« PreviousContinue »
scriptural text, one or more, for evincing the truth thereof; by which means the weakest that is willing may come to understand the most difficult paradox or mystery mentioned in this book ; at least so far as to see that every part of it is founded on the Word of God, either directly, or by plain and necessary consequence.
Only this general rule is to be observed, namely, That the reader always consider what is the subject treated in every section or stanza ; and this, for the sake of the more illiterate, I shall illustrate by two examples, the one concerning the law, the other concerning the believer.
The former you see, page 170, where it is said,
I'm not oblig'd to keep it more,
Here you are to remark, that as the subject spoke of, is the law; so the law in scripture is considered two ways, viz. both as a covenant of works, and as a rule of duty. Now, that the believer is under no obligation to the law as it is a covenant of works, or to perform obedience to it as a ground of justification, (which is also the subject treated in that section), is confirmed in the foot-notes, by the following scriptures, (to which you are directed by the letter (s), Rom. vi. 14. Gal. v. 1.-4. where you may see believers are said to be not under the law, but under grace; and exhorted to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free; and assured, that Christ is become of no effect to them, whosoever of them are justified by the law ; they are fallen from grace. Again, that the believer is under more obligation than ever before he was justified, to yield obedience to the law as it is a rule of life, (which is the other branch of that paradox), is confirmed by these following texts of scripture, (to which you are directed by the letter (t), Rom. vi. 1. 2. 15, where it is said, Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound ? God forbid : how shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein ? What then ? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace ? God forbid. From which texts, together with their contexts, it is evident, that the believer's freedom from the law as a covenant does not at all free him from obligation to it as a rule, but superadds to the natural obligation, that of grace, which both argumentatively and effectively teaches what the law does authoritatively and preceptively, namely, to deny ungodliness, and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, Titus ii. 11. 12,
The other example I adduce, you may read, page 198, where the words are :
To good and evil equal bent,
I'm both a devil, and a saint. Here the reader may notice, that the subject spoken of, is the believer, or the saint's old and new man described, (which is part of the title of that section), or considered as to his regenerate and unregenerate part; in which view he is frequently spoke of in scripture ; ex. gr. 1 John iii. 6. 9. It is said of the believer, or the person born of God, that he sinneth not, and that he cannot sin, because he is born of God : there he is spoken of as to his new nature or regenerate part. But, 1 John i. 8. the words are,
that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; where the Apostle speaks of believers unregenerate and corrupt part. Now, this being the scriptural representation of the believer, the foresaid paradox is easily proven from scripture.
The first branch is, That he is equally bent to good and to evil. For the proof of this, you are directed in the foot-note to Rom. vii. 21. where the Apostle Paul, speaking both of his corrupt and renewed part, says, I find a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. And if you read the preceding and following context, you will find him coinplaining how corruption bends him as far one way as grace another.
The other part of the same paradox is, That the believer is on these accounts both a devil and a saint. Now, that the believer is by nature and corruption a devil, is one branch of this position here to be confirmed. That he is so by nature, is proven by the following scriptures in the forecited page at the bottom, John vi. 70. and viii. 44. compared ; where Christ speaking of some that were in a natural state, viz. of Judas and the Jews, discovers what is the state of all men by nature, that they are of their father the devil, since the lusts of their father they will do ; and therefore may be called devils, as our Lord calls Judas, saying, I have chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil. And such are believers also naturally as descendants of the first Adam, being children of disobedience, and children of wrath by nature, even as others, Eph. ii. 2. 3. And that the believer is so, not only by nature, but also by reason of remaining corruption, is proven at the foot of the same page from James iii, 15. where that Apostle speaking of strife and envy that may be even among the children of God, (which indeed has too much taken place in all ages), says, This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. Again, that though the believer be by nature and corruption a devil, yet he is by grace and regeneration a saint, is documented also in the same page from 1 Cor. vi. 11. Such were some of you : but ye are sanctified, &c.
In this manner you may go over all the rest of the paradoxes, riddles, or mysteries contained in this book, and find them evidently confirmed by the scriptures of truth, the word of God. This might be no unprofitable exercise, but tend to lead you in to the true knowledge of the gospel, to which mysteries are so essential, that it is designed by them, and called the wisdom of God in a mystery, 1 Cor. ii. 7. and the knowledge of which is so essential to Christianity, and so absolutely necessary to salvation, that the same Apostle declares, that if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost : in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Again, if you search the scriptures, you will see many more proofs for every point that I have adduced, and perhaps many much more opposite; for these only are set down at the bottom of the page that first occurred to me: yet I suppose, though sometimes but one, and sometimes more scriptures are pointed out, they are such as sufficiently confirm the positions they relate to. But that other scriptures might have been adduced in plenty, I shall give one instanee in the paradox just now mentioned, viz. :—That every believer while in this world, is both a devil and a saint. The latter clause is what none will deny, namely, That every true believer is a saint; for further proof of which, you may see Acts xv. 9. and xxvi, 18. &c. But because the first clause may seem more harsh it may by scripture be also further evinced two ways :1st, In respect of the daily commission of sin he has to challenge himself with : for the scriptures says, Eccl. vii. 20. There is not a just man upon earth, that doth good, and sinneth not. And with this compare 1 John iii. 8. He that comunitteth sin, is of the devil. Hence
it is plain, there is not a just man upon earth, but may, in respect of the commission of sin, be called a devil. 2dly, In respect of prevalent temptations, by which he may be hurried into those things that favour not of God, but of men; on which account Christ says to Peter, Matth. xvi. 23. Get thee behind me, Satan. And if Christ calls Peter a devil, whom he liath described as a saint of the first magnitude, vers. 17. one divinely blessed and enlightened ; what occasion may every believer have to call himself a devil ? Yea, it is a part of his faith and sanctity, to see and acknowledge with shame before the Lord his own devilish and desperately wicked heart and nature ; which a blind, self-conceited world are ignorant of, being neither acquainted with themselves, nor with God and his word. However, so it is, that the more any shall search the scripture, the more I hope will they discern, not only by the texts I have quoted, but from many others also, the truth and evidence of every part of this book, however mysterious some passages of it may scem to many.
Though some of these lines may want the politeness that can please the curious age, yet, while they stand firm upon a scriptural foundation, none of them want authority, and that of the highest nature, except in the account of mockers, and those (of whom there are too many in our day) that are either Deists, who undervalue the scriptures, or Atheists, who deride it; and it is sadly to be regretted, that those people are hardened in their wicked principles and practices, by some that perhaps have a higher profession. For I have seen two prints, one called the “Groan,” and another the “ Laugh,” wherein some lines, picked out among others, have been exposed to ridicule: but however, such gentlemen may laugh at their own sport, and wickedly divert themselves with serious matters for a time, I