Stephen Charnock.

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not only a bare privation of salvation and exclusion from the blessed vision
of God, but a sharper sentence of misery, according to his ingratitude, in
refusing the riches of divine grace, offered to him in the gospel.
I shall premise two things.

1. Unbelief is not the only sin that damns. Other sins will condemn as
well as that. Adam*s first disobedience was the ground of Adam*s condem-
nation. Man was condemned by the law, before Christ was promised in the
gospel. The world had come short of the glory of God, before Christ took
the infirmities of our nature for suffering. He came to save, which snp-
poseth man in a state of damnation ; he came to redeem, which supposeth
man in a state of captivity ; he came to bring us to God, which supposeth
our distance from God ; he was incarnate to free us from the law, which
supposeth our being under the curse of it.

2. Yet it is that sin, without which no other sin would damn a man that
hath heard the gospel. If a man be found guilty of felony, for which the
law allows him the mercy of the book, if he can read, he prevents the sen-
tence of death ; if he cannot, he sinks under the penalty of the law : his
felony, and not his ignorance, is the meritorious cause of his execution.
The case is much the same ; men are condemned for other sins, which misery
would have been prevented by faith ; yet it differs in this, that unbelief is
our sin ; it is our duty to believe, since God hath authority to reveal his
truth, and command us to acknowledge it ; but the prisoner's not reading
is his misery, not his crime. The sickness a man lies under would not have
killed him * if he had taken the physic offered^him ; though the disease were
mortal in itself, it might have been expelled by that sovereign remedy. The
refusal of the medicine may be counted the formal or moral cause of his
death, though the disease be the procuring or natural cause of it. A male-
factor is cast into prison for treason ; a pardon is offered and refused ; had it
been accepted, he had not undergone the penalty due to his crime. No sin
could destroy us, if unbelief did not reign in us. Faith would instrumentally
remove the guilt of all other sin. Upon the embracing the expiatory sacri-
fice of the gospel, our other debts would be cancelled ; upon a refusal, oar
guilt stands upon record, and charged upon us in full vigour, and receives a
greater aggravation, by the rejecting the most obliging revelation of God,
and counting the remedy for sin in the merit and satisfaction of Christ a
trifle. Other sins condemn meritoriously, and this formally, say some.
Though all graces are in a believer, yet his salvation is principally ascribed
to faith in the rank of grace : Eph. ii. 8, < By grace you are saved, through
faith.* So, though a man be guilty of all sins, yet his condemnation is attri-
buted to his unbelief. The guilt of the most monstrous enormities would
not be laid to any man's charge, if he did by faith and repentance tarn to
God ; and the most glittering righteousness, with unbelief, will not prevent
his being fuel for wrath. Who are excluded from the bosom of Abraham ?
The sons of the kingdom, bred up and nourished among the ordinances of

* Gerhard, harmon. cap. clzxiz.

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John IQ. 86.] the hisebt of unbeueysbs. 809

Qod, bnt negleetbg or refasing a Saviour. And who are entertained there?
Gentiles besmeared with the mire of idolatry, yet expiated by the mediator
they believed in, Mat. viii. 11, 12 ; it is upon the occasion of the faith of
the centurion, that Christ speaks of the happiness of the Gentiles and misery
of the Jews. Men, strangers to God for so many ages, are engrafted by
faith, and prepared for heaven, while those entrusted with the oracles of
God are disinherited by unbelief, and made vessels of wrath. In regard of
merit, every sin is the cause of condemnation ; in regard of execution, un-
belief is the sole cause. Shimei reviles David,* is pardoned by him, and
his pardon renewed by Solomon, but with a condition that he should not go
out of Jerasalem ; he breaks this condition, is, according to Solomon's word,
executed. The true cause of his death, is his reviling of David ; had he not
been guilty of that, Solomon had no ground of offence, nor had imposed any
condition upon him. But when he violates that condition, and goes out of
Jerusalem, against the command of the king, Solomon takes occasion to
punish him for his former crime. Shimei might have avoided the punish-
ment, by observing the condition commanded. Men are condemned by the
law, and executed by the justice of it ; the condemnation of the law would
not take place, if faith, the cure of guilt, had possession of the heart. No
sin can condemn, if faith be present ; and no righteousness can save, if faith
be absent. While unbelief remains, all sins are retained ; when this is
removed, all sins are remitted. All that perish, perish either by or for this
not believing ; those to whom the gospel is not revealed, perish by reason of
their not believing, through ignorance ; it is by reason of that the wrath of
God abides on them ; and when there is but one medicine to cure a disease,
the ignorant patient perisheth for want of the knowledge of it ; the knowing
patient perisheth for want of applying it. This the schools understand,!
when they say, the heathens that never heard of Christ perish ration infi-
deliuuxs ; those* that hear of him perish propter infidditatem, in a state of
infidelity, though not for it.

For tibe evidence of this doctrine, let us consider some propositions.

1. All men by nature are under condemnation. The insensibleness of
this, is the cause of unbelief ; and without a due consideration of this, there
can be no entertainment of IJie gospel. Christ himself preacheth this doc-
trine : John iii. 18, < He that believes on me is not condemned, but he that
believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name
of the only begotten Son of God.' He is condemned already, not shall be,
but is, i, e. he is in a state of condemnation. The sentence is pronounced
by the justice of God against every son of Adam. ' Death passed upon all
men, for that all have sinned,' and ' judgment came upon all men to con-
demnation,' Bom. V. 12, 18. All the branches of Adam were adjudged to
eternal death by that law, which he, by his original apostasy, transgressed,
and they, by their repeated offences, have further violated. All are the
children of wrath, all are become guilty before God : * Cursed is every one
that continueth not in aU things which are written in the book of the law to
do them,' Gal. iii. 10. The whole race of mankind was bound up in that
sentence pronounced against Adam upon transgressing the law, which God
had enacted : Gen. ii. 17. ' Thou shcdt die the death.' By the same act of
justice which cast Adam out of paradise were all his posterity expelled.
We are an accursed generation by the covenant of works ; our hands and
our heels are lifted up against our sovereign Lord ; we are utterly naked of
original righteousness ; all the sins we have committed have every one
damnation at the heel. We are exposed to the curses of the law, the fury
^ Barlow on Tim. part ii. p. 94. t Vines, Supper, p. 862.

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of God, the scofis of the temptiDg serpent ; there is bat an inch between ns
and devouring flames ; all are condemned, though all are not yet ezecnted ;
God jet giyes respite to man to lay hold upon his mercy in the gospel. If
a man die without faith in the Son of Grod, he is as sorely undone as if he
were under the fall ezecation of all the threatenings of the law at this instant.
He is ' condemned already,' t.a. he hath the cause of condemnation in him-
self, the sharp points of the law are full against him ; as a maleflEtctor in the
gaol for some capital crime may be said to be condemned already, in the
nature of the offence he hath committed, by the equity of that law he hath
violated. There is a double condemnation, one by the law, another by the
gospel. All men are in nature condemned by the first, all unbelievers by
both ; they are condemned at the tribunal of the law for transgressing it,
and even at the mercy-seat of the gospel for rejecting it. None are exempted
from it but by faith in the gospel, which is the only way to escape the
severity of the law. When a man appeals from the tribunal of the law,
whereby he stands condemned, to the throne of grace, wherein mercy sways
the sceptre dipped in the blood of Christ, casting himself upon the merit of
that blood, and resolving to obey the voice of a Redeemer, he comes forth
from his prison, and the darkness of condenmation, into the light of life.
He is condemned already. Every elect person is thus in a state of con-
demnation, while he remains in a state of unbelief ; for if there be ' no con-
demnation to them that are in Christ,* Bom. viii. 1, then there is nothing
but condemnation to them that are yet out of Christ ; and if a man depart
out of the world in that state, he for ever lies under the irrevocable sentence
of the law, for ever cursed, because for ever guilty. And the reason is
rendered, * because he believes not in the name of the only begotten 8on of
God.' He refnseth the only remedy God hath provided, and excludes him-
self from the life, salvation, righteousness, and happiness which Christ hath
purchased, and therefore lies under the judgment of the old sentence by
refusing the grace of the new administration, and acquires a new guilt ; for
the more excellent the person that is neglected, the only Son of God, the
greater punishment is deserved. He further describes to us* that faith
which brings us out of that natural condemnation ; he doth not say, because
be hath not believed that the only Son of Grod is come into the world, which
is a faith that many rest upon, — ^this would exclude only absolute infidelity
and dissent from the doctrine of the gospel, — ^but * because he believes not in
the name of the only begotten Son of God.' He receives not his word,
relies not upon his office, submits not to his authority, for name signifies
this and much more in Scripture. A man may believe the Son of God is
come, yet place no confidence in him, nor pay any obedience to him. A
man may believe such a man to be a physician, and able to cure, but if he
useth not his medicine he shall be never the better for his skill.

2. Man being thus naturally condemned, his unbelief binds all his guilt
upon him: John viii. 24, * I say therefore onto you, that you shall die in
your sins ; for if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins.' ^
In the illative, therefore^ he notes their natural condemnation, because they
were ' of this world,' ver. 28. And there is no remedy to prevent this
death, but to ' believe that I am he,' the Messiah, the person appointed to
bruise the serpent's head, appointed to be the Saviour of the world. All
sins are ' sealed up in a bag,' Job xiv. 17, recorded with a pen of iron, and
the point of a diamond, Jer. xvii. 1. Every indictment remains in force ;
nothing but fietith in the blood of Christ can cancel the writing, deface the
seal, take the accusation off the file. Unbelief therefore locks fdl other sins

* MuBcaL in loo.

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John m. 86.] the misbbt of unbeubtbbs. 811

like shackles upon the coDsoienee,'*' which otherwise' by the help of Christ
might easily shake them off; all men's violations of the law stick to them,
and the wrath due to them hangs over them. When a prince pardons all
misdemeanours by his proclamation upon easy conditions, and swears that
if there be not an acceptance of it the refaser shall answer the law for all his
guilt ; if a man will not sne out his pardon, will not perform so easy a con-
dition, he continaes the weight of all his former guilt upon him« The first
promise was made after the fall, to take away Uie guilt of transgressions
against the first covenant, Heb. iz. 16. If the promise be not received, the
mediator applied, the guilt of those transgressions endures. We are con«
demned upon the breach of the first covenant, and can only be restored to a
state of life by embracing the new. Sin remains in its vigour, as a disease
upon a patient, by refusing the only physician able to cure it. It fastens
guilt the more, because it is an approbation of all the iniquities committed
against the law ; and increaseth ihe guilt of those sins he was guilty of
before, because he manifests a greater fondness of them, a stronger unwill-
ingness to part with them. It leaves the unbeliever naked to the stroke of
divine justice, without a refuge to cover him. He that refusath shelter
against a potent adversary ezposeth himself to his fury. There is no plead-
ing the covenant of works ; that hath been transgressed, and proclaims only
punishment, not pardon ; nor the covenant of grace, the sanctuary of that he
refused to enter into. So that he is not only, as a heathen, in the same
condition as if Christ had never suffered, in regard of want of rehef, but in a
worse, in regard of sharpness of punishment ; he hath not only no more
title to happiness than if Christ had never died, but a stronger title to pun-
ishment because Christ did d;e. His sin remains in more vigour against
him, because the only remedy is refused by him. The weight of guilt is not
removed, and the hour of punishment is reserved for such an one.

8. The covenant of grace, in the hand of a mediator, is the last covenant
that God will make. The times of the gospel are called ' the last times,'

* the last days,' Isa. ii. 2, Heb. i. 2 ; no other relieving administration is
intended by God, or can be expected by us ; this contains the whole and
utmost counsel of God about the salvation of men. Acts zx. 27. An ana-
thema is poured out against any that ' preach another gospel,' Gal. i. 9 ;

* No more sacrifice remains for sin,' Heb. z. 26, 27. There is but one
sacrifice for expiation, but one mediator for intercession, but one special
officer appointed by Qtod under whose wing we can be safe. It is a covenant
of infinite grace ; Uiere can be none above it, because there cannot be grace
above infinite. There can be no refuge but in mercy; if mercy refuse, what
can step in for our relief ? Mercy is the only bar to justice ; if the bar be
removed, what stop to the overflowing surge ? This covenant is settled, that no
man shall enjoy the benefit of the satisfaction the surety hath made, without
the conditions of repentance and fiEiith. If this law stand of force, it cannot be
supposed that there can be any salvation without a satisfaction for the breach
of this covenant, as well as a satisfaction was necessary for the breach of the
first; for the honour of God will as much or more require a satisfaction for the
breach of this, as being a greater contempt of him, than for the breach of the first
covenant, wherein the contempt of him was less, and sp many attributes were not
disparaged by it. This satisfaction must be by a stronger surety than ourselves ;
for ourselves we are as unable to return a recompence for the violations of the
second covenant, as we were to do it for the first. So strong a surety we cannot
have, unless the Son of God should be sent to suffer again, only upon this'
condition, that the sinner should be discharged without anything done on his

* BeynoldB'8 Life of ChriBt, p. 496.

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812 ohabnook's works. [John ni. 86.

part. But as to the first, the Bufferings of the Son of God mnst never be
repeated ; he was to bear sin bat once, his second appearance is to be < with-
out sin unto salvation,* Heb. iz. 28, the salvation of believers, the damna-
tion of unbelievers. No more sacrifice remains for any sin in the world.
Nor, suppose Christ were sent to bear sin, and be again the chastisement of
our peace after the violations of the second covenant, it cannot be upon such
terms, that upon the account of his sufferings, without anything done on our
parts, we should be discharged. It seems not congruous to the honour of
God to send his Son to suffer again, or if he did, to impose no conditions
upon those that should enjoy the benefit of those sufferings. There can be
BO less required than is now, which is no more than the receiving the atone-
ment, Bom. V. 11, a consent to it, and acceptance of it. Nor is it consistent
with the holiness of God to discharge men upon the suffering of a surety,
who will persist in that sin for which the surety suffered, and make use of a
Saviour to be free from suffering but not free from offending. No more is
required now ; in this consists faith and repentance ; and no less can reason-
ably be thought to be required if Christ should agun be exposed to suffering.
What less -can any prince, any man require, for any fiivour he doth, but
acceptance and gratitude ? So that though the transgression against the
covenant of works is relieved by the coyenant of grace, yet the transgressions
against this can have no relief but in it. For it is the last, and if it were
not, you cannot suppose any covenant to succeed upon lighter terms than
the grace is offered in this. To suppose a covenant without conditions, is
as much as to suppose man to be created without a rule of obedience ; and
this is to -suppose God without an exercise of his sovereignty, and a creature
without subjection, both which are impossible.

4. It IS impossible, according to the economy of the gospel, that an
unbeliever can be saved by mercy. A man must either be saved by justice
or mercy ^ by justice he might in the first covenant, had he not provoked
it ; by mevcy in the second covenant he may, if he doth not refrise it. Now,
justice cannot save him in the first coyenant, because he wants a righteous-
ness of his own ; mercy cannot in the second, because he will not accept
the conditions of it, which is, the receiving the righteousness of another.
Other sins offend justice, but this provokes mercy, which is the severest
attribute when provoked, as the sweetest when received. It is not fit, indeed,
that mercy should save an impenitent, unbelieving sinner, God having
appointed a mediator, for the content of his mercy, as well as the satisfaction
of his justice (that mercy might not complain for the severe destruction of
mankind), and mercy fully acquiescing in the reasonableness of the conditions
of faith and repentance proposed in the gospel. Justice and mercy having
met together upon those articles, and struck hands in a full agreement, it is
not fit mercy should entertain an unbelieving sinner, who refuseth the terms
infinite mercy hath been satisfied with in the compact between itself and
justice. If mercy should offer to embrace such a one, it would not be true
to its own condition ; as, if justice should not punish the transgressions of
the law, it would not be true to the law, and consequently not true to itself,
because it is the rule of the law. Mercy to such a one after this agreement
would be an unequitable mercy. We mnst not fancy a weak and dishonour-
able mercy — a God unrighteous in his acts of compassion. Mercy cannot
but be offended to see the conditions it gained in its suit, and which it was
fully contented with, despised and trod underfoot. Mercy can no more save
any that remains an object of revenging justice under the first covenant, than
justice can condemn one that is an object of mercy by receiving the blood of
the second. The attributes of God cannot invade one another's rights. It

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John III. 86.1 thb hisbbt of unbelietebs. 818

is fit he shonld be left to the hands of justice, that will not stand to the
terms and covenant mercy made for him.

(1.) This is not consistent with the truth of God. When Ood made the
law, he annexed promises and threatenings, and his tmth was bound to make
them good upon the suitable behayiour of man ; though we find only a
threatening upon record, yet that implies a promise. Gen. ii. 17. If death
be threatened upon transgression, life is implied upon obedience. But when
man broke the law, truth was engaged on the side of justice, and had nothing
to do in a legal way with mercy ; for man, by his sin, had rendered himself
fuel for justice, and had entailed upon himself the horror of the threatening.
But in ^e work of redemption, mercy and truth, which sin had separated in
regard of any joint acts towards man (asking truth to be a second to the
justice of God), met together, Fs. Ixzxv. 10. These attributes, which were
severed, were joined again in an indissoluble knot — mercy to the sinner, and
truth to the tbreatening. Mercy took man's part, and desired peace ; justice
took the law*s part, and required punishment : neither mercy nor justice could
lose their nature ; sin had severed them, Christ re-unites them, and truth
now is engaged on both sides. If an unbeliever, therefore, in that state
thinks to be saved, mercy and truth must be severed ; but this happy union
cannot be dissolved for the sake of rebels against both. As the power of
God, though infinite, is regulated by his will,* so the mercy of God, though
infinite, is regulated by his truth : he hath made faith an unalterable con-
dition of the covenant ; and God cannot deny his covenant, because he cannot
deny himself. The truth of God is engaged to danm such a man more than
before ; it is as well engaged to make good the evangelical threatening, as it
was before to make good the legal. Justice will condemn both by law and
gospel ; it is reason that justice should satisfy itself upon that man, as far as
he is able to give satisfaction, who will not be contented with that which
infinite justice was satisfied with. Mercy will condemn him ; that hath no
reason to afford any relief to that man that despiseth the evangelical condi-
tions, which fully pleased it, and re-united it with justice and truth. God
hath confirmed those terms by an oath, that those that believe not ' shall
not enter into his rest,' Heb. iii. 18. But he never took an oath that he
that observed not the covenant of works f should not enter into his rest.
Though Adam was under a covenant of works in his innocent state, yet he
was not in such a state as to be under an utter impossibility of salvation upon
the transgression of it, because God had provided a remedy in his Son. But
he is now under an oath to punish every man that doth finally reject that
remedy. The highest truth cannot deny one tittle of his word and oath.

(2.) Nor is it consistent with his wisdom. It is not agreeable to the wisdom
of a prince to be reconciled to any rebels that will not suffer themselves to
be reduced to their former obedience.

If God should change his dispensation, it must be because the terms are
too hard, or the benefits not valuable enough. Neither of those can be ; the
conditions are most reasonable, the benefit the most precious, that God, in
the conjecture of any creature, can give. It had been no act of wisdom to
send his Son to satisfy his justice, if mercy should be so cheaply prostituted ;
if rebels could enjoy Uie favour while they cherished their rebellions ; if the
purchase should be given to those that dishonoured the purchaser, and sal-
vation conferred upon those that contemned the Saviour. The wisdom of
God would suffer, in undervaluing the meritorious blood of his Son, if he
conferred the same favour upon those that despise it and those that esteem

* Bolton, Direct for walking with God, p. 887.
t Hooker's Effectual Calling, p. 366.

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it, and placed swine, thai trample his jewels in the dirt, in the same happy
condition with those that lodge them in their dearest a£fections. What
ground of praise for that manifold wisdom, so mach celebrated in Scripture,
in the mission of Christ, if any could be admitted into heaven without faith
in him and love to him ? God would declare his death to be rather an act
of cruelty to him than kindness to us, since, if any were saved without faith
in him, it would be evident that his death was mmecessary, since we could
be as happy without him as by him.

(8.) Nor is it consistent with the honour of Christ. The very end of
Christ's death is crossed by unbelief. He suffered the punishment due to
our sins, that sin might not reign in us, as well as that the punishment
might not reign over us. What benefit can we reasonably expect by his
death, if we will not believe in him and renounce our sin, which is contrary
to the end of his death? God would act contrary to the end of our

Online LibraryStephen CharnockThe complete works of Stephen Charnock, B.D. → online text (page 50 of 95)