« AnteriorContinuar »
nor in the authorized books of our church, If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed goes to the mountain. If weighed in the balance of the sanctuary all be found wanting; a more commodious or accommodating balance must be substituted, and according to that perhaps they are "weighed in the balance" and not" found "wanting." But "what will they do in the end "thereof?"
God gave the law to fallen man for wise and holy purposes; but that any of them should be justified, and obtain life according to it, was not one of those purposes. It is expressly and repeatedly excluded: nay his Lordship himself excludes it in stating the doctrine of justification. Was then a righteous and merciful God, to give a law holy, just, good, and perfect, worthy of himself, and of immutable obligations, and highly advantageous to men, in subserviency to his gospel? Or was he to give an imperfect law, that is, a law in some degree unholy, to accommodate the depraved nature and enfeebled powers of self-ruined rebels and apostates ?—Do human legislators, if wise and equitable, lower the requirements of their laws, in proportion as a lowered state of morals, and the multiplication of criminals, and the prevalence of evil habits and propensities, render their laws weak, so that the torrent bursts through them? In general, they regard it as necessary to strengthen the rampart, to add stricter laws and severer punishments. Why then should we suppose, " that the one Law-giver" of heaven and earth should lower his claims, because of the rebellion and depravity of his creatures? If he had at first made man what man now is, the argument would have been of some weight: and in fact it is never used, but when the wilful apostacy of man, and his ruined condition by the fall, are either for the moment lost sight of, or explained away.
But the impossibility extends also to our repenting and believing the gospel: and in this view it frequently is mentioned by our opponents. 'Im'possible conditions.'1 'How can we imagine, that 'God calls on men to believe and obey the gos'pel, under the penalty of eternal misery; when he 'denies them the possibility of belief and obe'dience ?'2
On this I shall not dwell long. It should be observed that the gospel finds men exposed to the penalty of eternal misery: and though their rejection of it increases their guilt and condemnation; yet they were before exposed to wrath? Original sin, 'in every person born into this world, de'serveth God's wrath and damnation.'4 It will, however, come in our way in another place to inquire, how far God is bound to help fallen man out of this wretched condition. And I shall here only observe, that, if the impossibility of believing and obeying the gospel were any other, than what arises from man's pride, love of sin, and enmity against God and holiness; the ground on which we stand would be untenable; but, if this be the only impossibility which we mean, his Lordship himself allows it. 'It is acknowledged, that man 'has not the disposition, and consequently not the 'ability, to do what in the sight of God is good, 'till he is influenced by the Spirit of God. 'The 'firmest conviction of the truth of the gospel, the 'keenest sorrow for past offences, and the strongest 'resolutions of amendment, will not in his fallen 'and degenerate state, enable him of himself to do 'good works, pleasant and acceptable to God. 'His will must be guided, and his actions assisted 'by the Holy Spirit.'3 Now this' want of dispo'sition, and consequently of ability,' being total in fallen man, and to be removed by the grace of God alone, is the impossibility which Calvinists intend, and that which Calvin intended: and, without speculating on the impossible case, of a man having of himself without the grace of God, this willing mind; and the question, whether in that case he would be able? it is sufficient to warrant their language. "How can ye believe, "who receive honour one of another?" "There"fore, they could not believe." "No man can "come to me, except the Father who hath sent "me draw him." The language of scripture is altogether as strong, as any which Calvinists use on the subject. This will however, be more fully elucidated under our next topic.
1 Ref. 45. 'Ref. 196,197. <
'John iii. 18,19, 36. 4 Art. ix.
'To what purpose would this advice be given,' (" Take heed therefore how ye hear,") 'if men 'had not the power of resisting the wiles of the 'devil, of supporting the trials of persecution, and 'of withstanding the temptations of the riches 'and pleasures of this world? the three causes to 'which our Lord ascribes the failure of religious 'instruction.'l
If men have not by nature, and cannot have by grace, the power here spoken of, advice must be in vain. But the apostle's direction, on the first of these causes, gives us a widely different view of the subject, from that which the quotation suggests: "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power "of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, "that ye may be able to stand against the wiles "of the devil." 2 St. John also clearly shows how another of these causes must be obviated. "That "which is born of God overcometh the world: "and this is the victory which overcometh the "world, even our faith. Who is he that over"cometh the world, but he that believeth that "Jesus is the Son of God ?"3 "Ye are of God "little children, and have overcome them: be"cause greater is he that is in you, than he that "is in the world."4 It might be shown at large, that the same is implied in all such exhortations. "Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, "according to the power of God." "Thou there"fore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in "Christ Jesus."1 "Watch and pray, that ye "enter not into temptation."2 Such of our opponents as maintain, that fallen man hath, in every sense, the power to gain these victories, without the grace of God, would do well to prove their ability by their own conduct; and by showing themselves superior to all the temptations of the devil, all the terrors and allurements of the world, and all the love of honour, riches, power, and pleasure; and in short as wholly devoted to God as the Lord Jesus was: or at least equal in holiness to him who said, " By the grace of God I am "what I am." If, however, by power be here meant natural capacity, independent of the dispositions and inclinations of the heart: while we must think, that even the natural powers of man are greatly impaired and enfeebled by the fall; yet the difference between our views, and those of our opponents, does not appear so important or so tangible as to require discussion. They allow that, when willing and desirous, we need assistance from God; though they often seem to forget themselves on this head: and we maintain that, if there be a willing mind, man may, by the continued help of God, do great things, in overcoming the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Even fallen man in himself possesses great energy of mind and resolution, for
1 Ref. 15. 'Eph. vi. 9,10.—See also 1 Pet. v.8,9.
'1 John v. 4,5. UJohniv. 4, 5.