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  • CHAPTER 8.


    IN favor of the doctrines of absolute election and reprobation, particular redemption, and special grace in conversion, we observe, that, for many ages, God suffered the heathen world to walk in their own ways, leaving them without a revelation of his mind and will, without the gospel, and means of grace; and which has been, and still is, the case of multitudes to this day. This it cannot reasonably be thought he would have done, had it been according to the counsel of his will that all the individuals of mankind should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth; or had Christ died for and redeemed them all; or was it the will of God to bestow on all men sufficient grace, whereby they may be saved. Nor can it be thought that God deals more severely with men, according to the above doctrines, than he seems to have done with the heathen world in this respect: particularly, in favor of God’s decrees, it is observed, that if God conveys his gospel to, and bestows the means of grace on some people, and not on others, when the one are no more worthy of it than the other, and so must arise from his free grace, sovereign pleasure, and the counsel of his will; why may not the decree of the end of bestowing salvation on some, and not on others, as well as the decree of the means of sending the gospel to some, and not to others, be thought to be equally free, absolute, and sovereign? And seeing it is in fact certain, that the greatest part of mankind have been always left destitute of the means of grace, we need not wonder why that God, who freely communicates the knowledge of himself by the gospel to some nations, denying it to others, should hold the same method with individuals that he doth with whole bodies: for the rejecting of whole nations by the lump, for so many ages, is much more unaccountable than the selecting of a few to be infallibly conducted to salvation, and leaving others in that state of disability in which they shall inevitably fail of it. Now to this it is replied: f776 I. “That this objection doth by no means answer the chief arguments produced against these decrees, which are all taken from the inconsistency of them with the truth and sincerity of God’s declarations, with his commands to repent, his exhortations and desires that they would, threats of ruin to them that do not, and with all the promises, motives, and encouragements to induce them into it.” I observe, that this writer himself seems to be convinced, that this objection answers some, though not the chief, arguments produced against the absolute decrees of God. And as for those which are taken from the supposed inconsistency of them with the truth and sincerity of God, in his declarations, they have been replied to already, in this Part, under the article of Reprobation, to which the reader is referred, where it is made to appear, that there is no inconsistency between these decrees and the truth and sincerity of God in his declarations. It is much we should be called upon to show the like inconsistency, as is here pretended, between God’s declarations touching the heathen world, and his dealings with them, when it is agreed, on both sides, he has made no declarations of his mind and will to them. This author goes on, and allows, that there is a greater depth in the divine providence, and in his dispensations towards the sons of men, than we can fathom by our shallow reason; but then, it must be insolence in us to say, that God does not act, in the ordering of affairs in the world, according to the measures of true goodness, because we, who cannot dive into the reasons of his dispensations, cannot discern the footsteps of that goodness in all his various transactions towards men. To which I heartily agree; and it would have been well if this author, and others of the same cast with him, had carefully attended to such an observation, and contented themselves with such a view of things; which must have stopped their mouths from calumnating the goodness of God, on a supposition of his absolute decrees of election and reprobation. It is further observed, f778 “that what God hath plainly and frequently revealed concerning his goodness, ought firmly to be owned and believed, although we are not able to discern how the transactions of God in the world comport with our imperfect knowledge and weak notions of immense and boundless goodness.” All very right. To which is added, that “seeing the revelations of this nature (of divine goodness) are so clear and copious, have we not reason to believe them, notwithstanding those little scruples which, from our fond ideas and imperfect notions of divine goodness, we do make against them?” But, pray, what are these plain and frequent, clear and copious, revelations of divine goodness? and what the things that are not so clearly revealed? why, we are told, that to apply these things to our subject, 1. “We know from Scripture, how dreadful for quality, how endless for duration, will be the punishment of every Christian who fails of the salvation tendered; but we know so little of the future state of heathens, that we are uncertain both as to the measure and duration of their punishment.” Now not to take notice, that salvation is not tendered, and that a Christian, or one that truly deserves that name, cannot fail of it, or be liable to endless punishment; it is strange, that the dreadful punishment of any, and the endless duration of it, should be mentioned among the plain and frequent, clear and copious revelations of divine goodness, when it belongs to the plain and frequent, clear and copious revelations of divine goodness. Besides, though we know so little of the future state of heathens from the Scripture, yet we are not altogether at an uncertainty about either the measure or duration of their punishment; for as to the former, we are told ( Matthew 11:21,22. ) that it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, for the inhabitants of these places, who had not the advantage of Christ’s ministry and miracles, at the day of judgment, than for the inhabitants of Chorazin and Beth-saida, who were favored with them; and it is reasonable to conclude, that this will hold good of all men, without a divine revelation; and as to the latter, it is certain, when our Lord shall descend from heaven, he will take vengeance on them that know not God, the Gentiles, and that obey not the gospel of our lord Jesus Christ; meaning such who have enjoyed, but have neglected and despised the means of grace; who, one as well as another, shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9.)

    Moreover, whereas it is suggested, that Providence may put the heathens into a better state before their final doom, since God overlooked the times of their former ignorance, ( Acts 17:30.) there being the like reason for his still overlooking them; it should be observed, that God’s overlooking the times of heathen ignorance, was not an instance of his kindness and goodness, but of his disregard unto them: the meaning is, that he looked over them, took no notice of them, made no revelation to them, but left them in their blindness and ignorance, without giving them any helps, or sending them any persons to instruct and teach them. 2. It is said, “We know that God hath made a tender of the covenant of grace, upon conditions of faith and repentance, to all that live under the Gospel dispensation; and that these decrees of absolute reprobation, and of denying the help necessary to the performing these conditions, are inconsistent with that tender: whereas we know of no such tender made to the heathen world; but rather, that they are still strangers to the covenant of prom ise,” Ephesians 2:12. I answer; We know, indeed, from the Scriptures, that God has made a covenant of grace, which is a considerable instance of his divine philanthropy and goodness; but then, this covenant of grace is neither made with, nor tendered to all that live under the Gospel dispensation; it is only made with God’s elect in Christ, and that not upon conditions of faith and repentance; for these are blessings of grace secured for them in this covenant. Hence the decrees of absolute reprobation, and of denying the aid of grace to some persons, are; not at all inconsistent with this covenant, and the promulgation of it in the Gospel. We also know of no such covenant made with, nor of any tender of it, nor of any publication of it to the heathen world; but rather, that all that are destitute of revelation, are strangers to the covenant of promise, Ephesians 2:12, which passage likewise acquaints us, that such as are without the knowledge of Christ, and God in Christ, are without hope; and that such who live and die so, have no good ground of hope of eternal life and salvation; which plainly points out the state and case of the heathens, and leaves us at no great uncertainty about it: wherefore, we freely own, what is further alleged, that, 3. “We know not any promises God hath made to them;” and we know as little of any promises, or tenders of promises, God has made to the reprobate part of mankind, either with or without conditions, or upon possible or impossible ones: as also, that, 4. “We know from Scripture that the heathens, who never had Christ preached to them, are not bound to believe in him.” This is readily granted; and to it may be added, that they will not be condemned and punished for their unbelief, but for their sins committed against the law and light of nature. And though “we know from the same Scripture, that this is the command of God to all that have heard of Christ, that they believe in the Son of God;” yet we know that the faith enjoined and required is proportionate to the revelation that is made of Christ; for no man is bound to believe more than what is revealed. If evidence is given of Christ’s being the Son of God, the Messiah and Savior of the world, as was to the Jews, credit should be given thereunto; which the Jews should and could have given, though they could not believe unto salvation, without superior power and grace: if Christ is represented, to any persons as a proper object of faith, trust, and confidence; it becomes such persons to believe in him, and rely upon him; and such are, by the grace of God, enabled so to do. If the Spirit of God reveals to a man his particular interest in the death of Christ, or that Christ died for him in particular, he ought to believe it. All which perfectly accords with the doctrine of particular redemption, and is no ways inconsistent with God’s decrees of giving the necessary aid of his grace to some, to enable them to believe unto salvation, and of denying it to others, 5. It is added, “We know that God sent his prophets and messengers, apostles and evangelists, to move the Jews unto repentance, and those Gentiles to whom the gospel was offered, to embrace it; and that under both these dispensations, he established an order of men to call all men indifferently to repentance; but we know not that any thing was done towards those heathens to whom the Gospel never hath been preached, nor ever any messenger or prophet sent.” Be it so, as it will be allowed, that proper persons were sent to move the Jews to repentance, and the Gentiles to embrace the Gospel, who were blessed to the conversion of God’s elect, which lay among them both; and that nothing of this was ever done to the heathens, to whom the Gospel was never preached; for, indeed, how should anything of this kind be done to them, this being their case? yet this is not at all inconsistent with God’s decrees of election and reprobation, since it will be difficult, if not impossible, to prove that God ever called any person to evangelical repentance, to whom he has not given the grace of repentance; or that he calls all men indifferently to repentance, or any to whom he denies the grace of repentance. Though, admitting he does externally call such persons to repentance, this may be done to expose the vile nature of sin, declare man’s duty, and leave him inexcusable, though he denies him, and has determined to deny him, grace to enable him to repent, which he is not obliged to give; all which is consistent with the truth, sincerity, and design of the call.

    II. A second answer to this argument of ours is, that “that this objection supposeth it to be the same thing to be without a gospel revelation, and to be without any means of grace at all; which supposition seems plainly contrary to the declaration of the holy Scripture, touching the heathen world.” For, 1. As God plainly saith, even in respect to their justification, that he is the God not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles, Romans 3:29, and that he is the same Lord, who is rich unto all that call upon him, Romans 10:12; so has he also, by St. Peter, taught, that he is no respector of persons; but that in every nation he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him, Acts 10:34,35. “Whence it appears, that some of all nations, owning the true God, not only might, but actually did fear God, and work righteousness; and that God accepts men only because they do so: whence it follows, that those heathens who have at any time attained to the knowledge of the true God, may, in that state, perform those righteous actions which shall be acceptable in his sight.” To which I reply; that unless the law and light of nature, by which men may have some knowledge of a divine Being, though they know not who he is, and of the difference between good and evil, and unless the motives from providential goodness to serve and glorify God can be thought to be means of grace, the heathen must be without any, who are destitute of the gospel revelation; and then to be without a gospel revelation, and without any means of grace at all, must be the same thing; seeing the gospel revelation, the word, and ordinances, are the common and ordinary means of grace. It will not be denied, that God may make use of extraordinary means; f785 send an angel from heaven to acquaint men with the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, or by some other secret method, unknown to us; yet from the possibility of things to the certainty of them, we cannot argue: and though we would be far from judging of and determining the final state of such who are destitute of revelation; yet, according to the Scripture account of them, we cannot but conclude, that as such, and while such, they are without the means of grace, being without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. Nor do the Scriptures alleged prove that they have the means of grace, as will appear from a particular consideration of them. Not Romans 3:29, God was, indeed, equally the God of the Gentiles as of the Jews, as the God of nature and providence, being the common creator and preserver of them, and provider for them; but not as the God of grace, or in point of special grace and peculiar privileges, or before the gospel dispensation took place. Now, indeed, the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile is broken down; the gospel has been sent and preached to one as to another; and some of both have been brought to believe in Christ; and so God is the God of one as of the other, and stands no more distinguished by the God of Israel. And to this the apostle has respect in the place before us, when he puts the question, Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Which he answers in the affirmative, Yes, of the Gentiles also.

    The argument proving this, follows; seeing it is one God which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith.

    Whence it is manifest, that the apostle is not speaking of the justification of heathens, by their obedience to the law and light of nature, nor of them as heathens, or of God being their God, considered as such; but of their justification by faith in Christ; and so of them as believers, and of God being their God as such, equally with the believing Jews. Could it be proved, that God justifies the heathens by their obedience to the law and light of nature, as he justifies others by faith in the blood and righteousness of Christ, it would be much to the purpose; but since this text gives no such intimation, but the contrary, it must be impertinent to the present argument. Nor Romans 10:12. There is, indeed, no difference between the Jew and Greek, under the Gospel dispensation, for the same Lord over all, who has made them, and has a sovereign dominion over them, is rich, in the distributions of his grace unto all that call upon him, be they Jews or Gentiles. And, for their encouragement, it is observed, verse 13, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    But then it is added, verse 14, How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

    Which manifestly shows, that though the Lord plenteously distributes the riches of his grace to all that call upon him, without distinction of nations; yet to them only that call upon him aright, that is, in faith; of which faith the preaching and hearing the word are the ordinary means; Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, verse 17.

    Now the Gentiles being without these means, and so destitute of faith, cannot rightly call upon God, there being no true invocation of him without faith in him; it follows, that they are not only without the means of grace, whilst this is their case, but even without any hope or likelihood of enjoying the blessings of grace; since these, in the text, are limited to them that call upon the Lord, and that call upon him in faith. Nor Acts 10:34,35. The character given of Cornelius is, indeed, very great, and no doubt, very just; when he is said to be a devout man, and one that feareth God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway, verse 2.

    Whose prayers and alms were greatly taken notice of, approved and accepted of God; for the angel said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God, verse 4; that is, they were grateful to him, and were remembered by him. But then, it is not so evident, that he was now in a state of heathenism, destitute of divine revelation, of that particularly which was made to the Jews, or destitute of faith in the Messiah, especially as to come, or in a state of unregeneracy.

    He was, indeed, of heathen extract; was now a Roman soldier, and his falling down at Peter’s feet, and worshipping of him, verse 25, may look like acting the part of an idolatrous heathen; when it was no other than an instance of civil respect, which Peter would not receive, lest the standersby, or those that came with him, should think more was designed by it. It is moreover said, that Peter should tell him words whereby he and all his house should be saved, chapter 11:14. Which may seem to intimate, as if he and his family were not in a state of salvation; which sense, though it would prove that heathens may do many things which are materially good, though they have not all the circumstances of a good action; yet, so far as they are good, may be taken notice of and regarded by God; so that on the account of them they may be saved from temporal ruin, as the Ninevites, upon their repentance, were; and enjoy temporal good, and their future punishment be lessened: but then, this sense would prove what is quite beside and contrary to the scheme of our author, namely, that persons in a state of heathenism, though they may be very devout and religious in their way, and do a great many good things; yet are not in a state of salvation.

    But I am inclined to think, that the meaning of them is this, that whereas Cornelius and his family were seeking after, and were very desirous of knowing the way of salvation, of which they had some knowledge from the writings of the Old Testament, upon Peter’s coming to them, they should be more clearly led into it, and become thoroughly acquainted with the promised Messiah, by whom alone they could be saved; for that Cornelius and his family were proselytes of the gate, this writer himself owns: f786 since the same titles which belonged to the proselytes of the gate are given to them. It is evident that Cornelius attended to and complied with the rituals of the Jews, as appears from his observing the same hour of prayer with them, the ninth hour, verse 30, compared with Acts 3:1, and from his being of good report among all the nation of the Jews, verse 22. He, no doubt, read the prophecies of the Old Testament, attended the synagogues of the Jews, believed in the Messiah to come; so that his faith was of the same kind with the saints before the coming of Christ, and in this faith he did all the good works he did, which became acceptable to God through Christ; for without faith it is impossible to please him. ( Hebrews 11:6.)

    And now God is no respecter of persons, he makes no difference between nation and nation, but in every nation, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, he that feareth him, which includes the whole of religion internal and external, and so faith in Christ, and from such a principle worketh righteousness, is accepted with him; though let it be observed, that notwithstanding God accepts of such who fear him, and work righteousness, without any regard to their being circumcised or uncircumcised, to their being of this or the other nation; yet their fear of him and working of righteousness, are not the ground of their acceptance; but are to be considered as descriptive of the persons who are accepted in Christ; for there is no acceptance of persons or services but in Christ the beloved. From the whole, it does not appear that heathens, as such, and while in that state, may and actually do fear God, in the true sense of that phrase, as it imports the whole of internal and external religion; to both which, in the truth of them, they are utter strangers, and consequently cannot, and do not work righteousness, or what deserves that name, or what springs from the principles of the fear of God, and faith in him: and hence it follows not, that heathens may, in that state, perform those righteous actions which are acceptable in the sight of God; since what they perform, is not done in faith, nor directed to the glory of God; and especially in such sense, as that for the sake, and upon the account of them, their persons should be accepted, and they be everlastingly saved by him.

    For if the works of true believers, which spring from love, are done in faith, in obedience to the will of God, and with a view to his glory, cannot, and do not render their persons acceptable to God, nor procure their salvation, how should it be thought that the actions of heathens should do all this, were they even ten thousand times more and better than they are? 2. It is said, that “this (that the heathens are not without any means of grace at all) may be gathered from these words of St. Paul, God, who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, nevertheless left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, etc. Acts 14:16,17.”

    I reply; that God’s giving of rain and fruitful seasons to the heathens, and filling them with food and gladness, were indeed testimonies of his providence and goodness; in which respect he left not himself without witness: but then, though these were instances of providential goodness, yet not means of grace. It is true, that the works of creation were means of men’s knowing that there is a God, and that he is to be worshipped; so that the heathens were without excuse, because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened: ( Romans 1:20,21. ) but then, these were not sufficient means of knowing who this God was, and in what manner he was to be worshipped. So that frequent instances of rain and fruitful seasons, and the daily supplies of food for the bodies of men, are proofs a divine Being, who is kind and good, and of a divine Providence, and lay men under obligation to be thankful, and to seek after God, and serve him; but are not means of grace, or of eternal life and salvation; for these very persons, to whom God gave rain and fruitful seasons, whose hearts he filled with food and gladness, he suffered to walk in their own ways; which unavoidably lead to ruin and destruction. What means of grace could these men have, who were thus entirely left of God, to do that which was right in their own eyes; though he did not leave himself without witness? How blind, ignorant, and superstitious were they, that, when they saw what the apostle Paul had done, cried out, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men? and brought out their oxen and garlands, and would have done sacrifice; from which the apostle scarce restrained them by these sayings of his. What means of grace could these be supposed to have? when, as this author himself observes, God “so far permitted this, as that he sent them no prophet to instruct them better, and gave them no positive revelation of his will, no written instructions of the way in which he would be worshipped, as he had done unto the Jews.” 3. The same, it is observed, may be gathered “from those words of the same apostle; God, that made the world, and all things in it — made all nations of one blood, and hath determined the times before appointed (that is, the fixed seasons of the year,) and the bounds of their habitations, that they might seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, Acts 17:24,26,27.

    Whence we learn, that God made the world with this design, that men, by contemplation of the power, wisdom, and goodness, visible in the creation of it, might seek after the the author of it, and seeking, find him. That to seek after God, in the Scripture-phrase, is so to seek him out, that we may give him that worship which is due to him; and, to find him, is to obtain his grace and favor. That sinners cannot thus hope to seek or find God, unless they can expect to find him merciful in the pardon of those sins they confess and forsake, all which must depend on this foundation, that God is the maker of heaven and earth, and all that is therein; whence it follows, that men guided only by the light of nature, may so acceptably seek God, as to find him gracious and merciful towards them.” To which may be replied, that the making of the world, and all things in it, with the suitable provisions for all creatures, is a glorious display, of the power, wisdom, and goodness of God; and it will be allowed, that men, by the light of nature, may, as those Athenians might to whom the apostle speaks, so seek after God, and find that there is one, and such an one as dwells not in temples made with hands, neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything; seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things, verses 24, 25; which was sufficient to convince them of the gross idolatry they were guilty of; and that they ought not to think, as they did, that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art, or man’s device, verse 29.

    But then, it must be denied, that the heathens did, or could, by the light of nature, seek God acceptably, or so as to find him gracious and merciful unto them; for he is only sought acceptably, and found gracious and merciful, in Christ Jesus our Lord. And though propitiatory sacrifices did very early, and long, and generally, obtain among them; yet, as these were not taught them by the light of nature, but were either some broken, mangled traditions, which originally sprang from divine revelation, or satanical imitations of that kind of worship God had appointed; so they were performed in such a manner, as abundantly declared the wretched barbarity ignorance, and stupidity of the worshipers nor was God ever acceptably sought in them or even found to be propitious, gracious, and merciful through them. Besides, let it further be observed, that though the passage before us shows, that it is possible for men by a contemplation of the power, wisdom, and goodness of God, visible in his works of creation and providence, so to seek after him and find him, as to know that there is a God who has made all these; to be convinced of the vanity and falsehood of all other gods, and to see the folly, wickedness, and weakness of idolatrous worship; yet, at the same time, it very strongly intimates to us, how dim and obscure the light of nature is; since those who have nothing else to direct them but that, are like persons in the dark, who feel and grope about after God, whom they cannot see; and after all their search and groping, there is only an haply, a peradvenventure, a maybe, that they find him. Add to this, that the times of heathenism are called in verse 30, times of ignorance which God winked at, uJperidwlight and knowledge. In short, these words, at most, only declare what is the end of man’s creation, which is, to seek the Lord and glorify him; and not what man can do, or the heathens have done, by the mere light of nature; and are far from being a proof of their having any means of grace. 4. It is said, that “this may be proved from those words, Hebrews 11:6, He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

    Where observe, that to come to God, is to serve him, throughout the tenor of the Scripture, and more especially in this epistle, where it signifies to come to his throne of grace by prayer, by the oblation of sacrifices, or by the performance of any other duty; yea, from the context it appears, that it is eujaresth~sai , to do that which is pleasing to him. That all men may so seek God, as to do what is well-pleasing to him, if they diligently endeavor so to do. That if they do so, they shall be regarded by him. That the heathens may have grounds sufficient to believe, that they shall be rewarded for serving him diligently, according to the light which God had given them. The inference is, “that heathens may have faith in God, even that faith which is the expectation of things hoped for, and may encourage them to seek him diligently.” I answer, It is strange that this passage of Scripture should be a proof of heathens having the means of grace, or of their being capable of seeking and serving God acceptably, and of their having faith in God, even that faith which in verse1 is said to be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence oaf things not seen; when the apostle is only speaking of such a faith, as is; founded upon the word of God, and of such persons only who were favored with a divine revelation; of the patriarchs before and after the flood, the forefathers of the Jews; various instances of whose faith he produces, partly to prove the above definition of faith, and partly for the imitation, example, and encouragement of the Hebrews, to whom he writes; men who also enjoyed the oracles of God, had plenty of the means of grace, and were blessed with a gospel revelation. Besides, let it be observed, that since to come to God, as this author explains it from the context, is to do that which is pleasing to him; and since it appears from the former part of this text, that without faith it is impossible, eujaresth~sai , to do that which is wellpleasing to God; and from the words themselves, that believing is absolutely requisite to coming to him; not only that he exists, but that he is, in Christ, a God gracious and merciful, and a rewarder, in a way of grace, of all them that diligently seek him in his Son, in whom only he is to be so found. And since heathens are without any knowledge of him or faith in him, as such; for, how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? ( Romans 10:14.)

    It follows, that this passage of Scripture proves the reverse of what it is brought for; namely, that it is impossible for heathens to come to God aright, to serve him acceptably; or to do what is well-pleasing to him, because they are destitute of faith; and whatsoever, is not of faith, is sin. ( Romans 14:23. ) Moreover, there is no such thing as coming to God through Christ, he is the only way of access to God, for Jews and Gentiles; for through him we both, ( Ephesians 2:18.) Jew and Gentile, have an access by one Spirit unto the Father. But since the heathens, destitute of divine revelation are without Christ, and the knowledge of him, as the way to the Father, they must be without hope, and without God in the world, ( Ephesians 2:12.) and know not how to come to him, nor can they come to him aright; nor indeed, are they capable of seeking and finding him as the God of grace, or as a God gracious and merciful: since he is only to be sought and found as such in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is true, indeed, that they may and should, by the light of nature, seek after God; and they may find him, as the God of nature, and should glorify him as such, yea, they may do many things materially good, which, though they may not be thoroughly well-pleasing to God; the circumstances of a good work being wanting in them, and also being without a Mediator to render them acceptable to God; yet may be so far approved of by him, as to avert temporal judgments from them, and to lessen their future punishment; so that the heathen world, according to our sentiments of them, is not, as is suggested, exempted from all obligations to seek God, or deprived of any motive to do what appears, by the light of nature, to be the will of God.

    From the whole, it follows not that heathens may have that faith in God which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen; for how should they who are strangers from the covenant of promise hope, look for, and expect those things of which they have no revelation, no promise, on which to ground their faith, hope, and expectations? 5. It is moreover said that “this may be further evident from those words:

    The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” ( Romans 1:18.)

    Where observe, that the apostle is speaking of the heathen world, of the Gentiles, verses 16, 23, 35. That this wrath of God was revealed from heaven against their ungodliness, that is, their impiety, in robbing God of his honor, and giving it to them which by nature were no gods; and in being ungrateful to him who was the author of their blessings; and against their unrighteousness, that is, the violation of the laws of justice, charity, and mercy, towards one another. That they did this against sufficient evidence and manifestation of the truth discovered to them, holding the truth in unrighteousness. That the great reason of the wrath of God revealed against them, was this, that they thus sinned against the knowledge and conscience of their duty. The inference is, “that all the acts of ungodliness and unrighteousness here mentioned (as things too commonly practiced in the heathen world), were done against sufficient light and conviction, that they did these things against the natural light of their own consciences, and the knowledge of that duty which was due from them both to God and man.” I reply; It is not so evident, that the apostle is speaking, either in the text or context, especially in verse 16, of the heathen world, destitute of a divine revelation, where the apostle says, I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. In which words he intimates, that not only the gospel was now preached to Gentiles, as well as Jews, but that it was the power of God, or thepower of God had accompanied it, to the conversion of some among the Gentiles, as well as of some among the Jews; and since therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, he signifies that it became all such who were blessed with this revelation, who embraced this gospel, and made a profession of it, to live by faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith; which faith is productive of good works; for otherwise faith without works is dead: wherefore, such who live wicked and ungodly lives, notwithstanding their profession of the gospel, may expect the vengeance of God; for, even under the gospel dispensation, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven in various awful instances and examples, against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; sins against the first and second table of the law, which are no more countenanced under the evangelical than under the legal economy; and especially against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of such who hold the truth ejn ajdiki>a , with unrighteousness; that is, who hold and profess the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and yet live unrighteously in their conversations, or hinder the spreading of it by their ungodly lives. In this view of things, the words have no reference to the heathen world, as such; but to persons, whether Jews or Gentiles, enjoying the gospel revelation. It is true, the following part of the context seems to regard the Gentiles, as only having the light of nature, and their abuse of it: though Dr. Hammond understands the whole text of judaizing Christians, of the Gnostics; and indeed, the whole account well enough agrees with them, who not only had, in common with the Gentiles, the advantages of the light of nature, the works of creation and providence, to lead them to the knowledge of God, whereby they were left without excuse; but even boasted of superior knowledge to other Christians, from whence they had the name of Gnostics; and yet these men, who professed themselves to be wise, became fools, ran into the idolatry of the heathens, partook with them in their idol feasts, and particularly worshipped the images of Simon Magus and Helena, and were guilty of all the obscenities, impurities, unnatural lusts, and horrible wickedness, mentioned to the end of the chapter; the last words of which may be more properly true of them than of the heathen world: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. But admitting that the heathen world, as such, is here spoken of, it will only prove what will be readily granted, that the heathens, by the visible works of creation, may know that there is a God, and the invisible perfections of Deity; that he, who is the Creator of all things, ought to be worshipped and adored, and not the creature; that they ought to acknowledge him as the author of their being and mercies; to glorify him on the account of them, and to be thankful to him for them; and should they do otherwise, are inexcusable, sins they must act against the natural light of their own consciences. But how does this prove them to have any means of grace, or means of obtaining eternal life and salvation?

    So far from it, that it proves, that men being left to the light of nature, even such as are of the highest form, profess themselves to be the soqoi<, the wise men of the world, sink into the greatest blindness and stupidity, fall into the grossest idolatries, become guilty of the vilest ingratitude, and commit the most abominable and unnatural iniquities that were ever heard of. 6. It is further urged, that “this also seemeth evident from what the apostle hath declared touching the Gentiles, who had no the law, to wit, that God would judge then according to their works, Romans 2:6. And when the apostle adds, that the Gentiles which knew not the law of Moses, did by nature, that is, by virtue of the law of nature written in their hearts, the things contained in the moral law; he must insinuate, that they had the natural principles of good and evil discovered to them, by their own reason and discretion.” To which may be replied that what the apostle hath declared touching the Gentiles, that God would judge them according to their works, is not to be understood of his justification and acceptance of them on the account of their works, or of his rewarding them with eternal glory and happiness for the sake of them; for, by the deeds of the law, whether of nature, or of Moses, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; ( Romans 3:2.) but of the righteous condemnation of them according to their evil works, which, by the light of nature, they knew to be so, and ought to have avoided, as he himself explains it, verse 12, As many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law; which, surely, can never be thought to be a proof of their having means of grace; but rather the contrary. Indeed, it is true, that they did, by the mere light of nature, know the difference between good and evil in many cases; and, by the mere strength of nature did many things which had the appearance of moral goodness; but then, as their knowledge was very imperfect, and their strength but weakness, there were many things which should have been done, were left undone, and multitudes of sins are committed against the direct law and light of nature: so that they were far from being hereby in a state of justification and acceptance with God, and which occasioned great turmoils of conscience, and restlessness and disquietude of their thoughts within them; all which is largely expressed by the apostle, verses 14, 15.

    III. Having considered the arguments from Scripture in favor of the heathens having means of grace, we now proceed to consider such as are taken from reason. And, 1. It is observed, that “it seemeth evident from reason, that if God should be worshipped, served, and obeyed by his rational creatures, he must have given them sufficient knowledge of that Being whom they are to serve, worship, and obey, and of those laws which he requires them to obey; and also must have given them abilities to do them, as far as he requires this to their acceptance, and motives sufficient to induce them thus to serve and to obey him.” I answer; that whereas there is a God, and this God is to be served and obeyed, so he has not left himself without witness to the very heathens; he has given to them means of knowing his being and perfections. The things that are made are sufficient proofs of his eternal power and godhead; so that in this respect they are without excuse; nor are they altogether without the knowledge of those laws he requires them to obey; for though they are strangers to the instituted worship and positive laws of revealed religion, for the neglect of which they will not be condemned yet not to the laws of natural religion: for though they have no written law in their hands to guide and direct them; yet they have the work of the law written on their hearts, to which their conscience bears witness, and their thoughts accuse or excuse, as they do good or evil works; and no doubt but they are able to do more than they do, in a way of natural obedience to these laws; nor are they without motives from the providential goodness of God, to induce them to a regard to them. We do not say the heathens want the means of knowing the natural duties owing to God and man; and so are far from destroying natural religion, or absolving the heathens from obligations to perform it; we say, indeed, that neither they, nor any others, without the grace of God, can love the Lord their God with all their heart, and their neighbor as themselves, which are the main parts of the law. But then it does not follow from hence, that these are no duties of natural religion, or that God does not require them, or that men are not under obligation to them, because through their own vitiosity they have lost their power to obey them as they ought. We also say, that those actions of the heathens which are materially good, are yet formally evil, because they are not done out of love to God as the principle, and to God’s glory as the end; and indeed how should they do any thing out of love to God, and with a view to his glory, when they know him not?

    For though they have means of knowing the being and perfections of God, yet they know not who the true God is; but being left to the mere light of nature, fix upon that which is not God, to be so; and consequently can have no true love to the only true God, nor true faith in him, nor a true regard to his glory. And we say the same of the works and actions of all men in a state of nature, before conversion, who are destitute of love to God, and faith in Christ: and so says the church of which this author was a member, in her thirteenth article, ( Titus 3:5,6.) “Works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the school-authors say) deserve grace of congruity; yea, rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but that they have the nature of sin.” But, after all, supposing that the heathens have sufficient means of knowing God, and the duties of natural religion, and that they do know God, and do perform the duties of natural religion, are these the means of grace, life, and salvation; when it is not by works, of righteousness, works done according to a righteous law, and from a principle of grace and holiness, which we Christians, believers in Christ, have done after conversion, in the faith of Christ, from love to God, and a view to his glory, that we are saved; but according to the mercy of God, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Savior? ( Titus 3:5,6.)

    To say no more, the argument may easily be retorted thus: It seemeth evident from reason, that if God had willed that all the individuals of human nature, and among the rest the heathens, should be saved through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom alone we hope to be saved, there being no other way of salvation that we know of; I say, it seemeth evident from reason, that God would have given these persons the means of salvation, the means of knowing Christ, and salvation by him, and the knowledge of these things itself. 2. It is further argued, “If God hath given to all men immortal souls, it seemeth plainly hence to follow, that he had put them some way in a capacity of being happy after death, and hath not left them under an inevitable necessity of being always miserable. For since, according to our Savior’s words, it had been better for such men that they had not been born; and, according to right reason, it is better not to be, than to be miserable; and seeing all such men must be subject to a necessity of being miserable, only by being born into the world, that is, by God’s own action in giving them life, and infusing a spiritual soul into them; it follows, that either we must deny the immortality of the souls of these heathens, or allow, that they are placed by Divine Providence in a capacity of avoiding being ever miserable.” I reply; That God hath given to all men, and so to the heathens, immortal souls, is certain; but from hence it follows not, that he has put, or is obliged to put them some way in a capacity of being ever happy; seeing he makes the angels immortal and immaterial spirits, those that fell from him, as well as those that stand; but he has not, nor is he obliged to put the former any way in a capacity of being ever happy; since they became sinful, and so miserable of themselves, and not by any act of his. So the heathens, to whom God has given immortal souls, of themselves, through their own sin, became miserable, or subject to misery, and not by being born into the world, or by God’s own action of giving them life, and infusing, an immortal soul into them: God’s act of giving them being and life, and infusing an immortal soul into them, is a blessing; it is their own iniquity that subjects them to misery, or makes them miserable, and it can be no unrighteous thing with God to leave them so; nor is it more eligible not to be, than to be so; our Lord does not say, it had been better for such men, that they had not been born; but it had been good for that man, Judas, if he had not been born. ( Matthew 26:24) And this, as some think, was said according to the judgment of men, and as Judas himself would hereafter judge, and is designed to express the woefuluess of his state and condition; though it is not said, it had been good for him if he had not been, but if he had not been born; that is, if he had been an abortive, had died in his mother’s womb. It is not according to right reason, but according to an erroneous judgment, that “it is better not to be, than to be miserable;” for to be is something, and something good, though attended with misery; but, not to be, is nothing; and non entis nulla affectio, can have neither goodness nor bitterness, nor can be properly eligible or desirable. The reasoning, which follows, from the goodness of God in temporal things, to his concern for men’s spiritual welfare, and from the law of nature and light of reason, implanted in them, hath been elsewhere considered. 3. It is urged, that “it cannot be consistent with divine equity and goodness, to make that a condition of any man’s happiness, which he cannot know to be his duty, or knowing, cannot do. Hence it is evident, that the knowledge of any revelation made to Jew or Christian, cannot be necessary to the happiness of heathens in general, much less the practice of any purely Christian duty; and therefore faith in Jesus Christ cannot be necessary to the salvation of as many of them as have never heard of him.”

    I answer; that the heathens will not be condemned and punished for their ignorance of that revelation which was never vouchsafed to them, nor for the non-performance of and purely Christian duty, such as baptism and the Lord’s supper; nor for not believing in Christ, of whom they have never heard, only for those sins which they have committed against the law and light of nature; but inasmuch as they are without any true knowledge of the way of atonement for sin, and without any revelation from God of the method of salvation from it, they must be considered as destitute of the means of grace, and as far from true happiness and felicity. 4. When this author says, “This I think certain, that God will only judge men at the last for sinning against the means he hath vouchsafed them to know, and to perform their duty, and only by that law which he hath given them. Hence it must follow, that those heathens to whom the law of nature only hath been given, can be judged only for the violations of that law.”

    This will be readily allowed as agreeable to what the apostle says, As many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law. ( Romans 2:12.)

    But then, this observation is no proof of their having any means of grace; this leaves them without any, and discovers the equity and justice of God in their condemnation. 5. It is further observed that “God having laid down this method in the dispensation of his gifts, that he who is faithful in the least talent, shall have a suitable reward; and that to him that hath, so as to improve what he enjoys, shall more be given, and vice versa; we may hence rationally conclude that he who diligently endeavors to do good according to that light he hath received, shall find some tokens or the favor of God; and that if any farther aid be requisite to enable the heathens acceptably to perform their duty, the divine goodness will impart that also to them, by those secret dispensations of his providence which we are not acquainted with.”

    To which may be replied; that the parable of the talents referred to, does not relate either to the gifts of nature, or of special grace; but to ministerial gifts, or such as qualify men for the preaching of the gospel, as has been shown in the first Part of this work; and therefore cannot be of any service in the argument before us. What secret methods God may make use of to impart his grace to heathens, to afford them the aid that is requisite to perform their duty acceptably; to communicate his mercy to them, and apply the meritorious performances of Christ; are, indeed, secrets to us; and secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed, belong, to us and to our children. ( Deuteronomy 29:29.)

    It is only according to the revelation God has made we are able to judge of things, and beyond that we cannot go; and according to that revelation, it appears that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; ( John 14:6.) the true way to eternal life; that no man can come to the Father but by him; that there is salvation is no other; that there is none other name under heaven given among men, Jews or Gentiles, whereby we must be saved; ( Acts 4:12.) that the heathens, destitute of revelation, know not God; ( 1 Thessalonians 4:5.) are without Christ, strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and God in the world; ( Ephesians 2:12.) and consequently, according to all the views of things we are capable of taking from hence, must be without any means of grace and salvation. 6. And lastly, it is said, that “we may reasonably conclude, God will deal with them, both with respect to the acceptation and reward of their good, and his displeasure against and punishment of their evil actions, according to the measures of their ignorance and knowledge, the abilities, motives, and inducements afforded to them to do or to avoid them; and that in these particulars. That their good actions, done upon less convictions, aids, and motives, may be more acceptable to God, than the like actions done by Christians, upon much stronger evidence, and better aids, and more powerful inducements to the same actions, according to John 20:29, Luke 7:9, Matthew 15:28. That the heathens may expect a reward upon performance of less duty, according to Luke 12:48. That God should be more ready to pardon and pass by their transgressions, because there must be in them the more of ignorance, and so the less of contempt, and so the more of that which renders them excusable, and the less of that which aggravates transgression. That God should be more patient and long-suffering towards them before he punisheth, because the less the light is they enjoy, the less is their offense against it. It is also reasonable to conceive, that God may be more gentle in the punishment of their iniquities, according to our Lord’s own aphorism, Luke 12:47.” I answer; It cannot well be thought that the actions of heathens, which want the circumstances of a good work, such as love to God, faith in him, a view to his glory, and which have only the appearance of goodness in them, should, upon any consideration whatever, be more acceptable to God, than the actions of Christians done by the assistance of grace, in faith, from pure love to God, and with a single eye to his glory, and which are attended with, and are presented before God, through the sweet incense of Christ’s mediation. There must be as much difference between these actions, in point of acceptance, as between the most fragrant flower in the garden, and the most stinking herb of the field. The words of our Lord, John 20:29, do not compare Christians and heathens together, but Christians and Christians, and commend such who believe on Christ, without the sight of his person and miracles, before such who believed on him upon the sight of them. The centurion, Luke 7:9, and the Syro-Phoenician woman, Matthew 15:28, though they were of heathen extract, were not to be reckoned pure heathens, since they conversed among the Jews, and probably were Jewish proselytes, especially the former, and had heard of the Messiah, and were now, moreover, blessed with a gospel revelation, enjoyed the ministry, and saw the miracles of Christ; and, therefore, their actions, and the instances of their faith, are not pertinent to the present argument. The saying of Socrates this author mentions supposes a plurality of gods; and the expressions of Epictetus breathe out the pride and vanity, the affectation and stupidity, of a stoic. Nor have the heathens reason to expect a reward upon performance of less duty; for they have no reason to expect a reward, especially of eternal life, upon the performance of any duty, be it more or less, since the reward must be either of debt or of grace; if of debt, the expectation must be founded upon the performance of the duty itself, and the strict proportion between the duty and the reward; but between eternal life, and the best performances of men, there is no proportion at all, and consequently there is no reward due unto them, and therefore no just expectation can arise from hence; if it is of grace, and the expectation is founded on divine goodness, there must be some notification of it, a promise of eternal life must be given: but the heathens are strangers to the covenants, of promise; ( Ephesians 2:12.) they have no such promise, and are incapable of having any, without a revelation, as this author himself observes; and therefore can have no well-grounded expectation of the reward of eternal life, upon the performance of any duty whatever; but are, as the apostle says, ( Ephesians 2:12.) without hope, that is, of eternal life which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.( Titus 1:2.)

    The words of our Lord, in Luke 12:28, can be no foundation of expectation of reward to heathens, upon performance of less duty, since they know nothing of them; and did they, could be none at all, since they speak not of any reward to be given to men upon performance of more or less duty, only of what is required of men to whom much is committed.

    To proceed: though the heathens have more of ignorance, and less of contempt, in their transgressions, than others who enjoy the light of the gospel, and so as their sins are not so aggravated, their punishment will not be so great, but that they may reasonably expect, that God should be more ready to pardon and pass by their transgressions, because of their ignorance, when they are not sensible of it, is not easy to be conceived of.

    Again, though the less the light is men enjoy, the less is their offense against it, and God may be more patient and long-suffering towards them before he punisheth; but that the heathens may expect he will be so on this account, is not very evident. There have been instances, indeed, of God’s patience and long-suffering towards them; but that of God’s waiting upon the old world, in the days of Noah, who was a preacher of righteousness to them, cannot well be thought to be an instance of God’s forbearance of heathens, of men destitute of a divine revelation. It must be owned it is reasonable to conceive, that God may be more gentle and mild in the punishment of the iniquities of heathens, not only from Luke 12:47, but from the express declaration of Christ, that it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, and for the land of Sodom, in the day of judgment, than for Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, wherein most of his mighty works were done; ( Matthew 11:20-24.) which brings me to the consideration of these words, and the inference said to be made from them. As to the sense and meaning of them, that has been considered already in the first Part of this work, to which the reader is referred. The inference said to be made from them is this, namely, “Hence it appears, that the means of salvation are not always applied to them, whom God foresaw would use them better.” By whom this inference is made, I cannot find, and am jealous, that it is not fairly represented as it was drawn; since these words, according to our sense of them, are not to be understood of God’s prescience or foresight of what was certainly come to pass, if such means were vouchsafed; but of a probability and likelihood, according to a human view and judgment of things, that the miracles of Christ would have been more regarded by, and would have had a greater influence upon, the inhabitants of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom, had they been wrought among them, than on the inhabitants of those cities where they were performed: however, this, I think, may be fairly inferred from them, that God vouchsafes the means of grace sometimes to persons who are not only unworthy of them, but to whom they are of none effect; when he denies them to others, who are no more unworthy of them, and who, in all probability, would show a greater regard unto them. Now, as his withholding them from the one, and giving them to the other, must spring alone from his sovereign pleasure, it shows, that it is not his will that every individual of human nature should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, and therefore must lie strongly against the universal scheme. It is, moreover, said, that “in favor of these false interpretations, we add, that it would be an act of cruelty in God to have denied them those means, which he foresaw would have produced in them repentance unto salvation” Now it should be observed, that this is said not in favor of our interpretations, which this author says are false, but upon the false hypothesis of our opponents. We do not say, that God foresaw that those means which he denied them would, had he granted them, have produced in them repentance unto salvation, or that God is cruel, when he denies the means of grace to some, and gives them to others; but this we say, and ask, upon the hypothesis of the Arminians, “that if God foresaw those means would have produced in them repentance unto salvation, was it not cruel in him to deny them those means?” This, I find, has been said, and asked by the Contra-Remonstrants, which, perhaps, our author refers to: their words are these; “If this ought to be so taken, that God must be supposed to have certainly foreknown that these Tyrians would have truly and really converted themselves, if the mighty works had been wrought among them, may it not be gathered from hence, that God is cruel and unmerciful, that he should withhold from such, and would not give unto them, the means necessary to that conversion, who would certainly have converted themselves?” But how can this agree with their (the Remonstrants’) opinion, who, in favor of it, produce those words of the apostle, 1 Timothy 2:4, who will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth; especially when they say, that by the word all, every individual man, without exception, is to be understood? How could God will to save the Tyrians, from whom he withheld the means necessary to conversion, nor would he give them? From whence it is manifest, that the Arminians ought not to be so forward with their charges of cruelty and unmercifulness against our scheme, on the account either of God’s decrees before time, or of the methods of his grace in time, when their own scheme is not free from them. Upon the whole, it appears, that God gives and denies his grace, affords and withholds the means of it, as he himself pleases; and as multitudes in all ages have been without the latter, there is much reason to believe they have been destitute of the former. I conclude, by observing what the church of England, in her eighteenth article, says, which our author was obliged to subscribe and swear to: “They also are to be had accursed that presume to say, that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law and light of nature; for holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.”

    The testimonies of the ancient writers in favor of the heathens, cited by this author, and their judgment of their case, will be considered in the fourth and last Part of this work; in which will be given the sense of the said writers before Austin, upon the points of election, redemption, efficacious grace, free will, and the final perseverance of the saints.


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