« PreviousContinue »
Nor can it here, with any face of reason, be replied, that, by such a construction as we have put upon the words of God in his command unto Abraham concerning the offering up of his son, when he vouchsafeth means of salvation unto men, and commandeth them to use them accordingly, it cannot be concluded from thence, that, therefore, he really intendeth the salvation of men, but only that they should use the said means to obtain salvation; because, though God, in Abraham's case, did, in his intentions, separate the means of offering up Isaac from the actual oblation of him, this not being the end of his command given unto him, as was said,-yet he did not separate between the said means and that which was his true end in the command, which was the trial of Abraham's faith; and for the effecting whereof, the said command, and all that which was meant thereby, was as natural and proper a means as it was for the actual oblation of Isaac by death. In like manner, when he vouchsafeth means of salvation unto men, and commandeth the use of them accordingly, he cannot be supposed to divide or separate, in his intentions, between the use of these means and their proper end, salvation; there being no other end proper to be effected by the use of the means of salvation but salvation itself, or, at least, none but in conjunction with salvation. And certain it is, that there is no man of wisdom who intends the use of such means, which are determinately appropriate to the production of one end, and no more; or, however, of no more, but only by and through the production of that one, but that he intends the production of this end peculiarly. How God may intend the salvation of men, and yet men never come to be saved, hath been already explained, Chap. iii. p. 76, 86, and that, as I remember, more than once, and may be yet further opened upon occasion.
Exhibiteth several grounds and reasons whereby the universality of redemption by Christ, or Christ's dying for all men, without exception, is demonstratively evicted.
ALTHOUGH Scripture authority be greater than all demonstration otherwise, for the eviction and confirmation of any doctrine or tenet in matter of religion, as simply and in itself, so also with those whose faith mainly or solely beareth upon the foundations of the Scriptures, yet have arguments and grounds of reason, if they be pregnant and clear, a very acceptable influence upon the judgments and consciences of men, when they are levied and drawn up in the nature of seconds or assistants to the Scriptures, and plead the same cause with them. For when a doctrine or opinion is held forth as the mind of God in the Scriptures, and Scripture authority produced and insisted upon, either singly or in consort, for the
proof thereof; in case this doctrine shall be found to have a fair and clear consistence with the unquestionable principles of sound reason, there remains no place in the consciences of men for fear or jealousy, concerning the truth thereof. God himself being the author of those noble endowments in men, reason and understanding, must needs be conceived the author also of whatsoever truly consorteth with them. But in case the authority of the Scripture shall be urged and pressed upon the consciences of men in defence. of such a doctrine, which grates or bears hard upon the common and clear dictates of that light which God hath planted in the souls of men, it is impossible but that a considering man should much question such a sense or interpretation which is put upon the Scriptures in such a case. The reason hereof hath been given elsewhere.* The premises considered, I judge it a matter of signal consequence in order to the securing the judgments and consciences of men about the truth of the main doctrine maintained in this discourse, to demonstrate the perfect and clear consistency of it with grounds of reason, though substantially proved already from the Scriptures; yea, and satisfactorily also, I trust, unto those who so understand the Scriptures as not to make either the wisdom or justice of God sufferers by them. My reasons, then, for the universality of redemption by Jesus Christ, in reference unto men, are these following:
"If Christ died not for all men without exception, in the sense formerly declared, then is that great covenant of grace, which God hath made with the world, and ratified in his blood, made with unknown persons, and such who are no ways expressed in this covenant, neither by name nor by any other character or qualification by which they may, at least for a long time, be known or distinguished: But this great covenant we speak of is not struck, or made with unknown persons; I mean with such who, for a long time, if ever, neither can tell themselves whether they be the covenanted or no, nor are capable of any reasonable information hereof by others: Therefore, Christ died for all men, without exception."
The reason of the former proposition, and the consequence therein, is this because the elect, so called in the common notion of election, with whom only this covenant of grace is pretended to be made, and for whom only Christ is supposed to have died, are persons no ways distinguishable from others, neither before, at all, and very hardly, if at all, after their regeneration and conversion unto God. That they are not at all discernible from others, before conversion, is evident from several places. "For we ourselves," saith the apostle to Titus, meaning, who are now so much altered and changed by a work of grace and regeneration in us, "were sometimes," viz., before our conversion, "foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another," Tit. iii. 3. Certainly, these are no appropriate
Epistle to the Reader.
or distinguishing characters of the elect, but such, which do evidently prove the elect, in the common signification of the word, before conversion, and the non-elect, to be indiscernible the one from the other, as well by themselves as by others. We shall not need to cite any more places for the proof of this. You may peruse the second chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians at your leisure, which speaks, almost throughout, to this point. Again,
2. That after regeneration itself, the elect, so called, are very hardly, if at all, discernible, either to themselves or others, from hypocrites and those that shall perish, is no less evident neither. First. That they are not at all discernible from hypocrites, in respect of others, at least for a time, and many times for a long time, will, I suppose, readily be acknowledged. The apostles did not know Judas to be a hypocrite or a traitor, no not after long acquaintance and converse with him; for then they would not have suspected every man himself, when Christ told them that there was one of them that would betray him. Nor did Philip know Simon Magus to be "in the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity," when he baptized him; nor Paul, Demas, whilst he made him his companion. And how should others infallibly know who are elect and shall be saved, when, as the Lord Christ saith, that "many that are first shall be last;" i. e. many that for a time march in the head of profession, and make a show of more zeal and forwardness in the ways of religion than other men, yet wheel off again to the world, and become like "salt which hath lost its savour, and is good for nothing but to be thrown upon the dunghill and trodden under foot by men.' Again, 2. That such persons as we speak of, the elect, I mean such who shall actually be saved, at least a great part of them, are not able always, no, nor ordinarily, after the work of regeneration in them, to distinguish or discern themselves from those who shall perish, is abundantly confirmed, partly by the continual fears, jealousies, and doubtings of their spiritual condition, wherewith many of them are exercised even to their dying day partly also by those great and good opinions which they have of others, as being worthy and sound Christians, who yet afterwards "turn back with the dog unto their vomit, and with the swine that hath been washed to her wallowing in the mire." So that the truth of the major proposition is unquestionable; viz. that if Christ died not for all men without exception, but for the elect only, then is the covenant of grace in his blood made with unknown persons, such who neither can certainly say of themselves, nor any for them, that they are the covenanted
As to the minor proposition, the truth hereof is evident also. The tenor of it was this: That the covenant of grace is not struck or made with unknown persons, or such concerning whom it is either impossible or next to impossibility to know plainly and certainly who they are. It is contrary to the nature and
intent of a covenant, especially of a covenant of grace, that the parties interested in it, and whom the covenant concerns and relates unto, should not be discernible or known from all other persons whatsoever, or that it should minister any occasion of controversy or debate who these persons should be. Look into all covenants that are drawn up and made between man and man, and you shall find, for the most part, the names of the covenanted as well as of the covenanters expressed in them; or, howsoever, if all their names be not expressed, yet are they sufficiently declared otherwise, as viz. by such and such characters, relations, or the like, whereby they may be as plainly known as if their names themselves were mentioned. As for example: When one man covenanteth with another who is named in the covenant, and with his heirs, executors, administrators, or assigns, these words of relation do as plainly and clearly point out the persons intended and meant as if they had been expressed by their names. Yea, doubtless, the reason why these persons are usually expressed by such terms of relation, and not by their names, in covenants between men, is, because neither of the covenanting parties, at the time of the making of the covenant, knew or were able to call them by their names; which cannot be said of God in his covenant of grace, inasmuch as all men's names were known unto him when he made this covenant with the world. Look into the Scriptures; in all the covenants specified and recorded here, you will find the persons covenanted with either named or else so described that there is no place left for any doubt who they be. When Caleb made this covenant, proffered these terms: "He that smiteth Kiriath-Sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife," Josh. xv. 16, it is and was easy enough to conceive who they were with whom this covenant was made, viz. all the people or men that were with him, expressed in that pronoun he," which in the dialect of the Scripture hath the signification and force of the universal particle "whosoever;" as, "He that believeth," i. e. whosoever believeth," shall be saved," Mark xvi. 16. So in that of our Saviour, John vi. 37, "Him that cometh unto me," i. e. whosoever cometh unto me, "I will in no wise cast out;" with many the like. A like covenant or offer of grace it seems that Saul also made upon occasion of the affront which the giant-like Philistine, Goliah, put upon him and his whole army: "And it shall be that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel," 1 Sam. xvii. 15. It is evident, likewise, in this covenant, who the persons were that were covenanted with upon the terms mentioned, viz. all the persons, without exception, in Saul's army. I choose rather to give instance in such covenants as these, because they are of the same form and tenor, mutatis mutandis, as lawyers use to say, with the covenant of grace itself, which is founded in the blood of
Jesus Christ. But the like is every whit as apparent in other covenants also, as you may please to consider at your leisure.
Again, 2, If we weigh the end or intent of a covenant, we shall clearly find that this requires a determinate and clear knowledge or a distinct designation of the parties covenanting or covenanted with. The principal and main end or intent of a covenant, is, to insure unto the party or parties covenanted with such and such terms or things as are specified in the covenant according to the tenor and conditions thereof. Mark, the end of a covenant is not the simple collation or donation of any thing to a person, one or more, but the securing or insuring persons that such and such things shall be given unto them, or conferred upon them, upon the performance of such and such conditions as the covenant specifies. And this, clearly and without controversy, is the end (I mean, the proper and immediate end, for there are several ends besides this) of the covenant of grace established in the blood of Christ, viz. to give assurance unto the sons and daughters of men, that upon their faith and repentance, and their perseverance in both unto the end, they shall have salvation and eternal life conferred upon them. If so be a man hath an absolute, unlimited, and right-out purpose or intent to confer such or such things upon men, a covenant is but an unsavoury and superfluous thing; because a man may confer or give what he pleaseth to another without it. So if God had a simple and absolute intention to confer the great things of heaven upon men, I mean, without the performance of such and such articles or conditions as we speak of, the making of a covenant with them had been in vain. Therefore, the proper end of a covenant is to assure or to secure those that are covenanted with, that upon the performance of the articles of the covenant, the good things mentioned therein, if it be a covenant of good things, shall be exhibited and given unto them. Now, then, this being the end of a covenant, if the persons interested and concerned in it, or covenanted with, should not be known who they are, they cannot partake of this end, nor be any whit the better or more secure in their minds touching the enjoyment of the good things mentioned in the covenant upon any performance whatsoever; because the good things mentioned in a covenant cannot be claimed or expected by any but only by the persons covenanted with, though they should perform the terms or conditions specified in the covenant ten times over. "If the trumpet," saith the apostle, "give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" 1 Cor. xiv. 8. In like manner, if the covenant of grace speaks unto persons unknown both to themselves and others, and holds forth life and salvation only unto such, both men and women, as no man can say or tell who they be, how shall any man or woman be excited, provoked, or engaged, either by the tender of the covenant unto them, or by the great and excellent things therein promised conditionally, to