Sandeman writing to James Hervey about his Theron & Aspasio conversation:
You never appear in a more amiable light to me, than when I find you accounted a sick-brained enthusiast,or sometimes, in softer terms, a man of a good enough heart indeed, but a weak judgment, by many who would take it much amiss not to be held for good Christians. These men despise you on the account of the likeness your doctrine bears to that of the apostles, or rather judging yours and theirs to be the same. The very sound of imputed sin, or imputed righteousness, is disagreeable to their ears; and the subject does not appear to them to be of sufficient importance to draw their serious attention, or to lead them to inquire what the Scripture says or means concerning it. Thus you are vile in their eyes; and it would complete my esteem for you, could I hear you saying, with the man after God’s own heart, And I will be yet more vile than thus” (Sandeman).
If Hervey’s doctrine has been understood as bearing resemblance or likeness to that of the apostles, then clearly Hervey’s doctrine has been severely misunderstood (for Hervey taught a form of universal atonement).
Sandeman’s paragraph reminds me of those who PROFESS to believe the gospel, but who will NOT even judge all Muslims and Mormons lost (this “charitable, humble, and irenic” refusal to judge righteous judgment reveals “which gospel” they truly make their judgments by). It is from these and other types of tolerant religionists of varying degrees that we SHOULD be receiving these “charitable epithets.” If we are NOT being counted as vile in their eyes, then perhaps we should make sure they have understood us correctly concerning things like gospel atonement, gospel judgment, and gospel repentance.
Sandeman continues with his letter:
“For when I would think of you with pleasure, and sympathize with you as an honourable sufferer by the reproach of these men, my satisfaction is abated, by hearing the applause given you by those votaries of a perverted gospel, who prefix to your name the title of THE INCOMPARABLE. And what chiefly gives me concern is, to think, that in your writings, any just occasion should be given to expose you to their commendation” (Sandeman).
I read somewhere that the worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood. If we who believe the true gospel ever expose ourselves to the commendations of God’s enemies we might rightly wonder what we did wrong! But from what I can recall it hasn’t been a lack of clarity on our parts, but rather an EXTREME INANITY on the parts of those who say they “agree” with gospel doctrines they do NOT understand.
Now back to Sandeman’s assessment of Hervey. Perhaps when Hervey speaks from the one side of his mouth he sounds “orthodox enough” to receive CONDEMNATION from the votaries of the perverted gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner’s efforts. BUT when Hervey speaks from the other side of his mouth he sounds “heterodox enough” to receive COMMENDATION from theological perverts, and this gives Sandeman worrisome pause — a sort of “pensive disarray.” It has been shown from previous posts that while Sandeman APPEARS to express great insight into essential gospel matters, he CLEARLY lacks the regenerate eyes and ears to see and discern that Hervey is simply one who is “not abiding in the doctrine of Christ” and “does not have God” (2 John 9).
“As men of this sort bear the deepest grudge against the ancient gospel preached by the apostles, he who stands high in their esteem, must either be a great deceiver, or greatly deceived himself, or at least much mistaken by them. As I am far from being willing to consider you in the first of these views, I shall make it the business of this letter to take notice of some of the leading sentiments and ways of speaking, which I apprehend you have adopted from such men without sufficient examination” (Sandeman).
Since I have not been placing these Sandeman posts in chronological order, I point out that Sandeman had opted for the third choice, that Hervey has been “at least much mistaken by them.” I think, rather, that Hervey is deceived and is greatly deceiving Sandeman. But Sandeman ought to know better it would seem, for he must needs twist Hervey’s words out of recognition to make them “appear orthodox.” To paraphrase one ancient writer:
I think that Sandeman in sedulously laboring to make Hervey a Christian, does prove himself to be a heathen.