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land, who appeared in print to defend the notion, that assurance is of the essence of faith; and he is a minister over a separate congregation and testimony has been publicly borne against him in years past, by some of the most noted ministers in the country. In Scotland, when this notion was above forty years ago advanced and propagated among them by some who have since separated themselves from that church, it was condemned by the General Assembly of the church of Scotland, as being contrary to the word of God, to their confession of faith and catechisms; and all their ministers were strictly prohibited under the pain of the censures of that church, by writing, printing, preaching, catechising, or in any other way, to teach this, and the other doctrines in connexion with it. These things are not said to determine what is truth, by the names and influence of fallible men. To do so, would be to justify the whole popish party in their appeal to the pope, to decide all points of religion; and to give up the first maxim on which the reformation was built; viz. that the word of God is the only rule of faith and manners. It is not what the first reformers said, nor what the assembly of divines said, nor what any other inen or body of men, since the apostles were dead, have said, or do say, that can determine any doctrine of religion, or settle any point of controversy about religion. If they cannot be settled by the holy Scriptures, they must remain for ever undetermined in this world. To be unwilling to appeal to the bible, and to that alone, to determine what is truth; is a full proof a man is at heart an infidel. He does not really believe that the bible is the word of God, nor does he build his scheme of religion upon it; but upon his own experiences, ⚫a See the acts of the general assembly of the church of Scotland, 1720, Act v. and 1722, Act vii. particularly these words, out of a book entitled, the Marrow of Modern Divinity, were expressly condemned, viz. "wherefore as Paul and Silas said to the jailor, so say I unto you, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved; that is, be verily persuaded in your heart, that Jesus Christ is yours, and that you shall have life and salvation by him, that whatsoever Christ did for the salvation of mankind, he did it for you; forasmuch as the holy scripture speaketh to all in general, none of us ought to distrust himself, but believe that it doth belong particularly to himself." These words were expressly con demned, as making saving faith consist in," a man's persuasion that Christ i his, died for him," &c.
or the sayings of others, whose experiences he imagines were like his own. However, what has been said, may let the public see how I can consistently entertain an opinion, that some men's hearts may be more orthodox than their heads in this matter; which was the point I was upon ".
But while true converts may, from their first conversion, from a consciousness of the saving change they have passed through, be persuaded, that they are in a state of favour with God, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God; satan, that great enemy to all good, may transform himself into an angel of light, and delude hundreds and thousands, and ten thousands, (and it is foretold that satan is to deceive the nations, till the thousand years of Christ's reign do commence, Rev. xx. 3.) with a firm belief that their sins are forgiven, who never were converted; and so oblige them to believe their sins are forgiven, when, according to the plainest declarations of Scripture, they are not forgiven; and so necessitate them, in order to vindicate themselves, to assert that in justifying faith," we believe that to be true which is not true before we believe it, and that without any evidence from Scripture, sense, or reason."
And these false converts, emboldened by the greatness of their number, may rise, sketch out a whole new scheme of religion, subversive of Christianity, and seek to propagate it through the Christian world, showing the greatest rancour against the true Gospel of Christ. Meanwhile, true Christians may get bewildered, and some perhaps brought unawares to espouse the language of the deluded, and to seem to plead their cause. And the common enemies to all experimental religion may rejoice, in hopes it will finally appear to all the world that there is nothing in vital piety, that all religion consists in an external regular behaviour; and that it is no matter what
b It is very observable, that Mr. Wilson, who is constantly repeating it, that all the protestant world are on his side, and glorying in it, obliged, in the midst of it all to own, that while some hold that assurance is of the essence of faith, others only maintain, that assurance accompanies it: (p. 97.) two things in their nature essentially different, nay, contrary to each other. For to say, that assurunce accompanies faith, is to say, "it is not faith, but something else which true believers are wont to have in company with faith."
men's principles be, if their lives are but good: which is nothing better than downright infidelity.
The way may now be prepared to state the question in dispute.
In the beginning of my third dialogue, which was on the nature of assurance of a title to eternal life, I had said, that "Sanctification, taking the word in a large and comprehensive sense, is the evidence, the only Scripture-evidence, of a good estate." And to prevent misunderstanding, I added, "It is usual for divines to distinguish between regeneration and conversion, between first conversion and progressive sanctification; between divine views and holy affections, between grace in the heart and an holy life and conversation; but I mean to comprehend all under one general name. You may call it the image of God, or holiness of heart and life, or a real conformity to the divine law, and a genuine compliance with the Gospel of Christ: I have already let you see what I apprehend to be the nature of law and Gospel, of love to God and faith in Christ. When I say, this is the only evidence, I mean that this is the only thing wherein saints and sinners, in every instance, differ. One has the image of God, the other has not. Or to express myself in the language of inspiration, John xvii. 3. This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. Aud 1 John ii 3, 4, 5. Hereby we do know that we do know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby we know that we are in him.” In answer to which words, Mr. Cudworth other than the assurance of the Pharisee." Further defence, p. 265. But why? because says he, "it is only founded on the difference there is between him and other men."-To which I reply; this may as well be objected against the assurance of all the apostolical saints; as is evident from 1 John ii. 3, 4, 5. the very text I quoted. For they knew they loved God, and kept his commands, while the rest of the world lay in wickedness. And therefore they said, 1 John v. 19. We
says, this "is no
know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And will Mr. Cudworth affirm that their assurance was that of the Pharisees? Besides, there is a fallacy in his words for the apostolical assurance did not arise merely from a consciousness, that they differed from others, which might be true, and yet they have no grace, as was the case with the Pharisee; but from a consciousness that their characters were agreeable to the Gospel standard; that they had those graces which according to Christ's holy religion are peculiar to the saints, and certainly connected with eternal life. Upon this their assurance was built, just as I had represented. However, if Mr. Cudworth's words prove nothing else, yet at least they seem to be a sufficient evidence of his hearty disaffection to the only scriptural assurance of a good estate. And he appears to think with his late friend, that we may as well "place the dome of a cathedral on the stalk of a tulip," as place our assurance on this only scriptural foundation. But how then would he have us get assurance? even by believing that our sins are forgiven, while conscious that we are upon a level with the worst of sinners; no difference between us and them as dead in sin, as impenitent and unconverted, and as full of enmity to God. And this belief is to beget our first love. But, alas! what grounds have we for this belief? What evidence for the truth of what we believe? why none at all, says Mr. Marshal, "from Scripture, sense, or reason." For the fact believed to be true, "is not true before we believe it.” And as Mr. Cudworth affirms assurance from a consciousness of sanctification, to be the assurance of the Pharisee; so his brother, Mr. Wilson, with the same spirit, affirms it to be the assurance of Papists, perhaps an hundred times over"; although he well knew, that the Papists join with Antinomians, in denying that a certain assurance from a consciousness of our own sanctification, is attainable, in the present life d;
c See Mr. Wilson's Review of Palamon's creed. Vol. 2. p. 101, and elsewhere through both his volumes. N. B. The particular references to Mr. Wilson,
which will be made in these sheets, will be to his 2d Vol. in which he has made some remarks on my dialogues. I here give notice of it once for all.
d Page 104, Mr. Wilson says, speaking of the Papists, " as it is supposed, that men will frequently have too much reason to suspect the sincerity of their own love and obedience; whether the former be genuine, and the latter such as God
how then would Mr. Wilson have us get assurance? even by believing our sins are forgiven, without any consciousness of any grace in us, "without any reflection upon the act of appropriation made by the believer, or a persuasion of the truth of his own faith." p. 123. "Without knowing any thing further about their state, than that they are by nature children of wrath, and heirs of hell, under the curse of an angry sinrevenging God." p. 175. These are his own words.
But how shall we know that our sins are forgiven? Are our sins forgiven while we are in an impenitent, unconverted, Christless state? are they forgiven even while we are "heirs of hell, and under the curse of an angry God?" that is, forgiven when they are not forgiven! an express contradiction! or are we to believe they are forgiven, when in fact they are not forgiven? Yes, this is the very thing Antinomians formerly held, that the elect are justified from eternity, or from the resurrection of Christ, and that in due time their justifi
will accept of; they granted, that any hope of salvation men can attain to in this mortal state, must, and ought, still to be mixed with fear and doubting. They never can attain to any absolute certainty about it. Such were the leading sentiments of the most eminent teachers in the Romish Church."
And how exactly agreeable these sentiments are to the sentiments of the most eminent teachers of Mr. Wilson's party, the following words of the celebrated Mr. H-y, will show: This method of seeking peace and assurance, I fear, will perplex the simple-minded; and cherish rather than suppress the fluctuations of doubt. For, let the signs be what you please, a love of the brethren, or a love of all righteousness, a change of heart, or an alteration of life; these good qualifications are sometimes like the stars at noon-day, not easily, if at all, discernible: or else they are like a glow-worm in the night, glimmering, rather than shining: consequently will yield, at the best, but a feeble, at the worst, a very precarious evidence: If, in such a manner, we should acquire some little assurance, how soon may it be unsettled by the incursions of daily temptations, or destroyed by the insurrection of remaining sin! at such a juncture, how will it keep its standing! how retain its being! it will fare like a tottering wall before a tempest, or be as the rush without mire, and the flag without water. But while Papists and Antinomians thus join to deny any certain assurance by our own inherent graces, the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, agreeable with the holy Scriptures, strongly assert it. Conf. of Faith, chap. xviii, “Such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, &c. may in this life be certainly assured, that they are in a state of grace.”—“ This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made," &e.