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On the Plea advanced by SEPARATISTS from the CHURCH, that the GOSPEL is not preached in it.
A FURTHER plea commonly advanced by Se
paratists is, that the Gofpel is not preached in our Church. Had it been faid, that the Gospel of J. CALVIN was not preached there, we should readily have pleaded guilty to the charge; but that the Gospel of JESUS CHRIST is preached there, wẹ certainly maintain, upon the authority of those Scrip tures from which it has been received.
The leading doctrine of CHRIST's Gospel, in the judgment of fome Christians, is, that it holds out falvation to certain chofen individuals, exclufive of the general bulk of mankind. The doctrine of our church upon the fubject is, that CHRIST died to purchafe falvation for all men; all men, confequently, are interested in that great event, though all men will not be in a condition to be benefited by it. The notion of partial falvation is founded upon certain
fuppofed abfolute decrees; of which fome preachers talk much, but confeffedly know nothing. The doctrine of general falvation, by which we mean falvation attainable by all men upon certain conditions, is founded upon the general fcope and tenour of the holy writings, fupported by particular paffages direct to this purpose.
ST. JOHN, fpeaking of JESUS CHRIST the righteous, ftiles him the propitiation for our fins; and not for ours only, but also for the fins of the whole World. 1 John ii. 2. It was the obfervation of St. PETER, upon his eyes being opened to the general defign of the Gospel difpenfation, “ That God is hà refpecter of perfons: but in every nation, he that fear eth Him, and worketh righteoufnefs, is accepted with Him." Acts x. 34. But the doctrine of J. CALVIN makes GoD the greatest respecter of perfons; and that in a matter of the most effential importance.
In another part of the facred writings, we are told by God himself, that He has no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but that he should return from his evil way, and live." Ezek. xviii. 32.
But according to J. CALVIN, GOD has deter mined, by an abfolute decree, an event, which at the fame time, in conformity with the foregoing declara
tion, He does not wifh fhould take place. The ab furdity of fuch a fuppofition, which makes the GOD of truth contradict himself, need not be pointed out. Once again; our SAVIOUR, to the question put to him, "LORD, are there few that be faved?" returned the following answer: "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: för many will feek to enter in, and
fhall not be able."* On this head common fenfe
teaches us to reafon thus. Upon the fuppofition that there was an arbitrary decree of GOD, afcertain ing the number, and determining individually the perfons, who fhall be faved; this direction of our SAVIOUR was both vain and ufelefs; becaufe no ftriving of man could, in this cafe, produce any alteration in his condition. To direct a man to ftrive, when, in confequence of his fate being determined by an over-ruling power, ftriving could answer no purpofe, would be fomething like locking a man up in prifon, and calling upon him to come forth, while you kept the key of the prifon-door in your pocket.
But if we read the whole of our SAVIOUR's anfwer on this occafion, we shall be convinced that the inability of the parties to enter in at the strait gate,
*Luke xiii. 24.
did not arife from any decree of GoD against them, but from defect in themselves. They had refused to enter in till the gate was fhut; or fought to enter in, without having gained the victory over their spiritual enemies. No grace of GoD was wanting in this cafe, but holiness in man. The parties excluded might have entered in, had they been qualified for admiffion; but they were, as we read v. 27, "workers of iniquity."
To enter at large into the confutation of a doctrine which carries its own condemnation upon the face of it, would be a waste of time. Upon this idea we decline a particular confideration of thofe texts, which have been at different times fo grofsly mifapplied to this fubject; choofing rather to build what may be faid upon it, on the general defign of the Gofpel revelation; from the confideration, that where that is
*The original word here made use of by the Evangelift, fhews that it requires great conftancy, diligence, and courage; a fharp conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil, to fucceed in entering through the ftrait gate into life eternal. The word fignifies to ftrive to agony, with the utmost resolution, and with every faculty of body and mind. From whence we conclude, that fomething is left for man to do in this cafe. The gate of eternal life is opened to him by CHRIST, but the Christian must so ftrive as to become qualified for admiffion into it; otherwife, though he should" feek to enter, he fhall not be able."