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This also may serve for a reply to what P. ob
“exhorting those who are in doubt of their conversion, to apply to Christ.” (25) I think
with him, it is much better to direct such persons | immediately to apply to Christ, than to set them about examining the evidences of their regeneration to the neglect of that. And though he is pleased to call this “ absurd and ridiculous" upon niy principles, yet he has not condescended to back that asser
and he died. Rom. vii. 9. Now if this is God's usual method of working, surely we ought not, as ministers, to set ourselves against it, but rather to concur with it.
It is worthy of remark, how well our opponents here agree amongst themselves. 'Tis true they differ in some respects: the one think coming to Christ a matter so easy that an unrenewed heart may some how or other accomplish it; the other cannot think so, and therefore confine their exhortations, to things of an external nature. But both agree in this, that men should not be exhorted to any thing but what may be done by an unregenerated heart; that is, by a heart at enmity with God. “
“Surely, says P. it cannot be sin for men, as depraved, not to attempt that which the word tells them they cannot perform.” (23.) And the reasonings of Mr Button are frequently of the same tendency. But whether such a position be agreeable or contrary to the word of God, let the following passages, amongst many others, determine. Jer. vi. 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16. Matt. xii. 34. John v. 44, 45. viii. 43-46. Rom. viii. 8. 2 Pet. ii. 14.- If Mr. Button should here complain, and say, he has acknowledged that “internal religion is required of men in general,”-I answer, If Mr. B. or any other minister does indeed exhort the carnal part of their auditory to any thing more than what is “ within the compass of a carnal heart,” then it is acknowledged they are not affect. ed by what is above adyanced.
tion with any thing like evidence. If regeneration were that which constituted our warrant to apply to Christ, his reasoning would be just; but if it is only a begetting in us a right spirit, a spirit to comply with the warrant which we already have, then there is no weight in it. All right action, whether corporeal or mental, must proceed from a right spirit; yet if a man were in doubt whether he was of a right spirit, which would be reckoned the most ridiculous, to exhort him to right action, or to set him to examine his spirit by rules of theory; and bid him wait till he found he was of a good spirit, and then perform a good action? The latter would be pernicious, or to say the least, perplexing; but a compliance with the former would be attended with both safety and satisfaction.
P. frequently makes mention of a passage from Mr. Caleb Evans, which I also had quoted, which is as follows“ The calls and invitations, the promises and threatenings of the word of God, are means which every one knows are in their own nature adapted to remove a moral indisposition of the mind, just as much as the prescriptions of a physician, or the operations of a surgeon are suited to remove any natural disorder of the body." He also frequently speaks as if the reason why the gospel succeeded to the conversion of a sinner rather than the law, was because of this fitness, adaptedness, or innate tendency of which it is possessed. (67.) But it should be observed, Mr. Evan's words are not spoken simply of the gospelmathey are spoken of the threaten
ing's as well as the promises in the word of God, which I should think are no part of the gospel, though, as P. somewhere expresses it, they are necessarily attendant on it, and so make a part of the ministerial message.
Farther, our dispute is not whether the gospel be a suitable mean in the hand of the Holy Spirit to convert a sinner, but whether it is sufficient in virtue of this its suitableness to effect the change without an almighty and invincible agency attending it? A sword is a suitable instrument to cause a wound; but it does not thence follow that it is of itself sufficient to effect this without a hand to wield it. Three things I would here beg leave to offer, 1. The Holy Spirit can and doth make use of the law, in a sinners conversion as well as the gospel. "I had not known sin, saith the apostle, but by the law.” “ The law is a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ.”* If the success of the gospel is to be attributed to its suitableness, then I suppose it must be on account of its containing good tidings; and so tending to slay mens native enmity, and conciliate their hearts to God. But the scripture represents the human heart as equally prone to abuse God's mercy, as to despise his severity. “Let favour be shewn to the wicked says the prophet, yet will he not learn righteousness. In the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord.”+ The
* Rom. vii. 7. Gal. iii. 24.
Isa. xxvi. 10.
reason why men hate God is not because they consi. der him as in every sense their enemy: if so, could you but persuade them that God loved them, and Christ died for them, their enmity would subside. But is that indeed the case? Do not the generality of men consider God as their Friend? nor can you persuade them that they are under his displeasure. Yet this hath no tendency to remove their enmity. What they hate in God is that to which their hearts are wholly averse, and that is his true character. 3. The success which has attended the gospel is not ascribed to its supposed fitness to conciliate a sinner's heart, but to the power of Almighty God attending it. I hope this last has been sufficiently proved already. God ordered Moses to take a rod, andsmite the rock. The rod to be sure was the means of breaking the rock; not however on account of its being equal to such an effect: the rock rather had a tendency to break the rod than the rod the rock. But an Almighty energy attended it from him with whom all things are possible.
That the gospel is suited to the state of men, as fallen, is granted; (23.) It is suited to their forlorn circumstances, but not to their evil propensities. It could not be of God if it were. But to make believe ing in Christ something that may be done by a wicked mind, is to reduce the gospel to the latter rather than the former; and this contrary to the apostle's declaration, They that are in the flesh, cannot pleuse God.*
* Rom. viii. 8.
P. observes that if believing is the effect of regene ration, then men certainly “ought to be taught this truth;” and seems greatly to tremble for the consequences of such teaching. (22.) It is granted there is a way of conveying this sentiment which is very pernicious; nevertheless I see no reason why we should scruple the publishing of the sentiment itself, in the course of our ministry. To tell a sinner he cannot love God, repent of sin, and come to Christ, is only another mode of telling him that he has the very heart of a devil. But this is killing work-It is granted; and all my hope is that God will please to succeed my labours, first to kill and then to make alive. A conviction of our being utterly lost must precede an application to the Saviour. So long as a sinner can find any hope, or any help in himself, he will never fall at the feet of Christ as utterly undone. The whole need not a physician, but those that are sick. If it tends to drive sinners to despair, it is such a despair as lies at the foundation of gospel hope. The sinner may be alive without the law; but if he live to God, the commandment must first come, sin revive, and he die.* So far from shunning to declare this sentiment, humiliating as it is, I should rejoice therefore to see it propagated throughout the earth. That which renders it peculiarly offensive is one thing on account of which it appears to me to be a truth; and that is its laying the sinner
* Rom. vii. 9.