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something, which could be distinguished from the antecedent work of the spirit, as it would be the bringing of the work to a perfect state. But in their books they speak of perfect subsequent to the new birth. They do all who are born of God,
as having obtained to perfect holiness; nor all who are not born of God, as entirely destitute of holiness. Now we wish to know, when a sinner who has some holiness, may be considered as having holiness enough, to denominate him a new creature. This is no curious speculative point. It is highly interesting, that it should be determined with precision. If we be created anew, we are in Christ Jesus, and have the promise of heaven; but if we are not created anew, we are under condemnation; and dying in this state, we shall be miserable for ever. If some holiness, some conformity to God, be nɔ evidence that I have passed from death to life, I anxiously demand, How much holiness, how much conformity to God must I possess, to denominate me a new-born soul? Going on the ground of the total sinfulness of the unregenerate, the question is easily an swered: We can say to the anxious inquirer, If you have any holiness, any conformity to God, you are a new creature, you have passed from death unto life.
Mr. B. has no where in his book, as I can discover, described this moral change, unless this be describing it, to say that it means the same as justification. In opposing the sentiment, that all unconverted men are entirely sinful, he takes pains to show, that in their unconverted state they have grace, and light and convic tion; and of course that they cannot be entirely sinful. Did he mean to say, that this grace, and light, and conviction effected a change in their nature, before they experienced the great change of the new birth? If so, why does he not put the new birth back as far as to that change of nature? But if he did not mean to say, that this grace, light and conviction effected a change in their sinful nature, why does he bring them forward, to disprove the total depravity of the unconverted. We believe, as well as they, that God is very merciful and long-suffering towards the wicked-that they are greatly favored with disine restraints, whereby they are pre
vented from much external wickedness, which they would otherwise commit; this we are willing to call restraining grace: We also believe, that God enlightens their understandings with his truth, and awakens and convinces their consciences by his Spirit; but believing all this, does nothing towards destroying our belief of the total depravity of their hearts, even up to the moment of regeneration. Mr. B. says, p. 72. “Indeed, if I understand your meaning upon this subject, -you make the first dawn of spiritual light upon the human heart, to be regeneration." When light is put for holiness, then I surely believe, that the first dawn of it upon the human heart, is regeneration But when light means any thing besides holiness, I believe there may be not only a spark, but a full blaze of it, and yet the heart remain unrenewed. We are far from calling the first serious impressions, of which sinners are the subjects, by the name of regeneration. No, we believe, that sinners may not only be seriously impressed, but even deeply weighed down with conviction, and spend all their time in reading their Bible, or in the closet and in religious meetings, and still possess, to perfection, that carnal mind which is enmity against God, and would dethrone him, if it were armed with sufficient power.
We now demand of those who deny the total depravity, or entire sinfulness of the unregenerate, whether we err in representing regeneration as a radical or fundamental change? If we do not, why does not the reality of such a change, prove the entire sir fulness of those who have not experienced it? We cannot see why the argument, derived from the real and fundamental change produced by regenerating grace, does not conclusively prove, that before this change, there is no holiness in the heart. Now, we do not find that Mr. B. made any direct attempt to show that this argument was not conclusive.
Another argument which was made use of in the Sermon, to prove that none have any degree of holy affection, except the regenerate, is this; That the promise of eternal life is made to the least degree of holy affection, and yet is evidently made to none but the re
generate. This argument my opponent takes some notice of in a Note, pp. 72, 73. To show that I am wrong in confining the promise to the regeneratë, he quotes Isa. lv. 7, " Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, and he will abundantly pardon." "In these words," he adds, "the promise of pardon is made to the wicked, on condition of their returning to God." Did Mr. B. understand me to say, that while men were in an unrenewed state, they did not, and could not know, that there were any promises contained in God's word? or that these promises were not held out as any inducement to them to turn to God? If he did understand me so, no such thing was intended. We well know, that God promises to the greatest and most hell-deserving sinners in the world, that if they repent, they shall be forgiven; if they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, they shall be saved: but while they remain impenitent and unbelieving, the promises are not theirs. They cannot plead a single promise as belonging to them. They are children of wrath, being under the sentence of condemnation. In the gospel, commands and promises are so connected, as perpetually to keep this idea in view, that the promises do not belong to us, unless we obey the commands. No one can suppose that all the sinners in the world have a light to claim the promise of forgiveness, because they are all told, that if they repent, they shall be forgiven. The pron ise is as it were, hid behind the command-when by the spirit of obedi ence, we come up to the command, we then find and enjoy the promise. He who has evidence that he has complied with divine requirements, may plead with God, as David did; "Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope."
Having explained our meaning, let the argument be weighed. The question now is, whether the promise of eternal life be made to any sinner who is not born of God who has not become a new creature-who has not passed from death to life? Does he possess, or can he possess any thing, while he remains unrenewed, which will entitle him to one of those promises which ensure eternal life? Has not the word gone out of the
Inouth of the faithful and true Witness, " Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." But while it is manifest, that promises of divine favor are not made to the unregenerate, it is equally manifest, that they are made to those who possess any degree of holy affection.Promises of divine favor are made to those who love God to those who repent of their sin-to those who trust in Christ, and to those who love the brethren, so as to give them a cup of cold water because of their relation to christ. If the love to God; if the repentance. and faith, and brotherly kindness, do but partake of a holy nature, they will meet the divine approbation, and take hold of the promises, and will in no wise lose their reward, though they do not come up to the standard of sinless perfection. Now if the promises are made to those, who have holy love to God, without specifying the degree, then it follows; that those who cannot claim the promises, have not the least degree of holy love, and must therefore remain totally depraved. Our opponents do not pretend, that perfection in holiness is indispensably requisite to justification, and the promises of eternal life. The question will then arise, how much holiness must a sinner have to become interested in the promises? If our doctrine of total depravity be not true, the sinner has some holiness before he is regenerated; how much holiness does regeneration add to him, so as to place him within the promises of the covenant of grace.
Let not my readers view the doctrine before us, as a speculative point, which is of little consequence how it is decided. There is no docuine mure deeply interesting to us all. It is concerning our own character, that we have been inquiring. It is granted on both sides, that this character is bad. But how bad, is now the question. If it be totally bad, we must know it, or the ignorance of it will probably be our ruin. The word of God seems to make it essential, that we should know every man the plague of his own heart. 1. Kings, viii. 38. If the unregenerate view themselves as any thing better than entirely sinful, their attention to religion will be apt to resemble the conduct of the man, who thinks his old house is too good to pull down.
Such a man will spend his time and money, in repairing his old house, when, if the frame and foundation are completely defective, his labor and money will be lost. In this case, it is important that the man be made ac-. quainted with the true state of his building that he may turn all his attention to the erecting of a new one which alone will defend him against the winds and the rains and the floods which may unexpectedly come upon him, while he is attempting to patch up his rotten and irreparable house.