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bond. No one seals a bond, unless he means to bind himself to fulfil it. Should a man offer to sign and seal a bond, which he did not mean to bind himself to fulfil, in order to get his heart affected with what is contained in it, his neighbours would think him delirious.
OBJ. But I mean to bind myself to "endeavour" to fulfil it; i. e. to" endeavour to conform my practice to the rules of it." p. 21.
ANS. Should you offer your house and farm to your neighbour upon the most reasonable terms, which if he had a heart he might fulfil with ease and pleasure, Mat. xi. 28, 29. Prov. iii. 17.; and should he plainly tell you, that at present he could not find it in his heart to comply with your offer; nor could he promise that he ever should comply; but however he was willing to bind himself to " endeavour" to comply, and no more; you would doubtless think best to put off the bargain till you should find him of another temper. And what our Saviour thinks best in the present case, is most plainly expressed in Luke xiv. 25–33.
It cannot be determined what Mr. M.'s external covenant requires, and wherein a real compliance with it doth consist, so that any man can ever know that he has complied with it.
NEGATIVELY, Mr. M. has determined with great exactness, what it does not require, and what is not necessary in order to a perfect compliance with it: viz. holiness. For it requires no holiness at all: no, not the least spark of true grace. So that, if we could know what it did require, it might be perfectly complied with by one who is quite dead in sin. This is very plain.
Positively he has not determined what it does require, so that any man can ever know that he has complied with it; nor can it be determined by him, or by any other. For it
cannot be determined from scripture,, for the scripture knows nothing about such a covenant, either name or thing. And it cannot be determined from reason; for it is supposed to be a matter of pure revelation.
Indeed, Mr. M. has attempted to settle this matter: he says, p. 21. "I will allow, that none but such as profess the Christian religion, and will endeavour to conform his practice to the rules of it, ought to be admitted into the church." Upon which it may be observed,
1. That Abraham made no profession at all of any faith, but of a saving faith. He believed in the Lord, and it was counted to him for righteousness. And if Abraham is to be our pattern, as Mr. M. insists, then we must make a profession of this faith, or of none. To set aside Abraham's faith, which was, as James asserts, a living faith; and to introduce into its room a dead faith, which James calls the faith of devils; and to substitute this in the stead of the faith of Abraham, and to put God's seal, which belongs to God's covenant, to this new invented covenant of human device, is not "to conform our practice to the rules" of God's word; nor so much as to" endeavour" it. Besides,
2. Mr. M. says, p. 7. "That by which ANY ONE was to enter into this" external "covenant, was an external mark in the flesh." But faith, although a dead faith, is an internal thing, and is as much invisible, as any other mental qualification whatsoever and therefore is not necessary on his scheme to be in the heart of the professor: nor need he profess it to be in his heart. For " to require more of the person to be admitted into the church, than is made necessary by the covenant on which it is framed, is really absurd." p. 22. For to imitate his manner of reasoning, it may be said, to set this matter in the clearest light, an infidel, or an atheist, with a fair profession of the external covenant, when he is received into the visible church, on Mr. M.'s scheme, is in the sight of God either a member of it, or he is not. If he is a member, then the faith of devils is not necessary. If he is not, then on Mr. M.'s scheme there can be no visible church." This is Mr. M.'s manner of reasoning,
p. 49. I hope this may show the inconsistence of excluding a living faith, because it is an invisible mental qualification; and yet retaining a dead faith, which is equally an invisible mental qualification. To make Mr. M.'s scheme consistent, no mental qualification ought to be professed. Nothing but baptism, which is substituted in the room of circumcision, is needful. Baptism alone, without any profession at all, is the only requisite to constitute any man a member of Mr. M.'s visible church. But in the apostolic age no man was ever received into the visible church by baptism alone, without a profession. Mr. M. is obliged therefore to allow of the necessity of a profession. But this supposes the necessity of some mental, invisible, internal qualification to be professed but this is inconsistent with the notion, that nothing is necessary but what is external and visible. So his scheme cannot hang together.-Besides,
3. To have no other faith than the devil has, and to profess no other faith than he has professed, is not to enter into covenant with God, unless the devil is in covenant with God. Therefore let the articles of faith to which professors give their assent be ever so orthodox, and their profession be ever
x These are Mr. M.'s words. "To set this matter in the clearest light; an unregenerate man, with a fair profession of religion, when received into the visible church, is in reality either a member of it, or he is not: if he is a member, his union must be constituted by something besides the covenant of grace, which extends to none but such as have true grace in heart: but if he is not in reality a member of the visible church, then there can be no such thing as a visible church, that has a real existence." Answ. The visible union of the visible church is constituted by a visible credible profession of a compliance with the covenant of grace just as their real union is constituted by a real compliance with the cove. nant of grace.
To set this matter in the clearest light; in a Spanish milled dollar there is a certain quantity of silver, the stamp, &c.-Silver is essential to a real dollar. If there is no silver in the seeming dollar, it is not a real dollar, but a counterfeit one. So bere-If a body of men profess friendship to Christ, they are a visible church of Christ: but if there is no friendship in their hearts, they are like the counterfeit dollar.
Should any one object, a pewter dollar, with a good stamp, and well washed over, is a real dollar, or it is not; if it is a real dollar, then silver is not essential to a real dollar if it is not a real dollar, then there is no such thing as a visible dollar in the world:" would any man by such logic as this, be induced to receive pewter dollars, professedly such, in pay for his whole estate ?
so true; yet if they profess only" a simple belief of the simple truth," it is not a visible entering into covenant with God. It is not a covenanting transaction. Where there is no consent of the will professed, there is no covenant visibly made, in any case whatsoever. But if they profess not only to believe, but to love the truth, this is what no ungodly man can understandingly and honestly do. For to receive the truth in the love of it, is the scripture character of a true saint. 2 Thes. ii. 10. And so did Abraham, the father of all believers. So again,
4. "To conform our practice to the rules of the christian religion," is to be real christians. This therefore must not be professed. But without this, there is no compliance with the Gospel covenant. He who does conform his practice to the rules of the Gospel, does really comply with the Gospel. And he who doth not, does really reject it. The one will go to heaven, and the other will go to hell. In this we are all agreed.
5. But Mr. M. says, they must profess, that they "will endeavour" to conform their practice to the rules of the christian religion. But, pray, how much must they endeavour ? Not so much as actually to conform for in this real christianity consists. How much then? Can any man tell? Will you say, "as much as they can?" What! quite as much? What, every day, every hour of their lives? This is what no ungodly man ever did, or ever will do. Will you say, "they must sincerely endeavour?" But how sincere must ungodly men be? "As sincere as they can?" What, quite as sincere as they can, every day and every hour? This is what no ungodly man ever was, or ever will be.-Will you say, they must endeavour so much, and so sincerely, as to keep from open scandal?" But is this enough? What if they live allowedly in secret sins, in enmity to God, in enmity to their neighbours, in stealing, in adultery, in sodomy? Will this do? Is this enough in the sight of God and conscience, that they are free from open scandal, while they live secretly in such and such like sins? Will you say, " no-they must endeavour to forsake all sin, and to conform their practice to all the rules of the christian religion?" But the question still returns, how
much must they endeavour? Not so much as to get free from the dominion of sin. For this is peculiar to the godly. Rom. vi. 14. How much then? No son of Adam can ever tell!
It can be determined what that repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ is, which the Gospel requires; and a map may know when he complies with the Gospel covenant; but it cannot be determined what Mr. M.'s external covenant requires; nor can any man know when he complies with it.
The lowest degree of true grace is a real and saving compliance with the Gospel covenant. This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. John xvii. 3. Where saving grace begins, it shall end in glory. Its special nature can be as certainly determined, as the nature of the Gospel-way of salvation can; for it consists in a compliance with the Gospel. But this external covenant is neither law nor Gospel.
No man will say, that "the least degree of endeavour," which ever takes place in an ungodly man, is all that is required, to bring men into the external covenant. Nor will any man say," that the greatest degree of endeavour" that ever takes place in an ungodly man, is necessary to this end. Nor can any man fix upon any certain degree, between the least and the greatest, that is the very degree necessary to bring a man into this covenant. It is a blind affair, and is adapted only to a blind conscience.
Every ungodly man, whose conscience is thoroughly awakened to know the truth about himself, knows that he is dead in sin, an enemy to God, "utterly indisposed, disabled, and opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil;" as Mr. M. will allow. And therefore, were such men to make a profession of the truth, they would profess this; and confess themselves to be altogether helpless and undone, under the wrath of God, the curse of the law, and condemned by the Gospel; (John iii. 18. 36. Gal. iii. 10.) and incapable of entering into covenant with God, (Ps. 1. 16.) and coming into the kingdom of Christ, until they are born again. (John iii. 5.) And how much soever pains such may ake, to escape