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In this view, the law must be exhibited in preaching the gospel, not only as necessary to show the sinner his state and character, and to lead him to understand the gospel, and to see his need of Christ, that he may be saved by free grace ; but to set before him what is and ever will be his duty, and the rule and measure of his obedience ; and that it may be known that the gospel does not abate his obligation to perfect obedience : But when understood in the full extent of it, carries this demand in it, and increases the obligation of believers to be perfectly holy; and cannot propose any other or lower rule of duty.
The gospel does indeed introduce new objects, and proposes and enjoins duties, which could have no existence, had there been no redemption for man. But these duties, which arise from a dispensation of the cov. enant of grace, cannot be neglected without disobedience to the original law of God; which must be considered as independent of the gospel, and antecedent to the apostasy of man. For the law which requires man to love God with all his heart, binds him to comply with every institution, proposal or offer, which God shall make to him; and to obey every command, which he shall reveal, be it what it may : And not to comply with such institution, or not to accept of any proposal or offer he shall make, and to disobey any command of God, is disobedience to that law. Consequently, such institutions, commands, or offers of pardon and salvation, do not disannul or abate the law, but the contrary.
Though the gospel consists most essentially in the free offer of mercy, on condition of a cordial acceptance ; yet it necessarily implies, and carries in this offer, an obligation and command to accept the offer ; which acceptance, taken in its full extent, implies and consists in a perfect conformity to the law of God ; and every degree of compliance with the gospel, is an equal degree of real holiness, or obedience to the divine law, as has been shown in the section on the nature of saving faith. Though obedience to the gospel, or compliance with it, and acceptance of the salvation which it offers, be a different form and manner of the exercise of holiness, which is, so far, more beautiful and excellent, than obedience to mere law, unconnected with the gospel; yet the former is of the same nature and kind with the latter, and consists in loving God with all the heart, and our neighbour as ourselves. This has been observed and explained in the abovementioned section.
In the preaching of the gospel, there is an offer of a free pardon and complete redemption, to all who are willing to comply with it; but men are not at liberty to reject it, without being accountable, and held guilty for such conduct. They are required and commanded to accept of the offer, and conform to the gospel ; and that upon the most dreadful penalty for refusing to obey. Christ himself required of all to whom he preached, to “Repent and believe the gospel :" And he, and John who came before him, declared that he who believeth not on the Son of God, is condemned ; that the wrath of God abideth on him, and he shall be damned. * The apostle Paul says,
“ Now God com. mandeth all men, every where, to repent:" And that in preaching the gospel, he “Taught publicly, and from house to house, testifying, (that is, urging and requiring) both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”+ He who truly repents and believes the gospel, and so really embraces it
, and complies with the covenant of grace, though in an imperfect and low, even the lowest degree, is interested in the promises of the covenant, and shall be saved, though he do not come up to all that is required, at first, and to a perfect compliance with the gospel ; and he will not come to a full and perfect compliance, and conformity to the covenant, until he is perfectly holy: For every degree of moral depravity, or all sin, is opposition to the gospel.
Believers are not under the law, but under grace.By grace they are pardoned, and delivered from the curse of the law : And it is not by the righteousness of the law, or obedience to it, that they obtain pardon and the favour of God, and are made heirs of eternal life; but by the atonement and righteousness of Christ; and
• Mark xvi. 16. John ii. 18, 36. + Acts xvü. 30. XX. 21.
all this comes to them, as a free gift by sovereign grace. Nevertheless, they are not without law to God, but under the law to Christ; and their obligations to perfect obedience do not cease, but are greatly increased ; and all their christian exercises and life, and the whole of their duty, consist in “keeping the commandments of God ;" even those two commandments, on which hang all the law and the prophets, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”* And they do not arrive to the full and most perfect character of christians, of the redeemed by Christ, nor are in the highest and most complete sense united to Christ, until they are perfectly conformed to this law; which never takes place in any instance while in the body, in this life.
III. In preaching the gospel to sinners, nothing is required or proposed, to be done by them, which is short of repentance and faith in Christ, or which does not imply this, in order to their obtaining salvation.
This is implied in the preceding observations ; and the contrary is really inconsistent with them. In preaching the gospel, salvation is freely offered to all who will accept of it; and men are invited and commanded to do this, and inevitable destruction is denounced against them who refuse and neglect the offered salvation. But a cordial acceptance of salvation implies repentance and faith in Christ, which is a conformity and obedience to the law of God, so far as it takes place, and the exercise of real holiness. If in the dispensation of the gospel, it were proposed to sinners to do something, and they were required to do it, which does not imply obedience to the law of God, nor acceptance of salvation, and which they may do, consistent with their continuing enemies to God, and to reject the offered salvation with their whole heart, it would be really to drop and lay aside all which the law requires, and so make it void, and to substitute something in place of it, which stands in direct contradiction to it; even as contrary as sin is to holiness. The command to love God cannot make VOL. II.
14 Matt. xxij. 37, 39. 1 Cor, vii. 19. ix. 21.
that a duty in which there is no love to God; but the exercise of enmity against him. And to require this, or any thing like it, as a duty, is to make void, and even oppose this
command. But as the contrary to this has been practised by many in preaching the gospel, by exhorting and urging sinners to do that which does not imply repentance and faith, or a cordial acceptance of the gospel offer ; but is consistent with their continuing impenitent, and rejecting and hating Christ and the gospel, and living in total disobedience to the law of God, requiring them to love him with all their hearts ; and doing that which is consistent with all this, has been urged as their duty; and a set of duties, and a course of obedience, have been prescribed for such impenitent sinners, to be done by them, while they continue impenitent enemies to Christ and the gospel : And since there have been a difference of opinion, and not a little dispute on this point, of late years, especially in New-England ; it is thought proper to attend to this subject more particularly in this section ; hoping that something may be said which may serve to give light, and establish the truth. A careful attention to the following particulars, considered together, and brought into one collected view, with their natural and just consequences, may help to decide this point.
First. Man is naturally, and while unrenewed, in a state of total moral depravity. His mind, his heart, is enmity against God, and his law : This is the nature and tenour of all his moral exercises, while he contin. ues an impenitent sinner, and rejects the gospel.
This will now be taken for granted, as the evidence of it has been already given, and it is so abundantly asserted in scripture.* The consequence from this is, that impenitent, unrenewed sinners, do no good thing, no, not one of them, but are in all their moral conduct, wholly disobedient : Therefore, they cannot be exhorted and commanded to do, what they actually do, while impenitent, without being exhorted and commanded to do that which is unreasonable, wrong, and forbidden in the divine law; and such a command would be very absurd, unreasonable, and wrong.
Therefore it is cer• Part I. Chap. VIII.
tain, no such command can be found in the Bible ; and no man has a right to form and give such commands ; or to imagine that impenitent sinners, while they continue such, ever do any duty, or any thing, as God requires it. God conimands all men, every where, to repent and believe the gospel: If at the same time, he should direct and command them to do any thing, while they continge impenitent, and in unbelief, and which implies disobedience to his command to repent; would not one command stand in direct contradiction to the other ; and the latter be at least an implicit annulling or suspending the former, and an allowance to live for a time, at least, in impenitence and unbelief?
SECOND. The moral depravity of men, and their obstinacy in impenitence and rebellion, however great and strong, does not in the least remove, or abate their obli. gations to repent, believe, and obey the divine com. mands; or afford any excuse for their disobedience, or extenuate the criminality of it. This has also been considered in the former part of this work*--and is indeed a self evident proposition, as the contrary is a plain contradiction. It follows, from this proposition, that the moral depravity of man, and the opposition of his heart to repentance, however total and strong, is no reason why any thing short of true repentance should be recommended to him, and required of him, as his duty ; but is rather a reason against it, as such proposal and requirement would imply an excuse for continuing im. penitent, because they have such a strong aversion from it ; and that repentance is not their immediate duty ; as something else which is consistent with such aver. sion, and with total impenitence, is substituted in the room of repentance. And it is presumed no one would have thought of prescribing impenitent, unbelieving du, ty, to sinful men, which is consistent with their total opposition of heart, to God and his law, to Christ and the gospel, had he believed the above proposition, and kept it properly in view : And that it will appear to those who properly attend to this subject, and the manner in which it has been treated, that they who plead for a set of du. ries to be done by men, while impenitent unbelievers,
• Part I. Chap. VIII.