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of perseverance, is that of the evangelist John, concerning our Saviour: “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end," John xiii. 1. Out of this light some draw this darkness : Therefore, whom Christ once loves, he loves always, or unto the end. Which inference, they suppose, is further strengthened by that of the prophet: “For I am the Lord; I change not," Mal. iii. 6. I answer,
1. From the passage in John there can nothing more be concluded, in reference to the question in hand, than, by way of immediate deduction, the greatness and constancy of Christ's love towards such of his disciples who continued in their obedience and faithfulness unto him; for the evangelist, I suppose, did not intend Judas amongst those whom Christ loved unto the end; and, 2, by way of proportion, or rational consequence from this deduction, that the love of Christ is great and constant towards all those who persevere in love and faithfulness unto him. This is the constant doctrine of the Scriptures, but no ways concerns the present dispute. Yet for the passage itself, if it hath any aspect at all upon it, it is rather by way of favour and countenance to that side against which, than to that for which, it is commonly alleged. For if the love of Christ towards his disciples unto the end, necessarily supposeth or requireth the concurrent continuance of the same affection in them towards him, it plainly follows, that if men shall draw back from him, his soul will have no further pleasure or delight in them. And this indeed was the
express doctrine of that man of God, who was sent to meet king Asa, and the people with him, upon the late presence of God with them against their enemies: “O Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin, hear ye me: the Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.” 2 Chron. xv. 2.' Which clearly supposeth, 1, a possibility of their forsaking God, who for a time are truly and really with him; 2, a certainty of God's forsaking those who forsake him.
2. It is not here said, that Christ, “having loved his own, loved them unto the end" of their lives, or days, but “to the end,” viz. of his life and abode in the world; the emphatical and clear meaning of the place being thus, that to declare the exceeding greatness and marvellous constancy of his affection towards his disciples, and that whilst they were yet in the world, and so subject to many weaknesses and infirmities, which might seem to render them less lovely unto him than those that were “made perfect,” Heb. xii. 23, as the apostle speaks, through death, he did not cease to manifest his care and love towards them, no not at such a time or season wherein the most affectionate and tender parents are wont to forget and lay aside the care and thoughts of their dearest children, as, viz. when he knew and was very sensible of a most hideous and grievous storm and tempest of death hanging over his head, and even now ready to fall upon him. At such a time as this he expressed his love to them, and care over them, as appeareth partly by that con
descentious action of his in washing their feet, which immediately followeth in this chapter; partly by that large and serious discourse which he had with them, and made unto them, in the three following chapters; partly also by that most affectionate and heavenly prayer for them, wherein he recommended them unto his Father's love and care, chap. xvii. But that by the "end" unto which he is said to have "loved” his disciples, is not meant the end of their lives, but of his own, is the common sense of expositors. loved them even to the death which he suffered for them,” say our English divines in their annotations upon the place; and so incessantly Calvin likewise, not to mention any more, plainly enough intimates the same sense.
“Nor is it doubtful,” saith he upon the place, “but that even now he bears the same affection which he retained in the very instant of death."* So that in this passage of Scripture there is neither colour nor shadow of any thing for the final perseverance of the saints, but only for the perseverance of Christ's love towards them whilst they persevere, which indeed may be substantially proved from hence, if it were any part of the question.
3. For the words of Malachi, “I am the Lord, I change not;" from which it was wont to be argued, that when God once loves a person, he never ceaseth to love him, because this must needs argue a changeableness in him, in respect of his affection; and, consequently, that the saints cannot fall away finally from his grace; I answer,
1. By the tenor of this arguing it would as well follow, that in case God should at any time withdraw his love or favour from a nation, or body of people, which he sometimes favoured or loved, he should be changed." But that no such change of dispensation as this towards one and the same people or nation, argueth any change at all in God, at least any such change which he disclaimeth as incompetent to him, is evident from those instances, without number, recorded in Scripture, of such a different dispensation of his towards sundry nations, and more especially towards the Jews, to whom sometimes he gave peace, sometimes he consumed them with wars, stirring up enemies against them; sometimes he gave them plenty, other while he exercised them with famine, and scarcity of all things: sometimes he made them the head, and sometimes again the tail of the nations round about . them. Therefore, neither the changeableness nor unchangeableness of God are to be estimated or measured, either by any variety or uniformity of dispensation towards one and the same object; and, consequently, for him to express himself, as this day, towards a person, man, or woman, as if he intended to save them, or that he really intends to save them, and should on the morrow, as the alteration in the interim may be, or however may be supposed in these persons, express himself to the contrary, as that he verily
* Neque enim dubium est, quin eundem nunc quoque affectum gerat, quem in ipso mortis articulo retinuit.
intends to destroy them, would not argue or imply the least change or alteration in him. Yea, when as in one hour he conferred upon the lapsed angels the greatest happiness they were capable of, and in the next hour, perhaps sooner, their sin intervening, he cast them out of his sight into the greatest misery, this argued no change, or shadow of change or turning in God. Therefore,
2. That unchangeableness which the Scriptures, or God himself in the Scriptures asserts unto himself, is to be considered only in respect of his essence, attributes, and decrees, and not in respect of any constancy, or sameness of tenor in his dispensations towards the same creatures, whether they be changed or no. First, God is unchangeable in his essence or simple being: in respect of this nothing can be added to him, nothing can be taken from him, nothing can be altered or made otherwise, with him, in him, or about him, than now it is or was from eternity. This unchangeableness in him the prophet David contemplated, in this his address to him: “Of old thou hast laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hand. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment, as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end," Psal. cii. 25, &c. Secondly, God is unchangeable, likewise, in respect of his attributes, which are all founded in his nature, essence, or simple being; so that, for example, he is not more wise at one time and less wise at another, nor stronger at one time and weaker at another, nor better at one time and worse at another; though it is true, he may show more wisdom, or, to speak more properly, he may show his wisdom more, i. e. more plainly and perspicuously, as unto men, in one contrivance or providential dispensation than in another; and in this sense he may show more power, and so more goodness, at one time than at another. Yet this different expression of himself, according to the different natures and imports of his attributes respectively, doth not argue any changeableness at all in these attributes. As a man may be as strong, when he acts little or nothing with his strength, as when in any action he exerts or puts forth the uttermost of it: and so may be of as loving and sweet a disposition, when, according to the exigency of his calling and conscience, he most severely punisheth the same persons, for their misdemeanors, whom he sometimes honoured and loved, whilst he judged them virtuous, as he was whilst he yet honoured and loved them. When a judge, who is of a sweet nature and loving disposition towards all men, considered as men, especially as good men, shall, according to the laws whereunto he is sworn, and the equity of the case, award a sentence of death against one or more of them, this no ways argueth or supposeth any alteration or change in his goodness or sweetness of disposition; he may be, nay it is like he is, the same man, in respect of these lovely qualifications or endowments, even when and whilst he executes such a judiciary act of severity, which he
was before ; yea, and may still love the persons of these men whom he hath condemned to die, considered as men, as much as he did before their delinquency. In like manner, in case God shall destroy with eternal death such men or women, whom he sometimes truly loved and respected dearly, this doth not necessarily argue the least change or alteration in any attribute of his whatsoever, as either love, goodness, mercy, &c. viz. in case these persons, having been formerly faithful and obedient unto him, have since apostatised, and died impenitently. Nay, if God should not destroy such persons in such cases, or upon such a supposition, it woulă argue a manifest change in some of his attributes, as verity, hatred of sin, truth, &c., yea, haply, if the matter be narrowly considered, even in his love or goodness itself. For if we judge it any part or property of the love or goodness of God towards goodness and good men, to put so great and gracious a difference between them, and between wickedness and wicked men, as to reward the former with eternal glory, the latter with eternal shame and misery, and that he hath at any time expressed his love and goodness in this kind, evident it is, that in case he should at any time not punish persevering apostates, which are the wickedest of men, with eternal death, it would argue an alteration or change in those attributes of his we speak of. Therefore, to reason thus, if God should love a man to-day, and hate him to-morrow, it would argue a strange inconstancy or mutability in God, or in his love, is a very inconsiderate and weak reasoning; for the constancy or unchangeableness of the love of God doth not stand in his constantly loving the same person or object, materially considered, but only as considered formally, i. e. maining the same morally, or in loveliness, which it was when he first loved it. Julian the professor, and Julian the apostate, are the same person or object, materially considered ; but in a formal consideration they are two, and these very different. In like manner the angels, in the integrity of their creation, and in the guilt of their transgression, are one and the same object, materially considered, but formally they differ as much as light and darkness; and to argue, that unless God should always love the same persons, materially considered, whom he once or at any time loved, he should be mutable in his love, necessarily supposeth either that God hated the lapsed angels whilst they were yet holy, and in the glory and beauty of their creation, or else that he now loves them in their apostasy. The truth is, that should God always love the same person or persons, though morally distinguished from themselves, and of righteous become wicked and abominable, this would clearly argue a mutability in his affection, as it would in the affection of such a man, who should love good men as good men, or good men only, to-day, and wicked men to-morrow; so that men
who were sometimes loved by God may now be hated of him, ' without any the least change or alteration in him, or in his affec
tion, only by means of a change and alteration in themselves. The
third and last particular wherein the unchangeableness of God is to be considered, are his decrees. These, truly stated and understood, are all absolute and unchangeable, shall and will take place and be fulfilled, against all contradictions and oppositions whatsoever. But of this formerly, Chap. iii. And that unchangeableness assumed by God himself unto himself, in the words in hand, “I am the Lord, I change not,” is, I conceive, that which is found in him in respect of his decrees. The reason is, because it is assigned by him as the reason why they were not utterly destroyed. “ I am the Lord; I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” In the beginning of the chapter he had declared unto him his purpose and decree of sending his only begotten Son, whom he there calls “the Messenger of the Covenant,” unto them. He predicteth, verses 3, 4, the happy fruits or consequences of that his sending, in reference to their nation and posterity. To the unchangeableness of this his decree he assigns that patience which he had for a long time exercised towards them, under their great and continued provocations; whereby he implies, that if he could have been turned out of the way of his decree concerning the sending of his Son unto them in their posterity, they would have done it by the greatness of their sins; but, inasmuch as this his decree, or himself in this his decree, was unchangeable, and yet must have been changed in case they had been all destroyed, for the decree was for the sending him to their nation and posterity, hence, saith he, it comes to pass that, though your sins otherwise abundantly have deserved it, yet I have spared you from a total ruin. Therefore, in these two Scriptures last argued, there is every whit as much, or rather more, against than for the common doctrine of perseverance.
Another parcel of Scripture sought out for the service of this doctrine is that which riseth in these words; “ And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born amongst many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified ; and whom he justified, them he also glorified," Rom. viii. 28–30. From this contexture of Scripture it is frequently argued to this effect, that when men once love God, and are effectually called, i. e. are regenerate and do believe, they are fastened to one end, as it were, of a certain chain, consisting of several decrees of God, like so many links indissolvably fastened one unto another, and hereby are infallibly and irresistibly drawn unto glory, and, consequently, cannot fall away or perish finally. To all this I answer,
1. That, inasmuch as this passage of Scripture is impressed also for the service of the doctrine of absolute personal election, we shall reserve the further consideration of it till our method hath carried us on to that subject, and for the present examine it only in relation to the point in hand; therefore,