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.66 The next animadverter was Mr. George Lawson, the ablest man of them all, or of almost any I know in England; • especially by the advantage of his age, and very hard studies, and methodical head, but above all, by his great skill in politics, wherein he is most exact, which contributeth not a little to the understanding of divinity. He was himself near the Arminians, differing from them only in the point of perseverance as to the confirmed, and some little matters more; and though he went further than I did from the Antinonians, yet being conversant with men of another mind, to redeem himself from their offence, he set himself against some passages of mine, which others marvelled that he, of all men, should oppose; especially about the object of faith and justification. He afterwards published an excellent sum of divinity, called Theopolitica ; in which he insisteth on these two points, to make good what he had said in his MS. against me.
“ He hath written, also, animadversions on Hobbes, and a piece on ecclesiastical and civil policy, according to the method of politics; an excellent book, were it not that he seemeth to justify the king's death, and meddles too boldly with the political controversies of the times, though he was a Conformist. I have also seen some ingenious manuscripts of his for the taking of the engagement to be true to the Commonwealth, as established without a king and house of lords, his opinions being much for submitting to the present possessor, though a usurper ; but I thought those papers easily answerable. His animadversions on my papers were large, in which he frequently took occasion to be copious and distinct, in laying down his own judgment, which pleased me very well. I returned him a full answer, and received from him a large reply; instead of a rejoinder to which, I summed up our differences, and spoke to them briefly and distinctly, and not verbatim to the words of his book. I must thankfully acknowledge that I learned more from Mr. Lawson than from any divine that gave me animadversions, or that ever I conversed with. For, two or three passages in my first reply to him, he convinced me, were mistakes; and I found up and down in him those hints of truths which had a great deal of light in them, and were very apt for good improvement, especially his instigating me to the study of politics, in which he much lamented the ignorance of divines, did prove a singular benefit to me. I confess it owing to my own uncapableness that I have received no more good from others. But yet I must be so grateful as to confess that my understanding hạth made a better improvement of Grotius ‘De Satisfactione Christi,' and of Mr. Lawson's manuscripts, than of any thing else that ever I read. They convinced me how unfit we are to write about Christ's government, laws, and judgment, while we understand not the true nature of government and laws in general; and that he that is ignorant of politics, and of the law of nature, will be ignorant and erroneous in divinity and the sacred Scriptures."
Thus did Baxter, at a very early period of his life, launch into the ocean of controversy, on some of the most interesting subjects that can engage the human mind. The manner in which he began to treat them was little favourable to arriving at correct and satisfactory conclusions; but the persons whom he engaged to discuss them with him, were all men of respectable powers in theological argument, from whose letters or publi. cations he derived considerable profit.
To give a concise and accurate opinion of these Aphorisms, is no easy task. This difficulty arises from the great number of separate propositions, which are neither always consistent with truth nor with one another. As a book, it abounds in moral and metaphysical distinctions, and yet its definitions are frequently both inaccurate and obscure. It contains a large portion of truth, mixed and interwoven with no small portion of error, When he thus expresses himself about our participation of
Christ's righteousness, every true Christian is prepared to go along with him : “ That God, the Father, doth accept the sufferings and mediation of his Son, as a full satisfaction to his violated law, and as a valuable consideration, upon which he will wholly forgive and acquit the offenders themselves, receive them again into favour, and give them the addition also of a more excellent happiness, so they will but receive his Son upon the terms expressed in the Gospel.” But when he comes to explain the terms of the Gospel," and the manner in which men submit to them, we meet with much that is incautious. To a good deal of the objectionable language of his theses, he indeed gives a harmless interpretation in the accompanying explanation, or in some subsequent proposition renders it entirely nugatory. But still there remains much which is calculated to mislead. He speaks about the Gospel being “a new law, the conditions of which are easier than those of the old;" of "faith as the righteousness of a Christian.” He defines this faith as “the condition of the new covenant,” and includes in it the whole of religion. He represents the death of Christ as not "affecting any sins against the Gospel;" speaks of “works” as “part of the condition on which Christ's righteousness becomes ours," and maintains that “we are justified by sincere obedience.” To this language, no man who understands aright the gratuitous justification which is through faith in the blood of Christ, will ever subscribe. “These were some of the expressions or sentiments which involved Baxter in most of the doctrinal altercations that occupied so large a portion of his future life, and on account of which his name has been placed at the head of a peculiar creed. While he explained, modified, and retracted, many things in this first, and perhaps most objectionable of his works, he adhered to the substance of its sentiments to the last..
* It is to be regretted that the incorrect language of Baxter, on some of the above topics, is by no means peculiar to him. Even Dr. Doddridge, whose evangelical sentiments are so well known, is very injudicious sometimes in his definitions. Thus, in his lectures, where we should suppose great accuracy would be studied, he says, “ Christ has made satisfuction for the sins of all those who repent of their sios, and return to God in the way of sincere though imperfect obedience." p. 418. “ Faith in Christ is a very extensive principle, and includes, in its nature, and inseparable effects, the whole of moral virtue." p. 424. 2d Edit. This mode of speaking of the way of acceptance, is as objectionable as any thing I have met with in Baxter. In other places, however, both Baxter and Doddridge show that they were more consistent with the truth, though not consistent with themselves. .: The extent of the Adamic curse has occasioned a good deal of discussion. The majority, I believe, of Calvinistic writers contend that it includes death, temporal, spiritual, and eternal.-Vide Calvini Inst. lib. ii. c. 3. Westminster Conf. chap. vi. Dr. Doddridge objects to this view of it, without intimating what his own was.-Lectures, pp. 415, 416. 2d Edit. Bishop Law maintained that it meant an entire destruction, rather than a perpetual punishment-an annibilation of the soul, and a resolution of the body into its original dust. Theory of Relig. pp. 339–351. 7th Edit. I suppose Bishop Bull was of the same opinion with Law. See Life, by Nelson, pp. 89, 197, 198, 225. Joseph
Along with those sentiments, which most persons of evangelical views agree to be incorrect, he has introduced some others on which various opinions have been entertained. He denies the distinction, or rather the use that has been made of it, between the active and passive righteousness of Christ; the latter as the Christian's title to forgiveness, and the former to life. He contends, if I understand him aright, that the sufferings of the Redeemer include the whole of his earthly undertaking, terminated by his death, and that these furnish at once the ground of acceptance, and the channel of heavenly and eternal life. On the nature and extent of the death, threatened on account of the Adamic transgression, also, he held views not generally entertained : “ That man should live here for a season a dying life, separated from God, devoid of his image, subject to bodily curses and calamities, dead in law, and at last his soul and body be separated; his body turning to dust from whence it came, and his soul enduring everlasting sorrow, yet nothing so great, as those that are threatened in the new covenant." These things, however, he mentions in the preface, that he does not very confidently insist on."
vea, where did
· In the appendix to this small work, he makes an acknowledgment which explains the reason of the perplexities that occur in this and some other of his controversial writings. 6 To tell the truth, while I busily read what other men said in these controversies, my mind was so prepossessed with their notions, that I could not possibly see the truth in its own native and naked evidence; and when I entered into public disputations concerning it, though I was truly willing to know the truth, my mind was so forestalled with borrowed notions, that I chiefly studied how to make good the opinions which I had received, and ran farther from the truth. Yea, when I read the truth in Dr. Preston's and other men's writings, I did not consider and understand it; and when I heard it from them whom I opposed in wrangling disputations, or read it in books of controversy, I discerned it least of all. Till at last, being in my sickness cast far from home, where I had no book but my Bible, I set to study the truth from thence, and so, by the blessing of God, discovered more in one week, than I had done before in seventeen years' reading, hearing, and wrangling." This is a most important testimony. It shows us that we must look for Baxter's doctrinal views to his practical rather than to. his controversial writings. It is much easier to applaud the fine sentiment of Chillingworth, that “ the Bible,—the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants,” than it is fully to adopt it, and to bring all our sentiments and thoughts under subjection to it. Yet it is infinitely pleasanter and more satisfactory to appeal at once
Hallet also seems to have been nearly of this opinion.-Notes and Observations, vol. j. pp. 313–326. Mr. Archibald M'Lean, of Edinburgh, in his tract on original sin, endeavours to establish that the curse extended no further than to natural death, or the dissolution of soul and body. That a resurrection was not provided by the Adamic constitution, and belongs entirely to the redemption of Christ, seems to be plainly intimated in the New Testament.-1 Cor. xv. 21-23; Rom. v. 12-21. Dr. Watts had some views of this suha ject peculiar to himself. See his Ruin and Recovery, pp. 324-347. Dr. Ridgley also had an hypothesis of his own. See Body of Divinity, p. 11.