Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg

I recently read James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, a satirical jab at antinomian Calvinism, originally published anonymous in 1824. It was a disturbing read but beneficial.

The Confessions discloses a morbid story in three parts: an “Editor’s Narrative” bookends the protagonists’ “Memoirs” — together they provide objective and subjective accounts of the corruption unto evil-and-the-demonic of young Robert Wringhim, a boy born and raised as a strict-Calvinist in eighteenth-century Scotland. The Confessions is part gothic-novel and although it may be somewhat anachronistic to say so, it is replete with dark humor/black comedy. Here’s a zinger:

The dame [the mother of the protagonist] thanked him [Rev. Mr. Wringhim] most cordially, lauding his friendly zeal and powerful eloquence; and then the two again set keenly to the splitting of hairs, and making distinctions in religion where none existed (16).

The Confessions is insightful because of, not in spite of, its jab at Calvinism, performing the excellent service of illustrating the horrors of antinomian Calvinism, as well as providing a window into the psychology of the demonic — similar to C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.

Biblically speaking, the only sure marks of Divine Election are those provided by the inner-testimony of the Holy Spirit and the good works of Sanctification, which are the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  In contrast, the protagonist of the Confessions is a gloomy character who hangs his eternal assurance of Divine Election upon the mystical-illumination decreed by his adoptive father, the Rev. Mr. Wringhim, who is a crack-pot Calvinistic preacher. (You know the variety: the mildew-Calvinist, the “high-as-a-kite-and-jacked-up-on-presumption”-Calvinist.) Rather than cling to the Biblical marks of Divine Election, Young Wringhim clings to the “oracles” of his quasi-father (the book insinuates that Robert may be the illegitimate son of Rev. Wringhim), which only greases the rails for absolutely horrific acts executed by the protagonist, e.g., assault, evil plotting, usurpation, murder(s).

This book truly is a horror novel, portraying both the power and acts of evil. The book is as sobering as it is terrifying, and that is what makes it a good read.

George Herbert, Again

The following excerpt from George Herbert’s The Temple – The Church-Porch, Perirrhanterium (the 15th stanza):

Art thou a magistrate? then be severe:

If studious; copy fair, what time hath blurred;

Redeem truth from his jaws: if soldier,

Chase brave employments with a naked sword

     Throughout the world. Fool not: for all may have,

     If they dare try, a glorious life, or grave.


Christ’s Righteousness: Type of Righteousness Needed by Sinners

“Now, what righteousness is equal to the justification of sinners? The only righteousness conceivable that will meet the requirements of our situation as sinners and meet the requirements of a full and irrevocable justification is the righteousness of Christ. This implies his obedience and therefore his incarnation, death, and resurrection. In a word, the necessity of the atonement is inherent and essential to justification. A salvation from sin divorced from justification is an impossibility and justification of sinners without the God-righteousness of the Redeemer is unthinkable” (John Murray, Redemption–Accomplished and Applied, 16-17).

Christ: Unto Us Righteousness and Sanctification

“He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonouring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Saviour. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by His atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them, but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness,” but their “sanctification” (1 Cor. 1:30)” (J. C. Ryle, Holiness, 16).

Faith and Sanctification

“The union with Christ which produces no effect on heart and life is a mere formal union, which is worthless before God. The faith which is not a sanctifying influence on the character is no better than the faith of devils. It is a “dead faith, because it is alone.” It is not the gift of God. It is not the faith of God’s elect. In short, where there is no sanctification of life, there is no real faith in Christ” (J. C. Ryle, Holiness, 17).

Enjoying Doctrine

Spurgeon describing how “wise men deal with the great doctrines of the gospel” — “they will not make them the themes of angry controversy, but of profitable use. To fight over a doctrine is sorry waste of time, but to live in the quiet enjoyment of it is the truest wisdom” (Ed. David Otis Fuller, Spurgeon’s Sermon Illustrations, 32).