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Mr. Mather's scheme of religion inconsistent with itself.
OUR author professes in his preface, not 'to be fond of his own judgment;' but to stand ready to give it up,' when any one will do the friendly office of setting light before him.' And he desires that if there be any material mistakes' in his scheme, they may be pointed out.' It is therefore to be hoped, that he will not be displeased, if, in addition to the light already set before him, some of the various inconsistent sentiments of his scheme are contrasted, whereby he may be further assisted to discern, that his scheme must be wrong some where for the truth is ever consistent with itself.
1. In his first book, he says, (p. 59.) 'A child dedicated to God iu baptism is thereby brought into covenant with God, and has a promise left to it of the means of grace, and the strivings of God's holy Spirit, in order to render them effectual for salvation.' But in his second book, he says, (p. 51.) That they must submit to a sovereign God.' But if they have a covenant right to the strivings of the holy Spirit,' if they have a promise,' then they do not lie at God's sovereign mercy in the case; but may plead the covenant and promise of God.
2. In his first book, (p. 8.) he endeavours to prove that the covenant with Abraham, Gen. xvii. was not the covenant of grace, because it might be broken.' Which implies, that it had some condition, which, if not fulfilled, all the blessings of it would be forfeited. But in his second book, (p. 60, 61, 62.) he endeavours to prove, that the covenant with Abraham, Gen. xvii. was not the covenant of grace, because it had no conditions, but all the blessings of it were promised to Abaham and his seed 'absolutely and unconditionally;' on which hypothesis this covenant could not be broken'. But his two books are not only inconsistent with each other, but this last book is inconsistent with itself. And
to the instances which have already been taken notice of in the preceding sections, some few more may here be pointed out. 3. That man must be a moral agent, possessed of every qualification essential to moral agency, previous, and in order to his being bound by God's law, is a fundamental point with Mr. M. p. 6. 50, &c. That man may be bound by the moral law to be a moral agent, to have the qualifications essential to moral agency, is with him another fundamental point. p. 6. But as these two fundamental points in his scheme are inconsistent with each other, so they cannot both be true. He says, 'Self-love is essential to moral agency ;' and yet this essential qualification of a moral agent is a duty required of us by God's law.' But according to him, the law cannot bind us unless we are already moral agents. Therefore it cannot bind us to be moral agents. For then a man need not be a moral agent, previous, and in order to his being bound by the moral law; which yet he maintains.
4. He says, (p. 10.) That Adam, by becoming guilty, was totally depraved,' and yet according to him Adam's depravity was not total, for he still continued to exercise that love to himself, which the lure of God requires, in a conformity to which the image of God consisted, in which he was created. p. 6. and p. 12. Perhaps' he also continued to exercise to
ward God the love of esteem and benevolence.'
5. He says, (p. 6.) That the divine law requires us to love God with all our hearts,' and that it also requires us to love ourselves.' And he adds, that this self-love is absolutely inconsistent with the love of God.' So that, according to him, the divine law requires of us in our guilty state, two duties, in their own nature absolutely inconsistent. And therefore he boldly affirms, that it is contrary to the law of God' for us, while in our guilty state, to love God with all our hearts; and yet he says, p. 51. that God has given us his law to show us what our duty is.' And that we are justly condemned to eternal misery for not obeying of it. And this law he calls
a glorious law,' and the character exhibited in it he calls 'glorious;' and even supposes that the Son of God became incarnate, lived, and died to honour this law,' and to ' vindicate and maintain the honour and dignity of the divine cha
racter exhibited in it.' p. 22. 26, 27, 28. Whereas for God to give us a rule of duty, requiring things in their own nature absolutely inconsistent, on pain of eternal death, would be an infinite reproach to the Deity. And to give his Son to die to do honour to such a law, would be inconsistent with all his perfections. And yet he asserts that the Gospel, which is supposed to reveal this shocking scene, is 'glorious,' and even more glorious than the law;' whereas, if his scheme is true, there is no glory in law, or Gospel; unless it be glorious to require inconsistencies on pain of eternal death; and glorious to do the highest honour, before the whole intellectual system, to a law in its own nature contradictory.
5. He represents the divine law, as requiring things not only inconsistent in their own nature with each other; but also inconsistent with our moral agency. For he says, p. 5.
A principle of self-love is essential to us moral agents.' And yet he asserts that this 'self-love must be totally excluded from any place' in the heart of a guilty creature, if he loves God. p. 10. For Love to God and self-love are absolutely inconsistent.' And so, according to him, the moral law requires of us that love to God, which is inconsistent with our being moral agents. p. 50. 53. And yet, according to him, if we are not moral agents, we cannot be bound by the moral law to any obedience at all. Therefore,
6. He is necessitated to maintain, that man by the fall ceased to be a moral agent, and that it was no longer his duty to love God, for the law did not bind him; its binding authority respected not his obedience.' This was the state of Adam before the revelation of a Mediator, because it was inconsistent with self-love to exercise true love to God.' p. 50. And he asserts, p. 18. that mankind at this day, antecedent to their exercising faith in Christ, are in much the same condition as Adam was after he sinned.' Particularly he says, p. 20. that they are under the same inability of loving God that Adam was,' viz. It is absolutely inconsistent with that self-love which is essential to moral agency.' And therefore the unregenerate are not moral agents, nor bound by the moral law to obedience. And where there is no law, there is no transgression. And therefore Adam's total
depravity which took place after the first sin, was not of a criminal nature and the same is true of the unregenerate now, who are under the same inability of loving God that Adam was.' And therefore total depravity does not disqualify for sealing ordinances.
And yet, in direct contradiction to all this, he affirms, that the unregenerate, while such, are moral agents, bound by the law to the same perfect obedience which was required of Adam before the fall. p. 53. 'This I will readily grant, man is a moral agent, bound by the moral law to love. God with all his heart; and therefore God may consistently require this of him, and man is wholly to blame for not loving.' For, p. 27. nothing short of perfection may be looked upon as the whole of what is required.' For he adds,' to suppose that God has receded from his original demand of perfection, made in the law, implies that this law was not good,' which is evidently a reflection upon the divine Being, whose law it is,' and 'a reproach upon Christ, who has honoured that law.' And accordingly he affirms, p. 51. That God has given his law to show us what our duty is;' and he adds, p. 52. That by the law is the knowledge of sin.' Which supposes that the binding authority of the law does respect our obedience,' as much as it did Adam's before the fall. And that therefore we are moral agents with respect to the Jaw of perfection, as really as he was. And that therefore it is not inconsistent in any child of Adam, with that self-love which is essential to moral agency, to yield a perfect obedience to the moral law. And that therefore we are not all depraved by nature. For this supposed inconsistency, he says, ' is the true reason, and the only reason,' of the depravity of our nature. For had it not been for this inconsistency, Adam would have continued to love God after the fall as he did before. p. 44. He would have continued still to exercise the same delight in the divine perfections, as he had done before.' And yet he had said, p. 10. That Adam, by becoming guilty, was totally depraved.' And if he was totally depraved, and if total depravity and moral agency are consistent, if God may consistently require us to love God with all our hearts,' and if we are wholly to blame for not loving;
then our total depravity is totally criminal. But to persist obstinately in this crime, that is, to continue impenitent and unreconciled to God, after all the means used with us by God himself, disqualifies a man to be active in sealing God's cove nant, for the same reason that obstinacy in any other crime does. Or if he will say, 'to love God is the same thing as to love misery,' and so our depravity is a calamity, but not a crime; then he must say, that we cease to be moral agents, and the law ceases to bind us: which, to use his own words,
implies that this law was not good, which is evidently a reflection upon the divine Being, whose law it is, and a reproach upon Christ, who has honoured that law."
7. Mr. M.is very zealous for a preparatory work, and to have the unregenerate sinner strive. p. 47-54. But without any consistence with himself. For on his scheme, what can the sinner consistently strive to do? not to love that character of God which is exhibited in the law; for this, according to him, is the same thing as to love his own misery,' which is
contrary to the law,' and in its own nature impossible. Not to love that character of God which is revealed in the Gospel; for the unenlightened sinner is by him supposed not to know it; p. 43. and to love an unknown character, implies a contradiction, and so is absolutely impossible. What then would Mr. M. have the sinner do, or strive to do? Let us attend to his own words, p. 51, 52. God has given us his law, not only to show us what our duty is; but also to set light before us, whereby we may obtain a proper conviction of our guilt. By the law, is the knowledge of sin. He has repeatedly commanded them to consider their ways; and calls upon them to exercise their reason. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.' But if God has given us his law to show us what our duty is, and if by the law is the know-ledge of sin, and if we consider this, and if we exercise our reason on the subject, then we must conclude, that it is now every day the duty of all mankind to love that character of God which is exhibited in the moral law; and that it is the duty of all to whom the Gospel comes, to love that character of God which is revealed in the Gospel; and that it is exceeding sinful to live in the neglect of these duties. But if a sinner should thus be