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guidance of his holy Spirit, to record these amazing transactions; and, by the attestation of stupendous miracles, to spread the knowledge of them over the face of the earth : when this, I say, and more, had been done by the Almighty to usher in his last best dispensation into the world, think not, that all this mighty apparatus was to be thrown away on our caprice or obstinacy; and that, after all, we may be at liberty to reject his whole design, or take as much, or as little of it, as our wayward fancies shall suggest to us. No: assuredly the councils of Heaven will stand firm, whatever attempts we may make, in our wisdom, or weakness, to subvert them. As well may we think to overturn the everlasting mountains, or push the earth itself from its centre, as to defeat or set aside one tittle of that eternal purpose, which God hath purposed in Christ Jesus n. To whomsoever the sound of the Gospel is come, whether he will hear, or not hear, by that Gospel he must stand or fall : he is, thenceforth, under the bond of the Covenant : through faith in Jesus, he inherits the promises; or, if he withhold his faith, it is not at his option to have no concern in the threats of the Gospel.
n Ephes, iii. ,,
I know what is commonly said to representations of this sort — “That Faith depends not on the will, but on the understanding : that, when the evidence for the truth of any proposition is full and clear, it constrains my assent; ; when it is otherwise, I reject the proposition, as false, or, at best, suspend my belief of it; and, in either case, as without merit, so without blame: that no Law is obligatory to me, any
farther than I see cause to admit the authority of it; and that no pretence of its divine original can subject me to the sanctions of it, unless, on my best inquiry, I allow that claim to be well founded : that, consequently, the Law of Christianity cannot concern him, who is not convinced of its truth; that, where this conviction is not, disbelief must be a matter purely indifferent ; and that He only is responsible to that Law, who understands it to be his duty to be controuled and governed by it."
This reasoning is plausible; and has many advocates, because it flatters the pride and independency of the human mind. - But, when a Law is promulged with that evidence, which the divine Legislator (for of such I am now speaking) sees to be sufficient for the conviction of a reasonable man, it is concluding too fast,
to suppose, that I am innocent in rejecting it ; or that I am not bound by it, though I do re ject it. Error, or unbelief, is only indifferent, when it is perfectly involuntary or invincible; but there is clearly no room for this plea in the present case, when, by the supposition, there is no want of fit evidence.
· Even in the case of human Laws, my rejection of them may be blameable, though I neither admit the authority nor the equity of the laws themselves. For there may be evidence enough of both, if I will but attend to it. Now put the case of a divine Legislator ; and what was supposeable, becomes certain. For the attributes of the Deity will permit no doubt, but that, when he gives a Law to man, he will afford such proofs of it, as may,
in reason, satisfy those, to whom it is addressed. So that their rejection of it can only proceed from some neglect or wilfulness, on their own part, and not from the want of a sufficient attestation, on the part of the Legislator.
Ye see then, there is no absurdity in supposing the Law of Christianity to oblige those, who do not receive it: for if that Law be of God (and we argue now upon that hypothesis) the evidence for it must be such as is suited to eur faculties ; and being addressed, as the tenor of it shews, to all mankind, it binds of course all those to whom that evidence has been sub mitted.
And this indeed is the very language of that Law itself. For the Jews disbelieved the Gospel, when it was preached to them by our blessed Lord. But what says the Legislator to these unbelievers ? Does he leave them to the Law of Nature, whose authority they did not dispute, or to the Law of Moses, which God himself, they knew, had given them? No such thing: he tells them, that very Law, which they rejected, should judge them. “He, « that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my
words, hath one that judgeth him: the ? WORD, that I have spoken, the same shall *** judge him in the last dayo.” And he assigns the reason of this determination--" For I
“ have not spoken of myself ; but the Father, “ which sent me, he gave me a commandment, “what I should say, and what I should speak:* that is, the Law, I give you, is of divine authority; and therefore not to be rejected without blame on any pretence by you, to
John xii, 48. ·
whom the knowledge of it, and the proper evidence on which it rests, has been committed.
These reflexions, I know, have small weight with those, who treat the evidences of the Gospel with that scorn, which is familiar to some
But such persons should, at least, see that their scorn be well founded. If not but I will only say, they may subject themselves, for aught they know, to the penalties of the Gospel ; I mean, to the future judgement of that man, whom, in this life, they would not have to reign over them p.
But this remonstrance is properly addressed to those that are without, to the contemners of the Christian Law. To you, who are within the pale of Christ's Church, and acknowledge his authority; who profess yourselves to be his servants; who admit no other Law, but in subjection to his, and have no expectation of life and glory from any other ; to you, I say, the question of the text is above measure interesting, How shall we escape, if we neglect 80 great Salvation ?
p Luke xix. 14.