« PreviousContinue »
mouth; for he fpake and it was-he commanded, and it ftood faft. This divine perfon, who fpoke all things into existence, and who upholds all things by his power, is called THE WORD OF GOD, Rev. xix. 13, and in reference to the purpofe of grace and its publication, he is called a PROPHET, Deut. xviii. 15, 18, 19. The forerunner of this great prophet teftifies, that He whom God hath fent fpeaketh the words of God; and the faithful and true witnefs himself declares, The words which ye hear of me are not mine, but the father's that fent me; he gave me commandment what I fhould speak. And addreffing the father he says, I have given them (his apoftles) the words which thou gavest me. Now the fcriptures of truth are the words of this great prophet; for though but a fmall part of them were spoken by him, while he tabernacled upon earth; yet it was by his Spirit that holy men of old were infpired to write, 1 Peter i. 11. 2 Peter i. 21. And the fame bleffed fpirit was, after Chrift's afcenfion, made to rest upon his apoftles, under whofe infpiration they fpake none other things, than Mofes and the prophets did fay fhould come. The fcriptures then being given by inspiration of God, are a perfect record of his mind, and the only unerring guide to the knowledge of him the true God, and Jefus Chrift whom he hath fent.-The firft pattern of all grace and truth is Jehovah. Chrift is the brighness of his glory, and the exprefs image of his perfon and the love, truth and grace of the father being expreffed in him, is from him, by his fpirit, communicated to the word, which on this account is called The revelation of Jefus Chrift. So that it is a vain thing to pretend to, or expect any other knowledge of Grace, than what the word of truth publishes. Hence it is called the word of grace-the gospel of grace-the truth, &c. and all that are of the truth hear Chrift's voice. Such will not be furprized to fee these heavenly oracies perverted; it will not appear a ftrange thing to them, to behold fome turn the grace of God C 2
into lafcivioufiefs-others, with cunning craftinefs, lying in wait to deceive-others, changing the truth of God into a lie-and many, following their pernicious ways, by reafon of whom the way of truth is evil fpoken of ;-they rather receive hereby, a notable confirmation of the truth of the fcriptures, which foretold, that many would deny Chrift, under a profeffion of his name.
I fhall here therefore give a brief view of fome fyftems, out of many, which, while they pretend to have their foundations in the word of God, answer no other end than to eclipfe and pervert the truth as it is in Jefus; and fo, to decoy and ruin precious fouls and then attempt to ftate the true nature, glory, fufficiency and freenefs, of the glorious gofpel of the grace of God.
It might be obferved by the way, that the variety of doctrines and the diverfity of fentiments, prevailing in the profeffing world, are by no means to be confidered as arifing from any different end, that their inventors and propagators have in view; but from the different ways in which they hope to attain the one common end. Nothing lefs than happinefs, even everlafting happiness, is the grand end propofed; and every one is ready to think his own fcheme, the nearest and most eligible way thereunto. Thofe among profeffing Chriftians, who have the higheft reputation for virtue, benevolence, candor, and decorum, feek to obtain the favor of the most high, by their own obedience; and it must be acknowledged, that this plan claims the preference of any modern fcheme, which the wifdom of man has framed; for fuch have the affurance of the one lawgiver for their fecurity, that if they are found perfectly good, or in his fight do well, they fhall be rewarded. Man was at the firft framed to live, and enjoy his Maker's favor in this way; nor is there any knowledge, that we have naturally, that can point out a better. We find many very earnest in
the pursuit of eternal life in this way, seeking righteoufnefs as it were by the deeds of the law; not that it fhould be thought they have nothing to do with the gofpel; for, in general, that is efteemed as the best directory to obey the law. Nor are we to imagine, that every notion of grace is excluded from this fyftem, for looking upon the progrefs of nature, as they imagine, under divine affiftance, they can fee great caufe to fay God I thank thee that I am not as other men and though they do not come up to the full requirements of the law, even in their own fenfe of it, yet they put their many acts of piety, charity, benevolence, heavenly-mindednefs, &c. in the oppofite fcale and, with pleafing admiration, fancy they fee the balance turn in their favor. And as to their fhort-comings, occafioned by human frailty, the ftreaming forrows of the heart-bleeding penitent are. thought fufficient, to wash away the impurity thereof. Now, to animate the votaries of this way, the rewards of virtue in this prefent life, but more efpecially in the life to come, are proposed to their confidération. "To be confcious of that cloudlefs ferenity within, which proceeds from paffions fubdued, under the fuperior authority of reafon and religion; to feast upon the uninterrupted joys, which this vain world can neither give nor take away; to blefs and be bleffed to love and be loved; to be eyes to the blind and feet to the lame; to ferve him whose service is the glory of those who fit enthroned in heaven, and to have neither thought nor wish, which would not do us honor, if published before the universeWhat fenfe of dignity, what felf-enjoyment must this confcioufnefs yield! And if fuch enjoyments arc the rewards of virtue here, what, then, muft be the undisturbed fruition of that ftate which the present weakness of the human understanding cannot adequately conceive of," &c. Such is the doctrine, and fuch the ftimulation to virtue, among fome who profefs to derive their religion from the Bible. But
what if it should appear, from that very book, that every fon and daughter of Adam is under a law, which requires finless perfection, on pain of eternal death-that the leaft tranfgreffion is infinitely heinous—and that no partial obedience, however fincere, can recover the divine favor when once loft? And what if it fhould appear, from the exprefs words of the great Lawgiver, that the whole world is guilty before him? Then furely it will follow, that this doctrine is corrupt, the hope founded upon it delufive, and that, while its votaries are pleafing themfelves with the thoughts of being in the way to heaven; they are in fact going down to hell, with a lie in their right hand. And that this is the case, plainly appears from Gal. iii. 10. Luke x. 27. Mat. v. 22, 28; whence it is evident, that fuch is the nature of that law, which every intelligent creature is under infinite obligations to obey, that it extends to the inmoft thoughts of the heart, and condemns the rifing of anger, as murder, and the fecret motions of uncleannefs, as adultery. If it be denied by any, that every foul of man, is under obligations to keep the whole law, let the following thoughts be impartially weighed. If all are not under the law naturally; then the rewards of obedience and the threatnings of difobedience could not be univerfal. But the whole world is become guilty before God; and fo are liable to the threatened curfe. Rom. iii. 19. chap. ii. 8, 9. Gal. iii. 10; therefore all men are naturally under the law. And however it might fhock the boasted benevolence of fome, to think of God destroying the foul and body of any of his creatures in hell; yet that book, from whence they pro-, fefs to have gathered their creed, informs us, that the law, even as the miniftration of death, is glorious. To urge that the remorfe of the tranfgreffor, or any degree of penitence would bind or influence Jehovah. to pardon him, would be an unworthy reflection upon the holy law, and the equity of the divine government;
vernment; and would involve nothing lefs than an infinuation, that Chrift died in vain, and that the doctrine of his crofs is foolishness. But fo far is remorfe or penitence from averting the curfe, or procuring pardon, or the higheft human virtue, from balancing the leaft tranfgreffion, that a fingle grain of fand would do more towards overbalancing the world. If fin be an infinite evil (and confiftently to deny it we must give up the whole of revelation) then "the ftreaming forrows of the heartbleeding penitent," added to thousands of facrificed rams, or ten thoufand rivers of oil, will be of no avail to atone for it. Now that fin is an infinite evil, might be fairly demonftrated from-the object against whom it is committed-the malignant ftain of it, which, unless atoned for, will eternally remain -the lofs of an infinite portion in God being its demerits, and the eternal extent of that lofs. Unlefs therefore an atonement of infinite worth be found out, the wrath of God muft abide on the foul that finneth; for this (however uncharitable it may appear in their view whom it affects) is the decifion of that law, by which we are to judge ourselves and to be judged.
But the above fyftem is found fault with and exploded by others who yet maintain "That thought Paul fays where fin hath abounded, grace hath alfo fuperabounded; it does not therefore follow, that before one is by grace made acceptable, he may not through divine affiftance prepare himself, by works morally good for the divine favor"-" I agree, fays. one, with thofe, who afcribe a little to free will, but very much to grace." Now by the works hinted at here, we are to understand either fincere obedience to the law, or fulfilling the conditions of faith and repentance, or elfe complying with the terms of peace, to which we are told the bleffings of the gofpel belong, and which may be produced by nature. affifted by common grace. If any fixed meaning