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teaches, or rather infinuates with regard to unbelieving finners, is, that as the performance of religious duties can only tend to gratify their natural pride and prefumption, which are more criminal and hurtful than any the lufts of the flesh, it is more dangerous for perfons in fuch circumftances to attempt yielding obedience to the divine commands, upon any confideration whatsoever, than to commit the most flagitious enormities, or indulge themselves in the bafest and most criminal of all fenfual gratifications; and that they may be as profitably, and lefs hurtfully, employed in doing fo, than in praying, reading and hearing the word of God, or in ufing any other mean of divine appointment with any folicitude and concern about the falvation of their fouls. Yea, he plainly intimates, that it is highly abfurd to fuppofe, that men wholly dead in trefpaffes and fins thould be called to the performance of any duty. "Every one," fays he*, " who is born of the "Spirit, lives merely by what he hears, without "his performing any duty at all; unless we shall "fay, it was the duty of Lazarus to hear and live, "upon the uttering of the call, come forth." And he ridicules an eminent preacher for exhorting his hearers to effay believing on Chrift in obedience to the command of God, while they were fuppofed to be yet in a natural state.

This eminent preacher, when addreffing men fupposed to be yet in an unconverted ftate, had expreffed himself in the following manner: "Do as "the man with the withered hand did; the poor "man minted, or attempted to obey, and in "the attempt of obedience, he got power to stretch out his hand as he was commanded. "We must be effaying before we find the Spirit

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* Letters, p. 88.

"working

"working effectually in us." Upon this paffage the letter-writer makes the following reflection. "Now you know he might with equal justice add, "Do as Lazarus did. In obedience to the call, "come forth, he attempted to rife; but happening "to be dead, he was not able fully to rise up and "come forth, till he got more power than his ❝ own*."

Because it would be abfurd to fuppofe, that Lazarus being dead was under any obligation to hear the voice of Chrift and live, this Gentleman concludes, that it cannot be the duty of men dead in trefpaffes to believe on the name of the Son of God: for the divine command enjoining faith in Chrift as the duty of all the hearers of the gospel t, it feems, according to him, merits no regard. But if it cannot be the duty of finners to believe, or effay believing in Chrift, because of themselves they have no power to do fo; for the very fame reason we may affirm, that it cannot be the duty of men in an unrenewed ftate to yield, or fo much as attempt to yield obedience to any one precept of the moral law: for they being wholly dead in fin, are as unable to perform acceptable obedience to any divine command, as they are to believe on Chrift for falvation, or to hear his voice and live.

It is then abundantly evident, that, according to this method of reasoning, men while dead in fin, or unbelieving finners, can no more be under any law to God, or the obligation of any moral precept, than if they were naturally dead, as Lazarus was when lying in the grave ‡. It is equally certain,

* Letters, p. 36.

+ John iii. 23.

that

It feems, according to our author, Spiritual death, or a death in fin, implies not only utter inability to perform acceptable obedience to the law of God, but

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a be

that where there is no law, there can be no tranfgreffior: therefore, according to this doctrine, an unregenerate finner cannot be justly condemned for the guilt of any actual tranfgreffion. If therefore he is a finner, and under guilt, it must only be in confequence of the imputation of the firft fin of Adam, or on account of inherent corruption. But if we attentively confider fome hints given by the letterwriter concerning both thefe, we fhall find little reafon to think he allows, that any guilt can arife from either. And therefore, according to his wild hypothefis above-mentioned, men can have no need of any atonement, or imputed righteousness for their juftification. One thing is evident, namely, that he has furnished them with fome pleas in their own vindication, which, if just and well managed, would go a great way to answer all charges that can be brought against them in respect to the guilt of any fin, original or actual.

In oppofition to all this vile jargon, we are bold to affirm, because the Scripture makes it evident,

a being dead to the very obligation of the law. If this was really the cafe, He that is dead would be freed from fin in a fenfe very different from that in which the apoftle ufes these words, Rom. vi. 7. He fpeaks of freedom from fin as the distinguishing privilege of believers, who through the law are dead to the law, that they may live unto God: but, according to Palamon's hypothefis, that is more the privilege of unbelievers, than it is, or ever can be, of believers while in this world. This methinks is over-doing, as it overthrows both law and gofpel at once, and evidently faps the very foundations of all religion. Yet on this monftrous fuppofition, contrary to the whole tenor of Scripture, and in effect refuted almoft in every page of the Bible, the letter-writer founds moft of his reafoning against what he calls the popular doctrine in relation to this fubject.

that

that it no way derogates from the perfection and excellency of the divine righteoufnefs, or the glory of the divine fovereignty, to teach that unregenerate finners are under a neceffary obligation to yield obedience to every precept of the divine law; and confequently to believe on the name of Chrift, repent of their fins, and perform every other duty recommended in the gofpel; and to use every mean of divine appointment for attaining to the true knowledge of God, and of Jefus Chrift whom he hath fent: and that, though no works truly good and acceptable to God can be performed by them while they remain in an unrenewed ftate, they ought with the utmost activity, folicitude and concern, to feek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, or to obtain an intereft in Chrift and that falvation he hath purchafed*. And it is no less evident, that they have: a power to do many things which God in his infinite wifdom does frequently, yea ordinarily make fubfervient to the execution of his infinitely graciouspurposes refpecting his chosen people, or to their converfion and falvation. He ufually meets with his people, and brings them to himself, in the ufe of appointed means; though sometimes he is pleased to step as it were out of his ordinary road to meet with a finner, while engaged in a courfe of open wickednefs, and living in a habitual neglect of his inftitutions; yea, perhaps, pouring contempt upon his word and ordinances. Thus he both manifefts. his infinite fovereignty, and maintains the honour of his own institutions.

And here we may add, that when any are excited to use the means of grace with the greatest diligence, seriousness and concern, that men in a natural state are capable of, God, in dealing effectu

* Prov. i. 22, 23. viii. 33, 34. Ifai. lv. 6. 7. Matt. vi. 33. Luke xiii. 24, &c.

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ally

ally with their hearts, gives them fuch a difcovery of the riches and fovereignty of his grace, and of their own unworthinefs, vileness, and utter inability to do any thing for their own relief, with their natural propenfity-to abuse all the means and ordinances of divine appointment to their greater condemnation; as leaves no room for felf-gloriation, or any fuch prefumptuous imagination, as, that any folicitude or activity they were capable of, had furnished them with any peculiar claim, or could in the leaft recommend them to the divine favour.

As the author of the letters, the chief ftrength of whofe caufe lies in an artful mifreprefentation of the fentiments of his adverfaries, has endeavoured to impose upon his readers by giving a very false and deceitful view of what his opponents teach with regard to the matter now under confideration, I fhall here transcribe a few paffages from a well-known treatise, wrote by the learned Dr. Owen, in which, I think, the fubftance of what Palamon calls the popular doctrine, on this head, is as clearly and fully expreffed as in any of the popular writings I have met with. That judicious divine, having formerly spoken of fome things required of unregenerate finners in order to converfion, to perform which lies within the compafs of natural abilities, delivers his opinion in the following words.

"These things, viz. an outward attendance 66 to the difpenfation of the word of God, with "those other external means of grace which "accompany it, or are appointed therein, and a "diligent intenfion of mind, in ufing the means of ་ grace, to understand and receive the things re❝vealed and declared as the mind and will of God, are required of us in order unto our regeneration, and it is in the power of our own wills to comply "with them; and we may obferve concerning

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