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THE DOCTRINE OF THE SAINTS
A SS ERTED AND VINDICATED:
In Answer to a late Pamphlet, called Serious THOUGHTS on
HE doctrine of the saints final perseverance in grace to glory, being a
as with a sun-beam, having so large a compass of proof, as scarce any other doctrine has ; a doctrine so agreeable to the perfections of God, and the contrary so manifestly reflecting dishonour upon them, particularly the immutability of God, his wisdom, power, goodness, justice, truth, and faithfulness; a doctrine so well established upon his purposes and decrees, his counsel and covenant, and which so well accords with all his acts of grace towards, and upon his people; a doctrine so well calculated for their spiritual peace and comfort, and to promote holiness of life and conversation ; a doctrine one would think, that every good man must wil, at least, to be true; it
seem strange, that any man believing divine revelation, and professing godliness, should set himself to oppose it, and call such an opposition Serious Thoughts upon it, as a late writer has done ; who has published a pamphlet under such a title, and which now lies before me, and which I have undertook to answer, and shall attempt to do it in the following manner. And, it is to be hoped, he will think again, and more seriously, and that his latter thoughts will be better than his former.
I shall not dispute his account of saints, and the characters of them, though there are some things which require distinction and explanation. He has rightly observed, that the question about the saints falling away, is not meant of barely falling into sin, but so as to perish everlastingly; and therefore he
has not produced the instances of David, Solomon, Peter, and others; which, with great impertinence and impropriety are usually brought into this controversy. He has put what he has to say upon this subject into Eight propositions, which he endeavours to confirm by scripture-authorities. And,
The First is, “ That one who is holy or righteous in the judgment of God “ himself, may nevertheless so fall from God, as to perish everlastingly;" in support of which, he produces Ezek. xviii. 24. but when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity— In his trespass that be bath trespassed, and in his fin ibat be bath finned, in them shall be die. Which he understands of eternal death, as he thinks is evident from ver. 26. But, 1. such a sense of the words is contrary to the scope and design of the whole chapter, which not at all concerns the perseverance or apostacy of saints, and neither their salvation nor damnation ; but the fole view of it is to vindicate the justice of God, from a charge of punishing the Jews, not for their own fins, but the fins of their fathers, and of injustice and inequality in his providential dealings with them, and has nothing to do with the spiritual and eternal affairs of men.—2. The whole context wholly and solely regards the house of Israel, and the land of Israel; and the conduct of the people of Israel in it, according to which they held or lost their tenure of it, and were either continued in it, or removed from it; so that it is quite impertinent to the case before us: and this writer is guilty of what he calls a fallacy in others, in applying that to the saints in particular, which relate to the Jewish church and nation only, as distinguishable from all other people, and so ftands self-condemned. --3. The righteous man here spoken of, is indeed called and allowed by the Lord himself to be so; yet that righteousness by which he is denominated, only regards him as an inhabitant of the land of Israel, and as giving him a title and claim to the possession and enjoyment of it; but not as justifying him before God, and giving him a title to eternal life and happiness. For this righteousness is called his, his own, and not another's, which he himself had done, and not what Christ had done for him, his own in which he trusted ; it was a righteousness of works, as appears from ver. 5—9. and not the righteousness of faith; there is not a word of faith in the account, nor of the obedience of Christ, nor of the sanctifying grace of the Spirit; this man does not appear to be either a righteous man or a holy man in an evangelical sense; wherefore the instance is quite impertinent. Millions of instances of this kind will never enervate the doctrine of the saints perseverance ; let it be proved if it can, that any one that has been made righteous by the obedience of Christ, and has been truly
and 3 Serious Thoughts, p. 4, 5.
Ibid. p. 7.
and inwardly sanctified by the Spirit and grace of God, ever so fell away, as everlastingly to perish ; let this be proved, and we have done : As for a man's own righteousness and outward acts of holiness, we allow a man may turn from them and be loft, but not from the righteousness of Christ, which is everlasting, nor from an inward principle of grace and holiness, which ever abides.-4. Besides, admitting that a righteous man in an evangelical fense is here meant, though it cannot be allowed ; yet what is here said is only a supposition, which puts nothing in being, and is no proof or instance of matter of fact.-And, 5. the death here spoken of, is not eternal death, or the death of soul and body in hell; for this death was now upon them, what they were complaining of as wrongfully punished with ; it being, as they supposed, on account of their fathers fins, and not their own; and from which death also they might be delivered by repentance and reformation, see ver. 23, 32. All which cannot be said of eternal death; but is to be understood of some temporal affliction and calamity, which in scripture is often called a death, as in Exod. x. 17. 2 Cor. i. 10. and xi. 23. such as captivity in which the Jews now were on account of their sins, and was the subject of their complaint. Dying in his iniquity, is the same as dying for bis iniquity, and both in ver. 26. signify the same thing, and not two different deaths; which is repeated to Mew the certainty of it; and is also what is meant by the death of the soul, not of the foul only, or of the body only, but of the person of the sinner, punished with a temporal affliction for his sins; and so falls short of proving that a truly righteous and holy man may perish everlastingly.
The Second proposition is, that “one who is endued with the faith that “ purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience, may nevertheless so fall “ from God, as to perish everlastingly.” In proof of which is produced, 1 Tim. i. 19, 20. holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck, of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander :But, 1. it does not appear that these men ever had their hearts purified by faith; this should be first proved, before they are produced as instances of the apostacy of real faints; the contrary appears in their characters ; they were ungodly men, and were never otherwise for any thing that is said of them and after their profession of religion, they increased and proceeded to more ungodliness; they were vain-babblers, opposers of the doctrines of the gospel, and blasphemers of it, and were never upon the foundation that stands sure, or were known by the Lord as his, fee ver. 20. and 2 Tim. ii. 16, 19. and iv. 14, 15.-2. Nor is it clear from the text, that they ever had a good con
science, & Serious Thoughts, p. 8.
science, but rather that they never had one; putting it away does not necessarily suppose they had it, but rather that they had it not, they rejecting it with dinike; as the Jews who never had the gospel are said to put it
away ; when they contradicted, blasphemed, and rejected it, the apostle says, ye put it from you, aniwlengte, the same word that is here used; ye rejected it, cast it from you, and would not receive it, so here ; had these persons ever had a good conscience, it would rather have been said, which some having put out of them; but they never had it; when it was proposed to them, as the Christian religion proposes that a man should exercise a good conscience, they disiked it, and put it away, and would not attend to it, and chose rather to drop the faith they professed, as being contrary to their evil consciences and practices : besides, persons may have a good conscience in some sense, and as it shews itself by an external behaviour among men, which does not arise from an heart purified by faith ; the apostle had such an one before he had faith in Chrift, Atts xxiii. 1. though it does not seem as if these men had ever such an one... 3. The faith they made shipwreck of, is not the grace of faith, which it does not appear they ever had, but the doctrine of faith, the Gospel; epi tou maisu, concerning the faith, is a phrase that is never used but of the doctrine of faith, fee AEts xxiv. 24. 1 Tim. vi. 21. 2 Tim. iii. 3. This is the faith they made shipwreck of, denied and destroyed, or contradicted and blasphemed, as it is explained in the next verse; and the particular doctrine of faith they made shipwreck of, erred concerning, and swerved from, was the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, see 2 Tim. ii. 17, 18.' Men may profess the doctrine of faith and fall from it; but this is no instance of a man's having true faith which purifies the heart, and falling from God so as to perish.
The Third proposition is “, that “ Those who are grafted into the good “ olive tree, the spiritual invisible church, may nevertheless so fall from God, “ as to perish everlastingly.” To support which, the text in Rom. xi. 17–24. is produced, but to no purpose. For, 1. by the olive tree, is not meant the spiritual and invisible church of Chrift; that is, the general assembly and church of the first-born which were written in heaven, and consists only of the chosen, redeemed, and saved; to which there can be no addition, and of which there can be no diminution; no fresh engrafture can be made into it, nor any excision from it.-But, 2. the outward Gospel-church-state, or the outward state of the church under the Gospel-dispensation ; the national church of the Jews being abolished, and its branches broken, see Jer. xi. 16. which signify the unbelieving Jews ; who because of their unbelief also were left out of the GospelVOL. III.
church-state; . Serious Thoughts, p. 9.
church-state ; and the few believing Jews were together with the Gentiles grafted into that true olive tree, the Gospel-church ; and the first coalition was at Antioch.-3. Those that are signified by the broken branches, were never true believers in Christ ; and, because of their unbelief, were broken off, and they were left out of the Gospel-church; they are distinguished from the remnant according to the election of grace among the Jews, and are the rest that were blinded, ver. 5, 7. and so no instances of the apostacy of true believers. 4. Though the persons the apostle speaks to were grafted into the olive tree, and were holy believers, and stood by faith, and are threatened in case they did not behave suitable to their character and profession, that they should be cut off; yet this can only intend a cutting off from the outward churchstate, in which they were, and from the privileges of it; and had it took place, would have been no proof of their perishing everlastingly.-5. There is a strong intimation, though this writer says there is not the least intimation given, that such that were cut off should be grafted in again ; since it is not only said, that God is able to do it, but that if they abode not in unbelief, it should be done ; and the probability of it is argued ; and so it will be in the latter day, when the Jews shall be converted, and all Israel be saved, ver. 23— 26. of which the first Jews that believed in Chrift, were the first-fruits and root, said to be holy, ver. 16. and so were the pledge and earnest of the future engrafture of their people into the Gospel-church-state. Upon the whole, this is an insufficient proof, that any belonging to the invisible church ever so fell, as to perish everlastingly. Let it be proved, if it can, that ever any of the church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven; that
of that church of which Christ is the head, whom he loved, gave himself and died for; that any of that body which is the fulness of him, that filled all in all; or that any who are baptized by one Spirit into it, and have been made to drink of that Spirit, were ever lost or did eternally perish.
The Fourth proposition is, that “those who are branches of the true vine, of “ whom Christ says, I am the vine, ye are the branches, may nevertheless so “ fall from God, as to perish everlastingly, John xv. 1-5. where it is ob“ served, the persons spoken of are branches in Christ, some of which abide
not in him, but are cast forth from him and his church, and are witbered, “ and so consequently never grafted in again, yea cast into the fire and burned. “ Wherefore it is not possible for words more strongly to declare, that even “ those who are now branches in the true vine, may yet so fall, as to perish “ everlastingly.” To which I answer, that there are two sorts of branches in
Chrift . Serious Thoughts, p. 13.