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In the days of Joshua, that eminent type of Christ, faith and works are happily reconciled; and whilst they walk hand in hand, Israel is invincible, the greatest difficulties are furmounted, and the land of promise is conquered, divided, and enjoyed.
Under the next judges faith and works feldom meet; but as often as they do, a deliverance is wrought in Ifrael. Working believers carry all before them : They can do all things thro’ the Lord Arengthening them: They are little omnipotents : but if they suffer the antinomian Delilah to cut of their locks, you may apply to them the awful words of David (spoken to magiftrates, who forsake the way of righteousness): I have said, Ye are Gods, and all of you are children of the most High; but ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes; like Zimri or Corah, Dathan or Abiram.
The character of Samuel, the last of the judges, is perfect. From the cradle to grave he believes and works ; he serves God and his generation. His fons, like those of Eli, halt in practice, and their faith is an abomination to God and man. David believes, works, and kills the blafpheming Philistine. He Hides into antinomian faith, wantonly reduces a married woman, and perfidiously kills an honest
Solomon follows him in the narrow path of working faith, and in the broad way of speculative and practical antinomianism. The works of the son correspond with those of the father. Happy for him, if the repentance of the idolatrous king, equalled that of his adulterous parent!
In the days of Elijah, the gates of hell seemed to have prevailed againit the church. Queen Jezebel had cut off the prophets of the Lord, and appointed 400 chaplains to his majesty king Ahab, who shared the dainties of the royal table, and therefore found it easy to demonftrate, that pleading for Baal was orthodoxy, and prosecuting honest Naboth as a blalphemer of God and the king, was an instance of true loyalty. But even then all were not loft : Seven thousand men shewed
their faith by their works; they firmly believed in Jehovah, and steadily refused bowing the knee to Baal.
In the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah, wickedness, persecution, and imaginary good works prevailed under a low of zeal for the temple, and of regard for the people of God. But even then also, there was a small remnant of believing and working souls, who fet fire to the Itubble of wickedness during the pious reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah.'
Follow the chosen nation to Babylon. They all profess the faith ftill: but how few believe and work! Some do however : and by their work of faith and parience of hope they quench the violence of the fire, and stop the mouths of lions : and what is more extraordinary ftill, they strike with astonishment a fierce tyrant, a Nebuchadnezzar ; they fill with wonder a cowardly king, a Darius : and disarming the former of his rage, the latter of his fears, they sweetly force them both to confess the true God among their idolatrous courtiers, and, throughout their immense dominions.
In the days of Herod the double delusion is at the height, John the baptift boldly bears his teftimony against it in the wilderness, and our Lord upon the mount, in the temple, and every where. But alas! what is the consequence? By detecting the antinomianism of the pharisees, and the pharisaism of antinomians, he makes them desperate. The spirit of Cain rises with tenfold fury against an innocence so far superior to that of Abel. Pharisees and Herodians must absolutely glut their malice with his blood. He yields to their rage ; and while he puts away fin by the sacrifice of himself, he condescends to die a martyr for the right faith, and the true works : he feals as a dying priest the truth of the two gospel axioms, which he had so often sealed as a living prophet, and continues to seal as an eternal Melchifedec.
The apostles, by precept and example, powerfully enforce their Lord's doctrine and practice. Their lives are true copies of their exhortations : Their deepest sermons are only exact descriptions of their
behaviour. It is hard to say which excite men most to believe and obey, their seraphic discourses or their angelic conduct. Their labours are crowned with general success. Judaism and heathenism are every where ftruck at, and fall under the thunder of their words of farth, and the shining power (might I not say the lightening) of their works of love. Thus the world is urned upside down before faith and works ; the times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord; and earth, cursed as it is, becomes a paradise for obedient believers.
Hell trembles at the revolution; and before all is loft, Satan hastens to transform himself into an angel of light. In that favourable disguise, he puts his usual ftratagem in execution, againit the believing, working, and fuffering church. He instills speculative faith, pleads for relaxed manners, puts the badge of contempt upon the daily cross, and gets the immense body of the Gnoftics and Laodiceans into his snare. Sad and fure is the consequence. The genuine works of faith' are neglected : Idle works of men's invention are fubftituted for those of God's commandments. And fallen churches, thro' the smooth way of antinomianism, return to the covert way of pharifaism, or to the broad way of infidelity.
Such was the deplorable condition of the western church when Luther appeared. True faith was dethroned by superstitious fancy: and all the works of the former were well nigh choaked by the thorns that sprang from the latter. The zealous reformer with his marp scythe juftly cut them down thro' a considerable part of Germany. His terribly-fuccessful weapon, which had already done some execution in the Netherlands, France and Italy, might have reached Rome itself, if the effects of his unguarded preaching had not dreadfully broke out around him in the North.
There the balance of the evangelical precepts was loft. Solifidians openly prevailed. Our Lord's sermon upon the mount, and St. James's cpiftle, were either explained away, or wished out of the bible.
The amiable, practicable law of Christ was perpetually confounded with the terrible, impracticable law of inrocence : and the avoidable penalties: of the former, were injudiciously represented as one with the dreadful curse of the latter, or with the abrogated ceremonies of the Mofaic dispensation. Then the law was publicly wedded to the devil, and poor protestant folifidians were taught to bid equal defiance to both.
The effect foon answered the cause. Lawless believers, known under the name of Anabaptifts, arose in Germany. They fancied themselves the dear, the elect people of God; they were compleat in Chrift; their election was absolutely made fure; all things were theirs ; and they went about in religious mobs to deliver people from legal bondage, and bring them into gospel-liberty, which, in their opinion, was a liberty to despise all laws divine and human, and to do, every one, what was rigkt in his own eyes. Luther was shocked and cried out; but the mischief was done, and the reformation disgraced : nor did he perfeveringly apply the proper remedy pointed out in the minutes, falvation not by the merit of works, but be the works of faith as a condition.
Nevertheless he was wife enough to give up the root of the mischief in the Lutheran articles of religion, prefented to the Emperor Charles the Vth at Augsburg, whence they were called the Augsburgconfeffion. In the XIIth of those articles, which treats of repentance, we find thefe remarkable words, “ We teach touching repentance, that those who have finned after bapti/m, may obtain the forgivenes of their fins AS OFTEN As they are converted,” &c. Again, “ We condemn the Anabaptists, who say, that those who have been once justified can no more lose the holy spirit.”.
This doârine clearly opened, and frequently inforced, might have flopped the progress of antinomianism. But alas! Luther did not often infiit upon it, and fometimes he seemed even to contradi&t it. In the mean time Calvin came up; and tho? I must do him the justice to acknowledge, that he feldom went
the length of modern Calvinists in speculative antinomianilm, yet he made the matter worse by advancing many unguarded propofitions about absolute decrees, and the necessary, final perseverance of backNiding believers.
This doctrine, which, together with its appendages, so nicely reconciles Baal and free Grace ; a little, or [if the backslider is fo minded) a good deal of the world, and heaven; this flesh. pleasing doctrine, which slyly parts faith and works, while it decently unites Christ and Belial, could not but be acceptable to injudicious and carnal Protestants : and to make it pass with others, it was pompoully decorated with the name of the doctrine of grace, and free grace-preachers, as they called themselves, infinuated that St. James's doctrine of Faith being dead without works, was a doctrine of wrath, an uncomfortable antichristian doctrine, which none but " proud jufticiaries” and rank papists could maintain. Time would fail to mention all the books that were indireally written against it ; or to relate all the abuse that was indirectly thrown upon these two propositions of St. Paul, Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap, and If ye live after the flesh ye shall die.
Let it fuffice to obierve, that by these means the hellish fower of antinomian tares prevailed. Thousands of good men were carried away by the stream, And, what is more surprising still, not a few of the wife and learned, favoured, embraced, and defended the antinomian delusion.
Thus what Luther's solifidian zeal had begun, and what Calvin's predestinarian mistakes had carried on, was readily completed by the synod of Dort; and the antinomianism of many protestants, was not less confirmed by that assembly of calvinistic divines ; than the pharifaism of many papitts, had been before by the council of Trent,
It is true that as some good men in the church of Rome, have boldly withstood pharisaical errors, and openly pleaded for salvation by grase thro' faith : fo