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that man, even in his best estate, is altogether vanity. The careless
and the inconsiderate are ignorant even of the very existence of this
internal distress. Those that God loveth are the persons whom he
more particularly chasleneth. If David was so frequently constrain-
ed to mourn by reason of affliction, and to exclaim, in the bitterness of
his heart, " Lord, why casteth thou off my soul ? Why hidei^ thou
thy face from me ?" can we reasonably expect to he made perfect
without suffering ? Our blessed Saviour himself was ' a man of
sorrows and acquainted with grief;' and such also his disciples
must frequently be. His tender care, however, has not left us with-
out a provision against the day of evil tidings. ' Blessed are they
that mourn, for they shall be comforted.^ This promise he was after*
wards pleased to explain more at large, and to point out to us that
gracious personage through whose agency we may expect to receive
the balm of consolation : ' / will pray the Father, and he shall give
you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever ; even the
Spirit of truth ; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him
not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with
you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless.^ " Faber's
Practical "^rrealise on the ordinary operationss of the Spirit, pages 167
— 169.

I intended some remarks on these passages. But the subject is
such, that I cannot, I find, enter upon it, without involving myself in
too detailed a discussion. There are some very judicious observa-



1.^ NOTES.

lions upou it in the Review of Mr. Faber's Treatise, in the Christian
Observer for Autjust, 1813. Vol. XII. pages 530, 531.

Note O. page 357.

•• It has likewise been generally allowed by orthodox Divines, that
there are other influences of the Spirit on the mind which do not al-
ways terminate in sanctification. To ' resist the Holy Ghost' seems
to mean something more than merely to reject the word of inspiration :
and to quench the Spirit is not exclusively the sin of believers, when
on some occasions they stifle his holy suggestions. He strives with,
and powerfully stirs up the minds of many who are not born again :
new principles are not implanted, but natural powers are excited ;
conscience is influenced in part to perform its oltice, notwithstanding
the opposition of the carnal heart; and convincing views are given ot*
many important truths. The Spirit concurs with an address to one
man's /(''flr, and even a Felix trembles before a prisoner in chains:
another's hopes are addressed, and he hears gladly, and does ma-
ny things, though he will not divorce Herodias : or convincing ar-
guments are applied with energy to an intelligent worldling ; and he
is ' almost persuaded to be a Christian.' Such characters often take
up a {Profession of the gospel, and continue for a time, or even persist
to the end in an unfruitful form of godliness : and men of this descrip-
tion, who have been eminent for their talents, when the Spirit has
tinally ceased to strive with them, have been the principal heresi-
arehs in every age ; w hile the bulk of heretical societies have been
constituted of inferior persons of the same stamp," &c. Scott's Essays
on the most Important Subjects in Religion, Essay XIV. pages 237,
238, 3d edit. I cannot help, as I have said, entertaining great doubts
of the propriety of ascribing to the agency of the Holy Spirit the dif-
ferent workings of the unrenewed mind which are here mentioned. Is
any direct influence of the Spirit necessary, for instance, to account
for the accusations of natural conscience, and the selhsh dread of
punishment thence arising ? If it be not necessary, why suppose it .'
Every unnecessary supposition, on a subject of this nature, it appear;*
to me, must be a pernicious supposition ; because it tends to confound
things that ditler, to destroy the distinction between that w liich is nat-
ural and (hat which is spiritual, and thus at once to aS'ord ground of
plausible objection to the adversary of the doctrine, to load th«t
thoughtless and inconsiderate into error, and to confuse and pcrplev
our own minds in " examining ourselves whether we be in (he failli.""



xoTES. 429

whether we " have the Spirit of Christ." That the Holy Spirit
makes use of natural conscience as an instrument of conversion, di-
recting and enforcing its dictates for this end, by opening tlie mind to
just and impressive views of the nature and evil of sin, I have no
doubt. But to say, that the trembling apprehensions of an ungodly
man, who continues hardened in sin, are to be ascribed to the agency
of the Spirit, — that, to account for the alarm of Felix, when forced to
anticipate the judgment to come, we must suppose this Divine agent
"concurring with the apostle's address to his fears ;" — this seems to
be seeking an additional cause, when the one which already exists,
the natural sense of right and wrong, along with the natural love of
happiness and aversion to suft'ering, is of itself quite adequate to the
production of the effect. If we are to identify the operation of natural
conscience with the influence of the Divine Spirit, then, indeed, we
must admit the doctrine of his immediate inward operation on the
minds of the unregenerate. And in the following passage from Mr.
Faber these are identified, in a manner I cannot but think calculated
to produce great confusion of ideas on this subject : — " The aid of the
Holy Spirit is freely offered unto all ; nor does that blessed Person
cease to strive even with the most profligate, till they have obstinate-
ly rejected the counsel of God against themselves. The still small
voice of conscience, which is in effect the voice of God, long continues
to admonish them ; and the extreme difficulty which they find in si-
lencing it, suflSciently shows how unwilling the Almighty is, that any
should perish." Faber's Treatise on the Operations of the Spirit,
Preface, page xiv.

There are some other parts of Mr. Faber's Treatise, connected with
the particular subject of this note, on which it was my intention, with
becoming deference to a writer so deservedly eminent, to have haz-
arded a few strictures : particularly the Note pages 42 — *5, with the
part of the text to which it refers ; and the description in chapter III. .
of" two different classes of men, whose understandings are enlight-
ened, while their hearts remain unaffected." But for the reason
mentioned in the former Note, and the undue length to which these
Notes have already extended, I find I miist forbear.

Note P. page 369.

It is obvious ihat every thing here depends on the meaning of terms,
\ man may profess the belief that .Tesus is the Christ, llie Son of God,
while he attaches his own sense to the words : — a souse utterlv anti-



430 NOTES.

scriptural, or grossly deKcient. A scriptural belief that Jesus is the
Christ, supposes a scriptural kuowledge of the person, and character,
and work of the Christ. It is very true that, while Jesus abode on
earth, his disciples, although they believed in him as the Christ, the
Son of God, and confessed him in that character, were in great dark*
uess with regard to the nature of that work, which he had come to
accomplish. They owned him as " having the words of eternal life^^
John vi. 67—69, and therefore must have expected more from their
adherence to him than mere temporal honours, although the expecta-
tion of these was, through mistake and prejudice, too predominant in
their minds. They looked for secular advantages; but they looked
also for something higher : and perhaps this double expectation might
go far to account for the apparent confusion and contradiction in their
manner of speaking at different times. While they hoped for eternal
life, they as yet knew not well hoiv that blessing was to be obtained
for them by their Lord. In the midst of darkness and prejudice,
however, they were upright, sincere and teachable. They '• continu-
ed in his word,'^ and thus showed themselves to be " his disciples in-
deed :'' — and in due time his declaration was fulfilled in their happy
experience, — " I'e shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you

free.*' John viii. 31, 32. It is very obvious, that their situation

then was very different from what ours is now ; and, indeed, from what
their own was very soon after, when, upon Christ's ascension, they
received the promised gift of the Holy JSpirit. It is not surely to the
partial and mistaken notions of the apostles during the personal min-
istry of their Master, that we are to look for instruction as to what
we must believe concerning Christ, but to the views which they held
and taught, after their illumination on the day of Pentecost. How-
ever much we may wonder at their previous ignorance, when we con-
sider the plainness of the prophecies respecting the sufferings and
atoning death of the Messiah, along with the typical import of the
law ; yet the state of their minds during this period of ignorance is
not to be considered as the standard of our faith. Atonement by the
death of Christ, and acceptance w ith God on the ground of that atone-
ment, may belong to the essence of the gospel, although they did not
at that time understand it. Peter, during Christ's life-time, when his
Master foretold his approaching death,said, " That be far from thee,
Lord ; this shall not be unto thee !"' Matth. xvi. 22. The same Peter
afterwards speaks of the death of his Master in a very ditVerent strain
indeed : — " Who, his own self, bare our sins in his own body on the
tree :" — " Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the un-



NOTES. 431

just, that he might bring us unto God :" — " Ye were not redeemed
with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversa-
tion received by tradition from your fathers ; but with the precious
blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
1 Peter ii. 34. iii. 18. i. 18, 19. — It is not surely from Peter in his
state of prejudice, and darkness, and perplexity, but from Peter, when
his Lord had verified to him the promise, " When the Spirit of truth
is come, he will guide you into all truth,''^ — that we are called to learn
♦he true nature of the gospel. — Mr. Fuller touches on this point,
with his usual judgment and discrimination, in his Comp. View of ibe
Calv. and Soc. Systems, Letter X. on Charity, pages 198 — 204^, third
edition.



FINIS.



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Online LibraryRalph WardlawDiscourses on the principal points of the Socinian controversy → online text (page 36 of 36)