A ‘Gospel’ Without Offence

“While we wrangle here in the dark we are dying and passing to the world that will decide all our controversies.” – Richard Baxter, Reliquiae Baxterianae, Part 3, p. 89.

“Leave out the holy character of God, the holy excellence of his law, the holy condemnation to which transgressors are doomed, the holy loveliness of the Saviour’s character, the holy nature of redemption, the holy tendency of Christ’s doctrine, and the holy tempers and conduct of all true believers: then dress up a scheme of religion of this unholy sort:

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represent mankind as in a pitiable condition, rather through misfortune than by crime: speak much of Christ’s bleeding love to them, of his agonies in the garden and on the cross; without shewing the need or the nature of the satisfaction for sin: speak of his present glory, and of his compassion for poor sinners; of the freeness with which he dispenses pardons; of the privileges which believers enjoy here, and of the happiness and glory reserved for them hereafter:

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clog this with nothing about regeneration and sanctification, or represent holiness as somewhat else than conformity to the holy character and law of God: and you make up a plausible gospel, calculated to humour the pride, soothe the consciences, engage the hearts, and raise the affections of natural men, who love nobody but themselves.

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And now no wonder if this gospel (which has nothing in it affronting, offensive, or unpalatable, but is perfectly suited to the carnal unhumbled sinner, and helps him to quiet his conscience, dismiss his fears, and encourage his hopes,) incur no opposition amongst ignorant persons, who inquire not into the reason of things; meet with a hearty welcome, and make numbers of supposed converts, who live and die as full as they can hold of joy and confidence, without any fears or conflicts….

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What wonder if, when all the offensive part is left out, the gospel gives no offence? What wonder if, when it is made suitable to carnal minds, carnal minds fall in love with it? What wonder if, when it is evidently calculated to fill the unrenewed mind with false confidence and joy, it has this effect? What wonder if, when the true character of God is unknown, and a false character of him is framed in the fancy,  – a God all love and no justice, very fond of such believers, as his favourites, – they have very warm affections towards him?

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“… I would not give needless offence. Let this matter be weighed according to its importance. Let the word of God be examined impartially. I cannot but avow my fears that Satan has propagated much of this false religion, among many widely different classes of religious professors; and it shines so brightly in the eyes of numbers, who ‘take all for gold that flitters’, that, unless the fallacy be detected, it bids fair to be the prevailing religion in many places.”

– Thomas Scott, Letters and Papers, ed. John Scott (London: Seeley, 1824), pp. 441-4

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