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of the gospel shine upon them. Now in these generally all are equal,o all having sinned and come short of the glory of God: and in particular sins against the law and light of nature, no nations have gone farther than they which were soonest enlightened with the word, as afterward will appear: so that the sole cause of this, is the good pleasure of God, as our Saviour affirmeth, Matt. xi. 25, 26.
2. That sins against the covenant of works, which men are under, before the gospelp comes unto them, cannot have any general demerit, that the means of life and salvation by free grace should not be imparted to them. It is true, all nations have deserved to be turned into hell, and a people that have had the truth, and delained it in ungodliness, deserve to be deprived of it: the first, by virtue of the sanction of the first broken covenant; the other, by sinning against that, which they had of the second, But that men in a fallen condition, and not able to rise, should hereby deserve not to be helped up, needeth some distinction to clear it.
There is then a twofold demerit and indignity: one merely negative, or a not deserving to have good done unto us; the other positive, deserving that good should not be done unto us. The first of these is found in all the world, in respect of the dispensation of the gospel. If the Lord should bestow it only on those who do not deserve it, he must for ever keep it closed up in the eternal treasure of his own bosom: the second is found directly in none, in respect of that peculiar way which is discovered in the gospel, because they had not sinned against it; which, rightly considered, gives no small lustre to the freedom of grace.
3. That there is a right in the gospel, and a fitness in that gracious dispensation to be made known to all people in the world ; that no singular portion of the earth should be any longer a holy land, or any mountain of the world lift up its head above its fellows. And this right hath a double foundation.
(1.) The infinite value and worth of the blood of Christ, giving fulness and fitness to the promises founded thereon, to be propounded to all mankind : For through his blood,
o 1 Cor. i. 25, 26.
P Acts xiv. 16, 17. xvii. 30, 31.
remission of sins is preached to whosoever believes on him;' Acts x. 43. ' to every creature;' Matt. xvi. 15. God would have a price of that infinite value for sin laid down, as might justly give advantage, to proclaim a pardon infinitely to all that will come in and accept of it, there being in it no defect at all (though intentionally only a ransom for some), but that by it, the world might know that he had done whatsoever the Father commanded him ;'John xiv. 31.
(2.) In that economy and dispensation of the grace of the new covenant, breaking forth in these latter days, whereby all external distinction of places and persons,' people and nations being removed, Jesus Christ taketh alls nations to be his inheritance, dispensing to all men the grace of the gospel, bringing salvation, as seemeth best to him; Tit. ii. 11, 12. For being lifted up, he drew all unto him, having redeemed us with his blood, 'out of every kindred and tongue, people and nation;' Apoc. v. 9. And on these two grounds it is that the gospel hath in itself a right and fitness to be preached to all, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
These things being premised, I come to the proof of the assertion.
Deut. vii. 7,8. Moses is very careful in sundry places to get this to take an impression upon their spirits, that it was mere free grace that exalted them into that condition and dignity wherein they stood, by their approach unto God, in the enjoyment of his ordinances; in this most clearly rendering the cause of God's love in choosing them, mentioned ver. 7. to be only his love, ver. 8. his love towards them is the cause of his love; his free love eternally determining, his free love actually conferring, those distinguishing mercies upon them : it was not for their righteousness,' for they were a stiffnecked people ;' Deut. vi. 6.
Matt. xi. 25, 26. Our Saviour laying both these things together, the hiding of the mysteries of salvation from some, and revealing them to others, renders the same reason and supreme cause of both, of which no account can be rendered, only the good pleasure of God: ' I thank thee, Father.' And if any will proceed higher, and say, Where is
the justice of this, that men equally obnoxious, should be thus unequally accepted? We say with Paul, · That he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. And who art thou, O man, that disputeth against God?' Si tu es homo, et ego homo, audiamus dicentem, O homo, Tu quis ?" To send a pardon to some that are condemned, suffering the rest to suffer, hath no injustice. If this will not satisfy, let us say with the same Apostle, ó Bálos, Rom. xi. 33. • O the depth,' &c.
Yea, so far is it from truth, that God should dispense, and grant his word and means of grace by any other rule, or upon any other motive, than his own will and good pleasure,' that we find in Scripture the direct contrary to what we would suppose; even mercy shewed to the more unworthy, and the more worthy passed by; reckoning worthiness and unworthiness by less or greater sin, with less or more endeavours. Christ preaches to Chorazin and Bethsaida which would not repent, and at the same time denies the word to Tyre and Sidon, which would have gotten on sackcloth and ashes, when the other continued delicate despisers; Matt. xi. 21. Ezekiel is sent to them that would not hear him, passing by them that would have hearkened, chap. iii. 5. which is most clear, Rom. ix. 30, 31. •The Gentiles which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith ; but Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, have not attained to it.' If, in the dispensation of the gospel, the Lord had had any respect to the desert of people, Corinth, that famous place of sinning, had not so soon enjoyed it, the people whereof, for worship, were led away with dumb idols, 2 Cor. xii. 2. and for their lives, you have them drawn to the life, 1 Cor. vi. 9—11. · Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners,' kaì taūra Tivèg yte, which is to be repeated, από του κοινού, some of
you were fornicators, some idolaters, but ye are sanctified. Seem not these to the eye of flesh goodly qualifications for the gospel of Jesus Christ? Had these men been dealt withal according as they had disposed themselves, not fitter fuel for hell could the justice of God require: but yet ye see, to these the gospel comes, with the first a light shines to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.'
Si hoc voluntatum meritis voluerimus ascribere, ut malos neglexisse gratia bonos elegisse videatur, resistet vobis innumerabilium causa populorum, quibus per tot secula, cælestis doctrina annuntiatio non corruscavit, nec meliores fuisse eorum posteros possumus dicere, quibus scriptum est, Gentium populus qui sedebat in ienebris, lucem vidit magnam. Prosp. de voc. Gen. lib. 1. cap. 15.
If God send or grant the gospel, which is the means of grace, upon any other ground, but his mere good pleasure, then it must be an act of remunerative justice. Now there is no such justice in God towards the creature, but what is founded upon some preceding covenant, or with promise of God to the creature, which is the only foundation of all relation between God and man; but only those that attend creation and sovereignty. Now what promise do you find made to, or covenant with, a people as yet without the gospel : I mean conditional promises, inferring any good to be bestowed on any required performance on their part? Free, absolute promises there are innumerable, that light should shine to them that were in darkness; and those be called God's people which were not his people; but such as depend on any condition on their part to be fulfilled, we find none.
God bargainst not with the creature about the gospel, knowing how unable he is to be merchant for such pearls. If a man had all that goodness which may be found in man, without Jesus Christ, they would not in the least measure procure a discovery of him.
I deny not but God may, and perhaps sometimes doth, reveal himself to some in a peculiar and extraordinary man
Whereunto tends that story in Aquinas, of a corpse taken up in the days of Constantine and Irene, with a plate of gold, and this inscription on it, 'Christus nascetur ex virgine, ego credo in illum. O sol sub Irenæ et Constan. tini temporibus iterum me videbis.' But that this should be regular unto men living, metà dóyou, in Justin Martyr's phrase, or using their naturals aright (which is impossible
w Si de debito quæratur respectu creaturæ, in Deum cadere non potest, nisi ex aliqua suppositione ipsi Dio voluntaria, quæ non potest esse nisi promisso aut pactio aliqua, ex quibus fidelitatis aut justitiæ debitum oriri solet." Suarez. de libert. div. vol. disp. 1. sect 2. num. 5.
* Deus nulla obligatione tenetur, antequam ipse fidem suam astringat, ergo ante promissionem nulla justitia distributiva in Deo reperitur. Vasq. in q. 21. a. 1. disp. 86.
y Aquin. 2, 2. q. 2. art. 7. 1 Και οι μετά λόγου βιώσσαντες χριστιανοί εισί. Justin. Apol. 2.
they should, the right use of naturals depending on supernaturals) is wide from the word.
If there be any outward motive of granting the gospel unto any, it is some acceptable performances of theirs, holding up to the rule and will of God. Now this will and rule having no saving revelation but by the gospel, which should thus be procured by acts agreeable unto it, makes up a flat contradiction ; supposing the revelation of the gospel, before it be revealed. Doubtless according to all rules of justice to us made known, it is an easier thing to deserve heaven by obedience now under the covenant of works, than being under that covenant, to do any thing that might cause a new way of salvation, such as the gospel is, to be revealed.
With some observations I descend to application.
[1.] There is the same reason of continuing the gospel unto a people, as of sending it; especially if oppositions rise high, apt and able in themselves for its removal. Never nation as yet enjoyed the word, that deserved the con. tinuance of the word. God hath always something against a people to make the continuing of his grace to be of grace, the not removing of his love to be merely of love, and the preaching of the gospel to be a mercy of the gospel, free and undeserved. Though there be work, and labour, and patience for Christ's sake at Ephesus, yet there is somewhat against Ephesus, Rev. ii. 4, 5. for which he might justly remove his candlestick; and if he doth it not, it is of the same mercy that first set it there.
As God lays out goodness and grace in the entrance, so patience, longsuffering, and forbearance in the continuance. He bears with our manners, whilst we grieve his Spirit. Look upon the face of this kingdom, and view the body of the people, think of the profaneness, villany, trampling upon the blood of Jesus, ignorance, contempt of God and his ways, despising his ordinances, reviling his servants, branding and defaming the power of godliness, persecuting and tearing one another, and yet hear the joyful sound of the word in every corner; and you will quickly conclude, that you see a great fight of God's love against our sins, and not of our goodness for his love.
a Hos. xi. 8, 9.