Jun 12, 2013

Jeremiah 31:33 - William Button

Jer. 31:33, "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people."

I apprehend also Mr. F. has not given the sense, or however the whole sense of Jer. 31:33, which he quotes in the same page, when he says, “The spirit and conduct of Christians, so far as they are formed after the image of Christ, must be the same; that is, nothing more nor less than an entire conformity of the moral law.” For, adds he, “It is not any new law, but the same divine law that is written on their hearts in regeneration, as was written on Adam’s heart in his state of innocence.”—That the law God promises to put into the inward parts, and write in the heart of his people includes the moral law, I don’t dispute; that he influences the mind to obedience, that he disposes the heart to pay a regard to this law at regeneration, and makes the believer willing to take it as the rule of his life, is a fact. But is this all which is meant here? I think not. But that it includes also what the apostle calls the law of the mind, in Rom. 7:23, by which I suppose, with Dr. Gill, is meant “the principle of grace wrought in his mind, called the law of it, because it was the governing principle there, which reigns, and will reign in every regenerate person through righteousness unto eternal life, though the law of sin opposes all its force and power against it” (Expos. on Rom. 7:23). I would take in all these in that great new covenant promise, and especially as the apostle uses the word in the plural number when he quotes the passage in Heb. 8:10, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the House of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God; and they shall be to me a people.”—Taking the words in this sense, (and I think it is a just one) it appears the believer possesses more than Adam in innocence, and that his spirit and conduct are more than a conformity to the moral law, notwithstanding Mr. F. ventures to assert to the contrary.

And pray why is it we read of the believer’s being predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son.—and, as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly—and why does the apostle speak of Christ being formed in the Galatians—and of Christ dwelling in the heart by faith, in the Ephesians—if there is no essential difference between the principles in Adam and that in believers? Surely, when Paul speaks of being conformed to the image of God’s Son, he means more than a being conformed to the image of Adam.—Surely he means to intimate that our state by grace is far superior to our state by nature. Dr. Owen tell us, “It was the old pelagian figment, that what we have by nature we have by grace” (Owen on the Spirit, p. 452).

In page 118, it is said, “The terms by which our conversion to God is expressed, imply a similarity between the principles lost by sin, and those produced by grace.” And Mr. F. begins “first, with observing, we are then said to return to God: but how this could be is difficult to conceive, if the state into which we are brought at conversion essentially differs from that which we were in previous to our departure from God.” I answer, it is true, at conversion a sinner returns to God; but I apprehend it is equally true he returns with such a principle as he never had previous to his departure: let it be observed, that prior to conversion there must be regeneration. A distinction is here necessary, though that distinction Mr. F. has passed unnoticed. IT has been said, and I think with truth, “Regeneration precedes, and may be considered as the foundation and spring of conversion and sanctification. For that is the principle from which both arise. Grace as a principle of spiritual acts is first communicated, and from that proceeds all acts of a holy spiritual nature, both internal and external. Neither of the latter can be, until the first is wrought. And when that is effected, both the latter certainly follow. In the first, we are merely passive, in conversion and sanctification we are active” (Brine on various subjects, p. 126). And it has also been observed by another, “Regeneration is a spiritual change, conversion is a spiritual motion. In regeneration there is a power conferred: Conversion is the exercise of this power. In regeneration there is given us a principle to turn; conversion is our actual turning; that is, the principle whereby we are brought out of a state of nature into a state of grace” (Charn. Works, vol. 2. p. 70). And this principle Adam in innocence never had, he never needed it: it is something new, and only given to the elect of God, and the want of it will never be the cause of the condemnation of sinners.

As to the terms used in Titus 3:5, the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, mentioned in the same page, I am ready to grant, they suppose man to be in a polluted state, and that at regeneration the soul is restored to a state of purity, but question, whether this regeneration does not mean more than a restoration of man to his original state; I think it does; why else are such phrases as these made use of to describe it?—the new man—a new heart—a new spirit—a new creature?—If the believer is a partaker of no other principle than Adam lost by sin, then he is only restored to his old state. It is not a new man—a new heart—a new spirit—a new creature that he is the subject of and is made,--but it is the old man—the old heart—the old spirit—and the old creature restored.—I don’t imagine that a sinner at regeneration has a new soul, but I believe that grace makes such a change in the soul, as that there is a difference, and a very essential difference between his former and his present state: Yea, between what he as a believer enjoys, and what Adam possessed. I think at the resurrection the same body that dies will be raised, but I think the state in which it will rise will be more than circumstantially, it will be essentially different from that in which it was laid in the grave. “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” Now I say, here is an essential difference, except corruption and incorruption; dishonour and glory; weakness and power; natural and spiritual are essentially the same.

You shall hear what good old John Bunyan says on this subject. His words are these: “Adam’s state even in innocency, seems to crave for help; wherefore it is manifest that state is short of that we attain by the resurrection of the dead; yea, for as much as his need required earthly help, ‘tis apparent his condition was not heavenly: The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. Adam in his first estate was not spiritual: That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual. Wherefore those that think it enough to attain to the state of Adam in innocency, think it sufficient to be mere naturalists; think themselves well, without being made spiritual: yea, let me add, they think it safe standing by a covenant of works; they think themselves happy, though not concerned in a covenant of grace; they think they know enough, though ignorant of a Mediator, and count they have no need of the intercession of Christ.

“Adam stood by a covenant of works; Adam’s kingdom was an earthly paradise; Adam’s excellency was, that he had no need of a Saviour; and Adam’s knowledge was ignorant of Jesus Christ: Adam in his greatest glory wanted earthly comforts: Adam in his innocency was a mere natural man” (Bunyan’s Works, vol. 1. p. 12).”

I conclude this part of the subject, in the words of Mr. Charnock, “As grace excels nature, and Christ surmounts Adam; so much more excellent is the state of a Christian, a real Christian above that of a man. Can there be a greater excellency than to have a divine beauty; a formation of Christ, a proportion of all graces, suited to the imitable perfections of God? Man is an higher creature than others, because he hath an higher principle; a life or reason is more noble than of sense. To live by sense, is to play the part, and live the life of brutes; to live by reason, is to live the life of a man: But he that lives by the spirit, lives the life of God, answers the end of his creation, useth his reason, understanding, will, affection for God, by whom they were first bestowed; acts more nobly, lives more pleasantly, than the greatest angel could do without such a principle. A new creature doth exceed a rational creature, considered only as rational, more than a rational doth a brute” (Charn. Works, vol. 2. p. 110).

Mr. F. sums up all under this head, by saying, “The only question to which the whole ought to be reduced is this; whether supreme love to God, would not necessarily lead a fallen creature, who has the gospel preached to him, to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, and his way of salvation” (p. 120). I answer, supreme love to God will lead a man to embrace any revelation God makes of himself, but it will not, it cannot lead a man to embrace what God does not reveal.—Supreme love to God would not lead a heathen to embrace Christ in any sense, because Christ is not revealed even in an external manner.—Supreme love to God would have led the Jews to embrace Christ as the Son of God, and the Messiah, because they had an external revelation of him as such; and because they did not do so, our Lord said, “I know you, that you have not the love of God in you,” John 5:42-43. But supreme love to God would lead no fallen creature to embrace Christ in a way of special faith without Christ being revealed, and revealed in an internal manner by the Holy Ghost. There is no true believing without revelation, without evidence. Supreme love to God doesn’t bind a man to any such faith. God doesn’t require any such faith.—Whether this be a sufficient reply to the question, I leave with you to determine.

I remain,

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