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certain and evident it is, that God does, in the gospel, upon these grounds, consider mankind as being in a pershing condition. And upon these grounds we must, therefore, coine to consider ourselves so too, or we can never be in a disposition humbly and thankfully to accept the grace offered, and return home to God in the way provided. We shall rather be affronted, that the gospel supposes us to be in so bad a condition; or else never so much as take matters into serious consideration, but do as those invited to the marriage of the king's son, in Mat. xxii. 5. They made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandize. I do but just hint at these things now, because they have been so largely insisted upon heretofore. And thus we see upon what grounds it is, that the great Governor of the world does, in the gospel, consider mankind as being in a perishing condition.
I proceed now,
II. To show what were the motives which have excited God to do what he has done, for the recovery of sinners out of this their perishing condition. And,
1. It is not because the original constitution with Adam, our public head and representative, was too severe. It was not because it would have been hard and cruel, or in the least inconsistent with his in, uite goodness and tender mercies, to have left all mankind in that state of total ruin they were brought into by the fall. For had not that constitution been, in its own nature, holy, just, and good, and so most perfectly agreeable to his own nature; to his holiness, justice, and goodness, he would never have made it; for he necessarily infinitely abhors, in his public conduct, to act counter to the inward temper of his heart. For the very reason that he loves himself for being what he is, for the same reason he loves to act like himself, and infinitely abhors the contrary. And if that constitution was holy, just, and good, in its own nature, originally, it must remain so still ; for Adam's apostacy, together with all the dreadful consequences thereof, could not alter its nature. The constitution is perfectly as excellent as if Adam had never fallen: perfectly as good as if it had been the means of laying a foundation for the everlasting blessedness of all the human ace; for it is what it was. It was excellently well calculated for the glory of God, and the welfare of mankind, in its own nature; and therefore God made it, approved of it, was well pleased with it, nor can he ever alter his mind about it: for it is, in itself, just the same it was at first; and if it was holy, just, and good, in its own nature, and if it remains so still; if the holiness, justice, and goodness of his nature prompted him at first to make it, and then to approve of it, and be perfectly well pleased with it, it could not, (it is self-evident,) possibly have been, in the least, disagreeable to his holiness, justice, or goodness, to have dealt with all mankind, since the fall, according to it. So that, to a demonstration, God's thoughts of mercy towards a guilty, undone world, did not, in any ineasure, take its rise from any notion that mankind had been hardly dealt with, or that it would be any thing like cruelty and unmercifulness to damn the whole world for Adam's first sin, according to the tenour of the original constitution. Indeed, to suppose such a thing, highly reflects upon that constitution, and upon God forever making it. It supposes the constitution was never really holy, just, and good in its own nature, and that God did wrong in making it. And the riches and glory of gospel-grace are wholly obscured; for God cannot be considered as a sovereign benefactor, showing undeserved mercy to a guilty, hell-deserving world; but rather as repeuting for the injury he has done to mankind, and as endeavouring to make amends for it by a better, a juster, and kinder conduct for the time to come. And if this were the case, all his pretences, his high pretences to great love and goodness; to great kindness and grace, are hypocritical, and a mere mocking of us. He had abused and injured us, and is now but repenting, and making restitution; and ought, therefore, to have said so, and not pretended he did all from mere grace, which is to affront us, and make as
ly condemned, and justly miserable for ever. So that, let us view the case in what light we will, it is most evident and certain that the great Governor of the world considered mankind as being righteously condemned, and liable to everlasting destruction, consistent with the infinite goodness of his nature; nor did a thought of pity ever enter into his heart from the contrary supposition. Yea, it seems to have been his very design to maintain the honour of that constitution, while he shows mercy to a guilty world, inasmuch as he has appointed another public person, his own dear Son, to make atonement for our original apostacy, as well as our other sins, that hereby a way for his mercy might be opened. Rom. v. 18, 19. 2. Nor did God's designs of mercy towards a guilty, undone world, take their rise from a supposition that the law of nature, which all mankind are naturally under, is too severe, in requir– ing perfect obedience, and threatening etermal damnation for the very least defect, (Rom. i. 18. Gal. iii. 10.) or from any supposition that it would have been any thing like cruelty or unmercifulness, to have dealt with all mankind according to that rule. To explain myself, I may just observe, that the original constitution with Adam, as public head, (Gen. ii. 17.) was a positive appointment. After he was turned out of the garden, he ceased to sustain the character or capacity of a public person; nor are his posterity accountable for any but his first transgression. But the law of nature results from the nature of things; from God's being what he is in himself, and from our being what we are, and he our Creator, and we his creatures. And it was binding, in order of nature, antecedent to any positive constitution whatsoever: nor is its binding nature capable of any dissolution. We might have obtained life, according to the constitution made with Adam, had he kept covenant with God; and been confirmed in a state of holiness and happiness: so now we may obtain life by Jesus Christ, who has fulfilled the law of nature, and made atonement for all sin. But the law of nature still remains an unalterable rule of righteousness between God and his creature, man. We owe perfect obedience to God, and the least sin deserves eternal damnation. And God might always have ‘dealt with mankind simply according to this rule. The oriiginal constitution with Adam had some degree of G R Ace in it. The constitution in the gospel is altogether GRAce. God might have held all mankind bound by the law of nature sinply, nor ever have appointed any other way to happiness, than a perfect and persevering obedience; and mankind have been, to all eternity, in a peaceable state, liable to sin and fall into ruin. Whatsoever advantages mankind have had over and above this, are, and have been, of mere grace. According to the law of nature, we are under infinite obligations to perfect holiness in the temper of our hearts, and to perfect obeaience in the whole course of our lives, and that not only for a day, or a year, or a thousand years, but so long as we continue in being. And so long as we are thus obedient, we shall be happy; but the least defect, at any time whatsoever, will let in everlasting, inevitable ruin upon us. Adam, in innocence, was under the law of nature, as well as under that particular positive constitution in Gen. ii. 17. So that any other sin, as well as eating the forbidden fruit, must have exposed him to ruin. But then, by that constitution, he had this peculiar advantage, that, if he persevered, his time of trial should shortly be at an end, and himself and all his race confirmed in a state of holiness and happiness; an advantage never to be obtained by any one merely under the law of nature. For, in the nature of things, it is impossible God should ever be laid under any obligations to his creatures, unless by virtue of his own free promise, which does not belong to the law of nature, but is an act of grace, which he may grant or withhold, as seems good in his sight. When Adam broke covenant with God, and when that positive constitution was at an end, yet still Adam remained, under the law of nature, bound to perfect obedience, to love God with all his heart, and his neighbour as himself; yea, under infinite obligations; and every defect was infinitely sinful, and so was worthy of infinite punishment. And as was the case with him, so is the case with all his posterity. Our obligations are infinite, and so our non-performance infinitely faulty, and worthy of an infinite punishment. Though indeed as the case now stands, nor Adam nor any of his race can ever obtain life by the law of nature; because we are sinners, and so, by the law of nature are condemned without hope. Rom. iii. 20. By the deeds of the law no flesh can be justioed; for by the law is the knowledge of sin. And, chap iv. ver. 15. The law worketh wrath. And thus, as the case now stands, we are under infinite obligations to perfect obedience, and are liable to an infinite punishment for the least defect: and yet, through the bad temper of our hearts, we are unable to yield any obedience, and are in a disposition to be continually treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath. Now, I say, the supreme King of heaven and earth was not moved to entertain designs of mercy towards a sinful, guilty, undone world, from a supposition that the law of nature was too severe, or that it would have been any thing like unmercifulness to have dealt with all mankind according to that rule. For, All that this law requires, is, that since God is infinitely amiable in himself, and has such an entire right to us, and absolute authority over us as his creatures, we therefore ought to love him with all our hearts, and be entirely devoted to him, to do his will and keep his commands, seeking his glory ; and that, since our neighbours are such as we ; of the same species, and under the same general circumstances, we therefore ought to love our neighbour as ourselves; both which things are, in their own nature, right, and fit, and reasonable: so that the law is holy. And all that this law threatens, in case of any transgression, is, that since our obligations are infinite, and so the least defect infinitely wrong, therefore every such defect should be punished with the everlasting pains of hell; and that in exact proportion to the several aggravations attending each transgression; which is also, in its own nature, right, and fit, and reasonable: so that the law is just. And that perfect holiness which this law requires, i. e. to love God with all our hearts, and our neighbours as ourselves, is the highest perfection our nature is capable of, and altogether suited to make us happy: so that the law is good. But, It is not severe, nor any thing like unmercifulness, to deal with mankind according to a rule, which is, in its own nature,