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of Christ as what may supply the defects of their own righteousness; upon the faith and repentance, which they imagine they find in themselves, and which they vainly hope will entitle them to the benefit of the Redeemer's righteousness. Upon such pretences do men even under the gospel dispensation, cleave to their first husband, the law; the most part, it is to be feared, to their eternal ruin; and even the elect; till the Lord the Spirit, beginning a work of saving grace in their souls, discovers to them the delusion; and shews them that unless their marriage: o the law be dissolved by a new, spiritual marriage to Christ Jesus, they cannot be saved. To this event the law itself, in the hand of the Holy Spirit, contributes. Set home on their hearts in its spirituality and vast extent, it convinces them of the vanity of all their attempts to satisfy its demands. The tremendous voice of the threatening proclaims that sinners have nothing to look for under the law's dominion but everlasting destruction; for as many us are of the works of the law, or seek life in the way of it, are under the curse. But it is properly through the body of Christ, through his death, apprehended by faith, that they become dead to the law, being married to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that they may bring forth fruit unto God. As for any remaining bias in their minds towards their old husband, they see the evil of it, they groan under it; they hope and long for deliverance from it (as well as from the other deceitful lusts of their depraved nature,) through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This doctrine which is so mortifying to the pride of the human heart, has always met with the contempt and opposition of the world. But it is a doctrine which faithful ministers will insist upon, as peculiarly necessary for making a stand
against various Popish and Arminian errors, and for directing exercised souls into the paths of true peace.
4. The faith attained in conversion, according to Mr. Bellamy, is only a general belief of God's willingness to receive sinners that return to him by Jesus Christ. But, according to his opponents, there is, in the faith of every true convert, some measure of real confidence or trust, upon the ground of the gospel-promise, that God gives Christ to him in particular, and that Christ will deliver him from sin and wrath. faith wrestles against all contrary doubts and fears. "The Spirit of the Lord," says Mr. Boston, “carries "home the gospel-offer on the soul; so that the man "believes that the offer is to him in particular, that "the refuge is open and the portion free to him, ac"cording to the word in 1 John v. 11. This is the re"cord, that God hath given to us eternal life. Thus 66 poor sinners are brought to take a God in Christ for ❝ their refuge and portion in the land of the living.”
Upon the whole, Mr. Bellamy is chargeable with a dangerous departure from the simplicity of scripture doctrine concerning conversion; while, in opposing Mr. Marshal, Mr. Hervey and others, he evidently limits the gospel call to persons so and so qualified; while he holds that the law, as distinguished from the gospel and before the gospel come into view, may be the mean of regeneration; while there is such a striking contrast between the faithfulness of his opponents in warning sinners of their extreme danger from their obstinate attachment to their first husband the law, and the silence he observes on that subject through all his Dialogues and Letters; and, in fine, while he teaches sinners, that they have no ground in the gospel-offer to
make an immediate application of Christ crucified to themselves in particular, and that there is no other belief necessary to saving faith, than a general belief of God's willingness to receive sinners that return to him by Jesus Christ.
Having considered Mr. Bellamy's account of saving conversion, we proceed to add a few remarks, which may be of use to prevent some mistakes (not uncommon in our day) on so important a subject and which may serve as a conclusion to this and the preceding letters.
1. The work of saving conversion is not effected by the word without the Spirit, nor by the Spirit without the word. Some persons have better natural parts and natural tempers than others, and are also more conformable in the general tenor of their conduct to the letter of the law. At the same time, they are under such a dispensation of word and providence, as tends, in its own nature, to their conversion. Yet none of these advantages, nor all of them, put together, are sufficient to produce that happy change. Our Saviour intimates that the more ignorant and vicious are often pitched upon by the sovereign grace of God, whilst the more knowing and seemingly virtuous are left in their natural state, Matth. xi. 25. xxi. 31. The unbelieving Jews enjoyed the best means of grace under the ministry of Christ and his apostles; and yet, instead of being converted, they were more and more hardened, Act. xxxviii. 25, 26, 27. Nor is the conversion of the elect by the word to be ascribed to the natural power of their freewill; since the scripture represents them before their conversion as totally alienated from God, as incapable of any act or motion that is spiritually good or pleasing to God, as always unwilling, till the effectual
grace of God make them willing*. The truth is, conversion is the victorious work of the Holy Spirit; in which he not only makes an offer or proposal of sufficient grace, but actually bestows it: he not only offers to take away the stony heart, and to give a new heart, a heart of flesh, but he actually does so according to the promiset. And, in doing so, he exerts almighty, irresistible power, Ephes. i. 19. Hence this work is called a being born again of the Spirit, a resurrection or spiritual quickening, a new creation, Ephes. i. 19. John iii. 5. Ephes. ii. 10. Hereby the Holy Spirit not only gives us a power of believing and walking in the path of duty; but he gives the very act, work or walk itself, Phillip. i. 29. ii. 13. Zechar. x. 12. Yet it does not follow, that the Holy Spirit, in this work, acts upon man as a stock or a stone; because he does not act without the word, nor otherwise than in opening the understanding to understand the word and in determining the will to receive it. The whole design of his blessed work is to render the subject of it conformable to his own word, Ezek. xxxvi. 27. Hence we cannot reckon unaccountable, involuntary bodily convulsions and distractions among the proper effects of this work : since these are none of the effects ascribed to it in scripture-promises or examples. Nor is any bodily exercise to be admitted as a proper effect of this work but what is most voluntary, rational and agreeable to the word.
2. The spiritual light of saving knowledge, which is attained by the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion, is the true spring of all gracious affections. We grant, that it is not every sort of knowledge of religious
* Coloss. i. 21. Rom. viii. 7, 8, 1 Corinth. iv. 7.
truth, that is so: for persons may have much knowledge by the light of nature, by the letter of the word, and by such gifts and operations of the Spirit as these were endued with, whom our Lord represents as saying, We have prophesied in thy name; who were, notwithstanding that, such as never knew him in a saving manner. Nay, the apostle assures us that persons may understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and yet have no charity, no true love to God or to their neighbours for his sake. Their knowledge is a cold unprofitable assent to historical facts, to doctrines or notions; it is only such knowledge as puffeth up; it is not that glorious Divine light, by which true converts have such a view of their own vileness and the mercy and love of God in Christ, as fills them with wonder, love and praise; and by which they have such spiritual convictions of sin as excite a holy indignation against it and ingenuous shame and self-loathing on account of it before God. As this light is abiding, so are the affections which spring from it; if not in the same degree of sensible exercise, yet in the truth and reality of them. Whereas the religious affections which are caused by external impressions are like a land-flood that soon passes away. Such are most of those violent affections and pangs which occasion bodily agitations. We should examine from what root our religious affections spring. Unless they proceed from the abiding light of saving knowledge, they are not truly gracious affections.
3. The more that true converts are humble under a sense of their own impotence or natural inability to do any thing spiritually good; and the more lively they are in the exercise of faith in Jesus Christ as their righteousness and strength: they are the more