The Bramble Bush
On standing on any high hill in this world, where a view is commanded over the adjacent country to any great ex tent, to a contemplative mind, under God s grace alone, there are many diversified feelings to rush, and ebb, and flow to and fro, at times, which appear to be profitable. "The scene that here lies stretched before me", says the spiritual beholder of such a prospect, "is a fit emblem of myself and of every one else. The various towers of the "churches", the distant towns, the parcelling out of the green earth with its sharp and prickly hedges, and the vast works of man here piled up and manifested at a glance to me from hence, "all things are full of labour; man cannot utter it; this sore travail hath God given to the sons of men to be exercised therewith." And a sore travail, sure enough, it is for any one to whom the most high God hath given such an occupation, spiritually, to have "a heart given to seek and search out, by wisdom, concerning all things that are done under heaven;" to be marked, see, and learn the difference as to what the work of the ever-blessed God is. (Eccl. 1:8, 13) For it is certain that, though we have none of the former in this country, except in shows; yet, God has created wolves and bears, as well as clean kinds of animals. (Ezek.44:23) And though, in the prospect, bears and wolves do not run wild before me, yet, I only have to pass my eye about for a little time before, and in the thorn hedge of this world I can find a pretty good stock any day, of bastard Calvinists - those briers with which we are told by the prophet as above, the whole land shall become infested. For it is certain God had made every thing beautiful to typify man, the chief of the works of God. (Eccl. 3:11) Thus, our blessed Saviour expressly calls the non-elect goats and tares. And both Isaiah and Paul divide God s rejected enemies into thorns and briers. As I have already, I trust, been enabled a little to fence my hands with iron, to thrust away those sons of Belial, the thorns that so beautifully emblify the Arminians, that must not be touched by any good man, except with the staff of a spear, I wish I could be enabled as easily to cause bastard Calvinism, like a vast bramble bush, "to be utterly burned with the fire in the same place." (II Sam. 23:6,7) Thus, again our most blessed Saviour calls those meek and pious hypocrites, those docile ministers of the letter, whose pictures face us in the magazines and picture shops, and who "creep into houses, leading silly women captive"; those meek bastard Calvinist preachers whom I have seen and known, to my sorrow, and whose skin-deep religion adorns all our religious tea-parties, where downright Arminianism, as rank weeds, does not grow; I say, all our mealy-mouthed bastard Calvinist preachers, those poor chaffy oracles, as wise in self-conceited religion, as seven men that can give a true reason; (Prov. 26:16) those poor sons of grimace who have a mask and false show of pulpit talents in public, and a mild, and pleasing, and catching show of sanctimonious talk and glum looks in private, concerning religion; I say, our Saviour ships off, as it were at one stroke, to Botany Bay, those polite hypocrites and accom plished deceivers, by calling them "ravening wolves." (Matt. 7:15) And so they are. The apostle calls them dogs. (Phil. 3:2) The apostle Peter, that heavenly-minded apostle, calls them every name that is spiritually bad. (See his 2nd Epistle, 2nd Chapter)
But I must touch the root of the bramble bush, for I cannot pretend to go over, within the limits of this paper, the multiplied branches of this tree which the Lord hath cursed. (Heb. 6:8) I say then, once for all, that the root of brambly bastard Calvinism is letter-knowledge.
"But", say some, "faith in Christ is taking God at His word, as revealed in holy Scripture." That I call letter-faith; it is man s taking, namely, taking God at His word. O, awful! I believe all these takers! will be in hell, if they die as they are, as surely as each of them has a head on his shoulders. Thus, what these takers get to build their brambly bastard Calvinism with. I believe they will be executed for, with all the rest of the non-elect, under the universal statute of heaven: namely, that "the wages of sin is death." For, if invading the prerogative of the Holy Ghost is not death, I know not what is. Thus, bastard Calvinism, for every one of its opinions, will be executed or theft in taking them out of the letter of holy Scriptures without the seal of the Holy Spirit in the work of experience in the soul, which is the only royal way pursued by the court of hea ven towards its favourites, the elect. Thus the capital charge on which bastard Cal vinists will be executed in their conscience, under the wrath of God, will be for taking their religion out of the letter of the holy Scripture in the face of the warnings to the contrary therein contained, namely, that "he is not a Jew who is one outwardly," in the letter, and that he alone is a manifested elect soul, who is "builded for an habitation of God, through the Spirit," in experience alone: for the experimental knowledge of God and Christ in the heart is through God the Holy Ghost alone. Therefore. I say, bastard Calvinists will all be executed for high treason against God the Holy Spirit, which is the unpardonable sin (sic). One might, indeed, have thought that the poor wretches might have been staggered out of letter-Calvinism by reading, in the letter, that a true saint in God s account is one who is "Gods husbandry building, and habitation;" and for whom Paul accordingly prays. "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; the eves of your understanding being en lightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power!" (Eph. 1:16,etc.) O, no; bastard Calvinists live in a different day to what the apostle Paul did! God had to teach the apostle Paul, but "the Scriptures can teach me," says the bastard Calvinist. Thus, in London, and in various of the counties in England, these bastard Calvinist preachers and churches are getting more common every day.
Thus (reverting again to the hill I might suppose myself standing on in the natural world) all these works of man which I can see, will be burnt up to utter desolation. "The things that are seen are temporal;" all mere letter-knowledge of Scripture, all mere letter-knowledge of God, all mere letter-knowledge of the Old and New Testaments, "for he is not a Jew who is one outwardly;" all mere bastard Calvinism which stands in the cold letter, and not in the Spirit s work internally; in the glorious experimental kingdom of God, in the soul experience; I say, under the mighty teachings of God alone, and not taken by mere reading; all bastard Calvinism, I say, will go off at the last day like a crack of thunder in a thunder storm; a sound, and nothing else. Thus, all things which I see from hence, trees, woods, hedges, towns, villages, grand mansion houses; the humble cottage of the peasant, and the swelling castle of the lord; the park of the square, the blazing grandeur of the duke s high revelling hall, and the poor poverty-pinched cot of the day labourer; all these, the whole visible creation, every thing I see, must come down! "Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also the heaven." (Heb. 12:26) "The heavens shall pass away also with a great noise." Then, where will bastard Calvinism be? Far be it from me to say one word against the letter of holy Scripture. I know it to be true, but I equally know that it cannot save any one. Salvation stands in power, and in power only. Accordingly. Paul says of the Corinthians, "I will not know your speech, but your power; for knowledge puffeth up; but the demonstration of the Spirit and of power in the conscience and soul, is alone salvation." (See I Cor. 1-5) For "the kingdom of God," in the souls of the really elect, "is not in word, but in power." Now, the Psalmist says. "God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God." (Psa. 62:11) Now, what becomes of bastard Calvinism? Now, what becomes of "you ought" and "you ought not"? Now, what becomes of free will masked under good John Calvin? Now, what be comes of those taking truth out of the letter, and who are never compelled to wait only upon God? "My soul, wait thou only upon God." (Psa. 62:5) for the letter of holy Scripture is only the echo. "The voice of the Lord Himself, powerful and full of majesty," experienced in the soul, in the all and in all to the elect. (Psa 29:4; II Cor. 2:4, 3) And the inward teachings of God in the elect soul exactly agree with holy Scripture. The incarnate, inward, and written word agree. (Rev. 19:13)
Thus, the apostle cuts all bastard Calvinists off at a stroke; "As many as have not the Spirit of Christ are none of His." By this stroke He cuts off the whole family of bastard Calvinists, who shall find, at the last day, to their carnal and everlasting confusion, that crowds in hell, as well as they, have had the letter of holy Scripture, and have been as wise, more or less, as Ahithophel, too, in it; and have been damned, all one for that. (Matt. 6:22) Bastard Calvinists shall then suck the poison of asps; they shall gnaw their tongues; they shall see the folly of having made game of experience, and of having made light of experimental Christians, who are alone the Children of God, to the shutting out of all others else, whoever they may be. "For he is a Jew" only, like Christ, "who is so in wardly in the Spirit and not in the letter. Nay, our great bastard Calvinist preachers in London appear to me only to be grimalkins, buzzards, and apes; for, what think you, to my own knowledge, did I hear one of the Particular Baptist very popular bastard Calvinist preachers there saying? He, Philistine-like, called the experimental people "frogs, croaking in a stagnant pool about their sins. Did ever any one hear such glaring blasphemy? Again: I have heard of the great independent bastard Calvinist preachers there, just in the same way. Iron-hearted blasphemy they rave about, and preach up "the equitable right of claim(!)" of the elect for salvation from the ever adorable God; thus destroying at one blow, godly filial fear, which is one bright jewel in the crown of a hell. deserving sinner saved by grace; a jewel, so far like Christ, who "was heard in that He feared." (Heb. 5:7) I need not say that the iron-hearted Independent, like the Particular Baptist bastard Calvinist preachers, cry down experience because they have none. For, if the poor wretches knew one mite of experimental, deep, and saving teachings under the Holy Spirit alone, it would poison all their letter self-conceit, yea, and devil-conceit at one blow! Poor wretched "bastard Jews, Bar-jesuses" that they are. (Acts 13:6)
And it is my deliberate opinion that bastard Calvinism will flood the land. There shall, in the last days, be perilous times, in which there shall be a form of godliness, which form is bastard (father less) Calvinism, not built up in the soul by the living hand of experience alone, which is the work of God the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Ghost alone is the divine cement which holds together the spiritual house of a true elect man s knowledge of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. This is what teaches him also what man is, and what self is. Every thing short of this is a brier, even as an Arminian is a thorn in God s sight. And, as sure as God is living, they shall, dying so, be cast into hell together. So be it; "the whole land shall become briers and thorns."
Selected from the Gospel Standard, 1838