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Mr. M.'s external covenant, 10 see if its true and real nature can be known; and then to show its inconsistence with the doctrines of the perfection of the divine law, and of total depravity, as held forth in the public formulas approved by the church of Scotland, and by the churches in New-England. After wbich the leading sentiments of his scheme of religion shall be considered, his mistakes be pointed out, and the opposite truths be briefly stated and proved from the word of God; that the nature of ancient apostolic Christianity may be ascertained from the infallible oracles of truth; to the end that the right road to heaven may be kept open and plain for the direction of awakened sinners, and for the confirmation and comfort of young converts.
Several phrases explained, and questions stated.
IN order to prevent and cut off all needless disputes, and that the reader may clearly understand the following sbeets, the meaning of several phrases shall be explained. Particularly,
1. By a conditional covenant is meant, a covenant which proinises its blessings upon some certain condition ; so that no one can claim a covenant right to its blessings, if destitute of the requisite qualifications.
2. By the covenant of works is meant, that covenant which promises eternal life upon condition of perfect obedience, through the appointed time of trial, and threatens eternal death for one transgression.
3. By the covenant of grace is meant, that covenant which promises pardon, justification, and eternal life through Jesus Christ, to all who repent and believe the Gospel ; i. e. to real saints, and to no others.
4. By a graceless covenant is meant, a covenant which promises its blessing to graceless men, as such, on certain conditions, or qualifications, which are professedly graceless, and which may take place in graceless men, while such.
5. By complying with a covenant is meant, doing that, or baving those qualifications which, according to the tenour of the covenant, entitles to its blessings. Thus, for instance, Adam could not have been said to have coinplied with the covenant of works which he was under, until he had persevered in perfect obedience, through the whole time of trial. For nothing short of this would have entitled him to a confirmed state of holiness and happiness, i. e. to eternal life; as all grant. And thus a sinner cannot be said to have complied with the covenant of grace, whatever legal terrors he has had, and whatever pains he has taken in religion, until by the first act of saving faith he is united to Jesus Christ; for nothing short of this entitles biin to pardon, justification, and eternal life, according to the Gospel. As is written, John iii.
18. 36. He that believeth not is condemned already, and the wrath of God abideth on him. Indeed Mr. M. says, p. 89. 'that no man, short of perfection, can be properly said to have complied with the Gospel.' But our Saviour declares, with great solempity, John v. 24. Verily, verily, 1 say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation ; but is passed from death to life. So that on the first act of saving faith a sinner becomes entitled to eternal life. (Gal iii. 26. 29.) For ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Again, a man may be said to have complied with any supposed graceless covenant, when he has the graceless qualifications to which the blessings of that covenant are promised, but not before. So that if a fixed resolution to forsake all known sin, and practise all known duty,' is a requisite qualification to the blessings of this covenant, then no man has a covenant right to the blessings of it until he is 'come to this fixed resolution ;' i. e. if there is an external covenant, distinct from the covenant of grace,' promising to the visible church all the external means of grace, and the strivings of God's holy spirit, in order to render them effectual for salvation,' by which the visible church is constituted. And if this fixed resolution is absolụtely necessary to church-membership, and so to a title to these promises, then no man has a title to these promises, or' is qualified to be admitted a member of the visible church, until he is, in fact, 'come to this fixed resolution :' but when ever be is "come to this fixed resolution,' he ought to be considered as having complied with the external covenant; and so as having a covenant right to its blessings. Mr. M. says, (p. 64.) that I have a very singular notion about the nature of covenanting; as if it required a present compliance with EVERY thing required by the covenant into which they enter.' This I never said.But indeed I do think, that it is a contradiction io terms, to say that “a covenant promises certain blessings to those, and to those only, who bave certain qualificațions; and yet some who have not the required qualifications have a covenant right to the blessings promised."
Nor am I singular in this notion,' for all mankind think so too. However, that no man short of perfection can be properly said to have complied with the Gospel,' is a very singular notion, indeed; and in effect makes the covenant of works and the covenant of grace precisely one and the same thing. But to proceed,
6. By entering into covenant, and engaging to perform the duties which the covenant requires, a man binds himself 10 be doing the duties required by the covenant, in the manner in which he engages to do them, as long as the covenant is in force. To say otherwise, is to say that a man binds hiniself, and yet does not bind himself, which is an express contradiction. Thus the Israelites at Mount Sinai, and in the plains of Moab, bound themselves and their posterity to observe all the rites of the ceremonial law, so long as that should be in force. But when the ceremonial law was abrogated, they were no longer bound to observe its rites. And thus, if Mr. M.'s external covenant does in fact, require religious duties to be done in a graceless manner, so long as sinners remain graceless, and no longer ; then as soon as ever sinners are converted, they are free from the bonds of this covenant, as much as the Jews were from the ceremonial law, at the resurrection of Christ; and so are then at liberty to enter into the covenant of grace, and to engage to live by faith on the Son of God, and to be holy in all manner of conversation, pressing towards perfection, the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus : but not till thenagreeable to the apostle's reasoning in Rom. vii. 1, 2, 3. But if this external covenant, which requires duties to be done in a graceless manner, is in fact binding for life; if it is in this sense an everlasting covenant, as was the covenant with Abraham, (Gen. 17.) then no man who has entered into it is at liberty, while he lives, to cease performing duties in a graceless manner. For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the late to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if while her husband liveth she he married to unother man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no
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adulteress, though she be married to another man. Mr. M. unay now take his choice. He may say, that his external covenant, which requires duties to be done in a graceless manner, is binding for life, or it is not. If it is not binding for life, then it is self-evident that it is not an everlasting covenant, like that in Gen. 17. If it is binding for life, then he who enters into it binds bimself to perfom all duties in a graceless manner as long as he lives. This difficulty against his scheme he has not removed. Nor has he ventured to look it fairly in the face. See p. 30, 31, 32.
7. By an unconditional covenant is meant, a covenant which promises its blessings to all whom it respects, without any condition at all; so that no qualification at all, of any kind, is necessary in order to a covenant right to all its blessings. Thus God's covenant with Noah and with his seed, and with every living creature with him, even with the fowl and with every beast of the earth, that all flesh should no more be cut off by the waters of the flood, is of the nature of an unconditional grant, conveying the promised secority to all, without respect to any qualification whatever.
Question 1. Is Mr. M.'s external covenant conditional, or unconditional ? If unconditional, then no qualification whatever is requisite in order to a covenant right to all its bless. ings. Pagans, Turks, Jews, Deists, Heretics, and the scandaluus, have as good a right as such to partake at the Lord's, table, as to hear the Gospel preached. If conditional, then,
Question 2. Doth Mr. M.'s external covenant require, as a condition of its blessings, holy exercises of heart, or unholy exercises of heart, or no exercise ot' heart at all, nothing but external bodily motions, considered as unconnected with any volition: If holy exercises of heart, then no graceless man, as such, hath a right to its blessings. If upholy exercises of heart, then it is a graceless covenant, which he says is 'a graceless phantom. If no exercise of heart at all, nothing but external, bodily motions; then our hearts have nothing iu do with it; and we need not concern ourselves about it; for it is not a thing of a moral nature; and so has no concern in the business of religion.