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disturbance, uncomfortableness, or fear in their spirits, that they shall fall away. Therefore,
2. To the main objection in hand, I answer further: concerning the manifold weaknesses of the saints, their aptness to sin, &c., these indeed are sufficient and proper to cause them to fear, but not the fear of falling away from God or from his grace, but that fear which the Scripture is wont to oppose to highmindedness. "Be not highminded, but fear," Rom. xi. 20. This fear is nothing else but a humble reflection upon a man's own weakness and insufficiency to stand in his own strength, which necessarily draweth along with it a humble dependence upon God for strength whereby to stand, together with an acknowledgment of strength received from him when and whilst he doth stand. This is evident
from that of the apostle: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," i. e. with humility, with a sense and acknowledgment of no sufficiency as from yourselves for so important a work; "for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure," Phil. ii. 12, 13; i. e. you are debtors unto him both for every disposition you find in yourselves to act, and likewise for every action wherein you do act, in order to your salvation. But of this passage of Scripture more hereafter, God willing. In the meantime, certain it is that the infirmities and weaknesses of the saints, through which they are apt to sin, do not require any such decree in God which includeth in it an impossibility of their falling away, to render them secure from or against such falling: for as the lighter crosses and discontents which men daily meet with in their household affairs, conversings with men, and dealings in the world, bring them into no danger or fear of making away themselves or destroying their own lives, though there be no absolute decree of God to secure them in this behalf, the natural desire of self-preservation which God hath planted in them, easily overruling, by the power and strength of it, all notions or dispositions towards self-destroying which are wont to arise from such occasions. In like manner, the strength of that inclination or desire which is or ought to be, and very possibly, as hath been proved, might be in the saints to save their souls, and consequently to preserve themselves from apostasy, is sufficient, without any such decree of God as was mentioned, to secure them both from all danger and from all fear of apostatising to destruction, notwithstanding all weaknesses or infirmities that they are subject unto. The truth is, that the infirmities and weaknesses of the saints, as such, are so far from being any necessary or just ground of fear unto them that they shall fall away; that the sense and acknowledgment of them are most clear, pregnant, and effectual antidotes and preservatives against falling away: for he that is inwardly and truly sensible of his own weakness and inability to stand, will, especially being a saint or believer, most certainly depend upon him for strength who is both able and willing to supply and furnish him upon such terms.
3. And lastly, upon the former account, and for a close of this chapter, I answer, that if the doctrine of falling away be so uncomfortable unto the saints as the objection pretends, the truth is, as we have in the premises of this chapter made it appear, they are not much relieved at this point by the received doctrine of perseverance; for this doctrine, as hath been shown, scarce suffereth any man to believe upon any rational, competent, or sufficient grounds that he is a true saint or believer, yea, and doth little less than tempt him to such things which are exceeding apt and likely to fill him with fears and questionings touching the truth of his faith. And what great comfort can it then be unto him to hear or believe that true believers cannot fall away or perish? whereas the other doctrine leaveth them a good latitude of competent ground whereon to judge themselves true saints and true believers nor doth it deprive them of sufficient ground on which to secure themselves both against the danger and against all fear of danger of apostatising or falling away to perdition. This doctrine, therefore, of the two, is questionless of the more benevolous aspect and influence upon the peace and comforts of the saints.
A continuation of the former digression; wherein the texts of Scripture commonly alleged to prove the impossibility of saints' declining unto death, are taken into consideration, and discharged from that service.
BEING occasioned, and, after a sort, necessitated, for the securing of some passages of interpretation, (chap. viii.) being of main concernment to the principal cause undertaken in this discourse, to engage home in the question about perseverance, I should, according to ordinary method, and that hitherto observed in the traverse of the main doctrine, first, have argued my sense and judgment in the question κατασκευαστικῶς, assertively; and then ἀνασκευαστικῶς, i. e. by answering such objections, whether from Scripture or otherwise, which are wont to be levied by men of contrary judgment in opposition thereunto. But finding by experience that weaker men, through too much fulness and abundance, in their own sense, in matters of controversy, and this chiefly by means of some texts of Scripture running still, and working in their heads, which in sound of words, and surface of letter, seem to stand by them in their sense and notion, are under a very great disadvantage, either for minding or understanding such things which are spoken unto them for their information in the truth; I thought it best, for their relief in this case, to invert that method in the present dispute; and first to endeavour to take from them those weapons, whether of Scripture
or argument, wherein they trust; and afterwards present them with such other Scriptures and grounds which are able, pregnant, and proper, to build them up, and establish them in the truth.
We shall not tie ourselves to any rule, or prescript of order, in bringing those Scriptures upon the theatre of our discourse, which men of differing judgment in the cause in hand are wont to plead in defence thereof, themselves, as far as I have observed, observing but shall produce them one by one, as God shall please to bring them to mind, unless, haply, two or more of them, by reason of affinity or likeness in phrase or import, may commodiously enough be handled together. Most of the places compelled to serve in this warfare I find situate in the New Testament. The first that cometh to hand is that of our Saviour unto Peter, "And upon this Rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," Matt. xvi. 18. From hence it is argued, that those that are once built by faith upon the Rock, Christ, or upon the truth of the gospel, are not in danger, or in a possibility of being prevailed against, viz., to destruction, by all the powers of darkness whatsoI answer,
1. That this promissory assertion of Christ, "the gates of hell shall not prevail," &c., doth not necessarily respect every individual and single person who de præsenti is a member of his church, so as to secure him of his salvation, against all possible sins, or ways of sinning, whereunto he may or can be drawn by Satan; but may well be understood of the church in general, i. e. considered as a body of men, separate and distinguished from the world. Now the church, in this sense, may be said to stand, and be secured against all the power and attempts of the devil, though not only some, but even all the particular saints, of which this body consists at present, should be prevailed against by Satan to destruction. Because the ratio formalis, or essence of the church, in this sense, doth not consist in the persons of those who do at present believe, and so are members of it; for then it would follow, that in case these should die, or when they shall die, Christ should have no church at all upon the earth, inasmuch as nothing can be without the essence of it; but in the successive generation of those who, in their respective times, believe, whether they be fewer or whether they be more, whether they be such and such persons, or whether others. As suppose there be not now one drop of that water in the channel of the river of Thames, as it is like there is not, which was in it seven years since, yet is it one and the same river which it was then and so put the case there be not one person now alive in any of the companies in London of which they respectively consisted forty years since, yet are they the self same companies which they were then. So, then, the saying of Christ, that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church," may stand clear and firm, though many particular members thereof should be overcome. Therefore there is nothing in this Scripture to evince that universal
perseverance of all saints which is commonly taught and received amongst us.
2. When our Saviour promiseth that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church," his meaning, questionless, is this, that death, or the grave, which may very properly be called "the gates of hell," because they that go, or are sent to hell, enter by them thereinto, or else that hell itself "shall not prevail," i. e. shall not have a full or final conquest over those that shall die, built upon the rock he speaks of, by faith, as, by reason of their most formidable strength, they are like to have over all other men. According to this interpretation, his meaning only is, that those that shall continue firmly built upon him by faith shall in time be rescued and delivered out of the hand of all adverse powers, yea, from death and the grave themselves, the most formidable of all others.
This exposition fully accords with what Chrysostom hath upon the place." If," saith he, paraphrasing the words of Christ, "they shall not prevail against it, ('my church,') much more shall they not prevail against me. Therefore, be not troubled when thou shalt hear that I shall be betrayed and crucified."* These words clearly imply, that by "the prevailing of the gates of hell," the author understands the final prevailing of death or the grave; and not the prevailing of Satan by subtlety or temptations in one kind or other. Amongst our late Protestant divines, Cameron, who commonly strikes as happy a stroke in opening the Scriptures which he undertakes as any man, doth not only deliver, but with a high hand asserts, argues, and evinceth this interpretation. "This then," saith he, 66 seems to have been the mind of Christ in this place: Let those who believe, lie for a time dead, let death have dominion over them, let death exercise his right (or execute his law) upon them, hold them fast shut up in the grave, as in a prison, bound with bands or fetters, yet shall he not always have his will over them; he may or shall do much against them, but shall never have a full conquest over them." This exposition he confirms, 1, by instancing several other places of Scripture, as Job xxxviii. 17; Psa. ix. 13; cvii. 18; in all which, by "the gates of hell," or of death, is clearly meant the grave. To which he adds, Psa. xviii. 16, and cxvi. 3, as places of affinity with these. 2. By showing that the word ons, here translated hell, is never in Scripture, except once, used to signify hell, properly so called, i. e. the place or state of the damned, but constantly, either the grave, or the state and condition of those that are dead. 3. By minding us that one and θάνατος, the grave and death, are elsewhere termed the enemies of the church, yea, the last enemies, as 1 Cor. xv. 26; to which he
* Εἰ δὲ ἐκείνης οὐκ ἀντισχύσεσι, πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἐμοῦ· ὥστε μὴ θορυβηθῆς, ἐπειδὰν μελλῆς ἀκούειν, ὅτι παραδοθήσομαι, καὶ σταυρωθήσομαι.
+ Hæc ergo Christi hoc in loco mens fuisse videtur: Jaceant fideles ad tempus demortui, mors in illos dominetur, exerceat jus suum, in sepulchro (veluti in carcere) eos teneat conclusos et vinculis quasi constrictos, haud tamen usque et usque obtinebit: valebit quidem certè, at non prævalebit, ἰσχύσει μὲν, οὔγε μὲν κατισχύσει.
adds, the consideration of their being "cast into the lake of fire," Rev. xx. 14. 4. And lastly, by particular arguments against every other interpretation offered by expositors.
Musculus, though by the gates of hell he understands as well the policy as power and strength of the devil, yet by the relative particle airns, it, he doth not understand the church, but the rock, or foundation of doctrine on which the church is built.* So that his sense of the place seems to be this: that that doctrine on which the church is built is so firm and strong, that all the policy and power of Satan, though joining together, shall never be able to prevail against it, so as either to evict it of falsehood, or otherwise to destroy and cast it out of the world. None of all their interpretations suppose any such thing deducible from the place as this, that those who are once believers, or members of the church of Christ, shall never be seduced by Satan to destruction. The place speaks nothing of Satan, much less of his subtlety, policy, or power to seduce the church; but supposing the exceeding great and formidable strength of death and the grave, asserteth the glorious and final conquest of his church over them notwithstanding. So that this passage of Scripture perfectly sembleth with these and the like: "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die,” John xi. 25. And again: "And this is the Father's will that hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day," John vi. 39. See also John v. 25, 28, 29, &c.
That which is pleaded by some for such a sense of the place, which carries the doctrine of perseverance in it, is weak and valueless. Whatsoever, say these, opposeth the building of the church upon the rock, or the constant adhering of it unto Christ, is meant by the gates of hell prevailing. For, in these words, "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," Christ must needs be supposed to remove whatsoever is contrary to that which he had asserted in those, "And upon this rock will I build my church." But the politic and subtle temptations of Satan to seduce believers, are opposite to the building of the church upon the rock, and to the constant adhering of it unto Christ. Therefore, by the gates of hell not prevailing against the church, must needs be meant the defeature or non-prevailing of the stratagems or counsels of Satan against believers; and consequently, their persevering unto the end. For to this I answer,
1. By denying the major proposition in the argument. For that which Christ takes away in this clause, " And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," is not whatsoever opposeth the building of his church upon the rock, but whatsoever opposeth the happiness of it being so built, and adhering constantly and perse
Mihi videtur certius, ut ad Petram, id est, Ecclesiæ fundamentum referamus: non quod dubitem de Ecclesiæ soliditate, sed quod ea sit ex petra, super quam ædificata est, quæ tam est robusta, &c.