The Dividing Line. What of “Gospel Scholarship?”

Preaching in 18th century New England tended to fall out in two ways. Here’s one example:

Though we receive the Gospel as a Dispensation of grace to sinners, yet if we do not repent of our sins [and] become new creatures, and yield ourselves to God in newness of life, we receive the grace of God in vain. We obtain no benefit by it and may in effect be said not to receive it because we don’t receive it according to the design of it.

In contrast,

historical faith is but a negative faith, one the person don’t disbelieve . . . even devils believe in Christ . . . those who seek after a Christ to give them present ease . . . when [that] fails, they don’t like him. Rather [true faith is] a gracious principle wrought in the soul by the Son of God . . .

The first example follows in its larger context a well-worn pattern: sin-salvation-service. The second, again in its larger context follows a rather different way: sin-grace-grateful obedience. The last is not “keeping commandments,” rather, the consequence of grace.

I seem to hear things related to both these threads in Mormon preaching in the present day. It is of course, unconscious I’m guessing. Another way to characterize this might be duty versus love? But that doesn’t really get to the second Way. None of this is too sacramental I suppose, so in a way it is not too closely connected to the early restoration that had a growing family of ordinances bounding salvational grace. Perhaps we mark the first Way in that. We are mostly strong believers in sanctification, as it was seen in Methodism and some Baptist movements in the next century. That is, justification ok, but sanctification involved growing perfection through continued effort (certainly anathema to the Calvinism often expressed in the second Way).

Take a listen in the up-coming general conference for these kinds of messages.

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