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To All Such Humble-Hearted Readers,
As See Any Need To Learn Either To Know Themselves, Or
God In Christ.
Consider, I pray you, that as the first Adam did, as a common person, enter into covenant with God for all mankind, and brake it, whereby they became sinful and guilty of everlasting death and damnation; even so Jesus Christ, the second Adam, did, as a common person, enter into covenant with God his Father, for all the elect33"The covenant (viz: of works) being made with Adam, not only for himself but for his posterity, all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in his first transgression." Shorter Catechism, quest. 16.—"The covenant of grace was made with Christ, as the second Adam, and in him, with all the elect, as his seed." Larger Cat., quest. 31. , that is to say, all those that have, or shall believe on his name44See chap. 2. sect. 3. note. , and for them kept it55Namely, by doing and dying for them, viz: the elect. ; whereby they become righteous, and heirs of everlasting life and salvation66Thus the impetration or purchase of redemption, and the application of it, are taught to be of the same extent; even as Adam's representation, and the ruins by his fall are: the former extending to the elect, as the latter unto all mankind. ; and therefore it is our greatest wisdom, and ought to be our greatest care and endeavour, to come out77Of. and from the first Adam, unto and into the second Adam;88Uniting with Christ by faith. that so we "may have life through his name," (John 20:31).
And yet, alas! there is no point in all practical divinity that
we are naturally so much averse and backward to as unto this; neither does Satan
strive to hinder us so much from doing anything else as this; and hence it is, that
we are all of us naturally apt to abide and continue in that sinful and miserable
state that the first Adam plunged us into, without either taking any notice of it, or
being at all affected with it, so far are we from coming out of it. And if
the Lord be pleased by any means to open our eyes to see our misery, and we do
thereupon begin to step out of it, yet, alas! we are prone rather to go backwards
towards the first Adam's pure state99That is, to the way of the covenant of works, which innocent Adam was set upon.
, in striving and struggling to leave sin,
and perform duties, and do good works; hoping thereby to make ourselves so righteous
and holy, that God will let us into paradise again, to eat of the tree of life,
and live for ever: and this we do, until we see the "flaming sword at Eden's gate
turning every way to keep the way of the tree of life,"1010That is, till we be brought to despair of obtaining salvation in the way of the covenant of works. Mark here the spring of
legalism, namely, the natural bias of man's heart towards the way of the law, as a covenant of works, and ignorance of the
law, in its spirituality and vast extent, (Rom 7:9, 10:2,3).
(Gen 3:24). Is it not
ordinary, when the Lord convinceth a man of his sin (either by means of his word or his
rod) to cry after this manner: Oh! I am a sinful man! for I have lived a very
wicked life, and therefore surely the Lord is angry with me, and will damn me in
hell! Oh! what shall I do to save my soul? And is there not at hand some
ignorant, miserable comforter, ready to say, Yet do not despair, man, but repent of
thy sins, and ask God forgiveness, and reform your life, and doubt not but he will
be merciful unto you1111 There is not one word of Jesus Christ the glorious Mediator, nor of faith in his blood, in all the advice given by this casuist
to the afflicted; and agreeable thereto is the effect it has upon the afflicted, who takes comfort to himself, without looking
unto the Lord Jesus Christ at all, as appears from the next paragraph.
Behold the Scripture pattern in such a case: Acts 2:37,38, "Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins." Chapter 16:30,31, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? and they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." And thus the Directory, title "Concerning Visitation of the Sick." "If it appear that he hath not a due sense of his sins, endeavours ought to be used to convince him of his sins—to make known the danger of deferring repentance, and of salvation at any time offered, to awaken the conscience, and to rouse him out of a stupid and secure condition, to apprehend the justice and wrath of God";—here this miserable comforter finds the afflicted, and should have taught him concerning an offended God, as there immediately follows—"before whom none can stand but he that, being lost in himself, layeth hold upon Christ by faith." ; for he has promised, you know, "that at what time soever a sinner repenteth him of his sins, he will forgive him."1212This sentence, taken from the English service-book, is in the "Practice of Piety," p. 122, cited from Ezekiel 33:14,16, and is reckoned amongst these Scriptures, an ignorant mistake of which keeps back a sinner from the practice of piety. But the truth is, it is not to be found in the Old or New Testament; and therefore it was objected against, as standing in the service-book under the name of a "Sentence of Scripture," pretended to be cited from Ezekiel 18:21,22.—Reasons Showing the Necessity of Reformation, &c. p. 26.
And does he not hereupon comfort himself, and say in his heart at least, Oh! if the Lord will but spare my life, and lengthen out my days, I will become a new man! I am very sorry that I have lived such a sinful life; but I will never do as I have done for all the world! Oh! you shall see a great change in me! believe it?
And hereupon he betakes himself to a new course of life; and, it may be, becomes a zealous professor of religion, performing all Christian exercises, both public and private, and leaves off his old companions, and keeps company with religious men; and so, it may be, goes on till his dying day, and thinks himself sure of heaven and eternal happiness; and yet, it may be, all this while is ignorant of Christ and his righteousness, and therefore establisheth his own.
Where is the man, or where is the woman that is truly come to Christ, that has not had some experience in themselves of such a disposition as this? If there be any that have reformed their lives, and are become professors of religion, and have not taken notice of this in themselves more, or less, I wish they may have gone beyond a legal professor, or one still under the covenant of works.
Nay, where is the man or woman, that is truly in Christ, that findeth not in themselves an aptness to withdraw their hearts from Christ, and to put some confidence in their own works and doings? If there be any that do not find it, I wish their hearts may not deceive them.
Let me confess ingenuously, I was a professor of religion at least a dozen of years before I knew any other way to eternal life, than to be sorry for my sins, and ask forgiveness, and strive and endeavour to fulfil the law, and keep the commandments, according as Mr. Dod and other godly men had expounded them; and truly, I remember I was in hope I should at last attain to the perfect fulfilling of them; and, in the mean time, I conceived that God would accept the will for the deed; or what I could not do, Christ had done for me.
And though at last, by means of conferring with Mr. Thomas Hooker in private, the Lord was pleased to convince me that I was yet but a proud Pharisee, and to show me the way of faith and salvation by Christ alone, and to give me, I hope, a heart in some measure to embrace it; yet, alas! through the weakness of my faith, I have been, and am still apt to turn aside to the covenant of works; and therefore have not attained to that joy and peace in believing, nor that measure of love to Christ, and man for Christ's sake, as I am confident many of God's saints do attain unto in the time of this life. The Lord be merciful unto me, and increase my faith!
And are there not others, though I hope but few, who being enlightened to see their misery, by reason of the guilt of sin, though not by reason of the filth of sin, and hearing of justification freely by grace, through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ, do applaud and magnify that doctrine, following them that do most preach and press the same, seeming to be, as it were, ravished with the hearing thereof, out of a conceit that they are by Christ freely justified from the guilt of sin, though still they retain the filth of sin?1313Mark here the spring of Antinomianism; namely, the want of a sound conviction of the odiousness and filthiness of sin, rendering the soul loathsome and abominable in the sight of a holy God. Hence, as the sinner sees not his need of, so neither will he receive and rest on Christ for all his salvation, but will go about to halve it, grasping at his justifying blood, neglecting his sanctifying Spirit, and so falls short of all part or lot in that matter. These are they that content themselves with a gospel knowledge, with mere notions in the head, but not in the heart; glorying and rejoicing in free grace and justification by faith alone; professing faith in Christ, and yet are not possessed of Christ;—these are they that can talk like believers, and yet do not walk like believers,; these are they that have language like saints, and yet have conversation like devils;—these are they that are not obedient to the law of Christ, and therefore are justly called Antinomians.
Now, both these paths1414Namely, legalism and Antinomianism. leading from Christ, have been justly judged as erroneous; and to my knowledge, not only a matter of eighteen or twenty years ago, but also within these three or four years, there has been much ado, both by preaching, writing, and disputing, both to reduce men out of them, and to keep them from them; and hot contentions have been on both sides, and all, I fear, to little purpose: for has not the strict professor according to the law, whilst he has striven to reduce the loose professor according to the gospel out of the Antinomian path, entangled both himself and others the faster in the yoke of bondage? (Gal 5:1). And has not the loose professor according to the gospel, whilst he has striven to reduce the strict professor according to the law out of the legal path, "by promising liberty from the law, taught others, and been himself the servant of corruption?" (2 Peter 2:19).
For this cause I, though I be nothing, have by the grace of God endeavoured, in this Dialogue, to walk as a middle man betwixt them both, in showing to each of them his erroneous path, with the middle path, (which is Jesus Christ received truly, and walked in answerably,)1515 A short and pithy description of the middle path, the only pathway to heaven—"Jesus Christ [the way, (John 14:6)] received truly [by faith, (John 1:12); this is overlooked by the legalist] and walked in answerably," by holiness of heart and life, (Col 2:6); this is neglected by the Antinomian. The Antinomian's faith is but pretended, and not true faith, since he walks not in Christ answerably. The legalist's holiness is but pretended, and not tt true holiness, since he hath not "received Christ" truly, and therefore is incapable of walking in Christ, which is the only true holiness competent to fallen mankind. Thus, both the legalist and Antinomian are each of them destitute of true faith and true holiness; forasmuch as there can be no walking in Christ, without a true receiving of him; and there cannot be a true receiving of him without walking in him: so both of them are off the only way of salvation, and, continuing so, must needs perish. Wherefore it concerns every one who has a value for his own soul, to take heed that he be found in the middle path. as a means to bring them both unto him, and make them both one in him; and Oh! that the Lord would be pleased so to bless it to them, that it might be a means to produce that effect!
I have, as you may see, gathered much of it out of known and
approved authors; and yet have therein wronged no man, for I have restored it to
the right owner again. Some part of it my manuscripts have afforded me; and of
the rest I hope I may say, as Jacob did of his venison, (Gen 27:20), "the Lord
hath brought it unto me." Let me speak it without vain glory, I have endeavoured
herein to imitate the laborious bee, who out of divers flowers gathers honey and wax,
and thereof makes one comb: if any souls feel any sweetness in it, let them
praise God, and pray for me, who am weak in faith, and cold in love.
A Catalogue of those Writers' Names, out of whom I have collected much of the matter contained in this ensuing Dialogue.
Mr. Ainsworth, Dr. Ames, Bishop Babington, Mr. Ball, Mr.
Bastingius, Mr. Beza, Mr. Robert Bolton, Mr. Samuel Bolton, Mr. Bradford, Mr.
Bullinger, Mr. Calvin, Mr. Careless, Mr. Caryl, Mr. Cornwall, Mr. Cotton, Mr.
Culverwell, Mr. Dent, Mr. Diodati, Mr. D. Dixon, Mr. Downham, Mr. Du Plesse, Mr.
Dyke, Mr. Elton, Mr. Forbes, Mr. Fox, Mr. Frith, Mr. Gibbons, Mr. Thos.
Godwin, Mr. Gray, jun., Mr. Greenham, Mr. Grotius, Bishop Hall, Mr. Thos.
Hooker, Mr. Lestanno, Mr. Lightfoot, Dr. Luther, Mr. Marbeck, Mr. Marshal,
Peter Martyr, Dr. Mayer, Wolfgangus Musculus, Bernardine Ochin, Dr. Pemble,
Mr. Perkins, Mr. Polanus, Dr. Preston, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Rollock, Mr. Rouse,
Dr. Sibs, Mr. Slater, Dr. Smith, Mr. Stock, Mr. Tindal, Mr. Robert Town, Mr.
Vaughan, Mr. Vaumeth, Dr. Urban Regius, Dr. Ursinus, Mr. Walker, Mr. Ward,
Dr. Willet, Dr. Williams, Mr. Wilson.
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