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as Mr. B. explains it, (54.) the want of merely sucha a reverential regard to the gospel as a man may have, and yet perish everlastingly.
REPLY TO MR. B.'s VIII. LETTER, ON THE CAUSES TO
WHICH THE WANT OF FAITH IS ASCRIBED.
MR. B. here commences a new mode of opposition. Instead of an answer to those scriptures which were produced to prove that ignorance, pride dishonesty of heart, and aversion to God, are assigned as the causes of men's not believing; he has presented us with some other parts of scripture, which he thinks ascribe it to other causes. Such a method of reasoning I should think can have but little tendency to convince a serious enquirer after truth. It will be natural for such an enquirer to say, supposing Mr. B. to have proved what he has undertaken, viz. that the want of faith is to be ascribed to the sovereign will of God, and that alone; what are we to do with those scriptures which ascribe it to other causes?”
One passage of scripture, under this head, is en tirely passed over, (Luke vii. 29, 30.) a passage too that was particularly recommended to the attention
of the Baptists; and a number of others are but very slightly touched. All the answer that I can find to what was advanced between pages 66-74, of my treatise, is included in the following passage“ That human depravity, that ignorance, pride, dishonesty of heart, aversion to God, and the like, often prevent a sinner's attending to the gospel, which the Holy Spirit useth as a mean to convey faith into the hearts of his people, for faith cometh by hearing, Rom. x. 17. and that these things are of a criminal nature is certain; but what then? Does this prove faith a duty? and the want of it a sin, for which man shall be damned? by no means: so far as human depravity prevails, man is criminal, and the things afore-mentioned prevailing are certain evidences of the person's being destitute of special faith; but to say that these things are an absolute bar to faith, as Mr. F. does, p. 67. is a great mistake; neither these things, nor a thousand worse things, if worse can be named, shall be an absolute bar to any elect-soul's believing." (59, 60.)
To this it is replied, If the reader please to review p. 67, of my treatise, he will instantly perceive that I was speaking of what was a bar to men's believing, not to God's causing them to believe. Christ did not say, 'How can God cause you to believe, who receive honour one of another? but how can ye believe?' It is granted, that with God, all things are possible; but if the pride and aversion of men's hearts be that which renders believing impossible to them, that is sufficient to decide the question in hand; and this was certainly
the whole of my design. In p. 66, the very page before that in which is the passage to which Mr. B. objects, I had said, “ We know that blindness of mind is not such an obstruction but what is overcome by the grace of God IN THE ELECT; but that being removed in the elect does not disprove, but imply that it is a remaining obstruction to the rest.” I suppose Mr. B. must have read this passage just before that on which his remark is made; how, therefore, he could so strangely mistake my meaning, I am at a loss to conceive.
Surely Mr. B. could not think the above a suffi. cient answer to that against which it is written. “ Human depravity, he admits, prevents a sinner's attending to the gospel;" but will not allow that it hinders him from believing, By “ attending to the gospel,” I suppose he may mean something more than merely attending upon it; but yet he cannot mean any thing spiritually good; if he did, and allowed that human depravity prevented it, that would be giving up a main point in the debate. I suppose, therefore, he means no more than such an attention to the gospel as may be exercised without any real love to it, or desire after an interest in its blessings. But will Mr. B. pretend to say, that this is all that is meant in the passages to which I had referred? Did Christ barely tell the Jews, (John v. 44.) that they could not attend to the gospel who received honour one of another, and sought not the honour which cometh from God only? Would this have been true upon Mr. Bi's principles? Attending to the gospel, in his sense of it,
is what men in an unregenerate state can do, and that in the exercise of a proud spirit. -Did the want of an honest and good heart keep the three sorts of hearers, in the parable of the sower, from attending to the gospel? So far from this, Mr. B. elsewhere informs us, that the stony-ground hearers“ cordially received the truth.” (19.) Though I think in this matter he goes too far; yet thus much is certain, that a mere attention to the gospel was not the thing wherein they were wanting.When Christ blamed the Jews, saying, ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life; did he barely mean, ye will not give attention to the gospel? Surely not.
Mr. B. admits that “pride, aversion to God, and the like, where they prevail, are certain evidences of a person's being destitute of special faith,” but denies, it seems, that they have any causal influence to prevent his believing. And yet, if there be any meaning in words, surely the fore-cited passages must convey the latter idea as well as the former. When Christ told the Jews, ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life; did he mean that their unwillingness was merely an evidence of their not coming to him, and not that which had any causal influence upon them to prevent their coming? Surely not!
As the above passage, which I have transcribed from Mr. B. is the only answer he has made to my IV. proposition, I cannot but consider it as unanswered. He has advanced something, however, of an * opposite tendency, which I shall now consider.
It was affirmed, that the want of faith in Christ is ascribed in the scriptures to men's depravity. Mr. B.
thinks this position contrary to John X. 26. Ye bekeve not, because ye are not of my sheep; which passage he thinks ascribes the want of faith to “non-election.” (55.) To this I reply, on some occasions Mr. B. would make nothing of such a term as because; (63.) and were I to follow his example, I might say, it means no more than this, “ your unbelief, if you persist in it, will be a certain evidence you are not of my sheep.” No complaint could justly be made, if the matter were left here; especially as the above are the very words of Mr. Henry, which Mr. B. has quoted for a different purpose. But waving this, be it observed, the truth which they did not believe was, that Jesus was the Christ. If thou be the Christ, said they, tell us plainly. Jesus answered, I have told you, and ye believe not--the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me; but ye believe not, be. cause ye are not of my sheep. This text, therefore, if it prove any thing for Mr. B. will prove too much; it will prove
that non-election is the cause of that which he acknowledges to be sinful, namely, a discrediting of Jesus being the Christ.
Farther, Though Christ's people are sometimes called sheep, simply on account of their being given to him in eternal election, as in verse 16. of this chapter; yet this is not always the case. They sometimes bear that name as being not only elected, but called as the followers of Christ; and thus they are represented in the context; I know my sheep, and am known of mine-they follow the shepherd, for they know his voice-they go in, and out, and