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this forgiveness, such as prayer and confession of sin plainly implied the true faith of those who were sin- ' cerely engaged in those exercises. Nay, looking towards God's holy temple may well be considered as an Old Testament expression equivalent to believing in the name of Jesus Christ. Therefore, as the persons, whose exercise is represented in these passages, had faith in Christ, or were true believers, before the forgiveness there mentioned, it follows, that they were in a justified state before it. Besides, forgiveness, as we observed in the beginning of this letter, sometimes signifies the manifestation of God's favour towards his people in the removal of temporal calamities ; and in this sense we are led to understand forgiveness in the passages under consideration, and particularly as respecting the deliverance of the Israelites from a state of captivity. It is true, Mr. Bellamy objects, that forgiveness cannot be so understood here; “ because the « penitent believer is exempted from spiritual and “ eternal, as well as from outward and temporal evil.” But granting the persons spoken of to have been exempted from eternal evil by the sentence of justification before God; it will not follow, that the forgiveness here mentioned is to be understood of that sentence, and not of the removal of temporal strokes ; for the removal of temporal strokes may be, and, no doubt, frequently is, to true believers a token of the sentence of their justification, which may have taken place long before. “ It is clear,” says Mr. Boston, “ that in such « passages the people are considered in their national 6 capacity under national strokes' for national sins; “ for the removal of which repentance of the same 6 kind is required. And though, in such a general «? repentance of a people, they that believe are spirit
« ually and theologically serious ; and with a removal « of the common calamity from the society, of which " they are members, get God's countenance to shine « on their souls; yet the generality are never evangeli“ cally penitent. But moral seriousness, in such a « case, according to the Lord's way of dealing with “ nations, is a mean of getting these temporal strokes “ removed, as may be seen in the case of the Ninevites, 66 and many a time in the case of the Jews. It is gene* rally allowed, that there is a twofold being under the “ covenant of grace; the one external, the other inter“ nal. The same person may be under the covenant 6 of works and the covenant of grace: under the for
mer in respect of his soul's state, with God's curse al upon him ; under the latter, as externally partaking « of the external privileges, protections, deliverances, « &c. given to the visible church.” Thus, God might be said to remember his covenant for the afflicted Israelites, when they confessed their sins with self-abasement, and God, at the same time, removed the temporal cas lamities which they lay under.
But what the opposers of our doctrine chiefly insist on is the supposed tendency of it to detract from the necessity of repentance. This is no other than the old hackneyed objection which has been always made by legal teachers against the doctrine of justification by faith alone ; and the solid answers that were given by Paul to the Judaizing party, and by our Reformers to the Papists in that case, are abundantly sufficient in this : such as, that when we receive the death of Christ as the ground of our justification, we receive it as the procuring cause of repentance ; that the Holy Spirit works repentance in us at the same time in which he works that faith by which we receive the righteousness of Christ for our justification; so that, though justification be before repentance in the order of nature, the one cannot be said, at least in the case of adults, to be before the other in the order of time : that no believer can have the comfortable sense or evidence of his par. doned state without the exercise of repentance: that the negligence of believers in not exercising repentance for particular sins particularly, will bring upon them most heavy corrections in the present life: that all who live and die without repentance will inevitably perish : That it is not a genuine repentance or godly sorrow for sin to which the pardoning mercy of God and the love of Christ, apprehended by faith, are not constrain. ing motives..
To one who duly considers the vindications of the Protestant doctrine on this head by Calvin and others, it must appear strange how a writer who professes his adherence to that doctrine in general, was led to express himself in the following manner : “ If,” says he, 6 the necessity of repentance in order to forgiveness 66 be given up, we shall not be in the practice of urging 6 it on the unconverted. We shall imagine it will be “ leading souls astray to press it before and in order to
believing; and afterwards it will be thought unne« cessary, as all that is wanted will come of itself.” It is astonishing to hear a minister, who is neither a Papist nor an Arminian, insinuate, that he knows not how sinners are to be urged to repentance and other good works, without representing them as necessary in order to justification. Might he not shew them, that, while they continue impenitent and unholy, they evidence themselves to be in a state of condemnation and in the broad way which leadeth to destruction ? Might: he not warn them, that impenitence, persisted in, will be their ruin? Might not the necessity of repentance be urged upon sinners as a motive to their believing in Christ; because repentance cannot be attained without believing in him? Nay, is not this the only profitable way of urging sinners to repentance? Is it not preposterous to press upon sinners the necessity of repentance, without pointing out the means by which it may be attained ; as it would be to use much discourse with a sick man in order to persuade him to cure himself; while he neither knows himself, nor is shewn by any other, how or by what means he may be cured? Has not this ignorant way of pressing sinners to repentance the most fatal tendency, as it leads them to seek after, and at last take up with, some sort of legal repentance, which fills them with spiritual pride and with such a conceit of their self-righteousness, as, more than all the gross irregularities of which they pretend to have repented, hardens them in their opposition to the gospel of Christ ? With regard to the case of believers, the author, for whom the general tenor of his writings leads us to have a particular regard and esteem, is chargeable with great inadvertence at least, in representing the doctrine of all who deny the priority of repentance to justification as rendering it unnecessary to urge believers to the exercise of repentance. Though believers have in them the root and habit of repentance and of other graces; yet they need to be stirred up to the exercise thereof by means of the warnings and exhortations of the word. These are peculiarly necessary in the case of repentance on account of the powerful and subtle workings of indwelling sin, and on account of that spiritual sloth which is among the remainders
of corruption, and which calls for continual reproof and correction. Hence the exercise of grace and fruits meet for repentance are, ordinarily, as little to he expected even in believers, without the use of means both inward and outward, as the production of good grain in the most fruitful soil without cultivation. Hence it appears to be the principal design of a great part of the word to excite believers to repentance. They are sometimes represented as wise virgins, who slumber and sleep with the foolish; and as having left their first love; and therefore they are called to remember. from whence they are fallen, and repent.
LETTER XII. Of the work of the Holy Spirit in saving
AMONGST the charges, which Mr. Bellamy brings against Messrs. Marshal, Hervey, Boston and others, there are none which he insists upon with more acrimony or with greater professions of concern for the danger of souls, than those which regard the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in conversion. ·
In the first place, he charges them with denying, that regeneration is in the order of nature before faith. 66 The absolute necessity,” says he, “ of regeneration, “ as antecedent to the first act of faith is a doctrine * your author [Mr. Marshal] does not believe*. In
**Dial. i. p. 14.