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The case is not altered by any convictions which may be excited by the Spirit, by any anxieties of the sinner, by any of his attentions to the means of grace. If regeneration is the commencement of holiness, all the feelings and actions to that moment so far as they partake of a moral nature, must be sinful. So far as the moral governor is at all affected, he is only disgusted and offended till the very moment of the change.
(2.) It follows from this view that the unregenerate, even under their highest convictions, and however near they may have approached to the time of their conversion, still lie at the uncovenanted mercy of God. By this I do not mean that no promises are held out to them on condition of their return; I only mean that nothing which they now do has the promise of any reward or notice from God. The moral Governour of the world cannot pledge himself to reward sinful actions, nor actions barely neutral. A temporal king rnay consistently engage to recompense actions which have only a fair exterior; but for God to do this would be to relinquish his right to search the heart. While acting as temporal head of the Jewish nation, (an office however which he never for a moment stood bound by promise to discharge, but occasionally assumed in sovereign condecension to the weaknesses of the people,) he visibly rewarded actions which were good only in the sight of men; (and to present to the eye a continued picture of himself in his providence, he does the same now;) but he never promised that nation a sheaf of barley nor a hin of oil, but on condition of sincere and holy obedience. The following passage reveals the sole condition, (unless you profanely suppose two conditions, like the two prices of the petty merchant,) on which all temporal blessings were promised that people: “And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, TO LOVE THE
LORD YOUR GOD, and to serve him WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, that I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn and thy wine and thine oil."* Indeed the duty of love to God and man made so conspicuous a figure in the Mosaic code,t that this condition was necessarily implied in all the promises suspended on general obedience. I The sum of that code was this : “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart,but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”||
There is another insuperable difficulty in the way of extending the promises to the unregenerate; they are not united to Christ. The great bond of union, is faith; but "whosoever believeth-is born of God." “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature." Now it is obvious that none can partake of the promises but they who are united to Christ; for like the oil on Aaron's head that descended to the skirts of his garments, the promises are all poured upon Christ, and descend to his members only. “To Abraham and his seed were the promises made; He saith not, and to seeds, as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ;" that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith;" that the Gentiles should bepartakers of his promise in Christ." "All the promises of God in him are yea and in him amen,”-even in him who was given “for a covenant of the people." “The Scripture hath concluded all under sin that
* Deut. xi. 13–15. + Deut. vi. 5, 6. and vii. 9. and x. 16, 19. and xi. 1, 13, 22. and xiii. 3. and xix. 9. and xxx. 2, 6, 16, 20. Josh. xxii. 5, and xxiii. 11. | Deut. vi. and xi, and xxviii. and xxx. Lev. xix. 17, 18. Deut. x. 12.
the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”* How then can any promise reach those who are out of Christ? The promise chiefly contended for is one that is supposed to ensure to the unregenerate an answer to their prayers. But if such prayers are answered it must be without the influence of Christ; of course they might have been answered if Christ had never died. Why then did he die?+ If one prayer of a sinner could ascend to God without going through Christ, a whole soul might; and if one soul might, a whole world might. If in one act a sinner is accepted without a Saviour, he may be so accepted in his general character; and if one may a whole world may. Why then was a Saviour provided? But far be such a thought from us. Infinite purity cannot commune with pollution in a single instance, nor look upon a sinner but through a Mediator. What mean you to contend for the privilege of going to God without a Mediator? for the privilege of rushing into a consuming fire? for
* Isai. xlii. 6. 2 Cor. i. 20. and v. 17. Gal. iii. 14. 16, 22. Eph. iii. 6. 1 John v. 1.
† But the unregenerate, it may be said, do receive numberless blessings on Christ's account, that is, in consequence of his having undertaken the work of redemption. Every favour which raises them above the condi, tion of the damned, comes io them in this way. Granted. But there is a material difference between blessings bestowed in sovereign mercy, (that is, without any covenant obligations,) merely to put them in possession of the full advantages of probation, and containing no expressions of approbation but only of patience, and blessings conferred as a reward, a promised reward, and expressive of the approbation of God. Though in sove. reign mercy God may deal more favourably with sinners than if no chance existed for their salvation, he cannot approve of an unholy work even for Christ's sake, and cannot, in his secret transactions with the soul, express that approbation by a reward. For Christ's sake he may accept a holy action, which otherwise could not be accepted from a sinner, that is, could not be rewarded with any token of favour; but to accept unholiness on Christ's account, is no part of the Gospel plan. It is no part of that plan to accept an act of a sinner on Christ's account without his own consent that Christ should be the ground of acceptance, in other words, without his own faith. If then the prayers of those who are not united to Christ by faith are approved, accepted, answered, rewarded, (for all these terms are applicable if one is,) it is not done on Christ's account. If such prayers reach the throne of God they do not ascend through a Mediator.
the privilege of being pagans? Presume that a prayer may reach the mercy seat without going through Christ!--if this is not self-righteousness, expunge the word from the language. Further, a promise implies a reward. Now if the unregenerate are rewarded they are rewarded before they are pardoned. They receive tokens of favour while they remain objects of wrath. And for what are they rewarded? Not for the merits of Christ, (for they have no part in him,) but for their own works, works too which is not indifferent are positively sinful. This is “confusion worse confounded.” But charge not this confusion upon the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation not a promise of such a nature is found. "Ask and ye shall receive," is indeed said to all; but when you would know the meaning of that condition, the answer is, “ASK IN FAITH, NOTHING WAVERING.” It is said indeed that “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force;" but if you have yet to learn what sort of violence is meant, even an Old Testament saint can tell you: “My son, if thou wilt receive my words and hide my commandments with thee, so that thou incline thine saï unto wisdom anů apply thine heart to understanding; yea if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” In short all the promises addressed to the unregenerate are summed up in either of the following texts: “Ye shall seek me and find me when ye shall search for me with ALL YOUR HEART." "If-thou shalt seek the Lord thy God thou shalt find him if thou seek him WITH ALL THY HEART AND WITH ALL THY SOUL."*
* Deut. iv. 29. Prov, ii, 1–5. Jer. xxix. 13. Mat. xi. 12. 24, James i. 6.
THY PEOPLE SHALL BE WILLING IN THE DAY OF THY POWER.
This promise to Christ respecting his future kingdom is very emphatic. It can scarcely be tortured into any other meaning than that his power should be effectually exerted to render his people willing to submit to his empire; not indirectly by presenting to their view his miracles and the destruction of his enemies, and leaving the event to the casual operation of their self-determining power, but by a conquest of their wills or hearts through the efficacious influence of his Spirit.
In the last lecture it was proved that regeneration is an instantaneous change, from exclusive attachment to the creature, from supreme selfishness, from enmity against God, to universal love which fixes the heart supremely on him; that there is no previous abatement of the enmity or approximation towards a right temper, the heart being at one moment in full possession of its native selfishness and opposition, at the next moment in possession of a principle of supreme love to God,-acquiring thus in an in