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Our theory is confirmed by the history of the fall. Eve was not depraved in her feelings, or in her heart, considered as the faculty of feeling, before she erred in the faculties of understanding. First of all she heard a false proposition stated by the deceiver; next she conceived the meaning of the terms used; then she believed or judged the statement to be true; after which she desired to taste of the forbidden fruit; and from this desire together with an apprehension that it would be good for her, she willed to eat; and alas! performed what she willed. After depraved feelings had place in her mind, we acknowledge that she might have chosen from them to be ignorant; but it was not possible that she should have felt these depraved feelings had she not previously harboured wrong thoughts. She believed a lie, before she had one evil emotion, or an unholy volition. If we would drive sin out of the world, we must begin at the point of its entrance: we must make men hear the testimony of God; they must contemplate it; apprehend the meaning of the terms of the gospel; believe its truth, with that divine faith, which, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, cometh by hearing; and then they will both love and choose the ways of righteousness. Our Lord saith, “ He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death into life.” John v. 24.
The next important subject of controversy between Dr. Tomline, and our moderate Calvinists, is the doctrine of justification. His Lordship says, “ It is the doctrine of our church, that baptism duly administered confers justification.” Refutation, p. 147. He asserts that we are not justified by faith without good works; and yet, that simply to profess faith in the Trinity, and to promise future obedience, is sufficient for justification.
The true notion of justification is described by his Lordship, when he says, “to be justified before God, signifies to be declared and accounted as just and righteous in his sight.” Refutation, p. 98. Of course justification is an act of God, a judicial act, which changes a man's state in relation to the law. The consideration on account of which God justifies a sinner is the atonement made by Christ for that individual; and in justifying him, God accounts to him the righteousness of his Redeemer. Neither for his faith, nor his repentance, nor his good works, nor any thing else but the atonement, including the active and passive obedience of Christ, is any sinner justified. The decree to justify all who ever will be justified, was coetaneous with the covenant of redemption. The only questions of importance still to be settled, respect the time and circumstances of the actual justification of an individual; and the condition of his continuance in a justified state.
No man is justified before he has saving faith, either in actual exercise, or in principle; sometimes called habit; and no man has saving faith before he is regenerated by the Spirit. The order of nature, therefore, seems to be this; first, the Spirit of God enters a sinner's mind to convince him of sin, enlighten him in the knowledge of Christ, and thereby change his feelings, volitions and actions. The agency of the Spirit in doing this is God's act of regeneration: the mind when thus regenerated is called a spiritual mind, or a new heart; and the man is denominated a new creature. In the moment of time in which a man is regenerated, but immediately after in the order of nature, the man has the principle of faith; and immediately after the man has faith, the divine mind passes the judicial decision of actual justification.
Calvinists believe, that justification is a single act of God, that can be neither reversed nor reiterated; but Dr. Tomline and all Arminians think that God alternately justifies and condemns a man as frequently as he, according to their notion, falls away from grace, or recovers it. To this absurdity the latter are led, as Dr. Williams observes, by not attending to“ an important difference between the justification of our persons, and the justification of our actions."
“Every sinful act, and every neglect of duty, is condemnable; but it does not follow that every person on account of the failure, is struck off from the list of acceptance, without involving endless absurdities such as confounding a federal and personal righteousness
destroying the fundamental difference
between a covenant and a rule of action-placing a fallen sinner in the same predicament of continuance in favour with sinless Adam-making the divine Head of influence, as such, a mere cypher in the recovery of our justification, supposed to be lost—and imagining justification and condemnation to proceed alternately in rapid succession; a succession as rapid and frequent, for ought we know, as those of individual human volitions:-now justified by a dead faith, next condemned for the neglect of any practicable duty,' then restored by sincere faith, anon condemned for another failure, and so on, it may be, ten thousand times over, till the moment of death, and finally if any' neglect attach to us at that moment, we lie under condemnation for ever!” p. 137 of Defence.
It is demanded, what is the condition of a justified person's continuance in a justified state? Dr. Tomline answers, (Ref. p. 142.) that it is a person's abstinence from those sins which are forbidden, and practice of those virtues which are enjoined in the gospel. Dr. Wil. liams says, it “cannot be a personal freedom from all sin;” but “must be the possession of that lively faith which is the inseparable effect of possessing the Spirit of Christ.” Def. p. 132. Dr. Scott says, (Remarks, Vol. I. p. 254.) “ the same faith which justifies, will continue the person in a justified state.” We aflirm, that the sole condition of a person's continuance in a justified state, is the atonement of Christ, for on condition of Christ's obeying and suffering for his people, God covenanted, once for all, to regenerate, to justify, and to keep them by his mighty power, through faith, unto salvation. If any ask after the means of perseverance in a holy life, we answer that faith is the grand instrument, and that the exhibition of the truth of the gospel is the chief means of faith: so that on the condition of Christ's obeying and dying for the unjust, Jehovah covenanted to perform every thing necessary to, and implied in, their everlasting salvation for whom he died.
If actual faith is the condition of our continuing in a justified state, then when we cease to exercise it for a moment, or an hour, as God's people sometimes do, we cease to be the justified children of the Lord; and are again under condemnation. If this be the condition of continued acceptance with God, it is obnoxious to all the objections which have been forcibly adduced against the Bishop's scheme of justification; and we would not give a rush for a choice between them.
While treating of justification, Dr Williams teaches, p.127, that faith “constitutes that oneness" between believers and Christ, “ on account of which the imputation”. of his righteousness “is made.” Because his “righteousness is upon all them that believe,” and “shall be imputed, if we believe,” he infers “ that faith, (a living, not a dead and unprorlucrive faith,) constitutes a justifying union.” It is admitted that through the instrumentality of faith we are made one with Christ in sentiment, and feeling, and will, so far as faith extends its influence: but we apprehend we have proved, in re. viewing M-Chord's Essays and Gray's Fiend, that the eternal covenant of redemption, and nothing else, forms that union between Christ and his people in law, "on account of which the imputation is made;" and it is one of the consequences of this covenant relation, that a sinner is made willing to accept the vicarious righteous• ness of the Son of God, and to receive that righteousness which God imputes to him in the moment in which he is made willing to accept it for salvation.
In exhibiting his sentiments under the same head, however, Dr. W. has confirmed our previously ex. pressed opinion concerning the law, and the righteousness requisite to satisfy it. He says there is a great difference, (p. 126,) “between the requirements of the moral law under the notion of the covenant, and those of the same law under the notion of a rule."
“A cordial reception of Christ as our righteousness answers the requirements of the law under the notion of a covenant:” so far as to free us from condemnation, and bring us into a state of adoption and acceptance with God. “But God's holy law has other requirements under the notion of a rule. To have obtained that righteousness which meets the charge of a breach of original perfection, does not excuse the possessor of it from future obedience; otherwise the divine law would be nothing more than a covenant, and Adam could have been guilty of only one sin: for how could he, or any his posterity, be a subsequent transgressor, if the law did not continue a rule to man after his breach of the covenant? A de
viation from the rectitude required by law, which requirement of rectitude the very notion of a law implies, is sinful in every condition of man, whether at the fall, under the fall, or after the fall, or after a restoration from a condemned and depraved state. With respect to the first transgression, compared with all subsequent ones, there is necessarily this difference, that he could not transgress the law as a rule without at the same time transgressing it as a covenant; but all his subsequent transgressions were a deviation only from the rectitude of rule. If he was to enjoy a favour only on condition of remaining a perfect character, it is evident that the favour was completely forfeited by the first deviation from that perfection. He failed in performing that very condition on which a continuance of the favour was suspended. To insist, therefore, that any such condition now exists respecting any of the fallen race, is chargeable with as much absurdity as to require personal perfection on a condition which is already forfeited, and which, without a plan of mercy in the substitution of a perfect character, is as impossible as to recal the perfection of Adam. As Adam, consequently, could not transgress the law as a covenant of life without at the same time transgressing it as a rule of right; so neither could he after the first transgression, violate it as a covenant, -which, for the same reason, is the case with his pasterity, who can transgress it only as a rule." Def. p. 130.
Faith next engages the attention of the three writers under review. Dr. Tomline's assertion, that a “man's faith rises from a dead to a lively faith, and afterwards relapses into a dead faith again,” (Ref p. 160.) merits not a serious refutation.
All the writers agree, that faith is a grace aceepted of God only through the merits of Christ, and that a living faith is productive of good works. All the writers that every act of faith must have for its object some testimony: but what the testimony to be believed is, which is the object of an act of saving faith, they have not clearly, and satisfactorily stated. Dr. Tomline very well describes holy faith in general, by saying “it is that belief of the truth of the Gospel, which produces obedience to its precepts, and is accompanied by a firm reliance upon the merits of Christ." All this he renders void by teaching in another place, that the Gentiles who “ were a law unto themselves,” had a saving faith, which
the writers agree,