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which the reader is desired to turn to. And indeed the conditions, although not expressed in that promise, Exod. iii. 17. were plainly implied in the very nature of the thing. For if they should, from an attachment to the pleasures and manners of Egypt, and from a mean and low opinion of the land of Canaan, or from a distrust of the divine power and fidelity to conduct them safely thither, decline, and finally refuse to march for Canaan; or if after they set out on their journey, repent they ever entered on the expedition, and desire to go back again; neither they, nor any mortal else, would have had any reason to imagine, that God was obliged by that promise he made to them in Exod. iii. 17. to bring them there. God's promise, then, to bring that congregation to Canaan, left him at full liberty to kill them by hundreds and thousands, if they rebelled against the Lord, instead of cordially falling in with his proposal; yea, to doom all their carcasses to fall in the wilderness. It is absolutely certain, by the divine conduct, that God viewed it in this light.—And therefore,
They had no warrant, not one single soul of them, to believe absolutely, when they left Egypt, that they should come to Canaan. It is certain Moses understood the matter thus, from Numb. xxxii. 6-15. Nor had they any warrant to believe any further than this, viz. that if they would cordially fall in with the divine proposal, and from their inmost soul bid an everlasting farewell to all the manners and pleasures of Egypt, set their whole hearts on the holy land, enlist under the banner of the God of Abraham, cleave to him with all their hearts, march after him, trust his wisdom, sufficiency, and fidelity, to conduct them thither, his power to overcome all obstacles, and so courageously march after him into the holy land, and fight under him against the seven nations of Canaan, and persevere till they had obtained a complete victory; then, and in this way, and in no other, might they expect to come to the possession of that good land. He therefore, who found within himself an heart prepared and disposed to all this, might reasonably expect to arrive to a possession of that good land. Unless for special and wise reasons, God should think fit, instead of the earthly, to give
VO L. III.
him an inheritance in the heavenly Canaan. And therefore, if the wicked Israelites, when they came out of Egypt, far, very far, from such a temper and disposition, did confidently believe they should come to the promised land, they had, in fact, no warrant for their belief. Nor did God hold himself obliged to order things so that it should be unto them according to their faith; but thought himself at full liberty to lead them into such trying circumstances, as should effectually discover their unbelief, enmity against God, attachment to Egypt, low thoughts of Canaan; all which were consistent with that appropriating belief they had when they left Egypt, that they should get to Canaan. And when their hearts thus discovered, God held himself at liberty, notwithstanding any promise he had made to them, to doom them all to death.
And just so it is in the present case. The Gospel promises eternal life, absolutely and unconditionally to no child of Adam nor has any child of Adam any warrant to believe absolutely and unconditionally, that he shall be saved. But the Gospel brings the news of the glories of the heavenly Canaan, where God the supreme good is to be for ever enjoyed, and represents to our view an almighty Saviour and Conductor; invites us to sell all for the pearl of great price; from our inmost soul bid an eternal farewell to the pleasures and manners of Egypt; lay up all our treasures and hopes in heaven, deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ to the end of our lives, placing our whole dependance on the merits of his blood, and the influences of his spirit; and promises that all such shall finally arrive safe to the heavenly Canaan but denounces damnation against all the rest. He then who is conscious that he has such an heart in him, may expect to see that good land. But if any, unconscious of this, firmly believe they shall assuredly inherit eternal life, their faith is absolutely "without any evidence from Scripture, sense, or reason;" just as Mr. Marshall says. And they may depend upon it, that God does not hold himself obliged, that according to their faith so shall it be to them. For if men will believe things which God never promised, he is not obliged to answer their presumptuous expectations, how
much soever they may pervert his word to make themselves believe that he is. If they will affirm, that although it is not true before they believe it, yet if they believe it is true, it will become true; still God never said so. God never enjoined this kind of faith, nor will he ever answer the expectations it begets.
The Israelites could not enter in, because of unbelief. Spiritual blindness is the source of unbelief. 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4. They were blind to the being and perfections of God. They did not see that the God of Abraham was an absolutely perfect, an infinitely glorious and amiable Being; the supreme all-sufficient good, infinitely worthy of supreme love, and the most entire confidence, trust, and dependance. Rather they entertained a low idea of God. And hence when things looked dark, and they come to a pinch, it appeared that they did not think in their hearts that he was a Being fit to be believed and trusted. And so they did not think in their hearts, that if they should venture to take his word and march after him to Canaan, that it would end well. Their walls were built up to heaven, and the sons of Anak were there. And therefore they were heartily sorry they had ever left Egypt, and wished themselves back again; they magnified the glory of the land of Egypt, and spake contemptibly of the land of Canaan ; they blasphemed God, and were on the point of stoning Caleb and Joshua. Thus they could not enter in because of unbelief; i. e. of their unbelief of those things which were true whether they believed them or not. For God was an absolutely perfect Being, fit to be believed and trusted.-And if they had believed him to be such, and in that belief ventured to trust him, and march after him to Canaan, it would have ended well. These things were true, whether they believed them or no. And there was sufficient evidence of their truth. And it was this that rendered their unbelief so criminal. Whereas had these things not been true, but false; had they known they were false, they could not have been at all to blame for their unbelief. And God never did, and never will, blame his creatures for unbelief, when he knows, and they know, that there is no evidence from Scripture, sense, or reason, that the things to be believed are true.
Arg. 4. From those words, in Mark. xi. 23, 24. "Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, be thou removed, und be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whoatsoever he saith. Therefore, I say unto you, what things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. From these words it is plain," says Mr. Wilson, "that men may have sufficient warrant to believe some things which cannot be said to be infallibly true, whether they believe them or not." p. 27. To which I answer,
1. That the faith here spoken of, is the faith of miracles. And it was true before they believed it; that if they were at any time inspired by immediate revelation, to declare that such a particular miracle should be wrought, it should be done. When therefore the immediate suggestion of the divine spirit came into their minds, prompting them to declare that a particular miraculous event should happen, they had from that and from the promise of Christ, full evidence to believe that it would be done on their declaration. And on this ground Peter had a good warrant to say to the lame man, in Acts iii. Rise up and walk: and full evidence before he spake, to believe that on his speaking the man would be healed. And so again here was nothing like their "strange kind of assurance, without any evidence of the thing."
2. But if any are disposed to understand the promise in the 24th verse, in a larger latitude, to respect all the prayers of true saints; Whatsoever thing ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them; yet even then the words will not prove that we ought to believe that to be true which is not true before we believe it. For it is true before we believe it, that whatsoever we ask the Father, in Christ's name, agreeable to God's will, shall be given to us, Mat. vii. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. John xvi. 23, 24. When therefore any one desires, and is conscious to himself, that he has an heart to ask the offered blessings of the Gospel, in the name of Christ, he cannot but know, if he believes the Gospel to be true, that he shall have them. For he is "constrained to believe it, by the clearest evidence." For he has the express promise of
Christ in the case. As if I should say to my child, "whenever you want bread, ask me for it, and you shall have it. I will never fail in any one instance to give it to you. You may therefore come in the full assurance of faith, nothing doubting but that you shall receive it. shall receive it. For this I establish as an invariable rule by which I will conduct 'towards you; viz. Ask and ye shall receive; seek and ye shall find. When therefore you want bread, and have a heart to ask it in the manner you know I would have you, you may know before you ask that you shall receive. And so you may ask, believing you shall receive, and you shall have it." And now again, in all this, there is nothing like their "strange kind of assurance;" nothing like believing "without any evidence of the thing," and believing "that to be true which is not true before we believe it." For it is true whether we believe it or not, that whatsoever we ask in Christ's name shall be given And we have the highest evidence of the thing. What it is to ask in Christ's name, has been already shown. (Essay, Sect. IV. and V.)
3. In order to make this text serve the purpose of supporting their scheme, it must be understood thus: "O, Christless, impenitent, unconverted sinner, who art in an unpardoned state, under the wrath and curse of God, impenitent as thou art, believe thy sins are forgiven, and they shall be forgiven. I do not say as Peter did, repent and be converted, that thy sins may be blotted out. But I say, impenitent as thou art, and certain as thou art, of thine impenitency, without any evidence of the thing, from Scripture, sense, or reason, believe thy sins are blotted out, and it shall be unto thee according to thy faith. For although it is not true before thou believest it, in believing it to be true it shall become true. Believe therefore thy sins are forgiven, and they shall be forgiven." This is the spirit and soul of that evangelical preaching in fashion with these men. See p. 102. 123. 175, &c.-But neither that text in Mark, nor any other in the bible, gives the least countenance to their scheme.
Thus we have taken a view of the arguments which Mr. Wilson uses to prove, that in justifying faith "we believe that to be true which is not true before we believe it." And