« Prev Chapter XIV. Argument against the doctrine from… Next »

Chapter XIV. Argument against the doctrine from the exhortations of the gospel.

Mr G.’s third argument proposed and considered — The drama borrowed by Mr G. to make good this argument — The frame of speech ascribed to God by the Remonstrants, according to our doctrine, weighed and considered — The dealing of God with man, and the importance of his exhortations, according to the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, manifested — In what sense and to what end exhortations and threatenings are made to believers — The fallacious ground of this argument of Mr G.Mr G.’s fourth argument proposed to consideration, considered — Eternal life, how and in what sense a reward of perseverance — The enforcement of the major proposition considered — The proposition new moulded, to make it of concernment to our doctrine, and denied, from the example of the obedience of Jesus Christ — Efficacy of grace not inconsistent with reward — The argument enforced with a new consideration-That consideration examined and removed — Farther of the consistency of effectual grace and gospel exhortations.

A third argument is proposed, sect. 18, chap. xiii., in these words: “That doctrine which representeth God as weak, incongruous, and incoherent with himself, in his applications unto men, is not from God, and consequently that which contradicteth it must needs be the truth; but the doctrine of perseverance, opposed by us, putteth this great dishonour upon God, representeth him weak, incongruous, etc.: ergo.” For the proof of the minor proposition, to make good the charge in it exhibited against the doctrine of perseverance, there is a dramatical scheme induced (to whose framing and application Mr Goodwin contributed no more but the pains of a translator, taking it from the Anti-synod., pp. 276, 277), in these words: “ ‘You that truly believe in my Son, and have been once made partakers of my Holy Spirit, and therefore are fully persuaded and assured, from my will and command given unto you in that behalf, yea, according to the infallible word of truth which you have from me, that you cannot possibly, no, not by all the most horrid sins and abominable practices 500that you shall or can commit, fall away either totally or finally from your faith, — for in the midst of your foulest actions and courses there remains a seed in you which is sufficient to make you true believers, and to preserve you from falling away finally, so that it is impossible you should die in your sins; you that know and are assured that I will, by an irresistible hand, work perseverance in you, and consequently that you are out of all danger of condemnation, and that heaven and salvation belong unto you, and are as good as yours already, so that nothing but giving of thanks appertains to you, which also you know that I will, do what you will in the meantime, necessitate you unto; — you, I say, that are fully and thoroughly persuaded and possessed with the truth of all these things, I earnestly charge, admonish, exhort, and beseech, that you take heed to yourselves that ye continue in the faith, that there be not at any time an evil heart of unbelief in any to depart from the living God, that you fall not from your own steadfastness. Yea, I declare and profess unto you, that if you shall draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in you; that if you shall deny me, I will deny you; that if you be again overcome of the lusts of the world, and be entangled therewith, your latter end shall be worse than your beginning; that if you shall turn away, all your former righteousness shall not be remembered, but you shall die in your sins, and suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. On the other hand, if you shall continue to the end, my promise is that you shall be saved. Therefore, strive to enter in at the strait gate, quit yourselves like men, labour for the meat that endureth unto everlasting life, and be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.’ He that shall duly weigh and consider what a senseless and indeed ridiculous incongruity there is between these exhortations, adjurations, threatenings, and latter promises, and those declarations, applications, and former promises, doubtless will confess that either the one or the other of them are not from God or according to the mind of God.”

Ans. The incongruity of this fiction with the doctrine it is framed against is so easily manifested, that it will not much concern us to consider the incongruity that the several parts of it have one with another; for, —

First, The whole foundation of this fanatic fabric is ridiculous in itself, and ridiculously imposed on the doctrine of perseverance: for whereas it says not that all saints have any comfortable assurance of their perseverance, and so may, by all gospel ways whatever, by promises and threatenings, be stirred up to the use of those means whereby perseverance is wrought and assurance obtained; so it says that no one saint in the world ever had, can have, or was taught to expect his perseverance, or the least sense or assurance of it, under 501such an uncouth supposition as falling into and continuing in sins and abominations. The promises they have to assure them of their inseparable abode with God to the end are, “that he will write his law in their hearts, and put his fear in their inward parts, that they shall never depart from him;” and that they shall be kept up thereto by the use of means suitable, as appointed of God for the attaining of the end proposed, being” kept by the power of God,” but “through faith, unto salvation.” God doth not call (nor cloth the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, or of the stability and unchangeableness of his promises in Christ to believers, assert it) any to believe that they shall never fall away from him, what sins and rebellions soever they fall into; neither hath he promised any such thing unto them, but only that he will, through his grace, preserve them in the use of means from such rebellions as are inconsistent with his love and free acceptation through Christ, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace. So that instead of the first part of this fiction, whose inconsistency with the latter is after argued, let this, according to the analogy of our doctrine, be substituted:—

“You that truly believe in my Son Jesus Christ, and are made partakers of my Holy Spirit, who being heirs of the promises, and so have a right to that abundant consolation, that joy in believing, which I am willing all of you should receive, I know your fears, doubts, perplexities, and temptations, your failings, sins, and backslidings, and what sad thoughts, on the account of the evil of your own hearts and ways, you are exposed to, — as, that you shall never abide nor be able to continue with me and in my love to the end. Let the feeble knees be strengthened, and the hands that hang down be lifted up. Behold, I have ordained good works for you to walk in, as the way wherein you are to walk for the attainment of the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls. And to quicken you and stir you up hereunto, I have provided and established effectual ordinances, revealed in the word of my grace; whereunto you are to attend, and in the use of them, according to my mind, to grow up into holiness, in all manner of holy conversation, watching, fighting, resisting, contending with and against all the spiritual enemies of your souls. And as for me, this is my covenant with you, that my Spirit, which gives efficacy to all the means, ordinances, and advantages of gospel obedience, which I have afforded unto you, by whom I will fulfil in you all the good pleasure of my goodness, and the work of faith with power, so making you meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, and preserving you to my heavenly kingdom, shall never depart from you; so that you, also, having my law written in your hearts, shall never utterly and wickedly depart from me. And for such sins and follies as you shall be overtaken withal, I will graciously heal your backslidings, and receive you freely.”

502This is the language of the doctrine we maintain; which is not, we full well know, obnoxious to any exceptions or consequences whatever, but such as bold and prejudiced men, for the countenance of their vain conceits and opinions, will venture at any time to impose and fasten on the most precious truths of the gospel. That God should say to believers, as is imposed on him, “fall into what sins they will, or abominations they can, yet he will have them believe that, by an irresistible hand, he will necessitate them to persevere,” — that is, in and under their apostasy, which is evidently implied in their falling into sins and abominations in the manner insisted on, — is a ridiculous fiction, to the imagination whereof the least colour is not supplied by the doctrine intended to be traduced thereby.

Secondly, For the ensuing exhortations, promises, and threatenings, as far as they are really evangelical, whose use and tendency is argued to be inconsistent with the doctrine before proposed, I have formerly manifested what is their proper use and efficacy in respect of believers; and their consistency with the truth we maintain, apprehended as it is indeed, and not vizarded with ugly and dreadful appearances, will, I presume, scarcely be called in question by any who, having “received a kingdom that cannot be moved,” do know what it is to “serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.” It is true, they are made unto, and have their use in reference unto, them that believe and shall persevere therein; but they are not given unto them as men assured of their perseverance, but as men called to the use of means for the establishing of their souls in the ways of obedience. They are not, in the method of the gospel, irrationally happed on such intimations of unchangeable love, or proposed under such wild conditionals and suppositions as here by our author; but annexed to the appointment of those ways of grace and peace which God calls his saints unto, being suited to work upon the new nature wherewith they are endued, as spreading itself over all the faculties of their rational souls, wherein are principles fit to be excited to operation by exhortations and promises.

Thirdly, All that is indeed argumentative in this discourse is built on this foundation, that a spiritual assurance of attaining the end by the use of means is discouraging and dissuasive to the use of those means; — a proposition so uncouth in itself, so contradictory to the experience of all the saints of God, so derogatory to the glory and honour of Jesus Christ himself (who in all his obedience had, doubtless, an assurance of the end of it all), as any thing that can well fall into the imaginations of the hearts of men. Might not the devil have thus replied unto our Saviour, when he tempted him to turn stones into bread, and to cast himself from a pinnacle of the temple, and received answer that “Man shall not live by bread 503alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God:” “But, alas! thou Jesus, the Son of the living God, that art persuaded thou art so, and that God will preserve thee, whether thou usest any means or no, that thou shalt never be starved for want of bread, nor hurt thyself by any fall, whatever thou dost, the angels having charge that no evil shall come nigh thee, nor thy foot be hurt against a stone, thou mayst now cast thyself headlong from the temple, to manifest thy assurance of the love and faithfulness of God in his promises to thee?” If our Saviour thought it sufficient to stop the mouth of the devil, to manifest from Scripture that notwithstanding the assurance from God that any one hath of the end, yet he is to use the means tending thereunto (a neglect whereof is a sinful tempting of God), we shall not need to go farther for an answer to the same kind of objection in the mouth of any adversary whatever.

His 19th section containeth his fourth argument, in these words:—

“If there be no possibility of the saints falling away finally, there is their persevering incapable of reward from God; but their final perseverance is not incapable of reward from God: ergo. The minor proposition, I presume, contains nothing but what is the sense of those who deny the conclusion; or, however, it contains nothing but what is the express sense of the Lord Christ, where he saith, that ‘He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.’ Therefore I suppose we shall be excused from farther proof of this, without any prejudice to the cause in hand.”

Ans. I grant eternal life may be called the reward of perseverance, in the sense that the Scripture useth that word, applied to the matter in hand. It is a reward neither procured by (properly and morally, as the deserving cause) nor proportioned unto the obedience of them by whom it is attained. A reward it is that withal is the free gift of God, and an inheritance purchased by Jesus Christ; a reward of bounty, and not of justice, in respect of them upon whom it is bestowed, but only of faithfulness in reference to the promise of it; a reward, by being a gracious encouragement, — as the end of our obedience, not as the procurement or desert of it. So we grant it a reward of perseverance, though these words of our Saviour, “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved,” express a consequence of things only, and not a connection of causality of the one upon the other. Of the foundation of this discourse concerning a possibility of declining, immediate consideration shall be had. He proceeds, then:—

“The consequence of the major proposition stands firm upon this foundation: No act of the creature whereunto it is necessitated, or which it cannot possibly decline or but do, is, by any law of God or rule of justice, rewardable. Therefore, if the saints be necessitated 504by God to persevere finally, so that he leaves unto them no possibility of declining finally, their final perseverance is not, according to any law of God or man, nor, indeed, to any principle of reason or equity, capable of reward, no whit more than actions merely natural are; nay, of the two, there seems to be more reason why acts merely natural (as, for example, eating, drinking, breathing, sleeping) should be rewarded, inasmuch as these flow in a way of necessity, yet from an inward principle and connatural to the agent, than such actions whereunto the agent is constrained, necessitated, and determined, by a principle of power from without, and which is not intrinsical to it.”

And this is the strength of the argument, which will quickly appear to be very weakness; for, —

First, The efficacy of these expressions, “Whereunto it is necessitated, and from it they cannot possibly decline,” as to their influence into this argument, ariseth clearly from their ambiguity. We deny any to be necessitated to persevere, or that our doctrine affirms any such thing; taking that expression to hold out a power upon their wills, in their operations, inconsistent with the utmost liberty whereof in spiritual things (having received a spiritual principle) men are capable. They are not so necessitated to persevere as that all the acts of their obedience, whereby they do persevere, should not be free, but necessary. Indeed they are not at all, nor in any sense, necessitated to persevere. There is no necessity attends their perseverance but only in respect of the event, with reference to the unchangeable purpose and infallible promise of God. The like may be said of that other expression, “Possibility of declining.” God leaves in them a possibility of declining as to their way and manner of walking with him, though he leaves not to them a possibility of declining or falling totally from him as to the issue and event of the whole matter; which doth not in the least necessitate them to or in any of their operations.

Secondly, The proposition must be cast into another mould before it will be of any determinate signification in opposition to the doctrine it opposeth, and tuned to another mood before it will give a certain sound to any battle against it; and this is, That no act of the creature, that is wrought in order to the obtaining of any end promised to be certainly attained thereby, is rewardable of God (though for perseverance, it is not any act of the creature, but only a modus of its obedience). And thus it looks towards the concernment of this doctrine. Yet before this proposition pass, to omit sundry other things that would gladly rise to the destruction of it, I desire one query may be assailed, concerning the obedience of Jesus Christ, whether it were not necessary that the end of his obedience should follow? and whether it were not impossible he should decline from 505his obedience? and if it were, whether it were impossible that God should give a reward thereunto? But, —

Thirdly, The intendment of this proposition, as far as it concerns us (and that, indeed, is with a respect to our doctrine of the efficacy of grace, and not to this of perseverance), is this, “That which is wrought in us by the effectual grace of God is not capable of reward from God;” — a proposition which, though capable of some plea and colour, taking “reward” in a purely legal sense, supposing the persons seeking after it to do it by a service and duties proportioned unto it, yet is so openly and directly contradictory to the tenor and design of God in the covenant of grace by Jesus Christ, with the whole dispensation of the Spirit given to abide with believers, for all the ends and purposes as to their obedience, as that I shall content myself to deny it, expecting Mr Goodwin’s proofs of it, — when “rivers run backward, heavy things ascend,” etc.

Fourthly, For the flourish added to these assertions, by comparing the acts of the saints’ obedience, upon a supposition of the grace of God “working them in them,” with their natural actions of” eating, drinking, sleeping,” as to their tendency to exalt the glory of God in rewarding, it proceeds either from gross ignorance of the doctrine opposed, or wilful prevaricating from that light of it which he hath. Who ever taught that God’s operations in and towards believers, as to their perseverance in faith and obedience, did consist in an outward constraint of an unwilling principle? God gives a principle of obedience to them, — he writes and implants his law in their hearts, and moves them effectually to act suitably to that inward principle they have so received; which, though spiritual and supernatural in respect of its rise and manner of bestowing, yet is connatural to them in respect of its being a principle of operation. We are not, then, in the least beholding to our author for his following concession, “That as a prince may give great things to them that eat, and drink, and breathe, but not as rewards; so God may give eternal life to them that are so necessitated by him to persevere, though not as a reward:” for although we will not contend with God about eternal life, that he [may] give it us under the notion of a reward, and desire to be much affected with the consideration of it as a free gift of grace, an eminent purchase of the blood of God, and look upon it merely as a reward of bounty, so called as being the end whereunto our obedience is suited, and the rest of our labours; yet we say, in an evangelical sense and acceptation it is properly so proposed to that obedience and perseverance therein which is wrought in us by the efficacy of the grace of God, as it lies in a tendency unto that end, which to be attained by those means he hath infallibly determined.

He proceeds, therefore, to enforce his argument with a new consideration:—

506“If we speak of rewards promised in order to the moving or inclining of the wills of men towards such or such actions and ways, — of which kind also the rewards mentioned in the Scriptures as yet remaining to be conferred by God upon men are, — the ease is yet more clear, namely, that they are appropriate unto such actions and ways unto the election and choice whereof men are not necessitated in one kind or other, especially not by any physical or foreign power; for to what purpose should a reward be promised unto me, to persuade or make me willing to engage in such or such a course, or to perform such and such a service, in case I be necessitated to the same engagement or performance otherwise? Or what place is there left for a moral inducement where a physical necessity hath done the execution? Or, if the moral inducement hath done the execution, and sufficiently raised and engaged the will to the action, with what congruity of reason, yea, or common sense, can a physical necessity be superinduced?”

Ans. What there is more in this than what went before, unless sophistry and falsity, I see not; for, — First, Though I conceive that eternal life is proposed in the Scripture as our reward rather upon the account of supporting and cheering our spirits in the deficiencies, temptations, and entanglements attending our obedience, than directly to engage unto obedience (though consequently it doth that also), whereunto we have so many other unconquerable engagements and inducements, yet the consideration thereof in that sense also, as it moves the wills of men to actions suitable to the attainment of it, is very well consistent with the doctrine in hand. That old calumny, a hundred times repeated and insisted on in this contest, of our wills being necessitated and deprived of their choice and election, unless it could be tolerably made good, will be of no use to Mr Goodwin as to his present purpose. The whole strength of this argumentation is built on this supposal, that the effectual grace of God in its working the will and deed in believers, or the Spirit’s doing of it by grace, with God’s fore-determination of events, doth take away the liberty of the will, inducing into it a necessary manner of operation, — determining it to one antecedently in order of time to its own determination of itself; which is false, and no wise inferred from the doctrine under consideration. Yea, as God’s providential concurrence with men and determination of their wills to all their actions as actions is the principle of all their natural liberty, so his gracious concurrence with them, or operation in them, as unto spiritual effects, working in them to will, is the principle of all their true spiritual liberty. When “the Son makes us free, then are we free indeed.” The reward, then, is proposed to an understanding enlightened, a will quickened and made free by grace, to stir them up to actions suitable to them who are in expectation of so bountiful a 507close of their obedience (which actions are yet wrought in them by the Spirit of God, whose fruits they are); and this to very good purpose, in the hearts of all that know what it is to walk with God, and to serve him in the midst of temptations, unless they are under the power of some such particular error as turns away their eyes from believing the truth.

Secondly, The opposition here pretended between a physical necessitating and a moral inducement for the producing of the same effect, is, in plain terms, intended between the efficacy of God’s internal grace and the use of external exhortations and motives. If God give an internal principle, or spiritual habit, fitting for, inclining to, spiritual actions and duties; if he follow the work so begun in us (who yet of ourselves can do nothing, nor are sufficient to think a good thought) with continual supplies of his Spirit and grace, working daily in us, according to the exceeding greatness of his power, the things that are well pleasing in his sight; — then, though he work upon us as creatures endued with reason, understandings, wills, and affections, receiving glory from us according to the nature he hath endued us withal, all exhortations and encouragements to obedience required at our hands are vain and foolish. Now, because we think this to be the very wisdom of God, and the opposition made unto it to be a mere invention of Satan to magnify corrupted nature and decry all the efficacy of the grace of the new covenant, we must have something besides and beyond the naked assertion of our author to cause us once to believe it.

Thirdly, The great execution that is made by moral inducement solely, without any internally efficacious grace, in the way of gospel obedience, is often supposed, but not once attempted to be put upon the proof or demonstration. It shall, then, suffice to deny that any persuasions, outward motives, or inducements whatever, are able of themselves to raise, engage, and carry out, the will unto action, so that any good, spiritual action should be brought forth on that account, without the effectual influence and physical operation of internal grace; and Mr Goodwin is left to prove it, together with such other assertions derogatory to the free grace of God, dogmatically imposed upon his reader in this chapter, whereof some have been already remarked, and others may in due time. The residue of this section (the 19th), spent to prove that eternal life is given as reward to perseverance, — having already manifested the full consistency of the proposition, in a gospel acceptation of the word “reward,” with whatever we teach of the perseverance of the saints, — I suppose myself unconcerned in; and therefore, passing by the triumphant conclusion of this argument, asserting an absolute power in men to exhibit or decline from obedience, I shall go on to that which, in my apprehension, is of more importance, and will give 508occasion to a discourse, I hope, not unuseful or unprofitable to the reader. I shall therefore assign it a peculiar place and chapter to itself.

« Prev Chapter XIV. Argument against the doctrine from… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection