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men's principles be, if their lives are but good : which is nothing better than downright infidelity.
The way may now be prepared to state the question in dispute.
In the beginning of my third dialogue, which was on the nature of assurance of a title to eternal life, I had said, that “Sanctification, taking the word in a large and comprehensive sense, is the evidence, the only Scripture-evidence, of a good estate.” And to prevent misunderstanding, I added, “It is usual for divines to distinguish between regeneration and conversion, between first conversion and progressive sanctification ; between divine views and holy affections, between grace in the heart and an holy life and conversation ; but I mean to comprehend all under one general
You may call it the image of God, or holiness of heart and life, or a real conformity to the divine law, and a genuine compliance with the Gospel of Christ : I have already let you see what I apprehend to be the nature of law and Gospel, of love to God and faith in Christ. When I say, this is the only evidence, I mean that this is the only thing wherein saints and sinners, in every instance, differ. One has the image of God, the other has not. Or to express myself in the language of inspiration, John xvii. 3. This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. And John i 3, 4, 5. Hereby we do know that we do know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected : hereby we knore that we are in him.”
In answer to which words, Mr. Cudworth says, this “is no other than the assurance of the Pharisee." Further defence, p. 265. But why? because says he," it is only founded on the difference there is between him and other men."--To which I reply ; this may as well be objected against the assurance of all the apostolical saints ; as is evident from 1 John ii. 3, 4, 5, the very text I quoted. For they knew they loved God, and kept his commands, while the rest of the world lay in wickedness. And therefore they said, 1 John v. 19. We
know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in ricked
And will Mr. Cudworth affirm that their assurance was that of the Pharisees ? Besides, there is a fallacy in his words : for the apostolical assurance did not arise merely from a consciousness, that they differed from others, which might be true, and yet they have no grace, as was the case with the Pharisee; but from a consciousness that their characters were agreeable to the Gospel standard ; that they had those graces which according to Christ's holy religion are peculiar to the saints, and certainly connected with eternal life. Upon this their assurance was built, just as I had represented. However, if Mr. Cudworth's words prove nothing else, yet at least they seem to be a sufficient evidence of bis hearty disaffection to the only scriptural assurance of a good estate. And he appears to think with his late friend, that we may as well
place the dome of a cathedral on the stalk of a tulip," as place our assurance on this only scriptural foundation. But how then would he have us get assurance ? even by believing that our sins are forgiven, while conscious that we are upon a level with the worst of sinners; no difference between us and them as dead in sin, as impenitent and unconverted, and as full of enmity to God. And this belief is to beget our first love. But, alas! what grounds have we for this belief? What evidence for the truth of what we believe? why none at all, says Mr. Marshal, “ from Scripture, sense, or reason.” ” For the fact believed to be true, “is not true before we believe it.".
And as Mr. Cudworth affirms assurance from a consciousness of sanctification, to be the assurance of the Pharisee ; so his brother, Mr. Wilson, with the same spirit, affirms it to be the assurance of Papists, perhaps an bundred times over €; although he well knew, that the Papists join with Antinornians, in denying that a certain assurance from a consciousness of our own sanctificarion, is attainable, in the present life d;
c See Mr. Wilson's Review of Palamon's creed. Vol. 2. p. 101, and elsewhere through both his volumes. N. B. The particular references to Mr. Wilson, which will be made in these sheets, will be to his 2d Vol. in which he has made some remarks on my dialogues. I here give notice of it once for all.
d Page 104, Mr. Wilson says, speaking of the Papists, " as it is supposed, that men will frequently have too much reason to suspect the sincerity of their own love and obedience ; whether the former be genuine, and the latter such as God
how then would Mr. Wilson have us get assurance ! even by believing our sins are forgiven, without any consciousness of any grace in us,
the act of appropriation made by the believer, or a persuasion of the truth of bis own faith.” p. 129. “ Without knowing any thing further about their state, than that they are by nature children of wrath, and heirs of hell, under the curse of an angry sinrevenging God.” p. 175. These are his own words.
But how shall we know that our sins are forgiven? Are our sins forgiven while we are in an impenitent, unconverted, Christless state ? are they forgiven even while we are “heirs of hell, and under the curse of an angry God?" that is, forgiven when they are not forgiven ! an express contradiction ! or are we to believe they are forgiven, when in fact they are not forgiven? Yes, this is the very thing Antinomians formerly held, that the elect are justified from eternity, or from the resurrection of Christ, and that in due time their jusufi
will accept of; they granted, that any hope of salvation men can attain to in this mortal state, must, and ought, still to be mixed with fear and doubting. They riever can attain to any absolute certainty about it. Such were the leading senuments of the most eminent teachers in the Romish Church.”
And how exactly agreeable these sentiments are to the sentiments of the most eminent teachers of Mr. Wilson's party, the following words of the celebrated Mr. Hấy, will show : " This method of seeking peace and assurance, I fear, will perplex the simple-minded ; and cherish rather than suppress the fluctuations of doubt. For, let the signs be what you please, a love of the brethren, or a love of all righteousness, a change of heart, or an alteration of life ; these good qualifications are sometimes like the stars at noon-day, not easily, if at all, discernible : or else they are like a glow-worm in the night, glimmering, rather than shining : consequently will yield, at the best, but a feeble, at the worst, a very precarious evidence : If, in such a manner, we should acquire some little assurance, how soon may it be unsettled by the incursions of daily temptations, or destroyed by the insurrection of remaining sin ! at such a juncture, how will it keep its standing! how retain its being ! it will fare like a tottering wall before a tempest, or be as the rush without mire, and the flag without water.
But while Papists and Antinomians thus join to deny ang certain assurance by eur own inherent graces, the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, agrecable with the holy Scriptures, strongly assert it. Conf. of Faith, chap. xviii, “ Such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, &c. may in this life be certainly assured, that they are in a state of grace.”—“This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward cricoce of those graces into which these promises are made,” &r.
cation is manifested to them by the spirit, on which they commence believers. And this scheme, how contrary soever to the Bible, was consistent with itself. But that scheme is new modelled. And now they say that in justifying faith, " we believe that to be true, which is not true before we believe it." This Mr. Marshal bad said. And this saying of Mr. Marshal's, Mr. Wilson undertakes to vindicate, (p. 14.) pretending full assurance that the whole bible and all the Protestant world are on his side.
Mr. Cudworth was affrighted and shocked at the thought of“ believing that to be true which is not true before we believe it, without any evidence from Scripture, sense, or reason,” after I had shown the absurdity of it in the twelve Queries in my second Dialogue. He felt he could not answer my reasoning. He was afraid. He durst not look the point fairly in the face. He turned his eyes and buried himself in obscurity in the inidst of a multitude of ambiguous words. And to pacify bis credulous reader, says, that I misrepresent their scheme; when he at the same time, knew that I had represented it exactly as Mr. Marshal, a writer highly celebrated by all their party, had done. See his further defence, p. 246.
But Mr. Wilson is a man of courage; he thinks he can maintain the point: he sees it must be done, or their whole scheme be given up. He has tried : he has doubtless done his best. And this is the very point now to be examined, viz. Whether in justifying faith “ we believe that to be true which is not true before we believe it?"
A position in itself so evidently absurd, that were it not made use of to deceive multitudes of precious souls, it would not deserve the least attention of any man of seose. But matters being as they are, it is worth while to examine it. This position evidently lies at the foundation of their whole scheme. And if this single position is false, their whole scheme is false. For they all affirm that our sins are not forgiven before we believe they are forgiven. And that in the first direct act of justifying faith we believe they are forgiven. And therefore it is, and must be, a fundamental znaxion with thein, upon tbe truth of which their whole
scheme depends, that in justifying faith, we believe that to be true, which is not true before we believe it.
No writer lever saw, has expressed the matter with such undisguised honesty and simplicity, as their celebrated Mr. Marshall, whose Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, they profess to value next to the bible. Let us therefore hear his own
look into their plain and natural meaning, and state distinctly the point to be disputed.
Mr. Marshall's words are these, and the more we think of them, the more remarkable will they appear. “Let it be well observed, that the reason why we are to assure ourselves in our faith that God freely giveth Christ and his salvation to us in particular, is not because it is a truth before we believe it, but because it becometh a certain truth when we believe it; and because it never will be true, except we do in some measure persuade and assure ourselves that it is so. We have no absolute promise or declaration in Scripture, that God certainly will or doth give Christ and his saivation to any one of us in particular; neither do we know it to be true already by Scripture, or sense, or reason, before we assure ourselves absolutely of it; yea, we are without Christ's salvation at present, in a state of sin and misery, under the curse and Wrath of God. Only, we are bound by the command of God thus to assure ourselves : and the Scripture doth sufficiently warrant us that we shall not deceive ourselves, in believing a lie: but according to our faith, so shall it be to us. Matt.
This is a strange kind of assurance, far different from other ordinary kinds ; and therefore no wonder if it be found weak and imperfect, and difficult to be obtained, and assaulted with many doubtings. We are constrained to believe other things on the clear evidence we have that they are true, and would remain true, whether we believe them or no: so that we cannot deny our assent, without rebelling against the light of our senses, reason, or conscience. But here our assurance is not impressed on our thoughts by any evidence of the thing; but we must work it out in ourselves by the assistance of the spirit of God.” Mystery, p. 173, 174€ In this plain, honest declaration, which opens to
e New-York edition, page 157.