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minately proscribe all kinds of assurance of sal
vation,' are not prepared or disposed expressly to deny that such a persuasion and confidence may in this manner be attained and preserved : the subject therefore rather needs explaining, and freeing from misapprehensions, than arguing ; and it is not requisite to enlarge. Many, who are totally averse to the doctrine of Calvinists respecting final perseverance, are at least as decided in respect of assurance as they are. But, however held, the true assurance must be sought and obtained by diligence; and perseverance also must be expected by diligence, not indolence. God, indeed, often indulges new and inexperienced converts with such encouragements and consolations as give present assurance, or satisfaction, previous to any long course of diligence: but stable peace and confidence cannot scripturally be expected, without persevering diligence in every means of grace, and unreserved active obedience to the commands of Christ: because that alone can shew our repentance genuine, our faith living, and our love sincere. The woman to whom our Lord said, “ Thy sins are forgiven;" “ Thy faith hath “ saved thee, go in peace;" would not have been able to deduce this encouraging assurance, from her consciousness of deep repentance, and much love and gratitude to Jesus, had he not expressly told her. And the paralytic to whom he said, “ Son be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee,” might reasonably have retained some doubt of his own happiness, ? if he had not been enabled to
Luke vii. 47--50.
* Ps. xxxii, 1, 2. Rom. iv. 4-6.
“ take up his bed, and go to his house.” i But neither of them could doubt of this afterwards without express unbelief.—Thus, if we be indeed inclined and enabled by the grace of God to do that, which of ourselves we have not the dispo‘sition, and consequently not the ability to do;' we also may know that “our sins are forgiven," and that “ our faith hath saved us." Yet, if afterwards either of these persons had turned aside into the ways of sin, it would have been presumptuous in them, while living in those ways, ,
without repentance, to infer their final salvation from the words spoken by our Lord; which certainly referred to their past, and not to their future, sins. Thus, if he who has indeed been “ taught by the “ saving grace of God to deny ungodliness and
worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously “and godly, in this present world;" and in this way to obtain an assurance of his acceptance in Christ; should afterwards turn from this course of life into the ways of ungodliness and wickedness; it would be presumption in him, continuing an impenitent worker of iniquity, to be confident of his final salvation on account of the past. In such a case, distressing fears of being self-deceived as to past experience, or of having fallen from a state of acceptance, would be a far more hopeful symptom.
The sentiment, of maintaining assurance of salvation from either past experiences, or any of God's promises or decrees, while a man is living in impenitent disobedience, belongs no more to Calvin's system than to Arminius's : it is Antinomian, enthusiastic, and abominable ; and all, “who fear God and trust in his mercy,” ought to combine together in execrating and reprobating it, as the worst of heresies and presumptions.In this view of the subject, in what way can the belief of assurance be inconsistent with exhortations and exertions? It must be sought by diligence, and preserved by diligence; and the apostle supposed that the possession of it would animate to diligence : “Therefore my beloved brethren be “ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in “ the work of the Lord ; forasmuch as ye know “ that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”] And so it infallibly will, if “ the love of Christ con“strain us;" if we are actuated by holy motives; if our obedience be any thing better than mere selfishness, which will do no more than is necessary in order to escape hell,—no more than what is needful to keep up a hope of heaven. But
'Matt, ix. 1 - 7.,
every man that hath" the true and holy“ hope" and especially“ the full assurance of hope," “pu“rifieth himself even as his Lord is pure."2
On Sinless Obedience and Unspotted Purity in
* It cannot be pretended, that this Article3 gives any countenance to the Calvinistic notions of “sinless obedience and unspotted purity in the * elect; and of incorrigible pollution and inevitable wickedness in the reprobate.'4
' 1 Cor. xv.58.
? 1 John iii 1 3.
3 Art. ix.
• Ref. 51.
This subject, by the very language of it, properly belongs to another division of the work.* The incorrigible pollution and inevitable wicked' ness' of all men, except as corrected and purified by the grace of God in Christ Jesus have been already considered, and in no inconsiderable degree supported by his Lordship's own concessions : and the reprobate, however the word be understood, are supposed to live and die without that correcting and purifying grace. But the former half of the sentence may, properly, be noticed, rather more particularly in this place.
Many circumstances give plausibility to the charge against Calvinists, however unfounded, of holding lax principles respecting personal obedience and holiness : but charges of their holding notions of “sinless obedience and unspotted purity ‘in the elect' may seem to be new and inconsistent. Indeed the whole sentence seems to be an arrangement of terms which can scarcely be found together in the writings of any modern author ; except perhaps of those who seek the reputation of wit and genius by burlesquing things most serious and sacred. That body of Christians who still are known by the title of Mr. John Wesley's people, or the Wesleyan Methodists, do indeed hold the doctrine of sinless perfection, as attainable, and as sometimes actually attained, by believers ; but they seldom connect it with the term elect : and, I apprehend, never contrast it with the incorrigible pollution and inevitable
wickedness of the reprobate ;' being as decided in opposing Calvinism, in those respects, as even his Lordship himself.
But the charge appears to originate from another source ; and probably the opinion of the Wesleyan Methodists was not at all intended, or alluded to. Some few individuals, calling themselves Calvinists, and being willingly considered as such by our opponents, have maintained that the same actions, which are most atrocious crimes in other men, are not sins in believers, or in the elect ; that so, whatever they do, God sees no sin in them; but spotless holiness, as one with Christ. Bút it may be confidently asserted that, by the verdict of a very large majority of Calvinists, the mildest verdict, which would be returned againot these deluded men, would be that of lunacy; and that, as not able to give satisfactory security for their peaceable behaviour in society, they might be justly sentenced to a mild confinement, to prevent them from doing mischief. If not lunatics, they are deserving of still severer treatment, as maintaining that adultery, robbery, or even murder, would in them be no sin.
Some of the quotations from the fathers, respecting those ancient heretics whom his Lordship has endeavoured to shew that the Calvinists resemble, (with what success, I shall here leave others to judge,) shew that this was principally intended in this cursory charge against us. They say, that
they themselves, whatever material actions they 'do, are not at all hurt, nor do they lose the spiritual 'substance; therefore those of them who are
most perfect do without fear all things which are 'forbidden.'— Doing many other abominable ' and ungodly things, they inveigh against us,