The golden white devil of Antinomianism. Rutherford.

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OBJECTION FOUR. But if I cannot come to Christ without sense of sin and poverty, then is my coming and my act of believing founded and bottomed upon something that I have before I come to Christ.

ANSWER. This is the question between us and Antinomians, like the very question between us and papists concerning the authority of the Scripture; but I say, as the church’s authority is not the formal reason why I believe Scripture to be the Word of God, yet the church’s authority is not excluded from being a means and motive. For faith cometh by hearing (Rom. 10:17), so Christ himself is the formal reason of my faith. I rest on Christ because he is Christ. Sense of poverty is a strong motive, for except I be driven and compelled to come to Christ, I shall never come. Sense of poverty is not the foundation of the wall, yet it may be a pinning in the wall.

Antinomians teach that inherent qualifications and all works of sanctification are but doubtful evidences to us of our interest in Christ, or that we are in the state of grace {Dr. Tobias Crisp, Christ Alone Exalted [(London, 1643; ed. S. Crisp, 1690)], Sermon 15, 16, 17}. What then makes me, John, Anne, by name, sure in my conscience that I am in Christ even to the full removal of all heart-questions?

That which reveals (say they) my evidence of assurance, that I am my well-beloved’s, and that he is mine, is the Spirit speaking personally and particularly to my heart with a voice, ‘Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.’ And this is that broad seal of the Spirit making an immediate impression on my heart, without any begged testimony of works of sanctification, which is the revealing evidence of my interest in Christ; and the receiving evidence is faith, believing this testimony of the Spirit only because God’s Spirit saith so, not because I have evidences, by particular works of sanctification, such as are universal obedience, sincerity of heart, and love of the brethren.

But to speak a little of this for the times; the papist is the black devil, taking away all certainty of assurance that we are in Christ, or that any man can know this. The Antinomian is the golden white devil, a spirit of hell clothed with all heaven, and the notions of free grace; and first, the well-head of all is, free grace in us is a dream, sanctification inherent is a fiction; Christ is all, there is no grace existent in the creature; grace is all in Christ, and nothing but imputed righteousness, for if works of sanctification are not marks intelligible, or which can come in under the capacity of received light, to be known with any certainty or assurance, [then;]

(1) The joy and rejoicing that we have in the testimony of a good conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have our conversation in the world (2 Cor. 1:12), must be a dream. David, Job, Moses, Samuel, the prophets, and apostles, their joying in a good conscience arises from doubtful and conjectural evidences. Yea, no man can say in any assurance, I believe in Christ, in the inner man, I delight in the Law of the Lord [cf. Ps. 1:2], I am crucified to the World [Gal. 6:14], my conversation is in heaven [Phil. 3:20], for all these are inherent qualifications in the child of God, but they are doubtful and uncertain. How then has God promised to love the righteous, to reward believing with life eternal, to give the prize to him that runneth, etc.?

(2) The testimony of the Spirit bearing witness to our spirit, that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:16), is in this sense an immediate act of the Spirit, because reflex acts of the soul are performed without any other medium or means, but that whereby the direct acts are performed. I know that I know, I know that I believe, my sense by that same immediate operation of the Spirit, by the which I know God, without any other light, teaches me to know that I know God; even as by light I see colors, but my common sense needs not another sun or another light to make me know that I see colors. The lamb when it sees a wolf, though it never did see a wolf before, knows it to be an enemy, and flees; but to make it know that it knows the wolf, there is nothing required but the internal and common instinct of nature. So when I believe in Christ, that habitual instinct of the grace of God, actuated and stirred up by the Spirit of God, makes me know that I know God, and that I believe, and so that I am in Christ to my own certain feeling and apprehension; but this does not hinder, but the assurance of my interest in Christ is made evident to me by other inferior evidences. And hereby we know, that we know him, if we keep his commandments (1 John. 2:3). By the keeping of God’s commandments we do not know simply that we know God, by certainty of faith. But we know that we know God these two ways: [1] We know (the instinct of the new man being stirred up to action by that wind which bloweth when and where it listeth) our knowing of God to be sound, saving and true. We do not so much know our knowing of God, by this supernatural sense, as we know the supernatural qualification and sincerity of our knowing of God. So that we rather know the qualification of the act, that the work is done according to God, than the act according to its substance, though we do also know it in this relation, We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren (1 John 3:14): that is, our love to the brethren does evidence to us both that we are translated to the Kingdom of grace, and also it does evidence that that translation is real, true, sincere, sound and effectual by love, and all the fruits of the Spirit. [2] By these works of sanctification we have evidence that we have interest in Christ, not as by formal light suggesting to us that the immediate impression of this great and broad seal of the King of glory and his personal and particular testimony is true (for God’s Spirit needs not another witness to add authority to what He says); but because this conclusion (You John, Anna, have interest to Christ to your own feeling) must be proved by Scripture (except with Enthusiasts and fanatic Spiritualists we separate the Word and Spirit); therefore these works of sanctification prove the conclusion consequenter by Scripture and sense, and so lead us to the word of promise, thus to prove this conclusion (I John, Peter, Anna, have interest in Christ, to my own reflect, and private assurance); the major proposition is made good by Scripture, the assumption by sense, and the conclusion leads us to the certainty of faith in the promises, as:

He that believes, and makes sure his belief, by walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, has a clear evidence to his own feeling, that he has interest in Christ.

But I, John, Peter, Anna, do believe, and do make sure my belief, by walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Therefore, I, John, Peter, Anna, have a clear evidence to my own feeling, that I have interest in Christ.

The proposition is Scripture (John 3:36; 5:24; 11:25, 26; Rom. 8:1, 2; 1 John 1:4; 2:3). The assumption is made sure by sense, not at all times, but when the wind is fair, and the Spirit is breathing upon the soul; for though I do believe and walk after the Spirit, yet to my own feeling I have only evidence of my interest in Christ, when the Spirit stirs up my sense to compare my faith, walking with the promises of God in Christ. But the Antinomian says, ‘Alas all the certainty then, and the whole personal evidence that I have to know that I have interest in Christ, is ultimately and principally resolved on this weak and rotten foundation, to wit, on my own good works, which being examined by the Law of God, will be found so sinful as they shall involve me under the curse of God, and so the debate of conscience shall stand in full vigor, and I shall never be satisfactorily resolved of my interest in Christ, for you lead me from the impression of the immediate seal of the Spirit to my good works; and this is to drive me off Christ, and put me back again to my old jailer, and my old keeper, the Law.’

But I answer, this consequence is just nothing; for if my good works of sanctification were causes of my peace of conscience, this connection had some color of truth; but though those works are sinful by concomitance, because sin cleaves to them, yet because my supernatural sense of the Spirit suggest that these works are the fruits of faith, and are done in some measure of sincerity, and flow not from the spirit of the law, but from the spirit of the gospel, therefore they lead me to Christ, and drive me upon a clear evangelic promise, that:

(1) The adhering sinfulness of my works are purged in Christ’s blood.

(2) That this promise is a shore before mine eyes. He that fights the good fight, a crown of righteousness is laid up for him (2 Tim. 4:7, 8); He that runs, shall obtain (1 Cor. 9:24). And here is an evangelic word, Blessed are they that do his Commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates to the city (Rev. 22:14). So that the right of your peace and clear evidence, in assurance of your right to the tree of life, is not laid upon your works, but upon the promises of the gospel. Only your inherent qualification leads you as a moral motive to look to the promises of God, which is the bottom and the foundation of your peace, even as my walking, eating, drinking, may assure me I am a living man, and from the knowledge that I live, I come to know what I stand in relation to the king, as a son and an heir of a crown. Yet my right to the crown (suppose I were the eldest son of a king) stands not on this pillar that I eat and drink and live, but upon my birth and my relation to such a father. All my inherent qualifications do well prove that the tree and stock they grow on is faith, but is it hence proved that the tree is bottomed upon the branches? Nay, but by the contrary, the branches are stocked upon the tree.

(3) If works of sanctification are no sure marks of my interest in Christ, because sin adheres to them, and the sin adhering to them involves me in condemnation, then neither can faith in Christ be a sure mark of my interest in Christ, because faith is always mixed with sinful doubting. For I do not think that Antinomians do believe with all their heart, and sin of unbelief adhering to our faith no less involves the sinner in a curse, being committed against the gospel, than sins against the law. And therefore as faith justifies, not because great and perfect, but because lively and true, as the palsy hand of a man may receive a sum of gold, no less then a strong and healthy arm, so also do our inherent works of sanctification give us evidences that we are in Christ, and so lead us to the promises of the gospel, as signs, not causes of our interest in Christ, and that under this notion, because they are sincerely performed, not because they are perfect and without all contagion of sin cleaving to them.

(4) In exalting Christ’s righteousness one way, by making Christ all, they make Christ nothing another way, by vilifying the glory of sanctifying grace. For we are not by good works to make our calling and election sure to ourselves, and in the evidence of our own consciences, if our good works are no signs of our interest in Christ.

(5) The spirit which these men make the only witness, must be known to us, by Scripture, not to be a deluding spirit, for if this spirit cannot be known by these things which are called, the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), to wit, by love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, as the fruits are evidences of the life of the tree, men are to labor for faith and the raptures, impressions, and immediate and personal influence of a Spirit from heaven without any conscience of holy living; and this is the pathway for men void of all sanctification and inherent qualifications to believe they are in Christ. So the devil puts upon holiness inherent and constant walking with God, the soul scandal of fair white civility, and market morality, that so men may walk after the flesh, and believe the testimony of the broad seal of an immediate working Spirit.

From, Samuel Rutherford, “A Sermon Preached to the Honorable House of Commons At Their Late Solemn Fast, Wednesday, January 31, 1643/44,” Robert Baillie, George Gillespie, Alexander Henderson and Samuel Rutherford, Sermons Preached before the English Houses of Parliament by the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly of Divines 1643–1645 (Naphtali Press, 2011) 422–427. Out of print.
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