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It appears from hence, that the electing love of God is a powerful constraining motive to holiness; and that which invincibly proves the necessity of it to all who intend the eternal enjoyment of God ;—but it will be said, that if this be granted with respect to believers, yet, as to the unconverted, nothing can be so discouraging as this doctrine of election:-"Can they make any other conclusion from it, but if they are not elected all their endeavours are vain; if they are elected, then they are needless?" I answer,
(1.) We have already shewn that this doctrine is revealed in the Scripture, principally to acquaint believers with their safety, and the fountain of their comforts. Having, therefore, proved its usefulness to them, I have discharged all that is absolutely needful to my present purpose; but I shall, moreover, shew, that it has its proper benefit towards others also ;-for,
(2.) Suppose the doctrine of personal election be preached; two conclusions may possibly be drawn from it:-First, That as this is a matter of great and eternal moment to our souls, and there is no way to secure our interest in it but by the possession of its fruits and effects, which are faith and holiness,—we will, we must use our utmost endeavours, by attaining them, to make our election sure. Others may conclude, that if those who shall be saved are chosen thereto before the foundation of the world, then it is to no purpose to believe or to obey, seeing all things must be as they were foreordained. Now, I ask, Which of these conclusions is the most rational, and most suitable to the principles of sober self-love, and care of our immortal condition? Nothing is more certain than that the latter resolution will be infallibly destructive, if pursued: but in the other way, it is possible, at least, that a man may be found to be the object of God's electing love, and so be saved but why do I say it is possible? There is nothing more certain, than that he who sincerely and diligently pursues the ways of faith and obedience (which are the fruits of election) shall obtain in the end everlasting blessedness. This, therefore, on all accounts, and towards all sorts of persons, is an invinci
ble argument for the necessity of holiness, and a prevailing motive thereto : for it is unavoidable, that if there be such a thing as personal election, and that the fruits of it are sanctification, faith, and obedience, it is utterly impossible that, without holiness, any one should see God: the reason of which consequence is apparent to all.
Holiness necessary, from the Commands of God.
We have evinced the necessity of holiness from the nature and the decrees of God; our next argument shall be taken from his commands. It is needless to produce instances of God's commands that we should be holy; for it is the concurrent voice of the Law and Gospel.
Our enquiry must be, What force is there in this argument? or, Whence do we conclude a necessity of holiness from the commands of God? To this end the nature and properties of these commands must be considered; we are to get our minds and consciences affected with them, so as to endeavour after holiness on their account;" for our holiness is obedience, and obedience respects a command; for men to pretend to holiness from a principle within, without respect to the commands of God in his word, is to make themselves their own God, and to despise obedience to him who is "over all, God blessed for ever." Then are we the servants of God, the disciples of Christ, when we do what is commanded, and because it is commanded.
But to make our way more clear, we must premise, that God's commands may be considered, 1. As they belong to the Covenant of Works ;-2. As they belong to the Covenant of Grace. The same things, as to the matter of them, are required in both; but there is a great difference in the manner and end of these commands.
For, 1. The commands of God, as under the old
covenant, so require universal holiness in us, that upon the least failure, they allow of nothing else we do, but determine us transgressors of the whole law. The end required by them is, that they may be our righteousness before God, or that we may be justified thereby. Rom. x. 4, 5.
2. It is otherwise, on both these accounts, with the commands of God under the new covenant, or in the Gospel; for, though God requires universal holiness in them, yet not in that rigorous way as by the law; so that, if we fail in any thing, all should be rejected; but he doth it with a mixture of grace and mercy; so that, if there be an universal sincerity, in a respect to all his commands, he accepts of it on account of the mediation of Christ; but yet there is no relaxation as to any duty of holiness, nor any indulgence to the least sin; the obligation to universal holiness is equal to what it was under the law, though a relief be provided, where we come short of it, in sincerity on the one hand, and mercy on the other.
The commands of the Gospel do not require holiness to the same end as the commands of the law did, namely, that thereby we may be justified; he has provided another righteousness for that end, which fully answers all that the law requires, and whereby he has exalted more than ever the honour of his own holiness and righteousness. Now, this is no other than the righteousness of Christ imputed to us; for he is "the end of the law for righteousness to them that believe.” But God has appointed other ends to our holiness, and so to his command of it in the Gospel, consistent with the nature of that obedience which he will accept of us, and such as we may attain through the power of his grace.
I. The first thing to be considered in the command of God that we should be holy, is the authority of it. It is indispensably necessary that we should be holy, on account of the authority of God's command. Authority, wherever it is just, carries with it an obligation to obedience: take this away, and you fill the world with disorder. If the authority of parents, masters,
and magistrates, did not oblige children, servants, and subjects to obedience, the world would fall into hellish confusion. God himself makes use of this argument, to convince men of the necessity of obedience: "A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master; if I then be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear?" If, in all particular relations where there is any thing of superiority, obedience is expected and exacted, is it not due to me, who have all authority?
There are two things which enforce the obligation,The right of commanding, and the power of executing; both comprised in James iv. 12. "There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy." 1. He who commands us to be holy, is our Sovereign Lawgiver; his command proceeds from the absolute power of a Sovereign Legislator; and where this is not complied with, the whole authority of God is despised. So God, in many places, calls sinning against his commands "despising him," and "despising of his commandment." Here, then, we found the necessity of holiness, on the command of God. This are we to carry about with us wherever we go; and whatever we do, to keep our souls under the power of it, in all our duties, and on all occasions of sin. Were this written on the hearts of men, in their ways, trades, shops, affairs, families, studies, closets, they would have "holiness to the Lord" on their breasts and foreheads too. 2. The apostle tells us, that as God in his commands is a Sovereign Law-giver, so he "is able to "kill and keep alive;" that is, his commanding authority is accompanied with a power, whereby he is able eternally to reward the obedient, and to punish the disobedient:-for, though I would not exclude other considerations, yet I think this of eternal rewards and punishments is principally intended.
Our Saviour, Matth. x. 28, mentions a killing, which is opposed to all temporal evil, and death itself. "Fear not them who can kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell;" and this keep
ing alive is a deliverance from the wrath to come, in everlasting life; and this is that which gives unavoidable efficacy to the command.
The minds of men are little influenced by the rewards and punishments of human laws, for they frequently prefer their present satisfaction before them. They have also a secret apprehension, that the lawmakers neither will nor can execute the penalties threatened but things are quite otherwise with respect to the laws of God. The rewards and punishments being eternal, cannot be balanced by any consideration of this present world. Nor can there be any reserve on account of mutability, ignorance, impotence, or any other pretence that they shall not be executed. The promise of eternal blessedness on the one hand, or the threatening of misery on the other, will certainly befall us, according as we shall be found holy or unholy. God commands us to be holy; but what if we are not so? Why, as sure as God is holy and powerful, we shall eternally perish. What if we comply with the command, and become holy? On the same ground of assurance, we shall be brought to everlasting felicity.
Some, perhaps, will say, that to yield obedience to God with respect to rewards and punishments, is servile, and becomes not the free spirit of the children of God; but this is a vain imagination. The bondage of our own spirits may make every thing we do servile: but a due respect to God's promises and threatenings is a principal part of our liberty. It is, therefore, our duty, if we would be found walking in a course of holy obedience, to keep a sense of the authority of God's command constantly fixed on our minds: and we may apply this to persons and occasions.
(1.) As to persons:-Let the great and noble especially regard this, whose special temptation it is to be lifted up to a disregard of God's authority. The prophet distributes incorrigible sinners into two sorts. The first are the poor: and it is their folly and sensual lusts that keep them from observing the command:-"They have refused to receive correction, they have