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Question . “But seeing you have spoken thus far, I wish you would do so much as to show in some particulars, both what men have done, and how far they have gone, and what they have received, being yet under this covenant, which you call the ministration of condemnation.” Answer. This is somewhat a difficult question, and had need be not only warily, but also home and soundly answered. The question consists of three particulars — 1. What men have done; 2. How far men have gone; 3. What they have received, and yet to be under the law, or Covenant of Works, and so in a state of condemnation. First. As for the first , I have spoken something in general to that already; but for thy better understanding I shall yet speak more particularly. 1. A man hath and may be convinced and troubled for his sins, and yet be under this covenant, and that in a very heavy and dreadful manner, insomuch that he find the weight of them to be intolerable and too heavy for him to bear, as it was with Cain, “My punishment,” saith he, “is greater than I can bear” ( Genesis 4:13). 2. A man living thus under a sense of his sins may repent and be sorry for them, and yet be under this covenant, and yet be in a damned state. And when he, Judas, saw what was done, he “repented” ( Matthew 27:3). 3. Men may not only be convinced, and also repent for their sins, but they may also desire the prayers of the children of God for them too, and yet be under this covenant and curse, “Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, in haste, and he said, I have sinned; entreat theLORD your God that He may take away from me this death” ( Exodus 10:16,17). 4. A man may also humble himself for his offences and disobedience against his God, and yet be under this covenant ( 1 Kings 21:24-19). 5. A man may make restitution unto men for the offence he hath done unto them, and yet be under this covenant. 6. A man may do much work for God in his generation, and yet be under this first covenant; as Jehu, who did do that which God bid him ( Kings 9:25, 26). And yet God threateneth even Jehu, because though he did do the thing that the Lord commanded him, yet he did it not from a right principle; for had he, the Lord would not have said, “Yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu” ( Hosea 1:4). 7. Men may hear and fear the servants of the Lord, and reverence them very highly; yea, and when they hear, they may not only hear, but hear and do, and that gladly too, not one or two things, but many; mark, many things gladly, and yet be lost, and yet be damned, “For Herod feared John,” why? not because he had any civil power over him, but because “he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly” ( Mark 6:20).
It may be that thou thinkest that because thou hearest such and such, therefore thou art better than thy neighbors; but know for certain that thou mayest not only hear, but thou mayest hear and do, and that not with a backward will, but gladly — mark, “gladly” — and yet be Herod still, an enemy to the Lord Jesus still. Consider this, I pray you. Second. But to the second thing, which is this, How far may such an one go? To what may such an one attain? Whither may he arrive, and yet be an undone man, under this covenant? I answer — 1. Such an one may be received into fellowship with the saints, as they are in a visible way of walking one with another; they may walk hand in hand together, “The Kingdom of Heaven,” that is, a visible company of professors of Christ, is likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the Bridegroom, “five of them were wise, and five were foolish” ( Matthew 25:1,2). These, in the first place, are called virgins — that is, such as are clear from the pollutions of the world; secondly, they are said to go forth — that is, from the rudiments and traditions of men; thirdly, they do agree to take their lamps with them — that is, to profess themselves the servants of Jesus Christ, that wait upon Him, and for Him; and yet when He came, He found half of them, even the virgins, that had lamps, that also went forth from the pollutions of the world and the customs of men, to be such as lost their precious souls ( Matthew 25:12) which they should not have done, had they been under the Covenant of Grace, and so not under the law. 2. They may attain to a great deal of honor in the said company of professors, that which may be accounted honor, insomuch that they may be put in trust with church affairs, and bear the bag, as Judas did. I speak not this to shame the saints, but, being beloved, I warn them; yet I speak this on purpose that it might, if the Lord will, knock at the door of the souls of professors. Consider Demas! 3. They may attain to speak of the Word as ministers, and become preachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, insomuch that the people where they dwell may even take up a proverb concerning them, saying, “Is he among the prophets?” his gifts may be so rare, his tongue may be so fluent, and his matter may be so fit, that he may speak with a tongue like an angel, and speak of the hidden mysteries, yea, of them all; mark that, and yet be nothing, and yet be none of the Lord’s anointed ones, with the Spirit of grace savingly, but may live and die under the curse of the law ( 1 Corinthians 13:1-4). 4. They may go yet further; they may have the gifts of the Spirit of God, which may enable them to cast out devils, to remove the biggest hills or mountains in the world; nay, thou mayest be so gifted as to prophesy of things to come, the most glorious things, even the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to reign over all His enemies, and yet be but a Balaam, a wicked and a mad prophet ( 2 Peter 2:16; Numbers 24:16-25). 5. There may not only stand thus for awhile, for a little season, but they may stand thus till the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with His holy angels; ay, and not be discovered of the saints till that very day. “Then all those virgins arose,” — the wise and the foolish; then! when? why, when this voice was heard, “Behold the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him” ( Matthew 25:1-6). And yet were out of the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet were under the law. 6. Nay, further, they may not only continue in a profession till then, supposing themselves to be under the grace of the Gospel, when indeed they are under the curse of the law, but even when the Bridegroom is come, they may still be so confident of their state to be good, that they will even reason out the case with Christ why they are not let into the kingdom of glory, saying, “Lord, Lord, we have eaten and drunk in Thy presence; and Thou hast taught in our streets.” Nay, further, “Have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils?”
Nay, not only thus, but, “done many,” mark, we have “done many wonderful works.” Nay, further, they were so confident, that they commanded, in a commanding way, saying, “Lord, open to us.” See here, I beseech you, how far these went; they thought they had had intimate acquaintance with Jesus Christ, they thought He could not choose but save them; they had eat and drunk with Him, sat at the table with Him, received power from Him, executed the same power. In Thy name have we done thus and thus; even wrought many wonderful works ( Matthew 7:22; Luke 13:25,26). And yet these poor creatures were shut out of the kingdom. O consider this, I beseech you, before it be too late, lest you say, Lord, let us come in, when Christ saith, Thrust him out ( Luke 13:28). Hears you cry, “Lord open to us,” when He saith, “Depart, I know you not;” lest though you think of having joy, you have “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Third. But the third thing touched in the question was this — What may such an one receive of God who is under the curse of the law? 1. They may receive an answer to their prayers from God at some times, for some things as they do stand in need of. I find in Scripture that God did hear these persons that the Apostle saith were cast out ( Genesis 21:17). “And God heard the voice of the lad,” even of cast-out Ishmael; “and the angel of God called to Hagar” which was the bond-woman, and under the law ( Galatians 4:24). “out of heaven, and said unto her, Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.” Friends, it may be you may think, because you have your prayers answered in some particular things, therefore you may suppose that as to your eternal state your condition is very good. But you must know that God doth hear the cry of a company of Ishmaelites, the sons of the bondwomen, who are under the law as a Covenant of Works. I do not say He hears them as to their eternal state, but He heareth them as to several straits that they go through in this life, ay, and gives them ease and liberty from their trouble.
Here this poor wretch was almost perished for a little water, and he cried, and God heard him, yea, He heard him out of Heaven. Read also <19A723> Psalm 107:23-29. “He gave them their desire, but He sent leanness into their soul” ( <19A615> Psalm 106:15). Objection. But some may say, Methinks this is yet more strange that God should hear the prayers, the cries of those that are under the law, and answer them. Answer. I told you before, He doth not hear them as to their eternal state, but as to their temporal state; for God as their Creator hath a care for them, and causeth the sun to shine upon them, and the rain to distill upon their substance ( Matthew 5:45). Nay, He doth give the beasts in the field their appointed food, and doth hear the young ravens when they cry, which are far inferior to man ( <19E709> Psalm 147:9). I say, therefore, that God doth hear the cries of His creatures, and doth answer them too, though not as to their eternal state; but may damn them nevertheless when they die for all that. 2. They may receive promises from the mouth of the Lord. There are many that have promises made to them by the Lord in a most eminent way, and yet, as I said before, are such as are cast out and called the children of the bond-woman, which is the law — “And the angel of God called to Hagar out of Heaven,” that was the bond-woman, saying, “Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand;FOR IWILL MAKE HIM,” — mark, there is the promise, — “for I will make him,” of the son of the bond-woman, “a great nation” ( Genesis 21:17,18). 3. Nay, they may go further; for they may receive another heart than they had before, and yet be under the law. There is no man, I think, but those that do not know what they say, that will think or say that Saul was under the Covenant of Grace; yet after he had talked with Samuel, and had turned his back to go from him, saith the Scripture, “God gave him another heart” ( 1 Samuel 10:9). Another heart, mark that, and yet an out-cast, a rejected person ( 1 Samuel 15:26,29). Friends, I beseech you, let not these things offend you, but let them rather beget in your hearts an inquiring into the truth of your condition, and be willing to be searched to the bottom; and also, that everything which hath not been planted by the Lord’s right hand may be rejected, and that there may be a reaching after better things, even the things that will not only make thy soul think thy state is good now, but that thou mayest be able to look sin, death, Hell, the curse of the law, together with the Judge, in the face with comfort, having such a real, sound, effectual work of God’s grace in thy soul, that when thou hearest the trumpet sound, seest the graves fly open, and the dead come creeping forth out of their holes; when thou shalt see the judgment set, the books opened, and all the world standing before the judgment-seat; I say, that then thou mayest stand, and have that blessed sentence spoken to thy soul, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” ( Matthew 25:34). Objection. But, you will say, for all this, We cannot believe that we are under the law, for these reasons — As, First. Because we have found a change in our hearts. Second. Because we do deny that the Covenant of Works will save any. Third. Because, for our parts, we judge ourselves far from legal principles; for we are got up into as perfect a Gospel order, as to matter of practice and discipline in church affairs, as any this day in England, as we judge. Answer. That man’s belief that is grounded upon anything done in him, or by him only, that man’s belief is not grounded upon the death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of Jesus Christ; for that man that hath indeed good ground of his eternal salvation, his faith is settled upon that object which God is well pleased or satisfied withal, which is that man that was born of Mary, even her first-born Son — that is, he doth apply by faith to his soul the virtues of His death, blood, righteousness, etc., and doth look for satisfaction of soul nowhere else than from that, neither doth the soul seek to give God any satisfaction as to justification any other ways; but doth willingly and cheerfully accept of and embrace the virtues of Christ’s death, together with the rest of His things done by Himself on the cross as a sacrifice, and since also as a priest, advocate, mediator, etc.; and doth so really and effectually receive the glories of the same, that thereby — mark that — “thereby he is changed into the same image, from glory to glory” ( 2 Corinthians 3:18).
Thus in general; but yet more particular — 1. To think that your condition is good because there is some change in you from a loose profane life, to a more close, honest, and civil life and conversation; I say, to think this testimony sufficient to ground the stress of thy salvation upon is very dangerous. First, because such a soul doth not only lay the stress of its salvation besides the man Christ Jesus that died upon the cross; but secondly, because that his confidence is not grounded upon the Savior of sinners, but upon his turning from gross sins to a more refined life, — and it may be to the performance of some good duties — which is no Savior; I say, this is very dangerous; therefore read it, and the Lord help you to understand it; for unless you lay the whole stress of the salvation of your souls upon the merits of another man — namely, Jesus — and that by what He did do and is adoing without you, for certain, as sure as God is in Heaven, your souls will perish. And this must not be notionally neither, as with an assenting of the understanding only; but it must be by the wonderful, invisible, invincible power of the Almighty God, working in your souls by His Spirit such a real, saving, holy faith, that can, through the operation of the same Spirit by which it is wrought, lay hold on and apply these most heavenly, most excellent, most meritorious benefits of the man Christ Jesus, not only to your heads and fancies, but to your very souls and consciences, so effectually, that you may be able by the same faith to challenge the power, madness, malice, rage, and destroying nature either of sin, the law, death, the devil, together with Hell and all other evils, throwing your souls upon the death, burial, resurrection, and intercession of that man Jesus without ( Romans 8:32-39). But, 2. Do you think that there was no change in the five foolish virgins spoken of ( Matthew 25:1-3). Yes; there was such a change in those very people, that the five wise ones could give them admittance of walking with them in the most pure ways and institutions of the Gospel of Christ, and yet but foolish; nay, they walked with them, or shall walk with them, until the Lord Jesus Christ shall break down from Heaven, and yet be but foolish virgins, and yet but under the law, and so under the curse, as I said before. Objection. But, say you, We have disowned the Covenant of Works, and turned from that also. Answer. This is sooner said than done. Alas, alas! poor souls think because they say, “Grace, grace, it is freely by grace,” therefore they are under the Covenant of Grace. A very wide mistake. You must understand thus much, that though you be such as can speak of the grace of the Gospel, yet if you yourselves be not brought under the very Covenant of Grace, you are yet, notwithstanding your talk and profession, very far wide of a sense and of a share in the Covenant of the Grace of God held forth in the Gospel.
The Jews were of a clearer understanding many of them than to conclude that the law, and only the law, was the way to salvation; for they, even they that received not the Christ of God, did expect a Savior should come ( John 7:27, 41-43). But they were men that had not the Gospel Spirit, which alone is able to lead them to the very life, marrow, or substance of the Gospel in right terms; and so being muddy in their understandings, being between the thoughts of a Savior and the thoughts of the works of the law, thinking that they must be accomplished for the obtaining of a Savior, and His mercy towards them; I say, between these they fell short of a Savior. As many poor souls in these days, they think they must be saved alone by the Savior, yet they think there is something to be done on their parts for the obtaining of the good-will of the Savior, as their humiliation for sin, their turning from the same, their promises, and vows, and resolutions to become new men, join in church-fellowship, and what not; and thus they, bringing this along with them as a means to help them, they fall short of eternal salvation if they are not converted; see that Scripture ( Romans 9:30-32). The Apostle saith there, that they that sought not did obtain, when they that did seek fell short. “What shall we say then?” saith he. “That the Gentiles which sought not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness,” yea, “even the righteousness which is of faith.” And what else? Why, “but Israel which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.” How came that to pass? “Because,” saith he, “they sought it not by faith, but as it were” — mark, he doth not say, altogether, no, “but as it were” — that is, because as they sought, they did a little by the bye lean upon the works of the law. And let me tell you, that this is such a hard thing to beat men off of, that though Paul himself did take the work in hand, he did find enough to do touching it; how is he fain to Labor in the ten first chapters of his Epistle to the Romans, for the establishing of those that did even profess largely in the doctrine of grace, and also in that Epistle to the Galatians; and yet lost many, do what he could. Now, the reason why the doctrine of grace doth so hardly down — even with professors — in truth, effectually, it is because there is a principle naturally in man that doth argue against the same, and that thus: Why, saith the soul, I am a sinner, and God is righteous, holy, and just; His holy Law, therefore, having been broken by me, I must, by all means, if ever I look to be saved, in the first place, be sorry for my sins; secondly, turn from the same; thirdly, follow after good duties, and practice the good things of the law and ordinances of the Gospel, and so hope that God for Christ’s sake may forgive all my sins; which is not the way to God as a Father in Christ, but the way, the very way to come to God by the Covenant of Works, or the law, which things I shall more fully clear when I speak to the second doctrine.
Again, therefore, those that this day profess the Gospel, for the generality of them they are such, that, notwithstanding their profession, they are very ignorant of that glorious influence and luster of the same; I say, they are ignorant of the virtue and efficacy of the glorious things of Christ held forth by and in the Gospel, which doth argue their not being under the Covenant of Grace, but rather under the law or old covenant ( Corinthians 4:3). As, for instance, if you do come among some professors of the Gospel, in general you shall have them pretty busy and ripe; also able to hold you in a very large discourse in several points of the same glorious Gospel; but if you come to the same people and ask them concerning heart-work, or what work the Gospel hath wrought on them, and what appearance they have had of the sweet influences and virtues on their souls and consciences, it may be they will give you such an answer as this — I do find by the preaching thereof that I am changed, and turned from my sins in a good measure, and also have learned (but only in tongue), to distinguish between the law and the Gospel, so that for the one — that is, for the Gospel — I can plead, and also can show the weakness and unprofitableness of the other. And thus far, it is like they may go, which is not far enough to prove them under the Covenant of Grace, though they may have their tongues so largely tipped with the profession of the same ( 2 Peter 2:20) where he saith “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” which was not a saving knowledge, “they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end” of that man “is worse than the beginning” ( Matthew 25:1-4, etc.; Matthew 7:22). Objection. But, you will say, is not this a fair declaring of the work of grace, or doth it not discover that, without all gainsaying, we are under the Covenant of Grace, when we are able, not only to speak of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, but also to tell, and that by experience, that we have been changed from worse to better, from sin to a holy life, by leaving of the same, and that by hearing of the Word preached? Answer 1. A man may, in the first place, be able to talk of all the mysteries of the Gospel, and that like an angel of God, and yet be no more in God’s account than the sounding of a drum, brass, or the tinkling of a cymbal, which are things that, notwithstanding their sound and great noise, are absolutely void of life and motion, and so are accounted with God as nothing — that is, no Christians, no believers, not under the Covenant of Grace for all that ( 1 Corinthians 13:1-4). 2. Men may not only do this, but may also be changed in reality, for a season, from what they formerly were, and yet be nothing at all in the Lord’s account as to an eternal blessing. Read 2 Peter 2:20, the Scripture which I mentioned before; for, indeed, that one Scripture is enough to prove all that I desire to say as to this very thing; for, if you observe, there is enfolded therein these following things — (1.) That reprobates may attain to a knowledge of Christ. (2.) This knowledge may be of such weight and force, that, for the present, it may make them escape the pollutions of the world, and this by hearing the Gospel. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end of that man is worse than the beginning.” [Some professors, take them at the best, they are but like dogs, spewing out their filth for a time.] Now that they are reprobates, dogs, or sows, read further; “But,” saith he, “it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” ( 2 Peter 2:22). Objection. The last part of the objection. But, say you, our practices in the worship of God shall testify for us that we are not under the law; for we have by God’s goodness attained to as exact a way of waking in the ordinances of God, and as near the examples of the Apostles, as ever any churches since the primitive times, as we judge. Answer. What then? Do you think that the walking in the order of the churches of old, as to matter of outward worship, is sufficient to clear you of your sins at the judgment-day? or, do you think that God will be contented with a little bodily subjection to that which shall vanish and fade like a flower, when the Lord shall come from Heaven in flaming fire, with His mighty angels ( 2 Thessalonians 1:7,8). Alas, alas, how will such professors as these are fall before the judgment-seat of Christ! Then such a question as this, “Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?” will make them be speechless, and fall down into everlasting burnings, thousands on a heap; for you must know that it is not then your crying, Lord, Lord, that will stand you in stead; not your saying, We have ate and drank in Thy presence, that will keep you from standing on the left hand of Christ. It is the principle as well as the practice that shall be inquired into at that day. Question. The principle, you will say, what do you mean by that? Answer. My meaning is, the Lord Jesus Christ will then inquire and examine whether the spirit from which you acted was legal or evangelical — that is, whether it was the Spirit of adoption that did draw you out to the thing you took in hand, or a mere moral principle, together with some shallow and common illuminations into the outward way of the worship of God, according to Gospel rule. Question. But, you will say, it is like, How should this be made manifest and appear? Answer. I shall speak briefly in answer hereunto as followeth — First, then, that man that doth take up any of the ordinances of God — namely, as prayer, baptism, breaking of bread, reading, hearing, alms-deeds, or the like; I say, he that doth practice any of these, or such like, supposing thereby to procure the love of Christ to his own soul, he doth do what he doth from a legal, and not from an evangelical or Gospel spirit: as thus — for a man to suppose that God will hear him for his prayer’s sake, for his alm’s sake, for his humiliation’s sake, or because he hath promised to make God amends hereafter, whereas there is no such thing as a satisfaction to be made to God by our prayers or whatever we can do; I say, there is no such way to have reconciliation with God in. And so also for men to think, because they are got into such and such an ordinance, and have crowded themselves into such and such a society, that therefore they have got pretty good shelter from the wrath of the Almighty; when, alas, poor souls, there is no such thing. No, but God will so set His face against such professors, that His very looks will make them to tear their very flesh; yea, make them to wish would they had the biggest millstone in the world hanged about their neck, and they cast into the midst of the sea. For, friends, let me tell you, though you can now content yourselves without the holy, harmless, undefiled, perfect righteousness of Christ; yet there is a day a-coming in which there is not one of you shall be saved but those that are and shall be found clothed with that righteousness; God will say to all the rest, “Take them, bind them hand and foot, and cast them into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” ( Matthew 22:13).
For Christ will not say unto men in that day, Come, which of you made a profession of Me, and walked in church-fellowship with My saints: no; but then it shall be inquired into, who have the reality of the truth of grace wrought in their hearts. And, for certain, he that misseth of that shall surely be cast into the Lake of Fire, there to burn with the devils and damned men and women; there to undergo the wrath of an eternal God, and that not for a day, a month, a year, but for ever, for ever, for ever and ever; there is that which cutteth to the quick. Therefore, look to it, and consider now what you do, and whereon you hang your souls; for it is not every pin that will hold in the judgment, not every foundation that will be able to hold up the house against those mighty, terrible, soul-drowning floods and destroying tempests which then will roar against the soul and body of a sinner ( Luke 6:47-49). And, if the principle be rotten, all will fall, all will come to nothing. Now, the principle is this — Not to do things because we would be saved, but to do them from this — namely, because we do really believe that we are and shall be saved. But do not mistake me; I do not say we should slight any holy duties; God forbid; but I say, he that doth look for life because he doth do good duties, he is under the Covenant of Works, the law; let his duties be never so eminent, so often, so fervent, so zealous. Ay, and I say, as I said before, that if any man or men, or multitudes of people, do get into never so high, so eminent; and clear practices and Gospel order, as to church discipline, if it be done to this end I have been speaking of, from this principle, they must and shall have these sad things fall to their share which I have made mention of. Objection. But, you will say, can a man use Gospel ordinances with a legal spirit? Answer. Yes, as easily as the Jews could use and practice circumcision, though not the moral or Ten Commandments. For this I shall be bold to affirm, that it is not the commands of the New Testament administration that can keep a man from using of its self [that administration] in a legal spirit; for know this for certain, that it is the principle, not the command, that makes the subjector to the same either legal or evangelical, and so his obedience from that command to be from legal convictions or evangelical principles.
Now, herein the devil is wondrous subtle and crafty, in suffering people to practice the ordinances and commands of the Gospel, if they do but do them in a legal spirit, [I beseech you, do not think because I say this, therefore I am against the ordinances of the Gospel, for I do honor them in their places, yet would not that any of them should be idolized, or done in a wrong spirit,] from a spirit of works; for he knows then, that if he can but get the soul to go on in such a spirit, though they do never so many duties, he shall hold them sure enough; for he knows full well that thereby they do set up something in the room of, or, at the least, to have some, though but a little, share with the Lord Jesus Christ in their salvation; and if he can but get thee here, he knows that he shall cause thee by thy depending a little upon the one, and so thy whole dependence being not upon the other, that is, Christ, and taking of him upon his own terms, thou wilt fall short of life by Christ, though thou do very much busy thyself in a suitable walking, in an outward conformity to the several commands of the Lord Jesus Christ. And let me tell you plainly, that I do verily believe that as Satan by his instruments did draw many of the Galatians by circumcision (though, I say, it was none of the commands of the moral law) to be debtors to do upon pain of eternal damnation the whole of the moral law, so also Satan, in the time of the Gospel, doth use even the commands laid down in the Gospel, some of them, to bind the soul over to do the same law; the thing being done and walked in, by and in the spirit; for, as I said before, it is not the obedience to the command that makes the subjector thereto evangelical, or of a Gospel spirit; but, contrariwise, the principle that leads out the soul to the doing of the command, that makes the persons that do thus practice any command, together with the command by them practised, either legal or evangelical. As, for instance, prayer — it is a Gospel command; yet if he that prays doth it in a legal spirit, he doth make that which in itself is a Gospel command an occasion of leading him into a Covenant of Works, inasmuch as he doth it by and in that old covenant spirit.
Again; giving of alms is a Gospel command; yet if I do give alms from a legal principle, the command to me is not Gospel, but legal, and it binds me over, as aforesaid, to do the whole law — “For he is not a Jew,” nor a Christian, “which is one outwardly” — that is, one only by an outward subjection to the ordinances of prayer, hearing, reading, baptism, breaking of bread, etc. — “But he is a Jew,” a Christian, “which is one inwardly,” who is rightly principled, and practiseth the ordinances of the Lord from the leadings forth of the Spirit of the Lord, from a true and saving faith in the Lord ( Romans 2:28,29). Those men spoken of in the 7th of Matthew,( Matthew 7) for certain, for all their great declaration, did not do what they did from a right Gospel spirit; for had they, no question but the Lord would have said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But in that the Lord Jesus doth turn them away into Hell, notwithstanding their great profession of the Lord, and of their doing in His name, it is evident that notwithstanding all that they did do, they were still under the law, and not under that covenant as true believers are — to wit, the Covenant of Grace; and if so, then all their duties that they did, of which they boasted before the Lord, was not in and by a right evangelical principle or spirit.
Again, saith the Apostle, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” ( Romans 14:23); but there are some that do even practice baptism, breaking of bread, together with other ordinances, and yet are unbelievers; therefore unbelievers doing these things, they are not done in faith but sin. Now to do these things in sin, or without faith, it is not to do things in an evangelical or Gospel spirit; also they that do these things in a legal spirit, the very practicing of them renders them not under the law of Christ, as Head of His Church, but the works they do are so much contradiction to the Gospel of God, or the Covenant of Grace, that they that do them thus do even set up against the Covenant of Grace; and the very performance of them is of such force that it is sufficient to drown them that are subjects thereunto, even under the Covenant of Works; but this poor souls are not aware of, and there is their misery. Question. But have you no other way to discover the things of the Gospel, how they are done with a legal principle, but those you have already made mention of? Answer. That thou mightest be indeed satisfied herein, I shall show you the very manner and way that a legal, or old-covenant-converted professor, bear with the terms, doth take both in the beginning, middle, and the end of his doing of any duty or command, or whatsoever it be that he doth do. 1. He thinking this or that to be his duty, and considering of the same, he is also presently persuaded in his own conscience that God will not accept of him if he leave it undone; he seeing that he is short of his duty, as he supposeth, while this is undone by him, and also judging that God is angry with him until the thing be done, he, in the second place, sets to the doing of the duty, to the end he may be able to pacify his conscience by doing of the same, persuading of himself that now the Lord is pleased with him for doing of it. 2. Having done it, he contents himself, sits down at his ease, until some further convictions of his duty to be done, which when he seeth and knoweth, he doth do it as aforesaid, from the same principle as he did the former, and so goeth on in his progress of profession. This is to do things from a legal principle, and from an old-covenant spirit; for thus runs that covenant, “The man that doth these things shall live in them,” of “by them” ( Leviticus 18:5; Galatians 3:12; Romans 10:5). But more of this in the use of this doctrine. Objection. But, you will say, by these words of yours you do seem to deny that there are conditional promises in the Gospel, as is clear, in that you strike at such practices as are conditional, and commanded to be done upon the same. Answer. The thing that I strike at is this, that a man in or with a legal spirit should not, nay, cannot, do any conditional command of the Gospel acceptably, as to his eternal state, because he doth it in an old-covenant spirit. “No man putteth new wine into old bottles;” but new wine must have new bottles, a Gospel command must have a Gospel spirit, or else the wine will break the bottles, or the principle will break the command. Objection. Then you do grant that there are conditional promises in the New Testament, as in the moral law, or Ten Commands. Answer. Though this be true, yet the conditional promises in the New Testament do not call to the same people in the same state of unregeneracy to fulfill them upon the same conditions.
The Law and the Gospel being two distinct covenants, they are made in divers ways, and the nature of the conditions also being not the same, as saith the Apostle, the righteousness of the law saith one thing, and the righteousness of faith saith another ( Romans 10:4-6). That is, the great condition in the law is, If you do these things, you shall live by them; but the condition, even the greatest condition laid down for a poor soul to do, as to salvation — for it is that we speak of — is to believe that my sins be forgiven me for Jesus Christ’s sake, without the works or righteousness of the law, on my part, to help forward. “To him that worketh not,” saith the Apostle [that is] for salvation, “but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith” — mark, “his faith is counted for righteousness” ( Romans 4:5). So that we, saith, he, “conclude that a man is justified by faith without” — mark again, “without the deeds of the law” ( Romans 3:28).
But again; there is never a condition in the Gospel that can be fulfilled by an unbeliever; and therefore, whether there be conditions or whether there be none, it makes no matter to thee who art without the faith of Christ; for it is impossible for thee in that state to do them, so as to be ever the better as to thy eternal estate; therefore, lest thou shouldst split thy soul upon the conditions laid down in the Gospel, as thou wilt do if thou go about to do them only with a legal spirit; but, I say, to prevent this, see if thou canst fulfill the first condition; that is, to believe that all thy sins are forgiven thee, not for any condition that hath been or can be done by thee, but merely for the Man’s sake that did hang on Mount Calvary, between two thieves, some sixteen hundred years ago and odd. And, I say, see if thou canst believe that at that time He did, when He hanged on the Cross, give full satisfaction, for all thy sins, before thou in thy person hadst committed ever a one. I say, see if thou canst believe this; and take heed thou deceive not thyself with an historical, notional, or traditional acknowledgment of the same. And, secondly, see if thou canst so well fulfill this condition, that the very virtue and efficacy that it hath on thy soul will engage thee to fulfill those other conditions, really in love to that Man whom thou shouldst believe hath frankly and freely forgiven thee all, without any condition acted by thee to move Him thereto, according to that saying in 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; and then thy doing will arise from a contrary principle than otherwise it will do — that is, then thou wilt not act and do because thou wouldst be accepted of God, but because thou hast some good hope in thy heart that thou art accepted of Him already, and not on thine, but wholly and alone upon another man’s account; for here runs the Gospel spirit of faith: “We believe,” — mark, “We believe, and therefore speak.” So we believe, and therefore do ( 2 Corinthians 4:13). Take heed, therefore, that you do notDO, that you may believe, but rather believe so effectually that you mayDO, even all that Jesus doth require of you from a right principle, even out of love to your dear Lord Jesus Christ, which thing I shall speak to more fully by and by. Objection. But what do you mean by those expressions? Do not do that you may believe, but believe so effectually that you may do. Answer. When I say, Do not do that you may believe, I mean, do not think that any of the things that thou canst do will procure or purchase faith from God unto thy soul; for that is still the old-covenant spirit, the spirit of the law, to think to have it for thy doing. They that are saved, they are saved by grace, through faith, and that not of themselves, not for anything that they can do, for they are both the free gift of God, “Not of” doing, or of “works, lest any man should,” be proud, and “boast” ( Ephesians 2:8,9). Now, some people be so ignorant as to think that God will give them Christ, and so all the merits of His, if they will be but valiant, and do something to please God, that they may obtain Him at His hands; but let me tell them, they may lose a thousand souls quickly, if they had so many, by going this way to work, and yet be never the better; for the Lord doth not give His Christ to any upon such conditions, but He doth give Him freely; that is, without having respect to anything that is in thee ( Revelation 22:17; Isaiah 55:1,2). To him that is athirst will I give; He doth not say, I will sell; but, I will give him the water of life freely ( Revelation 21:6).
Now, if Christ doth give it, and that freely, then He doth not sell if for anything that is in the creature; but Christ doth give Himself, as also doth His Father, and that freely, not because there is anything in us, or done by us, that moves Him thereunto. If it were by doing, then, saith Paul, “Grace is not grace,” seeing it is obtained by works; but grace is grace, and that is the reason it is given to men without their works. And if it be by grace, that is, if it be a free gift from God, without anything foreseen as done, or to be done, by the creature, then it is not of works, which is clear; therefore it is grace, without the works of the law. But if you say, Nay, it is of something in the man done by him that moves God thereunto; then you must conclude that either grace is no grace, or else that works are grace and not works. Do but read with understanding ( Romans 11:6).
Now before I go any further, it may be necessary to speak a word or two to some poor souls that are willing to close in with Jesus Christ, and would willingly take Him upon His own terms, only they being muddy in their minds, and have not yet attained the understanding of the terms and conditions of the two covenants, they are kept off from closing with Christ; and all is, because they see they can do nothing [to merit His favor]. As, for example, come to some souls, and ask them how they do, they will tell you presently that they are so bad that it is not to be expressed. If you bid them believe in Jesus Christ, they will answer that they cannot believe; if you ask them why they cannot believe, they will answer, because their hearts are so hard, so dead, so dull, so backward to good duties; and if their hearts were but better, if they were more earnest, if they could pray better, and keep their hearts more from running after sin, then they could believe; but should they believe with such vile hearts, and presume to believe in Christ, and be so filthy? Now all this is because the spirit of the law still ruleth in such souls, and blinds them so that they cannot see the terms of the Gospel. To clear this, take the substance or the drift of these poor souls, which is this — “If I were better, then I think I could believe; but being so bad as I am, that is the reason that I cannot.”
This is just to do something that I may believe, to work that I may have Christ, to do the law that I may have the Gospel; or thus, to be righteous that I may come to Christ. O man! thou must go quite back again, thou art out of the way, thou must believe, because thou canst not pray, because thou canst not do; thou must believe, because there is nothing in thee naturally that is good, or desireth after good, or else thou wilt never come to Christ as a sinner; and if so, then Christ will not receive thee; and if so, then thou mayest see that to keep off from Christ because thou canst not do, is to be kept from Christ by the law, and to stand off from Him because thou canst not buy Him. Thus having spoken something by the way for the direction of those souls that would come to Christ, I shall return to the former discourse, wherein ariseth this objection — Objection. But you did but even now put souls upon fulfilling the first condition of the Gospel, even to believe in Christ, and so be saved; but now you say it is alone by grace, without condition; and therefore by these words, there is first a contradiction to your former sayings, and also that men may be saved without the condition of faith, which to me seems a very strange thing. I desire, therefore, that you would clear out what you have said, to my satisfaction. Answer , 1. Though there be a condition commanded in the Gospel, yet He that commands the condition doth not leave His children to their own natural abilities, that in their own strength they should fulfill them, as the law doth; but the same God that doth command that the condition be fulfilled, even He doth help His children by His Holy Spirit to fulfill the same condition; “For it is God which worketh in you,” — mark “in you,” believers, “both to will and to do of His own good pleasure” ( Philippians 2:13). “Thou also hast wrought all our works in us, and for us” ( Isaiah 26:12).
So that, if the condition be fulfilled, it is not done by the ability of the creature. But, 2. Faith, as it is a gift of God, or an act of ours, take it which way you will, if we speak properly of salvation, it is not the first nor the second cause of our salvation, but the third, and that but instrumentally neither — that is, it only layeth hold of and applieth to us that which saveth us, which is the love of God, through the merits of Christ, which are the two main causes of our salvation, without which all other things are nothing, whether it be faith, hope, love, or whatever can be done by us. And to this the great Apostle of the Gentiles speaks fully, for, saith he, “God, who is rich in mercy, loved us, even when we were dead in sins” ( Ephesians 2:4,5).
That is, when we were without faith, and that was the cause why we believed for He thereby hath quickened us together, through the meritorious cause, which is Christ, and so hath saved us by grace — that is, of His own voluntary love and good will; the effect of which was this, He gave us faith to believe in Christ. Read soberly Ephesians 2:4-8.
Faith, as the gift of God, is not the Savior, as our act doth merit nothing; faith was not the cause that God gave Christ as the first, neither is it the cause why God converts men to Christ; but faith is a gift bestowed upon us by the gracious God, the nature of which is to lay hold on Christ, that God afore did give for a ransom to redeem sinners; this faith hath its nourishment and supplies from the same God that at the first did give it, and is the only instrument, through the Spirit, that doth keep the soul in a comfortable frame, both to do and suffer for Christ; helps the soul to receive comfort from Christ when it can get none from itself, beareth up the soul in its progress heavenwards. But that it is the first cause of salvation, that I deny, or that it is the second, I deny; but it is only the instrument, or hand, that receiveth the benefits, that God hath prepared for thee before thou hadst any faith; so that we do nothing for salvation as we are men. But if we speak properly, it was God’s grace that moved Him to give Christ a ransom for sinners; and the same God, with the same grace, that doth give to the soul faith to believe, and so, by believing, to close in with Him whom God out of His love and pity did send into the world to save sinners, so that all the works of the creature are shut out as to justification and life, and men are saved freely by grace. I shall speak no more here; but in my discourse upon the second covenant, I shall answer a Hell-bred objection or two, to forewarn sinners how they turn the grace of God into wantonness.
And thus, you see, I have briefly spoken to you something touching the law. First , what it is, and when given; secondly , how sad those men’s conditions are that are under it; thirdly, who they are that be under it; fourthly , how far they may go, and what they may do and receive, and yet be under it; which hath been done by way of answers to several questions, for the better satisfaction of those that may stand in doubt of the truth of what hath been delivered.