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AN INQUIRY CONCERNING The State of the Unregenerate under the Gospel.

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AN INQUIRY CONCERNING The State of the Unregenerate under the Gospel; Whether, on every rising Degree of internal Light, Conviction and Amendment of Life, they are (while unregenerate) undoubtedly, on the whole, more vile, odious and abominable (in GOD's Sight) than, they would have been had they continued secure and at Ease, going on in their Sins, under the same exter­nal Means of Light:

CONTAINING REMARKS On the Tenth Section of the Rev'd Mr. SAMUEL HOPKINS's late ANSWER to Doctor MAYHEW's Sermon on Striving to enter in at the strait Gate; INTITLED "A brief Inquiry into the Use of Means."

By Jedidiah Mills, Minister of the Gospel in Ripton, STRATFORD.

NEW-HAVEN: Printed by B. MECOM. 1767.

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THE PREFACE.

IT has long since been observed that error is wont to be found in the extreams; as in all the com­mon affairs of life, so in matters of religion.

Thus while some have made too light of original sin, as tho' mankind by it were merely sufferers, as chil­dren when born poor, by the parents having spent his substance. Others, to avoid that extream, have made too much of it, as tho' mankind, by it, were become utterly uncapable of any kind of goodness in any sense, even of the lowest sort, called by the name of negative or comparative goodness, a being on the whole less wicked by any reformations and amendments, possible while unregenerate.

So while some have maintained the doctrine of gene­ral redemption, in its utmost extent, that Christ died for all men alike, as much in all respects for Judas as for Peter. Others, to avoid that extream, deny his death to have any res;pect at all but to the elect only.

Again, while some maintain that the good works of the saints are the matter of their justification before God; others, to avoid that extream, make no account at all of good works, neither bold themselves obliged to make the law the rule of life.

So, while some have carried a common work of the spirit, ordinarily preparatory to that which is saving, where a saving work is wrought, too high, bordering on the fruits of a regenerating charge, or have been [Page ii] too particular and exact in describing the parts of it; others, to avoid that extream, have intirely discarded any common work of the spirit at all, on the unrege­nerate, some peremptorily denying any such thing as the influence of the spirit on the unregenerate; others as­serting that nothing of that nature cap be proved from the holy scriptures. This brings to my thoughts a pas­sage which I take to be credibly handed down, taken in short-hand from a sermon preached by the famous Mr. Stoddard, as what he was much persuaded of, viz. that when ministers left off preaching up a pre­paratory work as ordinarily previous to what is sav­ing, it might be looked upon as a token of the with­drawment of the spirit of grace in its saving opera­tions. The grounds of this persuasion, as I take it, may be thus explained: So long as a saving work is carried on in the hearts of ministers & people, ministers will be compelled to know there is such a thing as a common work of the spirit in the unregenerate, as a­bove, and will preach it up to their people without a monitor; therefore when they cease to do this, passing it over in silence as a mere mistake entertained by some of the fathers, otherwise well-meaning and good men, it must needs be a token that such saving operations of the spirit are wanting among them, I heartily fall in with this sentiment; and doubt not if inquiry were wade where ministers are inclined prevalently to doubt of this truth, it would be found that no saving work hath for some time been remarkably and powerfully carried on among their people; and that if ever it be, [Page iii] it will afford abundant matter of conviction to all, that the spirit convinces of sin, before it convinces of righteousness, even while under the reigning power of unbelief; of sin, because they believe not on me; * that sinners are wounded and slain by the law, before they are healed by the gospel. Accordingly I take leave to recommend it, as worthy to be had in re­membrance with the rising generation, but especially with the ministers of Jesus Christ.

Again, while some thro' fond self-love, the strength of imagination, and the subtle workings of the adver­sary, have falsely boasted their conversion and high at­tainmems in communion with God; others, to avoid that extream, have been induced to entertain low thoughts of all pretensions to conversion, and even to call in question the necessity of any change called by the name of regeneration, save what is wrought by or at baptism.

In like manner; while some have made too much of the doings of the unregenerate, awakened to a diligent attendance on the means of grace, and to reformation and amendment of life, as tho' there were something in these things holy, spiritual and pleasing to God, some­thing that stood in connexion with promises, or that might recommend to God's special favour, as a reason why it is bestowed, Others, to avoid that extream, have made all posisible improvements and attainments of the unregenerate, how much soever awakened and re­formed, quite nothing; not only in point justifica­tion [Page iv] and acceptance with God, and in all the respects abovementioned; but as to being thereby a whit less sin­ful, or more in the way of duty or mercy, than they would have been going on secure in their sins, under the same external means of light. Again,

Others, in order to be at a still greater remove from the extream above, maintain that the unregenerate are by all possible awakening convictions and amendments of life, on the whole undoubtedly more vile than they would have been continuing secure and going on in their sins, under the same external means of light; and yet at the same time allow, that on the single account of spe­tulative knowledge obtained in attendance on means, they are more likely to obtain salvation. The former represents the awakened reformed sinner as being neither less sinful or more likely to be saved, than the profane profligate; the latter, as being (on the whole) more vile and odious to God; but more likely to be saved: Both which, to me, appear to be extreams. 'Tis the latter of these that here falls under consideration; which I take to be clearly held forth in the tenth secti­on referred to.

It is now some time since a small piece was publish­ed by me, in the way of refutation of what was then wrote in favour of the opposite extream, and in defence of a sermon preached by the Rev'd Mr. Samuel Cooke; which, according to my weak ability, was attempted in such a manner as might guard against this its opposite extream, by leaving proper scriptural encouragement to a diligent attendance on the means of grace.

[Page v]It was therefore no small gratification to me, when I understood that Mr. Hopkins had undertook the same cause, in answer to Dr. Mayhew, in which I had been concerned; and more so, when the answer itself appeared to me a finished debate on that point; for which Mr. Hopkins has my hearty thanks.

So that the matter of controversy between Mr. Hop­kins and myself has no relation properly to his dispute with the Doctor, but to the latter of the two last ex­treams abovementioned; the former of which, as con­siderable, among other points, has more lately been the occasion, or cause of spreading confusion through towns, societies and churches, and, it is to be feared, of some degree of alienation of affection between ministers and christian brethren.

What is here boasted by some that maintain this point, is, that this performance of Mr. Hopkins is a full vindication of it. But this is carrying the mat­ter too far. All that can, with truth, be boasted of this performance in their favour is, that it maintains a part of their tenet, viz. that the awakened reform­ed sinner, how much soever he is so, is not a whit less vile in the sight of God than he would be had he con­tinued in a state of security, abandoning himself to all manner of most abominable wickedness, under the same external means of light.

This principle, it must be owned, Mr. Hopkins has given unwearied labour to establish; since, as often as he asserts or essays to prove, that the awakened reformed sinner, how much soever he is so, is, on the whole, more vile, &c. He does, [Page vi] with a high hand, maintain, that he is not, less vile; since the sinner can't, on the whole, be more and less vile at the same time. Thus far Mr. Hopkins is one with that party.

'Tis very observable here, whatever the author's design might, be, that many who are not friends to Calvinism, glory in these things. This, say they, is that Calvinism that has made such a noise in the worlds and now at last is brought forth in­to the light. They glory in what I have called the two ex­treams, last mentioned.

I appeal to the judicious reader, — Is there no insuperable difficulties attending the admission of these things? Can they ever be explained to the understanding and edification of weak, yet sincere Christians? Can the gospel-way of holiness, admiting these metaphysical Subtleties, ever be made plain for the dear lambs of Christ's flock, the weak, the feeble, the lame; so that the way-faring men, the Fools, i.e. of weak understanding, shall not err?

However the question in hand, is not what the Arminians say of these things; what party the author designed to take up for; but whether the things advanced are contained in the ho­ly scriptures. And here, as I doubt not they were, by this author, apprehended to be agreeable to the word of God; so, on the other hand, whether it be my weakness or otherwise, God knoweth, to me they appeared strange and unscriptural; at least left dark and very liable to exception. Nor have I been able to satisfy myself by what is offered in their confirma­tion.

'Tis objected by some, and I doubt not innocently, that Mr. Hopkins has discharged himself well in the debate between the doctor and him, and therefore 'tis pity there should be any re­ply in that case. I heartily join with them had he stopt there. But then it is evident there is another dispute carried on that is quite distinct from that, and has no certain connection with [Page vii] it, as hinted above and will be further seen in the following discourse. I forbear to trouble the rea­der with a train of objections revolved in my own mind, such as my great aversion to publick debates in divinity, unless duty so require; the unfitness of my advanced age, attended with much of infirmity; the preciousness of time for more delightful im­provement; my esteem of the author whose sentiments are here opposed. These and the like, considered in themselves, are of no small moment. But then, on the other hand, when I consider the cause of God and truth, the contentions and divisions that have happened in many places, at least in part by what this author strenuously maintains; and that nothing hath beon pub­lickly said on the other side; and how naturally men go from one step of error to another. In this view of things, while some rejoice in these new discoveries, as being of that excellence whereby 'tis said the gospel was never before preached with such clearness, since the days of the apostles as now; others, perhaps by far the greater number, and such as have hitherto, been looked upon as pillars in the church, are sad, as being al­together to seek for any clear scripture-evidence that the things advanced are true; and in the mean time many our younger brethren in the ministry standing in a pause, not know­ing where to fix, earnestly desire the subject may be further touched upon, in hope of light: I have suffered myself, though with much reluctancy, to be prevailed on to make the following humble attempt; not that I have once imagined myself (under the infirmities and decays of advanced age,) equal to the more sprightly genius of younger years, or able to give the cause that full advantage that truth would allow; yet ths goodness and importance of the cause, as things appear to me, my near ap­proach to the great and invisible world, when I shall take final leave of the dear church of God upon earth, persuades me, [Page viii] rather than sit still in silence, to shew my good-will, by cast­ing in, tho' but my single mite.

In this view, the reader is desired to pass with candour what in the manner of composure might be disgustful to the po­lite; especially repetitions with some variety of expression in­dulged for the sake of reaching with conviction the weakest undersstanding.

I ask leave to conclude nearly with the words of my dear I brother—If I have made any dangerous mistake in the fol­lowing discourse, and it shall be pointed out by some wise judicious pen, I shall most gladly stand corrected before the world.

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An INQUIRY, &c.

IN the prosecution of the design I have in view, I shall humbly attempt these things:

I.
Set before the reader, in the author's own words, some of those passages referred to, as more exceptionable; that every one may fairly see and judge for himself.
II.
Sum up their plain and genuine sense in a general proposition.
III.
Examine the author's proof of the point.
IV.
Offer some considerations in favour of the negative.
V.
Touch on some other particular passages that to me appear exceptionable.
VI.
Consider such objections as may fall in the way.

I. The passages quoted from the author's own words are as follow.

‘The impenitent sinner who continues obstinate­ly to reject and oppose the salvation offered in the gospel, does in some respects, yea, on the whole, become not less but more vicious and guilty in God's sight, the more instruction and knowledge he gets in attendance on the means of grace.§ Yea, his impenitence and all his sins are so aggravated by the light and conviction he obtains, that whatever [Page 2] particular ways of known sin he has forsaken, and how many soever external duties he attends upon; yet, on the whole, he is undoubtedly a greater sinner, than he was when he lived in se­curity and the neglect of the means of grace. So that the impenitent unregenerate sinner does not grow better, but rather grows worse by all the instruction and knowledge he gets in the use of means. And awakened convinced sinners with whom most means are used, and who are most attentive to the concerns of their souls, and most in earnest in the use of means, are commonly, if not always, really more guilty in God's sight, than they that are secure and at ease in their sins.§

‘Sinners who continue impenitent under the greatest conviction of conscience, and the most concern about their souls and salvation, and are consequently taking the most pains and using un­wearied endeavours, are usually the greatest sin­nes, really more vicious, more guilty and vile, than they were when in a state of security, and lived in a great measure in the neglect of the means of grace. So that the good the sinner gets by a constant attendance on the means of grace, while impenitent, is not a becoming on the whole, less vicious or criminal in God's sight. The sinner's growing really worse, more guilty and vile the more light he has, and the greater advantages [Page 3] he enjoys, while he continues impenitent, is real­ly no matter of discouragement,’ &c.

II. In order to bring the matter into a narrower compass, and sum up the whole in one general proposition, whereby the sense of the author, so far as concerns the present debate, may more clearly be seen, I desire the following particulars may be carefully observed.

1. That when it is here said, the awakened re­formed sinner is more vile in the sight of God, than when in a state of security, it can't be meant only in the sense in which all, even saints, considered in themselves, as well as sinners, are more vile to­day than yesterday, as they are constantly adding fresh guilt; but that an awakened reformed state is, ON THE WHOLE, a more sinful state than that of a se­cure sinner, i. e. they are more vile than they would have been had they continued secure, going on in their sins. Nor,

2. Can any thing be meant by these and the like expressions used by the author, viz. ‘The sinner's continuing obstinately to reject and oppose the salvation offered in the gospel,’ but only his con­tinuing unregenerate under all that conviction; as is manifest from the author's own concession,§ ‘and will continue to do so, until a new heart be given in regeneration.’ Nor,

3. Is it here said the awakened sinner will be more vile and odious to God, when the influence of [Page 4] conviction abates, and he returns to his evil courses; but in the then present tense he is' i. e. under the height of all his convictions, reformations and a­mendments of life; and under the common influ­ences of the spirit, While he thinks there is at least a may-be God will be gracious. Nor,

4. Is he said to be a greater sinner only in a re­spect as his impenitence is continued under greater light; but 'on the whole.' Nor,

5. Is it only said that the awakened convinced sinner may be a greater sinner; but that he is, be­yond all peradventure, undoubtedly so; i. e. con­stantly and unavoidably: So that what is here said is of the nature of a general proposition. Nor,

6. Is this more sinful state of awakened sinners affirmed only in case the sins forsaken are of a less heinous nature, but on supposition they are ever so gross and enormous, ‘whatever particular ways of known sin, he has forsaken,’ &c. Nor,

7. Are the convictions of awakened sinners, here spoken of under any restriction or limitation, but whatever be the degree, ‘though under the greatest convictions of conscience, and the most concern about their souls,’ &c. The author indeed begins with what he calls instruction, explained by specu­lative knowledge, and then adds what he terms more than speculation, and finally rises to all that convic­tion that the unregenerate are capable of, while such. P. 121—124.

8. All this is said of the state of the awakened [Page 5] compared with that of the secure sinner, under the same gospel and means of external light.

A due regard had to these observations, the plain sense of the author may be comprised in this gene­ral proposition, viz. ‘That on every rising degree of in­ternal light, awakening, conviction and amend­ment of life, found in any of the unregenerate, while such, they are undoubtedly (on the whole) more vile, odious and abominable in God's sight, than they would have been had they continued at ease, going on in their sins, under the same external means of light.’

Having thus, to the best of my understanding, fairly adjusted, stated, and sum'd up the sense of the author, I must say the divinity here exhibited appears to me strange and new, never before advan­ced in the Christian world by any divine of tolera­ble sense and reputation, so far as my acquaintance reacheth; unless something of a like complexion is to be found in the Letters on THERON and ASPA­SIO, ascribed to SANDIMAN, who has well-nigh, condemned all other divines to establish himself and his party as the only true Church of Christ upon earth, which, it is said, hath for many ages been concealed in the wilderness, but now lately hath, ap­peared in them; agreeable to other enthusiastick visionaries.

The Westminster and Savoy Confessions both teach, that ‘works done by unregenerate men, al­though, for the matter of them, they may be [Page 6] things which God commands, and of good use both to themselves and others; yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith, nor are done in a right manner, according to the word, nor to a right end, the glory of God; they are therefore sinful and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God. And yet their neglect of them IS MORE SINFUL and DISPLEASING to God.’ This last clause, which, taken in a compound sense, is denied by Mr. Hop­kins, they prove by the following scriptures. "There­fore they say unto God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty that we should serve him? and what profit should we have if we pray unto him? Job xxi. 14, 15, compared with Mal. iii. 13, 15. "Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed! for I was an hungred and ye gave me no meat." &c. "Wo unto you, scribes and pharisees! hypocrites! for ye pay tithes of mint, anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law; judgment, mercy and faith. These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." Which scriptures, I suppose, ful­ly prove the debated clause, against all the feeble at­tacks of the enemies of truth and religion.

After the testimony of so many calvinistick di­vines, I need quote no more, unless the late presi­dent Edwards, who will serve, I suppose, instead of many with our author, and who is so express to [Page 7] the point as if he had wrote on purpose to confute the doc­trine I am opposing. ‘Such things, says he,* have a negative moral goodness in them, because a being with­out them would be an evidence of a much greater mo­ral evil. Thus, the exercise of natural conscience in such and such degrees, wherein appears such a measure of an awakening or sensibility of conscince, tho' it be not of the nature of real positive virtue, or true moral goodness (that is saving grace) yet has a negative moral goodness; because in the present state of things, it is an evidence of the absence of that higher degree of wickedness which causes great insensibility or stupidity of Conscience.’ &c. &c.

Divines indeed of the best character and greatest note have allowed, that sinners under deep and genuine convictions, conversing more sensibly with the wicked­ness of their own hearts and lives, have been ready to look on themselves as greater sinners than heretofore, yea perhaps as growing daily worse, and more hard hearted. However to be sensible of sin and to realize and feel their own badness is one thing, and to grow really more hard­ned and stupid is another very different from the former, so that the one may be without the other.

But that they really do grow worse from the first de­gree of internal light and sensibility of conscience; where­by they become all attention to the concerns of their sal­vation, tremble at past sins, reform known evils, and with great concern attend on all known duties; that in this case they are in the state of their mind really more vile, odious and abominable in the sight of God, than when secure indulging themselves in all manner of wickedness, under the same external means of light, is quite new. And therefore requires the greater caution, not to admit, of [Page 8] other than clear clear and demonstrative scripture evidence and proof for the confirmation of it. To the law and to the testimony; if they speak according to this word, we shall gladly receive it; but if not we are sure there is no light, or truth in it. I proceed,

III. To inquire into the proof offered in confirmation of this point; where we have several texts of scripture al­ledged, as John iii. 19. ‘This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved dark­ness rather than light.’ so John xv. 22, 24. ‘If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin.’ and Mat. xi. 20, 24. ‘Then began he to upbraid the cities in which most of his mighty works were done; because they repented not. Woe unto thee Chorazin; woe un­to thee Bethsaida: for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.’

These are the principal texts improved in confirmation of this new doctrine.

I begin with the first, ‘This is the condemnation that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.’

What is said by the author to enforce the pertinency of this text to prove his point, is, ‘our saviour represents the light which men have as that which does in a pecu­liar manner, and above every thing else aggravate the sin and condemnation of those that rebel against it.’

It is clearly held forth in these words, that light is come into the world, that men have preferred darkness to it, and are thereby exposed to a more aggravated con­demnation. All this is readily conceeded; but what is it to the author's purpose, or, what would it be, should we take in all himself hath said upon the text; and ex­plain it in a scripture sense? that is understand by it the [Page 9] external light of the evidence of the divine mission of Christ, and so of the truth of the gospel in which sense Christ hath taught us to understand it; when he saith ‘if I had not done among them, the works which none other man did, they had not had sin.’ As if Christ had said, if I had not set before them the external light of the evidence of my divine mission, in an objective way, in the works I did, they had not had that sin of rejecting that light; ‘but now have they both seen, and hated both me and my father.’ As if Christ had said, they hated that light objectively set before them, in my works, in which my divinity, and in mine the divinity of the father objectively shone forth.

But what does all this relate to a convinced, reformed sinner? thousands and millions may have re­jected this light with scoff and derision, whereby they have been exposed to a more aggravated condemnation; and not one of them the subject of the present debate: because not awakened to any sensibility of conscience, or amendment of life.

Not a word of an awakened reformed sinner in the text or context, nothing of internal light, or sensibility of con­science, or of any of the effects, that might imply it: nay the character here given, of those spoken of is quite the reverse of an awakened, reformed sinner, they are said to practice evil, i. e. so as the reformed sinner does not and to shun the light, left their evil deeds should be reproved, and they called to part with them.

How therefore this point can be argued from the text, that says nothing about it, I must leave, and pass to the second text alledged, viz. ‘if I had not come and spok­en to them they had not had sin.’ i. e. says the author, 'their sin would have been LITTLE OR NOTHING, com­pared with what it is now.'

[Page 10]Whether the gloss here put upon the words of our sa­viour, can agree with their true and genuine meaning the reader must judge; the following particulars being con­sidered.

1. That by those of whom Christ saith, ‘if I had not come and spoken to them,’ we are here to understand the Inhabitants of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, or the like cities, where most of his mighty works were done.

2. That they were in the state and temper of their minds previous to rejecting the gospel more wicked than the Inhabitants of those cities even Sodom itself: other­wise how could it be true, as here asserted by Christ, that these would have repented by the same means, which those rejected? and therefore

3. It can't be the meaning of our saviour in these words, that, their sin had been little or nothing, if he had not come and spoken to them compared with what it is now, since it is evi­dent, it was in the unerring opinion of our saviour greater than the sin of Sodom. And since this can't be the meaning; another must be sought, which is plainly this, viz. they had not had that sin of rejecting the clear light of the evidence of the divine mission of Christ, and so of the truth of the gospel. They indeed had it in their hearts; but it lay conceal'd, hid under the cloak of high preten­sions to sanctity: but when they acted it out, the cloak fell off, and their wickedness appeared to all the world. Hence it is said, 'now have they no cloak for their sin. This acting out the wickedness of their hearts, we readi­ly grant, was an aggravation of their sin, but how comes it to pass, that all their sinfulness of Heart and life whereby they were more vile than the Idolatrous heathen, and most abominable Sodomites, is little, or nothing, compared with acting it out in this particular? [Page 11] Is the fountain nothing to the streams? the cause nothing to the effect? is not this to invert the known and established rules of reasoning?

But what still increases my surprize is, that in the passa­ges above quoted from the author, he seems to argue, that, the sinner's being restrained from acting out the wick­edness of his heart in overt acts, is as nothing: but that what he is, in heart is all. ‘whatever particular ways of sin he has forsaken &c. yet on the whole he is more vile &c.’

And now all the wickedness of the heart, whereby the sinner is disposed to the act, if occasion offers is little or nothing if the overt act is restrained. Does the tables be­ing turned, really change the nature of things?—how­ever, suppose for once, their acting out the wickedness of their hearts, in this instance was as much more heinous in God's sight than the wickedness of the mind, whereby they were fully disposed to do it, when opportunity and occasion presented, as the author pleases, what would this be to his purpose, since the light here resisted is merely external, and has no necessary relation to, or connexion with an awakened reformed sinner; and there­fore can be of no significancy in the question before us.

I proceed to the third text proposed, viz. Woe unto thee Chorazin, Woe unto thee Bethsaida; for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, in sackcloth and ashes.

What is said to apply this text to the author's pur­pose is ‘and he speaks of the inhabitants of those cities where most of his mighty works were done, to whom he most frequently preached, and who attended most on his ministry, and yet continued impenitent as much more guilty and liable’ to a ‘more awful condemnati­on, than if they had never enjoyed these advantages, [Page 12] nor had this light and instruction.’ What force there is in this text, and what is said by the author, the reader will best judge when the following particulars are duly considered.

1. It is evident, that in these words a comparison is made between the wickedness of Chorazin and Bethsaida, and that of Tyre and Sidon.

2. That that in which their wickedness is compared and tryed, is the degree of obduracy of heart and stu­pidity of conscience, to which they had severally reduced themselves, by their own wickedness, whereby they were more unimpressible, by proper motives and arguments, to repentance.

3. The medium chosen by our saviour, for the trial and decision of this point between them, is a suppo­sition of the same proper arguments and motives to re­pentance, set in the same advantageous light before both.

4. That on the trial of this single point, omniscience being judge, the decision comes out against Chorazin and Bethsaida—If the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have re­pented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. As if Christ had said, You have, by your own wickedness, wasted natural conscience, sined away your moral Sense, and rendered yourselves more unimpressible, by the same motives and arguments to repentance, set in the same advantageous [Page 13] light, than the idolatrous Tyrians and Sidonians: and therefore on that single account, your state is more wick­ed than theirs, and you justly exposed to a more aggra­vated condemnation in the day of judgment than they. And now what is there in these words of our saviour, that has any tendency to the author's purpose? Do they prove that sinners under the gospel, awakened to a great degree of sensibility of conscience, whatever be their a­mendment of life, while unregenerate are, on the whole, more wicked in the state of their mind, and so more o­dious to God, than when secure and at ease in their sins? nay, so far from it; that they prove quite the reverse, viz. That the greater degree of their wickedness; is to be estimated according to the greater degree of their stupidity, obduracy and hardness of heart, under the same external means of grace, as in the instance above. This being clearly proved from these words of our sa­viour, which is the negative part of the question, can contraries be proved from the same words? or can any art of metaphysical reasoning reverse what is determined by unerring wisdom?

But to bring this matter to a close, if any thing fur­ther needs to be said; I would argue thus;

If the author's point is evident from these texts, it must be either from the increase of internal light in the conscience, and the proper effects thereof; such, as a greater sensibility of divine things, of the majesty of God, of the ill desert of sin, fears of wrath, concern to escape it, reformations of known evils, &c. considered in themselves; or from the abuse of this light, con­tinuing still unregenerate under it. If it can be made evident at all from these texts, it must be in one or the other of these ways, there being no other way con­ceivable, by which it may be done.

[Page 14]What I shall attempt therefore, shall be to shew, that it can't be done in either of these ways;

1. Not from the increase of internal light of divine things let in upon natural conscience, or any of its pro­per effects, as above: because these, considered in them­selves, can't render the state of the unregenerate more sinful than their absence, under the same external means of light; but really less so.

Thus a sensibility of divine things awakened in natural conscience, by a greater degree of internal light, surely cannot be more sinful than ignorance and stupidity: so fears of wrath thence arising, concern to escape it, re­forming known evils and attending known duties. These considered in themselves, can't be more sinful than their contraries, under the same external means of light.

This I take to be clearly held forth by a late celebra­ted writer, as quoted above, in the 5th page. To the same purpose we have the author's own concession, in the following words, ‘Their greater sinfulness does not indeed consist in their concern about themselves, in a sense of the sad, dangerous state they are in, and in their earnestly desiring deliverance and safety’ p. 126

Thus it appears, as I think, with the full concession of the author, that a sensibility of conscience, as above considered in itself, can't render the state of the awaken­ed reformed sinner, more vile in the sight of God, than that of a secure profligate, under the same external means of light. And therefore if these scriptures prove the au­thor's point at all, they must prove that the abuse of and sinning against this internal light of conscience, is that which renders the state of the awakened & reformed sinner more vile in the sight of God, than that of a secure sinner.

But how can these texts prove this? since, as hath been observed, they say nothing of these things, not a [Page 15] word of an awakened reformed sinner, nothing of in­ternal light and sensibility of conscience; much less, if it were possible, of awakened sinners being on the whole worse under all degrees of rising convictions and refor­mation, than in a state of security, at ease in their sins. Thus all shadow of proof of the author's point from these texts, so far as I am able to discern, disappears.

However the author goes on, by supposing a conces­sion in these Words. ‘None will deny, I trust, that a living under the gospel and enjoying the means of grace, is the occasion of aggravating the sin and con­demnation of those who persevere in their opposition to Jesus Christ.’ And adds ‘the gospel proves unto them a savour of death unto death.’ And then pro­ceeds to draw his conclusion; ‘consequently the more light and conviction men have, while they continue obstinately to oppose light and truth, and reject the offers of the gospel,’ i. e. while they continue unre­generate, as the author explains himself, ‘the more guilty and vile, and the greater criminals are they in God's sight,’ whatever be their reformations of life, &c.

Thus, from a train of reasonings on a number of sa­cred texts, the principle in debate is seemingly adduced as a consequence. But is there one word of it contained in the premises? These texts indeed speak of the external light of the evidence of the truth of the gospel, objec­tively set before the mind: but do they say one word of internal light, of awakening conviction, of great con­cern for salvation, or of great reformation and amend­ment of life? Not a word. How therefore this conse­quence should be drawn from these premises, I am not able to account.

I have thus gone through with the author's proof at large, that every reader might be under advantage to see [Page 16] and judge for himself. For my own part I am so little acquainted with the rules of reasoning, that I should think it a sufficient answer on the whole, only to say, no con­sequence, and wait for light.

Were it ever so fully conceded, that those that perish from under the external light of the gospel, do thereby fall under a more aggravated condemnation; yet this would be nothing to the author's purpose: because this may be the case with multitudes, that they reject the ex­ternal light of the evidence of the truth of the gospel with scorn and derision, without ever being awakened or reformed by it; so the gospel may be a savour of death unto death unto thousounds that never were one of them a proper subject of this debate; because never awakened to reformation and amendment of life.

The author's mistake in the above reasoning, as it ap­pears to me, arises chiefly from the want of distinguish­ing well between the external light of the evidence of the truth of the gospel, and the internal light of an awa­kened conscience; arguing indifferently from one to the other, as tho' they were the same in nature, kind, ef­fects and properties; and in all respects would bear the same predications, reasonings and conclusions: whereas, tho' they agree in the same general nature, so as to come under one and the same denomination or genus; yet do they essentially and specifically differ. The one is ex­ternal, objectively set before the mind; the other is in­ternal and mental. The former is liable to be utterly rejected with contempt, without any influence upon the conscience or life. The latter is received into the mind, and allowed by the author in this debate, to have great influence on both, to raise conviction, and excite reformation and amendment of life, to the highest degree the unregenerate are capable of by the common influen­ces [Page 17] of the holy spirit. And therefore to argue from the one to the other, as if they were the same; the reasoning must needs be inconclusive.

Again, another mistaken way in which the author ar­gues his point, as it appears to me, is determining the degree of man's wickedness, meerly from the degree of light sinned against, without any regard had to the de­gree of the strength of his bias to sin; which must needs be inconclusive, for

1. If this be so, there could be no inequality of sinful­ness where there is equality of light sinned against; one could not be guilty of abusing the same degree of light more than another; or if he did, would not be more sinful; which can't be true. And therefore the reason­ing is unsound. Can it once be doubted whether some men, under the same degree of light, natural or superna­tural, given up of God to vile affections, are not greater sinners, more vile and odious in God's sight, than o­thers? Not because they sin against greater degrees of light; but because, with a higher hand, they abuse and sin against the same degree of light. For instance, sup­pose A. and B. are favour'd with equal degrees of light, and suppose B. has three degrees of strength of bias and inclination to sin, more than A. which there can be no reasonable doubt may be the case; can it once be doubt­ed here, whether B. is more vile and odious in God's sight than A. sinning against the same degree of light? But what clears this point (if I mistake not) beyond re­ply, is Christ's determination of Chorazin and Bethsaida's being greater sinners than Tyre and Sydon, on supposi­tion their light and advantages had been equal, as above.

To this I might add, that on supposition the grand point on which the author seems to lay the chief stress of his argument, be fully conceded, viz. that he that sins [Page 18] against a greater degree or light, is in that respect a greater sinner; will it thence follow that he is to on the whole? by no means, as seen above. Is it found rea­soning to argue from a part to the whole; or from a particular circumstance, to the whole state of the case; termed by the schools arguing a dicto secundum quid, ad dictum simpliciter? which, at best, is but sophistical and inconclusive. I proceed to the

IV. General head proposed, which was to offer some considerations in favour of the negative part of the ques­tion, viz. that the awakened reformed sinner, as above described, is not undoubtedly, on the whole, more vici­ous, in the state of his mind, and therefore not so in God's sight, than when secure, going on in his sins. — This is what the following considerations are offered to establish; and

i. The truth in hand may be argued from the absurdi­ties which admitting the affirmative part of the question will unavoidably throw us into, as,

1. If the principal advanced be true, there is no pos­sibility of the profligate sinner's becoming less vicious, in the state of his mind, whatever be the wickedness he lives in the practice of, by any reformation of life, while unregenerate; because reforming in any instance, sup­poses the increase of internal light and sensibility of con­science: and then, according to this new principle, he is undoubtedly, on the whole, more vile, odious and a­bominable in God's sight, than he would have been, had he continued secure and at ease, going on in his sins. I appeal to the common sense of mankind, is not this strange divinity? What! is there no possibility that the drunkard, the thief, the liar, the profane swearer, the adulterer, the murderer and blasphemer should become, on the whole, less vicious in God's sight while unregene­rate, [Page 19] by reforming all this atrocious wickedness, tho' on no higher principle than that of natural conscience, awakened by the common influences of the spirit, as Ahab was, to a sense of the majesty and perfections of God, the ill desert of sin, and fears of divine wrath, than he would be, continuing in the practice of all this wickedness?—Strange absurdity this!

But what is still more strange, the unregenerate sin­ner, on this principle while such, that lives in the prac­tice of all this wickedness, as above described, can't be reformed, even by the common illuminations of the holy spirit, but by being, on the whole, more vile, in God's sight, than he would be in the continued practice of it! because such reformations suppose the increase of inter­nal light and sensibility of conscience!

Thus by strictly following this new principle, we are come to an absolute certainty that how vicious soever the unregenerate may be in the state of their minds, by a­bandoning themselves to all manner of wickedness, un­der the gospel; there is no possible way of their becom­ing on the whole less so, by any reformation and amend­ment of life whatsoever, while unregenerate; yea, of their reforming in any instance, without being on the whole, more vile in God's sight.

2. Another absurdity arising from this new principle is, that the more stupid, careless, and unconcern'd men are under the gospel, about what sins they commit and what duties they neglect; the less vile, odious and abo­minable they are on the whole, in God's sight. This conclusion, however glaring the folly of it, is yet firm and cannot be avoided, if the principle advanced be true. For if the more awakened, reformed and attentive on all known duty sinners are, under the gospel, the more vile; it must needs follow, that the less awakened, re­formed [Page 20] and attentive on duty under the same gospel, the less vile, odious, and abominable must they be, on the whole, in God's sight.

To illustrate this matter and make it plain to the weakest capacity, let it be observed that the degrees of internal light and sensibility of conscience found in men under the gospel are various; whence ariseth a propor­tional concern to avoid sin and attend on duty, in order to avoid misery and obtain happiness. And suppose this difference of sensibility of conscience in men, relating to these things, be divided into ten equal parts or degrees, as it may be consistent with truth; the first having very little sense of the majesty of God and of the ill desert of sin, his moral sense being almost quite lost; so that the commission of the grossest crimes is well nigh a matter of indifferency with him; the second has one degree more of sensibility of conscience, and some care to avoid sins of the grossest kind; a third riseth to a still further de­gree of sensibility; and so on to the tenth; all equal in other respects, brought up under the same gospel, and well indoctrinated. [Here let it be noted, that what is said is not meerly a supposition, but what agrees with fact; and is really the true state of the case.] And now upon this new principle, the first who is really most hardened in conscience, and most vicious in his practice is least vile and odious in the sight of God; the second is more so; and so on to the tenth, who is, in God's sight the vilest of all the gang, being in a great degree con­vinced of the evil of sin, and of the dreadfulness of that wrath to which he stands justly exposed, trembles at the thought of his past sins, and in fear left he should of­fend in thought, word, or deed, feels himself a lost perishing creature; and that sovereign mercy only can be his remedy. Thus the poor trembling, convinced, [Page 21] reformed sinner (I mean as much as an unregenerate sin­ner can be so) is now, according to this new principle, the most odious in God's sight of the ten; and more so, than when being stupid, under the same external means of light, he wallowed in all manner of most abominable wickedness. And it must needs be so, according to this new principle, because he now sins against greater inter­nal light, as in the author's own words, quoted above. ‘Yea, his impenitence and all his sins are so aggravated by the light and convictions he obtains, that whatever particular ways of known sin he has forsaken, and how many soever external duties he attends; yet, on the whole, he is undoubtedly a greater sinner than when he lived in security.’ P. 125.

Thus it appears, according to this new principle, that the only possible way, that sinners indulging themselves in all manner of vicious and immoral practices, can, even under the gospel, become on the whole, less vicious in the state of their mind, while unregenerate, is by becom­ing more stupid and regardless what sins they commit. It being impossible a becoming less vicious should be ac­complished by any conviction or amendment of life; since by every step of advance this way, the sinner is said to be, on the whole, more vile and odious in God's sight. Nor can he be less so by standing still; continuing in the same state he is in, it is certain can never render him less vici­ous; so that the only possible way of his becoming on the whole less vicious, consistent with this principle, is by a thoughtless giving himself up to the commission of all manner of wickedness, without care or thought. Strange divinity still! Nor is it in my power to doubt, that the grand enemy of Christ's cause and precious souls, puts his hearty Amen to it.

3. Another absurdity that arises from this principle, is, [Page 22] that in an exact proportion, as any one under the gospel is, in the language of the author, more likely to be sa­ved, and, in the phrase of our saviour, "nearer to the kingdom of God," he is on the whole more vile and o­dious in God's sight. The author has spent many pages in confirming this point [P. 128 to 132] viz. ‘that the more diligent in attending means, and the more in­struction men get, the more likely it is they will be saved;’ and near as many in asserting ‘such are un­doubtedly, on the whole, more vile and odious in the sight of God;’ so that it must be a maxim with those of this principle, that the more likely any one, under the gospel, is to be saved, the more vile, odious and abominable he is, on the whole, in the sight of God.

To illustrate this matter, suppose A. and B. for in­stance, brought up under the same light and advantages of the gospel, A. by early abandoning himself to all manner of most abominable wickedness, hath well nigh utterly sinned away his conscience, so that it is a matter of indifferency with him now, to blaspheme God, or in­nocently jest with a neighbour. B. from early childhood, has constantly paid such reverence and obedience to the dictates of conscience, as hath nourished the greatest de­gree of tenderness, to regard all duty and avoid all sin, that can agree to an unregenerate state. It is here al­lowed that B. is more likely to be saved than A. but then it is equally maintained, that in the same proportion that B. is more likely to be saved, he is on the whole more wicked, a murderous, blasphemous A. A, can on this prin­ciple, scarcely be denominated a sinner at all; to be sure he is nothing of a sinner compared with B. who has all his life time been trained up to that tenderness of consci­ence, in a great measure, to avoid known sin and prac­tise known duty, that renders him on the whole in God's [Page 23] sight, the most vile, odious and abominable sinner on the face of the whole earth.

The like consequence is unavoidable, for any thing I can see, if this principle be carried into the Heathen world. He that makes the greatest improvements on the light of nature, in discovering the being and attri­butes of God, the immortality of the soul, the ill desert of sin, &c. and comes up nearest to the dictates of con­science, in the moral life (suppose an Epictetus) he is the vilest of all the heathen world; because in failing to come up to his duty, he sins against the greatest light.

It is needless to observe here that these things never did agree to the common sense of mankind; or of the Chris­tian world; and to my weak understanding, I must say they sound too strange to be true. However, to avoid all partiality, I appeal to the attentive impartial reader,

1. Whether these be not absurdities by no means to be admitted in divinity? And,

2. Whether it is possible to avoid them, the principle advanced, being admitted?

I might here go on to multiply the like observations, but that in my humble opinion these hints are sufficient to exclude a doctrine that never yet was admitted into the christian creed, and must (if ever it be) come in with a train of bad company.

ii. The point in hand may be argued from sundry texts of scripture; of which two only shall be mentioned here.

1. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this gene­ration, and shall condemn it; because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold a greater than Jonas is here; Matt. 12. 41. i. e. the repentance of the Ninevites, under the preaching of Jonas, shall condemn, in the day of judgment, the want of that repentance in the Jews, un­der the preaching of Christ.

[Page 24]Now if the Ninevites repentance, as it is on good grounds generally conceded, (as hath been hinted before) was but repentance on principles of nature; natural con­science being awakened to a sense of the dreadful ma­jesty of God sinned against, and so of the dreadful desert of sin, convinced of the imminent danger they were in of impending ruin threatened, moved only by fear, they humbled themselves before God, broke off their sins and "turned from their evil way," as God witnesseth they did, Jon. 2, 10. If, I say, all this was upon na­tural principles, being unregenerate as to the body of that vast people, as was undoubtedly the case,* it must I think from this instance appear exceeding clear, that the awakened reformed sinner is not, on the whole, un­doubtedly more vile in God's sight, than the harden'd and secure, going on in his fins; for if so, how could the repentance of the Ninevites, which was but an awa­kened reformed state, condemn in the day of judgment the want of that repentance in the hardened Jews, obsti­nately persisting in their sins, under at least equal advan­tages by Christ.

2. Another text from which the truth before us may be argued, is Christ's declaration to the scribe, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. Which is evidently said with a view to his reply to Christ's answer to that ques­tion, What is the first commandment of all? v. 28. Christ's [Page 25] answer follows; to which the scribe replies, Well, master, thou hast said the truths, &c. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, i. e. discover'd soundness in doctrine, a freedom from that gross ignorance, prejudice, and bit­terness against the doctrine and person of Christ, that many others discovered. In the view of these things, by which he was, in the state of his mind, less vicious, Christ pronounceth him not far from the kingdom of God, i. e. not at so great a remove from the state of a good man.

In order to our further confirmation that this, for sub­stance, is the true meaning of these words, the following particulars may be observed,

1. That by the kingdom of God here is meant a state of grace; the state of a good man, in whose heart the invisible kingdom of grace is set up; that kingdom we are exhorted to seek first, Matt. 6, 33; and which is said to be taken by violence, Matt. 11, 12.

2dly, The phrase here made use of (not far from the kingdom of God) is not to be understood as relating to the time of the scribe's conversion, or being brought into a state of grace; since so understood, it is of the nature of a prophecy, that reveals the certainty of his conversion, and that the time was now nigh: in which sense I suppose none understand it: it must therefore be understood to be a nighness in state to that of a good man. As Epa­phroditus is said to be sick, nigh unto death (Phi. 2, 27) not to the time of his dying; for he did not die by that sickness; but was brought low, and in state nigh unto death: so there were many desirable things found in the scribe, not that were holy or spiritual; yet such as ren­dered him less sinful than those who were destitute of his attainments; and less so than himself would have been in their absence; and such as are ordinarily necessary, in [Page 26] order to being brought into a state of grace; in the view of which, as being less sinful in the state of his mind, he is here pronounced not far from the kingdom of God, i. e. as explained, in state, not so far from that of a good man, comparatively speaking, as those who remained under the power of that ignorance, prejudice and stupi­dity, from which he was in a measure freed.

But what those things are, by which he was less sinful in the state of his mind, and nearer to that of a good man, may be clearly seen in the scribes reply — Well, master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God, and there is none other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, i. e. discovered a good understanding of that in which the substance of all religion greatly consists, distinguished well between meer positives, and duties of a moral nature, and that he was in a great degree free from that ignorance, stupidity, rancour, malice and prejudice against the doctrine and person of Christ, that so strongly possessed the minds, and with so much rage was acted out by others; in com­parison with whom he is here no doubt pronounced not far from the kingdom of God.

From the words thus explained it appears,

1. That there is such a thing among the unregenerate under the gospel, as being in state nigh to and far from the kingdom of God; witness what is here pronounced of the scribe, as explained above.

2. That their nearness in state to the kingdom of God, or which is the same, to that of a good man, consists in those attainments whereby they were, on the whole, in the state of their minds, less vicious than either themselves [Page 27] or others would be in the absence of those things. This hath been clearly seen in those attainments in the view and on the account of which 'tis evident the scribe is here pronounced not far from the kingdom of God, as explained above. And indeed it could not agree to the purity of God's nature, to pronounce one nigh in state to that of a good man, in comparison of another, unless that one was on the whole, in the state of his mind, less vicious than the other; because it would not be true. This is as evident, as it is that there are degrees of sin­fulness found with the unregenerate under the gospel, and that every less degree found in any one, brings them in state one degree nearer to that of a good man. Hence it may be conclusively argued from these words (the ex­planation above being allowed) that all awakened refor­med sinners under the gospel are not, on the whole, more vile in God's sight, than when secure and at ease, going on in their sins under the same external means of light; instance the scribe in the text, of whom the con­trary is witnessed by our saviour.

To sum up this argument in brief, it stands thus. By this phrase of our saviour (Thou art not far from the king­dom of God) is meant either,

1. That he was nigh to the time of his conversion, or,

2. That he was meerly more likely to be converted without respect had to any of those things, by which, considered in themselves, he was less sinful; or,

3. That he was nigh in state to that of a good man on the account of those attainments by which, considered in themselves, he was less sinful in the state of his mind.

One or the other of these, it seems, must be the true sense of this phrase. As to the first, none I trust will fix on that. The second is untrue, since 'tis evident, from the express letter of the sacred text, that in what is said [Page 28] of the scribe's being nigh or not far from the kingdom of God, respect is had to those things and those only, by which, considered in themselves, he was less sinful. And therefore the third must be the true and genuine sense of this phrase.

Thus it appears, from this single instance, fairly un­derstood, that sinners awakened to a diligent attendance on means, brought in a measure to a rectified judgment relating to divine truth, to abate in their prejudice against it and reform known evils, are not always more vile and odious in God's sight, than they would have been had they continued more ignorant, stupid and prejudiced a­gainst the truth, indulging themselves in all manner of wickedness, under the same external means of light.

I. I shall resume the consideration of what has been touched upon, under a former head, viz. that the grand question, on the resolution of which this whole contro­versy must finally turn, is whether the additional sin, at­tending continued impenitence under the clear light of the gospel, arising meerly from that sensibility of con­science, whereby the awakened sinner reforms all known sin, even the most enormous wickedness, such as for­nication, adultery, &c. is more vile and odious in God's sight, than great stupidity and hardness of heart, together with the daring practice of all that enormous wickedness as above, which agrees to and naturally flows from a hardened state under the gospel.

It hath already been clearly evinced, that this sensi­bility of conscience, with the fruits thereof, such as a sense of the ill desert of sin, fear of punishment, concern to escape it, reforming known evils, &c. considered in themselves, can't render the sinner more vile in the sight of God, than their absence, because at least of a negative moral goodness in them; so that the only point to be [Page 29] tried is here fairly exposed. If therefore the additional sin or aggravation attending continued impenitence, under the clear light of the gospel, arising meerly from that sen­sibility of conscience, as above, is more vile and odious in the sight of God, than great stupidity and hardness of heart, attending continued impenitence under the same external means of light, together with the dreadful prac­tice of all that enormous wickedness, as above, presumptu­ously committed, not against the light of God's word only, but against the clear dictates of natural conscience, which agrees to and naturally flows from such a harden­ed state under the gospel; then the decision is in favour of the affirmative part of the question; otherwise of the negative.

Objection. If it be objected here, that sinners, before awakened, are not wont to practise these heinous crimes; and therefore the awakened sinner's avoiding or the stu­pid sinner's practising them, is not to be pleaded. I an­swer, the universal term used by the author, as seen above, does, and was doubtless designed to comprehend all, with­out exception that might be practis'd by the stupid; and reform'd by the awakened. And that this may be, and sometimes is the case, as represented above, strictly a­grees to the scripture account, Neither fornicators, nor ido­laters, nor adulteres, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor re­vilers, nor extortioners; and such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye an sanctified, &c.

And now having set this matter in a fair light, I will dare to appeal to the judicious reader, whether it ben't most apparent on the very mention of the case, set in a true light, that no such heinousness can be found in the sin called additional to impenitence continued under the clear light of the gospel, arising meerly from that sensibi­lity, [Page 30] whereby the awakened sinner is reformed, that will ever ballance the heinous wickedness of a great degree of stupidity and hardness of heart, attending impenitence under the same external means of light, together with the dreadful practice of all that enormous wickedness, as above presumptuously committed, not only against the light of God's word, but against the clear dictates of na­tural conscience, and which naturally flows from such a hardened state under the gospel; especially the following particulars being duly considered;

1. That the intire reason, at least in some instances, why the secure sinner has less internal light and tender­ness of conscience, than the awakened and reformed, is because the secure has wasted and sinned away the light of his conscience more than the reformed, both being under the same external means of light. And shall the reformed sinner, who has nourished the internal light and tenderness of his conscience, be more vile in God's sight, on the whole, than the profligate, who by a course of more heinous wickedness has greatly abated the degree of light and tenderness of his conscience?

2. That this point is already determined by our saviour as seen above, page 12; where it is clearly shewed that the degree of wickedness in Chorazin and Bethsaida above that of Tyre and Sidon, consisted in a greater degree of stupidity and hardness of heart in the former, whereby they were more unimpressable than the latter, the same external means and advantages to repent being supposed.

However, for the sake of clearing this point to the weakest understanding, I proceed to enquire,

iv. Of what account these characters are with the bles­sed God. Here removing as far as possible from all abstruse metaphysical reasoning and far-fetch'd consequen­ces, at least doubtful and uncertain; of which kind, ex­perience [Page 31] teacheth, that what is called demonstration in one age, is rejected in another; and what is called so by one man, is of no validity with another; and oft'times with the same man in different dates of his life; let us, I say, removing as far as possible from these things, im­partially enquire of what account these different charac­ters of men, are with the blessed God; and how he treats them, both in his word and providence, viz. that of the awakened sinner, brought, tho' on principles of nature, to humble himself before God, repent, reform known evils, and conscientiously attend known duties; and that of the stout-hearted, bold, daring, hardened sin­ner, that obstinately persists in all manner of vicious and immoral practices, under the same external means of light, and against the clear dictates of his conscience.

If we can find clearly of what account these characters are with the omniscient God, compared with each other; and how he treats them, both in his word and providence; we shall find what they really are, considered in them­selves; and a more sure ground to form our judgment concerning them, than all our weak reasonings can other­wise furnish us with. I shall therefore touch on a few instances of each kind, as exhibited in the holy scriptures.

And,

1. Relating to the awakened, humbled, reformed sin­ner, I begin with that famous instance we have in king Ahab, a none-such for wickedness; yet when that terri­ble message was delivered him by the prophet, it is said, ‘He rent his cloaths, put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted,’ &c. Of which the Lord takes this favourable notice, and defers the evil threatned; ‘Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? Because he hum­bleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days.*

[Page 32]Now can any one imagine, according to the principle advanced, that Ahab was, on the whole, more vile and odious to God, when he thus humbled himself before him, and walk'd softly, i. e. was less bold and daring in his wickedness, than if he had been less sensible of his sin, and more regardless of God's threatnings? How can this be? when God saith, ‘because he humbleth him­self before me,’ &c.

A like instance we have in Jehu's zeal in executing the commandment of the Lord upon the house of Ahab. ‘And the Lord said unto Jehu, because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab, according to all that was in mine heart; thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel. But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel.’

Is it not evident here, from God's express approbation, and the bestowment of so great, tho' outward favour, because he had done well, that in God's account, his obedience, tho' but the matter of duty, upon principles of nature, was less wicked than a total disregard to God's command would have been?

Another instance is that of the children of Israel, when awakened by the terrifying manner of the giving of the law, being uttered by the voice of God, out of the midst of the fire. ‘They said to Moses, speak thou unto us, all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee, and we will hear it and do it. And the Lord said unto Moses, I have heard the voice of the words which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said, all they have spoken.* And here again, is it not evident from God's express approbation, that in his account they were less vile, expressing this sensibility of conscience, [Page 33] and purpose of obedience on this awful awakening occasion, than they would have been, had they remained under the power of stupidity, and said with Pharaoh, ‘Who is the Lord, that we should obey his voice?’ Again,

Another instance, not the least of all famous, is that of Nineveh, an exceeding great city, in which, 'tis said, ‘were more than fix score thousand persons that knew not their right hand from their left;’ and, perhaps, more than 6 times that number in the whole. Upon being warned by the preaching of Jonah, that ‘in forty days Nineveh should be destroyed: It is said, the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast; the king's decree went forth, forbiding man or beast to taste any thing; but to be covered with sackcloth, cry mightily to God, and turn every one from the evil of his ways, and from the violence that is in their hands. Whereupon, it is said, God saw their works, that they turned from their evil ways; and God repented of the evil that he said he would do unto them, and did it not.’ *

I take it for granted here, we have no warrant from reason or scripture, once to imagine their prayers, humi­liations and reformations were acted upon higher princ­ples than those of natural conscience, awakened to a sense of their sin and danger, at least as to the body of that vast people. For tho' it is here said, they believed God, and elsewhere, they repented; it is well known that these expressions are frequently used in scripture, to sig­nify but semblances of these graces, as Judas repented, and the devils believed and trembled, and Simon Magus believed.

Since therefore, there is no sufficient reason to conclude the repentance of the Ninevites proceeded from a prin­ciple of saving grace; and since so great salvation is be­stowed [Page 34] out of respect to it: Is it not evident, that in God's account, they were not more vile than if they had continued altogether secure and unaffected under the warning? Their repentance was made the only condition of their great salvation. And can it agree to the purity of God's nature, to make a greater degree of wickedness, on the whole, the condition of bestowing a great salvation tho' of an outward nature? Sure it cannot, since this would be to manifest some regard to sin, and encourage men to practice it with boldness.

Again, that the awakened, reformed sinner, is less vile in God's account, than the stupid and unreformed under the same external means of light, is clearly held forth in those words of our Saviour. ‘When the un­clean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house, from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than him­self, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.’ By the house empty, swept and garnished, is represented the state of an awakened, reformed sinner, when wickedness as to the actings of it is restrained, the unclean spirit gone out. By his return with seven other spirits more wicked than himself entering in, and dwelling there, is repre­sented the more desperate wicked state, to which he is reduced on the abatement of his conviction, returning with further degrees of contracted hardness of heart to the unrestrained practice of mere desperate degrees of wickedness. Now 'tis expressly affirmed, that the last state of that man is WORSE than the first.* This also is applied to the jewish nation, even so shall it be also with [Page 35] this wicked generation: i. e. they who were awakened, brought to consider, and in a measure to amend their lives by the preaching of John Baptist, Christ and his apostles, and by the mighty works done among them, but finally hardened their hearts, and rejected the clearest light and evidence of the truth; thereby ripened them­selves for a more aggravated condemnation, and brought the wrath of God upon them to the uttermost, in their final destruction by the Romans. This destruction came upon them for their crying, visible sins, extreme hardness of heart, and open unbelief, and contemptuous rejection of Christ, and not merely for their unregeneracy under con­tinued convictions and reformations.

By all which, it is evident they were in God's account less wicked while they retained some tenderness of con­science, and were in a measure restrained from the out breakings of wickedness, represented by the unclean spirit going out of them, than when they being given up to the hardness of their hearts, abandoned themselves to all manner of most desperate and unheard of wickedness, represented by the return of the unclean spirit, &c.

Another instance is that of our Saviour's respect, ex­prest to the young man, on whose declaration of his hav­ing observ'd the commandments from his youth, 'tis said, "Christ beholding him, loved him."*

Now whatever disputes may be railed on these words; two things, I suppose, will be allowed by all,

1. That he was a person of an externally moral and amiable conversation; one that had in a great degree escaped the pollution of the world.

2. That on that account, Christ shewed him respect, at least as being less vile, than if he had under his reli­gious advantages continued in greater degrees of stupidi­ty, and lived in the open violation of all God's command­ments.

[Page 36]Again, the same truth is clearly held forth by the apostle Peter, where he tells us, ‘If after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the know­ledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome; the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.’ Is it not plainly implied in these words, that while he is not again intangled, and overcome with the pollutions of the world, i. e. continues to escape them, he is less vile? The apostle concludes this argument, by comparing the state of an awakened, reformed sinner, while he escapes the pollutions of the world, i. e. more enormous and gross wickedness, to that of a sow washed from her filthi­ness; and the state of one returning again to gross wick­edness, to that of the same sow returning to her wallow­ing in the mire. The difference here made by the Holy Ghost, in favour of the former, is very sensible. For tho' the sow washed be not changed in her nature; yet in that state she differs much from herself wallowing in the mire.

Are not these as clear indications, as can well be given by words, that the account the blessed God makes of these different characters of men, under the means of grace, is in favour of the negative part of the question?

On the other hand, if we enquire,

2nd. Of what account with the blessed God the cha­racter of the secure, bold, presumptuous, hardened sin­ner is, who obstinately persists in vicious and immoral practices; what shall we find throughout the scriptures, but the wrath of God burning against such, either in tremendous threats, or executions of his judgments?

i. The threats are exprest in these terms or the like; ‘He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.* [Page 37] The soul that doeth ought presumptuously shall be cut off.* Wo to sinners that are at ease in Zion. For when they shall say peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travil upon a wo­man with child; and they shall not escape. God shall wound the hairy scalp or such a one as goeth on still in his trespasses.§ And it come to pass, when he hear­eth the words of this curse, that he blesseth himself , in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, tho' I walk in the imagination of my heart: the Lord will not spare him; but then the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven.’

Thus I might go on to multiply the threats of God's word, particularly pointed against persons of this cha­racter, that go on in an unconcerned indulgence of im­moral practices.

Should it be objected here, that eternal damnation is every where threatened the impenitent, and unbelieving, how much so ever reformed, which contains in it infi­nitely more than all the outward judgments threatened above. I answer: This is nothing to the present argu­ment; because this condemnation falls at least equally, on the profligate, since he is equally guilty of impeni­tence and unbelief, as it does on the reformed; and so hath nothing in it, quite nothing to ballance the peculiar marks of God's displeasure against the secure, vicious and immoral, contained in those threats above; and therefore the argument from them stands good, that in God's account, the awakened and reformed are less, to be sure not more, vile and odious, than those of a con­trary [Page 38] character. Since he hath not displayed against them such dreadful tokens of his hatred and displeasure, as against the visibly prophane, how can any mortal prove they are more odious to him?

ii. That which further confirms the present argument, is the grounds every where assigned, of the execution of God's wrath, in the way of his providence, correspondent with the threatenings of his word; which if enquired into, will be found, not meerly to be the wickedness of con­tinued impenitence, under great degrees of conviction and ten­derness of conscience exciting to great concern to avoid all known sin, and practise all known duty: but intirely the reverse, great stupidity, with the effects thence naturally arising; such as a bold, daring commission of all abominable wickedness.—What was it that brought God's wrath upon the old world, when a deluge of water swept off it's inhabitants? Was it not, that they were drowned in a flood of sensu­ality? ‘That the wickedness of man was great, that all flesh had corrupted his way, and filled the earth with violence?’

What was it that: brought showers of fire upon Sodom, but the unutterable height of their stupidity and out­rageous wickedness, burning in their unnatural lusts one towards another?

How were God's judgments executed upon Pharaoh? Was it meerly for the want of gracious sincerity, in ac­knowledging the true God, and consenting to let Israel go; or the total want of all sensibility of natural con­science resisting the evidence of a seven-fold demonstra­tion, that the demands made upon him, were the de­mands of the living and true God, and saying, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.’—Again, What were the grounds of God's controversy with Israel [Page 39] his covenant people, and of all those judgments first and last executed upon them? Was it the want of a gracious sincerity, in keeping up the profession of one living and true God, and in their attendance on his worship and ordinances, and observance of his laws? Quite the re­verse: They openly forsook God, his ordinances and worship, and gave themselves up to gross idolatry, wor­shipped the host of heaven, and caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, used divination and inchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord.* This is expressly assigned as the reason of the removal of the ten tribes by the king of Assyria.

The like charge lies against Judah, as the grounds of their removal into Babylon. ‘Will ye (says the pro­phet Jeremiah) steal, murder, commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense to Baal, and walk after other Gods, whom ye know not.

And the like desperate wickedness, increased to an amazing degree, was found against them, as the grounds of that unparallel'd destruction, that finally came upon them by the Romans. So that it is as evident as any thing in the bible, that great hardness of heart acted out by open sins in the life, is most odious to God, having been punished with most severity.

Having thus briefly hinted a few things, which in my humble opinion, are more than barely sufficient to point out how the blessed God looks upon, and treats these different characters of men under consideration.

I now appeal to the impartial and judicious reader,

i. Whether it be not evident beyond hesitation, that the awakened, reformed sinner, as above described, is less, to be sure, not more vile and odious in God's sight, than the stupid and unreformed, under the same external means of light? And if so,

[Page 40]ii. Whether it be not equally evident, that he is on the whole, really so; since the great God, from his in­finite perfections, can't but look things through, and make account of them, as being what, on the whole, they really are?

The concurring voice of God, in his word and provi­dence, in the old and new testament, relating to his co­venant people in all ages, the gentile world, and in so great a variety, as to particular persons, thus clearly in favour of the negative, is in my humble opinion, of great­er weight, than all uncertain conclusions to the contrary, from human reasonings.

Should it be objected here, that the premises advanced being allowed, yet the conclusion aimed at, does not follow.

All I shall reply, as a conclusion under this general head, is a solemn appeal to all that are serious, learned and unlearned, whether there is not evidently a natural tendency in the concurring voice of God, as above, to persuade men into a favourable opinion of the negative? And if so, Whether it be possible it should be otherwise than true, since nothing is more impossible, than that the essential rectitude and purity of God's nature should do that, which hath a natural tendency to lead his crea­tures into errors and deception. I proceed,

V. As was proposed, to touch briefly on some parti­cular passages, which to me appear liable to exception, as not being clear from the holy scriptures.

The subject proposed by the author, to be treated un­der this section, is expressed in the following words, viz: ‘Of the end and design of means, and the true ground of encouragement for men to be in the diligent use of them, in order to their salvation.’ Three questions are here considered. ‘Ques. I. What are the means [Page 41] of grace and salvation, and what is meant by using these means?’

After many things said under this head, the author proceeds to point out several things, which he saith, ‘are in a more remote sense the means of grace and salvation.’ Among which it is said, ‘Such in a pe­culiar manner is divine revelation; and all those in­stitutions and appointments therein to be attended on by men; such as reading the bible, publick and pri­vate instructions, religious conversation, serious medi­tations on divine things, &c. and particularly PRAY­ER, which is the most solemn way of meditating on divine truths.’ It seems here, after all that is said by the author, we are left intirely to our own guess, to deter­mine whether it be the duty of the unregenerate, as a means among others, to pray for regenerating grace.

The author indeed once mentions prayer in capitals, as an institution contained in the word of God, to be at­tended on by men. But then what is said in confirmation of it, is, that ‘it is the most solemn way of medi­tating on divine truth, &c.’ So that it seems rather mentioned under the notion of a solemn way of medita­tion, than as prayer. Nor is this duty enforced by the author on the unregenerate, as attendance on the means of instruction is. Where he thus argues ‘God's using means with men for their instruction, supposses the propriety and importance of attending on these means.’ But the duty of prayer can't be enforced on the unrege­rate in this way, unless it be first made evident from the word of God, that prayer is the duty of the unregene­rate; which the author carefully avoids so much as to attempt, thro' this whole discourse.

Thus it appears, that one of the grand points that hath of late been so much debated, and about which [Page 42] much enquiry has been made, viz. Whether prayer be the duty of the unregenerate, as a means, among others, to be attended on, in order to obtain regenerating grace, is left loose and undeterminate in this discourse; and so in favour of those that deny it.

Should it be supposed here, (as some may plead) that the authors design was to fix the duty of prayer upon the unregenerate, as above; and that it is fairly so to be understood, tho' his expressions are not so full as might be.

I ask leave to enquire, how this can be supposed, con­sistent with such things as these following:

1. His not so much as once expressly asserting it, on so special an occasion, when many had denied it to be the duty of the unregenerate, to pray for regenerating grace: Others doubted, whether it was safe to direct souls, in distress, to this duty; many were tempted wholly to neglect it; some owned the duty, but then insisted it must be performed in faith: A thing as impossible, in nature, as for the same thing to be, and not to be at the same time; not only because faith implies regeneration, but also because there is no promise for the unregenerate to ground their faith upon, as the author has abundantly proved.

Others confine the unregenerate's seeking for grace, to what they call the gospel way, meaning the same thing as above, as is evident, when they explain themselves.

The well known arguments, here urged by those who denied the duty of prayer, as above, are such as these. Bring no more vain oblations. Does God require a sham? Does he require hypocrisy and sin?—Of these things, and so of all this confusion, we have good assurance, the [Page 43] author was well acquainted, when he wrote; not only because they were in the most open and publick manner, from time to time, debated and acted upon; but from the author's own words speaking of the question to be considered in this section, he observes, ‘It is an impor­tant one, and one about which there is perhaps more enquiry and dispute now, than ever there has been be­fore. Accordingly he makes this one ground of his treat­ing on the subject.

If therefore the author had design'd to confirm the duty of prayer on the unregenerate, as above, he had undoubtedly expressly and plumply spoke it out here. nor,

2. Does admitting this supposition well agree with the author's not adducing any single text or scripture argument, to prove the point; when the scriptures a­bound perhaps as much with commands to the unrege­nerate to pray, as to refrain from any immorality, or practise any moral duty? Is not the whole of every mo­ral duty required of every man? And can it once be imagined, when the whole and every part, as well the matter as manner of duty is required, that a disability or failure in one point thro' moral impotency discharges our obligation to the other? Sure it cannot. Was it ever doubted, whether unregenerate men are obliged, by God's law, to refrain from external acts of murder and adultery, and to practise external justice and charity, tho' destitute of a gracious principle? And are not these as much required to be done in a gracious manner as prayer? And is not prayer in general, as much a moral duty of the first table, as justice and charity of the se­cond? Should it be said here, that the gospel direction, how to pray aright through the mediator, is possitive? And is not direction how to perform all other duties aright equally so? Again, does the gospel direction, how to [Page 44] perform moral duties aright, thereby make any one of these duties void? If therefore the author had designed to confirm this point; he had doubtless offered some considerations, holding forth from the word of God, that it is the duty of the unregenerate, to pray for regenerat­ing grace. But,

3. That which puts this matter beyond all doubt, is, that the author, not only does not on this most special occasion, so much as expressly assert, 'tis the duty of the unregenerate to pray, much less urge it, from the scrip­tures; but with much labour endeavours to give these texts thought to favour it, and more generally used to that purpose by calvinist divines, so far as I am acquaint­ed, such an interpretation, as is inconsistent with their having any respect to the unregenerate. At the same time, he desires it may be observ'd, that ‘the question now in debate, betwixt him and Dr. Mayhew, does not turn upon the interpretation of this text; for let it (says he) be understood in either of the senses above mentioned, it makes nothing for the Doctor's pre­mises, &c.’ So that the author may safely be opposed here, without any the least imputation of joining with the Doctor in this debate against him, whose sense of the text he has in a manner adopted, which I shall now consider.

‘Some, says he, suppose that by the strait gate, is meant the entrance upon an holy life; which is the same that is commonly called conversion, or the new­birth. And by striving to enter in at this gate, they understand the exercises and endeavours of the unre­generate, which are antecedent to their conversion. But few or none, who understand the text thus, sup­pose there is any certain connexion between the striv­ing here exhorted to, and saving conversion, or that there is any promise made to this striving.’ This is [Page 45] the sense in which calvinistic divines understand the text. And it seems somewhat strange, that when this author undertook the cause of orthodoxy, he should give up and reject their sense of the text, which was so greatly in dispute.

It is well known those on the arminian side, who main­tain, that regeneration is at or by baptism, renounce the foregoing sense of this text, as inconsistent with their principles. These will no doubt join with the author in supporting that sense, which he has attempted to esta­blish, viz. ‘By the strait gate our Saviour means in ge­neral the entrance into heaven or eternal life. And then by striving to enter in at this gate, is meant a keeping the commandments of God, or the holy ex­ercises by which they walk in the way to heaven; fight the good fight of faith, and so lay hold on eter­nal life,’ which some think is a short summary of their whole scheme. For this tends to deliver them from the invincible influences of the holy Spirit in grown persons, and sensible experiences and exercises of mind in conver­sion, since the strait gate, according to this exposition, has no reference to regeneration. All that adult persons have to do, is to keep the commands, and so lay hold on eter­nal life.

Is not advancing this gloss on the text, the most ef­fectual method that could be taken, unobservedly to over­throw calvinism in this point, and promote arminianism, when done, tho' not on design, by a profess'd calvinist in defence of calvinism?

However, as this interpretation of the text made by arminians, was to me obscure and unintelligible, as not holding forth the true sense of the text; so it is equally so now, when made by a calvinist. But whether this is owing to the misinterpretation of the text, or to my age [Page 46] and dulness, I shall not determine, but leave to the im­partial public, when the following things are considered.

He explains the strait gate, as meaning the entrance into heaven or eternal life. Now if the entrance into heaven be a metaphorical expression, it is as obscure as the strait gate; and then how can it be a proper explanation of that metaphorical phrase?—But if he means entering into heaven strictly without metaphor, this is not till death, and then it should seem, that striving to enter in by this gate would be endeavouring to die, which makes a very un­couth sense. But take striving as he has explained it, ‘the holy exercises of true saints, by which they walk in the way to heaven;’ yet it is still unintelligible, how they can walk in the narrow way that leads to hea­ven, since they are supposed, by his exposition, to have entered there by passing thro' the gate. Surely there is some impropriety in representing persons travelling to­wards a place, who have already arrived and entered into it.

But if by the entrance into heaven or eternal life, he means the entering into state of grace or conversion, where is the difference which he supposes between this and the first sense, which he mentions, and endeavours to overthrow? The striving is before the entrance, or regeneration. How then can it mean the exercises of true saints?

He has not attempted here to explain what is meant by the narrow way, nor shewed the propriety of our Lord's placing this gate before the way in his representati­on; both which are, I apprehend, necessary to be done, in order to set the sense of this important text in a true and consistent light. These are plain and easy to be un­derstood on the calvinistic interpretation, but very obscure and unintelligible, for any thing that I have seen advanc­ed by those on the arminian side, or this author.

[Page 47]Doctor Doddridge, to whom he refers us, paraphrases it as follows, ‘And let me urge it upon you, that you exert your utmost strength to enter at the strait gate, which I formerly mentioned as leading to eternal life, (Matt. vii, 14. vol. i. 279.) which is, There are many who enter into destruction—because they are discouraged by the hardships which attend THE ENTRANCE ON A RELIGIOUS LIFE, as they see, that strait is the gate, and rugged and painful the way which leads to eternal life.’ And he points it out, as a thing worthy of observation, in his note, that our Lord mentions the gate before the way. Such is my weakness, that I cannot devise why this au­thor referred to Dr. Doddridge, as an authority for his new sense of this text, since the Doctor does so expressly represent the strait gate, to be the entrance on a religious life. Strive to enter, is the duty enjoined. How came the unregenerate to be excused from it? Have they no need to enter? Or have they no need to strive in order to this? Nor do I see that Mr. Pool's Synopsis* refer'd to, is more to his purpose, since he asserts that "Christ invites or requires all, the unregenerate not excepted, to take in hand or enter upon the way, i. e. of holiness. And that they strive in this matter with all their powers.

But suppose Mr. Pool was of opinion, that the gate and the way meant the same thing, a keeping of God's commandments, as the author expresseth it. As we are to call no man father upon earth, I would enquire here, since the gate and the way, are distinct things in nature, and in the proper use of the words, have always been so understood; and since in their borrowed use, as applied by Christ to spirituals, there are two distinct things which [Page 48] they aptly point out, viz. enterance upon, and progress in the christian life, what reason can be assigned for this fancied change of their signification, that they should signify one and the same thing in a borrowed sense? Is there any way of coming at the true meaning of words, used in a borrowed sense, but by having recourse to their signification, in their natural use? If therefore, that be changed in their borrowed use, and no reference had to it; by what rule can their true meaning be ascertain­ed? Sure it must be left to the capricious humor of every one.

Moreover, that the author's construction is meerly imaginary, and without foundation, may be further ar­gued thus: It is allowed by all, that by entering the strait gate is meant that, without which there is no en­tering into the kingdom of heaven. But thousands may have entered into the kingdom of heaven, without en­tering the strait gate, in the author's sense, by living in a course of holy obedience, for want of opportunity. It is reasonable to suppose, that some have savingly im­braced God through Christ, in their last expiring mo­ments, and to have had no opportunity for a course of holy obedience. Now if men may enter the strait gate, in the true sense of the words, so as to go to heaven, with­out entering, in the author's sense, then it seems the au­thor's sense is not the true sense.

Thus restoring the true and genuine sense of the text, (which might be more abundantly done at large, if there were occasion) the exhortation stands full to the unrege­nerate, strive to enter in at the strait gate.

Were I allowed to speak freely my humble sense of the text, to me it appears, that by entering the strait gate, is meant active conversion to God, or a compliance with the covenant of grace, in the way of faith &c. A gate [Page 49] so strait as can never be entered by us, unless made morally possible, by the power of God in regenerating grace; and yet the indespensable duty of all under the gospel. This is the gate we must enter upon pain of eternal damnation. What! And not required to strive in this matter! Thrice amazing!

This error hath, I think, hitherto been called Sande­manean, perhaps because others have not as yet publicly avow'd it; doubtless if they do, they will have a just right to share in the honour of if.

However, the author goes on in support of his inter­pretation, and affirms roundly, ‘as an evidence that striving in the text does not mean the unholy exercises and endeavours of those whose hearts are wholly under the dominion of sin; but the holy exercises and strivings of the truly godly, that the word in the, original translated strive, when used in other places of the new testament, as it is often, ALWAYS DENOTES the exercises and labour of true christians in their way to hea­ven.’ Upon which I would observe, that if this be true, then the word strive is more appropriated to sincere christians, than almost any other word in the bible; yea much more than saith and repentance, since the stony ground hearers believed for a while; Simon Magus believed; and the devils believe; and Judas repented; none of whom are supposed by orthodox divines to have been gracious.

However, let us examine the authorities which he has adduced to prove, that in the new testament the word strive, ALWAYS DENOTES the exercises of true christians.

One of these is Paul's exhortation to Timothy, ‘Fight the good fight of faith;’ and a second, what the same apostle says of himself, "I have fought the good fight." But in both these instances, that which limits the word fight or strive, to the exercises of true christians, is rather [Page 50] the GOOD fight, with which it is connected. Whereas if Mr. Hopkins's sense of the word strive, were certain, there had been no need at all for the apostle to have ad­ded, the GOOD strife or fight since it could mean no­thing else, but a good and holy striving. These two in­stances then, so far as I can discern, rather invalidate than prove his assertion, since they seem to imply there might be a fighting and striving that was not thus strict­ly good and successful. King David danced in a holy manner before the ark, and he being an eminently good man, the word dancing is used to denote his holy exer­cise. But will this prove, that the word dancing always denotes an holy, gracious exercise?

His next instance is, ‘And every one that striveth for the mastery, is temperate in all things: Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown,’ &c. Here the apos­tle speaks of striving for the mastery and for a corruptible crown. Were these gracious exercises? This text which he has produced, seems to confute the interpretation he has advanced, instead of establishing it.

It is, I apprehend, a matter of great importance, that the scriptures, and particularly, that this and the like pas­sages are not perverted. And if this perversion which, as it appears to me, is here given to this text, strive to enter, &c. should be received for truth, I cannot but think it would have a very bad tendency to encrease security and negligence about religion, and open profaneness a­mong the unregenerate. For, according to him, if I understand him right, this text has no reference to any exercises, endeavours or duties performable by sinners while unregenerate, but entirely refers to the holy exer­cises of sincere christians. Now if this text does not re­spect the unconverted, and enjoin duties upon them, where can there be any passage found in the bible that [Page 51] has any reference to them? And if Christ never exhort­ed unconverted sinners to strive and seek for the grace of God, then there can be no good reason for their atten­dance on the gospel, or performing any duties of religion immediate or present, nor sin in the omission of them, while they remain in unregeneracy. For where there is no law, there is no transgression. Let this author produce some divine law, or exhortation, or command, requiring the duties, endeavours and exercises of the unregenerate, or say plainly, there is nothing required of them while in that state; and consequently that all their religious en­deavours have no foundation but the commandments of men, and the mistakes of ministers: For this must be the case, if God has not required them. All the neces­sary, and all the good reason of any endeavours in reli­gion, depend on a divine command requiring them.

I pass on to his

Ques. II. ‘Why are means to be used, and what end does this answer? Or of what advantage is it to use means? What motive and encouragement is there to this?’ P. 121.

"It has been observed," says the author, ‘that the end of using or attending on the means of grace is instruction,’ &c. By this instruction, the author explains himself to mean speculative knowledge, and what is something more, even all that light and know­ledge of divine things, that can agree to the unregene­rate.

Here I ask leave to enquire, by what authority, this speculative knowledge, even all that the unregenerate, as such, are capable of, is set up as the end of attending on the means of grace? Doth not every one know, that the end of using means to any purpose, is the accomplishing that purpose? And is it not abundantly clear from the [Page 52] scriptures, both of the old and new testament, that the end of attending on the means of grace, as appointed and required by God, is grace, the fruits of holiness? Thus when God gives an account of the means and ad­vantages indulged to the jewish church, he expects fruits of holiness, ‘Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

So the great end and design of the grace revealed in the gospel, ‘is to teach us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.* So strictly is this end enjoined us by God, in the use of all means and ad­vantages, arguments and motives, joyful and dreadful, set before us in the gospel, that 'tis on peril of our eter­nal damnation, if we fail of reaching this blessed end. ‘He that believeth not, shall be damned.§ Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

From these hints, and much more of the like nature, with which the scriptures abound, can any one, brought up under the gospel, be at a loss, to what end God requires, him to attend on the means of grace?

Should it be objected here, in vindication of setting up speculative knowledge as the end of attending on the means of grace; that the unregenerate thro' moral pra­vity can go no further than speculation, and that con­viction which is from a common work of the spirit, till a new heart is given, in regeneration. I answer, be it so; yet 'tis to be remembered, that God don't make the depraved will of the creature the rule of his duty: But, on the dreadful penalty, above exprest, requires him to reach the appointed end. ‘Make you a new heart, and a new spirit, for why will ye die? Turn yourselves and live ye.

[Page 53]Are not sinners in imminent danger, many ways, by admitting this principle, as,

1. Of excusing themselves of blame continuing in un­conversion, under the means of grace? For how can they be to blame for not attaining to that, in the use of means, that is not the end proposed and required?

2ly. This principle admitted may prove a dangerous temptation to many, to cease from the use of means, ha­ving attained, as they are confident, the end, viz. a com­petent degree of speculative knowledge. May not thou­sands under the gospel, that have been well indoctrinated in the principles of christianity, say, and be justified in it, ‘we are well assured we have attained to that degree of instruction and speculative knowledge of christianity, that renders us capable of being regenerated; and, being so, of exercising all necessary christian grace. 'Tis evident to us, that thousands less distinctly know­ing in the doctrines of christianity than we, have to a judgment of charity been regenerated, many of them in youthful age, persons of weak understanding and little knowledge. If the chief reason assigned by the author, why the unregenerate must attend on means, is the attainment of this instruction, or speculative knowledge: And if, according to this new principle, the more we are awakened to diligence in attending on means, and to reformation of all known evils, we are, on the whole more vile, than when at ease in our sins; is it not most safe for us, to rest where we are; having attained the end of attendance on the means of grace, whereby we are, as the author proves, now likely to be saved? Why then should we expose our­selves to a more aggravated condemnation, when there is nothing to be got by it?’

Should it be objected here, that it was not the author's [Page 54] design strictly and properly to treat of the end of attend­ing on the means of grace. For answer, I shall only leave this query, viz. Whether there be room for an ob­jection of this kind, when the title of the section, the terms of the question, and what immediately follows, is duly considered, and compared with that passage in the close, viz. ‘The only proper way therefore to en­courage the sinner, who is under any great degree of genuine conviction of sin, is—to teach him the true end and design of means.’ No doubt therefore the au­thor designed that here, which in his best judgment ap­peared most proper in this case, viz. to teach the true end and design of means. I proceed.

The author having raised the unregenerate to the high­est degree of an awakened sense of divine things, that their state, as such, is capable of, every thing as himself expresseth it, short of ‘discerning the true beauty or moral excellency of divine things,* He proposes this query, viz. ‘If it should be asked, what good all this instruction and knowledge will do the unregenerate, who are under the dominion of an hard and impeni­tent heart, and will continue so until a new heart is given in regeneration?’

Here let it be noted, that 'tis fully conceded by the author, that the unregenerate, under consideration, have all degrees of light and conviction of divine truth, that can, by a common work of the spirit, agree to an unre­generate state. And therefore all that the three thou­sand pricked in the heart, at Peter's sermon had, and all that Paul had when slain by the law,§ and all that the Publican had, who standing afar off, did not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. All, I say, that these had, while unconverted, those under consideration, [Page 55] are supposed to have. And in a word, all that there is in a common work of the spirit of God, preparatory to a saving faith, the inlightening of natural conscience, put­ting the sinner upon reformation of life, a diligent atten­dance on means of grace, humbling him by the law, bringing of him to the foot of divine sovereignty, to a sense of his lost state, and the justice of his condemna­tion by the law: All this is here fully comprehended.

It is well known, that these things, as preparatory to a saving faith, in the ordinary way of God's dispensing his grace, have been steadily maintained by calvinist divines of the greatest note, as agreeable to the oracles of God. The great Dr. Owen makes no account of a faith not preceeded by a law work. Mr. Norton greatly insists upon it. Likewise Mr. Sheppard, & Mr. Stoddard make the want of it an evidence of the unsoundness of faith. And much of this nature, if I mistake not, is found in Mr. Edwards's writings. But I forbear, as it is well known, that quotations on this head, from authors of greatest note, might fill a large volume.

I wou'd be far from insinuating, that the author has any inclination to favour the new divinity:* Yet at the same time, I must own, I am not well able to account for his putting so great a flight on all possible attain­ments of the unregenerate, when at the same time, he must be sensible, they contain in them, all that is prepara­tory to a saving faith, by a common work of the spirit of God.

[Page 56]And now let us attend to the forementioned queries. "If this knowledge," i.e. all that light, knowledge, conviction and legal humiliation, with all the proper ef­fects of it, in reformation and amendment of life, that can agree to the unregenerate, ‘will be of no service to them, and really do them no good, and they are as far from salvation as ever.’ &c.

For a clear understanding here, let it be noted,

1. That when the author, in these queries, speaks of being under the dominion of a hard and impenitent heart, it is evident from his own words, no more is meant than meerly continuing unregenerate, ‘and will con­tinue so,’ i.e. under the dominion of a hard and im­penitent heart, ‘until a new heart is given, in regene­ration.’ So when he speaks of ‘the impenitent sin­ners, continuing obstinately to reject and oppose sal­vation, offered in the gospel,’ no more can be under­stood, than continuing impenitent under the gospel. To be sure nothing can be understood here, by the sinners obstinately rejecting the gospel salvation, but what is consistent with his seeking the Lord with trembling, and reforming every known sin. Because such are the sub­ject of the present debate, and such he explains himself to mean, and of such 'tis asserted they are more vile, &c.

I mention this, because, as the author uses the terms, they are equivocal: he must, to be consistent with him­self, mean no more than meerly continuing unregenerate, under the clear light of the gospel; others understand by this phrase, an open and avowed opposition to the gospel, or what is nearly bordering upon it; which is something different from bare impenitence under the gospel, accompanied with seeking the Lord with trem­bling.

2. It is to be noted here, that the author not only [Page 57] fully concedes to what is contained in these queries, but goes beyond, and asserts, not only that all these things will do the unregenerate no good; but that on the whole, they are more vile in God's sight, with all these attain­ments, than they would be without them.

And is not all this strange! Is it of no service, on the whole, to the unregenerate, to be broken off from strong habits of most enormous wickedness, tho' only from na­tural conscience awakened? Is it of no service to them, to have attained that speculative knowledge, without which, as the author observes, the sinner can't be rege­nerated? Again, is it of no service to the unregenerate, to be humbled and slain by the law, convinced of their lost and perishing state, and of the justice of God in their condemnation? In a word, is all that is done by the spirit of God, for the unregenerate, preparatory to a sav­ing faith, on the whole, of no use at all to them?

But to speak of things more distinctly, I fully concede, there is, strictly speaking, nothing that is holy, spiritual or pleasing to God, nothing that stands in connexion with any promise of, that might recommend the sinner to God's special favour, in all these or the like attain­ments. But here I

Query, 1. Is there therefore, really no fort of good­ness, of any kind, or in any sense whatsoever, in all these, or the like attainments of the unregenerate, when con­sidered in themselves, not so much as that of a negative kind, which consists in the absence of a greater degree of positive moral evil? If so: It must clearly follow,

1. That this truth ought to be taught with the great­est plainness, and enforced in the strongest manner upon all: The most profligate must be assured, that he is not a whit more wicked, than the most reformed, awakened sinner, under the same external means of light. And [Page 58] here it can't be denied, but that the author has so far discharged himself well, upon this principle, as that, tho' he has not in express words asserted this; yet he has been effectually cautious, not to hint a word to the contrary, throughout this whole section, when there was the fairest occasion, and whilst he laboured abundantly to prove, that the reformed, on the whole, is more vile than the profligate.

2. It clearly follows, on this principle, that the pro­fligate may, by no means, be exhorted to break off his sins, and reform his life, with any view to his being less wicked. That to have any respect to this, in breaking off his sins, if he fails of doing it in a gracious manner, is to act upon a false principle: That however a wran­gling conscience may suggest such a notion, it is utterly false: And that he may safely, in the fear of God, wrangle it out, with his misinformed conscience, and be assured he is not a whit more wicked, continuing his execrable practices, than he would be, if he reformed them!

Here again, it must be own'd, the author has acted in a fair consistency with this principle: Since, thro' this whole section, he has not so much as once mentioned the sinner's breaking off from his sins, as that, whereby he is more in the way of mercy, or less wicked, than going on in them. All that belongs to the unregene­rate, as means, with the author, it seems, terminates in instruction or speculative knowledge; as tho' it was not as much out of God's wonted way, to bestow saving grace on the sinner, abandoned to all kind of wickedness, while such, as on the grossly ignorant.

3. Upon this principle, all the attainments of the un­regenerate, such as awakening, conviction, reformation, legal humiliation, and whatsoever is preparatory to a [Page 59] saving faith, are no grounds at all of thankfulness to God. If they are really such worthless things, what are of no service to the unregenerate, can do them no good, and on the account of which, considered in themselves, they are not less wicked, than they would be without them, abandoning themselves to all manner of wicked­ness; in this case, to give thanks to God for them, would be no less than to mock God, giving thanks, for a thing of nought.

On the other hand, if the truth really is, that all these attainments of the unregenerate, considered in themselves, tho' but the fruits of common grace, are great and pre­cious favours from God, endearing grounds of thankful­ness, whereby they are less wicked, and, in the true sense of scripture, in state brought nearer to the kingdom of God, to a state of grace, the state of a good man, than when, in a great measure, carnally secure and thoughtless about the concerns of their souls, and wallowing in all manner of most abominable wickedness, under the same external means of light. If this, I say, be the truth, handed down from the reformation, through the hands of eminent divines, as it now stands in the confession of faith, as quoted above; why was it not fairly brought out, on this special occasion, and set in a clear light? Why does the author artfully conceal it, thro' this whole discourse, treating of it in a sort of a compound sense? Was it fear, lest sinners should make a righteousness of these things, if in any sense spoke well of? Have mor­tals a right to be so much afraid of the abuse of any of God's truths, as to conceal them, when the subject treat­ed on, so especially requires it? Again,

Be it so, that by all these attainments, as above, the unregenerate have no moral fitness to receive grace, no­thing that in the least intitles, or recommends them to [Page 60] the favour of God. Is it therefore true, that they have no fort of fitness in any sense? Is it not bold for crea­tures to assert this; when 'tis evident from scripture and the experience of the godly, that 'tis the way, the wisdom of God in the ordinary way of dispensing his grace, takes, to bring home souls to Christ, to wound before he heals, convince of sin before he convinces of righteousness? Is it not reasonable to think, if we were angels and not men, we should see many useful distinc­tions we have no clear discernment of now? Ought it not therefore, to be a sufficient guard to us, when we see the wisdom of God takes this or that method to accom­plish any certain purpose, not to assert there is no fitness in it, because we don't clearly discern it? Are we sure there is no fitness in this order of proceeding, that the sinner should first be made sensible of the dreadful ma­jesty of God sinned against, and so of the dreadful desert of sin, and of the utter ruin of his nature by it, before the way of pardon is opened up to him thro' a mediator?

But to return to the queries.

That which is not the least remarkable, is that after all these attainments, as above, the unregenerate are as far from salvation as ever. Where it may be observed, that expression here used, "as far from salvation as ever," can hardly, with strict propriety, be understood to relate to the time of the sinner's being brought into a state of grace; because such a time might never come; and if it did, the proposition wou'd not be true: Because, in that case, every day brings the sinner one day nearer to salvation. It must therefore relate to the state of the sinner, as being in state as far from salvation as ever. And can this be true, when all that is preparatory to a saving faith is already wrought in the soul? Is the tim­ber that is fell, hew'd and drawn to the place, in state, as [Page 61] far from that of being wrought into a frame, as the stand­ing trees? Equally evident and certain it is, that every degree of knowledge, conviction, reformation, legal hu­miliation, &c. attained by the unregenerate, that is ne­cessary, in order to state of grace and salvation, brings them in state one degree nearer to it; whether ever they attain it or not.

I might here go on to remark on sundry passages, which, to my weak understanding, are not well exprest; but being much of the same nature with what has been touch'd upon, and in the main, comprehended in the general proposition, discoursed upon above, I shall pass them, save a hint on what the author seems to design as a similitude, for the illustration of the truth of the affir­mative part of the question, viz. ‘If a father calls after, and commands his two sons, who are running from him with a design to quit his family and government, as what they perfectly hate, immediately to return back, and submit themselves to his authority. If they ought to obey their father's command, then they are under obligation to stop, and attend to what he has to say. For this is implied in what he requires, and necessary in order to it. Therefore if one turns about, and attends to what his father has to say to him, while the other stops his ears, and runs on, till he is out of hearing; the former does not violate the obligation to stop and hearken, which the other does, tho' if he continues to hate his father, and refuses to return and submit to his government, he can't be said to obey his father's command; and may by the light and conviction laid before him, by his father, in conse­quence of his stopping and attending, be more guilty in refusing to submit to him, than the other that has been out of hearing.’ To this I reply,

[Page 62]1. That this similitude does by no means fully repre­sent the state of the case: Here is nothing of the awaken­ed, reformed sinner, save only his making a pause, stop­ping his career, when running away, and attending to what his father had to say. Yet lame and defective as it is, I propose a query or two: And for distinction fake, Let the letter A. represent the son that run off, and B. him that turn'd back, and attended to what his father had to say.

I ask, what was the true cause and reason why A. stopt his ears, run off, and utterly refused to hear a word from his father, or pay him the least regard; when B. heark­ened so far, as to stop his wicked course, and attend to the reasons his father had to offer, for his submission? Both were alike well educated, by their father, alike well used, under equal advantages, and obligations. All these are supposed. What therefore can be the true cause and reason of this difference, but a more wicked state of mind in A? What, but a greater degree of ob­duracy and hardness of heart; a more fixed resolution of rebellion, and of casting the utmost contempt on his father's authority? Will any one in this view of the case, say, that B. is more wicked than A? What! because B. is less bold, daring and fixed in his rebellion, and in cast­ing the utmost contempt on his father's authority? Sure neither scripture nor reason will admit this sentiment. Should it be pleaded here, that B. is more wicked than A.

1. Because B. discovers a greater degree of tenderness and sensibility of conscience sinned against, than A. in non submission.

I answer, that to argue thus, wou'd be preposterous and absurd to the last degree. For, upon this principle, the most abandoned sinner under the gospel, having wasted his conscience, and sinned away his moral sense, [Page 63] so that he is past feeling, as the scripture expresseth it, may commit the most atrocious wickedness, and yet be innocent, because past feeling. Whereas the truth in this case is just the reverse; he, of the two, under the same gospel light and advantages, that can with the great­est boldness and freedom, commit the most enormous wickedness, without remorse or feeling of conscience, is the more desperately wicked. As is evidently the case with A.

But perhaps the grand plea in reserve, to evince that B. is more faulty than A. (if different from what has already been said) is, that B. has a higher degree of in­ternal light and conviction, that 'tis his duty to submit to his father, than A. had, therefore more guilty.

By way of reply,

I ask, what is the blameable cause, why A. has not as great a degree of internal light and conviction of his duty in this matter, as B? If it be intirely and meerly A's fault, shall not A. be dealt with, as if he had that light and conviction in his conscience; which only, and meerly his own fault, wilfully stopping his ears, impeaded his having?—Is not this point already determined by un­ering wisdom, in the case of our Saviour's treating the jews, above cited; when upon doing the works among them that none other man did; Christ charges them with having both seen and hated both him and the father. Where it does not appear, that they actually saw the divinity of Christ, and therein the glory of the Father that shone forth in his works; but thro' the exceeding wickedness, blindness, and prejudice of their hearts, meer­ly their own faultiness, they were, as to many of them, no doubt, blind to, and did not perceive, but rejected the demonstrative light of Christ's divinity, that shone in his works. And so were reckoned with by God, as if [Page 64] they had seen it; because nothing but their own meer faultiness prevented it.

Now it this be true, applied to the present case; and A, be accountable before God as sinning against all that light, which he wilfully refused, by shutting his eyes and stopping his ears; how can B. be chargeable with sinning against a greater degree of light, than A? If it can't therefore be affirmed with truth, of B. representing the awakened, reformed sinner, that he is in the present tense, on the whole, undoubtedly more vile, odious, and abominable in God's sight than A. representing the bold, daring, presumptuous sinner, going on resolutely in his sins; the author's cause must fail, as represented by this similitude of his own chusing. Because this is abun­dantly affirmed by the author, of the awakened, reform­ed sinner, compared with the secure going on in his sins, as the grand foundation of this debate, as seen above.

However, let us hear what the author himself faith, "If" (says he) "he," i.e. the son that turned about, ‘continues to hate his father, and refuses to return and submit to his government, he may by the light and conviction laid before him by his father, in conse­quence of his stopping and attending, be more guilty in refusing to submit to him, than the other, who has been out of hearing.’

'Tis observable here, that the author has said nothing of the present state of B. under conviction, as being more guilty than A. who stopt his ears, and run off. Nor is it to be attributed to any want of ingenuity in the author. For who does not see, that any thing of this nature here asserted, wou'd be even shocking to common sense? In­stead therefore, of any thing of this nature, he seems to suppose some future season, consequent on B's attending on his father's instruction, in which he might, by light [Page 65] laid before him, be more guilty in refusing to submit, than A. out of hearing. Which is but a meer supposi­tion of a may be, relating to futurity. And so nothing to the purpose, since, so long as there is any instance of a sinner under the gospel, awakened from a secure, pro­fligate, vicious life, to a diligent attendance on the means of grace, that is not, on the whole, more vile in God's sight, than he wou'd be, continuing secure, going on in his sins, as the above instance is a plain one, the general proposition can't be true. However, the following que­ries are proposed to the author, on what he hath here said.

Q. 1. What moment of future time, may be fixed upon, when B. as represented in the similitude above, I will be more guilty than A? If it be not true now: may not the same reasons for which it is now true, remain and increase, so that it may never be true?

Q. 2d. Whether this way of reasoning in favour of A. as tho' he might expect some notable abatement of his guilt, by stopping his ears and going out of hearing, don't carry in it too much encouragement to the sinners A. represents, who abandon themselves to wickedness, and neglect the means of grace: Since they are suffici­ently inclined in themselves, without the help of others, to devise pleas in their own favour?

Another passage is, ‘If the plowing of the wicked is sin, shall they therefore not plow?’—Where it may be observed, that this passage was brought in by the au­thor, to illustrate his point, as seen from the connexion, viz. that the awakened, reformed sinners being, on the whole, more vile, &c. is no reason why they should ne­glect means.

2. That a part only is here put, for the whole state of the case, and therefore can be no illustration of the point. The whole state of the case being put, stands thus, viz. [Page 66] Whether on supposition, the sinner awakened from sloth and negligence, to plow and use proper means to provide sustenance for himself and family, being, on the whole, worse, than he would have been, had he continued in sloth and negligence, under the same external means of light, the question in this case is, whether he shall plow, i.e. whether, if providing for his family, he is, on the whole, worse than worse than an infidel; because while he neglected providing for his family, we are divinely assured he was worse than an infidel, so that if he be worse now, providing for them, than he was neglecting of them, he must be worse than worse than an infidel.

And now let the reader judge, the case being fairly stated, whether he shall plow in this case; and whether the case only in part, put as above, can at all serve to illustrate the author's point?

There is one thing more, which I shall but touch upon, and that is the remarkable variation of expressions used by the author, relating to the main point in debate. Thus while he repeatedly asserts, that the awakened, re­formed sinner, while impenitent, is on the whole, by light received, more vile and odious in God's sight, than he wou'd be continuing in security, and going on in his sins: And that he is undoubtedly so, what ever be his reformation and amendment of life, as quoted and ex­plained above; undoubtedly, that is, unavoidably; for if his greater sinfulness might possibly be avoided in this case, the matter would be brought into doubt, and then he would not be undoubtedly more vile. With these and the like declarations, are intermixed some softening expressions, viz. that the sinner is so in a respect, com­monly, and for the most part; and in the close of his discourse, he comes down wonderfully, in these words, viz. His appearing to himself to grow worse—is really [Page 67] no reason why he should neglect means, but rather an encouragement constantly to attend.’ Fully orthodox this. But why this abatement? If the principle advanc­ed in former pages is true; why not thro' the whole? If it was of importance to be set up; why not to be kept up, especially in the close? Which if it had, wou'd have stood thus, viz. The awakened sinner's really grow­ing worse, on the whole, in attendance on means, as con­viction of sin arises, what ever be his reformation and amendment of life, and what ever his humiliation prepa­ratory to coming to Christ, more vile, odious and abo­minable in God's sight, than he would have been con­tinuing secure, and going on in the practice of all manner of most enormous wickedness, under the same external means of light, ‘is really no reason why he should ne­glect means; but rather an encouragement constantly to attend.’ Now if in the author's view, it appeared too startling to a common reader, to close his discourse with this plain representation of the state of the case in debate: It had been a great favour, in my humble opi­nion, if he had been under the same restraint, when he advanced it. To be sure it had prevented me these my poor labours on the subject. And I think I may say with good assurance, it had prevented grief to many wor­thy fathers in the ministry, whose praise is in the gospel thro' the churches; and who are not so far superannuated, but that with good old Eli, they tremble for fear of the ark; when they see it in danger of a wrong touch, from the vigour and sprightlinest of younger years.

I proceed to the

VI. General head proposed, which was to consider such objections as might arise.

Here, before I enter upon the objections, I desire it may be well observed, that as the author don't confine [Page 68] himself, but takes the liberty to advance sentiments which have no necessary connexion with the main point propo­sed; so in remonstrating against these sentiments, I al­low a place to objections, thence arising, as also to those arising from principles, I oppose, favoured by those sen­timents. What I chiefly aim at here, is, that nothing in the objections, be by the reader attributed to the au­thor, but what evidently appears to be advanced by him, or in favour of what is advanced by him.

Obj. I. Should it be objected here, by the way, that in what is advanced in this discourse, as matter of debate from the tenth section, things are carried too high, be­yond the genuine sense and meaning of the author's expressions.

I answer, it was with the strictest caution I proceeded in that matter, to the best of my understanding and not without the concurring thoughts of many, who are look­ed upon among the best judges of language.

Besides, I have fairly exposed the author's own words, to be judged by the impartial public; and might further add from the drift and scope of the whole, and from many concessions and after expressions, what to me ap­pears a full confirmation, that the true sense and meaning of the author's words, is well exprest in what is said; were it not that I am confident he will not insist on this objection.

Obj. II. Is it not clear, both from scripture and reason, that sin is aggravated according to the degree of light sinned against?

I answer, It is readily granted, that he that sins against a greater degree of light, is in that respect, a greater sin­ner: But then it by no means should follow, that he is so, on the whole, all other respects considered. As has been clearly shew'd above, To which I refer the reader.

[Page 69]Obj. III. 'Tis objected by some, that to urge sinners to a diligent attendance on particular duties, such as searching the scriptures, attending on the word preached, strictness in reforming known sin, and practising known duty, with earnest cries to sovereign grace, as means in order to faith, is not scriptural. That the only scriptu­ral way of putting men upon attending on means, is to call upon them to repent and believe the gospel.

This seems to be the purport of the author's answer to the third question, viz. ‘What obligations are men un­der to use means? Ans. They seem to be under the same obligations to this, as they are to repent and be­lieve the gospel.’ And having confirmed his answer, he makes this observation, viz. ‘That this is the scrip­tural way of calling upon men to attend means, viz. to call on them to repent and believe the gospel.’ It is not here said, this is one scriptural way: But it seems plainly meant to be understood, that this is the only scriptural way: Because, if the author knew any single text, that pointed out any particular duty, as a means, having undertook to answer this question, as above, it must be supposed he would have adduced it.

Now if the author is here rightly understood, this is something of the same nature with what was attempted on Luk. xiii. 24. But with this difference, that, in my humble opinion, was constering away the true meaning of a single text: This, of all the texts in the bible, that injoin or inforce any particular duty on the unregenerate, as a means in order to saving faith and repentance. This wou'd be doing business! But is it true? Does not our Saviour expressly injoin sinners to search the scriptures [Page 70] as a means in order to come to the true knowledge of him as mediator? To seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness?§ To labour for the meat that endures to everlasting life?* And to strive to enter in at the strait gate? i.e. strive to enter upon the chris­tian life, as explained above. And is not this attempt to enter, previous to actual entrance, since the former some­times exists without the latter? For many I say unto you will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. And is not the sinner that finds the pearl, plainly represented as being a seeker, previous to his finding of it? And does not God complain of his people, not only charged with great wickedness, but with not having known the Lord; that ‘they will not frame their doings to turn unto their God. Sure this must be something previous to a saving repentance, and something that God required; otherwise they had not been blamed for the neglect of it; for where there is no law, there is no transgression. And does not saint Paul clearly point out attendance on the word preached, as a means in order to faith? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word preach­ed.{inverted †} And does not the apostle Peter expressly exhort Simon, being unregenerate, to pray? ‘Repent there­fore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

It is untrue to object here, that as Simon is directed first to repent, he is directed to pray, only on supposition, he did truly repent: Since after all, the encouragement set before him to pray, is encouragement peculiar to a sin­ner's prayer. It is evident therefore, that as the apostle knew he was a sinner, so he expected from him the prayer of a sinner: And yet, by the Holy Ghost, directed him to [Page 71] pray. Is there nothing in all these that relates to the sinners attending on any particular duty, as a means in order to obtain grace?

Can any art of metaphysicks wrangle away all these and many more plain texts, that might be brought to the same purpose? I say all: Because if there be but one single text in the whole bible, that points out any duty to be done by the unregenerate, as a means in order to saith, the point is gained. And will any one deny this? Deny that there is any one duty appointed by God to be attended by the unregenerate, being of his visible cove­nant people, as means in order to obtain his saving mer­cy! And if not: Sure there are other scriptural ways of calling upon men to attend on means of grace, than meerly by calling upon them to repent and believe the gospel.

Again, it is evident from the last text mentioned, that sinners are encouraged to such religious exercises as they are capable of, being unregenerate, as means in order to obtain grace. Thus Simon a sinner is encouraged to pray, (which the author owns in capitals is a means of grace) tho' it should be the prayer of the unregenerate.

This will be evident, if we consider the encourage­ment here set before Simon to pray, must be encourage­ment either to the prayer of a saint, or a sinner: But a meer paradventure or may be of forgiveness, as contained in those words, can't be the scriptural encouragement to the prayer of a saint: to suppose this, would be to contra­dict the current of the whole scripture. Sure every one that asketh, i.e. as a saint, i.e. in faith, receiveth. It must therefore be encouragement to the prayer of a sin­ner, such a prayer as a poor distressed sinner, feeling his guilt and perishing state, is capable of. This encourage­ment equally extends itself to all other the sinners essays [Page 72] of duty as means in order to repentance, and turning to God thro' Christ; such as searching the scriptures, at­tendance on the word preached, reforming known sins, and attending on known duties, &c. To all who with ear­nest concern, thus attend on God's appointed means, the language of scripture encouragement is, may be God will be gracious, who can tell, if perhaps sovereign grace may be displayed for your help, in this way! It implies in it, that God is a God of infinite goodness, can exer­cise his mercy towards them thro' Christ in this way, con­sistent with the honour of all his other perfections; and that they are in some measure in the way, in which he is wont to bestow mercy on perishing Sinners, whenever he does bestow it; the way in which millions have found mercy: And the way out of which he has determined, in the ordinary dispensation of his grace, not to bestow it. Which is quite the reverse of the new divinity. I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them.* Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know the Lord. Here as the body of that people, [Page 73] by far the greater number comprehended in the pronoun, we, were undoubtedly sinners distitute of the true know­ledge of God; as the words plainly hold forth; can any thing less be understood by those expressions, if we follow on to know, than that the only encouragement [Page 74] sinners destitute of the saving knowledge of God have of attaining to it, is in a persevering diligent attendance on all God's appointed means, as sinners, until by grace they become successful? This encouragement to sinners ear­nest endeavours in the use of means, is great and preci­ous. [Page 75] No such encouragement is found in all the book of God, to those of a contrary character and course, God's voice to them is, woe to sinners that are at ease in Zion. He that hardeneth his neck, being often reproved, shall suddenly be destroyed. God shall wound the hairy scalp [Page 76] of such a one, as goeth on still in his trespasses, as quoted above.

Since therefore there is great and precious encourage­ment of the bestowment of saving mercy, held forth in the scriptures, to the sinners earnest endeavours in the [Page 77] use of means, as the way: It will thence clearly follow, that calling upon men to repent and believe the gospel, is not the only scriptural way of putting them upon at­tending means of grace.

[Page 78]Moreover, from the encouragement here set before Simon, to repent and pray, i.e. to attempt the perfor­mance of these duties, tho' on no higher principle than that of natural conscience, assisted by the light of God's word, and the common influence of the spirit; which [Page 79] encouragement stands good to all the unregenerate, un­der the external light and advantages of the gospel. 'Tis evident that God doth some may require these essays of the unregenerate: Otherwise he encourages them to that in his worship, which he no way, in any sense requires in [Page 80] his word. But can this be true? Since God every where insists on being the author and institutor of his own wor­ship. Would not this be for the almighty to encourage his creatures to practice will-worship, and the inventions of men; which God every where condemns in his word, [Page 81] as utterly sinful:* And can it agree to the purity of his nature, to encourage his creatures to that which is utterly sinful? Sure it cannot. It must therefore hence clearly follow, that the unregenerate under the light and advan­tages of the gospel, are some way required to make these [Page 82] essays, to repent, pray, break off from known sin, and practise known duty, tho' upon meer principles of na­ture, as above, while supernatural grace is suspended: Otherwise these performances of the sinner could not be encouraged by God, as they are, not only in the text above, but throughout the scriptures.

[Page 83]Again, it is further evident, that the unregenerate are otherwise required to attend on the means of grace, than meerly by being called upon to repent, and believe, in a gospel sense: Because, if they are not, then none of the unregenerate would be required to attend on means of [Page 84] grace, until they had attained to a competency of specu­lative knowledge, in order to saving faith: Since till then, they are under a natural impossibility of believing; and so of being immediately required to believe: And since the gospel does not require any natural impossibility, as [Page 85] the condition of life. It must thence clearly follow, up­on this principle, they are not required to attend on means at all.

Should it here be supposed, that all God's visible co­venant people, under the gospel, have a competency of [Page 86] speculative knowledge in order to saving faith: It would not be true. Besides, what then would become of the author's reasoning for seven pages together, in confirma­tion of the necessity of the sinners attendance on means, in order to a competency of speculative knowledge, that [Page 87] he might be converted: If all under the gospel have it; the whole force of his argument falls to the ground. But if it stands good, and there be some under the gos­pel that are destitute of it, as not having had opportu­nity and advantages for acquiring of it, they are not re­quired [Page 88] to attend on means of grace at all. If the only scriptural way of sinners being required to attend on means, is their being called upon to repent and believe: And some are not required in this way, it must necessa­rily follow, they are not required to attend on the [Page 89] means of grace at all. Thus the principle I am opposing necessarily terminates in manifest absurdity and untruth.

Obj. IV. That which seems to be the grand objec­tion with some, against sinners being urged to a constant and painful attendance on duty, as means in order to [Page 90] faith, as above, is that in their opinion, this has a direct tendency to build persons up in their own righteousness, and therefore carefully to be avoided. For answer,

1. It is readily conceded there is great danger, when persons are brought to external strictness of moral life, and attendance on means, left they rest there, short of faith: However, the following particulars offer them­selves, to be duly considered in this case, viz.

1st. Whether the first and great danger, those that enjoy the gospel are in, is not of irreligion and profane­ness, at least a careless disregard of religion? Is not this what we have reason to fear there is most danger of where the gospel comes; especially in a time of so great and general corruption, as that of the present day? And is not profaneness, at least as fatal to the souls of men, as self-righteousness? And by far more injurious to others, through the influence of bad examples?

2ly. A distinction must be kept up, between the na­tural tendency of means, and the abuse of them. To [Page 91] suppose the means of grace have a natural tendency to build persons up in their own righteousness, would be a reflection on the perfections of God, the wise author and institutor of means, not to be allowed. So that if there be danger in the case, it ariseth not from any natural tendency in means, or a due use of them, but from the abuse of them, through the reigning power of corrupti­on in mens hearts. And therefore,

3ly. All proper methods being used against this dan­ger, duty must be urged and pressed home; whatever be the danger arising from mens corruptions. This can be no exemption from duty: Duty must be done, at all adventures. Besides, there is no certain connexion be­tween a painful attendance on means, and the reigning power of a self-righteous spirit. Thousands have prac­tised these duties, who, by the grace of God, have escap­ed the fatal snare of continuing under the power of a self-righteous spirit.

4ly. I would here propose, as a matter of serious in­quiry, whether that pressing after faith and holiness, in the use of means, as above, with great earnestness, is not the very way and means, which God ordinarily makes use of to bring sinners off from their own righteousness, by bringing them to an experimental conviction, of the perishing, helpless state they are in, and thereby to die to all hope of righteousness by the law? How are sin­ners under a preparitory work of the law, brought to die to it, so far forth, as dying to the law agrees to an unregenerate state, viz. to all hopes of righteousness by it? Is it not in a diligent study of the holy scriptures, and of the divine law therein contained, with painful endeavours after conformity, that they are assisted by the common influence of the spirit, to apprehend that purity, strictness and spirituality of the law, called the coming [Page 92] of the commandment? Whereby sin is said to revive i. e. by that light of the purity and spirituality of the law shining in the conscience, sinners are enabled clearly to discover that to be sin, in many instances, which they saw not before; and that hainousness in sin, and utter depravity of nature in themselves, which they saw not before, and by which they are fully convinced, that in them dwells no good thing, no principle of goodness, that can in any measure answer to that perfection of holi­ness, which they now fee, the law requires. And hence righteousness by the law, becomes to them, strictly im­possible, and all hopes of it die. This is the account saint Paul gives us, of the way in which he was brought off from his own righteousness, when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.

Now if painful endeavours in the use of means, the study of the law, and pressing after holiness, is the way in which sinners are wont, by the grace of God, to be brought off from their own righteousness; what colour is there for this objection?—Shall the abuse of means to self-righteousness, which, thro' the subtility of satan, and the corruption of mens hearts, God does sometimes per­mit, be made an objection against the tight: use of means? God forbid.

Obj. V. 'Tis objected by some, that urging sinner's to press after faith in a diligent attendance on means, as above, is very dangerous, least in the mean time they die without faith, and perish eternally.

For answer here, I shall only propose two queries.

1. Is it not equally certain, the sinner will perish eter­nally, if he dies without faith, in the careless neglect of means?

2. Is not the hazard and danger of dying without faith, at least as great to those that live in the careless [Page 93] neglect of pressing after it in the use of means, as to them that diligently attend on means to that end?

Obj. VI. That urging on the unregenerate, as in­dispensible duty, a painful attendance on means in order to faith, as above, seems inconsistent with the absolute sovereignty of God in dispensing saving grace to sinners.

Ans. Since the utmost attainments the unregenerate are capable of in the use of means, have nothing in them holy, spiritual, or pleasing to God, nothing that can in­title or recommend them to his favour, there can be no real inconsistency between these attainments of the un­regenerate, and the bestowment of every grace, in the way of absolute sovereignty.

Obj. VII. The grand objection with some, chiefly those inclined to favour the new divinity, against urg­ing a diligent attendance on prayer and other duties, on the unregenerate, as a means in order to obtain God's saving mercy, as above, is, that all their performances are sin, and that therefore, it can't agree to the purity of God's nature to require them.

Here, as it is common, in the spread of error, there is a variety of sentiments; some who are, or have been publick teachers, have peremptorily denied, that the un­regenerate are required to pray. Others teach that 'tis their duty to pray, with this proviso, viz. that they pray in faith. Others again, that 'tis their duty to seek grace in a gospel way, evidently meaning, when they explain themselves, the same thing as above.

Before I proceed to a more immediate answer to this objection, I ask leave to query, whether putting the un­regenerate upon praying for faith and regenerating grace, on condition they pray in faith, does not imply in it a plain inconsistency? And whether it be not the same [Page 94] with teaching them not to pray, 'till they have faith? Besides, what have the unregenerate, while such, to ground an act of faith in prayer upon? Since as the au­thor hath well proved, they have no title to any of the promises.

But to proceed in order to a more direct answer, I shall,

1. Attempt to remove a mistake, on which the objec­tion seems, at least in part, founded, and take notice of some texts principally urged in its favour.

2. Offer some further hints in confirmation of the main point objected against, viz. that the unregenerate are required to pray, and attend on other religious duties.

1. The mistake on which this objection is founded, is a supposition, that there is a natural connexion between requiring the unregenerate to pray, and requiring them to sin: Whereas the connexion is intirely of a moral nature, and arises meerly from a moral cause, the crea­ture's want of moral ability, or which is the same, his want of disposition of heart, and inclination of will sin­cerely to comply with the command, which is meerly the creatures fault. And shall this fault of the creature be attributed to God's command, requiring what is strictly the creatures duty?

To make this mistake plain to the meanest capacity, suppose a father correcting his son for disobedient, rebel­lous behaviour, should in the close, require him to bow his head, in token of reverence, and submission to his parental authority: The son thro' unsubdued perverse­ness of temper, bows in hypocrisy. Does the father by commanding the duty, command the sin? Far be it. And much less in the present case.

Thus removing the mistake the objection is built up­on, it vanishes; and God's requiring the unregenerate to pray and attend on other means of grace, is at an infi­nite [Page 95] remove from commanding the sin, either of their neglect, or wrong manner of performance.

Besides, I see not on this principle, how the Almighty can be free from commanding sin, in commanding duty of the saints: Since they never did, or can perform a duty, but what is attended with sin: And since their prayers are often performed without the exercise of grace; and so are at least as sinful, as the prayers of the unregenerate. And therefore if requiring duty in the one case, be requiring sin, why not in the other? And sure it must be equally inconsistent with the purity of God's nature, to require sin in every instance, I might here consider, and reply to all those texts improved to enforce this objection; but shall for the present mention only one or two, that are most insisted on, viz. Bring no more vain oblations, incense is an abomination, &c.* This some have mistaken for a plain prohibition to the unregenerate, while such, to pray. This notion ap­pears too gross to need an answer. Since for the same reason, if admitted, it will follow, that the unregenerate, while such, are not required to attend any other duty.

However, one manifest mistake this objection labours under, is a supposition, that the same degree of gross hy­pocrisy and heinous wickedness attending the religious performances of those mentioned in the text, are found attending the prayers and religious exercises of all the unregenerate under the gospel. All must be equally wicked, with those murderers in the text, whose hands were full of blood, who had reach'd to that unutterable height of wickedness, whereby they are said to have out-done their sister Sodom, not only come up with, but exceed­ed in wickedness, even the men of Sodom, who were sinners before the Lord exceedingly. This equality of [Page 96] heinousness attending the prayers and other religious exercises of all the unregenerate under the gospel, to what ever degree they are brought to reverence their consciences, and reform their lives, must universally keep pace with that of those in the text; otherwise the ar­gument fails. Nor is it to the purpose here to say, the prayers of all the unregenerate are abominable in God's sight; Since 'tis equality of heinousness that must be made good, in this case, in order to argue the point in hand conclusively, from this text. Which being impos­sible, because not true, the objection so far as supported from this text, must sink.

Some other texts alledged for the support of this ob­jection, I shall take notice of toward the close, and there­fore pass for the present.

2. A second thing proposed under this objection, was to offer some further considerations, shewing that the un­regenerate are required to pray, and attend other religi­ous duties, as means in order to obtain God's saving mercy.

Where, by the way, the reader is refer'd to much that hath been already said to this purpose; as from the di­vine appointment of means to the end above; the ex­press command to Simon, being unregenerate, to pray; encouragement to the prayer of a sinner set before him; and largely on that text, Yet will I be enquired of, &c. with many other particular texts, both in the old tes­tament and the new, pointing out a difference between the earnest cries of a humble sinner, sensible of his pe­rishing need; and the careless remiss request of a proud, stupid, self-justifying sinner, giving a sort of preference to the former, at least, as being less displeasing to God, and more in the way, in which God's sovereign mercy is wont to be displayed.

[Page 97]Here to prevent mistakes and objections that might arise, let it be noted, that in what hath been or may further be said, of the unregenerate's being required to pray, &c. I would be understood to mean, such of the unregenerate, as are visibly related to God in covenant, at least admitted by baptism, and thereby being trained up under the advantages of the gospel, laid under solemn vows to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live so­berly, righteously, and godly. These, all these, whether regenerate or unregenerate, are required to pray and at­tend other religious and christian duties, as above.

Here I take it for granted, we shall have the universal consent of all parties to the truth of what is here laid down, these words being added, viz. in a gospel sense, or gra­cious manner. And then they run thus, viz. All who are visibly related to God in covenant, and favoured with the advantages of the gospel, whether regenerate or un­regenerate, are required in a gracious manner to pray, deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously, &c.

Here then we are happily agreed. But the great dif­ficulty still remaining, is to make it appear, that all, both regenerate and unregenerate, standing in this visible re­lation to God, are required to pray, &c. tho' they fail and come short of a gracious manner. And,

1. As to the regenerate, the children of God; is it not certain they are required to pray, and attend on all other christian duties, tho' they fail of a gracious man­ner? Be it so, that they are required to perform them in a gracious manner: Yet sure 'tis not conditionally, that they are required, if performed in a gracious man­ner; but absolutely, tho' they fail of a gracious manner. If they fail in their endeavours after a gracious manner, and reach only to a conscientious performance; God [Page 98] requires that, as being at a less remove from the obedi­ence required, than a total omission would be. Thus as to all duties of piety, justice, charity, and even the whole body of christian duties, all that the gospel teaches, good men are in some sense required to practise, tho' they fail in their endeavours after a gracious manner.

The truth in hand is indeed too plain to need being insisted on; as all good men, so far as they are such, practically own it, and constantly give in their testimonies to the truth of it, by making conscience of performing all these duties, tho' they fail in their endeavours after a gracious manner.

'Tis obvious and plain, that every command requiring obedience, requires every thing that hath, tho' but a re­mote tendency thereto; and forbids every thing that hath tho' but a remote tendency to the contrary. But thus conscientiously performing prayer surely has at least a remote tendency, &c.

And indeed how can this principle agree to that con­sistency and progress required in the christian life, when justice, alms deeds, or some other christian duty is con­stantly calling for dispatch? Or how can the publick teach­er know when the season of worship is come, whether it be safe for him to enter the desk? Since if he fails of a gracious manner in the work of the day, whatever his preparations, and however painful and consciencious in the performance, it had better been let alone, since what he has done was in no sense required, and so is at best but a piece of unprofitable will-worship. It is true, God don't require these things, because they have in them any possitive vertue, or true moral goodness, whereby they are pleasing and acceptable to him, or any se­curity of salvation to those that perform them: but be­cause of a negative moral goodness, they have in them, i. e. [Page 99] the absence of a greater degree of true moral evil, than there would be in the careless neglect of them, and other wise, and holy purposes, such as the promoting of God's visible honour and glory in the world; the usefulness of their charity and good examples to others, that see not their want of gracious sincerity; and by this means, being obliged canstantly to practise all christian duties in a gracious manner, and tho' they fall short of a gra­cious manner, they are constantly conversing with the grounds and reasons and motives to a holy life, and so are put under the utmost advantages for growth and progress in holiness: Moreover, all their deficiences and coming short of a gracious manner, which God knows is too, too frequent, is wont to be improved to promote their humility, teach them their own weakness and insuf­ficiency to any thing that is holy and spiritual, and the obligations of gratitude they are under to God, for the measure of assistance, at any time granted them.

And now, as it is evident from these brief hints, that the regenerate, visibly related to God, as above, are re­quired to pray, and attend other christian duties, tho' they fall short of a gracious manner; because the serious conscientious performance of them, is not at so great a remove from the obedience required, as the contemptuous neglect of them would be: So for the same reason, it is equally evident, that the unregenerate, related to God, as above, are equally required to pray, and attend other christian duties, tho' they fail of a gracious manner, and only conscientiously perform them. The duty com­manded being the same in both, and the reason the same, it hence follows, I think, that the conclusion must be the same as to both. Would it not be a thing quite unac­countable, once to imagine, that the regenerate, for whom God has done much more than for the unrege­nerate [Page 100] are required to pray, &c. tho' they fall short of the exercise of faith in prayer; but the unregenerate for whom God has done much less, not required to pray at all, unless in faith, nothing wavering. Alike unaccountable is this tho't as to the exercise of justice, charity, &c.

Moreover, what further serves to confirm the truth in hand, is that the same or like holy and important pur­poses, are served in this, as in the former case, a like ab­sence of greater degrees of moral evil in a conscientious performance, than in the contemptuous neglect; God's visible honour and glory is in like manner promoted, the charity and good examples of the unregenerate alike useful to others. And whereas the godly by the con­stant practice of all christian duties, as above, at least a conscientious endeavour, are put under utmost advan­tage for growth and progress in the christian life: So the unregenerate by being required to live in the constant practice of all christian duties, and diligent attendance on all means, are fixed as it were in the midst of the bowels of all means of grace, all light of divine instruc­tion, all motives and arguments, joyful and dreadful, suit­ed by an infinite wisdom, to persuade to faith, and active conversion to God: And whereas the deficiencies attend­ing the performances of the regenerate, when they fall short of a gracious manner, are went to be made emi­nently serviceable to promote their humility, and quicken to greater diligences: So in the unregenerate, the very means God is wont to make use of to humble and pre­pare for saving mercy, is the great impurity and sinful­ness attending the sinners best duties, after his utmost efforts; whereby he is at length, by the common influ­ence of the spirit, fully convinced, that such is the des­perate depravity of his nature, that he can never come up with the infinite purity of God's law; and therefore [Page 101] cries out in earnest with the publican, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Thus we here see clearly, if I mistake not, that God re­quires all, both regenerate and unregenerate, related to him, as above, to pray and attend other religious duties, such as justice, charity, temperance, chastity, &c. not conditionally, if performed in a gracious manner; but tho' they fail of a gracious manner, and only perform them conscientiously; with the reason of the require­ment of these performances, not because they are holy; but because less unholy. There is a less degree of true moral evil in the conscientious performance of them, than in the contemptuous neglect of them, and therefore they are required. As reverence and obedience, to the voice and dictates of natural conscience on meer princi­ples of nature; the exercise of natural pity to the miser­able; natural gratitude, for benefits received; natural affections in parents to children, &c. These things we are sure have nothing in them, that is holy and spiritual; and yet sure we are, that God requires them. Other­wise the absence of them, where higher principles are wanting, would be no sin; no sin to be without natural pity to the miserable; no sin in parents to be without natural affection to children. Because where there is no law, there is no transgression. But we are sure from the light of nature and scripture, that the absence of these things is great and heinous wickedness; therefore we are sure God requires them, and just thus it is with the du­ties above mentioned, required of the unregenerate. They are not required to God's gracious acceptance, but to other wise and holy purposes worthy of God, such as the advancement of his declarative glory in the world, and the good of his visible covenant people.

All I shall add is a few hints, as to the rise of this sad [Page 102] mistake; where I shall endeavour more fully to shew, that after all 'tis a meer mistake, without any solid grounds.

And,

1. Not to insist on the depravity and corruption of human nature, which no doubt is in general, in some sort, the source of all error; it appears to me, there is in this matter much of the subtilly of the grand adversary, transforming himself into an angel of light, if possible to bring the precious means of grace into contempt; well knowing that if this point can be gained, fully gained; his interest and kingdom, is as well secured in the chris­tian as in the heathen world.

The method he takes to accomplish this his mischie­vous design, so far as does appear under colour of being on the side of truth, he exalts the infinite holiness and purity of God's nature; depresses the fallen creature, as unutterably vile. In the mean time subtilly suggests, that the degree of the creature's sinfulness of nature, com­pared with God's infinite purity, is such, that he is utterly unable, by his utmost endeavours after amendment of life, and diligent attendance on means, to do any thing, that God in any sense requires, or that hath so much as a remote tendency to promote his salvation.

This, as is well known, is the awful length, that some that are, or have been publick teachers, have gone. I am the more grieved, because it is clear to me, that this is the grand design the adversary, with all the forces he can muster is driving at; that he may equally reign tri­umphant over the christian, as he does over the heathen world. For if this dreadful conclusion once pass for truth, what are the precious means of grace good for? Or who will in earnest prize, or improve them? This view of things may make a thousand deists and prosane profligates under the gospel, but sure, has not the remotest tendency ever to make one true and real christian.

[Page 103]That wherein the subtilty of the adversary, if possible, is still more evident, is, that all this is carried on with a high pretence and confidence, of clear light, and more eminent attainments in holiness, that they are seperating from truly antichristian ministers and churches; going over to a more pure worship, and communion with the very small number of God's faithful ones. A firm but false confidence, that every one that comes over to them, comes off from antichrist, and joins with the only true church of Christ upon earth, has a mighty constraining force, to bring people over, and hold them fast; when once they catch this confidence, what the adversary never fails to bait his hook with when about to decoy good men, and bring ruin on the dear churches of Christ.

That these are the views and sentiments with which those proceed, whom I here oppose; is abundantly evi­dent: for tho' some of them are on the reserve, being in doubt, whether it would be for the advantages of the cause to speak these things out to a carnal, antichristian world: Yet others, more than a sufficient number for witnesses speak out freely.

2. Another ground of this mistake, as it appears to me, is too great a fondness for, and dependance upon conclusions come into, as the result of subtile metaphysi­cal reasoning, as tho' they were certain, and might be depended on; while nothing is more common than mistakes in these cases, with a neglect of due attention to the plain natural meaning of the holy scriptures in this point; according to the common sense of mankind in like cases.

For illustration, suppose a master has a large number of servants on his plantation; whom he is wont to visit once a year, and give them a word of exhortation, mind­ing them of his good usage of them; and of their obli­gation. [Page 104] Among other things, he requires them to be faithful to his interest, and do all his business with good will to him, and out of reverence to his authority as their master, as they ought.

Wou'd it not be strange to common sense, if a num­ber of these servants, by their subtile reasonings, should infer, that if they had not good will to their master, he did not require their service? They own their obligations to have good will to him, and with good will to attend on his work: But no obligations from fear, or any other principle, to attend their master's work, if good will be wanting. And therefore they wholly neglect their mas­ter's work; when great and valuable ends would be se­cured to the master, meerly by the work done. For in­stance, the barly, wheat, and flax which was lost, might have been saved. So God hath great and valuable ends to serve, as seen above, by a strict and conscientious obedience of his covenant people, tho' they fail of a gracious man­ner. What would common sense say of this conduct of these servants? Would it not pronounce it madness?

Lastly, suppose the overseer, imployed by the master, to see that the servants kept to their business, with whom the master's orders were lodged; should on being ap­plied to by the servants, countenance their notion, as­suring them, that on the most diligent perusal of his or­ders, he did not find they were obliged to continue in the master's service, if they had not a sincere good will; that tho' they were required to labour for their master, yet it was every where enjoined in connection with good will. And therefore, as the case now stood, they being destitute of good will, he had nothing to say to them from the master's orders. Wou'd the common sense of mankind approve of this conduct of the overseer; his construction of the master's orders? Sure it would not. [Page 105] The case, so far as I see, is for substance parallel, and the application easy. And if so: This mistake, must at least) in part, be owing to the want of using common sense, in understanding the scriptures.

3. Another way in which it seems some fall into this mistake, is ungroundedly infering from the apostle James's direction to the saints to pray in faith, nothing wavering, in order to a gracious acceptance, and securing the bles­sings prayed for. They infer from this direction to the saints, that prayer short of a gracious manner of performance, is in no sense required. The words are, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth unto all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith nothing wavering.

Hence some that are, or have been publick teachers, infer, that the unregenerate are not required to pray: Others, that they are required to pray in faith, nothing wavering. And that prayer short of this, is in no sense required in the word of God. This, 'tis said, is the only gospel way of teaching sinners to pray,* which to my best discernment, is the same with teaching, that the un­regenerate, while such, are not required to pray at all.

It being as impossible in nature, while unregenerate and destitute of holiness, that they should pray in faith, [Page 106] as for the same thing to be and not to be at the same time, according to that of saint Paul; How shall they call on him, i.e. in faith, in whom they have not be­lieved? i.e. before they have faith, and are believers; Is it possible? By no means.

Now tho' it is readily conceeded, that these words of saint James fully prove, that those prayers only of the godly, that are made in faith intitle to acceptance with God, and to the blessings pray'd for: Yet how do they prove, God don't require all, regenerate and unregene­rate, being of his visible covenant people admitted by baptism, and thereby laid under solemn vows, being trained up under the advantages of the gospel, to be sin­cere christians, to pray, &c? How does it appear I say, from these words, that God don't require all these to pray and attend other christian duties, tho' they fail and come short of a gracious manner, to some other wise and holy purposes, as seen above? That prayer and other duties, tho' short of a gracious manner, are not required in order to acceptance with God, these words fully prove: Yet that these duties, as above, are not required to other wise and holy purposes, (which is the only point here in debate) there is not the least shadow of proof: So that, if it be still pleaded as a conclusion from this text, that prayer and other religious duties, that fall short of a gra­cious manner, are in no sense required of God's covenant people, it must be a conclusion without premises.

Moreover, is it not a little strange, that this text should be chose before all others, and be abundantly insisted on, to prove that prayer short of what is here described, is in no sense required of the unregenerate? Since there is not one word of the unregenerate in the text. And since the words are expressly addrest to a set, perhaps, of the most eminent saints, that ever were upon earth: That forced [Page 107] by the violence of persecution, had forsaken houses, lands, and all that was dear to them in this world for Christ's sake, had put on the true spirit of martyrdom, and were going; triumphant to glory, in the face of all the opposition, christianity can meet with from this world.

But that it may be still more evident, if possible, that this principle has no foundation in this, or any other sacred text, because really untrue; I ask leave to hint some of the many absurdities, that must unavoidably fol­low on the admission of it. And,

1st. One is that the unregenerate, while such, are not required to pray at all; and by parity of reason, not re­quired to attend any other duty, for the same reason, as they are not required to pray; since they can no more perform them in a gracious manner than they can prayer. And therefore, according to this principle, are in no sense required to perform them. Which immediately fixes us in the bowels of one of the leading errors of the new di­vinity, viz. that the way to obtain saving faith, is not to be in quest of it at all; or to have any concern about it, as quoted above.

2ly. It terminates unavoidably in that well known opinion of these commonly called the Friends, viz. that no christian duty is required of us, but as we are moved, by the spirit, since according to this principle nothing is required of the unregenerate, and to be sure not of the regenerate, short of praying in faith, nothing wavering; and since this can't be done but as moved and assisted by the spirit: It must needs follow, that they perfectly har­monise with the Friends in this point, as they do in many others.

3ly. This principle virtually, and by undeniable conse­quence, denies God hath appointed means of grace, to be attended on by his visible covenant people, while unrege­nerate; [Page 108] in order to obtain interest in his saving mercy. Since if God has appointed means, undoubtedly a painful and diligent attendance on them is required. But this principle expressly denies the latter. And therefore vir­tually and truly the former.

Thus I might proceed, but am weary of repeating the absurdities arising from this principle: Shall only add what our Saviour saith in a singular case, viz. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. The same holds good, as to principles, if consequences are rightly and truly drawn, a good principle cannot bring forth error and falshood.

4. Others, as it appears to me, fall into this error, by a mistaken way of reasoning from the perfections of God, and the depravity of human nature. God, say they, is infinitely holy: The creature, while unregenerate, infi­nitely vile; at enmity with God, and hates him with his whole heart. And therefore it can't agree with the purity of God's nature, in any sense, to require any thing of the creature, while in this impure state; but that he immedi­ately comes out of it. This argument has by many been look'd upon, as a fundamental principle that cannot be shaken, whence those queries, Can God require hypocri­cy? &c. which have received an answer above. I shall only add here, by the way a word, as to the unregene­rate's being required immediately to come out of that impure state. It by immediately coming out of that sinful state, be meant otherwise than by the medium of the gospel, in the way of faith, What is asserted is not true: Since 'tis by the gospel only that life and immortality it brought to light.* But in this sense, by the medium of the gospel, they are required to come out of that sinful state; does not this requirement imply in it a require­ment immediately to attempt faith, in a diligent attendance [Page 109] on the gospel, as the means, searching the scriptures, in order to discover the divine original of the gospel, the nature, necessity and grounds of that faith, which is re­quired? And doth it not with equal clearness, require them to break off from all known sin? Since we are divinely assured there is no imbracing Christ with any alowed wickedness hanging about us, tho' it be but the secret pride of the heart, How can ye believe who receive honour one of another? * Again, doth it not, at the same time, while in the painful attendance on other means, require them to send up earnest cries to heaven for mer­cy, tho' but the cries of perishing sinners? Since we are assured, that none can come to the Son, except the Father draw them? And finally that all this be done by them with an earnestness of concern, suitable to the vast importance of salvation, above every thing else in this world? A­greeable to the general run of the scriptures, Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth to everlasting life.

Besides, is it not the state of thousands, that after having been commanded to believe, they remain still in unbe­lief; and therefore, if ever it was their duty to attend on means in order to faith; it is equally so still.

Thus, if I mistake not, the argument advanced to dis­charge the unregenerate from the use of means in order to faith, does so long as they are destitute of faith, indis­solubly bind them thereto.

But to proceed, those that argue as above, don't seem to understand, that man, tho' by his apostacy, he is become dead in trespasses and sins, alienated from holiness, called the life of God, yet still remains a rational creature, pos­sessed of many natural and useful principles, such as na­tural conscience, called the candle of the Lord, a light which God hath lighted up in man's soul for his directi­on, [Page 110] not extinguished by the fall; whereby he is able in many cases to distinguish between moral good and evil, approve the one, and condemn the other. Now when, tho' by the meer sensibility of natural conscience, a man is moved to obey its dictates, does he do nothing that God in any sense requires? If not: then not to obey the dictates of natural conscience, or to go abreast of them, would be no sin. ‘Isn't natural conscience implanted in all mankind, there to be as it were in God's stead, and to be an internal judge or rule to all, whereby to distinguish right and wrong.* "Sin," saith the same author, ‘is not only against a spiritual and divine sense of vertue, but is also against the dictates of that moral sense, which is in natural conscience.’ And does not the inspired writings clearly teach us, that not to obey, or to go abreast of the dictates of natural conscience is sin, and exposes to condemnation, even tho' the judgment of conscience relates to things indifferent, not morally good or evil in themselves? There is (says the apostle) nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth, i.e. in his con­science judgeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is un­clean.§ He that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith, i.e. with a doubting conscience.

Thus it appears, that meerly acting against the light and dictates of natural conscience, is a heinous sin. Which could not be the case, if obedience to conscience is in no sense required.

The heinous nature of this sin, may be further seen, as it is set forth by saint Paul, in the heathen, as the ground of God's giving them up to a reprobate mind. Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imagina­tions, &c. wherefore God gave them up to uncleanness, [Page 111] &c. That a grievous sin is here charged, at least on some of the heathen world, is evident from the heavy judgments that followed. The inquiry is, what that sin was? Was it sinning against supernatural light, external or internal; which they had not? Or was it the want of gracious sincerity, in attending on the duties of God's worship, which they made no pretence to? Sure it was none of these. But it was not acting up to the light and dictates of natural conscience on natural principles, which they had. They were destitute of natural gratitude to God, as a benefactor for benefits received, tho' they had matter of conviction before them, that God gave them rain, &c. They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image, made like to corruptible man, and to birds and four footed beasts, and creeping things. Here again they acted beneath their natural principles, against the plain dictate of natural conscience, that was full a­gainst this sin, from the shines of the glory of the Deity, from the creation of the world; in this they held the truth in unrighteousness, did not as men, as reasonable creatures, in a natural way acknowledge the one living and true God, as not to be resembled to, or represented by images.

Should it be queried here, but of what avail could this glorifying God upon natural principles, short of a graci­ous manner, have been to them? Since it could neither have procured acceptance with God, nor have delivered them from condemnation.

Answer, hereby they had not been so exceedingly and unuterably wicked, nor so ripened for the most tremen­dous judgements that ever besel apostate men in this world.

The only colourable avasion (so far as I see) of the force of this text, which is full to my purpose; is by as­serting, that more is reproved, and implicitly required in [Page 112] the text, than meerly glorifying God on natural princi­ples. And therefore 'tis the want of this that is here re­proved, or the having of it, that is here required, and not any glorifying God in a lower sense. For answer, I shall only leave this query, viz. Is it found reasoning, to argue, that less is no way required, because more is re­quired in which that less is contained? That a part is in no sense required, because the whole is required, in which that part is contained?

Thus it appears, that obedience to the dictates of na­tural conscience is required of the unregenerate, while such, notwithstanding the impurity that attends their state.

Again, of this kind is the exercise or justice, on natural principles, of pity to the miserable, of gratitude for bene­fits received, of love to God as a benefactor, meerly from a principle of self-love, of natural affection in pa­rents to children, &c. Now tho' it is certain, that these ex­ercises have nothing in them that is holy and spiritual, nothing but what the unregenerate may and some times do perform: Yet it is equally certain, at the same time, that the holy scriptures do some way require these things, where higher principles are wanting; otherwise the ab­sence or want of them wou'd be no sin. The want of the higher exercises of a truly virtuous affection, grati­tude, pity, &c. would be sin. But where these are want­ing, as they too frequently are in the regenerate, and al­ways in the unregenerate, it would be no sin in this case to be without natural gratitude for benefits received; no sin to want natural pity to the miserable, no sin for parents to be destitute of natural affection to children, &c. If God's law no ways requires these things, to be without them, is no sin. Because where there is no law, there can be no transgression.* But we are taught even from the light of nature, and abundantly from the holy [Page 113] scriptures, that the want of these things is an exceeding heinous sin. Not to multiply texts, we find in that blackest catalogue of most atrocious wickedness, perhaps found on sacred record, that what crowns all, is the want of natural affection and compassion, without natural af­fection, implacable, unmerciful, without natural affecti­on, i.e. falling below even the brutal nature, that is wont to retain that instinct of fondness to their young.

Thus it appears, that whatever be the state to which mankind is reduced by the fall: Yet there is found in him some remains of natural principles and affections, which God requires should be preserved and exercised; not because there is any thing holy and spiritual in those exercises; but because in the omission and neglect of them, there is a greater degree of true moral evil; and a fur­ther remove from the exercise of a truly virtuous love to God, compassion to the miserable, &c. which the com­mand requires. And since we are expressly required to abstain from all, tho' but the appearance of evil; how much more, if possible, are we required to abstain from this cer­tain greater degree of moral evil, in not regarding the dictates of natural conscience, or not exercising these na­tural principles when higher principles are wanting, as they always are in the unregenerate, or in not resisting ‘the habits of pride and sensuality, which tends, says the fore-mentioned author,* to over-bare, and greatly diminish the exercises of the fore-mentioned useful and necessary principles of nature.’

For further confirmation of this truth, I might observe, that all God's covenant people, are by baptism laid un­der sacred bonds to be sincere christians, being trained up under the advantages of the gospel. As circumcisi­on bound to keep the whole law; so baptism binds to the sincere observance of all gospel duties. Which im­plies [Page 114] at least all those attempts and endeavours & perform­ances they are capable of from natural principles, while higher are wanting; or which is the same, a conscient­ious performance of these duties, tho' they fail of a gra­cious manner, for reasons once and again repeated above.

I might also alledge the practical acknowledgement of this truth, by all the regenerate, in their constant con­scientious endeavours after obedience, tho' they fail of a gracious manner. So also of the unregenerate, so far as they have not wasted their consciences, or corrupted their minds with error. And to these I have a just right to add, the testimony of all moral heathen (as to duties taught by the light of nature) so far forth as they have not by dissolute living infeebled their consciences, and rendered them unable to discharge their natural office. But what needs all this, since we have the testimony of God for it, as above? which infinitely out weighs that of the whole creation. What the blessed God does, we are infinitely sure, is consistent with the purity of his na­ture. He cannot deny himself. This dispute therefore, if I mistake not, is now finished. And,

1. Altho' it should be utterly beyond the power of the creature, to explicate and shew the manner of this consistency, between the infinite purity of God's nature, and the requirement of duties and services of the unre­generate, infinitely vile; this I say, would be no argu­ment against the truth, that the weak intellect of the crea­ture, should not be able to understand the manner how 'tis reconciled; since the fact is certain. But,

2. Perhaps it mayn't be attended with insuperable dif­ficulty, to reconcile this matter, and let it in a satisfying light, to the unprejudiced. And,

1st. In order thereto, let it be considered, that God [...] requiring the duty, don't require the sin, that attends [Page 115] it, as before observed. It is by accident that sin adheres to it. It is no part of the duty, as required by God, don't belong to its essence; but arises from man's deficiency. God has a right to require of his people good duties. When he puts them under gospel advantages, plants them as trees in his vineyard by baptism, under divine cultiva­tion, he requires gospel holiness. A prevalent indisposi­tion of heart, and disinclination of will, to do right, called moral impotency, makes no abatement in God's demands of us; or in the duty we owe to God. Thus then stands the case, God puts his covenant people under advantages to bring forth good fruits, and then as he has a just right, expects and demands them. Wherefore when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, &c. God requires good duties of his people; both the performance and the goodness of the duty is absolutely required: And there­fore, God will have the duties or performances, tho' thro' their badness they come mar'd out of their hands. Does God in requiring these duties, require their being mar'd? Far be it. Since he absolutely required their being good. So that there does not appear the least shadow of any grounds of reflection on the purity of God's nature, in requiring these duties of his covenant people, tho' they fall short of being performed in a gracious manner. But,

2ly. Let it be further considered here, that these per­formances, as above, whether of the regenerate or unre­generate, are not so mar'd, as,

1. Not to serve great and important purposes worthy of God, such as the advancement of his visible honour and glory in the world, and the good of his covenant people, as seen above. Nor,

2. Are they so mar'd as not to be less sinful, than the omission of them would be. And therefore it agrees to the purity of God's nature to require them.

[Page 116]When the doing of an action has made greater moral evil in it, than the forbearance; tho' the forbearance fail of being gracious, and so is sinful in the manner of it, meerly through the default of the creature: It agrees to the purity of God's nature to require the forbearance. This is the case with regard to murder, adultery, and all other kinds of wickedness: God requires his covenant people to forbear the commission of them, tho' the man­ner of their forbearance being short of gracious, is sinful; because the commission of these sins is a much greater moral evil. And therefore it agrees to the purity of God's nature to require the forbearance.

So on the other hand, when the total omission of duties required, is a much greater moral evil, than meerly fail­ing of a gracious manner in the performance, it agrees to the purity of God's nature to require the performance of them. And this is the case with regard to gospel duties required of God's visible covenant people. Nor is there, to my small discernment, the least appearance of any in­consistency in the case. Nay, so far from it, that these prohibitions of the practice of wickedness, and require­ments of duties of all God's covenant people, tho' they fail of a gracious manner perfectly harmonise with the purity of God's nature, and necessarily flow from it. Since that infinite purity that requires abstaining from all moral evil, must necessarily require abstaining from every higher degree of it, that the present state of the creature is morally capable of. Where it must still be remember­ed, that neither the sinful manner of performing duty, or refraining from the commission of sin, is required by God, either in forbidding the one, or requiring the other. So that there is not the least appearance of inconsistency in the present case.

But whether these [...] be satisfying to the reader or [Page 117] not, it is to be remembered, the truth above remains un­shaken.

However, as it has been strongly insisted on, and come into by some persons, otherwise of good discernment and penetration, that it can't agree to the purity of God's nature, to require the unregenerate to pray, while such, because of that insincerity and hypocrisy, that must ne­cessarily attend the performance; I ask leave to mention what in part has been more than once mentioned, viz. That if this principle is admitted, it must necessarily fol­low, that for the same reason it can't agree to the purity of God, to require of the unregenerate, while such, any other duty, such as the exercise of justice, charity, &c. or the refraining from any moral evil, such as bowing down to idols, murder, adultery, &c. Since insince­rity and hypocrisy in refraining from the latter, or prac­ticing the former, can no more agree to the purity of God's nature, than insincerity in prayer. And is not this an amazing stretch in the new divinity,* that takes off [Page 118] all restraint from the unregenerate; yea, and from the regenerate too, further than they refrain from sin, and practise duty, in a gracious manner, (for sure insincerity and hypocrisy can no more agree to the purity of God's nature in the regenerate, than in the unregenerate) and opens a flood-gate to all manner of iniquity: And all this without giving the least damp to the sinner's hopes of obtaining salvation, being assured, they are not a whit more in the way of mercy, or more likely to abtain it, by any possible endeavours of theirs, in attendance on means of grace, amendment of life, or earnest cries to God for it, than in indulging themselves in a loose, care­less, unconcerned, profligate way of living.

I conclude this head, with a brief observation of some of the answers to questions of importance, relating to the present subject, usually given by such as are, or have been publick teachers, in favour of the new divinity, viz.

Ques. What must the unregenerate do, as a means under the gospel, in order to obtain faith?

Ans. Not be in quest of it at all, i.e. have no concern at all about it, as quoted above.

Ques. Is it their duty to pray?

Ans. Is it their duty to kneel down, and pray to the stump of a tree? An unregenerate man knows no more of God than an old stump.

Ques. Does God require them to pray?

Ans. Does God require hypocrisy, or mockery of his creatures? The prayer of an unregenerate man, is a meer mocking of God.

Ques. Proposed by the preacher to the same effect.

Ans. I have nothing from the word of God, requiring unregenerate to pray. I don't say, they must not; pray.

Ques. But what is your real opinion, Sir? Is it their duty to pray, or not?

[Page 119]Ans. I teach 'tis their duty to pray, just as the word of God teacheth, in faith, nothing wavering. And that prayer short of this, is in no sense required of the unrege­nerate. A reply.

The four first of these answers, agree in one, and plumply deny, that the unregenerate, while such, are re­quired to pray.

The last, if it means any thing, must, tho' in different words exprest, mean the same thing. When 'tis said, they are required to pray in saith; the meaning must be either,

1st. That they are required to act saith, while in an unregenerate, i.e. in an unholy state; which, as faith is an holy act, implies in it a contradiction, a thing impos­sible in nature, according to that of our Saviour, A cor­rupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Or,

2ly. The meaning must be, that they are required first to come out of that unregenerate, unholy state; and then pray. In which case, it is certain, the unregenerate are not required to pray. So that this last answer, tho' exprest in different words, is strictly the same in sense with the former, viz. that the unregenerate, while such, are not required to pray.

Very observable here, is the tractibleness of the scholars, tho' not so bold as to use the matter's expressions; yet strict to keep to his sense. Under this preaching, while the preacher glories in his exactness in teaching the unre­generate to pray, just as (he saith) the word of God teach­eth them: Some persons of discernment groan aloud, not able to understand such divinity.

Here I appeal, once for all, to learned and unlearned, and even to the common sense of mankind, acquainted with divine revelation, whether these answers are consis­tent with the scriptures of truth; with a right under­standing [Page 120] of man's lapsed state; or the true state of God's visible covenant people under the gospel, including, such as are admitted by baptism, and trained up under the ad­vantages of the gospel? Nay, whether all these are not as really and truly, tho' but virtually and implicitly, re­quired to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world, tho' they fail of a gracious manner, and act only on principles of nature, as explained above; as they are to do all this on higher principles; which, while unregenerate, they have not? Since to do their duties, is as absolutely re­quired, as to do them on higher principles. Both are ab­solutely required, even the whole of duty: And therefore, so are the parts. This doing of them, i.e. denying un­godliness, &c. as above, being an essential part of the whole; and so belonging to its essence, as that the duty can't be performed without it: It is therefore as truly re­quired as the other part, viz. a right manner; or as the whole itself, of which it is an essential part.

Nor am I able to conceive, as hath been observed, that a failure in one part of duty, should be able to discharge from obligation to the other, or that failing of perform­ing a duty on higher principles, should free from the o­bligation of performing it on such principles as they have, even if but those of natural conscience; especially when an honest attempt to do duties, as commanded, it virtu­ous principles are wanting, necessarily terminates in a per­formance on these lower principles of natural conscience. So that, as sure as they are required honestly to attempt duty in a right manner; they are required, if they fail of a right manner, as the unregenerate, while such, al­ways do, to perform them conscientiously; because a con­scientious performance of duty, in the case proposed, in evidently implied in the honest attempt required.

[Page 121]Nor do I see how any publick teacher, not convinced that he hath authority from Christ, to enforce prayer and other gospel duties on all God's visible covenant people, tho' they should fail of a gracious manner, can have a better right to the continuance of his office as a gospel mi­nister, than the overseer, above mentioned had to his office, when he taught his Lord's servants to desist from their master's work, if they found the want of a good temper towards him.

Obj. VIII. Finally, should it be objected here, that 'twas needless to carry a debate on these things, to so great a length.

For answer, instead of many things, (which, with me, are weighty) that might be replied, I shall only appeal to all, where the new divinity has raised disputes to the greatest height, divided towns, broke societies and church­es, alienated affection among dear brethren, &c. Whe­ther these questions have not been as warmly debated as any whatsoever, viz.

1. Whether God requires the unregenerate, while such, to pray, reform known evils, and with great diligence and painfulness, attend on means of grace? And,

2. Whether if they do so, they are more in the way in which God is wont to bestow his saving mercy, or more likely to obtain it, than if they continued secure, in the careless neglect of means, going on in their sins?

That the negative part of these questions, hath been roundly asserted, and serenuously pleaded for, is a truth so well known as needs nothing to be said in confirmati­on of it; which I take to be a sufficient answer to the objection.

The only apology I shall make, for throwing things together, that are differently exprest, as above, is their near affinity and tendency, as it appears to me, in the [Page 122] main to much the same. Whether the unregenerate un­der the gospel be taught they are not required to pray, &c. or, that if they do so, they are not more likely to obtain grace: Or should it be conceeded, as above, they are more likely to obtain grace, in a vigorous exertion of themselves, as above; yet at the same time, on the whole, more vile in God's sight, than they would have been had they continued in the wilful careless neglect of means, giving a loose to all manner of most abominable wicked­ness, under the same external means of light.

These things, to the best of my small discernment, na­turally tend, either to quiet secure sinners in the careless neglect of means, going on in their sins; or to damp and retard those that are seriously inclined to exert themselves, in a painful attendance on means and amendment of life. Since every step they take in this way, while unregene­rate, they are on the whole involved in greater guilt, than they would have been had they continued in the wilful careless neglect of means, obstinately persisting in the grossest wickedness, as above, under the same gospel.

Should it be pleaded here, that there is no inconsisten­cy in its being the duty of the unregenerate, thus to exert themselves in the use of means, and their becoming on the whole more vile, &c. since their greater vileness ariseth not from those exertions of themselves; but from the desperate sinfulness of their natures; and is meerly their fault. And therefore can by no means be pleaded in bar of their duty.

I answer, should this be ever so fully conceeded, it would be nothing to the author's purpose, so long as this hypothesis, implicitly wrapt up in it, is intirely without proof, viz. that 'tis impossible for the unregenerate, while such, to what ever degree of wickedness they are reduc­ed, under the gospel, so to apply themselves to atten­dance [Page 123] on means and amendment of life, as not on the whole, to be more vile in God's sight, than they would have been in the neglect of that application, abandoning themselves to the practice of all manner of most abomina­ble wickedness, under the same gospel. If (I say) this is possible, what may be, and sometimes is the case with the unregenerate, through the common influence of the spirit under the gospel, as seen above. Then it can't be uni­versally true, that awakened reformed sinners are more vile in God's sight, on the whole, than hardened profane profligates, under the same gospel. And if this be al­lowed to be possible, as I think hath been proved, then to deny it, is to deny the truth, and to lay a stumbling block in sinners way, and to rob them of a precious branch of encouragement allowed them from the word of God, to strive and run for eternal life, in all painful en­deavours in the use of means. Which none can doubt would be doing great injury to precious souls. For if (as is well known) under the law, great care was express­ly required to prepare the way to the city of refuge, i.e. to remove all stumbling-blocks, and what ever might impeed, or discourage the slayer in his earnest attempt to flee thether, in order to escape the avenger of blood: How much more under the gospel, is it a matter of importance that the utmost scripture-encouragement be set before sinners, to excite their earnest endeavours in the use of means, as the way in order to make their escape to Christ the true city of refuge?

And since the proof of this impossibility to the unre­generate, as above, plainly implied in the author's point advanced, with which it must stand or fall, is at least attended with great doubtfulness, and since 'tis a point that is new, hitherto not known or taught by the refor­mation: If after all, it should be judged necessary it be [Page 124] further vindicated; it seems highly riquisite it should be set in a demonstrative, clear, scripture light, and what has been said in favour of the negative fairly refuted.

To conclude, all I shall add, is, that whatever may be the mistake attending what I have here wrote, I am not conscious of any; or that I have in the least been moved from a disputatious temper, or any want of respect to the worthy author; whom I highly esteem, tho' at the same time, I have not been able to persuade myself, but that some things have by him been carried too far in favour of what is commonly called the Sandemanean error, and by fair construction, justly liable to exception. If there­fore this humble attempt may only be an occasion of those things being set right, and in a more evident and clear scripture light, I shall not think my pains wholly lost. On which side the mistake lies, is intirely submit­ted to the candid and judicious reader.

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