I HE principal objections that are made to the foregoing statement of things, are taken from—The nature of original holiness, as it existed in our first parents—The divine decrees—Particular redemption—The covenant of works— The inability of man—The operations of the Spirit—and the necessity of a divine principle in order to believing.
It may be worthy of some notice, at least from those who are perpetually reproaching the statement here defended, as leading to Arminianism, that the greater part of these objections are of Armxnian original. They are the same, for subStance, as have been alleged by the leading writers of that scheme, in their controversies with the Calvinists; and from the writings of the latter, it were easy to select answers to them. This, in effect. is acknowledged by Mr. Brine, who, however, considers these answers as insufficient, and, therefore, prefers others before them.*
It also deserves to be considered, whether objections drawn from such subjects as the above, in which we may presently get beyond our depth, ought to weigh against that body of evidence which has been adduced from the plain declarations and precepts of the holy scriptures ? What if, by reason of darkness, we could not ascertain the precise nature of the principle of our first parents ? It is certain we know but little of original purity. Our disordered souls are incapable of forming just ideas of so glorious a state.
* Armirdan Principles of a Late Writer Refuted, p. 6.
To attempt, therefore, to settle the boundaries of even their duty, by an abstract inquiry into the nature of their powers and principles, would be improper ; and still more so to make it the medium by which to judge of our own. There are but two ways by which we can judge on such a subject: The one is from the character of the Creator, and the other from scripture testimony. From the former, we may infer the perfect purity of the creature, as coming out of the hands of God ; but nothing can be concluded of his inability to believe in Christ, had he been in circumstances which required it. As to the latter, the only passage that I recollect to have seen produced for the purpose, is, 1 Cor. xv. 47. The first man was of the earth, earthy ; which Mr. Johnson, of Liverpool, alleged, to prove the earthi. -ness of Adam's mind, or principles: but Mr. Brine sufficiently refutes this; proving that this divine proposition respects the body, and not the principlet; of our first father ;* and thus Dr. Gill expounds it.
With regard to the doctrine of divine decrees, Js*c. it is a fact, that the great body of the divines who have believed those doctrines, have also believed the other. Neither Jtagustine, nor Calvin, who each, in his day, defended predestination, and the other doctrines connected with it, ever appear to have thought of denying it to be the duty of every sinner who has heard the gospel to repent, and believe in Jesus Christ. Neither did the other Reformers, nor the Puritans of the sixteenth century, nor the divines at the synod of Dort, (who opposed Arminius,) nor any of the Nonconformists of the seventeenth century, so far as I have any acquaintance with their writings, ever so much as hesitate upon this subject. The writings of Calvin himself, would now be deemed Arminian by a great number of our opponents I allow, that the principles here defended may be inconsistent wkh the doctrines of grace, notwithstanding the leading advocates of those doctrines have admitted them; and am far from wishing any person to build his faith on the authority of^reat men : but their admission of them ought to suffice for flls silencing of that kind of opposition against them, which consists jn calling names.
• Johnson's Mistakes Noted and Rectified, pp. 18—23.
Were a difficulty allowed to exist, as to the reconciling of these subjects, it would not warrant a rejection of either of them. If I find two doctrines affirmed, or implied in the scriptures, which, to my feeble understanding, may seem to clash, I ought not to embrace the one, and to reject the other, because of their supposed inconsistency: for, on the same ground, another person might embrace that which I reject, and reject that which I embrace, and have equal scrifitural authority for his faith, as I have for mine. Yet in this manner many have acted on both sides ; some, taking the general precepts and invitations of scripture for their standard, have rejected the doctrine of discriminating grace ; others, taking the declarations of salvation, as being a fruit of electing love, for their standard, deny that sinners, without distinction, are called upon to believe for the salvation of their souls. Hence it is, that we hear of Calvinistic and Arminian texts ; as though these leaders had agreed to divide the scriptures between them. The truth is, there are but two ways for us to take: one is, to reject them both, and the Bible with them, on account of its inconsistencies; the other is, to embrace them both, concluding that, as they are both revealed in the scriptures, they are both true, and both consistent, and that it is owing to the darkness of our understandings that they do not appear so to us. Those excellent lines of Dr. Watts, in his Hymn on Election, one should think, must approve themselves to every pious heart:
But, O my soul, if truth so bright
Should dazzle and confound thy sight,
Yet still his written will obey,
And wait the great decisive day.
Had we more of that about which we contend, it would teach us more to suspect our own understandings, and to submit to the wisdom of God. Abraham, that pattern of faith, might have made objections to the command of offering up his 0h, on the ground of its inconsistency with the promise, and might have set himself to find some other meaning for the terms: but he believed God, and left it to him to reconcile his promise and his precepts. It was not for him to dispute, but to obey.
These general remarks, however, are not introduced for the purpose of avoiding a particular attention to the several objections, but rather as preparatory to it.
On The Principle Of Holiness Possessed By Man In InNocence.
The objection drawn from this subject has been stated in the following words: " The holy principle connatural to Adam, and concreated with him, was not suited to live unto God through a mediator; that kind of life was above the extent of his powers, though perfect: and, therefore, as he, in a state of integrity, had not a capacity of living unto God, agreeably to the nature of the new covenant; it is apprehended that his posterity, while under the first covenant, are not commanded to live unto God in that sort, or, in other words, to live by faith on God through a mediator."*
The whole weight of these important conclusions rests upon the first two sentences, and which are mere unfounded assertions. For the truth of them no proof whatever is offered. What evidence is there that " the principle of holiness concreated with Adam, was not suited to live unto pod through a mediator ?" That his circumstances were such as not to need a mediator, is true; but this involves no such consequence. A subject, while he preserves his loyalty, needs no mediator in approaching the throne : if he have offended, it is otherwise ; but a change of circumstances would not require a change of principles. On the contrary, the same principle of loyal affection that would induce him, while innocent, to approach the throne with modest confidence, would induce him, after having offended, to approach it with penitence, or, which is the same thing, to be sorry at heart for what he had done: and, if a mediator were at hand, with whose interposition the sovereign had declared himself well pleased, it would, at the same time, lead him to implore forgiveness in his name.
Had Cain lived before the fall, God would not have been offended at his bringing an offering without a sacrifice £>ut after that event, and the promise of the woman's seed, together with the institution of sacrifices, such a conduct was highly offensive.
• Mr. Brine's Motives to Love and Unity, pp. 50, 51.
It was equally disregarding the threatening and the promise : treating the first as if nothing was meant by it; and the last as a matter of no account. It was practically saying, ' God is not in earnest. There is no great evil in sin ; nor any necessity for an atonement. If I come with my offering, I shall' doubtless be accepted, and my Creator will think himself honoured.' Such is still the language of a self-righteous heart. But is it thus that Adam's posterity, while " under the first covenant," (or, rather, while vainly hoping for the promise of the first covenant, after having broken its conditions,) are required to approach an offended God ? If the principle of Adam in innocence was not suited tolive to God through a mediator, and this be the standard of duty to his carnal descendants, it must, of course, be their duty either not to worship God at all, or to worship him as Cain did, without any respect to an atoning sacrifice. On the con. trary, is there not reason to conclude that the case of Caia and Abel was designed to teach mankind, from the very outset of the world, God's determination to have no fellowship with sinners, but through a mediator; and that all attempts to approach him in any other way would be vain and presumptuous ?
It is true, that man in innocence was unable to repent of sin, or to believe in the Saviour : for he had no sin to repent of, nor was any Saviour revealed, or needed. But he was equally unable to repent with such a natural sorrow for sin as is allowed to be the duty of his posterity, or to believe the history of the gospel in the way which is also allowed to be binding on all who hear it. To this it might be added, he was unable to perform the duty of a father; for he had no children, to educate : nor could he pity or relieve the miserable ; fon there were no miserable objects to be pitied or relieved. Yet we do not conclude, from hence, that his descendants are excused from these duties.
" That Adam, in a state of innocence," says Dr. Gill, " had the pfver of believing in Christ, and did believe in him as the second person of the Trinity, as the Son of God, cannot well be denied ; since, with the other two persons, he was his Creator and Preserver. And His Not Believing In Him As The Mediator, Saviour, And Redeemer, Did Not Arise. of a debt; if the measure of his sufferings were according to the number of those for whom he died, and to the degree of their guilt, in such a manner as that, if more had been saved, or if those who are saved had been more guilty, his sorrows must have been proportionably increased ; it might, for aught I know, be inconsistent with indefinite invitations. But it would be equally inconsistent with the free forgiveness of sin, and with sinners being directed to apply for mercy as aufifilitants, rather than as claimants. I conclude, therefore, that an hypothesis which in so many important points is mani-festly inconsistent with the scriptures, cannot be true.
On the other hand, if the atonement of Christ proceed not on the principle of commercial, but of mofal justice, or justice as it relates to crime ; if its grand object were to expressthe divine displeasure against sin,* and so to render the exercise of mercy, in all the ways wherein sovereign wisdom should determine to apply it, consistent with righteousness ;f if it be in itself equal to the salvation of the whole world, were the whole world to embrace it; and if the peculiarity which attends it, consist not in its insufficiency to save more than are saved, but in the sovereignty of its application, no such inconsistency can justly be ascribed to it.
If the atonement of Christ excluded a part of mankind in the name sense as it excludes fallen angels, why is the gospel addressed to the one, any more than to the other ? The message of wisdom is addressed to men, and not to devils. The former are invited to the gospel-supper, but the latter are not. These facts afford proof, that Christ, by his death, opened a door of hope to sinners of the human race as sinners ; affording a ground for their being invited, without distinction, to Relieve and be saved.
But, as God might send his Son into the world to save men, rather than angels; so he may apply his sacrifice to the salvation of some men, and not of others. It is a fact, that a great part of the world have never heard the gospel; that the greater part of those who have heard it disregard it; and that those who believe are taught to ascribe not only their salvation, but faith itself, through which it is obtained, to the free gift of God.
* Bom. via. 3. f Rom. iii. 25.
There is no contradiction between this peculiarity of design in the death of Christ, and a universal obligation on those who hear the gospel to believe in him, or a universal invitation being addressed to them. If God, through the death of his Son, have promised salvation to all who comply with the gospel ; and if there be no natural impossibility as to a compl iance, nor any obstruction but that which arises from aversion of heart; exhortations and invitations to believe and be saved are consistent: and our duty, as preachers of the gospel, is to administer them, without any more regard to particular redemption than to election; both being secret things, which belong to the Lord our God, and which, however they be a rule to him, are none to us. If that which sinners are called upon to believe respected the particular design of Christ to save them, it would then be inconsistent: but they are neither exhorted nor invited to believe any thing but what is revealed, and what will prove true, whether they believe it, or not. He that believeth in Jesus Christ, must believe in him as he is revealed in the gospel: and that is as the Saviour of sinners. It is only as a sinner, exposed to the righteous displeasure of God, that he must approach him. If he think of coming to him as a favourite of heaven, or as possessed of any good qualities which may recommend him before other sinners, he deceives his soul: such notions are the bar to believing. " He that will know his own particular redemption, before he will believe," says a well-known writer, " begins at the wrong end of his work, and is very unlikely to come that way to the knowledge of it.'—Any man that owns himself a sinner, hath
• Titas ii. 14.
as fair a ground for his faith, as any one in the world that hath not yet believed; nor may any person, on any account, exclude himself from redemption, unless by his obstinate and resolved continuance in unbelief, he hath marked out himself."*
" The preachers of the gospel, in their particular congregations," says another, " being utterly unacquainted with the purpose and secret counsel of God, being also forbidden to pry or search into it, (Deut. xxix. 29.) may justifiably call upon every man to believe, with assurance of salvation to every one in particular, upon hie so doing; knowing, and being fully persuaded of this, that there is enough in the death of Christ to save every one that shall do so : leaving the purpose and counsel of God, on whom he will bestow faith, and for whom in particular Christ died, (even as they are commanded,) to himself."—" When God calleth upon men to believe, he doth not, in the first place, call upon them to believe that Christ died for them ; but that there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby vie must be saved, but only of Jesus Christ, through whom salvation is preached.'^
Of Sinners Being Under The Covenant Of Works. Much has been said on this subject, in relation to the present controversy. J. Yet I feel at a loss in forming a judgment wherein the force of the objection lies, as it is no where, that I recollect, formed into a regular argument. If I understand Mr. Brine, he supposes, First, That all duty is required by the law, either as a rule of life, or as a covenant. Secondly: That all unconverted sinners being under the law as a covenant, whatever the revealed will of God now requires of them, it is to be considered as the requirement of that covenant. Thirdly : That the terms of the covenant of works being Do, and live : it cannot, for this reason, be Believe, and be saved. But, allowing the distinction between the law as a rule of life, and as a covenant, to be just; before any conclusion can be drawn from it, it requires to be ascertained, in what sense unbelievers are under a covenant of works; and whether, in some respects, it be not their sin to continue so ?
* Elisha Coles on God's Sovereignty, on Redemption.
j Dr. Owen's Death of Death, Book IV. Chap. I.
t Mr. Brine's Motives to Love and Unity, pp. 37—42.
That they are under the curse, for having broken it, is true ; and that they are still labouring to substitute something in the place of perfect obedience, by which they may regain the divine favour, is true also: but this latter ought not to be.* A selfrighteous attachment to a covenant of works, or, as the scrip-. ture expresses it, a being of the works of the law, is no other than the working of unbelief, and rebellion against the truth. Strictly speaking, men are not now under the covenant of works, but under the curse for having broken it. God is not in covenant with them, nor they with him. The law, as a cove* riant, was recorded, and a new and enlarged edition of it given to Israel at mount Sinai; not, however, for the purpose of giving life to those who had broken it; but, rather, as a preparative to a better covenant. Its precepts still stand as the immutable will of God towards his creatures ; its promises, as memorials of what might have been expected from his goodness, in case of obedience ; and its curses, as a flaming sword that guards the tree of life. It is stationed in the oracles of God as a faithful watchman, to repel the vain hopes of the self-righteous, and convince them of the necessity of a Saviour. t Hence, it was given to Israel by the hand of Moses, as a mediator. See Gal. iii. 19—$21.
But, if unbelievers be no otherwise under the covenant of works than as they are exposed to its curse, it is improper to say, that whatever is required of them in the scriptures is required by that covenant, and as a term of life. God requires nothing of fallen creatures as a term of life. He requires them to love him with all their hearts, the same as if they had never apostatized; but not with a view to regain his lost; favour: for, were they, henceforward, perfectly to comply with the divine precepts, unless they could atone for past offences, (which is impossible,) they could have no ground to expect the bestowment of everlasting life.
• The sinner's hope, that he can be justified by the law he has broken, is an illegal hope ; and a just view of the extent, strictness, spirituality, and equity of the Law, would cut it up by the roots. E.
t Rom. vii. 10. Matt. xix. 17.
It is enough for us, that the revealed will of God to sinners says, Believe t while the gospel graciously adds the promise of salvation. On The Inability or Sinners To Believe In Christ, And
DO THINGS SPIRITUALLY GOOD.
This objection is seldom made in form, unlessit be by persons who deny it to be the duty of a sinner to love God with all his heart, and his neighbour as himself. Intimations are often given, however, that it is absurd and cruel to require of any man what is beyond his power to comply with ; and, as the scriptures declare that, JVo man Can come to Christ, except the Father draw him; and that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither Can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned; it is concluded, that these are things to which the sinner, while unregenerate, is under Do obligation.
The answer that has frequently been made to this reasoning is, in effect, as follows: ' Men are no more unable to do things spiritually good, than they are to be subject to the law of God, which the carnal mind is not, nor Can be. And the reason why we have no power to comply with these things is, we have lost it by the fall: but, though we have lost our ability to obey, God has not lost his authority to command.' There is some truth in this answer ; but it is apprehended to be insufficient. It is true, that sinners are no more and no otherwise unable to do any thing spiritually good, than they are to yield a perfect submission to God's holy law ; and that the inability of both arises from the same source—the original apostacy of human nature. Yet, if the nature of this inability were direct, or such as consisted in the want of rational faculties, bodily powers, or external advantages; its being the consequence of the fall would not set aside the objection. Some men pass through life totally insane. This may be one of the effects of sin; yet the scriptures never convey any idea of such persons being dealt with, at the last judgment, on the same ground as if they had been sane. On the contrary, they teach, that to whom much is given, of him much shall be required.* Another is deprived of the sight of his eyes, and so rendered unable to read the scriptures.
* Luke x'u. 48.
This also may be the effect of sin ; and, in some cases, of his own personal misconduct: but, whatever punishment may be inflicted on him for such misconduct, he is not blameworthy for not reading the scriptures, after he had lost his ability to do so. A third possesses the use of reason, and of all his senses, and membe rs ; but has no other opportunity of knowing the will of God than what is afforded him by the light of nature. It would be equally repugnant to scripture and reason, to suppose that this man will be judged by the same rule as others who have lived under the light of revelation. As many as have sinned without law, shall also fierish without law ; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law.*
The inability, in each of these cases, is natural; and, to whatever degree it exists, let it arise from what cause it may, it excuses its subject of blame, in the account of both God and man. The law of God itself requires no creature to love him, or obey him, beyond his strength, or with more than all the powers which he possesses. If the inability of sinners tq believe in Christ, or to do things spiritually good, were of this nature, it would undoubtedly form an excuse in their favour ; and it must be as absurd to exhort them to such duties, as to exhort the blind to look, the deaf to hear, or the dead to walk. But the inability of sinners is not such as to induce the Judge of all the earth (who cannot do other than right) to abate in his demands. It is a fact that he does require them, (and that, without paying any regard to their inability,) to love him, and to fear him, and to do all his commandments always. The blind are admonished to loot, the deaf to hear, and the dead to arisej If there were no other proof thai) what is afforded by this single fact, it ought to satisfy us that the blindness, deafness, and death of sinners, to that which is. spiritually good, is of a different nature from that which furnishes an excuse. This, however, is not the only ground of proof. The thing speaks for itself. There is an essential difference between an inability which is independent of the inclination, and one that is owing to nothing else.
* Rom. ii. 12* f Isa. xlii. 1& Ephes. v. 14.
It is equally impossible, no doubt, for any person to do that which he has no mind to do, as to perform that which surpasses his natural powers ; and hence it is, that the same terms are used in the one case, as in the other. Those who were under the dominion of envy and malignity, Could Not speak peaceably ; and those who have eyes full of adultery, Cannot cease from sin. Hence, also, the following language : How Can ye, being evil, sfieak good things ?—The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither Can he know them.— The carnal mind is enmity against God ; and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed cANie.— They that are in the flesh Cannot please God.—No man Can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him. It is also true, that many have affected to treat the distinction between natural and moral inability as more curious than solid. ' If we be unable,' say they, ' we are unable. As to the nature of the inability, it is a matter of no account. Such distinctions are perplexing to plain Christians, and beyond their capacity.' But, surely, the plainest and weakest Christian, in reading his Bible, if he pay any regard to what he reads, must perceive a manifest difference between the blindness of Bartimeus, who was ardently desirous that he might receive his sight, and that of the unbelieving Jews, who closed their eyes, lest they should see, and be converted, and be healed ;* and between the want of the natural sense of hearing, and the state of those who have ears, but hear not.
So far as my observation extends, those persons who affect to treat this distinction as a matter of mere curious speculation, are as ready to make use of it as other people, where their own interest is concerned. If they be accused of injuring their fellow-creatures, and can allege that what they did was not knowingly, or of design, I believe they never fail to do so : or, when charged with neglecting their duty to a parent, or a master, if they can say, in truth, that they were; unable to do it at the time, let their will have been ever so good, they are never known to omit the plea; and should such a master or parent reply, by suggesting that their want of ability arose from want of inclination, they would very «asily understand it to be the language of reproach, and be very earnest to maintain the contrary.
* Mark x. 41. Matt. xiii. 15.
You never hear a person, in such circumstances, reason as he does in religion. He does not say, ' If I be unable, I am unable ; it is of no account whether my inability be of this kind or that:' but he labours with all his might to establish the difference. Now, if the subject be so clearly understood and acted upon, where interest is concerned, and never appears difficult but in religion, it is but too manifest where the difficulty lies. If, by fixing the guilt of our conduct upon our father Adam, we can sit comfortably in our nest; we shall be very averse from a sentiment that tends to disturb our repose, by planting a thorn in it.
It is sometimes objected, that the inability of sinners to believe in Christ, is not the effect of their depravity ; for that Adam himself, in his purest state, was only a natural man, and had no power to perform spiritual duties. But this objection belongs to another topic, and has, I hope, been already answered. To this, however, it may be added, The natural man who receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, (\ Cor. ii. 14.) is not a man possessed of the holy image of God, as was Adam, but of mere natural accomplishments; as were the wine men of the world, the philosophers of Greece and Rome, to whom the things of God were foolishness. Moreover, if the inability of sinners to perform spiritual duties were of the kind alleged in the objection, they must be equally unable to commit the opposite sins. He that, from the constitution of his nature, is absolutely unable to understand, or believe, or love a certain kind of truth, must, of necessity be alike unable to shut his eyes against it, to disbelieve, to reject, or to hate it. But it is manifest that all men are capable of the latter; it must, therefore, follow, that nothing but the depravity of their heart renders them incapable of the former.
Some writers, as has been already observed, have allowed, that sinners are the subjects of an inability which arises from their depravity : but they still contend that this is not all; but that they are both naturally and morally unable to believe in Christ: and this they think agreeable to the scriptures, which represent them as both unable and unwilling to come to him for life. But these two kinds of inability cannot consist with each other, so as both to exist in the same subject, and towards the same thing. A moral inability supposes a natural ability. He who never, in any state, was possessed of the power of seeing, cannot be said to shut his eyes against the light. If he Jews had not been possessed of natural powers, equal to the knowledge of Christ's doctrine, there had been no justice in that cutting question and answer, Why do ye not understand my speech ? Because ye Cannot hear my word. A total physical inability must, of necessity, supersede a moral one. To suppose, therefore, that the phrase, JVo man Can come to me, is meant to describe the former; and, Ye Will Not come to me, that ye may have life, the latter; is to suppose, that our Saviour taught what is self-contradictory.
Some have supposed, that, in attributing physical, or natural, power to men, we deny their natural depravity. Through the poverty of language, words are obliged to be used in different senses. When we speak of men as by nature depraved, we do not mean to convey the idea of sin being an essential part of human nature, or of the constitution of man as man : our meaning is, that it is not a mere effect of education and example; but is, from his very birth, so interwoven through all his powers, so engrained, as it were, in his very soul, as to grow up with him, and become natural to him.
On the other hand, when the term natural is used, as opposed to moral, and applied to the powers of the soul, it is designed to express those faculties which are strictly a part of our nature as men, and which are necessary to our being accountable creatures. By confounding these ideas, we may be always disputing, and bring nothing to an issue.
Finally : It is sometimes suggested, that, to attribute to sinners a natural ability of performing things spiritually good, is to nourish their self-sufficiency; and that to represent it as only moral, is to suppose that it is not insuperable, but may, after all, be overcome by efforts of their own. But surely it is not necessary, in order to destroy a spirit of self-sufficiency, to deny that we are men, and accountable creatures; which is all that natural ability supposes. If any person imagine it possible, of his own accord, to choose that from which he is utterly averse, let him make the trial.
Some have alleged, that " natural power is only sufficient.
to perform natural things; and that spiritual power is required to the performance of spiritual things." But this statement is far from accurate. Natural power is as necessary to the performance of spiritual, as of natural things : wc must possess the powers of men, in order to perform the duties of good men. And as to spiritual power, or, which is the same thing, a right state of mind, it is not properly a faculty of the soul, but a quality which it possesses; and which, though it be essential to the actual performance of spiritual obedience, yet is not necessary to our being under obligation to perform it.
If a traveller, from a disinclination to the western continent* should direct his course perpetually towards the east, he would, in time, arrive at the place which he designed to shun. In like manner, it has been remarked, by some who have observed the progress of this controversy, that there are certain important points in which false Calvinism, in its ardent desire to steer clear of Arminianism, is brought to agree with it- We have seen already, that they agree in their notions of the original holiness in Adam, and in the inconsistency of the duty of believing with the doctrines of election and particular redemption. To this may be added, they are agreed in making the grace of God necessary to the accountableness of sinners with regard to spiritual obedience. The one pleads for graceless sinners being free from obligation; the other admits of obligation,, but founds it on the notion of universal grace. Both are agreed, that where there is no grace, there is no duty. But if grace be the ground of obligation, it is no more grace, but debt. It is that which,, if any thing good be required of the sinner, cannot justly be withheld. This is, in effect, acknowledged by both parties. The one contends, that where no grace is given, there can be no obligation to spiritual obedience ; and,, therefore, acquits the unbeliever of guilt in not coming to Christ that he might have life, and in the neglect of all spiritual religion. The other argues, thatr if maa be totally depraved, and no grace be given him to counteract his depravity; he is blameless: that is, his depravity is no longer depravity ; he is innocent in the account of his judge : consequently, he can need no saviour; and, if justice be dome hira, will be exempt from punishment, (if not entitled to heaven,) in virtue of his personal innocence. Thus the whole system of grace is rendered void : and fallen angels, who have not been partakers of it, must be in a far preferable state to that of fallen men, who, by Jesus taking hold of their nature, are liable to become blameworthy and eternally lost. But, if the essential powers of the mind be the same, whether we be pure or depraved, and be sufficient to render any creature an accountable being, whatever be his disposition, grace is what its proper meaning imports—free favour, or favour towards the unworthy ; and the redemption of Christ, with all its holy and happy effects, is what the scriptures represent it—necessary to deliver us from the state into which we were fallen^ antecedently to its being bestowed.* Of The Work Of The Holy Spirit. The scriptures clearly ascribe both repentance and faith, wherever they exist, to divine influence.t From hence, many have concluded, that they cannot be duties required of sinners. If sinners have been required from the pulpit to repent or believe, they have thought it sufficient to show the absurdity of such exhortations, by saying, ' A heart of flesh is of God's giving : faith is not of ourselves ; it is the gift of God :' as though these things were inconsistent, and h were improper to exhort to any thing but what can be done of ourselves, and without the influence of the Holy Spirit.
The whole weight of this objection rests upon the supposition that we do not stand in need of the Holy Spirit to enable us to comply with our duty. If this principle were admitted, we must conclude, either, with the Armiuians and Socinians, that " faith and conversion, seeing they are acts of obedience, cannot be wrought of God ;"\ or, with the objector, that, seeing they are wrought of God, they cannot be acts of obedience. But, if we need the influence of the Holy Spirit to enable us to do our duty, both these methods of reasoning fall to the ground.
And is it not manifest, that the godly, in all ages, have con*sidered themselves insufficient to perform those things to which, nevertheless, they acknowledge themselves to be obliged ?
• Rom. v. 5.15—21. Heb. ix. 27, 28. 1 Thes. i. 10.
J Ezek. xi. 19. 2 Tim. ii. 25. Ephes. i. 19. ii. 8.
t See Owen's Display of Arminianism, Chap. X.
The rule of duty is what God requires of us: but he requires those things which good men have always confessed themselves, on account of the sinfulness of their nature, insufficient to perform. He desireth truth in the inward part: yet an Apostle acknowledges, We are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves : but our sufficiency is of God.*—The Spirit, saith he, helfieth our infirmities : for -we know not what we should pray for As We Ought : but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. The same things are required in one place, which are promised in another: Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart.—/ will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.\ When the sacred writers speak of the divine precepts, they neither disown them, nor infer from them a self-sufficiency to conform to them ; but turn them into prayer : Thou hast ComManded us to keep thy precepts diligently. 0 that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes !\ In fine, the scriptures uniformly teach us, that all our sufficiency to do good, or to abstain from evil, is from above : repentance and faith, therefore, may be duties, notwithstanding their being the gifts of God.
If our insufficiency for this, and every other good thing, arose from a natural impotency, it would indeed excuse us from obligation ; but, if it arise from the sinful dispositions of our hearts, it is otherwise. Those whose eyes dire full of adultery, and Therefore, cannot cease from sin, are under the same obligations to live a chaste and sober life, as other men are : yet, if ever their dispositions be changed, it must be by an influence from without them; for it is not in them to relinquish their courses of their own accord. I do not mean to suggest, that this species of evil prevails in all sinners: but sin, in some form, prevails, and has its dominion over them, and to such a degree that nothing but the grace of God can effectually cure it. It is depravity only that renders the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit necessary.
* Psalm li. 6. 2 Cor. iii. 5.
11 Sam. xii. 24. Jer. xxxii. 40. * Psa. cxix. 4,5.
" The bare and outward declaration of the word of God," says a great writer,* " ought to have largely sufficed to make it to be believed, if our own blindness and stubbornness did not withstand it. But our mind hath such an inclination to vanity, that it can never cleave fast to the truth of God ; and such a dulness, that it is always blind, and cannot see the light thereof. Therefore there is nothing available done by the word, without the enlightening of the Holy Spirit."
On The Necessity Of A Divine Frinoiple, In Order To Believing.
About fifty years ago, much was written in favour of this position by Mr. Brine. Of late years, much has been advanced against it, by Mr. Booth, Mr. M'Lean, and others. I cannot pretend to determine what ideas Mr. Brine attached to the term principle. He probably meant something different from what God requires of every intelligent creature; and if this were admitted to be necessary to believing, such believing could not be the duty of any, except those who were possessed of it. I have no interest in this question, farther than to maintain, that the moral state, or disposition of the soul, has a necessary influence on believing in Christ. This I feel no difficulty in admitting, on the one side, nor in defending, on the other. If faith were an involuntary reception of the truth, and were produced merely by the power of evidence; if the prejudiced or unprejudiced state of the mind had no influence in retarding or promoting it: in fine, if it were wholly an intellectual, and not a moral exercise ; nothing more than rationality, or a capacity of understanding the nature of evidence, would be neeessary to it. In this case, it would not be a duty ; nor would unbelief be a sin, but a mere mistake of the judgment. Nor could there be any need of divine influence; for the special influences of the Holy Spirit are not required for the production of that which has no holiness in it. But if, on the other hand, faith in Christ be that on which the will has an influence ; if it be the same thing as receiving the love 0/ the truth, that lue may be saved; if aversion of heart be the only obstruction to it, and the removal of that aversion be the kind of influence necessary to produce it; (and whether these
•Calvin: See Institutes, Book III. Chap. II.
things be so, or not, let the evidence adduced in the Second Part of this Treatise determine ;*) a contrary conclusion must be drawn. The mere force of evidence, however clear, will not change the disposition of the heart. In this case, therefore, and this only, it requires the exceeding greatness of dh -vine power to enable a sinner to believe.
But, as I design to notice this subject more fully in an Afipendix, I shall here pass it over, and attend to the objection to faith being a duty, which is derived from it. If a sinner cannot believe in Christ without being renewed in the spirit of his mind; believing, it is suggested, cannot be his immediate duty. It is remarkable in how many points the system here opposed agrees with Arminianism. The latter admits believing to be the duty of the unregenerate ; but, on this account, denies the necessity of a divine change in order to it. The former admits the necessity of a divine change in order to believing ; but, on this account, denies that believing can be the duty of the unregenerate. In this they are agreed, that the necessity of a divine change and the obligation of the sinner cannot comport with each other.
But, if this argument have any force, it will prove more than its abettors wish it to prove. It will prove that divine influence is not necessary to believing; or, if it be, that faith is not the Immediate duty of the sinner. Whether divine influence change the bias of the heart in order to believing, or cause us to believe without such change, or only assist us in it, makes no difference as to this argument: if it be antecedent, and necessary to believing, believing cannot be a duty, according to the reasoning in the objection, till it is communicated. On this principle, Socinians, who allow faith to be the sinner's immediate duty, deny it to be the gift of God.f
To me, it appears that the necessity of divine influence, and even of a change of heart, prior to believing, is perfectly consistent with its being the immediate duty of the unregenerate. If that disposition of heart which is produced by the Holy Spirit, be no more than every intelligent creature bught at all times to possess, the want of it can afford no excuse for the omission of any duty to which it is necessary. Let the contrary supposition be applied to the common affairs of life, and we shall see what a result will be produced.
* Particularly, Propositions IV. V.
f Narrative of the York Baptists, Letter III.
I am not possessed of a principle of common honesty :
But no man is obliged to exercise a principle which he does not possess:
Therefore I am not obliged to live in the exercise of common honesty!
While reasoning upon the absence of moral principles, we are exceedingly apt to forget ourselves, and to consider them as a kind of natural accomplishment, which we are not obliged to possess, but merely to improve, in case of being possessed of them ; and that, till then, the whole of our duty consists either in praying to God to bestow them upon us, or in -waiting till he shall graciously be pleased to do so. But what should we say, if a man were to reason thus with respect to the common duties of life ? Does the whole duty of a dishonest man consist in either praying to God to make him honest, or waiting till he does so ? Every one, in this case, feels that an honest heart is itself that which he ought to possess. Nor would any man, in matters that concerned hit. own interest, think of excusing such deficiency by alleging that the poer man could not give it to himself, nor act otherwise than he did, till he possessed it.
If an upright heart towards God and man be not itself required of us, nothing is or can be required ; for all duty is comprehended in the acting-out of the heart. Even those who would compromise the matter, by allowing that sinners are not obliged to fwssess an upright heart, but merely to pray and wait for it, if they would oblige themselves to understand words, before they used them, must perceive that there is no meaning in this language. For, if it be the duty of a sinner to pray to God for an upright heart, and to wait for its bestowment, I would inquire, whether these exercises ought to be attended to sincerely, or insincerely ; with a true desire after the object sought, or without it ? It will not be pretended, that he ought to use these means insincerely : but to say he ought to use them sincerely, or with a desire after that for which he prays and waits, is equivalent to saying, he ought to be sincere ; which is the same thing as possessing an upright heart. If a sinner be destitute of all desire after God, and spiritual things, and set on evil; all the forms into which his duly may be thrown, will make no difference. The carnal heart will meet it in every approach, and repel it. Exhort him to repentance: he tells you he cannot repent; his heart is too hard to melt, or be any ways affected with his situation. Say, with a certain writer, he ought to endeavour to repent: he answers, he has no heart to go about it. Tell him he must pray to God to give him a heart: he replies, prayer is the expression of desire, and I have none to express. What shall we say then ? Seeing he cannot repent, cannot find in his heart to endeavour to repent, cannot pray sincerely for a heart to make such an endeavour ; shall we deny his assertions, and tell him he is not so wicked as he makes himself ? This might be more than we should be able to maintain. Or shall we allow them, and acquit him of obligation ? Rather ought we not to return to the place where we set out, admonishing him, as the scriptures direct, to repent and believe the gospel: declaring to him that what he calls his inability is his sin and shame ; and warning him against the idea of its availing him another day ; not in expectation that, of his own accord, he may change his mind, but in hope that God peradventure may give him repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.
This doctrine, it will be said, must drive sinners to despair. Be it so : it is such despair as I wish to see prevail. Until a sinner despair of any help from himself, he will never fall into the arms of sovereign mercy : but if once we are convinced that there is no helji in us, and that this, so far from excusing us, is a proof of the greatest wickedness, we shall then begin to pray as lost sinners; and such prayer, offered in the name of Jesus, will be heard.
Other objections may have been advanced; but I hope it will be allowed, that the most important ones have been fairly stated: whether they have been answered, the reader will judge.