This letter is a follow up to the first letter HERE
By W. KITCHEN
To the Editors of the Primitive Church Magazine.
DEAR SIRS,—In reference to the letter from Mr. Peake, in your issue for September, permit me to recall attention to a quotation from my article “on duty faith in several relations,” as it is to be found in your number for August, p. 179, col. 1. In that passage I defined the class of Christians to whom my arguments were solely addressed. I was aware that the line of argument I adopted would not tell upon such as differed from me in respect of the doctrines therein specified; and it is obvious to every reader that I had no intention to enter into the question in all its ramifications, but only to present it in a few special points of view. As Mr. Peake shifts the argument from the basis on which I had rested it, and in order to maintain his views, affirms in effect, conditional election, conditional redemption, and conditional salvation, I do not feel called upon to follow him in that direction. To discuss the question on his grounds would require of us to go back to the primary doctrines of the gospel, and further than that: a task which I have not now leisure to attempt.
The correspondence on our subject has deepened a conviction which I have long felt, namely, that to hold, on the one hand, the doctrines of unconditional election and particular redemption, and on the other hand the doctrine of duty faith, puts such a strain on the moral sense as but few minds can bear; that is, when each doctrine is held in its entirety, and when they are brought into close juxta position. I have observed that divines, in order to hold fast the doctrine of duty faith, are frequently driven to modify in some way or other the true doctrine of redemption. Even Mr. Balfern seems to waver here. He writes:—"The question is not whether the doctrine of duty faith can be made to agree with our mode of stating the doctrine of particular redemption," &c. (See P.C.M., June, p. 130). My mode of stating the doctrine, to which I suppose Mr. Balfern referred, was "that Christ died for the elect only." May we not warrantably infer that he may deem a different statement of the doctrine to be necessary, in order to render it harmonious with duty faith? I submit that a different statement of the doctrine would simply be the statement of a different doctrine. Dr. Dwight says:—"Ministers are required to preach faith, as well as repentance, to all sinners as their duty. But if no atonement has been made for their sins, they cannot believe; for to them Christ is in no sense a saviour, and, therefore, not even a possible object of their faith" (Sermon 56). Here the doctor takes the same ground as I take; that is, the absolute incompatibility of duty faith with a limited atonement. But, maintaining duty faith, he argues that the atonement must have been general. Rev. John Howard Hinton, in order to render duty faith and kindred doctrines consistent with the facts of redemption, for a redemption that is twofold; particular for the elect, and general for mankind at large. Dr. Candlish, an eminent living Scotch divine, for the same reason propounds a scheme of redemption very similar to that of Mr. Peake. (See "The Atonement; its Reality, Completeness, and Extent.") But if I mistake not, such expedients for reconciliation, as those of Mr. Hinton, Dr. Candlish, and Mr. Peake, are not very extensively adopted. Although they relieve in some degree the moral sense, they do not satisfy the judgment. Hence the greater number flee for repose to Arminianism, or, at least, to the doctrine of a general atonement.
Mr. Balfern wrote:—that the course I had pursued was "that of setting up the seeming difficulties of depraved reason against the simple statements of the word of God." Again, "my doctrine if true," he said, "must show itself somewhere in the word of God with the brightness of a sunbeam, and that not merely as an inference deduced from other doctrines, or the exigencies of a system, but in the most plain and explicit terms." Herein Mr. Balfern enters a protest against inferential reasoning; and also demands that which a negative argument, as mine necessarily was, will scarcely ever admit of. In reference to this I wrote:—"I wish that he had at once produced those passages of Scripture, or one of them, which teach, without note or comment, without reasoning or explanation, that God has laid an imperative obligation on the unregenerate sinner, immediately on hearing the gospel, to believe savingly on the Lord Jesus Christ." Mr. Peake, admitting that Mr. Balfern has adduced no Scripture proofs, says:—"This is not because there are none to be found which enforce the duty of faith, as I trust this letter will show," &c. I will submit it to the judgment of your readers, whether or not the passages brought forward by Mr. Peake, or any others of "similar import," answer the required conditions? Why, he no sooner begins to quote, than he begins to reason and infer. I do not denounce inferential reasoning; I deem it to be both legitimate and necessary; but the inferences must be fairly drawn, and very obvious when drawn. It is nothing at all to say that the Scriptures "enforce the duty of faith"; do not I say the same? The question is, what is the nature of the faith which is enforced? Two things are assumed by Mr. Peake:—First, that when belief or faith is mentioned, saving faith is invariably intended; and, second, that when unbelief is denounced, the exact negative counter part of saving faith is meant. But who does not see that this is assuming the very point in dispute?
That in the sacred Scriptures important words are employed in more than one sense, and applied to more than one subject, must be acknowledged by every candid reader. Is it then a satisfactory mode of quoting Scripture to fasten upon words, without examining the sense and the subject of them? For instance, Mr. Peake quotes Luke 24:25,—"O fools and slow of heart to believe," omitting, "all that the prophets have spoken." Again, he quotes John 4:48,—"Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe." Believe what? What more than the Messiahship, and the miracle-working power of Christ? Is there a trace of the duty of saving faith here?
If learned and pious commentators are to be believed, the passages, 2 Cor. 2:15, 16, 4:4, and Heb. 10:29, are very difficult to be interpreted. Texts that are confessedly so obscure in their meaning, can scarcely cause Mr. Peake's doctrines to shine as a "sunbeam." If we abide by Mr. Balfern's canon, these texts go for nothing. If, indeed, a text which contains neither the words nor the ideas of "deep-rooted enmity against God," be taken to prove that such deep-rooted enmity is "the cause of unbelief," can it also further prove that saving faith is a universal duty? Where is the sequence? What could we not prove by such a process as this? Who doubts that "he who hath TRODDEN UNDER FOOT the son of God," is worthy of "sorer punishment" than he who never heard of him? But how can the universal duty of saving faith be proved from that? What proof of the duty of saving faith can be drawn from 2 Cor. 2:15, 16, when neither faith nor unbelief is mentioned in the text? The same may be asked concerning that part of 1 Peter 2:7, 8, which is supposed to have a bearing on the question. From these passages the reasoning is entirely inferential; the inferences, to say the least, lie very remote; they are drawn from passages confessedly obscure in sense; and there is not one "explicit statement" concerning the duty of faith in them.
Mark 1:15, appears to be more apposite. But we must not be satisfied with words without looking for the things which those words represent. I affirm that it was the duty of all that heard that gospel to believe it; but we must enquire what that gospel was, and what was the end to be answered by the preaching of it? The period commencing with John's ministry, and ending on the day of Pentecost, was a transitionary and preparatory period. Transitionary, for it was neither entirely Jewish nor wholly Christian; preparatory, for the burden of the preaching was "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." I do not doubt that saving faith was exercised during that dispensation, as it had been during preceding dispensations; but the question is not what was exercised by the elect of God in that period, but what was demanded of the multitudes? I submit that the facts on which salvation and saving faith alike rest, were not publicly proclaimed during the period in question. Mr. Peake asks, "What is the gospel ?" and truly answers, "Christ, and him crucified." The gospel of salvation must comprise those elements. That gospel was not proclaimed by either Christ or his apostles. Not by the apostles, for they did not believe it. They would not hear of their Lord's crucifixion beforehand; and when they witnessed it they had no true conception of its significancy. Not by the Saviour himself. His public ministry consisted largely of a spiritual exposition of the law, in order to awaken the sense of sinfulness and need. Then he spake much in parables, in which few, if any, traces of the doctrine of atonement are to be found; and the meaning of which was intentionally veiled from the multitude. His more direct allusions to his sacrificial death were given in language too obscure to be understood, until explained by the event. It is not forgotten that implicit faith was exercised by the apostles, of which Peter's confession is an eminent example (Matt. 16:16, 17). Peter said, "Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God." But what said the Saviour in reply? Did He say, "Well done, Peter, thou hast understood thy duty, and performed it well?" Nay; he said, "Blessed art thou Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Hence we learn that a divine illumination was necessary in order to a spiritual apprehension of the person of Christ. But if that gospel, which was then publicly preached, was intended to beget saving faith in the hearts of the hearers, we should expect to find that this fact, as apprehended and confessed by Peter, should, thenceforth at least, have constituted the staple of his ministry. Instead of which, however, we find that the Saviour immediately charged his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ" (Matt 16:20). Mr. Peake lays down the following conditions:—The preacher's "duty," he says, "is to preach the gospel, and if he does so faithfully, and does not shun to declare the whole counsel of God, and if he preaches the truth as it is in Jesus, then the gospel demands of all that faith, which resting on Christ is the salvation of the soul." "Then," when those conditions are performed,—and not before must be meant, or the word "then" has no force—the duty of saving faith is devolved on the hearer. To say nothing of the difficulty of finding a preacher in whose ministry these conditions are fully met, it is clear that they were not carried out in the ministry of Christ and his apostles. That gospel which they preached was true, important, perfectly adapted to the ends and purposes of that transitionary dispensation, and was faithfully preached; but it did not comprise an explicit proclamation of the saving truths. Its aim, in connection with the working of miracles, was to fix public attention on Jesus of Nazareth, and to prove that he was the long expected Messiah. It appears, then, from Mr. Peake's own principles, that no solid argument for the universal duty of saving faith under THE gospel, can be raised from any injunction referring to a preparatory gospel, and given under a transitionary dispensation.
Mr. Peake had previously pitched upon John 3:18, and 16: 8, 9, as testing passages. To the consideration of those texts, and to a development of the principles of interpretation of similar texts, I devoted a letter of considerable length, which is to be found in the April number of "The Voice of Truth." Mr. Peake says that it was "very unsatisfactory," but does not state whether he refers to the principles or conclusions of it. I know that to some it was "satisfactory"; but not venturing to ask space in your columns for so long an article, I refer your readers to the article itself.
Both Mr. Balfern and Mr. Peake fasten upon a paragraph of mine, in which I stated in effect, that the demand of universal obedience under the law, and the universal demand of saving faith under the gospel, are not parallel cases. Let us look again at this matter for a moment. I suppose that it will be admitted that God stands in the relations of Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, Lawgiver, and Judge to mankind universally, and that on these relations, or some of them, rest the universal obligation to obedience. I assume, also, that the act of saving faith must have respect to the Lord Jesus in his character and relationship as a Saviour. Then I ask, Does the Lord Jesus stand in the relation of SAVIOUR to mankind universally? Does he in fact, in intention, in the covenant of grace, in the promises of the gospel? If he do not, the cases are not parallel. Again, I assume that, as there can be no obedience without a command, so, there can be no faith without a promise. In fact, faith is the personal appropriation of promise. Now the command is given to all; but are the promises made to all? Show me one promise of pardon and salvation that an unregenerate and impenitent sinner would be warranted to appropriate to himself! Then the cases are not parallel.
I take my stand upon a real, definite, and therefore limited atonement. Dr. Dwight says, that if any are not included in the atonement, "they cannot believe, for to them Christ is in no sense a Saviour, and, therefore, not even a possible object of their faith." Mr. Peake adds:—"Were there no Christ to be received by faith, it— faith—could not exist, and even supposing that it could, it would be worthless."
I forbear to trespass further on your space at this time. I thank you for your courtesy in inserting my former letter, and remain,
Rinystead. W. KITCHEN.
This article can be read online HERE