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the latter was his true meaning. "Every one," says he, "who obtains a just notion of the work and person of Christ, or whose notion corresponds to what is testified of him, is justified, and finds peace with God simply by that notion.”
This notion he considers as the effect of truth being impressed upon the mind, and denies that the mind is active in it. The inactivity of the mind in believing is of so much importance in his account, that the doctrine of justification by grace depends upon it." He who maintains," says he, "that we are justified only by faith, and at the same time affirms, with Aspasio, that faith is a work exerted by the human mind, undoubtedly maintains, if he have any meaning to his words, that we are justified by a work exerted by the human mind."t
Mr. Sandeman not only opposes all active endeavours previously to faith, and as tending to produce it, (in which I have no controversy with him,) but sets himself against all exhortations, calls, warnings and expostulations, with the sinner to believe in Christ. "If" says he, "it be inquired what I would say for the relief of one distrest with a sense of guilt, I would tell him to the best of my ability what the gospel says about Christ. If he still doubted, I would set before him all the evidence furnished me by the same gospel. Thus, and thus only, would I press, call, invite, exhort, or urge him to believe. I would urge him with evidence for the truth." And when asked how he would exhort, advise, or address stupid, unconcerned souls? He answers, "I am of the mind that a preacher of the gospel, as such, ought to have no influence on men but by means of the gospel which he preaches.— When Paul discoursed concerning the faith in Christ, and as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled. It is the duty of every man, in every condition, to obey every divine command. The gospel always supposes this while addressing all men as sinners, it demonstrates their danger, and discovers the remedy. Yet it is absurd to suppose that any man can love the gospel, or obey it, till he believe it. There * Epistolary Correspondence, Letter II.
+ Letters on Theron and Aspasio, Vol. I. p. 483
Epistolary Correspodence p. 8.
fore to urge unbelievers to any shadow of that obedience as preparative to justification by faith, can have no other effect than to lead them to establish their own righteousness, and to stand in awe of the preacher."*
If there be any meaning in this answer, it would seem to be that faith itself is not a duty, and that unbelievers ought not to be exhorted to it, lest it should lead them to self-righteousness; but barely to have the evidence of truth stated to them.
Mr. S. represents the sinner as justified, and as having obtained peace to his soul, while utterly destitute of the love of God. "I can never begin to love God," said he, "till I first see him just in justifying me ungodly as I stand." But being justified in this his ungodly state of mind, he loves God on account of it; and here begins his godliness: "It all consists in love to that which first relieved him."+
If he had represented the doctrine of Christ as giving relief to the guilty creature, irrespective of any consciousness of a change in himself, or as furnishing him with a ground to conclude that God can be just and the justifier of him if he believes in Jesus, this had accorded with Paul's gospel : (Rom. iv. 24.) but for a sinner to perceive himself justified, implies a consciousness that he is a believer, and such a consciousness can never be separate from a conscious love to the divine character. If, indeed, the gospel were an expedient merely to give relief to sinners, and no regard was had in it to the glory of God, a sinner full of enmity to God might receive it, and derive peace from it but if it be an essential property of it to secure the glory of the divine character, the belief of it must include a sense of that glory, which cannot consist with enmity against it.
Let it also be seriously considered, whether it be true that a sinner is justified "ungodly as he stands ?" If it be, he must have been so either antecedently to his "seeing" it to be so, and then it must be equally true of all ungodly sinners; or it becomes so when he sees it, and by his seeing it, which is the very absurdity which Mr. S. fastens on the popular preachers.
* Epistolary Correspondence, p. 29.
+ Ibid. p. 12.
Ibid. p. 8.
Mr. S. and many others have caught at the phrase of the apostle Paul, of "God's justifying the ungodly;" but unless they cau prove that by ungodly the apostle meant one that was at the time an enemy of God, it makes nothing in their favour. The amount is, Mr. S.'s relief arises from his " seeing" what is not to be seen; viz. God to be just in justifying him ungodly as he stands; and his relief being founded in falsehood, all his godliness, which confessedly arises from it, must be delusive. The root is rottenness, and the blossom will go up as the dust.
From the leading principles of doctrine above stated, it is easy to account for almost all the other peculiarities of the system. Where the root and substance of religion is placed in knowledge, exclusive of approbation, it may be expected that the utmost stress will be laid on the former, and that almost every thing pertaining to the latter will be decried under the name of pharisaism, or some other odious appellation. Thus it is that those who have druck into this system generally value themselves on their clear views; thus they scarcely ever use any other phrase by which to designate the state of a converted man than his knowing the truth; and thus all those scripture passages which speak of knowing the truth are constantly quoted as being in their favour, though they seldom, if ever, mean knowledge as distinguished from approba tion, but as including it.
Farther: I do not perceive how a system whose first principle is "notion," and whose love is confined to "that which first relieves us," can have the love of God in it. It cannot justify God as a lawgiver, by taking blame and shame to ourselves; for it necessarily supposes, and even professes, an abhorrence to both law and justice in every other view than as satisfied by the cross of Christ. The reconciliation to them in this view, therefore, must be merely on the ground of their becoming friendly to our interests. But if God be not justified as a Lawgiver, Christ can never be received as a Saviour. There is no more grace in justification, than there is justice in condemnation: nor is it possible we should see more of the one than of the other; for we cannot see things otherwise than as they are to be seen. But surely a system which neither justifies the Lawgiver, nor receives the Saviour as hon
ouring him, cannot be of God. The love of God as God is not in it. Conversion, on this principle, is not turning to the Lord. It professes indeed, to love God, but it is only for our own sake, The whole process requires no renovation of the spirit of the mind; for the most depraved creature is capable of loving himself, and that which relieves him.
Is it any wonder that a religion founded on such a principle should be litigious, conceited, and censorious towards all who do not embrace it? It is of the nature of a selfish spirit to be so. God himself be loved only for the relief he affords us, it cannot be surprising that men should; nor that, under the cover of loving them only for the truth's sake, all manner of bitterness and contempt should be cherished against every one who dares to dispute our dogmas.
Farther: The love of God being in a manner excluded from the system, it may be expected that the defect will be supplied by a punctilious attention to certain forms; of which some will be found to arise from a misunderstanding of the scriptures, and others which may not, yet being regarded to the neglect of weightier matters, resemble the tithing of mint, anise and cummin.
Such, from the repeated views that I have been able to take of the system, appear to me to me to be its grand outlines; and I am not surprised to find that, in the course of half a century, it has landed so large a part of its votaries on the shores of Infidelity, or sunk them in the abyss of worldly conformity. Those who live near them say there is scarcely any appearance of serious religion in their families, unless we might call by that name the scrupulosity that would refuse to pray with an unbeliever, but would have no objection to accompany him to the theatre. Mr. S. and his admirers have reproached many for their devotion: but I cannot learn that they were ever reproached with this evil in return.
The grand argument of Mr. S. against faith being an act of the mind, and against admitting of any active advance of the soul towards Christ as necessary to justification, is, that it is rendering faith a work; and that to be justified by faith would, after all, bé to be justified by a work of our own. This is the principal idea pertaining to what he calls "the very rankest poison of the popu
If this argument can be overturned, the greater part of his system falls with it. That it may appear in all its force I will quote his strongest representations of it.
"Perhaps it will be thought needful that I should define with greater precision than I have hitherto done, what I mean by the popular doctrine, especially as I have considered many as preachers thereof who differ remarkably from each other; and particularly as I have ranked among them Mr. Wesley, who may justly be reckoned one of the most virulent reproachers of that God whose character is drawn by the apostles, that this island has produced. To remove all doubt concerning my meaning, I shall thus explain myself. Throughout these letters, I consider all those as teachers of the popular doctrine who seek to have credit and influence among the people, by resting our acceptance with God, not simply on what Christ has done, but more or less on the use we make of him, the advance we make towards him, or some secret desire, wish or sigh to do so; or on something we feel or do concerning him, by the assistance of some kind of grace or spirit: or lastly, on something we employ him to do, and suppose he is yet to do for us. In sum, all who would have us to be conscious of something else than the bare truth of the gospel; all who would have us to be conscious of some beginning of a change to the better, or some desire, however faint, toward such change, in order to our acceptance with God; these I call the popular preachers, however much they may differ from each other about faith, grace, special or common, or about any thing else.-My resentment is all along chiefly pointed against the capital branch of the popular doctrine, which, while it asserts almost all the articles belonging to the sacred truth, at the same time deceitfully clogs them with the opposite falsehoods."
Again: "That the saving truth is effectually undermined by this confusion, may readily be seen in the following easy view.”— (This is what I call his grand argument.)" HE WHO MAINTAINS
THAT WE ARE JUSTIFIED ONLY BY FAITH, AND AT THE SAME TIMS AFFIRMS, WITH ASPASIO, THAT FAITH IS A WORK EXERTED BY THE
*Letters on Theron and Aspasio, p. 448.