'No [say you] the actual removing of our guilt, is not the necessary and immediate result of his death; but suspended until such time as the forementioned conditions, by the help of his grace, are performed by us' (p. 92).
Answer. 1. Then may a man have the grace of God within him; yea, the grace and mercy of the new covenant, viz. Faith, and the like, that yet remaineth under the curse of the law; and so hath yet his sins untaken away from before the face of God; for where the curse is only suspended, it may stand there notwithstanding, in force against the soul. Now, let the soul stand accursed, and his duties must stand accursed: For first the person, and then the offering must be accepted of God. God accepted not the works of Cain, because he had not accepted his person (Gen 4:5). But having first accepted Abel's person, he therefore did accept his offering (Heb 11:4). And hence it is said, that Abel offered by faith: He believed that his person was accepted of God, for the sake of the promised Messias, and therefore believed also that his offering should be accepted.
2. Faith, as it respecteth justification in the sight of God, must know nothing to rest upon but the mercy of God, through Christ's blood: But if the curse be not taken away, mercy also hangeth in suspense; yea, lieth as drowned, and hid in the bottom of the sea. This doctrine then of your's overthroweth faith, and rusheth the soul into the works of the law, the moral law; and so quite involveth it in the fear of the wrath of God, maketh the soul forget Christ, taketh from it the object of faith; and if a miracle of mercy prevent not, the soul must die in everlasting desperation.
'But [say you] it is suspended till such time as the forementioned conditions, by the help of his grace, are performed by us' (p. 92).
Answer. Had you said the manifestation of it is kept from us, it might, with some allowance, have been admitted; but yet the revelation of it in the word, which in some sense may be called a manifestation thereof, is first discovered to us by the word; yea, is seen by us, and also believed as a truth recorded; before the enjoyment thereof be with comfort in our own souls (1 John 5:11).
But you proceed and say, 'Therefore was the death of Christ designed to procure our justification from all sins past, that we might be by this means provoked to become new creatures' (p. 92).
Answer. That the death of Christ is a mighty argument to persuade with the believer, to devote himself to God in Christ, in all things, as becometh one that hath received grace and redemption by his blood, is true; but that it is in our power, as is here insinuated, to become new creatures, is as untrue. The new creature, is of God; yea, immediately of God; man being as incapable to make himself anew, as a child to beget himself (2 Cor 5:17,18). Neither is our conformity to the revealed will of God, any thing else, if it be right, than the fruit and effect of that. All things are already, or before, become new in the Christian man. But to return:
After all the flourish you have made about the death of Christ, even as he is an expiatory, and propitiatory sacrifice; in conclusion, you terminate the business far short of that for which it was intended of God: for you almost make the effects thereof but a bare suspension of present justice and death for sin; or that which hath delivered us at present from a necessity of dying, that we might live unto God; that is, according as you have stated it. 'That we might from principles of humanity and reason, act towards the first principles of morals, &c. till we put ourselves into a capacity of personal and actual pardon.'
Answer. The sum of your doctrine therefore is, that Christ by his death only holds the point of the sword of justice, not that he received it into his own soul; that he suspends the curse from us, not that himself was made a curse for us, that the guilt might be remitted by our virtues; not that he was made to be our sin: But Paul and the New Testament, giveth us account far otherwise; viz. 'That Christ was made our sin, our curse, and death, that we by him [not by the principles of pure humanity, or our obedience to your first principles of morals, &c.] should be set free from the law of sin and death' (2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13).
If any object that Christ hath designed the purifying our hearts and natures; I answer,
But he hath not designed to promote, or to perfect that righteousness that is founded on, and floweth from, the purity of our human nature; for then he must design the setting up man's righteousness, that which is of the law: and then he must design also the setting up of that which is directly in opposition, both to the righteousness, that of God is designed to justify us; and that by which we are inwardly made holy. As I have shewed before.
You have therefore, Sir, in all that you have yet asserted, shewed no other wisdom than a heathen, or of one that is short, even of a novice in the gospel.
In the next place, I might trace you chapter by chapter; and at large refute, not only the whole design of your book by a particular replication to them; but also sundry and damnable errors, that like venom drop from your pen.
But as before I told you in general, so here I tell you again, That neither the scriptures of God, the promise, or threatenings, the life, or death, resurrection, ascension, or coming again of Christ to judgment; hath the least syllable or tendency in them to set up your heathenish and pagan holiness or righteousness; wherefore your whole discourse is but a mere abuse of, and corrupting the holy scriptures, for the fastening, if it might have been, your errors upon the godly. I conclude then upon the whole, that the gospel hath cast out man's righteousness to the dogs; and conclude that there is no such thing as a purity of human nature, as a principle in us, thereby to work righteousness withal. Farther, It never thought of returning us again to the holiness we lost in Adam, or to make our perfection to consist in the possession of so natural, and ignorant a principle as that is, in all the things of the holy gospel; but hath declared another and far better way, which you can by no means understand by all the dictates of your humanity.
I will therefore content myself at present with gathering up some few errors, out of those abundance which are in your book; and so leave you to God, who can either pardon these grievous errors, or damn you for your pride and blasphemies.
[Fowler's false quotations of scripture.]
You pretend in the beginning of your second chapter, to prove your assertion, viz. 'That the great errand that Christ came upon, was to put us again into possession of that holiness which we had lost' (p. 12). For proof whereof you bring John the Baptist's doctrine (Matt 3:1,2), and the angel's saying to Zacharias (Luke 1:16,17), and the prophet Malachi (3:1-3), in which texts there is as much for your purpose, and no more, than there is in a perfect blank; for which of them speak a word of the righteousness or holiness which we have lost? Or where is it said, either by these mentioned, or by the whole scripture, that we are to be restored to, and put again into possession of that holiness? These are but the dictates of your human nature.
John's ministry was, 'To make ready a people prepared for the Lord Jesus'; not to possess them with themselves and their own, but now lost, holiness. And so the angel told his father, saying, 'Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God': Not to Adam's innocency, or to the holiness that we lost by him. Neither did the prophet Malachi prophesy that Christ at his coming should put men again in possession of the holiness we had lost. And I say again, as you here fall short of your purpose, so I challenge you to produce but one piece of a text, that in the least looketh to such a thing. The whole tenor of the scripture, that speaks of the errand of Christ Jesus, tells us another lesson, to wit, That he himself came to save us, and that by his own righteousness; not that in Adam, or which we have lost in him, unless you can say and prove that we had once, even before we were converted, the holiness of Christ within us, or the righteousness of Christ upon us.
But you yet get on, and tell us, 'That this was also the prophesy of the angel to Joseph (p. 14) in these words HE [Jesus] shall save his people from their sins.' 'Not [say you] from the punishment of them, although that be a true sense too; but not the primary, but secondary, and implied only, and the consequence of the former salvation' (p. 15).
Answer. Thus Penn the quaker and you run in this, in one and the self same spirit; he affirming that sanctification is antecedent to justification, but not the consequence thereof.
2. But what salvation? Why salvation? say you: First from the filth; for that is the primary and first sense: justification from the guilt, being the never-failing consequence of this. But how then must Jesus Christ, first save us from the filth? You add in p. 16, 'That he shall bring in, instead of the ceremonial observations, a far more noble, viz., An inward substantial righteousness: and by abrogating that [namely of the ceremonies] he shall establish only this inward righteousness.' This is, that holiness, or righteousness you tell us of, in the end of the chapter going before, that you acknowledge we had lost; so that the sum of all that you have said, is, That the way that Christ will take to save his people from their sins, is, first to restore unto them, and give them possession of, the righteousness that they had lost in Adam: and having established this in them, he would acquit them also of guilt. But that this is a shameless error, and blasphemy, is apparent, from which hath already been asserted of the nature of the holiness, or righteousness, that we have lost, viz., That it was only natural of the old covenant, typical: and such as might stand with perfect ignorance of the mediation of Jesus Christ: and now I add, That for Christ to come to establish this righteousness, is alone, as if he should be sent from heaven, to overthrow, and abrogate the eternal purpose of grace, which the Father had purposed should be manifested to the world by Christ. But Christ came not to restore, or to give us possession of that which was once our own holiness, but to make us partakers of that which is in him, 'that we might be made partakers of HIS holiness.' Neither (were it granted that you speak the truth) is it possible for a man to be filled with inward gospel holiness, and righteousness, that yet abideth, as before the face of God, under the curse of the law, or the guilt of his own transgressions (Heb 12). The guilt must therefore, first be taken off, and we set free by faith in that blood, that did it, before we can act upon pure Christian principles. Pray tell me the meaning of this one text; which speaking of Christ, saith, 'Who when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high' (Heb 1:3). Tell me, I say, by this text, whether is here intended the sins of all that shall be saved? If so, what kind of a purging is here meant, seeing thousands, and thousands of thousands, of the persons intended by this act of purging were not then in being, nor their personal sins in act? And note, he saith, he purged them, before he sat down at the right hand of God: purging then, in this place, cannot first, and primarily, respect the purging of the conscience: but the taking, the complete taking of the guilt, and so the curse from before the face of God, according to other scriptures: 'He hath made him to be sin, and accursed of God for us.' Now he being made the sin which we committed, and the curse which we deserved; there is no more sin nor curse; I mean to be charged by the law, to damn them that shall believe, not that their believing takes away the curse, but puts the soul upon trusting to him, that before purged this guilt, and curse: I say, before he sat down on the right hand of God; not to suspend, as you would have it, but to take away the sin of the world. 'The Lord hath laid upon him the iniquities of us all' (Isa 53:6). And he bare them in his own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24): nor yet that he should often offer himself; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now, (and that at once,) in the end of the world hath he appeared, to put away sin, by the sacrifice of himself (Heb 9:24-26). Mark, he did put it away by the sacrifice of his body and soul, when he died on the cross: but he could not then put away the inward filth of those, that then remained unconverted; or those that as yet wanted being in the world. The putting away of sin therefore, that the Holy Ghost here intendeth, is, such a putting of it away, as respecteth the guilt, curse, and condemnation thereof, as it stood by the accusations of the law, against all flesh before the face of God; which guilt, curse, and condemnation, Christ himself was made in that day, when he died the death for us. And this is the first and principal intendment of the angel, in that blessed saying to godly Joseph, concerning Christ; 'He shall save his people from their sins'; from the guilt and curse due to them, first: and afterwards from the filth thereof. This is yet manifest, further; because the heart is purified by faith, and hope (Acts 15:9; 1 John 3:3). Now it is not the nature of faith; I mean, of justifying faith, to have any thing for an object; from which it fetcheth peace with God, and holiness before, or besides the Christ of God himself; for he is the way to the Father: and no man can come to the Father, but by him. Come; that is, so as to find acceptance, and peace with him: the reason is, because without his blood, guilt remains (Heb 9:22). He hath made peace by the blood of his cross: so then, faith in the first place seeketh peace. But why peace first? Because till peace is fetched into the soul, by faith's laying hold on the blood of Christ: sin remains in the guilt and curse, though not in the sight of God, yet upon the conscience, through the power of unbelief. 'He that believeth not, stands yet condemned' (John 3:18,19). Now, so long as guilt, and the curse in power remains, there is not purity, but unbelief; not joy, but doubting; not peace, but peevishness; not content, but murmuring, and angering against the Lord himself. 'The law worketh wrath' (Rom 4:15). Wherefore, as yet there can be no purity of heart, because that faith yet wants his object. But having once found peace with God by believing what the blood of Christ hath done; joy followeth; so doth peace, quietness, content, and love; which is also the fulfilling of the law: yet not from such dungish principles as yours, for so the apostle calls them (Phil 3:8). But from the Holy Ghost itself; which God, by faith, hath granted to be received by them that believe in the blood of his Jesus.
But you add, That Christ giveth, first repentance, and then forgiveness of sins (p. 17).
Answer. 1. This makes nothing for the holiness which we lost in Adam: for the proof of which you bring that text (Acts 5:31).
2. But for Christ to take way guilt, and the curse, from before the face of God, is one thing; and to make that discovery, is another.
3. Again, Christ doth not give forgiveness for the sake of that repentance, which hath its rise, originally from the dictates of our own nature, which is the thing you are to prove; for that repentance is called the sorrow of this world, and must be again repented of: but the repentance mentioned in the text, is that which comes from Christ: But,
4. It cannot be for the sake of gospel-repentance, that the forgiveness of sins is manifested, because both are his peculiar gift.
5. Therefore, both faith, and repentance, and forgiveness of sins, are given by Christ; and come to us, for the sake of that blessed offering of his body, once for all. For after he arose from the dead, having led captivity captive, and taken the curse from before the face of God: therefore his Father gave him gifts for men, even all the things that are necessary, and effectual, for our conversion, and preservation in this world, &c. (Eph 4:8).
This text, therefore, with all the rest you bring, falleth short of the least shew of proof, 'That the great errand for which Christ came into the world was—to put us in possession of the holiness that we had lost.'
Your third chapter is as empty of the proof of your design as that through which we have passed: there being not one scripture therein cited, that giveth the least intimation, that ever it entered into the heart of Christ to put us again into possession of that holiness which we had before we were converted: for such was that we lost in Adam.
You tell us the sum of all is, 'that we are commanded to add to our faith, virtue,' &c. (p. 25). I suppose you intend a gospel faith, which if you can prove Adam had before the fall, and that we lost this faith in him; and also that this gospel faith is none other, but that which originally ariseth from, or is the dictates of human nature, I will confess you have scripture, and knowledge beyond me. In the mean time you must suffer me to tell you, you are as far in this from the mind of the Holy Ghost, as if you had yet never in all your days heard whether there be a Holy Ghost or no.
Add to your faith. The apostle here lays a gospel principle, viz., Faith in the Son of God: which faith layeth hold of the forgiveness of sins, alone for the sake of Christ; therefore he is a great way off, of laying the purity of the human nature, the law, as written in the heart of natural man, as the principle of holiness; from whence is produced good works in the soul of the godly.
In your fourth chapter also (p. 28) even in the beginning thereof; even with one text you have overthrown your whole book.
This chapter is to prove, that the only design of the promises, and threatenings of the gospel, is to promote, and put us again in possession of the holiness we had lost. For that the reader must still remember, is the only design of your book (p. 12). Whereas the first text you speak of (2 Peter 1:4), maketh mention of the Divine nature, or of the Spirit of the living God, which is also received by the precious faith of Christ, and the revelation of the knowledge of him; this blessed Spirit, and therefore not the dictates of human nature, is the principle that is laid in the godly: but Adam's holiness had neither the knowledge, or faith, or Spirit of the Lord Jesus, as its foundation, or principle: yea, nature was his foundation, even his own nature was the original, from whence his righteousness and good works arose.
The next scriptures also, viz. 2 Corinthians 7:1; Romans 12:1 overthrow you; for they urge the promises as motives to stir us up to holiness. But Adam had neither the Spirit of Jesus, or faith him in him, as a principle: nor any promises to him as motives: wherefore this was not that to which he, or which we Christians are exhorted to seek the possession of; but that which is operated by that Spirit which we receive by the faith of Jesus, and that which is encouraged by those promises, that God hath since given to them that have closed by faith with Jesus.
The rest also (in p. 29), not one of them doth promise us the possession of the holiness we have lost, or any mercy to them that have it.
You add: 'And whereas the promises of pardon, and of eternal life are very frequently made to believing; there is nothing more evidently declared, than that this faith is such as purifieth the heart, and is productive of good works' (p.30).
Answer. 1. If the promise be made at all to believing, it is not made to us upon the account of the holiness we had lost; for I tell you yet again, that holiness is not of faith, neither was faith the effect thereof. But,
2. The promises of pardon, though they be made to such a faith as is fruitful in good works: yet not to it, as it is fruitful in doing, but in receiving good. Sir, the quality of justifying faith is this, Not to work, but to believe, as to the business of pardon of sin: and that not only, because of the sufficiency that this faith sees in Christ to justify, but also for that it knows those whom God thus pardoneth, he justifieth as ungodly. 'But to him that worketh not, but believeth'; (Mark, here faith and works are opposed) 'But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness' (Rom 4:5).
You add farther, 'That the promises may be reduced to these three heads; that of the Holy Spirit, of remission of sins, and eternal happiness, in the enjoyment of God' (p. 30).
Answer. If you can prove that any of these promises were made to the holiness that we had lost, or that by these promises we are to be possessed with that holiness again; I will even now lay down the bucklers. For albeit, the time will come when the saints shall be absolutely, and perfectly sinless; yet then shall they be also spiritual, immortal, and incorruptible, which you cannot prove Adam was, in the best of his holiness, even that which we lost in him.
The threatenings you speak of are every one made against sin, but not one of them to drive us into a possession of that holiness that we had lost: nay, contrariwise, he that looks to, or seeks after that, is as sure to be damned, and go to hell, as he that transgresseth the law; because that is not the righteousness of God, the righteousness of Christ, the righteousness of faith, nor that to which the promise is made.
And this was manifested to the world betimes, even in that day, when God drove the man and his wife out of Eden, and placed cherubims, and a flaming sword, in the way by which they came out, to the end, that by going back by that way, they might rather be killed and die, than lay hold of the 'tree of life' (Gen 3).
Which the apostle also respects, when he calleth the way of the gospel, the NEW and LIVING way, even that which is made by the blood of Christ (Heb 10:20); concluding by this description of the way that is by blood, that the other is old, and the way of death, even that which is by the moral law, or the dictates of our nature, or by that fond conceit of the goodly holiness of Adam.
[Our Lord's object not merely to restore man's natural holiness, but to impart his own infinite and eternal holiness to those that believe.]
Your fifth chapter tells us, 'That the promoting of holiness was the design of our Saviour's whole life and conversation among men' (p. 36).
Answer. 1. Were this granted, it reacheth nothing at all the design for which you in your way present us with it: For,
2. That which you have asserted is: That the errand about which Christ came, was, as the effecting our deliverance out of that sinful state we had brought ourselves into, so to put us again in possession of that holiness which we had lost; for that, you say, is the business of your book (p. 12). Wherefore you should have told us in the head of this chapter, not so much that our Saviour designed the promoting of holiness in general by his life, but that the whole design of our Saviour's life and conversation, was to put us again into possession of that holiness which we had lost, into a possession of that natural, old covenant, figurative, ignorant holiness. But it seems you count that there is no other than that now lost, but never again to be obtained holiness, that was in Adam.
3. Farther, you also falter here, as to the stating of the proposition; for in the beginning of your book, you state it thus: That the enduing men with inward real righteousness, or true holiness, was the ultimate end of our Saviour's coming into the world, still meaning the holiness we lost in Adam. You should therefore in this place also, have minded your reader of this your proposition, and made it manifest if you could, 'that the ultimate end of our Saviour's whole life and conversation, was the enduing men with this Adamitish holiness.' But holiness, and that holiness, is alone with you; and to make it his end, and whole end; his business, and the whole business of his life; is but the same with you.
But you must know, that the whole life and conversation of our Saviour, was intended for another purpose, than to drive us back to, or to endue us with, such an holiness and righteousness as I have proved this to be.
You have therefore, in this your discourse, put an insufferable affront upon the Son of God, in making all his life and conversation to centre and terminate in the holiness we had lost: As if the Lord Jesus was sent down from heaven, and the word of God made flesh; that by a perfect life and conversation, he might shew us how holy Adam was before he fell; or what an holiness that our holiness was, which we had before we were converted.
Your discourse therefore, of the life and conversation of the Lord Jesus, is none other than heathenish: For you neither treat of the principle, his Godhead, by which he did his works; neither do you in the least, in one syllable, aver the first, the main and prime reason of this his conversation; only you treat of it so far, as a mean man might have considered it. And indeed it stood not with your design to treat aright with these things; for had you mentioned the first, though but once, your Babel had tumbled about your ears; for if in the holy Jesus did 'dwell the word,' one of the three in heaven; or if the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was truly, essentially, and naturally God; then must the principle from whence his works did proceed, be better than the principle from whence proceeded the goodness in Adam; otherwise Adam must be God and man. Also you do, or may know that the self-same act may be done from several principles: and again, that it is the principle from whence the act is done, and not the bare doing of the act, that makes it better or worse accepted, in the eyes either of God or men.
Now then, to shew you the main, or chief design of the life and conversation of the Lord Jesus.
First, It was not to shew us what an excellent holiness we once had in Adam, but that thereby God, the Eternal Majesty, according to his promise, might be seen by, and dwell with, mortal men: For the Godhead being altogether in its own nature invisible, and yet desirous to be seen by, and dwell with the children of men; therefore was the Son, who is the self-same substance with the Father, closed with, or tabernacled in our flesh; that in that flesh, the nature and glory of the Godhead might be seen by, and dwell with us: 'The word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, [and we beheld his glory, (what glory? the glory,) as of the only begotten of the Father] full of grace and truth' (John 1:14). Again, 'The life [that is, the life of God, in the works and conversation of Christ] was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us' (1 John 1:2). And hence he is called the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15); or he by whom the invisible God is most perfectly presented to the sons of men. Did I say before, that the God of glory is desirous to be seen of us? Even so also, have the pure in heart, a desire that it should be so: 'Lord, say they, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us' (John 14:8). And therefore the promise is for their comfort, that 'they shall see God' (Matt 5:8). But how then must they see him? Why, in the person, and by the life and works of Jesus. When Philip, under a mistake, thought of seeing God some other way, than in and by this Lord Jesus Christ; What is the answer? 'Have I been so long time with you, [saith Christ] and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father, that dwelleth in me, he doth the works. Believe me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works' sake' (John 14:9-11). See here, that both the words and works of the Lord Jesus, were not to shew you, and so to call you back to the holiness that we had lost, but to give us visions of the perfections that are in the Father. He hath given us 'the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ' (2 Cor 4:6). And hence it is, that the apostle, in that brief collection of the wonderful mystery of godliness, placeth this in the front thereof: 'God was manifest in the flesh' (1 Tim 3:16). Was manifest, viz. In and by the person of Christ, when in the flesh he lived among us; manifest, I say, for this, as one reason, that the pure in heart, who long after nothing more, might see him. 'I beseech thee,' said Moses, 'shew me thy glory.' 'and will God indeed dwell with men on the earth?' saith Solomon.
Now to fulfil the desires of them that fear him, hath he shewed himself in flesh unto them; which discovery principally is made by the words and works of Christ. But,
Second, Christ by his words and works of righteousness, in the days of his flesh, neither shewed us which was, nor called us back to the possession of the holiness that we had lost; but did perfect, in, and by himself, the law for us, that we had broken. Man being involved in sin and misery, by reason of transgression committed against the law, or ministration of death, and being utterly unable to recover himself therefrom, the Son of God himself assumeth the flesh of man, and for sin condemned sin in that flesh. And that first, by walking, through the power of his eternal Spirit, in the highest perfection to every point of the whole law, in its most exact and full requirements; which was to be done, not only without commixing sin in his doing, but by one that was perfectly without the least being of it in his nature; yea, by one that now as God-Man, because it was God whose law was broken, and whose justice was offended: For, were it now possible to give a man possession of that holiness that he hath lost in Adam, that holiness could neither in the principle nor act deliver from the sin by him before committed. This is evident by many reasons: 1. Because it is not a righteousness able to answer the demands of the law for sin; that requiring not only a perfect abiding in the thing commanded, but a satisfaction by death, for the transgression committed against the law. 'The wages of sin is death' (Rom 6:23). Wherefore he that would undertake the salvation of the world, must be one who can do both these things; one that can perfectly do the demands of the law in thought, word, and deed, without the least commixture of the least sinful thought in the whole course of his life: He must be also able to give by death, even by the death that hath the curse of God in it, a complete satisfaction to the law for the breach thereof. Now this could none but Christ accomplish; none else having power to do it. 'I have power [said he] to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again: And this commandment have I received of my Father' (John 10:18). This work then must be done, not by another earthly Adam, but by the Lord from Heaven; by one that can abolish sin, destroy the devil, kill death, and rule as Lord in heaven and earth. Now the words and works of the Lord Jesus, declared him to be such an one. He was first without sin; then he did no sin; neither could either the devil, the whole world, or the law, find any deceit in his mouth: But by being under the law, and walking in the law, by that Spirit which was the Lord God of the law, he not only did always the things that pleased the Father, but by that means in man's flesh, he did perfectly accomplish and fulfil that law which all flesh stood condemned by. It is a foolish and an heathenish thing, nay worse, to think that the Son of God should only, or specially fulfil, or perfect the law, and the prophets, by giving more and higher instances of moral duties than were before expressly given (p. 17). This would have been but the lading of men with heavy burthens. But know then, whoever thou art that readest, that Christ's exposition of the law was more to shew thee the perfection of his own obedience, than to drive thee back to the holiness thou hadst lost; for God sent him to fulfil it, by doing it, and dying to the most sore sentence it could pronounce: not as he stood a single person, but common, as Mediator between God and man; making up in himself the breach that was made by sin, betwixt God and the world. For,
Third, He was to die as a lamb, as a lamb without blemish, and without spot, according to the type; 'Your lamb shall be without blemish' (Exo 12:5). But because there was none such to be found BY and AMONG all the children of men; therefore God sent HIS from heaven. Hence John calls him the Lamb of God (John 1:29), and Peter him that was without spot, who washed us by his blood (1 Peter 1:19). Now wherein doth it appear that he was without spot and blemish, but as he walked in the law? These words therefore without spot are the sentence of the law, who searching him could find nothing in him why he should be slain, yet he died because there was sin: Sin! where? Not in him, but in his people; 'For the transgression of my people was he stricken' (Isa 53:8). He died then for our sins, and qualified himself so to do, by coming sinless into the world, and by going sinless through it; for had he not done both these, he must have died for himself. But being God, even in despite of all that stumble at him, he conquered death, the devil, sin, and the curse, by himself, and then sat down at the right hand of God.
Fourth, And because he hath a second part of his priestly office to do in heaven; therefore it was thus requisite that he should thus manifest himself to be holy and harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners on the earth (Heb 7:26). As Aaron first put on the holy garments, and then went into the holiest of all. The life, therefore, and conversation of our Lord Jesus, was to shew us with what a curious robe and girdle he went into the holy place; and not to shew us with what an Adamitish holiness he would possess his own. 'Such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens'; that he might always be accepted, both in person and offering, when he presenteth his blood to God, the atonement for sin. Indeed in some things he was an example to us to follow him; but mark, it was not as he was Mediator, not as he was under the law to God, not as he died for sin, nor as he maketh reconciliation for iniquity. But in these things consist the life of our soul, and the beginning of our happiness. He was then exemplary to us, as he carried it meekly and patiently, and self-denyingly towards the world: But yet not so neither to any but such to whom he first offered justification by the means of his righteousness; for before he saith 'learn of me,' he saith, 'I will give you rest'; rest from the guilt of sin, and fear of everlasting burnings (Matt 11). And so Peter first tells us, he died for our sins; and next, that he left us an example (1 Peter 2:21). But should it be granted that the whole of Christ's life and conversation among men was for our example, for no other end at all, but that we should learn to live by his example, yet it would not follow, but be as far from truth as the ends of the earth are asunder, that by this means he sought to possess us with the holiness we had lost, for that he had not in himself; it is true he was born without sin, yet born God and man; he lived in the world without sin, but he lived as God-Man: he walked in and up to the law, but it was as God-Man. Neither did his manhood, even in those acts of goodness, which as to action, most properly respected it; do ought without, but by and in conjunction with his Godhead: Wherefore all and every whit of the righteousness and good that he did was that of God-Man, the righteousness of God. But this was not Adam's principle, nor any holiness that we had lost.
Your fifth chapter, therefore, consisteth of words spoken to the air.
Your sixth chapter tells us, 'That to make men truly virtuous and holy, was the design of Christ's inimitable actions, or mighty works and miracles, and these did only tend to promote it' (p. 68).
He neither did, nor needed, so much as one small piece of a miracle to persuade men to seek for the holiness which they had lost, or to give them again possession of that; for that as I have shewed, though you would fain have it otherwise, is not at all the Christian or gospel righteousness. Wherefore, in one word, you are as short by this chapter to prove your natural old covenant, promiseless, figurative holiness, to be here designed, as if you had said so much as amounts to nothing. Farther, Christ needed not to work a miracle to persuade men to fall in love with themselves, and their own natural dictates; to persuade them that they have a purity of the human nature in them; or that the holiness which they have lost, is the only true, real, and substantial holiness: These things, both corrupted nature and the devil, have of a long time fastened, and fixed in their minds.
His miracles therefore tend rather to take men off of the pursuit after the righteousness or holiness that we had lost, and to confirm unto us the truth of a far more excellent and blessed thing; to wit, the righteousness of God, of Christ, of faith, of the Spirit, which that you speak of never knew; neither is it possible that he should know it who is hunting for your sound complexion, your purity of human nature, or its dictates, as the only true, real, and substantial righteousness. 'They are ignorant of God's righteousness, that go about to establish their own righteousness'; and neither have, nor can, without a miracle, submit themselves unto the righteousness of God. They cannot submit themselves thereto; talk thereof they may, notion it they may, profess it too they may; but for a man to submit himself thereto, is by the might power of God.
Miracles and signs are for them that believe not (1 Cor 14:22). Why for them? That they might believe; therefore their state is reckoned fearful that have not yet believed for all his wondrous works. And though he did so many miracles among them, yet they believed him not (John 12:37-40). But what should they believe? That Jesus is the true Messias, the Christ that should come into the world. Do you say that I blaspheme (saith Christ) because I said I am the Son of God: 'If I do not the works of my Father believe me not; but if I do, though ye believe not me believe the works: that ye may know, and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him' (John 10:37,38). But what is it to believe that he is Messias, or Christ? Even to believe that this man Jesus was ordained and appointed of God (and that before all worlds) to be the Saviour of men, by accomplishing in himself an everlasting righteousness for them, and by bearing their sins in his body on the tree; that it was he that was to reconcile us to God, by the body of his flesh, when he hanged on the cross. This is the doctrine that at the beginning Christ preached to that learned ignorant Nicodemus. 'As Moses [said he] lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life' (John 3:14,15). The serpent was lifted up upon a pole (Num 21:9): 'Christ was hanged on a tree.' The serpent was lifted up for murmurers: Christ was hanged up for sinners: The serpent was lifted up for them that were bitten with fiery serpents, the fruits of their wicked murmuring: Christ was hanged up for them that are bitten with guilt, the rage of the devil, and the fear of death and wrath: The serpent was hanged up to be looked on: Christ was hanged up that we might believe in him, that we might have faith in his blood: They that looked upon the serpent of brass lived: They that believe in Christ shall be saved, and shall never perish. Was the serpent then lifted up for them that were good and godly? No, but for the sinners: 'So God commended his love to us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.' But what if they that were stung, could not, because of the swelling of their face, look up to the brazen serpent? then without remedy they die: So he that believeth not in Christ shall be damned. But might they not be healed by humbling themselves? one would think that better than to live by looking up only: No, only looking up did it, when death swallowed up them that looked not. This then is the doctrine, 'Christ came into the world to save sinners': according to the proclamation of Paul, 'Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.' The forgiveness of sins: But what is meant by forgiveness? Forgiveness doth strictly respect the debt, or punishment that by sin we have brought upon ourselves. But how are we by this man forgiven this? Because by his blood he hath answered the justice of the law, and so made amends to an offended majesty. Besides, this man's righteousness is made over to him that looks up to him for life; yea, that man is made the righteousness of God in him. This is the doctrine that the miracles were wrought to confirm, and that, both by Christ, and his apostles, and not that holiness and righteousness, that is the fruit of a feigned purity of our nature.
Take two or three instances for all.
First, 'Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not; the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep' (John 10:24-26).
By this scripture the Lord Jesus testifies what was the end of his words and wondrous works, viz. That men might know that he was the Christ; that he was sent of God to be the Saviour of the world; and that these miracles required of them, first of all, that they accept of him by believing; a thing little set by, by our author, first in p. 299 he preferreth his doing righteousness far before it, and above all things else, his words are verbatim thus, 'Let us exercise ourselves unto real and substantial godliness, [such as he hath described in the first part of his book, viz. That which is the dictates of his human nature, &c.] and in keeping our consciences void of offence, both towards God and towards men, and in studying the gospel to enable us, not to discourse, or only to believe, but also and above all things to do well.' But believing, though not with this man, yet by Christ and his wondrous miracles, is expected first, and above ALL things, from men; and to do well, in the best sense (though his sense is the worst) is that which by the gospel is to come after.
Second, 'Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them,' &c. (Mark 16:15-18).
Mark you here, it is believing, believing; It is, I say, believing that is here required by Christ. Believing what? The gospel; even good tidings to sinners by Jesus Christ; good tidings of good, glad tidings of good things. Mark how the apostle hath it; the glad tidings is, 'That through this man [Jesus] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses' (Acts 13:38,39).
These signs shall follow them that believe. Mark, signs before, and signs after, and all to excite to, and confirm the weight of believing. 'And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen' (Mark 16:20).
Third, 'Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will' (Heb 2:1-4).
Here we are excited to the faith of the Lord Jesus, under these words 'so great salvation.' As if he had said, give earnest heed, the most earnest heed, to the doctrine of the Lord Jesus, because it is 'so great salvation.' What this salvation is, he tells us, it is that which was preached by the Lord himself; 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life' (John 3:16). God so loved, that he gave his Son to be so great salvation. Now as is expressed in the text, to be the better for this salvation, is, to give heed to hear it; for 'Faith cometh by hearing' (Rom 10:17).
He saith not give heed to doing, but to the word you have heard; faith, I say, cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10). But that this hearing is the hearing of faith, is farther evident:
1. Because he speaketh of a great salvation, accomplished by the love of God in Christ, accomplished by his blood. 'By his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us' (Heb 9:12).
2. This salvation is set in opposition to that which was propounded before, by the ministration of angels, which consisted in a law of works; that which Moses received to give to the children of Israel. 'For the law [a command to works and duties] was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ' (John 1:17). To live by doing works is the doctrine of the law and Moses; but to live by faith and grace, is the doctrine of Christ, and the gospel.
Besides, the threatening being pressed with an 'How shall we escape?' Respects still a better, a freer, a more gracious way of life, than either the moral or ceremonial law; for both these were long before: But here comes in another way, not that propounded by Moses, or the angels, but since by the Lord himself. 'How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.'
Now mark, It is this salvation, this so great and eternal salvation, that was obtained by the blood of the Lord himself. It was this, even to confirm faith in this, that the God of heaven himself came down to confirm, by signs and wonders; 'God bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will' (Heb 2:4).
Thus we see, that to establish a holiness that came from the first principles of morals in us, or that ariseth from the dictates of our human nature, or to drive us back to that figurative holiness that we had once, but lost in Adam, is little thought on by Jesus Christ, and as little intended by any of the gospel miracles.
A word or two more. The tribute money you mention, was not as you would clawingly insinuate for no other purpose, than to shew Christ's loyalty to the magistrate: But first, and above all, to shew his godhead, to confirm his gospel, and then to shew his loyalty, the which, Sir, the persons you secretly smite at, have respect for, as much as you.
Again, Also the curse of the barren fig-tree, mentioned (p. 73) was not (if the Lord himself may be believed) to give us an emblem of a person void of good works; but to shew his disciples the power of faith, and what a wonder-working thing that blessed grace is. Wherefore, when the disciples wondered at that sudden blast that was upon the tree, Jesus answered not, behold an emblem of one void of moral virtues; but 'Verily, I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig-tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive' (Matt 21:21,22). Again, Mark saith, When Peter saw the fig-tree that the Lord had cursed dried up from the roots, he said to his master, 'behold the fig-tree which thou cursedst is withered away' (11:21). Christ now doth not say as you, this tree was an emblem of a professor void of good works; but, 'Have faith in, or the faith of God. For, verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he said shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.' Christ Jesus therefore had a higher, and a better end, than that which you propound, in his cursing the barren fig-tree, even to shew, as himself expounds it, the mighty power of faith; and how it lays hold of things in heaven, and tumbleth before it things on earth. Wherefore your scriptureless exposition, doth but lay you even Solomon's proverb, 'The legs of the lame are not equal,' &c. (Prov 26:7).
I might enlarge; but enough of this; only here I add, that the wonders and miracles that attend the gospel, were wrought, and are recorded, to persuade to faith in Christ. By faith in Christ men are justified from the curse, and judgment of the law. This faith worketh by love, by the love of God it brings up the heart to God, and goodness; but not by your covenant (Eze 16:61), not by principles of human nature, but of the Spirit of God; not in a poor, legal, old covenant, promiseless, ignorant, shadowish, natural holiness, but by the Holy Ghost.
[The death of Christ accomplished an infinitely greater object than the restoring of man to his original temporal holiness.]
I come now to your seventh chapter; but to that I have spoken briefly already, and therefore here shall be the shorter.
In this chapter you say, 'that to make men holy was the design of Christ's death' (p. 78).
Answer. 1. But not with your described principles of humanity, and dictates of human nature. He designed not, as I have fully proved, neither by his death, nor life, to put us into a possession of the holiness which we had lost, though the proof of that be the business of your book.
2. To make men holy, was doubtless designed by the death and blood of Christ: but the way and manner of the proceeding of the Holy Ghost therein, you write not of; although the first text you mention (p. 78,79) doth fairly present you with it. For the way to make men inwardly holy, by the death and blood of Christ, is, first, to possess them with the knowledge of this, that their sins were crucified with him, or that he did bar them in his body on the tree: 'Knowing this, that our Old Man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin' (Rom 6:6). So he died for all, that they that live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, as you would have them, nor to the law or dictates of their own nature, as your doctrine would persuade them; 'but to him that died for them, and rose again' (2 Cor 5:15).
There are two things, in the right stating of the doctrine of the effects of the death and blood of Christ, that do naturally effect in us an holy principle, and also a life becoming such a mercy.
First, For that by it we are set at liberty, by faith therein, from the guilt, and curse that is due to guilt, from death, the devil, and the wrath to come. No encouragement to holiness like this, like the persuasion, and belief of this; because this carrieth in it the greatest expression of love, that we are capable of hearing or believing, and there is nothing that worketh on us so powerfully as love. 'Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins' (1 John 4:10). He then that by faith can see that the body of his sin did hang upon the cross, by the body of Christ, and that can see by that action, death and sin, the devil and hell, destroyed for him; it is he that will say, 'Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name,' &c. (Psa 103:1-4).
Second, Moreover, the knowledge of this giveth a man to understand this mystery, That Christ and himself are united in one. For faith saith, If our Old Man was crucified with Christ, then were we also reckoned in him, when he hanged on the cross, 'I am crucified with Christ' (Gal 2:20). All the Elect did mystically hang upon the cross in Christ. We then are dead to the law, and sin, first, by the body of Christ (Rom 7:4). Now he that is dead is free from sin; now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall live with him, knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him; for in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God: likewise reckon yourselves also dead unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 6). This also Peter doth lively discourse of, 'Forasmuch then [saith he] as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin' (1 Peter 4:1). By which words he insinuateth the mystical union that is between Christ the head, and the Elect his body: arguing from the suffering of a part, there should be a sympathy in the whole. If Christ then suffered for us, we were (even our sins, bodies and souls) reckoned in him when he so suffered. Wherefore, by his sufferings, the wrath of God for us is appeased, the curse is taken from us: for as Adam by his acts of rebellion, made all that were in him guilty of his wickedness; so Christ by his acts, and doings of goodness, and justice; made all that were reckoned in him good, and just also: but as Adam's transgression did first, and immediately reside with, and remain in the person of Adam only, and the imputation of that transgression to them that sprang from him; so the goodness, and justice, that was accomplished by the second Adam, first, and immediately resideth in him, and is made over to his also, by the imputation of God. But again, as they that were in Adam, stood not only guilty of sin, by imputation, but polluted by the filth that possessed him at his fall; so the children of the second Adam, do not only, though first, stand just by virtue of the imputation of the personal acts of justice, and goodness done by Christ; but they also receive of that inward quality, the grace, and holiness that was in him, at the day of his rising from the dead.
Thus therefore come we to be holy, by the death, and blood of the Lord: this also is the contents of those other scriptures, which abusively you cite, to justify your assertion, to wit.
'That the great errand of Christ in coming into the world, was—to put us again into possession of the holiness which we had lost. And that only designed the establishing such a holiness, as is seated originally in our natures, and originally dictates of the human nature.' The rest of the chapter being spoken to already, I pass it, and proceed to the next.
Your eighth chapter tells us, 'That it is only the promoting of the design of making men holy, that is aimed at by the apostles insisting on the doctrines of Christ's resurrection, ascension, and coming again to judgment.'
Though this should be granted, as indeed it ought not; yet there is not one syllable in all their doctrines, that tendeth in the least to drive men back to the possession of the holiness we had lost; which is still the thing asserted by you, and that, for the proof of which you make this noise, and ado. Neither did Christ at all design the promoting of holiness, by such principles as you have asserted in your book; neither doth the holy Spirit of God, either help us in, or excite us to our duty, SIMPLY from such natural principles.
But the apostles in these doctrines you mention, had far other glorious designs; such as were truly gospel, and tended to strengthen our faith yet farther: As,
First, For the resurrection of Christ; they urge THAT, as an undeniable argument, of his doing away sin, by his sacrifice and death: 'He was delivered for our offences,' because he put himself into the room, and state of the wicked, as undertaking their deliverance from death, and the everlasting wrath of God. Now putting himself into their condition, he bears their sins, and dies their death; but how shall we know, that by undertaking this work, he did accomplish the thing he intended? the answer is, 'He was raised again for our justification' (Rom 4:25). Even to make it manifest, that by the offering of himself he had purged our sins from before the face of God. For in that he was raised again, and that by him, for the appeasing of whose wrath he was delivered up to death; it is evident that the work for us, was by him effectually done: for God raised him up again. And hence it is that Paul calls the resurrection of Christ, 'the sure mercies of David. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David' (Acts 13:34). For Christ having conquered and overcome death, sin, the devil, and the curse, by himself, as it is manifest he did, by his rising from the dead; what now remains for him, for whom he did this, but mercy and goodness for ever?
Wherefore the resurrection of Christ is that which sealeth the truth of our being delivered from the wrath by his blood.
Second, As to his ascension they [the inspired writers] urge and make use of that, for divers weighty reasons also.
1. As a farther testimony yet, of the sufficiency of his righteousness to justify sinners withal: for if he that undertaketh the work, is yet entertained by him, whose wrath he was to appease thereby: What is it? But that he hath so completed that work. Wherefore he saith, that the Holy Ghost shall convince the world; that he hath a sufficient righteousness, and that because he went to the Father and they saw him no more (John 16), because he, when he ascended up to the Father, was there entertained, accepted, and embraced of God. That is an excellent word. 'He is chosen of God, and precious.' Chosen of God to be the righteousness, that his Divine Majesty is pleased with, and takes complacency in; God hath chosen, exalted, and set down Christ at his own right hand; for the sweet savour that he smelled in his blood, when he died for the sins of the world.
2. By his ascension he sheweth how he returned conqueror, and victor over our enemies. His ascension was his going home, from whence he came, to deliver us from death: now it is said, that when he returned home, or ascended, 'he led captivity captive' (Eph 4), that is, carried them prisoners, whose prisoners we were: He rode to heaven in triumph, having in chains the foes of believers.
3. In that he ascended, it was, that he might perform for us, the second part of his priestly office, or mediatorship. He is gone into heaven itself, there 'now to appear in the presence of God for us' (Heb 9:24). 'Wherefore, he is able also to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by him, [as indifferent a thing as you make it to be] seeing he ever liveth [viz. in heaven, whither he is ascended] to make intercession for them' (7:25).
4. He ascended, that he might be exalted not only above, but be made head over all things to the church. Wherefore now in heaven, as the Lord in whose hand is all power, he ruleth over, both men, and devils, sin, and death, hell, and all calamities, for the good and profit of his body, the church (Eph 1:19-23).
5. He ascended to prepare a place for us, who shall live and die in the faith of Jesus (John 14:1-3).
6. He ascended, because there he was to receive the Holy Ghost, the great promise of the New Testament; that he might communicate of that unto his chosen ones, to give them light to see his wonderful salvation, and to be as a principle of holiness in their souls: 'For the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified' (John 7:39). But when he ascended on high, even as he led captivity captive, so he received gifts for men; by which gifts he meaneth the Holy Ghost, and the blessed and saving operations thereof (Luke 24; Acts 1:2).
Third. As to his coming again to judgment, that doctrine is urged, to shew the benefit that the godly will have at that day, when he shall gather together his elect, and chosen, from one end of heaven unto the other. As also to shew you what an end he will make with those who have not obeyed his gospel (Matt 25; 2 Thess 1:8; 2 Peter 3:7-11).
Now it is true, all these doctrines do forcibly produce an holy, and heavenly life, but neither from your principles, nor to the end you propound; to wit, that we should be put into possession of our first, old covenant righteousness, and act from human and natural principles.
Your ninth chapter is spent, as you suppose, to shew us the nature, and evil of sin; but because you do it more like a heathen philosopher, than a minister of the gospel, I shall not much trouble myself therewith.
Your tenth chapter consisteth in a commendation of virtue, but still of that, and no other, though counterfeited for another, than at first you have described (chap. 1) even such, which is as much in the heathens you make mention of, as in any other man, being the same both in root, and branches, which is naturally to be found in all men, even as is sin and wickedness itself. And hence you call it here, a living up to your feigned 'highest principles, like a creature possessed of a mind and reason.' Again, 'While we do thus, we act most agreeably to the right frame and constitution of our souls, and consequently most naturally; and all the actions of nature, are confessedly very sweet and pleasant'; of which very thing you say, 'the heathens had a great sense' (p. 113,114).
Ans. No marvel, for it was their work, not to search the deep things of God, but those which be the things of a man, and to discourse of that righteousness, and principle of holiness, which was naturally founded, and found within themselves, as men; or, as you say, 'as creatures possessed with a mind and reason.' But as I have already shewed, all this may be, where the Holy Ghost and faith is absent, even by the dictates, as you call them, of human nature; a principle, and actions, when trusted to that, as much please the devil, as any wickedness that is committed by the sons of men. I should not have thus boldly inserted it, but that yourself did tell me of it (p. 101). But I believe it was only extorted from you; your judgment, and your Apollo, suit not here, though indeed the devil is in the right; for this righteousness and holiness which is our own, and of ourselves, is the greatest enemy to Jesus Christ: the post against his post, and the wall against his wall. 'I came not to call the righteous [puts you quit of the world] but sinners to repentance.'
[Man in wretched uncertainty if he possessed no better holiness than that of Adam in his creation.]
Your eleventh chapter is, to shew what a miserable creature that man is, that is destitute of your holiness.
Ans. And I add, as miserable is he, that hath, or knoweth no better. For such an one is under the curse of God, because he abideth in the law of works, or in the principles of his own nature, which neither can cover his sins from the sight of God, nor possess him with faith or the Holy Ghost.
There are two things in this chapter, that proclaim you to be ignorant of Jesus Christ.
First, you say, It is not possible a wicked man should have God's pardon (p. 119,130).
Secondly, You suppose it to be impossible for Christ's righteousness to be imputed to an unrighteous man (p. 120).
Ans. To both which, a little briefly; God doth not use to pardon painted sinners, but such as are really so. Christ died for sinners (1 Tim 1:15), and God justifieth the ungodly (Rom 5:6-9), even him that worketh not (4:3-5), nor hath no works to make him godly (9:18; Isa 33:11). Besides, pardon supposes sin; now he that is a sinner is a wicked man; by nature a child of wrath, and, as such, an object of the curse of God, because he hath broken the law of God. But such God pardoneth; not because they have made themselves holy, or have given up themselves to the law of nature, or to the dictates of their human principles, but because he will be gracious, and because he will give to his beloved Son Jesus Christ, the benefit of his blood.
As to the second head, what need is there that the righteousness of Christ should be imputed, where men are righteous first? God useth not thus to do; his righteousness is for the 'stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness' (Isa 46:12).
The believing of Abraham was while yet he was uncircumcised; and circumcision was added, not to save him by, but as a seal of the righteousness of that faith, which he had, being yet uncircumcised. Now we know that circumcision in the flesh, was a type of circumcision in the heart (Rom 2); wherefore the faith that Abraham had, before his outward circumcision, was to shew us, that faith, if it be right, layeth hold upon the righteousness of Christ, before we be circumcised inwardly; and this must needs be so: for if faith doth purify the heart, then it must be there before the heart is purified. Now this inward circumcision is a seal, or sign of this: that that is the only saving faith, that layeth hold upon Christ before we be circumcised. But he that believeth before he be inwardly circumcised, must believe in another, in a righteousness without him, and that, as he standeth at present in himself ungodly; for he is not circumcised; which faith, if it be right, approveth itself also so to be, by an after work of circumcising inwardly. But, I say, the soul that thus layeth hold on Christ, taketh the only way to please his God, because this is that also, which himself hath determined shall be accomplished upon us. 'Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth THE UNGODLY, his faith is counted for righteousness' (Rom 4). He that is ungodly, hath a want of righteousness, even of the inward righteousness of works: but what must become of him? Let him believe in him that justifieth the ungodly, because, for that purpose, there is in him a righteousness. We will now return to Paul himself; he had righteousness before he was justified by Christ; yet, he choose to be justified rather as an unrighteous man, than as one endued with so brave a qualification. That I may 'be found in him, not having mine own righteousness,' away with mine own righteousness; I choose rather to be justified as ungodly, by the righteousness of Christ, than by mine own, and his together (Phil 3).
You argue therefore, like him that desireth to be a teacher of the law, (nay worse,) that neither knoweth what he saith, nor whereof he affirmeth. But you say,
'Were it possible that Christ's righteousness could be imputed to an unrighteous man, I dare boldly affirm that it would signify as little to his happiness, while he continueth so, as would a gorgeous, and splendid garment, to one that is almost starved,' &c (p. 12).
Ans. 1. That Christ's righteousness is imputed to men, while sinners, is sufficiently testified by the word of God (Eze 16:1-8; Zech 3:1-5; Rom 3:24-25, 4:1-5, 5:6-9; 2 Cor 5:18-21; Phil 3:6-8; 1 Tim 1:15,16; Rev 1:5).
2. And that the sinner, or unrighteous man, is happy in this imputation, is also as abundantly evident. For, (1.) The wrath of God, and the curse of the law, are both taken off by this imputation. (2.) The graces and comforts of the Holy Ghost, are all entailed to, and followers of, this imputation. 'Blessed is he to whom the Lord will not impute sin.' It saith not, that he is blessed that hath not sin to be imputed, but he to whom God will not impute them, he saith, therefore the non-imputation of sin, doth not argue a non being thereof in the soul, but a glorious act of grace, imputing the sufficiency of Christ's righteousness, to justify him that is yet ungodly.
But what blessedness doth follow the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, to one that is yet ungodly?
Ans. Even the blessing of Abraham, to wit, grace and eternal life: For Christ was made the curse, and death, that was due to us as sinners; 'That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles, through [faith in] Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith' (Gal 3:13,14). Now faith hath its eye upon two things, with respect to its act of justifying. First, it acknowledgeth that the soul is a sinner, and then, that there is a sufficiency in the righteousness of Christ, to justify it in the sight of God, though a sinner.
We have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; therefore they that believe aright, receive righteousness, even the righteousness of another, to justify them, while yet in themselves they are sinners.
Why do they believe in Christ? the answer is: that they might be justified, not because in their own eyes they are. They therefore at present stand condemned in themselves, and therefore they believe in Jesus Christ, that they might be set free from present condemnation. Now being justified by his blood, as ungodly, they shall be saved by his life, that is, by his intercession: for whom he justifieth by his blood, he saveth by his intercession; for by that is given the spirit, faith, and all grace that preserveth the elect unto eternal life and glory.
I conclude therefore, that you argue not gospelly, in that you so Boldly affirm, That it would signify as little to the happiness of one, to be justified by Christ's righteousness, while a sinner; as would a gorgeous and splendid garment to one that is ready to perish. For farther, thus to be justified, is meat and drink to the sinner; and so the beginning of eternal life in him. 'My flesh is meat indeed [said Christ] and my blood is drink indeed; and he that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal, or everlasting life.' He affirmeth it once again: 'As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me' (John 6:57). Here now is a man an hungered, what must he feed upon? Not his pure humanity, not upon the sound complexion of his soul, nor yet on the dictates of his human nature, nor those neither, which you call truly generous principles: but upon the flesh and blood of the Son of God, which was once given for the sin of the world. Let those then, that would be saved from the devil and hell, and that would find a fountain of grace in themselves, first receive, and feed upon Christ, as sinners and ungodly; let them believe that both his body, and blood, and soul, was offered for them, as they were sinners. The believing of this, is the eating of Christ; this eating of Christ, is the beginning of eternal life, to wit, of all grace and health in the soul; and of glory to be enjoyed most perfectly in the next world.
Your twelfth chapter is to shew, 'That holiness being perfected is blessedness itself; and that the glory of heaven consists chiefly in it.'
Ans. But none of your holiness, none of that inward holiness, which we have lost before conversion, shall ever come to heaven: that being, as I have shewed, a holiness of another nature, and arising from another root, than that we shall in heaven enjoy.
But further, your description of the glory that we shall possess in heaven, is questionable, as to your notion of it; your notion is, that the substance of it consists 'in a perfect resemblance to the divine nature' (p. 123,124).
Ans. Therefore not in the enjoyment of the divine nature itself: for that which in substance is but a bare resemblance, though it be a most perfect one, is not the thing itself, of which it is a resemblance. But the blessedness that we shall enjoy in heaven, in the very substance of it, consisteth not wholly, nor principally, in a resemblance of, but in the enjoyment of God himself; 'Heirs of God.' Wherefore there shall not be in us a likeness only to, but the very nature of God: 'Heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ' (Rom 8:17). Hence the apostle tells us, that he 'rejoiced in hope of the glory of God' (Rom 5:2). Not only in hope of a resemblance of it. 'The Lord is my portion, saith my soul.' But this is like the rest of your discourse. You are so in love with your Adamitish holiness, that with you it must be God in earth, and heaven.
Who they are that hold, [that] our happiness in heaven shall come by a mere fixing our eyes upon the divine perfections, I know not: But thus I read, 'we shall be like him.' Why? or how? 'For we shall see him as he is.' Our likeness then to God, even in the very heavens, will in great part come by the visions of him. And to speak the truth, our very entrance into eternal life, or the beginnings of it here, they come to us thus, 'But we all [every one of us that shall be saved, come by it only thus] with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord' (2 Cor 3:18).
And whereas you tell us (p. 124). That the devils themselves have a large measure of some of the attributes of God, as knowledge, power, &c. though themselves are unlike unto them.
In this you most prodigiously blaspheme.
Your thirteenth chapter is to show, 'That our Saviour's preferring the business of making men holy, before any other, witnesseth, that this is to do the best service to God.'
But still respecting the holiness, you have in your first chapter described, which still the reader must have his eye upon, it is false, and a slander of the Son of God. He never intended to promote or prefer your natural old covenant holiness, viz. that which we had lost in Adam, or that which yet from him, in the dregs thereof, remaineth in human nature; but that which is of the Holy Ghost, of faith, of the new covenant.
I shall not here again take notice of your 130th page, nor with the error contained therein, about justification by imputed righteousness.
But one thing I observe, that in all this chapter you have nothing fortified what you say, by any word of God; no, though you insinuate (p. 129 and p. 131) that some dissent from your opinion. But instead of the holy words of God, being as you feign, conscious to yourself, you cannot do it so well as by another method, viz. The words of Mr. John Smith; therefore you proceed with his, as he with Plato's, and so wrap you up the business.
[Christ gives a new and spiritual light.]
You come next to an improvement upon the whole, where you make a comparison between the heathens and the gospel; shewing how far the gospel helpeth the light the heathens had, in their pursuit after your holiness. But still the excellency of the gospel, as you have vainly dreamt, is to make improvement first of the heathen principles; such good principles, say you, 'as were by the light of nature dictated to them' (p. 133). As,
1. 'That there is but one God; that he is infinitely perfect,' &c.
2. 'That we owe our lives, and all the comforts of them to him.'
3. 'That he is our sovereign Lord.'
4. 'That he is to be loved above all things' (p. 136).
Ans. 1. Seeing all these are, and may be known, as you yourself confess, by them that have not the gospel; and I add, nor yet the Holy Ghost, nor any saving knowledge of God, or eternal life: Therefore it cannot be the design of Jesus Christ by the gospel to promote or help forward this knowledge, simply from this principle, viz. Natural light, and the dictates of it. My reason is, because when nature is strained to the highest pin, it is but nature still; and so all the improvement of its light and knowledge is but an increase of that which is but natural. 'But [saith Paul] the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned' (1 Cor 2:14).
But the gospel is the ministration of the Spirit; a revelation of another thing than is found in, or can be acquired by, heathenish principles of nature.
I say, a revelation of another thing; or rather, another discovery of the same. As, 1. Concerning the Godhead; the gospel giveth us another discovery of it, than is possible to be obtained by the dictates of natural light; even a discovery of a trinity of persons, and yet unity of essence, in the same Deity (1 John 5:1,5,8). 2. The light of nature will not shew us, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. 3. The light of nature will not shew us, that we owe what we are, and have, to God, because we are the price of the blood of his Son. 4. The light of nature will not shew, that there is such a thing as election in Christ. 5. Or, that there is such a thing, as the adoption of children to God, through him. 6. Nor, that we are to be saved by faith in his blood. 7. Or, that the man Christ shall come from heaven to judgment. These things, I say, the light of nature teacheth not; but these things are the great and mighty things of the gospel, and those about which it chiefly bendeth itself, touching upon other things, still as those that are knowable, by a spirit inferior to this of the gospel.
Besides, as these things are not known by the light of nature, so the gospel, when it comes, as I also told you before, doth implant in the soul another principle, by which they may be received, and from which the soul should act and do, both towards God and towards men; as namely the Holy Ghost, faith, hope, the joy of the Spirit, &c.
The other things you mention, viz.
1. 'The immorality of the soul' (p. 138).
2. 'The doctrine of rewards and punishments in the life to come' (p. 140).
3. 'Of the forgiveness of sin upon true repentance,' &c. (p. 142).
[4. The doctrine of God's readiness to assist men by his special grace in their endeavours after virtue (p. 143).]
Ans. All these things may be assented to, where yet the grace of the gospel is not, but yet the apprehension must be such, as is the light by which they are discovered; but the light of nature cannot discover them, according to the light and nature of the gospel; because the gospel knowledge of them, ariseth also from another principle: So then, These doctrines are not confirmed by the gospel, as the light of nature teacheth them: Wherefore, Paul, speaking of the things of the gospel, and so consequently of these, he saith, 'Which things also we speak, NOT in the WORDS which MAN'S wisdom teacheth, but which the HOLY GHOST teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual' (1 Cor 2:13). As if he should say, We speak of God, of the soul, of the life to come, of repentance, of forgiveness of sins, &c. Not as philosophers do, nor yet in their light; but as saints, Christians, and sons of God, as such who have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God.
But you add (for the glory of the gospel) That we have other things, which no man could, without divine revelation, once have dreamed of. As,
That God hath made miserable sinners the objects of such transcendent love, as to give them his only begotten Son.
Ans. I must confess, If this one head had by you been handled well, you would have written like a worthy gospel minister. But you add (p. 146).
1. That when Christ was sent, it was to shew us upon what terms God was reconcilable to us, viz. By laying 'before us all the parts of that holiness, which is necessary to restore our natures to his own likeness;—and most pathetically, moreover to intreat us to do what lieth in us to put them in practice, that so it may be to eternity well with us.' What these things are, you mention not here; therefore I shall leave them to be spoken to under the third head.
2. A second thing you mention is, 'That this Son of God conversed upon equal terms with men, becoming the Son of Man, born of a woman [a great demonstration that God hath a liking to the human nature].' But little to the purpose as you have handled it.
3. 'That the Son of God taught men their duty, by his own example, and did himself perform what he required of them; and that himself did tread before us EVERY step of that way, which he hath told us leadeth to eternal life.'
Ans. Now we are come to the point, viz.: 'That the way to eternal life is, First of all to take Christ for our example, trading his step': And the reason, if it be true, is weighty: 'For he hath trod every step before us, which he hath told us leads to eternal life.'
1. Every step. Therefore he went to heaven by virtue of an imputative righteousness. For this is one of our steps thither.
2. Every step. Then he must go thither, by faith in his own blood for pardon of sin. For this is another of our steps thither.
3. Every step. Then he must go thither by virtue of his own intercession at the right hand of God, before he came thither: For this is one of our steps thither.
4. Every step. Then he must come to God, and ask mercy for some great wickedness, which he had committed. For this is also one of our steps thither.
But again, we will consider it the other way.
1. Every step. Then we cannot come to heaven, before we first be made accursed of God. For so was he before he came thither.
2. Every step. Then we must first make our body and soul an offering for the sin of others. For this did he before he came thither.
3. Every step. Then we must go to heaven for the sake of our own righteousness. For that was one of his steps thither.
O, Sir! What will thy gallant, generous mind do here? Indeed you talk of his being an expiatory sacrifice for us, but you put no more trust to that, than to Baptism, or the Lord's Supper; counting that, with the other two, but things indifferent in themselves (p. 6-9).
You add again, 'That this Son of God being raised from the dead, and ascended to heaven, is our high priest there': But you talk not at all of his sprinkling the mercy seat with his blood, but clap upon him, the heathens demons; negotiating the affairs of men with the supreme God, and so wrap up, with a testification that it is needless to enlarge on the point (p. 149).
But to be plain, and in one word to tell you, about all these things you are heathenishly dark; there hath not in these one hundred and fifty pages one gospel truth been christianity handled by you; but rather a darkening of truth by words without knowledge. What man that ever had read, or assented to the gospel, but would have spoken, yet kept within the bounds of truth, more honourably of Christ, than you have done? His sacrifice must be stept over, as the spider straddleth over the wasp, his intercession is needless to be enlarged upon. But when it falleth in your way to talk of your human nature, of the dictates, of the first principles of morals within you, and of your generous mind to follow it: oh what needs is there now of amplifying, enlarging, and pressing it on men's consciences! As if that poor heathenish, pagan principle, was the very spirit of God within us: And as if righteousness done by that, was that, and that only, that would or could fling heaven gates off the hinges.
Yea, a little after you tell us, that 'The doctrine of his sending the Holy Ghost, was to move and excite us to our duty, and to assist, cheer, and comfort us in the performance of it.' Still meaning our close adhering, by the purity of our human nature, to the dictates of the law, as written in our hearts as men. Which is as false as God is true. For the Holy Ghost is sent into our hearts, not to excite us to a compliance with our old and wind-shaken excellencies, that came into the world with us; but to write new laws in our hearts; even the law of faith, the word of faith and of grace, and the doctrine of remission of sins, through the blood of the Lamb of God, that holiness might flow from thence.
Your 15th chapter is to shew, That the gospel giveth far greater helps to an holy life, than the Jewish ceremonies did of old. I answer,
But the reader must here well weigh, that in the gospel you find also some positive precepts, that are of the same nature with the ceremonies under the law; of which, that of coming to God by Christ, you call one, and baptism, and the Lord's supper, the other two. So then by your doctrine, the excellency of the gospel doth not lie in that we have a Christ to come to God by, but in things as you feign more substantial. What are they? 'Inward principles of holiness' (p. 159). Spiritual precepts (p. 162). That height of virtue, and true goodness, that the gospel designeth to raise us to: all which are general words, falling from a staggering conscience, leaving the world, that are ignorant of his mind, in a muse; but tickling his brethren with the delights of their moral principles, with the dictates of their human nature, and their gallant generous minds. Thus making a very stalking-horse of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the words of truth and holiness, thereby to slay the silly one; making the Lord of life and glory, instead of a saviour, by his blood, the instructor, and schoolmaster only of human nature, a chaser away of evil affections, and an extinguisher of burning lusts; and that not so neither, but by giving perfect explications of moral precepts (p. 17), and setting himself an example before them to follow him (p. 297).
Your sixteenth chapter, containeth an answer to those that object against the power of the christian religion to make men holy.
Ans. And to speak truth, what you at first render as the cause of the unholiness of the professors thereof (p. 171) is to the purpose, had it been christianly managed by you, as namely, men's gross unbelief of the truth of it; for it 'effectually worketh in them that believe' (1 Thess 2:13). But that you only touch and away, neither showing what is the object of faith, nor the cause of its being so effectual to that purpose; neither do you at all treat of the power of unbelief, and how all men by nature are shut up therein (Rom 11:32). But presently, according to your old and natural course, you fall, first, upon a supposed power in men, to embrace the gospel, both by closing with the promise, and shunning the threatening (p. 172); farther adding, that 'mankind is endued with a principle of freedom, and that this principle is as essential, as any other to the human nature' (p. 173). By all which it is manifest, that however you make mention of unbelief, because the gospel hath laid the same in your way, yet your old doctrine of the purity of the human nature, now broken out into a freedom of will, and that, as an essential of the human nature, is your great principle of faith, and your following of that, as it dictateth to you obedience to the first principles of morals, the practice of faith, by which you think to be saved. That this is so, must unavoidably be gathered from the good opinion you have yourself of coming to God by Christ; viz., That in the command thereof, it is one of these positive precepts, and a thing in itself absolutely considered indifferent, and neither good nor evil. Now he that looketh upon coming to God by Christ with such an eye as this, cannot lay the stress of his salvation upon the faith, or belief thereof: indifferent faith, will serve for indifferent things; yea, a man must look beyond that which he believeth is but one with the ceremonial laws, but not the same with baptism, or the Lord's supper; for with those you compare that of coming to God by Christ. Wherefore faith, with you, must be turned into a cheerful and generous complying with the dictates of the human nature; and unbelief, into that which opposeth this, or that makes the heart backward and sluggish therein. This is also gathered from what you aver of the divine moral laws, that they be of an indispensable and eternal obligation (p. 8), things that are good in themselves (p. 9), considered in an abstracted notion (p. 10). Wherefore, things that are good in themselves, must needs be better than those that are in themselves but indifferent; neither can a positive precept make that, which of itself is neither good nor evil, better than that which in its own nature remaineth the essentials of goodness.
I conclude then, by comparing you with yourself, by bringing your book to your book, that you understand neither faith, nor unbelief, any farther than by obeying or disobeying the human nature, and its dictates in chief; and that of coming to God by Christ, as one of the things that is indifferent in itself.
But a little to touch upon your principle of freedom, which in p. 9 you call an understanding and liberty of will.
Ans. First, That there is no such thing in man by nature, as liberty of will, or a principle of freedom, in the saving things of the kingdom of Christ, is apparent by several scriptures. Indeed there is in men, as men, a willingness to be saved their own way, even by following, as you, their own natural principles, as is seen by the Quakers, as well as yourself; but that there is a freedom of will in men, as men, to be saved by the way which God hath prescribed, is neither asserted in the scriptures of God, neither standeth with the nature of the principles of the gospel.
The apostle saith, 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.' And the reason is, not because, not principally because, he layeth aside a liberty of will, but because 'they are foolishness to him' (1 Cor 2:14). Because in his judgment they are things of no moment, but things, as you [Mr. Fowler] have imagined of them, that in themselves are but indifferent. And that this judgment that is passed by the natural man, concerning the things of the Spirit of God, of which, that of coming to God by Christ, is the chief, is that which he cannot but do as a man, is evident from that which followeth: 'neither CAN he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.' Neither CAN he know them as a man, because they are spiritually discerned. Now, if he cannot know them, from what principle should he will them? For judgment, or knowledge, must be before the will can act. I say, again, a man must know them to be things in chief, that are absolutely, and indispensably necessary, and those in which resteth the greatest glory; or else his will will not comply with them, nor centre and terminate in them as such, but still count themselves, as you, though somewhat convinced that he ought to adhere unto them, things that in themselves are only indifferent, and absolutely considered neither good nor evil.
A farther enlargement upon this subject, will be time enough, if you shall contradict.
Another reason, or cause, which you call an immediate one, of the unsuccessfulness of the gospel, is 'men's [strange and] unaccountable mistaking the design of it,—not to say worse, as to conceive no better of it, than as a science, and a matter of speculation,' &c. (p. 173).
Ans. If this be true, you have shewed us the reason, why yourself have so base and unworthy thoughts thereof: for although coming to God by Christ be the very chief, first, the substance, and most essential part of obedience thereto; yet you have reckoned this but like one of the ceremonies of the law, or as baptism with water, and the Lord's supper (P. 7-9). Falling more directly upon the body of the moral law, as written in the heart of men, and inclining more to the teaching, or dictates of human nature, which were neither of them both ever any essential part of the gospel, than upon that which indeed is the gospel of Christ.
And here I may, if God will, timely advertise my reader, that the gospel, and its attendants, are to be accounted things distinct: the gospel, properly taken, being glad tidings of good things; or, the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins freely by grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. For to speak strictly, neither is the grace of faith, hope, repentance, or newness of life, the gospel; but rather things that are wrought by the preaching thereof, things that are the effects of it; or its inseparable companions, to all them that shall be saved. Wherefore the gospel is said to be preached in all nations, for the obedience of faith (Rom 16:26). Hope also is called the hope of the gospel, not the gospel itself. So again, the gospel is preached that men should repent, but it is not preached that men should gospel.
But your gospel, which principally or chiefly, centres in the dictates of human nature; and your faith, which is chiefly a subjecting to those dictates, are so far off from being at all any near attendants of the gospel, that they never are urged in the New Testament, but in order to show men they have forgotten to act as men (Rom 1:19-21, 2:14,15; 1 Cor 11:14).
Your last reason is, because of 'several untoward opinions,' the gospel is very unsuccessful (p. 174).
Ans. But what these opinions are, we hear not; nor how to shun them, you tell us here nothing at all. This I am sure, there are no men in this day have more opposed the light, glory, and lustre of the gospel of Christ, than those, as the Quakers and others, that have set up themselves, and their own humanity, as the essential parts of it.
You in answer to other things, add many other reasons to prove they are mistaken that count the gospel a thing of but mean operation to work holiness in the heart: at which you ought yourself to tremble, seeing the Son himself, who is the Lord of the gospel, is of so little esteem with you, as to make coming to God by him so trivial a business as you have done.
Your large transcript of other men's sayings, to prove the good success of the gospel of old, did better become that people and age, than you and yours; they being a people that lived in the power thereof, but you such bats as cannot see it. That saying you mention of Rigaltias, doth better become you and yours: 'Those now-a-days do retain the name, and society of Christians, which live altogether antichristian lives. Take away publicans, and a wretched rabble, &c. and our Christian churches will be lamentably weak, small, and insignificant things' (p. 181).
I shall add to yours another reason of the unsuccessfulness of the gospel in our days, and that is, because so many ignorant Sir Johns, on the one hand, and so many that have done violence to their former light, and that have damned themselves in their former anathematizing of others, have now for a long time, as a judgment of God, been permitted to be, and made the mouth to the people: persons whose lives are debauched, and who in the face of the world, after seeming serious detestings of wickedness, have for the love of filthy lucre, and the pampering their idle carcasses, made shipwreck of their former faith, and that feigned good conscience they had. From which number if you, Sir, have kept yourself clear, the less blood of the damned will fall upon your head: I know you not by face, much less your personal practice; yet I have heard as if blood might pursue you, for your unstable weathercock spirit, which doubtless could not but stumble the weak, and give advantage to the adversary to speak vilifyingly of religion.