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Ought every hearer of the gospel to believe that be is elected that Christ shed his blood for him in particular, or that he hall certainly go to heaven? we must reply in the negative; because these things are not true of all. So that if it were the duty of all to believe them, it would be their duty to believe the most palpable false hoods. If the delign of the question be to know whether the belief of the gofpel is enjoined upon us, and recommended to us as the law is, viz. That the man that doth these things ball live; it must be answered, No: for if any exertions of body or mind are required to that end, Christ has died in vain. But if the inquiry be wbether it is the duty of every hearer of the gospel, to believe the record that God has given of his Son ; that he is well pleased in him, and gives eternal life to as many as believe in his name that he is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, and that there is redemption in his blood, even the forgiveness of fins according to the siches of his grace, for those who are inexcusably criminal. It is most certainly every one's duty, who hears these things, to believe them: and that for the following reasons.
(ift) There is nothing in the gospel message, but what men are capable of believing and observing, if they choose it. As there is nothing which men more tenaciously retain, than a good opinion of their own disposition to do well, if they were disentangled from certain things, situations, circumstances, &c. fo their deficiencies are generally attributed to the want of power or ability: which ultimately throws the blame upon God, and makes him the author of fin. If the Lord required that of us which is naturally impossible to be performed, however willing we might be to the service, the case would be hard indeed with us ! But is this the cate ? far be such a thought from us : far be such a thing from the Judge of all the earth.
ture plainly shows, that naturally man is as able as he is willing, to do the will of God. There is no natural inability in man to believe the gospel, otherwise it would not be criminal in him to reject it; any more than it is sin in the deaf not to hear, or in the blind not to see, or in the lame not to walk. If a defect in the natural capacities were criminal, then the more ignorant part of mankind would be the greatest finners; and they who had an aflemblage of brilliant parts would be the highest saints. But then it is urged that the scripture represents man as utterly unable to understand, receive or delight in the-gospel. As that no man can come unto me, John vi. 44. The world : CANNOT receive. · John xiv. 17. ch. viii. 43. Rom. viii. 7• All this, and whatever else can be urged of the same nature, is admitted. But then, most certainly, this
neceffity is nothing more than DISINCLINATION. There is no lack of natural abilities : finners can love, delight in, and practice sin : and if they wOULDif they had not a prevailing inclination to the contrary-a deep rooted enmity to God, there is nothing that would hinder them, froin loving him, and obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. But unbelief and disobedience suits their inclination better : and men, as free agents choose what is molt agreeable to them. So that the unbelieving and disobedient are not compelled - by fome extrinsic necessity, to follow their pernicious and destructive courses: but they do it by voluntary choice, as that which is most agreeable, and seems most convenient to them.. Hence Jer. xliv. 16. We will not hearken unto thee. Pfal. lxxxi. 11. But iny people would not hearken to my voice. Job xxii. 17. Mat. xxiii. 37. John v. 40. To repent and believe, to love and obey therefore, cannot be what men would do, but cannot ; for the natural man, if he would speak out the language of his foul, its meaning would be this, I have no inclination to love
God and keep his commandments. The lufts of the flesh, the lufts of the eye, and the pride of life fuit my inclination better, and them I freely chuse, voluntarily indulge, and delight in.
2dly. If it be not the duty of every one who hears the gospel to believe it ; unbelief cannot be their fin But unbelief is deemed a fin, so enormous in its own nature, and so dishonoring to God in its consequences, that condemnation is pafled upon it in the divine word, John iii. 18, 36. It must therefore be their duty to believe the gospel. If it be not the duty of all who hear the truth preached, to believe and receive so glorious a revelation of God's love, then it can be no crime to break the first and great commandment. But nothing is more plain in scripture, than that every intelligent creature is under infinite obligations, to love the Lord with all his heart. To disbelieve and reject the gospel must therefore be an evil; and if it be an infinite evil, to disobey and reject the truth, and have pleasure in unrighteousness, then of course we are under infinite obligations to believe. If we are not bound in duty to believe the gospel; are we under any obligation to believe any part of God's word ? and if so, what part ? if not, then we are under no obligation at all, to observe any one thing that is commanded therein-Deism, of consequence, is no crime: and Christianity a mere farce !
zdly. To believe the gospel is the commandment of the everlasting God, 1. John iii. 23. Rom. xvi. 25, 26. John xii. 50. Mark i. 15; and therefore demands our implicit obedience. And if the command, exhortation, and invitation of God do not bind the conscience, and enforce obedience, what does ?
Since therefore it is nothing but man's own DISINCLINATION, that prevents his believing; fince unbelief is a fin deserving damnation; and fince it is the commandment of the everlasting God, that
men should repent and believe the gospel ; it follows of course, that to believe the gospel must be the duty of every person who hears it.
This then, I hope, being settled, I conclude this Section with the following question :-" What are we to understand by the assurance, and the full assurance of faith?” Ít has in general been taken for a confidence of personal interest in Chrift; but this goes upon the fuppofition that faith is a persuasion that Christ loved me and gave himself for me in particular; which, as hath been shown, is not the faith of the gospel. Numbers have arrived at the full affurance of their election, &c. who yet have not obtained like precious faith with the apostles; and whose assurance therefore is built upon a false foun. dation, and is nothing better than self conceit and fad delusion. The faith of the operation of God is believing the record, testimony, witness, or evidence, that God has given of his Son, 1. John, v. 9-13. John iii. 33. Heb. xi. 1. The full af furance of faith, then, must be, a more enlarged acquaintance with, and confidence in The truth as it is in Jesus, Rom. iv. 19, 20. Luke i, 1. John vi. 69. Heb. x. 22. This is promoted by 'growing up into all riches of the full assurance of understanding, Col. ii. 2.
And as faith grows in proportion to the increase of our knowledge of the truth; so also, it becomes much confirmed, through the experimental enjoyment thereof; and as we grow up, unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding in the truth, and enjoy pleasure in the blessed experience of it; fo will our obedience prove, that our faith is not dead, and in this way we shall come to know our personal union with, and interest in the Lord Jesus Christ. For when we can assert with the apostle Paul, I am crucified with Chrift: nevertheless, I live : yet not I, but Christ liveth in mne : and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God (we may with great propriety add) wbo loved me and gave himself for me.
NHRISTIANITY is far from consisting in
mere speculation : it has immediately to do with the understanding, will, conscience, affections, and conversation. So that no person can have any substantial proof that he is a believer, unless he en. joys, in fome measure, the inward, powerful experience, of those truths that he professes to believe, as their genuine and necessary effects. Of all errors therefore in a profession of Christianity, that is the most dangerous in its consequences, which suppofes a person may understand, believe and trust in the gospel of Christ, and yet have no experience of the reality and efficacy of it. This surely is to have a form of godlinefs, while the power thereof is practically denied.
But the many abounding errors about the nature of gospel experience, and the use that should be made of. it, warns us to proceed cautiously in our inquiries about it.
“ A valt deal.of what, now-adays, goes by the name of christian-experience, is very delusive, consisting of whims, flights and raptures, engendered by the warmth of animal palfions, without one spark of grace. Accordingly, we have often seen these vain-glorious paraders, like the crackling of thorns under a pot, bluster for a time and then vanish into emptiness.” Yet vain and delufive as these imaginations are, it is but too manifest that many who pass for orthodox christians in our day, have no better a reason of their hope, than 66 Thus I have been affected &c. and therefore I hope”. Whence conclusions are drawn just as fancy dictates,