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John Goodwin, the learned author of the following tracts, lived in a stirring and eventful age. The principles of government, both civil and ecclesiastical, the subjects and mode of baptism, religious toleration, the decrees of God, and the extent of human redemption, the personality and work of the Holy Spirit, were then subjects of eager controversy; and he took a distinguished part in the discussion of all these interesting topics. As a reasoner, few men have ever excelled him in clearness and strength, and in command of temper. The literary combatants who had the courage to assail him felt the keenness of his weapons, and the power of his arm. He was born in the year 1593; educated at the University of Cambridge; presented to the living of St. Stephen's, Coleman-street, London, in 1633; and died in 1665.
Like the generality of his contemporaries, Mr. Goodwin was trained up in the belief of the doctrine of absolute predestination; and in the early part of his life he regarded this tenet as a truth of holy writ. Wishful to establish his parishioners in the same views, he undertook to deliver a course of lectures in defence of the Genevan theology, in opposition to the doctrine of Arminius, and of his disciples the Dutch Remonstrants. In the prosecution of this task, he advanced a principle which one of his hearers deemed at once Arminian and heretical; and for this misdemeanour he was publicly censured in one of the pamphlets of the day. By this comparatively trifling incident he was led to a thorough investigation of the Calvinistic and Arminian controversy in all its bearings. The result was, an entire renunciation of his former opinions, and the adoption of the Arminian theory. A few years after he had undergone this revolution of sentiment he published the most elaborate and convincing defence of God's universal love that has ever appeared in the English language. Quaint titles of books were then fashionable; and, regarding the Christian doctrine of redemption by the death of Christ, as having been held in bondage by the arbitrary and unauthorized limitations of men, he denominated his great work, REDEMPTION REDEEMED. Its leading design was, to prove that, in the full and proper sense of the expression, Jesus Christ, “by the grace of God, tasted death for every man.” metaphysician, a Divine, a biblical critic, and a logician, he put forth his full strength in this very remarkable publication. It displays very extensive reading, and contains passages of uncommon power and eloquence, which are scarcely equalled by any theological writer of that day, and would not even suffer from a comparison with the prose writings of his contemporary Milton. The volume is a thin folio, and bears the date of 1651. The author states that it was to be considered only as the first part of the entire work ; and at the end he specifies the sublime and comprehensive questions which he intended to discuss in the further prosecution of his plan. He also adds, “ And because, among other scriptures, the ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is fre
quently, and this in very many places and passages of it, brought upon the stage of these controversies and disputes, and more particularly supposed to deliver impregnable grounds for such a personal election and reprobation which we apprehend the Scriptures generally, yea, and this very chapter, as plainly to oppose, as many men do confidently avouch, we therefore intend a particular and entire explication of this chapter by itself. Yea, I am under some present inclination of thoughts, to engage upon this in the first place, and to publish it by itself, before I put hand to the greater work. But in this I shall willingly be determined by the advice of friends.”
The “advice” which he sought and obtained appears to have accorded with his own views; and, hence, in the year 1653 the promised Exposition made its appearance. Its character and design are well described in the title. The writer's object is to prove that “the Apostle's scope is to assert and maintain his great doctrine of justification by faith; and that here he discourseth nothing at all concerning any personal election or reprobation of men from eternity.” He contends that St. Paul does not mention Isaac and Jacob, as examples of an absolute and unconditional election of individuals to eternal life; but as types of believers in Christ, whether they be Jews or Gentiles by birth, who are the true spiritual seed of Abraham, justified by God's grace, and con stituted heirs of a blessed immortality. Esau, he also contends, is not adduced by the Apostle as an abso, lute reprobate, consigned to perdition by virtue of an everlasting decree totally irrespective of his conduct, but as a type of the unbelieving posterity of Abraham, who were cast off by God, and appointed to destruction by his just judgment; yet still “endured with much longsuffering,” that they might by repentance and faith flee from the wrath to come. Whatever may be thought of his argumentation, as a whole, every one must approve of the manner in which it is conducted. The author does not treat the writings of St. Paul, as if every verse contained a distinct and independent proposition, like the Proverbs of Solomon, as many theological writers have done ; but endeavours to ascertain the scope and bearing of the Apostle's reasoning, at the same time that he brings a large mass of general biblical learning to bear upon the entire subject. He explains every verse in strict connexion with the context. Mr. Goodwin's views receive a striking confirmation from the fact, that in the Epistle to the Galatians St. Paul brings Ishmael and Isaac before his readers, not as examples of an absolute election and reprobation, but as types of believers and unbelievers ; the spiritual and merely natural descendants from faithful Abraham. (Chap. iv. 22–31.) The conclusion of the ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans also presents a strong proof that our author had not mistaken its meaning.
« What shall we say then ?” What is the conclusion to which we are led by the facts and arguments which have just been urged ? That some men are appointed to eternal life, and others to eternal death, by an absolute and irrespective decree ? No; but “that the GENTILES, which followed not after righteousness, HAVE ATTAINED TO RIGHTEOUSNESS, EVEN THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH. But ISRAEL, which followed after the law of righteousness, HATH NOT ATTAINED TO THE LAW OF