Chapter 17.

{146} FREEBORN was not the person to let go a young man like Charles without another effort to gain him; and in a few days he invited him to take tea at his lodgings. Charles went at the appointed time, through the wet and cold of a dreary November evening, and found five or six men already assembled. He had got into another world; faces, manners, speeches, all were strange, and savoured neither of Eton, which was his own school, nor of Oxford itself. He was introduced, and found the awkwardness of a new acquaintance little relieved by the conversation which went on. It was a dropping fire of serious remarks; with pauses, relieved only by occasional "ahems," the sipping of tea, the sound of spoons falling against the saucers, and the blind shifting of chairs as the flurried servant-maid of the lodgings suddenly came upon them from behind, with the kettle for the teapot, or toast for the table. There was no nature or elasticity in the party, but a great intention to be profitable.

"Have you seen the last Spiritual Journal?" asked No. 1 of No. 2 in a low voice.

No. 2 had just read it. {147}

"A very remarkable article that," said No. 1, "upon the death-bed of the Pope."

"No one is beyond hope," answered No. 2.

"I have heard of it, but not seen it," said No. 3.

A pause.

"What is it about?" asked Reding.

"The late Pope Sixtus the Sixteenth," said No. 3; "he seems to have died a believer."

A sensation. Charles looked as if he wished to know more.

"The Journal gives it on excellent authority," said No. 2; "Mr. O'Niggins, the agent for the Roman Priest Conversion Branch Tract Society, was in Rome during his last illness. He solicited an audience with the Pope, which was granted to him. He at once began to address him on the necessity of a change of heart, belief in the one Hope of sinners, and abandonment of all creature mediators. He announced to him the glad tidings, and assured him there was pardon for all. He warned him against the figment of baptismal regeneration; and then, proceeding to apply the word, he urged him, though in the eleventh hour, to receive the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible. The Pope listened with marked attention, and displayed considerable emotion. When it was ended, he answered Mr. O'Niggins that it was his fervent hope that they two would not die without finding themselves in one communion, or something of the sort. He declared, moreover, what was astonishing, that he put his sole trust in Christ, 'the source of all merit,' as he expressed it—a remarkable phrase." {148}

"In what language was the conversation carried on?" asked Reding.

"It is not stated," answered No. 2; "but I am pretty sure Mr. O'Niggins is a good French scholar."

"It does not seem to me," said Charles, "that the Pope's admissions are greater than those made continually by certain members of our own Church, who are nevertheless accused of Popery."

"But they are extorted from such persons," said Freeborn, "while the Pope's were voluntary."

"The one party go back into darkness," said No. 3; "the Pope was coming forward into light."

"One ought to interpret everything for the best in a real Papist," said Freeborn, "and everything for the worst in a Puseyite. That is both charity and common sense."

"This was not all," continued No. 2; "he called together the Cardinals, protested that he earnestly desired God's glory, said that inward religion was all in all, and forms were nothing without a contrite heart, and that he trusted soon to be in Paradise—which, you know, was a denial of the doctrine of Purgatory."

"A brand from the burning, I do hope," said No. 3.

"It has frequently been observed," said No. 4, "nay, it has struck me myself, that the way to convert Romanists is first to convert the Pope."

"It is a sure way, at least," said Charles timidly, afraid he was saying too much; but his irony was not discovered.

"Man cannot do it," said Freeborn; "it's the power of faith. Faith can be vouchsafed even to the greatest {149} sinners. You see now, perhaps," he said, turning to Charles, "better than you did, what I meant by faith the other day. This poor old man could have no merit; he had passed a long life in opposing the Cross. Do your difficulties continue?"

Charles had thought over their former conversation very carefully several times, and he answered, "Why I don't think they do to the same extent".

Freeborn looked pleased.

"I mean," he said, "that the idea hangs together better than I thought it did at first."

Freeborn looked puzzled.

Charles, slightly colouring, was obliged to proceed, amid the profound silence of the whole party. "You said, you know, that justifying faith was without love or any other grace besides itself, and that no one could at all tell what it was, except afterwards, from its fruits; that there was no test by which a person could examine himself, whether or not he was deceiving himself when he thought he had faith, so that good and bad might equally be taking to themselves the promises and the privileges peculiar to the gospel. I thought this a hard doctrine certainly at first; but, then, afterwards it struck me that faith is perhaps a result of a previous state of mind, a blessed result of a blessed state, and therefore may be considered the reward of previous obedience; whereas sham faith, or what merely looks like faith, is a judicial punishment."

In proportion as the drift of the former part of this speech was uncertain, so was the conclusion very distinct. There was no mistake, and an audible emotion. {150}

"There is no such thing as previous merit," said No. 1; "all is of grace."

"Not merit, I know," said Charles, "but—"

"We must not bring in the doctrine of de condigno or de congruo," said No. 2.

"But surely," said Charles, "it is a cruel thing to say to the unlearned and the multitude, 'Believe, and you are at once saved; do not wait for fruits, rejoice at once,' and neither to accompany this announcement by any clear description of what faith is, nor to secure them by previous religious training against self-deception!"

"That is the very gloriousness of the doctrine," said Freeborn, "that it is preached to the worst of mankind. It says, 'Come as you are; don't attempt to make yourselves better. Believe that salvation is yours, and it is yours: good works follow after.'"

"On the contrary," said Charles, continuing his argument, "when it is said that justification follows upon baptism, we have an intelligible something pointed out, which every one can ascertain. Baptism is an external unequivocal token; whereas that a man has this secret feeling called faith, no one but himself can be a witness, and he is not an unbiassed one."

Reding had at length succeeded in throwing that dull tea-table into a state of great excitement. "My dear friend," said Freeborn, "I had hoped better things; in a little while, I hope, you will see things differently. Baptism is an outward rite; what is there, can there be, spiritual, holy, or heavenly in baptism?"

"But you tell me faith too is not spiritual," said Charles. {151}

"I tell you!" cried Freeborn, "when?"

"Well," said Charles, somewhat puzzled, "at least you do not think it holy."

Freeborn was puzzled in his turn.

"If it is holy," continued Charles, "it has something good in it; it has some worth; it is not filthy rags. All the good comes afterwards, you said. You said that its fruits were holy, but that it was nothing at all itself."

There was a momentary silence, and some agitation of thought.

"Oh, faith is certainly a holy feeling," said No. 1.

"No, it is spiritual, but not holy," said No. 2; "it is a mere act, the apprehension of Christ's merits."

"It is seated in the affections," said No. 3; "faith is a feeling of the heart; it is trust, it is a belief that Christ is my Saviour; all this is distinct from holiness. Holiness introduces self-righteousness. Faith is peace and joy, but it is not holiness. Holiness comes after."

"Nothing can cause holiness but what is holy; this is a sort of axiom," said Charles; "if the fruits are holy, faith, which is the root, is holy."

"You might as well say that the root of a rose is red and of a lily white," said No. 3.

"Pardon me, Reding," said Freeborn, "it is, as my friend says, an apprehension. An apprehension is a seizing; there is no more holiness in justifying faith, than in the hand's seizing a substance which comes in its way. This is Luther's great doctrine in his 'Commentary' on the Galatians. It is nothing in itself—it is a mere instrument; this is what he teaches when {152} he so vehemently resists the notion of justifying faith being accompanied by love."

"I cannot assent to that doctrine," said No. 1; "it may be true in a certain sense, but it throws stumbling-blocks in the way of seekers. Luther could not have meant what you say, I am convinced. Justifying faith is always accompanied by love."

"That is what I thought," said Charles.

"That is the Romish doctrine all over," said No. 2; "it is the doctrine of Bull and Taylor."

"Luther calls it, 'venenum infernale,'" said Freeborn.

"It is just what the Puseyites preach at present," said No. 3.

"On the contrary," said No. 1, "it is the doctrine of Melancthon. Look here," he continued, taking his pocketbook out of his pocket, "I have got his words down as Shuffleton quoted them in the Divinity-school the other day: 'Fides significat fiduciam; in fiduci‚ inest dilectio; ergo etiam dilectione sumus justi'."

Three of the party cried "Impossible!" The paper was handed round in solemn silence.

"Calvin said the same," said No. 1 triumphantly.

"I think," said No. 4, in a slow, smooth sustained voice, which contrasted with the animation which had suddenly inspired the conversation, "that the con-tro-ver-sy, ahem, may be easily arranged. It is a question of words between Luther and Melancthon. Luther says, ahem, 'faith is without love,' meaning, 'faith without love justifies'. Melancthon, on the other hand, says, ahem, 'faith is with love,' meaning, 'faith justifies with {153} love'. Now both are true: for, ahem, faith-without-love justifies, yet faith justifies not-without-love."

There was a pause while both parties digested this explanation.

"On the contrary," he added, "it is the Romish doctrine that faith-with-love justifies."

Freeborn expressed his dissent; he thought this the doctrine of Melancthon which Luther condemned.

"You mean," said Charles, "that justification is given to faith with love, not to faith and love."

"You have expressed my meaning," said No. 4.

"And what is considered the difference between with and and?" asked Charles.

No. 4 replied without hesitation, "Faith is the instrument, love the sine qu‚ non."

Nos. 2 and 3 interposed with a protest; they thought it "legal" to introduce the phrase sine qu‚ non; it was introducing conditions. Justification was unconditional.

"But is not faith a condition?" asked Charles.

"Certainly not," said Freeborn; "'condition' is a legal word. How can salvation be free and full if it is conditional."

"There are no conditions," said No. 3; "all must come from the heart. We believe with the heart, we love from the heart, we obey with the heart; not because we are obliged, but because we have a new nature."

"Is there no obligation to obey?" said Charles, surprised.

"No obligation to the regenerate," answered No. 3; "they are above obligation; they are in a new state." {154}

"But surely Christians are under a law," said Charles.

"Certainly not," said No. 2; "the law is done away in Christ."

"Take care," said No. 1; "that borders on Antinomianism."

"Not at all," said Freeborn; "an Antinomian actually holds that he may break the law: a spiritual believer only holds that he is not bound to keep it."

Now they got into a fresh discussion among themselves; and, as it seemed as interminable as it was uninteresting, Reding took an opportunity to wish his host a good-night, and to slip away. He never had much leaning towards the evangelical doctrine; and Freeborn and his friends, who knew what they were holding a great deal better than the run of their party, satisfied him that he had not much to gain by inquiring into that doctrine farther. So they will vanish in consequence from our pages.

Chapter 1-18

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