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solvent debtor, that he will discharge him, provided he pays the debt, and, at the same time, gives him to understand that he will supply him with a sum of money, that shall enable him to do it, this is altogether the same as though he had discharged him, without any conditional demand of payment. This I cannot but mention, because there are some persons, who speak of faith, as a condition of the covenant of grace, and, at the same time, take it for granted, that it is not in our own power to perform it: nevertheless, since God has promised that he will work it in us, they conclude it to be conditional; whereas such a promise as this would render the covenant absolute, or, at least, not conditional, in the same sense, in which human covenants are, and only infer what we do not deny, that there is a necessary connexion between that grace, which God will enable us to perform, and salvation, which he has promised in this covenant.
(3.) When any thing is promised to another, on condition that he do what is enjoined on him, it is generally supposed that it is a dubious and uncertain matter whether this condition shall be fulfilled, and the promise take place; or, as I may express it, every condition contains not a necessary, but an uncertain connexion between the promised advantage, and the duty enjoined, and that for this reason, because all human covenants depend on the power and will of men, who are under conditional engagements to perform what is demanded therein; and these are supposed to be mutable and defective, and, as far as they are so, the performance of the condition may be reckoned dubious; and he that made the promise is liable to the same uncertainty, whether he shall make it good or no. This will hardly be denied, by those who defend the other side of the question, who, in explaining the nature of human liberty, generally suppose, that every one, who acts freely, might do the contrary; therefore they must, from hence, conclude, that, if the performing the conditions of a covenant be the result of man's free will, it is possible for him not to perform them, and therefore it must be a matter of uncertainty, whether a person, who promises a reward upon the performance of these conditions, will confer it or no. But, however this may be applied to human covenants, we are not to suppose that faith, or any other grace, is, in this respect, a condition of the covenant of grace, as though God's conferring the blessings promised therein were dependent on the will of man, as determining itself to the exercise of these graces; in this respect, we cannot but deny the covenant of grace to be conditional.
(4.) If we take an estimate of the worth and value of a condition enjoined, the advantages that he, who enjoins it, expects to receive from it, or the reference that the performance thereof has to the procuring the blessing promised, in which case the person, who has fulfiled it, may be said to merit, or have whereof to glory in himself, as to what concerns the part he has performed therein : this must not be applied to any transaction between God and man, and therefore is wholly to be excluded from those ideas, which are contained in the word condition, when applied to the covenant of grace, as will be allowed by most, who do not give into the Popish doctrine of the merit of good works. Concerning the worth and value of faith, and all other graces, I would not be thought, in the least, to depreciate or divest them of that excellency, which they have, above all other effects of God's power and blessings of providence; whereas certainly we ought to bless God for them, or glory in him, as the Author of them : but that which we would fence against in this matter, is nothing more than what our Saviour does, when he says, When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants, Luke xvii. 10. And I would not have any one suppose, that whatever condition is performed by us, has such a value put on it, as that eternal life is hereupon due to us, in a way of debt, which would make way for boasting. It is true, the conditions which Christ performed in that branch of the covenant, which more immediately respected himself, which some call the covenant of redemption, were properly meritorious, and the blessings he purchased thereby were given him in a way of debt, and not as an undeseryed favour: but, if we suppose that there is the same reference of faith, or any other grace acted by us, to that salvation, which we expect, we turn the covenant of grace into a covenant of works, and resolve that into ourselves which is due to God alone.
But since many excellent divines have asserted faith to be a condition of the covenant of grace, who do not understand the word condition, either as containing in it any thing dubious or uncertain on the one hand, or meritorious on the other; and probably they choose to express themselves so, in compliance with custom, and to explain away the common ideas of the word condition, as applied to human covenants, rather than altogether to lay it aside ; and, it may be, they do this, lest they should be thought to deny the necessary connexion between faith and salvation : I shall therefore, for the same reason, conclude this head with the following propositions, whereby our not using the word condition, may be vindicated, from any just exception; or, our using of it may not appear to be inconsistent with the divine perfections, or the grace of this covenant. Therefore,
1st, We shall lay down this as an undoubted truth, the denial whereof would be subversive of all religion, that faith, and
all other graces, are required by God, and our obligation thereunto is indispensible; whether it be reckoned a condition of the covenant or no, is no less a duty. (a) It is true, there are
(a)." The law of God itself requires no creature to love him, or obey him, beyond his strength, or with
more than all the powers which he possesses. If the inability of sinners to believe in Christ, or to do things spiritually good, were of this nature, it would undoubtedly form an excuse in their favour; and it must be as absurd to exhort them to such duties, as to exhort the blind to look, the deaf to hear, or the dead to walk. But the inability of sinners is not such as to induce the Judge of all the earth, (who cannot do other than right) to abate in his requirements. It is a fact that he does require them, and that without paying any regard to their inability, to love him, and to fear him, and to do all his commandments always. The blind are admonished to look, the deaf to hear, and the dead to arise. Isa. xlii. 18. Ephes. v. 14. If there were no other proof than what is afforded by this single fact, it ought to satisfy us that the blindness, deafness, and death of sinners, to that which is spiritually good, is of a different nature from that which furnishes an excuse. This however is not the only ground of proof. The thing speaks for itself. There is an essential difference between an inability which is independent of the inclination, and one that is owing to nothing else. It is equally impossible, no doubt, for any person to do that which he has no mind to do, as to perform that which surpasses his natural powers; and hence it is that the same terms are used in the one case as in the other. Those who were under the dominion of envy and malignity, could not speak peaceably; and those who bave eyes full of adultery, CANNOT cease from sin. Hence also the following languageHow can ye, being evil, speak good things 2--The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them-The carnal mind is enmity against God; and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be They that are in the flesh CANNOT pleuse God-No man can come to me, except the Father who sent me draw him.-It is also true, that many have affected to treat the distinction between natural and moral inability as more curious than solid. “If we be unable, say they, we are unable. As to the nature of the inability, it is a matter of no account. Such distinctions are perplexing to plain Christians, and beyond their capacity. But surely the plainest and weakest Christian in reading his bible, if he pay any regard to what he reads, must perceive a manifest difference between the blindness of Bartimeus, who was ardently desirous that he might receive his sight, and that of the unbelieving Jews, who closed their eyes, lest they should see, and be converted, and healed; Mark x. 51. Matt. xii. 15. and between the want of the natural sense of hearing, and the state of those who have ears, but hear not.
So far as my observation extends, those persons who affect to treat this distinction as a matter of mere curious speculation, are as ready to make use of it as other people where their own interest is concerned. If they be accused of in. juring their fellow-creatures, and can allege that what they did was not knowingly, or of design, I believe they never fail to do so: or when charged with neglecting their duty to a parent, or a master; if they can say in truth that they were unable to do it at the time, let their will have been ever so good, they are never known to omit the plea : and should such a master or parent reply by suggesting that their want of ability arose from want of inclination, they would very easily understand it to be the language of reproach, and be very earnest to maintain the contrary. You never hear a person, in such circumstances, reason as he does in religion. He does not say, “ If I be unable, I am unable; it is of no account whether it be of this kind or that:" but labours with all his might to establish the difference. Now if the subject be so clearly understood and acted upon where interest is concerned, and never appears difficult but in religion, it is but too manifest where the difficulty lies. If by fixing the guilt of our conduct upon our father Adam, we can sit comfortably in our nest; we shall be very averse to a sentiment that tends to disturb our repose, by planting a thorn in it.
It is sometimes objected, that the inability of sinners to believe in Christ, is not the effect of their depravity; for that Adam himself in his purest state was
some who distinguish between the obligation of a law, and that of a covenant; the former of which depends on an express command; the latter is the result of some blessings promised or
only a natural mun, and had no power to perform spiritual duties. But this ob. jection belongs to another topic, and has, I hope, been already answered. To this, however, it may be added–The natural man who receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, (1 Cor. ii. 14.) is not a man possessed of the holy image of God, as was Adam, but of mere natural accomplishments; as were the wise men of the world, the philosophers of Greece and Rome, to whom the things of God were foolishness. Moreover, if the inability of sinners to perform spiritual duties, were of the kind alleged in the objection, they must be equally unable to commit the opposite sins. He that from the constitution of his nature is absolutely unable to understand, or believe, or love a certain kind of truth, must of necessity be alike unable to shut his eyes against it, to disbelieve, to reject, or to hate it. But it is manifest that all men are capable of the latter; it must therefore follow, that sothing but the depravity of their hearts renders them incapable of the former.
Some writers, as hath been already observed, have allowed that sinners are the subjects of an inability which arises from their depravity ; but they still contend that this is not all; but that they are both naturally and morally unable to believe in Christ; and this they think agreeable to the scriptures, which represent them as both unable and unwilling to come to him for life. But these two kinds of ina. bility cannot consist with each other, so as both to exist in the same subject, and towards the same thing. A moral inability supposes a natural ability. He who never in any state was possessed of the power of seeing, cannot be said to shut his eyes against the light. If the Jews bad not been possessed of natural powers, equal to the knowledge of Christ's doctrine, there had been no justice in that cutting question and answer, Why do ye not understand my speech? Because ye GANNOT hear my word. A total physical inability must of necessity supersede a moral one. To suppose, therefore, that the phrase, No man can come to me, is meant to describe the former; and, YE WILL NOT come to me that ye may have life, the latter; is to suppose that our Saviour taught what is self-contradictory.
Some have supposed that in ascribing physical or natural power to men, we deny their natural depravity. Through the poverty of language, words are obli. ged to be used in different senses. When we speak of men as by nature depraved, we do not mean to convey the idea of sin being an essential part of human nature, or of the constitution of man as man: our meaning is, that it is not a mere effect of education and example; but is from his very birth so interwoven through all his powers, so ingrained, as it were, in his very soul, as to grow up with him, and become natural to him.
On the other hand, when the term natural is used as opposed to moral, and ap. plied to the powers of the soul, it is designed to express those faculties which are strictly a part of our nature as men, and which are necessary to our being accountable creatures. By confounding these ideas we may be always disputing, and bring nothing to an issue.
Finally, It is sometimes suggested, that to ascribe natural ability to sinners to perform things spiritually good, is to nourish their self-sufficiency; and that to represent their inability as only moral, is to suppose that it is not insuperable, but may after all be overcome by efforts of their own. But surely it is not ne. cessary, in order to destroy a spirit of self-sufficiency, to deny that we are men, and accountable creatures; which is all that natural ability supposes. If any person imagine it possible, of his own accord to chuse that to which he is utterly averse, let him make the trial.
Some have alleged, that natural power is only sufficient to perform natural things; and that spiritual power is required to the performance of spiritual things. But this statement is far from accurate. Natural power is as necessary to the performance of spiritual, as of natural things : we must possess the powers of men in order to perform the duties of good men. And as to spiritual power, or, which is the same thing, a right state of mind, it is not properly a faculty of
conferred, which has in it the obligation of a law, but not the formal nature of it; and therefore they conclude, that we are commanded by God, as a Lawgiver, to believe and repent, but that it is more proper to say, we are rather engaged by him, as a covenant-God, than commanded to exercise these graces: but this dispute is rather about the propriety of words, than the main substance of the doctrine itself; and therefore I shall enter no farther into this critical enquiry, but content myself with the general assertion, that faith, and all other graces are necessary duties; without which, it is impossible to please God, to use the apostle's expression, Heb. xi. 6. or to have any right to the character of Christians.
2dly, Faith, and all other graces, are to be also considered as blessings, promised in the covenant of grace. This appears from those scriptures that speak of them as the gifts of God, Eph. ii. &. purchased by the blood of Christ, and so founded on his righteousness, 2 Pet. i. 1. and wrought in us by his Spirit, and the exceeding greatness of his power, Eph. i. 19. and as discriminating blessings, which all are not partakers of, as the apostle says, All men have not faith, 2 Thess. iii. 2.
This may be farther argued, from what Christ undertook to purchase for, and apply to his people, as their federal Head; so that, in pursuance hereof, all spiritual blessings in heavenly things, are bestowed on them, in him; and hereby the covenant is made good to them, as God is said, together with Christ, to give them all things, Rom. viii. 32. First, Christ is given for a covenant of his people, and then, upon his fulfilling what he undertook to procure for them, all that grace, which is treasured up in him, is applied to them; therefore faith, and other concomitant graces, are covenant-blessings.
3dly, There is a certain connexion between faith, with other concomitant graces, and salvation. But this having been considered elsewhere, together with the sense of those scriptures, that seem to be laid down in a conditional form, from whence the arguments, to prove the conditionality of the covenant of grace, are generally taken ;* all that we shall add, at present, is, that since, in this eternal covenant between the Father and the Son, it was agreed, established, and, on our Saviour's part, undertaken, that the elect should be not only redeemed, but sanctified, and enabled to exercise all grace, before they are brought to glory, this is made good to them in this covenant; and therefore, as the consequence of Christ's purchase, faith,
• See Vol. 1. page 479, 480.
the soul, but a quality which it possesses: and which though it be essential to the actual performance of spiritual obedience, yet is not necessary to our being under obligation to perform it."