Page images
PDF
EPUB

be used by man either in a good or in an evil manner, and, off account of this use or abuse of it, he may either be rewarded or punished according to his deserts.

righteousness which is found in Christians, return to God and Christ: For faith is the gift of God, through Christ; not of works, but of Him that calleth. And this is the seed of righteousness; but, in all seeds, their fruix are likewise reckoned. The facility with which this reconciliation is effected between faith and its fruits 1, when metaphysical trilling and a mind averse to peace are discarded, is shewn by BUCER on the Second Psalm, not in the edition of Stephens, (which, like most of the books published at Geneva, is evidently corrupt and vitiated,) but in that printed at Strasburgh: I cannot do otherwise than wish that certain persons were

possessed of a sounder judgment, who have created much confusion among many people in these days by this paradox, We are saved by faith alone; when, at

the same time, they have perceived this expression is wrested, as if they defined • righteousness solely by a mental estimation, and excluded good works. What

charity is that which would disdain to apply a remedy to this evil? This might be done by declaring, We are justified by a faith which is actually formed (within us); or, Through faith, we obtain a will for the performance of good works, and also righteousness itself ; or, Faith is the foundation and root of a just life, as St. Augustine has expressed himself. These truths ought to give no offence to any person.'-The Preface, which the same BUCER prefixed to his Commentaries on the Four Evangelists, is worthy of a perusal, although it is purposely omitted in the Genevan edition by Stephens. Melancthon likewise often complains, in his letters to Joachim Camerarius, that no objections were made against him, except that he [Melancthon) was a little too diffuse in his praise of GOOD WORKS; and yet, that he uttered nothing which equalled the horrid sayings of others, but, on the contrary, such as were both true and useful.'.!", 3

To come to a man's assurance of his future condition, St. Augustine, and others of the Fathers, deliver this doctrine, we may be assured of the REWARD which awaits us if we persevere; and this is a faith which is infallible. But we are not assured of our PERSEVERANCE itself: Yet the greater degree of profía ciency which any man makes in piety, excites within him stronger hopes, though

not to the entire exclusion of fears.'' But St. Augustine's words will not admit of such a reconciliation, as Rivet desires to produce; and that Father's meaning is rendered very manifest in several parts of his writings. In his 107th letter, addressed to Vitalis, he says : No man is certain (assured of his predestination,

unless a Divine Revelation on this point be made to a particular person. Regeneration, and faith united with charity, are not sure marks of predestination ; because many of those who have possessed this faith and charity, and have been regenerated, not only fall away, but perish eternally. Some persons who have received the grace of Faith and Holiness, are delivered up to live here till they fall.' In his treatise on the Benefit of Perseverance, St. Augustine says, “Some regenerate persons persevere till their departure out of this life; others are detained in the present world till they fall. To certain persons, whom God has regenerated in Christ, and on whom he has bestowed faith, hope, and love, He does give perseverance. Therefore, no man can be in a state of security, except when he has

finished his course in the present life, which is a state of earthly trial.'-But, as Melancthon writes to Joachim Camerarius, it is no subject of wonder, that certain paradoxes have been fabricated in the Portico of ZENO, (the name by which he generally designated CALVIN, 1 of which St. AUGUSTINE is not properly the author.”

These extricts from the Fourth Article in the Wishes for the Peace of the Church, (whth was one of the last works written by Grotius,) when connected with the fine commencement of that Article, descriptive of the peace and joy enjoyed by those whose sins are forgiven, will exhibit the evangelical views which that great man entertained, and which are partially elucidated in other parts of * (4.) Besides, while some persons wish unduly to extol the MERITS OF Good Works, as if of themselves such worthiness belonged to them, as renders it impossible for eternal life to be justly denied to those who perform them; and while, on the contrary, others depress them so much as to suppose, that they have nothing in them to obtain from God a life of eternal blessedness : The Remonstrants do not deny it to be impossible for good works to obtain life eternal, but they affirm that this is the act of the grace of God, or rather, that life eternal is a consequence of good works through the gracious promise of God. For this reason; the scriptures declare, in more passages than one, (Heb. vi, 10; 2 Thess. i, 4-11.) that immortality is bestowed upon us through justice. * « (5.) When a similar discussion arose respecting THE P&RSEVERANCE OF FAITH, some men affirmed, that we have no assur. ance of it in this life,' and others described it as an absolute certainty bestowed on every man who is a believer.' But the Remonstrants, assenting neither to the former nor to the latter, prudently judged it possible for every believer to determine with

this volume. It would not be difficult to produce passages, from other parts of his Works, as highly evangelical as any of those which his accusers have composed in their happiest moments. But the real grievance lies in this_Grotius refers every doctrine to practical purposes. In this extract, he does not discard the doctrine of ASSURANCE, but adapts it to a believer's PRESENT EXPE RIENCE, and his actual condition at every moment of his Christian career. This Apostolical mode of applying the gracious attestations of the Holy Spirit has always been a high offence to the Calvinists, who complain, that, instead of remaining perpetually alike, spiritual consolations are thus rendered variable and dependent upon a Christian's humble and faithful walk with Goal. Sée page 139.

I adduce Grotius in this note, because he has been indastriously, yet most unjustly, maligned by some of my countrymen, who were not Arminians, as “ a man inimical to the grace of God." This reproach was first taken up against him, and has since been repeated, chiefly on account of some opinions contained in his Annotations on the Epistles, which were published in a very imperfect state about five years after his decease. After all the quibbling exceptions which the principal republican Calvinists (in 1654) made against the following account by Dr. Hammond, it remains historically true, and is, on every point, unimpeachable: « For the passages in his Posthuma, those especially on the Episttes, it is evident that they had never been formed by him or fitted for the public, but were put together by somebody else, after his death. Finding many things in his Adversaria thrown into paper books as he had at any time occasion, either from his reading of Scripture or others' writings, (it being ordinary for every man to note, not only what he approves, but what he dislikes, and what he thinks matter of farther consideration,) somebody else hath, as he thought fit, made a body of Annotations, and published them ander his name."

From those posthumous passages alone, has each succeeding calumniator gleaned the frail proofs of the heterodoxy of Grotius, many of which receive the most satisfactory refutation in the two last of his accredited publications, which are peculiarly interesting to Britons, because they were written chiefly for the noble and disinterested purpose of inspiring pacific and loyal principles into the minds of the belligerent Calviniste in England and Scotland. See the succeeding pages 270293, and 630.

certainty about himself,* that he is in a state of salvation, and also that he will remain in that state, since the grace of God will

* The evangelical sentiments on this subject, which Arminius entertained, are briefly recorded in a succeeding page, (143,) and the Tenets of his immediate followers may be seen in pages 138 150. They accommodated the strong testimony of the Spirit of God, which is implied in the assurance of salvation, to holy and practical purposes. “We acknowledge,” say the Remonstrants, " that true believers, as such, are certain and fully persuaded concerning their * salvation ; and that this certainty is unchangeable and invariable, as long as " true believers have a diligent regard to their duty.”

The following extract from a letter which Episcopius addressed to Taurinus in 1642, contains the opinions of that great man, on other points connected with Assurance:

“1. No one doubts the possibility of a man being certain [assured) in this life of the remission of his sins, which had been committed prior to his conver. sion, although they may have been of the most grievous description. .6 2. It is usual to dispute the possibility of a man, in this life, being assured, at least with the same degree of certainty, of the remission of those sins, even of the most grievous of them, which have been committed since his conversion : And perhaps it is better for this question to remain a matter of controversy, than to be confidently decided; though I have never yet been able to perceive any reason sufficiently weighty, to induce me to deny the possibility of this certainty. But, however this may be decided, a Christian cannot lawfully doubt that it is possible for him to be assured of the remission of his lighter offences, of those which Tertullian calls sins of daily occurrence.'

“ 3. It is possible for a man to obtain this assurance, (1.) from the certain knowledge of the Divine rule, or of that will according to which God declares himself to be willing to pardon sins ; (2.) and from the consciousness of his own spirit well-approved before God, and of his actions which are regulated according to this rule, For if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep his commando ments and do those things that are pleasing to his sight.' (1 John ii, 22.)

" 4. But the man who is assured with this certainty, is bound, notwithstand. ing, to pray all the days of his life, Forgive me my trespasses !' by having respect to the trespasses which he committed before he became a believer and was converted; because God will not forgive them, unless the pardon of them be asked of Him to the very close of life. With regard to trespasses which are called offences' and slighter lapses of daily occurrence,' a believer is bound to pray every day for the pardon of them, if he have committed them, or if he perceive that they have been committed; though they are so frequent, various, and secret, that the man himself frequently either does not observe that he com.. mits such trespasses, or does not remember that he has committed them, or neglects them after being committed: So that it is much the safer course to pray, with David: "Who can understand his errors ? Cleanse thou me from secret faults.' (Psalm xix, 12.) Or to declare, with St. Paul: For I am conscious to myself of no one thing ; yet am I not hereby justified: But He that judgeth me, is the Lord.' (1 Cor. iv, 4.)

66 5. Nó ABSOLUTE certainty (such as the Calvinists assert] concerning the remission of sins has place in this life, but only a condiTIONAL certainty which is two-fold..FIRST. If I am such a character as, according to the Divine Command, I ought to be. Then. If I continue to be such a character, and therefore if I likewise daily pray to God for the forgiveness of all my trespasses, both those of a grievous kind perpetrated before my conversion, and those which are lighter offences and imprudently committed in my daily life or conversation. For the perpetration of grievous sins, which may daily occur in my life, cannot: never abandon him if he never desert it, which he hopes in God he will never do. Thus a middle course is excellently steered possibly consist with a certainty and confidence of remission, although I may,, every day and still more frequently, pray, Forgive me my trespasses !"

It was the CONDITIONALITY, to which Episcopius here alludes, that gave the greatest umbrage to the Calvinists. In another place I have given a short history of the variations in the Protestant and scriptural doctrine of the Witness of the Spirit, or the Assurance of Salvation. I am aware that many respectable divines, in our days, cannot endure the idea of the Holy Spirit having any share in the grace of Assurance, which they almost uniformly confound with the Une conditional Assurance of the Calvinists : They readily grant, that a Christian may and ought to enjoy the testimony of his own spirit concerning his upright-, ness and sincerity. I should be gratified to see some attempt made, by such divines, to reconcile these two passages of Scripture, The conscience (of the Gentiles] also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.' (Rom. ii, 15.) Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our consciences, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.' (2 Cor. i, 12.) The first of them refers to the Heathens, who are deprived of the light of Gospel; and I should be pleased to know in what respect the testimony of a christian's conscience excels that of a heathen's, if the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit be withheld from the former, which is the hypothesis of the divines to whom I have alluded.

In their earnest endeavours to avoid Fanaticism, these divines have adopted one of the chief principles of the Mystics. The latter argue, that, as God is a Being without passions or parts, every believer will display a greater degree of placidity or quietism the nearer approaches he makes towards Divine perfection ; that virtue, being its own reward, must be loved for its own sake alone; and that, on this account, the passions, those gross instruments, ought to remain perfectly quiescent and not disturb the current of this disinterested love Divine. This is not the religion which the Bible teaches : Christianity is eminently a religion of motives, -of powerful motives addressed most skilfully by God himself to every passion in the human heart, as well as to the understanding. But : these divines wish to make mankind believe, that spiritual influences and the grace of God exercise themselves solely in enlightening the intellect, without refining, elevating, or warming the affections, and diverting them into a purer channel: On this subject their Creed is well expressed by the Deistical poet:

What conscience dictates to be done,

Or warns me not TO DO,
This teach me more than hell to shun,

That, more than heav'n pursue.

This ill-defined faculty called “conscience,” is, in their system, to achieve every thing,- to subdue all tumultuous passions, and to impel men to the performance of their duties, --without the direct and immediate aid of the Holy Spirit. Yet God, in his infinite wisdom, has been pleased to propound in various forms, “ the avoiding of hell,” and “the wish to gain heaven," as two grand motives addressed to the affections. Present peace, hope, joy and comfort, are also represented in Scripture as the immediate effects of the Holy Ghost : Therefore to ask and to expect his blessed influences on the human heart, cannot be un.. scriptural or displeasing to God, who has promised to bestow his Holy Spirit on those who ask him.

Perhaps the plain language of that famous old Puritan, Dr. RICHARD SIBBES, may afford some light on this subject: “After this, it pleaseth Christ by his Spirit to open a door of hope, to give some hints of mercy, to let in some beams

between Scylla and Charybdis, so as to threaten no harm or peril to pious souls, on the one hand by a listless security, or on the other by a headlong despair.

of love, and, withal, to raise up the soul; by a spirit of faith, to close with pare' ticular mercy opened and offered by the Spirit, whereby the soul sealeth to the truth of the promise : He that believeth, hath set to his seal that God is true," (John iii, 33.) God stoops to have his truth, power and goodness, ratified and confirmed by us; when we believe the promise of God in Christ, though it be by the help of the Spirit, we seal God's truth. And then God honoureth that sealing of ours by the sealing of his Spirit. "After you believed, you were, sealed,' saith the Apostle ; that is, the gracious love of Christ was further confirmed to them. He that believes in God, by believing, seals that God is true ; and God honours that seal again, by sealing it to the day of redemption. He that believeth, hath the witness in himself, that grace promised belongeth to him; for he carries in his heart the counterpane of the promises. The Spirit not only revealeth Christ and the promises in general, but, in attending upon the ordi. nances, by a heavenly light the Spirit discovers to us our interest in particular, and saith to the soul, God is thy salvation, and enableth the soul to say, I am God's. I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine. Christ loved me, and gave himself for me. Whence came this voice of St. Paul ? It was the still voice of the Spirit of God, that, together with the general truth in the Gospel, discovered in particular Christ's love to him. It is not a general faith that will bring to heaven, but there is a special work of the Spirit, in the use of means, discovering and sealing the good-will of God to us, that He intend's good unto us; and thereupon our hearts are persuaded to believe in God, and to love God as OUR GOD, and Christ as OUR CHRIST. Holy and good men, by this work of the Spirit, are distinguished from civil men, by the work of holiness, which mere civil men have not at all, but despise ;~from seeming good men, by the depth of that work, &c. A christian is God's, in a more peculiar manner than others: There is not only a witness of the Spirit that God is his, but the Spirit works in him an assent to take God again. There is a mutual appropriation. Where the Spirit seals, God appropriates. God chooseth the righteous man to himself; and we may know this appropriation by appropriating God again : Whom have I in Heaven but Thee ? And what have I in earth in comparison of thee? There is no action that God works upon the soul, but there is å reflect action by the Spirit to God again. It is the office of the Spirit, as to work Faith and other Graces, so to reveal them to us. Every grace of God is a light of itself, coming from the Father of lights : And it is the property of light, not only to discover other things but itself too; and it is the office of the Spirit to give further light to this light, by shining upon his own grace in us. An excellent place for this is 1 Cor. ii, 12: “We have received the Spirit that is of God, that we might know the things which are freely given to us of God. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every thing be confirmed : One witness is THE SPIRIT OF MAN, which knows the things that are in man: The other witness is THE SPIRIT OF God, witnessing to our spirits that we are the children of God. Here is light added to light, witness added to wit. ness, the greater witness of THE SPIRIT to the less of our spirits : The Apostle joins them both together, (Rom. ix, 1.) My conscience bears me

witness through the Holy Ghost.'" .' This passage from Dr. Sibbes contains much sound Theology, in which both

the Arminians and the Calvinists of the old school could heartily agree; and it will serve to shew some modern diyines, that the very testimony of a man's own spirit, which they are accustomed injuriously to oppose to that of God's Spirit,

is wrought in the heart by the Blessed Comforter himself. 1.7 In SIBBES'S “ Fountain Sealed” are many other excellent sentiments, to

« PreviousContinue »