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in the first act of faith. When a man has this conviction, as Luther in his Commentary on the epistle to the Galatians observes, "the law reveals to him his '* sin, his blindness, his misery, his impiety, ignorance, "hatred and contempt of God; death, hell, the judg"ment and deserved wrath of God." Thus conviction, before the discovery of Christ in the gospel, instead of reconciling the heart to the law, has an irritating effect* making the powerful working of sin more impetuous and sensible, than before. The apostle assures us of this from his own experience, Rom. vii. 8, 9. Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For, without the law, sin wan dead: For I was alive without the law once; that is, I lived securely, pleased with the opinion of my own righteousness: but when the commandment came in its spirituality and power; sin revived, and I died, that is, sin raged more than ever; I hated the law more than ever; because it overturned the fabrick of self-righteousness which I had been labouring to build. "When Sf sin is discovered," says Luther, "by certain bright ** beams, breaking into the heart, there is nothing more "odious and more intolerable to man than the law." All the conviction by the law to be found in man before faith in Christ, is of the same sort with that represent-ed by the apostle in the words now cited. The approbation of the law which the apostle expresses from the 14th verse to the end of the chapter, is of a quite different kind: it is the experience of a true believer; of one whom the law of the spirit of life (which may well, be understood of the gospel, called in another place, the ministration of the Sfiirit) hath made free from the. law of sin and death.
This notion of Mr. Bellamy is inconsistant with those passages of scripture, which call sinners to come to Christ, while they have no money, no good qualification, Isai. lv. 1. It is unecessary to understand the thirsting there mentioned of any other than the vain desire -and expectation of satisfaction in earthly things or in self-righteousness which is represented in the 2d verse. Wherefore do ye apend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which mtisfieth not? But according to Mr. Bellamy, none are to come to Christ, till they find they have got such a view of the holiness of God's law, as engages them to love it. It is good news to poor sinners, that Christ is come to them in the character of the Physician of souls. But when they are told, that they must have such love to holiness as is holiness itself, or that they must be in a great measure healed, before or in order to their application to him, the refreshing import of these news is quite destroyed; espeicially to those under thorough convictions of their sinful and miserable condition: which, in their apprehension, is so far from being in a more hopeful way by the application of the law, that, before they obtain a saving discovery of Christ in the gospel, they consider their case as every moment growing worse, and every moment in hazard of being beyond all possibility ofrehef. , ...;
3.' The falsehood of the opinion in question appears from the necessity of the faith of the gospel as the appointed mean of reconciling our, hearts to the law. That the faith of the gospel has this effect is certainly the doctrine of the Bible; as, by that faith, men apprehend, that they are delivered from the law as a covenant or condition of life, Rom. vi. 14. having no more to do with the law under that consideration, than a woman has to do with her deceased' husband; Rom. vii. 1,2, 3, 4. and that it only remains to be regarded in the new and engaging light of a rule of life in the hand of the blessed Mediator; requiring of believers universal obedience as a testimony of their interest in and of their gratitude for his great salvation; and as an acknowledgement of their absolute subjection to his royal authority, 1 Corinth. ix. 21. Isai. xxxiii. 22. Farther, the faith of the gospel reconciles us to the law; as, in the gospel-promises, it apprehends abundant security for all that grace which is requisite to dispose and enable us to an acceptable obedience. Faith hears God in Christ saying to us, I am the Lord who sanctifieth you. I will put my laws into your inward parts, and write them on your hearts. I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes. My grace is sufficient for you^ and my strength is made perfect in weakness.
4. We have no ground to believe that the Holy Spirit acts in fallen men, (particularly in adults) as a sanctifying Spirit, reconciling them to the law, otherwise than as a .Spirit of faith, causing them to know and receive the gospel. We are truely reconciled to the law no farther than as we are changed into the image of the Lord Christ, by beholding his glory in the glass of the gospel; which beholding we owe to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, 2 Corinth, iii. 18. » The "beginning of the new life," suys Witsius, " is not "from the preaching of the law, but of the gospel. "The gospel is the seed of our regeneration and the "law of the Spirit of life which frees us from the law "of sin and death. While Christ is preached and life •' in Christ, the Spirit of Christ secretly enters into the "souls of the elect, and creates in them the principal of "spiritual life, James i. 18. Of his aion will he begat ua "with the word of truth. Gal. iii. 2. Received ye the "Sjiirit by the hearing of faith ?\"
f Animadversiones Ireiiica, cap. xv.
Mr. Bellamy, in attempting to support this opinion, makes use of some reasonings witiiout adducing any plain testimonies of scripture; a method which is always to be suspected in treating of revealed truth. "If," says he, " the Divine Law, is a holy, just, good "and glorious law, antecedent to the consideration of "the gift of Christ, then it must of necessity appear "such, to every one whose eyes are opened to see it a as it is. He who has not such a sight of the law is "spiritually blind*." Therefore, he concludes that reconciliation of heart to the law must go before the faith of the gospel.
Answer. This argument implies, that the immediate effect of regeneration is to bring us to a heartreconciiing view of the law, as contradistinguished from the covenant of grace or the gospel. But as regeneration is a benefit of the covenant of grace, altogether unknown to the law or covenant of works; so the immediate effect of that benefit, when it is granted to any soul, is the opening of the eyes of the under* -standing to behold the wonderful things of the covenant of grace. In John i. 12, 13. the receiving of Christ is represented as that unto which we are immediately born of God, and in Ephes. i. 19. we read of the exceeding greatness of God's power towards them that believe, according to the working of his mighty power; intimating, that whenever persons are the subjects of this Almighty operation, they are believers. Regeneration is the Father's drawing us, not to the law-covenant, but to faith in Jesus Christ, John vi. 44. Nor is that which is given in regeneration to be understood of some ability only or power to believe. For, as Dr.'
* Essay on the Nature and Glory, &c. p. 21v.
Owen observes, " there is nothing mentioned in scrip* "ture concerning the communicating of power remote "or next to the mind of man* to enable him to believe "antecedently unto actual believingt" It is true, after the first act of believing, persons have habitual or indwelling grace; which, however, is not able or sufficient to produce any spiritual act, oth-erwise than by the renewed effectual working of the Spirit of Christ. This working of Christ upon and with the grace, which we have received, is called his enabling us. But with persons unregenerate, and, as to the first act of faith, it is not so. God does not educe that act out of any pre-existing habit, but works it immediately. Thus it is given us on the behalf of Christ to believe on him. But how is it given us? By the power of God working in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure, Philip i. 29. ii. 13. Such is the regeneration which we read of in scripture; - but of another regeneration, previous to tins, we do not read.
Again, it may be observed, that the principle of this argument tends to make the gospel-revelation unnecessary. The law, considered antecedently to the gift of Christ, must be the covenant of works: for it was only in that view that man had to do with the law antecedently to the gift of Christ. Now if, through the regenerating influence of "the Spirit, men get such a view of the law-covenant, as delivers them from their enmity against God; then it will follow, that men not only may be, but actually are saved by the law or covenant of works internally revealed in their minds, or by a spiritual view of the glory of God manifested in that covenant. Thus the law of works is supposed to
t On the Spirit, book third, chap. v. sect. 36.