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for himself and his children, upon the same terms; no higher, nor lower, being required; so that there is no advantage, in this respect, in being in his external covenant.
3. As to the influences of the Spirit, whereby the means of grace are rendered effectual to the salvation of sinners, he holds, that no unconverted man has a covenant right to them; but that God hath mercy on whom he will have mercy; and has been at the pains to publish a labored sermon on the subject, to prove the point, and to answer objections; which was printed but six years ago ; and if this be true, the baptized cannot claim a covenant right to these influences of the Spirit, any more than the unbaptized ; and therefore, although in the book now under consideration, he says, " A child dedicated to God in baptisın is thereby brought into covenant with God, and has a promise left to it of the means of grace, and the strivings of the Spirit, in order to render them effectual for salvation; but an unbaptized child is left in the kingdom of darkness; yet it is true, on his own scheme, that such a baptized child, while in a Christless state, is under the wrath of God, the curse of the law, a child of the devil, and an heir of hell, and is dependent on God's sovereign mercy, as really as any other child. Yea, he declares, in his Sermon on Divine Sovereignty, that “sometimes those who to an eye of reason are the most likely to partake of the blessings of the gospel, are passed by; and others, of whom we have little or no hope, are recovered by sovereign grace, and enriched with saving mercy. Thus we should have thought Judas, who was one of Christ's disciples, and his constant follower, was more likely to obtain the blessing of saving mercy than Saul, who was a fierce, zealous, and open enemy to Christ ; but we see God ordered it otherwise ;” and he adds, “ This was not a thing peculiar to that generation; but it is the sovereign grace of God, by which any one, at any time, is brought to obey the truth to the saving of his soul.”
4. , As to the advantage of church discipline, Mr. M. grants, what every body knows to be too true, that the baptized are taken no more care of, generally, than the unbaptized. Nor will it mend the matter, if we should all embrace Mr. M.'s scheme, and fill up our churches more and more with ungodly men ; for gospel discipline never was, and never will be, maintained by ungospel churches ; for so long as men are themselves at heart enemies to the religion of Christ, its doctrines and duties, they will not themselves be cordially subject to its doctrines and duties; much less join heartily to bring others to be in subjection to them; as it is written, “Do men gather VOL. II.
of thorns, or figs of thistles ? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth corrupt fruit."
III. Nor are his ideas of the seals of the covenant any more consistent; for his notion of a seal is, that it is a rite of confirmation, whereby, in a mutual covenant, both parties bind themselves to comply with the covenant contained in the written instrument. But he grants, that in the written instrument, in the present case, the covenant of grace is contained, and is the principal thing; and yet, by sealing this instrument, we do not pretend to a compliance with the covenant of grace in our own consciences, or profess any such thing before the world; nay, we do not profess to have, in the lowest degree, a heart to comply with it, nor mean that the act of sealing should have this import; although in all other matters, except those of religion, this is what is meant by sealing. But instead of a compliance with the covenant of grace, which is the principal thing, according to him, contained in the written instrument, we only profess a compliance with his graceless covenant, and bind ourselves to such religious exercises and endeavors, as are consistent with a total rejection of the covenant of grace in our heart; even such a total rejection, as God threatens with eternal damnation. But of this we have spoken before, Sect. V. Thus inconsistent are Mr. M.'s notions of his external covenant, its conditions, its peculiar privileges, and its seals.
To mention but one inconsistence more in Mr. M.'s scheme: The external covenant is, according to him, the appointed means; and saving faith and conversion, or a compliance with the covenant of grace, is the end. And yet he says, " Although a person was in a state of grace, and consequently included in the covenant of grace, yet this covenant remained to be complied with ; Abraham was a true believer before, yet he must needs be circumcised.” But if Abraham was converted and justified before he was circumcised, then circumcision was not instituted as a means of his conversion, or as a prerequisite 10 his justification. Mr. M. adds, that his external, graceless covenant is also to be a means “ to train up believers in holiness ;" that is, holy Abraham, instead of those holy exercises in which he had lived above twenty years, even ever since he began a holy life, was in (Gen. xvii.) by God Almighty laid under covenant bonds, to enter into a course of unholy religious exercises, such as take place in impenitent, self-righteous sinners, to the end that he might“ be trained up in holiness.” Gal. iii. 3: “Are ye so foolish ? having begun in the spirit, are ye now
made perfect by the flesh ? " Besides, that believers should be under the bonds of two covenants, of a nature as contrary and inconsistent as sin and holiness, is what cannot be rendered consistent. And to say, that this external covenant is neither sinful nor holy, is either to say, that there is a whole system of religious exercises of heart, which are neither conformable nor unconformable with the holy law of God; which is to deny, that the law of God is a universal rule of life, contrary to the whole tenor of Scripture, (Gal. iii. 10. Matt. xxii. 37–40. 1 Cor. x. 31 ;) or, which is equally absurd, to say, that no exercise of heart is required in his external covenant; nothing but bodily motions, unconnected with the heart. deed, the very notion of two rules of duty, a holy, and an unholy one, which is essential to his notion of two covenants, is an inconsistence ; for two contrary laws, instead of binding both at once, must mutually destroy each other, and can neither of them bind to any thing. That law which is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, requires sinless perfection on pain of eternal damnation. (Compare Gal. iii. 24, with verse 10.)
And thus I have finished the remarks which I designed to make on Mr. Mather's book. There are other things contained in it equally exceptionable ; but if his external covenant, which is the foundation of his whole scheme, is proved to be an unscriptural and inconsistent thing, his whole scheme is sufficiently confuted. Besides, while the whole controversy is reduced to one single point, the common people will be under better advantages to make a judgment for themselves. But now, the only point which the reader has to determine, in order to settle the whole controversy in his own mind, is this, namely, Are baptism and the Lord's supper seals of the covenant of grace, or of a graceless covenant ?
To conclude: Let it be remembered, that "the Westminster Confession of Faith," which is adopted by the church of Scotland, " and the Savoy Confession of Faith,” which is adopted by the churches in Massachusetts and in Connecticut, declare that “sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace.” And let it be remembered, that these confessions of faith know nothing of Mr. M.'s external, graceless covenant, either name or thing. And let it also be remembered, that “ the heads of agreement which were assented to in England in the last century, by those called Presbyterians and Congregationalists, and which are adopted by the churches in Connecticut, declare, “that none shall be admitted as members, in order to communion in all the special ordinances of the gospel, but such persons as are knowing and sound in the funda
mental doctrine of the Christian religion ; without scandal in their lives; and to a judgment regulated by the word of God, are persons of visible holiness and honesty, credibly professing cordial subjection to Jesus Christ.” (Ezek. xliv. 9. Rom. x. 10.) And further, let it be remembered, that this is the plan on which these churches are professedly founded; for the general council at Saybrook, A. D. 1708, came unanimously into this result, namely, "As we assent to the foregoing heads of agreement, so we unanimously resolve, as the Lord shall enable us, to practise according to them.”
Now, the question is, whether this plan is agreeable to the word of God, or not; for we are all agreed, that the word of God is the only standard by which all creeds and confessions of human composure are to be tried. Mr. Mather has offered what he thought proper on the one side, and I have offered what to me appears needful on the other; and now it belongs to every reader to judge for himself.
And now, therefore, O reader, as this grand and important question, in which thy soul is deeply interested, as well as the souls of many thousands of others, is referred to thee, that thou mayst make a judgment for thyself, so I entreat thee, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, who are spectators in this controversy, to set aside all carnal affections and worldly considerations, and to view the whole in the light of God's holy word, and to make up a judgment for thyself, as in the presence of God, and with the same uprightness and impartiality, as though the last trumpet was to sound on the morrow, concerning this question, namely, Whether baptism and the Lord's supper are seals of the covenant of grace, or of a graceless covenant ? for on this single point turns the whole controversy. And now, may God Almighty, the Father of lights, grant unto thee a discerning mind and a sound judgment, of his infinite mercy, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
“ THE VISIBLE CHURCH IN COVENANT WITH GOD,
FURTHER ILLUSTRATED,” &c.
OF THE PLAN ON WHICH THE CHURCHES IN NEW ENGLAND
WERE ORIGINALLY FORMED.
INTERSPERSED WITH REMARKS UPON SOME THINGS ADVANCED BY MR.
SANDEMAN, ON SOME OF THE IMPORTANT POINTS IN DEBATE.
“I DO NOT MENTION THE ADMINISTRATION OF SACRAMENTS UPON THIS OCCABION
BECAUSE, THOUGH THEY HAVE SO NOBLE AND EFFECTUAL A TENDENCY TO IM. PROVE MEN'S MINDS IN PIETY, AND TO PROMOTE CHRISTIAN EDIFICATION, YET I DO NOT REMEMBER TO HAVE HEARD OP ANY INSTANCE IN WHICH THEY HAVE BEEN THE MEANS OF MEN'S CONVERSION; WHICH IS THE LESS TO BE WONDERED AT, AS THEY ARE APPOINTED FOR A VERY DIFFERENT END."
Dr. Doddridge's Sermon on Regeneration.