« PreviousContinue »
Christ; he is the sum and centre of all divine and evangelical truths: and therefore as there is no knowledge or wisdom so excellent, necessary, or heavenly, as the knowledge of Christ, as the apostle plainly gives us to understand, 1 Cor. ii. 2, that he determined to know nothing amongst them, but only Jesus Christ and him crucified ;' so there is nothing to be preached unto men, as an object of their faith, or necessary element of their salvation which doth not in some way or other, either meet in Christ, or refer unto him.”*
Sect. 7.—Ant. O, sir, you please me wondrous well in thus attributing all to Christ: and surely, though of late you have not been so evangelical in your teaching as some others in this city, which has caused me to leave off hearing you to hear them, yet I have formerly perceived, and now also perceive, that you have more knowledge of the doctrine of free grace than
many other ministers in this city have; and to tell you the truth, sir, it was by your means that I was first brought to renounce mine own righteousness, and cleave only to the righteousness of Jesus Christ.t And thus it was : after that I had been a good while a legal professor, just like my friend Nomista, and heard none but your legal preachers, who built me up in works and doings, as they did him, and as their manner is ; at last, a familiar acquaintance of mine, who had some knowledge of the doctrine of free grace, did commend you for an excellent preacher; and at last prevailed with me to go with him and hear you ; and your text that day, I well remember, was Titus iii. 5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us;" whence you observed, and plainly proved, that man's own
* Eph. iv. 20, 21, “But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.”
t What this is, in the sense of the speaker, he himself immediately explains at large. In a word, in his sense, it is to be an Antinomian indeed. The sum of his compliment made to Evangelista, or the author, which you please, lies here ; namely, that he had left off hearing him, because he did not preach the gospel so purely as some others in the place ; yet in his opinion, he understood it better than many others; and (to carry the compliment to the highest pitch) it was by his means he turned downright Antinomian. One would think, that whatever was the measure of the author's pride or humility, self-denial, or self-seeking, he had as much common sense as would render this address not very taking with him, or at least would teach him, that the publishing of it was none of the most proper means for commending of himself. So that the publishing of it may rather be imputed to the author's self-denial than to the want thereof; though I presume the considering reader will neither impute it to the one nor to the other.
righteousness had no hand in his justification and salvation ; whereupon you dehorted us from putting any confidence in our own works and doings, and exhorted us by faith to lay hold upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ only; at the hearing whereof it pleased the Lord so to work upon me, that I plainly perceived that there was no need at all of my works and doings, nor any thing else, but only to believe in Jesus Christ.* And indeed my heart assented to it immediately, so that I went home with abundance of peace and joy in believing, and gave thanks to the Lord for that he had set my soul at liberty from such a sore bondage as I had been under. And I told all my acquaintance what a slavish life I had lived in, being under the law; for if I did commit any sin, I was presently troubled and disquieted in my conscience, and could have no peace till I had made humble confession thereof unto God, craved pardon and forgiveness, and promised amendment. But now I told them, that whatsoever sins I committed, I was no whit troubled at them, nor indeed am I at this day; for I do verily believe that God, for Christ's sake, has freely and fully pardoned all my sins, both past, present, and to come; so that I am confident, that whatsoever sin or sins I commit, they shall never be laid to my charge, being very well assured, that I am so perfectly clothed with the robe of Christ's righteousness, that God can see no sin in me at all. And
* The preacher taught, according to his text, That man's own righteousness had no hand in his justification and salvation; he dehorted, from putting confidence in good works; and exhorted, by faith to lay hold on Christ's righteousness only. And this hearer thence inferred, that there was no need at all of good works; as if one should conclude, that because it is the eye only that seeth, therefore there is no need at all of hand or foot. So the apostle Paul's doctrine was misconstrued ; Rom. iii. 8, “Some affirm that we say, Let us do evil that good may come.” Yea, in the apostles' days, the doctrine of free grace was actually thus abused to Antinomianism, by some “turning the grace of God into lasciviousness," Jude 4. The apostle was aware of the danger on that side, through the corruption of the hearts of men; Gal. v. 13, “ Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh.” And ministers of Christ (who himself was accounted “a friend to publicans and sinners,” &c. Matthew xi. 19,) followers of Paul's doctrine, which, in the eyes of carnal men, had a show and semblance of favouring sinful liberty, ought to set the apostle's example in this matter before them in a special manner; with fear and trembling, keeping a jealous eye on the danger from that part; especially in this day, wherein the Lord's indignation is visibly going out in spiritual strokes, for a despised gospel; knowing that the gospel of Christ is to some the savour of death unto death,” 2 Cor. ii. 16, and that “there are who wrest the Scriptures (themselves,) unto their own destruction.” 2 Pet. ii. 17.
therefore now I can rejoice evermore in Christ, as the apostle exhorts me, and live merrily, though I be never so vile or sinful a creature ; and indeed I pity them that are in the same slavish condition I was in ; and would have them to believe as I have done, that so they may rejoice with me in Christ. * And thus, sir, you see I have declared unto you my condition; and therefore I entreat you to tell me what you
think of me. Evan. There is in this city, at this day, much talk about Antinomians ; and though I hope there be but few that do justly deserve that title, yet, I pray, give me leave to tell you, that I fear I may say unto you in this case, as it was once said unto Peter in another case, “Surely thou art one of them, for thy speech bewrayeth thee," Matt. xxvi. 73. And therefore, to tell you truly, I make some question whether you have truly believed in Christ, for all your confidence; and indeed I am the rather moved to question it, by calling to mind, that, as I have heard, “ your conversation is not such as becometh the gospel of Christ,” Phil. i. 27.
Ant. Why, sir, do you think it is possible for a man to have such
peace and joy in Christ as I have had, and I thank the Lord have still, and not to have truly believed in Christ?
Evan. Yes, indeed, I think it is possible; for does not our Saviour tell us, that those hearers, to whom he resembles the
stony ground,-immediately received the word with joy, and yet had no root in themselves,” Mark iv. 16, 17, and so indeed were not true believers ? and does not the apostle give us to understand, that as there is a form of godliness without the power of godliness ? 2 Tim. iii. 5, so there is a form of faith, without the power of faith ; and therefore he prays
that God would grant unto the Thessalonians “the work of faith with power,”? 2 Thess. i. 11. And as the same apostle gives us to understand, “ there is a faith that is not feigned," 1 Tim. i. 5, so, doubtless, there is a faith that is feigned. And surely when our Saviour says, Mark iv. 26—28, “the kingdom of God is as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should
* How easy is the passage from legalism to Antinomianism! Had this poor man, under his trouble and disquiet of conscience, fled to Jesus Christ for the purging of his conscience from guilt by his blood, and the sanctifying of his nature by his Spirit; and not put his own confessions of sins, prayers for pardon, and promises of amendment, in the room of Christ's atoning blood ; and his blind and faithless resolutions to amend, in the room of the sanctifying spirit of Christ; he had escaped this spare of the devil, Heb. ix. 14; Rom. vii. 4–6.
spring up and grow, he knoweth not how, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear;" he giveth us to understand, that true faith is produced by the secret power of God, by little and little; so that sometimes a true believer himself neither knows the time when, nor the manner how, it was wrought. So that we may perceive, that true faith is not ordinarily begun, increased, and finished, all in a moment, as it seems yours was, but grows by degrees, according to that of the apostle, Rom. i. 17, “The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith,” that is, from one degree of faith to another ;* from a weak faith to a strong faith, and from faith beginning to faith increasing towards perfection; or from faith of adherence to faith of evidence; but so was not yours. And again, true faith, according to the measure of it, produces holiness of life; but it seems yours does not so; and therefore, though you have had, and have still much peace and joy, yet that is no infallible sign that your faith is true; for a man may have great raptures, yea, he may have great joy, as if he were lifted up into the third heaven, and have a great and strong persuasion that his state is good, and yet be but a hypocrite for all that. And therefore, I beseech you, in the words of the apostle, “examine yourself, whether you be in the faith, prove your own self : know you not your own self, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be a reprobate?” 2 Cor. xiii. 5.—“ And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness,”+ Rom. viii. 10.
Ant. But, sir, if my friend Nomista went wrong in seeking to be justified by the works of the law, then, methinks I should have gone right in seeking to be justified by faith ; and yet you speak as if we had both gone wrong.
Evan. I remember Luther says, that in his time, if they taught in a sermon, that salvation consisted not in our works or life, but in the gift of God, some men took occasion thence to be slow to good works, and to live a dishonest life. And if they preached of a godly and honest life, others did by and by attempt to build ladders to heaven.[ And moreover, he says, that in the year 1525, there were some fantastical spirits that stirred up the rustical people to sedition, saying, That the
* See note I, page 20.
+ This doctrine of our author is far from cherishing of presumption, or opening of a gap to licentiousness.
That is, to scale and get into it by their own good works.
freedom of the gospel giveth liberty to all men from all manner of laws; and there were others that did attribute the force of justification to the law. Now, says he, both these sorts offend against the law; the one on the right hand, who would be justified by the law, and the other on the left hand, who would be clean delivered from the law. Now, I suppose, this saying of Luther's may be fitly applied to you two; for it appears to me, friend Antinomista, that you have offended on the left hand, in not walking according to the matter of the law; and it is evident to me, neighbour Nomista, that you have offended on the right hand, in seeking to be justified by your obedience to it.*
Sect. 8.—Nom. But, sir, if seeking justification by the works of the law be an error, yet it seems, that, by Luther's own confession it is but an error on the right hand.
Evan. But yet I tell you, it is such an error, that, by the apostle Paul's own confession, so far forth as any man is guilty of it, “he makes his services his saviours, and rejects the
grace of God, and makes the death of Christ of none effect, and perverteth the Lord's intention, both in giving the law and in giving the gospel; and keeps himself under the curse of the law, and maketh himself the son of a bondwoman, a servant, yea, and a slaye, and hinders himself in the course of well-doing,” Gal. v. 4; iii. 19; i. 7; iii. 10; iv. 25; v. 7, and ii. 11 ; and in short, he goeth about an impossible thing, and so loseth all his labour.
Nom. Why then, sir, it would seem that all my seeking to please God by my good works, all my strict walking, according to the law, and all my honest course of life, has rather done me hurt than good ?
* The offences of these men here taxed, were both against the law (or covenant) of works; for they must needs have been against that law which they were under, and not another; and both of them were as yet under the law, or covenant of works, as being both unbelievers, the which was told Antinomista, page 77, as it was to Nomista, page 72 ; wherefore it is manifest, that by the matter of the law here, is not meant the law of Christ, but the matter of the law of works, that is, the ten commandments, as they stand in the covenant of works, which Antinomista had no regard to in his conversation, though they had all the authority and binding force upon him found in that covenant. And as he offended against the matter of it, so did Nomista against the form, in seeking to be justified by his obedience; for the covenant of works never bound a sinner to seek to be justified by his obedience to it; but, on the contrary, always condemned that as presumption, staking down the guilty under the curse, without remedy, till satisfaction be made by another hånd.