« AnteriorContinuar »
But notwithstanding the regard I had for the persons who solicited the publication, I could not be persuaded to print the letters; and they never had appeared in public with my consent, had not a surreptitious edition of them lately made its way from the press, and was I not under a firm persuasion that it will be followed by more.
As this is the case, I think it my duty to the memory of my late brother, to send forth as correct an edition as I possibly can; for as to that which has appeared (from what editor I know not) it is so faulty and incorrect, that but little judgment can be formed from it, of the propriety and force of my brother's answers to Mr Wesley.
As to the unfairness of publishing my brother's letters without my consent, and the injustice to his memory, in sending so mangled a performance out under his name, they are too apparent to need any proof; and though the editor, as I have been informed, gave away the whole impression, so that it is plain, lucre was not the motive of his proceeding, and I would charitably hope he did it with a view of benefiting his readers, yet it is so like doing evil that good may come, as, in my opinion, to be quite unjustifiable.
However, as the only way now left to remedy in some sort what has been done, and to prevent a farther imposition on the public from worse motives than actuated this publisher, I have called a friend to my assistance, and by this means present the reader with as perfect a copy of these letters, as can possibly be made out from the original manuscript in my hands.
That the reader may judge more clearly of the state of the controversy between my late brother and Mr Wesley, I have thought it right to subjoin Mr Wesley's letter, word for word, as it stands in the Preservative.
Me WESLEY'S LETTER.*
Dear Sir,—A CONSIDERABLE time since, I sent you a few basty thoughts, which occurred to me on reading the Dialogues between THERON and ASPAsio. I have not been favoured with any answer. Yet upon another and a more careful perusal of them, I could not but set down some obvious reflections, which I would rather have communicated before those Dialogues were published.
In the first Dialogue there are several just and strong observations, which may be of use to every serious reader. In the second, is not the description often too laboured, the language too stiff and affected? Yet the reflections on the creation make abundant amends for this.
“ Is justification more or less than God's pardoning and accepting a sinner through the merits of Christ?” That God herein " reckons the righteousness and obedience which Christ performed as our own,” I allow, if by that ambiguous expression you mean only, as you here explain it yourself
, “ These are as effectual for obtaining our salvation, as if they were our own personal qualifications."
“ We are not solicitous as to any particular set of phrases. Only let men be humbled, as repenting criminals at Christ's feet, let them rely as devoted pensioners on his merits, and they are undoubtedly in the way to a blissful immortality.” Then for Christ's sake, and for the sake of the immortal souls which he has purchased with his blood, do not dispute for that particular phrase, the imputed righteous
• The quotations from Theron and Aspasio are distinguished by double inverted commas.
ness of Christ. It is not scriptural, it is not necessary. Men who scruple to use, men who never heard the expression, may yet be humbled as repenting criminals at his feet, and rely as devoted pensioners on his merits. But it has done immense hurt. I have had abundant proof, that the frequent use of this unnecessary phrase, instead of furthering men's progress in vital holiness, has made them satisfied without any holiness at all; yea, and encouraged them to work all uncleanness with greediness.
“ To ascribe pardon to Christ's passive, eternal life to his active righteousness, is fanciful rather than judicious. His universal obedience from his birth to his death, is the one foundation of my hope.”
This is unquestionably, right. But if it be, there is no manner of need to make the imputation of his active righteousness a separate and laboured head of discourse. O that you had been content with this plain scriptural account, and spared some of the Dialogues and Letters that follow!
The third and fourth Dialogues contain an admirable illustration and confirmation of the great doctrine of Christ's satisfaction. Yet even here I observe a few passages, which are liable to some exception.
66 Satisfaction was made to the divine law.” I do not remember any such expression in Scripture. This way of speaking of the law, as a person injured and to be satisfied, seems hardly defensible.
“ The death of Christ procured the pardon and acceptance of believers, even before he came in the flesh.” Yea, and ever since. In this we all agree. And why should we contend for any thing more?
66 All the benefits of the new covenant are the purchase of his blood.” Surely they are. And after this has been fully proved, where is the need, where is the use, of contending so strenuously for the imputation of his righteousness, as is done in the fifth and sixth Dialogues ?
“ If he was our substitute as to penal sufferings, why not as to justifying obedience ?"
The former is expressly asserted in Scripture; the latter is not expressly asserted there.
“ As sin and misery have abounded through the first Adam, mercy and grace have much more abounded through the second. So that none can have any reason to complain.” No, not if the second Adam died for all; otherwise all for whom he did not die, have great reason to complain. For they inevitably fall by the first Adam, without any help from the second.
6. The whole world of believers ” is an expression which never occurs in Scripture, nor has it any countenance there: The world in the inspired writings being constantly taken either in an universal or in a bad sense; either for the whole of mankind, or for that part of them who know not God.
66 In the Lord shall all the house of Israel be justified.” It ought unquestionably to be rendered, By or through the Lord : This argument therefore proves nothing.-" Ye are complete in him." The words literally rendered, are, ye are filled with him. And the whole passage, as any unprejudiced reader may observe, relates to sanctification, not justification.
“ They are accepted for Christ's sake: this is justification through imputed righteousness.” That remains to be proved. Many allow the former, who cannot allow the latter.
66 Theron. I see no occasion for such nice distinctions and metaphysical subtilties.
Asp. You oblige us to make use of them by confounding these very different ideas, that is, Christ's active and passive righteousness."
I answer, We do not confound these: but neither do we separate them; nor have we any authority from Scripture, for either thinking or speaking of one separate from the other; and this whole debate on one of them, separate from the other, is a mere metaphysical subtilty.
“ The righteousness which justifies us, is already wrought out.” A crude, unscriptural expression!
* It was set on foot, carried on, completed.” O vain philosophy! The plain truth is, Christ lived and tasted death for every man; and through the merits of his life and death, every believer is justified.
" Whoever perverts so glorious a doctrine, shews he never believed.” Not so: They who turn back as a dog to the vomit, had once escaped the pollutions of the world by the knowledge of Christ.
“ The goodness of God leadeth to repentance." This is unquestionably true. But the nice, metaphysical doctrine of imputed righteousness, leads not to repentance, but to licentiousness.
- The believer cannot but add, to his faith, works of righteousness.” During his first love, this is often true. But it is not true afterwards, as we know and feel by melancholy experience.
“ We no longer obey, in order to lay the foundation for our final acceptance." No: That foundation is already laid in the merits of Christ. Yet we obey, in order to our final acceptance through his merits. And in this sense, by obeying we lay a good foundation, that we may attain eternal life.
« We establish the law; we provide for its honour, by the perfect obedience of Christ.”. Can you possibly think St Paul meant this ? that such a thought ever entered into his mind? The plain meaning is, We establish both the true sense and the effectual practice of it: we provide for its being both understood and practised in its full extent.
“ On those who reject the atonement, just severity.” Was it ever possible for them not to reject it? If not, how is it just to cast them into a lake of fire, for not doing what it was impossible they should do? Would it be just (make it your own case) to cast you into hell, for not touching heaven with
your hand ?
• Justification is complete the first moment we believe, and is incapable of augmentation."
Not so: There may be as many degrees in the favour as in the image of God.