« Prev APHORISM XXXV. Next »


The radical difference between the good man and the vicious man.

Leighton and Coleridge.

The godly man hates the evil he possibly by temptation hath been drawn to do, and loves the good he is frustrated of, and, having intended, hath not attained to do. The sinner, who hath his denomination from sin as his course, hates the good which sometimes he is forced to do, and loves that sin which many times he does not, either wanting occasion and means, so that he cannot do it, or through the check of an enlightened conscience possibly dares not do; and though so bound up from the act, as a dog in a chain, yet the habit, the natural inclination and desire in him, is still the same, the strength of his affection is carried to sin. So in the weakest sincere Christian, there is that predominant sincerity and desire of holy walking, according to which he is called a righteous person, the Lord is pleased to give him that name, and account him so, being upright in heart, though often failing.


Leighton adds, "There is a righteousness of a higher strain." I do not ask the reader's full assent to this position: I do not suppose him as yet prepared to yield it. But thus much he will readily admit, that here, if anywhere, we are to seek the fine line which, like stripes of light in light, distinguishes, not divides, the summit of religious morality from spiritual religion.

"A righteousness (Leighton continues,) that is not in him, but upon him. He is clothed with it." This, Reader! is the controverted doctrine, so warmly asserted and so bitterly decried under the name of "imputed righteousness. Our learned Archbishop, you see, adopts it; and it is on this account principally, that by many of our leading churchmen his orthodoxy has been more than questioned, and his name put in the list of proscribed divines, as a Calvinist. That Leighton attached a definite sense to the words above quoted, it would be uncandid to doubt; and the general spirit of his writings leads me to presume that it was compatible with the eternal distinction between things and persons, and therefore opposed to modern Calvinism. But what it was, I have not (I own) been able to discover. The sense, however, in which I think he might have received this doctrine, and in which I avow myself a believer in it, I shall have an opportunity of showing in another place. My present object is to open out the road by the removal of prejudices, so far at least as to throw some disturbing doubts on the secure taking-for-granted, that the peculiar tenets of the Christian faith asserted in the articles and homilies of our national Church are in contradiction to the common sense of mankind. And with this view, (and not in the arrogant expectation or wish, that a mere ipse dixit should be received for argument) I here avow my conviction, that the doctrine of imputed righteousness, 82 rightly and scripturally interpreted, is so far from being either irrational or immoral, that reason itself prescribes the idea in order to give a meaning and an ultimate object to morality; and that the moral law in the conscience demands its reception in order to give reality and substantive existence to the idea presented by the reason.

« Prev APHORISM XXXV. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection