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1. Mr. Bellamy teaches, that sinners are not war. Tanted to look to Christ as their own Saviour, imme. diately, or till they be so and so qualified. For, according to him, a person must not only be convinced of sin, but his heart must be reconciled to the Divine law: he must love it, and call upon all other intelligent creatures to love it, before the gospel come into view ; and consequently before he look to Christ. If this be a just view of conversion--then sinners are not to be called to look or come to Christ, till they be reconciled to the law and in love with it in all the extent of its precept and penalty. But the divines whom Mr. Bellamy opposes, maintained, that sinners ought to look or come to Christ immediately upon hearing the gosa pel preached to them because the gospel-call is directed to sinners of mankind indefinitely, Prov. vii. 4. Isai. xlv. 22.-because Christ has given his ministers a commission to preach the gospel to every creature, Mark xvi. 15.-because they are to make an offer of Christ to those who know not (what is their real spiritual condition,) that they are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, Revel. iii. 17, 18.-because the Spirit's work in convincing men of unbelief, supposes that Christ has been exhibited and offered to them, John xvi. 9.-because it cannot be denied, that the Lord may and does give some persons a spiritual view both of their perishing condition, and of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, at once. Of which case Zaccheus, Luke xix. 9. the Samaritans, Acts vi. 5, 8. Lydia, Acts xvi. 14. are examples.
2. Mr. Bellamy appears to hold, that, under the operation of the Holy Spirit, sinners attain heartreconciling views of God's law in its holiness and spirituality, before the gospel be believed or come into view. On the contrary, his opponents hold, that the Holy Spirit makes use of the gospel as the means of reconciling our hearts to the law; and that there is no genuine exercise of love to God or his holy law, till it please God to reveal his Son in us. These divines shewed that conviction of sin by the law is subservient to the Lord's gracious design upon elect sinners, not by reconciling the heart to the holiness of the law, before the gospel come into view, but by teaching them their absolute need of gospel-grace in order to over. come their cursed enmity against the holiness of the law.
“ If by being regenerated," says Mr. Bellamy,“ is " meant being enabled to see the holy beauty of divine s truths, we are regenerated neither by the law nor by “ the gospel, but by the immediate influence of the “ Holy Spirit. If by regenerated is meant holy affec« tions being begotten and excited in the heart, in this
sense we are regenerated by the law and by the gos. “pel and, by every divine truth in general."*
Answer. We allow, that a spiritual and saving knowledge of Divine truth is attained by regeneration; and that regeneration, strictly taken, is the immediate work of the Holy Spirit. It is his immediate work, as preventing and excluding all causal activity of the creature which is the passive subject of it ; but not as excluding his powerful word; without which regeneration is not to be expected, 1 Pet. i. 23. Being born again not of corruprible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever. If it be asked, What word this is ? we have an answer in v. 25. This is the word which by the gospel is preached
* An Essay on the Nature, &c. p. 192.
unto you. It is true, that, under the saving influences of the Holy Spirit, all Divine truths excite holy affections answerable to their nature in true Christians. But every Divine truth is not of such a nature as to afford a poor sinner a ground for the faith of salvation. The following propositions are Divine truths, The man that doeth these things shall live in them. Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them. But who will say, that these truths, without the gospel, afford a sinner any ground for the faith of salvation ? And yet without that faith there is no regeneration or saving conversion : and none have any holy affections without or before conversion ; that is, while they have no spiritual life in them. It is allowed, that truly gracious affections are excited and promoted by means of the truths belonging to the law ; but then it is in a soul that has been already quickened by the gospel. That sinners have their first spiritual quickening by the gospel appears by the designations that are given to the gospel ; such as, The power of God unto salvation, Rom. i. 16. The Spirit that giveth life, and the ministration of the Spirit, 2 Corinth. iii. 6, 8. To the same purpose the apostle says in 1 Corinth. iv. 15. In Christ Jesus have I begotten you through the gospel: an expression, which “holds forth,” as a commentator in Marlorate's collection observes, “ two instrumental causes of regenera« tion; of which one is more immediate, that is, the gospel; the other more remote, which is the preach
We are begotten again before God by means of “ the gospel. Take away the gospel, and we are but " so many dead men under the curse.” Nor had Mr. Bellamy any reason to insinuate that any thing else is taught in the following words of the sixth Psalm :
The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. For the term law is often used, in a lax sense, for the whole of God's revealed will, and sometimes is chiefly to be understood of the doctrines and promises of the gospel, as in Isai. ï. 3. Mic. iv. 2. Ps. cxix. 92. The apostle calls the gospel the law of faith in opposition to the law of works. Hence we cannot esteem these conversions to be of a saving kind which have been effected by means of the law working wrath, without the gospel, that is, without any spiritual views of the way of salvation by Christ crucified. For, though we allow, that the Lord's work in saving conversion is not alike in all the subjects of it; but there may be and is diversity in the outward occasions of it, in distinctness of experience, and in other respects ;-yet some things are, according to the rule of God's word, so essential to that blessed work, that if any person think himself to be converted without them, he deceives himself. That a spiritual discernment of the way of salvation by grace through our Lord Jesus Christ, is one of these things, appears from such texts as the following. 2 Corinth. iv. 3. If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, John vi. 40. This is the will of him that sent me, that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on him may have everlasting life ; and I will raise him up at the last day. Matth. xi. 25. At that time, Jesus answered and said, I thank thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. In these passages, it is represented as essential to the character of a true convert, that he not only has a capacity to apprehend the way of salvation through Jesus Christ, but actually does apprehend it through a supernatural and saving revelation of it.*
3. Mr. Bellamy's convert speaks much of his reconciliation to the law, but little or nothing of his being divorced from or dead to the law as a covenant. Whereas his opponents represent our death to the law in this view as essential to saving conversion, and as most difficult to be attained. A great part of the writings of these divines is taken up in discovering the | various plausible pretexts, under which men, professing to be Christians, continue obstinately attached to their first husband, the law or covenant of works, depending on something they feel or do as the condition of their justification before God, and seeing no evil in that delusive and soul-ruining dependance. This attachment is kept up by reflecting upon what they reckon their virtuous dispositions and conduct ; upon
many outward privileges, spiritual and temporal, which God has granted them ; upon the mercy of God and the merits
* The opinion expressed in Mr. Bellamy's words, just now quoted, reminds one of the Popish notion taken notice of in a former letter, namely, That faith justifies as well by believing the threatenings, the commands and histories, as by believing the promises of the word. Mr. Bellamy's opinion seems to be favoured by the following words of an elegant writer : “ Di. “ vine truths,” says he, " are like chain shot, they go together, " and we need not perplex ourselves which should enter first; “ if any one enter, it will draw the rest after it.” This remark is true, if it mean, that a minister, in handling a subject, may use any method which appears convenient: he may either speak, first, of the effects, and then of the causes of the subject; or first, of the causes and then of the effects: he may treat first of holiness in heart and life, and then of faith in Christ, uniting us to him, as the means of attaining that holiness; or on the contrary, first, of faith, and then of holiness as the fruit of faith. But if he takes no care to keep cause and effect, the means and the end, law and gospel, distinct, assigning to each its proper place and use, he does not rightly divide the word of truth ; he is unfaithful both to the Lord Christ and to the souls of men,