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Our Lord, we are persuaded, keeps his covenant when he spews a lukewarm, unfaithful Laodicean out of his mouth, as well as when he says to the good and faithful servant, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." For the same covenant of grace which says, "He that believeth shall be saved;-he that abideth in me bringeth forth much fruit," says also, "He that believeth not shall be damned;-every branch in me that beareth not fruit, is cast forth and burned."
Thanks be to Divine grace, we make our boast of God's faithfulness as well as you, though we take care not to charge him, even indirectly, with our own unfaithfulness. But from the words which you quote, "My covenant shall stand fast with his seed," &c, we see no more reason to conclude that the obstinately unfaithful seed of Christ, such as Hymeneus, Philetus, and those who to the last "tread under foot the blood of the covenant wherewith they were sanctified," shall not be cast off; than to assert that many individuals of David's royal family, such as Absalom and Amnon, were not cut off on account of their flagrant and obstinate wickedness.
We beseech you, therefore, for the sake of a thousand careless Antinomians, to remember that the apostle says to every believer, "Thou standest by faith; behold therefore the goodness of God toward thee, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." We entreat you to consider, that even those who admire the point of your epigram, "Whenever we say one thing, we mean quite another," will not be pleased if you apply it to St. Paul, as you have done to Mr. Wesley. And when we see God's covenant with David grossly abused by Antinomians, we beg leave to put them in mind of God's covenant with the house of Eli. "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I chose thy father out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest; [but thou art unfaithful] thou honourest thy sons above me. I said indeed, that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever but now be it far from me; for them that honour me, I will honour; and they that despise me, shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy house; and I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in my heart," 1 Sam. ii.
II. Your second Letter respects working for life. You make the best of a bad subject, and really some of your arguments are so plausible, that I do not wonder so many men should commence Calvinists, rather than be at the trouble of detecting their fallacy. I am sorry, dear sir, I cannot do it without dwelling upon Calvinism. My design was to oppose Antinomianism alone: but the vigorous stand which you make for it upon Calvinian ground, obliges me to encounter you there, or to give up the truth which I am called to defend. I have long dreaded the alternative of displeasing my friends or wounding my conscience; but I must yield to the injunctions of the latter, and appeal to the candour of the former. If impetuous rivers of Geneva Calvinism have so long been permitted to flow through England, and even deluge Scotland, have not I some reason to hope that a rivulet of Geneva anti-Calvinism will be suffered to glide through some of Great Britain's plains; especially if its little murmur harmonizes with the clearest dictates of reason, and loudest declarations of Scripture?
Before I weigh your arguments against working for life, permit me to point out the capital mistake upon which they turn. You suppose, that free preventing grace does not visit all men; and that all those in whom it has not prevailed, are as totally dead to the things of God, as a dead body is to the things of this life and from this unscriptural supposition you very reasonably conclude, that we can no more turn to God than corpses can turn themselves in their graves; no more work for life, than putrid carcasses can help themselves to a resurrection.
This main pillar of your doctrine will appear to you built upon the sand, if you read the Scriptures in the light of that mercy which is over all God's works. There you will discover the various dispensations of the everlasting Gospel; your contracted views of Divine love will open into the most extensive prospects; and your exulting soul will range through the boundless fields of that grace which is both richly free in all, and abundantly free for all.
Let us rejoice with reverence while we read such scriptures as these: "The Son of man is come to save that which is lost, and to call sinners to repentance. This is a true saying, and worthy of all acceptation,-worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. To this end he both died and rose again, that he might be the Lord of the dead and living. He came not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved, and that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that he is Lord."
"Bound every heart, and every bosom burn," while we meditate on these ravishing declarations: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He was made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law," that is, all mankind; unless it can be proved that some men never came under the curse of the law. He is the Friend of sinners, the Physician of the sick, and the Saviour of the world: "He died, the just for the unjust; he is the propitiation, not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world. One died for all, because all were dead. As in Adam all die, even so in Christ," [during the day of their visitation,] all are blessed [with quickening grace, and therefore in the last day] "all shall be made alive," to give an account of their blessing or talent. "He is the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe:" and the news of his birth are "tidings of great joy to all people. As by the offence of one judgment came upon all men, even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men; for Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man; he is the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world: therefore God commandeth all men every where to repent,-to look unto him and be saved."
Do we not take choice jewels from Christ's crown, when we explain away these bright testimonies given by his free grace? "It pleased the Father by him to reconcile all things to himself. The kindness and pity of God our Saviour toward man has appeared. I will draw all men unto me. God was in him reconciling the world unto himself." Hence he says to the most obstinate of his opposers, "These things have I spoken unto you, that ye might be saved. If I had not come
and spoken unto them, they had not had sin, [in rejecting me,] but now they have no cloak for their sin," no excuse for their unbelief.
Önce indeed, when the apostles were on the brink of the most dreadful trial, their compassionate Master said, "I pray for them, I pray not for the world." As if he had said, Their immediate danger makes me pray as if there were but these eleven men in the world, "Holy Father, keep them." But having given them this seasonable testimony of a just preference, he adds, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them who shall believe, that they all may be one," may be united in brotherly love. And he adds, "that the world may believe, and may know that thou hast sent me."
If our Lord's not praying, for a moment, on a particular occasion, for the world, implies that the world is absolutely reprobated, we should be glad of an answer to the two following queries:-(1.) Why did he pray the next day for Pilate and Herod, Annas and Caiaphas, the priests and Pharisees, the Jewish mob, and Roman soldiers; in a word, for the countless multitude of his revilers and murderers? Were they all elect, or was this ejaculation no prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do?" (2.) Why did he commission St. Paul to say, "I exhort, first of all, that supplications, prayers, and intercessions be made for all men; for this is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all?"
Without losing time in proving that none but artful and designing men use the word all to mean the less number! and that all, in some of the above-mentioned passages, must absolutely mean all mankind, as being directly opposed to all that are condemned and "die in Adam;" and without stopping to oppose the new Calvinian creation of "a whole world of elect;" upon the preceding scriptures I raise the following doctrine of free grace:-If Christ tasted death for every man, there is undoubtedly a Gospel for every man, even for those who perish by rejecting it.
St. Paul says, that "God shall judge the secrets of men, according to his Gospel." St. Peter asks, "What shall be the end of those who obey not the Gospel of God?" and the apostle answers, "Christ, revealed in flaming fire, will take vengeance on them who obey not the Gospel," that is, all the ungodly who "receive the grace of God in vain, or turn it into lasciviousness." They do not perish because the Gospel is a lie with respect to them, but "because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." God, to punish their rejecting the truth, permits that they should believe a lie; "that they all might be damned, who, to the last hour of their day of grace, believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
The latitude of our Lord's commission to his ministers demonstrates the truth of this doctrine: "Go into all the world, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Hence those gracious and general invitations, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, [after happiness,] come ye to the waters; if any man thirst, [after pleasure,] let him come to me and drink. Come unto me, all ye that labour, [for want of rest,] and I will give it to you.
Whosoever will, let him come and take the water of life freely. Ye adulterers,-draw nigh unto God, and he will draw nigh unto you. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man open, I will come in and sup with him. Go out into the highways and hedges, preach the Gospel to every creature; and lo, I am with you to the end of the world."
If you compare all the preceding scriptures, I flatter myself, Hon. sir, you will perceive, that as the redemption of Christ is general, so there is a general Gospel, which is more or less clearly revealed to all, according to the clearer or more obscure dispensation which they are outwardly under.
This doctrine may appear strange to those who call nothing Gospel but the last dispensation of it. Such should remember that as a little seed, sown in the spring, is one with the large plant into which it expands in summer; so the Gospel, in its least appearance, is one with the Gospel grown up to full maturity. Our Lord, considering it both as sown in man's heart, and sown in the world, speaks of it under the name of "the kingdom of heaven," compares it to corn, and considers first the seed, then the blade, next the ear, and last of all the full corn in the ear.
1. The Gospel was sown in the world as a little but general seed, when God began to quicken mankind in Adam by the precious promise of a Saviour; and when he said to Noah, the second general parent of men, “With thee will I establish my covenant;" blessing him and his sons after the deluge.
2. The Gospel appeared as corn in the blade, when God renewed the promise of the Messiah to Abraham, with this addition, that though the Redeemer should be born of his elect family, Divine grace and mercy were too free to be confined within the narrow bounds of a peculiar election: therefore, " in his seed," that is, in Christ the Sun of righteousness," all the families of the earth should be blessed;" as they are all cheered with the genial influence of the natural sun, whether he shines above or below their horizon, whether he particularly enlightens the one or the other hemisphere.
3. The Gospel word grew much in the days of Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah; "for the Gospel," says St. Paul, "was preached unto them as well as unto us," though not so explicitly. But when John the Baptist, a greater prophet than any of them, began to preach the Gospel of repentance, and point sinners to "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world," then the ear crowned the blade, which had long been at a stand, and even seemed to be blasted.
4. The great Luminary of the Church shining warm upon the earth, his direct beams caused a rapid growth. The Favonian breathings and sighs which attended his preaching and prayers, the genial dews which distilled on Gethsemane during his agony, the fruitful showers which descended on Calvary, while the blackest storm of Divine wrath rent the rocks around, and the transcendent radiance of our Sun, rising after this dreadful eclipse to his meridian glory; all concurred to minister fertile influences to the Plant of Renown. And on the day of pentecost, when power came from on high, when the fire of the Holy Ghost seconded the virtue of the Redeemer's blood, the full corn was seen in the mystical ear; the most perfect of the Gospel dispensations
came to maturity; and Christians began to bring "forth fruit unto" the "perfection" of their own economy.
As some good men overlook the gradual display of the manifold Gospel grace of God, so others, I fear, mistake the essence of the Gospel itself. Few say, with St. Paul, "The Gospel of which I am not ashamed, is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth, with the heart unto righteousness," according to the light of his dispensation. And many are afraid of his catholic doctrine, when he sums up the general everlasting Gospel in these words: "God was not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also; because that which may be known of God," under their dispensation, "is manifest in them, God having showed it unto them. For the grace of God, which bringeth salvation," or rather n xapis n owenpios, the grace emphatically saving, "hath appeared unto all men; teaching us to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, justly, and godly, in this present world."
"But how does this saving grace teach us?" By proposing to us the saving truths of our dispensation, and helping our unbelief, that we may cordially embrace them; for "without faith it is impossible to please God." Even the heathens who "come to God, must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; for there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek, the same Lord over all being rich unto all them that call upon him."
Here the apostle starts the great Calvinian objection: "But how shall they believe, and call on him, of whom they have not heard ?” &c. And having observed that the Jews had heard, though few had believed, he says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," which is nigh, even in the mouth and in the heart of all who receive the truth revealed under their dispensation. Then resuming his answer to the Calvinian objection, he cries out, "Have not they" (Jews and Greeks) all "heard" preachers, who invite them to believe that God is good and powerful, and consequently that he is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him? "Yes, verily," replies he, "their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world."
If you ask, "Who are those general heralds of free grace, whose sound goes from pole to pole?" The Scripture answers with becoming dignity: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech or language [no country or kingdom] where their voice is not heard. Their [instructing] line went through the earth, [their vast parish,] and their words to the ends of the world," their immense diocess. For "the invisible things of God, [that is, his greatness and wisdom, his goodness and mercy,] his eternal power and Godhead, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [and preserved,] so that [the very heathens, who do not obey their striking speech,] are without excuse; because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful."
This is the Gospel alphabet, if I may be allowed the expression. The apostle, like a wise instructer, proceeded upon the plan of this