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his whole soul," verses 40, 41. And yet we know, that all these promises and engagements on God's part notwithstanding, God since the making of them, hath turned away from them, and that in greater displeasure than ever before; yea, and that, as the apostle saith, "his wrath is come upon them to the uttermost," 1 Thess. ii. 16; and they are accordingly at this day the most contemptible and miserable nation under heaven. This plainly showeth that all these promises were conditional, though no condition appears in mention, and the performance of them intentionally suspended upon their good behaviour and obedience to him that made them. See more upon this account in the premises. If then the temporal promises running along in the same current of discourse with spiritual, and much more assertively expressed than these, were conditional, and have suffered a non-performance through a non-performance of the condition intended; why may we not suppose the spiritual promises also to be subject to the same law? Nay certainly,
4. Had the spiritual promises been merely positive and unconditioned, the temporal would have been such also, at least they had not been obnoxious to a non-performance. For had God actually, and with effect, given them one heart and one way, so that they had actually feared him for ever, or put his fear in their hearts upon any such terms, that they had not departed from him, questionless all the temporal promises had brought forth; God would not have turned away from them to do them good, and their children after them, but would have rejoiced over them to do them good, would have planted them in their land, &c.
5. That expression in the said passages, " And I will make an everlasting covenant with them," plainly supposeth that the whole contexture of promises therein was but conditional, it being the nature and property of a covenant never to engage one party alone, but both, or all comprised in it; and when one party refuseth to make good the terms imposed thereby upon him, to disoblige and free the other. Therefore,
6, and lastly, The true and clear intent and meaning of the spiritual promises made unto the people of the Jews, now in captivity, in the Scripture in hand, and particularly of the expressions last objected, is this: "I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever; and will put my fear into their hearts, that they shall not (or may not) depart from me," i. e. I will deal so above measure graciously and bountifully with them, as well in matters relating to their spiritual condition, as in things which concern their outward condition, that if they be not prodigiously refractory, stubborn, and unthankful, I will overcome their evil with my goodness, will cause them to own me for their God; and will reduce them as one man to a loving and loyal frame and temper of heart towards me, that they shall willingly, and with a full and free purpose of heart, fear and serve me for ever. To secure this
1. That is to be remembered which hath been offered to consi
deration already, viz., That it is the frequent and familiar dialect of Scripture, to ascribe the doing of things, or the effects themselves, unto those, whether God or men, who either minister occasion, or afford proper or likely means or endeavours for the doing of them, whether ever they be actually effected or no. A pleasant number of instances in this kind you shall find drawn together elsewhere. Repetitions are needless where primitives are at hand. According to this kind of expression, God may be said to give men one heart and one way, that, &c., and so to put his fear into their hearts, that, &c., when he vouchsafeth and exhibiteth such motives, means, and opportunities unto them, which are efficacious and proper to work them to such a frame and disposition of heart and soul, out of which men are wont firmly to resolve, to love, serve, and obey him for ever, whether they be actually wrought or brought hereunto or no. In this sense it is easy to conceive when and how the said promises were performed or fulfilled, as, viz. to a good degree in, upon, and soon after that famous deliverance out of their seventy years' captivity, God hereby, as by many other signal mercies vouchsafed unto them soon after their return, about the repairing of their city and temple, as likewise by the effectual ministry of several great prophets raised up amongst them from time to time, mightily engaging them all to devote themselves unto him and his service for ever: but more fully and gloriously, when the great Messiah was sent unto them in the flesh, by whose unparalleled holiness in life and conversation, together with his frequent and wonderful miracles, and especially by his doctrine, so full of heavenly authority, light, and power, they were not only compelled into such an heart, and such a way, wherewith, and wherein, to have feared (i. e., to have religiously served and obeyed) him for ever. Insomuch, that proving such apostates, as they wilfully became, under such transcendent means as they had, to have rendered them the best and most faithful people under heaven unto their God, they declared themselves to be the most stiff-necked and rebellious generation of men in all the world; and were judged by God accordingly. Take any other sense of the promises or words now in question, especially that which is so much contended for, and which imports a final perseverance in grace to be wrought in this people by the irresistible hand of God; and it will be impossible for any man to find so much as by probable conjecture, when, or how, they should ever be fulfilled. To say, that they might, even in that sense, which I so much oppose, be fulfilled constantly in the elect of this people, is to say that which reason will gainsay. For, 1. An absolute or unconditioned promise, made to a great number of men, cannot be said to be fulfilled, when the thing promised is exhibited only to some few of them. Now the promises under debate were clearly made to the whole body or nation of the Jews, (as we have formerly proved from the express context,) and not to the elect only amongst them. 2. According to their judgments, who plead the fulfilling of them in this sense,
the persons for whose sakes and comfort they were made, the elect, might, yea, must needs have had every whit as much comfort without them, as they could have with or by them. For they knew, before the making of any of these promises to them, that, being elect, and once in a state of grace, they should persevere therein unto the end. And thus these great and signal promises of God shall be rendered void, and mere impertinences unto those, for whose sake only they are supposed to have been made. 3, and lastly, to say they were fulfilled in the elect, in the sense gainsaid, is to beg the question, instead of digging for it.
2. The Scriptures many times assert the futurity, or coming to pass of things not yet in being, not only when the coming of them to pass is certain, or certainly known unto God, but upon a probability only, or likelihood of their coming to pass, in respect of means used, or to be used, for the bringing of them to pass. Upon this account, God himself is represented by our Saviour in his parable of the vineyard, as speaking thus, in the person of the lord of the vineyard, "They will reverence my son," Matt. xii. 6, in case I shall vouchsafe to send him unto them. And yet the event showed that they were so far from reverencing him, that when he came to them, "they took him, and slew him, and cast him out of the vineyard." So when he saith, upon occasion of the punishment, which he commandeth to be inflicted upon the man that should "do presumptuously, that all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously," Deut. xvii. 12, 13. He doth not speak it out of any certainty of knowledge in him, that it would, or should, actually so come to pass, (for many, doubtless, of this people did not so fear, as to forbear doing presumptuously, notwithstanding the exemplariness of such a punishment,) but because the severe and thorough execution of justice in this kind, was a proper and probable means to restrain all sorts of persons amongst them from the like sins. See page 302 of this chapter. In this notion and idiom of Scripture, also, God may say, "I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever," not out of a certainty of knowledge, or determination in himself, that any such heart, or way, should actually, and with effect, be given unto them, which would infallibly produce such an effect in them, as is here specified; but because he was purposed so to entreat them, and to afford such excellent administrations of his grace and Spirit unto them, which should be very pregnant, proper, and efficacious, to create such an heart in them, and to put them into such a way, that they should never have declined from his worship and service, whilst the sun and moon endure. This answer, I acknowledge, is of much affinity with the former. Therefore,
3, and lastly, that no such sense was intended by God in the words or promises yet under consideration, which imports any certainty of a final perseverance in grace, in those to whom they are spoken and made, fully appears from all those prophetical passages
and predictions in the Old Testament, which are many in number, and very plain and pregnant in import, wherein that sad breach, which afterwards happened between God and this people, to whom these promises were made, and which amounted even to a rejection of them from being any longer a people unto him, is foretold by him. For that God should absolutely promise such an heart unto a people, which should infallibly cause them to fear him for ever, and not to depart from him; and yet withal prophesy the great and general apostasy of this people from him, and their rejection, upon that account, by him, doubtless lieth not within the verge of any man's belief, who takes any competent care what he believeth. I trust, the Scripture now last opened, will from henceforth be put to no more trouble, about any contribution of aid towards the maintenance of the doctrine of absolute perseverance.
Some other Scriptures possibly there may be, besides those inquired into in this chapter, wherein some may imagine the treasure of such a perseverance to be hid; but these which we have strictly examined upon the matter, have still been counted the pillars of that doctrine; and yet, as we have seen, are no supporters of it. Nor do I question, but that by those unquestionable principles and rules of interpretation, by which the mind of God in the Scriptures discussed in this chapter, hath been brought into a clear light, all seeming compliance that way in others also, may be reduced and so the wisdom, which hath been revealed from heaven, perfectly acquitted from all interposure by way of countenance on the behalf of the commonly-taught doctrine of perseverance. Two texts I call to mind at present which are sometimes called in to the assistance of the doctrine of perseverance hitherto opposed, and have not received answer in this chapter. The former is Matt. vii. 18; the latter, Rom. xi. 29. But for this latter, it hath been sufficiently handled upon another account, Chap. viii. page 224. As to the former, we shall, I conceive, have occasion to speak in the second part of this discourse. We now proceed to the examination of such arguments and grounds otherwise, upon which the said doctrine, in some men's eyes, stands impregnable.
A further continuation of the former digression, wherein the arguments and grounds commonly alleged in defence of the received doctrine of Perseverance, are detected of insufficiency, proved, and declared null.
WE shall begin with that which is the first-born of the strength of our adversaries in this kind. "That," say they, "which God hath promised in his word is certain, and shall take place, against all opposition and contradiction whatsoever. But God hath promised in his word that all true believers shall both totally and
finally persevere; therefore all such shall certainly so persevere, against whatsoever may or shall at any time oppose their persevering." To this I answer,
1. By explaining the major proposition, "What God hath promised in his word is certain, and shall take place," &c., viz. in such a sense, and upon such terms, as God would be understood in his promise. But what God promiseth in one sense is not certain of performance in another: as for example; God promised the preservation of the lives of all that were with Paul in the ship; but his intent and meaning in this promise was not this preservation against whatsoever might possibly be done by those in the ship against it, or to hinder it; but with this proviso or condition, that they in the ship should hearken unto him, and follow his advice, in order to their preservation; as is evident from those words of Paul himself, to whom this promise was made, "Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be safe," Acts xxvii. 31; so that had the centurion and rest in the ship suffered the mariners to have left the ship, whilst it was yet at sea, there had been no failing in promise with God though they had all been drowned. In like manner, though Christ promised to his twelve apostles, Judas being yet one of the twelve, that" in the regeneration," i. e. the resurrection or restoration of the world, "they should sit upon twelve thrones, and judge the twelve tribes of Israel," Matt. xix. 28, yet he is not to be judged a promise-breaker, though Judas never comes to sit upon one of these thrones. And in case the rest of the twelve had declined from that integrity of heart under which that promise was made unto them, as Judas did, neither would it have argued any breach of promise in Christ to have advanced others upon these thrones instead of them; the reason whereof is elsewhere noted from Peter Martyr, whose doctrine it is, that "the promises of God are wont to be made with respect had to the present estate and condition of things with men."* His meaning is, as appears by the tenor of the adjacent discourse, that all God's promises made unto men, being or considered as being under such and such qualifications, are not to be understood as any otherwise intended by him to be performed unto them, than as abiding, and whilst they shall abide, in the same qualifications. As for example; what promises soever God makes unto believers, with respect had to their faith or as they are believers, are not to be looked upon as performable, or obliging the Maker of them unto them, in case they shall relapse into their former unbelief: but of this we spake plentifully in our last chapter and elsewhere. The major proposition thus explained and understood, we admit, whatsoever God promiseth is certain, &c., viz. according to the true intent and meaning of the promise.
The minor, also, relieved with an orthodox and sober explication, as likewise the conclusion itself and whole argument, is
Promissiones itaque illæ Dei pro statu presenti rerum sunt intelligendæ.-P. Mar. loc. class. 3. c. 13, sect. 4.