While truth and justice require the above acknowledgment, there are several other charges to which they equally oblige me to plead, Not guilty. I am accused (p. 4.) of having made a personal attack upon Mr. Brine; but, I conceive, without any reason. I do not think I remembered, at the time of writing, that Mr. Brine had used such a mode of expression : nor are they the express words of any author, though it is a manner of speaking which has been too frequently used. However, suppose I had it in recollection, and purposely omitted the mentioning of any name ; surely, a censure passed upon a certain mode of speaking, though exemplified nearly in the words of some one author, is yet far enough off from a personal attack : and I should suppose the omis. sion of the name would render it still farther.
Ought I to be accountable for it, if any persons have said, that " this book will cure some of their Gillism and Brineism ?" (Preface, p. v.) I have a high opinion of the respectable characters alluded to. At the same time, the successors of these worthy men ought not to set them up as the standards of orthodoxy. In some things, they differed from one another ; and, on this subject, from almost all who had gone before them, from hundreds of men whom they loved, and whom they knew to be their equals in piety and respectability. Yea, in some parts of this controversy, they took different grounds.
* Philanthropos also complained of this passage, p. 9,
Though Mr. Brine maintained the argument from Adam's incapacity to believe, yet Dr. Gill, when contending with the Arminians, gave it up.* But they were great and upright men, and thought for themselves; and it is to be hoped that others may do the same.
Mr. B. blames me for desiring people to read my book(p. 6.) I only desired they would read it before they condemned it. And what law is that which will condemn a man before it hears him ?
I am accused (p. 103.) of seeming to avail myself of the numbers I have on my side ; but whoever reads p. 178 of my treatise will perceive that I there found my argument not upon the number of those who have been on my side, but upon the great works which God has wrought by them. These all went forth in the use of " precepts, prohibitions, and promises ;" which the author of the Further Inquiry, whom I was there opposing, represents as irreconcileable with the covenant of grace.
Truth obliges me to repeat what I asserted, in p. 109, that the main objections against us originated with Arminius, or his followers. But I do not thereby insinuate, as Mr. B. (p. 75.) says I do, " that all who oppose my ideas of faith are Arminians."
I speak with the greatest sincerity, when I say I have a high esteem for Mr. B. and many others of his sentiments. I do not account them as adversaries, but as brethren in Christ, as fellow-labourers in the gospel; " and could rejoice (as was said before) to spend my days in cordial friendship with them." The most cordial friendship, however, does not require us to suppress what we believe to be a part of our sacred commission, but rather to endeavour to speak the truth in love.
Having said thus much in my own defence, I shall now proceed to make a few general remarks upon Mr. B.'s publication.
In the first place, I think it cannot fairly be called an answer to my treatise, were there no other reason than that, although something is said concerning most of the leading topics in dispute, yet the main arguments under those topics are frequently left unnoticed.
i * Cause of God ami Truth, Part III. Chap. III. $ 6.
This will appear to any person who will inspect the contents of both performances, and compare what each has advanced under every topic.
Farther: Mr. B. has taken great pains to prove a number of things which I never thought of denying. Thus he labours to convince us that faith is the gift of God, the effect of spiritual illumination ; that the Apostle, in 2 Thes. ii. 13.- meant such a faith as is connected with sauctiiication of the Spirit; (p. 12.) that God has decreed only to punish for sin, for the breach of his commands ; (p. 88.) that Christ's obedience was gloriously superior to that of Adam; ^p. 78.) that human depravity shall not prove an absolute bar to an elect soul's believing ; (p. 60.) that supreme love to God would not lead a Heathen to embrace Christ in any sense, because Christ is not revealed even in an external manner. (p. 85.) Since my sentiments arc the same as Mr. B.'s, respecting these things, his labour in proving them seems, to me, to be lost.
The far greater part of Mr. B.'s quotations I heartily approve. They are in no wise contradictory to what I have advanced. Many others, particularly from Dr. Owen, which seem to be contrary, would be found otherwise, if the connexion and scope were consulted. But it is easy to foresee, that a particular discussion of this kind would lead off from the point in hand, and spin out the controversy to an unnecessary length. I shall, therefore, treat all that is said as if it were Mr. B.'s own, and no farther attend to any quotations, than as they contain argument which requires to be considered.*
* I ought to observe, that, although Calvin, Perkins, Goodwin, Owen, Charnock, Bunyan, M'Lauren, and others, are amongst the number of Mr. B.'s authorities, they are all decidedly against him in the main point in debate. Indeed, I believe, no writer of eminence can be named, before the present century, who denied it to be the duty of men in general to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls.
I think Mr. Hussey was the first person who, by the general tenor of his writings, laid the foundation for this sentiment. And yet even Mr. Hussey did not, that I recollect, expressly avow it. On the contrary, he allowed it to be " the duty of those who were not effectually called, to hear spiritually. and open their hearts to Christ; though, as he justly asserted, the preaching of this as their duty would not effect a cure." Operations of Grace, p. 442.
Mr. Hussey was, doubtless, a man of considerable eminence, in some respects. Mr. Beart, in his Eternal La-a, and Everlasting Gospel, I think, has given as fair and as candid an account of his writings as could well be given. But Mr. Hussey, though in some respects a great man, was, nevertheless, possessed of that warm turn of mind, which frequently misleads even the greatest of men, especially in defending a favourite sentiment.
Mr. Brine is the only writer of eminence who has expressly defended the sentiment. Dr. Gill took no active part in the controversy. It is allowed, that the negative side of the question was his avowed senti ment, and this appears to be implied in the general tenor of his writings. A.t the same time, it cannot be denied, that, when engaged in other controversies, he frequently argued in a manner favourable to our side ; and his writings contain various concessions on this subject, which, if any one eke had made them, would not be much to the satisfaction of our opposing brethren. However they may be inclined to represent us as verging towards Ayminianism, it is certain that Dr. Gill, in his answer to Dr. Whitby, the noted Arminian, frequently makes use of our arguments: nor could he easily have gone through that work without them. (See his Cause of God and Truth, Part 1. pp. 63. 69. 118.159, 160.165. Fart II. pp. 88. 211. 215. 222. 226. First Edition.) And the very title of Mr. Brine's chief pamphlet against our sentiment, which he called Motives to Love and Unity among Calvinists differing in Opinion, as well as the most explicit acknowledgments therein contained, might teach those who pay any deference to his judgment, not to claim to themselves tho title of Calvinists, exclusively.
It seems, to me, that Mr. B. very frequently confounds thp thing with the cause which produces it, and hereby loses himself and the argument in a maze of obscurity. This seems especially to be the case, when he enters upon the subject of that spiritual life which we derive from Christ.* If Mr. B. means that spiritual dispositions are not duties, considered as under the idea of blessings, that is what I have all along asserted. But if he mean that nothing can be our duty which is derived from Christ, and is a new-covenant blessing, then he pot only asserts that which is irreconcileable with the prayers of the godly in all ages, (who have ever prayed for grace to perform what they acknowledged to be their duty ;) but also contradicts his own sentiments. He allows, that the principle of grace in believers is a conformity to the law, though not to the law only. (p. 68.) Be it so: so far, then, as it is a conformity to the law, so far it was always incumbent upon us; and yet I hope Mr. B.will not deny that our conformity to the law is derived from Christ, is a new-covenant blessing, and is -wrought in the believer's heart by the agency of the Holy Spirit.* See pages 12. 28. 70. 91.
Whether 1 have been so unhappy as, at times, to express myself in a manner not sufficiently explicit, or whether Mr. B. has been wanting in calm and close attention; so it is, that he sometimes proceeds upon a total misunderstanding of the argument. This will appear to an attentive reader, if he please to compare pages 10, 11, of mine, with 12, 13, of his remarks; and 59, 60, with 54; also 131, with 89, concerning Adam.
The places are too numerous to recite, wherein principles appear, to me, to be assumed, instead of being proved, and conclusions to be drawn from premises which are themselves the very subject in debate. Thus we are told, " Pharaoh had an express command to let the people go;" therefore, it was his duty to have complied.* (p. 88.) Very well; what then ? Mr. B.'s meaning must be to add, ' But there is no express command to believe in Christ; therefore,' &c. 1 answer, that this is begging the question. I suppose there it such a command; but, whether there is, or not, the contrary ought not to be taken for granted.
Mr. B. does not fail to make his own reasonings and observations in one place, the data of his conclusions in another. Thus we are told, " There is no command for special faith, As We Have Endeavoured To Prove ; therefore, no one shall be condemned for the want of it." (p. 89.) Again, in the same page, " Adam had not faith, or any other spiritual disposition, As I Have Already Observed : therefore," Sec.— But, passing general remarks, let us follow Mr. B. in what he has advanced under each of the particular topics in debate.
* In no one case do the scriptures speak so strongly of God's abandoning a man to the hardness of his own heart, as in that of Pharaoh ; yet the Lord God of the Hebrews said, " How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me V Exod. x. 3. plainly showing, that the want of a better mind was no excuse for his refusal to obey. R.
Mr. B. tells us what is its cause, and what its effects; but what the thing itself is, we have yet to learn.
Sometimes, I think I can understand him ; but I am soon again at a loss. " It is such a reception of the truth," says he, " as transforms the soul into the image of Christ." (p. 49.) Very well: then, it seems, it is a reception of the truth, after all; such a reception as is productive of real and transforming effects. This is the very thing for which I plead. Yes ; but " a person may cordially receive the truth, and yet hot be transformed into the image of Christ." (p. 18.) Indeed ! Then how are we to distinguish true faith from that which is counterfeit or partial ? According to this, there is no difference as to the thing itself, only a difference in its cause and effects.
But did not " Christ's hearers at Nazareth, and the stonyj ground hearers, cordially receive the truth f" (p. 18.) I answer, No : the latter did not understand it,* and, therefore, could not cordially receive it: and as to the former, they gazed upon the Lord Jesus, and bare him witness, " that he was right," as Dr. Gill says, " in applying Isaiah's prophecy to the Messiah ; but not that he himself was the Messiah ;" much less did they cordially receive his gospel. The scripsture declares, concerning the gospel, that, if we confess it with the mouth, and believe it in the heart, we shall be saved; but, it seems to me, the tendency of Mr. B.'s reasoning is to prove the contrary.
But true faith " is such a belief as brings Christ into the soul: that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." (p. 19.) Answer: If by bringing Christ into the soul, is meant his having the supreme place in our best affections, (which, I apprehend, is what the apostle intended in the passage referred to,) then what Mr. B. affirms is freely granted; nor is it any way inconsistent with what he opposes.
" Ought sinners to realize truth," Mr. B. asks, " so as t» affect their own hearts ?" (p. 21.) This, I suppose, he thinks is self-evident absurdity. He himself, however, allows it to be every man's duty to love God with all his heart; and when he shall inform me how this is to be done without the heart's being affected, I will answer the foregoing question.
* See Matt. xiii. 23. 1 Cor. ii. 14.
But is it " our duty to do that which God claims as his prerogative ?" I answer, It is God's prerogative to write his law in the hutihan heart: and yet every one ought to have that law within his heart; or, in other words, to love it with his whole soul. How strange it is, that the same thing, in different respects, should be denied to be God's gift and our obedience! I sincerely wish Mr. B. had attentively considered the arguments which I quoted (p. 60.) from Dr. Owen. Those arguments, doubtless, ought to have been solidly answered, before any exclamations were made of the absurdity of making that the duty of men, which it is God's own work effectually to produce.
" Devils and wicked men, it is said, believe the goodness of gospel blessings for others, though not for themselves." (p. 17.) By their believing them to be good for others, Mr. B. appears evidently to mean advantageous, or profitable ; and, in that sense, there is no doubt but what he says is true : that is no proof, however, that they believe in their real, intrinsic excellency and glory. Cain believed the advantage which his brother Abel had in bringing a lamb for an offering* and hated him accordingly ; but he did not believe his own condition as a sinner to be such, as that his offering, being presented without respect to the Mediator, deserved to be rejected. Properly speaking, he did not believe in the necessity of a mediator, much less in the fitness and glory of such a way of approaching the Deity. The scriptures speak of those who believe not, as blind to the glory of the gospel.* Whatever goodness wicked men believe to be in the blessings of the gospel; they do not believe the life and portion of the godly to be so good as, all things considered, to be preferred before their own.
Mr. B. it seems, thinks that " a man may pursue evil, as evil." (p. 23.) In this I do not differ from him. Nay, I believe that unregeneratc persons, without any exception, pursue evil, as evil. If any ask me to explain my assertion, quoted by Mr. B. that " human nature cannot pursue evil, as evil," I refer them to the note in the very same page from whence the quotation is taken.
* 2 Cor. iv. 4i
Unregenerate men pursue evil, as that which is agreeable to their own sinful inclinations. In so doing, they pursue it as a moral evil, and as a natural good. He who pursues evil, considered as moral, acts against his conscience. This was the case with Felix, in dismissing Paul. But no one pursues moral evil itself, under the notion of its being unlovely. The instances Mr. B. has produced do not prove this. People do not take poison, or pursue death itself, under any other notion than that of its being a good. The Gentoo women, who voluntarily cast themselves into the fire at their husbands' death, are no more in love with death for its own sake, than we are ; but are struck either with the honour of so dying, or with the hope of being the happier hereafter. People are not guilty of suicide, but under the notion of its containing a sort of good. They consider it as adapted to release them from a burden which they conceive themselves unable to sustain ; not considering what follows death, in the world to come.
But does not every man " believe that he shall die ? and yet does he act accordingly ?" (p. 22.) To this I reply, Death is more an object of intuition, than of faith. If people did not see the death of their fellow-creatures, and had no other evidence that they must die, but the testimony of God; they would be as apt to disbelieve that, as they are other things. And, even as it is, if they realized death, and what follows, it would have an effect upon their spirit and life, very different from what it has.
Mr. B. produces a number of quotations, for the purpose of giving us a better definition of faith than that which he opposes, (p. 26.) But some of these were never designed by their authors as definitions, but rather as descriptions of faith. Those of them which represent it as " such a believing of the testimony of God in the sacred scriptures, as, in a way of trust and dependence, to resign ourselves up to Jesus Christ," do not in any wise contradict what I have advanced. On the contrary, I should be very willing to let the above stand as a definition of faith. Nor have I any objection to have it prefaced with its being " a grace of the Holy Spirit," Sec. excepting this, that it does not appear, to me, at all necessary to introduce the author, or cause, of any thing in a definition of that thing.
At the same time, I would not wish to contend about words. I therefore acknowledge, that it may be of use, when discoursing about faith in certain connexions, to speak of it in a more large or extensive meaning. That might be the case, for aught I know, with respect to some of Mr. B.'s authorities. But what if they had a mind to bring into their definitions the cause and the effects of faith ? And if another, with a view to simplify the subject, define it merely by what it is in itself considered, without any design, however, of denying either cause or effect; does it follow that his definition must be defective ?
Wherein does the definition of Coverdale, Ferrar, Hooper, Taylor, Philpot, Bradford, Crome, Sanders, Rogers, and Lawrence, differ from mine, except in this, that they mean to define not only the thing itself, but its cause and effects ? " It is," say they, " not only an opinion, but a certain persuasion, wrought by the Holy Ghost, which doth illuminate the mind, and supple the heart to submit itself unfeignedly to God." (p. 27.) The thing itself they make to be neither more nor less than Persuasion.
It never was my design to exclude the idea of trust, or confidence, in Christ. Whether that be of the essence of faith itself, or an effect which instantaneously follows, I always supposed them inseparable. It was before allowed, (p. 23.) that " it is in this large sense, including not only the belief of the truth, but the actual out-going of the soul towards Jesus Christ in a way of dependence upon him, that faith in him is generally to be taken in the New-Testament:" and it was in this sense that I undertook to prove it incumbent on men in general.
Those with whom I contend, will allow it to be the duty of every one, where the gospel comes, to believe it. I knew this would be allowed, when I penned the former publication. My whole design, in the first part, was to reason, upon their own principles, with those who differ from me. They allow it to be every one's duty to believe the gospel. I therein endeavoured to prove, that, in allowing this, they allow that to be the duty of men which is of the essence of special faith. The arguments used in proof of this, have not, I think, been overthrown. I therefore earnestlv entreat Mr. B. and those of his sentiments, to consider attentively the following questions: Can any person truly believe the gospel, and yet perish everlastingly ? and, Can those scriptures, which were produced before in proof of the contrary,* be fairly explained upon such a supposition ? answer, I apprehended this to be a consequence naturally arising from the sentiments I opposed ; but never imagined that they who imbibed these sentiments held or asserted this consequence : yet, as Paul urged the consequences of denying the resurrection, in order to show the erroneonsness of the premises from whence those consequences followed, I apprehend I might do the same. Such a mode of reasoning is universally practised by both inspired and uninspired writers. The Corinthians might have charged the apostle with illiberality, and have had, for aught I see, as good reason for so doing, as Mr. B. had for charging it upon me. He had said, If the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised; and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. They might have exclaimed against the se consequences, and said of him who urged them, ' He knows these are sentiments which we never asserted, or even imagined.'
Mr. B. thinks I have mistaken the meaning of John iii. 36. and 1 John v. 20. where I suppose a believing on Christ, and a not believing Christ, are spoken of as opposites, in such a way as implies that there is no medium between them. Mr. B. thinks, it seems, that they are not opposites. (p. 24.) According to what he has said, the criterion of true faith lies in the terms in or on; for he observes, that " it is not said, He that believeth not on the Son, &c. No : it is not for the want of special faith he is condemned, but because he believes not what he says." (p. 25.) To this I answer—First: The term on is used to express such a faith as is not connected with. salvation, John xii. 42. Secondly : suppose it were otherwise, and the phrase believing on Christ were to be the criterion of special faith; this would make against Mr. B. rather than for him. For it is said of the unbelieving Jews, that " though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not o?2 him ; (John xii. 37.) plainly intimating, that they had such evidence as ought to have induced them to believe on him. On the other hand, Christ says, the Spirit shall reprove the world of sin, because they believe not on me. And contrary to what Mr. B. asserts, men are as expressly said to be " conr demned, because they believe not on the name of the only? begotten Son of God." John iii. 18.
Mr. B. before he concludes his Fourth Letter, throws in one argument against faith being a duty: " If," says he, " this faith be the duty of man, and is required by the law, it is then, undoubtedly, a work; and when the apostle says, By grace ye are saved, through faith, we must consider him as joining grace and works together." (p. 29.) To this it is replied, Every thing required by the law, I should think, is not a work. That sacred standard of right and wrong requires a holy state of mind, as well as the exercises of it.
• 1 John v. 1. Mark xvi. 16. Rom. x. 9. Acts viii. 37. See the scriptures urged in my former treatise, pp. 27, 28.
But supposing it is a work, does not Mr. B. maintain the same ? Only a few pages back, he quoted several definitions of faith from certain eminent divines ; most of whom speak of it as a coming to Christ, a trusting in him for salvation. Now, is not this a work, or' exercise, of the mind ? And yet we are saved by grace, notwithstanding ; for God does not save us out of regard to faith as our act, but on account of him in whom it terminates.
A poor invalid, Who derives his subsistence wholly from the public* may be said, with the greatest propriety, to live, not by his own works, but upon the generosity of others! This, however, does not imply, that he is not active in his applications for relief; or that every such application may not, in some sense, be called a work. Yet, it plainly appears, he does not live upon his applications, Considered as acts, or exercises, but upon what, through those means, he freely receives : and it would be contrary to the common use of language to say, that he lived partly by grace, and partly by works. Before I conclude this section, it may not be amiss to drop a few additional thoughts concerning the defining of faith t these, however, have no immediate reference to Mr. B but are merely added with a view, if it might be, to throw some farther light upon the subject.
I. Faith, in its most general sense, signifies a credit of some testimony, whether that testimony be true or false.
II. When we speak of the faith of the gospel, as a belief of the truth, it is not to be understood of all kinds of truth nor even of all kinds of scripture^truth. A true believer', so far as he understands it, does believe all scripturetruth ; and to discredit any one truth of the Bible, knowing it to be such, is a damning sin; but yet it is not the credit of a chronological or historical fact, for instance, that denominates any one a true believer. The peculiar truth by .embracing of which we become believers in Christ, is the gospel, or the good news of salvation through his name The fcehef of this implies the belief of other truths; such as the goodness of God's government, as the lawgiver of the world the evil of sin ; our lost and ruined condition by it; our utter insufficiency to help ourselves, &c but it is the soul's embracing, or falling in with, the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, that peculiarly denominates us true believers.
VOL. I. 3 A
III. True faith include* a spiritual understanding of the glory of the gospel, but it includes something more. It does not appear, to me, to have its seat barely in the understanding, but in the whole soul. It is the whole soul's yielding up its own false notions and dependences, and falling in with God's way of salvation by Jesus Christ. By a spiritual discernment of the glory of the gospel, we sec the Son; and, by the whole soul's concurring with it, we believe in him. It is with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. If it is said, The heart here is not opposed to the understanding, but to the mouth, with which confession is made unto salvation; I answer, This is true : but then neither is it used, I apprehend, for the understanding, to the exclusion of the affections, but for the whole soul, in distinction from the mouth, by which our faith is openly professed.
IV. Though, as I attempted to prove in my former treatise, true faith does not include an assurance of our interest in Christ; yet it is ever attended with an application of the truths of the gospel to our own particular cases. " When the scriptures teach," says the excellent Mr. Downame, " we are to receive instruction, for the enlightening of our own mind; when they admonish, we are to take warning ; when they reprove, we are to be checked; when they comfort, we are to be cheered and encouraged ; when they command any grace, we are to desire and embrace it; when they command any duty, we are to hold ourselves enjoined to do it; when they promise, we are to hope ; when they threaten, we are to be terrified, as if the judgment were denounced against us; and when they forbid any sin, we are to think that they forbid it unto us. By which application we shall make all the rich treasures contained in the scriptures wholly our own, and in such a powerful and peculiar manner enjoy the fruit and benefit of them, as if they had been wholly written for us, and for none other else besides us. Guide to Godliness, p. 647.
These observations may be considered as an addition to what was written before ; and I believe they will be found to be perfectly consistent with it.
CONTAINING A REPLY TO MR. B.'s FIFTH AND SIXTH LETTERS, WHEREIN HE REMARKS ON THOSE PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE WHERE FAITH IS SUPPOSED TO BE COM. MANDED OF GOD.
X O prove that faith in Christ is the duty of unconverted sinners, divers passages of scripture were produced, which represent it as the command of God. In answer to these, Mr. B. observes in general, that commands are sometimes used which do not imply duty, but denote some extraordinary exertion of divine power, as when God said to the Israelitish nation, " Live," &c. (p. 31.) But are the commands in question to be so understood ? Mr. B. does not pretend to say any such thing. He adds,
"Commands sometimes denote encouragement; as in Isa. li. 17. Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, &c. Acts xvi. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved; and John xiv. 1. Ye believe in God, believe also in me." (p. 32.) Very true: but do they denote merely encouragement ? Can the idea of duty be excluded ? Was it not the duty of the Jews, for instance, when Babylon fell into the hands of Cyrus, and a proclamation was issued in their favour, to bestir themselves ? Would it not have been their sin to have neglected the opportunity, and continued careless in Babylon ? Was it not the duty of the jailor to follow the Apostle's counsel, and would it not have been sinful to have done otherwise ? Was it not the duty of the disciples to place an equal confidence in the testimony of Christ as in that of the Father; and would it not have been sinful to have distrusted him ? " These passages," says Mr. B. " do not appear so much to • carry in them the nature of injunctions, as of directions and encouragements." But do they carry in them the nature of injunctions at all? or can that idea be excluded from them ?
It seems, he himself thinks it cannot, or he would not have so expressed himself.
Mr. B. now proceeds to consider the particular passages produced. He remarks,-oh the Second Psalm, that " kissing sometimes denotes no more than civil homage and subjection ; as in 1 Sam. x. I. where we are told, that Samuel anointed Saul, and kissed him; which was not, I presume," says he, f' a spiritual act, but nothing more than a token of allegiance, loyalty, &c." (p. 34.) I think with him, the case of Samuel's kissing Saul serves for a fine illustration of the passage ;* and if Christ had been a civil governor, and nothing else, then, it is allowed, that civil homage, subjection, and loyalty, would have been the whole of his due ; but not otherwise. According to the nature of his government must be the kind of subjection required. If Christ's kingdom had been of this world, or somewhat like what the Jews expected it to be, such an exposition as the above might be admitted ; but, if his government be spiritual, then subjection and loyalty to him must be the same.
The comment on Jer vi. 16. (p. 35.) I think, needs but little reply. It may deserve to be considered, Whether, if the people there addressed had been of Mr. B.'s sentiments, they might not have found some more plausible and less mortifying answer than that which they were obliged to give. Surely they might have replied, ' Stand in the ways, and see.' we have not a capacity for spiritual discernment. Ask for the good old way, and walk therein ! it was never discovered to us. All that we are obliged to is, diligently to attend public ordinances, and this we have done from our youth up; what more would the prophet have ?' But these were sentiments, it seems, of which they had never heard. They were obliged, therefore, to speak out the honest, though awful truth, We
WILL NOT WALK THEREIN.
John xii. 36. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. " These," it is said, » are evidently words of direction to inquiring people." (p. 37.) fcThat they were inquiring people, is true ; but not such as inquired from any thing of a right spirit; which is what Mr. B. must mean to suggest.
- * See Dr. Jennings's Antiquities, Vol. I. p. 134.
They are called the people, (verse 34.) in distinc tion from the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus ;* and it immediately follows what sort of people they were. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him ; that the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart, l$c.
Lest the foregoing remark should not suffice, it is supposed that the passage may speak only of such a believing as falls short of special faith. (p. 38.) But unless it can be proved that the phrase children of light is ever used of any but true believers, this supposition is inadmissible.
Mr. B. speaks frequently of Christ's addresses being by way of " ministerial direction." Be it so : I do not see how this alters the case, unless we could suppose that Christ, as a preacher, directed people to a way in which it was not their duty to walk. In short, if there were not another passage in the Bible besides the above; that were, in my opinion, sufficient to prove the point contested.
John vi. 29. This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. prom the connexion of this passage, it was observed, that the phrase work of God could not be understood of a work which God should work in them, but of a work which he required of them.f Mr. B. however, takes it in the first sense, and thinks it " very clear and plain, from the whole context, that this special faith is no duty." (p. 41.) To which I only say, That which appears so plain to Mr. Button, did not appear so to Mr. Brine. Mr. Brine, it seems, felt difficulties where Mr. Button feels none. Though he agrees with Mr. Button, that special faith is not a duty, yet he undoubtedly felt a difficulty in the passage in question.
• See Dr. Gill on verse 34.
f The reader is desired to observe, I never denied, but constantly maintained, that faith, wherever it exists, it the effect of divine influence ; as is every thing else in us, which is truly good ; but I as well maintain, that it is man's duty; and that this passage means the latter, ?.nd not the former.
He felt the force of that remark, that the meaning of the answer milst be determined by that of the question ; and he did not suppose, when they asked, What shall we do that we maywork the works of God ? that they were inquiring what they must do that they might work such works as were peculiar to an arm of omnipotence. Mr. Brine, therefore, never pretended to understand it of a work which should be wrought in them, but of " an Aot Acceptable And Pleasing To God."*
Dr. Gill, in his Cause of God and Truth, (Part I. p. 154.) understands the passage as speaking of such a faith as is not connected with salvation. Mr. Brine never pretended to this, but allows it to speak of special faith. The Doctor, however, does not suppose that the work of God means a work that was to be wrought in them, but a work that was required of them. He there explains it, not of an operation of God, but of what was enjoined by his " will and commandment."
But Mr. Button thinks it " strange, if faith in Christ were the first great duty incumbent upon them, that they should first be directed to labour for that which should endure to everlasting life, as they were in verse 27." (p. 40.) It is replied, Labouring for that which should endure to everlasting life, includes faith in Christ; that being the only way in which eternal life can be obtained : and it is no unusual thing first to lay down a general direction, and then proceed to that which is more particular.
John v. 23. It is the Father's will that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. As Mr. B. has not thought proper to answer what was advanced from this passage, it need only be replied, That, according to his sense of it, Christ ought to be honoured in one character, but not in another." (p. 42.)
As to what is said of Isa. lv. 6. (the 7th verse, I observe, is passed over,) that " Arminians have quoted it;" (p. 42.) what is that to the purpose ? It has some meaning ; and one should suppose that their quoting it has not destroyed that meaning. Mr. B. must excuse me in not being satisfied with apart of an exposition upon it from Dr. Gill. The whole of the Doctor's words, I observe, are not quoted. Abundant fiardon was never promised to such an attendance as this quotation makes to be their duty.
• Motives to Lave and Unity, p. 42
Simon Magus was exhorted to pray for the fiardon of sin. Mr. B. asks, " Who denies it ?" (p. 43.) I answer, Many, who deny that faith is the duty of the unregenerate, deny that it is their duty to pray at all; and especially to pray for spiritual blessings, such as the forgiveness of sin. I rejoice, however, that Mr. B. is not of that sentiment.
But it was asked, In whose name ought Simon to have prayed for that blessing ? To this we have received no answer. It was likewise asked, Whether spiritual blessings ought to be sought in the only way in which they can be found, or in any other. In answer to this, we are told, " They may be sought after in the use of means, without special faith ; and that is all which is here exhorted to." Is Mr. B. sure of that ? If so, Simon was barely exhorted to do as Cain did ; to bring an offering without respect had to the great atonement for acceptance ; to do that by which it was impossible to please God. After all, are we to understand Mr. B. that sinners ought not to seek spiritual blessings in the name of Christ, but in some ether way ? Surely he will not affirm this ; and yet I do not see how he can avoid it.
But we are told, that Simon was not exhorted to " find, or get pardon of sin, but to pray for it." This is true, but not to the purpose. Faith in Christ is not the finding, or getting, of pardon, but the means of obtaining it. We come to Christ, that we may have life. The one is the way in which we find, or enjoy the other. This is farther confirmed by the passage which we shall next consider. x
Rom. ix. 31, 32. Because they sought it not by faith, &c. " By faith is here meant," says Mr. B. " not the grace, but the doctrine of faith, the gospel; as appears clearly by its being opposed to the law." (p. 43.) Suppose it were so, seeking righteousness by the gospel in opposition to the law, would amount to the same thing as the other. But this is not the case: faith is not here opposed to the law, but to the works of the law; and is, therefore, here to be understood of the right way of seeking righteousness, which is in the name of Christ.
Concerning those passages which exhort men to put their
trust in the Lord, Mr. B. remarks, that " trust is a natural
duty: But what," he asks, " has this to do with evangelical
trust i" (p. 44.) Why did he not answer what was said on
that subject in p. 46 ? Why did he pass over that dilemma?
As to what he says on the Fourth Psalm, that the persons there
addressed were " good men;" (p. 45.) it is replied, They,
certainly, were wicked, who are addressed in the second verse;
and there is no notice given, in any part of the Psalm, of a
change of person. To understand sacrifices of righteousness
of sacrifices righteously obtained, appears, tome, to be put-
ting a low sense upon the phrase, and what, I think, is not
at all countenanced by similar phraseology in scripture. The
same mode of speaking occurs in Deut. xxxiii. 19. and in
Psalm li. 19. neither of which passages can well be thought
to mean barely, that the sacrifices should not be obtained by
Mr. B. thinks, it seems, that that declaration, " Whosoever will, let him come," is not indefinite, but limited, and Bo is not a warrant for any sinner to come to Jesus Christ. ** All," says he, " have not a will, therefore it is not a warrant for every man." (p. 46.) That multitudes of men are unwilling to forego self-will, self-conceit, and self-righteousr ness, and to venture their souls wholly upon the Lord Jesus, is a melancholy fact: but to conclude from thence, that they have no warrant so to do, is a very extraordinary species of reasoning. If " Whosoever will, let him come," be not an indefinite mode of expression, Mr. B. should have pointed out what sort of language should have been used for such a purpose.
A generous benefactor, in the hard season of the year, procures a quantity of provision to be distributed amongst the poor of a country village. He orders public notice to be given, that EVERY POOR MAN WHO IS WILLING TO RECEIVE IT,
Shall In No Wise Meet With A Refusal. A number of the inhabitants, however, are not only poor, but proud, and cannot find in their hearts to unite with the miserable throng in receiving an alms. Query, Would it be just for such inhabitants to allege, that they had no warrant to apply ? or, that \ the declaration was limited; seeing it extended only to such
as were willing; and, for their parts, they were unwilling? If it were expedient to give such objectors a serious answer, they might be asked, In what language could the donor have expressed himself, to have rendered his declaration more indefinite ?
If it is inssisted, that, to make an invitation indefinite, it should be addressed to men simply as sinners; it is replied, If that would put the matter out of doubt, the scripture is not wanting in that mode of speaking, any more than in the other: Hearken unto me, ye stout-hearted and far from righteousness, I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off; and my salvation shall not tarry. - Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrightteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For other passages to the same purpose, I ask leave to refer to pages 63 and 64 of the former treatise.
REPLY TO MR. B'S SEVENTH LETTER, ON THE OBLIGATIONS OF MEN TO EMBRACE WHATEVER GOD REVEALS - HIS CHARGE OF ILLIBERALITY, ETC., ETC.
It was observeld, in my former publication, that every man was bound cordially to receive, and heartily to approve, whatever God reveals. A definition of faith was also quote from Mr. Brine; wherein he says, " Acting faith is no other than suitable thoughts of Christ, and a hearty choice of him as God's appointed way of salvation."e; And, from thence, it was argued, that, if faith was not incumbent on men in general, then they were right in not thinking suitably of Christ, etc.
Mr. B. here expresses his "astonishment;" and, without hesitation, charges me with "illiberality." (p. 48.) To this I answer, I apprehended this to be a consequence naturally arising from the sentiments I opposed; but never imagined that they who imbibed thses sentiments held or asserted this consquence: yet, as Paul urged the consquences of denying resurrection, in order to show the erroneousness of the premises from whence these consequences followed, I apprehend I might do the same. Such a mode of reasoning is universally practised by both inspired and uninspired writers. The Corinthians might have charged the apostle with illiberality, and have had, for aught I see, as good reason for so doing, as Mr. B had for charging it upon me. He had said, If the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised; and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. They might have exlaimed, against these consequences, and said of him who argued them, "He knows these are sentiments which we never asserted, or even imagined."
Mr. B. instead of exclaiming in this sort, should have invalidated those consequences ; but this he has not attempted: and, unless he will maintain it to be men's duty to stand neuter, (which our Lord declared to be impossible,) and neither think nor choose at all in the affair, I do not see how they can be fairly removed. The difficulty stands thus: " If true faith is no other than suitable thoughts of Christ, and a hearty choice of him as God's appointed way of salvation," as Mr. Brine affirms, then it is either men's duty to think suitably of Christ, or it is not; to choose him as God's appointed way of salvation, or not. If it is, the point is given up ; if it is not, then it must be right in them either not to think suitably of Christ, or not to think at all; either to choose some other way of salvation, or not to choose at all.
It is not sufficient for Mr. B. to allege, that he disclaims these sentiments; that he allows ah opposition to God's way of salvation to be sinful: I know he does; and it is with pleasure I acknowledge it: but the question is, Is he herein consistent with himself? The Corinthians could have said the same in respect of Christ not being raised; none of them thought of asserting that, though they asserted what must ne» cessarily infer it. If it is men's sin to oppose and reject the Lord Jesus Christ; it must be their duty to choose and accept him, or else to stand neuter, and so be neither for him nor against him.
Much the same might be said, in reply to what Mr. B. frequently speaks of as due to the gospel, viz. " a veneration for it." This veneration either amounts to a hearty choice of Christ, as God's appointed way of salvation—to a being on his side; or it does not. If it does, this implies special faith ; for to choose that way, is the same thing as to be willing to be saved in that way: (which Mr. B. allows is the case with no unregenerate man :) and to be on Christ's side, is the same thing as to be a real Christian. If it does not, then I should be glad to know, what sort of a veneration for the gospel that must be which can consist with an unwillingness to fall in with its grand designs, and a reigning aversion from its great Author and Object?
What Mr. B. says (p. 49.) of " peace being made," and " the work being done," is a great and glorious truth, on which depends all my salvation and all my desire. I rejoice with him in the doctrines of everlasting love and the eternal settlements of grace. But, as the covenant between the Father and the Son, before time, does not supersede a believer's actually covenanting with God in time ;• so neither, as I apprehend, does peace being made by the blood of Christ's cross supersede a peace taking place between God and us, on our believing. God, as the lawgiver of the world, is represented as angry with the wicked every day. Every unbeliever is said to be under condemnation: he is under the law, as a covenant of works; and, being of the works of the law, he is under the curse. On the contrary, those who believe in Christ are not under the law, but under grace: their sins are forgiven for Jesus' sake ; there is no condemnation to them; God is represented as being pacified towards them for all that they have done against him.f This pacification, however, is not founded upon their faith, or returning to God; but upon die atonement of Christ, in which their faith terminates: hence, though they are said, being justified by faith, to have peace with God ; yet it is through our Lord Jesus Christ.
* SeeJer. 1. v. Isa. xliv. 5. f Psa. vii. 11. John iii. 18. Gal.
sii. 10. Kom. \'\. 14. 1 John ii. 12. Rom. viii. 1. Ezefe. xyi. <j), Rom. T. 1.
When I spake of the gospel's " publishing a way wherein God can and will make peace with sinners, on terms infinitely honourable to himself," &c. I had no respect to terms and conditions to be performed by us, that should entitle us to blessings annexed to such performance. My meaning was rather this : that Christ, having obeyed the law, and endured the curse, and so fulfilled the terms of his eternal engagement, God can, in away honourable to all his perfections, pardon and receive the most guilty sinner that shall return to him in Christ's name.
In respect of terms and conditions, as applied to faith in Christ; though I believe such faith to be incumbent on men in general, yet, properly speaking, I do not suppose either that or any thing else in us to be the condition of salvation ; unless by condition is barely meant that to which the promise of salvation is made, and without which we cannot be saved. In this sense, I should have no objection to its being so called; and I should think Mr. B. could have none, any more than myself. But, as it is a term liable to abuse, and apt to convey very different sentiments, I had rather express my ideas in other language, than go about to qualify it by an explanation.
Dr. Owen docs not reject the word condition, but puts an explanation upon it, suited to his sentiments. " It is the appointment of the Lord," says he, " that there should be such a connexion and coherence between the things purchased for us by Jesus Christ, that the one should be a means and way of attaining the other; the one the condition, and the other the thing promised upon that condition ; but both equally and alike procured for us by Jesus Christ; for if either be omitted in his purchase, the other would be vain and fruitless." Death of Death, Book II. Chap. I.* Whatever words may
* See also Dr. Owen on Ileb. via. 10. Vol. ill. p. 269. " Unto a full and complete interest in all the promises of the covenant, faith on our part, from which evangelical repentance is inseparable, is required. But whereas these also are wrought in us by virtue of that promise and grace, which are absolute, it is a mere strife about words to contend whether they may be called conditions, Or no. Let it be granted, on the one hand, that we cannot have an actual participation of the relative grace of this covenant in adoption and justification, without faith, or believing; and, on the other, that this faith is wrought in us, given unto us, bestowed upon us, by that grace of the covenant which depends on no condition in us, as unto its discriminating administration; and I shall no concern myself what men will call it."
Whatever words maybe used, I know of no difference in this matter between Dr. Owen's sentiments and my own.
That the gospel is an embassy of peace, addressed to sinners indefinitely, and that any sinner whatever has a warrant to apply to the Saviour, and a promise of acceptance on his application, is evident from the whole current of scripture. To oppose Arminianism by the denial of this well-known truth, must be an unsuccessful attempt. Instead of destroying, it is the most effectual method to establish it. No Arminian, so long as he has a Bible in his hand, can ever be persuaded, by the language of scripture-exhortations to repentance and faith in Christ is not indefinite. If, then, his system is acknowledged to stand or fall with the universality of such exhortations, he will not desire a greater concession. He is well satisfied of this, that, if general invitations speak the language of Arminianism, the bible must be written upon Arminian principles. Such a concession, therefore, tends to confirm him in his sentiments; and, I believe, such a way of speaking and writing amongst the Calvinists has been more than a little advantageous to the Arminian cause.
God gathers his elect out of mankind by a gospel equally addressed to one man as to another. No one, on his first application to Christ, comes to him considering himself as an elect person, or as having any peculiar privilege belonging to him above the rest of mankind; but every such person applies to Christ merely as a poor guilty, self-ruined sinner; and, if the gospel did not speak in indefinite language to sinners, considered as such, he could have no hope. If it is said, Yes: he feels himself a sensible sinner, and so considers himself as hereby warranted to apply for mercy: I answer, This is supposing that a person may have solid evidence to conclude himself elected, before he has beleived in Christ; that is, while he is an unbeliever; than which nothing surely can be more unscriptural and dangerous. The heart of every man who has heard the gospel either does, or does not, fall in with God's way of salvation by Jesus Christ. If it does he is a believer; if it does not, he is an unbeliever, and has no revealed warrant to conclude himself an object of divine favour. A being sensible of our guilty and lost condition, is absolutely necessary to an application to the Saviour; not, however, as affording us a warrant to come to Christ, but as being necessary to the act itself of coming. A right spirit does not give us a warrant to do a right action ; but it is essential to our compliance with the warrant, which vre already have.
Mr. B. thinks I have given a wrong sense to 2 Cor. v. (p. 50.) Suppose it should be so, I apprehend the weight of the proposition does not rest upon that passage. I am not convinced, however, by what has been said concerning it; but enough has been said upon that part. If the reader choose carefully to look over the 4th, 5th, and 6th chapters of that Epistle, and to compare what each of us have said upon it, he may be better enabled thereby to judge of the meaning, than by any thing that can be farther advanced upon the subject.
Mr. B. thinks that " faith itself is not called obedience, but that obedience is the fruit of faith." (p. 53.) That faith is productive of obedience, is readily allowed ; but 1 also apprehend, that faith itself is so called. Unbelief, in our first parent, was the root of all the evil which followed after it; yet unbelief was itself an evil; so it is supposed, that faith is not only the root of evangelical obedience, but is an instance of obedience itself. These thoughts are founded upon such phrases as obeying the truth, obeying the gospel, &c* which, I suppose, mean a real believing it, and falling in with its grand designs.
These passages were quoted before, to which Mr. B. makes no other reply than by barely asserting, that " they none of them prove faith to be an act of obedience, but only show that obedience is the fruit of faith," (p. 53.) Obeying the gospel, in Rom. x. 16. is supposed, by the inspired penman, to be of similar import with believing its report; but it will hardly be said, that believing the gospel-report is not faith itself, but a fruit of it. " The passage," Mr. B. adds, " in Rom. i. 5. By whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith, must, I think, to every common understanding, clearly appear to point out the grand design of the gospelministry, which is, through the blessing of the Holy Spirit, to bring men to obedience to Christ the object of faith, and to the doctrine of faith." Very true : and we apprehend that faith in the doctrine is that obedience which is required to the doctrine of faith ; and that a rejecting of every rival and false confidence, and a being willing to receive Christ, that he may teach, save, and rule us in his own way, is that obedience which is due to him.
Obedience to the gospel, and disobedience to it, are, doubtless, to be considered as ofifiosites. The former is true special faith, having the promise of eternal salvation ;* the latter, therefore, cannot mean, as Mr. B. explains it, (p. 54.) the want of merely such a reverential regard to the gospel as a man may have, and yet perish everlastingly.
* Rom. x. 16. vi, I7.
REPLY TO MR. B'S EIGHTH LETTER, ON THE CAUSES TO WHICH THE WANT OF FAITH IS ASCRIBED.
Mr. B. here commences a new mode of oppostion. Instead of an answer to those scriptures which were produced to prove that ignorance, pride, dishonesty of heart, and aversion from God, are assigned as the causes of men's not believing; he has presented us with some other parts of scripture, which he thinks ascribe it to other causes. Such a mehtod of reasoning, I should think, can have but little tendency to convince a serious inquirer after truth. It will be natural for such an inquirer to say, "Supposing Mr. B. to have proved what he has undertaken, namely, that the want of faith is to be ascribed to the sovereign will of God, and that alone; what are we to do with those scriptures which ascribe it to other causes ?
One passage of scripture, under this head, is entirely passed over, (Luke vii. 29, 30.) a passage too that was particularly recommended to the attention of the Baptists ; and a number of others are but very slightly touched. All the answer that I can find to what was advanced between pages 47—52, of my treatise, is included in the following passage : " That human depravity, that ignorance, pride, dishonesty of heart, aversion to God, and the like, often prevent a sinner's attending to the gosfiel; (which the Holy Spirit useth as a mean to convey faith into the hearts of his people, for faith cometh by hearing, Rom. x. 17.) and that these things are of a criminal nature is certain ; but what then ? Does this prove faith a duty ? and the want of it a sin, for which man shall be damned ? By no means: so far as human depravity prevails, man is criminal; and the things afore-mentioned prevailing are certain evidences of the person's being destitute of special faith : but to say that these things are an absolute bar to faith, as Mr. F. does, (p. 48.) is a great mistake ; neither these things, nor a thousand worse things, if worse can be named, shall be an absolute bar to any elect soul's believing." (pp. 59, 60.)
To this it is replied, If the reader please to review page 48, of my treatise, he will instantly perceive, that I was speaking of what was a bar to men's believing, not to God's causing them to believe. Christ did not say, How can God cause you. to believe, who receive honour one of another ? but How can ye believe? It is granted, that with God all things are possible : but, if the pride and aversion of men's hearts be that which renders believing impossible to them, that is sufficient to decide the question in hand; and this was certainly the whole of my design. In page 47, the very page before that in which is the passage to which Mr. B. objects, I had said, ' We know that blindness of mind is not such an obstruction but what is overcome by the grace of God In The Elect ; but that being removed in the elect does not disprove, but imply, that it is a remaining obstruction to the rest." I suppose Mr. B. must have read this passage just before that on which his remark is made; how, therefore, he could so strangely mistake my meaning, I am at a loss to conceive.
Surely Mr. B. could not think the above a sufficient answer to that against which it is written. " Human depravity," he admits, " prevents a sinner's attending to the gospel;" but he will not allow that it hinders him from believing. By " attending to the gospel," I suppose he may mean something more than merely attending ufion it; but yet he cannot mean any thing spiritually good; if he did, and allowed that human depravity prevented it, that would be giving up a main point in the debate. I suppose, therefore, he means no more than such an attention to the gospel as may be exercised without any real love to it, or desire after an interest in its blessings. But will Mr. B. pretend to say, that this is all that is meant in the passages to which I had referred ? Did Christ barely tell the Jews, (John v. 44.) that they could not attend to the gospel who received honour one of another, and sought not the honour which cometh from God only? Would this have been true, upon Mr. B.'s principles? Attending to the gospel, in his sense of it, is what men in an unregenerate state can do ; and that in the exercise of a proud spirit. Did the want of an honest and good heart keep the three sorts of hearers, in the parable of the sower, from attending to the gospel f So far from this, Mr. B. elsewhere informs us, that the stony-ground hearers " cordially received the truth." (p. 19.) Though I think, in this matter, he goes too far; yet thus much is certain—that a mere attention to the gospel was not the thing wherein they were wanting. When Christ blamed the Jews, saying, Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life ; did he barely mean, Ye will not give attention to the gospel ? Surely not!
Mr. B. admits, that "pride, aversion to God, and the like, where they prevail, are certain evidences of a person's being ' destitute of special faith ;" but denies, it seems, that they have any causal influence to prevent his believing. And yet, if there be any meaning in words, surely the fore-cited passages must convey the latter idea, as well as the former. When Christ told the Jews, Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life; did he mean, that their unwillingness was merely an evidence of their not coming to him, and not that which had any causal influence upon them to prevent their coming? Surely not!
As the above passage, which I have transcribed from Mr. B. is the only answer he has made to my Fourth Proposition, I cannot but consider it as unanswered. He has advanced something, however, of an opposUe tendency, which T shall now consider.
It was. affirmed that the want of faith in Christ is ascribed, in the scriptures, to men's depravity. Mr. B. thinks this position contrary to John x. 26. Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep ; which passage, he thinks, ascribes the want of faith to " non-election." (p. 55.) To this I reply, On some occasions, Mr. B. would make nothing of such a term as because; (p. 63.) and, were I to fallow his example, I might say, It means- no more than this : " Your unbelief, if you persist in it, will be a certain evidence that you are not of my sheep." No complaint could justly be made, if the matter were left here : especially as the above are the very words of Mr. Henry, which Mr. B. has quoted for a different purpose. But, waiving this, be it observed, the truth which they did not believe was, that Jesus was the Christ. If thou be the Christ, said they, tell us plainly. Jesus answered, I have told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me ; but ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep. This text, therefore, if it prove any thing for Mr. B. will prove too much ; it will prove that non-election is the cause of that which he acknowledges to be sinful; namely, a discrediting of Jesus being the Christ.
Farther: Though Christ's people are sometimes- called his sheep, simply on account of their being given to him in eternal election, as in verse 16 of this chapter ; yet this is not always the case. They sometimes bear that name as being not only elected, but called ; as the followers of Christ; and thus they are represented in the context: I k'.;ow my sheep, and am known of mine ; they follow the Shepherd, for they know his voice; they go in and out, and find pusture. And in the next verse to that in question, My sheep hear my voice,and I know them, and they follow me. All those who looked for redemption in Israel,. readily embraced Christ as the Messiah, as soon as they heard of him; they knew his voice, as soon as they heard it, and followed him: but others, though they were of the house of Israel, yet, not being the real people of God, rejected him as the Messiah, the great Shepherd of the sheep. He that is of God heareth God's words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.* There appears, to me, a great probability of this being the meaning of the passage.
But, suppose a being not of Christ's sheep, here, to mean the same as not being of the number of the elect; this can be no otherwise assigned as the cause of their not believing, than as we assign the absence of the sun as the cause of darkness. Because of God's forbearing to execute vengeance, the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in them to do evil; but no one, it is hoped, will think evil excusable on that account. See Dr. Gill's Cause of God and Truth, Part II. pp. 100. 222. Part III. p. 77. First Edition.
Mr. B. assigns man's natural incapacity as another reason of his not believing, and says, " Sacred scripture every where abounds with passages to this purpose." (p. 55.) Well: if this assertion can be made good, something will be effected to purpose. In proof of it, however, no more than two passages are produced; viz. John vi. 44. No man can come unto me, &c.-—and 1 Cor. ii. 14. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, &c. It is true, if these two will prove the point, they are equal to two hundred : but it were as well not to speak of such great numbers, unless more were produced. To what Mr. B. says on both these passages, it is replied, If the term cannot will prove this their inability to be natural and innocent, it will prove the same of the inability of those who are in the flesh, and cannot please God, and of those whose eyes are full of adultery, and who cannot cease from sin. Mr. B. takes no notice of what was said before, on these modes of speaking; but, instead of that, puts us off with barely informing us, that « this is sufficient for him ;" and with asking his reader, " Does not this seem to strike you at once, that our Lord is here representing man's natural inability ?" (pp. 56, 57.)
Mr. B. thinks I am strangely inconsistent, in maintaining that man's inability consists wholly in the evil state of his heart, or will, and yet allowing it to be total; (p. 56.) and elsewhere seems to wonder greatly at the same thing. (p. 93.)
* John viii. 47.
I also might wonder, that one who professes to believe in the total depravity of human nature, should object in such a manner. Must not that inability be total, which proceeds from, or rather consists in, total depravity ?
If by total, Mr. B. means unable in every respect; I grant I do not think man is, in that sense, totally unable to believe in Christ. But an inability in one respect may be so great in degree as to become total.* It is thus in things which relate merely to a natural inability. A man may have books, and learning, and leisure, and so may not, in every resfiect, be unable to read; and yet, being utterly blind, he is totally unable, notwithstanding. In respect of the inability in question, those that are in the flesh are totally unable to please God; and yet their inability lies wholly in the evil state of their hearts towards God, and not in his being so difficult to be pleased, that, if his creatures were to do all they ought to do, it would be to no purpose. Men, by nature, are totally unable to love God with their heart, soul, mind, and strength; and yet, as Mr. B. allows this to be their duty, he cannot say, their incapacity for so doing is natural and innocent. We consider men as spiritually dead; and we consider spiritual death as a total privation of all real good ; and this we may do without considering them as destitute of such faculties as, if the state of their hearts were but what it ought to be, would infallibly discern and embrace things of a spiritual nature.
* When we say, the depravity of man is total, we do not mean that it is incapable of augmentation ; but that it amounts to a total privation of all real good. The depravity of the fallen angels is total; and yet they are capable of adding iniquity to iniquity.
I would wish Mr. B. to remember, that a moral inability, whether virtuous or vicious, may be as total as a natural inability. And I would also beg him to examine, whether he can form a clear idea of a person being under a moral inability to perform any action which he is, and always yeas, naturally unable to perform ! For instance, can he conceive of a man born blind, as having a violent and invincible aversion from light! I own, it appears, to me, inconceivable : and it seems equally absurd to suppose that sinners should be capable of aversion from a plan of salvation which was utterly unsuited to their natural powers.
REPLY TO MB. B.'S NINTH LETTER, ON PUNISHMBNTS BEING THREATENED AND INFLICTED FOB THE WANT OF FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST.
IN proof of this point, reference was had to Mark xvi. 16.
He that believeth not shall be damned. This passage had been explained by Mr. Brine as only giving the descriptive characters of the saved and the lost. To prove the contrary, 1 produced a number of threatenings in the word of God, delivered against sin, in the same mode of speaking as the above passage is directed against unbelief. Mr. Button thinks, that these also are mere descriptive characters ; and that, if the scriptures used no other modes of speaking, we could not justly infer, that the punishments therein threatened were on account of the crimes therein specified. (p. 62.) This is very extraordinary indeed. As though, from such a threatening as God shall destroy thee, O thou false tongue, we were not warranted to conclude, that falsehood is a crime, and the procuring cause of the punishment threatened ! If this reasoning be just, it cannot be inferred, from the laws of England declaring that a murderer shall be put to death, that it is on account of his being a murderer. Neither could our first parents justly infer, from its being told them, The day ye eat of the fruit ye shall surely die, that it should be on account of their so eating!
John iii. 18. He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only-begotten Son of God. In urging this passage, I had grounded pretty much on the term because. But Mr. B. produces another text of scripture, where that term is used, and cannot, he thinks, denote a procuring cause. (pp. 63, 64.) The passage to which he refers is John xvi. 17. The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me. To this it is replied, Suppose a word, in one instance, be understood in a peculiar sense, is this sense to be urged as a rule of interpreting that word in other places ? If it is, Mr. B. would be puzzled, notwithstanding what he said in p. 62, to prove that sin is the procuring cause of damnation. This is the method taken by the adversaries to the proper deity a,nd satisfaction of Christ.
But, farther: I apprehend the term because, even in this passage, is to be taken in its proper sense, as denoting the ground, or reason, of a thing. The love of God has, (with great propriety, I think,) been distinguished into natural and sovereign : the former is God's necessary approbation of every intelligent creature, in proportion as it bears his holy likeness ; the latter is his free favour, fixed upon his elect, without the consideration of any thing in them, or done by them. The one is exercised towards an object while that object continues pure, and ceases when it becomes impure: thus God loved those angels, when holy, who are now fallen under his most awful displeasure. The other, not being founded on any thing in the creature, removes not from its object, but abideth for ever. The propriety of the above distinction may be argued from the doctrine of reconciliation by the death of Christ. To be reconciled, is to be restored to favour. Now, the sovereign favour of God was not forfeitable; we could not, therefore, be restored to that: but his necessary approbation, as the Lawgiver of the world, was forfeitable; and to that we are restored by the death of Christ.*
The godly are the objects of God's natural love, as bearing his holy likeness. If any man love me, says Christ, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our abode with him. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love ; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. And thus, in the passage referred to, The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me. All this may be affirmed, without making inherent qualities any part of our justifying righteousness, or in the least injuring the doctrine of God's sovereign, eternal, and immutable love to his elect.f
* The reader will remember, I am reasoning with those who allotn of the love of God to elect sinners being sovereign and unforfeitablc. | See Mr. K. Hall's Help to Zion's Travellers, pp. 25—41.
Mr. B.'s expositions of divers passages of scripture are founded upon the supposition, that nothing more than an external acknowledgment of the Messiah was required of the Jews. Thus he interprets Luke xix. 27. Those mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me, (p. 65.) and John v. 43. I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not. (p. 85.) In reply to these interpretations, I might refer the reader to what was said before on the Second Psalm ; namely, that if Christ had been a mere civil governor, or such a messiah as the Jews expected, then an external submission might have been sufficient; but not otherwise.
1 seriously wish Mr. B. to consider the import of his own -words, in page 85. " Supreme love to God," he says, " would have led the Jews to have embraced Christ as the Son of God, and the Messiah ; but not to embrace him in a way of special iaith." What is special faith, unless it is to embrace Christ in his true character, As Revealed In The Scriptures ? Surely, it is not a receiving of him under some representation in which he is not There exhibited. To receive him as the Messiah, is to fall in with the ends and designs of his mission ; and these were the glory of God, and the salvation of sinners in a way that should abase their pride, and destroy their idols. Nothing short of this can, with any propriety, be called a receiving him as the Messiah. I believe the scripture knows nothing, and makes nothing, of any thing else. He came to his own, and his own received him not; but as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.* No intimation is here given, that there is a third class of people, who neither receive Christ spiritually, nor reject him. According to the New Testament, they who received him were true Christians; and they who heard the gospel, and were not true believers, received him not.
Mr. B.'s remarks upon 2 Thes. ii. [10—12. conclude his Ninth Letter, (p. 65.) Notwithstanding what he has there said, I continue to think that sinners are culpable for not receiving the love of the truth. Mr. B. supposes, that their not receiving the love of the truth, is only mentioned as an evi
* John L 11,12.
Mr. B. supposes, that their not receiving the love of the truth, is only mentioned as an evidence of their being the non-elect; though he, at the same time, explains God's sending them strong delusions, as a giving them up to judicial blindness. But it ought to be remembered, that God does not give men up to judicial blindness because they are not elected, nor merely from the " sovereignty of his will;" but as a punishment of former sins. I would therefore ask, What is the sin for which the persons m the text are thus punished ? The apostle himself answers, Because they received not the love of the truth.
Farther: I cannot grant, that a not receiving the love of the truth is an evidence of non-election ; since it is true of the elect while unbelievers, as well as of the non-elect.
In the punishing of sinners in this life, God frequently adapts the nature of the punishment to that of the crime. Of this the text in question is an awful illustration. Because men believe not the truth, God sends them a strong delusion, that they may believe a lie; and, because they have pleasure in unrighteousness, he suffers them to be deceived with all deceivableness of unrighteousness.
REPLY TO MR. B.'S TENTH LETTER, ON SPIRITUAL
IjEING about, in my former essay, to prove spiritual dispositions incumbent on men in general, I thought it best, at entering upon that subject, to express my own ideas of the term spiritual. It appeared, to me, that, when applied to the dispositions of the mind, it always signified Truly Holy, in opposition to carnal. At the same time, I supposed my views on this subject might not be universally granted. I never meant, therefore, to lay them down as the data of the argument; but proposed, rather, to proceed upon undisputed principles. On that account, I passed over this part of the subject without dwelling upon it; which Mr. B. calls "giving it up." (p. 70.) The criterion, as he acknowledges, by which it was proposed to judge of spiritual dispositions, was their having the promise of spiritual blessings. This was the ground on which 1 all along proceeded; trying the matter wholly by scripture-evidence, endeavouring to prove, that those things are required of men in general, to which spiritual and eternal blessings are abundantly promised. But Mr. B. has passed all this over, and has only carried on what I should think an unnecessary dispute about What he calls " natural and spiritual holiness." Surely he could have but very little concern with that on which I grounded no argument; his business, was to attend to that upon which the whole was rested. But, instead of fairly discussing the subject upon that ground, he has taken up the whole of his letter in finding fault with my definition of spiritual dispositions ; though no other end is answered by it, that I can perceive, than to show that he is of one opinion, and I of another.
In one part of his letter, Mr. B. gave us some reason to hope, that he would have left this manner of writing, and have come to the argument: " I shall add no more," says x he, " on this head; especially as Mr. F. soon gives it up, by saying, * If this, (that is, the defining of spiritual dispositions to be such as are truly holy,*) however plain it may appear to me, should not be universally allowed, I may go upon a more undisputed ground." Mr. B. asks, " And what ground is this ?"—He then answers himself, " Why, says Mr. F. ' the criterion by which I shall all along judge »f what are spiritual dispositions, will be their having the promise of spiritual blessings.' Whether these dispositions be incumbent on carnal men, let us now inquire." (p. 70.) Thus far Mr. B. in his quotation from mine.
* I suppose it must be entirely by mistake, that Mr. B. has represented me (in p. 70.) as maintaining the distinction of " natural and spiritual holiness;" and as informing my readers, that this distinction " appears plain to me." 1 have ventured, therefore, to alter what he had inclosed in a parenthesis, to what I suppose he intended to write.
Would not the reader now expect, that he was about to enter upon a fair discussion of the subject, upon the fore-mentioned criterion, to which he could have no reasonable objection ? And yet, strange as it is, he never touches the subject upon that ground ; but, though he had said he " should add no more" upon the other, yet immediately returns, saying nothing but the same things over and over again.
When we come to Mr. B.'s remarks on the capacity of man in innocence for spiritual obedience, we shall take notice of what is here offered in support of a distinction of holiness intonatural and spiritual. At present, I may reply to some other things included in this letter.
Spiritual dispositions were said to be such as were Tbulj Holt. Mr. B. finds great fault with this, as it might be supposed he would. And yet I see not wherein it differs from the Apostle's account of the new man, that it is created after God in righteousness and True Holiness ;* to which the same objections might be made as to the above. That God is immutable in his nature, Mr. B. will allow ; and that his image must be the same, is equally evident. That which is created after him, must ever be the same, in one period as in another. If the image of God is not now what it was formerly, it must be owing to an alteration in the nature of his moral perfections. There cannot be two essentially different images of the same divine original.
Farther: It was said, * Whenever applied to the dispositions of the mind, spiritual stands opposed to carnal,• and that, in the criminal sense of the word.' Mr. B. remarks this as a mistake ; " for," says he, " spiritual, in 1 Cor. ii. 14. is opposed to natural. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God," Sec. (p. 67.) But, I apprehend, that the word " natural," (i^f^/xM) in the text, is of the same import with carnal. To say that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, is equal to saying, that the carnal man receiveth them not; or he, who, whatever be his acquisitions in science, is under the influence of that corrupt nature which we all derive from Adam. Having nothing in him which is truly good, nothing correspondent with divine truths, all his vain labour and toil about those truths is to as little purpose as that of the men of Sodom about Lot's door. This, I take it, is the purport of Mr. B.'s quotation from Calvin. (p. 58.)
* Ephes. iv. 24.
Depravity, though it is, strictly speaking, no part of our nature; yet is become natural, as it were, to us; and hence it is common for us to call a carnal, unconverted state, a state of nature; and the scripture speaks of our being by nature the children of wrath. A state of nature, in this use of the term, is evidently put, not for the state of man as created, but as fallen. And respecting the text in question, it does not appear probable, that the Holy Spirit would have here used a term, to have expressed the nature of man in its purest state, which he every where else, when applying it to the dispositions of the mind, uses to express a state of abominable iniquity.*
Dr. Gill says of the law, that " it requireth spiritual service and obedience." This I quoted before, supposing it expressive of my own sentiments; but Mr. B. assures me I am mistaken, and that Dr. Gill meant no such thing. By " spiritual service and obedience," it is said, he meant " a serving it with our minds ; a worshipping God in spirit and in truth ; a loving it with all our hearts and souls ; as well as a performance of all the outward acts of religion and duty." (p. 71.) What was Dr. Gill's meaning I cannot tell; nor is it worth while to dispute about it, as the opinion of the greatest uninspired writer is not decisive : otherwise I should think he had no such distinctions in his mind as Mr. B. imputes to him. But, be his meaning what it might, there certainly is no difference between worshipping God in spirit and in truth, and the exercise of " spiritual principles and dispositions, such as flow from Christ Jesus." Suppose we follow Mr. B. in his distinction of holiness, into natural and spiritual; and of spirituality, into legal and evangelical: a worshipping of God in spirit and in truth must belong to the latter, and not to the former. It must be not only spiritual, but " evangelically spiritual;" for Christ is speaking of true worshifipers under the gospel-dispensation ; and they are said to be such whom the Father seeketh to worship, him.
* See James iii. 15. Earthly, Senspai, devilish; and Jude 19, Skit. Suae, having not the Spirit.
See John iv. 23, 24. The above distinctions appear, to me, to be more curious than just; but, be they ever so jast, they will not furnish us with an answer to the argument upon the fore-cited passage.
If I understand what Mr. B. means by a spirituality which is different in nature from that which is evangelical; it is what is so called, not on account of its nature, but of the subject over which it extends; viz. the spirit, or mind, of man. But he should have considered, that, when the law is called spiritual,* (which it is only in one passage,) it is not in opposition to corporeal, but to carnal; just as the principle of holiness in the hearts of believers, or the spirit, is opposed to the flesh. This was noticed before, to which Mr. B. has made no reply.
" According to Mr. F. it is said, there is no alteration made in religion by the interposition of Christ to fcadncarnate, and his mediation ; no change in the abolishing of tnfe^old covenant and the establishment of the new; no alterationXjn the nature of our obedience." (p. 73.) I hope the enclosin^of this passage in reversed commas, and ascribing it to me, was* without design. The passage was taken, by Mr. B. from Dr. Owen on the Spirit, p. 461. He has given us it at large, in p. 68 of his remarks. Dr. Owen delivered it as containing the sentiments of those against whom he was writing, who held the gospel to be only a sort of new edition of the law of nature. I must do myself the justice, however, to deny their being my sentiments, any more than my words. I have acknowledged the contrary, in p. 119. Nor are they so much as consequences deducible from any thing I have advanced. Mr. B. might, with equal propriety, go about to prove a difference between the principles of the Old and New-Testament saints ; since the religion under the law is different from that under the gospel, though they agree (as Dr. Owen, in the same passage, observes) in their "Author, Object, and End." 'No:' Mr. B. will reply, 'these are, doubtless, the same.' Then we might retort, in his own mode of reasoning, 'If so, " there is no change made by abolishing the Mosaic dispensation; no difference between that and the gospel-dispensation ; and no alteration thereby made in religion." *
But Mr. B.'s arguments and objections upon this subject will be considered more particularly in the two following Sections.
* -znvttMTixo'i. Bom. vii. 14.
REPLY TO Mil. B.'S ELEVENTH LETTER, ON THE STATE OF MAN IN INNOCENCE; WHETHER HE WAS INCAPABLE OF DOING THINGS SPIRITUALLY GOOD.
U PON this single point of Adam's incapacity to do things spiritually good, Mr. B. rests almost all his arguments. He seems very desirous of taking this matter for granted, and actually does take it for granted, in various places ; arguing and exclaiming upon the supposition of this sentiment being true, though he knows that will not be granted him. Hence, his answer to my reply to the objection on the necessity of a divine principle in order to believing. (p. 94.) If I held Mr. B.'s sentiment in this matter, then I should hot be able upon that ground to establish my own ! That is the amount of what he has there adyanced. Hence also, his exclamation of my imputing cruelty to the Holy One ; (pp. 56. 88. 95.) that is, that it would be " cruel and shocking for God to require that which is beyond the powers of man in his present or primitive state." I grant it; but that is what I never affirmed. If our principles are charged with absurdity, they should be proved to be inconsistent with themselves, or with some allowed principle, and not barely with those of our opponents.
I can see no force in the quotation from Mr. Brine ; (p. 57.) wherein a cannot and a will not, in respect of coming to Christ, are said to be distinct things, unless this sentiment is first taken for granted. " We cannot come to Christ," he says, " as we are destitute of a principle of life; and we will not, as we are the subjects of vicious habits." Now, I would ask, what is the want of a principle of life, but the want of a holy bia» of mind to glorify God ? And this is no otherwise a different thing from aversion of heart from him, than as a negative evil differs from one that is positive. The want of a principle of honesty in an intelligent being is no excusable thing, aDy more than positive villainy. I know of no answer that can be made to this way of reasoning, but by maintaining that a principle of life is something different from a principle of uprightness towards God; something different, in its nature, from what man, in his most upright condition, could possess. If this were asserted, I should no otherwise reply, than by asking for firoof. In the above argument, this sentiment is assumed as if it were a truth allowed on both sides; whereas that is not the case. Supposing the notion of Adam's incapacity to do things spiritually good were a truth ; to take it for granted in such a manner as this, is contrary to all fair reasoning. It is no other than begging the question. But I am not yet convinced that the thing itself is true; and, if the foundation is bad, the superstructure must fall.
Two questions here require a discussion ; viz. What evidence has Mr. B. produced in support of this his favourite hypothesis ? and, What has he done towards overturning the arguments for the contrary ?
I. What Evidence Has Mr. B. Produced In Support Of This His Favourite Hypothesis ? The subject we are now discussing is of a fundamental nature, in respect of the main question between us. It is the corner-stone upon which the whole fabric of Mr. B.'s scheme is founded : we have reason to expect, therefore, that this should be well laid in solid, scriptural evidence. However some truths may be more fully revealed than others, I should think I ought to suspect that system whose first and fundamental principles are not well supported.
Let us examine what Mr. B. has offered. He apprehends the phrases new man—new heart—new sfiirit—new creature, &c. imply this sentiment, and are inconsistent with that which he opposes, (p. 83.) To this it is replied, The whole force of this argument rests upon the supposition that the term new, in these passages, stands opposed to a state of primitive purity ; whereas every one knows that the new heart stands opposed to the stony heart; and the new man to the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.*
Farther: Mr. B. thinks this sentiment supported by a passage in Rom. vii. 6. " But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held ; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." (p. 73.) But his sense of the passage, if it prove any thing for him, will prove too much. He maintains that spiritual dispositions are a conformity to the law, though not to the law only; (p. 68.) but the apostle says, they were delivered from the law of which he speaks. Yet Mr. B. will not say that we are, by grace, delivered from all obligation to the requirements of the moral law. To suit his sentiments, therefore, it should rather have been said, we serve partly in newness of the spirit, and partly in the oldness of the letter.
Whether " the oldness of the letter" be here to be understood of the manner in which the converted Jews used formerly to worship God ; tenaciously adhering to the letter of their ceremonial law, instead of entering into its spirit, or design, and of worshipping God in spirit and in truth; or whether it mean the moral law, in its particular form of a covenant of works; (which seems to agree with the scope of the place ;) it certainly does not mean that for which Mr. B. produces it. The " oldness of the letter," in which they once served, is not here put for that way of serving God which was exercised in a state of innocence, but in a state of unregeneracy. It was when they were in the flesh, (v. 5.) that this sort of service was carried on, to which the other is opposed. It must be such a sort of service, therefore, as could have in it no real conformity to the law ; seeing they that are in the flesh cannot please God; the carnal mind is enmity against God ; is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
It is very common for Mr. B. to apply that which is spoken of man as now born into the world, to man in a state of innocence. Thus he has applied a passage in Dr. Owen. (p. 81.) The Pelagian figment, that " what we have by nature, we have by grace, because God is the author of nature," means what we have "by natural propagation;" as the Doctor himself explains it, as we are now born into the world.f
• Ezek. xxxvi. 26. Ephes. iv. 22—24. 2 Cor. v. 17. * f Oven on the Spirit, p. 452.
I do not recollect any other passages of scripture on which Mr. B. has pretended to ground his fundamental principle; fundamental I call it, because, as was said before, it lies at the foundation of all his other principles wherein we differ. I wish Mr. B. and the reader seriously to consider whether the .ibove passages convey such a sentiment; whether they can fairly be applied to the support of it; and, if not, whether that which lies at the foundation of his hypothesis, has any foundation in the word of God.
But Mr. B. though he has not, that I recollect, produced any other scriptural evidence for the sentiment in question than what has been noticed, yet has attempted to argue the matter out by reason. I had said, " It appears, to me, that the scrifiture knows nothing of natural holiness, as distinguished from spiritual holiness; that it knows of but one kind of real holiness, and that is a conformity to the holy law of God." In answer to this, Mr. B. does not pretend to inform us where the scripture does make this distinction, or from what parts of it such a distinction may be inferred ; but only asserts, that " there is a difference," and goes about to inform us wherein that difference consists. (pp. 67, 68.) Let us now attend to what is there advanced. The sum of the supposed difference is made to consist in three things.
1. " The one was possessed by Adam in innocence, and would have been conveyed, by natural generation, to his posterity ; the other we derive from Christ, by the influence of the Holy Spirit." Answer: This does not prove them to be of a different nature, but merely to spring from different causes, and to flow through different channels. Man, in innocence, enjoyed the approbation of his Maker; so do believers, as justified in Christ's righteousness, and sanctified by his Spirit. Divine approbation, in itself considered, is the same thing in the one case as in the other ; but the means by which it is enjoyed are very different.
2. " Natural holiness consists in conformity to the holy law of God; spiritual holiness, to the law and gospel too." Answer : That all holiness is a conformity to some law, or rule of action, given by God to his creatures, is certain; and, if spiritual holiness is a conformity to the gospel in something wherein it is not a conformity to the moral law, then the gospel must, after all, be a new law, or a new rule of action. But what necessity for this ? " If the pure and holy law of God requires every man cordially to receive and heartily to approve of the gospel;" (as Mr. B. in p. 49, says it does,) then what Toom is there for the above distinction ? A cordial reception and hearty approbation of the gospel is the very essence of conformity to it.
3. " Natural holiness was liable to be lost; but spiritual holiness never was liable to, never was, never can be, lost." Answer: This proves nothing to the point, unless the reason -why spiritual holiness cannot be lost is owing to its nature, or kind, and not to the promise and perpetual preservation of the Holy Spirit. A principle the same in nature, may be produced in one subject, and left to the conduct of that subject to preserve it in being; while, in another subject in different circumstances, its existence may be infallibly secured by the promise and power of God. It is generally supposed, that the elect angels were confirmed in their state of original purity. Supposing this to have been the case, that confirmation, though it rendered their holiness, like that in believers, inamissible, yet it did not, in the least, alter its nature. It had not been a confirmation, if it had. Nor is there any reason, that I know of, to conclude, that the holiness in the elect angels was of a different nature from that which originally existed in those who fell. I have no notion of any principle in my soul that is, in its own nature, necessarily immortal. My experience teaches me, that I should as' soon cease to love Christ, and the gospel, and every thing of a spiritual nature, as Adam ceased to love God, were it not for the perpetual influence of his Holy Spirit.
That none of the above differences make any thing in proving the point, is equally evident from Mr. B.'s own principles, as from what has been now alleged. He supposes spiritual holiness, or the holiness which is in believers, to be a conformity to the law, though not to the law only. Very well; so far, then, as spiritual holiness is a conformity to the law, it is, and must be, the same, in nature, as what he calls natural holiness; and yet they differ in all the circumstances above-mentioned. That conformity to the law, of which believers are now the subjects, and which must have been incumbent upon them TOL. I. 2 B
while unbelievers, is " derived from Christ as their head, and comes by the influence of the Holy Spirit, and not by natural generation ;" neither " can it ever be lost," so as to become totally extinct. These are things, therefore, which do not affect the nature of holiness; and so are insufficient to support a distinction of it into two kinds, the one essentially different from the other.
Upon the whole, I think, Mr. B. in treating upon this subject, has proceeded in much the same manner as when discussing the definition of faith. In order to prove that holiness in the hearts of believers is something essentially different, or different in its nature, from what was possessed by man in innocence ; he proves, or rather asserts, from Dr. Owen, that it " is an Effect Of Another Cause, and differs in the Objects of its vital acts; there being new revelation* now, which were not before." (pp. 76, 77.) All this is allowed : and it proves what Dr. Owen meant it to prove ; viz. that we are not, after the manner of the Socinians, to make Christianity a mere revival of the law of nature. It proves that there are " some differences," as he expresses it,* between the life of Adam and that of a believer; but it does not prove an essential difference in their principles; nor did the Doctor mean it, I should suppose, to prove any such thing.
* Owen on the Spirit, p. 241.
THE CAPACITY OF MAX IN INNOCENCE TO BELIEVE, ANtf TO DO THINGS SPIRITUALLY GOOD, FARTHER CONSIDERED.
V'V E now proceed to the second question ; viz* What Has
Mb. B. Done To ov- Rtuhn The Arguments On This Subject, Which He Has Undertaken To Answer ? Some things he has passed over : he has said nothing, for instance, to what was advanced on the case of Cain and Abel; or on the difference between an essential and a circumstantial incapacity in our first parents to believe in Christ. I had attempted to prove, that the spirit and conduct of Adam, in innocence, were nothing more nor less than a perfect conformity to the holy law of God ; that the same might be said of Jesus Christ, so Jar as he was our example ; and, consequently, the same of Christians, so Jar as they are Jormed after that example. In proof of the last two positions, several passages of scripture were produced. On these Mr. B. has made some remarks.
Psalm xl. 8. / delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart. What Mr. B. says (p. 79.) of the will of the Father extending to Christ's laying down his life as a sacrifice for sinners, I think is true ; but nothing to the purpose. I was speaking of Jesus Christ, so Jar as he was our example; but what have his sufferings, " as a sacrifice for sinners," to do in this matter ? Was he designed herein to be our example ? Surely not. If the moral law be allowed to be "herein included," that is sufficient. And, if this were'not allowed, since Mr. B. acknowledges, "that the Lord Jesus Christ, throughout his life, yielded obedience to the moral law," and has pointed out no other obedience, wherein he was our example, than this ;* the point is given up, and all the questions in pages 78 and 81 are to no purpose.
Jer. xxxi. 33. / will put my law in their inward parts, and Write it in their hearts, &c. Mr. B. thinks the term law, here, «' includes the law offaith, or the gospel; and also what the apostle, in Rom. vii. 23. calls the law of the mind; and especially as the apostle, when he quotes the passage in Heb. viii. 10. uses the plural word laws." (pp. 80, 81.) The plural word laws, in scripture, and in common speech, signifies no more than the different parts, or branches, of the same law ; and is of the same import with the word commandments. I think, with Mr. B. that each of the above ideas are included: not* however, as so many distinct laths put into the heart.
* It is true, Christ was our example in his conforming to positive institutions i but this is included in obedience to the moral law, which requires a compliance with whatever God shall, at any time, think proper to enjoin ; and will hardly be supposed to require a distinct principle for the performance of it.
For God to write his law in the heart, is only another mode of speaking for giving us a heart to love that law ; and if the law " requires a cordial reception, and hearty approbation of the gospel;" (as Mr. B. in page 49, owns it does,) then, in a fallen creature, to whom the gospel is preached, a heart to love that law must include a heart to embrace the gospel; and a heart to love the law and embrace the gospel, is the principle of holiness, called the law of the mind*
An argument was drawn from the term renewed, as applied to our regeneration. On this Mr. B. remarks, as follows: " I think, at the resurrection, the same body that dies will be raised ; but I think the state in which it will rise will be more than circumstantially, it will be essentially different from that in which it was laid in the grave; except corruption and incorruption, dishonour and glory, weakness and power, natural and spiritual, are essentially the same." (p. 83.) So far from this making for Mr. B. one need not desire a better argument against him. He thinks, he says, that the same body that dies will be raised ; I think so too, or it would not have been called a resurrection: let him only acknowledge that the same principle that was lost is restored, or it would not have been represented as a renovation ; and we are satisfied.
* After Mr. B has acknowledged, that "the law of God requires a Cordial reception of the gospel," it is somewhat surprising that he should reason, as follows :—" If the law commanded faith, in relation to Christ prticified, it must then acquaint us with Christ crucified. It would be an unreasonable law to enjoin an act about such an objeet, and never discover one syllable of that object to us." (p 92.) It certainly would be Unreasonable to require faith without a revelation of the object; and, where that is not revealed, we do not suppose it incumbent. But, if the gospel reveal the object of faith, the moral law may require it to be embraced, Mr. B himself being judge. If the law cannot reasonably require faith towards an object which itself doth not reveal; then, what will become of his natural and common faith in a crucified Christ, which he allows is required by the law ? Does the law rereal Christ as the object of this kind of faith, any more than the other.' Mr. B. cannot say it does. The above quotation, I suppose, is taken from Mr. Charnock. I have not the first edition of his works, and so cannot follow Mr. B. in his references; but, if Mr. Charnock's meaning were what the connexion of his words, as introduced by Mr. B seems to represent, it is certainly contrary to the whole tenor of his writings; and I believe no such thought ever entered his heart, as to question whether faith in Christ were the duly of sinners.
Let him but allow this, and he is welcome to dwell upon as many differences, as to causes and objects, as he can find. If this be but granted, all that he can say besides cannot prove an essential difference. It is very extraordinary for Mr. B. to suppose that it can. That which is essential to any thing, is that without which it would not be that thing. If corruption, dishonour, or weakness, belonged to the essence of the body, then it could not be the same body without them. These cause a difference as to the circumstances and condition of the body ; they do not, however, so alter its essence, but that it is the same body through all its changes.
What is here advanced does not suppose that " corruption and incorruption, natural and spiritual, are essentially the same." Doubtless they are different and opposite qualities; but the question is, Do these qualities cause an essential difference in the bodies to which they pertain ? If any one were disposed to prove an essential difference between the principles of saints on earth and saints in heaven, he might easily accomplish his purpose, according to Mr. B.'s mode of reasoning. He might say, ' They are more than circumstantially, they are essentially different: the one are weak, the other strong; these are exercised in believing, those in seeing; these are attended with opposing carnality, those are free from all opposition. Now here is an essential difference ; except weakness and strength, faith and sight, remaining impurity and perfect holiness, were essentially the same !'
If Mr. B. should reply, that he did not plead for an essential difference between the body when it dies and when it is raised, but between the state of the body at those different periods ; I answer, Then what he has said is mere trifling, nothing at all to the purpose. His design was to illustrate an essential difference between the principles of man in innocence and those in believers, and not barely in the state and circumstances of those principles; otherwise there had been no dispute between us.
The only question, it was before observed, to which the whole ought to be reduced, was this, Whether Supreme Iote To God Would Not Necessarily Lead A Fallen Crea
TURE, WHO HAS THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO HIM, TO EMBRACE
The Lord Jesus Christ, And His Way Of Salvation ? The arguments which were thought sufficient to establish this question in the affirmative, were urged in pages 39—41, and 81—83, of the former treatise. To this Mr. B. has made no other reply than the following: " Supreme love to God will lead a man to embrace any revelation God makes of himself ; but it will not, it cannot lead a man to embrace what God does not reveal. Supreme love to God would lead no fallen creature to embrace Christ in a way of special faith, without Christ being revealed, and revealed in an internal manner by the Holy Ghost. There is no true believing without revelation, without evidence." (pp. 85, 86.) Special faith, then, it seems, consists in believing something which is not revealed in the scriptures, and of which there is there no evidence. Well: if this be special faith, we need have no farther dispute about it; for I shall agree with him, that it is what no man is in the least obliged to.
Mr. B. in the outset, the reader will remember, allowed, that a believing of our interest in the blessings of the gospel, was not essential to true faith; (p. 10.) and yet, what is here advanced cannot, one should think, proceed upon any other supposition. His view of the subject, so far as I understand it, supposes, that common faith, such as a man may have, and perish, consists in believing no more than what is already revealed in the Bible ; and that special faith consists in belies ing our personal interest in it. But this being no where revealed in the scriptures, any otherwise than by giving descriptive characters, an immediate revelation from heaven becomes necessary to acquaint the party of his peculiar privilege, before he can believe himself entitled to it.
That there is an internal as well as an external revelation, is readily allowed ; but, I apprehend this revelation to consist in the eyes of the understanding being enlightened ; and that, not to discover any new truth, which was never before revealed, but that which was already sufficiently made known in the holy scriptures, and which nothing but our criminal blindness could conceal from our minds. See Ephes. i. 17, 18. I think with Mr. Brine, that " to imagine that God now affords such light as will enable us to make discoveries of truths not already revealed to us in his word, is Real Enthusiasm, and has nothing to support it in the holy scriptures."*
Perhaps, I shall be told, that Mr. Brine made an internal revelation the ground of an obligation to believe in Christ. I suppose he did, when engaged in this controversy ; but when engaged with a Deist, in the piece referred to, he probably forgot what in other instances had escaped from his pen, and nobly defended the Christian religion from Irrationality Or
A great deal of Mr. B.'s reasoning tends, in my opinion, rather to degrade a state of primitive purity than to exalt that in which we are placed through Christ.
* Christian Religion not destitute of Arguments, p. 44.
f It is somewhat singular, that Mr. B. should charge me with making it the duty of any man to believe without evidence. This nearly amounts to what others have asserted, that I make it incumbent on them to believe a lie. The definition of faith, which I have heretofore given, is the belief of the Thuth. If truth and falsehood, then, are the same thing, the charge may be well founded; but not* otherwise. If a persuasion of a personal interest in the blessings of the gospel were what denominated us believers, there might be something plausible in Mr. B.'s mode of reasoning; but this he does not pretend to maintain. Dr. Withers appears, in some places, to maintain this idea: and considers faiih, as generally used in scripture, to signify "either an assent to the Bible," as containing the history of our Lord, and other important matters: or else, denoting " the knowledge, the assurance of an interest in its present and promised blessings:" (p. 73.) and from pages 153 to 156, he presents us with a long list of scriptures, as if to confirm this second idea of faith ; but which evidently only prove what I never thought of doubting, that believers may have a consciousness of their having passed from death unto life, and not that it is this consciousness which denominates them believers. Indeed, he himself tells us in a note, (p. 155.) that a man may be a believer without this consciousness. What is it, then, which constitutes him a believer in that sense which is connected with a title to eternal life ? He will hardly assert, that every one who assents to the divine inspiration of the Bible is in a state of salvation. And as to an assurance of being interested in the blessings of the gospel, (supposing this were a just idea of faith,) he could not be ignorant that I never made it incumbent upon all who hear the gospel: but one should think a man must be a believer before he can be conscious of it, or of any thing, in him that is truly good, or possess any well-grounded persuasion of an interest in Christ; and, if so, such a consciousness, or persuasion, cannot be that which denominates him a believer.
I cannot perceive that he represents the latter to any better advantage than we do. All the difference is, that he seems to think meanly of supreme love to God, as if it were something vastly inferior to that of which Christians are now the subjects. Thus he tells us, from Mr. Charnock, " that a new creature doth exceed a rational creature, considered only as rational, more than a rational doth a brute." (p. 85.) True: but is a man in his primitive state to be considered only as rational ? Does he not continue to be a rational being, notwithstanding he has lost his primitive purity ? Did Mr. Charnock, in the place referred to, mean to represent man in a state of primitive purity, as being merely rational ? " Adam, in a state of innocence,"* as Dr. Owen observes, " besides his natural life, whereby he was a living soul, had a supernatural life with respect to its end, whereby he lived unto God."f
HE PLY TO MR. B.'S TWELFTH LETTER, ON DIVINE DECREES, THE USE OF MEANS, PARTICULAR REDEMPTION, &c.
1 HE objection from divine decrees is, to all intents and purposes, Given Up. I had said, "The destruction of Pharaoh was determined of God to be at the time, place, and manner in which it actually came to pass ; and yet who will say, that he ought not to have taken the counsel of Moses, and let the people go ?" To this Mr. B. replies, " But Pharaoh had an ex. press command to let the people go; therefore he was undoubtedly criminal for not doing it: so it may be said of the rest of the instances produced ; and therefore these are nothing to the purpose." (p. 88.)
* Discourse on the Holy Spirit, p. 240.
f In a Testimony in favour of the principles maintained by the Norfolk and Suffolk Association, we are told, " he was, while he stood, an upright gardener." Can this be the image of God mentioned Gen. i. 27!
I might ask, then, What would have been to the purpose ? The very circumstance of an express command, so far from destroying the propriety of the above instances, is one thing that renders them in point. The question here was not, Is faith a commanded duty ? (that was discussed elsewhere ;*) but, Can it be such, consistently with the divine decrees ? I undertook to prove that it could; inasmuch as the compliance of Pharaoh and Sihon with the messages which were sent them, was a commanded duty, notwithstanding the divine decrees concerning them. Mr. B. on the contrary, undertakes to prove that it cannot; that to suppose faith in Christ a commanded duty, must clash with the decrees of God. Now, how does he prove his point ? Why, by acknowledging, that, if the command be expreas, it may be consistent with those decrees ; that is, in other words, by giving up the very point in question. If I understand Mr. B.'s mode of reasoning, it amounts to what is usually called reasoning in a circle. In the contents, it is intimated, that faith cannot be a commanded duty, because it is inconsistent with the divine decrees ; in the page to which those contents refer, it is suggested to be inconsistent with the divine decrees, because it is not commanded ! After all; if the thing itself were inconsistent, no command, however express, could make it otherwise.
Mr. B. here, and in several other places, allows, that men ought to use the means, and be diligently concerned about their eternal salvation; to strive to enter in at the strait gate, &c. (pp. 38—43.) He has said nothing, however, to inform us how this is more consistent with the doctrine of decrees, than an obligation to believe is. But, passing this, it is observable, that what one evangelist calls striving to enter, another calls entering;} and, indeed, it must appear very extraordinary, if men ought to strive to do that which they are not obliged to do. p>
* In proof that faith in Christ is expressly commanded, the reader is referred to p. 27—35, of the former treatise, and to Section II. of this. f Luke xiii. 24 Matt. vii. 13.
Farther: using the means of salvation, waiting and praying for a blessing upon them, ought to be attended to either with the heart, or without it. If without it, it will be but poor striving to enter in at the strait gate; far enough from the sense of the passage just cited, which denotes such a striving as that of a person in an agony; it with it, this amounts to something spiritually good, and shall certainly terminate in salvation.
What our brethren can mean, in consistency with their own sentiments, by making it the duty of men to use the means of salvation, is difficult to say. Mr. B. will not allow it to be a bare attendance, but, " a diligent waiting, and seeking of spiritual blessings." (pp. 36—43.) And, in the exposition upon Isa. xlii. 18. Look, ye blind, £cc. the purport of the exhortation is said to be, " that they (unconverted sinners) would make use of their external hearing and sight, which they had, that they might attain to a spiritual hearing and understanding of divine things " (p. 102.) But a real diligent use of means, always implies a true desire after the end. It is an abuse of language to call any thing short of this by that name. Men, continuing wicked, may attend what are properly called the means of grace ; but they never attend them as the means of grace. It is impossible a man should use means to obtain that after which he has no real desire ; but a wicked man has no real desire to be saved from that from which the gospel saves us. Using the means of grace, therefore, and waiting upon God, are spiritual exercises, and have salvation plentifully connected with them in the Bible. Every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.* Many of our brethren who scruple to exhort sinners to things of a spiritual nature, will yet counsel them to watch at wisdom's gates, and wait at the posts of her doors; but these are as much spiritual exercises, as believing in Christ. Those who watch daily at wisdom's gates, waiting at the posts of her doors, are blessed. They shall find him whom they seek ; and, finding him, they find life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord f The language of wisdom is, I love them that love me, and those that seek me early shall find me.\
* Luke xi. 10. f Prov. viii. 34, 35. * Ibid. viii. 17.
It is true, in some instances, persons are spoken of, not according to what they do, but according to what they profess to do ; and, after this manner of speaking, hypocrites are said to seek the Lord and to delight to know his ways, as a nation that did righteousness.* That is, they did those things which are the usual expressions of a delight in God and a desire to seek his face, as if they had been a righteous people : but, as to the things themselves, they are, strictly speaking, spiritual exercises, and are constantly so to be understood throughout the Bible. That manner of seeking God which is practised by hypocrites, will hardly be pretended to be the duty of men in general; and, except in those cases, neither seeking God's face, nor waiting upon him, I believe, are ever used in the scripture for such an attendance on God's worship as a man may practise, and perish notwithstanding: it is certain, however, this cannot be said of a " diligently waiting, and seeking of spiritual blessings." To use our external hearing and sight, that we may attain to a spiritual hearing and understanding of divine things, is not " Within The ComPass Of A Natural Man." The end of every action determines its nature: to read and hear, therefore, with a true desire that we may attain to a spiritual hearing and understanding, are themselves spiritual exercises. In this matter I entirely coincide with Mr. Brine, that no unsanctified heart will ever pray to God for grace and holiness ; but that this is men's dreadful sin, and justly exposes them to direful vengeance."!
If to this should be objected the words of our Lord, that " many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able;" I answer, What is there spoken respects not the present state, but the period when the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door.\
The case of the man waiting at the pool of Bethesda has often been applied to that of an unconverted sinner attending the preaching of the gospel: but let it be closely considered, whether such an application of the passage be warrantable from the tenor of scripture ; and whether the characters to whom it is thus applied are not hereby cherished in a thought with which they are too apt to flatter themselves; viz. that, for their parts, their hearts are so good, that they would fain repent, and be converted, but cannot, because God is not pleased to bestow these blessings upon them.
• Isa. lviii. 2. J Motives to Love and Unity, pp. 36, 3T-
i Luke xiii. 24,25.
No one can imagine that I wish to discourage people from reading or hearing the word of God. God's ordinances are the means by which he ordinarily works; and, whatever be their motives, I rejoice to see people give them an attendance. At the same time, I think we should be careful, lest we cherish in them an opinion, that, when they have done this, they are under no farther obligations. By so doing, we shall furnish them with an unwarrantable consolation, and contribute to shield them against the arrows of conviction.
Particular Redemption. I had said, " If it were essential to true, saving faith to claim a personal interest in Christ's death, the objection would be unanswerable." Mr. B. replies, " But he who has faith has a personal interest, whether he can claim it, or not; therefore the objection is equally unanswerable on this ground: for it is making it the duty of all to have that which is an undoubted evidence of a personal interest, whether they have that interest, or not; which appears, to me, very absurd and ridiculous." (p. 90.) Perhaps so: but, if the same spiritual dispositions which are bestowed by the gospel, are required by the law, (which Mr. B. has scarcely attempted to disprove, though he has said so much about it,) there can be nothing absurd or ridiculous in it.
The matter entirely rests upon the solution of this question, Does The Scripture Represent Any Thing As The DuTy Of Mankind In General, With Which Eternal Happiness Is Connected ? I only wish Mr. B. had fairly tried the matter by this criterion, and had been willing to be decided by the issue. There is scarcely a truth in the sacred scriptures capable of a clearer demonstration. This was the ground which Mr. B. declined in his Tenth Letter, (p. 70.) In addition to what was said from pp. 58 to 66 of my former treatise, I shall now only add as follows:—
I hope Mr. B. will allow that every man ought to love God's law; do his commandments; do righteousness ; be of a meek, lowly, pure, and merciful spirit; and bear so much good will, surely, to Christ, as to give a disciple a cup of cold water for his sake; at least, he must allow, he does allow, that men ought not to be offended in him ; for he himself confesses, " they ought not to despise, if they cannot embrace him." (p. 96.) And yet these are all evidences of an interest in Christ and eternal blessedness.*
Mr. B. farther objects, that I " make faith warrantable and incumbent, where there is an impossibility." (p. 90.) Well: whenever Mr. B. can find a man, or a body of men, whose salvation he can be assured is impossible; he is welcome, from me, to assure them they have no warrant, and are under no obligation, to believe in Christ. In some sense, the salvation of every sinner is possible: as no one knows what will be his end, every man, while in the land of the living, is in the field of hope. And that was all I meant by possibility, in pp. 133, 134. Mr. B. allows, that, "inasmuch as we know not who are, and who are not the elect, it is the duty of every one, where the gospel of salvation comes, to be concerned, seek, inquire," &c. (p. 88.) But what solid reason can be given for the consistency of this, which will not equally apply to the other ? If it be said, These are things expressly commanded; I answer, This is allowing, that, If faith in Christ is expressly commanded, it may be consistent with the subject in question: which is giving up the point.
But farther: Though I admit that the salvation of some men is impossible, it is certain that they will perish ; yet I conceive it is not such a kind of impossibility as to render exhortations to believe in Christ inconsistent. It is no otherwise impossible for them to be saved, than it was for Sihon, king of the Amorites, to have enjoyed the blessings of a peace with Israel. If there is an infinite worth and fulness in the sufferings of Christ, in themselves considered ;—if the particularity of redemption does not consist in any want of sufficiency in the death of Christ, but in God's sovereign purpose to render it effectual to the salvation of some men, and not of others; and in Christ's being the covenant-head and representative of some men, and not of others;—then the matter must be supposed to rest upon the same footing with all the rest of the divine purposes.
* I'sa. cxix. 165. Rev. xxii. 14. 1 John ii. 29. Matt. v. 3—9. Mark ix. 41. Matt. xi. 6.
And, as it was the duty of Sihon to have accepted the message of peace, and to have trusted in the goodness of him by whose orderit was sent him, notwithstanding the purpose of God concerning him ; so it may be the duty of every sinner to accept of the message of peace which is sent him by the preaching of the gospel, and trust in Christ for the salvation of his soul.
Objections equally plausible might be made to that case, as to this. One might say, ' What end could be answered by a message of peace being sent ? Peace was not ordained for him, but destruction ; and his country was previously assigned to Israel for a possession : for him, therefore, to have received the message of peace, and trusted in the goodness of the God of Israel, would have been trusting in an impossibility.' If told, the purposes of God are a great deep, which we cannot fathom ; that, if we knew the whole system, we should see it otherwise ; that there was no natural impossibility in the affair, no such impossibility as to cause any inconsistency in it; and that, in the present state, we must take the revealed, and not the secret, will of God for the rule of our duty ; he might have replied, like Mr. B. " True: but God's secret will is the rule of his conduct to us; and surely he has not decreed, by giving Sihon up to hardness of heart, to leave him destitute of a right spirit, and then punish him for the want of it: this would be cruel and shocking.'" (p. 88.)
After all that Mr. B. has said, it is evident, from the above manner of speaking, that he does, in fact, make the decrees of God rules of human action ; and herein lies a considerable part of the difference between us. We believe the doctrine of divine predestination as fully as he does, but dare not apply it to such purposes.
REPLY TO MR. B.'S THIRTEENTH LETTER, ON THE TENDENCY OF THESE PRINCIPLES TO ESTABLISH THE DOCTRINES OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY, DIVINE GRACE, THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT, &c.
1 HAD observed, that the sentiment I opposed, as well as that which I attempted to establish, " represented man as utterly unable to do things Spiritually Good ; but then it made That inability to be no part of his depravity, but altogether innocent in its nature." Mr. B. quotes this passage ; not, however, as I wrote it, but very differently, in sense as well as in words, and then finds fault with that which he himself had inserted. (p. 96.) I never imagined that he would maintain men's aversion from all " moral good" to be innocent, nor even their aversion from spiritual things; though I did not suppose he would have allowed that aversion to make any part of their inability. Mr. B. complains of being injured, in that he is represented as maintaining the inability of man to things spiritually good to be altogether innocent. What I affirmed was, that " the sentiment, when k spake consistently with itself, did so." I think so still; for it appears, to me, an inconsistency for a man to be " both naturally and morally unable" to come to Christ. Something has been said upon this subject already, in the note, p. 204. but, as this is a subject on which Mr. B. frequently insists, let us examine it more particularly.
In the first piace : Supposing men's ability to do things spiritually good to be partly natural, and partly moral; then, after all, it must follow, that they are, in part, to blame for their non-compliance with those things; and so, consequently, the contrary must, in part, have been their duty. That this sentiment follows from tue position of Mr. B. is certain; but whose cause it will subserve, I cannot tell: it seems to suit neither. Mr. B. beyond doubt, means, all along, to deny every thing spiritually good, being either in whole or in part, the duty of carnal men. I have attempted, on the other hand, to maintain, that such obedience is not merely in part, but fully incumbent upon them. And, one should think, it either is incumbent upon them, or it is not; but the above position implies that it is neither.
Farther : I question if both these kinds of inability can possibly obtain in the same instance. Where there is, and always was, an entire natural inability, there appears to be no room for an inability of a moral nature. It would sound uncouth, to affirm of any of the brutal creation, that they are morally, as well as naturally, unable to credit the gospel. It would be equally uncouth, to affirm of a man in his grave, that he is unwilling, as well as unable, to rise up and walk.
That men are capable of hating spiritual things, nobody will dispute. But it is impossible that there should subsist any aversion from what there is an entire natural inability to understand. We cannot hate that of which we have no idea, any more than love it. A brute, be his savage disposition ever so great, is incapable of aversion from every thing superior to his nature to understand. The same may be said of any being, intelligent or unintelligent.
I may be told, perhaps, that a poor man may be of such a temper of mind, that, if he had a natural ability to relieve the distressed, he would still be under a moral inability. Be it so : it is not proper to say, he is morally, as well as naturally, unable to relieve the indigent. It might with truth be said, that he is morally unable to do such kind actions as are within his reach ; and we may conclude he would be equally so to relieve the indigent, if his wealth were to increase. But this does not prove that moral inability can exist without natural ability. Besides, the inability of the poor man to relieve the distressed, is not, in every respect, total; and so is not of equal extent with that pleaded for in carnal men, as to the discernment of spiritual things. No man, however poor, is destitute of those faculties and powers of mind by which generous actions are performed. It is impossible, perhaps, to find a man naturally unable, in every respect, to do good, in some way or other, to his fellow-creatures: or, if a man of that description could be found, he must be utterly void of reason; and, in that case, he cannot be said to he morally, as well as naturally, unable to do good.
Those who possess great natural ability are capable of being the subjects of greater moral inability and guilt, than others whose capacities are less. It is not in some men's power to be so wicked as others. And where there is, and always was, an entire natural incapacity, there is no place for an incapacity of a moral nature, in any degree. Mr. B. denies that men either have, or ever had, any natural ability for the embracing of spiritual things. We reply, If so, they would be equally incapable of rejecting, as of embracing, them. The aversion of the human mind from things of that nature, I conceive to be a strong additional argument in our favour; for which argument my thanks are due to Mr. Button. The above observations may be considered as a farther reply to the quotation from Mr. Brine. (p. 57.)
Can Mr. B. seriously pretend to maintain, that his sentiments represent human depravity in an equal light with ours ? It seems he wishes to have it thought so; but^with what colour of evidence, it is difficult to conceive. We suppose men's aversion is so great, as to amount to a total moral inability; and so to render divine influence absolutely necessary. But Mr. B. expresses his surprise, that we should call this inability total, (pp. 56. 93.) It seems, then, he does not think that the chain of men's native aversion from God and spiritual things is strong enough to keep them from coming to Christ, without having something else in conjunction with it.
But, if this cannot be maintained, he seems certain of the advantage, however, in one respect. " We certainly," says Mr. B. " lay man much lower than he does:" and this, he thinks, has a tendency to abase his pride, while our sentiments tend to gratify and promote it. (p. 96.) It is true, Mr. B. does lay man lower than we do: but it is observable, that, so far as that is the case, it is not in the character of a sinner, but of a creature of God; not on account of what he has made himself, but on account of what God has made him: and if this is the way in which we are to be humbled, it might be done still more effectually, if we were reduced to the condition of a stock or a stone.
In reply to what is said on the doctrine of grace, and the work of the Spirit, (pp. 1. 93. 97.) little more need be said in addition to the above. Though Mr. B. sometimes speaks of men's inability as being fiartly innocent, and partly criminal ; yet, as was said before, it was manifestly his design, all along, to prove men wholly excusable in their omission of every thing spiritually good. But, suppose it were otherwise; suppose they were only in part excusable; if it be a more glorious instance of grace, and a greater exertion of divine influence, to save one who is partly innocent, than one who is entirely to blame ; it must be upon this principle, that, in proportion as criminality is lessened, the glory of divine grace in salvation is increased ; and, if so, then the most g-lorious display of grace that could be manifested in our saLvation, must be upon the supposition of our being altogether innocent !
When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, says Christ to his disciples, say, We are zinprojitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. Luke xvii. 10. From this passage two things are observable : First, That obedience to God cannot merit any thing at his hands. Secondly, the reason why there is no such thing as merit in our obedience is, that all the good we have done, or may do, is commanded, is our duty. From hence it follows, 1. That the very idea of duty excludes merit, and cuts off boasting. 2. That the more attached we are to our duty, as such, the more distant we are from all pretence to merit, or boasting. The very way to extirpate the notion of human merit is, to consider all which we do as being our duty. 3. That, if it were possible to perform any thing which does not come under the idea of duty, then would there be some ground for merit. If the foregoing observations be just, it scarcely needs asking, Which sentiment it is, that cuts off boasting ; that of faith being considered as a duty, or the opposite f
Perhaps it may be said, in answer to this, that, when a man is enlightened by the Spirit of God, it is then his duty to believe. But I think, if it be not incumbent before, it will be difficult to prove it so at all. In this case, the work of the Spirit upon the heart must constitute the ground of duty; and then it is necessary that the person should know that he is the subject of this* work, before he can see it his duty to believe. But by what evidences can he obtain this knowledge ? Surely not by his impenitency and unbelief; and yet, till he has repented and believed, he can have nothing better. If it be as Mr. B. represents, the work of the Spirit must consist in giving us new natural powers. If we have no natural power to embrace spiritual things till we are regenerated, then regeneration must be the creation of natural power. And what this is different from creating a new soul, is difficult to determine. Be that as it may, the creating of natural power cannot be a spiritual exertion, any more than the creation of a leg or an arm; and so cannot be reckoned amongst the special spiritual operations of the Holy Spirit. Whatever grace there may be in it, it is no part of the grace of the gospel; it is no part of salvation. It is not any thing that became necessary through sin; for it is supposed that man was as destitute of it in his created, as in his fallen state. One should think, therefore, it can be nothing which is given us in behalf of Christ, as mediator; or for which we shall have to praise him in that character to eternity.
Among a catalogue of other bad consequences imputed to my sentiments, they are said to be " distressing to saints." (p. 105.) This, for aught I know, may be just. They certainly have a tendency to convince both saint and sinner of abundance of sin, which the sentiments here opposed make to be no sin. It is no wonder, therefore, that true saints, by discerning their great obligations, both before and after conversion, to love the Lord Jesus Christ, should now be greatly distressed in a way of godly sorrow. Looking upon him whom they pierced, they mourn, as one that is in bitterness for his first born. But this, so far from being brought as an objection, ought to be considered as a corroboration. That which tends to sooth and quiet the minds of men, by giving diminutive representations of the causes of reflection and grief, is not the gospel. The gospel gives peace which passeth all understanding ; and this is consistent with the exercise of the most pungent grief: but that quietness of mind which rises from a diminution of blame-worthiness, rather deserves the name of ease, than of peace, and is much more to be dreaded than desired.
It was acknowledged, in the former treatise, "that many who have dealt in addresses to unconverted sinners, have dabbled in Arminianism." Mr. B. from hence repeatedly represents me as acknowledging that they tend that way. (p. i. Pref. and p. 100.) This I must beg leave absolutely to deny. There is no such acknowledgment, nor any thing like it; but the very reverse. Mr. B. cannot be ignorant, that many who have maintained the doctrines of grace, have more than dabbled in Antinomianism ; and yet that is no proof that the doctrines of grace are really of that tendency.
As to the use that is made of my concession concerning the manner of addressing sinners ; such as " Come to Christ now, this moment," &c. Q>. 99.) I might refer the reader for answer to the passage itself; yea, to that part of it which Mr. B. has quoted. Surely he had no reason to conclude, that I thought a believing in Christ was a matter that might safely be deferred. He professes to maintain, that men ought to be perfectly holy, in some sense or other ; but does he ever say to his auditory, ' Be perfectly holy now, this moment:'
One remark more on this subject requires a reply. I had attempted to remove the supposed absurdity of addresses to dead sinners, by observing that we supposed spiritual death to be altogether a criminal affair. Mr. B. answers, from Mr. Wayman, " It was man's sin to destroy a moral life, but it is not man's sin that he hath not a spiritual one. It is God's eternal grace that gives life." (p. 102.) To this it is replied, this position requires a higher authority to support it than Mr. Wayman.* If we admitted this sentiment as true, then, it is granted, our manner of address to unconverted sinners would be inconsistent; but we deny it. In order to prove our conduct absurd, it should be proved to be inconsistent with some allowed principle, and not barely with the principles of our opponents
• It is not man's sin that he hath not a spiritual one:"—If spiritual life be what we never had, then we cannot be said to be spiritually dead; for death is not a mere negative, but a privative idea. " It is God's eternal grace that gives life."—True; and is it not God's eternal grace that gives to a fallen creature a conformity to his holy lain ? and yet it does not follow from thence that it is not man's duty to have it.
SOME SERIOUS CONSIDERATIONS RECOMMENDED TO MR. B. AND THE READER.
J. HERE is great danger, in all disputes, of running to extremes Mr. B. thinks my sentiments " the high road to Arminianism," (p. 100.) and perhaps to " something worse." (p. 2.) I am not convinced, at present, of their having any such tendency. However, it becomes me to watch against every thing that might lead me aside from the simplicity of the gospel, be that what it may : and I hope I shall so far take Mr. B.'s advice. I hope also, in my turn, I may be allowed, without offence, to suggest a few serious hints to the same end. Mr. B. seems to think all the danger of erring to lie on one side : (pp. i. ii. Pref.) it is allowed there is danger on that side, but not on that side only. In general, then, I wish Mr. B. to consider, whether his principles do not tend to lead him farther than he seriously intends to go ? Particularly,
If in the course of his ministry, he avoids giving the carnal part of his auditory to understand that God requires any thing of them which is spiritually good, whether it will not be natural for them so to understand it as to reckon themselves not at all obliged to love God, to be truly holy, to be the subjects of any internal religion whatever ; and whether they do not, in fact, so understand it ? Whatever difference there is between these things in the opinion of the preacher, I incline to think, not one hearer in a hundred makes any account of it. They understand it of every thing which concerns the heart. The generality of those who would be offended with us for enjoining spiritual obedience upon our carnal auditors, would, I apprehend, be equally offended with Mr. B. were he to signifythat they ought to worship God in sfiirit and in truth, or to love him with their whole heart. Were any thing of this sort delivered, and nothing added to explain it away, it is likely the preacher would be interrogated in some such manner as this: ' How can unregenerate sinners love God, or worship him in spirit and' in truth ? You might as well call to the dead to come forth, or bid people take wings and fly to heaven. Their business is to attend the means, and if God please to give them a heart to love him, well and good ; but if not, to what purpose are all your harangues about what people ought to do ? Cease this legal business, preach the doctrines of the gospel, and leave the Holy Spirit to do his own work.'
In the above, no respect whatever is had in a personal way to Mr. B. or any of his friends. What is written, is founded upon such facts as have fallen under my own observation ; and, I suppose, that the same causes are usually productive of the same effects, in one place as in another.
Farther: It may be well for Mr. B. to consider, while he professes to allow that men ought to do whatever was in the power of man in a state of innocence, whether his sentiments do not insensibly lead him to excuse men from every thing but what may be done by a wicked mind, without any true love to God, or regard for his glory ? Mr. B. when asked in controversy, ' Whether any internal religion is now required of men towards God, or not ?' answers in the affirmative, (p. 72.) But is it a matter which his views of things would ever, of their own accord, lead him to dwell upon ? I am glad to see the frankness with which he expresses himself concerning the law of God being exceeding broad. " If the principles I have advanced," says he, " contradict this truth, let them for ever be discarded." (p. 95.) Mr. B 's meaning, in this ingenuous sentence, cannot be supposed to amount to less than this— that, if he perceived his present sentiments to clash with the spirituality of the law, he would disown them ; and, if he found them to have such a tendency, he would, at least, suspect them. Now, I desire, in this matter, to be determined by facts; and by facts that cannot fairly be disputed. I ask, then, In what manner do Mr. B.'s sentiments lead him to Expound Scripture ? How has he expounded the Second Psalm, and the Sixth of Jeremiah ? What has he made these passages to require, more than external obedience ? Is it not the tendency of all he says concerning the addresses of Christ and his apostles to their carnal auditors, to reduce them to the capacity, not of a right spirit, such as man possessed in a state of innocence, but of an apostate mind? Are they not, all along, made to mean no more than what may be done without any real love to God, or regard for his glory ? Is not such a sense put upon Isa. xlii. 18. Look ye blind, &c. as that its requirements shall be " Within The Compass Of Natural Men,
V.'HO ARE INTERNALLY DEAF AND BLIND ?" (p. 103.)
This is certainly a serious matter; and I hope Mr. B. will seriously consider it. If he does indeed believe the law to be spiritual, and to require internal religion, it is hoped he will, on all proper occasions, acknowledge it, and not attempt to bring down the precepts of the Bible to the dispositions of an apostate creature ; otherwise, people may be ready to say, he holds the spirituality of the law as some others do the doctrines of grace, who never think proper to mention them, except when an occasion offers to explain them away.
If any thing in the preceding pages should be thought unkind, or exceeding the liberty we are allowed to use with a Christian brother, I hope for Mr. B.'s forgiveness. I can truly say, If there is it is unknown to me. It has been my endeavour, all along, to make him feel nothing, except it be the force of truth.
Before I conclude, I would beg leave to recommend a few serious hints to the reader. Whoever he is, and whatever his opinion may be in reference to this controversy; let me entreat him to put one serious question to his own soul, Dost Thou believe on the Son of God? Let him remember, that nothing less than his eternal salvation or destruction hangs upon the answer ; that the question must be answered, sooner or later; that there is no medium between being Christ's friend and his enemy ; and that it is not taking this or the other side of a dispute, that will denominate any man a Christian. Neither let him evade the question, by answering, That he has already been acknowledged as a believer in Christ; is a. member of a Christian church, perhaps a preacher of the gospel, and has long been in the habit of taking this matter for granted, and of sitting in judgment upon other men, and other things. All this may be true ; and yet things may issue in a dreadful disappointment!
But, supposing the reader a real Christian, still there is great reason for prayer and watchfulness. Reading controversies may be advantageous, or it may be hurtful; and that, according to the spirit with which it is attended to. Every man had need to read with some degree of judgment of his own: and yet, if he set out with a determination to receive nothing but what shall accord with his own present views of things, he is likely to derive no real good, and, perhaps, much harm. He may meet with what confirms him in his sentiments ; and those sentiments may be on the side of truth: but, if he have such a determination, though his creed is right, his faith is wrong; especially if it lead him to despise others who think differently, and to glory over them, as being confuted. On the other hand, he may meet with that which contradicts his sentiments ; he may reject it with abhorrence ; and, in so doing, think his heart very much established with grace, so as not to be carried away with every wind of doctrine ; and yet all may amount to nothing but a being wise in his own eyes.
We are never so safe, as when we go about these matters with prayer, fear, and trembling. The subject here discussed is not a mere matter of speculation: it enters deeply into our spiritual concerns, relating both to this life and that to come. It is a matter, therefore, that is well worthy of earnest prayer, and of serious and impartial attention. If truth is but sought in this manner, it will be found. The meek will fie guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way.