« AnteriorContinuar »
Jespect for them, I think it my duty to oppose their mistake, as a pernicious refinement of Satan transformed into an angel of light : I therefore attack it by the following arguments.
(1) This doctrine makes us wife above what is written. We read, that hunger, and want of bread, brought back the prodigal fon. His father knew it, but inttead of treating him as an hired servant, he entertained him as a beloved child, (2) It sets aside at a stroke a considerable part
of the bible, which consists in threatenings to deter evilworkers, and in promises to encourage obedient believers : For, if it is bafe to obey in order to obtain a promised reward, it is baser still to do it in order to avoid a threatened punishment. Thus the precious grace of faith, so far as it is exercised about divine promises and threatenings, is indirectly made void.
(3) It decries godly fear, a grand spring of action, and preservative of boliness in all free agents, that are in a fiate of probation ; and by this meaos it indirectly charges God with want of wisdom, for putting that spring in the breast of innocent man in paradise, and for perpetually working upon it in his word and by his Spirit, whom St. Paul calls the Spirit of bondage unto FEAR; because he helps us to believe the threatenings denounced againit the workers of iniquity, and to fear left ruin hall overtake us, if we continue in our lins.
If ever there was a visible church without spot and wrinkle, it was when the multitude of them that believe ed, were of one heart and of one foul. The worldlymindedness of Ananias and Sapphira was the first blemish of the Chriftian, as Achan's covetousness had been of the Jewith Church on this fide Jordan. God made an example of them as he had done of Achan, and St. Luke observes, that upon it, GREAT FEAR came upon ALL THE CHURCH ; even such fear as kept them from falling after the same example of unbelief, Now were all the primitive christians mean-spirited people, because they were filled with great fear of latter heavenly treasure, if he would give his earthly possessions to the poor — His shocking by preternatural earthquakes the consciences of the Philippian jailor, and the two malefactors that suffered with himHis awakening Ananias, Sapphira, and thousands more by the wonders of the day of Pentecoit, when Lydia and others were called only in the common way-If you mean this, by DISTINGUISHING grace, we are agreed: for, grace displayed in as distinguishing a manner as it was towards Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethfaida, greatly illustrates our Lord's doctrine: “ Of him to whom little is given, little shall be required ; but much shall be required of them, that have received much ;" the equality of God's ways not consisting in giving to all men a like number of talents, any more than making them all archangels; but in treating them all equally, according to the various editions of the everlasting gospel, or law of liberty ; and according to the good or bad uses they have made of their talents, whether they had few or many.
To return to your grand objection : You suppose (and this is probably the ground of your mistake) that when a deliverance, or a divine favour turns upon some thing, which we may do, or leave undone at our option, God is necessarily robbed of his glory. But a few queries will easily convince you of your mistake. When God had been merciful to Lot and his family, not looking back made all the difference between him and his wife ; but does it follow, that he claimed the honour of his narrow escape ? Looking at the brazen type of Christ made fome Israelites differ from others, that died of the bite of the fiery serpents ; but is t'is a sufficient reason to conclude, that the healed men had not sense to diftinguish between primary and secondary causes, and that they ascribed to their looks the glory due to God, for graciously contriving the means of their cure? - One of your neighbours has hanged, and another has poisoned himself; so that not hanging yourself, and taking wholesome food has so far made the difference between you and them : but
can you reasonably infer, that you do not live by divine bounty, and that I rob the Preserver of men of his glory, when I affirm, that you shall surely die if you do not eat, or if you take poison ? Permit me to make
miftake by one mo.e illustration. An anti-Calvinist, who obferves that God has suspended many of his blesings upon indufry, diligently plows, fows, and weeds his field. A fatalist over the way, left free grace should not have all the glory of his crop, does not turn + one clod, and expects seed to drop from the clouds into furrows made by an invisible plow on a certain day, which he calls is a day of God's power.” When har. veft comes, the one has a crop of wheat, and the other a crop of weeds. Now, altho' industry alone has made the difference between the two fields; who is most likely to give God the glory of a crop, the folifidian farmer who reaps thistles ? or the laborious husband. man, who has joined works to his faith in divine providence, and joyfully brings his fheaves home; saying as St. Paul, By divine bounty I have planted and Apollos has weeded, but God has given the encrease which is all in all ?
+ This is not spoken of pious Calvinists, for some of them are remarkably diligent in good works. They are Solifidiers by halves in principle, but not in practice. Their works outshine their errors. I lay nothing to their charge but inattention, prejudice, and glaring inconsistency. compare them to diligent, good-natured druggifts, who among many excellent remedies fell fometimes arsenic. They would not for the world take it themselves, or poison their neighbours ; but yet they freely retail it, and in so doing they are inadvertently the cause of much mischief. Mr. Fulsome, for example, could say which of our gospel ministers taught him, that good works are dung, and have nothing to do with eternal falvation. He could inform us, who lulled him asleep in his fins with the Syren-songs of
ur conditional eleétion," and " finished Salvation in the full extent of the word;" that is, he could let us know who gave hin, his killing dose : and numbers of deifts could tell us, that a bare taste or smell of calvinism has made them loath the genuine doctrines of grace, just as tafting or smelling a tainted partridge has for ever turned fume people's stomachs againit partridge.
Flattering myself, that the preceding answers have removed the reader's prejudices, or confirmed him in his attachment to genuine free-grace, which stands at an equal distance from wantonness and free wrath ; I fall conclude this Essay by some reflections upon the pride, or prejudices of those who scruple working with an eye to the rewards, that God offers to promote the obedience of faith.
“ If heaven [say such mistaken persons] if the enjoyment of God in glory, is the reward of obedience ; and if you work with an eye to that reward, you
act from felf, the bafest of all motives. Love, and not self-intereft, fets us, true believers, upon action : We work from gratitude, t and not for profit ; from life, and not for life. To do good with an eye to a reward, tho' that reward should be a crown of life, is to act as a mercenary wretch, and not as a duteous child, or a faithful servant."
This specious error, zealously propagated by Molinos, Lady Guion, and her illustrious convert, archbishop Fenelon (tho' afterwards renounced by him] put a top to a great revival of the power of godliness abroad in the laft century; and it has already ftruck a fatal blow at the late revival in these kingdoms. I reverence and love many that contend for this sentiment; but, my regard for truth overbalancing my
+ The reader is desired to observe, that we recommend working from life and gratitude as well as our opponents. Life and thankfulnets are two importint springs of action, which we use as well as they. We maintain, that even those, who have a name to live and are Dead in trespalis and fins, cannot be saved without strengtbering the things that remain and are READY TO DIE ; and that thankfulrejs for being out of hell, and for having a day of salvation thro' Christ. should be fronzly recommended to the chief of finners. But thankfulness and life are not all the springs necessary, in our imperfect state, to move all the wheels of obedience ; and we dare no more exclude ihe other springs, because we have these two; than we dare cut off three of our fi rgers, because we have a little finger and a thumb.
to his own glory, viz. the enjoyment of himself, " the light of his countenance, the smiles of his open
face, which make the heaven of heavens."
(6) God says to Abraham, and in him to all believers, I am thy exceeding great REWARD : Hence it follows, that the higher we rise in holiness and obe. dience, the nearer we shall be admitted to the eternal throne ; and the fuller enjoyment we shall have of our God and Saviour, our reward and Rewarder. There. fore, to overlook divine rewards, is to overlook God himself, who is our great REWARD; and to flight the life to come, of which godliness has the PROMISE.
(7) The error I oppose can be put in a ftill stronger light. Not to strive to obtain our great reward in full, amounts to saying: “ Lord thou art beneath my " aim and pursuit : I can do without thce, or with
out so much of thee. I will not beftir myself, and * do one thing to obtain either the fruition, or a fula " ler enjoyment of thy adorable self.” – An illultracion or two, short as they fall of the ching illuitrated, may help us to see the great impropriety of such a conduct. If the king offered to give all oficers, who would distinguish themselves in the field, his hand to kiss, and a commission in the guards, that he might have them near his person ; would not military gentlemen defeat the intention of this gracious offer, and betray a peculiar degree of indifference for his Majesty, if in the day of battle they would not like ore blow the more, on account of the royal promise ?
Again : When David aked : What shall te done iu bim that killeth the giant ? and when he was informed, that Saul would give him his daughter in marsiage; would the young shepherd have newed his regard for the princess, or respect for the monarch, it he had said: “I am above minding rewards : what I do, I do freely! I scorn acting from fo base a motive as a delire to secure the hand of the princess, and the honour of being the king's son-in-law ?" Could any thing have been ruder, and mo hty than such a speech ? And yet, О see what evangelical refine