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OBJECT. XIII.

All that are members of the visible church and in the external covenant, and neither ignorant nor scandalous, are commanded to perform all external covenant duties; and particularly they are commanded to attend the Lord’s supper, in those words of Christ, This do in remembrance of me.

Answ. This argument is of no force, without first taking for granted the very thing in question. For this is plainly supposed in it, that however these commands are given to such as are in the external covenant, yet they are given indefinitely, but with exceptions and reserves, and do not immediately reach all such; they do not reach those who are unqualified, though they be in the external covenant. Now the question is, Who are these that are unqualified? The objection supposes, that only ignorant and scandalous persons are so. But why are they only supposed unqualified; and not unconverted persons too? Because it is taken for granted, that these are not unqualified. And thus the grand point in question is supposed, instead of being proved. Why are these limitations only singled out, neither ignorant nor scandalous; and not others as well? The answer must be, because these are all the limitations which the Scripture makes: but this now is the very thing in question. Whereas, the business of an argument is to prove, and not to suppose, or to take for granted, the very thing which is to be proved.

If it be here said, It is with good reason that those who are ignorant or scandalous alone are supposed to be excepted in God’s command, and obligations of the covenant; for the covenant spoken of in the objection, is the external covenant, and this requires only external duties; which alone are what lie within the reach of man’s natural power, and so in the reach of his legal power: God does not command or require what men have no natural power to perform, and which cannot be performed before something else, some antecedent duty, is performed, which antecedent duty is not in their natural power.

I reply, Still things are but supposed, which should be proved, and which want confirmation.

(1.) It is supposed, that those who have externally (i. e. by oral profession and promise) entered into God’s covenant, are thereby obliged to no more than the external duties of that covenant: which is not proved, and I humbly conceive, is certainly not the true state of the case. They who have externally entered into God’s covenant, are by external profession and engagements entered into that one only covenant of grace, which the Scripture informs us of; and therefore are obliged to fulfil the duties of that covenant, which are chiefly internal. The children of Israel, when they externally entered into covenant with God at mount Sinai, promised to perform all the duties of the covenant, to obey all the ten commandments spoken by God in their hearing, and written in tables of stone, which were therefore called The Tables of the Covenant; the sum of which ten commands was, to love the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and to love their neighbour as themselves; which principally at least are internal duties. In particular, they promised not to covet; which is an internal duty.—They promised to have no other god before the Lord; which implied, that they would in their hearts regard no other being or object whatever above God, or in equality with him, but would give him their supreme respect.

(2.) It is supposed, that God does not require impossibilities of men, in this sense, that he does not require those things of them which are out of their natural power, and particularly that he does not require them to be converted. But this is not proved; nor can I reconcile it with the tenor of the scripture revelation. And the chief advocates for the doctrine I oppose, have themselves abundantly asserted the contrary. The venerable author fore-mentioned, as every body knows, that knew him, always taught, that God justly requires men to be converted, to repent of their sins, and turn to the Lord, to close with Christ, and savingly to believe in him; and that in refusing to accept of Christ and turn to God, they disobeyed the divine commands, and were guilty of the most heinous sin; and that their moral inability was no excuse.

(3.) It is supposed, that God does not command men to do those things which are not to be done till something else is done, that is not within the reach of men’s natural ability. This also is not proved; nor do I see how it can be true, even according to the principles of those who insist on this objection. The fore-mentioned memorable divine ever taught, that God commandeth natural men without delay to believe in Christ: and yet he always held, that it was impossible for them to believe till they had by a preceding act submitted to the sovereignty of God; and yet he held, that men never could do this of themselves, till humbled and bowed by powerful convictions of God’s Spirit. Again, he taught, that God commandeth natural men to love him with all their heart: and yet he held, that this could not be till men had first believed in Christ; the exercise of love being a fruit of faith; and believing in Christ, he supposed not to be within the reach of man’s natural ability. Further, he held, that God requireth of all men holy, spiritual, and acceptable obedience; and yet that such obedience is not within the reach of their natural ability; and not only so, but that there must first be love to God, before there could be new obedience, and that this love to God is not within the reach of men’s natural ability. Yet, before this love there must be faith, which faith is not within the reach of man’s natural power; and still, before faith there must be the knowledge of God, which knowledge is not in natural men’s reach: and, once more, even before the knowledge of God there must be a thorough humiliation, which humiliation men could not work in themselves by any natural power of their own. Now, must it needs be thought, notwithstanding all these unreasonable things, that God should command those whom he has nourished and brought up, to honour him by giving an open testimony of love to him; only because wicked men cannot testify love till they have love, and love is not in their natural power? And is it any good excuse in the sight of God, for one who is under the highest obligations to him, and yet refuses him suitable honour by openly testifying his love of him, to plead that he has no love to testify; but on the contrary, has an infinitely unreasonable hatred? God may most reasonably require a proper testimony and profession of love to him; and yet it may also be reasonable to suppose, at the same time, he forbids men to lie; or to declare that they have love, when they have none: because, though it be supposed, that God requires men to testify love to him, yet he requires them to do it in a right way, and in the true order, viz. first loving him, and then testifying their love.

(4.) I do not see how it can be true, that a natural man has not a legal power to be converted, accept of Christ, love God, &c. By a legal power to do a thing, is plainly meant such power as brings a person properly within the reach of a legal obligation, or the obligation of a law or command to do that thing. But he that has such natural faculties, as render him a proper subject of moral government, may properly be commanded, and put under the obligation of a law to do things so reasonable; notwithstanding any native aversion and moral inability in him to do his duty, arising from the power of sin. This also, I 474 must observe, was a known doctrine of Mr. Stoddard’s, and what he ever taught.

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