[Living faith essential to salvation.]
As to your seventeenth and eighteenth chapters, I shall say little, only I wish that your eighteenth had been more express in discovering how far a man may go, with a notion of the truth of the gospel, and yet perish because he hath it not in power.
Only in your inveighing so much against the pardon of sin, while you seem so much to cry up healing; you must know that pardon of sin is the beginning of health to the soul: He pardoneth our iniquities, and healeth all our diseases (Psa 103:3). And where he saith, by the stripes of Christ we are healed, it is evident that healing beginneth at pardon, and not pardon after healing, as you would rather have it (1 Peter 2:24, compare Isa 53). As for your comparison of the plaister, and the physician's portion, I say you do but abuse your reader, and muddy the way of the gospel. For the first thing of which the soul is sick, and by which the conscience receiveth wounding; it is the guilt of sin, and fear of the curse of God for it. For which is provided the wounds and precious blood of Christ, which flesh and blood, if the soul eat thereof by faith, giveth deliverance therefrom. Upon this the filth of sin appears most odious, for that it hath not only at present defiled the soul, but because it keeps it from doing those duties of love, which by the love of Christ it is constrained to endeavour the perfecting of. For filth, appears filth; that is irksome, and odious to a contrary principle now implanted in the soul; which principle had its conveyance thither by faith in the sacrifice and death of Christ going before. 'The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again' (2 Cor 5:14). The man that hath received Christ, desireth to be holy, because the nature of the faith that layeth hold on Christ (although I will not say as you, it is of a generous mind) worketh by love, and longeth, yea, greatly longeth that the soul may be brought, not only into an universal conformity to his will, but into his very likeness; and because that state standeth not with what we are now, but with what we shall be hereafter: therefore 'in this we groan,—being burdened [with that which is of a contrary nature] to be clothed upon—with our house which is from heaven' (2 Cor 5:1-8). Which state is not that of Adam's innocency; but that which is spiritual and heavenly, even that which is now in the Lord in heaven.
But I will descend to your nineteenth chapter, it may be more may be discovered there.
[Justifying faith and the imputation of Christ's righteousness.]
Your nineteenth chapter is to shew; 'That a right understanding of the design of Christianity [viz. as you have laid it down] will give satisfaction concerning the true notion.' First, 'Of justifying faith.' Second, 'Of the imputation of Christ's righteousness' (p. 221).
First, Of justifying faith; 'It is [say you] such a belief of the truth of the gospel, as includes a sincere resolution of obedience unto all its precepts.'
Ans. To this I shall answer, first, that the faith which we call justifying faith, 'Is like precious faith' with all the elect (2 Peter 1:1), and that which is most holy (Jude 20): but those acts of it, which respect our justification with God from the curse of the law that is due for sin; are such, as respect not any good work done by us, but the righteousness that resideth in the person of Christ; and is made ours by the imputation of grace. His faith, I say, accounteth him in whom it is, now a sinner, and without works; yea, if he have any that in his own eyes are such, this faith rejects them, and throweth them away; for it seeth a righteousness in the person of Christ sufficient; even such as is verily the righteousness of God. 'Now to him that worketh not, but believeth.' Works and faith are put here in opposition, faith being considered as justifying, in the sight of God from the curse. The reason is, because the righteousness by which the soul must thus stand justified, is a righteousness of God's appointing, not of his prescribing us; a righteousness that entirely is included in the person of Christ. The apostle also, when he speaks of God's saving the election, which hangeth upon the same hinge, as this of justification doth, to wit, on the grace of God; he opposeth it to works; and that, not to this or that sort only, but even to work, in the nature of work, 'If by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work' (Rom 11:6). By this text, I say, the apostle doth so thoroughly distinguish between grace and works as that which soever standeth in the case, the other must be annihilated: If it be by grace, then must works be no more, 'then it is no more of works': but if it be of works, then is grace no more, 'then it is no more of grace.'
But this, notwithstanding, you urge farther; 'that faith justifieth, as it includes a sincere resolution,' &c.
Ans. Although, as I have said before, the faith which is the justifying faith, is that of the holiest nature, yet in the act, by which it layeth hold of justifying righteousness, it respects it, simply, as a righteousness offered by grace, or given unto the person that by faith layeth hold thereon as he stands yet ungodly and a sinner.
Faith justifieth not separate from the righteousness of Christ as it is a grace in us, nor as it subjecteth the soul to the obedience of the moral law, but as it receiveth a righteousness offered to that sinner, that as such will lay hold on, and accept thereof. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, by being their redemption, and righteousness himself (1 Cor 1:30).
But you add, 'The faith which entitles a sinner to so high a privilege as that of justification, must needs be such as complieth with all the purposes of Christ's coming into the world,' &c. (p. 222).
Ans. By this supposition, faith justifieth not by receiving of the righteousness that Christ by himself accomplished for sinners; but by falling in with all good works, which because they cannot be known, much less done, by the soul at first, his faith being then, as to the perfection of knowledge of duties, weak, he standeth still before God unjustified, and so must stand until he doth comply with all those purposes of Christ's coming into the world.
But yet again you recall yourself, and distinguish one purpose from the rest, as a grand one (p. 222). And that is to receive Christ as Lord, as well as a Saviour.
Ans. 1. Although the soul that in truth receiveth Christ, receiveth him wholly, and entirely as Christ, and not as chopt, and pulled in pieces: yet I distinguish between the act of faith, which layeth hold of Christ for my justification from the curse before God, and the consequences of that act, which are to engage me to newness of life. And indeed, as it is impossible for a man to be a new man, before he be justified in the sight of God; so it is also as impossible, but that when faith hath once laid hold on Christ for life, it should also follow Christ by love. But,
2. Christ may be received at first as Lord, and that in our justification, and yet not at all be considered as a law-giver, for so he is not the object of faith for our justification with God, but a requirer of obedience to laws and statutes, of them that already are justified by the faith that receiveth him as righteousness. But Christ is as well a Lord for us, as to, or over us; and it highly concerneth the soul, when it believeth in, or trusteth to the righteousness of Christ, for justification with God, to see that this righteousness lords it over death, and sin, and the devil, and hell for us: the name wherewith he shall be called, is, 'the Lord our righteousness' (Jer 23:6). Our righteousness, then is Lord, and conqueror over all; and we more than conquerors through this Lord that loved us (Rom 8). The author to the hebrews calls him 'King of righteousness' (Heb 7), because by his righteousness he ruleth as Lord and King, and can reign and lord it, at all times over all those that seek to separate us from the presence, and glory of God.
Now, how you will brook this doctrine I know not; I am sure he stands in need thereof, that is lorded over by the curse of the law, the guilt of sin, the rage of the devil, and the fear of death and hell; he, I say, would be glad to know that in Christ there is a righteousness that LORDS IT, or that Christ, as he is righteousness, is LORD.
Wherefore reader, when thou shalt read or hear, that Jesus Christ is Lord, if thou art at the same time under guilt of sin, and fear of hell, then do thou remember that Christ is Lord more ways than one, He is Lord as he is righteousness; he is Lord as he is imputative righteousness; he is 'the Lord our righteousness' (Jer 23:6). Of the same import is that also, 'He is a Prince, and a Saviour,' he is a Prince, as he is a Saviour; because the righteousness by which he saveth, beareth rule in heaven, and earth. And hence we read again, that even when he was in the combat with our sins, the devils, the curse, and death, upon the cross, he even in that place 'made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them' (Col 2:15,16). Now in these things he is Lord for us, and the Captain of our salvation; as also in that 'He led captivity captive' (Eph 4:8); all which places, with many more, being testimonies to us, of the sufficiency of that righteousness which saveth us from the justice of the law and wrath of God. But you respect not this his manner of lording; but will have him be a Saviour, as he giveth laws, especially those you call indispensable, and eternal, the moral law. You would have him a Saviour, as he bringeth us back to the holiness we had lost. But this is none other than barbarous quakerism, the stress of their writing also tending to no other purpose.
But you tell us, 'That you scarcely admired at any thing more in all your life, than that any worthy men especially, should be so difficultly persuaded to embrace this account of justifying faith, and should perplex and make intricate so very plain a doctrine' (p. 222).
Ans. And doubtless they far more groundedly stand amazed at such as you, who while you pretend to shew the design of the gospel, make the very essential of it, a thing in itself indifferent, and absolutely considered neither good nor evil (p. 7), that makes obedience to the moral laws (p. 8), more essential to salvation, than that of going to God by Christ (p. 9), that maketh it the great design of Christ, to put us into a possession of that promiseless, natural, old covenant holiness which we had lost long since in Adam, that maketh as if Christ, rejecting all other righteousness, or holiness, hath established only this (p. 10-16). Yea, that maketh the very principle of this holiness to consist in 'a sound complexion of soul, the purity of human nature in us, a habit of soul, truly generous motives and principles, divine moral laws which were first written in men's hearts, and originally dictates of human nature.' All this villainy against the Son of God, with much more as bad, is comprized within less than the first sixteen pages of your book.
But say you, 'what pretence can there be for thinking, that faith is the condition, or instrument of justification, as it complieth with only the precept of relying upon Christ's merits for the obtaining of it: especially when it is no less manifest than the sun at noon-day, that obedience to the other precepts must go before obedience to this; and that a man may not rely upon the merits of Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, and he is most presumptuous in so doing, and puts an affront upon his Saviour too, till he be sincerely willing to be reformed from them' (p. 223).
Ans. That the merits of Christ, for justification, are made over to that faith that receiveth them, while the person that believeth it, stands in his own account, by the law a sinner; hath already been shewed. And that they are not by God appointed for another purpose, is manifest through all the bible.
1. In the type, when the bloody sacrifices were to be offered, and an atonement made for the soul, the people were only to confess their sins over the head of the bullock, or goat, or lamb, by laying their hands thereon, and so the sacrifice was to be slain. they were only to acknowledge their sins. And observe it, in the day that these offerings were made, they were 'not to work at all; for he that did any work therein, was to be cut off from his people' (Lev 4, 16, 23).
2. In the antitype thus it runs; 'Christ died for our sins; Christ gave himself for our sins; he was made to be sin for us; Christ was made a curse for us.'
'Yea, but [say you] What pretence can there be, that faith is the condition, or instrument of justification, as it complieth with only the precepts of relying upon Christ's merits'; that is, first, or before the soul doth other things.
Ans. I say, avoiding your own ambiguous terms, that it is the duty, the indispensable duty of all that would be saved, First, Immediately, now to close in by faith with that work of redemption, which Christ by his blood hath purchased for them, as they are sinners.
1. Because God doth hold it forth, yea, hath set it forth to be received by us, as such (Rom 3:23-27).
2. Because God hath commanded us by faith to receive it as such (Acts 16).
And I add, If the jailor was altogether ignorant of what he must do to be saved, and Paul yet bids him then, before he knew anything else, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he should be saved,' that then believing, even believing on Christ for a righteousness to justify and save him, must go first, and may, nay ought to be pressed, even then, when the soul stands ignorant of what else he ought to do (Acts 16:30-32).
'But [you say] It is evident as the sun at noon-day, that obedience to the other precepts must go before obedience to this, that is, before faith in Christ.'
Ans. This you say; but Paul said to the ignorant jailor, that knew nothing of the mind of God in the doctrine of justification, that he should first believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and so should be saved. Again, when Paul preached to the Corinthians, the first doctrine that he delivered unto them was, 'That Christ died for their sins, according to the scriptures,' &c. (1 Cor 15:1-3).
But what be these other precepts? Not Baptism, nor the supper of the Lord; for these you say are, as poor and inconsiderable, as that of coming to God by Christ, even all three, things in themselves neither good nor evil, but of an indifferent nature; they must be therefore some more weighty things of the gospel, than these positive precepts. But what things are they? It is good that you tell us, seeing you tacitly forbid all men upon pain of presumption and of doing affront to Jesus Christ, that they rely not on the merits of Christ for forgiveness till they be sincerely willing to perform them first; yet I find not here one particular precept instanced by you: But perhaps we shall hear of them hereafter, therefore now I shall let them pass. You tell us farther, 'That such a reliance [as that of acting faith, first, on the merits of Christ for justification] is ordinarily to be found amongst unregenerate, and even the worst of men' (p. 223).
Ans. This is but a falsehood and a slander, for the unregenerate know him not; how then can they believe on him? (1 John 3:1). Besides, the worst of men, so far as they pretend religion, set up your idol in their hearts, viz. their own good meanings, their own good nature, the notions and dictates of their nature, living that little which they do live upon the snuff of their own light, the sparks of their own fire, and therefore woe unto them.
But you add, 'How can it be otherwise, than that that act of faith must needs have a hand in justifying, and the special hand too, which distinguisheth it from that which is to be found in such persons.'
Ans. 1. There is no act of faith doth more distinguish true faith from false, and the Christian from the painted hypocrite, than that which first lays hold on Christ, while the person that hath it stands in his own esteem, ungodly; all over like yourself, being fearful and unbelieving (Rev 21:8) despisers, who wonder, and perish (Acts 13:40-41).
2. And this faith, by thus acting, doth more subdue sin, though it doth not justify as subduing, but as applying Christ's righteousness, than all the wisdom and purity of human nature, or the dictates of that nature that is found in the whole world.
But you add farther: 'What good ground can men have for this fancy, when as our Saviour hath merited the pardon of sin for this end, that it might be an effectual motive to turn from it?'
Ans. Although you speak this in great derision to faith when it worketh right, yet know that therefore (seeing you would hear it) I say, therefore hath our Saviour merited pardon, and bestowed it on men freely, and bid them believe or receive it, and have it; that thereby they might be encouraged to live to him, and love him, and comply with his commandments. 'For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die: But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being NOW justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him' (Rom 5). Now, as here we are said to be justified by his blood, that is, as his blood appeaseth the justice of God; so again, it is said that this blood is set forth by God for us to have faith in it, by the term of a propitiation. 'Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [or a sacrifice to appease the displeasure of God] through faith in his blood.—To declare at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus' (Rom 3:25,26).
Again, As we are thus justified by blood in the sight of God, by faith in it, so also it is testified of his blood, that it sprinkleth the conscience of the faithful, but still only as it is received by faith. But from what is the conscience sprinkled, but from those dead works that remain in all that have not yet been justified by faith in this blood. Now if faith in this blood doth sprinkle the conscience, and so doth purge it from all dead works, then must faith go first to the blood of Christ for justification, and must bring this home to the defiled conscience, before it be delivered from those dead works that are in it, and made capable of serving the living God (Rom 5:7-10, 3:24,25; Heb 9:14, 10:19-22).
But you say, 'you will never trust your discursive faculty so long as you live, if you are mistaken here' (p. 224).
Tell not me of your discursive faculty: The word of God is plain. And never challenge man, for he that condemneth your way to heaven, to the very pit of hell, as Paul doth, can yet set forth a better.
Second, I come now to the second thing, viz. the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's righteousness, which you thus expound.
'It consists in dealing with sincerely righteous persons, as if they were perfectly so, for the sake, and upon the account of Christ's righteousness' (p. 225, 226).
Ans. 1. Any thing but truth; but I would know how sincerely righteous they were that were justified without works? Or how sincerely righteous they were whom God justified as ungodly? (Rom 4:3-5).
2. Your explication of the imputation of Christ's righteousness makes it respect our works rather than our persons: 'It consists [say you] in dealing with sincerely righteous persons, as if they were perfectly so': That is, it justifieth their imperfect righteousness first, and so secondarily their persons for the sake of that.
But observe a few things from this explication.
1. This concludeth that a man may be sincerely righteous in God's account, WITHOUT the righteousness of Christ; for that is to be imputed to such, and none but such.
2. This concludeth that men may be sincerely righteous, before Christ's righteousness is imputed: For this sincere righteousness is precedent to the imputation of Christ's.
3. This concludeth that a man may have true, yea saving grace in great and mighty action in him, before he hath faith in the righteousness of Christ. For if a man must be sincerely righteous first; then he must not only have that we call the habit, but the powerful acts of grace.
Besides, if the righteousness of Christ is not to be looked to first, but secondarily; not before, but after we be made sincerely righteous; then may not faith be thus acted if a man should have it, until he be first a sincerely righteous person.
4. This concludeth that a man may be brought from under the curse of the law in God's sight, before he have faith in the righteousness of Christ, yea before it be imputed to him: for he that in God's account is reckoned sincerely righteous, is beloved of his God.
5. This concludeth that a man may be from under the curse of God, without the imputation of the righteousness of Christ: For if a man must be sincerely righteous in God's account without it, then he is from under the curse of God without it.
6. This doctrine teacheth farther, that Christ came to call, and justify the righteous, contrary to his express word. In short, by this account of things, first we must be healed, and then the plaister comes.
Yea, so confident is this man in this his assertion, that he saith, 'It is not possible any other notion of this doctrine should have truth in it' (p. 226). O this Jesus! This rock of offence! But he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
But blessed be God for Jesus Christ, and for that he took our nature, and sin, and curse, and death upon him: And for that he did also by himself, by one offering purge our sins. We that have believed have found rest, even there where God and his Father hath smelled a sweet savour of rest; because we are presented to God, even now complete in the righteousness of him, and stand discharged of guilt, even by the faith of him: yea, as sins past, so sins to come, were taken up and satisfied for, by that offering of the body of Jesus, we who have had a due sense of sins, and of the nature of the justice of God, we know that no remission of the guilt of any one can be, but by atonement made by blood (Heb 9:22). We also know that where faith in Jesus Christ is wanting, there can be neither good principle, nor good endeavour. For faith is the first of all graces, and without it there is nothing but sin (Rom 14:23). We know also, that faith as a grace in us, severed from the righteousness of Christ, is only a beholder of things, but not a justifier of persons, and that if it lay not hold of, and applieth not that righteousness which is in Christ, it carrieth us no farther than to the [faith of] devils. We know that this doctrine killeth sin, and curseth it at the very roots; I say we know it, 'who have mourned over him whom WE have pierced' (Zech 12:10), and who have been confounded to see that God by his blood should be pacified towards us for all the wickedness we have done (Eze 16:63). Yea, we have a double motive to be holy and humble before him; one because he died for us on earth, another because he now appears for us in heaven, there sprinkling for us the mercy seat with his blood, there ever-living to make intercession for them that come unto God by him. 'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins' (1 John 2:1,2). Yet this worketh in us no looseness, nor favour to sin, but so much the more an abhorrence of it: 'She loveth much, for much was forgiven her' (Luke 7:47). Yea, she weeps, she washeth his feet, and wipeth them with the hairs of her head, to the confounding of Simon the pharisee, and all such ignorant hypocrites.
[The Bible the only measure and standard of truth.]
But I pass this, and come to the twentieth chapter, which is to learn us by what measure and standard we are to judge of doctrines; and that is by the design of Christianity as stated, you must know, by Mr. Fowler. Wherefore it will be requisite here again, that a collection of principles and doctrines be gathered out of this book, that the man that hath a short memory may be helped the better to bear them in mind, and to make them, if he shall be so bewitched by them, instead of the Bible, a standard for truth, and a rule for him to obtain salvation by.
First then, he must know that the principle by which he must walk must be the purity of the human nature, a divine or God-like nature, which yet is but an habit of soul, or more plainly the moral law, as written in the heart, and originally the dictates of human nature, a generous principle, such an one as although it respects law, yet acts in a sphere above it; above it as a written law, that acts even in the first principles of it (p. 7-10).
Second, He must know, that the holiness Christ designed to possess his people with, is that which we had lost in Adam, that which he had before he fell, that natural old covenant Christ-less holiness (p. 12).
Third, He must put a difference between those laws of the gospel that are essential to holiness, and those positive precepts that in themselves are indifferent, and absolutely considered neither good nor evil; but must know also that of these positive precepts, he alloweth but three in the gospel, but three that are purely such; to wit, that of coming to God by Christ, the institutions of baptism, and the Lord's supper (p. 7-9).
Fourth, He must hold for certain, that the faith which entitleth a sinner to so high a privilege as that of justification, must needs be such as complieth with all the purposes of Christ's coming into the world, whether at present it understands them or not, and it is no less necessary it should justify as it doth so (p. 222).
Fifth, He must know, that a man may not rely upon the merits of Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, before he have done other good works first (p. 223).
Sixth, And that the right explication of the imputation of Christ's righteousness is this, that it consisteth in having to do with persons that are sincerely righteous (p. 225). For it is not possible for Christ's righteousness to be imputed to an unrighteous man (p. 120).
These things, with many like to them, being the main points by this man handled, and by him asserted to be the design of Christianity, by these we must, as by a rule and standard, understand how to judge of the truth of doctrines. And, saith he, 'seeing the design of Christianity is to make men holy, [still meaning from principles of humanity, and by possessing us again, with the often repeated holiness which we had lost,] whatsoever opinions do either directly, or in their evident consequences, obstruct the promoting of it, are perfectly false' (p. 227,228).
Ans. Thus with one word, as if he were Lord and Judge himself, he sendeth to the pit of hell, all things that sanctify or make holy the hearts of men, if they oppose the design of his christianity. But what if the Holy Ghost will become a principle in the hearts of the converted, and will not now suffer them to act simply and alone upon the principles of pure humanity; or what now if faith will become a principle to act by, instead of these that are originally dictates of human nature? Or what if a man should act now as a son, rather than simply as a creature endued with a principle of reason? I question here whether these things thus doing do not obstruct, put by, yea and take the way of his pure humanity, dictates of human nature, and instead thereof act and govern the soul by and with their own principles. For albeit, there be the dictates of human nature in the sons of men, yet neither is this nature, nor yet the dictates of it, laid by Jesus Christ as the truly christian principles in his. But you add:
'Those doctrines which in their own nature do evidently tend to the serving of THIS design of Christianity, we may conclude are most true and genuine' (p. 229).
Ans. The holiness which you so often call the design of Christianity, being by yourself said to be that which we had lost, for this one sentence is it on which your whole book is built (p. 12), whatsoever doctrine or doctor it be that asserts it, both that doctrine is of the devil, and that doctor an angel of darkness, or rather a minister of Satan, become as a minister of righteousness. For where is it said in all the whole book of God, that ever the Lord Christ designed, yea made it his errand from heaven, to put us again in possession of the holiness which we had lost? Yet this you affirm, and tell us the business of your book is to prove it. But blessed be God, your shifts are discovered, and your fig-leaves rent from off you, and the righteousness or holiness so much cried up by you, proved to be none of the holiness of the gospel, but that which stood with perfect ignorance thereof. I might speak to what yet remains of falsehood, in the other part of this chapter; but having overthrown the foundation, and broken the head of your Leviathan; what remains falleth of itself, and dieth of its own accord.
What you say of modes or forms, and sticklers for little trifles, such as place their religion in mere externals, you may fasten them where of due they belong: Yet I tell you the least of the commandments of Christ is better than your Adamitish holiness.
[The necessity of a sound foundation.]
Your twenty-first chapter tells us, if we will believe you, how we shall judge of the necessity of doctrine, to be embraced or rejected; also you say, it giveth us a brief discourse of the nature of fundamentals: But because your discourse of them is general, and not any one particularized, I might leave you in your generals till you dealt more candidly, both with the word of God and your abused reader.
First, Indeed you tell us of primary fundamentals. 'Such, as without the knowledge and belief of which it is impossible to acquire that inward righteousness and true holiness which the christian religion aimeth at;—but the particulars of these, say you, I shall not enumerate, because [as will appear from what will be said anon] it is not needful to have a just table of them' (p. 234).
Ans. Deep divinity! (1.) They are such as without the knowledge and belief of them, it is not possible we should acquire your true holiness; and yet for all that, it is not needful that we be told what they are, or that we should have a just table of them. (2.) But if they be things necessary, things without the knowledge of which it is impossible we should be truly holy, then is it needful that we understand what they are: yea, then is it needful that they be written, and presented one by one unto us, that our knowledge of them being distinct and full, we may the better be able to obtain or acquire your glorious (so pretended) holiness.
But I know your primary fundamentals, they are your first principles of morals; not faith in the righteousness of Christ, for that is comprehended in your positive, and in themselves indifferent things: your morals are the things in themselves absolutely necessary; of an indispensable and eternal obligation (p. 8,9). But,
Second, You tell us of points of faith that are secondarily fundamental; the disbelief of which cannot consist with true holiness, in those to whom the gospel is sufficiently made known.
Ans. The secondary fundamentals also, are all kept close and hid, and not otherwise to be understood, but by implication; however, the disbelief of these is not of so sad a consequence as is that of the former, because, say you, 'They are not in their own nature, holiness' (p. 235). Yea, he insinuateth that the disbelief of them may stand with true holiness in those to whom the gospel is not sufficiently made known.
Of these secondary fundamentals therefore, whatever is their number, this is one, even coming to God by Christ; for as in p. 7 and 9 he calleth it a positive precept, a thing that in itself is neither good nor evil; so here he speaks of such as are not in their own nature holy; not such, as that holiness is not in some degree or other attainable without the belief of them.
That one of these secondary fundamentals intended by Mr. Fowler, is, that of coming to God by Christ, I farther gather, because he saith, that 'in the number of these, are all such doctrines, as are with indisputable clearness revealed to us,' that is, by the holy scriptures of the New Testament (p. 235). For therein is this revealed to be a fundamental; but he saith, not a primary one, because, that in itself, it is but indifferent, and not in its own nature good. 'Now the belief of these, saith he, though it is not in itself any more, than in higher or lower degrees, profitable, [confusions! darkness! confusion!] yet it is absolutely necessary from an external cause': That is, with such abundant clearness, as that nothing can cause men to refuse to admit them, but that which argueth them to be stark naught.
Ans. Then, hence it seems that the reason why you admit these secondary sort of fundamentals, is not from any internal power, but an external declaration only. 2. Nay, and you do but admit them neither, and that too, for some external cause; not because of the worthiness of the nature of the points themselves. 3. And were it not, but that you are loth to be counted stark naught in the eyes of men, so far as I can discern, you would not at all make profession of them, with pretence as unto God; for, say you, 'We must take notice here, that all such points [as these][viz. these fundamentals,] are not of equal necessity to be received by all Christians, because, that in regard of the diversity of their capacities, educations, and other means and advantages, some of them may be most plainly perceived by some, to be delivered in the scriptures, which cannot be so by others, with the like ease.'
Ans. From these words I take notice of four things.
1. That by this universal (all Christians) is comprehended the Heathen and Pagan people, they give heed to, and mind to follow that light, that originally, and naturally, stirreth them to moral duties. These be they that want the education, and advantages of others, and are not in such a capacity, as they to whom these things are delivered by the scriptures.
2. That this people, notwithstanding they want a scripture revelation of these secondary fundamentals, yet have the more necessary, the first sort of fundamentals; for the secondary sort, say you, are not in their own nature such, as that holiness is not in some degree or other attainable without the belief of them.
3. That therefore, these secondary sort of fundamentals, are only necessary to be believed by them that have the indisputable (the scripture) revelation of them; and that, in truth, the others may be saved without them.
4. But yet, even those that are made capable, by education and other advantages, to obtain the belief of them, ought, notwithstanding, not to have the same respect for them, as for those of the first sort of fundamentals, because they are not in their own nature such.
But will this man know, that Christ is not only a fundamental, but the very foundation of all other fundamental truths, revealed both in the Old Testament and the New; and that his pure human nature, with the dictates of it, with his feigned Adamitish holiness, is no fundamental at all; I mean no fundamental of faith, no gospel fundamental (1 Cor 3:14; Eph 2:19,20). Yea, will he know, that from heaven there is none other name given, than the name of Jesus Christ, whereby we must be saved, none other name given under the whole heavens (Acts 4:12).
Oh the witchcrafts, by which some men's spirits are intoxicated! and the strength of delusion, by which some are infatuated, and turned aside from the simplicity that is in Jesus Christ! But I proceed:
Your great question, or rather your Urim and Thumim, by which you would have all men make judgment of their saveable, or damnable state(p. 236) is, according to your description of things, most devilish and destructive. For to obey God and Christ in all things, with you, is to do it from principles purely human in the faith of this: that Christ hath designed to possess us again with that holiness we had lost. Again, to obey God and Christ, with you, is, so to obey all their laws, as respecting the first principles of morals; and our obedience to them, far more indispensable than that of coming to God by Christ. Farther, he that obeys them in all things, with your directions, must not look upon faith in the blood of Christ, and justification by his righteousness, as the main and first, but the second part of our duty; other commands, or precepts, more naturally holy and good, first being embraced, and lived in the practice of, by us.
This, I say, being the doctrine you have asserted, and the foundation on which your Urim and Thummim stands; the foundation, with your trial, are both from the devil and hell, as hath at large been proved, and discovered in this book.
And I now will add, and bid you take your advantage, that should a man with all his might, strive to obey all the moral laws, either as they are contained in the first principles of morals, or in the express decalogue, or Ten Commandments; without faith, first, in the blood, and death, and resurrection of Christ, &c. For his justification with God; his thus doing would be counted wickedness, and he in the end, accounted a rebel against the gospel, and shall be damned for want of faith in the blood of the Lord Jesus.
[The Christian's great principles.]
Your twenty-second chapter, saith, 'That the design of Christianity, teacheth us what doctrines and practices we ought, as Christians, to be most zealous for, or against' (p. 237).
Ans. But there is not by that, it being rightly stated, one syllable that tendeth to encourage any man, to have lower thoughts of coming to God by Christ, than of keeping the moral law. For even the first text you bring, doth utterly overthrow it. 'Contend [earnestly], say you, for the faith'; I answer then, not for the law of works, for the law is not of faith; but the man that doth these things, shall live in them, by them. 'Contend earnestly for the faith, for there are certain men crept in unawares, which were before of old, ordained unto this condemnation'; even the condemnation that is to come upon them that contend against the faith; for these ungodly men turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, and deny the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Now these creeping ungodly men, may be divided in three ranks.
1. Such as by principle, and practice both, say, 'Let us do evil, that good may come: whose damnation is just' (Rom 3:8).
2. Such as by practice only, appear to be such, denying to profess the principle thereof, such are they that made excuse and delay, when invited to come to the wedding (Matt 22:1-5; Luke 14).
3. There is yet another sort; and they are such as seem to deny it, both in principle, and practice also; only they do it covertly, PRIVILY bringing in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them. These 'bring upon themselves swift destruction' (2 Peter 2:1).
This third sort, made of the doctrine of grace, and of the forgiveness of sins, through the faith of the righteousness of Christ, a loose and licentious doctrine, or a doctrine that giveth liberty to the flesh. By reason of these the way of truth is evil spoken of, and the hearts of innocent ones alienated therefrom. These will not stick to charge it upon the very chief of the brethren, if they shall say, 'As sin abounded, grace hath much more abounded: that they press men to do evil, that good may come of it' (Rom 3:8,9). But, as I said, these vilify Christ, not with open words, but covertly; privily they bring in their blasphemy under a cloak, crying, the law, holiness, strictness, good works, &c. Besides, these clothe their doctrines with names and notions that belong not at all unto them; as of Christ, grace, the spirit, the gospel, when there is only there, the devil, and his angels, and errors; as angels of light, and ministers of righteousness. Of this last sort are you, and the subject matter of your book; for you bring into the world an anti-gospel holiness, anti-gospel principles, and anti-gospel fundamentals; and that these things might be worshiped by your disciples, you give them the name of holiness, the design of Christ, and of Christianity; by which means you remove the Christ of God, from before, and set him behind, forbidding men to believe on him, till they have practised your things first: nay, after they have practised yours, they then must come to God by him, still respecting the principles and dictates of humanity, as things of the greatest weight, things that are good in themselves; still considering that 'coming to God by Christ, is not good in itself, but so only upon the account of certain circumstances; a thing in itself of an indifferent nature, and absolutely considered neither good nor evil.'
Wherefore, Sir, laying aside all fear of men, not regarding what you may procure to be inflicted upon me for this my plain dealing with you, I tell you again, that yourself is one of them, that have closely, privily, and devilishly, by your book, turned the grace of our God into a lascivious doctrine, bespattering it with giving liberty to looseness, and the hardening of the ungodly in wickedness, against whom, shall you persist in your wickedness, I shall not fail, may I live, and know it, and be helped of God to do it, to discover yet farther the rottenness of your doctrine, with the accursed tendencies thereof.
What you say about 'doubtful opinion, alterable modes, rites, and circumstances in religion' (p. 239). I know none so wedded thereto as yourselves, even the whole gang of your rabbling counterfeit clergy; who generally like the ape you speak of, lie blowing up the applause and glory of your trumpery, and like the tail, with your foolish and sophistical arguings, you cover the filthy parts thereof, as you sweetly argue in the next chapter (p. 242) saying, 'Whatsoever of such are commended by the custom of the place we live in, or commanded by superiors, or made by any circumstance convenient to be done, our christian liberty consists in this, that we have leave to do them.' So that do but call them things indifferent, things that are the customs of the place we live in, or made by ANY circumstance convenient, and a man may not doubt but he hath leave to do them, let him live at Rome or Constantinople, or amidst the greatest corruption of worship and government. These are therefore doubtless, a third sort of fundamentals, by which you can wrestle with conviction of conscience, and stifle it; by which you can suit yourself for every fashion, mode, and way of religion. Here you may hop from Presbyterianism, to a prelatical mode; and if time and chance should serve you, backwards, and forwards again: yea, here you can make use of several consciences, one for this way now, another for that anon; now putting out the light of this by a sophistical delusive argument, then putting out the other, by an argument that best suits the time. Yea, how oft is the candle of the wicked put out, by such glorious learning as this. Nay, I doubt not, but a man of your principles, were he put upon it, would not stick to count those you call gospel-positive precepts, of no value at all in the christian religion; for now, even now, you do not stick to say that, that even that of going to God by Christ, is one of these, and that such an one, as if absolutely considered in itself, is neither good nor evil. How then, if God should cast you into Turkey, where Mahomet reigns as Lord? It is but reckoning that it is the religion, and custom of the country, and that which is authorized by the power that is there; wherefore it is but sticking to your dictates of human nature, and remembering that coming to God by Christ is a thing of an indifferent nature in itself, and then for peace sake, and to sleep in a whole skin, you may comply, and do as your superior commands. Why? Because in Turkey, are your first sort of fundamentals found: there are men that have human nature, and the law of morals written in their hearts; they have also the dictates thereof written within them, which teach them, those you call the eternal laws of righteousness; wherefore you both would agree in your essential, and immutable differences of good and evil (p. 6), and differ only about these positive laws, indifferent things. Yea, and Mahomet also for the time, because by a custom made convenient, might be now accounted worshipful, and the circumstances that attend his worship, especially those of them that clash not with the dictates of your human nature, might also be swallowed down.
Behold you here then, good reader, a glorious Latitudinarian, that can, as to religion, turn and twist like an eel on the angle; or rather like the weather-cock that stands on the steeple.
'For [saith he] our refusing to comply with either of these can hardly proceed from anything better than a proud affectation of singularity, or at best, from superstitious scrupulosity' (p. 2424).
Do but believe him therefore in what he saith, and you cannot choose but be ready with him to comply with all modes that may serve for advantage.
Besides, he saith, 'that the word superstition, in the Greek implieth, a frightful, and over-timorous apprehension of the divine nature; and consequently a base and under-valuing conception of it.'
So that to be tender of conscience, especially in things of divine worship, binding up the soul to the words of the everlasting testament, in such things especially, as a fool can call little, and insignificant trivial matters, rendereth a man such an one as hath a very erroneous conscience.
But he would not be understood (p. 244) as if he here intended to vilify things that are plainly commanded, or to tolerate that which is plainly forbidden, only he would have all things that may fall within the reach of these two general heads, be examined by this general rule, 'HIS description of the design of Christianity.'
Ans. But I could tell him, that whatsoever is imposed as a part of God's worship, is judged by a better rule than his, both as to its goodness and badness, neither can we account any thing indifferent that is a part thereof. Besides, whatsoever is reputed a part of God's worship, layeth hold on the conscience of the godly: although a ranting Latitudinarian may say, 'If the devil should preach, I would hear him, before I would suffer persecution.' As a brave fellow which I could name, in his zeal was pleased to declare.
But what trust should any man put to the rule to which you direct him for help, and relief therein; seeing that from the beginning to the end, from the top to the bottom, it is a cursed blasphemous book; a book that more vilifieth Jesus Christ, than many of the Quakers themselves: for which of them said worse of him, and make coming to God by him, a more insignificant thing, than you by your pretended design of Christianity have done.
We have therefore a more sure word of the prophets, to the which 'we do well to take heed' (2 Peter 1:19), by which, both your doctrine, and practice, is already judged to be naught, as will be farther discovered time enough, when you shall justify or condemn particulars.
Your twenty-fourth chapter I shall now pass by, until I can better compare you and popery, against which you there so stoutly diggle together.
[The scandalous lives and foolish doctrines of state priests, not the true ground of dissent.]
Your twenty-fifth chapter carrieth in it an hideous outcry against many of your ministers and guides, complaining and confessing, 'That no one thing hath so conduced to the prejudice of your church of England, and done the separating parties so much service, as the scandalous lives of some that exercise the ministerial function in her' (p. 258).
Ans. I will grant it, if you respect these poor carnal people, who yet have been shamed from your assemblies, by such vicious persons you mention: but the truly godly, and spiritually judicious have left you from other arguments, of which I shall not here dilate.
But from p. 261 to the end of the chapter, you take upon you to particularize other of your ministers that are an offence to you, and to the design of your Christianity.
1. 'Such as affect to make people stare at their high flown bombast language, or to please their phantasies with foolish jugglings, and pedantic or boyish wit; or to be admired for their ability in dividing of an hair, their metaphysical acuteness, and scholastic subtilty, or for their doughty dexterity in controversial squabbles.' And I add, had you joined herewith, such as vilify and trample upon the blood of the Lord Jesus, preferring the snivel of their own brains before him, you had herein but drawn your own picture, and given your reader an emblem of yourself.
2. The second sort you blame, are 'such as seek to approve themselves to their auditories to be men of mysteries, and endeavour to make the plain and easy doctrines of the gospel as intricate and obscure as ever they are able.' I will add to these, such as take away the doctrine of faith, and that set themselves and their works in the room thereof: such as have sought to overturn the foundation, Jesus Christ, and have made coming to God by him, in itself of a far more indifferent nature than the dictates of our humanity.
3. Another sort (you say) are 'such as preach upon free grace, and christian privileges, otherwise than as motives to cite to obedience, and never scarce insist upon any duties, but those of believing, laying hold on Christ's righteousness, applying the promises, and renouncing our own righteousness,' which they that have none at all to renounce, have a mighty kindness for.
Ans. (1.) Who they are that preach free grace in your church, to excite men to uncleanness, you may know better than I. But if these words, otherwise than to cite men to obedience, be thus thrust in, of purpose thereby to speak evil of the preachers of free grace, and the exalters of the imputed righteousness of Christ, then look to it; for such venom language as this, doth but involve you within the bowels of that most dreadful prophecy, concerning the false prophets of the last days, that shall privily bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them.
(2.) The preaching of free grace, pressing to believing, and laying hold on Christ's righteousness, is the most available means under heaven, to make men holy, and righteous: 1. Before God. 2. Then before men.
(3.) The preaching of these are first, and principally to beget faith, to beget life, to beget souls to God; yea, to beget in men such a principle, whereby they may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.
(4.) But to preach free grace, doth much condemn your free will; to preach Christ's righteousness doth utterly curse, and condemn yours; and to preach the promise of grace, doth quite shut out a covenant of works: therefore no marvel if you, who are so wedded to these things, be such an enemy to free grace, the righteousness of Christ, and the gospel promises, that you make even these things a characteristical note (first abusing the consequences of them) of a church-troubling preacher.
(5.) You tauntingly proceed, saying, 'such preachers also press us to renounce our own righteousness, which they that have none at all to renounce, have a mighty kindness for.'
Ans. Indeed those that have a righteousness of their own, as the pharisees, and hypocrites of old, had never much kindness for the doctrine of grace, and the ministers of Christ, but the publicans and harlots had: and therefore, these, while they that had righteousness stumbled and fell, entered into the kingdom of heaven. 'The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.' But what righteousness have you of your own, to which you so dearly are wedded, that it may not be let go, for the sake of Christ? seeing also so long as you go about to establish it, you submit not yourself 'to the righteousness of God' (Rom 10:3). Yea, why do you taunt those ministers that persuade us to renounce our own righteousness, and those also that follow their doctrine? Seeing this was both the doctrine and practice of Paul and all others, save only those that had Moses' veil over their hearts.
Another sort of ministers that you say are enemies to the promoting of holiness, are such as 'are never in their element, but when they are talking of the irrespectiveness of God's decrees, the absoluteness of his promises, the utter disability and perfect impotence of natural men, to do any thing towards their own conversion, and that insist with great emphasis, and vehemence, upon such like false, and dangerous opinions' (p. 262).
Ans. The men that preach these things, being rightly stated, preach the truth of God, if the scriptures may bear sway; they having all been proved the truth of the gospel, both by the prophets and apostles: and when you shall think meet by argument to contradict them, either I, or same other may show you the folly of your undertaking. In the mean time let the reader take notice that here you have judged not by scripture, nor by reason, but upon a bare presumption, arising from your pride or ignorance. Wherefore pray you in your next, shew us, (1.) What is in man that the decree of election should respect as a thing foreseen of God, to prevail with him to predestinate him to eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (2.) Make it manifest that in the word of God there neither is, nor can be any absolute promise contained. (3.) Shew us what ability there is in a natural man, as such, to do things towards his own conversion; I mean things immediately tending to, and that must infallibly consummate therein, and let us see what things they are. And know that when you have well done all this, according to the scriptures of truth, that then it will be time enough to condemn the contrary for false, and dangerous opinions.
But shall I speak the truth for you? The reason of this your presumptuous exclamation, and condemnation of these things; is because they stand in the way of promoting your ignorant, tottering, promiseless, and gospelless holiness; they stand in the way of old Adam, they stand in the way of your dunghill rebellious righteousness, they stand in the way of your freedom of will, and a great rabble more of such like pretended virtues. Yea, they do, and must, and shall stand there, when you and the rest of the Socinians, and Quakers, have said their all against them.
There is yet another sort of preachers whom you condemn, and so do I as well as you, though not in your spirit, nor to advance your pestiferous principles: and they are 'such as make it their great business, to advance the petty interest of any party whatsoever, and concern themselves more about doing this, than about promoting, and carrying on that, wherein consists the chief good of all mankind, and are more zealous to make proselytes to their particular sects, than converts [I will add first to Jesus Christ, and then] to an holy life; and press more exact and rigid conformity to their modes and forms, than to the laws of God, and the essential duties of the christian religion' (p. 263).
Lastly, The caution which you give to ministers, because there wanteth for it, among you a foundation, is to be esteemed but an error, and an abuse of the words, and practices of the apostle. And as for your subtil and close incensing the power to persecute Nonconformists, know that we are willing, God assisting, to overcome you with truth and patience, not sticking to sacrifice our lives, and dearest concerns in a faithful witness-bearing against your filthy errors, compiled and foisted into the world, by your devilish design to promote Paganism, against Christianity (p. 265,266).
[A compliant temper may prove dangerous.]
I come now to your twenty-sixth chapter, which is spent to prove, 'That an obedient temper of mind, is a necessary and excellent qualification to prepare men for a firm belief, and a right understanding of the gospel of Christ' (p. 267).
Ans. 1. Forasmuch as the obedient temper you mention, is precedent to, or before, faith, and the right understanding of the gospel, it must needs be also, that which stands with unbelief, and ignorance of the same. Now that this should be an excellent, and necessary qualification, to a firm belief, and right understanding of the gospel, is altogether without proof, and truth. But this is affirmed for the farther promoting of your human nature, and the things that originally are dictates thereof. But,
2. The obedience, or inclination to obedience, that is before faith, or the understanding of the gospel, is so far off from being an excellent preparative, or good qualification for faith, and the knowledge of the gospel, that in its own nature, which is more than in its consequences, it is a great obstruction thereto.
For, while a man remains faithless and ignorant of the gospel, to what doth his obedient temper of mind incline? Not to faith, nor the gospel of Christ; for with these, as yet you suppose he hath not to do; therefore he inclineth to the law of morals, either as it was delivered in tables of stone from Sinai, or as written in the hearts of all the children of men, to it, under the last consideration, which is in truth, the most heathen and pagan to it, as so you intend, your obedient temper of mind should incline (p. 7-10).
Now this doctrine, being in itself of quite another nature than the doctrine of faith, and also, as such, a covenant by itself, it requireth the mind by virtue of its commands, to stand to THAT, and to rest in that; for of necessity, the heart and mind of a man can go no farther than it seeth, and hath learnt, but by this moral doctrine, the heart and mind is bound and limited to itself, by the power of the dictate to obedience, and the promise of obtaining the blessing, when the preceptive part of it is fulfilled. Hence Paul tells us, that though that ministration, that was written, and engraven in stones, (which in nature is the same with this) is glorious, yet these imperfections attended the man that was in it (2 Cor 3).
1. He was but within the bounds of the ministration of death.
2. In this estate he was blind, and could not see how to be delivered therefrom: 'The vail is over their heart,' so that they could not heretofore, neither can they now, see to the end of that which was commanded, neither to the perfection of the command, nor their own insufficiency to do it, nor to the death and curse of God, that attended him, that in every thing continued not in [all] that was written in the book of the law to do them.
3. Every lecture, or reading of this old law, is as a fresh hood-winking of its disciples, and a doubling of the hindrance of their coming to Christ for life. 'But their minds were blinded, for until this day, remaineth the same vail untaken away in reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their hearts' (2 Cor 3:14,15).
And let the reader note, that all these things attend the doctrine of morals: the ceremonies being in themselves more apt to instruct men in the knowledge of Christ, they being by God's ordination, figures, shadows, representations, and emblems of him; but the morals are not so, neither, as written in our natures, nor as written and engraven in stones (Gal 3:24). Wherefore, your so highly commended obedient temper of mind, you intending thereby an hearty compliance before faith, with morals for righteousness, is so far off from being an excellent temper, and a necessary qualification, to help a man to a firm belief, and right understanding of the gospel; that it is the most ready way of all ways in the world, to keep a man perpetually blind, and ignorant thereof. Wherefore the apostle saith, that the vail, the ignorance, cannot be taken away, but when the heart shall turn to the Lord, that is, from the doctrine of morals, as a law and covenant in our natures, or, as it was written and engraven in stones, to Christ for mercy to pardon our transgressions against it, and for imputative righteousness to justify us from it. While Moses is read, the vail is over the heart; that is, while men with their minds stand bending also to do it. But mark, when it, the heart, shall turn to the Lord, or to the word of the gospel, which is the revelation of him, then the vail shall be taken away.
And hence it will not be amiss, if again we consider how the Holy Ghost compareth, or setteth one against another, these two administrations.
The law he calls the letter, even the law of morals, that law that was written and engraven in stones. The other ministration, he calls the ministration of the spirit, even that which Christ offered to the world, upon believing.
Again, he denieth himself to be a minister of the law of morals. He hath made us able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, or law; but of the spirit or gospel. The reason is, for the letter, or law, can do nothing but kill, curse, or condemn; but the spirit, or the gospel, giveth life. Farther, in comparing, he calls the law, the ministration of death, or that which layeth death at the doors of all flesh; but the gospel, the ministration of righteousness, because, by this ministry, there is a revelation of that righteousness that is fulfilled by the person of Christ; and to be imputed for righteousness to them that believe, that they might be delivered from the ministration of death. How then? Hath the ministration of God no glory? Yes, forasmuch as it is a revelation of the justice of God against sin. But yet again, its glory is turned into no glory, when it is compared with that which excelleth. 'But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly 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 doth 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' (2 Cor 3:7-10).
So then, your obedient temper of mind, forasmuch as it respecteth the law of morals, and that too, before faith, or a right understanding of the gospel, is nothing else but an obedience to the law, a living to death, and the ministration of condemnation; and is a persuading the world, that to be obedient to that ministration, that is not the ministration of the gospel, but holdeth its disciples in blindness and ignorance, in which it is impossible Christ should be revealed, is an excellent, yea, a necessary qualification to prepare men for a firm belief, and a right understanding of the gospel of Christ, which yet even blindeth, and holdeth all blind that are the followers of that ministration. I come now to your proof, which indeed is no proof of this anti-gospel assertion, but texts abused, and wrested out of their place, to serve to underprop your erroneous doctrine. The first is, 'If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself' (John 7:17, p. 268).
Ans. This scripture respecteth not at all the moral law, or obedience to the dictates of human nature, as an acceptable qualification precedent to faith; or that, for the sake of which God will give men faith in, and a right understanding of the gospel, but is itself an immediate exhortation to believing, with a promise of what shall follow; as who shall say, The Father hath sent me into the world to be salvation to it, through faith in my blood: My Father's will therefore is, 'that men believe in me'; and if any will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, he shall feel the power thereof, by the peace and comfort that will presently possess the soul, and by the holy effects that follow.
That this is the true exposition of this place will be verified if you consider, that to do the will of God, in a New Testament sense, is to be taken under a double consideration. 1. As it respecteth Christ. 2. Man.
1. As it respecteth Christ, so it concerns his completing the redemption of man by himself, by his own personal performances (John 6:38,39; Heb 10:5-10).
2. As it respecteth man, it doth first and immediately respect our believing on him for remission of sins and eternal life. 'And this is the will of him [the Father] which sent me [saith Christ] that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day' (John 6:40). This then is the will of God; that men do believe in Jesus Christ.
Against, when the Jews asked Jesus Christ what they should do, that they might work the works of God, he did not send them first to the moral precept, or to its first principles in the hearts of men; by obeying that, to fit themselves for faith; but immediately he tells them, 'This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent' (John 6:29). This is the work of God; that is, 'This is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment' (1 John 3:23). If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, that is, as I have said, he shall feel, and have the authority of this faith in his heart, both to give peace and joy in his heart, and assurance, and the sealing of his soul to glory. For all these things come in upon believing first in Christ.
1. 'By faith we have peace with God' (Rom 5:1).
2. 'We have joy and peace through believing' (Rom 15:13).
3. 'Assurance comes also through believing' (John 6:69; Heb 10:22).
4. Yea, and the sealings up to eternal life; 'In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy spirit of promise' (Eph 1:13).
5. Sanctification, and a right obedient temper, is not to be found in men before, but after they have believed; 'He purified their hearts by faith' (Acts 15:9). Yea, heaven and eternal happiness is promised to them who are sanctified by faith which is in Christ (26:18).
This first text, therefore, hath been by you abused, in that you have ungodlily strained it, but in vain, to make it warrant your heathenish preparations to faith.
The second scripture; 'He that is of God heareth God's words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God' (John 8:47).
Ans. This scripture supposeth men must first be of God, before they can hear God's word; before they can hear it with the hearing of faith; and therefore nothing respecteth those that before they have faith, live in the law of works; and least of all, those that become obedient thereto, that thereby they may obtain everlasting life. For these are not of God, not of him in a New Testament sense; not sons, because they are born of men, of the will of men, of the law, and according to the wisdom of flesh and blood (John 1:12,13).
Your third scripture is, 'And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed' (Acts 13:48). Which text you thus expound: 'That as many of the Gentiles as were disposed, or in a ready preparedness for eternal life, believed; that is, those which were proselytes of the gate, who were admitted by the Jews to the hope of eternal life, and to have their portion in the age to come, without submitting to their whole law, or any more than owning the God of Israel, and observing the seven precepts of Noah' (p. 269).
Ans. 1. That obedience to the moral law is not a preparative to faith, or an excellent and necessary qualification to the right understanding of the gospel I have proved.
2. That to be a Jewish proselyte was to live in the faith of Messias to come, is the strain of all the scriptures that have to deal with them.
3. But that ordaining men to eternal life respects an act of the Jews, or that the Jews did dispense with the Gentile proselytes, in their casting off all their laws, but the seven precepts of Noah.
4. Or that God counted this a fit, or forerunning qualification to faith in Jesus Christ, neither stands with the word of God, nor the zeal of that people.
5. Besides, the words presently following seem to me to insinuate more, viz. That the Jews and religious proselytes that adhered to Paul at his first sermon (v 43), did contradict and blaspheme at his second (v 45), and moreover, that it was they that raised persecution upon him, and expelled him out of their coasts (v 50). When the Gentiles, even those that were more barbarously ignorant at his coming, when they heard that by Christ there was offered to them the forgiveness of sins, they believed (v 48), and glorified the word of the Lord: The wisdom of heaven so disposing such of their hearts, that were before by HIM, not by Jews ordained to life. 'And as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.'
But you come again, in p. 269 to the scripture first urged by you, 'If any man will do his will,' &c. and you tell us, that this must also needs be implied, he shall rightly understand the doctrine too; which word (understand) you so carry, as may best help you in case you should meet with an adversary. As if any should thus object, that here you have granted that the words make promise of an understanding of the gospel; yea require in it the very first act of the will; then you readily shift it by saying, That this is implied only, suggesting that obedience to morals is expressed, and therefore must first be thought on and done. But if one of your brotherhood stop here, and make the objection; then you add, 'It is knowledge, at least, in all the necessary points thereof, absolutely necessary and essential parts, from among which you long since did cast out, "Coming to God by Jesus Christ."' Yea you add, 'That by [that which you call] the design of the gospel, it may be presumed, that whosoever considereth it, with a design of being so, [that is, of living up to human principles, and that desireth to be possessed again of the holiness he hath lost, for that is it for the proof of which you have written above 300 pages] he must needs believe the gospel to have come from God, and also be enlightened in the true knowledge of at least the necessary points of it,' viz. All moral duties contained therein, which are never a one of them as such an essential of the gospel, but are such duties as are consequential to the belief thereof.
Wherefore, although you feign it, 'this honest temper,' as you call it, will not help you, 1. To judge of the gospel without prejudice; nor 2. To evidence it with satisfaction; nor 3. Secure those in whom it is from error and delusion; no man being more brutish or heathenish, nor so void of satisfaction about it, nor more involved in error concerning it, than yourself; being truly what you charge upon others; 1. Grossly ignorant; 2. Too highly opinionate; 3. Proud in affectation; 4. Liquorish; 5. A self-lover; 6. And for your blasphemy under the just judgment of God. 'If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine into them' (2 Cor 4:3,4).
['For me to live is Christ' includes in it more than good habits or holy frames of soul.]
I am come now to your last chapter, which tells us wherein the essence and life of Christianity consisteth, viz. In a good state and habit of mind, in a holy frame and temper of soul (p. 282).
Ans. 1. It consisteth in a life of faith, when I live in the belief of this, that Christ loved me, and gave himself for me. 'The life that I now live in the flesh [saith Paul] I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.'
2. And besides, a good state and habit of mind, or an holy frame and temper of soul, in your notion of them, which respecteth purely obedience to morals, from natural impulses, or dictates of our humanity, they are rather heathenish than Christian, and being alone, end in death rather than life. 'As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse,' he saith not they that sin against it, but they that are OF the works of it, such as do justice, righteousness, charity, goodness, mercy, patience, and all kind of moral duties, from principles human, natural, or as men, they are under the curse, because they have sinned first, and also are infirm and weak in their pursuit after the perfections they desire. These follow after righteousness, but that flies from them; wherefore they do not obtain it, because they seek it not by faith in Christ, but as it were by the works; the righteous, good, and holy works of the law (Rom 9:30,32). But you add,
'It is such a habit of mind, such a frame and temper of soul, as esteemeth God as the chiefest good, and preferreth him and his Son Jesus Christ before all the world, and that prizeth above all things an interest in the divine perfections,' &c. (p. 282).
Ans. 1. God must needs be esteemed the chiefest good, by all that have but, and are ruled by, the light of nature, because they see him by his works to be almighty, merciful, and eternal (Rom 1:20). But this may be where the knowledge of the man, the Mediator is not; therefore this, in this and in your sense, cannot be of the essence of Christianity, for that it is common to all the world. That estimation of God which is common to natural men, cannot be of the essence of Christianity, because they want that knowledge of him that comes by Jesus Christ, and so are not capable to esteem of him under a Christian consideration.
But you say, 'it is that good habit and temper of mind that preferreth God, and his Son Jesus Christ, before all the world.'
Ans. He that esteemeth God above all, must needs, at least in his judgment, so prefer him; but whereas you add, and his Son Jesus Christ, you put in them words but as a cloak, for yourself have not preferred his Son Jesus Christ, no, not before a moral law, no not before your obedience to it, although but by human principles; yea, you have accounted the command of God, by which we are enjoined by him to come to God, a thing in itself but like levitical ceremonies, or as Baptism and the Lord's Supper; a thing in itself indifferent, and absolutely considered neither good nor evil (p. 7,8,9).
You add; 'It is such a temper as prizeth above all things, an interest in the divine perfections; such as justice and righteousness, universal charity, goodness, mercy, patience, and all kinds of purity' (p. 282).
Ans. Seeing by these expressions you only intend moral virtues, and those that are inherent in you, and originally operations of humanity, it is evident that you have but impiously and idolatrously attributed to your own goodness so high and blessed a title. For whatsoever is in your nature, and originally the dictates thereof, and whatsoever proficiency you make therein by human principles, and helps of natural endowments; these things are but of yourself, your own justice, your own righteousness, your own charity, goodness, mercy, patience, kindness, &c. Now to call these the divine perfections, when they are only your own human virtues, bespeaks you, I say, fond, impious, and idolatrous, and shews you, in the midst of all your pretended design to glorify God, such an one who have set up your own goodness with him, yea and given it the title of his blessed grace and favour.
That scripture you mention (Rom 14:17), although by the word righteousness there, is intended obedience to the moral law, yet to it by persons already justified by Christ's righteousness; hence they are said to do it in the joy and peace of the Holy Ghost, or by the joy and peace which they had by faith in Christ's righteousness, as revealed to them by the Spirit of God. Hence again, they are said in IT to serve Christ, or to receive the law at his hand, which he giveth to them to walk after, having first justified them from the curse thereof by his blood.
2. The law was given twice on Sinai, the last time, with a proclamation of mercy going before, and he that receiveth it thus, receiveth it after a gospel manner. For they as justified persons are dead to the law as a covenant of works by the body of Christ, that they might live to another, even to him that is raised from the dead (Rom 7; Gal 2:19). But you by this scripture intend not this doctrine, for you make justification by Christ, come after, not before obedience to the law; yea, you make obedience thereto, the essential, and coming to God by Christ, but a thing of a more remote nature, from true and substantial gospel-righteousness.
In p. 283, you speak again of the old principle, and thus you comment, 'A principle of holiness that respecteth duty, as with respect to the nature of the command, so not with respect to the duty as occasioned by certain external inducements and motives, but from a good temper and disposition of soul.'
Ans. This I say, still respecting your old principle of humanity, and the purity of your nature, the most amounts but to this: Your principle is confined to a liberty of will and affections, with respect to doing of the law of works, which many have professed to have, and do before you, and yet have come short of the glory of God. For as I told you before, I tell you now again, that the gospel-principles are the Holy Ghost and faith, which help that soul in whom they dwell to count believing in Jesus Christ the great and essential part of our Christianity, and our reckoning ourselves pardoned for the sake of him: 'And thus being set free from sin, we become the servants of God, and have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life' (Rom 6:22).
Your description of a child of Abraham, you meaning in a New Testament sense, is quite beside the truth. For albeit, the sons of Abraham will live holy lives, and become obedient to the substantial laws; yet it is not their subjection to morals, but faith in Jesus, that giveth them the denomination of children of Abraham. 'Know ye, therefore, that they that are of faith are the children of faithful Abraham: They that are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham: Yea, they that are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham' (Gal 3:7,9). In p. 284, you say, 'That there is no one duty more affectionately recommended to us in the gospel than is alms-giving.'
Ans. Yes, That there is, and that which more immediately respecteth our justification with God, than ten thousand such commandments; and that is faith in Christ. Alms-deeds is also a blessed command; yet but one of the second table, such as must flow from faith going before. Faith I mean that layeth hold on Christ's righteousness, if it be accepted of God. For before the heart be good the action must be naught; now the heart is good by faith, because faith, by applying Christ's righteousness, makes over [a] whole Christ to the soul, of whose fulness it receiveth, and grace for grace (John 1:16). Many things in this last chapter are worthy reprehension, but because you tell us, in the last two pages thereof, is the sum of all that need to be said, I will immediately apply myself to what is there contained.
You say (p. 296), 'It is not possible we should not have the design of Christianity accomplished in us, and therefore that we should be destitute of the power of it, if we make our Saviour's most excellent life the pattern of our lives.' By our Saviour's life, as by a parenthesis you also express, you mean, as yourself hath in short described it (ch 5) viz., 'The greatest freedom, affability, courtesy, candour, ingenuity, gentleness, meekness, humility, contempt of the world, contention, charity, tenderness, compassion, patience, submission to the divine will, love of God, devoutest temper of mind towards him, mighty confidence and trust in God,' &c.
Ans. Our Saviour's life, in not only these, but all other duties that respected morals, was not principally or first to be imitated by us, but that the law, even in the preceptive part thereof, might be fully and perfectly fulfilled for us. 'Christ is the end of the law for righteousness'; the end, not only of the ceremonial law, but the ten commandments too; for if the word righteousness, respecteth in special them. 'Jesus increased in favour with God' (Luke 2:52; Matt 3:17). This respecteth him as made under the law, and his pleasing of God in that capacity. So also doth that, 'In him I am well pleased.' Now I say, as Jesus stood in this capacity, he dealt with the law in its greatest force and severity, as it immediately came from God, without the advantage of a Mediator, and stood by his perfect complying with, and fulfilling every tittle thereof. Besides, as Jesus Christ had thus to do with the law, he did it in order to his 'finishing transgression, and putting an end to sin' (Dan 9:24), and so consequently as Mediator, and undertaker for the world. For his perfect complying withal, and fulfilling every tittle of the law, respected nothing his own private person, that he for himself might be righteous thereby; for in himself he was eternally just and holy, even as the Father, but it respected us, even us. For US he was made under the law, that we, by his fulfilling the law, might by him be redeemed from under the law, and also receive the adoption of SONS (Gal 4:4,5). For we having sinned, and transgressed the law, and the justice of God, yet requiring obedience thereto, and the law being too weak through our flesh to do it, God therefore sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, who himself for us did first of all walk in the law, and then for sin suffered also in his flesh, the sentence, and curse pronounced against us by the law. For it was nothing less necessary, when the Son of God became undertaker for the sin of the world, that he should walk in obedience to the whole of the precepts of the law, to deliver us from the judgment of the law; I say it was no less necessary he should so do, than that he should bear our curse and death. For it would have been impossible for him to have overcome the last, if he had not been spotless touching the first. For therefore it was impossible he should be holden of death, because he did nothing worthy of death; no, not in the judgment of the law, to which he immediately stood. Now as Christ Jesus stood thus to, and walked in the law, it is blasphemy for any to presume to imitate him; because thus to do is to turn Mediator and undertaker for the sin of the world. Besides, whoso doth attempt it, undertakes an impossibility; for no man can stand by the moral law, as it immediately comes from the divine majesty; he having sinned first, even before he goeth about to fulfil it. And in this sense is that to be understood, 'as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse,' held accursed, because they have sinned first; accursed in their performances, because of imperfection, and therefore assuredly accursed at last, because they come short of the righteousness thereof.
1. Christ Jesus did never set himself forth for an example, that by imitating his steps in morals should obtain justification with God from the curse of that law; for this would be to overthrow, and utterly abolish the work which himself came into the world to accomplish, which was not to be our example, that we by treading his steps might have remission of sins, but that through the faith of him, through faith in his blood, we might be reconciled to God.
2. Besides, thus to imitate Christ, is to make of him a Saviour, not by sacrifice, but by example. Nay, to speak the whole, this would be to make his mediatorship wholly to center, rather in prescribing of rules, and exacting obedience to morals, than in giving himself a ransom for men; yea, I will add to imitate Christ, as you have prescribed, may be done by him, that yet may be ignorant of the excellency of his person, and the chief end of his being made flesh: For in all these things which you have discoursed in that fifth chapter of him, you have only spoken of that, something of which is apprehended by the light of nature; yea, nature itself will teach that men should trust in God, which is the most excellent particular that there you mention. Wherefore our Lord Jesus himself foreseeing, that in men there will be a proudness, to content themselves with that confidence, he intimateth that it would be in us insignificant, if it stand without faith in himself. 'Ye believe [naturally] in God [saith he] believe also in me' (John 14:1). Faith in Jesus is as absolutely necessary as to believe immediately in the divine being. Yea, without faith in Jesus, whosoever believeth in God is sure to perish and burn in hell. 'If you believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins' (John 8:24). And to take Jesus in morals for example, is nowhere called believing in him, neither is there one promise of eternal life, annexed to such a practice. But you say, 'If we tread in his blessed steps, and be such, according to our measure and capacity, as we have understood he was in this world' (p. 296).
Ans. I say, for a man to confine himself only to the life of the Lord Jesus, for an example, or to think it enough to make him, in his life, a pattern for us to follow, leaveth us, through our shortness in the end, with the devil and his angels, for want of faith in the doctrine of remission of sins; for Christ did nowhere make another mediator between God and him, nor did he ever trust to another man's righteousness, to be thereby justified from the curse of the law; neither did he at all stand in need thereof, without which, we must be damned and perish. Now I say, these things being nowhere practised by him, he cannot therein be an example to us. And I say again, seeing that in these things, by faith in them, is immediately wrapped up our reconciliation with God; it followeth, that though a man take the Lord Christ in his whole life, for an example in the end, that notwithstanding, he abideth unreconciled to God. Neither will that clause, 'and be such,' help such a person at all: For justification with God, comes not by imitating Christ as exemplary in morals, but through faith in his precious blood. In the law I read, that the Paschal Lamb was neither to be eaten sodden nor raw, but roast with fire, must it be eaten (Exo 12). Now to make salvation principally to depend upon imitating Christ's life, it is to feed upon him raw, or at most, as sodden, not sanctified and holy: But the precept is, 'Eat it roast with fire'; is to be the antitype, as accursed of God for sin, and enduring the punishment for it (Exo 19; Deu 33:2; Mal 4:1). The law is compared to fire, and its curse to a burning oven. Now under the curse of this fiery law, was the Lord Jesus afflicted for the sins of the world: wherefore, as so considered, our faith must lay hold upon him, for justification with God. 'This is the law of the burnt-offering: [which was the offering for sin;] It is the burnt-offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it' (Lev 6:9). But now I would inquire: Had Israel done the commandment, if they had eaten the passover raw, or boiled in water? Or if they had offered that offering, that was to be burnt as a sin-offering, otherwise than it was commanded? Even so, to feed upon Christ, as he is holy, and of good life only; and also, as taking him therein for an example to us, to follow his steps for justification with God; this is, to eat the passover raw, and not as roast with fire; this is, to feed upon Jesus, without respecting him as accursed of God for our sin, and so consequently to miss of that eternal life, that by his blood he hath obtained for every one that believeth on him. I have been pleased with this observation: That none of the signs and wonders in Egypt, could deliver the children of Israel thence, till the Lamb was slain, and roast with fire (Exo 12:31). And I have been also pleased with this: That the Father, not Moses, gave the manna from heaven, which was a type of the flesh, and blood of Christ, that whoso feedeth on, shall live for ever (John 6:32). Yea, circumcision also, which was a type of inward, and heart-holiness, was not of Moses, but of the Fathers, and principally a consequence of the faith of Abraham (John 7:22). Whence I gather, that no wonder, but the blood of Christ can save; that no kindness, but the mercy of God, can give this to us; and that no law, but the law of faith, can make us truly holy in heart. But you add, 'Those that sincerely, and industriously, endeavour to imitate the holy Jesus in his Spirit and actions, can never be ignorant what it is to be truly Christians.' Those that follow Jesus in his Spirit, must first receive that Spirit from heaven, which Spirit is received, as I have often said, by applying first, by faith, the merits of Christ to the soul, for life and justification with God. The Spirit is not received by the works of the law, but by the hearing of faith; neither comes it in the ministry, or doctrine of morals, but in and by the ministry of faith; and the law is not of faith. Wherefore seeing you have, in p. 223 of your book, forbidden sinners to come first to Jesus for justification with God; the Spirit you talk of, however you call it the Spirit of Jesus, can be no other than the spirit of a man; which you also yourself, in p. 7, 8, 9 call 'the purity of human nature, a principle of reason, the first principles of morals, or those that are originally dictates of human nature.' Wherefore by these words, 'in his Spirit,' you do but blaspheme the Holy Ghost, and abuse your ignorant reader; calling now, Quaker-like, the dictates of your humanity, and your Socinian compliances therewith, the Spirit of Holy Jesus. I conclude therefore, that the way of salvation, or the design of Christianity as prescribed by you, is none other than the errors of your own brain, the way of death, the sum and heart of Papistical Quakerism, and is quite denied by the Lord Jesus, and by his blessed Testament. And now go your ways, and imitate the Lord Jesus, and take the whole history of his life for your example, and walk in his steps, and be such as much as you can, yet without faith in his blood, first; yea, and if you stand not just before God through the imputation of his righteousness, your imitating will be found no better than rebellion, because by that, instead of faith in his blood, you hope to obtain remission of sins, thrusting him thereby from his office and work, and setting your dunghill righteousness up in his stead.