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Chapter V. Argument from the promises of God.
Entrance into the argument from the promises of God, with their stability and his faithfulness in them — The usual exceptions to this argument — A general description of gospel promises — Why and on what account called gospel promises — The description given general, not suited to any single promise — They are free, and that they are so proved, all flowing from the first great promise of giving a Redeemer — How they are discoveries of God’s good-will; how made to sinners — Consequential promises made also to believers — Given in and through Christ in a covenant of grace — Their certainty upon the account of the engagement of the truth and faithfulness of God in them — Of the main matter of these promises, Christ and the Spirit — Of particular promises, all flowing from the same love and grace — Observations on the promises of God, subservient to the end intended — 1. They are all true and faithful; the ground of the assertion — 2. Their accomplishment always certain, not always evident — 3. All conditional promises made good, and how — 4. The promises of perseverance of two sorts — 5. All promises of our abiding with God in faith and obedience absolute — The vanity of imposing conditions on them discovered — 6. Promises of God’s abiding with us not to be separated from promises of our abiding with him — 7. That they do not properly depend on any condition in believers demonstrated — Instances of this assertion given — 8. Making them conditional renders them void as to the ends for which they are given — Given to persons, not to qualifications — The argument from the 226promises of God stated — Mr G.’s exceptions against the first proposition cleared, and his objections answered — The promises of God always fulfilled — Of the promise made to Paul, Acts xxvii. 24, etc. — Good men make good their promises to the utmost of their abilities — The promise made to Paul absolute and of infallible accomplishment — Of the promise of our Saviour to his disciples, Matt. xix. 28 — Who intended in that promise; not Judas — The accomplishment of the promise — The testimony of Peter Martyr considered — The conclusion of the forementioned objection — The engagement of the faithfulness of God for the accomplishment of his promise, 1 Cor. i. 9; 1 Thess. v. 23, 24; 2 Thess. iii. 3 — The nature of the faithfulness of God, expressed in the foregoing places, inquired into — Perverted by Mr G. — His notion of the faithfulness of God weighed and rejected — What intended in the Scripture by the faithfulness of God — The close of the confirmation of the proposition or the argument proposed from the promises of God — The assumption thereof vindicated — The sense put upon it by Mr G. — The question begged.
The consideration of the promises of God, which are all branches of the forementioned root, all streaming from the fountain of the covenant of grace, is, according to the method proposed, in the next place incumbent on us. The argument for the truth under contest which from hence is afforded and used is by Mr Goodwin termed “The first-born of our strength,” chap. xi. sect. 1, p. 225; and indeed we are content that it may be so accounted, desiring nothing more ancient, nothing more strong, effectual, and powerful, to stay our souls upon, than the promises of that God who cannot lie.114114 Heb. vi. 18; Titus i. 2. I shall, for the present, insist only on those which peculiarly assert, and in the name and authority of God confirm, that part of the truth we are peculiarly in demonstration of, — namely, the unchangeable stability of the love and favour of God to believers, in regard whereof he turneth not from them nor forsaketh them upon the account of any such interveniences whatever as he will suffer to be interposed in their communion with him; leaving those wherein he gives assurance upon assurance that he will give out unto them such continual supplies of his Spirit and grace that they shall never depart from him to their due and proper place.
I am not unacquainted with the usual exception that lieth against the demonstration of the truth in hand from the promises of God, to wit, that they are conditional, depending on some things in the persons themselves to whom they are made, upon whose change or alteration they also may be frustrated, and not receive their accomplishment. Whether this plea may be admitted against the particular promises that we shall insist upon will be put upon the trial, when we come to the particular handling of them. For the present, being resolved, by God’s assistance, to pursue the demonstration proposed from them, it may not be amiss, yea, rather it may be very useful, to insist a little upon the promises themselves, their nature 227and excellency, that we may be the more stirred up to inquire after every truth and sweetness of the love, grace, and kindness (they being the peculiar way chosen of God for the manifestation of his good-will to sinners) that is in them; and I shall do it briefly, that I may proceed with the business of my present intendment.
Gospel promises, then, are, — 1. The free and gracious dispensations, and, 2. discoveries of God’s good-will and love, to, 3. sinners, 4. through Christ, 5. in a covenant of grace; 6. wherein, upon his truth and faithfulness, he engageth himself to be their God, to give his Son unto them and for them, and his Holy Spirit to abide with them, with all things that are either required in them or are necessary for them to make them accepted before him, and to bring them to an enjoyment of him.
I call them gospel promises, not as though they were only contained in the books of the New Testament, or given only by Christ after his coming in the flesh, — for they were given from the beginning of the world, or first entrance of sin,115115 Gen. iii. 14, 15; Gal. iii. 17; Titus i. 2. and the Lord made plentiful provision of them and by them for his people under the old testament, — but only to distinguish them from the promises of the law, which hold out a word of truth and faithfulness, engaged for a reward of life to them that yield obedience thereunto (there being an indissolvable connection between entering into life and keeping the commandments), and so to manifest that they all belong to the gospel properly so called, or the tidings of that peace for sinners which was wrought out and manifested by Jesus Christ.116116 Gal. iii. 12; Luke ii. 10; Eph. ii. 15; Isa. lii. 7.
Farther; I do not give this for the description of any one single individual promise as it lieth in any place of Scripture, as though it expressly contained all the things mentioned herein (though virtually it doth so), but rather to show what is the design, aim, and goodwill of God in them all; which he discovers and manifests in them by several parcels, according as they may be suited to the advancement of his glow, in reference to the persons to whom they are made. If port the matter, all the promises of the gospel are but one, and every one of them comprehends and tenders the same love, the same Christ, the same Spirit, which are in them all. None can have an interest in any one but he hath an interest in the good of them all, that being only represented variously for the advantage of them that believe. My design is to describe the general intention of God in all gospel promises, whereby they, being equally spirited, become as one.117117 Gal. iii. 16, 17; Eph. ii. 12; Heb. vi. 17, 18. And concerning these, I say, —
1. That they are free and gracious as to the rise and fountain of them. They are given unto us merely through the good-will and 228pleasure of God.118118 Titus i. 2; 2 Pet. i. 3, 4. That which is of promise is everywhere opposed to that which is of doubt, or that which is any way deserved or procured by us: Gal. iii. 18, “If the inheritance be of the law” (which includes all that in us is desirable, acceptable, and deserving), “it is no more of promise,” — that is, free, and of mere grace. He that can find out any reason or cause without God himself why he should promise any good thing whatever to sinners (as all are, and are shut up under sin, till the promise come, Gal. iii. 22), may be allowed to glory in the invention which he hath found out, Matt. xx. 15. A well-conditioned nature, necessitating him to a velleity of doing good, and yielding relief to them that are in misery (though justly receiving the due reward of their deeds, which even among the sons of men is a virtue dwelling upon the confines of vice), for their recovery, is by some imposed on him. But that this is not the fountain and rise of his promises needs no other evidence but the light of this consideration: That which is natural is necessary and universal; promises are distinguishing as to them in misery, at least they are given to men, and not to fallen angels But may not God do what he will with his own?
Farther; Jesus Christ is himself in the promise. He is the great original, matter, and subject of the promises, and the giving of him was doubtless of free grace and mercy: so John iii. 16, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son;” and Rom. v. 8, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, whilst we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;” and in 1 John iv. 10, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” All is laid upon the account of love and free grace, Matt. xi. 26. I confess there are following promises given out for the orderly carrying on of the persons to whom the main, original, fundamental promises are made, unto the end designed for them, that seem to have qualifications and conditions in them; but yet even those are all to be resolved into the primitive grant of mercy. That which promiseth life upon believing, — being of use to stir men up unto and carry them on in faith and obedience, — must yet, as to the pure nature of the promise, be resolved into that which freely is promised, namely, Christ himself, and with him both faith and life, believing and salvation. As in your automata there is one original spring or wheel that giveth motion to sundry lesser and subordinate movers, that are carried on with great variety, sometimes with a seeming contrariety one to another, but all regularly answering and being subservient to the impression of the first mover; [so] the first great promise of Christ, and all good things in him, is that which spirits and principles all other promises whatsoever;119119 Gen. iii. 15, xlix. 10; Isa. ix. 6; 2 Cor. i. 20. and 229howsoever they may seem to move upon conditional terms, yet they are all to he resolved into that absolute and free original spring. Hence that great grant of gospel mercy is called “The gift by him,” Rom. v. 15–18; yea, all the promises of the law, as to their original emanation from God, and the constitution of the reward in them, engaged to be bestowed for the services required, are free and gracious; there is not any natural, indispensable connection between obedience and reward, as there is between sin and punishment, as I have elsewhere at large disputed and proved.120120 Diatr. de Just. Div.
2. I call them discoveries and manifestations of God’s good-will and love, which is the prime and sole cause of all the good things which are wrapped up and contained in them. Of this good-will of God, the promises which he hath given are the sole discoveries. We do not in this discourse take “promises” merely for what God hath said he will do in terms expressly, but for every assertion of his good-will and kindness to us in Christ; all which was first held out under a word of promise, Gen. iii. 15. And this the apostle infers in Titus i. 2, 3, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began, but hath in due times manifested his word through preaching,” or discovered or made known that goodwill of his by the promises in preaching of the gospel. And to this extent of significancy is that “promise” in the Scripture, both name and thing, in very many places stretched out. Every thing whatever that is manifestative of grace and good-will to sinners is of the promise, though it be not cast into a promissory form of expression. Yea, whereas, strictly, a promise respecteth that which is either only future, and not of present existence, or the continuance of that which is, yet even expressions of things formerly done and of a present performance (some individuals to the end of the world being to be made anew partakers of the grace, good-will, and mercy in them) do belong to the promise also, in that acceptation of it which the Holy Ghost in many places leads unto,121121 Micah vii. 17–20. and which we now insist upon.
3. I say they are made unto sinners, and that as sinners, under no other qualification whatever, it being by the mercy of the promise alone that any men are relieved out of that condition of being sinners, and morally nothing else. Were not the promises originally made to sinners, there would never any one be found in any other state or condition.122122 Eph. ii. 12; Rom. iii. 19; Gal. iii. 22. I know there are promises made to believers, even such as are unchangeable, and shall bear them into the bosom of God; but I say these are all consequential, and upon supposition of the first and great promise, whereby Christ himself, and faith for his sake, are bestowed on them. This runs through them all, 230as the very tenor of them and method of God in them do manifest,123123 John iii. 16; Rom. viii. 32; 1 Cor. i. 30; Phil. i. 29; Eph. i. 3. as we shall see afterward. So the apostle, Gal. iii. 22, “The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” All are shut up under sin until the promise of salvation by Jesus Christ and faith in him cometh in for their deliverance. The promise is given to them as shut up under sin, which they receive by mixing it with faith. And Rom. iii. 23, 24, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Their condition is a condition of sin and falling short of the glory of God, when the promise for justification is given unto them and finds them. Thence the Lord tells us, Isa. liv. 8, 9, that this promise of mercy is like that which he made about the waters of Noah, where is mentioned no condition at all of it, but only the sins of men.124124 Gen. viii. 21, 22. And in that state unquestionably was Adam when the first promise was given unto him. To say, then, that gospel promises are made to men in such conditions, and are to be made good only upon the account of men’s abiding in the condition wherein they are when the promise is made to them, is to say, that for men to leave the state of sin is the way to frustrate all the promises of God. All deliverance from a state of sin is by grace;125125 Eph. ii. 4, 5, 8. all grace is of promise. Under that condition, then, of sin doth the promise find men, and from thence relieve them.
4. I say, these discoveries of God’s good-will are made through Christ, as the only medium of their accomplishment, and only procuring cause of, the good things that, flowing from the good-will of God, are inwrapped and tendered in them, 2 Cor. i. 20. And they are said to be in Christ, as, — (1.) The great messenger of the covenant, as in him who comes from the Father, because God hath confirmed and ratified them all in him; not in themselves, but unto us. He hath in him and by him given faith and assurance of them all unto us, declaring and confirming his good-will and love to us by him. He reveals the Father (as a father) from his own bosom, John i. 18, declaring his name or grace unto his, chap. xvii. 3. “All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen, to the glory of God by us,” 2 Cor. i. 20. In him, and by his mediation, they have all their confirmation, establishment, and unchangeableness unto us. (2.) Because he hath undertaken to be surety of that covenant whereof they are the promises: Heb. vii. 22, he is “the surety” of the covenant; that is, one who hath undertaken, both on the part of God and on ours, whatever is needful for confirmation thereof. And, (3.) Because that himself is the great subject of all these promises, and in him (it being of his own purchase and procuring, he “having obtained 231eternal redemption for us,” Heb. ix. 12) there is treasured up all the fullness of those mercies which in them God hath graciously engaged himself to bestow, they being all annexed to him, as the portion he brings with him to the soul.126126 John i. 16; Col. i. 18, 19, ii. 19, etc.; Rom. viii. 32. Then, I say, —
5. That they are discoveries of God’s good-will in a covenant of grace. They are, indeed, the branches, streams, and manifesting conveyances, of the grace of that covenant, and of the good-will of God putting itself forth therein. Hence the apostle mentions the “covenants of promise,” Eph. ii. 12, either for the promises of the covenant or its manifestation, as I said before. Indeed, as to the subject-matter and eminently, the promise is but one, as the covenant is no more; but both come under a plural expression, because they have been variously delivered and renewed upon several occasions. So the covenant of grace is said to be established upon these promises, Heb. viii. 6; that is, the grace and mercy of the covenant, and the usefulness of it to the ends of a covenant, to keep God and man together in peace and agreement, are laid upon these promises, to be by them confirmed and established unto us, God having by them revealed his good-will unto us, with an attendancy of stipulation of duty. Their use, for the begetting and continuing communion between God and us, with the concomitancy of precepts, places them in the capacity of a covenant. And then, —
6. I mentioned the foundation of the certainty and unchangeableness of these promises, with our assurance of their accomplishment. The engagements and undertakings of God, upon his truth and faithfulness, are the stock and unmovable foundation of this respect of them. Therefore, speaking of them, the Holy Ghost often backs them with that property of God, “He cannot lie:” so Heb. vi. 17, 18, “God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie,” etc.; so Titus i. 2, “God, which cannot lie, hath promised us eternal life.” There is no one makes a solemn promise, but as it ought to proceed from him in sincerity and truth, so he engageth his truth and faithfulness, in all the credit of them, for the accomplishment thereof what lieth in him; and on this account doth David so often appeal unto and call upon the righteousness of God as to the fulfilling of his promises and the word which he caused him to put his trust in.127127 Ps. xxxi. 1, 5, 14; Isa. xlv. 19; 2 Pet. i. 1. It is because of his engagement of his truth and faithfulness, whence it becometh a righteous thing with him to perform what he hath spoken. How far this respect of the promises extends, and wherein it is capable of a dispensation, is the sum of our present controversy. But of this afterward. Then, —
2327. A brief description of the matter of these promises, and what God freely engageth himself unto in them, was insisted on. Of this, of the promises in this regard, there is one main fountain or spring, whereof there are two everlasting streams, whence thousands of refreshing rivulets do flow. The original fountain and spring of all good unto us, both in respect of its being and manifestation, is that he will be our God: Gen. xvii. 1, 2, “I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect: and I will make my covenant,” etc. So everywhere, as the bottom of his dealing with us in covenant: Jer. xxxi. 33, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people;” Isa. liv. 5; Hos. ii. 23; and in very many other places. Now, that he may thus be our God, two things are required:—
(1.) That all breaches and differences between him and us be removed, perfect peace and agreement made, and we rendered acceptable and well-pleasing in his sight. These are the terms whereon they stand to whom he is a God in covenant. For the accomplishment of this is the first main stream that floweth from the former fountain, — namely, the great promise of giving Christ to us and for us, “who is our peace,” Eph. ii. 14; and “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,” 1 Cor. i. 30; “who loves us, and washeth us in his own blood, and makes us kings and priests to God and his Father,” Rev. i. 5, 6; “giving himself for his church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish,” Eph. v. 25–27;128128 Titus ii. 14; Gen. iii. 15; Job xix. 25; Eph. ii. 13; Heb. ii. 17; Eph. v. 2; 1 Tim. ii. 6. doing and accomplishing all things that are required for the forementioned ends. And this is the first main stream that flows from that fountain. Christ as a redeemer, a saviour, a mighty one, a priest, a sacrifice, an oblation, our peace, righteousness, and the author of our salvation, is the subject-matter thereof.
(2.) That we may be kept and preserved meet for communion with him as our God, and for the enjoyment of him as our reward. For this end flows forth the other great stream from the former fountain, — namely, the promise of the Holy Spirit; which he gives us to “make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light,”129129 Col. i. 12. to put forth and exercise towards us all the acts of his love which are needful for us, and to work in us the obedience which he requires and accepts of us in Jesus Christ, so preserving us for himself. This promise of the Spirit in the covenant, with his work and peculiar dispensations, is plentifully witnessed in very many places of the Old Testament and New,130130 Isa. lix. 21; Ezek. xi. 19, xxxvi. 26, 27; John xiv. 16, 17, etc. some whereof must afterward be insisted on. 233Hence he is sometimes called the promise of the covenant: Acts ii. 39, “The promise is to you;” which promise is that which Christ receiveth from his Father, verse 33, even “the promise of the Holy Ghost.” I shall only add, that though this be a great stream flowing from the first fountain, yet it comes not immediately thence, but issues out from the stream before mentioned, the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ; for he is given by him unto us, as procured for us, and given only unto his, John xiv. 16, 17, 26; Gal. iv. 6.
Now, from these two grand streams do a thousand rivulets flow forth for our refreshment. All the mercy that Christ hath purchased, all the graces that the Spirit doth bring forth (which in the former description I call all things that are either required in them or needful to them to make them accepted before God, and to bring them to an enjoyment of him), all promises of mercy and forgiveness, all promises of faith and holiness, of obedience and perseverance, of joy and consolation, of correction, affliction, and deliverance, — they all flow from these; that is, from the matter of those promises doth the matter of these arise. And hence are the ensuing corollaries:—
1. Whoever hath an interest in any one promise hath an interest in them all, and in the fountain-love from whence they flow. He to whom any drop of their sweetness floweth may follow it up unto the spring. Were we wise, each taste of mercy would lead us to the ocean of love. Have we any hold on a promise? — we may get upon it, and it will bring us to the main, Christ himself and the Spirit, and so into the bosom of the Father. It is our folly to abide upon a little, which is given us merely to make us press for more.
2. That the most conditional promises are to be resolved into absolute and unconditional love. God, who hath promised life upon believing, hath promised believing on no condition (on our parts) at all, because to sinners.
This in general being given in concerning the nature of the promises, I shall proceed to some such considerations as are of particular usefulness unto that improvement which, the Lord assisting, I intend to make of them, for the confirmation of the truth under debate. And they are these:—
1. All the promises of God are true and faithful, and shall most certainly all of them be accomplished. His nature, his veracity, his unchangeableness, his omniscience and omnipotency, do all contribute strength to this assertion. Neither can these properties possibly continue entire, and the honour of them he preserved unto the Lord, if the least failing in the accomplishment of his promises be ascribed unto him. Every such failing must of necessity relate to some such principle as stands in direct opposition to one or more of the perfections before mentioned. It must be a failing in the truth, unchangeableness, prescience, or power, that must frustrate 234the promise of any one. We, indeed, often alter our resolutions, and the promise that is gone out of our mouths, and that perhaps righteously, upon some such change of things as we could not foresee, nor ought to have supposed, when we entered into our engagements. No such thing can be ascribed unto Him who knows all things, with their circumstances, that can possibly come to pass, and hath determined what shall so do, and therefore will not engage in any promise that he knows something which he foresaw would follow after would cause him to alter. It were a ludicrous thing in any son of man to make a solemn promise of any thing to another, if he particularly knew that in an hour some such thing would happen as should enforce him to change and alter that promise which he had so solemnly entered into. And shall we ascribe such an action to Him before whom all things are open and naked? Shall he be thought solemnly to engage himself to do or accomplish any thing which yet not only he will not do, but also at that instant hath those things in his eye and under his consideration for which he will not so do as he promiseth, and determined before that he would not so do? If this be not unworthy the infinite goodness, wisdom, and faithfulness of God, I know not what can or may be ascribed unto him that is. Yea, the truth and veracity of God in his promises cannot be denied him without denying him his deity, or asserted without the certain accomplishment of what he hath promised.
2. There are sundry things relating to the accomplishment of promises, as to times, seasons, persons, ways, etc., wherein we have been in the dark, and yet the promises concerning them be fully accomplished. The rejection of the Jews supplies us with an instance pregnant with this objection. The apostle tells us that with many this objection did arise on that account: “If the Jews be rejected, then the promises of God to them do fail,” Rom. iii. 3. He lays down and answers this objection, discovering that fallacy therein by a distinction. “They are not,” saith he, “all Israel which are of Israel,” chap. ix. 6; as if he had said, “There is a twofold Israel, an Israel after the flesh only, and an Israel after the flesh and Spirit also.” Unto these latter were the promises made; and therefore they who look on the former only think it faileth, whereas indeed it holdeth to its full accomplishment. So he disputes again, chap. xi. 7. I say, then, we may be in the dark as to many circumstances of the fulfilling of promises, when yet they have received a most exact accomplishment.
3. All the conditional promises of God are exactly true, and shall be most faithfully made good by accomplishment as to that wherein their being as promises doth consist, as far as they are declarative of God’s purpose and intendment. This is that which, as I said before, some object, “Many of the promises of God are conditional, and 235their truth must needs depend upon the accomplishment of the condition mentioned in them; if that be not fulfilled, then they also must fail, and be of none effect.” I say, then, that even the conditional promises of God are absolutely made good. The truth of any promise consists in this, that that whereof it speaks answers the affirmation itself. For instance, “He that believeth shall be saved.” This promise doth not primarily affirm that any one shall be saved, and notwithstanding it no one might so be; but only this it affirms, that there is an infallible connection between faith and salvation, and therein is the promise most true, whether any one believe or no. Briefly, conditional promises are either simply declarative of the will of God in fixing an exact correspondency between a condition mentioned and required in them and the thing promised by them, in which case they have an unchangeable and infallible verity in themselves, as there is in all the promises of the moral law to this day, for he that keeps the commandments shall live; or they are also the discoveries of the good-will of God, his intendments and purposes, that whereof they make mention being not the condition whereon his purposes are suspended, but the way and means whereby the thing promised is to be accomplished; and in the latter acceptation alone are they, in the business in hand, our concernment.
4. That the promises concerning perseverance (as hath been often intimated) are of two sorts; — the first, of the continuance of the favour of God to us, which respects our justification; the other, of the continuance of our obedience unto God, which respects our sanctification. Let us consider both of them, and begin with the latter:—
(1.) Of them I say, then, they are all absolute, not one of them conditional (so as to be suspended as to their accomplishment on any conditions), nor can be. The truth of God in them hath not its efficiency and accomplishment by establishing the relation that is between one thing and another, or the connection that is between duty and reward, as it is in conditional promises that are purely and merely so; but enforceth the exact fulfilling of the thing promised, and that with respect unto, and for the preservation of, the glory of that excellency of God, “He cannot lie.” Let it be considered what that condition or those conditions be, or may be, on which promises of this nature should be suspended, and the truth of the former assertion will evidently appear. That God hath promised unto believers that they shall for ever abide with him in the obedience of the covenant unto the end shall afterward be proved by a cloud of witnesses. What, now, is the condition whereon this promise doth depend? “It is,” says Mr Goodwin, “that they perform their duty, that they suffer not themselves to be seduced, nor willingly cast off the yoke of Christ.” But what doth this amount unto? Is it not thus 236much: If they abide with God (for if they perform their duty, and do not suffer themselves to be seduced, nor willingly depart from God, they abide with him), God hath promised that they shall abide with him, — upon condition they abide with him, he hath promised they shall? “Egregiam vero laudem!” Can any thing more ridiculous be invented? If men abide with God, what need they any promise that they shall so do? The whole virtue of the promise depends on that condition, and that condition containeth all that is promised. Neither is it possible that any thing can be invented to be supplied as the condition or conditions of these promises, but it will quickly appear, upon consideration, that however it may be differently phrased, yet indeed it is coincident with the matter of the promise itself. That condition or those conditions must consist in some act, acts, way, or course of acceptable obedience in them to whom the promises are made. This the nature of the thing itself requireth. Now, every such act, way, or course, is the matter of the promise, even universal obedience. Now, if one man should promise another that he should, at such a time and place, be supplied with a hundred pounds to pay his debts, on condition that he came and brought the money himself, ought he to be esteemed to have a mind to relieve the poor man, or to mock him? To affirm that when God promiseth to write his law in our hearts, to put his fear in our inward parts, to create in us a new heart, to circumcise our hearts that we may fear him always, to give us his Spirit to abide with us for ever, to preserve us by his power, so that we shall never leave him nor forsake him, shall live to him, and sin shall not have dominion over us, etc., he doth it upon condition that we write his law in our hearts, circumcise them, continue to fear him, abide with him, not forsake him, etc., is to make him to mock and deride at their misery whose relief he so seriously pretendeth. Whatever promises, then, of this kind (promises of working obedience in us, for our abiding with him) shall be produced, they will be found to be absolute and independent on any condition whatever, and their truth no ways to be maintained but in and by their accomplishment.
(2.) For those of the first sort, which I shall now handle, farther to clear the foundation of their ensuing application, I shall propose only some few things unto consideration; as, —
[1.] That they are not to be taken or looked upon, as to their use for argument in the present controversy, separated and divided from those other promises formerly insisted on, which assure believers that they shall always abide with God as to their obedience. All hope that any have to prevail against them is by dividing of them. It is a very vain supposal and foundation of sand which our adversaries build their inferences upon, which they make against the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, — namely, the impossibility that God 237should continue his love and favour to them whilst they wallow in all manner of abominations and desperate rebellions against him; a hypothesis crudely imposed on our doctrine, and repeated over and over as a matter of the greatest detestation and abomination that can fall within the thoughts of men. And such supposals and conclusions are made thereupon as border, at least, upon the cursed coast of blasphemy. But cui fini, I pray, to what end, is all this noise? as though any had ever asserted that God promised to continue his love and gracious acceptation always to his saints, and yet took no care nor had promised that they should be continued saints, but would suffer them to turn very devils. It is as easy for men to confute hypotheses created in their own imaginations as to cast down men of straw of their own framing and setting up. We say, indeed, that God hath faithfully promised that he will never leave nor forsake believers; but withal that he hath no less faithfully engaged himself that they shall never wickedly depart from him, but that they shall continue saints and believers. Yea (if I may so say), promising always to accept them freely, it is incumbent on his holy Majesty, upon the account of his truth, faithfulness, and righteousness, to preserve them such as, without the least dishonour to his grace and holiness, yea, to the greatest advantage of his glory, he may always accept them, delight in them, and rejoice over them; and so he tells us he doth, Jer. xxxi. 3, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” He draws us with kindness to follow him, obey him, live unto him, abide with him, because he loves us with an everlasting love.
[2.] That these promises of God do not properly, and as to their original rise, depend on any conditions in believers, or by them to be fulfilled, but are the fountains and springs of all conditions whatever that are required to be in them or expected from them, though the grace and obedience of believers are often mentioned in them as the means whereby they are carried on, according to the appointment of God, unto the enjoyment of what is promised or continued in it. This one consideration, that there is in very many of these promises an express non obstante, or a notwithstanding the want of any such condition as might seem to be at the bottom and to be the occasion of any such promise or engagement of the grace of God, is sufficient to give light and evidence to this assertion. If the Lord saith expressly that he will do so with men, though it be not so with them, his doing of that thing cannot depend on any such thing in them, as he saith notwithstanding the want of it he will do it Take one instance: Isa. liv. 8–10, “In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. For this is as the 238waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” He will have mercy on them with everlasting kindness, verse 8. “Yea, but how if they walk not worthy of it?” Why, yet this kindness shall not fail, saith the Lord; for it is “as the waters of Noah.” God sweareth that “the waters of Noah shall no more cover the earth,” and you see the stability of what he hath spoken; the world is now “reserved for fire,” but drowned it shall be no more. “My kindness to thee,” says God, “is such, it shall no more depart from thee than those waters shall return again upon the earth.” Neither is this all wherein he compareth his kindness to the waters of Noah, but in this also, in that in the promise of drowning the world no more there was an express non obstante for the sins of men: Gen. viii. 21, “The Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” “Though men grow full of wickedness and violence, as before the flood they were, yet,” saith the Lord, “the world shall be drowned no more.” And in this doth the promise of kindness hold proportion with that of the waters of Noah. There is an express relief in it against the sins and failings of them to whom it is made, — namely, such as he will permit them to fall into, whilst he certainly preserves them from all such as are inconsistent with his love and favour, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace; and therefore it depends not on any thing in them, being made with a proviso for any such defect as in them may be imagined.
[3.] To affirm that these promises of God’s abiding with us to the end do depend on any condition that may be uncertain in its event, by us to be fulfilled, as to their accomplishment, doth wholly enervate and make them void in respect to the main end for which they were given us of God. That one chief end of them is to give the saints consolation in every condition, in all the straits, trials, and temptations, which they are to undergo or may be called to, is evident. When Joshua was entering upon the great work of subduing the Canaanites, and setting the tabernacle and people of God in their appointed inheritance, wherein he was to pass through innumerable difficulties, trials, and pressures, God gives him that word of promise, “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee,” Josh. i. 5. So are many of them made to the saints in their weakness, darkness, and desertions, as will appear by the consideration of the particular instances following, Isa. iv. 3, 4. Now, what one drop of consolation can a poor, drooping, tempted soul, squeeze out of such promises as depend 239wholly and solely upon any thing within themselves: “He will be with me and be my God, it is true; but always provided that I continue to be his. That also is a sweet and gracious promise; but that I shall do so he hath not promised. It seems I have a cursed liberty left me of departing wickedly from him; so that, upon the matter, notwithstanding these promises of his, I am left to myself. If I will abide with him, well and good, he will abide with me, and so it will be well with me; — that he should so abide with me as to cause me to abide with him, it seems there is no such thing. Soul, look to thyself; all thy hopes and help are in thyself. But, alas! for the present I have no sense of this love of God, and I know not that I have any true, real, unfeigned obedience to him. Corruption is strong, temptations are many; what shall I say? Shall I exercise faith on those promises of God wherein he hath said and given assurance that he will be a God to me for ever?’ According as my thoughts are of my own abiding with him, so may I think of them, and no otherwise; so that I am again rolled upon mine own hands, and left to mine own endeavours to extricate myself from these sad entanglements.” What now becomes of the consolation which in these promises is intended? Are they not, on this account, rather flints and pieces of iron than breasts of comfort and joy?
Lastly, If it be so as is supposed, it is evident that God makes no promises unto persons, but only unto conditions and qualifications; — that is, his promises are not engagements of his love and goodwill to believers, but discoveries of his approbation of believing. Suppose any promise of God to be our God, our all-sufficient God for ever, not eminently to include an engagement for the effectual exertion of the all-sufficiency to preserve and continue us in such a state and spiritual condition as wherein he may with the glory and honour of his grace, and will not fail to, abide and continue our God, and you cut all the nerves and sinews of it, as to the administration of any consolation unto them to whom it is given. The promises must be made good, that is certain; and if they are accomplished or not accomplished unto men merely upon the account of such and such qualifications in them, — which if they are found, then they shall be fulfilled, if not, then they are suspended, — they are made to the conditions, and not at all to the persons. And though some, perhaps, will easily grant this, yet upon this account it cannot be said that God ever made any one promise unto his church as consisting of such persons, namely, Abraham and his seed; which is directly contrary to that of the apostle, Rom. ix. 8, where he calleth the elect “The children of the promise,” or those to whom the promises were made. It appears, then, that neither are these promises of God conditional. As they proceed from free grace, so there is no other account on which they are given out, continued, and accomplished, 240towards the children of God. Though the things of the promise are often placed in dependence one on another, as means and ends, yet the promises themselves are absolute.
These few things being premised, I shall now name and insist upon some particular promises, wherein the Lord hath graciously engaged himself that he will abide to be a God in covenant unto his people and their guide unto death; from which I shall labour to make good this argument for the perseverance of the saints:— “That which that God, ‘who cannot lie’ nor ‘deceive,’ ‘with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,’131131 Titus i. 2; Heb. vi. 18; James i. 17; 1 Cor. i. 9. who is ‘faithful’ in all his promises, and all whose words are ‘faithfulness and truth,’ hath solemnly promised and engaged himself unto, to this end, that they unto whom he so promiseth and engageth himself may from those promises receive ‘strong consolation,’ — that he will certainly perform and accomplish. That he will be a God and a guide unto death unto his saints, that he will never leave them nor forsake them, that he will never cast them off nor leave them out of his favour, but will preserve them such as is meet for his holy majesty to embrace, love, and delight in, and that with an express notwithstanding for every such thing as might seem to provoke him to forsake them, he hath promised, and for the end mentioned; therefore, [the promise] that he will so abide with them, that his love shall be continued to them to the end, that he will preserve them unto himself, etc., according to his truth and faithfulness, shall be accomplished and fulfilled.” The inference hath its strength from the nature, truth, and faithfulness of God; and whilst they abide in any credit with the sons of men, it may seem strange that it should be denied or questioned. The major proposition of the forementioned argument is examined by Mr Goodwin, chap. xi. sect 1, p. 225. Saith he, —
1. “What God hath promised in his word is certain in such a sense and upon such terms as God would be understood in his promises; but what he promised in one sense is not certain of performance in the other.”
Ans. Doubtless, God’s meaning and intention in his promises is the rule of their accomplishment. This sometimes we may not be able to fathom, and thereupon be exposed to temptations not a few concerning their fulfilling; so was it with them with whom Paul had to do in reference to the promises made to the seed of Abraham. The question, then, is not whether that which is promised in one sense shall be performed in another; but whether God’s promises have, and shall certainly have, all of them, according to his intendment, any performance at all. And the aim of Mr Goodwin, in the example that he afterward produceth, is not to manifest that that which God promiseth shall certainly be performed only in that sense 241wherein he made his promise, but that they may be performed, or not performed at all. It is not in whose sense they shall have their performance, but whether they shall have any performance or no. If the thing promised be not accomplished, the promise is not at all in any sense performed, unless Mr Goodwin will distinguish, and say there are two ways of any thing’s performance, one whereby it is performed, another whereby it is not. But he proceeds to manifest this assertion by an induction of instances.
2. “God,” saith he, “promised to Paul the lives of them that were in the ship. His intent and meaning was, not that they should all be preserved against whatever they in the ship might do to hinder that promise, but with this proviso or condition, that they in the ship should hearken unto him and follow his advice; which is evident from these words of Paul, ‘Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved:’ and had they gone away, God had not made any breach of promise though they had been all drowned, Acts xxvii.”
Ans. First, when men seriously promise any thing, which is wholly and absolutely in their power to accomplish and bring about, causing thereby good men to rest upon their word, and to declare unto others their repose upon their honesty and worth, if they do not make good what they have spoken, we account them unworthy promise-breakers, and they do it at the peril of all the repute of honesty, honour, and faith, they have in the world. With God it seems it is otherwise. He makes a solemn, gracious promise to Paul that the lives of all them in the ship with him should be saved. Paul, on whom it was as much incumbent as on any man in the world not to engage the name of God (that God whom he worshipped and preached) in any thing whose truth might in the least be liable to exception, being in the way of declaring a new doctrine to the world, which would have been everlastingly prejudiced by any misprision of the faithfulness of that God in whose name and authority he preached it; the sum of that doctrine, also, being the exaltation of that God, in opposition to all the pretended deities of the world;132132 Acts xiv. 15, xvii. 24; 1 Tim. iv. 10. — he, I say, boasts himself upon the promise that he had received that there should be “no loss of any man’s life among them,” verses 22, 25. He gives the reason of his confident assertion when all hope was taken away: Verse 25, “I believe God,” saith he, “that it shall be even as it was told me.” His faith in God was in reference to the event, that it should come to pass as it was told him. Faith in God, divine faith, can have nothing for its object that may fail it. He doth not say that he believes that God will be faithful to his promise in general, but also tells them wherein his faithfulness doth consist, even in the performance and accomplishment of that which he had promised. This he informs the centurion and the rest in the ship with him; and 242if in the issue it had otherwise fallen out, there had not been any colour of justifying the faith of that God he served, or his own truth in bearing witness to him. Had any perished, those that remained would have argued him of lying. “Yea, but saith he not himself, ‘Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.’ ” He did so indeed, and thereby declared the necessity of using suitable means, when Providence affords them to us, for the accomplishment of appointed, determined ends. God, who promiseth any thing, and affordeth means for the attaining of it, will direct them to whom those promises are made to the use of those means; as he doth the centurion by Paul. It being incumbent in this case on his holy Majesty, upon the account of his engaged faithfulness, to save them, he will yet have them subservient to his promise in their endeavours for their own safety. Means may be assigned for an end as to their ordinary subserviency thereunto, without any suspending of the event on them, as a condition of an uncertain issue and accomplishment. And therefore that this solemn promise made unto Paul, whose event and accomplishment, upon the account of his believing God, he absolutely believed, and whose performance he foretold, without the least intimation of any condition whatever (only he bids them not throw away the means of their preservation), should depend as to its fulfilling on such a condition as, in respect of the event, might not have been (God who made the promise not making any infallible provision for the condition), and so have been actually frustrate, is an assertion not only not grounded on these words of Paul, setting out the suitable means of the providence of God for the accomplishment of an appointed end, but also derogatory in the highest to the glory of the truth and faithfulness of God himself. But, —
3. “That promise,” saith he, “of our Saviour to his disciples, Matt. xix. 28, that they who followed him in the regeneration should sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Judas being yet one of them, was not fulfilled; and in case the rest had declined, they also with him might have come short of the promise made unto them.”
Ans. Christ “knew what was in man,” and had no need of any to tell him; he knew from the beginning who it was that should betray him, and plainly pronounced him to be a devil. He knew he was so, that he believed not; that he would continue so; that he would betray him; that his end would be desperate; he pronounced a curse upon him, as being cursed by David, Ps. cix., so many generations before his coming into the world:133133 John vi. 64, 70, 71. and is it probable now that he promised this man a throne for his following him in the regeneration, which [it] is most certain (take it in what sense you will) he did never follow him in, but only as he gave him his bodily attendance 243in his going up and down? He was never admitted to be witness of his resurrection. The time being not yet come wherein a discovery was to be made of the hypocrisy of Judas, that he might have space to carry on the work which he had to do, and the number of those who in a peculiar manner were to bear witness to the completing of the whole work of regeneration in the resurrection of Christ being twelve, he who was afterward admitted into that number being one that now followed him, Acts i. 21, 22, our blessed Saviour telleth them indefinitely, to their consolation, what will be the glorious issue of their following him, and bearing witness to him in this work. That which is promissory in the words is made to them who forsook all and followed him in the work mentioned: which, assuredly, he who was always a thief, a devil, a covetous person, that followed not in the main of the work itself, was none of; that promise being afterward fulfilled to another then present with Christ. It is granted, if the rest of the twelve had fallen away, you may suppose of them what you please. That they might fall away is to beg that which you cannot prove, nor will ever be granted you, though you should resolve to starve yourself if you get it not. But this is, —
4. “Confirmed out of Peter Martyr, whose doctrine it is that the promises of God are wont to be made with a respect unto the present estate and condition of things with men; — that is, they shall be performed unto men abiding under the qualifications unto which they are made; as, for example, what promises soever God maketh to believers with respect had to their faith, or as they are believers, are not to be looked on as performable, or obliging the maker of them unto them, in case they shall relapse into their former unbelief.”
Ans. It is too well known how and to what end our author cites Peter Martyr and men of the same judgment with him in this controversy, and to how little advantage to his cause with discerning men he hath done it. In the same place from whence these words are taken, the author distinguisheth of the promises of God, and telleth you that some of them are conditional, which are, saith he, of a legal nature, which only show the connection between the condition or qualification they require and the thing they promise thereunto; and such are those whereof he speaks: but others, he tells you, are absolute and evangelical, not depending on any condition in us at all. And so he tells us, out of Chrysostom, that this of our Saviour, Matt. xix. 28, is of the former sort; and the accomplishment of such like promises as these he informs us to consist not in the actual fulfilling of what is conditionally affirmed, but in the certain truth of the axiom wherein the condition and the event as such are knit together.
To the example urged, I shall only ask what Mr Goodwin’s judgment is of the promises that God hath made to believers that they 244shall never relapse into their former state of unbelief, and on what condition they are made? Whether his promise of his love unto and acceptance of believers, wherein he will abide for ever, do not infer their preservation in the condition wherein they are (that is, as believers), will in the next place fall under our consideration. Your conclusion is, in the sense explained you admit the proposition, “Whatsoever God promiseth is certain,” — that is, it shall certainly be fulfilled, or it shall not!
There is, moreover, no small contribution of strength, as to our establishment in the faith of it, given to our proposition by the signal engagement of the faithfulness of God for the accomplishment of the promises which he makes unto us, as it is manifested in these words of the apostle, 1 Cor. i. 9, “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son.” In the foregoing verse, he telleth them that God will confirm them to the end, that they may be blameless in the day of the Lord Christ; of which confident assertion he gives them this account, “God is faithful,” to make good his promises made unto them; he changeth not. When a promise is once passed, that which first presents itself to the consideration of them to whom it is made, and whose concernment it is that it be fulfilled, is the faithfulness of him that hath made the promise. This property of God’s nature doth the apostle therefore mind the saints of, to lead them to a full assurance of their preservation. His promise being passed, fear not his faithfulness for its accomplishment. Might there in this case a supposal be allowed of any such interveniencies as might intercept them in the way of enjoying what God truly promised, and cause them to come short thereof, what assurance could arise to them from the consideration of the faithfulness of God, who made those promises unto them? The faithfulness of God, then, is engaged for the accomplishment of the thing promised, which also shall be done in case that fail not. So also 1 Thess. v. 23, 24, “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” He assures them of their preservation in and unto the enjoyment of the things which he prayed for, and that upon the account of his faithfulness who had promised them. And saith he, “he will do it,” — namely, because he is faithful. Let the oppositions to it be never so many, the difficulties never so great, the interveniencies what they will, “he is faithful, and he will do it,” as it is affirmed, 2 Thess. iii. 3, “But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil;” as also in 1 Cor. x. 13, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” The same 245faithfulness of God is held out as that upon the account whereof no temptation shall befall believers, so as to separate them from him. The promise here peculiarly confirmed by it and established on it is such as no condition can tolerably be fixed unto. “I will not suffer believers to be overcome with temptations, in case they be not overcome with temptations,” is a promise not to be ascribed to the infinite wisdom of God, with which we have to do; and yet no other can with the least colour be proposed. All sin, all falling from God, is upon temptation. Though Satan and the world should have no hand in drawing men aside from God, yet what they do from their own lusts, they do from temptation, James i. 14, 15. If God in his faithfulness will not suffer any temptation to prevail against believers, unless they neglect their duty and fall from him, — and they can no otherwise neglect their duty nor depart from him but upon the prevalency of temptation, — their abiding with him, their final unconquerableness, hath a certainty answerable to the faithfulness of God.
This part of our strength Mr Goodwin attempts to deprive us of, chap. xi. sect. 18, p. 236, in these words: “Whereas the apostle mentioneth the ‘faithfulness of God’ as that divine principle in him, or attribute, out of which he is moved to establish and confirm believers unto the end, and so keep them from evil, by ‘faithfulness’ he doth not necessarily mean that property or attribute of his that renders him true and just, or constant in the performance of his promises; as if the apostle in these or any like places supposed such a promise, one or more, made by him, by which he stands obliged to establish and confirm his saints unto the end by a strong and irresistible hand.”
Ans. 1. The sum of this answer is, that the apostle, by saying “God is faithful,” doth not understand God’s faithfulness. What other virtue is intended in God by his faithfulness but that whereby his truth and his constancy in words and promises is signified, I know not. Let the places from the beginning of the Scriptures to the end wherein there is mention made of the faith or faithfulness of God, of his being faithful, with the application thereof, the scope and intendment of the place, be perused, and see if they will give the least allowance to turn aside from eyeing the property and perfection of God before mentioned, as that which they peculiarly intend. Deut. vii. 9; Ps. xxxvi. 5, cxxxix. 1, 2, 5, cxliii. 1; Isa. xlix. 7; Hos. ii. 20; Rom. iii. 3; 2 Tim. ii. 13; Heb. x. 23, 1 John i. 9, are some of them. Why we should wring out another sense of the expression in this place, I know not.
2. The faithfulness of God is not mentioned as that “divine principle out of which he is moved to establish and confirm believers to the end,” but only to confirm them in the faith of his unchangeableness and constancy in accomplishing the work of his free grace, which he had begun in them and promised to confirm to the end. 246The work flows from the principle of his free grace in Jesus Christ, whence alone he gives them great, free, and precious promises. His stability and constancy in those promises, as to their performance, is intended by his faithfulness and truth in them. What are the promises of God improperly so called, and not exhibited in words, which you intimate, I know not.
3. The apostle doth not only “suppose,” but in the name and authority of God actually gives, in the places under consideration, promises of the certain and infallible preservation of believers to the end, asserting the immutability of God’s engagement in them from his faithfulness. In brief, not to darken counsel and understanding with a multitude of words, by the promises of God we intend in a peculiar manner those expressed in the texts under consideration, — namely, that God will establish believers to the end, keep them from evil and all temptations that would overthrow them; and by the faithfulness of God, from whence believers have their assurance of the accomplishment of these promises, [we intend] that which the Scripture holds out, and all the world of believers have hitherto taken, to be the faithfulness of God, as was before described. But it seems the word is here used otherwise; for, saith he, —
“It is such a kind of faithfulness or disposition in him as that meant by Peter when he styleth him a ‘faithful Creator.’ Now, God is, and may properly be termed, a faithful Creator, because he constantly performs unto his creature whatsoever the relation of a Creator promiseth in an equitable and rational way unto it; which is, a great care and tenderness for the preservation and well-being of it. In like manner, he may, yea it is most likely that he is, called ‘faithful’ in his calling of men, as he is a spiritual Father or Creator, a giver of a new being unto men, because he never faileth to perform unto those new creatures of his whatsoever such a being as this, regularly’ interpreted, promiseth unto him who receiveth it from him who is the donor of it; that is, convenient and sufficient means for the preservation and well-being of it. So that the ‘faithfulness of God’ in the scripture in hand supposes no such promise made by God as our opposers imagine, — namely, whereby he should in terms or words stand engaged to establish, confirm, or keep believers from evil, his new creatures, his regenerated ones, after any such a manner but that they, if they be careless or negligent for themselves, may be shaken and decline, and commit evil notwithstanding.”
Ans. 1. That by God’s faithfulness, mentioned in that place of Peter, such a disposition as you afterward describe is intended, you had better say than undertake to prove. It is evident the scope of the apostle is, to exhort the saints of God in all their trials and afflictions to commit themselves and their ways with patience and quietness unto God, upon the account of his power to preserve them as he is 247the Creator of all, and his constancy in receiving of them, being present with them, abiding with them, as he is faithful in his word and promises. Yea, and the interpretation our author would have fixed on the expression here used is not only remote from the intendment of the place, turning that into a general good disposition towards all his creatures which is intimated for the peculiar support of believers, and that in their distress, but also is in itself a false, fond, and loose assertion. There is no law nor relation of creation that lays hold on God so far as to oblige him to the communication of one drop of his goodness to any of the creatures beyond what is given them by their creation, or to continue that unto them for one moment, all the dispensation of himself unto his creatures flowing from his sovereign good pleasure, doing what he will with his own.
2. He doth very faintly, when he hath made the farthest step in confident asserting that he dares venture upon (it may be, and it is most likely), suppose that the faithfulness of God in these places under consideration may be taken in such a sense as that before described. But, —
(1.) This is no sense at all of the faithfulness of God, neither is the word ever used in Scripture to signify any such thing in God or man, nor can it with any tolerable sense be applied to any such thing; neither would there be any analogy between that which in God we call faithfulness and that virtue in man which is so termed. Nor is the faithfulness of God here mentioned upon any such account as will endure this description, being insisted on only to assure the saints of the steadfastness and unalterableness of God in the performance of his promises made to them; neither is the obligation of God to continue his love and favour, with grace and means of it, to believers, founded upon such a disposition as is imagined, but in the free purpose of his will, which he purposed in Jesus Christ before the world was. So that there is not the least appearance of truth or soundness of reasoning, or any thing that is desirable, in this attempt to corrupt the word of God.
(2.) Then the faithfulness of God in the scriptures in hand bespeaks his truth and stability in the performance of his promises made of establishing believers to the end, keeping them from evil, not suffering any temptation to befall them, but making withal a way to escape. In all which God assures them he will prevent all such carelessness and negligence in them as is inconsistent with their establishment; which he will certainly accomplish.
And this is our major proposition, with its supplies of light and strength, freed from such exceptions as Mr G. supposes it liable unto.
For the assumption, I shall not much trouble myself with that ridiculous sense (called “a sober and orthodox explication”) which Mr Goodwin is pleased to put upon it to allow it to pass current. “In this 248sense,” saith he, “it is most true that God hath promised that all believers shall persevere; that is, that all true believers formally considered, that is, as such and abiding such, shall persevere, namely, in his grace and favour:” but this he presumes is not our sense, chap. xi. sect. 2, p. 226. And well he may presume it; for, whatever his greatest skill may enable him unto, we can make no sense of it but this, “God hath promised believers shall persevere in case they persevere;” which is to us upon the matter no sense at all. To persevere in God’s grace and favour is to continue in faith and obedience; which if men do, God hath solemnly promised and sworn that they shall so do! Certainly there is an orthodox sense in God’s promises that is not nonsense. Be it granted, then, that this is not our sense, not so much because not ours as because not sense, what is our meaning in this proposition? “It is,” saith Mr Goodwin, “that God will so preserve believers that none of them shall make shipwreck of their faith, upon what quicksands of lust and sensuality soever they shall strike, against what rock of obduration and impenitency soever they dash.” But I beseech you, who told you that this was our sense of this proposition? being, indeed, no more sense than that which you give in for your own. By “striking on the quicksands of lust, and dashing upon rocks of sensuality, impenitency, and obduration,” you bare in other places sufficiently explained yourself to intend their falling under the power of sin. And is this asserted by us to be the tenor of God’s promises to believers, or is it not? or do you not know that it is not so? Did ever any say that God preserveth men in believing under obduration and impenitency? — that is, under unbelief; for no men can be obdurately impenitent but unbelievers. Do not you know that we maintain that the grace faithfully engaged to be bestowed on them is given them to this end, to preserve them from the power of sin, from obduration and impenitency, and shall certainly be effectual for that purpose?
“Prima est hæc ultio, quod se
Judice, nemo nocens absolvitur.”
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