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our own:] so that the same benefit cannot, in the very nature of things, be derived from both [covenants.]
Having thus opened the context, I proceed to a more particular illustration of the text; and that I may explain it as fully as the time allotted for this discourse will permit :
First, I shall premise an account of the two covenants: the covenant of works, to which the Pharisees of old trusted, and [most of] the Roman Catholics, with too many false Protestants, still trust in our days and the covenant of grace, by which alone a remnant was saved in St. Paul's time, and will be saved in all ages.
Secondly, I shall prove that the way of salvation by [obedient] faith only, or, which is the same thing, by the covenant of grace, is the only way that leads to life, according to the Scriptures, and the articles of our Church, to whose holy doctrine I shall publicly set my seal.
Thirdly, I shall endeavour to show the unreasonableness and injustice of those who accuse me of "preaching against good works," when I [decry Pharisaic works, and] preach salvation through the covenant of grace only.
Fourthly and lastly, after having informed you why [even] good works [truly so called] cannot* [properly] deserve salvation in whole or in part, I shall answer the old objection of [some ignorant] Papists [and Pharisaical Protestants.] "If good works cannott [properly
* (4.) I prefer “properly" to "absolutely," the word which I formerly used; because "absolutely" bears too hard upon the second Gospel axiom, and turns out of the Gospel the rewardable condecency, that our whole obedience, even according to Dr. Owen, hath unto eternal life, through God's gracious appoint
† (5.) I say now" properly merit us heaven," and not "save us, get us heaven, or procure us heaven," expressions which occur a few times in my old sermon; because (taking the word "merit" in its full and proper sense,) the phrase not merit us heaven," leaves room to defend the necessity of evangelical obedience, and of the works of faith, by which we shall be saved, not indeed as being the first and properly meritorious cause of our salvation, (for to ascribe to them that honour would be to injure free grace, and place them on the Mediator's throne,) but as being the secondary instrumental cause of our justification in the great day, and consequently of our eternal salvation.
Nor does the expression, "properly merit us heaven," clash with such scriptures as these: When the wicked man turneth from his iniquity, he shall save his soul alive-save some with fear-save thy husband-save thy wife-we are saved by hope-work out your own salvation-he that converteth a sinner shall save a soul from death-thy faith hath saved thee--in doing this thou shalt save thyself, and them that hear thee." A preacher should do justice to every part of the Scripture: nor should he blunt one edge of the sword of the Spirit, under pretence of making the other sharper. This I inadvertently did sometimes in the year 1762. May God endue me with wisdom that I may not do it in 1774! I find it the nicest thing in practical, as well as in polemical divinity, so to defend the doctrine of God's free grace as not to wound that of man's faithful obedience, and vice versa. These two doctrines support the two Gospel axioms, and may be called the breasts of the Church. A child of God, instead of peevishly biting the one or the other, should suck them alternately; and a minister of Christ, instead of cutting off either, should carefully protect them both.
Should any one object, that if Calvinism is supported by the Rev. Mr. Berridge's distinction between if and if, (see the Fifth Check, second part, the Gospel axioms, about which we make so much ado, have not a better foundation, since they depend upon a distinction between original merit and derived merit: I reply, that the distinction between legal if and evangelical if is unworthy of Christ, and not less contrary to Scripture, than to reason and morality. On the
merit us heaven,] why should we do them? There is no need to trouble ourselves about any."
I BEGIN by laying before you an account of the two [grand] covenants that God entered into with man. The first was made with Adam,
contrary, the distinction between original or proper merit, and derived or impro. per worthiness, far from being frivolous, is Scriptural, (see Fourth Check, p. 239, &c,) solid, highly honourable to Christ, greatly conducive to morality, very rational, and lying within the reach of the meanest capacity.
This will appear from the following propositions, which contain the sum of our doctrine concerning merit. (1.) All proper worthiness, merit, or desert of any Divine reward is in Christ, the overflowing fountain of all original excellence. (2.) If any of the living water of that rich spring is received by faith, and flows through the believer's heart and works, it forms improper worthiness, or derived merit; because, properly speaking, it is Christ's merit still. (3.) Original merit answers to the first Gospel axiom, and derived worthiness to the second. (4.) According to the first covenant, we can never merit a reward, because, of ourselves as sinners, we deserve nothing but hell; and that covenant makes no provision of merit for hell-deserving sinners. But (5.) According to the second covenant, by God's gracious appointment and merciful promise we can, improperly speaking, be worthy of heaven, through the blood of Christ sprinkled upon our hearts, and through his righteousness derived to us and to our works by faith. (6.) Hence it is that God will give some, namely, impenitent murderers, blood to drink, "for they are worthy," they properly deserve it; while others, namely, penitent believers, shall walk with Christ in white, "for they are worthy," they improperly merit it, Rev. xvi, 6, and iii, 4.
An illustration, taken from a leaden pipe full of water, may show how it is possible that unworthy man should become worthy, through the righteousness which Christ supplies believers with. Strictly speaking, water does not belong to a pipe, any more than merit or worthiness to a believer; for a pipe is only a number of dry sheets of lead soldered together. But if that dry, leaden pipe really receive some of the water which a river supplies, I make myself ridiculous by asserting that the man who hints there is water in the pipe confounds the elements, seeks to dry up the river, and is guilty of a dreadful philosophical heresy. However, if our prepossessed brethren feel an invincible aversion to our Lord's word [aftos, meriting,] we are willing to become all things to them for his sake. If it may be a mean of restoring tranquillity to their minds, we cheerfully consent to use only the word of our translators "worthy ;" and here I give full leave to my readers, whenever they meet the noun "merit," or the verb "to merit," in my Checks, to read "worthiness" instead of the one, and "to be worthy" instead of the other. It may indeed puzzle unbiassed persons to find a difference between those expressions; but no matter. If others will expose their prejudice, we ought not only to maintain the truth, but to show our condescension. The word merit is absolutely nothing to Mr. Wesley and me; but the doctrine of faithful obedience in Christ, and of the gracious rewards with which it shall be crowned for his sake, contains all our duty on earth, and draws after it all our bliss in heaven. Therefore, only grant us truly the second Gospel axiom:-grant us, that God has not appointed his creatures to endless punishments and heavenly rewards out of mere caprice :-grant us, that while the wicked shall properly and "legally deserve their own [and not Adam's] place in hell," the righteous shall improperly and "evangelically be worthy to obtain that world," where they "shall be equal to the angels," Luke xx, 35:-grant us that man is in a state of probation, and shall be recompensed for, and "according to what he has done in the body, whether it be good or bad:"-in a word, grant us the capital doctrine of a day of retribution, in which "God shall judge the world in wisdom and righteousness," not in solemn folly or satanical hypocrisy, and we ask no more. This note is a key to all the doctrines which we maintain in the Minutes, and explain in the Checks.
when he was in a state of innocence in paradise. The condition of it, which is excessively hard [nay, absolutely impossible] to fallen man, was easy before the fall. It runs thus:- Do this [thou sinless man] and live the [innocent] man that does these things shall live by them," Rom. x, 5: that is, "If thou [who art now a guiltless, holy, and perfect creature] yield a constant, universal, and perfect obedience to the moral law," now summed up in the ten commandments, "thou shalt be rewarded with glory in heaven. But if thou fail in any one particular, whether it be in thought, word, or deed, thou shalt surely die,' Gen. ii, 17; for the soul that sinneth it shall die,' Ezek. xviii, 4. The wages of sin is death,' Rom. vi, 23. And cursed is every one that continueth not in ALL things written in the book of the law to do them,"" Gal. iii, 10.
Nor does this covenant make any allowance for deficiencies, or pass by one transgression, great or little, without pronouncing the threatened curse; [for it made no provision for repentance, neither did it offer sinners the help of a sacrificing priest, or interceding mediator.] Whether therefore the sin be murder and adultery, or only eating some forbidden fruit, its language is,* "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all," James ii, 10: that is, all the curses denounced against those who break the covenant of works hang upon his guilty head, [and will fall upon him in a degree proportionable to the aggravations of his sin.]
This first covenant we have all broken in our first parents, for ["in Adam all die"]" by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned," Rom. v, 12. We are then all born [or conceived] in sin, Psalm li, 5, and consequently "we are by nature children of wrath," Eph. ii, 3. But this is not all. This root of original sin produces in every man many actual iniquities, whereby, as we imitate Adam's rebellion, so we make the guilt of it our own, and fasten the curse attending that guilt upon our own souls, Rom. vii, 24.
Therefore, while we remain in our natural state, [or, to speak more intelligibly, while we continue in sin, guilt, and total impenitency, we not only trample the covenant of grace under foot, but] we stand upon the [broken] covenant of works; and consequently lie under the dreadful curse which is already denounced against every transgressor of the law, Gal. iii, 10, [as well as against every despiser of the Gospel, Heb. x, 27.]
Hence it is that "by the deeds of the law," i, e. by the [unsprinkled] good works commanded in the law [of innocence; or by the ceremo nies prescribed in the law of Moses,]" shall no flesh living [no sinner] be justified: for as many as are of the works of the law [as it stands opposed to the Gospel; yea, as many also as rest, like the impenitent Pharisees, in the letter of the Mosaic law] are under the curse; the
(6.) Whoever reads the Scriptures without prejudice will be of Mr. Burgess mind concerning this awful text. (See Fourth Check, p. 225.) It was evidently spoken with reference to Christ's law of liberty, as well as some of the passages quoted in the preceding paragraph; and if they guard even that law, how much more the law of innocence, which, though it cannot be holier in its precepts, is yet much more peremptory in its curses!
Scripture having concluded all under sin," [i. e. testified that all are sinners by conception and practice] and consequently under the curse [of the first covenant,]" that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty [i. e. may humbly confess their fallen and lost estate] before God," [and gladly accept his offers of mercy in the second covenant,] Rom. iii, 19, 20.
In this deplorable state of guilt and danger, we [generally] remain careless and insensible, [when we have once taken to the way of vanity] making what we call "the mercy of God" a pack horse [if I may use so coarse an expression] to carry us and our sins to heaven, upon the filthy rags* of our own [Pharisaic] righteousness. Here we continue till Divine grace awakens us by the preaching of the Gospel, or by some other means, Eph. v, 14. Being then roused to a serious consideration of our fallen state in Adam, and to a sensibility of the curse which we lie under, through our numerous breaches of [the second as well as of] the first covenant; after many fruitless attempts to remove that curse, by fulfilling the law [of innocence ;] after many [faithless] endeavours to save ourselves by our own [anti-evangelical] works, and righteousness, we despair at last of getting to heaven, by building a Babel with the "untempered mortar" of our own [fancied] sincerity, and the bricks of our wretched good works, [or rather of our splendid sins. And leaving the impassable road of the covenant of works, we begin to seek [as condemned criminals] the way which God's free mercy has opened for lost sinners in Jesus Christ, Acts ii, 37; Phil. iii, 6, &c.
This "new and living way," [for I may call it by the name which the apostle emphatically gives to the last dispensation of the Gospel,] Heb. x, 19, 20, is the new covenant, the covenant of grace [in its various editions or dispensations. For, if the Christian edition is called new in opposition to the Jewish, all the editions together may well be] called new, in opposition to the old covenant, the covenant of works [made with Adam before the fall.] It is also termed Gospel, that is, glad tidings, because [†with different degrees of evidence] it brings
(7.) Here that expression is used in the Scriptural sense.
(8.) This and the preceding clauses are added to guard the doctrine of the Gospel dispensations, of which I had but very confused views eleven years ago. (See Third Check, p. 139.) Leaning then too much toward Calvinism, I fancied, at times at least, that the Gospel was confined within the narrow channel of its last dispensation; which was as absurd as if I had imagined that the swell of our rivers at high water is all the occan. But turning to my Bible, and "reviewing the whole affair," I clearly see that the Jewish and Christian Gospel are not the everlasting Gospel, but only two of its brightest dispensations. Should the reader ask me what I mean by "the everlasting Gospel," when I consider it in its full latitude, I answer, that I mean with St. Paul, "The riches of God's goodness, forbearance, and long suffering, leading men to repentance" for Christ's sake, who in all ages is the "Saviour of the world." Yea, and the severe strokes of his gracious providence driving them to it. I dare not insinuate that Jonah, one of the most successful preachers in the world, was not a Gospel preacher, when he stirred up all the people of Nineveh to repentance by the fear of impending destruction; and that St. John the divine was a stranger to true divinity when he gave us the following account of the manner in which a celestial evangelist preached the everlasting Gospel: "I saw another angel having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, [here is free grace!] saying,
comfortable news of free salvation in Christ, to all that see they are undone in themselves.
The second covenant, then, or the Gospel, is a dispensation of free grace and mercy [not only to little children, of whom is the kingdom of heaven, but also] to poor, lost, helpless sinners, who, seeing and feeling themselves condemned by the law [of innocence,] and utterly unable to obtain justification upon the terms of the first covenant, come to [a merciful God through] Jesus Christ [the light of men, according to the helps afforded them in the dispensations which they are under,] to seek in him [and from him those merits and] that righteousness which they have not in themselves. For the Son of God, being both God and man in one person; and by the invaluable sacrifice of himself upon the cross, having suffered the punishment due to all our breaches of the law [of works;] and by his most holy life having answered all the demands of the first covenant,* "God can be just, and the justifier of him that believes in Jesus," Rom. iii, 26. Therefore,
with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment," as well as of his mercy, "is come: and worship him that made heaven and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." Here is, if I am not mistaken, the Gospel according to which many shall come from the east, and from the west, and shall sit down at the heavenly feast with the father of the faithful, when the unloving Pharisees shall be thrust out notwithstanding their great ado about absolute election. This note will probably touch the apple of my reader's eye, if he be a rigid Predestinarian. But if he be offended, I entreat him to consider, whether his love does not bear some resemblance to the charity of those strong Predestinarians of old, those monopolizers of God's election, who despised poor How violent was their prejudice! They vastly "sinners of the Gentiles." admired our Lord's sermon at Nazareth, till he touched the sore that festered in But no sooner did he insinuate that their election was their strait-laced breast. not yet made sure, and that the poor Pagan widow of Serepta, and Naaman the Syrian were not absolute reprobates, than "they were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill, that they might cast him down headlong." He had touched their great Diana, and therefore, to be sure, he had committed the unpardonable sin; he had spoken treason, heresy, blasphemy. (See Luke iv, 28.)
*(9.) Although there were some very unguarded passages in my original ser. mon, yet what was unguarded in one place was in a great degree guarded in another. Thus even in this paragraph, which is the first that Mr. Hill produces in his extract, by saying that "Christ has answered all the demands of the FIRST covenant" for believers, I indirectly assert, that he has not answered the demands of the SECOND; and that, according to the Gospel, we must personally repent, believe, and obey, to be finally accepted: the covenant of grace insisting as much upon the works of faith, as the covenant of works did upon the works of the law of innocence, in order to our continuance and progress in the Divine favour. A doctrine this which is the ground of the Minutes, the quintessence of the Checks, and the downfall of Antinomianism. It was only with respect to the covenant of works and to the law of innocence that I said in the next paragragh, transposed by Mr. Hill, "This obedience, when we are united to Christ by a faith of the operation of God, is accepted instead of our own." How greatly then does he mistake me, when he supposes I asserted that the personal, Adamic, and (in one sense) anti-evangelical obedience of Christ, which sprang neither from Gos pel faith nor from Gospel repentance, is accepted instead of the personal, penitential, evangelical obedience of believers! It is just here that the Calvinists turn aside from the truth to make void the law of Christ and follow Antinomian dotages. Because Christ has fulfilled the Adamic law of innocence for us, they fancy that he has also fulfilled his own evangelical law of Gospel obedience, according to which we must stand or fall, when "by our words we shall be jus tified, and by our words we shall be condemned."