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doctrines of christianity, and yet live in a course of sin, have hence concluded that a belief of the gospel was no more than a man might have, and perish everlastingly. It was this opinion that I meant to oppose; and by proving that a real belief of the gospel is a belief of its intrinsic nature, as well as its general truths, I suppose I proved what was there intended: viz. that it extends farther than the faith of any wicked man,
let him have assorted his notions with ever so much accuracy.
There is a great difference between a want of ideas through a natural weakness of intellect, or lack of opportunity to obtain them, and a positive rejection of what God hath revealed. There is an equal difference between a christian of weak capacity believing the intrinsic excellency of the gospel, and “ being able to describe it, or even to ascertain all the general truths of christianity.” The weakest christian believes and lives upon THAT in the gospel, of which a wicked man, whatever be his intellects and advantages, has no idea. We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord. But the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not.*
P. allows the necessity of believing the gospel; (16.) and yet seems afterwards rather to wish to set this idea aside, and to place the essence of faith in
2 Cor. iii. 18. iv. 4.
trusting or confiding in Christ for salvation. (17,18.) But shall we not talk without meaning, if we talk of confiding in Christ without respect had to something testified, or some rule by which our confidence is to be directed? If we dispense with the truth of God, as the warrant and rule of our confidence, how. ever it may become very extensive, and fit professors of opposite ways of thinking, it will be found at the great day no better than a building erected upon the sand.
As to the question, “ To what degree or extent must a poor sinner believe the truth of the gospel?" (16) it is not for me to answer it. If I were asked, to what degree of holiness must a man arrive in order to see the Lord? I should be equally unable to reply. That men have different natural capacities and opportunities, is certainly true; and according to the different degrees of these are their obligations both to receive God's truth, and to exert themselves for his glory. That there is also great contrariety of sentiment is equally true; and how far the mercy of God may extend, through the death of his Son, in passing over the errors of men's minds, or those of their conduct, is not for me to say; but I think it is our business to maintain a rule for faith as well as practice.
But waying lesser remarks, the substance of what is advanced may, I think, be reduced to the following heads; whether regeneration is prior to coming to Christ, as a cause is prior to its effect-whether moral inability is, or is not excusable--whether faith
in Christ is required by the moral law and whether an obligation upon all those to whom the gospel is preached to believe in Christ, and the encouragements held out to them so to do, is inconsistent with a limitation of design in his death. On each of these subjects I shall make a few remarks.
WHETHER REGENERATION IS PRIOR TO OUR COMING
THOSE writers whose sentiments I made free to examine, generally maintain a distinction between the principle and the act of faith. I did not dispute this matter, but admitted it, and endeavoured to prove the point then in question upon those principles. P. greatly disapproves of this distinction, and asks “ wherein the distinction lies ? and where the scripture teaches us to make it? (14.) The difference between a principle and an actual exertion, was supposed to be illustrable by a principle of honesty being previous to an upright conduct; but P. thinks this will not answer the end, because faith is purely mental, it being with the heart that man believeth.” Although this is true, yet I see not how it affects the matter. A principle of honesty is as
necessary to a purpose to act uprightly, which is a mental exertion, as it is to the action itself.
It is not supposed, however, that there is a distinct principle wrought in the heart which may be called a principle of faith, in distinction from other graces; but rather a nei turn, or bias of mind previous to all acts or exercises whatsoever, internal or external, which are spiritually good. And if faith is an act of the mind at all; if, especially, it be taken for the soul's coming to Christ, as P. contends; then, unless an evil tree can bring forth good fruit,* there must be a new bias of mind previous to such an act.-Again, coming to Christ, if it be a duty, (and P. will allow it is) must be something pleasing to God; and if this may be done prior to the Spirit of God dwelling in us, then it should seem, notwithstanding what the scripture affirms to the contrary, that they who are in the Hesh may please God; for every man is in the flesh till the Spirit of God dwelleth in him.f
One should think, not only scripture, but a common observation of the workings of our own minds Inight teach us the need of a bias of mind different from that which prevails over men in general, in order to come to Christ. Whoever be the cause of such a bias, let that at present be out of the question; suppose it is man himself, still a turn of some sort there must be; for it will hardly be said that the same thoughts, and temper of mind which lead a man to
• Matt. Arii. 18.
* Rom. viii. 8, 9.
despise and reject the Saviour, will lead him to esteem and embrace him! That a turn of mind is necessary to our coming to Christ seems evident then, from the nature of things; and if so, our mistake must lie, if any where, in ascribing it to the Spirit of God.
Whether the first beginning of God's work upon the mind consists in giving us a spiritual disc? nment, whereby spiritual things, or the importance and glory of divine truth are discerned; or whether it consists in a divine energy attending the word itself, causing it to break in, as it were, upon the mind, and bear down every opposition before it-are questions which have each their difficulties. But whatever difficulties might attend a discussion of these questions, and whatever might be the issue; it would very little, if at all, affect the present controversy. If it is said, it does affect it, for if the first beginning of God's work upon the mind is by the word, it must be by the word believed. I answer, 1. That may be questioned. The word, it is true, must be understood in a measure in order to have any effect; but it is a question with me whether a person
must believe the gospel before it can have any effect upon him. We know that truth frequently maintains along struggle with darkness and error before they are overcome; during which time it may be said that God has been at work upon the mind by means of his word, and yet that word cannot be said to be believed till the opposition drops, and the soul becomes a captive; in other words, till the heart is brought to set seal that God is true. If it is insisted that that degree of