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Chapter VII. The mediation of Christ.
The consideration of the oath of God deferred — The method first proposed somewhat waived — The influence of the mediation of Christ into God’s free and unchangeable acceptance of believers proposed — Reasons of that proposal — Of the oblation of Christ — Its influence into the saints’ perseverance — All causes of separation between God and believers taken away thereby — Moral and efficient causes thereby removed — The guilt of sin, how taken away by the death of Christ — Of the nature of redemption — Conscience of sin, how abolished by the sacrifice of Christ — Heb. x. 3, 4, 14; Dan. ix. 24 opened — Rom. viii. 34, deliverance from all sin, how by the death of Christ — The law innovated in respect of the elect — The vindictive justice of God satisfied by the death of Christ — How that is done Wherein satisfaction doth consist; absolute, not conditional — The law, how fulfilled in the death of Christ — The truth of God thereby accomplished; his distributive justice engaged — Observations for the clearing of the former assertions — Whether any one for whom Christ died may die in sin — The necessity of faith and obedience — The reasons thereof — The end of faith and holiness — The first argument for the proof of the former assertions concerning the fruit and efficacy of the death of Christ, Heb. ix. 14 — The second — The third — The compact between the Father and Son about the work of mediation — The fourth — Good things bestowed on them for whom Christ died antecedently to any thing spiritually good in them — The Spirit so bestowed, and faith itself — The close of those arguments — Inferences from the foregoing discourse — The efficacy of the death of Christ, and the necessity of faith and obedience, reconciled — Sundry considerations unto that end proposed: 1. All spiritual mercies fruits of the death of Christ; 2. All the fruits of Christ’s death laid up in the hand of God’s righteousness; 3. The state of them for whom Christ died not actually changed by his death; 4. On what account believing is necessary — Christ secures the stability of the saints’ abiding with God — What is contrary thereunto; how by him removed — The world overcome by Christ, as managed by Satan in an enmity to the saints — The complete victory of Christ over the devil — The ways whereby he completes his conquest — The rule of Satan in respect of sinners twofold: 1. Over them; 2. In them — The title of Satan to a rule over men judged and destroyed by Christ — The exercise of all power taken from him The works of Satan destroyed by Christ in and for his elect — The Holy Spirit procured by the death of Christ — The giving of the Spirit the great promise of the new covenant — This farther proved and confirmed — The perpetual residence of the Holy Spirit with believers proved by the threefold testimony of Father, Son, and Spirit — Isa. lix. 21, the testimony of the Father proposed and vindicated — Our argument from hence farther cleared — This promise absolute, not conditional — No condition rationally to be affixed 289to it — The import of those words, “As for me” — To whom this promise is made — That farther cleared — Not to all Israel according to the flesh — Mr G.’s objections answered — The testimony of the Son given to the perpetual abiding of the Spirit with believers — John xiv. 16 opened — The promise in those words equally belonging to all believers — Mr G.’s objections answered — No promise of the Spirit abiding with believers on his principle allowed — The promise given to the apostles personally, yet given also to the whole church — Promises made to the church made to the individuals whereof it is constituted — The giving of this promise to all believers farther argued from the scope of the place, and vindicated from Mr G.’s exceptions — The third testimony, of the Holy Spirit himself, proposed to consideration — His testimony in sealing particularly considered, 2 Cor. i. 22; Eph. i. 13, iv. 30 — Of the nature and use of sealing amongst men — The end, aim, and use, of the sealing of the Holy Ghost — Mr G.’s objections and exceptions to our argument from that sealing of the Spirit considered and removed — The same farther carried on, etc.
There remains nothing for the confirmation of the first branch or part of the truth proposed, but only the consideration of the oath of God; which, because it ought certainly to be “an end of all strife,” I shall reserve the handling of it to the close of the whole, if God be pleased to carry us out thereunto, that we may give the oath of God its due honour, of being the last word in this contest.
The order of our method first proposed would here call me to handle our steadfastness with God, and the glory created upon our grace of sanctification; but because some men may admire, and ask whence it is that the Lord will abide so steadfast in his love towards believers as hath been manifested upon several accounts that he will, besides what hath been said before of his own goodness and unchangeableness, etc., I shall now add that outward consideration which lies in the mediation of Christ, upon the account whereof he acts his own goodness and kindness to us with the greatest advantage of glory and honour to himself that can be thought upon. Only I shall desire the reader to observe, that the Lord Jesus is an undertaker in this business of perfecting our salvation and safeguarding our spiritual glory not in one regard and respect only. There is one part of his engagement therein which, under the oath of God, is the close of the whole, and that is his becoming a surety to us of his Father’s faithfulness towards us, and a surety for us of our faithfulness to him: so that, upon the whole matter, the business on each side as to security will be found knit up in him, and there we shall do well to leave it, though the handling of that suretiship of his be not of our present consideration. Men will scarce dispute him out of his faithfulness. “Henceforth he dieth no more; death hath no dominion over him; he sits at the right hand of God, expecting to have his enemies made his footstool.” This, then, I will do, if God permit. And [as] for the steadfastness of his saints in their abiding with God, I shall, I fear, no otherwise insist peculiarly upon it but 290as occasion shall be ministered by dealing with our adversary as we pass on.
That which I shall now do is, to consider the influence of the priesthood of Christ in those two grand acts thereof, his oblation and intercession, into the perseverance of saints, according to that of the apostle: Heb. vii. 25, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” And I will do it the more carefully, because though it be one of the greatest strengths of our cause, yet I shall walk in a path wherein none shall meet me, for the most part of the way, to make any opposition.
My entrance into the consideration of the procurement of our glory by Christ shall be with that whereby he came into his own, namely, his oblation, which hath a twofold influence into the perseverance of the saints, or into the safeguarding of their salvation to the utmost:—
I. By removing and taking out of the way all causes of separation between God and those that come unto God by him;142142 Isa. lix. 2. that is, all believers. Now, these are of two sorts: 1. That which is moral, and procuring such separation or distance, which is the guilt of sin; 2. That which is efficient and working, as the power of Satan and of sin; — the first of these being that alone for which it may be supposed that God will turn from believers, and the latter that alone whereby they may possibly be turned from him. Now, that both these are so taken out of the way by the oblation of Christ that they shall never actually and eventually work or cause any total or final separation between God and believers, shall be demonstrated:—
1. He hath so taken away the guilt of sin from believers, from them that come to God by him, that it shall not prevail with the Lord to turn from them.143143 Eph. i. 10, ii. 13–16; Col. i. 20–22; 2 Cor. v. 19, 20; 1 John i. 7. He hath “obtained eternal redemption for us,” Heb. ix. 12, eternal and complete; not so far and so far, but “eternal redemption” hath he obtained, — redemption that shall be completed, notwithstanding any interveniencies imaginable whatever. This redemption, which he hath obtained for us, and which by him we obtain, the apostle tells us what it is, and wherein it doth consist: Eph. i. 7, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” He hath obtained for us everlasting forgiveness of sins. As to the complete efficiency of the procuring cause thereof, absolutely perfect and complete in its own kind, not depending on any condition in any other whatsoever for the producing the utmost effect intended in it, there shall be no after-reckoning or account for sin between God and them for whom he 291so obtains redemption. And the apostle, in the 10th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, disputes at large this difference between the typical sacrifices and the sacrifice of the blood of Christ. He tells you those were “offered year by year,” and could “never make the comers to God by them perfect,” or acquit them from sin, for then they “should have had no more conscience of sin,” being once purged; but now, saith he, “there was a remembrance made again of sins every year,” verses 1–4. If sin had been taken away, there would have been no more conscience of it; that is, no such conscience as upon the account whereof they came for help unto or healing by those sacrifices, — no more conscience condemning for sin. Conscience judges according to the obligation unto punishment which it apprehends upon it. Conscience of sin, — that is, a tenderness to sin, and a condemnation of sin, — still continues after the taking of the guilt of it away; but conscience disquieting, judging, condemning the person for sin, that vanisheth together with the guilt of it:144144 Rom. v. 1. and this is done when the sacrifice for sin is perfect and complete, and really attains the end for which it was instituted. And if any sacrifice for sin whatever do not completely take away that sin for which the oblation is made, and the atonement thereby, so that no after-charge might come upon the sinner, it is of necessity that that sacrifice be renewed again and again. The reason the apostle gives of the repetition of the legal sacrifices is, that they made not the comers to them perfect; that is, as to the taking away of their sins, and giving them entire and complete peace thereupon. All this, the apostle informs us, was done in the sacrifice of Christ: Verse 14, “By one offering he hath for ever perfected” (or made perfect that work for them as to this business of conscience for sin) “them that are sanctified.” His one offering perfectly put an end to this business, even the difference between God and us upon the account of sin; which if he had not done, it would have been necessary that he should have been often offered, his sacrifice having not obtained the complete end thereof. That the efficacy of this sacrifice of his cannot depend on any thing foreign unto it shall be declared afterward; also, that the necessity of our faith and obedience, in their proper place, is not in the least, hereby impaired, shall be manifested. That they may have a proper place, efficacy, and usefulness, and not be conditions whereon the effects of the death of Christ are suspended, as to their communication unto us, is by some denied; how weakly, how falsely, will then also appear. Now, this Christ doth for all that are sanctified, or dedicated, or consecrated unto God (which is almost the perpetual sense of that word in this epistle), in and by that offering of his. And this the apostle farther confirms from the consideration of the new covenant with us, ratified in, and whose effects were procured 292by, the blood-shedding and offering of Christ: Verse 17, “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Saith God, “Upon the account of the offering of Christ, there is an end of that business and that controversy which I have had with those sanctified ones; and therefore let them, as to this, as to the making satisfaction for sin, trouble themselves no more, to think of thousands of rams, or the like, for there is no more offering for sin required,” Micah vi. 6, 7. And on this foundation I may say there doth not remain any such guilt to be reckoned unto believers as that with regard thereunto God should forsake them utterly, and give them over unto everlasting ruin. And this is the sum of the apostle’s discourse in that chapter, as it looks upon the matter under present consideration: That sacrifice which so taketh away the sins of them for whom it is offered as that thereupon they should be perfect, or perfectly acquitted of them, and have no more conscience (which is a judgment of a man’s self answering to the judgment of God concerning him) of sin, so to judge him and condemn him for it as not to have remedy of that judgment or condemnation provided in that sacrifice, — that, I say, doth so take away the guilt of sin as that it shall never separate between God and them for whom and whose sin it was offered; but such was the sacrifice of Christ: ergo, etc. The reason of the consequence is clear from the very form of the proposition, and nothing is assumed but what is the express testimony of the apostle in that and other places.
So Dan. ix. 25. The design in the death of Christ is “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness” Christ makes an end of sin: not that there should be no more sin in the world, for there is yet sinning to the purpose, in some respect much more than before his death,145145 Heb. vi. 4–6, x. 26–31. and there will be so to eternity, if those under the ultimate sentence may be thought to sin; but he makes an end of it as to the controversy and difference about it between God and them for whom he died, and that by making reconciliation on the part of God, atoning him towards us146146 Rom. v. 10. (which atonement we are persuaded to accept), and by bringing in for us a righteousness which is everlasting and will abide the trial, which God will certainly accept.147147 Isa. xxvii. 3–5, xlv. 24, 25. Now, when God is satisfied for sin, and we are furnished with a righteousness exactly complete and answering to the utmost of his demand, whence can any more contest arise about the guilt of sin, or the obligation of the sinner unto punishment that from the justice and law of God doth attend it? This also the apostle urgeth, Rom. viii. 34, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died.” He argueth from the death of Christ to the ablation or removal of condemnation for sin, because by his death he hath “made 293an end of sin,” as was showed, “and brought in everlasting righteousness;” Heb. x. 14–18. To suspend the issue of all these transactions between God and the Mediator upon conditions by us to be accomplished, not bestowed on us, not purchased for us, and as to their event uncertain, is disadvantageously to beg the thing in question.
Now, because it appears that, notwithstanding the death of Christ, many for whom he died are kept a long season under the guilt of sin,148148 1 Cor. vi. 11; Eph. ii. 11, 12. and are all of them born in a condition of wrath, Eph. ii. 3, I shall crave leave a little to insist on this instance, and to show that notwithstanding the truth thereof, yet the guilt of sin is so taken away from all those for whom Christ died, by his death, that it shall never be a cause of everlasting separation between God and them. In the obedience and death of Christ, whereby, as a completely sufficient and efficacious means, he made way for the accomplishment of his eternal purposes, in such paths of infinite wisdom as brought in all the good he aimed at by it, in that order which the very frame and nature of things by him appointed required for the exaltation of his glory, God is satisfied, well pleased, and resolved that he will not take his course at law against those in the behalf of whom he died, 2 Cor. v. 18–20.
Though an arrest was gone forth against all mankind, yet the Lord suspended by his sovereignty the utmost execution of it, that room and space might be given, according to the eternal thoughts of his heart, for the deliverance of some. A reprieve is granted mankind, out of reasons and for purposes of his own. After the sentence of death was denounced against them, God being pleased to magnify his grace, according to his eternal counsel and purpose in Jesus Christ, innovates the law, as to the obligation of it unto punishment, on the behalf of some, by the interposition of the Son of his love in such a way as to undergo what was due unto those on whose behalf the interposition was made.149149 Eph. i. 5, 6, 11; 2 Tim. i. 9; Heb. vii. 22, x. 9, 10; 2 Cor. v. 21. And by this undertaking of Christ, in the very first notion of it, as it was satisfactory, thus much is done and accomplished:—
(1.) The vindictive justice of God is satisfied. That is, whereas such is the natural right, sovereignty, and dominion of God over his creatures, and such his essential perfections of holiness, purity, and righteousness, that if his creatures cast off his yoke and their dependence on him (which they do by every sin, what in them lieth), it is then of indispensable necessity that he render unto that sin or sinner guilty thereof a meet recompense of reward;150150 Gen. xviii. 25; Josh. xxiv. 19; Ps. v. 4–6; Heb. i. 13; Rom. i. 18, 32; 2 Thess. i. 6. Jesus Christ hath so answered his righteousness,151151 Vide Diat. de Just. Div. that without the impairing of his right or sovereignty, without the least derogation from his perfections, 294he may receive his sinning creatures again to favour. It being “the judgment of God that they which commit sin are worthy of death,” Rom. i. 32, and “a righteous thing with him to render tribulation to sinners,” 1 Thess. i. 6, for “shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Gen. xviii. 25; he hath set forth his Son to “declare his righteousness for the remission of sins,” Rom. iii. 24, 25. Now, for whom Christ died, he died for all their sins: 1 John i. 7, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin,” the application of it being commensurate to his intendment in his oblation, not extending itself to the actual effecting of any thing whatever which was not meritoriously procured thereby. “He loved the church, and gave himself for it; 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. He makes complete atonement to the justice of God on their behalf, so that the very vindictive justice of God hath nothing to lay to their charge. That which in God maintains the quarrel against sinners is atoned, and is no more their enemy than mercy itself; and this not upon condition of believing, to be antecedently accomplished before this be done. The satisfaction of justice vindictive depends not at all on any thing in us; it requires only that there be vindicta noxæ, and a vindication of the sovereignty of God over the sinning creature, by the infliction of that punishment which, in his infinite wisdom and righteousness, he hath proportioned unto sin. On a supposition of sin, in such creatures as being made meet and fit to yield voluntary obedience unto God, and so standing in a moral subjection to him, being their cutting off, what lies in them, their dependence on God (which that it should be continued is as necessary as that God be God, or the Lord of all), those creatures are, upon the account of the sovereignty and righteousness of God, whereof we speak, indispensably obnoxious unto punishment, which is of necessity required unto God’s retaining his dominion over them. By the death of Christ, this condition is so far repaired that the dependence and subjection unto God of those for whom he died is made up so far as to a deliverance of them from a necessity of being obnoxious unto punishment, and that completely, without any abeyance upon conditions in themselves, which can have no influence thereinto. So that, though the process of the law sent forth be not instantly recalled, but man is suffered to lie under that arrest for a season, yet God lets fall his suit on this account, and will never pass his first sentence, from which we are reprieved, unto full and final execution, pronouncing himself well pleased with his Son,152152 John iii. 36; Eph. ii. 3; 2 Cor. v. 18; Ps. xxi. 3, 4; Matt. xvii. 5. resting satisfied with his mediatory performances, and seeking no farther.
295(2.) The law of God is fulfilled. Unless this be answered in all the concernments of it, the Lord would be thought to change his will, to reverse his word, and to blur the copy of his own holiness. There is in the whole law and every parcel of it an eternal, indispensable righteousness and truth, arising either from the nature of the things themselves concerning which it is, or the relation of one thing unto another. That to fear God, to love him, to obey him, to do no wrong, are everlastingly, indispensably good and necessary, is from the nature of the things themselves, only with this supposition, that God would make creatures capable of yielding him such obedience. That that which is good shall be so rewarded, that which is evil so punished, is also an everlasting truth, upon supposition of such actual performances. Whereas, then, of this law there are two parts, the one absolute or preceptive in the rule and commands thereof, the other condition, al, and rewarding in its promise or condemning in its curse, Christ by his death put himself, in their behalf for whom he died (to speak to that particular), under the curse of it: “He redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,” Gal. iii. 13.153153 Rom. viii. 3, x. 3, 4; Gal. iv. 4, 5; Phil. iii. 9. Neither is this at all suspended on our believing. The law doth not threaten a curse only if we do not believe, but if we do not all things written therein, Deut. xxvii. 26. Whether we believe or not, the law takes no notice; as to the curse that it denounceth, if there hath been any sin, that must be executed. And the law is for the curse, as Isaac for the great spiritual blessing, Gen. xxvii. 27–29. He had but one; it hath but one great curse, and that being undergone by Christ, it hath not another for them in whose stead Christ underwent it. God having “made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, we become the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Cor. v. 21. All separation from God is by the curse of the law; all that is required in it, by it, is, that it be undergone. This is done by Christ for all believers; that thereby is taken away which alone can separate them from God or put any distance between them. But of this, and their subjection to the curse before their believing, more afterward.
(3.) The truth or veracity of God was particularly engaged to see sin punished, upon the account of the promulgation of the first express sanction of the law: “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die,” Gen. ii. 17. For the satisfying the engagement of God’s truth, there seemed to be a tender made in the sacrifices instituted of old; but it was rejected as insufficient to make good that word of God so eminently given out. There was neither any such relation, union, or conjunction, between the sinner and the innocent creature sacrificed, nor any such real worth in the sacrifice itself, as that the death of the substituted beast might by any means be so interpreted 296as to amount to the accomplishment of the truth of God, death being once denounced as the reward of sin: Heb. x. 5, 6, “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not: in burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hadst no pleasure;” but saith our Saviour, “Lo, I come to do try will, O God,” verse 7. Will that do it? Yea, it will assuredly, for in the volume of his book it is written that he should so do. All that God willed to be done for the accomplishment of his truth was fulfilled by Christ when he came to give up himself, a sweet-smelling sacrifice, Eph. v. 2. God, then, may be true, his truth being salved to the utmost, though never any one of them for whom Christ died do die. But this, to the salvation of believers, is only as removens prohibens.
(4.) The distributive justice of God is upon this oblation of Christ engaged, upon the covenant and compact made with Christ as mediator to that purpose, to bestow on them for whom he offered and died all the good things which he promised him for them, in and upon the account of his undertaking in their behalf.154154 Isa. liii. 10, 11. The distributive justice of God is that perfection of his nature whereby he rendereth to every one according to what either his vindictive justice on the one side, or his uprightness and faithfulness on the other, do require.155155 Gen. xviii. 25; Ps. v. 4–6, xxxi. 1, xxxv. 24, lxv. 5, lxxi. 2, xcvi. 13, xcviii. 2, ciii. 17, cxliii. 1, 11. In rewarding, it respects his own faithfulness in all his engagements immediately; in punishing, the demerit of the creature; — there being no such natural connection and necessary coherence, from the nature of the things themselves, between obedience and reward as there is between sin and punishment.
Now, the Lord having given many eminent and glorious promises to his Son Jesus Christ (some whereof we shall mention afterward) concerning his seed and offspring, or those that he committed to his charge to be redeemed from their sins,156156 Ps. ii. 7, 8, cx. 3, 7, xlv. 13, 14; Isa. xlix. 5, 6, 8, 9, lii. 13–15, liii. 11, lix. 20; John xii. 31, 32. it is incumbent on him, in regard of his righteousness, to make out all those things in due time unto them; and therefore, that he might magnify that righteousness and truth of his, he hath cast the whole procedure of his grace into such a way, and all the acts of it into such a dependence upon one another, as that the one of them should have infallible influence into the other, and the effects of every one of them be rendered indubitably certain.
Thus upon the account of the death of Christ, antecedently to all considerations of faith or belief in them for whom he died, thus much is done for the extinguishing the quarrel about sin: The vindictive justice, law, and truth of God, are disengaged from pursuing the sentence of death and everlasting separation from God against them as 297sinners, neither have they at all any thing to lay to their charge for which they should be cast out of the presence of God; yea, the Lord is moreover, in his own faithfulness and righteousness, with respect to the covenant of the Mediator, engaged to do that which is needful to the brining of them to himself.157157 Isa. liii. 6; Gal. iv. 4, 5; Heb. x. 5–9; Rom. viii. 38, 34; Isa. liii. 11, 12; Rom. iv. 25; Phil. i. 29; Eph. i. 3–6. After some previous observations, I shall confirm what hath been spoken by sundry arguments. I say, then, —
(1.) That it is a most vain supposal which some make: “What if any one of them for whom Christ died should die in an unregenerate condition? would not the justice and condemning power of the law of God, notwithstanding the death of Christ, lay hold upon them?” It is, I say, a supposal of that which in sensu composito is impossible, and so in that sense (however upon other respects it may) not to be argued from. Christ died that those for whom he died might live, that they might be quickened and born again;158158 John iii. 16, 17, vii. 38; 2 Cor. v. 14, 15. and so they shall, in their due season, every one undoubtedly be, and not any of them die in their sins.
(2.) That our affirmation is not in the least liable to that exception which usually men insist upon in opposition unto it, — namely, “That if Christ hath so satisfied justice, and fulfilled the law in reference to all them for whom he died, that the sentence of condemnation should not be issued out against them, but they must infallibly be saved, then there is no necessity either that they do at all believe, or, if they do, that they live in holiness and the avoidance of sin, all that being accomplished which by these mediums is sought for.” I say, our position in itself is no way liable to this exception; for, —
[1.] Though the justice, law, and truth of God be satisfied and fulfilled as to their sins, so that he hath not on that account any thing to lay to their charge, yet this hinders not at all but that God may assign and ascribe such a way for their coming to him as may be suited to the exalting of his glory, the honour of Jesus Christ, who hath brought all this about, and the preparing of the soul of the sinner for the full enjoyment of himself: and this he hath done by the law of faith; which gives him the glory of his grace and all his other attributes; exalts Jesus Christ, whom it is his will we should honour as we honour himself;159159 Isa. liii. 5, 6, 11, 12; Dan. ix. 24; Rom. viii. 32, 33; Gal. iii. 13; Heb. ii. 14, 15; Rom. i. 16, 17, iii. 23–25, iv. 16, ix. 31, 32; John v. 23. and empties the poor sinful creature of itself, that it may be made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.160160 Rom. iii. 27; Eph. i. 6; Phil. iii. 8–11; Col. i. 12.
[2.] This consideration of the death of Christ, of his freeing us from condemnation for any or all of our sins, is not to be taken 298apart or separated from the other, of his procuring the Holy Spirit and grace for us, that we should not commit sin, being born of God, with all the dispensations of precepts and promises, exhortations and threatenings, whereby he morally carries on the work of his grace in the hearts of his saints. Setting us free from the guilt of sin, he so far also sets us free from the power of sin that we should be dead to it, live no longer in it, that it should not reign in us, nor prevail to turn us utterly from God.161161 Eph. v. 25–27; Titus ii. 14; Gal. iv. 4–6; John xvii. 17; Matt. xxviii. 18–20; Eph. iv. 11–14; Rom. vi. 2–6, etc.
[3.] They seem not much to be acquainted with the nature of faith, holiness, and communion with God, who suppose the end of them is only for the escaping of the wrath that is to come. They are the things whereby we are daily renewed and changed into the image of the glory of God,162162 Eph. iv. 22; 2 Cor. v. 15; Rom. xii. 1, 2; 2 Cor. iii. 18. and so not only made useful and serviceable to him here, but also prepared for the fullness of his likeness, wherewith we shall be satisfied, hereafter. Wherefore, observe, —
[4.] That though this complete atonement be made in the death of Christ, yet it remains free in the bosom of God when he will begin our actual deliverance from under that arrest of death that was gone out against us,163163 Matt. xx. 5, 6. and how far in this life he will carry it towards perfection.164164 2 Thess. i. 11; John iii. 8. It is, I say, in his bosom when he will bestow his Spirit on us for regeneration and faith, when he will actually absolve us from under the arrest of the law, by the application of his mercies in Christ unto us by the promise of the gospel, and how far he will carry on the work of our deliverance from sin in this life. Only that is done upon the account whereof it is impossible that the quarrel against sin should be carried on to the utmost execution of the sentence denounced towards those sinners for whom Christ died;165165 2 Pet. i. 1. which I prove by these following arguments:—
1st. It is plainly affirmed that Christ, by his death, obtained “everlasting redemption,” Heb. ix. 12. He obtained everlasting redemption before his ascending into the most holy place, called elsewhere the “purging of our sins,” Heb. i. 3. Now this redemption, as was said, the apostle informs us consists in “the forgiveness of sins:” Eph. i. 7, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,” or the intercision of that obligation unto punishment which attends sin in reference to the sinner, and his subjection to the law of God and the righteousness thereof. As the oblation of Christ respecteth God and his justice, to whom it is given as a price and ransom, and whereof it is an atonement, it is, and is called (or we are said to receive thereby), “redemption;” as it respects them who receive the benefit of that redemption, it is “the forgiveness of sins.” 299Forgiveness of sins, as it is completed and terminated in the consciences of believers, requireth the interposition of faith,166166 Rom. i. 5. for the receiving of Christ in the promise, “who of God is made unto us righteousness,” 1 Cor. i. 30; but in respect of the procurement of it, and the removing all causes upon the account whereof sin should be imputed unto us, that is perfected in the oblation of Christ.167167 Rom. iv. 4. Hence he is said to “bear our sins in his own body on the tree,” 1 Pet. ii. 24. And being once on him, either he was discharged of them, or he must for ever lie under the burden of them. They were on him on the tree; what, then, is become of them? If he were freed of them, and justified from them (as he was, Isa. i. 8, 9), how should they ever be laid to our charge? And yet this freedom from condemnation for sin for all the elect, which God himself so clearly asserts, Rom. viii. 32, 33, etc, doth not in the least set them free from the necessity of obedience, nor acquit them from contracting the guilt of sin upon the least irregularity or disobedience.
2dly. We are said to do together with Christ those things which he doth for us in his own person, and that upon the account of that benefit which by those his personal performances doth redound unto us, and which being done, the quarrel about sin, as to make an utter separation between God and our souls, is certainly removed. Thus we are said to die with him, to be raised again with him, and with him we enter into the holy place, this whole business about sin being passed through, for he that is dead is justified from sin.168168 Rom. vi. 5, 8; 2 Cor. v. 14, 15; Col. iii. 1; Rom. vi. 7. Now, all this being done by us and for us, in and by our Head, can we henceforth die any more? shall death any more have dominion over us? This the apostle argues, 2 Cor. v. 14, 15: “We judge,” saith he, “that if one died for all, then were all” (that is, all those for whom he died) “dead,” or died likewise; they were dead in and with him, their sponsor, as to the curse due for sin, that henceforth they might “live to him which died for them.”
3dly. The compact or agreement that was between the Father and the Son as mediator, about the business of our redemption in his blood, manifests this truth. The Father required at his hands that he should do his will, fulfil his pleasure and counsel, make his soul an offering for sin, and do that which the sacrifices of bulls and goats shadowed out, but could never effect; upon the performance whereof he was to “see his seed,” and to “bring many sons to glory.”169169 Ps. xl. 8; Isa. liii. 10, 11; Heb. x. 1, 4, 7, ii. 10. A covenanting and agreement into an uncertain issue and event (as that must be of God and the Mediator, if the salvation of the persons concerning which and whom it was be not infallibly certain) ought not, at any cheap rate or pretence, to be assigned to infinite wisdom. In the accomplishment of this undertaking, whereunto 300Christ was designed, the Father dealt with him in strict and rigid justice;170170 Rom. viii. 32; 1 Pet. ii. 24; 2 Cor. v. 21; Gal. iii. 13; Heb. ii. 9. there was neither composition about the debt, nor commutation about the punishment that he had taken upon himself. Now, doth not exact justice require that the ransom being given in, the prisoners be delivered? that the debt being paid, the bond be cancelled as to any power of imprisoning the original debtor? that punishment being undergone and the law fulfilled, the offender go free? Especially, all this being covenanted for in the first undertaking, doubtless wrath shall not arise a second time. The right knowledge, use, and improvement, of this grace being given, bounded, and directed, by the gospel, it is safeguarded from abuse by that which God calls his own wisdom.
4thly. It appears from what God bestows upon his elect, upon the account of the undertaking of Christ for them, in the pursuit of the eternal purpose of his will, antecedently to any thing whatsoever in them that should engage him to do them the least good. When God comes as a friend, to hold out unto and bestow good things upon men, — I mean, good in that kind of mercy which is peculiarly suited to the bringing of them to the enjoyment of himself, — it is evident that he hath put an end to all enmity and quarrel between him and them. Now, antecedently unto any thing in men, God, for Christ’s sake, bestows, with the greatest act of friendship imaginable, no less than the Holy Spirit on them. By him they are quickened; and their faith is but a fruit of that Spirit bestowed on them. If they have not any sufficiency in themselves, as much as to think a good thought, nor can do any thing that is acceptable to God, being by nature dead in trespasses and sins, which at present (the Scripture affirming it) I take for granted, then assuredly God doth give his Holy Spirit to the saints,171171 Isa. lix. 21; Rom. viii. 11; Gal. v. 22; 1 Cor. xii. 4; 2 Cor. iii. 5; John xv. 4, 5; Eph. ii. 1–3. whereby he “works in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure,”172172 Phil. ii. 13. antecedently to any good thing in them that is well-pleasing unto him. Every thing that men do must either be brought forth by the strength and ability of their own natural faculties, assisted and provoked by motives and persuasions from without, or it must be the operation of the Spirit of God. There is not another principle to be fixed on. The first (at present I take it for granted) is not the fountain of any spiritual acting whatsoever, neither can any gracious act be educed radically from the corrupt natural faculty, however assisted or advantaged.173173 Gen. viii. 21; Job xiv. 4; Matt. xii. 33. It must be the Spirit, then, that is the sole principal cause and author of all the movings of our souls towards God that are acceptable to him in Christ. Now, the cause is certainly before the effect; and the Spirit, in order of nature, is bestowed upon us antecedently to 301all the grace which he worketh in us. Whether the Spirit be bestowed on men on the account of Christ’s undertaking for them none can question but they must withal deny him to be the mediator of the new covenant. The Spirit of grace is the principal promise thereof, Isa. lix. 20, 21. “We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ,” Eph. i. 3. Surely the Holy Spirit himself, so often promised to us of God, is a spiritual blessing. God’s bestowing faith on us is antecedent to our believing, and this also is given upon the account of Christ: Phil. i. 29, “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ to believe on him.” If, then, God, for Christ’s sake, antecedently to any thing that is good, that is not enmity to him, that is not iniquity in men, do bestow on them all that ever is good in them, as to the root and principle of it, surely his quarrel against their sins is put to an issue. Hence Christ being said to “make reconciliation for the sins of the people,” Heb. ii. 17, God, as one pacified and atoned thereupon, is said to be “in him reconciling the world unto himself,” 2 Cor. v. 19; and in the dispensation of the gospel he is still set forth as one carrying on that peace whose foundation is laid in the blood of his Son,174174 Eph. ii. 13–17. by the atonement of his justice; and we are said to accept or “receive the atonement,” Rom. v. 11. We receive it by faith, it being accepted by him. Thus this death and oblation is said to be a “sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour,” Eph. v. 2, — that wherein God is abundantly delighted, and wherewith his soul is fully satisfied; so that as when he smelled a sweet savour from the sacrifice of Noah, he sware he would curse the earth no more,175175 Gen. viii. 21. smelling this sweet savour of the oblation of Christ on the account of them for whom it was offered, he will not execute the curse on them whereof they were guilty. I might also insist on those testimonies, for the farther proof of the former assertion, where an immediate efficacy for the taking away of sin is ascribed to the death of Christ;176176 John xvii. 19; Rom. v. 19, vi. 6; 2 Cor. v. 21; Eph. v. 25, 26; Titus ii. 14. but what hath been spoken may at present suffice.
The premises considered, some light may be brought forth to discover the various mistakes of men about the effects of the death of Christ as to the taking away of sin, if that were now the matter before us.177177 Heb. ix. 14, x. 14; 1 Pet. ii. 24, 1 John i. 7; Rev. i. 5, 6. Some having truly fixed their thoughts on the efficacy of the death of Christ for abolition of sin, do give their lusts and darkness leave to make wretched inferences thereupon; as that, “Because we are so completely justified and accepted before and without our believing, or the consideration of any thing whatever in us, therefore sin is nothing, nor at all to be accounted of.” And though they say we must not sin that grace may abound, yet too many, by 302woful experience, have discovered what such corrupt conclusions have tended unto. Others, again, fixing themselves on the necessity of obedience, and the concurrence of actual faith to the completing of justification in the soul of the sinner, with a no less dangerous reflection upon the truth, do suspend the efficacy of the death of Christ upon our believing, “which gives life, and vigour, and virtue unto it,” as they say, “and is the sole originally discriminating cause of all the benefits we receive thereby. Without the antecedent accomplishment of that condition in us, or our actual believing, it is not,” say they, “nor will be, useful.” Yea, that “the intention of God is to bestow upon us the fruits and effects of the death of Christ, upon condition we do believe; which that we shall is no part of his purchase, and which we can of ourselves perform,” say some of them, others not. Doubtless, these things are not, being rightly stated, in the least inconsistent. Christ may have his due, and we [may be] bound to the performance of our duty; which might be cleared by an enlargement of the ensuing considerations:—
(1.) That all good things whatsoever that are spiritual, that are wrought either for men or in them, are fruits of the death of Christ. They have nothing of themselves but nakedness, blood, and sin, guilt and impenitency; so that it is of indispensable necessity that God should show them favour antecedently to any act of their believing on him. Faith is given for Christ’s sake, as was observed.
(2.) That all the effects and fruits of the death of Christ, antecedent to our believing, are deposited in the hand of the righteousness and faithfulness of God, to whom as a ransom it was paid, as an atonement it was offered, before whom as a price and purchase it was laid down.178178 1 Tim. ii. 5, 6; Heb. ii. 17; 2 Cor. v. 18, 19; 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20. It is all left in the hands of God’s faithfulness, righteousness, mercy, and grace, to be made out effectually to them for whom he died, in the appointed time or season. So that, —
(3.) The state or condition of those for whom Christ died is not actually and really changed by his death in itself, but they lie under the curse whilst they are in the state of nature, unregenerate, and all effects of sin whatever.179179 Eph. ii. 1–5; John iii. 36. That which is procured for them is left in the hand of the Father; they are not in the least intrusted with it until the appointed time do come.
(4.) That faith and belief are necessary, not to add any thing to complete the procurement of forgiveness of sins, any or all, but only to the actual receiving of it, when, upon the account of the death of Christ, it pleaseth God, in the promise of the gospel, to hold it out and impart it unto the soul, thereby completing covenant-justification.
And thus the whole business of salvation may be resolved into 303the mediation of Christ, and yet men carried on under an orderly dispensation of law and gospel into the enjoyment of it. Of the whole, these degrees are considerable:—
(1.) God’s eternal purpose of saving some in and by the mediation of Christ, that mediation of Christ being interposed between the purpose of God and the accomplishment of the thing purposed, as the fruit and effect of the one, the meritorious procuring cause of the other. This act of the will of God the Scripture knows by no other name than that of “election,” or “predestination,” or “the purpose of God according to election,” or “the purpose of his will in Jesus Christ;” which though it comprise his will of not punishing them in their own persons that are within the verge of this his purpose, yet it is not properly an act of forgiveness of sin, nor are they pardoned by it, nor is the law actually innovated or its obligation on them unto punishment dissolved, nor themselves justified in any sense thereby.180180 Acts xiii. 38, 39; Rom. v. 10; John iii. 16; Rom. v. 7–9, 1 John iv. 10; Heb. ii. 17, ix. 14; Eph. i. 4–9, etc.; Rom. ix. 11; John iii. 36; Eph. ii. 3; Rom. v. 6, 8; Gal. iii. 23; 2 Cor. v. 21; Rom. iii. 23–25; 1 Cor. i. 30.
(2.) That interposition of the Lord Christ whereof we have been treating being a medium indispensably necessary as to satisfaction, and freely designed by the will and wisdom of God for such a procurement of the good things designed in his eternal counsel as might advance the glory of his grace and make known his righteousness also; and this being fixed on by God as the only thing by him required that all the mercies, all the grace of his eternal purpose, might be dispensed in the order by him designed unto them; upon the performance of it God resteth as well pleased, and they for whom he hath mediated by his blood, or for whom he is considered so to have done, are reconciled unto God, as to’ that part of reconciliation which respects the love of God, as to the dispensing the fruits of it unto them even whilst they are enemies, upon the accounts before mentioned.181181 Matt. xvii. 5; Rom. v. 9, 10; 2 Cor. v. 18, 19, 21; 1 Pet. ii. 24.
(3.) Things being thus stated between God and them for whom Christ died, on the account of his death God actually absolves them from under that sentence and curse of the law, by sending the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, to quicken them and to implant faith in them.182182 Gal. iv. 6; Rom. viii. 11. And in what act of God to place his actual absolution of sinners, ungodly persons, whom Christ died for, but in this actual collation of the Spirit and habit of grace on them, I am not as yet satisfied. Neither doth this in any measure confound our justification and sanctification; for nothing hinders but that the same act, as it is of free grace in opposition to works or any thing in us, may justify us, or exert the fruit of his love, which was before purchased by Christ, in our gracious acceptation, notwithstanding all that was 304against us, and also, by principling us with grace for obedience, sanctify us throughout.
(4.) This being done, they with whom God thus graciously deals “receive the atonement,” and, “being justified by faith, have peace with God.” But this is not the matter or subject of our present contest.
This, then, is the first influence which the blood-shedding in the death and oblation of Christ hath into the saints’ continuance of the love and favour of God: It taketh away the guilt of sin, that it shall not be such a provocation to the eyes of his glory (his law being fulfilled and justice satisfied) as to cause him utterly to turn away his love from them; and they becoming “the righteousness of God in him,”183183 2 Cor. v. 21. to all intents and purposes, what should separate them from the love of God? He hath made peace in the blood of the cross of his Son, and will not engage in enmity against his elect any more to eternity; but, in his own way and own time (as he hath the sovereignty of all in his hands), he will bring them infallibly to the enjoyment of himself.184184 Eph. ii. 13–17; Rom. viii. 32, 33. And thus much, by this discourse about the effects of the death of Christ, have we clearly obtained: What Christ aims to accomplish by his death, and what was the design and intention of the Father that he should accomplish, that cannot fail of its issue and appointed event by any interposure whatever. That the effectual removal of every thing that might intercept, hinder, or turn aside, the love and favour of God from them for whom he died, is the designed effect of the death of Christ, hath been demonstrated. This, then, in the order wherein it hath seemed good to the infinite wisdom of God to proceed in dispensing his grace unto sinners, shall certainly be fulfilled, and all believers saved to the utmost.
2. I come, in the second place, to demonstrate that our Saviour secures the stability of the love of the saints to God and their abiding with him, by taking away and removing whatever might hinder them herein, or prevail upon them utterly and wickedly to depart from him. That which meritoriously might cause God to turn from us he utterly destroys and abolishes; and that which efficiently might cause us to turn from God, that also he destroys and removes. Now, all that is of this kind, that works effectually and powerfully for the alienating of the hearts of believers from God, or keeping men in a state of alienation from him, may be referred unto two principles: (1.) Satan himself;185185 Gen. iii. 14. (2.) His works. The world, as under the curse, is an instrument in his hand, who is called the god thereof, to allure, vex, and mischief us withal; neither hath it the least power or efficacy in itself, but only as it is managed in the hand of Satan to turn men from God.186186 2 Cor. iv. 4; Matt. iv. 9. And yet the Lord Christ hath not 305let that go free neither without its death’s wound, but bids his followers “be of good cheer, for he had overcome the world,” — that is, for them, and in their stead, — so that it should never be used nor heightened in its enmity to a conquest over them;187187 John xvi. 33; Gal. i. 4, 1 John v. 4, 5. I mean a total and final conquest, such as might frustrate any intention of God in his undertaking for them. It is not our loss of a little blood, but our loss of life, that makes the enemy a conqueror. But now for Satan:—
(1.) He overcomes, destroys, and breaks him in pieces, with his power: Heb. ii. 14, “Through death he destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” The first thing that was promised of him was, that he should “break the head of the serpent,” Gen. iii. 15, He doth it also in and for “the seed of the woman,” — all the elect of God, opposed to the seed of the serpent or generation of vipers. In pursuit hereof he “spoils principalities and powers, and makes a show of them openly, triumphing over them in his cross,” Col. ii. 15. In the blood of his cross he conquered, and brake the power of the devil, “binding that strong man armed, and spoiling his goods,” making a show of him and them, as great conquerors were wont to do with their captives and their spoils.
Now, there are two ways whereby the blood of Christ thus brake the power of Satan, that he shall not lead those always captive at his pleasure, nor rule in them, as children of disobedience, in the behalf of whom his power was so broken:—
[1.] He subdues him by taking away all that right and title which he had by sin to rule over them: I speak of the elect of God. By the entrance of sin, the devil entered upon a twofold rule in reference to sinners:— 1st. A rule over them with the terror and dread of death and hell They are in bondage by reason of death all their days, Heb. ii. 14, 15; and the devil hath the power of that death upon the world whereunto they are in bondage. The death that is in the curse is put into his hand to manage it, to the dread and terror of sinners; and by it he bath always kept many, and to this day doth keep innumerable souls in unexpressible bondage, putting them upon barbarous inhumanities to make atonement for their sins, and forcing some to inflict revenge and destruction upon themselves, thinking to prevent, but really hastening, that which they fear. As of old this power of his lay at the bottom of all the abominations wherewith men provoked God when they thought to atone him,188188 Diat. de Just. Divin. as by burning their children in the fire, and the like, Micah vi. 6, 7,189189 Lev. xviii. 21; Deut. xviii. 10, 2 Kings xxi. 6, xxiii. 10; 2 Chron. xxxiii. 6; Jer. xxxii. 35. so at present is it the principle of all that superstitious will-worship and religious drudgery which is spread over the antichristian world. 306Yea, the inventions of men ignorant of the righteousness of God, and convinced of their own insufficiency to perform, work out, and establish, a righteousness of their own, that shall perfectly answer the exact, holy demands of the law, as far as to them is discovered, to deliver themselves from under this dread of death, wherewith he that hath the power of it terrifies them all their days, are indeed the foundation and spring, the sum and substance, of all religions in the world, and the darling of all religious persons, in and with whom Christ is not all and in all. And herein have the Papists gone one notable step beyond all their predecessors in superstition and devotion; for whereas they universally contented themselves with sacrifices, purifications, purgations, lustrations, satisfactions, recompenses, to be in this life performed, these latter, — more refined, sublimated, mercurial wits, — observing that nothing they could here invent would settle and charm the spirits of men haunted with the dread of death we speak of, but that instantly they came again, with the same disquietness as formerly, and renewed mention of sin, upon the insufficiency of the atonement fixed on for its expiation, they found out that noble expedient of the future purgatory, which might maintain the souls of men in some hopes in this life, and secure themselves from the cries and complaints of men against the insufficiency of their remedy which they do prescribe. 2dly. As he rules over men by death, and hell that follows after, so also he rules in men by sin: he “ruleth in the children of disobedience,” Eph. ii. 2. And to this end, to secure men to himself, — he being that strong man armed who hath the first possession, and labours to keep what he hath got in peace,190190 Matt. xii. 29; Mark iii. 27; Luke xi. 21. — he sets up strongholds, imaginations, and high things, against God, 2 Cor. iv. 4. Now, this twofold power of Satan, over men and in mere, doth both arise from sin, whereby men are first cast out of God’s love and care, becoming obnoxious to death, and, secondly, are alienated from God in willing subjection to his enemy. And both these parts and branches of his dominion are, in reference unto the elect, east down and destroyed, and taken away; for, first, Christ by his death cashiers the title and claim that Satan laid to the exercise of any such power, in reference unto the elect. When men cast down any from rule, they may interrupt and put by their exercise of any power, but they cannot take away their title unless it be of their own giving. Christ by his death takes away the very bottom, foundation, and occasion, of the whole power of Satan. All the power of Satan in the first sense consists in death, and those things that either conduce to it or do attend it. Blow, death entered by sin, and therewithal the power of Satan.191191 Gen. iii. 3; Deut. xxvii. 26; Rom. v. 12. The Lord Jesus taking away sin and putting an end thereunto, 307as was manifested, the whole title of Satan falls and comes to nothing, Heb. ii. 9–15. And this was really done in the cross, its manifestation by the gospel ensuing thereupon, according to the appointment of God, Col. ii. 15; Titus i. 3.
[2.] He takes away the exercise of his power, and that to the utmost: for he binds him with bonds, — he binds the strong man armed, Matt. xii. 29; and he breaks his head, Gen. iii. 15; then leads him captive, Ps. lxviii. 18; triumphs over him, Col. ii. 15; treads him down under the feet of his, Rom. xvi. 20, as the kings of Canaan were trod down under the feet of the children of Israel; then destroys him, Heb. ii. 14. What exercise of power is left to a conquered, bound, wounded, captived, triumphed-over, trodden-down, destroyed caitiff?
Think ye this wretch shall ever wholly prevail against any one of them for whose sake all this was done to him? Neither can this with any colour of reason be said to be done for them, or with respect unto them, towards whom the power of Satan remains entire all their days, whom he leads captive and rules over at his pleasure, until death takes full dominion over them.
(2.) As he destroys Satan, so he doth his works: “For this cause was he manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil,” 1 John iii. 8. He doth not only bind the strong man armed, but also he spoils his goods, Matt. xii. 29. Whatsoever is in men that follows from that corrupted principle of nature is reckoned to the work of Satan, being the issue of his seduction. Whatsoever his temptations draw men out unto, the Lord Christ came to destroy it all, to make an end of it; and he will not fail of his end, but certainly carry on his undertaking, until he hath utterly destroyed all those works of Satan in the hearts of all that are his. He “redeems us from our vain conversation,” 2 Pet. i. 18, 19, — from the power of our lusts and corruptions, leading us out to a vain conversation. The apostle tells us, Rom. vi. 6, that by his death the “old man is crucified,” and the “body of sin destroyed.” The craft of sin, the old man, and the strength of sin, the body of it, — or the ruling of original sin, the old man, and the full fruit of actual sin in the body of it, — are by the death of Christ crucified and destroyed. And in that whole chapter, from our participation in the death of Christ, he argues to such an abolition of the law and rule of sin, to such a breaking of the power and strength of it, that it is impossible that it should any more rule in us or have dominion over us. Of the way whereby virtue flows out from the death of Christ for the killing of sin I am not now to speak.
And this is the first way whereby the death of Christ hath an influence into the safeguarding of believers in their continuance in the love and favour of God: He so takes away the guilt of sin that it shall never be able utterly to turn the love of God from them; and so takes away the rule of Satan and power of sin, destroying the one 308and killing the other, that they shall never be able to turn them wholly from God.
II. Farther to secure their continuance with God, he procureth the Holy Spirit for them, as was showed before. But because, much weight lies upon this part of our foundation, I shall a little farther clear it up. That the Spirit of grace and adoption, with all those spiritual mercies and operations wherewith he is attended and accompanied, is a promise of the new covenant, doubtless is by its own evidence put out of question. There is scarce any promise thereof wherein he is not either clearly expressed or evidently included; yea, and oftentimes the whole covenant is stated in that one promise of the Spirit, the actual collation and bestowing of all the mercy thereof being his proper work and peculiar dispensation for the carrying on the great design of the salvation of sinners. So Isa. lix. 21, “As for me,” saith God, “this is my covenant with them; My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth,” etc.; — “This is my covenant,” saith God, “or what in my covenant I do faithfully engage to bestow upon you.” But of this text and its vindication more afterward. Many other places, not only pregnant of proof to the same purpose, but expressly in terms affirming it, might be insisted on.
Now, that this Spirit, promised in the covenant of grace, as to the bestowing of him on the elect of God, or those for whom Christ died, is of his purchasing and procurement in his death, is apparent:—
1. Because he is the mediator of the covenant, by whose hands and for whose sake all the mercies of it are made out to them who are admitted into the bond thereof. Though men are not completely stated in the covenant before their own believing, which brings in what on their part is stipulated, yet the covenant and grace of it lays hold of them before, even to bestow faith on them, or they would never believe; for faith is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.192192 Gen. xvii. 7; Jer. xxxi. 31–34, xxxii. 38–40; Ezek. xi. 19, 20, xxxvi. 25, 26; Heb. viii. 8–12; Eph. ii. 8. God certainly bestows no such gifts but from a covenant. Spiritual graces are not administered solely in a providential dispensation. Faith for the receiving the pardon of sin is no gift nor product of the covenant of works. Now, as in general the mercies of the covenant are procured by the mediator of it, so this whereof we speak in an especial manner: Heb. ix. 15, “For this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” By his death, they for whom he died, and who thereupon are called, being delivered from their sins, which were against the covenant of works,193193 Deut. xxvii. 26; Gal. iii. 10, Rom. iii. 20. receive the promise or pledge of an eternal inheritance. What this great promise 309here intended is, and wherein it doth consist, the Holy Ghost declares, Acts ii. 33. The promise which Jesus Christ received of the Father, upon his exaltation, was that of the Holy Ghost, having purchased and procured the bestowing of him by his death. Upon his exaltation, the dispensation thereof is committed to him, as being part of the compact and covenant which was between his Father and himself, the grand bottom of his satisfaction and merit. This is the great, original, radical promise of that eternal inheritance. By the promised Spirit are we begotten anew unto a hope thereof, made meet for it, and sealed up unto it:194194 Rom. viii. 11; Col. i. 12; Eph. iv. 30. yea, do but look upon the Spirit as promised, and ye may conclude him purchased; “for all the promises of God are yea and amen in Jesus Christ,” 2 Cor. i. 20. They all have their confirmation, establishment, and accomplishment in, by, and for Jesus Christ. And if it be granted that any designed, appointed mercy whatever, that, in Christ, the Lord blesseth us withal, be procured for us by him in the way of merit (being given freely to us through him, but reckoned to him of debt), it will easily be manifested that the same is the condition of every mercy whatever promised unto us, and given us upon his mediatory interposition.
2. It appears from that peculiar promise that Christ makes of sending his Holy Spirit unto his own. He tells them, indeed, once and again, that the Father will send him, as he comes from that original and fountain love from which also himself was sent;195195 John xiv. 16, 26. but withal he assures us that he himself will send him: John xv. 26, “When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth.” It is true that he is promised here only as a comforter, for the performance of that part of his office; but look, upon what account he is sent for any one act or work of grace, on that he is sent for all. John xvi. 7, “I will send him then,” saith Christ; and that as a fruit of his death, as the procurement of his mediation, for that alone he promiseth to bestow [Him] on his. And, in particular, he tells us that he receives the Spirit from the Father for us, upon his intercession; wherein, as hath been elsewhere demonstrated,196196 Salus Electorum, Sanguis Jesu, vol. x. he asks no more nor leas than what by his death is obtained: John xiv. 16, 17, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive.” He tells us, verse 13, that whatsoever we ask he will do it; but withal in these verses how he will do it, even by interceding with the Father for it as a fruit of his blood-shedding, and the promise made to him upon his undertaking to glorify his Father’s name in the great work of redemption, John xvii. 4–6. And therefore he informs us, that when the Comforter, whom he procureth for us, shall come, “he shall glorify 310him,” and “shall receive of his, and show it unto us,” John xvi. 14, — farther manifest his glory, in his bringing nothing with him but what is his, or of his procurement: so also instructing us dearly and plentifully to ask in his name, that is, for his sake, — which to do plainly and openly is the great privilege of the, new testament; — for so he tells his disciples, chap. xvi. 24, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name,” who yet were believers, and bad made many addresses unto God in and through him, but darkly, as they did under the old testament, when they begged mercy “for his sake,” Dan. ix. 17; but to plead with the Father clearly upon the account of the mediation and purchase of Christ, that, I say, is the privilege of the new testament. Now, in this way he would have us ask the Holy Spirit at the hand of God, Luke xi. 9–13. Ask him; that is, as to a clearer, fuller administration of him unto us, for he is antecedently bestowed, as to the working of faith and regeneration, even unto this application: for without him we cannot once ask in the name of Christ, for none can call Jesus Lord, or do any thing in his name, but by the Spirit of God. This I say, then: He in whom we are “blessed with all spiritual blessings” hath procured the Holy Spirit for us, and through his intercession he is bestowed on us, Eph. i. 3. Now, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” from sin, peace and acceptance with God, 2 Cor. iii. 17. But it may be objected, “Although this Spirit be thus bestowed on believers, yet may they not cast him off, so that his abode with them may be but for a season, and their glory not be safeguarded in the issue, but their condemnation increased by their receiving of him, Rom. viii. 14, 15?” This being the only thing wherein this proof of believers’ abiding with God seems liable to exception, I shall give a triple testimony of the certainty of the continuance of the Holy Spirit with them on whom he is bestowed, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses this truth may be established; and they are no mean ones neither, but the three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
The first you have Isa. lix. 21, “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My Spirit which is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.” That which the Lord declares here to the church he calls “his covenant.” Now, whereas in a covenant there are two things, — 1. What is stipulated on the part of him that makes the covenant; 2. What of them is required with whom it is made (which in themselves are distinct, though in the covenant of grace God hath promised that he will work in us what he requires of us), — that here mentioned is clearly an evidence of somewhat of the first kind, — of that goodness that God in the covenant doth promise to 311bestow. Though perhaps words of the future tense may sometimes have an imperative construction, where the import of the residue of the words enforces such a sense, yet because it may be so in some place therefore it is so in this place, and that therefore these words are not a promise that the Spirit shall not depart, but an injunction to take care that it do not depart, as Mr Goodwin will have it, is a weak inference; and the close of the words will by no means be wrested to speak significantly to any such purpose, “Saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever,” which plainly make the words promissory, and an engagement of God himself to them to whom they are spoken. So that the interpretation of these words, “This is my covenant with them,” by Mr Goodwin, chap. xi. sect. 4, p. 227, — “That covenant of perpetual grace and mercy which I made with them requireth this of them, in order to the performance of it on my part, that they quench not my Spirit which I have put into them,” — doth plainly invert the intendment of God in them, and substitute what is tacitly required as our duty into the room of what is expressly promised as his grace. Observe then, —
2. That as no promise of God given to believers is either apt of itself to ingenerate, or by them to be received under, such an absurd notion of being made good whatsoever their deportment be, it being the nature of all the promises of God to frame and mould them to whom they are given into all holiness and purity, 2 Cor. vii. 1, — and this in especial is a promise of the principal author and cause of all holiness, to be continued to them, and is impossible to be apprehended under any such foolish supposal, — so also that this promise is absolute, and not conditional, can neither be colourably gainsaid nor the contrary probably affirmed. So that the strength of Mr Goodwin’s two next exceptions, — 1. “That this cannot be a promise of perseverance unto true believers, whatsoever their deportment shall be;” and, 2. “That it must be conditional, which cannot,” as he saith, “be reasonably gainsaid,” — the first of them not looking towards our persuasion in this thing, and the latter being not in the least put upon the proof, is but very weakness; for what condition of this promise, I pray, can be imagined? God promises his Spirit of holiness, that sanctifieth us and worketh all holiness in us; and therewith the holy word of the gospel, which is also sanctifying, John xvii. 17; and that they shall abide with us for ever. It is the continuance of the presence of God with us for our holiness that is here promised. On what condition shall this be supposed to depend? Is it in case we continue holy? Who seeth not the vanity of interserting any condition? “I will be with you by my Spirit and word for ever, to keep you holy, provided you continue holy!”
3. It is a hard task, to seek to squeeze a condition out of those gracious words in the beginning of the verse, “As for me,” which 312Junius renders de me autem, — words wherein God graciously reveals himself as the sole author of this great blessing promised, it being a work of his own, which he accomplisheth upon the account of his free grace; and therefore God signally placed that expression in the entrance of the promise, that we may know whom to look unto for the fulfilling thereof. And it is yet a farther corruption to say, “That ‘As for me,’ is as much as, ‘For my part, I will deal bountifully with them, provided they do so and so, what I require from them,’ ” which is Mr Goodwin’s interpretation of the words; for of this supposition there is not one word in the text as incumbent on them to whom this promise is made in contradistinction to what God here promiseth; yea, he promiseth them, at least in the root and principle, whatsoever is required of them. Let it be that “As for me,” is, “As for my part, I will do what here is promised,” and there is an end of this debate.
4. The persons to whom this promise is made are called “thee” and “thy seed,” — that is, all those and only those with whom God is a God in covenant. God here minds them of the first making of this covenant with Abraham and his seed, Gen. xvii. 7. Now, who are this seed of Abraham? Not all his carnal posterity, not the whole nation of the Jews; which is the last subterfuge invented by our author to evade the force of our argument from this place. Our Saviour not only denies, but also proves by many arguments, that the Pharisees and their followers, who doubtless were of the nation of the Jews and the carnal seed of Abraham, were not the children of Abraham in this sense, nor his seed, but rather the devil’s, John viii. 39–44. And the apostle disputes and argues the same case, Rom. iv. 9–12, and proves undeniably that it is believers only, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, whether Jews or Gentiles, that are this seed of Abraham and heirs of the promise. So, plainly, Gal. iii. 7, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham;” and then he concludes again, as the issue of his debate, verse 9, “So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” And this is the sum of what Mr Goodwin objects unto this testimony, in our case, to the perpetual abiding of the Spirit with the saints.
The force, then, of this promise, and the influence it hath into the establishment of the truth we have in hand, will not be evaded and turned aside by affirming “that it is made to the whole people of Israel:” for besides that the Spirit of the Lord could not be said to be in the ungodly, rejected part of them, nor his word in their mouth, there is not the least, in text or context, to intimate such an extent of this promise as to the object of it: and it is very weakly attempted to be proved from Paul’s accommodation and interpretation of the verse foregoing, “And the Redeemer shall come to Zion,” 313etc., in Rom. xi. 26; for it is most evident and indisputable, to any one who shall but once cast an eye upon that place, that the apostle accommodates and applies these words to none but only those who shall be saved, being turned away from ungodliness to Christ; which are only the seed before described. And those he calls “All Israel,” either in the spiritual sense of the word, as taken for the chosen Israel of God, or else indefinitely for that nation, upon the account of those plentiful fruits which the gospel shall find amongst them, when they shall “fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days,” Hos. iii. 5.
5. This, then, is a promise equally made unto all believers: it is to all that are in covenant; neither is there any thing that is of peculiar importance to any sort of believers, of any time, or age, or dispensation, therein comprised. It equally respecteth all to whom the Lord extends his covenant of grace. Certainly the giving of the Spirit of grace is not inwrapped in any promise that may be “of private interpretation,” the concernment of all the saints of God lying therein. It cannot but be judged a needless labour to give particular instances in a thing so generally known in the word. Though the expressions differ, the matter of this promise is the same with that given to Abraham, Gen. xvii. 7, the Holy Spirit being the great blessing of the covenant, and bestowed on all and every one, and only on them, whom God hath graciously taken into covenant from the foundation of the world.
Mr Goodwin then labours in the fire in what he farther objects, sect. 6, “That this promise exhibiteth and holds forth some new grace or favour, which God hath not vouchsafed formerly either unto the persons to whom the said promise is now made, or to any others; but for the grace or favour of final perseverance, it is nothing (at least in the opinion of our adversaries) but what is common to all true believers, and what God hath conferred upon one and other of this generation from the beginning of the world.”
Ans. The emphasis here put upon it doth not denote it to be a new promise, but a great one; not that it was never given before, but that it is now solemnly renewed, for the consolation and establishment of the church. If wherever we find a solemn promise made, and confirmed, and ratified, to the church, we must thence conclude that no saints were before made partakers of the mercy of that promise, we must also, in particular, conclude that no one ever had his sins pardoned before the giving of that solemn promise, Jer. xxxi. 34.
6. We say that the grace of perseverance is such as believers may expect, not upon the account of any thing in themselves, nor of the dignity of the state whereunto by grace they are exalted, hut merely on this bottom and foundation, that it is freely promised of God, who hath also discovered that rise and fountain of his gracious 314promise to lie in his eternal love towards them; so that they can lay no more claim unto it than to any other grace whatsoever. When we have the assurance given by any promise of God, to say that what is promised of him may be expected of course, is an expression that fell from Mr Goodwin when, in the heat of disputation, his thoughts were turned aside from the consideration of what it is to mix the promises of God with faith.
7. Whereas this is given in for the sense of the words, “That God will advance the dispensation of his grace and goodness towards or among his people to such an excellency and height that, if they prove not extremely unworthy, they shall have of the Spirit and word of God abundantly amongst them, and consequently abundance of peace and happiness for ever,” it is most apparent that not any thing of the mind of God in the words is reached in this gloss; for, —
(1.) That condition, “If they prove not extremely unworthy,” is extremely unworthily inserted, the promise being an engagement of God to keep and preserve them to whom it is made, by his Spirit, from being so. The Spirit is given and continued to them for that very purpose.
(2.) It is supposed to be given to all the nation of the Jews, when it is expressly made to the church and seed in covenant.
(3.) It carries the mercy promised no higher than outward dispensations, when the words expressly mention the Spirit already received.
Evident it is that the whole grace, love, kindness, and mercy, of this eminent promise, and consequently the whole covenant of grace, is enervated by this corrupting gloss. Do men think, indeed, that all the mercy of the covenant of grace consists in such tenders and offers as here are intimated? that it all lies in outward endearments, and such dealings with men as may seem to be suited to win upon them? and that, as to the real exhibition of it, it is wholly suspended upon the unstable, uncertain, frail wills of men? The Scripture seems to hold out something farther of more efficacy.197197 Jer. xxxi. 31–34, xxxii. 38–40; Ezek. xi. 19, 20. The design of these exceptions is indeed to exclude all the effectual grace of God, promised in Jesus Christ, upon the account that the things which he promiseth to work in us thereby are the duties which he requireth of us.
In sum, these are the exceptions which are given in to this testimony of God concerning the abiding of the Spirit with them on whom he is bestowed and for whom he is procured, to whom he is sent by Jesus Christ. And this is the interpretation of the words, “ ‘As for me,’ for my part, or as much as in me lieth, ‘this is my covenant,’ I will deal bountifully and graciously ‘with them,’ the whole nation of the Jews. ‘My Spirit that is in thee,’ that they ought to take 315care that they entertain and retain, and not walk so extremely unworthily that he should depart from them.” The residue of the words, wherein the main emphasis of them doth lie, is left untouched.
The import, then, of this promise is the same with that of the promises insisted on before, with especial reference to the Holy Spirit, procured for us and given unto us by Christ. The stability and establishing grace of the covenant is here called the “covenant,” as sundry other particular mercies of it are also. Of the covenant of grace in Christ, the blessed Spirit to dwell in us and rest upon us is the main and principal promise. This, for our consolation, is renewed again and again in the Old and New Testament. As a Spirit of sanctification, he is given to men to make them believe; and as a Spirit of adoption, upon their believing. In either sense, God, even the Father, who takes us into covenant in Jesus Christ, affirms here that he shall never depart from us; which is our first testimony in the case in hand. With whom the Spirit abides, and whilst he abides with them, they cannot utterly forsake God nor be forsaken of him; for they who have the Spirit of God are the children of God, sons and heirs: but God hath promised that his Spirit shall abide with believers for ever, as hath been clearly evinced from the text under consideration, with a removal of all exceptions put in thereto.
The second witness we have of the constant abode and residence of this Spirit, bestowed on them which believe, is that of the Son, who assures his disciples of it: John xiv. 16, “I will,” saith he, “pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” As our Saviour gives a rule of interpretation expressly of his prayers for believers, that he did in them intend not only the men of that present generation, but all that should believe to the end of the world, (John xvii. 20, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word”): so is it a rule equally infallible for the interpretation of the gracious promises which he made to his disciples, that are not peculiarly appropriated to their season and work (in which yet, as to the general love, faithfulness, and kindness, manifested and revealed in them, the concernments of the saints in all succeeding ages do lie); they are proper to all believers as such. For whom he did equally intercede, to them he makes promises alike. They belong no less to us, on whom, in an especial manner, the ends of the world are fallen, than to those who first followed him in the regeneration. Let us, then, attend to the testimony in this place (and as he shall be pleased to increase our faith, mix it therewithal), that the Spirit he procureth for us and sends to us shall abide with us for ever; and whilst the Spirit of the Lord is with us we are his. Doubtless, it is no easy task to raise up any pretended plea against the evidence given in by 316this witness, the Amen, the great and faithful Witness in heaven. He tells us that he will send the Spirit, to abide with us for ever; and therein speaks to the whole of the case in hand and question under debate. All we say is, that the Spirit of God shall abide with believers for ever. Christ says so too; and in the issue, whatever becomes of us, he will appear to be one against whom there is no rising up.
Against this testimony it is objected by Mr Goodwin, chap. xi. sect. 14, p. 234: “This promise,” saith he, “concerning the abiding of this other Comforter for ever must be conceived to be made either to the apostles personally considered, or else to the whole body of the church, of which they were principal members. If the first of these be admitted, then it will not follow that because the apostles had the perpetual residence of the Spirit with them and in them, therefore every particular believer hath the like; no more than it will follow that because the apostles were infallible in their judgments, through the teachings of the Spirit in them, therefore every believer is infallible upon the same account also. If the latter be admitted, neither will it follow that every believer, or every member of the church, must needs have the residence of the Spirit with them for ever. There are principal privileges appropriated to corporations, which every particular member of them cannot claim. The church may have the residence of the Spirit of God with her for ever, and yet every present member thereof lose his interest and part in him; yea, the abiding of the Spirit in the apostles themselves was not absolutely promised, John xv. 10.”
Ans. 1. The design of this discourse is to prove that this promise is not made to believers in general, or those who through the word are brought to believe in Christ in all generations to the end of the world, and consequently that they’ have no promise of the Spirit’s abiding with them; for that is the thing opposed. And this is part of the doctrine that tends to their consolation and improvement in holiness! What thanks they will give to the authors of such an eminent discovery, when it shall be determined that they have deserved well of them and the truth of God, I know not; especially when it shall be considered that not only this, but all other promises uttered by Christ to his apostles, — as we had thought, not for their own behoof alone, but also for the use of the church in all ages, — are tied up in their tendency and use to the men of that generation, and to the employment to which they to whom he spoke were designed. But let us see whether these things are so or no. I say, —
2. There is not any necessary cause of that disjunctive proposition, — The promise of the perpetual residence of the Spirit is made “either to the apostles personally, or to the whole body of the church.” By the rule formerly given for the interpretation of these 317promises of Christ, it appears that what in this kind was made to the one was also given to the other; and how Mr Goodwin will enforce any necessary conclusion from this distinction, framed by himself for his own purpose, I know not. The promise was made both to these and those, the apostles and all other believers, because to the apostles as believers.
3. The making of the promise to the apostles personally doth not argue that it was made to them as apostles, but only that it was made to their persons or to them, though under another qualification, namely, of believing. It is given to them personally as believers, and so to all believers whatever. This also sets at liberty and plainly cashiers the comparison instituted between the apostles’ infallibility as apostles and their sanctifying grace as believers, by the Spirit of grace given for that end. The apostles’ infallibility, we confess, was from the Spirit; for they, as other holy men of old, wrote as they were moved by the Spirit of God, 2 Pet. i. 21: but that this was a distinct gift bestowed on them as apostles, and not the teaching of the Spirit of grace, which is given to all believers,1 John ii. 27, we need not contend to prove.
Besides, to what end doth he contend that it was made to the apostles in the sense urged and by us insisted on, seeing he denies it in the close of this section, and chooseth rather to venture upon an opposition unto that commonly received persuasion that the apostles of Christ (the son of perdition only excepted) had an absolute promise of perseverance, than to acknowledge that which would prove so prejudicial and ruinous to his cause, as he knows the confession of such a promise made to them would inevitably be? He contends not, I say, about the sense of the promise, but would fain divert it from other believers (at the entrance of the section) by limiting it to the apostles; but considering afterward better of the matter, and remembering that the concession of an absolute promise of perseverance to any one saint whatever would evidently root up and cast to the ground the goodliest engine that he hath sot up against the truth he opposeth, he suits it (in the close of the section) to an evasion holding better correspondency with its associates in this undertaking.
4. I wonder what chimerical church he hath found out, to which promises are made and privileges granted otherwise than upon the account of the persons whereof it is constituted. Suppose, I pray, that promises of the residence of the Spirit for ever with it be made to the church, which is made up of so many members, and that all these members, every one, should lose their interest in it, what subject of that promise would remain? What universal is this, that hath a real existence of itself and by itself, in abstraction from its particulars, in which alone it hath its being? or what whole is that 318which is preserved in the destruction and dissolution of all its essentially constituent parts? The promises, then, that are made to the church are of two sorts:— (1.) Of such grace and mercies as, whether inherent or relative, have their residence in and respect unto particular persons as such. Of this sort are all the promises of grace, of sanctification, as also of justification, etc.; which are all things of men’s personal spiritual interest. The promises made to the church of this nature are made unto it merely as consisting of so many, and those elected, redeemed persons, whose right and interest as those individual persons they are. (2.) Of all such good things as are the exurgency of the collected state of the saints, in reference to their spiritual, invisible communion, or visible gathering into a church constituted according to the mind of Christ and his appointment in the gospel. And these also are all of them founded on the former, and depend wholly upon them, and are resolved into them. All promises whatever, then, made to the church, the body of Christ, do not respect it primarily as a corporation, which is the second notion of it, but as consisting of those particular believers; much less as a chimerical universal, having a subsistence in and by itself, abstracted from its particulars. This evasion, then, notwithstanding, this promise of our Saviour doth still continue to press its testimony concerning the perpetual residence of the Holy Spirit with believers.
The scope of the place enforces that acceptation of these words which we insist upon. Our blessed Saviour, observing the trouble and disconsolation of his followers upon the apprehension of his departure from them, stirs them up to a better hope and confidence by many gracious promises and engagements of what would and should be the issue of his being taken away, John xiv. 1. He bids them free their hearts from trouble, and in the next words tells them that the way whereby it was to be done was by acting faith on the promises of his Father, and on those which in his Father’s name he had made and was to make unto them. Of these he mentions many in the following verses, whereof the fountain head and spring is that of giving them the Comforter, not to abide with them for a season, as he had done with his bodily presence, but to continue with them as a comforter (and consequently to the discharging of his whole dispensation towards believers) for ever. He speaks to them as believers, as disconsolate, dejected believers, quickening their faith by exhortations; and gives them this promise as a solid foundation of peace and composedness of spirit, which he exhorted them unto. And if our Saviour intendeth any thing but what the words import, — namely, that he will give his Holy Spirit as a comforter, to abide with them for ever, — the promise hath not the least suitableness to relieve them in their distress, nor to accomplish the end for 319which it was given them. But against this it is excepted, chap. xi. sect. 13, p. 233:—
1. “Evident it is that our Saviour doth not in this place oppose the abiding or remaining of the Holy Ghost to his own departure from the hearts or souls of men into which he is framed or come, but to his departure out of the world by death, which was now at hand.”
Ans. This is a weighty observation! yet withal it is evident that he opposeth the abiding of the Spirit with them as a comforter to his own bodily presence with them for that end. His was for a season, the other to endure for ever. And I desire to know how our Saviour Christ comes or enters into the souls or hearts of men but by his Spirit, and how these things come here to be distinguished. But, —
2. He says, “By the abiding of the Comforter with them for ever, he doth not mean his perpetual abode in their hearts, or the heart of any particular man, but his constant abiding in the world, in and with the gospel and the children thereof: in respect of which he saith of himself elsewhere, ‘I am with you always, even to the end of the world;’ as if he should have said, ‘This the purpose of my Father in sending me into the world requires that I should make no long stay in it. I am now upon my return. But when I come to my Father, I will intercede for you, and he will send you another Comforter:, upon better terms for staying and continuing with you than those on which I came; for he shall be sent, not to be taken out of the world by death, but to make his residence with and among you, my friends and faithful ones, for ever.’ Now, from such an abiding of the Holy Ghost with them as this cannot be inferred his perpetual abiding with any one personal believer determinately, much less with every one.”
Ans. 1. It was evident before that this promise was made to the disciples of Christ as believers, to quicken and strengthen their failing, drooping faith, in and under that great trial of losing the presence of their Master which they were to undergo; and being made unto them as believers, though upon a particular occasion, is made to all believers for “a quatenus ad omne valet argumentum.”
2. It is no less evident that, according to the interpretation here, without the least attempt of proof, importunately suggested, the promise is no way suited to give the least encouragement or consolation unto the disciples, in reference to the condition upon the account whereof it is now so solemnly given them. It is all one as if our Saviour should have said, “You are sadly troubled indeed, yea, your hearts are filled with trouble and fear, because I have told you that I must leave you. Be not so dejected. I have kept you whilst I have 320been with you in the world, and now I go away, and will send the Holy Spirit into the world; and, whatsoever becomes of you, or any of you, whether ye have any consolation or no, he shall abide in the world, perhaps, with some or other (that is, if any do believe, which it may be some will, it may be not) until the end and consummation of it.”
3. Is this promise of sending the Holy Spirit given to the apostles, or is it not? If you say not, assign whom it is given or made unto. Christ spake it to them, and doubtless they thought he intended them, and it was wholly suited to their condition. If it were made unto them, is it not in the letter of the promise affirmed that the Spirit shall abide with them for ever to whom it was given? If there be any subject of this promise in receiving the Spirit, he must of necessity keep his residence and abode with it for ever. The whole design of this section is to put the persons to whom this promise is made into the dark, that we may not see them; yea, to deny that it is made to any persons at all, as the recipient subject of the grace thereof, he tells you that” he abides in the world.” How, I pray? Doubtless not as the unclean spirit, that goes up and down in dry places, seeking rest and finding none. Christ promiseth his Spirit to his church, not to the world, — to dwell in the hearts of his, not to wander up and down. Nay, he abides with the apostles and their spiritual posterity; that is, believers, in our Saviour’s interpretation, John xvii. 20. Are they, then, and their posterity, (that is, believers), the persons to whom this promise is made, and who are concerned in it, with whom, as he is promised, he is to abide? This you can scarcely find out an answer to in the whole discourse. He tells you, indeed, the Holy Ghost was not to die, with such other rare notions; but for any persons particularly intended in this promise, we are still in the dark.
3. He tells us, “That from such an abiding of the Holy Ghost with them as this, cannot be enforced his perpetual abiding with any one person determinately.” But what kind of abiding it is that he intends is not easily apprehended. If on the account of this promise he is given to any person, on the same account he is to abide with the same person for ever. That which he seems to intend is the presence of the Spirit in the administration of the word, to make it effectual unto them to whom it is delivered, when the promise is to give him as a comforter to them on whom he is bestowed. But he adds, sect. 14, —
4. “And lastly, The particle ἵνα doth not always import the certainty of the thing spoken of, by way of event (no, not when the speech is of God himself), but ofttimes the intention only of the agent: so that the words, ‘That he may abide with you for ever do not imply an absolute necessity of his abiding with them for ever, 321but only this, that it should be the intent of him that should send him, and that he would send him in such a way, that, if they were true to their own interest, they might retain him and have his abode with them for ever. Turn the words any way, with any tolerable congruity, either to the scope of the place, manner of Scripture expression, principles of reason, and the doctrine of perseverance will be found to have nothing in them.”
Ans. 1. This is the πάνσοφον φάρμακον, that, when all medicines will not heal, must serve to skin the wound given our adversaries’ cause by the sword of the word: “The promise is made unto believers, indeed; but on such and such conditions as on the account whereof it may never be accomplished towards them.” 2. This no way suits Mr Goodwin’s interpretation of the place formerly mentioned and insisted on. If it be, as was said, only a promise of sending his Spirit into the world for the end by him insinuated, doubtless the word ἵνα must denote the event of the thing, and not an intention only that might fail of accomplishment; for let all or any individuals behave themselves how they will, it is certain, as to the accomplishment and event, that the Spirit of God shall be continued in the world, in the sense pleaded for. But it is not what is congruous to his own thoughts, but what may oppose ours (that is, the plain and obvious sense of the words), that he is concerned to make use of. It being not the sense of the place, but an escaping our argument from it, that lies in his design, he cares not how many contrary and inconsistent interpretations he gives of it. “Hæc non successit, aliâ aggrediemur viâ.” The word ἵνα denotes, as is confessed, the intention of Christ in sending the Spirit; that is, that he intends to send him to believers, so as that he should abide with them for ever. Now, besides the impossibility in general that the intention of God, or of the Lord Christ, as God and man, should be frustrate, whence in particular should it come to pass he should fail in this his intention? “I will send you the Holy Spirit, to abide with you for ever;” that is, “I intend to send you the Holy Spirit, that he may abide with you for ever.” What, now, should hinder this? “Why, it is given them upon condition that they be ‘true to their own interest, and take care to retain him.’ ” What is that, I pray? “Why, that they continue in faith, obedience, repentance, and close walking with God.” But to what end is it that he is promised unto them? is it not to teach them, to work in them faith, obedience, repentance, and close walking with God, to sanctify them throughout, and preserve them blameless to the end, making them “meet for the inheritance of the saints in light? “In case they obey, believe, etc., the Holy Ghost is promised unto them, to abide with them, to cause them to obey, believe, repent, etc.” 3. The intention of Christ for the sending of the Spirit, and his abiding for ever with 322them to whom he is sent, is but one and the same; and if any frustration of his intention do fall out, it may most probably interpose as to his sending of the Spirit, not as to the Spirit’s continuance with them to whom he is sent, which is asserted absolutely upon the account of his sending him. He sends him ἵνα μένῃ. His abode is the end of his sending; which, if he be sent, shall be obtained.
Upon the whole, doubtless, it will be found that the doctrine of perseverance finds so much for its establishment in this place of Scripture and promise of our Saviour, that by no art or cunning it will be prevailed withal to let go its interest therein. And though many attempts be made to turn and wrest this testimony of our Saviour several ways, and those contrary to and inconsistent with one another, yet it abides to look straight forward to the proof and confirmation of the truth, that lies not only in the womb and sense of it, but in the very mouth and literal expression of it also. I suppose it is evident to all that Mr Goodwin knows not what to say to it, nor what sense to fix upon. At first it is made to the apostles, not to all believers; then, when this will not serve the turn, there being a concession in that interpretation destructive to his whole cause, it is made as a privilege to the church, not to any individual persons; but yet, for fear that this privilege must be vested in some individuals, it is denied that it is made to any, but only is a promise of the Spirit’s abode in the world with the word; but, perhaps some thoughts coming upon him that this will no way suit the scope of the place, nor be suited to the intendment of Christ, it is lastly added, that let it be made to whom it will, it is conditional, though there be not the least intimation of any condition in the text or context, and that [condition] by him assigned be coincident with the thing itself promised! But hereof so far; and so our second testimony. The testimony of the Son abides still by the truth for the confirmation whereof it is produced; and in the mouth of these two witnesses, the abiding of the Spirit with believers to the end is established.
Add hereunto, thirdly, The testimony of the third that bears witness in heaven, and who also comes near and bears witness to this truth in the hearts of believers, even of the Spirit itself; and so I shall leave it sealed under the testimony of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. As the other two gave in their testimony in a word of promise, so the Spirit doth in a real work of performance; wherein, as he bears a distinct testimony of his own, the saints baying a peculiar communion and fellowship with him therein, so he is, as the common seal of Father and Son, set unto that truth which by their testimony they have confirmed. There are, indeed, sundry things whereby he confirms and establisheth the saints in the assurance of his abode with them for ever. I shall at present mention that one 323eminent work of his, which, being given unto them, he doth accomplish to this very end and purpose, and that is his sealing of them to the day of redemption; — a work it is, often in the Scripture mentioned, and still upon the account of assuring the salvation of believers: 2 Cor. i. 22, “Who hath also sealed us.” Having mentioned the certainty, unchangeableness, and efficacy, of all the promises of God in Christ, and the end to be accomplished and brought about by them, — namely, the “glory of God in believers” (verse 20, “All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen, unto the glory of God by us”), — the apostle acquaints the saints with one foundation of the security of their interest in those promises, whereby the end mentioned, “the glory of God by them,” should be accomplished. This he ascribes to the efficacy of the Spirit, bestowed on them in sundry works of his grace, which he reckoneth, verses 21, 22. Among them this is one, that he seals them. As to the nature of this sealing, and what that act of the Spirit of grace is that is so called, I shall not now insist upon it. The end and use of sealing is more aimed at in this expression than the nature of it, — what it imports than wherein it consists. Being a term forensical, and translated from the use and practice of men in their civil transactions, the use and end of it may easily, from the original rise thereof, be demonstrated. Sealing amongst men hath a twofold use:— First, To give secrecy and security (in things that are under present consideration) to the things sealed. And this is the first use of sealing, by a seal set upon the things sealed. Of this kind of sealing chiefly have we that long discourse of Salmasius, in the vindication of his Jus Atticum against the animadversions of Heraldus. And, secondly, To give an assurance or faith for what is, by them that seal, to be done. In the first sense are things sealed up in bags and in treasuries, that they may be kept safe, none daring to break open their seals. In the latter are all promissory engagements confirmed, established, and made unalterable, wherein men, either in conditional compacts or testamentary dispositions, do oblige themselves. These are the Sigilla appensa that are yet in use in all deeds, enfeoffments, and the like instruments in law. And with men, if this be done, their engagements are accounted inviolable. And because all men have not that truth, faithfulness, and honesty, as to make good even their sealed engagements, the whole race of mankind hath consented unto the establishment of laws and governors, amongst others to this end, that all men may be compelled to stand to their sealed promises, Hence, whatsoever the nature of it be, and in what particular soever it doth consist, the end and use of this work, in this special acceptation, is taken evidently in the latter sense from its use amongst men. Expressed it is upon the mention of the promises, 2 Cor. i. 20. To secure believers of their certain and infallible accomplishment unto 324them, the apostle tells them of this sealing of the Spirit, whereby the promises are irrevocably confirmed unto them to whom they are made, as is the case among the sons of men. Suitably, Eph. i. 13, he saith they are “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise;” that is, who is promised unto us, and who confirms to us all the promises of God, Heb. ix. 14. That the other end of sealing also, safety and preservation, is designed therein, secondarily, appears from the appointed season whereunto this sealing shall be effectual. It is “to the day of redemption,” Eph. iv. 30; until the saints are brought to the enjoyment of the full, whole, and complete purchase made for them by Christ when he “obtained for them eternal redemption.” And this is a real testimony which the Holy Spirit gives to his own abiding with the saints for ever. The work he accomplisheth in them and upon them is on set purpose designed to assure them hereof, and to confirm them in the faith of it.
Unto an argument from this sealing of the Spirit, thus proposed, “Those who are sealed shall certainly be saved,” Mr Goodwin excepts sundry things, chap. xi. sect. 42, p. 255–257; which, because they are applied to blur that interpretation of the words of the Holy Ghost which I have insisted on, I shall briefly remove out of the way, that they may be no farther offensive to the meanest sealed one.
He answers, then, first, by distinguishing the major proposition thus: “They who are sealed shall certainly be saved with such a sealing which is unchangeable by any intervenience whatsoever, as of sin and apostasy, so that they cannot lose their faith; but if the sealing be only such the continuance whereof depends on the faith of the sealed, and consequently may be reversed or withdrawn, it no way proves that all they who are partakers of it must of necessity retain their faith. Therefore,” saith he, secondly, “we answer farther, that the sealing with the Spirit spoken of is the latter kind of sealing, not the former, — that is, which depends upon the faith of those that are sealed, — as in the beginning or first impression of it, so in the duration or continuance of it; and consequently there is none other certainty of its continuance but only the continuance of the said faith, which being uncertain, the sealing depending on it must needs be uncertain also. That the sealing mentioned depends upon the faith of the sealed is evident, because it is said, ‘In whom also, after ye believed, ye were sealed with the Spirit of promise.’ ”
Ans. I dare say there is no honest man that would take it well at the hand of Mr Goodwin, or any else, that should attempt, by distinctions, or any other way, to alleviate or take off the credit of his truth and honesty in the performance of all those things whereunto, and for the confirmation whereof, he hath set his seal. What acceptation a like attempt in reference to the Spirit of God is like to find with him, he may do well to consider. In the meantime, he 325prevails not with us to discredit this work of his grace in the least; for, —
1. This supposal of such interveniencies of sin and wickedness in the saints as are inconsistent with the life of faith and the favour of God, as also of apostasy, are but a poor, mean insinuation for the begging of the thing in question, which will never be granted on any such terms. An interveniency of apostasy, — that is, defection from the faith, — is not handsomely supposed whilst men continue in the faith.
2. That which is given for the confirmation of their faith, and on set purpose to add continuance to it, as this is, cannot depend on the condition of the continuance of their faith. The Holy Ghost seals them to the day of redemption, confirming and establishing thereby an infallible continuance of their faith; but, it seems, upon condition of their continuance in the faith. Cui fini? Of what hitherto is said, this is the sum: “If they who are sealed apostatize into sin and wickedness, they shall not be saved, notwithstanding that they have been sealed.” And this must pass for an answer to our argument, proving that they cannot so apostatize because they are sealed on purpose to preserve and secure them from that condition. Men need not go far to seek for answers to any argument, if such as these (pure beggings of the thing in question and argued) will suffice.
3. Neither doth “the beginning or first impression of the sealing” depend upon their faith any otherwise but as believers are the subject of it, which is not to have any kind of dependence upon it, either as to its nature or use. Neither doth that place of the apostle, Eph. i. 13, “After that ye believed ye were sealed,” prove any such thing, unless this general axiom be first established, that all things which in order of nature are before and after have the connection of cause and effect, or at least of condition and event, between them. It proves, indeed, that their believing is in order of nature antecedent to their sealing, respecting the use of it here mentioned; but this proves not at all that faith is the condition of sealing, the bestowing of faith and the grant of this seal to establish it being both acts depending merely, solely, and distinctly, on the free grace of God in Christ. Though faith in order of nature go before hope, yet is no hope bestowed on men on the condition of believing. The truth is, both faith and sealing, and all other spiritual mercies, as to the goodwill of God bestowing them, are at once granted us in Jesus Christ; but as to our reception of them, and the actual instating of our souls in the enjoyment of them, or rather as to the exerting of themselves in us, they have that order which either the nature of the things themselves requires, or the sovereign will of God hath allotted to them. Neither doth sealing bespeak any grace in us, but a peculiar improvement of the grace bestowed on us. So that, —
3264. We refuse the answer suggested by Mr Goodwin, “That sealing depends” (that is, in his sense) “upon believing, as to the first grant of it, but not as to the continuance thereof,” and reject his supposal of “one that hath truly believed making shipwreck of his faith,” as too importune a cry, or begging of that which it is evident cannot be proved. I shall add only, that Mr Goodwin granting here the continuance of faith to be a thing “uncertain,” which is a word to express a very weak probability of a thing, is much fallen off from his former confident expression of the “only remote possibility” of believers falling away. That their falling away should be scarcely possible, and yet their continuance in the faith very uncertain, is somewhat uncouth. But this is the foundation of that great consolation which Mr Goodwin’s doctrine is so pregnant and teeming withal, that it even groans to be delivered. “Their continuance in believing is uncertain; therefore they must needs rejoice and be filled with consolation.” But he answers farther:—
“I answer farther, by way of exception, that the sealing we speak of is neither granted by God unto believers themselves upon any such terms as that upon no occasion or occasions whatsoever, as of the greatest and most horrid sins committed and long continued in by them, or the like, it should ever be interrupted or effaced; for this is contrary to many plain texts of Scripture, and particularly unto all those where either apostates from God, or evil-doers and workers of iniquity, are threatened with the loss of God’s favour and of the inheritance of life, such as Heb. x., etc.”
Ans. 1. It is the intent and purpose of God that the sealing of believers shall abide with them for ever; whence comes it to pass that his purposes do not stand, and that he doth not fulfil his pleasure? “It is not that he changeth, but that men are changed; — that is, the beginning of the change is not in him; occasion of it is administered unto him by men.” When his sealing is removed from believers, doth God still purpose that it shall continue with them, or no? If he doth, then he purposeth that shall be which is not, which it is his will shall not be; and he continues in his vain purpose to eternity. Or, if he ceases to purpose, how is it that he is not changed? Such things bespeak a change in the sons of men, which we thought had been incompatible with the perfection of the divine nature, even that he should will and purpose one thing at one time, and another, yea the clean contrary, at another. “Yea, but the reason of it is, because the men concerning whom his purposes are do change.” This salves not the immutability of God. Though he doth not change from any new consideration in himself and from himself, yet he doth from obstructions in his way and to his thoughts in the creatures; — yea, instead of salving his unchangeableness, this is destructive to his omnipotency.
3272. This whole answer is a supposal that God may alter his purpose of confirming men in grace, if they be not confirmed in grace; or, that though God’s purpose be to seal them to the day of redemption, yet they may not continue nor be preserved thereunto; and then God’s purpose of their continuance ceaseth also. This is, —
3. More evident in his second answer, by way of exception, which is made up of these two parts:— first, A begging of the main, and, upon the matter, only thing in question, by supposing that believers may fall into the most horrible sins, and continue in them to the end; so proving, with great evidence and perspicuity, that believers may fall away, because they may fall away! and, second, A suggestion of his own judgment to the contrary, and his supposal that it is confirmed by some texts of Scripture; which, God assisting, shall be delivered from this imputation hereafter. And these two do make up so clear an answer to the argument in hand that a man knows not well what to reply! Let us take it for granted that believers may fall away, and how shall we prevent Mr Goodwin from proving it! But he adds farther:—
“Believers are said to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of God against, or until, or for (εἰς) the day of redemption; because that holiness which is wrought in them by the Spirit of God qualifies them, puts them into a present and actual capacity of partaking in that joy and glory which the great day of the full redemption of the saints (that is, of those who lived and died, and shall be found such) shall bring with it; and it is called the earnest of their inheritance.”
Ans. How εἰς comes to be “against” or “for,” or to denote the matter spoken of, and what all this is to the purpose in hand, he shows not. The aim of him the words are spoken of, and the uninterrupted continuance of the work mentioned to the end expressed, seem rather to be intended in the whole coherence of the words. Neither is the use of sealing to prepare any thing for such a time, but to secure and preserve it thereunto. He that hath a conveyance sealed unto him is not only capacitated for the present to receive the estate conveyed, but is principally assured of a right and title for a continued enjoyment of it, not to be reversed. It is not the nature of this work of the Holy Ghost, wherein it is coincident with other acts of his grace, but the particular use of it, as it is a sealing, and God’s intendment by it, to confirm us to the day of redemption, that comes under our consideration. If it were a season to inquire wherein it consists, I suppose we should scarce close with Mr Goodwin’s description of it, namely, “that it is a qualifying of men, and putting them in an actual capacity to partake of joy,” etc. He is the first I know of that gave this description of it, and probably the last that will do so. Of the “earnest of the Spirit” in its proper place.
What he adds in the last place, namely, “If the apostle’s intent 328had been to inform the Ephesians that the gift of the Holy Spirit, which they had received from God, was the earnest of their inheritance, upon such terms that no unworthiness or wickedness whatsoever on their parts could ever hinder the actual collation of this inheritance upon them, he had plainly prevaricated with that most serious admonition wherein he addresses himself to them afterward, ‘For this ye know, that no whoremonger,’ etc., ‘hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ.’ ” This, I say, is of the same alloy with what went before; for, —
1. Here is the same begging of the question as before, and that upon a twofold account:— (1.) In supposing that believers may fall into such sins and unworthiness as are inconsistent with the state of acceptation with God; which is the very thing he hath to prove. (2.) In supposing that if believers are sealed up infallibly to redemption, the exhortations to the avoidance of sins in themselves, and to all that continue in them, destructive to salvation, are in vain; which is a figment in a case somewhat alike (as to the reason of it), rejected by men that knew nothing of the nature of God’s promises nor his commands, nor the accommodation of them both to the fulfilling in believers “all the good pleasure of his goodness.”
2. The assurance the apostle gives of freedom from the wrath of God is inseparably associated with that assurance that he gives that we, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, shall not be left in or given up to such ways as wherein that wrath is not to be avoided.
From this latter testimony this argument also doth flow: Those who are sealed of God to the day of redemption shall certainly be preserved thereunto, their preservation being the end and aim of God in his sealing of them. Mr Goodwin’s answer to this proposition is, “That they shall be so preserved in case they fall not into abominable sins and practices, and so apostatize from the faith;” that is, in case they be preserved, they shall be preserved. But wherein their preservation should consist, if not in their effectual deliverance from such ways and courses, is not declared. That all believers are so sealed, and to that end, as above, is the plain testimony of the Scripture; and therefore our conclusion is undeniably evinced.
Thus have we, through the Lord’s assistance, freed the triple testimony of Father, Son, and Spirit, given to the truth under consideration, from all objections and exceptions put in thereunto; so that we hope the mouth of iniquity may be stopped, and that the cause of the truth in hand is secured for ever. It is a fearful thing to contend with God. “Let God be true, but every man a liar.”
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