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since the law is holy, just, and good, it is not, indeed, reasonable that any thing short of sinless perfection, from jirst to last, should pass with the righteous Governor of the world as a condition of acceptance. Future obedience, let it be ever so perfect, can do nothing to make amends for former neglects; as has been already proved in another place. But that which, of itself alone, is entirely sufficient to say in this matter, is, that it is expressly declared, in Rom. i. 18. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, (or every breach of the first table,) and unrighteousness, (or every breach of the second table of the law,) of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness; which words are evidently designed by the apostle to represent the character and state of the heathen world; for he spends the rest of the chapter in enlarging upon this head, showing how the heathen held the truth in unrighteousness, and were exposed to the wrath of God for their ungodliness and unrighteousness; and he concludes them all under sin and guilty, and lost for ever, unless they obtain justification by faith in Christ. (See chapter iii. 9. 19. 20. 30. verses.) And thus we see how all mankind have not only sufficient natural powers, but also sufficient outward advantages to know God, and perfectly conform to his law, even the heathen themselves; and that the very reason they do not, is their want of such a temper as they ought to have, and their voluntary, rooted enmity to God, and love to sin*. And now that they are wholly to blame and entirely inexcusable, appears still in a clearer light.
* OBJ. But it is impossible they should love God with all their hearts, if they have no hopes of finding favour in his sight; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a REWARDER of them that diligently seek him; Hebrews xi. 6.
ANS. Coming to God, in Heb. xi. 6. evidently implies not only a conformity to the law, but also a compliance with the gospel ; i. e. it implies not only a disposition to love God with all our hearts, but also a trusting in him for the divine favour and eternal life upon gospel-encouragements; which gospel-encouragements must, therefore, be understood and believed, or it will indeed be impossible so to trust in him. But I did not say that the heathen were under sufficient outward advanta ges for an evangelical returning to God, which is what is intended in Heb. xi. 6. but only for a compliance with the law of nature, which is what is intended in Rom. i. 20, 21.
OBJ But still is it not, in the nature of things, impossible they should love God, if they have no hopes of finding favour in his sight?
But before I leave this point, I must make this remark, viz. That if God looks upon the advantages of the heathen sufficient, no wonder that he so often speaks of the advantages of his own professing people as being much more than barely sufficient, even although they enjoy only the outward means of grace, without the inward influences of the Holy Spirit: for, if the natural advantages of the heathen are sufficient, surely he supernatural advantages of those who enjoy a divine revelation, are much more than sufficient. And if the advantages of those who enjoy only a divine revelation are much more than sufficient, no wonder then that those who lived in the days of Moses, Isaiah, and Christ, are represented as very monsters of wickedness, for remaining blind, senseless, impenitent, and unholy, since they enjoyed such great, and so many superadded advantages. No wonder, therefore, that Moses every where represents the children of Israel as such a stubborn, perverse, stiff-necked, rebellious people, (particularly see Deut. ix.) and makes as if their blindness, senselessness, and impenitency, were most unaccountable and inexcusable, since their eyes had seen, and their ears had heard such things, and their advantages had been so great. Deut. xxix. 2, 3, 4. And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; (and that he might set forth the greatness of the things which they had seen, he adds,) The great temptations which thine
ANS. Let common sense decide the case: A servant hates his master (a very good man,) without cause, murders his only son, steals a thousand pounds of his money, runs away into a far country, spends several years in riotous living; at length he is caught, brought home to his master, who is a man in authority; before him he has his trial, is condemned, and has no hope of favour. But how does this render it impossible, in the nature of things, that he should love his master? Why cannot he love his master now, as well as ever he could? He has the same original grounds of love he used to have: He used to love his master; his master is as worthy of his esteem as ever. He has no cause to esteem his master any the less, because he himself has been such a villain, or because he is doomed to die for his crimes; a punishment justly due. To dislike his master for these things would be perfectly unreasonable. Surely, were he but of a right temper, he could not but take all the blame to himself, and justify his master, and esteem and love him, and be heartily sorry for all his villanies. He can be under no inability, but what must arise from a bad heart. The application is easy
eyes have seen: the signs, and those great miracles, (all which have been enough to melt a heart of stone, and) yet (as he goes on to say,) the Lord (by all these things which have been so much more than enough,) hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day. All these means have not to this day attained the end, and made you see, and feel, and know what a God the Lord is, and bring you to love him, and fear him, and walk in all his ways. Moses evidently speaks of it as a very strange thing, that they should be blind, senseless, impenitent, and unholy, after such means and advantages; as if they were most inexcusable, yea, under a very aggravated guilt; whereby he plainly takes it for granted, that their advantages had been much more than sufficient, had it not been for their want of a right temper, and their wicked obstinacy and perverseness. And yet he mentions none but outward means and outward advantages, and does not give the least intimation that they had had any inward assistance from the Holy Spirit: he does not bring any such thing into the account, but wholly aggravates their sin and their great inexcusableness, from the consideration of their outward helps. Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, &c. And no wonder he thought them so very inexcusable, since God looks upon the heathen world without excuse, in that while the heavens declare the glory of the Lord, &c. they do not see with their eyes, and perceive with their hearts, and, from a sense of his glory, only thus discovered, love him, and live to him; for, if their advantages are enough, surely the advantages of the Israelites were much, very much, more than enough.
And upon the same hypothesis, it is no wonder that God looked upon the case of the children of Israel as he did in the time of Isaiah; who from the days of Moses even to that day, had from age to age enjoyed such outward advantages as they had, and had had such outward means used with them; and in that age, enjoyed so great an outward privilege as the daily prophesying and preaching of Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, and Micah; who, some, if not all of them, prophesied it is very probable forty or fifty years together at the same time, as we may learn from the first verse in their
several books, which tell us when and how long they prophesied, compared with the account we have of those kings' reigns in the books of the Kings, in whose reigns they prophesied; no wonder, I say, God speaks as he does in Isaiah v. 1-7. My beloved huth a vineyard in a very fruitful hill. And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a wine-press therein. Here is represented the natural powers, and outward advantages of God's people, And he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grupes? Here all the blame is entirely laid on themselves, and their conduct is considered as being inexcusably, yea, unaccountably bad. And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will take away the hedge thereof, &c. Where nothing can be plainer than that the children of Israel are represented as enjoying sufficient advantages for fruitfulness; yea, advantages much more than barely sufficient; and that their proving as they did, was unspeakably vile and God-provoking, and for which they deserved utter ruin; and for which indeed, God did afterwards, according to his declared design, bring utter ruin upon them. But all those advantages were outward; nor is the inward assistance of the Holy Spirit any where brought into the account, whenever the greatness of their advantages is set forth on purpose to show how aggra vated their wickedness was: but this is constantly the charge, as in 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, 16, 17. And the Lord God of their fathers sent unto them by his messengers, rising up betimes and sending; but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of God arose against his people, till there was no remedy. Therefore, he brought upon them the King of the Chaldees; not because they did not improve the inward assistances of the Holy Spirit, but because they did not improve their outward advan tages; did not hearken to God's messengers. And in this
strain their confessions ran, when God, by his grace, had brought them to see what they had done; as in Dan. ix. 5, 6, &c. We have sinned and committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts, and from thy judgments. Neither have we HEARKENED UNTO THY SERVANTS, THE PORPHETS, which spake in thy name. The not hearkening to them is mentioned as the great aggravation; but their not improving the inward assistance of the Spirit, is not brought into the account. See Neh. ix. 30. It is evident that the children of Israel, considered as a nation, had not special grace, or the renewing, sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, as one of their advantages, from Jer. xxxi. 31, 32, 33. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of israel, and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant I made with their fathers, in the day I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; (which my [national] covenant they brake, although I was as an husband unto them, saith the Lord.) But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people; where the renewing, sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit are meņtioned as a peculiar privilege the Jewish people were not entitled unto as a nation, by that national covenant which God entered into with them, as such, at Mount Sinai; (Exod. xix. Deut. v.) and which afterwards, at the end of forty years, was renewed at the borders of Canaan. Deut. xxix. Nor indeed were there any inward influences of the Holy Spirit, at all, promised in that national covenant, as a common privilege, to be by them in common enjoyed. And if they were not entitled to this privilege, as a nation, by their national covenant, then there is no evidence that they, as a nation, did enjoy it; and, therefore, when God speaks as if he had done all for that nation that could be done, he plainly has respect only to outward means, which were all that they, as a nation, enjoyed. And as to them, he evidently had good ground so to say; since he had done such great things for them, and sent such prophets among them, and been continu