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the history of their conduct in the Acts, and consider how they treated the churches which they set up, nothing can be plainer, than that they preached the gospel, made proselytes to Christianity, set up Christian churches on the gospel plan ; and not on the plan of an external, graceless covenant - a thing not heard of in that age.
Objection. “But there was not time to examine the three thousand on the day of Pentecost, in order to form a judgment of their gracious state ; nor to judge of them by their fruits."
Answer. They professed to comply with Peter's exhortation, “Repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of sins." Their profession, circumstanced as it was, was to all appearance sincere. And this was enough; for the doctrine of the necessity of an infallible certainty, that professors were what they professed themselves to be, in order to their admission into the church, was not an apostolic doctrine. And besides, they had as much time to examine into their grace, as into their moral sincerity.
Obj. “How could the character of the apostles be maintained as infallibly inspired guides to the church, when those they had received did so often prove hypocrites, false brethren, and apostates?"
Ans. By infallible inspiration, they were taught that it was God's prerogative to search the heart. They never pretended to do it themselves. They preached repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Their converts professed that repentance and faith which they preached. They received them upon their profession ; they expected there would be tares among the wheat ; but they did not mean to sow tares knowingly and upon design: this was the work of the devil; and is it not fit that the ministers of Christ should take the work of the devil out of his hands?
Obj. “It is true, Peter said of Cornelius and those that were with him, 'God put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.' But he said this some years after, in which time they had doubtless given sufficient evidence; but this is of no weight to prove that they were admitted to baptism on that supposition.”
Ans. If he did say this some years after, and if they had in that time given ever so great evidence of the sincerity of their conversion, yet Peter says not one word about this consequent evidence, nor gives the least hint that they had given such evidence. He mentions not one single fact on which his charity for them was founded, but that only which happened
before they were baptized, namely, "giving them the Holy Ghost even as he did unto us." But the apostles received not only the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, but also large effusions of his sanctifying influences, filling their hearts with love to divine things. And out of the abundance of their hearts, their mouths spake of the wonderful works of God. (Acts ii. 11.) And it happened to Cornelius and his household just as it had to the apostles on the day of Pentecost; and their hearts were filled with divine love ; and out of the abundance of their hearts their mouth spake, magnifying God, extolling and praising him for the glorious display of his perfections in the work of redemption by Jesus Christ, (Acts x. 46;) by which Peter and the saints who were with him perceived, to their full satisfaction, that these Gentile converts had the same holy views, and holy affections, which they themselves had ; which led Peter to say, “God bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” This is the plain and natural sense.
BAPTISM AND THE LORD'S SUPPER ARE SEALS OF THE COVENANT
OF GRACE, AND OF NO OTHER COVENANT.
MR. MATHER says, “Seals are rites of confirmation. Nothing is confirmed by the seal, but what is expressed in the written instrument to which it is annexed; and thus, God confirms and ratifies nothing by the sacraments, but what is contained in the declarations of his word.” « These seals, with respect to us, confirm the profession which we make, and the engagements we come under.” So that, if the “ written instrument" is the covenant of grace, God, by affixing his seal, ratifies his promise to save those that comply with it; and this, on God's part, is the import of the action of sealing. And, if the is written instrument” is the covenant of grace, the professor, by actively receiving the seal, declares, on his part, that he does comply with that covenant, and ratifies his engagements to live up to it ; for thus it is in all mutual covenants among men: where both parties seal, they do by sealing declare a present compliance with the bargain, and mutually oblige
"ERNAL, GRACELESS COVENANT.
, and considu how * set up, nothing can be made pruselytes to evel plan; and thing not
in it for the future — to the bargain, I
written instrument; to that, and to en once it is determined what is "ument, it is at the same time what is the import of the act
sealing ordinances, by which und confirmed, do equally seal grace.” Upon which it may be ent, it will follow, .celess man seals the external graceless Imself to perform all the graceless duties
he does at the same time equally seal the ace, and equally bind himself to perform all the les which this requires. And whereas these two s require religious exercises of a contrary nature, even .irary as graceless and gracious, which, in other words,
as contrary as sin and holiness, so Mr. M.'s unconverted covenanter, in the act of sealing these two contrary covenants, binds himself to perform all religious duties in these two contrary manners; and that at the samne time ; for he binds himself, by sealing both covenants at once, to perform every duty, as both covenants require, from day to day, as long as he lives; and every time he comes to the Lord's table, he binds himself afresh. Bit our Savior says, “ No man can serve two mas. ters.” Besides, on this plan, the door of the visible church is shut against all who know themselves to be graceless; for they cannot make a profession of a compliance with the covenant of grace; and so the end and design of Mr. M.'s whole scheme is frustrated.
2. It will also follow from Mr. M.'s own words, that when a godly man, Abraham, for instance, sealed the external covenant and the covenant of grace, both at once, he equally bound himself through life to perform all religious duties, both in a gracious and ungracious manner, at the same time. But how could Abraham, at the same time, serve these two contrary masters, requiring things as contrary as sin and holiness? Or how could he, being a godly man, with a good conscience, bind himself by covenant to perform all religious duties in an unholy manner? Surely he could not do it! And so, on Mr. M.'s plan, the door of the visible church is shut against both the godly and the wicked. The godly cannot come to sacraments, because they are seals of an unholy covenant, binding them to live in a course of unholy duties; and the ungodly, knowing themselves to be
such, cannot come, because they are seals of a holy covenant, binding them to live in a course of holy duties.*
3. Therefore Mr. M. must give up the common notion of a seal, as declaring a present compliance with, and binding both parties to act up to, what is contained in the written instrument, or else he must honestly leave the covenant of grace out of the written instrument, or he must give up his scheme as wholly inconsistent. To solve this difficulty, he says, “In their primary reference, they may be seals of the external covenant; and yet, consistently in their ultimate reference, may be seals of the covenant of grace." But if they in fact really seal both covenants, then the man who comes to the sacraments, does in fact really bind himself to fulfil both covenants. For, let him ask any lawyer on the continent, and he will be told that by sealing a " written instrument," if it contains two or ten covenants, we oblige ourselves either to fulfil all of them, or none of them. The truth is, Mr. M. had proposed this objection against his scheme, namely, “ The preceding discourse represents the sealing ordinances of the gospel, not as seals of the covenant of grace, but of the external covenant with the visible church.” And he had no way to get rid of it, according to his seheme, but to run into these inconsistencies, or roundly to deny the received doctrine of the Christian church, that baptism and the Lord's supper are seals of the covenant of grace. He has denied it implicitly ; but he did not choose to deny it expressly ; but seems to own it; and so runs himself into these inconsistencies.
But if we turn our eyes off from Mr. M.'s inconsistent scheme to the New Testament, which was designedly adapted to the capacities of common people, we shall see not the least appearance of two covenants, of which baptism and the Lord's supper are the appointed seals; we shall find no covenant but the covenant of grace ; no gospel, but the gospel of Jesus Christ, which promises pardon and eternal salvation to the penitent believer ; and baptism and the Lord's supper are represented as seals to no other covenant but this. For, to use Mr. M.'s phrase, in the “ written instrument” God promises salvation to the true believer. (Mark xvi. 16.) Therefore, “ if thou believest with all
* Mr. M. thinks that there “was a manifest propriety in choosing Abraham, a man of eminent holiness," to be the head of this graceless covenant; but I am of our Savior's mind, (Matt. xii. 33,) “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt." Let holy Abraham be at the head of a holy covenant; but let some graceless professor be at the head of Mr. M.'s external, graceless covenant; for it was contrary to the Jewish law to yoke an ox and an ass together; and, saith the apostle Paul, What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?
thine heart," thou mayest be active in receiving the seal of the covenant, said Philip, divinely inspired. (Acts viii. 37.)
Again, in the “written instrument” God promises remission of sins to the true penitent through Jesus Christ, (Luke xxiv. 47.) Therefore repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of sins, (Acts ii. 38,) – that is, comply with the covenant, and then be active in receiving the seal,was the language of a divinely inspired apostle. And another divinely inspired minister of Christ, already knowing the man to be a true penitent, and so prepared to be active in receiving the seal of the covenant, said, “ Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts xxii. 16.) Thus we see what covenant is ratified and confirmed by this seal, on God's part.
And because the apostolic professors, in offering themselves to baptism, and in being active in receiving the seal of the covenant, did on their part thereby bind themselves to live according to all things contained in it, therefore Paul said, (Gal. iii. 27,) "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ ;' not put on the external covenant, but put on Christ ; that is, put on Christianity; so as to be entitled to the heavenly Canaan, granting their hearts to answer to their external conduct; for he adds, “ And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to promise." Heirs to what? To all the blessings of the covenant; particularly to the heavenly Canaan, of which the earthly Canaan was a type, and which, Paul had just said, was given to Abraham by promise.
And because in baptism, in the apostolic age, men professed a cordial compliance with the covenant of grace, and bound themselves in all things to be affected and act accordingly, therefore, when it was objected that Paul's doctrine of justification by faith without works, tended to make men licentious, and to encourage them to live in sin, that grace might abound, he thought it sufficient to say, “ This can never be, for we have been baptized, and so we are dead to sin and alive to God." “ Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life ; for if we have been [in baptism) planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. For sin shall not have