Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

imploring help from on'high to use them aright, say, whether these last arguments do not prove that no Christian can deny the complete fall of mankind, without renouncing the capital doctrines of his own religion; overturning the very foundation of the Gospel, which he professes to receive; staining the glory of the Redeemer, whom he pretends to honour; and impiously taking from his crown, wisdom, truth, and charity, the three jewels that are its brightest ornaments. Sum up then all that has been advanced concerning the afflictive dealings of God's providence with mankind, and the base conduct, or wicked temper of mankind toward God, one another, and themselves. Declare, if all the arguments laid before you, and cleared from the thickest clouds of objections that might obscure them, do not cast more light upon the black subject of our depravity than is sufficient to show that it is a melancholy truth. And finally pronounce, whether the doctrine of our corrupt and lost estate, stated in the words of the sacred writers, and of our pious reformers, is not rationally demonstrated, and established upon the firmest basis in the world, matter of fact, and the dictates of common sense.

PART V.

WHEN a doctrine has been clearly demonstrated, the truths that necessarily spring from it cannot reasonably be rejected. Let then common sense decide whether the following consequences do not necessarily result from the doctrine of the fall, established in the preceding parts of this treatise.

I. INFERENCE. If we are by nature in a corrupt and lost estate, the grand business of ministers is to rouse our drowsy consciences, and warn us of our imminent danger: it behooves them to "cry aloud and spare not, to lift up their voice like a trumpet," and " show us our transgressions and our sins:" nor are they to desist from this unpleasing part of their office till we "awake to righteousness," and " lay hold on the hope set before us."

If preachers, under pretence of peace and good nature, let the wound fester in the conscience of their hearers, to avoid the thankless office of probing it to the bottom: if, for fear of giving them pain by a timely amputation, they let them die of a mortification: or if " they heal the hurt of the daughter of God's people slightly, saying, Peace! Peace! when there is no peace;" they imitate those sycophants of old, who, for fear of displeasing the rich and offending the great, "preached smooth things and prophesied deceit."

This cruel gentleness, this soft barbarity, is attended with the most pernicious consequences, and will deservedly meet with the most dreadful punishment. "Give sinners warning from me," says the Lord to every minister: "When I say to the wicked," the unconverted, "Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, he shall die in his iniquity," in his unconverted state; "but his blood will I require at thy hand." See Matt, xviii, 3; Ezek. iii, 18, and xiii, 10.

II. Inference. If we are naturally depraved and condemned creatures, self righteousness and pride are the most absurd and monstrous of all our sins. The deepest repentance and profoundest humility become us: to neglect them is to stumble at the very threshold of true religion; and to ridicule them is to pour contempt upon reason, revelation, and the first operations of Divine grace upon a sinner's heart.

III. Inference. If the corruption of mankind is universal, inveterate, and amazingly powerful, no mere creature can deliver them from it. They must remain unrestored; or they must have an almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, unwearied, infinitely patient Saviour; willing, day and night, to attend to the wants and public or secret applications of millions of wretched souls; and able to give them immediate assistance throughout the world, in all their various trials, temptations, and conflicts, both in life and in death. Is the most exalted creature sufficient for these things?

When such a vast body as mankind, spread over all the earth for thousands of years, made up of numerous nations, all of which consist of multitudes of individuals, each of whom has the springs of all his faculties and powers enfeebled, disordered, or broken:—when such an immense body as this is to be restored to the image of the infinitely holy, glorious, and blessed God; common sense dictates that the amazing task can be performed by no other-than the original Artist, the great Searcher of hearts, the omnipotent Creator of mankind.

Hence it appears that, notwithstanding the cavils of Arius, the Saviour is " God Over All, blessed for ever; all things were made by him, he upholds all things by the word of his power; and every believer may adore him and say, with the wondering apostle, when the light of faith shone into his benighted soul, "My Lord and my God!"

IV. INFERENCE. If our guilt is immense, it cannot be expiated without a sacrifice of an infinite dignity: hence we discover the mistake of heathens and carnal Jews, who trusted in the sacrifices of beasts; the error of Deists, Mohammedans, and Socinians, who see no need of any expiatory sacrifice; and the amazing presumption of too many Christians, who repose a considerable part of their confidence in the proper merit of their works; instead of placing it entirely in the infinitely meritorious sacrifice of the immaculate Lamb of God, humbly acknowledging that all the gracious rewardableness of the best works of faith is derived from his precious blood and original merit.

V. INFERENCE. If our spiritual maladies are both numerous and mortal, it is evident we cannot recover the spiritual health that we enjoyed in our first parents, but by the powerful help of our heavenly Physician, the second Adam. How absurd is it then to say that we are saved or recovered by doing good works, without the quickening grace of a Saviour!

A wretched beggar is lame both in his hands and feet; an officious man, instead of taking him to a person famous for his skill in relieving such objects of distress, assures him that the only way of getting well is to run on errands for his prince, and work for his fellow beggars. You justly wonder at the cruelty and folly of such a director; but you have much more reason to be astonished at the conduct of those miserable empirics, who direct poor, blind, lame sinners, labouring under a complication of spiritual disorders, and sick even unto eternal death, to save themselves merely by serving God and doing good to their neighbours; as if they needed neither repentance toward God, nor faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, nor yet free grace, to enable them to repent, believe, and serve God acceptably.

How much more rational is the evangelical method of salvation! "We are saved," says the apostle, we are restored to saving health, and a spiritual activity to serve God and our neighbour, "not by works, not of ourselves;" but "by grace," by mere favour; "through faith," through such an entire confidence in our Physician as makes us gladly take his powerful remedies, abstain from the pleasing poison of sin, and feed on those Divine truths which communicate angelical vigour and happiness to our souls, Eph. ii, 8.

VI. INFERENCE. If our nature is so completely fallen and totally helpless, that in spiritual things "we are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing" truly good "as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God ;" it is plain we stand in absolute need of his Spirit's assistance to enable us to pray, repent, believe, love, and obey aright. Consequently, those who ridicule the Holy Spirit, and his sacred influence, despise the great "Helper of our infirmities," and act a most irrational, wicked, and desperate part, Rom. viii, 26.

VII. INFERENCE. If by nature we are really and truly born in sin, our regeneration cannot be a mere metaphor or a vain ceremony; our spiritual birth must be real and positive. How fatal therefore is the mistake of those who suppose that the new birth is only a figurative expression for a decent behaviour! How dreadful the error of those who imagine that all whose faces have been typically washed with the material water in baptism are now effectually "born again of" living "water and the" Holy "Spirit!" And how inexcusable the case of the multitudes, who, in the Church of England, are under this dangerous mistake, so prudently guarded against by our pious reformers!

In our catechism they clearly distinguish between "the outward visible sign" or form in baptism, and "the inward spiritual grace:" and by defining the latter, "a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness," they declare that whosoever is not "dead" or dying "to sin," and "alive to righteousness," is not truly regenerate, and has nothing of baptism but the "outward and visible sign." In the twenty.seventh of our articles they mention, mat "baptism is not the new birth, but a SIGN of regeneration or new birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they who receive baptism rightly, are grafted into the Church." And if our Church returns thanks for the regeneration of the infants whom she has admitted to baptism, it is chiefly* upon a charitable supposition, that "they have received it rightly," and will, "for their part, faithfully perform their promises, made for them by their sureties." If they refuse to do it when they come of age, far from treating them as her regenerate children, she denounces a general excommunication against them, and charges them "not to come to" her " holy table, lest Satan brings them, as" he did "Judas, to destruction both of body and soul."

* I say chiefly, because our Church gives thanks also for Christ's general grace and mercy to children, declaring herself "persuaded of the good will of our heavenly Father toward this (unbaptized) infant," through Christ, who said, that "of little children is the kingdom of heaven." The truth lies between the error of the Pelagians, who suppose that unbaptized infants are tittle** like angels; and that of the Papists, who affirm that they are graceless as devils.

Vill. Inference. If the fall of mankind in Adam does not consist in a capricious imputation of his personal guilt, but in a real, present participation of his depravity, impotence, and misery; the salvation that believers have in Christ is not a capricious imputation of his personal righteousness, but a real, present participation of his purity, power, and blessedness, together with pardon and acceptance.

Unspeakably dangerous then is the delusion of those whose brains and mouths are filled with the notions and expressions of "imputed righteousness;" while their poor, carnal, unregenerate hearts remain perfect strangers to "the Lord our righteousness."

IX. INFERENCE. If the corrupt nature which sinners derive from Adam spontaneously produces all the wickedness that overspreads the earth; the holy nature which believers receive from Christ, is also spontaneously productive of all the fruits of righteousness described in the oracles of God; "Good works springing out, necessarily,* of a true and lively faith," Art. xii.

Such ministers, therefore, as clearly preach our fall in Adam, and that faith in Christ which is productive of genuine holiness and active love, will infallibly promote good works and pure morality: when those who insist only upon works and moral duties will neither be zealous of good works themselves, nor instrumental in turning sinners from their gross immoralities. The reason is obvious: evangelical preachers follow their Lord's wise direction: "Make the tree good, and the fruit shall be good also:" but moralists will have "corrupt trees bring forth good fruit," which, in the nature of things, is impossible, Matt . xii, 33; Luke vi, 43. Therefore, as nothing but faith "makes the tree good," and as "without faith it is impossible to please God;" the Christian, that will " come to him" with good works, "must" not only " believe [as heathens] that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him;" but also that "he was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself," &c.

X. Inference. If corruption and sin work so powerfully and sensibly in the hearts of the unregenerate, we may, without deserving the name of enthusiasts, affirm, that the regenerate are sensible of the powerful effects of Divine grace in their souls; or, to use the words of our seventeenth article, we may say, "They feel in themselves the workings of the Spirit of Christ:" for "where" the poison of "sin hath abounded," and has been of course abundantly felt; "grace," the powerful antidote that expels it, does "much more abound," and coneequ entry may be much more perceived.

Therefore " the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins," the assurance of faith, and " the peace of God passing all understanding," are the EXPERIENCED blessings of the converted, as certainly as a guilty conscience, the gnawing of worldly cares, the working of evil tempers, the tumults of unbridled appetites, and the uproars of rebellious passions, are the Experienced curses of the unconverted.

Reader, if these inferences are justly drawn, is it not evident that the principles! are generally exploded among us as enthusiastical or Method.

* This is to be understood of a moral, and not of an absolute irresistible necessity; for faith never unmans the believer, t Those doctrines pointed out in the ten above mentioned inferences, are. istical, which flow from the doctrine demonstrated in this treatise, as naturally as light from the sun 1 These consequences lead you perhaps farther than you could wish; but let them not make you either afraid or ashamed of the Gospel. Prejudices, like clouds, will vanish away; but truth, which they obscure for a time, like the sun, will shine for ever. A great man in the law said, Fiat justitia, mat mundus. Improve the noble sentiment, and say with equal fortitude, "Slet Veritas, ruat mundus: let truth stand, though the universe should sink into ruins."

But, happily for us, the danger is all on the side of the opposite doctrine; and that you may be convinced of it, I present you next with a view of the

DREADFUL CONSEQUENCES

Necessarily resulting from the ignorance of our depravity and danger.

1. As the tempter caused the fall of our first parents, by inducing them to believe that they "should not surely die," if they broke the Divine law: so, now we are fallen, he prevents our recovering, by suggesting " the bitterness of death is past," and "we are in a state of safety." Hence it is that you sleep on in carnal security, O ye deluded sons of men, and even dream ye are safe and righteous. Nor can ye escape for your lives till the veil of unbelief is taken away, and ye awake to a sight of your corrupt and lost estate; for there is no guarding against, nor flying from, an unseen, unsuspected evil: here, as in a conspiracy, the danger continually increases till it is happily discovered.

2. If we are not sensible of our natural corruption and the justice of the curse entailed upon us on that account, can we help thinking God a tyrant, when he threatens unconverted moralists with the severest of his judgments, or causes the black storms of his providence to overtake us and our dearest relatives?

Answer, ye self-righteous Pharisees, that so bitterly exclaim against the ministers, who declare, by the authority of Scripture, that "except ye repent, ye shall all perish." Answer, fond mother, whose tears of distraction mix with the cold sweat of the convulsed, dying infant on thy lap. Dost thou not secretly impeach Divine justice, and accuse Heaven of barbarity? Ah! if thou didst but know the evil nature which thou and thy Isaac have brought into the world; if thou sawest the root of bitterness which the hand of a gracious Providence even now extracts from his heart; far from being ready to " curse God, and die" with thy child, thou wouldest patiently acquiesce in the kindly severe dispensation; thou wouldest " clear him when he is judged" by such as thyself, and even "glorify him in the evil day of this painful visitation."

3. Though man's heart is hardened as steel, it does not frequently emit the hellish sparks of such murmurings against God, because it can seldom be struck by the flint of such severe afflictions; yet the mischief is there, and will break out, if not by blasphemous despair, at least by its contrary, presumptuous madness. Yes, reader, unless thou art happily

1. The alarming severity of the law; 2. The need of a deep, heartfelt repentance; 3. The divinity of Christ; 4. The infinite merit of his sacrifice; 5. Salvation by faith in him; 6. The influences of his Holy Spirit; 7. The reality of the new birth; 8. The necessity of a present salvation; 9. The zeal of believers for goW works; and 10. The comfortable assurance which they have of their regeneration'

« AnteriorContinuar »