|« Prev||SECTION IX. Public covenanting.||Next »|
A view of what Mr. W. says concerning the public covenanting of professors.
I. Mr. W. often speaks with contempt, of my supposing it to be a duty required of such as come to sacraments, that they should explicitly own the covenant, and disputes largely against it. (p. 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22. and many other places.) He says concerning me, (p. 22. a. b.) “It is very unhappy, that this good gentleman should use the Scripture in such a manner, to prove a divine institution which never had an existence; and after all that is said, is but a mere imagination and chimera; it being evident, there never was any such divine institution for the church under the Old Testament, binding particular persons publicly and explicitly to own the covenant, in order to their enjoying the outward ordinances of it.” However, it falls out something happily for me, that I am not quite alone in the chimera, but have Mr. W. himself to join me in it; who abundantly asserts the same thing, (p. 5. c. p. 8. a. p. 9. b. c. and many other places,) who uses the Scripture in the same manner, and supposes the same divine institution; and who, (in p. 5. b. c. of the treatise in hand,) having stated the following inquiry, “What is that evidence, which by divine appointment the church is to have, of the saintship of those who are admitted to the outward privileges of the covenant of grace?” makes this answer to it: “The scripture has determined the matter thus, that the open profession and declaration of a person’s believing in Christ,—and a hearty consent to the terms of the covenant of grace, and engagement on his part to fulfil it,” &c. ” is the sole and entire ground of that public judgment, which the church is to make of the real saintship of professors.” It is manifest, he cannot intend merely that they should be the posterity of such as thus owned the covenant, or declared their consent to it, and so are looked upon as those that owned the covenant in their ancestors, at the beginning of the covenant line; (though sometimes he seems to suppose, this is all that is necessary, as I shall take particular notice by and by;) for here he expressly speaks of a personal owning the covenant, or the open profession and declaration of a person’s consent to the covenant. And thus he often speaks of the same matter, in like manner, as a personal thing, or what is done by the person judged of, and received. (See p. 10. c. d. 31. e. 32. e. 33. a. 34. b. c. 73. b 84. a. 139. a.) And in the second page of his preface, he declares himself fully established in Mr. S-—d’s doctrine concerning this affair of qualifications for the Lord’s supper; who expressly declare it to be his judgment, that ” It is requisite, that persons be not admitted unto communion in the Lord’s supper, without making a personal and public profession of their faith and repentance.” (Appeal, p. 93, 94.)
And as Mr. W. holds, that there must be a public personal owning of the covenant; so he also maintains, that this profession must be explicit, or express. He says, (p. 20. d. e.) “Since we have no direction in the Bible, at what time nor in what manner any personal explicit covenanting should be performed,—it appears plain to a demonstration, that the people knew nothing of any such institution; as I suppose, the christian church never did, till Mr. Edwards discovered it.” But if I was the first discoverer, he should have owned, that since I have discovered it, he himself, and all my opposers, have seen cause to follow me, and receive my discovery. For so the case seems to be, if he gives us a true account (in p. 132. b.) where he rejects, with indignation, the imputation of any other opinion. “How often (says he) has Mr. Edwards said, none but visible saints are to be admitted? Do not all Mr. Edwards’s opposers say, that no man is to be admitted, who does not profess his hearty belief of the gospel, and the earnest and sincere purpose of his heart, so far as he knows it, to obey all God’s commands, and keep his covenant? None, who do not make as full and express a profession as the Israelites did, or was ever required by Christ or his apostles, in any instances that can be produced in the Bible, of bodies of men or particular persons admitted into visible covenant with God?”—He had before spoken of the words which the Israelites used in their entering into covenant with God. (p. 5. d.) Which must refer to their entering into covenant in the wilderness; for we have no account of any words at all used by that nation, at their entering into covenant, if not there. And this he sometimes speaks of as the covenant they made, when God took them into covenant. (p. 8. d. 36. d. e. 37. a. b.) And (p. 20.) he allows that to be an instance of explicit covenanting: but ridicules my pretending to show, that explicit covenanting was a divine institution for all; when, he says, we have an account of but four instances of any explicit covenanting with God by the Jews, and those on most extraordinary occasions, and by the body of the people. But what matter is it, whether there were four, or but two, or only that one instance in the wilderness? when he himself with such earnestness declares, that all my opposers hold, every man must make as full and express a profession of the covenant as ever the Israelites did, or was ever required, in any instance that can be produced in the Bible, whether of bodies of men or particular persons’ admission, &c. If this be so, and what he said before be also true, then all Israel, even every individual person among them, that ever was admitted to the privileges of the church, throughout all their generations, by his own confession and assertion, did personally make as explicit a profession of the covenant, as the body of the people did in that instance in the wilderness. And not only so, but the same must every individual person do, that ever comes to sacraments, through all ages, to the end of the world.—Thus Mr. W. fights hard to beat down himself. But I will not say in his own language, that in so doing he fights hard to beat down a poor man of straw.
If any should say, that Mr. W. when speaking of an express profession, does not mean a profession in words, but only in actions; such as an outward attendance on ordinances and duties of worship: I answer, if such actions are a profession, yet certainly they are not an express profession; they are no more than an implicit profession. And besides, it is very plain, the profession he speaks of is a profession in words. Thus (p. 36. b.) when describing the profession which ought to be made, he says, “It is in as strong words, as were used by any whom the apostles admitted.” And elsewhere (as was before noted) he often insists, that a profession should be made in words without any discrimination as to their meaning. Which shows, it is a profession in words, that he designs. And although (p. 104. e.) he speaks of a performance of the outward duties of morality and worship, as the only way that God ever appointed of making real saintship visible: yet this is only another instance of his great inconsistence with himself; as appears by what has already been observed, and appears further by this, that when he speaks of a profession of consent to the terms of the covenant, &c. he often speaks of it as a profession which ought to be made in order to admission to these ordinances, (p. 5. b. c. 10. a 35. e. 36. a. b. c. 132. b. and other places.) If so, then how can the attendance itself, on these ordinances of worship, 507 be all the profession which is to be made? Must men first come to ordinances, in order to admission to ordinances? And moreover, Mr. W. himself distinguishes between engaging and swearing to keep covenant in the public profession, and attending on the ordinances and duties of worship, which he speaks of as belonging to the fulfilment of the engagement and oath. (p. 130.) And lastly I would observe, though it could be consistently made out (which it never can) that Mr. W. does not mean a professing in words, it would be nothing to the purpose. If it be in words, or in other signs which are equivalent to words, and which are a full and express profession, (as Mr. W. says,) it is exactly the same thing as to my purpose, and the consequence of the argument, which was, that real godliness must be professed. And indeed this very thing which I endeavoured to prove by all that I said on this head, is expressly again and again allowed by Mr. W. Yet he makes a great ado, as if there was a vast difference between him and me in this affair of public covenanting with God; and as though my notions of it were very singular, absurd, and mischievous.
II. Mr. W. says a great deal in opposition to me, to show that swearing by God’s name, swearing to the Lord, and the like, do not mean covenanting with God: but yet (in p. 18.) in the midst of his earnest dispute against it, he owns it.—I mentioned several prophecies, referring to the Gentile converts in the days of the gospel, which foretell that they should swear by God’s name, swear to the Lord of hosts, &c. as a prediction of the Gentiles publicly covenanting with God; using that as one thing which confirmed, that this was commonly the meaning of such phrases in the Old Testament. But Mr. W. despises my interpretation of these prophecies, and my argument from them. Nevertheless, in his reply, he owns the very thing: he in effect owns, that entering into covenant, and owning the covenant, is what is meant by these prophecies; mentioning this, plainly with approbation, as the universal sense of protestant commentators. His words are, (p. 18. d. e.) “As to all these prophecies, which Mr. Edwards has quoted, referring to the Gentiles, and their swearing by the name of the Lord, the sense of protestant commentators upon them, I think, universally is, that when the Gentiles in God’s appointed time should be brought into covenant with God, it should be as the Jews were, by being persuaded to consent to the terms of the covenant of grace, and engaging themselves to God, to be faithful to him, and keep covenant with him. He who heartily consents to the terms of the covenant of grace, gives up himself to the Lord, gives the hand to the Lord, engages to own and serve him; which is the thing signified in all those metaphorical phrases, which describe or point out this event, in the Old-Testament language.”
III. Mr. W. in these last-cited words, explains the phrase of giving the hand to the Lord, as signifying engaging themselves to God in covenant, and consenting to the terms of the covenant, and yet in the next page but two, he contemns and utterly disallows my interpreting the same phrase in the same manner. Mr. W. says, (p. 21. c.) ” As to the words of Hezekiah, when he called the Israelites to the passover, bidding them yield or give the hand to the Lord; and in Ezra, they gave the hand to put away their wives; which he thinks to be a Hebrew phrase for entering into covenant; it carries its own confutation with it.”
IV. Mr. W. often speaks of the professions made by the ancient Israelites and Jewish Christians, when they entered into covenant, and were admitted into the church. Whereas, according to the doctrine of the same author, in the same book, we have no account of any profession made by either, on any such occasion. For he insists, that the children of such as are in covenant, are born in covenant; and are not admitted into covenant, any otherwise than as they were seminally in their ancestors; and that the profession of their ancestors, at the head of the covenant line, is that individual profession, which brings them into covenant. His words are, (p. 135. e. 136. a. b. c.) “It is one and the same individual profession and engagement, which brings them and their children into covenant. And if there is one instance in the Bible, where God ever took any man into covenant, and not his children at the same time, I should be glad to see it. It is by virtue of their being in covenant, that they have a right to the seals. And if these children are not cast out of covenant by God, their children have as good a right to the seals as they had. It is God’s will, that his mark and seal should be set upon them, and their children, and their children for ever, till God casts them out of covenant. It is certain, they have an interest in the covenant, and they have a right to the privileges of the covenant so long as they remain in covenant; and that is, till God cuts them off, and casts them out.”
And accordingly he supposes, that John the Baptist never inquired into the doctrinal knowledge of those he baptized, because they were already in covenant with God, and members of his visible church, and not yet turned out: and he suggests, that John knew many of them not to be of a good moral character, (p. 98.) So he largely insists, that the three thousand Jews and proselytes that the apostles baptized, (Acts ii.) were not taken into covenant, but only continued in covenant. (p. 46, 47.) So he supposes the eunuch, before Philip baptized him, was a member of the church, and in covenant with God. (p. 50.) Though he inconsistently mentions those same persons in the 2d of Acts, and the eunuch, as admitted into the church by the apostles, and primitive ministers. (p. 9. e. p. 10. a. p. 59. a.) And so (p. 8. d. p. 26. a.) he mentions God’s taking all Israel into covenant: he mentions the profession which the Israelites made, (p. 25. e.) and (p. 5. d.) he speaks of the words which the Israelites used, in their entering into covenant with God. And (p. 36. d. e. p. 37. a. b.) he speaks of their profession in Moses’s time, which God trusted so far as to admit them into covenant. Whereas indeed, according to Mr. W. they were not taken in, nor did they enter into covenant, neither in the plains of Moab, nor at mount Sinai. He says expressly, that they were in covenant before that time, when in Egypt, being taken in their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (p. 91. b.) But then we read of no words that these patriarchs used at their entering into covenant.—And it will undoubtedly follow, on Mr. W.‘s principles, that we must go further back still for Israel’s being taken into covenant; we must go up even to Adam himself, the first father of mankind, who was visibly in covenant, and so his posterity, in the line of Noah’s ancestors, without the line being broken by a visible cutting off, and casting out by God, as we have all reason to suppose. And after the flood, we have reason to think, God had a covenant race continued in Shem’s posterity, especially in the line of Abraham’s ancestors. And though Terah, Abraham’s father, was tainted with the then prevailing idolatry; yet there is no appearance of the line being then cut off in the way Mr. W. speaks of, by God’s visibly casting him out. On the contrary, God took a special fatherly care of him and his children, in bringing them from Ur of the Chaldees, the land of graven images, to Haran. (Gen. xi. 31.) And God is called the God of the father of Abraham and Nahor, that is, the God of Terah. (Gen. xxxi. 53.) And if it be said, that in Abraham began a new dispensation of the covenant; so that Abraham might properly on that account be said to be taken into covenant, as though his ancestors had not been in covenant: I answer, The alteration of the dispensation was in no measure so great as that after Christ’s resurrection and ascension; and yet Mr. W. will not allow, that the Jewish converts, received (Acts ii.) on this new dispensation, were any more than continued in covenant, and in the church. So that, according to Mr. W.‘s scheme, it must be Adam’s profession of religion, that was the individual profession which made all his posterity, in the line of the church, even to the apostles’ days, visible saints, or (as he himself explains visible saintship) such as we have rational ground to think are real saints, possessed of gospel-holiness; and on that account have a right to sacraments. For so he says it is with the children of them that are in covenant, and their children, and their children for ever, till cut off and cast out by God.
So that now we have the scheme in a true view of it.—The Pharisees and Sadducees that John baptized, whom Mr. W. supposes John knew to be not of a good moral character, and whose doctrinal knowledge he did not inquire 508 into before he baptized them; because they had before been admitted in their ancestors; even these were visible saints, and such as John had rational ground to think had sufficient doctrinal knowledge and were orthodox and real saints, having moral evidence that they had gospel-holiness, because Adam their original ancestor made a profession of religion, in words of double meaning, without any marks of distinction or discrimination, by which any might know their meaning.
And if we should go back no further than Abraham, it would not much mend the matter; supposing the case had been so, that we had the words of both Abraham’s and Adam’s profession written down in our Bibles: whereas, we have neither; no, nor have we the words of the profession of any one person, either in the Old Testament or New, at their being taken into the church, if the things which Mr. W. says are true; though he speaks so often of professions, and words of professions, and declarations, made on such occasions, as if we had an express account of them in Scripture.
V. As our author abundantly maintains, that unsanctified men in covenanting with God, may and do promise the exercise of saving faith, repentance, love, &c.; so he holds, that they promise to begin the exercise of these graces immediately, from this moment, and to live in them from henceforth. (p. 25. c. e. and 26. a. and 28. a. c. 76. a. b.)
Now I desire this matter may be looked into, and thoroughly examined.—Not only the Holy Scriptures, and agreeable to them, Mr. Stoddard, and sound divines in general, teach us, but Mr. W. himself maintains, that men who are unsanctified do for the present refuse and oppose these things. In a forecited place of his sermon on Isaiah xlv. 11. our author says, that unregenerate and unsanctified men oppose all means for bringing them to these things, are willingly without them, and labour to find out all manner of difficulties and hinderances in the way of them; and if they pray for them, do not desire they should come yet, but would stay a while longer. Now, how is this consistent with such persons promising, with any sincerity at all, that they will comply with and perform these things immediately, from henceforth, without staying one moment longer? If God calls a man this moment to yield his whole heart to him in faith, love, and new obedience; and if he in answer to the call solemnly promises and swears 594594 It must be observed, that Mr. W. often speaks of the promise which an unregenerate man makes in covenanting with God, as his oath. P. 18. d. p.100. p 101. a. p. 129. a p. 130. c. p. 143. b. to God, that he will immediately comply with the call, without the least delay, and does it with any sincerity, how does he now willingly refuse, oppose, and struggle against it, as choosing to stay a while longer?
Besides, such promises and oaths of unregenerate men must not only be contrary to sincerity, but very presumptuous, upon these two accounts. (1.) Because herein they take an oath to the Most High, which, it is ten thousand to one, they will break as soon as the words are out of their mouths, by continuing still unconverted; yea, an oath which they are breaking even while they are uttering it. And what folly and wickedness is it for men to take such oaths! and how contrary to the counsel given by the wise man, in Eccl. v. 2-6.! And to what purpose should ungodly men be encouraged to utter such promises and oaths before the church, for the church’s acceptance; which are so far from being worthy to be credited, or a fulfilment of them to be expected, that it is many thousands, and perhaps millions, of times more likely to be otherwise? That is, it is so much more likely they will not be converted the very next moment.—(2.) When an unconverted man makes such a promise, he promises what he has not to give, or that for which he has no sufficiency. There is indeed a sufficiency in God to enable him; but he has no claim to it. For God’s helping a man savingly to believe in Christ is a saving blessing: and Mr. W. himself owns, that a man cannot by promise claim any saving blessings, till he has fulfilled the conditions of the covenant of grace. (p. 22. e. and 28. e.) So that in vain it is said by Mr. W. (p. 27. e.) “ I pray that it may be thoroughly considered what is propounded in the covenant of grace, and on what stock a man is to finish.” Meaning (as appears by the sequel) the stock of God’s sufficiency. To what purpose is this said? when the covenant of grace promises or makes over no such stock to him who has no interest in the promises of it, as having not yet complied with the condition of its promises. Nor does an unconverted man promise any thing in an humble dependence on that stock; no such men do lay hold on God’s strength, or trust in God’s sufficiency. For this is a discriminating mark of a true saint; as our author himself observes, in that forecited passage in his Sermons on Christ a King and Witness, p. 19. c.
I would here take notice of it as remarkable, that though Mr. W. had owned that a natural man can claim no saving blessings by God’s promise, yet to help out his scheme of a natural man engaging and promising, even with an oath, the exercises of saving grace, he (in p. 27, 28. especially p. 28. e.) speaking of the great encouragement on which unsanctified men can promise these things, supposes God has given such encouragement to them who promise and engage themselves to God, with that degree of earnestness and sincerity which he often speaks of as requisite to communion, that we have reason to determine that God never will fail of bestowing on them saving grace; so that they shall fulfil their promises. I say, he supposes that we have reason to determine this, because he himself determines it. His words are these:—“Though there be no promise of saving good, exclusive of faith, yet there being a command and encouragement, there are suitable springs of his endeavour and hope, in his engaging himself to God, and casting himself upon his mercy with all the earnestness and sincerity he can. God never will be worse than his encouragement, nor do less than he has encouraged; and he has said, To him that hath shall be given.“ Now if this be so, and if this will make it out, that an unconverted man who is morally sincere may reasonably, on this encouragement, promise immediately to believe and repent, though this be not in his own power; then it will follow, that whenever an unconverted man covenants, with such moral sincerity as gives a lawful right to sacraments, God never will fail of giving him converting grace that moment, to enable him from thenceforward to believe and repent, as he promises. And if this be so, and none may lawfully covenant with God without moral sincerity, (as Mr. W. also says,) then it will follow, that never any one person comes, nor can come, lawfully to the Lord’s supper, in an unconverted state; because when they enter into covenant lawfully, (supposing them not converted before,) God al-ways converts them in the moment of their covenanting, before they come to the Lord’s table.—And if so, what is become of all this grand dispute about the lawfulness of persons coming to the Lord’s table, who have not converting grace?
VI. Mr. W. greatly misrepresents me from time to time, as though I had asserted, that it is impossible for an unsanctified man to enter into covenant with God; and that those who were sanctified among the Israelites, did not enter into covenant with God; that the pretended covenanting of such is not covenanting, but only lying, wilful lying; and that no natural man can own the covenant, but that he, certainly lies, knows he lies, and designedly lies, in all these things, when he says them. (p. 26. d. 22. d. 24. d. 31. a. b. c. 21. c.) Whereas, I never said nor supposed any such thing. I never doubted but that multitudes of unsanctified persons, and in all ages of the christian church, and in this age, and here in New England, have entered visibly, and in profession, into the covenant of grace, and have owned that covenant, and promised a compliance with all the duties of it, without known or wilful lying; for this reason, because they were deceived, and did not know their own hearts: and that they (however deceived) were under the obligations of the covenant, and bound by their engagements and promises. And that in that sense, they were God’s covenant people, that by their own binding act they were engaged to God in covenant; though such an act, performed without habitual holiness, be an unlawful one. If a thing be externally devoted to God, by doing what ought not to have been done, the thing devoted may, by that act, be the Lord’s: as it was with the censers of Korah and his company. (Num. xvi. 37, 38.)
509 What I asserted, was, that none could profess a compliance with the covenant of grace, and avouch jehovah to be their God, and Christ to be their Saviour, i.e. that they are so by their own act and choice, and yet love the world more than jehovah without lying, or being deceived. 595595 See my Inquiry, p. 33, 34. And that he who is wholly under the power of a carnal mind, which is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be, cannot promise to love God with all his heart and with all his soul, without either great deceit, or the most manifest and palpable absurdity. Inasmuch as promising supposes the person to be conscious to himself, or persuaded of himself, that he has such a heart in him; because his lips pretend to declare his heart, and the nature of a promise implies real intention, will, and compliance of heart. 596596 Ibid. p.37,38. And what can be more evident than these propositions? Surely they that reject the covenant of grace in their hearts (as Mr. W. owns all unsanctified men do) cannot own it with their lips, without either deceiving or being deceived. Words cannot be a true signification of more than is in the mind. Inward covenanting, as Mr. S. taught, is by an act of saving faith. (Safety of Ap. p. 85. e. 86. a.) And outward covenanting is an expression of inward covenanting; therefore, if it be not attended with inward covenanting, it is a false expression. And Mr. W. in effect owns the same thing; for he says, (p. 21. b.) ” That there is no doubt they who are wilful obstinate sinners, deal deceitfully and falsely when they pretend to covenant with God.” But so do all unregenerate sinners under the gospel, according to Mr. Stoddard and his own doctrine. And thus the very point, about which he contests so earnestly and so long, and with so many great words, is, in the midst of it all, given up fully, by his own concession.
VII. Mr. W. is greatly displeased with my saying (as above) that none who are under the power of a carnal mind can visibly own the covenant, without lying or being deceived, &c. And he finds great fault with my gloss on Psal. lxxviii. 36, 37. “They did flatter him with their mouth, and lied to him with their tongue:” which I interpret, as though they lied in pretending that respect to God, which indeed they had not. (p. 35. a. of my Inquiry.) But he insists, that what is meant is only their lying in breaking their promise. (p. 24. e.) And he insists upon it, (as has been observed already,) that natural men may covenant with God and speak true. But it seems he has wonderfully changed his mind of late; for a little while ago he declared elsewhere for the very same things which he here inveighs against, and spoke of natural men’s profession and pretence of respect to God, as being actually a lie in its own nature; and not only becoming so by their breaking covenant afterwards. Particularly, it is remarkable, he has thus interpreted this very text now in dispute. In his sermons on Christ a King and Witness, speaking of the outward acts of worship done by those that do not love God nor believe in Christ, he expressly says, (p. 77.) ‘They are in their own nature a lie; a false pretence of something within, that is not there.—See (says Mr. W.) this interpretation of it, in Psal. lxxviii. 34-37. “They did flatter him with their mouths; they lied to him with their tongues,” &c.—(Ibid. p. 74. b. e.) “Christ’s visible church are such as visibly and outwardly profess to be his subjects, and act outwardly as if they believed on him. But these outward acts in themselves are not that religion and obedience, which Christ requires; nay, of themselves, they have no religion in them; and Christ has nothing to do with them, but as they are the fruits and expressions of the heart, as they are the language and index of the mind and conscience, and outward declarations of the inward frame, tempers and acting, of the soul. If they are not so, they are so far from having any religion in them, that they are hateful to him, being only the visible resemblance, the pretence and feigning, of religion; i.e. they are mockery, hypocrisy, falsehood, and lies; and belong not to the kingdom of Christ, but of the devil.“—Let the reader now compare this with my gloss on the text.
Thus I have considered the various pans and principles of Mr. W.‘s scheme, which are the foundations on which he builds all his superstructure, and the ground on which he proceeds in all his reasonings, through his book; and many particulars in his answers and arguments have been already considered.—Mr. W. says thus, (p. 135.a.) “I own, that at present I have no more expectation to see the scheme which Mr. Edwards aims to establish, defended upon Calvinistic principles, than the doctrine of transubstantiation.“ On which I shall only say, it might perhaps be thought very impertinent in me, to tell my readers what I do or what I do not expect, concerning his scheme. Every reader, that has reason enough of his own not to take the big words and confident speeches of others for demonstration, is now left to judge for himself, whose scheme is most akin to the doctrine of transubstantiation, for inconsistence and self-contradiction. Nevertheless, I will proceed to consider our author’s reasonings a little more particularly, in the ensuing part.
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