Page images
PDF
EPUB

and all our hopes ? And what will become of our souls to all eternity? I must confess, Sir, I could see nothing before me but horror and despair, if I had no better foundation of confidence and hope towards God, than my own righteousness.

Every experienced Christian must acknowledge, that the chief comfort of a religious life flows from the live. ly actings of love to God in Christ. But how can there be the comfort of love, when at the best we are in an awful suspence, whether God be our friend, or our enemy? What grounds of horror (instead of the pleasing exercise of love) must we constantly experience, while we are afraid we have an infinite enemy to deal with ? What strangers, in this case, must we be to the joy, which flows from a refreshing view, that this God is our God, and will be our guide even to death, and our portion for ever? How unacquainted must we be with the sublime pleasures of communion with God, while we approach his presence under such an uncertain prospect of his favour, and under grounds for prevailing fear of an eternal separation from him ? And what aggravates the case is, that this not only now is, but must continue to be our dark and disconfolate circumstance, as long as we live, if we remain under the governing influence of these principles I am impleading. : I may add to this that a chearful progress in all Gospel-. holiness is necessary to our true comfort and happiness, while we are here in this vale of tears. In keeping of God's commands there is a great reward. This is our ren. joicing, the testimony of our consciences; that in fimplicity and godly sincerity, not by fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world. But I have shewn you already, that this scheme I am orpo. sing, affords no principle of new obedience, allows no foundation for a comfortable progress in the divine life. Here is no certainty of forgiveness to be obtained: And therefore no delightful incentive to the mortification of our lusts and corruptions. Upon this plan, we are in perpetual danger of the curse of the law, on account of our defects : and there is therefore no room for that pleasure, which would otherwise be found in running

the way of God's commands. Here can be no assured confidence in the divine affiftance or acceptanee, no absolute affiance in the riches of God's free grace in Chrift; and therefore nothing to 'melt the heart and confeience into love and fubjection; nothing to inflame our affections, and fill us with gratitude to God for blelfing us with all fpiritual bleflings, in 'heavenly things in Chrift Jefus : nothing to excite us to live to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. The principles of the scheme you propose, are flavilh ; and the obedience must be of the fame kind with the principles from whence it flows. And confequently we must be utter ftrangers to that love, delight and satisfaction, which children might find in the service of their heavenly Father, so long as 'our obedience is thus 'excited from fear and constraint ; or at Left only from such uncertain hopes, 'as wholly depend upon our own righteousnefs, as the condition of accep. tance. Bleffed be God, the Gospel teaches us a more pleasant and delightful religion, the fervice of love, and the obedience of faith, which is truly its own teward.

And now, Sir, fuffer me fomething freely to expoftulate with you on this subject. Do not you know, that the doctrine which you and your author plead for, is (fubstantially) the same with the popih doctrine upon the head of remiffion of fins, and acceptance with God: and that this very dvetrine' was one of the great: est occafions of our glorious reformation from popery? Read, Sis, the many elaborate 'treatises written by ons firft reformers, and you'll and this doctrine Yet in its proper light. You'll find all your author's cavils, fiifts, and evalions justly exposed; all his arguments distinctly answered ; and the dangerous črror stript of all that plaufible dress, with which it now again makes its appeacance. You will find, that the doctrine of jullification was esteemed by all our excellent reformers, as well as by Luther, Articulus ftantis aut cadentis ecclefia; ihe article by which the church must either ftand or fall. And hall we again build up those things, which that glorious army of martyrs deltroyed ? Shall we again revive popery in one of its molt confiderable branches ? }; not this to open the door to other popilh delulons

and practical errors, as penances, pilgrimages, a monastiek life, celibacy, and other austerities, to supply the defects of our sincere obedience, and patch up a rightebufness of our own to: justify us ? I wish there were not too much occasion given for this apprehenfion, by fome in the present times, who would fain be reputed Prote. ftants.+ You'll perhaps think me too severe in this dif. course; but search into the cause, as I have done, and you'll find it otherwise.

And why must this hydra be digged out of its grave, and rerived? What advantage can be hoped for by this scheme? Were this doctrine irue, would not fincere obedience, done from a principle of spiritual life and hoJiness, and a dependance upon Christ alone, to do all in us and for us, and to recommend us to the divine favour, be accepted of God, as well as if it had been done in our own strength, and with a view to establish our own righteousness Will Christ reject us at laft, for doing too much honour to his infinite merit, and to the rich and free grace of God in him? What if you should find your reasoning falfe and deceitful, when it comes to the great trial ? Dare you venture your eternity upon it, that in this case

you

'cannot be deceived ? If the reformation in general, and the most excellent men for learning, fagacity and piety, that the reformed churches could ever boalt of, thould be found on the side of truth at the day of judgmenr, in determining, that we cannot be justified on the foot of a moderated covenant of works, or the eafy terms you plead for, what will become of all those, who have built their eternal hope on :hat foundation; not only notionally, I mean, but practically!

But I have outgone my intended limits; and shall therefore only add (after my hearty prayers, that your hope may be built upor a fure foundation), that I am with great respect,

Sir,

Yours, &c.

+ See, for instance, Mr. Law's Christian Perfection, and Serious Call. Books, that would be deservedly of teemedand prized, were it not for this papistuint.

LETTER XIV. Wherein the notion of a FIRST Justification by. Faith, and a SECONDARY

Justification by sincere OBEDIENCE, is discussed. and confuted.

Y:

[ocr errors]

SIR.
TOU must conclude, I have spent my time but idly,

if I should be unacquainted with your author's meaning; and not fully understand in what senfe he supposes our sincere obedience to be the condition of

our juflification. It is scarcely possible, that he should with any appearance of plausibility offer any thing new in defence of these principles, or that has not been often advanced, and often refuted, long before either you or I were born. And in particular, what you now propose is but the old popish doctrine new vampt; which has been repeatedly answered byall our old Protestant writers.

You tell me, Your author acknowledges, that our first justification is by faith alone; that is, God ac. cepts us as being meet probationers for salvation upon our hearty assent to the truth of the Gospel, and our being, heartily willing to take Chrift's yoke upon us,

and obey him: and this is the justification of which the • apostle Paul speaks, that it is by faith without the works

of the law. But our secondary justification, or conti. inued title to the favour of God, is by our works, or by " a course of fincere obedience to the Gospel. Of this

the apostle James speaks, when he tells us, that a man o is justified by works, and not by faith only...

Sir, You cannot be insensible, that this plea is utterly inconsistent with the evasions before offered, We are therefore now to hear no more of your

former distinctio ons, that the apostle Paul refers to legal and not evangelical works, when he excludes all works from have ing any part in our justification. We are to hear no more of the apostle's referring to the ceremonial law, when he opposes the law to grace, and tells us, that if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. You now acknowledge, that the justification, of which

the apostle Paul speaks, is by faith alone. All other pleas for the scheme, which I oppoíe, muft consequently be given up; and it must be put upon this fingle iffue. I fhall now therefore proceed to consider, whether this foundation will bear the weight, which you are powing upon it.

It is worthy of confideration, that there is nothing of this new doctrine, of a first and secondary justification, to be found in che scriptures. I look upon it as an arbitrary distinction, coined to serve a purpose, and to help out a tottering scheme, which could no other way be fupported. The apostle Paul, it is true, speaks of our justification in one refpect, and the apostle James in another, as I have formerly observed to you : but each of them retain one invariable view of their subject, and continue the same idea of the juftification about which they treat. There is not a word spoken by either of them, of a first and second, of an original and additional justification. Indecd the scriptures know nothing at all of this diftin&ion. The children of God learn nothing of it from their own experience. And you must pardon me, Sir, if I must demand fome better foundation of my etemal hope, than the subtile inventions of such men, who would establish and vindicate their principles by new and unscriptural doctrines of religion, which have AO foundation at all, but their own teeming imagination. This is the common source of all the errors, which obtain among us. Men of learning and parts, fufficiently apprehensive of their own capacities, inftcad of an humble subjecting their reason to the wifdom of God in his word, are frit for forming schemes, which appear to them moft reasonable ; these they take for principles, and then they must force fome conftruction or other upon the most opposite texts of fcripture, and invent fome arbitrary diđinctions, to obviate the diffi. culties, that lie in their way. This is plainly the case before us. It does not look reasonable to the Papifts, to the Socinians, to the Arminians, and to the Neonomians, that our obedience fhould be wholly excluded a part in our justification. It is true, the scripture does in multitudes of most plain and familiar expreffion, in the most express and strongest language, utterly exclude

« PreviousContinue »