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Chapter XV. Argument against the doctrine from the sins of believers.
Mr G.’s fifth argument for the apostasy of true believers — The weight of this argument taken from the sins of believers — The difference between the sins of believers and unregenerate persons proposed to consideration, James i. 14, 15 — The rise and progress of lust and sin — The fountain of all sin in all persons is lust, Rom. vii. 7 — Observations clearing the difference between regenerate and unregenerate persons in their sinning, as to the common fountain of all sin — The first — The second, of the universality of lust in the soul by nature — The third, in two inferences: the first, unregenerate men sin with their whole consent; the second inference, concerning the reign of sin and reigning sin — The fourth, concerning the universal possession of the soul by renewing grace — The fifth that true grace bears rule wherever it be — Inferences from the former considerations — The first, that in every regenerate person there are diverse principles of all moral operations — Rom. vii. 19–22, opened — The second, that sin cannot reign in a regenerate person — The third, that regenerate persons sin not with their whole consent — Answer to the argument at the entrance proposed — Believers never sin with their whole consent and wills — Mr G.’s attempt to remove the answer — His exceptions considered and removed — Plurality of wills in the same person, in the Scripture sense — Of the opposition between flesh and Spirit — That no regenerate person sins with his full consent proved — Of the Spirit and his lustings in us — The actings of the Spirit in us free, not suspended on any conditions in us — The same farther manifested — Mr G.’s discourse of the first and second motions of the Spirit considered — The same considerations farther carried on — Peter Martyr’s testimony considered — Rom. vii. 19–22, considered — Difference between the opposition made to sin in persons regenerate and that in persons unregenerate farther argued — Of the sense of Rom. vii., and in what sense believers do the works of the flesh — The close of these considerations — The answer to the argument at the entrance of the chapter opened — The argument new formed — The major proposition limited and granted, and the minor denied — The proof of the major considered — Gal. v. 21; Eph. v. 5, 6; 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10 — Believers how concerned in comminations — Threatenings proper to unbelievers for their sins — Farther objections proposed and removed — Of the progress of lust in tempting to sin — The effect of lust in temptations — Difference between regenerate and unregenerate persons as to the tempting of lust: 1. In respect of universality; 2. Of power — Objections answered — Whether believers sin only out of infirmity — Whether believers may sin out of malice and with deliberation — Of the state of believers who upon their sin may be excommunicated — Whether the body of Christ may be dismembered — What body of Christ it is that is intended — Mr G.’s thoughts to this purpose examined — Mr G.’s discourse of the way whereby Christ keeps or may keep his members examined — Members of Christ cannot become members of Satan — 1 Cor. vi. 15 considered — Of the sense and use of the word ἄρας — Christ takes his members out of the power of Satan, gives up none to him — Repetition of regeneration asserted by the doctrine of apostasy — The repetition disproved — 509Mr G.’s notion of regeneration examined at large and rebuked — Relation between God and his children indissoluble — The farther progress of lust for the production of sin; it draws off and entangles — Drawing away, what it is — The difference between regenerate and unregenerate persons in their being drawn away by lust — Farther description of him who is drawn away by lust, and of the difference formerly mentioned — Of lust’s enticing — How far this may befall regenerate men — To do sin, Rom. vii., what it intendeth — Lust conceiving, wherein it consists — Of the bringing forth of sin, and how far the saints of God may proceed therein — 1 John iii. 9 opened — The scope of the place discovered, vindicated — The words farther opened — The proposition in the words universal — Inferences from thence — The subject of that proposition considered — Every one that is born of God, what is affirmed of them — What meant by “committing of sin” — Mr G.’s opposition to the sense of that expression given — Reasons for the confirmation of it — Mr G.’s reasons against it proposed and considered — The farther exposition of the word carried on — How he that is born of God cannot sin — Several kinds of impossibility — Mr G.’s attempt to answer the argument from this place particularly examined — The reasons of the proposition in the text considered — Of the seed of God abiding — The nature of that seed, what it is, wherein it consists — Of the abiding of this seed — Of the latter part of the apostle’s reason, “he is born of God” — Our argument from the words — Mr G.’s endeavour to evade that argument — His exposition of the words removed — Farther of the meaning of the word “abideth” — The close.
Mr Goodwin’s fifth argument for the saints’ apostasy is taken from the consideration of the sins which they have fallen into, or possibly may so do, and it is thus proposed: sect. 20, —
“They who are in a capacity or possibility of perpetrating the works of the flesh are in a possibility of perishing, and consequently in a possibility of falling away, and that finally, from the grace and favour of God, in case they be in an estate of his grace and favour at the present; but the saints, or true believers, are in a possibility of perpetrating the works of the flesh: and therefore also they are in a possibility of perishing, and so of falling away from the grace and favour of God, wherein at present they stand. The major proposition of this argument, — to wit, They who are in a possibility of perpetrating or customarily acting the works of the flesh, are in a possibility of perishing, — is clearly proved from all such scriptures which exclude all workers of iniquity and fulfillers of the lusts of the flesh from the kingdom of God, of which sort are many: ‘Of the which,’ saith the apostle, speaking of the lusts of the flesh, adultery, fornication, etc., ‘I tell you, as I have also told you in time past, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.’ So again, ‘For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.’ ‘Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.’ Yet again, ‘Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?’ ‘Be not 510deceived, neither fornicators nor idolaters shall inherit the kingdom of God.’ From such passages as these, which are very frequent in the Scriptures, it is as clear as the light of the sun at noon-day, that they who may possibly commit such sins as those specified, adultery, fornication, idolatry, may as possibly perish and be for ever excluded the kingdom of God.”
Ans. Because, of all arguments whatever used against the truth we assert, this seems to me to wear the best colours on its back, and to have its face best painted, namely, with that plea of the “inconsistency of sin with the favour and acceptation of God,” seeming to have a tendency to caution believers in their ways and walkings to be more careful in watching against temptations, I shall more largely insist on what the Lord hath been pleased to reveal concerning the sins and failings of such as he is yet pleased to accept in a covenant of mercy; whom though he chastens and sorely rebukes, yet he gives not their souls over unto death, nor takes his loving-kindness from them for ever. Now, because the inside and strength of this objection consists in a comparison instituted between the sins of believers and the sins of unregenerate persons, which being laid in the balance are found of equal burdensomeness unto God, and therefore are in expectance of a like reward from him, I shall in the first place, before I come in particular to answer the argument proposed, manifest the difference that is between regenerate persons and unregenerate in their sinning, and consequently also between their sins; wherein such principles shall be laid down and proved as may with an easy application remove all that is added in the farther carrying on and endeavoured vindication of the argument in hand.
A foundation of this discourse we have laid in James i. 14, 15, “But every man is tempted,” saith the Holy Ghost, “when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” The Holy Ghost discovers the fountain of all sin, and pursues it in the streams of it into the dead sea, whereinto it falls. All sin whatever is from temptation, and that which tempts to all sin is the cause of all sin. This fountain of sin is here discovered, the principal, proper, criminal cause of sin, in the beginning of verse 14. The adversative “but” is exclusive of any other faulty cause of sin that should principally fall under our consideration, especially of God, of whom mention was made immediately before. Now, this is affirmed to be every man’s “lust.” The general way and means that this original of all sin useth for the production of it is also discovered, and that is “temptation.” Every man’s own lust tempts him. The progress also it makes in carrying on of sin whereunto it tempts is farther described in the several parts and degrees of it:— 1. It draws away and entices, and the persons towards whom it exerts this efficacy 511are “drawn away and enticed;” 2. It conceives, “Lust conceives.” The subject being prepared, answering its drawing away and enticing, without more ado it conceives sin; and then it brings forth into action, — that is, either into open perpetration or deliberate determination of its accomplishment; and then it “finisheth sin,” or comes up to the whole work that sin tends to; whereunto is subjoined the dismal end and issue of this progress of sin, which is “death.” Eternal death is in the womb of finished sin, and will be brought forth by it.
This being the progress of sin from the first rise, which is “lust,” to the last end, which is “death,” the way and path that the best and most refined unregenerate men in the world do never thoroughly forsake, though they may sometimes step out of it or be stopped in it, a way wherein whoever walks to the end may be sure to find the end, I shall consider the several particulars laid down, and show in them all, at least in the most material, the difference that is between believers and unbelievers whilst they do walk, or may walk, in this path, and then manifest where and when all saints break out of it for ever, so that they come not to the close thereof; and therein I shall give a full answer unto the whole strength and design of the argument in hand, which consisteth, as was said, in a comparison instituted between the sins and demerits of believers and unbelievers.
First, The fountain, principle, and cause, of all sin whatever, in all persons whatever, is “lust.” Every one’s own lust is the cause of his own sin. This is the mother, womb, and fomes of sin, which Paul says he had not been acquainted withal but by the law: Rom. vii. 7, “Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” That which in the entrance he calls “sin” indefinitely, in the close he particularly terms “lust,” as being the hidden, secret cause of all sin, and which, once discovered, swallows up the thoughts of all other sins, it being altogether in vain to deal with them, or to set a man’s self in opposition to them, whilst this sinful womb of them is alive and prevalent. This is that which we call original sin, as to that part of it which consists in the universal alienation of our hearts from God, and unconquerable, habitual, natural inclination of them to every thing that is evil; for this sin works in us “all manner of concupiscence,” Rom. vii. 8. This, I say, is the womb, cause, and principle of sin, both in believers and unbelievers, the root on which the bitter fruit of it doth grow, wherever it is. No man ever sins but it is from his own lust. And in this there is an agreement between the sins of believers and others, they are all from the same fountain; yet not such an agreement but that there is a difference herein also. For the clearing whereof observe, —
1. That by nature this lust, which is the principle of sin, is seated in all the faculties of the soul, receiving divers appellations 512according to the variety of the subjects wherein it is, and is sometimes expressed in terms of privation, want, and deficiency, sometimes by positive inclination to evil. In the understanding, it is blindness, darkness, giddiness, folly, madness; in the will, obstinacy and rebellion; in the heart and affections, pride, stubbornness, hardness, sensuality; in all, negatively and privatively, death; positively, lust, corruption, flesh, concupiscence, sin, the old man, and the like. There is nothing in the soul of a man that hath the least influence into any action as moral but is wholly possessed with this depraved, vicious habit, and exerts itself always and only in a suitableness thereunto.
2. That this lust hath so taken possession of men by nature, that, in reference to any spiritual act or duty, they are nothing else but lust and flesh: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” John iii. 6. It is all so, it is all spiritual flesh; that is, it is wholly and habitually corrupt, as to the doing any thing that is good. If any thing in a man might seem to be exempted, it should be his mind, the seat of all those things which are commonly called the “relics of the image of God;” but that also is flesh, as the apostle at large asserts it, Rom. viii., and “enmity against God.” Neither is it of any weight which is objected, “That there is in unregenerate men the knowledge of the truth, which they retain in unrighteousness, Rom. i. 18; conscience accusing and excusing, chap. ii. 15; the knowledge of sin which is by the law, with sundry other endowments; which,” they say, “doubtless are not flesh.” I answer, They are all flesh, in the sense that the Scripture useth that word. The Holy Ghost speaks of nothing in man, in reference unto any duty of obedience unto God, but it is either flesh or Spirit. These two comprehend every man in the world: Every man is either in the flesh or in the Spirit, Rom. viii. The utmost improvement of all natural faculties whatever, the most complete subjection whereunto they are brought by convictions, yet leaves the same impotency in them to spiritual good as they were born withal, the same habitual inclination to sin, however entangled and hampered from going out to the actual perpetrating of it; neither are they themselves any thing the better, nor hath God any thing of that glory by them which ariseth from the willing obedience of his creatures.
3. It being the state of every man’s proper lust which is the fountain of all sin, two things will follow:—
(1.) That in whomsoever it is, in its compass and power, as above described, as it is in every unregenerate man, however convinced of sin, he sins with his full and whole consent. All that is within him consents to every sin he commits. Unregenerate men sin with their whole hearts and souls. In every act their carnal minds are not, will not be, subject to the law of God. Their wills and all 513their affections delight in sin; and this because there is no principle in them that should make any opposition to sin, — I mean such a spiritual opposition as would really take off from their full consent. It is true, conscience repines, witnesses against sin, reproves, rebukes, excuses or accuses: but conscience is no real principle of operation, but either a judge of what is done or to be done, or a moral inducer to doing or not doing; and whatever conscience doth, however it tumultuate, rebuke, chide, persuade, trouble, cry, and the like, whatever conviction of the guilt of sin may show into the judgment, yet sin hath the consent of the whole soul. Every thing that hath a real influence into operation consents thereto, originally and radically, however any principle may be dared by conscience. To take off any thing from full consent, there must be something of a spiritual repugnancy in the mind and will, which when lust is thus enthroned there is not.
(2.) That sin reigneth in such persons. Many have been the inquiries of learned men about the reigning of sin; as, what sins may be said to reign, and what not? whether sins of ignorance may reign as well as sins against knowledge? what little sins may be said to reign as well as great? whether frequent relapses into any sin prove that sin to be reigning? whether sin may reign in a regenerate person? or whether a saint may fall into reigning sin? whereabout divines of great note and name have differed, all upon a false bottom and supposal. The Scripture gives no ground for any such inquiries, or disputes, or cases of conscience, as some men have raised hereupon; and, indeed, I would this were the only instance of men’s creating cases of conscience and answering them, when indeed and in truth there are no such things; so ensnaring the consciences of men, and entangling more by their cases than they deliver by their resolutions. The truth is, there is no mention of any reigning sin, or the reigning of any sin, in the whole book of God, taking sin for this or that particular sin; but of the reign of this indwelling, original lust, or fountain of all sin, there is frequent mention. Whilst that holds its power and universality in the soul, and is not restrained nor straitened by the indwelling Spirit of grace, with a new vital principle of no less extent and of more power than it, be the actual sins few or more, known or unknown, little or great, all is one. Sin reigns, and such a person is under the power and dominion of sin. So that, in plain terms, to have sin reign is to be unconverted; and to have sin not to reign is to be converted, to have received a new principle of life from above. This is evident from the 5th and 6th chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, the seat of this doctrine of reigning sin. The opposition insisted on by the apostle, is between the reign of sin and grace; and in pursuit thereof he manifests how true believers are translated from the one to the other. To have sin reign, is to be in a state of sin; to have grace reign, is to be in a state 514of grace. So chap. v. 21, “As sin hath reigned unto death, so grace reigneth through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” The sin he speaks of is that whereof he treats in all that chapter, the sin of nature, the lust whereof we speak. This by nature reigneth unto death; but when grace comes by Jesus Christ, the soul is delivered froth the power thereof. So in the whole 6th chapter it is our change of state and condition that the apostle insists on, in our delivery from the reign of sin; and he tells us this is that that destroys it, our being under grace: Verse 14, “Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Plainly, then, there are two lords and rulers; and these are, original or indwelling sin, and grace or the Spirit of it. The first lord the apostle discovers, with his entrance upon his rule and dominion, chap. v., and this all men by nature are under; the second he describes, chap. vi., which sets out the rule and reign of grace in believers by Jesus Christ. And then, thirdly, the place that both these lords have, in this life, in a believer, chap. vii. This, then, is the only reigning sin; and in whomsoever it is in its power and compass, as it is in all unregenerate men, in them, and in them only, doth sin reign, and every sin they commit is with full consent (as was manifested before), in exact willing obedience to the sovereign lord that reigns in them.
4. Observe that the grace, new creature, principle, or spiritual life, that is given to, bestowed on, and wrought in, all and only believers, be it in the lowest and most remiss degree that can be imagined, is yet no less universally spread over the whole soul than the contrary habit and principle of lust and sin whereof we have spoken. In the understanding it is light in the Lord; in the will, life; in the affections, love, delight, etc., those being reconciled who were alienated by wicked works. Wherever there is any thing the least of grace, there something of it is in every thing of the soul that is a capable seat for good or evil habits or dispositions. He that is “in Christ is a new creature,” 2 Cor. v. 17; not renewed in one or other particular, — “he is a new creature.”
5. That wherever true grace is, in what degree soever, there it bears rule, though sin be in the same subject with it. As sin reigns before grace comes, so grace reigns when it doth once come. And the reason is, because sin having the first rule and dominion in the heart, abiding there, there is neither room nor place for grace but what is made by conquest; now, whoever enters into a possession by right of conquest., what resistance soever be made, if he prevail to a conquest, he reigns. In every regenerate man, though grace be never so weak, and corruption never so strong, yet properly the sovereignty belongs to grace. Having entered upon the soul and all the powers of it by conquest, so long as it abides there it doth 515reign. So that to say a regenerate man may fall into reigning sin, as it is commonly expressed (though, as we have manifested, no sin reigns but the sin of nature, as no good act reigneth but the Spirit and habit of grace), and yet continue regenerate, is all one as to say he may have and not have true grace at the same time.
Now, from these considerations some farther inferences may be made:— (1.) That in every regenerate person there are, in a spiritual sense, two principles of all his actings, — two wills. There is the will of the flesh, and there is the will of the Spirit. A regenerate man is spiritually and in Scripture expression two men, — a “new man” and an “old,” an “inward man” and a “body of death,” — and hath two wills, having two natures, not as natural faculties, but as moral principles of operation; and this keeps all his actions, as moral, from being perfect, absolute, or complete in any kind. He doth good with his whole heart upon the account of sincerity, but he doth not good with his whole heart upon the account of perfection; and when he doth evil, there is still a non-submitting, an unconsenting principle. This the apostle complains of and declares, Rom. vii. 19–22, “The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.”
There is an “I” and an “I” at opposition, a willing and not willing, a doing and not doing, a delighting and not delighting, all in the same person. So that there is this difference at the entrance between what sin soever of regenerate persons and others: Though the principle of sinning be the same, for the kind and nature of it, in them and others, — all sin, every man’s sins, be who he will, believer or unbeliever, being tempted by his own lust, — yet that lust possesseth the whole soul, and takes in the virtual consent of the whole man, notwithstanding the control and checks of conscience and the light of the judgment, in him that is unregenerate; but in every regenerate person there is an unconsenting principle, which is as truly the man himself, that doth not concur in sin, that doth expressly dissent from it, as the other is from whence it flows.
(2.) That sin neither can, doth, nor ever shall, reign in regenerate persons. The reason of this I acquainted you with before; and the apostle thinks this a sufficient proof of this assertion, “Because they are under grace,” Rom. vi. 14. Whilst the principle of grace abides in them, which reigns wherever it be, or the free acceptance of God in the gospel is towards them, it is impossible, upon the account of any actual sin whatever whereinto they may fall, that sin should reign in them. Nothing gives sin a reign and dominion but a total defect of all true grace whatever, not only as to the exerting itself, but as to any habitual relics of it. It may be overwhelmed 516sometimes with temptations and corruptions, but it is grace still, as the least spark of fire is fire, though it should be covered with never so great a heap of ashes; and it reigns then.
(3.) That regenerate persons sin not with their whole and full consent. Consent may be taken two ways:— First, Morally, for the approbation of the thing done. So the apostle says, that in the inward man he did “consent to the law that it was good,” Rom. vii. 16; that is, he did approve it as such, like it, delight in it as good: and thus a regenerate man never consents to sin, no, nor unregenerate persons neither, unless they are such as, “being past feeling, are given up to work lasciviousness with greediness.” A regenerate person is so far from thus consenting to sin, that before it, in it, after it, he utterly condemns, disallows, hates it, as in himself and by himself committed. Secondly, Consent may be taken in a physical sense, for the concurrence of the commanding and acting principles of the soul unto its operations. And in this sense an unregenerate man sins with his full consent and his whole will. A regenerate man doth not, cannot do so: for though there is not in that consent to sin which his will, inclined by the remaining disposition of sin in it, doth give, an actual sensible reaction of the other principle, yet there is an express not-consenting; and by the power that it hath in the soul (for habits have power in and over the subjects wherein they are), it preserves it from being wholly engaged into sin. And this is the great intendment of the apostle, Rom. vii. 19–22.
From what hath been spoken will easily appear what answer may be given to the former argument, to wit, that notwithstanding any sins that either the Scripture or the experience of men doth evince that the saints may fall into, yet that they never sin or perpetrate sin with their full and whole consent, whereby they should be looked upon in and under their sins in the same state and condition with unregenerate persons, in whom sin reigneth, committing the same sin. And how insufficient any thing produced by Mr Goodwin in defence of the argument laid down at the entrance of this chapter, is to remove the answer given unto it from believers not sinning with their whole consent, may easily be demonstrated. This he thus proposeth:—
“Some, to maintain this position, that all the sins of true believers are sins of infirmity, lay hold on this shield: ‘Such men,’ they say, ‘never sin with their whole wills, or with full consent; therefore they never sin but through infirmity.’ That they never sin with full consent they conceive they prove sufficiently from that of the apostle, ‘For the good that I would I do not: but the evil that I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.’ I answer, first, That the saints cannot sin but with their whole wills or full consents is undeniably 517proved by this consideration, — namely, because otherwise there should be not only a plurality or diversity, but also a contrariety of wills in the same person at one and the same instant of time, namely, when the supposed act of evil is produced. Now, it is an impossibility of the first evidence that there should be a plurality of acts, and these contrary one to the other, in the same subject or agent at one or the same instant of time. It is true, between the first movings of the flesh in a man towards the committing of the sin and the completing of the sin by an actual and external patration of it, there may be successively in him not only a plurality but even a contrariety of volitions or motions of the will, according to what the Scripture speaketh concerning the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; but when the flesh, having prevailed in the combat, bringeth forth her desire into act, the Spirit ceaseth from his act of lusting: otherwise it would follow that the flesh is greater and stronger in her lusting than the Spirit of God is in his, and that when the flesh lusteth after the perpetration of such or such a sin, the Spirit as to the hindering of it lusteth but in vain; which is contrary to that of the apostle, ‘Greater is he that is in you’ (speaking, as it is clear, of the Spirit of God unto true believers) ‘than he that is in the world,’ meaning Satan and all his auxiliaries, — sin, flesh, corruption.”
Ans. What we intend by the saints not sinning with their whole wills hath been declared. That there is not a consistency in the explanation we have given Mr Goodwin asserts, because it would infer “a plurality, yea a contrariety of wills in the same person at the same time.” That there is a plurality, yea a contrariety of wills, in the Scripture sense of the expression of the will of a man, was before from the Scripture declared; not a plurality of wills in a physical sense, as the will is a natural faculty of the soul, but in a moral and analogical sense, as it is taken for a habit or principle of good or evil. The will is a natural faculty. One nature hath one will. In every regenerate man there are two natures, the new or divine, and the old or corrupted. In the same sense, there are in him two wills, as was declared. But saith he, “It is an impossibility of the first evidence, that there should be a plurality of acts in the same subject at the same time, and these contrary one to another.” But, —
1. If you intend acts in a moral consideration, unless you add, “About the same object,” which you do not, this assertion is so far from any evidence of truth, that it is ridiculously false. May not the same person love God and hate the devil at the same time? But, —
2. How pass you so suddenly from a plurality of wills to a plurality of acts? By the will we intend (in the sense wherein we speak of it) a habit, not any act, — that is, the will as habitually invested with a new principle, and not as actually willing from thence and 518by virtue thereof. Arminius, from whom our author borrows this discourse, fell not into this sophistry; he tells you, “There cannot be contrary wills or volitions about the same act.” But is it with Mr Goodwin or Arminius an impossibility that there should be a mixed action, partly voluntary and partly involuntary? Actions whose principles are from without, by persuasion, may be; so a man’s throwing his goods into the sea to save his own life. Now, the principles whereof we speak, flesh and grace, are internal and contrary; and shall not the actions that proceed from a faculty wherein such contrary principles have their residence he partly voluntary, partly involuntary?
But he tells you, “That though there might be lusting of the Spirit against the flesh before the act of sin, yet when it comes to the acting of it then it ceaseth; and so the act is wrought with the whole will.”
1. Though this were so, yet this doth not prove but that the action is mixed, and not absolutely and wholly voluntary. Mixed actions are so esteemed from the antecedent deliberation and dissent, though the will be at length prevailed upon thereunto; and I have showed before that in the very action there is a virtual dissent, because of the opposite principle that is in the will. But, —
2. How doth it appear that the Spirit doth not “lust against the flesh” (though not to a prevalency) even in the exertion of the acts of sin? In every good act that a man doth, because evil is present with him, though the prevalency be on the part of the Spirit and the principle of grace, yet the flesh also with its lustings doth always in part corrupt it; thence are all the spots, stains, and imperfections of the holy things and duties of the saints. And if the flesh in its lusting will immix itself with our good actions to their defilement and impairing, why may not the Spirit in the ill [actions] not only immix itself and its lustings therewith, but bear off from the full influence of the will into them which otherwise it would have?
But saith he, “If the Spirit doth not cease lusting before the flesh bring forth the act of sin, then is the Spirit conquered by the flesh, contrary to that of the apostle, 1 John iv. 4, ‘Stronger is he that is in you than he that is in the world.’ ” But, —
1. If from hence the flesh must be thought and conceived to be stronger than the Spirit, because it prevails in any act unto sin, notwithstanding the contending of the Spirit, how much more must it be judged to prevail over it and to conquer it if it cause it utterly to cease, and not to strive at all! He that restrains another that he shall not oppose him at all hath a greater power than he who conquers him in his resistance. But why doth Mr Goodwin fear lest the flesh should be asserted to be stronger in us than the Spirit? Is not his whole design to prove that it is, or may be, so much stronger and more prevalent than it, that whereas it is confessed on 519all hands that the Spirit doth never wholly conquer the flesh, so that it shall not remain in the saints in this life, yet that the flesh doth wholly prevail over the Spirit and conquer it, to an utter expulsion of it out of the hearts of them in whom it is?
2. In the prevalency of the flesh, it is not the Spirit himself that is conquered, but only some motions and actings of him in the heart. Now, though some particular actings and motions of his may not come out eventually unto success, yet if he generally bear rule in the heart, he is not to be said, even as in us and acting in us, not to be stronger than the flesh. He is, as in us, on this account said to be “stronger than he that is in the world,” because, notwithstanding all the opposition that is against us, he preserveth us in our state and condition of acceptation with God, and walking with him with an upright heart, in good works and duties for the most part, though sometimes the flesh prevails unto sin, from which yet he recovers us by repentance.
3. To speak a little to Mr Goodwin’s sense. By the Spirit’s insufficiency, it is manifest, from the text urged, and from what follows in the same place, that he intends not a spiritual vital principle in the will, having its residence there, with its contrary principle, the flesh (perhaps he will grant no such thing), but the Spirit of God himself. How, now, doth this Spirit lust? Not formally, doubtless, but by causing us so to do. And how doth it do that, in Mr Goodwin’s judgment? Merely by persuading of us so to do. So that to have the flesh prevail against the Spirit is nothing, in his sense, but to have sin prevail and the motives of the flesh above the motives used by the Spirit; which may be done, and yet the Spirit continue unquestionably stronger than the flesh.
4. The sum is, If the Spirit and the flesh, lust and grace, may be looked on as habitual qualities and principles in the wills of the same persons, so that though a man hath but one will, yet, by reason of these contrary qualities, he is to be esteemed as having two diverse principles of operation, it is evident that, having contrary inclinations continually, the will hath in its actings a relation to both these principles, so that no sin is committed by such an one with his whole will and full consent. That contrary qualities in a remiss degree may be in the same subject is known “lippis et tonsoribus.” These adverse principles, the flesh and Spirit, are as those contrary qualities of the same subject; and the inclinations, yea, and the elicit acts of the will, are of the same nature with them: so that in the same act they may both be working, though not with equal efficacy. Notwithstanding any thing, then, said to the contrary, it appears that in the sins which the saints fall into, they do not sin with their whole wills and full consent; which of itself is a sufficient answer to the foregoing argument.
520Sect. 25 contains a discourse too long to be imposed upon the reader by a transcription. There are three parts of it: the first rendering a reason whence it is, that, “if the Spirit be stronger than the flesh, yet the flesh doth often prevail in its lusting.” The second, “The way of the Spirit’s return, to act in us after its motions have been rejected.” The third endeavours a proof of the proposition denied, “That the saints sin with their full and whole consent,” by the example of David.
For the first, he tells you, “That the Spirit acts not to the just efficacy of its vigour and strength, but only when his preventing motions are entertained and seconded with a suitable concurrence in the hearts and wills of men; through a deficiency and neglect whereof he is said to be ‘grieved’ and: ‘quenched,’ — that is, to cease from other actings or movings in men. This truth is the ground of such and such sayings in the epistles of Paul: ‘For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.’ ‘For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God,’ ” etc.
Ans. The Spirit here intended by Mr Goodwin is the holy and blessed Spirit of grace. What his actings to the just efficacy of his vigour and strength are, Mr Goodwin doth not explain; nor, indeed, notwithstanding the seeming significancy of that expression, is he able. It must be to act either as much as he can or as much as he will. That the Holy Spirit, in opposing sin, acts to the utmost extent of his omnipotency in any, I suppose will not be affirmed. If it be as much as he will, then the sense is, he will not in such cases act as much as he will. What that signifies we want some other expressive phrase to declare. To let this pass, let us see, in the next place, what his acting to this just efficacy are suspended upon; it is, then, in case “his first preventing motions be received and seconded.” But then, secondly, what are these “first preventing motions” of the Spirit? and what is it to entertain them with a suitable concurrence of the will? For the first, Mr Goodwin tells us in this section they are “motions of a cool and soft inspiration.” Such cloudy expressions, in a thing of this moment, are we forced to embrace! “Preventing motions of the Spirit” are either internal physical acts, in, with, and upon the wills of men, working in them to will and to do (called “preventing” from the actings of the wills themselves), or they are moral insinuations and persuasions to good, according to the analogy of the doctrine Mr Goodwin hath espoused. It is the latter only that are here intended. The “preventing motions of the Spirit” are his moral persuasions of the will to the good proposed to its consideration.
See, then, in the next place, what it is to “second and entertain these motions with a suitable concurrence in the heart and will.” 521Now, this must be either to yield obedience to these motions, and do the good persuaded unto, or something else. If any thing else, we desire to know of Mr Goodwin what it is, and wherein it consists. If it be to do the good persuaded to, then what becomes, I pray you, of those “subsequent helps” which are suspended upon this obedience, when the thing itself is already performed which their help and assistance is required unto? They may well be called “subsequent motions” which are never used nor applied but when the things whereunto they move and provoke are beforehand accomplished and performed; yea, they are suspended on that condition.
Farther; wherein do these “subsequent helps,” as it is expressed, which move at a more high and glorious rate, consist? We have had it sufficiently argued already, to a thorough conviction of what is Mr Goodwin’s judgment in this matter, namely, that he acknowledgeth no operations in or upon the wills of men but what are moral, by the way of persuasion, contending, to the utmost efficacy of his vigour and strength in disputing, that there is an inconsistency between physical, internal operations in or upon the will of men, and moral exhortations or persuasions, as to the production of the same effect. This, then, is the frame of this fine discourse: “If, upon the Spirit’s first persuasion to good, men yield obedience and do it accordingly, the Spirit will then with more power and vigour move them when they have done it, and persuade them to do it.” That this discourse of his doth readily administer occasion and advantage to retort upon him his third argument, formerly considered, of imposing incoherent and inconsistent reasonings and actings upon God in his dealings with men, the intelligent reader will quickly find out; — and it were an easy thing to erect a theatre, and, upon Mr Goodwin’s principles, to personate the Almighty with an incongruous and incoherent discourse; but we fear God.
Thirdly, That the Spirit is grieved with the sins of believers, and their walking unworthily of, or not answerably to, the grace they have received, is clear, Eph. iv. 30: the apostle admonisheth believers to abstain from the sins he there enumerates, and consequently [from] others of the like import, [and] having put on and learned Christ unto sanctification, that they do not grieve the Spirit, from whom they have received that great mercy and privilege of being “sealed to the day of redemption.” But that therefore the subsequent and more effectual motions of the Spirit are not free as the first, but suspended on our performance of that which he first moves unto, and so, consequently, that there is neither first nor second motion of the Spirit but may be rendered useless and fruitless, or be for ever perverted, is an argument not unlike that of the Papists, “Peter, feed my sheep; therefore the pope is head of the church.”
522The ensuing discourse also is not to be passed without a little animadversion. Thus, then, he proceeds: “Believers,” saith he, “do then mortify the deeds of the body by the Spirit, when they join their wills unto his in his preventing motions of grace, and so draw and obtain farther strength and assistance from him in order to the great and difficult work of mortification; in respect of which concurrence also with the Spirit, in his first and more gentle applications of himself to them, they are said to be ‘led by the Spirit,’ as in their comportment with him, in his higher and farther applications, they become filled with the Spirit, according to the expression of the apostle, ‘Be ye filled with the Spirit;’ that is, ‘Follow the Spirit close in his present motions and suggestions within you, and you shall be filled with him;’ that is, ‘Ye shall find him moving and assisting you upon all occasions at a higher and more glorious rate.’ ”
Ans. 1. What this “joining of our wills to the will of the Spirit” is was in part manifested before. The “will of the Spirit” is that we be mortified. His motions hereunto are his persuasions that we be so. To join our wills to his, is in our will to answer the will of the Spirit; that is, upon the Spirit’s motions, we mortify ourselves. By this also, he tells us, we draw or obtain farther strength or assistance from the Spirit for that work which we have done already. But how so? Why, he tells you afterward that this is the “law of the Spirit.” It seems, then, that by doing one thing, we obtain or procure the assistance of the Spirit for another, and that by a law. I ask, By what law? by the law of works? By that law the apostle tells you that we do not at all receive the Spirit; therefore, by a parity of reason, we obtain not any farther supplies from him by that law. By the law of faith or grace? That law knows nothing of such terms as that we should by any acting of ours procure the Holy Spirit of God, which he freely bestows according to the main tenor of that law. Farther; how is this second grace obtained, and what is the law of the Spirit therein? Is it obtained ex congruo or ex condigno? Produce the rule of God’s proceeding with his saints, or any of the sons of men, in the matter of any gracious behovement of his, and you will outdo whatever your predecessors, whether Pelagians, Papists, Arminians, or Socinians, could yet attain unto. Our Lord hath told us that “without him we can do nothing; yea, that all our sufficiency is of God, and without him we cannot think a good thought; that he works in us to will and to do, — not only beginning, but perfecting every good work, fulfilling in us all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power;” ascribing the whole of the great work of salvation to himself and his Holy Spirit, working freely and graciously as he wills and pleaseth. Of this order of his dealing with men, that his first or preventing grace should be free, but his subsequent grace procured by us and bestowed on us according to 523our working and co-operation with his first grace, invented by Pelagius, Julianus, and Celestinus, and here introduced anew by Mr Goodwin, he informs us nothing at all. In brief, this whole discourse is the mere Pelagian figment, wrapped up in general, cloudy expressions, with allusions to some Scripture phrases (which profane as well as erring spirits are prone to) concerning the bestowing of the grace of God according to the differing deportments and deservings of men, differencing themselves from others, and, in comparison of them, holding out what they have not received. But, —
2. “To answer the first and gentle motions of the Spirit is to be led by him, and then we shall be filled with the Spirit.” But how doth Mr Goodwin prove that to be “led by the Spirit” is to “answer his first gentle motions,” and thereby to obtain his farther and more glorious actings and persuasions? Is it safe thus to make bold with the word of God? or is not this to wrest it, as ignorant and unstable men do, unto perdition? Saints being “led by the Spirit of God,” and “walking after the Spirit,” are, in Rom. viii., expressions of that effectual sanctification, exerting itself in their conversation and walking with God, which the Spirit of God worketh in them, and which it is their duty to come up unto, in opposition to “living or walking after the flesh.” If this now be attained, and the saints come up unto it, antecedently to the subsequent grace of the Spirit, what is that subsequent grace which is so gloriously expressed, and wherein doth it consist? Neither doth that expression of “Led by the Spirit” hold out the concurrence or “comportment” of their wills, as it is phrased, with the gentle motion of the Spirit, but the powerful and effectual operation of the Spirit, as to their holiness and walking with God. Πνεύματι Θεοῦ ἄγονται is not, “They comport or concur with the Spirit in his motions;” but, “By the Spirit they are acted and carried out to the things of God.” Neither hath this any relation to or coherence with that of the Eph. v. 18, “Be filled with the Spirit.” Neither is there any such intendment in the expression as is here intimated, of a promise of receiving more of the Spirit, on condition of that compliance, concurrence, and comportance with his motions, as is intimated. That the Spirit is sometimes taken for his graces, sometimes for his gifts habitually, sometimes for his actual operations, is known. The apostle in that place, dissuading the Ephesians from turning aside to such carnal, sinful refreshments as men of the world went out unto, bids them “not be drunk with wine, wherein is excess,” but to be “filled with the Spirit;” to take their refreshment in the joys of the Spirit, “speaking to themselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” verses 18, 19. Could I once imagine that Mr Goodwin had the least thought that indeed there was any thing in the Scripture looking towards his intendment in the producing of it, I should farther manifest the mistake 524thereof. To play thus with the word of God is a liberty we dare not make use of yet.
3. He concludes, “That the reason why believers are overcome by the lustings of the flesh is, not because the Spirit is not stronger than the flesh, but because men have more will to hearken to the lusts of the flesh than to the Spirit.”
“Fortunam Priami cantabo, et nobile bellum.”
This is the issue of all the former swelling discourse: “Men’s sins are from their own wills, and not because the Spirit is not stronger than the flesh.” And who ever doubted it? The conclusion you were to prove is, “That believers sin with their whole will and full consent of their wills, and that the new principle that is in them doth not cause their wills to decline from acting in sin to the just efficacy of all their strength and vigour.” But of this οὐδὲ γρῦ. For the insinuation in that expression of the “will hearkening to the lusting of the flesh, and not to the lusting of the Spirit,” in a sovereign indifferency to both, and a liberty for the performance of either, in a way exclusive of good or vicious habitual principles of operation in the will itself, I shall not now divert to the consideration of.
What else remains in this section either doth not concern the business in hand, as the fine notion of the Spirit’s return to move believers, when his motions have been rejected, with the manner thereof, according to his conception, must be afterward considered apart, — as the fall of David into adultery and murder, if there be need to go forth to the consideration of his examples and instances; and therefore I shall not longer insist upon it. Only, the close of it, consisting of an inference made from some words of Peter Martyr, deserves consideration. “Upon David’s sin,” saith he, “Peter Martyr makes this observation, That the saints themselves, being once fallen into sin, would always remain in the pollution of it, did not God by his mighty word bring them out of it: which saying of Martyr clearly also implies that the saints many times sin with their whole wills and full consents; because, were any part of their wills bent against the committing of the sin at the time when it is committed, they would questionless return to themselves and repent immediately after, the heat and violence of the lust being over, by reason of the satisfaction that hath been given thereunto.”
Ans. The close insinuation in Peter Martyr’s words, of the saints sinning with their whole wills, and the logic of Mr Goodwin’s inference from them, I believe is very much hidden from the reader. To the theology of it, I say that the saints, παρὰ τὸ πλεῖστον, do immediately return to God by repentance, as Peter did, upon their surprisals into sin; nor have they any rest in a condition of the eclipse of the countenance of God from them, as upon sin it is always, more 525or less. Of David’s particular case mention may afterward be made. But the proof, “that they sin with their whole wills and full consent, because they would continue in sin did not the Lord relieve and deliver them by his word and grace,” is admirable. I would adventure to cast this argument into as many shapes as it is tolerably capable of, had I the least hope to cause it to appear any way argumentative. We deny, then, that believers have any such power habitually residing in them as whereby, without any new supplies of the Spirit or concurrence of actual grace, they can effectually and eventually recover themselves from any sin whatever; which supplies of the Spirit and grace we say, and have proved, are freely promised to them in the covenant of grace. But what will hence follow to the supportment of Mr Goodwin’s hypothesis, “That therefore in all their sins, or any of their sins, they sin with the full and whole consent of their wills,” I suppose he alone knows.
Sect. 26, he endeavours to take off that of the apostle, Rom. vii. 19–22, from appearing against him in this cause of the saints’ sinning with their whole wills and consents, not not-willing the things they do. To this end he tells us, “That when the apostle saith, ‘The evil which I would not, that I do,’ his meaning is, not that he did that which, at the same time that he did it, he was not willing either in whole or in part to do, but that he sometimes did that, upon a surprisal by temptation or through incogitancy, which he was not habitually willing or disposed in the inward man to do; but this no ways implies but that, at the time when he did the evil he speaks of, he did it with the full and entire consent of his will.”
Ans. 1. It is probable the apostle knew his own meaning, and also how to express it, having so good a Teacher to that end and purpose as he had. Now he assures us, in the person of a regenerate man, that as what he would he did not, so what he did he would not, he hated it; and again, he did that which he would not, and therein consented to the law, by his not-willing of that he did, that it was good, verses 15, 16: which, whether it express not a renitency of the will to that which was done in part, and so far as to make the action itself remiss, and not to enwrap the whole consent of the will, he farther declares, verse 17, telling us that there is a perfect, unconsenting “I,” or internal principle, in the very doing of evil: “It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.”
2. The apostle doth not say what he was not habitually willing to, but what he was habitually unwilling to, — that is, what the bent of his will lay habitually against, having actual inclinations and elicit acts always to the contrary, though sometimes overcome. Neither in his discoursing of it cloth he mention at all the surprisal into sin upon incogitancy and inadvertency, but the constant frame and temper of a regenerate man upon the powerful acting and striving 526of the principle of lust and sin dwelling in him and remaining with him; which, saith the apostle, doth often carry him out to do those things which are contrary to the principle of the inward man, which habitually condemns and actually not-wills, or rather hills, the things that are so done, even in their doing. And this doth manifest sufficiently, that when he did the evil he speaks of, he did it not with the full and entire consent of his will, as men do in whom there is no such principle opposite to sin and sinning as is in him that is regenerate, there being very much taken off by the habitual principle of grace that is in him, and its constant inclination to the contrary.
But he farther argues, “If we shall affirm that the contrary bent or motion of his will at other times is a sufficient proof that when he did the evil we speak of, he did it not with his whole will or fulness of consent, and so make this doing of evil or committing of sin without fullness of consent, in such a sense, a distinguishing character betwixt men regenerate and unregenerate, we shall bring Herod and Pilate, and probably Judas himself, into the list of men regenerate, with a thousand more whom the Scripture knows not under any such name or relation, — namely, all those whose judgments and consciences stand against the evil of the ways and practices wherein they walk.”
And this he proves at large to the end of the section, in the instance of Herod and Pilate proceeding, against their own judgments and consciences, in the killing of John and of our Saviour.
Ans. 1. We do not only assert a contrary bent and inclination in the wills of believers at other times, but also that, in and under the prevalency of indwelling sin, there is in them an “I” that cloth it not, and a not-willing it, from a principle, though, by reason of the present prevalency of the other, its actings and stirrings are not so sensibly perceived; so that though they prevail not to the total prevention of the will from exerting the act of sin, yet they prevail to the impairing, weakening, and making remiss its consent thereunto.
2. The residue of this paragraph is intolerably sophistical, confounding the renitency of the inward man, the principle of grace that is in the wills of believers, with the convictions of the judgments and consciences of unregenerate persons, and their striving against sin on that account. The judgments and consciences of wicked men tell them what they ought to do and what they ought not to do, without respect to the principle in their wills that is predominant; but the apostle mentions the actings of the will itself from his own regenerate principle. We wholly deny that any unregenerate man hath any vital principle in his will not-consenting to sin, whatever the dictates of his judgment and conscience may be, 527or how effectual soever to prevail unto an abstinence from sin. To discover the differences that are between the contest that is between the wills in unregenerate men, wholly set upon sin on the one hand, and their judgments and consciences, enlightened to an apprehension and approving of better things on the other, and the contest that is between the flesh and Spirit lusting to contrary things in the same will, as it is in regenerate men, is a common-place that I shall not go forth unto. We grant, then, that in unregenerate men there may be, there is, and was in some degree perhaps in Herod and in Pilate, a conviction of conscience and judgment that the things they do are evil; but we say withal, that all this being foreign to their wills, it hinders not but that they sin with the full, uncontrolled consent of their wills, which are at perfect liberty, or rather in perfect bondage, unto sin. That the “Spirit should lust against the flesh, and the flesh against the Spirit,” both in the same will (as it appears they do, Gal. v. 19–23, for the fruits that they both bring forth are acts of the will), in any unregenerate man, we deny. And this is that, and not the former, which abates and takes off from the will’s consent to sin.
He concludes the whole: “And to the passage of the apostle, mentioned Rom. vii., I answer farther, that when he saith, ‘The evil which I would not, that do I,’ he doth not speak of what he always and in all cases did, much less of what was possible for him to do, but of what he did ordinarily and frequently, or of what was very incident unto him, through the infirmity of the flesh, namely, through inconsiderateness and anticipation by temptations to do such things which, when he was in a watchful and considerate posture and from under the malignant influence of a temptation, he was altogether averse unto. Now, what a man doth ordinarily is one thing, and what he doth sometimes and in some particular cases, especially what it is possible for him to do, is another. That true believers, whilst such, ordinarily sin not upon worse terms than those mentioned by the apostle concerning his sinning, I easily grant; but it no ways followeth from hence, that therefore they never sin upon other terms, much less that it is impossible that they should sin upon others. And thus we see, all things thoroughly and impartially argued, and debated to and fro, that even true believers themselves, as well as others, may do those works of the flesh which exclude from the kingdom of God, and that in respect thereof they are subject to this exclusion as well as other men.”
1. The sum of this part of the reply is, That what Paul speaks is true of the ordinary course of believers, but not of extraordinary surprisals. This seems, I say, to be the tendency of it, though the direct sense of the whole is not so obvious to me. By that expression, “The evil that I would not, that I do,” you intend either the expression of “he would not,” or “he did.” If the latter, then you 528say he did not sin ordinarily and frequently, but only upon surprisals; which is freely granted, but it is not at all to your purpose, but rather much against it. If you intend that part of it which holds out his renitency against the evil he did, in the expression of “I would not,” then you say it was not ordinary with the apostle to hill the evil that he did, but in case of surprisal to sin: which I believe is not intended; for is it credible that any one should think that, in the ordinary course of a man’s walking, there should be no opposition made to sin, [the] falling whereinto men are liable [unto], but upon “surprisals and anticipations by temptation,” as it is phrased there should? Igor is it [credible], on the other side, that he intends the thing that he did ordinarily, but [when he] was surprised by temptation then it might be otherwise. But, first, is a saint to be supposed to sin ordinarily, to sin not prevailed on by temptation? Is not all sin from temptation? Do they sin actually, but upon surprisal of temptation? To impose this upon the apostle, that he should say, “Truly, for the most part, or in my ordinary walking, I do not sin, but withal I will it not; but when I am surprised with temptations then it is otherwise with me, there is no renitency in my will to sin,” is doubtless to wrong him. He doth not limit his not-willing of the evil he did to any consideration whatever, but speaks of it generally, as the constant state and condition of things with him.
2. In the beginning of this section, the nilling of sin was antecedent to the sin; here it is something that may be allowed in ordinary cases, but not at all in extraordinary. So that these two expositions put together amount to thus much: “Ordinarily the apostle, antecedent to any sinning, before the lusting of the Spirit ceased, did not-will the thing that he did, which was evil; but in case of temptation it was not so;” — that is, antecedently to his acting of that which was evil, he had no opposition in the inward man unto it, nor lusting of the Spirit against it; which how it can be made good against him whose heart is upright and who hates every evil way, I know not.
3. It is confessed that “ordinarily believers sin at no worse a rate than that expressed by the apostle.” But what doth that contain? If “would not” be referred to their doing of sins, then you grant that which all this while you have endeavoured to oppose, and are reconciled to your own “contradiction of the first evidence,” — sin cannot, ordinarily or extraordinarily, be committed but by an act of the will, and yet ordinarily there is a dissent of the will also thereunto. If you adhere to your other former interpretation, that the willing against sin committed is antecedent to the commitment of it, and laid asleep before the perpetration of any sin, then this also is imposed on you, that there are sins whereunto they may be surprised by temptations that, antecedently to the commitment of 529them, they do not not-will, — that as to them “the Spirit lusteth not against the flesh;” which is notoriously false, for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and all the ways of it and all the fruits thereof, and the Spirit lusteth against the flesh with all its ways and fruits.
4. It appears, then, this being the description of a regenerate man which the apostle gives, as to indwelling sin and all the fruits thereof, that it is most ridiculous to exempt his frame, in respect of such sins as he may fall into by surprisals of temptations, from this description of him, and so to frame this distinction to the apostle’s general rule, that it holds in eases ordinary, but not in extraordinary, when nothing in the whole context gives the least allowance or countenance to such a limitation.
It appears, then, notwithstanding any thing offered here to the contrary, upon due consideration of it, that believers sin not with their whole wills and full consents at any time, nor under the power of what temptation soever they may fall for a season; and that because of the residence of this principle of a contrary tendency unto sin in their wills, which is always acting, either directly in inclining unto good, or in taking off or making remiss the consent of the will to sin, notwithstanding the prevalency of the principle opposite thereunto by its committing of sin.
And hence have we sufficient light for the weakening of the argument proposed in the beginning of this chapter; for though it is weak in its foundation (as shall be showed), concluding to what the saints may do from what is forbidden them to do, that prohibition being the ordinance of God certainly to preserve them from it, yet taking it for granted that they may fall into the sin intimated, yet seeing they do it not customarily, not maliciously, not with the full and whole consent of their wills, that there is a principle in them still opposing sin, though at any time weakened by sin, the conclusion of that argument concerns them not. I say, then, first, to the major proposition, They who are in a capacity and possibility (that is, a universal possibility, not only in respect of an internal principle, but of all outward prohibiting causes, as the purpose and promise of God) of perpetrating the works of the flesh (not of bringing forth any fruits of the lusting of the flesh, which are in the best) willingly and ordinarily with the full and whole consent of their wills (in which sense alone such works of the flesh are absolutely exclusive from the kingdom of heaven), they may possibly fall out of the favour of God and into destruction. This proposition being thus limited, and the terms of it cleared, for to cause it to pass, I absolutely deny the minor, That true believers do or can so sin (that is, so bring forth the works of the flesh) as to leave no room for the continuance of mercy to them, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace.
530But now frame the proposition so as the assumption may comprise believers, and we shall quickly know what to judge of it: “Those who are in a capacity or possibility of falling into such sins as deserve rejection from God, or of perpetrating works of the flesh, though they do so overborne by the power of temptation, nilling the things they do, not abiding in their sins, may fall totally and finally from God; but believers may so do.” As the matter is thus stated, the assumption may be allowed to pass upon believers, but we absolutely deny the major proposition in the sense wherein it is urged. I shall only add, that when we deny that believers can possibly fall away, it is not an absolute impossibility we intend, nor an impossibility with respect to any principle in them only that in and from itself is not perishable, nor an impossibility in respect of the manner of their acting, but such an one as, principally respecting the outward removing cause of such an actual defection, will infallibly prevent the event of it. And thus is the cloud raked by this fifth argument dispelled and scattered by the light of the very first consideration of the difference in sinning, — that is, between regenerate and unregenerate men; so that it will be an easy thing to remove and take away what afterward is insisted on for the re-enforcement and confirmation of the several propositions of it.
The major proposition he confirms from Gal. v. 21, Eph. v. 5, 6, 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10, all affirming that neither whoremongers, nor adulterers, nor idolaters, nor the like, have any inheritance in the kingdom of God, or can be saved. That the intendment of the apostle is concerning them who live in a course of such sins, who sin with their whole wills and from an evil root, with whose sap they are wholly leavened and tainted throughout, not them who, through the strength of temptation and the surprisals of it, not without the renitency in their wills unto all sin, any sin, the sin wherewith they are overtaken, may possibly fall into any such sin (as did David and Peter), was before declared; and in that sense we grant the proposition.
For the proof of the minor proposition, — which should be, That believers may perpetrate the works of the flesh in the sense intended in the places of Scripture before mentioned, — he insists on two things: first, The direction of those scriptures unto believers; secondly, The experience of the ways of such persons, — that is, of believers. The apostle tells believers that they who commit such and such things, with such and such circumstances in their commitment, cannot be saved; therefore believers may commit those sins in the manner intended! What hath been said before of the use of threatenings and denunciations of judgments on impenitent sinners in respect of believers, will give a sufficient account (if there be need of any) for our denial of this consequence. And for the second, that 531the experience of such men’s ways and walking evinceth it, it is a plain begging of the thing under debate, and an assuming of that which was proposed to be proved, — a thing unjustly charged by him on his adversaries, as though they should confess that believers might sin to the extent of the lines drawn out in the places of Scripture mentioned and yet not lose their faith, when, because they cannot lose their faith, they deny that they can sin to that compass of excess and riot intimated.
I cannot see, then, to what end and purpose the whole ensuing discourse, from the beginning of this argument to the end of the 21st section, is. It is acknowledged that all those places do concern believers, the intendment of the Holy Ghost in them being to discover to them the nature of the sins specified, and the end of the committing of them in the way intended, and that God purposes to proceed according to the importance of what is threatened to those sins so committed with all that do them; that so they may walk watchfully and carefully, avoiding not only those things themselves, but all the ways and means leading to them (though if any one of them sin any of those sins without the deadly attendants of them mentioned in Scripture, they have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous). But that from thence it may be inferred that believers may, and some do sin, and that God intends, as it is expressed, to destroy them if they so do, when he hath promised they shall never do so, is a very weak and ridiculous argumentation. They are a medium of acquainting them with the desert of sin, the terror of the law to them that are under it, and the riches of grace in their deliverance.
It is true, “unbelievers are,” as you say, “in our judgment” (and I wonder what yours is in the case), “in a state of exclusion from the kingdom of God, whether they perpetrate the works of the flesh mentioned or no.” Unbelief is, in our judgment, sufficient of itself to exclude any one from the kingdom of God. But yet withal, in our judgment (and we desire to know yours), it is impossible that unbelievers (we mean those who are adults) should not perpetrate the same evils mentioned, or others of the same import, “all the thoughts and imaginations of their hearts being evil, and that continually,” and thereupon be farther exposed to the wrath of God, which is revealed against all that do evil. If, therefore, the discovery of a man’s desperate condition, that he may be stirred up to labour and strive for a deliverance from it, doth concern him, then these and the like passages do properly and primarily concern unbelievers, whose state, with the issue of it, is particularly described therein. And to say, as our author doth, “that it is a vain thing for the Spirit of God to threaten wrath to men upon the committing of sin, if by unbelief they are exposed antecedently to that wrath,” 532is to question the wisdom of Him with whom (whatever become of us poor worms) we cannot contend. He hath told us that all men by nature are children of wrath and unclean, so far as not to be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven unless they be washed and born again; and yet (we hope without the least deficiency in wisdom), hath farther revealed his wrath from heaven against the ensuing ungodliness that is committed by these children of wrath, to be executed in tribulation and anguish against every soul that so doth evil. Not to detain the reader; what hath been said and shall farther be argued concerning the difference that is between believers and unbelievers in their sinning, with that also which hath been spoken of the concernment of believers in these and the like passages of Scripture, sufficiently argues that no such inference as is made for the confirmation of the assumption of the argument under consideration, according to Mr Goodwin’s thoughts and apprehensions of it, can possibly be drawn out from them.
Sect. 22 is a pretty pageant, and by the reader’s favour I shall show it him once more: “If it be objected, ‘ That true believers have a promise from God that they shall never lose their faith,’ I answer, — First, That this hath oft been said, but never so much as once proved. Secondly, Upon examination of those scriptures wherein such promises of God are pretended to reside or to be found, we find no such thing in them. We find, indeed, many promises of their perseverance, but all of them conditional, and such whose performance, in respect of actual and complete perseverance, is suspended upon the diligent and careful use of means by men to persevere. And, lastly, to affirm that true believers can by no commission of sin or sins whatsoever, how frequently soever reiterated, how long continued in soever, ever make shipwreck of their faith, or fall away from the grace and favour of God so as to perish, what is it but to provoke the flesh to an outrageousness in sinning, and to encourage that which remains of the old man in them to bestir itself in all ways of unrighteousness? And, doubtless, the teaching of that doctrine hath been the casting of a snare upon the world, and hath caused many whose feet God had guided into ways of peace to adventure so far into desperateness of sinning, that, through the just judgment of God, their hearts never served them to return.”
Ans. 1. The foundation of this whole discourse is a supposal of promises of preserving believers in their faith, upon the ridiculous supposition after mentioned, to be asserted by the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance and the defenders of it; which Mr Goodwin knows full well to be far otherwise.
2. It hath sufficiently been proved that believers have a promise, yea, many promises, to be kept by the power of God from all and any such sin, or any such circumstance of sin, or continuance in sin, 533as is wholly inconsistent with believing; and that therefore they shall be preserved in believing.
3. Upon our calling the examination of the proofs of this assertion to an account, we have found it to be made up of trivial exceptions and sophistical suppositions, confident beggings and cravings of the things under contest and debate (all the endeavours to prove the promises of perseverance to be conditional having also involved in them an absolute contradiction to the truth and to themselves), no way sufficient to evince that the promises and work of God’s grace are suspended upon any conditions in men whatsoever. And, —
4. We say that the intrusion of this vain hypothesis, that believers should continue so under the consideration here intimated by you of sin, when the main of the doctrine contended for consists in a full and plain denial that they can or shall fall under it (according to the import of 1 John iii. 9, immediately to be insisted on), being preserved by the Spirit and grace of him who so writes his law in their hearts that they shall never depart from him, is the great engine you have used in all your attempts against it, being indeed a mere begging of the thing in question.
5. That there is nothing in this doctrine in the least suited to turn aside the saints of God from the holy commandment, but that, on the contrary, it is of an excellent usefulness and effectual influence for the promotion of all manner of godliness in those that are truly saints, howsoever any man may abuse it (as any other discovery of the grace of God), turning it into lasciviousness, hath been declared. What use hath been made of the contrary doctrine in the world we have hitherto had experience only in the Pelagians, Papists, Socinians, and Arminians; and with what fruits of it they have abounded the church of God doth partly know. What it is like to bring forth, being now translated into another soil, or rather having won over to it men some time of another profession, is yet somewhat, though not altogether, in abeyance.
Let us, then, with the apostle, having proceeded thus far with Mr Goodwin, that a foundation may be the better laid for the removal of what he farther adds, proceed to consider the progress of sin, and to remark from thence the difference that is between regenerate and unregenerate men in their sinning.
The second thing proposed in the apostle’s discourse of the rise and progress of sin, is the general way that lust proceedeth in for the bringing of it forth, and that is temptation: “Every man is tempted of his own lust.” This is the general way that lust proceeds in for the production of actual sin; it tempts, and he in whom it is is tempted, There is a temptation unto sin only, and a temptation unto sin by sin. The first is no sin in him that is so tempted. Our Saviour was so tempted: “He was tempted of the devil,” Matt. iv. 1; “He was in all 534points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” Heb. iv. 15. That his temptations were unto sin is apparent from the story of them. But “the prince of this world coming had nothing in him,” John xiv. 30, — found nothing in him to answer and close with his temptations; and therefore, though he was tempted, yet was he without sin. Now, though this sort of temptations from Satan is not originally our sins but his, yet there being tinder in our souls that kindles more or less in and upon every injection of his fiery darts, there being something in us to meet many, if not all, of his temptations, they prove, in some measure, in the issue to be ours. Indeed, Satan sometimes ventures upon us in things wherein he hath, doubtless, small hope of any concurrence, and so seems rather to aim at our disquiet than our sins; as in those whom he perplexes with hard and blasphemous thoughts of God, — a thing so contradictory to the very principles, not of grace only, but of that whereby we are men, that it is utterly impossible there should be any assent of the soul thereunto. To think of God as God is to think of him every thing that is good, pure, great, excellent, incomprehensible, in all perfection. Now, at the same time, to have any apprehensions of a direct contradictory importance, the mind of man is not capable. Were it not for the unbelief, causeless fears, and discontentments that in many do ensue upon temptations of this nature, — which are consequents and not effects of it, — Satan might keep this dart in his own forge for any mischief he is like to do with it. The apostle speaks here of temptations by sin as well as unto sin; and these former are men’s sins as well as their temptations. They are temptations, as tending to farther evil; they are sins, as being irregular and devious from the rule. Now, this tempting of lust compriseth two things:—
1. The general active inclination of the heart unto sin, though not fixed as unto any particular act or way of sin, the “motus primo primi.” Of this you have that testimony of God concerning man in the state of nature, Gen. vi. 5, “Every figment of the thoughts of his heart is only evil every day.” The figment or imagination of the thoughts is the very root of them, the general moulding or active preparing of the mind for the exerting of them. So 1 Chron. xxviii. 9, “The Lord understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts;” — the figments of them, the next disposition of the soul unto them; and chap. xxix. 18, “Keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of their hearts,” or keep their hearts in a continual framing posture and condition of such good thoughts. This, I say, is the first way of lust’s temptation; it makes a mint of the heart, to frame readily all manner of evil desires and thoughts, that they may, as our Saviour speaks, “proceed out of the heart,” Matt. xv. 19. Their actual fixing on any object is their proceeding, antecedent whereunto they are framed and formed in the heart. Lust actually disposeth, 535inclines, bends the heart to things suitable to itself, or the corrupt, habitual principle which hath its residence in us.
2. The actual tumultuating of lust, and working with all its power and policy, in stirring up, provoking to, and drawing out, thoughts and contrivances of sin, with delight and complacency, in inconceivable variety; the several degrees of its progress herein being afterward described.
In the first of these there is no small difference between regenerate and unregenerate persons, and that in these two things:—
1. In its universality. In unregenerate men “every figment of their heart is only evil, and that every day.” There is a universality of actings expressed positively, and exclusively to any actings of another kind, “Every figment of their heart is only evil;” and of time, “Every day.” Whatever good they seem to do, or do, whatever duties they perform, that in them all which is the proper figment of their heart is only evil. On this account, take any duty they do, any work they perform, and weigh it in the balance, and it will be found, in respect of principles, or circumstances, or aims, to be wholly evil, — that indeed there is nothing in it that is acceptable to God; and their hearts are casting, minting, and coining sin all the day long. With believers it is not so; there is also a good treasure in their hearts, from whence they bring out good things. There is a good root in them, that bears good fruit. Though they are, or may be, overtaken with many sins, yea with great sins, yet lust doth not tempt them, as it doth unregenerate men, with a perpetual, continual, active inclination unto evil, even, some way or other, in all the good they do. The Spirit is in them, and will and doth, in what state soever they are, dispose their hearts to faith, love, meekness, and actuates those graces, at least in the elicit acts of the will; for “a good tree will bring forth good fruit.” Never any believer is or was so deserted of God, or did so forsake God, as that “every figment of his heart should be only evil, and that continually.” That no one act of sin can possibly expel his habit of grace hath been formerly showed: neither is he ever cast into such a condition but, from the good principle that is in him, there is a panting after God, a longing for his salvation, with more or less efficacy; the spark is warm and glowing, though under ashes.
2. In respect of power. Lust tempts in unregenerate men out of an absolute, uncontrollable dominion, and that with a morally irresistible efficacy. All its dominion, as hath been showed, and very much of its strength, is lost in believers. This is the intendment of the apostle’s discourse, Rom. vi., concerning the crucifying of sin by the death of Christ. The power, strength, vigour, and efficacy of it, is so far abated, weakened, mortified, that it cannot so effectually impel unto sin as it doth when it is in perfect life and strength.
536But you will say, then, “If lust be thus weakened in believers more than in others, how comes it to pass that they do at any time fall into such great and heinous sins as sometimes they do, and have done? Will not this argue them to be even worse than unregenerate persons, seeing they fall into sin upon easier terms, and with less violence of impulse from indwelling sin, than they?”
Ans. 1. The examples of believers falling into great sins are rare, and such as by no means are to be accommodated to their state in their ordinary walking with God. It is true, there are examples of such falls recorded in the Scripture, that they might lie as buoys to all generations, to caution men of their danger when the waves of temptation arise; to show what is in man, in the best of men; to keep all the saints of God humble, self-empty, and in a continual dependence on Him in whom are all their springs, from whom are all their supplies: but as they are mostly all Old Testament examples, before grace for grace was given out by Jesus Christ, so they are by no means farther to be urged, nor are, but only to show that it is possible that God can keep alive the root when the tree is cut down to the ground, and cause it to bud again by the scent of the water of his Spirit flowing towards it.
2. That believers fall not into great sins at any time by the mere strength of indwelling sin, unless it be in conjunction with some violent outward temptation exceedingly surprising them; either by weakening all ways and means whereby the principle of grace should exert itself, as in the case of Peter; or by sudden heightening of their corruption by some overpowering objects, attended with all circumstances of prevalency, not without God’s withholding his special grace in an eminent manner, for ends best known to himself, as in the case of David. Hence it is that, even in such sins, we say they sin out of infirmity; that is, not out of prepense deliberation as to sin, not out of malice, not out of love to or delight in sin, but merely through want of strength, when overborne by the power of temptation.
This Mr Goodwin frames as an objection to himself, in the pursuit of the vindication of the argument under consideration, sect. 23:—
“Others plead, ‘That there is no reason to conceive that true believers, though they perpetrate the works of the flesh, should be excluded from the kingdom of heaven upon this account; because when they sin in this kind, they sin out of infirmity, and not out of malice.’ ”
Ans. I was not to choose what objections Mr Goodwin should answer, nor had the framing of them which he chose to deal withal, and therefore must be contented with them as he is pleased to afford them to us; only, if I may be allowed to speak in this case, — and I know I have the consent of many concerned in it, — I should somewhat otherwise frame this objection or answer, being partly persuaded that 537Mr Goodwin did not find it, but framed it himself into the shape wherein it here appears. I say, then, that the saints of God sin out of infirmity only, not maliciously, nor deditâ operâ, in cool blood, nor with their whole hearts, but purely upon the account of the weakness of their graces, being overpowered by the strength of temptation; and therefore cannot so perpetrate the works of the flesh and in such a way as must, according to the tenor of the covenant wherein they walk with God, not only deserve rejection and damnation, but also be absolutely and indispensably exclusive of them from the kingdom of God. What Mr Goodwin hath drawn forth to take off in any measure the truth of this assertion shall be considered. He says, then, —
“To say that true believers, or any other men, do perpetrate the works of the flesh out of infirmity involves a contradiction; for to do the works of the flesh implies the dominion of the flesh in the doers of them, which in sins of infirmity hath no place. The apostle clearly intimates the nature of sins of infirmity in that to the Galatians, ‘Beloved, if any man be overtaken with a fault’ (προληφθῇ), — ‘be prevented, or taken at unawares.’ When a man’s foot is taken in the snare of a temptation, only through a defect of that spiritual watchfulness over himself and his ways which he ought to keep constantly, and so sinneth, contrary to the habitual and standing frame of his heart, this man sinneth out of infirmity; but he that thus sinneth cannot, in Scripture phrase, be said either to walk or to live according to the flesh, or to do the works of the flesh, or to do the lusts or desires of the flesh, because none of these are anywhere ascribed unto or charged upon true believers, but only upon such persons who are enemies unto God and children of wrath.”
Ans. This being the substance of all that is spoken to the business in hand, I have transcribed it at large, that with its answer it may at once lie under the reader’s view. I say, then, —
1. We give this reason that “believers cannot perpetrate the works of the flesh” in the sense contended about, because they sin out of infirmity; and do not say that they so “perpetrate the works of the flesh out of infirmity.” But if by “perpetrating the works of the flesh” you intend only the bringing forth at any time, or under any temptation whatsoever, any fruits of the flesh, such as every sin is, that this may not be done out of infirmity, or that it involves a contradiction to say so, is indeed not to know what you say, to contradict yourself, and to deny that there be any sins of infirmity at all, which that there are you granted in the words foregoing, and describe the nature of it in the words following. They, doubtless, in whom the flesh always lusteth against the Spirit are sometimes led away and enticed by their own lusts, so as to bring forth the fruits of it.
2. If “to do the works of the flesh” imports with you, as indeed in itself it doth, the predominancy and dominion of the flesh in 538them that do the works thereof, we wholly deny that believers can so do the works of the flesh; as upon other reasons, so partly because they sin out of infirmity, which sufficiently argues that the flesh hath not the dominion in them, for then they should not through infirmity be captivated to it, but should willingly “yield up their members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin.”
3. The description you give of a sin of infirmity, from Gal. vi. 1, is that alone which we acknowledge may befall believers, though it hath sometimes befallen them in greater sins. It is evident from hence that a sin becometh a sin of infirmity, not from the nature of it, but from the manner of men’s falling into it. The greatest actual sin may be a sin of infirmity, and the least a sin of presumption. It is possible a believer may be overtaken, or rather surprised, with any sin, so he be overtaken or surprised. A surprisal into sin through the power of temptation, subtlety of Satan, strength of indwelling sin, contrary to the habitual, standing frame of the heart (not always neither through a defect of watchfulness), is all that we grant a believer may be liable to; and so, upon Mr Goodwin’s confession, he sins only out of infirmity, such sins being not exclusive of the love and favour of God. And, therefore, —
4. We say that true believers cannot be said to “walk according to the flesh,” to “do the works of the flesh,” to “do the lusts and desires of the flesh,” which the Holy Ghost so cautions them against; which, as Mr Goodwin observes, are “none of them charged upon true believers, but only upon such persons as are enemies of God and children of wrath.” So that those expressions hold out to believers only what they ought to avoid, in the use of the means which God graciously affords them, and do not discover any thing of the will of God, that he will suffer them, contrary to his many faithful promises, to fall into them. And so the close of this discourse is contrary to the beginning, Mr Goodwin granting that true believers cannot fall into these sins, but only such as are enemies to God; and yet he hath no way to prove that true believers may cease to be so but because they may fall into these sins, which that they may do he here eminently denies. Wherefore he adds:—
“If by ‘sinning out of malice’ they mean sinning with deliberation, with plotting and contriving the methods and means of their sinning, — sinning against judgment, against the dictates of conscience (and what they should mean by sinning out of malice but sinning upon such terms as these I understand not), — certain it is that true believers may so sin out of malice, or at least such as were true believers before such sinning; and this our adversaries themselves confess.”
Ans. All this falls heavy on the shoulders (as it is supposed) of poor David, and yet we think it evident that God “took not his 539Holy Spirit from him,” but that his covenant continued with him, “ordered in all things and sure,” and that “sin had not dominion over him.” The reasons of this persuasion of ours concerning him shall farther be insisted on when we come to the consideration of his case in particular. In the meantime, I confess the dreadful falls of some of the saints of God are rather to be bewailed than aggravated, and the riches of God’s grace in their recovery rather to be admired than searched into. Yet we say, —
1. That no one believer whatever in the world, upon any temptation whatever, did fall into any sin of malice; that is, accompanied with any hatred of God, or despite of his grace, or whole delight of his will in the sin whereunto he was by temptation for a season captivated. And though they may fall into sin against their judgments and dictates of their consciences, — as every sin whatever that they have, or may have, knowledge of or acquaintance with in their own hearts and ways is, — yet this cloth not make them to sin out of malice; for that would leave no distinction between sins of infirmity, whereinto men are surprised by temptation, and of malice, even sins of infirmity being in general and particular directly contrary to the dictates of their enlightened, sanctified judgments and consciences.
2. For “sinning with deliberation, plotting and contriving the methods and means of sinning” (the proof whereof, that so they may do, will lie, as was before observed, on the instance of David), I say, it being the will of God, for ends and purposes known only to his infinite wisdom, to give us, as to his fall, his dark side and his sin to the full, with the temptation wherewith he was at first surprised, and afterward violently hurried into, upon carnal reasonings and considerations of the state whereinto he had cast himself, having lost his old Friend and Counsellor, as to any shines of his countenance for a season, not acquainting us at all with the frame, and working, and striving of his spirit in and under that fall, I shall not dare to draw his case into a rule. That what he then did a believer now may do, judging of his frame in doing of it only by what is expressed; that believers may have morosam cogitationem, or deliberation upon some sins whereunto they are tempted, upon the strength of indwelling sin, which may possibly so overcome and prevail against the workings of grace for a season as to set the flesh at liberty to make contrivances to fulfil the lusts thereof, — I say, many have granted, and I shall not (for the sake of poor returning souls, whose backslidings God hath promised to heal) deny. But yet, I say, all their actings in this kind are but like the desperate actings of a man in a fever, who may have some kind of contrivance with himself to do mischief (as I have known some myself), and aim at opportunities for the accomplishment of it. All the faculties of their souls being discomposed, and rendered unserviceable to them through their distemper, 540through the violence of temptation and the tumultuating of lusts, the whole new man may be for a season so shattered, and his parts laid out of the way as to such a due answering one to another that the whole may be serviceable to the work of faith (as a disordered army, wherein is all its fundamental strength, as well as when it is rallied in battalia, is altogether unserviceable until it be reduced to order), that sin may take the opportunity to fill their corrupt heart (as far as it is corrupt) with its pleasure and desirableness, and so to set the thoughts of it on work to contrive means for its accomplishment.210210 Altered from the original, which runs thus, affording no sense, “That sin taking the opportunity to fill their corrupt part, … to continue means for its accomplishment.” — Ed. Now as, through the goodness of their Father, and supplies of grace, which, through the covenant thereof, they do receive, this distemper seizeth believers but rarely and extraordinarily, so it doth no way prove them to sin with malice, or without hatred of and opposition (secret opposition, which may be as secret as some inclinations to sin are, — not known to ourselves) to the things they do in and under that condition.
That which follows in this section being suited to the apprehension of some particular men, though of great name and esteem, according to their worth and desert in the church of God, as Ursin, Paræus, and the rest, about reigning sin, wherein, as I have declared, my thoughts fall not in with them, I shall not need to insist any longer upon it. Paræus, after all his aggravations of the sins of believers, yet adds that they sin not (nor did David) ex contemptu Dei, but through a pre-occupation or surprisal of sin; which I believe to be the persuasion of far the greatest number of saints in the world, whatever Mr Goodwin is pleased to think or say to the contrary. Nor is their apprehension weakened by Nathan’s charging upon David his “despising of the commandment of the Lord” in doing evil, which, as it is virtually done in every sin, and in great sins in an eminent manner, so that it did amount indeed not only to a consequential, but a formal voluntary contempt of God, Mr Goodwin shall never prove. A father often and severely chargeth upon his son a despising of his command, when he hath been carried out to transgress it, when yet he knows his son honoureth and reverenceth him in his heart, and is exceedingly remote from any resolved contempt of him.
The close of all is a concession of the contra-Remonstrants at the Hague conference, “That believers might fall into such sins as that the church, according to the commandment of Christ, must pronounce that they shall no longer abide in her communion, and that they shall have no part in the kingdom of Christ;” which being made an argument for the apostasy of the saints, I shall consider how it is here improved by Mr Goodwin.
541“Certainly,” saith he, “their sense was, that true believers may sin above the rate of those who sin out of infirmity, inasmuch as there is no commandment of Christ that any church of his should eject such persons out of their communion who sin out of infirmity only. So that, by the confession of our adversaries themselves, even true believers may perpetrate such sins which are of a deeper demerit than to be numbered amongst sins of infirmity; yea, such sins for which the church of Christ, according to the commandment of Christ, stands bound to judge them for ever excluded from the kingdom of God, without repentance. From whence it undeniably follows that they may commit such sins whereby their faith in Christ will be totally lost, because there is no condemnation unto those that are by faith in Jesus Christ, whether they repent or not: and therefore they that stand in need of repentance to give them a right and title to the kingdom of God are no sons of God by faith; for were they sons, they would be heirs also, and consequently have right and title to the inheritance. So that to pretend that howsoever the saints may fall into great and grievous sins, yet they shall certainly be renewed again by repentance before they die, though this be an assertion without any bottom on reason or truth, yet doth it no ways oppose, but suppose rather, a possibility of the total defection of faith in true believers.”
Ans. 1. That “true believers may sin above the rate of sins of infirmity,” because they may so sin as that, according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, they may be cast out of a particular church, is not attempted to be proved. Doth Mr Goodwin think none may be excommunicated but such as have sinned themselves out of the state of grace? That a man may, through infirmity, fall into some such sin as for it to be amoved from a church society (that amotion being an ordinance of Christ for his recovery from that sin), I know not that it can be reasonably questioned. So that our confession, that true believers may so sin as to be righteously cast out of the external, visible society of a particular church, doth no way enforce us to acknowledge that they may sin above the rate of them who are overtaken with or surprised in sin upon the account of their weakness or infirmity.
2. The church of Christ, in rejecting of one from its society, according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, is so far from being obliged to judge any one for ever excluded from the kingdom of God, that they do so reject a man that he may never be excluded from that kingdom. It is true, he may be ecclesiastically and declaratively excluded from the visible kingdom of God, and his right and title to the outward administration of the good things thereof; but that such an one is, and must be thought to be, properly and really excluded from his interest in the love of God and grace of the covenant 542(being still, by the appointment of God and command of Christ, left under the power of an ordinance annexed by him to the administration of that covenant), it doth not follow.
3. The non-restoration of persons cast out of communion by the church to their place in the kingdom of God, but upon repentance, holds proportion with what was spoken before upon exclusion. The repentance intended is such as is necessary for the satisfaction of the church, as to its expressness and being known. Yet we grant withal that all sins whatever without repentance, in that kind and degree that is appointed and accepted of God, are exclusive of the kingdom of God; and we do much wonder that Mr Goodwin to the text, Rom. viii. 1, should add, “Whether they repent or not,” which is not only beyond the sense of what went before, but directly contrary to that which follows after, “Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Not to repent of sin is doubtless to “walk after the flesh.” No one of them who are freed from condemnation in Christ doth good, and sinneth not. The words, we confess, are not the condition, in the intention of God, on which their non-condemnation is suspended; but yet they are a description infallible of them who through grace are made partakers of it. We say, then, that believers may so fall as that being [they may be?] on that account rejected from the communion of the church, so as not to be restored but upon the evidence of their repentance (and we say that repentance is required for all sins, or men cannot be saved, wondering what Mr Goodwin, according to his principles, intends by the addition to the text of Rom. viii. 1, unless it be that no man stands in need of repentance unless he have cast off all faith and interest in God, — a most anti-evangelical assertion), and yet not commit such sins as whereby their faith must needs be wholly lost.
4. There is a twofold right and title to the kingdom of God; a right and title, by the profession of a true faith, to the external kingdom of God, in regard of its outward administration; and a right and title to the eternal kingdom of God, by the possession of a true faith in Christ. The former, as it is taken for jus in re, believers may lose for a season, though they may not in respect of a remote, original, fundamental root, which abides; the latter they never lose nor forfeit. We say, also, that repentance for sin being a thing promised of God for those that come to him in Christ, upon the account of the engagement of his grace for the perseverance of believers, all such fallers into sin shall certainly return to the Lord by repentance, who heals their backslidings; which Mr Goodwin hath not been able to disprove, of whose arguments, and his endeavours to vindicate them from exceptions, this is the chief.
But yet there being two or three things that Mr Goodwin is pleased to add to what went before, as objections against his doctrine 543in general, — though not of this last argument’s concernment any more than of any others he makes use of, — because there are in them considerations of good advantage to the truth in hand, I shall a little insist upon them before I proceed with my intended discourse.
The first is, “That the doctrine of the saints’ apostasy maimeth or dismembereth the body of Christ, and brings in an uncouth and unseemly interchange of members between Christ and the devil;” which, howsoever slighted by Mr Goodwin, is a plea not of the least importance in the ease in hand. The “body of Christ” intended is that which is mystical and spiritual, not that which is political and visible; his body in respect of the real union of every member of it unto him as the head, described by the apostle in its relation unto him, Eph. iv. 15, 16, “It groweth up unto him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” So also Col. ii. 19. The body we intend is that whereof Christ is the head, not only in a political sense, as the supreme governor of it, but in a spiritual, according to the analogy of a head natural, from whence life and all influences of it unto the members do flow. Of this body, some are, in their spirits, already consummated and made perfect in heaven; some are as yet pursuing their warfare in all parts of the world, pressing forward to the mark of the high calling set before them. Now, that any member of his body, “bone of the bone, flesh of the flesh of Christ,” given him to make up his fullness and mystical perfection, jointed unto him, washed in his blood, and loved by him according to the love and care of a head to its members, should be plucked off to be east into the fire, and, after it hath so closely and vitally been admitted into the participation of his fullness and increase, being united to him, become a child of the devil, an enemy to him, and sometimes to his fellow-members, so as to hate his head and to be hated of his head (when yet “no man ever yet hated his own flesh”), — this we suppose no way to answer that inexpressibly intense love which the Lord Jesus bears towards his members, and to be exceedingly derogatory to his honour and glory in reference to his dealing with Satan, the great enemy of his kingdom. But to this Mr Goodwin answers:—
First, “For dismembering the body of Christ, is it not the law of Christ himself, in every particular church or body of his, that as any of their members putrefy and discover themselves to be rotten and corrupt, they should be cut off by the spiritual sword of excommunication? and doth not such a dismembering as this rather tend to the honouring and adorning the body of Christ than any ways to maim or deform it? And for such a dismembering of the body of Christ 544which the doctrine in hand supposeth to be causable by the members themselves, by the voluntary disfaithing of themselves through sin and wickedness, neither is the permission of this, upon such terms as it is permitted, either unworthy Christ or inconvenient to the body itself.” Reply, —
1. That there is no argument will tolerably arise from what is practicable and comely in a visible ecclesiastical body of Christ to the mystical spiritual body, — that is, from a particular visible to the catholic church of Christ. As to the matter in hand, this is evident by the light of this single consideration, that in such an ecclesiastical body of Christ there are always, or may be, — and Christ himself, in the rules and laws that he hath given for the government thereof, did suppose that there always would be, — good and bad, true saints and empty professors; whereas in the body whereof we treat there is no soul actually instated but who is actually united to the Head by the inhabitation of the same Spirit. There never was, nor shall be to eternity, any dead member of that body. They are all “living stones,” built upon Him who is the “foundation.” Now, surely this is an inference attended with darkness to be felt: “Because it may be comely, for those to whom the administration of ordinances in the visible church of Christ is committed, to cut off a dead member from the membership which he holds by his confession of the faith, when he discovers himself not to answer the confession he hath made in his walking and conversation; therefore Christ himself doth cut off, or one way or other lose, any living members of his body mystical, and actually by faith instated in the unity of his body with him.” And if it shall be objected “That even living members, and such as are truly so, may yet, for and at a season, be cut off from a visible particular body of Christ,” I answer, — (1.) It is true they may be so in respect of their ordinary present right to the enjoyment of ordinances, not in respect of their remote fundamental right; that still abides. (2.) They are so, or may be so, for their amendment, not for their destruction; that separation for a season being an expression of as much love and tenderness to them in Christ as his joining of them to the body was from whence they are so separated. And, (3.) This makes not at all to the impairing of the true completeness of the mystical body of Christ and the perfection of its parts; for as in particular visible bodies of Christ there may be, and are, dead members which have no place in the body, but are as excrescences in the vine, and yet the body is not rendered monstrous by them, so a true member may be removed and the body not be maimed in the least; the member, though perhaps [removed] from any such visible body for a season, and yet [being of] the true spiritual [body, though] sick and pining, continuing a member thereof still. Now, there is nothing of all this that will in any measure agree to the plucking off a member from 545the mystical body of Christ, whereof alone we speak. If any should be so separated, it must not only be to [the loss of] his present actual enjoyment of union, but to the loss of his Spirit also, and with him of all right and title, plea or claim whatever, to any interest therein. Neither is it possible that it should be a means for the correction and amendment of such an one, it lying in a direct tendency to inevitable destruction; separation from all interest in Christ can look no other way. So that still the uncouthness of such a procedure abideth.
2. The reason that is added, to put some colour and gloss upon this assertion, namely, “That such persons as are affirmed to be so separated from the body of Christ do voluntarily disfaith themselves,” as it is called, is not to the purpose in hand; for, —
(1.) The question is about the thing itself, whereunto this answer de modo is not satisfactory. It is urged by the argument that it cannot be allowed any way; the answer is, “It is done this way!”
(2.) Were Mr Goodwin desired to explain unto us the manner how believers voluntarily do or may disfaith themselves, I suppose he would meet with no small difficulties in the undertaking. However, this sounds handsomely.
(3.) That they should so disfaith themselves, through sin and wickedness, without being overcome by the temptations of Satan and the power of the enemies with whom they have to do and wrestle, doubtless will not be affirmed, whilst they continue in their right wits; and if they lose them, it will be difficult to manifest bow they can voluntarily disfaith themselves. The state wherein they are described to be by Mr Goodwin, and the considerations which for their preservation he allows them, should not, methinks, suffer him to suppose that of their own accord, without provocations or temptations, they will wilfully ruin their own souls. Now, that believers should, by the power of any temptation or opposition whatever, or what affliction soever, arising against them, be prevailed upon to the loss of their faith, and so to their dismembering from Christ, is that which is objected as an unseemly, uncouth thing; which in this answer Mr Goodwin earnestly begs may not be so esteemed, and more he adds not, as yet.
The following discourse, wherein he pursues the business in hand, is so pretty as that I cannot but once more present it to the reader. Saith he: “As in a politic or civil corporation, it is better that the governors should permit the members respectively to go or be at liberty, that so they may follow their business and occupations in the world upon the better terms, though by occasion of this liberty they may behave themselves in sundry kinds very unworthily, than it would be to keep them close prisoners, though hereby the said inconveniences might certainly be prevented. In like manner, it is much better for the body of Christ, and for the respective members of it, that he should 546leave them at liberty to obey and serve God, and follow the important affairs of their souls freely and without any physical necessitation, though some do turn this liberty into wantonness, and so into destruction, than it would be to deprive them of this liberty, and to cause and constrain them to any course whatsoever out of necessity, though it is true the committing of much sin and iniquity would be prevented hereby in many. The dismembering of the body of Christ’s apostles by the apostasy of Judas was no disparagement either to Christ himself or it.”
Ans. The sum of the whole discourse is, That the Lord Jesus Christ hath no way to keep and secure his members to himself, that none of them perish, but by taking away their liberty; which rather than do, it is more to his honour to let them abuse it to their everlasting destruction. And to this end sundry fine supposals are scattered through the whole discourse; as, — 1. That the liberty of believers is a liberty to sin, which they may abuse to their own destruction. The apostle is of another mind, Rom. vi. 17–19, “God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness,” etc. 2. That there is no real efficacy of grace, that will certainly fulfil in believers the good pleasure of God’s goodness, and bring forth the fruits of an abiding holiness, but what must needs deprive them in whom it is of their liberty. And suitably hereunto, 3. That God having, through Christ, made his saints spiritually free from sin unto righteousness, so that, with the utmost liberty that they are capable of as creatures, they shall surely do good, cannot by his Spirit continue them in that condition infallibly without the destruction of their liberty. 4. That the spiritual operation of God in and with the wills of men induceth a necessitation as to their manner of operation, so that they must act on that account as necessary and not as free agents; with such other the like supposals, which are so many gross figments, whereof Mr Goodwin shall be able to prove no one to eternity. For the removal, then, of all the fine words here tendered out of our way, it may suffice to tell their author that He who is made redemption to his saints, — that sets them free from their bondage to sin by his Spirit, which is always accompanied with liberty; and makes them willing, ready, and free to righteousness and holiness in the day of his power towards them; whose effectual grace enlargeth and improves all their faculties in their operations, with the choicest attendancies as to the manner of their working, — can and doth, by, in, and with the perfect exercise of their liberty, keep them to himself in their union and communion with him for ever; that this pretended liberty unto sin is a bondage from which Christ frees his saints; neither is any thing that can be 547imagined more derogatory to the glory of his grace than to affirm that he cannot keep those committed to him infallibly to the end, without depriving them of the liberty which they have alone through him. Of physical necessitation enough hath been spoken before. Judas was never a member of the body of Christ, or of Christ, in the acceptation whereof we speak. By the “body of the apostles” is intended only their number, of which Judas (though he was never of that body whereof they were members) was one.
Farther; the wickedness of this apprehension, that Christ should lose any of those who are true and living members of his mystical body, is aggravated upon the account of that state and condition whereinto he parts with them, they being thereby made members of Satan and his kingdom, God and the devil so interchanging children, to the great dishonour and reproach of his name. To this Mr Goodwin replies in the 28th section:—
“For the interchange of members between Christ and Satan, the Scripture presenteth it as a thing possible, yea, as frequent and ordinary. ‘Know ye not,’ saith the apostle, ‘that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot?’ In the original it is, Ἄρας οὖν τὰ μέλη τοῦ Χριστοῦ ποιήσω, etc; that is, ‘Taking away the members of Christ, shall I make them,’ etc.; meaning that true believers, who only are the members of Christ, disrelate themselves to him, cease to be members of his body, whilst they live in a course of whoredom and adultery, and make themselves members of another far different relation, namely, of those harlots with whom they sinfully converse, and consequently, by such a mediation, of the devil.”
Ans. 1. For the sense of that place of the apostle, 1 Cor. vi. 15, as far as it relates to the merit of the cause in hand, I shall have occasion to speak unto it at large hereafter, and so shall not anticipate myself or the reader. For the present, I deny that there is the least mention made of any interchange of members between Christ and the devil, much less of any such thing as “frequent and ordinary.” It is true, the apostle says that he that is “joined to an harlot” makes his members the “members of an harlot,” and on that consideration and conclusion, with part of the dignity of believers, whose persons are all the members of Christ, persuades them from the sin of fornication; that they may so much as fall into that sin he doth not here intimate. That men, not only in respect of themselves, and their principles of sin, and proneness unto it within, with the prevalency of temptations, but also eventually, notwithstanding any regard or respect to other external prohibiting causes, may fall into all the sins from which they are dehorted, Mr Goodwin hath not proved as yet, nor shall I live to see him do it.
2. For a man to make himself the “member of an harlot” is no 548more but to commit fornication; which whether it be Mr Goodwin’s judgment or no, that none can fall into or be surprised with but he is ipso facto cut off from the body of Christ thereby, I know not. Taking in the consideration of what was spoken before concerning the manner of regenerate persons’ sinning, with what shall be farther argued, I must profess I dare not say so. In the meantime, it is punctually denied that believers can fall into or live in a course of whoredom and adultery; and without such a course they cease not, according to Mr Goodwin’s sense of these words, to be members of Christ, nor do they otherwise become members of the devil. There is nothing here, then, that intimates such an interchange in the least.
3. For Mr Goodwin’s criticism upon the word ἄρας, it is hardly worth taking notice of; for, —
(1.) If by “taking” there be meant “taking away,” the sense must be, that they are first taken away from being “members of Christ” (the word expressing a time past in that tendency), and then made “members of an harlot;” — which, first, is not suited to the mind of Mr Goodwin, who endeavours to prove their ceasing to be members of Christ by becoming members of an harlot, the efficient cause of their ceasing to be joined to Christ consisting in their being joined with an harlot; and, secondly, destroys the whole of the apostle’s reasoning in the place, from the great unworthiness of such a way or practice as making the members of Christ to be the members of an harlot, because none should so be made but those who had first ceased to be members of Christ. And so his assertion, instead of an effectual persuasive, should upon the matter be entangled in a contradiction to itself. And, —
(2.) As there is nothing in the place to enforce that sense upon the word, so there is nothing in the word to impose that sense upon the place. When our Saviour speaks to his disciples, Luke ix. 3, Μηδὲν αἴρετε εἰς τὴν ὁδόν, he doth not bid them take nothing away for their journey, but “take nothing with them;” and so Mark vi. 8, where his command is that μηδὲν αἴρωσιν εἰς ὁδόν. And in that of Matt. iv. 6, when the devil urged to our Saviour, ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσί σε, he did not intimate that the angels should take him away in their hands, but support him from hurt. When Jesus ᾖρε τοὺς ὁφθαλμοὺς ἄνω, he did not take away his eyes out of his head and cast them upward, John xi. 41; no more than the angel did his hand when ᾖρε τὴν χεῖρα εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, Rev. x. 5; or the apostles their voice when ᾖραν φωνὴν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, Acts iv. 25. Nor doth Christ command us to take away his yoke in that heavenly word of his, Ἄρατε τὸν ζυμόν μου ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς, Matt. xi. 29. So that there is little help left to this sense imposed on the place under consideration from the importance of the word; and so, consequently, not 549the least countenance given to that horrible interchange of members between Christ and the devil, which is asserted as a usual and frequent thing.
What he addeth in the close of the section is no less considerable than the beginning of it; for saith he, “If it be no dishonour to Christ to take in such as have been members of the devil, why should it be any disparagement to him to reject such who, by their wicked and abominable ways, render themselves unworthy of such a relation?”
Ans. Believers hold not their relation to Christ upon any worthiness that is in themselves for it, but upon the account merely of grace, according to the tenor of the covenant of mercy. That they may fall into such wicked and abominable ways as shall render them altogether unmeet for that relation, according to the law of it, is that great argument, called petitio principii, which Mr Goodwin hath used in this case a hundred times. But the comparison instituted in the first words is admirable. Confessed it is that it is no dishonour to Jesus Christ, yea, that it is his great honour, seeing “he came to destroy the works of the devil, to bind the strong man, to spoil his goods, to destroy him that had the power of death, to deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage, to deliver his people from their sins, washing them in his blood, and to make them a peculiar people unto himself, zealous of good works;” — that it is no dishonour, I say, for him to translate them from the power of Satan into his own kingdom, “making them meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, by redeeming them from their vain conversation,” to do according as he intended, and to take his own, given him of his Father, out of the hands of the tyrant which held them under bondage. “Therefore, having undertaken to keep them and preserve them, having so overcome Satan in them, for them, by them, broken the head of the serpent, it is no dishonour for him to lose ground given for his inheritance, with his subjects, members, brethren, children, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, into the hand of the devil again.” What fort is so strong as to hold out against such a battery: If it be no honour for Christ to bind Satan and to spoil his goods, then it is no dishonour for him to be bound by Satan and to have his goods spoiled!
Another burden upon the shoulders of Mr Goodwin’s doctrine, whereof he labours to deliver it, is the great absurdity of the repetition of regeneration, whereof there is no mention at all in the Scripture, and which yet must be asserted by him, unless he will affirm all that fall away at any time irrecoverably to perish; which howsoever he waives at present, were with much more probability, according to his own principles, to be maintained than what he insisteth on.
“But this repetition of regeneration,” saith he, “is not unworthy of 550God, and for men a blessed and happy accommodation.” Whether it be “unworthy God” or no, the Scripture and the nature of the thing will declare. The “accommodation” that it seems to afford unto men, being a plain encouragement to sin at the highest rate imaginable, will perhaps not be found so happy and blessed unto them. With great noise and clamour hath a charge been managed against the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, upon the account of its giving supportment to the thoughts of men in and under the ways of sin. Whether truth and righteousness have been regarded in that charge hath been considered. Doubtless it were a matter of no difficulty dearly to evince that this doctrine of the “repetition of regeneration” is of the very same tendency and import with that which is falsely and injuriously charged upon that of the perseverance of the saints. The worst that a man thinks he can do by any act of sin is but to sin himself quite out of the favour of God, into a state of death and desert of wrath, lie can no farther injure his soul than to cast it into the condition of men by nature. Tell this man, now, whom you suppose to be under the temptation to sin, at least to have in him that great fool the flesh, which longs for blessed accommodations to itself, whilst it makes provision to fulfil its lusts, that if he should so do, this is an ordinary thing for men to do, and yet to be renewed again and to have a second regeneration, — do you not encourage him to venture boldly to satisfy his sinful desires, having such a relief against the worst that his thoughts and fears can suggest to him?
But whatever it be, in respect of God or men, yet that so it may be Mr Goodwin proves from Heb. vi. 6, where it is said, that “it is impossible to renew” some “to repentance;” wherefore some may be renewed; — and in Jude 12 men are said to be “twice dead;” therefore they may live twice spiritually. The first proof seems somewhat uncouth. The persons spoken of in that place are in Mr G.’s judgment believers. There is no place of Scripture wherein he more triumphs in his endeavoured confirmation of his thesis. The Holy Ghost says expressly of them that it is “impossible to renew them;” “therefore,” says Mr G., “it is possible.” What is of emphasis in the argument mentioned ariseth from two things:— 1. That they are true believers; of which afterward. 2. That they fall totally away. This, then, is the importance of Mr G.’s plea from this place, “If true believers fall totally away, it is impossible they should be renewed to repentance; therefore, if true believers fall totally away, it is possible they should be renewed to and by repentance.” That there is a failing away and a renewing again by repentance of the same persons, we grant. That falling away is partial only which is incident unto true believers, who, when God heals their backslidings, are renewed by repentance. To be renewed by repentance is also taken either for the renovation of our natures and our change as 551unto state and condition, and so it is the same with regeneration, and not to be repeated; or for a recovery by repentance in respect of personal failings, so it is the daily work of our lives. Jude says, some are “twice dead;” that is, utterly so, — an hyperbolical expression, to aggravate their condition. Those to whom the gospel is a “savour of death unto death” may well be said to be “twice dead.” Unto the death that they are involved in and are obnoxious to by nature they add a second death, or rather, seal up their souls under the power and misery of the other, by contempt of the means of life and recovery. Therefore, regeneration may be reiterated, “Quod erat demonstrandum.”
Much of the section that remains is taken up in declaring, in many words, without the least attempt of proof, that it is agreeable to the honour of God to renew men totally fallen away; that is, when those who have been quickened by him, washed in the blood of his Son, made partakers of the divine nature, embraced in the arms of his love, shall despise all this, “disfaith themselves,” reject the Lord and his love, trample on the blood of the covenant, kill their souls by depriving them of spiritual life, proclaim to all the world their dislike of him and his covenant of grace. Yet, though He hath not anywhere revealed that he will permit any one so to do, or that he will accept of them again upon their so doing, Mr Goodwin affirming that for him so to do is agreeable to his holiness and righteousness, it is fit that those who conceive themselves bound to believe whatever he says should think so too. For my part, I am at liberty.
I should not farther pursue this discourse, nor insist on this digression, but that Mr Goodwin hath taken advantage by the mention of regeneration to deliver some rare notions of the nature of it, which deserve a little our farther taking notice of; for which end, doubtless, he published them. To make way, then, for his intendment, he informs us, sect. 29, “That ‘regeneration’ itself, according to the grammatical and proper signification of the word, imports a reiteration or repetition of some generation or other. It cannot import a repetition of the natural generation of men (the sense of Nicodemus on this point was orthodox, who judged such a thing impossible); therefore it must import a repetition of a spiritual generation, unless we shall say (which I think is the road opinion) that it signifies only the spiritual generation, with a kind of reflection upon and unto the birth natural.”
Ans. That the grammatical sense of the word imports “a reiteration of some generation or other,” is only said. Ἀνά hath other significations in composition besides the intimating of a reiteration of the same thing, either in species or individually the same again, Παλιγγενεσία would seem rather to enforce such an interpretation than ἀναγέννησις, which yet it doth not. It is spoken of that which hath no 552birth properly at, all, as Philo, De Mundo, Μὴ μόνον φθορὰν τοῦ κόσμου κατηγορεῖν ἀλλὰ καὶ παλιγγενεσίαν ἀναίρειν. Ἀνά of itself is only “through:” Χῶρον ἀν’ ὑλήεντα, Hom. Ὀδ. ξ, — “Through a woody country.” Ἀνάστασις, “resurrection,” doth not import “again,” after another rising before, but a restoration from a lost state. So is παλιγγενεσία used, Matt. xix. 28. To be regenerate is to have a new and another generation, not any one repeated. In the place of John mentioned by Mr Goodwin, there is mention neither of a repetition of a former generation nor directly of a new one; though it be so, it is not there called so. Our Saviour at first says, Ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, “Unless a man be born from above,” as the word is elsewhere rendered, and properly signifies, as John iii. 31, xix. 11; Mark xv. 38; James iii. 17; and sometimes “of old” or “former days,” as Acts xxvi. 5. Once only it signifies “again,” Gal. iv. 9, but there it joined with πάλιν, which restrains it. And in the exposition afterward of what he intended by that expression, he calls it simply a being “born of water and the Spirit,” verse 5, without the least intimation of the repetition of any birth, but only the asserting of a new spiritual one; called a birth, indeed, with allusion to the birth natural, which is the “road opinion,” well beaten ever since Christ first trod that path. Besides, the very mine thing which is expressed under the name of “regeneration,” being a spiritual birth, which a man had not before, is alto delivered unto us in such words and terms as manifest no reiteration of any state, condition, or thing to be included therein, as conversion to God, a quickening from death, sanctification by the Spirit etc.; all which manifest the induction of a new life and form, and not the repetition of another. Hence the ancients called baptism “regeneration,” being the initial ordinance of Christianity, and expressive of the new life which in and through Christ we receive; and that from Titus iii. 5. “Regeneration,” then, neither in the import of the word nor in the nature of the thing, doth require a reiteration of any generation, but only the addition of a new one to that which a man hath before, and whereunto this doth allude. The receiving of a new spiritual birth and life is our “regeneration, renovation, resurrection, quickening, implanting into Christ,” and the like; so that the foundation of the ensuing discourse is a mere quagmire, where no firm footing can be obtained.
And of the same nature is that which ensues: “It is,” saith he, “the common sense of divines, that the two generations mentioned, the natural and spiritual, are membra dividentia, and contradistinguished the one unto the other; and so the apostle Peter, too, seems to state and represent them, as also our Saviour himself, John iii. 6. Now, there can hardly any instance be given where the introducing of one contrary fore or quality into the subject is termed a reiteration or repetition of the other. Calefaction, for example, 553is never termed a repetition of frigefaction, nor calefaction called a reiteration of frigefaction; nor when a regenerate or mortified man dieth his natural death is he said to reiterate or repeat his spiritual death.”
Ans. That in the term “regeneration” two births are implied may be granted; that the same is intimated to be repeated is denied, and not proved at all; and therefore Mr Goodwin says well, that the introducing of a contrary form is not called the reiteration of another. No more is it here. Our new birth is called our “regeneration,” or “new generation,” in allusion to our natural birth, not as a repetition of it. Neither is the allusion in respect of the contrary qualities Wherewith the one and the other are attended, but in respect of the things themselves; in which regard, as they are not the same, so they are not contrary, but diverse. They are both births, — the one natural, the other spiritual. Natural and spiritual, in that sense, are not contrary qualities, but diverse adjuncts. And so are the two births compared, 1 Pet. i. 23, John i. 13; in which last place our regeneration is expressed under the simple term of being “born,” with distinction to the natural birth, and not the least intimation of the iteration of any birth or generation subjoined. So also is it, James i. 18. So that hitherto little progress is made by Mr Goodwin towards his intendment, whatever it be. Thus, then, he expresseth it:—
“I rather,” saith he, “conceive that ‘regeneration,’ which the Scripture makes appropriable only unto persons living to years of discretion, who generally in the days of their youth degenerate from the innocency of their childhood and younger years, and corrupt themselves with the principles and ways of the world, relates not to the natural generation as such, I mean as natural, but unto the spiritual estate and condition of men in respect of their natural generation and birth; in and upon which they are, if not simply and absolutely, yet comparatively, innocent, harmless, free from pride and malice, and, in respect of these qualifications, in grace and favour with God, upon the account of the death and sufferings of Christ for them, as we shall afterward prove.”
Here you have the sum of the design and the doctrine of regeneration cleared from all those vain and erroneous opinions wherewith it hath so long been clouded! It is the returning of men unto the good state and condition wherein they were born, after they have degenerated into ways of wickedness. We thought it had been the “quickening of them who are by nature dead in trespasses and sins, their being begotten again by the will of God, the bestowing of a new principle of Spirit and life upon them, a translation from death to life, the opening of blind eyes, making them who were darkness to be light in the Lord.” It seems we have all this while been in 554the dark, and that regeneration indeed is only a returning to that condition from whence we thought it had been a delivery. But let us a little see the demonstration of this new notion of regeneration.
1. He saith, “The Scripture makes it appropriable only to them who come to years of discretion.” Sir, your proof; we cannot take your bare word in a thing of this importance. In the place yourself chose to mention as the foundation you laid of the inferences you are now making, our Saviour says it is a being “born of the Spirit;” doth the Scripture make this appropriable only unto men of discretion? Men only of discretion, then, can enter into the kingdom of God; for none not so born of the Spirit shall enter therein, John iii. 5. If none but men of discretion can be born of the Spirit, then infants have no other birth but only that of the flesh, and “that which is born of the flesh is flesh,” verse 6, not capable of entering into the kingdom of heaven. Surely you better deserve the title of “Durus pater infantum” than he to whom of old it was given. Perhaps a grosser figment was never framed by a man of discretion.
2. It is true, infants are comparatively innocent in respect of actual transgressions, but equally nocent and guilty with sinners of discretion in respect of natural state and condition. They are no less obnoxious to that death from whence our regeneration is a delivery, by the bestowing of a new spiritual life, than a sinner of a hundred years old. A return to this condition, it seems, is a regeneration. “Quantum est in rebus inane!”
3. The qualifications of infants not regenerated are merely negative, and that in respect of the acts of sin, not the habitual seed and root of them, for in them dwells no good. That, in respect of these qualifications of innocency that are in them by nature, antecedent to any regeneration (all which are resolved into a natural impotency of perpetrating sin), they are accepted in grace and favour with God, had been another new notion, had not Pelagius and Socinus before you fallen upon it. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” Heb. xi. 6, and “his wrath abideth on them that believe not,” John iii. 36. That infants have or may have faith, and not be regenerated, will scarcely be granted by them who believe the Spirit of Christ to cause regeneration where he is bestowed, Titus iii. 5, and all faith to be the fruit of that Spirit, Gal. v. 22, 23. Farther; for the qualification of infants by nature, how are they brought clean from that which is unclean? Are they not connived in sin and brought forth in iniquity? or was that David’s hard case alone? If they are born of the flesh, and are flesh, if they are unclean, how come they to be in that estate, upon the account of their qualifications, accepted in the love and favour of Him who is “of purer eyes than to behold iniquity?” If this be the doctrine of regeneration that Mr Goodwin preaches, I desire the Lord to bless them that belong 555unto him in a deliverance from attending thereunto. Of the effects of the death of Christ in respect of all children I shall not now treat. That they should be saved by Christ, and yet not washed in his blood, not sanctified by his Spirit (which to be is to be regenerate), is another new notion of the new gospel.
The countenance which Mr Goodwin would beg to his doctrine from that of our Saviour to his disciples, “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” reproving their ambition and worldly thoughts, from which they were to be weaned, that they might be fit for that gospel state and employment whereunto he called them, and wherein they were to serve him, does no more advantage him nor the cause he hath undertaken than that other caution of our Saviour to the same persons, to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” would do him that should undertake to prove that Christians ought to become pigeons or snakes.
Thus much, then, we have learned of the mind of Mr Goodwin by his digression:— 1. That no children are regenerate; 2. That they are all accepted with God, through Christ, upon the account of the good qualifications that are in them; 3. That regeneration is a man’s returning to the state wherein he was born. And having taken out this lesson, which we shall never learn by heart whilst we live, we may now proceed.
I shall only add to the main of the business in hand, that so long as a man is a child of God, he cannot, he need not to repeat his regeneration. But that one who hath been the child of God should cease to be the child of God is somewhat strange. How can that be done amongst men, that he should cease to be such a man’s son who was his son? Those things that stand in relation upon any thing that is past, and therefore irrevocable, cannot have their beings continued and their relation dissolved. It is impossible but that cause and effect must be related one to another. Such is the relation between father and son; the foundation of it is an act past and irrevocable, and therefore the relation itself is indissoluble. Is it not so with God and his children? When they once stand in that relation, it cannot be dissolved. But of these things hitherto.
To proceed with that place of Scripture which I laid as the foundation of this discourse: The general way of lust’s dealing with the soul in the brining forth of sin, whereof there are two acts, expressed James i. 14, the one of drawing away, the other enticing, is to be insisted on. Upon the first, the person tempted is ἐξελκόμενος, “drawn off,” or “drawn away;” and upon the second, he is δελεαζόμενος, “enticed,” or “entangled.”
The first stirring of sin is to draw away the soul from what it ought to be fixed upon, by its rising up irregularly to some delightful object. 556For a man to be “drawn away” by his lust, is to have his lust drawn out to some object suited to it, wherein it delighteth. Now, this drawing away denoteth two things:—
1. The turning of the soul from the actual rectitude of its frame towards God. Though the soul cannot always be in actual exercise of grace towards God, yet it ought always to be in an immediate readiness to any spiritual duty, upon the account whereof, when occasion is administered, it doth as naturally go forth to God as a vessel full of water floweth forth when vent is given unto it. Hence we are commanded “always to pray.” Our Saviour giveth a parable to instruct his disciples that they ought to pray πάντοτε, Luke xviii. 1; and we are commanded to pray ἀδιαλείπτως, “without ceasing” or “intermission,” 1 Thess. v. 17; which the same apostle in another place calleth praying ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ, “in every place,” namely, as occasion is administered. It is not the perpetual exercise of this duty (as the Jews, some of them, have ridiculously interpreted the first psalm, of “reading the law day and night”), which would shut out and cut off all other duties, not only of men’s callings and employments as to this life, but all other duties of the ways and worship of God whatever; but it is only the readiness and promptitude of the heart in its constant frame to that necessary duty, that is required. Now, he who is ἐξελκόμενος by lust is drawn off from this frame; that is, he is interrupted in it by his lust diverting unto some sinful object. And as to this particular, there is a great difference betwixt the sinning of believers, and those who arise not beyond that height which the power of conviction beareth them oftentimes up unto; for the main of a true believer’s watching, in his whole life, and in the course of his walking with God, is directed against this off-drawing from that habitual frame of his heart by lust and sin. His great business is, as the apostle telleth us, to “take the whole armour of God to him,” that sin, if it be possible, may make no approach to his soul, Eph. vi. 13. It is to keep up his spirits to a “hate of every evil way, and to delight in God continually.” And because they cannot attain in this life unto perfection, they cry out of the power of sin leading them captive to the law thereof. They would have their wills dead to sin, wholly dead, and have trouble that they are not so as to the general frame of their spirits, how oft soever they be drawn off. For other persons, they have truly no such frame at all, whatever they may be cut into the likeness of by the sharpness of scriptural convictions that come upon them; and therefore they watch not as to the keeping of it. The deeper you dive into them, the more near you come to their hearts, the worse they are; their very inward part is wickedness. I speak now of the ordinary frame of the one and other.
This drawing off by sin in believers is by the power of sin, in opposition 557to their will. Their wills lie against it to the utmost; they “would not,” as was showed, be so drawn off. But as for the others, as hath been shown, however their minds may be enlightened, and their consciences awakened, and their affections corrected and restrained, their wills are wholly dead in sin.
2. When a man is ἐξελκόμενος, or drawn away, there are stricken out between the lust and the pleasing object some glances of the heart, with thoughts of sin. When lust hath gone thus far, if a violent temptation fall in, the person to whom it doth so befall may be carried, or rather hurried out and surprised, into no small advance towards the perpetration of sin, without the least delight in the sin or consent of the will unto it, if he be a godly man. So was it in the case of David, in the cutting off the lap of the garment of Saul. Lust stirred in him, drew him off from his frame of dependence on God, and by the advantage of Saul’s presence stirred up thoughts of self-security and advantage in him, which carried him almost to the very act of sin before he recovered himself. Then, I say, is a man “drawn away,” not only in respect to the term from whence, but also of that whereunto, when the thoughts of the object presented as suitable to lust are cast in, though immediately rejected. This I intend by this acting of lust; which although it be our sin, as having its rise and spring in us, and is continually to be lamented, yet, when it is not accompanied with any delight of the heart or consent of the will, but the thought of it is like a piece of fiery iron cast into water, which maketh a sudden commotion and noise, but yet is suddenly quenched, it is that which regenerate men are and may be subject to, which also keepeth them humble all their days. There is more in this drawing away than a single thought or apprehension of evil amounts to (which may be without the least sin: “To know evil is not evil”), but yet it is short of the soul’s consent unto it.
The second way wherein lust proceedeth in tempting is by enticing the soul; and he who is so dealt withal by it is said to be δελεαζόμενος, — “to be enticed.” There is something more in this than in being only drawn away. The word here used is twice mentioned in the Second Epistle of Peter, chap. ii. Once it is rendered to “beguile,” δελεάζοντες ψυχὰς ἀστηρίκτους, verse 14; and in the other “alluring,” verse 18. It cometh (as is commonly known) from δέλεαρ, a “bait;” which is from δόλεαρ or δόλος, “deceit,” because the end of a bait is to deceive, and to catch by deceiving. Thence δελεάζω is to “entice, to allure, to entangle,” as men do fishes and birds with baits. That which by this expression the Holy Ghost intendeth is the prevalency of lust in drawing the soul unto that which is by the casuists termed delectatio morosa, “a secret delight” in the evil, abiding some space upon it, so that it would do that which it is tempted and enticed unto were it not forbidden; as the fish liketh 558the bait well enough, but is afraid of the hook. The soul for a season is captived to like the sin, and so is under the power of it, but is afraid of the guilt. It sticketh only at this, “How shall it do this great thing, and sin against the Lord?” Now, though the mind never frame any intention of fulfilling the evil wherewith the soul is thus entangled, or of committing that sin whereunto it is allured and enticed, yet the affections having been cast into the mould of sin for a, season, and conformed unto it by delight (which is the conformity of the affections to the thing delighted in), this is a high degree of sin; and that because it is directly contrary to that “death unto sin,” and the “crucifying of the flesh and the lusts thereof,” which we are continually called unto. It is, in a sense, a making “provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Provision is made, though the flesh be not suffered to feed thereon, but only delight itself with beholding of it.
I shall not deny but this also may befall a true believer, it being chiefly implied in Rom. vii., but yet with a wide difference from the condition of other persons, in their being under the power of the deceits and beguilements of sin; for, —
1. This neither doth nor can grow to be the habitual frame of their hearts; because, as the apostle telleth us, “they are dead to sin, and cannot live any longer therein,” Rom. vi. 2, and “their old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed,” verse 6. Now, though a man should abstain from all actual sins or open committing of sin all his days, yet if he have any habitual delight in sift, and defileth his soul with delightful contemplations of sin, he liveth to sin and not to God; which a believer cannot do, for “he is not under the law, but under grace.” To abide in this state is to “wear the garment spotted with the flesh.” But now, take another person: however heightened and wrought up by convictions, unless it be when conscience is stirred up, and some affrightment is put upon him, he can, as his leisure affords, give his heart the swing in inordinate affections, or what else pleaseth and suiteth his state, condition, temper, and the like.
2. A believer is exceedingly troubled upon the account of his being at any time led captive to the power of sin in this kind; and the review of the frame of his spirit, wherein his affections were by delight conformed to any sin, is a matter of sore trouble and deep humiliation to him. I am of Austin’s mind, De Nup. et Concupis., cap. viii., that it is this perpetrating of sin, and not the actual committing of it, which the apostle complaineth of, Rom. vii. Two things persuade me hereunto:— First, That it is the ordinary course and walking of a regenerate man that Paul describeth in that place, and not his extraordinary falls and failings under great and extraordinary temptations. This is evident from the whole manner of his 559discourse, and scope of the place. Now, ordinarily, through the grace of God, the saints do not do outwardly and practically the things they would not, — that is, commit sin actually as to the outward act; but they are ordinarily only swayed to this entanglement by the baits of sin. Secondly, It is the sole work of indwelling sin that the apostle there describeth, as it is in itself, and not as it is advantaged by other temptations, in which it carrieth not believers out to actual sins, as to such accomplishment of them, which is their state in respect of great temptations only. It is, then, I say, the great burden of their souls that they have been in their affections at any time dealing with the baits of sin, which causeth them to cry out for help, and filleth them with a perpetual self-abhorrency and condemnation.
3. In such surprisals of sin, although the affections may be ensnared, and the judgment and conscience by their tumultuating dethroned for a season, yet the will still maketh head against sin in believers, and crieth out that, whether it will or no, it is captived and violently overborne, calling for relief like a man surprised by an enemy. There is an active renitency in the will against sin, whoso bait is exposed to the soul, and wherewith it is enticed, allured, or entangled; when of all the faculties of the soul, if any thing be done in any act of sin in unregenerate men, the will is the ringleader. Conscience may grumble, and judgment may plead, but the will runneth headlong to it.
And thus far have I (by way of digression) proceeded in the difference there is betwixt regenerate and unregenerate men, as to the root and foundation of sin, as also to their ordinary walking. What is farther added by the apostle in the two following degrees, in the place mentioned, because thence also may some light be obtained to the business in hand, shall be briefly insisted on.
The next thing in the progress of sin is lust’s conceiving. When it hath turned off the heart from its communion with God or consideration of its duty, and entangled or hampered the affections in delight with the sinful object proposed, prevailing with the soul to dwell with some complacency upon the thoughts of sin, it then falleth to “conceiving;” that is, it warms, foments, cherisheth thoughts and desires of the sin entertained, until it so far prevails upon the will (in them in whose wills there is an opposition unto it), that, being wearied out with the solicitations of the flesh, it giveth over its power, as to its actual predominant exercise, and sensibly dissenteth not from the sin whereunto it is prompted. That this may sometimes befall a regenerate person I have granted before, and what is the difference herein betwixt them and unregenerate persons may be collected from what hath been already delivered.
Of the next step of sin, which is its bringing forth, or the actual 560accomplishment of the sin so conceived, as above expressed, there is the same reason. Τίκτει, “it bringeth out” of its womb the child of sin which it had conceived. It is the actual perpetration of sin formerly consented unto that is expressed under this metaphor. I have little to add upon this head to what was formerly spoken; for, —
1. As they are not the sins of daily infirmity that are here intended, in the place of the apostle under consideration, but such as lie in an immediate tendency unto death, as to their eminent guilt; as also being the fruit of the heart’s conception of sin, by fomenting and warming thoughts of sin with delight, until consent unto it be prevalent in the soul: so falls of this nature in the saints are extraordinary, and always attended with their loss of peace, the weakening of their faith, wounding of their souls, and obnoxiousness, without repentance, unto death. God, indeed, hath provided better things for them; but for themselves, they have done their endeavour to destroy their own souls.
2. That God never suffereth his saints to fall thus, but it is for the accomplishment of some very glorious end of his, in their afflictions, trials, patience, humiliation; which he will bring about. These ends of God are many and various. I shall not enter into a particular discourse concerning them.
3. That an impenitent continuance in and under the guilt of such a sin is a sore sign of a heart that neither hath nor ever had any true faith. In others, there is a truth in that of Austin, who affirmed that “he dared say that it might be good for some to have fallen into some eminent particular sin, for their humiliation and caution all their days.”
4. That this frequent conception of sin and bringing of it forth, in persons who have been heightened by conviction to a great regularity of walking and conversation, is the means whereby they do go forth unto that which is mentioned in the last place, which is finishing of sin; that is, so to be brought under the power of it as to complete the whole work of sin. Now, men bring it forth by the temptations and upon the surprisals forementioned; but they that come to finish it, or do the whole work of it, in them it will bring forth death. This I take to be the intendment of that expression, Ἁμαρτία ἀποτελεσθεῖσα, “Sin perfected.” The word ἀποτελεῖν is nowhere used in the New Testament; τελεῖν ανδ ἐπιτελεῖν are. There is τὸν νόμον τελεῖν, which is, not to do any one act which the law requireth, but to walk studiously and constantly according to the rule thereof; and so ἐπιτελεῖν, as the apostle useth it, Phil. i. 6, where we translate it, as here, ἀποτελεῖν. To “perfect the good work,” is to walk in the way of grace and the gospel unto the end: so to “perfect sin” is to fulfil the work of sin and to walk in the way of sin, to be under the dominion and reign of sin so far as to be carried out in a course 561of sinning. And this is that alone which we exempt believers from; which that they are exempted from, unto all that hath formerly been spoken, I shall add the consideration of one place of Scripture, being turned aside from my thoughts of handling this at large as the second part of the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, the former being grown under my hands beyond expectation.
Now, this place is 1 John iii. 9, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God;” — a place of Scripture that always hath amazed the adversaries of the doctrine which hitherto, through the grace of God, we have asserted, being in itself fully sufficient to captivate every understanding unto the obedience of its truth that is not resolved to cleave to a contrary conclusion, let what demonstration soever lie against it. In the defence of the doctrine under consideration, should we use expressions of the same importance with those here used by the apostle, as we should abundantly satisfy ourselves that we had delivered our mind and sense to the understanding of any indifferent person with whom we might have to do, so we should by no means avoid all those imputations of folly and error that our doctrine suffereth under from the men that have entertained an enmity against it, as it is held forth in equivalent expressions by us. The authority of the Holy Ghost hath gained thus much upon our adversaries, that when he asserteth in express and expressive terms the very thing or things that in us are called “folly,” evasions should be studied, and pains taken to rack his words to a sense which they will not bear, rather than plainly to deny his authority. But let the words, with the scope and tendency, be considered. The scope and intendment of the apostle in the place is, to give a discriminating character of the children of God and the children of the devil. Thus he fully expresseth himself unto us, verse 10: “In this,” saith he, “the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother;” and withal, to press on an exhortation against sin, whereunto he useth the argument that lieth in the following words, “If any one sin that thinketh himself to be born of God, he deceiveth himself:” verses 7, 8, “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil.” But how proveth he this? In these words, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, — doth not, cannot sin.” Such is the genius and nature of the children of God, of them that are born of him, that they do not, they cannot sin. You are persuaded that you are so born of God; therefore you must press after such a frame, such an ingenie and disposition, such a principle, 562as that thereby you cannot sin. It must manifest itself to be in you, if you be the children of God.
Now, whereas it is offered by Mr Goodwin, chap. x. sect. 27, p. 194, “That the context or scope of the whole place doth not invite such an exposition as is usually insisted on, because” (saith he) “the intent and drift of the apostle, from verse 3 even to the end of the chapter (as he that doth but run the context over may read), is not to show or argue whether the sons of God may possibly in time so degenerate as to live sinfully and die impenitently; but to evince this, that those who claim the great honour and privilege of being the children of God cannot justify or make good this claim, neither unto others nor unto themselves, but by a holy and Christian life and conversation. Now, it is one thing to argue and prove who are the sons of God at present; another, whether they who are such at present must of necessity always so continue. The former is the apostle’s theme in the context; the latter he is wholly silent of.”
I say, It is evident that the scope of the place is to evince that in the children of God, those that are born of him, there is such a principle, genius, new nature, as that upon the account thereof they cannot sin; and therefore, that those who have not such principles in them, whatever their pretences be, are not indeed born of God; — and in this he manifesteth that those who are indeed born of God cannot possibly so degenerate as to fall into total impenitency, so as to become children of the devil, which he emphatically affirmeth.
He doth, indeed, declare that none can make good their title to be children of God, but those who can justify their claim by a holy and Christian conversation; but yet, moreover, he maketh good the assertion by this farther discovery which he maketh of their new nature to be such as that they cannot sin, or degenerate into a condition of lying under the power of a vain conversation. So that though his intent should not be primarily to manifest that those who are at present the children of God cannot apostatize, but must so continue, yet it is to confirm their nature and genius to be such, with the principles which from God they have received, that so it shall be with them, so they shall abide; and to this he is not silent, but eminently expressive.
The context being thus clear, the words themselves are a proposition or thesis, and a reason for the confirmation of the truth of that proposition. The proposition is ready at hand in the words, “He that is born of God doth not, cannot commit sin.” The reason of the proposition confirming the truth thereof is twofold:— 1. Because he is born of God; 2. Because His seed, whereof he is so born, remaineth.
The proposition is universal: Πᾶς ὁ γεγενημένος ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ, “Every one that is born of God;” whence these two things ensue:— 1. The 563truth of it hath a necessary cause or causes. Universal propositions must have so, or they are not true. If that which is their ground may be otherwise, it invalidates their certainty. Such, then, must be the cause of this assertion of the apostle. 2. That it compriseth all and every one that is interested in that which is the cause of the certainty of this universal assertion or proposition; “every one who is born of God,” that hath this seed, be he young or old, weak or strong, wise or foolish, exercised in the ways of God or newly entered into them, all is one. Whosoever is thus interested in the foundation is equally interested in the inference.
In the proposition itself may be considered the subject, and what is affirmed of it. The subject is, “Every one that is born of God.” That which is affirmed of it is, “Sinneth not, cannot sin.”
1. For the first, namely, the subject, they are those which are “born of God;” and who they are that are so born of God the Scripture is clear in, neither is there any difference of importance as to the intendment of this expression. Those who suppose that believers of some eminency only are denoted in it, do not consider that all believers whatever are sharers in the grace intended therein. They are all said to be born not of the will of the flesh, but of God, John i. 13; for it is ascribed to all believers on the name of Christ, verse 12. He begetteth them all of his own will, James i. 18; as also, 1 Pet. i. 23. He is said to beget them, as to quicken them, Eph. ii. 1; and they to be born of him, as they are quickened or raised from the dead. Two things are intimated in this expression:— (1.) A new principle, habit, or spiritual life, which such persons have; hence they are said to be “born.” As they who are born in the world are partakers of a vital principle, that is the foundation of all their actions, so have they here a new life, a new vital principle. By their being born are they made partakers of it. (2.) The divine original of that principle of life is from God. They have the principle of life immediately from him; and therefore are said to be “born of God.” And both these considerations are here used as descriptions of the subject; and in the close of the reason of the proposition, they are insisted on as the cause of that effect of not sinning: “He sinneth not, because he is born of God.” Both the nature of the principle itself, which in itself is abiding, and the rise or original that it hath from God, have an influence into that causality that is ascribed to it; but about this there can be no great contest.
2. That which is affirmed of every such person is, that he “doth not commit sin.” That this expression is to be attended with its restrictions and limitations is evident from that contrariety wherein, in its whole latitude, it standeth to sundry other testimonies in the book of God, yea, in this very epistle. “There is no man that doeth good, 564and sinneth not,” saith Solomon, 1 Kings viii. 46; and, “In many things we offend all,” saith James, in chap. iii. 2. And this apostle putteth all out of question by convincing the best of saints that have “communion with the Father and with his Son,” that by saying we have no sin, by a denial of it, we involve ourselves in the guilt of it: “ ‘If we,’ we apostles, we who have fellowship with the Father and the Son, ‘say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,’ ” 1 John i. 8. “Doth not commit sin,” then, cannot be taken absolutely for Doth not sin at all. There is a synecdoche in the words, and they must be restrained to some kind of sin, or to some manner or degree in or of sinning. Some say, “ ‘He doth not, cannot sin,’ is, They do not commit sin with delight, not deliberately and with their full and whole will, without reluctancy and opposition in their wills unto sin” (which reluctancy is at a vast distance from the reluctancy that is raised in wicked men from the convictions of their conscience and judgment); which sense is canvassed by Mr Goodwin to no advantage at all, sect. 25, for, in the way and manner formerly explained, this may well take place. “Doth not commit sin,” then, is, Doth not so commit sin as that sin should reign in him spoken of, and prevail with him to death. There is an emphasis and intension in the words, “Doth not commit sin,” — that is, Doth not so commit it as to be given up to the power of it; he doth not commit sin in such a way as to be separated from communion with God thereby, which is only done when sin taketh the rule or reign in any person.
“This exposition,” Mr Goodwin saith, “if it can be made to stand upright, will bear the weight of the whole cause depending alone; but as it is, it argueth weakness to determine for our own sense in a controversy or question, without giving a very substantial reason for the exposition.” I doubt if Mr Goodwin’s discourses in this treatise were to be tried by this rule, a man might, upon very substantial grounds and reasons, call many of his assertions into controversy. And because he addeth, that “such is his hard hap, he can meet with no reasons at all,” I must needs question whether he made any diligent search or no; to this purpose I shall supply him with one or two that lie hard at hand.
This, then, to be the intendment of the words is evident, —
1. From the scope of the place and aim of the apostle therein; this is, to distinguish, as was said, betwixt the children of God and of the devil. The children of the devil commit sin: Verse 8, “He that committeth sin is of the devil,” as he giveth an instance of one that did so sin. Verse 12, “Cain,” saith he, “was of the devil; he was of that wicked one, and he committed sin.” How did Cain commit sin? Impenitently, to death; that is the committing of sin which is ascribed to them that are of the devil, of the wicked one. “Now,” saith he, “whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin;” 565that is, he doth not so commit sin as the children of the devil, that wicked one, do; he sins not to death, with impenitency.
2. The same apostle doth most eminently clear his own intendment in this expression, chap. v. 17, 18, of this epistle, “All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” That expression, verse 18, “Sinneth not,” standeth in opposition to the sin mentioned, verse 16, “Sin unto death.” “ ‘There is a sin unto death;’ but ‘he that is born of God sinneth not’ unto death.” So that both the context and the exposition of the words given in a parallel place afford us the sense insisted on.
Three reasons are attempted by Mr Goodwin against this exposition; “and many more,” saith he, “are at hand,” which it seems he is willing to spare for another season. Of those that he is pleased to use, I have already considered that which is of the chiefest importance, being taken from the scope of the place. It hath been already declared, not only that the sense by him urged is not suitable to the intendment of the Holy Ghost, and that Mr Goodwin is not a little mistaken in his analysis of the chapter, but that the exposition insisted on by us is from thence enforced.
His other reasons are:— first, “That the grammar or letter of the phrase breatheth not the least air of such a sense.”
Ans. That the expression is synecdochical was before affirmed; what it importeth under the power of that figure is the grammatical sense of the words. To the grammatical regularity and signification of them doth their figurativeness belong. Let the words be restrained, as the figure requireth, and the sense is most proper, as was signified.
But secondly, saith he, “The phrase of ‘committing sin’ is nowhere in the Scripture found in such a sense as to sin with final impenitency, or to sin to death.”
Ans. The contrary hath been demonstrated. The same phrase necessarily importeth no less, verse 8 of this chapter; and an equivalent expression, beyond all contradiction, intendeth the same, chap. v. 17, 18. Besides, a phrase may be so circumstantiated as to be in one only place restrained to a sense which it doth not elsewhere necessarily import. So that, notwithstanding these exceptions, the exposition of the words is clear as before given in. And yet this is all Mr Goodwin produceth as his ground and foundation whereon to stand in denying this proposition, “He that is born of God sinneth not;” — that is, falleth not under the power of reigning sin, sinneth not to death, as the children of the wicked one do: which I shall leave under that consideration wherewith it is educed from the scope of the text, and the parallel place of chap. v. 17, 18. The truth is, there is not much need to contend about this expression, Mr Goodwin granting 566that the intendment of it is, “That such as are born of God do not walk ordinarily and customarily in any ways of known sin,” sect. 28; “which,” as he saith, “is the import of that phrase, ποιεῖν ἁμαρτίαν” (the contrary whereof might yet be easily evinced), — “he maketh no trade or occupation of sinning; that is, he doth not sin in an inconsistency of communion with God in the covenant of his grace.” Now, in this sense he granteth his proposition, “He that is born of God sinneth not,” — that is, ordinarily or customarily; that is, so as not to be accepted of God; that is, no believer sinneth at such a rate as not to be accepted with God. Add now hereunto the ground and reason of this assertion, namely, his being born of God, and the abiding of the seed in him, and we have obtained all that we desire to evince from this place. Because such an one is born of God (which is a reason which holdeth good to eternity, being an act irrevocably past), and because the seed abideth in him, he cannot sin ordinarily or customarily; which kind of sinning alone (as is supposed) can eject the abiding seed; — that is, he sinneth not beyond the rate of sins of infirmity, nor in any such way as should render him incapable of communion or acceptance with God.
The apostle nextly advanceth farther with his design, and saith, “He that is born of God cannot sin;” that is, that sin which he sinneth not he cannot sin; he cannot fall under the power of reigning sin unto death. I confess the words “can” and “cannot” are variously used in the Scriptures; some kind of impossibility, in one respect or other (for things may be in some regard impossible that are not so absolutely), it always denoteth. The whole of the variety in this kind may be referred to two heads:—
1. That which is morally impossible. Of that it is said that it cannot be done. 2 Cor. xiii. 8, saith Paul, “We can do nothing against the truth;” and Acts iv. 20, say the apostles, “We cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard.” It was morally impossible that ever any thing should have been done by Paul against the truth; or that the apostles, having received the Spirit, should not speak what they had seen and heard of Christ. And of many things that are thus morally impossible, there are most certain and determinate causes as to make the things so impossible as, in respect of the event, to be absolutely impossible. It is morally impossible that the devil should do that which is spiritually good, and yet absolutely impossible. There is more in many a thing that is morally impossible than a mere opposition to justice; as we say, “Illud possumus quod jure possumus.” The causes of moral impossibility may be such as to tie up the thing which it relateth unto in an everlasting non-futurition. There is also, —
2. An impossibility that is physical, from the nature of the things themselves. So Jer. xiii. 23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin?” 567— that is, he cannot. Matt. vii. 18, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit;” — that is, nothing can act contrary to its own natural principles. And, as we shall see afterward, there is this impossibility in the “cannot” here mentioned. They cannot do it, upon the account of the new spiritual nature wherewith they are endued.
Now, there may be a third kind of impossibility in spiritual things arising from both these, which one hath not ineptly called the ethico-physical or morally-natural, partaking of the nature of both the others. It is moral, because it relateth to duty, what is to be done or not to be done; and it is physical, because it relateth to a cause or principle that can or cannot produce the effect. So our Saviour telleth the Pharisees, “How can ye, being evil, speak good things?” or, “ye cannot,” Matt. xii. 34. “Ye cannot hear my word,” John viii. 43. It was morally impossible they should either speak or hear, — that is, either do or believe that which is spiritually good, — having no principle that should enable them thereunto, having no root that should bear up unto fruit, being evil trees in themselves, and having a principle, a root, continually, universally, uninterruptedly, inclining and disposing them another way, to acts of a quite contrary nature. Of this kind is that impossibility here intimated. The effect denied is morally impossible, upon the account of the internal physical cause hindering of it.
However, then, the word in the Scripture may be variously taken, yet here it is, from adjacent circumstances, evidently restrained to such a signification as, in respect of the event, absolutely rejecteth the thing denied. The gradation of the apostle also leadeth us to it. “He sinneth not,” nay, “he cannot sin.” “He cannot sin” riseth in the assertion of that before expressed, “He sinneth not;” which absolutely rejecteth the gloss that some seek to put upon the words, namely, “That ‘cannot sin’ is no more but ‘cannot sin easily, and cannot sin but as it were with difficulty, such is the antipathy and habitual opposition which they have to sin,’ ” which Mr Goodwin adhereth unto: for besides that this is in itself false, there being no such antipathy in any to sin but that they may easily fall into it, yea, and with great difficulty and labour do restrain [themselves] from it, as the apostle argueth at large, Rom. vii.; so is it also flatly contradictory to the words themselves. The apostle saith, “He that is born of God sinneth not, cannot sin.” “He can sin,” saith this gloss, “though difficultly.” Now, he that can sin difficultly, can sin. “Can sin” and “cannot sin” are flatly contradictory. He cannot, then, sin at all the sin that is intended in the place of whom it is said, “He cannot sin.”
Thus we have cleared the first proposition in the words, both as to the subject, “Every one that is born of God,” and the predicate, 568“Sinneth not, cannot sin;” which last expression, taken in its only proper and most usual signification, denoteth an impossibility of the event, and plainly confirmeth in direct terms the position we insist on from the words.
Mr Goodwin knoweth not well (if I am able to gather any thing of his thoughts from his expressions to the argument in hand) what to say to this assertion of the apostle. The argument he intendeth to deal withal from the place he casteth into this form: “He that sinneth not, neither can sin, cannot fall away; ‘whosoever is horn of God sinneth not, neither can sin:’ ergo.”
Coming to the consideration of that expression, “Cannot sin,” he findeth out, as he supposeth, four several acceptations in the Scripture of the word “cannot,” and giveth us an account of his thoughts upon the consideration of them, — that in respect of these senses both propositions are false. Now, one of the propositions being the express language and literal expression of the Holy Ghost, not varied in the least, there is no way to relieve himself from being thought and conceived to give the lie to the blessed Spirit of God, by flatly denying what he peremptorily affirmeth, but only by denying the word “cannot” to be taken in this place in any of the senses before mentioned. Doth he then fix on this course for his own extrication? doth he give in another sense of the word, which he accepts, and grants that in that sense the affirmation of the Holy Ghost may be true? Not in the least; yea, plainly, for one of the senses he supposeth himself to have found out of the word “cannot,” — namely, that it is said of men they cannot do such or such a thing, because of their averseness and indisposition to it, which he exemplifieth in that of Christ to the Pharisees, John viii. 43, — he afterward more than insinuateth that this is the sense wherein the words “Cannot sin” are in this place to be taken, sect. 34: so that he will not allow the Holy Ghost to speak the truth, although he take his words in what sense he pleaseth; yea, and adding a fifth sense, sect. 31 (which is all, it seemeth, he could find out, for we have heard not of any more), he denieth that to be the meaning of the place: and so shutteth up the mind of the Holy Ghost into some of those significations wherein if the words be taken, he saith, they are false. The discourse of Mr Goodwin, sect. 28–30 (being taken up with the consideration of the various significations of the word “cannot,” and his inferences thereon, taking it in this place, this way or that way, then it is so or so, showing himself very skilful at fencing and warding off the force of our arguments, — as perhaps his thoughts of himself were upon a review of what he had done), we are not concerned in. And though it were very easy to manifest that, in the distribution of his instances for the exemplification of the several significations which in part he feigneth and fasteneth upon the words, he hath been overtaken with many gross mistakes, 569some of them occasioned by other corrupt principles than those now under consideration, yet none of the senses insisted on by him coming really up to the intendment of the Holy Ghost, without any disadvantage to our cause in hand, being wholly unconcerned therein, we may pass by that whole harangue.
That which looketh towards the argument under consideration appeareth first in sect. 31, which he thus proposeth: “If the said argument understandeth the phrase ‘Cannot sin,’ according to the fifth and last import mentioned of the word ‘cannot,’ wherein it soundeth an utter and absolute incapacity and impossibility, then in this sense the major proposition is granted, namely, ‘He that doth not nor can sin cannot fall away from his faith.’ Yet the minor is tardy, which saith, ‘Whosoever is born of God sinneth not, neither can sin:’ for he that is born of God is in no such incapacity of sinning; of sinning, I mean, in the sense formerly asserted to the scripture in hand, which amounteth to an absolute impossibility for him so to sin.”
Ans. Because this seemeth to be the sense intended in the argument, and the minor proposition in this sense to be built upon the scripture in hand, let us consider whether the reason which is assigned for the said assertion doth necessarily enforce such a sense thereon. What we understand by this phrase, both as to that sin that is here intended, and that impossibility of committing it, or falling into it often, in that expression “cannot,” hath been before discovered. An impossibility it is of the event, from the causes above mentioned, that the Holy Ghost intendeth. An utter and absolute incapacity to sin on any account we assert not; an impossibility of so sinning, in respect of the event, for the reasons and from the causes above mentioned, the Holy Ghost averreth. In this sense the first proposition is granted: “He that doth not commit sin, nor can sin, cannot fall away from his faith, or can [not] utterly lose it.” The minor, which is the express language of the Holy Ghost, is questioned, and found tardy; that is, as I suppose, false. And the reason is added, namely, “That he that is born of God is in no such incapacity of sinning;” that is, of sinning in that kind of sinning which is here intended, which amounteth to an impossibility for him so to sin. Not to play fast and loose, under these ambiguous expressions of “incapacity” and “Absolute impossibility,” the event is positively denied upon the account of the prohibiting causes of it; and the incapacity asserted relateth not to the internal frame and principle only, but respecteth also other considerations. Whether these are such as to bear the weight of this exposition, is that which cometh nextly to be discussed; namely, the causes of this state and condition of those who are thus born of God, and the reasons investing that universal proposition, “Every one that is born of God cannot sin,” with a necessary truth.
570In the reasons added of the former affirmation, there is an emphatical distribution of the two parts of the predicate of the former proposition, by the way of ascending to a more vehement confirmation of them: “He that is born of God sinneth not.” But why so? “His seed remaineth; neither can he sin.” Why so? “Because he is born of God.” It is an expressive pursuit of the same thing, and not a redoubling of the proposition; and this contexture of the words is so emphatically significant that it seemeth strange how any head of opposition can be made against it. There is no reason, then, to resolve the words into two propositions of distinct consideration each from other, it being one and the same thing that the apostle intendeth to express, though proceeding to heighten the certainty of the thing in the minds of them to whom he delivered it by the contexture of the words which he maketh use of. What is meant or intended by the “seed of God” we need not dispute. The argument of the apostle lieth not in the words “seed of God,” nor in the word “abideth,” but in the whole, “The seed of God abideth;” and therefore it were to no purpose at all to follow Mr Goodwin in his consideration of the word “seed,” and then of the [words] “seed of God,” and then of the word “abideth,’ divided one from another. The sum of his long answer is, “The word ‘seed’ doth not import any such thing as is aimed at from the text., nor the word ‘abide;’ ” but to the whole proposition, “The seed of God abideth in him,” as produced to confirm the former assertion of the not sinning of the persons spoken of, there is nothing spoken at all. I shall therefore briefly confirm the argument in hand by the strength here communicated unto it by the Holy Ghost, and then consider what is answered to any part of it, or objected to the interpretation insisted on. That “lie that sinneth not, neither can sin,” in the sense explained, shall never fall away totally or finally from God, is granted. That believers sin not, nor can sin so, or in the manner mentioned, besides the testimony of the Holy Ghost, worthy of all acceptation, in the clear assertion of it, we have the reasons thereof manifested in the discovery of the causes of its truth. The first reason is, “Because the seed of God abideth in them.” A tacit grant seemeth to be made that fruit sometimes may not visibly appear upon them; as the case is with a tree in winter when it casts its leaves, but its seed remaineth. Grace may abide in the habit in and under a winter of temptation, though it doth not exert itself in bearing any such actual fruit as may be ordinarily visible. The word of God is sometimes called “incorruptible seed,” — seed causatively, as being an instrument in the hand of God whereby he planteth the seed of life and holiness in the heart. That it is not the outward word, but that which is produced and effected by it through the efficacy of the Spirit of God, that is by “seed” intended, is evident from the 571use and nature of it, and its abiding in the person in whom it is. Whatever it is, it is called “seed,” not in respect of that from whence it cometh, as is the cause and reason of that appellation of other seed, but in respect of that which it produceth, which ariseth and ensueth upon it; and it is called the “seed of God,” because God useth it for the regeneration of his. Being from God, being the principle of the regeneration of them in whom it is, abiding in them even when it hath brought forth fruit, and continuing so to do, it can be no other but the new creature, new nature, inward man, new principle of life or habit of grace, that is bestowed upon all believers, whence they are regenerated, quickened, or born again; of which we have spoken before.
This seed, saith the Holy Ghost, “abideth” or “remaineth in him.” Whatever falling or withering he may seem to have or hath, this seed, the seed of God, remaineth in him, — the principle of his new life abideth. Some exceptions are made, as we shall see afterward, to the signification of the word μένει, “remaineth,” and instances given where it signifieth “to be,” and denoteth the essence of a thing, not its duration. That to “abide,” or “remain,” is the proper signification of the word, I suppose will not be questioned. That it may in some place be used in another sense is not disputed. All that lieth under consideration here is, whether the word in this place be used properly, according to its genuine and first signification, or no. It supposeth, indeed, “to be” also, but properly signifieth only to “abide” or “remain.” Now, if nothing can be advanced, from the text or context, from the matter treated on or the parallel significancy of some expression that is in conjunction with it, that should enforce us to carry it from its proper use and signification, the instancing of other places, if any such be, wherein it is restrained to denote being, and not duration, is altogether impertinent to the business in hand. When an argument is urged from any place of Scripture, to pick out any word in the text, and to manifest that it hath been used improperly in some other place, and therefore must be so in that, is a procedure so far from an ingenuous answer, that it will scarce pass for a tolerable shift or evasion. To “remain,” then, or to “abide,” is the proper signification of this word, and nothing is in the least offered to manifest that it must necessarily in this place be diverted from its proper use.
According to the import of the word, the seed of God remaineth in believers. Now, that remaining of the seed is the cause of their not sinning that sin, or in that manner as the apostle here denieth them to be liable to sin; for that is the reason he giveth why they cannot sin, even because the seed of God remaineth in them. Mr Goodwin granteth that this seed remaineth in believers always, unless they sin by a total defection from God. Of not sinning the sin 572of total defection from God, the remaining or abiding of this seed is the cause. Whilst that abideth they cannot sin that sin; for it is an unquestionable cause, and uncontrollable, of their not so doing. This seed, therefore, must be utterly lost and taken away before any such sin can be committed. Now, if the seed cannot be lost without the commission of the sin, which cannot be committed till it be lost, neither can the seed be lost nor the sin be committed. The same thing cannot be before and after itself. He that cannot go such a journey unless he have such a horse, and cannot have such a horse unless he go such a journey, is like to stay at home. In what sense the words “Cannot sin” are to be taken was before declared. That there are sins innumerable whereinto men may fall notwithstanding this seed, is confessed. Under them all this seed abideth. So it would not do under that which we cannot sin because it abideth; but because it abideth that sin cannot be committed.
The latter part of the reason of the apostle’s assertion is, “For he is born of God;” which is, indeed, a driving on the former to its head and fountain. What it is to be “born of God” we need not dispute; it was sufficiently discovered in the mention that was made before of the “seed of God.” God, by his Holy Spirit bestowing on us a new spiritual life, which by nature we have not, and in respect of whose want we are said to be dead, is frequently said to “beget” us, James i. 18, and we are said to be “born of God.” He is the sovereign disposer, dispenser, and supreme fountain, of that life which is so bestowed on us, which we are begotten again unto, and are born with and by. And Jesus Christ, the mediator, is also said to have this “life in himself,” John v. 26, because he hath received the Spirit of the Father to give to his, for their quickening; who taketh of his, and thereby begetteth them anew. And this life which believers thus receive, and whereby, indeed, radically they become believers, is everywhere in Scripture noted as permanent and abiding. In respect of the original of it, it is said to be “from above, from heaven, of the will of God, of God;” as to its principle, to be “not of flesh, or blood, or of the will of man,” or of any thing done by us, but of the “seed of God, incorruptible seed, seed that abideth;” in respect of its duration, to be “eternal,” and that it may so be, to be safe-guarded, being “hid with Christ in God.” In this place, receiving this life from God is placed as the cause, and “Cannot sin” as the effect. “He cannot sin, for” or because, “he is born of God.” The connection that is between this cause and effect, or wherein the causality of being born of God to a not sinning doth consist, needs not be inquired into. That it hath such a causality the Holy Ghost hath asserted, and our argument resteth thereon. If that be the nature of regeneration or being born of God, that it doth exclude apostasy, then he that is regenerate or born of God, as every believer is, cannot 573so sin as to apostatize or fall totally from God; but that such is the nature of regeneration, whereby any one is born of God, the Holy Ghost here declareth, for he denieth apostasy upon the account of regeneration, “He cannot sin, because he is born of God;” which is that which we intended to demonstrate from this text of Scripture.
To evade the force of this argument, Mr Goodwin, as hath been declared, undertaketh to give an exposition of this place of Scripture, turning every stone, and labouring to wrest every word in it. The several significations of the words in other places are set out, and suppositions made of taking them this way or that way; but in what sense the scope of the matter treated on, and the most usual, known, common acceptations, call for their use in this place, nothing is spoken, neither is any clear answer once attempted to be given to the words of the text, speaking out and home to the conclusion we intend, or to the argument thence deduced. What I can gather up from sect. 31 and forwards, that may obstruct the thoughts of any in closing with the interpretation given, I shall consider and remove out of the way:— First, then, he giveth you this interpretation of these words, “Sinneth not,” or “Cannot sin:” “ ‘Every one that hath been born of God sinneth not;’ that is, whosoever hath, by the word and Spirit of God, been made partaker of the divine nature, so as to resemble God in the frame and constitution of his heart and soul, doth not, under such a frame or change of heart as this, make a trade or practice of sinning, or of walking in any course of inordinateness in the world. Yea, saith he, in the latter proposition, ‘Every such person doth not only or simply refrain sinning in such a sense, but he cannot sin;’ that is, he hath a strong and potent disposition in him which carrieth him another way, for he hath a strong antipathy or averseness of heart and soul against all sin, especially all such kind of sinning.”
Ans. 1. What is meant by being “born of God,” the way whereby any come so to be, the universality of the expression, requiring a necessary cause of its verity, with the like attendancies of the proposition, have been before declared.
2. What Mr Goodwin intendeth by such a “frame and constitution of heart and soul as may resemble God,” with his denial of the stowing on us from God of a vital principle of grace, wherein the renovation in us of his image should consist, hath in part also been already discovered, and will yet farther be so, in our consideration of his rare notion of regeneration, and its consisting in a man’s return to the innocent and harmless estate wherein he was born.
3. That “Sinneth not” is “Sinneth not that sin,” or “So sinneth not as to break his relation to God as a child,” hath been already also manifested, and the reader is not to be burdened with repetitions.
4. In the interpretation given of the latter phrase, “He cannot 574sin,” I cannot so sin against the light of the text as to join with Mr Goodwin in it. It is not the “antipathy of his heart to sin,” but the course of his walking with God in respect of sin, that the apostle treateth on. His internal principling against sin he hath from being “born of God” and the “abiding of his seed in him;” of which this, that “he cannot sin,” is asserted as the effect. “He cannot sin,” — that is, he cannot so sin upon the account of his being “born of God” (thence, indeed, he hath not only “a potent disposition another way and antipathy to evil,” but a vital principle with an everlasting enmity and repugnancy to and inconsistency with any such sin or sinning as is intimated); and that he cannot sin is the consequent and effect thereof, and is so affirmed to be by the Holy Ghost.
Nextly, Mr Goodwin giveth you the reason of this assertion used by the apostle, why such an one as of whom he speaketh sinneth not, and cannot sin: “ ‘Now the reason,’ saith the apostle, ‘why such a person committeth not sin in the sense explained is, because his seed, the seed of God, by whom and of which he was born of him, remaineth in him;’ that is, is, or hath an actual and present being or residence, in him. And that in this place it doth not signify any perpetual abiding, or any abiding in relation to the future, is evident, because the abiding of the seed here spoken of is given as the reason why he that is born of God doth not commit sin; that is, doth not frequently walk in any course of known sin. Now, nothing in respect of any future permanency or continuance of being can be looked upon as the cause of an effect, but only in respect of the present being or residence of it. The reason why the soul moveth today is not because it will move or act the body tomorrow, or because it is in the body today upon such terms that it will be in tomorrow also, much less because it is an immortal substance, but simply because it is now or this day in the body. So the reason why angels at this day do the will of God is not because they have such a principle of holiness or obedience in them which they cannot put off or lose to eternity, but because of such a principle as we speak of residing in them at present. Therefore, when John assigneth the remaining of the seed of God in him that is born of him for the reason why he doth not commit sin, certain it is that by this remaining of the seed he meaneth nothing else but the present residence or abode thereof in this person; and if his intent had been either to assert or imply a perpetual residence of this seed in him that is born of God, it had been much more proper for him to have saved it for a reason of the latter proposition, ‘He that is born of God cannot sin,’ than to have subjoined it as a reason of the former; for though the future continuance of the thing in being can be no reason of the effect present, yet it will be a ground or reason of the continuance of a present effect.”
Ans. I have thus at large transcribed this discourse, because it is 575the sum of what Mr Goodwin hath to offer for the weakening of our argument from this place. Of what weight this is will quickly appear; for, —
1. This reason, “The seed abideth in him,” though brought in illatively, in respect of what was said before, “He doth not commit sin,” yet hath its causal influence chiefly into that which followeth, “He cannot sin.” To make good what was first spoken of his not commiting sin that is born of God, the apostle discovereth the cause of it; which so far secureth the truth of that expression as that it causeth it to ascend, and calls him up higher, to a certain impossibility of doing of that which was only at first simply denied. Neither is this assertion, “The seed of God abideth in him,” any otherwise a reason of the first assertion, “He committeth not sin,” than as it is the cause of the latter, “He cannot sin.” Now, Mr Goodwin granteth, in the close of his discourse, that “the future continuance of a thing in being is, or may be, the cause of the continuance of an effect which at present it produceth;” — and what [ever] Mr Goodwin may more curiously discover of the intent of the apostle, his words plainly assert the continuance and abode of the seed of God in them in whom it is; and using it as he doth, for a reason of the latter clause of that proposition, “He cannot sin,” he speaketh properly enough, so great a master (of one language at least) as Mr Goodwin being judge.
2. The reason insisted on by the apostle is neither from the word “seed,” nor from the word “abideth,” nor from the nature of the seed simply considered, nor from its permanency and continuance, “The seed abideth;” so that it is no exception to the intendment of the apostle to assert the abiding of the seed not to be a sufficient cause of the proposition, because its abiding or permanency is not a cause of present not sinning, for it is not asserted that it is. His present not sinning in whom it is, is from God, his being born of God by the seed; his continuance and estate of not sinning (both which are intended) is from the abiding of the seed. The whole condition of the person, that “He sinneth not, neither can sin” (which terms regard his continued estate), is from the whole proposition, “The seed of God abideth in him.” Separate the permanency of the seed, which is asserted, in the consideration of it, and it respects only and solely the continuance of the effect which is produced by it as seed, or of the estate wherein any one is placed by being born of God. All that Mr Goodwin hath to offer in this case is, that the abiding of the seed is so asserted to be the reason of that part of the proposition, “He committeth not sin,” as not to be the cause τῆς αὐξήσεως, “He cannot sin;” when the abiding of the seed, singly considered, is not used as any reason at all of the first, nor in the proposition as it lieth, “The seed abideth,” any otherwise but as it is the cause of the latter, “He cannot sin.”
5763. Even the expression, “He committeth not sin,” denoteth not only the present actual frame and walking of him of whom it is spoken, but his estate and condition. Being once born of God, he committeth not sin. No one that is so born of God doth. None in the state and condition of a regenerate person doth so; that is, in his course and walking to the end. And this is argued not so much distinctly to the permanency of the seed, as from the seed with such an adjunct.
4. Mr Goodwin’s allusions to the soul and the obedience of angels are of little use, or none at all, to the illustration of the business in hand; for though the reason why the soul moveth the body today is not because it will move it tomorrow, yet the reason why the body moveth, and cannot but do so, is because it hath the soul abiding in it, and he that shall say, “He that liveth moveth, for he hath a soul abiding in him and cannot but move,” shall speak properly enough. And the reason why the angels do the will of God in heaven, — that is, actually continue in so doing, — is, because they have such a confirmed and uncontrollable principle of obedience. So that all these exceptions amount not to the least weakening of the apostle’s arguments.
Sect. 32. Our author giveth two instances to prove that the word μένει in the Scripture signifieth sometimes only “to be,” and not “to abide,” and they are, the one, John xiv. 17, and the other, 1 John iii. 14; and one argument to manifest that in the place under consideration it must needs signify a present abode and being, and not a continuance, etc.
Ans. 1. If any such places be found, yet it is confessed that it is an unusual sense of the word, and a thousand places of that kind will not enforce it to be so taken in another place, unless the circumstances of it and matter whereabout it treateth enforce that sense, and will not bear that which is proper.
2. Mr Goodwin doth not make it good by the instances he produceth that the word is tied up in any place to denote precisely only the being of a thing, without relation to its abiding and continuance. Of the one, John xiv. 17, “But ye know him, because he abideth with you, and shall be in you,” saith he, “The latter clause, ‘Shall be in you,’ will be found a mere tautology if the other phrase, ‘Abideth with you,’ importeth a perpetual residence or in-being.” But that this phrase, “Abideth with you,” importeth the same with the phrase in the foregoing verse, where it is clearly expounded by the addition of the term “For ever” (“That he may abide with you for ever”), I suppose cannot be questioned. Nor, —
3. Is there any the least appearance of a tautology in the words, his remaining with believers being the thing promised, and his in-being the manner of his abode with them. Also 1 John iii. 14, 577Μένει ἐν τῷ θανάτῳ, doth not simply denote an estate or condition, but an estate or condition in its nature, without the interposition of almighty grace, abiding and permanent; so that neither have we yet any instance of restraining the significancy of the word, as pretended, produced; nor, if any place could be so, would it in the least enforce that acceptation of the word in this place contended about. Wherefore Mr Goodwin, as I said, addeth an argument to evince that the word must necessarily be taken in the sense by him insisted on in this place; which is indeed a course to the purpose, if his argument prove so in any measure; it is this: “Because such a signification of it would render the sense altogether inconsistent with the scope of the apostle, which is to exhort Christians unto righteousness and love of the brethren. Now, it is contrary to common sense itself to signify unto those whom we persuade to any duty any such thing as imports an absolute certainty or necessity of their doing it, whether they take care or use any means for the doing of it or no; and a clear case it is that the certainty of a perpetual remaining of the seed of God in those that are born of him importeth a like certainty of their perpetual performance of that duty whereunto they are exhorted.”
Ans. If this be all, it might have been spared. The argument consisteth of two parts:— 1. An aspersion of the infinite wisdom of God with a procedure contrary to all reason and common sense. 2. A begging of the thing in question betwixt its author and its adversaries. That there is any thing at all in the text, even according to our interpretation of it, that importeth an absolute necessity of men’s doing any thing, whether they take care to use the means of doing it or no, the reader must judge. The abiding of the seed is that, we say, which shall effectually cause them in whom it is to use the means of not sinning, that eventually they may not do so; and that a certainty of the use of means is imported is no argument to prove that their necessity of persevering is proved, whether they use means or no. To take care to use means is amongst the means appointed to be used; and this they shall do upon the account of the abiding seed. That, indeed, which is opposed is, that God cannot promise to work effectually in us by the use of means, for the accomplishment of an appointed end, but that withal he rendereth useless and vain all his exhortations to us to use those means. This is Mr Goodwin’s argument from the place itself, to enforce that improper acceptation of the words “Remaineth in us.”
What remaineth of Mr Goodwin’s long discourse upon this text of Scripture is but a fencing with himself, and raising of objections and answering of them suitably to his own principles, wherein we are not in the least concerned. There is not any thing from the beginning to the end of it that tendeth to impeach our interpretation of the place, or impede the progress of our argument, but only a 578flourish set up on his own exposition; which if he were desired to give in briefly, and in terms of a plain, downright significancy, I am verily persuaded he would be hardly put to it to let us know what his mind and conceptions of this place of Scripture are. But of this subject, and in answer to his fifth argument, with the chapter, this is the issue.
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