Feb 3, 2010


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'A few years ago, a neighbouring minister published a treatise on the duty of sinners respecting faith in Christ. You found that he and your own minister, with some others, had once thought differently on that subject, and that they now considered the duty of the unconverted as extending further than they once conceived.' From first to last, Mr. Ryland went no further into this matter, than thinking, it was not a matter or point of faith with him, but a point of thought. Should Mr. Adams wait patiently a few years, Mr. Ryland may in time come back to his old way of thinking again, and so finish where he begun; especially if God should gather his thoughts from the extensive latitude of the sinner's duty, and bring them into captivity to the obedience of Christ. However, let us try this doctrine which insists upon the duty of all men to believe in Christ.

1. This doctrine can never be established by the practice or example of Jesus: for though he called all that laboured and were heavy laden to come to him, and those that were sick, that were hungry, and thirsty, &c. yet it is clear that he always sent the curious, the pharisaical, and the whole-hearted inquirer, to the law. "What is written in the law? how readest thou? This do, and thou shall live." "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." And, if they asked Which? he replied, "Do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery; and Honour thy father and mother." This sending them to the law to work, is a sufficient proof that Christ made not his gospel the rule of these men's duty. Mr. Ryland and Mr. Fuller act contrary to Christ, who is the best example; for it is clear that the Saviour went a different way from them, in making the two tables of the law, not the gospel, the rule of these men's obedience.

2. I think, with respect to the unconverted, sir, that you begin at the wrong end. You tell them, it is the duty of all men to believe; but, as faith is produced in the soul by the Spirit, and is brought forth into exercise by a spiritual birth, I think you should tell the unconverted, that it is their duty first to beget themselves; then to quicken their own souls; then to make a new heart and a new spirit; and then by perfect love, to cast out fear from their hearts; and then their faith would work by their love. A child cannot walk before it is born, nor can any man walk by faith till he is born again. Marvel not at this: before a man can believe, he must be born again.

3. This extorting evangelical obedience to the faith from infidels shut up in unbelief; is a doctrine that cannot meet with the approbation, nor be attended with the impression, of the Holy Ghost; for he is the Spirit of faith, and produces faith: but, by this doctrine the unconverted are set to perform what none but the Spirit of God can effect. A man receives grace for the obedience of faith; but that which is produced by the Spirit's energy, is here made the carnal man's duty. Man is made the agent, where the Spirit is the efficient; and, can it be expected that the Spirit will attend with his seal a doctrine that brings no honour to him? He will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to the unconverted. This doctrine will never add one soul to the household of faith.

4. If it is the duty of all men to believe, they must believe that Jesus died for all men; that he will pardon all men, and save all men. If they believe not this, their faith is vain, and they are yet in their sins; and if all men do believe this, they believe a lie, for the bible affords no such warrant for the universal faith of these unconverted legions. "I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion." Were I to go to the condemned criminals in the cells of Newgate, and tell them, it is their duty, one and all, to believe; that the king will pardon them at the gallows, and that he will save them from death: should I succeed with this doctrine, and bring them all to believe the report, I should think that I had acted as the false prophets did in the days of Jeremiah, make this people to trust in a lie; and, when the rope came to be put round their necks, they would have just cause to curse my false doctrine, and me also as an impostor and a deceiver. And if all men believe Mr. Ryland's doctrine, they will go down to the grave with a lie in their hand; and he will appear but little better in their sight, when they lift up their eyes in hell, than I should in the eyes of the above criminals, when cast off at Tyburn.

5. It appears to me further, that this duty of the unconverted is attended not only with very great difficulties, but with some impossibilities; and, therefore, it becomes Mr. Ryland to give those labourers all the assistance that he possibly can give them, because the revealed will of God is point blank against his doctrine. "Behold I work a work in your days," saith the Lord, "a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you," Acts, xiii. 41. Hence it appears that they do not believe; not only because they will not, for if they would, it is not of him that willeth; but they believe not, because they cannot, and because they shall not. "They could not believe, because he hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts," John, xii. 37. 40. Hence Mr. Ryland's task appears more difficult than making bricks without straw; for he says, it is the duty of all men to believe wherever the gospel comes, what, God says, they shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it to them.

6. All labour bestowed on the goats, sir, will add nothing to the household of faith. It is best of all to seek the lost sheep of the house of Israel: these shall most surely believe; not by enforcing the duty of all men upon them, but the power of Christ in them. "As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me." "Thy people shall be willing in the day of my power." It is the sheep, sir, that must come for your hire in the great day; therefore seek these: the goats are the price of the field, but Christ is the price of the sheep. Do as you are bid; feed the sheep, feed the lambs; the goats will never believe the gospel, though they may believe your doctrine. "Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you." You shall as soon change their complexion by animal magnetism, as change their hearts with your doctrine.
7. The voice of the chief shepherd, sir, is directed to the sheep: "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold, and they shall hear my voice." "My sheep hear my voice, and follow me-" but, as for the law, the voice of that is directed to the unconverted. "Now we know, that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law." But you frustrate the grace of God on the one hand, and are partial in the law on the other; for you set the law before the believer, as his only rule of life and conduct; and the gospel is set before the unconverted, as their only rule of duty. The carnal man has got an evangelical rule, and the heir of promise has got a legal one; the life-giving commandment is palmed upon the congregation of the dead, and the ministration of death is saddled on the children of the resurrection; the believers are all sent to Moses, and the unconverted are sent to Jesus; Moses is to have the legitimate sons, and Christ is to have the bastards. This turning things upside down is esteemed as potter's clay. Should any person bring a company of vagrants into Mr. Ryland's house, and leave them there to claim his affection, and all the privileges of his own children; and at the same time carry his own offspring into the Indian plantations, and put them under the rigorous rules of a negro-driver, who accuses and whips them all day long; I question not but Mr. Ryland would be greatly incensed at the application of his own doctrine! The parallel holds good: the distinction is not so great between Mr. Ryland and the task-master, the vagrants and his children, as between Christ and Moses, saints and sinners.

8. This doctrine is making Christ the minister of a legal commandment, instead of the author of an endless life. It is making the covenant of grace, the mystery of faith, the ministration of the Spirit, the better hope, no more than a dead man's rule of legal duty. It is lessening, eclipsing the glory, and debasing the everlasting gospel to the level of carnal men. This wisdom is too high for a fool, and must never be debased to a level with him: it never can be known, but by God's shining into the heart, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

9. Preaching the law, as the only rule of the unconverted man's duty, is handling the law lawfully, for it speaks to them that are under the law; and it is imitating Christ: and I think that if Mr. Ryland could, by enforcing this rule of duty, produce love in the unconverted, it would answer the end that he aims at by his present doctrine, and would keep him from the sin of frustrating the grace of God. He legalizes the gospel, and makes it a rule of duty, I suppose, in order to produce faith in the unconverted; and, could he produce love by the law, it would be the same, for "Charity believeth all things."

10. I think, after all Mr. Fuller's and Mr. Ryland's logick is spent in the battle, that they never will be able to make the glorious gospel a legal rule of duty for the unconverted. There is a great difference between law and gospel, works and grace, the letter and the Spirit; and between a legal commandment and a life-giving commandment. The former bids us work for life, the latter bids us live: "When thou wast in thy blood, I said unto thee, live." At which command the sting of death flies, and life and immortality are brought to light. The former is of works, and was given by Moses: this latter is of grace and truth, and came by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is set king on the holy hill of Zion; and upon that hill God commanded him to give the blessing, even life for evermore, he sent his son Jesus Christ to bless us, and to lay down his life for us, and to give eternal life to as many as the Father has given him. This commandment he received from his Father, who gave him a commandment what he should say, and what he should speak: "And I know," saith the Saviour, "that his commandment is life everlasting." "If a man keeps my sayings he shall never see death." "My word is spirit, and my word is life," for the Spirit of life goes with it; "And they that hear the voice of the Son of God shall live." This commandment in the letter of it, and a speculative knowledge of it, attended with a gift of speech or utterance, has been given to many bond-servants, who have been sure to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them; which was only verifying the truth 'of the proverb: and such have made very little better use of it than Mr. Ryland, who makes it the legal rule of a dead man's duty. But as for this life-giving commandment, in the divine power of it, Jesus will never trust any man with that; for though he gave the word of life to the apostles, yet he bid them stay till they were endued with power from on high. The Holy Ghost was sent on them, and did abide in them. And, "He," saith Christ, "shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak." Yea, Christ took up his abode in the hearts of his apostles: and, as Paul says, Christ speaks by me; and it is not weak, but mighty, in you Corinthians. Hence it appears that the life-giving commandment was in the apostles' mouth, but it was Christ that spoke it forth by his Spirit, and made them speak as he gave them utterance. When Paul said to the gaoler, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house;" Christ spoke the word by Paul's mouth; faith went to the gaoler's heart by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; he believed, and all his house. Thus the excellency of the power was of God, and not of Paul; and the strength of Christ appeared the most conspicuous in Paul's weakness. "He that heareth whomsoever I send," saith the Saviour, "heareth me." When Peter said, "Repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out;" He that is exalted to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins, sent his Spirit and grace with the word, to work repentance and conversion in his own elect. And though they spake the word promiscuously to all, yet Christ only spoke it to his own. It never was sent with the power of the Spirit of faith to any but to his own elect: "As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed." This is the life-giving commandment of the everlasting God, in the mouth of Zion's king. But what effect has it, or what power attends it, from the mouth of Mr. Ryland, or Mr. Fuller, when they make it the rule of a dead man's duty? Just as much as the adjuration of the sons of Sceva the Jew, when they abused the name of the Lord Jesus, in commanding the evil spirit, who left the man, and mastered them; and so these labour for the unconverted, till they get into the gall of bitterness themselves. To make the word of eternal life, in the mouth of Christ, a legal rule of duty for a condemned criminal in chains how dishonourable to Christ! how degrading to the gospel! and how confounding and disgustful to the children of God! You might just as well go to the gates of the grave, and tell the sleeping dust, it is their duty to come forth as Lazarus did; for they are commanded to arise, and shake themselves from the dust. Mr. Ryland may just as well do the one as the other. When Christ says to the earth, Cast out your dead, she shall obey his voice; for he is the resurrection and the life: and the dead sinner shall never perform his duty by Mr. Ryland's rule, till he hears the voice of the Son of God, which never attends a minister of the letter.

11. The grace of faith is the Spirit's fruit: he produces it under his operation, and testifies of, and exhibits to the mind, the object to be believed in. The Spirit persuades the mind of interest in that object, and produces the appropriating act of faith to make the application. Faith, the act of it, and the exercise of it, is wholly depending on, and owing to, the Spirit of God, who is the Spirit of faith. If this wind blow not on the Lord's garden, no spices will ever flow out grateful to him who can eat nothing but his own pleasant fruits. And he that turns the mystery of the gospel into a legal rule, and makes the above faith, in its nature, act, and exercise, the duty of the uncircumcised, he proclaims to the world at once that he never yet, with the heart, believed unto righteousness; for he cannot make confession with his mouth to salvation. The mystery of faith is the law of the Spirit, or the Spirit's law; and it is under his divine operations and influence that evangelical obedience is produced: both service and worship must be performed in the newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

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