THE THEOLOGY OF THE SO-CALLED PLYMOUTH BRETHREN EXAMINED AND REFUTED.
by The REV. ROBERT HALL, D. D.
Long time Pastor of the Baptist Church in Bristol, Eng.
"Pray, sir," asked Robert Hall of a Scotch pastor, "have you got any Antinomians in Scotland?"
"None," was the reply, "who avow themselves such. There are individuals in our congregations who have what I consider a morbid aversion to practical preaching, and to minute enforcement of duty; but almost all our people who know and care anything about religion will tell you that although the believer is delivered from the law as a covenant of works, he is subject to it as a rule of life."
"That," said Mr. Hall, "is precisely what I expected. Your ministers and your people have too much information to be ensnared by such impieties. Antinomianism is a monster which can live only in darkness; bring light on it, and it expires."
HALL'S WORKS, Harper's ed., vol. iii., p. 78.
"The author is at a loss to conceive on what principle, or for what reason, dangerous concessions are due to antinomianism; that thick-skinned monster of the ooze and the mire, which no weapon can pierce, no discipline can tame .... While antinomianism is making such rapid strides through the land, and has already convulsed and disorganized so many of our churches, it is no season for half measures; danger is to be repelled by intrepid resistance, by stern defiance, not by compliances and concessions." . . .
HALL'S WORKS, Harper's ed., vol. i., p. 390.
"As almost every age of the church is marked by its appropriate visitation of error, so little penetration is requisite to perceive that antinomianism is the epidemic malady of the present, and that it is an evil of gigantic size and deadly malignity. It is qualified for mischief by the very properties which might seem to render it merely an object of contempt, -- its vulgarity of conception, its paucity of ideas, its determined hostility to taste, science, and letters. It includes, within a compass which every head can contain and every tongue can utter, a system which cancels every moral tie, consigns the whole human race to the extremes of presumption or despair, erects religion on the ruins of morality, and imparts to the dregs of stupidity all the powers of the most active Poison. The author will ever feel himself honored by whatever censures he may incur through his determined opposition to such a system."
HALL'S WORKS, Harper's ed., vol. i., p. 390.
"WE may conceive of a religious code under all the possible gradations of laxness or severity--of its demanding more or less, or of its enforcing its injunctions by penalties more or less formidable; but to form a conception of a system deserving the name of religion, which prescribes no duties whatever, and is enforced by no sanctions, seems an impossibility.
On this account it appears to me improper to speak of antinomianism as a religious error; religion, whether true or false, has nothing to do with it; it is rather to be considered as an attempt to substitute a system of subtle and specious impiety in the room of Christianity.
In its own estimation, its disciples are a privileged class, who dwell in a secluded region of unshaken security and lawless liberty, while the rest of the Christian world are the vassals of legal bondage, toiling in darkness and chains. Hence, whatever diversity of character they may display in other respects, a haughty and bitter disdain of every other class of professors is a universal feature. Contempt or hatred of the most devout and enlightened Christians out of their own pale seems one of the most essential elements of their being; nor were the ancient Pharisees ever more notorious for trusting in themselves that they were righteous and despising others." ....
"The only attempt they make to support their miserable system is to adduce a number of detached and insulated passages of Scripture, forcibly torn from their context, and interpreted with more regard to their sound than their meaning, as ascertained by the laws of sober criticism." .....
"The most effectual antidote to the leaven of antinomianism will probably be in the frequent and earnest inculcation of the practical precepts of the Gospel; in an accurate delineation of the Christian temper; in a specific and minute exposi tion of the personal, social, and relative duties, enforced at one time by the endearing, at another by the alarming, motives which revelation abun dantly suggests."
HALL'S WORKS, Preface to Chase's "Antinomianism Unmasked," Harper's ed., vol. ii., pp. 458-461.
SIN "IN" US BUT NOT "0N" US.
This play on words, to which reference was made on page 105, is aptly illustrated by the utterance of the late Dr. James H. Brooks of St. Louis, editor of The Truth. In the issue of July, 1895, his answer to a subscriber is a sample of the interpretation of the Bible which is current among the Plymouth Brethren and their sympathizers of whatever name. The last sentence gives the doc trine in a nutshell.
"Probably it is a new subscriber to The Truth who writes to ask: 'What are your views on Salvation from Sin?' The editor has no views at all, which would be of any value, but tries to give the views of God, which are of infinite importance."'The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin' (1 John i. 7);
"'Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures' (1 Cor. xv. 3);
"'Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree' (1 Pet. ii. 24).
"So the Bible from first to last assures us that Christ has redeemed His people from the penalty, the power, and dominion of sin. But the Bible is equally explicit in testifying that 'there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not' (Eccl. vii. 20); 'if we,' that is, we believers, 'say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us' (1 John i. 8).
"In other words, we have no sin on us, thank God; but we have sin in us, and will have to the end of the journey."
How absent is perspective from this method of interpreting the Holy Scripture! Were the phrase from Ecclesiastes God's view before Christ came, what evidence is there that it was his view after the completion of Christ's Saving work? But more than that, is the divinely recorded sigh of the pessimist in Ecclesiastes to be understood as the thought of God? And in the case of 1 John it is just as allowable and as much the "view of God" to insert after, "if we," that is, all we who by birth belong to a sinful race, etc,
JOHN WESLEY once described antinomianism as a putting of "Gospel beads on bodies ready to indulge every unholy temper. (Works, Am. Ed., vol. vi., p. 779.)
Wesleyan is the following, on James ii. 26.
"Dreamers of your salvation sure,
Awaking unto righteousness,
Your Antinomian faith abjure,
Your groundless hope, and hellish peace;
Arise, and wash away your Sins;
And then--the work of faith begins!"
POETICAL WORKS, vol. xiii., p. 172.
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