« PreviousContinue »
What Mr. B. says, (p. 106,) I think, if it has any meaning, asserts that sanctification is not that by which Christians obtain evidence of their justification, and is as absurd as any position of
-, or of any Antinomian. What is said of the thief on the cross, (pp. 135, 136,) though taken alone it be true, yet viewed in connection with his scheme, appears to me to be a loose, unmeaning, selfcontradictory harangue.
Mr. Booth's assertions (pp. 171, 172) are inconsistent with an unholy, unregenerate sinner's believing the gospel, and with desiring and receiving the blessings of it; for how can that be the object of faith which is not seen or willingly received, which is not desired or relished? But I am tired of attending to the inconsistencies and absurdities of this author. And perhaps I have said too much. Let them who do not see the errors and inconsistence avail themselves of the advantage of all the good things to be found in his " Reign of Grace."
I have read Mr. Scott, and think him orthodox, so far as he goes, in his notion of the warrant and nature of faith in Christ. But he says some things which seem to be a little inconsistent, or at least want to be more fully explained. Perhaps Mr. B. will take no public notice of bim, since he has opposed him so tacitly, without mentioning his name, or expressly quoting him. I believe it will be wise in Mr. B. to be silent.
I am not satisfied that Mr. Scott clearly distinguishes between selfish affections and disinterested exercises of reli. gion, and think there is reason to believe he does not, both from his making no remarks on this head upon what Mr. B. advances in his “ Glad Tidings," and especially from what he says respecting American divines : “ That sometimes they seem to intimate that an almost total disregard to our own happine is essential to true grace. They do not clearly distinguish that wise and holy sell-love, which God originally planted in our nature, from that carnal, apostate, and foolish selfalove, which is the consequence of the fall.” (pp. 3, 4.) If by holy self-love lie means any thing distinct from disinterested benevolence, and which is not necessarily included in it, as it seems he does, he must mean that which is in the nature of it sin; and consequently does not properly distinguish selfish religion from that which consists in disinterested affection, or between true and false religion. It is presumed that his neglect to make proper distinctions on this head has led him to censure some American divines as “making many unscriptural distinctions, and advancing positions which obscure the glory of the gospel.” Of this, however, we and the public might have been better able
to judge, had he condescended to tell what were those mischievous positions and distinctions. In the mean time, it is thought that his publicly naming a particular minister as guilty of all this, without informing him or the public what his crime is, by particularly stating the positions and distinctions he has advanced, is rather magisterial, ungenerous, and injurious. But we must allow good English divines to have a spice of what we, on this side of the water, call British pride.
He cannot reasonably impute the question which he mentions, with a degree of horror, as found in the Theological Magazine, to Hopkins, or to any American divine. But if he could, what harm is there in asking the question ? He has not told us. Had he looked into the next number of that Magazine, he would have seen the question answered, and might have informed the public whether it be answered right or wrong. My system has been more generally read and approved in America than was expected; and but little public opposition has been made to it.
You have my hearty wishes and prayers, dear sir, that you may be greatly blessed and useful in the important station in which you are placed, and be enabled to maintain and propagate the truths of Christianity, in the midst of the opposition with which you may be surrounded.
I shall be gratified by your writing me, whenever your more important business shall permit.
I am, with much esteem and cordial affection, your much obliged friend and servant,
S. HOPKINS. Rev. DR. RYLAND.
· LETTER TO DR. RYLAND, of Northampton, England, in Reply to Dr. Ryland's Theoogical Queries, and sent Seventeen Days before Dr. Hopkins's Death.
NEWPORT, September, 1803. Dear Sir: Last May I received yours of February 21st., with a MS. copy of Mr. Marsham's journal, and a number of valuable pamphlets, for which I am much obliged to you ; particularly for plainly stating some difficulties and objections in your mind respecting several doctrines advanced on this side the water.
When your letter came to hand, I was not able to write or read, being brought very low by sickness, from which I did not recover for a considerable time. In the mean time, I received a letter from Mr. Fuller in answer to my objections which you sent to him, as made by me, to a position of his in his Bedford sermon, in my letter to you; to which I have replied, and enclose it to you unsealed; which, when you have read, you will please to seal and send to bim.
You object to what I and my brethren in America hold with respect to the operation of the law on the renewed mind and the exercises respecting it, antecedent to a particular attention to the gospel, and understanding and embracing it; at least, of hoping to be saved by it, since they, antecedent to regeneration, and when regenerated, have had as much opportunity to think of and understand the gospel as the law. What of our writings you refer to, I cannot say, so cannot undertake a particular vindication of any of them, but take leave to make. the following observations on the subject :
The law of God must be understood, and approved or loved as perfectly right, good, and excellent, before the gospel can be embraced, liked, or even understood. There must be such an operation of the law on the renewed mind as to slay the person, or cause him, in some sense, to die the death which it denounces, before he can have any sensible relief from the gospel, or understand it. And how long the regenerate person shall continue in this hopeless state, under the operation of the law, till it shall have done its proper and necessary work, and before the gospel is particularly attended to and embraced, none can tell. In some, the whole may take place in a minute, or less, so that the person may not make any distinction, or perceive which is first or last; but, if really connected, the operation of law must be first, whether perceived or not, and that connection may be more evident and satisfactory when the work of the law appears to be most sensible, and distinct, and thorough. And, that it may be so, the renewed person may be held some time- an hour, a day, or longer — in attention to his state, according to law, and his mind be so intent upon the glory of God, and his law, as to admit of no particular view or thought of the gospel. And this may be wisely an 1 kindly ordered by God, and the renewed mind be holden from attending to the gospel, till the law has effectually, and in the best manner, wrought death in him. And God, who has the total and most perfect government of the mind, and of every thought, orders the length of time the renewed inind shall continue wholly attentive to this glorious law, and what it implies, without particular attention to the gospel, neither believing nor disbeliving it, and the succession of ideas and impressions on the mind, according to the particular disposition or circumstances of the person, and so as to answer the wisest and best ends.
The mind of man is not omniscient, and cannot attend to all things at one and the same time, or to two different and opposite objects with equal clearness, and be as much im. pressed by the one as by the other, at the same instant; it is under the direction and control of God. And as the nature and character of God, his law, and sin, or a person's own character in the light of these, must be first understood, and the mind must be thoroughly impressed with them, and consent to them as true, right, and important to be known, before, and in order to the gospel being understood and approved, the ideas and knowledge of the former must first be entertained by, and impressed on, the renewed mind, so as to bring it to a hearty submission, approbation, and compliance with them, before the latter can be received or understood. And as to the length of time and degree of this impression and work of the law upon the mind, before the gospel comes into view, it is wholly determined by God, so as to answer the best ends, and with a difference and variety on different minds, and in various circumstances, by us utterly indescribable.
That such a work of the law as has been described, or something of the same nature, must take place in the renewed mind antecedent to understanding and embracing the gospel, not only appears necessary from the reason and nature of things, but is evident and certain from divine revelation. The apostle Paul gives a particular account of the operation of the law on his mind antecedent to his receiving relief by the gospel. “I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.” The law did not come to him until his mind was renewed; for it could not have the operation here described on an unrenewed, impenitent heart. He goes on to describe his case and his feelings. The law cursed all who were not, and had not been always, perfectly holy; he therefore, being carnal, or sinful, was sold under sin, unto death, the curse of the law. He consented to the law, that it was good, and delighted in it, after the inward man, and wished to obey it; but the evil inclination which was in him was leading him captive unto sin and death. In all this, Christ and the gospel are kept out of sight. He therefore cries out, “ () wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” After this, Jesus Christ is introduced as affording complete relief. All previous to this may take place in the renewed mind, before there is any particular discovery of Christ and the gospel, though much of it may be understood as expressing the character and exercises of a believer all his days. As the eyes of the two disciples going to Emmaus were for wise reasons holden, that they should not know Jesus when he joined them on the road, so for wise and more important reasons it may be ordered that the mind of the renewed sinner shall be so attentive to the law, and his case and circumstances, as being under the curse of it, and the eyes of his mind holden so as not to attend to, or think of, the gospel sor a time, just so long as God pleases, to answer the best ends – - one of which may be more effectually to subdue and mortisy the selfishness of the heart in a view and approbation of the holy, just, good, and glorious law of God which condemns him to eternal death, and to form his heart to that disinterested benevolence, in the exercise of which alone he will be prepared to understand the glory of the gospel, and cordially embrace it.
And here it may not be improper to inquire, whether submitting to the death, or dying the death, which the law pronounces, and which is contained in the curse of it, so as to consent, and delight in it as holy, just, and good, does not imply a willingness to suffer the curse of it, rather than to bave God and his law dishonored by bis escape from this punishment. Be this as it may, we learn with certainty from this passage that, first, Paul was converted by the law first coming to his renewed mind, prepared to receive it, by which his sin revived, and he found himself dead according to the sentence of the law, before he found relief by the gospel. And that the law must thus first come, before the grace pel can give true relief, seems to be asserted when it is said, “ The law was given by Moses; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." The Mosaic dispensation was designed to exhibit the law. This was foremost and most visible, and the grace of the gospel was revealed in a more dark and hidden manner, under types and shadows. The ten commandments were revealed in the form of law, and contained the whole of it. And the curses of this law all Israel were ordered to cause to be read before them as soon as they got into the land of Canaan, and to pronounce and declare their hearty consent to them. They were ordered to say, Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of the law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen." This was done before any blessing was brought into view, or mentioned; by which the whole congregation of Israel declared their hearty consent to the curse of the law, while it cursed them all, as they were all sinners.
of the gos