BROTHER Buckley of Alabama has sent us a printed copy of a document purporting to be a “Baptist Confession of Faith,” desiring our opinion of the same. By whom this confession is made, we are not informed; but we sincerely hope it is not even an adopted child of any of our Old School Baptist brethren, either of Alabama or any other state. Many parts of it are as inharmonious with the scriptures, with christian experience, and with the general doctrinal views of Old School Baptists, as are the sentiments of the Mahometan Alcoran. It would require too great a space of our paper to copy the entire confession, but we will copy and remark upon such parts as we consider most objectionable. Let it not he supposed, however, that we approve of those articles on which we offer no comments; we consider the whole defective, with only a sufficient semblance of truth to decoy some well-meaning but poorly taught christians. Passing by the errors and defects of the first four articles, we will notice the fifth:
"V. Of Justification. That the great gospel blessing, which Christ of his fullness bestows on such as believe in him, is justification; that justification consists in the pardon of sin and the promise of eternal life, on principles of righteousness; that it is bestowed not’ in consideration of any work of righteousness which we have done, but solely through his own redemption and righteousness; that it brings us into a state of most blessed peace and favor with God, and secures every other blessing needful for time and eternity."
This article is altogether erroneous, and a perversion of the scriptural doctrine of justification. Neither pardon of sin or promise of life ever did or possibly can justify a guilty sinner; nor do the scriptures anywhere teach any such doctrine. To illustrate the subject, suppose a criminal convicted of the crime of murder, and by the law sentenced to die, should receive from the executive power a pardon, and with it a promise of life and liberty; would that constitute him a just man, and wash him from the stain of blood? Certainly not. He is just as guilty as though he were hung. Whether executed according to law, or pardoned and suffered to run at large, does not change his guilt; he is a murderer. Justification, in a gospel sense, removes, or rather takes away all guilt; and a justified soul is made as free from guilt as though he had never sinned. If pardon alone could justify us, the Savior’s blood was not required; it would then have been sufficient for God, against whom lie had sinned, to forgive the offender without reference to law or justice. But the testimony of the bible shows that the work of justification is that by which the guilty are made just. Therefore the blood of Christ was demanded, for nothing short of his blood could take away sill; his blood cleanseth from all guilt. While pardon and justification both occupy prominent places in the gospel, they are altogether distinct in nature and effect; pardon is an acquittal from punishment, but justification delivers from guilt. To remove the guilt from his people, Christ actually bore their sins in his own body on the cross, and put away their sins by his own sacrifice, was delivered up for their offences, and raised again for their justification. Justification has to do with the law, and required an atonement satisfactory to the utmost demands of the law; so that the law which held is in condemnation as sinners, requires that we should be set at liberty as just or as justified persons. Pardon proceeds from a satisfaction rendered to divine justice, in which we were personated and identified, in the identity of that body that bore our sins on the cross. In order to avoid the force of truth, the arminians would so separate justification from the atonement, as to preach a general or universal atonement and a limited justification, and so connect justification and pardon as to represent both accessible to all mankind and certain to none. Justification is inseparably connected with and based upon the atonement, and the atonement is predicated upon the right vested in Christ as the near kinsman to redeem.
The right to redeem captives belongs naturally only to those to whom such captives belonged prior to their captivity. The church of God belonged to Christ her Head before she had any being in Adam, and consequently before she went into captivity; being in a state of captivity, a ransom price was required for her deliverance. That price could not be estimated in silver and gold; in nothing short of the precious blood of Christ. Why his blood? Because the right of property was in him before the property or church were captivated. Had rivers of her blood been shed, it could not have redeemed the church, as the right of redemption belonged alone to Christ. The execution of the sentence of the law against the guilty upon an innocent sufferer, could not exculpate the guilty nor satisfy any law founded in justice; but, by virtue of pre-existing relationship, and indissoluble, eternal union between Christ, the Head, and the church, which, is his body, Christ’s one offering has for ever put away sin, and those for whom his sacrifice was made are freely justified through his blood, and completely secured from condemnation; for “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again,” &c. We are brought experimentally into the knowledge and enjoyment of this justification by regeneration: but we pass to notice the next article.
"VI. Of the Freeness of Salvation. That the blessings of salvation are made free to ail by the gospel; that it is the immediate duty of all to accept them by a cordial and obedient faith: and that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth, except his own voluntary refusal to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ; which refusal will subject him to an aggravated condemnation."
This article is false from beginning to end. In what part of the gospel are the blessings of salvation made free to those inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, who are now suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, or to that people against whom God has said, Reprobate silver shall men call them, for I have rejected them? Or that people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever? Or those which were before ordained to condemnation? Or to those who stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto they were appointed? Or to those who like natural brute beasts were made to be taken and destroyed? The blessings of salvation embrace all the blessings of the new covenant, wherewith God has blessed his people with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, according as he hath chosen them in him before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before him in love. – Eph. i. 4. Eternal and immutable love, stronger than sin or death; eternal, indissoluble union to Christ the Head of the church, eternal election, redemption, deliverance from guilt and wrath, regeneration, a new heart, a new spirit: love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness and faith, are among all the blessings of salvation, and how can they be free to those who are now in hell, or to those who die in their sins? The sentiment involved in this declaration is, that the provisions of salvation are made alike for all mankind, and the benefits of them made to depend upon the volition of the human will. But the words of God declare that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth; and that all those unto whom power is given to become the sons of God, are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man; but of God. Deliverance from sin is one of the blessings of salvation, as we have shown, and if deliverance from sin be free to all sinners, may not devils avail themselves of it? The doctrine is preposterous and false. The gospel makes salvation free for none; it is a proclamation of that full, free, and finished salvation which God has provided for his own elect, whom he has saved and called with a holy calling; not according to their works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given them in Christ Jesus before the world began. – 2 Tim. i. 9. And it is equally false, that it is the immediate duty of all to accept the blessings of salvation; for neither salvation in the abstract, nor any of its blessings were ever offered to any being, by any authority found in the divine testimony. God has never offered to save a sinner; therefore it cannot be the duty of any to accept of what has never been offered to them. We read much of offers of salvation and mercy in the filthy creeds of arminian workmongers, but not a word of it in the volume of divine inspiration. The doctrine is of men and devils, and altogether discordant with the revelation of grace and truth, embraced in the scriptures. There is not a truly regenerate soul on earth whose experience does not prove the absurdity and falsehood of the doctrine. Souls that have experienced the new birth, have seen the time when they would have freely given ten thousand worlds, if they possessed them, for one gleam of hope that there was, or could lie any salvation for them; but as to offers and acceptances, these they knew were out of the question. And when they have received an evidence of their interest in the salvation of God, they have discovered that it proceeded from the settled, eternal and immutable purpose and decree of God, and not from any will or works of their own: but the article before us goes on to state in what way its arminian author supposes that the blessings of salvation are to be accepted; namely, by a cordial and obedient faith. The faith of the gospel which accompanies salvation, follows, but does not precede regeneration; it is the fruit of the Spirit and the gift of God. Christ, and not the sinner, is the Author and Finisher of it. It is distinguished from the faith of wicked men and devils, as that faith which is the operation of God; and that which works by love and purifies the heart. The sinner in his natural state is without hope; faith is the substance of things hoped for; how then can the unregenerate put in requisition that faith which none but quickened souls ever possessed? Is not faith itself one of the blessings of salvation? Yet we are told that the blessings of salvation are free to be received by all men, by a cordial and obedient faith; that faith is a condition of faith! What consistency! But the article goes on to state, that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth, except his own voluntary refusal to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ. His being dead in trespasses and sins; under the curse of the law; under condemnation and wrath; full of enmity to God; with a heart that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, with a throat like an open sepulchre, with a month that is full of cursing and bitterness, with feet swift to shed blood, with misery and destruction in all his ways, and having never known the way of peace, nor the fear of God, with a carnal mind, which is enmity against God, not subject to his law, and which neither indeed can be; yet this article can discover nothing but a voluntary refusal to submit to Jesus Christ, in the way of his enjoying the blessings of salvation! How different the language of eternal truth on this subject: “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him up again at the last day.” Again, The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, (and the blessings of salvation are among the things of the Spirit; for it is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing,) neither can we know them, because they are spiritually discerned. So this article of faith is not the faith of God’s elect, but is an article of the faith of devils; not however believed by devils, for they know better; but by devils invented, and by their seducing spirits palmed off upon arminians. But there is yet another heresy embraced in this abominable article, viz: “which refusal will subject him to an aggravated condemnation.” What strange confusion! Condemnation aggravated beyond that of the greatest sinner on earth! But as the legs of the lame cannot be equal, we will pass on to notice what is implied in this sentiment, viz: that the condemnation of a guilty sinner, by the fiery law of God, may be aggravated or enhanced by his rejection of the gospel. Now if this be true, the gospel becomes to that soul not only the minister of condemnation, but of an aggravated condemnation, and that in direct contradiction of the express testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ, who declares that he came not to condemn the world, &c. It is not for the want of repentance, or faith, or an acceptance of the gospel, that sinners are condemned and damned, but for being sinners against God. But we will pass to the article –
“VIII. Of God’s Purpose of Grace. That election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which he regenerates sanctifies and saves sinners; that being perfectly consistent with the free agency of man, it comprehends all the means in connection with the end; that it is a most glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, being infinitely wise, holy and unchangable; that it utterly excludes boasting, and promotes humility, prayer, praise, trust in God, and active imitation of his free mercy; that it encourages the use of means in the highest degree; that it is ascertained by its effects in all who believe the gospel; is the foundation of christian assurance; and that to ascertain it with regard to ourselves, demands and deserves our utmost diligence.”
Election is truly the gracious purpose of God, according to which he regenerates, sanctifies and saves sinners; but this truth of God this article turns into a lie, by subjoining to it the declaration that God’s purpose according to which he saves sinners is perfectly consistent with man’s free agency, whereas the testimony of the scriptures is the very reverse: “Who hath. saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” “Therefore it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth; but of God that sheweth mercy.” “Not of works, lest any man should boast; for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them.” The doctrine of man’s free agency is not found in the bible. If man as an agent is free, he cannot be a sinner; if free, he is under no restraint or obligation to God or man. To be a free agent, maim cannot be an accountable being; for if he is an accountable being, and amenable to God for his conduct, he is not free; and if free, he has a right to do as he pleases. But it is not of man that walketh to direct his steps; and therefore the election of grace is not in harmony with the arminian notion of free agency; but is set forth by an inspired apostle as in accordance with the very opposite of what the workmongers call free agency: “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, hot of works, but of him that calleth, it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” – Rom. ix. 11—16. And after stating what the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, the apostle adds in verse 18, “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” Does this look much like free agency? But Paul anticipated how this truth would set upon an arminian’s stomach in verse 19: “Thou wilt surely say unto me, Why doth he yet find fault ? For who hath resisted his will Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” &c. Be it remembered that in these scriptures the apostle, by the infallible inspiration of the Holy Ghost, illustrates the sovereignty of God “according to election,” and not election according to man’s asserted free agency. There is no more harmony between the purpose of God in election and what is called man’s free agency, than there is between heaven and hell, or any other direct opposites. Another expression in this eighth article is, that the doctrine of God’s electing grace encourages the use of means in the highest degree! Now if what we have quoted from the mouth of God, that it is neither of the will nor works of men, that God will have mercy on whom he will, and that he hardeneth whom he will, &c., encourages the use of means in the highest degree, then is this item of the article well sustained. But the term means, when used in regard to procuring grace or salvation, belongs to the arminian vocabulary – it is not in the bible, nor is it in harmony with any sentiment that is taught in the bible. There are no more means used in the quickening of a dead sinner, than there were in the creation of the world. The work of salvation is as immediately and exclusively the work of God, as is the work of raising the dead, receiving the righteous into heaven, and turning the wicked into hell.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
March 15, 1844
“X. Harmony of the Law and Gospel. That the law of God is the eternal and unchangable rule of his moral government; that it is holy, just and good; and that the inability which the scriptures ascribe to fallen men to fulfill its precepts, arises entirely from their love of sin: to deliver them from which, and to restore them through a Mediator to unfeigned. obedience to the holy law, is one great end of the gospel, and of the means of grace connected with the establishment of the visible church.”
That the law of God is holy, just and good, is demonstrated by the express declaration of an inspired apostle; and that it is, as a standard of right, inflexible, immutable and everlasting, will scarcely be denied by any; but that the inability which the scriptures ascribe to fallen men to fulfill its precepts, arises entirely from their love of sin, is not quite so clear. If this position were correct, the very moment a quickened sinner is made to loathe sin, he would find himself released from all inability; a thing which all christians know is not true. “The carnal mind is enmity against God, it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Not simply because he loves sin, but because the law is spiritual, and the sinner is carnal, sold under sin. In this article, the writer and the holders of the doctrine betray a very confused idea of both the law and the gospel. They mistake the nature of the gospel, in supposing that one great end of it is to qualify mankind to keep the law. This certainly is not the case; for the gospel is glad tidings of great joy to those who are prepared by the quickening operation of the Holy Ghost to receive it; but it was never designed to enable us to personally meet and fulfill the requisitions of the law of God. If the design or end of the gospel was to remove from man kind their inability to keep the law, we must unavoidably come to one of the two following conclusions, viz.: first, that the gospel has failed to accomplish that great object for which Infinite Wisdom designed it; or, second, that all man kind are now able to render a perfect and perpetual obedience to its exceedingly broad commandments. Either of these conclusions would involve the most degrading and blasphemous reflections upon the being and attributes of Jehovah. If in relation to the first, God is disappointed in what he designed should result from the law or gospel, his wisdom is impeached. That cannot be infinite wisdom which would look for effects without providing an adequate cause to produce them; and if the wisdom of God did not, with infallible certainty, comprehend all things, the end from the beginning, it must be susceptible of improvement by the experiment of passing events; and if the wisdom of God can undergo any variation, either for better or for worse, his immutability is also involved; and as one of the perfections of God cannot be impaired without effecting all of them, the moment we take the position that either the law or gospel has failed to secure all that was contemplated in the mind and wisdom of God, we virtually say, with the fool, “There is no God.” Nor scarcely shall ye find less difficulty in taking the other horn of the dilemma; for if we assume that the gospel has removed the impediment to our perfect obedience to the law of God, destroyed the love of sin which, this article says, embodies all the inability of man, we shall thereby impeach the veracity of God, who has certainly denounced, at least, a portion of the human family as “Cursed children, that can not cease to sin.” And as God has said that the carnal mind cannot be subject to his law, even since the gospel, no man can assert that the inability of mankind, or of any man, to render perfect obedience to the law of God is removed by the gospel, without charging God with falsehood.
“To deliver fallen men from the love of sin, and restore them through a Mediator to unfeigned obedience of the holy law, is one great end of the gospel, and of the means of grace connected with the establishment of the visible church.” Now if this complicated jargon of sounds were true, instead of one great object (if we can count) there would be at least two, viz.: first, to deliver from the love of sin; and second, to bring into a state of unfeigned law obedience; but neither of these objects are presented in divine testimony, in a way harmonious with the doctrine of this article.
There are no provisions in either the law or the gospel to deliver fallen sinners, in the general sense expressed, from the love of sin. It is true that God has made ample and certain provisions in the purpose of his grace, to destroy, in his children, (the election of grace) the love of sin; and it is also true that a proclamation of such provision to the heirs of promise is one important announcement of the gospel. But it is well known by every heaven-born soul, that the love of sin is destroyed in the children of God by the regenerating power and grace of the Holy Ghost; and by nothing short of the Holy Spirit can this be effected, much less by that “another gospel” contemplated in the heterogeneous article under consideration: a gospel connected with what is called “means of grace, a cant phrase of arminians, but never found in the vocabulary of those who are experimentally taught of God.
But the work of the Spirit, in destroying, in renewed souls, the love of sin, is not, as asserted in the article, to enable them to obey the law of God. Christians, of all men on earth, are the most sensible of their utter inability and complete helplessness. But that Spirit by whom they are made alive, after destroying in them the love of sin, shows them the perfect righteousness of their Redeemer, Jesus Christ, as, not only commensurate with all the requisitions of law and justice, but also sufficient to elevate them above what they were or could possibly be as they stood in Adam, even in primeval rectitude. Instead of teaching them that they are now able to keep the law, it teaches the very opposite lesson; they are slain to the law, dead to the law, redeemed from under the law, and brought under law to Christ, whose yoke they find to be easy, and his burden light. But the “harmony of the law and gospel,” which the writer of this article seems desirous to establish, is something like the following: That man having fallen into sin, the law was given for his restoration; but finding that men would not or could not avail themselves of salvation by the deeds of the law, the gospel was added, as a second experiment, to aid man in saving himself by the deeds of the law, and thus both law and gospel, having the same end in view, are in harmony. Such delusive notions have their bearing to make graceless arminians preach a mongrel system, a workmongrel gospel; but our natural bodies could as well be fattened on winter fog, as the children of God could be made to grow and thrive on such a system of doctrine. But we will pass on to article –
“XIII. Of the Christian Sabbath. That the first day of the week is the Lord’s Day, or Christian Sabbath, and is to be kept sacred to religious purposes, by abstaining from all secular labor and recreations; by the devout observance of all the means of grace, both private and public; and by preparation for that rest which remaineth for the people of God.”
The anti-typical or christian Sabbath is not by any divine authority confined to the first or any other day or days of the week. It commenced with the gospel dispensation, and will terminate on earth with the dissolution of the world. The obligation of christians to appropriate a portion of their time to the social worship of God, is not predicated upon the supposed perpetuity of the Jewish Sabbaths, or a continuation of the Abrahamic covenant. The authors of this creed do not attempt to give any references to scriptural authority for their professed faith; and they find themselves as greatly puzzled to find any, as their pædo brethren are in proving that their infant sprinkling system was embraced in the covenant of circumcision. It is nowhere in the bible said that “the first day of the week is the Lord’s Day, or Christian Sabbath;” but it is expressly said, Let no man therefore judge you in meats, nor in drink, nor in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath; which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ. Those who have never been slain to the law, who regard the gospel only as an assistant to help us to keel) the law, are for ever grasping after shadows and always miss the substance. Their constrained service at the worldly sanctuary is tiresome; their language is, “When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? And the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?” – Amos viii. 5, 6. One day in seven is as many as such people can well afford to be religious in; and even that is devoted mostly to worldly business, such as school teaching, tract peddling, dunning and collecting money, selling sermons and prayers at a stipulated price, and wiping their mouths and saying they have not sinned. But such as the Son has made free from the bondage of the legal dispensation, have entered into that rest which remaineth for the people of God; Christ is their Sun, the light of his countenance constitutes their day, and all the days and hours of their sojourn on earth are not too much to be devoted to his praise. It is not a weariness to them, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light. They are not like the workmongers laboring to prepare themselves for that rest which remaineth, but they have already entered into it, and have ceased from their own works as God ceased from the works of creation and rested on the seventh day, and as Christ ceased from the work of redemption when he had obtained eternal redemption for his people, and entered into rest. But the wicked are like the troubled sea that cannot rest, for they continually cast up mire and dirt.
We have before observed that there are other objectionable things embraced in this “confession of faith;” we have, in accordance with brother Buckleys request, pointed out what we consider most objectionable. And as the items which we have dwelt upon are of general interest, we hope the brethren in other parts of our land may be led to examine this matter. For ourself, we are getting more out of favor with written creeds, confessions of faith, &c. Brethren cannot too well understand each other in regard to their doctrine and practice; but who shall dare to say that the New Testament is not a sufficient standard of faith and practice? We have received several confessions from Old School brethren and churches for publication, some of which have appeared in our columns; but with none of them are we so well pleased as with the book which God has given us, and the heavenly Interpreter, whose office it is to lead the children of God into all truth. May all who love the Lord be ever under his salutary influence, and feel in their hearts that they are not their own, that they are bought with a price, and that it is their privilege to glorify God in their bodies arid spirits which are his.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
April 15, 1844