Page images
PDF
EPUB

Ought every hearer of the gofpel to believe that be is elected that Chrift fhed his blood for him in particular, or that he fhall certainly go to heaven? we must reply in the negative; becaufe thefe 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 moft palpable falfe hoods. If the defign of the queftion 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 fball live; it must be answered, No: for if any exertions of body or mind are required to that end, Chrift has died in vain. But if the inquiry be whether it is the duty of every hearer of the gofpel, to believe the record that God has given of his Son; that he is well pleafed in him, and gives eternal life to as many as believe in his name that he is the end of the law for righteoufnefs to every one that believeth, and that there is redemption in his blood, even the forgiveness of fins according to the Liches of his grace, for those who are inexcufably criminal. It is most certainly every one's duty, who hears these things, to believe them: and that for the following reafons.

(1ft) There is nothing in the gospel meffage, but what men are capable of believing and obferving, if they choofe it. As there is nothing which men more tenaciously retain, than a good opinion of their own difpofition to do well, if they were difentangled from certain things, fituations, circumftances, &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 impoffible to be performed, however willing we might be to the fervice, the cafe would be hard indeed with us! But is this the cate? far be fuch a thought from us: far be fuch a thing from the Judge of all the earth. The fcrip

true

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 gofpel, otherwife it would not be criminal in him to reject it; any more than it is fin in the deaf not to hear, or in the blind not to fee, 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 affemblage of brilliant parts would be the highest faints. But then it is urged that the fcripture represents man as utterly unable to understand, receive or delight in the-gofpel. As that no man CAN come unto me, John vi. 44. The world CANNOT receivė. John xiv. 17. ch. viii. 43. Rom. viii. 7. All this, and whatever elfe can be urged of the fame nature, is admitted. But then, moft certainly, this neceffity is nothing more than DISINCLINATION. There is no lack of natural abilities: finners can love, delight in, and practice fin 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, from loving him, and obeying the gospel of our Lord Jefus Chrift. But unbelief and difobedience fuits their inclination better and men, as free agents choose what is molt agreeable to them. So that the unbelieving and difobedient are not compelled, by fome extrinfic neceffity, to follow their pernicious and deftructive courfes but they do it by voluntary choice, as that which is most agreeable, and feems moft convenient to them. Hence Jer. xliv. 16. We will not hearken unto thee. Pfal. lxxxi. 11. But my 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 fpeak out the language of his foul, its meaning would be this, "I have no inclination to loye K 3 God

»

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

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 chufe, 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 fo difhonoring to God in its confequences, that condemnation is paffed upon it in the divine word, John iii. 18, 36. It must therefore be their duty to believe the gofpel. If it be not the duty of all who hear the truth preached, to believe and receive fo 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 fcripture, than that every intelligent creature is under infinite obligations, to love the Lord with all his heart. To difbelieve and reject the gofpel must therefore be an evil; and if it be an infinite evil, to disobey and reject the truth, and have pleasure in unrighteoufnefs, then of course we are under infinite obligations to believe. If we are not bound in duty to believe the gofpel; are we under any obligation to believe any part of God's word? and if fo, what part? if not; then we are under no obligation at all, to obferve any one thing that is commanded therein-Deifim, of confequence, is no crime and Christianity a mere farce!

3dly. To believe the gofpel 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 confcience, and enforce obedience, what does?

Since therefore it is nothing but man's own DISINCLINATION, that prevents his believing; fince unbelief is a fin deferving damnation; and fince it is the commandment of the everlafting God, that

men

[ocr errors]

men should repent and believe the gofpel; it fol-
lows of course, that to believe the gospel muft be
the duty of every perfon who hears it.
This then,
I hope, being fettled, I conclude this Section with
the following question :-" What are we to un-
derstand by the affurance, and the full affurance of
faith?" It has in general been taken for a confi-
dence of perfonal intereft in Chrift; but this goes
upon the fuppofition that faith is a perfuafion that
Chrift loved me and gave himself for me in particu-
lar; which, as hath been fhown, is not the faith of
the gospel. Numbers have arrived at the full af-
furance of their election, &c. who yet have not ob-
tained like precious faith with the apostles; and
whofe affurance therefore is built upon a falfe foun-
dation, and is nothing better than felf conceit and
fad delufion. The faith of the operation of God
is believing the record, teftimony, witness, or evi-
dence, 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 Jefus, 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 affurance of under-
ftanding, Col. ii. 2. And as faith grows in
proportion to the increafe of our knowledge of the
truth; fo alfo, it becomes much confirmed, through
the experimental enjoyment thereof; and as we grow
up, unto all riches of the full affurance of under-
ftanding in the truth, and enjoy pleasure in the
bleffed experience of it; fo will our obedience prove,
that our faith is not dead, and in this way we shall
come to know our perfonal union with, and intereft
in the Lord Jefus Chrift. For when we can affert
with the apostle Paul, I am crucified with Chrift:
nevertheless, I live: yet not I, but Chrift liveth in me:
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) who loved me and gave himself for me.

ESSAY

E S S A ̈ Y ILI.

ON.

EXPERIENCE.

INTRODUCTION..

C

NHRISTIANITY is far from confifting in mere fpeculation: it has immediately to do with the understanding, will, confcience, affections, and converfation. So that no perfon can have any fubftantial proof that he is a believer, unless he en joys, in fome measure, the inward, powerful experience, of thofe truths that he profeffes to believe, as their genuine and necessary effects. Of all errors therefore in a profeffion of Christianity, that is the most dangerous in its confequences, which fuppofes a perfon may understand, believe and truft in the gospel of Chrift, and yet have no experience of the reality and efficacy of it. This furely is to have a form of godlinefs, while the power thereof is practically denied.

<<

But the many abounding errors about the nature of gofpel experience, and the ufe that fhould be made of it, warns us to proceed cautiously in our inquiries about it. A vaft deal of what, now-adays, goes by the name of chriftian-experience, is very delufive, confifting of whims, flights and raptures, engendered by the warmth of animal paffions, without one fpark of grace. Accordingly, we have often seen thefe vain-glorious paraders, like the crackling of thorns under a pot, bluster for a time and then vanish into emptinefs.' Yet vain and delufive as these imaginations are, it is but too manifeft that many who pass for orthodox chriftians in our day, have no better a reason of their hope, than " Thus I have been affected &c. and therefore I hope". Whence conclufions are drawn just as fancy dictates.

""

Here

« PreviousContinue »