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as all grant. And thus a sinner cannot be said to have complied with the covenant of grace, whatever legal terrors he has had, and whatever pains he has taken in religion, until by the first act of saving faith he is united to Jesus Christ ; for nothing short of this entitles him to pardon, justification, and eternal life, according to the gospel; as is written, (John iii. 18, 36,) “He that believeth not is condemned already, and the wrath of God abideth on him.” Indeed, Mr. M. says, " that no man, short of perfection, can be properly said to have complied with the gospel.” But our Savior declares, with great solemnity, (John v. 24,) “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life.” So that on the first act of saving faith a sinner becomes entitled to eternal life. (Gal. ij. 26, 29.) “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Again, a man may be said to have complied with any supposed graceless covenant, when he has the graceless qualifications to which the blessings of that covenant are promised, but not before. So that, if a " fixed resolution to forsake all known sin, and practise all known duty," is a requisite qualification to the blessings of this covenant, then no man has a covenant right to the blessings of it until he is “come to this fixed resolution;" that is, if there is an external covenant, “distinct from the covenant of grace," promising to the visible church all the “external means of grace, and the strivings of God's Holy Spirit, in order to render them effectual for salvation," by which the visible church is constituted. And if this fixed resolution is absolutely necessary to church membership, and so to a title to these promises, then no man has a title to these promises, or " is qualified to be admitted a member of the visible church, until he is, in fact, "come to this fixed resolution : " but whenever he is “come to this fixed resolution,” he ought to be considered as having complied with the external covenant ; and so as having a covenant right to its blessings. Mr. M. says, that I have “a very singular notion about the nature of covenanting; as if it required a present compliance with every thing required by the covenant into which they enter.” This
I never said. But indeed I do think, that it is a contradiction in terms, to say that “a covenant promises certain blessings to those, and to those only, who have certain qualifications; and yet some who have not the required qualifications have a covenant right to the blessings promised.” Nor am I
singular in this notion,” for all mankind think so too. However, “that no man short of perfection can be properly said to have complied with the gospel," is a very singular notion, indeed ; and in effect makes the covenant of works and the covenant of grace precisely one and the same thing. But to proceed:
6. By entering into covenant, and engaging to perform the duties which the covenant requires, a man binds himself to be doing the duties required by the covenant, in the manner in which he engages to do them, as long as the covenant is in force. To say otherwise, is to say that a man binds himself, and yet does not bind himself, which is an express contradic
Thus the Israelites at Mount Sinai, and in the plains of Moab, bound themselves and their posterity to observe all the rites of the ceremonial law, so long as that should be in force; but when the ceremonial law was abrogated, they were no longer bound to observe its rites. And thus, if Mr. M.'s external covenant does in fact require religious duties to be done in a graceless manner, so long as sinners remain graceless, and no longer, then, as soon as ever sinners are converted, they are free from the bonds of this covenant, as much as the Jews were from the ceremonial law, at the resurrection of Christ; and so are then at liberty to enter into the covenant of grace, and to engage to live by faith on the Son of God, and to be holy in all manner of conversation, pressing towards perfection, the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus ; but not till then agreeable to the apostle's reasoning in Rom. vii. 1, 2, 3. But if this external covenant, which requires duties to be done in a graceless manner, is in fact binding for life ; if it is in this sense an everlasting covenant, as was the covenant with Abraham, (Gen. xvii.,) then no man who has entered into it is at liberty, while he lives, to cease performing duties in a graceless manner. " For the woman which hath a husband is bound by the law to her
husband so long as he liveth ; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if while her husband liveth she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress : but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law ; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” Mr. M. may now take his choice. He may say, that his external covenant, which requires duties to be done in a graceless manner, is binding for life, or it is not. If it is not binding for life, then it is self-evident that it is not an everlasting covenant, like that in Gen. xvii. If it is binding for life, then he who enters into it binds himself to perform all duties in a graceless manner as long as he lives. This difficulty against his scheme he has not removed ; nor has he ventured to look it fairly in the face.
7. By an unconditional covenant is meant, a covenant which promises its blessings to all whom it respects, without any condition at all ; so that no qualification at all, of any kind, is necessary in order to a covenant right to all its blessings. Thus God's covenant with Noah and with his seed, and with every living creature with him, even with the fowl and with every beast of the earth, that all flesh should no more be cut off by the waters of the flood, is of the nature of an unconditional grant, conveying the promised security to all, without respect to any qualification whatever.
Question 1. Is Mr. M.'s external covenant conditional, or unconditional ? If unconditional, then no qualification whatever is requisite in order to a covenant right to all its blessings. Pagans, Turks, Jews, Deists, heretics, and the scandalous, have as good a right as such to partake at the Lord's table, as to hear the gospel preached. If conditional, then,
Ques. 2. Doth Mr. M.'s external covenant require, as a condition of its blessings, holy exercises of heart, or unholy exercises of heart, or no exercise of heart at all, nothing but external bodily motions, considered as unconnected with any volition? If holy exercises of heart, then no graceless man, as such, hath a right to its blessings. If unholy exercises of heart, then it is a graceless covenant, which he says is “a graceless phantom." If no exercise of heart at all, nothing but external, bodily motions, then our hearts have nothing to
do with it; and we need not concern ourselves about it; for it is not a thing of a moral nature, and so has no concern in the business of religion.
Had Mr. M. first of all acquired determinate ideas himself, and then given an exact definition of his external covenant, which he has in a public manner been called upon to do, it would have rendered his readers' work easy ; but now it is so difficult to know what he means, that even his most learned admirers are not agreed, whether his external covenant is conditional or unconditional. However, let us hear him explain himself.
EXAMINATION OF THE EXTERNAL
THE NATURE OF MR. M.'S EXTERNAL COVENANT, AS STATED AND
EXPLAINED BY HIMSELF UNDER THE NOTION OF A CONDITIONAL COVENANT.
As our author has nowhere particularly enumerated the peculiar privileges and blessings of his external covenant, which those, and those only, are entitled to who are in it; nor particularly stated its conditions ; nor so much as let us know with certainty whether it be conditional or unconditional; so there is no way but to look through both his books, and pick up here and there what we can, in order to determine what he means, and consider it in every point of light in which he sets it.
And first, we shall consider it as a conditional covenant. And in this view of it, we may observe the following things :
1. In his first book, he expressly declares, “that the external covenant between God and the visible church is distinct from the covenant of grace.” And he speaks of this, as what he had through his whole book been “endeavoring to establish.” And in his second book, he undertakes to prove this point over again at large ; that it is “of a different tenor,” and made for "a different purpose,” from that of the covenant of grace. I mention this, because some think that he means the covenant of grace by his external covenant.
2. He affirms over and over, " that the external covenant has no respect to a gracious state of heart ;” and it is a chief design of both his books to prove this point; that so he may prove that unregenerate, graceless men, as such, may be qualified to enter into it, and may have a covenant right in the sight of God to all its blessings. So that, professedly, no conditions are required, but those which are graceless; no qualifications are required, but those which are unholy; for he affirms, that