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Chapter XIII. The assertors and adversaries of the doctrine compared.

The maintainers and propagators of the several doctrines under contest taken into consideration — The necessity of so doing from Mr G. undertaking to make the comparison — This inquiry confined to those of our own nation — The chief assertors, of the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance in this nation since it received any opposition; what was their ministry, and what their lives — Mr G.’s plea in this case — The first objection against his doctrine by him proposed, second and third — His answers to these objections considered, removed — His own word and testimony offered against the experience of thousands — The persons pointed to by him and commended, considered — The principles of those persons he opposeth vindicated — Of the doctrine of the primitive Christians as to this head of religion — Grounds of mistake in reference to their judgment — The first reformers constant to themselves in their doctrine of the saints’ perseverance — Of the influence of Mr Perkins’ judgment on the propagation of the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance — Who the persons were on whom his judgment is supposed to have had such an influence — The consent of foreign churches making void this surmise — What influence the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance has into the holiness of its professors — Of the unworthiness of the persons who in this nation have asserted the doctrine of apostasy — The suitableness of this doctrine to their practices — Mr G.’s attempt to take off this charge — How far men’s doctrines may be judged by their lives — Mr G.’s reasons why Episcopalists arminianized the first, considered and disproved — His discord, etc. — General apostasy of men entertaining the Arminian tenets — The close.

As to the matter in hand, about the usefulness of the doctrine of 482the perseverance of the saints in and unto the ministry of the gospel, and the obstruction pretended to be laid unto it thereby, it may be somewhat conducing and of concernment to consider who the persons are and were, and what hath been and is the presence of God with them, in their ministry, who have been assertors and zealous maintainers of this doctrine; and withal who they were, and what they have been in their ministry, and in the dispensation of the word committed unto them, who have risen up in opposition thereunto. How, also, these different parties have approved their profession to the world, and acquitted themselves in their generation in their walking with God, may be worth our consideration. Doubtless, if the doctrine whose declaration and defence we have thus far engaged in be of such a pernicious tendency as is pretended, so destructive to gospel obedience, and so evidently rendering that great ordinance of the ministry useless, it may be traced to its product of these effects, in some measure, in the lives, conversations, and ministry, of those who have most zealously espoused it, most earnestly contended for it, and been most given up to the form and mould thereof. It were a thing every way miraculous, if any root should for the most part bring forth fruit disagreeing to the nature of it.

A task this is, I confess, which, were we not necessitated unto, I could easily dispense with myself from engaging in; but Mr Goodwin having voluntarily entered the list as to this particular, and instituted a comparison between the abettors of the several doctrines under contest, chap. ix. of his book (a matter we should not have expected from any other man), it could not but be thought a gross neglect of duty, and high ingratitude towards those great and blessed souls who in former and latter days, with indefatigable pains and eminent success, watered the vineyard of the Lord with the dew of this doctrine, to decline the consideration of the comparison made and dressed up to our hand. Now, because it is a peculiar task allotted to us, to manifest the embracement of this truth by those who in the primitive church were of greatest note and eminency, for piety, judgment, and skill in dividing the word aright; with the professed opposition made unto it by such as those with whom they lived, and succeeding ages, have branded for men unsound in the faith, and leaving the good old paths wherein the saints of old found peace to their souls; as also to manifest the receiving and propagation of it by all (not any one of name excepted) those great and famous persons whom the Lord was pleased to employ in the reformation of his church, walking in this, as in sundry other particulars, closer up to the truth of the gospel than some of their brethren, that at the same time fell off from that church which was long before fallen off from the truth; — I shall, in my present inquiry, confine myself to those of our own nation who have been of renown in their 483generation for their labour in the Lord, and of name among the saints for their work in the service of the gospel.

For the one half of that small space of time which is passed since the breaking forth of the light of the gospel in this nation, we are disenabled from pursuing the comparison instituted, the one part being not to be considered, or at least not being considerable. The time when first head was made against the truth we profess, and criminations like those managed by Mr Goodwin hatched and contrived to assault it withal, was when it had been eminently delivered to the saints of this nation, and to all the churches of Christ, by Reynolds, Whitaker, Greenham, and others like to them, their fellow-labourers in the Lord’s vineyard. The poor weak worms of this present generation who embrace the same doctrine with these men of name, are thought to be free (some of them, at least) from being destroyed by the poisonous and pernicious embracing of it, by their own weakness and disability to discern the natural, genuine consequences and tendency in the progress of that which in the root and foundation they embrace. Their ignorance of their own doctrine in its compass and extent is the mother of that devotion which in them is nourished thereby. So our great masters tell us, against whose kingly authority in these things there is no rising up. For the persons formerly named the like relief cannot be supposed. He that shall provide an apology for them, affirming that they understood not the state, nature, consequences, and tendencies, of the doctrine they received, defended, preached, contended for, will scarce be able, by any following defensative, to vindicate his own credit for so doing. In the lives, then, and the ministry of those men, and such as those, if anywhere, are the fruits of this doctrine to be seen. If it corrupted not their lives, nor weakened their ministry; if it turned not them aside from the paths of gospel obedience, nor weakened their hands in the dispensation of the word, in the promises, threatenings, and exhortations thereof, to the conversion of souls and building up of those who by their ministry were called, in their most holy faith, — it cannot but be a strong presumption that there is no such venomous, infectious quality in this doctrine as of late some chemical divines pretend themselves to be able to extract out of it. Now, what, I pray, were these men? — what were their lives? what was their ministry? All those who now oppose Mr Goodwin’s doctrine do it either out of ignorance, or to comply with greatness and men in authority; thereby to make up themselves in their ambitious and worldly aims, and to prevail themselves upon the opinion of men; — for what cause else in the world can be imagined why they should so engage? What though they really believe the whole fabric of his doctrine, — wherein he hath departed from the faith he once, as they say, professed, — to be a lie; a lie of dangerous 484and pernicious consequence to the souls of men; a lie derogatory to the glory of God, the efficacy of grace, the merit of the death of Christ, and the honour of the gospel, and full of disconsolation to poor souls, being in and under temptation? what though they suppose it secretly to undermine the main fundamentals of the covenant of grace, and covertly to substitute another covenant in the room thereof? what though they have observed that the doctrine they have received was embraced, preached, prized, by all those great and blessed souls which, in the last generation, God magnified with the conversion of so many thousands in this nation, given unto their ministry, whilst they spent their days under continual afflictions and persecutions? what though they have the general, known consent of all the reformed churches beyond the seas with them in their zeal for the doctrine under consideration? what though, under these and the like apprehensions, they profess in the presence of God, his holy angels, and men, that the eternal interest of the precious souls of men is more valuable to them ten thousand times than their own lives, and that that is the sole reason of their opposition to Mr Goodwin in his attempts against the doctrine they have so received and embraced? — yet it is meet for us to judge, and for all by whom evil surmises are not esteemed to be among the works of the flesh, that all their opposition is nothing but a compliance with, and pursuit of, those worldly, low, and wretched aims, that they are filled withal! But as to those persons before mentioned, what shall we say? Their piety, literature, zeal, diligence, industry, labour, with success in the work of the ministry (and that under manifold discouragements), are so renowned in the world, that how or wherewith they shall be shifted off from being considerable in their testimony,! cannot imagine. If ever persons in these latter ages had written upon their breasts, “Holiness to the Lord,” — if ever any bare about a conformity to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, — they may put in for an eminent esteem and name among them, and will doubtless be found at last to be of the “thirty,” if they attain not to the first rank of the worthies of Christ in these ends of the world. How is it that they were not retarded in the course of their gospel obedience by their entertainment of this wretched doctrine of the saints’ perseverance? But what though they kept themselves personally from the pollution of it, yet possibly their ministry was defiled and rendered useless by it! And who, I pray, is it that in this generation can so support himself with success in the ministry as to rise up with this accusation against them? Many thousands who were their crown, their glory, and rejoicing in Christ, are fallen asleep; and some continue to this day. Of the reasons given by Mr Goodwin why all the zealous, fruitful preachers of former days embraced this doctrine, we shall instantly undertake the consideration. 485In the meantime, this seems strange, that God should magnify and make famous the ministry of so many throughout the world, and give in that visible blessing to their labours therein which hath filled this island with such an increase of children to Zion as that she hath not lengthened the cords of her tabernacle to such an extent and compass in any proportionable spot of earth under heaven, if any one eminent part of their doctrine, and that whereon they laid great weight in their ministry, which they pressed with as much fervency and contention of spirit as any head of the like importance, should indeed be so apparently destructive of holiness, and of such a direct and irresistible efficiency to render useless that great ordinance of the ministry committed to them, as this is clamoured to be. What will be the success of them in their ministry who shall undertake to deny and oppose it, I hope the people of God in this nation will not have many instances to judge by. The best conjecture we can for the present make of what will be hereafter must be taken from what hath already come to pass; and the best guess of what events will be is to be raised from the consideration of what hath been, from a like disposition of causes to an answerableness of events.

What Mr Goodwin hath to plead in this case, he insists on, chap. ix., sect. 24–27, pp. 167–172. The sum and aim of his discourse is, to apologize for his doctrine against sundry objections which, in the observation of men, it is liable and obnoxious unto. Now, these are such as, whatever the issue of their consideration prove, doubtless it can be of no advantage unto his cause that his doctrine is so readily exposed to them.

The first of these is, that the doctrine he opposeth, and in opposition whereunto that is set up which he so industriously asserts, hath generally been received and embraced by men eminent in piety and godliness, famous on that account in their generations, with the generality of the people of God with them. And this is attended with that which naturally ensues thereon, — namely, the scandalousness of the most of them (yea, of them all of this nation is it spoken) who have formerly asserted the doctrine which Mr Goodwin hath lately espoused. Whereunto, in the third place, an observation is subjoined of the “ordinary defection of men to loose and unsavoury practices, after they have once drunk in the principles of that opinion which he now so industriously mixeth and tempereth for them.” It is usually said, “There is no smoke but where there is some fire.” It would be strange if such observations as these should be readily and generally made by men concerning the doctrine under contest, unless there were some evident occasion administered by it thereunto; and I must needs say, that if they prove true, and hold under examination, they will become as urging a prejudice as can lightly be laid against any cause in religion whatsoever. The gospel being a 486“doctrine according to godliness,” several persuasions pretending to be parts and portions thereof, if one shall be found to be the constant faith and profession of those who also have the life and power of godliness in them, the other to be maintained by “evil men and seducers,” who upon their receiving it do also “wax worse and worse,” it is no small advantage to the first, in its plea for admittance to the right and title of a truth of the gospel.

First, To evade this charge, Mr Goodwin premises this in general:—

“The experience asserted in the objection is not so unquestionable in point of truth but that, if the assertors were put home upon the proof, they would, I fear” (doubtless he rather hopes it), “account more in presumption than in reasonableness of argument; for if persons of the one judgment and of the other were duly compared together, I verily believe there would be found every whit as full a proportion of men truly conscientious and religious amongst those whose judgments stand, and have stood, for a possibility of falling away, as on the other side: but, through a foolish and unsavoury kind of partiality, we are apt, on all hands, according to the proverb, to account our own geese for swans, and other men’s swans geese.’ Certain I am, that if the writings of men of the one judgment and of the other be compared together, and an estimate made from thence of the religion, worth, and holiness, of the authors respectively, those who oppose the common doctrine of perseverance do account it no robbery to make themselves every way equal in this honour with their opposers. The truth is (if it be lawful for me to utter what I really apprehend and judge in the case), I do not find that spirit of holiness to breathe, with that authority, heat, or excellency of power, in the writings of the latter, which I am very sensible of in the writings of the former. These call for righteousness, holiness, and all manner of Christian conversation, with every whit as high a hand as the other, and add nothing to check, obstruct, or enfeeble, the authority of their demands in this kind; whereas the other, though they be sore many times in their exhortations and conjurements unto holiness, yet other while render both these and themselves in them contemptible, by avouching such principles which cut the very sinews and strength of such their exhortations, and fully balance all the weight of those motives by which they seek to bind them upon the consciences of men. And as for men truly holy and conscientious, doubtless the primitive Christians, for three hundred years together and upwards, next after the times of the apostles, will fully balance, with an abundant surplusage, both for numbers and truth of godliness, all those in the reformed churches who since Calvin’s days have adhered to the common doctrine of perseverance. And that the churches of Christ very generally, during the said 487space of three hundred years and more, held a possibility of a total and final defection, even in true and sound believers, is so clear from the records yet extant of those times that it cannot be denied.”

Ans. To let pass Mr Goodwin’s proverb with its application (it being very facile to return it to its author, there being nothing in the world by him proposed to induce us to such an estimation of his associates in the work of teaching the doctrine of the saints’ apostasy and their labours therein, or any other undertaking of theirs, as he labours to beget in gilding over their worth and writings, but only his own judgment, and an overweening of their geese for swans), let us see what is offered by him to evince the experience asserted not to be so unquestionable as is pretended. He offers, 1. His own affirmation, “That if an estimate may be made of men’s worth and holiness by their writings, those who oppose the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance will be found, in the promotion of holiness and practice of it, to outgo their adversaries.” Their writings,” he tells us, “breathe forth a spirit of holiness such as he cannot find in the writings of others.” But, first, for this you have only Mr Goodwin’s naked, single testimony, and that opposed to the common experience of the people of God. What weight this is like to bear with men the event will show. It is a hard thing for one man, upon his bare word, to undertake to persuade a multitude that what their eyes see and their ears hear is not so. Mr Goodwin had need have Pythagorean disciples for the embracing of these dictates of his. The experience of thousands is placed to confirm the observation insisted on. Saith Mr Goodwin, “It is not so; they are, in my judgment, all deceived.” But, secondly, who are they in whose writings Mr Goodwin hath found such a “spirit of holiness breathing, with authority, as is not to be found out nor perceived in the writings of them that assert the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints?” Calvin, Zanchius, Beza, etc., and (to confine ourselves to home) Reynolds, Whitaker, Perkins, Greenham, Dodd, Preston, Bolton, Sibbs, Rogers, Culverwell, Cotton, etc., — whose fame upon this very account, of the eminent and effectual breathing of a spirit of holiness in their writings, is gone out into all the nations about us, and their remembrance is blessed at home and abroad, — are some of the men who have, as hath been showed, laboured in watering the vineyard of the Lord with the dew and rain of this doctrine. Who or where are they who have excelled them in this undertaking? Let the men be named, and the writings produced, that Mr Goodwin may have some joined with him in a search after and judgment of that spirit that breathes so excellently in them, that we be not forced to take his testimony of we know not what nor whom. Those amongst ourselves of chiefest name who have appeared in the cause that Mr Goodwin hath now undertaken are, Tompson, Montague, etc., with an obscure rabble 488of that generation. I shall easily allow Mr Goodwin to be a man more sharp-sighted than the most of those with whom he hath to do in this present contest, as also to have his senses more exercised in the writings of those eminent persons last named; but yet that he is sensible of such a spirit of holiness breathing in their writings (which, for the most part, are stuffed with cruel scoffings at the professors of it, and horrible contempt of all close walking with God), I cannot easily and readily believe. Should he add to them Arminius, with all that followed him in the Low Countries; their most learned Corvinus, drunk and sober; as also such among the Papists and Lutherans as are his companions in this work; and swell them all with the rhetoric of his commendations until they break, — I dare say he will never be able, before indifferent judges, to make out his assertion of the excellency of their writings for the furtherance of holiness, compared with the labours of those great and holy souls who have, both among ourselves and abroad, laboured in the work I am at present engaged in. The world of men professing the reformed religion have long since, in their judgments, determined this difference, nor doth it deserve any farther debate.

2. “That those who maintain the perseverance of the saints are sore, indeed, in their exhortations to holiness, but contemptible in their principles, upon which they should build those exhortations,” is an insinuation that Mr Goodwin sometimes makes use of, handsomely to beg the thing in question, when he despairs to carry it by any convincing argument in a fair dispute. That the principles of this doctrine are eminently serviceable to the furtherance and promotion of holiness hath been formerly evinced beyond all possibility of contradiction from them who in any measure understand what true godliness is and wherein it doth consist. Neither ought Mr Goodwin, if he would be esteemed as a man disputing for his persuasion, so often to beg the thing in question, knowing full well that he hath not so deserved of them with whom he hath to do as to obtain any thing of this nature, on those terms, at their hands.

3. What was the judgment of the primitive Christians, as in others, so in and about this head of Christian religion, is best known from that rule of doctrine which it is confessed they attended unto, being delivered unto them, and in the defence whereof, and to give testimony whereto, so many thousands of them “loved not their lives unto the death.” Of those that committed over to posterity any thing of their thoughts in that space of time limited by Mr Goodwin (namely, three hundred years), he names but two; of whom I shall only say, that if they failed in their apprehensions of the truth in this matter, it is not the only thing wherein they so failed. And yet that it can be [made] evident in the least that they were consenting in judgment 489with Mr Goodwin wherein from us he differs is absolutely denied. This elsewhere is already farther considered. It is a common observation, and not destitute of a great evidence of truth, that the liberty of expression which is used by men in the delivery of any doctrine, especially if it be done obiter, by the way, before some opposition hath been framed and stated thereunto, hath given advantage to those following of them (when death hath prevented all possibility for them to explain themselves and their own thoughts) to draw them into a participation with them in that which their souls abhorred. The plea of Arius and his associates concerning the judgment of the doctors of the church in the days before him about the great article of our faith, the deity of Christ, is known. That there are in many of the ancients sundry expressions seemingly varying from that doctrine we assert, upon the account of their different apprehensions of the terms of “faith,” being “regenerated,” “holiness,” and the like (which are all of them still with us, as in the Scripture, of various significations, and not dearly expressive of any one sense intended by them, until distinguished), is not denied. Speaking of all those who had been baptized and made profession of their faith as “believers,” it is no wonder if they granted that some believers might fall away; but yet, in the meantime, the most eminent of them constantly affirmed that there is a sort of believers who, upon the matter with them, were the only true and real believers (being such as we formerly described) that could not fall either totally or finally. But as for this, I hope full satisfaction is tendered the learned reader in the preface of this discourse. So that, these exceptions notwithstanding, the prejudices that Mr Goodwin’s doctrine labours under, from the opposition made to it and against it, in the defence of that which it riseth up to overthrow, by that generation of the saints of God, lies upon the shoulders thereof as a burden too heavy for it to bear.

Secondly, Mr Goodwin farther proceeds, sect. 25, to inform us of some other mistakes in the instance given to make good the former observation; for as for Calvin, Musculus, Martyr, Bucer, with the ministers of this nation who in the last generation so zealously opposed the persecutions and innovations of some returning with speed and violence to Rome, he tells us “they were very far from having their judgments settled as to the doctrine under contest, so as resolvedly to have embraced the one and rejected the other.”

I should willingly walk in the high way for the manifestation and clear eviction of the untruth of this suggestion, — namely, by producing their testimonies in abundant, plentiful manner, to confirm their clearness and resolution in the truth we profess, with their zealous endeavours for the establishment, confirmation, and propagation 490of it, — but that some few considerations delivered me from engaging in so facile a task; for, —

1. I am not able to persuade myself that any man who ever read the writings of the first sort of men mentioned, and knows the constant doctrine to this day of the churches which they planted and watered, or ever did hear of the latter, will entertain this assertion of Mr Goodwin’s with any thing but admiration upon what grounds he should make it. And, —

2. Himself discovering in part on what account he doth namely, because of their exhortations to watchfulness, carefulness, and close walking with God, with their denunciations of threatenings to them that abide not in the faith, which he fancies to be inconsistent with the doctrine of perseverance, as by him opposed (which inconsistency we have long since fully manifested to be the issue and offspring of his own imagination, begotten of it by the cunning sophistry of his Pelagian friends), — I know not why I should farther insist upon the wiping away of this reproach cast upon those blessed souls whom God so magnified in the work of the gospel of his Son in their generation. I remember Navaret, a Dominican friar, upon his observation of the subtilties of the Jesuits to wrest many sayings of the ancients in favour of their opinions in those doctrines wherein those two orders are at variance, affirms, “That he was afraid that when he was dead, although he had written and disputed so much against them, they would produce him for a testimony and witness on their side.” What he feared concerning himself, Mr Goodwin hath attempted concerning many more worthy persons. Cutting off sentences from what goes before and follows after, restraining general expressions, imposing his own hypothesis on his reader in making application of what he quotes out of any author, he hath spent one whole chapter to persuade the world that men of as great abilities and judgments as any in the world since the apostles fell asleep have usually expressed themselves in a direct contradiction to what they are eminently and notoriously known, as their professed, deliberate judgments, to have maintained!

Thirdly, He farther informs us how this doctrine of the perseverance of the saints came to be so generally entertained by the godly, zealous, and able ministers of this nation, that when we see how they fell into it, their testimony given thereto may be of less validity with us.

“This,” he telleth you, “was the permission of Mr Perkins’ judgment to be overruled by the texts of Scripture commonly insisted on for the proof of this doctrine. The great worth of the person commended, therefore, the worth of the opinion; and he verily believeth, as men were then induced to receive this opinion, so to a relinquishment of it they want nothing but the countenance and authority of 491some person of popular acceptance to go before them. And the reason he giveth of this his faith is the observation of the principles they usually hold forth, especially in the applicatory part of their sermons.”

Ans. What and who they were who are thus represented by Mr Goodwin, in their receiving and embracing of that doctrine which, with the great travail of their souls, all their days they preached, and pressed to and upon others, is known to all. The persons I named before, one of them only excepted, with all those eminent burning and shining lights which for so many years have laboured with renown and success, to the astonishment of the world, in the preaching of the gospel in this nation, are the men intended. Doubtless such thoughts have not in former days been entertained of them, however the contemplation of any man’s own ability may now raise him to contempt of them. Mr Perkins received this doctrine, and therefore all the godly ministers of this nation did so too! If any one of the like esteem with him did fall off from it (now whom they should obtain to lead them, of equal reputation and acceptance with him who hath in vain attempted it, I know not), they would quickly follow, not like shepherds but sheep, into an opposition thereunto! Those who have not very slight thoughts of them, — which doubtless they that are fallen asleep did not deserve, — will scarcely suppose that they entertained a truth of so great importance as this upon so easy terms as these insinuated, or that they would have parted with it at so cheap a rate.

Farther; why the ministers of England should be thought to entertain this doctrine merely upon the authority and countenance of Mr Perkins given thereunto, when the universality of the teachers of all other reformed churches, of the same confession in other things with them, did also embrace the same doctrine, and do continue in profession of it to this day, what reason can be assigned? Had there been a particular inducement to the ministers of England for the receiving of it, which was altogether foreign unto them who as to our nation are foreigners, whence is it that there should be such a coincidence of their judgments with them therein? or why may not ours be thought to take it upon the same account with them, upon whose judgments and understandings the authority of Mr Perkins cannot be supposed to have had any influence? Is Mr Goodwin the only person who in this nation hath impartially weighed all things of concernment to the refusing or embracing any matters or doctrines in religion? Have no others, in the sincerity of their hearts, searched the Scriptures, and earnestly begged the guidance of the Spirit, according to that encouraging promise left by their Master that they should receive him so doing? The good Lord take away from us all high thoughts of ourselves, and all contempt of them that profess the fear 492of the Lord, with whom we have to do! For the reason of Mr Goodwin’s faith in this thing, concerning the readiness of the godly ministers of this nation to apostatize from the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, — namely, their manifesting themselves to be possessed of many principles of a contrary tendency unto it in the applicatory part of their sermons, — the vanity of is hath been long since discovered, so that there is no farther need to lay open the unreasonableness thereof.

Mr Goodwin, mistrusting his ability to persuade men that the persons of whom he hath discoursed were not clear in their judgments as to an opposition to that doctrine which he positively owneth and zealously contendeth for, and knowing that it cannot be denied but that they were men of eminency for godliness and close walking in communion with God all their days, yet excepteth, as his last refuge, “That it cannot be manifested that this opinion had the least influence in their pious conversation, which is wholly to be ascribed to other commendable principles that they embraced.” This, indeed, may be said of any part of the doctrine whatsoever that they received, and some of them suffered for. Atheists may say it of the whole profession of Christianity, and ascribe the goodness of the lives of the best of them that profess it to some other principles common to them with the residue of mankind, and not at all to any of those whereby they are distinguished as such. This they professed to have a powerful efficacy to prevail with them for that exactness in walking with God which, by his grace, they attained unto; and why they should not be believed herein, as far as any men whatever, bearing the like testimony to any doctrine whatever, I know not. Besides, the intendment of this instance of the persons and their piety who formerly believed and spake forth this doctrine was, to manifest, by an eminent experiment, that there was not in it, nor is, any tendency to a contrary frame unto piety and holiness, which it is injuriously charged withal; and if by the consideration thereof we do not obtain that it hath a proper and direct serviceableness to the promotion of godliness, yet at least we have a convincing demonstration that it is no way obstructive to it.

Nextly, sect. 26, Mr Goodwin entereth upon his defensative to the charge against his doctrine whose foundation is laid in the unworthiness of its authors in this nation, before it fell upon his hand. These he confesseth to be the worst of our late bishops, with such as Romanized and tyrannized among them, with their clergy creatures and favourites, persons many of them of superstition, looseness, and much profaneness. Of the apology shaped for the clearing of the doctrine he maintaineth from a participation with them in their unworthiness, there are three parts; in the first whereof he denieth that “this doctrine did any way induce them to the looseness that was 493found upon them,” in the other two he giveth as many reasons of their receiving of it and cleaving to it.

As for the first part, I shall willingly assent to him that the holiness or unholiness of professors is not to be charged on the religion they profess (I mean appearing holiness, in the profession of it), unless there be an evidence of a connection betwixt their principles and practices; which in this case, to us and our apprehension of them who charge this doctrine with the miscarriages of those men, there is; at least, we may insist on this, that there is a suitableness in the whole system of the doctrine, whereof the apostasy of the saints is an eminent parcel, to that frame of spirit which is in men of loose and superstitious ways, enemies of the grace of God and power of godliness. Neither can there any other reason be tolerably assigned or alleged for the embracement of that doctrine by those persons formerly mentioned, but only their ignorance of and enmity to the great mysteries of the gospel, the covenant of grace, with union, communion, and close walking with God. A design was upon them, written with the beams of the sun, to cry up a barren, outside, light, and loose profession, with a vain, superstitious, self-invented worship of God, instead of the power of a gospel conversation and ordinances of Christ according to his appointment. Seeking after a “righteousness, as it were, by the works of the law,” and being ignorant of the righteousness of Christ, they found the whole doctrine whose defence Mr Goodwin hath lately undertaken suited to their principles and aims; and therefore with greediness drank it down like water, until they were swelled with the dropsy of pride and self-conceit beyond what they could bear. Whatever be now pretended, it was little disputed then, and in those days which Mr Goodwin pointeth unto, but that looseness of life, inclination to Popery, and enmity to the power of godliness, were at the bottom of the entertainment of the Arminian principles by that generation of men.

But Mr Goodwin proceedeth to alleviate this charge, and informs us thus: “That if the soundness and rottenness of opinions should be esteemed by the goodness or badness of the lives of any parcel or number of persons professing the same, as well the opinion of atheism, which denieth the being of any god, as the opinion of polytheism, which affirmeth the plurality of gods, must be esteemed better and more sound than that which maintaineth the being of one God, and of one only; for certain it is that there have been many heathens professors, some of the one and some of the other of these opinions, who have quitted themselves upon fairer terms of honour and approbation in their lives than many Christians professing the last opinion have done.”

I am not willing to wring this nose too far, lest blood should 494follow. The lives of many atheists and pagans are preferred before the lives of many professing Christianity. By “professors of Christianity” Mr Goodwin intendeth those who are so indeed, and seasoned with the power of the principles of that religion, or such only as, making an outward profession of it, are indeed acted with principles quite of another nature, which, notwithstanding all their profession, rendereth them, in the truth of the thing itself, “enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame,” Phil. iii. 18, 19. If the former be intended, as the assertion is most false, the gospel only effectually “teaching men to deny all ungodliness, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world,” so it tendeth directly to the highest derogation from the honour of our Lord Jesus Christ and of his glorious gospel He that would be thoroughly acquainted with the notorious untruth of this insinuation, let him a little consult Tertullian, Arnobius, Lactantius, Austin, and others, handling the lives and conversations of the best of the polytheists and heathens before and in their days; if he be not contented to take a shorter course, and rest in the authority of the apostle, or rather of the Holy Ghost, describing them and their conversation to the life, as they lay under the just hardening judgments of God, Rom. i. 18, to the end. If the latter sort of men, called Christians, be intended, the comparison instituted between them and atheists is to no purpose, they themselves being disclaimed and disowned by Christ and his gospel, and reckoned among them with whom they are compared: so that, upon the matter, this is but the comparing one sort of atheists with another, and giving in a judgment, that of all, those are worst whose practices are so, and who yet pacify their own consciences and deceive the world with a pretence and flourish of a glorious profession.

I shall not now enter upon any long inquiry what influence the ungodly and profane lives of any ought to have upon the judgment of men in discovering and discerning of the doctrines that they bring, especially if such as consent in any doctrine do also concur in a dissoluteness of conversation. That it will be of no small consideration, the experience of all ages hath evinced. The Athenians refused a virtuous law, because the person was vicious who proposed it; and it is generally esteemed that there is a correspondency betwixt the principles and practices of those men who earnestly profess the promotion of those principles, so that they are mutual producers and advantagers one of another. This is all at present that was aimed at in the charge upon Mr Goodwin’s doctrine, which he undertakes to waive: It was generally embraced, at its first broaching in our world, only by men of a loose and scandalous conversation, superstitious in their ways of worship, and enemies of the power of godliness; which being 495confessed, for the argument from thence, “valeat quantum valere potest.”

But Mr Goodwin giveth us two reasons why this doctrine of his was so gladly received and zealously asserted by that generation of men. The first, which, he telleth you, is plain and easy to be given in, is this: “Being professed enemies to the most religious and zealous preachers and ministers of the land, with their adherents, whom they termed ‘Puritans,’ whom they both hated and feared, as a generation of men by whom, rather than any other, they apprehended themselves in danger of being dethroned, ‘Nec eos fefellit opinio.’ Upon this ground they judged it a very material point of their interest to oppose and keep under this ‘faction,’ as they termed them. In order thereunto, they studied and cast about how to weaken their interest and repute with the generality of the people, or at least with all those that were intelligent, and in that respect considerable; to this end wisely considering that nothing was like to prejudice them more in their esteem with most men than to detect them of error and unsoundness in their doctrine; and perceiving withal (as with half an eye they might, being so fully disengaged as they were from all high thoughts of those that held them) that they were not in any doctrine besides, which they were generally known to hold and teach, more obnoxious to such a detection than in those which they held and taught in opposition to the Remonstrants, hereupon they politically fell to profess and teach Remonstrantism, that so they might have the more frequent occasion and opportunity to lay open the puritan doctrine before the people, and to show the inconsistency of it with the Scriptures, as also with many of the most manifest principles as well of reason as religion besides.”

Ans. That this is a most vain and groundless conjecture, I presume any one that will but cast back his thoughts upon the posture of affairs during the reign of that generation of men, and a little consider the ways and means whereby they were, through the righteous hand of God, reduced to that condition and state wherein they now are, will quickly determine. The truth is, they were so far from advantaging themselves against their adversaries, and prevailing upon them, in the esteem of the most rational and knowing men in the nation, by their entertaining the Arminian doctrine, that utterly, on the other side, they dishonoured their cause of ceremonies, discipline, and conformity, which with success they had so long carried on with the generality of the nation, and exposed themselves to the power of the people of the land in parliament, from whence, as to all other differences, they were sheltered by an appearance of legal constitutions; so that, after some forward person of that faction (the most contemptible, indeed, as to any real worth, one or two individuals only excepted, of the whole tribe) had, upon the grounds forementioned, 496taken up and made profession of the opinions and doctrine we are speaking of, they fell daily before their adversaries as to the esteem of all, or at least the greatest part, of those who cordially and thoroughly adhered to them as to the discipline and worship then established. Certainly the prelatical party themselves will not say they prevailed on that hand, as to any ends and purposes for the establishment of their interest, or making good their ground against their opposers. Nay, the most sober and learned of that sort of men do to this day ascribe, in no small measure, the downfall of the whole fabric whereof they were parts and members to the precipitating rashness and folly of some few in advancing and pressing the Arminian errors that they themselves were given up unto. As for the zealous and godly ministers of the nation, usually termed “Puritans” (who are here acknowledged by Mr Goodwin to have all generally opposed the doctrine he striveth to build up), though they had in many parliaments, wherein the most intelligent and rational men of the nation are usually convened, made by their friends sundry attempts for their relief against the persecutions of the others, — as is evidenced by their petitions and addresses still on record, — yet they were never able to obtain the least redress of their grievances, nor to get one step of ground against their adversaries, until the advantage of their Arminianism was administered unto them; on which, by several degrees, they prevailed themselves in the issue to the utter breaking of the yoke of their taskmasters. It is true, He who “taketh the crafty in their own imaginations, and mixeth the counsel of the wise with madness and folly, causing them to err in their ways as a drunken man in his vomit,” doth oftentimes turn the devices of men upon their own heads, and make those things subservient to their ruin which they fixed upon as the most expedient mediums for their establishment and continuance, — such perhaps was the case with them in their canonical oath, attempted to be imposed in one of their last convocations, — but that the taking up and asserting of the Arminian doctrine was a design of that party of men to get upon the judgments and affections of the people, and to expose the puritanical preachers to their contempt and reproach, is an imagination that cannot lightly fall upon any one who had his eyes open in the days wherein those things were publicly acted on the stage of this nation. For that insinuation in the close of Mr Goodwin’s discourse, concerning the advantages given that sort of men by the inconsistency of the doctrine of the Puritans, which they opposed, with the principles of religion and reason, I shall only say, that it being once more, through the providence of God, called forth to a public debate, it neither standeth nor falleth to the judgment of any single man, much less of one who is professedly engaged in an opposition thereunto.

497Another reason, of the same evidence with the former, is tendered in these words: “It is generally known that the cathedral generation of men throughout Christendom were generally great admirers of the old learning (as some call it), I mean the writings and tenets of the fathers, and of Austin more especially, and that they frequently made shield and buckler of their authority to defend themselves against the pens and opinions of later writers, whom their manner was, according to the exigency of their interest (at least as they conceived), to slight and vilify in comparison of the others. Now, the judgment of the fathers more generally, and of Austin more particularly, stood for the possibility of the saints’ defection, both total and final, wherein it seemeth the greater part of our modern reformed divines have departed from them.”

That this pretence is no whit better than that before will be evidenced by the light of this one consideration, namely, that those among the bishops and their adherents who were indeed most zealous of, and best versed in, the writings of the fathers, were generally of the same judgment about the grace of Christ and the will of man, etc., with the residue of the reformed churches and the puritan preachers of our own nation. They were a company of sciolists in comparison, and men of nothing, who arminianized; men, as the bishop of Lincoln once told them, whose “learning lay in a few unlearned liturgies.” It is true, they had gotten to such a head and to such a height, not long before their fall, that they were ready to accuse and charge their associates as to discipline, worship, and ceremony of Puritanism; who failed not to retort Arminianism and Popery back again to them. We know who said of the others that they were “tantum non in episcopatu Puritani;” and who returned to him and his associates, “Tantum non uxoratu Pontificii.” The truth is, those among them, as there were many among them, both bishops and men (as they speak and think) of inferior orders, who were solidly learned, especially in the writings of the ancients (of whom many are yet alive, but some are fallen asleep), were universally, almost to a man, of the same judgment with Calvin in the heads of our religion under consideration. Jewell, Abbot, Morton, Usher, Hall, Davenant, and Prideaux (great names among the world of learned men), with a considerable retinue of men of repute for literature and devotion (with whom on no account whatever the arminianizing party of the prelates and their followers are to be named the same day), have sufficiently testified their thoughts in this matter to all the world. From what ambiguity of expression it is that any sentence is stolen from Austin and others of the ancients, seeming to countenance the doctrine of the saints’ apostasy, hath been elsewhere discovered, and may farther be manifested as occasion shall be administered. And without pretence to any great skill 498in the old learning, this I dare assert (whereof I have given some account in the preface to the reader), that not one of the ancients, much less Austin, did ever maintain such an apostasy of saints and such a perseverance as that which Mr Goodwin contendeth for.

This being that which Mr Goodwin hath to offer for the clearing of the doctrine he maintaineth from the first two parts of the charge exhibited against it, he applieth himself, in the last place, to contend with a common observation made by Christians weighing and pondering the principles and ways of men in the days wherein we live, namely, “The degeneracy of the most of men who at any time embrace it from their former profession, and their turning aside to the paths of looseness and folly;” — an observation which, if true (though Mr Goodwin is pleased to assert that any considering man, like himself, will laugh it to scorn), will not easily be digested in the thoughts of them that are willing to weigh aright the usual presence of God with his truths, especially at the first embracement and entertainment of them. Neither will this observation be diverted from pursuing the doctrine against which it is lifted up, by comparing it with that of “the unhappiness of marriages made between cousins-german,” there being nothing in that relation that should be a disposing cause to any such issue as is pretended; much less with that farther observation, that some “apostatize from the protestant religion, yea, from Christianity itself;” there being not the least parity, or indeed analogy, in the instances. If it might be affirmed of men, that after their embracing of Christianity or the protestant religion, they generally decline and grow worse, as to their moral conversation, than they were before, I do not know at present what apology could be readily fixed on that might free the one and the other from grievous scandal. To fall from a profession of any religion, or any head or part of a religion, upon the account of the corruption that is in them that so fall from it, is rather an honour than a reproach to the religion so deserted. But, in and upon the embracement of any religion or doctrine in religion, for men to decline from that which is the proper end of all true religion (which is the observation that riseth up against the doctrine Mr Goodwin asserteth, in reference to very many that embrace it), doubtless is not the crown and glory of that which they profess. Neither is this observation built on so slight experience as to be muzzled with proverbs of swallows and woodcocks, the streets of our cities and paths of our villages being full of those fowls, or rather foul spirits, that give strength unto it.

This is the whole of what Mr Goodwin thought good to tender for the protection of his doctrine from the charge laid down at the entrance of this digression; on the consideration whereof, I doubt not but it is evident how unable he is to shield it from the wound 499intended unto it thereby. And shall we now, can we, entertain any other thoughts of it but that (having constantly hitherto been denied and opposed by the most zealous, painful, godly, successful preachers of the gospel that these latter ages have been, through the goodness of God, blessed withal, entertained chiefly by men of loose, dissolute principles and practices, enemies to the power of godliness and the profession thereof, and strongly suspected to corrupt the minds and conversations of men that do embrace it) it is the only serviceable relief and assistance for the making of the ministry of the gospel useful and fruitful, ingenerating holiness and obedience in the lives and ways of men?

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