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“ (even as they are commanded) to himself."
ON SINNERS BEING UNDER THE COVENANT OF
Much has been said on this subject in relation to the present controversy.t Yet I feel at a loss in forming a judgment wherein the force of the objection lies, as it is no where, that I recollect, formed into a regular argument. If I understand Mr. Brine, he supposes, First, That all duty is required by the law, either as a rule of life, or as a covenant. Secondly, That all unconverted sinners, being under the law as a covenant, whatever the revealed will of God now requires of them, it is to be considered as the requirement of that covenant. Thirdly, That the terms of the covenant of works being, do and live, it cannot for this reason be, believe and be saved.
But allowing the distinction between the law as a rule of life, and as a covenant, to be just; before any conclusion can be drawn from it, it requires to be ascertained in what sense unbelievers are under
* Dr. Owen's Death of Death, Book IV. Chap. i.,
† Motives to Love and Unity, pp. 37-42..
a covenant of works; and whether in some respects it be not their sin to continue so? That they are under the curse for having broken it, is true ; and that they are still labouring to substitute something in the place of perfect obedience, by which they may regain the divine favour, is true also: but this latter ought not to be. A self-righteous attachment to a covenant of works, or, as the scripture expresses it, a being of the works of the law, is no other than the working of unbelief, and rebellion against the truth. Strictly speaking, men are not now under the covenant of works ; but under the curse for having broken it. God is not în covenant with them, nor they with him. The law as a covenant was recorded, and a new and enlarged edition of it given to Israel at Mount Sinai; not however for the purpose of giving life to those who had broken it; but rather as a preparative to a better covenant. Its precepts still stand as the im. mutable will of God towards his creatures ; its promises as memorials of what might have been expected from his goodness in case of obedience; and its curses as a flaming sword that guards the tree of life. It is stationed in the oracles of God as a faithful watchman to repel the vain hopes of the self-righteous, and convince them of the necessity of a Saviour.* Hence it was given to Israel by the hand of Moses as a Mediator. See Gal. iii. 19-21.
Rom. vii. 10. Matt. xix. 17.
But if unbelievers be no otherwise under the covenant of works than as they are exposed to its curse, it is improper to say, that whatever is required of them in the scriptures, is required by that covenant, and as a term of life. God requires nothing of fallen creatures, as a term of life. He requires them to love him with all their hearts, the same as if they had never apostatized; but not with a view to regain his lost favour; for were they henceforward perfectly to comply with the divine precepts, unless they could atone for past offences, which is impossible, they could have no ground to expect the bestowment of everlasting life. It is enough for us that the revealed will of God to sinners, says believe ; while the gospel graciously adds the promise of salvation.
ON THE INABILITY OF SINNERS TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST AND DO THINGS SPIRITUALLY GOOD.
This objection is seldom made in form, unless it be by persons who deny it to be the duty of a sinner to love God with all his heart, and his neighbour as himself. Intimations are often given, however, that it is absurd and cruel to require of any man what is beyond his power to comply with ; and as the scriptures declare that, No man CAN come to Christ, except the Father draw him; and that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned; it is concluded that these are things to which the sinner, while unregenerate, is under no obligation.
• The answer that has frequently been made to this reasoning is, in effect, as follows: "Men are no more unable to do things spiritually good, than they are to be subject to the law of God, which the carnal mind is not, nor can be. And the reason why we have no power to comply with these things is, we have lost it by the fall: but though we have lost our ability to obey, God has not lost his authority to command.' There is some truth in this answer; but it is apprehended to be insufficient. It is true, that sinners are no more, and no otherwise unable to do any thing spiritually good, than they are to yield a perfect submission to God's holy law; and that the inability of both arises from the same source-the original apostacy of human nature. Yet if the nature of this inability were direct, or such as consisted in the want of rational faculties, bodily powers, or external advantages; its being the consequence of the fall, would not set aside the objection. Some men pass through life totally insane. This may be one of the effects of sin; yet the scriptures never convey any idea of such persons being dealt with at the last judgment on the same ground as if they had been sane. On the contrary, they teach that to whom much is given, of him much shall be required.* Another is deprived of the sight of his eyes, and so rendered unable to read the scriptures. This also may be the effect of sin ; and, in some cases, of his own personal misconduct : but whatever punishment may
Luke xü. 48.
A third pos.
be inflicted on him for such misconduct, he is not blame-worthy for not reading the scriptures, after he had lost his ability for doing so. sesses the use of reason, and of all his senses, and members; but has no other opportunity of knowing the will of God than what is afforded him by the light of nature. It would be equally repugnant to scripture and reason, to suppose that this man will be judged by the same rule as others who have lived under the light of revelation. As many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law.*
The inability in each of these cases is natural; and to whatever degree it exists, let it arise from what cause it may, it excuses the subject of blame, in the account of both God and man. The law of God itself requires no creature to love him, or obey him, beyond his strength, or with more than all the powers which he possesses. If the inability of sin . ners to believe in Christ, or to do things spiritually good, were of this nature, it would undoubtedly form an excuse in their favour; and it must be as absurd to exhort them to such duties, as to exhort the blind to look, the deaf to hear, or the dead to walk. But the inability of sinners is not such as to induce the Judge of all the earth, (who cannot do other than right) to abate in his requirements. It is a fact that he does require them, and that without
* Rom. ii. 12.