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This awful passage appears to be a
kind of ultimatum, or last resolve. It is as if our Lord had said, 'This is your message........go and proclaim it to all nations........ Whosoever receives. it and submits to my authority, assure him from me, eternal salvation awaits him: but whosoever rejects it, let him see to it........damnation shall be his portion!' Believing and not believing, in this passage, serve to explain each other. It is saving faith to which salvation is promised; and to the want of this it is that damnation is threatened.
It has been alledged that “as it is not inferable "from that declaration that the faith of believers is "the procuring cause of their salvation; so it is not "to be inferred from thence that the want of that "special faith in unbelievers is the procuring cause "of their damnation. That declaration contains in "it the descriptive characters of those who are "saved, and those who are damned; but it assigns "not special faith to be the procuring cause of the "salvation of the former nor the want of it to be "the procuring cause of the damnation of the "latter."+
But if this mode of reasoning were admitted, we should find it very difficult, if not impossible, to prove any thing to be evil from the threatenings of God against it. A multitude of plain texts of
† Mark xvi. 15, 16.
* Mr. Brine's Motives to Love and Unity, pp. 31, 32.
scripture, wherein sin, as any common reader would suppose, is threatened with punishment, might in this manner be made to teach nothing with regard to its being the procuring cause of it. For example, Psalm xxxvii. 18, 20. The Lord knoweth the days of the upright; and their inheritance shall be forever: but the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs; they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away. But it might be said, as the uprightness of the upright is not the procuring cause of his enjoying an everlasting inheritance, so neither will this prove that the wickedness of the wicked, or the enmity of the Lord's enemies, are the procuring cause of their being consumed. Again, Psalm cxlvii. 6. The Lord lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground. But it might be alledged, that as the meekness of the former is not the procuring cause of his being lifted up, so it cannot be from hence inferred that the wickedness of the latter is the procuring cause of his being cast down. Again, Psalm cxlv. 20. The Lord preserveth all that love him; but the wicked will he destroy. But it might be said, as the love of the one is not the procuring cause of his preservation, so it cannot be proved from hence that the wickedness of the other is the procuring cause of his destruction; and that these declarations contain only the descriptive characters of those who are saved, and of those who perish.
In this manner almost all the threatenings in the book of God might be made to say nothing as
threatenings; for the mode in which they are delivered is the same as that in the passage in question. For example, What shall be given unto thee, or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniperHe that sheweth no mercy, shall have judgment without mercy-Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge-Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.-Behold the day cometh that shall burn like an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall be stubbleBring hither those mine enemies that would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before meThe fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their portion in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. But none of these awful threatenings declare that the respective crimes which are mentioned, are the procuring cause of the evils denounced. Though it is said concerning the false tongue, that sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper, shall be given him, yet it does not say that these shall be given him because of his falsehood; and so on of the rest. And thus they may be only descriptive characters of those who shall be damned, and all these things. may for aught these denunciations prove, be blameless. If this reasoning be just, it cannot be infer
red from the laws of England declaring that a murderer shall be put to death, that it is on account of his being a murderer. Neither could our first parents justly infer from its being told them, The day ye eat thereof ye shall surely die, that it should be on that account.
The truth is, though eternal life be the gift of God, yet eternal death is the proper wAGES of sin : and though faith is not represented in the above passage, as the procuring cause of salvation, yet unbelief is of damnation. It is common for the scriptures to describe those that shall be saved by something which is pleasing to God, and by which they are meetened for glory; and those that shall be lost by something which is displeasing to God, and by which they are fitted for destruction.
John iii. 18. He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not, is condemned already, BECAUSE he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God.-Two things are here observable. First, Believing is expressive of saving faith, seeing it exempts from condemnation. Secondly, The want of this faith is a sin, on account of which the unbeliever stands condemned. It is true that unbelief is an evidence of our being under the condemnation of God's righteous law for all our other sins; but this is not all: unbelief is itself a sin, which greatly aggravates our guilt, and if persisted in, gives the finishing stroke to our destruction. That this idea is taught by the
Evangelist appears partly from his dwelling upon the dignity of the character offended, the only begotten Son of God; and partly from his expressly adding, this is THE CONDEMNATION, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Luke xix. 27. But those mine enemies that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.-If Christ, as wearing his mediatorial crown, hath not a right to unreserved submission, and hearty obedience, he has no right to be angry, and still less to punish men as his enemies, for not being willing that he should reign over them. He hath no right to reign over them, at least not over their hearts, if it be not their duty to obey him from their hearts. The whole controversy indeed might be reduced to an issue on this argument. Every sinner ought to be Christ's friend, or his enemy, or to stand by as neutral. To say he ought to be his enemy, is too gross to be defended. To plead for his being neutral, is pleading for what our Lord declares to be impossible: he that is not with me, is against me. There is therefore no room for any other position, than that he ought to be his cordial friend; and this is the plain implication of the passage.
2 Thess. ii. 10-12. Whose coming is-with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall