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THE FINISHING STROKE
OF RICHARD HILL, ESQ.
Hon. AND Dear Sir, I have received your Finishing Stroke, and return the following answer to you; or, if you have quitted the field, to your pious second, the Rev. Mr. Berridge, who, by a public attack upon sincere obedience, and upon the doctrine of a believer's justification by works, and not by faith only, has already entered the lists in your place.
Sec. i, p. 6. You complain that I represent you as fighting the battles of the rankest Antinomians, “ because (say you) we firmly believe and unanimously assert, that “the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin, and that, if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,' &c, and that this advocacy prevails." Not so, dear sir : I apprehend you give your readers totally wrong ideas of the question. You know I never opposed you for saying that “ the blood of Christ cleanseth penitent believers from all sin.” On the contrary, this I insist upon in a fuller sense than you do, who, if I mistake not, suppose that death, and not the blood of Christ, applied by the sanctifying Spirit, is to be our cleanser from all sin. The point which we debate is not then whether Christ's blood cleanses from all sin, but whether it actually cleanses from all guilt an impenitent backslider, a filthy apostate ;; and whether God says to the fallen believer, that commits adultery and murder, “ Thou art all fair, my love, my undefiled, there is no spot in thee.” This
fourth letter; and this I expose as the very quintessence of Ranterism, Antinomianism, and Calvinistic perseverance. The second part
your mistake is yet more glaring than the first. The question is not, (as you inform your readers,) whether, if “ · any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,” &c. You know, sir, that far from denying this comfortable truth, I maintain it in full opposition to your narrow system, which declares that if any man, who is passed by or non-elected, sinneth, there is no advocate with the Father for him: and that there are thousands of absolutely reprobated wretches, born to have the devil for a tempter and an accuser, without any help from our Redeemer and Advocate.
Nor yet do we debate whether Christ's advocacy prevails in the full extent of the word, for all that know the day of their visitation : this is a point of doctrine in which I am as clear as yourself. But the question about which we divide is, (1.) Whether Christ's advocacy never prevails when he asks that barren fig trees, which are at last cut down VOL. I.
for persisting in their unfruitfulness, may be “spared this year also ?” (2.) Whether it prevails in such a manner for all those, who once made ever so weak an act of true faith, that they shall never “make shipwreck of the faith,” never "deny the Lord that bought them,” and " bring upon themselves swift destruction ?” (3.) Whether Aaron and Koralı, David and Demas, Solomon and Hymeneus, Peter and Judas, Philetus and Francis Spira, with all that fall from God, shall infallibly sing louder in heaven for their grievous falls on earth? In a word, whether the salvation of some, and the damnation of others, are so finished, that, during the day of their visitation,” it is absolutely impossible for one of the former to draw back to perdition from a state of salvation; and for one of the latter to draw back to salvation from a state of perdition ?
These important questions you should have laid before your readers as the very ground of our controversy. But instead of this you amuse them with two precious scriptures, which I hold in a füller sense than yourself. This is a stroke of your logic, but it is not the finishing one, for
you say : Sec. ii, p. 6. “We cannot admit the contrary doctrine (that of the Checks] without at once undermining both law and Gospel. For the law is certainly undermined by supposing that any breach of it whatever is not attended with the curse of God. What law. do I undermine? Is it the law of innocence ? No: for I insist upon it as well as you, to convince unhumbled sinners that there can be no' salvation but in and through a Mediator. Is it the Mediator's law," the law of liberty ?” Certainly not: for I defend it against the bold attacks you make upon it; and shall now ward off the dreadful blow you give it in this argument.
O sir, is it right to confound, as you do, the law of paradisiacal innocence with the evangelical law of liberty, that in point of personal, sincere obedience, you may set both aside at one stroke? Is not this Calvinistic stroke as dangerous as it is unscriptural ? 66 There is no law but one which damns for want of absolute innocence: all those that are under any law, must be under this law, which curses for a wandering thought as well as for incest. But believers are not cursed for a wandering thought. Therefore they are under no law': they are not cursed even for incest; they may break their “ rule of life' by adul. tery, as David, or by incest, as the unchaste Corinthian, without falling under the curse of any Divine law in force against them: in a word, without ceasing to be men after God's own leart.""
Now whence arises the fallacy of this argument? Is it not from overlooking the Mediator's law, the law of Christ? Can you see no medium between being under " a rule of life,” the breaking of which shall - work for our good,” and being under a law that 'çurses to the pit of hell for the least want of absolute innocence? Between those two extremes is there not the evangelical.“ law of liberty ?"
O sir, be not mistaken: the Gospel has its law. Hear St. Paul : “God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my Gospel,” Rom. ii, 16. Hear St. James: “So speak ye [believers] and so do, as they that shall be judged by the Law OF LIBERTY; for he [the believer] shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy," James ii, 12, 13, illustrated by Matt. xviii, 23-35
Christ is neither an Eli nor a Nero, neither a dolt nor a tyrant ; but a priestly king, a “ Melchisedec.” . If he is a king, he has a law;. his subjects may, and the disobedient shall, be condemned by it. If he is a priestly king, he has a gracious law; and if he has a gracious law, he requires no absolute impossibilities. Thus the covenant of grace keeps a just medium between the relentless severity of the first covenant, and the Antinomian softness of the covenant trumpeted by some Calvinists.
Be not then frightened, 0 Sion, from meditating in Christ's law day and night; for it is the law of thy gracious “ King, who cometh unto the meek, and sitting upon the foal” of a mild, pacific animal: and not that of thy fierce and fond monarch, 0 Geneva, who comes riding upon the wings of storms and tempests, to damn the reprobates for the preordained, unavoidable consequences of Adam's prcordained, unavoidable sin ; and to encourage fallen believers, that climb up into their neighbours beds, by saying to each of them, “ Thou art all fair, my love, my undefiled, there is no spot in thee.” But more of this to Mr, Berridge. When you have given us a wrong' idea of the Mediator's law, you proceed to do the same by the Gospel, with which that law is so closely connected. For you say :
Page 6. “The Gospel is certainly undermined, by supposing that there is provision made in it for some sins, and not for others.” Well then, sir, Christ and the four evangelists have "certainly undermined the Gospel ;” for they all mention the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, “ the sin unto death,” or the sin of final impenitency and unbelief; and they not only suppose, but expressly declare, that it is a sin for which “no provision is made,” and the punishment of wnich obstinate unbelievers and apostates must personally bear. Is it not strange that the capital doctrine by which our Lord guards his own Gospel, should be represented as a capital error, by which “ the Gospel is certainly undermined ?"
Sec. ii, p.6. To show that your scheme is different from speculative Antinomianism, you ask, “ Is the experience of David, Lot, and Solomon, that of all those who abide by those doctrines ?”. I answer, It may be that of thousands for aught you know, and if it is not that of myriads, no thanks to you, sir, for you have given theni encouragement enough: (though I still do you the justice to say, 'you have done it undesignedly :) and lest they should forget your former innuendo, in this very page you say, that “ the covenant of grace (including, no doubt, finished salvation] standeth sure in behalf of the elect, under every trial, state, and circumstance they can possibly be in;" which, if I mistaké not, implies, that they may be in the impenitent "state" of drunken Lot, and adulterous David, or in the dangerous “circumstance” of idolatrous Solomon, and the incestuous Corinthian, without being less interested in finished salvation than if they served God with Noah, Job, and Daniel. To this answer I add Flavel's - judicious observation : If the principle will yield it, it is in vain to think corrupt nature will not catch at it, and make a vile use and dangerous improvement of it.” But you say, (p. 7,) “ You know in your conscience that we detest and abhor that damnable doctrine and position of real Antinomians : "Let us sin, that grace may abound.'” I believe, dear sir,
that all pious Calvinists, and consequently you, abhor that horrible tenet practically, so far as you are saved from sin. And yet, to the great encouragement of practical Antinomianism, you have made an enumeration of the good that sin, yea, any length in sin, unto adultery, robbery, murder, and incest, does to the pleasant children. You have assured them that sin shall work for their good ; and you have closed the strange plea by saying, that “a grievous fall will make them sing louder the praises of free, restoring grace, to all eternity in heaven.' Now, honoured sir, pardon me if I tell you my whole mind. Really, to this day, I think, that if I wanted to make Christ publicly the minister of sin, and to poison the minds of my hearers by preaching an Antinomian sermon from these words, Let us sin, that grace may abound, I could not do it more effectually than by showing, aocording to the doctrine of your fourth letter : (1.) That, upon the whole, sin can do us no harm. (2.) That, far from hurting us, it will work for our good. And, (3.) That even a grievous fall into adultery and murder will make
"sing louder in heaven; all debts and claims against believers, be they more or be they less, be they small or be they great, be they before or be they after conversion, being for ever and for eyer cancelled by Christ's fulfilling the law for them.” In the name of reason, I ask, Where is the difference between publishing these unguarded tenets and saying roundly, Let us sin, ihal grace maj abound ?
Do not reply, sir, that this objection was brought against St. Paul as well as against you, and therefore the apostle's doctrine and yours exactly coincide ; for this would be impeaching the innocent to screen the guilty. The charge of indirectly saying, “Let us sin, that grace may abound," is absolutely false, when it is brought against St. Paul : but alas, it is too true when produced against the author of Pietas Oxoniensis. Where did that holy apostle ever say that sin works for our good? When did he declare that the Lord overrules sin, even adultery and murder, for the good of his backsliding people; and that grievous falls in this world will make us more joyful in the next? But you know, sir, who has published those maxims, and who stands to them, even in a Finishing Stroke: intimating still, that it is God's “ secret will” to do good to his people by “the abominable thing which his soul hateth,” (p. 55, 1, 36, &c.) O sir, hell is not farther from heaven than this doctrine from that of the apostle : for while you absolutely promise fallen believers louder songs in heaven, he conditionally threatens them with “ much sorer punishment” in hell, Heb. x, 29, and Christ says,
" Go and sin no more, Jest a worse thing happen unto thee." But
says, “Go any length in sin, and a more cxcellent thing shall happen unto thee : a grievous fall will drive thee nearer lo Christ.”
Leaving you to reconcile yourself with holy Paul and our blessed Lord, I beg leave to account for the warmth with which you
sometimes plead for and sometimes against sin. As a good man, you undoubtedly " detest and abhor” this dangerous maxim of the great Diana of the Antinomians; “ sin works for good to believers ;” but, as a sound Calyinist, you plead for it, yea, and you father it upon the apostle too. (See Third Check, p. 186.) This contrariety, in your sentiments, may be illustrated by Judah's inconsistent behaviour to Tamar
As Tamar was an agreeable womàn, Judah took an Antinomian fancy to her, gave her his “ signet, bracelets, and staff,” for a pledge ; and faithfully “sent her a kid from the flock.” But as she was his disgraced daughter-in-law, big with a bastard child, though he himself was the father of it, he rose against her with uncommon indignation, and said, in a fit of legality, “ Bring her forth that she may be burnt !" 0! that instead of calling me “a spiritual calumniator,” and accusing me of " vile falsehood and gross perversion,” for bearing testimony against a similar inconsistency, you would imitate the undeceived patriarch, take your signet and bracelets again; I mean, call in your fourth letter, that fatal pledge sent me from the press of your great Diana, and from this time “ know her again no more !” Gen. xxxviii, 26.
Sec. iv. But you are not put out of countenance by your former mistakes, for, (pp. 8, 9,) speaking, it seems, of those mistaken good men, “ who say more at times for sin than against it,” or of those who traduce obedience, and make void the law through faith, representing it as a bare rule of life, the breaking of which will in the end work for the believer's good, you say, “ Though I have begged you so earnestly in my Review to point out by name who these wretches (you should say these persons] are: though I have told you that without this the charge of slander must be for ever at your door; still neither they nor their converts are produced; no, nor one quotation from their writings, in order to prove these black charges upon
them.” Here is a heap of gross mistakes. I have not only produced one quotation, but many,
both from Dr. Crisp's writings and your own. See Second Check, from p. 115 to 118, and Third Check, from p. 176 to p. 191. Again : that “neither they nor their converts are produced,” is a capital oversight. Turn to Fourth Check, p. 282: “ Produce a few of them," says your brother; to which I answer, “Well, sir, I produce, first, the author of Pietas Oroniensis, next yourself, and then all the Calvinists who admire your brother's fourth letter, where he not only insinuates, but openly attempts to prove, that David, &c, stood absolved and complete in the everlasting righteousness of Christ, while his eyes were full of adultery and his hands of blood. Now, sir, if this was the case of David, it may not only be the case of many, but of all the elect:” for the imaginary covenant of finished salvation stands as fallen believers, who cheat, swear, and get drunk, as for those who commit adultery, murder, and incest.
But since you press me still to produce witnesses, I promise you to produce by and by the Rev. Mr. Berridge, your second, together with his Antinomian pleas against sincere obedience. In the meantime I produce - Mr. Fulsome,” together with a quotation from “ The Christian World Unmasked.” It contains a ludicrous description of a consistent Antinomian, brought over to the doctrines of grace by, I know not which of our Gospel ministers.
His name, says Mr. Berridge, was Mr. Fulsome, and his mother's maiden name was Miss Wanton. 66 When the cloth was removed, and some few tankards had gone round, Mr. Fulsome's face looked like the red lion painted on my landlord's sign, and his mouth began to open. He talked swimmingly about religion, and vapoured much in praise of [Calvinistic) perseverance. Each fresh tankard threw a fresh