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Nor am I singular in this notion,' for all mankind think so
However, that no man short of perfection can be properly said to have complied with the Gospel,' is a very singular notion, indeed; and in effect makes the covenant of works and the covenant of grace precisely one and the same thing. But to proceed,
6. By entering into covenant, and engaging to perform the duties which the covenant requires, a man binds himself to be doing the duties required by the covenant, in the manner in which he engages to do them, as long as the covenant is in force. To say otherwise, is to say that a man binds himself, and yet does not bind himself, which is an express contradiction. Thus the Israelites at Mount Sinai, and in the plains of Moab, bound themselves and their posterity to observe all the rites of the ceremonial law, so long as that should be in force. But when the ceremonial law was abrogated, they were no longer bound to observe its rites. And thus, if Mr. M.'s external covenant does in fact, require religious duties to be done in a graceless manner, so long as sinners remain graceless, and no longer; then as soon as ever sinners are converted, they are free from the bonds of this covenant, as much as the Jews were from the ceremonial law, at the resurrection of Christ; and so are then at liberty to enter into the covenant of grace, and to engage to live by faith on the Son of God, and to be holy in all manner of conversation, pressing towards perfection, the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus : but not till thenagreeable to the apostle's reasoning in Rom. vii. 1, 2, 3. But if this external covenant, which requires duties to be done in a graceless manner, is in fact binding for life; if it is in. this sense an everlasting covenant, as was the covenant with Abraham, (Gen. 17.) then no man who has entered into it is at liberty, while he lives, to cease performing duties in a graceless manner. For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth ; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, it while her husbund liveth she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress : but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no
adulteress, though she be married to another mun. Mr. M. inay now take his choice. He may say, that his external covenant, which requires duties' to be done in a graceless manner, is binding for life, or it is not. If it is not binding for life, then it is self-evident that it is not an everlasting covenant, like that in Gen. 17. If it is binding for life, then he who enters into it binds himself to perfom all duties in a graceless manner as long as he lives. This difficulty against his scheme he has not removed. Nor has he ventured to look it fairly in the face. See p. 30, 31, 32.
7. By an unconditional covenant is meant, a covenant which promises its blessings to all whom it respects, without any condition at all; so that no qualification at all, of any kind, is necessary in order to a covenant right to all its blessings. Thus God's covenant with Noah and with his seed, and with every living creature with him, even with the fowl and with every beast of the earth, that all flesh should no more be cut off by the waters of the flood, is of the nature of an unconditional grant, conveying the promised security to all, without respect to any qualification whatever.
Question ). Is Mr. M.'s external covenant conditional, or unconditional ? If unconditional, then no qualification whatever is requisite in order to a covenant right to all its bless. ings. Pagans, Turks, Jews, Deists, Heretics, and the scandaluus, have as good a right as such to partake at the Lord's table, as to hear the Gospel preached. If conditional, then,
Question 2. Doth Mr. M.'s external covenant require, as a condition of its blessings, holy exercises of heart, or upholy exercises yf heart, or no exercise of heart at all, nothing but : external bodily motions, considered as unconnected with any volition If holy exercises of heart, then no graceless man, as such, hath a right to its blessings. If unholy exercises of heart, then it is a graceless covenant, which he says is 'a : graceless phantom. If no exercise of heart at all, nothing but external, bodily motions; then our hearts have nothing to do with it; and we need not concern ourselves about it; for it is not a thing of a moral nature; and so has no concern in the business of religion.
THE NATURE OF MR. M.'s EXTERNAL coveNANT. 215
Had Mr. M. first of all acquired determinate ideas himself, and then given an exact definition of his external covenant, which he has in a publie manner been called upon to do, it would have rendered his readers' work easy: but now it is so difficult to know wbat he means, that even his inost learned admirers are not agreed, whether his external covenant is conditional or unconditional. However, let us hear him explain himself.
The nature of Mr. M.'s external covenant, as stated and ex
plained by himself, under the notion of a conditional covenant.
AS our author has no where particularly enumerated the peculiar privileges and blessings of his external covenant, which those, and those only, are entitled to who are in it; vor particularly stated its conditions; nor so much as let us know with certainty whether it be conditional, or unconditional so there is no way but to look through both his books, and pick up here and there what we can, in order to determine what he means, and consider it in every point of light in which he sets it.
And first, we shall consider it as a conditional covenant. And in this view of it we may observe the following things :
1. In his first book, p. 58. he expressly delares, that the external covenant between God and the visible church is distinct from the covenant of grace.' And he speaks of this, as what he had through his whole book been 'endeavouring to establish. And in his second book, (p. 60–64.) he undertakes to prove this point over again at large; that it is of a different tenour,' and made for ' a different purpose,' from that of the covenant of grace. I mention this, because some think that he means the covenant of grace by his external covenant.
2. He affirms over and over,' that the external covenant has no respect to a gracious state of heart.' And it is a chief design of both his books to prove this point; that so he may prove that unregenerate, graceless men, as such, may be qualified to enter into it, and may have a covenant right in the siglit of God to all it blessings. So that, professedly, no conditions are required, but those which are graceless ; no qualifications are requisite, but those which are upholy; for lie affirms, that the unregenerate are totally depraved,' and in a state of enmity against God,' (p. 52.) And that they do not perform any truly holy obedience.' (p. 17.) So that his external covenant, if conditional, is a graceless covenant.
But it is conditional, for,
3. He says in bis first book, (p. 21.) 'That none but such as profess the Christian religion, and will endeavour to conform their practice to the rules of it, ought to be admitted into the church. And accordingly, (p. 42, 43, 44.) he insists that the disorderly and vicious,' should be debarred. But if it is a conditional covenant, and if it requires merely graceless qualifications as the condition of its privileges, then it is a graceless covenant. For that covenant which promises its blessings to graceless men, on graceless conditions, is a graceless covenant.
4. If Mr. M.'s external covenant promises certain blessings and privileges upon some certain conditions ; so as that those who are so and so qualified may be members of the visible church, and no others, then it is of great importance to know precisely what these conditions, what. these qualifications are, as otherwise no man can possibly determine whether he hath them, and so whether he may lawfully join with the church, and seal the covenant. And this is more necessary on Mr. M.'s scheme than on any other, because he holds, which we do not, that no man may enter into covenant with God in a public profession of religion, and join with the church, unless he infallibly knows that he has the necessary qualifications;, unless he is as certain of it as a man called to give evidence in a civil court, is of a fact which he sees, and to the truth of which he can make oath before the civil magistrate. (p. 79.) But if men must be thus certain that they have the requisite qualifications, before they can with a good conscience juin with the church, then they must,
in this high sense, be certain what qualifications are requisite. Yea, there are four things, concerning which they must have the same degree of certainty as they have about any fact which they see with their eyes, before they can on bis plan with a good conscience join with the church. 1. That the bible is the word of God, because this is the grand charter of all church privileges. 2. That Mr. M.'s external covenant is contained in the bible, and is that on which the visible church is constituted. Because otherwise no man has any right on this plan to join with the church. 3. What qualifications are necessary according to this external covenant to fit them to join with the church and attend sealing ordinan
And then, 4. They must be as certain that they have these qualifications, as that ever they saw the sun.-Now he thinks, that on our scheme, many true saints will be kept back from the Lord's table; but on his scheme, it is evident that no one graceless man, whose conscience is awake, and who knows any thing considerable about his own heart, can join with the church : because there never was, nor will be, any such sinner, who can say that he is as certain of these four things, as he is of a fact which he has seen with his eyes, and of the truth of which he can make oath before the civil magistrate 9.
But at present the only question is this, viz. What are the qualifications which are requisite to full communion in the visible church, according to Mr. M.'s external covenant? The covenant of works requires perfection, as the condition
9 Mr. Mather in his preface, says, “ I am not so fond of my own judgment, or tenacious of my own practice, but that I stand ready to give them both up, when any one shall do the friendly office of setting light before me.”—He himself, therefore, cannot swear to the truth of his scheme ; he has not “that cer. tain knowledge of it, that he has “ of a particular fact, about which he is called to give an evidence in a civil court." It is only his “ prevailing opinion." P. 79. And if his external covenant is a mere human device, his practice upon it is what God hath not required at his hands. He has no warrant to put God's seals to a covenant devised by man. And, according to his scheme, he ought not to act in this affair without absolute certainty. To be consistent, he ought to act po more on his plan, until he is infallibly certain that it his duty. For, to use his own argument, p. 79. “if it being a real duty is that which gives us a real right to act; then it being a known duty is that which gives us a known right.” And I may add, “this is a self-evident proposition." But more of this, in Sec. xi. VOL, 111,