Page images

mean that things are therefore right, merely because God does them; for if they were not right to be done, antecedently to his doing of them, he would not, he could not do them. But I mean, that when it is a plain matter of fact, that God does such a thing, we may thence conclude that it is most certainly right for him to do so, although we cannot understand how it is. We ought to remember that he is infinite in his understanding, and at one comprehensive view, beholds all things, and so cannot but know what is right, and what is wrong, in all cases; and his judgment is unbiassed ; the rectitude of his nature is perfect; he cannot, therefore, but do right always, and, in all instances, govern the world in righteousness. But our minds are narrow and contracted: we are but of yesterday, and know nothing; and besides, our judgments are biassed through our mean thoughts of God, and high thoughts of ourselves; and hence we may be easily mistaken: especially in this case, our minds are sadly biassed, and it is almost impossible for us to consider the matter with a spirit of disinterested impartiality. And these considerations ought to check our rising thoughts, and make us lie down in the dust before the great, and righteous, and good Governor of the world, with humble silence, even although we cannot understand his ways. And I believe that a humble disposition of heart would lay an effectual foundation for us to come to be satisfied in this matter: it being our mean thoughts of God, and high thoughts of ourselves, which blinds our minds that we cannot see, and disposes us to quarrel with our Creator, and find fault with the Ruler and disposer of the world. It is true, that the holy scriptures consider mankind as being what they are, and say but little about the way in which they came to be in such a condition : and there is good reason for it; for it is of infiinitely greater importance that we should know what a condition we are in, than how we came into it: and it is a foolish thing for us, and contrary to common sense, to lay the blame any where but upon ourselves, since we are voluntarily such as we are, and really love to be what we are: do not sincerely desire to be otherwise, but are utterly averse from it. But yet the holy scriptures say so much about the way of our coming into our present condition, as might fully satisfy our minds, were not our judgments biassed ; for from them we learn, that man was made upright; was created in God's image, and, by rebelling against his Maker, brought a curse upon himself and all his race; Gen. i. 27. Eccles. vii. 29. Rom. v. 12. 19. There we read, that by one man, sin entered into the world; that by one man's disobedience, many were made sinners: that by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation. Adam was created in the image of God: it was connatural to him to love God with all his heart, and this would have been our case, had he not rebelled against God; but now we are born devoid of the divine image, have no heart for God, are transgressors from the womb: by nature children of wrath. And if any should inquire, “But can it be right that Adam's sin should have any influence upon us?” I answer, It is a plain case that it actually has, and we may depend upon it that the Judge of all the earth always does right. And besides, why might not God make Adam our public head and representative, to act in our room, as he has since, for our recovery, made his own Son our public head and representative Rom. v. 12–21. He had as much right, power, and authority, for one as for the other: and was not Adam as likely to remain obedient as any of us should have been, and, in some respects, more likely His natural powers were ripe; he stood not only for himself, but for all his race; a whole world lay at stake: and if he had kept the covenant of his God, and secured happiness to all his race, should we not for ever have blessed God for so good a constitution Never once should we have questioned God's right and authority to make him our public head and representative, or have thought that it did not become his wisdom and goodness to trust our all in his hands. And if we should thus have approved this constitution, had Adam never sinned, why might we not as justly approve it now, if we would be but disinterestedly impartial : It is the same, in itself, now, that it would have been then ; every way as holy, just, and good. “Oh, but for God to damn a whole world for one sin f" But stay ; does not this arise from mean thoughts of God, and high thoughts of yourself? O, think who the Lord is and what it is for a worm to rise in rebellion against him ' and how he treated whole thousands of glorious angels for their first sin! and then, think how God drowned the old world, burnt Sodom, and of the dreadful things he intends to do to the impenitent at the day of judgment! and learn, and believe, that sin is an infinitely greater evil than we naturally imagine. But I must return to my subject, for it is not my present business so much to show how we came into this condition, as plainly to point out what that condition is, which we are actually in. As to this, the whole scriptures are very plain; but especially the law, by which is the knowledge of sin, clearly discovers what our case is, and beyond dispute, proves that all are under sin. And having already, by comparing ourselves with the law, found out what our nature is, I proceed to make some further observations, in which I design greater brevity. 4. From what has been said, we may learn that the very best religiousperformances of all unregenerate men are, complexly considered, sinful, and so odious in the sight of God. They may do many things materially good, but the principle, end, and manner of them are such, as that, complexly considered, what they do is sin in the sight of God: For sin is a transgression of the law. But, (1) The law requires all mankind to do every duty out of love to God, and for his glory: but all unregenerate persons, directly contrary to law, do every duty merely out of love to themselves, and for self-ends; and so are guilty of rebellion. (2.) The law requires all mankind to do every duty out of love to God, and for his glory: but all unregenerate persons do every duty merely out of love to themselves, and for selfends; whereby they prefer themselves, and their interest, above God and his glory; and so, are guilty of spiritual idolatry. %) The law requires all mankind to do every duty from love to God, and for his glory: but all unregenerate persons do every duty merely from self-love, and for self-ends; and yet hypocritically pretend to God, that they love and obey him; and so are guilty of mocking God.

(4.) The law supposes that God infinitely deserves to be loved with all our hearts, and obeyed in every thing, and that our neighbour deserves to be loved as ourselves; and that, therefore, if we should yield perfect obedience in all things, yet we should deserve no thanks: but all unregenerate persons make much of their duties, though such miserable, poor things; and so, affront God to his very face. Upon these four accounts, their very best performances are done in a manner directly contrary to the law of God, and so are sinful, and therefore odious in the sight of God. (Prov. xv. 8. xxi. 27. Rom. viii. 8. Psalm. lxxxviii. 36, 37.) As is the tree, so is the fruit; as is the fountain, so are the streams; and as is the man, so are his doings, in the sight of God, who looks at the heart, (Mat. xii. 33, 34, 35.) and judges not according to appearance, but judges righteous judgment; and with whom many things, that are highly esteemed among men, are abomination. And if their best religious performances are thus odious in the sight of God, it is certain that they cannot possibly, in the nature of things, have the least tendency to make amends for their past sins, or recommend them to the divine favour; but rather tend to provoke God still more. So that it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. Nor is there the least hope in the sinner's case, but what arises from the sovereign mercy of God; whereby he can have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and have compassion on wohm he will have compassion. Rom. ix. 15. 18. True, some, being ignorant of the law, and of our entire contrariety to it, have fancied a goodness in the sinner's duties; and hence have persuaded themselves that there are promises of special grace made to them. Not that there are any promises in scripture of that nature; for the scripture every where considers us as being, while unregenerate, dead in sin, Eph. ii. 1. Enemins to God, Rom. v. 10. 2 Cor. v. 17–20. Col. i. 21; yea, enmity against him, Rom. viii. 7. and so far from any true and acceptable obedience to God, as that we are not nor can be subject to the law, and so cannot please God, Rom. viii. 7, 8. and every where represents such as being under the wrath of God; the curse of the law, and a

present condemnation. John iii. 18–36. Rom. i. 18. Gal. iii. 10. But the real ground of their opinion is, their ignorance of the sinner's sinful, guilty circumstances, and their fond conceit that there is some real goodness in what the sinner does: both which are owing to their ignorance of the law,” and of the nature of true holiness. Rom. vii. 8, 9. Rom. x. 3. All will own, that if sinners' duties are such as I have represented, it is absurd, and even inconsistent with the divine perfections, that promises of special grace should be made to them. It is true they refer to Mat. xxv. 29. To him that hath, shall be given. But that text evidently speaks of the final rewards which shall be given to the godly at the day of judgment; when all the unregenerateshall, with the slothful servant, be cast into outer darkness. They quote also Mat. vii. 7. Ask and you shall receive, &c. But the condition of this promise was never yet performed by an unregenerate sinner. For this asking is meant right asking; for those who ask amiss, receive nothing. James iv. 3. Right asking of grace, supposes right desires of it; but the unregenerate are, in the habitual temper of their hearts, directly contrary to grace and all spiritual good, and entirely so, as has been proved. But to have genuine desires after a thing, and a perfect contrariety to it, in the whole heart, at the same time, is an express contradiction. The reason that sinners many times think that they love holiness, and desire heartily and sincerely to be made holy, is, that they, being ignorant of the nature of true holiness, have framed a false image of it in their own fancies. Did they but distinctly know the very thing itself, their native contrariety to it could no longer be hid. Rom. vii. 8, 9. So the Pharisees thought they loved God, and loved his law;

* It is manifest that this notion of the promises, of which Pelagius was the truthor, and which was condemned for heresy above 1300 years ago, did with him, and does, with his followers, take its rise, originally, from their ignorance of the nature and meaning of the moral law. But yet some good men may have been inadvertently led into this error by the force of education. I believe men's hearts may be sometimes better than their heads: but when a false scheme of religion does perfectly suit a man's heart, and express the temper of his mind, then no doubt, he is graceless, 2 John ix. John viii. 47. The above notion of the premises perfectly suits a self-righteous heart, -

« PreviousContinue »