PRINTED BY HUGH GAINE, AT THE BIBLE, IN
MY RESPECTED BRETHREN,
ABOUT eighteen months ago, I published and recommended to your serious consideration, a plain Discourse on the doctrine of Regeneration. In that Discourse, I treated the subject in such a manner as, I conceived, was strictly conformable to the Article and Liturgy of our Church taken together and in their genuine signification; warranted by Holy Scripture; and supported by the testimony of the Fathers in the first and purest ages of Christianity. In order to show that there seemed to be, on this point, a concurrence of sentiment among Protestants of different denominations, if one might form a judgment from their Books published by authority; I introduced several quotations; and among others, one or two from the Liturgy and Catechism of the Reformed Dutch Church. This, I find, has not, in some instances, been well received. During the time that has elapsed since the publication of my Discourse, animadversions have been preparing; and they at length come to the World in the form of a Sermon on the Character of Simon the Sorcerer, by the Rev. Dr. Linn; to which is added an Appendix addressed more immediately to me. Although I have as little inclination for controversy, as he or any other person can have; this public attack seems to render a public vindication necessary. We have lived, for [3/4] several years past, in habits of friendship. We have been accustomed to converse, and sometimes to dispute with franknes and good humour; and I am persuaded, we can discuss on paper a disputable point of Divinity, without introducing any of that wrath and bitterness, and malice, by which controversies of all sorts are commonly rendered hurtful and disgusting.
Such of you, my Brethren, as have read my Sermon and Appendix, may recollect, that I inculcated in them the following Doctrines: "That Baptism is an Institution of Jesus Christ, by which we are taken out of the world, out of our natural state, and incorporated into his Church: That in every person regularly baptized, the Spirit of God has begun a work of holiness, which does not necessarily compel the soul to everlasting felicity; but has a direct tendency, by a gradual increase, to prepare it for complete and eternal salvation: That every person thus assisted by the Holy Spirit is enabled to fulfil his baptismal engagements; and consequently, is obnoxious to the just judgment of God, if he fail to fulfil them: That in this situation, he is said to be regenerated: That baptized Children, who die before the commission of actual sin, are undoubtedly saved: But, that when those who were baptized in their infancy, come to age, are capable of understanding the nature of their baptismal promise and vow, they must ratify and confirm the same in their own persons; they must believe [4/5] and do what was then undertaken for them by their Sureties, which is considered as their own act; otherwise, they will eventually derive no benefit from the Gospel Covenant into which they are admitted: And, by parity of reason, that the same may be affirmed of baptized Adults, who must be sincerely penitent and believing (God always imparting grace sufficient to enable them to become so;) otherwise the Gospel Covenant will be of no advantage to them."
That I am authorized to use the term Regeneration in the sense which I have here affixed to it, is evident from the Scriptures; from some of the most pious and learned of the primitive Fathers; and from the language of our own Church. The word occurs but twice in the New Testament; once in St. Matthew's Gospel, [* Matt. xix. 28] where our Lord says to his Disciples, "Ye who have followed me in Regeneration;" which words the learned Dr. Hammond thus paraphrases; "ye that are now my Disciples; and have by receiving the faith and baptism, left all to follow me." [* Hammond in loc.] Other Commentators, indeed, give another explanation of this passage; but, with respect to these words of St. Paul, "the washing or Laver of Regeneration," they almost unanimously agree, that by them the Apostle means Baptism. [* See Theodoret among the Antients; Whitby, Hammond, &c. among the Moderns.] The primitive Fathers of the Church abound in the same language. Let me entreat your patience, while I produce a few instances. [5/6] "Baptism is the beginning of life; and that day of Regeneration is the first of all days. [* Basil de Spirito Sancto.] Baptism is the ransom of captives, the remission of sins, the death of sin, the Regeneration of the soul, the grace of adoption. [* Basil in exhort. ad Bapt.] The Regeneration of Holy Baptism. [* Theodoret on Ps. 18.] In our Regeneration, the words of God spoken by the Priest form and regenerate him who is baptised. [* Chrysostom on Gal. 4.] The Persons who are to be baptized, are brought to the water; and there, they are regenerated in the same manner, in which we were regenerated. For they are then washed with water, in the name of the Parent of all things, and of Jesus Christ our Saviour, and of the Holy Spirit." [* Justin Martyr.] In exact conformity to these declarations of the Antients, our Church asserts, that every baptized Child is regenerated. These authorities are abundantly sufficient to justify me in the use of the Term, in that sense which I have annexed to it. Dr. Linn speaks of defending the old Doctrine; whereas the truth of the matter is, his doctrine of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism is a modern invention utterly unknown to the ancient Fathers and Martyrs of the Church. [* Whatever some of the Divines of the Dutch Church may say to the contrary; they who drew up her Confession of Faith, evidently paid some regard to this doctrine of Antiquity. Besides the quotations that I formerly made, all of which have this aspect; that Church says, speaking of Holy Baptism, every man ought to be but once baptized with this only Baptism, since we cannot be born twice. Conf. of Faith.]
I am censured for maintaining, "that the regular administration of the Sacrament of Baptism [6/7] is always accompanied by assisting grace." I, nevertheless, assert that this opinion is well founded. I cannot believe that Baptism is a Divine Institution for the purpose of introducing us into that Church of which the Holy Spirit is the vital principle; I cannot read the glorious things that are spoken of it in Scripture, and by the primitive Writers, who must have known the sentiments of the Apostles on this subject--I cannot be acquainted with these things; and yet, not be convinced, that the Holy Spirit always accompanies the regular administration of this Sacred Ordinance, in such a degree, as would be sufficient under due improvement, to prepare the soul for heavenly felicity. Here the words of divine inspiration--"Go ye, and teach (Make Disciples of) all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism. Ye are buried with him in Baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him. By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ."
The assistance of the Holy Spirit is a part of that purchase which Christ made for mankind, when he undertook the Redemption of the world. As we are all baptized into one Body, the visible Church; so the Spirit is undoubtedly given to every man to profit withal. God can, indeed, communicate grace, without the use of Sacraments, or any other means; and I doubt not, this divine [7/8] Spirit operates among the Heathen who never heard the sound of the Gospel. By this blessed agency, Socrates, and Cicero, and many others were made wise and good, and fitted for the enjoyment of heavenly felicity. And may we not reasonably suppose, that his influence is co-extensive with the progress of the Gospel; that it is communicated, in a greater or less degree, to every Member of the visible Church? I am persuaded, it was imparted even to Simon the Sorcerer himself.
But, it will be objected; why then are not all so thoroughly sanctified, as to be rendered without exception fit for the kingdom of glory? For this plain reason; because many wilfully grieve the Holy Spirit [* Ephes. v. 30.]--they do despite unto him [* Heb. x. 29.]--they provoke him no longer to strive with them [* Gen. vi. 3.]--they fall away, after they were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. [* Heb. vi. 4.] Dr. Linn, indeed, asserts; and quotes to that purpose the assertions of others; "That those who are the subjects of supernatural grace cannot totally and finally fall away. The same divine Agent which began, will perfect the work--That the seed which is planted by divine grace shall be preserved by divine power. A gracious God will not suffer it to be smothered by contending weeds." It is a little unlucky, that the same illusion should be here employed to establish the doctrine of final perseverance, which our Saviour uses to teach his Disciples the very reverse; which is, that the good Seed may be received [8/9] into the heart; and yet afterwards be cheked by the thorny cares and perplexities of this world.
Dr. Linn's opinion of Simon the Sorcerer, therefore, is, "that he never was freed from the gall of bitterness and loosed from the bond of iniquity, but they seemed more and more to prevail over him. If he had ever had this grace, he could not thus have totally and finally fallen away." And yet, the Scriptures inform us that Simon believed; that he requested the Apostle to intercede for him; and that he was exhorted by St. Peter to repent and pray for pardon, upon a clear intimation that his sins might be remitted. And would an inspired Apostle, who was a discerner of Spirits, and must have been perfectly acquainted with the will of God in the case--would he have exhorted Simon to repent, or intimated that upon his prayer, his offence would be forgiven; if he had not known that the Holy Spirit was ready to succour him, and that God for Christ's sake was willing to forgive? If no influence of supernatural grace was ever imparted to Simon, could he, at last, be equitably condemned by his righteous Judge? Might he not reasonably allege in extenuation of his conduct, "Lord, I acknowledge, my offence was very grievous--thy holy Apostle sharply reproved me for it; he earnestly exhorted me to repent: he plainly signified that my crime might be forgiven. But, I find, [9/10] these were all unmeaning words. Thou knowest, Lord, I never was the subject of supernatural grace. I was not included in the absolute decree. My name was not inserted in the roll of thy invisible Church. I had no Redeemer to make atonement for my sins; consequently, they could not be forgiven. It was impossible for me to repent and amend, because I never had the aid of the Holy Spirit; for if I ever possessed it, I could not have totally and finally fallen away." These are absurdities shocking to every reasonable mind; and which, to be abhorred, need only be mentioned.
Dr. Linn assigns three causes for the error into which, he supposes, I have fallen; the first of which is, "Inattention to the figurative language of Scripture and the nature of a Sacrament, in which the sign is often put for the thing signified." But, the figurative language of Scripture respecting the Sacraments must certainly mean something--must imply that some spiritual benefit is intended to the Recipient by the Institutor of them; and not, as Dr. Linn asserts, that they confer no grace. Our Church gives this definition of a Sacrament: "It is an outward and visible Sign of an inward and spiritual Grace given unto us; ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof." When persons come to age, the Church, indeed supposes faith and repentance to be necessary in order to render the Sacraments efficacious. But here [10/11] is the great difference between her doctrine and that of Dr. Linn. He maintains, that the Sacraments have no salutary effect upon many of those who receive them, for this reason, "Because these persons were not considered in the counsel of Salvation; they were passed by in the absolute decree of election; their names were not enrolled in the catalogue of the invisible Church which was made before the foundation of the world; for without a man have his name in the Covenant, the seal set to it confirms nothing to him." But, although some pious men of the Church of England may have supported this opinion; the Church knows nothing of the matter. She invariably supposes the Sacraments to have been originally intended equally for the benefit of all who have an opportunity of receiving them. And if there be any who derive no benefit from them; if, "in the visible Church, the evil be mingled with the good;" this arises entirely from their abuse of that Grace which God has imparted to them, and from their voluntary neglect of those privileges which he has bestowed upon them.
The second cause of my error, assigned by Dr. Linn, "is my not distinguishing between the visible and invisible Church." As to the invisible Church, we know nothing about it. But, from Divine Revelation we know; that Christ has established a visible Church upon earth: that he has appointed Sacraments to be the means of our receiving spiritual grace, and pledges to assure us thereof: [11/12] that he has ordained a Ministry to act in his name and by his authority. And, I never can believe, that Christ will command me, in any one instance, to administer the Sacrament of Baptism to a helpless mortal, as a pledge of the Redeemer's love, and a seal of the covenant of grace; when he has previously determined in the counsel of salvation to pass this poor mortal by; and has left his name out of the covenant of mercy, into which, upon Dr. Linn's principles, it can never afterwards be inserted. What would we think of the wisdom and goodness of that Prince, who should issue a proclamation, offering certain great privileges to his people; should command them, for that purpose, to assemble in a particular place; should graciously offer to supply them with the means of coming together; and should send forth his Ministers invested with authority to sign and seal, in his name, the necessary instruments for conveying the specified privileges? All this is done; but is found, at last, that many derived no benefit from this benevolent proclamation, because they did not assemble at the appointed place; and they did not assemble there, because their Prince had not furnished them with the necessary means of so doing; and he did not furnish them with the necessary means, because, long before the proclamation was issued, he had made out a secret list of names, and had previously determined to confer the benefits offered in his general proclamation, only upon those particular persons whose names were written in the secret list; and would, nevertheless, grievously [12/13] punish those, who did not come to receive the proffered kindness. This we should deem a very absurd and arbitrary procedure; and yet this is a just representation of Dr. Linn's account of Christ, his Ministers, and people.
The third cause of my error, "is my not attending to certain circumstances in the primitive Church." Whatever the circumstances of the primitive Church were, we have already heard the sentiments of some of the most learned and pious Fathers, on the subject of Baptism. From the best information I have been able to obtain, I will venture to affirm, that for the first three hundred years, they give no countenance to those doctrines advanced by Dr. Linn in his Sermon and Appendix, which I have here undertaken to controvert.
From the preceding observations it will appear that a great part of his Sermon is entirely superfluous, so far as it goes to the proving of what no one ever denied; "that Baptism does not produce such an entire and unalterable sanctification of the human Soul, as necessarily concludes in heavenly happiness and glory." The baptized infant is fit for the kingdom of heaven. But the grace of Baptism may be afterwards impeded in its operations, and perhaps entirely lost, by the unruly will and affections of sinful man. Equally unnecessary was his quotation of the Articles, to prove that "in the invisible Church, the evil are ever mingled with the good: and that [13/14] in such only as worthily receive the Sacraments they have a wholesome effect or operation." The great question is, has it been determined in the Counsel of Salvation, who shall be evil, and who shall be good? Are these two parties accurately defined, and forever separated by the impassable barrier of absolute decrees? Is this the sole reason, why many are not benefitted by the sacraments; that God has left them on the unhappy side of the separating wall? Our Church knows no such doctrine. She teaches, indeed, that the unworthy derive no benefit from the Sacraments; but then, the loss of this benefit is to be attributed entirely, (as has been already observed,) to their own voluntary neglect or abuse of those powers and privileges which God's mercy placed in their hands; and not to any unavoidable exclusion occasioned by an absolute decree.
With equal ease the following positions may be exposed: "Regeneration is absolutely necessary to salvation, but Baptism is not absolutely necessary; therefore Baptism is not Regeneration. Faith and repentance are the fruits of Regeneration; but a possession of these is required of Adults previous to Baptism; and therefore Baptism is not Regeneration." How far, or in what manner, the Spirit of God may operate upon the hearts of those who never heard the name of Christ, it is not for us to determine. We trust, that He will prepare many persons so situated, without Baptism, [14/15] for the felicity of heaven; for, we are told, "that in every nation, they who fear God and work righteousness, will be accepted of him." But, let it be remembered, that we live under the Dispensation of the Gospel. By this Gospel, must our principles and practices be regulated. We know of no method by which to gain admission into the invisible, but thro' the visible Church. The Scriptures represent Baptism as necessary for the remission of Sin. The message to St. Paul was, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins." [* Acts xxii. 16.] "Repent," said St. Peter to the Jews, "be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." [* Acts ii. 38.] And accordingly, our Church, holding fast the form of sound words once delivered to the saints, professes her faith "in one Baptism for the remission of sins." [* Nicene Creed.] And is it, as Dr. Linn asserts? "Is Regeneration in persons adult, instead of being conferred in Baptism, requisite to it and a reason for its administration?" Then it will follow; that as Regeneration comes before Faith and Repentance; and as Faith and Repentance must precede Baptism; and as, upon the Gospel-plan, Baptism is necessary for the remission of sin; a person may be regenerated before his sins are forgiven. Again, he says; "Baptism is a visible sign and seal of inward grace, and not the grace itself; but Regeneration is the grace itself; and therefore Baptism is not Regeneration:" which is just as good an argument as the [15/16] following: "Washing is the outward means of cleanliness, and not cleanliness itself; but purification is cleanliness itself; therefore washing is not purification." Washing, however, and purification may well go together; the one may be the immediate effect of the other. In Holy Baptism, which is the Laver of Regeneration, the child is washed from all the stains of original sin, and is accounted pure in the sight of God. If pollutions be afterwards contracted, he is not then to be re-baptized; but these pollutions must be washed away, from time to time, by sincere repentance; which is the appointed mean for that purpose; and is rendered efficacious by virtue of that Covenant of grace, of which Baptism is the seal. And here, I heartily subscribe to the doctrine of the Dutch Church; "neither doth this Baptism only avail us at the time when the water is poured upon us, and received by us; but also thro' the whole course of our life." [* Confession of Faith.]
Having thus endeavoured to vindicate the sentiments delivered in my Discourse on Regeneration, from the objections which have been brought forward by the Rev. Dr. Linn; I shall request your indulgence, my Brethren, a little longer, while I make a few observations on several opinions advanced by him, in various parts of his Sermon on the character of Simon the Sorcerer. I consider these opinions as having a dangerous tendency to the cause of true Religion; and while I entertain a due respect for his eminent talents [16/17] and upright intentions; I cannot help recollecting, that the wisest and best men have sometimes been insensibly seduced into error, by an over anxious desire to defend an established system. My duty is to warn you of danger, however distant it may appear or from whatever quarter it may be approaching.
He asserts; "that the opinion of a sufficiency or universality of grace is by no means admissible; That my denial of election and final perseverance is unsupported by Scripture and the Articles of my own Church: That one mark of the depraved natural man is, that he quarrels with absolute decrees." These are heavy charges, under the weight of which many pious Saints must fall, who never deemed it a mark of natural depravity to dispute the doctrine of particular election and absolute decrees. Notwithstanding these strong assertions, my sentiments on the subject remain unaltered; and in confirmation of them, I will produce only four passages of Sacred Scripture; but these are so unequivocal, pointed, and forceful, that they are as good as four Thousand. "The Lord is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. [* 2 Peter iii. 9.] That Jesus, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man. [* Heb. ii. 9.] Who gave himself a ransom for all. [* 1 Tim. ii. 6.] He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." [* 1 John ii. 2.] I cannot [17/18] read these clear and expressive declarations of the divinely-inspired Apostles, and yet believe, that a Redeemer was provided only for a part of mankind; that the rest were left to perish without an atonement or a Mediator; that our merciful God has not imparted to every one of us, a sufficient degree of grace to produce repentance and amendment; and consequently, to render impenitence and perseverance in sin, obnoxious to the fairest rules of equity to his righteous judgment. I doubt not, the consciousness of having despised the Redemption that was wrought out for them, and done despite to the Spirit that was imparted to them, will be a source of bitter remorse to condemned sinners, thro' the endless ages of eternity.
But here, I shall be referred to the Articles of our Church, which are supposed to maintain the doctrine which I am now opposing. The Articles, when taken together and explained by the Liturgy, which is certainly the best comment on them, maintain no such doctrine. The moderation of the Church of England is well known. When her Articles were compiled, there were in that Church some pious men, who from their intercourse with Calvin or his Disciples, had imbibed some of their opinions; and, on this account, the Articles were drawn up with such a latitude of expression, that men of different sentiments might freely subscribe to them. Whether this were not so far defeating the very design of Articles may admit of some dispute. In this spirit, however, it is evident the Seventeenth Article was composed, which is always brought forward [18/19] in this controversy. The beginning of it seems to hold forth the doctrine of a particular Election; the middle of it is equivocal; and the last clause fairly leaves us to take the word of God for our guide, and to explain the declarations of Scripture so as best to make them all harmonize. But, there is another Article as explicit as words can make it; and with this, the whole liturgy perfectly corresponds--"The offering of Christ once made, is that perfect Redemption, Propitiation, and Satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual. [* Article 31.] I learn to believe in God the Son, who hath redeemed me and all mankind. [* Catechism.] Who made by his one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world." [*Communion Service.] Many other expressions of similar import might be produced; but these, I trust, are sufficient to show that my opinion on this subject is not "unsupported by Scripture and the Articles of my own Church; and that I am not bringing the doctrines of my Church into discredit."
Dr. Linn asserts; "if it be said, that Simon the Sorcerer might have improved his measure of grace if he would; then the counsel of salvation rests merely on the human will." In what manner the Holy Spirit co-operates with the human mind, I do not pretend to explain; but that his operations are perfectly consistent with my free-agency, I am as thoroughly convinced, as I can be of my own existence: And, I believe that [19/20] every Man, upon examining the movements of his own mind, must be conscious that he has a Will of his own. But, how does this make the counsel of God with respect to our salvation, rest merely on the human will? In the wise and merciful counsel of God, a Redeemer was provided for Sinners; an atonement was offered for sin; the aid of the Divine Spirit was purchased to repair our shattered powers and renovate our corrupted nature. These are inestimable blessings, in the procuring of which the human will had nothing to do. But, is it the counsel of God to obtrude these blessings upon us by violence? May we not accept, or refuse them? God, who created us, has made us what we are, moral agents, capable of reward and punishment: And he deals with us according to that nature which he has given us. He prompts us by moral motives, and does not compel us by irresistible force. Otherwise, it would be altogether absurd to commend the Righteous for accepting the blessing of Redemption; and it would be equally unjust and cruel to punish the Wicked for rejecting it.
It is Dr. Linn's opinion; "That the inward grace of the Sacrament is not communicated to all: That the Sacraments confer no grace; for without a man have his name in the covenant, the seal set to it confirms nothing to him"--that is, Christ Jesus the Institutor of the Sacraments, tho' he has commanded all who hear the Gospel to comply with his Institution and receive these Sacraments, has nevertheless previously determined that they shall be of service to those only, whose names are included within [20/21] the absolute decree that was established before the foundation of the world. There seems to be some palpable absurdity in this principle. Let us see how it will operate in the administration of Christ's Church. Suppose a pious parent to have brought a child to Dr. Linn for holy Baptism. Suppose him to have just baptized the Child according to the form of the Dutch Church. What impropriety would there be, were the parent then to cast his eyes upon the smiling Infant's face, and make this soliloquy over it; "My dear Child, I have brought thee into the house of God, and have dedicated thee to Christ in that Holy Ordinance which he himself hath appointed. The liturgy of our Church has told me, that Baptism is an ordinance of God to seal unto us and to our seed his covenant. I have made a public profession of my belief of the articles of the christian faith. Dr. Linn has just returned this solemn thanksgiving, Almighty God and merciful Father, we thank and praise thee, that thou hast forgiven us and our children all our sins. But, I am afraid that these are all empty, insignificant words; for he has lately taught me in his Sermon on the character of Simon the Sorcerer, that this Sacrament confers no grace: that unless thy name be in the covenant by an absolute decree established long before thou or thy parent came into existence, it confirms nothing to thee. Should thy name not have been written in this covenant, all that I have done for thee is of no avail. Shouldest thou be taken out of the world this very night, [21/22] there would be as great a probability of thy going to Hell, as to Heaven." Surely every affectionate Parent, every tender-hearted Christian will shudder at doctrines fraught with such horrible consequences! They will enquire with surprize, why those doctrines should claim an exclusive right to the appellation of the Doctrines of Grace, which leave the greater part of mankind without a Redeemer, and destitute of the aid of Supernatural Grace? They will rather denominate those the truly gracious doctrines, which teach, that Christ made a propitiation for the sins of the whole world: that in Baptism regularly administered, God does indeed forgive our Children all their sins: that a sufficiency of divine grace is universally imparted to all who live under the dispensation of the Gospel.
Dr. Linn considers the doctrine advanced by me, "so dangerous in its consequence, that it should not escape notice; and, therefore takes the same liberty in contradicting, which I had taken in asserting." With this I am perfectly satisfied; for I wish not to maintain any opinion which will not bear the test of a full and candid investigation. My doctrine is, indeed, opposed to the system of Calvin; but, since all men are liable to err, it is not therefore, by necessary consequence, dangerous to the cause of truth. My Brethren, to your candour and good sense I am ready to make the appeal--examine diligently; and then decide, which doctrine is of most dangerous consequence to virtue and religion. That which I oppose, renders the sacred ordinance of Baptism a mere insignificant ceremony; [22/23] as it declares, that, before the administration of this Sacrament, the covenant must be established which cannot be broken, and the saving grace which cannot be lost, otherwise it confirms nothing: It destroys the moral agency of Man, and renders him a senseless machine in the great business of religion and working out his future happiness; because it teaches, that the human will is of no consideration in the counsel of salvation: It makes the General Judgment an unreasonable procedure of arbitrary power, rewarding the righteous for what was not their own choice; and punishing the wicked for what they could not avoid: It renders all human exertion entirely fruitless and unnecessary; for the adamantine chain of absolute decrees cannot be broken; the salvation of the elect cannot be made more sure; the invisible Church cannot be increased; and the deplorable situation of the unredeemed can never be altered; for no atonement has hitherto been offered for them, and now there is no more atonement for sin to be expected: It makes our sacraments, our prayers and praises of no significance; and renders the concluding exhortation of Dr. Linn's Sermon, "let us work out our own Salvation with fear and trembling," like all other exhortations, a fruitless absurdity; for if I am included in the absolute decree, why should I fear and tremble? If I am not, it is an insult to exhort me to work out my own salvation.
Consider, I beseech you, on the other hand, the tendency of those religious principles which, with simplicity and godly sincerity I deem it my [23/24] duty to inculcate upon your minds. By these principles you are taught, that the mercy of your Redeemer has offered a full, perfect, and sufficient atonement for the sins of you all: That he has instituted a Church upon earth, thro' which alone, they to whom the Gospel is given, must expect to ascend to his kingdom in glory: That he hath appointed the Sacrament of Baptism as the instrument of admission into his Church, by which he doth work invisibly in you. [* Article 25.] That the Holy Spirit is given to all Members of this visible Church--given to every man, to profit withal; to subdue the depravity of your nature, and to sanctify you in soul, body, and spirit: That the influence of this Holy Spirit does not destroy the moral agency of man: That life and death are placed before you; and, by the fairest rules of equity, you will be accountable for your choice: That the Spirit prompts you to chuse life; but you may grieve and quench and do despite unto this good and friendly monitor; you may provoke him no longer to strive with you; and if everlasting death be the unhappy consequence, you will be consigned to punishment for having troden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant wherewith ye were sanctified, an unholy thing. Upon these principles, I can consistently urge the most perfect man in Christ Jesus, to be perpetually vigilant and industrious, because he may lose the heavenly gift; and I can warn the Sinner of the dreadful aggravation of his crimes, because they are committed against the remonstrances of God's Spirit, and with a voluntary rejection of proferred mercy. I can [24/25] consistently press the indispensible necessity of repentance, faith, and obedience; because these are the conditions of the covenant into which you were admitted by Baptism. In a word, I can, without violating my principles, urge you to be ever attentive to the precepts of sobriety, righteousness, and godliness: thro' every period of your life, working out your own Salvation with fear and trembling, because even he may fall who thinketh he standeth in a state of the greatest security--even Paul himself, with all his high attainments, may become a cast-away.
But it is time to draw to a conclusion--I have delivered my sentiments with great freedom; but let no man whose opinions are here controverted, imagine that I am become his enemy, because I tell him plainly what I deem to be the truth. [* If the Reader wish for further information on the subject which has been discussed in the preceding pages, I would recommend to his serious attention the learned Dr. Waterland's Discourse on Regeneration; and also an excellent Sermon on Regeneration and Grace written by the Rev. Mr. Bissett, and published about five years ago at Baltimore in Maryland. I cherish Hope; I contend for Faith; but still, I consider Charity as the greatest of all virtues. He who studies to show himself approved unto God, and endeavors rightly to divide the word of truth; even if he should err thro' involuntary ignorance and infirmity, is nevertheless a Workman that needeth not to be ashamed.
NEW-YORK February 16, 1793