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said. If sinners would not easily understand Divine things, if they had a taste for them, it is unaccountable that darkness, blindness, or unbelief, should be represented as sinful, or as deserving punishment; or that a man should be commanded or exhorted to believe, to receive the truth, the light, &c.
Answer 4. It is the only way to evince the inexcusableness of sinners in their impenitence and unbelief, to inform them that they would easily understand Divine things if they had a taste for them: but so far from evincing that inexcusableness by telling them that they would certainly relish Divine things, if they could but understand them, that if this were true, it would infallibly prove, that they are perfectly excusable, being already the subject of “a good and honest heart,” cordially disposed to the love and practice of the truth, but prevented from such love and practice by nothing but an ignorance which is involuntary, and to them invincible, even though they ever so strongly wish to overcome it.
QUERIES AND ANSWERS.
ON THE DUTY OF
1. Does God require any worship from the unregener.
ate? And, if he does, of what nature is it,whether spiritual or formal?
That God requires all men to worship him, and that in spirit and truth, one would expect to be as obvious to every one who reads the Bible with attention, as the brightness of the sun when it shineth in its strength. The very Heathen are represented as inexcusable in not glorifying God as God; and as worthy of his displeasure for worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator.* To the people of Israel God says, “Know thou, and see, that it is an evil and bitter thing, that my fear is not in thee;"+ and thus he charged their fathers with sin, for not setting their hearts aright; and because their spirit was not stedfast with God, for not believing in God, nor trusting in his salvation.” All which expressions surely imply a* requisition of spiritual, and not of formal worhip. Indeed, no instance, I am persuaded, can be found in all the old or New Testament, of God's requiring less than the whole heart, under the idea that spiritual worship could not be required of carnal men. Never did God propose to accept of the shell, because his rival claimed, or had gotten, the kernel. He never directed men to do some external service, such as might be done by those whose hearts were enmity against God, as a substitute for that sort of obedience which could imply holy love.
No farther evidence is necessary to prove this point, than the summary of the Divine law, given by our Lord, in Matt. xxii. 7-40.5 Unless it can be proved, that all unregenerate men are free from the law of God, this must clearly evince that they ought to love God supremelyếto love their neighbors disinterestedly and to act accordingly, in the whole tenor of their conduct; and that every thing short of this is sin. * Rom. i 21, 25. f Jer. ii. 19. # Ps lxxviii. 8, 22, 32, 36, 37.
See a Sermon, entitled, “The Dependence of the Whole Law and the Prophets on the T'wo Pri: ary (Oia, anamin," by Dr. Ryo. land, of Bristol, published by desire of the Ministers of the Associa tion at Salisbury, 1798.
2. I: the inability of the unregenerate of such a nature
as to excuse them from the obligation of worshipping God in spirit and truth? And if it be, of what fault are they guilty who attend worship regularly and decently, and are moral in their conduct? And whence is
their condemnation? To this it may suffice to reply, That the inability of the sinner to love and serve God arises from, or rather consists in, his groundless aversion to God and his holy law; and the stronger that aversion is, the more guilty and inexcusable must he be; for if hating God and duty would exempt from an obligation to love him, the dev» il would be thoroughly excusable, as well as all his children. If no man is bound by the law, whose heart cannot brook subjection to the law, the law is absolutely made void, and its authority is nugatory. At best, it is no more law, but merely good advice to good men to do what they like to do; while bad men are left to do the contrary, if they like it better: and if the first great commandment be binding only so far as it suits the actual disposition of a rational creature, one would suppose the second, which is like unto it, must be relaxed in an equal degree. At least, if the sinner's aversion to the duties of the second table be strong enough, it must release him from obligation to perform them, as truly as his aversion to those of the first can exempt him from all spiritual worship of God. Thus, he that is quite opposed to the fifth commandment, may plead, “I cannot abide my parents; I despise them for their religion; I hate their puritanical way." He that is disposed to violate the sixth, may say of his neighbor, "I VOL. III.
abhor him, and cannot speak peaceably to him; and though I shall take care not to expose myself to be hanged for murder, yet I cannot help wishing him dead.” He that dislikes the seventh, may plead; “I have eyes full of adultery, and cannot cease from sin;" while another may say of the eighth, “I ought not to be bound to observe this law, for I never could keep my hands from picking and stealing." He that is blamed for violating the ninth, may exculpate himself by say. ing, “I am a liar, and the truth is not in me; and have discovered this propensity ever since I could speak." While another, to obtain exemption from the tenth (which to be sure is the strictest of all, or rather was intended to shew the spirituality of all the rest) may appropriate the character which Jeremiah gave of Jehoiakim, and say, “Mine eyes and mine heart are only for my covetousness: how unreasonable then must it be to require me either to commiserate the poor, or to refrain from envying the rich!” Any of these are quite as good excuses as it would be for sinners to say, “We are alive unto sin, but alienated from the life of God; and, therefore, nothing should be required of us which implies a right spirit towards God. We cannot love God, for our carnal minds are enmity against him; we cannot serve him, for we cannot abide subjection to his law;we cannot believe his testimony concerning his Son, for we see neither form nor comeliness in him wherefore we should desire him. The gospel is too humiliating in its import for us to stoop to it; and too Binly in its tendency for us to comply with it."
3. Is not a minister culpable, who, while he tells the peo
ple that formality in worship is detestable to God, tells them also, that this is the whole of their duty, while destitute of the Spirit?
I Would be very unwilling to excite disaffection towards a minister who appeared to have his heart right with God, and sincerely to love Christ and the souls of men, and who was concerned to promote holiness, though I might think him mistaken in some of his views; but I own I should fear that a defect on this subject would have a very prejudicial influence on any man's ministry. I would, therefore, earnestly beseech such a minister to re-examine his sentiments, and com: pare his mode of address with that of Christ and his apostles. I should request him particularly to consider the following remark, which I remember to have heard introduced in the charge at an ordination, many years ago; viz. “That if the natural tendency of his opinions led a preacher to be shy of scriptural exhortations, so that there were many addresses used by the prophets and apostles, and by Christ himself, which, instead of adopting and enforcing, he was always apt to shun, or mentioned them only for the purpose of explaining them away, this must surely be a sign that he had not got quite the right clue to orthodoxy."
I would also beseech him to examine, Whether those views, which tend to lessen the duty of sinners so exceedingly, must not tend equally to lessen the obligations of the saved to free grace and the blood of Christ? I have, ere now, proposed a like statement with the following, to persons who had such an unscriptural no