Page images

mouth of the faithful and true. Witness, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." But while it is manifest, that promises of divine favor are not made to the unregenerate, it is equally manifest, that they are made to those who possess any degree of holy affection.Promises of divine favor are made to those who love God-to those who repent of their sin-to those who trust in Christ, and to those who love the brethren, so as to give them a cup of cold water because of their relation to christ. If the love to God; if the repentance, and faith, and brotherly kindness, do but partake of a holy nature, they will meet the divine approbation, and take hold of the promises, and will in no wise lose their reward, though they do not come up to the standard of sinless perfection. Now if the promises are made to those, who have holy love to God, without specifying the degree, then it follows; that those who cannot claim the promises, have not the least degree of holy love, and must therefore remain totally depraved. Our opponents do not pretend, that perfection in holiness is indispensably requisite to justification, and the promises of eternal life. The question will then arise, how much holiness must a sinner have to become interested in the promises? If our doctrine of total depravity be not true, the sinner has some holiness before he is regenerated; how much holiness does regeneration add to him, so as to place him within the promises of the covenant of grace.

[ocr errors]

Let not my readers view the doctrine before us, as a speculative point, which is of little consequence how it is decided. There is no doctrine more deeply interesting to us all. It is concerning cur own character, that we have been inquiring. It is granted on both sides, that this character is bad. But how bad, is now the question. If it be totally bad, we must know it, or the ignorance of it will probably be our ruin. The word of God seems to make it essential, that we should know every man the plague of his own heart. I. Kings, viii. 38. If the unregenerate view themselves as any thing better than entirely sinful, their attention to religion will be apt to resemble the conduct of the man, who thinks his old house is too good to pull down.

Such a man wild spend his time and money, in repairing his old house, when, if the frame and foundation are completely defective, his labor and money will be lost. In this case, it is important that the man be made acquainted with the true state of his building, that he may turn all his attention to the erecting of a new one which alone will defend him against the winds and the rains and the floods which may unexpectedly come upon him, while he is attempting to patch up his rotten and irreparable house.

[ocr errors][merged small]


MR. BANGS' Third Letter is designed to expose my erroneous sentiments on the doctrine of election, or, as it is otherwise termed, Predestination. The text which was taken to bring into view this doctrine, was Rom. ix. 11, For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth. The doctrinal proposition which was supposed to be contained in this text, was thus expressed; The purpose of God, in choosing some creatures to enjoy eternal happiness, in distinction from others, is not founded upon their good works, and will therefore invariably stand. In handling the doctrine, it was attempted to be shown, I. That election is not founded on works; II. That God's purpose of election will never in a single instance, be frustrated, but will always stand.

Mr. B. in the commencement of this Letter says, "Your laboring to prove that election is not founded upon works foreseen, is calculated to impress the reader with an idea that we believe it is." Certainly I did suppose that Arminians, whether in the Methodist, or Presbyterian church, believed that election was founded on works foreseen; nor did I hear any thing offered by Mr. B. in the public Debate; nor do I see any thing in his Letters, to lead me to alter the opinion which I had formed. I would turn the readers attention to one


or two sentences on the 120th page: "He also knew that the Gentiles would believe in Jesus Christ, and therefore he determined before the foundation of the world, to call them by the gospel, and give them an offer of salvation." "Those among the Jews whom he foreknew would embrace the Lord Jesus, he did not reject, any more than he did the believing Gentiles Introductory to these sentences he had said; "To this objection the apostle opposes his doctrine of election, predicated of God's prescience." Now put these sentences together, and is it not clear, that Mr. B. makes the election of some sinners to eternal life, whether Jews or Gentiles, to turn on the point of their forceeen works, by which they will distinguish themselves from their fellow sinners?

By works in the controversy about election, we do not mean merit. In this sense, works are excluded from 、 the whole of a sinner's salvation. In the eye of the law, the sinner who is perfectly sanctified, is nevertheless without works, and as such he is justified freely through the redemption which there is in Christ Jesus. But when works are considered as the fruit of the operations of the Holy Spirit, all the regenerate have good works. Repentance and faith are holy exercises, and may be called good works. A life of prayer and obedience to the commands of God, it is scripturaliy proper to call good works. Now the question is whether these good things which are within us, or done by us, are the reason of our being put into the number of God's elect. We believe, that the reason why one sinner is forgiven, in distinction from another, is that he repents; and why one sinner is justified in distinction from another, is that he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ: He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned. Repent nce and faith are not meritorious, but they are nevertheless conditions of our being forgiven and accepted in the Beloved. But are these also conditions of our being chosen in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy? Are they the conditions on which God predestinates sinners to be conformed to the image of his Son? The gracious work of renovating our hearts, is not suspended upon conditions. God does not say, If

sinners will repent and believe, I will change their hearts. The apostle to the Ephesians declares, that it was when they were dead in sin that God quickened them. That he might effectually cut off boasting and lay them all in the dust before God, he lets them know, that their good works were subsequent to their new creation, and were wholly the fruit of it: Not of works, lest any man should boast : for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. By works in this text the apostle does not mean merit, but those holy fruits which all real christians bring forth. So that it is obvious, that the apostle designed to teach those to whom he wrote, that there was nothing good or holy in them, which was the reason why they were created anew in Christ Jesus, since all their good works were posterior to their conversion, and wholly the fruit of it. We can all see that it would be altogether unsuitable for God to forgive an impenitent sinner, and be at peace with one in a state of unbelief; but there is nothing unsuitable in God's giving repentance to an impenitent sinner, and working faith in an unbeliever; or, in the words of the apostle, in creating them in Christ Jesus unto these good works. So there is nothing incongruous in God's electing sinners unto salvation, considered as entirely depraved and destitute of all good distinctions. And to us it is apparent, that this is the view which the scripture gives of the doctrine; while it is equally apparent, that this is not the view which the Arminians entertain of it.*

* Let us look for a moment at the bock of Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This book most manifestly builds electing love on good works foreseen; else, what is meant by the following sentence? "The scripture tells us plainly what predestination is; it is God's fore-appoint ing obedient believers to salvation, not without, but according to his foreknowledge of all their works from the foundation of the world." Doct. and Discip. p. 75. Mr. Wesley, who is the acknowledged penman of these remarks on predestination, says; "If the elect are chosen through sanctification of the Spirit, then they were not chosen before they were sanctified by the Spirit." Again, "If the saints are chosen to salvation, through believing the truth, then they were not chosen before they believed the truth." p. 74. How can it be, that Mr. Wesley and his followers, should understand that passage in 2 Thess. ii. 13,

« PreviousContinue »