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pel, good men while they are here upon earth, stand justified in the sight of God, as we have seen before, not by any righteousness of their own works, for they have no such righteousness ; but by faith in his mercy, through a Mediator. This is for the honour of divine grace, which justifies them freely through the redemption that is in Christ; Rom. iii. 24, 28. and iv.5. yet in the day of judgment, men shall be justified or condemned according to their works and their words in the sight of the world; Rom. ii. 13—16. Mat. xii. 37. because this public judgment is appointed for the honour of divine equity or justice, to make it appear to all the world, that God distributes rewards and punishments to persons who are fitly qualified for the one or the other ; Is. iii. 10. “ Say ye to the righteous, it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe to the wicked ? it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him." And our Lord Jesus Christ, the appointed judge of all men, hath the same orders to execute, for “ he shall render to every man according as his work shall be; Rev. xxii, 12, 14, 15. “ Blessed are they that do his commandments that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. But the dogs, sorcerers, idolaters, liars, &c. are all without,” they are excluded from heavenly blessings, by the Judge of all the earth, for they are utterly unkt as well as unworthy to enjoy it.
V. To make this inatter yet plainer, and to reconcile the different representations which are given of our justification by faith in this life, and our justification by our words and works at the day of judgment, it must be considered, that every christian, who is admitted into heaven, may be said to have a two-fold right to it, viz. there is a right of inheritance which is by faith, whereby we are justified, and become the children of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; Gal. jii. 26. Rom. viii. 17. being interested by the free gift of God in the benefit of his Son's purchase, that is, the inheritance of heaven : And there is also a right of congruity or fitness, which arises from actual holiness of heart and life, whereby we are prepared for the actual possession of this inheritance. So an infant may have a right of inheritance to his father's estate, by his birth or adoption; but he has not a right of congruity or fitness, till he grow up to twentyone years, or to the age of discretion and capacity to enjoy it, and then he is put into the possession. I think this distinction will sufficiently reconcile the appearing difficulties.
VI. As for those persons, those nations and ages, that have go far lost all the revelations and dispensations of grace, that they know nothing of their own duty, or of the grace of God, but what the light of nature teaches them, they shall be judged according to those teachings of the light of nature, or that know
ledge of God, of his law and his government, of his grace and their duty, which they might have arrived at by the right exercise of their conscience and reasoning powers. This seems to be the sense of those words of the apostle, Rom. ii. 12-15. as many as have sinned without law, that is without a written or revealed law, they shall perish withow law ; and as many as have sinned in, or under a written or revealed law, they shall be judged by that law; the Gentiles which have not any written law, are 4 law to themselves, which shere's the work of the moral law written in their hearts; their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts accusing or excusing thein.
But how far divine compassion shall exercise itself further in unpromised ways towards any of those persons or nations, who by the negligence and iniquity of their parents, had lost all the revelations of grace, is to be left to the wise, the righteous and the merciful Judge of all men.
Chap. XIV.- Conclusion of this Essay. I. A due survey of these dispensations of God to man in this light, perhaps may enable us to understand many parts of the bible much better, since it will happily account for many difficulties in the Old Testament and the New, which seem to me very hard to be solved in any other way, to the satisfaction of a diligent enquirer.
II. And as I have been led into this scheme and manner of conceiving the transactions of God with men, by a diligent perusal of the holy scriptures, rather than by any human creeds, confessions or systems, either ancient or modern, so I cannot but recommend the serious consideration of it to those who are resolved to follow the same method of study, and read the scriptures, to learn from thence the articles of our christian faith and practice. Let them like the noble Bereans, search the scriptures, and see whether this representation of divine things does not come very near to the truth, and make scripture more easy to be understood by shewing the connexion and consistence of every part of it with all the rest.
III. It is confessed after all, there may be several difficulties still attending this scheme of the dispensations of grace, and perhaps some mistakes in it; I am but a weak and fallible crea. ture, and the ways of God are unsearchable to man, and his judg ments past finding out ; Rom. xi. 33. "But let it be observed, that among a hundred men, every one can much sooner find faults in any system of divinity, or in the scheme of any science, than one of them will draw up a scheme or system which hath no difficulties.
IV. It has been often found, both in human and divine sciences, that when some particular parts of a scheme or system appear a little disagreeable to our sentiments, as perhaps this may do, we are presently ready to correct them ; but we find also in a little time those supposed corrections, or their necessary consequences will not comport with other most plain and evident truths, that relate to the same subjects, and we then are forced to retract our corrections. While men in this frail state are searching into the deep things of God, we must be content with some remaining darknesses : If there be any short summary of these transactions of God with men, which is more consistent with itself, which is nearer to scripture, and has fewer difficulties than this, I shall be glad to receive it and submit to it. O Lord! Send out thy light, and thy truth; let them lead us to thy holy hill, let them bring us to the tabernacles of thy grace, and to the mansions of thy glory; Ps. xliii. 3. Amen.