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Isai. xlv. 19. I said not unto the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain.
Mat. vii. 7. Ask, and it shall be given you: Seek, and ye shall find.
A view of the exhortations, and promises of the Gospel and the true reason pointed out why the doings of the unregenerate do not entitle to the blessings promised.
OUR author, (p. 34.) says, ' If it should be asked, whether there are any promises of salvation to these endeavours of the unregenerate; I readily answer, there are none. The absoJute authority of God is not such a limited thing, that he can lay no commands upon his creatures, without adding a promise to the performance: divine sovereignty is not incumbered with such a tether.' These words have led me to take a view of the divine exhortations and promises through the Old and New Testament, a few of which may be transcribed.
These texts are a true specimen of the whole tenour of the sacred writings on this subject; and let the candid reader stop, and look over them two or three times, and consider and' think for himself; and these and such like remarks will rise in his mind of themselves; or at the least, the truth of them will appear plain as soon as mentioned.
1. There are directions given to sinners, in the holy Scriptures, in and by which, a full answer is given to that question, what shall we do to be saved? and beyond dispute, it is their duty and interest to follow God's directions, immediately and without the least delay.
t Q. If a full answer is given to that question by God himself, why do awakened sinners continue to repeat it? Why do they still say, what shall we do to be saved? If God has answered the question, why are they at a loss?
A. God's answer does not suit their hearts, and so they are deaf to it. God speaks, and speaks plain enough, but they do not hear. God cries, hear, and VOL. III. 32
2. There are promises made to sinners, without exception, entitling them to all the blessings of the Gospel, upon their complying with God's directions.
3. These promises are not of the nature of general encouragements, rendering it hopeful, yet leaving it uncertain, whether sinners should obtain, if they comply with the directions given them by God: but they are as plain, full, and express promises, as any in the bible, and do establish a certain and universal connexion-thus, Whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sins, shall have mercy. This promise extends universally to all who confess and forsake their sins; and establishes a certain connexion, they shall have mercy. But that there never was one who failed, and never will be one who will fail, who complies with God's directions, is evident from the testimony of him who came from the Father's bosom, and knew the mind of God, and came into this world to reveal it unto us. For he says, not only ask, and it shall be given you; but he adds, for every one that asketh receiveth. From which we have as full evidence, as we have that Jesus is the Son of God, that there never was, and never will be, one single instance among mankind, who, according to this direction, ever did ask, or ever will ask, for the blessings of the Gospel, and fail of receiving. For every one that asketh receiveth. So again, hear and your soul shall live; look unto me, and be ye saved, alle ends of the earth; whosoever will, let him come; him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out, &c. &c. &c. all prove the same point. Besides all this, and that which confirms the point still further, is, that destruction is threatened only to those who refuse to hearken to God's directions.
your soul shall live. They have ears, but they are uncircumcised, Pagan ears; and so in hearing, they hear not, neither do they understand. For every good and honest heart hears the word, understands it, and brings forth fruit. Their deafness and blindness is wholly of a criminal nature. Thus when the famine came, the prodigal son cried, What shall I do? The right answer was plain and easy to a good and honest heart. But he hated to go home. For as yet his heart was opposite to it. Therefore he said, 'I will go aud join myself to a citizen of that country, and feed his swine.' But when he came to himself, he instantly felt it through and through his heart, that it was his present duty and interest, immediately, to arise and go to his father. And nothing but the vicious state of his heart prevented him knowing this before.
Prov. i. 24, 25. "Because I have called and ye refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof. I also will laugh at your calamity." But on the other hand, (ver. 23.) "Turn at my reproof, and I will pour out my spirit unto you."-And,
4. These promises do establish a certain connexion between the first act of compliance with these directions, and the blessings of the Gospel. Indeed, where one act of compliance takes place, sinners will continue in a course of compliance. As for example: When the prodigal son returned home to his father, he was upon the first act, upon his first return, received as a child, and entitled to all the privileges of such. But then it is equally true, he never left his father's house and turned prodigal again, as he had done before; but on the contrary, he brought forth fruit meet for repentance. And as he was thus received on his first return, so it is in all instances. For whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sins, shall have mercy. And again, Ask, and it shall be given you; for every one that asketh receiveth. If the first act of compliance with these directions should not entitle to the blessings promised, by parity of reason, the second act of compliance might not entitle. And so it might come to pass that some who comply with God's directions, might fail of the blessings promised, contrary to the plain tenour of all the promises. See John iv. 14. and v. 24. Mat. x. 42. Acts ii. 38. and xvi. 31. Eph. i. 13, 14. Phil. i. 6.
5. These promises make it certain, that among all the unpardoned sinners in the world, whatever pains they have any of them taken in religion, yet there is not one, who ever, in any one single act, did comply with God's directions. For had they complied, they would have been pardoned. For God himself has said it. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. And our blessed Saviour, in his sermon on the Mount, directs us to pray for pardon. When ye pray, say-Forgive us our debts. And then soon declares, Ask and it shall be given you. And then, to put his meaning for ever
beyond dispute, he adds, For every one that asketh receiveth. He, therefore, whose sins are not pardoned, never yet in the whole course of his life, did so much as once confess and forsake them, and ask God to forgive him, according to divine direction: no, not once. To disbelieve this point, is, in effect, to disbelieve the whole of divine revelation. For he that believeth not this, hath made God a liar.
Now if these things are true, we may hence learn,
1. That Mr. Sandeman's scheme, relative to directions to be given to sinners, is not agreeable to the word of God. For he says, 'Let all the prophets and apostles be consulted upon the question, what is required of us in order to acceptance with God? we shall find their unanimous reply to be every thing, or nothing.' For, according to Mr. Sandeman, the sinner is pardoned before repentance, and faith is not an act, but a mere passive thing. So therefore, 'nothing' is to be done by the sinner, in order to pardon and justification. For no volition, act, or exercise of mind whatever, is needful in order to it. And so no direction at all is to be given. For Mr. Sandeman, speaking of the atonement, says, 'All its true friends will join in affirming, that Christ came to render impenitent sinners accepted unto everlasting life, by the works which he himself wrought, and thus by the discovery of preventing goodness, to lead them to repentance. Thus they are regenerated by light, according to Mr. Sandeman. But from what has been said, nothing can be plainer, than that both the Old Testament and the New, do give directions to sinners to do something. Thus, when those who were pricked at the heart on the day of Pentecost, asked Peter, and the rest of the apostles, saying, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Peter did not say,' be perfect ;' nor did he say, 'do nothing' but he said, Repent and be baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of sins. So again, a few days after, Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. And when the trembling jailor put the question to the apostle Paul, What shall I do to be saved? his answer was, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. To say, therefore, that there is nothing' to be done in order