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Chapter XVII. A review of passages in scripture adduced to prove the apostasy of saints.
The cause of proceeding in this chapter — Mr G.’s attempt, chap. xii. of his book — Of the preface to Mr G.’s discourse — Whether doctrine renders men proud and presumptuous — Mr G.’s rule of judging of doctrines called to the rule — Doctrine pretending to promote godliness, how far an argument of the truth — Mr G.’s pretended advantages in judging of truths examined — The first, of his knowledge of the general course of the Scriptures — Of the experience of his own heart — And his observations of the ways of others — Of his rational abilities — Ezek. xviii. 24, 25, proposed to consideration — Mr G.’s sense of this place — The words opened — Observations for the opening of the text — The words farther weighed — An entrance into the answer to the argument from hence — The words hypothetical, not absolute — Mr G.’s answer proposed and considered — Whether the words are hypothetical — The severals of the text considered — The “righteous man” spoken of, whom — Mr G.’s proof of his interpretation of a “righteous man” considered — Dr Prideaux’s sense of the righteous person here intended considered — Of the commination in the words,” Shall die” — The sense of the words — What death intended — Close of the consideration of the text insisted on — Matt. xviii. 32–35, taken into a review — Whether the love of God be mutable — What the love of God is — 1 Cor. ix. 27; in what sense it was possible for Paul to become a reprobate — The proper sense of the place insisted on manifested — Of the meaning of the word ἀδόκιμος — The scope of the place farther cleared — Heb. vi. 4–8, x. 26–29, proposed to consideration — Whether the words be conditional — The genuine and true meaning of the place opened in six observations — Mr G.’s exceptions to the exposition of the words insisted on removed — The persons intended not true believers — This evinced in sundry considerations — The particulars of the text vindicated — Of the illumination mentioned in the text — Of the acknowledgment of the truth ascribed to the persons mentioned — Of the sanctification mentioned in the text — Of tasting the heavenly gift — To be made partakers of the Holy Ghost, what — Of tasting the good word of God and powers of the world to come — Of the progress made by men not really regenerate in the things of God — The close of our considerations on these texts — Heb. x. 38, 39 — Mr G.’s arguing from thence considered and answered — Of the 607right translation of the words — Beza vindicated, as also our English translators — The words of the text effectual to prove the saints’ perseverance — Of the parable of the stony ground, Matt. xiii. 20, 21 — Mr G.’s arguing from the place proposed and considered — The similitude in the parable farther considered — An argument from the text to prove the persons described not to be true believers — 2 Pet. ii. 18–22 — Mr G.’s arguings from this place considered, etc.
Though I could willingly be spared the labour of all that must ensue to the end of this treatise, yet, it being made necessary by the endeavours of men not delighting in the truth which hitherto we have asserted for the opposition thereof, and lying, I hope, under the power and efficacy of that heavenly exhortation of “contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,” I shall with all cheerfulness address myself thereunto; yea, the service and homage I owe to the truth itself, causing this engagement for its rescue from under the captivity wherein by the chains of Mr Goodwin’s rhetoric it hath been some time detained, being increased and doubled by the pressing and violent wresting of sundry texts of Scripture to serve in the same design of bondaging the truth with him, is a farther incitation to add my weak endeavours to break open those doors and bars which he hath shut and fastened upon them both, for their joint deliverance.
In Mr Goodwin’s 12th chapter, he takes into participation with him, as is pretended, eight places of Scripture, endeavouring by all means possible to compel them to speak comfortable words for the relief of his fainting and dying cause. Whether he hath prevailed with them to the least compliance, or whether he will not be found to proclaim in their name what they never once acknowledged unto him, will be tried out in the process of our consideration of them.
In the first and second sections he fronts the discourse intended with an eloquent oration, partly concerning the tendency of the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, which he girds himself now more closely to contend withal, partly concerning himself, his own ability, industry, skill, diligence, and observation of doctrines and persons, with his rules in judging of the one and the other.
For the first, he informs us that his judgment is, “That many who might have attained a ‘crown of glory,’ by a presumptuous conceit of the impossibility of their miscarrying, are now like to ‘suffer the vengeance of eternal fire;’ men thereby gratifying the flesh with wresting the Scriptures to the encouragement thereof.”
That the proud and presumptuous conceits of men are like to have no other issue or effect than the betraying of their souls to all manner of looseness and abominations, so exposing them to the “vengeance of eternal fire,” we are well assured; and therefore, “knowing the terror of the Lord, we do persuade men,” what we are able, to cast down all high thoughts and imaginations concerning their own abilities to 608do good, to believe, to obey the gospel, or to abide in the faith thereof, and to roll themselves freely, fully, wholly, on the free grace and faithfulness of God in the covenant of mercy, ratified in the blood of his Son, wherein they shall be assured to find peace to their soul. On this foundation do we build all our endeavours for the exalting the sovereign, free, effectual grace of God, in opposition to the proud and presumptuous conceits of men concerning their own inbred, native power in spiritual things, — an apprehension whereof, we are well assured, disposeth the heart into such a frame as God abhors, and prepares the soul to a battle against him, in the highest and most abominable rebellion imaginable. I no ways doubt that the ways and means whereby innumerable poor creatures have been hardened to their eternal ruin have had all their springs and fountains lie in this one wretched reserve, of a power in themselves to turn to God and to abide with him. That any one by mixing the promises of God with faith, wherein the Lord hath graciously assured him, that, seeing he hath no strength in himself to continue in his mercy, he will preserve and keep him in and through the Son of his love, hath ever been, or ever can be, turned wholly aside to any way or path not acceptable to God, or not ending in everlasting peace, will never be made good, whilst the gospel of Christ finds honour and credit amongst any of the sons of men. There may be some, indeed, who are strangers to the covenant of promise, whatever they do pretend, who may turn this grace of God in the gospel, as also that of the satisfaction of Christ, redemption by his blood, and justification by faith, the whole doctrine of the covenant of grace in Christ, into lasciviousness. But shall their unbelief make the faith of God of none effect? shall their wickedness and rebellion prejudice the mercy, peace, and consolation of the saints? Because the gospel is to them the “savour of death unto death,” may it not be the “savour of life unto life” unto them that do embrace it? Whatever, then, be the disasters of men (of which themselves are the sole cause) with their presumptuous conceits of the impossibility of miscarrying, — seeing every presumptuous conceit, of what kind soever, is a desperate miscarriage, — their ruin and destruction cannot in the least be ascribed to that doctrine which calls for faith in the promises of God, a faith working by love, and decrying all presumptuous conceits whatever; a doctrine without which, and the necessary concomitant doctrines thereof, the whole bottom of men’s walking with God, and of their obedience, is nothing but presumption and conceit, whereby, setting aside the cold fits they are sometimes cast into by the checks of their consciences, they spend their days in the distemper of a fever of pride and folly.
In the ensuing discourse, Mr Goodwin informs us of these two things:— First, What rule he proceeds by in judging of the truth of 609contrary opinions, when, as he phraseth it, “the tongue of the Scripture seems to be cloven about them.” And, Secondly, Of his own advantages and abilities to make a right judgment according to that rule. The rule he attends unto, upon the information he hath given us, is, “The consideration of which of the opinions that are at any time rivals for his judgment and acceptation tends most unto godliness, the gospel being the truth which is according to godliness.” Of his own advantages and abilities to make a right judgment according to this rule, there are several heads and springs; as, “his knowledge of the general course of the Scripture, the experience of his own heart, his long observation of the spirits and ways of men, but chiefly that light of reason and understanding which he hath.” And by this rule, with these abilities, proceeding in the examination of the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, he condemns it, and casts it out as an abominable thing, preferring that concerning their final defection far above it. Some considerations I shall add to attend upon his rule and principles:—
First, it is most certain that the gospel is a “doctrine according unto godliness,” whose immediate and direct tendency, as in the whole frame and course of it, so in every particular branch and stream, is to promote that obedience to God in Christ which we call godliness. “This is the will of God,” revealed therein, “even our sanctification.” And whatever doctrine it be that is suited to turn men off from walking with God in that way of holiness, it carries its brand on its face? whereby every one that finds it may know that it is of the unclean spirit, the evil one; But yet that there may be fearful and desperate deceits in the hearts of men judging of truths, pretending their rise and original from the gospel by their suitableness to the promotion of godliness and holiness, hath been before in part declared, and the experience of all ages doth sufficiently manifest. Among all those who profess the name of Christ more or less in the world, though in and under the most antichristian opposition to him, who is there that doth not pretend that this tendency of opinions unto godliness, or their disserviceableness thereunto, hath a great influence into the guidance of their judgment in the receiving or rejecting of them? On the account of its destructiveness to godliness and obedience do the Socinians reject the satisfaction and merit of Christ; and on the account of conducingness thereunto do the Papists assert and build up the doctrines of their own merits, penance, satisfaction, and the like. On that principle did they seem to be acted who pressed legal and judicial suppositions, with “a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body,” Col. ii. 23. Neither did they fail of their plea concerning promotion of godliness in the worship of God, who reviled, rejected, and persecuted the ordinances of Christ in this generation, to set up their 610own abominations in their room. Yea, it is generally the first word wherewith every abomination opens its mouth in the world, though the men of those abominations do rather suppose this pretence of godliness to be serviceable for the promotion of their opinions than their opinions any way really useful to the promotion of godliness.
Neither need we go far to inquire after the reasons of men’s miscarriages, pretending to judge of truth according to this rule, seeing they lie at hand, and are exposed to the view of all; for besides that very many of the pretenders to this plea may be justly suspected to be men of corrupt minds, dealing falsely and treacherously with their own souls and the truth, — the pretence of furthering holiness being one of the cunning sleights wherewith they lie in wait to deceive, which may justly be suspected of them who, together with this plea, and whilst they make it, are apparently themselves loose and remote from the power of a gospel conversation, as the case hath been with not a few of the most eminent assertors of Arminianism, — how few are there in the world who have indeed a true notion and apprehension of the nature of holiness in its whole compass and extent, as in the fountain, causes, rise, use, and end thereof! And if men know not indeed what holiness is, how shall they judge what doctrine or opinion is conducing to the furtherance thereof or is obstructive to it?
Give me a man who is persuaded that he hath power in himself being by the discovery of a rule directed thereunto, to yield that obedience to God which he doth require; who supposeth that threats of hell and destruction are the greatest and most powerful and effectual motive unto that obedience; that the Spirit and grace of God to work and create a new heart in him, as a suitable principle of all holy actings, are not purchased nor procured for him by the blood of Christ, nor is there any holiness wrought in him by the almighty efficacy of that Spirit and grace, he having a sufficiency in himself for these things; that there is not a real physical concurrence of the grace of God for the production of every good act whatever; and that he is justified upon the account of any act or part of his obedience or of the whole, — and I shall not be much moved or shaken with the judgment of that man concerning the serviceableness and suitableness of any doctrine or doctrines to the furtherance of godliness and holiness. There are also many different opinions about the nature of godliness, what it is, and wherein it doth consist. I desire to be informed how a man may be directed in his examination of those opinions, supposing him in a strait and exigency of thoughts between them, in considering which of them is best suited to the promotion of godliness. I do not intend in the least to derogate from the certain and undoubted truth of what was premised at the beginning of this discourse, namely, “That every gospel 611rule whatever is certainly conducing to the furtherance of gospel obedience in them that receive it in the love and power thereof,” every error being in its utmost activity (especially in corrupting the principles of it) obstructive thereunto; much less do we in any measure decline the trim of the doctrine which I assert, in opposition to [the doctrine of] the apostasy of the saints, by this touchstone of its usefulness to holiness, having formerly manifested its eminent activity and efficacy in that service, and the utter averseness of its corrival to lend any assistance thereunto. But yet I say, in an inquiry after and dijudication of truth, whatever I have been or may be straitened between different persuasions, I have [chosen], and shall rather choose, in the practice of holiness, in prayer, faith, and waiting upon God, to search the Scripture, to attend wholly to that rule, having plentiful promises for guidance and direction, than to weigh in any rational consideration of my own what is conducing to holiness, what not, especially in many truths which have their usefulness in this service (as is the case of most gospel ordinances and institutions of worship), not from the connection of things, but from the mere will of the Appointer. Of those doctrines, I confess, which, following on to know the Lord, we know from his word to be from him, and which in doing the will of Christ are revealed to us to be his will, a peculiar valuation is to be set on the head of them which appear to be peculiarly and eminently serviceable to the promotion and furthering of our obedience; as also, that all opinions whatever that are in the least seducers from the power, truth, and spirituality of obedience, are not of God, and are eo nomine to be rejected: yet, having a more sure rule to attend unto, I dare not make my apprehensions concerning the tendency of doctrines any rule, if God hath not so spoken of them, for the judging of their truth or falsehood, if my thoughts are not shut up and determined by the power of the word.
The next proposal made by Mr Goodwin is of the advantages he hath to judge of truths; which he hath done unto plenary satisfaction, according to the rule now considered. The first thing he offereth to induce us to close with him in his judgment of opinions is, “the knowledge he hath of the general course of the Scripture.” What is intended by “the general course of the Scripture” well I know not; and so I am not able to judge of Mr Goodwin’s knowledge thereof by any thing exposed to public view. If by “the general course of the Scriptures” the matter of them is intended, the importance of the expression seems to be coincident with the “analogy or proportion of faith,” a safe rule of prophecy; — but whatever Mr Goodwin’s knowledge may be of this, I am not perfectly satisfied that he hath kept close unto it in many doctrines of his book entitled “Redemption Redeemed;” and so the weight of his skill in judging of truths on this foundation will not balance what I have to lay against it for the 612inducement of other thoughts than those of closing with him. The “course of the Scripture” cannot import the manner of the expressions therein used, in that there is so great and so much variety therein that it can scarce be cast into one course and current; and if the general scope, aim, and tendency of the Scripture may pass for the “course of it,” there is not any one thing that lies so evident and clear therein as the decrying of all that ability, and strength, and power to do good in men, which Mr Goodwin so much pleads for and asserts to be in them, with an exaltation of that rich and free grace, in the efficacy and the power of it, which he so much opposeth.
The “experimental knowledge he hath of his own heart, the workings and reasonings thereof,” a thing common to him with others, and what advantages he hath thereby, I shall not consider; only, this I shall dare to say, that I would not for all the world have no experience in my heart of the truth of many things which Mr Goodwin in this treatise opposeth, or that my weak experience of the grace of God should not rise above that frame of heart and spirit which the teachings of it seem to discover. I doubt not, a person under the covenant of works, heightened with convictions, and a low or common work of the Spirit, induced thereby to some regular walking before God, may reach the utmost of what in this treatise is required to render a man a saint, truly gracious, regenerate, and a believer.
And in this also, I doubt not, lies the deceit of what is thirdly insisted on, namely, “his observation of the ways and spirits of men, their firstings and lastings in religion.” A sort of men there are in the world who escape the outward pollution of it, and are clean in their own eyes, though they are never washed from their iniquities; who having been under strong convictions by the power of the law, and broken [off] thereby from the course of their sin, attending to the word of the gospel with a temporary faith, do go forth unto a profession of religion and walking with God so far as to have “all the lineaments of true believers,” as Mr Goodwin somewhere speaks, “drawn in their faces,” — hearing the word gladly, as did Herod; receiving it with joy, as did the stony ground; attending to it with delight, as they did in Ezek. xxxiii. 31; repenting of former sins, as did Ahab and Judas; until they are reckoned among true believers, as was Judas and those in John ii. 23, who yet were never united unto Jesus Christ; — of whose ways and walking Mr Goodwin seems to have made observation, and found many of them to end in visible apostasy. But that this observation of them should cause him to judge them, when apostatized, to have been true believers, or that he is thereby advantaged to determine concerning the truth of several opinions pretending to his acceptance, I cannot grant, nor doth he go about to prove.
For what he mentions in the last place, of the “light of reason and understanding” which he hath, I do not only grant him to have it “in 613common,” as he saith, “with other men,” for the kind of it, but also, as to the degrees of it, to be much advanced therein above the generality of men; yet I must needs tell him, in the close, that all these helps and advantages, seeming to be drawn forth and advanced in opposition to that one great assistance, which we enjoy by promise of Christ, of his Spirit leading us into all truth, and teaching us from God by his own anointing, are to me “hay and stubble,” yea, “loss and dung,” — of no value or esteem. Had we not other ways and means, helps and advantages, to come to the knowledge of the truth, than these here unfolded and spread forth by Mr Goodwin, actum esset, we should never perceive the things that are of God. The fox was acquainted with many wiles and devices; the cat knew unum magnum, wherein she found safety. Attendance to the word, according to the direction of the usual known rules and helps agreed on for the interpretation of it, with humble dependence on God; waiting for the guidance of his Spirit, according to the promise of his dear Son; asking him of him continually, that he may dwell with us, anoint, and lead us into all truth; with an utter abrenunciation of all our skill, abilities, wisdom, and any resting on them, knowing that it is God alone that gives us understanding, — is the course that hitherto hath been used in our inquiry after the mind of God in the doctrine under consideration, and which, the Lord assisting, shall be heeded and kept close unto in that discussion of the texts of Scripture wrested by Mr Goodwin, as by others before him, to give countenance to his opposition to the truth hitherto uttered, confirmed, and vindicated from his contradictions thereunto.
The place of Scripture first insisted on, and on the account whereof he triumphs with the greatest confidence of success, is that of Ezek. xviii. 24, 25; unto which words he subjoins a triumphant, exulting exclamation:—
“What more,” saith he, “can the understanding, judgment, soul, and conscience of a man reasonably desire, for the establishment in any truth whatsoever, than is delivered by God himself in this passage, to evince the possibility of a righteous man’s declining from his righteousness, and that unto death?”
The counsel given of old to the king may not be unseasonable to Mr Goodwin, in that dominion which he exerciseth in his own thoughts in this work of his, “Let not him that putteth on his armour boast like him that putteth it off.” You have but newly entered the lists, and that with all pressed soldiers, unwilling so much as once to appear in that service they are forced to. If you will but suspend your triumph until we have made a little trial of your forces, and your skill in managing of them to the battle, perhaps you may be a little taken off from this confidence of success. Notwithstanding the forcing of this scripture upon the truth, being 614cut off and taken away from that coherence, and connection, and station, wherein it is placed of God (which is not in the least inquired into), it will be found in the issue to bear it no ill-will at all, as will also be manifested by the light of the ensuing considerations:—
1. The matter under inquiry, and into a disquisition of whose state we have hitherto been engaged, is the condition of the saints of God, and his dealing with them in and under the covenant of grace in general. For our guidance and direction herein, a text of Scripture, evincing the righteousness of God’s dealings with a number of persons, in a peculiar case which was under debate, is produced; and by the tenor of this, and according to the tenor of the reasonings therein, must all the promises of God in the covenant of grace, made and ratified by the blood of Christ, be regulated and interpreted! We have been told, by as learned a man as Mr Goodwin, “That promises made to the people of the Jews peculiarly, and suited to the peculiar state and condition wherein they were, do not concern the people of God in general;” and why may not the same be the condition of threatenings given out upon a parallel account? “Compedes quas fecit ipse ut ferat æquum est.”
2. That it is the determination and stating of a particular controversy between God and the people of the Jews, suited to a peculiar dispensation of his providence towards them, which is here proposed, is evident from the occasion of the words, laid down verses 2, 3, “What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord God,” etc. It is the use of a proverb concerning the land of Israel that God is decrying, and disproving the truth of the proverb itself under consideration; and that this should be the standard and rule of God’s proceeding with his people in the covenant of mercy, no man that seems to have either understanding, judgment, or conscience, can reasonably imagine.
3. That it is not the nature and tenor of the covenant of grace, and God’s dealing with his chosen secret ones, his saints, true believers, as to their eternal condition, which in these words is intended, but the manifestation of the righteousness of God in dealing with that people of the Jews, in a peculiar dispensation of his providence towards the body of the people and the nation in general, appears farther from the occasion of the words and the provocation given the Lord to make use of those expressions unto them. The proverb that God cuts out Of their lips and mouths by the sword of his righteousness in those words was “concerning the land of Israel;” used perhaps mostly by them in captivity. But it was concerning the land of Israel, not concerning the eternal state and condition of the saints of God, but concerning the land of Israel, verse 2. God had of old given that land to that people by promise, and continued them in it 615for many generations, until at length, for their wickedness, idolatry, abomination, and obstinacy in their evil ways, he caused them to be carried captive unto Babylon. In that captivity the Lord revenged upon them not only the sins of the present generation, but, as he told them, also those of their forefathers; especially the abomination, cruelty, idolatry, exercised in the days of Manasseh, taking this season for his work of vengeance on the generations following, who also so far walked in the steps of their forefathers as to justify all God’s proceedings against them. Being wasted and removed from their own land by the righteous judgment of God, they considered the land of Israel, that was promised to them (though upon their good behaviour therein), and how, instead of a plentiful enjoyment of all things in peace and quietness therein, there were now a small remnant in captivity, the rest, the far greatest part, being destroyed by the sword and famine in that land. In this state and condition, being, as all others of their frame and principle, prone to justify themselves, they had hatched a proverb among themselves concerning the land of Israel promised to them, exceedingly opprobrious and reproachful to the justice of God in his dealings with them. The sum of the intendment of this saying that was grown rife amongst them was, that for the sins of their forefathers, many, yea, the greatest part of them, were slain in the land of Israel, and the rest carried from it into bondage and captivity. To vindicate the righteousness and equity of his ways, the impartiality of his judgments, the Lord recounts to them by his prophet many of their sins, whereof themselves with their fathers were guilty, in the land of their nativity, and for which he had brought all that calamity and desolation upon them whereof they did complain; alarming, under many supposals of rising and falling, that principle of rising and falling, that principle he laid down in the entrance of his dealings with them, — that every one of them suffered for his own iniquity, whatever they suffered, whether death or other punishment, and not for the sins of their forefathers, whatever influence they might have upon the procuring of the general vengeance that overtook the whole nation in the midst of their iniquity. This being the aim, scope, and tendency of the place, the import of the words and tenor of God’s intendment in them, I cannot but wonder how any man of understanding and conscience can once imagine that God hath given any testimony to the possibility of falling out of covenant with him of those whom he hath taken nigh to himself through the blood of his Son in the everlasting bond thereof; as though it were any thing of his dealing with the saints in reference to their spiritual and eternal condition that the Lord here reveals his will about, being only the tenor of his dealings with the house of Israel in reference to the land of Canaan.
4. This is farther manifest in that principle and rule of God’s proceedings 616in the matter, laid down verse 4; which is not only alien from, but also directly opposite unto, that which is the principle in the covenant of grace, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” — that soul and person, and not another, — when in that covenant of grace he “setteth forth his Son to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, giving him up to death for all, causing the just to die for the unjust,” the soul that never sinned for the souls that had sinned, that they might go free. And I would fain know on what solid grounds an answer may be given to the Socinians’ triumphing in the 4th verse against the satisfaction of Christ, no less than Mr Goodwin in the 24th and 25th, against the perseverance of the saints, if you do not manifest the whole tendency of this place to be accommodated to God’s providential dispensation of temporal judgments and mercies in respect of that people and the covenant whereby they held the land of Canaan, and not at all to respect the general dispensation of his righteousness and grace in the blood of Christ. So that, —
5. The whole purport and intendment of the scripture under consideration is only to manifest the tenor of God’s righteous proceeding with the people of Israel, in respect of his dispensation towards them in reference to the land of Canaan. Convincing them of their own abominations, confuting the profane proverb invented and reared up in the reproach of his righteousness, beating them from the vain pretence of being punished for their fathers’ sins, and from the conceit of their own righteousness, which that people was perpetually puffed up withal, he lets them know that his dealing with them and his ways towards them were equal and righteous, in that there was none of them but was punished for his own sin; and though some of them might have made some profession and done some good, yet upon the whole matter, first or last, they had all declined, and therefore ought to own the punishment of their sins, God dealing severely, and unto death and destruction, with none but those who either wholly or upon the sum of the matter turned away from his judgments and statutes. So that, —
6. This being the tenor and importance of the words insisted on, this their tendency, aim, and accommodation to the objection levied against the righteousness of God in dealing with that people, this their rise and end, their spring and fall, it is evident beyond all contradiction, front any thing but prejudice itself, that all the inquiries and disputes about them, — as, whether the declaration of the mind of God in them be hypothetical or absolute, what is meant by the righteous person, what by his turning away, and what by the death threatened (all which expressions of the text are in themselves ambiguous, and must be limited from the circumstances of the place), — are altogether useless and needless, the words utterly refusing any accommodation to the business of our present debate. So that, —
6177. This dependence of the words, scope of the context, design of the place, and intendment of God in it, [and] the accommodation of the whole discourse to the removal of the objection and disproving of the proverbial self-justification of a sinful people, — the only directories in the investigation of the true, proper, native, genuine sense and meaning of them, — [having been neither] eyed, weighed, nor considered by Mr Goodwin, who knew how much it was to his advantage to rend away these two verses from the body of the prophet’s discourse, I might well supersede any farther proceedings in the examination of what he has prepared for a reply to the answers commonly given to the argument taken from this place; yet, that all security imaginable may be given to the reader of the inoffensiveness of this place as to the truth we maintain, I shall briefly manifest that Mr Goodwin hath not indeed effectually taken up and off any one answer, or any one parcel of any such, that hath usually been given by our divines unto the objection against the doctrine of perseverance hence levied.
That which naturally first offers itself to our consideration is, the form and tenor of the expressions here used, which is not of an absolute nature, but hypothetical The import of the words is, “If a righteous man turn from his righteousness, and continue [not] therein, he shall die.” “True,” say they who make use of this consideration, “God here proposes the desert of sin, and the connection that is, by his appointment, between apostasy and the punishment thereunto allotted; but this not at all infers that any one who is truly righteous shall or may everlastingly so apostatize. Such comminations as these God maketh use of to caution believers of the evil of apostasy, and thereby to preserve them from it; as their tendency to that end, by the appointment of God, and their efficacy thereunto, hath been declared. So that, because God says, ‘If a righteous man turn from his righteousness, he shall die,’ the whole emphasis lying in the connection that is between such turning away and dying, to conclude (considering what is the proper use and intendment of such threatenings) that a man truly righteous may so fall away, is to build up that which the text contributes not any thing to in the least.”
Against this plea Mr Goodwin riseth up with much contempt and indignation, chap. xii. sect. 9, in these words:—
“But this sanctuary hath also been profaned by some of the chief guardians themselves of that cause for the protection and safety whereof it was built. There needs no more be done (though much more might be done, yea, and hath been done by others) than that learned doctor so lately named hath done himself for the demolishing of it. Having propounded the argument from the place in Ezekiel according to the import of the interpretation asserted by us, 618‘Some,’ saith he, ‘answer, that a condition proves nothing in being; which how true soever it may be in respect of such hypotheticals which are made use of only for the amplification of matters, and serve for the aggravating either of the difficulty or indignity of a thing (as, ‘If I should climb up into heaven, thou art there,’ Ps. cxxxix.; it were ridiculous to infer, therefore a man may climb up into heaven), yet such conditional sayings upon which admonitions, promises, or threatenings are built, do at least suppose something in possibility, however, by virtue of their tenor and form, they suppose nothing in being: for no man seriously intending to encourage a student in his way would speak thus to him, ‘If thou wilt get all the books in the university library by heart, thou shalt be doctor this commencements.’ Besides, in the case in hand, he that had a mind to deride the prophet might readily come upon him thus: ‘But a righteous man, according to the judgment of those that are orthodox, cannot turn away from his righteousness; therefore your threatening is in vain.’ Thus we see to how little purpose it is to seek for starting poles in such logic quirks as these.’ Thus far the great assertor of the synod of Dort and the cause which they maintained, to show the vanity of such a sense or construction put upon the words now in debate which shall render them merely conditional, and will not allow them to import so much as a possibility of any thing contained or expressed in them.”
Ans. 1. Doctor Prideaux’s choosing not to lay the weight of this answer to the argument of the Arminians from this place on the hypothetical manner of the expression used therein, is called a “defiling the sanctuary by the guardians of the cause whose protection it undertakes.”
Librat in antithetis; doctas posuisse figuras
Pers., Sat. i. 85–87.
What are my thoughts of it I need not express, being unconcerned in the business, as knowing it not at all needful to be insisted on for the purpose for which it is produced, the text looking not at all towards the doctrines under consideration; yet I must needs say, I am not satisfied with the doctor’s attempt for the removal of it, nor with what is farther added by the Remonstrants in the place which we are sent unto by Mr Goodwin’s marginal directions. Though it should be granted that such conditional expressions do suppose, or may (for that they always do is not affirmed, and in some cases it is evident they do not), that there is something in posse, as the doctor speaks, whereunto they do relate, yet they do not infer that the possibility may by no means be hindered from ever being reduced into act. We grant a possibility of desertion in believers, in respect of their own principles of operation, — which is ground sufficient for to 619give occasion to such hypothetical expressions as contain comminations and threatenings in them, — but yet, notwithstanding that possibility on that account supposed, [on the point whether] the bringing forth of that possibility into an actual accomplishment may not be effectually prevented by the Spirit and grace of God, the doctor says nothing. This, I say, is ground sufficient for such hypothetical comminations, that in respect of them to whom they are made, it is possible to incur the thing threatened by the means therein mentioned, which yet upon other accounts is not possible; that God who says, “If the righteous man turn from his righteousness, he shall die,” and says so on purpose to preserve righteous men from so doing, knowing full well that the thing, in respect of themselves of whom and to whom he speaks, is sufficiently possible to give a clear foundation to that expression. So that if Mr Goodwin hath not something of his own to add, he will find little relief from the conceptions of that learned doctor; wherein yet I should not have translated some phrases and expressions, as Mr Goodwin hath made bold to do.
He adds, therefore, p. 276, “To say that God putteth a case in such solemnity and emphaticalness of words and phrase as are remarkable all along in the carriage of the place in hand, of which there is no possibility that it should ever happen or be exemplified in reality of event, and this in vindication of himself and the equity of his dealings and proceedings with men, is to bring a scandal and reproach of weakness upon that infinite wisdom of his which magnifies itself in all his works; which also is so much the more unworthy and unpardonable when there is a sense commodious, every way worthy as well the infinite wisdom as the goodness of God, pertinent and proper to the occasion he hath in hand, which offers itself plainly and clearly.” So far he.
And this is all, it seems, which Mr Goodwin hath to add. And, indeed, this all is nothing at all, but only the repetition of what was urged before by the doctor, in more swelling and less significant terms. What possibility there is in the thing hath been before manifested. That this possibility should necessarily be exemplified in reality of event, to give significancy to this expression, I suppose is not Mr Goodwin’s own intendment. True believers, according to the doctrine he asserts (as he pretends), are only in such a remote possibility of apostasy as that it can scarce be called danger. Now, doubtless, it is possible that such a remote possibility may never be reduced into act. But now if Mr Goodwin will not be contented with such a possibility as may, but also will have that [which] must be exemplified in reality of event, he has advanced from a possibility in all to a necessity in some to apostatize.
2. Had Mr Goodwin a little more attended to what here drops 620from him, — namely, “That the words are used for the vindication of the justice of the proceedings of God,” namely, in the particular case formerly opened and cleared, — perhaps he would himself have judged the edge of this weapon to be so far blunted as to render it wholly useless to him in the combat wherein he is engaged. I hope, at least, that by the light of this spark he may apprehend the emphaticalness of all the expressions used in this place to be pointed towards the particular case under consideration, and not in the least to be expressive of the possibility he contends for. God knows what beseems his own infinite wisdom, and hath given us rules to judge thereof, as far as we are called thereto, in his word; and from thence, whether Mr Goodwin will pardon us or no in our so doing, we doubt not to evince that it exceedingly becomes the infinitely wise God emphatically to express that connection that is between one thing and another (sin and punishment, believing and salvation), by his appointment, though some never believe unto salvation, nor some sin to the actual inflicting of punishment on them. And as for Mr Goodwin’s “commodious sense” of this place, we see not any advantage in it for any but those who are engaged into an opposition to the covenant of the grace of God and his faithfulness therein. So that once more, upon the whole matter, this text is discharged from farther attendance in the trial of the truth in hand.
The severals of the text come nextly under consideration, and amongst them, first, the subject spoken of (that we may take the words in some order, Mr Goodwin having roved up and down, backwards and forwards, from one end of the text to the other, without any at all), and this is, “A righteous man;” that is, such an one as is described, verses 5–9, “But if a man,” etc.; that is, such an one as walks up to the judgments, and statutes, and ordinances of God, so far as they were of him required in the covenant of the land of Canaan, and according to the tenor of it, whereby they held their possession therein, and whereby heavenly things were also shadowed out. That this is the person intended, this his righteousness, and this the matter upon which he is here tried, is clear in the contexts beyond all possible contradiction; so that all farther inquiries into what righteousness is intended is altogether needless. What with any colour of probability can be pretended from hence as to the matter in hand arises from the analogy of God’s dealings with men in the tenor of the covenant of grace and the covenant of the land of Israel; which yet are eminently distinguished in the very foundation of them, the one being built upon this bottom, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” the other upon a dispensation of another import, as has been declared. We do, then, plainly supererogate as to the cause in hand, by the confutation of the answers which Mr Goodwin farther attempts to remove, and his endeavour therein; which yet shall not be declined.
621Sect. 8. One exposition, by some insisted on, of this term “A righteous man,” is thus proposed by Mr Goodwin: “Notwithstanding, some formerly, it seems, in favour of the doctrine, attempted an escape from that sword of Ezekiel lately drawn against it, by pretending that by the ‘righteous man’ mentioned in the passage in hand is not meant a person truly and really righteous, but a kind of formal hypocrite, or outside professor of righteousness.”
Those who insist on this interpretation of the place tell you that in the commands of God there is the mere end of them considerable, and not the manner of their performance, which is as the life and power of the obedience of them, which is acceptable to God; farther, that many persons, wrought upon by the power of conviction from the law of God, and enabled in some measure with common gifts and graces, do go forth in such a way to the performance of the commands of God, as to the substance and matter of them (wherein also they are not hypocritical, in the strict sense of the word, but sincere), and so are called and counted righteous, comparatively so, in respect of those who live in open rebellion against the Lord and his ways. And such as these, they say, as they are oftentimes useful in their generations, and bring glory to God by their profession, so (especially under the old legal dispensation of the covenant) they are rewarded in a plentiful manner of God in this life, in the enjoyment of the abundance of all things in peace and quietness. Of this sort of men, — that is, men upright and righteous in their dealings with men and in the world, conscientious in their trust, yielding professed subjection to the judgments and institutions of God, performing outwardly all known duties of religious men, — they say, that after they have made a profession of some good continuance, having never attained union with God in Christ, nor being built on the rock, many do fall into all manner of spiritual and sensual abominations, exposing themselves to all the judgments and vengeance of God in this life, which also under the old testament generally overtook them, God being (as here he pleads) righteous herein. In this description of the righteous person here intended, there is no occasion in the least administered to Mr Goodwin to relieve himself against it by that which, in the close of this section, he borrows from Dr Prideaux, — namely, “That if the righteous man should turn himself away from his counterfeit and hypocritical righteousness, he should rather live than die;” for they say not that this righteousness is hypocritical or counterfeit, but true and sincere in its kind, only the person himself is supposed not to be partaker of the righteousness of God in Christ and of a principle of life from him, which should alter his obedience, and render it spiritual and acceptable to God in the Son of his love.
What more says Mr Goodwin unto this exposition of the words? With many scornful expressions cast both upon it (as by himself 622stated and laid down) and the synod of Dort, he tells you it was rejected by the synod. That some in the synod, looking on it perhaps under such a sense and apprehension as Mr Goodwin proposeth it in, did not see cause to close with it, may be true; yet that it was rejected by the synod Mr Goodwin can by no means prove, whatever he is pleased to say, and to insult thereon upon the judgments of very learned men, whom he hath no reason upon any account in the world to despise, the labours of very many of them praising them in the gates of Zion, exceedingly above the cry and clamour of all reproaches whatever mustered to their dishonour. But to let pass those poor, contemptible wretches, let us see how this master in our Israel in his indignation deals with this silly shift, whereby poor men strive to avoid his fury. Says he, then, —
“And indeed the whole series and carriage of the context, from verse 20 to the end of the chapter, demonstratively evinceth that by the ‘righteous man’ all along in meant such a man as was or is truly righteous, and who, had he persevered in that way of righteousness wherein he some time walked, should have worn the crown of righteousness, and received the reward of a righteous man; as by the ‘wicked man,’ all along opposed to him, is meant not a person seemingly wicked, but truly and really so, as is acknowledged on all hands. So that the antithesis or opposition between the righteous and the wicked, running so visibly quite through the body of the discourse, must needs be dissolved, if by the ‘righteous man’ should be meant a person seemingly righteous only, he that is righteous in this sense being truly and really wicked.”
Ans. The main series and context of the chapter, without the least endeavour to give any light or illustration thereunto by the scope, occasion, or dependence of the parts of it one upon another, does more than once stand Mr Goodwin in stead, when nothing else presents itself to his relief. It is true, the whole context of the chapter grants the person spoken of to be righteous in the performance of the duties mentioned in the chapter, in opposition to the wicked man and his intentions and ways described therein, in proportion to the dispensation of the covenant, whose rule and principle is placed in the head of verse 20, which Mr Goodwin directs us unto, namely, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” And as there is nothing in all this contrary to any thing in this exposition by Mr Goodwin opposed, so there is not any thing more proved, nor once attempted to be, here by Mr Goodwin himself, than what is confessed therein.
It is acknowledged that the person spoken of is truly and really righteous, with that kind of righteousness which is intended, and wherein if he continued he was to receive the reward of righteousness then under consideration; and yet though such an one might be truly and really united unto Christ, there is nothing in the text 623or context enforcing that such an one and none else is intended here. And more in this case Mr Goodwin hath not to add; nor doth he threaten us with any more than he hath delivered, as he did upon the consideration of the tenor of the words, and our inquiry whether they are of an hypothetical or absolute nature and importance.
It is true, he adds that “Calvin, in his exposition on the place, notwithstanding his wariness to manage it so as that the doctrine of perseverance, which he maintained, might suffer no damage” (which perhaps Mr Goodwin was not so wary in expressing, contending so much as he does to manifest that he had thoughts lying another way), “and therefore asserting the person here spoken of to be a person seemingly righteous only, yet lets fall such things as declare nothing to be wanting in this righteous person but perseverance.” But that Calvin grants, in any expression of his, this person, or him concerned herein, to be in such an estate as to want nothing but perseverance to render him everlastingly blessed, is notoriously false; neither does any thing in the expressions cited by Mr Goodwin come from the body of his discourse, [or] in the least look that way, as might easily be manifested, did I judge it meet, in a contest of this nature, to trade in the authorities of men: so that I cannot but wonder with what confidence he is pleased to impose such a sense upon his words. All this while, then, notwithstanding any thing our author hath to say to the contrary, the righteous person here intended may be only such an one as was described in the entrance of this consideration of his; and that it is not requisite, from the text or context, that he should be any other is more evident than that it is to be contended against.
Sect. 7, he deals with another exposition of the words, which hath no small countenance given unto it from the Scriptures; which, for to prevail himself upon an expression or two by-the-by, he sets down in the words of Dr Prideaux, Lect. vi.; and they are these: “There is,” saith he, “a double righteousness; — one inherent, or of works, by which we are sanctified; another imputed, or of faith, whereby we are justified. A righteous man may turn aside from his own righteousness, namely, from his holiness, and fall into very heinous sins; but it doth not follow from hence that therefore he hath wholly shaken off from him (or out of him) the righteousness of Christ.” To this he advances a threefold reply:—
1. “The doctor here presents us with a piece of new divinity, in making sanctification and justification no more intimate friends than that one can live without the company and presence of the other. Doubtless, if a man’s justification may stay behind when his holiness is departed, that assertion of the apostle will hardly stand, ‘Without holiness no man shall see the Lord,’ Heb. xii. 14; and if ‘They that are Christ’s’ (that is, who believe in Christ, and thereby are justified) 624‘have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts’ (another assertion of the same apostle), how their relation unto Christ should stand, and yet their holiness sink and fall, I understand not. But I leave his friends to be his enemies in this.”
Ans. How little advantage Mr Goodwin hath obtained by attempting a diversion from the consideration of the matter insisted on (which is all he doth in this paragraph) will quickly appear. From the righteousness of sanctification there is, or may be supposed, a twofold fall; — first, From the exercises of it, in all or any of the fruits thereof, according to the will of God; secondly, From the habit and principle of it, in respect of its root and ground-work in the soul. It is the former that the doctor asserts. “A man,” saith he, “may fall away from the zealous practice of the duties of holiness, and, with or under violence of temptation, as to fruit-bearing, decay in close walking, until the whole seem ready to die, so as, through the righteous judgment of God, to be exposed to calamities, corrections, and punishments in this life, yea, the great death itself, as it fell out in the case of Josiah, who fell by the sword in undertaking against the mind and will of God.” But now for the work and principles of holiness, none who have once received it can ever cast it up and become wholly without it; and between this and the righteousness of justification, there is that strict connection that the one cannot, doth not, consist without the other. If now Mr Goodwin understands not how a justified, sanctified person, may decline from the ways and practice of holiness for a season, so as to provoke the Lord to deal sharply, yea, and sometimes terribly with him, to take vengeance on his inventions, and yet that person not lose his relation to Christ nor his interest in the love and favour of God, I shall not presume to instruct him in the knowledge thereof, but refer him to them who are better able so to do; wherein, upon the account of his aptness to hear as well as teach, I presume their undertaking will not be difficult. He adds, —
2. “He seems, by his word penitus, wholly, throughly, or altogether, to be singular also in another strain of divinity, and to teach magis and minus in justification: for in saying that from a man’s apostatizing from his own righteousness, ‘it doth not follow that therefore he hath wholly or altogether shaken off the imputed righteousness of Christ,’ doth he not imply that a man may shake off some part of the righteousness of Christ from him, and yet keep another part of it upon him? or else, that by sinning he may come to wear the entire garment or clothing of it so loosely that it will be ready to drop or fall off from him every, hour? and, consequently, that the righteousness of Christ sits faster and closer upon some than upon others, yea, upon the same person at one time than another.”
Ans. That this is a second attempt for to lead the reader off from 625the consideration of the business in hand, and to prepare him by a diversion to an acceptation of what he afterward tenders in way of reply, that he may not perceive how insufficient it is for the purpose by an immediate comparing of it with the answer itself, is evident. Truly, when, in my younger days, I was wont to hear that doctor in his lectures and other exercises, I did not think then I should have afterward found him called in question for want of skill to express himself and the sense of his mind in Latin, he having a readiness and dexterity in that language equal to any that ever I knew; neither yet am I convinced that his word penitus, upon which Mr Goodwin criticiseth (being commonly, as might by innumerable instances be made good, used to increase and make emphatical the import of the word wherewith it is associated), will evince any such meaning in his expression as is there intended by Mr Goodwin. Justification is, and it was so taught by the doctor to be (Lect. de Just.), in respect of all persons that are partakers of it, equal, and equal to every person so partaking of it at all times, though in regard of sense and perception, and the peace and comfort wherewith (when perceived and felt) it is attended, it is no less subject to increases and wanings than sanctification itself. So that this also might be intended by the doctor, without the least “strain of new divinity,” that justified and sanctified persons, though they might so decline from the course of close walking with God as for a season to be like a tree in winter, whose substance is in his roots, his leaves and fruit falling off, ceasing to bring forth the fruits of holiness in such degrees as formerly, and so lose their sense of acceptation with God through Christ, and the peace, with consolation and joy, wherewith it is attended, yet they could not, nor should, wholly be cast out of the favour of God, the nature and essence of their justification being abiding; and what singular strain of divinity there is in the tendency of such a discourse I know not. Besides, that teaching of magis and minus in justification should be any singular thing in Mr Goodwin I do not well understand; for if the matter of our righteousness, or that upon the imputation whereof unto us we are justified, may have its degrees, and receive magis and minus, as certainly our faith may and doth, why our justification may not do so too I see no reason. But he comes at length to the matter, and addeth, —
3. “Lastly; were it granted unto the doctor that from a man’s turning aside from his own holiness, it doth not follow that therefore he hath wholly divested himself of the righteousness of Christ imputed, yet from God’s determination or pronouncing a man to be in an estate of condemnation and of death it follows roundly, that therefore he is divested of the righteousness of Christ imputed (if ever he were invested with it before); because no man with that righteousness upon him can be in such an estate. Now we have, upon several 626grounds, proved that the ‘righteous man,’ under that apostasy wherein Ezekiel describes and presents him, is pronounced by God a child not of a temporal but eternal death and condemnation. This, indeed, the doctor denies, but gives no reason of his denial, for which I blame him not; only, I must crave leave to say, that the chair211211 Dr Prideaux was regius professor of divinity at Oxford in 1615. — Ed. weigheth not so much as one good argument with me, much less as many. So that, all this while, He that spake and still speaks unto the world by Ezekiel is no friend to that doctrine which denieth a possibility of a righteous man’s declining even unto death.”
Ans. If this be all that Mr Goodwin hath to say for the removal of this answer, that cuts the throat of his argument if it be not removed, he hath little reason for the confidence wherewith he closeth it, concerning God’s speaking in this place of Ezekiel against that doctrine which, in innumerable places of his word, he hath taught us is a doctrine inwrapping no small portion of that grace which, in a covenant of mercy, he dispenseth to his chosen, redeemed, justified, sanctified ones; neither is there any need to add the weight of the chair (wherein yet that person spoken of behaved himself worthily in his generation, and was in his exercises therein by no means by Mr Goodwin to be despised) [to] be laid upon the reasonings of the doctor in this case, they proving singly of themselves too heavy for Mr Goodwin to bear. In brief, that the substance of the reply in hand is merely a begging of the thing in question, any one that hath but half an eye in a business of this nature may easily discern. That it is supposed that a man truly righteous and justified in the blood of Christ may so fall away as to be pronounced of God to be in a state of damnation, and so fallen really from his former condition,212212 Rom. viii. 1. is the thing that Mr Goodwin hath to prove. “Now,” saith he, “this must needs be so, because God here, upon such a supposal, pronounceth such a man to be in the estate of condemnation.” What this is with other men I know not, but to me it is no proof at all, nor should I believe that to be the sense of the place, though, in variety of expressions, he should significantly affirm it a thousand times. The reader also is misinformed that the doctor attempts not any proof that by death, eternal death is not in this place intended; he that shall consult the place will find himself abused. But we must speak more of this anon.
And this is all our author offers as to the person spoken of in the place of Scripture under consideration; wherein, though he hath taken some pains, to little or no purpose, to take off the exposition of the words and the description of the person given by others, yet he hath not attempted to give so much as one argument to confirm the sense he would impose on us concerning the condition of the person spoken of; and I must crave leave to say, that naked assertions, be 627they never so many, in the chair or out, weigh not so much with me as one good argument, much less as many.
There is nothing remains for consideration hut only the comminatory part of the words, or the expression of the punishment allotted of God to such as walk in the ways of apostasy here expressed, “In his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die;” that is, “He shall be dealt withal as many of his nation were in the land of Israel My judgments shall overtake him. It shall not advantage him that either he had godly parents that have walked with me, or that he himself had so behaved himself in a way of righteousness, as before described. If he turn to the profaneness and abominations which are laid down as the ways of wicked men, or into any paths like them, he shall even die, or be punished for his sins;” according to the tenor of the truth laid down in the entrance of the chapter, and repeated again verse 20, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” But now, whereas it might be replied, “Such an one, notwithstanding his degeneracy, might yet perhaps recover himself to his former way of walking, obedience, and righteousness in conversation, and is there then no hope nor help for him, but having once so apostatized he must suffer for it?” to prevent any such misprision of the mind of God, there is added the term of his duration in that state of apostasy; that is, even unto death: “If he committeth iniquity, and dieth in it,” that is, repents not of it before his death, “the judgments of God shall find him out,” as was before expressed; “If by his repentance he prevent not his calamities, he shall end his sinning in destruction;” — in which expressions of the person’s continuance in his apostatized condition, and of the judgments of God falling on him on that account, there is not the least appearance of any tautology or incongruity in the sense. The same word is used to express diverse concernments of it, which is no tautology. Though the same word be used, yet the same thing is not intended. Tautology reflects on things, not words; otherwise there must be a tautology wherever there is an ἀντανάκλασις, as John i. 3. “To commit iniquity, and to die therein,” is no more but to continue in his iniquity impenitently until death. Now, to say that [this], “A man was put to death for his fault, because he committed it, and continued impenitent in it, even unto the death which he was adjudged to, and which was inflicted on him for his fault,” is an incoherent expression, it seems will puzzle as great a master of language as Mr Goodwin to make good.
Mr Goodwin endeavours to make the punishment threatened in the words, “He shall die for his iniquity,” precisely and exclusively to signify eternal death (which the former interpretation doth not exclude); which he is no way able to make good. What he offers, sect. 3, concerning the incongruity of the sense, and tautology of the expression 628of it, [if it] be not so understood, hath been already removed. The comparison ensuing, instituted between these words and those of 1 Cor. vi. 10, should have been enforced with some consideration of the coincidence of the scope of either place, with the expressions used in them. And though repentance (which is also added) will not deliver them from temporal or natural death, yet it may and will, as [it] did Ahab in part, from having that death inflicted in the way of an extraordinary judgment.
Sect. 4. Mr Goodwin offers sundry things, all of the same importance and tendency, all animated by the same fallacies or mistakes, to make good the sense he insists on, exclusively to all others, of these words, “He shall die;” and he tells you that “if the righteousness such a man hath done shall come into no account, if it shall not profit him as to his temporal deliverance, then it is impossible it should profit him as to his eternal salvation.” But, first, according to our interpretation of the words, there is no necessity incumbent on us to affirm that the person mentioned shall obtain salvation, though we say that eternal death is not precisely threatened in the words. But yet, that a man may not by the just hand of God, be punished with temporal death for his faults and iniquities (as Josiah fell by the sword), and yet have his righteousness reckoned to him as to his great recompense of reward, is a strain of doctrine that Mr Goodwin will scarce abide by. I dare not say that all who died in the wilderness of the children of Israel went to hell and came short of eternal life, and yet they all fell there because of their iniquities. But he adds, —
Sect. 4. “Again; that which God here threateneth against that double or twofold iniquity of backsliding is opposed to that life which is promised to repentance and perseverance in well-doing; but this life is confessed by all to be eternal life: therefore the death opposed to it must needs be eternal, or the second death. When the apostle saith, ‘The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Rom. vi. 23, is it not evident from the antithesis, or opposition in the sentence between the death and life mentioned in it, that by that death which he affirms to be the wages of sin is meant eternal death? how else will the opposition stand?”
Ans. It is true, the life and death here mentioned, the one promised, verse 9, the other threatened in those insisted on, are opposed, and of what nature and kind the one is, of the same is the other to be esteemed. It is also confessed that the life promised in the covenant of mercy to repentance is eternal life, and the wages of sin mentioned in the law is eternal death; but that therefore that must be the sense of the words when they are made use of in answer to an objection expressed in a proverb concerning the land of Israel, and when it was temporal death that was complained of before in 629the proverb, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (they did not complain that they were damned for their fathers’ sins), that Mr Goodwin doth not attempt to prove; and I do not blame him for his silence therein. He says yet again, —
“When God in the Scriptures threatens impenitent persons with death for their sins, doubtless he intends and means eternal death, or that death which is the wages of sin; otherwise we have no sufficient ground to believe or think that men dying in their sins without repentance shall ‘suffer the vengeance of eternal fire,’ but only a temporal or natural death, which those who are righteous and truly eminent themselves suffer as well as they. Therefore, to say that God threatens impenitent apostates (in the place in hand) with a temporal death only, when, as elsewhere, he threatens impenitency under the lightest guilt of all with eternal death, is in effect to represent him as vehement and sore in his dissuasives from ordinary and lesser sins, and as indifferent and remiss in dissuading from sins of the greatest provocation.”
Ans. The sum of this reason is, “If the death there threatened to those men of our present contest be not death eternal, we have no sufficient ground to believe that God will inflict any death on impenitent apostates but only that which is temporal or natural, which others die as well as they.” And why so, I beseech you? Is there no other place of Scripture whence it may be evinced that eternal death is the wages of sin? or is every place thereof where death is threatened to sin so circumstantiated as this place is? is the threatening everywhere given out upon the like occasion, and to be accommodated to the like state of things? These discourses are exceedingly loose, sophistical, and inconclusive. Neither is a violent death counted natural, though it be the dissolution of nature.
Neither is there any thing more added by Mr Goodwin, in all his considerations of the words of this passage of the Scriptures, than what we have insisted on. That [argument] he nextly mentioneth, “That if God here threateneth impenitent sinners only with temporal death, then why should the most profligate sinners fear any other punishment?” is of [no?] more energy for the confirmation and building up of the sense which he imposeth on the words than that which went before. They with whom he hath to do will tell him that he doth all along most vainly assume and beg the thing in question, namely, that the persons intimated are absolutely impenitent sinners, and not so under some considerations only, — that is, that do never recover themselves from their degeneracy from close walking with God, — nor do the words indeed necessarily import any thing else. And for impenitent sinners in general (not those who are only so termed), there are testimonies sufficient in the Scriptures concerning God’s righteous judgment in their eternal condemnation.
630And this is the first testimony produced by Mr Goodwin for the proof of the saints’ apostasy, — a witness which of all others he doth most rely upon, and which he bringeth in with the greatest acclamation of success (before the trial) imaginable. But when he hath brought him forth, he gives us no account in the least whence he comes, what is his business, or what he aims to confirm, nor can make good his speaking one word on his behalf! Indeed, as the matter is handled, I something question whether lightly a weaker argument hath been leaned on, in a case of so great importance, than that which from these words is drawn for the apostasy of the saints; for as we have not the least attempt made to give us an account of the context, scope, and intendment of the place (by which yet the expressions in the verses insisted on must be regulated), so no more can any one expression in it be made good to be of that sense and signification which yet alone will or can yield the least advantage to the cause for whose protection it is so earnestly called upon. Now, the leaders and captains of the forces Mr Goodwin hath mustered in this 12th chapter being thus discharged, the residue, or the followers thereof, will easily be prevailed with to return every one to his own place in peace.
The next place of Scripture produced to consideration, Mr Goodwin ushers in (sect. 11) with a description of the adversaries with whom in this contest he hath to do; and sets them off to public view with the desirable qualifications of “ignorance, ““prejudice,” and “partiality,” having, it seems, neither ingenuity enough candidly and fairly themselves to search into and to weigh the scriptures wherein the case in question is clearly determined, nor skill enough to understand and receive them when so dexterously opened to their hand by Mr Goodwin. What they are the Lord knoweth, will judge, determine, and in the appointed time declare; and it may be the day that shall manifest all things will vindicate them from these reproaches. In the meantime, such expressions as these lie in the middle between all parties at variance, exposed to the use of any one that is pleased to take them up. The place insisted on in the sequel of this preface is the parable of our Saviour, Matt. xviii. 32–35; the whole extent of the parable is from verse 21 to the end of the chapter. Hence Mr Goodwin thus inferreth, sect. 11:—
“Evident it is, from our Saviour’s reddition or application of the parable, ‘So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if,’ etc., speaking unto his disciples, verse 1, and to Peter more particularly, verse 21, that persons truly regenerate and justified before God (for such were they to whom in special manner he addressed the parable and the application of it, and indeed the whole carriage of the parable showeth that it was calculated and formed only for such) may, through high misdemeanours in sinning (as, for example, 631by unmercifulness, cruelty, oppression, etc.), turn themselves out of the justifying grace and favour of God, quench the Spirit of regeneration, and come to have their portion with hypocrites and unbelievers.”
Ans. 1. This is not the only occasion whereupon we have to deal with this parable. The Socinians wrest it also with violence to disprove the satisfaction of Christ, from the mention that is made in it of the free forgiveness of sins, and the Lord’s enjoining others to do what he did; — they, doubtless, being [ready] to forgive without satisfaction given or made as to any crimes committed against them! Mr Goodwin, with much less probability of drawing nigh to the intendment of our Saviour in this place, makes use of it, or rather abuses it, to countenance his doctrine of the apostasy of the saints. To both I say, parables have their bounds and limits, their lines and proportions, scope and peculiar intendment, beyond which they prove nothing at all. To wring the nose of a parable or similitude, to force it to an universal compliance, will bring forth blood. There is nothing so sottish, or foolish, or contradictious in and to itself, as may not be countenanced from teaching parables to be instructive and proving in every parcel or expression that attends them. The intendment of the parable here used, that whereas, from the proportion and answerableness of the comparates, it argueth, is neither that God forgives without satisfaction to his justice, being the judge of all the world, nor that believers may fall away by sins of unmercifulness and oppression, and so perish everlastingly; but that men, upon the account of mercy and forgiveness received from God in Christ, ought to extend mercy and kindness to their brethren, God threatening and revenging unmercifulness and oppression in and on whomsoever it is found. Whether it be ignorance in us or what it be, the Lord knows and will judge; but we are not able to stretch the lines of this parable one step towards what Mr Goodwin would lengthen them unto. That no persons whatever must or ought to expect the grace and pardoning mercy of God to them, who have no bowels of compassion towards their brethren, is clearly taught. In making the rest of the circumstances of the parable argumentative, we cannot join with our adversary, he himself in his so doing working merely for his own ends.
2. Finding his exposition of this parable liable and obnoxious to an exception, in that it renders God changeable in his dealings with men, and a knot to be cast on his doctrine which he is not able to untie, he ventures boldly to cut it in pieces, by affirming “that indeed God loves no man at all with any love but the approbation of the qualifications that are in him, and that he cannot be said to change in reference to that which is not in him at all.” This he sets out and illustrates variously with the dealings of men, and the laws that are made amongst them, rewarding what is good and 632punishing what is evil, etc., — words fully fitted, in his apprehension, to the clearing of God from any shadow of alteration in that course of proceeding which to him he ascribes, — and tells you, “The root of the mistake concerning the love of God” towards any man’s person lies in that “capital error of personal election,” or a purpose of God to give grace and glory to any one in Christ. Κακοῦ κόρακος κακίον ὠόν. That Mr Goodwin doth at all understand the love of God, if his apprehension of it be uniform to what he expresseth here in disputation, I must question. An eternal, unchangeable love of God to some in Christ is not now my task to demonstrate; it may, through the patience and goodness of God, find a place in my weak endeavours for the Lord ere long, when it will be a matter of delight to consider the scriptures and testimonies of antiquity that Mr Goodwin will produce for the eversion of such a personal election. For the present, I shall only take notice of the force of his judgment in the thing which, sect. 13, he here delivers: “All the love which God bears to men, or to any person of man, is either in respect of their nature and as they are men, in respect of which he bears a general or common love to them; or in respect of their qualifications as they are good men in one degree or other, in respect whereof he bears a more special love to them.” What that “common love” is in Mr Goodwin’s doctrine which God bears to “all men, as men,” we know full well; he also himself is not unacquainted how often it hath been demonstrated to be a vain and foolish figment (in the sense by him and his associates obtruded on us), derogatory to all the glorious properties of the nature of God, and inconsistent with any thing that of himself he hath revealed; the demonstration and farther eviction whereof waits its season, which I hope draweth on. The “special love” which he bears persons “in respect of their qualifications” is only his approbation of those qualifications, wherever they are, and in whomsoever. That these qualifications are, faith, love, repentance, gospel obedience, etc., is not called into question. I would fain know of Mr Goodwin on what account and consideration some men, and not all, are translated from the condition of being objects of God’s common love to become objects of his peculiar love, or from whence spring those qualifications which are the procurement of it, — whether they are from any love of God to them in whom they are. If not, on what account do men come to have faith, love, obedience, etc.? If they are from any love of God, whether it be from the common love of God to man, as men? and if so, why are not all men endowed with these qualifications? If from his peculiar love, how come they to be the effects and causes of the same thing? Or whether, indeed, this assertion be not destructive to the whole covenant of grace, and the effectual dispensations of it in the blood of Christ? And to his second testimony I shall add no more.
633The third place insisted on is that of the apostle, 1 Cor. ix. 27. Hence he thus argueth:—
“If Paul, after his conversion unto Christ, was in a possibility of being or becoming a ‘reprobate’ or ‘castaway,’ then may true believers fall away both totally and finally (for finally ever includes totally); but the antecedent is true, — Paul after his conversion was in the possibility mentioned: ergo. The major proposition, I presume, will pass without control.”
Ans. That Mr Goodwin is not able to make good either of the propositions in this syllogism will evidently appear in the conclusion of our examination of what he draws forth, new and old, to that purpose. Of the major he gives you only this account, “It will pass, I presume, without control.” But by his favour, unless cleared from ambiguity of expressions and fallacy, it is not like to obtain so fair a passage as is presumed and fancied.
Though the term of “possibility” in the supposition, and “may” in the inference, seem to be equipollent, yet to render them of the same significancy as to the argument in hand, they must both be used in the same respect. But if a possibility of being a reprobate (that is, one rejected of God, by a metonymy of the effect) be ascribed to Paul in respect of himself and the infirmity of his own will as to abiding with God (in which case alone there is any appearance of truth in the assumption of this supposition), and the term of “may,” in respect of believers falling totally and finally away, respects the event and purpose, decrees or promise of God concerning it (in which sense alone it is any step to the purpose in hand), I deny the inference, and thereby at the very entrance give check and control to Mr Goodwin’s procedure. That which is possible to come to pass, that term “possible” affecting the end or coming to pass, must be every way and in all respects possible; this is the intendment of the inference. That which is possible in respect of some certain causes or principles (the terms of “possibility” affecting the thing itself whereof it is spoken in its next causes) may be impossible on another account; and in this sense only is there any colour of truth contained in the supposition. So that the major proposition of this syllogism is laid up and secured from doing any farther service in this case.
The minor is, “But Paul after his conversion was in a possibility of becoming a reprobate or castaway.”
Ans. He was not in respect of the event, upon the account of the purpose and promises of God of him and to him, made in Christ, though any such possibility may be affirmed of him in respect of himself and his own will, not confirmed in grace unto an impossibility of swerving. Now, this proposition he thus farther attempts syllogistically to confirm:—
“That which Paul was very solicitous and industrious to prevent, 634he was in a possibility of suffering or being made; but Paul was very solicitous and industrious to prevent his being made a castaway, as the scripture in hand plainly avoucheth, — he kept under his body and brought it into subjection, in order to prevent his becoming a castaway: ergo, he was in danger or possibility of being made a castaway. The reason of the consequence in the major proposition is, because no man of understanding will be solicitous to prevent or hinder the coming to pass of such a thing, the coming to pass whereof he knows to be impossible.”
Ans. Once more the major is questioned. Paul might and ought to labour, in the use of means, for the preventing of that which, in respect of himself, he might possibly run into, God having appointed those means to be used for the prevention of the end feared and avoided, although in respect of some other preventing cause it was impossible he should so do. He who complained that “in him, that is, in his flesh, dwelt no good,” that “he had a law in his members leading him captive to the law of sin, and sin working in him all manner of concupiscence,” for whose prevention from running out into a course of sinning God had appointed means to be used, might use those means for that end, notwithstanding that God had immutably purposed and faithfully promised that in the use of those means he should attain the end aimed at. And the reason Mr Goodwin gives for the confirmation of the consequence is no other but that which we have so often exploded, — namely, that a man need not, ought not to use means for attaining of any end, though appointed and instituted of God for that end and purpose, if so be the end for which they are ordained shall certainly and infallibly be compassed and accomplished by them. Our Saviour Christ thought meet to use the ordinary ways for the preservation of his life, notwithstanding the promise of keeping him by the angels; and Hezekiah neglected not the means of life, notwithstanding the infallible promise of living so long which he had received. Paul was careful, in the use of means, to prevent that which, in [respect of] himself, it was possible for him to run into, though he had, or might have had, assurance that, through the faithfulness and power of God, in the use of those means (as an antecedent of the consequent, though not the conditions of the event), he should be preserved certainly and infallibly from what he was in himself so apt unto. So that, whatever be the peculiar intendment of the apostle in this place, taking the term ἀδόκιμος in the largest sense possible, and in a significancy of the greatest compass, yet nothing will regularly be inferred thence to the least prejudice of the doctrine I have undertaken to maintain.
And this may suffice as to the utmost of what Mr Goodwin’s argument from this place doth reach unto. There is another, and that a more proper sense of the place, and accommodated to the context 635and scope of the apostle, wherewith the doctrine endeavoured to be confirmed from hence hath not the least pretence of communion; and this ariseth (as was before manifested) from the scope of the place, with the proper, native signification of the word ἀδόκιμος, here translated “a castaway.”
The business that the apostle hath in hand, from verse 15 of the chapter, and which he presses to the end, is a relation of his own principles, ways, and deportment, in the great work of the preaching of the gospel to him committed. In the last words of the chapter he acquaints us with one especial aim he had in the carrying on of that work, through the whole course of his employment therein; and it is, such care and endeavour after personal mortification, holiness, and self-denial, that he might no way be lifted up nor entangled with the revelations made to him; therein providing, in the midst of the great certainty and assurance which he had, verse 26, that he might approve himself “a workman not needing to be ashamed,” as not only preaching to others for their good, but himself also accepted of God in the discharge of that employment, as one that had dealt uprightly and faithfully therein. Verse 27, he acquaints us with what is the state and condition of them that preach the gospel: their work may go on, and yet themselves not be approved in the work. This he laboured to prevent, walking uprightly, faithfully, sincerely, zealously, humbly, in the discharge of his duty: Μήπως ἄλλοις κηρύξας, saith he, αὐτὸς ἀδόκιμος γνωμαι· — “Lest having preached to others, he should not himself be approved and accepted in that work,” and so lose the reward mentioned, verse 17, peculiar to them who walk in the discharge of their duty with a right foot, according to the mind of God. The whole context, design, and scope of the apostle, with the native signification of the word ἀδόκιμος, leading us evidently and directly to this interpretation, it is sufficiently clear that Mr Goodwin is like to find little shelter for his apostasy in this assertion of the apostle: and besides, whatever be the importance of the word, the apostle mentions not any thing but his conscientious, diligent use of the means for the attaining of an end, which end yet may fully be promised of God to be so brought about and accomplished.
Mr Goodwin tells us, indeed, “That the word ἀδόκιμος is in the writings of the apostle constantly translated “reprobate,” as Rom. i. 28, 2 Cor. xiii. 5–7, 2 Tim. iii. 8, Titus i. 16, or is expressed by a word equivalent, as Heb. vi. 8.” How rightly this is done, in his judgment, he tells us not; that it is so done serves his turn, and he hath no cause farther to trouble himself about it The truth is, in most of the places intimated, the word is so restrained, either from the causes of the thing expressed, as Rom. i. 28, or the conditions of the persons of whom it is affirmed, with some adjunct in the use of it, as 2 Tim. iii. 8, Titus i. 16, that it necessarily imports a disallowance 636or rejection of God as to the whole state and condition wherein they are of whom it is asserted, joined with a profligate disposition to farther abominations in themselves; but that in any place it imports what Mr Goodwin would wrest it here unto, “a man finally rejected of God,” — whatever may be the thought of others, he will not assert. And whatever the translation be, I would know of him whether, in any place where the word is used, he doth indeed understand it in any other sense than that which here he opposes: only with this difference, that in other places it regards the general condition and state of them concerning whom it is affirmed; here, only the condition of a man, restrained to the particular case of labouring in the ministry, which is under consideration. 2 Cor. xiii. 5–7, the word cannot be extended any farther than to signify a condition of men when they are not accepted nor approved; which is the sense of the word contended for: nor yet Heb. vi. 8, though it be attended with those several qualifications of nigh unto cursing, etc. The apostle, ascending by degrees in the description of the state of the unfruitful, barren land, says first it is ἀδόκιμος, or disallowed by the husbandman, as that which he hath spent his cost and labour about in vain; so that not only the original, first signification of the word (as is known) stands for the sense contended for, but it is also evidently restrained to that sense by the context, design, and scope of the place, with the intendment of the apostle therein, the word being the same that [is used] in all other places of the writings of the same apostle, unless where it is measured as to its extent and compass by some adjoined expression, which is interpretive of it as to the particular place, being still of the same signification.
Mr Goodwin’s ensuing discourse is concerning the judgment of expositors upon the place, particularly naming Chrysostom, Calvin, Musculus, Diodati, the English annotators; of whom, notwithstanding, not any one doth appear for him, so unhappy is he in his quotations, though sundry of good note (and amongst them Piscator himself) do interpret the word in the sense by him contended for, knowing full well that it may be allowed in its utmost significancy without the least prejudice to the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, as hath been manifested. Of those mentioned by Mr Goodwin, there is not any one, from first to last, but restrained the word to the reproachableness or irreproachableness of the apostle in the discharge of the work of the ministry; the sense of it which we also insist upon. To spend time and labour in searching the expressions of particular men, weighing and considering the coherences, design, and circumstances of their writings, is beside my intention. The judgment of what hath been affirmed is left to the intelligent reader who supposeth it of his concernment to inquire particularly into it.
What is added of the scope of the place, sect. 15, p. 280, 637alone requires any farther consideration. This, then, he thus proposeth:—
“5. The scope of the place, from verse 23, evinceth the legitimacy of such a sense in both above all contradiction; for the apostle, having asserted this for the reason, motive, and end, why he had made himself a servant to all men, in bearing with all men’s humours and weaknesses in the course of his ministry, namely, that he might be partaker of the gospel (that is, of the saving benefit or blessing of the gospel) with them, verse 23, and again, that what he did he did to obtain an incorruptible crown, verse 25, plainly showeth that that which he sought to prevent, by running and fighting at such a high rate as he did, was not the blame and disparagement of some such misbehaviour, under which, notwithstanding, he might retain the saving love of God, but the loss of his part and portion in the gospel, and of that incorruptible crown which he sought, by that severe hand which he still held over himself, to obtain.”
Ans. The scope of the place was before manifested, in answer to its dependence on the whole discourse foregoing, from verse 15, where the apostle enters upon the relation of his deportment in the work and service of the gospel, with a particular eye to his carriage therein as to his use or forbearance of the allowance of temporal things from them to whom he preached; which was due to him by all the right whereby any claim in any kind whatever may be pursued, together with the express institution of the Lord Jesus Christ, by him before laid down. In this course he behaved himself with wisdom, zeal, and diligence, having many glorious aims in his eye, as also being full of a sense of the duty incumbent on him, verse 16; to whose performance he was constrained by the law of Jesus Christ, as he also here expresses. Among other things that provoked him to and supported him in his hard labour and travail, was the love he bare to the gospel, and that he might have fellowship with others in the propagation and declaration of the glorious message thereof. This is his intendment, verse 23, τοῦτο δέ, etc. For the gospel’s sake, or the love he bare to it, he desired with others to be partaker of it; — that is, of the excellent work of preaching of it; for of the benefit of the gospel he might have been partaker with other believers, though he had never been set apart to its promulgation. In his whole discourse he still speaks accommodately to his business in hand, for the describing of his work of apostleship in preaching the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ; and as to the end of this work, he acquaints us that there was proposed before him the incorruptible crown of his Master’s approbation (upon his lawful running and striving in the way of the ministry whereto he was called), — the peculiar glory of them whom he is pleased to employ in his service. And though the cause of his fighting at that rate as he did was not wholly the fear of 638non-approbation in that work, a necessity of duty being incumbent on him which he was to discharge, yet he that knows how to value the crown of approbation from Christ, the holy angels, and the church, of having faithfully discharged the office of a steward in dispensing the things of God, will think it sufficiently effectual to stir up any one to the utmost expense of love, pains, and diligence, that he may not come short of it. And of Mr Goodwin’s proof this is the issue.
“The next passage we shall insist upon to evince the possibility of a final defection in the saints openeth itself in these words: ‘For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.’ Answerable hereunto is another in the same epistle: ‘For if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?’ Evident it is that in these two passages the Hoy Ghost, after a serious manner, and with a very pathetic and moving strain of speech and discourse (scarce the like to be found in all the Scriptures), admonisheth those who are at present true believers to take heed of relapsing into the ways of their former ignorance and impiety. This caveat or admonition he presseth by an argument of this import, that in case they shall thus relapse, there will be very little or no hope at all of their recovery, or return to the estate of faith and grace wherein now they stand. Before the faces of such sayings and passages as these, rightly understood and duly considered, there is no standing for that doctrine which denies a possibility either of a total or of a final defection of the saints. But this light also is darkened in the heavens by the interposition of the veils of these two exceptions:— 1. That the apostle in the said passages affirms nothing positively concerning the falling away of those he speaks of, but only conditionally and upon supposition. 6392. That he doth not speak of true and sound believers, but of hypocrites, and such who had faith only in show, not in substance. The former of these exceptions hath been already non-suited, and that by some of the ablest patrons themselves of the cause of perseverance; where we were taught from a pen of that learning, that ‘such conditional sayings upon which admonitions, promises, or threatenings are built, do at least suppose something in possibility, however, by virtue of their tenor and form, they suppose nothing in being.’ But, —
“As to the places in hand, there is not any hypothetical sign or conditional particle to be found in either of them as they come from the Holy Ghost and are carried in the original. Those two ‘ifs’ appearing in the English translation, the one in the former place, the other in the latter, show, it may be, the translators’ inclination to the cause, but not their faithfulness in their engagement, — an infirmity whereunto they were very subject, as we shall have occasion to take notice of the second time ere long, in another instance of the like partiality. But the tenor of both the passages in hand is so ordered by the apostle, that he plainly declares how great and fearful the danger is or will be when believers do or shall fall away, not if or in case they shall fall away.”
Ans. Of the two answers which, as himself signifieth, are usually given to the objections from these places of Scripture, that Mr Goodwin doth not fairly acquit his hands of either will quickly appear:—
1. To the first, that the form of speech used by the apostle in both places is conditional, whence there is no argument to the event without begging the thing in question, or supposal that the condition in all respects may be fulfilled, where it requires only, to the constitution of it as a condition in the place of arguing wherein it is used, that it may be possible in some only, — he opposeth, “That some of them who have wrote for the ‘doctrine of the saints’ perseverance’ have disclaimed the use of it, as to its application to the place in Ezekiel formerly considered.” But yet, leaving them to the liberty of their judgment who are so minded, that the reason given by them, and here again repeated by Mr Goodwin, doth not in the least enforce any to let go this answer to the objection proposed that shall be pleased to insist upon it, hath been manifested.
To this Mr Goodwin farther adds that weighty observation, that the word “if” is not in the original; and thence takes occasion to fall foul upon the translators as having corrupted the passages, out of favour to the doctrine contended for. I wish they had never worse mistaken, nor showed more partiality in any other place. For, first, will Mr Goodwin say that a proposition cannot be hypothetical, nor an expression conditional, unless the word “if” be expressed? Were it worth the labour, instances might abundantly be given him 640in that language whereof we speak to the contrary. He that shall say to him as he is journeying, “Going the right hand way, you will meet with thieves,” may be doubtless said to speak conditionally, no less than he that should expressly tell him, “If you go the way on the right hand, you shall meet with thieves.” Secondly, what clear sense and significancy can be given the words without the supplement of the conditional conjunction, or some other term equipollent thereunto, Mr Goodwin hath not declared. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened,” etc., “and they falling away,” as the words (“verbum de verbo”) lie in the text, is scarce in English a congruous or significant expression; yea, καὶ παραπεσόντας, in the syntax and coherence wherein it lies, is most properly and directly rendered, “If they fall away,” as is also the force of the expression, chap. x. 26. Yea, thirdly, the corruption of the translation mentioned by Mr Goodwin doth not in the least relieve him as to the delivery of the words from a sense hypothetical. “When they fall away” (though his “when” be no more in the text than the translators’ “if”), doth either include a supposition that they shall and must fall away certainly, and so requires the event of the thing whereof it is spoken, or it is expressive only of the condition whereon the event is suspended. If it be taken in the first sense, all believers must fall away; if in the latter, none may, notwithstanding any thing in this text (so learnedly restored to its true significancy), the words only pointing at the connection that is between apostasy and punishment. Notwithstanding, then, any thing here offered to the contrary, those who affirm that nothing can certainly be concluded from these places for the apostasy of any, be they who they will that are intended in them, because they are conditional assertions, manifesting only the connection between the sin and punishment expressed, need not be ashamed of nor recoil from their affirmation in the least.
For mine own part, I confess I do not in any measure think it needful to insist upon the conditionals of these assertions of the Holy Ghost, as to the removal of any or all the oppositions that from them, of old or of late, have been raised and framed against the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, there being in neither of the texts insisted on either name or thing inquired after, nor any one of all the severals inquired into, and constantly in the Scriptures used, in the description of the saints and believers of whom we speak. This I shall briefly in the first place demonstrate, and then proceed with the consideration of what is offered by Mr Goodwin in opposition thereunto. Some few observations will lead us through the first part of this work designed. I say then, —
1. There is an inferior, common work of the Holy Ghost, in the dispensation of the word, upon many to whom it is preached, causing in them a great alteration and change as to light, knowledge, abilities, 641gifts, affections, life, and conversation, when the persons so wrought upon are not quickened, regenerate, nor made new creatures, nor united to Jesus Christ. I suppose there will not be need for me to insist on the proof of this proposition, the truth of it being notoriously known and confessed, as I suppose, amongst all that profess the name of Christ.
2. That in persons thus wrought upon, there is, or may be, such an assent, upon light and conviction, to the truths proposed and preached to them as is true in its kind, not counterfeit, giving and affording them in whom it is wrought profession of the faith, and that sometimes with constancy to the death, or the giving of their bodies to be burned, with persuasions (whence they are called “believers”) of a future enjoyment of a glorious and blessed condition, and filling them with ravished affections and rejoicings in hope, which they profess suitable to the expectation they have of such a state and condition. This also might be easily evinced by innumerable instances and examples from the Scripture, if need required.
3. That the persons in and upon whom this work is wrought cannot be said to be hypocrites in the most proper sense of that word, — that is, such as counterfeit and pretend themselves to be that which they know they are not, — nor to have faith only in show and not in substance, as though they made a show and pretence only of an assent to the things they professed; their high gifts, knowledge, faith, change of affections and conversation, being in their own kind true (as the faith of devils is): and yet, notwithstanding all this, they are in bondage, and at best seek for a righteousness as it were by the works of the law, and in the issue Christ proves to them of none effect.
4. That among these persons many are oftentimes endued with excellent gifts, lovely parts, qualifications, and abilities, rendering them exceedingly useful, acceptable, and serviceable to the church of God, becoming vessels in his house to hold and convey to others the precious liquor of the gospel, though their nature in themselves be not changed, they remaining wood and stone still.
5. That much of the work wrought in and upon this sort of persons by the Spirit and word lies, in its own nature, in a direct tendency to their relinquishment of their sins and self-righteousness, and to a closing with God in Christ, having a mighty prevalency upon them to cause them to amend their ways, and to labour after life and salvation; from which to apostatize and fall off, upon the account of the tendency mentioned of these beginnings, is dangerous, and for the most part pernicious.
6. That persons under convictions and works of the Spirit formerly mentioned, partakers of the gifts, light, and knowledge spoken of, with those other endowments attending them, are capacitated for 642the sin against the Holy Ghost, or the unpardonable apostasy from God.
These things being commonly known, and, as far as I know, universally granted, I affirm that the persons mentioned and intended in these places are such as have been now described, and not the believers or saints, concerning whom alone our contest is.
Mr Goodwin replies, sect. 19, p. 283:—
“To the latter exception, which pretends to find only hypocrites, and not true believers, staged in both passages, we likewise answer, that it glosseth no whit better than the former, if not much worse, considering that the persons presented in the said passages are described by such characters and signal excellencies which the Scriptures are wont to appropriate unto saints and true believers, and that when they intend to show them in the best and greatest of their glory. What we say herein will, I suppose, be made above all gainsaying by instancing particulars.”
Ans. That this is most remote from truth, and that there is not here any one discriminating character of true believers, so far are the expressions from setting them out in any signal eminency, will appear from these ensuing considerations:—
1. There is no mention of faith or believing, either in express terms or in terms of an equivalent significancy, in either of the places mentioned; therefore true believers are not the persons intended to be described in these places. Did the Holy Ghost intend to describe believers, it is very strange that he should not call them so, nor make mention of any one of those principles in them from whence and whereby they are such. Wherefore, I say, —
2. There is not any thing ascribed here to the persons spoken of which belongs peculiarly to true believers, as such, or that constitutes them to be such, and which yet are things plainly and positively asserted and described in innumerable other places of Scripture. That the persons described are “called according to the purpose of God, quickened, born again or regenerated, justified, united to Christ, sanctified by the Spirit, adopted, made sons of God,” and the like, which are the usual expressions of believers, pointing out their discriminating form as such, is not in the least intimated in the text, context, or any concernment of it. That they are elected of God, redeemed of Christ, sanctified by the Spirit, that they are made holy, is not at all affirmed.
3. The persons intended are, chap. vi., verses 7, 8, compared to the ground upon which the rain falls, and [which yet] beareth “thorns and briers.” True believers, whilst they are so, are not such as do bring forth nothing but “thorns and briers,” faith itself being an “herb meet for Him by whom they are dressed.”
4. “Things that accompany salvation” are “better things” than 643any [which] in the persons mentioned were to be found. This the apostle asserts, verse 9, “We are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation.” Now, neither of these, neither “better things,” nor “things that accompany salvation,” were upon them whose apostasy the apostle supposeth. The exceptive particle at the entrance, with the apologetical design of the whole verse, ascribes such things to the saints, to whom the apostle speaks, as they were not partakers of concerning whom he had immediately before discoursed. The “faith of God’s elect,” whereby we are justified, is doubtless of the “things that accompany salvation.”
5. The persons intended by the apostle were such as “had need to be taught again the first principles of the oracles of God,” chap. v. 12; that were “unskilful in the word of righteousness,” verse 13; that had not their “senses exercised to discern both good and evil,” verse 14; and are plainly distinguished from them to whom the promise made to Abraham doth properly belong, chap. vi. 9–14, etc.
6. True believers are opposed, in the discourse of the apostle, chap. vi., unto these persons lying under a possibility of apostasy, so far as they are cast under it, by the conditional discourse of it, upon sundry accounts: as, of their “work and labour of love” showed to the name of God, verse 10; of their preservation, from the righteousness or faithfulness of God in his promises, verse 10; of the immutability of the counsel of God, and his oath for the preservation of them, verses 13, 17, 18; of their sure and steadfast anchor of hope, verse 19, etc. Upon all which considerations, it is abundantly evident that they are not believers, the children of God, justified, sanctified, adopted, saints, of whom the apostle treats in the passages insisted on.
Sect. 28, Mr Goodwin urges sundry reasons to prove that “they are not hypocrites or outside professors only, but true believers, that are described.” If by “hypocrites and outside professors” he intends those who are grossly so, pretending to be what they are not, and what they know themselves not to be, we contend not about it. If in these expressions he compriseth also those whom we characterized in the entrance of this discourse, who unto their profession of the faith have also added those gifts and endowments, with the like, which we mentioned, but who, notwithstanding all their advancement in light, conviction, joy, usefulness, [and] conversation, do yet come short of union with Christ, I shall join issue with him in the consideration of his reasons offered to be “pregnant of proof” for the confirmation of his assertion. He tells you, sect. 28, p. 288:—
“First, There is no clause, phrase, or word, in either of the places, any ways characteristical or descriptive of hypocrisy or hypocrites. There, are none of those colours to be seen which are wont to be used in drawing or limning the portraitures or shapes of those beasts, as 644distinguished from creatures of a better kind. All the lineaments of the persons presented in these tables, before the mention of their falling away, become the best and fairest faces of the saints (as hath been proved), and are not to be found in any other. Yea, the greatest and most intelligent believer under heaven hath no reason but to desire part and fellowship with the ‘hypocrites’ here described, in all those characters and properties which are attributed unto them before their falling away or sinning wilfully.”
Ans. 1. The design of the apostle is not to discover or give any characters of hypocrites, to manifest them to be such, but to declare the excellencies that are or may be found in them, from the enjoyment of all which they may decline, and sin against the mercy and grace of them, to the aggravation of their condemnation; neither had any lines used to particularize those “beasts” in their shape, wherein they differ from believers, been at all useful to the apostle’s purpose, his aim being only to draw those wherein they are like them and conformable to them. Neither, —
2. Is it questioned whether those things here mentioned may be found in true believers, and become them very well, rendering their faces beautiful; but whether there be not something else than what is here mentioned, that should give them being as such, and life, without which these things are little better than painting. Nor, —
3. Is it at all to the purpose that believers may desire a participation in those characters with the persons described; but whether they who hare no other characters or marks upon them of true believers than what are here mentioned must necessarily be so accounted, or will of God be so accepted. Many a believer may desire the gifts of those hypocrites, who have not one dram of the grace wherewith he is quickened. So that this first reason, as pregnant as it seems of proof, is only indeed swelled and puffed up with wind and vanity. He adds, —
“Secondly, True believers are in an estate of honour, and are lifted up on high towards the heavens; in which respect they have from whence to fall: but hypocrites are as near hell already as lightly they can be, till they be actually fallen into it; from whence, then, are they capable of falling? Men of estates may fail and break, but beggars are in no such danger. If hypocrites fall away, it must be from their hypocrisy; but this is rather a rising than a fall. A beggar cannot be said to break, but only when he gets an estate. When he doth this, the beggar is broke.”
Ans. All that here is added arises merely from the ambiguity of the word “hypocrites” The persons that fall are on all hands supposed to have and enjoy all that is made mention of in the texts insisted on; so that they have so much to fall from as that thereupon Mr Goodwin thinks them true believers. They have all the heights 645to tumble from which we before mentioned, and very many others that it is no easy task to declare. They fall from the excellencies they have, and not from the hypocrisy with which they are vitiated, — from the profession of the faith, with honesty of conversation, etc., not from the want of root or being built on the rock. So that this pretended “pregnant reason” is as barren as the former to the proving of the assertion laid down to be proved by it. He adds, —
“Thirdly, It is no punishment at all to hypocrites to be under no possibility of being ‘renewed again by repentance:’ nay, in case they should ‘fall away,’ it would be a benefit and blessing unto them to be under an impossibility of being ‘renewed again;’ for if this were their case, it would be impossible for them to be ever hypocrites again, and doubtless it is no great judgment upon any man to be incapable of such a preferment.”
Ans. Whether it be no punishment for them who have been in so good a way, a way of such tendency unto salvation and such usefulness to the gospel, as those persons are supposed to be in, not to be renewed again to that state and condition, but to be shut up unrecoverably under the power of darkness and unbelief unto eternal wrath, when before they were in a fair way for life and salvation, others will judge besides Mr Goodwin. Neither is there an affirmation of their falling away from their hypocrisy, and being renewed again thereunto, in any thing we assert in the exposition of this place, but their falling away from gifts and common graces, with the impossibility, of what kind soever it be, of being renewed to an enjoyment of them any more. His fourth and last attempt follows.
“Fourthly, and lastly, It stands off forty foot at least from all probability, that the apostle, writing only unto those whom he judged true and sound believers (as appears from several places in the epistle, as chap. iii. 14, vi. 9, etc.), should, in the most serious, emphatical, and weighty passages hereof, admonish them of such evils or dangers which only concerned other men, and whereunto themselves were not at all obnoxious; yea, and whereunto if they had been obnoxious, all the cautions, admonitions, warnings, threatenings in the world, would not (according to their principles with whom we have now to do) have relieved or delivered them. To say that such admonitions are a means to preserve those from apostasy who are by other means (as suppose the absolute decree of God, or the interposal of his irresistible power for their perseverance, or the like) in no possibility of apostatizing, is to say that washing is a means to make snow white, or the rearing up of a pillar in the air a means to keep the heavens from falling. But more of this in the chapter following.”
Ans. What exact measure soever Mr Goodwin seemeth to have taken of the distance of our assertion from “all probability” (which he hath accurately performed, if we may take his word), yet, upon due 646consideration, it evidently appears that he is not able to disprove it from coming close up to the absolute truth of the meaning and scope of the Holy Ghost in the places under consideration: for, besides what hath been already argued and proved, it is evident, —
1. That the apostle wrote promiscuously to all that profess the name of Christ and his gospel; of whom he tells you, chap. iii. 14 (one of the places we are directed to by Mr Goodwin), that those only are made “partakers of Christ who hold the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end;” [as] for the rest, notwithstanding all their glorious profession, gifts, and attainments, yet they are not truly made partakers of Christ (whereby he cuts the throat of Mr Goodwin’s whole cause); and chap. vi. 9, that there were amongst them [those] who had attained “things accompanying salvation,” and “better things” than any of those had done, who, notwithstanding their profession, yet held it not fast without wavering, but every day fell away: so that though he judged no particulars before their apostasy, yet he partly intimates that all professors were not true believers; and therefore does teach them all to make sure work in closing with Christ, lest they turn apostates, and perish in so doing.
2. That conditional comminations and threatenings, discovering the connection that is between the antecedent and consequent that is in the proposition of them, are and may be of use to the saints of God, preserved from the end threatened and the cause deserving it, upon the accounts, reasons, and causes, that have been plentifully insisted on, hath more than once been declared, and the objections to the contrary (the same with those here insisted on) answered and removed. This being all that Mr Goodwin hath to offer by the way of reason to exclude the persons formerly described to be the only concernment of the places of Scripture insisted on, there remains nothing but only the consideration of the severals of the passages debated; wherein, by the light that hath already broken forth from the circumstances, aims, ends, and connection of the places, we may so far receive direction as not to be at all stumbled in our progress.
With the consideration of the several expressions in the passages under debate Mr Goodwin proceedeth, sect. 19, and first insisteth on that of chap. vi. 4, where it is said that they were ἅπαξ φωτισθέντες, “once enlightened;” whence he thus argues:—
“Believers are said to be ‘enlightened,’ and to be ‘children of light,’ and to be ‘light in the Lord,’ 2 Cor. iv. 6; Heb. x. 32; Luke xvi. 8; Eph. v. 8: therefore they who here are said to be ‘enlightened’ were true believers.”
Ans. 1. I shall not insist upon the various interpretations of this place, and readings of the word φωτισθέντες, very many, and that not improbably, affirming that their participation of the ordinance of baptism is here only intended by it; for which exposition much might 647be offered, were it needful or much conducing to our business in hand. Nor, —
2. Shall I labour to manifest that persons may be enlightened, and yet never come to Christ savingly by faith, to attain union with him and justification by him; — a thing Mr Goodwin will not deny himself; or if he should, it were a very facile thing to convince him of his mistake by a sole entreaty (if he would be pleased to give an account of his faith in this business at our entreaty) of him to declare what he intends by “illumination;” whence it would quickly appear how unsuitable it is to his own principles to deny that it may be in them who yet never come to be, or at least by virtue thereof may not be said to be, true believers. But this only I shall add, —
3. That Mr Goodwin, doubtless knowing that this argument (which, with all the texts of Scripture whereby he illustrates it, he borrows of the Remonstrants) hath been again and again excepted against as illogical and unconcluding, and inconsistent with the principles of them that use it, ought not crudely again to have imposed it upon his reader without some attempt at least to free it from the charge of impertinency, weakness, and folly, wherewith it is burdened. “Illumination is ascribed to believers; illumination is ascribed to these men: therefore these persons are believers.” A little consideration will recover to Mr Goodwin’s mind the force of this argument, so far as that he will scarce use it any more.
Sect. 20, he takes up another expression, from chap. x. 26, that they are said to receive ἐπίγνωσιν τῆς ἀληθείας, — “the acknowledgment of the truth;” whence he argues in the same manner and form as he had newly done from the term of “illumination.” Ἐπίγνωσις ἀληθείας is ascribed to believers; therefore they are all so to whom it is ascribed.
But he tells you, in particular, sect. 20, “That, in the latter of the said passages, the persons spoken of are said to have received ἐπίγνωσιν τῆς ἀληθείας, — that is, ‘the acknowledgment of the truth;’ which expression doth not signify the bare notion of what the gospel teacheth, of which they are capable who are the most professed enemies thereof, but such a consenting and subjection thereunto which worketh effectually in men to a separating of themselves from sin and sinners. This is the constant import of the phrase in the Scriptures.”
Ans. All this may be granted, yet nothing hence concluded to evince the persons to whom it is ascribed to be true believers. Men may be so wrought upon and convinced by the word and Spirit, sent forth to “convince the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment,” as to acknowledge the truth of the gospel, to profess subjection to the gospel, and to yield to it so far as to separate themselves from 648sin and sinners, in such a manner and to such a degree (not dissembling, hut answering their convictions) as to bless themselves oftentimes in their own condition, and to obtain an esteem with the people of God to be such indeed as they profess themselves to be, and yet come short of that union and communion with the Lord Christ which all true believers are made partakers of. It is not of any use or importance to examine the particular places mentioned by Mr Goodwin, wherein, as be supposeth, the expression of the “knowledge” or “acknowledgment of the truth” denotes that which is saving, and comprehendeth true faith, unless he had attempted to prove from them that the word could signify nothing else, or that a man might not be brought to an acknowledgment of the truth but that he must of necessity be a true believer; neither of which he doth, or if he did, could he possibly give any seeming probability to. There may be a knowing, of the things of the gospel in men, and yet they may come short of the happiness of them that do them; there is a knowledge of Christ that yet is barren as to the fruit of holiness.
In the next place, the persons queried about are said to be “sanctified by the blood of the covenant.” Of this Mr Goodwin says, sect. 21, “That is, by their sprinkling herewith, to be separated from such who refuse this sprinkling, as likewise from the pollutions and defilements of the world. To be ‘sanctified,’ when applied unto persons, is not found in any other sense throughout the New Testament, unless it be where persons bear the consideration of things, 1 Cor. vii. 14. But of this signification of the word, which we claim in this place, instances are so frequent and obvious that we shall not need to mention any.”
Ans. 1. If no more be intended in this expression but what Mr Goodwin gives us in the exposition of it, — namely, that they are so sprinkled with it as to be “separated from them that refuse this sprinkling” (that is openly), “as likewise from the pollutions and defilements of the world,” — we shall not need to contend about it; for men may be so sprinkled, and have such an efficacy of conviction come upon them by the preaching of the cross and blood-shedding of Christ, as to be separated from those who professedly despise it and the open publication of the word, and yet be far from having “consciences purged from dead works to serve the living God.” And, —
2. That the term of “sanctifying,” when applied to persons, is not used in any other sense than what is by Mr Goodwin here expressed, is an assertion that will be rendered useless until Mr Goodwin be pleased to give it an edge by explaining in what sense he here intends to apply it. Of the term “sanctifying” there are, as hath been declared, two more eminent and known significations:— First, To separate from common use, state, or condition, to dedicate, consecrate, and set apart to God, by profession of his will, in a peculiar manner, 649is frequently so expressed. Secondly, Really to purify, cleanse with spiritual purity, opposed to the defilement of sin, is denoted thereby. In the exposition given of the place here used by Mr Goodwin, he mentions both, — separation, and that chiefly, as the nature of the sanctification whereof he speaks, as also some kind of spiritual cleansing from sin; but in what sense he precisely would have us to understand him he doth not tell us.
I somewhat question whether it be used in the Epistle to the Hebrews in any other sense than the former, which was the Temple sense of the word, the apostle using many terms of the old worship in their first signification; — however, that it is used in that sense in the New Testament, appropriated to persons, without any such respect as that mentioned by Mr Goodwin, is sufficiently evinced by that of our Saviour, John xvii. 19, ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἐγὼ ἁγιάζω ἐμαυτόν, expressing his dedicating and separating himself to his office; and more instances may be had, if we stood in any need of them.
3. That many are said to be sanctified and holy in the latter sense, as it signifieth spiritual purity, in respect of their profession of themselves so to be, and some men’s esteem of them, who yet were never wholly and truly purged from their sin, nor ever had received the Holy Spirit of promise, who alone is able to purge their hearts, doth not now want its demonstration; that work hath been some while since performed. So that Mr Goodwin makes not any progress at all in the proof of what he has undertaken, — namely, that they are true believers, in the sense of that denomination which we assert, who in these places are described. For a close, ἐν ᾧ ἡμιάσθη is far more properly referred to Christ than to the persons spoken of; and that sense the Remonstrants themselves do not oppose.
That they are said, chap. vi. 4, to have “tasted of the heavenly gift” is urged in the next place, sect. 22, to prove them true believers. Both the object and the act are here in question, — what is meant by the “heavenly gift,” and what by “tasting” of it. I shall not look into the text beyond the peculiar concernment of the cause in hand; somewhat might be offered for the farther clearing of the one and other. At present it sufficeth, that, be the “heavenly gift” what it will, the persons of our contest are said only to “taste” of it; which, though absolutely and in itself it is not an extenuating expression, but denotes a matter of high aggravation of the sin of apostasy, in that they were admitted to some taste and relish of the excellency and sweetness of the heavenly gift, yet comparatively to their feeding on it, digesting it, growing thereby, it clearly denotes their coming short of such a participation of it who do but taste of it. That to taste doth not, in the first genuine signification, in things natural, signify to eat and digest meat, so as to grow by it, I suppose needs no proof: that in that sense it is used in the Scriptures, John ii. 9, 650Matt. xxvii. 34, is by Mr Goodwin confessed. This he tells you “is only when the taste or relish of things is desired to be known;” but that our Saviour tasted of the gall and vinegar out of a desire to know the relish of it, he will hardly persuade those who are accustomed to give never so easy a belief to his assertions. By the “heavenly gift” Mr Goodwin in the first place intends Jesus Christ. Now, if by tasting, eating and drinking of Christ be intended, as is here pleaded, Christ himself will determine this strife, telling us that whosoever eateth his flesh shall be saved, John vi. 35, 49–51, 53–57. So that either to taste is not to eat, or they that taste cannot perish.
Three things are urged by Mr Goodwin to give proof of his interpretation of these words of the Holy Ghost. Saith he:—
1. “Whatsoever is meant by this ‘heavenly gift,’ certain is it that by ‘tasting’ is not meant any light or superficial impression made upon the hearts or souls of men, through the sense or apprehension of it, but an emphatical, inward, and affectuous relish and sense of the excellent and heavenly sweetness and pleasantness of it, opposed to a bare speculation or naked apprehension thereof. The reason hereof is clear, viz., because the tasting of this heavenly gift here spoken of is not mentioned by the apostle in a way of easing or extenuating the sin of those that should fall away from Christ, but by way of aggravation and exaggeration of the heinousness and unreasonableness thereof, and withal more fully to declare and assert the equitableness of that severity in God which is here denounced against those that shall sin the great sin of apostasy here spoken of. It must needs be much more unworthy and provoking in the sight of God for a man to turn his back upon and renounce those ways, that profession, wherein God hath come home to him, and answered the joy of his heart abundantly, than it would be in case he had only heard of great matters, and had his head filled, but had really found and felt nothing with his heart and soul truly excellent and glorious.
2. “And besides, the very word itself, to taste, ordinarily in Scripture imports a real communion with, or participation and enjoyment (if the thing be good) of, that which was said to be tasted. ‘O taste and see,’ saith David, ‘that the Lord is good,’ Ps. xxxiv. 8. His intent, doubtless, was, not to invite men to a slight or superficial taste of the goodness of God, but to a real, cordial, and thorough experiment and satisfactory enjoyment of it. So when he that made the great invitation in the parable expressed himself thus to his servants, ‘For I say unto you, That none of those which were bidden shall taste of my supper,’ Luke xiv. 24, his meaning clearly was, that they should not partake of the sweetness and benefit with those who should accept of his invitation and come unto it. In like manner, when Peter speaketh thus to his Christian Jews, ‘If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious,’ 1 Pet. ii. 3, his meaning 651(questionless) is, not to press his exhortation, directed unto them in the former verse, upon a consideration of any light or vanishing taste, such as hypocrites and false-hearted Christians may have, of the graciousness of the Lord, but of such a taste wherein they had had a real, inward, and sensible experiment thereof.
3. “And besides, according to the sense of our adversaries in the present debate, if the taste of the heavenly gift we speak of should imply no more but only a faint or weak perception of the sweetness and glorious excellency of it, yet even this may be sufficient to evince truth of grace and faith in men: for their opinion is, that a man may be a true believer with a grain of mustard-seed only, — that is, with a very slender relish and taste of spiritual things; yea, their sense is, that in some cases of desertion, and under the guilt of some enormous courses, they may have little or no taste of them at all.”
Ans. To the first discourse, considering what hath been already delivered, I shall only add, that although it be no aggravation of the sin of apostasy that they who fall into it have but “tasted of the heavenly gift,” yet it is that they have tasted of it. That taste of its relish, preciousness, and sweetness, which they have obtained, whereby they are distinguished from them whose blindness and hardness keep them up to a total disrelish and contempt of it, is abundantly enough to render their sin heinous and abominable. When men, by the preaching of the word, shall be startled in their sins, troubled in their consciences, forced to seek out for a remedy, and shall come so far as to have some (though but a light) taste of the excellency of the gospel and the remedy provided for sinners in Jesus Christ; and then, through the strength of their lusts and corruptions, shall cast it off, reject it, and spit out of their mouth, as it were, all that of it whereby they found the least savour in it, — no creature under heaven can be guilty of more abominable undervaluing of the Lord Christ and the love of God in him than such persons. What degree of love, joy, repentance, peace, faith, persons many times arrive unto, when, with Herod, they have “heard the word gladly, and done many things willingly,” etc., hath been by others abundantly demonstrated. This sufficeth our present purpose, that they do make such a progress in the ways of God, and find so much excellency in the treasure of grace and mercy which he hath provided in Jesus Christ, and [which he] tenders in the gospel, that he cannot but look upon their apostasy and renunciation of him (whereby they proclaim to all the world, as much as in them lies, that there is not that real goodness, worth, and excellency to be found in him as some pretend) as the highest scorn and contempt of him and his love in Christ; and [he] revenges it accordingly.
To the second, which consists of instances collected by the Remonstrants to manifest the use of the word “tasting” to be other 652than what we here confine it to, I say, first, that the word, as it is applied to spirituals, being borrowed and metaphorical, not in its analogy to be extended beyond making trial for our coming to some knowledge of a thing in its nature, the use of it in one place cannot prescribe to the sense of it in another, no more than any other metaphorical expression whatever; but it must, in the several places of its residence, be interpreted according to the most peculiar restriction that the matter treated of doth require. If, then, Mr Goodwin can prove that any thing in this place under consideration enforces such a sense, all his other instances are needless; if he cannot, they are useless.
It might easily be manifested, and hath been done by others already, that in all the places mentioned by Mr Goodwin, the word is not expressly significant of any thorough, solid eating and participation of that which is said to be tasted, as is pretended. But to manifest this is not our concernment, there being no reason in the world to enforce any such sense as is contended for in the place under present consideration.
To the third, wherein he argues, with his predecessors, from our opinion concerning faith, a brief reply will suffice. That “a faint, weak perception and relish of heavenly things,” is sufficient to make a man a believer, is so far from being our opinion that we utterly disclaim them from being believers to whom this is ascribed, if nothing else be added in their description from whence they may be so esteemed. It is true, faith is sometimes little and weak in the exercise of it; yea, a man may be so overtaken with temptations, or so clouded under desertions, as that it may not deport itself with any such considerable vigour as to be consolatory to him in whom it is, or demonstrative of him unto others to be what he is: but we say, that the weakest, lowest, meanest measure and degree of this faith, is yet grounded and fixed in the heart, where, though it be not always alike lively and active, yet it is always alive and gives life. How far believers may fall into the guilt of “enormous courses” has been already manifested. The intendment of the expression is to disadvantage the persuasion he opposeth. We do not grant that believers may fall into any enormities, but only what God himself affirms they may, and yet not utterly be cast out of his love and favour in Jesus Christ. Farther; the weakest faith of which we affirm that it may be true and saving, though it may have no great perception nor deep taste of heavenly things for the present, yet hath always that of adherence to God in Christ; which is exceedingly exalted above any such perception of heavenly things whatever that may be had or obtained without it. So that, from the consideration of what hath been spoken, we may safely conclude that Mr Goodwin hath not been able to advance one step in his intendment to prove that the persons here described are true believers.
653I know no sufficient ground or reason to induce me to any large consideration of the other two or three expressions that remain, and that are insisted on by Mr Goodwin, seeing it is evident from their associates, which have been already examined, that there is none of them can speak one word to the business in hand. I shall therefore discharge them from any farther attendance in the service they have been forced unto.
The next privilege insisted on which to these persons is ascribed is, that they are “made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” In men’s participation of the Holy Ghost, either the gifts or graces of the Holy Ghost are intended. The graces of the Holy Ghost are either more common and inchoative, or special and completing of the work of conversion. That it is the peculiar, regenerating grace of God that is intended in this expression, of being “made partakers of the Holy Ghost,” and not the gifts of the Spirit, or those common graces of illumination, unto which persons not truly converted, but only wrought upon by an effectual conviction in the preaching of the word, may attain, Mr Goodwin is no way able to prove. And there is also this consideration rising up with strength and power against that interpretation, namely, that those that are so made partakers of the Spirit as to be regenerated, quickened, sealed, comforted thereby, — which are some of the peculiar acts of his grace in and towards the souls of those that believe, — can never lose him nor be deprived of him (as was manifested before at large), being sealed and confirmed not only in the present enjoyment of the love and favour of God, but also unto the full fruition of the glory which is provided for them; and therefore [they] cannot fall away, as these are supposed to do. What there is in Mr Goodwin’s discourse on this passage, sect. 23, 24, to weaken in the least what is usually answered, or farther to enforce his exposition of the place, I am not able to apprehend, and shall therefore proceed with what remaineth.
All that follows in the place of the apostle under contest is regulated by the word “taste:” “They have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.” What the sense and importance of that word is hath been already declared; neither can it be proved that the persons here described do so “taste the good word of God” as to mix the promises of it with faith, or of the “powers of the world to come” as to receive them in power in their hearts by believing: so that farther contest about these words seems to be altogether needless.
How far men may proceed in the ways of God; what progress they may make in amendment of life; what gifts and common graces they may receive; what light and knowledge they may be endued withal; what kind of faith, joy, repentance, sorrow, delight, love, they may have in and about spiritual things; what desires of mercy and heaven; 654what useful gifts for the church’s edification they may receive; how far they may persuade their own souls, and upon what grounds, that their condition God-ward is good and saving, and beget an opinion in others that they are true believers, — and yet come short of union with Christ, building their houses on the sand, etc., is the daily task of the preachers of the gospel to manifest, in their pressing that exhortation of the apostle unto their hearers, to “examine and try themselves,” in the midst of their profession, “whether Christ be in them of a truth” or no. I shall not now enter upon that labour. The reader knows where to find enough, in the writings of holy and learned men of this nation, to evince that men may arrive at the utmost height of what is in this place of the apostle by the Holy Ghost ascribed to the persons of whom he speaks, and yet come short of the state of true believers. Mr Goodwin, indeed, tells us, sect. 27, —
“The premises relating to the two passages yet under debate considered, I am so far from questioning whether the apostle speaks of true and sound believers in them, that I verily judge that he purposely sought out several of the most emphatical and signal characters of believers, yea, such which are hardly, or rather not at all, to be found in the ordinary sort of true believers, but only in those that are most eminent amongst them; — that so he might give them to understand and consider that not true believers only, and such who though sound yet were weak in the faith, might fall away and perish, but that even such also who were lifted up nearer unto heaven than their fellows might, through carelessness and carnal security, dash themselves in pieces against the same stone, and make shipwreck of their souls as well as they.”
Ans. 1. The house built on the sand may oftentimes be built higher, have more fair parapets and battlements, windows, and ornaments, than that which is built upon the rock; yet all gifts and privileges equal not one grace. In respect of light, knowledge, gifts, and many manifestations of the Spirit, such who never come up to that faith which gives real union and communion with Jesus Christ may far outgo those that do.
2. That there is any thing mentioned or any characters given believers, much less such as are singular and not common to all, Mr Goodwin hath not in any measure been able to evince. There is not the meanest believer in the world but he is a child of God, and heir of the promises, and brother of the Lord Christ; hath union with him; hath his living in him; is quickened, justified, sanctified; hath Christ made to him wisdom, etc.; hath his righteousness in God, and his life hid in him in Christ; is passed from death to life, brings forth fruit; and is dear to God as the apple of his eye, accepted with him, approved of him as his temple, wherein he delighteth to dwell. That any thing in this place mentioned and insisted on, any characters 655we have given of the persons whom we have considered, do excel, or equal, or denote any thing in the same kind with these and the like excellencies of the meanest believers, will never be proved, if we may judge of future successes from the issue of all former attempts for that end and purpose.
And this is the issue of Mr Goodwin’s third testimony produced to confirm the doctrine of the saints’ apostasy, but hypothetically, and under such a form of expression as may not be argued from, nor of saints and true believers at all. His fourth followeth.
His fourth testimony he produceth, and endeavours to manage for the advantage of his cause, sect. 31, in these words:—
“The next Scripture testimony we shall produce and briefly urge in the cause now under maintenance is in the same epistle with the former, and speaketh these words: ‘Now, the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.’ Our English translators, out of good-will, doubtless, to a bad cause, have almost defaced this testimony, by substituting ‘any man’ for the ‘just man:’ for whereas they translate, ‘But if any man draw back,’ the original readeth, Καὶ ἐὰν ὑποστείληται· that is, ‘And if,’ or ‘But if he,’ that is, the just man, who should live by his faith, namely, if he continues in it, ‘shall draw back.’ Beza himself likewise, before them, had stained the honour of his faithfulness with the same blot in his translation. But the mind of the Holy Ghost in the words is plain and without parable, namely, that ‘If the just man, who lives,’ — that is, who at present enjoys the favour of God, and thereby is supported in all his trials, — and should live always, ‘by his faith,’ if he continues in it, as Paræus well glosseth, ‘shall draw back,’ or shall be withdrawn, namely, through fear or sloth (as the word properly signifieth, see Acts xx. 27), from his believing, ‘my soul shall have no pleasure in him;’ that is (according to the import of the Hebraism), ‘my soul shall hate or abhor him to death;’ as it is also expounded in the words immediately following, ‘But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but,’ etc. From hence, then, evident it is that such a man who is a just or righteous man, and under promise of living for ever by his faith (and therefore also a true and sound believer), may draw back, or be withdrawn, to the contracting of the hatred of God, and to destruction in the end. The forlorn hope of evading, because the sentence is hypothetical or conditional, not positive, hath been routed over and over, yea, and is abandoned by some of the great masters themselves of that cause unto the defence whereof it pretendeth. And, however, in this place, it would be most preposterous; for if it should be supposed that the just man, who is in a way and under a promise of living by his faith, were in no danger or possibility of drawing back, and that to the loss of the favour of God and ruin of his soul, God must be conceived to speak 656here at no better rate of wisdom or understanding than this: ‘The just shall live by his faith; but if he shall do that which is simply and utterly impossible for him to do, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.’ What savour of wisdom, yea, or of common sense, is there in admonishing or cautioning men against such evils which there is no possibility for them to fall into, yea, and this known unto themselves. Therefore this testimony, for confirmation of the doctrine we maintain, is like a king upon his throne, against whom there is no rising up.”
Ans. What small cause Mr Goodwin hath to quarrel with Beza or other translators, and with how little advantage to his cause this text is produced, shall out of hand be made appear:—
1. The words as they cry are, Ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται· καὶ ἐὰν ὑποστείληται, οὐκ εὐδοκεῖ ἡ ψυχή μου ἐν αὐτῷ· ἡμεῖς δὲ οὐκ ἐσμὲν ὑποστολῆς εἰς ἀπώλειαν, ἀλλὰ πίστεως εἰς περιποίησιν ψυχῆς. In the foregoing part of the chapter, the apostle had treated of two sorts of persons:— (1.) Such as, to forsake the assemblies of the saint, withdrew from the church and ordinances of Christ, and so by degrees fell off with a total and everlasting backsliding Of these the apostle speaks, describing their ways and end, from verse 25 unto verse 31. Thence forward (2.) he speaks to them and of them who abode, in their persecutions and under all their afflictions, to hold fast their confidence; which he also father exhorts them to, that, by patient abiding in well-doing, they might receive the reward. Concerning both these, having told them of the unshaken kingdom of Christ that should be brought in, notwithstanding the apostasy of many, on whose iniquity God would take vengeance, he lays down that eminent promise of the gospel, “The just by faith shall live;” words often used to express the state and condition of believers, — of those who are truly and unfeignedly so. The Lord being faithful in his promise, “the justified person shall live,” or obtain life everlasting. It is the promise of eternal life that is here given them, as that which they had not as yet received, but in patience they were to wait to receive, after they had done the whole will of God. That any of these should so “draw back” as that the Lord’s “soul should have no pleasure in them,” is directly contrary to the promise here made of their living. The particle καί in the next words is plainly adversative and exceptive, as it is very many times in the New Testament, and that to the persons of whom he is speaking. At ζήσεται, the period is full, the description of the state of the just by faith is completed; and in the next words the state of backsliders is entered upon, καὶ ἐὰν ὐποστείληται referring to them, whom by their apostasy and subduction of themselves from Christian assemblies he had before descried. There is an ellipsis in the words, to be supplied by some indefinite term, to give them the sense intended. This Beza and our translators have done by that excepted against, causelessly, by Mr Goodwin; for 657if a translator may make the text speak significantly in the language whereinto he translates it, the introduction of such supplements is allowed him.
2. The following expression puts it out of all question that this was the intendment of the apostle; for he expressly makes mention, and that in reference to what was spoken before, of two sorts of people, to whom his former expressions are respectively to be accommodated. The words are, ἡμεῖς δὲ οὐκ, κ. τ. λ., as above. Mr Goodwin, to make us believe that he took notice of these words, hath this passage of them, “As it is also expounded in the words immediately following, ‘But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but,’ etc.” But what, I pray, is expounded in these words, “that drawers back shall be destroyed”? This is all he takes notice of in them. Evidently the words are an application of the former assertions unto several persons. There are, says he, some who are τῆς ὑποστολῆς, and some that are τῆς πίστεως. Those, saith he, who are τῆς ὑποστολῆς, they shall be destroyed; those who are τῆς πίστεως, they shall live; — evidently and beyond all contradiction assigning his former assertions of “The just shall live by faith,” and “If any man draw back,” to several persons, by a distribution of their lot and portions to them. In verse 38 he lays down in thesis the state and condition of believers and backsliders. In verse 39 he makes application of the position he laid down to himself and them: (1.) Negatively, that they were not of the former sort, “of them that draw back,” etc.; (2.) Positively, that they were of the rest, of “them that believe.” And these expressions, verse 39, Οὐκ ἐσμὲν ὑποστολῆς ἀλλὰ πίστεως, do undeniably affirm two sorts of persons in both places to be spoken of, and that ἐὰν ὑποστειληται can by no means be referred to our δίκαιος, which would intermix them whom the apostle, as to their present state and future condition, held out in a contradistinction one to the other unto the end. All that ensues in Mr Goodwin’s discourse being built upon this sandy foundation, that it is the believer, of whom God affirms that he “shall live by faith,” who is supposed to be τῆς ὑποστολῆς, contrary to the express assertion of the apostle, it needs no farther consideration, although he is not able to manifest any strength in conclusion drawn from suppositions of events which may be possible in one sense and in another impossible.
But before we pass farther, may not this witness, which Mr Goodwin hath attempted in vain to suborn to appear and speak in his cause, be demanded what he can speak, or what he knows of the truth of that which he is produced to oppose? This, then, it confesseth and denieth not, at first word, that of professors there are two sorts: some are ὑποστολῆς, of such as do or may “draw back unto perdition;” some πίστεως, which “believe to the saving of the soul,” and that in opposition to the others. Also, that those who withdraw 658are not πίστεως, not true believers, nor ever were, notwithstanding all their profession, and what [ever] their gifts and attainments in and under their profession. So that the testimony produced keepeth still its place, and is “as a king upon his throne, against whom there is no rising up,” but yet speaks quite contrary, clearly, evidently, distinctly, to what is pretended. Both on the one hand and the other is our thesis undeniably confirmed in this place of the apostle: If all those who fall away to perdition were never truly or really of the faith, then those who are of the faith cannot fall away; but they who fall away to perdition were never truly or really of the faith, or true believers: ergo. The reason of the consequent of the first proposition is evident; for their not being of the faith is plainly included as the reason of their apostasy, and their being of the faith intimated as that which would have preserved them from such defection. The minor is the apostle’s, ‘We are not ὑποστολῆς, of them that draw back, but of them that believe;’ which plainly distinguisheth them that draw back from believers. Again: if true believers shall live, and continue to the saving of their souls, in opposition to them that fall away to perdition, then they shall certainly persevere in their faith, for these two are but one and the same; but that true believers shall live, and believe to the saving of their souls, in opposition to them that draw back, or subduct themselves, to perdition, is the assertion of the Holy Ghost: ergo. I presume by this time Mr G. is plainly convinced that indeed he had as good (yea, and much better, for the advantage of his cause in hand) have let his witness have abode in quietness, and not entreated him so severely [as] to [make him] denounce judgment against that doctrine which he seeks by him to confirm.
Sect. 32. The parable of the stony ground, Matt. xiii. 20, 21, comes next for consideration. The words chosen to be insisted on are in the verses mentioned, “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it: yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while,” etc. That by the stony ground is meant true believers is that which Mr Goodwin undertakes to prove; but how, in his whole discourse, I profess I perceive not. I must take leave to profess that I cannot find any thing looking like a proof or argument to evince it, from the beginning to the end of this discourse, though something be offered to take off the arguments that are used to prove it to be otherwise. Doth Mr Goodwin think that men will easily believe that faith which hath neither root, fruit, nor continuance, to be true and saving faith? Doubtless, they must have very low apprehensions of saving faith, union with Christ, justification, sanctification, adoption, etc., wherewith it is attended, who can once entertain any such imagination. That which is tendered to induce us to such a persuasion may briefly be considered.
659Saith he, sect 32, “Now, those signified by the stony ground he expressly calleth προσκαίρους, that is, persons who continue for a time or a season, — that is (as Luke explaineth), οἵ πρὸς καιρὸν πιστεύουσι, who “believe for a season:” so that those who only for a time believe, and afterward make defection from Christ and from the gospel, are nevertheless numbered and ranked by him amongst believers. The words in Luke are very particular: ‘They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away;’ — from whence it appears that the bearers here described are not compared to the rock or stony ground for the hardness of their hearts, forasmuch as they are said to “receive the word with joy,” which argues an ingenuity and teachableness of spirit in them, and is elsewhere (namely, Acts ii. 41) taken knowledge of by the Holy Ghost as an index or sign of a true believer; but for such a property, disposition, or temper as this, namely, not to give or afford the word so received a radication in their hearts and souls, so intimous, serious, and solid, which should be sufficient to maintain their belief of it, and good affections to it, against all such occurrences in the world which may oppose or attempt either the one or the other.”
Ans. 1. The first reason intimated is, “That they are said to be πρόσκαιροι,” a term given them, plainly, to distinguish them from true believers, — men that make a profession for a season, expressly opposed to them who receive the word “in honest and good hearts.” If the word had denoted any excellency, any thing that was good in them, then there had been some pretence to have insisted on it to prove them true believers; but to demonstrate the truth of their faith from their hypocrisy, and their excellencies from that which expressly denotes their unworthiness, is a strange way of arguing. “They are persons,” saith our Saviour, “that make profession for a little while, and then decay; not like them who receive the word in honest and good hearts:” “Therefore,” saith Mr Goodwin, “they are true believers.” But, —
2. “In Luke they are said to ‘believe for a season.’ ” Mr Goodwin is not now to learn how often in the Scripture they are said to believe who only profess the faith of the gospel, though the root of the matter be not in them. That of John ii. 23–25 may suffice for undeniable instance, or John vi. 66 may farther expound it. Their believing for a season is but the lifeless, worthless, fruitless profession for a season, as their distinction from the good ground doth manifest, But, —
3. “They are said to ‘receive the word with joy,’ which argues ingenuity and teachableness of spirit in them.” No more than in Herod, who “heard the word gladly;” or in the Jews, when the preaching of Ezekiel was “pleasant” or desirable to them; or in those described 660Isa. lviii. 2, who “sought God daily, and delighted to know his ways,” in the midst of their abominable practices.
From the similitude itself he yet farther attempts this uncouth assertion:—
“But as the blade which springs from one and the same kind of seed, as suppose from wheat or any other grain, though sown in different, yea, or contrary soils, is yet of the same species or kind, the nature of the soil not changing the specifical nature of the seed that is sown in it, and God giving to every seed its own body, of what temper soever the ground is, where it is sown; in like manner, that faith which springs from the same seed of the gospel must needs be of one and the same nature and kind, though this seed be sown in the hearts of never so differing a constitution and frame, the temper of the heart, be it what it will be, not being able specifically to alter either the gospel or the natural fruit issuing from it. And as a blade or ear of wheat, though it be blasted before the harvest, is not hereby proved not to have been a true blade or ear of wheat before it was blasted; in like manner, the withering or decay of any man’s faith, by what means or occasion soever, before his death, doth not prove it to have been a false, counterfeit, or hypocritical faith, or a faith of any other kind than that which is true, real, and permanent unto the end.”
Ans. It hath been formerly observed, that similitudes are not argumentative beyond the extent of that particular wherein their nature as such doth consist. The intendment of Christ, in this parable, is to manifest that many hear the word in vain, and bring forth no fruit of it at all. Of these, one sort is compared to stony ground, that brings forth a blade, but no fruit. No fruit is no fruit, though there be a blade or no blade. The difference between the one’s receiving of seed and the other’s, manifested by our Saviour in this parable, is in this, that one brings forth fruit, and the other doth not Farther; the seed of wheat, or the like, brings forth its fruit in a natural way, and therefore whatever it brings forth follows in some measure the nature of the seed; but the seed of the gospel brings forth its fruit in a moral way, and therefore may have effects of sundry natures, That which the seed of wheat brings forth is wheat; but that which the gospel brings forth is not gospel, but faith. Besides; what the wheat brings forth, if it come not, nor ever will, to be wheat in the ear, is but grass, and not of the same nature and kind with that which is wheat actually; though virtually and originally there be the nature of wheat in the root, yet actually wheat is not in the blade, that hath not, nor ever will have, ear. If the seed of wheat be so corrupted in the soil where it is sown that it cannot bring forth fruit, that which it doth bring forth, whatever it be, is of a different nature from that which is brought forth to perfection by the seed of wheat in good ground. Again; 661faith is brought forth by the seed of the gospel, when the promises and exhortations of the gospel, being preached unto men, do prevail on them to give assent unto the truth of it. That every such effect wrought is true, justifying faith, giving union with Jesus Christ, Mr Goodwin cannot prove. That effects specifically different may be brought forth by the same seed of the gospel, seeing “to some it is a savour of life unto life, and to some a savour of death unto death,” needs not much proving. Some receive the word, and turn it into wantonness; some are cast into the mould of it, and are translated into the same image, — if “the temper of the heart,” as is said, is “not able specifically to alter the gospel.” But that there may not fruit of various kinds be borne in the heart that assents to it, that receives it in the upper crust and skin of it, is the question. Neither is it a blade occasionally, withering before the harvest, but a slight receiving of the seed, so as that it can never bring forth fruit, that is intimated. In sum, this whole discourse is a great piece of sophistry, in comparing natural and moral causes in the producing of their effects; a thing not intended in the parable, and whereabout he that will busy himself “jungat vulpes et mulgeat hircos.” This is that which our Saviour teacheth us in the similitude of seed sown in the stony ground: The word is preached unto some men, who are affected with it for a season, assent unto it, but not coming up to a cordial close with it, after a while wither away. And such as these, we say, were never true believers. A small matter will serve to make a man a true believer, if these are such. What tendency this doctrine may have to lull men asleep in security, when Christ is not in them of a truth, may easily appear and be judged. If men who are distinguished from other believers by such signal differences as these here are, may yet pass for true believers, justified, sanctified, adopted ones, “solvi[te] mortales curas,” — the way to heaven is laid open to thousands, who, I fear, will never come to the end of the journey.
What remains of Mr Goodwin’s discourse on this text is spent in answering some objections which are made against his interpretation of the place. It grows now late, and this task grows so heavy on my hand that I cannot satisfy myself in the repetition of any thing spoken before or delivered, which would necessarily enforce a particular consideration of what Mr Goodwin here insists on. Let him at his leisure answer this one argument, and I shall trouble him no farther in this matter:—
That faith which hath neither root nor fruit, neither sound heart nor good life, that by-and-by readily and easily yields, upon temptation, to a total defection, is not true, saving, justifying faith. The root of faith, taken spiritually, is the habit of it in the heart, — a spiritual, living habit; which if it reside not in the heart, all assent whatever wants the nature of faith, true and saving. The fruits of 662faith are, good works and new obedience. That faith which hath not works, James tells you, is dead. Dead and living faith, doubtless, differ specifically. Again, faith purifieth the heart; and when a heart is wholly polluted, corrupted, naught, and false, there dwells no faith in that heart; it is impossible it should be in a heart, and not at least radically and fundamentally purify it. Farther, Mr Goodwin hath told us that true believers are so fortified against apostasy, that they are in only a possibility, in no probability or great danger, of total apostasy; and therefore they who presently and readily fall away cannot be of those who are scarce in any danger of so doing, upon any account whatever; — but that the faith here mentioned hath neither root nor fruit, good heart to dwell in nor good life attending it, but instantly, upon trial and temptation, vanisheth to nothing, we are taught in the text itself: therefore the faith here mentioned is not true or saving faith. That it hath “no root” is expressly affirmed, verse 21. And all the rest of the qualities mentioned are evidenced from the opposition wherein they who are these believers are set unto true believers. They receive the word in “honest and good hearts,” they “bring forth fruit with patience,” they “endure in time of trial,” like the house built on the rock, when the house built on the sand falls to the ground.
One word more with this witness before we part. They who receive the word in honest and good hearts, keep it, do bring forth fruit with patience, and fall not away under temptation (so saith the testimony); but all true believers receive the word in honest and good hearts: ergo; — which is the voice of Mr Goodwin’s fourth witness in this cause.
Then 2 Pet. ii. 18–22 is forced to bring up the rear of the testimonies by Mr Goodwin produced to convince the world of the truth and righteousness of his doctrine of the saints’ apostasy, ending his whole discourse in the mire. Observations from the text or context, from the words themselves, or the coherence, to educe his conclusion from, he insists not on. Many excellent words, concerning the clearness and evidence of this testimony, and the impossibility of avoiding what hence he concludes, we want not; but we have been too often inured to such a way of proceeding to be now moved at it or troubled about it. Were the waters deep, they would not make such a noise. The state and condition of the men here described by the apostle is so justly delineated to the eye by the practice of men:in the world to whom the gospel is preached, that I do not a little wonder how any man exercised in the ministry should once surmise that they are true believers of whom he here treats. Taking the words in the sense wherein they are commonly received, and in their utmost extent, who sees them not daily exemplified in and upon them who are yet far enough from the “faith of God’s elect”? By the 663dispensation of the word, especially when managed by a skilful “master of assemblies,” men are every day so brought under the power of their convictions and of the light communicated to them, as to acknowledge the truth and power of the word, and, in obedience thereunto, to leave off, avoid, and abhor, the ways and courses wherein the men of the world, either not hearing the word at all, or not so wrought upon by it, do pollute themselves and wallow in all manner of sensuality; and yet are not changed in their nature, so as to become new creatures, but continue indeed and in the sight of God “dogs and swine,” oftentimes returning to their “vomit and mire,” though some of them hold out in their profession to the end. And these are they whom, commonly, our divines have deciphered under the name of” formalists,” having a “form of godliness, but denying the power of it,” who are here all at once by Mr Goodwin interested in Christ and the “inheritance of the saints in light.” To make good his enterprise, he argues from the Remonstrants, sect. 40, p. 297:—
“1. If the said expressions import nothing but what hypocrites, and that ‘in sensu composito,’ that is, whilst hypocrites, are capable of, then may those be hypocrites who are separated from men that live in error, and from the pollutions of the world, and that through the knowledge of Jesus Christ; and, on the other hand, those may be saints and sound believers who wallow in all manner of filthiness, and defile themselves daily with the pollutions of the world. This consequence, according to the principles and known tenets of our adversaries, is legitimate and true, inasmuch as they hold ‘That true believers may fall so foul and so far that the church, according to Christ’s institution, may be constrained to testify that they cannot bear them in their outward communion, and that they shall have no part in the kingdom of Christ, except they repent,’ etc. But whether this be wholesome and sound divinity or no, to teach that they who are separate from sinners, and live holily and blamelessly in this present world, and this by means of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, may be hypocrites and children of perdition, and they, on the other hand, who are companions of thieves, murderers, adulterers, etc., saints and sound believers, I leave to men whose judgments are not turned upside down with prejudice to determine.”
Sundry things might be observed from the text to render this discourse altogether useless as to the end for which it is produced: as, 1. That sundry copies, verse 18, instead of ὅλως213213 Ὅλως seems to be a misprint for ὄντως, which is the reading of the textus receptus. This latter reading is now abandoned in the critical editions of the New Testament. Estius seems to have adopted ὀλίγον· Bloomfield has no doubt that it should be ὀλίγῳ· Tischendorf, on the authority of some of the most ancient manuscripts, several ancient versions, and several of the Fathers, inserts ὀλίγως in the text as the proper reading. The meaning in this case would be “almost.” In the translation of De Wette, “beinahe,” “almost,” is the word employed. — Ed. read ὀλίγον, — 664who “almost,” or in a little way or measure, so escaped as is said. 2. That it is not said that those who are so escaped may apostatize. It is said, indeed, that the false prophets and teachers δελεάζουσιν, do lay baits for them, as the fisher doth for the fish that he would take, by proposing unto them a liberty as to all manner of impurity and uncleanness; but that in so doing they prevail over them is not affirmed. 3. The conditional expression, verse 20, may be used in reference to the false prophets, and not to them that are said to “escape the pollutions of the world;” and if to them, that nothing can be argued from thence hath plentifully, upon several occasions, been already demonstrated. But, to suffer Mr G. to leap over all these blots in his entrance, and to take the words in his own sense and connection, I say, —
1. In what large and improper sense such persons as we treat of are termed “hypocrites” hath been declared. Those who pretend to be God-ward, what they know themselves not to be, making a pretence of religion to colour and countenance themselves in vice and vicious practices or sensual courses, wherein they allow and bless themselves, we intend not; but such as in some sincerity, under the enjoyment and improvement of gifts and privileges, do or may walk conscientiously (as Paul before his conversion), and yet are not united to Christ.
2. Of these we say that they may so “escape,” etc. But that sound believers may “wallow in all manner of filthiness, and defile themselves with all manner of pollutions,” we say not; nor will any instance given amount to the height and intendment of these expressions, they being all alleviated by sundry considerations necessary to be taken in with that of their sinning.
3. If we may compare the worst of a saint with the best of a formal professor, and make an estimate of the states and conditions of them both, we may cast the balance on the wrong side.
4. We do say that Simon Peter was a believer when he denied Christ, and Simon Magus a hypocrite and in the “bond of iniquity” when it was said he “believed.” We do say that a man may be alive notwithstanding many wounds and much filth upon him, and a man may be dead without either the one or the other, in that eminently visible manner. He adds, —
“2. The persons here spoken of are said to have ὄντως truly and really, ‘escaped from them who live in error.’ Doubtless a hypocrite cannot be said truly or really, but in show or appearance at most, to have made such an escape (I mean from men who live in error), considering that, for matter of reality and truth, remaining in hypocrisy, he lives in one of the greatest and foulest errors that is.”
The whole force of this second exception lies upon the ambiguity of the term “hypocrite.” Though such as pretend religion and the 665worship of God, to be a colour and pretext for the free and uncontrolled practising of vile abominations, may not be said so to escape it, yet such as those we have before described, with their convictions, light, gifts, duties, good conscience, etc., may truly and really escape from them and their ways who pollute themselves with the errors of idolatry, false worship, superstition, and the pollutions of practices against the light of nature and their own convictions. It is added that, —
“3. A hypocrite, whose foot is already in the snare of death, cannot upon any tolerable account, either of reason or common sense, be said to be ‘allured’ (that is, by allurements to be deceived) or ‘overcome by the pollutions of the world,’ no more than a fish that is already in the net or fast upon the hook can be said to be allured or deceived by a bait held to her.”
Ans. But he that hath been so far prevailed upon by the preaching of the word as to relinquish and renounce the practices of uncleanness, wherein he some time wallowed and rolled himself, may be prevailed upon and overcome by temptations to backslide into the same abominable practices wherein he was formerly engaged, deserting that way and course of attending to the word and yielding obedience thereunto which he had entertained, that in its own nature tended to a better end. Says he, —
“4. Hypocrites are nowhere said, neither can they with any congruity to Scripture phrase be said, to have ‘escaped the pollutions of the world through the acknowledgment’ (for so the word ἐπίγνωσις should be translated) ‘of Jesus Christ;’ the acknowledgment of the truth, and so of Christ and of God, constantly in the Scriptures importing a sound and saving work of conversion, as we lately observed in this chapter, sect. 20.”
Ans. It sufficeth that the thing itself intimated is sufficiently revealed in the Scriptures, and confirmed by the examples of all those who have acknowledged the truth of the word to the putting on of a form of godliness, though they come not up to the power or saving practice of it. And truly I cannot admit that any one who hath had never so little experience in the work of the ministry, or made never so little observation of religion, should once suppose that all such persons must needs be accounted true believers, regenerate, etc.
Mr Goodwin shuts up this chapter with a declaration concerning the uselessness of cautions and admonitions given to believers about backsliding, upon a supposition of an infallible promise of God for their perseverance. I presume the reader is weary as well as myself; and having in the last chapter heard him out to the full [as to] what he is able to say to this common-place of opposition to the doctrine we have thus far asserted, and offered those considerations of the ways 666of God’s dealings with believers to preserve them in the course of their obedience and walking with him which, I hope, through the mercy and goodness of God, may be satisfactory to them that shall weigh them, I shall not burden him with the repetition of any thing already delivered, nor do judge it needful for to add any thing more.
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