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passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call," etc.
And the famous Mr. Stoddard, in his Treatise concerning the Nature of Conversion, says, “If men do not act from gracious motives, and for gracious ends, they do not the thing that God commands; there is no obedience to God in what they do; they do not attend the will of God.” And, “There is an opposition between saving grace and common grace: common graces are lusts, and do oppose saving grace. Making his own salvation his end, is contrary to making the glory of God his last end : hating sin, not because it wrongs God, but because it exposes him, is resisting the command of God : bringing every thing into subserviency to his own ends, is opposite to the bringing every thing into a subserviency to God's glory. The man that hath but common grace, goeth quite in another path than that which God directs unto : when he goeth about to establish his own righteousness, he sets himself against that way of salvation which God prescribes. (Rom. x. 3.) There is an enmity in the ways of such men as have but common grace, to the ways that godly men take.” Thus Mr. Stoddard.
And now, my parishioner, I appeal to you, to judge whether these quotations, out of the confession of faith and Mr. Stoddard, “are not as near of kin to those shocking principles, which you look upon of the most dangerous tendency of any that were ever broached in the Christian world, Deism itself not excepted,” as any thing I ever advanced from the pulpit or
And if some of the important doctrines of Christianity are more obnoxious to you than Deism itself, – that is, if you are nearer a Deist than you are a Christian, certainly you are not fit to be a church member, or to offer your child in baptism, or to partake of the Lord's supper, according to your own principles; for you say, that men must be orthodox. cannot deny, that the church of Scotland, and the churches in New England, have as good a right to judge for themselves what principles are agreeable to the word of God, and of importance to be professed, as you have to judge for yourself. We are willing, that those who look upon the doctrines contained in our public formulas as being worse than Deism, should hold communion among themselves; but we think it an inconsistency in them to desire to be members of our churches.
P. “Unholy obedience is a contradiction in terms; for holiness and obedience are the same thing." M. In saying this, you condemn Mr. Mather's scheme of
an external, graceless covenant, by wholesale. However, strictly speaking, what you say is true. And in this view Mr. Stoddard's words are exactly right, (speaking of the unregenerate :) “ There is no obedience to God in what they do." And thus it is said by the church of England, in her thirtynine articles, “ Works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God. Yea, rather, for that they are not done as God hath commanded and willed them to be done, we doubt not but that they have the nature of sin.” (See article 13.) Do you, sir, believe this?
P. No ; far from it. Rather I believe, that "all the obedience of an unconverted man is holy obedience.” Yea, I believe, that "the obedience of an unrenewed man, so far forth as it is obedience, is as holy as any that a gracious man can yield. Though it is but a partial and imperfect obedience, yet just so much as there is of obedience, just so much holiness. And, “ A measure of strength is given him by God, to walk in all his ways and keep all his commands, seeking his glory." And, in any other view, I must acknowledge that the unconverted covenanter would be “perjured." For to swear to obey a covenant which we cannot obey, is perjury. And therefore, had the unconverted no power to yield a holy obedience, it would be perjury in them to enter into covenant engagements to do it.
M. If I understand you right, and you are in earnest in this declaration, then you believe that the unconverted are, in a measure, really holy, and therefore are not totally depraved, as is asserted in the confession of faith adopted by our churches. And if this be so, then you are not sound in the faith. And those who are not sound in the faith, have no right to church privileges, according to your own principles. You, therefore, cannot consistently claim church privileges of any of our churches; indeed, you may think our confession of faith not agreeable to the word of God, and you may think the same of the articles of the church of England. If, therefore, you would act a consistent part, you should join neither with is nor them ; but rather form a new church, on a new plan, with those who think as you do; for it is absurd for those who differ in essentials to walk together as brethren. And to profess our belief in articles of religion which we do not believe, for the sake of church privileges, is as gross dissimulation in the laity among iis, as it is in the clergy in England, who subscribe the thirty-nine articles of that church, in order to enjoy a benefice, when they do not believe them, as is the case with the Arians, Socinians, and Arminians, among
them. In a word, if you really disbelieve the doctrines of total depravity, and of divine sovereignty, you can by no means consistently join with us.
P. “These principles deny the present state of the unregenerate to be a state of probation: they deny him to be a moral agent: they deny the justice of punishment for any sin."
M. So says Dr. Taylor, so says Dr. Whitby, so says Dr. Stebbins, and all other Pelagian and Arminian writers I ever read. They all agree, that the doctrines of total depravity and of divine sovereignty, as held by the Calvinists, are absolutely inconsistent with moral agency. They have said it a thousand times, and they have been answered as often. Thus stands the controversy. “ Because I have no heart to love God, therefore I cannot be bound in duty to love him.” 6 Because I am dead in sin, and opposite to all good, therefore that law which says, 'Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things,' cannot justly reach me.” “Because we all, with one consent, excuse ourselves from coming to the gospel feast, therefore we are not in a state of probation.” “Because God says, ' May I not do what I will with my own?' therefore we may say, we are not in duty bound to regard his law, or hearken to his gospel ” — reasoning which, if it has weight in it, proves the fundamental maxims of the Bible to be false ; for that book teaches, that we may be dead in sin, and yet deserve to be damned for that sin; that God is not obliged in justice, or by promise, to grant converting grace to any impenitent sinner; and yet it is the duty of such sinners every where to repent. But you may, at your leisure, see my sentiments on these subjects at large, and my confutation of Mr. Sandeman's scheme of religion, both at once, in a book lately printed at Boston, entitled An Essay on the Nature and Glory of the Gospel.
However, I will readily grant, that there is an absolute necessity of denying total depravity on the one hand, or of giving up the covenant of grace, and substituting a graceless covenant in its room, on the other hand, in order to open a door for the unconverted, as such, to enter into covenant with God, and join in full communion with the church, consistently with truth and honesty. But yet so it happens, that on either plan men cannot consistently be admitted into our churches. For if they deny total depravity, they must be deemed not sound in the faith, according to our approved standard ; and therefore must not be admitted. And if they substitute a graceless covenant in the room of the covenant of grace, they go off from the plan on which our churches were originally
founded ; and so, consistently, cannot be members of them. We must have a new confession of faith, and a new plan of church order, and form new churches, before either of these ways will answer the end. Besides, if the unconverted have a degree of real holiness, and do, though in an imperfect manner, yet really comply with the covenant of grace, then the unconverted are, in fact, entitled not only to the seals, but also to all the blessings of the covenant of grace ; even to pardon, justification, and eternal life; than which nothing can be more contrary to the whole tenor of Scripture, which every where declares all such to be under the wrath of God and curse of the law, condemned already, liable to be struck dead and sent to hell at any moment. (John iii. 18, 36. Gal. iii. 10.)
P. The unconverted Israelites made a profession of the very covenant you plead for ; and why cannot we?
M. You can, if you will do as they did, namely, “flatter him with your mouth, and lie unto him with your tongues.” But then you ought not to take it ill if the true nature of your conduct is, from the word of God, set in a clear light before you.
P. But I do take it ill; indeed I do. Particularly the rebuke you gave me for dissimulation, in my last visit, I do not take well at your hands ; for I am not the guilty man.
M. The man I rebuked for dissimulation was my parishioner, whose conversation with me was printed in the New Haven Dialogue ; and who, in his first visit, told me, "that he did not mean to profess a compliance with the covenant of grace, when he owned the covenant ; on which I let him know that he, for that very reason, had no right, by virtue of that profession, to claim the seal of the covenant of grace for his child; for this very same man afterwards came again to me to baptize that very same child, and put on a bold face, and declared, that "he had entered into that covenant," and therefore had a right to the seal of it.
P. “I shall not trouble myself to defend this parishioner against the charge of dissimulation.” But I am not the same
M. If you are not the same man, why do you take the charge of dissimulation to yourself now? Or why did you pretend to be the same man then ? Why did you call yourself by the same name? And why did you begin with me in these words ? — “Sir, I find the dialogue which passed between us the other day is printed.” Is it not evident, by this, that you intended then, that I should consider you as the very same man? But no sooner do I find you contradicting yourself, and
rebuke you for it, but you cry out, “ This dialogue did not pass between you and me." To use your own words, sir, “it is easy to see your unlucky mistake." And “it is really pleasant enough" to see you drove to a necessity of changing your name, in order to get rid of the fault, which otherwise you must, even in your own judgment, be reputed guilty of. We have heard of men's changing their names when pursued for their crimes, that they might avoid their pursuers; but did you before now ever hear of a parishioner that went to his minister to get his child baptized, that did so ?
P. Be this as it may, the grand question is this, namely: "Can a man, who knows he has no grace, profess a compliance with the covenant of grace, without wilful lying ?” he cannot ; I say, he can. Indeed, once I was of your opinion; and this was the reason I did not join in full communion ; but I am of another mind now. And I can, thongh I know I have no grace, yet make a profession of a compliance with the covenant of grace, as honestly as any man; and to charge any one with wilful lying for this, is virtually to charge the ministers and churches through the land with that horrid crime.
M. As this is a matter of importance, it deserves to be thought of seriously, and to be thoroughly looked into ; and if you will be serious only long enough to understand the proposition, you will be forced to believe it.
By the covenant of grace, we mean that covenant which promises pardon and eternal life to those who comply with it. By a compliance with it, we mean saving grace; that is, such gracious exercises as are infallibly connected with salvation ; such as repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, which imply supreme love to God and Christ in their very nature, and a cordial disposition to a life of sincere obedience to all God's commands.* By one who has no grace, we mean one who is entirely destitute of this repentance, faith, love, and new obedience, which are connected with eternal life; being dead in sin.
When, therefore, it is said, that “a man, who knows that he has no grace, cannot profess a compliance with the covenant of grace, without wilful lying,” the truth of the proposition is as
* A saving compliance with the covenant of grace is what does not, the least degree, take place in the unregenerate, but does actually take place in all true believers. For although it implies saving grace, yet it does not imply perfect holiness. Those, therefore, who are true believers, may make a profession honestly; but those who are not, cannot. To say that a true believer cannot make a profession honestly, because he is not perfectly holy, supposes that a saving compliance with the covenant of grace implies perfect holiness; which is not true, as is granted on all hands,