Page images

come unconverted, is to suppose, that he both, commande them, and forbids them at the same time." And this is thought to be the more manifest, inasmuch as conversion is not in men's power. Though it is not denied, but that God jastly requires men to be converted, or to be truly holy. See p. 129, 130.

To this I would say,

(1.) If when they speak of commanding and forbidding at the same time, they mean God's commanding and forbidding the same thing, at the same time, no such consequence follows from my principles. For that thing, and that only, which I suppose God requires of any, is to come to the Lord's supper with a sanctified heart ; and that this God requires at all times, and never forbids at any time ; and that to come without this qualification, is what he always forbids and requires at no time. So that what he requires, at the same time he forbids something, is not the same thing that he forbids ; but a very different and contrary one : And it is no absurdity, to suppose, that God requires one thing, and forbids a contrary thing at the same time.

To illustrate this by an example, . It was the duty of the Jews at Jerusalem, openly to confess CHRIST, to own him as the Messiah, at that hour when he was led away to be crucified, and openly to testify their adoring respect 10 him on that extraordinary occasion. But yet they did not believe him to be the Messiah and could not believe it (many of them at least) since they looked on his present, abject circumstances as a demonstration, that he was not the Messiah. It was beyond their power, at least at once, in that instant to give their assent, with all their hearts to such a supposition. Nor was it in their power, to cxercise an adoring respect to him : For, ; besides their strong prejudices, most of them were judicially hardened, and given up to a spirit of unbelief and obstinate rejection of him ; as appears by that account, John xii. 39, 40. “ Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias , said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes,” &c. See also Luke xix. 41, 42, and Matth. xiii. 14, 15.' And yet it would

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

have been unilawful for them to have made a lying profession; to profess, that they believed him to be the Messiah, and that they received and loved him as such, when at the same time they hated him, and did not believe he was the Messiah. But here is no requiring and forbidding the same thing at the same time : For the only thing required of them was, to have faith and love, and to testify it ; which was not at all forbidden.

(2.) None of the difficulties which Mr. Stoddard or Mr. Williams objects, either God's supposed requiring impossibilities, or his requiring and forbidding at the same time, do follow, any more on my principles, than on Mr. Williams's. Mr. Williams maintains, that God calls men this moment to enter into covenaut with him, and commands them to do p. 28. One thing implied in this, according to his own frequent explanation of visibly entering into covenant, is professing a belief of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. Now therefore we will suppose a man to be a candidate for baptism, who has been brought up in Arianism ; and is strongly persuaded, that the doctrine of the Trinity is not true : Yet he is this moment required to profess that doctrine ; but has no ability in a moment to believe the doctrine, because he does not at present see the evidence of it. For as Mr. Williams himself says, in sermon on Christ a King and Witness p. 91, 92. “ The understanding cannot be brought to yield its assent to any truth, which it does not see the truth or apprehend the evidence of. If you would hire him with cartloads, or shiploads of gold and silver; if you would imprison him, whip him, burn him ; you cannot make him believe a thing to be true, which he apprehends to be incredible, or which he sees no sufficient reason to believe.” Now therefore, what shall the man do, on Mr. Williams's principles ? He is commanded to profess the doctrine of the Trinity, which must be professed in order to be lawfully baptized in the name of the Trinity; and, on Mr. Williams's principles, he is commanded to do it this moment : Yet also on his principles, if the man professes it, and is not morally sincere, or knows he does not believe it, he is guilty of horrible falsehood and prevaricaVol. I.


tion ; which God doubtless forbids. Therefore here is ook tainly as much of an appearance of commanding and forbido ding the same thing at the same time, as in the other cases

Every husbandman in Israel, that lived even in Christ's time, was required to offer a basket of the first fruits ; and was commanded, when he offered it, solemnly to make that profession, concerning the principal facts relating to the now demption out of Egypt, which is prescribed in Deut. xxvi. 5 ....10.“ A Syrian ready to perish was my father," &c. Now supposing there had been an Israelite, who did not believe the truth of all these facts, which came to pass so many agesbar. fore (as there are now many in Christendom, who do not be lieve the facts concerning Jesus Christ) and continued in his unbelief, until the very moment of his offering;: God peremptorily requires him to make this profession; yet none will say, that he may lawfully profess these things, at the same time when he does not believe them to be true. How. ever, here is no commanding and forbidding the same thing at the same time : Because, though God required the Jews. to make this profession, yet the thing required was to believe. it and profess it. Though some might not believe it, nor be able for the present to believe it; yet this inability arose-from deprarity and wickedness of heart, which did not at all excuse their unbelief, for one moment.* Mr. Williams himself owns,

* This instance may shew us, that God's requiring all Israel to enter into covenant with him, and seal their covenant in the passover, will not prove, that it was lawful for any to avouch the Lord to be their God, and promise and swear they would perform universal and persevering obedience, when af she same moment they had no love to God, and even then, while speaking the words, continued in an habitual, wilful disobedience to God's commands, and were willing slaves to the devil Nor will it follow, from these commands given to the Israelites, concerning their covenantiag with God, and sealing their covenant, that God ever did, since the foundation of the world, appoint or command any other covenanting with him, than as giving up them selves wholly and without reserve, both soul and body, both heart and life; or that ever he appointed or commanded any covenanting, wherein men give a part, and keep back a part, give him the outside, and keep back the noblest and best part, the heart, will and affections, for sin and Satan ; or that there is any such covenant of God in being; or that such covenanting has: not al.

p. 129, that God may require those things which are out of men's natural power.

Now this may be laid down as a truth, of easy and plain evidence: If God may require what wicked men, while such, are unable to perform, then he may also require those things which are connected with it, and depend on it, and which, if the other be done, they would be able to do, and might do, and without which they may not do it. So, if God may require an unsancti. fied man to love him, then he may require him to testify and profess his love, as I suppose Christians do in the act of partaking of the Lord's supper ; and yet it not be lawful for him to testify and profess love, when he has it not.

ways been as much without foundation in any institution of God, as any of che spurious sacraments of the church of Rome ; or that it has not always been strictly forbidden of God; or that it is not absolutely and in itself sine ful and unlawful, truly as the act of Ananias and Sapphira.


« PreviousContinue »