THEOLOGY OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN.

REV. AND DEAR BROTHER:—

In your issue of March 14th, your correspondent, M. N., makes strictures upon my review of the Plymouth Theology, which are unjust to it and to “the truth. It is only in the interests of the latter that I wish to correct some of them. His article is one among the increasing evidences that my review was timely, and that the unscriptural excesses of the writers I exposed needed correction and are doing mischief. The best corrective in my power, perhaps, would be to procure the insertion in your paper of the whole of this passage of my review.

When read as a whole it would speak for itself.

First, M. N. is unjust in his citations, in this, among other things, that he attaches to some one, and perhaps least offensive, statement of the error I review, a strong expression of disapproval from me; which virtually refers to a number of erroneous statements taken together. Had M. N. arrayed before your readers all the dangerous propositions which my review arrayed before him, as quoted from these writers (not to say all that passed under my eye), no sober Bible reader would have thought my warning too strong.

Second, M. N. misrepresented me, as though I taught that no new-born soul ever has at first a faith so vigorous as to entitle him to an assurance of hope; that the strongest, as well as the weakest, must wait for it, and come gradually to it, through self-examination and experience. I only assert this of “a true, though weak faith.” Will M. N. deny that there is “a true, though weak faith,” which maybe and long remains without this assurance of hope? Hardly; if he does, let him read the Confession of Faith, Chap. XVIII. Sec. 3.

Again he misrepresents me, as teaching that self-consciousness, when guided by the word and Spirit, cannot testify to the presence of faith in us; but only to the presence of other, kindred graces, which are signs of faith. In the review, I teach the exact opposite. Once more, M. N. says I have failed to make or use the distinction between “the assurance of “faith,” and “the assurance of hope.” In another part of the review the distinction is expressly named by me, and my whole discussion is framed in accordance with it, as will appear in the sequel. Nor was it necessary to quote Calvin, to prove against me that the only object of faith is revealed gospel truth; that it is not only a set of theoretic propositions, but a gracious Person, on which true faith relies, etc. All this I of course hold, and shall show that it all bears for me, and against Calvin, and against M. N. But to proceed to more important points, I assert:—

1. That Calvin and Dr. Malan, and the Plymouth Brethren, hold a definition of the nature or essence of saving faith which is, in one respect, contrary to the Westminster Confession and to the Scriptures, as well as to the great body of the confessions of the Presbyterian Churches, and of their divines since Calvin’s day. I said, by way of apology for the earliest Reformers, and most notably, Luther and Calvin, that they were betrayed into this partial error by a praiseworthy zeal against the opposite and mischievous error of Rome, who seeks to hold believers always in doubt of their salvation. This explanation is true (to Calvin’s credit). In his Commentary, on Romans, as on Romans 8:16; and on 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 13:5, he places his peculiar definition over against the popish dogma, that the Christian can have only a “ conjectura moralis” of his safety; and this he does elsewhere, with a pertinacity that becomes amusing. Dr. Win. Cunningham of the Free Church gives the same account of the occasion of this error in his work, The Reformers and Theology of the Reformation, p. 119, etc. So does Dr. Hodge, Commentary, on 2 Corinthians 13:5. So does the great Owen, Justification, p. 98, etc. Now I give this explanation of Calvin’s partial error to save his credit. M. N. will not have it so; then he will needs have his admired leader discredited, for as sure as truth is in history, Luther and Calvin did fall into this error, which the Reformed churches,, led by the Westminster Confession, have since corrected.

But, not to be misunderstood again, let me define. The assurance of faith is a full practical certainty, that the gospel promise in Christ is true and trustworthy. This the Reformed churches! hold, as do I, to be necessary to the being or essence of a living faith; and it is the work, through the word, of the quickening Spirit. The assurance of hope is the full, practical certainty that I am myself a true believer, and so renewed, and an heir of heaven. This latter form of assurance is not necessary to the being or essence of a living faith; but is a reflex consequence, which faith yields when strengthened to its higher grades. Our Confession (Chap. XIV. Sec. 2), in its formal definition of what necessarily belongs to the essence of a saving faith, expressly omits it; and in Chap. XVIII. Sec. 3, it says expressly, that it “ doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long,” etc. The assurance here spoken of is termed in the title of the chapter,.” The Assurance of Grace and Salvation,” is defined as men’s being “certainly assured that they are in a state of grace,” and is called “ which hope.” This is just as I have distinguished the “assurance of hope.”

Now, I assert that Calvin, while not employing, so far as I know, this pair of phrases, was incautious enough to fall into the erroneous statement, that no faith was a living faith which did not include essentially both the assurance of faith and the assurance of hope. He is not satisfied that even the weak, new believer shall say, “I believe, with head and heart both, that Christ saves all who truly come to him, and I accordingly try to trust him alone for my salvation, and so far as I have any hope, rest it on him alone.” He requires every one to say, in substance, I believe fully that Christ has saved me. Amidst all Calvin’s verbal variations, this is always his meaning; for he is consistent in his error. What else is the meaning of that definition which M. N. himself quotes from the Institutes:—

“Our steady and certain knowledge of the divine benevolence toward us.” But I will show, beyond all dispute, that the theological “Homer nodded,” not once, but all the time, on this point. See then Institutes, Book III., Chap. II., Sec. 16.

“In short, no man is truly a believer, unless he be firmly persuaded that God is a propitious and benevolent father to him,… and feel an undoubted expectation of salvation.” Commentary, on Romans 8:16:—

“The opinion consequently stands, that no one can be called a son of God who does not know himself to be such.”

On Romans 8:34:—

“Because our faith is naught unless we certainly persuade ourselves that Christ is ours, and that the Father is propitious to us in him.”

On 1 Corinthians 2:12:—

“Let us know, therefore, that this is the nature of faith, that the conscience has from the Holy Spirit a certain testimony of the divine benevolence towards itself.”

On 2 Corinthians 13:5:—

“Paul here testifies, that whoever doubt whether they possess Christ, are reprobate.” la M. N. satisfied? Heidelberg Catechism (not written by Calvin, but by two of his pupils):—

“What is faith?” (Qu. 21)…” A. certain trust,” “by which I acquiesce in God, certainly concluding that remission of sins, and eternal righteousness and life, have been bestowed, not on others only, but on me also,” etc.

Genevan Catechism (written by Calvin himself):—

It is “a certain and stable knowledge of God’s paternal benevolence towards us.”

When I represented Calvin’s view of faith, as substantially set forth in his Commentary on Romans, as amounting to this:—

“My faith is a divine and spiritual belief that God has pardoned and accepted me,” M. N. said that if it were so (which he disputes), “Homer must have been nodding when it slipped in.” Have I not showed that it is there, and everywhere in Calvin, and that it did not “slip in,” but is his deliberate opinion? M. N. has confessed that it is untenable. Why then should there be any more difference between us, except that while I cherish a great, I do not feel an indiscriminate admiration for this Reformer?

I will complete this part of my proof as to Luther also, who shared Calvin’s error. The Augsburg Confession, written by Melancthon, but under Luther’s eye, says,; Art. IV., the Lutherans also teach that men are “justified gratuitously on account of Christ by faith, when they believe themselves to be received into grace, and their sins to be pardoned on account of Christ.”

This then, in substance, was the one error of these first Reformers about faith, that they required an assurance of hope as essential to the being of a living faith; whereas the Scriptures teach that it is not so, but is the happy reflex consequence of a more vigorous faith. And the former, in substance, is the view asserted by Dr. Malan and the Plymouth brethren and their admirers, as their boasted characteristic. True, these modern teachers are not usually wise enough to state it in the recognized theological formulary, most probably because they cherish so much disfavour for the current teachers of the great Calvinistic theology. But that it is their characteristic is plain to any one who will examine my review with candour, and will be yet clearer to one who will examine their books. They also deduce from this, their pet dogma, certain corollaries, very naturally following, but far more mischievous; and which Calvin, whose sagacity seldom failed him, would have been very sure to repudiate with earnestness. Some of these connected consequences I endeavoured to expose in the subsequent parts of my review.

2. I shall now prove that this peculiar Calvinian view of faith was soon reviewed by the great body of the orthodox Reformed, was found self-contradictory, unscriptural and mischievous, and was dropped. And first, as to the history of opinion. In Calvin’s own day, all the Reformed theologians did not go with him, but some saw and refused the erroneous element in his definition of faith. Among these I will now mention Musculus and Peter Martyr. But the first Reformers had to see the lineaments of truth amidst the heat and dust of the great battle for existence. When we come to the seventeenth century, when time had elapsed for accurate comparison, we find the view which I hold was almost universally adopted by the Reformed. Andrew Rivet is the only really influential name I now remember, who still stickled for Calvin’s peculiarity in this point. That I may not be suspected again of misrepresentation or confusion, I will borrow the statement of “Witsius ( De. Œc. Fed.) one of the soundest and most revered of Calvinistic writers. (Bk. III., Ch. IV., Sec. 14.) Having defined that which is essential to faith, expressly omitting the assurance of hope, he adds, “ After the believing soul has thus received Christ, and given himself up to him, he may and ought thence to conclude that Christ and all his saving benefits are his, and that he shall certainly be blessed by him, according to this infallible syllogism, or reasoning of faith:—

Christ offers himself as a full and complete Saviour to all who are weary, hungry, thirsty, to all who receive him, and are ready to give themselves to him. But I am weary, hungry, etc., therefore Christ has offered himself to me, is now become mine, and I his, nor shall anything ever separate me from his love. This is the eighth, and the reflex act of faith, arising from consciousness or reflection.” He had attempted to enumerate seven elements in the “precedent and essential actings.” See also Sec. 27.

Or if you choose, take the great Turretin, Locus, xv., Qu. 8, Sec. 4:—

“First, there comes a two-fold act of faith, to be distinguished; the one direct, the other reflex. The direct is exercised about the object itself which is offered to it, but the reflex is occupied about the direct action. By the direct act a man believes on the promises of the gospel; but by the reflex, a man, viewing his own faith, knows that he believes,” etc. Then having analysed the direct act (with its precedents) into five elements, (Sec. 10), “The sixth is the reflex act arising out of the sense of faith, by which the soul which thus receives Christ, being turned back upon itself, and seeing its direct act of persuasion of the gospel truth refuge, and embracing, in its own heart, concludes that it believes; and because it believes that Christ certainly died for it, and, with all its benefits belongs to it, and that through him it is certainly going to be blessed,” etc. Then, (Sec. 12), “And this last act does not properly enter into the essence of faith, and constitute, as it were, its form.”

Such, not in all the same words, but in substantial meaning, is the doctrine of Peter Martyr and Musculus, among the first Reformers, of the celebrated Englishman, “William Ames, professor in Franeker; of Zanchius, of Wittichius, professor in Leyden; of the English divine, Perkins; of the French Reformed, Peter Molinæus, father and son, Peter Jurieu, Louis Le Blanc, Sieur de Beaulieu, professor at Sedan; the famous pastor and divine, Mestrezal, Joshua Placæus, and Charmer; of Bishop Davenant, and all the Anglican commissioners to the Synod of Dort; of Robert Baronius, the Scottish professor in Aberdeen; of Gill, the great Baptist theologian and expositor (Practical Divinity, Bk. I., Ch. VI., Sees. 6 and 7); of John Owen, quicunque vult, (see Treatise on Justification, Chap. I., p. 97); of Dr. Thomas Scott and Newton, Wither-spoon, Chalmers, Dick, Dr. “Wm. Cunningham; of Edwards, Dr. Charles Hodge, Dr. A. A. Hodge. Must I cite chapter and verse of this great “cloud of witnesses?” If necessary, it can be done, provided, Mr. Editor, your columns will hold them.

I may add as further evidence, that the great popish divine, Bossuet, in his Variations of Protestantism, charged this change of definition upon the Reformed, and endeavoured to twit them with it, as one of the instances of instability in their teachings; that the first Reformers made assurance of hope of the essence of faith, and that the later did not.

But the best evidence of the state of the doctrine is that of the Confessions of the Reformed Churches. As we have seen, the Augsburg Confession and the Genevan and Heidelberg Catechisms embody Calvin’s error. But from the Gallican Confession, the Belgic Confession, the Declaration of Thorn (of the Reformed in Poland), the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican Church, and The Articles of Dort, Calvin’s peculiar view is carefully omitted or eliminated, and by the Westminster Confession it is expressly repudiated. So, the Lambeth Articles modify all that is objectionable in the definition.

3. But none of the theologians or assemblies were infallible. Let us then try the truth by the Scriptures. I shall show that Calvin’s second chapter of Book III., if a mighty sword, has a flaw in it. The intrusion of his ultra and unscriptural view has introduced confusion and contradiction into his discussion, just as it has into the teachings of the Plymouth Brethren and their admirers, and into the criticisms of M. N. First.

The latter gives this as his and Calvin’s view, that “ it is God in Christ showing himself gracious, and making us promises, that is the object of saving faith.” Agreed. “Faith has a perpetual relation to the word.” “Take, away the word, then, and there will be no faith left.” Agreed. And for that very reason the assumption “that I am a true believer,” however properly taken up, cannot be the object proper of saving faith; for it is not a part of the word. How can any fair mind fail to see that the doctrine of Calvin changes the object of faith before the believing sinner’s mind; from the promise of the word, to a subjective consciousness of his own? Hence, it introduces confusion and inconsistency. M. N. is obviously involved in similar confusion. He urges that the assurance of faith, which is essential to the being of the grace, has as its object this proposition, That God in Christ “is propitious to us.” One question is the touchstone.

Who are the “us?” Whom do the Scriptures entitle to believe assuredly “God is propitious to us?” Such believers as Simon Magus and the stony-ground hearers? All who erroneously flatter themselves, but confidently, that they have faith? Notoriously there are such people. It is impossible for M. N. to give any except a negative answer; and then, if he is consistent, he cannot help defining the “ us” as we do, and as Calvin in his fortunate inconsistency does:—

Those who show their faith by their works.

Second, The Scriptures ascribe living faith to persons who do not come up to Calvin’s definition:—

The Psalmist, Psalm 73:13, “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain; “ the believer of Isaiah 50:10, “That feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light”; the afflicted father of Mark 9:24, who could only “cry out with tears, Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” Can these cases be fairly brought within Calvin’s postulate, “Paul testifies that whoever doubt whether they possess Christ are reprobate? “ Hence this author, when reminded of such Bible saints, has to resort (Sec. 18) to as sorrowful a piece of evasion and special pleading as any to be heard from a good man. His unscriptural dogma has involved him in an inconsistency. Not only the Bible, but every man’s pastoral experience, presents cases which cannot be brought within the demands of Calvin’s definition; humble, distressed saints, harassed with doubts, yea, at times with despair of their own acceptance in Christ, which all their brethren see to be needless. Does M. N. tell such saints that they “ are reprobate! ‘“


“We know not who he is, but we feel sure that he is too good a man and pastor to be guilty of such cruelty. This, then, is another insuperable objection, that it is cruel to a multitude of good, but weak or tempted believers whom God loves. But there is another objection on the other side; the extreme of this definition is equally hazardous of fostering presumption in “stony ground hearers.” M. N. and Dr. Bonar, and all their sympathizers, may be assured that the popular construction which such hearers put on the definition is just this:—

“If you can bring yourself really to fancy you are saved, you are saved.” We see, and do know, that where such views of faith are preached, they fill the church with crowds of persons who live, and it is to be feared die, with “a lie in their right hands.” Now, very probably, M. N. will profess astonishment again at the above arguments, and say “that of course he admits all that.” Of course he does; unless he were blind he could not help it. But this is my point, that having admitted it he cannot fairly reconcile it with Calvin’s definition of faith. The explanation cannot be made satisfactory.

Third. If the necessary nature of living faith is such that “whoever doubts whether he possesses Christ is reprobate,” then it is entirely inconsistent for the Scriptures to propose, for the use of persons addressed as probably or possibly not reprobates, other criteria, and processes of self examination. For if Calvin is right, the presence of the doubt, or at least its persistent presence, settles the case. The fact that there was a need for inquiry about it would settle it by itself. The fact that the doubt stuck long enough to make it necessary for the man to go about applying other criteria deliberately, would of itself prove that he need not trouble himself to apply them; the case decided itself, that he had no faith. But the Scriptures are full of such criteria for the use of believers, and they command us expressly, “Examine yourselves,” and that upon the very point, “whether ye be in the faith,” whether ye have “knowledge to discern the Lord’s body.” Now some of the sympathizers with the Plymouth movement are hardy enough in their consistency to fly in the face of the Scripture, and to teach and intimate that all inquiry on that point by such criteria, other than the consciousness of faith itself, is carnal unbelief, pride, and self-righteousness.

But Calvin was not so rash, and hence another happy inconsistency; as when he says (Sec. 11), “In the meantime the faithful are taught to examine themselves with solicitude and humility, lest carnal security intrude itself instead of the assurance of faith.” Excellent doctrine! But it contradicts his other doctrine, in which he teaches that a “solicitude” on the question whether one’s supposed faith may not be carnal security, is incompatible with true faith.

Fourth. M N. thinks the statements of my review about the nature and action of consciousness “the most astonishing thing in the article.” To prepare the way for removing that astonishment, let us resume the line of remark in which that subject entered. I was criticizing the postulate of Dr. Bonar, that where over faith acts upon the gospel promise, the nature and genuineness of its acting is, in every case, infallibly and immediately revealed to the believer himself by an act of self-consciousness, which he described as not only necessary and immediate, but supra-rational, or rather irrational, and instinctive. I showed that he not only likened this self-consciousness to that which accompanies muscular motion and corporeal sensation, but declared it to be “unconscious and involuntary,” and was even absurd enough to say that it is “like the animal sense of departed pain and present ease.” (Review, pp. 7, 15.) I objected to these statements as dangerous and incorrect. Admitting that the reflex self-consciousness of one’s own faith might, in case the faith were clear and strong in its acting, rationally and scripturally at once assure a believer-that he was saved, without waiting for other criteria (as in cases of faith less clear and strong, but genuine), the self-consciousness of other graces, which are also discriminating marks of spiritual life, may be blessed by means of the gift of spiritual discernment, to build up that weaker faith to an assurance of hope. I demurred from Dr. Bonar’s extreme view for several sound reasons. One of these is:—

(see Review),

“Experience shows all our acts of soul are not accompanied at the time by an. intelligent and remembered act of consciousness.” This, we are to infer, made M. N. “gape and stare,” for he says it would make “all the philosophers” do so—they being, we suppose, not well-mannered people. He says, “co-existing with every act of mind there is always a self-consciousness.” To this, he says, agree the teachings of McCosh, Sir “Win. Hamilton, “and indeed of every philosopher since the days of Des Cartes.” On this I have two or three remarks. May it not be that when the current of psychologists say an act of self-consciousness attends each of our mental modifications, they only mean to be understood of the general rule, and of mental modifications, which possess ordinary deliberation and clearness? Every man’s common sense would answer, without examining their pages, surely this must be what the psychologists mean, because the exceptions are so manifest. Everybody knows, who reflects on what passes in his own mind, that there were mental modifications undoubtedly experienced by him, the consciousness of which, if he had any, was not distinct nor remembered. These exceptions occur, notably, when the mental state is mingled with others to a degree of great complexity; or when the mental states succeed each other with great rapidity; or when the mind is in intense agitation. Has not everybody heard of soldiers in the heat of battle, unconsciously, as we say, putting two or three cartridges into their muskets, so that afterwards they were wholly surprised to find them there? The pianist, reading off a piece of new music rapidly, is not conscious, as we say popularly, of his visual perception of a certain note on the scale. Yet he must have had that perception, for what else guided the volition to put his finger on the corresponding key of the piano, which he did? Does not M. N., in the “torrent, tempest, and as I may say whirlwind of his passion,” use most expressive gestures and tones, without having a distinct and remembered consciousness of selecting them? Now then, if all the philosophers in the world contradicted my statement, I should believe it in spite of them all, and so would M. N.

But none of them contradict me. While they assert the general power of consciousness, as stated by M. N., they also note the very exception which I claim. See Dr. Thomas Brown, Lecture 31; Hamilton’s edition of Dugald Stuart on, Attention, with his notes; Hamilton’s .Lectures on Metaphysics, Lecture 14.

“I stated that attention is consciousness applied to an act of will or desire, under a particular law.”…”This law is…that the intension of our knowledge is in the inverse ratio of its extension; in other words, that the fewer objects we consider at once, the clearer and more distinct will be our knowledge of them.” Dr. “Wayland maintains” that consciousness does not necessarily invariably accompany all mental action,” and gives such instances as I cited above. So President Mahan. Haven admits the facts, and explains them ( Mental Philos. p. 41) thus:—

“The mental activity exerted in such cases, if there be any, is so very slight as to escape attention, and we are unconscious of it, simply because there was little or nothing to be conscious of.”

But I especially commend to M. N. the following testimony from one whom he seems to believe in (Sir “Wm. Hamilton, Note on Hamiltons Reid, Edin. Ed., p. 551):—

“Stuart has not studied the Leibnitzian doctrine of (what has not been well denominated) obscure perceptions or ideas; that is, acts and affections of mind which, manifesting their existence by their effects, are themselves out of consciousness or apperception. The fact of such latent mental modifications is now established beyond all rational doubt” This asserts more than is needed for my defence. I, not wishing to encumber my reasoning by raising either of the abstruse questions which are in debate among philosophers as this, whether these mental modifications above mentioned by Hamilton are really not attended by an act of self-consciousness, or whether only the act is too obscure to be remembered, intentionally limited myself to asserting that some of our acts of soul” are not accompanied by an intelligent and remembered act of consciousness.” This is all that was needed for my purpose; and I am borne out in it by universal experience, and more than borne out by Hamilton and Leibnitz. M. N. also seems greatly surprised at my asserting that our self-consciousness of our rational states is, while a primitive, a rational act. Does not he himself adopt the language of McCosh, calling consciousness in general, without this limitation, “intuitive?” Surely intuitions are rational. What are they but the primary judgments of reason; the logical sources of all the rest? And does M. N. know that it is a pet doctrine of his favourite Hamilton that consciousness is not a distinct faculty at all, but is identical with the cognitive powers themselves?—a question with which I do not wish to encumber my theology at this time. If that is true, then it is inevitable that every consciousness of a rational mental state, such as faith, must be a rational act.

Having now, I trust, consoled M. N.’s “astonishment,” let me endeavour to explain and strengthen my objections to Dr. Bonar’s position as detailed above. One objection is, that the mind may be greatly hurried, or vehemently agitated, or confused by complexity of thoughts and emotions, at the time it exercises an act of faith on Christ. And then it may well be that its consciousness of its act will be too indistinct and too quickly lost from memory to be the foundation for a safe state of assurance of hope.

Isn’t that clear? A second objection is:—

Consciousness. reveals to me precisely my own subjective mental states, if it is clear in its revelations. Is not that correct?

But the question I have to settle, in order to entitle myself to the assurance of hope, is this, viz.:—

Whether this my subjective mental state is the faith which saves; for notoriously there is a temporary faith. simulating the real. That act of self-consciousness does not decide this question; it only presents the thing to be compared, namely, my subjective state. The standard of comparison is the Word. When I think I believe, I am but conscious of exercising what I think is faith. That is all which this immediate act of self-consciousness contains.

Whether I think right, in thinking that to be true faith of which I am conscious, is a question of comparison to be settled by the Word, which describes the true exercise.

M. N. has virtually admitted this, saying:—

“My feeling towards God, and belief as to Jesus Christ, are known to me immediately by my consciousness. What the significance of these are in the eyes of God…I learn from the teachings of his word, and can know in no other way.” This is excellent doctrine, being precisely that of my review. But add now the, simple truth, that God is the being who accepts or rejects us; and M. N. is brought precisely to my conclusion. There is a true and a spurious faith in the world. My consciousness tells; me that I have an exercise, which I think is true faith. Whether God thinks so too must be settled by comparing my consciousness with God’s word. But this is what Dr. Bonar dislikes.

Let me add as a third reason against Dr. Bonar’s position one which is borrowed from Chalmers ‘Institutes of Theology’, Vol. 2, Chap. VII., “where it is so admirably expounded. The presence; before the mind of the object of an affection is the essential condition for the prevalence of that affection in the mind. Hence, as soon as I begin to inspect my consciousness of my mental affection, I withdraw my mind from the object thereof, and! thereby unavoidably terminate the present exercise of the affection inspected. The necessary object of faith is a gracious Saviour; while my soul looks at him, faith may be in exercise.’ I wish to inspect my consciousness of the faith exercise. Then the affection of which I was conscious becomes the object; the gracious Saviour ceases to be, for the time, the object of attention, and the affection, as the present exercise, vanishes under the inspection. How clear is it, hence, that the thing whose nature I really judge is the remembrance of my consciousness? If then the consciousness was to any degree indistinct or its remembrance dim, trustworthy inspection cannot take place. But I proved in the previous paragraph the necessity of this inspection or self-acquaintance in order to the assurance of hope; “What follows? I infer, with Chalmers, that imperfect but genuine believers may often have actings of faith of such kind that their self-consciousness of them does not ground an assurance of hope; and thence that it is useful and important for their peace to compare with scripture their remembered consciousness of other gracious actings, which, the word tells them, are also marks of a saved state. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses” they gain the solid advantage of concurrent evidences.

Fifth. After M. “N. charged me with falling into grave error as to the distinction between assurance of faith and assurance of hope, he should have laid down that distinction himself, and then observed it. But he does neither. He quotes texts to prove that there is an assurance of faith and an assurance of hope, but he does not tell us what they are. Nor does he separate them consistently. First he says that “we set out with the assurance of faith,” but we work up to the assurance of hope. Eight! He says the latter process is “slow, laborious, painful, toiling in the work and labour of love toward the name of God,” etc. Here he goes farther in opposition to the Plymouth theology than I desire he “out-Herods” this wicked Herod, the reviewer. For I believe God has blessed many of his children by carrying them rapidly and happily through the assurance of faith to the assurance of hope. But when I teach his own doctrine in my poor way, he cannot away with it. “When I write that” the true, though weak faith, of the beginner”—describing the admitted case of the beginner who is weak—not that of the beginner who is strong, of whom, blessed be God, there are at least some, “grows to the assured faith of the matured Christian,” meaning, obviously, the faith crowned with assured hope, “by self-examination, coupled with contrition, confessing and forsaking the defects detected, renewed acts of faith and watchfulness and holy living,” he exclaims that it wearies him even to think of it. But he is not wearied to think of his own way, “slow, laborious, painful! “The question is launched at us,” “What is to attest my faith, bright-eyed, far-seeing, swift-winged, world-conquering, heaven-scaling, heaven-born,” etc? “Well, if it is all that, it needs nothing to attest it. But whether it is all that must be attested by the word and Spirit of God. This is M. N.’s own answer in a previous paragraph. As to the supposed alternative attestation, that of “our loathed works and ragged righteousnesses,”

I remark first:—

Since the works which are the fruits of true faith are precisely as “heaven-born” as the faith, both are the work of the Spirit. I do not quite understand how the work should be “loathsome,” and the faith so admirable. The works done in faith are indeed imperfect; but being the fruits of the Holy Spirit, it appears to me, the Christian, instead of loathing them, should humbly rejoice in the grace which wrought them.

I remark second:—

That no scriptural believer relies on his works “to attest” his faith; but, on the contrary, he relies on the infallible word and Spirit to attest his works and faith both.

It is asked again:—

“Was this the way, viz., that described by me above, in which Old Testament and New Testament saints reached assurance of hope? I answer, yes.

So those saints say themselves. Owen is quoted as the prince of theologians in M. N.’s eyes, saying:—

“Assurance is based, not on the work of the Spirit in us, but on the communication of the Spirit to us, etc.” If Owen means what M. N. understands the Bible saints, then in other places he contradicts himself, as here. These say (Psalm 119:6), “Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.” Psalm 86:2:—

“Preserve my soul, for I am holy.” 1 John 3:21, 22:—

“Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments.” James 2:18:—

“Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.” Jesus Christ, in John 15:14:—

“Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.” 2 Peter 1:5-10:—

“Give diligence to assure yourselves [Greek] of your calling and election.” How? By “giving all diligence to add to your faith, virtue,” etc. 1 John 3:14:—

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” See also 1 John 2:3. See Review.

This oldest wine is best!

REVIEWER.
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