« PrécédentContinuer »
of it, because it is not a commanded duty to any man. So he that doubteth is damned if he eat; i. e. is self-condemned, because in such a case as this he ought not to eat. But it will not hence follow, that we shall be self-condemned, if we confess Christ before men without full assurance. For by the command of Christ we are bound in duty, if we are on his side in our hearts, openly to confess him before men. If we neglect it, in this case we sin. And if we do it in hypocrisy, we sin. A man's conscience in all such like cases will lead him to act according to his prevailing judgment. It is, in fact, thus with the conscientious part of mankind, in all doubtful matters; if they are obliged to act one way or the other, they make conscience of acting according to prevailing evidence.
8. We are to distinguish between objections which appear to be equally against both schemes, and other objections: and are to look upon the former as of no weight to settle the controversy. If they say it is difficult to know whether we comply with the covenant of grace; we may answer that it is as difficult, and more so, for any man to know whether he complies with the external covenant. If they say the church cannot be certain that any man has saving grace; we may answer, neither can the church be certain that any man believes in his heart, the doctrines which he professes with his mouth. If they say, assurance of our right to come is necessary on our scheme; we may answer, that it is no more necessary on one scheme than on the other. Besides, assurance of a right to come is attainable by true saints; but no man can know that he has a right on Mr. M.'s scheme. Because no man can know what his external covenant requires. If they say, Peter had not time to examine into the gracious state of the three thousand converts on the day of pentecost; we may answer, that he had as much time for this, as to examine into their doctrinal knowledge and moral sincerity. So also, those objections ought to weigh nothing, which are taken merely from the wickedness of mankind, and which would vanish of themselves, should the Spirit of God be poured from on when the first Christian church was set up. more reason that the discipline of Christ's
high, as it was
For there is no house should be
brought down to suit our corruptions, than that the doctrines of the Gospel should also.
9. We ought to distinguish between an appeal to reason, and an appeal to corruption. For example, these words are contained in the marriage covenant, unto whieh we oblige the woman to give her consent, viz. "You take this A. B. for your married husband, and promise to be a loving, faithful, and obedient wife to him," &c. Should a few women object against this covenant, and publicly propose an alteration, saying, "we pray, that the words, loving, faithful, and obedient, may be left out, for the sake of some young women of tender consciences, who cannot see their way clear to use them" the only question would be this, "ought the alteration to be made in the marriage covenant, or in the young women?" Or in other words, "which is wrong, the woman's heart, or the covenant ?" A question, which may easily be decided, if we appeal to reason or to Scripture: but if we appeal to corruption, the more we wrangle, the more we may. Some might say, "If the covenant is not altered, no woman can be married without full assurance. For it is not lawful to enter into this covenant in doubt. For he that doubteth is damned. An infallible assurance therefore is necessary. But who has this? Or what woman, on this plan, can be married, with a good conscience? And, besides, what minister can be able to judge whether any are fit to be married? By what rule shall it be certainly known when a woman is really disposed to be a loving, faithful, and obedient wife, and when she is not? Moreover, it will only tempt bad women to make a lying profession, while women of tender consciences will be kept back; and those who are married will grow proud because they are judged to be qualified. Meanwhile, the failings of married women will be more taken notice of, to their dishonour, for using this covenant. Upon the whole, it is a very bad plan, and a thing of a very dangerous tendency; therefore, we propose, that in all future times, these words, loving, faithful, obedient, be left out of the marriage covenant." How ridiculous would any woman make herself, that should advance such sentiments! But if this class of women were the majority, they might make a
shocking noise, but there would be no more sense in it, than if but one single woman was in the scheme.
10. We are to distinguish between that character which the Israelites gave of themselves, when Mount Sinai was covered with a thick cloud, and the Lord appeared in the flame of a devouring fire on the top of the Mount, and it lightened and thundered, and the voice of the trumpet was exceeding loud, and the people trembled under a sense of the greatness and majesty of the Holy One of Israel, and every one, even all the people, answered with one voice, and said, all the words which the Lord hath said, will we do; (such manifestations of God, and a people under such deep religious impressions, never had been before heard of since the world began: so that even God himself, judging according to appearances, was ready to say, surely, they are my people, children that will not lie. Isai. lxiii. 8.)—And that character which they afterwards gave of themselves, by their conduct forty years in the wilderness. In the former, they appear heartily disposed to comply with God's covenant. In the latter, they appear a rebellious generation, whose hearts were not right with God, neither were they steadfast in his covenant. Psal. lxxviii. 37.
11. We are to distinguish between that character which the Israelites gave of themselves, by their conduct forty years in the wilderness, by which it appeared that they had not eyes to see, nor ears to hear, nor a heart to understand; (for they made a calf even before the Mount of God. And rebelled at Kadesh-barnea; and at Taberah, and Massah, and at Kibroth-hattaavah, they provoked the Lord to wrath. So that Moses might well say, Ye have been rebellious against the Lord, from the day that I knew you. Deut. ix. 7-24.) And that character, which that pious generation gave of themselves, who in the plains of Moab heard Moses rehearse all God's ways to that nation, and their ways to God, forty years in the wilderness, and now on a review of the whole, manifested a disposition unitedly to become God's people, to enter into God's covenant anew, and to bind themselves to him, as their God, to love him, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep all his commandments. Concerning the former cha
racter, more severe things are spoken in Scripture, than of any other, which that people ever gave of themselves under that dispensation: and concerning the latter, more good things. The piety of this new generation God remembered many ages after, Jer. ii. 2. Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals; ver. 3. Israel was holiness to the Lord. See also Judges ii. 7. And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that out-lived Joshua. So that they transmitted the true religion to the next generation, and kept it up all the days of their lives. And if these things are well considered, and the great comparative darkness of that age of the world, and the abundant pains which Moses took in the plains of Moab to explain the covenant, and to render them deeply sensible of their obligations to comply with it, with all their hearts, no man will find cause to say that Moses acted an unfaithful part, in leading that people to enter into that very covenant, in the manner he did.
OBJ. But it was the design of Moses to charge in a public manner, as what visibly and publicly appeared to be the truth of the case, those very individual persons with being unregenerate, on that very day, in which he led them to enter into covenant. For he says, the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day. Deut. xxix. 4. p. 18. 24.
ANS. It is evident, that in the public speech which Moses made to the Israelites in the plains of Moab, of which these words are a part, he constantly addresses them in their national capacity, and not as individuals. Thus in the paragraph in which these words are contained, ver. 2. Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes, in the land of Egypt, &c. Whereas every one in the congregation, who were but one month under forty years of age, which was doubtless by far the greatest part of the congregation, never were in Egypt, for they were born in the wilderness, since their fathers left Egypt. And instances of the like nature are to be observed through the whole speech. Thus we know, that the carcasses of the men that sinned at Kadesh-barnea, on the return of
the spies, were all of them fallen in the wilderness; and yet he speaks to the present generation, who personally had no hand in that sin, as though they were the very individual persons that had committed it. Chap. ix. 23. Then you rebelled against the commandment of the Lord. See also Deut. i. 19-35. Whereas there was not one of those rebels alive; no, not so much as one. Num. xxvi. 63-65. And this is precisely the truth of the case, with the text under consideration. For,
Moses brought in no public charges against the nation, but for public crimes; not an instance can be produced from the beginning of Deuteronomy to the text under consideration. But this new generation, which were grown up, and which were now about to enter into covenant with God, had not been guilty of any public crimes, to give themselves a bad character. It does not appear from the whole story that Moses had any public grounds for a public charge against them, as being an ungodly generation. Nay, the fact is, that they always behaved so well both before and after, that they were by God himself, after they were dead and gone, represented as a very religious and godly generation. Jer. ii. 2, 3. Jude ii. 7. Compared to a choice vine, Isa. v. 2. Wholly a right seed, Jer. ii. 21.
To suppose Moses charged them in a public manner, as an unregenerate, ungodly generation, unjustly, without ever mentioning one single fact to the disadvantage of their character, is very unreasonable: especially as the sense before given to the words under consideration is an easy and natural sense, and removes all difficulties, and renders the speech and conduct of Moses perfectly consistent. For, as to all the instances of public conduct contained in the long narrative which Moses had given, from the time they left Egypt, to that very day, which were evidences of blind eyes, deaf ears, and hard hearts, this present generation were not active in them. Those facts, those public crimes, although committed by that nation, were not done by the individual persons which made up the present congregation, who entered into covenant with God; but by the old generation, whose carcasses were fallen in the wilderness; as any man may see