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der the difference obvious to every eye; and others approximate so nearly, as to render it difficult precisely to draw the line. Yet a line there is; and every christian should endeavour to discover it; because they, that are not in the truth, may well doubt whether they are of it, and because it is not a matter of indifference in the essentials of religion (whatever men of loose or latitudinarian principles may think or say under the specious pretext of moderation) how men enjoy the truth or know it. It was the advice of the wise, “ Buy the truth, and sell it not:" it must not be lost, or parted with, or pared away, for ungracious accommodations, , at any rate. Every particle is precious, because it originates from God. In questions of real indifference indeed, or in matters merely circumstantial, it is right to “ think and let think;" but, in momentous and radical points, which affect the honour of God, the vitals of Christianity, the edification or salvation of souls; indifference or unconcern is a vice and crime, founded in Laodicean lukewarmness at best, but often in a deplorable absence of the power of godliness.
With the above sects another should be noticed, which in every age of the church has been more or less rife, and is but too abundant in the present day: I mean that of the ANTINOMIANS. The first Protestant or reformed divine, who was entitled to this name, was John Islebius Agricola, a man of learning and eminence, an intimate friend of Luther, and a great assistant in the reformation. He himself was soon reclaimed by Luther, and, under the full conviction of his error, published a retractation. Happy for many would it have been, who have since imbibed his opinions, if they had followed him in this
instance of his candor. There have been many gradations of these down to the most atrocious and libertine ranters; but all have been accused, and many of them at least with too sufficient reason, of turning the grace of God into licentiousness, and of perverting Christian liberty to looseness of life, or to the vile unbridled liberty of the flesh.
Without meaning to offend any one whom truth may not offend, I have thought it might not be unwelcome to some readers at least, if I should attempt to draw into parallel the general opinions, as nearly as possible, in very few words, of the above mentioned sects, or sorts of persons, upon the two leading points I first proposed, namely, the FALL and DEPRAVITY of nature, and the GRACE of God. As I would not wilfully misrepresent any thing, I will endeavor to state their respective principles as clearly and faithfully as I can, leaving it to the candid and intelligent reader to correct me, if I am in the least instance mistaken, and only reminding him of the difficulty of drawing the opinions even of persons of the same denomination into propositions, that
may comprize or satisfy them all. With respect to the doctrine, which God's word and Spirit teaches his people, I have less difficulty: they will confirm it, as others cannot, by their own experience. Such a synopsis, or close and comparative view of the matter, may help to point out the strait line of truth from the deviations of error. I mean this for edification, not for disputation ; for the exhibition of sound doctrine, not for the promotion of discord; for the glory of God, and for the help of Christian men.
1. A Suma
1. A Summary of Opinions upon the Fall and DEPRAVITY of NATURE. 1. Antinomians. 2. Pelagians. 3. Semi-Pelagians.
election doth not arise from and reject them altoge- the gospel, to give faith or credit
his own eternal counsel and ther on the other. to the promises, to trust in them
because of their moral evidence
and certainty, and to proceed to
final salvation, through the same . or any divine 'help su
grace and means continuing for pernaturally
that purpose to the end. nicated to him.
That Adam was created under a covenant of works, by obedience to which he would have been happy, but by disobedience became miserable, and also ruined and corrupted all his faculties, by bringing present spiritual death (or separation from the life of God) upon his soul, subjecting to natural death his body, and exposing both to death everlasting; that being, not metaphorically only, but truly and spiritually dead to God, he hath no ability whatever spiritually and savingly to see, know, love or receive the things of God, before he is quickened by a new birth; that, being totally averse and of contrary materials to goodness through corruption, he must be changed, renewed, or regenerated in the spirit of his mind, receiving in such change the adhibition of spiritual and divine faculties, called the unction from the Holy One or the divine nature, before he can be one with God, or be built up as a part of his temple; that this entire corruption and aversation of Adam from God was naturally transmitted to all his posterity, who, in him, both sinned and fell, and who, with him, are naturally, morally, and spiritually, capable of nothing but sin, being only the “ children of wrath,” and “ deserving only God's wrath and damnation;" that the leopard might sooner change his spots, a clean thing be brought out of an unclean, or any contrary be produced from another, than they, who thus “ of their own nature are inclined to nothing but evil,” can exert a good will, power, or affection towards God, or by any principle in themselves, or from any other creature, reach the true knowledge and enjoyment of heavenly things.
II. A Sum
II. A Summary of Opinions upon Grace.
That na- That the grace That grace suffi- Those of them, who come nearest
the natural word, that the natural or rational fa-
reject it, so as even- which acts faith, performs obedience, experience, the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, and the like.
tually to make it no pleases God, and, through Christ, Holy
Igrace at all.