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Chapter XII. Objections to the doctrine refuted.
Mr G.’s entrance and preface to his arguments from the apostasy of the saints considered — The weakness of his first argument — The import of it — Answer to that first argument — Doctrine may pretend to give God the glory of being no accepter of persons, and yet be false — Justification by works of that rank and order — Acceptation of persons, what, and wherein it consisteth — No place for it with God — Contrary to distributive justice — The doctrine of the saints’ perseverance charged with rendering God an accepter of persons unjustly — What it says looking this way — The sum of the charge against it considered and removed — Mr G.’s second argument, and the weight by him hung thereon — The original of this argument — By whom somewhat insisted on — The argument itself in his words proposed — Of the use and end of the ministry — Whether weakened by the doctrine of perseverance — Entrance into an answer to that argument — The foundation laid of it false, and why — It falsely imposeth on the doctrine of perseverance sundry things by it disclaims — The first considered — The iniquity of those impositions farther discovered — The true state of the difference as to this argument declared — The argument rectified — The re-enforcement of the minor attempted and considered — The manner of God’s operations with and in natural and voluntary agents compared — Efficacy of grace and liberty in man consistent — An objection to himself framed by Mr G. — That objection rectified — Perseverance, how “absolutely and simply necessary,” how not — The removal of the pretended objection farther insisted on by Mr G. — That discourse discussed, and manifested to be weak and sophistical — The consistency of exhortations and promises farther cleared — The manner of the operation of grace in and upon the wills of men considered — The inconsistency of exhortations with the efficacy of grace disputed by Mr G. — That discourse removed, and the use of exhortations farther cleared — Obedience to them twofold, habitual, actual — Of the physical operation of grace and means of the word — Their compliance and use — How the one and the other affect the will — Inclination to persevere when wrought in believers — Of the manner of God’s operation on the wills of men — Mr G.’s discourse and judgment considered — Effects follow, as to their kind, their next causes — The same act of the will physical and moral upon several accounts — Those accounts considered — God, by the real efficacy of the Spirit, produceth in us acts of the will morally good — That confirmed from Scripture — Conclusion from thence — Of the terms “physical,” “moral,” and “necessary,” and their use in things of the nature under consideration — Moral causes of physical effects — The concurrence of physical and moral causes for producing the same effect — The efficacy of grace and exhortations — “Physical” and “necessary,” how distinguished — “Moral” and “not necessary” confounded by Mr G. — Mr G.’s farther progress considered — What operation of God on the will of man he allows — All physical operation by him excluded — Mr G.’s sense of the difference between the working of God and a minister on the will, that it is but gradual; considered and removed — All working of God on the will by him confined to persuasion — Persuasion gives no strength or ability to the person persuaded — All immediate actings of God to good in men by Mr G. utterly excluded — Wherein God’s persuading men doth consist, according to Mr G. — 1 Cor. iii. 9 considered — Of the concurrence of divers agents to the production of the same effect — The sum of the seventh section of chap. xiii. — The will, how necessitated, how free — In what sense Mr G. allows God’s persuasions 426to be irresistible — The dealings of God and men ill compared — Paul’s exhortation to the use of means, when the end was certain, Acts xxvii. 21–36, considered — God deals with men as men, exhorting them; and as corrupted men, assisting them — Of promises of temporal things, whether all conditional — What condition in the promise made to Paul, Acts xxvii. 24 — Farther of that promise; its infallibility and means of accomplishment — The same considerations farther prosecuted — Of promises of perseverance and exhortations to perform in conjunction — Mr G.’s opposition hereunto — Promises and exhortations in conjunction — 1 Cor. x. 12, 13 discussed — An absolute promise of perseverance therein evinced — Phil. ii. 12, 13, to the same purpose, considered — Mr G.’s interpretation of that place proposed, removed — Heb. vi. 4–6, 9, to the same purpose insisted on — Of the consistency of threatenings with the promises of perseverance — Mr G.’s opposition hereunto considered and removed — What promises of perseverance are asserted; how absolute and infrustrable — Fear of hell and punishment twofold — The fear intended to be ingenerated by threatenings not inconsistent with the assurance given by promises — Five considerations about the use of threatenings — The first, etc. — Hypocrites, how threatened for apostasy — Of the end and aim of God in threatenings — Of the proper end and efficacy of threatenings with reference unto true believers — Fear of hell and punishment, how far a principle of obedience in the saints — Of Noah’s fear, Heb. xi. 7 — Mr G.’s farther arguings for the efficacy of the fear of hell unto obedience in the saints proposed, considered, removed — 1 John iv. 18 considered — Of the obedience of saints to their heavenly Father, compared to the obedience of children to their natural parents — Mr G.’s monstrous conception about this thing — How fear and love are principles of obedience, and in what sense — That which is done from fear not done willingly nor cheerfully — How fear, and what fear, hath torment — Of the nature and use of promises — Close of the answer to this argument.
It will be needless to use many words unto the discourse of the first section, seeing it will not in the least prejudice our cause in hand to leave Mr Goodwin in full possession of all the glory of the rhetoric thereof; for although I cannot close with him in the exposition given of that expression, 1 Tim. vi. 16, “God inhabiteth light inaccessible,” something, in my weak apprehension, much more glorious and divine being comprised therein than what it is here turned aside unto (neither am I in the least convinced of the truth τῆς ἀποδόσεως of the former discourse, in the close of the whole, asserting a deliverance to be obtained from our thoughts of the doctrine of the defection of the saints, which he intimateth to be [evangelical], that it is anti-evangelical, tormenting, and bringing souls under bondage, by a narrow and unprejudicate search into it, finding myself every day more and more confirmed in thoughts of that kind concerning it by my engagement into such an inquiry, which hath been observed in this present discourse as far as my weakness will permit), yet it being not in the least argumentative, but, for the whole frame and intendment of it, commune exordium, and that which any man of any opinion in the world might make use of, I shall not insist upon it.
427His second section containeth his first argument, drawn forth in the defence of his doctrine of the “possibility” (as he calleth it, but indeed what it is we have heard) “of the defection of believers.” Of this I presume he intended no more use but (as a forlorn) to begin a light skirmish with his adversaries, ordering it to retreat to his main body advancing after, or desperately casting it away, to abate the edge of his combatants’ weapons, it is so weak and feeble; and therefore I shall be very brief in the consideration of it. Thus, then, he proposeth it:—
“That doctrine which rendereth God free from the unrighteousness which the Scripture calleth the respecting of persons of men, is a doctrine of perfect consistence with the Scripture and the truth; the doctrine which teacheth the possibility of the saints’ declining, and this unto death, is a doctrine of this import: ergo.”
Ans. The first proposition must be supposed universal, or else the whole will quickly be manifested to be unconclusive. If it be only indefinite, and so equivalent, as it lieth, to a particular, the conclusion is from all particulars, and of no force, as Mr Goodwin well knoweth. Take it universally, and I say it is evidently false, and might easily be disproved by innumerable instances. Not that any error or falsehood can indeed give God the glory of any one of his attributes, but that they may be fitted and suited for such a service, were not their throats cut and their mouths stopped by the lies that are in them; which Mr Goodwin’s doctrine is no less liable to than any other, and not at all exempted from that condition by its seeming subserviency unto God’s aprosopolepsia. Doth not the doctrine of justification by works, even in the most rind sense of it, according to the tenor of the old covenant, absolutely render God free from the unrighteousness of accepting of persons? and yet, for all that, it hath not one jot the more of truth in it, nor is it the less and-evangelical. This foundation, then, being removed, whatever is built upon it mole ruit suâ. Neither is it in any measure restored or laid anew by the reason of it given by Mr Goodwin, namely, “That the Scripture affirmeth in sundry places that God is no accepter of persons;” for he that shall hence conclude that whatever doctrine affirmeth, directly or by consequence, that God is no accepter of persons, whatever other abomination it is evidently teeming withal, is yet true and according to the mind of God, shall have leave, notwithstanding the antiquated statute of our university against it, to go and read logic at Stamford. On this account do but prove that a doctrine be not guilty of any one crime, and you may conclude that it is guilty of none. For instance, that doctrine which impeacheth not the omnipresence of the Deity is true and according to the Scripture, for the Scripture aboundeth with clear testimonies of the presence of God in all places; now the doctrine of the ubiquity of the human 428nature of Christ doth no way impeach the omnipresence of the Deity: therefore it is true and according to Scripture!
I might supersede all farther considerations of this argument, having rendered it altogether useless and unserviceable in this warfare by breaking its right leg, or rather crutch, whereon it leaned. But something also may be added to the minor, because of its reflection in the close of its proof upon the doctrine we maintain, intimating an inconsistency of it with that excellency of God spoken of, namely, that he is no accepter of persons.
Prosopolepsia, or accepting of persons, is an evil in judgment, when he who is to determine in causes of righteousness hath respect to personal things, that concern not the merit of the cause in hand, and judgeth accordingly. This properly can have no place in God as to any bestowing of free grace, mercy, or pardon. There is room made for it only when the things that are bestowed or wrought by it are such as in justice are due; it being an iniquity solely and directly opposed to distributive justice, that rendereth to every one according to what is righteous and due.207207 Exod. xxiii. 2, 3, 6–9; Job xxxi. 34. That with God there be no accepting of persons there is no more required but this, that he appoint and determine equal punishments to equal faults, and give equal rewards to equal deservings. If he will dispose of his pardoning mercy and free grace to some in Christ, not to others, who shall say unto him, “What doest thou?’ May he not do what he will with his own? So he giveth a penny to him that laboureth all day, he may give a penny also to him that worketh but one hour. Now, suppose that Mr Goodwin’s doctrine render God free from this (or rather chargeth him not with it), yet if withal it calleth his truth, righteousness, faithfulness, oath, and immutability into question, shall it pass for a truth, or be embraced ever the sooner?
But the sting of this argument lieth in the tail or close of it, in the reflection insisted on upon the common doctrine of perseverance, as it is called, namely, that it teacheth God to be an accepter of persona This is Mr Goodwin’s way of arguing all along: When at any time he hath proposed a proof of the doctrine he goeth about to establish, finding that as something heavy work to lie upon his hand, and not much to be said in the case, he instantly turneth about and falleth upon his adversaries, in declaiming against whom he hath a rich and overflowing vein. There is scarce any one of his arguments in the pursuit and improvement whereof one fourth part of it is spoken to that head wherein he is engaged.
But wherein is the “common doctrine of perseverance” guilty of this great crime? It teacheth that “he that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.” It teacheth that God hath allotted equal punishments to equal transgressions, and appointed 429equal rewards to equal ways of obedience; that the wages of every sin is death, and that every sinner must die, unless it be those concerning whom God himself saith, “Deliver them, I have found a ransom,” Job xxxiii. 24; that he is alike displeased with sin in whomsoever it is, and that in a peculiar and eminent manner when it is found in his own. Indeed, if this be to impute acceptation of persons to God, to say “that he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth,” — that is, is tender to his own, as a father to his only child that serveth him, and will recover them (being faithful in his promises) from their sins, and heal their backslidings, though he suffer others to lie wallowing in their rebellions and pollutions all their days; — that he will not give pardon to any sinner but upon faith and repentance, but will give faith and repentance to those whom he hath chosen, and given unto Jesus Christ to be saved: if this, I say, be acceptance of persons, our doctrine owneth the imputation of ascribing it to God, and glorieth in it, we being ascertained that God taketh all this to himself clearly and plentifully in the word of truth.
The sum of what our author gives in to make good his charge upon the “common doctrine of perseverance” is, that it affirmeth “That though saints and believers fall into the same sins of adultery, and idolatry, and the like, with other men, yet they are not dealt withal as other men, but continued in the love and favour of God.” To waive the consideration of the false impositions, by the way, on the doctrine opposed (as that is, that it teacheth the saints to fall into and to continue in them, to the significancy of that expression “Never so long,” under abominations), and to join issue upon the whole of the matter, I say, —
1. That in and with this doctrine, and in perfect harmony and consistency therewith, we maintain that the judgment of God is the same in respect of every sin, in whomsoever it is, that he that doth it on that account is “worthy of death,” Rom. i. 32. And, —
2. That the sentence of the law is the same towards all, cursing every one that continueth not in all things written in the book thereof to do them, Deut. xxvii. 26.
3. That in and under the gospel, wherein a remedy is provided in reference to the rigour and severity of both the former apprehensions, yet the Judge of all dealeth with all men equally, according to the tenor of it, “He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.” Men in the same condition shall have the same recompense of reward. But you will say, “Do not the same sins put men into the same condition, and deserve the same punishment in one as in another?”
Ans. 1. They do deserve the same punishment. God is equally provoked; and had not Christ answered for the sins of believers, they 430could not, they should not, have escaped the wrath due to them. 2. That the same sins do not argue men always, under the gospel, to be in the same condition, as shall be afterward fully manifested; for, First, they do not find them in the same state. Some are in a state of death and sin, others of life and grace, being translated from the one to the other, having a title to the promise of mercy in Christ. Secondly, and chiefly, as there is a twofold justification, of the person and of the fact, and the one may be without the other, so there is a twofold condemnation, of disapprobation of the fact and of the person. As to the particular disapprobation of God in respect of any sinful act, it is the same in reference unto all persons, believers and unbelievers. As to their persons, there are in the gospel other ingredients to the judgment of them beside particular facts or acts, in answer to the law or the rule of righteousness, — namely, faith and repentance, — which alter the case of the person, even before the judgment-seat of God. To suppose the saints to fall into the same sins with other men in the same manner, and to continue in them without faith and repentance, is to beg the thing in question. Suppose them to have (what we affirm God hath promised) those conditions of evangelical mercy, and Mr Goodwin himself will grant it no acceptance of persons to deal otherwise with them than with others who have committed like sins with them in whom those conditions are not wrought or found; that is, “He that believeth shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned.” This is all we say in this thing. But of the difference between believers and unbelievers in their sinning we shall speak afterward at large, to the full removal of this and another objection. For the present this shall suffice: Though believers fall, or may fall, into the same sins with other men, yet they fall not into them in the same manner with them, and they have a relief provided to prevent the deadly malignity of sin, which those who believe not have no interest in nor right unto.
Mr Goodwin’s second argument is that which, of all others in this case, he seemeth to lay most weight upon, and which he pursueth at large in seventeen pages and as many sections, treating in it concerning the ministry of the gospel, and the usefulness of the exhortations, threatenings, and promises thereof. For an entrance into the consideration of it, I must needs say, “Non venit ex pharetris ista sagitta tuis.” For besides that Mr Goodwin hath taken very little pains in the improvement of it (considering how it was provided to his hand by the Remonstrants at the Synod of Dort, and that which he hath done farther consisting in a mere useless and needless stuffing of it with sundry notions taken out of their first argument and fifth, “De modo conversionis,” of the manner of the Spirit’s operation in and upon the soul in its first conversion to God), it was the old song of the Pelagians and semi-Pelagians in their dealing 431with Austin, Fulgentius, Hilarius, Prosper, and by them at large confuted; renewed by Castalio and Erasmus against Luther, after it had been sifted and rejected by the more learned schoolmen in former ages. Whatever it be, and however it is now come to hand, being taught to speak our language, and that in the best fashion, the consideration of it must not be declined. And thus it is proposed:—
“If the common doctrine of perseverance rendereth the ministry of the gospel, so far as it concerneth the perseverance of the saints, vain, impertinent, and void, then is it not a doctrine of God, but of men, and consequently that which opposeth it is truth; but certain it is that the said doctrine is of this unchristian tendency and import: ergo.” The first part of the consequent of the major is granted. The work of the ministry being for the “perfecting of the saints, and the edification of the body of Christ,” Eph. iv. 12, 13, that which frustrateth the end whereunto of Christ himself it is designed can be no truth of his. Of the farther inference, that the doctrine which opposeth it, or is set up in opposition to it, is the truth, more will be spoken afterward. For the present, I cannot but insist upon the former observation, that, notwithstanding Mr Goodwin’s pretence of proving and arguing for the doctrine he maintains, yet upon the matter he hath not any thing to say in the carrying on of that design, but instantly falls to his old work of raising objections, — in their very setting up prepared to be cast down, for the most part, — which with all his might he labours to remove.
The stress of the whole, as far as we are concerned in it, lieth on the minor, which is thus farther attempted to be made good. The minor proposition is demonstrated thus: “The doctrine which rendereth the labour and faithfulness of a minister, in pressing such exhortations, threatenings, and promises, which tend to the preservation of the saints in faith and holiness to the end, useless, rendereth the ministry of the gospel, as far as it concerneth the encouragement or enabling of the saints to persevere, needless and vain; but guilty of such a tendency as this is the commonly received doctrine of perseverance: ergo.”
Ans. This labour might have been saved, and both these syllogisms very easily reduced to one; but then another seeming argument, afterward, as we shall find, insisted on, would have been prevented. Our trade in such cases as this is by weight, and not by number. The minor, then, is still to be confirmed, which he laboureth thus to do:—
“The common doctrine of perseverance requireth and commandeth all saints or believers to be fully persuaded, and this with the greatest and most indubitable certainty of faith, that there is an absolute and utter impossibility either of a total or a final defection of their faith, — that though they should fall into ten thousand enormous and most 432abominable sins, and lie wallowing in them, like swine in the mire, yet they should remain all the while in an estate of grace, and that God will, by a strong hand of irresistible grace, break them off from their sins by repentance before they die; but the doctrine which requireth and commandeth all this, and much more of like import, to be confidently believed by true believers, rendereth the pressing of all exhortations, threatenings, promises upon them, in order to prevail with them, or to make them carefully to persevere, bootless and unnecessary: ergo.”
Ans. What weight Mr Goodwin, with all those with whom, as to his undertaking under consideration, he is in fellowship, doth lay upon this argument is known to all. The whole foundation of what is afterward at large insisted on, for the establishment of it, being laid upon the proof of the minor proposition formerly denied, here laid down, it will easily be granted that it was incumbent on him to make sure work here, and not to leave any thing liable to any just exception. An error or a mistake in the foundation is not easily recoverable All that is afterward heaped up beareth itself on a supposition of the truth of what is here delivered. If this fail in the least, we may spare our labour as to any farther consideration of what followeth. Now, the main of the proof here insisted on lieth in the declaration of that which he calleth the “common doctrine of perseverance;” and concerning this he informeth his reader, —
“That it commandeth all saints to be fully persuaded, and that with the greatest and most indubitable certainty of faith, that there is an absolute and utter impossibility either of a total or final defection of their faith.”
Ans. What is the intendment of these aggravating expressions of “Fully persuaded,” “Greatest and most indubitable certainty of faith,” I know not. Will it please you if it should require them to be persuaded, but not fully persuaded; to believe it, but with little and dubitable certainty of faith, or uncertainty rather? Full persuasion, greatest certainty, without doubting or staggering, are all of them perfections of faith and of the saints in believing; which without doubt they are, in all that they are to believe, to press after. So that all this is no more but that this doctrine requireth men to believe what it affirmeth God to have promised. It requireth men to mix the promises of God with faith, crimen inauditum. “But though the manner of believing which it requireth be not blamable, yet the thing which it proposeth to be believed is false.” What is that? “That there is an absolute or utter impossibility either of a total or final defection of the faith of true believers.” Its requiring this to be believed is the bottom and also cornerstone of Mr Goodwin’s ensuing argument. If it doth not do this, he hath nothing in this place to say to it. Let him, then, produce any one that hath ever 433wrote in the defence of it, that hath in terms, or by just consequence, delivered any such thing, and, en herbam! there shall be an end of this dispute. I presume Mr Goodwin knoweth what is meant by “an absolute and utter impossibility.” An absolute repugnancy unto being, in the nature of the things themselves concerning which any affirmation is, and not any external or foreign consideration, doth entitle any thing to [be called] an absolute and utter impossibility. Did ever any one affirm that, in the nature of the thing itself, the defection of the saints is absolutely impossible? Is it not by them that believe the perseverance of the saints constantly affirmed that in themselves they are apt, yea, prone to fall away, and their faith to decay and diet which in itself possibly may be done, though Mr Goodwin cannot tolerably show how. The whole certainty of their continuance in, and of the preservation of, their faith, depends merely on supposition of something that is extrinsical in respect of them and of their state, which, as to their condition, might or might not be. Farther, the perseverance of the saints is by the same persons constantly affirmed to be carried on and to be perfected in and by the use of means. It is their keeping by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” And can, then, an absolute impossibility of their defection be asserted, or only that which is so upon supposition, — namely, of the purpose of God, etc.? There was no absolute impossibility that the hones of Christ should be broken, they being in themselves as liable to be broken as his flesh to be pierced; yet in respect of the event it was impossible they should be so. I cannot well imagine that Mr Goodwin is not fully persuaded, with the greatest and most indubitable certainty that a persuasion in things of this kind will admit, that the “common doctrine of perseverance” doth not require saints to believe that there is “an absolute impossibility of their defection,” but only that God hath promised to preserve them from that which in themselves and in respect of any thing in them they are obnoxious unto, in and by the use of the means suited and appointed by him to the carrying on of that work and compassing of the end proposed. But yet it pleaseth him here to make show of a contrary apprehension; and to show his confidence therein he aggravates it with this annexed supposition and case: “It doth so,” saith he, “though they should fall into ten thousand enormous and most abominable sins, and lie wallowing in them like swine in the mire, yet that they shall remain all the while in an estate of grace.”
Ans. Truly this is such an enormous and an abominable calumny that I cannot but admire how any sober and rational man durst venture upon the owning of it. The question now is, what faith the doctrine insisted on ingenerates in particular persons, that should enervate and make void the exhortations, etc., of the ministry? Now, though the doctrine should teach this indefinitely, that though men 434did sin so and so, as is here expressed, yet they should be kept in state of grace, as is mentioned (which yet is loudly and palpably false, as hath been declared), yet that it doth require particular men to believe for themselves, and in reference to the guidance of their own ways, that they may “lie and wallow in their sin, like swine in the mire, and yet continue in a state of grace and acceptation with God,” is so notoriously contrary to the whole tenor of the doctrine, the genius and nature of it, with all the arguments whereby it is asserted and maintained, that if conscience had but in the least been advised withal in this contest, this charge had been without doubt omitted. All that is produced for the confirmation of this strange imposition on the persuasion under consideration is his own testimony that makes the charge, “that it is the known voice of the common doctrine of perseverance;” and that being said is laid as a foundation of all that follows, the whole discourse still relating to a supposition that this is the doctrine which it opposeth, from the very next words to the end! Nor is there the least farther attempt for the confirmation of this grand assertion. But is this “the known voice” of our doctrine of perseverance? Who ever heard it but Mr Goodwin, and men of the like prejudicate spirit against the truth? The worst that can be charged with looking this way is its asserting the promised efficacy of the grace of God for the preserving of believers, by the use of means, from such wallowing in abominable sins as is supposed that it affirms they may be exposed unto. In brief, it says not, — first, That all believers are certain of their perseverance; nor, secondly, That any one can be certain of it upon such supposals as are here mentioned, — such a persuasion would not be from Him that calls them; nor, thirdly, That the end can be obtained without the use of means, though by them it shall certainly be so; but, fourthly, That all the hope of their perseverance is built on the promises of God to preserve them by and in the use of means. So that, in truth, there is no need of any farther process for the removing of the argument insisted on but only a disclaimer of the doctrine by it opposed, if it be that which is here expressed.
That, indeed, which Mr Goodwin hath to dispute against, if he will deal fairly and candidly in the carrying on of his design, is this:— “That the certainty of an end, to be obtained by means suited thereunto, doth not enervate nor render vain the use of those means appointed for the accomplishment of that end.” The perseverance of the saints is the thing here proposed to be accomplished. That this shall be certainly effected and brought about, according to the promises of God for the effecting of it, God hath appointed the means under debate, to be managed by the ministry of the gospel. That the promise of God concerning the saints’ perseverance, to be wrought and effected, as by others, so by these means in their kind, doth not 435invalidate or render useless and vain the use of those means, but indeed establishes them, and ascribes to them their proper efficacy, is that which in this doctrine is asserted, and which Mr Goodwin ought to have disproved if he would have acquitted himself as a fair antagonist in this cause. The promise, we say, that Hezekiah had of the continuance of his life, did not make useless, but called for, the “plaster of figs” that was appointed for the healing of his sore, Isa. xxxviii. 5, 21.
I might then, as I said, save myself the labour of farther engaging for the casting down of this fabric, built on the sandy foundations of falsehood and mistake; but because something may fall in of that which followeth, — more indeed to the purpose than an orderly pursuit of those assertions laid down in the entrance would require, — that may more directly rise up against the cause in whose defence I am engaged, I shall consider the whole ensuing discourse; which, without doubt, will administer farther occasion for the illustration or confirmation of the truth in hand. He proceeds, then:—
“The reason of the minor is, because a certain knowledge and persuasion that God will, by an irresistible hand of power, preserve a man in the state of grace, how desperately careless, negligent, or wicked soever he shall be, clearly dissolves the usefulness and necessity of all other means whatsoever in reference to this end. If know certainly that the corn which I have sown in my field will, whether I wake or sleep, grow and prosper, would it not be a very impertinent address for any man to come to me, and admonish me in a serious and grave manner to take heed I sleep not, but keep myself waking, lest my corn should not grow and prosper, or that it may grow and prosper? If my corn grows, thrives, and prospers, by the irresistible hand of God, by the course of a natural and standing providence, my watchfulness in order to a procurement of these things is absolutely vain,” etc.
Ans. That this is not the doctrine which Mr Goodwin hath undertaken to oppose, hath been more than once already declared. That he is not able with any colour of reason to oppose it, unless he first impose his own false and vain inferences upon it, and them upon his reader, for the doctrine itself, from his constant course of proceeding against it, is also evident. What advantage this is like in the close to prove to his cause, in the judgment of considerate men, the event will discover. The assertion of the stability of the promises of God in Jesus Christ given to believers, concerning his effectual preserving them to the end from such sins as are absolutely inconsistent with his grace and favour according to the tenor of the new covenant, or such continuance in any sin as is of the same importance, by his Spirit and grace, in the use of means, doth no way tend to the begetting in any a certain knowledge, assurance, and persuasion, that 436God will continue them in a state of grace, “how desperately careless or wicked soever they shall be.”
What is intended by the frequent repetition of this gross sophistry, or what success with the intelligent Christian ponderers of things he can hope for thereby, I am not able to guess; neither is any improvement in the least given to what the intendment of this argument is, so far as the “common doctrine of perseverance” is concerned therein, from the comparison ensuing instituted between the growth of corn and the walking of believers in obedience before God: for notwithstanding the identity in respect of the comparison of that expression “irresistible,” which indeed is proper to neither, there is a wide difference between the growing of corn in a mere natural way, and the moral actings of an intelligent, rational creature. Whatever operations of God are about and in the one or the other, yet they are suited to the subjects about which they are. God carries on the growth of corn by a way of natural and necessary causes; but his acting of rational agents is by such ways and means as may entirely preserve their liberty, — that is, preserving them in their being, and leaving them to be such agents. As, then, God causeth the corn to grow by the shining of his sun and the falling of his rain, so he causeth believers to persevere in obedience by exhortations, promises, and threatenings, and such ways and means as are suited to such agents as they are. The fallacy of this discourse lies in an insinuation that God, by his effectual (or, as they are called, “irresistible”) operations for the preservation of believers in gospel obedience (a thing he hath undertaken over and over to perform) doth change their nature, and render them, not free and intelligent agents, fit to be wrought upon by the proposal of suitable and desirable objects to their understandings, but mere brute and natural principles of all operations flowing from them; a conceit as gross and ridiculous as certainly destructive to all the efficacy of the grace of God. All the rest of this section, as far as it concerns us, is only an affirming, this way and that, that an assurance of the end to be obtained by the use of means renders those means altogether useless; which when he proves, the controversy may be nearer to an issue than otherwise he hath any reason to hope that it is, or will be to his advantage.
Sect. 4. Leaving the farther confirmation of his argument, he enters upon the removal of a plea insisted on to the justification of the doctrine opposed, and vindication of it from the crime wherewith here by him it is charged. This he tells you is, “That the exhortations, comminations, and promises spoken of, are means appointed of God for the accomplishing and effecting of the perseverance of the saints, which he hath made simply and absolutely necessary by his decree.” “This,” he saith, “hath neither any logical nor theological virtue in 437it for the purpose for which it is produced, but is a notion irrelative to the business, the accommodation whereof it pretends.”
Ans. It may be so. Suffer you to frame the objection, and who will doubt of your ability of giving an answer? But who, I pray, says that “God, by his decree, hath made the perseverance of the saints simply and absolutely necessary?” That it is certain in respect of the event, from the decree of God, we grant; but do we thereby overthrow the means whereby it is to be accomplished? yea, we establish them. We are of the mind that God hath purposed, and thereupon promised, the accomplishment of many things (as the selling of Joseph into Egypt, the bringing of the children of Israel from thence, and the like), which yet were to be carried on to their accomplishment and brought about through innumerable contingencies, by the free, rational, deliberative actings of men. If by “Simply and absolutely necessary” you intend that the thing decreed is to be wrought of men simply and absolutely necessarily by their operations, as to the manner of them, we simply and absolutely deny any such decree. If by those expressions you improperly intend only the certainty of the event, or accomplishment of the thing decreed, with respect to the means appointed and fitted thereunto, we say this establisheth those means; neither have they the nature of means to an end from any reason whatever, but as so appointed of God thereunto. But he proceeds in the proof of his former assertion, and says, —
“First, That the exhortations whereby the saints are exhorted to perseverance are no means by which the promises of perseverance made, as our adversaries suppose, to them are accomplished or effected, is thus clearly evinced: Whatsoever is a means for the bringing of any thing to pass ought not to contain any thing in it repugnant or contrary unto that which is intended to be brought to pass by it, for means ought to be subordinate to their ends, not repugnant; but the Scripture exhortations unto perseverance contain that which is repugnant to the promises of perseverance, if supposed such as our adversaries suppose them to be: therefore they can by no means effect those promises. The minor is evident by the light of this consideration. Such exhortations as these to the saints, ‘Take heed lest at any time there be an evil heart of unbelief in you, lest you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, lest you fall from grace, lest you receive the grace of God in vain, lest you fall from your own steadfastness,’ in their native and proper tendency import a danger, and serve to raise a fear in men lest the danger imported should come upon them; whereas such promises as these, made unto the same persons, and that not conditionally, as is supposed, that there shall never be a heart of unbelief in them, that they shall never be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, that they shall never fall away from the grace of God, exclude all danger or possibility of 438falling away, and tend directly to prevent or extinguish all fear in men of any such danger: therefore, such exhortations are in their nature and genuine import contrary to such promises in theirs, and consequently can be no means of bringing them to pass.”
Ans. 1. Exhortations are not so properly the means whereby the promises are accomplished as the means whereby the things mentioned in the promises are wrought, God by and through them stirring up those graces which he promises to work, continue, and to increase in his saints.
2. “Exhortations divine” must be so apprehended as to be subservient to an end, in respect of God foreknown and determined. It is true, we exhort men (or may) to those things of whose event we are wholly uncertain; but to God this cannot be ascribed. He doth foreknow and hath fore-determined the end and issue that every one of his exhortations shall have; and therefore such a nature, and no other, is to be ascribed to them as is consistent with and subservient to a determined end.
3. To the confirmation of his minor proposition the answer is easy, from the consideration, first, of the end of the exhortations insisted on unto perseverance, and then of the promises of perseverance themselves, which are no way inconsistent therewith. For the first, I say, those exhortations, “Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief,” and the like, are not given to ingenerate a fear of falling away (which is a thing in itself evil and opposite unto that steadfastness of faith and full assurance which we should press unto, so far is it from any act of faithful obedience that God should aim to work in the hearts of his, and apply means thereunto), but only to beget a holy care and diligence in them to whom they are made or given for the using of the means appointed of God for the avoiding of the evil threatened to follow upon a neglect of them; which directly falls in and sweetly conspires with the end and use of the promises of perseverance by us urged and insisted upon. Nothing is imported by them but only the connection that is between the things mentioned in them, as unbelief and rejection from God. This God aims at in those exhortations, in their particular respect unto believers, that by them they may be stirred up to the use of those means which he hath appointed for them, to be by them preserved in the grace and mercy which he hath infallibly promised to continue to them. And, —
4. The end of the promises of perseverance on which we have insisted being their “mixing with faith,” to establish the souls of the saints in believing the kindness and faithfulness of God in his covenant in Jesus Christ, they do not take away nor prevent all fear of perishing, and so, consequently, not that fear in any measure which stirs them up so to the use of means that they may not perish, but only are effectual for their deliverance out of those dangers 439which are apt and able of themselves to destroy them; as our Saviour himself prays for them, John xvii. 15, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world” (where, whilst they are, they will be sure to meet with dangers and perplexities enough), “but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil,” wherewith they must reckon to be exercised. There is not, then, the least contrariety or diverse aspect between the assurance of faith about the end which the promises tend unto, and the care and godly fear about the means instituted and appointed with respect to the end which exhortations do beget, and will, notwithstanding those promises.
5. The greatest inconsistency that can be imagined between exhortations and promises, as by us explained, is no more than this, that in one place God promiseth that unto us as his grace, which in another he requires of us as our duty; between which two whoever feigns an opposition, he doth his endeavour to set the covenant of grace, as to us proposed and declared, at variance with itself.
The whole ensuing discourse, unto sect. 12, drawing deep upon another controversy, — namely, “the manner of the operation of grace,” — and being for the most part borrowed from what is delivered on that head in the Arminian writings,208208 Acta Synodal. might be passed over as not of any necessary consideration in this place. What we assign to the exhortations of the word, and their consistency with whatever else we teach of the saints’ perseverance, being already heard, this argument is at its proper issue. But the task undertaken is not to be waived or avoided; I shall therefore proceed to the discussion of it. Thus, then, he goes on:—
“If,” saith he, “such exhortations as we speak of be a means to effect the perseverance which our adversaries suppose to be promised in the saints, then must the act of perseverance in the saints necessarily depend upon them, so as that it cannot, nor will, be effected without them; that is, without the saints submitting themselves to them: but persevering upon these terms clearly supposeth a possibility of non-persevering; for whatsoever dependeth upon a mutable condition, and which possibly may not be performed, may be also possible never to come to pass.”
Ans. 1. Exhortations are improperly said to be “a means to effect perseverance.” We say only that they are means to stir up, quicken, and increase, those graces in the exercise whereof the saints, according to the purpose and promise of God, do persevere.
2. The perseverance of the saints doth consist in the abiding and continuance of those graces in them which those exhortations do so stir up and further or increase; and in that regard there is a connection between the perseverance of the saints and the exhortations mentioned, yea, a dependence of the one on the other. But this 440dependence ariseth not from the nature of the things themselves, whence such a certainty as is asserted would not arise, but from the purpose and appointment of God that they should be effectual to that end. And therefore, —
3. A “perseverance on these terms supposeth a possibility of non-persevering,” if you regard only the nature of the things themselves, and set aside all consideration of the purpose and promises of God concerning the end, which is to beg the thing in hand; yea, the promise of God extends itself to the certain accomplishment of the saints’ submission to those exhortations. So that the end aimed at doth not depend on a “mutable condition” (if I understand any thing of that expression, so unsuited to the business in hand), the performance of the condition (or the yielding of such obedience as is required to the essence of the saints’ perseverance) being certain also from the promises of God.
His 5th section is as followeth: “If it be said that the said exhortations are means of the saints’ persevering in this respect, because God by his Spirit irresistibly and unfrustrably draws and persuades the saints to obey these exhortations as means of their persevering, I answer, It cannot be proved that God doth draw or persuade his saints upon any such terms to obey these exhortations, nay, frequent experience showeth, and our adversaries’ doctrine, frequently mentioned, expressly granteth, that the saints many times are so far from obeying these exhortations, that they walk for a long time in full opposition to them, as in security, looseness, vile practices. Nor have they yet proved, nor, I believe, ever will prove, but that they may walk, yea, and that many have thus walked, I mean in full opposition to the said exhortations, to their dying day. Secondly, If God by his Spirit irresistibly draws his saints to obey the exhortations we speak of, he thus draweth them either by such a force or power immediately acted upon their wills, by which they are made willing to obey them, or else he maketh use of the said exhortations so to work or affect their wills that they become willing accordingly. If the former be asserted, then, 1. The said exhortations are no means whereby the perseverance of the saints is effected, but God irresistibly by his Spirit: for if the will be thus immediately affected by God after such a manner, and wrought to such a bent and inclination, as that it cannot but obey the said exhortations, or do the things which the said exhortations require, then would it have done the same thing whether there had been any such exhortations in being or no, and consequently these exhortations could have no manner of efficiency about their perseverance; for the will, according to the common saying, is of itself’ a blind faculty,’ and follows its own predominant bent and inclination, without taking knowledge whether the ways and actions towards which it stands bent be commanded 441or exhorted unto by God or no. 2. If the will of a saint be immediately so affected by God that it stands inclined and bent to do the things which are proper to cause him to persevere, then is this bent and inclination wrought in the will of such a person after his being a saint, and consequently is not essential to him as a saint, but merely accidental and adventitious; and if so, then is there no inclination or bent in the will of a saint as such, or from his first being a mint, to persevere, or to do the things which accompany perseverance, but they come to be wrought in him afterward: which how consistent it is with the principles either of reason or religion, or their own, I am content that my adversaries themselves should judge. 3. If God doth immediately and irresistibly incline or move the wills of the saints to do the things which accompany perseverance, the said exhortations can be no means of effecting this perseverance; for the will, being physically and irresistibly acted and drawn by God to do such and such things, needeth no addition of moral means, such as exhortations are (if they be any), in order hereunto. What a man is necessitated to, he needeth no farther help or means to do it. 4. The things which accompany perseverance import a continuance in faith and love to the end. If, then, the wills of the saints be immediately and irresistibly moved by God thus to continue, — I mean in faith and love to the end, — what place is there for exhortations to come in with their efficiency towards that perseverance? Need they be exhorted to continue in faith and love, or to persevere after the end? Thus, then, we clearly see that the former of the two consequents mentioned cannot stand. God doth not by his Spirit irresistibly draw or move the wills of the saints to do the things which are necessary for the procuring their perseverance immediately, or without the instrumental interposure of the said exhortations.”
Ans. First, the intendment of this, as also of some following sections, is to prove and manifest that the use of exhortations cannot consist with the efficacy of internal grace, and the work of the Spirit in producing and effecting those graces in us which in those exhortations we are provoked and stirred up unto; — a very sad undertaking truly, to my apprehension, and for which the church of God will scarce ever return thanks to them that shall engage in it! He was of another mind who cried, “Da, Domine, quod jubes, et jube quod vis.” Yea, and the Holy Ghost hath, in innumerable places of Scripture, expressed himself of another mind, promising to work effectually in us what he requires earnestly of us; by the one manifesting the efficacy of his grace, by the other the exigency of the duty which is incumbent upon us. Nay, never any saint of God once prayed in his life, seeking any thing at the hand of God, but was of another mind, if he understood his own supplications. To what is here urged against this catholic faith of believers, I say, —
442That exhortations are the means of perseverance, inasmuch as by them, in their place and kind, and with them, the Spirit of God effectually works this perseverance, or the matter of it, in the saints. Those cloudy expressions of “Irresistibly and unfrustrably” we own no farther than as they denote the certainty of the event, and not the manner of the Spirit’s operation; which also they do very unhandsomely. We leave out, then, in the proposal of our judgment about the use of exhortations, which Mr Goodwin opposeth, those terms, and add in their room, “By and with those exhortations,” which he omits.
He saith, then, “This cannot be proved, because the saints live and die oftentimes in opposition and disobedience unto these exhortations.”
But obedience is twofold: First, As to the general frame of the heart, — obedience in the habit; and so it is false that the saints live at any time in an ordinary course, much less die in opposition to those exhortations. The law of God being written in their hearts, and they delighting in it in their inward man, they abide therein, the fruit of obedience for the most part being brought forth by them: and this sufficeth as to their perseverance. Secondly, It regardeth particular acts of obedience; and in respect of them we all say that yet they all sin (“Optimus ille est, qui mlnimis urgetur”): but this prejudiceth not their perseverance, nor the general end of the exhortations afforded them for that purpose.
But he adds, secondly, “If God by his Spirit irresistibly draws his saints to persevere,” ut supra.
But this is sorry sophistry, “which may be felt,” as they say, “through a pair of mittens;” for, —
1. Who says that God works by force immediately upon the wills of men? Or who makes force and power to be terms equivalent? or says that God cannot put forth the “exceeding greatness of his power in them that believe,” but he must force or compel their wills? or, that he cannot “work in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” immediately working in and with our wills, but he must so force them?
2. Whence ariseth the disjunctive force of this argument, “Either by immediate actings upon their wills, or he maketh use of those exhortations?” as though the one way were exclusive of the other, and that the Scripture did not abundantly and plentifully ascribe both these unto God; both that he exhorts us to know him, love him, believe in him, and gives us an understanding and a heart so to do, working faith and love in us by the exceeding efficacy of his power and Spirit. I say, then, that God works immediately by his Spirit in and on the wills of his saints; that is, he puts forth a real physical power that is not contained in those exhortations, 443though he doth it by, and in, and with them. The impotency that is in us to do good is not amiss termed ethico-physica, both natural and moral; and the applications of God to the soul in their doing good are both really and physically efficient and moral also, the one consisting in the efficacy of his Spirit, the other lying in the exhortations of the word, yet so as that the efficacy of the Spirit is exerted by and with the moral efficacy of the word, his work being but grace or the law in the heart, the word being the law written. So that all the ensuing reasonings are bottomed upon things male divisa that stand in a sweet harmony and compliance with each other.
But Mr Goodwin tells you, “That if God work by his Spirit and his grace immediately on the wills of men, to cause them to persevere, then are exhortations no means of their perseverance.”
Why so, I pray? It seems we must have no internal effectual grace from God, or no outward exhortations of the word; but he tells you it must be so, “Because if the will be physically and irresistibly acted and drawn by God to do such and such things, it needeth no addition of moral means; such are exhortations thereunto.” That is, if the will be effectually inclined to the ways of God by his grace, there is then no need of the exhortations of the word. But yet, —
1. The Spirit of God, though he has an immediate efficacy of his own by and with those exhortations, yet by those exhortations he also inclines the will; and as he works on the will as corrupt and impotent by his grace, so he works on the will (as the will, or as such a faculty, is apt to be wrought upon by a mediation of the understanding) by exhortations.
2. To say, “Obedience would have been produced and wrought had there been no exhortations,” is not required of us, what efficacy soever we ascribe to grace, unless we also deny exhortations to be appointed of God and to be used by the Spirit of God for the producing of that obedience. Neither, —
3. Doth God work upon the will as a distinct faculty alone of itself, without suiting his operations to the other faculties of the soul; nor is grace to be wrought or carried on in us merely as we have wills, but as we have understandings also, whereby the exhortations he is pleased to use may be conveyed to the will and affect it in their kind. In a word, this is but repeating what was said before, “If there be any effectual grace, there is no use of exhortations; or if exhortations be the means of continuing or increasing grace, what need the efficacy of grace or immediate actings of the Spirit, ‘working in us to will and to do of God’s good pleasure?” What validity there is in these inferences will be easily discerned. God worketh grace in men as men, and as men impotent and corrupt by sin. As men he works upon them by means suited to their rational being, — by precepts and exhortations; but as men impotent and corrupt by 444sin, they stand in need of his effectual power to work that in them which he requireth of them. Of the terms wherewith his arguing in this case is clouded and darkened, enough hath been remarked already.
His second argument to this purpose, namely, “That the inclination of the will to good and to persevere in a saint must be after his being made a saint,” is as weak and no less sophistical than the former. That inclination is radically wrought in every believer at his conversion, the Spirit being bestowed on him, which shall abide with him for ever, and the seed of God laid in his heart, that shall remain and never utterly fail, with an habitual inclination to the exercise of all those graces wherein their persevering doth consist. Actually this is wrought in them according to the particular duties and actings of grace that are required of them; which they are carried forth unto by the daily influence of life, power, and grace, which they receive from Christ their head, without whom they can do nothing.
Neither is the third exception of any more validity, being only a repetition of what was spoken before, rendered something more impedite, dark, and intricate, by the terms of “physically,” “irresistibly,” and “necessitated;” which how far and wherein we do allow hath been frequently declared. The sum of what is spoken amounts to this, “God’s real work in and upon the soul by his Spirit and grace is inconsistent with exhortations to obedience;” which we have before disproved, and do reject it as an assertion destructive to all the efficacy of the grace of God and the whole work of it upon the souls of men.
What his fourth argument also is but a repetition of the same things before crudely asserted in other terms, let them apprehend that can: “If God work faith and love in the hearts of his saints, and support them in them to the end, what place is left for exhortations?” I say, Their own proper place, the place of means, of means appointed by God to stir up his to perseverance, and which himself makes, by his Spirit and the immediate efficacy thereof, effectual to that end and purpose. And I know no use of that query, “Are exhortations effectual to persuade men to persevere after the end?” it being built only on his false hypothesis and begging of the thing in question, namely, “That if God work faith and love, and continuance of them, in our hearts effectually by his grace, there is no need, no use of exhortations,” though God so work them by and with those exhortations.
And this is his first attempt upon the first member of the division made by himself, wherein what success he hath obtained is left to the judgment of the reader; and but that I shall not, — having now the part of one that answers incumbent on me, — turn aside unto the proof of things denied, I should easily confirm what hath been given 445in for the removal of his objections from the testimony of God, by innumerable places of Scripture.
He proceeds, then, sect. 6, and says, “Secondly, Neither can the latter of the said consequences stand. God doth not make use of the said exhortations to influence or affect the wills of the saints upon any such terms as thereby to make them infallibly, unfrustrably, necessitatingly, willing to persevere, or to do the things upon which perseverance dependeth.
“For, first, If so, then one and the same act of the will should be both physical and moral, and so be specifically distinguished in and from itself. For so far as it is produced by the irresistible force or power of the Spirit of God, it must needs be physical, the said irresistible working of the Spirit being a physical action, and so not proper to produce a moral effect. Again, as far as the said exhortations are means to produce or raise this act of the will, or contribute any thing towards it, it must needs be moral, because exhortations are moral causes, and so not capable of producing physical, natural, or necessary effects. Now, then, if it be impossible that one and the same act of the will should be both physical and moral, — that is, necessary and not necessary, — impossible also it is that it should be produced by the irresistible working of God and by exhortations of this joint efficiency.
“It may be objected, ‘They who hold or grant such an influence or operation of the Spirit of God upon the will which is frustrable or resistible, do and must suppose it to be a physical action as well as that which is irresistible. If so, then the act of the will, so far as it is raised by the means of this action or operation of God, must, according to the tenor of the former argument, be physical also, and so the pretended impossibility is no more avoided by this opinion than by the other.’
“I answer, Though such an operation of God upon the will as is here mentioned be, in respect of God and of the manner of its proceeding from him, physical, yet, in respect of the nature and substance of it, it is properly moral; because it impresseth and affecteth the will upon which it is acted after the manner of moral causes, properly so called, — that is, persuadingly, not ravishingly or necessitatingly. When a minister of the gospel in his preaching presseth or persuadeth men to such and such duties or actions, this act, as it proceedeth from him, — I mean, as it is raised by his natural abilities of understanding and speaking, — is physical or natural, but in respect of the substance or native tendency of it it is clearly moral, namely, because it tendeth to incline or move the wills of men to such or such elections without necessitating them thereunto; and so comports with those arguments or exhortations, in their manner of efficiency, by which he presseth or moveth them to such things. By the way, to prevent 446stumbling and quarrelling, it no way follows from the premises that a minister in his preaching or persuading unto duties should do as much as God himself doth in or towards the persuading of men hereunto. It only follows that the minister doth co-operate with God (which the apostle himself affirms) in order to one and the same effect; — that is, that he operateth in one and the same kind of efficiency with God, morally or persuadingly, not necessitating; for where one necessitates and another only persuades, they cannot be said to cooperate or work the one with the other, no more than two, when the one runs and the other walks a soft pace, can be said to go or walk together. But when two persuade in one and the same action, one may persuade more effectually by many degrees than the other, may have a peculiar tact or method of persuading above the other.”
That which is now undertaken to be proved is, that God doth make use of exhortations as means for the establishing of the saints in believing and for confirming their perseverance. This is that which by us is assigned unto them, and this is all that the nature of them doth require that they should be used unto, the certainty of the event whereunto they are applied depending not on their nature, as such means, but on the purpose of God to use them for that end which he hath designed and promised to bring about and accomplish.
Before he ventures on any opposition to the intendment of this assertion, he phraseth it so as either to render it unintelligible to himself and others, or (if any thing be signified by the expressions he useth) to divert it wholly from the mind of them and their sense with whom he hath to do. Who ever said that “God by exhortations doth influence the wills of men upon such terms as to make them unfrustrably and necessitatingly willing to persevere?” Or, can he tell us what is the meaning of these terms, “Unfrustrably, necessitatingly willing to persevere?” Though it is easy to guess at what he here intends, yet it is far above my shallow capacity to reach the sense of these expressions. How any of these terms, relating to the event and issue of things, [are used,] and in what sense they may be used, I have often showed. As relating either to the manner of God’s operation in and upon the will, or the will’s elicitation of its own act (any farther than by relation to that axiom, “Unumquodque quod est, dum est, necesse est”), they express neither our sense nor any body’s else that I know. That which I shall make bold to take up for Mr Goodwin’s intendment is, that God doth not by exhortations effectually cause the saints to persevere. To be willing to persevere is to persevere; to be “necessitatingly willing” is I know not what. Now, if such an efficacy be ascribed to exhortations as teaches the certainty of the effect, so that the certainty of the effect as to the event should be asserted to depend on them as such means, this is nothing to us. We ascribe an efficacy to them in proprio genere, but the certainty 447of that event to whose production they concur, we affirm, as hath been abundantly declared, to depend on other causes.
But the proof of what is here asserted outruns for uncouth strangeness the assertion itself, equis albis, as they say; for, saith he, “If this be so” (that is, “as you have heard above” — how, neither he nor we know), “then the same act of the will should be both physical and moral.” And, —
1. Why so? “Because physical and moral means are used for the producing of it!” — as though sundry causes of several kinds might not concur to produce one uniform effect, far enough from a necessity of receiving so much as a denomination from each of them. In the concurrence of several causes, whereof some may be free and contingent, others natural and necessary, the effect absolutely follows its next and immediate cause alone. God causes the sun to shine freely, yet is the shining of the sun a necessary effect of the sun, and not any way free or contingent. God determined the piercing of Christ’s side, and so as to the event made it necessary, but yet was the doing of it in them that did it free as to the manner of its doing, and no way necessary. But, —
2. Suppose the same act of the will should be said to be both physical and moral upon several accounts? And what if every act of the will in and about things good or bad be so, and it be utterly impossible it should be otherwise? “Yea, but then the same act should be specifically distinguished in and from itself.”
Yea, but who told you so? The terms of “physical and moral,” as related to the acts of the will, are very far from constituting different kinds or species of acts, being only several denominations of the same individual acts upon several regards and accounts. The acts of the will as they flow from that natural faculty, or are elicited thereby, are all physical, but as they relate to a law whence they are good or evil, they are moral; the one term expresseth their being, the other their regularity and conformity to some rule whereunto their agents are obliged. “Quid dignum tanto?” If by “physical and moral” Mr Goodwin intends “necessary and free,” (being the first that ever abused these words, and in that abuse of them not consistent with himself, alarming afterward the act of a minister’s preaching, as proceeding from his abilities of understanding and speaking, to be physical or natural, which yet he will not aver to be necessary, but free), he should have told us so; and then, though we would not grant that the same act may not in several respects be both necessary and free, the latter in respect of the manner of its performance and nature of its immediate cause, the former in respect of the event and the determination of its first cause, yet its consequent is so palpably false, as to the advancing of his former assertion, that it would have been directly denied, without any farther trouble.
448But he adds, “It must needs be physical, because it is produced by the physical working of the Spirit of God, which, being a physical action, cannot produce a moral effect.”
Ans. By physical operation of God on and with the will, we understand only that which is really and effectually so, as different from that which is only moral and by way of motive and persuasion. Now, this we say is twofold; the first consisting in the concourse of God, as the first cause and author of all beings, to the producing of every entity, such as the acts of the wills of men are, and this in such a way as is not only consistent with the liberty of the will in all its acts and actings whatever, but also as is the foundation of all the liberty that the will hath in its actings. And in respect of this influence of God, the effect produced is only physical or natural, having such a being as is proper to it; as also it is in respect of the will itself, and its concurrence in operation. The other is that which Mr Goodwin here calls “The irresistible force or power of the Spirit,” distinguishing the efficacy of the Spirit and grace of God in their working in us to will and to do, producing those effects as they are good and gracious, in reference to their rise, end, and rule, whereunto they are related. This, then, is that which by Mr Goodwin is here asserted, “That if there be such an effectual real working of the Spirit and grace of God in us to the producing of any acts of the wills of men, they cannot be moral;” that is, they cannot have any goodness in them beyond that which is entitative. And so far are we now arrived: All efficacious working of the Spirit of God on us must be excluded, or all we do is good for nothing. Away with all promises, all prayers, yea, the whole covenant of grace; they serve for no other end but to keep us from doing good. Let us hear the Scripture speak a little in this cause: Deut. xxx. 6, “The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” Jer. xxxi. 33, “This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Chap. xxxii. 39, “I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them.” Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Acts xvi. 14, “The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” Phil. i. 29, “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his 449sake;” and chap. ii. 13, “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” As also Eph. i. 18–20, “That ye may know what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him front the dead.” And, 2 Thess. i. 11, “We pray always for you, that our God would fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.” So also in 2 Cor. v. 17, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;” for, Eph. ii. 4, 5, “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ,” causing us, chap. iv. 24, to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness;” with the like assertions, John iii. 3; James i. 18; 1 Pet. i. 23; John v. 21; 2 Cor. iii. 5, etc.
What may be thought of these and the like expressions? Do they hold out any real, effectual, internal work of the Spirit and grace of God distinct from moral persuasion, or do they not? If they do, how comes any thing so wrought in us and by us to be morally good? If they do not, we may bid farewell unto all renewing, regenerating, assisting, effectual grace of God. That God, then, by his Spirit and grace, cannot enable us to act morally and according to a rule, is not yet proved. What follows?
Saith he, “So far as exhortations are means to produce these acts, they must be moral; for moral causes are not capable of producing natural or physical effects.”
But if Mr Goodwin think that, in this controversy, “physical” and “necessary,” as applied to effects, are ἰσοδυναμοῦντα, he is heavenly wide. “Physical” denotes only their being “necessary,” a manner of being as to some of them which have physically a being. The term “natural” is ambiguous, and sometimes used in the one sense, sometimes in the other; sometimes it denotes that which is only, sometimes that which is in such a kind. By a physical effect, we understand an effect with respect to its real existency; as by a moral effect, an effect in respect of its regularity. And now, why may not a moral cause have an influence, in its own kind, to the production of a physical effect; I mean, an influence suited to its own nature and manner of operation, by the way of motive and persuasion? What would you think of him that should persuade you to lift your hand above your head to try how high you could reach, or whether your arm were not out of joint?
Secondly, It hath been sufficiently showed before, that with these exhortations, which work as appointed means, morally God exerteth an effectual power for the real production of that whereunto the exhortation tends; dealing thus with our whole souls suitably to the nature of all their faculties, as every one of them is fitted and suited to be wrought upon for the accomplishment of the end he aims at, 450and in the manner that he intends. Briefly, to every act of the will as an act, in genere entis, there is required a really operative and physical concurrence of the providential power of God, in its own order as the first cause; to every act as good or gracious, the operative concurrence and influence of the Spirit of grace; — which yet hinders not but that by exhortations men may be provoked and stirred up to the performance of acts as such, and to the performance of them as good and gracious.
This being not the direct controversy in hand, I do but touch upon it. Concerning that which follows, I should perhaps say we have found anguem in herba; but being so toothless and stingless as it is to any that in the least attend to it, it may be only termed the pad in the straw.209209 A phrase explained by Halliwell to mean “something wrong, a screw loose;” but he gives no account of its origin. — Ed. “Physical and moral” are taken to be terms, it seems, equipollent to “necessary and not necessary;” which is such a wresting of the terms themselves and their known use as men shall not likely meet withal. Hence is it that acts physical and necessary are the same. Every act of the most free agent under heaven, yea, in heaven or earth, is in its own nature and being physical. Acts also are moral, that is, good or evil, consequently in order of nature to their existence (of which “necessary” or “not necessary” are the adjunct manner), in reference to the rule or law whereunto their conformity is required. How “moral” and “not necessary” come to be terms of the same import Mr Goodwin will declare perhaps hereafter, when he shall have leisure to teach as much new philosophy as he hath already done divinity. In the meantime, we deny that any influence from God on the wills of men doth make any act of them necessary as to the manner of its production. And so this first argument for the inconsistency of the use of exhortations, with the real efficiency of the grace and Spirit of God is concluded.
That which follows in this section to the end is a pretended answer to an objection of our author’s own framing, being only introduced to give farther advantage to express himself against any real efficiency of the Spirit or grace of God in the hearts or on the wills of men. Not to insist upon his darkening the discourse in hand, from his miserable confounding of those terms “physical” and “moral,” formerly discovered, I shall, as near as I can, close with his aim in it, for the more clear consideration thereof:—
First, he tells us, “That the operation of God on the will of man is, in respect of its proceeding from him, physical; but in respect of its nature and substance, it is properly moral.”
1. But first, If a man should ask Mr Goodwin what he intends by this “operation of God on the will of man,” to the end intended, I fear he would be very hard put to it to instance in any particular. It is 451sufficiently evident, he acknowledgeth none in this kind but what consists in the exhortations of the word.
2. Having told us before that “physical” is as much as “necessary,” and “moral” as “not necessary,” how comes it about that the same operation of God, the same act of his power, is become in several regards physical and moral, — that is, necessary and not necessary? Is Mr Goodwin reconciled to the assertion that the same thing may be said to be necessary and not necessary in sundry respects?
3. How comes the same act or operation in respect of its manner of proceeding from its agent to be physical, and in respect of its substance to be moral? or, is any act moral in respect of its substance, or is its morality an adjunct of it, in respect of the regard it hath to some rule and farther end? It is an easy thing for any to heap up such crude assertions, and in the meantime not to know what they say nor whereof they do affirm. But the reason why the acts of God intimated are moral is, “because they persuade the will only, or work persuadingly, not ravishingly or necessitatingly.” That is, in plain terms, there is no operation of the grace or Spirit of God in the working of any good in the hearts or wills of men, but only what consisteth in persuasion of them thereunto. For any real efficiency as to the communication of strength in “working in us to will and to do,” it is wholly excluded. God only persuades, men have the power in themselves, and of themselves they do it, let the Scripture say what it will to the contrary. For those terms of “ravishingly or necessitatingly,” which are opposed to this moral persuasion, whereunto the operations of God for the production of any good in us are tied up and confined, we have been now so inured to them that they do not at all startle us. When Mr Goodwin shall manifest that God cannot, by the greatness of his power, work in us to will without ravishing our wills, if we guess aright at the intendment of that expression, he will advance to a considerable success in this contest, not only against us, but God himself.
But an objection presents itself to our author, which he sees a necessity to attempt the removal of, lest an apprehension of its truth should prove prejudicial to the receiving of his dictates; and this is, “That if it be so, that God worketh on the will of man by the way of persuasion only, he doth no more than the ministers of the gospel do, who persuade men by the word to that which is good.” To this he tells you, “That it indeed follows that God and ministers work on the will of man in the same way, with the same kind of efficiency; but yet in respect of degrees, God may persuade more effectually than a minister.”
1. That all really efficient, internal, working grace of God was denied by Mr Goodwin, was before discovered; here only it is more plainly asserted: “All the workings of God on the wills of men unto 452good are merely by persuasion.” Persuasion, we know, gives no strength, adds no power, to him that is persuaded to any thing. It only provokes him and irritates him to put forth, exert, and exercise, the power which is in himself unto the things whereunto he is persuaded, upon the motives and grounds of persuasion proposed to him; and the whole effect produced, on that account, is in solidum to be ascribed to the really efficient cause of it, howsoever incited or stirred up. Whereas, then, men by nature are dead, blind, unbelieving, enemies to God, he only persuades them to exert the power that is in them, and thereby to live, see, believe, and be reconciled to him. And this is to exalt the free grace of God by Jesus Christ! We know full well who have gone before you in these paths, but shall heartily pray that none of the saints of God may follow after you into this contempt of the work of his grace. But, —
2. If nothing but persuasion be allowed to God in the work of men’s conversion, and in the carrying on of their obedience to the end, wherein doth the persuasion of God consist, in distinction from the persuasion used in and from the word by ministers, which it is pretended that it may excel (though it is not affirmed that it doth) by many degrees? Let it be considered, I say, in what acts of the will, or power of God, his persuasion, so distinct as above mentioned, doth consist; let us know what arguments he useth, by what means he applies them, how he conveys them to the wills of men, that are not coincident with those of the ministry. I suppose at last it will be found that there is no other operation of God in persuading men, as to the ends under consideration, but only what lies or consists in the persuading of the word by the ministers thereof, God looking on without the exerting of any efficacy whatever; which is indeed that which is aimed at, and is really exclusive of the grace of God from any hand in the conversion of sinners or preservation of believers.
3. He doth not, indeed, assert any such persuading of God, but only tells you that from what he hath spoken “it doth not fellow that God doth no more than ministers in persuading men, and that when two persuade to one and the same action, one may be more effectual in his persuading than another;” but that God is so, or how he is so, or wherein his peculiar persuasions do consist, there is not in his discourse the least intimation.
4. There is in men a different power as to persuasion, some having a faculty that way far more eminent and effectual than others, according to their skill and proficiency in oratory and persuasive arts, This only is ascribed to God, that he so excels us as one man excels another; but how that excellency of his is exerted, that is not to be understood. But there is proof tendered you of all this from 1 Cor. iii. 9, where ministers are said to “co-operate with God, which they cannot do unless it be with the same kind of 453efficiency,” (well said!) “and that when one works necessitatingly and another by persuasion, they cannot be said to co- operate, no more than one that runs and another that walks can be said to walk together.” Certainly our author never dreamed that any man whatever would put himself to the trouble of examining these dictates, or he would have been more wary of his asserting them, and we had not had so much, not only new and strange divinity, but new and uncouth philosophy, heaped up without any considerable endeavour of proof or confirmation.
(1.) That two agents cannot concur or co-operate to the producing of the same effect but with the same kind of efficiency is a rare notion indeed. Was he never persuaded to do any thing in his life? What thinks he of David and the Ammonites’ killing of Uriah? of a judge and an executioner slaying a malefactor? of God and Satan moving David to number the people? of God and Joseph’s brethren sending him to Egypt? But what need I mention instances? Who knows not that this so confounds all muses efficient, and that principal and instrumental, material, final, formal, which in their production of effects have all their distinct efficiency, and yet their co-operation?
(2.) The proof from the Scripture mentioned extends only to the interesting of ministers in the great honour of co-operating with God in the work of begetting and increasing faith in their own sphere, according to the work to them committed; but that God and they do work with the same kind of efficiency, it is the main intendment of the apostle in the place cited (1 Cor. iii.) to disprove. He tells you, indeed, there is a work of planting and watering committed to the ministers of the gospel; but the giving of increase (a peculiar working with a distinct kind of efficiency), that is alone to be ascribed to God. It is, I say, his design (who everywhere abundantly informs us that “faith is the gift of God, wrought in us by the exceeding greatness of his power”) to prove in this place that though the dispensation of the word of the gospel be committed unto men, yet their whole ministry will be vain and of none effect, unless, by an immediate efficacy or working of his Spirit, giving and bestowing faith on his elect, God do give an increase.
(3.) For the term of “necessitating,” put upon the real effectual work of God’s grace on the wills of men, giving them power and assistance, and working in them to will and to do, as different from that which is purely moral or persuasive only, which communicates no strength or power, I shall need no more but to reject it with the same facility wherewith it is imposed on us. The similitude of one walking and another running, wherewith [he sets forth] the inconsistency of a real efficient work of grace with persuasion, so far as that they should be said to co-operate to the producing of the same effect, 454doth not in the least illustrate what it is intended to set off; for though one run and another go softly (as suppose one carrying a little loaf, another a great burden of meat, for a supper), and both going to the same place, why may not they be said to co-operate to the providing of the same supper? Must all agents that co-operate to the producing of the same effect be together in one place? You may as soon bring heaven and hell together as prove it. And why must real efficiency be compared to “running,” and persuasion to “soft walking?” as though one were supposed to carry on the work faster than the other, when we only say, that in the one there is a distinct power exerted from what is in the other; which that it may be done might be proved by a thousand instances, and illustrated by as many similitudes, if any pleasure were taken to abound in causâ facili. God and man then co-operate in respect of the tendency of their working unto the event, not in respect of the kinds of their efficiency.
Of the 7th section (whereon we shall not need long to insist), which in the entrance frames an objection and pretends an answer to it, there are three parts. In the first he says that we affirm “That though the will be necessitated by God, yet it is free in its election; which, how it may be, he understands not.” But if this were all the inconvenience, that Mr Goodwin could not understand how to salve the operation of God in man with the liberty of his will, seeing as wise men as himself have herein been content to captivate their understandings to the obedience of faith, it were not much to be stumbled at; but the truth is, the chimera whose nature he professeth himself unacquainted withal is created in his own imagination, where it is easy for every man to frame such notions as neither himself nor any else can bring to a consistency with reason or truth. Of necessitating the will to election we have had occasion more than once already to treat, and shall not burden the reader with needless repetitions.
In the second division of the section, he gives you his judgment of the manner of the work of God upon the soul unto the doing of that which is good, and the effect produced thereby: whereof the one, as was said before, consists in persuasions, which he says “are thus far irresistible, that they who are to be persuaded cannot hinder but that God may persuade them or exhort them, though he prevail not with them;” — which, doubtless, is a notable exaltation of his grace. Thus Mr Goodwin works irresistibly with one or other, perhaps, every day. And “the effect of this persuasion is” (that is, when it is effectual) “that impression which it leaves upon the soul to the things whereunto it is persuaded;” as the case is in the dealing of men one with another. For my part, I see no reason why our author should so often so heedfully deliver his judgment concerning this thing, especially without the least attempt of any scriptural proof or 455endeavour to answer those innumerable clear and express places of Scripture which he knows are everywhere and on all occasions produced and insisted on to prove a real efficient acting of God in and with the wills of men, for the producing, working, and accomplishing, that which is good, in a way distinct from that of persuasion, which contributes no real strength to the person persuaded, concurring only metaphorically in the producing of the effect. Let this at last, then, suffice. We are abundantly convinced of his denial of the work of God’s grace in the salvation of souls.
In the third place we have a rhetorical flourish over that which he hath been laying out his strength against all this while, being a mere repetition of what hath been already tendered and given in to consideration over and over. “If God cause the saints effectually to persevere” (his terms of “irresistibly” and “necessitating” have been long since discharged from any farther attendance or service in this warfare) “by exhortations, then are all his premises of perseverance in vain.” But why so? May not God enjoin the use of means, and promise by them the attainment of the end? May he not promise that to us which he will work himself effectually in us? If God effectually work in us to give us, by what means soever, a new heart, may he not promise to give us a new heart? “Yea, but amongst men this would be incongruous, yea, ridiculous, that a father should promise his son an inheritance, and then persuade him to take heed that he may obtain it.”
But, first If this be “incongruous, yea, ridiculous,” amongst men, in their dealings with one another, doth it therefore follow that it must be so as to God’s dealings with men? “Are his thoughts as our thoughts, and his ways as our ways?” Is not the wisdom of God foolishness with men, and theirs much more so with him? Are men bound in their dealings with others to consider them not only in their natural and civil relations, but as impotent and corrupted men, as God in his dealings with them doth?
Secondly, Neither is this course so ridiculous amongst men as Mr Goodwin imagineth. That a father, having promised his son an inheritance, and instated it on him, or assured it to him, should exhort and persuade him to behave himself worthy of his kindness, and to take heed that he come to the enjoyment of the inheritance which he hath provided for him by the means that he hath appointed (for the prescription of means for the enjoyment of the inheritance must be supposed to go along with the promise and assurance), is far from being a course so ridiculous as is pretended.
Neither, thirdly, is this similitude analogous with that which it is produced to illustrate; for, — 1. A man may know how, and when, and on what account, an inheritance is settled on him by his father; but of what God promiseth we have faith only, not knowledge, properly 456so called; nor always the assurance of faith as to the enjoyment of the thing promised, but the adherence of faith, as to the truth and faithfulness of the promiser. Nor, — 2. Can a father work in his son that obedience which he requireth of him, as He can do who creates a new heart in us, and writes his law and fear therein. 3. This absolute engagement to bestow an inheritance, whether the means of obtaining it be used and insisted on or no, is a thing most remote from what we ascribe to the Lord in his promises of perseverance, which are only that believers shall persevere by the use of means; which means he exhorts them to use, and yet, dealing with them in a covenant of grace and mercy, entered into upon account of their utter insufficiency in themselves to do the things that are well pleasing to him, whereunto they are so exhorted, he himself effectually and graciously, according to the tenor of that covenant, works in them what he requires of them, bearing them forth in the power of his grace to the use of the means appointed.
His sections 8 and 9 contain an endeavour for the taking off an instance usually given of pressing to the use of means, when the end is infallibly promised to be accomplished and brought about in and by the use of those means; and this is in the passage of Paul, Acts xxvii. 21–36, whereof something formerly hath been spoken. Paul receives a promise from God, that none of the lives of the persons with him in the ship should perish. This he declares to his company; and how deeply he was concerned in the accomplishment of the promise, and his prediction thereupon, upon the account of the undertaking wherein, against almost all the world, he was then engaged, and the cause for which he was committed to their company and custody, was formerly declared. Notwithstanding this, he afterward exhorts them, and directs to the use of all means imaginable that were suitable for the fulfilling of the promise he had, and the prediction he had made. Evident it is, then, that there is no inconsistency, nor any thing unbecoming any perfection in God, in that compliance of promises and exhortations which we insist upon, he having directed Paul to walk in that very way and path. God, we say, in the covenant of grace hath promised that his saints shall never leave him nor forsake him, and that he will abide in unchangeable constancy to be their God, — that he will preserve them and keep them in his hand unto the kingdom of his Son in glory, saving his redeemed ones with an everlasting salvation, to the accomplishment of the end promised; which he will, upon the account of his truth and faithfulness, bring about by means suitable unto and instituted by him for that end. In the compassing and effecting of this great work, God dealeth with men under a twofold consideration:—
1. As rational creatures. So he discovers to them the end promised, 457with its excellency, loveliness, and satisfaction, thereby stirring up in them desires after it, as that eminent and proportioned good which they, in the utmost issue of their thoughts and desires, aim at. Farther; on the forementioned account, that they are rational creatures, endued with a rational appetite or will for the choosing of that which is good, and with an understanding to judge of it, and of the means for the attainment of the end, God reveals to them the means conducing to the end, proposing them to them, to be chosen, and embraced, and closed withal, for the compassing of the end proposed. And that yet they may be dealt withal agreeably to their nature and those principles in them which they are created withal, and that God might have glory by their acting suitably to such a nature and such principles, he exhorts and provokes them to choose those ways and means which he hath so allotted (as before mentioned) for the end aimed at; and that they should be thus dealt withal, their very natural condition, of being free, intellectual agents, doth require.
2. As sinners, or agents disenabled in themselves for the work prescribed to them and required of them for the attaining of the end they aim at, — namely, in spiritual things; and on that account he puts forth towards them and in them the efficacy of his power for the immediate and special working of those things in them and by them which, as rational creatures bound unto an orderly obedience, they are pressed and exhorted unto.
To manifest the inconsistency of such a procedure, and the unanswerableness of it to the infinite wisdom of God (though the Scriptures expressly deliver it in innumerable places, as hath been shown), is that which by Mr Goodwin is in this discourse attempted. His particular endeavour in the place under consideration is, to manifest that when God promiseth to bring about and effect any thing infallibly, by the use of means, it is in vain altogether that any exhortation should be urged on them who are to use the means so appointed for the accomplishment of it. And to the instance above mentioned concerning Paul he replies, chap. xiii. sect. 8:—
“First, it is the generally received opinion of divines, that promises of temporal good things are still conditional, and not absolute; which opinion they maintain upon grounds not easily shaken. Now, evident it is that the promise under question was a promise of this nature and kind, relating only to the preservation of the temporal lives of men.”
Ans. That all promises of temporal things, without exception, are conditional, — that is, so as to be suspended on any conditions not promised to be wrought with equal assurance to that which depends on them, — is not the judgment of any divine I know, unless it be of Mr Goodwin, and those of the same persuasion with him in the matter of our present controversy. Who ever but they will say (if 458they will) that the promise of bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt was conditional? Let them that do say so assign the condition on which the accomplishment of that promise was suspended. The promise made to the parents of Samson of his birth and mighty actions, what condition was it suspended on? and yet was it a promise of a temporal thing. Though this may be accounted a general rule, because for the most part it is so, yet may not God make a particular exception thereunto? Did he not so in the case of Hezekiah, as to his living fifteen years, as also in those cases before mentioned? It is true, all such promises have appointed means for their accomplishment, but not as conditions whereon their fulfilling is absolutely suspended.
But he adds, “Those words of Paul to the centurion and soldiers lately mentioned (‘Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be safe’) undeniably prove the said promise to have been not absolute, but conditional; for in case God should have promised absolutely and without all exception that they should have been safe, Paul had plainly contradicted the truth of it by affirming, not that they should not, but that they could not be safe, otherwise than upon the condition of the mariners abiding in the ship.”
Ans. This is boldly ventured. God promiseth that the end shall be accomplished; Paul exhorteth to the use of the means for the attainment of that end, and in that contradicts the truth of God’s promise, if it be not conditional. And why so? Who ever said that God promised that they should be safe and preserved in the neglect of means? They were men, and not stones, that God promised so to safeguard; and it was by his blessing upon means that he intended to preserve them: therefore he that stirred them up to the use of means contradicted the promise, unless it were conditional! Paul says, indeed, they could not be safe unless the mariners abode in the ship; not suspending the certainty of God’s promise upon their continuance in the ship, but manifesting the means whereby God would bring about their safety.
That which ensues in the two following exceptions (as Paul’s persuading them to take meat, which conduced to their safety, and their casting the wheat into the sea for the same end) amounts no higher than the affirmations already considered, asserting that an infallible promise of an end to be attained by means, and an exhortation to the use of means, with the actual use of them on the account of their necessity as means, are inconsistent; which is plainly, without the least show of proof or truth, to beg the thing in question.
Neither is his case in hand at all promoted by comparing this particular promise, given at such a time and season, with those general promises of earthly blessings made to the obedience of the Jews in the land of Canaan, mentioned Deut. xxviii. 1–14.
459As for that which, sixthly, follows in the 9th section, being a marvellous pretty discourse about the promise here made, as though it should be only this, that though the ship were lost and miscarried, yet none of them in it should perish thereby, — merely upon the account of the ship’s miscarrying, though on some other account they might be drowned at the same time, — which, upon narrow scanning, he hath at last found out to be the sense of the place, [it] may well deserve the consideration of them who have nothing else to do; for my part, I have other employment.
That which we affirm concerning the words of God by his angel to Paul is, that they were such a promise as could not but infallibly be accomplished, according to the tenor of what is in those words expressed; nor, in respect of the faithfulness of God, could it otherwise be but that it must so fall out and come to pass as was appointed, although the accomplishment of it was to be brought about, by the eminent blessing of God upon the means that were to be used by them to whom and concerning whom it was given.
1. For first, the promise was not only concerning the mariners and the rest in the ship, for the preservation of whom the means formerly mentioned were used, but of Paul’s appearance before Cæsar, — a great; and eminent work whereunto he was designed, Acts ix. 15: “Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar,” chap. xxvii. 24. Look, then, what infallibility in respect of the event there was as to Paul’s appearance before Cæsar, the same there was in the preservation of the lives of the rest with him. Now, although the staying of the mariners from going out of the ship was a means that Paul was kept alive to be brought before Cæsar, yet can any one be so forsaken of common sense as to say that it was the condition of the purpose of God concerning the fulfilling of that testimony which, according to his appointment, Paul was to make at Rome with all the mighty and successful travail for the propagation of the gospel which he after this was engaged in? was it all now cast upon the fall of an uncertain condition, not at all determined of God as to its accomplishment? Doth the infinitely wise God delight to put the purposes of his heart, and those of so great concernment to the kingdom of his Son and his own glory, in the everlasting welfare of innumerable souls, to such uncertain hazards, which, by various ways obvious and naked before his eyes, he could have prevented?
2. It is part of the prediction of Paul, from the promise he had received (and therewith a revelation thereof), that they should be “cast upon a certain island,” God having some work for him there to do. Now, was this part of the promise conditional, or no? If it be said that it was, let the condition on which it depended be assigned. Nothing can be imagined, unless it be that the wind sat in such or such a quarter. It is, then, supposed that God promised 460Paul and his company should be cast on an island for their preservation, provided the wind served for that end or purpose! But who, I pray, commands the winds and seas? Doth the wind so “blow where it listeth” as not to be at the command of its Maker? Is it not enough that we cast off his yoke and sovereignty from man, but must the residue of the creation be forced so to pay their homage to our free wills as to be exempted thereby from God’s disposal? If this part of the promise were infallible and absolute as to the certainty of its accomplishment, why not the other part of it also?
3. Paul makes confession of his faith to the company concerning the accomplishment of this promise. “I believe God,” saith he, ὅτι οὕτως ἔσται καθ’ ὅν τρόπον λελάληταὶ μοι, — “it shall so come to pass in the same manner as it was told me;” clearly engaging the truth and faithfulness of that God which he worshipped (for his testimony to whose truth he was then in bonds) for the accomplishment of what he had spoken to them, — namely, that not one of them should be lost. Now, supposing that any one person had, by any accident, fallen out of the ship, Mr Goodwin tells you there had been no opportunity or possibility left unto God to have fulfilled his promise. True, for it had been wholly frustrated, he having undertaken for the lives of every one of them. But supposing that engagement of his, he that says any one might have so perished is more careful, doubtless, to defend his own hypothesis than the honour of the truth and faithfulness of God.
Evident then it is, notwithstanding the tortures, racks, and wheels, applied by Mr Goodwin to this text, with the confession pretended (and but pretended) to be extorted from it (which but that it hath gotten sanctuary under his name and wing would be counted ridiculous), that here is a promise of God making an event infallible and necessary in respect of its relation thereto, by a clear consistency with exhortations to the use of free and suitable means for the accomplishment of the thing so promised.
Sect. 10. He objects farther to himself, “That in sundry places of Scripture, as 1 Cor. x. 12, 13, Phil. ii. 12, 13, Heb. vi. 4–6, 9, there are promises of perseverance and exhortations unto it joined together; and therefore men who deny a regular and due consistency between them do impute folly and weakness to the Holy Ghost.” Whereunto he answers sundry things, to the end of the 11th section; as, —
First, “They are many degrees nearer to the guilt of the crime specified who affirm the conjunction mentioned to be found in the said scriptures, than they who deny the legitimacy of such a conjunction. The incongruity of the conjunction hath been sufficiently evinced, but that any such conjunction is to be found either in the scriptures quoted, or in any others, is no man’s vision but his who hath darkness for vision.”
461Ans. If our adversary’s ipse dixit may pass current, we shall quickly have small hopes left of carrying on the cause under consideration. All our testimonies must be looked upon as cashiered long since from attending any longer on the trial in hand, and all our arguments as blown away like flies in the summer. The very things here in question, — namely, that there is an inconsistency between promises of perseverance and exhortations to the use of the means whereby it may be effected, that God hath made no such promises, or appointed no such exhortations, and that those who apprehend any such things have darkness for vision, — are all confirmed by the renewed stamp of teste meipso; to which proof I shall only say, “Valeat quantum valere potest.”
But he adds, “That in none of the places cited is there any promise of perseverance is evident to him that shall duly consider the tenor and import of them.
“For, first, it is one thing to say and teach that God will so limit as well the force as the continuance of temptations, that the saints may be able to bear, another to make a promise of absolute perseverance; yea, these very words, ‘That ye may be able to bear it,’ clearly import that all that is here promised unto the believing Corinthians is an exhibiting of means to perseverance, if they wilt improve them accordingly, not an infallible certainty of their perseverance. And that caveat, ‘Let him that thinketh he stands take heed lest he fall,’ plainly supposeth a possibility of his falling who thinketh, upon the best grounds, that he standeth sure. For that this caveat was not given to hypocrites or unsound believers, or to such who please themselves with a loose and groundless conceit of the goodness of their condition God-ward, is evident, because it were better that such men should fall from their present standing of a groundless conceit than continue their standing, nor would the apostle have ever cautioned such to take heed of falling away whose condition was more like to be made better than worse by their falling. And, besides, to understand the said caveat of loose believers overthrows the pertinency of it to their cause who insist upon it to prove a due consistency between exhortations to perseverance and promises to perseverance, as is evident. If, then, it be directed to true and sound believers, it clearly supposeth a possibility, at least, of their falling in case they shall not take heed, or else their taking heed would be no means, at least no necessary means, of their standing; and farther, it supposeth also a possibility, at least, of their non-taking heed, or that they might possibly not take heed hereof, otherwise the caveat or admonition had been in vain. Men have no need of being admonished to do that which they are under no possibility to omit. If, then, the standing or persevering of the saints depends upon their taking heed lest they fall, and their taking heed in this 462kind be such a thing which they may possibly omit, evident it is that there is a possibility of their non-persevering.”
Ans. This last division of the 10th section labours to evince that in the first of the places above mentioned, namely, 1 Cor. x. 12, 13, there is not a promise of perseverance in conjunction with exhortations unto the use of means unto that end. The words are, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” But, —
1. It is not in the least measure necessary, nor can be upon any account whatever required of us, that we should produce texts of Scripture in an immediate dependence and coherence in the same place, containing both the promises and exhortations mentioned, they being, for the most part, proposed upon most different accounts, and for immediately different ends and purposes; — the one (namely), as in the revelation of them, respecting our consolation, the other our obedience. Nor can they ever the more be denied to be in a conjunction and consistency, though they are not to be found but in different places of Scripture (which that they are, especially as to that case which is questioned, hath been abundantly declared), than if they were still combined in the same coherence and connection of words. But yet, —
2. I say there is, in the place forenamed, a most pathetical exhortation to the use of the means whereby we may persevere, and a most infallible promise that we shall so persevere, and not by any temptation whatever be utterly cast down or separated from God in Christ: the first in verse 12, “Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” and verse 14, “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry;” the latter in verse 13, “There hath no temptation taken you,” etc. First, That there is an exhortation to the use of means for perseverance is not denied by our author, but granted, with an attempt to improve it for the furtherance of his own design. That there is a promise also of perseverance is no less evident. The diversion and turning away of any believer from God must be by temptation. Temptations are of various sorts, both in respect of their immediate rise, nature, and efficiency. Whatever (whence ever it proceed) turns from God, more or less, in part or in whole, as is imagined, is temptation. Now, the apostle here engageth the faithfulness of God in the preservation of believers from the power of temptation, so as it shall not prevail against them to the end before specified. “God,” saith he, “is faithful;” and there is no need of his mentioning that property of God, which is his immutable constancy in the performance of his promises, 463but only to assure believers that he will preserve them as he hath spoken. The thing promised by the apostle in the name of God is (not only that the saints may be able to bear temptations that shall befall them, ὑπὲρ ὅ δύνασθε, and τοῦ δύνασθαι ὑμᾶς ὑπενεγκεῖν, having quite another importance than what is here intimated in the expression “May be able,” in capital letters), that he will not suffer any temptation to come upon them that shall be above that strength, and prevalent against it, which he will communicate to them; and for those which do befall them, he will make way for their escaping, that with and by the strength received they may bear them. So that not only sufficiency of means to persevere, but perseverance itself by those means, and God’s ordering all things so in his faithfulness that no assault shall befall them above the power of the strength given them to bear, is here asserted. Now, the promise here given is either absolute or conditional If absolute, — that is, so far as that it shall infallibly be accomplished, not so depending on any thing that, in respect of the event, may or may not be as to be left at an uncertainty for its fulfilling, — it is all that is of us desired. If it shall be said that it is conditional, I desire that the condition from whence it is said so to be may be assigned. If it shall be said (as it is) that it is “in case they willingly suffer not themselves to be overcome of temptations,” I ask whether the strength and ability that God affords to his saints to resist temptations be not in the strengthening and confirming of their wills against them? and if so, whether this promise so interpreted doth not resolve itself into this proposition, “I will not suffer my saints to be overborne by temptations above the strength I will give them to bear, provided they be not pressed with temptations above the strength I give unto them.” The promise, then, is absolute, either that no temptations shall befall believers above that they have received, or, that strength not to be overcome shall be afresh communicated to them upon the assaults of any new temptations.
3. This being established, that here is a firm promise of perseverance, against which Mr Goodwin opposeth scarce any thing at all, and nothing at all to the purpose, his whole ensuing discourse falls of itself: for from the caveat used at the entrance of this promise and the exhortation at the close, both tending to stir up the saints, to whom the promise is made (many of whom have no distinct assurance of their interest in this or any other promise), to be heedfully careful in using the means of perseverance and avoiding the sins that in their own nature tend to the interruption of it, no other possibility of falling away can be concluded but such as may have a consistency with the faithfulness of God in the promise he hath given; — that is, a possibility, as they say, “in sensu diviso,” without respect had to the infallibly preventing causes of it, not “in sensu composito,” not a possibility 464in reference to the nature of the things themselves; which is a sufficient bottom for caveats to be given and exhortations to be made to them concerned in them, none at all in respect of the purposes and promises of God, infallibly preventing the reducing into act of that possibility. These exceptions then notwithstanding, it appears that in 1 Cor. x. 12, 13, there is a conjunction of a gracious promise of perseverance with effectual exhortations to the use of means whereby we may persevere; and, consequently, they who “deny a due consistency between them do impute folly or weakness to the Holy Ghost.” Ὅπερ ἔδει δεῖξαι.
He proceeds to the next place pointed to by himself to prove consistency between promises and exhortations, under consideration, to wit., Phil. ii. 12, 13, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Evident it is that you have here conjoined by the Holy Ghost as weighty and pathetical an exhortation as he almost anywhere useth in the Scripture, with an assertion of grace as eminently operative and effectual as by any means can be expressed.
“But,” saith he, “it is one thing to affirm that ‘God worketh in men as to will, so to do,’ — that is, to enable men to do or put in execution what they first will, or to assist in the doing or executing itself, — another to promise to work infallibly, and without all possibility of frustration, in men perseverance. There is little or no affinity between these. But how and in what sense God is said to be ἐνεργῶν, working in men both to will and to do of his good pleasure, we shall have occasion to open more at large in the latter part of this work.”
Ans. I dare say an indifferent reader will conclude that Mr Goodwin was very hard put to it for an answer, finding him contenting himself with such sorry shifts and evident pervertings of the words of the text as those here mentioned. For, first, How come the words to be changed into a working, “as to will, so to do?” that is, perhaps, neither the one nor the other; — who taught him to render καὶ τὸ θέλειν, καὶ τὸ ἐνεργεῖν, “as to will, so to do?” But, secondly, The chief of the sport made with the words consists in the exposition given of them as they lie in this new translation: “To work in them as to will, so to do, — that is, to do what they first will; not that he works in them to will, but that he assists them in doing what they first will.” But what is now become of the tàm quàm above mentioned? how doth he work in them as to will, so to do, if he only assists them in doing what of themselves, without his assistance, they first will? Rather than it shall be granted that God by his grace works effectually on the wills of men, to the producing of their elicit acts of believing and obedience, any course may be warranted for the 465perverting of the expressions where such an operation seems to be held out. Perhaps this persuasion also, of the efficacy of the grace of God on the wills of men, is such that if it be found in any place of Scripture to be declared or asserted, it is enough to make wise and considering, prudent men to question their authority. But, thirdly, saith he, “This is not infallibly to work perseverance.” I say, Show what else is required to perseverance but to “will and to do” according to the mind of God, which of his own good pleasure he promiseth effectually to work in believers, and you say something that may render your reasonings considerable. But it seems we must be kept in abeyance for an answer to this, until his criticism be ready to manifest how God is said to be ἐνεργῶν, “working in men,” perhaps what is never wrought without any such effect as is imagined. What may by him be brought forth to this purpose time will show. But if he be able to make Ὁ Θεός ἐστιν ὁ ἐνεργῶν ἐν ὑμῖν, “God is working in you to will and to do,” forsooth, from the participial expression of the verb, he will manifest more skill in Greek than he hath hitherto in divinity in all his learned treatises. So that here is a second instance of a conjunction of promises of perseverance with exhortations to use the means suited thereunto; which whoso denies to have a just and sweet consistency, doth charge the Holy Ghost with folly or weakness. Ὅπερ ἔδει δεῖξαι.
Thirdly, The verses pointed to out of Heb. vi. 4–6, 9, do not so directly express the conjunction insisted on as those places already considered do; only, the discourse there used by the apostle is peremptory, that men may, without any disparagement to their wisdom or reason, earnestly deal with others and exhort them to avoid falling away from God, though they are fully persuaded that those whom they so exhort, by the help of those exhortations, and upon other considerations, shall abide with God to the end, or be attended with things accompanying salvation. But had Mr Goodwin been pleased to look to the following verses, wherein the apostle gives an account of the ground of this persuasion of his, he might have found something to exercise the best of his skill upon. The words are, “Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.” He tells them, verse 10, it is upon the account of the righteousness of God in carrying on the work of their labour of love, which was begun in them, and which they had shown or manifested, that he had this persuasion concerning them; which, in the ensuing verses, he farther pursues, clearing up the engagement of the righteousness of God in his oath: of which 466elsewhere. So that, notwithstanding any thing attempted to the contrary, evident it is that, in carrying on the work of our salvation, the Holy Ghost doth make use of promises of effectual grace for perseverance and eminent exhortations to abide with God, in such a harmony and consistency as is well suited to the things themselves, and in a course which takes sanctuary under the shade of his wisdom from all the charges of folly and weakness which poor, weak, and foolish men may, under their temptations and in their darkness, rise up against it withal. Whether there are express promises of perseverance in the Scripture, some advantage I hope will be given to the pious reader to judge from what hath been spoken, and what, by the Lord’s assistance, may yet be insisted on to that purpose.
Unto this debate about the exhortations of the word we find a discourse of the same nature and importance subjoined about the threatenings that are therein; which, as it is asserted, are rendered useless and ineffectual for the end whereunto they are of God appointed by that doctrine of perseverance which is opposed. We freely acknowledge that if any doctrine whatever do enervate and render vain any ordinance or institution of God, as to the ends and purposes whereunto it is of him appointed, that that doctrine is not of God, whose paths are all plain and equal, and whose commands do not interfere one with another. Now, that the principles of the doctrine of perseverance do destroy the efficiency of threatenings is attempted to be proved by an induction of observations, which, being the sum of all that is spoken to this head, must be transcribed at large, and is as followeth:—
Sect. 12, “If the principles of the doctrine we speak of dissolve the efficiency of the said threatenings towards the end for the accomplishment whereof they are given, then they render them unsavoury, useless, and vain; but the principles of this doctrine are guilty of this offence: ergo. The terms of the major proposition are sufficient witness of the truth thereof. In order to the proof of the minor, we suppose, 1. That the end intended by God in such threatenings, which threaten those that shall apostatize with eternal death, is to prevent apostasy in the saints, and to work or cause them to persevere. 2. That this is one of the principles of the common doctrine of perseverance, ‘God hath absolutely promised final perseverance unto the saints;’ and this another, ‘God will certainly, unfrustrably, and infallibly work this perseverance in the saints.’ These two things only supposed, the light of the truth of the said minor proposition breaks forth from between them with much evidence and power. For, first, If the said threatenings be intended by God for the prevention of the apostasy of the saints, and consequently to effect their perseverance, the way and manner wherein this end intended by God is to be effected by them must needs be by their 467ingenerating or raising a fear or apprehension in the saints of eternal death, it being the native property of fear, mixed with hope, to awaken and provoke men to the use of such means which are proper to prevent the danger or evil feared. There is no other way imaginable how or whereby the threatenings we speak of should operate towards the perseverance of the saints, for the preventing of their apostasy, but that mentioned, — namely, by working in them a fear or dread of the evil threatened. Therefore, secondly, Evident it is that such promises made, and made known unto the saints, by which they are made incapable of any such fear, are absolutely destructive of the efficiency which is proper to the mid threatenings to exhibit, towards the prevention of apostasy in the saints, or for the causing of them to persevere. And, lastly, It is every whit as evident that such promises whereby God should assure the saints that they shall not apostatize, but persevere, are apt and proper to render them incapable of all fear of eternal death; and, consequently, are apparently obstructive of, and destructive unto, the native tendency of the said threatenings towards and about the perseverance of the saints. These threatenings can do nothing, contribute nothing, towards the perseverance of the saints, but by the mediation of the fear of evil in them upon their non-persevering; therefore, whatsoever hardens them against this fear, or renders them incapable of it, supersedes all the virtue and vigour which are to be found in these threatenings for or towards the effecting of their perseverance.”
Ans. 1. Be it granted that one end of God in his threatenings is to prevent apostasy in the saints, by stirring them up to take careful heed to the ways and means whereby they may persevere, and that they no otherwise work, or cause perseverance, but as they so stir up and provoke men to the things wherein they are to abide; but this is not their only end. They are also discoveries to all the world of the severity of God against sin, and that it is his judgment that they who commit it are worthy of death.
2. If by “Absolute promises of final perseverance” you intend such promises of perseverance, in and by the use of means instituted and appointed by God himself for the accomplishment of the end promised, which are not made or given upon the consideration of any worth in them to whom they are made, nor do depend, as to their accomplishment, on any such condition in them as in the event and issue may not be fulfilled, this observation also is granted. You may add, also, that God will certainly, effectually, and infallibly work in them an abiding with him to the end, or put his law in their hearts, that they shall never depart from him. If by “unfrustrably,” also, you intend only that he will so work it as that his counsel and purpose shall not in the end be frustrated or disappointed, we grant that also, for he hath said “his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure.”
468These things being thus supposed, let us try the inferences from them that must make good the former assertion concerning the frustration of the use of comminations by them; for they are singled out to bear the weight of this charge.
To the first assumption, then, and inference, I say, there is a twofold fear of eternal death and destruction:— 1. An anxious, perplexing fear, in respect of the end itself; 2. A watchful, careful fear, in respect of the means leading thereunto. In respect of the first, it is utterly denied that the use and end of the threatenings of God, in respect of his saints, are to ingenerate any such fear in them, it being directly opposed to that faith, assurance, peace, boldness, consolation, and joy, that God is pleased to afford to them, and abundantly exhorts them to live up unto: yea, an anxious, abiding fear of hell is fully contrary to that very conditional assurance of salvation which Mr Goodwin himself, in respect of their present condition, allows to them; nor hath the Lord instituted his ordinances at such a difference and opposition one to another as that, at the same time, towards the same persons, they should be effectual to beget opposite and contrary frames and principles. For the other, or a watchful, heedful fear, for the avoiding of the way and means that would lead them, and do lead others, to destruction, that is not in the least inconsistent with any assurance that God is pleased by his promises to give to his saints of their perseverance. God will have them expect their perseverance in the way wherein he hath promised it, — that is, by the use of such and such means, helps, and advantages, as he hath appointed for the effectual accomplishment thereof; and therefore nothing is in vain or uselessly applied to them which, according to his appointment, is suited to the stirring of them up to the use of the means ordained for that end, as before mentioned. Therefore, to Mr Goodwin’s second assertion, which he calls “evident,” I say, —
First, That it is not the making, or the bare making known to the.saints, of the promises of God, that will work the end for which they are given to them, or enable them to mix them with faith; and according to the strength of that, and not according to the truth that is in the promises themselves, is their assurance of the things promised. And therefore, notwithstanding all the clear promises of perseverance which are made, and made known to them, we see very many of them not to come up to any such assurance thereof as to be freed from the first sort of fear mentioned, which yet is the proper issue of unbelief, to the begetting whereof in them God hath not instituted any ordinance. Secondly, That none of the saints of God are, by the promises of grace which we assert, freed from that fear which is the proper product and effect of God’s comminations in respect of them; and therefore by them there is no obstruction laid in the way of the proper efficiency of those threatenings. What is 469added, in the third and last place, is only a repetition of what was before spoken, without any attempt of proof, unless he would have it looked upon as a conclusion from the premises, whose weakness being discovered as to the intent and purpose in hand, we need not farther trouble ourselves with it. Instead of Mr Goodwin’s, now considered, take these few observations, which will give so much light into the whole matter under debate as may supersede his whole ensuing discourse:—
First, then, It may be observed (as it was, by the way, in the foregoing discourse), that notwithstanding the promises of perseverance which are given to the saints, yet many there are who are not enabled all their days to mix them with faith, although their interest and portion lie in them no less than theirs who through grace attain the greatest assurance; and on that account they do never all their days get free from some bondage, by reason of the fear of death and destruction. And in respect of such as these, the comminations and threatenings insisted on may have much of that end accomplished which by Mr Goodwin is assigned to them; not that such a frame is directly aimed at in them, Christ dying to deliver them who by reason of death were in bondage all their days, from that bondage which the fear of death for sin doth keep the souls of men in and under, but that it follows, and will follow, upon their darkness and weakness of faith.
Secondly, That the promises of perseverance being of the effecting and accomplishment of it by and in the use of means, do not, nor will, give deliverance to them to whom they are made from fear of death and hell, but only whilst they conscientiously use the means appointed for them to walk in; so that upon their deflection from the rule which is attended with mercy and peace, the threatenings of God to sin and sinners, to apostasy and apostates, do lay hold on them in their full force and efficacy, especially to the ingenerating in them “a terror of the Lord,” as the apostle speaks, and an abhorrency of their ways, a loathing of them as not good, that would cause them to “fall into the hands of the living God.” So that all Mr Goodwin’s arguings, not being levied against the certainty of perseverance, but men’s certainty that they shall persevere (which some never attain unto, some lose either in whole or in part oftentimes), are not to the business in hand.
Thirdly, That eternal death and destruction is not the only subject of God’s threatenings, nor all the evil that they may have a fear of whom he deals withal by them. Desertion, rejection, rebukes, sharp and keen arrows, blows of God’s hand, temporal death itself, with the like, are also threatened; yea, and so often, in an eminent and dreadful manner, have been inflicted, that though they might be supposed to have always some comfortable assurance of deliverance from 470the wrath that is to come, yet the threatenings of God may be suited to beget in them this fear of evil to such a height as may make their “bowels to flow like water, rottenness to enter into their bones, and all their joints to tremble.”
Fourthly, That the end of the threatenings of God being to discover to men the connection that is, by his appointment, between the sins exagitated and the punishment threatened, whence the fear mentioned doth consequently ensue, they may obtain their full and primary effect though that fear be not ingenerated, if they be prevailed on by any other considerations, so that the sin be avoided.
Fifthly, That when the saints do walk orderly, regularly, and closely with God, in the use of means by him appointed, and so doing, from the promises of perseverance, do receive a comfortable assurance that they shall be “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation,”.the begetting in them of fears of death and hell is neither useful in itself nor are they intended of God to be their portion. But if at any time they “turn aside from the holy commandment,” and thereby fail of the persuasion of their perseverance (as their faith will be by such means impaired), though the certainty of the thing itself be no less infallible than formerly, yet by the threatenings of God to them it may be needful to rouse them (by “the terror of the Lord” in them) from the condition whereinto they have cast themselves.
I doubt not but that from the light of these and the like considerations, which might farther be insisted on, it will appear that there may be, and is, an harmonious consistency between the promises and threatenings of the Scripture, notwithstanding the mist that is raised in a long and tedious discourse to interrupt the evidence thereof.
In the 13th section, under pretence of answering an objection, a long discourse is drawn forth farther to varnish over what was before spoken. Nothing of importance, to my best observation, being added, it may be reduced to these four heads:—
First, An assertion, “That the threats against apostasy do not belong to hypocrites, — that is, to them that are not really regenerate, let their profession be what it will; for hypocrites ought not to persevere in the way wherein they are to the end, and therefore there is no danger of their falling away from it;” — which is a ridiculous piece of sophistry; for though they may not be exhorted to continue in their hypocrisy, which corrupts and vitiates their profession, yet they may in their profession, which in itself is good. And though there is no danger of leaving their hypocrisy, yet there is of their waxing worse and worse, by falling from the beginnings of grace which they have received, the profession which they have made, and the regular conversation which they have entered upon. So that, notwithstanding any thing said to the contrary, the comminations 471under consideration may principally belong to some kind of professors, who, notwithstanding all the gifts and common graces which they have received, yet in a large sense may be termed hypocrites, as they are opposed to them who have received the Spirit with true and saving grace.
Secondly, He says, “It is evident that they belong unto true believers from Heb. vi. 4–6, 9, x. 26, 27, 29;” but if there were no better evidence of the concernment of true believers in the threatenings made to apostasy than what can be drawn from the places mentioned, I dare undertake that Mr Goodwin shall never prove any such concernment of theirs therein whilst his eyes are open. But about this I shall not at present contend.
Thirdly, He tells us “That the end and aim of God in these threatenings is the good of believers:” of which, as far as they are concerned in them, I much less doubt than I do of the clearness of the proof of this assertion from Ps. lxxxv. 8, “I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly;” — a place that I presume was hooked in here violently for want of a fitter opportunity to wrest it with a by-interpretation, because it looks so hardly on the doctrine which our author hath undertaken to defend. But let this pass also.
His fourth assertion, which he pursues at large, or rather with many words, is, “That these threatenings have no tendency to the good of believers, but only by begetting in them a fear of hell and destruction; which that they ought to do is strongly proved from Luke xii. 4, 5, where we are bid to fear Him who can cast both body and soul into hell-fire.” Now, though the logic of this argument doth scarce appear to me, nor the strength of the inference from the text, — there being a great difference between fearing Him who can cast both body and soul into hell-fire and fearing of hell-fire, between fearing God for his severity and power, in opposition to the weakness and limitedness of persecutors (even whilst we “fear not their fear, but sanctify the Lord of hosts himself in our hearts, making him our fear and our dread”), and such a fear of punishment as is inconsistent with the promises of God that we shall be preserved in obedience, and so be free from it, — yet I shall consider the following discourse that is built thereon. Supposing all that Mr Goodwin observes from this text, and that the reason of the fear here enjoined is taken from the power of God to cast into hell, yet the whole of the argument thence amounts but thus far: “Because such who are threatened to be persecuted by men, who can only kill their bodies, ought rather to fear God, who can extend his power of punishing to the destruction of body and soul of those that offend him; therefore there is such a fear ingenerated in the saints by the threatenings 472of the word as is inconsistent with the truth of God’s steadfastness in his covenant with them to keep them up to obedience unto the end.
Sect. the 14th, he farther pleads from Heb. xi. 7, 2 Kings xxii. 19, 20, “That the eminentest, holiest men that live may do many things from a principle of fear, or of being afraid of the judgments of God, that they should come upon them; and upon that account have been put upon ways that were acceptable to God.”
Ans. We know that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” and the “fear of the Lord and his goodness” is a great mercy of the covenant of grace. This is not the thing here pleaded for. It is a thing quite of another nature, even that ascribed to the strange nations that were transplanted into Samaria by the king of Assyria, upon the captivity and removal of the ten tribes, and frightened by lions, that destroyed some of them, who did yet continue to worship their own idols, under the dread of God which was upon them, which is called “The fear of the Lord.” To complete this fear, it is required that a man have such an apprehension of the coming of hell and wrath upon him as that he be not relieved against it by any interposal of promise, or aught else, from God, that he should be preserved in the way and path whereby he shall assuredly find deliverance from that which he fears. How far this kind of fear, the fear of hell, — not as declarative of the terror of the Lord, but as probable to betide and befall the person so fearing it, and that solely considered as an evil to himself, — may be a principle of any act of acceptable gospel obedience, is not cleared by Mr Goodwin, nor easily will be so; for, —
1. That it is not the intendment of any divine threatenings to beget such a fear, in reference to them that believe, hath been declared.
2. It is no fruit or product of the Spirit of life and love; which, as hath been shown, is the principle of all our obedience and walking with God.
3. It holds out a frame of spirit directly contrary to what we are called and admitted unto under the gospel; for “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,” 2 Tim. i. 7: and Rom. viii. 15, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” The spirit of this fear and dread, and the bondage that attends it, is at open variance with the Spirit of liberty, boldness, power, adoption, and a sound mind, wherewith believers are endued. And, —
4. It is that which the Lord Christ intended to remove and take away from his by his death: Heb. ii. 15, He died that he might “deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
473This fear, then, I say, which is neither promise of the covenant, nor fruit of the Spirit, nor product of saving faith, will scarce, upon strict inquiry, be found to be any great furtherer of the saints’ obedience. What use the Lord is pleased to make of this dread and terror in the hearts of any of his, for the hedging up their ways from folly, and staving them off from any actual evil, when, through the strength of temptation, they do begin to cast off the law of life and love whereby they are governed, is not in the least prejudiced by any thing asserted in the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance. Towards some, who, though they are persuaded of the perseverance of the saints indefinitely, yet have no persuasion, or at least no prevailing cheering assurance, that themselves are saints (which Mr Goodwin thinks to be the condition of far the greatest part of believers), it hath its full power and extent, its whole efficacy depending on the apprehensions of the mind wherein it is. Towards the residue, who upon abiding grounds and sure foundations have obtained a comfortable spiritual persuasion of their own interest in the promises of God, that the consideration of hell and judgment, as the due debt of sin and necessary vindication of the glory of God, hath also its effect and influence, as far as God is pleased to exercise them therewith, acquainting them continually with his terror, and filling them with an abhorrency of those ways which in and of themselves tend to so dismal an end and issue, hath been declared.
The places of Scripture mentioned by Mr Goodwin doubtless will not reach his intendment. Of Noah is is said that he was εὐλαβηθείς after he was χρηματισθείς. Being warned of God of that flood that was for to come upon the world of ungodly men, and the salvation of himself and his family by the ark, being filled with the reverence of God, and assured of his own preservation, he industriously sets himself about the use of the means whereby it was to be accomplished. That because a man assured of an end from God himself, in and by the use of means, did, with reverential fear of God, not of any evil threatened, which he was to be preserved from, set himself to a conscientious use of means whereby the promised end of God’s own institution is to be brought about, therefore the fear of hell (such a fear as hath been described) is one principle of the obedience of the saints in their walking with God, and such as they ought to cherish, as being a means appointed of God for that end and purpose, is an argument of no great value here with us. Neither, surely, will the conclusion intended be more evidently educed from the tenderness of the heart of Josiah under the preaching of the law, mentioned in the second place; and therefore I shall not need to call it into examination.
But it is added farther, sect. 14, p. 314, “The present state and frame of the hearts and souls of the saints, duly considered, which 474are made up as well of flesh and corruption as of Spirit and grace, the former having need of bridles for restraint, as well as the latter of spurs for quickening, evident it is that arguments or motives drawn from fear of punishment are as necessary and proper for them in respect of the one as incitements from love in respect of the other. ‘A whip for the home,’ says Solomon, ‘a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.’ The flesh, even in the wisest of men, is a fool, and would be unruly without a rod ever and anon shaken over it; nor should God have made such gracious, bountiful, and effectual provision for the perseverance of the saints as now he hath done, had he not engaged as well the passion of fear within them as of love to be their guardian keeper. It is true, ‘perfect love casteth out fear,’ but who amongst the saints themselves can say either that his heart is clean or his love perfect? Perfect love casteth out flesh as well as fear; yea, true love, until flesh be cast out, preserveth fear for its assistant and fellow-helper. The flesh would soon make love a wanton, and entice her unto folly, did not fear dissolve the enchantment and protect her chastity.”
Of this last division of the 14th section there are two parts; — the first confirmative of what was spoken before concerning the usefulness of the fear of hell and punishment for the furthering of the saints’ obedience; the other responsatory to what is urged to the contrary from 1 John iv. 18, “Perfect love casteth out fear.” For the first, it is granted that there are those two contrary principles of flesh and spent, corruption and grace, in the hearts of all, even the best and most eminent saints, whilst they continue here below. But that these two should be principles acting themselves in their obedience, the one moved, incited, and stirred up by love, the other from the fear whereof we are speaking, is a fleshly, dark, and-evangelical conceit. That the principle in believers which the Scripture calls “flesh” and “corruption” needs incitement to obedience, or is to be incited thereunto, as is affirmed, is no less corrupt than what was before mentioned. Look, whatsoever influence flesh or corruption hath into any of our obedience, so far that obedience is vitiated, corrupted, rendered unclean, and unacceptable before God. The flesh is to be crucified, slain, destroyed, not stirred up and provoked to obedience, being indeed disobedience in the abstract, — enmity to God. You may as well persuade darkness to shine as the flesh to obey. It is not “a fool” (as that allusion bespeaks it from Prov. xxvi. 3), “that would be unruly were not a rod ever and anon shaken over him,” but it is folly itself, that is not to be cured, but killed, — not stirred up, but mortified. How that is to be done hath been formerly at large declared. It is by the Spirit’s bringing the cross and power of the death of Christ into the heart of the sinner, and not by any consideration of hell and punishment that we can take upon ourselves, 475— who never did, nor ever will, mortify any sin to the end of the world, — that this work is to be wrought.
Secondly, That which is added of “God’s bountiful provision for the perseverance of the saints, by engaging the passion of fear as well as love,” is of no better a frame or constitution than that which went before. That our gracious Father hath made fuller, larger, and more certain, provision for our perseverance than any that can be afforded by the engaging of our passions by consideration of punishment or reward, I hope hath been sufficiently demonstrated. And if Mr Goodwin intend no more by his love and fear of God than the engaging of those natural passions in us by the considerations intimated, I shall not be rival with him in his persuasion. The love we intend is a fruit of the Spirit of God in us, and the fear contended about is of the spirit of bondage; which, though it be not pressed on us as our duty, yet we hope that [such] bountiful provision is made for our perseverance as shall effectually support and preserve us to the end. Blessed be his name, his saints have many better guardians and keepers than a bondage frame of spirit upon the account of the wrath to come, from whence they are delivered by Christ! They are in his own hand, and in the hand of his Son, and are kept through faith by his power to salvation. If this be the end of Mr Goodwin’s preaching the threatenings of God at any time, namely, that, the natural passion of fear being stirred up with the apprehensions of hell, the flesh that is in man may be incited to obedience, I hope he hath not many consenting with him in the same intendment.
Thirdly, To an objection framed from 1 John iv. 18, that “perfect love casteth out fear,” he tells us, first, “That it may be so, but whose love is perfect?” secondly, “That love cherisheth fear, until the flesh be quite cast out;” thirdly, “That the flesh would make love wanton and entice it to folly, did not fear dissolve the enchantment.” But, —
1. Though love be not perfect to all degrees of perfection here, yet it may have, yea it hath, in the saints, the perfection of uprightness and sincerity; which is all that is here intended, and all that is required to it for the casting out of that tormenting fear of which the apostle speaks. “Fear,” saith he, “hath torment;” and if our love cannot amount to such perfection as to cast it out, it being only to be cast out thereby, it is impossible we should ever be freed from torment all our days, or be filled with joy and consolation in believing; which would frustrate the glorious design of God, which he hath sworn himself willing to pursue, Heb. vi. 17, 18, and the great end of the death of Christ, which he hath perfectly accomplished, chap. ii. 14, 15.
2. It is true, there is a fear that love cherisheth, — the fear that God hath promised in the covenant of grace to preserve in our hearts all our days; but to say it cherisheth the fear we speak of, and 476which the Holy Ghost in this place intendeth, is expressly to make the Holy Ghost a liar, and to contradict him to his face.
3. What love in us is that that the flesh can or may “entice to folly?” Are the fruits of the Spirit of God, the graces of his own working and creating in us, of such a temper and constitution as that they may be enticed to uncleanness and folly? And is it possible that such a thought should enter into the heart of a man professing the doctrine of the gospel? that ink should stain paper with such filth cast upon the Spirit and grace of God? The fear of hell erewhile was suited to the use of the flesh, but now, it seems, it serves to keep the love of God itself in order, that otherwise would wax wanton, fleshly, and foolish! Foolish love, that will attempt to cast out this tormenting fear, not being able to preserve itself from folly without its assistance!
Sect. 15 is spent in an answer endeavoured to an objection placed in the beginning of it, in these words:—
“If it be farther demanded, ‘But doth it not argue servility in men to be drawn by the iron cord of the fear of hell to do what is their duty to do? or doth any other service or obedience become sons and children but only that which is free and proceedeth from love?’ ”
Hereunto you have a threefold answer returned:—
First, “That God requires that it should be so;” which is a downright begging of the question.
Secondly, He puts a difference between the obedience of children to their parents and of the saints unto God, the discourse whereof discovering some mysteries of the new doctrine of grace, much pressed and insisted on, take as follows:— “There is a very different consideration of the obedience of children to their natural parents, and of the obedience of the children of God unto their heavenly Father. The obedience of the former is but by the inspiration of nature, and is an act not so much raised by deliberation or flowing from the will, by an interposure of judgment and conscience to produce the election, as arising from an innate propension in men, accompanying the very constituting principles of their nature and being; whereas the latter, the obedience of the children of God, is taught by precepts, and the principle of it, I mean that rational frame of heart out of which they subject themselves to God, is planted in the souls of men by the engagement of reason, judgment, and conscience, to consider those grounds, arguments, and motives, by which their heavenly Father judgeth it meet to work and fashion them unto such a frame. So that though the obedience of natural children to their natural parents be the more genuine and commendable when it flows freely from the pure instinct of nature, and is not drawn from them by fear of punishment, yet the obedience of the children of God is then most genuine and commendable, and like unto itself, when it is produced 477and raised in the soul by a joint influence and contribution, not of one, or of some, but of all those arguments, reasons, motives, inducements whatever, and how many soever they be, by which their heavenly Father useth to plant and work it in them; for in this case, and in this only, it hath most of God, of the Spirit of God, of the wisdom of God, of the goodness of God. In and upon this account it is likeliest to be most free, uniform, and permanent.”
The sum of this answer amounts to these three things:— First, That there is an instinct or inspiration of nature in children to yield obedience to their parents. Secondly, That there is no such spiritual instinct or inclination in the saints to yield obedience to God. Thirdly, That the obedience of the saints ariseth merely and solely from such considerations of the reason of that obedience as they apprehend, in contradiction to any such genuine principles as might incline their hearts thereunto.
1. For the first, that the obedience of children to their parents, though it be a prime dictate of the law of nature wherewith they are endued, proceedeth from a pure instinct, any otherwise than as a principle suiting and inclining them to the acts of that obedience, so as to exclude the promoting and carrying of it on upon the moral consideration of duty, piety, etc., it is in vain for Mr Goodwin to go about to persuade us, unless he could not only corrode the word of God, where it presseth that obedience as a duty, but also charm us into beasts of the field, which are acted by such a brute instinct, not to be improved, stirred up, or drawn forth into exercise by deliberation or consideration. There is, it is true, in children an impress of the power of the law of nature, suiting them to obedience (which yet in many hath been quite cast out and obliterated, being none of the constituting principles of their nature, which, whilst they have their being as such, cannot be thrown out of them), and carrying them out unto it with delight, ease, and complacency, as habits do to suitable actings; but withal that this principle is not regulated and directed, as our obedience to God, by a rule, and stirred up to exert itself, and [that] they in whom it is [are not] provoked by rational and conscientious considerations to the performance of their duty in that obedience, is so contrary to the experience, I suppose, of all sharers with us in our mortality, that it will hardly be admitted into debate.
2. The worst part of this story lies in the middle of it, in the exclusion of any such spiritual principle in believers as should carry them out unto obedience, at least to any such as is not begotten in their minds by “rational considerations” Whatever may be granted of acquired habits of grace (which that the first should be, that a spiritual habit should be acquired by natural actings, is a most ridiculous fiction), all infused habits of grace that should imprint upon 478the soul a new natural inclination to obedience, that should fashion and frame the hearts of men into a state and condition suited for, and carry them out unto, spiritual obedience, are here decried. All, it seems, that the Scripture hath told us of our utter insufficiency, deadness, disability, indisposedness to any thing that is good, without a new life and principle; all that we have apprehended and believed concerning the new heart and Spirit given us, the new nature, new creature, divine nature, inner man, grace in the heart, making the root good that the fruit may be so; all that the saints have expressed concerning their delight in God, love to God upon the account of his writing his laws in their hearts and spirits, — is a mere delusion. There is no principle of any heavenly, spiritual life, no new nature, with its bent and instinct lying towards God and obedience to him, wrought in the saints, or bestowed on them, by the Holy Spirit of grace. If this be so, we may even fairly shut our Bibles, and go learn this new gospel of such as are able to instruct us therein. Wherefore, I say, —
3. That as in children there is an instinct, an inclination of nature, to induce them and carry them out to obedience to their natural parents, which yet is directed, regulated, provoked, and stirred up, and they thereby, to that obedience, by motives and considerations suited to work upon their minds and consciences, to prevail with them thereunto: so also in believers, the children of God, who are “begotten of the will of God,” by the “word of truth,” and “born again, not of the will of the flesh, but of the will of God,” there is a new spiritual principle, a constituting principle of their spiritual lives, wrought and implanted in them by the Spirit of principle of faith and love, enabling them for, suiting them unto, and inciting them to, that obedience which is acceptable and well-pleasing to their Father which is in heaven; in which obedience, as they are regulated by the word, so they are stirred up unto it by all those motives which the Lord in his infinite wisdom hath fitted to prevail on persons endued with such a principle from himself as they are. It is not incumbent on me to enter upon the proof and demonstration of a title to a truth which the saints of God have held so long in unquestionable possession, nothing at all being brought to invalidate it but only a bare insinuation that it is not so. Then, —
4. I deny not but that the saints of God are stirred up to obedience by all the considerations and inducements which God lays before them and proposeth to them for that end and purpose; and as he hath spread a principle of obedience over their whole souls, all their faculties and affections, so he hath provided in his word motives and inducements to the obedience he requires, which are suited unto and fit to work upon all that is within them (as the psalmist speaks) to live to him. Their love, fear, hope, desires, are 479all managed within and provoked without to that end and purpose. But how it will thence follow that it is the intendment of God by his threatenings to ingenerate such a fear of hell in them as is inconsistent with an assurance of his faithfulness in his promises not to leave them, but to preserve them to his heavenly kingdom, I profess I know not. The obedience of the saints we look upon to proceed from a principle wrought in them with a higher energy and efficacy than mere desires of God to implant it by arguments and motives; that is, by persuading them to it, without the least real contribution of strength or power, or the ingrafting the word in them, in, with, and by, a new principle of life. And if this be the Phyllis of our author’s doctrine, solus habeto. Such a working of obedience we cannot think to have any thing “of God, of the Spirit of God, of the wisdom of God, or the goodness of God,” in it; being exceedingly remote from the way and manner of God’s working in the saints as held out in the word of truth, and ineffectual to the end proposed in that condition wherein they are. The true use of the threatenings of wrath, in reference to them who by Christ are delivered from it, hath been before manifested and insisted on.
Thirdly, In the last division of this section, he labours to prove that what is done from a principle of fear may be done willingly and cheerfully, as well as that which is done from a principle of love. To which briefly I say, —
1. Neither fear nor love, as they are mere natural affections, is any principle of spiritual obedience as such.
2. That we are so far from denying the usefulness of the fear of the Lord to the obedience of the saints, that the continuance thereof in them to the end is the great promise, for the certain accomplishment whereof we do contend.
3. That fear of hell in believers, as a part of the wrath of God from which they are delivered by Christ, being opposed to all their graces of faith, love, hope, etc., is no principle of obedience in them, whatever influence it may have on them as to restraint when managed by the hand of God’s grace.
4. That yet believers can never be delivered from it but by faith in the blood of Christ, attended with sincere and upright walking with God; which when they fail of, though that fear, supposed to be predominant in the soul, be inconsistent with any comfortable, cheering assurance of the favour of God, yet it is not with the certain continuance to them of the thing itself, upon the account of the promises of God.
Sect. 16 contains a large discourse, in answer to the apostle affirming that “fear hath torment;” which is denied by our author, upon sundry considerations. The fear he intends is a fear of hell and “wrath to come.” This he supposeth to be of such predominancy 480in the soul as to be a principle of obedience unto God. That this can be without torment, disquiet, bondage, and vexation, he will not easily evince to the consciences of them who have at any time been exercised under such a frame. What fear is consistent with hope; what incursions upon the souls of the saints are made by dread and bondage; the fears of hell, and the use of such fears; how some are, though true believers, scarcely delivered from such fears all their days, — I have formerly declared. And that may suffice as to all our concernment in this discourse.
In the 17th section somewhat is attempted as to promises, answerable to what hath been done concerning exhortations and threatenings. The words used to this end are many; the sum is, “That the use of promises in stirring men up to obedience is solely in the proposal of a good thing or good things to them to whom the promises are made, which they may attain or come short of. Now, if men are assured, as this doctrine supposeth they may be, that they shall attain the end whether they use the means or no, how can they possibly be incited by the promises to the use of the means proposed for the enjoyment of the end promised?” That this is the substance of his discourse I presume himself will confess; and it being the winding up of a tedious argument, I shall briefly manifest its uselessness and lay it aside. I say, then, —
1. What is the true use of the promises of God, and what influence they have into the obedience and holiness of the saints, hath been formerly declared; neither is any thing there asserted of their genuine and natural tendency to the ends expressed enervated in the least by any thing here insisted on or intimated by Mr Goodwin: so that without more trouble I might refer the reader thither to evince the falseness of Mr Goodwin’s assertions concerning the uselessness of the promises unto perseverance, upon a supposition that there are promises of perseverance.
2. Though we affirm that all true saints shall persevere, yet we do not say that all that are so do know themselves to be so, and towards them, at least, the promises may have their efficacy in that way which Mr Goodwin hath by his authority confined them to work in.
3. We say that our Saviour was fully persuaded that in the issue of his undertakings and sufferings he should be “glorified with his Father,” according to his promise; and yet, upon the account of that glory, which he was so assured of, being set before him, he addressed himself to the sharpest and most difficult passage to it that ever any one entered on. He “endured the cross, despising the shame,” for the glory’s sake whereof he had assurance, Heb. xii. 2. And why may not this be the state of them to whom, in his so doing, he was a captain of salvation? Why may not the glory and reward set before them, though enjoyed in a full assurance of faith, in the excellency 481of it, when possessed, as promised, stir them up to the means leading thereunto?
4. The truth is, the more we are assured with the assurance of faith (not of presumption) that we shall certainly obtain and enjoy the end whereunto the means we use do lead (as is the assurance that ariseth from the promises of God), the more eminently are we pressed in a gospel way, if we walk in the spirit of the gospel, to give up ourselves to obedience to that God and Father who hath appointed so precious and lovely means as are the paths of grace for the obtaining of so glorious an end as that whereunto we are appointed.
And thus I doubt not but that it is manifest, by these considerations of Mr Goodwin’s objections to the contrary, that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, as by us taught and delivered, doth not only fall in a sweet compliance with all the means of grace, especially those appointed by God to establish the saints in faith and obedience, — that is, to work perseverance in them, — but also to be eminently useful to give life, vigour, power, and efficacy, in a peculiar gospel manner, to all exhortations, threatenings, and promises, appointed and applied by God to that end and purpose.
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