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from this holy commandment tends to our neighbour's injury, fo a conformity to it iffues in his good.
4. Good works are neceffary on the account of the enemies of religion. A good conversation recommends the Gospel, and the truths of it, and may be a means of winning perfons over to it; and if not, yet it filences the ignorance of foolish men, and shames such, and stops the mouth of those who reproach the Gospel of Chrift, as a licentious doctrine, and falfly accufe the good converfation of the faints. From the whole, I hope, it appears, on the one hand, that good works are neceffary, and not trifling and indifferent things, that may, or may not, be done; or that they are useless, unnecessary, and infignificant; and, on the other hand, that it is no fancy, but matter of faith, and what ought to be abode by, that good works are not neceffary to falvation.
V. I obferve that you describe such as affert that God loves and delights in his elect, while in a state of nature; that he fees no fin in his people, and that good works are not neceffary to falvation, as perfons "forward to con"demn preffing men to duty, as legal preaching; and to speak of exhorting "to repentance, mortification and felf-denial, as low and mean ftuff." The fame complaint you make in another place".
ift, I cannot but wonder that you should efteem fuch culpable or blameworthy, who condemn preffing men to duty, as legal preaching; for preffing men to duty, can be no other than legal preaching, or preaching of the law fince duty can be referred to nothing else but to the law, which obliges to it. Should they condemn preffing men to duty, as criminal, or deny that there ought to be any preaching, or that there is any ufe of the law, you might justly have blamed them. The duties which the law requires, ought to be in their place infifted on in the ministry of the word; they should be opened and explained; men should be taught their duty to God and one another; they fhould be preffed: that is, if I understand it, be exhorted unto it, with gospelmotives and arguments, fuch as the apoftles frequently make use of in their epiftles. They should, at the fame time, be told where grace and strength lie, and are to be had to affift them in it. The preaching of the law is of use both to faints and finners; it is made ufeful by the Spirit of God to convince of fin; By the law is the knowledge of fin°; though by it is no knowledge of a Saviour from fin; it fhews the exceeding finfulness of fin, the deformity of nature, the imperfection of man's obedience, and what is requifite to his juftifiVOL. III.
Sermon of the Caufes of the Decay of Practical Religion, p. 584. in vol. II. of the Defence of fome important Doctrines of the Gospel. • Rom. iii. 20.
cation before God; though it leaves him ignorant of that righteousness which can only answer its demands, and render him acceptable in the fight of God. The law is a rule of walk and converfation to believers, as it is in the hands of Chrift, and given out by him, as King of his church; it contains the perfect and acceptable will of God; it points out what is, or what is not to be done; it is in its own nature fpiritual, juft and good, and very agreeable to the regenerate man, who delights in the law of God, after the inward man. But then pressing men to duty, is preaching the law, and that must needs be legal preaching, though it ought not to be branded with any odious or invidious character; for all duty belongs to a law; grace, and promises of grace, belong to the gospel, but precepts and duty to the law. We have had a controversy among us lately about preaching Chrift, in the latitude and restrictive way; and, no doubt, the people have been much edified and inftructed by it; but men may controvert to the end of the world, it can never be proved, that preaching good works is preaching Chrift, or that preffing men to duty, is preaching the gofpel; unless it can be thought that good works are Christ, and that the law is gospel. I am entirely for calling things by their right names; preaching duty, is preaching the law; preaching the free grace of God, and falvation by Christ, is preaching the gofpel; to fay otherwife, is to turn the gospel into a law, and to blend and confound both together. Some very worthy divines, whofe names I forbear to mention, did formerly talk of gofpel-commands, gofpel-threatnings, and gofpel-duties, which, to me, are contradictions in terms; and I fear that this loofe and unguarded way of talking, tended to pave the way for Neonomianifm among us, which, fome few years ago, gave the churches fo much disturbance, and the bad effects of which we ftill feel.
2dly, "Exhorting to repentance, you fay, is fpoken of by these persons, as "low and mean stuff;" but you do not tell us what kind of repentance is meant, or with what views, or upon what confiderations an exhortation to it is given. There is an evangelical and a legal repentance: Evangelical repentance has God for its object, and is called repentance towards God. It is the gift of Chrift, who is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto Ifrael, and forgiveness of fins; and is one of the graces of the Spirit of God, which he implants in the hearts of his people. It is that forrow and concern for fin, which fprings from, and is heightened and increased by the discoveries of God's love; it is accompanied with views, or, at least, hopes of pardoning grace and mercy; it is a godly forrow', n xaτa Olov hun, a forrow according "to God," agreeable to the mind and will of God; a divine forrow, which fprings
fprings from divine principles, and proceeds on divine views; or it is a forrow for fin, as it is committed against a God of holiness, purity, grace, and mercy; which godly forrow worketh repentance unto falvation, not to be repented of; and therefore by no means to be spoken flightly of. Nor can exhortations to fuch kind of repentance, be treated as low and mean stuff, without cafting contempt on John the Baptist', Christ, and his apostles; who made use of them, either to fhew the neceffity of repentance, or to encourage the exercise of this grace in the faints, or to ftir them up to an open profeffion of it, and to bring forth fruits in their converfation meet for the fame. Legal repentance is a work of the law, and confifts in outward confeffion of fin, and external humiliation for it, and an inward horror, wrath, and terror, upon the account of it. It is a forrow and concern for fin, not because of the evil that is in fin, but because of the punishment that is like to come by it. It is a concern for fin, not as it is in its own nature exceeding finful, or as it is an offence to God, and a breach of his law, but as it entails upon the finner ruin and destruction: This is the forrow of the world, which worketh death; and may be where true evangelical repentance never was, nor never will be, and therefore is not to be valued and regarded. Not to exhort to this kind of repentance, or even to evangelical repentance, as within the compass of the power of man's will, and as a condition of the covenant of grace, and a term of acceptance with God, and in order to make peace with God, and gain the divine favour, which you know is the rant of fome mens miniftry; I fay, to exhort to repentance with fuch views, and on fuch confiderations as these, is low and mean stuff, too mean for, below, and unworthy of, a minifter of the gospel.
3dly, You mention exhorting to mortification and self-denial, as treated by fome, in the fame flight and contemptuous manner. You know very well that much of what has been faid and written concerning mortification, is low, mean, and trifling, and it would be mortification enough to be obliged to hear and read it. I confess, I have often been at a loss what divines mean by mortification of fin; if they mean a destroying the being of fin, a killing, a taking away the life of it in believers, which feems to be their meaning; this is cor trary both to scripture and all the experience of God's people. The word of God affures us, that fin is in believers, and they find it to be in them; yea, to be alive in them, though they do not live in fin. The old man is, indeed, put off, concerning the former conversation, but not put to death; he remains and is alive, and is fometimes very active, though he lies in chains, and is under the power and dominion of mighty and efficacious grace.
There is a mortification
Matt. iii. 2. and iv. 17. A&ts ii. 38. and iii. 19. Rev. ii. 5, 16. and iii. 3, 19.
mortification of fin by the death of Chrift; The old man is crucified with Chrift, that the body of fin might be destroyed'. Chrift has abolished, deftroyed, made an end of fin; through Chrift's bearing the fins of his people in his own body on the tree, and through his death they are dead to fin, and live unto righteousness. But fin is not dead in them; there is no fuch thing as a mortification, a killing or destroying the inward principles of fin in believers, nor is it to be expected in this life. If, indeed, by mortification of fin, is meant a weakening the power of fin, so as that it shall not have the dominion over the faints; this is readily granted to be found in them: but then it will be difficult to prove that ever this is called mortification in fcripture. The mortification the fcripture fpeaks of, and exhorts to, does not defign the mortification of the inward principles of fin, but the outward actings of it; it is a mortification of an external course of living in fin, and not a taking away the life of fin in the foul, as is evident from those places where any mention is made of it; mortify therefore, fays the apoftle", your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupifcence, and covetousness, which is idolatry; in which ye alfo walked fome time when ye lived in them; which last words fhew, that the apostle has respect to a walk, a conversation, a course of living in thefe fins; fo when he fays ", they that are Christ's, have crucified the flefh, with the affections and lufts, he means the works of the flesh, and the actings of unruly paffions and deceitful lufts, as appears from the context; and when exhortations to mortification of fin, in this fenfe, are given, a fpecial regard fhould be had to the gracious influences of the bleffed Spirit; for, as the apostle fays, If ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye fball live.
As for felf-denial, perhaps no perfons are found more in the practice of it, than those you have described, however averfe they may be to exhortations to it, made without taking any notice of the grace and affiftance of the Spirit of God, as neceffary to the exercise of it. They choose to suffer reproach, the lofs of good name and reputation, to forego popularity, wealth, and friends, to be traduced as Antinomians, and reckoned any thing, rather than to drop, conceal, or balk any one branch of truth, respecting Christ and free grace. None are more ready to deny felf-righteousness than they are, and to submit to the righteousness of Chrift, on which they alone depend for juftification before God, and acceptance with him; nor are any persons more powerfully and effectually taught to deny ungodliness and worldly lufts, and to live foberly, righteously, and godly, in this prefent world. And, you, Sir, are so
* Rom. vi. 6.
u Col. iii.
w Gal. v. 24.
kind Rom. viii, 13.
kind as to fay, that fuch who have amused themselves with what you call fancies, "by their life and conversation have shewed that they were far from being enemies to holiness." And you further add, "Far be it from us to "charge fome, who have gone into this way of thinking and talking, with "turning the grace of God into wantonnefs."
I conclude, Sir, with affuring you, that I write not this with an angry and contentious fpirit; I am willing to fubmit these things to the fcriptures of truth, which are the only rule of faith and practice; and would gladly enter into a fober controversy, and try whether they be mere fancies, or parts of that faith which was once delivered to the faints. If, Sir, you should think fit to give me an answer to this letter, I defire you would not fo much attend to my inaccuracies in writting, which I know you are able to correct, as to the truths themselves herein afferted and defended. I wish you fuccefs in your learned ftudies.
With all due respect,