A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Antinomians

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ANTINOMIANS. They derive their name from a-gainst, and law, as being against the moral law; not merely as a covenant of life, but also as a rule of conduct to believers.

In the sixteenth century, while Luther was eagerly employed in censuring and refuting the popish doctors, who mixed the law and gospel together, and represented eternal happiness as the fruit of legal obedience, a new teacher arose, whose name was John Agricola, a native of Isleben, and an eminent doctor in the Lutheran church. His fame began to spread in the year 1538, when from the doctrine of Luther now mentioned, he took occasion to advance sentiments which drew upon him the animadversion of that reformer.

The doctrine of Agricola is said to be in itself obscure, and is thought to have been misrepresented by Luther, who wrote against him with acrimony, and first styled him and his followers Antinomians. Agricola defended himself, and complained that opinions were imputed to him, which he did not hold.

The writings of Dr. Crisp, in the seventeenth century, have been generally considered as favourable to Antinomianism, though he acknowledges, that "in respect to the rule of righteousness, or the matter of obedience, we are under the law still; or else (as he adds) we are lawless, to live every man as seems good in his own eyes, which no true Christian dares so much as to think." The following sentiments, however, among others appear to be taught in his sermons. "The law is cruel and tyrannical, requiring what is naturally impossible. The sins of the elect were so imputed to Christ, as that though he did not commit them, yet they became actually bis transgressions, and ceased to be theirs. Christ's righteousness is so imputed to the elect, that they, ceasing to be sinners, are as righteous as he was."[1]

"An elect person is not in a condemned state while an unbeliever, and should he happen to die before God call him to believe, he would not be lost. All signs and marks of grace are doubtful evidences of heaven; it is the voice of the Spirit of God to a man's own spirit, speaking particularly in the heart of a person, Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee, that is the great and only evidence which can determine the question. The whole essence of faith is nothing else but the echo of the heart, answering the foregoing voice of the Spirit, and word of grace; the former declaring, Thy sins are forgiven thee; the latter answering, My sins are forgiven me. God sees no sin in believers, nor does he afflict them on this account. Repentance and confession of sin are not necessary to forgiveness. A believer may certainly conclude before confession, yea, as soon as he hath committed sin, the interest he hath in Christ, and the love of Christ embracing him."

Some of the principal passages of scripture, from whence these sentiments were defended, are the following: He was made sin for us, who knew no sin. —Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?—Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.-All things work together for good to them that love God. 2 Cor. v. 21. Rom. viii. 33. Hcb. viii. 12. Rom. viii. 28.[2]

Many of those, who in the present day adopt these principles, reject the moral law as a rule of conduct to believers, disown personal and progressive sanctification, and hold it inconsistent for a believer to pray for the forgiveness of his sins. These are properly Antinomians.

There are others who reject these notions, and many of those advanced by Dr. Crisp, who yet have been denominated, by their opponents, Anti- nomians.

Some of the chief of those, whose writings have been considered as favouring Antinomianism, are, Crisp, Eaton, Richardson, Saltmarsh, Town, Hussey, &c. These have been answered by Gataker, Sedgwick, Bull, Williams, Beart, &c. to which may be added, Fletcher's Four Checks to Antinomianism; and Bellamy's Essay on the nature and glory of the Gospel.

Mr.Evans asserts, that "there are many Antinomians, indeed, of a singular cast in Germany, and other parts of the continent; they condemn the moral law as a rule of life, and yet profess a strict regard to the interests of practical religion."

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Most of those who are styled Antinomians, believe that the justification of sinners is an eternal act of God, not only preceding all acts of sin, but the existence of the sinner himself; though some suppose with Dr. Crisp, that the elect were justified at the time of Christ's death. For a particular account of the shades of difference among this denomination, the reader is referred to the authors mentioned in the following page.(i.e. In the two paragraphs at the end of this Wikisource article)
  2. Crisp's Sermons, vol. iv. p.94, 116, 119, 269, 270, 276, 298, 363, 466. 493, &c.