How mysterious that the thorn, which is the emblem of the fall of man, should be laden with beauty, teeming with fragrance, abounding with endless profusion of scents and hues, embellishing as it were the whole clime of even uncultivated nature in the month of May! Rich and blooming, the hedge-rows, thorn-bushes, and lanes seem strewed as it were then in that month with flowered walls, clumps, and pictured lines of beauty with what we call "May", thorn-blossom, in pink, lilied, and variegated sweetness and almost enchanting charms! And yet, it is all thorn-blossom still! And the thorn is the emblem, mark, and badge of the curse of God on the whole visible creation wherein we live. "Cursed is the ground", says God; "thorns shall it bring forth". And yet that the badge of God's curse should thus be decorated in the youth of spring and summer with the unnumbered sweet-distilling and balmy beauties I have described, is a mystery. From which I shall draw the following conclusions and inferences.
Thorn-blossom, in the first place, reminds me of the whole body of Arminianism, blooming on the stock of universal redemption, creature-merit, free-will, and the cursed mass of opposition to God's decrees. God says, "His elect are a garden enclosed, a vineyard, a spring shut up; and a fountain sealed". (Songs 4:12). "No", says Arminianism, "all men are equally beloved in God's sight". Thus Arminianism blooms and blossoms nearly on every corner of the world. And why? Because it is pretty, fragrant, and charming to the greatest mass of mankind. For many are in the broad road that leadeth unto destruction, whereunto also they were appointed; (Matt. 7:13; I Peter 2:8); and few are in the narrow way that leadeth unto life. (Matt. 7:14) I say, the thorn-blossom of Arminianism endeavors to bloom out its scents, and says that all men are equally gilded with acceptableness before God. Says Arminianism, Cain might have offered an acceptable offering before God as well as Abel did. It was Cain's own fault, says Arminianism. Thus as Cain tilled the ground which brings forth thorns emblematic of God's curse, so Arminianism thus tills free-will and chance-work, and insists upon it that there is no difference between a thorn and an apple tree. "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons". (Songs 2:3)
That apple tree is the emblemed figure and name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the remainder of the verse quoted most clearly imports: "I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste". And as the fowls of the air pick "hips and haws and bramble-berries", the fruits of the rough, prickly, and disesteemed brier and thorn and such like; so Arminians are under the express and predestinated tuition of the prince of the power of the air; and as all the non-elected part of mankind weather and build their nests from necessity of the thorn-tree of God's rejection and non-election; so, on the contrary, do the whole elect race from among men set down under the Lord Jesus Christ's shadow and the great delight of electing love, particular and special redemption through the quickening love of God's most Holy Spirit.
Further, as the thorn-bush in May bends as it were with the load of blossom, and attracts the gaze of many a spectator; and as many a tongue might say of it, "See there!" in reference to its beauties; so the Arminian's holiness is the thorn-like, painted, daring, and bold front of creature-holiness, self-righteousness, and Satanical perfection of the flesh. They deny every truth of elect religion. They blaspheme, first, predestination; second, imputed righteousness; third, the final perseverance of the saints. They extol the power of the creature: "Up and be doing!" They say any one may have grace if he will. They say God wishes all to go to heaven, but the goats will not! Wesley and his associates thus deny the doctrine of reprobation; whereas Scripture says expressly, "God hardeneth whom he will". Moreover, Wesley denied the doctrine of unconditional election; thereby making the elect their own electors! Moreover, saying growth in grace is in our power, and his blasphemy against particular redemption and in favour of fleshly sanctification, perfection in the flesh, and what not; all these and various other aggravated marks stamp Wesley in my soul as the greatest enemy of God and of man that has appeared in these latter days. His denial of the cardinal doctrine of Christ's imputed righteousness, if he died in that state, stamps him as a damned man in my soul's thorough judgment; and it is to be feared that he died in all his errors. And, as Huntington says, "If a man dies in his errors he must be damned, if God be true". (Vide his sermon, entitled "The Funeral of Arminianism"). To which judgment I say, Amen.
Christ was made of a woman, and made under the law in behalf and in place of the elect; and he paid their penal debts which were owing, by his blood. And as the law also said, "Do this and live", as well as that "The soul that sinneth shall die": so Christ not only rubbed out with His blood the sentence of death recorded against the elect by the law; but he, also, as a man, kept the law as regards its mandate, "Do this and live". Thus, Christ brought in a divine, perfect, and law-fulfilled righteousness. Thus, His blood wiped out the black catalogue of the transgressions of the elect, the elect thereby being pronounced innocent, through blood, death, and destruction being fully wrung from the illustrious scape-goat as their Surety, Bondsman, and lawcurst Redeemer. The law thus exacted its full penalties. But over and above penalties, death, and the pains of eternal damnation which Christ endured for his spouse the church, he fulfilled, magnified, and made the law honour-able by perfect obedience to its eternal mandate which proclaims the path to win endless life: "Do this and live!" Christ did so do it: guile was not found in his mouth. This obedience, then, of His, is the imputed righteousness of the elect. This is their wedding garment of dazzling, bright, and transcendent beauty. This is what fits them to be the guests of God. This is what makes them god-like in his Infinite presence. This is what law and justice delight and smile to see. Did the law say, "Do this and live"? So the divinity of Immanuel clothed itself in the virgin's womb and linked to Him a human body, with a created human soul, in all respects like unto his brethren the elect seed; sin only excepted: and He not only washed them in his blood, but He brought in for them an everlasting righteousness also. This imputed righteousness then, I aver, asseverate, and am as certain in my soul as that breath is in my body, that every man who has it not, is an eternally damned soul. "And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment. And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to his servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 22:11).
This imputed righteousness then is the bloom, blossom, and fruitbearing richness, grandeur, and ineffable brilliancy of the Tree of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ, unto all the elect seed. This the blossom of life, perfection, immortality, and neverceasing joy to my ransomed soul. This is the dress which I shall sit in as in wrought gold at the wedding supper of the Lamb. "For thy Maker is thy husband". (Isa. 54:5) This is the fine needle-work, (Ps. 45:14) as it were, which the virgin throng of the ransomed race attend Immanuel the King of Glory in. This imputed righteousness, I say, which the Arminians fight against like tigers; this righteousness is the robe, the diadem of beauty, the ornaments, jewels, rich embroidery, gilded vest, sunny tabernacle, gorgeous grandeur, and laded blossom of paradise that my obedience-crowned, blood-bought soul shall bask in, with the trophies of free grace, without money and without price, for ever and for ever, in that celestial country, which so far must and will eclipse the glories of this terrestial scene, as much as the thorn-blossom of creature-holiness is eclipsed, bedimmed, and out-shown by the infinite, divine, and ineffable righteousness of Immanuel imputed to the elect alone. O heavenly excellencies, hid treasures, and never-ceasing bloom of the Tree of Life, as above described! How different to the painted, patched-up, and rude garb of creature-righteousness! A crab, a thorn, a brier, a nettle, or a thistle, is the God-curat adornment of a true Arminian in the sight of God! "Bind him hand and foot, and take him away."
If it is asked why I take on myself to judge the Arminian crew, it is, I answer, because I know by divine and heaven-sent experience the hollow, shadowy, cob-web, and cockatrice-wreathed fabric of their everlasting cursed religion, Popery and Arminianism are one and the same. I wanted to be a Wesleyan, but the wrath of God tore off the spiders' webs, which their religion was stanching my sin-wounded soul with.
But universal redemption and the denial of Christ's imputed righteousness are villanies one as great as the other. For I know that if Christ's righteousness is for all men than there is no hell! for the wedding garment, like a ship at full sail with a prosperous wind and unerring pilot on a safe sea, will waft every one whom it is for into the joyous harbour of eternal victory over sin, self, death, and hell. But, according to the damnable doctrine of universal redemption, the nullity and non-necessity of Christ's righteousness are hideously set forth; for one might suppose many wedding garments were laid by, as it were, useless in heaven, if Christ wrought out the brilliant vests for those in hell! O, shocking! Christ's blood and imputed righteousness are equally commensurate; and were shed and wrought out alone for the sheep and not for the goats! No goatish back ever was made or created to wear the mantle of Christ's imputed righteousness. No, never! "Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them." (Jer. 6:30)
This is the reason then for the profusion of the thorn-blossom. Many being in the broad way and few in the narrow, we thus see the need, the call, and necessity for thorn-blossom. For we all, alas, by nature, are the children of wrath. But the Holy Ghost regenerates and testifies of Jesus in His blood and righteousness in due time to the elect. Thus the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy to them. After they know Christ's imputed righteousness and blood through the Spirit's revelation thereof to their souls inwardly, in the inward kingdom of God in their souls; lo! they begin each then as kings to say like David, "Come near, all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what God hath done for my soul." This exasperates the devil to the highest pitch. Then the devil sends forth such men as Wesley, to poison the whole atmosphere of the world with false doctrine. Thus the Wesleyans call the unconditional election of the chosen race the horrible decree! Thus they designate election (the grand charter of all the sheep) as the devil's lie. O horrible! I say again, that Wesleyan Methodism is flat high treason against my electing, redeeming, and regenerating God! Of Arminians may be said:
Vain man, forbear! no thorny bloom
Of creature goodness reaches heaven!
Thorn-blossom fails! The Arminian's doom
Is hell, swollen with all such leaven.
They who are dressed in that bright vest,
Imputed Righteousness most pure!
When hell, when death on all else rest,
As Christ's theirs then this dress seals sure!
O brilliant Vest! surpassing far
The richest notions words can paint!
Hid under thee, no saint shall faint,
Though stung with sin's still rankling scar!
For unconditional election, imputed righteousness, particular redemption, God's sovereign election or rejection of men (all which things Wesley denied) go hand in hand, or stand or fall together. The thorn-blossom of creature-merit and human holiness is therefore called in. As the bloom of the Tree of Life is for the elect alone; as the elect are, as it were, a garden walled around, wherin alone the savoury fruit and illustriously glorious buds and blossoms grow that will break forth into the full, unspeakable, and eternal fruition of God; lo! what must the non-elect do but spread forth the gala too, not only of profane pleasure, but also of self-righteousness, free-will, and false religion! All which things then, and the swarms of counterfeits from Satan, imitative of the sublime glories which God has laid up for the elect alone; non-elect religion, and non-elect people, and their efforts, and the painted deceit of Satan toward them, all, all the magic string whereby Satan leads captive the goats at his will; all the spiritual inebriety, varnished cheats, and magic enchantments, and sorceries, and witchcrafts which the prince of the power of the air has, by the permission of God, poured out abroad over this whole fallen world wherein we live, are typified to my eye by "thornblossom". "Thorns shall it bring forth, which are near unto cursing". And if thorns are near unto cursing, so is the blossom thereof too, fair though it be! "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood". (Jer. 48:10)
Having endeavoured to shoot an arrow, not at the upright in heart, but at the skinny phantom called "Arminianism"; I will, the Lord alone being my helper, endeavour at some future time to knock a bough or two off the bramble-bush called "Bastard Calvinism". So be it. For the longer I live and the more that I feel concerning the ever-blessed Almighty, the more am I brought feelingly, sensibly, and in submissive hearkening to rest my everlasting salvation on unconditional eternal election and particular redemption, on the one hand; and on the Spirit's work in me, on the other hand, manifestive of my own election and redemption, who am the unworthiest of men. All which things Arminianism and Calvinism equally fight and war against.
Abington; I.K. (John Kay)
The Gospel Standard