Page images

NOTE A, PAGE 153. A modern writer has indeed asserted the contrary. He first attacks the Protestant orthodoxy of Mr. Wesley, and then that of the present Methodist preachers in general. Having given an extract from the celebrated “Minutes of 1770," leaving out sentences which are essential to a correct view of Mr. Wesley's meaning, particularly in the last article, Mr. Conder

says, “We can scarcely err in pronouncing the above language irreconcilable with the tenets of the Protestant Reformers, and the doctrine of the Thirty-nine Articles, on the subject of justification by faith ; and standing, as it does, in the · Large Minutes,' which are the authorized exposition of the Wesleyan tenets, it seems to commit the whole body to opinions at variance with that cardinal article of Protestantism.”—Analytical View of all Religions, p. 455.

In answer to these allegations, we obserye, 1. The “Minutes,” in question are not “ the authorized exposition of the Wesleyan tenets,” and were never intended to be such. That “exposition” is to be found in the first series of Mr. Wesley's sermons, and in his “ Notes on the New Testament.” The passage which Mr. Conder has quoted was part of a conversation between Mr. Wesley and his preachers, not on the entire question of a sinner's justification before God, but on certain Antinomian abuses of the doctrine of justification by faith ; a doctrine which Mr. Wesley held as tenaciously and consistently as any man that ever lived. The preachers with whom the conversation was held, and for whose use principally it was published, never, for a moment, supposed him to deny the doctrine which, up to that period, had been the most prominent subject of his very effective ministry, as it subsequently was to the end of his life.

2. When Mr. Wesley found that his meaning was misapprehended by persons whom he esteemed, he, and the preachers in concurrence with him, published the following explanatory declaration :

Bristol, August, 9, 1771. “ Whereas the doctrinal points in the minutes of a conference held in London, August 7, 1770, have been understood to favour justification by works : now the Rev. John Wesley, and others, assembled in conference, do declare, that we had no such meaning; and that we abhor the doctrine of justification by works, as a most perilous and abominable doctrine. And as the said minutes are not sufficiently guarded in the way they are expressed, we hereby solemnly declare, in the sight of God, that we have no trust or confidence but in the alone merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for

justification or salvation, either in life, death, or the day of judgment. And though no one is a real Christian believer (and consequently cannot be saved) who doeth not good works, where there is time and opportunity; yet our works have no part in meriting or purchasing our justification, from first 10 last, either in whole or in part.

This declaration was signed by Mr. Wesley and fifty-three of his preachers.—Watson's Life of Mr. Wesley, p. 219.

Now had it accorded with the views of Mr. Čonder to lay before his readers this declaration of Mr. Wesley, disavowing the meaning which had been given to the minutes, it would at once have been seen that “the whole body" of the Wesleyan Methodists are so far from being a committed to opinions at variance with that cardinal article of Protestantism,”—justification by faith,-by the writings of their venerated founder, that they are actually pledged by him to this doctrine, as strongly as they could have been by any Protestant confession in Europe.

3. In the extract which Mr. Conder has produced, Mr. Wesley says,

“ We have received it as a maxim, that a man is to do nothing in order to justification. Nothing can be more false. Whosoever desires to find favour with God should cease from evil, and learn to do well.' So God himself teaches by the Prophet Isaiah. Whoever repents should do works meet for repentance. And if this is not in order to find favour, what does he do them for ?" To fix the charge of antiprotestantism upon Mr. Wesley, on account of this statement, Mr. Conder adduces the twelfth article of the Church of England : “ Albeit good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgment, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring necessarily of a true and lively faith.” To prove a correct discrepancy between this article and Mr. Wesley's minutes, Mr. Conder adds : “Mr. Wesley is speaking of works done ' in order to justification,' and unconnected with faith in Jesus Christ.” The answer is, most assuredly he is : and as the article speaks on a widely different subject, there is no contradiction between one and the other. The article speaks of “good works,” in the strict theological sense of the expression ; works which spring from “lively faith,” and therefore, also, from love to God; works which flow from a renovated nature, are done in obedience to God's will, and with a reference to his glory. Mr. Wesley speaks of “ works meet for repentance ;" works which become a man who has the sentence of death in his own conscience, who feels the entire corruption of his own nature, and sees the wrath of God hanging over his head. This man can never be justified, but


by faith in the sacrifice of Christ. But suppose faith does not come immediately after he is awakened to a discovery of his wretched and perishing condition ; for justifying faith, in a very important sense, is the gift of God; how is he to wait for it? in the unrestrained practice of all his former wickedness, or in the diligent and prayerful use of the means of

“Let him,” says Mr. Wesley, quoting the words of Isaiah, “. cease to do evil, and learn to do well;""and thus wait upon the Lord till he is able to believe to the saving of his soul. Is it for such teaching that “ John Wesley" is to be hated and branded as a heretic from age to age ? Who then is orthodox? Is Mr. Conder himself? Would he teach a man who is convinced of sin, that, because he can be justified only by faith in the sacrifice of Christ, he may swear, and lie, and get drunk, and steal, and break the sabbath? or would he teach the man to break off these sins by repentance, and wait upon God in the diligent use of the means of grace? “ But,” it may be said, " the works which Mr. Conder in this case recommends are not good works,' properly speaking.” The answer is, certainly they are not. Mr. Wesley never said they were. He positively asserts the contrary, in a hundred places, as Mr. Conder would have found, if he had thought it worth his while to read the writings of this deeply injured man. “But,” it may be added, "Mr. Wesley says, that 'works meet for repentance' are to be done, that the penitent may obtain the favour of God.'” Will Mr. Conder say for what other purpose they are to be recommended ? Are they to be done that men inay offend God, and dishonour his name? or are they to be submitted to as a part of that order in which men are to wait upon him. that they may receive that richer influence of the Spirit without which they cannot believe to the saving of their souls ?

Having most illogically and unaccountably assumed, that 6 works mee, for repentance” are identical with "good works, which spring from a lively faith,” Mr. Conder quotes the twelfth article of the English Church to prove that Mr. Wesley departed from the true Protestant principles. And now that we have, we trust, satisfactorily refuted this fallacious argument, we will adduce the same authority as that to which he appeals, to prove that Mr. Wesley was perfectly orthodox on the point in question. In the liturgy of the Church we find the following admonition :-“ Dearly beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us in sundry places to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness; and that we should not dissemble nor cloak them before the face of Almighty God our heavenly Father ; but confess them with an hum-, ble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart.” These are works meet for repentance;" and the Church declares, that "the


Scripture moveth us,” not once or twice merely, but in dry places,” to the performance of them. For what purpose are they required? The Church says, “ TO THE END THAT we may obtain forgiveness of the same, by his infinite goodness and mercy.' The language of the minutes is a mere echo of the liturgy.

Will Mr. Conder still contend, that, on this point, Mr. Wesley was antiprotestant? Then we will invite his attention to the following explanation, given by Mr. Wesley himself:-With respect to the nature of justification. It sometimes means our acquittal at the last day. (Mat. xii, 37.) But this is altogether out of the present question ; that justification whereof our articles and homilies speak, meaning present forgiveness, pardon of sins, and, consequently, acceptance with God.

" I believe the condition of this is faith : (Rom. v, 5, &c. :) I mean, not only that without faith we cannot be justified; but, also, that as soon as any one has true faith, in that moment he is justified.

“Good works follow this faith, but cannot go before it : (Luke vi. 43 :) much less can sanctification, which implies a continued course of good works, springing from holiness of heart. But it is allowed, that entire sanctification goes before our justification at the last day. (Heb. xii, 14.)

“ It is allowed, also, that repentance, and fruits meet for repentance go before faith. (Mark i, 15; Matt. iii, 8.) Repentance absolutely must go before faith ; fruits meet for it, if there be opportunity. By repentance I mean, conviction of sin, producing real desires and sincere resolutions of amendment; and by fruits meet for repentance, forgiving our brother ; (Mat. vi, 14, 15;) ceasing from evil, doing good; (Luke iii, 4, 9, &c. ;) using the ordinances of God, and, in general, obeying him according to the measure of grace which we have received. (Mat. vii, 7 ; xxv, 29.) But these I cannot, as yet, term good works; because they do not spring from faith and the love of God.”—Wesley's Works, vol. v, p. 35, Am. edit.

4. The minutes which Mr. Conder has quoted led, as is well known, to a long and ardent controversy, in which Mr. Fletcher took a decided part. This holy man confessed, as did Mr. Wesley himself, that the minutes, not being intended for

popular use, were incautiously worded. According to common justice, he explained them by the general tenour of Mr. Wesley's preaching and writings, and then demonstrated, I believe to the satisfaction of every candid man in England, their consistency with the Scriptures of truth, and with the recorded sentiments of Baxter, Flavel, Dr. Owen, and others of the Puritan and Nonconformist divines. If Mr. Conder thinks

“In point

otherwise, let him answer Mr. Fletcher's “Checks." Till this is done, it is the veriest begging of the question to talk of the antiprotestantism of the minutes.

What then can be said concerning Mr. Conder's attack upon Mr. Wesley's orthodoxy as a Protestant ? Did he not know that the sense which he has affixed to the minutes Mr. Wesley publicly, solemnly, and in the name of God, disclaimed ? Did he not know that Mr. Fletcher had, with Mr. Wesley's concurrence, fixed their true meaning, and contended for their Scriptural and Protestant character? If he did not know these things, he was inexcusable when he undertook to write concerning Mr. Wesley, especially in a tone of authority and censure ; for ample information was within his reach. That he did know these things, and intended, by his silence, to deceive his readers, I cannot, I will not believe. He is a Christian gentleman, and could not so offend against righteousness and truth.

Mr. Conder has not yet done. He denies the Protestantism of many of the Wesleyan Methodists, as well as that of Mr. Wesley. Pursuing the same subject, he says, of fact, there prevails a considerable diversity within the Wesleyan body, as among the clergy of the Established Church, upon these points. Although the Wesleyans are avowedly Arminian Methodists, acknowledging that distinctive appellation, yet many of their popular preachers have not scrupled to hold the same language as the evangelical clergy, and others of similar views; while in some parts of the connection, the doctrine of justification by faith has been either incautiously or more boldly impugned, and views maintained, differing little from the Romish theology.”

Sentences more unjust, and more misleading than these, were never penned, and never committed to the press. 1. It is here intimated that, as professed Arminians, the Wesleyans should deny that sinners are justified through faith in Christ. It is therefore mentioned as matter of surprise that some of the Methodist preachers have not "scrupled” to use the same language on that subject that evangelical ministers in general use. Now, what is the fact ? Did James Arminius, the theological professor of Leyden, deny this cardinal doctrine of all Protestant churches? No more than he denied the being of a God; and the writer who makes such an assertion is either deceived himself, or intends to deceive others. No man ever lived who more clearly and explicitly asserted the true Protestant doctrine of justification through faith in Christ, than did that holy man and profound divine. On this topic, he declared his full concurrence in the views of Calvin, as expressed in his Institutes. With respect to the point in question, the reader is referred with great pleasure to Mr.

« PreviousContinue »