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Therefore I mean to adopt the words of the covenant in a different sense ; even in the sense in which an unconverted man, who is at enmity against God, may use them, and yet speak true.
M. But this is not to profess a compliance with the covenant of grace. And therefore should you make it, it could give you no right to sealing ordinances for yourself or your child. Rather is it gross and scandalous dissimulation, very much like what is practised by Arians and Socinians among the clergy of the church of England, when they subscribe the thirty-nine articles, in order to qualify themselves for a benefice upon the establishment; which practice is condemned by all honest men.
P. Be this as it may, I can, at least, with moral sincerity, promise “to walk in all his ways and keep all his commands, seeking his glory."
M. The obedience engaged by one who professes a compliance with the covenant of grace, is that kind of obedience which the covenant requires, namely, a holy obedience, an obedience which proceeds from faith and love. mean to engage this?
P. No, by no means. I only mean to engage. what an unconverted man may do, while such.*
M. But this unholy obedience is not that kind of obedience which the covenant of grace requires at your hands. So that you mean to profess neither to comply with the covenant of grace at present, nor to live such a holy life as it requires for the future. In short, you mean to use the words of a saint, with the heart of a hypocrite ; and so to come into Christ's
And do you
Other writers maintain, that such as know themselves to be unconverted, when they join in full communion with the church, are to engage that very kind of obedience required in the covenant of grace, from that time and forward till they die. They are not to profess that they have as yet loved God, believed in Christ, repented of their sins, or lived holy lives; but they are to engage that they will do all this as soon as ever they have joined with the church, and from that time forward till they die. This is Mr. Beck with's scheme, in his answer to Mr. Green. If these professors are so near being converted in their own judgments, really and honestly, that they do expect to be actually converted as soon as they have joined with the church, it is a pity they do not put off their public profession till the next Sabbath; and so be converted first: and then they might make a full profession of a present compliance with the covenant of grace, and so the whole controversy might be ended. This is always the way that honest people take when they enter into the marriage covenant, to which this writer compares this transaction. They do not come and present themselves before the priest, to enter into the marriage covenant, till they begin to love each other. And now they can with a good conscience give their consent to the whole marriage covenant, as being conscious to themselves that they already have such a heart in them. But should a pair offer to be married who had, through their whole courtship, and to that moment, been at enmity against each other, as much as Paul declares every carnal mind to be against God, (Rom. vii. 7,) it would be looked upon as a hypocritical, mad, and stupid piece of conduct.
visible church with the language of a friend, but with the heart of an enemy. Your proposed conduct may serve to give a very true and just exposition to those words of our Savior, “ Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment ? " As if he had said, “I call you friend, because you, in words, make the same profession which my real friends do. But why do you do this, when at the same time you have the heart of an enemy? Why do you act this hypocritical part ? Such dissimulation is special hypocrisy.” If you could not comply with our covenant in its plain sense, and in the sense you knew we understood it, why did not you rather come like an honest man, and say so, and desire to have it laid aside, and a new covenant, an ungracious covenant, introduced in its room; a covenant which you could make, and act an honest part ?
P. I thought there was but one covenant. I supposed the covenant you use in your church, as you understand it, was that one covenant. I thought that baptism and the Lord's supper were seals of the covenant of grace, and of no other. And so I must profess a compliance with the covenant of grace, or I cannot be received among Christ's disciples, or claim the privileges of such ; therefore I put this new sense on the words, that I might consent to them with a good conscience.
M. But the words, in this new sense, are not the covenant of grace, but an ungracious covenant; in sense and meaning exactly like the half-way covenant, in use in some churches, where they have two covenants, (a number of such churches i could name to you ;) so while you cry out against the name of a half covenant, you take the covenant of grace, and turn it into the very thing, in order to bring it down to a level with your graceless heart; and then put on a bold face, and come and claim the privileges peculiar to those who profess a compliance with the covenant of grace itself.
P. Sir, “I am persuaded God has made the Lord's supper a converting ordinance to many, and he may make it so to me."
M. And, O my friend, will you dissemble in this shocking manner, in order to get into the church, that you may come to the Lord's table, and be converted ? Is this what you mean by moral sincerity? I tell you with that plainness that becomes my office, that to come thus is not the way for a blessing, but for a curse.
For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, instead of being in the way of a blessing, exposes himself to the righteous judgment of God; agreeable to the apostle's words to the Corinthians.
P. Nay, sir, the Corinthians “turned the Lord's supper into a feast of Bacchus." And what is this to me?
M. Is not deliberate, designed dissimulation, in the most solemn, religious transaction on earth, - even in covenanting with the great God, -as bad as drunkenness?
P. Nay, sir, but I am expressly commanded to come to the Lord's supper, by Christ himself.
M. This command was given to none but Christ's disciples, and in the apostolic age none ever pretended to attend the Lord's supper, but those who had made a profession, and were admitted into the Christian church. As yet you have not made a profession, to be sure, not such a profession as God ever required; nor is the profession you now propose to make, a profession of a compliance with God's covenant, even with the covenant of grace.
P. "I am able to demonstrate, as clearly as any theorem is demonstrated in Euclid, that if an unconverted man may not avouch the Lord for his God, nor resolve to obey him, he may not say, Our Father, which art in heaven; forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” And it is damnable heresy to teach that the unconverted ought not to pray. And if they sin in praying, yet it is less sin to pray than not to pray.
M. It is a greater sin to lie than to do nothing. Lying is not a means of grace. Lying is not an appointed means of conversion. There are many things unconverted sinners may say to God, and speak true. To speak the truth to God is well, (Jam. ii. 19; ) but to say that which they know is not true, is a thousand times worse than to say nothing. (Matt. xxiii. 14. Acts v. 3.) And for a man who is sensible that it is not in his heart to forgive those who have trespassed against him, and that in fact he does not forgive them, to come into the presence of God, and pray, saying, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," is implicitly to ask God not to forgive him ; but this is a greater sin than not to pray at all, as all will allow; and it will hold true, as true as any “theorem in Euclid,” that lying is worse than nothing, in praying, in covenanting, and in every thing else.
P. Sir, on your plan, three quarters of the Christian world will be shut out of the church.
M. Were it not better, were it not more for the honor of Christ and Christianity, in the sight of pagans, Jews, and Mahometans, and in the sight of the ungodly in Christian countries, and more for the good of their own souls, that nine tenths should be shut out of the church, if need so require, than to come in by wilful lying? But for a man to profess a compliance with the covenant of grace, when he knows he has no grace, is no better; and yet without such a profession no man
can visibly enter into covenant with God. For God has no other covenant extant, of which baptism and the Lord's supper are seals; for there is but one covenant, as you allow; and to use the words of this covenant in such a sense as to make it a graceless half covenant, gives no more right to sealing ordinances, than to repeat any chapter in the Apocrypha.
P. If your scheme “should prevail, it would bring back the country into the ancient state of heathenism." *
M. And pray, sir, who do you think will have the hottest hell, a heathen who dares not lie, or a Christian who allows himself to lie in the most solemn religious transactions ? Or which will be the likeliest to be converted by the preaching of the gospel ?
P. “When men of sense and conscience find themselves denied the enjoyment of ordinances for themselves and children in our churches,” they will turn to the church of England.*
M. No man of sense or conscience will desire to make a lying profession, to get his children baptized; he would rather they never should be baptized than do such a wicked deed; and we stand ready to baptize the children of all, who can, understandingly and honestly, make that profession which God requires.
P. “Christ's visible kingdom requires in its members qualifications like itself, namely, those that are visible and knowable.”
M. And we, in receiving them, act entirely on what is visible, namely, on their public profession, attended with an answerable conversation, just as they did in the apostolic age.
P. “Every baptized person is a member of Christ's visible church; but I was baptized in my infancy, therefore I have a right to all the external privileges of a church member."
M. You remember the answer I gave to this at your second visit, namely, “Baptism alone, in the apostolic age, never made any adult person a church member without a profession; profession was first made, and then they were baptized. Those therefore that are baptized in infancy, in order to be members in this sense, must make a profession when they become adult. The New England churches, therefore, are right in demand
P. You must then have a half covenant for these half members.
M. No, by no means. They are bound by their parents' act and deed to comply with the covenant of grace itself, as soon as they become adult. With this covenant, and with this alone, do we urge them to comply. Whenever they appear to
• Mr. Beckwith.
do it, we receive them to full communion; but if they openly renounce the God of their fathers, and obstinately persist in it, they must be considered and treated as persons who have visibly renounced their baptism, in which their parents devoted them to God through Jesus Christ, to be forever his.
P. “It is certain that the gospel contains no rule whereby to determine with any certainty that a man is gracious;” and therefore
upon. M. It is equally certain the gospel contains no rule to determine with certainty that men are orthodox, or sound in the faith. They may make an orthodox profession, but we cannot be certain that they mean as they say. To be sure, if they allow themselves to use orthodox words in a heterodox sense, as you do in the business of covenanting; and the truth is, let the qualifications be what you please, it is not necessary the church should have a certainty that the candidates for admission to sealing ordinances, have them really and in the sight of God. It is sufficient, on every scheme, that they appear to have them, to a judgment of charity, regulated by the word of God.
P. Such inconsistency may by no means be charged on the Deity, as to institute an ordinance with a design that never can be carried into execution; as is the case, if Christ has not given some infallible criterion, or mark, whereby to know who may be admitted.
M. Very well, sir, be pleased to take the inconsistence to yourself, until you can be infallibly certain that the candidate for admission is really orthodox and morally sincere in the sight of God, as searcher of hearts. And in order to this, you will need the aid of that enthusiastical sort of people of whom your minister speaks; for it cannot be known, without an immediate revelation. You must get their spirit to come and tell you, whether men are as orthodox and morally sincere in the sight of God, as they profess to be before men ; for there is no infallible mark whereby you can certainly know it. An immediate revelation is absolutely necessary for this, “as I am able to demonstrate as clearly as any theorem is demonstrated in Euclid.”
P. Be this as it may; whether the church must be certain or not; yet we ourselves must be certain, that we have the necessary qualifications, or we must not come.
M. We are naturally as conscious of volitions as of speculations, of love as of belief, whenever we look into our own hearts, as all will allow. A man whose mind is wavering between Arminianism and Calvinism, inclining sometimes to one side from the corrupt bias of his heart, and sometimes to the other by the force of evidence, may not be able to say