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left in man upon his fall, that being improved by his natural faculties and diligence, may grow up to a new creature ? For it may seem there is in man a natural conscience, prompting him to good, excusing him in doing it, drawing him from evil, and accusing him on committing it. See Rom. ii. 14, 15.
Answ. (1.) Those common notices or anticipations of good, are not in the will, but in the mind; not in the affections, but conscience. * It was not engraven on their will to choose it, but the power of some truths flashed in their eyes, that they could not but know them, and have some general liking for them; so that they could not but know that adultery and stealing are bad, and the contrary, good.
(2.) But whether these were left in man's heart after the fall, as relics of God's image, or introduced by God's providence afterwards for the good of mankind, and to maintain peace and intercourse in societies, is much disputed; Mr. Capel, on Temptation, thinks the latter. However,
(3.) All our Protestant writers affirm, with the scriptures, that man's nature is universally depraved, against the Socinians, who hold that the nature of man is not corrupted ; but say, whatsoever spot or vice is in man, proceeds from frequent acts of sin, and custom in sinning, without the internal corruption of his nature. But the scriptures tell us of man's total degeneracy. “In me,” saith Paul, that is, “ in my flesh, dwells no good thing.” Our “mind and conscience is defiled.” “ There is none righteous, no, not one,” of all the race of mankind. And therefore they need “a sanctification throughout, in soul, spirit, and body.” I
κοινάι έννοιαι, or πρόληψεις. Nec vero cordis nomen pro sede affectuum, sed tantum pro intellectu capitur.-Calv. in loc.
+ Tit. i. 15. Rom. iii. 9, 10. 1 Thess. v. 23.
(4.) There is an utter inability in man to renew himself; for we are “all without strength, cannot think a good thought;" yea, are dead in trespasses and sins;* and merely passive in the first infusion of spiritual life; a subject capable of divine operations ; but “in the power of darkness, led captive by Satan at his pleasure.” The “carnal mind is enmity to God;
” and “God works both to will, and to do, of his good pleasure.”+
3. Qu. Why then do God and man call upon us to turn ourselves, yea, to make for ourselves “a new heart and a new spirit,” Ezek. xviii. 31, if this be not in our power? Doth he not mock us, when he calls us to do that which he knows it is impossible for us to do?
Answ. No; for, (1.) It was once in our power to do good by his donation, and if we have lost it by our own folly, and cannot do what he requires, we must hereby know, that God hath not lost his authority to command, because we have lost our ability to obey : he will let us know his sovereignty. But
(2.) God knows man is a proud creature, and thinks he can do what he cannot. And now God commands, to convince him of his insufficiency, that he may look up to him for help. Yet,
(3.) Though man has lost the rectitude of his faculties, he hath not lost his faculties; he hath a rational soul, if he have not spiritual grace. Though carnal persons be morally dead, yet they are naturally alive. Men have a self-reflecting conscience, which they may, and must use; “ It is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly,” Prov. xx. 27.
* Rom. v. 6. 2 Cor. iii. 5. Eph. ii. 1.
+ Subjectum Dei actionem suscipiens. Col. i. 13. 2 Tim. ii. 26. Rom. viii. 7.
(4.) It was the saying of Augustine, twelve hundred years ago, “ He that made thee without thyself, will not save thee without thyself.” If thou be not an efficient in thy own conversion, thou mayest and must be an instrument in thy salvation: thou art bound to work out thy own salvation, Phil. ii. 12.
4. Qu. What is a man better for his endeavours, unless God give him the grace of this new creature ? All that he can do, will be to no purpose, nothing can be pleasing to God, or available to himself in his natural state. “For without faith it is impossible to please God,” Heb. xi. 6.
Answ. (1.) Though carnal men cannot do what God requires in a due manner, yet God hath some respect to such as for the matter do something of their duty. God took notice of Ahab's humiliation, and “promised not to bring the evil in his days,” 1 Kings xxi. 27, 29. Jehoahaz was none of the best kings, “Yet, when he besought the Lord, he hearkened to him,” 2 Kings xiii. 4. And upon Rehoboam's humiliation, the Lord considerably remitted his punishment, 2 Chron. xii. 6, 7. And is not a relaxation or removal of outward punishment of some worth with you? Yea, though the young gentleman's obedience was but poor stuff, and he in his natural state, yet Jesus beholding him, loved him; see Mark x. 20, 21. Is this nothing ?
? (2.) However, such as frame not their hearts and doings to turn to God, and through sloth or wilfulness, neglect God's appointed means of becoming new creatures, do evidently declare themselves to be causes of their own damnation ;-render themselves daily worse and worse, and grow more unable to repent, 2 Tim. iii. 13 ;-provoke God to give them up to their own hearts' lusts, Psal. lxxxi. 11, 12;-make themselves manifold more the children of wrath, Matt. xxiii. 15; -and are more inexcusable, and sink themselves deeper in hell. And is this any way desirable ?
(3.) But though such poor souls cannot with all their endeavours make themselves new creatures, yet we may say of such, as our Lord said of the scribe, Mark xii. 33, 34, when he saw that he answered discreetly, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” You are in a hopeful way to heaven, while you are endeavouring in the use of God's appointed means.
(4.), And who can tell what these labours will produce? It is true, thou canst not deserve grace to challenge it as debt for the work done; nor can I say that grace is due to thee by any promise ; for all the
promises of God are made in Christ,” 2 Cor. i. 20. But I have something yet to say for thy encouragement: for, in the first place, thou hast to deal with a God of infinite goodness, who hath “sworn he delights not in the death of a sinner," Exod. xxxiv. 6. Ezek. xxxiii. 11. And who knows what he may do for thee ?—then God hath yet spared thy life, and is sending terms of reconciliation to thee a vile sinner, 2 Cor. v. 20; he stands knocking at thy door, while thou knockest at his. A general pardon is proclaimed, Mark xvi. 15; thou hast no cause to despair.—Didst thou ever meet with any that came sad, and disappointed from his door? Did he ever say to any, “Seek ye me in vain ?” nay, doth he not say, " Those that come unto me, I will in no wise cast off?”—And doth he not say, " Those that seek me early, shall find
, me? Doth not the gospel promise what the law commands ? God doth graciously undertake to do what he requires us to do; he bids you“ make you a new heart;" and the same God saith, “I will put a new spirit within them.”*
O put him to it, and try * Isa. xlv. 19. John vi. 37. Prov. viii. 17. Ezek. xi. 19.
him what he will do. The means I shall suggest hereafter.
5. Qu. Is not the new creature produced in the ordinance of baptism, which is called the washing or laver of regeneration ? Tit. iii. 5; then we need no
Answ. (1.) Baptism, as circumcision of old, is “a seal of the righteousness of faith :” and supports faith either in the parent, or in the child, or party baptized, for the "promise is to you and to your children.” The apostles baptized believers. Now the effect is not before the cause: if they were regenerated before, baptism could not be the cause of regeneration.
(2.) Yet some have been baptized upon the profession of their faith, that never were regenerated, as “Simon Magus, who was still in the gall of bitter
So it was but a sign, no proper cause, which would have had its certain effect.
(3.) If baptism were the cause of regeneration, then no unbaptized children could be regenerate, and so could not be saved, if dying in infancy; but David, by virtue of the covenant, believed his child's salvation, 2 Sam. xii. 23, though not circumcised.
(4.) It is a groundless popish doctrine, to think that sacraments confer grace,+ merely because used, or that they stamp an indelible character on the party baptized; it is but an external act, and cannot reach the heart or conscience, any more than old testament rites could do, Heb. x. 1–4. Nor is it in the power of the
. holiest minister on earth, or angel in heaven, it is God's prerogative, and he is a free agent, 1 Pet. i. 23, to work or suspend his grace according to his pleasure.
But you may say, doth not baptism now save?