« FöregåendeFortsätt »
may beware of falling from righteousness. For it is not unreasonable to suppose that God should put us on bewaring of those things that are already impossible, any more than that he should direct us to seek and pray for those things that are promised and certain.
2. In another way both these things are proposed more evangelically, as having respect to that doing of those things, and that falling from righteousness, that are possible ; viz., doing those things in an evangelical and believing obedience, which in strictness is not a proper doing of them; and a falling from a visible and external, material righteousness or godliness, which is not in strictness a proper godliness. Concerning the former of these, viz., doing these things, it is certain both senses are to be taken into view ; the legal one, as is evident by the apostle; and the evangelical possible one, must also be understood, as is plain from the context of those places of the Old Testament. And that we should so understand the latter, is equally free of difficulty and objection.
§. 19. With respect to those texts in Ezekiel, that speak of a righteous man's falling away from his righteousness, the doctrine of perseverance was not so fully revealed under that dispensation. It was of service to the godly to make them wary; but especially to those who were legally righteous, and trusted in their own righteousness, as Ezekiel's hearers did ; to convince them of this, that there was a connection between the antecedent, falling away, and the consequent, the dying in their iniquity. Gal. i. 8, “If an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." Which does not suppose it possible for an angel to preach another gospel, or for him to be accursed: the chapter speaks only of God's proceeding with men as a Judge, which is according to a man's works, or the evidences of his heart in his life; which is evident by the 30th verse of the 18th chapter of Ezekiel : “ Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God.” When it is said, “ If the righteous turn away from his righteousness," &c., it is not supposed, but that if they are righteous with a perfect heart, or with a new heart and new spirit, they would not turn away from their righteousness; for this is often spoken of by the prophet as an effectual remedy against falling away from righteousness. Jer. xxxii. 39, 40, “And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them; and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.' And it is so spoken of once and again by this very prophet, chap. xi. 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, and chap. xxxvi. 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29. Yea, in this very chapter, after he had been declaring the danger of falling away from righteousness, the children of Israel seem to be exhorted to this very thing as a remedy against falling away: verse. 31, “Cast away from you all yo ir transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will ye die, O house of Israel ?” They needed not only to turn from their transgressions, but to cast them away utterly, to have finally done with them, and to make them a new heart; for the prophet declares, that their old heart was a backsliding heart, bent to backslide, as the prophet often complains.
The new heart and new spirit is the same that is sometimes called a right spirit; as is evident by Psal. li
. 10 : “ Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” But a right spirit is a steadfast spirit, as opposite to the spirit of backsliders. And this is evident by Psal. lxviii. 8, “A generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with
God;" together with verse 37, “ For their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant.” Want of perseverance is spoken of as an evidence of a hypocritical profession, Psal. cxix. 118.
It is true, that the phrase a righteous man, in Scripture, properly denotes a godly man; as do also the words saints, and disciples or brethren, in the New Testament. Yet it may be given to some that are not truly godly; because others that are visibly godly, while they continue to do the matter of their duty, thereby obtain the denomination of righteous men, or saints or godly, and are to be so called and treated by men, and are so treated in many respects by God, who doth take them and deal with them as such, till they prove treacherous to him, and till their unsoundness appears by their backsliding; as Christ treated Judas for a long time as a disciple, though he knew him even then to be a devil. God deals with men in these matters, in some respects after the manner of men. He acts as though he took them for saints, and treats them in many respects as such; as though he trusted to the appearance they make, till their behavior manifests them to others, or at least to their own consciences, to be otherwise ; and then God appears, and acts and manifests himself as though he were disappointed. It is because God is pleased to treat mankind, not merely according to his own secret knowledge, but in his judicial proceedings with them be treats them so, that his justice may be most manifest to their own consciences, and to the world. Hence, in the last judgment, he will proceed by evidence, and will judge men by their works.
The godly themselves were really exposed to die in their iniquity, i. e., they were liable to be destroyed by God's awful judgments in this world, which the prophet has a special respect to, having an eye to those destroying judgments that God had lately brought on the nation of the Jews, which are very much the subject of the prophecy, and seem to have given occasion for it, and which the Jews had respect to in the proverb which they used, and which gave occasion to what is said in this chapter. If the sinner turned from his outward wickedness, unto an outward righteousness only, he would save his soul alive with regard to those outward calamities; and if the righteous fall away outwardly by committing some grievous sin, and getting into a bad way, they exposed themselves to die by this their iniquity in this manner.
This might be of use to deter the godly from falling into sin, lest they should expose themselves to be destroyed; for though the prophet has not respect solely to such destruction, yet it is most evident he has respect to it, and was doubtless understood to have respect to it by his hearers. The righteous might outwardly fall away for a time, and God might destroy him with an outward destruction for it.
A man that is materially righteous, may totally and utterly fall away; and if he doth so, he shall die eternally. And a man that is truly and sincerely righteous, may, as to the matter of his righteousness, for a time fall away, and so be exposed outwardly and temporally to die.
§ 20. If the doctrine of falling from grace be embraced, it would have a great tendency to prevent an act of faith ; for if so, a person, if he should reture his soul on Christ, could not be assured that Christ would save him.
$ 21. That there is a real difference between them that fall away, and them that persevere, even before they fall away, is evident by the things that are given as a reason of their falling away: because they have no root in themselves; because they have not counted the cost, and because they have no oil in their vessels. Those that have no root, differ from those that have root, before there be the effect of their having no root: and so those that have no oil, &c. And
it appears again, by what is said, John ii. 23, that “when Christ was at Jerusalem at the passover, on the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” And so by that, “ They went out from us, because they were not of us. If they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.”
§ 22. Objection. But it is in the same chapter said, “ That if a wicked man turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live;" where doubtless must be understood by“ doing that which is lawful and right,” sincere and gracious righteousness, because there is a promise of life. And we must doubtless understand doing that which is lawful and right here, in the same sense as before. Answer. We may understand it in the same sense, for an external, visible, material righteousness. When it is said, if he turn from his iniquity and do that which is lawful and right, it must be understood, if he continue so to do, and do not turn from it again. According to the schemes of both Arminians and Calvinists, this must be understood. Whereby the objection is overthrown.
Visible Christians are in Scripture called saints, or holy; which is equivalent to the calling them righteous. The Jews are called a holy nation ; the land is a land of uprightness ; when only visibility is intended.
By righteous, sometimes is meant only innocent, or materially righteous in some particular.“ Wilt thou also destroy a righteous nation ?" Gen. xx. 4, Exod. xxiii. 7. “The innocent and the righteous, slay thou not;" Deut. xxv. 1. “ Ye shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked;" 1 Sam. iv. 11. “ How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person ?" 2 Kings x. 9. By the righteous man that the prophet Ezekiel speaks of, he certainly does not speak in so limited a sense as to mean those that are of perfect and upright hearts, but so as to include those of an unsound heart, that trust in their own righteousness to commit iniquity ; see Ezek. xxxiii. 13; i. e., those whose motive is only self-love, and their own safety, and so trust that they have righteousness enough to render them safe, though they do commit sin.
Those that are only restrained from committing sin by fear, and are ready to embrace, and are glad of opportunities of committing sin with impunity; these cannot be such as the sincerely righteous are often described to be, viz., such as love God with all their hearts and souls; that love the way of his commandments; that choose the way of his commands, &c.
The reason why some do not persevere, is, that there is not now a right heart in them; as is evident by Deut. v. 29: “O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me and keep my commandments !" &c.
When it is said, “If a righteous man turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, his righteousness shall not be remembered, but he shall die in his iniquity;" we need not, according to the Scripture manner of expression, understand any thing, but his seeming righteousness, or the righteousness that he seemeth to have. Christ often has in his mouth such an aphorism as this, “ Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath ;" which he applies to that apparent godliness, grace, or piety, which natural men have, as is evident by the contexts, and the occasions of his using this aphorism; as Matt. xiii. 12, and Matt. xxv. 29, and Mark iv. 25, Luke xix. 26. This, in another place, is explained thus, " Whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever bath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to
have,” Luke viji. 18. A being a righteous man, does not commonly signify to be one that is truly and sincerely godly. And so is believing in Christ mentioned frequently as the distinguishing character of one that is truly Christ's disciple. Yet we read of some that are said to believe, that, even at that very time, are spoken of as wanting something necessary to make them true disciples : John ii. 23, 24, 25, “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passorer, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself to them, because he knew all men ; and needed not that any should testify of men, for he knew what was in man.” These words intimate, that though they believed, yet Christ knew that they had not that in them then, that was to be depended on for perseverance: which implies, that if they were true believers, of a right principle, their perseverance might be depended on. And we are elsewhere told, why some ihat believe, endure but for a while, and do not persevere, viz., because they have no root in themselves. So that all those that do not persevere, never were Christ's disciples indeed. John viii. 31, " Then said Jesus to those Jews that believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” So that they never are Christ's disciples indeed, that do not continue in his word; which is agreeable to what the apostle John says, " They went out from us, because they were not of us. If they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.”
823. That there is an essential difference between the faith and seeming grace of such professors as fall away, and such as persevere, even before any distinction appears as to perseverance, or while both retain their religion, is exceedingly manifest by John vi. 64, 65, “ But there are some of you that be lieve not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” And verse 70, “And Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil ?" Here, before Judas had fallen away, he is said not to believe, and to be a devil. Now Judas was a professing disciple and a distinguished one. He was a visible believer. Christ speaks of him as one that had forsaken all and followed him in the regeneration, as is evident in Matt xix. 27, 28; and as one that had continued with Christ in his temptations, Luke xxii. 28, compared with verse 30. There were great appearances of true grace in him, as there were in Ahitophel, his type, with whom David took sweet counsel, &c. And therefore, as a righteous man, Christ had given him the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, and sent him forth to preach the gospel, and heal the sick, and cast out devils.— Yet he, even before he fell away, is said not to believe, but to be then a devil; which is agreeable to what the apostle says of apostates, “ They went out from us, because they were not of us. If they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.”
$24. That they that once truly believe in Christ, never fall away finally and perish, is evident, because they that now believe not, and are in a state of condemnation, are spoken of as those that never have believed : John ii. 18, “Because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Which supposes, that none of those that have believed, are now unbelievers, or are now in a state of condemnation. So again, those that shall be condemned at the day of judgment, are represented as those, not only that Christ then will know not, but as those that he never knew, Matt. vii. 23. But how can this be a true representation, if some of them were once true Christians, and so were known and owned by Christ, but only have since apostatized ?
$ 25. “ It seems manifest by the Scriptures, in the instances of the greatest falls and defections of true saints, that in the time of their fall true grace did mot utterly cease in them. Though the good man fall, as he may seven times, yet he riseth up again ;' Prov. xxiv. 19. • He shall not be utterly cast down ; for the Lord upho deth him with his hand,' Psal. xxxiii. 24. Thus he upheld the Psalmist in a sore temptation, which had almost overset him; Psal. Ixxiii. 23. Thus David, in praying God, after his notorious fall, not to take his Holy Spirit froin him, virtually owned, that he never had totally departed from him; Psal. li. 11. Thus Peter had security given him by the prayer of his Lord and Master, that his faith should not fail ; Luke xxii. 32. Thus when Solomon committed iniquity, God, as still his Father, would chasten him with the rod of men, but never suffer his mercy to depart away from him ; 2 Sam. vii
. 14, 15. And the same gracious provision is promised, in like case, to all the spiritual seed of Christ ; Psal. lxxxix. 30–35. And hence so many promises of God's healing his people's backslidings.” Mr. John Hubbard, in Berry-street Sermons, ser. 24.
§ 26. “The same reasons hold for the perseverance of all, as of any, who have obtained precious faith and sanctification; and yet doubtless many of them actually endure to the end, and are saved. Were it indeed left to believers to preserve themselves (in which case only it can be imagined how the final issue should be different in one another), the consequence may well be presumed fatal to them all. But the Scripture fixes it not here, but in the power of God; 1 Pet. i. 5, Jude 24,--on their relation to him, and on his special knowledge, love and care, of them; 2 Tim. ii. 19; Rom. viii. 31–39; chap. xi. 1, 2. And has not God the same love and care for all his children alike? Has he not the same power to keep one, as much as another? And is it not our heavenly Father's will, that not one even of the little ones in his family should perish? Matt. xviii. 14. It is also in Jesus Christ that they are preserved, who are effectually called ; Jude 1. And has he not the same affection and regard for them all, as the dear members of his body, the travail of his soul, and the promised reward of his pouring it out unto death, which he was so to see as to be satisfied ? Isa. liii. 10. And would he be satisfied with less than his full reward? Has he not also received them for his charge, with acknowledged instructions, that of all which the Father hath given him he should lose nothing? John vi. 39. And is he not then concerned in honor and faithfulness to employ that full power, which he likewise owns to be given him for that end, in order actually to give eternal life to them all? John xvii. 2. Of which
power being really and successfully so exercised his intercession is a proof. For as this is the way in which his mediatorial power becomes effectual ; so it is made in common for such as truly believe on him, that they may have his Spirit to abide in them for ever, and be preserved safe to glory; John xiv. 16; chap. xvii.What stronger security for all his sheep being preserved to eternal life, can words contain, than those which he utters of them, “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand ?” John X. 28.' Here the end is ascertained so absolutely and universally, as to admit of no exceptions, no, not that of the sheep's wresting themselves, ihrough their own perverseness and wandering disposition, out of his hands. The prevention of this belongs to the pastoral care. It must be also implied in Christ's guarding his sheep against the assaults of others; since there is indeed little or no danger of any thing separating them from him without their own consent.” Ibid.
§ 27. “ Let us not, however, through a vain and fond expectation of perVOL. IU.