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those who even in the world's opinion have a title to our good offices," (p. 247), we should in vain set up a claim to Christian benevolence, emphatically adds, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." How does He state this, and what does He mean by it? He must mean, that by doing this, and this only, we are not doing all that he requires of us. But then it is implied that a general claim of those who need is not supposed to be included in what the world requires, and what he seeks to effect is, that it should be so included. If we are to take the words quoted, literally, we are constrained to confess our Saviour to have commanded an impossibility, for man on earth cannot be perfect as God in heaven. The command, therefore, can consistently be held to imply no more than a continued endeavour to advance towards the perfections revealed.
To Mr. WILBerforce.
CHAP. IV. § 6. 8vo. edit. P. 249.
Grand radical defect in the system of Nominal ChristiansNeglect of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity.
My last letter was a disputation with you upon what may be termed our tactics in the war with evil. How far we may, without imprudence, tolerate, what you always appear to forget, its unavoidable presence. We now come a second time to your grand panacea for all our defects, the "In hoc signo vinces" of your system. A point of faith, to our imagined deficiency in which, you can trace, as you suppose, the source of all our errors and all our imperfections. But when this supposed deficiency is explained, we must really beg leave to deny the charge as defined in your indictment. Our practical system is not founded in forgetfulness of all or any of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity. We do not either deny or forget therein the corruption of human nature, the atonement of
the Christ, or the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit; all these things we learned in our catechism, and have believed from our youth up. The distinction, then, between our religious system, and what you suppose to be true Christianity, if any difference there be, must resolve itself into difference of interpretation.
You begin your argument with not a bad, but by no means new picture of irresolute penitents. Of course, their reformation is incomplete. You pronounce upon it in these words, "The path they are treading is not that which the Gospel has provided for conducting them to true holiness :" (p. 292). But what have you proved? Not that this is not the path that they should tread, but that either they do not persevere in treading it, or that they do not commence treading it with sincerity. You have only shewn the irresolution of some, and the original unreality of the repentance of others; not either their ignorance of Christianity, or their forgetfulness of its peculiarities: (p. 252). You then give us a specimen of the advice you suppose us to give to a desponding penitent. Wherein, though it is easy to see that we have not worded it for ourselves, although we might challenge some things which give an unfair aspect of lukewarmness, yet, as intrinsically the advice is most excellent, and in
substance very much what we should give, I hesitate not to adopt it.
You then, by way of contrast, (p. 257), give a specimen of what you say the Scriptures advise under the same circumstances. You begin by
saying, "Lay afresh the whole foundation of your religion." But, Sir, suppose, as we take the liberty of supposing, that foundation to have been Jesus the Messiah, how then can your penitent obey you? The commencement of our advice supposes the real and humble penitence of the sinner, it is given to him in this state. He is desponding, we therefore give him comfort in words he is likely to understand. Your two paragraphs are not, as you seem to imagine, contradictions. You have put our advice into the vernacular, a little invidiously, perhaps, your own you express most oracularly, by quotation from Scripture; but this is all the claim it has to being more scriptural than ours, essentially they are the same. We do not deny either directly, or indirectly, that we are saved by faith. The word conditions, which always appears to excite so much holy horror in your mind, is, as I explained before, solely applied to works of Christian obedience to be performed after primary justification, and which not only by our own Scripture, but by your own numerous quota
tions from your version, we are commanded to perform, if we would profit by the amnesty, in the first instance so freely accorded to us 1.
In following you further into the ensuing argument, I am well aware I am committing the trespass of repetition. But the peculiar arrangement of your book has obliged me also in more than this instance to repeat, and to adopt a style and arrangement altogether different to what I myself should have chosen. The whole difference which you so loudly and constantly complain of in the definitions of our respective creeds, is, I conceive, easily reconcileable by attention to Mr. Locke's distinction before alluded to, of primary justification, the being "called into a state of salvation," and the ultimate accomplishment of that salvation. I consequently here again deny your charge, repeated in page 255, that we conceive "that holiness is to be obtained by our own natural and unassisted efforts." We conceive no such thing. But we do conceive, that grace is not irresistible, and that we may "quench the Spirit ;" that we have, in short, to use our own language, free-will. And
As to St. Paul, and his misconstrued word, works, you have recommended Cowper to us. Pray read the notes to Southey's Kehama, and you may have a better idea of the sort of works the Apostle alludes to, and the sort of ideas he meant to combat.