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of the attachupon that modestlye defence inels of
An Epistle to the Reader.
. 193 That if the attack had been general, and not fo immediately and particularly upon that poit or quarter I was set to defend, I lould with Elihu, have modestly waited till some abler and more skilful hand bad undertaken the defence of this cause.
If ever I felt a temptation to envy the happiness of my brethren, it hath been whilft I saw them quietly feeding their flocks, and myself forced to speod some part of my precious and most useful time (deroted to the same service) in combating with unquiet and erring brethren : but I see I must not be my own chuser. Notwithftanding, I hope, and am io some measure persuaded, that public benefit will redound to the church from this irksome labour of mine. And that this strife will spread no farther, but the malady be cured by an antidote growing in the very place where it began : and that the Christian camp will not take a general alarm from such a lingle duel.
The book now in thy hands conlisteth of four parts, viz. 1. A general discourse of the causes and cures of errors, very neces. fary at all times (especially at this time) for the reduction and establishment of seduced and staggering Christians; and nothing of that nature having occurred to my observation among the manifold polemical tracts that are extant, I thought it might be of some use to the churches of Christ, in such a vertigiaous age as we live io; and the blessing of the Lord go forth with it for benefit and establishment. i 2. Next, thou hast here the controversies moved by my antagonist ; first, about the Mofaic law, complexly taken, which he boldly pronounces to be an Adam's covenant of works. And fecondly, about God's covenant with Abraham, Gen. xvii. which he also makes the same with that God made with Adam in paradise ; and affirm circumcision (exprelly called a seal of the righteousness of faith) to be the seal of the said covenant of works first made with Adam.
3. Finding my adversary, in the pursuit of his design, running into many Antinornian delirations, to the reproach and da.. mage of the cause he contends for, I thought it necessary to take the priocipal errors of Antinomianism into examination, especially at such a time as this, when they seem to spring afresh, to the hazard of God's truth, and the church's peace ; wherein I have dealt with becoming modesty and plaioness, if haply I might be any way instrumental in my plain and home-way of argumentation, to detect the falsity and dangerous nature of those notions which some good men have vedied, and preserve ; VOL. IV. ;
the founder part of the church from fo dangerous a conta gion.
4. In the next place, I think it necessary to advertise the reader, That whereas, in my first appendix under that head of the conditionality of the new covenant, I have asserted faith to be the condition of it, and do acknowledge, that the word condition is variously used among Jurists; yet I do Dot use it in any sense, which implies or infinuates, that there is any such condition in the new covenant, as that in Adam's covenant was, consisting in perfect, personal, and perpetual obe dieace : or any thing in its owo nature, meritorious of the benefits promised, or capable to be performed by us in our own strength; but plainly, that it be an act of ours (though done is God's strength) which must be necessarily done before we can be actually justified or saved ; and so there is found in it them true suspending nature of a condition ; which is the thing! con tend for, when I affirm, faith is the condition of the new covenaat.
How many senses foever may be given of this word conditio on, this is the determinate fenfe in which I use it throughout this controversy. And whosoever denies the fufpending nature. of faith, with respect to actual justification, pleads (according to my understanding) for the actual juftification of infidels. And thus I find a condition defined by Navar. Johan. Baptif. pt Petrus de Peruf. &c. Conditio eft fufpenfio alicujus difpofitionis tantifper dum aliquid futurum fiat. Condition is the suspension of a grant until something future be done. And again, Conditio from eft quidam futurus eventus, in quem dispositio fufpenditur A condition is fome future event in which the falfilling of a grant is suspended.
Once more, my reader poflibly may be ftumbled at my cało ling faith sometimes the instrument, and sometimes the condi. tion of our justification, when there is so great a controversy depending among learned men, with respect to the use of both those terms.' I therefore desire the reader to take notice, that I 15 dive not in to that controversy here, much less presume to determine it; but finding both thefe notions equally opposed by our Antinomians, who reject our actual justification by faith either way, and allow to faith no other ute, in our actual justification, but only to manifeft to us what was done from eternity; I do therefore use both those terms, viz. the conditionality and in. ftrumentality of faith, with respect unto our justification, and Daew in what sense those terms are useful in this controverty, and are accommodate enough to the design and purpose for
which I use them ; how repugnant fuever they are in that parti
cular, wherein the learned contend about the use and application out of them. Est To be plain, when I say faith justifieth us as an organ or inex Arument ; my only meaning is, that it receives, or apprehends de the righteousness of Christ, by which we are justified; and so
speaking to the quomods, or manner of our justification, I say, with the general fuffrage of divines, we are justified instrumentally by faith.
But in our controversy with the Antinomians where another in different question is moved about the quando, or time of our
actual justification; there I affirm, that we are actually justified med at the time of our believing, and not before ; and this being for the act opon which our justification is suspended, I call faith the condition of our justification.
This, I desire may be observed, left, in my use of both these terms, my reader should thiok either that I am not aware of the
controversy depending about those terms; or, that I do herein ende manifest the vacillancy of my judgment, as if I leaned sometime ping to one side, and sometime to another. I speak not here ad i.
dem, as they do in that conteft; but when I call it a condition of justification, my meaning is, that no map is justified until he believe. And when I call it an instrument, my meaning is, that it is the righteousness of Christ, apprehended by faith, which doth justify us when we believe. And so I find the generality of our divines calling faith sometimes a condition, and sometimes an instrument of our justification, as here I do.
And if there be any expression my reader shall meet with, which is less accurate, and may be capable of another sepse ; I crave that capdour from him, that he interpret it according to this my declared intention.
5. Lastly, I have added to the former, a short, plain, practical sermon, to promote the peace and unity of the churches of Christ, and to prevent their relapse into part follies.
Io all the parts of this discourse, I have sincerely aimed at the purity and peace of the church of God; and he greatly mistakes, that takes me for a man of contention. It is true, I am here contending with my brethren, but pare necessity brought me in, and an unpleasing irksomoels hath attended me through it; and an hearty desire, and serious motion for peace, amongst all the professed members of Christ, fhall close and finish it. Let all litigations of this nature (at least in this critical juncture) be fuspended by common consent, since they waste our time,
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hinder our communion, imbitter our spirits, impoverith practical godliness, grieve the spirit of God, and good men, make sport for our common enemies, who warm their own fingers at the fire of our contentions; and place more trust in our dividing lufts, than they do in their own feeble arguments, or caftrated penal laws, to effect our ruin.
It is my griet (the Lord knows) to see the delightful communion the taiots once enjoyed, whilst they walked together under the lame ordinances of God, now dissolved in such a fad and scandalous degree, by the impreslions of erroneous opinions, made both upon their heads and hearts. I do therefore hearti. ly join with Budaeus in bis pious wish *, " That God would “ give his people as much conftancy in retaining the truths they " once received, as they had joy and comfort at their first re“ ception of them." I must, on this occafion, declare my just jealousy that the non-improvement of our baptismal covenant unto the great and folomo cods thereof, in our mortification, vivification, aod regular communion with the church of Christ, into which society we were matriculated by it, is, at this day, punished upon protesfors in those fiery heats, and fierce oppo. sitions, unto which God seemneth to have penally delivered us at this day.
For my own part, it is my fixed resolution to provoke po good man if I can help it. But if their owa intemperate Zeal Thall provoke them, in pursuit of their errors, to destroy the very paiure of God's covenant of grace with Abraham, and his feed, and I have a plain call (as here I had) at once to defend God's truths, and my people's loul against them, I will earnestly contend in the cause of truth, whillt I can move my tongue, or make use of the pen of the scribe.
Reader, I shall appeal to thee, if thou be wise and impartial, Whether any man that understands the covenant of God renewed with Abraham, (which is the grand charter, by which we and our children hold and enjoy the most invaluable privileges) can endure to see it dissolved and utterly destroyed, by making it an abolishing Adam's covenant of works; and stand by as an upconcerned spectator, when challenged and provoked to speak in defence thereof.
Is there any thing found in God's covenant with Abraham, Gen. xvii. to made it an abolished covenant of works, which
* Utinan tim confertis manibus compertam comprehensamque veritatem semel retinere polemus quam protinus agnitam feflivis og culis hilares exofculamur,
doth not as injuriously bear upon, and strike at the very life of the covenant of grace, in the last and beit, edition of it, under-, which the whole church of God now lands? What is that thing (I would fain know) in God's covenant with Abraham ? Is it the promissory, part of it, “I will be a God unto chee, and to " thy feed after thee?” Gen. xvii. 7. God forbid': for the el-, sential and sweetest part of the new covenant is contained in that promile, Jer. xxxi. 33. Heb, viii. 10. Yet thou wilt find my an. tagonist here forced to assert, God may become a people's God in special manner, by virtue of the abolished covenant of works; and such he makes this covenant to be.
Or does the reftipulation Abraham and his were here require ed to make unto God, even to walk before him, and be perfect, doth this make it an Adam's covenant of works? Surely no. For as God there requires perfection of Abraham, fo Christ requires the same perfection of all new covenant-federates novi, Matth. v. 48.“ Be ye perfect, as your Father which is in hea. " ven is perfect;" which is altogether as much as ever God required of Abraham and his, in Gen. xvii. 1. Take perfection in what sense you will, either for a positive perfection, consiste : ing in truth and sincerity; or a comparative perfection, confifting in the growth and more eminent degrees of grace; or a superlative perfection, which all new-covenant-federates strive after here, Phil. iii. 12, 13. and Mall certainly attain in heaven, Heb. xii. 23. lo this also the covenant with Abraham, and with us, are truly and substantially one and the same.'
Or doth my mistaken friend imagine, that God required this perfection of Abraham, and his, as in the first covenant he required it from Adam and all his ? viz. to be performed and maintained in his own strength, under penalty of the curse. But now, though Christ command perfection, yet what duty lies in any command, answerable strength for it lies in the pro. mile? Very well, and was it pot so then - Compare the command, Deut. X. 16. “ Circumcise therefore the fore-skins of " your hearts," with the answerable gracious promise to enable them so to do, Deut. xxx, 6. “6. The Lord thy God will cire “ cumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy feed, to love the « Lord thy God.”
Or lalily, Did circumcifion, the sign and seal added to Abraham's covenant, make it an Adam's covenant of works? That's equally impossible with the former : for nó man, but such a daring man as I am concerned with, will dare to say, that a seal of the righteoulness of faith (as circumcision was, Rom. iv, 11.) can make the covenant, to which it is affixed (and wbich I have