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THE NATURE OF MR. M.'S EXTERNAL COVENANT. 215
Had Mr. M. first of all acquired determinate ideas himself, and then given an exact definition of his external covenant, which he has in a public manner been called upon to do, it would have rendered bis readers' work easy: but now it is so difficult to know what he means, that even his most learned admirers are not agreed, whether his external covenant is conditional or unconditional. However, let us hear him explain himself.
The nature of Mr. M.'s external covenant, as stated and ex
plained by himself, under the notion of a conditional cove
AS our author has no where particularly enumerated the peculiar privileges and blessings of his external covenant, which those, and those only, are entitled to who are in it; nor particularly stated its conditions; nor so much as let us know with certainty whether it be conditional, or unconditional; so there is no way but to look through both his books, and
here and there what we can, in order to determine what he means, and consider it in every point of light in which he sets it.
Aud first, we shall consider it as a conditional covenant. And in this view of it we may observe the following things :
1. In his first book, p. 58. he expressly delares, that the external covenant between God and the visible church is distinct from the covenant of grace.' And he speaks of this, as what lie had through his whole book been' endeavouring to establish.' And in his second book, (p. 60-64.) he undertakes to prove this point over again at large ; that it is of a different tenour,' and made for a different purpose,' from that of the covenant of grace. I mention this, because some think that he means the covenant of grace by his external covenant,
2. He affirms over and over,' that the external covenaut has no respect to a gracious state of heart.' And it is a chief
design of both his books to prove this point; that so he may prove that unregenerate, graceless men, as such, may be qualified to enter into it, and may have a covenant right in the sight of God to all it blessings. So that, professedly, no conditions are required, but those which are graceless ; no qualifications are requisite, but those which are unholy; for he affirms, that the unregenerate are totally depraved,' and in ' a state of enmity against God,' (p. 52.) And that they do not perform any truly holy obedience.' (p. 17.) So that his external covenant, if conditional, is a graceless covenant.
But it is conditional, for,
8. He says in his first book, (p. 21.) 'That none but such as profess the Christian religion, and will endeavour to conform their practice to the rules of it, ought to be admiuted into the church. And accordingly, (p. 42, 43, 44.) he insists that the disorderly and vicious,' should be debarred. But if it is a conditional covenant, and if it requires merely graceless qualifications as the condition of its privileges, then it is a graceless covenant. For that covenant which promises its blessings to graceless men, on graceless conditions, is a graceless covenant.
4. If Mr. M.'s external covenant promises certain blessings and privileges upon some certain conditions ; so as that those who are so and so qualified may be members of the visible church, and no others, then it is of great importance to know precisely what these conditions, what these qualificaLions are, as otherwise no man can possibly determine whether he hath them, and so whether he may lawfully join with the church, and seal the covenant. And this is more necessary on Mr. M.'s scheme than on any other, because he holds, which we do not, that no man may enter into covepant with God in a public profession of religion, and join with the church, unless be infallibly knows that he bas the necessary qualifications; unless he is as certain of it as a man called to give evidence in a civil court, is of a fact which he sees, and to the truth of which he can make oath before the civil magistrate. (p. 79.) But if men must be thus certain that they have the requisite qualifications, before they can with a good conscience juin with the church, then they must,
in this high sense, be certain what qualifications are requisite. Yea, there are four things, concerning which they must bave the same degree of certainty as they have about any faci which they see with their eyes, before they can on his plan with a good conscience join with the church. 1. That the bible is the word of God, because this is the grand charter of all church privileges. 2. That Mr. M.'s external covenant is contained in the bible, and is that on which the visible church is constituted. Because otherwise no man has any right on this plan to join with the church. 3. What qualifications are necessary according to this external covenant to fit them to join with the church and artend sealing ordinan
And then, 4. They must be as certain that they have ihese qualificatious, as that ever they saw the sun.-Now he thinks, that on our scheine, many true saints will be kept back from the Lord's table; but on his scheme, it is evident that no one graceless mani, whose conscience is awake, and who knows any thing considerable about his own heart, can join with the church : because there never was, nor will be, any such sinner, who can say that he is as certain of these four things, as he is of a fact which he has seen with bis eyes, and of the truth of which he can make oaib before the civil inagistrate
But at present the only question is this, viz. What are the qualifications which are requisite to full communion in the visible church, according to Mr. M.'s external covenant ? The covenant of works requires perfection, as the condition
9 Mr. Mather in his preface, says, “ I am not so fond of my own judgment, or tenacious of my own practice, but that I stand ready to give them both up, when any one shall do the friendly office of setting light before me."--He himsell, therefore, cannot swear to the truth of his scheme; he has not “that certain knowledge of it, that he has “ of a particular fact, about which he is called to give an evidence in a civil court.” It is only his "prevailing opinion.” P. 79. And if his external covenant is a mere human device, his practice upon it is what God hath not required at his hands.' He has no wartant to put God's seals to a covenant devised by man. And, according to his scheme, he ought not to act in this affair without absolute certainty. To be consistent, he ought to act no more on his plan, until he is infallibly certain that it his duty. For, to use his own argument, p. 79. “if it being a real duty is that which gives us a real right to act ; then it being a known duty is that which gives us a known right.” And I may add, "this is a self-evident proposition.” But more of this, in Sec. xi.
of its blessings. The covenant of grace requires repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, as the conditions of its blessings : but what does Mr. Mos external graceless covenant require, as the condition of its blessings? What qualifications are requisite to bring a man into this covenant, and to give him a right to all the privileges and blessings of it in the sight of God ? If this question cannot receive a satisfactory answer on Mr. M.'s scheme, then his scheme can never be practised upon. He gave no satisfactory answer to it in his first book, as was shown in the 6th section of my reply to it. He bas now made another attempt to answer this question in his second book. Let us hear his answer, and consider it.
He says, (p. 64.) “ That perfection is expressly required in this external covenant.' What! as a condition of its blessings! as a necessary qualification to full communion in the visible church ! which was the only point in band. If so, then no mere man since the fall might join with the visible churcb.
He says, (p. 64.) . This covenant requires the holy obedience of a gracious state.' What! again, I say, as a condition of its blessings ! as a necessary qualification to full communion in the visible church ! the only point in hand. If so, then no graceless man, as such, can be admitted into the visible church.
He says, (p. 65.) 'This covenant requires the utmost endeavours of the unregenerate. What! still I repeat it, as a condition of its blessings ! as
a necessary qualification to full communion in the visible church! the only point in hand. If so, then no unregenerate man, who has not as yet used his utmost endeavours, can, as such, be admitted into the visible church, which will keep out every unregenerate man, because no such unregenerate man ever existed.
Again, having spoken of the convictions, that the unregenerate may have, he says, (p. 65.) under these convictions he may come to a fixed resolution to forsake all known sin, and to practise all known duty; set himself to seek an interest in Christ, and to seek needed influences of divine grace. Aud he may confirm these resolutions upon his own
soul, by a solemn covenant dedication of himself to God; engaging by divine assistance to obey the whole will of God, one particular of which is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. And I will add, that he may confirm this covenant between God and his own soul by Gospel seals. It cannot be denied that the natural powers of our souls do render us capable of such covenanting with God. And the only question is, whether God has required this of sinners? This is the question in dispute. Upon which the following observations may be made :
1. Was this the covenant in Gen. xvii.? Was Abraham under conviction ?' · Had he come to such upregenerate fixed resolutions?' Did he bind himself in some future time to believe ? No, just the reverse. Abraham had been converted above twenty years before this transaction, (Gen. xvii.) and had both believed, and obeyed, in a saving manner, through all this period. So that the question in dispute,' is not, whether Abraham entered into this covenant in Gen. xvij.; for Mr. M. does not pretend he did. And therefore the covenant with Abraham, (Gen. xvii.) and this covenant of Mr. M.'s, are not the same, but very
different. His external covenant, tberefore, is, as he declares, 'distinct from the covenant of grace,' and of a different tenour,' and for a different purpose.' For nothing was more remote from Abrabam's mind, than to enter into covenant, and bind himself to a course of unregenerate duties, in order to obtain converting grace. Of this there is no dispute.' So that this is NOT the question in dispute,' whether Mr. M.'s external covenant is the same with that covenant into which Abraham personally entered, (Gen. xvii.) Where then in all the bible will Mr. M. find his external covenant, as above defined ? For no such covenant was ever exhibited by the God of Israel. Besides,
2. It may be inquired, what does Mr. M. mean by 'engaging to obey the whole will of God?" For, 1. Does he mean, that mea who know they have no grace when they join with the church do covenant and promise that they will from that time and forward, as long as they live, be perfectly holy? and so in fact obey the whole will of God? But