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from its base. And yet it was his duty to obey the mandate of the Lord Jesus. “Make ye a new heart,” is the command of God. But a sinner can as easily create a world, as create his heart anew in Christ Jesus. Nevertheless he is bound to obey the command of God, and he will punish all who die unrenewed. But I admit that the commands, and invitations, of scripture, do imply some powers in unconverted men. Though enfeebled, the sinner has physical powers to read the Bible, to carry him to the house of God, and to hear the gospel preached. And he has intellectual powers to meditate upon what he reads and hears; to reflect on the scripture-representation of his awful state, and on the tremendous denunciations of divine wrath against sinners; to judge and reason upon what his condition will be, if he dies impenitent. These things are calculated to rouse his attention, to make him feel, and to excite him to cry for mercy. When thus excited, there is encouragement to hope that God will send his Spirit to create him anew in Christ Jesus, and give him the power of repentance, of faith, of love, and of new obedience. Till the Spirit regenerates the heart, though alarmed, and crying for mercy, the sinner is spiritually dead, and totally destitute of the powers requisite to repent and believe, to love and serve God. Powers, in the nature of things, evidently precede disposition, though they do not always suppose a disposition. It is impossible to have a disposition towards an object till we have some intellectual views of it. An understanding somewhat enlightened must precede a disposition. And there can be no choice until the object appears under the character of some good, though there is a strong disposition towards it. But as the disposition is only a relative state of the mental faculties, it cannot be called a power of the mind, nor the want of it any species of inability. The sinner under the convictions, which precede regeneration, is disposed, and feels anxious, to be saved. But he has not the requisite powers to embrace the Saviour. He has nothing but a speculative knowledge of Jesus. He feels guilty and lost, and has a disposition to attend to the things of the Spirit which belong to his peace. His mental faculties are now in that relative state which I call disposition. But arrived only at the verge of the twilight which precedes the spiritual morning, he has no spiritual perceptions of the lovely character of Jesus. To him, Jesus, though he seems necessary, does not as yet appear precious. Hence he has not the power of embracing the Saviour. He reads, meditates and prays, but feels lost and helpless. He is conscious that he has no power to believe. Destitute of the grace of faith, he, in the strictest sense of the term, cannot believe in Jesus. And yet he feels a strong disposition to embrace the Saviour. But after the Spirit renews the sinner, the Sun of Righteousness shines into his mind, and in this light he perceives the loveliness of Jesus, and this loveliness presents sufficient inducement to volition. He now has intellectual power to know Jesus, and active power to embrace him, and therefore he believes. Such is the experience of plain, unmetaphysical Christians, as far as I am acquainted with them. And this experience refutes the sentiment under investigation. Thus I think I have proved that the distinction of mental powers, into natural and moral, and that sinners have natural, but not moral, ability, to render acceptable obedience to God, is unsupported by philosophy, and scripture, and experience. That the distinction is used by some writers, and in daily conversation, I readily admit. I once advocated the sentiment. But the use of it, is no certain proof of its correctness. What is more common, in the polite and fashionable world, than the sentence, “He is not at home 2'' But is it true : I cannot, is common, in regard to a thousand subjects. But when designed to communicate the idea of what is called moral inability, I would pronounce it a metaphysical falsehood: and no logic nor metaphysics can demonstrate it to be anything else. The substitute I would Pé. is simple. Away with I cannot, from the vocabulary of Christians, in the metaphysical sense that some men use it, and insert, It is not convenient. The strictures shall be reserved till another occasion. I have given only the outlines of my views on this subject, which are intended for publication in another form, at some future period. J. F.
AN ANSWER To THE Two QUERIES PROPosed BY DISCIPULUS, AND PUBLISHED IN THE LAST NUMBER.
The first query is thus expressed: “In the petition ‘forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,’ are we not taught to entreat of God pardon for our sins, without any reference to the payment of the penalty, by Christ, in our stead : If I forgive a man who owes me a debt, I do it without having received an equivalent from another; otherwise I attach a wrong idea to the term forgive; and if the word as, in the text, means in like manner, does it not teach, that the pardon is granted to the sinner freely, by our Father in heaven?”
This query consists of two distinct questions, one respecting
our conduct in prayer; the other relating to the conduct of God in dispensing pardon. They rest on very different grounds. In reply to the first branch of this query, we submit the following remarks. That Jesus Christ did die in the stead of his people, and thus endure, in their place, the penalty of the law, is plainly and fully asserted in the sacred scriptures. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd, giveth his life for the sheep.” John x. 11. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Cor. v. 21. “ Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Gal. iii. 13. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body, on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.” 1 Pet. ii. 24. But on this point it is unnecessary to insist, because it is conceded by the author . of the queries. He admits the fact; but asks whether we are not taught, in the petition he quotes, “to entreat God to pardon our sins without any reference to the payment of the penalty, by Christ, in our stead.” This being taken for granted, that Christ actually paid the penalty due to us on account of sin, it follows as a necessary consequence, that God has respect to his atoning death, when he remits sin to any of the human race; for it would be an absurdity, utterly unbecoming the wisdom of the divine government, to admit of the vicarious death of Jesus Christ for the redemption of sinners, and yet dispense pardon to them without reference to that great sacrifice which was appointed for the express purpose of rendering the bestowment of this invaluable blessing consistent with the honour due to the law and justice of God. Accordingly we find it attributed, by the inspired writers, to the satisfaction of Christ. “He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John ii. 2. “In whom we have redemption, through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, According To THE RIches of His GRAce.” Ephes. i. 7. “And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” Eph. iv. 32. Now, as it is a fact that God has reference to the atonement of Christ, in the remission of sins, and actually does bestow this blessing for the sake of Christ; and as he has plainly revealed this fact, can it be doubted, whether we ought to have reference to the propitiation of our blessed Saviour, in seeking the remission of our offence? The great medium through which this and all other benefits are conveyed to us, is distinctly made known; and shall we pay no regard to that medium ? The illustrious harbinger of the Reedeemer cries in our ears, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world;”
and shall we turn away our eyes from this all-attractive object? This were to oppose the very design for which the propitiation of Christ is exhibited: for speaking of him, the apostle says, “Whom hath God set forth to be a propitiation for sin, through faith in his blood, to Declare His RIGHTEousNess For THE REMission of sINs that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare I say, at this time, his righteousness; that he MIGHT BE Just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” Rom. iii. 25, 26. In this delightful passage, we are taught both what respect God has to the death of Christ in remitting sin, and the respect which we should have to that astonishing event. Jehovah we see has made an exhibition of this propitiation for the purpose of showing forth his righteousness in bestowing on sinners a full and complete pardon of all their transgressions, and to demonstrate to the world, that, while he restores rebels to his favour, and blesses them with a title to eternal life, he is still a just, as well as a merciful God. We are also taught, that, if we would obtain the forgiveness of our sins, we must look by faith to the blood of Christ ; or to change the metaphor, and use his own language, if we desire to secure to ourselves eternal life, we must “eat his flesh and drink his blood.” John vi. 54. In the whole of our Christian race, it behoves, as the apostle teaches us in Heb. xii. 2. to be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith;” and in compliance with the exhortation of Jude, (v. 21.) we are to be looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” If then we are to have such continual respect to the merits of Christ, it can hardly be supposed that this reference to him is to be laid aside while we are engaged in the solemn duty of prayer. Then, while presenting ourselves before a holy God, if ever, we need to look to this mercy-seat. How can we endure the brightness of his glory, unless we behold it attempered to the weakness of our vision in the face of his Son? If we forget that “God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;” 2 Cor. v. 19; if we forget that he can receive the vilest offender to his favour, through the propitiation of his Son; what encouragement can we have to pray : Forget the sacrifice of Immanuel in prayer' How is it possible 2 Can we address Jehovah, and not remember that glorious Mediator through whom we derive the inestimable privilege of approaching to a throne of grace 2 Is it not our duty to praise God for his marvellous love in giving his Son to die, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life?” Is it not our duty to thank God, that, through the propitiation of Christ, he is righteous, while he remits sin, and just when he justifies him that believeth in Jesus? Is it not our duty to plead with God to grant us the remission of our sins, in this way so illustrative at once of his mercy and of his justice? But the querist feels a difficulty arising from a petition in the Lord's prayer. It is this: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors:” and he grounds on it this question: “Are we not taught to entreat God to pardon our sins without any reference to the payment of the penalty, by Christ, in our stead :'' After what has been said, we may at once conclude, that we are taught no such thing in this petition; because, if this were fact, then one part of scripture would contradict another. But not to rest our answer here, we observe, that, to any one inspecting the petition, it will be evident that it says not a word about the payment of the penalty due to our sins, by Christ; and consequently that it does not, in plain terms, prohibit a regard to that which it does not even mention. The whole difficulty then that presents itself to the view of the Querist, in looking at this petition, seems to arise from the omission of an injunction or direction, to pray for pardon with a reference to the atoning death of our Redeemer. But it ought to be recollected, that we are not to expect to find in any single page of the Bible, and much less in a single sentence, the whole system of a Christian's faith and duty. The entire prayer, although admirably constructed, yet does not exhibit a complete directory for the duty of prayer. While we regard it as a special rule, we believe, as we are taught in our Shorter Catechism, that “the whole word of God is of use to direct us in prayer;” and that if we had no other information than what may be derived from this admirable form, we should not know how to perform this important duty, in the way in which Christians are taught to perform it. If we look through this directory, we shall find not one word of thanksgiving ; and shall we conclude from this omission, that thanksgiving is not to be mingled with our petitions : Let the apostle answer. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in THE NAME of our LoRD JEsus, giving thanks to God and the Father BY HIM.” Col. iii. 17. “Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks : for this is the will of God IN CHRIST JEsus concerning you.” 1 Thes. v. 17, 18. Look at it again, and you will find it contains no direction to pray in the name of Christ; it does not even mention his name; and shall we infer from this omission, that we are not to pray in the name of Christ? He himself, in a subsequent part of his ministry, explicitly taught his disciples their duty in this particular. “In that day,” said he to his disciples in his farewell conversation with them, “ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. HITHERTo ye have asked nothing in my name; ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may