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as fair a ground for his faith, as any one in the world that hath not yet believed; nor may any person, on any account, exclude himself from redemption, unless by his obstinate and resolved continuance in unbelief, he hath marked out himself.”*
6. The preachers of the gospel, in their particular congregations," says another, “ being utterly unacquainted with the purpose and secret counsel of God, being also forbidden to pry or search into it, (Deut. xxix. 29.) may justifiably call upon every man to believe, with assurance of salvation to every one in particular, upon his so doing; knowing, and being fully persuaded of this, that there is enough in the death of Christ to save every one that shall do so : leaving the purpose and counsel of God, on whom he will bestow faith, and for whom in particular Christ died, (even as they are commanded,) to himself.”—. When God calleth upon men to believe, he doth not, in the first place, call upon them to believe that Christ died for them; but that there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved, but only of Jesus Christ, through whom salvation is preached.”+
OF SINNERS BEING UNDER THE COVENANT OF WORKS.
Much has been said on this subject, in relation to the present controversy. Yet I feel at a loss in forming a judgment wherein the force of the objection lies, as it is no where, that I recollect, formed into a regular argument. If I understand Mr. Brine, he supposes, First, That all duty is required by the law, either as a rule of life, or as a covenant. Secondly: That all unconverted sinners being under the law as a covenant, whatever the revealed will of God now requires of them, it is to be considered as the requirement of that covenant. Thirdly : That the terms of the covenant of works being Do, and live : it cannot, for this reason, be Believe, and be saved.
But, allowing the distinction between the law as a rule of life, and as a covenant, to be just; before any conclusion can be drawn from it, it requires to be ascertained, in what sense
* Elisha Coles on God's Sovereignty, 'on Redemption,
unbelievers are under a covenant of works; and whether, in some respects, it be not their sin to continue so ? That they are under the curse, for having broken it, is true; and that they are still labouring to substitute something in the place of perfect obedience, by which they may regain the divine favour, is true also: but this latter ought not to be.* A selfrighteous attachment to a covenant of works, or, as the scrip, ture expresses it, a being of the works of the law, is no other than the working of unbelief, and rebellion against the truth. Strictly speaking, men are not now under the covenant of works, but under the curse for having broken it. God is not in covenant with them, nor they with him. The law, as a covenant, was recorded, and a new and enlarged edition of it given to Israel at mount Sinai ; not, however, for the purpose of giving life to those who had broken it; but, rather, as a preparative to a better covenant. Its precepts still stand as the iinmutable will of God towards his creatures; its promises, as memorials of what might have been expected from his goodness, in case of obedience; and its curses, as a flaming sword that guards the tree of life. It is stationed in the oracles of God as a faithful watchman, to repel the vain hopes of the self-righteous, and convince them of the necessity of a Saviour.f. Hence, it was given to Israel by the hand of Moses, as a mediator. See Gal. iii. 19-21.
But, if unbelievers be no otherwise under the covenant of works than as they are exposed to its curse, it is improper to say, that whatever is required of them in the scriptures is required by that covenant, and as a term of life. God requires nothing of fallen creatures as a term of life. He requires them to love him with all their hearts, the same as if they had never apostatized; but not with a view to regain his lost favour: for, were they, henceforward, perfectly to comply with the divine precepts, unless they could atone for past offences, (which is impossible, they could have no ground to expect the bestowment of everlasting life. It is enough for
• The sinner's hope, that he can be justified by the law he has broken, is an illegal hope ; and a just view of the extent, strictness, spirituality, and equity of the Law, would cut it up by the roots.
R. + Rom. vii. 10. Matt. xix. 17.
us, that the revealed will of God to sinners says, Believe ; while the gospel graciously adds the promise of salvation.
ON THE INABILITY OF SINNERS TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST, AND DO THINGS SPIRITUALLY GOOD.
This objection is seldom made in form, unlessit be by persons who deny it to be the duty of a sinner to love God with all his heart, and his neighbour as himself. Intimations are often given, however, that it is absurd and cruel to require of any man what is beyond his power to comply with ; and, as the scriptures declare that, No man can come to Christ, except the Father draw him; and that the natural man receiveth not the, things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned; it is concluded, that these are things to which the sinner, while unregenerate, is under no obligation.
The answer that has frequently been made to this reasoning, is, in effect, as follows: "Men are no more unable to do things spiritually good, than they are to be subject to the law of God, which the carnal mind is not, nor can be. And the reason why we have no power to comply with these things is, we have lost it by the fall : but, though we have lost our abili. ty to obey, God has not lost his authority to command.? There is some truth in this answer; but it is apprehended to be insufficient. It is true, that sinners are no more and no otherwise unable to do any thing spiritually good, than they are to yield a perfect submission to God's holy law; and that the inability of both arises from the same source--the original apostacy of human nature. Yet, if the nature of this inability were direct, or such as consisted in the want of rational faculties, bodily powers, or external advantages; its being the consequence of the fall would not set aside the objection. Some men pass through life totally insane. This may be one of the effects of sin; yet the scriptures never convey any idea of such persons being dealt with, at the last judgment, on the same ground as if they had been sane. On the contrary, they teach, that to whom much is given, of him much shall be required.* Another is deprived of the sight of his eyes, and so rendered unable to read the scriptures. This
also may be the effect of sin; and, in some cases, of his own personal misconduct : but, whatever punishment may be inflicted on him for such misconduct, he is not blameworthy for not reading the scriptures, after he had lost his ability to do
A third possesses the use of reason, and of all his senses, and members; but has no other opportunity of knowing the will of God than what is afforded him by the light of nature. It would be equally repugnant to scripture and reason, to suppose that this man will be judged by the same rule as others who have lived under the light of revelation. As many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law.*
The inability, in each of these cases, is natural ; and, to whatever degree it exists, let it arise from what cause it may, it excuses its subject of blame, in the account of both God and
The law of God itself requires no creature to love him, or obey him, beyond his strength, or with more than all the powers which he possesses. If the inability of sinners to believe in Christ, or to do things spiritually good, were of this nature, it would undoubtedly form an excuse in their favour ; and it must be as absurd to exhort them to such duties, as to exhort the blind to look, the deaf to hear, or the dead to walk. But the inability of sinners is not such as to induce the Judge of all the earth (who cannot do other than right) to abate in his demands. It is a fact that he does require them, and that, without paying any regard to their inability,) to love him, and to fear him, and to do all his commandments always., The blind are adınonished to look, the deaf to hear, and the dead to arise.t. If there were no other proof than what is afforded by this single fact, it ought to satisfy us that the blindness, deafness, and death of sinners, to that which is spiritually good, is of a different nature from that which furnishes an excuse. This, however, is not the only ground of proof. The thing speaks for itself. There is an essential difference between an inability which is independent of the inclination, and one that is owing to nothing else. It is equal. ly impossible, no doubt, for any person to do that which he
* Rom. ii. 12.
#Isa. xlii. 18. Ephes. v. 14.
has no mind to do, as to perform that which surpasses his natural powers; and hence it is, that the same terms are used in the one case, as in the other. Those who were under the dominion of envy and malignity, COULD NOT speak peaceably; and those who have eyes full of adultery, CANNOT cease from sin. Hence, also, the following language: How can ye, being evil, speak good things ?The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them.The carnal mind is enmity against God; and is not subject to the law of God; neither indeed can be. They that are in the flesh CANNOT please God.-No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him. It is also true, that
many have affected to treat the distinction between natu. ral and moral inability, as more curious than solid. "If we be unable,' say they, "we are unable. As to the nature of the inability, it is a matter of no account. Such distinctions are perplexing to plain Christians, and beyond their capacity." But, surely, the plainest and weakest Christian, in reading his Bible, if he pay any regard to what he reads, must perceive a manifest difference between the blindness of Bartimeus, who was ardently desirous that he might receive his sight, and that of the unbelieving Jews, who closed their eyes, lest they should see, and be converted, and be healed ;* and between the want of the natural sense of hearing, and the state of those who have ears, but hear not.
So far as my observation extends, those persons who affect to treat this distinction as a matter of mere curious speculation, are as ready to make use of it as other people, where their own interest is concerned. If they be accused of injuring their fellow-creatures, and can allege that what they did was not knowingly, or of design, I believe they never fail to do so : or, when charged with neglecting their duty to a parent, or a master, if they can say, in truth, that they were unable to do it at the time, let their will have been ever 80 good, they are never known to omit the plea; and should such a master or parent reply, by suggesting that their want of ability arose from want of inclination, they would very easily understand it to be the language of reproach, and be
* Mark s. 51. Matt. xiii. 15.