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Chapter IV. The argument from the covenant of grace.
An entrance into the consideration of the covenant of grace, and our argument from thence for the unchangeableness of the love of God unto believers — The intendment of the ensuing discourse — Gen. xvii. 7 opened and explained, with the confirmation of the argument in hand from thence — That argument vindicated and cleared of objections — Confirmed by some observations — Jer. xxxii. 38–40 compared with chap. xxxi. 31–34 — The truth under consideration from thence clearly confirmed — The certainty, immutability, and infallible accomplishment, of all the promises of the new covenant demonstrated: 1. From the removal of all causes of alteration; 2. From the Mediator and his undertaking therein; 3. From the faithfulness of God — One instance from the former considerations — The endeavour of Mr G. to answer our argument from this place — His observation on and from the text considered — 1. This promise not made to the Jews only, 2. Nor to all the nation of the Jews, proved from Rom. xi. 7; not intending principally their deliverance from Babylon — His inferences from his former observations weighed — 1. The promise made to the body of the people of the Jews typically only; 2. An exposition borrowed of Socinus rejected; 3. The promise not appropriated to the time of the captivity, and the disadvantage ensuing to Mr G.’s cause upon such an exposition — The place insisted on compared with Ezek. xi. 17–20 — That place cleared — A fourth objection answered — This promise always fulfilled — The spiritual part of it accomplished during the captivity — God’s intention not frustrated — How far the civil prosperity of the Jews was concerned 205in this promise — Promises of spiritual and temporal things compared — The covenant of grace how far conditional — Mr G.’s sense of this place expressed — Borrowed from Faustus Socinus — The inconsistency of it with the mind of the Holy Ghost demonstrated, also with what himself hath elsewhere delivered — No way suited to be the answer of our argument from the place — The same interpretation farther disproved — An immediate divine efficacy held out in the words — Conversion and pardon of sins promised — Differenced from the grace and promises of the old covenant — Contribution of means put by Mr G. in the place of effectual operation of the thing itself, farther disproved — How, when, and to whom this promise was fulfilled, farther declared — An objection arising upon that consideration answered — Conjectures ascribed to God by Mr G. — The real foundation of all divine predictions — The promise utterly enervated, and rendered of none effect by Mr G.’s exposition — Its consistency with the prophecies of the rejection of the Jews — The close of the argument from the covenant of grace.
Having shown the unchangeable stability of the love and favour of God towards his saints from the immutability of his own nature and purposes, manifested by an induction of sundry particular instances from eminent places of Scripture, wherein both the one and the other are held out as the foundation of what we affirm, I proceed to farther clear and demonstrate the same important truth from the first way of declaration whereby God hath assured them that it shall be to them according to the tenor of the proposition insisted on; and that is his covenant of grace. The principium essendi of this truth, if I may so say, is in the decrees and purposes of God; the principium cognoscendi, in his covenant, promise, and oath, which also add much to the real stability of it, the truth and faithfulness of God in them being thereby peculiarly engaged therein.
It is not in my purpose to handle the nature of the covenant of grace, but only briefly to look into it, so far as it hath influence into the truth in hand. The covenant of grace, then, as it inwraps the unchangeable love and favour of God towards those who are taken into the bond thereof, is that which lieth under our present consideration. The other great branch of it (upon the account of the same faithfulness of God), communicating permanency or perseverance in itself unto the saints, securing their continuance with God, shall, the Lord assisting, more peculiarly be explained when we arrive to the head of our discourse, unless enough to that purpose may fall in occasionally in the progress of this business.
For our present purpose, the producing and vindicating of one or two texts of Scripture, being unavoidably expressive towards the end aimed at, shall suffice.
The first of these is Gen. xvii. 7, “I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” This is that which God engageth himself unto in this covenant of grace, that he will for everlasting be a God to him and 206his faithful seed. Though the external administration of the covenant was given to Abraham and his carnal seed, yet the effectual dispensation of the grace of the covenant is peculiar to them only who are the children of the promise, the remnant of Abraham according to election, with all that in all nations were to be blessed in him and in his seed, Christ Jesus. Ishmael, though circumcised, was to be put out, and not to be heir with Isaac, nor to abide in the house for ever, as the son of the promise was, Gal. iv. 22, 23, 30. Now, the apostle tells you, look what blessings faithful Abraham received by virtue of this promise, the same do all believers receive: Chap. iii. 9, “They which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham;” which he proves (in the words foregoing) from Gen. xii. 3, because all nations were to be blessed in him. What blessing, then, was it that was here made over to Abraham? All the blessings that from God are conveyed in and by his seed, Jesus Christ (in whom both he and we are blessed), are inwrapped therein. What they are the apostle tells you, Eph. i. 3; they are “all spiritual blessings.” If perseverance, if the continuance of the love and favour of God towards us, be a spiritual blessing, both Abraham and all his seed, all faithful ones throughout the world, are blessed with it in Jesus Christ; and if God’s continuing to be a God to them for ever will enforce this blessing (being but the same thing in another expression), it is here likewise asserted.
It is importunately excepted, “That though God undertake to be our God in an everlasting covenant, and upon that account to bless us with the whole blessing that is conveyed by the promised seed, yet if we abide not with him, if we forsake him, he will also cease to be our God, and cease to bless us with the blessing which on others in Jesus Christ he will bestow.”
Ans. If there be a necessity to smite this evasion so often as we shall meet with it, it must be cut into a hundred pieces. For the present, I shall only observe two evils it is attended withal:— First, It takes no notice that God, who hath undertaken to be a God unto us, hath, with the like truth, power, and faithfulness, undertaken that we shall abide to be his people. So is his love in his covenant expressed by its efficacy to this end and purpose, Deut. xxx. 6, “The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” Secondly, It denies the continuance of the love of God to us to the end to be any part of the blessings wherewith we are blessed in Jesus Christ; for if it be, it could no more be suspended on any condition in us than the glorification of believers that abide so to the end.
This, then, is inwrapped in this promise of the covenant unto the elect, with whom it is established: God will be a God to them for 207ever, and that to bless them with all the blessings which he communicates in and by the Lord Jesus Christ, the promised seed. The continuance of his favour to the end is to us unquestionably a spiritual blessing (if any one be otherwise minded, I shall not press to share with him in his apprehension); and if so, it is in Christ, and shall certainly be enjoyed by them to whom God is a God in covenant. He that can suppose that he shall prevail with the saints of God to believe it will make for their consolation to apprehend that there is no engagement in his covenant, assuring them of the continuance of the favour of God unto them to the end of their pilgrimage, hath no reason to doubt or question the issue of any thing he shall undertake to persuade men unto. Doubtless he will find it very difficult with them who, in times of spiritual straits and pressures, have closed with this engagement of God in the covenant, and have had experience of its bearing them through all perplexities and entanglements, when the waves of temptation were ready to go over their souls. Certainly David was in another persuasion when, upon a view of all the difficulties he had passed through, and his house was to meet withal, he concludes, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5, “God hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: this is all my salvation, and all my desire.” The covenant from whence he had his sure mercies, not changeable, not alterable, not liable to failings, as the temporal prosperity of his house was, was that he rejoiced in.
I shall close this with two observations:—
First, It may, doubtless, and on serious consideration will, seem strange to any one acquainted in the least measure with God and his faithfulness, that, in a covenant established in the blood of Christ, he should freely promise to his that he would be a God unto them, — that is, that he would abide with them in the power, goodness, righteousness, and faithfulness, of a God, that he would be an all-sufficient God to them for ever, — yet, when he might with an almighty facility prevent it, and so answer and fulfil his engagement to the utmost, he should suffer them to become such villains and devils in wickedness that it should be utterly impossible for him, in the blood of his Son and the riches of his grace, to continue a God unto them; this, I say, seemeth strange to me, and not to be received without casting the greatest reproach imaginable on the goodness, faithfulness, and righteousness, of God.
Secondly, If this promise be not absolute, immutable, unchangeable, independent on any thing in us, it is impossible that any one should plead it with the Lord, but only upon the account of the sense that he hath of his own accomplishment of the condition on which the promise doth depend. I can almost suppose that the whole generation of believers will rise up against this assertion to 208remove it out of their way of walking with God. This I know, that most of them who at any time have walked in darkness and have had no light will reprove it to the faces of them that maintain it, and profess that God hath witnessed the contrary truth to their hearts.110110 Ps. lxxviii. 26; Isa. viii. 17, 1, 10. Are we, in the covenant of grace, left to our own hearts, ways, and walkings? Is it not differenced from that which is abolished? Is it not the great distinguishing character of it that all the promises of it are stable, and shall certainly be accomplished in Jesus Christ?111111 2 Cor. i. 20; Heb. vii. 22, viii. 7–9.
One place I shall add more, wherein our intendment is positively expressed, beyond all possibility of any colourable evasion, especially considering the explication, enlargement, and application, which in other places it hath received. The place intended is Jer. xxxii. 38–40, “They shall be my people, and I will be their God: and I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me;” — in conjunction with these words, of the same importance, chap. xxxi. 31–34, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
First, The thesis under demonstration is directly and positively affirmed, in most significant and emphatical words, by God himself. Seeing, then, the testimony of his holy prophets and apostles concerning him are so excepted against and so lightly set by, let us try if men will reverence himself, and cease contending with him when he appeareth in judgment. Saith he, then, to believers, those whom he taketh into covenant with him: “This is my covenant with you” (in the performance whereof his all-sufficiency, truth, and faithfulness, with all other his glorious attributes, are eminently engaged), “I will be your God” (what that expression intends is known, and the Lord here explains, by instancing in some eminent spiritual mercies thence flowing, as sanctification, and acceptance with him by the forgiveness of sins), “and that for ever, in an everlasting covenant, and I will 209not turn away from you to do you good.” This plainly God saith of himself, and this is all we say of him in the business, and which (having so good an author) we must say, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear. Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto men more than unto God, let all judge. Truly they have a sad task, in my apprehension, who are forced to sweat and labour to alleviate and take off the testimony of God.
Secondly, That the way the Lord proposeth to secure his love to his is upon terms of advantage, of glory and honour to himself, to take away all scruple which on that hand might arise, is fully also expressed. Sin is the only differencing thing between God and man; and hereinto it hath a double influence:— First, Moral, in its guilt, deserving that God should cast off a sinner, and prevailing with him, upon the account of justice, so to do. Secondly, Efficient, by causing men, through its power and deceitfulness, to depart from God, until, as backsliders in heart, they are filled with their own ways.112112 Heb. iii. 13; Prov. i. 31, xiv. 14. Take away these two, provide for security on this hand, and there is no possible case imaginable of separation between God and man once brought together in peace and unity. For both these doth God hero undertake, For the first, saith he, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more,” chap. xxxi. 34. The guilt of sin shall be done away in Christ, and that on terms of the greatest honour and glory to the justice of God that can be apprehended: “God hath set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past,” Rom. iii. 25. And for the latter, that that may be thoroughly prevented, saith God, “The care shall lie on me; ‘I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts,’ ” chap. xxxi. 33; “I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me,” chap. xxxii. 40. So that the continuance of his love is secured against all possible interveniences whatever, by an assured prevention of all such as have an inconsistency therewithal.
The apostle Paul, setting out the covenant which God ratified in the blood of Christ, which shall never be broken, takes the description of it from this place of the prophet, Heb. viii. 9–12; and therein fixeth particularly on the unchangeableness of it, in opposition to the covenant which went before, which was liable to mutation, when if these differed only in the approbation of several qualifications, they come to the same end; for if this covenant depend on conditions by ourselves and in our own strength, with the advantage of its proposal to us, attended with exhortations, and therefore by us to be fulfilled, how was it distinguished from that made with the people when they came out of Egypt? But in this very thing the difference of it lieth, as the apostle asserts, verses 6–8. The immutability of this covenant, 210and the certain product of all the mercy promised in it might, were that our present task, be easily demonstrated; as, —
First, From the removal of all causes of alteration. When two enter into covenant and agreement, no one can undertake that that covenant shall be firm and stable if it equally depend upon both; yea both, it may be, are changeable, and so actually changed before the accomplishing of the thing engaged about therein: however, though the one should be faithful, yet the other may fail, and so the covenant be broken. Thus it was with God and Adam. It could not be undertaken that that covenant should be kept inviolable, because though God continues faithful, yet Adam might prove (as indeed he did) faithless; and so the covenant was disannulled, as to any power of knitting together God and man. [Thus it is with] the covenant between husband and wife; the one party cannot undertake that the whole covenant shall be observed, because the other may prove treacherous. In this covenant the case is otherwise. God himself hath undertaken the whole, both for his continuing with us and our continuing with him. Now, he is one, God is one, and there is not another, that they should fail and disannul this agreement. Though there be sundry persons in covenant, yet there is but one undertaker on all hands, and that is God himself. It doth not depend upon the will of another, but of him only who is faithful, who cannot lie, who cannot deceive, who will make all his engagements good to the utmost. He is an all-sufficient one; “he will work, and who shall let him? “The Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?” Yea, he is an unchangeable one; what he undertakes shall come to pass. Blessed be his name that he hath not laid the foundation of a covenant in the blood of his dear Son, laid out the riches of his wisdom, grace, and power about it, and then left it to us and our frail will to carry it on, that it should be in our power to make void the great work of his mercy! Whence, then, I say, should any change be, the whole depending on one, and him immutable?
Secondly, Seeing that God and man, having been at so great a distance as they were by sin, must needs meet in some mediator, some middle person, in whom and by whose blood (as covenants usually were confirmed by blood) this covenant must be ratified, consider who this is, and what he hath done for the establishing of it: “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” 1 Tim. ii. 5. He is the “surety of this testament,” Heb. vii. 22; the “mediator of this better covenant, established upon better promises,” chap. viii. 6. Neither is this surety or mediator subject to change; he is “the same yesterday, and today, and for ever,” chap. xiii. 8. But though he be so in himself, yet is the work so that is committed to him? Saith the apostle, “All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory 211of God by us,” 2 Cor. i. 20. God hath in him and by him ascertained all the promises of the covenant, that not one of them should be broken: disannulled, frustrated, or come short of an accomplishment. God hath so confirmed them in him, that he hath at his death made a legacy of them, and bequeathed them in a testamentary dispensation to the covenanters, Heb. ix. 15–17. And what he hath farther done for the assurance of his saints’ abiding with God shall afterward be declared.
Thirdly, The faithfulness of God is oftentimes peculiarly mentioned in reference to this very thing: “The God which keepeth covenant” is his name. That which he hath to keep is all that in covenant he undertaketh. Now, in this covenant he undertaketh, — first, That he will never forsake us; secondly, That we shall never forsake him. His faithfulness is engaged to both these; and if either part should fail, what would the Lord do to his great name, “The God which keepeth covenant?”
Notwithstanding the undertaking of God on both sides in this covenant; notwithstanding his faithfulness in the performance of what he undertaketh; notwithstanding the ratification of it in the blood of Jesus, and all that he hath done for the confirmation of it; notwithstanding its differing from the covenant that was disannulled on this account, that that was broken, which this shall never be (that being broken not as to the truth of the proposition wherein it is contained, “Do this and live,” but as to the success of it in bringing any to God); notwithstanding the seal of the oath that God set unto it, — they, I say, who, notwithstanding all these things, will hang the unchangeableness of this covenant of God upon the slipperiness, and uncertainty, and lubricity of the will of man, “let them walk in the light of the sparks which themselves have kindled;” we will walk in the light of the Lord our God.
When first I perused Mr Goodwin’s exceptions to this testimony, chap. x. sect. 52–56, pp. 219–224, finding them opposed not so much nor so directly to our inference from this place as to the design, intendment, and arguing of the apostle, Rom. ix.–xi., and to the re-enforcing of the objections by him answered, casting again the “rock of offence” in the way by him removed, I thought to have passed it without any reply, being not convinced that it was possible for the author himself to be satisfied either with his own exposition of this place or his exceptions unto ours; but arriving at length to the close of his discourse, I found him “quasi re preclarè gestâ,” to triumph in his victory, expressing much confidence that the world of saints, who have hitherto bottomed much of their faith and consolation on the covenant of God in these words expressed, will vail their faith and understanding to his uncontrollable dictates, and not once make mention of the name of God in this place any more. Truly, for my 212part, I must take the boldness to say that, before the coming forth of his learned treatise, I had read, and, according to my weak ability, weighed and considered, whatever either Arminians or Socinians (from the founder of which sect their and his interpretation of this place is borrowed) had entered against the interpretation insisted on, that I could by any means attain the sight of, and was not in the least shaken by any of their reasonings from rejoicing in the grace of God, as to the unchangeableness of his love to believers, and the certainty of their perseverance with him to the end, therein expressed; and I must add, that I am not one jot enamoured of their objections and reasonings, for all the new dress which, with some cost, our author hath been pleased to furnish them with, fashionably to set out themselves withal. Were it not for the confidence you express, in the close of your discourse, of your noble exploits and achievements in the consideration of this text (which magnificent thoughts of your undertaking and success I could not imagine from the reading of your arguments or exceptions, though on other accounts I might), I should not have thought it worth while to examine it particularly; which now, to safeguard the consolation of the weakest believers, and to encourage them to hold fast their confidence, so well established, against the assaults of all adversaries, Satan or Arminians, I shall briefly do:—
1. Then, saith Mr Goodwin, “Evident it is, from the whole tenor of the chapter, that the words contain especial promises, made particularly to the Jews.”
Ans. If by particularly you mean exclusively, to them and not to others, this is evidently false; for the apostle tells you, Heb. viii. 6, to the end of the chapter, that the covenant here mentioned is that whereof Christ is mediator, and the promise of it those better promises which they are made partakers of who have an interest in his mediation.
2. He saith, “As evident it is, upon the same account, that the promise here mentioned was not made only to the saints or sound believers amongst the Jews, who were but few, but to the whole body or generality of them.”
Ans. True, it is as evident as what before you affirmed, and that in the same kind, — that is, it is evidently false, or else the promise itself is so, for it was never fulfilled towards them all. But I refer you to a learned author, who hath long since assoiled this difficulty, and taught us to distinguish between a Jew ἐν τῷ φανερῷ and a Jew ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ, of Israel according to “the flesh” and according to “the promise.” He hath also taught us that “they are not all Israel that are of Israel,” Rom. ii. 28, 29, ix. 6, 7. And upon that account it is that the word of this promise doth not fail, though all “of Israel” do not enjoy the fruit of it; — not that it is conditional, but that 213it was not at all made unto them, as to the spiritual part of it, to whom it was not wholly fulfilled. And chap. xi. 7, he tells you that it was “the election” to whom these promises were made, and they obtained the fruit of them; neither doth that appendix of promises pointed to look any other way. When you have made good your observation by a reply to that learned author, we shall think of a rejoinder. It is therefore added, —
3. “It is yet, upon the same account, as evident as either of the former that this promise was made unto this nation of the Jews when and whilst they were (or at least considered as now being) in the iron furnace of the Babylonian captivity, verse 23.”
Ans. That this solemn renovation of this promise of the covenant was not made to them when in Babylon, but given out to them beforehand, to sustain their hearts and spirits withal, in their bondage and thraldom, is granted. And what then, I pray? Is it any new thing to have spiritual promises solemnly given out and renewed upon the occasion of temporal distresses? A promise of Christ is given out to the house of David when in feat of being destroyed, Isa. vii. 13, 14; so it was given to Adam, Gen. iii. 15; so to Abraham, Gen. xvii.; so to the church, Isa. iv. 2–6. But farther it is said, —
4. “From the words immediately preceding the passages offered to debate, it clearly appears that the promise in these passages relates unto and concerns their reduction and return from and out of that captivity into their own land.”
Ans. Will Mr Goodwin say that it doth only concern that? Dareth any man so boldly contradict the apostle, setting out from this very place the tenor of the covenant of grace, ratified in the blood of Christ? Heb. viii. 7–12. Nay, will any say that so much of the promise here as God calleth his covenant, chap. xxxi. 33, 34, xxxii. 38–40, doth at all concern their reduction into their own land any farther than it was a type or resemblance of our deliverance by Christ? These evident assertions ate as express and flat contradictions to the evident intendment of the Holy Ghost as any man is able to invent. But, —
Mr Goodwin hath many deductions out of the former “sure and evident” premises, to prove that this is not a promise of absolute and final perseverance (it is a strange perseverance that is not final!) in grace to the end of their lives; for, saith he, —
1. “The promise is made to the body of the people, and not to the saints and believers among them, and respects as well the unfaithful as the believers in that nation.”
Ans. It was made to “the body of the people” only typically considered, and so it was accomplished to the body of the people; spiritually and properly to the elect among the people, who, as the apostle tells us, obtained accordingly, there being also in the promise 214wrapped up the grace of effectual conversion. It may in some sense be said to be made to the “unfaithful,” — that is, to such as were so antecedently to the grace thereof, — but not to any that abide so; for the promise is, not that they shall not, but that they shall believe, and continue in so doing to the end. But, saith he —
2. “This promise was appropriated and fitted to the state of the Jews in a sad captivity; but the promise of perseverance was, if our adversaries might be believed, a standing promise among them, not appropriated to their condition.”
Ans. 1. “Non venit ex pharetris ista sagitta tuis.” It is Socinus’, in reference to Ezek. xxxvi., in Præl. Theol. cap. xii. sect. 6; and so is the whole interpretation of the place afterward insisted on derived to Mr Goodwin through the hands of the Remonstrants at the Hague conference. 2. If this exception against the testimony given in these words for the confirmation of the thesis in hand may be allowed, what will become of Mr Goodwin’s argument from Ezek. xviii. for the apostasy of the saints? It is most certain the words from thence by him and others insisted on, with the whole discourse of whose contexture they are a part, are appropriated to a peculiar state of the Jews, and are brought forth as a meet vindication of the righteousness of God in his dealing with them in that condition. This, then, may be laid up in store to refresh Mr Goodwin with something of his own providing, when we are gone so far onward in our journey. But, 3. It is most evident to all the world that Mr Goodwin is not such a stranger in the Scriptures as not to have observed long since that spiritual promises are frequently given to the people of God to support their souls under temporal distresses; and that not always new promises for the matter of them (for indeed the substance of all promises is comprised in the first promise of Christ), but either such as enlarge and clear up grace formerly given or promised, or such as have need of a solemn renewal for the establishing of the faith, of the saints, assaulted in some particular manner in reference to them, which was the state of the saints among the Jews at this time. How often was the same promise renewed to Abraham! and upon what several occasions! and yet that promise, for the matter of it, was the same that had been given from the beginning of the world. That God’s solemn renewal of the covenant at any time is called his making of or entering into covenant needs no labour to prove. But, saith he, —
3. “This promise is the same with that of Ezek. xi. 17–20; which promise notwithstanding, it is said, verse 21, ‘But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things, and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their heads:’ so that notwithstanding this seeming promise, as is pretended, of perseverance in grace, they may walk after their abominable things; for 215this threatening intends the same persons or nation (as Calvin himself confesseth), the Israelites.”
Ans. 1. Grant that this is the same promise with the other, how will it appear that this is not a promise of such an interposure of the Spirit and grace of God as shall infallibly produce the effect of perseverance? “Why, because some are threatened for following the heart of their abominable things.” Yea, but how shall it appear that they are the same persons with them to whom the promise is made? The context is plainly against it. Saith He, “I will give them a heart to walk in my statutes and ordinances, to do them; but for them that walk after their own hearts, them I will destroy,” in as clear a distinction of the object of the promise and threatening as is possible. Saith Mr Goodwin, “This threatening concerns the same persons or nation.” The same nation, but not the same persons in that nation. “But Calvin saith that concerning the Israelites.” But Paul hath told us that “they are not all Israel who are of Israel, not all children of the promise who are children of the flesh.” And, —
2. If it do any way concern the persons to whom that promise is given, it is an expression suited to the dispensation of God whereby he carrieth believers on in the enjoyment of the good things he gives them in and by his promises, without the least prediction of any event, being only declarative of what the Lord abhorreth, and of the connection that is between the antecedent and the consequent of the axiom wherein it is contained, and is far from the nature of those promises which hold out the purpose or intention of God, with the engaging of a real efficacy for their accomplishment. He adds, —
4. “If this be a promise of absolute perseverance, no time nor season can be imagined wherein it was fulfilled.”
Ans. At all times and seasons to them to whom it was made, according to their concernment in it. But saith he, —
(1.) “It hath been proved that it was made to the community of the Jewish nation, towards whom it was not fulfilled.”
Ans. (1.) It hath been said, indeed, again and again, but scarce once attempted to be proved, nor the reasoning of the apostle against some pretended proofs and answers to them at all removed. (2.) It was fulfilled to the body of that nation, as far as it concerned the body of that nation, in their typical return from their captivity. But then, —
(2.) “If this be the sense, it was fulfilled in the captivity as well as afterward, for you say the saints always persevere.”
Ans. (1.) The typical part of it was not then accomplished. (2.) It is granted that as to the spiritual part of the covenant of grace, it was at all times fulfilled to them, which is now evidently promised to establish them in the assurance thereof. Wherefore it is, —
2165. Argued, sect. 53, (1.) “That these words, ‘I will give them one heart, that they shall not depart from me,’ may be as well rendered, ‘That they may not depart from me;’ and so it is said in the verse foregoing, ‘That they may fear me for ever.’ ”
Ans. Suppose the words may be thus rendered, what inconvenience will ensue? Either way they evidently and beyond exception design out the end aimed at by God; and when God intends an end or event, so as to exert a real efficacy for the compassing of it, to say that it shall not be infallibly brought about is an assertion that many have not as yet had the boldness to venture on. But saith he, —
(2.) “The words so read do not necessarily import the actual event or taking place of the effect intended of God in the promise, and his performance thereof, but only his intention itself in both these, and the sufficiency of the means allowed for producing such an effect: but it is of the same nature with that that our Saviour saith, John v. 34, ‘These things I say unto you, that ye might be saved;’ and that of God to Adam, Gen. iii. 10, 11.” All which things were in like manner insisted on by the Remonstrants at the Hague colloquy.
Ans. It is not amiss that our contests about the sense of this place of Scripture are at length come to the state and issue here expressed. It is granted the thing promised, and that according to the intendment of God, is perseverance; but that there is any necessity that this promise of God should be fulfilled or his intention accomplished, that is denied. Were it not that I should prevent myself in what will be more seasonable to be handled when we come to the consideration of the promises of God, I should very willingly engage here into the proof of this assertion. When God purposeth or intendeth an event, and promiseth to do it, to that end putting forth and exercising an efficient real power, it shall certainly be accomplished and brought to pass; neither can this be denied without casting the greatest reproach of mutability, impotency, and breach of word, upon the Most Holy, that is possible for any man to do. Neither do the Remonstrants nor Mr Goodwin acquit themselves from a participation in so high a crime by their instance of Gen. iii. 10, 11, where a command of God is only related to express his duty to whom it was given, not in the least asserting any intention of God about the event, or promise as to the means of its accomplishment. Nor doth that of John viii. 28 give them any more assistance in their sad undertaking to alleviate the truth of God. A means of salvation in its own nature and kind sufficient is exhibited, which asserts not an infallible necessity of event, as that doth which in this place is ascribed to God. But it is added, —
6. Sect. 54, “The continuance of external and civil prosperity to the Jewish nation may much more colourably be argued from hence than the certainty of their perseverance in grace; for these 217things are most expressly promised, verses 39, 40, and yet we find that, upon their non-performance of the condition, they are become the most contemptible and miserable nation under heaven. Certainly, then, the spiritual promises here must also depend on conditions, which if not fulfilled, they also may come short of performance.”
Ans. 1. Rom. xi. 25–27. 2. These temporal promises were fulfilled unto them so far as they were made to them, — that is, as they were typical, — and what is behind of them shall be made good in due time. 3. All these promises are, and were, in their chiefest and most eminent concernments (even the spiritual things set forth by allusions to the good land wherein they lived), completely and absolutely fulfilled to them, all and every one, to whom they were properly and directly made, as the apostle abundantly proveth, Rom. ix.–xi. 4. Whereas there are two special spiritual promises here expressed, one of conversion, the other of perseverance, I desire to know on what condition their accomplishment is suspended? On what condition will God write his law in their hearts? “On condition they hear him and obey him, suffer his mercies and kindnesses to work kindly on them.” That is, on condition his law be in their hearts, he will write it there! Thanks yet for that! On what condition doth God promise that they shall abide with him for ever? “Why, on the condition they depart not from him.” Very good! To what end doth God promise that which he will not effect, but only on condition that there is no need for him so to do! But, saith he, —
7. “If the spiritual promises be absolute, so must the temporal be also; for their accomplishing depends solely on the things mentioned and promised in the spiritual.”
Ans. 1. Temporal things in the promises are often expressed only to be a resemblance, and to set off some eminent spiritual grace intended, as shall afterward appear. In that sense the promises mentioning such things are actually and fully accomplished in the collation of the spiritual things by them typed and resembled. 2. Temporal promises, as such, belong not primarily to the covenant of grace, as they are of temporal things for the substance of them, but to the covenant with that whole nation about their inheritance in the land of Canaan, which was expressly conditional, and which held out no more of God’s intendment to that nation but only that there should be an inviolable connection between their obedience and prosperity. 3. The things in this promise are expressly differenced from the things of that covenant on this account, that that covenant being broken on the part of the nation, they enjoyed not that which was laid out as a fruit of their obedience; but this shall never be violated or broken, God undertaking for the accomplishing of it with another manner of engaging and suitable power exerted than in that of old, Heb. viii. 7–12, x. 16, 17. But, saith he, —
2188. “The expression of a ‘covenant’ plainly shows it to be conditional; for a covenant is not but upon the mutual stipulation parties; when one fails, then is the other true.”
Ans. 1. The word “berith” is sometimes used for a single promise without a condition, Gen. vi. 18, ix. 9; whence the apostle, handling this very promise, changeth the terms and calleth it a “testament.” In a testamentary dispensation there is not in the nature of it any mutual stipulation required, but only a mere single favour and grant or concession. 2. It may be granted that here is a of duty from us, God promising to work that in us which he requires of us; and hereby is this covenant distinguished from that which was disannulled. In the good things, indeed, of this covenant, one may be the condition of another, but both are freely bestowed of God.
And these are Mr Goodwin’s exceptions against this testimony, which cometh in in the cause of God and his saints, that we have in hand. His next attempt is to give you the sense of the words on this consideration, to manifest from thence that this promise of God may come short of accomplishment.
This, then, at length, is the account that is given in of the sense of the promise in hand, and all others of the like nature:—
“ ‘I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, and will put my fear into their hearts, that they shall not,’ or may not, ‘depart from me;’ that is, ‘I will deal so above measure graciously and bountifully with them, as well in matters relating to their spiritual condition as in things concerning their outward condition, that if they be not prodigiously refractory, stubborn, and unthankful, I will overcome their evils with my goodness, and will cause them to own me for their God, and will reduce them as one man to a loving and loyal frame and temper of heart, that they shall willingly, with a free and full purpose of heart, fear and serve me for ever,’ ” sect. 55.
Ans. The first author of this gloss upon a parallel text was Socinus, Præl. Theol. cap. 6, whose words are: “This place of Ezekiel is well explained by Erasmus in his Diatribe, saying, ‘That there is a usual figure of speaking contained in it, whereby a care in any of working something by another is signified, his endeavour being not excluded: as if a master should say to his scholar, speaking improperly, I will take away that barbarous tongue from thee, and give thee the Roman.’ These are almost the words of Erasmus. To which add, that it appeareth from the place itself that God would not signify any necessity or any internal efficacy when he declareth that he will effect what he promiseth no other way than by the multitude of his benefits, wherewith he would affect the people and mollify their hearts and minds, and thereby, as it were, beget and create in them a willingness and alacrity in obeying of 219him.”113113 “Hunc Ezechielis locum satis commode explicat Erasmus in sua Diatribe, dicens, In eo contineri usitatam figuram loquendi, qua cura in altero aliquid efficiendi significatur, illius opera minime exclusa: ac si quis (inquit) præceptor discipulo solœcizanti diceret, Exeram tibi linguam istam barbaricam, et inseram Romanam. Hæc sunt fere ipsius Erasmi verba. Quibus adde ex loco ipso satis apparere nullam necessitatem Deum significare voluisse, sed neque ullam vim interiorem, cum non alia ratione ea, quæ ibi pollicetur se effecturum, ostendat Deus, quam beneficiorum multitudine, quibus affecturus erat populum, ejusque cor et animum emolliturus,” etc. — Soc. Præl. cap. 12 s. 6, p. 45. The Remonstrants received this sense in the conference at the Hague, managing it in these words: “It is manifest that these words do signify some great efficacy and motion, which should come to pass by the many and excellent benefits of God, for whose sake they ought to convert themselves,” etc.: which worthy interpretation being at length fallen upon Mr Goodwin’s hand, is trimmed forth as you have heard. Secondly, Not to insist on those assumptions which are supposed in this interpretation, — as, that this promise was made peculiarly to the Jews, and to the whole nation of them properly and directly, etc., — the gloss itself will be found by no means to have the least consistency with either the words or intendment of the Holy Ghost in the place, nor to be suited to answer our argument from thence, nor yet to hold any good intelligence or correspondency with what hath already been delivered concerning it: for, —
1. To begin with the latter, he affirms this cannot be a promise of absolute perseverance, “because if it be so, the Jews enjoyed it in that captivity as well as afterward, when that is here promised which they were not to receive until in and upon their return from Babylon,” sect. 52, pp. 220, 221. But if that which is here mentioned be all that is promised to them, — namely, dealing so graciously and bountifully with them in his dispensations, according as was intimated, — there is not any thing in the least held out to them in this place but what God had already (himself being judge) in as eminent and high a manner wrought in reference to them and for them as could be conceived; and indeed it was such as he never after this arose to that height of outward mercy and bounty in things spiritual and temporal so as before, Isa. v. 1, 2, 4. Neither after the captivity unto this day did they see again the triumphant glory of David, the magnificent peace of Solomon, the beauty of the temple, the perfection of ordinances, etc., as before.
2. Whereas he affirmed formerly that “this promise is conditional, and that the things therein promised do depend on conditions by them to be fulfilled to whom the promise is made,” sect. 54, p. 221, in the gloss here given us of the words there is no intimation of any such conditions as whereupon the promised actings of God should be suspended, but only an uncertainty of event in reference to these actings asserted. That (according to this interpretation) which alone God promiseth to do is, that “he would deal above measure graciously 220and bountifully with them, as well in matters relating to their spiritual condition as in things concerning their outward condition.” This is all he promiseth; and this he will absolutely do, be the event what it will. It is not said (nor can it, with any pretence of reason) that this also is conditional; nay, whatever the event and issue be, that God will thus deal with them is the sense of the words in hand, according to the estimate here taken of them. It is true, it is in the exposition under consideration left doubtful and ambiguous whether such or such an event shall follow the promised actings of God or not; but what God promiseth concerning his dealing with them, that, without supposal of any condition whatever, shall be accomplished. According as a sense serves the turn, so it is to be embraced, when men are once engaged against the truth.
3. Neither doth this interpretation so much as take notice of, much less doth it with any strength or evidence waive, our argument for the saints’ perseverance from this place. We affirm, — (1.) That the promise God made unto, or the covenant he makes here with, his people, is distinguished from or opposed unto the covenant that was broken, upon this account, that that was broken by the default of them with whom it was made, but God would take care and provide that this should not fail, but be everlasting, Jer. xxxi. 32, xxxii. 40; Heb. viii. 8, 9. (2.) That the intendment of God in this promise, and’ the administration of this covenant, with means and power mentioned therein, is the abiding of his saints with him, or rather, primarily and principally, his abiding with them, notwithstanding all such interveniences as he will not powerfully prevent from ever interposing to the disturbance of that communion he taketh them into. “I will,” saith he, “make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good.” Now, these things, and such like, are not once taken notice of in the exposition boasted to be full and clear.
4. Neither, indeed, hath it any affinity unto or acquaintance in name or thing with the words or intendment of God, with the grace of the promise, or the promise itself; for, —
(1.) God says he will “give them one heart and one way,” or he will “put his law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts;” which is plainly the work of his grace in them, and not the effect and fruit of his dealing with them. In the gloss in hand, the work of God is limited to such dealings with them as may “overcome them” to such a frame. The having of a new heart is either the immediate work of God, or it is their yielding unto their duty to him, upon his “dealing bountifully and graciously with them.” If the first, it is what the Scripture affirms, and all that we desire; if the latter, how comes it to be expressed in terms holding out an immediate divine efficiency? That the taking away of a heart of stone, the giving of a new 221heart and spirit, the writing of the law in their hearts, and (which is all one) the quickening of the dead, the opening of blind eyes, the begetting of us anew, as they relate unto God, do signify no more but his administration of means, whereby men may be wrought upon and persuaded to bring their hearts and spirits into such a condition as is described in those expressions, to quicken themselves, to open their blind eyes, etc, Mr Goodwin shall scarce be able to evince.
(2.) Conversion and pardon of sin being both in this promise of the covenant (I take in also that place of the same importance, chap. xxxi. 33, 34), and relating alike to the grace of God, if conversion, or the giving of a new heart, be done only by administering outward means and persuasions unto men to make them new hearts, the forgiveness of sins must also be supposed to be tendered unto them upon the condition that their sins be forgiven, as conversion is on condition they be converted, or do convert themselves.
(3.) This promise being by the prophet and apostle insisted on as containing the grace whereby, eminently and peculiarly, the new covenant is distinguished from that which was abolished, if the grace mentioned therein be only the laying a powerful and strong obligation on men to duty and obedience, upon the account of the gracious and bountiful dealing of God with them, both as to their temporal and spiritual condition, I desire to know wherein the difference of it from the old covenant, as to the collation of grace, doth consist, and whether ever God made a covenant with man wherein he did not put sufficient obligations of this kind upon him unto obedience; and if so, what are the “better promises” of the new covenant, and what eminent and singular things as to the bestowing of grace are in it; which things here are emphatically expressed to the uttermost.
(4.) The scope of this exposition (which looks but to one part of the promise about bestowing of grace, overlooking the main end and intendment of it, as hath been showed) being to darken the words of the Holy Ghost, so far as to make them represent a contribution of means instead of an effectual working the end and the event, on which the means supplied have an influence of persuasion to prevail with men to do the things they are afforded them for, I desire to know, First, What new thing is here promised to them which exceeded that mentioned chap. xxv. 4, 5, wherein the Lord testifies that he had granted them formerly a large supply of outward means (and especially of the word) for the end here spoken of. Secondly, To what end and on what account is this administration of means for a work expressed by terms of a real efficiency in reference to the work itself; which, proceeding from the intendment of God for the event aimed at, must needs produce it. And, thirdly, Why these words should not be of the same importance with the associate expression, 222which of necessity must be interpreted of an actual and absolute efficiency, Jer. xxxii. 41, 42. And fourthly, Whether the administration of outward sufficient means for the producing of an event can be a ground of an infallible prediction of that event? as God here absolutely saith, “They shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them,” chap. xxxi. 34; — which how it is brought about, the Holy Ghost acquaints us, Isa. liv. 13, “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord;” and John vi. 45, “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” But Mr Goodwin hath sundry reasons to confirm his gloss, which must also be considered; and he saith, —
1. “That it is the familiar dialect of Scripture to ascribe the doing of things or effects themselves to him that ministers occasions or proper and likely means for the doing of them. So God is said to give them one heart and one way, to put his fear into their hearts, when he administers motives, means, occasions, and opportunities to them, which are proper to work them to such a frame and disposition of heart, out of which men are wont to love and obey him, whether they be ever actually brought thereunto or no; and this promise was fulfilled to the people after their return out of captivity, in the mercies they enjoyed and the preaching of the prophets.”
Ans. We are not now to be informed that this is Mr Goodwin’s doctrine concerning conversion, — 1. That God doth only administer means, motives, and opportunities for it, but that man thereupon converts himself; and, 2. That when God hath done all he will or can, that the event may not follow, nor the work be wrought: but that this sense, by any means or opportunities, can be fastened on the promise under consideration, we are not as yet so well instructed. When God once intendeth an end, and expresseth himself so to do, promising to work really and efficiently for the accomplishing of it, yea, that he will actually do it, by that efficiency preventing all interpositions whatever that may tend to frustrate his design, that that end of his shall not be accomplished, or that that working of his is only an administration of means, whereby men may do the things intended if they will, or may do otherwise (he affirming that he will do them himself), is a doctrine beyond my reach and capacity. His saying that “in this sense the promise was fulfilled to the people after the captivity,” is a swing against his own light. He hath told us not long since that it could not be a promise of those things which were enjoyed before it was ever given, as in our sense they did the grace of perseverance, etc. Surely the means he mentioneth (until at least the coming of Christ in the flesh) were advanced to a far higher pitch and eminency on all hands before the captivity than after; and at the coming of Christ 223it was eminently fulfilled, in our acceptation of it, unto all to whom it was made. But he adds, —
2. “That if it be not so to be understood, and so said to be fulfilled as above, it is impossible for any one to assign how and when this promise was fulfilled; for, — First, It was made to the whole people, and the fulfilling of it to a few will not confirm the truth of it. Secondly, The elect had no need of it, knowing themselves to be so, and that they should never fall away; so that this is but to make void the glorious promise of God. And, thirdly, To say that it was made to the elect is but to beg the thing in question.”
Ans. 1. As far as the body of the people was concerned in it, it was, and shall be in the latter days, absolutely accomplished towards them. It was, it is, and shall be, fulfilled to all to whom it was made, if so be that God be faithful and cannot deny himself. 2. It was, it is, and shall be, accomplished properly and directly to all the elect of that nation, to whom it was so made, as it hath been cleared already from Rom. ix.–xi., where the apostle, expressly and data opera, answers the very objection that Mr Goodwin makes about the accomplishing of these promises, concerning the hardening and rejection of the greatest part of that people, affirming it to consist in this, that the “election obtained when the rest were hardened;” wherein he did not beg the question, though he digged not for it, but answered by clear distinctions, as you may see, Rom. ix. 6, xi. 1, 2, 7. 3. Neither do all the elect after their calling know themselves to be so, nor have they any other way to become acquainted with their election but by their faith in the promises: nor is it spoken like one acquainted with the course and frame of God’s dealing with his saints, or with their spirits in walking with God, who supposeth the solemn and clear renovation of promises concerning the same things, with explanations and enlargements of the grace of them, to confirm and establish the communion between the one and the other, to be needless. And who make the promises of God void and of no effect? — we who profess the Lord to be faithful in every one of them, and that no one tittle of them shall fall to the ground or come short of accomplishment; or Mr Goodwin, who reports the grace mentioned in them, for the most part, to come short of producing the effect for which it is bestowed, and the engagements of God in them to depend so upon the lubricity of the wills of men, that mostly they are not made good in the end aimed at? The Lord will judge. But it is farther argued, —
3. “That the Scripture many times asserts the futurity or coming to pass of things not yet in being, not only when the coming of them to pass is certainly known, but when it is probable, upon the account of the means used for the bringing them to pass; for God saith in the parable, ‘They will reverence my Son,’ Mark xii. 6, and yet the 224event was contrary. So upon the executing an offender, he saith, ‘The people shall hear and fear, and do no more presumptuously;’ which yet might not have its effect on all. So God saith, ‘I will give them one heart;’ not out of any certainty of knowledge or determination in himself that any such heart or way should actually be given them, which would infallibly produce the effect mentioned, but that he would grant such means as were proper to create such a heart in them.”
Ans. 1. The nearer the bottom the more sour the lees. First, Doth God foretell the coming to pass of things future upon a probable conjecture, which is here assigned to him? Is that the intendment of the expression in the parable, “They will reverence my Son.” Or was he mistaken in the event, the thing falling out contrary to his expectation? Or is there any thing in this, or the place mentioned, Deut. xvii. 12, 13, but only an expression of the duty of men upon the account of the means offered? Is there any the least intimation of any intent and purpose of God as to the events insisted on? any promise of his effectual working for the accomplishing of them? any prediction upon the account of his purpose and design, which are the foundation of all his predictions? Or is there any the least correspondency in name or thing between the places now instanced in and called in for relief with that under consideration? This, then, is the sinew of Mr Goodwin’s arguing in this place: “Sometimes when there are means offered men for the performance of a duty, the accomplishment of it is spoken of as of what ought to have succeeded; and it is the fault of men to whom that duty is prescribed and these means indulged if it come not to pass; therefore, when God purposeth and promiseth to work and bring about such and such a thing, and engageth himself to a real efficiency in it, yet it may come to pass or it may not, — it may be accomplished, or God may fail in his intendment.” 2. The sense here given to the promise of God, “I will give them one heart,” etc., hath been formerly taken into consideration, and it hath been made to appear that, notwithstanding all the glorious expressions of God’s administration of means to work men into the frame intimated, yet, upon the matter, the intendment of the exposition given amounts to this: “Though God saith he will give us a new heart, yet indeed he doth not so give it to any one in the world, nor ever intended to do so; but this new heart men must create, make, and work out themselves, upon the means afforded them, which, being very eminent, are said to create such hearts in them, though they do it not, but only persuade men thereunto.” A comment this is not much unlike the first that ever was made upon the words of God, Gen. iii. 5! Whether God or man create the new heart is the matter here in question.
225For what he lastly affirms, “That if this be a promise of absolute perseverance, it is inconsistent with all the prophecies of the rejection of the Jews, which are accordingly fulfilled,” I must refer him to St Paul, who hath long ago undertaken to answer this objection; from whom if he receive not satisfaction, what am I that I should hope to afford the least unto him?
And these are the reasonings upon the account whereof Mr Goodwin dischargeth this text of Scripture, by virtue of his autocratorical power in deciding controversies of this nature, from bearing testimony in this cause any more. Whether he will be attended unto herein time will show. Many attempts to the same purpose have formerly been made, and yet it endureth the trial.
I have thus turned aside to the consideration of the exceptions given in to the ordinary interpretation of this place, lest any should think that they were waived upon the account of their strength and efficacy to overthrow it. The argument I intended from the words, for the stability of God’s love and favour to believers upon the account of his covenant engagement, is not once touched in any of them. These words, then, yield a third demonstration of the steadfastness and unchangeableness of acceptation of believers in Christ, upon the account of the absolute stability of that covenant of grace whereof God’s engagement to be their God and never to forsake them is an eminent portion.
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