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first. Now thou wouldst invert this order, and say, "Herein is love, not that God loved me, but that I "love him first. This is to take the glory of God from him, that whereas he loves us without any cause that is in ourselves, and we have all cause in the world to love him; thou wouldst have the contrary, namely, that something should be in thee for which God should love thee, even thy love to him; and that thou shouldst love God before thou knowest any thing lovely in him, namely, whether he love thee or not. This is a course of the flesh's finding out, that will never bring glory to God nor peace to thy own soul. Lay down, then, thy reasonings. Take up the love of the Father upon a pure act of * believing; and that will open thy soul to let it out unto the Lord in the communion of love."
Of the Priority of Justification to the exercise of Evangelical Repentance.
THE question, Whether a state of pardon goes before the first exercise of evangelical repentance, has been handled by various writers. The affirmative side appears to be sufficiently established by the arguments which Mr. Boston has advanced in his Miscellany Questions. The design of this letter is to state the same arguments, and to remove some exceptions to them offered by Mr. Bellamy and others.
To prevent the misconstruction of our doctrine on this head, the following observations are premised.
1. We hold, the exercise of repentance to be indispensably necessary, in all who are capable of it, not only as commanded by God, but as a mean, without which none may expect the comfortable enjoyment of communion with God, either here or hereafter.
2. When we speak of repentance being after justification, we speak of the order of nature, not of the order of time for no justified person or true believer is impenitent. Farther, we speak of the formal exercise of repentance, not of the root of it. The root of repentance, being nothing else but the principle of spiritual life infused in regeneration, is the same with the root of all the other graces: in this respect, no one of these graces can be said to be either before or after another.
3. Repentance is either legal or evangelical. Legal repentance is a sorrow for sin and some forsaking of it, proceeding only from a fear of the judgment of God denounced in his law. Evangelical repentance is a godly sorrow for sin and a thorough renunciation of it, proceeding from faith's apprehension of the pardoning mercy of God in Christ, as revealed in the gospel; an apprehension which implies not only some general and slight taste of the gospel, but a rooted and firm dependance on it. It is granted, that there is a legal repentance before justification, but not an evangelical.
4. When God is said to forgive the sin of his people, it is to be understood, first, of the act of his free grace in bringing them into an unalterable state of actual justification, Coloss. ii. 13. Secondly, of the removal of rods, with which they have been visited, in
the way of fatherly correction, 2 Chron. vì. 25. Thirdly, of the intimations and comfortable sense, which the Lord affords them of their justified state, Psal. xxxii. 5. It is granted, that the exercise of evangelical repen-tance is before the forgiveness of sin, in the second and third senses, but not in the first.
Our doctrine on this head being understood according to these observations, we proceed to the proof of it in the following arguments.
I. The actual exercise of evangelical repentance does not go before our state of justification in the sight of God; because there is no acceptable performance of good works before the attainment of that privilege.
The force of this argument lies in the evidence of two positions, which are, That the exercise of evangelical repentance is a good work, and That good works do not go before, but follow justification.
As to the first position, That the exercise of evangelical repentance is a good work, it is too evident to need much illustration. The scriptural definition of a good work undoubtedly agrees to it; which definition is, something commanded in the word of God, done in faith, and having the glory of God for its chief end; Heb. xiii. 21. May the God of peace-make you perfect in every good work, to do his will. Matth. xv. 9. In vain do they worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Rom. xiv. 23. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Heb. xi. 6. Without faith it is impossible to please God. 1 Corinth. x. 31. Whether ye eat or drink; or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. It may be called an evangelical work; not, indeed, as if it were not contained in the moral law; but as it, and every other truly good work, is done in the faith of
Christ, as our only righteousness and strength. Thus done, the work of a servant in his station is an evangelical work, a serving of the Lord Christ, Coloss. iii. 24.
As to the second position, That good works do not go before but follow justification; it was hardly ever disputed among protestants in the early days of the reformation. The celebrated saying of Augustine was then admitted as an axiom, or undoubted principle, Bona opera non procedunt justificandum; sed sequuntur. justificatum. Thus in the xvth chapter of the Helvetian Confession we have these words: “Our love and "works cannot please God, if they are done by us, whilst we are unjust therefore it is necessary that we be just before we can love or do good works. But "we are made just or we are justified through faith in "Christ, freely by the grace of God, not imputing our
sins to us, but the righteousness of Christ." The members of the Synod of Dort, in the xxivth article of their confession, say : "We are justified by faith in "Christ; and that before we do good works: other"wise they could not be good works,-any more than
the fruit of a tree can be good, before the tree itself "be good." "Good works," says the Westminster Confession," are fruits and evidences of a true and "lively faith. The persons of believers being accept"ed through Christ, their good works also are accepted "in him." The truth of this position is evident to every reader of the Bible, who is not grossly blinded by prejudice. It is evident, in the first place, from the necessity of our being dead to the law or covenant of works in order to our living to God, Rom. vii. 4. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that ye should be mar ried to another, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
Now there are no good works, but what are included in bringing forth fruit unto God. But our spiritual marriage to Christ is necessary to our bringing forth fruit unto God; in which marriage to Christ we are dead to the law through his body: that is, we are justified or delivered from the law as a covenant through the righteousness which he wrought out in our nature, received by faith. Before this blessed change of state, the only fruit we bring forth is fruit unto death, v. 5. and the only religious service we attain, is that selfish, slavislı, mercenary, carnal service, to which we are prompted by the terrors of the law and the pride of self-righteousness, and which is called, in v. 6. serving in the oldness of the latter.
The same thing is evident from Rom. vi. 14. Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace. From this text we learn, that while persons under the law, that is, while they are not brought into a justified state, they are under the dominion of sin; and therefore are utterly incapable of performing any work which is spiritually good or pleasing to God. For, according to this text, freedom from the dominion of sin is the peculiar privilege of those who are not under the law, but under grace; that is of those who are justified freely by the grace of God in Christ. Farther, we observe, that, according to the order of the covenant of grace, God's acceptance of our : persons is, in the order of nature, before the acceptance of our works. We have an example of this order in Gen. iv. 4. And the Lord had respect to Abel and to his offering: first to Abel, and then to his offering. Thus, it appears, that there are none of our works that are accepted with God, before our persons are accepted with him in justification: and consequently that none of them