: and such have made very little better use of it than Mr. Ryland, who makes it the legal rule of a dead man's duty. But as for this life-giving commandment, in the divine power of it, Jesus will never trust any man with that; for though he gave the word of life to the apostles, yet he bid them stay till they were endued with power from on high. The Holy Ghost was sent on them, and did abide in them. And, "He," saith Christ, "shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak." Yea, Christ took up his abode in the hearts of his apostles: and, as Paul says, Christ speaks by me; and it is not weak, but mighty, in you Corinthians. Hence it appears that the life-giving commandment was in the apostles' mouth, but it was Christ that spoke it forth by his Spirit, and made them speak as he gave them utterance. When Paul said to the gaoler, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house;" Christ spoke the word by Paul's mouth; faith went to the gaoler's heart by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; he believed, and all his house. Thus the excellency of the power was of God, and not of Paul; and the strength of Christ appeared the most conspicuous in Paul's weakness. "He that heareth whomsoever I send," saith the Saviour, "heareth me." When Peter said, "Repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out;" He that is exalted to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins, sent his Spirit and grace with the word, to work repentance and conversion in his own elect. And though they spake the word promiscuously to all, yet Christ only spoke it to his own. It never was sent with the power of the Spirit of faith to any but to his own elect: "As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed." This is the life-giving commandment of the everlasting God, in the mouth of Zion's king. But what effect has it, or what power attends it, from the mouth of Mr. Ryland, or Mr. Fuller, when they make it the rule of a dead man's duty? Just as much as the adjuration of the sons of Sceva the Jew, when they abused the name of the Lord Jesus, in commanding the evil spirit, who left the man, and mastered them; and so these labour for the unconverted, till they get into the gall of bitterness themselves. To make the word of eternal life, in the mouth of Christ, a legal rule of duty for a condemned criminal in chains how dishonourable to Christ! how degrading to the gospel! and how confounding and disgustful to the children of God! You might just as well go to the gates of the grave, and tell the sleeping dust, it is their duty to come forth as Lazarus did; for they are commanded to arise, and shake themselves from the dust. Mr. Ryland may just as well do the one as the other. When Christ says to the earth, Cast out your dead, she shall obey his voice; for he is the resurrection and the life: and the dead sinner shall never perform his duty by Mr. Ryland's rule, till he hears the voice of the Son of God, which never attends a minister of the letter.
11. The grace of faith is the Spirit's fruit: he produces it under his operation, and testifies of, and exhibits to the mind, the object to be believed in. The Spirit persuades the mind of interest in that object, and produces the appropriating act of faith to make the application. Faith, the act of it, and the exercise of it, is wholly depending on, and owing to, the Spirit of God, who is the Spirit of faith. If this wind blow not on the Lord's garden, no spices will ever flow out grateful to him who can eat nothing but his own pleasant fruits. And he that turns the mystery of the gospel into a legal rule, and makes the above faith, in its nature, act, and exercise, the duty of the uncircumcised, he proclaims to the world at once that he never yet, with the heart, believed unto righteousness; for he cannot make confession with his mouth to salvation. The mystery of faith is the law of the Spirit, or the Spirit's law; and it is under his divine operations and influence that evangelical obedience is produced: both service and worship must be performed in the newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
There is another curious quibble, and nice distinction, coined and sent out with the evangelical rule of the unconverted. When our London spouters first got hold of it, they chirped it about like sparrows: there was scarcely a master of arts, that was a week old from the academy, but what was equipped with that distinction. Would my reader know what it is? Why, it is the wonderful difference they found out between natural inability and moral inability. These two inabilities, though they so widely differed, yet they were always hand in hand; and sometimes they have been handled till they have been lost in a fog, and the inability appeared entirely to rest with the preacher, not having ability to tell us what he meant. If I may give my reader the true sense of these two inabilities, it is this; The natural and unconverted man is not able, he has no ability, or his natural inability is such, that he cannot, without the Spirit of God, be obedient to Mr. Ryland's evangelical rule of duty. Moral inability stands in this; The moral law, or the law of Moses, is utterly unable, or it has no ability, to assist or help the believer, who flies to it as his only rule of life and conduct. And now, reader, we will leave the words which man's wisdom teacheth, and go to the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth; and there we shall have both these inabilities together, in the one word, weak; and the law on one side, and nature on the other; and we may pronounce them both with one breath; The law is weak through the flesh, Rom. viii. 3. Thus my reader sees how a little learning puts a number of scattered quibbles into a small bundle of common sense. This distinction, reader, was intended to weaken the law, and give nature the pre-eminence. Now I shall proceed to consider a few more of the charges brought against Mr. Adams.
'You continued to maintain an intimate connection with a person excluded from this church for his abusive treatment of our pastor.' I shall not justify the good man's abuse. But the whole offence sprung from this: Mr. Hewet said, Mr. Ryland did not preach the gospel, and that he could not fall in with his scheme; which is a truth, and cannot be denied. Mr. Hewet, in shewing his utter detestation against, and opposing the doctrines before described, as advanced by Mr. Ryland, was right; for we are to contend for the faith, to be valiant for the truth, to stop the mouths of the gainsayers, to shun profane and vain babblings, and to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. We are not to be silent under every person who is called a pastor, when he is running away with the key of knowledge, shutting up the kingdom of God against us, sending the ark to the Philistines, and bringing Israel into Egypt. However, I have read that Jeremiah spoke against the Most High God: "Thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived." "Wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?" And Jesus says, that if a man speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him. The Corinthians sought a proof from Paul of Christ speaking in him; which was not weak but mighty in them. Which Mr. Hewet could never say of Mr. Ryland, without belying his own conscience. And as for the Galatians, they called Paul their enemy, for telling them the truth. But neither of these were excommunicated, or delivered up to Satan. But Mr. Ryland takes his sword in hand, and cuts them off; when the poor and needy speak right, in calling for the bread of their Father's house, which is sent to the Assyrians. Let Mr. Ryland take care that, by thus abusing his power in the gospel, he does not bring a worse sword upon himself.
'This man's house was first licensed, and a minister, famous for smiting his fellow-servants with an envenomed tongue, was invited to come down and preach in it.' This charge is multum in parvo: I believe it contains all the rest. And can you, sir, blame this man? As you had set the gospel forth as a rule of duty for the unconverted, and the law of Moses as the only rule of the saint, can you blame this man for opening his doors to receive Christ Jesus into his house, seeing you had sent him to the Hagarenes, and brought Moses into the household of faith in his room? It is a plain proof that your excommunication of him had no weight upon him; that it did not expose him to Satan, nor make him cease from well-doing; nor abate his affection to Christ, nor his attachment to the truth; though he had been so roughly handled by one called a minister of Jesus. If you are so charitable to Mr. Adams, as to wish to see him in the kingdom of heaven; why would you wish to have the gospel shut out, either of Mr. Hewet's heart or house? I know that Christ sent me to preach to his household; and he that receiveth whomsoever Christ sends, receives him: and as you shut me out of your pulpit, would you have him follow your bad example, by shutting me out of his house? Is he to follow either a minister or a multitude to do evil? The man hath wrought a good work in receiving me; and they that are not against us, says the Saviour, are on our side. Diotrephes was no example for John; nor Mr. Ryland for Mr. Hewet. But, alas! this preacher, invited to preach there, is famous for smiting his fellow-servants with an envenomed tongue. For my part, sir, I cannot call this stroke at me any better than smiting with an envenomed pen. But I do not, nor cannot, call any one my fellow-servant, in the strictest sense, unless he can prove his conversion to the faith, his call to the fellowship of Christ, and his call to the ministry of the word. All others appeal' to me to be raised up of Satan, by the sufferance of God, to oppose the servants of Christ, for a trial of their fidelity and patience, and to perplex the feeble and simple of the Lord's household. Moreover, it should be considered that I am one of those sinners whom God hath justified freely by his grace; and that, if I have smitten any servant, it has been either a wicked servant, or a good servant for his faults, and that with the rod of truth: and this in obedience to the novice's own call; for when his lips enter into contention, his mouth calleth for strokes. And this smiting has not been in vain; for though it seldom enters into the back of a fool, yet it has entered into the heart of many a wise man. And the language of a soul humbled by grace, is, "Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness; let him reprove, it shall be an excellent oil." None but a scorner in his chair will call the reproof and rebuke of the wise the venom of the tongue.
'The licensing of the house sufficiently indicated that it was not expected that he would be received by the ministers of his own denomination any more than by ours.' For my own part, sir, I never expected it; for the disciples of Moses were always implacable enemies to Jesus Christ and his gospel. And as for those who, in their ministry, have debased the Prince of life to the level of a creature, it could never be expected that such would admit a preacher who has Christ formed in his heart the hope of glory. But then, sir, we can do as our Master bids us: when we are persecuted in one city, we can flee to another; and when we are shut out, or cast out of the synagogue, we can preach from house to house, where we find any that we judge faithful to the Lord. So that neither Mr. Ryland, nor Mr. Horsey, hinders the progress of the gospel: it prospers in Christ's hands, though not in theirs. God will work, and who shall let it?
'Nor can it be doubted, considering who gave him the invitation.' In this, sir, the excommunicated person acted a better part than the pastor that cut him off; which would give any discerning person room to suspect that he was dismissed for savouring too much of Christ Jesus. You know the time has been when a confession of Christ exposed the confessor to the censure of the whole synagogue: and certain I am, that Mr. Hewet received Christ, and a servant of Christ, when you shut out both; and I think, as a fellow-servant, I have as much right to censure you for shutting me out, as you have to censure him for receiving me in. The spirit of the prophets is as much subject to the prophets as Mr. Hewet is to Mr. Ryland.
'But his mind had been previously prejudiced by slanderous insinuations that we had not the gospel preached in the town, only in a very imperfect manner.' This, sir, is false: I was not in the least prejudiced against you, nor did I ever hear that the gospel was not preached in Northampton. I doubt not, but it is at times by many good men; but I cannot say, that ever I saw any thing of young Mr. Ryland's publishing, that bore much resemblance to the pure gospel, except a few verses of poetry, which serve to contradict and condemn all his present doctrine.
If Mr. Hewet was excluded from your society for his violent opposition to your ministry, I think the man's cause was good. He bore the same testimony against your notions that other good men have done; and! have no doubt but he came off with the testimony of a good conscience; for, those who keep the word of Christ's patience, Christ will keep from the hour of temptation. Mr. Hewet did no more than what was his duty to do, no more than what I should have done; for I could never have sacrificed the foundation of my hope, and the testimony of my conscience, to Mr. Ryland's humour, nor suffered the everlasting gospel to be given up as a rule of duty to the unconverted, while I was knocked about the head with the rod of Moses, which has been turned into a serpent more than once, twice, or thrice.
If I have been writing against Mr. Ryland, senior, in defence of the pernicious notion of the law's being not a rule of the believer's conduct; it should have been observed, that Mr. Ryland, senior, had first been working under ground at my doctrine; and that I only defended what no Ryland, either senior or junior, will ever be able to overthrow: and I would have Mr. Ryland take care how he calls the gospel, a pernicious notion: lest, like the great doctor at Bristol, God take away his speech, and then his breath.
'Nevertheless, you appeared as the principal encourager of this stranger; not only attending on his preaching all the Lord's day, to the neglect of the Lord's supper that day administered among us, but receiving and entertaining him in such a manner as no other minister was ever entertained by you.' Mr. Huntington is neither a stranger, nor a foreigner, but a fellow-citizen of the saints, and of the household of God: nor was he a stranger to many persons at Northampton. They knew the voice as soon as they heard it; nor do I believe that I was a stranger even to Mr. Ryland himself, for I trust God has made me manifest even in his conscience. And, as for a cordial reception, and kind entertainment, it is no more than what I expected as a servant of Christ, who went to them with the blessings of the gospel of peace; for those that honour Christ, he will honour. But those that corrupt the covenant of life and peace, and are partial in the law, God declares that he will make them contemptible and base before all people, Mal. ii. 9. If the disciples of Christ do not encourage a minister of the gospel, who will they encourage? Christ tells you that his sheep hear his voice, and follow him; but a stranger they will not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers. But an ambassador of peace has a beauty even in his feet, when he brings the glad tidings of salvation. But, as for those ministers of the letter, who travel with a budget of evangelical duties for unconverted men, without the energy of the Spirit, the burden that they bind on men's shoulders is more grievous and more perplexing than the legal obedience of the moral law: there is neither beauty in their feet, music in their heart, nor melody in their tongue. And, the worst of all is, their example and conduct is always diametrically opposite to all their rules, so that they never escape their own censure, nor their own sentence, but condemn themselves by condemning others, for they themselves do the same things, as is manisest in Mr. Ryland, which I shall prove; but, as the old vail is upon their heart, they cannot see their own folly; but those who are light in the Lord, can. It hurt Mr. Ryland's conscience to break bread to Mr. Adams, because he appeared to be disaffected to his ministry; but it never hurt his conscience when he shut me and my master out of his pulpit; though Christ says, He that receiveth you, receiveth me; and he that receiveth you not, wipe the dust from your feet against them, Matt. x. 14.
He could not receive a man who smites his fellow-servants with an envenomed tongue. But the stater who received the spirit of liberty under my ministry, Mr. Ryland told him, that I had poisoned him. He that can spit his venom at the Spirit of God, and charge his operations with poison, is a smiter, and a kicker too, and that in the worst sense.'A man of such a spirit, and of such principles!'
You should let my spirit and principles alone, sir, until a spirit of discernment be given to you; for I am filly persuaded, that a person who can make the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus a rule of dead works, is too blind to judge of spiritual operations, or of the sublime principles of the oracles of God. He can be no better judge of these things, than a blind man is of colours.
If Mrs. Adams did openly suggest that there was room to dread the Divine Judgment for not admitting me into the pulpit, it shows that the good woman had more reverence of God, and more filial fear of him, than her pastor. Two clerical gentlemen at Bristol treated me, without any cause, just as Mr. Ryland has done; but it did not pass unresented: both of them are now no more. Another at Lewes, in Sussex; another at Basing-stoke, in Hants; another at Plymouth; and three in London; acted the same part: but they found the law of retaliation put into execution against them; and, as they measured, so it was measured to them again, pressed down, shook together, and running over. If I am a sinner saved, if a servant of Christ, and if a minister of the gospel, Mr. Ryland has done wrong, and the Lord will, by some trial or other, requite; but if I am a hypocrite, a deceiver, and an impostor, Mr. Ryland has done right, and the Lord's approbation shall attend his proceedings, and the light of Ryland's countenance shall show it.
'But a place was to be procured for the occasional preaching of ministers, whose principles would render them unacceptable at College Lane.' True, sir; and such a place was much needed at Northampton, seeing the Saviour is shut out of doors; and such a place, blessed be God! is now procured. A man must have a peculiar set of principles to render his ministry acceptable at College Lane: he must declare that the gospel is the rule of unconverted men's duty, and that the law is the rule of a saint's life. This is at once removing all the distinctions that God has made between saint and sinner, believer and infidel, the children of God, and the children of the devil; for it all lies in the one being under the law and the curse, the other under grace and the blessing. This is beclouding the saint with the old veil, and putting the sinner's eyes out with the glorious gospel. And what man, who has ever felt the plague of his own heart, who has felt his carnal mind to be enmity against God, that it is not subject to his law, nor indeed can be; and who has felt his carnal mind, at his first awakening, to be offended, and even stumble at Christ; and who, after all this, has been influenced by the Spirit of God, and, under his operations, has been enabled to believe through grace--how could such an one call the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that has made him free, or the perfect law of liberty in his own soul, the unconverted man's rule of duty; when he knows, by an unctuous experience in his own heart, that it was a divine power that influenced his mind and will, to make him willing: that real obedience is the loyal submission and subjection of the inward or new man, not the old man; that his service is in the newness of the Spirit, not in the oldness of the letter; that his worship is by the Spirit, and in truth, not in the flesh, nor by false doctrine; that all graces are the spices of the Spirit's planting, and that those lie dormant, or flow out, just as the heavenly gales of the Spirit blow, or cease to blow; that he is so far from being able to produce, or exercise faith, that he knows not what to pray for, unless the Spirit helps his infirmities; that the King must give motion to the fleshly table of the heart, be. fore the spikenard can send forth the smell thereof; that evangelical obedience is the obedience of faith; and that the grace of faith must be produced by the Spirit before faith can obey; for by Christ, saith Paul, we have received grace and apostleship to the obedience of faith, Rom. i. 5; for so the words should be read, as they are in Rom. xvi. 26. made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.
Does not all real evangelical obedience lie in these words; The work of faith, the labour of love, and the patience of hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Thess. i. 3. Work, here, as well as obedience, is ascribed to faith; labour is ascribed to love; and patience is ascribed to hope; and these are never produced by the Spirit in any person living, unless he be in our Lord Jesus Christ; that is, unless he be in covenant with the Lord, in the favour of the Lord, in union with the Lord, in the Spirit of the Lord, and a dweller in Christ by faith, and Christ in him the hope of glory. Now, if Mr. Ryland, Mr. Rippon, and Mr. Fuller, will form a conjunction of heads, and shew us how infidelity is to perform this obedience and work of faith, and how carnal enmity is to perform this labour of love, and how the patience of hope is to be exercised by the hopeless sinner: and all this to be done in and by the unconverted; who are so far from being in Christ, that they are said to be without God, without Christ, and having no hope in the world, I say, when they can do this, we shall consider their new scheme a little more particularly. Let them shew us the obedience that they have extorted from the unconverted, as well as the rule of their duty, and then we shall see what mighty works have shewed forth themselves in them by this new doctrine, and we will then endeavour to draw a fair line between the duty of the unconverted, and the obedience of faith; and as clear a line as we can, between the everlasting gospel and the carnal man's rule. For my part, I shall as soon expect to hear that College Lane in Northampton, Kettering, and Carter Lane in the Borough, are met together, as to hear of any soul being converted to Christ by such a doctrine. The gospel and the carnal heart are further apart than any of the above places. Mr. Ryland robs both saint and sinner: he robs the heir of promise, by taking away the promises, and setting him to labour under the law; and he robs the sinner of the letter which he can see, and gives him a mystery which he cannot see. These are Mr. Ryland's principles, which render a man acceptable at College Lane; and sure I am, that these are not the principles of the oracles of God; and, by the help of God, I will bear my testimony against them as long as faith shall enable me to say, "My Lord, and my God."
But the next charge is, that I had been informed, previous to my coming down, that some at Northampton were starved out, that they had no food. I know of no such information. But this I must say, that when I began to speak among them, they looked at each other; they simpered, and smiled; and seemed so eager to catch at every word, it was as if they had not had a morsel of the bread of life within their lips for a twelvemonth: and several of them affirmed, that many of the fruits and sweetmeats were such as they never had seen at table before. And yet I knew that they were no other than the pleasant fruits, new and old, that Jesus has laid up at our gates, for his well-beloved, Song vii. 13.
Mr. Ryland condemns disaffection in Mr. Adams; and yet strikes at charity in me. Fervent charity, in the root, is love in the heart; and charity in the fruit, is to minister the gift received, as a good steward of the manifold grace of God, 1 Peter iv. 8, 10. If Mr. Ryland has been so taken up with the goats, as to neglect the sheep, why should he be offended at the Lord for sending me to feed them, or at me for my obedience? I am commanded to feed the sheep, and the lambs too; and my soul is willing to do it, whether at Northampton, or in the Borough either, as long as the Lord is pleased to furnish me with pasture, which he has done in both the above places: and many of the sheep have shewed great signs, and given ample proofs, that they are fed. If Mr. Ryland refuses to preach the pure gospel, and shuts it out of his pulpit; would he have others follow his example, and shut it out of their houses? God forbid!
'Surely a house divided against itself cannot stand.' It is true, sir. But who began the division? Did you not first swerve from your own confession of faith? Have you not owned it in this letter? And do not your present tenets contradict your own doctrine, in poetry, formerly printed? If so, did you not make the first breach? Are you not first in the transgression? Have you not built again the things which you destroyed, and so made yourself a transgressor? Galatians. ii. 18. Have you not established Arminianism in your late sermons, which you once demolished in your hymns? And if so, if you have invented a gospel that is yea and nay; would you wish to have the Lord's children lame in both their feet, that they might go halting all their days after your whims and fancies?
While your trumpet gives an uncertain sound, you must never expect to be followed long by any that are good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Who can make straight paths for their feet, while their leader cries, Lo here, and Lo there? What vessel of mercy can make sure his port, if he steers by a wandering star? Can your followers have any assurance of their lives, while they follow a leader whose heart was never fixed? Can a church, that casts off her first faith to follow a preacher who has cast off his first confession, be called a wise woman, that buildeth her house? By no means; but rather a foolish one, who plucketh it down with her hands, Prov. xiv. 1. If the house is divided, who is to blame? The fault lies with the builder: his heart was divided against the truth, before the house was divided against him, or against itself.
'Christ hath commanded us to withdraw ourselves from them who are unruly, and walk not in love.' But let the ruler examine himself, whether he has kept open house like a prince of the blood royal, who feeds the flock and rules in judgment. They that rule well, are to be accounted worthy of double honour: but he that wants to make the faith of God's people stand in his wisdom, instead of God's power; who calls the comforts of God's Spirit unguarded, the glorious liberty of the children of God poison, the ministry of the Spirit a rule of duty, and the ministration of death the rule of life; that calls the mystery of faith a pernicious notion; that shuts the ambassadors of Christ out of Christ's own house, and casts people out of the church for telling the truth, and demanding the bread of life; is this a preacher that is to make people obedient by word and deed? Surely not! This is Diotrephes all over, who would neither receive John, nor those that he sent; and cast them out of the church that would receive them: and not content therewith, but prated against the Apostle with malicious words. And will Mr. Ryland call a preacher of such a complexion, a ruler? Or would he call any legal subject of Christ, who resists such a tyrant, such an usurper, such a lord over God's heritage, an unruly person? Doth Mr. Ryland, when he sends forth these chimeras of his own brain, require passive obedience and nonresistance? Surely the young man is beside himself! And as to walking in love, you could not expect that real lovers of Jesus could long love you, when your affections seemed alienated from the children of Zion, and gone wholly over to the Hagarenes; and when you would persist in it, even against the public testimony of the Lord's ministers and people both, incurring the displeasure of the just in behalf of the reprobate, and at last refuse to receive Christ, and excommunicate them that would. Are the saints of God to affect a minister of the letter for such conduct as this, when a gracious king, who was a spiritual man, was threatened with the wrath of God, by a faithful prophet, for helping the ungodly, and loving them that hated the Lord? As it is written; "And Jehu, the son of Hanani the seer, went out to meet him; and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord." Worse than this, sir, has been your folly; for you have not helped the ungodly with the sword of war, but with the sword of the Spirit; and the prophets have withstood you in it. But thou hast not humbled thine heart, nor received correction; and yet thou complainest of disaffection shewn to thee and thy ministry, when neither thy mind nor thy doctrine is employed in behalf of the house of Israel, but in defence of the ungodly, and to help them that hate the Lord.
'Mark them which cause divisions and offences among you.' In this quotation, sir, you have perverted the first clause of the text to justify, your misconduct; and have left out the last clause that condemns yourself, for turning from the holy commandment delivered unto you; "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them." But is Mr. Ryland's present doctrine the doctrine that Paul taught? Did he make the work of an evangelist consist in describing an evangelical rule for the unconverted? Did he offend the church of God to please the world? Did he bring the disciples of Christ into bondage, by making the law their only rule of life? If so, the world used their advocate in a very inhospitable manner. But there was nothing of this doctrine in all the revelation of Jesus Christ to Paul; and as Paul has cursed all them, whether men or angels, that preach any other doctrine than that which he preached, to be offended at Mr. Ryland's doctrine, and to separate one's self from it, and divide as much as possible all the simple in Christ Jesus from it also, is what Paul wished to see in the Galatians, who were zealously affected to the vain janglers of the law, while they aimed to exclude them from Christ, that they might affect them. Mr. Ryland's doctrine is the same as these Judaising preachers was, and worse too; for they only wanted the believers to go to the law, after they had begun in the Spirit, to be made perfect by the flesh; which is making the law the perfecting rule of the begun work of faith. But Mr. Ryland makes the gospel the legal rule of the Pharisee's duty, which is what these deceivers never once thought of; only Mr. Ryland is not so honest in the law as these false brethren were, because he does not preface his doctrine with circumcision; which Paul's supplanters always did, and which should always go with the doctrine of the law being the only rule of life, because it binds all that submit to it, to become debtors to fulfil the whole law; which is the best bond, I think, that Mr. Ryland can bring to bind their souls to it. But, alas! friend Ryland aims at the duty, though he omits circumcision; which, I think, is not acting the faithful part, even as a minister of the letter.
'We think it very desirable that church members should be nearly of one mind respecting the principal part of Christian doctrine.' I believe, sir, that the members of Christ have all the mind of Christ, and that they are nearly of one judgment respecting truths essential to salvation: but I defy Mr. Ryland to produce one patriarch or prophet, or apostle or evangelist, divine preacher or teacher, pastor or presbyter, disciple or believer, deacon or messenger, prophetess or honourable woman, in all the book of God, old testament or new, that ever was of the same mind, the same judgment, of the same principles, of the same spirit, or of the same faith, with Mr. Ryland, not excluding even Diotrephes himself. He is welcome to pick out which patron he likes best, and to send out his copy or example that he copies after, as soon as he pleases; and we are willing to give him an impartial reading, and to return him an ingenuous answer.
'We consider the notion that you have newly embraced as very erroneous.' This doctrine, sir, which you call a very erroneous notion, is a doctrine enforced and maintained by me; which is, that the law of Moses is not the believer's only rule of life and conduct: and as you are a man of learning, skilled in planning new schemes, and call this our doctrine a very erroneous notion, we take it for granted that you have well weighed the subject, and have condemned our errors and our notions with the truth of God on your side. Then where shall we find a man so discreet and wise as thou art to set us to rights in this matter? We appeal to Mr. Ryland; and to Mr. Ryland, junior, we will go, to know,
1. Whether the law ever had any other power than to command to do for life, and to condemn to death for not doing? If it ever had any other power than the twofold authority above-mentioned, to shew us what that power is, and whereabouts in God's word that authority stands?
2. If it ever had, since the days of Christ, any commanding power over the believer, to do, from life; where, in God's word, that power stands? "The law and the prophets were until John; but, since that time, the kingdom of God is preached."
3. If the believer is under the law, as a rule of life, which is doing for life, for the law never had any other power, wherein the believer, who is delivered from the law, differs from him that is under it, and under the curse of it?
4. If the believer is under the law, as his rule of life, what advantage doth the believer reap from the surety's perfect obedience to the precept, by the faith of which a man receives justification unto life, seeing the debtor is still under the yoke of the precept, to do for life?
5. If insisting that we are justified from the commanding precept of the law by the active obedience of the surety, and that we are justified from the execution of the law's sentence by the passive obedience, or blood of the surety, be antinomianism; then what is gospel? seeing the scriptures aver, that he that believeth is justified freely from all things; from his own ungodliness, from the precept and penalty of the law, which are the most material things that he is justified from?
6. If the old covenant be the only rule of the heirs of promise, how we are to understand the promise of God which saith, "A new covenant will I make with the house of Israel; not according to the old," seeing "that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away? And, if it were ready to vanish away seventeen hundred. years ago in the church of Christ, how it comes to be so essential an article of faith in the churches of Christ now?
7. How a soul that is become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that it should be married to another; and the law being dead to that soul, wherein he were held, that he should serve in newness of spirit; can be the commanding husband of this new-married widow; and the only rule of this new service, in the newness of the Spirit?
8. How a believer in Christ can be said to be made free by the truth, and by his faith in the Son of God to be free indeed, if he is still under the precept of the moral law, which is the heaviest yoke in all the world?
9. How a person, in the apostolic age, came to be condemned, as a subverter of souls, by the whole synod of apostles, for saying, "Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law of Moses;" when these very words, for the which they were condemned, are now made the first article in the confession of faith demanded by gospel ministers in the present day?
10. How the law of commandments, contained in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, can be said to be blotted out, and to be taken out of the way, and to be nailed to the Saviour's cross; if the saint is still under it, as his rule of life? And if it is objected, that the ceremonial law is there meant, which allowed of a sacrifice for transgressions committed against the moral law; then I answer, that the ceremonial law was the gospel of that day. And I ask also, whether it was the ceremonial law that was against them, and contrary to them, when it was a refuge for them to fly to in case of sin? And I ask further, whether it was the ceremonial law, or the ministration of condemnation engraven upon tables of stone, that contained the sentence of death? And, if it is granted that the moral law was armed with that sentence, then it is clear that it was the moral law that was against us, and that was contrary to us, which was taken out of the way, and nailed to the Saviour's cross. If it was the moral law that cursed and condemned Christ, then it was that which was nailed to the cross. Besides, Paul was writing to the Gentile Colossians when he advanced that point, who never were under the ceremonial law.
11. If it be answered, the believer is not without law to God; then I reply, What law does he hold, seeing God has promised to write his laws in his heart, and put them into his mind? But it shall be a new covenant; not according to the covenant which he made with Israel, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt; which is a disannulling the commandment going before.
12. But if it be replied, that we are under the law to Christ; then I ask, what law? seeing Paul says, it is the law of the Spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, that made him free from the law of sin and death. And, if the moral law made him free from the law of sin and death how the ministration of death engraven on tables of stone, came to be divided against itself? And how it came to usurp the authority of delivering a criminal from it's own sentence, which none but a clement Sovereign, through the satisfaction of a Mediator, could do?
13. What, being redeemed from the law, being delivered from the law, being not under the law, and against the believer there being no law, and the law not being made for a believer, or a righteous man, can mean?
14. If the law that was against us, and contrary to us, be taken out of the way, and nailed to the Saviour's cross; how it came into so great use in our days, as to be the only rule of life, and the first article of the confession of faith?
15. I would wish Mr. Ryland, as an able divine, to be sure to set us to rights in the following arduous task, which is set by the apostle Paul, as it so plainly respects the moral law; "The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life." How the killing letter can be a living rule, while the Spirit giveth life; seeing the gospel is called the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which makes us free from the law of sin and death, which Paul says, is engraven on tables of stone?
16. Paul adds; "But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses, for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away; how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more froth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious, had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious." The death of Christ blotted out the commanding and condemning power of the law, and nailed its twofold power to the cross; it being a hand-writing, a killing letter, that was against us for sin; and contrary to us, we being carnal, sold under sin. And, as for the glory of the law, that glory is blotted out by the glory that excelleth; for it had no glory in respect to the gospel, which brings life and immortality to light. "For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious."
I shall now conclude my questions, or queries, which I have drawn from the scriptures of truth. And, as these are called pernicious notions, errors, and antinomianism, I humbly submit them to Mr. Ryland, Mr. Rippon, and Mr. Fuller, as an everlasting task for all the three; contenting myself with only defending every one of them, as they are attacked, unless fairly overthrown by the word of God, to which, I hope, he will ever give me grace to submit. The commands of Christ are quite distinct from the moral law, with respect to the person, and the office of the person speaking; the persons spoken to, who are his own elect; the divine power that attends his commands; his orders, his sayings, and his words, being life; and the divine aid promised and given to the evangelical servants who serve him in the newness of the Spirit. This is my antinomianism, sir: and I am ready to appeal to Mr. Hyland, whose tenets lead most to an hardened spirit, rash presumption, and a scandalous profession; mine, which insist on regeneration by the Spirit, and a walk and service in the same; union with the living vine, and a course of evangelical obedience, under the dominion of sin-subduing grace, or Mr. Ryland's doctrine, which affirms, it is the duty of all men to believe the gospel; which leads men to presume on the mercy of God, without either witness, evidence, or a claim by the Spirit of adoption; and without the influence of grace, by which alone he can have access; and without real faith, without which there can be no holy boldness. The unconverted sinner, who is thus encouraged to put in his claim or urge his plea, is excited to boldness, insolence, and rash presumption. For, if he calls God Father, it is a lie; if he calls Jesus his Lord, it is the same, for no man can do it without the Holy Ghost; if he calls himself a believer, his own heart condemns him; his profession is only the sheep skin, and in heart he is an hypocrite in Zion. He submits to a rule which is falsely represented; and his obedience is taught by the precepts of men, and therefore cannot be the obedience of faith: the whole of his religion is without the aid of the Holy Ghost, from the beginning to the end; and therefore his subjection, submission, profession, confession, devotion, and reformation, is not done as God has willed it to be done; and we doubt not, but there is the nature of sin in the whole of it.
'We hate sentiments that tend to antinomianism.' Then, sir, you must hate your own doctrine, for that tends to nothing else. I defy you to prove, that God ever set his seal to it, or converted one soul by it; and, as for such proselytes as you have made by it, they are believers destitute of the Spirit, and therefore they are Antinomians, every one of them, for they are sensual, uninspired men. And I know, that every professor in the world that is not born again of the Holy Ghost, is, and will be found to be, in the great day, an antinomian. And, if Mr. Ryland cannot trace his birth of the Spirit in his own soul's experience, nor produce his register and genealogy in the book of life, he is an antinomian in heart, practice, and principle: let him deny it if he can. What is a professor without the grace of God? a wolf in a sheep's skin, a mimic, a stage player, a hypocrite, an impostor, a deceiver: and if these are not Antinomians, who are?
'We view you as an enemy to our peace.' It is to be feared, sir, that your peace is not of the right kind; for, "When God gives peace, who can create trouble, whether it be given to a nation, or to a man only?" No man can be an enemy to peace, who loves the truth, and the power of godliness; peace and truth always go hand in hand, and always attend the pardon of sin and justification toward God. But these things Mr. Ryland knows nothing about, only by the hearing of the ear. Christ does not reveal these things to servants, but to sons; not to the disciples of Moses; but the divine testimony, the law of faith is a1ways bound and sealed among the Lord's own disciples.
Mr. Adams has no reason to fear such excommunication as this: it is not the rod of the Lord's strength by which Mr. Ryland rules; his crook and staff are the instruments of a foolish shepherd; this sword was not handled by the Spirit of God; this sentence never came forth from his presence; this cutting off, and separating, was never established, nor countenanced, neither by Christ, nor by the first rulers in his church. Besides, Mr. Ryland must prove himself inspired by the Spirit of God, and that he holds the mystery of faith in a pure conscience, before he can prove that he is intrusted with the keys of the kingdom of heaven, which he could never do; and without these keys he can neither bind nor loose, either in earth or in heaven. I never read one act in all the laws of Zion, that any child of God was ever excommunicated for telling the truth, or for receiving a servant of Jesus Christ, and a minister of the new testament. Mr. Ryland's excommunication was established by the decree of the Jewish Sanhedrim, in the year of our Lord 32. in manner and form following. "They, [the Jews] had agreed, already, that if any did confess that Jesus was the Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue." The poor blind man restored to sight, was the first that felt the weight, and suffered the sentence of this law. And it is clear, that the Saviour never paid the man restored one visit, no, he kept his faith at a bay, he never so much as informed him who his benefactor was, till this sentence of excommunication had taken place upon him. Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and then he went after him; and, when he had found him, he said unto him, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" The poor man said, "Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? and Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe: and he worshipped him. And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not, might see; and that they which see, might be made blind." The Lord suffered this law to be made, and declared that it should be put in force against his true disciples. They shall cast you out of their synagogues, that you may cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of? That you may not be awed by the fear of man, that brings a snare; that you may shun the yoke of priestcraft, and the grievous burdens of the disciples of Moses; that you may beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy; and not be turned from the truth, by following the grievousness which they have prescribed, that turns the poor from his right. "For Judgment," says the Saviour, "I am come into this world" they that have excommunicated you, are made blind; they hate the light, and that's their condemnation. You are enlightened to see and believe on the Son of God, and that's your justification. "For judgment I am come into this world."
As Mr. Ryland, Mr. Fuller, and Mr. Rippon, have made a decree, that the gospel is the rule of an unconverted man's duty; and as they have admitted Moses chief ruler in the synagogue, and that the law is the saint's rule of the life of faith; that God ministereth the Spirit, works miracles, yea, that he works in his people both to will and to do by the rule of the law; that the law is the rule of a good conversation in Christ; that the letter of the law is the only rule of service in the newness of the Spirit, they are doubtless, all three of them, entitled to all the benefits of the aforesaid law of excommunication; having proved themselves, by ocular demonstration, to be the true and genuine disciples of Moses: and such they must be; for I defy either of them to prove their conversion to the faith of Christ. Mr. Fuller as good as owns that he knew not what he believed when he began to preach; Mr. Ryland has cast off his first faith and confession; and as for Mr. Rippon, he cannot bear to hear the name of a gospel preacher mentioned: he charged Mr. Mesnard, at his peril, ever to mention my name in his presence. If the name of a gospel minister be so odious, what a vexation must it be to understand the report of the gospel itself, and especially of it's gaining ground, so as to be the means of regeneration and conversion even to some of Mr. Rippon's old members! So that my bonds are made manifest even in his own palace.
As the above gentlemen are, by virtue of their office as ministers of the letter, and disciples of Moses, entitled to the benefits of the Jewish synodical law of excommunication; so they should observe the method of their proceedings against antinomian culprits who believe in Jesus. When any of these criminals appeared at their bar, if the prisoner began to give a reason of the hope that was in him, the court either stopped their ears, that conscience might not be alarmed, at the tidings; or else they rent their clothes, and drowned the prisoner's voice with, Away with him! away with such a fellow from the earth! The poor shoemaker, one of Mr. Rippon's members, whom God was pleased to set at liberty, was determined to tell all that feared God in that assembly what he had done for his soul: but, that it might spread no further, he was not suffered to speak. This is turning out of the way, and causing the Holy One of Israel to cease from before you. Go on, reverend gentlemen, till God makes manifest the counsels of your heart; and be sure never to appear in court, or in Moses's seat, or in the scorner's chair, without the garb and vail of the Jewish Sanhedrim. If ever they drew their dagger at Jesus, or his disciples, it was always done in zeal for the law. Under this cloak the Devil hid his cloven foot; and under this mask the Priests kept possession of the affections and consciences of the ignorant. And though you are desperate at Christ, at the power of godliness, and at the ministers of the Spirit, and at the possessors of grace which is a perpetual transgressing of every precept in the law, yet contend for it as your only rule of life to the very end; for it is not them that have the love of God in their hearts that are esteemed among the unconverted, but he that wears the closest mask, and makes the greatest noise about the law. The Jewish Priests, after they had crucified Christ, and killed his followers, made a shift to stand their ground for no less than forty years, and supported themselves and kept up their reputation among the people, by nothing else but this mask of deception, zeal for the law, and a great noise; and now and then a pretended obedience to the faith, whenever their noise and mask failed them. I know of no other way, gentlemen, of keeping up your sinking credit, than this: If any good man, who seems rather attached to Mesnard, asks Mr. Rippon what he thinks of him, let him say that he believes he is a good man; if any wonder at his absenting himself from the church, say, he denies the Spirit's work; but if a gentleman writes from Northampton, to know how Mesnard goes on, send him word that he is out of his mind. Never stick at a lie or two: call the law your rule of life, and that is enough. Besides, it is the characteristic, not of the disciples of Moses, but of Jesus, to be children that will not lie, so he was their Saviour. The law, as your only rule, gentlemen, will answer the same purpose to you, as the shield of faith does to the Christian; you may turn it every way, and every way you turn it it prospereth: turn it to the formalist, you have his approbation; to the Pharisee, you have him; to the worldling, he cannot gainsay it; to the hypocrite, and he must stand forth for the law, being conscious that grace has done nothing for him. And who can expect a man to praise a bridge that never bore him up, nor bore him over? But there is one thing, gentlemen, that I would wish to stir up your pure minds about, by way of remembrance, which is this: You must know, that it is impossible that your doctrine can pass current, or that your tottering reputation can stand, or that you can conceal yourselves under your present mask, however closely fixed, so as to be had in honour before the children of light: these will, sooner or later, see through you, wear what mask you may; therefore be as wise as serpents here. Be sure to rebel against every ray of light that may shine in your house; for you cannot perform your enterprize, unless the whole house be full of darkness: therefore cut at every appearance, either of power, light, life, or truth. You are conscious to yourselves, and have made it appear publicly, that you do not hold the mystery of faith in a pure conscience; consequently, you cannot receive that honour that cometh from God only: therefore you must receive honour one of another; and compare yourselves with yourselves, and among yourselves, and so prop up one another's conscience and countenance as well as you can. And whenever any thing divine appears, cut at it; if any glorious truth is mentioned, call it antinomianism; if the power of the Spirit, call it poison; if any thing of the life of faith, on Christ's fullness, call it licentiousness. If any preacher should rise, and declare that the kingdom of God stands in power, call it delusion; if he draws any lines between believers and infidels, or separates the vile from the precious, call him a schismatic; if he enforces the operations of the Spirit, call him an enthusiast; if he mentions what God has done for his own soul, call it preaching himself; if he contends earnestly for the faith, call it making void the law; if he zealously, opposes and exposes hypocrisy and hypocrites, call it spleen, rancour, malice, and bitterness; if he dives deep into the mystery of faith, call him a mystic; if he reproves and rebukes, call it smiting his fellow-servants with an envenomed tongue. And I assure you, gentlemen, that your steady observance of all these rules will be. found to be little enough, either to keep your countenance and credit up, or to level the reputation of a man of God; seeing. God is the shield of his servants, and artifice is yours. Furthermore, you must keep a steady look-out, and a jealous eye over the members of your society: for if any of them get but a foretaste of the powers of the world to come, or should feel but the least beam of real spiritual joy or comfort, it will be a difficult matter to set them down contented in their shackles again. And not only so, but every one thus infected will run with tidings, and spread the growing infection; and, by means of these, the last error shall be worse than the first. When any are thus influenced, let your sermons be pointed and personal; cut at them; discharge every arrow of your quiver at them: and be sure to bring forth the law; for Paul says, the vail is upon their heart in reading the old testament. This is the only way to blindfold them; and then you may make them grind in the prison, make sport for the Philistines, or do what you please. But, if they remain incurable, hunt them with messenger after messenger, censure after censure; and call meeting upon meeting, and make new laws. And be sure to make the law of Moses the first article in your confession of faith: this will answer the same end as circumcision; it will bind them to the observance of the whole law, keep them from grace, bring them to a refusal of the gospel, a denial of Christ and Christ shall profit them nothing. And, if you cannot make them obedient to all this by word and deed, then threaten them with cutting off; with the dreadful sentence of excommunication, which delivers them up to Satan himself; and represent this in such a dreadful point of light as to frighten them out of their faith, reason, and senses: and by this means you will embitter their lives with hard bondage, till in time they will get seasoned to the yoke; and, like Issachar, they will couch down between two burdens, and become servants to tribute. And, in all your discourses, be sure to enforce the gospel as the only rule of duty for the unconverted; and by this means you will bring numbers of hypocrites to be obedient to the faith, which will enable you to keep a majority. But as for the saints, if you have any, bring the law forth to them as their only rule of life; and by this means you will obscure or blind their eyes, which will serve to break down the middle wall of partition between the elect and the reprobate. You must build up the hypocrite with the promise, and knock down the saint with the law; and this will make them appear nearly of one complexion. Excommunication must be your last engine; dress this up, as coming from you, with all the terrors and dreadful consequences that imagination can paint, or eloquence describe; that nothing but poverty and beggary, despair and destruction, tribulation and anguish, death and damnation, can follow this sentence from your mouths. Represent it ten thousand fold worse than the fabled shades of Plut6, the endless entanglements of Limbo, or the fancied abyss of purgatory. Represent a person under your censure in a worse labyrinth than the crown office, the spiritual court, or the Spanish inquisition; and hence you will appear more formidable in words than thousands in arms. And as you all know that the spiritual sword of God was never put into the hand of your faith, for yours is the faith of the world, not of God's elect; and as you must know that the keys of the kingdom of heaven never were committed to your trust; so it is impossible that the wrath of God, or a delivering up into the hands of Satan, should second your motion, or succeed your sentence of excommunication. If any observer should watch the hand of God toward your delinquent, and see that nothing dreadful follows, as it did on the incestuous person; you must, on such occasions, and in such cases, in order to keep up your credit, and to make people believe that a divine power is still invested in your hands; you must say, as you did of Mr. Mesnard, that he is out of his mind; though he sits at Jehovah's feet clothed, and much more in his senses than ever his pastor was.
Moreover, there is a set of people, a small number, a little flock, somewhat like Jacob's spangled cattle, who will be a pest to you, do what you will. They are a set of beings that go altogether by feeling; they are neither charmed with enchantment, nor cheered with oratory. There is but one branch of deception that deceives them, and that is, moving the passions; however, this will not do long; no longer than while you can make them weep with you; the first time that your instrument fails of motion on the affections of nature, it is all over. However, these are in the general a set of poor creatures; their subscriptions amount to a mere nothing: it is like the grass upon the house-top, wherewith the mower filleth not his hand, nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom.
But again; whatever is transacted in College Lane, transmit, a bit at a time, to Carter Lane; do nothing without a conjunction of heads. Let hand join in hand; in the multitude of counsellors is safety; and you will find the whole confederacy little enough to keep conscience and countenance upon their legs; for, although a majority carries the point in every society among them, as you assert, yet truth always carries it with God, conscience, and all good men. The ten tribes of Israel had by far the majority, at their revolt; but Judah is said to rule with God, and to be faithful with the saints. Hence you may see, that a majority ought to be an hundred to one, where the God of truth is against them. Once more, and then to conclude. Be assured of this, that if a minister be not born again; if he has no assurance of his life, nor at a point in his doctrine; if he be not a minister of the Spirit, an evangelist; if he do not hold the mystery of faith, as once delivered to the saints, in a pure conscience; if the Spirit, power, and the presence of God, doth not attend him and his ministry; if he doth not declare the whole counsel of God, and stand fast in the doctrine of Christ; and if his church be not members of Christ's body mystical, in union with him, alive to him, and sound in the faith of him; to be separated, to be cut off, to be excommunicated, from such a ministry, and from such a church, is a blessing instead of a curse, and meets with the approbation of God instead of his displeasure. For you must know, that a separation from a preacher deserted of God, can be attended with no more dreadful consequences than the departure of Samuel from Saul, when God had rejected him. Thus far I have advertised you, and thus you will, in all probability, proceed. Yea, ye cannot proceed any other way, unless the grace of God should change your hearts, which there is little hope of at present. Ye have kindled a fire; and ye have compassed yourselves about with sparks: "Walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This," says God, "ye shall have at my hand: ye shall lie down in sorrow," Isai. 1. 11.
P.S. To censure, cut off, or excommunicate, a subject of grace, who is sound in the faith, and who loves and contends for the truth as it is in Jesus, without any charge of scandal in life, or error in principle, brought against him, is excommunicating Christ himself. Such proceedings are not agreeable to God's word, they are not allowable by the laws of Zion: the sentence comes not forth from God's presence; nor does God's displeasure follow upon such partial judgment. The process is against the truth; and springs from a love to self, a zeal to be had in honour, and raging jealousy against the power of God attending supposed rivals. Mr. Adams may enjoy as good a conscience before his tribunal as Paul did before Felix, when the supposed culprit, undaunted, reasoned of righteousness, &c. while the unjust judge trembled. The soul that will stand fast in the testimony of God, and not be moved away from the hope of the gospel, must separate himself from every false pastor, and from false doctrine, that he may enjoy the witness of God; and he that abides by such a pastor and doctrine, has the witness of men. That my reader may see what is called Mr. Adams's Lamentation, which he published, and which gave the first offence, and which is pregnant with reproaches, slander, &c. as Mr. Ryland asserts, I shall here insert the whole of it verbatim as it stands.
THE LAMENTATION. Vain is the preaching now we hear,