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A THIRD CHECK TO ANTINOMIANISM.
HONOURED AND DEAR SIR,
ACCEPT my sincere thanks for the Christian courtesy, with which you treat me in your Five Letters. The title-page informs me, that a concern for “ mourning backsliders, and such as have been distressed by reading Mr. Wesley's Minutes, or the Vindication of them," has procured me the honour of being called to a public correspondence with you. Permit me, dear Sir, to inform you, in my turn, that a fear, lest Dr. Crisp’s Balm should be applied, instead of the Balm of Gilead to Laodicean loiterers, who may haply have been brought to penitential distress, obliges me to answer you in the same public manner in which you have addressed me.
Some of our friends will undoubtedly blame us for not yet dropping the contested point. But others will candidly consider, that controversy, though not desirable in itself, yet, properly managed, has a hundred times rescued truth, groaning under the lash of triumphant error. We are indebted to our Lord's controversies with the Pharisees and Scribes, for a considerable part of the four Gospels. And, to the end of the world, the church will bless God, for the spirited manner in which St. Paul, in his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, defended the controverted point of a believer's present justification by faith ; as well as for the steadiness with which St. James, St. John, St. Peter, and St. Jude, carried on their important controversy with the Nicolaitans, who abused St. Paul's doctrine to Antinomian purposes.
Had it not been for controversy, Romish priests would to this day hare fed us with Latin masses and a wafer-god. Some bold propositions, advanced by Luther against the doctrine of indulgences, unexpectedly brought on the Reformation. They were so irrationally attacked by the infatuated Papists, and so scripturally defended by the resolute Protestants, that these kingdoms opened their eyes, and saw thousands of images and errors fall before the ark of evangelical truth.
From what I have advanced in my SECOND CHECK, it appears, if I am not mistaken, that we stand now as inuch in need of a Reformation from Antinomianism, as our ancestors did of a Reformation from Popery; and I am not without hope, that the extraordinary attack, which has lately been made on Mr. Wesley's AntiCrispian propositions, and the manner in which they are defended, will open the eyes of many, and check the rapid progress of so enchanting and pernicious au evil. This hope inspires me with fresh courage ; and turning from the Hon. and Rev. Mr. Shirley, I presume to face (I trust, in the spirit of love and meekness) my new respectable opponent.
1. I thank you, Sir, for doing Mr. Wesley the justice in your first letter of acknowledging, that “ man's faithfulness is an expression, which may be used in a sober, gospel seuse of the words.” It is just in such a sense we use it; nor have you advanced auy proof to the contrary.
We never supposed, that “ the faithfulness of God, and the stability of the covenant of grace, are affected by the unfaithfulness of man.” Our Lord, we are persuaded, keeps his covenant, when he speus a lukewarm, unfaithful Laodicean out of his mouth, as well as when he says to the good and faithful servant, ‘Euter thou into the joy of thy Lord. For the same covenant of grace which says, “He that believeth, shall be saved ;-he that abideth in me, bringeth forth much fruit,' says also, 'He that believeth not, shall be damned;
-every branch in me that beareth not fruit, is cast forth and burned.'
Thanks be to divine grace, we make our boast of God's faithfulness as well as you, though we take care not to charge him, even indirectly, with our own unfaithfulness. But from the words which you quote,
My covenant shall stand fast with his seed,' &c. we see no more reason to conclude that the obstinately unfaithful seed of Christ, such as Hymeneus, Philetus, and those who to the last stread under foot the blood of the covenant wherewith they were sanctified,' chall not be cast off; than to assert that many individuals of David's royal family, such as Absalom and Amnon, were not cut off on account of their flagrant and obstinate wickedness.
We beseech you, therefore, for the sake of a thousand careless Antinomians, to remember that the aposile says to every believer, “Thou standest by faith ; behold therefore the goodness of God towards thee, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.' We entreat you to consider, that even those who admire the point of your epigram, “ Whenever we say one thing, we mean quite another,” will not be pleased if you apply it to St. Paul, as you have done to Mr. Wesley. And wheu we see God's covenant with David grossly abused by Antinomians, we beg leave to put them in mind of God's covenant with the house of Eli. "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I chose thy father out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest ; [but thou art unfaithful] thou honourest thy sons above me.-I said indeed, that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever : But now be it far from me; for them that honour me, I will honour; and they that despise me, shall be lightly esteemed. Behold the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy house ; and I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in my heart.” (1 Sam. ii.)
II. Your second letter respects working for life.
You make the best of a bad subject, and really some of your arguments are so plausible, that I do not wonder so many men should commence Calvinists, rather than be at the trouble of detecting their fallacy. I am sorry, dear Sir, I cannot do it without dwelling upon Calvinism. My design was to oppose Antinomia nism alone ; but the vigorous stand which you make for it upon Calvinian ground, obliges me to encounter you there, or to give up the truth which I am called to defend. I have long dreaded the alternative of displeasing my friends, or wounding my conscience; but I must yield to the injunctions of the latter, and appeal to the candour of the former. If impetuous rivers of Geneva Calvinism have so long been permitted to flow through England, and eveu deluge Scotland; have pot I some reason to hope that a rivulet of Geneva AntiCalvinism will be suffered to glide through some of Great Britain's plains ; especially if its little murmur harmonises with the clearest dictates of reason, and loudest declarations of scripture ?
Before I weigh your arguments against working for life, permit me to point out the capital mistake upon which they turn, You snppose, that free preventing grace does not visit all men ; and that all those, in whom it has not prevailed, are as totally dead to the things of God, as a dead body is to the things of this life : And from this unscriptural supposition you very reasonably conclude, that we can no more turn to God, than corpses can turn themselves in their graves; no more work for life, than putrid carcasses can help themselves to a resurrection,
This main pillar of your doctrine will appear to you, built upon the sand, if you read the scriptures in the light of that mercy which is over all God's works. There you will discover the various dispensations of the everlasting gospel ; your contracted views of divine love will open into the most extensive prospects; and your exulting soul will range through the boundless fields of that grace, which is both richly free in all, and abundantly free for all.