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I think, in this the Arminians are much more consistent. For while they maintain, "that God cannot justly require more of us than we can do ourselves," they add, "that we did not need Christ to obey or die in our stead," and accordingly, they say, "he never designed any such thing." But then, if God Almighty had designed to guard against their scheme, and to prepare the way for the reception of the doctrine of atonement by the blood of Christ, it is hard to say, how he could possibly have done it to better purpose, than he has done in the Mosaic dispensation.
No serious, pious Jew, who understood the law, as requir ing sinless perfection under pain of eternal damnation, and who had heard the CURSE, and heartily said AMEN, could have embraced the Arminian scheme, or ever once believed their fundamental maxim. Nor could any serious, pious Jew, who had seen the High-Priest, from year to year, on the great day of atonement, lay his hands on the head of the scape-goat, and confess over him, and lay upon him all the iniquities and sins of the children of Israel; and who had himself, scores of times, with a humble and broken heart, brought a bullock or a ram before the Lord, and laid his hands on his head, that he might die in his room, and make atonement for his sin, that it might be forgiven him; I say, no such pious Jew could possibly have embraced the Socinian scheme, or ever rejected the doctrine of Christ's
The Arminians and Socinians are angry at creeds, confessions, and catechisms; because they are taught to children, and tend to prejudice the rising generation against their scheme. But no creeds, no confessions, no catechisms, were ever so framed to prejudice one against Arminianism and Socinianism, as the law of the great God given at Mount Sinai. Creeds, confessions, catechisms, contain only a number of words and sentences. But here in the law of Moses every thing was acted over, and that exceedingly to the life. God spake the law HIMSELF, and that with an exceeding loud voice. It thundered and lightened, the mountain quaked and trembled, God appeared like the flame of a devouring fire in the eyes of all the congregation of Israel·
And thus the greatness and majesty, the holiness and authority of God, were represented, and brought into clear view; and thus the law was set home. And half the tribes stood on Mount Gerizzim, and half the tribes stood upon Mount Ebal, and while the Levites, before all the congregation, repeated the curse twelve times going, all the people answered, and said, AMEN. And thus, the reasonableness and equity of the law was visibly represented in this public transaction. And yearly and monthly, and weekly and daily, in a variety of most significant, solemn, and public transactions, the substitution of Christ, as of a lamb without spot, to die as an atonement for sin, that sin might be forgiven, was visibly represented. So that it seems beyond the art of man to contrive any method more wisely suited to set the guilty, lost, perishing state of the sinner, and the doctrine of atonement, in a more clear and striking light than it is in the law of Moses; especially, as now explained to us by the Gospel of Christ. Well, therefore, in so clear a case, and in points of so great importance, might the divinely inspired apostle say, as in Gal. i. 8, 9. If any, though an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel, let him be ACCURSED. Nor have those, who after all venture to do so, just reason to expect to escape the apostle's repeated curse. In all things lawful, the apostle would readily become all things to all men, for he was of a very condescending disposition. But when any of the great doctrines of the Gospel were assaulted, he would not abate one hair; for he was no trimmer; he was no man-pleaser; but a servant of Jesus Christ. Nor are those ministers, who seek to please an ungodly world by curtailing the Gospel of Christ, any of them, the servants of Christ, according to the judgment of the inspired apostle. Gal. i. 10. If I pleased man, I should not be the servant of Christ.
Indeed, there have been by those who expect to be justified by their sincere obedience, various ways contrived to evade the apostle's arguments, and escape his curse; but all equally vain. Which way soever they turn, St. Paul is ready to answer them, and stop up their way, and shut them up under sin, and shut them up to the faith.
Sometimes they say, "the Galatians expected to be justi
fied by circumcision, and observing the other rites of the ceremonial law, which being abolished, there was no virtue in these their unrequired duties, and so they could not be justified by them." But St. Paul's argument was not, "you trust in duties, which God does not require: therefore by these duties you cannot be justified." But it was this, " you do not yield perfect obedience to the whole law; therefore you cannot be justified." Therefore,
They say, "it is true, we cannot be justified by a law that requires sinless perfection, nor do we expect it. But this does not prove but that our sincere obedience will justify us through Christ, according to the Gospel." But St. Paul's argument was not, "you expect to be justified by sinless perfection, but cannot." But it was this: "you expect to be justified by an obedience short of sinless perfection; but no obedience short of sinless perfection will justify you. For Christ will not make up for your defects. He will profit you nothing, if you go this way for justification '."
Again, they say, "the obedience of the Galatians was not sincere. And that was the reason they could not be justified by it. But our obedience is sincere." But St. Paul's argument was not; "your obedience is not sincere; therefore
7 Gal. v. 2. Behold, I Paul, say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. Not that circumcision, merely of itself, would seclude them from the blessings of the Gospel. For Paul circumcised Timothy. Acts xvi. 3. Not that by their being circumcised, they meant to renounce Christianity, and embrace Judaism. For they had not a thought of that, as is plain from the whole epistle. But because they trusted in their circumcision, and in their other religious performances, to recommend them to the favour of God, and entitle them to eternal life. Not that they looked upon their obedience as perfect : for they never once imagined that sinless perfection was necessary, or ever thought they were bound to keep the whole law. Ver. 3.-Nor that they trusted in their imperfect, sincere obedience, without any dependance on Christ: for they were so strong in the faith, that Christ would profit them, and be of effect to them, that St Paul could hardly beat them off from their false hopes. He speaks, as knowing they would not readily believe him. BEHOLD, I PAUL, SAY UNTO You and so truly as I am divinely inspired, you may depend upon it; Christ will profit you nothing will make up for none of your failings, as you vainly expect. So that it appears, the Galatians professed Christianity, and depended upon Christ, and hoped that through him, they, by their sincere, although imperfect obedience, should obtain the favour of God, and eternal life. Just as our Arminians do now-a-days. Nor is there any essential difference between their schemes.
you cannot be justified by it." But it was, " your obedience is not perfect: therefore you cannot be justified by it."
Again, they say, "Christ has purchased an abatement of the law; and promised justification to our sincere obedience." But St. Paul says, "the law is not abated one tittle; but requires sinless perfection still and curses the man that ever at any time fails in the least point. Nor will any obedience justify, short of perfection." So that which way soever they turn, St. Paul meets them, and there is no escape.
"Yes," say they, "we hold justification by faith, just as St. Paul did. By faith he meant sincere obedience, and so do we." "No, no," says St. Paul, "if by faith you mean sincere obedience, you cannot be justified by it; for I constantly affirm, that no obedience short of sinless perfection can justify you. If you will be justified by obedience, it must be perfect. Sincere obedience will not answer. For it is written, cursed is every man that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them."
Seeing, then, nothing is to be done with St. Paul, but still he will be against them, therefore they run to St. James to help them against St. Paul, and look all over the bible for help. And so having strengthened themselves by perverting some passages of Scripture, they venture out, and boldly "That if St. Paul does in fact mean that our sincere say, obedience will not justify us, he contradicts almost the whole bible, which constantly declares, that repentance is absolutely necessary to forgiveness; that we are justified by our works, and not by faith only; that none but good men shall ever be saved; yea, that keeping the commands is what gives a right to the tree of life."
Doubtless, these men, had they lived in the apostle's day, would have been as zealous against St. Paul, as ever any were at Galatia or Antioch. Nor would his single authority have satisfied them. And if a word or sentence of another sound at any time dropped from any other of the apostles, on whatever subject they were preaching, it would have been picked up with joy, to prove St. Paul's scheme to be singular. It was this same spirit which obliged St. Paul to write this laboured epistle, to vindicate himself and establish the truth.
And he plainly demonstrates that their scheme was contrary to the law of Moses, and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and pronounceth the man accursed that ventured to preach it. Vain is it, therefore, now, to bring in a detached sentence or two, from here and there in the bible, to overset a doctrine that St. Paul affirms and proves cannot be overset, without oversetting both law and Gospel. These men must prove that St. Paul's words did actually mean some other thing, or they must believe him to be right, or they must call his inspiration into question, as some of the same stamp did 1700 years ago. But it is not all the wit of man can ever show St. Paul's words capable of any sense consistent with the common Arminian scheme. They have tried, but all in vain, this many a year, till many have argued themselves into downright infidelity; for he could not have framed his argument better, had he been to have written against Arminianism in its very present dress. As to the sentences of a different sound here and there in the bible, which they refer to, their consistence with St. Paul's doctrine hath been often shown by divines; and till these men have, at least, attempted an answer, it is needless to offer much at present". However, I will just observe,
FIRST. That it is true, " that repentance is absolutely necessary to the forgiveness of sins." For it belongs to the very essence of justifying faith, which implies in its nature such a sense of the great evil of sin, as effectually turns the heart from it to God, to be on his side, and on the side of his law, against sin and self, as I shall presently show. And yet this is nothing against St. Paul's doctrine, as I shall also make appear under the next inference.
SECONDLY. "There is not the least difficulty in what St. James says, of Abraham's being justified by works and not by
m This was done in Mr. Edwards' Sermon on Justification, printed at Boston, (N. E.) 20 years ago, to which, any answer, as yet, never has been attempted. n And because, where there is true repentance, there is always a disposition heartily to forgive those that have injured us, and no where else; therefore our Saviour teaches us, that those, and those only, may expect forgiveness from God, who do from the heart forgive others. Matt. vi. 14, 15.-Those who have not an heart to forgive and love their enemies, are impenitent; unhumbled, Christless