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This shews thc extreme folly of what hath been asserted by certain of our unwary Friends, and echoed back to us by the Enernies of our holy faith, that the GOSPEL ITSELF is only A REPUBLICATION OF THE RELIGION OF NATURE ; whereas, it now appears, that the whole of TuS REPUBLICATION amounts to no more than a republication of one great principle of Natural Religion, viz. Pardon on Repentance; and this, as the foundation of (and in order to introduce and render effectual) our Faith in Christ, the great principle of the Revealed.
To proceed. It is with regard to John's Character of a Preacher of Moral Righteousness, on the principles of Natural Religion, that Jesus says of him,-- Amongst them that are born of women hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist : notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he *: this least in the kingdom of heaven is greater (he says) than John, i.e. greater in office. John only proclaimed and republished that great Principle of Natural Religion, the doing Works meet for Repentance t. Whereas the Disciples of Jesus were the Promulgators of the efficacy of Revealed Religion-SAVING FAITH-Greater in their spiritual gifts and graces. They worked Miracles. John worked no Miracle. The reason is obvious : MIRACLES are the necessary CREDENTIALS of men sent by God to promulge a new Revelation. The preaching up of Natural Religion (which was John's office) needed none of these Credentials: its truth having been engraved in the breasts of every one, when God created Man in his own Image.
But this is not all. The better to secure this natural Foundation of SAVING FAITH, Jesus himself, in his entrance on his Ministry, thought fit to repeat and confirm the Mission of John; and in the very words of his Forerunner--REPENT, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand I. On this account, I suppose, it was that Herod, Jiearing that a new Prophet was just arisen, who began liis Ministry like John, with preaching repentance, because the kingdom of heaven wus at hand, mistook him for John risen from the dead; and being alarınęd at the
* Matt. xi. 11. + Acts xxvi. 20. Matt. iv. 17.
name of Kingdom, joined to the report of Miracles, now first performed by him, concluded, he was returned to life, with the accession of new powers : Herod, I say, in his tright, cries out ---John the Baptist, whom I beheaded, is risen from the dead, and THEREFORE mighty works do shex forth themselves in him* A natural sentiment on this occasion. For cruclty, in its suspicions, commonly adds terror to superstition.
Yea, further, when Jesus first sont out his Disciples to give notice of his Gospel, they, too, were directed to enforce this previous and necessary Truth :---And they went and preached that men should repentti
And they whom he lett behind hiin at his ascension were likewise directed to perforun the same office. They began their work with the doctrine of REPEXTANCE, only changing the Baptism of John into that of Jesus. St. Peter, in his first discourse to all the dwellers at Jerusalem, who enquired of him into the way of salvation, speaks in this manner :--Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ 1.
St. Paul tells Agrippa, that he began his Mission with exhorting both Jews and Gentiles, that they should repent, and turn to God, and do WORKs meet for repentances. And as he begin with repentance, so he ends with it, where in his Epistle to the Hebrews, he expresseth himself in this manner, “ Therefore leaving the Prin
CIPLES of the Doctrine of Christ; let us go on unto “ PERFECTIOX; not laying again the FOUNDATION of
repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God.” -- These are the great principles of Natural Religion, which Christ made the FOUNDATION of his Gospel. Iniquity is called dead works--as by Faith towards diod is meant simple belief in him; and alludes to the same Apostle's definition of Natural Religion--where he says, he that cometh to God must BELIEVE that he is, and that he is a rexurder of them that diligently seek him. The sense of which is this," Sink not back again to, nor “ rest in that Principle of Natural Religion, after you " have made it (as your Master requires you should) the fazendation of his Gospel.” Matt. xiv. 2.
+ Acts ii. 38. Acts xxvi.
$ Acts xxvi.
But as there are not only first principles in Natural Religion, but likewise in the Revealed, the Apostle goes on with an account of these likewise—The doctrines of Baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgement. Now these first principles of the GOSPEL we are likewise forbid to rest in, no less than in those first principles of NATURAL RELIGION, which the Apostle began with-it follows (as we are directed) that we should GO ON UNTO PERFECTION. But if it be asked, What was this doctrine of perfection ? I answer, it was that great MYSTERY, first revealed by the Gospel, which explains our loss by the disobedience of Adam, and the punishment attending it, together with the recovery of that loss by Christ Jesus, who was graciously pleased to become our MEDIATOR; and more than that, by virtue of his death and sufferings on the cross, our REDEEMER likewise, together with all the circumstances attending this wonderful transaction of human redemption.
This Doctrine of Perfection, the Apostle promises to explain to them, it God affords him leisure and a fitting opportunity--if God (says he) permit* This, for some wise ends of his Providence, God did not permit. Nor have we any reason to complain, as he endowed his inspired servants, in general, both with leisure and abilities to enrich the world with the noblest treasures of divine knowledye, ordained to enligliten and accompany his Church till the consummation of all things.
Thus, on the whole, it appears, even by the principle here explained, of SALVATION BY L'AITIL ALONE, that NATURAL RELIGION IS THE GROUND AND FOUNDATION OF ALL THE REVEALED,
Here let us stop a moment, to deplore the condition of human'blindness, always running into opposite extremes. While one sort of Believers (as we have observed) can see no more in the Gospel than a Republication of the Religion of Nature; and another are so far from i owning, that Natural Religion is the foundation of the Revealed, tliat, they are ready to deny that Natural Religion.
* Hib. vi. 1, 2, 3.
These, indeed, are portentous opinions; yet less so than that of our RATIONALISTS, who deny what Scripture has, in so many words, so often repeated, SALVATION, or JUSTIFICATION BY FAITII ALONE.
But they had mistaken the Gospel-doctrine of salvation and justification for no more than God's favour indefinitely, as taught by Natural Religion; whereas the words signity ETERNAL LIFE, bronght to light and defined by the Gospel. What occasioned their confounding two things so different, was an unsuspecter error, full as gross, namely, that Natural Religion, in teaching a reward for well-doing, taught an eternal Reward. An error into which these men could scarce have fallen, had they distinguished the Religion of Nature, to which Adam became subject on his creation, from that Religion which was revealed unto him when he entered Paradise.
This hath been rectified at large towards the beginning of this Discourse; and to what important purposes, the Reader may now understand.
Indeed, had Natural Religion promised life and immortality for well-doing, then would God's tivo Dispensations have contradicted one another; as giving immortality to WORKS by Natural Religion, and inimortality to Faith by the Revealed.
But there are no contradictions in the Economy of God's moral Government. All such are the spawn of kuman Systems, the mis-shapen issue of artificial Theology. And if one thing, in sacred Scripture, seems to look thus asquint upon another, we may be assured it arises from the vitiated Organs of the Observer.
To instance, in the famous case (so apposite to our present purpose) of the Apostles, Paul and JAMES; whom ignorant Interpreters have set at variance.
St. PAUL says *, ---THEREFORE WE CONCLUDE, that a man IS JUSTIFIED BY FAITH WITHOUT THE DEEDS OF THE LAW.
But St. James seems to speak another language tYOU SEE THEN, how that by Works a man is JUSTIFIED, AND NOT BY FAI'SH ONLY.
The assertion of each Apostle is (we see) a CONCLUsion from some preceding PREMISES. These are, first Rom, jii. 28, + His General Epistle, chap. ii. 24.
of all, to be considered, ere we can determine concerning the sense of either conclusion, where the saine capital word is employed, by both Writers, in common.
St. Paul having explained (for that is his subject) the nature of the GOSPEL COVENANT, whereby we are restored to the Inheritance which we lost by Adam's transgression, namely, life and immortality, ends his argument in this manner-Therefore we conclude that a man IS JUSTIFIED BY FAITH [i.e. entitled to this recovered benefit by virtue of Faith) WITHOUT THE DEEDS OF THE Law, (which are Works.] We have shewn how true this position is; Works being what justifies or entitles us to the favour of God, as taught by Natural Religion ; the foundation, indeed, of the Gospel-Covenant; which promiseth life and immortality to FAITH ALONE.
But St. James, where he seems to talk so differently from Paul, was enforcing a very different thing, namely, the obligation of MORAL DUTY, as taught by Natural Religion, though not exclusive of the Revealed; for he exemplifies it by the precepts of the DECALOGU E ; which, though a inoral part of the Law, is supported equally on the two Religionis, Natural and Revealed. He, therefore, concludes his argument in this manner--Thus we see, how that by WORKS A MAN IS JUSTIFIED, and not by Faith only.
Hence it appears, that the two Apostles use the word JUSTIFICATION, in these places, in very different
St. Paul means by it, a title to eternal life, on the terms of Revealed Religion; and St. James, a title to God's favour indefinitely, on the terms of Natural Religion.
Neither can they be fairly charged with obscurity in using an undefined term in different significations, since, had their Readers but attended to the different subjects each apostle was then treating, and both in an equally clear and obvious manner, the objectors would have seen, there was not the least need of a formal definition to ascertain the meaning of either.
On the whole, it appears, that the two Apostles are perfectly consistent in their reasoning on this question. Whose words, when aptly put together, produce this complete and capital Truth, WORKs entitle us to a reward