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It is true, that a fiery dart of the devil, if it be immediately repelled by us, is not our sin but if by evil thoughts are meant evil desires in our own minds, they defile us, and render us criminal as soon as they exist. "The thought of foolishness is sin." Prov. xxiv. 9. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." Prov. xxiii. 7. The thoughts, when by them the exercises of the heart are meant, do the whole towards constituting our character before the searcher of hearts. Our external conduct is wicked, only as it is the fruit of a wicked heart. We read, Gen. vi. 5, “ And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Here total depravity is described, by representing all the thoughts as evil, and only evil. Just so far then as the thoughts are evil in christians, so far they still remain depraved.
3. Do not our opponents approve of those religious experiences, which are really bottomed on selfishness; and is not this one reason why they think they are pure from sin? Mr. B. opposes disinterested benevolence. In their book of Doctrines, it is said, "There is a necessity of knowing his love, who first loved us, without which we cannot love him again." p. 78. It is clear from the scriptures, that men can be full of religion from selfish motives; and if they do not distinguish between selfish and disinterested motives, they will be in danger of thinking that they are perfect, when they have no love to God, except as they view him to be their friend. This was the case with the sect of the Pharasees among the Jews; they trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. But God who knew their hearts, saw nothing hely in them.
4. Is it not to be feared, that it is because the spirit of God does not dwell in them, that they are not made sensible of indwelling sin? It is one part of the office work of the Holy Spirit to convince of sin. John xvi. 8. Before Paul was spiritually enlightened, he was in his own view alive; but when he was shown the plague of his own heart, it appears that he was never again ignorant of the hidden evils of it. Under these he groaned as under a body of death. Some professors there are in our connexion, who like Paul, have had two dif
ferent hopes; they had one before what they now consider their conversion to God, and the other they have had since that time. These persons appear quite dif ferent, since they experienced what they now call their conversion, from what they did before that time. They seem now to love religion a great deal better than they appeared to love it before. And yet, with the greatest seriousness, they tell us, that they have now a much greater sense of their sinfulness than they formerly had. They declare, that they have a new sense of the holiness of God and of his law, and of Christ ;—and that they have a sweet love to this holiness, which before they knew nothing about, while they trusted in that hope of which they are now ashamed. And they also declare, that in connexion with these delightful views of divine holiness, they have increasing views of the unfathomable depths of depravity in their own hearts.
We can add with truth, that these conversions, as to their external fruits, appear better than their old ones, and their inward experiences appear to us to be conformable to the word of God. How can we then help entertaining great fears about the genuineness of their conversions, which so much resemble, what we call among ourselves, false hopes and false conversions ? and whose religion so much resembles the religion of Paul, when he was alive without the grace of God; and when he lived in all good conscience, without a spark of holiness? With our views of religion, how can we help but tremble for them, lest, with all their pretensions to perfection, they should at last be found entirely wanting? If they are indeed perfect, we would rejoice in it: But if it be wholly owing to a misconception of divine truth, and a want of knowledge of their own hearts, that they think themselves perfect, our heart's desire and prayer to God for them is, that they may be saved from this delusion.
A VINDICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE CERTAINTY OF THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS; BEING A REPLY TO THE OBJECTIONS AGAINST THIS DOCTRINE, WHICH ARE CONTAINED IN MR. BANGS'
MR. BANGS suggests an idea in his Fifth Letter, which seems calculated to preclude our saying any thing more in vindication of our doctrine. I have therefore thought it would be proper to look at this idea, before I proceed to the proposed vindication. The idea, to which I refer, will be found in the following quotation : "I would ask, is it not possible to be mistaken in your sentiment on this subject? If you say no, then you set up for infallibility; a claim which the protestant world will not, it is presumed, allow you-If you say it is possible to be mistaken, you give up the point, and grant the possibility of totally falling from grace. If you say it is not possible, because the scriptures are in your favor, you thereby assume nearly as high ground as the Pope still; because the reply supposes you cannot mistake the meaning of scripture. By granting the bare possibility of mistaking the design of those scriptures you have quoted, to support your doctrine, you grant all I contend for, and acknowledge that it is possible for a saint so to fall as to perish forever. This argument cannot be retorted upon us, for we allow the possibility of a believer's persevering steadfast to the end: and also that there is no necessity for any one to aposta tize from the faith." p. 240, 241,
I do not see why the argument cannot be retorted upon them. Here is a point of doctrine in dispute between us, namely, Whether, according to the structure of the covenant of grace, it be possible that any hea ven born soul should be lost? They affirm it is possible; we deny. Now, it is certain, that we differ no merc from them on this point, than they do from us. And we have as good a right to say to them, May you not be mistaken? as they to say so to us. If, to prove they are not mistaken, they proceed to show that the scripture is in their favor, we should have equal right to tel them, that by this they "assumed nearly as high ground es the Pope Advancing a sentence or two beyond the above quotation, Mr. B. says; "Now any thing is possible which does not involve a contradiction; which no man, I think, will contend that the doctrine contended for does." He intends the doctrine of a possibility of falling from a state of grace. The universalist, in contending with my antagonist, might raise just such an argument; he might say, "Mr. B. are you certain you are right in opposing the doctrine of the salvation of all men? Now any thing is possible which does not involve a contradiction; which no man I think will contend, that the doctrine of a universal salvation dees; for if God can save one, he can save all." If Mr B. should say, "I am certain that I am right in opposing you, not because there is any in possibility in itself considered, that all men should be saved; but the scriptures are most pointedly against your doctrine, and therefore I know you are wrong," might not the unis versalist reply, "You thereby assume nearly as high ground as the Pope still?"
The dispute between me and my antagonist, is not whether it is, in itself considered, possible that holiness should be lost cut of the heart of any created intelligent; but whether it is possible it should be lost cut of the hearts of the saints, in consistency with the gracious rovenunt in which they are interested. The fifth question in the Debate was, (I believe,) in these words; Will any one who is united to Christ, by a vital union, so joll away as to perish? Both sides of this question cane not be true, therefore the Bible can say nothing only on one side of it. The Bible has, no doubt, reflected suf
ficient light on this question, to put it beyond all uncertainty. We do not ask any to believe as we do, merely because we believe so. This would do them no good. But as we believe, so we must speak. Our opponents have the same liberty. Still to God we are under perfect obligation to speak nothing contrary to what he has spoken.
The text which laid the foundation for the 5th Sermon, was John vi. 47. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. It was supposed, that the truth contained in the text amounted to this; That the true believer in Christ cannot fall away so as to fail of eternal blessedness or in other words, That every true believer will persevere unto the end.
The two pillars, which were considered as sufficient to support the doctrine of the certain perseverance of all real saints, are the covenant of redemption, and the cov enant of grace. By the covenant of redemption, we understand that covenant concerning the redemption of sinners, which eternally existed between the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, those three who bear record in heaven, who are one. Mr. B. thinks the scriptures do not favor the idea of the existence of any such covenant. One reason, which he seems to sug. gest against the existence of such a covenant, is this, That the Persons of the Godhead are essentially one. But they are not one in such a sense, as to exclude their being also in a sense three; else why does Mr. B. himself speak of three Persons in the Godhead? Their unity does not prevent their promising, and performing to each other. Thus in the second Psalm, the Father says to his Son, "Ask of me, and I shall give the hea then for thine inheritance." So in the 110th Psalm, "The Lord, (i. e. Jehovah the Father,)" said unto my Lord," (i. e. the Lord Christ,) "Sit thou" &c.-Again in the same Psalm; "The Lord hath sworn and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever." In the 49th chapter of Isaiah, the Father says to the Son, "I will give thee for a covenant unto the people." In the 17th chapter of John, the Son says to the Father, "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." This implies, that there was a certain work assigned him, and which he engaged