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it. . The foundation of our obligation, is the relation in which we stand to God as his creatures—but he never can, consistently with his nature as a just and benevolent being, require the fulfilment of this obligation without affording all proper assistance. Moreover, it is utterly impossible, in the nature of things, to require us to see without light, to hear without sound, or to love without grace. The impossibility arises from this consideration, that Christ, the true light, has come, the Spirit of truth is sent into the world, and the warning, inviting voice of God is gone forth into all the world. This being the case, you might, with equal propriety, say,
that a man sees under the meridian sun, without the aid of its enlightening rays, as to say, that a sinner, under the blazing light of the gospel, can have spiritual discernment without spiritual light and you might also as well assert, that a man can eat and be satisfied without food, as to say, that a sinner can love God without the love of God. It is true, God requires every man to love him with all his heart; and this requirement is just and good; but a sinner can never comply with it before he repents, and he cannot repent, nor believe in the Lord Jesus Christ without grace. The grace of repentance and faith being given, and being used, on our part, the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost. Then, if we continue to walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.
Now the obligation to love God with all the heart is fulfilled.
12. The parable of the prodigal son recorded Luke xv. is both a proof and an illustration of the subject under consideration, i.e. that a sinner is convinced of sin, that he manifests his sorrow by confession, before he is restored to divine favour. In the first place, he came to himself-here was conviction, after a long night of insensibility. 2. He remembered the wealth and benevolence of his Father. Here is a lively representation of the recollection of the exuberant goodness of God, which the sinner had abused. 3. He resolved to return with this humiliating confession, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight. This is the language of an awakened penitent sinner, exercised with that godly sorrow, which worketh repentance unto salvation. 4. Then the Father is represented as beholding him while yet afar off, as meeting him, and falling upon his neck and kissing him; all which is emblematical of the sense of reconciliation which results from the witness of pardoning love. Now I ask, is not a sinner better, even in the temper of his mind, while making this humble confession of sin, and while returning to God in the act of sincere repentance, than he is, while wallowing in the swinish pleasures of sensuality, and wandering afar off in the strange country of iniquity? To say that all this is subsequent to justification, is totally to subvert the order of things. It is assuming a ground utterly untenable, as will be shown in the sequel...
The case of the publican is also directly in point.me After he made his confession, with humble contrition of soul, it is said, He went down to his house justified rather than the other. What makes the marked difference between this man and the pharisee? If he was no better, while in the penitent posture of confession, than the pharisee while he exulted in the pride of his own righteousness, why is he commended by the Lord Jesus, on this very account? Persons in this penitent state are unquestionably in a more hopeful way, than those who are hardening themselves in iniquity.
Neither is there any necessity to quiet his conscience, by telling him to rest here, as if the work of his salvation were done. Indeed, were we to teach, that regeneration is the first work of grace upon the soul, and that, when a soul is once justified, he cannot go back and finally perish, there would be the greatest danger of deception imaginable. Is it not encouraging to a penitent sinner, to be informed while under the painful exercise of repentance, and struggling against the strong tide of native impurity, that these are sure indications of a gracious work begun in his heart, and that, if he despair not, the Lord Jesus will appear to his deliverance? It is true it is all of grace. It being from unmerited favour that he is awakened, and enabled to repent--and this grace of repentance and faith precedes the grace of justification, as much as dawn of day precedes full day-light. There is first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the
ear, Mark. iv. 28. The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened, Matth. xiii. 33. Do not these metaphorical representations denote a gradual work upon the heart previous to justification ? If so, as they certainly do, then a man is not totally depraved until justified.
13. But faith in the Lord Jesus is required in ora der to justification; and therefore believing must precede justification. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Rom. v. 1. In this text faith is considered the (instrumental) cause of our justification, and peace the effect. Justification itself is an act of God—It is God that justifieth. And is it not impossible in the nature of things for an effect to precede its cause? Most certainly. It follows therefore that believing in the Lord Jesus with an heart unto righteousness, is antecedent to regeneration.It is so declared to be in the most explicit manner, by inspiration itself. After that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Eph. i. 13. Here the seal of pardon is said to be given after believing. Can a sinner believe to the salvation of his soul, without the aid of divine grace? It is certainly impossible. And therefore a penitent sinner has grace before he is justified; and consequently he is not totally sinful until justified.
14. If you still contend that regeneration is effected in the human heart previous to repentance and faith, then you must take the following conse
quences along with you—That a sinner is justified in impenitence and in infidelity--and then you have an impenitent, unbelieving believer, an holy, impenitent saint, a justified unbeliever! Whereas Christ saith, He that believeth not shall be damned. If a sinner may be justified in unbelief, he may, according to that declaration of the Lord Jesus, be in a state of justification and condemnation at the same time, i.e. he may be justified, and not justified at the same time: the Lord Jesus also saith, Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish; therefore if a sinner is justified before he repents, he may be in danger of perishing while in a state of justification. Such are the absurd consequences resulting from your unscriptural notion of total depravity. Moreover, if regeneration be effected by the first act of divine grace upon his heart, he is no more a free agent in the work of his regeneration, than he was in his creation and therefore the objection which you state, and endeavour to obviate, that your doctrine annihilates the moral agency of man, and consequently his responsibility, remains in all its force. Not that it lies against the doctrine of human depravity scripturally explained, and understood; but against your notion of regeneration, which you think originates from your doctrine of total depravity.
We freely grant, that the sinner does not take one step towards salvation, until divine grace moves him thereto, by enlightening his understanding, and by influencing his will; but we also contend, that after