« AnteriorContinuar »
it with them of old who turned the grace of God into lasciviousness; or from the doctrine of it countenanced themselves in their ungodly deeds. Even from the beginning the whole doctrine of the Gospel, with the grace of God declared therein, was so abused. Neither were all that made profession of it, immediately rendered holy and righteous thereby. Many, from the first, so walked as to make it evident that their belly was their God, and their end destruction. It is one thing to have only the conviction of truth in our minds, another to have the power of it in our hearts. The former will produce an outward profession, the latter only effect an inward renovation of our souls. However, I must add three things unto this concession.
1. I am not satisfied that any of those who at present oppose this doctrine, do in holiness or righteousness, in the exercise of faith, love, zeal, self-denial, and all other Christian graces, surpass those who in the last ages, both in this and other nations, firmly adhered unto it, and who constantly testified unto that effectual influence which it had into their walking before God: nor do I know that any can be named amongst us in the former ages, who were eminent in holiness, and many such there were, who did not cordially assent unto that imputation of the righteousness of Christ which we plead for. I doubt not in the least, but that many who greatly differ from others in the explication of this doctrine, may be and are eminently holy, at least sincerely so, which is as much as the best can pretend unto. But it is not comely to find some others who give very little evidence of their 'diligent following after that holiness, without which no man shall see God,' vehemently declaiming against that doctrine as destructive of holiness, which was so fruitful in it in former days.
2. It doth not appear as yet in general, that an attempt to introduce a doctrine contrary unto it hath had any great success in the reformation of the lives of men. Nor hath personal righteousness or holiness as yet much thrived under the conduct of it, as to what may be observed. It will be time enough to seek countenance unto it by declaiming against that which hath formerly had better effects, when it hath little more commended itself by its fruits.
3. It were not amiss, if this part of the controversy might
amongst us all, be issued in the advice of the apostle James, chap. ii. 18. Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.' Let us all labour that fruits may thus far determine of doctrines, as unto their use, unto the interest of righteousness and holiness. For that faith which doth not evidence itself by works, that hath not this vdiv, this index which James calls for, whereby it may be found out and examined, is of no use nor consideration herein. Secondly, The same objection was from the beginning laid against the doctrine of the apostle Paul; the same charge was managed against it, which sufficiently argues, that it is the same doctrine which is now assaulted with it. This himself more than once takes notice of, Rom. iii. 31. Do we make void the law through faith?' It is an objection that he anticipates against his doctrine of the free justification of sinners, through faith in the blood of Christ. And the substance of the charge included in these words is, that he destroyed the law, took off all obligation unto obedience, and brought in Antinomianism. So again, chap. vi. 1. 'What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?' Some thought this the natural and genuine consequence of what he had largely discoursed concerning justification which he had now fully closed, and some think so still. If what he taught concerning the grace of God in our justification be true, it will not only follow, that there will be no need of any relinquishment of sin on our part, but also a continuance in it must needs tend unto the exaltation of that grace, which he had so extolled. The same objection he repeats again, ver. 15. What then, shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?' And in sundry other places doth he obviate the same objection, where he doth not absolutely suppose it, especially, Eph. ii. 9, 10. We have therefore no reason to be surprised with, nor much to be moved at, this objection and charge, for it is no other but what was insinuated or managed against the doctrine of the apostle himself, whatever enforcements are now given it by subtlety of arguing or rhetorical exaggerations. However, evident it is, that there are naturally in the minds of men efficacious prejudices against this part of the mystery of the gospel, which began betimes to manifest themselves, and ceased not until they had corrupted the
whole doctrine of the church herein. And it were no hard matter to discover the principal of them, were that our present business; however it hath in part been done before.
3. It is granted that this doctrine both singly by itself, or in conjunction with whatever else concerns the grace of God by Christ Jesus, is liable unto abuse by them in whom darkness and the love of sin is predominant. For hence from the very beginning of our religion, some fancied unto themselves that a bare assent unto the gospel, was that faith whereby they should be saved, and that they might be so, however they continued to live in sin, and a neglect of all duties of obedience. This is evident from the epistles of John, James, and Jude, in an especial manner. Against this pernicious evil we can give no relief, whilst men will love darkness more than light, because their deeds are evil. And it would be a fond imagination in any to think, that their modellings of this doctrine after this manner, will prevent future abuse. If they will, it is by rendering it no part of the gospel; for that which is so was ever liable to be abused by such persons as we speak of.
These general observations being premised, which are sufficient of themselves, to discard this objection from any place in the minds of sober men, I shall only add the consideration of what answers the apostle Paul returns unto it, with a brief application of them unto our purpose.
The objection made unto the apostle was, that he made void the law, that he rendered good works needless, and that on the supposition of his doctrine, men might live in sin, unto the advancement of grace. And as unto his sense hereof, we may observe,
1. That he never returns that answer unto it, no not once, which some think is the only answer, whereby it may be satisfied and removed; namely, the necessity of our own personal righteousness and obedience or works in order unto our justification before God. For that by faith without works, he understandeth faith and works, is an unreasonable supposition. If any do yet pretend, that he hath given any such answer, let them produce it; as yet it hath not been made to appear. And is it not strange that if this indeed were his doctrine, and the contrary a mistake of it, namely, that our personal righteousness, holiness, and works had an
influence into our justification, and were in any sort our righteousness before God therein, that he who in an eminent manner every where presseth the necessity of them, sheweth their true nature and use, both in general and in particular duties of all sorts, above any of the writers of the New Testament, should not make use of this truth in answer unto an objection wherein he was charged to render them all needless and useless? His doctrine was urged with this objection as himself acknowledged, and on the account of it rejected by many, Rom. x. 3, 4. Gal. ii. 3. He did see and know that the corrupt lusts and depraved affections of the minds of many would supply them with subtle arguings against it. Yea, he did foresee by the Holy Spirit, as appeareth in many places of his writings, that it would be perverted and abused. And surely it was highly incumbent on him to obviate what in him lay, these evils, and so state his doctrine upon this objection, that no countenance might ever be given unto it. And is it not strange that he should not on this occasion, once at least, somewhere or other, give an intimation, that although he rejected the works of the law, yet he maintained the necessity of evangelical works, in order unto our justification before God as the condition of it, or that whereby we are justified according unto the gospel? If this were indeed his doctrine, and that which would so easily solve this difficulty, and answer this objection, as both of them are by some pretended, certainly neither his wisdom, nor his care of the church under the conduct of the infallible Spirit, would have suffered him to omit this reply, were it consistent with the truth which he had delivered. But he is so far from any such plea, that when the most unavoidable occasion was administered unto it, he not only waves any mention of it, but in its stead affirms that which plainly evidenceth that he allowed not of it. See Eph. ii. 9, 10. Having positively excluded works from our justification, 'not of works lest any man should boast,' it being natural thereon to inquire, to what end do works serve, or is there any necessity of them? instead of a distinction of works legal and evangelical in order unto our justification, he asserts the necessity of the latter on other grounds, reasons, and motives, manifesting that they were those in particular which he excluded, as we have seen in the consideration of the place.
Wherefore, that we may not forsake his pattern and example in the same cause, seeing he was wiser and holier, knew more of the mind of God, and had more zeal for personal righteousness and holiness in the church, than we all, it we are pressed a thousand times with this objection, we shall never seek to deliver ourselves from it, by answering that we allow these things to be the condition, or causes of our justification, or the matter of our righteousness before God, seeing he would not so do.
2. We may observe, that in his answer unto this objection, whether expressly mentioned or tacitly obviated, he insisteth not any where upon the common principle of moral duties, but on those motives and reasons of holiness, obedience, good works alone, which are peculiar unto believers. For the question was not, whether all mankind were obliged unto obedience unto God and the duties thereof by the moral law; but whether there were an obligation from the gospel upon believers unto righteousness, holiness, and good works, such as was suited to affect and constrain their minds unto them. Nor will we admit of any other state of the question but this only; whether upon the supposition of our gratuitous justification through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, there are in the gospel grounds, reasons, and motives, making necessary, and efficaciously influencing the minds of believers unto obedience and good works; for those who are not believers, we have nothing to do with them in this matter, nor do plead that evangelical grounds and motives are suited or effectual to work them unto obedience; yea, we know the contrary, and that they are apt both to despise them and abuse them. See 1 Cor. i. 23, 24. 2 Cor. iv. 4. Such persons are under the law, and there we leave them unto the authority of God in the moral law. But that the apostle doth confine his inquiry unto believers, is evident in every place wherein he maketh mention of it, Rom. vi. 2, 3. How shall we that are dead unto sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ,' &c. Eph. ii. 10. For we are the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.' Wherefore, we shall not at all contend what cogency unto duties of holiness there is in gospel motives and reasons unto the minds of unbelievers, whatever