"The Author [the Baxterian] endeavours to clear himself of the Charge of holding the Opinion of a New Law. The Method he takes to do it, is this: We maintain , says he, the Perfection and perpetual Obligation of the moral Law of God , and plead for no new Law in the Room of that , so as to annul it . We don’t make Repentance and Faith a Covenant of Works, nor Salvation to depend only on these as Man’s Duties . But the Gospel we call a new Dispensation, built upon God’s Act of Grace in Christ. And as the Fall occasioned a new Relation between God and Man, new Duties necessarily arise from hence. The moral Law is not only kept up in its Perfection, but it is put into the Hands of Christ, as the appointed Lord and King in the Church; and it is also attemper’d to the State and Condition of Sinners and Gospel Grace. The Place which Repentance and Faith hold in the new Covenant, is all of Grace; and there Duties are to be performed by the Help and Strength of God’s Grace, and must be accepted thro’ Christ. Where then is the Charge of a new Law?
Upon which I thus remark: It seems to be allowed, that a new Law is introduced, yet not so as to annul the old Law; that, notwithstanding retains its Power and Force, only Men are also under another Law, which if they keep, they shall not suffer that Punishment the old Law threatens; but in Case they keep not this new Law, they are delivered over to the Curse of the old Law. Again, if Repentance and Faith are proper Conditions of Salvation, they are made a Covenant of Works; all the Difference is, the old Law required perfect Works as Conditions of Happiness, here imperfect Works serve the Purpose.
Farther, it is plainly allowed, that Salvation depends on Faith and Repentance, (tho’ not only) as Man’s Duties: And therefore Men are in Part causes of their Salvation. I add, I suppose the Act of God’s Grace mentioned, is dispensing with the rigorous Demand of Perfection in the moral Law, as a Condition of Life, upon which the Gospel Dispensation is laid to be built, which lowers the Condition to imperfect Obedience. Moreover, if Repentance is one of those Duties, which necessarily arise from the new Relation, occasioned by the Fall, between God and Man, then it would have been the Duty of Men, in Case no Provision had been made for their Recovery, which is what the Author has more than once seemed to disallow.
I cannot understand what new Relation between God and Man takes Place upon the Fall. Before the Fall, God was Creator, a Lawgiver and Judge to Man: So he was upon the Fall; Man before it, was his Creature, the Subject of his Rule and Government, and so he is after it; but now a Creature chargeable with Guilt, and obnoxious to Death, these are new Circumstances to the unhappy Creature Man; but in no Sense, as I can at present apprehend, may they be denominated a new Relation to God.
I subjoin, it is granted, that the moral Law is put into the Hands of Christ, and he uses that Law, either as a Saviour, or as a Judge merely; in the former Sense, he acquits his People upon the Foundation of his Obedience and Sufferings, and flees them from it as a Covenant of Works: In the latter Sense, he retains Men under the Curse and Condemnation of it now, and will hereafter try, judge and condemn them to endless Misery, according to that Law. I deny, that the old Law is attempered to the State, and Condition of Sinners and Gospel Grace, it commands the same Holiness it ever did, and threatens the same Punishment in Case of Sin, or Defect in Obedience; otherwise its Perfection and perpetual Obligation cease, which this Writer a few Lines above professes to maintain perfectly inconsistent with what is here said, unless I mistake.
To say that Repentance and Faith are Conditions of Life, as an Effect of divine Grace, will not acquit the Opinion, of being contrary to the Doctrine of the Apostle, who constantly denies, that Salvation is of a Law, or of Works. And tho’ these Duties are said to be performed by the Help and Strength of God’s Grace, and that they are accepted thro Christ; yet it is easy to see, that the promised Benefit of Life, becomes due upon the Foot of Right, on the Performance of those Duties, and therefore, the Reward is not of Grace, but of Debt; and that these Duties are to be considered, as the Matter of our Justification before God for Christ’s Sake.
To the Author’s Enquiry therefore, I must take leave to say, Sir, the new Law is here, and that he will never be able to clear himself of so heavy but just a Charge. All the Art he has used, in the Choice of ambiguous Phrases, could not cover his Design, it was a vain Thing in him to expect it; for if Men deliver Principles, which necessarily resolve themselves into the Opinion of a new Law, it can’t reasonably be thought, That that Opinion should long remain out of View.
But what follows is exceeding strange, he tells the Calvinist it would not be difficult to make Reprisals. For you must grant, says he, that the Law is no longer in Force as a Covenant of Works, for the Justification of Sinners: This infers so far an Alteration from the original Law; and therefore one might say you make a new Law. The Answer is, that it is not merely as a Law, it requires Obedience of Men as a Condition of Life, but as it is a Covenant. Their Freedom from it, as requiring Obedience to such an End, infers no Change in it as a Law, for it is not essential to it as a Law, to command Obedience to such an End; but it is essential to it as a Law to require Obedience, and if it now demands of Men imperfect Obedience, it is altered in what is essential to It as a Law, and therefore, is not the same Law it was. Farther, it is still in force, as a Covenant requiring perfect Righteousness in Order to Acceptance with God: Believers have such a perfect Righteousness in Christ, and therefore, they stand perfectly justified in the Sight of God, according to this Law, fulfilled for them, by Christ their great Surety and Saviour." -John Brine