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this is his character, with a good conscience seal this covenant, or can a Christian church allow of such hypocrisy?
3. The other point which I designed to prove was this: that there is no graceless covenant between God and man existing; that is, no covenant in which God promises religious privileges and spiritual blessings to graceless men, upon graceless conditions ; that is, to graceless qualifications, which graceless men, while such, may have ; and that, therefore, baptism and the Lord's supper cannot be seals to such a covenant. And Mr. M. in his preface seems as if he intended to give up this point also; for he calls this graceless covenant "a graceless phantom;" which is really to grant the whole which I contend for; for this is the very point I meant to prove, namely, the non-existence of such, a covenant; for God's covenant requires holiness, and nothing else; and it promises eternal life to those who comply with it. But its blessings are not promised to graceless men, as such, nor to graceless qualifications.
However, if we will read Mr. M.'s book through, we shall see that he is so far from giving up this covenant as "a graceless phantom,” that he has exerted himself to the utmost to save this “graceless phantom” from non-existence; because, without it, he knows no way in which graceless men, as such, can be admitted into the visible church of Christ. For he does not pretend that they can make a profession of godliness; yea, he is confident that none may warrantably make a profession of godliness, unless they have the highest degree of assurance. There must therefore be a graceless covenant for graceless men, as such; to profess which, requires nothing more, nothing higher, than graceless qualifications as necessary conditions of its blessings; or graceless men, as such, cannot profess a present consent to any covenant at all ; and so cannot be admitted as members of the visible church, which, he says, "is in covenant with God," or have a covenant right to covenant blessings. For they who are destitute of the qualifications necessary to a covenant right to covenant blessings, can have no covenant right to them. To say otherwise, is an express contradiction.
The method which in my former piece I took to prove the non-existence of such a graceless covenant as has been described, was, 1. To turn the reader to the covenant with Abraham, the covenant at Sinai and in the plains of Moab, and to the gospel covenant, that he might see, with his own eyes, that these were, each of them, holy covenants, which required a holy faith, a holy love, a holy repentance, a holy obedience; and that those who have these holy qualifications are entitled to eternal life. Nor is there any matter of fact in Scripture plainer than this; so that none of these were that graceless covenant for which Mr. M. contends, which promises its blessings to graceless men, as such. Nor has Mr. M. pointed out one unholy duty in that covenant with Abraham, (Gen. xvii.;) nor one unholy duty in that covenant at Sinai, or in that covenant in the plains of Moab, or in the gospel covenant ; nor has he denied, that eternal life is promised to every one who complies with God's covenant, as exhibited in these various ways, at these several times; so that my argument, from the nature of the covenant, as it is to be found in the written instrument, stands unanswered. And let it be remembered, that this argument is conclusive, without determining the nature of holiness, or faith, or repentance, or entering at all into the disputes which subsist between the Calvinists, Arminians, Neonomians, Antinomians, etc., relative to the perfection of the divine law, total depravity, regeneration, etc. For if it be proved that God's covenant, to which God's seals are annexed, promises salvation to those who consent to it, and that there is a certain connection between a real compliance with it and eternal life, then Mr. M.'s external covenant, to which he says the seals are annexed, which does not promise salvation to those who consent to it, nor establishes any certain connection between a real compliance with it and eternal life, is essentially different from God's covenant, and so is, strictly speaking, "a graceless phantom." But, 2. In order to prove the non-existence of a graceless covenant, I introduced the doctrines of the perfection of the divine law, and of total depravity, into the argument, as thus: since the divine law requires holiness, and nothing but holiness,
and since the unregenerate are totally destitute of the holiness required, there is therefore no covenant existing between God and man, with which the unregenerate, while such, do comply in the least degree. Upon which Mr. M. declares “that he is become sensible that our different sentiments, in this particular, (terms of communion,) are, in a great measure, owing to our thinking differently upon other important points ;” and so he has offered to the public his own scheme of religion, which may be summed up in these eight articles:
1. That self-love is essential to moral agency.
2. That this self-love, which is essential to moral agency, is by the divine law required of us as our duty.
3. That this self-love, which is essential to moral agency and our required duty, is, in our present guilty state, absolutely inconsistent with that love to God which the law originally required of Adam before the fall, and which is still required in the moral law.
4. That our natural total depravity arises merely and only from its being thus inconsistent with this self-love to love God.
5. That in these circumstances it is contrary to the law of God, and so a sinful thing, for us to love God.
6. That our natural total depravity, not being of a criminal nature, doth not disqualify us for sealing ordinances; as it entirely ceases to be our duty, since the fall, to love that character of God which was exhibited in the law to Adam. And more especially,
7. That now, since the fall, we are naturally inclined and disposed, our total depravity notwithstanding, to love the new character of God, which is revealed in the gospel, so that we shall, without fail, love it as soon as known, without any new principle of grace. For, these things being true, it will follow,
8. That unregenerate sinners, who are awakened and externally reformed, must be considered as being, in the temper of their hearts, as well affected to the gospel, did they but know it, as the regenerate; and their religious desires and endeavors as being of the same nature and tendency; and therefore they VOL. II.
may enter into covenant with God, and attend sealing ordinances, with as much propriety as the regenerate.
This is the sum and substance of his scheme. And in this scheme of principles we may see the fundamental grounds of his thinking differently from us in the particular point under consideration, namely, the terms of communion.
The design of the following sheets is, first of all, to review Mr. M.'s external covenant, to see if its true and real nature can be known; and then to show its inconsistency with the doctrines of the perfection of the divine law, and of total depravity, as held forth in the public formulas approved by the church of Scotland, and by the churches in New England. After which, the leading sentiments of his scheme of religion shall be considered, his mistakes be pointed out, and the opposite truths be briefly stated and proved from the word of God; that the nature of ancient apostolic Christianity may be ascertained from the infallible oracles of truth; to the end that the right road to heaven may be kept open and plain for the direction of awakened sinners, and for the confirmation and comfort of young converts.
SEVERAL PHRASES EXPLAINED, AND QUESTIONS STATED.
In order to prevent and cut off all needless disputes, and that the reader may clearly understand the following sheets, the meaning of several phrases shall be explained. Particularly,
1. By a conditional covenant is meant, a covenant which promises its blessings upon some certain condition ; so that no one can claim a covenant right to its blessings, if destitute of the requisite qualifications.
2. By the covenant of works is meant, that covenant which promises eternal life upon condition of perfect obedience, through the appointed time of trial, and threatens eternal death for one transgression.
3. By the covenant of grace is meant, that covenant which promises pardon, justification, and eternal life through Jesus Christ, to all who repent and believe the gospel; that is, to real saints, and to no others.
4. By a graceless covenant is meant, a covenant which promises its blessing to graceless men, as such, on certain conditions, or qualifications, which are professedly graceless, and which may take place in graceless men, while such.
5. By complying with a covenant is meant, doing that, or having those qualifications which, according to the tenor of the covenant, entitles to its blessings. Thus, for instance, Adam could not have been said to have complied with the covenant of works which he was under, until he had persevered in perfect obedience, through the whole time of trial; for nothing short of this would have entitled him to a confirmed state of holiness and happiness, that is, to eternal life ;