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you allow nothing for his frailty? And if, in your opinion, he had really endeavoured to amend his conduct, imperfect as it still might be proved to be, if judged in strict justice by the rule of perfection, would you hold yourself absolved from your promise, and punish him for remaining imperfection? Would you not rather receive him with open arms, and be inclined rather to go beyond than to retract from your promised indulgence? And if his schoolmaster should expatiate solely upon his remaining faults, attribute them entirely to the child's misconception in imagining that his amendment was to be the cause of forgiveness and reconciliation, naturally including the pony promised as the earnest of its completion, instead of the effect of his mother's advice, in anticipation of which it had been accorded, and add, that because of such misconception, the boy could be only nominally, not really, amended, and therefore, not only deserved to lose his reward, but even to be excluded from your presence;-would this, I ask you, give you any very exalted idea of the pedagogue's soundness of judgment, or his peculiar fitness as an instructor for your son?
In fine, Sir, we contend that free-will remained. All were called: many who would not, but we must not say any who could not, accept. But then, as in the above instance, these said "fruits
of holiness," be they ever so much effects, would be, as they ever have been, more or less imperfect, after all; after this admitted justification and reconciliation had taken place: yet we must not, surely, suppose, that on this account the reconciliation was to become void, the atonement vain! How then were men to be judged? By their faith, you will say. But what can faith here mean but sincerity? which must be, we believe, the test to Omniscience, as outward actions or visible impulses to our less perfect perceptions. If then they had this quality, "the door of mercy was opened to those, who, on the ground of their own merits (even after justification) could not claim acceptance;" and they were to be " admitted, for Christ's sake, on condition of their having previously sincerely endeavoured to satisfy the demands of Divine justice, moderated" from the perfect obedience of the law of works, by the promise conveyed through the Messiah, to the aforesaid quality of faith or sincerity, whichever you please to call it.
You accuse us of "talking too much of terms and performances on our part." If we talk of them "too much," we are wrong, no doubt. But you surely will not contend that we have none to perform, or deny the promises and the threats attached to the performance or non-performance of them! This would indeed be "rendering the word of God
of none effect!" In talking of them, we do not of necessity deny the free gift you insist upon. We admit it as readily as you can do: but we speak of the conditions upon which it is to be retained: and as those conditions can, in our opinion, be but imperfectly fulfilled, we allow that after all we have but the mercy of our Master to trust to. We either have free-will or we have it not. If we have it, though we fully acknowledge the necessity of the promised assistance of the Holy Spirit, we must dispose ourselves to co-operate with it, or we cannot expect it. If we have not free-will, then fate is all in all, and we have but to sit still, and wait the event which we cannot control.-But Heaven preserve us from any such belief!
To Mr. WILBerforce.
CHAP. III. § 4. 8vo. edit. p. 99.
Some practical Consequences of the prevailing fundamental Misconception of the Scheme and essential Principle of the Gospel.
HAVING, in my last Letter, endeavoured to show you that our opinions, even in the form you have chosen to put them, are by no means adverse to your own, I now come to what you term "some practical consequences of the errors you have noticed:" errors, which if error there be, I trust I have reduced to one, namely, our different mode of stating our belief. That practical evils may arise from the abuse of our mode, as from any other, we do not deny; from its use we do. But would no practical evils result from an abuse of yours? You do not deny it; but describe them as well and as truly as we could do. But then, we contend that the practical evils arising from the abuse of our mode, are, beyond comparison, less formidable than those which are the result of the
abuse of your's, and our mode itself far less likely to be abused. Before you can fix your charges upon us, you must prove that we deny our state of sin, and the necessity of Christ to our salvation; that we deny God to be the Giver of victory, because we ourselves must strive for it, or that every good gift is from God. As for gratitude, have we, by our own showing, no cause for gratitude? Do we deny the mercy of God in having borne with us, and even fostered us during our rebellion? Do we deny his mercy in the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ? Have we no cause of gratitude to a Saviour, who not only died but lived for us, performing the whole law, an example of its realities, teaching us the true distinction between good and evil, and dying, the spotless sacrifice, for our sanctification? Indeed, we may rather retort upon you, in a charge of absorbing the merits of a life of benefit in the single fact of death. You complain that we look upon Christianity as a contract, (p. 99). If we do so, it is referable to what I have before explained of primary reconciliation and ultimate acceptance. I dare say you would not quarrel with the term covenant; and this, as we understand it, is a mere synonym with contract. I must here notice a remarkable sentence in your book, (p. 100), which, after your indignant denial in your second section of this chapter, (p. 70), I