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The gospel may be preached, and all the blessings of the covenant of grace be offered to those who are not willing to accept of the offer, and never will believe the report, and be saved. It is contrary to all reason and common sense, to say, that no good thing can be offered to him who is not, and never can be persuaded to be willing to accept it ; that his rejecting the thing offered, renders it no offer to him, and annihilates the good will and kindness of him who made the offer : Therefore, that there can be no goodness manifested or exercised, in making an offer of the greatest good to him who does not receive it; and there is really nothing offered. But all this is implied in saying that salvation by Christ cannot be offered to those who, by rejecting him, shall not be saved, but perish forever.
It is known to God, that some to whom the gospel is preached, and salvation by Christ offered, will reject it, and who they are who will do so, and consequently fail of salvation. But if their refusing the offer, be consistent with their having it really made to them; then the knowledge that they will refuse to accept it, cannot render the offer less real and sincere.
But that the blessings of the covenant of grace are offered to all, without exception ; and all to whom the gospel comes, are invited and commanded to repent and believe, is as evident and certain a truth, as any contained in the Bible. When Christ sent his disciples to preach, he directed them to say to all, “ Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “ And they went out and preached that men should repent.”* And they offered peace and salvation to every person in the houses, into which they entered.t And Christ himself “preached the gospel of the kingdom of God, saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent ye, and believe the gospel.”I And “now God commandeth all men every where to repent." That is, to comply with the condition of the covenant of grace, and be saved : For, as has been shown, repentance is put for the whole of conversion, and implies faith, and is connected with pardon and salvation. Christ says, he
* Mark vi. 12.
+ Luke x. 5.
Acts svii. 30.
“ that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him.”* None can reject him, to whom he is not offered. Therefore he, with all his benefits, is offered to all who hear the gospel. The apostle Paul offered salvation to all who were present and heard him preach in a synagogue of the Jews : “ Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, (that is, all who are not of the stock of Abraham, but proselytes from other nations) to you is the word of this salvation sent.”† And when the Jews contradicted him, and blasphemed, he and Barnabas said to them, “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you : But seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unwor. thy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”I But to quote any more of this kind is needless. And not so much would have been offered on this head, were it not that there are some who think that salvation by Christ cannot be offered to any but to those who are elected, and shall believe, and be saved.
And as no man can know who they are, so as certainly to distinguish them from others, salvation cannot be offered to any, on any condition or terms whatever. How contrary this notion is both to the scripture and to reason, and how inconsistent with preaching the gospel to any, will appear from the observations which bave been now made.
How great is the privilege, which all enjoy, who live under the gospel ! Salvation is sent unto them, and laid at their feet, and Christ is waiting for their acceptance, standing at the door, and knocking for admittance. How amazing, how inconceivably great is their folly, madness and guilt, who reject this most benevolent counsel of God against themselves, and perish by slighting this offer, and despising the Redeemer !
How safe and happy are they who lay hold of this covenant of grace ! By infinite wisdom it is formed and
• John xil. 48. + Acts xii. 26.
# verse 46.
suited to the state and circumstances of man, and contains every thing he can want to eternity. They may espouse the language of St. Paul, “God hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world
“ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”+
The Manner of the Dispensation of the Covenant of
Grace, and the Preaching of the Gospel.
IN the conclusion of the preceding section, it has been observed and shown, that the covenant of grace is to be exhibited and proposed to all men ; and that the blessings coptained in it, to those who comply with it, are to be freely offered to all to whom the gospel is preached; which Jesus Christ has commanded to be preached to all nations, to every creature, that is, to all mankind. It is now more particularly to be considered, how this is to be done, and what is implied in preaching the gospel.
This subject may be stated and illustrated under the following particulars.
1. Preaching the gospel implies a declaration of the whole system of truth and duty, contained in divine revelation; as all these are implied in the gospel, and have relation to the covenant of grace. Though some truths are more essential and important than others, and the gospel may be said to be preached, while some are overlooked ; yet it cannot be fully preached, unless the whole are brought into view ; and must be in a degree defective, by opposing and rejecting any revealed truth. Therefore, to preach the gospel, is to declare all the counsel of God, as the apostle Paul did. * Every doctrine revealed in the Bible, and every duty prescribed, has a connection with the whole ; and all make but one consistent system. The whole may be summed up and epitomized, in a more general and comprehensive way, by expressly mentioning only the leading and most essential truths contained in the gospel, while others, though not mentioned, are implied ; and every particu. lar truth, and branch of duty, may be more particularly brought into view and explained, as there is occasion, and opportunity offers ; in which the longest life may be spent in teaching, and making advances in learning, and the knowledge of the truth.
* 2 Tim. i, 9. † Rom. viii. 35, 38, 39.
Some of the most essential truths implied in the cov. enant of grace, or the gospel, have been brought into view in the foregoing part of this work, and others are yet to be considered, in their order and connection, together with the duties which are included and enjoined. It appears from what has been said in the preceding chapters, especially in that on the nature of sav. ing faith, that there is such order and connection in revealed truth, and such dependence of one on another, that some things must first be taught, understood and believed, before others can be brought into view, so as to appear in their true light. This may be illustrated by the following instances, some of which have been already mentioned.
The being of God, his attributes and perfections, in which the divine character consists, must first be understood and believed : as this is the foundation of all religious truth, so that every other revealed doctrine depends wholly upon it. Consequently, a gross mistake respecting the character of the Deity, will lead to error through the whole system of theology, and pervert the gospel. This knowledge of God is necessary, in order to know what is the nature of his moral government, and the reason and extent of his law, and the obligation under which men are to obey it. And a right conception of the moral government and law of God is necessary, in order to know what is the moral character and state of man, viz. wholly depraved, and sinful, under the curse and displeasure of God, infinitely guilty and wretched, according to the sentence of a most righteous and good law. All this must be exhibited, understood and believed, before redemption by Christ can be understood, or come into view. Those truths are therefore implied in the gospel, and the covenant of grace ; and the gospel cannot be preached with. out exhibiting them in a true and proper light. In the light of these truths, the way is prepared to discover, and set before men, the design and work of redemption ; the person, character, design and work of the Redeemer, and the grace and salvation opened in the gospel ; and to show what is necessary, in order to be saved by Christ, and in what this salvation consists ; and what are the duties, and promises, and threatenings, which are revealed in the Bible.
*. Acts xx. 27.
II. The publishing of the covenant of grace, and preaching the gospel, does not disannul the law of God, or discharge men from duty and obedience ; but requires and demands obedience of all to whom it is preached.
The law is not in the least abated in the extent and strictness of the precepts of it by the gospel. The obedience of Christ does not discharge any man, even those who believe in him, from perfect obedience to the law of God; or free them in the least degree, from their obligations to be perfectly holy.
" Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth :" So that he may be delivered from the curse of the law, be pardoned and justified, consistent with the law, though he has no personal righteousness and obedience, which answers the demands of it. But this does not remove his ill desert in any degree, or take away, or lessen his obligation to obey the law perfectly : And it remains as much the measure and rule of duty to him, as ever it was. And he is no farther holy, or does any duty, than he conforms to the law of God, and obeys it, requiring him to love God with all his heart, soul and strength, and his neighbour as himself. Thus the preaching of the gospel does not make void the law, but establishes it.*
Rom. ü. 31.