In all lawful marriages it is absolutely necessary, that the parties to be joined together in that holy and honourable estate are actually and legally freed from all pre-engagements whatsoever. ‘A woman is bound to her husband (saith the Apostle) so long as her husband liveth.’ The same law holds good in respect to the man. And so likewise, if either party be betrothed and promised, though not actually married to another, the marriage is not lawful, till that pre-engagement and promise be fairly and mutually dissolved.
Now, it is just thus between us and the Lord Jesus. For, we are all by nature born under and wedded to the law as a covenant of works. Hence it is that we are so fond of and artfully go about in order to establish a righteousness of our own. It is as natural for us to do this, as it is to breathe. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, even after the covenant of grace was revealed to them in that promise, ‘the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head’ reached out their hands and would again have taken hold of the tree of life, which they had forfeited, had not God driven them out of paradise and compelled them, as it were, to be saved by grace. And thus all their descendants naturally run to and want to be saved, partly at least, if not wholly, by their works. And even gracious souls, who are inwardly renewed, so far as the old man abides in them, find a strong propensity this way. Hence it is, that natural men are generally so fond of Arminian principles. ‘Do and live,’ is the native language of a proud, self-righteous heart.