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from this holy commandment tends to our neighbour's injury, so a conformity to it issues in his good.
Good works are necessary 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 persons 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 Christ, as a licentious doctrine, and fally accuse the good conversation of the saints. From the whole, I hope, it appears, on the one hand, that good works are necessary, and not triling and indifferent things, that may, or may not, be done; or that they are useless, unnecessary, and insignificant ; 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 necessary to falvation.
V. I observe that you describe such as affert that God loves and delights in his elect, while in a state of nature ; that he sees no sin in his people, and that good works are not necessary to falvation, as persons “forward to con“ demn pressing men to duty, as legal preaching; and to speak of exhorting
to repentance, mortification and self-denial, as low and mean stuff.” The same complaint you make in another place".
ist, I cannot but wonder that you should esteem such culpable or blameworthy, who condemn pressing men to duty, as legal preaching; for pressing men to dury, 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 pressing men to duty, as criminal, or deny that there ought to be any preaching, or that there is any use of the law, you might justly have blamed them. The duties which the law requires, ought to be in their place insisted 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 should be pressed: that is, if I understand it, be exhorted unto it, with gospelmotives and arguments, such as the apostles frequently make use of in their epistles. They should, at the same time, be told where grace and strength lie, and are to be had to assist them in it. The preaching of the law is of use both to faints and sinners; it is made useful by the Spirit of God to convince of sin ; By the law is the knowledge of fino; though by it is no knowledge of a Saviour from fin; it shews the exceeding sinfulness of fin, the deformity of nature, the imperfection of man's obedience, and what is requisite to his justifiVOL. III.
* Sermon of the Causes of the Decay of Practical Religion, p. 584. in vol. II. of the Defence of some important Doctrines of the Gospel.
o 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 conversation to believers, as it is in the hands of Christ, 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
it is in its own nature spiritual, just 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.
and duty to the law. We have had a controversy among us lately about preaching Christ, in the latitude and restrictive way; and, no doubt, the people have been much edified and instructed by it; but men may controvert to the end of the world, it can never be proved, that preaching good works is preaching Christ, or that pressing men to duty, is preaching the gospel; 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 falvacion by Christ, is preaching the gospel; to say otherwise, is to turn the gospel into a law, and to blend and confound both together. Some very worthy divines, whose names I forbear to mention, did formerly talk of gospel-commands, gospel-threatnings, and gospel-duties, which, to me, are contradictions in terms; and I fear that this loose and unguarded way of talking, tended to pave the way for Neonomianism among us, which, some few years ago, gave the churches so much disturbance, and the bad effects of which we still feel.
2dly, “ Exhorting to repentance, you say, is spoken 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 considerations 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 Godl. It is the gift of Christ, who is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto Israel, 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 sorrow and concern for sin, which springs 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 sorrow', n rata Otor augen, “ a sorrow according “ to God," agreeable to the mind and will of God; a divine sorrow, which
springs P AAs XX. 21.
r 2 Cor. vii, 10.
Acts. V. 31.
springs from divine principles, and proceeds on divine views; or it is a sorrow for fin, as it is committed against a God of holiness, purity, grace, and mercy; which godly forrow worketh repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of; and therefore by no means to be spoken Nightly of. Nor can exhortations to such kind of repentance, be treated as low and mean stuff, without casting contempt on John the Baptist, Christ, and his apostles; who made use of them, either to shew the necessity of repentance, or to encourage the exercise of this grace
in the saints, or to stir them up to an open profession of it, and to bring forth fruits in their conversation meet for the same. Legal repentance is a work of the law, and consists in outward confession of sin, and external humiliation for it, and an inward horror, wrath, and terror, upon the account of it. It is a sorrow and concern for sin, not because of the evil that is in sin, but because of the punishment that is like to come by it. It is a concern for sin, not as it is in its own nature exceeding sinful, 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 sorrow of the world, wbich 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 some mens ministry; I say, to exhort to repentance with such views, and on such considerations as these, is low and mean stuff, too mean for, below, and unworthy of, a minister of the gospel.
3dly, You mention exhorting to mortification and self-denial, as treated by fome, in the same flight and contemptuous manner. You know very well that much of what has been said 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 morcification of fin; if they mean a destroying the being of fin, a killing, a taking away the life of ic in believers, which seems to be their meaning; this is cor. trary both to scripture and all the experience of God's people. The word of God assures us, that sin is in believers, and they find it to be in them; yea, to be alive in them, though they do not live in sin. The old man is, indeed, put off, concerning the former conversation, but not put to death ;' he remains and is alive, and is sometimes 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. Acts ü. 38. and iii, 19. Rev. ii. 5, 16. and iii. 3, 19.
mortification of sin by the death of Chrift; The old man is crucified with Chris, that the body of fin might be destroyed'. Christ has abolished, destroyed, made an end of fin; through Christ's bearing the sins of his people in his own body on the tree, and through his death they are dead to fin, and live unto righteousness. But sin is not dead in them; there is no such thing as a mortification, a killing or destroying the inward principles of sin in believers, nor is it to be expected in this life. If, indeed, by mortification of sin, is meant a weakening the power of sin, so as that it shall not have the dominion over the saints ; this is readily granted to be found in them: but then it will be difficult to prove that ever this is called mortification in scripture. The mortification the scripture speaks of, and exhorts to, does not design the mortification of the inward principles of sin, but the outward actings of it; it is a mortification of an external course of living in sin, and not a taking away the life of fin in the soul, as is evident from those places where any mention is made of it; mortify therefore, says the apostle“, your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry; in which ye also walked some time when ye lived in them ; which last words shew, that the apostle has respect to a walk, a conversation, a course of living in these sins; fo when he says ", they that are Christ's, bave crucified the flesh, with the affections and lufts, he means the works of the Aesh, and the actings of unruly passions and deceitful lufts, as appears from the context ; and when exhortations to mortification of lin, in this sense, are given, a special regard should be had to the gracious infuences of the blessed Spirit ; for, as the apostle says ", If ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye jhall live.
As for self-denial, perhaps no persons are found more in the practice of it, than those
have described, however averse they may be to exhortations to it, made without taking any notice of the grace and allistance of the Spirit of God, as necessary to the exercise of it. They choose to suffer reproach, the loss 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 self-righteousness than they are, and to submit to the righteousness of Christ, on which they alone depend for justification before God, and acceptance with him ; nor are any persons more powerfully and effectually taught to deny ungodliness and worldly lufts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. And, you, Sir, are so
kind i Rom. vi. 6.
's Rom. viii, 13.
u Col. iii. 5, 7.
Gal. v. 24.
kind as to say, that such who have amused themselves with what you call fancies, “ by their life and conversation have lhewed 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 wantonness.”
I conclude, Sir, with assuring you, that I write not this with an angry and contentious spirit ; I am willing to submit these things to the scriptures of truth, which are the only rule of faith and practice; and would gladly enter into a sober controversy, and try whether they be mere fancies, or parts of that faith which was once delivered to the saints. If, Sir, you should think fit to give me an answer to this letter, I desire you would not so much attend to my inaccuracies in writing, which I know you are able to correct, as to the truths themselves herein asserted and defended. I wish you success in your learned studies.