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Puritan Board Doctor


MY DEAR BROTHER, Jan. 22, 1803.

MR. B. in his letter to you of Dec. 6, 1802, though he acquits me of Arminianism, yet “ventures to say that I appear to him to have adopted some of the leading peculiarities of Mr. Richard Baxter.” I wish he had named them; I would in that case have frankly owned whether I approved or disapproved. As it is, I have been constrained to do what I never did before, look over such polemical pieces of that writer as I could procure. I have found this, I confess, an irksome task. I endeavoured to procure his Aphorisms on Justification, but could not. All I could get of a polemical kind were his treatise on Universal Redemption, and Four Disputations on Justification. I have bestowed two days upon them, but cannot say that I have read them through. They are so circuitous, and full of artificial distinctions, and obscure terms, that I could not in many cases come at his meaning, nor could I have read them through without making myself ill.

It is true, I have found several of my own sentiments maintained by Mr. Baxter. He speaks of salvation by a substitute as being a measure rather “above law” than according to it, and of satisfaction being made “to the Lawgiver rather than to the law.” If he means any thing more by this than what I have said in Lett.

IV., I have no concern in it; and this for substance is allowed by Dr. Owen, in his answer to Middle, p.512. He pleads, also, that the faith by which we are justified includes a submission of heart to Christ, in all his offices, or a reconciliation to God; and, consequently, that a sinner when justified, though ungodly in the eye of the law, yet is not so in the eye of the gospel, or in our common acceptation of the term. In this I agree with him. It appears to me, however, that though it be essential to the genuineness of faith to receive Christ in every character he sustains, so far as it is understood, yet believing for justification has a special respect to Christ’s obedience unto death, with which God is well pleased, and of which our justification is the reward.

Mr. Baxter pleads for “universal redemption;” I only contend for the sufficiency of the atonement, in itself considered, for the redemption and salvation of the whole world; and this affords a ground for a universal invitation to sinners to believe; which was maintained by Calvin, and all the old Calvinists. I consider redemption as inseparably connected with eternal life, and therefore as applicable to none but the elect, who are redeemed from among men.

Mr. Baxter considered the gospel as a new law, taking place of the original law under which man was created; of which faith, repentance, and sincere obedience were the requirements; so, at least, I understand him. But these are not my sentiments: I believe, indeed, That the old law, as a covenant, is not so in force as that men are now required to obey it in order to life; on the contrary, all such attempts are sinful, and would have been so though no salvation had been provided. Yet the precept of it is immutably binding, and the curse for transgressing it remains on every unbeliever. I find but little satisfaction in Mr. Baxter’s disputations on justification. He says a great deal about it, distinguishing it into different stages, pleading for evangelical works as necessary to it, &c. &c. Sometimes he seems to confine the works which Paul excluded from justification to those of the common law, (“the burdensome works of the Mosaical law,” – these are his words,) and to plead for what is moral, or, as he would call it, “evangelical.” Yet he disavows all works as being the causes or grounds on account of which we are justified; and professes to plead for them only as “concomitants;” just as we say repentance is necessary to forgiveness, and faith to justification, though these are not considerations moving God to bestow those blessings. In short, I find it much easier to express my own judgment on justification, than to say wherein I agree or differ with Mr. Baxter. I consider justification to be God’s graciously pardoning our sins, and accepting us to favour, exempting us from the curse of the law, and entitling us to the promises of the gospel; not on account or in consideration of any holiness in us, ceremonial or moral, before, in, or after believing, but purely in reward of the vicarious obedience and death of Christ, which, on our believing in him, is imputed to us, or reckoned as if it were ours. Nor do I consider any holiness in us to be necessary as a concomitant to justification, except what is necessarily included in believing.

Mr. Baxter writes as if the unconverted could do something towards their conversion, and as if grace were given to all, except those who forfeit it by wilful sin. But no such sentiment ever occupied my mind, or proceeded from my pen. Finally, Mr. Baxter considers Calvinists and Arminians as reconcilable, making the difference between them of but small amount. I have no such idea; and if, on account of what I have here and elsewhere avowed, I were disowned by my present connexions, I should rather choose to go through the world alone than be connected with them. Their scheme appears to me to undermine the doctrine of salvation by grace only, and to resolve the difference between one sinner and another into the will of man, which is directly opposite to all my views and experience. Nor could I feel a union of heart with those who are commonly considered in the present day as Baxterians, who hold with the gospel being a new remedial law, and represent sinners as contributing to their own conversion.

The greatest, though not the only, instruction that I have received from human writings, on these subjects, has been from President Edwards’s Discourse on Justification. That which in me has been called “a strange or singular notion” of this doctrine is stated at large, and I think clearly proved, by him under the third head of that discourse, – pp. 86-95.

Here, my dear brother, I lay down my pen. Reduced as I am to the awkward necessity (unless I wish to hold a controversy with a man deservedly respected, and who is just going into his grave) of making a private defense against what is become a public accusation, I can only leave it to Him who judgeth righteously to decide whether I have been treated fairly, openly, or in a manner becoming the regard which one Christian minister owes to another.

If what I have written contain any thing injurious to the truth, may the Lord convince me of it. And if not, may He preserve me from being improperly moved by the frowns of men. I am, as you know, your affectionate brother.

A. F.[/end]

[The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller pages 814-16]

This edition on CD was compiled by Br. Ken Oldfield and can be ordered at [email protected]
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