« PreviousContinue »
Others have sought for a door of escape from that exposition of the place yet in hand, which we have asserted, in the hypothetical tenor and form of the words themselves. Ezekiel, say these, doth not affirm that a righteous man may turn aside from his righteousness, &c., or that he may die in his apostasy ; but only speaks conditionally, or by way of supposition, viz. that if, or when, he shall turn away from his righteousness, &c., then he shall die, &c. and from such a conditional saying as this, nothing positive can be concluded. But this sanctuary also hath been profaned by some of the chief guardians themselves of that cause for the protection and safety whereof it was built. There needs no more be done, though much more might be done, yea, and hath been done by others, than what the learned Doctor, so lately named, hath done himself for demolishing it. Having propounded the argument from the place in Ezekiel according to the import of the interpretation asserted by us, “Some,” saith he, "answer, that a condition proves nothing in being; which, how true soever it may be in respect of such hypotheticals, which are made use of only for the amplification of matters, and serve for the aggravating either of the difficulty or indignity of a thing, as, “If I should climb up into heaven, thou art there,' Psal. cxxxix., it were ridiculous to infer, therefore a man may climb into heaven; yet such conditional sayings, upon which admonitions, promises, or threatenings are built, do at least suppose something in possibility, however by virtue of their tenor and form they suppose nothing in being. For no man seriously intending to encourage a student in his way would speak thus to him, If thou wilt get all the books in the university library by heart, thou shalt be Doctor this commencement. Besides, in the case in hand, he that had a mind to deride the prophet might readily come upon him thus : But a righteous man, according to the judgment of those that are orthodox, cannot turn away from his righteousness; therefore your threatening is in vain. Thus we see to how little purpose it is to seek for starting holes in such logic quirks as these." + Thus far this great assertor of the Synod of Dort, and of the cause which they maintained, to show the vanity of such a sense or construction put upon the words now in debate, which shall render them merely conditional, and will not allow them to import so much as a possibility of any thing contained or expressed in them;
* Vid. Defens. Senten, Remonstr, circà art, v. de Persever. p. 220.
† Respondent nonnulli, conditionem nil ponere in esso : quod utcunque verum sit de hypotheticis, quæ ad avčnow solummodo, sive amplificationem adhibentur, et aggerandæ rei alicujus difficultati, vel indignitati inserviunt (ut si scanderem cælos, ibi es, Psal. cxxxix., ridiculum esset inferre, ergo potest aliquis cælum scandere :) conditionales tamen, quibus commonefactiones, promissiones, vel comminationes superstruuntur, supponunt saltem aliquid in posse, licet nil ponant ex vi connexionis. Nemo enim serio aliquem ad progressum in studiis sic adhortaretur: Si omnes in publicâ bibliothecâ libros mandes memoriæ, eris Doctor hisce comitiis. Quid? quod in præsenti negotio, irrisori in promptu esset, sic adversus prophetam subsumere : at justus secundum orthodoxorum thesin non potest se avertere ; ergo in nihilum recidit tua interminatio. Videtis quàm parùm opus sit, in logicis hujusmodi tricis, diverticulum quærere.-Dr. Prid, lect. vi. de Perseverant. Sanct. p. 201.
to which much more of the like demonstration might be added, if I conceived that light stood in need of light for the manifestation of it. To
To say that God putteth a case in such solemnity and emphaticalness of words and phrase as are remarkable all along the carriage of the place in hand, of which there is no possibility that it should ever happen or be exemplified in reality of event, and this in vindication of himself and the equity of his dealings and proceedings with men, is to bring a scandal and reproach of weakness, such a weakness as is scarce to be paralleled in men, upon that infinite wisdom of his which magnifies itself in all his words and works: which also is so much the more unworthy and unpardonable, when there is a sense commodious, every way worthy as well the infinite wisdom as goodness of God, pertinent and proper to the occasion he hath in hand, which offers itself plainly, clearly, without any straining of word or phrase, unto
Lastly, Some there are, who, being loath to see the cause of their long-magnified doctrine of perseverance dying by the hand of the Scripture yet before us, and despairing of help for it by any or by all the forementioned applications, have thought it not amiss, in a case of such imminent and extreme danger, to try conclusions by administering this antidote unto it. When God threatens, say they, the righteous man apostatising, that for the iniquity which he committeth he shall die, he speaks neither of the first death, properly so called, nor yet of the second death, but of afflictions, judgments, and calamities, (oft signified in Scripture by the word " death,” as prosperity is by the word "life,") which God often brings upon truly good and righteous men, when they greatly provoke him by their sins. To this I answer,
1. That this mist hath been already scattered and dispelled by the strength of that light which shineth in the early part of this chapter ; by which it clearly appeareth that by the death threatened by God against a righteous man's backsliding, and persevering in his backslidings unto death, (which we there show to be the case put by God in the Scripture in hand,) is meant eternal death ; therefore not any temporal judgments or afflictions, at least, not only or principally these. Yet here we add,
2. That it ill becomes an interpreter of Scripture to recede from the plain, proper, and best-known signification of words, save only when necessitated by the exigency either of the context and scope of the place in hand, or else of the nature and condition of the matter, as viz. when the sense which the common signification of the word raiseth and exhibiteth is inconsistent either with the course of the Scriptures or with the principles of reason; neither of which can be reasonably pretended in this place. 3. The express tenor of the context itself riseth
like an armed man against this interpretation. For the execution or infliction of that death which is here threatened against the righteous man that shall apostatise, is not threatened but upon his dying
under his apostasy ; in which case there is no opportunity for God to inflict any temporal judgments upon men : “ When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them, for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die," Ezek. xviii. 26.
4. When God threateneth at any time such and such sins, or such and such sinners, in one kind or other, with death, it is of very dangerous consequence, and tending to allay and break the energy and power, and consequently to hinder the operation, of such threatenings upon the consciences of men, for any man to put a qualified or mitigating sense upon the word “ death,” especially not being authorised by God himself so to do.
5, and lastly, The authors themselves of this interpretation seem to be half heartless and hopeless of doing any great matters for their cause by it, and in their explication of themselves about it, they distinguish themselves quite besides that, which should relieve them. The word, death, they say, in the prophet, doth not in the first sense of it, signify eternal death, as neither doth the word, life, in the opposite part of the sentence, signify eternal life. But what though the word, death, doth not in the controverted passage, signify eternal death, in the first sense or signification of it, yet if it signifieth it in the second, third, or fourth sense, or if it signifieth it at all, it is of one and the same consideration, for the eviction of what is claimed by us from the place; which is, that a man truly righteous may so degenerate and apostatise, that God will inflict eternal death upon him. I omit to demand of these interpreters, by what authority or confidence of genius, they undertake thus particularly to range and marshal the several senses, which, they say, God intended in such and such words, giving the pre-eminence to such or such a sense, and say. ing to another, stand back, or come behind.
If we had mere ignorance or nescience of the truth to encounter, or satisfy, though in conjunction with the greatest parts of judgment and understanding on the one hand, and with the greatest wariness and scrupulousness of circumspection on the other hand, the traversing of the Scripture already insisted upon, were sufficient, I conceive, without any further labour of arguing, to gain credit and fulness of consent to that truth, which is now. upon the advance. But prejudice and partiality are hydropical, and hardly satisfiable : and these are our chief adversaries in the business in hand. Therefore to reconcile, if possible, the disaffections of these, with the truth, we shall show them more visions from heaven of the same light and truth with the former. And first, upon this account, we shall remember them of a passage, formerly argued ; and gather up, at present, only so much of the substance of the discussion, and that with what brevity may be, as we judge serviceable for our present purpose, referring the reader to a review, if he please, of the larger examination. The tenor of the place is this: * Then his Lord, after he had called him, said unto him: Othou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt, because
thou desiredst me: shouldst not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his Lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also
if from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." Matt. xviii. 32, &c. Evident it is from our Saviour's reddition or application of the parable,“ So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if,” &c., speaking unto his disciples, verse 1, and to Peter, more particularly verse 21, that persons truly regenerate, and justified before God, for such were they, to whom in special manner he addresseth the parable, and the application of it, and indeed the whole carriage of the parable showeth that it was calculated and formed only for such, may through high misdemeanors in sinning, as, for example, by unmercifulness, cruelty, oppression, &c., turn themselves out of the justifying grace and favour of God, quench the spirit of regeneration, and come to have their portions with hypocrites and unbelievers. If men will make any thing at all of the parable in a clear and direct way, without troubling or obscuring, without wresting or straining, the carriage, scope, and pregnant tendency of it, such an inference cannot be avoided. Further satisfaction herein may be had for the price only of so much pains, as the perusal of pages 222, 225, of the 8th chapter of this discourse, will require.
Nor doth the reversal of such acts of grace in God as we speak of, argue the least mutability, or shadow of change in him, either in respect of his love, counsels, or decrees; it only argueth a change and alteration in men. For at that very instant, when God loveth a person, and justifieth him, in respect of his faith, he hateth with a perfect hatred, and such which hath death and destruction in the womb of it, all wicked, cruel, and unmerciful men whatsoever. So that in case that person, whom God now loveth and justifieth, shall at any time hereafter turn wicked, cruel, unmerciful, or the like, which is very possible for him to do, he falleth under that hatred of God, which was in him, even whilst he loved him, and which is always in him, unchangeably, unalterably, and indispensably, in respect of any person or persons whatsoever. Therefore in such a case as this, there is no alteration or change of affection in God, but only a change of mind, will, and ways in men, and that from better unto worse. A man living, or travelling, in a temperate climate, finds no inconvenience or offence, either from cold or heat: but let him remove his dwelling, or travel, either so far north, where extremity of cold reigneth, or so far towards the south, where heat rageth, he will accordingly suffer, from the one and the other. Yet this alteration in the state or condition of his body, doth not argue any alteration at all in the heavens, or in the earth, or in the air : these remain so affected, whilst he suffers from them, as they were, when he was no ways inconvenienced by them. A man who by the laws of the land, or state where he liveth, is at present obnoxious to no penalty at all, inflicted by these laws upon malefactors, but is capable of the greatest dignity or preferment, which that state affordeth; as soon as he turneth a murderer, or traitor to this state, divests himself of that capacity of honour wherein he stood before, and becomes liable to the severest punishment which those laws inflict. The man's condition hereby is much altered from what it was, and that by reason of the law; but yet the law itself is altogether the same which it was under the one condition of this man, and the other. In like manner God justifieth a man this day, upon his believing: to morrow, upon a return to his vomit of unbelief, he divests him of his justification, and requires his sins at his hand: yet God, notwithstanding these contrary acts in reference unto and about one and the same person, remains entirely one and the same, no ways changed, no ways altered, in his affections, or in any thing else relating to him. But of this dis kai tpis already. See Chap iv.
The root or grand occasion of the common mistake in this point, I mean, why men conceive and judge, that if God loves a man at one time, and hates him at another, he must needs be variable in his affection, is that capital error of a personal election, and reprobation; or of such a love in God, which should produce the former, and hatred in him, that should cause the latter. For if there were any such affection or love in God, which did directly and immediately respect, or relate unto the person of any man, then, I confess, it would follow, that if he should at any time hate that person, whom he ever loved, he should be changeable in his affections. But supposing that, which we shall, God sparing life, and affording opportunity otherwise, demonstratively prove in due time, viz. that God bears no affection, or love, to the person of any man, simply in respect of his personality, or because he is this man, and not another; but that all the love that he bears to men, or to any person of man, is either in respect of their nature, and as they are men, in respect of which he bears a general or common love to them; or in respect of their qualifications, as they are good men, in one degree or other; in respect whereof, he bears a more special love to them: and again, that he bears no hatred to the person of any man simply, or, as he is this man, and not another, but only as he is sinful and wicked; it may very easily be conceived, how men may gain, and lose, and regain, and again lose, the love of God, without the least change or alteration in this his affection. Suppose a prince loved no one of his subjects, more than another, as they were his subjects, but thus far loved them all with a gracious and benevolous affection ; yet in case any of them should prove more virtuous and deserving than their fellows, should upon such an account, express signal and high respects of favour unto them; and on the other hand, in case any of them proved vicious and ill deserving, should frown upon these, and threaten to punish them, in case of a non-amendment, it may
well be apprehended, how the subjects of such a prince may often both rise and fall in their prince's affections, he himself remaining uniform and constant herein.