« AnteriorContinuar »
have committed to him, against that day. Though our frames of mind may be very mutable, Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, to-day, and for ever. In whom, though now we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice. He has undertaken for us; he will never leave us nor forsake us ; and therefore we may hold fast our confidence unto the end. The more cheerfully and firmly we trust in him, the more shall we increase in holiness and in comfort. This the scripture teaches; this our own experience confirms; we may therefore go on our way rejoicing. But now let us look on the other side of the question.
We depend upon our sincere obedience for justification ; but, alas ! how shall we know whether we have any real sincerity or not?
We have yet many corruptions remaining, great defects in our duties, frequent violations of our good purposes and designs ; and the doubt is, can these things be consistent with sincerity ? Our consciences upbraid us, that we do not do what we can, in our endeavours after sincere obedience. And hence what a dreadful perplexity, what diffidence, darkness, and legal terrors, must every serious person be thrown into, by these principles ? Here is no place (as upon the other principles) to commit this case also to Christ, and, in a
of cheerful dependence and diligence, to expect grace and sincerity from him ; for upon these principles, we must be well assured of our actual sincerity, before we can ever look to Christ for acceptance; and therefore there is no place here for comfort, or for quiet, except what proceeds from a careless inadvertency. However, supposing we may find some satisfying evidence of our sincerity, at certain seasons, under special reformations and enlargements, what will become of our hopes when a contrary frame prevails ? Can we then
We must, upon
flatter ourselves with our sincerity ? Must not our hopes and fears keep pace with our frames; and our whole life be a dreadful fluctuating between both, with respect to the infinite, eternal concern before us? And is not this to be called the spirit of bondage again to fear ?
What room can there be, upon this plan, for the Spirit of adoption ? How can the Spirit witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God ? How can we experience the sealings of the Holy Spirit, or the earnest of our future inheritance ?
How can we have the full assurance of hope ? Or how can we make our calling and election sure ? those principles, give up all pretensions to these glorious comforts, benefits, and privileges of the children of God, while our hope is built upon this precarious foundation, and depends upon the doubtful and uncertain performance of persevering, sincere obedience. Let us suppose the best which can be supposed, that we should make a comforting and encouraging progress
in a life of sincere obedience ; yet how do we know, but death may seize us in an unguarded hour, and find us actually playing the hypocrite? In this case, what will become of all our religious duties and all our hopes ? And what will become of our souls to all eternity ? I must confess, sir, I could see nothing before me but horror and despair, if I had no better foundation of confidence and hope towards God than my own righteousness.
Every experienced christian must acknowledge, that the chief comfort of a religious life flows from the lively actings of love to God in Christ. But how can there be the comfort of love, when, at the best, we are in an awful suspense whether God be our friend or our enemy ? . What grounds of horror (instead of
the pleasing exercise of love) must we constantly experience, while we are afraid we have an infinite enemy to deal with! What strangers, in this case, must we be to the joy which flows from a refreshing view, that this God is our God, and will be our guide even to death, and our portion for ever ! How unacquainted must we be with the sublime pleasures of communion with God, while we approach his presence
under such an uncertain prospect of his favour, and under grounds for prevailing fear of an eternal separation from him! And what aggravates the case is, that this not only now is, but must continue to be, our dark and disconsolate condition, as long as we live, if we remain under the governing influence of these principles I am now pleading for.
I inay add to this, that a cheerful progress in all gospel holiness is necessary to our true comfort and happiness, while we are here in this vale of tears. In keeping of God's coinmands there is a great reward. “ This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.” But I have shown you already, that this scheme I am opposing affords no principle of new obedience, allows no foundation for a comfortable progress in the divine life. Here is no certainty of forgiveness to be obtained ; and therefore no delightful incentive to the mortification of our lusts and corruptions. Upon this plan, we are in perpetual danger of the curse of the law, on account of our defects; and there is therefore no room for that pleasure which would otherwise be found in running the way of God's commands. Here can be no assured confidence in the Divine assistance or acceptance, no absolute affiance in the riches of God's
free grace in Christ ; and therefore nothing to melt the heart and conscience into love and subjection ; nothing to inflame our affections, and fill us with
gratitude to God for blessing us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ Jesus ; nothing to excite us to live to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved. The principles of this scheme are slavish, and the obedience must be of the same kind with the principles from whence it flows; and consequently we must be utter strangers to that love, delight, and satisfaction, which children might find in the service of their heavenly Father, so long as our obedience is thus excited from fear and constraint ; or at best only from such uncertain hopes as wholly depend upon our own righteousness, as the condition of acceptance. Blessed be God, the gospel teaches us a more pleasant and delightful religion, the service of love, and the obedience of faith, which is truly its own reward.
And now, sir, suffer me something freely to expostulate with you on this subject. Do you not know, that the doctrine which you and your author plead for, is substantially the same with the popish doctrine upon the head of remission of sins and acceptance with God, and that this very doctrine was one of the greatest occasions of our glorious reformation from popery ? Read, sir, the many elaborate treatises written by our first reformers, and you will find this doctrine set in its proper light.
You will find all your author's cavils, shifts, and evasions justly exposed ; all his arguments distinctly answered ; and the dangerous error stripped of all that plausible dress with which it now again makes its appearance. You will find, that the doctrine of justification was esteemed by all our excellent reformers, as well as by Luther ; Articulus stantis aut cadentis ecclesiæ," the article by which the church must either stand or fall.” And shall we again build up those things which that glorious army of martyrs destroyed ? Shall we again revive popery in one of its most considerable branches ? Is not this to open the door to other popish delusions and practical errors, as penances, pilgrimages, a monastic life, celibacy, and other austerities, to supply the defects of our sincere obedience, and patch up a righteousness of our own to justify us?
And why must this hydra be digged out of its grave, and revived ? What advantage can be hoped for by this scheme? Were this doctrine true, would not sincete obedience, done from a principle of spiritual life and holiness, and a dependence upon Christ alone, to do all in us and for us, and to recommend us to the Divine favour, be accepted of God, as well as if it had been done in our own strength, and with a view to establish our own righteousness ? Will Christ reject us at last, for doing too much honour to his infinite merit, and to the rich and free grace of God in him ? What if you should find your reasoning false and deceitful, when it comes to the great trial ? Dare you venture your eternity upon it, that in this case you cannot be deceived ? If the reformation in general, and the most excellent men for learning, sagacity, and piety, that the reformed churches could ever boast of, should be found on the side of truth at the day of judgment, in holding, that we cannot be justified on the footing of a moderated covenant of works, or the easy terms you plead for, what will become of all those who have built their eternal hope on that foundation, not only notionally I mean, but practically! But I have outgone my intended limits; and shall