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irrefragable in the language of an apostate angel, as of an apostate man?
ON FAITH IN CHRIST BEING A REQUIREMENT OF THE MORAL LAW.
I FIND it difficult to come at the real sentiments of P. touching the moral law. Sometimes he speaks of it as "an invariable rule of human conduct, and infallible test of right and wrong;" (67.) at other times he speaks as if it were wholly abrogated; as if " final misery was not brought upon sinners by their transgression of the law, but by their rejection of the overtures of mercy." (86.) In his ninth letter, he admits that men" are bound, as subjects of God's moral government, to embrace whatever he reveals." (89.). One should think if so, a rejection of the overtures of mercy must itself be a transgression of the law. And yet he all along speaks of our obligations to obey the gospel, as arising, if not wholly, yet chiefly from the gospel itself. He does not seem willing to deny the thing in full, for he cautiously uses the terms "wholly and chiefly;" and yet if his arguments, especially from the contrary nature of the two dispensations, (90.) from the silence of scripture, &c. &c. prove any thing, they will prove that our
obligations to obey the gospel must arise wholly and entirely from the gospel itself, and not from the moral law.*
The purport of all the reasoning of P. on this subject, supposes that I maintain THAT MEN ARE EX
HORTED AND INVITED TO SUCH AND SUCH THINGS, MERELY AS MATTER OF DUTY, WITHOUT ANY PROMISE OF SALVATION ON THEIR COMPLIANCE.
Hence he speaks of " binding men down in chains of darkness," of their "seeking the salvation of their souls in vain," (46) with various things of the kind: whereas I have given sufficient proof of the contrary throughout the former treatise; particularly in p. 157-159. It is all along supposed that eternal salvation is promised by a faithful God to any and every exercise of what is spiritually good; and that if every sinner who hears the gospel were truly to come to Christ for salvation, every such sinner would undoubtedly be saved.
It must be upon that mistaken supposition that P. denies the gospel upon our principles to be in itself "good news," (92) or in its own nature a "real privilege." (87.) But unless the aversion of men's hearts to embracing the gospel (if grace is not provided to enable them so to do) makes that to be no privilege which would otherwise be so, such a consequence
* That there is a sense in which our obligation to comply with the gospel does arise from the gospel itself, is allowed. On this subject I have given my thoughts in the former treatise, p. 57.
cannot justly be imputed to our sentiments. This, however, will not be admitted: yet P. seems to take it for granted, and proceeds to draw consequences from it as an undoubted truth.
There is some force in what P. has advanced in p. 32, on the subject of trust; and for any thing I yet perceive, he is in the right in supposing that the venture of the four lepers into the Syrian camp could not properly be called by that name. It should be considered, however, that the above case which I produced for illustration, was not designed as a perfect representation of a sinner's application to Christ. I never supposed it possible for a soul to apply to Christ, and be disappointed. Whether the resolution of the lepers can be called trust or not, it never was my design to prove that a sinner has no greater encouragement in his application to Christ than they had in their proposed application to the Syrians. On the contrary, the purport of the argument in that place was thus expressed,' If it would be right to venture, even in such a case as that, surely Christ's having promised, saying, "him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out," cannot make it otherwise.' p. 133.
I admit there is no doubt of a sinner's acceptance, who from his heart applies at the feet of Christ, as one who is utterly lost, and righteously condemned: yet I do not feel the force of my opponent's censure, when speaking of coming to Christ with a peradventure he will save my life, he calls it the mere language of heathenism. (33.) A heathen's having used such
language does not prove it to be the mere language of heathenism; nor is it so. Peter exhorted the sorcerer, saying," Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray to God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee."* Though there be no doubt of one who truly comes to Christ being accepted; yet there may be some doubt concerning a person's coming in the spirit of the gospel; and I believe it is not usual for a person on his first application to Christ, to be able to decide upon that matter. On these accounts I should think it is usual for a sinner on his first application to the Saviour, to pray to the Lord if so be that the evils of his heart and life may be forgiven him. It is not the way of a contrite sinner to come as a claimant, but as a suppliant: he putteth his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope.t
Trust, according to my present apprehensions, when used to express faith in Christ, refers like that to a divine testimony or promise. That for which every sinner who hears the gospel ought to trust in Christ is this; that if he truly come to him, he shall surely be accepted of him for this is testified, or promised. He ought not so to trust in Christ as to depend upon being saved by him whether he come to him in the spirit of the gospel or not, for that would be trusting in a falsehood; but so as to give up every false object of confidence, and make trial of the divine veracity.
If there is any difference between the manner in which a sinner ought to trust in Christ, and in which a saint does trust in him; it appears to be this; the former ought to trust in God's promise, that if he come, he shall be accepted, and so make the trial; the latter may be conscious that he has come to Christ, and does fall in with his gospel and government; and if so, he trusts in his promise for the happy issue. There are seasons, however, in which true saints are in great darkness about their evidences for glory. At those times they find it necessary to exercise renewed acts of trust on Christ in the manner first described. Not possessing a certain consciousness that they do fall in with his gospel and government, all they can do is to consider that the promise is still in force. "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out;" and so make trial afresh of the Redeemer's veracity.
P. seems to think that his sentiments lay a proper foundation for trust, to every poor sinner; and that our's do not. But what has any sinner to trust in upon his principles more than upon our's? According to our principles, any sinner may trust that he shall be saved, if he come to Christ: and what do his do more? They do not warrant a sinner to trust that he shall be saved whether he come to Christ or not; for though P. supposes Christ died for all, yet he maintains that many of those for whom he died will finally perish. I see no advantages whatever therefore, attending his scheme, in laying a more solid and extensive foundation for a sinner's trust than our's.