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fection in the saints, doth not invite, or occasion any man, to judge concerning any saint or true believer, that he will, or that he is likely so to fall, but only that it is possible for him so to fall. Nor is such a judgment, or thought as this, concerning any man, yea, or creature whatsoever, any jealousy or suspicion at all concerning him, nor hath it any thing reflective, or disparaging in it, to the worth, honour, or repute of that creature, how great and worthy soever he be, concerning whom it is conceived; it being no disparagement at all, no, not to the first born of creatures, I mean to the angels themselves, not to partake, or not to be thought to partake, in any incommunicable property of God, such as his unchangeableness is. To look upon a saint, or a true believer, as one who may possibly' apostatise, is but to look upon him as being a creature, and not God: nor would such an eye as this offend the greatest angel in heaven, considering that he never gave, nor is capable of giving, any competent ground or reason unto any man to look upon him with any other. But to look upon a saint, or true believer, especially when he hath given all the Christian satisfaction that reasonably can be desired, or expected, of his uprightness and sincerity, as one, that for aught we can tell, or have any sufficient ground to judge the contrary, may be a hypocrite, and rotten at the core, is a high strain of unchristian unworthiness, and what reason itself, competently informed, cannot lightly but abhor.
The premises concerning the subject yet in hand, the doctrine of perseverance, duly considered, it fully appears, that that doctrine, which for these many years last past hath magnified itself in the tongues and pens of men, not only or simply for a truth, but with many great eulogiums, and titles of sovereign dignity, as that it is a fundamental article of the reformed religion, one of the principal points or heads of Christian religion, wherein the reformed churches have purged themselves from the errors of popery; that it is the foundation of all true assurance of salvation, without which true faith itself cannot stand; that it contains that promise of God, which all ministers of the gospel stand bound to commend, and inculcate with all diligence into all true believers for their comfort; with many such like studied and strained-for commendations; this doctrine, I say, in whose praises the friends of it have risen up so early, and lifted it up so near unto the heavens, as hath been shown, upon a strict and impartial inquiry and examination, hath been found a mere impostor, an appearance of Satan in the likeness of an angel of light, a tenet which cannot stand in judgment with the sound and wholesome doctrines of the gospel. We shall further, God willing, show unto you, in how little request the said doctrine of perseverance was with those, who are to this day counted pillars of the Christian faith in the primitive and most exemplary times; and likewise how unstable and uncertain, if not unsatisfied also, the greatest friends, and learnedest
abettors of it in latter times, or at least those, who are commonly taken for such, have been in their judgments about it. In the interim we shall only, in order to the further clearing up of the truth against the mist of the said doctrine, give you a brief account from the Scriptures themselves of some examples, who with their own declinings sealed the truth of that doctrine, which hath been maintained hitherto, concerning the possibility of a total declining in the saints.
Exhibiting from the Scriptures some instances of a total declining, or falling away, from the grace and favour of God, in true believers.
THE contents and undertaking of this chapter, is a surplusage, or overmeasure to the demonstration of the doctrine under defence. For to prove a possibility that true believers may totally fall away, it is not necessary to prove, either that any such will so fall away this would be a very presumptuous engagement: nor that any such are wont to fall away, though this be extremely probable, and a borderer to that which is evident and unquestionable: nor yet that any have actually and de facto so fallen away, which is our present engagement: but only to evince the truth of such grounds and reasons, whether from the Scriptures, or from the nature and consideration of the things themselves, from which, being granted, the said possibility perfectly appeareth, and becomes visible to the eyes of the judgments and understandings of men. Nevertheless, since the eviction of this assertion, that some, formerly saints and true believers, have de facto totally fallen away, is so pregnant a proof of the possibility that such may so fall away, I judged it both worth my labour, and the reader's consideration, to present what the Scriptures hold forth upon that
Let us first insist upon the example of David; concerning whom no man, I presume, questioneth, but that he was as true and real a saint and believer, before the perpetration of those two horrid sins, one upon the neck of another, murder and adultery, as he was after his repentance of, or for, those perpetrations. For, 1. that signal testimony of being "a man according to God's own heart," was given unto him by God himself, before he committed these sins, as appears from Acts xiii. 22, compared with Psal. lxxxix. 20; 1 Kings xiv. 8. In the first of these places it is said: "And after he had taken him away, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he witnessed, saying, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which will do all things that I will." This, with the other places mentioned, clearly speak of the frame
and temper of David's heart, and of the acceptableness of his person unto God, at the time of his anointing, and investiture into the kingdom: whereas it is evident that the two great sins specified were committed by him many years after he had been king. Besides, there are many pregnant arguments in the Scripture, of David's integrity and uprightness before God, before that great eclipse of the glory of them, whereof we speak. But we shall not need to insist upon any thing in this kind: our adversaries themselves, in the cause depending, generally acknowledge him to have been a man truly godly and regenerate, before the guilt of the two enormous sins mentioned clave unto him. The question is, whether he continued such, truly godly, under the guilt of the said sins, viz., from the time of the perpetration of them, until the time of his repentance: They affirm, I deny; and give this account of my denial in opposition to their affirmation.
He that commits murder and adultery, not only against the clear light of his conscience, but with deliberation and premeditated contrivance, and remains under the pollution and guilt of these sins without repentance, is not a man truly godly, or accepted with God: But this was David's case; he committed murder and adultery, not only against the light of his conscience, but, &c. Ergo. The minor proposition is in all points evident from the tenor of the story laid down in chap. xi. and xii. of the second of Samuel, where the Holy Ghost very particularly and at large reporteth the manner and method of David's actings and behaviour, in order to the committing of the said sins. But this proposition, I conceive; hath so much light of truth shining upon it from the Scriptures, that they who deny the conclusion will not deny it.
For the major; this hath been sufficiently argued and proved in the former chapter, in our traverse of the fifth argument, there propounded to prove a possibility of a total defection in the saints, pages 425, 426, &c., where likewise all the pleas of exception, commonly made against it, were largely debated and answered to the full. I shall here only add this brief argument for the further confirmation of it. Whosoever is truly godly, hath by grace and promise from God, a right and title to the kingdom of God. This proposition is current doctrine amongst our adversaries. Therefore I assume: But whosoever commits murder and adultery, and this against the light of conscience, with deliberation and premeditated contrivance, and remains impenitent under the guilt of such commissions, during such his impenitency, hath no right or title to the kingdom of God: Ergo. This is proved ex abundanti, from Gal. v. 21; 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. (places formerly argued.) Touching the former, the apostle, after a large enumeration of the works of the flesh, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, envyings, murders, &c. subjoins, "of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." The other place is of the same import. So likewise are the passages, Ephes. v. 5, 6. It seems this was a
doctrine frequently inculcated by the apostle into the minds and consciences of such as were saints, (at least so judged and reputed by him,) and therefore such as we ought to judge to have been none other. Now if those who formerly had been saints, and in this capacity heirs of the kingdom of God, should have retained the same capacity, under the doing of the things mentioned, and before any remorse of soul or repentance for them, the apostle could not, either with reason or truth, have pronounced this heavy doom against them, that they should not inherit the kingdom of God. So that David having done two of the most notorious and vile works of the flesh, in the practice or perpetration of murder and adultery, and that, as hath been said, with circumstances of greatest aggravation, doubtless for the time whilst he remained impenitent, in or under the defilement of them, was obnoxious to that law of death, by which the workers of iniquity or of the works of the flesh, are sentenced with the deprivation or loss of their right and title to the kingdom of heaven: and consequently was not a godly person, or accepted with God. We have already profaned all those lawless sanctuaries, at which men being pursued by the Scriptures lately mentioned are wont to take shelter, as viz. 1. That the said places are not to be understood as applicable unto the saints, (they mean such as at any time have been saints,) but 2. That saints have an unto natural or unregenerate men only. absolute promise from God, that they shall never totally lose their faith. 3. That the saints sin only out of infirmity, and not premeditatedly, or with full consent: these allegements, with their fellows, we have once and again, in several places, upon occasion, clearly detected to be of the spurious and ignoble race of shifts and evasions, sought out by men for the gratification and relief of error, and to obstruct the truth in the course of it, that it might not run and be glorified.
But some object, that David prayed unto God, during his impenitency under the said sins; and that this is a sufficient proof that he was all the while a person truly godly, and endued with justifying faith. I answer,
1. It no where appears that David did pray unto God during the term of his impenitency, or until Nathan the prophet came unto him, to awaken his conscience unto a consideration of them. The 51st Psalm, which is indeed precatory and penitentiary, is in the title said to have been made by David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, (i. e. upon his coming unto him,) after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Which implies, that David was now in a posture of repentance, when he conceived the prayer expressed in this psalm.
2. Neither from one act of prayer, nor from many, can the truth or soundness of any man's faith be concluded. Our Saviour himself supposeth that hypocrites pray, and that often, Matt. vi. 5; yea, and that the scribes and pharisees were wont to make long prayers, Matt. xxiii. 14; and affirmeth, that they were liable
to the greater damnation, upon the account of these prayers, in respect of the wicked ends intended in them. Yea, men may pray unto God with some degree or kind of acceptation with him, whilst they are yet but unregenerate men, as some of our adversaries themselves, more considering than their fellows, do acknowledge. Nor doth that of the apostle, "Without faith it is impossible to please God," Heb. xi. 6, any ways contradict it: of which place we shall, I conceive, have occasion to speak more at large hereafter.
3. It is yet further the doctrine and sense of our adversaries, that reprobates themselves may have, and many times have, some excellent gifts of the Spirit conferred upon them; and among others the gift of prayer itself. So that were it granted, or could it be proved, that David, under his impenitency for his crying sins, did pray, or was wont to pray unto God, it cannot be inferred from hence, that therefore he was not in an estate of reprobation, or destitute of the saving grace or favour of God. It is not necessary that he that totally falls away from saving faith, should be especially, on the sudden, divested or dispossessed of any, much less of all such gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are consistent with an estate of reprobation or unregeneracy.
4. If David was a true believer during the time of his "wallowing in the mire" of those two foul crimes, oft mentioned, then was not his "washing" by repentance necessary to his salvation. The reason is, because true faith giveth a sufficient right and title to salvation; and it is the main stream and current of the gospel, that "whosoever believeth shall be saved." But if David's washing by repentance was not necessary to his salvation, how can the Holy Ghost be justified in ranging "murderers and whoremongers amongst those who "shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death?" Rev. xxi. 8; or in saying, that "no unclean thing shall enter into it, (the new Jerusalem,) neither whatsoever worketh abomination?" ver. 27; or, that "without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers," &c.? ver. 15. Certainly "blood defileth" a person as well as a nation, or "land," Num. xxxv. 33, when it is unrighteously spilt in it, and maketh as well the one as the other "unclean," until it be atoned. And for the sin of adultery, it is sufficiently known that the Holy Ghost presents it almost every where as polluting and defiling. So that David, during his impenitency aforesaid, was cut off from all right of entering into the new Jerusalem, both by the general irregularity of uncleanness, as also by the particular incapacities of murder and adultery.
5. If David were a true believer during the time of his departure and absence from God, then may the testimony of former and bypast works of righteousness be accepted by way of proof for the truth and soundness of any man's faith, against the testimony of later and more present fruits of unrighteousness against it. If so, then, 1, No man that hath approved himself a good Christian formerly ought upon any change whatsoever, upon the most unchris