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From these evangelical descriptions of the sheep and the goats, mentioned in John x, and Matt. xxv, it appears to us indubitable: (1.) That these sheep [i. e. obedient, persevering believers) "shall never perish;" although they might have perished, if they had “ brought upon themselves swift destruction by denying the Lord that bought them.” (2.) That they shall be eternally saved, although they might have missed eternal salvation, if they had finally disregarded our Lord's declaration : “ He that endureth unto the end, the same shall be (finally] saved.” (3.) That the good Shepherd peculiarly laid down his life for the eternal redemption of obedient, persevering believers; and that these believers are sometimes, eminently called God's elect, because they make their conditional calling to the rewards of perseverance sure, by actually persevering in the obedience of faith.. (4.)That the peculiarity of the eternal redemption of Christ's perserering followers, far from being connected with the absolute reprobation of the rest of mankind, stands in perfect agreement with the doctrines of a' general, lemporary redemplion, and a general initial salvation ; and with the doctrines of a gratuitous election to the blessings of one or another dispensation of God's saving grace; and of a conditional election to the rewards of voluntary, unnecessitated obedience. (5.) That our opponents give the truth as it is in Jesus two desperate stabs, when they secure the peculiar, eternal redemption of finally disobedient believers, and comfort mourning backsliders in so unhappy, a manner, as t's overthrow the general, temporary redcinption of all. mankind, and to encourage or countenance the present disobedience of Laodicean believers. (6.) That-the Calvinian doctrines of grace, which do this double mischief under such fair pretences are, of all the tares 'which the enemy sows, those which come nearest to the wheat, and of consequence those by which he can best feed his immoral goats, deceive simple souls, set Christ's moral sheep at perpetual variance, turn the fruitful field of the Church into a barren field of controversy, and make a Deistical world think that faith is enthusiastical fancy; that orthodoxy is immoral nonsense ; and that revelation is nothing but an apple of discord. (7.) And, lastly, that the doctrines of grace which we · maintain do equal justice to the Divine attributes ; defend faith, without wounding obedience; oppose Pharisaism, without recom..cadiny Intinomianism; assert the truth of God's promises, without representing his most awful threatenings as words without meaning ; reconcile the Scriptures, without wounding conscience and reason ; exalt the gracious wonders of the day of atonement, without setting aside the righteous terrors of the great day of retribution; extol our heavenly Priest, without pouring contempt upon our Divine Prophet; and celebrate the honours of his cross, without turning his sceptre of righteousness into a Solifidian reed, his royal crown into a crown of thorns, and his law of liberty into a rule of life, by which his - subjects can no more stand or fall in judgment, than an Englishman can stand or fall by the rules of civility followed at the French court.
To the best of my knowledge, reader, thou hast been led into the depth of our doctrines 'of grace. I have opened to thee the mysteries of the evangelical system, which Mr. Hill attacks as the heresy of . ?rpinians. And now let impartiality hand thee up to the judgment
seat: let reason and revelation hold out to thee their consentaneous light: pray that the “ Spirit of truth” may help thine infirmities : turn prejudice out of the court; and let candour pronounce the sentence, and say, whether our principles or those of Mr. Hill “ inevitably” draw after them “ shocking, not to say blasphemous,” consequences ?
I shall close this answer to the creed which that gentleman has composed for Arminians, by an observation which is not entirely fo. reign to our controversy. In one of the Three Letters which introduce the Fictitious Creed, Mr. Hill says: “Controversy, I am persuaded, has not done me any good;" and he exhorts me to examine closely whether I cannot make the same confession. I own that it would have done me harm, if I had blindly contended for my opinions. Nay, if I had shut my eyes against the light of truth; if I had set the plainest scriptures aside, as if they were not worth my notice; if I had overlooked the strongest arguments of my opponents; if I had advanced groundless charges against them; if I had refused to do justice to their good meaning or piety : and, above all, if I had taken my leave of them by injuring their moral character, by publishing over and over again arguments which they had properly answered, without taking the least notice of their answers ; if I had made a solemn promise not to read one of their books, though they should publish a thousand volumes; if, continuing to write against them, I had fixed upon them (as “unavoidable” consequences) absurd tenets, which have no necessary connection with their principles than the doctrine of general redemption has with Calvinian reprobation; if I had done this, I say, controversy would have wounded my conscience or my reason; and, without adding any thing to my light, it would have immovably fixed me in my prejudices, and perhaps branded me before the world for an Arminian bigot. But, as matters are, I hope I may make the following acknowledgment without betraying the impertinence of proud boasting.
Although I have often been sorry that controversy should take up so much of the time, which I might with much satisfaction to myself have employed in devotional exercises ; and although I have lamented, and do still lament my low attainments in the “meekness of wisdom,” which should constantly guide the pen
controversial writer ; yet I rejoice that I have been enabled to persist in my resolution either to wipe off, or to share the reproach of those who have hazarded their reputation in defence of pure and undefiled religion : and, if I am not mistaken, my repeated attempts have been attended with these happy effects. In vindicating the moral doctrines of grace, I hope, that, as à man, I have learned to think more closely, and to investigate truth more ardently than I did before. There are rational powers in the dullest souls, which lie hid as sparks in a flint.
Controversial oppo. sition and exertion, like the stroke of the steel, have made me accidentally find out some of these latent sparks of reason for which I should never have thanked my Maker, if had never discovered them. I have frequently en thankful to find that my horse could tra in bad roads better than I expected ; nor do I think that it is a piece of Phari. saism to say, I am thankful to find that my mind can travel with more ease than I thought she could through theological roads, rendered almost impassable by heaps of doctrinal rubbish brought from all parts of
Christendom, and by briers of contention which have kept growing for above a thousand years. To return : As a divine, I see more clearly the gaps and stiles at which mistaken good men have turned out of the narrow way of truth, to the right hand and to the left. As a Protestant, I hope I have much more esteem for the Scriptures in general, and in particular for those practical parts of them which the Calvinists had insensibly taught me to overlook or despise: and this increasing esteem is, I trust, accompanied with a deeper conviction of the truth of Christianity, and with a greater readiness to defend the Gospel against infidels, Phariseès, and Antinomians. As a preacher, I hope I can do more justice to a text, by reconciling it with seemingly con trary scriptures. As an anti-Calvinist, I have learned to do the Calvinists justice in granting that there is an election of distinguishing grace for God's peculiar people, and a particular redemption for all believers who are faithful unto death ; and by that means, as a controvertist, I can more easily excuse pious Calvinists, who, through prejudice, mistake that Scriptural election for their Antinomian election ; and who consider that particular redemption as the only redemption mentioned in the Scriptures. Nay, I can without scruple allow Mr. Hill, that his doctrines of finished salvation and irresistible grace, are TRUE with respect to all those who die in their infancy. As one who is called an Arminian, I have found out some flaws in Arminianism, and evidenced my impartiality in pointing them out, as well as the flaws of Calvinism. (See the preface.) As a witness for the truth of the Gospel, I hope I have learned to bear reproach from all sorts of people with more undaunted courage : and I humbly trust, that, were I called to seal with my blood the truth of the doctrines of grace and justice against the Pharisees and the Antinomians, I could (Divine grace supporting me to the last) do it more rationally, and of consequence with greater steadiness. Again': as a follower of Christ, I hope I have learned to disregard my dearest friends for my heavenly Prophet: or, to speak the language of our Lord, I hope I have learned to “ forsake father, mother, and brothers, for Christ's sake and the Gospel's.” As a disputant, I'have learned that solid arguments and plais scriptures make no more impression upon bigotry than the charmer's voice does upon the deaf adder ; and by that mean, I hope, I depend less upon the powers of reason, the letter of the Scripture, and the candour of professors, than I formerly did. As a believer, I have been brought to see and feel that the power of the Spirit of truth, which teaches men to be of one heart and of one mind, and makes them think and speak the same, is at a very low ebb in the religious world ; and that the prayer which I ought continually to offer is, O Lord, baptize Christians with the Spirit of truth, and the fire of love. Thy kingdom come! Bring thy Church out of the wilderness of error and sin into the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” As a member of the Church of England, I have learned to be pleased with our holy mother for giving us floods of pure morality. to wash away the few remaining Calvinian freckles still perceptible upon her face. As a Christian, I hope I have learned in'some degree to exercise that charity which teaches us boldly to oppose a dangerous error without ceasing to honour and love its abettors, so far as they resemble
our Lord; and teaches us to use an irony with St. Paul and Jesus Christ, not as an enemy uses a dagger, but as a surgeon uses a lancet or a caustic: and, lastly, as a writer, I have learned to feel the truth of Solomon's observation : 5 Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh ; let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter : fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man,” and the sum of the anti-Solifidian truth, which I endeavour to vindicate.
I do not say that I have learned any of these lessons as I should have done ; but I hope I have learned so much of them as to say, that in these respects my controversial toil has not been altogether in vain in the Lord. And now, reader, let me entreat thee to pray, that if I am spared to vindicate more fully what appears to us the Scriptural doctrine of grace; I may be so helped by the Father of lights and the God of love, as to speak the pure truth in perfect love, and never more drop a needlessly severe expression. Some such have escaped me before I was aware. In endeavouring to render my style nervous, I have sometimes inadvertently rendered it provoking Instead of saying that the doctrines of grace (so called) represented God as 6 absolutely graceless” toward myriads of " reprobated culprits ;" I would now say, that, upon the principles of my opponents, God 'appears “ devoid of grace" toward those whom he has absolutely " reprobated” from all eternity. The thought is the same, I grant; but the expressions are less grating and more decent. This propriety of language I labour after, as well as after more meekness of wisdom. The Lord help me and my antagonists to “ keep our garments clean!" Controvertists ought to be clothed with an ardent, flaming love for truth, and a candid, humble regard for their neighbours. May no root of prejudice stain that flaming love! no malice rend our seamless garments ! and, if they are ever “rolled in blood,” may it be only in the blood of our common enemies, destructive error, and the man of sin!.