« AnteriorContinua »
believers, which none but the invisible church does. But does not the visible church confift of fuch? Are there no holy believers in it? Read over the epiftles to the visible churches and you will find the members of them are called holy and believers, faints and faithful in Chrift Jefus. I observe that thofe fignified by the broken branches, were never true believers in Christ, and fo no inftances of the apoftacy of fuch. To this he replies, That he was not speaking of the Jews. Very well, but I was; but of the Gentiles, exhorted to continue in bis goodness, and so true believers; and yet liable to be cut off. So they might be, though it does not neceffarily follow from the apostle's exhortation; which is to be understood not of the goodness, or love, and favour of God; but of the goodness of a gospel-church-ftate, the ordinances of it, and an abiding in them, and walking worthy of them; or otherwise they were liable to be cut off from the church-state in which they were. This is faid to be a forced and unnatural conftruction, and requires fome argument to fupport it. But what elfe could they be cut off from? If the olive-tree, in which they are faid to be ingrafted, is not the invifible, but the visible church, as is proved by an argument not answered; then the cutting off from the olive tree, must be a cutting off from that. And whereas there is a strong intimation that the Jews, the broken branches, may be grafted in again; why may not those be grafted in again which are cut off, when reftored by repentance, which is often the cafe. It remains then, that this paffage of fcripture does not in the leaft militate against the final perfeverance of the faints.
The fourth text of Scripture quoted as against the doctrine of perseverance, is John xv. 1-5. concerning the branches in Chrift the vine, which abide not, are taken away, are caft forth and withered, and are caft into the fire and burned. I obferve that there are two forts of branches in Chrift, the one fruitful, the other unfruitful; the one in him by regenerating grace, the other. only by profession; of the latter are all the above things faid, not of the former. This Mr Wesley fays is begging the question, and taking for granted the point to be proved far from it. I anfwer to the inftance alledged, by distinguishing the different branches in the vine; I prove the distinction from the text and context; as well as illuftrate it by the inftances of the churches in Judea and Thessalonica, being said to be in Chrift; all the members of which cannot be thought to be really in him, but by profeffion. There are some that never bore fruit, and so never gave any evidence of their being true believers, and confequently can be no inftances of the apoftacy of fuch. There are others that bring forth fruit and are purged, that they may bring forth more fruit, and whose fruit remain, and are inftances of perfeverance. Let it be proved,
if it can, that any of thofe who never brought forth any fruit, that we read of, were true believers in Chrift; or ever received true grace or life from him, that are faid to be caft out and burnt; and that any of thofe who brought forth fruit and were purged and pruned by the Father of Chrift, that they might bring forth more fruit, ever withered away and were loft. Till this is done, this paffage will be of no fervice for the apoftacy, or against the perfeverance of the faints.
The fifth text of Scripture preffed into this argument is, 2 Pet. ii. 20, 21. concerning thofe that have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of Chrift, being entangled therein and overcome. Of whom I obferve, that it does not appear that those persons had an inward experimental knowledge of Chrift; which is what ought to be proved, or else it furnishes out no argument against the perfeverance of real faints. Had it been fuch, I add, they could not have loft it. This Mr Wefley calls begging the question. It might feem fo, if my argument had refted here; but I give reasons why fuch a knowledge cannot be loft; which he conceals and takes no notice of; as the promife of God, that fuch fhall follow on to know him, and the declaration of Chrift, that eternal life is infeparably connected with fuch knowledge, Hof. vi. 3. John xvii. 3. Escaping the pollutions of the world does not prove the perfons to have fuch knowledge, or to be real faints, fince it fignifies no more, I fay, than an outward reformation. Here, he fays, I aim at no proof at all. Let him make more of it, if he can. He owns that these perfons might be called dogs and fwine before their profeffion of religion, and after their departure from it, but not whilft under it: but unless it can be proved that they paffed under a real change, and were truly converted, which their having knowledge and efcaping the pollutions of the world are no proofs of; they migh: as well deferve the appellation during the time of their profeffion, as before and after. If any thing is done to any purpose from this inftance, it fhould be proved that thefe men had an inward fpiritual and experimental knowledge, that from dogs and fwine they became the sheep of Chrift, and had the nature of fuch, and from the sheep of Chrift became dogs and swine again; or it can never be thought to be any proof of the final and total falling away of true believers.
The fixth text produced in favour of the faint's apoftacy, is Heb. vi. 4—6. which fpeaks of enlightened perfons, and fuch that have tafted the heavenly rift, &c. falling away. Upon which I observe, that the words contain only ppofition, if they fall away. Mr Wesley fays, there is no if in the original. 3 I re
I reply, though it is not expreffed, it is implied, and the fenfe is the fame, as if it was; and that the words in the original lie literally thus: It is impoffible that those who were once enlightened as a porlas, and they falling away, to renew them again to repentance; that is, fhould they fall away, or if they fall away. Here Mr Wesley rifes up in great wrath, and afks, " Shall a man lie for God? Either you or I do," and avers, that the words do not literally lie thus; and that they are tranflated by him, and bave fallen away, as literally as the Englife tongue will bear; and calls upon all that understand Greek to judge between us. I am well content, and extremely defirous they fhould, and even willing to be determined by them, which is the most literal version; mine, which renders it as a participle, as it is; or his, which renders it as a verb, which it is not. fupported in mine by the authority of the great and learned Dr Owen, whofe knowledge of the Greek tongue no one will fcruple, that is acquainted with his writings: He fays, that verbum de verbo, or literally, the words lie in the text, and they falling away; just as I have rendered them. Take fome inftances of the participle of the fame tense, both in the fimple theme of the word, and in other compounds, as so rendered by our tranflators; or, falling down on his face, 1 Cor. xiv. 25. moms, falling down before him, Luke viii. 47. portes falling into a place where two feas met, Acts xxvii. 41. Did thefe learned men lie for God? Mr Wefley's quibble is, because the participle is not of the prefent, but of the aorift: the inftances now given are of the fame tenfe. Every one that has learned his Greek Grammar knows, that the aorist or indefinite, as he names it, is fo called, because it is undetermined as to time, being used both of time present, and of time paft; and when of the latter, it is left undetermined, whether just now. paft, or fome time ago, is meant, but as the circumftances of the place thew: but let it be rendered either way, either in the present or paft, the fenfe is the fame, and the condition is implied; be it and they falling away, or and they having fallen away; for one or other it must be to render it literally; that is, fhould they fall away, or should they have fallen away; or, in other words, if they fhould. And now why all this wrath, rudeness, and indecency? Is this the calm Confiderer, as the title of his book promifes? The man is pinched and rages. This puts me in mind of a story of a country fellow liftening with great attention to a Latin difputation; which a gentleman obferving, stepped to him, and said, Friend you had better go about your business, than stand here idling away your time to hear what you do not understand.. To which he replied Of which fee inftances in Dugard's Gr. Gram. p. 126,
* On Perfeverance, c. 17. P. 423
plied, I am not fo great a fool neither, but I know who is angry; fuggesting by the temper of the difputants, one of them being very angry, he knew who had the better, and who the worst of the argument. And since Mr Wesley has brought it to this dilemma, that either he or I must lie for God; I am very unwilling to take it to myself, seeing no reason for it; and therefore, without a compliment, must leave it to him to get out, and off, of it as he But to return to the argument: let it be a fuppofition or a fact contained in the words; the question is, who these persons fuppofed, or faid to fall away are, and from what they fell? There is nothing in the characters of them, as has been obferved, which fhew them to be regenerated perfons, real faints, and true believers in Christ. This ought to be proved, ere they can be allowed to be instances of the apoftacy of fuch; whereas they are distinguished from them, and opposed to them, ver. 7-9. There is nothing in the account of them, but what may be faid of a Balaam, who had his eyes open and faw the vision of the Almighty, and of fuch who are only doctrinally enlightened; or of a Herod that heard Jobn gladly, and of the ftony-ground hearers, who received the word with joy; or of a Judas who had no doubt both the ordinary and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, and a power of performing miraculous works, called the powers of the world to come, or the gospel difpenfation. So that from hence nothing can be concluded against the perfeverance of the faints.
The feventh paffage of Scripture brought into this controverfy, is Heb. x. 38. The juft fhall live by faith, but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in bim: But very impertinently; fince he that is faid to live by faith, and he that is fupposed to draw back, is not one and the same person. Mr Wesley afks, "Who is it then? Can any one draw back from faith, who never came to it?" To which I answer, though he cannot draw back from faith he never had, yet he may draw back from a profeffion of faith he has made. In order to make it appear, that one and the same person is meant, Mr Wesley, finding fault with our translation, renders the words thus: If the just man that lives by faith draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. This translation I call inaccurate. He defires to know wherein; I will tell him. Ear, if, is by force removed from its proper place, even from one sentence back to another; inferting the word that before live is doing violence to the text; rendering Enola, that lives, as if it was of the prefent tenfe, when it is future, and fhould be shall live. Leaving out xas and or but, which distinguishes two proAnd after all, were pofitions; so confounding them and making them one.
one and the fame perfon meant, it is only a fuppofition, which, I fay again, proves no matter of fact; let Mr Wesley fhew that it does if he can it is a clear cafe, that the juft man in the text, and he that draws back, are two forts of perfons; it is most manifest, and beyond all contradiction, that in the original text in Hab. ii. 4. the man whofe foul is lifted up with pride and conceit of himself, and is not upright in him, has not the truth of grace in him, is the person who both according to the Apostle and the Seventy, is fuppofed to draw back; from whom the juft man that lives by faith is diftinguished, and to whom he is opposed: and by the Apostle two forts of perfons are all along fpoken of in the context, both before and after; befides, that these two must be different and not the fame, is evident, fince it is moft furely promised the juft man, that he ball live; which would not be true of him, if he drew back to perdition. So that this alfo is an infufficient teftimony against the perfeverance of the faints.
The eighth text of Scripture made use of to prove the Apoftacy of true believers, is Heb. x. 29. Of how much forer punishment fhall he be thought worthy of, who bath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was fanctified, an unholy thing. The stress of this proof lies upon the perfon being fanctified with the blood of the covenant, who is fupposed to be the fame that trod under foot the Son of God. But I have observed that the antecedent to the relative be is the Son of God, and fo confequently he, and not the apoftate, is faid to be fanctified with the blood of the covenant; wherefore the words are no proof of the apoftacy of truly fanctified persons. Mr Wesley fays I forgot to look at the original, or my memory fails. Neither, is the cafe. However, I have looked again to refresh my memory, had it failed; and find indeed other words going before, but no other fubftantive but υιος, the Son of God, to whom the relative he can refer; and that this does refer to the Son of God in the claufe immediately preceding, is not a fingular opinion of mine; that learned Dutchman Gomarus, and our very learned countrymen Dr Lightfoot, and Dr Owen of the last age, and Dr Ridgley of the prefent, are of the fame fentiment. But admitting that it refers to the apoftate, fince this may be understood of his being fanctified or feparated from others by a profeffion of religion, by church-membership and partaking of the Lord's Supper, in which the blood of the covenant is reprefented; and of his being fanctified by it in his own efteem and in the esteem of others, when he was not inwardly fanctified by the Spirit; this can be no proof
• Comment in Heb. x. 29.
c On Perfeverance, p. 432.