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But now to go on with other particular propositions about the decrees of God.
7. That those terms of life and death for sinners, which God hath actually settled and published in his gospel, those we may be sure he did intend and purpose should be the terms of life and death unto us. Whatsoever, (as you have heard in the general propositions,) God actually doth, we may be sure he in tended and purposed to do. What he doth, he doth willingly when he doth it. No force can be put upon him; he never doth any thing against his will, and what he once willed he doth always will, for there can be with him no new will. Therefore, whereas, he hath enacted and published such things as these to the world, as the terms of life and death to sinners; that whosoever believes shall be saved, but whosoever believeth not shall be damned: that he gave his only begotten Son with that design, that they who believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life; that they that believed not, are condemned already: they that believe, have everlasting life; they that believe not, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on them: that sinners are to repent, that their sins may be blotted out; that they that repent shall not all alike perish: (Luke xiii. 3.) that the things that eye hath not seen, that the ear hath riot heard, and which have not entered the heart of man to conceive, are all prepared for them that love God: (1 Cor. ii. 9.) but, they that love him not, that love not the Lord Jesus, are so many anathema, accursed, till he come: (1 Cor. xvi. 22.) that Christ shall be the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him: (Heb. v. 9.) but, that he shall come in flaming fire to take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of his Son; (2 Thess. i. 8.) these, I say, being the declared terms of life and death to sinners, enacted and actually published to the world as such, these you may be sure God did intend and purpose should be such. His purpose was eternal, and a decree, as that word was explained. This is out of all question, that such terms of life or death to sinners, as have been mentioned, are the matter of divine, eternal decree; he did always intend they should be so. Whence it is obvious to collect, that he can have no contrary decree, no contrary purpose. That is, wheresoever his pleasure is published and made known, so as to be capable to be understood about these matters, God will 157never deal with men upon other terms. There can be no repugnant purpose to any such purpose as this; that is to say, that he will save any whether they believe or no, or though they finally persist in obstinate infidelity and impenitency and rebellion against him to the last. It is never to be supposed, that he will do such a thing without decreeing it, so that he should have ever decreed it against such a decree as this. And so, on the other hand, that he will ever finally condemn, or hath ever decreed or purposed finally to condemn any that shall believe, that shall repent, that shall love him above all, and finally subject themselves to his government, whensoever they are brought to do so in Christ: therefore, it is vain and unscriptural, without foundation any way, for men to embolden themselves on the one hand, “Let me be never so wicked, or never so careless, I may be saved at last for all that; I do not know but God hath decreed to save me.” Or, that any should torment themselves on the other hand with afflicting thoughts, “Let me do what I will, if I never so earnestly set myself, and seek help from heaven, that I may believe, that I may repent, that I may have my heart changed, renewed, and brought to love God, and subject myself to him in Christ, yet, there may be a decree against me and I may perish for all this.” There is no reason, no foundation on the one hand or on the other, for any such imagined decree of God, against these plain declared decrees of his: they are (as to what is compendious and comprehensive of all) final believers who lie under the decree or purpose of salvation; and final infidels who lie under the decree or purpose of condemnation.
So much, in general, is most certainly decreed, that they who believe shall be saved, and they that believe not, shall perish. But I further add,
8. God hath not purposed this in the general, that he will save such as are wrought up to a compliance with his declared known terms of salvation; but whensoever he doth actually enable any to believe and repent, we may conclude that he did eternally intend so to do. And whosoever he doth actually conserve in a safe state, that is, enables them continually to believe, (it is enough to instance in this one thing, with which the rest are so essentially connected, that they are all implied, if this one be actually to be found, and even in the very mention of this one,) if he actually enable any to believe to the saving of their souls unto their final salvation, he did always from eternity, intend so to enable them. And so, he hath not only decreed, or intended certain indefinite and undeterminate species to life and salvation, but particular persons as is most evident many ways.158
(1.) Scripture is most express in it: if you look to the fore going verses, divers of them in this same chapter, you will find it. In what a transport, towards the beginning, do you find the apostle blessing God, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places, (or things) in Christ. According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unblamable before him in love: having predestinated us, to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself; according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” And in this same 11th. verse, where the text lies, “in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated, according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” And nothing, again, can be plainer than that known and famous text, Rom. viii. 30. “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” This is a chain that can never be broken; and equally expresseth that in the 2 Thes. ii. 13. where the apostle gives solemn thanks, even for them, that God had chosen them unto salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. And in that, 1. Peter i. 2. “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God, through sanctification of the Spirit, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.” These (as it is observable, and was told you before, in those more general propositions,) do manifestly connect means and end together. But they do ascertain both, concerning some, and not leave the matter indefinite and undetermined, as if he did in the dark, make and form purposes with himself, without discerning, at the same time, who should comply with his pleasure, as to such terms of life, and who should not. And besides so express scriptures, the matter is,
(2.) Evident in itself, that whomsoever he doth actually enable to comply with such terms of life and salvation, he did purpose and decree to enable. For when he doth so, when he gives a man faith, when he gives him repentance, which are most expressly said to be the gift of God: to you it is given to believe and suffer; (Phil. i. 29.) and Christ is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins. Acts v. 31. I say, when he doth actually give these gifts, doth he give them with his will, or against his will? Is it to be supposed, that he should give them, and not will to give them? What could so impose upon him that he should give what he was not willing to give? But, if once he was willing, 159and if then he was willing to give such a gift, he was always willing; for there cannot be with him a new will, and therefore, he was from eternity willing. And again,
(3.) That matter might be further argued, from what Scripture speaketh most expressly too, that as to that great and most comprehensive instance of faith in the Son of God; who soever do receive Christ and believe in his name, when God enables them so to do, he regenerates them; “To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to as many as believed on his name.” John i. 12. And then, it is immediately subjoined in the 13th. ver. “Who were born not of flesh nor of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God.” But if he do regenerate any, he doth it most willingly: “Of his own will begat he us, by the word of truth.” James i. 18. Agreeable to the expression in the text, “He doth all things according to the counsel of his own will.” He did with counsel, will to regenerate whomsoever he regenerates. And,
(4.) It is altogether unimaginable, that God should do a thing so far exceeding all expectation, and even all wonder, as the sending of his own Son; he that was the brightness of his own glory, and the express image of his person, the Heir of all things, by whom he made the worlds; to be incarnate, to put on man, and to die upon a tree, so ignominiously, a spectacle to angels and men, and to leave it an undetermined thing whether any should be the better for it, yea, or no: or rather to leave it certain that none ever should be the better for it. For most certain it is, that as to those great terms, of life and salvation, none can ever be the better, if he do not, by his over powering grace, influence minds and hearts, and work them up to a compliance with those terms, and work and effect them in them. The case is vastly different in respect to spiritual good, and in reference to the opposite evil; where, as to wicked actions, and a continued course of them, or any particular act in such and such circumstances, men will al ways determine themselves; they are apt and prone enough to do so. If they can, in such and such circumstances, they will do wickedly: but in reference to any spiritual action that is good and holy, and of a saving tendency, there is not so much of an indifferency, but a most fixed aversion, which nothing but the power of divine grace can conquer and overcome. No thing but the almighty power of grace can make an enemy heart become friendly towards God, and towards his Christ, can vanquish the malignity of an obstinate infidelity, can mollify an obdurate, hard heart, and make it dissolve and melt as in repentance it must. This is, therefore, altogether an unimaginable 160thing, that God should do what did so far exceed all expectation, and even all wonder, as to send his own eternal Son, to die upon a cross, and leave it uncertain, whether any should ever be the better for it: or rather certain that none ever should. And it is again,
(5.) Very unreasonable to think that the great God should have among men no objects of special favour; and it were foolish to suppose that it should be a reflection upon him to have it so. As it was formerly told you, it belongs only to a good governor, and even to the best that can be supposed, to deal equally with all; and kindly and favourably where he pleaseth. We are to distinguish matters of right, and matters of peculiar favour. Matters of right will be dispensed and administered with an equal hand, matters of special favour according to good pleasure, as it is expressed again and again, in the context. And plain it is, that there can be no natural right, which any creature can claim at the hand of God. Whatsoever becomes matter of right, from him to them, must only be by grace, by promise. He cannot be a debtor to his creature, till he makes himself so; and the promises by which he makes himself so, they se are all yea and amen in Christ;” (2. Cor. i. 20.) only upon his account, only for his sake. Whatsoever there is that comes within the compass of a promise, for the encouragement of sinners to return and come to God, it will all be made good to a tittle upon his account that is worthy, all promises being 4C yea and amen” in him. But whatsoever is above promise, more than promise, is all from mere ευδοκια, the good pleasure of his goodness. It can be resolved into nothing else, turn we the matter in our thoughts never so long. He will make good all that was promised to every one to a tittle; all unpromised, peculiar favour, that is dispensed according to the good pleasure of his goodness; even as his promises themselves at first were. And,
(6.) Lastly: It is very evident that as to communications of grace and favour, God doth dispense very differently; and therefore, must be understood to intend so to do, and to have always intended it. As in the parable of the talents, (though parabolical scriptures do not give ground of argument as to every thing in them, yet they do as to their main scope,) he gives to one ten talents, to another five, to another one, as he pleaseth; he dispenseth as he pleaseth, wherein he hath not particularly obliged himself. But further,
9. If yet he do actually, in a way of common grace, superadd more, wheresoever he hath given any thing of it, upon the due improvement of that, then we may conclude he hath always 161intended so to do; this was his pleasure, and his eternal purpose. If that be actually his rule, “to him that hath shall be given;” (you know how hath is to be taken here, that hath so as to improve what he hath,) he shall still have more; if this be actually the rule and measure of his proceedings, it was always his purpose it should be so. And so it must be under stood to have been his purpose, even in them that do finally perish, yet still to give them more of gracious communications in the way of common grace, upon the improvement of what they had; and they perish as not improving what was vouchsafed and afforded them, according to the tenour of that rule. They do not finally perish, as never having received any thing from the hands of God, in a way of grace, that had a tendency and leadingness in it to their better state, but they finally perish as neglecting and resisting such overtures as have been made to them. What the case was with the old world, before the flood, we must still suppose to be the common case among men. “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” Gen. vi. 3. It had been striving, and it is generally striving more or less; and especially where God doth afford the more peculiar manifestations of himself, as he did to that people whom he severed from the rest of the world, to be more appropriate to him. We have many passages that speak of the presence, and of the operations of the Divine Spirit, among that people. The Spirit of the Lord caused them to rest: He gave his Spirit to instruct them. Isaiah lxiii. 14. They rebelled and vexed his Holy Spirit: therefore, he turned to be their enemy, and fought against them: ver. 10. and that of dying Stephen, “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and life, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit, as your fathers did, so do ye.” Acts vii. 51. Now, there cannot be a resistance where there is no striving, and there can be no striving where there is not a counter-striving. When the Spirit, in its more common operations, is resisted, it retires in displeasure, often and most righteously, and gives to men, yields to them that victory that shall be in the end fatal to them, undoing to them; many such victories undo them at last, and they perish by them. If he be actually working in men to will and to do of his own good pleasure, when he is ever so at work in any, he injects thoughts into their hearts, smites their minds with convictions, and their hearts many times with terrors; or if there be any more placid affections raised in them in any degree towards himself, or towards any divine thing, and the matter go no further than a loseable taste, that may vanish and pass away, it is plain he so far went of good pleasure; and if he did that 162which he did of good pleasure, then it was before his good pleasure, and always his good pleasure, and eternally his good pleasure, to proceed so far with such and such: so as in this case there can be no pretence to say, if he go no higher, that wrong is done to them with whom he went no higher. It must be justly said, “Friend I do thee no wrong,” even to the most careless neglector, and the most contemptuous abuser of the grace of God, “Friend I do thee no wrong.” If he do proceed higher, and to less vincible workings with some, there is no cause any man’s eye should be evil, because his eye is good. He is Lord of his own grace, he may do what he will with his own. What he hath to dispense, and dispose of, is his, and they to whom he is to dispose so and so are his, and there is no pretence of wrong to any, that more is not done for them; for whom more was done than they could lay any original claim to; for it was all of mercy that there was any offer or overture made at all, or that the case was so stated before, as that it might have been possible, if it had not been through their own wicked neglect, that they that perish might have advanced in the way of salvation, according to his method, still further and further, so as not to make their own final salvation a thing impossible upon any other terms, than their own wilful neglect and final refusal. But I again further add,
10. That such as live quite without the sound of the gospel, and to whom every thing of supernatural revelation hath never been vouchsafed or any thing of it, how God hath determined to deal with them, and the infants of such, he hath not yet declared further his pleasure to us expressly, than it was needful for us to know and understand. And therefore, it would be either vain or overbold curiosity to determine positively in their case, and it is very unreasonable and foolish, oversolicitously to inquire about it. It is enough for us to understand and know upon what terms God will deal with us, according to those circumstances wherein he hath placed and set us: he hath placed us under the dispensation of his gospel, wherein all things are made plain and evident to us, that concern us in reference to our present and eternal state, and will deal with us according to those known and published terms, which stand in so clear a light, before our eyes; and with all others according to those measures they have had. It is enough for us to understand and know what we may, as our case is stated, expect from God, and what God doth expect from us. And, it would be very unreasonable, and uncharitable, for us to trouble ourselves with further inquiries, and it would be very bold to venture on rash determinations in those more obscure things, and 163wherein we are so little concerned. These are to pass among the arcana, that secret things belong to God, when revealed things belong to us, and our children after us, as they shall come to be revealed to them. Deut. xxix. 29. A passage placed, as it were, on purpose to caution, and warn too busy and bold inquirers, and that, even in matters of unspeakably less concernment than the eternal salvation of souls. As suppose, that the people, for that is the case there supposed and refer red to, who had been so peculiar to God, taken nigh to him, above, and from, all other people and nations under heaven, should apostatise and revolt from him, and draw down vindictive judgments, and destructive ones upon themselves, and inquiry be made how it comes to pass, that such a people, so near to God, should be so treated and dealt withal, their land laid waste and made a wilderness, and nothing to be found but marks of divine vengeance, where such a people, so favoured by heaven did dwell, what is the meaning of all this? Why, they forsook the Lord their God! But that might have been prevented: Why did he not hold them to him? “Secret things belong unto God, but revealed things to us and our children.” So is that sad and dismal state concluded and shut up at last, with that seal upon it! That, therefore, I would leave with you, as all I think needful to say, with reference to their case who lie without the compass of superadded divine revelation. Again, I further add,
11. That whereas faith and its concomitants are ever to be found in that, which appears to be at length the subject of God’s purpose of saving souls; and final infidelity, with its concomitants, are the characters of the subjects of the contrary purpose, a purpose to condemn with everlasting destruction; these must very differently be understood to be so. Faith, for instance, and so of the rest of its concomitants are never looked upon by God as any causes, or conditions, or inducements, any way, of his purpose to save any. These are by his grace to be found in the subjects, in those that he will save; but they are no inducements to pass any such determination concerning them. It is honourable to him to save such: and, even in the nature of the thing, they only are capable of final salvation and blessedness, in whom such characters are to be found: for they can never be happy in union with the eternal truth and goodness, who are habitually averse in their temper, and opposite to the one and the other. If happiness result from such a union, then they, in whom there is a prevailing final aversion to eternal truth and goodness, are uncapable of any such felicity, as is to result from a union with these. 164But it is no motive or inducement to God, to intend to save such a one, because he will be a believer, or he will be a penitent person. That he is a believer, that he is a penitent person, that he is a lover of him, and that he is obedient to his Son, these are the effects of his grace, and of his good pleasure, and so he is moved in this case by nothing without himself. But the case must be understood to be otherwise, as to those that he intends finally to punish, and to punish with ever lasting destruction. That is, he doth resolve to deal with them suitably to the state of things between him and them, and with himself. If any inquire, why there should be a difference, why he should be moved to purpose so and so, in reference to them that perish, (which purpose we are not to consider abstractly as it lies in God alone, for so it is not a distinct thing from his own essence of which there can be no cause; but we are to consider it with a reference to the effects and to the objects, and of that relation there is really a cause, and so there is a just cause for the condemnation of them that perish, even from the creature: but there can be no cause from the creature, of them that are saved) I say, if you will have the reasons assigned of the difference, they are obvious and plain, especially these two.
(1.) That there is no natural connection between the imperfect faith and holiness of the saints, and their eternal felicity; no natural connection, I say, at all between them. But there is a most natural connection between the infidelity, enmity against God, and reigning wickedness, and eternal ruin and everlasting misery. No man can say that these two are naturally connected, an imperfect faith in God, through Christ, and imperfect holiness, and final felicity and blessedness. These are not so naturally connected that the one must arrive to the other. But there is a most plain, natural connection between infidelity and disbelief of divine truth, enmity against divine goodness, repudiation and refusal of the offers and tenders thereof, and eternal misery: so as that the one of them cannot but be the other. Wickedness must be misery, sin persisted in to the last must be destruction, it cannot be otherwise; sin when it is finished can be nothing but death. “To be carnally minded is death:” it is indeed said, “to be spiritually minded is life and peace:” but that is by an intervening divine constitution. And though there be a constitution in the other case too, yet there is a most natural connection between total prevailing wickedness, reigning iniquity, and misery; to which the supervening constitution is added to an indication 165of the righteous judgment of God, that he doth but let the thing be with such as it is. They love death; and he only lets them have what they love, and what they choose: he doth only not interpose in their case to break the connection. And,
(2.) There is this manifest difference too; that as there is a natural connection between wickedness and misery, whereas there is none between imperfect faith and holiness and eternal felicity, otherwise than what God hath graciously made; so there is in final, reigning, persevering wickedness, the highest desert of eternal misery: whereas, there is in imperfect faith and holiness no desert of eternal life and blessedness. And none that consider, will think this strange, that when a man can never deserve (much less by what is merely gratuitously wrought in him) life and blessedness; yet, by continuing, persevering wickedness he may deserve to perish. That imperfect good that is wrought in him and which he owes not to himself, can never deserve life and blessedness for him. But total wickedness, yea, or any wickedness can deserve death, can deserve for a man’s being left to be finally miserable and his falling under divine vindicta, vengeance: this is a divine nemesis, what is fit and righteous, what is fit the righteous Judge of all the earth should do; even animadvert upon wickedness, and testify his own just abhorrence and detestation of it, so that there is a vast difference between these two: that though faith and holiness be in those that shall be saved; and so are ever to be found in the subject of God’s purpose to save, as characteristical of the subject, but are not inducements, or causes or motives thereof unto God: yet, wheresoever God hath purposed to condemn, their wickedness is a just motive of that purpose, so terminated, so related to the creature, that is, to suffer, and to the suffering that he is to undergo. There is something justly causative in this; and there is nothing more strange in all this, than what God hath himself, in his word, so plainly told us, that men’s destruction is of themselves, but their help in order to salvation should be found in him alone. Hos. xiii. 9. It is no unsuitable or strange thing, that God should be eyed as the Author of all life, and all grace, and all blessedness, and of life and of felicity for ever. And, that sinners should be looked upon as the fountains of all evil and all darkness and all impurity and all misery to themselves only, God must determine men only to that good by which they are to be led on gradually to a blessed, safe, and happy state. But to that evil that tends to ruin and final destruction, men have it in themselves to determine themselves. More is yet to be added to illustrate this.166
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