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And if this external covenant does not require the least degree of grace or holiness; then it requires nothing but ungracious, unholy, sinful performance, (for Mr. M. will not choose to say, that there is a system of religious volitions, affections, and actions, which are neither virtuous nor vicious, neither holy nor sinful; neither conformable to the holy nature and law of God, nor unconformable; for this would be to suppose that the divine law is not a universal rule of life.) So that, although Abraham and all Abraham's spiritual seed, when they first comply with the covenant of grace, exercise real holiness, and live in the exercise of holiness through the course of their lives, agreeable to our Saviour's character of them, in Mat. vii. 24. and attend the means of grace in a holy manner, (Mat. xiii. 8.) and even hate and abhor that impenitent, self-righteous, sinful manner in which all the ungodly attend them, (Prov. xv. 8.) yet when they come to make a public profession, they are to covenant and promise to attend all means in no better manner than that in which impenitent, self-righteous sinners do. For they are publicly to profess and promise nothing but a compliance with the external covenant and the external covenant requires nothing more. And having made this ungodly profession, and by covenant bound themselves to attend all means of grace in this manner, they set to it God's appointed seal; and this unholy covenant the most holy Christian is to renew and seal every time he comes to the table of the Lord till he dies; but how this can possibly be done with a good conscience, Mr. M. has not yet told us b.
The external covenant is a graceless covenant, suited to the hearts of graceless men. Therefore to be in heart conformed to the external covenant, is to have a heart destitute of grace. Every true convert therefore renounces the external covenant in his heart at the time of his conversion, and complies with the covenant of grace. Nor can he ever go back to the external covenant in his heart without falling from grace. So that if Abraham was in the covenant of grace before, as Mr. M. says he was, p. 8. then he fell from grace when he entered into the external covenant. And if by sealing the external covenant he obliged himself to conform to it as long as he lived, he did thereby bind himself to continue unconverted till death. But the covenant with Abraham was an everlasting covenant. Gen. xvii. 7. To which Abraham was obliged to conform in heart and life as long as he lived.
Thus we have taken a brief and general view of Mr. M.'s scheme of an external graceless covenant. I think I understand him right. But if any of his admirers should say this is not his scheme, but the external covenant requires real holiness, and the public profession is to be accordingly a profession of godliness, then those who know themselves to be unconverted, are as much shut out from full communion in the visible church on his scheme, as on the scheme of our forefathers; which Dr. Increase Mather affirmed to be the scheme of protestants in general, in opposition to papists. "I do readily acknowledge," says he, "that as it is only a justifying faith which giveth right to baptism before God; so it is the profession, or visibility of this faith, that giveth right thereunto before the church. Some have maintained that a dogmatical historical faith, or faith of assent to the truth of the Gospel, doth entitle to baptism. But the common protestant doctrine against the papists, speaketh otherwise."
But the question now before us is not, what was the doctrine of protestants or papists? but a question much more interesting, viz. What is the doctrine of the bible? the only book we are obliged to believe and obey on pain of God's eternal wrath. And the question is, what is God's covenant, which is to be professed and sealed; a gracious, or an ungracious covenant? What was the Abrahamic covenant; and what the covenant into which the Israelites professed to enter in the wilderness? and what is that covenant revealed in the Gospel, of which baptism and the Lord's supper are seals, an holy covenant, or an unholy one?
But before we enter on the subject, it may not be improper to observe, that Mr. M. has given up the grounds on which Mr. Jonathan Dickinson, and after him Mr. Peter Clark, vindicated infant baptism, viz. That the covenant with Abraham was the covenant of grace. See Mr. Clark's Defence of Infant Baptism, ch. iv. in which the covenant with Abraham is proved to be the covenant of grace; and Dr. Gill's objec tions in his piece against Mr. Dickinson, some of them the same with Mr. Mather's, are answered. And Mr. M. endea
c Discourse concerning the subject of Baptism, p. 52. VOL. III. 17
vours to lay a new foundation for infant baptism, perhaps never before laid by any writer on that subject, viz. An external graceless covenant; and what the effect among common people will be, if they shall see Mr. M.'s external covenant proved to be a mere non-entity, cannot yet be known. But if any are shaken in their belief of infant baptism, when they find Mr. M.'s foundation give way under them, they ought to remember, that the defenders of infant baptism have not built their arguments on this foundation, but always on a supposition that the covenant with Abraham was the covenant of grace.
Thus Mr. Bostwick, late minister of the presbyterian church in New-York, in his Vindication of Infant Baptism, p. 19. says, "The covenant made with Abraham was a covenant of grace, and the same for substance that is now in force under the Gospel. This I look upon to be the grand turning point on which the issue of the controversy very much depends; for if Abraham's covenant, which included his infant children, and gave them a right to circumcision, was not the covenant of grace, then I freely confess that the main ground on which we assert the right of infants to baptism, is taken away; and consequently, the principal arguments in support of the doctrine are overturned."
The covenant with Abraham was a holy covenant, and could not be really complied with but in the exercise of real holiness.
SHOULD a dispute arise concerning the contents of any covenant between two of our neighbours, what way would common sense teach all impartial men to advise them to take, in order to settle the controversy? Would they not say, "come, neighbours, no more dispute about this matter, bring out the writing, let us read it, and see with our own eyes how the bond runs ?"
Now these are the contents of the covenant with Abraham, in Gen. xii. where it is first of all mentioned; "Now the
Lord had said unto Abram, get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed." And was this a graceless covenant, or the very Gospel of Christ? Hear what an inspired apostle saith, Gal. iii. 8. And the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, IN THEE SHALL ALL NATIONS BE BLESSED. And in Gen. xii. 4. follows an account of Abraham's compliance. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him. He did not merely "endeavour," but he actually complied. And was this done in faith, or in a graceless manner? Take the answer from an inspired writer. Heb. xi. S. By FAITH Abraham, when he was called to go out, &c. obeyed. Just parallel to the conduct of Christ's true disciple, when he was on earth. Mark. ii. 14. And he said unto him, follow me, and he arose and followed him.
And this same covenant was renewed on God's part in Gen. xv. 5. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them. And he said unto him, so shall thy seed be. And in ver. 6. follows Abraham's compliance; and he believed in the Lord. And the very next words determine that this was not Mr. M.'s external covenant, in a compliance with which no man is justified, and that Abraham's faith was a true justifying, saving faith; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
And in chap. xvii. this same covenant was renewed again with this additional declaration, I am God Almighty, absolutely all-sufficient. For he had before said, chap. xv. I am thy shield, and exceeding great reward; which is something of a higher nature than what is promised by Mr. M.'s external covenant; yea, it is added, to be a God to thee, and thy seed after thee. In consequence of which he was called the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and what is implied in this we may learn from Heb. xi. 16.
Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city. Yea, all the great blessings of the Gospel are summed up in one promise, Rev. xxi. 7. He that overcometh shall inherit all things, AND I WILL BE HIS GOD. And this divine injunction was added at this season of renewing this covenant, walk before me, and be thou perfect; which implied a life of real holiness, and sincere devotedness to God.
Mr. M.'s external covenant requires no higher kind of faith than the devil has, and nothing but ungracious, unholy obedience, which those who are dead in sin may perform ; But neither this faith nor this obedience were the faith and obedience of Abraham. Mr. M.'s covenant requires what James calls a dead faith, by which no man can be justified; but Abraham's was a living faith, by which he was justified, and by which all others will be justified who have it. And his obedience was an holy obedience, such as is peculiar to the friends of God. Mr. M.'s external covenant, is adapted to the temper and state of the unconverted, requiring only such religious exercises as may take place in them. But Abraham was not in an unconverted state; and so Mr. M.'s external covenant was not adapted to the temper and state in which he was, if the reader will be at the pains to take his bible and turn to Gen. xii. and read the whole history of Abraham's life, he will not find the least hint of more than one covenant with Abraham; nor was one unholy duty ever required at his hands: rather on the contrary, these were the express words of God Almighty to him, walk before me, and be thou perfect. If therefore we judge of the nature of the covenant with Abraham, as we do of all other written covenants, viz. by the contents of the written instrument, there is no room to doubt.
And now this covenant being thus made, and thus renewed from time to time, through the space of above twenty years, an external seal was at length by GoD appointed to it. For circumcision was appointed as a token of this very covenant, which was made with Abraham before he was circumcised. For an inspired apostle has said it. Rom. iv. 9, 10, 11. “Cometh this blessedness, (viz. that spoken of in