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Of election and universal grace — Of the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
Mr Biddle’s intention in this thirteenth chapter being to decry God’s eternal election, finding himself destitute of any scripture that should, to the least outward appearance, speak to his purpose, he deserts the way and method of procedure imposed on himself, and in the very entrance falls into a dispute against it, with such arguments 552as the texts of Scripture after mentioned give not the least colour or countenance unto. Not that from me he incurs any blame for using any arguments whereby he supposeth he may further or promote his cause is this spoken; but having at the entrance protested against such a procedure, he ought not, upon any necessity, to have transgressed the law which to himself he had prescribed. But as the matter stands, he is to be heard to the full in what he hath to offer. Thus, then, he proceeds:—
Q. Those scriptures which you have already alleged, when I inquired for whom Christ died, intimate the universality of God’s love to men; yet, forasmuch as this is a point of the greatest importance, without the knowledge and belief whereof we cannot have any true and solid ground of coming unto God (because if he from eternity intended good only to a few, and those few are not set down in the Scriptures, which were written that we through the comfort of them might have hope, no man can certainly, yea, probably, infer that he is in the number of those few, the contrary being ten thousand to one more likely), what other clear passages of Scripture have you which show that God, in sending Christ and proposing the gospel, aimed not at the salvation of a certain elect number, but of men in general?
1. That God is good to all men, and bountiful, being a wise, powerful, liberal provider for the works of his hands, in and by innumerable dispensations and various communications of his goodness to them, and may in that regard be said to have a universal love for them all, is granted; but that God loveth all and every man alike, with that eternal love which is the fountain of his giving Christ for them and to them, and all good things with him, is not in the least intimated by any of those places of Scripture where they are expressed for whom Christ died, as elsewhere hath been abundantly manifested.
2. It is confessed that “this is a point of the greatest importance” (that is, of very great), “without the knowledge and belief whereof we cannot have any true and solid ground of coming unto God,” — namely, of the love of God in Christ; but that to know the universality of his love is of such importance cannot be proved, unless that can be numbered which is wanting, and that weighed in the balance which is not.
3. We say not that “God from all eternity intended good only to a few,” etc. He intended much good to all and every man in the world, and accordingly, in abundance of variety, accomplisheth that his intention towards them, — to some in a greater, to some in a lesser measure, according as seems good to his infinite wisdom and pleasure, for which all things were created and made, Rev. iv. 11. And for that particular eminent good of salvation by Jesus Christ, for the praise of his glorious grace, we do not say that he intended 553that from eternity for a few, absolutely considered, for these will appear in the issue to be “a great multitude, which no man can number,” Rev. vii. 9; but that in comparison of them who shall everlastingly come short of his glow, we say that they are but a “little flock,” yea, “few they are that are chosen,” as our Saviour expressly affirms, whatever Mr B. be pleased to tell us to the contrary.
4. That the granting that they are but few that are chosen (though many be called), and that “before the foundation of the world” some are chosen to be holy and unblamable in love through Christ, having their “names written in the book of life,” is a discouragement to any to come to God, Mr B. shall persuade us when he can evince that the secret and eternal purpose of God’s discriminating between persons as to their eternal conditions is the great ground and bottom of our approach unto God, and not the truth and faithfulness of the promises which he hath given, with his holy and righteous commands, The issue that lies before them who are commanded to draw nigh to God is, not whether they are elected or no, but whether they will believe or no, God having given them eternal and unchangeable rules: “He that believeth shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Though no man’s name be written in the Scripture, he that believes hath the faith of God’s veracity to assure him that he shall be saved. It is a most vain surmisal, that as to that obedience which God requires of us, there is any obstruction laid by this consideration, that they are but few which are chosen.
5. This is indeed the only true and solid ground of coming unto God by Christ, that God hath infallibly conjoined faith and salvation, so that whosoever believes shall be saved; neither doth the granting of the pretended universality of God’s love afford any other ground whatever; and this is not in the least shaken or impaired by the effectual love and purpose of God for the salvation of some. And if Mr B. hath any other true and solid ground of encouraging men to come to God by Christ besides and beyond this, which may not, on one account or other, be educed from it or resolved into it (I mean of God’s command and promise), I do here beg of him to acquaint me with it, and I shall give him more thanks for it, if I live to see it done, than as yet I can persuade myself to do on the account of all his other labours which I have seen.
6. We say, though God hath chosen some only to salvation by Christ, — yet the names of those some are not expressed in Scripture, the doing whereof would have been destructive to the main end of the word, the nature of faith, and all the ordinances of the gospel, — yet God having declared that whosoever believeth shall be saved, there is sufficient ground for all and every man in the world to whom the gospel is preached to come to God by Christ, and other 554ground there is none, nor can be offered by the assertors of the pretended universality of God’s love. Nor is this proposition, “He that believeth shall be saved,” founded on the universality of love pleaded for, but on the sufficiency of the means for the accomplishment of what is therein asserted, — namely, the blood of Christ, who is believed on.
Now, because Mr B. expresseth that the end of his asserting this universality of God’s love is to decry his eternal purpose of election, it being confessed that between these two there is an inconsistency, without entering far into that controversy, I shall briefly show what the Scripture speaks to the latter, and how remote the places mentioned by Mr B. are from giving countenance to the former, in the sense wherein by him who asserts it it is understood.
For the first, methinks a little respect and reverence to that testimony of our Saviour, “Many are called, but few are chosen,” might have detained this gentleman from asserting with so much confidence that the persuasion of God’s choosing but a few is an obstruction of men’s coming unto God. Though he looks upon our blessed Saviour as a mere man, yet I hope he takes him for a true man, and one that taught the way of God aright. But a little farther to clear this matter:—
1. Some are chosen from eternity, and are under the purpose of God, as to the good mentioned. 2. Those some are some only, not all; and therefore, as to the good intended, there is not a universal love in God as to the objects of it, but such a distinguishing one as is spoken against: Eph. i. 4, 5, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” Here are some chosen, and consequently an intention of God concerning them expressed, and this from eternity, or before the foundation of the world, and this to the good of holiness, adoption, salvation; and this is only of some, and not of all the world, as the whole tenor of the discourse, being referred to believers, doth abundantly manifest. Rom. viii. 28–30, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” The good here intended is glory, that the apostle closes withal, “Whom he justified, them he also glorified;” the means to that end consist in vocation and justification; the persons to be made partakers of this end are, not all the world, but “the called according to his purpose;” the designation of them so distinguished 555to the end expressed is from the purpose, foreknowledge, and predestination of God, — that is, his everlasting intention. Were it another man with whom we had to do, I should wonder that it came into his mind to deny this eternal intention of God towards some for good; but nothing is strange from the gentleman of our present contest. They are but some which are “ordained to eternal life,” Acts xiii. 48; but some that are “given to Christ,” John xvii. 6; “a remnant according to election,” Rom. xi. 5; one being chosen when another was rejected “before they were born, or had done either good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand,” chap. ix. 11, 12; and those who obtain salvation are “chosen thereunto through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth,” 2 Thess. ii. 13. All that is intended by them whom Mr B. thinketh to load with the opinion he rejects is but what in these and many other places of Scripture is abundantly revealed: God from all eternity, “according to the purpose of his own will,” or “the purpose which is according to election,” hath chosen some, and appointed them to the obtaining of life and salvation by Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace. For the number of these, be they few or many, in comparison of the rest of the world, the event doth manifest.
Yet farther to evidence that this purpose of God or intention spoken of is peculiar and distinguishing, there is express mention of another sort of men who are not thus chosen, but lie under the purpose of God as to a contrary lot and condition: “The Lord hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil,” Prov. xvi. 4. They are persons “whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb,” Rev. xiii. 8; being “of old ordained to condemnation,” Jude 4; being as “natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed,” 2 Pet. ii. 12. And therefore the apostle distinguisheth all men into those who are “appointed to wrath,” and those who are “appointed to the obtaining of salvation by Jesus Christ,” 1 Thess. v. 9; an instance of which eternally discriminating purpose of God is given in Jacob and Esau, Rom. ix. 11, 12: which way and procedure therein of God the apostle vindicates from all appearance of unrighteousness, and stops the mouths of all repiners against it, from the sovereignty and absolute liberty of his will in dealing with all the sons of men as he pleaseth, verses 14–21; concluding that, in opposition to them whom God hath made “vessels of mercy prepared unto glory,” there are also “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” verses 22, 23.
Moreover, in all eminent effects and fruits of love, in all the issues and ways of it, for the good of and towards the sons of men, God abundantly manifests that his eternal love, that regards the everlasting good of men, as it was before described, is peculiar, and not universally comprehensive of all and every one of mankind.
5561. In the pursuit of that love he gave his Son to die: “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” Rom. v. 8. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” 1 John iv. 10. Now, though he died not for the Jews only, but for all, for the whole world, or men throughout the whole world, yet that he died for some only of all sorts throughout the world, even those who are so chosen, as is before mentioned, and not for them who are rejected, as was above declared, himself testifies: John xvii. 9, “I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me;” “Thine they were, and thou gavest them me,” verse 6; “And for their sakes I sanctify myself,” verse 19: even as he had said before, that he came to “give his life a ransom for many,” Matt. xx. 28; which Paul afterward abundantly confirms, affirming that “God redeemed his church with his own blood,” Acts xx. 28. Not the world, as contradistinguished from his church, nor absolutely, but his church throughout the world. And to give us a clearer insight into his intendment in naming the church in this business, he tells us they are God’s elect whom he means: Rom. viii. 32–34, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” They are the elect for whom God gave his Son, and that out of his love (which the apostle eminently sets out, verse 32), those to whom with his Son he gives all things, and who shall on that account never be separated from him.
Farther, to manifest that this great fruit and effect of the love of God, which is extended to the whole object of that love, was not universal:— (1.) The promise of giving him was not so; God promised Christ to all for and to whom he giveth him: “The Lord God of Israel by him visited and redeemed his people, raising up an horn of salvation for them in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began,” Luke i. 68–70. In the very first promise of him, the seed of the serpent (as are all reprobate unbelievers) are excluded from any interest therein, Gen. iii. 15. And it was renewed again, not to all the world, but to “Abraham and his seed,” Gen. xii. 2, 3; Acts ii. 39, iii. 25 And for many ages the promise was so appropriated to the seed of Abraham, Rom. ix. 4, with some few that joined themselves to them, Isa. lvi. 3–7, that the people of God prayed for a curse on the residue of the world, Jer. x. 25, as they which were “strangers from the covenants of promise,” Eph. ii. 12; they belonged not to them. So that God made not a promise of 557Christ to the universality of mankind; which sufficiently evinceth that it was not from a universal but a peculiar love that he was given. Nor, —
(2.) When Christ was exhibited in the flesh, according to the promise, was he given to all, but to the church, Isa. ix. 6; neither really as to their good, nor ministerially for the promulgation of the gospel to any, but to the Jews. And therefore when “he came unto his own,” though “his own received him not,” John i. 11, yet as to the ministry which he was to accomplish, he professed he was “not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and gave order to them whom he sent forth to preach in his own lifetime “not to go into the way of the Gentiles, nor to enter into any city of the Samaritans,” Matt. x. 5. Yea, when he had been “lifted up’ to “draw all men unto him,” John iii. 14, xii. 32, and, being ascended, had broken down the partition wall and taken away all distinction of Jew and Gentile, circumcision and uncircumcision, having died not only for that nation of the Jews (for “the remnant according to the election of grace,” Rom. xi. 5), but that he “might gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad,” John xi. 52, — whence the language and expressions of the Scripture as to the people of God are changed, and instead of “Judah and Israel,” they are expressed by “the world,” John iii. 16, “the whole world,” 1 John v. 1, 2, and “all men,” 1 Tim. ii. 4, in opposition to the Jews only, some of all sorts being now taken into grace and favour with God, — yet neither then doth he do what did remain for the full administration of the covenant of grace towards all, namely, the pouring out of his Spirit with efficacy of power to bring them into subjection to him, but still carries on, though in a greater extent and latitude, a work of distinguishing love, taking some and refusing others. So that, being “exalted, and made a prince and a saviour,” he gives not repentance to all the world, but to them whom he “redeemed to. God by his blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation,” Rev. v. 9.
It appears, then, from the consideration of this first most eminent effect of the love of God, in all the concernments of it, that that love which is the foundation of all the grace and glory, of all the spiritual and eternal good things, whereof the sons of men are made partakers, is not universal, but peculiar and distinguishing.
Mr B. being to prove his former assertion, of the universality of God’s love, mentions sundry places where God is said to love the world, and to send his Son to be the Saviour of the world, John iii. 16, 17, vi. 33, iv. 42, 1 John iv. 14; John xii. 46, 47, 1 John ii. 1, 2: the reason of which expressions the reader was before acquainted with. The benefits of the death of Christ being now no more to be confined to one nation, but promiscuously to be imparted to the children of God that were scattered abroad throughout the world in every 558kindred, tongue, and nation under heaven, the word “world” being used to signify men living in the world, sometimes more, sometimes fewer, seldom or never “all” (unless a distribution of them into several sorts, comprehensive of the universality of mankind, be subjoined), that word is used to express them who, in the intention of God and Christ, are to be made partakers of the benefits of his mediation, men of all sorts throughout the world being now admitted thereunto, as was before asserted.
2. The benefit of redemption being thus grounded upon the principle of peculiar, not universal love, whom doth God reveal his will concerning it unto? and whom doth he call to the participation thereof? If it be equally provided for all out of the same love, it is all the reason in the world that all should equally be called to a participation thereof, or, at least, so be called as to have it made known unto them. For a physician to pretend that he hath provided a sovereign remedy for all the sick persons in a city, out of an equal love that he bears to them all, and when he hath done takes care that only some few know of it, whereby they may come and be healed, but leaves the rest in utter ignorance of any such provision that he hath made, will he be thought to deal sincerely in the profession that he makes of doing this out of an equal love to them all? Now, not only for the space of almost four thousand years did God suffer incomparably the greatest part of the whole world to walk in their own ways, not calling them to repent, Acts xiv. 16, winking at that long time of their ignorance, wherein they worshipped stocks, stones, and devils, all that while “showing his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel, not dealing so with any nation, whereby they knew not his judgments,” Ps. cxlvii. 19, 20, — so, in the pursuit of his eternal love, calling a few only in comparison, leaving the bulk of mankind in sin, “ha ving no hope, and without God in the world,” Eph. ii. 12; but even also since the giving out of a commission and express command not to confine the preaching of the word and calling of men to Judea, but to “go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature,” Mark xvi. 15, — whereupon it is shortly after said to be “preached to every creature under heaven,” Col. i. 23, the apostle thereby “warning every man, and teaching every man, that he might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus,” verse 28, namely, of all those to whom he came and preached, not of the Jews only, but of all sorts of men under heaven, and that on this ground, that “God would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” 1 Tim. ii. 3, 4, be they of what sort they will, kings, rulers, and all under authority, — to this very day, many whole nations, great and numerous, sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, having neither in their own days nor in the days of their forefathers ever been made partakers of the glorious gospel 559of Jesus Christ, whereby alone life and immortality are brought to light, and men are made partakers of the love of God in them. So that yet we have not the least evidence of the universal love pleaded for. Yea:—
3. Whereas, to the effectual bringing of men “dead in trespasses and sins” to a participation of any saving, spiritual effect of the love of God in Christ, besides the promulgation of the gospel and the law thereof, — which consisteth in the infallible connection of faith and salvation, according to the tenor of it, Mark xvi. 16, “He that believeth shall be saved,” which is accompanied with God’s command to believe, wherein he declares his will for their salvation upon the terms proposed, approving the obedience of faith, and giving assurance of salvation thereupon, 1 Tim. ii. 1–4, — there is moreover required the operation of God by his Spirit with power, to evince that all this dispensation is managed by peculiar, distinguishing love, this is not granted to all to whom the commanding and approving word doth come, but only “to them who are the called according to his purpose,” Rom. viii. 28; that is, to them who are “predestinated,” verse 30, for them he calls, so as to justify and glorify them thereupon.
4. Not, then, to insist on any other particular effects of the love of God, as sanctification, justification, glorification, this in general may be affirmed, that there is not any one good thing whatsoever that is proper and peculiar to the covenant of grace, but it proceeds from a distinguishing love and an intention of God towards some only therein.
5. It is true that God inviteth many to repentance, and earnestly inviteth them, by the means of the word which he affords them, to turn from their evil ways, of whom all the individuals are not converted, as he dealt with the house of Israel (not all the world, but) those who had his word and ordinances, Ezek. xviii. 31, 32, affirming that it is not for his pleasure but for their sins that they die; but that this manifests a universal love in God in the way spoken of, or any thing more than the connection of repentance and acceptation with God, with his legal approbation of turning from sin, there is no matter of proof to evince.
6. Also, “he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2 Pet. iii. 9, even all those towards whom he exercises patience and long-suffering for that end; which, as the apostle there informs us, is “to us-ward,” — that is, to believers, of whom he is speaking. Of them, also, it is said that “he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men,” Lam. iii. 33, even his church, of which the prophet is speaking; although this also may be extended to all, God never afflicting or grieving men but it is for some other reason and cause than merely his own will, their destruction being of themselves. David, indeed, tells us that “the Lord is 560gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy;” that “the Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works,” Ps. cxlv. 8, 9: but he tells us withal whom he intends by the “all” in this place, even the “generations which praise his works and declare his mighty acts,” verse 4; those who “abundantly utter the memory of his great goodness, and sing of his righteousness,” verse 7; or his “saints,” as he expressly calls them, verse 10. The work he there mentions is the work of the kingdom of Christ over all, wherein the tender mercies of God are spread abroad in reference to them that do enjoy them. Not but that God is good to all, even to his whole creation, in the many unspeakable blessings of his providence, wherein he abounds towards them in all goodness, but that is not here intended. So that Mr B. hath fruitlessly from these texts of Scripture endeavoured to prove a universality of love in God, inconsistent with his peculiar love, purpose, and intention of doing good, in the sense declared, to some only.
And thus have I briefly gone through this chapter, and by the way taken into consideration all the texts of Scripture which he there wrests to confirm his figment, On the goodness of the nature of God; of the goodness and love to all which he shows, in great variety and several degrees, in the dispensation of his providence throughout the world; of this universal love, and what it is in the sense of Mr B. and his companions; of its inconsistency with the immutability, prescience, omnipotence, fidelity, love, mercy, and faithfulness of God, — this being not a controversy peculiar to them with whom in this treatise I have to do, I shall not farther insist.
As I have in the preface to this discourse given an account of the rise and present state of Socinianism, so I thought in this place to have given the reader an account of the present state of the controversy about grace and free-will, and the death of Christ, with especial reference to the late management thereof amongst the Romanists, between the Molinists and Jesuits on the one side, and the Jansenians or Bayans on the other, with the late ecclesiastical and political transactions in Italy, France, and Flanders, in reference thereunto, with an account of the books lately written on the one side and the other, and my thoughts of them; but finding this treatise grown utterly beyond my intention, I shall defer the execution of that design to some other opportunity, if God think good to continue my portion any longer in the land of the living.
The fourteenth chapter of the catechist is about the resurrection of Christ. What are the proper fruits of the resurrection of Christ, and the benefits we receive thereby, and upon what account our justification is ascribed thereto, — whether as the great and eminent confirmation of the doctrine he taught, or as the issue, pledge, and evidence of the accomplishment of the work of our salvation by his death, it being 561impossible for him to be detained thereby, — is not here discussed. That which appears to be the great design of this chapter, is to disprove Christ’s raising himself by his own power; concerning which this is the question:—
Q. Did Christ rise by his own power, yea, did he raise himself at all It or was he raised by the power of another, and did another raise him? What is the perpetual tenor of the Scripture to this purpose?
In answer hereunto, many texts of Scripture are rehearsed, where it is said that God raised him from the dead, and that he was raised by the power of God.
But we gave manifested that Mr B. is to come to another reckoning before he can make any work of this argument, “God raised him, therefore he did not raise himself.” When he hath proved that he is not God, let him freely make such an inference and conclusion as this. In the meantime, we say, because God raised him from the dead, he raised himself; for he is “over all, God blessed for ever.”
It is true that Christ is said to be raised by God, taken personally for the Father, whose joint power, with his own, and that also of the Spirit, was put forth in this work of raising Christ from the dead. And for his own raising himself, if Mr B. will believe him, this business will be put to a short issue. He tells us that “he laid down his life, that he might take it again.” “No man,” saith he, “taketh it from me. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again,” John x. 17, 18. And speaking of the temple of his body, he bade the Jews destroy it, and said that he would raise it again in three days; which we believe he did, and if Mr B. be otherwise minded, we cannot help it.
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