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ly intimated, by our Lord, to the Jews: I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not. It is impossible to love God, and not to embrace the greatest friend of God that ever existed; or to love his law, and not approve of a system which, above all things, tends to magnify and make it honourable.
“ The affections included in divine love,” says an able writer, “ are founded on those truths for which there is the greatest evidence in the world. Every thing in the world, that proves the being of God, proves that his creatures should love him with all their hearts. The evidence for these things is, in itself, very strong, and level to every capacity. Where it does not beget conviction, it is not owing to the weakness of men's capacities; but the strength of their prejudices and prepossessions. Whatever proves that reasonable creatures are obliged to love God and his law, proves that sinners are obliged to suitable hatred of sin, and abasement for it. A sinner cannot hạve due prevalent love to God, and hatred of sin, without prevalent desire of obtaining deliverance from sin, and the enjoyment of God. A suitable desire of so important ends cannot be without proportionable desire of the necessary means. If a sinner, therefore, who hears the gospel, have these suitable affections, of love to God, and hatred of sin, to which he is obliged by the laws of natural religion ; these things cannot be separated from a real complacency in that redemption and grace which are proposed in revealed religion. This does not suppose that natural religion can discover, or prove, the peculiar things of the gospel to bé true; but, when they are discovered, it proves them to be infinitely desirable. A book of laws that are enforced with awful sanctions, cannot prove that the sovereign has passed an act of grace, or indemnity, in favour of transgressors: but it proves, that such favour is, to them, the most desirable and the most necessary thing in the world. It proves, that the way of saving us from sin, which the gospel reveals, is infinitely suitable to the honour of God, to the dignity of his law, and to the exigencies of the consciences of sinners."*
66 If any man has a taste for moral excellency,” says an
* M'Laurin's Essay on Grace, p. 342.
other, “ a heart to account God glorious for being what he is; he cannot but see the moral excellency of the law, and love it, and conform to it, because it is the image of God, and so he cannot but see the moral excellency of the gospel, and believe it, and love it, and comply with it; for it is also the image of God: he that can see the moral beauty in the original, cannot but see the moral beauty of the image drawn to life. He, therefore, that despises the gospel, and is an enemy to the law, even he is at enmity against God himself. (Rom. viii. 7.) Ignorance of the glory of God, and enmity against him, make men ignorant of the glory of the law and of the gospel, and enemies to both. Did men know and love him that begat, they would love that which is begotten of him. (1 John v. 1.) He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. (John viii. 47.)”*
III. THOUGH THE GOSPEL, STRIOTLY SPEAKING, IS NOT A LAW, BUT A MESSAGE OF PURE GRACE ; YET IT VIRTUALLY REQUIRES OBEDIENCE, AND SUCH AN OBEDIENCE AS FAITH.
It is no uncommon thing to distinguish between a formal requisition, and that which affords the ground, or reason, of that requisition. The goodness of God, for instance, though it is not a law, or formal precept, yet virtually requires a return of gratitude. It deserves it: and the law of God formally requires it, on his behalf. Thus it is with respect to the gospel, which is the greatest overflow of divine goodness that was ever displayed. A return suitable to its nature is required virtually by the gospel itself; and formally by the divine precept, on its behalf.
I suppose it might be taken for granted, that the gospel possesses some degree of virtual authority; as it is general. ly acknowledged, that, by reason of the dignity of its Author, and the importance of its subject-matter, it deserves the audience and attention of all mankind; yea, more, that all mankind, who have opportunity of hearing it, are obliged to believe it. The only question, therefore, is, whether the faith which it requires be spiritual, or such as has the promise of salvation ?
* Bellamy's True Religion Delineated, p. 332.
We may form some idea of the manner in which the gospel ought to be received, from its being represented as an embassy. We are ambassadors for Christ, saith the apostle, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye RECONCILED to God.* The object of an embas. sy, in all cases, is peace. Ambassadors are sometimes employed between friendly powers, for the adjustment of their affairs : but the allusion, in this case, is manifestly to a righteous prince, who should condescend to speak peaceably to his rebellious subjects, and, as it were, to entreat them, for their own sakes, to be reconciled. The language of the Apostle supposes that the world is aged in an unnatural and unprovoked rebellion against its Maker; that it is in his power utterly to destroy sinners; that, if he were to deal with them according to their deserts, this must be their portion : but that, through the mediation of his Son, he had, as it were, suspended hostilities, had sent his servants with words of peace, and commissioned them to persuade, to entreat, and even to beseech them to be reconciled. But reconciliation to God includes every thing that belongs to true conversion. It is the opposite of a state of alienation and enmity to him.t It includes a justification of his government, a condemnation of their own unprovoked rebellion against him, and a thankful reception of the message of peace; which is the same, for substance, as to repent, and believe the gospel. To speak of an embassy from the God of heaven and earth to his rebellious creatures being entitled to nothing more than an audience, or a decent attention, must itself be highly offensive to the honour of his majesty; and that such language should proceed from his professed friends, must render it still more so.
« When the Apostle beseecheth us to be reconciled to God, I would know," says Dr. Owen, “ whether it be not a part of our duty to yield obedience? If not, the exhortation is frivolous and vain.” If sinners are not obliged to be reconciled to God, both as a law-giver and a Saviour, and that with all their hearts, it is no sin to be unreconciled. All the enmity of their hearts to God, his law, bis gospel, or his Son, must be guiltless. For there can be no neutrality in this case : not to be reconciled, is to be unreconciled; not to fall in with the message of peace, is to fall out with it; and not to lay down arms, and submit to mercy, is to maintain the war.
* 2 Cor. v. 20.
† Col. i. 21. # Display of Arminianism, Chap. X:
It is in perfect harmony with the foregoing ideas, that those who acquiesce in the way of salvation in this spiritual manner, are represented, in so doing, as exercising OBEDIENCE: as obeying the gospel, obeying the truth, and obeying Christ.* The very end of the gospel being preached is said to be, for obedience to the faith among all nations. But obedience supposes previous obligation. If repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, were not duties required of us, even prior to all consideration of their being blessings bestowed upon us, it were incongruous to speak of them as exercises of obedience. Nor would it be less so, to speak of that impenitence and unbelief, which expose men to eternat destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power, as consisting in their not obeying the gospel.I The passage on which the former part of this argument is founded, (viz. 2 Cor. v. 19, 20.) has been thought inapplicable to the subject, because it is supposed to be an address to the members of the church at Corinth, who were considered by the Apostle as believers. On this principle, Dr. Gill expounds the reconciliation exhorted to, submission to providence, and obedience to the discipline and ordinances of God. But let it be considered, whether the Apostle be here immediately addressing the members of the church at Corinth, beseeching them, at that time, to be reconciled to God; or, whether he be not rather rehearsing to them what had been his conduct, and that of his brethren in the ministry, in vindication of himself and them from the base insinuations of false teachers ; to whom the great evils that had crept into that church, had been principally owing. The methods they appear to have taken to supplant the apostles, were those of underhand insinuation. By Paul's answers, they appear to have suggested, that he and his friends were either subtle men, who, by their soft and beseeching style, ingratiated themselves into the esteem of the simple, catching them, as it were, with
* Rom. x, 16. vi. 17.
if Rom. i. 5.
* 2 Thes. i. 8, 9.
guile ; (2 Cor. i. 12. xii. 16.) or weak-headed enthusiasts, beside themselves, (chap. v. 13.) going up and down, beseeching people to this and that; (chap. xi. 21.) and that, as to Paul himself, however great he might appear in his letters, he was nothing in company: His bodily presence; say they, is weak, and his speech contemptible.
In the first Epistle to this church, Paul generously waived a defence of himself and his brethren; being more concerned for the recovery of those to Christ, who were in danger of being drawn off from the truth as it is in Jesus, than respect, ing their opinion of him; yet, when the one was accomplished, he undertook the other; not only as a justification of himself and his brethren, but as knowing, that just sentiments of faithful ministers bore an intimate connexion with the spiritual welfare of their hearers. It is thus that the Apos tle alludes to their various insinuations, acknowledging that they did indeed beseechi, entreat, and persuade men ; but affirming that such conduct arose not from the motives of which they were accused, but from the love of Christ-If we are beside ourselves, it is for your sakes.
If the words in chap v. 19, 20, be an immediate address to the members of the church at Corinth, those which follow in chap. vi. 1. must be an address to its ministers; and thus Dr. Gill expounds it. But, if so, the Apostle, in the continuation of that address, would not have said as he does, 'In all things approving OURSELVES as the ministers of God : his language would have been, In all things approving YOURSELVES, &c. Hence, it is manifest, that the whole is a vindication of their preaching and manner of life, against the insinuations of the Corinthian teachers.
There are two things which may have contributed to the misunderstanding of this passage of scripture: one is, the supplement you, which is unnecessarily introduced three times over in chap. v. 20, and vi. 1. If any supplement had been necessary, the word men, as it is in the text of chap. v. 11, might have better conveyed the Apostle's meaning. The other is, the division of the fifth and sixth chapters in the midst of the argument.*
* See Dr. Guyse on the place.