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THE DOCTRINE OF THE SAINTS FINAL PERSEVERANCE,
In Answer to a late Pamphlet, called SERIOUS THOUGHTS on that Subject.
HE doctrine of the faints final perfeverance in grace to glory, being a doctrine fo fully expreffed in the facred scriptures, so clearly wrote there as with a fun-beam, having so large a compass of proof, as fcarce any other doctrine has; a doctrine fo agreeable to the perfections of God, and the contrary fo manifeftly reflecting dishonour upon them, particularly the immutability of God, his wisdom, power, goodness, justice, truth, and faithfulness; a doctrine fo well established upon his purposes and decrees, his counsel and covenant, and which fo well accords with all his acts of grace towards, and upon his people; a doctrine fo well calculated for their spiritual peace and comfort, and to promote holiness of life and conversation; a doctrine one would think, that every good man must wish, at least, to be true; it may seem ftrange, that any man believing divine revelation, and profeffing godlinefs, fhould fet himself to oppofe it, and call fuch an oppofition Serious Thoughts upon it, as a late writer has done; who has published a pamphlet under fuch a title, and which now lies before me, and which I have undertook to answer, and shall attempt to do it in the following manner. And, it is to be hoped, he will think again, and more seriously, and that his latter thoughts will be better than his former.
I shall not dispute his account of faints, and the characters of them, though there are some things which require diftinction and explanation. He has rightly observed, that the question about the faints falling away, is not meant of barely falling into fin, but fo as to perish everlastingly; and therefore he
has not produced the inftances of David, Solomon, Peter, and others; which, with great impertinence and impropriety are usually brought into this controverfy. He has put what he has to say upon this fubject into Eight propofitions, which he endeavours to confirm by fcripture-authorities. And,
The First is, "That one who is holy or righteous in the judgment of God "himself, may nevertheless fo fall from God, as to perifh everlaftingly," in fupport of which, he produces Ezek. xviii. 24. but when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity-In his trefpafs that he hath trefpaffed, and in his fin that he hath finned, in them fhall be die. Which he underftands of eternal death, as he thinks is evident from ver. 26. But, 1. fuch a fense of the words is contrary to the fcope and defign of the whole chapter, which not at all concerns the perfeverance or apoftacy of faints, and neither their falvation nor damnation; but the fole view of it is to vindicate the justice of God, from a charge of punishing the Jews, not for their own fins, but the fins of their fathers, and of injuftice and inequality in his providential dealings with them, and has nothing to do with the fpiritual and eternal affairs of men.-2. The whole context wholly and folely regards the house of Ifrael, and the land of Ifrael, and the conduct of the people of Ifrael in it, according to which they held or lost their tenure of it, and were either continued in it, or removed from it; fo that it is quite impertinent to the cafe before us and this writer is guilty of what he calls a fallacy in others, in applying that to the faints in particular, which relate to the Jewish church and nation only, as diftinguishable from all other people, and fo ftands felf-condemned.-3. The righteous man here spoken of, is indeed called and allowed by the Lord himfelf to be fo; yet that righteousness by which he is denominated, only regards him as an inhabitant of the land of Ifrael, and as giving him a title and claim to the poffeffion and enjoyment of it; but not as juftifying him before God, and giving him a title to eternal life and happiness. For this righteoufnefs is called his, his own, and not another's, which he himself had done, and not what Chrift had done for him, his own in which he trufted; it was a righteoufnefs of works, as appears from ver. 5-9. and not the righteousness of faith; there is not a word of faith in the account, nor of the obedience of Chrift, nor of the fanctifying grace of the Spirit; this man does not appear to be either a righteous man or a holy man in an evangelical fenfe; wherefore the inftance is quite impertinent. Millions of inftances of this kind will never enervate the doctrine of the faints perfeverance; let it be proved if it can, that any one that has been made righteous by the obedience of Chrift, and has been truly b Ibid. p. 7.
Serious Thoughts, p. 4, 5.
and inwardly fanctified by the Spirit and grace of God, ever fo fell away, as everlaftingly to perifh; let this be proved, and we have done: As for a man's own righteousness and outward acts of holiness, we allow a man may turn from them and be loft, but not from the righteousness of Chrift, which is everlasting, nor from an inward principle of grace and holinefs, which ever abides.-4. Befides, admitting that a righteous man in an evangelical fenfe is here meant, though it cannot be allowed; yet what is here faid is only a fuppofition, which puts nothing in being, and is no proof or inftance of matter of fact.—And, 5. the death here spoken of, is not eternal death, or the death of foul and body in hell; for this death was now upon them, what they were complaining of as wrongfully punished with; it being, as they fuppofed, on account of their fathers fins, and not their own; and from which death also they might be delivered by repentance and reformation, fee ver. 23, 32. All which cannot be faid of eternal death; but is to be understood of fome temporal affliction and calamity, which in fcripture is often called a death, as in Exod. x. 17. 2 Cor. i. 10. and xi. 23. fuch as captivity in which the Jews now were on account of their fins, and was the fubject of their complaint. Dying in his iniquity, is the fame as dying for his iniquity, and both in ver. 26. fignify the fame thing, and not two different deaths; which is repeated to fhew the certainty of it; and is alfo what is meant by the death of the foul, not of the foul only, or of the body only, but of the person of the finner, punished with a temporal affliction for his fins; and fo falls fhort of proving that a truly righteous and holy man may perish everlastingly.
The Second propofition is, that "one who is endued with the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience, may nevertheless fo fall "from God, as to perish everlastingly." In proof of which is produced, 1 Tim. i. 19, 20. holding faith and a good confcience, which fome having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck, of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander “. But, 1. it does not appear that these men ever had their hearts purified by faith; this fhould be first proved, before they are produced as instances of the apoftacy of real faints; the contrary appears in their characters; they were ungodly men, and were never otherwife for any thing that is faid of them; and after their profeffion of religion, they increased and proceeded to more ungodliness; they were vain-babblers, oppofers of the doctrines of the gospel, and blafphemers of it, and were never upon the foundation that stands fure, or were known by the Lord as his, fee ver. 20. and 2 Tim. ii. 16, 19. and iv. 14, 15.-2. Nor is it clear from the text, that they ever had a good confcience,
Serious Thoughts, p. 8.
science, but rather that they never had one; putting it away does not neceffarily suppose they had it, but rather that they had it not, they rejecting it with diflike; as the Jews who never had the gofpel are faid to put it away; when they contradicted, blafphemed, and rejected it, the apostle says, ye put it from you, arwded, the fame word that is here used; ye rejected it, caft it from you, and would not receive it, fo here; had these perfons ever had a good confcience, it would rather have been faid, which fome having put out of them; but they never had it; when it was proposed to them, as the Chriftian religion proposes that a man should exercise a good confcience, they disliked it, and put it away, and would not attend to it, and chofe rather to drop the faith they profeffed, as being contrary to their evil confciences and practices: befides, persons may have a good confcience in fome fenfe, and as it fhews itself by an external behaviour among men, which does not arise from an heart purified by faith; the apostle had fuch an one before he had faith in Christ, Acts xxiii. 1. though it does not seem as if these men had ever fuch an one.3. The faith they made fhipwreck of, is not the grace of faith, which it does. not appear they ever had, but the doctrine of faith, the Gospel; w w 1510 concerning the faith, is a phrase that is never used but of the doctrine of faith, fee Alts xxiv. 24. 1 Tim. vi. 21. 2 Tim. iii. 8. This is the faith they made shipwreck of, denied and destroyed, or contradicted and blafphemed, as it is explained in the next verse; and the particular doctrine of faith they made fhipwreck of, erred concerning, and fwerved from, was the doctrine of the refurrection of the dead, fee 2 Tim. ii. 17, 18. Men may profefs the doctrine of faith and fall from it; but this is no instance of a man's having true faithwhich purifies the heart, and falling from God fo as to perish.
The Third propofition is, that " Those who are grafted into the good "olive tree, the spiritual invifible church, may nevertheless fo fall from God, "as to perish everlastingly." To fupport which, the text in Rom. xi. 17-24. is produced, but to no purpose.-For, 1. by the olive tree, is not meant the spiritual and invisible church of Chrift; that is, the general assembly and church of the first-born which were written in heaven, and confifts only of the chosen, redeemed, and faved; to which there can be no addition, and of which there can be no diminution; no fresh engrafture can be made into it, nor any excifion from it. But, 2. the outward Gofpel-church-ftate, or the outward state of the church under the Gospel-difpenfation; the national church of the Jews being abolished, and its branches broken, fee Jer. xi. 16. which fignify the unbelieving Jews; who because of their unbelief alfo were left out of the GospelVOL. III. Hh church-state;
• Serious Thoughts, p. 9.
church-ftate; and the few believing Jews were together with the Gentiles grafted into that true olive tree, the Gofpel-church; and the first coalition was at Antioch.-3. Those that are fignified by the broken branches, were never true believers in Chrift; and, because of their unbelief, were broken off, and they were left out of the Gofpel-church; they are diftinguished from the remnant according to the election of grace among the Jews, and are the reft that were blinded, ver. 5, 7. and fo no inftances of the apoftacy of true believers.4. Though the perfons the apostle fpeaks to were grafted into the olive tree, and were holy believers, and stood by faith, and are threatened in cafe they did not behave fuitable to their character and profeffion, that they should be cut off; yet this can only intend a cutting off from the outward churchstate, in which they were, and from the privileges of it; and had it took place, would have been no proof of their perishing everlastingly.-5. There is a strong intimation, though this writer fays there is not the least intimation given, that fuch that were cut off should be grafted in again; fince it is not only faid, that God is able to do it, but that if they abode not in unbelief, it should be done; and the probability of it is argued; and so it will be in the latter day, when the Jews fhall be converted, and all Ifrael be faved, ver. 2326. of which the first Jews that believed in Chrift, were the first-fruits and root, faid to be holy, ver. 16. and fo were the pledge and earnest of the future engrafture of their people into the Gospel-church-state. Upon the whole, this is an insufficient proof, that any belonging to the invisible church ever so fell, as to perish everlastingly. Let it be proved, if it can, that ever any of the church of the first-born whofe names are written in heaven; that any of that church of which Christ is the head, whom he loved, gave himself and died for; that any of that body which is the fulness of him, that filled all in all; or that any who are baptized by one Spirit into it, and have been made to drink of that Spirit, were ever loft or did eternally perish.
The Fourth propofition is, that "those who are branches of the true vine, of "whom Christ says, I am the vine, ye are the branches, may nevertheless so "fall from God, as to perish everlastingly, John xv. 1-5. where it is obferved, the persons spoken of are branches in Chrift, fome of which abide "not in him, but are caft forth from him and his church, and are withered, " and fo confequently never grafted in again, yea caft into the fire and burned. "Wherefore it is not poffible for words more ftrongly to declare, that even "those who are now branches in the true vine, may yet fo fall, as to perish "everlaftingly "." To which I anfwer, that there are two forts of branches in Chrift
• Serious Thoughts, p. 13.