The Antinomian Prayer

By John Fletcher

Edited by Jeff Paton

"Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you?" - "Had we seen you, dear Lord, in any distress, how gladly we would have relieved your wants!  Great numbers of people can witness how well we spoke of you and your righteousness:  it was all our boast. Bring it out this important hour. Hide not the gospel of your free grace.  We always delighted in pure doctrine, in salvation without any condition; especially without the condition of WORKS. Stand, gracious Lord, stand by us, and the preachers of your free grace, who made us hope that you would confirm their words!"

"While our teachers taught us to call you, Lord! Lord! they assured us that love would motivate us to do good works; but finding no inward motivation to entertain strangers, visit the sick, and bring relief to the prisoners, we did not do it;  because we did not feel called to do it. Our preachers continually told us, human righteousness was pure filth before you; and we would not dare appear, but to our everlasting shame, in any other righteousness but yours in the day of judgment. As to works, we are afraid of doing them, lest we should have worked out an abomination instead of salvation." 

"And indeed, Lord, what need was there for us to 'work it out?' Our preachers perpetually assured us that it was finished; saying, if we did anything toward it, we worked for life and by doing so, we fell from grace like the bewitched Galatians, spoiled your perfect work, and exposed ourselves to the destruction which awaits the trembling Pharisees. "They likewise assured us, that all depended on YOUR decrees; and if we would firmly believe that we were elected, it was a sure sign that since we were interested in your salvation.  We did so; and now, Lord, for the sake of a few dung works we have omitted to tell you,  "let not our hope perish! Do not let electing and everlasting love fail! Discipline us with your rod, but do not take your loving-kindness altogether from us; and do not break David's covenant, ordered in all things, and sure. Of these things we have often made our boast."

"May it please you to consider, that if we did not assist some of those that you called my brethren, it was because they appeared so extremely  legalistic; so strongly set against free grace, that we judged them to be obstinate Pharisees, and dangerous reprobates. We therefore thought, that in hating and opposing them, we did you a service, and walked in your steps. For you said, "It is enough if the servant is as his Lord; and supposing 'you did hate them' as you do Satan; we thought we did not have have a need to be more righteous than you, by loving them more than you."

"Oh, be pleased that we speak on and tell you that we were champions for your free grace. Like true Protestants, we could have burned against the doctrine of a second justification by works. Let then 'grace' justify us 'freely without works.' Shut those books filled with the accounts of our deeds, open your arms of mercy, and receive us just as we are."

"If free grace cannot justify us alone, let faith do it, together with free grace. We do believe salvation finished, Lord; we can join in the most evangelical creeds, and are ready to confess the virtue of your anointing blood. But if you say we have 'trampled under foot and imagine it a common thing, grant us our last request, and it is enough." Cut out the immaculate garment of "thy righteousness" into robes that may fit us all, and put them on us by imputation; so that all our nakedness will be gloriously covered. We confess that we have not given our bread to the hungry, but impute to us your feeding of the five thousand with loaves and fish. We have seldom given a drink to the thirsty, and have often given the bottle to those who were not in need; but impute to us your turning water into wine to refresh the guests at the marriage feast in Cana; and your loud call 'in the last day of the feast at Jerusalem': If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink! We never supposed it was our duty to be 'given to hospitality': but impute to us thy loving invitations to strangers, your kind assurances of receiving 'all that come to thee,' your comfortable promises that you will not 'cast out none' and of feeding them even with your 'flesh and blood'. We did not clothe the naked as we had opportunity and ability, but impute to us your patient parting with your seamless garment for the benefit of your murderers."

"We did not visit sick beds and prisons, we were afraid of fevers, and especially of the jail distemper, but compassionately impute to us your visitation of Jarius' daughter, and Peter's wife's mother, who lay sick with fever, and put to our account your purifying visit to Lazarus in the offensive prison of the grave."

" Thy imputed righteousness, Lord, can alone answer all the demands of the law of the Gospel. We did not dare to fast, we would have been called legal and Papists if we had; but your forty days fasting in the wilderness, and your continual abstinence, impute to us. This will be enough self denial to justify us ten times over. We did not take up our cross; but impute to us your 'carrying THINE; and even fainting under the oppressive load. We did not mortify the deeds of the flesh that we might live; this would have been evidently working for life, but impute to us the crucifixion of your body, instead of our crucifying our flesh, with its affections and lusts. We hated private prayer, but impute to us your love of that duty, and the prayer that you did offer on the mountain at night. We have been rather hard to forgive; but that defect will be abundantly made up if you impute your forgiving of the dying thief to us. And if that will not do, we request that you add the merit of that good saying of yours, 'Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.' We have cheated the kings of his customs; but no matter, only impute to us your exact payment of tribute to Caesar the things that are Caesars."

"It is true, we have brought up our children in vanity, and you never had anything to bring up. May your mercy find some expedient so that it can be imputed to us? Possibly your obedience to your parents? And if we have received the sacrament unworthily, and you cannot cover that sin with your worthy receiving, indulge us with the imputation of your worthy institution of it, and that will do yet better."

"In short, Lord, own us freely as your children. Impute to us your perfect righteousness. Cast it as a cloak upon us to cover our filthy souls and polluted bodies, we will have no righteousness but thine. Make no mention, we ask you, of our righteousness and personal holiness; they are but filthy rags, which your purity forbids you to take it to heaven; therefore accept us without, and we shall shout, Free Grace! Imputed Righteousness! And Finished Salvation! To eternity."





Some people have written in and complained that the above argument was offensive and was nothing more than a "strawman," that is, a "made up" opponent that is easy to knock down. This is an excerpt of an actual debate between John Fletcher and the eminent Calvinist, Dr. Crisp, who openly followed the implications of his theology to its logical end. He may have been bolder in the application of his theology than most Calvinists are today, but when one arrives at the logical conclusions of this theology, the same result cannot be denied.