THE THEOLOGY OF THE SO-CALLED PLYMOUTH BRETHREN EXAMINED AND REFUTED.
REV. J. FLETCHER says, "An Antinomian is a professor of Christianity, who is antinomos, against the law of Christ, as well as against the law of Moses. He allows Christ's law to be a rule of life, but not a rule of judgment for believers, and thus he destroys that law at a stroke, as a law; it being evident that a rule by the personal observance or non-observance of which Christ's subjects can never be acquitted or condemned, is not a law for them. Hence he asserts that Christians shall no more be justified before God by their personal obedience to the law of Christ, than by their personal obedience to the ceremonial law of Moses. Nay, he believes that the best of Christians perpetually break Christ's law; that nobody ever kept it but Christ Himself; and that we shall be justified or condemned before God, in the great day, not as we shall personally be found to have finally kept or broken Christ's law, but as God shall be found to have, before the foundation of the world, arbitrarily laid, or not laid, to our account, the merit of Christ's keeping His own law. Thus he hopes to stand in the great day, merely by what he calls 'Christ's imputed righteousness'; excluding with abhorrence, from our final justification, the evangelical worthiness of our own personal, sincere obedience of repentance and faith, -- a precious obedience this which he calls 'dung, dross, and filthy rags' just as if it were the insincere obedience of self-righteous pride, and Pharisaic hypocrisy. Nevertheless, though he thus excludes the evangelical, derived worthiness of the works of faith, from our eternal justification and salvation, he himself does good works, if he is in other respects a good man. Nay, in this case, he piques himself on doing them, thinking he is peculiarly obliged to make people believe that, immoral as his sentiments are, they draw after them the greatest benevolence and the strictest morality." This reminds us of the testimony of a Universalist woman, "That she had come three miles to attend this prayer-meeting, so as to show that the Universalists are as pious as the Orthodox."
But there are multitudes carelessly following the stream of corrupt nature who are crying out, not against the unholiness, but against the "legality, of their wicked hearts, which still suggest that they must do something, in order to attain eternal life." They decry that evangelical legality which all true Christians are in love with -- a cleaving to Christ by that kind of faith which works righteousness -- a following Him as He went about doing good, and a showing by St. James' works that we have St. Paul's faith.
The consistent Antinomian--that is, one whose practice accords with his theory--is loud in his proclamation of a finished eternal salvation, the blotting out of his sins, past, present and future, on the Cross eighteen hundred years ago, without respect to his own conduct, character, or works. His salvation is so finished that no sins can ever blot his name out of the Book of Life. He thinks that the Son of God magnified the law that we might vilify it; that He made it honorable, that we might make it contemptible; that He came to fulfill it, that we might be discharged from fulfilling it, according to our capacity. He has sympathy with David's confession: "I love thy commandments above gold and precious stones: I will always keep Thy law, yea, forever and ever: I will walk at LIBERTY, for I seek Thy precepts."
In short, the creed of the Antinomian is this: I was justified when Christ died, and my faith is simply a waking up to the fact that I have always been saved -- a realization of what was done before I had any being; that a believer is not bound to mourn for sin, because it was pardoned before it was committed, and pardoned sin is no sin; that God does not see sin in believers, however great sins they commit; that by God's laying our iniquities upon Christ, He became as completely sinful as I, and I as completely righteous as Christ. More over, I believe that no sin can do a believer any ultimate harm, although it may temporarily interrupt communion with God. I must not do any duty for my own salvation. This is included in the new covenant, which is all of it a promise, having no condition on my part. It is a paid up, non-forfeitable, eternal-life insurance policy. Since the new covenant is not properly made with us, but with Christ for us, the conditions, repentance, faith, and obedience, are not on our side, but on Christ's side, who repented, believed, and obeyed, in such a way to relieve us from these unpleasant acts. Hence it is folly to search for inward marks of grace, and it is a fundamental error to make sanctification an indispensable evidence of justification--an error which dampens the joys of him who takes Christ for his sanctification, and plunges him into needless alarms and distresses."
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