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Title: A Body of Divinity, Vol. 3 (of 4)

Annotator: James P. Wilson

Author: Thomas Ridgley

Release date: December 31, 2020 [eBook #64185]

Language: English

Credits: Richard Hulse, David King, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net. (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive.)

*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A BODY OF DIVINITY, VOL. 3 (OF 4) ***
on

A Body of Divinity

A BODY OF DIVINITY:
WHEREIN THE DOCTRINES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION ARE EXPLAINED AND DEFENDED.
BEING THE SUBSTANCE OF SEVERAL LECTURES ON THE ASSEMBLY’S LARGER CATECHISM.
BY THOMAS RIDGLEY, D. D.
WITH NOTES, ORIGINAL AND SELECTED,
BY JAMES P. WILSON, D. D.
IN FOUR VOLUMES.
VOL. III.
FIRST AMERICAN, FROM THE THIRD EUROPEAN EDITION.
PHILADELPHIA:
PRINTED BY AND FOR WILLIAM. W. WOODWARD, CORNER OF CHESNUT AND SOUTH
SECOND STREETS.
1815.
i

THE CONTENTS OF THE THIRD VOLUME.

Quest. LXV, LXVI. Of the benefits which the invisible church enjoy by Christ.

What these benefits are, Page 9

Union with Christ, and Communion in grace and glory 10

Union with Christ illustrated 11

by a conjugal union in particular 12

The elect united to Christ 13

In their effectual calling 15

Quest. LXVII, LXVIII. Of effectual calling.

The Gospel-call described 16

Its difference from effectual calling ibid.

How far improved without special grace 20

A note 19

Not saving without it 20

Its efficacy depends on the power of God 39

Its issue and consequence 26

Offers of grace explained 16

God’s design therein ibid.

Effectual calling 39

A work of almighty power 40

A work of grace 59

Wrought by the Spirit 54

This doctrine does not savour of enthusiasm 55

Objections answered ibid.

His work internal and super-natural 57

Objections answered 58

God’s power and grace irresistible 61

The seasons of effectual calling 63

The state of man before and after it 28

The Pelagians’ notion of it 30

Their account of conversion absurd 31

The nature of human liberty 34

In what respects the will acts freely 35

In what not ibid.

iiRegeneration before faith 26

How it differs from conversion ibid.

A note 38

A principle of grace implanted therein 46

A note 45

Whether good works prepare for it 51

Scriptures thought to prove this explained 52

Man merely passive therein 48

But active after it 49

Quest. LXIX. Of Communion with Christ in grace 65

Quest. LXX, LXXI. Of Justification ibid.

Justification. Its importance 66

Wherein it consisteth 67

The privileges contained in it 69

Pardon and eternal life connected 69

Privileges attending it 72

Its foundation 73

Considered as an act of free-grace 74

Note on righteousness 74

Man cannot work out a righteousness for it 75

Forgiveness of sin explained 70

Christ our surety 77

He suffered and obeyed as such 77

Properties of a surety applied to him 78

The Father accepted him as such 79

What he did as a surety 81

His righteousness imputed for our justification 86

God provided a surety 95

Note on imputation 85, 94

We could not have provided one for ourselves 96

Quest. LXXII, LXXIII. Of justifying Faith.

Justifying faith, a note 98

Justification is by Faith 99

This not rightly explained by some 104

Explained agreeably to scripture 106

It cannot be before Faith; how 117

It cannot be by works 101

Not by repentance 101

A full price required by justice 103

Forgiveness free, notwithstanding 115

God reconciled, not made reconcileable by Christ’s death 114

Faith, its various kinds 121

iiiOf the Faith of miracles 122

Of an historical Faith 124

Of a temporary Faith 124

Saving Faith explained 125

Other graces are joined with it 99

But that alone justifies ibid.

How it justifies a sinner 98

A note 110

It brings in a plea 107

What it pleads ibid.

How imputed for righteousness 112

Its various objects and acts 125

A note 126

By Faith we receive Christ 127

And give up ourselves to him 129

What this supposes 130

A note 128

Its assent and trust considered 119

Of trust in Christ 121

Its direct and reflex acts 132

When strong, when weak 135

Its use in the conduct of life 138

How it works in common actions 138

How in religious duties 140

How it excites other graces 141

How to be attained and increased 142

How wrought by the word 134

Quest. LXXIV. Of Adoption 148

This Adoption differs from Man’s 145

What is understood by sons of God 144

Believers God’s sons in Christ 146

Their privileges as such 147

Privileges consequent upon Adoption 149

How it agrees with justification 151

How with sanctification 152

Quest. LXXV. Of Sanctification 152

The meaning of the word Sanctify 152

In Sanctification the soul devoted to God 154

And sin mortified ibid.

Proper means of mortification 155

Wrong methods taken for it 159

Vivification, what it imports 159

Holiness, motives to it 160

ivHow it differs from moral virtue 161

Heathens have, in some things, excelled Christians 163

And yet were not sanctified ibid.

Practical inferences from Sanctification 165

Quest. LXXVI. Of Repentance unto life 166

Repentance what, a note 167

The subjects of it 167

It is the work of the Holy Spirit 169

How wrought by the word 169

It differs from a legal Repentance 172

Its various acts 173

Inferences from this doctrine 175

Quest. LXXVII. Wherein Justification and Sanctification differ 176

Quest. LXXVIII. Of the Imperfection of Sanctification in this life 178

The proof of this Imperfection 179

Why Sanctification not perfected at once 182

Wherein this Imperfection appears 183

The conflict of a renewed soul 186

Of an enlightened conscience 184

Of the spirit against the flesh 187

How this is maintained 188

Consequences when sin prevails 190

Inferences from this Imperfection 192

Quest. LXXIX. Of the saints Perseverance in Grace 194

This doctrine explained 197

Preferable to the contrary 195

The Father and the Son glorified by it 216

The saints kept by God’s power 199

This doctrine proved

From God’s unchangeable love 201

From the covenant of Grace 202

From the promises 203

An objection answered 204

From the saints union to Christ 207

From Christ’s intercession 209

From the Spirit’s indwelling 210

From 2 Tim. ii. 19. 217

vHow the saints cannot sin 212

The principle of Grace ever abides 213

Shipwreck made of doctrines 218

Not of the Grace of faith 219

Objections answered, taken

From instances of apostacy 220

Solomon’s case cleared 221

He was a true penitent 222

Therefore no apostate 224

From the apostacy of Judas 225

And of the Jewish church 226

From the parable of the debtor 238

From Ezek. xviii. 24. 227

Heb. x. 38. 229

Chap. vi. 4-6. 232

Chap. x. 29. 234

2 Pet. ii. 20-22. 237

1 Cor. ix. 27. 240

Inferences from the saints’ Perseverance 241

Quest. LXXX. Of Assurance of Salvation 243

What we are to understand by it 243

It is attainable in this life 245

Without extraordinary revelation 247

The Spirit promised, to give it 250

In an ordinary way 251

How it arises from his witness 266

This doctrine savours not of Enthusiasm 252

To whom assurance belongs 253

The means of attaining it 254

Self examination a duty 256

How to be performed ibid.

Rule for trying marks of grace 259

Uncertain marks of grace 260

True marks of grace 262

What they must do who know not the time of their conversion 263

Quest. LXXXI. Some true believers destitute of Assurance 268

What Assurance essential to faith 270

And what not so ibid.

Texts relating to this explained 271

Assurance may be long waited for 272

Lost by manifold distempers 273

By sins and temptations 274

viDeserted believers want Assurance 276

Yet supported by God ibid.

Inference from this subject 278

Quest. LXXXII, LXXXIII. Of Communion in glory with Christ enjoyed in this life 279

Saints have an earnest of glory 280

Wherein this consisteth 283

Of the vision of God by faith 284

The triumphant death of some saints 285

Sinners filled with wrath here 288

Inferences from those terrors 290

And from the saints present joy 291

Quest. LXXXIV, LXXXV. Of Death 292

Death, the appointment of God 293

Redounds to the saints advantage 297

Its empire universal 294

Its time uncertain 295

Its sting is sin 297

How it should be improved 295

Its effects on the Spirit, a note 300

Quest. LXXXVI. Of the saints Communion with Christ in glory after death 301

Of the immortality of the soul 302

How this is to be understood ibid.

Asserted by some Heathens 303

Denied or questioned by others 304

Proved from scripture 307

Objections answered 310

A note 311

The saints perfected at death 312

Of purgatory 313

No proof for it in scripture 314

Heaven the only paradise after death 316

Of the soul’s sleeping at death 318

How this notion is explained 320

How to be opposed ibid.

Proved to be false from scripture 321

The soul, at death, waits for the full redemption of the body 324

The miseries which the souls of the wicked shall then endure 325

viiQuest. LXXXVII. Of the doctrine of the Resurrection 326

The Resurrection not contrary to reason 328

Clearly revealed in scripture 329

Fabulous accounts, by Heathens, of persons raised from the dead 330

Certain accounts of it in scripture 330

The Resurrection proved

From the Old Testament 332

An emblem of it in Ezek. xxxvii. 1, & seq. 335

From Job xix. 25-27. 337

From Chap. xiv. 13-15. 339

From Dan. xii. 2. 340

The Jews belief of it 335

Abraham’s belief of it 341

From the New Testament 342

From scripture-consequences 345

From Christ’s dominion 346

Objections answered 348

The Resurrection universal 353

Jews speak obscurely of it 355

The saints shall be raised in glory 356

How raised by the Spirit 357

The saints found alive at Christ’s coming shall be changed 356

Quest. LXXXVIII. Of the general and final Judgment 359

A sense of it impressed on conscience 360

Christ shall be the Judge 362

The solemnity of his appearing 363

The manner of his proceeding 367

The persons to be judged 365

Fallen angels, and all men 366

The place of Judgment 372

The time of it 373

The matter of it 369

Whether the sins of the saints shall be published 371

Practical inferences 374

Quest. LXXXIX. Of the Punishment of the wicked 376

The punishment of sin in hell 377

Of loss, and sense 378

Its degree and duration 379

viiiHow these subjects should be insisted on 381

Quest. XC. Of the Privileges and Honours of the saints at the last day 382

They shall be acknowledged and acquitted 383

They shall judge the world, and angels 384

What meant thereby; quære tamen. ibid.

They shall be received into heaven 387

Whether known to one another there 393

They shall be freed from sin and misery 388

Made perfectly happy 389

And joined with angels ibid.

Their happiness shall be eternal 399

Of the language of heaven 390

Of the beatific vision and fruition of God 399

A note 394, 397

Of degrees of the heavenly glory 399

Whether any additions shall be made thereunto 399

Inferences from the heavenly happiness 403

Quest. XCI, XCII.

Of man’s obligation to obedience 405

Note on the foundation of moral obligation 405

God’s revealed will a law 408

Quest. XCIII, XCIV, XCV, XCVI, XCVII. Of the Moral Law 409

What it is 410

What obedience it requires 411

Its sanction 412

Its use to all men 413

To the unregenerate 414

To the regenerate 415

Antinomians, who are such 418

Unguarded expressions hurtful 420

Quest. XCVIII. The Moral Law, where summarily comprehended 421

Of the law given from mount Sinai 421

Of the judicial law 422

Of the ceremonial law 423

Holy places, with the vessels thereof 424

ixOf ministers in holy things 426

Of holy times or festivals 427

Quest. XCIX. Rules for the understanding the Ten Commandments 428 to 431

Quest. C, CI, CII. The Sum of the Ten Commandments 432

The preface to them 432

Their division into two tables 433

Remarks on their subject-matter 434

The sum of the first four ibid.

Quest. CIII, CIV. The Duties required in the First Commandment 435 to 438

Quest. CV, CVI. The Sins forbidden in the First Commandment 438

Of atheistical thoughts 439

Of idolatry. The origin of it 443

Of heart-idolatry 447

In idolizing self ibid.

In loving the world 448

In regarding the dictates of Satan 449

Of the case of the witch of Endor 451

Joseph no sorcerer 452

Moses no astrologer 454

But learned in all the wisdom of Egypt ibid.

Quest. CVII, CVIII, CIX, CX. An Explication of the Second Commandment 455

The duties required 456

The sins forbidden 459

The reasons annexed 465

Of Popish superstition 460

Of making to ourselves images 461

Of image-worship and idolatry 462

The Papists guilty of both ibid.

Quest. CXI, CXII, CXIII, CXIV. An Explication of the Third Commandment 466

The duties required in it 468

The sins forbidden in it 469

xThe reasons annexed to it 476

Of religious oaths 472

Various forms used therein 471

Swearing by God’s Name a duty 470

Of profane oaths and curses 470

When God’s Name is taken in vain 473

Quest. CXV, CXVI. An Explication of the Fourth Commandment 477

The sabbath. Its original institution 482

A note ibid.

In what respect moral 478

In what positive 479

Its morality proved 480

Objections answered 481

Was no ceremonial institution 481

Its change proved 486

From the example of Christ 488

Objections answered 488

From the practice of the Apostles 491

And of the Christian church 494

The proportion of time to be observed 495

Quest. CXVII, CXVIII. Of sanctifying the Sabbath or Lord’s-day 497

The duties preparatory for it 497

The rest required upon that day 500

Works of necessity then lawful 502

The whole day to be sanctified 505

The duties of the evening of that day 506

Quest. CXIX, CXX, CXXI. Of Sins forbidden in the Fourth Commandment 508

The omission of holy duties 509

A careless performance of them ibid.

The reasons annexed to this Commandment 510

Objections answered 511

The import of the word Remember 512

Inferences 513

Quest. CXXII. The Sum of the six Commandments, respecting our duty to man; or, of doing as we would be done by 514

xiQuestions CXXIII, CXXIV, CXXV, CXXVI, CXXVII, CXXVIII. An Explication of the Fifth Commandment 517

Relations, how founded 518

Duties of each differ ibid.

Superiors, why called fathers ibid.

Duties of inferiors to superiors 520

Of children to parents ibid.

Of servants to masters 523

Of subjects to magistrates 525

The necessity and advantage of civil government 524

Papists arguments for deposing princes, answered 526

The sins of inferiors 529

Questions CXXIX, CXXX, CXXXI, CXXXII, CXXXIII. The Duties of superiors, &c. 530

The duties of parents to their children 531

Of masters to servants 533

Of magistrates to subjects 534

The sins of superiors ibid.

The duties of equals 535

The sins of equals 536

Reasons annexed to this Commandment ibid.

Of the promise of long life 537

Old age how far to be desired 538

Quest. CXXXVII, CXXXV, CXXXVI. An Explication of the Sixth Commandment 539

The life of others to be preserved 540

When lawful to take it away 541

Of duels 542

Elijah not guilty of murder 543

Nor Abraham in offering Isaac 544

Nor Moses in killing the Egyptian 545

Self-murder a great sin ibid.

Whether Samson was guilty of it 546

God’s judgments on murderers 547

Sinful anger is heart-murder 548

Passionate men, their sin and guilt 549

How to be dealt with 550

9

THE DOCTRINES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION EXPLAINED AND DEFENDED.

Quest. LXV., LXVI.

Quest. LXV. What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?

Answ. The members of the invisible church, by Christ, enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.

Quest. LXVI. What is that union which the elect have with Christ?

Answ. The union which the elect have with Christ, is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably joined to Christ, as their head and husband, which is done in their effectual calling.

We have, in the foregoing part of this work, considered man as made upright at first; but not continuing in that state, plunged into those depths of sin and misery, which would have rendered his state altogether desperate, without the interposition of a Mediator; whose designation to this work, his fitness for, and faithful discharge thereof, have been particularly considered in several foregoing answers, wherein we have had an account of his Person as God-man; his offices of Prophet, Priest, and King, his twofold estate, to wit, of humiliation and exaltation; and the benefits which accrue to the church thereby. This church has also been considered as visible or invisible; and the former of these, as enjoying many privileges which respect, more especially, the ordinary means of salvation.

We are now led to consider the benefits which the members of the invisible church, to wit, the whole number of the elect, who have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, their head, enjoy by him. And these are contained in two general heads; namely, union and communion with him in 10grace and glory; which comprise in them the blessings of both worlds, as the result of their relation to, and interest in him. First, they are united to him, and then made partakers of his benefits. All grace imparted to us here, is the result thereof; as the apostle says, Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, 1 Cor. i. 30. And elsewhere our Saviour says, He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, John xv. 5. And the contrary hereunto is inconsistent with the exercise of any grace: Without me ye can do nothing.

Moreover, that communion which the saints have with Christ in glory, whereby they who are brought to a state of perfection, participate of those graces and comforts which flow from their continued union with him; and the first fruits, or foretastes of glory, which they have in this world, are also founded on it. Thus the apostle calls Christ in his people, The hope of glory, Colos. i. 27. and speaking of his giving eternal life to them, he considers them as being in his hand, from whence none shall pluck them out, John x. 28. or separate them from him. So that they shall enjoy everlasting happiness with him, inasmuch as they shall be found in him, Phil. iii. 9. which leads us more particularly to consider,

What this union with Christ is. The scripture often speaks of Christ’s being, or abiding in his people, and they in him; and assigns it as an evidence of their interest in the blessings he has purchased for them: and, indeed, it is from hence that all internal and practical godliness is derived.

This privilege argues infinite condescension in him, and tends to the highest advancement of those who are the subjects thereof. Now that we may understand what is intended thereby, let us take heed that we do not include in it any thing that tends to extenuate it on the one hand; or to exalt those who are made partakers of it above the station or condition into which they are brought thereby, on the other.

It is not sufficient to suppose that this union contains in it no more than that his people have the same kind of nature with him, as being made partakers of flesh and blood; he having himself taken part of the same, Heb. ii. 14. He is indeed allied to us, as having all the essential perfections of our nature: and this was an instance of infinite condescension in him, and absolutely necessary to our redemption: nevertheless, this similitude of nature; abstracted from other considerations, accompanying or flowing from his incarnation, contains in it no other idea of union, between Christ and his people, than that which they have with one another; nor is it a privilege peculiar to believers, since Christ took on him the same human nature that 11all men have, though with a peculiar design of grace to those whom he came to redeem. This I the rather take notice of, because the Socinians, and others, that speak of this privilege, inasmuch as it is often mentioned in scripture, appear to have very low thoughts of it, when they suppose nothing more than this to be intended thereby.

Again, this union includes in it more than what is contained in that mutual love that is between Christ and believers, in that sense in which there is an union of affection between those who love one another; as it is said, The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David; and Jonathan loved him as his own soul, 1 Sam. xviii. 1. In which respect believers are united to one another; or, as the apostle expresses it, their hearts are knit together in love, Col. ii. 2. being like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind, Phil. ii. 2. or, as he adds, Let this mind also be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, ver. 5. I say it includes more than this, which is rather the fruit and consequence of our union with Christ, than that wherein it principally consists.

Moreover we must take heed that we do not, in explaining this union between Christ and believers, include more in it than what belongs to creatures infinitely below him, to whom they are said to be united: therefore we cannot but abhor the blasphemy of those who speak of an essential union of creatures with God; or, as though they had hereby something derived to them in common with Christ the great Mediator.[1]

But passing by this method of accounting for the union between Christ and believers, there are two senses in which it is taken in scripture; one is, that which results from Christ’s being their federal head, representative, or surety; having undertaken to deal with the justice of God in their behalf, so that what he should do, as standing in this relation to them, should be placed to their account, as much as though it had been done 12by them in their own persons: this is what contains in it their concern in the covenant of grace, made with him in their behalf; of which something has been said under a foregoing answer;[2] and it is the foundation of their sins being imputed to him, and his righteousness to them; which will be farther considered, when we treat of the doctrine of justification under a following answer.[3]

Therefore this union with Christ, which is mentioned in the answer we are now explaining, is of another nature, and, in some respects, may be properly styled a vital union, as all spiritual life is derived from it; or a conjugal union, as it is founded in consent, and said to be by faith. Now there are two things observed concerning it.

1. It is expressed by our being spiritually and mystically joined to Christ: it is styled a spiritual union, in opposition to those gross and carnal conceptions which persons may entertain concerning things being joined together in a natural way; and, indeed, whatever respects salvation is of a spiritual nature.

It is moreover called a mystical union, which is the word most used by those who treat on this subject; and the reason is, because the apostle calls it a great mystery, Eph. v. 32. by which we are not to understand the union there is between man and wife, as contained in the similitude by which he had before illustrated this doctrine, as the Papists pretend,[4] but the union that there is between Christ and his church. And it is probably styled a mystery, because it could never have been known without divine revelation: and as Christ’s condescension, expressed herein, can never be sufficiently admired; so it cannot be fully comprehended by us. This is such a nearness to him, and such a display of love in him as passeth knowledge. However, there are some similitudes used in scripture to illustrate it. As,

(1.) The union that there is between the vine and the branches, John xv. 1, 2, 5. whereby life, nourishment, growth and fruitfulness 13are conveyed to them: in like manner all our spiritual life together, with the exercise and increase of grace, depend on our union with, abiding in, and deriving what is necessary thereunto, from him.

(2.) It is also compared to the union there is between the head and members, as the apostle farther illustrates it, when he styles him the head, from which all the body, by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God, Col. ii. 19. which is a very beautiful similitude, whereby we are given to understand, that as the head is the fountain of life and motion to the whole body, as the nerves and animal spirits take their rise from thence, so that if the communication that there is between them and it, be stopped, the members would be useless, dead, and insignificant: so Christ is the fountain of spiritual life and motion, to all those who are united to him.

(3.) This union is farther illustrated, by a similitude taken from that union which there is between the foundation and the building; and accordingly Christ is styled, in scripture, the chief corner stone, Eph. ii. 20. and a sure foundation, Isa. xxviii. 16. And there is something peculiar in that phrase which the apostle uses, which is more than any similitude can express; when he speaks of Christ as the living stone, or rock, on which the church is built; and of believers, as lively stones, 1 Pet. ii. 4, 5. to denote, that they are not only supported and upheld by him, as the building is by the foundation, but enabled to put forth living actions, as those whose life is derived from this union with him.

(4.) There is another similitude taken from that nourishment which the body receives, by the use of food; and therefore our Saviour styles himself the bread of life, or the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die; and proceeds to speak of his giving his flesh for the life of the world; and adds, he that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him, John vi. 48-56.

(5.) There is another similitude, by which our being united to Christ by faith, is more especially illustrated, taken from the union which there is between man and wife; accordingly this is generally styled, a conjugal union, between Christ and believers. Thus the prophet says, Thy Maker is thine Husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer, the holy One of Israel, Isa. liv. 5. And the apostle, speaking of a man’s leaving his father and mother, and being joined unto his wife, and they two being one flesh, Eph. v. 31, 32. applies it, as was before observed, to the union that there is between Christ and the church; and adds, that we are members of his body, 14of his flesh, and of his bones, ver. 30. which expression, if not compared with other scriptures, would be very hard to be understood; but it may be explained by the like phraseology, used elsewhere. Thus, when God formed Eve at first, and brought her to Adam, and thereby joined them together in a conjugal relation: he says upon this occasion, This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh, Gen. ii. 23. And we find also, that other relations, which are more remote than this, are expressed by the same mode of speaking. Thus Laban says to Jacob, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh, Gen. xxix. 14. And Abimelech pleading the relation he stood in to the men of Shechem, as a pretence of his right to reign over them, tells them, I am your bone and your flesh, Judges ix. 2. Therefore the apostle makes use of the same expression, agreeably to the common mode of speaking used in scripture, to set forth the conjugal relation which there is between Christ and believers.

The apostle, indeed, elsewhere alters the phrase, when he says, He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit, 1 Cor. vi. 17. which is so difficult an expression, that some who treat on this subject, though concluding that there is in it something that denotes the intimacy and nearness of this union, and more than what is contained in the other phrase, of their being one flesh, nevertheless, reckon it among those expressions which are inexplicable; though I cannot but give into the sense in which some understand it; namely, that inasmuch as the same Spirit dwells in believers that dwelt in Christ, though with different views and designs, they are hereby wrought up, in their measure, to the same temper and disposition; or as it is expressed elsewhere, The same mind is in them that was in Christ, Phil. ii. 5. which is such an effect of this conjugal relation that there is between him and them, as is not always the result of the same relation amongst men. The reason why I call this our being united to Christ, by faith, is because it is founded in a mutual consent; as the Lord avouches them on the one hand, to be his people, so they, on the other hand, avouch him to be their God, Deut. xxvi. 17, 18. the latter of which is, properly speaking, an act of faith; whereby they give up themselves to be his servants, to all intents and purposes, and that for ever.

It is farther observed in this answer. That union with Christ is a work of God’s grace: this it must certainly be, since it is the spring and fountain from whence all acts of grace proceed; and indeed, from the nature of the thing, it cannot be otherwise: for if there be a wonderful instance of condescending grace in God’s conferring those blessings that accompany salvation; this may much more be deemed so. If Christ be pleased to dwell with, and in his people, and to walk in them, 2 15Cor. vi. 16. or as it is said elsewhere, to live in them, Gal. ii. 20. as a pledge and earnest of their being forever with him in heaven; and if, as the result hereof, they be admitted to the greatest intimacy with him; we may from hence take occasion to apply what was spoken by one of Christ’s disciples, to him, with becoming humility and admiration; how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? John xiv. 22. Is it not a great instance of grace, that the Son of God should make choice of so mean an habitation, as that of the souls of sinful men; and not only be present with, but united to them in those instances which have been before considered?

2. It is farther observed in this answer, that we are united to Christ in effectual calling; which leads us to consider what is contained in the two following answers.

Quest. LXVII., LXVIII.

Quest. LXVII. What is effectual calling?

Answ. Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace; whereby, out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto, he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ by his word and Spirit, savingly enlightening their minds, renewing, and powerfully determining their wills; so as they, although in themselves dead in sin, are hereby made willing and able, freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.

Quest. LXVIII. Are the elect effectually called?

Answ. All the elect, and they only, are effectually called; although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the word, and have some common operations of the Spirit; who, for their wilful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.

We have, in these answers, an account of the first step that God takes, in applying the redemption purchased by Christ; which is expressed, in general, by the word calling; whereby sinners are invited, commanded, encouraged, and enabled, to come to Christ, in order to their being made partakers of his benefits: the apostle styles it an high, holy, and heavenly calling, Phil. iii. 14. 2 Tim. i. 9. Heb. iii. 1. and a being called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, 1 Cor. i. 168. Herein we are called out of darkness into his marvellous light, 1 Pet. ii. 9. and to his eternal glory by Jesus Christ, chap. v. 10. And, indeed, the word is very emphatical: For,

1. A call supposes a person to be separate, or at a distance from him that calls him; and it contains an intimation of leave to come into his presence. Thus, in effectual calling, he who was departed from God, is brought nigh to him. God, as it were, says to him, as he did to Adam, when flying from him, and dreading nothing so much as his presence, when apprehending himself exposed to the stroke of his vindictive justice, Where art thou? Gen. iii. 9. which is styled, God’s calling unto him. Or, it is like as when a traveller is taking a wrong way, and in danger of falling into some pit, or snare; and a kind friend calls after him to return, and sets him in the right way: thus God calls to sinners, or says, as the prophet expresses it; Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it; when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.

2. Herein God deals with men as reasonable creatures; which is by no means to be excluded from our ideas of the work of grace; though this work contain in it some superior, or supernatural methods of acting, in order to bring it about; yet we may be under a divine influence, as turning to God, or effectually called by him, and accordingly acted by a supernatural principle; and at the same time our understandings, or reasoning powers, not rendered useless, but enlightened or improved thereby; by which means, every thing that we do, in obedience to the call of God, appears to be most just and reasonable. This gives no ground for any one to conclude, that, according to our method of explaining this doctrine, we lay ourselves open to the absurd consequence fastened upon it; as though God dealt with us as stocks and stones: but more of this may be considered under a following head.

We now proceed, more particularly, to consider the subject-matter of these two answers; wherein we have an account of the difference between the external call of the gospel, which is explained in the latter of them, and the internal, saving, and powerful call, which is justly termed effectual; and is considered in the former of them. And,

First, Concerning the outward and common call, together with the persons to whom it is given; the design of God in giving it, and also the issue thereof, with respect to a great number of those who are said to be called.

The reason why we choose to insist on this common call, in the first place, is because it is antecedent, and made subservient to the other in the method of the divine dispensation; 17inasmuch as we are first favoured with the word and ordinances, and then they are made effectual to salvation.

1. Therefore we shall consider what we are to understand by this common call.

It is observed, that it is by the ministry of the word, in which Christ is set forth in his person and offices, and sinners are called to come to him; and in so doing, to be made partakers of the blessings which he has purchased. This is the sum and substance of the gospel-ministry; and it is illustrated Matt. xxii. 1, & seq. by the parable of the marriage-feast, which the king made for his son, and sent his servants; by which is signified gospel-ministers, to call or invite, and therein to use all persuasive arguments to prevail with persons to come to it: this is styled their being called. And the observation made on persons refusing to comply with this call, when it is said, Many are called, but few are chosen, ver. 14. plainly intimates, that our Saviour here means no other than a common or ineffectual call. And in another parable it is illustrated by an householder’s hiring labourers into his vineyard, Matt. xx. 1, & seq. at several hours of the day: some were hired early in the morning, at the third hour; others at the sixth and ninth; which denotes the gospel-call, that the Jewish church had to come to Christ before his incarnation, under the ceremonial law; and others were hired at the eleventh hour, denoting those who were called, at that time, by the ministry of Christ and his disciples: that this was only a common and external call, is evident, not only from the intimation that they, who had borne the burden and heat of the day; that is, for many ages had been a professing people, murmured, because others, who were called at the eleventh hour, had an equal share in his regard; but also from what is expressly said, (the words are the same with those wherewith the other parable before-mentioned, is closed) Many are called, but few are chosen, ver. 16.

Moreover, the apostle intends this common call, when he speaks of some who have been called into the grace of Christ; not called by the power and efficacious grace of Christ, as denoting that the call was effectual; but called, or invited to come and receive the grace of Christ; or called externally, and thereby prevailed on to embrace the doctrine of the grace of Christ: these are said to be soon removed unto another gospel, Gal. i. 6. And elsewhere, chap. v. 7. he speaks of some, who, when the truth, or the doctrines of the gospel, were first presented to them, expressed, for a time, a readiness to receive it; upon which account he says, Ye did run well, or, ye began well; but yet they did not afterwards yield the obedience of faith, to that truth which they seemed, at first, to have a very great regard: 18upon which occasion the apostle says, This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you, ver. 8.

They who express some regard to this call, are generally said to have common grace, as contradistinguished from others, who are under the powerful, and efficacious influences of the Spirit, which are styled special. The former of these are oftentimes under some impressive influences by the common work of the Spirit, under the preaching of the gospel; who, notwithstanding, are in an unconverted state; their consciences are sometimes awakened, and they bring many charges and accusations against themselves; and from a dread of the consequences thereof, abstain from many enormous crimes, as well as practise several duties of religion; they are also said to be made partakers of some great degrees of restraining grace; and all this arises from no other than the Spirit’s common work of conviction; as he is said, to reprove the world of sin, John xvi. 8.

These are styled, in this answer, the common operations of the Spirit: they may be called operations, inasmuch as they contain in them something more than God’s sending ministers to address themselves to sinners, in a way of persuasion or arguing; for, the Spirit of God deals with their consciences under the ministry of the word. It is true, this is no more than common grace; yet it may be styled the Spirit’s work: for though the call be no other than common, and the Spirit considered as an external agent, inasmuch as he never dwells in the hearts of any but believers, yet the effect produced, is internal in the mind and consciences of men, and, in some degree, in the will; which is almost persuaded to comply with it. These operations are sometimes called the Spirit’s striving with man, Gen. vi. 3. but inasmuch as many of these internal motions are said to be resisted and quenched, when persons first act contrary to the dictates of their consciences, and afterwards wholly extinguish them; therefore the Spirit’s work in those whom he thus calls, is not effectual or saving; these are not united to Christ by his Spirit, nor by faith; and this is generally styled common grace, in speaking to which, we shall consider,

(1.) That there are some things presented to us, in an objective way, which contain the subject matter of the gospel, or that call, which is given to sinners to pursue those methods, which, by divine appointment, lead to salvation. As faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, Rom. x. 17. so do common convictions, and whatever carries in it the appearance of grace in the unregenerate. In this respect God deals with men as intelligent creatures, capable of making such improvement of those instructions and intimations, as may tend, 19in many respects, to their advantage. This must be supposed, or else the preaching of the gospel could not be reckoned an universal blessing to them who are favoured with it, abstracting from those saving advantages which some are to receive hereby. This is here called the grace which is offered to them, who are outwardly called, by the ministry of the word.

Offers of grace, and invitations to come to Christ, are words used by almost all who have treated on this subject: though some, of late, have been ready to conclude, that these modes of speaking tend to overthrow the doctrine we are maintaining; for they argue to this purpose; that an overture, or invitation, supposes a power in him to whom it is given to comply with it. Did I think this idea necessarily contained in these words, I should rather choose to substitute others in the room of them: however, to remove prejudices, or unjust representations, which the use thereof may occasion, either here or elsewhere, I shall briefly give an account of the reason why I use them, and what I understand thereby. If it be said, This mode of speaking is not to be found in scripture; this, it is true, should make us less tenacious of it. Nevertheless, it may be used without just offence given, if it be explained agreeably thereunto.[5] Therefore let it be considered,

20(2.) That the presenting an object, whatever it be, to the understanding and will, is generally called, an offering it; as God says to David, from the Lord; I offer thee three things, choose thee one of them, &c. 1 Sam. xxiv. 12. So if God sets before us life and death, blessing and cursing, and bids us choose which we will have; this is equivalent to what is generally called, an offer of grace.

And as for invitations to come to Christ, it is plain, that there are many scriptures that speak to that purpose; namely, when it is said, In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink, John vii. 37. And, Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, Isa. lv. 1. And elsewhere Christ says, Come unto me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matt. xi. 28. And, Let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely, Rev. xxii. 17.

(3.) When an offer, or invitation to accept of a thing, thus objectively presented to us, is made, it always supposes the valuableness thereof; and how much it would be our interest to accept of it; and that it is our indispensable duty so to do; which are the principal ideas that I intend, in my sense of the word, when I speak of offers of grace in the gospel, or invitations to come to Christ. Nevertheless, taking them in this sense, does not necessarily infer a power in us to accept them, without the assistance of divine grace: thus it may be said, that Christ came into the world to save sinners; and that he will certainly apply the redemption, which he has purchased, to all, for whom this price was given; and also, that a right to salvation is inseparably connected with faith and repentance; and that these, and all other graces are God’s gifts; and that we are to pray, wait, and hope for them, under the ministry of the word; and if we be, in God’s own time and way, enabled to exercise these graces, this will be our unspeakable advantage: and therefore it cannot but be our duty to attend upon God in all his holy institutions, in hope of saving blessings: these things may be done; and consequently the gospel may be thus preached, without supposing that grace is in our own 21power: and this is what we principally intend by gospel-overtures or invitations.

(4.) Nevertheless we cannot approve of some expressions subversive of the doctrine of special redemption, how moving and pathetic soever they may appear to be; as when any one, to induce sinners to come to Christ, tells them, that God is willing, and Christ is willing, and has done his part, and the Spirit is ready to do his; and shall we be unwilling, and thereby destroy ourselves? Christ has purchased salvation for us: the Spirit offers his assistances to us; and shall we refuse these overtures? Christ invites us to come to him, and leaves it to our free-will, whether we will comply with, or reject these invitations: he is, at it were, indeterminate, whether he shall save us or no, and leaves the matter to our own conduct; we ought therefore to be persuaded to comply with the invitation. This method of explaining offers of grace, and invitations, to come to Christ, is not what we intend when we make use of these expressions.

2. We are now to consider the persons to whom this common call is given. It is indefinite, not directed only to the elect, or those, with respect to whom God designs to make it effectual to their salvation; for, according to the commission which our Saviour gave to his apostles, the gospel was to be preached to all nations, or to every creature in those places to which it was sent: and the reason of this is obvious; namely, because the counsel of God, concerning election, is secret, and not to be considered as the rule of human conduct; nor are they, whom God is pleased to employ in preaching the gospel, supposed to know whether he will succeed their endeavours, by enabling those who are called, to comply with it.

3. We shall now shew how far the gospel-call may, without the superadded assistance of special grace, be improved by men, in order to their attaining some advantage by it, though short of salvation: this may be done in two respects.

(1.) Gross enormous crimes may hereby be avoided: this appears in many unconverted persons, who not only avoid, but abhor them; being induced hereunto by something in nature that gives an aversion to them. And it may be farther argued, from the liableness of those who commit them, to punishment in proportion to their respective aggravations; which must either suppose in man, a power to avoid them: or else, the greatest degree of punishment would be the result of a necessity of nature, and not self-procured by any act of man’s will; though all suppose the will to be free, with respect to actions that are sinful. It would be a very poor excuse for the murderer to allege, that he could not govern his passion, but was under an unavoidable necessity to take away the life of another. 22Shall the man that commits those sins, which are contrary to nature, say, That his natural temper and disposition is so much inclined thereunto, that he could, by no means, avoid them? If our natural constitution be so depraved and vitiated, that it leads us, with an uncommon and impetuous violence, to those sins that we were not formerly inclined to: whence does this arise, but from the habits of vice, being increased by a wilful and obstinate continuance therein, and many repeated acts which they have produced? and might not this, at least, in some degree, have been avoided? We must distinguish between habits of sin, that immediately flow from the universal corruption of nature, and those that have taken deeper root in us, by being indulged, and exerting themselves, without any endeavours used, to restrain and give a check to them.

And if it be supposed that our natures are more habitually inclined to sin than once they were, might we not so far use the liberty of our wills, as to avoid some things, which, we are sensible, will prove a temptation to those particular acts thereof; whereby the corruption of nature, that is so prone to comply with it, might be in some measure, restrained, though not overcome: this may be done without converting grace; and consequently some great sins may be avoided. To deny this, would be not only to palliate, but open a door to all manner of licentiousness.

(2.) Man has a power to do some things that are materially good; though not good in all those circumstances in which actions are good that accompany or flow from regenerating grace. Ahab’s humility, 1 Kings xxi. 29. and Nineveh’s repentance, Jonah iii. 5. and seq. arose from the dread they had of the divine threatenings; which is such an inducement to repentance and reformation, as takes its rise from nothing more than the influence of common grace. Herod himself, though a vile person, feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy: and when he heard him, did many things, and heard him gladly, Mark vi. 20. And the Gentiles are said to do by nature, the things; that is, some things contained in the law; insomuch that they are a law unto themselves, Rom. ii. 14. Therefore they did them by the influence of common grace. And these things, namely, abstaining from grosser sins, and doing some actions materially good, have certainly some advantage attending them; as thereby the world is not so much like hell as it would otherwise be: and as to what respects themselves, a greater degree of punishment is hereby avoided.

3. We are now to consider the design of God in giving this common call in the gospel, which cannot be the salvation of all who are thus called: this is evident; because all shall not be saved; whereas, if God had designed their salvation, he would 23certainly have brought it about; since his purpose cannot be frustrated. To say that God has no determinations relating to the success of the gospel, reflects on his wisdom: and to conclude that things may happen contrary to his purpose, argues a defect of power; as though he could not attain the ends he designed: but this having before been insisted on, under the heads of election and special redemption, I shall pass it by at present, and only consider, that the ends which God designed in giving the gospel, were such as were attained by it, namely, the salvation of those who shall eventually be saved, the restraining of those who have only common grace, and the setting forth the glorious work of redemption by Jesus Christ; which, as it is the wonder of angels, who desire to look into it; so it is hereby designed to be recommended as worthy of the highest esteem, even in those who cast contempt on it: and hereby they are convicted, who shut their eyes against, and neglect to behold that glorious light which shines so brightly therein.

Object. To this it is objected, that if Christ invites and calls men to come to him, as he often does in the New Testament; and when they refuse to do it, mentions their refusal with a kind of regret; as when he says, Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life, John v. 40. this, they suppose, is no other than an insult on mankind, a bidding them come without the least design that they should; as if a magistrate should go to the prison door, and tell the unhappy man, who is not only under lock and key, but loaded with irons, that he would have him leave that place of misery and confinement, and how much he should rejoice, if he would come out; and upon that condition, propose to him several honours that he has in reserve for him: this, say they, is not to deal seriously with him. And if the offer of grace in the gospel, answers the similitude, as they suppose it exactly does, then there is no need for any thing farther to be replied to it; the doctrine confutes itself; as it argues the divine dealings with men illusory.

Answ. This similitude, how plausible soever it may appear to be to some, is far from giving a just representation of the doctrine we are maintaining: for when the magistrate is supposed to signify his desire that the prisoner would set himself free, which he knows he cannot do; hereby it is intimated, that though God knows that the sinner cannot convert himself, yet he commands him to do it, or to put forth supernatural acts of grace, though he has no principle of grace in him: but let it be considered, that this God no where commands any to do.[6] Our Saviour intends as much as this, when he speaks of the tree’s being made good, before the fruit it produces can be so, Matt. xii. 33. or that it is impossible for men to gather grapes 24of thorns, or figs of thistles, chap. vii. 17. implying, that there must be an internal disposition wrought, before any acts of grace can he put forth: this is supposed in the preaching of the gospel, or the call to sinners to repent and believe, which they have no reason to conclude that they can do without the aids of divine grace, and these they are to wait, pray and hope for, in all God’s instituted methods.

Moreover, as for those promises which are made to us, if we would release ourselves from the chains of sin, and the account given, how much God would rejoice in our being set free, when the thing is, in itself, impossible; this is no otherwise true than as it contains a declaration of the connexion there is between conversion and salvation, or freedom from the slavery of sin, and God’s conferring many spiritual honours and privileges on those who are converted; not that it does, in the least, denote that it is in our own power to convert ourselves: but that this may be more clearly understood, we shall consider it with relation to the two branches before mentioned, and so speak of God, either as commanding, calling, and inviting men to do what is out of their power, namely, to repent, and believe; or else, as holding forth promises of that salvation which they shall not attain; because these graces are out of their power, which contains the substance of what is usually objected against the doctrine we are maintaining, by those who are on the other side of the question; who suppose that this method of procedure is illusory, and therefore unbecoming the divine perfections. And,

1. Concerning God’s commanding, calling, and inviting men to do what is out of their own power; as for instance, bidding a dead man to arise, or one that is blind to see, or those that are shut up in prison, to come out from thence. This is to be explained, and then, perhaps, the doctrine we are maintaining, will appear to be less exceptionable. We have, elsewhere, in defending the head of particular redemption, against an objection not much unlike to this, considered how Christ is said to be offered in the gospel,[7] or in what sense the overture may be said to be made to all that are favoured with it; and yet the efficacy thereof, only extend to those whom Christ has redeemed, and shall be effectually called. But that we may a little farther explain this matter, let us consider,

(1.) That the gospel contains a declaration, that God designs to save a part of this miserable world; and, that in subserviency thereunto, he has given them a discovery of Christ, as the object of faith, and the purchaser and author of salvation.

(2.) He does not therein give the least intimation to any, while in a state of unregeneracy, that they shall be enabled to believe: and, as the consequence thereof, be saved. Their 25names, characters, or places of abode, or their natural embellishments, who shall attain this privilege, are no where pointed at in scripture; nor is the book of God’s secret purpose, concerning election to eternal life, opened, so as that any one can discern his name written in it, before he be effectually called; for we have no warrant to look any farther than God’s revealed will, which assigns no evidence of our interest in the saving blessings of the gospel, till they are experienced by us, in this effectual call.

(3.) God plainly discovers to men, in the gospel, that all those graces, which are inseparably connected with salvation, are his work and gift, and consequently out of their own power; or that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy, Rom. ix. 16. Therefore he no where tells the man, who is tied and bound with the chain of his sin, that he is able to set himself free; but puts him upon expecting and praying for it, from the pitifulness of his great mercy. He no where tells him, that he can implant a principle of spiritual life and grace in himself; or that he ought so much as to attempt to do any thing to atone for his sins, by his obedience and sufferings, but suggests the contrary, when he says, Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength, Isa. xlv. 24.

(4.) He gives none the least ground to expect, or lay claim to salvation, till they believe; and as faith and salvation are both his gifts, he puts them upon seeking, and desiring them, in their respective order; first grace, and then glory.

(5.) The gospel-call is designed to put men upon a diligent attendance on the ordinances, as means of grace, and to leave the issue and success thereof to God, who waits that he may be gracious; that so his sovereignty may appear more eminently in the dispensing this privilege; and, in the mean time, assigns it as their duty to wait for him, chap. xxx. 18. And while we are engaged in this duty, we are to acknowledge, that we have nothing that can give us any right to this privilege. So that God might justly deny success to his ordinances. Nevertheless, if he is pleased to give us, while we are attending on them, those earnest desires of their being made effectual to our conversion and salvation, we may conclude this to be a token for good, that he designs us some special advantage thereby; and we do not know but that even this desire of grace may be the beginning of the Spirit’s saving work, and therefore an earnest of his carrying it on.

(6.) When God commands persons, in the gospel, to do those things which cannot be performed without his special grace, he sometimes supposes them, when he gives forth the command, to have a principle of spiritual life and grace, which 26is, in effect to bid one that is made alive, to put forth living actions; which respect, more especially, the progress of grace after the work is begun; in which sense I understand those words of the apostle, Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh; that is, hath wrought, in you both to will and to do, of his good pleasure, Phil. ii. 12.

2. If we consider the gospel as holding forth promises of salvation, when, at the same time, it is not in our power to exercise those graces that accompany it; which gives farther occasion to those that except against the doctrine we are maintaining, to conclude, that it represents God as offering those blessings which he does not design to bestow: This may give us occasion to explain what we mean, when we consider salvation as offered in the gospel; whereby we understand nothing else but a declaration, that all who repent and believe, shall be saved; which contains a character, or description of the persons who have ground to expect this privilege: not that salvation is founded on dubious and uncertain conditions, which depend upon the power and liberty of our will; or impossible conditions; as though God should say, if man will change his own heart, and work faith, and all other graces in himself, then he will save him: but all that we mean by it is, that those graces, which are inseparably connected with salvation, are to be waited for in our attendance on all God’s ordinances, and when he is pleased to work them, then we may conclude, that we have a right to the promise of salvation. Thus concerning the gospel-call, what it is, how far it may be improved by those who are destitute of special grace, and what is God’s design in giving it: we now proceed to consider,

3. The issue and consequence thereof, as it is farther observed in this answer, that many wilfully neglect, contemn, or refuse to comply with it, with respect to whom it is not made effectual to their salvation. This appears from the report that Christ’s disciples brought to him, concerning the excuses that many made when called to come to the marriage feast, in the parable: One pretended, that he had bought a piece of ground, and must needs go see it; and another, that he had bought five yoke of oxen, and must go to prove them; and another had married a wife, and therefore could not come. It is elsewhere said, that they all made light of it, and went their ways; one to his farm, another to his merchandise; and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them, Luke xiv. 18-20. compared with Matt. xxii. 5, 6.

And the prophet introduces our Saviour himself as complaining, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, Isa. xlix. 4, 5. And the reason hereof is, because Israel is not gathered; which words are to be understood in a 27comparative sense, as denoting the fewness of those who complied with his gracious invitations, to come to him, or were convinced, by the miracles which he wrought to confirm his doctrine.

This is also farther evident, from the small number of those who are effectually prevailed upon under the gospel dispensation, which the apostle calls the grace of God that brings salvation, that hath appeared to all men, teaching them to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts; and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. And also, from the great opposition and hatred, which many express to the person of Christ, who is the subject matter thereof; which the prophet not only relates, as what was observed in his day, but foretells, that in after-ages, a great part of mankind would not believe the report made concerning him; but that he should be despised and rejected of men, who would hide, as it were, their faces from him, and not esteem him, Isa. liii. 1, 3. This is certainly the highest contempt of the gospel; for it is an undervaluing the greatest privileges, as though they were not worthy to be embraced, desired, or sought after; and inasmuch as this is wilful, arising from the enmity of the will of man against God, and the method of salvation which he has prescribed therein, it has a tendency to provoke his wrath; so that being justly left in their unbelief, they will not come to Christ, that they may have life. And as they are judicially left to themselves, they contract a greater degree of alienation from, and averseness to God, and so never truly come to Jesus Christ; which is an awful and tremendous consideration.

This is the consequence of it, with respect to those who have only this common call; and therefore we must not conclude, that it is sufficient to salvation, unless there be an internal effectual call; and what this is, will be considered under our next head; but before we enter thereon, it is necessary for us to enquire, whether all, at least, those who sit under the sound of the gospel, have sufficient grace given them, so as that, by their own conduct, without the internal powerful influences of the Spirit, they may attain to salvation. This argument is much insisted on by those who adhere to the Pelagian scheme; and therefore we cannot wholly pass it over: and for our setting this matter in a just light, let it be considered; that every one must allow, that all who sit under the sound of the gospel, have sufficient objective grace, or sufficient external means, to lead them in the way of salvation; for to deny this, would be to deny that the gospel is a perfect rule of faith: this therefore is allowed on both sides; and we think nothing more is intended, when God says, concerning the church of the Jews, What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it, Isa. v. 4.

28But the question is, whether there be a sufficiency of power, or ability in man; so that without the internal efficacious grace of God, determining and inclining the will, to make a right improvement of it, it may be sufficient to the salvation of those to whom it is given? This is what we cannot but deny. Now, that the external means of grace are not rendered effectual to the salvation of all who are favoured with them, is evident; because, as was but now observed, many neglect and contemn the gospel: and as to others who improve it, so that the means of grace become effectual, it must be enquired; what it is that makes them so? How comes it to pass, that the preaching thereof is styled, to some, a savour of life, to others, a savour of death? The answer which the Pelagians give to this, is, that they, in whom it is effectual, render it so, by their improving the liberty of their will; so that they choose what is represented in the gospel, as eligible, and refuse the contrary. And if the question be asked, who maketh thee to differ from another? they have, when disposed to speak agreeably to their own scheme, this answer ready at hand, I make myself to differ; that is as much as to say, I have a natural power of improving the means of grace, without having recourse to God for any farther assistance, in a supernatural way.

It may easily be observed, that this supposition is greatly derogatory to the glory of God; and renders all dependance on him, both to will and to do, unnecessary: It supposes that we have sufficient ability to work those graces in ourselves that accompany salvation; otherwise it is not sufficient to salvation; and therefore it is contrary to all those scriptures which speak of them as the work, or the effect of the exceeding greatness of the power of God: which leads us to consider,

Secondly, The doctrine of effectual calling, as contained in the former of the answers, which we are explaining; in which we may observe,

I. The character of those who are effectually called antecedent thereunto. They have nothing that can recommend them to the divine favour; for being considered as fallen, guilty creatures, they are not only unable to make atonement for sin, but to do what is spiritually good: thus the apostle represents them, as without strength, Rom. v. 6. which is the immediate consequence of man’s first apostacy from God; and universal experience, proves that we have a propensity to every thing that is evil, which daily increases: And to this we may add, that the mind is blinded, the affections stupified, the will full of obstinacy, the conscience disposed to deal treacherously, whereby we deceive ourselves; so that the whole soul is out of order. The apostle speaks of man by nature, as dead in 29trespasses and sins, walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; having their conversation in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh, and of the mind, Eph. ii. 1-3. And the prophet speaks of the heart of man, as being deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, Jer. xvii. 9. And the apostle describes some as ‘walking in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who being past feeling, have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness,’ Eph. iv. 17-19. and others, as being ‘filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful,’ Rom. i. 29-31. This, indeed, is spoken of the Gentiles, who were destitute of the means of grace, and had contracted greater degrees of impiety than many others; but they, who are effectually called, would have run into the same abominations, their natures being equally inclined thereunto, without preventing grace; as some of the church of Corinth are said to have done before their conversion, whom he speaks of as once having been ‘unrighteous, fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves; covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners,’ 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10, 11. And elsewhere he says, ‘We ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another,’ Tit. iii. 3. And the obstinacy and perverseness of men, going on in a course of sin, is so great, that God reproves a professing people, by telling them, that their neck was as an iron sinew, and their brow brass, Isa. xlviii. 4. Thus they were, before he refined and chose some of them, in the furnace of affliction, ver. 10. From hence it evidently appears, that men are not naturally inclined to comply with the gospel-call; but this is a privilege conferred on them, when, by the Spirit, it is made effectual to their salvation.

Objec. It is objected, to what has been said concerning persons being dead in sin, before they are effectually called; that that is no other than a metaphorical expression; and therefore the sense thereof is not to be strained so far as to suppose from hence, that they are altogether without a power to do that which is spiritually good.

30Answ. When the state of men, before they are effectually called, is styled, a death in sin, which is a metaphorical expression, we must suppose, that there is a sense affixed to it, which, in some respects, is adapted to those ideas that we have of the word. If scripture-metaphors prove nothing, because the words are transferred from their literal sense to some other that is intended thereby, we shall be at the greatest loss to understand many important doctrines contained in the sacred writings, which abound very much with such modes of speaking. We do not suppose the metaphor to be extended so far, as that a person, dead in sin, is incapable of acting, as though he was a stock or a stone, the contrary to which is evident, from what has been before said concerning the power which they, who are in an unregenerate state, have of doing things materially good; but we are now considering men as unable to do what is good in all its circumstances, which may render their actions the object of the divine approbation, as agreeable to God’s revealed will; and this, we suppose, an unregenerate person is as unable to do, as a dead man is to put forth living actions; and the reason is, because he is destitute of a supernatural principle of spiritual life. Scripture and experience, not only evince the weakness, blindness, and disinclination of such, to what is good, but their averseness to it: So that whatever we do, either in the beginning or progress of the life of faith, must proceed from a renewed nature, or a supernatural principle implanted in the soul; which is sometimes called, a new heart, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. a divine nature, 2 Pet. i. 4. as well as a quickening, or being raised from the dead. This leads us to consider,

II. The change that is wrought in this effectual calling, together with the grounds we have to conclude, that it is a supernatural work, or, as it is styled in this answer, the work of God’s almighty power and grace. Those whom we more especially oppose in this head of argument, are the Pelagians, and others; who, though in some things they seem to recede from them, yet cannot support their cause without giving into their scheme, when treating on the subjects of free-will, nature and grace: these all allow that there is a change made in conversion or effectual calling; but they suppose that it is a change in man’s natural temper and disposition, rather than what arises from a supernatural principle, which, according to them, consists in overcoming those habits of sin, which we have contracted, and acquiring habits of virtue, a ceasing to do evil, and learning to do well; and that it is in their own power supposing the concurrence of God as a God of nature, or at least, some superadded assistances, from the external dispensations of providence, which have an influence on the minds of men, 31to produce this change; by this means they think that grace is first attained, and we disposed to comply with the external call of the gospel, whereby it is rendered effectual.

They sometimes indeed, use the word conversion, and speak of the power and grace of God herein; and that they may not seem to detract from the glory thereof, they profess themselves to adore and magnify God as the author of this work; but all this amounts to no more than nature acting under the influence of common providence. Something, indeed, they ascribe to God; but much less than what we think the scripture does.

That which they ascribe to him therein, is,

1. That he has made man an intelligent creature, having a power capable of choosing whatever seems advantageous, or refusing what appears to be destructive to him; and in order hereunto, he is able to discern, what is his duty and interest; and when the will duly attends to these dictates of the understanding, it has a power inclining it to be influenced thereby, and embrace whatever overtures are made conducive to his future happiness.

2. Whereas the understanding and reasoning powers and faculties, are oftentimes impaired and hindered, in their method of acting, by some accidental inconveniences of nature, such as the temperament of the body, or those diseases which it is sometimes liable to, which affect the mind; these God, by his powerful providence, removes, or fences against, that the work may go on successfully.

3. Sometimes our outward circumstances in the world, give a different turn to our passions, and hinder us from entertaining any inclinations to religion; therefore, they suppose, that there is a farther hand of providence in ordering the various changes or conditions of life, as to what concerns the prosperous or adverse circumstances thereof, whereby a sanguine temper is changed to that which has more of a melancholy or thoughtful disposition in it, more inclined to be afraid of those sins that are like to be prejudicial to him; an angry and choleric temper, changed to another that has a greater mixture of meekness and humility; and whatever hinderance may arise from his conversing with those who tempt him to lay aside all thoughts about religion, or by loading it with reproach, to make him ashamed to pretend to it, the providence of God so orders circumstances and things, as to make them unacceptable to him, or him disinclined to converse with them: by this means there arises a congruity, as they call it, between men’s natural dispositions and that grace which they are called, by the gospel, to exert, when they are persuaded to comply with it, without which the overture would be in vain.

4. Providence farther performs its part, by over-ruling some 32concurring circumstances external to, and thought of, by him, in casting his lot among those who are able and desirous to persuade him to alter his sentiments, in matters of religion whose industry and zeal for his good, accompanied with their skilfulness in managing those persuasive arguments used to convince him, have a great tendency to prevail upon him; hereby he is persuaded to give the hearing to that which before he despised, and made the subject of ridicule; and sometimes the motives and inducements that are used, accompanied with the pathetic way of address, in those whose ministry he attends on, is very conducive to answer the end attained thereby, namely, his conviction and altering his conduct of life, pursuant thereunto; all which is under the unforeseen direction of providence.

5. They add, that there is a kind of internal work in exciting the passions, by a general influence upon them, leaving it, notwithstanding, in man’s power to determine them, with respect to their proper objects; and as for the will, that still remains free and unbiassed; but by this moral suasion, or these rational arguments, it is prevailed upon to comply with that which is for its advantage. According to this method of accounting for the work of conversion, what they attribute to the grace of God, is nothing more than what is the result of common providence; and it is supposed to act no otherwise than in an objective way; and that which gives the turn to all is, the influence of moral suasion, whereby men are prevailed on; but in all these respects, they are only beholden to God, as the God of nature: and when this is called, by them, a display of divine grace, nature and grace, in this matter, are made to signify the same thing, without scripture warrant.

Moreover, since, it is plain, all this may be done, and yet persons remain in an unconverted state, and the gospel-call be ineffectual, they suppose there is something to be performed on man’s part, which gives a sanction to, and completes the work: accordingly he must rightly use and improve the power of reasoning, which God has given him, by diligently observing and attending to his law; and he must persuade himself, that it is highly reasonable to obey it; and must also duly weigh the consequence of his compliance or refusal, and endeavour to affect himself with the consideration of promised rewards and punishments, to excite his diligence, or awaken his fears; and must make use of those motives that are proper to induce him to lead a virtuous life; and when he is brought to conclude this most eligible, then he must add hereunto, the force of the strongest resolutions, to avoid occasions of sin, perform several necessary duties, and associate himself with those whose conversation and example may induce him to be virtuous; he must attend 33on the word preached, with intenseness of thought, and a disposition to adhere, with the greatest impartiality, to what is recommended to him therein, as conducive to his future happiness: by this means he is persuaded; and from thence proceed those acts of grace, which afterwards, by being frequently repeated, arrive to a habit, which, if it be not lost by negligence, stupidity, and impenitency, or adhering to the temptations of Satan, being brought into a state of conversion, he is in a fair way to heaven, which, notwithstanding this, he may of by apostasy, since the work is to be carried on by him, as it was at first begun, by his own conduct.

This account of effectual calling or conversion, supposes it to be little more than a work of common providence; and all the grace they seem to own, is nothing more than nature exerting itself under the conduct of those reasoning powers which God has given it. None pretend to deny that our reasoning powers are herein to be exerted and improved; or that those arguments, which tend to give conviction, and motives to enforce obedience, must be duly attended to: neither do we deny that there is a kind hand of providence seen in over-ruling our natural tempers and dispositions, in giving a check to that corruption that is prevalent in us; and in rendering our condition of life, some way or other conducive to a farther work, which God designs to bring about. We also assert, that providence greatly favours us in bringing us under the means of grace, or casting our lot in such places where we have the advantages of the conversation and example of others, who are burning and shining lights in their generation; nor is it less seen in adapting a suitable word to our condition, or in raising our affections, while attending to it: but all this falls very short of effectual calling, as it is a display of God’s power and grace. This work is no more than natural; whereas conversion is a supernatural work. Hitherto we may be led by common grace; but effectual calling is a work of special grace; the effect of this is only a change of life: but we assert, and have scripture ground for it, that there is in that a change of heart. This scheme supposes the very principle and spring of grace to be acquired by man’s improving his natural powers, under the conduct of God’s providence: whereas, we suppose, and shall endeavour to prove, under a following head, that it is not acquired, but infused, and is the effect of divine power. This supposes the work to be brought about by moral suasion; and that the understanding, taking in the arguments that are made use of in an objective way, the will is induced to compliance, by choosing that which is good, and refusing that which is evil: whereas, we assert, that the will of man is bowed and 34subjected to Christ, its enmity overcome; and accordingly we are said to be made willing in the day of his power.

But since that which bears the greatest share in this work, according to them, is the will and power of man, determining itself, by proper motives and arguments, to what is good; which supposes, that it acts freely therein. This may give us occasion to consider the nature of human liberty; we do not deny, in general, that man is endowed with a free will, which exerts itself in things of a lower nature, to that which we are speaking of, for this is as evident, as that he is endowed with an understanding: we shall therefore, in speaking concerning the liberty of the will of man, (1.) Consider what are the essential properties of liberty,[8] without which, an action would cease to be free. And, (2.) How far the power of man’s free-will may be extended, with a particular view to the matter, under our present consideration.

1. Concerning the nature and essential properties of human liberty. They, whose sentiments of free-will and grace we are opposing, suppose that it is essential to a free action, or otherwise it could not be denominated free, that it be performed with indifferency, that is, that the will of man should be so equally poised, that as it determines itself to one extreme, it might as well have determined itself to the other: therefore, he that loves God freely, might, by a determination of his will, as well have inclined himself to hate him; and on the other hand, he that hates God, might, by an act of his will, have determined himself to love him: the balance is supposed to be equal, and it is the method that the person uses to determine his will, that gives a turn to it. And from hence they infer, that they who persevere in grace, which they do freely, may, for the same reason, apostatize; yea, they proceed farther, at least some of them, who have maintained, that our Saviour might have sinned, and consequently the work of our redemption have miscarried in his hands; because, according to this notion of liberty, he acted freely in all those exercises of grace; which, we suppose, were no less free, because they were necessary; and also, from this account they give of liberty, they infer that the angels and glorified saints might sin, and so lose that state of blessedness, which they are possessed of; otherwise their obedience is not free; which absurdities are so apparently gross, that they who duly weigh them, will not easily give into this notion of liberty. And there is another absurdity, which the Pelagians dare not assert; for it would be the greatest blasphemy that could be contained in words, though it equally flows from this method of explaining the nature of liberty; that either God must not act freely, or else he might 35act the contrary, with respect to those things in which he acts, like himself, as a God of infinite perfection; and accordingly, if he loves or delights in himself freely, or designs his own glory, as the highest end of all that he does, and uses means to bring about those ends which are most conducive thereunto; wherein his holiness, wisdom, justice, and faithfulness appear, I say, it will follow from their scheme, and I cannot but tremble to mention it, that he might do the contrary; and what is this but to say, that he might cease to be God.

The arguments which they who attempt to support this notion of liberty, insist on, are taken from the ideas which we generally have of a person’s acting freely; as for instance, if a man performs any of the common actions of life, such as walking, sitting, standing, reading, writing, &c. freely, he may do the contrary.

But to this I answer, That there is a vast difference between asserting, that many of the actions of life are arbitrary or indifferent, so that we might do the contrary; and saying that indifferency is essential to liberty; for that which is essential to an action must belong to every individual action of the same kind.[9] Thus concerning their notion of liberty, whom we oppose.

But on the other hand, that which we acquiesce in, is, that its essential property or nature, consists in a person’s doing a thing without being laid under a natural necessity to do it;[10] or doing it of his own accord, without any force laid on him.[11] Others express it by a person’s doing a thing out of choice, as having the highest reason to determine him so to do.[12] This is that notion of liberty which we cannot but approve of; and we are now to shew,

(2.) How far the power of man’s free-will may be extended, with a particular view to the matter under our present consideration. Here let it be observed,

1st, That the power of man’s will extends itself to things, within its own sphere, and not above it; all actions and powers of acting, are contained within certain limits, agreeable to the nature and capacity of the agent. Creatures below man, 36cannot put forth rational actions: and man cannot put forth supernatural actions, if he be not made partaker of a divine or spiritual nature, as being endowed with a supernatural principle, such as that which is implanted in regeneration. Consider him as an intelligent creature, and it is agreeable to his nature to put forth free actions, under the conduct and direction of the understanding; but if we consider him as renewed, converted, or effectually called, and acting agreeably thereunto, then he is under the influence of an higher principle, which I call a divine nature, according to the phrase which the apostle uses, 2 Pet. i. 4. The former of these supposes no more than the concourse of common providence, which at first gave, and then maintains our reasoning faculties; whereas the latter supposes, that we are under the influence of the Spirit; whereby we are enabled to act in a supernatural way, our natures being renewed and disposed thereunto, in which we are not divested of the liberty of our wills; but they are improved and enabled, to do what before they were averse and disinclined to.

That man acts freely in those things which are agreeable to his nature, as an intelligent creature, all will allow. Moreover, we consider the understanding and will, as both concurring in actions that are free, and that one of these is subservient to the other; as for instance, we cannot be said to desire, delight in, choose, or refuse a thing unless we have some idea of it, as an object, which we apprehend meet to be desired or rejected.

And if it be farther enquired, Whether the will has, in itself, a power to follow the dictates of the understanding, in things that are agreeable to our nature, and be generally disposed to do it, unless biassed by the passions, inclining and determining it another way? This, I think, is not to be denied; but in our present argument, we are to consider the will of man as conversant about things supernatural, and accordingly, must give a different account of Christian liberty, from that which is merely human, as before described. The Pelagians will allow what has been said concerning the nature of liberty in general; but the difference between us and them is, that we confine it within its own sphere; whereas they extend it farther, and apply it to regeneration, effectual calling, and conversion; in which respect it discovers itself no otherwise than as enslaved to, or a servant of sin;[13] and the powers and faculties of the soul, with relation hereunto, are weakened by the prevalency of corruption, so that we are not able to put forth those actions which proceed from, and determine a person to be renewed in the spirit of his mind; or to have put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Again, if it be farther enquired; whether the will necessarily 37follows the dictates of the understanding, so that the grace of God takes its first rise from thence? that which I would say in answer thereunto is, That the understanding, indeed, represents things spiritual and heavenly to us, as good and desirable, and worthy of all acceptation; and gives us an undeniable conviction, that all the motives used in scripture, to choose and embrace them, are highly probable; but yet it does not follow from hence, that the will of man is always overcome thereby;[14] and the reason is, because of that strong propensity and inclination that there is in corrupt nature to sin, which bids defiance to all those arguments and persuasions that are used to the contrary, till we are brought under the influence of a supernatural principle, implanted in the soul in effectual calling.

And this leads us farther to enquire: Whether, supposing a man has this principle implanted in effectual calling, he then acts freely; or, what is the liberty of man’s will, when internally moved and influenced by divine grace? In answer to which, we must consider, that special grace does not destroy, but improve the liberty of man’s will: when there is a new nature implanted in him, it discovers its energy, and makes a change in all the powers and faculties of the soul; there is a new light shining in the understanding, vastly different from, and superior to that which it had before; and it may truly be called, The light of life, John viii. 12. not only as it leads to eternal life; but as it proceeds from a principle of spiritual life: and this is what we generally call saving knowledge; as it is said, This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent, chap. xvii. 13. Now this light in the understanding, being attended with power in the will, it is hereby induced to comply with its dictates, not barely as being prevailed on by rational arguments, but as there is a divine power accompanying them; it is not indeed prevailed on without arguments; for the Spirit makes use of the word to persuade, as well as to direct; though we do not, with the Pelagians, say, that the will is overcome only by arguments, 38as though the victory was owing to our power of reasoning; yet we freely own, that we act with judgment, and see the highest reason for what we do: we are enabled to use our reasoning powers indeed; but these are sanctified by the Spirit, as well as the will renewed; and both concur together, in order to our receiving and improving the doctrines contained in the gospel; and the Spirit of God also removes those rooted prejudices which we had entertained against the way of salvation by Christ: so that upon the whole, the gospel has its use, as it directs and excites our faith: our reasoning powers and faculties have their use also, as we take in, and are convinced, by what is therein contained; all this would be to no purpose, if there were not a superior power determining the will to a thorough compliance therewith. We do not deny that moral suasion oftentimes has a tendency to incline a man to the performance of moral duties; but it is what I rather choose to call evangelical persuasion, or the Spirit of God setting home upon the heart and conscience, what is contained in the gospel, that makes it effectual to salvation.[15] Thus concerning the nature 39and extent of human liberty; but inasmuch as this is not to be assigned as that which renders the gospel-call effectual, let it be farther considered,

III. That this is brought about by the almighty power of God, as it is observed in this answer, that it is a work of God’s almighty power and grace: this is that which enhances the excellency and glory of it, above all the works of common providence: however, when we say that it is a divine work, this is hardly sufficient to distinguish it from what the Pelagians often call it, by which they intend nothing more, than the powerful work of God, as the God of nature and providence; therefore we must farther consider it as a work of divine power, exerting itself in a supernatural way and not only excluding the agency of creatures, as bearing a part therein, but as opposed to those works which are brought about by the moral influence of persuasive arguments, without any change wrought in the will of man; in this sense we understand effectual calling to be a work of God’s almighty power.

And that this may appear, let it be premised, that it is not inconsistent with God’s dealing with men as intelligent creatures, endowed with liberty of will, for him to exert this power, since special providence, or efficacious grace, does no more destroy man’s natural powers, by its internal influence, enabling and exciting them to do what is supernaturally good, than common providence’s being conversant about the free actions of men, makes them cease to be free; only the former exerts itself in a different and superior way, producing effects much more glorious and excellent.

This being supposed, we shall, without pretending fully to explain the manner of the divine agency, which is principally known by its effects, endeavour to shew,

1. That effectual calling is, in a way of eminency, the work of divine power as distinguished from other works, which are, in their kind, the effects of power in a natural way.

2. We shall also observe what effects are produced thereby, and in what order.

3. Consider it, as it is, in a peculiar manner, attributed to the Spirit of God; and also shew, that it is a wonderful instance of his grace.

404. We shall consider this divine power as irresistible, and consequently such as cannot but be effectual to produce what is designed to be brought about thereby. And,

5. Speak something concerning the season in which this is done, which is called God’s accepted time.

1. Effectual calling is eminently a work of divine power; for the proof hereof, we have not only many express texts of scripture that sufficiently establish it, but we may appeal to the experience of those who are made partakers of this grace. If they compare their former and present state together, they may easily perceive in themselves, that there is such a change wrought in them, as is contrary to the inclinations of corrupt nature; whereby the stubbornness and obstinacy of their wills have been subdued, and such effects produced in them, as they never experienced before; and the manner of their production, as well as the consequences thereof, give them a proof of the agency of God herein, and the glory of his power exerted, so that they who deny it must be unacquainted with themselves, or not duly observe that which carries its own evidence with it.[16]

41But we shall principally take our proofs from scripture, in which we have an account of the beginning of this work, which is styled the new birth; wherein we are said to be made partakers of the divine nature, 2 Pet. i. 4. that is, a nature that is produced by divine power; and we are said to be born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, John i. 13. And the gospel, which is the instrument that he makes use of in calling effectually, is styled, The rod of his strength, Psal. cx. 2. the effect thereof, ascribed to the revelation of his arm, Isa. liii. 1. the season in which this is done, is called, The day of his power, Psal. cx. 3. and it is, by a metonymy, called, His power, 1 Cor. i. 18. Rom. i. 16. The cross of Christ is also, when preached, and made effectual for the answering this valuable end, styled, The power of God, 1 Cor. i. 24. Moreover, the progress of this work is ascribed to the power of God, 1 Thess. i. 5. it is this that keeps those who are effectually called through faith unto salvation, 1 Pet. i. 5. And that this power may appear to be extraordinary, the apostle uses an uncommon emphasis of expression, when he calls it, The exceeding greatness of his power, and, the working of his mighty power, Eph. i. 19, 20. which words[17] can hardly be translated without losing something of their force and beauty; and, indeed, there is not an expression used in scripture, to signify the efficacy of divine power, that exceeds, or, I may say, that equals them. And that it may appear more strong, the apostle, in the following words, represents it as being no less than that power which wrought in Christ, when God raised him from the dead.

And to all this let me add, that something to the same purpose may be inferred from those metaphorical expressions, by which it is set forth, as it is called a creation: thus, when we are made partakers of this privilege, we are said to be created in righteousness and true holiness, Eph. iv. 24. And the apostle seems to compare this with the creation of man at first, after the image of God, which consisted principally in righteousness 42and true holiness, and accordingly considers this image as restored, when a principle of grace is implanted, whereby we are again disposed to the exercise of righteousness and holiness: and elsewhere he says, We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, that we should walk in them, chap. ii. 16. where he supposes, that this creating power must be exerted before we can put forth good works; and therefore it can be nothing less than the power of God; and it would not have been styled a creation, if it had not been a supernatural work, and therefore it is, in that respect, more glorious than many other effects of the divine power.

It is also styled, a resurrection from the dead: thus the apostle says, You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins, chap. ii. 1, 5. in this respect it certainly exceeds the power of men. A physician, by his skill, may mend a crazy constitution, or recover it from the confines of death; but, to raise the dead, exceeds the limits of finite power. This mode of speaking our Saviour makes use of to signify the conversion or effectual call of sinners, when he says, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live, John v. 25. He had, in the foregoing verse been speaking of their having eternal life, and not coming into condemnation, and being passed from death to life, who hear his words and believe; and then it follows, that the hour is coming, that is, the time is near at hand, to wit, when the Spirit shall be poured forth, and the gospel-dispensation be begun, and it now is, in some degree, namely, in those who were converted by his ministry, when the dead shall hear his voice and live, or pass from a state of spiritual death to life, as a means for their attaining eternal life. This is much more agreeable to the context, than to conclude, as some do, to evade the force of this argument; that our Saviour speaks concerning some who were then, or should hereafter be raised from the dead, in a miraculous manner; which, they suppose, contains the sense of the words, now is, and that the hour is coming, refers to the general resurrection; but this seems not to be the sense of the text; because our Saviour supposes them, in a following verse, to be astonished at this doctrine; as though it was too great an instance of power for him to implant a principle of spiritual life in dead sinners; and therefore he proves his assertion from his raising the dead at the last day: Marvel not, for the hour is coming, that is, at the end of the world, when all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, John v. 28. This cannot well agree with the sense before given, of Christ’s raising the dead, as referring to the general resurrection; for that would be to answer their objection, or put a stop to their wonder at what he had said concerning it, by 43asserting the same thing in other words; whereas, if you suppose the dead’s hearing his voice, to imply a spiritual resurrection; and the dead raised out of their graves, to be an argument to convince them that his power was sufficient to bring about this great effect; there is much more beauty in the expression, and strength in the reasoning, than to take it otherwise.

This is so plain a proof of the argument, we are endeavouring to defend, that nothing farther need be added: however, I cannot but mention another scripture, in which our Saviour says, that no one can come to him, except the Father draw him, chap. vi. 44. where Christ, by coming to him, does not mean attending on his ministry, which did not require any power to induce them to it; but believing on him, so as to have everlasting life, in which sense, coming to him, is often taken in the gospels, ver. 47. and this is the immediate consequence of effectual calling. Now when our Saviour says, that none can thus come to him, without being drawn by the Father, we may understand what he means here, by what is said in a following verse, namely, their being taught of God, and having heard and learned of the Father, ver. 45. such, says he, Come unto me. Now this teaching certainly implies more than giving a rule of faith contained in divine revelation, for Christ is not here proving the necessity of divine revelation, as elsewhere; but is speaking concerning the saving efficacy thereof; and none can deny that many have been objectively taught, and instructed by the word, who have not come to Christ, or believed in him to everlasting life: the words are a quotation from the prophets, to which he refers; who intimate, that they should be all taught of God; which certainly implies more than an objective teaching and instructing; for in this sense, they, having divine revelation, were always taught of God: and it is a special privilege, which the prophet Isaiah mentions, when he foretels this matter, as appears by his connecting it with that great peace which they should have, or the confluence of saving blessings, which should attend it, Isa. liv. 13. And the prophet Jeremiah, who speaks to the same purpose, says, They shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord; for they shall all know me from the least of them, even to the greatest, Jer. xxxi. 33, 34. that is, they shall not only have an objective revelation, or that which some call moral suasion; but this shall be made effectual to their salvation; and in order thereunto, God promises that he would put his law in the inward part, and write it in the heart; and elsewhere, to give them a new heart, and to put a new spirit within them, and hereby to cause them to walk in his statutes, Ezek. xxxvi. 26. So that it is not barely a rectifying some 44mistakes which they were liable to; but producing in them something, which they had not before; not building upon the old foundation, but laying a new one, and so working a change in the powers and faculties of the soul; and as they were before, obdurate and hardened in sin, he promises to take away the heart of stone, and give them an heart of flesh; and by his word, which is compared to an hammer, to break the rock in pieces, Jer. xxiii. 29. This is certainly a work of power; but that it is so, will farther appear from what follows, in considering the work itself; which leads us to shew,

2. What effects are produced by the power of God, when we are thus called.

(1.) The first step that he is pleased to take in this work, is in his implanting a principle of spiritual life and grace, which is absolutely necessary for our attaining to, or receiving advantage by the external call of the gospel; this is generally styled regeneration, or the new birth; or, as in the scripture but now referred to, a new heart.

If it be enquired, What we are to understand by this principle? We answer, that since principles are only known by the effects which they produce; springs of acting, by the actions themselves, we must be content with this description; that it is something wrought in the heart of man, whereby he is habitually and prevailingly biassed and inclined to what is good: so that by virtue hereof, he freely, readily, and willingly chooses those things which tend to the glory of God; and refuses, abhors, and flees from what is contrary thereunto; and, as this more immediately affects the understanding, whereby it is enabled to discern the things which God reveals in the gospel in a spiritual way, it is styled, his shining in the heart, 2 Cor. iv. 6. to give us the light of the knowledge of his glory, or, his giving an eye to see, and an ear to hear, Deut. xxix. 4. As it respects the will, it contains in it a power, whereby it is disposed and enabled to yield the obedience of faith, to whatever God is pleased to reveal to us as a rule of duty, so that we are made willing in the day of his power; and, as it respects the affections, they are all inclined to run in a right channel, to desire, delight and rejoice in every thing that is pleasing to God, and flee from every thing that is provoking to him. This is that whereby a dead sinner is made alive, and so enabled to put forth living actions.

Concerning this principle of grace let it be observed, that it is infused and not acquired. The first principle or spring of good actions, may, with equal reason, be supposed to be infused into us, as Christians, as it is undoubtedly true, that the principle of reasoning is infused into us as men: none ever supposed that the natural power of reasoning may be acquired, 45though a greater facility or degree thereof is gradually attained; so that power, whereby we are enabled to put forth supernatural acts of grace, must be supposed to be implanted in us; which, were it acquired, we could not, properly speaking, be said to be born of God.

From hence I am obliged to infer, that the regenerating act, or implanting this principle[18] of grace, which is, at least, in order of nature, antecedent to any act of grace, put forth by us, is the immediate effect of the power of God, which none who speak of regeneration as a divine work, pretend to deny: 46and therefore, I cannot but conclude, that it is wrought in us without the instrumentality of the word, or any of the ordinary means of grace: my reason for it is this; because it is necessary, from the nature of the thing, to our receiving, improving, or reaping any saving advantage by the word, that the Spirit should produce the principle of faith; and to say, that this is done by the word, is in effect, to assert that the word produces the principle, and the principle gives efficacy to the word; which seems to me little less than arguing in a circle. The word cannot profit, unless it be mixed with faith; and faith cannot be put forth, unless it proceeds from a principle of grace implanted; therefore this principle of grace is not produced by it: we may as well suppose, that the presenting a beautiful picture before a man that is blind, can enable him to see; or the violent motion of a withered hand, produce strength for action, as we can suppose that the presenting the word in an objective way, is the instrument whereby God produces that internal principle, by which we are enabled to embrace it. Neither would this so well agree with the idea of its being a new creature, or our being created unto good works; for then it ought rather to be said, we are created by faith, which is a good work: this is, in effect, to say, that the principle of grace is produced by the instrumentality of that which supposes its being implanted, and is the result and consequence thereof.

I am sorry that I am obliged, in this assertion, to appear, at least, to oppose what has been maintained by many divines of great worth; who have, in all other respects, explained the doctrine of regeneration, agreeably to the mind and will of God, and the analogy of faith.[19] It may be, the principal difference between this explication and theirs is, that they speak of regeneration in a large sense, as including in it, not barely the implanting the principle, but the exciting it, and do not sufficiently distinguish between the principle, as implanted and deduced into act; for, I readily own, that the latter is by the instrumentality of the word, though I cannot think the former so; or, it may be, they consider the principle as exerted: whereas I consider it as created, or wrought in us; and therefore can no more conclude, that the new creation is wrought by an instrument, than I can, that the first creation of all things was.

And I am ready to conjecture, that that which leads many divines into this way of thinking, is the sense in which they understand the words of the apostle; Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever, 1 Pet. i. 23. and elsewhere, Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be 47a kind of first-fruits of his creatures, James i. 16. Whereas this does not so much respect the implanting the principle of grace, as it does our being enabled to act from that principle; and it is as though he should say, he hath made us believers, or induced us to love and obey Him by the word of truth, which supposes a principle of grace to have been implanted: otherwise the word of truth would never have produced these effects. Regeneration may be taken, not only for our being made alive to God, or created unto good works, but for our putting forth living actions, proceeding from that principle which is implanted in the soul. I am far from denying, that faith, and all other graces, are wrought in us by the instrumentality of the word; and it is in this sense that some, who treat on this subject, explain their sentiments, when they speak of being born again by the word: therefore I persuade myself, that I differ from them only in the acceptation of words, and not in the main substance of the doctrine they maintain.[20]

(2.) The principle of grace being implanted, the acts of grace in those who are adult, immediately ensue; which implies a change of our behaviour, a renovation of our lives and actions; which may properly be called conversion.

Having explained what we mean by regeneration, under our last head, it is necessary, in this, to consider how it differs from conversion; in which I shall take leave to transcribe a few passages from that excellent divine, but now mentioned. “Regeneration is a spiritual change; conversion is a spiritual motion; in regeneration there is a power conferred; conversion is the exercise of this power; in regeneration there is given us a principle to turn; conversion is our actual turning: in the covenant, the new heart, and God’s putting the Spirit into them, is distinguished from their walking in his statutes, from the first step we take, in the way of God, and is set down as the cause of our motion: in renewing us, God gives us a power; in converting us, he excites that power. Men are naturally dead, and have a stone upon them; regeneration is a rolling away the stone from the heart, and a raising to newness of life; and then conversion is as natural to a regenerate man, as motion is to a lively body: a principle of activity will produce action. The first reviving us is wholly the act of God, without any concurrence of the creature; but, after we are revived, we do actively and voluntarily live in his sight. Regeneration 48is the motion of God in the creature; conversion is the motion of the creature to God, by virtue of that first principle; from this principle all the acts of believing, repenting, mortifying, quickening, do spring. In all these a man is active; in the other, he is merely passive.”[21] This is what we may call the second step, which God takes in effectual calling; and it is brought about by the instrumentality of the word. The word before this, was preached to little or no purpose; or, it may be, was despised, rejected, and disregarded; but now a man is enabled to see a beauty, and a glory in it, all the powers and faculties of the soul, being under the influence of that spiritual life implanted in regeneration, and inclined to yield a ready and cheerful obedience to it; and this work is gradual and progressive; and as such, it is called the work of sanctification; of which more under a following answer,[22] and is attended with repentance unto life, and all other graces that accompany salvation; and in this respect we are drawn to Christ by his word and Spirit, or by his Spirit making use of his word, our minds savingly enlightened, our wills renewed, and determined to what is good, so that hereby we are made willing and able freely to answer the call of God, and to accept of, and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein; as it is expressed in the answer we are explaining.

The first thing in which that change, which is wrought in effectual calling, manifests itself is, in our understandings’ being enlightened to receive the truths revealed to us in the word of God; and accordingly we see things with a new and different light; behold a greater beauty, excellency and glory in divine things, than ever we did before: we are also led into ourselves, and convinced of sin and misery, concluding ourselves, by nature, to be in a lost and undone condition; and then the soul sees the glory of Christ, the greatness of his love, who came to seek and save those that were lost, who is now precious to him, as he is said to be to them that believe; and pursuant hereunto the will, being determined, or enabled so to do, by the Spirit of God exciting the principle of grace, which he had implanted, accepts of him on his own terms; the affections all centre in, and desire to derive all spiritual blessings from him; Thus the work of grace is begun in effectual calling, which is afterwards carried on in sanctification.

And inasmuch as we are considering the beginning of the work of grace in effectual calling, I cannot but take notice of a question, which frequently occurs under this head, namely, Whether man, in the first moment thereof, viz. in regeneration, be merely passive, though active in every thing that follows after it? This we cannot but affirm, not only against the 49Pelagians, but others, whose method of treating the doctrine of divine grace, seems to agree with theirs. And here, that we may obviate a popular objection, usually brought against our assertion, as though hereby we argued, that God dealt with men as though they were machines, and not endowed with understanding or will let it be observed; that we consider the subjects of this grace no otherwise than as intelligent creatures, capable of being externally excited and disposed to what is good; or else God would never work this principle in them. Nor do we suppose, however men are said to be passive in the first moment in which this principle is implanted, that they are so afterwards, but are enabled to act under the divine influence; even as when the soul of Adam was created at first, it could not be said to be active in its own creation, and in the implanting those powers which were concreate with it; yet it was active, or those powers exerted themselves immediately after it was created. This is the state of the question we are now debating; and therefore we cannot but maintain, that men do not concur to the implanting the principle of grace; for then they would be active in being created unto good works; which are the result, and not the cause of that power which is infused into them, in order thereunto.

This is sufficiently evident, not only from the impotency of corrupt nature, as to what is good, but its utter averseness thereunto, and from the work’s being truly and properly divine; or (as has been before observed) the effect of almighty power. This is not a controversy of late date; but has been either defended or opposed, ever since Augustine’s and Pelagius’s time. Many volumes have been written concerning the aids and assistances of divine grace in the work of conversion. The School-men were divided in their sentiments about it, as they adhered to, or receded from Augustine’s doctrine: both sides seem to allow that the grace of God affords some assistance hereunto; but the main thing in debate, is, Whether the grace of God only bears one part in this work, and the will of man the other; like two persons lifting at the same burden, and carrying it between them. Some have allowed the divine concourse as necessary hereunto, who yet have not been willing to own that man bears no part in this work; or, that it is God that works in us, both to will and to do of his own good pleasure, Phil. ii. 13. which, the apostle asserts in so plain terms, that the most known sense thereof, cannot well be evaded; and, indeed, were it otherwise, it could hardly be said, that we are not sufficient of ourselves, to think any thing as of ourselves; which, though it be immediately applied to ministers, is certainly, by a parity of reason, applicable to all Christians, 2 Cor. iii. 5. nor would it be, in all respects, true, that we are born of 50God; or, that we, who before were dead in sin, are raised to a spiritual life, or made, with respect to the principle of spiritual actions, new creatures; all which is done in regeneration.[23]

We might also take occasion, under this head, to observe, what we often meet with in practical discourses and sermons, concerning preparatory works, or previous dispositions, which facilitate and lead to the work of conversion. Some assert, that we must do what we can, and by using our reasoning powers and faculties, endeavour to convert, or turn ourselves, and then God will do the rest, or finish the work which we have begun: and here many things are often considered as the steps which men may take in the reformation of their lives, the abstaining from gross enormities, which they may have been guilty of, 51thinking on their ways, and observing the tendency of their present course of life, and setting before themselves those proper arguments that may induce them to repent and believe; and then they may be said to have prepared themselves for the grace of God, so that it will ensue hereupon. And if there be any thing remaining, which is out of their power, God has engaged to succeed their endeavours, so that he will bring them into a state of regeneration and conversion.

This method of accounting for the work of grace, is liable to many exceptions, particularly as it supposes man to be the first mover in his own conversion, and the divine energy to be dependent upon our conduct; the contrary to which, is not only agreeable to scripture, but the divine perfections; as well as to the doctrine we have been maintaining, concerning effectual calling’s, being a divine work in the most proper sense thereof. But that we may impartially consider this matter, and set, what some call a preparatory work, in a just light, let it be observed,

1. That these preparatory works must either be considered as good in all those circumstances that are necessary to denominate them good, and particularly they must proceed from a good principle, that is to say, a principle of regeneration; or else they are only such works as are materially good, such many perform who are never brought into a state of conversion; or if, on the other hand, they are supposed to proceed from such a principle, then they are not, from the nature of the thing, works preparatory to the first grace, but rather consequent upon it.

2. It is one thing for us to assert, that it is our duty to perform all those works which some call preparatory, for conversion; such as meditation, attendance on the ordinances, duly weighing those arguments, or motives, that should lead us to repentance, and the exercise of all other graces; and another thing to say, that every one who performs these duties, shall certainly have regenerating grace; or, it is one thing to apply ourselves to the performance of those duties, as far as it is in our own power, and, at the same time, to wait, pray, and hope for success to attend them; and another thing to assert, that it shall always attend them, as though God had laid himself under an obligation to give special grace to those, who, in this respect, improve that which is common, the contrary whereunto may be observed in many instances. And when we have done all, we must conclude, that the grace of God, if he is pleased to give success to our endeavours, is free and sovereign.

3. They who say, That if we do all we can, God will do the rest, advance very little to support their argument, since there is no one who can pretend that he has done what he could: and may we not farther suppose, that God, in a judicial way, 52as punishing us for the many sins we commit, may deny this success: therefore, how can it be said, that it will necessarily ensue.

4. When we perform any of those duties, which some call preparatory to conversion, these are to be considered as the Spirit’s preparing his own way thereby, rather than corrupt nature’s preparing itself for grace. We are far from denying that there is a beautiful order in the divine dispensations; the Spirit of God first convinces of sin, and then shews the convinced sinner where his help is to be had; and enables him to close with Christ by faith. He first shews the soul its own corruption and nothingness, and then leads him to see Christ’s fulness; or that all his salvation is reposed in his hands, and enables him to believe in him to the saving the soul; one of these works, indeed, prepares the way for the other: nevertheless, none of them can be said to prepare the way for regeneration, which is the work of the Spirit of God; and without it, no other can be said to be a saving work.

Object. It is objected, that there are several scriptures which seem to speak of common grace, as being preparatory for special. Thus the scribe, mentioned in the gospel, who expressed himself discreetly, in asserting, that to love God with all the heart, and with all the understanding, soul, and strength; and to love our neighbour as ourselves, is better than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices, is said not to be far from the kingdom of God, Mark xii. 34. And elsewhere, we are exhorted to ask, and a promise is annexed thereunto, that it shall be given us, to seek and we shall find, Matt. vii. 7. And in another place, to turn at God’s reproof and he will pour out his Spirit unto us, and make known his words unto us, Prov. i. 25. And several other scriptures, in which super-added grace is connected with duty enjoined, which duty is supposed to be in our own power, and to be preparatory for it.

Answ. (1.) As to the first of these scriptures, in which our Saviour tells the scribe, that he was not far from the kingdom of God; he intends nothing else hereby, but that the profession he made, which he calls, his answering discreetly, was not very remote from that which was made by them, who were the subjects of his kingdom: it was the doctrine he mentions, that Christ commends; and therefore it must not be inferred from hence, that he had regard to his state, as though his inward temper of mind, or moral conduct of life, was such as more immediately disposed him for a state of grace, so that he was, at the same time, hovering between a state of unregeneracy and conversion.

(2.) As for that instance, in which persons are supposed to prepare themselves for that grace which God gives in answer 53to prayer, by performing that duty, as though he had obliged himself to give whatever they ask for, relating to their own salvation; this cannot be the sense of the scripture but now mentioned, or any other, to the like purpose; unless it be understood of the prayer of faith, under the influence of the Holy Spirit; but this supposes regenerating grace; and therefore it is foreign to the argument, in which man is considered as preparing himself for the grace of God, and not as expecting farther degrees of grace, upon his being inclined, by the Spirit of God, to seek them.

(3.) As for the other instance in the objection, relating to God’s engaging to give the Spirit, and to make known his words to those that turn at his reproof; this, I conceive, contains in it nothing else but a promise of the Spirit, to carry on the work of grace, in all those in whom it is begun. Though turning, in scripture, be sometimes taken for external reformation, which is in our own power, as it is our indispensable duty; yet, whenever a promise of saving blessings is annexed to it, as in this scripture, it is to be understood as denoting the grace of repentance. And if it be said, that this is God’s gift, and therefore cannot be the subject of an exhortation, it may be replied hereunto; that saving grace is often represented, in scripture, as our act, or duty, in order to the performance whereof we ought to say, as the church is presented speaking, Turn thou me, and I shall be turned, Jer. xxxi. 18. that is, I shall return unto thee with my whole heart, and not feignedly, chap. iii. 10.

The same reply might be given to their sense of several other scriptures brought to maintain the doctrine of preparatory works, performed by us, as necessarily inferring our obtaining the special grace of God. But I shall close this head with a few hints taken from that excellent divine before mentioned. “Man cannot prepare himself for the new birth: he hath, indeed, a subjective capacity for grace, above any other creature in the inferior world; and this is a kind of natural preparation, which other creatures have not; a capacity, in regard of the powers of the soul, though not in respect of the present disposition of them. He hath an understanding to know, and when it is enlightened, to know God’s law; a will to move and run, and when enlarged by grace, to run the ways of God’s commandments; so that he stands in an immediate capacity to receive the life of grace, upon the breath and touch of God, which a stone doth not; for in this it is necessary, that rational faculties should be put as a foundation of spiritual motions. Though the soul be thus capable, as a subject, to receive the grace of God, yet it is not therefore capable, as an agent, to prepare itself for it, or produce 54it. It is capable to receive the truths of God; but, as the heart is stony, it is incapable to receive the impressions of those truths. Though some things, which man may do by common grace, may be said to be preparations, yet they are not formally so; as that there is an absolute, causal connexion between such preparations, and regeneration; they are not disposing causes of grace: grace is all in a way of reception by the soul, not of action from the soul: the highest morality in the world is not necessary to the first infusion of the divine nature: if there were any thing in the subject that was the cause of it, the tenderest, and softest dispositions would be wrought upon; and the most intelligent men would soonest receive the gospel. Though we see them sometimes renewed, yet many times the roughest tempers are seized upon by grace. Though morality seems to set men at a greater nearness to the kingdom of God, yet, with all its own strength it cannot bring it into the heart, unless the Spirit open the lock: yea, sometimes it sets a man farther from the kingdom of God, as being a great enemy to the righteousness of the gospel, both imputed and inherent; and other operations upon the soul, which seem to be nearer preparations; such as convictions, &c. do not infer grace; for the heart, as a field, may be ploughed by terrors, and yet not planted with any good seed; planting and watering are preparations, but not the cause of fruit; the increase depends upon God:”[24] thus this learned author. And he also farther proves, that there is no obligation on God, by any thing that may look like a preparation in men; and adds, that if any preparations were our own, and were pure, which they are not: yet they cannot oblige God to give supernatural grace: which leads us,

3. To consider that this work is, in a peculiar manner, attributed to the Spirit of God; the only moving cause whereof, is his grace. That the Spirit is the author of this work, is not to be proved by experience, as the expressions of divine power therein are, but by scripture; and the scripture is very express as to this matter. Thus, when God promises to give a new heart; to take away the heart of stone, and to give an heart of flesh, and to cause his people to walk in his statutes, Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. he would put his Spirit within them; and elsewhere they are said to have purified their souls in obeying the truth, through the Spirit, 1 Pet. i. 22. And our Saviour asserts the necessity of our being born of the Spirit, John iii. 5. in order to our entering into the kingdom of God: so that from these, and several other scriptures, that might be referred to, 55it appears, that effectual calling is the internal powerful work of the Holy Ghost.[25]

Obj. 1. It is objected, by some, that this doctrine savours of enthusiasm; since it supposes that there is no difference between the Spirit’s internal influences, and inspiration; and to pretend to this, now the miraculous dispensation, which was in the apostle’s days, is ceased, is vain and enthusiastic.

Answ. To this it may be replied, That the charge of enthusiasm is very unjustly deduced from this doctrine; for we must distinguish between the extraordinary, and the ordinary influence of the Holy Ghost; the former is allowed by all, to be now ceased; and therefore they who pretend to it, are liable to this charge; but it is a very great dishonour cast upon the Holy Ghost to deny his powerful influence or agency in the work of grace; and it renders the condition of the church, at present, in a very material circumstance, so much inferior to what it was of old, that it is incapable of attaining salvation; unless it could be proved that salvation might be attained without the divine energy.

But, that we may farther reply to this objection, let it be considered; that the Spirit’s influence, as subservient to the work of grace, is evidently distinguished from imputation: the latter of these was a peculiar honour which was conferred upon some persons, who were either to transmit to the church a rule of faith, by the immediate dictates of the Holy Ghost; or else they were favoured with it to answer some extraordinary ends, which could not be attained without it, namely, their being furnished with wisdom, as well as courage and boldness, to maintain the cause, which they were not otherwise furnished to defend, against the opposition that it met with from their persecuting and malicious enemies, that so it might not suffer through their weakness; as when our Saviour bids his disciples not to take thought what they should say, when brought before rulers, &c. but promises, that the Spirit should speak in them, Matt. x. 18-20. And in some other particular instances we read, especially in the church at Corinth, that when ministers had not those advantages to qualify themselves to preach the gospel, which they afterwards were favoured with, some had this extraordinary gift, so that they spake by the Spirit; but this was only conferred occasionally, and for some special reasons: and therefore, those scriptures that speak of 56the influences of the Spirit, which were more common, and immediately subservient to the work of grace in the souls of those who were the subjects thereof, were, at that time, the same with them that we are pleading for, which were designed to continue in the church, in all the ages thereof: thus when persons are said, through the Spirit to mortify the deeds of the body, Rom. viii. 13. this does not respect any extraordinary dispensation, which they were then under, since it is the duty of all men, in all ages, without the extraordinary influences of the Spirit, to mortify the deeds of the body; and therefore we may expect this powerful energy as well as they, or else our condition would be very deplorable.

And besides, we never find that extraordinary gifts were immediately subservient to the subduing corruption, or, at least, that every one that had them, did mortify sin, and so appear to be internally sanctified: whereas, this is a character of those who are so; and not to have these influences, determines a person to be in an unregenerate state, or to live after the flesh, which is opposed to it, and so to be liable to death, ver. 12. No one can suppose, the apostle intends, in the foregoing verse, when he says, If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; that if ye are not under inspiration, ye shall die, as living after the flesh: but the method of reasoning is strong and conclusive, if we understand the divine influence as what is distinct from inspiration, and consequently a privilege necessary for the beginning and carrying on the work of grace, and so belongs to believers in all ages.

Again, when the Spirit is said to help our infirmities, ver. 26. in prayer: is not prayer as much a duty now as it was when they had extraordinary gifts? therefore, ought we not to hope for the assistance of the Spirit, in all ages? and consequently the Spirit’s help, in this respect is not confined to that age, when there was a miraculous dispensation, or extraordinary inspiration.

And when it is elsewhere said, As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God, ver. 14. can we suppose, that none were the sons of God but such as had extraordinary gifts? Does not this privilege belong to us, as well as unto them? If therefore we are the sons of God, as well as they, we have this evidence hereof, according to this scripture; namely, our being led by the Spirit of God; though we pretend not to be led by him, as a Spirit of inspiration.

And to this we may add, that the apostle elsewhere speaks of some who were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise; which is the earnest of our inheritance: and these are described as trusting in Christ after they had heard the word of salvation, and believing in him, Eph. i. 13, 14. But this belongs 57to the church in all ages; therefore sealing is not a privilege confined to those who had the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost; but to believers as such.

Moreover, it is said, The Spirit beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God, Rom. viii. 16. Therefore, some persons may know themselves to be the children of God, in a way of self-examination, by the witness of the Spirit, which is common to all believers; without pretending to be inspired therein; which would be to know this matter without the concurring testimony of our own spirits. Many things, of the like nature, might be observed, concerning the other scriptures, that are generally brought to prove, that believers, in our day, are made partakers of the powerful influences of the Holy Ghost; though they pretend not to the Spirit of inspiration; which is a sufficient answer to this objection.

Object. 2. If it be farther objected, that if the Spirit does work internally in the souls of men, we are not to suppose, that he works a change in their wills, but only presents objects to them, which they by their own power, improve, and make use of, for their good; even as a finite Spirit may suggest good or bad thoughts, without disposing us to comply with them; or, as the devil is said to work in men, who is called, The Spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, Eph. ii. 2.

Answ. To this it may be replied, that an objective influence, properly speaking, is no influence at all; much less is it becoming the dignity of the Holy Ghost, to say, That he hath no more an hand in the work of conversion, than that which a mere creature might have. I will not deny that the Greek word,[26] which signifies energy, or internal working, is sometimes taken for such a kind of influence as is not properly the effect of power, as in the instance contained in the objection; yet, let it be considered, that the same word is often used, in various other instances, in senses very different, when applied to God and the creature; where the word, in itself, is indeterminate; but the application of it sufficiently determines the matter; so as to leave no doubt, as to the sense of it. Thus to make, form, or produce, when applied to God, and the thing made, formed, or produced, is represented as an instance of his almighty power, which exceeds the limits of finite power, this determines the sense to be very different from making, forming, or producing, when applied to men, acting in their own sphere: so the apostle speaks of building, in a very different sense, as applied to God and the creature, which no one is at a loss to understand, who reads the words; Every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God, Heb. iii. 4. Now, to apply this to our present purpose, we do not 58deny, that a finite spirit has an energy, in an objective way; but when the same word is applied to God’s manner of acting; and is represented as has been before observed, as an instance of his almighty power, producing a change in the soul; and not only persuading, but enabling him to perform good works, from a principle of spiritual life, implanted, this may easily be understood as having a very different sense from the same word, when applied to the internal agency of a finite spirit; and therefore this objection does not overthrow the argument we are maintaining.

Object. 3. It is farther objected against what has been said concerning this powerful work of the Spirit, as being illustrated by the similitude of a person’s being raised from the dead; that this contains in it nothing supernatural, or out of the power of man; since the apostle says, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give the light, Eph. v. 14. If arising from the dead be the effect of almighty power, when applied to the work of grace, it seems preposterous for this to be recommended as our duty: and if it be not a work of almighty power, then those scriptures that illustrate effectual calling by the resurrection of the dead, are nothing to the argument for which they have been brought.

Answ. Some suppose, that its being assigned as a matter of duty for sinners to rise from the dead, does not infer, that it is in their own power; but, that it only signifies, that none can expect eternal life but those who rise from the death of sin; and accordingly, as the promise, here mentioned, relating to our having light, is said to be Christ’s gift, so the power to perform that duty, which is inseparably connected with it, to wit, rising from the dead, is to be sought for at his hand. But if this answer be not reckoned sufficient, I see no absurdity in supposing, that these two expressions, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, import the same thing. Sleep is, as it were, the image of death; and therefore, by a metaphorical way of speaking, it may be here called death; and if so, the apostle commands believers to awake out of their carnal security, or shake off their stupid frames, as they expect the light of eternal life: however, if it be taken in this sense here; yet when we meet with the words quickened, or raised from the dead, elsewhere, they may be understood in a different sense, as denoting the implanting a principle of grace in regeneration, as will appear by the context: thus when God is said to quicken those who were dead in trespasses and sins; who walked according to the course of this world, fulfilling the desires of the flesh, and of the mind; and were, by nature, the children of wrath; and to do this with a design to shew the exceeding riches of his grace, and kindness towards them; and as the consequence 59thereof, to work that faith which accompanies salvation, which is not of themselves, but his gift: I say, if these things are mentioned when we are said to be quickened, or raised from the dead, certainly it argues more than a stupid believer’s awaking from that carnal security, which he is under, who is supposed to have a principle of spiritual life, whereby he may be enabled so to do.

Object. 4. It is also objected to what has been said, concerning effectual calling’s being a work of divine power, that those scriptures, which speak of it as such, denote nothing else but the power of working miracles; whereby they to whom the gospel was preached, were induced to believe; as when the apostle says, His preaching was in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power, 1 Cor. ii. 4. that is, the doctrines he preached, were confirmed, and the truth thereof demonstrated by the power of the Holy Ghost, enabling them to work miracles: and the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power, chap. iv. 20. that is, the gospel is not only preached, but confirmed by miracles: Our gospel came to you in power, and in the Holy Ghost, 1 Thes. i. 5. that is, as some understand it, the gospel which we preach, was confirmed by the power and miraculous works of the Holy Ghost; which has no reference to the internal efficacious influences of the Spirit put forth in effectual calling.

Answ. Though we often read that the gospel was confirmed by miracles: nevertheless, I cannot see that this is the principle, much less the only sense of these scriptures, and some others that might have been produced to the same purpose.

As to the first of them in which the apostle speaks of his preaching, being in the demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; it may be observed, that in the preceding chapter he had been speaking concerning Christ preached, and his glory set forth among them, as the power of God; that is to say, the power of God rendered the preaching thereof effectual to the conversion of them that believed; which he concludes to contain in it no less a conviction of the truth of the Christian religion, than if he had wrought signs or miracles, which the Jews demanded, and which he had no design to work among them: therefore, why should we suppose, that when he speaks of his preaching being in the demonstration of the Spirit, and of power, that he intends the confirming his doctrine by miracles, and not in the same sense as he had before signified Christ to be the power of God.

And as for the other scripture, in which it is said, The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power; that is to be understood by comparing it with what immediately goes before, in which he says, that I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will 60and know not the speech of them who are puffed up, but the power. It we suppose, that by them who are puffed up, he means some of their teachers, who swelled either with pride or envy, and probably were sowing some seeds of error among them; it does not seem to be a just sense of the text, to explain the words when he says, I will know not the speech of them who are puffed up, but the power, q. d. I will not so much regard the doctrines they deliver, as I will enquire and be convinced, that they have confirmed them by miracles. For he would rather regard their doctrine than their pretence to miracles; or have said, I will not enquire whether ever they have wrought any miracles or no, but what efficacy their doctrine has had: and therefore the apostle, by knowing the power, does not mean that of working miracles, but he intimates that he would know, not only what doctrines these persons taught, but what success attended their preaching; and then he adds, that the kingdom of God, that is, the gospel-state is advanced and promoted, not barely by the church’s enjoying the means of grace, such as the preaching of the word; but by the power of God, which makes the word preached effectual to salvation, whereby sinners are converted, and many added to the church, such as shall be saved.

As to the last scripture mentioned, in which the apostle says, Our gospel came to you, not in word only, but in power, I cannot think that he has any reference in that place, to the confirming the gospel by miracles; because this is assigned as a mark of their election, knowing, brethren, your election of God; for our gospel came unto you, not only in word, but in power, &c. Now, whether we take election for God’s eternal design to save them, or for the execution thereof, in his applying the graces of the Spirit to them; or if we take it in the lowest sense, which they, on the other side of the question, generally give into, for their being a choice, religious unblameable society of Christians, excelling many others in piety: this could not be evinced by the gospel’s being confirmed by miracles; and therefore this sense seems not agreeable to the apostle’s design; and consequently the objection taken from those scriptures, that speak of the power of God in conversion, as implying nothing else but his power, exerted in working miracles, will not, in the least, be sufficient to weaken the force of the argument we are maintaining. Thus concerning effectual calling’s being a work of power, attributed, in particular, to the Holy Spirit.

There is one thing more observed, in the answer we are explaining, which must be briefly considered; namely, that it is a work of grace, which was the internal moving cause thereof; or, the reason of God’s exerting his divine power therein. Effectual calling must be a work of grace, without any motive 61taken from them, who are the subjects thereof; inasmuch as they had before this, nothing in them, that could render them the objects of divine love, being described as dead in trespasses and sins, alienated from the life of God, and enmity itself against him: so that their condition, antecedent hereunto, cannot be supposed to be the moving cause hereof; for that which is in itself, altogether unlovely, cannot afford a motive for love to any one that weighs the circumstances of persons and things, and acts in pursuance thereof.

Object. But whereas it is objected, that though the present condition of unregenerate persons cannot afford any motive inducing God thereunto, yet the foresight of their future conduct might.

Answ. To this we answer, That all the good which shall be found in believers, is God’s gift; he is the finisher as well as the author of faith; and therefore it cannot be said, that any thing out of himself, was the moving cause hereof. And to this we may add, That God foresaw the vile and unworthy behaviour of believers, proceeding from the remainders of corrupt nature in them, as well as those graces which he would enable them to act: so that there is as much in them that might induce him to hate them, as there is to move him to love them; and therefore we must conclude, that his love proceeds from another cause; or that it is by the grace of God alone, that we are what we are: which leads us to consider,

4. That the power and grace of God, displayed in effectual calling, is irresistible, and consequently such as cannot but be effectual to produce that which is designed to be brought about thereby. To deny this, would be to infer, that the creature has an equal, if not a superior, force to God: for, as, in nature, every thing that impedes or stops a thing that is in motion, must have an equal force to resist with that which is affected by it; so, in the work of grace, if the will of man can render the power of God of none effect, or stop the progress of divine grace, contrary to his design or purpose, this must argue the creature’s power of resisting, equal to that which is put forth by God, in order to the bringing this work to perfection. This consequence is so derogatory to the divine glory, that no one who sees it to be just, will maintain the premises from whence it is deduced.

If it be said, that God may suffer himself to be resisted; and his grace, that would otherwise have been effectual, to be defeated; this will not much mend the matter; but only, in order to the avoiding one absurd consequence, bring in another; for if every one would have, what he purposes to be done brought to pass, and would not be disappointed, if he could help it, the same must be said of the great God. Now if God 62could have prevented his purpose from being defeated, but would not, this argues a defect of wisdom; if his own glory was designed, by purposing to do that which the creature renders ineffectual, then he misses of that end, which cannot but be the most valuable, and consequently most desirable: therefore, for God to suffer a purpose of this nature, to be defeated, supposing he could prevent it, is to suffer himself to be a loser of that glory which is due to his name. Moreover, this is directly contrary to what the apostle says, Who hath resisted his will, Rom. ix. 19. or who hath rendered the grace, which he designed should take effect, ineffectual, or, which is the same thing, who can do it?

The ground on which many have asserted, that the grace of God may be resisted, is taken from some scriptures, that speak of man’s being in open hostility against him. Thus we read of a bold daring sinner, as stretching out his hand against God, and strengthening himself against the Almighty, running upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers, Job xv. 25, 26. And Stephen reproves the Jews as having always resisted the Holy Ghost, both they and their fathers, Acts vii. 51, 52. and the Pharisees are said to have rejected, Luke vii. 30. or, as the word[27] might have been rendered, disannulled the counsel of God against themselves. And elsewhere, the prophet speaks of God’s stretching out his hand all the day unto a disobedient and gainsaying people, Rom. x. 21. These, and such like scriptures give occasion to some to suppose, that the power and grace, as well as the purpose of God, may be resisted.

But that we may understand the sense of these scriptures, and, at the same time not relinquish the doctrine we are maintaining, and thereby infer the consequence above-mentioned; we must distinguish between our opposition to God’s revealed will, contained in his word, which is the rule of duty to us; and resisting his secret will, which determines the event. Or, as it may be otherwise expressed, it is one thing to set ourselves against the objective grace of God, that is, the gospel, and another thing to defeat his subjective grace, that when he is about to work effectually in us, we should put a stop to his proceedings. The former no one denies; the latter we can, by no means, allow of. Persons may express a great deal of reluctancy and perverseness at that time, when God is about to subdue their stubborn and obstinate wills; but the power of God will break through all this opposition; and the will of man shall not be able to make his work void, or without effect. The Jews, as above-mentioned, might resist the Holy Ghost, that is, oppose the doctrines contained in scripture, which were given by the Spirit’s inspiration; and they might make this revelation 63of no effect, with respect to themselves; but had God designed that it should take effect, then he would have prevented their resisting it. Israel might be a gainsaying people, that is, they might oppose what God communicated to them by the prophets, which it was their duty and interest to have complied with; and so the offers of grace in God’s revealed will, might be in vain with respect to them; but it never was so with respect to those whom he designed to save: and if the hardened sinner, stretching out his hand against God, may be said hereby to express his averseness to holiness, and his desire to be exempted from the divine government; he may be found in open rebellion against him, as hating and opposing his law; but he cannot offer any real injury to his divine perfections, so as to detract from his glory, to render his purpose of no effect. Moses speaking concerning God’s works of providence, says, They are perfect; for all his ways are judgment, Deut. xxxii. 4. And elsewhere, God, by the prophet Isaiah, says, I will work, and who shall let it, Isa. xliii. 13. From whence he argues, his eternal Deity, and uncontroulable power, when he says, before the day was, I am he, and there is none that can deliver out of my hand; so that if a stop might be put to his works of providence, he would cease to be a God of infinite perfection; and may we not from hence infer, that his works of grace are not subject to any controul; so that when he designs to call any effectually, nothing shall prevent this end’s being answered, which is what we intend, when we speak of the power and grace of God as irresistible; which leads us to consider,

5. The season or time in which persons are effectually called; which in this answer, is said to be God’s accepted time. If the work be free and sovereign, without any motive in us, the time in which he does it, must be that which he thinks most proper. Here we may observe,

(1.) That some are regenerate in their infancy, when the word can have no instrumentality, in producing the least acts of grace; these have therefore the seeds thereof, which spring up, and discover themselves, when they are able to make use of the word. That persons are capable of regeneration from the womb, is no less evident, than that they are capable of having the seeds or principle of reason from thence, which they certainly have; and if it be allowed, that regeneration is connected with salvation, and that infants are capable of the latter, as our Saviour says, that of such is the kingdom of God; then they must be certainly capable of the former; and not to suppose some infants regenerate from the womb, would be to exclude a very great part of mankind from salvation, without scripture-warrant.

64(2.) Others are effectually called in their childhood, or riper years, and some few in old age; that so no age of life may be an inducement to despair, or persons be thereby discouraged from attending on the means of grace. Thus it is said concerning Josiah, That in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David, his father, 2 Chron. xxxiv. 1. and David was converted when he was a youth, a stripling of a ruddy and beautiful countenance, 1 Sam. xvi. 12. compared with chap. xvii. 56, 58. And Moses seems to have been effectually called, when he left Pharaoh’s court; and it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel; at which time he was forty years old, Acts vii. 23. And Abraham seems to have been made partaker of this grace, when he was called to leave his country, when he was seventy-five years old; before which, it is probable, that he, together with the rest of his father’s family, served other gods, Josh. xxiv. 2. compared with Gen. xii. 4. And we read, in one single instance, of a person converted in the very agonies of death, viz. the thief upon the cross, Luke xxiii. 43.

(3.) Sometimes, when persons seem most disposed hereunto, and are under the greatest convictions, and more inclined to reform their lives, than at other times, the work appears, by the issue thereof, to be no more than that of common grace, which miscarries and leaves them worse than they were before; and, it may be, after this, when they seem less inclined hereunto, that is, God’s accepted time, when he begins the work with power, which he afterwards carries on and completes. Some are suffered to run great lengths in sin, before they are effectually called; as the apostle Paul, in whom God was pleased to shew forth all long suffering, as a pattern to them which should hereafter believe, 1 Tim. i. 16. So that the time and means being entirely in his hand, as we ought not to presume, but wait for the day of salvation in all his ordinances; so, whatever our age and circumstances are, we are still encouraged to hope for the mercy of God, unto eternal life; or, that he will save and call us, with an holy calling.

Quest. LXIX.

Quest. LXIX. What is the communion in grace, which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?

Answ. The communion in grace, which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is, their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.

65Having considered the vital union which the members of the invisible church have with Christ in their effectual calling, we are now led to speak concerning that communion in grace, which they have with him.

Communion with Christ doth not, in the least, import our being made partakers of any of the glories or privileges which belong to him as Mediator; but it consists, in our participation, of those benefits which he hath purchased for us; and it implies, on his part, infinite condescension, that he will be pleased to communicate such blessings on us, and on our’s, unspeakable honours and privileges, which we enjoy from him: it is sometimes called fellowship, 1 John i. 3. which is the result of friendship, and proceeds from his love: thus our Saviour speaks of his loving them, and manifesting himself unto them, John xiv. 21. It also proceeds from union with him, and is the immediate effect and consequence of effectual calling: therefore God is said to have called us unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ, 1 Cor. i. 9.

And it is farther said in this answer, to be a manifestation of our union with him. He has received those blessings for us, which he purchased by his blood; and, accordingly is the treasury, as well as the fountain of all grace; and we are therefore said to receive of his fulness, grace for grace, John i. 16. And the blessings which we are said to receive, by virtue of his mediation, are justification, adoption, and sanctification, with all other benefits that either accompany or flow from them; which are particularly explained in the following answers.

Quest. LXX., LXXI.

Quest. LXX. What is justification?

Answ. Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

Quest. LXXI. How is justification an act of God’s free grace?

Answ. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice, in the behalf of them that are justified; yet, inasmuch as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, did provide this surety, his own only 66Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification, but faith; which also is his gift; their justification is, to them, of free grace.

Hitherto we have been led to consider that change of heart and life which is begun in effectual calling; whereby a dead sinner is made alive, and one that was wholly indisposed for, and averse to the performance of good works, is enabled to perform them by the power of divine grace: and now we are to speak concerning that change of state which accompanies it; whereby one, who being guilty before God, was liable to the condemning sentence of the law, and expected no other than an eternal banishment from his presence, is pardoned, received into favour, and has a right to all the blessings which Christ has, by his obedience and sufferings, purchased for him. This is what we call justification; and it is placed immediately after the head of effectual calling, as being agreeable to the method in which it is insisted on in that golden chain of salvation, as the apostle says, Whom he called, them he also justified, Rom. viii. 30.

This is certainly a doctrine of the highest importance, inasmuch as it contains in it the way of peace, the foundation of all our hope, of the acceptance both of our persons and services, and beholding the face of God, at last, with joy. Some have styled it the very basis of Christianity; and our forefathers thought it so necessary to be insisted on and maintained, according to the scripture-account thereof, that they reckoned it one of the principal doctrines of the reformation. And, indeed, the apostle Paul speaks of it as so necessary to be believed, that he concluded that the denying or perverting of it was the ground and reason of the Jews being rejected; who being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish a righteousness of their own, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God: and when they shall be called, if their call be intended, in that account which we have, of the marriage of the Lamb, and his wife having made herself ready, Rev. xix. 7. as many suppose, it is worth observing, that she is described as arrayed in fine linen, which is the righteousness of saints, or Christ’s righteousness, by which they are justified: this is that in which they glory; and therefore are represented as being convinced of the importance of that doctrine which, before, they were ignorant of. This we have an account of in these two answers, which we are now to explain, and shall endeavour to do it in the following method.

I. We shall consider what we are to understand by the word justify.

II. What are the privileges contained therein, as reduced to 67two heads, to wit, pardon of sin; and God’s accounting them who are justified, righteous in his sight? And,

III. What is the foundation of our justification? namely, a righteousness wrought out for us.

IV. The utter inability of fallen man to perform any righteousness, that can be the matter of his justification in the sight of God.

V. That our Lord Jesus Christ has wrought out this righteousness for us, as our surety, by performing active and passive obedience; which is imputed to us for our justification.

VI. We shall consider it as an act of God’s free grace. And,

VII. Shew the use of faith in justification, or in what respects faith is said to justify.

I. We shall consider in what sense we are to understand the word justify. As there are many disputes about the method of explaining the doctrines of justification; so there is a contest between us and the Papists, about the sense of the word; they generally supposing, that to justify, is to make inherently righteous and holy; because righteousness and holiness sometimes import the same thing; and both of them denote an internal change in the person who is so denominated; and accordingly they argue, that as to magnify signifies to make great; to fortify, to make strong; so to justify is to make just or holy: and they suppose, that whatever we do to make ourselves so, or whatever good works are the ingredients of our sanctification, these must be considered as the matter of our justification. And some Protestant divines have supposed, that the difference between them and us, is principally about the sense of a word; which favourable and charitable construction of their doctrine, would have been less exceptionable, if the Papists had asserted no more than that justification might have been taken in this sense, when considered, not as giving us a right to eternal life, or being the foundation of that sentence of absolution, which God passes upon us: but since this is the sense they give of it, when they say that we are justified by our inherent holiness, we are bound to conclude, that it is very remote from the scripture sense of the word.

We do not deny that justification is sometimes taken in a sense different from that which is intended by it, when used to signify the doctrine we are explaining. Sometimes nothing more is intended hereby, than our vindicating the divine perfections from any charge which is pretended to be brought against them. Thus the Psalmist says, That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest, Psal. li. 4. And our Saviour is said to be justified, that is, his person or character vindicated or defended from the reproaches that were cast on him; as it is said, Wisdom is justified of her children, 68Matt. xi. 19. Luke vii. 35. Also we frequently read of the justification of the actions or conduct of persons, in scripture; in which sense their own works may be said to justify or vindicate them from the charge of hypocrisy or unregeneracy. Again, to justify is sometimes taken, in scripture, for using endeavours to turn many to righteousness: and therefore our translators have rendered the words, in the prophecy of Daniel, which signify, they who justify many, they who turn many to righteousness, shall shine as the stars, Dan. xii. 3.[28]

There are various other senses which are given of this word, which we pass over as not applicable to the doctrine we are maintaining, and therefore shall proceed to consider the sense in which it is used, when importing a sinner’s justification in the sight of God; wherein it is to be taken only in a forensick sense, and accordingly signifies a person’s being acquitted or discharged from guilt, or a liableness to condemnation, in such a way as is done in courts of judicature: thus we read in the judicial law, that if there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them, then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked, Deut. xxv. 1. where to justify the righteous, is to be understood for acquitting or discharging one that appears to be righteous, or not guilty, from condemnation; whereas the wicked, that is, they who appear to be guilty, are to be condemned: and in this sense the word is used, when applied to the doctrine of justification, in the New Testament, and particularly in Paul’s epistles; who largely insists on this subject.

Now that we may understand how a sinner may expect to be discharged at God’s tribunal, let us consider the methods of proceeding used in human courts of judicature: herein, it is supposed, that there is a law that forbids some actions which are deemed criminal; and also, that a punishment is annexed to this law, which renders the person that violated it, guilty; and then persons are supposed to be charged with the violation thereof; which charge, if it be not made good, they are said to be justified, that is, cleared from presumptive, not real guilt: but if the charge be made good, and he that fell under it, liable to punishment; if he suffer the punishment he is justified, as in crimes that are not of a capital nature; or if he be any otherwise cleared from the charge, so that his guilt be removed, then he is deemed a justified person: and so the law has nothing to lay to his charge, with respect to that which he was before accused of. Thus when a sinner, who had been charged with the violation of the divine law, found guilty before God, and exposed to a sentence of condemnation, is freed 69from it, then he is said to be justified; which leads us to consider,

II. The privileges contained in justification; which are forgiveness of sin and a right and title to eternal life. These are sufficiently distinguished, though never separated; so that when we find but one of them mentioned in a particular scripture, which treats on this subject, the other is not excluded. Forgiveness of sin is sometimes expressed in scripture, by a not imputing sin; and a right to life, includes in it our being made partakers of the adoption of children, and a right to the inheritance prepared for them. The apostle mentions both these together, when he speaks of our having redemption through the blood of Christ, even the forgiveness of sins; and being made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, Col. i. 12, 14. And elsewhere he speaks of Christ’s redeeming them that were under the law; which includes the former branch of justification, and of their receiving the adoption of children, which includes the latter. And again he considers a justified person as having peace with God, which more especially respects pardon of sin, and of their having access to the grace wherein they stand, and their rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, Rom. v. 1, 2. which is what we are to understand by, or includes in it, their right to life.

That justification consists of both these branches, we maintain against the Papists, who suppose that it includes nothing else but forgiveness of sin, which is founded on the blood of Christ; whereas, according to them, our right to life depends on our internal qualifications, or sincere obedience. And besides these, there are some Protestant divines, who suppose that it consists only in pardon of sin; and this is asserted, by them, with different views; some do it as most consistent with the doctrine of justification by works, which they plead for; whereas, others do it as being most agreeable to another notion which they advance, namely, that we are justified only by Christ’s passive obedience; which will be considered under a following head. Again, there are others, whose sentiments of the doctrine of justification are agreeable to scripture, who maintain, that it includes both forgiveness of sins, and a right to life; but yet they add, that the former is founded on Christ’s passive obedience, and the latter on his active: whereas, we cannot but think, that the whole of Christ’s obedience, both active and passive, is the foundation of each of these; which will also be considered, when we come to speak concerning the procuring cause of our justification.

All that we shall observe at present, is, that these two privileges are inseparably connected; therefore, as no one can have a right to life, but he whose sins are pardoned; so no 70one can obtain forgiveness of sin, but he must, as the consequence hereof, have a right to life. As by the fall, man first became guilty, and then lost that right to life which was promised in case he had stood; so it is agreeable to the divine perfections, provided the guilt be removed, that he should be put in the same state as though it had not been contracted, and consequently, that he should not only have forgiveness of sins, but a right to life. Forgiveness of sin, without a right to eternal life, would render our justification incomplete; therefore, when any one is pardoned by an act of grace, he is put in possession of that which, by his rebellion, he had forfeited, he is considered, not only as released out of prison, but as one who has the privileges of a subject, such as those which he had before he committed the crime. Without this he would be like Absalom, when, upon Joab’s intercession with David, the guilt of murder, which he had contracted, was remitted so far, as that he had liberty to return from Geshur, whither he was fled: nevertheless, he reckons himself not fully discharged from the guilt he had contracted, and concludes his return to Jerusalem, as it were, an insignificant privilege; unless, by being admitted to see the king’s face, and enjoy the privileges which he was possessed of before, he might be dealt with as one who was taken into favour, as well as forgiven, 2 Sam. xiv. 2. which was accordingly granted. This leads us to consider these two branches of justification in particular. And,

1. Forgiveness of sin. Sin is sometimes represented as containing in it moral impurity, as opposed to holiness of heart and life; and accordingly is said, to defile a man, Matt. xv. 19, 20. and is set forth by several metaphorical expressions in scripture, which tend to beget an abhorrence of it as of things impure; in which sense it is removed in sanctification rather, than in justification; not but that divines sometimes speak of Christ’s redeeming us from the filth and dominion of sin, and our deliverance from it in justification: but these are to be understood as rendering us guilty; inasmuch as all moral pollutions are criminal, as contrary to the law of God; otherwise our deliverance from them would not be a branch of justification; and therefore, in speaking to this head, we shall consider sin as that which renders men guilty before God, and so shew what we are to understand by guilt.

This supposes a person to be under a law, and to have violated it; accordingly sin is described as the transgression of the law, 1 John iii. 4. The law of God, in common with all other laws, is primarily designed to be the rule of obedience; and in order thereunto, it is a declaration of the divine will, which, as creatures and subjects, we are under a natural obligation to comply with; and God, as a God of infinite holiness and sovereignty, 71cannot but signify his displeasure in case of disobedience; and therefore he has annexed a threatening to his law, or past a condemning sentence, as that which is due for every transgression: this divines sometimes call the sanction of the law, or a fence, with which it is guarded, that so, through the corruption of our nature, we may not conclude, that we may rebel against him with impunity: this the scripture styles, The curse of the law, Gal. iii. 10. So that guilt is a liableness to the curse or condemning sentence of the law, for our violation of it: this is sometimes called a debt of punishment, which we owe to the justice of God, for not paying that debt of obedience which was due from us to his law. Thus, when our Saviour advises us to pray, that our sins may be forgiven; he expresses it by forgiving us our debts, Luke xi. 4. Matt. vi. 12. so that forgiveness, as it is a freeing us from guilt, discharges us from the guilt of punishment which we were liable to.

There is a twofold debt which man owes to God; one he owes to him as a creature under a law; this is that debt of obedience, which he cannot be discharged from; and therefore, a justified person is, in this sense, as much a debtor as any other. There is also a debt which man contracts as a criminal, whereby he is liable to suffer punishment; this alone is removed in justification.

Moreover, we must carefully distinguish between the demerit of sin, or its desert of punishment; and the sinner’s obligation to suffer punishment for it. The former of these is inseparable from sin, and not removed, or, in the least lessened, by pardoning mercy; for sin is no less the object of the divine detestation; nor is its intrinsic evil, or demerit, abated by its being forgiven; and therefore, a justified person, remaining still a sinner, as transgressing the law of God, has as much reason to condemn himself, in this respect, as though he had not been forgiven. The Psalmist speaking concerning a person that is actually forgiven or justified, says, notwithstanding, that if thou Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? Psal. cxxx. 3. He was, at the same time, in a justified state; but yet he concludes, that there is a demerit of punishment in every sin that he committed; though, when it is pardoned, the obligation to suffer punishment is taken away:[29] and therefore, the apostle speaking of such, says, There is no condemnation to them, Rom. viii. 1. We must farther distinguish between our having matter of condemnation in us; this a justified person has; and there being no condemnation to us; that is, the immediate result of being pardoned.

72There are several expressions in scripture, whereby forgiveness is set forth, namely, God’s covering sin: thus the Psalmist says, Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered, Psal. xxxii. 1. or, his hiding his face from it, and blotting it out; or, when it is sought for, Psal. li. 9. its not being found, Jer. l. 20. and, casting our sins into the depths of the sea, Micah vii. 19. And elsewhere it is said, That when God had pardoned the sins of his people, he did not behold iniquity in Jacob, nor see perverseness in Israel, Numb, xxiii. 21. which amounts to the same thing as the foregoing expressions of its being covered, hid, blotted out, &c.

I am sensible there have been many contests about the sense of this scripture; which might, without much difficulty, have been compromised, had the contending parties been desirous to know each others sense, without prejudice or partiality. It is not to be thought, that when God forgives sin, he does not know, or suppose that the person forgiven, had, before this, contracted guilt by sins committed; for without this, he could not be the object of forgiveness. When God is said not to look upon, or hide his face from their sins, it is not to be supposed, that he knows not what they have done, or what iniquities they daily commit against him; for that would be subversive of his omniscience: and when he is said not to mark our iniquities, we are not to understand it, as though he did not look upon the sins we commit, though in a justified state, with abhorrence; for the sinner may be pardoned, and yet the crime forgiven be detested. But God’s not seeing sin in his people, is to be taken in a forensic sense; and accordingly, when an atonement is made for sin, and the guilt thereof taken away, the criminal, in the eye of the law, is as though he had not sinned; he is as fully discharged from the indictment, that was brought in against him, as though he had been innocent, not liable to any charge founded upon it; and therefore the apostle says, Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth, Rom. viii. 33. and it is the same, as for God not to enter into judgment, as the Psalmist elsewhere expresses it; or to punish us less than our iniquities have deserved, Psal. cxliii. 2. In this sense the indictment that was brought against him, is cancelled, the sentence reversed, and prosecution stopped; so that whatever evils are endured as the consequence of sin, or with a design to humble him for it, as bringing sin to his remembrance, with all its aggravating circumstances, he is, nevertheless, encouraged to hope, that these are not inflicted in a judicial way, by the vindictive justice of God demanding satisfaction; but to display and set forth the holiness of his nature, as infinitely opposite to all sin, and the 73dispensations of his providence agreeably thereunto; and that with a design to bring him to repentance for it.

And, that this privilege may appear to be most conducive to our happiness and comfort, let it be considered; that wherever God forgives sin, he forgives all sin, cancels every debt that rendered him liable to punishment, otherwise our condition would be very miserable, and our salvation impossible; our condition would be like that of a person who has several indictments brought in against him, every one of which contain an intimation that his life is forfeited; it would avail him very little for one indictment to be superseded, and the sentence due to him for the others, executed: thus the apostle speaks of the free gift, being of many, that is, of the multitude of our offences unto justification, Rom. v. 16. And elsewhere he speaks of God’s forgiving his people all trespasses, Col. ii. 13. And as he forgives all past sins, so he gives them ground to conclude, that iniquity shall not be their ruin; and therefore, the same grace that now abounds towards them herein, together with the virtue of the atonement made for sin, shall prevent future crimes being charged upon them to their condemnation. Thus concerning forgiveness of sin.

2. The other privilege, which they who are justified are made partakers of, is the acceptation of their persons, as righteous in the sight of God: thus they are said to be made accepted in the Beloved, Eph. i. 6. and as their persons are accepted, so are their performances, notwithstanding the many defects that adhere to them. Thus God is said to have had respect unto Abel, and to his offering, Gen. iv. 4. And, together with this, they have a right and title to eternal life; which is that inheritance which Christ has purchased for, and God, in his covenant of grace, has promised to them. This is a very comprehensive blessing; for it contains in it a right to all those great and precious promises, which God has made, respecting their happiness both here and hereafter. But since we shall have occasion to insist on this in a following answer, under the head of adoption, which some divines, not without good reason, conclude to be a branch of justification, or, at least, to contain in it those positive privileges, which they, who are justified, partake of, either here of hereafter, we shall proceed to consider,

III. What is the foundation of our justification; and that must be either some righteousness wrought out by us; or for us. Since justification is a person’s being made righteous, as the apostle styles it, Rom. v. 29. we must consider what we are to understand hereby; and accordingly a person is said to be righteous who never violated the law of God, nor exposed himself to the condemning sentence thereof: in this respect 74man, while in a state of innocency, was righteous; his perfect obedience was the righteousness which, according to the tenor of the covenant he was under, gave him a right to eternal life; especially it would have done so, had it been persisted in, till he was possessed of that life; but such a righteousness as this, cannot be the foundation of our justification, as the apostle says, By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified, Gal. ii. 16. Therefore, the righteousness we are now speaking of, must be something wrought out for us, by one who stood in our room and stead, and was able to pay that debt of obedience, and endure those sufferings that were due for sin, which the law of God might have exacted of us, and insisted on the payment of, in our own persons, which, when paid by Christ for us, is that, (as will be considered under a following head,) which we generally call Christ’s righteousness, or what he did and suffered in our stead, in conformity to the law of God; whereby its honour was secured and vindicated, and justice satisfied; so that God hereby appears to be, as the apostle says, Just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus, Rom. iii. 26.[30]

75IV. We are now to consider the utter inability of fallen man to perform any righteousness that can be the matter of his justification in the sight of God; whereby it will appear, as it is observed in this answer, that we are not accounted righteous in his sight, for any thing wrought in us, or done by us. That we cannot be justified by suffering the punishment that was due for sin, appears from the infinite evil thereof; and the eternal duration of the punishment that it deserves; as our Saviour observes in the parable concerning the debtor, who did not agree with his adversary while in the way, but was delivered to the officer, and cast into prison; from whence he was not to come out till he had paid the uttermost farthing, Matt. v. 25, 26. that is to say, he shall never be discharged. A criminal who is sentenced to endure some punishments short of death, or which are to continue but for a term of years, when he has suffered them, is, upon the account hereof, discharged, or justified: but it is far otherwise with man, when fallen into the hands of the vindictive justice of God; therefore the Psalmist says, enter not into judgment with thy servant, or do not punish me according to the demerit of sin; for in thy sight shall no flesh living be justified.

Neither can any one be justified by performing active obedience to the law of God; for nothing is sufficient to answer that end, but what is perfect in all respects; it must be sinless obedience, and that not only as to what concerns the time to come, but as respecting the time past; and that is impossible, from the nature of the thing, to be said of a sinner; for it implies a contradiction in terms. This farther appears from the holiness of God, which cannot but detest the least defect; and therefore will not deal with a sinful creature, as though he had been innocent: and as for sins that are past, they render us equally liable to a debt of punishment, with those which are committed at present, or shall be hereafter, in the sight of God. Moreover, the honour of the law cannot be secured, unless it be perfectly fulfilled; which cannot be done if there be any defect of obedience.

As for those works which are done by us, without the assistance of the Spirit of God, these proceed from a wrong principle, and have many other blemishes attending them, upon the account whereof, they have only a partial goodness; and for that reason Augustine gives them no better a character 76than shining sins[31]: but whatever terms we give them, they are certainly very far from coming up to a conformity to the divine law. And as for those good works which are said to be wrought in us, and are the effect of the power and grace of God, and the consequence of our being regenerated and converted, these fall far short of perfection; there is a great deal of sin attending them, which, if God should mark, none could stand. This is expressed by Job, in a very humble manner; How should man be just with God? if he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand. And, if I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me: for he is not a man as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment, Job ix. 2, 3, 30-32. when God is said to work in us that which is well pleasing in his sight, Heb. xiii. 21. we are not to understand, that the grace which he works in us, renders us accepted in his sight, in a forensic sense, or, that it justifies us; for in this respect we are only made accepted in the Beloved, that is, in Christ, Eph. i. 3.

Moreover, as what is wrought in us, has many defects attending it; so it is not from ourselves, and therefore cannot be accepted as a payment of that debt of obedience which we owe to the justice of God; and consequently we cannot be justified thereby. Some, indeed, make the terms of acceptance, or justification in the sight of God, so very low, as though nothing were demanded of us but our sincere endeavours to yield obedience, whatever imperfections it be chargeable with. And others pretend, that our confessing our sins will be conducive hereunto; and assert, that our tears are sufficient to wash away the guilt of sin. The Papists add, that some penances, of acts of self-denial, will satisfy his justice, and procure a pardon for us; yea, they go farther than this, and maintain, that persons may perform works of supererogation, or pay more than the debt that is owing from them, or than what the law of God requires, and thereby not only satisfy his justice, but render him a debtor to them; and putting them into a capacity of transferring these arrears of debt, to those that stand in need of them, and thereby lay an obligation on them, in gratitude, to pay them honours next to divine. Such absurdities do men run into, who plead for human satisfactions, and the merit of good works, as the matter of our justification: and, indeed, there is nothing can tend more to depreciate Christ’s satisfaction, on the one hand, and stupify the conscience on the other; and therefore, it is so far from being an expedient for justification, that it is destructive to the souls of men.

77As for our sincere endeavours, or imperfect obedience, these cannot be placed by the justice of God, in the room of perfect; for that is contrary to the nature of justice: We cannot suppose, that he who pays a pepper-corn, or a few mites, instead of a large sum, really pays the debt that was due from him; justice cannot account this to be a payment; therefore, a discharge from condemnation, upon these terms, cannot be styled a justification. And if it be said that it is esteemed so by an act of grace: this is to advance the glory of one divine perfection, and, at the same time, detract from that of another; nothing therefore can be our righteousness, but that which the justice of God may, in honour, accept of for our justification: and our own righteousness is so small and inconsiderable a thing, that it is a dishonour for him to accept of it in this respect; and therefore we cannot be justified by works done by us, or wrought in us.

This will farther appear, if we consider the properties of this righteousness; and in particular, that it must not only be perfect, and therefore, such as a sinful creature cannot perform; but it must also be of infinite value, otherwise it could not give satisfaction to the infinite justice of God; and consequently cannot be performed by any other than a divine person. And it must also bear some resemblance to that debt which was due from us, inasmuch as it was designed to satisfy for the debt which he had contracted; and therefore must be performed by one who is really man. But this having been insisted on elsewhere, under the head of Christ’s Priestly office[32], we shall not farther enlarge on it; but proceed to consider,

V. That our Lord Jesus Christ has wrought out this righteousness for us, as our Surety, by performing active and passive obedience; which is imputed to us for our justification. We have before considered that it is impossible that such a righteousness, as is sufficient to be the matter of our justification, should be wrought out by us in our own persons; it therefore follows; that it must be wrought out for us, by one who bears the character of a surety, and performs every thing that is necessary to our justification; such an one is our Lord Jesus Christ. In considering this head, we must,

1. Shew what we are to understand by a surety, since it is the righteousness of Christ, under this relation to us, which is the matter of our justification. A surety is one who submits to be charged with, and undertakes to pay a debt contracted by another, to the end that the debtor may hereby be discharged: thus the apostle Paul engages to be surety to Philemon, for Onesimus, who had fled from him, whom he had wronged or 78injured, and was hereby indebted to him; concerning whom, he says, If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I, Paul, have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it, Philem. ver. 18. And elsewhere, we read of Judah’s overture to be surety for his brother Benjamin, that he should return to his father, as a motive to induce him to give his consent that he should go with him into Egypt: I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever, Gen. xliii. 9. This is so commonly known in civil transactions of the like nature, between man and man, that it needs no farther explication; however, it may be observed,

(1.) That a person’s becoming surety for another, must be a free and voluntary act: for to force any one to bind himself to pay a debt, which he has not contracted, is as much an act of injustice, as it is in any other instance to exact a debt where it is not due.

(2.) He that engages to be surety for another must be in a capacity to pay the debt, otherwise he is unjust to the creditor, as well as brings ruin upon himself: therefore it is said, Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts, if thou hast nothing to pay; why should he take away the bed from under thee? Prov. xxiii. 26, 27.

(3.) He who engages to be surety for another, is supposed not to have contracted the debt himself; and therefore the creditor must have no demands upon him, as being involved together with the debtor, and so becoming engaged antecedent to his being surety: nevertheless, he is deemed, in the eye of the law, consequent thereunto, to stand in the debtor’s room, and to be charged with his debt, and equally obliged to the payment thereof, as though he had contracted it, especially if the creditor be resolved to exact the payment of him, rather than of the original debtor[33].

(4.) As debts are of different kinds, so the obligation of a surety agreeably thereunto admits of different circumstances: thus there are pecuniary debts resulting from those dealings or contracts which pass between man and man in civil affairs; and there are debts of service or obedience; as also debts of punishment, as has been before observed, for crimes committed; in all which cases, as the nature of the debt differs, so there are some things peculiar in the nature of suretyship for it. In pecuniary debts the creditor is obliged to accept of payment at the hand 79of any one, who at the request of the debtor is willing to discharge the debt which he has contracted, especially, if what he pays be his own; but in debts of service or punishment, when the surety offers himself to perform of suffer what was due from another, the creditor is at his liberty to accept of, or refuse satisfaction from him, but might insist on the payment of the debt by him in his own person, from whom it was due.

2. Christ was such a surety for us, or substituted in our room, with a design to pay the debt which was due to the justice of God from us. Here, that we may assume the ideas of a surety but now-mentioned, and apply them to Christ, as our surety, let it be considered;

(1.) That what he did and suffered for us was free and voluntary; this appears from his readiness to engage therein, expressed by his saying, Lo, I come to do thy will, Heb. x. 9. And therefore whatever he suffered for us did not infer the least injustice in God that inflicted it[34].

(2.) He was able to pay the debt, so that there was not the least injury offered to the justice of God by his undertaking. This is evident, from his being God incarnate; and therefore in one nature he was able to do and suffer whatever was demanded of us, and in the other nature to add an infinite value to what he performed therein.

(3.) He was not rendered incapable of paying our debt, or answering for the guilt which we had contracted by any debt of his own, which involved him in the same guilt, and rendered him liable to the same punishment with us, as is evident from what the prophet says concerning him, who speaks of him, as charged with our guilt, though he had done no violence, neither was any deceit found in his mouth, Isa. liii. 9. That which the prophet calls doing no violence, the apostle Peter referring to, and explaining it, styles doing, or committing no sin of any kind. He was not involved in the guilt of Adam’s sin, which would have rendered him incapable of being a surety to pay that debt for us; neither had he the least degree of the corruption of nature, being conceived in an extraordinary way, and sanctified from the womb[35]. Nor did he ever commit actual sin, for he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.

(4.) Another thing observed in the character of a surety, which is very agreeable to Christ, is; that what he engaged to pay was his own, or at his own disposal, he did not offer any injury to justice, by paying a debt that was before due to it, or by performing any service which he had no warrant to do. It is true, he gave his life a ransom, but consider him as a divine 80Person, and he had an undoubted right to dispose or of, lay down that life which he had as man. Did he consent, in the eternal transaction between the Father and him, to be incarnate, and in our nature to perform the work of a Surety? this was an act of his sovereign will; and therefore whatever he paid as a ransom for us, was, in the highest sense, his own. The case was not the same as though one man should offer to lay down his life for another, who has no power to dispose of his life at pleasure. We are not lords of our own lives; as we do not come into the world by our own wills, we are not to go out of it when we please; but Christ was as God, if I may so express myself, lord of himself, of all that he did and suffered as man; by which I understand that he had a right as God to consent or determine to do, and suffer whatever he did and suffered as man; therefore the debt which he paid in the human nature was his own.

(5.) As it has been before observed, that in some cases he that is willing to substitute himself as a surety in the room of the debtor, must be accepted, and approved by him to whom it was due; and in this respect our Saviour’s substitution as our surety in our room, had a sanction from God the Father; who gave many undeniable evidences that what he did and suffered for us, was accepted by him as really as though it had been done by us in our own persons, which, as was before observed, might have been refused by him, it being the payment of a debt of obedience and sufferings. Now that God the Father testified his acceptance of Christ as our surety, appears,

1. From his well-pleasedness with him, both before and after his incarnation; before he came into the world, God seems to speak with pleasure in the fore-thought of what he would be, and do, as Mediator, when he says, Behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth, Isa. xlii. 1. And he is also said to be well pleased for his righteousness sake, ver. 21. or in his determining before hand that he should, as Mediator, bring in that righteousness which would tend to magnify the law, and make it honourable.

Moreover, his having anointed him by a previous designation to this work, as the prophet intimates, speaking of him before his incarnation, Isa. lxi. 1, 2. is certainly an evidence of his being approved to be our surety. And when he was incarnate, God approved of him, when engaged in the work which he came into the world about: thus, when he was solemnly set apart, by baptism to the discharge of his public ministry, we read of a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, Matt. iii. 17. And to this we may add, that there was the most undeniable proof of God’s well pleasedness with him, as having accomplished this 81work, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand, in heavenly places.

2. This may be farther argued from his justifying and saving those for whom he undertook to be a surety, before the debt was actually paid; and his applying the same blessings to his people, since the work of redemption was finished. The application of what Christ undertook to purchase, is an evidence of the acceptableness of the price. And this may be considered, either as respecting those that were saved before his incarnation and death; or those who are, from that time, in all succeeding ages, made partakers of the saving benefits procured thereby. Before the actual accomplishment of what he undertook to do and suffer, as our surety, God the Father trusted him, and, by virtue of his promising to pay the debt, discharged the Old Testament saints from condemnation, as effectually as though it had been actually paid. There are some cases in which a surety’s undertaking to pay a debt, is reckoned equivalent to the actual payment of it; namely, when it is impossible that he should make a failure in the payment thereof, either though mutability, or a fickelness of temper, inducing him to change his purpose; or from unfaithfulness, which might render him regardless of his engagement to pay it: or from some change in his circumstances whereby, though he once was able to pay it, he afterwards becomes unable: I say, if none of these things can take place, and especially, if the creditor, by not demanding present payment, receives some advantage, which is an argument that he does not stand in need thereof: in these cases the promise to pay a debt is equivalent to the payment of it.

Now these things may well be applied to Christ’s undertaking to pay our debt: it was impossible that he should fail in the accomplishment of what he had undertaken; or change his purpose, and so, though he designed to do it, enter into other measures; or, though he had promised to do it, be unfaithful in the accomplishment thereof, these things being all inconsistent with the character of his person who undertook it; and, though he suffered for us in the human nature, it was his divine nature that undertook to do it therein, which is infinitely free from the least imputation of weakness, mutability, or unfaithfulness: and, whereas the present payment was not immediately demanded, nor designed to be made till the fulness of time was come, his forbearance hereof was compensated by that revenue of glory which accrued to the divine name, and that honour that redounded to the Mediator, by the salvation of the elect, before his incarnation; and this was certainly an undeniable evidence of God’s approving his undertaking.

82And since the work of redemption has been completed, all those who are, or shall be brought to glory, have, in themselves, a convincing proof of God’s being well pleased with Christ, as substituted in their room and stead, to pay the debt that was due from them to his justice, as the foundation of their justification. From hence it plainly appears, that Christ was substituted as a surety in our room and stead, to do that for us which was necessary for our justification; and we have sufficient ground to conclude, that he was so from scripture, from whence alone it can be proved, it being a matter of pure revelation. Thus he is said, in express terms, to have been made a surety of a better testament, Heb. vii. 22. and that as our surety, he has paid that debt of sufferings which was due from us, is evident, in that he is said to offer himself a sacrifice for our sins, ver. 27. and to have been once offered to bear the sins of many, chap. ix. 28. and from his being holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, the apostle argues, that he had no occasion to offer a sacrifice for himself, or that he had no sin of his own to be charged with, therefore, herein he bore or answered for our sins: thus the apostle Peter says, He bare our sins in his own body, on the tree, by whose stripes we are healed, 1 Pet. ii. 24. And elsewhere, we read of his being made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, 2 Cor. v. 21. that is, he, who had no guilt of his own to answer for, submitted to be charged with our guilt, to stand in our room and stead, and accordingly to be made a sacrifice for sin; all this implies as much as his being made a surety for us. But this having been particularly insisted on elsewhere in speaking concerning Christ’s satisfaction, which could not be explained without taking occasion to mention his being substituted in the room and stead of those for whom he paid a price of redemption; and, having also considered the meaning of those scriptures that speak of his bearing our sins, we shall proceed to consider[36],

3. What Christ did, pursuant to this character, namely, as our surety, as he paid all that debt which the justice of God demanded from us, which consisted in active and passive obedience. There was a debt of active obedience demanded from man as a creature; and upon his failure of paying it, when he sinned, it became an out-standing debt, due from us; but such as could never be paid by us. God determines not to justify any, unless this out-standing debt be paid; Christ, as our surety, engages to take the payment of it on himself: and, whereas this defect of obedience, together with all actual transgressions, which proceeded from the corruption of our nature, render us guilty or liable to the stroke of vindictive justice, Christ, as 83our surety, undertakes to bear that also: this we generally call the imputation of our sin to Christ, the placing our debt to his account, and the transferring the debt of punishment, which was due from us to him, upon which account he is said to yield obedience, and suffer in our room and stead, or to perform active and passive obedience for us; which two ideas the apostle joins in one expression, when he says, that he became obedient unto death, Phil. ii. 8. But this having been been insisted on elsewhere, under the head of Christ’s satisfaction[37], where we shewed, not only that Christ performed active as well as passive obedience for us, but endeavoured to answer the objections that are generally brought against Christ’s active obedience, being part of that debt which he engaged to pay for us; we shall pass it by at present.

But that which may farther be added, to prove that our sin and guilt were imputed to him, may be argued from his being said to be made a curse for us, in order to his redeeming us from the curse of the law, Gal. iii. 13. and also from his being made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, 2 Cor. v. 21. And also from other scriptures, that speak of him as suffering, though innocent; punished for sin, though he was at the same time the Lamb of God, without spot or blemish; dealt with as guilty, though he had never contracted any guilt, and being made a sacrifice for sin, though sinless, which could not have been done consistently with the justice of God, had not our sins been placed to his account, or imputed to him.

It is indeed a very difficult thing to convince some persons, how Christ could be charged with sin, or have sin imputed to him, in consistency with the sinless purity of his nature, which some think to be no better than a contradiction, though it be agreeable to the scripture mode of speaking, viz. He was made sin for us, and yet knew no sin, 2 Cor. v. 21. However, when we speak of sin’s being imputed to him, we are far from insinuating, that he committed any acts of sin; or, that his human nature was, in the least, inclined to, or defiled thereby; we choose therefore to use the scripture phrase, in which he is said to have borne our sins, rather than to say, that he was a sinner; much less would I give countenance to that expression which some make use of, that he was the greatest sinner in the world; since I do not desire to apply a word to him, which is often taken in a sense not in the least applicable to the holy Jesus. We cannot be too cautious in our expressions, lest the most common sense in which we understand the greatest sinner, when applied to men, should give any one a wrong idea of him, as though he had committed, or were defiled with 84sin. All that we assert is, that he was charged with our sins, when he suffered for them, not with having committed them; but with the guilt of them, which, by his own consent, was imputed to him; otherwise his sufferings could not have been a punishment for sin; and if they had not been so, our sin could not have been expiated, nor would his sufferings have been the ground of our justification. This leads us to consider,

4. The reference that Christ’s suretyship-righteousness has to our justification. This is generally styled its being imputed; which is a word very much used by those who plead for the scripture-sense of the doctrine of justification, and as much opposed by them that deny it; and we are obliged to defend the use of it; otherwise Christ’s righteousness, how glorious soever it be in itself, would not avail for our justification. Here it is necessary for us to explain what we mean by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

There are some who oppose this doctrine, by calling it a putative righteousness, the shadow or appearance of that which has in it no reality, or our being accounted what we are not, whereby a wrong judgment is passed on persons and things. However, we are not to deny it because it is thus misrepresented, and thereby unfairly opposed: it is certain, that there are such words used in scripture, and often applied to this doctrine, which, without any ambiguity or strain on the sense thereof, may be translated, to reckon, to account, or to place a thing done by another to our account; or, as we express it, to impute.[38] And that, either respects what is done by us; or something done by another for us. The former of these senses our adversaries do not oppose; as when it is said, that Phinehas executed judgment, and it was counted unto him for righteousness, Psal. cvi. 31. that is, it was approved by God as a righteous action; which expression seems to obviate an objection that some might make against it; supposing, that Phinehas herein did that which more properly belonged to the civil magistrate; or, that this judicial act in him, was done without a formal trial, and, it may be, too hastily; but God owns the action, and, in a way of approbation, places it to his account for righteousness, that it should be reckoned a righteous action throughout all generations.

Again, sometimes that which is done by a person, is imputed to him, or charged upon him, so that he must answer for it, or suffer the punishment due to it: thus Shimei says to David, Let not my Lord impute iniquity unto me, 2 Sam. xix. 19. that is, do not charge that sin, which I committed, upon me, so as to put me to death for it, which thou mightest justly do. And Stephen prays, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge, Acts 85vii. 60. impute it not to them, or inflict not the punishment on them that it deserves. No one can deny that what is done by a person himself, may be placed to his own account; so that he may be rewarded or punished for it; or it may be approved or disapproved: but this is not the sense in which we understand it when speaking concerning the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us; for this supposes that which is done by another, to be placed to our account. This is the main thing which is denied by those who have other sentiments of the doctrine we are maintaining; and, they pretend, that for God to account Christ’s righteousness ours, is to take a wrong estimate of things, to reckon that done by us which was not; which is contrary to the wisdom of God, who can, by no means, entertain any false ideas of things; and if the action be reckoned ours, then the character of the person performing it, must also be applied to us; which is to make us sharers in Christ’s Mediatorial office and glory.

But this is the most perverse sense which can be put on words, or a setting this doctrine in such a light as no one takes it in, who pleads for it: we do not suppose, that God looks upon man with his all-seeing eye, as having done that which Christ did, or to sustain the character which belongs to him in doing it; we are always reckoned, by him, as offenders, or contracting guilt, and unable to do any thing that can make an atonement for it. Therefore, what interest soever we have in what Christ did, it is not reputed our action; but God’s imputing Christ’s righteousness to us, is to be taken in a forensic sense, which is agreeable to the idea of a debt being paid by a surety: it is not supposed that the debtor paid the debt which the surety paid; but yet it is placed to his account, or imputed to him as really as though he had paid it himself. Thus what Christ did and suffered in our room and stead, is as much placed to our account, as though we had done and suffered it ourselves; so that by virtue hereof we are discharged from condemnation.[39]

86This is the sense in which we understand the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us; and it is agreeable to the account we have thereof in scripture: thus we are said to be made the 87righteousness of God in him, 2 Cor. v. 21. the abstract being put for the concrete; that is, we are denominated and dealt with as righteous persons, acquitted and discharged from condemnation 88in the virtue of what was done by him, who is elsewhere styled, The Lord our righteousness; and the apostle speaks of his having Christ’s righteousness, Phil. iii. 9. that is, 89having it imputed to him, or having an interest in it, or being dealt with according to the tenor thereof; in this respect he opposes it to that righteousness which was in him, as the result 90of his own performances: and elsewhere Christ is said to be made of God unto us righteousness; that is, his fulfilling the law is placed to our account; and the apostle speaks of Christ’s 91being the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, Rom. x. 4. which is the same with what he asserts in other words elsewhere concerning the righteousness of the law’s 92being fulfilled in us, chap. viii. 3, 4. who could not be justified by our own obedience to it, in that it was weak through the flesh, or by reason of our fallen state; therefore Christ did this 93for us; and accordingly God deals with us as though we had fulfilled the law in our own persons, inasmuch as it was fulfilled by him as our surety.

94This may farther be illustrated, by what we generally understand by Adam’s sin being imputed to us, as one contrary may illustrate another; therefore, as sin and death entered into the world by the offence of one, to wit, the first Adam, in whom all have sinned; so by the righteousness of one the free gift, Rom. v. 18. that is, eternal life came upon all men, to wit, those who shall be saved unto justification of life; and for this reason the apostle speaks of Adam as the figure of him that was to come, ver. 14. Now as Adam’s sin was imputed to us, as our public head and representative, so that we are involved in the guilt thereof, or fall in him; so Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, as he was our public head and surety: and accordingly, in the eye of the law, that which was done by him, was the same as though it had been done by us; and therefore, as the effect and consequence hereof, we are justified thereby. This is what we call Christ’s righteousness being imputed to us, or placed to our account; and it is very agreeable to the common acceptation of the word, in dealings between man and man. When one has contracted a debt, and desires that it may be placed to the account of his surety, who undertakes for the payment of it, it is said to be imputed to him; and his discharge hereupon is as valid as though the debtor has paid it in his own person. This leads us,

VI. To consider justification as it is an act of God’s free grace, which is particularly insisted on in one of the answers we are explaining; for the understanding of which, let it be observed, that we are not to suppose, that when we are justified by an act of grace, this is opposed to our being justified upon the account of a full satisfaction made by our surety to the justice of God; in which respect we consider our discharge from condemnation, as an act of justice. The debtor is, indeed, beholden to the grace of God for this privilege, but the surety that paid the debt, had not the least abatement thereof made, but was obliged to glorify the justice of God to the utmost, which accordingly he did. However, there are several things in which the grace of God is eminently displayed, more particularly,

1. In that God should be willing to accept of satisfaction from the hands of our surety, which he might have demanded of us. This appears from what has been before observed, namely, 95that the debt which we had contracted was not of the same nature with pecuniary debts, in which case the creditor is obliged to accept of payment, though the overture hereof be made by another, and not by him that contracted the debt: whereas the case is different in debts of obedience to be performed, or punishment to be endured; in which instances, he, to whom satisfaction is to be given, must accept of one to be substituted in the room of him from whom the obedience or sufferings were originally due; otherwise, the overture made, or what is done and suffered by him, pursuant thereunto, is not regarded, or available to procure a discharge for him, in whose room he substituted himself. God might have exacted the debt of us, in our own persons, and then our condition had been equally miserable with that of fallen angels, for whom no mediator was accepted, no more than provided.

2. The grace of God farther appears, in that he provided a surety for us, which we could not have done for ourselves; nor have engaged him to perform this work for us, who was the only person that could bring about the great work of redemption.

The only creatures who are capable of performing perfect obedience, are the holy angels; but these could not do it, for, as has been before observed, whoever performs it must be incarnate, that they may be capable of paying the debt, in some respects, in kind, which was due from us; therefore they must suffer death, and consequently have a nature which is capable of dying; but this the angels had not, nor could have, but by the divine will.

Besides, if God should have dispensed with that part of satisfaction, which consists in a subjection to death, and have declared, that active obedience should be sufficient to procure our justification; the angels, though capable of performing active obedience, would, notwithstanding, have been defective therein; so that justice could not, in honour, have accepted of it, any more than it could have dispensed with the obligation to perform obedience in general; because it would not have been of infinite value; and it is the value of things that justice regards, and not barely the matter of perfection thereof in other respects: so that it must be an obedience that had in it something infinitely valuable, or else it could not have been accepted by God, as a price of redemption, in order to the procuring our justification: and this could be performed by none but our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious author and procurer of this privilege.

It was impossible for man to have found out this Mediator or Surety; so that it had its first rise from God, and not from us; it is he that found a ransom, and laid help upon one that 96is mighty; this was the result of his will: therefore our Saviour is represented as saying, Lo I come to do thy will, Heb. x. 7. as the apostle expresses it. That we could not, by any means, have found out this surety, or engaged him to have done that for us which was necessary for our justification, will evidently appear, if we consider,

(1.) That when man fell, the Son of God was not incarnate; and provided we allow that fallen man had some idea of a Trinity of persons, in the unity of the divine Essence, which is not unreasonable to suppose; since it was necessary that that should be revealed to him before he fell, in order to his performing acceptable worship; yet, can any one suppose that man could have asked such a favour of a divine person, as to take his nature, and put himself in his room and stead, and expose himself to the curse of that law which he had violated; this could never have entered into his heart; yea, the very thought, if it had taken its rise first from him, would have savoured of more presumption than had he entreated that God would pardon his sin without a satisfaction. But,

(2.) If he had supposed it impossible for the Son of God to be incarnate, or had conjectured that there had been the least probability of his being willing to express this instance of condescending goodness, how could he have known that God would have accepted the payment of our debt, at the hands of another, or have commended his love to us, who were such enemies to him, in not sparing him, but delivering him up for us? if God’s accepting of a satisfaction be necessary, in order to its taking effect, as well as the perfection or infinite value of it; it is certain, man could not have known that he would have done it; for that was a matter of pure revelation. Moreover,

(3.) Should we suppose even this possible, or that man might have expected that God would have been moved to have done it by intreaty; yet such was the corruption, perverseness, and rebellion of his nature, as fallen; and so great was his inability to perform any act of worship, that he could not have addressed himself to God, in a right manner, that he would admit of a surety; and God cannot hear any prayer but that which is put up to him by faith, which supposes a Mediator, whose purchase and gift it is; and therefore, since the sinful creature could not plead with God by faith, that he would send his Son to be a Mediator, how could he hope to obtain this blessing? it therefore evidently follows, that as a man could not give satisfaction for himself; so he could not find out any one that could or would give it for him. And therefore, the grace of God, in the provision that he has made of such a surety as his own Son, unasked for, unthought of, as well as undeserved, is very illustrious.

973. It was a very great instance of grace in our Saviour, that he was pleased to consent to perform this work for us, without which the justice of God could not have exacted the debt of him; and he being perfectly innocent, could not be obliged to suffer punishment, which it would have been unjust in God to have inflicted, had he not been willing to be charged with our guilt, and to stand in our room and stead. And his grace herein more eminently appears, in that though he knew before-hand all the difficulties, sorrows, and temptations, which he was to meet with in the discharge of this work; yet this did not discourage him from undertaking it; neither was he unapprised of the character of those for whom he undertook it: he knew the rebellion, and guilt contracted thereby, that rendered this necessary, in order to their salvation; and he knew before-hand, that they would, notwithstanding all the engagements he might lay on them to the contrary, discover the greatest ingratitude towards him; and, instead of improving so great an instance of condescending goodness, that they would neglect this great salvation, when purchased by him, and thereby appear to be his greatest enemies, notwithstanding this act of friendship to them, unless he not only engaged to purchase redemption for, but apply it to them, and work those graces in them whereby they might be enabled to give him the glory which is due to him for this great undertaking. And this leads us,

VII. To consider the use of faith in justification, and how, notwithstanding what has been said concerning our being justified by Christ’s righteousness, we may, in other respects, be said to be justified by faith; and also shew what this faith is, whereby we are justified: which being particularly insisted on in the two following answers, we shall proceed to consider them.

Quest. LXXII., LXXIII.

Quest. LXXII. What is justifying Faith?

Answ. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner, by the Spirit and word of God; whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself, and all other creatures, to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person, righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

Quest. LXXIII. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?

98Answ. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God; not because of those graces which do always accompany it, or of those good works that are the fruits of it; nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for justification; but only as it is an instrument, by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.

We choose first to speak to the latter of these two answers, in which faith is considered as that whereby a sinner is justified, before the former of them, inasmuch as it seems better connected with what has been before insisted on, in explaining the doctrine of justification. And in considering the account we have of justifying faith, there are two things, which may be taken notice of, in this answer.

I. It is observed, that though there are other graces which always accompany faith and good works, that flow from it; yet none of these are said to justify a sinner in the sight of God.

II. How faith justifies, or what it is to be justified by faith.[49]

99I. That though there are other graces which always accompany faith, and good works that flow from it; yet none of these are said to justify a sinner in the sight of God. There is an inseparable connexion between faith, and all other graces; which, though it be distinguished, is never separate from them. They are all considered as fruits of the Spirit, Gal. v. 22, 23. thus the apostle reckons up several other graces that are connected with faith, and proceed from the same Spirit, such as love, peace, joy, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance: and the same apostle commends the church at Thessalonica for their work of faith; and considers this as connected with a labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Thess. i. 3. And the apostle Peter exhorts the church, to which he writes, to add to their faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, to knowledge temperance, to temperance patience, to patience godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity, 2 Pet. i. 5, 6, 7. which supposes that all these graces ought to be connected together. And the apostle James calls it a dead faith, James ii. 17. which has not other works or graces joined with it; and, indeed, these graces are not only connected with it, but flow from it, or are the fruits thereof: thus we read of the heart’s being purified by faith, Acts xv. 9. that is, this grace, when acted in a right manner, will have a tendency, in some degree, to purge the soul from that moral impurity, which proceeds out of the heart of man, and is inconsistent with saving faith: and elsewhere we read of faith as working by love, Gal. v. 6. that is, exciting those acts of love, both to God and man, which contain a summary of practical religion. It is also said to overcome the world, 1 John v. 4. and it enables Christians to do or suffer great things for Christ’s sake, of which the apostle gives various instances in the Old Testament saints, Heb. xi. But, notwithstanding the connexion of other graces with faith, and those works which flow from it, we are never said, in scripture, to be justified thereby; not by love to God; nor by any act of obedience to him, which can be called no other than works: whereas, when the apostle speaks of our justification by faith, he puts it in opposition to works, when he says, that 100a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law, Rom. ii. 28.

Object. To this it is objected, that the apostle here speaks concerning the ceremonial law, which he excludes from being the matter of our justification, and not the moral law, or any evangelical duty, such as love and sincere obedience, which, together with faith is the matter of our justification.

Answ. To this it may be replied, That when the apostle speaks of our justification by faith, without the deeds of the law, he does not hereby intend the ceremonial law; for those whom he describes as justified persons, are said to be, in a following verse, not only Jews, but Gentiles, that were converted to the Christian faith; the former, indeed, were under a temptation to seek to be justified by the ceremonial law, and so to conclude that they had a right to eternal life; because of their being distinguished from the world, by the external privileges of the covenant which they were under, many of which were contained in, or signified by that law: but the Gentiles had nothing to do with it, and therefore never expected to be justified by the ceremonial law; accordingly, when the apostle speaks of justification by faith without the deeds of the law, he cannot hereby be supposed to intend the ceremonial law. And if we look a little farther into the context, we shall find, by his method of reasoning, that he excludes all works in general, and opposes faith to them; for he argues, that we are justified in such a way, as tends to exclude boasting; but he that insists on any works performed by himself, as the matter of his justification, cannot do this any otherwise than in a boasting way, valuing himself, and founding his right to eternal life, upon them. We are not therefore justified by them, but by faith; that is, we are justified in such a way as that, while we lay claim to the greatest privileges from Christ, we are disposed to give him all the glory, or to renounce our own righteousness at the same time that we have recourse to his righteousness for justification, by faith.

But that it may farther appear, that our justification by faith, is opposed to justification by works, either those that accompany or flow from it, we may apply what has been before suggested, in considering the matter of our justification to this argument. If we consider the demands of justice, or what it may in honour reckon a sufficient compensation for the dishonour that has been brought to the divine name by sin, or what may be deemed a satisfactory payment of the outstanding debt of perfect obedience, which was due from us, or punishment, which we were liable to, according to the sanction of the divine law; we may easily infer, that no obedience, performed by us, though including in it the utmost perfection, that a 101fallen creature is capable of attaining, is a sufficient satisfaction; and if there can be no justification without satisfaction, then we cannot be justified thereby. Therefore it is a vain thing for persons to distinguish in this case, between works done before and after faith, as though the former only were excluded from being the matter of our justification; or to say, as some do, that we are not indeed justified by obedience to the moral law, but by our obeying the precepts which our Saviour has laid down in the gospel, such as faith, and repentance, &c. which they call obedience to the gospel as a new law: but let it be considered, that these evangelical duties are supposed to be performed as the result of a divine command, which has the formal nature of a law, whether they be contained in the moral law or no; therefore, when we are justified by faith in opposition to the works of the law, this must be opposed to obedience of any kind performed by us.

And this also appears from the nature of faith, to which justification, by the works of the law, is opposed; for faith is a soul-humbling grace, and includes in it a renouncing of all merit, or inducement taken from ourselves, as a reason why God should bestow on us the blessings we stand in need of; it trusts in Christ for righteousness, and in him alone, and therefore turns itself from any thing that may have the least tendency to eclipse his glory, as the only foundation of our justification: therefore, when we are said to be justified by faith, and not by the works of the law, the meaning is, we are justified in such a way as tends to set the crown upon Christ’s head, acknowledging him to be the only fountain from whence this privilege is derived.

It follows from hence that our justification cannot be founded on our repentance; though this is often maintained by those who are on the other side of the question, who suppose, that justification contains in it nothing else but forgiveness of sin; and if offences are to be forgiven by men, upon their repentance, or confessing their fault, then forgiveness may be expected from God, on our repentance: and some use a very unsavoury way of speaking, when they say, that our tears have a virtue to wash away our sins; and that they may give farther countenance to this opinion, they refer to that scripture, in which it is said, Repent, that your sins may be blotted out, Acts iii. 19. and others of the like nature; by which we are not to suppose, that the apostle means, that forgiveness of sin is founded on our repentance, as the matter of our justification in the sight of God; but that there is an inseparable connexion between our claim to forgiveness of sin, (together with all the fruits and effects of the death of Christ, whereby this blessing was procured) and repentance; so that one is not to be expected 102without the other; and though men are to forgive injuries in case the offender acknowledges his fault, and makes sufficient restitution; this they may do, inasmuch as the offence is only committed against a creature; and especially if the offence be of a private nature. But supposing this should be applied to juridical and forensick cases, will any one say, that the prince is obliged to forgive the criminal who is under a sentence of condemnation, because he is sorry for what he has done, or confesses his fault? Would this secure his honour as a law-giver? And if hereupon the offender were to be discharged from his guilt, would not this be a defect in the administration of the legislature? How then can this be applied to forgiveness, expected at the hand of God; in which justice, as well as mercy, is to have the glory that is due to it; and we are not only to be acquitted, but justified, or pronounced guiltless, since our acknowledgment of our offence cannot be reckoned a sufficient satisfaction to the justice of God?

Object. It is objected, by those on the other side of the question, that though repentance be not in itself a sufficient compensation to the justice of God for the crimes which we have committed; yet God may, by an act of grace, accept of it, as though it had been sufficient[50]. This they illustrate by a similitude taken from a person’s selling an estate of a considerable value, to one who has no money to buy it, provided he will pay a pepper-corn of acknowledgment. Thus, how insignificant soever, repentance, or any other grace, which is deemed the matter of our justification, be in itself, it is by an act of favour, deemed a sufficient price.

Answ. In answer to this I would observe, that the objection, which was before brought against the doctrine we have been maintaining, concerning the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, namely, that it was a putative righteousness, a not judging of things according to truth, and the like, seems to be of no weight when it affects their own cause; otherwise we might turn their argument against themselves, and ask them; whether this be for God to judge according to truth, when that is accepted as a sufficient payment, by his justice, which is in itself of no value? But passing this by, we may farther observe, that this is wholly to set aside the necessity of satisfaction, as the Socinians do; and therefore it is no wonder that they make use of this method of reasoning. As for others who do not altogether deny this doctrine, yet think that a small price may be deemed satisfactory for sin committed. That which 103may be replied to it, is, that if justification, as tending to advance the glory of divine justice, in taking away the guilt of sin, depends upon a price paid that is equivalent to the debt contracted; and nothing short of a price of infinite value can be reckoned an equivalent thereunto, then certainly that which is performed by men, cannot be deemed a sufficient payment, or accepted of as such.

It is a vain thing for persons to pretend that there is a difference between satisfying God, and satisfying his justice; or, that to satisfy God is to pay a price, be it never so small, that he demands; whereas, satisfying justice is paying a price equal to the thing purchased; since we must conclude, that God cannot deem any thing satisfactory to himself, that is not so to his justice. Therefore, this distinction will not avail, to free their argument from the absurdity that attends it.

We might here observe, that as some speak of pardon of sin’s being founded on our repentance; others speak of our justification as being by the act of faith, or by faith considered as a work, and in defending justification by works, as though it were not opposed to justification by faith (the contrary to which has been before proved) they argue, that we are often said, in scripture, to be justified by faith; but this faith is a work; therefore it cannot be denied but that we are justified by works. To which it may be replied, that it is one thing to say, that we are justified by faith, that is, a work, and another thing to say, that we are justified by it as a work; or, it is one thing to say, that we are justified for our faith, and another thing to say, that we are justified by it; which will more evidently appear under the following head, which we proceed to consider; namely,

II. What it is for us to be justified by faith, or how faith justifies. None can, with the least shadow of reason, deny, that justification by faith, is a scripture-mode of speaking, though some have questioned, whether the apostle’s words, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, gives countenance to the doctrine of justification by faith; for they observe, that by putting a stop immediately after the word justified, the sense would be, that they who are justified by Christ’s righteousness, have peace with God by faith, through the Lord Jesus Christ: but though this will a little alter the reading of the text; yet it will not overthrow the doctrine of justification by faith, as contained therein. For if we understand our having peace with God, as importing, that peace which they have a right to, who are interested in Christ’s righteousness, and not barely peace of conscience: then it will follow, that to have this peace by faith, is, in effect, the same as to be justified by faith; and this farther appears, 104from the following words, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace, wherein we stand. The grace wherein we stand, is that grace which is the foundation of our justification, and not barely peace of conscience: when we are therefore said to have access by faith unto this grace, it is the same as for us to be justified by faith.

Moreover, this is not the only place in which we are said to be justified by faith; for the apostle says elsewhere, We are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ, Gal. ii. 16. or by faith in Jesus Christ, and again, the just shall live by faith, Rom. i. 17. which, agreeably to the context, must be understood of their being justified by faith; in which sense the apostle particularly explains it elsewhere, Gal. iii. 11. and in another place he speaks of the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ, Rom. iii. 22. and also of a believer’s waiting for the hope of righteousness by faith, Gal. v. 5. We must not therefore deny that justification is by faith; but rather explain the sense of those scriptures that establish this doctrine, agreeably to the mind of the Holy Ghost therein.

There are various methods taken to explain the doctrine of justification by faith; particularly one that we think subversive of justification by Christ’s righteousness: the other, that which is contained in the answer which we are explaining.

1. As to the former of these, namely, that which is inconsistent with the doctrine of justification by Christ’s righteousness. This is maintained by those who plead for justification by works; and consequently, they say, that we are justified by faith, and all other graces; which they call the conditions of our justification in the sight of God; and indeed to be justified by faith, according to them, is little other than to be justified for faith: whether they reckon it a meritorious condition or no, they must own it to be a pleadable condition; otherwise it would have no reference to justification; and if it be taken in this sense, our justification depends as much upon it, as though it had been meritorious. This is the account which some give of justification; and to prepare the way for this opinion, they suppose, that the terms of salvation, in the gospel, which are substituted in the room of those which were required under the first covenant made with Adam, are faith, repentance and sincere obedience, instead of perfect; and that God in justifying a penitent, believing sinner, pursuant to the performance of these conditions, declares his willingness, that there should be a relaxation of that law which man was at first obliged to obey; and accordingly, that sincerity is demanded by him instead of perfection, or substituted in the room of it; this they call the new law, or others style it a remedial law: so that instead of being justified by Christ’s yielding perfect 105obedience, or paying the out-standing debt, which we were obliged, by reason of the violation of the first covenant, to pay, we are to be justified by our own imperfect obedience.

But that which may be objected to this method of reasoning, is, that it is inconsistent with the holiness of the divine nature, and the glory of the justice of God, detracts from the honour of his law, and is, in effect, to maintain that we are justified without satisfaction given. For though these terms of our justification, and acceptance in the sight of God, may be falsely styled a valuable consideration; yet none will pretend to assert, that they are an infinite price; and nothing short of that (which is no other than Christ’s righteousness) is sufficient to answer this end. I am sensible, that they who lay down this plan of justification, allege in defence thereof; that though these terms of acceptance are of small value in themselves; yet God, by an act of grace, reckons the payment of a small debt equivalent to that of a greater, as has been before observed. And they speak of faith and repentance as having a value set upon them by their reference to the blood of Christ[51], who merited this privilege for us, that we should be justified in such a way, or upon these conditions performed: they call them indeed easier terms, or conditions, and include them all in the general word sincerity, instead of perfection. But they are nevertheless somewhat divided in their method of explaining themselves, inasmuch as some suppose these conditions to be wholly in our own power, without the aids of divine grace, as much as perfect obedience was in the power of our first parents; whereas others ascribe a little more to the grace of God, according as they explain the doctrine of effectual calling; though they do not suppose, that these conditions are altogether out of our own power; and they so far lay a foundation for the sinner’s glorying herein, as that, they suppose, our right to justification and eternal life is founded on them.

I cannot but think this method of explaining the doctrine of justification to be subversive of the gospel, and that it is highly derogatory to the glory of God to assert that he can dispense with the demand of perfect obedience, and justify a person on easier terms; which is little better than what the apostle calls make void the law: this, says he, we are far from doing by faith, or by our asserting the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ’s righteousness; but we rather establish it hereby: and to say that God sets such a value on our performing these conditions of the new covenant, as that they are deemed equivalent to Christ’s performing perfect obedience for us, this reflects on his glory, as set forth, to be a propitiation for sin, to declare God’s righteousness in the remission thereof; and detracts 106from the obligation which we are laid under to him, for what he did and suffered in our behalf, for our justification.

Moreover, to assert that God sets this value on our performances, pursuant to Christ’s merit; or that they are highly esteemed by him, because they are tinctured with his blood; this is contrary to the design of his death, which was, not that such an estimate might be set on what is done by us; but rather, that the iniquities that attend our best performances may be forgiven; and that (though, when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants,) we may be made accepted in the Beloved; and having no justifying righteousness of our own, may be justified, and glory in that which he hath wrought out for us.

And as for the supposition, that faith, repentance, and new obedience, are not only conditions of justification, but easy to be performed: this plainly discovers, that they who maintain it, either think too lightly of man’s impotency and averseness to what is good, and his alienation from the life of God, or are strangers to their own hearts, and are not duly sensible that it is God that works in his people both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure.

The only thing that I shall add, in opposition to the doctrine of justification by works, is, that whatever is the matter or ground of our justification in the sight of God, must be pleadable at his bar; for we cannot be justified without a plea, and if any plea, taken from our own works, be thought sufficient, how much soever the proud and deluded heart of man may set too great a value upon them; yet God will not reckon the plea valid, so as to discharge us from guilt, and give us a right and title to eternal life on the account thereof; which leads us to consider,

2. The method taken to explain this doctrine in the answer before us, which we think agreeable to the divine perfections, and contains a true state of the doctrine of justification by faith. We before considered justification as a forensic act, that we might understand what is meant by our sins being imputed to Christ our Head and Surety, and his righteousness imputed to us, or placed to our account. And we are now to speak of this righteousness as pleaded by, or applied to us, as the foundation of our claim to all the blessings that were purchased by it. Here we must consider a sinner as bringing in his plea, in order to his discharge; and this is twofold.

(1.) If he be charged by men, or by Satan, with crimes not committed, he pleads his own innocency; if charged with hypocrisy, he pleads his own sincerity. Thus we are to understand several expressions in scripture to this purpose; as for instance, when a charge of the like nature was brought in against 107Job, Satan having suggested that he did not serve God for nought; and that if God would touch his bone and his flesh, he would curse him to his face: and his friends having often applied the character they give of the hypocrite to him, and so concluding him to be a wicked person, he says, God forbid that I should justify you; that is, that I should acknowledge your charge to be just; till I die, I will not remove mine integrity from me: my righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live, Job xxvii. 5, 6. that is, I never will own what you insinuate, that my heart is not right with God. And David, when complaining of the ill-treatment which he met with from his enemies and persecutors, who desired not only to tread down his life upon the earth, but to lay his honour in the dust; to murder his name as well as his person, he prays, Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me, Psal. vii. 8. What could he plead against maliciousness and false insinuations, but his righteousness or his integrity? And elsewhere, when he says, The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me: For I have kept the ways of the Lord; his judgments were before me. I was also upright before him, and have kept myself from mine iniquity, 2 Sam. xxii. 21, &c. seq. it is nothing else but an intimation, that how much soever he might be charged with the contrary vices, he was, in this respect, innocent: and though God did not justify him at his tribunal, for this righteousness; yet, in the course of his providence, he seemed to approve of his plea, so far as that whatever the world thought of him, he plainly dealt with him as one who was highly favoured by him; or whom, by his dealings with him, he evidently distinguished from those whose hearts were not right with him. It is true, some who plead for justification by our own righteousness, allege these scriptures as a proof of it, without distinguishing between the justification of our persons in the sight of God, and the justification of our righteous cause; or our being justified when accused at God’s tribunal, and our being justified, or vindicated from those charges that are brought against us at man’s.

(2.) When a person stands at God’s tribunal, as we must suppose the sinner to do, when bringing in his plea for justification in his sight; then he has nothing else to plead but Christ’s righteousness; and faith is that grace that pleads it: and in that respect we are said to be justified by faith, or in a way of believing. Faith doth not justify by presenting or pleading itself, or any other grace that accompanies or flows from it, as the cause why God should forgive sin, or give us a right to eternal life; for they have not sufficient worth or excellency in 108them to procure these blessings. Therefore, when we are said to be justified by faith, it is by faith, as apprehending, pleading, or laying hold on Christ’s righteousness; and this gives occasion to divines to call it the instrument of our justification. Christ’s righteousness is the thing claimed or apprehended; and faith is that by which it is claimed or apprehended; and, agreeably to the idea of an instrument, we are said not to be justified for faith, but by it. Christ’s righteousness is that which procures a discharge from condemnation for all for whom it was wrought out; faith is the hand that receives it; whereby a person has a right to conclude, that it was wrought out for him. Christ’s righteousness is that which has a tendency to enrich and adorn the soul; and faith is the hand that receives it, whereby it becomes ours, in a way of fiducial application: and as the righteousness of Christ is compared, in scripture, to a glorious robe, which renders the soul beautiful, or is its highest and chief ornament; it is by faith that it is put on; and, in this respect, as the prophet speaks, its beauty is rendered perfect through his comeliness, which is put upon him, Ezek. xvi. 14. so that Christ’s righteousness justifies, as it is the cause of our discharge; faith justifies as the instrument that applies this discharge to us; thus when it is said, the just shall live by faith, faith is considered as that which seeks to, and finds this life in him; the effect is, by a metonymy, applied to the instrument; as when the husbandman is said to live or to be maintained by his plough, and the artist to live by his hands, or the beggar by his empty hand that receives the donative. If a person was in a dungeon, like the prophet Jeremiah, and a rope is let down to draw him out of it, his laying hold on it is the instrument, but the hand that draws him out, is the principal cause of his release from thence; or, that we may make use of a similitude that more directly illustrates the doctrine we are maintaining, suppose a condemned malefactor had a pardon procured for him, which gives him a right to liberty, or a discharge from the place of his confinement, this must be pleaded, and his claim be rendered visible; and after that he is no longer deemed a guilty person, but discharged, in open court, from the sentence that he was under. Thus Christ procures forgiveness by his blood; the gospel holds it forth, and describes those who have a right to claim it as belonging to him in particular: and hence arises a visible discharge from condemnation, and a right to claim the benefits that attend it. If we understand justification by faith, in this sense, we do not attribute too much to faith on the one hand, nor too little to Christ’s righteousness on the other.

And we rather choose to call faith an instrument, than a condition of our justification, being sensible, that the word condition 109is generally used to signify that for the sake whereof, a benefit is conferred, rather than the instrument by which it is applied; not but that it may be explained in such a way, as is consistent with the doctrine of justification by faith, as before considered. We do not deny that faith is the condition of our claim to Christ’s righteousness; or that it is God’s ordinance, without which we have no ground to conclude our interest in it. We must therefore distinguish between its being a condition of forgiveness, and its being a condition of our visible and apparent right hereunto. This cannot be said to belong to us, unless we receive it; neither can we conclude that we have an interest in Christ’s redemption, any more than they for whom he did not lay down his life, but by this medium. We must first consider Christ’s righteousness as wrought out for all them that were given him by the Father; and faith is that which gives us ground to conclude, that this privilege, in particular, belongs to us.

This account of the use of faith in justification, we cannot but think sufficient to obviate the most material objections that are brought against our way of maintaining the doctrine of justification, viz. by Christ’s righteousness, in one respect, and by faith in another. It is an injurious suggestion to suppose that we deny the necessity of faith in any sense, or conclude, that we may lay claim to this privilege without it; since we strenuously assert the necessity, on the one hand, of Christ’s righteousness being wrought out for us, and forgiveness procured thereby; and, on the other hand, the necessity of our receiving it, each of which is true in its respective place. Christ must have the glory that is due to him, and faith the work, or office that belongs to it.

Thus we have considered Christ’s righteousness as applied by faith; and it may be also observed, that there is one scripture, in which it is said to be imputed by faith, as the apostle Paul, when speaking concerning Abraham’s justification by faith, in this righteousness, says, It was imputed to him for righteousness; and adds, that it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him, but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe, Rom. iv. 22, 23, 24. in which scripture, I conceive, that imputation is taken for application; and accordingly the meaning is, the righteousness of Christ is so imputed, as that we have ground to place it to our own account, if we believe; which is the same with applying it by faith.[52]

110And whereas the apostle speaks elsewhere of faith’s being counted for righteousness, ver. 5. it must be allowed, that there is a great deal of difficulty in the mode of expression. If we 111assert that the act of believing is imputed for righteousness, as they who establish the doctrine of justification by works, or by faith as a work, we overthrow that which we have been maintaining: 112and if, on the other hand, we understand faith, for the object of faith, viz. what was wrought out by Christ, which faith is conversant about, and conclude, (as I conceive we ought to do,) that this, is imputed for righteousness, this is supposed, by some, to deviate too much from the common sense of words, to be allowed of: but if there be such a figurative way of speaking used in other scriptures, why may we not suppose that it is used in this text under our present consideration? If other graces are sometimes taken for the object thereof, why may not faith be taken, by a metonymy, for its object? Thus the apostle calls those whom he writes to, his joy, that is, the object, or matter thereof, Phil. iv. 1. And in the book of Canticles, the church calls Christ her love, Cant. iv. 8. that is, the object thereof. And elsewhere, hope is plainly taken for the object of it, when the apostle says, Hope that is seen, is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? Rom. viii. 24. By which he plainly intends, that whatever is the object of hope, cannot be in our present possession: and Christ is farther styled, The blessed hope, Tit. ii. 13. that is, the person whose appearance we hope for. And Jacob speaks of God as the fear of his father Isaac, Gen. xxxi. 53. that is, the person whom he worshipped with reverential fear; in all which cases the phraseology is equally difficult with that of the text, under our present consideration. Thus concerning Christ’s righteousness, as wrought out for us, and applied by faith; which is the foundation of all our peace and comfort, both in life and death; and therefore cannot but be reckoned a doctrine of the highest importance: we shall now consider some things that may be inferred from it. And,

[1.] From what has been said concerning justification, as founded in Christ’s suretyship-righteousness, wrought out for us, by what was done and suffered by him, in his human nature; and the infinite value thereof, as depending on the glory of the divine nature, to which it is united, we cannot but infer the absurdity of two contrary opinions, namely, that of those who have asserted, that we are justified by the essential righteousness of Christ as God[57]; and that of others, who pretend, that because all mediatorial acts are performed by Christ only as man: therefore the infinite dignity of the divine nature, has no reference to their being satisfactory to divine justice. This is what they mean when they say, that we are justified by 113Christ’s righteousness as man, in opposition to our being justified by his essential righteousness as God[58]: whereas, I think, the truth lies in a medium between both these extremes; on the one hand we must suppose, that Christ’s engagement to become a surety for us, and so stand in our room and stead, and thereby to pay the debt which we had contracted to the justice of God, could not be done in any other than the human nature; for the divine nature is not capable of being under a law, or fulfilling it, or, in any instance, of obeying, or suffering; and therefore, we cannot be justified by Christ’s essential righteousness, as God; and, on the other hand, what Christ did and suffered as man, would not have been sufficient for our justification, had it not had an infinite value put upon it, arising from the union of the nature that suffered with the divine nature, which is agreeable to the apostle’s expression, when he says, God purchased the church with his own blood, Acts, xx. 28.

[2.] From what has been said, concerning the fruits and effects of justification, as by virtue hereof our sins are pardoned, and we made accepted in the beloved, we infer; that it is not only an unscriptural way of speaking, but has a tendency to overthrow the doctrine we have been maintaining, to assert, as some do, that God is only rendered reconcileable by what was done and suffered by Christ. This seems to be maintained by those who treat on this subject, with a different view. Some speak of God’s being rendered reconcileable by Christ’s righteousness that they might make way for what they have farther to advance, namely, that God’s being reconciled to a sinner, is the result of his own repentance, or the amendment of his life, whereby he makes his peace with him; which is to make repentance or reformation the matter of our justification, and substitute it in the room of Christ’s righteousness: therefore, they who speak of God’s being made reconcileable in this sense, by his blood, are so far from giving a true account of the doctrine of justification, that, in reality, they overthrow it.

But there are others, who speak of God’s being reconcileable as the consequence of Christ’s satisfaction, that they might not be thought to assert that God is actually reconciled by the blood of Christ, to those who are in an unconverted state, which is inconsistent therewith; therefore they use this mode of expression, lest they should be thought to give countenance to the doctrine of actual justification before faith; but certainly we are under no necessity of advancing one absurdity to avoid another: 114therefore, let it be here considered, that the scripture speaks expressly of God’s being reconciled by the death of Christ; and accordingly he is said to have brought him again from the dead, as a God of peace, Heb. xiii. 20. And elsewhere, he speaks of God’s having reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. v. 18. and not becoming reconcilable to us. Again, When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved, Rom. v. 10. that is, shall obtain the saving effects of this reconciliation by his life. And again, Having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things to himself: and you that were sometimes alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled, in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable, and unreprovable in his sight, Col. i. 21, 22. Where he describes those who were reconciled as once enemies, and speaks of this privilege as being procured by the death of Christ, and of holiness here, and salvation hereafter, as the consequence of it; therefore it is such a reconciliation as is contained in our justification.

But though this appears very agreeable to the mind of the Holy Ghost, in scripture, yet it must be understood in consistency with those other scriptures, that represent persons in an unconverted state, as children of wrath, Eph. ii. 3. and being hateful, Tit. iii. 3. that is, not only deserving to be hated by God, but actually hated, as appears by the many threatnings that are denounced against them, and their being in a condemned state, that we may not give countenance to the doctrine of some, who, not distinguishing between God’s secret and revealed will, maintain that we are not only virtually, but actually justified before we believe; as though we had a right to claim Christ’s righteousness before we have any ground to conclude, that it was wrought out for us: but what has been already suggested concerning justification by faith, will, I think, sufficiently remove this difficulty.

The only thing that remains to be explained is; how God may be said to be reconciled by the blood of Christ, to a person who is in an unconverted state, and as such, represented as a child of wrath? for the understanding of which, let us consider, that so long as a person is an unbeliever, he has no ground to conclude, according to the tenor of God’s revealed will, that he is reconciled to him, or that he is any other than a child of wrath. Nevertheless, when we speak of God’s being reconciled to his elect, according to the tenor of his secret will, before they believe, that is in effect to say, that justification, as it is an immanent act in God, is antecedent to faith, which is a certain truth, inasmuch as faith is a fruit and consequence 115thereof: whereas, God does not declare that he is reconciled to us, or give us ground to conclude it; whereby we appear no longer to be children of wrath, till we believe. If this be duly considered, we have no reason to assert, that God is reconcileable, rather than reconciled by the death of Christ, lest we should be thought to maintain the doctrine of justification, or deliverance from wrath, as a declared act, before we believe. And to this we may add, that God was reconcileable to his elect, that is, willing to be reconciled to them before Christ died for them; otherwise he would never have sent him into the world to make reconciliation for the sins of his people: he was reconcileable, and therefore designed to turn from the fierceness of his wrath; and in order thereunto, he appointed Christ to make satisfaction for sin, and procure peace for them.

[3.] There is not the least inconsistency between those scriptures which speak of justification as being an act of God’s free grace, and others, which speak of it as being, by faith, founded on Christ’s righteousness; or between God’s pardoning sin freely, without regard to any thing done by us to procure it; and yet insisting on, and receiving a full satisfaction, as the meritorious and procuring cause of it. This is sometimes objected against what we have advanced in explaining the doctrine of justification, as being, in some respects, an act of justice, and in others, of grace; as though it were inconsistent with itself, and our method of explaining it were liable to an absurdity, which is contrary to reason; as though two contradictory propositions could be both true; namely, that justification should be an act of the strictest justice, without any abatement of the debt demanded, and yet of free grace, without insisting on the payment of the debt: but this seeming contradiction may be easily reconciled, if we consider that the debt was not paid by us in our own persons; which had it been done, it would have been inconsistent with forgiveness’s being an act of grace; but by our surety, and in that respect there was no abatement of the debt, nor did he receive a discharge by an act of grace, but was justified as our head or surety, by his own righteousness, or works performed by him; whereas, we are justified by his suretyship-righteousness, without works performed by us; and this surety was provided for us; as has been before observed; and therefore, when we speak of justification, as being an act of grace, we distinguish between the justification of our surety, after he had given full satisfaction for the debt which we had contracted; and this payment’s being placed to our account by God’s gracious imputation thereof to us, and our obtaining forgiveness as the result thereof, which can be no other than an act of the highest grace.

116[4.] From what has been said concerning justification by faith, we infer, the method, order and time, in which God justifies his people. There are some who not only speak of justification before faith, but from eternity; and consider it as an immanent act in God in the same sense as election is said to be. I will not deny eternal justification, provided it be considered as contained in God’s secret will, and not made the rule by which we are to determine ourselves to be in a justified state, and as such to have a right and title to eternal life, before it is revealed or apprehended by faith: if we take it in this sense, it is beyond dispute, that justification is not by faith; but inasmuch as the most known, yea, the only sense in which justification is spoken of, as applied to particular persons, is, that it is by faith: therefore, we must suppose,

1st, That it is a declared act. That which is hid in God, and not declared, cannot be said to be applied; and that which is not applied, cannot be the rule by which particular persons may judge of their state. Thus, if we speak of eternal election, and say, That God has peremptorily determined the state of those that shall be saved, that they shall not perish; this is nothing to particular persons, unless they have ground to conclude themselves elected. So if we say that God has, from all eternity, given his elect into Christ’s hands; that he has undertaken before the foundation of the world, to redeem them; and that, pursuant hereunto, God promised that he would give eternal life unto them; or, if we consider Christ as having fulfilled what he undertook from all eternity, finished transgression, brought in everlasting righteousness, and fully paid the debt which he undertook; consider him as being discharged, and receiving an acquittance, when raised from the dead; and all this as done in the name of the elect, as their head and representative; and if you farther consider them, as it is often expressed, as virtually justified in him; all this is nothing to them, with respect to their peace and comfort; they have no more a right to claim an interest in this privilege or relation, than if he had not paid a price for them. Therefore, we suppose that justification, as it is the foundation of our claim to eternal life, is a declared act.

2d. If justification be a declared act, there must be some method which God uses, whereby he declares, or makes it known. Now it is certain, that he, no where in scripture, tells an unbeliever that he has an interest in Christ’s righteousness, or that his sins are pardoned, or gives him any warrant to take comfort from any such conclusion; but, on the other hand, such an one has no ground to conclude any other, concerning himself, but that he is a child of wrath; for he is to judge of things according to the tenor of God’s revealed will. Christ’s 117righteousness is nothing to him in point of application; he is guilty of bold presumption if he lays claim to it, or takes comfort from it, as much as he would be were he to say, some are elected, therefore I am. Nevertheless,

3d, When a person believes, he has a right to conclude, that he is justified, or to claim all the privileges that result from it; and this is what we call justification by faith, which therefore cannot be before faith; for that which gives a person a right to claim a privilege, must be antecedent to this claim; or, that which is the foundation of a person’s concluding himself to be justified, must be antecedent to his making this conclusion; and in this respect, all who duly consider what they affirm, must conclude that justification is not before faith.

[5.] From what has been said concerning the office or use of faith in justification, as it is an instrument that applies Christ’s righteousness to ourselves, we infer; that it is more than an evidence of our justification: we do not indeed deny it to be an evidence that we were virtually justified in Christ as our head and representative, when he was raised from the dead, in the same sense as it is an evidence of our eternal election: but this is equally applicable to all other graces, and therefore cannot be a true description of justifying faith. If we are justified by faith, only as it is an evidence of our right to Christ’s righteousness, we are as much justified by love, patience, and submission to the divine will, or any other grace that accompanies salvation; but they who speak of faith as only an evidence, will not say that we are justified by all other graces, in the same sense as we are justified by faith; and indeed, the scripture gives us no warrant so to do.

[6.] From what has been said concerning faith as giving us a right to claim Christ’s righteousness, we infer; that a person is justified before he has what we call, the faith of assurance; of which more hereafter: therefore we consider the grace of faith, as justifying or giving us a right to claim Christ’s righteousness, whether we have an actual claim or no. This must be allowed, otherwise the loss of this assurance would infer the suspension or loss of our justification, and consequently would render our state as uncertain as our frames, or our peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, as liable to be lost as that peace and joy which we sometimes have in believing, and at other times are destitute of.

[7.] From what has been said concerning justifying faith’s being accompanied with all other graces, we infer; that that faith which is justifying, is also a saving grace, or a grace which accompanies salvation; but yet there is this difference between saving faith, as we generally call it, and justifying, in that the former respects Christ in all his offices, the latter considers him 118only in his Priestly office, or as set forth to be a propitiation for sin. And this leads us to consider the grace of faith in its larger extent, both with respect to its acts and objects, as contained in the former of the answers we are explaining: and therefore,

We are now to consider the nature of faith in general, or of that faith, which, as before explained, we call justifying. There are some things in this grace which are common to it with other graces; particularly, it is styled a saving grace, not as being the cause of our salvation, but as it accompanies, or is connected with it. Again, it is said to be wrought in the heart of a sinner, to distinguish it from other habits of a lower nature, which are acquired by us; and it is said to be wrought by the Spirit and Word of God; by his Spirit, as the principal efficient, who, in order thereunto, exerts his divine power; and by the word, as the instrument which he makes use of. The Word presents to us the object of faith; and it is God’s ordinance, in attending to which, he works and excites it.

Moreover, there are several things supposed or contained in this grace of faith, which are common to it, with other graces. As when a believer is said to be first convinced of sin and misery, and of his being unable to recover himself out of the lost condition in which he is, by nature; and the impossibility of his being recovered out of it by any other creature; in all these respects, faith contains in it several things in common with other graces; particularly with conversion, effectual calling, and repentance unto life. These things, therefore, we shall pass over as being considered elsewhere, and confine ourselves to what is peculiar to this grace mentioned in this answer; only some few things may be observed concerning it, as it is styled a saving grace, and wrought in the heart of man, by the Spirit and Word of God; and we shall add some other things, of which we have no particular account in this answer; which may contain a more full explication of this grace: in speaking to which, we shall observe the following method;

I. We shall consider the meaning of the word faith, in the more general idea of it.

II. We shall speak particularly concerning the various kinds of faith. And,

III. The various objects and acts of saving faith; especially as it assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, and receives, and rests upon, Christ and his righteousness, held forth therein.

IV. We shall consider it as a grace that accompanies salvation, and wrought in the heart by the power of the Spirit, and instrumentality of the word.

119V. We shall consider it as strong or weak, increasing or declining, with the various marks and evidences thereof.

VI. We shall speak of the use of faith in the whole conduct of our lives; as every thing we do in an acceptable manner, is said to be done by it.

VII. We shall shew how it is to be attained or increased, and what are the means conducive thereunto.

I. Concerning the meaning of the word faith, in the more general idea thereof. It is either an assent to a truth, founded on sufficient evidence; or a confiding or relying on the word or power of one, who is able and willing to afford us sufficient help or relief.[59]

1. As to the former of these, as it contains an assent to a truth proposed and supported by sufficient evidence. This is more especially an act of the understanding; and it is necessary, in order hereunto, that something be discovered to us, as the matter of our belief, which demands or calls for our assent; and that is considered either only as true, or else, as true and good: if it be considered only as true, the faith, or assent that is required thereunto is speculative; but if we consider it not only as true, but good, or, as containing something redounding to our advantage; then the faith resulting from it is practical, and seated partly in the understanding, and partly in the will; or, at least, the will is influenced and inclined to embrace what the understanding not only assents to as true, but proposes to us as that which if enjoyed would tend very much to our advantage.

As to this general description of faith, as an assent to what is reported, founded upon sufficient evidence, we may farther consider;[60] that it is not in our power to believe a thing, unless the judgment be convinced, and we have ground to conclude it to be true, and accordingly there must be something which has a tendency to give this conviction; and that it is what we call evidence: every thing that is reported is not to be credited; since it has very often no appearance of truth in it: and it is reasonable for the understanding, to demand a proof before it yields an assent; and if it be a matter of report, then we are to consider the nature of the evidence, whether it be 120sufficient, or insufficient to persuade us to believe what is reported; and according to the strength or credibility thereof, we believe, hesitate about it, or utterly reject it. If, according to our present view of things, it may be true or false, we hardly call it the object of faith; we can only say concerning it, that it is probable; if it be, on the other hand, attested by such evidence, as cannot, without scepticism be denied; hence arises what we call certainty, or an assurance of faith, supported by the strongest evidence.

Moreover, according to the nature of the evidence, or testimony, on which it is founded, it is distinguished into human and divine; both of these are contained in the apostle’s words, If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater, 1 John v. 9. As for human testimony, though it may not be termed false, yet it can hardly be deemed any other than fallible, since it cannot be said concerning sinful man, that it is impossible for him to lie or deceive, or be deceived himself; but when we believe a thing on the divine testimony, our faith is infallible: it is as impossible for us to be deceived as it is for God to impart that to us, which is contrary to his infinite holiness and veracity. It is in this latter sense that we consider the word faith, when we speak of it as an act of religious worship, or included or supposed in our idea of saving faith; and so we style it a firm assent to every thing that God has revealed as founded on the divine veracity.

Let us now consider faith as it contains an assent to a thing, not only as true, but as good; upon which account we call it a practical assent, first seated in the understanding; and then the will embraces what the understanding discovers to be conducive to our happiness; we first believe the truth of it, and then regulate our conduct agreeably thereunto. As when a criminal hears a report of an act of grace being issued forth by the king, he does not rest in a bare assent to the truth thereof, but puts in his claim to it. Or, as when a merchant is credibly informed, that there are great advantages to be obtained by trading into foreign countries; he receives the report with a design to use all proper methods to partake of the advantage; as our Saviour illustrates it, when he compares the kingdom of heaven unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls; who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought, Matt. xiii. 45. We have sufficient evidence to support our faith, that there is forgiveness of sin, through the blood of Christ; and that all spiritual blessings are treasured up in him, for the heirs of salvation: in this respect faith does not contain a bare speculative assent to the truth of this proposition; but it excites in us an endeavour to obtain these 121blessings in that way which is prescribed by him, who is the giver thereof.

2. Faith may be farther considered, as denoting an act of trust or dependence on him, who is the object thereof. This is very distinct from the former sense of the word: for though it supposes indeed an assent of the understanding to some truth proposed; yet this truth is of such a nature, as that it produces in us a resting or reliance on one who is able, and has expressed a willingness to do us good; and whose promise relating hereunto, is such, as we have ground to depend on. This supposes in him, who is the subject thereof, a sense of his own weakness or indigence, and in him that is the object of it, a fitness to be the object of trust, for his attaining relief: thus the sick man depends upon the skill and faithfulness of the physician, and determines to look no farther for help, but relies on his prescriptions, and uses the means that he appoints for the restoring of his health; or, as when a person is assaulted by one who threatens to ruin him, and is able to do it, as being an over-match for him, he has recourse to, and depends on the assistance of one that is able to secure and defend him, and thereby prevent the danger that he feared. Thus Jehoshaphat, when his country was invaded by a great multitude of foreign troops, being apprehensive that he was not able to withstand them; he exercises this faith of reliance on the divine power, when he says, We have no might against this great company, that come against us; neither know we what to do, but our eyes are upon thee, 2 Chron. xx. 12. And God is very often, in scripture, represented as the object of trust: so the church says, I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength; and elsewhere, he that walketh in darkness and hath no light, Isa. xii. 2. that is, knows not which way to turn, is helpless and destitute of all comfort, is encouraged to trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God, chap. l. 10. This is truly and properly a divine faith, and accordingly an act of religious worship; and is opposed to a trusting in man, and making flesh his arm, Jer. xvii. 5. and it supposes a firm persuasion, that God is able to do all that for us which we stand in need of; and that he has promised that he will do us good, and that he will never fail nor forsake them that repose their trust or confidence in him: with this view the soul relies on his perfections, seeks to him for comfort, and lays the whole stress of his hope of salvation on him, not doubting concerning the event hereof, but concluding himself safe, if he can say, that the eternal God is his refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms, Deut. xxxiii. 27. This leads us,

II. To consider the various kinds of faith, as mentioned in scripture. Thus we read of a faith that was adapted to that 122extraordinary dispensation of providence, in which God was pleased to confirm some great and important truths by miracles; which is therefore styled a faith of miracles. There is also a faith that has no reference to a supernatural event, or confined to any particular age or state of the church, in which miracles are expected, but is founded on the gospel-revelation, which, how much soever it may resemble saving faith, yet falls short of it; and there is a faith which is inseparably connected with salvation.

1. Concerning the faith of miracles. This is what our Saviour intends, when he tells his disciples, That if they had faith as a grain of mustard-seed, they should say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it should remove; and nothing should be impossible unto them, Matt. xvii. 20. This is such a faith that many had, who were not in a state of salvation; as is plain from what our Saviour says, that many will say to him in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name have done many wonderful works? to whom he will profess I never knew you; and his commanding them to depart from him as having wrought iniquity, chap. vii. 22, 23. And the apostle Paul supposes, that a person might have all faith, that is, this kind of faith; so that he might remove mountains, 1 Cor. xiii. 2. which is a proverbial expression, denoting, that extraordinary and miraculous events might attend it; and yet, at the same time, be destitute of charity, or love to God, and consequently without saving grace; and so appear, in the end, to be nothing.

Some have questioned whether this faith of miracles was peculiar to the gospel-dispensation, in the time of our Saviour and the apostles, and so was not required in those who wrought miracles under the Old Testament dispensation; though others suppose, that, from the nature of the thing, it was always necessary that faith should be exercised, when a miracle was wrought; though it is true, we have little or no account of this faith, as exercised by those that wrought miracles before our Saviour’s time; and therefore, we cannot so peremptorily determine this matter; but according to the account we have thereof in the New Testament, there were several things necessary to, or included in this faith of miracles.

(1.) Some important article of revealed religion must be proposed to be believed; and in order thereunto, an explicit appeal made to God, in expectation of his immediate interposure in working a miracle for that end: every thing that was the object of faith, was not, indeed, to be proved true by a miracle, but only those things which could not be sufficiently evinced without it, so as to beget a divine faith in those who 123were the subjects of conviction. We never read that miracles were wrought to convince the world that there was a God, or a providence; or, to persuade men concerning the truth of those things that might be sufficiently proved by rational arguments: but when there could not be such a proof given without the finger of God being rendered visible by a miracle wrought, then they depended on such an instance of divine condescension; and the people who were to receive conviction, were to expect such an extraordinary event.

(2.) It was necessary that there should be a firm persuasion of the truth of the doctrine, to be confirmed by a miracle in him that wrought it, together with an explicit appeal to it for the conviction of those whose faith was to be confirmed thereby: and sometimes we read, that when miracles were to be wrought in favour of them, who before had a sufficient proof that our Saviour was the Messiah, it was necessary that they should have a strong persuasion concerning this matter, and that he was able to work a miracle; otherwise they had no ground to expect that the miracle should be wrought: in the former instance we read of Christ’s disciples working miracles for the conviction of the Jews, and exercising, at the same time, this faith of miracles; and in the latter a general faith was demanded, that our Saviour was the Messiah, before the miracle was wrought; in which sense we are to understand his reply to the man who desired that he would cast the Devil out of his son; If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth, Mark ix. 23. q. d. Thou hast had sufficient conviction that I am the Messiah, by other miracles, and consequently hast no reason to doubt but that I can cast the Devil out of thy son; therefore, if thou hast a strong persuasion of the truth hereof, the thing that thou desirest shall be granted: and elsewhere it is said, He did not many mighty works because of their unbelief, Matt. xiii. 58.

(3.) How much soever a person might exercise this strong persuasion, that a miracle should be wrought, which we generally call a faith of miracles; yet I cannot think that this event always ensued without exception. For sometimes God might refuse to work a miracle, that he might hereby cast contempt on some vile persons, who pretended to this faith of miracles; who, though they professed their faith in Christ as the Messiah, yet their conversation contradicted their profession, and therefore God would not put that honour upon them so as to work a miracle at their desire; much less are we to suppose, that he would work a miracle at any one’s pleasure, if they were persuaded that he would do so. Again, sometimes God might refuse to exert his divine power, in working a miracle, in judgment, when persons had had sufficient means for their 124conviction by other miracles, but believed not. And finally, when the truth of the Christian religion had been sufficiently confirmed by miracles, they were less common; and then we read nothing more of that faith which took its denomination from thence.

2. There is another kind of faith, which has some things in common with saving faith, and is sometimes mistaken for it, but is vastly different from it. This, in some, is called an historical faith; and in others, by reason of the short continuance thereof, a temporary faith. An historical faith is that whereby persons are convinced of the truth of what is revealed in the gospel, though this has very little influence on their conversation: such have right notions of divine things, but do not entertain a suitable regard to them; religion with them is little more than a matter of speculation; they do not doubt concerning any of the important doctrines of the gospel, but are able and ready to defend them by proper arguments: nevertheless, though, in words, they profess their faith in Christ, in works they deny him: such as these the apostle intends when he says; Thou believest that there is one God, thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble, James ii. 19. And he charges them with a vain presumption, in that they expected to be justified hereby; whereas their faith was without works, or those fruits which were necessary to justify, or evince its sincerity; or to prove that it was such a grace as accompanies salvation; and therefore he gives it no better a character than that of a dead faith.

As for that which is called a temporary faith, this differs little from the former, unless we consider it, as having a tendency, in some measure, to excite the affections; and so far to regulate the conversation, as that which is attended with a form of godliness, which continues as long as this comports with, or is subservient to their secular interest: but it is not such a faith as will enable them to pass through fiery trials, or part with all things for Christ’s sake, or to rejoice in him, as their portion, when they meet with little but tribulation and persecution, in the world, for the sake of the gospel. This will evidently discover the insincerity thereof; for it will wither like a plant that is without a root: our Saviour speaks of it in the parable, of the seed that fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth, and forthwith they sprang up, because they had no deepness of earth; and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root they withered away; which he explains of him, who heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth, because of thy word, by and by he is offended, Matt. 125xiii. 5, 6. compared with ver. 20, 21. This parable had a particular relation to the Jews, who heard John the Baptist gladly, rejoicing in his light for a season; and seemed to be convinced, by his doctrine, concerning the Messiah, who was shortly to appear; but when they apprehended that his kingdom, instead of advancing them to great honours in the world, was like to expose them to tribulations and persecutions they were offended in him; and this is also applicable to all those who think themselves something, and are thought so by others, as to the profession they make of Christ and his gospel; but afterwards appear to be nothing, deceiving their own souls. This leads us,

3. To consider faith as a grace that is inseparably connected with salvation, which is called justifying faith, and also a saving grace, in this answer, in which the nature thereof is explained; and what may be farther said concerning it will be considered under the following heads, which we proposed to insist on in the general method before laid down; and therefore we shall proceed,

III. To speak concerning the various objects and acts of saving faith.

1. Concerning its objects. Every thing that is the object thereof, must take its rise from God; for we are now speaking concerning a divine faith; and inasmuch as saving faith supposes and includes in it an assent to the truth of divine revelation, we are bound to believe whatever God has revealed in his word; so that as all scripture is the rule of faith, the matter thereof is the object of faith: and as scripture contains an historical relation of things, these are the objects of faith, and we are to yield an assent to what God reveals, as being of infallible verity. As it is a rule of duty and obedience, we are bound to believe so as to adore the sovereignty of God, commanding to submit to his authority therein, as having a right to give laws to our consciences, and acknowledge ourselves his subjects and servants, under an indispensable obligation to yield the obedience of faith to him: as it contains many great and precious promises, these are the objects of faith, as we are to desire, hope for, and depend on the faithfulness of God for the accomplishment of them; and more particularly considering them as they are all, yea and amen, in Christ to the glory of God. As for the threatnings which relate to the wrath of God, due to sin, and warnings to fence the soul against it, and induce us to abhor and hate it; these are objects of faith, so far as that we must believe and tremble, and see the need we stand in of grace, which we receive by faith to enable us to improve them, that through the virtue of Christ’s righteousness we may hope to escape his wrath; and by his 126strength be fortified against the prevalency of corruption, that has proved destructive to multitudes.

But the principal object of faith is God in Christ, our great Mediator:[61] thus our Saviour says, Ye believe in God, believe also in me, John xiv. 1. This is sometimes styled coming to the Father by him; as it is elsewhere said, No man cometh unto the Father but by me: or else, coming to him as Mediator immediately, that in him we may obtain whatever he has purchased for us, and thereby may have access to God, as to our reconciled God and Father; and in so doing, obtain eternal life, as he expresses it; He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst, chap. vi. 35. Which leads us to consider,

2. Those particular acts of saving faith, in which we have to do with Christ as Mediator, whereby we have access to God, through him: there are several expressions in scripture, by 127which these acts of saving faith are set forth, some of which are metaphorical; more particularly it is called a looking to him; thus he is represented, by the prophet, as saying, Look unto me, and be ye saved all the ends of the earth, Isa. xlv. 22. Sometimes by coming to him, pursuant to the invitation he gives, Come unto me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Mat. xi. 25. which coming is elsewhere explained, as in the scripture before-mentioned, by believing in him, John vi. 35. And as we hope for refreshment and comfort in so doing, it is set forth by that, metaphorical expression, of coming to the waters and buying wine and milk without money and without price, Isa. lv. 1. that is, receiving from him those blessings which tend to satisfy and exhilirate the soul, which are given to such as have nothing to offer for them; and sometimes it is represented by flying to him; or, as the apostle expresses it, flying for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us, Heb. vi. 18. as alluding to that eminent type thereof, contained in the man-slayer’s flying to the city of refuge, from the avenger of blood, and therein finding protection and safety: this is a description more especially of faith as justifying; in which respect it is elsewhere described, as a putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, Rom. xiii. 14. or the glorious robe of his righteousness, on which account we are said to be clothed with the garments of salvation, and covered with the robe of righteousness, Isa. lxi. 10. And when we are enabled to apprehend our interest in him by faith, together with the blessings that are the result hereof, we are said to rejoice in Christ Jesus. There are many other expressions by which this grace is set forth in scripture; but those acts thereof, which we shall more especially consider, are our receiving Christ, giving up ourselves to him, and trusting in, or relying on him.

(1.) Faith is that grace whereby we receive Christ. Thus it is said, as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name, John i. 12. This contains in it the application of an overture made by him; not barely of something that he has to bestow, which might contribute to our happiness, but of himself. Christ has many things to bestow upon his people; but he first gives himself; that is, he expresses a willingness to be their Prince and Saviour, their Prophet, Priest, and King; that being thus related, and adhering to him, they may be made partakers of his benefits, which are the result thereof; and accordingly the soul, by faith applies itself to him, and embraces the overture. Hereupon he is said to be ours; and, as the consequence thereof, we lay claim to those benefits which he has purchased for us, as our Redeemer. Christ is considered as the first promised 128blessing in the covenant of grace; and with him God freely gives his people all things that they stand in need of, which respect their everlasting salvation, Rom. viii. 32.

This supposes the person receiving him to be indigent and destitute of every thing that may tend to make him happy, brought into the greatest straits and difficulties, and standing in need of one who is able to afford relief to him. He has heard in the gospel, that Christ is able to supply his wants; and that he is willing to come and take up his abode with him; accordingly the heart is open to embrace him, esteeming him to be altogether lovely and desirable, beholding that excellency and glory in his person, that renders him the object of his delight, as he is said to be precious to them that believe, 1 Pet. ii. 7. looking upon him as God-man Mediator, he concludes, that he is able to save, to the uttermost, all that come unto God by him; and that all the treasures of grace and glory are purchased by him, and given into his hand to apply to those who have an interest in him: he expects to find them all in Christ, as the result of his being made partaker of him; and accordingly he adheres to him by this which is called an appropriating act of faith; whereby he that was before represented in the gospel, as the Saviour and Redeemer of his people, the fountain of all they enjoy or hope for, and by whom they have access to God, as their reconciled God and Father, is applied by the soul, to itself, as the spring of all its present and future comfort and happiness.[62]

129(2.) Another act of faith is giving up ourselves to Christ. As, in the covenant of grace, God says, I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people, faith builds on this foundation; it first apprehends that he is able and willing to do them good, and make them happy in the enjoyment of himself; and with this encouragement the soul receives him, as has been but now observed; and pursuant hereunto devotes itself to him, as desiring to be amongst the number of his faithful 130Servants and followers. God sanctifies or separates them to himself as the objects of his discriminating grace and love; and they desire, as the consequence hereof, to give up themselves to him. Two things are supposed in this act of self-dedication.

1st, A firm persuasion and acknowledgment of his right to us; not only as the possessor of all things, which he has an undoubted right to as God, as the potter has a right to his clay, the Creator to the work of his hands; but that he has a right to us by purchase, as Mediator, in which respect faith, and in particular, that which we call saving, of which we are now speaking, has more especially an eye to him; Ye are not your own, says the apostle, for ye are bought with a price, 1 Cor. vi. 20. and therefore this act of faith is an ascribing to him that glory which he lays claim to by right of redemption: and as God has constituted him heir of all things, more especially of those who are called his peculiar treasure: so the believer gives up himself to him. Before this, the matter in dispute was, who is Lord over us? Whether we ought to be at our own disposal or his? Whether it be expedient to serve divers lusts and pleasures, or be subject to him as our supreme Lord and Lawgiver? But the soul is thoroughly convinced, by the internal efficacious work of the Spirit, that our great Mediator is made of God, both Lord and Christ; and that no one has a right to stand in competition with him; and that we owe not only what we can do, but even ourselves unto him; and as the result hereof, devotes itself to him by faith.

2d, This also supposes that we are sensible of the many blessings that he has in store for his people; and therefore we give up ourselves to him in hope of his doing all that for us, and working all that grace in us which is necessary to our salvation; but more of this will be insisted on, when we consider him as the object of trust. All that I shall add at present, under this head, is, that having this view of the person of Christ, as one who demands obedience, love and gratitude from us, we give up ourselves entirely, and without reserve, to him: thus the apostle says, They first gave their own selves to the Lord, 2 Cor. viii. 5. and exhorts the church to yield themselves unto God, as those that were alive from the dead, Rom. vi. 13. and, to present their bodies, that is, themselves, and not barely the lower or meaner part of themselves, a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is their reasonable service, chap. xii. 1. and as the result hereof, we say by faith, Lord, truly I am thy servant, and desire to be so for ever; work in me what thou requirest, and then command what thou pleasest: I am entirely at thy disposal, do with me as seemeth good in thy 131sight; only let all the dispensations of thy providence be instances of thy love, and made subservient to my salvation.

This is represented as our solemn act and deed; whereby, with the most mature deliberation, we make a surrender of ourselves to him: the prophet speaks of it as though it were done by an instrument or deed of conveyance; and our consent to be his, is represented by a giving up our names to him; One shall say, I am the Lord’s, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and sirname himself by the name of Israel, Isa. xliv. 5. This is done with the highest veneration, as an act of religious worship, and with the greatest humility, as being sensible that we give him nothing more than his own; that he is not profited hereby, but the advantage redounds entirely to us. We do it with judgment; as faith always supposes a conviction of the judgment, it considers those relations which Christ stands in to his people, and endeavours to behave itself in conformity thereunto: we are desirous hereby to give up ourselves to him as a Prophet, to be led and guided by him in the way of salvation; as a Priest, to give us a right to eternal life, as the purchase of his blood; as an Advocate to plead our cause; and as a King to give laws to us, and defend us from the insults of our spiritual enemies, and advance us to those honours which he has laid up for his faithful subjects. We give up ourselves to him to worship him in all his ordinances, in hope of his presence and blessing to attend them, in order to our spiritual and eternal advantage; and we do all this without the least reserve or desire to have any will separate from, or contrary to his.

(3.) Another act of faith consists in a fixed, unshaken trust and reliance upon him. This, as was before observed, is a very common and known acceptation of the word faith. As we depend on his promise, as a God that cannot lie, and give up ourselves to him, as one that has a right to us; so we trust him, as one whom we can safely confide in, and lay the whole stress of our salvation upon. This act of faith is more frequently insisted on in scripture than any other, it being a main ingredient in all other graces that accompany salvation; and there is nothing by which God is more glorified: it is not one single perfection of the divine nature that is the object thereof; but every thing which he has made known concerning himself, as conducive to our blessedness; we trust him with all we have, and for all that we want or hope for. This implies in it a sense of our own insufficiency and nothingness, and of his all-sufficient fulness. The former of these is what is sometimes styled a soul emptying act of faith; it is that whereby we see ourselves to be nothing, not only as we cannot be profitable to God, or lay him under any 132obligations to us, as those who pretend to merit any good at his hand, but as unable to perform any good action without his assistance; in this respect it says, surely, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength, Isa. xlv. 24. and there is nothing tends more to humble and abase the soul before him than this.

And hereby we are led to another act, which more immediately contains the formal nature of faith; in which it depends on the all-sufficiency of God, and his faithfulness to supply our wants, and bestow the blessings which he has promised: God the Father is the object of this trust or dependence, as the divine All-sufficiency is glorified, grace imparted, and the promises thereof fulfilled by him, through a Mediator; and Christ is the object thereof, as the soul apprehends him to be full of grace and truth; sees the infinite value of his merit, and his ability to make good all the promises of the covenant of grace, and thereby to render him completely blessed. When we trust Christ with all we have, or hope for, this supposes that there is something valuable which we either enjoy or expect; and that we are in danger of losing it, unless it be maintained by him, who has undertaken to keep his people by his power through faith unto salvation, 1 Pet. i. 5. and to perfect what concerns them. We have souls more valuable than the whole world, and we commit the keeping of our souls to him in well-doing as unto a faithful Creator, chap. iv. 19. and merciful Redeemer; being assured that none shall be able to pluck them out of his hand, John x. 28. and we also commit all the graces which he has wrought in us to him, to maintain and carry on to perfection. And since we are assured, that all the promises are in his hand, and that he has engaged to make them good to us, we are encouraged to trust him for all that we expect, namely, that he will conduct us safely and comfortably through this world, and at last receive us to glory; and in so doing, we have the highest satisfaction; or, as the apostle expresses it, We know whom we have believed, or trusted, and are persuaded that he is able to keep what we have committed unto him against that day, 2 Tim. i. 12. or the day of his second coming, when grace shall be consummate in glory.

These acts of faith are generally styled, by divines, direct; in which we have more immediately to do with Christ, as our great Mediator, or God the Father in him; and being, properly speaking, acts of religious worship, the object thereof must be a divine person. But there is another sense of the word faith; which, as it does not contain in it any act of trust or dependence, as the former does, so it has not God for its immediate object, as that has; and this is what we call the reflex act of faith, or the soul’s being persuaded that it believes; that those acts of faith which have God or Christ for their object, 133are true and genuine. This every one cannot conclude at all times, who is really enabled to put forth those direct acts of faith, that we have been speaking of; and it is the result of self-examination, accompanied with the testimony of the Holy Spirit to his own work.

Some indeed have questioned the propriety of the expression, when this is styled an act of faith; as supposing that nothing can be so called, but what hath a divine person for its object: but we have before considered that faith, in a sense different from that in which we have now explained it, may be conversant about divine things; therefore, as we may be said, by a direct act of faith, to trust in Christ; we may be persuaded, by this reflex act, that we do so: and this is more immediately necessary to assurance, together with that joy and peace which we are said to have in believing. But this we shall have occasion to insist on under a following answer.[63]

IV. We are now to consider this grace of faith as that which accompanies salvation, upon which account it is called a saving grace; and also, that it is wrought in the heart by the power of the Spirit, and by the instrumentality of the word. We do not suppose that every act of faith denominates a person to be in a state of salvation; for there is a bare assent to the truth of divine revelation, that may, in a proper sense, be styled faith; and there may be an external dedication to God, a professed subjection to him, which falls short of that faith which has been before described, as it does not proceed from a renewed nature, or a principle of spiritual life implanted in the soul. There may be a willingness and a desire to be saved, when the heart is not purified by faith; a hearing the word with gladness, rejoicing in the light that is imparted thereby, for a season, and doing many things pursuant thereunto, in some, who shall not be saved: but faith is often-times described as referring to and ending in salvation; thus we are said to believe to the saving of the soul, Heb. x. 39. and, to receive the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls, 1 Pet. i. 9. This consists, more especially, in those acts of faith, that contain in them an entire subjection of all the powers and faculties of the soul to Christ, arising from the views which it has of his glory, and its experience of his almighty power, which is not only the way to, but the first fruits of everlasting salvation. This is such a receiving and resting on Christ for salvation, as has been before described.

And this grace is farther said to be wrought in the heart of a sinner, by the Spirit. We have before considered effectual calling, as a work of divine power, and proved, that the Spirit is the author of it;[64] and that they, who are effectually called, 134are enabled to accept of, and embrace the grace offered in the gospel; from whence it is evident, that faith is the fruit and consequence of our effectual calling; and therefore it must be a work of the almighty power and grace of the Holy Spirit. And, this it farther appears to be, from that account which we have thereof in several scriptures: thus the apostle Peter, describing those he writes to, as having obtained like precious faith, through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; and also as having all things that pertain unto godliness, in which faith is certainly included, he ascribes this to the divine power, 2 Pet. i. 1. compared with the 3rd verse. And elsewhere we read of the exceeding greatness of the power of God exerted in them that believe, Eph. i. 19. And when the work of faith is carried on, or fulfilled in the souls of those in whom it was begun, it is considered as an effect of the same power, 2 Thess. i. 11. And, as all that grace, which is the effect of divine power, is ascribed to the Holy Ghost, when he is said hereby, as acting in subserviency to the Father and Son, to demonstrate his Personal glory: so the work of faith, in this respect, is represented as his work; upon which account he is called the Spirit of faith, 2 Cor, iv. 13.

But that which we shall more particularly consider is, that this grace of faith is wrought by the instrumentality of the word. We have before observed, that the principle of grace, implanted in regeneration, is the immediate effect of the divine power, without the instrumentality of the word; but when the Spirit works faith, and all other graces, which proceed from that principle, then he makes use of the word: thus the apostle says, Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, Rom. x. 17. As it is necessary, in order to our seeing any object, that the eye be rightly disposed and fitted for sight, and the object presented to it: so there are two things necessary to faith, namely, the soul’s being changed, renewed, quickened, and so prepared to act this grace; and the objects being presented to it, about which it is to be conversant; which latter is done by the word of God: so that the soul is first internally disposed to receive what God is pleased to reveal relating to the way of salvation by Jesus Christ before it believes; and this revelation is contained in the gospel, which is adapted to the various acts of faith, as before described.

1. As faith implies a coming to Christ, or receiving him; the word of God reveals him to us as giving an invitation to sinners, encouraging them thereunto; thus our Saviour says, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink, John vii. 37. And, as a farther inducement to this, it sets forth the advantages that will attend it, to wit, that he will not reject them, how unworthy soever they be; as, he says, Him that cometh to 135me, I will in no wise cast out, John vi. 37. And there are many other privileges which he will bestow on them, namely, the blessings of both worlds, grace here, and glory hereafter, all which contain the very sum and substance of the gospel.

2. If we consider faith as including in it a giving up ourselves to Christ, to be intirely his; the word of God represents him as having an undoubted right to all who do so, inasmuch as they are bought with the price of his blood, given to him as his own, by the Father. And as they devote themselves to him, to be his servants, it sets before them the privileges which attend his service, as they are delivered from the dominion of sin, and a servile fear and dread of his wrath; lets them know the ease, pleasure, and delight that there is in bearing his yoke, and the blessed consequences thereof, in that as they have their fruit unto holiness, the end thereof shall be life everlasting, Rom. vi. 22.

3. As faith looks to Christ for forgiveness of sin, in which respect it is called justifying faith; so the word of God represents him to us, as having made atonement for sin; as set forth to be a propitiation to secure us from the guilt which we were liable to, and the condemning sentence of the law; as bearing the curse, and, as the consequence thereof, giving us a right to all the privileges of his children. It also represents this forgiveness as full, free, and irreversible; and the soul, by faith rejoices in its freedom from condemnation, and that right and title to eternal life, which is inseparably connected with it.

4. As faith includes in it a trusting or relying on Christ, the gospel represents him as an all-sufficient Saviour, able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, Heb. vii. 25. and as faith trusts him for the accomplishment of all the promises, it considers him as having engaged to make them good, inasmuch as they are yea and amen in him, unto the glory of God, 2 Cor. i. 20. And therefore, he runs no risque, or is at no uncertainty as to this matter; for Christ’s Mediatorial glory lies at stake. If there be the least failure in the accomplishment of any promise; or any blessing made over to his people in the covenant of grace, which shall not be conferred upon them, he is content to bear the blame for ever: but this is altogether impossible, since he that has undertaken to apply the blessings promised, is faithful and true, as well as the Father that gave them; and this affords them strong consolation, who are fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before them in the gospel, Heb. vi. 18. Thus Christ is set forth; and agreeably to this discovery made of him, faith takes up its rest in him, and therein finds safety and peace.

V. We shall now consider faith as strong or weak, increasing or declining, with the various marks and signs thereof. As 136habits of sin are stronger or weaker, the same may be said concerning habits of grace. It is one thing for them to be entirely lost; and another thing to be in a declining state: their strength and vigour may be much abated, and their energy frequently interrupted; nevertheless God will maintain the principle of grace, as we shall endeavour to prove under a following answer.[65] Grace is not always equally strong and lively; the prophet supposes it to be a declining, when he says, Revive thy work, O Lord, in the midst of the years, Heb. iii. 2. and our Saviour’s advice to the church at Sardis, implies as much, when he exhorts them to strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, Rev. iii. 2. and when he bids the church at Ephesus to remember from whence they were fallen, and repent and do their first works, chap. ii. 5. Some are said, as Abraham, to be strong in faith, giving glory to God, Rom. iv. 20. and others are reproved, as our Saviour does his disciples, at some times, when he says, O ye of little faith, Matt. vi. 30. As our natural constitution is not always equally healthy and vigorous, nor our condition in the world equally prosperous, the same may be said concerning the habits of grace; sometimes they are strong, and then, as the apostle says concerning his beloved Gaius, 3 John ver. 2. the soul prospereth, and we go from strength to strength, Psal. lxxxiv. 7. from one degree of grace to another; but, at other times, we are ready to faint in the day of adversity, and our strength is small, Prov. xxiv. 10. This cannot but be observed by all who are not strangers to themselves, or who take notice of the various frame of spirit, which are visible in those whom they converse with.

But if it be enquired; by what marks or evidences we may discern the strength or weakness of faith? though this will more evidently appear from what will be said under a following answer,[66] when we are led to speak concerning the reason of the imperfection of sanctification in believers; yet we shall not wholly pass it over in this place; and therefore, it may be observed, that the strength or weakness of faith, is to be judged of by that degree of esteem and value which the soul has for Christ, and the steadiness, or abatement of its dependence on him. The greater diffidence or distrust we have of self, and the more we see of our own emptiness and nothingness, the stronger is our faith; on the other hand, self-confidence, or relying on our own strength is a certain sign of the weakness thereof.

Again, strong faith is that which carries the soul through difficult duties; as the apostle says, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me, Phil. iv. 13. Whereas weak faith is ready to sink under the discouragements that it meets 137with; the former is stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, 1 Cor. xv. 58. the latter is like a reed shaken with the wind. Strong faith, as it is said of Job, Job i. 21. blesses God when he strips him of all earthly enjoyments, and rejoices that the soul is counted worthy to suffer shame for his name, Acts v. 41. and this carries him above those fears which have a tendency to deject and dishearten him: He shall not be afraid of evil tidings, his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord, Psal. cxii. 7. Whereas, weak faith is borne down, with discouragements; he finds it hard to hold on in the performance of his duty, and sees mountains of difficulties in his way; whereby the soul is ready to conclude, that he shall not be able to get safely to his journey’s end. He does not rightly improve the consideration of the almighty power of God, and his faithfulness to his promise, in which he has engaged, that the righteous shall hold on his way; and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger, Job xvii. 9. And when we sustain losses and disappointments in the world, or things go contrary to our expectation, then we are ready to say with the Psalmist, Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he, in anger, shut up his tender mercies? Psal. lxxvii. 9. and sometimes conclude, that we have no interest in the love of God, because the dispensations of his providence are afflictive, and fill us with great uneasiness. In this case fear looks upon every adverse providence, as it were, through a magnifying glass, and apprehends this to be but the beginning of sorrows; for it cannot say with the prophet, I will trust and not be afraid, chap. xii. 2. for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength, chap. xxvii. 4.

Moreover, the strength or weakness of faith may farther be discerned by our enjoying, or being destitute of communion with God; our conversing with him in ordinances, or being deprived of this privilege. We may conclude our faith to be strong, when we can say as the apostle does, Our conversation is in heaven, or we live above: but when, on the other hand, we have too great an anxiety or solicitude about earthly things, and an immoderate love to this present world, this argues the weakness thereof. The difference between these two may also be discerned, by the frame of our spirit in prayer. When faith is strong, the soul has a great degree of boldness or liberty of access to the throne of grace; a greater measure of importunity and fervency, accompanied with an expectation of the blessings prayed for, by a secret and powerful intimation from the Spirit, as a Spirit of grace and supplication; from whence it infers, that he that excites this grace will encourage it, as he says not to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain, chap. xlv. 19.

We might also add, in the last place, that strong faith may likewise be discerned, when it is accompanied with an assurance 138of an interest in Christ’s righteousness, and our right and title to eternal life founded thereon, or that God will guide us by his counsel, and afterwards receive us to glory, and a persuasion wrought in the soul by the Spirit, that nothing shall separate us from his love: whereas weak faith is attended with many doubts concerning our interest in Christ; sometimes fearing that our former hope was no other than a delusion, our present experiences not real, the ground we stand on sinks under us; and we are ready to conclude, that we shall one day fall by the hands of our spiritual enemies. When I speak of these doubts and fears, as an instance of weak faith, I do not say that they are ingredients in faith; for they are rather to be considered as a burden and incumbrance that attends it, so that though there be some good thing in us towards the Lord our God, or a small degree of faith, like a grain of mustard seed, these doubts proceed from the weakness thereof, as opposed to that which is strong, and would denote the soul to be in a happy and flourishing condition; which leads us,

VI. To speak concerning the use of faith in the whole conduct of our lives; as every thing that we do in an acceptable manner, is said to be done by it. It is one thing occasionally to put forth some acts of faith, and another thing to live by faith; which, as it is the most noble and excellent life, so nothing short of it can, properly speaking, be called a good life, how much soever many are styled good livers, who are wholly strangers to this grace. The apostle Paul speaks of this way of living, and considers it as exemplified in himself, when he says, The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, Gal. ii. 20. He speaks of it as his constant work, or that which ran through the whole business of life. Whether we are engaged in civil or religious duties, they are all to be performed by faith. Here we shall consider the life of faith;

1. As it discovers itself in all the common actions of life; in these we act as men: but that faith, which is the principal ingredient in them, and their chief ornament, denotes us to walk as Christians; and this we are said to do,

(1.) When we receive every outward mercy, as the purchase of the blood of Christ, as well as the gift of his grace; and consider it as a blessing bestowed by a covenant-God, who, together with outward things, is pleased to give himself to us; which infinitely enhances the value of the blessing, and induces us to receive it with a proportionable degree of thankfulness.

(2.) When we set loose from all the enjoyments of this world, not taking up our rest in them, as though they were our portion or chief good; and therefore, the esteem and value we 139have for them is very much below that which we have for things divine and heavenly. When we use them to the glory of God; and account the best outward enjoyments nothing, if compared with Christ; as the apostle says, I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, Phil. iii. 8. This act of faith will quiet our spirits under afflictions, and induce us to submit to the disposing providence of God; when our best outward enjoyments are removed, or we called to suffer the loss of all things for Christ’s sake, or by his sovereign will.

(3.) When all the success which we hope for in our secular employments, is considered as an instance of that care which Christ takes of his people, in which he over-rules and orders all things for his own glory, and their welfare; and therefore, we are persuaded that he will cause whatever we take in hand, to prosper, provided he sees that it is best for us; and if not, we are disposed to acquiesce in his will. This is such an instance of faith as will put us upon doing every thing in the name and to the glory of Christ, and fortify us against any disappointment that may attend our expectation, in every employment wherein we are engaged.

(4.) When outward blessings, instead of proving a snare and temptation, to draw off our hearts from Christ, are a means to bring us nearer to him, so that if our circumstances are easy and comfortable in the world, and we have more frequent opportunities offered to us, to engage in religious duties than others, we are accordingly inclined to embrace them; and when every thing we enjoy, as an instance of distinguishing favour from God, above what many in the world do, excites in us a due sense of gratitude, and an earnest desire and endeavour to use the world to his glory.

(5.) When adverse providences, which sometimes have a tendency to drive the soul from Christ, and occasion repining thoughts, as though the divine distributions were not equal, are made of use to bring us nearer to him, so that whatever we lose in the creature, we look for, and endeavour to find in him. And when, with a submissive spirit, we can say, that he does all things well for us, as we hope and trust that he will make even those things that run counter to our secular interests, subservient to our eternal welfare; and as the result hereof, endeavour to keep up a becoming frame of spirit, in such a condition of life, as has in itself a tendency to cast down the soul and fill it with great disquietude.

(6.) When we devote and consecrate all we have in the world to God, considering, that as we are not our own but his; so all we have is his; and when hereupon we are endowed with a public spirit, desirous to approve ourselves blessings 140to mankind in general, to the utmost of our power; and when we have done all, not only say with David, Of thine own we have given thee, 1 Chron. xxix. 14. but as our Saviour taught his disciples to say, We are unprofitable servants.

(7.) The life of faith discovers itself in the government of our affections, namely, as they are kept within due bounds, set upon right objects, and rendered subservient to promote Christ’s glory and interest. Hereby are we prevented from setting our affections immoderately on things of this world, when faith shews us that there are far better things to draw them forth, which deserve our highest love: it also prevents our being worldly and carnal, as though we were swallowed up with the things of sense, and had nothing else to mind, and religion were only to be occasionally engaged in; or, as though an holy, humble, self-denying frame of spirit were inconsistent with worldly business. Faith suggests the contrary; puts us upon making religion our great business, and engaging in secular affairs, rather as a necessary avocation from it, than that which is the chief end of living. It also puts us upon glorifying Christ in our secular concerns, as we manage them in such a way as he ordains; and hereby the soul is kept in a spiritual frame, while abiding with God in the calling whereunto he is called. This we attribute more especially to the grace of faith, not only as it is connected with, and (as will be observed under our next head) excites other graces; but as it has its eye constantly fixed on Christ as its object, and by this steers its course, and takes an estimate of the valuableness and importance of all the affairs of this life, by their subserviency to our salvation, and the advancement of his glory therein.

2. Faith discovers itself in the performance of all religious duties, and the exercise of all other graces therein. Thus we read of the prayer of faith, whereby a soul hath access to God as a father, in the name of Christ; firmly relies on the promises which are established in him, and has a liberty to plead with him, and hope of acceptance in his sight. Moreover, when we wait on God to hear what he has to impart to us in his word, faith having experienced some degree of communion with him already, and had some displays of his love, puts the soul upon desiring more, as the Psalmist says, My soul thirsteth for thee; my flesh longeth for thee, to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary, Psal. lxiii. 1, 2. And whatever other ordinances of divine appointment, we are engaged in, we are hereby encouraged to hope for his presence, and draw nigh unto him herein, with a reverential fear and delight, in him: and it puts us upon the exercise of those graces which are necessary for the right performance of gospel worship in general.

141These are not only joined with it, but may be said to be excited thereby; so that faith is, as it were, the principal of all other graces. Thus when the heart is drawn forth in love to Christ, it may be said, that faith worketh by love, Gal. v. 6. and when this love is accompanied with joy unspeakable and full of glory; this we have in a way of believing, and that which tends to excite the grace of love, is the view that faith takes of Christ’s mediatorial glory and excellencies, and the obligations we are under to love him, from his grace of love to us; and this is a strong motive, inducing us to express our love to him, by universal obedience, which is called, the obedience of faith, Rom. xvi. 26.

When we exercise the grace of repentance, and thereby hate and turn from all sin, and are, in a peculiar manner, sensible, as we ought to be, of the sin of unbelief; it is faith that gives us this sense thereof, as it is best able to see its own defects. When we confess sin, or humble ourselves before God for it, faith views it not only as a violation of the divine law, but as an instance of the highest ingratitude; and when we desire, in the exercise of repentance, to forsake sin, faith makes us sensible of our own weakness, and puts us upon a firm and stedfast dependence on Christ, to enable us thereunto; and when, in the exercise of this grace, our consciences are burdened with a sense of guilt and unbelief is ready to suggest, that our sins are so heinously aggravated, that there is no room to hope for pardoning mercy, faith relieves us against these despairing thoughts, and encourages us to wait for the mercy of God, who will abundantly pardon, Isa. lv. 7. and with whom there is forgiveness, that he may be feared, Psal. cxxx. 4.

And when we use endeavours to mortify sin, this is to be done by a fiducial view of Christ crucified; and when we encourage ourselves to hope that the indictment brought against us for it, was nailed to the cross of Christ; and that there is no condemnation to us, as being in him, Rom. viii. 1. and that, as the apostle says, Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed: that henceforth we should no longer serve sin, chap. vi. 6. all this is to be done by faith.

We might also observe, that the grace of patience is connected with, and we excited, thereunto by faith. The apostle, Heb. vi. 12. joins both these together, as supposing that faith affords a motive to patience; and elsewhere we read, not only of what faith enables us to do, but bear, in the account which we have, of the great things which the Old Testament saints did, and suffered by this grace: and therefore, whatever graces are exercised under the afflictions of this present life; faith excites in us a resignation to the will of God, and consider them as the chastisements of a merciful Father, and 142as bringing forth the peaceful fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby, chap. xii. 11. and we are encouraged to bear them with such a composed frame of spirit that they seem light, and not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed. This, faith has constantly in view, setting one against the other; whereby that which would otherwise be an hindrance to us in our way, is improved, by us, to our spiritual advantage; and we enabled, not only to go on safely, but comfortably, till we arrive at the full fruition of what we now behold at a distance, and rejoice in the fiducial expectation thereof: which leads us to the last thing proposed to be considered, concerning faith, namely,

VII. How it is to be attained or increased, and what are the means conducive thereunto. Though faith, in common with all other graces, be wrought in us by the power of God, yet we are far from asserting, that there is no duty incumbent on us, in the performing whereof, we are to hope and wait for the divine blessing, upon which all the success thereof depends. To deny this would give just occasion to charge the doctrine of efficacious grace, as though it led to security, or licentiousness; which many do without ground. Though grace and duty are very distinct, yet they are not inconsistent with each other; the former is God’s work, the latter our act.

As for those duties which are required of us, considered as expecting the divine grace and blessing to attend them; these are, a diligent waiting on God in all his ordinances; looking into the state of our souls, by impartial self-examination; calling to mind our past miscarriages, and what matter of humiliation we have for them in the sight of God, as also, our natural aversion and inability to do what is good; our need of Christ’s righteousness, to take away the guilt we have contracted, and of his strength, to subdue our corruptions, and enable us to plead earnestly with him for these privileges.

As for the unregenerate, they must pray and wait on him, for the first grace, and say, with Ephraim, Turn thou me, and I shall be turned, Jer. xxxi. 18. They must be earnest with him, that he would bestow upon them the grace of faith; which is styled, his gift; that he would remove every thing that is, at present, an obstacle, or hindrance to this grace, all the prejudices which corrupt nature has entertained against Christ, and the way of salvation by him; and that he would shine into their souls, to give them the knowledge of his glory in the face of Christ; reveal his arm, and incline them, by the internal working of his power, to receive the grace which is held forth in the gospel. These are duties incumbent on persons who are not called effectually, being destitute of regenerating grace.

143But, on the other hand, they who have ground to conclude that they have experienced this grace, though, at present, they apprehend that their faith is weak, and on the decline; they must be found waiting on God, in his own way; and be importunate with him in prayer for the revival of his work, that so they may recover their former experiences; they must bless him for the privileges they once enjoyed, and be humbled for their past backslidings, whereby they have provoked him to withdraw from them, and say with the church, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now, Hos. ii. 7. and, as it says elsewhere, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we render the calves of our lips, chap. xiv. 2. They must lament the dishonour that they have brought to God; and consider how, by this means, they have grieved the Holy Spirit, wounded their own consciences, and made work for a bitter repentance and humiliation before God. They must be sensible, that it is the same hand which wrought grace in them at first, that must now recover them from their fallen state, and, by exciting the principle of grace implanted, bring them into a lively frame; and when he has done this, they must still depend upon him to maintain this frame of spirit, as considering that as the beginning so the progress of grace, is owing to him who is the author and finisher of faith; who worketh in us that which is pleasing in his sight, and carries on his own work unto perfection.

Quest. LXXIV.

Quest. LXXIV. What is adoption?

Answ. Adoption is an act of the free grace of God, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ; whereby all those that are justified, are received into the number of his children, have his name put upon them, the Spirit of his Son given to them, are under his fatherly care and dispensations, admitted to all the liberties and privileges of the sons of God, made heirs of all the promises, and fellow-heirs with Christ in glory.

In speaking to this answer we shall consider,

I. The various senses in which persons are the sons of God; and particularly, how they are so called by adoption.

II. The difference between adoption as used by men, and as it is applied in this answer to God’s taking persons into this relation, as his children; from whence it will appear to be an act of his free grace.

III. We shall consider the reference the sonship of believers has to the superior and more glorious Sonship of Jesus Christ; and how it is said to be for his sake.

144IV. The privileges conferred on, or reserved for them, who are the sons of God by adoption.

I. We shall consider the various senses in which persons are called the sons of God.

1. Some are called the sons of God, as they are invested with many honours or prerogatives from God, as a branch of his image: thus magistrates are called the children of the Most High, Psal. lxxxii. 6.

2. Others are called God’s children, by an external federal relation, as members of the visible church; in which sense we are to understand that scripture; wherein it is said, The sons of God saw the daughters of men, &c. Gen. vi. 2. And when Moses went into Pharaoh, to demand liberty for the Israelites, he was ordered to say, Israel is my son, even my first-born, Exod. iv. 22. This privilege, though it be high and honourable, by which the church is distinguished from the world; yet it is not inseparably connected with salvation; for God says, concerning Israel, when revolting, and backsliding from him, I have nourished and brought up children; and they have rebelled against me, Isa. i. 2. and many of those who are called the children of the kingdom shall be cast into utter darkness, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, Matt. viii. 12.

3. The word is sometimes taken in a more large sense, as applicable to all mankind: thus the prophet says, Have we not all one father, hath not God created us? Mal. ii. 10. And the apostle Paul, when disputing with the Athenians, speaks in their own language, and quotes a saying taken from one of their poets, which he applies to the great God, as giving to all life and breath, and all things; upon which account men are called his off-spring, Acts xvii. 25. compared with 28.

4. They are called the sons of God, who are endowed with his supernatural image, and admitted to the highest honours and privileges conferred upon creatures: thus the angels are called the sons of God, Job xxxviii. 7.

5. Our Lord Jesus Christ is called the Son of God, in a sense not applicable to any other; as his Sonship includes in it his deity, and his having, in his human nature, received a commission from the Father, to engage in the great work of our redemption, as becoming surety for us; which is the foundation of all those saving blessings which we enjoy or hope for.

6. Believers are called the sons of God, by a special adoption; which is farther to be considered, as being the subject-matter of this answer. Adoption is a word taken from the civil law; and it was much in use among the Romans, in the apostles time, in which it was a custom for persons, who had no children of their own, and were possessed of an estate, to prevent its being divided or descending to strangers, to make 145choice of such who were agreeable to them, and beloved by them, whom they took into this political relation of children; obliging them to take their name upon them, and to pay respect to them, as though they were their natural parents; and engaging to deal with them as though they had been so; and accordingly to give them a right to their estates, as an inheritance. This new relation, founded in a mutual consent, is a bond of affection; and the privilege arising from thence is, that he who is, in this sense, a father, takes care of, and provides for the person whom he adopts, as though he were his son by nature; and therefore Civilians calls it an act of legitimation, imitating nature, or supplying the place of it: and this leads us to consider,

II. The difference between adoption, as used by men, and as it is applied in this answer, to God’s taking persons into this relation, as his children.

1. When men adopt, or take persons into the relation of children, they do it because they are destitute of children of their own to possess their estates; and therefore they fix their love on strangers: but God was under no obligation to do this: for if he designed to manifest his glory to any creatures, the holy angels were subjects capable of receiving the displays thereof; and his own Son, who had all the perfections of the divine nature, was infinitely the object of his delight, and, in all respects, fitted to be as he is styled, Heir of all things, Heb. i. 2.

2. When men adopt, they are generally inclined to do it by seeing some excellency or amiableness in the persons whom they fix their love upon. Thus Pharaoh’s daughter took up Moses, and nourished him for her own son, because he was exceeding fair, Acts vii. 20, 21. or, it may be, she was moved hereunto, by a natural compassion she had for him, besides the motive of his beauty; as it is said, The babe wept, and she had compassion on him, Exod. ii. 6. And Mordecai adopted Esther, or took her for his own daughter; for she was his uncle’s daughter, and was fair and beautiful, and an orphan, having neither father nor mother, Esther ii. 7. But when God takes any into this relation of children, they have no beauty or comeliness, and might justly have been for ever the objects of his abhorrance. Thus he says concerning the church of Israel, when he first took them into this relation to him, None eye pitied thee, but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the loathing of thy person: and when I passed by thee and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live, &c. Ezek. xvi. 5. It might indeed be said concerning man, when admitted to this favour and privilege, that he was miserable; but misery, how much soever it may render 146the soul an object of pity, it could not, properly speaking, be said to be a motive or inducement from whence the divine compassion took its first rise, as appears from the account we have of the mercy of God, as founded only on his sovereign will or pleasure; as he says, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion, Rom. ix. 15. and also, from the consideration of man’s being exposed to misery by sin, which rendered him rather an object of vindictive justice than mercy. This therefore cannot be the ground of God’s giving him a right to an inheritance; and consequently adoption is truly said, in this answer, to be an act of the free grace of God.

3. When men adopt, their taking persons into the relation of children, is not necessarily attended with any change of disposition or temper in the persons adopted. A person may be admitted to this privilege, and yet remain the same, in that respect, as he was before: but when God takes his people into the relation of children, he gives them, not only those other privileges which arise from thence, but also that temper and disposition that becomes those who are thus related to him. This leads us to consider,

III. The reference which the sonship of believers has to the superior and more glorious Sonship of Jesus Christ; and how it is said to be for his sake. Here we must suppose that there is a sense in which Christ is said to be the Son of God, as the result of the divine decree, which contains in it an idea very distinct from his being a divine person; for that was not the result of the will of the Father; whereas it is said concerning him, I will declare the decree; the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee, Psal. ii. 7. And elsewhere, he hath, by inheritance, obtained a more excellent name than the angels; and this is the consequence of God’s saying to him, thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee: and, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son, Heb. i. 4, 5. which plainly refers to Christ as Mediator. Now when we consider this mediatorial Sonship of Christ, if I may so express it, we are far from asserting, that Christ’s Sonship, and that of believers, is of the same kind; for, as much as he exceeds them as Mediator, as to the glory of his person and office, so much is his Sonship superior to theirs. This being premised, we may better understand the reference which the sonship of believers has to Christ’s being the Son of God as Mediator; and therefore let it be farther considered,[67]

1. That it is a prerogative and glory of Christ, as the Son of God, that he has all things which relate to the salvation of his elect, put into his hand; and therefore, whatever the saints enjoy or hope for, which is sometimes called in scripture their 147inheritance, agreeably to their character, as the children of God by adoption; this is considered as first purchased by Christ, and then put into his hand; in which respect it is styled his inheritance, he being constituted, pursuant to his having accomplished the work of redemption, heir of all things; and as such, has not only a right to his people, but is put in possession of all those spiritual blessings in heavenly places, wherewith they are blessed in him, Eph. i. 3.

2. From hence it follows, that the sonship of believers, and their right to that inheritance, which God has reserved for them, depends upon the sonship of Christ, which is infinitely more glorious and excellent. As God’s adopted sons, they have the honour conferred upon them, of being made kings and priests to him, Rev. i. 6. These honours are conferred by Christ; and, in order thereunto, they are first given to him to bestow upon them: thus he says, I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me, Luke xxii. 29. Christ is first appointed heir of all things, as Mediator; and then his people, or his children, are considered as heirs of God, as the apostle expresses it; and joint heirs with Christ, Rom. viii. 17. Not that they have any share in his personal or mediatorial glory; but when they are styled joint-heirs with him, we must consider them as having a right to that inheritance, which he is possessed of in their name as Mediator: and in this sense we are to understand those scriptures that speak of God’s being first the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and then, to wit, in him our Father; accordingly he says, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God, John xx. 17. And elsewhere, God is styled the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then the Father of mercies, or, our merciful Father, 2 Cor. i. 3. And elsewhere the apostle says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places, in Christ; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, to himself, Eph. i. 3. compared with 5. and inasmuch as he designed to bring many sons to glory, as being made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; he first made the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings, Heb. ii. 10. compared with Col. i. 12. In this respect our right to the inheritance of children, is founded in the eternal purpose of God, relating hereunto, and the purchase of Christ, as having obtained this inheritance for us.

IV. We are now to consider the privileges conferred on, or reserved for them who are the sons of God by adoption. These are summed up in a very comprehensive expression, which contains an amazing display of divine grace; as it is said, He that overcometh, shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, 148and he shall be my son, Rev. xxi. 7. It is a very large grant that God is pleased to make to them; they shall inherit all things. God is not ashamed to be called their God; and in having him, they are said to possess all things, which are eminently and transcendently in him; they have a right to all the blessings which he had designed for, and which have a tendency to make them completely happy: in this sense we are to understand our Saviour’s words in the parable; Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine, Luke xv. 31. Nothing greater than this can be desired or enjoyed by creatures, whom the Lord delights to honour. But, that we may be a little more particular in considering the privileges which God confers on, or has reserved for his children, it may be farther observed,

1. That they are all emancipated, or freed from the slavery which they were before under, either to sin or Satan; they who were once the servants of sin, are hereby made free from sin, and become the servants of righteousness, or become servants to God, Rom. vi. 17, 18, 22. have their fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life; the Son makes them free; and therefore they are free indeed, John viii. 36. Before this they are described as serving divers lusts and pleasures, Tit. iii. 3. and are said to be of their father the devil, and to do his works, or follow his suggestions, John viii. 44. ensnared, and taken captive by him at his will, 2 Tim. ii. 26. and, as the consequence hereof, are in perpetual bondage, arising from a dread of the wrath of God, and that fear of death impressed on their spirits, by him, who is said to have the power of death, Heb. ii. 14. this they are delivered from, which cannot but be reckoned a glorious privilege.

2. They have God’s name put upon them, and accordingly are described as his people called by his name, 2 Chron. vii. 14. This is an high and honourable character, denoting their relation to him as a peculiar people; and it is what belongs to them alone. Thus the church says, We are thine; thou never bearest rule over them, Isa. lxiii. 19. namely, thine adversaries; they were not called by thy name. They have also Christ’s name put on them, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, Eph. iii. 15. which not only signifies that propriety which he has in them as Mediator, but their relation to him as the ransomed of the Lord, his sheep, whom he leads and feeds like a shepherd; and they are also styled his children, Behold I and the children which God hath given me, Heb. ii. 13. and indeed, when he is called a surety, or an advocate, or said to execute certain offices as a Saviour or Redeemer; these are all relative terms; and whatever he does therein, is in their name, and for their advantage; as it is said, of him are ye in Christ Jesus, 149who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, 1 Cor. i. 31.

3. They are taken into God’s family, and dealt with as members thereof; and accordingly are styled fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, Eph. ii. 19. And as the consequence hereof, they have protection, provision, and communion with him.

(1.) They have safe protection; as the master of a family thinks himself obliged to secure and defend from danger, all that are under his roof, whose house is, as it were, their castle; so Christ is his people’s defence, concerning whom it is said, A man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land, Isa. xxxii. 2. and, as the consequence hereof, it is added, My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places, ver. 18. They dwell on high; their place of defence is the munition of rocks, chap. xxxii. 16. He who has subdued their enemies, and will in his own time, bruise them under their feet, will take care that they shall not meet with that disturbance from them, which may hinder their repose or rest in him, or render their state unsafe, so as to endanger their perishing or falling from it.

(2.) They enjoy the plentiful provisions of God’s house, and therefore Christ is called their shepherd, Psal. xxiii. 1. not only as leading and defending them, but as providing for them; He shall feed his flock like a shepherd, Isa. xl. 11. As all grace is treasured up in him, and there is a fulness thereof, which he has to impart to the heirs of salvation, that is sufficient to supply all their wants; so they shall never have a reason to complain that they are straitened in him; the blessings of his house are not only exhilirating, but satisfying, and such as have a tendency to make them completely happy.

(3.) They are admitted to the greatest intimacy, and have sweet communion with Christ; the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, Psal. xxv. 14. he deals with them as with friends, and in this instance in particular, (as he tells his disciples,) that all that he has heard of the Father, John xv. 15. that is, whatever he had a commission to impart for their direction and comfort, he makes known unto them, which must needs be reckoned a very great privilege. As the queen of Sheba, when beholding the advantages that they who were in Solomon’s presence enjoyed, could not but with an extasy of admiration, say, Happy are thy men; happy are thy servants, which stand continually before thee, that hear thy wisdom, 1 Kings x. 8. much more may they be happy who are admitted into his presence, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Col. ii. 3.

150(4.) Another privilege which they enjoy, is access to God, as a reconciled Father, through Christ; they have a liberty to come boldly to the throne of grace, that they obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need, Heb. iv. 18. Whatever their straits and difficulties are, God holds forth his golden sceptre, invites them to come to him, asks, What is thy petition? and gives them ground to hope that it shall be granted, so far as it may redound to his glory and their good. And, inasmuch as they are often straitened in their spirits, and unprepared to draw nigh to him; they have the promise of the Spirit to assist them herein; upon which account he is called the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry Abba Father, Rom. viii. 15. This privilege is said to be a consequence of their being sons; Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba Father, Gal. iv. 6. By this means they have becoming conceptions of the Divine Majesty, a reverential fear of, and a love to him, earnest desires of communion with him, and of being made partakers of what he has to impart. They have a right to plead the promises; and in so doing, are encouraged to hope for the blessings contained therein.

(5.) As God’s children are prone to backslide from him, and so have need of restoring grace, he will recover and humble them, and thereby prevent their total apostacy: this he sometimes does by afflictions, which the apostle calls fatherly chastisements, and reckons them not only consistent with, but evidences of his love: Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth; and if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons, Heb. xii. 6, 8, 11. The apostle does not here speak of afflictions as considered absolutely in themselves, but as proceeding from the love of God, the design whereof is to do them good; and as they are adapted to this present state, in which they are training up for the glorious inheritance reserved for them in heaven, and need some trying dispensations, which may put them in mind of that state of perfect blessedness which is laid up for them: and they are rendered subservient to their present and future advantage, as the afflictions of this present time bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them; and when they are, in the end, perfectly freed from them, will tend to enhance their joy and praise; which leads us to consider another privilege, which is so great that it crowns all those that they are now possessed of, namely,

(6.) They shall, at last, be brought into God’s immediate presence, and satisfied with his likeness. The apostle calls the perfect blessedness of the saints, when raised from the dead, and so delivered from the bondage of corruption, and made 151partakers of the glorious liberty of the Sons of God, by way of eminency, the adoption, to wit, the redemption of their bodies; which signifies not only the full manifestation of their adoption, but their taking possession of their inheritance, which they are now waiting and hoping for, which is too great for the heart of man to conceive of in this present state; for the apostle says, Now are we the sons of God; and it doth not appear what we shall be: but we know, that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is, 1 John iii. 2. So that all the blessings which we have, either in hand or hope, the blessings of both worlds, which are conferred upon us from our first conversion to our glorification: these are privileges which God bestows on those who are his adopted children.

From what has been said concerning adoption, we may take occasion to observe, how, in some respects it agrees with, or may indeed, be reckoned a branch of justification, and in other respects it includes in it something that is an ingredient in sanctification. We have before observed, in treating on the former of these, viz. justification, that when God forgives sin, he confers on his people a right to life, or to all the blessings of the covenant of grace, in which are contained the promises that belong to the life that now is, and that which is to come. These are the privileges which God’s adopted children are made partakers of; and in this respect some divines suppose, that adoption is included in our justification.[68]

And if justification be explained, as has been before observed, as denoting an immanent act in God, whereby the elect are considered, in the covenant between the Father and the Son, as in Christ, their federal head; so they are considered as the adopted children of God, in Christ, and accordingly as they are described as chosen in Christ, unto eternal life, they are said to be predestinated unto the adoption of children, Eph. i. 6. which is a privilege to be obtained by Jesus Christ: in this respect all the elect are called Christ’s seed, that shall serve him, Psal. xxii. 30. whom he had a special regard to, when he made his soul an offering for sin, and concerning whom he had this promise made to him in the covenant, that passed between the Father and him, that he should see them, and the pleasure of the Lord, with respect to their everlasting salvation, should prosper in his hand, Isa. liii. 10. Now when Christ is considered as the head of the elect, who are in this sense called his sons, whom he has engaged to bring to glory, faith is the fruit and consequence of adoption; accordingly the apostle says, Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father, Gal. iv. 6.

But as justification is a declared act, and is said to be by 152faith, so adoption agreeing with it, is of the same nature; and accordingly we are said to be the children of God by faith, chap. iii. 26. that is, it is by faith that we have a right to claim this relation, together with the privileges which are the result thereof.

Moreover, as adoption includes in it a person’s being made meet for the inheritance, which God has reserved for him, and so is endowed with the temper and disposition of his children, consisting in humility, heavenly-mindedness, love to him, dependence upon him, and a zeal for his glory, a likeness to Christ; as the same mind is said to be in us, in some measure as was in him; in this respect adoption agrees with sanctification, which is what we are next to consider.

Quest. LXXV.

Quest. LXXV. What is sanctification?

Answ. Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God hath, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit, applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man, after the image of God, having the seeds of repentance unto life, and of all other saving graces put into their hearts; and those graces so stirred up, increased and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.

1. We shall shew what we are to understand by the word sanctify. This is sometimes considered as what has God for its object: thus he is said to sanctify himself, when he appears in the glory of his holiness, and gives occasion to the world to adore that perfection, which he is sometimes represented as doing, when he punishes sin in a visible and exemplary manner. Thus when God threatens to call for a sword, and plead against a rebellious people, with pestilence and with blood, he is said, by this means, to magnify and sanctify himself, so as to be known, to wit, as an holy God, in the eyes of many nations. And when he fulfils his promises, and thereby advances his holiness, as when he brought his people out of captivity, and gathered them out of the countries, wherein they had been scattered, he is said to be sanctified in them, Ezek. xxxviii. 21-23. And he is sanctified by his people, when they give him the glory that is due to his perfection, as thus displayed and magnified by him: thus God’s people are said to sanctify the Lord of hosts, when they make him the object of their fear and of their dread, Isa. viii. 13.

153However, this is not the sense in which we are here to understand it, but as applied to men; in which respect it is taken in various senses, namely, for their consecration, or separation unto God; thus our Saviour says, when devoting and applying himself to the work, for which he came into the world; for their sakes I sanctify myself, John xvii. 19. But this is not the sense in which it is to be understood in this answer.

Moreover, it is often taken, in scripture, for persons being devoted to God, to minister in holy things: thus Aaron and his sons were sanctified, that they might minister unto him in the priest’s office, Exod. xxviii. 41. And it is sometimes taken for an external federal dedication to God, to walk before him as a peculiar people in observance of his holy institutions. Thus when Israel consented to be God’s people they are styled, holiness unto the Lord, Jer. ii. 3. the holy seed, Ezra ix. 2. and an holy nation, 1 Pet. ii. 9. And the church, under the gospel-dispensation, as consecrated, and professing subjection, to Christ, or separated to his service, and waiting for his presence, while engaged in all those ordinances, which he has appointed in the gospel, is described as called to be saints, Rom. i. 7. and they are hereby related to him, in an external and visible way. Neither is this the sense in which the word is taken in this answer; in which we are to understand sanctification as a special discriminating grace, whereby persons are not barely externally, but really devoted to Christ by faith: it is the internal beauty of the soul, whereby all the faculties being renewed, and a powerful, effectual change wrought therein; they are enabled to turn from sin unto God, and exercise all those graces, whereby they walk in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of their lives, Luke i. 75. till this work, which is gradually carried on here, shall be brought to perfection hereafter.

2. It may farther be observed, that sanctification as described in this answer, may be considered as including in it several other graces, some of which have been already insisted on, namely, regeneration, effectual calling, and faith; and there is another grace connected with it, which will be particularly insisted on under the next answer, namely, repentance unto life; all which graces are said to be wrought by the powerful operation of the Spirit, in those who were, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy. Regeneration is styled, by some, initial sanctification, as all graces take their first rise from the principle which is therein implanted. Effectual calling, or conversion, is that whereby we are brought into the way of holiness, and internally disposed to walk therein. Faith is that grace whereby this work is promoted, as all holy actions proceed from it, as deriving strength from Christ, to perform them. 154And repentance is that whereby the work of sanctification discovers itself, in the soul’s abhorring, and flying from, every thing that tends to defile it; approves itself to God as one, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity without the greatest detestation. But inasmuch as these graces either have been, or will be particularly insisted on, in their proper place, we shall more especially consider sanctification as a progressive work, whereby it is distinguished from them, by which we daily consecrate, or devote ourselves to God; and our actions have all a tendency to advance his glory; and, by the Spirit, we are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and to live unto righteousness; so that it is not barely one single act of grace, but it contains in it the whole progress of the work of grace, as gradually carried on till perfected in glory: this is what we are to speak particularly to. And,

I. It includes in it a continual devotedness to God. As the first act of faith consists in a making a surrender of ourselves to Christ, depending on his assistance in beginning the work of obedience in the exercise of all Christian graces; so sanctification is the continuance thereof. When we are first converted, we receive Christ Jesus the Lord; and in sanctification we walk in him, and exercise a daily dependence on him in the execution of all his offices; make his word our rule, and delight in it after the inward man. How difficult soever the duties are that he commands, we take pleasure in the performance of them, make religion our great business, and in order thereunto conclude, that every thing we receive from him is to be improved to his glory. And as every duty is to be performed by faith; so what has been before observed concerning the life of faith, is to be considered as an expedient to promote the work of sanctification.

II. In the carrying on of this work we are to endeavour, to our utmost, to fence against the prevailing power of sin, by all those methods which are prescribed in the gospel, that so it may not have dominion over us; this is generally styled the work of mortification. The apostle speaks of our old man being crucified with Christ, and the body of sin destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin, Rom. vi. 6. and of our crucifying the flesh with the affections and lusts, and of our mortifying the deeds of the body through the Spirit, Gal. v. 24. that is, by his assistance and grace, which is necessary in order thereunto, Rom. viii. 13.

This is a very difficult work, especially considering the prevalency of corruption, and the multitude of temptations that we are exposed to; the subtilty and watchfulness of Satan, who walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; the treachery of our own hearts, that are so prone to 155depart from God; the fickleness and instability of our resolutions; the irregularity of our affections, and the constant efforts made by corrupt nature, to gain the ascendant over them, and turn them aside from God: this it does sometimes by presenting things in a false view, calling evil good, and good evil; representing some things as harmless and not displeasing to God, that are most pernicious and offensive, endeavouring to lead us into mistakes, as to the matter of sin or duty, and to persuade us, that those things will issue well which are like to prove bitterness in the end; and attempting to impose upon us, as though we were in a right and safe way, when, at the same time, we are walking contrary to God, and corrupt nature is gaining strength thereby. But this will be farther considered, when we speak concerning the imperfection of sanctification in believers[69]. Now this renders it necessary for us to make use of those methods which God has prescribed for the mortification of sin; and in order thereunto,

1. We must endeavour to maintain a constant sense of the heinous nature of sin, as it is contrary to the holiness of God, a stain that cannot be washed away, but by the blood of Jesus, the highest instance of ingratitude for all the benefits which we have received, a bitter and an only evil, the abominable thing that God hates; it is not only to be considered as condemning, but defiling, that hereby we may maintain a constant abhorrence of it; and that not only of those sins that expose us to scorn and reproach in the eye of the world, but every thing that is in itself sinful, as contrary to the law of God.

2. We must be watchful against the breakings forth of corrupt nature, observe the frame and disposition of our spirits, and the deceitfulness of sin, which has a tendency to harden us, and avoid all occasions of, or incentives to it, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh, Jude, ver. 23. abstaining from all appearance of evil, 2 Thess. v. 22. And to this we may add, that we are frequently to examine ourselves with respect to our behaviour in every state of life; whether sin be gaining or losing ground in us; whether we make conscience of performing every duty, both personal and relative? what guilt we contract by sins of omission, or the want of that fervency of spirit which has a tendency to beget a formal, dead, and stupid frame and temper of mind, and thereby hinder the progress of the work of sanctification? but that which is the principal, if not the only expedient that will prove effectual for the mortifying of sin is, our seeking help against it from him who is able to give us the victory over it. Therefore,

3. Whatever attempts we use against the prevailing power of sin, in order to the mortifying of it, these must be performed 156by faith; seeking and deriving that help from Christ, which is necessary in order thereunto. And therefore,

(1.) As the dominion of sin consists in its rendering us guilty in the sight of God, whereby the conscience is burdened, by reason of the dread that it has of that punishment which is due to us, and the condemning sentence of the law, which we are liable to; and as its mortification, in this respect, consists in our deliverance from that which makes us so uneasy, no expedient can be used to mortify it, but our looking by faith to Christ, as a propitiation for sin, whereby we are enabled to behold the debt which we had contracted, cancelled, the indictment superseded, and the condemning sentence repealed; from whence the soul concludes, that iniquity shall not be its ruin. This is the only method we are to take when oppressed with a sense of the guilt of sin, which is daily committed by us. It was shadowed forth by the Israelites looking to the brazen serpent, a type of Christ crucified, when stung with fiery serpents, which occasioned exquisite pain, and would, without this expedient, have brought immediate death: thus the deadly wound of sin is healed by the sovereign balm of Christ’s blood, applied by faith; and we, by his having fulfilled the law, may be said to be dead to it, as freed from the curse thereof, and all the sad consequences that would ensue thereupon.

(2.) As sin is said to have dominion over us, in that all the powers and faculties of our souls are enslaved by it, whereby, as the apostle expresses it, we are carnal, sold under sin, Rom. vii. 14. when we are weak and unable to perform what is good, and the corruption of nature is so predominant, that we are, as it were, carried down the stream, which we strive against, but in vain: in this respect sin is to be mortified, by a fiducial application to Christ, for help against it; and herein we are to consider him as having undertaken, not only to deliver from the condemning, but the prevailing power of sin; which is a part of the work that he is now engaged in, wherein he applies the redemption he purchased, by the powerful influences of the Holy Spirit, and the soul seeks to him for them. As it is natural for us, when we are in imminent danger of present ruin, or are assaulted by an enemy, whose superior force we are not able to withstand, to cry out to some kind friend, for help; or when we are in danger of death, by some disease which nature is ready to sink under, to apply ourselves to the physician for relief: thus the soul is to apply itself to Christ for strength against the prevailing power of indwelling sin, and grace to make him more than a conqueror over it; and Christ, by his Spirit, in this respect, enables us (to use the apostle’s words,) to mortify the deeds of body, Rom. viii. 13.

157And, in order hereunto, we take encouragement, from the promises of God; and the connexion that there is between Christ’s having made satisfaction for sin, and his delivering those who are redeemed, from the power of it, as the apostle says, Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, that is, under the condemning sentence of it, but under grace, chap. vi. 14. as having an interest in that grace which has engaged to deliver from sin: in both these respects we consider Christ not only as able, but as having undertaken to deliver his people from all their spiritual enemies, to relieve them in all their straits and exigences, and to bring them off safe and victorious. This is the method which we are to take to mortify sin; and it is a never-failing remedy. What was before observed, under the foregoing heads, concerning our endeavouring to see the evil of sin, and exercising that watchfulness against the occasions thereof, are necessary duties, without which sin will gain strength: nevertheless the victory over it is principally owing to our deriving righteousness and strength, by faith, from Christ; whereby he has the glory of a conqueror over it, and we have the advantage of receiving this privilege as applying ourselves to, and relying on him for it.

Having considered the way in which sin is to be mortified, agreeably to the gospel-rule; we shall, before we close this head, take notice of some other methods which many rest in, thinking thereby to free themselves from the dominion of sin, which will not answer that end. Some have no other notion of sin, but as it discovers itself in those gross enormities which are matter of public scandal or reproach in the eye of the world, who do not duly consider the spirituality of the law of God; such-like sentiments of moral evil, the apostle Paul had, before his conversion, as he says, I was alive without the law once, chap. vii. 9. compared with 7. and I had not known lust, except the law had said, thou shalt not covet. Sin did not appear to be sin, ver. 13. that is, nothing was thought sin by him, but that which was openly scandalous, and deemed so by universal consent; and therefore he says elsewhere, that touching the righteousness which is in the law, he was blameless, Phil. iii. 6. or, as Ephraim is represented, saying, In all my labour they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin, Hos. xii. 8. These persons think they shall come off well, if they can say, that they are not guilty of some enormous crimes; so that none can charge them with those open debaucheries, or other sins, that are not to be mentioned among Christians; or if, through any change in their condition of life, or being delivered from those temptations that gave occasion to them; or if there natural temper be less inclined to them than before, and, as the result 158hereof, they abstain from them, this they call a mortifying of sin; though the most that can be said of it is, that sin is only curbed, confined, and their natural inclinations to it abated, while it is far from being dead.

Others, who will allow that sin is of a far larger extent, and includes in it that which prevails in the heart, as well as renders itself visible in the life, or contains in it the omission of duties, as well as the actual commission of known sins; these often take a preposterous method to mortify it: if they are sensible of the guilt that is contracted hereby, they use no other method to be discharged from it, but by pretending to make atonement, either by confessing their sins, using endeavours to abstain from them, or by the performance of some duties of religion, by which they think to make God amends for the injuries they have offered to him thereby: but this is so far from mortifying sin, that it increases the guilt thereof, and causes it to take deeper root, and afterwards to break forth in a greater degree; or else tends to stupify the conscience, after which they go on in a way of sin, with carnal security, and without remorse.

Others think, that to mortify sin, is nothing else but to subdue and keep under their passions, at least, to such a degree that they may not, through the irregularity and impetuous violence thereof, commit those sins which they cannot but reflect upon with shame, when brought into a more calm and considerate temper of mind; and, in order thereunto, they subject themselves to certain rules, which the light of nature will suggest, and the wiser Heathen have laid down to induce persons to lead a virtuous life; and they argue thus with themselves, that it is below the dignity of the human nature, for men to suffer their passions to lead their reason captive, or to do that which betrays a want of wisdom as well as temper; and if by this means the exorbitancy of their passions is abated, and many sins, which are occasioned thereby, prevented, they conclude their lives to be unblemished, and sin subdued; whereas this is nothing else but restraining the fury of their temper, or giving a check to some sins, while sin in general remains unmortified.

As to the methods prescribed by some Popish casuists, of emaciating, or keeping under the body by physic, or a sparing diet, and submitting to hard penances, not only to atone for past sins, but prevent them for the future, these have not a tendency to strike at the root of sin, and therefore are unjustly called a mortifying of it. For though an abstemious regular way of living be conducive to answer some valuable ends, and without it men are led to the commission of many sins; yet this is no expedient to take away the guilt thereof; neither is the enslaving, 159captivating, and prevailing power of indwelling sin, that discovers itself in various shapes, and attends every condition and circumstance of life, sufficiently subdued hereby.

And those common methods that many others take, which are of a different nature, namely, when they resolve, though in their own strength, to break off their sins by repentance; or, if their resolutions to lead a virtuous life are weak, and not much regarded by them, endeavour to strengthen them, this will not answer their end, sin will be too strong for all their resolutions, and the engagements with which they bind themselves, will be like the cords with which Sampson was bound, which were broken by him like threads. If we rely on our own strength, how much soever we may be resolved to abstain from sin at present, God will make us sensible of our weakness, by leaving us to ourselves; and then, how much soever we resolve to abstain from sin, it will appear that it is far from being mortified, or subdued by us. Therefore we conclude, that this cannot be performed, but by going forth in the name and strength of Christ, who is able to keep us from falling; or, when fallen, to recover us; and this will be found, in the end, to be the best expedient for the promoting this branch of our sanctification; which leads us to consider,

III. That, in the farther carrying on of this work of sanctification, we are enabled to walk with God, or before him, in holiness and righteousness. We are first made alive in regeneration, and then put forth living actions, which some call vivification, as distinguished from that part of sanctification, which has been already considered, namely, mortification of sin.

This is what we may call leading an holy life, whereby we are to understand much more than many do, who suppose, that it consists only in the performance of some moral duties, that contain the external part of religion, without which there would not be the least shadow of holiness; and in performing those duties which we owe to men in the various relations which we stand in to them; or, at least, in keeping ourselves clear from those pollutions which are in the world through lust, 2 Pet. i. 4. The Pharisee, in the gospel, thought himself an extraordinary holy person, because he was no extortioner, nor unjust, nor adulterer; but fasted, paid tithes, and performed several works of charity; and many are great pretenders to it, who have no other than a form of godliness, without the power of it, or who are more than ordinarily diligent in their attendance on the ordinances of God’s appointment; though they are far from doing this in a right way, like those whom the prophet speaks of, who are said to seek God daily, and to delight to know his ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the 160ordinance of their God; though at the same time, they are said to fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness, Isa. lviii. 2. But, that we may consider several other things, which are contained in a person’s leading an holy life, let it be observed,

1. That our natures must be changed, and therefore sanctification always supposes and flows from regeneration: there must be grace in the heart, or else it can never discover itself in the life; the root must be good, or else the tree cannot bring forth good fruit; the spring of action must be cleansed, otherwise the actions themselves will be impure. Some persons, who are generally strangers to the internal work of grace, are very apt to insist much on the goodness of their hearts, and this is sometimes pleaded in excuse for the badness of their lives; whereas they never had a due sense of the plague and perverseness of their own hearts. Good actions must proceed from a good principle, otherwise persons are in an unsanctified state; and, as they must be conformable to the rule laid down in the word of God, and performed in a right manner, and to the glory of God as to the end designed thereby; so they must be performed by faith, whereby we depend on Christ for assistance and acceptance, as being sensible of our constant work and business, whereby we are said to walk with God, as well as live to him.

2. In order to our leading an holy life, we must make use of those motives and inducements thereunto, that are contained in the gospel; and to encourage us herein,

(1.) We are to have in our view that perfect pattern of holiness which Christ has given us; he has left us an example that we should follow his steps, 1 Pet. ii. 21. Whatever we find in the life of Christ, prescribed for our imitation, should be improved to promote the work of sanctification; his humility, meekness, patience, submission to the divine will, his zeal for the glory of God, and the good of mankind, and his unfainting perseverance in pursuing the end for which he came into the world, are all mentioned, in scripture, not barely that we should yield an assent to the account we have thereof in the gospel history; but that the same mind should be in us, which was also in him, Phil. ii. 5. or, as the apostle says, He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also to walk even as he walked, 1 John ii. 6. And to this we may add, that we ought to set before us the example of others, and be followers of them, so far as they followed him: their example, indeed, is as much inferior to Christ’s as imperfect holiness is to that which is perfect; but yet it is an encouragement to us, that in following the footsteps of the flock, we have many bright examples of those, who through faith and patience, inherit the promises.

161(2.) Another motive to holiness is the love of Christ, expressed in the great work of our redemption, and in that care and compassion which he has extended towards us in the application thereof, in all the methods he has used in the beginning and carrying on the work of grace, in which we may say, hitherto he hath helped us: this ought to be improved so as to constrain us, 2 Cor. v. 14. as he has hereby laid us under the highest obligation to live to him. And as love to Christ is the main ingredient in sanctification; so when by faith we behold him as the most engaging and desirable object, this will afford a constant inducement to holiness.

(3.) Another motive hereunto is our relation to God, as his children, and our professed subjection to him; as we gave up ourselves to him, when first we believed, avouched him to be our God, and, since then, have experienced many instances of his condescending goodness and faithfulness; as he has been pleased to grant us some degrees of communion with him, through Christ; and as he has given us many great and precious promises, and in various instances, made them good to us; and has reserved an inheritance for all that are sanctified in that better world, to which they shall be brought at last: this should induce us to lead a life of holiness, as the apostle says, Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, chap. vii. 1.

From what has been said in explaining the doctrine of sanctification, we may infer,

[1.] The difference that there is between moral virtue, so far as it may be attained by the light of nature, and the improvement of human reason; and that holiness of heart and life, which contains in it all Christian virtues, and is inseparably connected with salvation. All who are conversant in the writings of some of the Heathen moralists will find a great many things that tend to regulate the conduct of life; and those precepts laid down, which, if followed, carry in them a great resemblance of the grace of sanctification; and herein some, who have been destitute of the light of the gospel, have very much excelled many who bear the Christian name: when we find a lively representation of the universal corruption and degeneracy of human nature, the disorder and irregularity of the affections, and man’s natural propensity to vice, rules laid down for the attaining of virtue, by which means men are directed how to free themselves from that slavery which they are under to their lusts, and advice given to press after a resemblance and conformity to God; this carried in it a great shew of holiness.

162A late writer[70] has collected together several passages out of their writings, with a design to prove, that though they were destitute of gospel light, yet they might attain salvation; inasmuch as they use many expressions that very much resemble the grace of sanctification: as for instance, when one of them speaking concerning contentment in the station of life in which providence had fixed him, says, “A servant of God should not be solicitous for the morrow. Can any good man fear that he should want food? Doth God so neglect his servants, and his witnesses, as that they should be destitute of his care and providence? And he adds, Did I ever, Lord, accuse thee, or complain of thy government? Was I not always willing to be sick when it was thy pleasure that I should be so? Did I ever, desire to be what thou wouldest not have me to be? Am I not always ready to do what thou commandest? Wilt thou have me to continue here, I will freely do as thou willest? Or, wouldest thou have me depart hence, I will freely do it at thy command? I have always had my will subject to that of God; deal with me according to thy pleasure; I am always of the same mind with thee; I refuse nothing which thou art pleased to lay upon me; lead me whither thou wilt; clothe me as thou pleasest; I will be a magistrate or private person; continue me in my country, or in exile, I will not only submit to, but defend thy proceedings in all things.” We might also produce quotations out of other writings whereby it appears that some of the heathen excelled many Christians in the consistency of their sentiments about religious matters, with the divine perfections; as when they say, Whatever endowment of the mind has a tendency to make a man truly great and excellent; this is owing to an internal divine influence.[71] Others, speaking of the natural propensity which there is in man to vice, have maintained, that to fence against it, there is a necessity of their having assistance from God, in order to their leading a virtuous life; and that virtue is not attained by instruction, that is, not only by that means, but that it is from God; and that this is to be sought for at his hands, by faith and prayer: much to this purpose may be seen in the writings of Plato, Maximus Tyrius, Hierocles, and several others.[72]

The principal use that I would make hereof is, to observe that this should humble many Christians, who are far from coming up to the Heathen in the practice of moral virtue. And, 163as for the sentiments of those who deny the necessity of our having the divine influence in order to our performing the duties which God requires of us, in a right manner; these fall very short of what the light of nature has suggested to those who have duly attended to it, though destitute of divine revelation. When I meet with such expressions, and many other divine things, in the writings of Plato; and what he says of the conversation of his master Socrates, both in his life and death: I cannot but apply in this case, what our Saviour says to the scribe in the gospel, who answered him discreetly, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God, Mark xii. 34. These things, it is true, very much resemble the grace of sanctification; yet in many respects, they fall short of it; inasmuch as they had no acts of faith, in a Mediator, whom they were altogether strangers to, as being destitute of divine revelation.

It is not my design, at present, to enquire, whether they had any hope of salvation? this having been considered under a foregoing answer[73]. All that I shall here observe is, that some of the best of them were charged with notorious crimes, which a Christian would hardly reckon consistent with the truth of grace; as Plato, with flattering of tyrants, and too much indulging pride and luxury[74]; Socrates, with pleading for fornication and incest, and practising sodomy, if what some have reported concerning them be true[75]. But, without laying any stress on the character of particular persons, who, in other respects, have said and done many excellent things; it is evident, that whatever appearance of holiness there may be in the writings or conversation of those that are strangers to Christ and his gospel, this falls short of the grace of sanctification.[76]

164There is a vast difference between recommending or practising moral virtues, as agreeable to the nature of man, and the dictates of reason; and a person’s being led in that way of holiness, which our Saviour has prescribed in the gospel. This takes its rise from a change of nature, wrought in regeneration, is excited by gospel-motives, encouraged by the promises thereof, and proceeds from the grace of faith, without which, all pretensions to holiness are vain and defective. What advances soever these may have made in endeavouring to free themselves from the slavery of sin, they have been very deficient, as to the mortification thereof; for being ignorant of that great atonement which is made by Christ, as the only expedient to take away the guilt of sin, they could not, by any method, arrive to a conscience void of offence, or any degree of hope concerning the forgiveness thereof, and the way of acceptance in the sight of God: and their using endeavours to stop the current of vice, and to subdue their inordinate affections, could 165not be effectual to answer that end, inasmuch as they were destitute of the Spirit of God, who affords his divine assistance, in order thereunto, in no other way than what is prescribed in the gospel; so that as without holiness no one shall see the Lord, this grace is to be expected in that way which God has prescribed; and every one that is holy is made so by the Spirit, who glorifies himself in rendering men fruitful in every good work, being raised by him, from the death of sin, to the life of faith in Christ; which is a blessing peculiar to the gospel.

[2.] Since holiness is required of all persons, as what is absolutely necessary to salvation, and is also recommended as that which God works, in those in whom the gospel is made effectual thereunto; we may infer, that no gospel-doctrine has the least tendency to lead to licentiousness. The grace of God may indeed be abused; and men, who are strangers to it, take occasion from the abounding thereof, to continue in sin, as some did in the apostle’s days, Rom. vi. 1. but this is not the genuine tendency of the gospel, which is to lead men to holiness. Whatever duties it engages to, they are all designed to answer this end; and whatever privileges are contained therein, they are all of them inducements thereunto: are we delivered out of the hands of our spiritual enemies? it is, that we should serve him in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our lives, Luke i. 74, 75. As for the promises, they are an inducement to us, as the apostle expresses it, to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, 2 Cor. vii. 1. and every ordinance and providence should be improved by us, to promote the work of sanctification.

[3.] Let us examine ourselves, whether this work be begun, and the grace of God wrought in us, in truth? and if so, whether it be increasing or declining in our souls?

1st, As to the truth of grace, let us take heed that we do not think that we are something when we are nothing, deceiving our own souls, or rest in a form of godliness, while denying the power thereof, or a name to live, while we are dead; let us think that it is not enough to abstain from grosser enormities, or engage in some external duties of religion, with wrong ends. And if, upon enquiry into ourselves, we find that we are destitute of a principle of spiritual life and grace, let us not think, that because we have escaped some of the pollutions that are in the world, or do not run with others in all excess of riot, that therefore we lead holy lives; but rather let us enquire, Whether the life we live in the flesh, be by the faith of the Son of God, under the influence of his Spirit, with great diffidence of our own righteousness and strength, and firm dependence upon Christ? and as the result hereof, whether we 166are found in the practice of universal holiness, and hate and avoid all appearance of evil, using all those endeavours that are prescribed in the gospel, to glorify him in our spirits, souls, and bodies, which are his?

2d, If we have ground to hope that the work of sanctification is begun, let us enquire, whether it be advancing or declining? Whether we go from strength to strength, or make improvements in proportion to the privileges we enjoy? Many have reason to complain that it is not with them as in months past; that grace is languishing, the frame of their spirits in holy duties stupid, and they destitute of that communion with God, which they have once enjoyed; such ought to remember from whence they are fallen, and repent, and do their first works; and beg of God, from whom alone our fruit is derived, that he would revive the work, and cause their souls to flourish in the courts of his house, and to bring forth much fruit unto holiness, to the glory of his own name, and their spiritual peace and comfort.

As for those who are frequently complaining of, and bewailing their declensions in grace, who seem, to others, to be making a very considerable progress therein; let them not give way to unbelief so far as to deny or set aside the experiences which they have had of God’s presence with them; for sometimes grace grows, though without our own observation. If they are destitute of the comforts thereof, or the fruits of righteousness, which are peace, assurance and joy in the Holy Ghost, let them consider, that the work of sanctification, in this present state, is, at best, but growing up towards that perfection which is not yet arrived to. If it does not spring up and flourish, as to those fruits and effects thereof, which they are pressing after, but have not attained; let them bless God, if grace is taking root downward, and is attended with an humble sense of their own weakness and imperfection, and an earnest desire of those spiritual blessings which they are labouring after. This ought to afford matter of thankfulness, rather than have a tendency to weaken their hands, or induce them to conclude that they are in an unsanctified state; because of the many hindrances and discouragements which attend their progress in holiness.

Quest. LXXVI.

Quest. LXXVI. What is repentance unto life?

Answ. Repentance unto life, is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner, by the Spirit and word of God; whereby, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filth and odiousness of his sins, and upon the apprehension 167of God’s mercy in Christ, to such as are penitent, he so grieves for, and hates his sins, as that he turns from them all to God, purposing and endeavouring, constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience.

In speaking to this answer we shall consider the subject of repentance, viz. a sinful fallen creature; and that, though this be his condition, yet he is naturally averse to the exercise thereof, till God is pleased to bring him to it; which will lead us to consider, how the Spirit of God does this; and what are the various acts and effects thereof.[222]

1. Concerning the subjects of repentance. No one can be said to repent but a sinner; and therefore, whatever other graces might be exercised by man in a state of innocency, or shall be exercised by him, when brought to a state of perfection; 168yet there cannot, properly speaking, be any room for repentance: some, indeed, have queried whether there shall be repentance in heaven; but it may easily be determined, that though that hatred of sin in general, and opposition to it, which is contained in true repentance, be not inconsistent with a state of perfect blessedness, as it is inseparably connected with perfection of holiness; yet a sense of sin, which is afflictive, and is attended with grief and sorrow of heart, for the guilt and consequences thereof, is altogether inconsistent with a state of perfection; and these are some ingredients in that repentance which comes under our present consideration. Therefore we must conclude, that the subject of repentance is a sinner: but,

II. Though all sinners contract guilt, expose themselves to misery, and will sooner or later be filled with distress and sorrow for what they have done against God; yet many have no sense thereof at present, nor repentance, or remorse for it. These are described as past feeling, Eph. iv. 19. and hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, Heb. iii. 13. as obstinate, and having their neck as an iron sinew, and their brow as brass, Isa. xlviii. 4. And there are several methods which they take to ward off the force of convictions. Sometimes they are stupid, and hardly give themselves the liberty to consider the difference that there is between moral good and evil, or the natural obligation we are under to pursue the one, and avoid the other. They consider not the all-seeing eye of God, that observes all their actions, nor the power of his anger, who will take vengeance on impenitent sinners; regard not the various aggravations of sin, nor consider that God will, for those things, bring them to judgment. So that impenitency is generally attended with presumption; whereby the person concludes, though without ground, that it shall go well with him in the end; such an one is represented, as blessing himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination; or, as it is in the margin, in the stubbornness of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst, Deut. xxix. 19. Or if, on the other hand, he cannot but conclude, that with God is terrible majesty, that he is a consuming fire, and that none ever hardened themselves against him, and prospered, and if he does not fall down before him with humble confession of sin, and repentance for it, he will certainly be broken with his rod of iron, and dashed in pieces, like the potter’s vessel, broken with a tempest, and utterly destroyed, when his wrath is kindled; then he resolves, that some time or other he will repent, but still delays and puts it off for a more convenient season, and though God gives him space to do it, repenteth not, Rev. ii. 21. Thus he goes on in the greatness of his way, till God prevents him with the blessings of his goodness, and brings him to repentance. And this leads us to consider,

169III. That repentance is God’s work; or, as it is observed in this answer, wrought by the Spirit of God: whether we consider it as a common or saving grace, it is the Spirit that convinces or reproves the world of sin. If it be of the same kind with that which Pharaoh, Ahab, or Judas had; it is a dread of God’s judgments, and his wrath breaking in upon conscience, when he reproves for sin, and sets it in order before their eyes, that excites it. If they are touched with a sense of guilt, and hereby, for the present, stopped, or obliged to make a retreat, and desist from pursuing their former methods, it is God, in the course of his providence, that gives a check to them. But this comes short of that repentance which is said to be unto life; or which is styled a saving grace, which is wrought by the Spirit of God, as the beginning of that saving work, which is a branch of sanctification, and shall end in compleat salvation.

This is expressly styled in scripture, repentance unto life, Acts xi. 18. inasmuch as every one, who is favoured with it, shall obtain eternal life; and it is connected with conversion and remission of sins, which will certainly end in eternal salvation. Thus it is said, Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, chap. iii. 9. and for this reason it is called a saving grace, or a grace that accompanies salvation, whereby it is distinguished from that repentance which some have, who yet remain in a state of unregeneracy. And it is called, Repentance to salvation, not to be repented of, 2 Cor. vii. 10. that is, it shall issue well; and he shall, in the end, have reason to bless God, and rejoice in his grace, that has made him partaker of it, who thus repents.

IV. We shall now consider the instrument or means whereby the Spirit works this grace.[77] Thus it is said to be wrought in the heart of a sinner, by the word of God, as all other graces are, except regeneration, as has been before observed: we must first suppose the principle of grace implanted, and the word presenting motives, and arguments leading to repentance; and then the understanding is enlightened and disposed to receive what is therein imparted. The word calls sinners to repentance, Matt. ix. 13. and therefore, when this grace is wrought, we are not only turned by the power of God, but instructed, Jer. xxxi. 19. by the Spirit’s setting home what is contained therein whereby we are led into the knowledge of those things which are necessary to repentance. As,

1. We have in the word a display of the holiness of the divine nature and law, and our obligation in conformity thereunto, to the exercise of holiness in heart and life, as God says, 170Be ye holy, for I am holy, Lev. xi. 44. And to this we may add, that it contains a display of the holiness of God in his threatenings, which he has denounced against every transgression and disobedience, which shall receive a just recompence of reward; and in all the instances of his punishing sin in those who have exposed themselves thereunto, that hereby he might deter men from it, and lead them to repentance: thus the apostle speaks of the law of God as holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good, Rom. vii. 12, 13. and of its leading him into the knowledge of sin, by which means it appeared to be sin, that is, opposite to an holy God, and, as he expresses it, became exceeding sinful.

2. Hereby persons are led into themselves; and by comparing their hearts and lives with the word of God, are enabled to see their own vileness and want of conformity to the rule which he has given them, the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness thereof, and what occasion there is to abhor themselves, and repent in dust and ashes; thus the apostle, in the place but now mentioned, speaks of himself as once alive without the law; but when the commandment came, sin revived and he died, and concludes himself to be carnal, sold under sin, Rom. vii. 9, 14. This is a necessary means leading to repentance.

And we may farther add, that God not only makes use of the word, but of his providences to answer this end; therefore he speaks of a sinning people, when carried away captive into the land of the enemy, as bethinking themselves, and afterwards repenting and making supplication to him therein, 1 Kings viii. 46, 47. And we read of sickness and bodily diseases as ordained by God, to bring persons to repentance; thus Elihu speaks of a person’s being chastened with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain; his soul drawing nigh to the grave, and his life to the destroyers, Job xxxiii. 19, 27. and then represents the person thus chastened, and afterwards recovered from his sickness, as acknowledging himself to have sinned, and perverted that which is right, and that it profited him not. And the apostle speaks of the goodness of God in the various dispensations of his providence, as leading to repentance, Rom. ii. 4. But these dispensations are always to be considered in conjunction with the word, and as impressed on the conscience of men by the Spirit, in order to their attaining this desirable end.

But that we may insist on this matter more particularly, we must take an estimate of repentance, either as it is a common or special grace; in both these respects it is from the Spirit, and wrought by the instrumentality of the word, applied to the consciences of men; but there is a vast difference between the one and the other in the application of the word, as well as in the effects and consequences thereof.

171(1.) In them who are brought under convictions, but not made partakers of the saving grace of repentance; the Holy Spirit awakens, and fills them with the terrors of God, and the dread of his vengeance, by the law, by which is the knowledge of sin, and all the world becomes guilty before God, Rom. iii. 20. compared with 19. These are what we call legal convictions; whereby the wound is opened, but no healing medicine applied: the sinner apprehends himself under a sentence of condemnation, but at the same time cannot apply any promise which may afford hope and relief to him; groans under his burden, and knows not where to find ease or comfort, and dreads the consequence thereof, as that which would sink him into hell; God appears to him as a consuming fire, his arrows stick fast in his soul, the poison whereof drinketh up his spirits; if he endeavours to shake off his fears, and to relieve himself against his despairing thoughts, he is notwithstanding, described, as being like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, which casts forth mire and dirt, Isa. lvii. 20. This is a most afflictive case; concerning which it is said, that though the spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; yet a wounded spirit who can bear? Prov. xviii. 14.

Thus it is with some when convinced of sin by the law: but there are others who endeavour to quiet their consciences by using indirect methods, thinking to make atonement for it, and by some instances of external reformation, to make God amends, and thereby procure his favour, but to no purpose; for sin taking occasion, by the commandment, works in them all manner of concupiscence, Rom. vii. 8. And if they grow stupid, which is oftentimes the consequence hereof, their sense of sin is entirely lost, and their repentance ends in presumption, and a great degree of boldness in the commission of all manner of wickedness.

(2.) We shall now consider how the Spirit works repentance unto life, which is principally insisted on in this answer. This is said to be done by the word of God; not by the law without the gospel, but by them both, in which one is made subservient to the other. The law shews the soul its sin, and the gospel directs him where he may find a remedy; one wounds and the other heals; the law enters, as the apostle expresses it, that the offence might abound, Rom. v. 20. but the gospel shews him how grace does much more abound, and where he may obtain forgiveness, by which means he is kept from sinking under that weight of guilt that lies on his conscience. And it leads him to hate and abstain from sin, from those motives that are truly excellent; for which reason it is called evangelical repentance.

Now that we may better understand the nature thereof, we 172shall consider; how it differs from that which we before described, which arises only from that conviction of sin, which is by the law, which a person may have, who is destitute of this grace of repentance, which we are speaking of. Repentance, of what kind soever it be, contains in it a sense of sin: but if it be such a sense of sin, that the unregenerate person may have, this includes little more in it than a sense of the danger and misery which he has exposed himself to by sins committed. The principal motives leading hereunto, are the threatenings which the law of God denounces against those that violate it. Destruction from God is a terror to him; if this were not the consequence of sin, he would be so far from repenting of it, that it would be the object of his chief delight. And that guilt, which he charges himself with, is principally such, as arises from the commission of the most notorious crimes, which expose him to the greatest degree of punishment: whereas, repentance unto life brings a soul under a sense of the guilt of sin, as it is contrary to the holy nature and law of God, which the least, as well as the greatest sins, are opposed to, and contain a violation of. And therefore he charges himself, not only with open sins, which are detestable in the eyes of men; but secret sins, which others have little or no sense of; sins of omission, as well as sins of commission; and he is particularly affected with the sin of unbelief, inasmuch as it contains a contempt of Christ, and the grace of the gospel. And he is not only sensible of those sins which break forth in his life; but that propensity of nature, whereby he is inclined to rebel against God; so that this sense of guilt, in some respects, differs from that which they are brought under, who are destitute of saving repentance.

But that in which they more especially differ is, in that saving repentance contains in it a sense of the filth, and odious nature of sin, and so considers it as defiling, or contrary to the holiness of God, and rendering the soul worthy to be abhorred by him; so that as the sense of guilt excites fear, and a dread of the wrath of God, this fills him with shame, confusion of face, and self-abhorrence, which is inseparably connected with the grace of repentance; accordingly these are joined together, as Job says, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes, Job xlii. 6. or, as when God promises that he would bestow this grace on his people, he says, Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings, that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities, and for your abominations, Ezek. xxxvi. 31. As before this they set too high a value upon themselves, and were ready to palliate and excuse their crimes, or insist on their innocence, though their iniquity was written in legible characters, as with a pen of iron, 173and the point of a diamond, and to say with Ephraim, In all my labour they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin, Hos. xii. 8. or, as the prophet Jeremiah says, concerning a rebellious people, that though in their skirts were found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents; yet they had the front to say, Because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me, Jer. ii. 34, 35. Notwithstanding, when God brings them to repentance, and heals their backslidings; they express themselves in a very different way; We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covers us; for we have sinned against the Lord our God, chap. iii. 25. Now this is such an ingredient in true repentance, which is not to be found in that which falls short of it: the sinner is afraid of punishment indeed, or, it may be, he may be filled with shame, because of the reproach which attends his vile and notorious crimes in the eyes of the world; yet he is not ashamed, or confounded, as considering how vile he has rendered himself hereby, in the eye of an holy God.

There is another thing which is farther observed in this answer, which is an ingredient in repentance unto life, in which respect it is connected with faith, inasmuch as he apprehends the mercy of God in Christ to such as are penitent; and this effectually secures him from that despair which sometimes attends a legal repentance, as was before observed, as well as affords him relief against the sense of guilt with which this grace is attended. The difference between legal and evangelical repentance, does not so much consist in that one represents sin, as more aggravated; nor does it induce him that thus repents, to think himself a greater sinner than the other; for the true penitent is ready to confess himself the chief of sinners. He is far from extenuating his sin, being ready, on all occasions, to charge himself with more guilt than others are generally sensible of: but that which he depends upon as his only comfort and support is the mercy of God in Christ, or the consideration that there is forgiveness with him, that he may be feared; this is that which affords the principal motive and encouragement to repentance, and has a tendency to excite the various acts thereof; which leads us to consider,

V. What are the various acts of this repentance unto life; or what are the fruits and effects produced thereby.

1. The soul is filled with hatred of sin. When he looks back on his past life, he bewails what cannot now be avoided; charges himself with folly and madness, and wishes (though this be to no purpose) that he had done many things which he has omitted, and avoided those sins, together with the occasions thereof, which he has committed, the guilt whereof lies with great weight upon him. How glad would he be if lost seasons and opportunities of grace might be recalled, and the 174talents, that were once put into his hand, though misimproved, regained! But all these wishes are in vain. However, these are the after-thoughts which will arise in the minds of those who are brought under a sense of sin. Sin wounds the soul; the Spirit of God, when convincing thereof, opens the wound, and causes a person to feel the smart of it, and gives him to know, that it is an evil thing, and bitter, that he has forsaken the Lord his God, Jer. ii. 19. This sometimes depresses the spirits, and causes him to walk softly, to set alone and keep silence, Lam. iii. 28. being filled with that uneasiness which is very afflictive to him. At other times it gives vent to itself in tears, as the Psalmist expresses it, I am weary with my groaning, all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears, Psal. vi. 6. In this case the only thing that gives him relief or comfort is, that the guilt of sin is removed by the blood of Christ, which tends to quiet his spirit, which would otherwise be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.

And to this we may add, that sin is always the object of his detestation, even when there is an abatement of that grief, which, by the divine supports and comforts he is fenced against: he hates sin, not barely because of the sad consequences thereof, but as it is in itself the object of abhorrence; and therefore his heart is set against all sin, as the Psalmist says, I hate every false way, Psal. cxix. 104. This hatred discovers itself by putting him upon flying from it, together with all the occasions thereof, or incentives to it. He not only abstains from those sins which they who have little more than the remains of moral virtue are ashamed of, and afraid to commit, but hates every thing that has in it the appearance of sin, and this hatred is irreconcileable. As forgiveness does not make sin less odious in its own nature, so the experience that he has of the grace of God herein, or whatever measures of peace he enjoys, whereby his grief and sorrow is assuaged, yet still his hatred of it not only remains, but increases: and, as the consequence hereof,

2. He turns from sin unto God; he first hates sin, and then flies from it, as seeing it to be the spring of all his grief and fears, that which separates between him and his God. Thus Ephraim, when brought to repentance, is represented as saying, What have I to do any more with idols, Hos. xiv. 8. reflecting on his past conduct, when addicted to them, with a kind of indignation; so the true penitent, who has hitherto been walking in those paths that lead to death and destruction, now enquires after the way of holiness, and the paths of peace; as he has hitherto walked contrary to God, now he desires to walk with him; and having wearied himself in the greatness of his way, and seeing no fruit in those things whereof he is now ashamed; and being brought into the utmost straits, he determines 175to return to his God and Father. And in doing this he purposes and endeavours to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience, as the apostle exhorts those who had received good by his ministry, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord, Acts xi. 23. This purpose is not like those hasty resolutions which unconverted sinners make when God is hedging up their way with thorns, and they are under the most distressing apprehensions of his wrath. Then they say as the people did to Joshua, We will serve the Lord, Josh. xxiv. 22. though they are not sensible how difficult it is to fulfil the engagements which they lay themselves under, nor of the deceitfulness of their own hearts, and the need they stand in of grace from God, to enable them so to do. This purpose to walk with God, does not so much respect what a person will do hereafter; but it contains a resolution which is immediately put in execution, and so is opposed to his former obstinacy, when determining to go on in the way of his own heart. Thus the prodigal son, in the parable, no sooner resolved that he would arise and go to his Father, Luke xv. 18, compared with 20. but he arose and went. True repentance is always attended with endeavours after new obedience, so that a person lays aside that sloth and indolence which was inconsistent with his setting a due value on, or improving the means of grace; and, as the result hereof, he now exerts himself, with all his might, in pursuing after those things, whereby he may approve himself God’s faithful servant; and hereby he discovers the sincerity of his repentance; which he does, or rather is enabled to do, by that grace, which at first began, and then carries on this work in the soul, whereby he has his fruit unto holiness, and the end thereof everlasting life, Rom. vi. 22.

From what has been said concerning repentance, we may infer,

(1.) That since it is a grace that accompanies salvation, and consequently is absolutely necessary thereunto, it is an instance of unwarrantable and bold presumption, for impenitent sinners to expect, that they shall be made partakers of the benefits which Christ has purchased, while they continue in a state of enmity, opposition, and rebellion against him; or that they shall be saved by him in their sins, without being saved from them; for he that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them, shall have mercy, Prov. xxviii. 13.

(2.) Since repentance is the work of the Spirit, and his gift, we infer, that whatever endeavours we are obliged to use, or whatever motives or inducements are given to lead us hereunto, we must not conclude, that it is in our own power to repent when we please; and therefore it should be the matter of our earnest and constant prayer to God, that he would turn our 176hearts, give us a true sight and sense of sin, accompanied with faith in Christ, as Ephraim is represented, saying, Turn thou me, and I shall be turned, Jer. xxxi. 18.

(3.) Let not those that have a distressing sense of their former sins, how great soever they have been, give way to despairing thoughts; but lay hold on the mercy of God in Christ, extended to the chief of sinners, and improve it to encourage them to hate sin, and forsake it from evangelical motives, which will have a tendency to remove their fears while they look on God, not as a sin-revenging Judge, but a reconciled Father, ready and willing to receive those who return to him with unfeigned repentance.

(4.) Since we daily commit sin, it follows from hence, that we stand in need of daily repentance: and this being a branch of sanctification, as sanctification is a progressive work, so is repentance. We are not to expect that sin should be wholly extirpated, while we are in this imperfect state; and therefore it is constantly to be bewailed, and, by the grace of God working effectually in us, avoided; that, as the result hereof, we may have a comfortable hope that that promise shall be fulfilled, They that sow in tears shall reap in joy, Psal. cxxvi. 5.

Quest. LXXVII.

Quest. LXXVII. Wherein do justification and sanctification differ?

Answ. Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification; yet they differ, in that God in justification, imputeth the righteousness of Christ, in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof; in the former sin is pardoned, in the other it is subdued; the one doth equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation, the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.

This answer being principally a recapitulation of what is contained in those that have been already insisted on, wherein the doctrine of justification and sanctification are particularly explained, we shall not much enlarge on it; but since there are some who suppose that one of these graces may be attained without the other; and others confound them, as though to be justified and to be sanctified implied the same thing; we shall briefly consider,

I. That which is supposed in this answer, namely, that sanctification and justification are inseparably joined together; and accordingly, no one has a warrant to claim one without the 177other: This appears in that they are graces that accompany salvation. When the apostle connects justification and effectual calling together, in the golden chain of our salvation, Rom. viii. 30. he includes sanctification in this calling. And elsewhere, when Christ is said to be made righteousness and redemption to us for our justification, he is, at the same time, said to be made wisdom and sanctification, 1 Cor. i. 31. and we are said to be saved by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Tit. iii. 5. which is the beginning of the work of sanctification; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life; and speaking of some who were once great sinners, and afterwards made true believers, he says, concerning them, that they were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God, 1 Cor. vi. 11. And when God promises to pardon and pass by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage, Micah vii. 18, 19. he also gives them ground to expect that he would subdue their iniquities; the former is done in justification, the latter in sanctification.

From the connexion that there is between justification and sanctification, we infer: that no one has ground to conclude that his sins are pardoned, and that he shall be saved while he is in an unsanctified state; for as this tends to turn the grace of God into wantonness, so it separates what he has joined together, and it is a certain evidence that they who thus divide them, are neither justified nor sanctified. Let us therefore give diligence to evince the truth of our justification, by our sanctification, or that we have a right and title to Christ’s righteousness, by the life of faith, and the exercise of all those other graces that accompany or flow from it.

II. We have, in this answer, an account of some things in which justification and sanctification differ, as,

1. In justification God imputes the righteousness of Christ to us; whereas, in sanctification the Spirit infuseth grace, and enableth to the exercise thereof. What it is for God to impute Christ’s righteousness hath been before considered; the only thing that we shall now observe is, that the righteousness whereby we are justified, is, without us, wrought out by Christ, for us; so that it is by his obedience, as the apostle expresses it, that we are made righteous, Rom. v. 19. and that which Christ did as our Surety, is placed to our account, and accepted by the justice of God, as though it had been done by us, as has been before observed: Whereas, in sanctification, the graces of the Spirit are wrought and excited in us, we are denominated holy, and our right to eternal life is evinced, though not procured.

2. In justification sin is pardoned, in sanctification it is subdued; 178the former takes away the guilt thereof, the latter its reigning power. Where sin is pardoned, it shall not be our ruin; but yet it gives us daily disturbance and uneasiness, makes work for repentance, and is to be opposed by our dying to it, and living to righteousness. This is therefore sufficiently distinguished from justification, which is also to be considered as a motive or inducement leading to it.

3. They differ, in that justification equally frees all believers from the avenging wrath of God, in which respect it is perfect in this life, so that a justified person shall never fall into condemnation; whereas, the work of sanctification is not equal in all, nor perfect in this life, but growing up to perfection. For the understanding of which, let us consider, that when we speak of justification as perfect in this life, or say, that all are equally justified, we mean, that where God forgives one sin, he forgives all; so that there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, as the apostle says, chap. viii. 1. and he adds, Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? it is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? it is Christ that died, ver. 33, 34. Were it not so, a person might be said to be justified, and not have a right to eternal life, which implies a contradiction; for though he might be acquitted, as to the guilt charged upon him by one indictment, he would be condemned by that which is contained in another.

We may from hence infer, that all justified persons have an equal right to conclude themselves discharged from guilt, and the condemning sentence of the law of God; though all cannot see their right to claim this privilege by reason of the weakness of their faith. As for sanctification, that, on the other hand, is far from being equal in all; since the best of believers have reason to complain of the weakness of their faith, and the imperfection of all other graces which are wrought in them by the Spirit. If it be enquired from whence this imperfection of sanctification arises, that is the subject of the following answer.

Quest. LXXVIII.

Quest. LXXVIII. Whence ariseth the imperfection of sanctification in believers?

Answ. The imperfection of sanctification in believers, ariseth from the remains of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit, whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins, are hindered in all their spiritual services, and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.

In this answer we may consider,

I. That there is something supposed, namely, that the 179work of sanctification is imperfect in this life, or that there are the remnants of sin still abiding in the best of men.

II. In what the imperfection of sanctification more especially discovers itself; and in particular, what we are to understand by the lusting of the flesh against the Spirit. And,

III. The consequences hereof, to wit, their being foiled with temptations, falling into many sins, and being hindered in their spiritual services.

1. As to the thing supposed in this answer, that the work of sanctification is imperfect in this life: This must be allowed by all who are not strangers to themselves, as it is said, There is not a just man upon the earth that doth good and sinneth not, Eccl. vii. 20. fine gold is not without a mixture of some baser metal, or alloy; even so our best frames of spirit, when we think ourselves nearest heaven, or when we have most communion with God, are not without a tincture of indwelling sin, that is easy to be discerned in us. Whatever grace we exercise, there are some defects attending it, either with respect to the manner of its exerting itself, or the degree thereof; therefore perfection, how desirable soever it be, is a blessing which we cannot, at present, attain to: And if it be thus with us, when at the best, we shall find, that at other times, corrupt nature not only discovers itself, but gives us great interruption and disturbance, so that the work of sanctification seems to be, as it were, at a stand, and we are hereby induced to question the truth and sincerity of our graces; and if, notwithstanding this, we have sufficient ground to conclude, that our hearts are right with God; yet we are obliged to say with the apostle, that we are carnal, sold under sin; and that, when we would do good, evil is present with us, Rom. vii. 14. compared with 21. which is an undeniable argument of the imperfection of the work of sanctification.

The contrary opinion to this is maintained by many who pretend that perfection is attainable in this life; and to give countenance hereunto, they refer to some scriptures, in which persons are characterized as perfect men; and others wherein perfection is represented as a duty incumbent on us; as our Saviour says, Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect, Matt. v. 48. and the apostle, in his valedictory exhortation to the church, advises them to be perfect, as well as of one mind; as they expected that the God of love and peace should be with them, 2 Cor. xiii. 11.

But to this it may be replied, that these scriptures do not speak of a sinless perfection, but of such a perfection as is opposed to hypocrisy; as Hezekiah says concerning himself, that he had walked before the Lord in truth, and with a perfect heart, Isa. xxxviii. 3. Accordingly, the perfection of those who are 180thus described in scripture, is explained as denoting their uprightness. Thus Job is described, as a perfect and upright man, one that feared God and eschewed evil, Job i. 1. compared with 8. though he elsewhere disclaims any pretensions to a sinless perfection; as he expresses himself, If I say I am perfect, mine own mouth shall prove me perverse, chap. ix. 20. And when Noah is said to be perfect in his generation, this is explained as denoting that he was a just or an holy man, and one that walked with God, Gen. vi. 9.

As for other scriptures, which speak of perfection as a duty incumbent on us, they are to be understood concerning the perfection of grace, as to those essential parts thereof, without which it could not be denominated true and genuine, and not as respecting a perfection of degrees. True grace is perfect indeed, as it contains in it those necessary ingredients, whereby an action is denominated good in all its circumstances, in opposition to that which is so, only in some respects; and therefore it must proceed from a good principle, an heart renewed by regenerating grace; it must be agreeable to the rule which God has prescribed in the gospel, and be performed in a right manner, and for right ends: Thus a person may be said to be a perfect man, in like manner as a new-born infant is denominated a man, as having all the essential perfections of the human nature; though not arrived to that perfection, in other respects, which it shall afterwards attain to: Accordingly grace, when described, in scripture, as perfect, is sometimes explained as alluding to a metaphor, taken from a state of perfect manhood, in opposition to that of children: Thus the apostle speaks of some, whom he represents, as being of full age; where the same word is used[223], which is elsewhere rendered perfect; and these are opposed to others whom he had before been speaking of, as weak believers, or babes in Christ; Heb., v. 13, 14. And elsewhere he speaks of the church, which he styles the body of Christ, as arrived to a state of manhood, and so calls it a perfect man; having attained the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; still alluding to that stature which persons arrive to when they are adult; and these he opposes in the following words, to children, who, through the weakness of their faith, were liable to be tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, Eph. iv. 13, 14. And in other places, where Christians are described as perfect, there is a word used, which signifies their having that internal furniture whereby they are prepared or disposed to do what is good: Thus the apostle speaks of the man of God being perfect[78], that is, throughly furnished unto all good works, 2 Tim. iii. 17. And elsewhere he prays, for those to whom he writes, that 181God would make them perfect in, or for every good work, to the end that they may do his will[79], which is such a perfection as is necessary to our putting forth any act of grace; and therefore it does not in the least infer that perfection which they plead for, whom we are now opposing.

And, indeed, it is not barely the sense they give of those scriptures that speak of persons being perfect, which they cannot but suppose may be otherwise understood, that gives them occasion to defend this doctrine; but the main thing on which it is founded, is, that God does not require sinless perfection of fallen man, inasmuch as that is impossible; and therefore he calls that perfection, which includes in it our using those endeavours to lead a good life, which are in our own power. This is agreeable to the Pelagian scheme, and to that which the Papists maintain, who make farther advances on the Pelagian hypothesis; and assert, not only that men may attain perfection in this life, but that they may arrive to such a degree thereof, as exceeds the demands of the law, and perform works of supererogation; which doctrine is calculated to establish that of justification by works.

But that which may be alleged in opposition hereunto, is, that it is disagreeable to the divine perfections, and a notorious making void the law of God, to assert that our obligation to yield perfect obedience, ceases, because we have lost our power to perform it; as though a person’s being insolvent, were a sufficient excuse for his not paying a just debt. We must distinguish between God’s demanding perfect obedience, as an out-standing debt, which is consistent with the glory of his holiness and sovereignty, as a law-giver; and his determining that we shall not be saved, unless we perform it in our own persons: and we also distinguish between his connecting a right to eternal life with our performing perfect obedience, as what he might justly insist on according to the tenor of the first covenant, as our Saviour tells the young man in the gospel, If thou wilt enter into life keep the commandments, Matt. xix. 16. and his resolving that we shall not be saved, unless we are able to perform it. The gospel purposes another expedient, namely, that they who were obliged to yield perfect obedience, and ought to be humbled for their inability to perform it, should depend on Christ’s righteousness, which is the foundation of their right to eternal life, in which respect they are said to be perfect, or compleat in him, Col. ii. 10. which is the only just notion of perfection, as attainable in this life: and, to conclude this head, it is very unreasonable for a person to suppose that God will abate some part of the debt of perfect 182obedience, and so to call our performing those works, which have many imperfections adhering to them, a state of perfection, which is to make it an easier matter to be a Christian than God has made it. Thus concerning the thing supposed in this answer, viz. that the work of sanctification is imperfect in this life.

But before we dismiss this head, we shall enquire, why God does not bring this work to perfection at once, which he could easily have done, and, as it is certain, will do, when he brings the soul to heaven. In answer to which, we shall consider in general, that it is not meet for us to say unto God, Why dost thou thus? especially considering that this, as well as many of his other works, is designed to display the glory of his sovereignty, which very eminently appears in the beginning, carrying on, and perfecting the work of grace: we may as well ask the reason, why he did not begin the work of sanctification sooner? or, why he makes use of this or that instrument, or means, to effect it rather than another? which things are to be resolved into his own pleasure: but since it is evident that he does not bring this work to perfection in this world, we may adore his wisdom herein, as well as his sovereignty. For,

1. Hereby he gives his people occasion to exercise repentance and godly sorrow for their former sins committed before they were converted. Perfect holiness would admit of no occasion to bring past sins to remembrance; whereas, when we sin daily, and have daily need of the exercise of repentance and godly sorrow, this gives us a more sensible view of past sins. When corrupt nature discovers itself in those that are converted, they take occasion hereby to consider how they have been transgressors from the womb; as David, when he repented of his sin in the matter of Uriah, at the same time that he aggravated the guilt of his crime, as it justly deserved, he calls to mind his former sins, from his very infancy, and charges that guilt upon himself which he brought into the world; Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me, Psal. li. 5. And when Job considers God’s afflictive providences towards him, as designed to bring sin to remembrance, and desires that he would make him to know his transgression and his sin; he adds, Thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth, Job. xiii. 23, 26. sins committed after conversion were brought to mind, and ordered as a means to humble him for those that were committed before it. As for sins committed before conversion, they could not, at that time, be said truly to be repented of, since that would be to suppose the grace of repentance antecedent to conversion; therefore if the work of sanctification were to be immediately brought to perfection, this 183perfect holiness would be as much attended with perfect happiness, as it is in heaven, and consequently godly sorrow would be no more exercised on earth, than it is there; whereas God, in ordering the gradual progress of the work of sanctification, attended with the remainders of sin, gives occasion to many humbling reflections, tending to excite unfeigned repentance, not only for those sins committed after they had experienced the grace of God; but for those great lengths they ran in sin before they had tasted that the Lord was gracious; and therefore he does not bring the work of sanctification to perfection in this present world.

2. Another reason of this dispensation of providence, is, that believers, from their own experience of the breakings forth of corruption, together with the guilt they contract thereby, and the advantage they receive in gaining any victory over it, may be furnished to administer suitable advice, and give warning to those who are in a state of unregeneracy, that they may be persuaded to see the evil of sin, which, at present, they do not.

3. God farther orders this, that he may give occasion to his people to exercise a daily conflict with indwelling sin. He suffers it to give them great disturbance and uneasiness, that hereby they may be induced to endeavour to mortify it, and be found in the exercise of those graces which are adapted to an imperfect state, such as cannot be exercised in heaven; nor could they be exercised here on earth, were they to be brought into and remain while here in a sinless state; particularly there could not be any acts of faith, in managing that conflict, whereby they endeavour to stand their ground while exposed to those difficulties that arise from the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; which leads us to consider,

II. In what the imperfection of sanctification more especially discovers itself. This it does, not only in the weakness of every grace, which we are at any time enabled to act; and the many failures we are chargeable with in the performance of every duty incumbent upon us; so that if an exact scrutiny were made into our best actions, and they weighed in the balance, they would be found very defective; as appears from what has been said under the foregoing head, concerning perfection, as not attainable in this life.

But this more particularly appears, as it is observed in this answer, from the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit. Thus the apostle speaks of, the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, Gal. v. 19. and so of the contrariety of the one to the other; so that we cannot do the things that we would, and points out himself as an instance hereof, when he says, I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but 184how to perform that which is good, I find not; the good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do, Rom. vii. 18-23. and this reluctancy and opposition to what is good, he lays to the charge of sin that dwelt in him, which he considers as having, as it were, the force of a law; and in particular he styles it the law of his members warring against the law of his mind, which is the same thing with the lusting of the flesh, against the spirit: so that from hence it appears, that when God implants a principle of grace in regeneration, and carries on the work of sanctification in believers, he does not wholly destroy, or root out those habits of sin which were in the soul before this, but enables us to militate against, and overcome them by his implanting and exciting a principle of grace; and from hence arises this conflict that we are to consider.

Indwelling sin is constantly opposing; but it does not always prevail against the principle of grace. The event or success of this combat is various, at different times. When corrupt nature prevails, the principle of grace, though not wholly extinguished, remains unactive, or does not exert itself, as at other times; all grace becomes languid, and there appears but little difference between him and an unbeliever; he falls into very great sins, whereby he wounds his own conscience, grieves the holy Spirit, and makes sad work for a bitter repentance, which will afterwards ensue: but inasmuch as the principle of spiritual life and grace is not wholly lost, it will some time or other be excited, and then will oppose, and maintain its ground against, the flesh, or the corruption of nature; and, as the consequence hereof, those acts of grace will be again put forth, which were before suspended.

Having thus given an account of the conflict between indwelling sin and grace, we shall now more particularly shew, how the habits of sin exert themselves in those who are unregenerate, where there is no principle of grace to oppose them. And then, how they exert themselves in believers; and what opposition is made thereunto by the principle of grace in them; and how it comes to pass that sometimes one prevails, at other times the other.

1. We shall consider those violent efforts that are made by corrupt nature, in those who are unregenerate, in whom, though there be no principle of grace to enable them to withstand them; yet they have a conflict in their own spirits. There is something in nature, that, for a time, keeps them from complying with temptations to the greatest sins; though the flesh, or that propensity that is in them to sin, will prevail at last, and lead them from one degree of impiety to another, unless prevented by the grace of God. In this case the conflict is between 185corrupt nature and an enlightened conscience; and that more especially in those who have had the advantage of a religious education, and the good example of some whom they have conversed with, whereby they have contracted some habits of moral virtue, which are not immediately extinguished: it is not an easy matter to persuade them to commit those gross, and scandalous sins, which others, whose minds are blinded, and their hearts hardened to a greater degree by the deceitfulness of sin, commit with greediness and without remorse. The principles of education are not immediately broken through; for in this case men meet with a great struggle in their own breasts, before they entirely lose them; and they proceed, by various steps, from one degree of wickedness unto another[80]. A breach is first made in the fence, and afterwards widened by a continuance in the same sins, or committing new ones, especially such as have in them a greater degree of presumption. And this disposes the soul to comply with temptations to greater sins; whereas, it would be to no purpose to tempt him at first, to be openly profane, blaspheme the name of God, or cast off all external acts of religion, and abandon himself to those immoralities which the most notoriously wicked, and profligate sinners commit, without shame, till he has paved the way to them by the commission of other sins that lead thereunto.

That which at first prevents or restrains him from the commission of them, is something short of a principle of grace which we call the dictates of a natural conscience, which often checks and reproves him: his natural temper or disposition is not so far vitiated, at present as to allow of, or incline him to pursue any thing that is openly vile and scandalous; he abhors, and, as it were, trembles at the thoughts of it. Thus when the prophet Elisha told Hazael of all the evil that he would do unto the children of Israel, that he would set their strong holds on fire, slay their young men with a sword, dash their children, and rip up their women with child; when he heard this, he entertained the thought with a kind of abhorrence, and said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing, 2 Kings viii. 12, 13. Yet afterwards, when king of Syria, we find him of another mind; for he was a greater scourge to the people of God than any of the neighbouring princes, and smote them in all the coasts of Israel, chap. x. 32.

Now that which prevents these greater sins, is generally fear or shame; their consciences terrify them with the thoughts of the wrath of God, which they would hereby expose themselves to; or they are apprehensive that such a course of life would 186blast their reputation amongst men, and be altogether inconsistent with that form of godliness which they have had a liking to from their childhood. But since these restraints do not proceed from the internal and powerful influence of regenerating grace, being excited by lower motives than those which the Spirit of God suggests, in them who are converted; since natural conscience is the main thing that restrains them, corrupt nature first endeavours to counteract the dictates thereof, and, by degrees, gets the mastery over them. When conscience reproves them, they first offer a bribe to it, by performing some moral duties, to silence its accusations for presumptuous sins, and pretend that their crimes fall short of those committed by many others; at other times they complain of its being too strict in its demands of duty, or severe in its reproofs for sin. And if all this will not prevail against it, but it will, notwithstanding, perform the office of a faithful reprover, then the sinner resolves to stop his ears against convictions; and if this will not altogether prevent his being made uneasy thereby, he betakes himself to those diversions that may give another turn to his thoughts, and will not allow himself time for serious reflection; and associates himself with those whose conversation will effectually tend to extinguish all his former impressions of moral virtue; and by this means, at last he stupifies his conscience, and it becomes, as the apostle expresses it, seared with a hot iron, 1 Tim. iv. 2. and so he gets, as I may express it, a fatal victory over himself; and from that time meets with no reluctancy or opposition in his own breast, while being past feeling, he gives himself over unto lasciviousness, to work uncleanness, and all manner of iniquity with greediness, Eph. iv. 19. which leads us to consider,

2. That conflict which is between the flesh and spirit, in those in whom the work of sanctification is begun. Here we shall first observe, the lustings of the flesh; and then the opposition that it meets with from that principle of grace which is implanted and excited in them, which is called the lusting of the spirit against it.

(1.) How corrupt nature exerts itself in believers, to prevent the actings of grace. Here it may be observed,

[1.] That that which gives occasion to this, is the Spirit’s withdrawing his powerful influences, which, when the soul is favoured with, have a tendency to prevent those pernicious consequences which will otherwise ensue. And God withdraws these powerful influences sometimes in a way of sovereignty, to shew him that it is not in his own power to avoid sin when he will; or that he cannot, without the aids of his grace, withstand those temptations which are offered to him to commit it. 187Or else, he does this with a design to let him know what is in his heart; and that he might take occasion to humble him for past sins, or present miscarriages, and make him more watchful for the future.

[2.] Besides this, there are some things which present themselves in an objective way, which are as so many snares laid to entangle him. And corrupt nature makes a bad improvement thereof, so that his natural constitution is more and more vitiated by giving way to sin, and defiled by the remainders of sin that dwelleth in him. The temptation is generally adapted to the corrupt inclination of his nature, and Satan has a hand therein. Thus if his natural temper inclines him to be proud or ambitious, then immediately the honours and applause of the world are presented to him; and he never wants examples of those, who, in an unlawful way, have gained a great measure of esteem in the world, and made themselves considerable in the stations in which they have been placed: if he is naturally addicted to pleasures, of what kind soever they be, then something is offered that is agreeable to corrupt nature, which seems delightful to it; though it be in itself, sinful: if he be more than ordinarily addicted to covetousness, then the profits and advantages of the world are presented as a bait to corrupt nature, and groundless fears raised in him, of being reduced to poverty, which, by an immoderate pursuit after the world, he is tempted to fence against. Moreover, if his natural constitution inclines him to resent injuries, then Satan has always his instruments ready at hand to stir up his corruption, and provoke him to wrath, by offering either real or supposed injuries; magnifying the former beyond their due bounds, or inferring the latter without duly considering the design of those whose innocent behaviour sometimes gives occasion hereunto, and, at the same time, overcharging his thoughts with them, as though no expedient can be found to atone for them. Again, if his natural constitution inclines him to sloth and inactivity, then the difficulties of religion are set before him, to discourage him from the exercise of that diligence which is necessary to surmount them. And if, on the other hand, his natural temper leads him to be courageous and resolute, then corrupt nature endeavours to make him self-confident, and thereby to weaken his trust in God. Or if he be naturally inclined to fear, then something is offered to him, that may tend to his discouragement, and to sink him into despair. These are the methods used by the flesh, when lusting against the spirit; which leads us to consider,

(2.) The opposition of the spirit to the flesh; or how the principle of grace in believers inclines them to make a stand against indwelling sin, which is called the lusting of the spirit against the flesh. The grace of God, when wrought in the heart 188in regeneration, is not an unactive principle; for it soon exerts itself, as being excited by the power of the Spirit, who implanted it; and from that time there is, or ought to be, a constant opposition made by it to corrupt nature; and that, not only as the soul, with unfeigned repentance, mourns for it, and exercises that self-abhorrence which the too great prevalence thereof calls for; but as it leads him to implore help from God, against it, by whose assistance he endeavours to subdue the corrupt motions of the flesh; or, as the apostle expresses it, to mortify the deeds of the body, Rom. viii. 13. that by this means they may not be entertained, or prove injurious and destructive to him.

And inasmuch as there is something objective, as well as subjective, in this work; since the power of God never excites the principle of grace without presenting objects for it to be conversant about, there are several things suggested to the soul, which, if duly weighed and improved, are a means conducive to its being preserved from a compliance with the corrupt motions of indwelling sin: these are of a superior nature to those made use of by an enlightened conscience, in unregenerate persons, to prevent their committing the vilest abominations, as was before considered; and indeed, they are such as, from the nature of the thing, can be used (especially some of them) by none but those in whom the work of grace is begun. Accordingly,

[1.] A believer considers not only the glorious excellencies and perfections of Christ, which he is now duly sensible of, as he is said to be precious to them that believe; but he is also affected with the manifold engagements, which he has been laid under to love him, and to hate and oppose every thing that is contrary to his glory and interest. The love of Christ constraineth him; and therefore he abhors the thoughts of being so ungrateful and disingenuous as he would appear to be, should he fulfil the lusts of the flesh: the sense of redeeming love and grace is deeply impressed on his soul; he calls to mind how he has been quickened, effectually called, and brought into the way of peace and holiness, and therefore cannot entertain any thoughts of relapsing or returning again to folly.

Here he considers the great advantage which he has received, which he would not lose on any terms. The delight and pleasure which he has had in the ways of God and godliness, has been so great, that corrupt nature cannot produce any thing that may be an equivalent for the loss of it. He is very sensible that the more closely he has walked with God, the more comfortably he has walked. And besides this, he looks forward, and, by faith, takes a view of the blessed issue of the life of grace, or those reserves of glory laid up for him in another 189world, which inclines him to cast the utmost contempt on every thing that has the least tendency to induce him to relinquish or abandon his interest therein.

[2.] He considers and improves those bright examples which are set before him, to encourage him to go on in the way of holiness; takes Christ himself for a pattern, endeavouring, so far as he is able, to follow him; walks as they have done, who have not only stood their ground, but come off victorious in the conflict, and are reaping the blessed fruits and effects thereof.

[3.] He also considers, as an inducement to him to oppose the corrupt motions of the flesh; that he has by faith, as his own act and deed, in the most solemn manner, given up himself to Christ entirely, and without reserve, and professed his obligation to obey him in all things, and to avoid whatever has a tendency to displease him. And therefore he reckons that he is not his own, or, at his own disposal, but Christ’s, whose he is, by a double right, not only as purchased by, but as devoted and consecrated to him; and therefore he says with the apostle, How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Rom. vi. 2. He says to this purpose, I have given up my name to Christ; and I have not, since that time, seen the least reason to repent of what I did; I have not found the least iniquity in him, neither has he been an hard master; but, on the other hand, has expressed the greatest tenderness and compassion to me, to whose grace alone it is owing, that I am what I am. Shall I therefore abandon his interest, or prove a deserter at last, and turn aside into the enemies’ camp? Is there any thing that can be proposed as a sufficient motive hereunto? Such like thoughts as these, through the prevailing influence of the principle of grace implanted and excited by the Spirit, are an effectual means to keep him from a sinful compliance with the motions of the flesh, and to excite him to make the greatest resistance against them.

Thus we have considered the opposition that there is between the flesh and spirit, and how each of these prevail by turns; we might now observe the consequence of the victory obtained on either side. When grace prevails, all things tend to promote our spiritual peace and joy; we are hereby fortified against temptations, and enabled, not only to stand our ground, but made more than conquerors, through him that loved us. However it is not always so with a believer; he sometimes finds, that corrupt nature prevails, and then many sad consequences will ensue hereupon, which not only occasion the loss of that peace and joy which he had before; but expose him to many troubles, which render his life very uncomfortable; and this leads us to consider,

190III. What are the consequences of the prevailing power of indwelling sin. When the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and God is pleased to withhold his grace, the soul is subjected to many evils, which are mentioned in the remaining part of this answer, as,

1. A believer is foiled with temptation. Satan gains ground against him by this means, and pursues the victory which the flesh has obtained against the spirit; hereupon his conflicts are doubled, arising not only from flesh and blood; but the rulers of the darkness of this world, Eph. vi. 12. as the apostle expresses it: now his difficulties encrease upon him, his enemies are more insulting, and he less able to stand his ground against them, his faith weakened, and his fears encreasing, so that he is perpetually subject to bondage; sometimes inclined to think that he shall one day fall, and whatever he formerly thought he had gained, he lost by the assaults of his spiritual enemies; and at other times, to question whether ever he had the truth of grace or no; in which case his spirit must needs be filled with the greatest perplexity, and almost overwhelmed within him. And he is destitute of that boldness or liberty of access to the throne of grace, and that comfortable sense which once he had of his interest in Christ, and finds it very difficult to recover those lively frames which he has lost, or to stand his ground against the great opposition made by corrupt nature, which still increases as faith grows weaker.

2. Another consequence hereof, is his falling into many sins. By which we are not to suppose that he shall be so far left as to fall into a state of unregeneracy, or lose the principle of grace that was implanted in regeneration: nevertheless, when this principle does not exert itself, and corrupt nature on the other hand, is prevalent, it is hard to say how far he will run into the commission of known and wilful sins. As for sins of infirmity, they cannot be avoided, when we are in the best frame: but in this case we shall find a person committing presumptuous sins, so that if we were to judge of his state by his present frames, without considering the former experiences which he has had of the grace of God, we should be ready to question, whether his heart were right with God.

And as for sins of omission, these generally ensue hereupon; he cannot draw nigh to God, with that frame of spirit, which he once had, and therefore is ready to say, What profit should I have if I pray unto him? Job xxi. 15. and sometimes concludes, that he contracts guilt by attempting to engage in holy duties. And to this we may add, that he is hindered in all his spiritual services, as it is farther observed in this answer: thus the apostle says, When I would do good, evil is present with me, Rom. vii. 21. He finds his heart disposed to wander from 191God, and his thoughts taken up with vanity; upon which account it may be truly said, that his best works are not only imperfect, but defiled in the sight of God, who searcheth the heart, and observes the various steps by which it treacherously departs from him, and can find no way to recover itself till he is pleased to revive his work, take away the guilt which he has contracted, recover him out of the snare into which he has fallen, and so cause the work of grace again to flourish in the soul, as it has once done.

We shall conclude with some inferences from what has been said concerning the imperfection of sanctification in believers, together with the reasons and consequences thereof.

1. Since sinless perfection is not attainable in this life, we should from hence take occasion to give a check to our censorious thoughts concerning persons or things, so as not to determine persons to be in an unconverted state, because they are chargeable with many sinful infirmities, which are not inconsistent with the truth of grace: some abatements are to be made for their being sanctified but in part, and having the remnants of sin in them; and indeed, the greatest degree of grace which can be attained here, comes far short of that which the saints are arrived to in heaven; accordingly the difference between a believer and an unregenerate sinner is not in that one is perfect, and the other imperfect; for when we consider the brightest characters given of any in scripture, their blemishes as well as their graces are recorded; so that none but our Saviour could challenge the world to convict or reprove them of sin. The apostle speaks of Elias, as a man subject to like passions as we are, James v. 17. and he might have instanced in many others. Therefore, when we are sensible of our own imperfections, we ought to enquire, whether the spots we find in ourselves, are like the spots of God’s children? or, whether these infirmities may be reckoned inconsistent with the truth of grace? which, if they be, though it affords matter for humiliation, that we are liable to any sinful failures, or defects; yet it will be some encouragement to us, and matter of thanksgiving to God, that notwithstanding this, our hearts are right with him. That we may be, in some measure, satisfied as to this matter, let it be considered,

[1.] That we must distinguish between a person’s being tempted to the greatest sins, which are inconsistent with the truth of grace; and his complying with the temptation. A temptation of this kind may offer itself, and at the same time grace may exert itself in an eminent degree, by the opposition that it makes to it, whether it arises from indwelling sin, or Satan.

[2.] When we read of some sins that are inconsistent with 192the truth of grace, such as those which the apostle speaks of, when he says, that neither fornicators nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. and elsewhere, the fearful and unbelieving, as well as those who are guilty of other notorious crimes, are said to have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, Rev. xxi. 8. We must distinguish between those who are guilty of these sins in a less degree than what is intended, when they are said to exclude from the kingdom of heaven; and others being guilty thereof, in a notorious degree, with greater aggravations: Thus unbelieving fears in those who are called to suffer for Christ’s sake, if they do not issue in a denial of him, are not altogether inconsistent with the truth of grace, though they render a person guilty before God. And the least degree of covetousness, though it is not to be excused, yet it does not exclude from the kingdom of heaven; but the prevailing love of the world, or the immoderate pursuit of it in those who use unlawful means to attain it, or have a rooted habitual desire after it, more than Christ, or put it in his room, this is to be reckoned a mark of unregeneracy.

[3.] We must distinguish between sinful infirmities and allowed infirmities, or such who sin through surprize, as being assaulted by an unforseen temptation, when not being on their guard; and the same sin committed with deliberation; the latter gives greater ground to fear that a person is in a state of unregeneracy than the former.

We must also distinguish between sins committed and repented of, with that degree of godly sorrow which is proportioned to their respective aggravations; and the same sins committed and continued in with impenitency; the latter gives ground to conclude, that a person is in an unconverted state, though not the former. And the difference arises not barely from the nature of the crimes, for we suppose the sins in themselves to be the same; but from other evidences which a person has or has not of his being in a state of grace.

2. From what has been said concerning the opposition that there is between natural conscience and corrupt nature in the unregenerate, we may infer; that it is a great blessing to have a religious education, as it has a tendency to prevent many enormities, which others, who are destitute of it, run into: Accordingly they who have had this privilege ought to bless God for, and make a right improvement of it. But since those principles which take their rise from thence, are liable, without the grace of God prevent it, to be overcome and lost; let us press after something more than this, and be importunate with God, 193whose providence has favoured us thus far, that he would give us a better preservative against sin, or that the prevailing power thereof may be prevented by converting grace.

3. From the opposition that corrupt nature makes in believers to the work of grace, we may infer that the standing of the best of men, or their not being chargeable with the greatest sins, is not so much owing to themselves as to the grace of God, by which we are what we are, and therefore the glory thereof belongs intirely to him; and that we have reason, when we are praying against our spiritual enemies, to beg that God would deliver us from the greatest of them, namely, ourselves; and that he, who has a sovereignty over the hearts of all men, and can govern and sanctify their natural tempers and dispositions, would keep us from being drawn aside thereby. This should also induce us to walk watchfully, and to be always on our guard, depending on the grace of God for help, that indwelling sin may not so far prevail as to turn aside and alienate our affections from him.

4. From what has been said concerning the flesh and spirit prevailing by turns, we infer the uncertainty of the frame of our spirits, and what changes we are liable to, with respect to the actings of grace, or the comforts that result from it. This somewhat resembles the state of man as subject to various changes, with respect to the dispensations of providence; sometimes lifted up, at other times cast down, and not abiding long in the same condition: Thus we are enabled, at some times, to gain advantage over indwelling sin, and enjoy the comforts which arise from thence; at other times, when the flesh prevails, the acts of grace are interrupted, and its comforts, almost, if not entirely lost. What reason have we therefore to bless God, that though our graces are far from being brought to perfection, and our frames so various; yet he has given us ground to conclude, that grace shall not wholly be lost, and we are assured, that our state, as we are justified, is not liable to the same uncertainty, so that that which interrupts the progress of sanctification, does not bring us into an unjustified state, or render us liable to condemnation?

5. From the inconveniences we sustain by the flesh prevailing against the spirit, as we are foiled by temptation, fall into sins and are hindered in spiritual services, we infer the great hurt that sin does to those who are in a justified and sanctified state, as well as to others, who are under the dominion of it. And therefore it is a vile and unwarrantable way of speaking which some use, who say, that because nothing shall separate them from the love of Christ, or bring them who are justified, back again into an unjustified state, that therefore sin can do them no hurt; as though all the consequences of the prevalency of 194corrupt nature, and the dishonour we bring to God, and the guilt we contract hereby, could hardly be reckoned prejudicial; but this is such a way of speaking as confutes itself in the opinion of all judicious and sober Christians.

Again, we might also infer, from the consequences of the prevalency of corruption, as we are liable hereby to be discouraged from, or hindered in the performance of duty; that we ought, if we find it thus with us, to take occasion from hence to enquire, whether some secret sin be not indulged and entertained by us, which gives occasion to the prevalency of corrupt nature, which we ought to be humbled for. Or if we have lived in the omission of those duties which are incumbent on us, or have provoked God to leave us to ourselves, and so have had an hand in our present evils; this affords matter of great humiliation. And we ought to be very importunate with God for restoring grace, not only that our faith may not fail; but that we may be recovered out of the snare in which we are entangled, and may be brought off victorious over all our spiritual enemies.

Quest. LXXIX.

Quest. LXXIX. May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from the state of grace?

Answ. True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God, and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance, their inseparable union with Christ, his continual intercession for them, and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.

It is natural for persons, when they enjoy any blessing, to be solicitous about their retaining it; otherwise the pleasure that arises from it; if it is like to be short and transitory, is rather an amusement than a solid and substantial happiness. The same may be said of those graces and privileges which believers are made partakers of, as the fruits and effects of the death of Christ: These are undoubtedly the most valuable blessings; therefore it highly concerns us to enquire; whether we may assuredly conclude, that we shall not lose them, and so fail of that future blessedness which we have had so delightful a prospect of?

The saints’ perseverance has not only been denied by many since the reformation, and, in particular, by Papists, Socinians, and Remonstrants: But by the Pelagians of old; and all those 195whose sentiments bear some affinity to, or are derived from their scheme. And, indeed, when we find persons endeavouring to establish the doctrine of conditional election, universal redemption, &c. or when they explain the nature of human liberty, as they do, who make the grace of God to be dependent on it for its efficacy in the beginning and carrying on the work of conversion and sanctification; and accordingly assert, that the will has an equal power to determine itself to good or evil; or, that the grace of God affords no other assistance to promote the one or fence against the other, than what is objective, or, at least, by supporting our natural faculties; and if there be any divine concourse, that it consists only in what respects the external dispensations of providence, as a remote means conducive thereunto, the event hereof depending on our own conduct or disposition to improve these means: I say, if persons maintain these and such-like doctrines, it is not to be wondered, when we find them pleading for the possibility of a believer’s falling totally and finally from the grace of God. For they who have brought themselves into a state of grace, may apostatize, or fall from it. If the free-will of man first inclined itself to exercise those graces which we call special, such as faith, repentance, love to God, &c. then it will follow, that he may lose them and relapse to the contrary vices; and by this means men may plunge themselves into the same depths of sin and misery from whence they had before escaped; and, according to this scheme, there may be, in the course of our lives, a great many instances of defection from the grace of God, and recovery to it, and finally, a drawing back unto perdition: Or if a person be so happy as to recover himself out of his last apostacy before he leaves the world, then he is saved; otherwise he finally perishes. This is a doctrine which some defend, the contrary whereunto we shall endeavour to maintain, as being the subject insisted on in this answer.

But before we proceed to the defence thereof, it may not be amiss to premise something, which may have, at least, a remote tendency to dispose us to receive conviction from the arguments which may be brought to prove it. Thus we may consider that the contrary side of the question is in itself less desirable, if it could be defended. It is certain, that the doctrine of the possibility of the saints falling from grace, tends very much to abate that delight and comfort which the believer has in the fore-views of the issue and event of his present state. It is a very melancholy thought to consider, that he who is now advanced to the very borders of heaven, may be cast down into hell; or that, though he has at present an interest in the special and discriminating love of God, he may afterwards become the object of his hatred, so as never to behold 196his face with joy in a future world; or that, though his feet are set upon a rock, yet his goings are not established; though he is walking in a plain and safe path, yet he may be ensnared, entangled, and fall, so as never to rise again; that though God be his friend, yet he may suffer him to fall into the hands of his enemies, and be ruined and undone thereby, as though his own glory were not concerned in his coming off victorious over them, or connected with the salvation of his people: So that as this doctrine renders the state of believers very precarious and uncertain, it tends effectually to damp their joys, and blast their expectations, and subject them to perpetual bondage; and it is a great hindrance to their offering praise and thanksgiving to God, whose grace is not so much magnified towards them, as it would be, had they ground to conclude that the work which is now begun, should certainly be brought to perfection.

And on the other hand, the doctrine which we are to maintain, is in itself so very comfortable, that if we were, at present, in suspense concerning the truth thereof, we cannot but desire that it may appear to be agreeable to the mind of God: It is certainly a very delightful thing for us to be assured, that what is at present well, shall end well; that they who are brought to believe in Christ, shall for ever abide with him; and that the work of grace, which, at present, affords so fair and pleasing a prospect of its being at last perfected in glory, shall not miscarry. This will have a tendency to enhance our joy in proportion to the ground we have to conclude that the work is true and genuine; and it will excite our thankfulness to God, when we consider, that he who is the author, will also be the finisher of faith: So that it is certain this doctrine deserves confirmation; and accordingly we shall endeavour to establish our faith therein in the following method:

I. We shall consider what we are to understand by persevering in grace, or falling from it.

II. We shall prove, that the best believers would certainly fall from grace, were they left to themselves: So that their perseverance therein, is principally to be ascribed to the power of God, which keeps them, through faith, unto salvation.

III. We shall consider, what ground we have to conclude that the saints shall persevere in grace; and so explain and illustrate the several arguments insisted on in this answer; to which we shall add some others taken from several scriptures by which this doctrine may be defended.

IV. We shall endeavour to answer some objections that are generally brought against it.

V. We shall consider what we are to understand by persevering in grace, or falling from it.

1971. When we speak of a person as persevering in grace, this supposes that he has the truth of grace. We do not hereby intend that a person may not fall away from a profession of faith; or that no one can lose that which we generally call common grace, which, in many things, bears a resemblance to that which is saving. We have before considered, that there is a temporary faith, whereby persons appear religious, while it comports with their secular interest; but when they are called by reason of persecution or tribulation, which may arise for the sake of the gospel, to forego their worldly interests, or quit their pretensions to religion, they fall away, or lose that grace which they seemed to have, as the Evangelist expresses it, Luke viii. 18. We read of some whose hope of salvation is like the spider’s web, or the giving up of the ghost; but these are described not as true believers, but hypocrites. It is beyond dispute that such may apostatize, and not only lay aside the external practice of some religious duties, but deny and oppose the doctrines of the gospel, which they once assented to the truth of.

2. It is certain that true believers may fall into very great sins; but yet they shall be recovered and brought again to repentance: therefore we must distinguish between their dishonouring Christ, disobeying his commands, and thereby provoking him to be angry with him; and their falling away totally from him. We have before considered, when we proved that perfection is not attainable in this life, that the best men are sometimes chargeable with great failings and defects. And indeed, sometimes their sins are very heinously aggravated, their conversation in the mean while discovering that they are destitute of the actings of grace, and that to such a degree that they can hardly be distinguished from those who are in an unregenerate state: accordingly it is one thing for a believer not to be able to put forth those acts of grace which he once did; and another thing for him to lose the principle of grace: it would be a very preposterous thing to say, that when David sinned in the matter of Uriah, the principle of grace exerted itself; yet it was not wholly lost. It is not the same in this case, as in the more common instances of the saints’ infirmities, which they are daily chargeable with, in which, the conflict that there is between the flesh and spirit appears; for when corrupt nature exerts itself in such a degree that it leads persons to the commission of deliberate and presumptuous sins, they hardly appear to be believers at that time: nevertheless if we compare what they were before they fell, with what they shall be when brought to repentance, we may conclude, that they did not, by their fall, bring themselves altogether into a state of unregeneracy.

1983. It is beyond dispute, that as a believer may be destitute of the acts of grace; so he may lose the comforts thereof, and sink into the depths of despair. Of this we have several instances recorded in scripture, which are agreeable to the experiences of many in our day: thus the Psalmist, at one time, speaks of himself, as cast down, and his soul disquieted within him, Psal. xliii. 5. and cxvi. 3. And at another time he says, The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me. And elsewhere he complains, Will the Lord cast off for ever? will he be favourable no more? is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies, Psal. lxxvii. 7-9. And again, a believer is represented as being altogether destitute of a comfortable sense of the divine love, when complaining, Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise thee? Shall thy loving kindness be declared in the grave, or thy faithfulness in destruction? Thy fierce wrath goeth over me, thy terrors have cut me off, Psal. lxxxviii. 6. &c. And it is certain, that when at any time he falls into very great sins, which seem inconsistent with a state of grace, he has no present evidence that he is a believer; and is never favoured with a comfortable sense of his interest in Christ, nor is the joy of God’s salvation restored to him, till he is brought unfeignedly to repent of his sin. Former experiences will not evince the truth of grace, while he remains impenitent. It is a bad sign when any one, who formerly appeared to have the truth of grace, but is now fallen into great sins, concludes himself to be in a state of grace, without the exercise of true repentance; for this can be deemed little better than presumption: however, God, whose mercy is infinitely above our deserts, will, in the end, recover him; though, at present, he does not look like one of his children.

4. There are some who suppose that a believer may fall totally, though not finally from grace. And their reason for it is this; because they conclude, as they have sufficient warrant to do, from scripture, that they shall not fall finally, inasmuch as the purpose of God concerning election, must stand; if they had not been chosen to salvation they would never have been brought into a state of grace: they are supposed, before they fell, to have been sanctified; whereas sanctification is inseparably connected with salvation; and therefore, though they consider them, at this time, as having lost the grace of sanctification, and so to have fallen totally; yet they shall be recovered, and therefore not fall finally. Sanctification is Christ’s 199purchase; and where grace is purchased for any one, a price of redemption is paid for his deliverance from condemnation; and consequently he shall be recovered and saved at last, though, at present, he is, according to their opinion, totally fallen.

These suppose, not only that the acts of grace may be lost, but the very principle, and the reason hereof is, because they cannot see, how great and notorious sins, such as those committed by David, Peter, Solomon, and some others, can consist with a principle of grace: this indeed cuts the knot of some difficulties that seem to attend the doctrine of the saints perseverance, though falling into great sins: nevertheless, I think it may easily be proved, which we shall endeavour to do, that they shall be preserved from a total, as well as a final apostacy: or, that when they fall into great sins, they do not lose the principle of grace, though it be, at present, innactive; which we shall take occasion to insist on, more particularly under a following head, when we consider that argument mentioned in this answer for the proof of this doctrine taken from the Spirit and seed of God abiding in a believer, as that which preserves him from a total as well as a final apostacy.

II. We shall now consider, that the best believers would certainly fall from grace, were they left to themselves: so that their perseverance therein is principally to be ascribed to the power of God, that keeps them through faith unto salvation. This is particularly observed in this answer, in which several arguments are laid down to prove the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance in grace, and it is supposed to be founded on his power, and will, to maintain it. God is styled the preserver of men, Job vii. 20. inasmuch as he upholds all things by the word of his power, so that independency on him is inconsistent with the idea of our being creatures; and we have no less ground to conclude, that his power maintains the new creature, or that grace, which took its first rise from him. Should he fail or forsake us, we could not put forth the least act of grace, much less persevere therein. When man at first came out of the hands of God, he was endowed with a greater ability to stand than any one, excepting our Saviour, has been favoured with, since sin entered into the world; yet he apostatized, not from any necessity of nature, but by adhering to that temptation which he might have withstood. Then how unable is he to stand in his present state, who is become weak, and, though brought into a state of grace, renewed and sanctified but in part; having still the remainders of corruption, which maintain a constant opposition to the principle of grace? Our perseverance in grace cannot therefore be owing to ourselves; accordingly the apostle ascribes this to a divine hand, when he 200says, that we are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, 1 Pet. i. 5.

A late celebrated writer, on the other side of the question,[81] attempts to evade the force of this argument to prove the doctrine of perseverance, though I think, without much strength of reasoning, when he says; that all who are preserved to salvation, are kept by the power of God, but not that all believers are so kept.

To which it may be replied, that all believers, whose character answers that of the church, to which the apostle writes, shall be saved; namely, all who are begotten again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for them; whose faith, after it has been tried, shall be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ, 1 Pet. i. 3, 4, 7. I say, these shall certainly be saved: therefore, if all who are thus preserved to salvation, are kept by the power of God, this is all we need contend for. And whereas he adds, that when they are said to be kept through faith, the meaning is, they are kept, if they continue in the faith. To this it may be replied, That their continuance in the faith was put out of all dispute, by what is said concerning them in the words going before and following, as row referred to. And as to his argument, it amounts to no more than this; that they shall be kept by the power of God, if they keep themselves; or they shall persevere if they persevere, to which I need make no reply.

But since our main design in this head is not to prove that believers shall persevere, which we reserve to our next; but to shew that whatever we assert concerning their perseverance, take its rise from God; we shall consider this as plainly contained in scripture. Accordingly the apostle speaks of the Lord’s delivering him from every evil work, and preserving him to his heavenly kingdom, 2 Tim. iv. 18. Jude, ver. 1. and the apostle Jude speaks of believers as sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called, or as being first called, and then preserved by God the Father, through the intervention of Christ, our great Mediator, till they are brought to glory. And our Saviour, in his affectionate prayer for his church, a little before he left the world, says, Holy Father, keep, through thine own name, those whom thou hast given me, John xvii. 11. which not only proves that the perseverance of the saints is owing to God, but that the glory of his own name is concerned herein; therefore it is not from ourselves, but him: and there is another scripture, in which our Saviour, speaks of the perseverance of his sheep in grace, and of his 201giving them eternal life, and adds, that they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand, chap. x. 28. therefore it is owing to his care, as the great Shepherd of the sheep, and to his power, that is superior to that of all those who attempt to destroy them, that they shall persevere in grace. And this leads us to consider,

III. What ground we have to conclude that the saints shall persevere in grace, and so explain and illustrate the arguments insisted on in this answer, together with some others that may be taken from the sense of several scriptures, by which this doctrine may be defended.

1. The saints’ perseverance in grace may be proved from the unchangeable love of God, and his decree and purpose, relating to their salvation, in which it is discovered and executed. That God loved them with a love of good-will, before they were inclined to express any love to him, is evident; because their love to him is assigned as the effect and consequence of his love to them, as the apostle says, We love him because he first loved us, 1 John iv. 19. Therefore this love of God to his people, must be considered as an immanent act; from whence it follows, that it was from eternity, since all God’s immanent acts are eternal: and this is particularly expressed by the prophet, when he says, The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, Jer. xxxi. 3. If this be meant of a love that shall never have an end, it plainly proves the doctrine we are defending; but inasmuch as the words that immediately follow, Therefore, with loving kindness have I drawn thee, seem to intimate that this everlasting love is that which was from everlasting; as his drawing them or bringing them into a converted state is the result hereof: therefore this everlasting love is the same as his eternal purpose, or design to save them. If there be such an eternal purpose relating to their salvation, this necessarily infers their perseverance; and that there was such a design in God has been already proved under a foregoing answer[82]. And they who are the objects of this eternal purpose of grace are frequently described, in scripture, as believers, inasmuch as faith and salvation are inseparably connected together; therefore, the execution of God’s purpose in giving faith, necessarily infers the execution thereof, in saving them that believe.

That this purpose of grace is unchangeable, has been before proved[83]; and may be farther argued from what the apostle speaks concerning the immutability of his counsel, shewn to the heirs of promise, as the ground of that strong consolation which they have who are flying for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before them, Heb. vi. 17, 18. Therefore, if God cannot change 202his purpose, relating to the salvation of believers, it necessarily follows, that they shall certainly attain this salvation, and consequently, that they shall persevere in grace.

Obj. To this it will be objected, that though God may be said to love his people, while they retain their integrity, yet they may provoke him by their sins to cast them off; therefore the present exercise of divine love to them is no certain argument that it shall be extended to the end, so as that, by virtue hereof, he will enable them to persevere, and then bring them to glory.

Answ. To this it may be replied; that we do not deny that believers, by their sins, may provoke God so far, as that, if he should mark their iniquities, or deal with them according to the demerit thereof, he would cast them off for ever; but this he will not do, because it is inconsistent with his purpose to recover them from their backslidings, and forgive their iniquities. Moreover, it cannot be denied, that, notwithstanding God’s eternal love to them, there are many instances of his hatred and displeasure expressed in the external dispensations of his providence, which are as often changed, as their conduct towards him is changed; but this does not infer a change in God’s purpose: he may testify his displeasure against them, or as the Psalmist expresses it, Visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes, Psal. lxxxix. 32. Nevertheless he cannot change his resolution to save them; and therefore, by some methods of grace, he will recover them from their backslidings, and enable them to persevere in grace, since his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure.

2. Another argument to prove the saints’ perseverance, may be taken from the covenant of grace, and the many promises respecting their salvation, which are contained therein. That this may appear, let it be considered,

(1.) That Christ was appointed to be the head of this covenant, as was observed in a foregoing answer[84]; and accordingly there was an eternal transaction between the Father and him; in which, all things were stipulated in the behalf of his elect, whom he therein represented, which relate to their everlasting salvation. In this covenant God the Father, not only promised that he should have a seed to serve him, Psal. xxii. 30. but that he should see his seed; and that the pleasure of the Lord, with relation to them, should prosper in his hand; that he should see of the travel of his soul, and be satisfied, Isa. liii. 10, 11. which implies, that he should see the fruits and effects of all that he had done and suffered for them, in order to their salvation; and this is not spoken of some of them, but of all; and it could not have had its accomplishment, were it possible for them not to persevere in grace.

203(2.) In this covenant, Christ has undertaken to keep them, as the result of his becoming a Surety for them, in which he not only engaged to pay the debt of obedience and sufferings that was due from them, which he has already done; but that he would work all that grace in them which he purchased by his blood; and he has already begun this work in them which is not yet accomplished: can we therefore suppose that he will not bring it to perfection, nor enable them to endure to the end, that they may be saved, which would argue the greatest unfaithfulness in him, who is styled Faithful and True?

Moreover, as there are engagements on Christ’s part, relating hereunto, and in pursuance thereof, they are said to be in his hand; so the Father has given them an additional security, that they shall be preserved from apostasy; and therefore they are also said to be in his hand; from whence none can pluck them out; and from thence it is argued, that they shall never perish, John x. 28, 29. And we may observe, that the life which Christ is said to give them respects not only the beginning thereof, in the first grace which they are made partakers of in conversion; but it is called eternal life, which certainly denotes the completing of this work in their everlasting salvation.

(3.) The subject-matter of the promises contained in the covenant of grace, relates not only to their sanctification here, but salvation hereafter; in which respect it is called an everlasting covenant, and the mercies thereof, the sure mercies of David, Isa. lv. 3, 4. that is, either those mercies which David, who had an interest in this covenant, was given to expect; or mercies which Christ had engaged to purchase and bestow, who is here called David, as elsewhere, Hos. iii. 5. inasmuch as David was an eminent type of him, as well as because he was his seed according to the flesh; and that this is the more probable sense of the two, appears from the following words, in which he is said to be given for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people: and if these mercies are in Christ’s hand to apply, it is no wonder that they are styled sure mercies.

We might here consider the covenant of grace as containing in it all the promises that respect the beginning, carrying on, or completing the salvation of his people; and these relate not only to what God will do for them; but what he will enable them to be, and do, in those things that concern their faithfulness to him, whereby they have the highest security that they shall behave themselves as becomes a covenant-people. Thus he assures them, that he will be to them a God, that is, that he will glorify his divine perfections in bestowing on them the special and distinguishing blessings of the covenant; and 204that they shall be to him a people, that is, shall behave themselves so as that they shall not, by apostacy from him, oblige him to disown his relation to them, or exclude them from his covenant. He has not only encouraged them to expect those great things that he would do for them, provided they yielded obedience to his law; but that he would put his law into their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, whereby they might be disposed to obey him: and when he says, that they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, he gives them to understand that they should not only teach or instruct one other in the knowledge of God, which respects their being favoured with the external means of grace; but that they should all know him, from the least of them unto the greatest. This not only denotes that they should have a speculative knowledge of divine truth, but a saving knowledge thereof; which is inseparably connected with life eternal, John xvii. 3. as appears from its being accompanied with, or flowing from forgiveness of sin, as it immediately follows; for I will forgive their iniquity; and this is expressed with a peculiar emphasis, which is certainly inconsistent with their falling from a justified state, when it is said, I will remember their sin no more, Jer. xxxi. 33, 34. And elsewhere, when God speaks of his making an everlasting covenant with his people, chap. xxxii. 40. he promises that he will not turn away from them to do them good; and, inasmuch as they are prone, by reason of the deceitfulness of their hearts, to turn aside from him, he adds, I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me; it is not only said that he will not turn from them, if they fear him; but he gives them security in this covenant, that they shall fear him: can we therefore conclude that they, in whom this covenant is so far made good, that God has put his fear in their hearts, which is supposed in their being believers, shall not attain the other blessing promised, to wit, that of their not departing from him?

Moreover, the stability of this covenant, as a foundation of the saints’ perseverance, is set forth by a metaphor, taken from the most fixed and stable parts of nature; and it is said to exceed them herein; The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee; neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee, Isa. liv. 10.

Object. The principal objection that is brought to enervate the force of this argument taken from those promises of the covenant, which respect the saints’ perseverance, is, that they are to be considered either as conditional, and the conditions thereof not fulfilled, in which case they are not obliging, and therefore God is not bound to give salvation to those to whom 205he has promised it, upon these conditions; or else they are to be considered as made to a political body, viz. the Jewish nation, in which case it is not to be supposed that they respect their eternal salvation, but only some temporal deliverance which they were to be made partakers of, that belonged to that church in general; for everlasting salvation is never considered as a blessing that shall be applied to whole nations, how much soever an whole nation may partake of the common gifts of divine bounty which are bestowed in this world.

Answ. In answer to this objection, in both its branches, I need only refer to what has been said elsewhere. As to the former branch thereof, we have endeavoured to shew how those scriptures are to be understood which are laid down in a conditional form, without supposing that they militate against the absoluteness of God’s purpose, or its unchangeableness, and independency on the conduct of men.[85] And as to the latter branch thereof; what has been said in answer to an objection of the like nature, brought against the doctrine of election by Dr. Whitby, and others, who suppose that the blessings, which the elect are said to be made partakers of in scripture, respect the nation of the Jews, or the church in general, and not a particular number chosen out of them to salvation; and that the promises which are directed to them, are only such as they were given to expect, as a church or political body of men, may well be applied to our present purpose, and serve as an answer to this objection;[86] therefore all that I shall add by way of reply to it, in this place, is,

[1.] If any thing be annexed to these promises of the covenant, that gives occasion for some to conclude, that it is conditional, we must take heed that we do not understand such expressions as denoting the dependance of God’s determinations on the arbitrary will of man; as though his purpose relating to the salvation of his people were indeterminate, and it were a matter of doubt with him, as well as with us, whether he should fulfil it or no; because it is uncertain whether the conditions thereof shall be performed; for this supposition is inconsistent with the divine perfections: but, if, on the other hand, we suppose that the grace or duty annexed to the promise, must have some idea of a condition contained in it; this may be understood according to the tenor of God’s revealed will, as denoting nothing else but a condition of our expectation, or of our claim to the blessing promised; and then nothing can be inferred from hence, but that some who lay claim to, or expect salvation, without performing the condition thereof, may apostatize, and so miss of it; which does not in the least militate against the doctrine we are defending.

206And to this we may farther add, that when such a condition is annexed to a promise (for I will not decline to call it so, in the sense but now laid down) and there is another promise added, in which God engages that he will enable them to perform this condition, that is equivalent to an absolute promise; and of this kind are those conditions that are mentioned in the scriptures before referred to, as has been already observed. When God promises that he will be a God to them, that he will forgive their iniquities, and never reverse the sentence of forgiveness, or remember their sins no more, and that he will never turn away from them to do them good; he, at the same time promises, that he will put his law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and put his fear in their hearts, and so enable them to behave themselves as his people, or to be to him a people; and when God sets forth the stability of his covenant, and intimates that it should not be removed, he adds, that his kindness shall not depart from them, which kindness does not barely respect some temporal blessings which he would bestow upon them, but his extending that grace to them that should keep them faithful to him; and therefore he says, that in righteousness they should be established; which contains a promise to maintain grace in them, without which they could hardly be said to be established in righteousness, as well as that he would perform the other things promised to them in this covenant.

[2.] As to the other branch of the objection, in which the promises are considered as given to the church in general, or to the Jews, as a political body of men; and that this cannot be supposed to respect their everlasting salvation, but only some temporal blessings which they should enjoy, it may be replied, That this is to be determined by the express words contained in the promise: if God tells them that he will do that for them which includes more in it than the blessings which they are supposed to enjoy, that are of a temporal nature, we are not to conclude that there is nothing of salvation contained in them, when the words seem to imply that there is. And though these promises are said to be given to the Jews, as a political body of men, and there are some circumstances therein, which have an immediate and particular relation to them: yet the promises of special grace and salvation were to be applied only by those who believed amongst them; and the same promises are to be applied by believers in all ages; or else we must understand those scriptures only as an historical relation of things that do not belong to us; which would tend very much to detract from the spirituality and usefulness of many parts of scripture.

To make this appear, we might consider some promises 207which, when first made, had a particular relation to God’s dealings with his people in those circumstances in which they were at that time; which, notwithstanding, are applied in a more extensive manner, to New Testament believers in all ages. Thus when God tells his people, in the scripture before referred to, that all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, Isa. liv. 13. whatever respect this may have to the church of the Jews, our Saviour applies it in a more extensive way, as belonging to believers in all ages, when he says, Every man therefore that hath heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me, John vi. 45. And when God promises Joshua that he would not fail nor forsake him, and encourages him thereby, not to fear nor be dismayed, Josh. i. 5, 9. when he was to pass over Jordan, into the land of Canaan; and after that, to engage in a work which was attended with many difficulties: this promise is applied, by the apostle, as an inducement to believers, in his day, to be content with such things as they have; accordingly he adds, that what God told Joshua of old, the same was written for their encouragement, viz. that he would never leave them, nor forsake them, Heb. xiii. 5. We cannot therefore but conclude from hence, that this objection is of no force in either of its branches, to overthrow the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, as founded on the stability of the promises of the covenant of grace.

3. The saints’ perseverance in grace may be farther proved from their inseparable union with Christ: this union is not only federal, as he is the head of the covenant of grace, and they his members, whose salvation he has engaged to bring about, as was observed under the last head; but he may be considered also as their vital head, from whom they receive spiritual life and influence; so that as long as they abide in him, their spiritual life is maintained as derived from him: if we consider the church, or the whole election of grace as united to him, it is called, His body, Col. i. 24. the fulness of him that filleth all in all, Eph. i. 23. and every believer being a member of this body, or a part, if I may so express it, of this fulness, if it should perish and be separated from him, his body would be defective, and he would sustain a loss of that which is an ingredient in his fulness.

Moreover, as this union includes in it that relation between Christ and his people, which is, by a metaphorical way of speaking, styled conjugal;[87] and accordingly is mutual, as the result of his becoming theirs by an act of grace, and they his by an act of self-dedication; this is the foundation of mutual love, which is abiding, it is certainly so on his part; because it is unchangeable, as founded on a covenant-engagement, which he cannot 208violate; and though their love to him be in itself subject to change, through the prevalency of corrupt nature, which too much inclines them to be unstedfast in this marriage-covenant; yet he will recover and bring them back to him, and will not deal with them as persons do with strangers, whom they exclude from their presence or favour, if they render themselves unworthy of it; but they who stand in a nearer relation to him, and accordingly are the objects of his special love, shall not be cast off for ever, how much soever he may resent their unworthy behaviour to him. Not to be separate from Christ, is, according to the apostle’s expression, not to be separated from his love; and this, he says, he was persuaded that he should not be, or that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to do it, Rom. viii. 35, 38, 39. Accordingly it is said, that having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them unto the end, John xiii. 1.

Here I cannot but take notice of a very jejune and empty sense which some give of this text, to evade the force of the argument taken from it, to prove the doctrine we are maintaining. How plausible soever it may seem to be to those who conclude that this must be the true sense, because it favours their own cause: by his own they mean no other than Christ’s disciples, whom he was at that time conversant with; and indeed, they apply whatever Christ says, in some following chapters, to them, exclusive of all others; as when he says, Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, chap. xv. 19. and because I live, ye shall live also, chap. xiv. 19. This, they suppose, respects them in particular; and so in the text before us, having loved his own which were in the world; that is, his own disciples; as though he had a propriety in none but them; he loved them to the end; that is, not to the end of their lives; for that would prove the doctrine we are maintaining, but to the end of his life, which was now at hand; and his love to them, they suppose to be expressed in this, that he condescended to wash their feet. But if this were the sense of the words, his love to them would not be so extraordinary a privilege as it really is; for it would be only an instance of human and not divine love. And indeed, our happiness consists, not only in Christ’s loving us to the end of his life; but in his continuing to express his love in his going into heaven to prepare a place, and there making continual intercession for us; and in the end, in his coming again to receive us to himself, that where he is, we may be also; which leads us to consider,

4. That the saints’ perseverance farther appears from Christ’s 209continual intercession for them. This has been particularly explained in a foregoing answer;[88] and the apostle speaking of his ever living to make intercession for his people, infers that he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, Heb. vii. 25. This he could not be said to do, should he leave the work which he has begun in them, imperfect, and suffer them, who come to him by faith, to apostatize from him. We have before considered Christ’s intercession, as including in it his appearing in the presence of God, in the behalf of those for whom he offered himself a sacrifice while here on earth; and also, that what he intercedes for shall certainly be granted him, not only because he is the Son of God, in whom he is well pleased, but because he pleads his own merits; and to deny to grant what he merited, would be, in effect, to deny the sufficiency thereof, as though the purchase had not been fully satisfactory; therefore we must conclude, as he himself said on earth, that the Father heareth him always. It is also evident, that he prays for the perseverance of his people, as he says to Peter, I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not, Luke xxii. 32. And there are many things in that affectionate prayer, mentioned in John xvii. which he put up to God, immediately before his last sufferings, which respect their perseverance in grace; as when he says, Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are, John xvii. 11. and, I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil, ver. 15. that is, either the evil that often attends the condition in which they are, in the world, that so the work of grace may not suffer, at least, not miscarry thereby; or else, that he would keep them from the evil one, that so they may not be brought again under his dominion; he also prays, that they may be made perfect in one, ver. 23. that is, not only that they may be perfectly joined together in the same design, but that this unanimity may continue till they are brought to a state of perfection; and that the world may know that God has loved them, even as he has loved Christ. And he declares his will; which shews that his intercession is founded on justice, and accordingly contains in it the nature of a demand, rather than a supplication for what might be given or denied, namely, That they whom the Father had given him might be with him where he is, that they may behold his glory, ver. 24. all which expressions are very inconsistent with the supposition, that it is possible that they, whom he thus intercedes for, may apostatize, or fall short of salvation.

Object. It is objected by some, that this prayer respects 210none but his disciples, who were his immediate friends and followers, and not believers in all ages and places in the world.

Answ. But to this it may be replied, That the contrary hereunto is evident, from several things which are mentioned in this prayer, as for instance, he says, That the Father had given him power over all flesh; that he should give eternal life to as many as he had given him, ver. 2. the sense of which words will sink too low, if we suppose that he intends thereby, thou hast given me power to dispose of all persons and things in this world, that I may give eternal life to that small number which thou hast given me, namely, my disciples; whereas he speaks of that universal dominion which he has over all persons and things, which were committed to him with this view, that all those who were put into his hand to redeem and save, should attain eternal life: and again, he says, I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them me, and they have kept thy word, ver. 6. Did Christ manifest the divine name and glory to none but those who were his disciples; and were there none but them that had kept his word? And when he says, that they whom he prayed for, are the Father’s; and adds, that all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them, ver. 9, 10. Is the number of those, whom Christ has a right to, and the Father has set apart for himself, in whom he would shew forth his glory, as the objects of his love, and in whom Christ, as Mediator, was to be glorified, so small, as that it contained only the eleven disciples? Or does it not rather respect all that have, or shall believe, from the beginning to the end of time? and when he speaks of the world’s hating them, because they are not of the world, John xvii. 14, 15. and of their being exposed to the evils that are in the world, or the assaults of Satan, who is their avowed enemy; is this only applicable to the disciples? And when he says, Neither pray I for these alone, that is, for those who now believe, but for them also which shall believe, ver. 20. does it not plainly intimate that he had others in view besides his disciples? These, and several other passages in this prayer, are a sufficient evidence that there is no weight in the objection, to overthrow the argument we are maintaining.

5. Believers’ perseverance in grace may be proved from the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them. When at first they were regenerated, it was by the power of the Holy Ghost, as condescending to come and take up his abode in them: thus we read of their being acted by, and under the influence of, the Holy Ghost, who is said to dwell where he is pleased to display his divine power and glory; and if these displays hereof be internal, then he dwells in the heart. Our Saviour speaks 211of him, as another Comforter given, that he may abide with his people for ever, chap. xiv. 19. And this indwelling of the Spirit is very distinct from that extraordinary dispensation which the church had, when they were favoured with inspiration; for the apostle speaks of it as a privilege peculiar to believers as such, when he says, Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you: Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his, Rom. viii. 9. the meaning of which cannot be, that they have no interest in Christ, who have not the extraordinary afflatus of the Spirit, such as the prophets had; therefore we must suppose, that this is a privilege which believers have in all ages. Now if the Spirit is pleased to condescend thus to take up his abode in the soul, and that for ever, he will certainly preserve it from apostacy.

And to this we may add, that there are several fruits and effects of the Spirit’s dwelling in the soul, which affords an additional proof of this doctrine: thus believers are said to have the first fruits of the Spirit, ver. 23. that is, they have those graces wrought in them which are the beginning of salvation; and as the first fruits are a part of the harvest that will follow, these are the fore-tastes of the heavenly blessedness which God would never have bestowed upon them had he not designed to preserve them from apostasy. Moreover, believers are said to be sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of their inheritance, Eph. i. 13, 14. The earnest, as given by men, is generally deemed a part of payment, upon which they who are made partakers thereof, are satisfied that they shall, at last, receive the full reward; and shall believers miss of the heavenly blessedness, who have such a glorious pledge and earnest of it? Again, if we consider the Spirit as bearing witness with their spirits, that they are the children of God; and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; and that they shall be glorified together with him, Rom. viii. 16, 17. is this testimony invalid, or not to be depended on, which it could not be were it possible for them to fall from a state of grace?

This testimony is what we depend very much upon, in order to our attaining assurance that we are in a state of grace, and shall persevere therein, as will be observed under the next answer; therefore we shall at present, take it for granted, that there is such a thing as assurance, or that this blessing is attainable; and the use which I would make of this supposition to maintain our present argument, is, that if the Spirit has an hand in working or encouraging this hope that we have of the truth of grace, and consequently shall persevere therein to salvation, this argues that it is warrantable, and not delusive; for 212he that is the author or giver of it cannot deceive our expectation, or put us upon looking for that which is not a reality. From whence it follows, that it is impossible that they should apostatize, to whom God has given this good hope through grace, so that they should fail of that everlasting consolation, which is connected with it, 2 Thess. ii. 16. This consequence will hardly be denied by those who are on the other side of the question; and we may observe, that they who oppose the doctrine of perseverance, always deny that of assurance, especially as proceeding from the testimony of the Spirit: nevertheless, that we may not be misunderstood, we do not say, that every one who has a strong persuasion that he shall be saved, shall be saved; which is no other than enthusiasm; but our argument is, in short, this, that if there be a witness of the Spirit to this truth, that cannot be charged therewith, then the doctrine we are maintaining, is undeniably true, which will more evidently appear from what will be said in defence of the doctrine of assurance under our next answer.

And therefore we proceed to the other branch of the argument before-mentioned, to prove this doctrine, namely, that believers have the seed of God abiding in them; which is founded on what the apostle says in 1 John iii. 9. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed abideth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God; for the understanding of which let us consider,

(1.) That by the words, he cannot commit sin, the apostle does not intend that such an one is not a sinner, or that there is such a thing as sinless perfection attainable in this life; for that is contrary, not only to the whole tenor of scripture, and daily experience of mankind; but to what he had expressly said, If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, 1 John i. 8. Therefore, in this text, upon which our present argument is founded, he is, doubtless, speaking of persons committing sins, inconsistent with the truth of grace, as he says in a foregoing verse, Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him, chap. iii. 6. it is such a sin therefore as argues a person to be in a state of unregeneracy; and then, He that committeth sin is of the devil, ver. 8. therefore he certainly speaks of such a commission of sin, as argues us to be under the reigning power of the devil: and that this may plainly appear to be his sense, we may observe, that he elsewhere distinguishes between a sin that is unto death, and a sin that is not unto death, chap. v. 16, 17. by which he does not mean, as the Papists suppose, that some sins deserve eternal death, and others not; the former of which they call mortal sins; the latter venial; but he is speaking of a sin that is inconsistent with the principle of grace, and that which is consistent 213therewith; the former is sometimes called the pollution that is in the world, through lust, 2 Pet. i. 4. the latter the spot of God’s children, Deut. xxxii. 5. The least sin deserves death, though they who commit it shall not perish, but be brought to repentance; but the sin unto death is wilful sin, committed and continued in with impenitency; and with this limitation we are to understand the apostle’s words, He who is born of God doth not commit sin.

(2.) We shall now consider the reason assigned, why the person he speaks of, cannot, in this sense, commit sin; namely, because he is born of God, and the seed of God abideth, in him. To be born of God, is what is elsewhere styled regeneration, or being born of the Spirit, in which there is a principle of grace implanted, which is here called the seed of God. And, indeed, this metaphorical way of speaking is very expressive of the thing designed hereby; for as in nature the seed produces fruit, and in things moral, the principle of action produces action, as the principle of reason produces acts of reason: so in things spiritual, the principle of grace produces acts of grace; and this principle being from God, which has been largely proved under a foregoing answer,[89] it is called here, the seed of God.

(3.) This seed of God, or this principle is not barely said to be in the believer, as that which, for the present, is the ground of spiritual actions; but it is said to remain in him. As elsewhere Christ speaks of the Spirit as abiding with his people for ever, John xiv. 16. so here the apostle speaks of that principle of grace wrought by the Spirit, as abiding, that is, continuing for ever; and from thence he infers, that a believer cannot sin; for if he had been only speaking of its being implanted, but not abiding; all that could be inferred from thence would be, that he does not sin; but whereas, he argues from it, that he cannot sin, that is, apostatize; it being understood, that this principle abides in him continually; which plainly contains the sense of the argument we are maintaining, namely, that because the seed of God abides in a believer, therefore he cannot apostatize, or fall short of salvation.

They who are on the other side of the question, seem to find it very difficult to evade the force of this argument: some suppose that the apostle intends no more but that he that is born of God, should not commit sin; but that is not only remote from the sense of the words cannot sin;[90] but it does not sufficiently distinguish one that is born of God, from another that is not so; for it is as much a truth, that an unregenerate person ought not to sin, as when we speak of one that is regenerate.

Others, by not sinning, suppose that the apostle means, they 214sin with difficulty, or they are hardly brought to commit sin; but as this also does not answer to the sense of the word cannot sin, so it is inconsistent with that beautiful gradation, which we may observe in the words. To say that he does not sin; and then if he commits sin, it is with some difficulty, is not so agreeable to that climax, which the apostle makes use of, when he says, he does not commit sin, yea, he cannot.

Others suppose that the apostle’s meaning is, that he that is born of God, cannot sin unto death, or apostatize, so as to fall short of salvation, so long as he makes a right use of this principle of grace, which is implanted in him; but by opposing and afterwards extinguishing it, he may become an apostate. But we may observe; in answer to this, that the apostle does not attribute his perseverance in grace, to his making use of the principle, but his having it, or its abiding in him; and he sufficiently fences against the supposition of its being possible that the principle of grace may be wholly lost; for then this seed could not be said to abide in him, nor would the inference deduced from its abiding in him, namely, that he cannot sin, be just.

Thus, concerning this latter branch of the argument to prove the saints’ perseverance in grace, taken from the seed of God, abiding in believers: But there is one thing must be observed before I dismiss this head, viz. That the principle of grace, which is signified by this metaphor, though it be, and abide in a believer; yet it does not always exert itself so as to produce those acts of grace which would otherwise proceed from it. This cannot be better illustrated than by a similitude taken from the soul, which is the principle of reason in man; though it be as much so in an infant in the womb as it is in any, yet it is altogether unactive; for most allow that such have not the exercise of thought or acts of reason; and when a person is newly born, it hardly appears that this principle is deduced into act; and in those in whom it has been deduced into act, it may be rendered stupid, and almost unactive, or at least, so disordered, that the actions which proceed from it cannot be styled rational, through the influence of some bodily disease, with which it is affected, yet still it remains a principle of reason. The same may be said concerning the principle of grace; it is certainly an unactive principle in those who are regenerate from the womb; and it may cease to exert itself, and be with equal reason, styled an unactive principle in believers, when they fall into very great sins, to which it offers no resistance: This we shall take occasion to apply under a following head, when we shall consider some objections that are brought against this doctrine, by those who suppose that believers, when sinning presumptuously, as David, Peter, and others, are said to have 215done, fail totally, though not finally. There was indeed a total suspension of the activity of this principle, but yet the principle itself was not wholly lost; but more of this in its proper place. We are therefore bound to conclude, that because this principle abides in them, they can neither totally nor finally apostatize, and therefore, that they can neither fall from a state of grace, nor fail, at last, of salvation.

Thus we have endeavoured to explain and shew the force of those arguments which are contained in this answer to prove the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance. There are several others that might have been insisted on; and particularly it may be proved, from the end and design of Christ’s death, which was not only that he might purchase to himself a peculiar people, but that he might purchase eternal life for them; and we cannot think that this invaluable price would have been given for the procuring of that which should not be applied, in which respect Christ would be said to die in vain. When a person gives a price for any thing, it is with this design, that he or they, for whom he purchased it, should be put into the possession of it; which, if it be not done, the price that was given is reckoned lost, and the person that gave it disappointed hereby.

And this argument may be considered as having still more weight in it, if we observe, that the salvation of those whom Christ has redeemed, not only redounds to their happiness, but to the glory of God the Father, and of Christ, our great Redeemer. God the Father, in giving Christ to be a propitiation for sin, designed to bring more glory to his name than by all his other works: Thus our Saviour appeals to him in the close of his life, I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do, John xvii. 14. The work was his, and there was a revenue of glory which he expected thereby; and this glory did not only consist in his receiving a full satisfaction for sin, that so he might take occasion to advance his grace in forgiving it; but he is said to be glorified, when his people are enabled to bear much fruit, chap. xv. 8. Therefore the glory of God the Father is advanced by the application of redemption, and consequently by bringing his redeemed ones to perfection.

The Son is also glorified, not barely by his having those honours, which his human nature is advanced to, as the consequence of his finishing the work of redemption, but by the application thereof to his people; accordingly he is said to be glorified in them, chap. xviii. 10. that is, his mediatorial glory is rendered illustrious by all the grace that is conferred upon them; and therefore, certainly he will be eminently glorified, when they are brought to be with him, where he is, to behold 216his glory. Now can we suppose, that since the Father and the Son designed to have so great a glory redound to them by the work of our redemption, that they will sustain any loss thereof, for want of the application of it to them, for whom it was purchased. If God designed, as the consequence thereof, that the saints should sing that new song, Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation: And if God the Father, and the Son, are both joined together, and their glory celebrated therein, by their ascribing blessing, glory, and power, unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever, Rev. v. 19. compared with 13. Then certainly they will not lose this glory; and therefore, the saints shall be brought into that state where they shall have occasion thus to praise and adore them for it.

If it be objected to this, that God, the Father and the Son, will be glorified, though many of his saints should apostatize, and the death of Christ be, to no purpose, with respect to them, because all shall not apostatize. The answer to this is plain and easy; that though he could not be said to lose the glory he designed, by the salvation of those who persevere, yet some branches of his glory would be lost, by reason of the apostacy of others, who fall short of salvation; and it is a dishonour to him to suppose that he will lose the least branch thereof, or that any of those, for whom Christ died, should be for ever lost.

We might also add, that for the same reason that we suppose one whom Christ has redeemed, should be lost, all might be lost, and so he would lose all the glory he designed to have in the work of redemption. This appears, in that all are liable to those temptations, which, if complied with, have a tendency to ruin them. All are supposed to be renewed and sanctified but in part, and consequently the work of grace meets with those obstructions from corrupt nature; which would certainly prove too hard for all our strength, and baffle our utmost endeavours to persevere, did not God appear in our behalf, and keep us by his power. Now, if all need strength from him to stand, and must say, that without him they can do nothing, then we must either suppose, that that grace is given to all saints which shall enable them to persevere, or else that it is given to none; if it be given to none, but all are left to themselves, then that which overthrows the faith of one, would overthrow the faith of all; and consequently we might conclude, that whatever God the Father, or the Son have done, in order to the redemption and salvation of the elect might be of none effect.

I might produce many other arguments in defence of the saints’ perseverance, but shall conclude this head with two or 217three scriptures, whereby the truth hereof will farther appear: Thus our Saviour says to the woman of Samaria, Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life, John iv. 14. Where, by the water that Christ gives, is doubtless understood the gifts and graces of the Spirit; these are not like the waters of a brook, that often deceive the expectation of the traveller; but they are a well of water, intimating that a believer shall have a constant supply of grace and peace till he is brought to the rivers of pleasure, which are at God’s right-hand, and is made partaker of eternal life. Again, our Saviour says, He that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, chap. v. 24. i. e. it is as surely his as though he was in the actual possession of it; and he farther intimates, that such are not only justified for the present; but they shall not come into condemnation; certainly this implies that their salvation is so secure as that it is impossible for them to perish eternally.

Another scripture that plainly proves this doctrine, is in 2 Tim. ii. 19. Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his; and let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity; in which words the apostle encourages the church to hope for perseverance in grace, after they had had a sad instance of two persons of note, viz. Hymeneus and Philetus, who had not only erred from the truth, but overthrown the faith of some; and he cautions every one, who makes a profession of religion, as they would be kept from apostatizing, to depart from iniquity, q. d. since many of you are ready to fear that your faith shall be overthrown, as well as that of others, by the sophistry or cunning arts of those apostates who lie in wait to deceive, you may be assured that their state is safe, who are built upon that foundation which God has laid, that chief corner stone, elect, precious, viz. Christ, on whom he that believeth, shall not be confounded, 1 Pet. ii. 6. or else, that the instability of human conduct shall not render it a matter of uncertainty, whether they, who are ordained to eternal life, shall be saved or no; for that depends on God’s purpose, relating hereunto, which is a sure foundation, and has this seal annexed to it, whereby our faith herein may be confirmed, that they whom God has set apart for himself, and lays a special claim to, as his chosen and redeemed ones, whom he has foreknown and loved with an everlasting love, shall not perish eternally, because the purpose of God cannot be frustrated. But inasmuch as there is no special revelation given to particular persons, that they are the objects of this purpose cf grace; therefore every one that names 218or professes the name of Christ ought to use the utmost caution, that they be not ensnared; let them depart from all iniquity, and not converse with those who endeavour to overthrow their faith. And, indeed, all that are faithful shall be kept from iniquity by God, as they are here given to understand that it is their duty to endeavour to depart from it, and consequently they shall be kept from apostacy. This seems to be the sense of these words; and it is agreeable to the analogy of faith, as well as a plain proof of the doctrine which we are maintaining.

A late writer[91], by the foundation of God, which standeth sure, supposes the doctrine of the resurrection is intended, which Hymeneus and Philetus denied, saying, that it was past already; this doctrine, says he, which is a fundamental article of faith, standeth sure, having this seal the Lord knoweth them that are his; that is, he loveth and approveth of them. But though it be true the resurrection is spoken of in the foregoing verse, and we do not deny that it is a fundamental article of faith; yet that does not seem to be the meaning of the word foundation, in this text. For if by the resurrection we understand the doctrine of the general resurrection of the dead, I cannot see where the force of the apostle’s argument lies, viz. that there shall be a general resurrection, because the Lord knoweth who are his, since the whole world are to be raised from the dead. But if by the resurrection we are to understand a resurrection to eternal life, so that they who are known or beloved of God, shall have their part in it, and the apostle’s method of reasoning be this, that they who believe shall be raised to eternal life; that is, so far from militating against the argument we are maintaining, that it is agreeable to the sense we have given of the text, and makes for, rather than against us.

As to what is farther advanced by the author but now mentioned, viz. that the Lord knoweth who are his, is to be taken for that regard which God had to his apostles and ministers. This seems too great a strain on the sense of the words, and so much different from the scope of the apostle therein, as well as disagreeable to the caution given, that every one who names the name of Christ should depart from iniquity, that no one who reads the scriptures without prejudice, can easily give into this sense of the text.

I shall mention but one scripture more for the proof of this doctrine, and that is in 1 John ii. 19. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would, no doubt, have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us; for the understanding 219of which, let it be considered, that the apostle is speaking of some who were formerly members of the church, who afterwards turned apostates and open enemies to Christ, and his gospel: It is plain that the words they went out from us, and they were not of us, must be taken in different respects, otherwise it would imply a contradiction, to say that a person departed from the faith and communion of the church, when he never embraced it, or had communion with it; but if they understand it thus, they left the faith and communion of the church because they were Christians only in pretence, and did not heartily embrace the faith on which the church was built; nor were they really made partakers of that grace, which the apostles, and other faithful members of the church, had received from God, as being effectually called thereby, the sense is very plain and easy, viz. That there were some false professors, who made a great shew of religion, and were admitted into communion with the church, and, it may be, some of them preached the gospel, and were more esteemed than others; but they apostatized; for they had not the truth of grace, but were like the seed that sprang up without having root in itself, which afterwards withered; whereas, if they had had this grace it would have been abiding, and so they would, without doubt, says the apostle, have continued with us; but by their apostacy it appears, that they were not, in this sense, of our number, that is believers.

They who understand this scripture, not of persons who were members of the church, but ministers, that first joined themselves with the apostles, and afterwards deserted them, and their doctrine, advance nothing that tends to overthrow the argument we are maintaining; for we may then understand the words thus, they pretended to be the true ministers of Jesus Christ, and doubtless, to be, as the apostles were, men of piety and religion, for, in other respects, they were of them visibly, whilst they preached the same doctrines; but afterwards, by departing from the faith, it appeared, that though they were ministers they were not sincere Christians, for if they had, they would not have apostatized.

IV. We shall now proceed to consider the objections that are usually brought against the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance in grace.

Object. 1. It is objected, that there are several persons mentioned in scripture, who appear to have been true believers, and yet apostatized, some totally, as David and Peter; others not only totally, but finally, in which number Solomon is included; and others are described as apostates, such as Hymeneus and Alexander, who are said concerning faith, to have made shipwreck, and therefore it is supposed that they had the 220grace of faith; and Judas is also, by them, reckoned to have been a true believer, whom all allow afterwards to have proved an apostate.

Answ. 1. As to the case of David and Peter, it is true, their fall was very notorious, and the former seems to have continued some months in a state of impenitency; and when they fell, there appeared no marks of grace in either of them. Peter’s sin, indeed, was committed through surprize and fear; but yet it had such aggravating circumstances attending it, that if others, whose character is less established than his was, had committed the same sin, we should be ready to conclude, that they were in a state of unregeneracy; and David’s sin was committed with that deliberation, and was so complicated a crime, that if any believer ever lost the principle of grace, we should have been inclined to suppose this to have been his case. Nevertheless, that which gives us ground to conclude that this principle was not wholly extinguished, either in Peter or him, at the same time that they fell; and therefore, that they were not total apostates, is what we before observed, that the principle of grace may be altogether unactive, and yet abide in the soul, agreeably to the sense we gave of that scripture, his seed abideth in him; and if what has been already said concerning the possibility of the principle of grace remaining, though it makes no resistance against the contrary habits of sin, be of any force,[92] then these and other instances of the like nature, on which one branch of the objection is founded, will not be sufficient to prove the possibility of the total apostacy of any true believer.

2. As to the case of Solomon; that he once was a true believer is allowed on both sides; for it is said concerning him, soon after he was born, that the Lord loved him, 2 Sam. xii. 24, 25. upon which occasion he gave him that significant name, Jedidiah, the beloved of the Lord; and it is certain, that in the beginning of his reign, his piety was no less remarkable than his wisdom, as appears from his great zeal, expressed in building the temple of God, and establishing the worship thereof; and also from that extraordinary instance of devotion with which he dedicated or consecrated the house to God, 1 Kings viii. 1. & seq. and the prayer put up to him on that occasion, and also from God’s appearing to him twice: in his first appearance he condescended to ask him, what he would give him? and upon Solomon’s choosing, an understanding heart, to judge his people, he was pleased with him, and gave him several other things that he asked not for; so that there were not any among the kings like unto him, chap. iii. 5, 9, 10, 12, 13. from all this it is taken for granted, that he once was a believer: 221but, on the other hand, we must, if we duly weigh the force of the objection, set the latter part of his life against the former, in which we find him guilty of very great sins; not only in multiplying wives and concubines, beyond what any of his predecessors had done, but in that his heart was turned away after other gods, and, as it is expressly said, was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David, his father, chap. xi. 4. And it is also said, that the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared to him twice, ver. 9. and on this occasion he determined to rend part of the kingdom from his son, ver. 13. which came to pass accordingly; and all this is said to have been done when he was old, ver. 4. And after this we read of several that were stirred up as adversaries to him, ver. 14, 23, 26. And in the remaining part of his history we read of little but trouble and uneasiness that he met with; and this seemed to continue till his death, of which we have an account in 1 Kings xi. chapter throughout, which contains the history of his sin, and troubles; and we read not the least word of his repentance therein; for which reason he is supposed, in the objection, to have apostatized totally and finally.

The main strength of this objection lies in the supposition, that Solomon did not repent of his idolatry which he committed in his old age, or, as it is supposed, in the latter part of his life, and also from the silence of scripture as to the matter; especially in that part of it which gives an account of his fall and death. But this is not sufficient to support the weight of the objection, and to oblige us to conclude him to be an apostate; for there is nothing that appears from the account we have of him in scripture, but that he might have sufficient time for repentance between his fall and death. It is said indeed, that in his old age his wives turned him aside, but this they might do, and yet he not die an apostate; for sometimes that part of life which is called old age, comprises in it several years; therefore, when he began to be in his declining age, he might sin, and after that be brought to repentance. And as for the scripture’s speaking first of his fall, and then of his death; it does not follow from thence that one was immediately after the other; since the history of the blemishes and troubles of his life is but short.

On the other hand, there are several things which may give us ground to conclude, that he repented after his fall; particularly,

(1.) We have an intimation hereof in God’s promise relating thereunto, in which it is supposed, that God would suffer him to fall, and a provisionary encouragement is given to expect that he should be recovered: thus he says, I will chastise 222him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men; but my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee, 1 Sam. vii. 14, 15. and the same thing is repeated, in which his fall is supposed, and his recovery from it particularly mentioned, in Psal. lxxxix. 30-34. as though God had designed that this should be a supplement to his history, and remove the doubts which might arise from it, with relation to his salvation.

(2.) There are some things in other parts of scripture, which give sufficient ground to conclude, that he was a true penitent, which plainly refer to that part of his life which was between his fall and his death. Thus, if we duly weigh several passages in Ecclesiastes, which none can deny that he was the inspired writer of, inasmuch as it is said, in the title or preface set before it, that they are the words of the preacher, the son of David, king of Jerusalem, we shall find many things in which he expresses the great sense of the vanity of his past life, when he says, I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly, Eccl. i. 17. where, by madness and folly, he doubtless intends that which was so in a moral sense, when he indulged his sinful passions, which respects the worst part of his life. And this he farther insists on; Whatsoever mine eyes desired, I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy, for my heart rejoiced in all my labour, Eccl. ii. 10. or in all things, which afterwards were matter of grief and uneasiness to me; in which he observes how he did, as it were, take pains to bring on himself a long train of miseries that troubled him afterwards; and then he plainly expresses his repentance, when he says, All was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun, ver. 11. as though he should say, I turned from God to the creature, to see what happiness I could find therein, but met with nothing but disappointment; he had no profit in those things, whereof he was now ashamed. It is probable, God shewed him the vanity thereof, by his chastening him, or visiting his transgressions with the rod, and his iniquities with stripes, as he had promised to do; and this ended in vexation of spirit, which is a plain intimation of that godly sorrow that proceeded from a sense of sin, which made him, beyond measure, uneasy; and this vexation or uneasiness was so great, that he says, I hated life, that is, I hated my past wicked life, and abhorred myself for it, because the work that is wrought under the sun, is grievous unto me; that is, the work that I have wrought, was such as gave me grief of heart; for all is vanity and vexation of spirit, ver. 17. that is, this is all the consequence thereof: it cannot be supposed that he was weary of his life for the same reasons that many others are, who are deprived of the blessings of common providence, and 223reduced to that condition that makes them miserable, as to their outward circumstances in the world; but it was the uneasiness he found in his own spirit, the secret wounds of conscience and bitterness of soul, which arose from a sense of sin, that made him thus complain.

And elsewhere, he seems to be sensible of his sin, in heaping up vast treasures, which he calls loving silver; and adds, that such an one, which seems very applicable to his own case, shall not be satisfied with silver, nor he that loveth abundance, with increase; this is also vanity, chap. v. 10. that is, this had been an instance of his former vanity: and he adds, The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep, ver. 12. If by this we understand that the increase of riches sometimes gives disturbance to, and stirs up the corruptions of those that possess them, and this be applied to himself, it is an acknowledgment of his sin. Or, if we understand by it that the abundance of a rich man will not give him rest at night, when his mind is made uneasy with a sense of the guilt of sin, and this be applied to his own case, when fallen by it; then it intimates that his repentance gave him not only uneasiness by day, but took away his rest by night; and it seems not improbable, that what gave him farther occasion to see the vanity of his past life, was the sense of mortality impressed on him; for he says, It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to his heart, chap. vii. 3. that is, he will, or ought to improve the sense of his own frailty, which we may conclude he had done; and therefore adds, Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance, the heart is made better, ver. 3.

But if it be objected, that all these expressions are not applicable to himself, and many others of the like nature, which might have been referred to, which are expressive of his great repentance; though I cannot but think that the contrary to this seems very probable; yet there is something farther added, that he expressly applies to himself, which refers to his unlawful love of women: I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares, and nets, and her hands as bands. Whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her, but the sinner shall be taken by her: behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, ver. 26, 27. If these things be not expressive of repentance, it is hard to say what are.

And to this we may add, that as he expresses a grief of heart for past sins; so he warns others that they may not be guilty of that which he himself found more bitter than death; and accordingly, having described the arts used by the wicked woman, 224to betray the unthinking passenger, he cautions every one to take heed of declining to her ways; inasmuch as the consequence thereof will be, that a dart will strike through his liver, and he is as a bird that hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life, Prov. vii. 23. compared with the foregoing verses. He also adds, That she hath cast down many wounded; yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death, ver. 26, 27. So that we find in Solomon, two of the greatest evidences that we can have of sincere repentance; namely, a great degree of sorrow for sin, and an earnest desire that others would avoid it, by giving those cautions that are necessary to prevent their falling into the snare in which he had been entangled.

(3.) There is something spoken in Solomon’s commendation, after his death, which may be gathered from what is said, that during the three first years of Rehoboam’s reign, which God approved of he walked in the way of David and Solomon, 2 Chron. xi. 17. where we may observe, that Solomon is joined with his father David: so that as there were abatements to be made for the blemishes in David’s reign; the reign of Solomon had in it great blemishes: but as one repented, so did the other, and therefore ought not to be reckoned an apostate.

And to all this we may add, that he was a penman of scripture; and it does not appear that God conferred this honour upon any that apostatized from him; but on the other hand, they have this general character given of them by the apostle Peter, that they were all holy men of God, 2 Pet. i. 21. which we must conclude Solomon to have been, till we have greater evidence to the contrary than they can produce who deny it.

3. There are others mentioned in the objection, to wit, Hymeneus and Alexander, whose apostacy we have no ground to doubt of; but we cannot allow that they fell from, or lost the saving grace of faith. It is one thing to fall from the profession of faith, and another thing to lose the grace of faith; therefore, the only thing to be proved in answer to this branch of the objection, is, that these persons, who are described as apostates, never had the truth of grace; or that they only fell from that visible profession which they made thereof; whereby they were reckoned to be, what in reality they were not, namely, true believers. Now that this may appear, let it be considered,

That the apostle speaks of them as having departed from the faith, viz. the doctrines of the gospel; and that was attended with blasphemy, for which they were delivered unto Satan, which is a phrase used by the apostle here and elsewhere, for persons being cut off from the communion of the church; upon which occasion he advises Timothy to hold faith 225and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning faith, have made shipwreck, as these have done.

Now the main force of the objection seems to lie in this, that they who have made shipwreck of faith, were once true believers; therefore, such may apostatize, and so fall short of salvation.

To which it may be replied, that by faith here, is meant the doctrines of the gospel, which are often styled faith: thus it is said, that the apostle preached the faith which once he destroyed, Gal. i. 23. and elsewhere, before faith came; that is, before the gospel-dispensation began, and those doctrines were preached that were to be published therein to the world, we were kept under the law, chap. iii. 23. And again, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith, ver. 2. that is, by hearing those doctrines that are contained in the gospel. Therefore, that which he chargeth these apostates with, is making shipwreck of faith, considered objectively: they once, indeed, held the truth, but it was in unrighteousness; they had right notions of the gospel, which they afterwards lost: now the apostle advises Timothy not only to hold faith, that is, to retain the doctrines of the gospel, as one who had right sentiments of divine truths, but to hold it with a good conscience; for I take that expression, hold faith and a good conscience, to contain an hendyadis; and so it is the same as though he should say, Be not content with an assent to the truths of the gospel, but labour after a conscience void of offence towards God, that thou mayst have the testimony thereof, that thy knowledge of divine truth is practical and experimental, and then thou art out of danger of making shipwreck of faith, as these have done, who held it without a good conscience. It is not said they made shipwreck of a good conscience; for that they never have had; but concerning faith, which they once professed, they made shipwreck.

The same thing may be said concerning Judas; he apostatized from the faith, which he once made a very great profession of, being not only one of Christ’s disciples, but sent forth with the rest of them, to preach the gospel, and work miracles; yet it is evident, that he had not the saving grace of faith. For our Saviour, who knew the hearts of all men, was not deceived in him (though others were) inasmuch as it is said, He knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him, John vi. 64. However, the principal force of the objection lies in this, that Judas must needs have been a believer, because he was given to Christ; and our Saviour says, that those who were given him were kept by him, and none of them was lost but the son of perdition, chap. xvii. 12. His being styled the son of perdition, argues him an 226apostate; and his being given to Christ denotes that he was once a true believer; therefore he fell totally and finally. In answer to which,

(1.) Some conclude, that they who are said to be given to Christ, are such as were appointed, by the providence of God, to be his servants in the work of the ministry. Now it is said concerning them, that they were given to Christ, to be employed by him in this service; and that all of them were kept faithful, except the son of perdition. If this be the sense of their being given to him, it does not necessarily infer their being made partakers of special grace: it is one thing to be given to Christ, to be employed in some peculiar acts of service, in which his glory is concerned; and another thing to be given to him, as being chosen and called by him, to partake of special communion with him: if Judas had been given to him in this latter sense, he would not have been a son of perdition, but would have been kept by him, as the other disciples were; but inasmuch as he was only given to Christ, that he might serve the design of his providence, in the work of the ministry, he might be lost, or appear to be a son of perdition, and yet not fall from the truth of grace.

(2.) If, by being given to Christ, we understand a being given to him, as objects of his special love, we must suppose, that all who were thus given to him, were kept by him; in which sense Judas, who is called the son of perdition, and was not kept by him, was not given to him: accordingly the particle but is not exceptive, but adversative; and it is as though he should say, All that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost; but the son of perdition is lost, I have not preserved him; for he was not the object of my special care and love; he was not given me to save, therefore he is lost. Now it is certain, that the particle but is used in this sense in many other scriptures, particularly that wherein it is said, There shall in no wise enter into it, that is, the heavenly Jerusalem, any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life, Rev. xxi. 27. q. d. ungodly men shall not enter in; but they that are written in the lamb’s book of life shall[93]. Thus much concerning this objection, taken from particular persons, who are supposed to have fallen from grace.

Obj. 2. The next objection is taken from what the apostle Paul says concerning the church of the Jews, whom he describes as apostatized from God; and it is evident, that they are, to this day, given up to judicial blindness, and not in the least disposed to repent of that crime for which they were cast 227off by him; concerning these he says, that they once were holy; If the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root be holy, so are the branches, Rom. xi. 16. and afterwards he speaks of their casting away, and some of the branches being broken off, because of unbelief, ver. 15, 17, 19, 20. Now if the whole church apostatized, we must conclude at least, that some of them were true believers, and therefore true believers may fall from the grace of God.

Answ. That the church of the Jews apostatized, and were cut off for their unbelief, is sufficiently evident: but we must distinguish between the apostacy of a professing people, such as the church of the Jews were, who first rejected God, and then were cast off by him, and the apostacy of those who were truly religious among them; the apostle himself gives us ground for this distinction, when he says, they are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children, chap. ix. 6, 7. And elsewhere he distinguishes between one who is a Jew, as being partaker of the external privileges of the covenant, which that church was under, and a person’s being a Jew, as partaking of the saving blessings thereof; as he says, He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God, Rom. ii. 28, 29. A church may lose its external privileges, and cease to have the honourable character given it; the greatest part of them may be blinded, when, at the same time the election, that is, all among them who were chosen to eternal life, obtained it, as the apostle observes, chap. xi. 7. and thereby intimates, that some who were members of that church were faithful; those were preserved from the common apostacy, being converted to the Christian faith. Their privileges, as members of a church, were lost, but they still retained their spiritual and inseparable union with Christ, which they had as believers, and not as the result of their being the natural seed of Abraham, they were made partakers of the blessings that accompany salvation; and therefore were not separated from the love of God in Christ, whilst formal professors and hypocrites, who were Abraham’s natural seed, but not his spiritual, were cast off by Christ.

Obj. 3. It is farther objected, that there are some who have the character of righteous persons, concerning whom it is supposed, that they may fall away or perish; particularly those mentioned in Ezek. xviii. 24. When the righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doth, shall 228he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned, in the trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die: And in Heb. x. 38. it is said, The just shall live by faith; but if any man, or, as the word should be rendered, if he draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. Therefore, since the righteous man may turn from his righteousness, and draw back to perdition, the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance cannot be defended.

Answ. 1. As to the former of these scriptures, we must consider the sense thereof agreeably to the context, and the scope and design of the prophet therein; he had often reproved them for those vile abominations which they were guilty of, and had denounced the threatnings of God, which should have their accomplishment in their utter ruin; particularly, he fortels the judgments that should sweep away many of them before, and others that should befal them in the captivity: this is the subject principally insisted on by the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel; whereupon sometimes they were represented as disliking the doctrine, desiring that smooth things might be prophesied unto them, and the holy one of Israel might cease from before them. At other times they are represented as complaining of the hardship of this dispensation, intimating that it was unjust and severe, and, at the same time, justifying themselves, as though they had done nothing that deserved it; but all this was to befal them for the sins of their fathers, and accordingly there was a proverbial expression often made use of by them, mentioned verse 2d of this chapter, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge; by which they did not understand that we expect to perish eternally for our fathers’ sins, in which sense it must be taken, if this objection has any force in it: now God, by the prophet, tells them that they had no reason to use this proverb, and so puts them upon looking into their past conduct, and enquiring, whether they had not been guilty of the same sins that their fathers were charged with? which, if they could exculpate themselves from, they should be delivered, and not die, that is, not fall by those judgments which either should go before, or follow the captivity; for that seems to be the sense of dying, according to the prophetic way of speaking, as we have observed elsewhere.[94] For the understanding of this scripture we must consider, that the prophet addresses himself to the house of Israel, who are represented, ver. 25. as complaining, that the way of the Lord was not equal; or, that God’s threatnings or judgments, which were the forerunners of the captivity, were such as they had not deserved; and therefore he tells them that he would deal with them according to their deserts, ver. 24. When the righteous, 229that is, one whose conversation before this seemed to be unblemished, and he not guilty of those enormous crimes which were committed by others (which may be supposed, and yet the person not be in a state of grace) I say, when such an one turneth away from his righteousness, and doth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doth, that is, becomes openly vile and profligate; shall he live? can he expect any thing else but that God should follow him with exemplary judgments, or that he should be involved in the common destruction? In his sin that he hath sinned shall he die. And on the other hand, ver. 27. When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness; that is, they who have been guilty of these abominations shall reform their lives, or turn from their idolatry, murders, adulteries, oppressions, and other vile crimes, that the people in general were charged with, by the prophet, which are assigned as the reason of God’s sending this dreadful judgment of the captivity; I say, if there be such an instance of reformation, he shall save his soul alive; that is, either he shall be delivered from the captivity, or shall be preserved from those temporal judgments that either went before or followed after it. This reformation, and deliverance from these judgments, includes in it something less than saving grace, and a right to eternal life, which is inseparably connected with it, so that if nothing else be intended by the righteous and wicked man; and if the judgments threatened, or their deliverance from them, in case of reformation, includes no more than this, it is evident, that it does not in the least suppose, that any true believer shall apostatize or fall from a state of grace. As we may distinguish between eternal death and temporal judgments; so we must distinguish between a person’s abstaining from the vilest abominations, as a means to escape these judgments; and his exercising those graces that accompany salvation. There may be an external reformation in those who have no special grace, if nothing farther be regarded than a person’s moral character, or inoffensive behaviour in the eye of the world. If we only consider him as abstaining from those sins which are universally reckoned disreputable among those who make any pretensions to religion, and in this respect he be denominated a righteous man, such an one may turn away from his righteousness and become immoral and profligate, and so be reckoned among the number of apostates: nevertheless he cannot be said to apostatize or fall from the grace of God, since moral virtue or the exercise of righteousness in our dealings with men is as much inferior to saving grace, as a form of godliness is to the power thereof.

2. As to the other scripture, mentioned in the objection, it is generally urged against us as an unanswerable argument, taken 230from the express words thereof, to prove the possibility of the saints’ apostacy; and our translation is charged with a wilful mistake, to serve a turn, and make the text speak what it never intended, since all who understand the original must allow that it ought to be rendered, If he draw back, which supposes that the just man may apostatize, or draw back unto perdition. To which it may be replied,

(1.) That though the words, according to the form in which they are laid down, contain a supposition, it does not infer the being or reality of the thing supposed[95]; but only this, that if such a thing should happen, it would be attended with what is laid down as a consequence thereof. This is very agreeable to our common mode of speaking, as when we say; if a virtuous person should commit a capital crime, he will fall under the lash of the law as much as though he had made no pretensions to virtue; nevertheless, it does not follow from hence, that such an one shall do it, or expose himself to this punishment; or, on the other hand, if a king should say to a criminal, as Solomon did to Adonijah, ‘If he will shew himself a worthy man, there shall not an hair of him fall to the earth,’ it cannot be concluded from hence, that he will behave himself so as that his life shall be secured to him. The proposition is true, as there is a just connexion between the supposition and the consequence; yet this does not argue that the thing supposed shall come to pass. Now to apply this to the scripture, under our present consideration; the proposition is doubtless true, that if the just man should draw back, so as to become a wicked man, if he should lose the principle of grace which was implanted in regeneration, and abandon himself to the greatest impieties, he would as certainly perish as though he had never experienced the grace of God; but it must not be inferred from hence, that God will suffer such an one, who is the object both of his love and care, thus to fall and perish, so that his soul should have no pleasure in him.

(2.) If we suppose the person here spoken of, whom we consider as a true believer, to draw back, we may distinguish between backsliding or turning aside from God, by the commission of very great sins; and apostacy. Or between drawing back, by being guilty of great crimes, so as to expose himself to sore judgments; and his drawing back to perdition. The just man in this text, is said, indeed, to draw back, but he is distinguished from one that draws back to perdition; as it is said in the following verse, ‘We are not of them who draw back to perdition, but of them that believe, to the saving of the soul.’ Such a drawing back as this, though it shall not end in perdition, inasmuch as the person shall be recovered and 231brought to repentance; yet it shall be attended with very great marks of God’s displeasure against believers, for those sins which they have committed, as well as others; accordingly, his soul having no pleasure in them, denotes that he would, in various instances, reveal his wrath against relapsing believers, as a display of his holiness, who shall nevertheless be recovered and saved at last. If these things be duly considered, the objection seems to have no weight in it, though it should be allowed, that the words upon which it is principally founded, are not rightly translated.

However, I cannot see sufficient reason to set aside our translation, it being equally just to render the words, if any man draw back[96]; since the supplying the words any man, or any one, is allowed of in many other instances, both in the Old and New Testament. Therefore there is not the least incongruity in its being supplied in the text under our present consideration[97]; and, if it be, the sense that we give of it, will appear very agreeable to the context; accordingly the meaning is, ‘The just shall live by faith,’ or they who ‘know in themselves that they have in heaven a better and an enduring substance,’ as in one of the foregoing verses: These shall live by faith, but as for others who do not live by faith, having only a form or shew of religion, ‘whose manner is to forsake the assembling of themselves together,’ as in verse 25. these are inclined to draw back; therefore, let them know that if any one, or whosoever draws back, it will be at their peril; for it will be to their own perdition; yet saith the apostle, that true believers may not be discouraged by the apostacy of others, let them take notice of what is said in the following words, ‘We are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them 232that believe, to the saving of the soul.’ These things being duly considered, it will be sufficiently evident that this text does not militate against the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance.

Obj. 4. There is another objection brought against the doctrine we have been endeavouring to maintain, taken from what the apostle says in Heb. vi. 4, 5, 6. ‘It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.’ The force of this objection lies in two things, viz. that they are described as total and final apostates; and also, that according to the account we have of their former conversation, they appear then to have been true believers.

Answ. This is thought, by some, who defend the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, to be one of the most difficult objections that we generally meet with against it; especially they who cannot see how it is possible for a person to make such advances towards true godliness, and yet be no other than an hypocrite or formal professor, are obliged to take a method to set aside the force of the objection, which I cannot give into, namely, that when the apostle says, It is impossible that such should be renewed again to repentance; the word impossible denotes nothing else, but that the thing is exceeding difficult, not that they shall eventually perish; because they are supposed to be true believers; but their recovery after such a notorious instance of backsliding, shall be attended with difficulties so great that nothing can surmount, but the extraordinary power of God; and though he will recover them, yet they shall feel the smart thereof as long as they live; they shall be saved, yet so as by fire[98].

233But notwithstanding the word impossible may be sometimes taken for that which is very difficult, I cannot but conclude that the apostle is here speaking of that which is impossible, with respect to the event, and therefore, that he is giving the character of apostates who shall never be recovered. This appears, not only from the heinousness of the crime, as they are said to crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame; but from what is mentioned in the following verses, in which they are compared to the earth that bringeth forth thorns and briars, which is rejected, and nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned; and from their being distinguished from those who shall be saved, concerning whom the apostle was persuaded better things, and things that accompany salvation; therefore he is speaking here concerning a total and final apostasy.

But that this may not appear to militate against the doctrine we are maintaining, I shall endeavour to shew, that notwithstanding the character the apostle gives of the persons he here speaks of they were destitute of the truth of grace, and therefore nothing is said concerning them, but what a formal professor may attain to: That this may appear let it be considered,

1. That they are described as once enlightened; but this a person may be, and yet be destitute of saving faith. If by being enlightened we understand their having been baptized, as some critics take the word, which was afterwards, in some following ages, used in that sense, it might easily be alleged, that a person might be baptized and yet not be a true believer: But since I question whether baptism was expressed by illumination in the apostles age[100], I would rather understand by it, their having been convinced of the truth of the gospel, or 234yielded an assent to the doctrines contained therein. Now this a person may do, and yet be destitute of saving faith, which is seated not barely in the understanding, but in the will, and therefore supposes him not only to be rightly informed, with respect to those things which are the object of faith, but to be internally and effectually called, from whence saving faith proceeds, as has been before observed.

2. They are said to have tasted the good word of God; which agrees with the character before given of those who had a temporary faith[101], who seemed, for a while, pleased with the word, and their affections were raised in hearing it; as Herod is said to have heard John the Baptist gladly, and to have done many things; like those whom our Saviour compares to the seed sown in stony ground, which soon sprang up, but afterwards withered away. This a person may do, and yet not have saving faith; for it is one thing to approve of, and be affected with the word, and another thing to mix it with that faith which accompanies salvation. A person may entertain those doctrines contained in the word which relate to a future state of blessedness with pleasure; as all men desire to be happy, and at the same time be far from practising the duties of self-denial, taking up the cross, and following Christ, mortifying indwelling sin, and exercising an intire dependance upon, and resignation to him in all things: This contains much more than what is expressed by tasting the good word of God.

3. They are farther described as having tasted the heavenly gift, and being made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and of the powers of the world to come; all which expressions, I humbly conceive, carry in them no more than this, that they had been enabled to work miracles, or that they had a faith of miracles, which has been before described[102], and proved to fall very short of saving faith[103]. Therefore these characters given of them do not argue that they were true believers, and consequently the objection, which depends on the supposition that they were, is of no force to prove that saints may totally or finally fall from grace.

Obj. 5. The next objection against the doctrine we have been maintaining, is taken from Heb. x. 29. Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and 235hath done despite unto the spirit of grace. The crime here spoken of is of the heinous nature, and the greatest punishment is said to be inflicted for it: Now, inasmuch as these are described as having been sanctified by the blood of the covenant, it follows, that they were true believers, and consequently true believers may apostatize, and fall short of salvation.

Answ. The force of the objection lies principally in those words, the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified; which expression is taken, by divines, in two different senses.

1. Some take the word he in the same sense as it is taken in the objection, as referring to the apostate; and then the difficulty which occurs, is how such an one could be said to be sanctified by the blood of the covenant, and yet not regenerate, effectually called, or a true believer: To solve this, they suppose, that by sanctification we are only to understand a relative holiness, which such have who are made partakers of the common grace of the gospel: Thus it is said, Israel was holiness unto the Lord, Jer. ii. 3. or, as the apostle Peter expresses it, an holy nation, 1 Pet. ii. 9. as they were God’s people by an external covenant relation, and by an explicit consent to be governed by those laws which he gave them when they first became a church, Exod. xxiv. 3. and publicly avouched him to be their God, and he avouched them to be his peculiar people, which was done upon some solemn occasions, Deut. xxvi. 17, 18. Nevertheless, many of them were destitute of the special grace of sanctification, as it contains in it a thorough and universal change of heart and life. Moreover, they suppose that this privilege of being God’s people, by an external covenant-relation, together with all these common gifts and graces that attend it, was purchased by, and founded on the blood of Christ, which is called the blood of the covenant, inasmuch as he was given for a covenant of the people, Isa. xlii. 6. and pursuant hereunto, he shed his blood to procure for them the external as well as the saving blessings of the covenant of grace; the former of these, the persons here described as apostates, are supposed to have been made partakers of, as the apostle says, To them pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises, Rom. ix. 4. they worshipped him in all his ordinances, as those whom the prophet speaks of, who seek him daily, and delight to know his ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God; they ask of him the ordinances of justice, and take delight in approaching to God; and yet these things were not done by faith, Isa. lviii. 2. In this respect persons may be sanctified, and yet afterwards forfeit, neglect, despise and forsake these ordinances, and lose the external privileges of the covenant of grace, which they once had, 236and so become apostates. This is the most common method used to solve the difficulty contained in the objection. But I would rather acquiesce in another way, which may be taken to account for the sense of those words, the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified. Therefore, let it be considered,

2. That the word he may be understood, not as referring to the apostate, but our Saviour, who is spoken of immediately before: thus the apostate is said to ‘trample under foot the Son of God, and count the blood of the covenant wherewith He, that is, Christ, ‘was sanctified, an unholy thing.’ That this sense may appear just, it may be observed, that Christ was sanctified or set apart by the Father, to perform all the branches of his Mediatorial office, in two respects.

(1.) As he was fore-ordained or appointed, by him, to come into the world to shed his blood for the redemption of his people: thus his undertaking to redeem them is called his sanctifying, or devoting himself to perform this work, as he says, ‘For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth,’ John xvii. 19. this he did in pursuance of the eternal transaction between the Father and him, relating hereunto. But it will be said, that this was antecedent to his dying for them; and therefore, properly speaking, he could not be said, in this respect, to be sanctified by the blood of the covenant; therefore, to this we may add,

(2.) That he was also sanctified, or set apart by the Father, to apply the work of redemption after he had purchased it; which sanctification was, in the most proper sense, the result of his shedding his blood, which was the blood of the covenant; so that as he was ‘brought again from the dead,’ as the apostle speaks, ‘through the blood of the everlasting covenant,’ Heb. xiii. 20. all the blessings which he applies to his people as the consequence hereof, are the result of his being sanctified, or set apart to carry on and perfect the work of our salvation, the foundation whereof was laid in his blood.

Moreover, that they who are here described as apostates, had not before this, the grace of faith, is evident from the context, inasmuch as they are distinguished from true believers. The apostle seems to speak of two sorts of persons, to wit, some who had cast off the ordinances of God’s worship, ‘forsaking the assembling of themselves together,’ who are distinguished from those whom he dehorts from this sin, who had the grace of faith, whereby they were enabled to ‘draw near to God in full assurance thereof, having their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and their bodies washed with pure water;’ concerning these he says, ‘We are not of them who draw back to perdition, but of them who believe to the saving of the soul,’ chap. x. 39. Therefore we must conclude that 237others are intended in the text under our present consideration, who were not true believers, and consequently it does not from hence appear that such may totally, or finally, fall from a state of grace.

The apostates spoken of in this and the foregoing objection, were probably some among the Jews, to whom the gospel was preached, who embraced the Christian faith, being convinced by those miracles which were wrought for that purpose, but afterwards revolted from it, and were more inveterately set against Christ and the gospel than they had been before they made this profession; and accordingly as they had formerly approved of the crimes of those who crucified Christ, in which respect they are said to have crucified him; now they do, in the same sense, crucify him afresh. And as they had been made partakers of the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost; afterwards they openly blasphemed him, and this was done with spite and malice. These texts therefore not only contain a sad instance of the apostasy of some, but prove that they were irrecoverably lost; and this comes as near the account we have in the gospels of the unpardonable sin, as any thing mentioned in scripture: nevertheless, what has been said to prove that they never were true believers, is a sufficient answer to this and the foregoing objection.

Objec. 6. Another objection against the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, is taken from 2 Pet. ii. 20-22. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome; the latter end is worse with them than the beginning; and they are said in the following verse, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them; which is compared to the dog turning to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire.

Answ. To this it may be replied, That though every one must conclude, that the persons, whom the apostle here speaks of, plainly appear to be apostates; yet there is nothing in their character which argues that they apostatized, or fell from the truth of grace; and it is only such whom we are at present speaking of. It may be observed, that the apostle is so far from including these apostates in the number of those to whom he writes this, with the foregoing epistle, whom he describes as elect, according to the fore-knowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, and as having been begotten again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, to an inheritance reserved for them in heaven, and as such, who should be kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation, 1 Pet. i. 2-5. that he plainly distinguishes them from them. For in 238verse 1, of this chapter, from whence it is taken, it is said, ‘There shall be false teachers among you, and many shall follow their pernicious ways;’ he does not say many, who are now of your number, but many who shall be joined to the church, when these false teachers arise. These persons, indeed, are represented as making a great shew of religion, by which they gained reputation among some professors, whom they seduced which otherwise they could not have done; and therefore it is said, ‘They had escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,’ and that they had ‘known the way of righteousness.’ Such might indeed be joined to the church afterwards; but they did not now belong to it; and what is said concerning them, amounts to no more than an external visible reformation, together with their having attained the knowledge of Christ and divine things; so that they were enlightened in the doctrines of the gospel; though they made it appear, by the methods they used to deceive others, that they had not experienced the grace of the gospel themselves, and therefore they fell away from their profession, and turned aside from the faith, which once they preached. It is one thing for a formal professor, who makes a great show of religion, to turn aside from his profession, to all excess of riot; and another thing to suppose a true believer can do so, and that to such a degree as to continue therein; this the grace of God will keep him from.

Objec. 7. Another objection against the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, is taken from the parable of the debtor and creditor, in Matt, xviii. 26, &c. in which it is said, ‘The servant fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the Lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt;’ but afterwards, upon his treating one of his fellow-servants, who owed him a very inconsiderable sum, with great severity, his lord exacted the debt of him, which he had before forgiven him, and so delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him: ‘So likewise,’ it is said, ‘shall my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye, from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses;’ from whence it is inferred, that a person may fall from a justified state, or that God may forgive sin at one time, and yet be provoked to alter his resolution, and inflict the punishment that is due to it, at another; which is altogether inconsistent with the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance in grace.

Answ. In answer to this we must observe, that our Saviour’s design in his parables, is not that every word or circumstance contained in them, should be applied to signify what it seems 239to import, but there is some truth in general intended to be illustrated thereby, which is principally to be regarded therein. Thus in the parable of the judge, in Luke xviii. 2, &c. ‘which feared not God, neither regarded man,’ who was moved, by a widow’s importunity, to ‘avenge her of her adversary;’ which after a while, he resolved to do, because the widow troubled him. This is applied to ‘God’s avenging his elect, who cry day and night unto him;’ where we must observe, that it is only in this circumstance that the parable is to be applied to them without any regard had to the injustice of the judge, or his being uneasy, by reason of the importunity which the widow exprest in pleading her cause with him.

Again, in the parable of the steward, in Luke xvi. 1, &c. who being accused for having wasted his lord’s goods; and apprehending that he should be soon turned out of the stewardship, he takes an unjust method to gain the favour of his lord’s debtors, by remitting a part of what they owed him, that by this means they might be induced to shew kindness to him when he was turned out of his service. It is said indeed, verse 8. that ‘the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had acted wisely;’ whereas, our Saviour does not design, in the account he gives of his injustice, to give the least countenance to it, as though it were to be imitated by us; nor by his lord’s commending him as acting wisely for himself, does he intend that it is lawful or commendable for wicked men to pursue the like measures to promote their future interest. But the only thing in which this parable is applied, is, that we might learn from hence, that ‘the children of this world are, in their generation wiser than the children of light;’ and that men ought to endeavour, without the least appearance of injustice, to gain the friendship of others, by using what they have in the world, in such a way, as that they may be induced, out of gratitude for those favours, which they conferred upon them, to shew respect to them; but principally, that in performing what was really their duty, they might have ground to hope that they shall be approved of God, and received into everlasting habitations.

Now to apply this rule to the parable from whence the objection is taken, we must consider, that the design hereof is not to signify that God changes his mind, as men do, by forgiving persons at one time, and afterwards condemning them, as though he did not know, when he extended this kindness to them, how they would behave towards others, or whether they would improve or forfeit this privilege; since to suppose this would be contrary to the divine perfections. Therefore the only design of the parable is to shew, that they who now conclude that God has forgiven them, ought to forgive others, or 240else they will find themselves mistaken at last: and though according to the tenor of the divine dispensations, or the revealed will of God, which is our only rule of judging concerning this matter, they think that they are in a justified state, it will appear, that the debt which they owed was not cancelled, but shall be exacted of them to the utmost, in their own persons; so that all that can be proved from hence is, that a man may fall from, or lose those seeming grounds, which we had to conclude that his sins were forgiven: but we are not to suppose that our Saviour intends hereby that God’s secret purpose, relating to the forgiveness of sin, can be changed; or that he, who is really freed from condemnation, at one time, may fall under it at another: therefore, what is said in this parable, does not in the least give countenance to this objection, or overthrow the doctrine we are maintaining.

Objec. 8. There is another objection, taken from what the apostle Paul says concerning himself, in 1 Cor. ix. 27. I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away. Now it is certain that the apostle was a true believer; yet he concludes, that if he did not behave himself so as to subdue or keep under his corrupt passions, but should commit those open scandalous crimes, which they would prompt him to, he should, in the end, become a cast-away, that is, apostatize from God, and be rejected by him.

Answ. To this it may be replied, That though the apostle had as good ground to conclude that he had experienced the grace of God in truth, as any man, and was oftentimes favoured with a full assurance hereof; yet he did not attain this assurance by immediate revelation, so as he received those doctrines which he was to impart to the church as a rule of faith; for then it would have been impossible for him to have been mistaken as to this matter: and if this be supposed, then I would understand what he says concerning his being a cast-away, as denoting what would be the consequence of his not keeping under his body; but not implying hereby that corrupt nature should so far prevail, as that he should fall from a sanctified state. Now if he did not attain this assurance by immediate revelation, then he had it in the same way as others have, by making use of those marks and characters which are given of the truth of grace; and accordingly he argues, that though, at present, he thought himself to be in a sanctified state, from the same evidences that others conclude themselves to be so; yet if corrupt nature should prevail over him, which it would do, if he did not keep his body in subjection, or if he were guilty of those vile abominations which unregenerate persons are chargeable with, then it would appear, that this assurance 241was ill grounded, his hope of salvation delusive, and he no other than an hypocrite; and so, notwithstanding his having preached to others, he would be found, in the end, among them who were false professors, and accordingly rejected of God: therefore we may observe, that it is one thing for a person to exercise that caution, and use those means to prevent sin, which, if he should commit, would prove him an hypocrite; and another thing for one that is a true believer, to be suffered to commit those sins whereby he would apostatize from God, and so miss of salvation.

And this will serve to answer another objection that is usually brought against the doctrine we are maintaining, as though it were inconsistent with that holy fear which believers ought to have of falling, as an inducement to care and watchfulness in the discharge of their duty; as it is said in Prov. xxviii. 14. Happy is the man that feareth always; inasmuch as we must distinguish between that fear of caution, which is a preservative against sin, and includes a watchfulness over our actions, that we may not dishonour God thereby; and an unbelieving fear, that though we are in a state of grace, and are enabled to exercise that diligence and circumspection that becomes christians, yet we have no foundation whereon to set our foot, or ground to hope for salvation. Or, it is one thing to fear, lest we should, by giving way to sin, dishonour God, grieve his Spirit, and wound our own consciences, and do that which is a disgrace to the gospel, through the prevalency of corrupt nature, whereby we shall have ground to conclude that we thought ourselves something when we were nothing, deceiving our own souls; and another thing to fear that we shall perish and fall, though our hearts are right with God, and we have reason to expect that we shall be kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation.

We shall conclude this answer with some few inferences from what has been said, to prove the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance as contained therein. And,

1. Since we do not pretend to assert that all who make a profession of religion are assured that they shall never apostatize, but only true believers, let unbelievers take no encouragement from hence to conclude, that it shall be well with them in the end. Many are externally called who are not really sanctified; and presume that they shall be saved, though, without ground, inasmuch as they continue in impenitency and unbelief; such have no warrant to take comfort from the doctrine we have been maintaining.

2. We may, from what has been said, observe the difference between the security of a believer’s state, as his hope is fixed on the stability of the covenant, and the promises thereof, relating 242to his salvation, together with the Spirit’s witness, with ours, concerning our own sincerity; and that which we generally call carnal security, whereby a person thinks himself safe, or that all things shall go well with him, though he make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof: This is an unwarrantable security in a state of unregeneracy, or licentiousness, which this doctrine does not in the least give countenance to.

3. From what has been said concerning the apostasy of some from that faith which they once made a profession of, we may infer; that it is only the grace of God experienced in truth, that will preserve us from turning aside from the faith of the gospel. The apostle speaks of some who, by embracing those doctrines that were subversive of the gospel, are fallen from grace, Gal. v. 4. that is, from the doctrines of grace; concerning whom he says, that Christ profited them nothing, or was become of no effect to them, chap. v. 2, 4. that is, the gospel, which contains a display of the glory of Christ, was of no saving advantage to them. All the sad instances we have of many, who are tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, and are made a prey to those that lie in wait to deceive, proceed from their being destitute of the grace of God, which would have a tendency to preserve them from turning aside from the faith of the gospel.

4. Let us be exhorted to be as diligent and watchful against the breakings forth of corruption, and endeavour to avoid all occasions of sin, as much as though perseverance in grace were to be ascribed to our own endeavours, or as though God had given us no ground to conclude that he would enable us to persevere; and yet, at the same time, depend on his assistance, without which this blessing cannot be attained, and hope in his mercy and faithfulness, and lay hold on the promises which he has given us, that it shall go well with us in the end, or that we shall have all joy and peace in believing.

5. Let us not only endeavour to persevere, but grow in grace; which two blessings are joined together; as it is said, The righteous also shall hold on his way; and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger, Job xvii. 9.

6. This doctrine has a great tendency to support and fortify believers, under the most adverse dispensations of providence, which, at any time, they are liable to; and to comfort them under all the assaults of their spiritual enemies; since though they may be suffered to discourage or give them interruption in the exercise of those graces which they have experienced, yet grace shall not be wholly extinguished. And sometimes, by the over-ruling providence of God, those things which in themselves have a tendency to weaken their faith, shall be ordered 243as a means to increase it; so that when they can do nothing in their own strength, they may be enabled, by depending on Christ, and receiving strength from him, to prevail against all the opposition they meet with, and come off more than conquerors, at last, through him that loved them, Rom. viii. 37.

Quest. LXXX.

Quest. LXXX. Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?

Answ. Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavour to walk in all good conscience before him, may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God’s promises, and by the Spirit, enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made, and bearing witness with their spirits, that they are the children of God, be infallibly assured that they are in a state of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.

Having before considered a believer as made partaker of those graces of the Holy Spirit that accompany salvation, whereby his state is rendered safe, and also that he shall not draw back unto perdition, but shall attain the end of his faith, even the salvation of his soul; it is necessary for the establishing of his comfort and joy, that he should know himself to be interested in this privilege. It is a great blessing to be redeemed by Christ, and sanctified by the Spirit; but it is a superadded privilege to know that we are so, or be assured that we are in a state of grace, which is the subject insisted on in this answer: In which we are led,

I. To speak something concerning the nature of assurance, and how far persons may be said to be infallibly assured of their salvation.

II. We shall endeavour to prove that this blessing is attainable in this life.

III. We shall consider the character of those to whom it belongs. And,

IV. The means whereby it may be attained.

I. Concerning the nature of assurance, and how far persons may be said to be infallibly assured of their salvation. Assurance is opposed to doubting; which is inconsistent therewith; so that he who has attained this privilege, is carried above all those doubts and fears respecting the truth of grace, and his interest in the love of God, which others are exposed to, whereby their lives are rendered very uncomfortable: It may also be considered as containing in it something more than our being 244enabled to hope that we are in a state of grace; for though that affords relief against despair, yet it falls short of assurance, which is sometimes called a full assurance of hope, Heb. vi. 11. and it certainly contains a great deal more than a probability, or a conjectural persuasion relating to this matter; which is the only thing that some will allow to be attainable by believers, especially they who deny the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, and lay the greatest stress of man’s salvation on his own free-will, rather than the efficacious grace of God. All that they will own as to this matter is, that persons may be in a hopeful way to salvation, and that it is probable they may attain it at last. But they cannot be fully assured that they shall, unless they were assured concerning their perseverance, which, they suppose, no one can be; because the carrying on of the work of grace depends on the free-will of man, as well as the first beginning of it; and according to their notion of liberty, as has been before observed under another answer[104], viz. that he who acts freely may act the contrary; and consequently, since every thing that is done in the carrying on of the work of grace, is done freely; no one can be assured that this work shall not miscarry; therefore none can attain assurance; this is what some assert, but we deny. And it is observed in this answer, that believers may not only attain assurance that they are in a state of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation, but that they may be infallibly assured hereof, which is the highest degree of assurance. How far this is attainable by believers, may be the subject of our farther inquiry.

It is a matter of dispute among some, whether assurance admits of any degrees, or whether a person can be said to be more or less assured of a thing? or whether that which does not amount to the highest degree of certainty, may be called assurance? This is denied, by some, for this reason; because assurance is the highest and strongest assent that can be given to the truth of any proposition; accordingly the least defect of evidence on which it is supposed to be founded, leaves the mind in a proportionable degree of doubt, as to the truth of it; in which case there may be a probability, but not an assurance. If this method of explaining the meaning of the word be true, then it is beyond dispute, that they who have attained assurance of their being in a state of grace, may be said to be infallibly assured thereof: Whether this be the sense of that expression in this answer, I will not pretend to determine; neither shall I enter any farther into this dispute, which amounts to little more than what concerns the propriety or impropriety of the sense of the word assurance. All that I shall add concerning it, is, that according to our common mode of speaking it is reckoned 245no absurdity for a person to say he is sure of a thing, though it be possible for him to have greater evidence of the truth thereof, and consequently a greater degree of assurance. Thus the assurance that arises from the possession of a thing cannot but be greater than that which attends the bare expectation of it: Therefore whatever be the sense of that infallible assurance, which is here spoken of; we cannot suppose that there is any degree of assurance attainable in this life, concerning the happiness of the saints in heaven, equal to that which they have who are actually possessed of that blessedness; to suppose this would be to confound earth and heaven together, or expectation with actual fruition.

As to what relates to our assurance thereof, there is another matter of dispute among some, which I am not desirous to enter into; namely, whether it is possible for a believer to be as sure that he shall be saved, as he is that he exists, or that he is a sinner, and so stands in need of salvation? or whether it is possible for a person to be as sure that he shall be saved, as he is sure of that truth which is matter of pure revelation, viz. that he, that believes shall be saved? or whether it is possible for a person to be as sure that he has the truth of grace, as he may be that he performs any actions, whether natural or religious; such as speaking, praying, reading, hearing, &c. or whether we may be as sure that we have a principle of grace, as we are that we put forth such actions, as seem to proceed from that principle, when engaged in the performance of some religious duties? If any are disposed to defend the possibility of our attaining assurance in so great a degree as this, as what they think to be the meaning of what some divines have asserted, agreeably to what is contained in this answer, that a believer may be infallibly assured of his salvation, I will not enter the list with them; though I very much question whether it will not be a matter of too great difficulty for them to support their argument, without the least appearance of exception to it.

Nevertheless, (that I may not extenuate or deny the privileges which some saints have been favoured with, who have been, as it were, in the suburbs of heaven, and not only had a prelibation, but a kind of sensation, of the enjoyments thereof, and expressed as full an assurance as though they had been actually in heaven); it cannot be denied that this, in various instances, has amounted, as near as possible, to an assurance of infallibility; and that such a degree of assurance has been attained, by some believers, both in former and later ages, will be proved under a following head, which, I am apt to think, is what is intended in this answer, by the possibility of a believer’s being infallibly assured of salvation. But let it be considered, that these are uncommon instances, in which the Spirit 246of God, by his immediate testimony, has favoured them with, as to this matter, which are not to be reckoned as a standard, whereby we may judge of that assurance which God’s children desire, and sometimes enjoy, which falls short of it: Therefore, when God is pleased to give a believer such a degree of assurance, as carries him above all his doubts and fears, with respect to his being in a state of grace, and fills him with those joys which arise from hence, that are unspeakable, and full of glory; this is that assurance which we are now to consider, which, in this answer is called an infallible assurance; whether it be more or less properly so called, we have nothing farther to add; but shall proceed,

II. To prove that this privilege is attainable in this present life; and that it may appear to be so, let it be considered,

1. That if the knowledge of other things which are of less importance, be attainable, then certainly it is possible for us to attain that which is of the greatest importance. This argument is founded on the goodness of God; if he has given us sufficient means to lead us into the knowledge of other things, which respect our comfort and happiness in this world; has he left us altogether destitute of those means whereby we may conclude, that it shall go well with us in a better? God has sometimes been pleased to favour his people with some intimations concerning the blessings of common providence, which they might expect for their encouragement, under the trials and difficulties which they were to meet with in the world; and our Saviour encourages his disciples to expect, that notwithstanding their present destitute circumstances, as to outward things; yet their Father, who knows that they had need of them, would supply their wants; and therefore they had no reason to be over-solicitous in taking thought what they should eat and drink, and wherewithal they should be clothed, Matt. vi. 31, 32. and if God, that he may encourage the faith of his people, gives them assurance that no temptation shall befal them, but what is common to men; or, that they shall not be pressed down, so as to sink and despair of help from him, under the burdens and difficulties that, in the course of his providence, he lays on them; I say, if God is pleased to give such intimations to his people, with respect to their condition in this world, that they may be assured that it shall go well with them, as to many things that concern their outward circumstances therein; may we not conclude from hence, that the assurance of those things that concern their everlasting salvation may be attained? or, if the promises that respect the one may be depended on so as to afford relief against all doubts and fears that may arise from our present circumstances in the world; may we not, with as good reason, suppose, that the promises which respect the other, 247to wit, the carrying on and perfecting the work of grace, afford equal matter of encouragement; and consequently, that the one is as much to be depended on, as the other; so that as the apostle says, they who have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before them, may have strong consolation arising from thence, Heb. vi. 18.

Objec. It will be objected to this, that the promises that respect outward blessings are not always fulfilled, and therefore we cannot be assured concerning our future condition, as to outward circumstances in the world; though godliness, as the apostle says, hath the promise of the world that now is, as well as that which is to come. This appears from the uncommon instances of affliction, that the best men often meet with, which others are exempted from. Therefore the promises which respect the carrying on and completing the work of grace, will not afford that assurance of salvation which we suppose a believer may attain to, as founded thereon.

Answ. In answer to this it may be replied, that the promises of outward blessings are always fulfilled, either in kind or value. Sometimes the destitute state of believers, as to the good things of this life, is abundantly compensated with those spiritual blessings, which are, at present, bestowed on, or reserved for them hereafter; and therefore, if their condition in the world be attended with little else but affliction, they have no reason to say that they are disappointed; for while they are denied the lesser, they have the greater blessings instead thereof, so that their assurance of the accomplishment of the promises of outward blessings, must be understood with this limitation: but as to spiritual blessings, which God has promised to his people, there is no foundation for any distinction of their being made good in kind or in value; if the promise of eternal life be not made good according to the letter of it, it cannot be, in any sense, said to be accomplished: therefore, since God gives his people these promises as a foundation of hope, we may conclude from thence, that the assurance of believers, relating to their salvation, is as much to be depended on as the assurance they have, founded on the promises of God, concerning any blessings which may tend to support them in their present condition in the world.

2. That assurance of justification, sanctification and salvation, may be attained in this life, is farther evident from the obligations which persons are under to pray for these privileges, and to bless God for the experience which they have of the one, and the ground which they have to expect the other. That it is our duty to pray for them is no less certain than that we stand in need of them; this therefore being taken for granted, it may be inferred from hence, that there is some way by 248which we may know that our prayers are answered, the contrary to which would be a very discouraging consideration; neither could the experience hereof be alleged as a motive to the performance of the duty of prayer, as the Psalmist says, O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come, Psal. lxv. 2. Nor could any believer have the least reason to say as he does elsewhere, Verily God hath heard me, he hath attended to the voice of my prayer, Psal. lxvi. 19. And the apostle says, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us, 1 John v. 14, 15. and this is said in the following words, to be known by us, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him; therefore it follows, that we may know from the exercise of faith in prayer, for the forgiveness of sin, that our iniquities are forgiven; the same may be said concerning the subject-matter of our prayer for all other blessings that accompany salvation; and consequently it is possible for us to know whether God has granted us these blessings or no.

But if it be replied to this, that it is not absolutely necessary that an humble suppliant should have any intimations given him, that his petition shall be granted; or that it would be a very unbecoming thing for such an one to say, that he will not ask for a favour, if he be not sure before-hand that it will he bestowed.

To this it may be answered, That we are not only to pray for saving blessings, but to praise God for our experience thereof; as it is said, Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me, Psal. l. 23. and praise is comely for the upright, Psal. xxxiii. 1. Now this supposes that we know that God has bestowed the blessings we prayed for upon us. If the Psalmist calls upon his soul to bless the Lord for forgiving him all his iniquities, Psal. ciii. 2, 3. we must suppose that there was some method by which he attained the assurance of the blessing which he praises God for; which leads us to consider,

3. That some have attained this privilege, therefore it is not impossible for others to attain it. That some have been assured of their salvation, is evident from the account we have thereof in several scriptures, Thus the apostle tells the church he writes to, God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation, 1 Thes. v. 7. and he says concerning himself, I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him, against that day, 2 Tim. i. 12.

Objec. To this it is objected, that though it is true, some persons of old, have experienced this privilege, yet it does not follow from hence that we have any ground to expect it; since they attained it by extraordinary revelation, in that age in which they were favoured with the spirit of inspiration, whereby they 249arrived to the knowledge of things future, even such as it was impossible for them otherwise to have known, at least, they could not without these extraordinary intimations, have arrived to any more than a probable conjecture concerning this matter; and this is not denied by those who oppose the doctrine of assurance: whereas, to pretend to more than this, is to suppose that we have it by extraordinary inspiration, which, at present, can be reckoned no other than enthusiasm.

Answ. To this it may be replied, That though God does not give the church, at present, the least ground to expect extraordinary intimations concerning their interest in spiritual and saving blessings, as he formerly did; yet we must not conclude that there is no method whereby they may attain the assurance hereof in a common and ordinary way, by the internal testimony of the Spirit; which, as will farther appear under a following head, differs very much from enthusiasm; since it is attended with, and founded on those evidences which God has given hereof in scripture, which they, in a way of self-examination, are enabled to apprehend in themselves. That this may appear, let it be considered,

(1.) That there never was any privilege conferred upon the church by extraordinary revelation, while that dispensation was continued therein, but the same, or some other which is equivalent thereunto, is still conferred in an ordinary way, provided it be absolutely necessary for the advancing the glory of God, and their edification and consolation in Christ. If this were not true, the church could hardly subsist, much less would the present dispensation of the covenant of grace excel the other which the church was under in former ages, as to those spiritual privileges which they have ground to expect. It is, I think, allowed by all, that the gospel-dispensation, not only in the beginning thereof, when extraordinary gifts were conferred, but in its continuance, now they are ceased, excels that which went before it, with respect to the spiritual privileges which are conferred therein. Now if God was pleased formerly to converse with men in an extraordinary way, and thereby give them an intimation of things relating to their salvation, but, at present, withholds not only the way and manner of revealing this to them, but the blessings conveyed thereby; then it will follow, that the church is in a worse state than it was before; or else it must be supposed that these privileges are not absolutely necessary to enable them to glorify God, which they do by offering praise to him, and to their attaining that peace and joy which they are given to expect in a way of believing; but if the church were destitute of this privilege, it would be in a very unhappy state, and retain nothing that could compensate the loss of those extraordinary gifts that are now ceased.

250They who insist on this objection, and charge the doctrine of assurance as what savours of enthusiasm, are obliged, by their own method of reasoning, to apply the same objection to the doctrine of internal, special, efficacious grace, which we have, under a foregoing answer,[105] proved to be the work of the Spirit; and if these internal works are confined to the extraordinary dispensation of the Spirit, then the church is at present as much destitute of sanctification as it is of assurance. Therefore we must conclude, that one no more savours of enthusiasm than the other; or that we have ground to hope for assurance of salvation, though not in an extraordinary way, as much as the saints did in former ages.

(2.) Our Saviour has promised his people the Spirit to perform what is necessary for the carrying on the work of grace in all ages, even when extraordinary gifts should cease: accordingly he says, The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you, John xiv. 26. And elsewhere it is said, Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things, 1 John ii. 20. And to this privilege of assurance, it is said, We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God, 1 Cor. ii. 12. And there are many other promises of the Spirit, which though they had their accomplishment, as to what respects the conferring extraordinary gifts, in the first age of the church; yet they have a farther accomplishment in what the Spirit was to bestow on the church in the following ages thereof, though in an ordinary way. This seems very evident from scripture; inasmuch as the fruits of the Spirit are said to appear in the exercise of those graces which believers have in all ages, who never had extraordinary gifts: thus it is said, The fruit of the Spirit, is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, Gal. v. 22, 23. Now if these graces be produced by the Spirit, as they are called his fruits, and the exercise thereof be not confined to any particular age of the church, then we must suppose that the Spirit’s energy extends itself to all ages.

Again, believers are said, to be led by the Spirit, Rom. viii. 14. and this is assigned as an evidence of their being the sons of God; and, on the other hand, it is said, If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his, ver. 9. from whence we may conclude, that there was, in the apostles’ days, an effusion of the Spirit, common to all believers, besides that which was conferred in an extraordinary way, on those who were favoured with the gift of inspiration; otherwise, the having the Spirit 251would not have been considered as a privilege belonging only to believers, and being destitute of it, an argument of a person’s not belonging to Christ. As for the extraordinary dispensation of the Holy Ghost, it was not inseparably connected with salvation; for many had it who were Christians only in name, and had nothing more than a form of godliness; and on the other hand, many true believers brought forth those fruits which proceeded from the Spirit, in an ordinary way, who had not these extraordinary gifts conferred on them. Moreover the apostle speaks of believers through the Spirit mortifying the deeds of the body, Rom. viii. 13. Now if the work of mortification be incumbent on believers in all ages, then the influences of the Spirit, enabling hereunto, may be expected in all ages. Now to apply this to our present argument; the Spirit’s bearing witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God, which is the foundation of that assurance which we are pleading for, is, together with the other fruits and effects of the Spirit but now mentioned, a privilege which believers, as such, are given to desire and hope for, and stand in as much need of as those who had this or other privileges conferred on them in an extraordinary way, in the first age of the gospel-church.

And to all this we might add, that the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit at that time, were conferred on particular persons, and not on whole churches; but assurance is considered, by the apostle, as a privilege conferred on the church to which he writes, that is, the greatest part of them, from whence the denomination is taken; upon which account, the apostle speaking to the believing Corinthians, says, We know that if our earthy house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, 2 Cor. v. 1. by which he does not only intend himself and other ministers, but the generality of believers, at that time, who are described as walking by faith: and there are many other things said concerning them in the foregoing and following verses; which makes it sufficiently evident, that the apostle intends more than himself and other ministers, when he speaks of their having assurance, since many had it who were not made partakers of extraordinary gifts. Therefore we must not conclude that the church has, at present, no ground to expect this privilege, so that they are liable to the charge of enthusiasm if they do. But that this objection may farther appear not to be sufficient to overthrow the argument we are maintaining, we may appeal to the experience of many believers in this present age, who pretend not to extraordinary revelation; and therefore let it be considered,

(3.) That many, in later ages, since extraordinary revelation has ceased, have attained this privilege, and consequently it is 252now attainable. To deny this would be to offend against the generation of God’s people, of whom many have given their testimony to this truth, who have declared what a comfortable sense they have had of their interest in Christ, and the sensible impressions they have enjoyed of his love shed abroad in their hearts, whereby they have had, as it were, a prelibation of the heavenly blessedness; and this has been attended with the most powerful influence of the Spirit of God enabling them to exercise those graces which have been agreeable to these comfortable experiences, whereby they have been carried through, and enabled to surmount the greatest difficulties which have attended them in this life. And many have been supported and comforted therewith, at the approach of death, in which respect the sting thereof has been taken away, and they have expressed themselves with a kind of triumph over it, in the apostle’s words, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Cor. xv. 55.

That some have been favoured with this invaluable privilege is undeniable; the account we have in the history of the lives and deaths of many, who have been burning and shining lights in their generation, puts it out of all doubt. And if this were not sufficient, we might appeal to the experience of many now living, since there is scarce any age or place in which the gospel comes with power, but we have some instances of the Spirit’s testimony to his own work, whereby it comes, with much assurance, a comfortable sense of God’s love, peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost, which is the first-fruits and earnest of eternal life. But since this will be particularly insisted on under a following answer[106], and farther proofs given hereof; we may, at present, take it for granted, that many have been assured of their being in a state of grace, who have not made the least pretension, to inspiration; and to charge them with enthusiasm, or a vain ungrounded delusion, is to cast a reflection on the best of men, as well as on one of the highest privileges which we can enjoy in this world.

I am sensible that it will be objected to this, that though some have indeed expressed such a degree of assurance, yet this will only afford conviction to those that have it, who are best judges of their own experience, and the evidence whereon it is founded; but this is not a sufficient proof to us, with respect to whom it is only matter of report: And it may be said, on the other hand, that it is possible they might be mistaken who have been so sure of their own salvation.

But to this it may be replied, that it is very unreasonable to suppose that all have been mistaken or deluded, who have declared that they have been favoured with this blessing; charity 253will hardly admit of such a supposition; and if there be no possibility of attaining this assurance, they must all have been deceived, who have concluded that they had it. Moreover, this privilege has been attained, not only by a few persons, and these the more credulous part of mankind, or by such who have not been able to assign any marks or evidences tending to support it; but many believers have experienced it, who, at the same time, have been far from discovering any weakness of judgment, or disposition to unwarrantable credulity; yea, they have enjoyed it at such a time when they have been most sensible of the deceitfulness of their own hearts, and could not but own that there was a peculiar hand of God herein; and the same persons, when destitute of the Spirit’s testimony, have acknowledged themselves to have used their utmost endeavours to attain it, but in vain.

As to the conviction which this will afford to us who are destitute hereof; that though we suppose it true to a demonstration, to those who have it, as being matter of sensation to them, it is only matter of report to us; which we are no farther bound to believe than we can depend on the credibility of their evidence, who have declared that they have experienced it. To this it may be replied, that if there be such a thing as certainty founded on report, which to deny, would be the greatest degree of scepticism; and if this has been transmitted to us, by a great number of those who cannot be charged with any thing that looks like a disposition to deceive either themselves or others; then we are bound to believe, from their own testimony, that there is such an assurance to be attained by those who pretend not to receive it by extraordinary inspiration from the Spirit of God. This leads us,

III. To consider the character of the persons to whom this privilege belongs. Accordingly they are described in this answer, as such who truly believe in Christ, and endeavour to walk in all good conscience before him: these only have ground to expect this privilege. It is an assurance of our having the truth of grace that we are considering; which supposes a person truly to believe in Christ; and accordingly it is distinguished from that unwarrantable presumption whereby many persuade themselves that they shall be saved, though they be not sanctified. It is not the hope of the hypocrite we are speaking of, which, as it is said, shall perish, and be cut off; whose trust shall be as the spider’s web, which shall be swept away with the besom of destruction, and be like the giving up of the ghost, which shall end in everlasting despair, Job viii. 13, 14. and chap. xi. 20. but it is a well-grounded hope, such as is accompanied with, and supported by the life of faith; so that we are first enabled to act grace, and then to discern the 254truth thereof in our own souls, and accordingly reap the comfortable fruits and effects that attend this assurance; as the apostle prays in the behalf of the believing Romans, that the God of hope would fill them with all joy and peace in believing, Rom. xv. 13. So that an unbeliever has no right to this privilege, and, indeed, from the nature of the thing, it is preposterous for a person to be assured of that, which in itself has no reality, as the apostle says, If a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself, Gal. vi. 3. And if faith be necessary to assurance, then it follows, as it is farther observed in this answer, that they who have attained this privilege, walk in all good conscience before God; whereby the sincerity of their faith is evinced: Thus the apostle says, Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, 2 Cor. i. 12.

IV. We are now to consider the means by which assurance is to be attained, viz. not by extraordinary revelation, but by faith, founded on the promises of God. As to the former of these, we have already considered, that assurance may be attained without extraordinary revelation, as has been experienced by some in this present dispensation of the gospel, in which extraordinary revelation is ceased. And, indeed, it may be observed, in the account the scripture gives of this privilege, that it does not appear, that when extraordinary revelation was granted to many, in the first age of the gospel, that the design thereof was to lead men into the knowledge of their own state, so as that they should attain assurance of their interest in Christ, and right to eternal life that way. The main design of inspiration was to qualify ministers in an extraordinary way to preach the gospel, as the necessity of affairs seemed then to require it; it was also necessary for the imparting some doctrines; which could not otherwise be known: And, inasmuch as it was an extraordinary dispensation of divine providence, it was an expedient to give conviction to the world, concerning the truth of the christian religion, since God hereby was pleased to converse in an immediate way with men, and testified by this, the great regard he had to his church, and answered the great ends of inspiration, in propagating that religion which was then to be set up in the world. But we do not find that the work of grace was ordinarily wrought, or carried on this way; nor was it God’s instituted means, without which they could not attain assurance, which the saints’ arrived to, in that age of extraordinary inspiration, the same way as we are to expect to attain it. It is true, God has occasionally intimated, by immediate revelation, that he would save some particular 255persons, and that their names were written in the book of life, Phil. iv. 3. but this was a special and extraordinary instance of divine condescension, that some should be described by name, in scripture, who had obtained this privilege; though it is not designed hereby that others should expect to attain it this way; and therefore it will be hard to prove that the apostle Paul, and others whom he speaks of, who were assured of their salvation, though they received the knowledge of other things by inspiration, were led into the knowledge of their own state in such a way, much less may we expect to attain assurance by extraordinary revelation. And this leads us to consider the ordinary means whereby we may attain it, which is, in this answer, said to be, by faith, grounded on the truth of God’s promises, and the Spirit’s testimony, whereby we are enabled to discern in ourselves those graces which accompany salvation; accordingly we must consider,

1. That in order to our arriving to a comfortable persuasion that we shall be saved, there must be promises of life and salvation revealed, which are contained in the gospel; these are remotely necessary thereunto; for without a promise of salvation we can have no hope of it; but notwithstanding these promises are contained therein, yet many are destitute of it.

2. It is also necessary, in order to our attaining assurance, that there should be some marks and evidences revealed in the word of God, as a rule for persons to try themselves by, in order to their knowing that they are in a state of grace. Now we may say concerning this, as well as the former, to wit, the promises of salvation recorded, that though it be necessary to assurance; yet it is only an objective means for our attaining it, inasmuch as we are hereby led to see what graces experienced, or duties performed by us, have the promise of salvation annexed to them; and therefore let me add,

3. That it is necessary that we should discern in ourselves those marks and evidences of grace to which the promise of salvation is annexed; otherwise we have no right to lay claim to it; accordingly it is our duty to look into ourselves, and observe what marks of grace we have, from whence we may, by the Spirit’s testimony with ours, discern ourselves to be in a state of grace; which leads us to consider,

(1.) That in order to our attaining assurance, we must exercise the duty of self-examination.

(2.) What we may truly call a mark or evidence of grace, whereby we may discern that we are in a state of salvation.

(3.) Notwithstanding this we are to depend on, hope, and pray for, the testimony of the Spirit with our spirits, that we are the children of God, and that these evidences are found in us.

256(1.) In order to our attaining assurance, it is necessary that we exercise the duty of self-examination, which is God’s ordinance for this end. And in order hereunto, let it be considered,

[1.] That it is certainly a duty and privilege for us to know ourselves, not only what we do, but what we are; for without this, whatever knowledge we may have of other things, we are chargeable with great ignorance in a matter of the highest importance; neither can we be sufficiently humble for those sins we commit, or thankful for the mercies we receive. If we reckon it an advantage to know what is done in the world, and are very inquisitive into the affairs of others, it is much more necessary and reasonable for us to endeavour to know what more immediately relates to ourselves; or if we are very desirous to know those things that concern our natural or civil affairs in the world; whether we are in prosperous or adverse circumstances therein, ought we not much more to enquire, how matters stand with us, as to what concerns a better world?

[2.] We cannot know the state of our souls, without impartial self-examination. This is evident from the nature of the thing. As enquiry is the means for our attaining knowledge; so looking into ourselves is a means of attaining self-acquaintance.

[3.] Self-examination is a duty founded on a divine command, and an ordinance appointed for our attaining the knowledge of our state. Thus the apostle says, Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your ownselves, 2 Cor. xiii. 5. and whatever duty God has commanded us to engage in, as expecting any spiritual privilege to attend it, that is properly an ordinance for the attaining that privilege; and if so, then it is an argument to enforce the performance of that duty. Having therefore proved self-examination to be a christian’s duty, we shall now consider how it ought to be performed. And here let it be observed, that as it is God’s ordinance, we are to have a due regard to his presence, and consider him as an heart searching God, and depend on his assistance, without which it cannot be performed to any great advantage; but more particularly,

1st, We are to engage in this duty deliberately. It cannot well be performed while we are in an hurry of business. As every thing is beautiful in its seasons, so time ought to be redeemed, and we to retire from the world, to apply ourselves to this as well as other secret duties, and the rather, because a rash and hasty judgment concerning any thing, is generally faulty, and must be reckoned an argument of weakness in him that passes it, and it will be much more so when the thing to be determined is of such vast importance.

2572dly, It ought to be done frequently; not like those things which are to be performed but once in our lives, or only upon some extraordinary occasions, but often, at least, so often, that no presumptuous sin may be committed, nor any extraordinary judgment inflicted on us, or mercy vouchsafed to us, without a due observation thereof, in order to our improving them aright to the glory of God, and our own edification: Nevertheless, we cannot exactly determine what relates to the frequency of this duty, any more than we can prescribe to those who are in a way of trade and business in the world, how often they are to cast up their accounts, and set their books in order, that they may judge whether they go forward or backward in the world: Notwithstanding, as the neglect hereof has been detrimental to many, as to their worldly affairs; so the neglect of self-examination has been often found an hindrance to our comfortable procedure in our christian course: However, so far as we may advise concerning the frequency of this duty, it would redound much to the glory of God and our own advantage, if, at the close of every day, we would call to mind the experiences we have had, and observe the frame of spirit with which we have engaged in all the business thereof. This the Psalmist advises when he says, Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still, Psal. iv. 4.

Moreover, it is adviseable for us to perform this duty whenever we engage in other solemn stated religious duties, whether public or private, that we may know what matter we have for prayer, or praise, what help we want from God, against the prevalency of corruption or temptation, or what answers of prayer we have received from him, or what success we have had under any ordinance, in which we have engaged, as well as what the present frame of our spirit is, when drawing nigh to God in any holy duty.

3dly, It ought to be performed with great diligence, inasmuch as it is no easy matter to arrive to such a knowledge of ourselves, and the secret working of our hearts and affections, in what respects things divine and heavenly, or to discern the truth of grace, so as not to mistake that for a saving work, which has only the external shew of godliness, without the power of it; this requires great diligence and industry to know: Accordingly the Psalmist, in speaking concerning the performance of this duty, says, I commune with mine own heart, and my spirit made diligent search, Psal. lxxvii. 6. The thing to be enquired into is not barely, whether we are sinners in general, or exposed to many miseries in this life, as the consequence thereof? for this is sufficiently evident by daily experience. But we are to endeavour after a more particular knowledge of ourselves, and accordingly are to enquire; whether 258sin hath dominion over us to such a degree, so that all the powers and faculties of our souls are enslaved thereby, and we commit sin in such a way, as denominates us, as our Saviour expresses it, servants of sin? John viii. 34. or, whether sin be loathed and abhorred, avoided and repented of? and as to our state, we are to enquire; whether we have ground to conclude that we are justified, and thereby delivered from the guilt of sin, and the condemning sentence of the law? or, whether we remain in a state of condemnation, and the wrath of God abideth on us? We must enquire, whether the work of grace be really begun, so that we are effectually called, and enabled to put forth spiritual actions from a renewed nature? and whether this work is going forward or declining? what is the strength or weakness of our faith? Also we are to enquire, what is the general tenor of our actions? whether the ends we design in all religious duties are right and warrantable? whether our improvement in grace bears any proportion to the means we are favoured with?

Moreover, we are to examine ourselves; whether we perform all those relative duties that are incumbent on us, so as to glorify God in our conversation with men, whereby we endeavour to do good to, and receive good from them, and accordingly improve our talents to the glory of God, from whom we received them? These and such like things are to be enquired into, which will be more immediately subservient to the attaining this privilege of assurance.

4thly, Self-examination ought to be performed with the greatest impartiality. Conscience, which is to act the part of a judge and a witness, must be faithful in its dictates and determinations, it being a matter of the greatest importance; and therefore, in passing a judgment on our state, we must proceed according to the rules of strict justice, not denying, on the one hand, what we have received from God, or resolutely concluding against ourselves, that there is no hope, when there are many things that afford matter of peace and comfort to us; nor, on the other hand, are we to think ourselves something when we are nothing.

Therefore some are obliged to conclude, as the result of this enquiry, into their state, that they are unregenerate and destitute of the saving grace of God. This sentence persons are obliged to pass on themselves, who are grossly ignorant, not sensible of the plague of their own hearts, and altogether unacquainted with the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, or the method prescribed in the gospel, for the sinner’s justification or freedom from the guilt of sin, in a fiducial application of Christ’s righteousness, which is the only means conducive thereunto; and who know not what is included in evangelical 259repentance; how sin is to be mortified, and what it is to depend on Christ in the execution of his offices of prophet, priest, and king, at least, if they have not such a degree of the knowledge of these things, though they cannot fully and clearly describe them, as may influence their practice, and excite those graces, which all true converts are enabled to exercise, they have ground to conclude that they are in a state of unregeneracy. And to this we may add, that a person must conclude against himself, that he is destitute of the grace of God, if he allows himself in the omission of known duties, or the commission of known sins, and is content with a form of godliness, without the power thereof, or values and esteems the praise of men more than of God; such must conclude that their hearts are not right with him.

5thly, We must examine ourselves concerning our state, with a resolution, by the grace of God, to make a right improvement of that judgment which we are bound to pass on ourselves. And therefore, if we apprehend that we are in a state of unregeneracy, we are not to sink into despair; but to wait on God in all his appointed means and ordinances, in order to our obtaining the first grace, that, by the powerful influences of the Spirit, there may be such a true change wrought in us, that we may have ground to hope better things concerning ourselves, even things which accompany salvation. And if we find that we have experienced the grace of God in truth, we may be disposed to give him all the glory; to exercise a continued dependence on him, for what is still lacking to complete the work, and as we have received Christ Jesus the Lord to walk in him.

6thly, This duty must be performed with judgment; and accordingly we are to compare our hearts and actions with the rule which is prescribed in the word of God, whereby we may know whether we have those marks and evidences of grace, from whence we may conclude, that we have a good foundation to build on, and that our hope is such, as shall never make ashamed; which leads us to consider,

(2.) What we may truly call a mark or evidence of grace, whereby we may discern that we are in a state of salvation. In order to our understanding this, we must consider,

1. That every thing, which is a mark or evidence of a thing, must be more known than that which is designed to be evinced thereby. The sign must always be more known than the thing signified by it; inasmuch as it is a means of our knowing that which we are at present in doubt about. As when the finger is placed in a cross-road, to direct the traveller which way he is to take.

2. A mark or evidence of a thing must contain some essential 260property of that which it is designed to evince: thus the inferring consequences from premises is an essential property belonging to every intelligent creature, and to none else; therefore it is a mark or evidence thereof; so to design the best end, and use those means that are conducive thereunto, is an essential property of a wise man, and consequently a mark or evidence of wisdom. And, on the other hand, there are some things, which are not essential properties, but accidental, as an healthful constitution is to man, or a particular action, that has some appearance of wisdom and goodness, but not all the necessary ingredients thereof, to a wise or good man.

Now to apply these rules to our present purpose, in determining what we may call marks or evidences of grace. With respect to the former of them, viz. that a mark must be more known than the thing that is evinced thereby; we may conclude, that eternal election, or the Spirit’s implanting a principle of grace in regeneration, cannot be said to be marks or evidences of sanctification, since these are less known than the thing designed to be evinced thereby.

And as to the other rule, viz. that a mark must contain an essential property of that which it evinces: it follows from hence, that our engaging in holy duties, without the exercise of grace therein; or our extending charity to the poor, when it does not proceed from faith or love to God, &c. is no certain evidence of the truth of grace, since a person may perform these duties and yet be destitute hereof; whereas, that which is essential to a thing, is inseparable from it. Thus concerning marks of grace in general; which I could not but think necessary to premise, inasmuch as some have entertained prejudices against all marks of grace, and seem to assert, that a believer is not to judge of his state thereby; than which, nothing seems more absurd. If they who are thus prejudiced against them, have nothing to say in defence thereof, but that some assign those things to be marks of grace which are not so, and thereby lead themselves and others, into mistakes about them; what has been premised concerning the nature of a mark, or evidence, may, in some measure, fence against this prejudice, as well as prepare our way for what may be said concerning them. Therefore we shall, First, consider those things which can hardly be reckoned marks of grace; and, Secondly, what marks we may judge of ourselves by.

First, As to the former of these, what are not to be reckoned marks of grace.

1. We are not to conclude that a person is in a state of grace, barely because he has a strong impression on his own spirit that he is so; since that is accidental, and not essential to grace, and many are mistaken with respect to this matter. It is not 261to be doubted, but they whom our Saviour represents as saying, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works, Matt. vii. 2. had a strong persuasion founded on this evidence, that they were in a state of grace, till they found themselves mistaken, when he commanded them to depart from him? Nothing is more obvious than that many presume they are something when they are nothing; and, indeed, a persuasion that a person is in a state of grace, barely because he cannot think otherwise of himself, the thing being impressed on his spirit, without any other evidence, lays such an one too open to the charge of enthusiasm.

2. An external profession of religion, discovered in the performance of several holy duties, is no certain sign of the truth of grace; for this many make who are not effectually called. Of such as these Christ speaks, when he says, Many are called, but few are chosen, Matt. xx. 16. And to this we may add, that persons may have some degree of raised affections, when attending on the ordinances, some sudden flashes of joy, when they hear of the privileges of believers, both in this and a better world; though their conversation be not agreeable to their confident and presumptuous expectation thereof. And, on the other hand, some have their fears very much awakened under the ordinances, as the subject of their meditations has a tendency thereunto; others have such a degree of sorrow, that it gives vent to itself in a flood of tears; as Esau is said to have sought the blessing with tears, Heb. xii. 17. but yet there is something else wanting to evince the truth of grace. I do not deny but that it is a great blessing to have raised affections in holy duties; but when this is only in particular instances, and they are principally excited by some external motives or circumstances attending the ordinance they are engaged in; and when the impressions made on them, wear off as soon as the ordinance is over, in this case we can hardly determine a person to be in a state of grace hereby. The affections, indeed, are warmed in holy duties; but this is like an iron heated in the fire, which, when taken out, soon grows cold again; and not like that natural heat that remains in the body of man, which is an abiding sign of life.

But since this subject is to be treated on with the utmost caution, inasmuch as many are apt to conclude, that they have no grace, because they have no raised affections, in holy duties, as well as others presume they have grace merely because they are affected therein, let it be farther considered; that when we speak of raised affections, not being a certain mark of grace, we consider them as being destitute of those other evidences, which contain some essential properties of grace: the affections are 262often raised by insignificant sounds, or by the tone of the voice, when there is nothing in the matter delivered, that is adapted to excite any grace, the judgment is not informed thereby, nor the will persuaded to embrace Christ, as offered in the gospel. There may be transports of joy in hearing the word, when, at the same time, corrupt nature retains its opposition to the spirituality thereof. A person may conceive the greatest pleasure in an ungrounded hope of heaven, as a state of freedom from the miseries of this life, when he has no savour or relish of that holiness which is its glory, in which respect his conversation is not in heaven; and he may be very much terrified with the wrath of God, and the punishment of sin in hell; when, at the same time, there is not a due sense of the vile and odious nature of sin, or an abhorrence of it: such instances of raised affections we intend when we speak of them as no marks or evidences of the truth of grace. But, on the other hand, when, together with raised affections, there is the exercise of suitable graces, and the impression thereof remains, when their fervency is abated or lost, this is a good sign of grace; whereas, when they are not accompanied with the exercise of any grace, they afford no mark or evidence of the truth thereof.

Now that we may not be mistaken as to this matter, let us enquire, not only what it is that has a tendency to raise the affections; but whether our understandings are rightly informed in the doctrines of the gospel, and our wills choose and embrace what is revealed therein. And if we find it a difficult matter for our affections to be raised in holy duties, let us farther enquire, whether this may not proceed from our natural constitution? and if the passions are not easily moved with any other things in the common affairs of life; we have then no reason to conclude that our being destitute hereof in the exercise of holy duties, is a sign that we have not the truth of grace, especially if Christ and divine things are the objects of our settled choice, and our hearts are fixed trusting in him.

3. The performance of those moral duties, which are materially good, is no certain sign of the truth of grace; I do not say that this is not necessary; for when we speak of a mark of grace, as containing in it what is essential thereunto, we distinguish between that which is a necessary pre-requisite, without which, none can have grace; and that which is an essential ingredient in it. Where there is no morality, there is certainly no grace; but if there be nothing more than this, there is an essential ingredient wanting, by which this matter must be determined. A person may abstain from gross enormities, such as murder, adultery, theft, reviling, extortion, covetousness, &c. and, in many respects, perform the contrary duties, and yet be destitute of faith in Christ. The Pharisee, whom 263our Saviour mentions in the gospel, had as much to say on this subject as any one; yet his heart was not right with God; nor was his boasting hereof approved of by Christ. There are multitudes who perform many religious duties, when it comports with their secular interests; they adhere to Christ in a time of prosperity; but in a time of adversity they fall from him; and then, that which seemed to be most excellent in them is lost, and then they appear to be, what they always were, destitute of the truth of grace. We now proceed to consider,

Secondly, What are those marks by which persons may safely conclude themselves to be in a state of grace. In order to our determining this matter, we must consider what are the true and genuine effects of faith, which we find mentioned in scripture, namely, those other graces that accompany or flow from it; as when it is said to work by love, Gal. v. 6. or as we are hereby enabled to overcome the world, 1 John v. 4. or to despise the honours, riches, and pleasures thereof; especially when standing in competition with Christ; or our hearts are thereby drawn aside from him: this effect it produced in Moses, when he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, Heb. xi. 24-26. and in others, who confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, ver. 13, 16. who desired a better country, that is, an heavenly; whose conversation was in heaven, Phil. iii. 10. Moreover, we are to enquire whether it has a tendency to purify the heart, Acts xv. 9. and so puts us upon abhorring, flying from, watching, and striving against every thing that tends to corrupt and defile the soul! and whether it tends to excite us to universal obedience, which is called the obedience of faith, Rom. xvi. 26. and a carefulness to maintain good works, Tit. iii. 6. which proceed from, and are evidences of the truth of it? as the apostle says, Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works, James ii. 18. or, as our Saviour says, The tree is known by his fruit. But that we may more particularly judge of the truth of grace by the marks and evidences thereof, we must consider its beginning and progress, or with what frame of spirit we first embraced and closed with Christ; and what our conversation has been since that time.

1. As to the former of these, to wit, our judging of the truth of grace by the first beginning thereof. Here we are to enquire, what were the motives and inducements that inclined us to accept of Christ? Did we first see ourselves lost and undone, as sinful, fallen creatures; and were we determined hereupon to have recourse to him for salvation, as the only refuge we 264could betake ourselves to? Did we first consider ourselves as guilty; and did this guilt set very uneasy upon us; and in order to the removal of it, did we betake ourselves to Christ for forgiveness? and did we consider ourselves as weak and unable to do what is good, and so apply ourselves to him for strength against indwelling sin, and victory over the temptations which prevailed against us?

Moreover, let us enquire, whether it was only a slavish fear and dread of the wrath of God, and the punishment of sin in hell, that gave the first turn to our thoughts and affections, so as to put us on altering our course of life? or, whether, besides this, we saw the evil of sin arising from its intrinsic nature, and its opposition to the holiness of God; and was this attended with shame and self-abhorrence? and, at the same time, did we see the excellency and loveliness of Christ? was he precious to us as he is to them that believe? 1 Pet. ii. 7.

Again, let us farther enquire, what were the workings of our spirits when we first closed with Christ? did we do this with judgment, duly weighing what he demands of us in a way of duty, as well as what we are encouraged to expect from him? were we made willing to accept of him in all his offices, and to have respect to all his commandments? were we earnestly desirous to have communion with him here, as well as to be glorified with him hereafter? were we content to submit to the cross of Christ, to bear his reproach, and to count this preferable to all the glories of the world? were we willing to be conformed to an humbled suffering Jesus, and to take our lot with his servants, though they may be reckoned the refuse and off-scouring of all things? And let us farther enquire; whether we did this with reliance on his assistance, as being sensible of the treachery and deceitfulness of our own hearts, and our utter inability to do what is good, without the aids of his grace? did we accordingly give up ourselves to him in hope of obtaining help from him, in order to the right discharge of every duty? did we reckon ourselves nothing, and Christ to be all in all, that all our springs are in him? This was a good beginning of the work of grace, which will prepare the way for this grace of assurance, which we are now considering.

Obj. Some will object against what has been said concerning our enquiring into, or being able to discern the first acts of faith, or that frame of spirit wherewith we then closed with Christ, that they know not the time of their conversion, if ever they were converted; they cannot remember or determine what was the particular ordinance or providence, that gave them the first conviction of sin, and of their need of Christ, and induced them to close with him; much less can they tell what were the workings of their hearts at such a time: It is 265impossible for them to trace the footsteps of providence, so as to point out the way and manner in which this work was at first begun in their souls. This therefore is not to be laid down as a mark or evidence of grace, which so few can make use of.

Answ. I am not insensible that this is the case of the greatest number of believers. There are very few, who, like the apostle Paul, can tell the time and place of their conversion, and every circumstance leading to it; or like those converts, who, when the gospel was first preached by Peter, were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Acts ii. 37. or like the jailor, who broke forth into an affectionate enquiry, not much unlike to it; Sirs, what must I do to be saved? chap. xvi. 30. though the ordinance leading to it was of a different nature. Sometimes, the way of the Spirit of God in the soul at first, is so discernable, that it cannot but be observed by them who are brought into a state of grace; but others know nothing of this, especially they who have not run into all excess of riot, and been stopped in their course on a sudden, by the grace of God; in whom the change made in conversion, was real, though it could not, from the nature of the thing be so plainly discerned in all its circumstances. Some have been regenerate from the womb; others have had a great degree of restraining grace, and been trained up in the knowledge of the doctrines of the gospel from their very childhood, and retain the impressions of a religious education; these cannot so easily discern the first beginnings of the work of grace in their souls; yet they may, and ought to enquire, whether ever they found, in the course of their lives, such a frame of spirit as has been before described, which believers have when the work of grace is first begun, and it is not very material for them to be able to discern whether these were the first actings of grace or no? The main thing to be determined is; whether they have ground to conclude, that ever they experienced the grace of God in truth? In this case, the most that some can say concerning themselves, is as the blind man says in the gospel, when the Pharisees were inquisitive about the restoring his sight, and the way and manner in which this was done; this is all that I know concerning myself, that whereas I was blind, now I see, John ix. 25. so the true convert says; whereas I was once dead in trespasses and sins, I am now alive, and enabled to put forth living and spiritual actions, to the glory of God. This evidence will give as much ground to conclude that they are in a state of grace, as though they were able to determine when they were first brought into it.

2. We may judge of the truth of grace by the method in which it has been carried on, whether we are able to determine 266the way and manner in which it was first begun, or no, as a farther evidence of the truth thereof. Sanctification is a progressive work; therefore it is not enough for us to set our faces heaven-ward; but we must make advances towards it, and be found in the daily exercise of grace, in order to our concluding that we are in a state of grace. A believer must not only set out in the right way, but he must hold on therein; he must live by faith if he would conclude that the work of faith is begun in truth. It is not sufficient to call upon God, or implore help from him, when under some distressing providences, and afterwards to grow remiss in, or lay aside this duty; but it must be our constant work. A true christian is distinguished from an hypocrite, in that it is said, concerning the latter, Will he delight himself in the Almighty? will he always call upon God? Job xxvii. 20. denoting that a true believer will do so. He is either habitually or actually inclined to it; and that in such a way as is attended with the daily exercise of those graces, which are the fruits and effects of faith, whereby he may conclude that he is in a state of grace. Thus far we have considered those marks or evidences of grace, which, in order to our attaining assurance, we must be able to discern in ourselves. But inasmuch as a believer may understand what are the marks of grace contained in scripture, and, at the same time, enquire into the state of his soul, to know whether he can apprehend in himself any evidences of the truth of grace; and not be able to arrive to a satisfaction as to this matter, so as to have his doubts and fears removed; let it be considered,

3. That he must depend on, hope, and pray for the testimony of the Spirit, with his spirit, that he is a child of God. It will be a difficult matter for us to conclude that we have the truth of grace, till the Spirit is pleased to shine on his own work; which, when he does, all things will appear clear and bright to us, though before this we might walk in darkness, and have no light. In speaking concerning the inward testimony of the Spirit (which is necessary to enable a believer to discern in himself the marks of grace, on which his assurance of salvation is founded) let it be premised; that as it is a branch of the Spirit’s divine glory, by his internal influence, to deal with the hearts of his people; so he does this various ways, according to the various faculties of the soul, which are the subjects thereof; particularly, when by his power, he renews the will, and causes it to act those graces which are the effects of his divine power; then he is said to sanctify a believer. But when he deals with the understanding and conscience, enabling us to discern the truth of the work of grace, that we may take the comfort of it, then he is described, in scripture, as a witness hereunto, or as witnessing with our spirits, that 267we are in a state of grace, the consequence of which is, that the eyes of our understanding being enlightened, we may know what is the hope of his calling, Eph. i. 18. accordingly he gives us to discern that he has called us by his grace; and, as the result thereof, granted us a hope of eternal life.

This is a privilege plainly mentioned in scripture; and we must not suppose that none had it but those who had extraordinary revelation, since it is so necessary to a believer’s attaining that peace and joy which the church, in this present dispensation, is certainly not less possessed of, than it was in former ages. And that the Spirit gives his testimony to the work of grace in the souls of believers, though extraordinary revelation be ceased, is evident from what is matter of daily experience; since there are many instances of those who have used their utmost endeavours in examining themselves, to know whether they had any marks of grace, who have not been able to discern any, though they have been thought to be sincere believers by others, till, on a sudden, light has broke forth out of darkness, and their evidences for eternal life cleared up, so that all their doubts have been removed; and this they could not but attribute to a divine hand, inasmuch as before this they could meditate nothing but terror to themselves; and, in this case, what the apostle prays for, with respect to the church, That the God of hope would fill them with all joy and peace in believing, that they might abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost, Rom. xv. 13. is experienced by them: And on this account they are said, to be sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Eph. i. 13. whereby their hope is established, and that is now confirmed to them by this means, which they were before in perplexity about; so that we have as much ground to conclude that the Spirit is the author of assurance in believers, as we have that he is the author of sanctification.

But that this doctrine may not appear liable to the charge of enthusiasm, let it be farther considered, that the Spirit never gives his testimony to the truth of grace in any, in whom he has not first wrought it; for that would be, as it were, a setting his seal to a blank. And to this we may add, that he, at the same time, excites the lively exercise of grace, whereby they are enabled to discern that it is true and genuine; so that their assurance, though it be not without some internal, impressive influences, which they are favoured with; yet it is not wholly dependent on them: Therefore, if you demand a reason of the hope that is in them, though they ascribe the glory hereof to the Holy Spirit, as enabling them to discern the truth of grace; yet they are able to prove their ownselves, after having examined themselves, whether they are in the faith, 268by discovering their evidences of the faith of God’s elect; which argues that their assurance is no delusion.

Quest. LXXXI.

Quest. LXXXI. Are all true believers, at all times, assured of their present being in the estate of grace; and that they shall be saved?

Answ. Assurance of grace and salvation not being of the essence of faith, true believers may wait long before they obtain it; and after the enjoyment thereof, may have it weakened and intermitted through manifold distempers, sins, temptations, and desertions; yet are they never left without such a presence and support of the Spirit of God, as keeps them from sinking into utter despair.

Having considered some believers as favoured with assurance of their being in a state of grace, we are, in this answer, led to speak of others who are destitute of it. And the general method in which it may be considered, is,

I. That there is something supposed, namely, that assurance of grace and salvation is not of the essence of saving faith.

II. Some things are inferred from this supposition, namely,

1. That true believers may wait long before they obtain assurance. And,

2. That after the enjoyment thereof it may be weakened and intermitted; the reasons whereof are assigned, viz. bodily distempers, sins, temptations, and divine desertions; yet it is farther added, that they are never left without the support of the Spirit of God; whereby they are kept from sinking into utter despair.

I. As to the thing supposed in this answer, viz. that assurance of grace and salvation is not of the essence of faith. There are many who, in other respects, explain the nature of faith, in such a way as is unexceptionable, who, notwithstanding, assert that assurance is of the essence thereof; in which we cannot but think they express themselves very unwarily, at least, they ought to have more clearly discovered what they mean by faith, and what by assurance, being of the essence of faith; if they mean that no one has saving faith but he who has an assurance of his own salvation; they not only assert what is contrary to the experience of many believers, but lay a stumbling-block in the way of weak Christians, who will be induced from hence to conclude, that because they cannot tell whether they are true believers or no, therefore they are destitute of saving faith; upon which account it is necessary for 269us to enquire how far this supposition is to be allowed of, and in what respect denied.

It is certain, that there are many excellent divines, in our own and foreign nations, who have defined faith by assurance; which they have supposed so essential to it, that without it no one can be reckoned a believer. It may be they might be inclined thus to express themselves by the sense in which they understood several texts of scripture, in which assurance seems to be considered as a necessary ingredient in faith; as it is said, Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, Heb. x. 22. and when the apostle speaks of assurance, as a privilege that belonged to the church to which he wrote, We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, 2 Cor. v. 1. and elsewhere, he so far blames their not knowing themselves, or being destitute of this assurance, that he will hardly allow them to have any faith, who were without it; Know ye not your ownselves, how that Jesus, Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates, chap. xiii. 5. From such like expressions as these, they who plead for assurance being of the essence of faith, are ready to conclude, that they who are destitute of it, can hardly be called believers.

But, that this matter may be set in a true light, we must distinguish between assurance of the object, viz. the great and important doctrines of the gospel, being of the essence of faith; and assurance of our interest in Christ being so. The former of these we will not deny; for no one can come to Christ, who is not assured that he will receive him, nor trust in him till he is fully assured that he is able to save him: but the latter we must take leave to deny; for if no one is a believer but he that knows himself to be so, then he that doubts of his salvation, must be concluded to be no believer; which is certainly a very discouraging doctrine to weak Christians. And also, when we lose the comfortable persuasion we once had, of our interest in Christ, we are bound to question all our former experiences, and to determine ourselves to be in a state of unregeneracy, which is, in effect to deny to give God the glory of that powerful work which was formerly wrought in us, which we then thought to be a work of grace.

If they, indeed, mean by assurance, being of the essence of faith, that an assurance of our interest in Christ is essential to the highest or most comfortable acts of faith, designing thereby to put us upon pressing after it, if we have not attained to it; and that hereby God is very much glorified, and a foundation laid for our offering praise to him, for the experience we have had of his grace, which a doubting Christian cannot be said to do; we have nothing to say against it. Or, if they should 270assert, that doubting is no ingredient in faith, nor a commendable excellency in a Christian; this we do not deny. All that we are contending for is, that there may be a direct act of faith, or a faith of reliance, in those who are destitute of assurance that they are in a state of grace; which is the thing supposed in this answer, when it is said, that assurance is not of the essence of faith. That this may be better understood, and we be led into the sense of those scriptures that describe believers as having assurance, such as those but now mentioned, and others to the like purpose, let it be considered, that there are many scriptures, in which believers are said to have such an assurance, as only respects the objects of faith, viz. the person, offices, and glory of Christ, the truth of the gospel, and the promises thereof; which we do not deny to be of the essence of faith. Thus, when the apostle prays for the church, That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ, Col. ii. 2. and when elsewhere he says, Our gospel came to you in much assurance, 1 Thess, i. 5. and when he exhorts persons to draw near to God, with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, Heb. x. 22. it is probable, that he means in these, and several other scriptures of the like import, no more than an assurance of the object of faith. And as for that scripture but now mentioned, in 2 Cor. xiii. 5. where he seems to assert, that all who are destitute of this privilege are reprobates; some understand the word, which we translate reprobates, as only signifying injudicious Christians; and if so, this is not inconsistent with the character of believers: but others, with an equal degree of probability, render it disapproved;[107] and so the meaning 271is, that if you know not your ownselves, to wit, that Christ is in you, you are greatly to be blamed, or disapproved; especially because this proceeds from your neglect of the duty of self-examination; by which means you have no proof of Christ’s being in you, who are so ready to demand a proof of his speaking in his ministers, as in verse 3. Therefore it does not appear from this text, that every one who endeavours to know that he is in a state of grace, by diligent self-examination, but cannot conclude that he is so, must be determined to be destitute of faith; which would necessarily follow from our asserting that assurance of our interest in Christ, is of the essence of saving faith.

There are other scriptures which speak of assurance as a distinguishing character of Christians in general; which are usually brought to prove, that assurance is of the essence of faith, viz. 2 Cor. v. 1. We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens; and, 1 John v. 19. we know that we are of God: and in several places in the New Testament, in which the apostle addresses his discourse to whole churches, as having assurance, as well as the grace of faith: thus the apostle Peter, 1 Pet. i. 8, 9. speaks of them as loving Christ, believing in him, rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory, and receiving the end of their faith, even the salvation of their soul; which could hardly be said of them, if they were destitute of assurance of their own salvation. All that I would infer from these and such-like scriptures is, that it seems probable that assurance was a privilege more commonly experienced in that age of the church than it is in our day; and there may be two reasons assigned for this,

(1.) Because the change that passed upon them, when they were converted, was so apparent, that it was hardly possible for it not to be discerned. They turned from dead idols, and the practice of the vilest abominations, to serve the living God; which two extremes are so opposite, that their being brought from one to the other could not but be remarked by, and consequently more visible to themselves, than if it had been otherwise; but,

(2.) That which may be assigned as the principal reason of this is, because the church was called, at this time, to bear a 272public testimony to the gospel, by enduring persecutions of various kinds; and some of them were to resist unto blood. Therefore, that God might prepare them for these sufferings, and that he might encourage others to embrace the faith of the gospel, which was then in its infant state, he was pleased to favour them with this great privilege. And it may be hereafter, if God should call the church to endure like trials, he may in mercy grant them a greater degree of assurance than is ordinarily experienced.

Nevertheless, it may be questioned; whether those scriptures which speak of assurance, as though it were a privilege common to the whole church, are not to be understood as applicable to the greater part of them, rather than to every individual believer among them. For though the apostle, in one of the scriptures before-mentioned, considers the church at Corinth, as enjoying this privilege, and concluding that it should go well with them in another world, when this earthly tabernacle was dissolved; yet he speaks of some of them, in the same epistle, as not knowing their ownselves, how that Jesus Christ was in them. And the apostle John, notwithstanding what he says to the church, We knew that we are of God, in 1 John v. 19. which argues that many of them had assurance, plainly intimates that all had it not, from what he says, ver. 13. These things have I written unto you, that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life: and though in another scripture, but now mentioned, the apostle Peter speaks to the church to which he writes, as having joy unspeakable and full of glory consequent upon their faith, which argues that they had assurance; yet he exhorts others of them to give diligence to make their calling and election sure, 2 Pet. i. 10. these therefore are supposed, at that time, not to have it: from all which it may be concluded, that assurance of grace and salvation, is not of the essence of saving faith; which is the thing supposed in this answer.[108]

II. We proceed to consider those things that are inferred from this supposition, viz.

1. That a believer may wait long before he attains it: this appears from what is matter of daily experience and observation. The sovereignty of God discovers itself herein, as much as it does when he makes the ordinances effectual to salvation, in giving converting grace unto those who attend upon them. Some are called early to be made partakers of that salvation that is in Christ, others late. The same may be said with respect to God’s giving assurance. Some are favoured with this privilege soon after, or when first they believe; others are like those whom the apostle speaks of, who, through fear of death, are all their life-time subject to bondage, Heb. ii. 15. Many have 273often enquired into the state of their souls, that cannot discern any marks or evidences of grace in themselves; whose conversation is such, that others cannot but conclude them to be true believers; their spirits are deprest, doubts and fears prevail, and tend to make their lives very uncomfortable; they wait and pray for the evidence and sense of God’s love to them, but cannot immediately find it: this the Psalmist speaks of, either in his own person, or thereby represents the case of many who had the truth of grace, but not the assurance thereof, when he says, O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee; I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up; while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted, Psal. lxxxviii. compared with the xv. God suffers it to be thus with them for wise ends. Hereby he lets them know, that assurance of his love is a special gift and work of the Spirit; without which they remain destitute of it, and cannot take comfort, either from their former or present experiences.

2. They who once enjoyed assurance, may have it weakened and intermitted; whether it may be entirely lost will be considered under a following head, when we speak concerning the supports that believers have, and how far they are kept hereby from sinking into utter despair: it is one thing to fall from the truth of grace, another thing to lose the comfortable sense thereof. The joy of faith may be suspended, when the acts and habits of faith remain firm and unshaken. The brightest morning may afterwards be followed with clouds and tempests; even so our clearest discoveries of our interest in the love of God may be followed with the withdrawment of the light of his countenance, and we be left under many discouraging circumstances concerning our state, having lost the assurance we once had.

If it be inquired, what reason may be assigned for this? I answer, that it must, in a great measure, be resolved into the sovereignty of God, who will bring his people which way he pleases, to heaven; and may take those comforts which had their first rise from himself; and, at the same time, none must say, why dost thou thus? However, we may observe some particular reasons, which the providence of God points out to us, to which we may in other respects, ascribe our want of assurance; and these may be reduced to four heads, particularly mentioned in this answer.

(1.) It is sometimes occasioned by manifold distempers, or bodily diseases: the soul and body are so closely joined to, and dependant on each other, that the one can hardly suffer without the other. Hence it is that bodily distempers affect the mind, excite and give disturbance to the passions; which is a great addition to the uneasiness that ensues hereupon. 274When the spirits are deprest, and we are under the prevalency of a melancholy disposition, we are oftentimes inclined to think that we are not in a state of grace; and though we were before this disposed to comfort others in like cases, we are at this time unable to take the least encouragement ourselves. All things look black and dismal; our former hope is reckoned no other than delusive, and we brought to the very brink of despair. And it may be observed, that these sad and melancholy apprehensions concerning our state, increase or abate, as the distemper that gives occasion thereunto more or less prevails.

Now that we may be able to determine whether our want of assurance proceeds from some natural cause or bodily distemper, we must enquire; whether, before this, we have endeavoured to walk in all good conscience in the sight of God? to hate every false way, and make religion the great business of life, so that we cannot assign any reigning sin as the cause of our present desponding frame? And also, whether we have been diligent in performing the duty of self-examination, and have been sensible that we stood in need of the Spirit’s witness with ours, in order to our arriving to a comfortable persuasion that we are in a state of grace? And if, as the result of these enquiries, we cannot see any cause leading to this dejection of spirit, but the unavoidable infirmities, which we are daily liable to, then we may probably conclude, that it arises from a distemper of body. And, in order to our determining this matter, we must farther inquire; whether some afflictive providence has not had an influence upon us, to bring us into a melancholy temper? and whether this does not appear in what relates to our secular, as well as our spiritual concerns? and if this be the case, though it be very afflictive, it is not attended with that guilt as it would be, had it been occasioned by some presumptuous sin; and there are other medicines to be used when it arises from this cause, besides those which are of a spiritual nature, that are contained in the gospel; but what they are, it is not our business, in this place, to determine.

(2.) There are many sins which are the occasion of a person’s being destitute of assurance. As all the troubles of life are brought upon us by sin; so are all our doubts and fears, arising from the want of a comfortable sense of, or interest in, the love of God. It pleases God, in the method of his providence, thus to deal with his people, that he may humble them for presumptuous sins; more especially those that are committed against light and conviction of conscience, that he may bring to remembrance their sins of omission, or neglect to exercise those graces in which the life of faith consists, that hereby they may feel the effect of their stupidity, indifferency, and carnal security, or their engaging in religious duties, in their own 275strength, without dependence on the Spirit and grace of God, or a due sense of their inability to perform any duty in a right way. Or, sometimes, as has been before observed, they want assurance, because they do not examine themselves, which is God’s ordinance for the attaining this privilege; or, if they do, they neglect to give that glory to the Holy Spirit which is due to him, by depending on his enlightening influence, whereby they may arrive to a comfortable persuasion of their interest in Christ.

(3.) Assurance is oftentimes weakened and intermitted through manifold temptations. Satan is very active in this matter, and shews his enmity against the interest of Christ in the souls of his people, as much as lies in his power, with this intent, that though it is impossible for him to ruin the soul, by rooting out that grace that is implanted in it; yet he may disturb its peace, and weaken its assurance, and, if not prevented, hurry it into despair. In this case the general design of his temptations is to represent God as a sin-revenging Judge, a consuming fire, and to present to our view, the threatenings whereby his wrath is revealed against sinners; and to endeavour to set aside the promises of the gospel, from which alone relief may be had.

Moreover, he puts us upon considering sin, not only as heinously aggravated, (which may, for the most part be done with justice) but also as altogether unpardonable; and, at the same time pretends to insinuate to us that we are not elected, or that Christ did not die for us; and therefore, what he has done and suffered will not redound to our advantage. Now there is apparently the hand of Satan in this matter; inasmuch as he attempts, by false methods of reasoning, to persuade us that we are not in a state of grace, or that God is an enemy to us; and therefore our condition is desperate; in which he uses the arts of the old serpent, that he may deceive us by drawing conclusions against ourselves from false premises, e. g. because we daily experience the internal workings of corrupt nature, which inclines us to many sins, both of omission and commission; therefore there is no room for us to expect mercy and forgiveness from God. And from our barrenness and unprofitableness under the means of grace, our improvements not being proportioned to the obligations we have been laid under. Or because we have had great reason to charge ourselves with many declensions and backslidings, which afford matter for deep humiliation, and should put us upon sincere repentance, he endeavours to persuade us that we are altogether destitute of special grace. And whenever we are unprepared or indisposed for the right performance of holy duties, and our affections are not suitably raised, but grow stupid, remiss, and careless 276therein; he puts us upon concluding that it is a vain thing for us to draw nigh to God, and that he has utterly rejected, both our persons and services. Or, if we are not favoured with immediate returns of prayer, and sensible communion with God therein; he tempts us to infer, that we shall never obtain the blessing we are pressing after; and therefore we may as well lay aside this duty, and say, why should I wait on the Lord any longer? And if by this method he cannot discourage us from engaging in holy duties, he sometimes injects blasphemous thoughts or unbecoming conceptions of the divine Majesty, which fills the soul with the greatest grief and uneasiness, that hereby he might give us occasion to conclude that we sin in persisting therein; and by all these temptations he endeavours to plunge us into the depths of despair.

As to what concerns the purpose of God relating to the event of things: when we are led to determine that we are not elected, this is alleged without sufficient ground, and therein he deceives us, by pursuing the same false methods of reasoning, and puts us upon presuming to enter into those secret things which do not belong to us, because we deserve to be cast off by him for our sins, instead of giving diligence to make our calling and election sure. It is one thing not to be able to conclude that we are elected; and another thing to say that we are not so: the former of these is the consequence of our present doubts and desponding apprehensions concerning our state; the latter is plainly a temptation of Satan: this we are often subject to, when we have lost that assurance of our interest in Christ that we once enjoyed,

(4.) A believer’s want of assurance is, for the most part, attended with, and arises from divine desertion; not that we are to suppose that God will cast off his people, whom he has foreknown, effectually called and preserved hitherto, so as to forsake them utterly; for that is inconsistent with his everlasting love, and the promises of the covenant of grace, which respect their salvation. But that which we understand by divine desertions, is God’s withdrawing his comforting presence, and withholding the witness of his Spirit to the work of grace in the soul, from whence arises those doubts and fears which attend the want thereof; as God says to his people, For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee, Isa. liv. 7. In this respect they are destitute of God’s comforting presence; though at the same time they may be favoured with his supporting presence, and those powerful influences which are necessary to maintain the work of grace; which, at present, appears to be very weak and languishing.

And this leads us to consider the last thing mentioned in this answer, viz. That though they are thus described, they are not 277left without such a presence and support of the Spirit of God, as keeps them from sinking into utter despair. This observation ought to be explained and considered, with certain limitations, lest while on the one hand, we assert that which affords matter of encouragement to believers, when they have some degree of hope, we should, on the other hand, throw discouragements in the way of others, who will be apt to imagine, when they are ready to sink into despair, that this is wholly inconsistent with any direct act of faith. I dare not say that no believer was ever so far deserted as to be left to despair of his interest in Christ: inasmuch as scripture and daily experience give us instances of some, whose conversation in many respects discovers them to have had the truth of grace; whom God has been pleased for wise ends, to leave to the terror of their own thoughts, and they have remained for some time, in the depths of despair; and others have gone out of the world under a cloud, concerning whom there has been ground to hope their state was safe. Therefore it is somewhat difficult to determine what is meant in this answer, by a believer’s being kept from sinking into utter despair: if the meaning is, that they have the supports of the Spirit of God, so as to be kept from relapsing into a state of unregeneracy, in their despairing condition, that may be easily accounted for; or, if we are to understand by it, that believers are not generally given up to the greatest degree of despair; especially such as is inconsistent with the exercise of any grace, that is not to be denied. But I would rather say, that though a believer may have despairing apprehensions concerning his state, and the guilt of sin lie upon him like a great weight, so as to depress his spirits, yet he shall not sink into endless misery; for though darkness may continue for a night, light and joy shall come in the morning; and accordingly we may consider,

[1.] That though there are many who are far from having assurance, yet they are at some times, favoured with a small glimmering of hope, which keeps them from utter despair.

[2.] If they are in deep despair, yet they are not so far left as not to desire grace, though they conclude themselves to be destitute of it, or not to lament the loss of those comforts, and their being unable to exercise those graces which once they thought themselves possessed of.

[3.] A believer, when in a despairing way, is notwithstanding enabled, by a direct act of faith, to give up himself to Christ, though he cannot see his interest in him, and so, long for those experiences and comforts which he once enjoyed; and when he is at the worst, he can say with Job, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him, Job xiii. 15.

[4.] In this case a person has generally such a degree of the 278presence of God, as that he is enabled to justify him in all his dealings with him, and lay the blame of all the troubles that he is under, on himself; and this is attended with shame and confusion of face, self-abhorrence, and godly sorrow.

[5.] Despairing believers have, notwithstanding, such a presence of God with them, as keeps them from abandoning his interest, or running, with sinners, into all excess of riot, which would give occasion to others to conclude that they never had the truth of grace.

From what has been said concerning true believers being destitute of assurance, and yet having some degree of the presence of God with them at the same time, we may infer,

1st, That this is not inconsistent with what has been said concerning a believer’s perseverance in grace; yet it must be considered with this limitation, that though the truth of grace shall not be lost, yet the comforts and evidences thereof may, and often are.

2dly, This should put us upon circumspect walking and watchfulness against presumptuous sins, which, as has been before observed, are often the occasion of the loss of assurance; and also on the exercise of a faith of reliance on Christ, for the maintaining the acts of grace, as well as restoring the comforts thereof.

3dly, This should instruct believers what to do when destitute of this privilege of assurance. We have observed that this is attended with divine desertion, which is generally occasioned by sins committed. Therefore let us say with Job, Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me, chap. x. 2. let me know what are those secret sins by which I have provoked thee to leave me destitute of thy comforting presence; enable me to be affected with, humbled for, and unfeignedly repent of them; and exercise that faith in Christ which may be a means of my recovering that hope or assurance which I am, at present, destitute of.

4thly, What has been said concerning a believer’s being destitute of assurance, should put us upon sympathizing with those who are in a despairing way, and using endeavours to administer comfort to them, rather than censure them, or conclude them to be in an unregenerate state; as Job’s friends did him, because the hand of God had touched him, and he was destitute of his comforting presence.

5thly, From what has been said concerning that degree of the presence of God which believers enjoy, which has a tendency to keep them from utter despair, at least, from sinking into perdition, how disconsolate soever their case may be at present; we may be induced to admire the goodness and faithfulness of God in his dealings with his people, who will not 279lay more on them than he will enable them to bear; though they are comfortless and hopeless, yet they shall not be destroyed; and, in the end, they shall be satisfied with God’s loving kindness; and when the clouds are all dispersed, they shall have a bright and glorious day in his immediate presence, where there is fulness of joy, and at his right hand where there are pleasures for evermore, Psal. xvi. 11.

Quest. LXXXII.

Quest. LXXXII. What is the communion in glory, which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?

Answ. The communion in glory, which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is, in this life, immediately after death; and at last perfected at the resurrection and day of judgment.

After having considered believers, or the members of the invisible church, as enjoying this privilege of union with Christ, and, as the immediate consequence hereof, communion with him. It has been farther observed, that this communion with him, is either in grace, or glory. Their communion with him in grace consists in their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, and sanctification; which have been particularly considered, together with other graces and comforts that accompany or flow from them. We are now led to speak concerning the communion which they have with him in glory; which contains the highest privilege they are capable of receiving; consisting in his giving them some right discoveries of the glory which they behold and enjoy by faith, in this life, and also of that which shall be immediate, and, in some respects, complete, after death; and, at the resurrection and day of judgment, be brought, in all respects, to the utmost degree of perfection; when their joy, as well as their happiness, shall be full, and continued throughout all the ages of eternity. These are the subjects insisted on in several following answers, which remain to be considered in this first part of the Catechism.

Quest. LXXXIII.

Quest. LXXXIII. What is the communion in glory, with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy in this life?

Answ. The members of the invisible church have communicated to them in this life, the first-fruits of glory with Christ, as they are members of him their head, and so, in him, are 280interested in that glory which he is fully possessed of; and as an earnest thereof, enjoy the sense of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, and hope of glory; as, on the contrary, the sense of God’s revenging wrath, horror of conscience, and a fearful expectation of judgment, are, to the wicked, the beginning of their torments which they shall endure after death.

There are two sorts of persons mentioned in this answer, namely, the righteous and the wicked, and the different condition of each of them considered,

I. With respect to the righteous, who are here styled the members of the invisible church. There are several invaluable privileges which they are made partakers of in this life, in which they are said to have a degree of communion in glory with Christ; particularly as they enjoy the first-fruits or earnest of that glory which they shall have with him hereafter: And that,

1. As they are members of him, their head; and accordingly may be said, in some respects, to be interested in that glory which he is fully possessed of.

2. As they have a comfortable sense of his love to them, attended with peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, and an hope of glory.

II. We have an account, on the other hand, of the dreadful condition of impenitent sinners, when God sets their iniquities in order before them; which is represented in a very moving way. Thus they are said to be filled with a sense of God’s revenging wrath, horror of conscience, and a fearful expectation of judgment; which is considered as the beginning of those torments which they shall endure after death.

I. There are several invaluable privileges which the righteous enjoy in this life, that are styled the first-fruits or earnest of glory. Though Christ has reserved the fulness of glory for his people hereafter, when he brings them to heaven; yet there are some small degrees thereof, which they enjoy in their way to it. The crown of righteousness, as the apostle speaks, is laid up for them, which the righteous Judge shall give them at that day, 2 Tim. iv. 8. to wit, when we shall come to judgment; then their joy shall be full; they shall be satisfied in his likeness, and made compleatly blessed: Nevertheless there are some prelibations, or foretastes, which they have hereof, for their support and encouragement, while they are in this imperfect state. For the understanding of this it may be premised,

1. That we are not to suppose that the present enjoyments which believers experience in the highest degree, do fully come up to those that are reserved for them. There is a great difference 281as to the degree thereof. As a child that is newly born has something in common with what he shall have when arrived at a state of manhood; but there are several degrees, and other circumstances, in which he falls short of it: or, as a few drops are of the same nature with the whole collection of water in the ocean; yet there is a very small proportion between one and the other: so the brightest discovery of the glory of God, which we are capable of enjoying in this world; or the comfortable foretastes that believers have of heaven, fall very much short of that which they shall be possessed of, when they are received into it. And there are very great allays, and many things that tend to interrupt and abate their happiness, agreeably to the imperfection of this present state. Whatever grace they are enabled to act, though in an uncommon degree, is attended with a mixture of corruption; and as their graces are imperfect, so are the comforts that arise from thence, which are interwoven with many things very afflictive; so that they are not what they shall be, but are travelling through this wilderness to a better country, and exposed to many evils in their way thither.

2. All believers do not enjoy these delights and pleasures that some are favoured with in their way to heaven; the comforts, as well as the graces, of the Holy Spirit, are bestowed in a way of sovereignty, to some more, and to others less: Some have reason to say with the apostle, Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, 2 Cor. ii. 14. others are filled with doubts concerning their interest in him, and go mourning after him all the day; and if they have, at some times a small glimpse of his glory, by which they conclude themselves to be, as it were, in the suburbs of heaven, they soon lose it, and find themselves to be in the valley of the shadow of death, as the disciples, when they were with Christ at his transfiguration, which was an emblem of the heavenly blessedness, when his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light; which occasioned them to say, it is good for us to be here; before they had done speaking, or had time to reflect on their present enjoyment they were deprived of it when the cloud overshadowed them, Matt. xvii. 2,-5. so the believer is not to expect uninterrupted communion with God, or perfect fruition with him here. However, that which we are at present to consider, is that degree thereof which some enjoy; which is here called the first-fruits and earnest of glory. The scripture sets it forth under both these expressions.

(1.) They are said to receive the first-fruits thereof; or as the apostle styles it, The first-fruits of the Spirit, Rom. viii. 23. that is, the graces and comforts of the Holy Ghost, which are the first-fruits of that blessedness, that they are said to wait 282for; which is called the adoption, viz. those privileges which God’s children shall be made partakers of; or, the glorious liberty which they shall hereafter enjoy. This is styled, the first-fruits, as alluding to the cluster of grapes, which they who were sent to spy out the land of Canaan, were ordered to bring to the Israelites in the wilderness, that hereby they might be encouraged in their expectation of the great plenty that was to be enjoyed when they were brought to it. Or, it has reference to the feast of ingathering, before the harvest, when they were to bring the sheaf which was first to be cut down, and wave it before the Lord, Lev. xxiii. 10, 11. compared with Deut. xxvi. 10, 11. with thankfulness and joy, in expectation of the full harvest, which would be the reward of the industry and labour of the husbandman. Thus believers are given not only to expect, but to rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

(2.) This is also called an earnest of glory. Thus believers are said to be sealed with that holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest of their inheritance, Eph. i. 13, 14. and elsewhere it is said, God hath given us the earnest of his Spirit, 2 Cor. i. 5. An earnest is a small sum, given in part of payment; whereby they who receive it, are encouraged hereafter to expect the whole: So a believer may conclude, that as sure as he now enjoys those spiritual privileges that accompany salvation, he shall not fail of that glory which they are an earnest of. In this respect God is pleased to give his people a wonderful instance of his condescending love, that they may hereby be led to know what the happiness of the heavenly state is, in a greater degree than can be learned from all the descriptions that are given of it, by those who are destitute of this privilege. Heaven is the port to which every believer is bound, the reward of all those labours and difficulties which he sustains in his way to it; and to quicken him to the greater diligence in pursuing after it, it is necessary that he should have his thoughts, meditation, and conversation there. The reason why God is pleased to give his people some foretastes thereof, is, that they may love and long for Christ’s appearing, when they shall reap the full harvest of glory. Now this earnest, prelibation, or first-fruits of the heavenly blessedness which believers enjoy in this life, is considered in this answer.

[1.] As it is included in that glory which Christ is possessed of as their head and Mediator.

[2.] As they have those graces wrought in them, and comforts flowing from thence, which bear some small resemblance to what they shall hereafter be made partakers of.

[1.] Christ’s being possessed of the heavenly blessedness, as the head of his people, is an earnest of their salvation. For the understanding of which, let it be considered, that our Lord 283Jesus sustained this character, not only in what he suffered for them, that he might redeem them from the curse of the law; but in the glory which he was afterwards advanced to: Thus it is said, that he is risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept, 1 Cor. xv. 20. and accordingly they are said to be risen with him, Col. iii. 1. as respecting that communion which they have with him herein; and when, after this, he ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, his people are said to sit together in heavenly places in him, Eph. ii. 6. not that we are to suppose that they are made partakers of any branch of his mediatorial glory, or joined with him in the work which he there performs, as their exalted head: But his being considered as their representative, appearing in the presence of God for them, is a foundation of their hope that they shall be brought hither at last; and therefore, when he is about to depart out of this world, he gave an intimation to his people, whom he left behind him in it, that he went to prepare a place for them, John xiv. 3. and assures them, that because he lives they shall live also, ver. 19.

[2.] The graces and comforts of the Holy Spirit, which believers are made partakers of, may also be said to be a pledge and earnest of eternal life. Heaven is a state in which grace is brought to perfection, which, at present, is only begun in the soul: nevertheless, the beginning thereof affords ground of hope that it shall be compleated. As a curious artist, when he draws the first lines of a picture, does not design to leave it unfinished; or he that lays the foundation of a building, determines to carry it on gradually, till he has laid the top-stone of it; so the work of grace, when begun by the Spirit, is a ground of hope that it shall not be left unfinished. As God would never have brought his people out of Egypt with an high hand and an outstretched arm, and divided the red sea before them, if he had not designed to bring them into the promised land; so we may conclude, that when God has magnified his grace in delivering his people from the dominion of darkness, and translating them into the kingdom of his dear Son; when he has helped them hitherto, and given them a fair and beautiful prospect of the good land to which they are going, he will not leave his work imperfect, nor suffer them to fall and perish in the way to it. Christ, in believers, is said to be the hope of glory, Col. i. 27. and the joy which they have in believing, is said not only to be unspeakable, but full of glory, 1 Pet. i. 8. that is, it bears a small resemblance to that joy which they shall be filled with, when brought to glory, and therefore may well be styled the earnest or first-fruits of it.

Now, that this may farther appear, let it be considered, that the happiness of heaven consists in the immediate vision and 284fruition of God, where the saints behold his face in light and glory[109], and enjoy all those comfortable fruits and effects that arise from thence, which tend to make them compleatly happy. Thus it is said, They shall see him as he is, 1 John iii. 2. and they are said to enter into the joy of their Lord, Matt. xxv. 21. Believers, it is true, are not in all respects, said to be partakers of this blessedness here; and their highest enjoyments bear but a very small proportion to it: Yet, when we speak of some as having the foretastes of it, we must consider, that there is something in the lively exercise of faith, and the joy that arises from it, when believers have attained the full assurance of the love of God, and have those sensible manifestations of his comfortable presence with them, that bears some small resemblance to a life of glory.

That which in some respects resembles the beatific vision, is a sight of God’s reconciled face, and of their interest in all the blessings of the covenant of grace, by faith. It is true, the views which they have of the glory of God here, are not immediate, but at a distance; and therefore they are said to behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, 2 Cor. iii. 18. Thus we see things at a distance, as through a perspective glass, which enlarges the object[110], and brings it, as it were, near to the eye, though in reality, it be at a great distance from it; and so gives us a clear discerning of that which could otherwise hardly be discovered: So faith gives us clearer views of this glory than we could have any other way. Hereby we are said to see him that is invisible, Heb. xi. 27. Thus, when God bade Moses go up to the top of Pisgah, and strengthened his sight, he took a view of the whole land of Canaan, though without this he could only have beheld a small part thereof: So when God not only gives an eye of faith, but strengthens it in proportion to the views he designs it shall take of the heavenly state, that lies at so great a distance, the soul is enabled to see it, and herein has a faint emblem of the beatific vision.

Moreover, as heaven is a state, in which the saints have the perfect fruition of those blessings which tend to make them compleatly happy; the view which a believer is enabled, by faith, to take of his interest in Christ, and the glory he shall be made partaker of with him, is sometimes attended with such an extasy of joy and triumph, as is a kind of anticipation of that glory which he is not yet fully possessed of. Such an one is like an heir who wants but a few days of being of age; who does not look upon his estate with that distant view which he before did, but with the satisfaction and pleasure that arises from his being ready to enter into the possession of it; or like one who after a long and tedious voyage, is within sight of his 285harbour, which he cannot but behold with a pleasure, which very much resembles that which he shall have when he enters into it; this is more than a bare hope of heaven; it is a full assurance, attended with a kind of sensation of those joys which are inexpressible, which render the believer a wonder to himself, and afford the most convincing proof to others, that there is something real and substantial in the heavenly glory, whereof God is pleased to favour some of his people with the prelibations. That some have enjoyed such-like manifestations of the divine love to them, and been filled with those raptures of joy, accompanying that assurance which they have had of their salvation, is evident from the experience which they have had of it in some extraordinary and memorable occurrences in life; and others at the approach of death.

Of this there are multitudes of instances transmitted to us in history: I shall content myself with a brief extract of some passages which we meet with in the life and death of some who appear to have had as comfortable a foretaste of the joys of heaven, as it is possible for any one to have in this world. And the first that I shall mention is that eminently learned and pious Dr. Rivet; who, in his last sickness seemed to be in the very suburbs of heaven, signifying to all about him, what intimate communion he had with God, and fore-views of the heavenly state; his assurance of being admitted into it; and how earnestly he longed to be there: and, in the very close of life, one who stood by him could not forbear expressing himself to this purpose; I cannot but think that he is now enjoying the vision of God, which gave him occasion to signify that it was so, as well as he was able to express himself, which account, and much more to the same purpose, is not only mentioned by the author of his last hours, but is taken notice of in a public funeral oration, occasioned by his death.[111]

And what a very worthy writer observes,[112] concerning that excellent servant of Christ, Mr. Rutherford, who recites some 286of his last words to this purpose, is very remarkable, who says, “I shall shine, I shall see him as he is, and all the fair company with him, and shall have my large share. It is no easy thing to be a Christian; but as for me, I have got the victory; and Christ is holding forth his arms to embrace me. I have had my fears and faintings, as another sinful man, to be carried through creditably; but as sure as ever he spake to me in his word, his Spirit witnessed to my heart, saying, Fear not; he had accepted my suffering, and the outgate should not be matter of prayer, but of praise.” And a little before his death, after some fainting, he said, “Now I feel, I believe, I enjoy, I rejoice, I feed on manna, I have angels’ food, my eyes shall see my Redeemer; I know that he shall stand, at the latter day, on the earth, and I shall be caught up in the clouds to meet him in the air. I sleep in Christ; and when I awake I shall be satisfied with his likeness; O for arms to embrace him!” And to one speaking concerning his painfulness in the ministry, he cried out, “I disdain all; the port I would be in at, is redemption and forgiveness of sins through his blood.” And thus, full of the Spirit; yea, as it were overcome with sensible enjoyment, he breathes out his soul, his last words being these; “Glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land.”

To this I may add the account given of that great man Dr. Goodwin, in some memoirs of his life, composed out of his own papers published by his son,[113] who intimates that he rejoiced in the thoughts that he was dying, and going to have a full and uninterrupted communion with God; “I am going, said he, to the three Persons with whom I have had communion; they have taken me, I did not take them; I shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye; all my lusts and corruptions I shall be rid of, which I could not be here; those croaking toads will fall off in a moment.” And mentioning those great examples of faith, Heb. xi. said he, “All these died in faith. I could not have imagined I should ever had such a measure of faith in this hour; no, I could never have imagined it. My bow abides in strength. Is Christ divided? No, I have the whole of his righteousness; I am found in him, not in my own righteousness, which is of the law; but in the righteousness which is of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Christ cannot love me better than he doth; I think I cannot love Christ better than I do; I am swallowed up in God:” and then he says, “Now shall I ever be with the Lord.” With this assurance of faith, and fulness of joy his soul left this 287world, and went to see and enjoy the reality of that blessed state of glory.

There is also an account, in the life and death of Mr. John Janeway, of the great assurance and joy which he had in his last sickness, in which he expresses himself to this purpose; “I am, through mercy, quite above the fears of death, and am going unto him whom I love above life. O that I could let you know what I now feel! O that I could shew you what I see! O that I could express the thousandth part of that sweetness which now I find in Christ! you would all then think it worth the while to make it your business to be religious. O my dear friends, you little think what a Christ is worth upon a death-bed! I would not, for a world, nay, for millions of worlds, be now without Christ and a pardon. O the glory! the unspeakable glory that I behold! My heart is full, my heart is full; Christ smiles and I cannot choose but smile. Can you find in your heart to stop me, who am now going to the complete and eternal enjoyment of Christ? Would you keep me from my crown? The arms of my blessed Saviour are open to embrace me; the angels stand ready to carry my soul into his bosom. O did you but see what I see, you would all cry out with me, How long dear Lord, come Lord Jesus, come quickly? Or why are his chariot-wheels so long a coming?” Much more to the same purpose may be found in the life of that excellent man, which is exceedingly affecting.

And there is another who does not come short of him in his death-bed triumphs;[114] who says concerning himself, “Death is not terrible, it is unstinged; the curse of the fiery law is done away: I bless his name I found him; I am taken up in blessing him; I am dying rejoicing in the Lord; I long to be in the promised land; I wait for thy salvation; how long! Come sweet Lord Jesus, take me by the hand; I wait for thy salvation, as the watchman watcheth for the morning; I am weary with delays; I faint for thy salvation: Why are his chariot-wheels so long a coming? What means he to stay so long? I am like to faint with delays.” After that he said, “O Sirs, I could not believe that I could have born, and born cheerfully this rod so long: This is a miracle, pain without pain. And this is not a fancy of a man disordered in his brain, but of one lying in full composure: O blessed be God that ever I was born; O if I were where he is! And yet, for all this, God’s withdrawing from me would make me as weak as water: all this I enjoy, though it be a miracle upon miracle, would not make me stand without new supply from God; 288the thing I rejoice in is, that God is altogether full; and that in the Mediator Christ Jesus, there is all the fulness of the Godhead, and it will never run out. I am wonderfully helped beyond the power of nature, though my body be sufficiently teazed, yet my spirit is untouched.” Much more to this purpose we have in the latter part of his life, which I shall close with one thing that is very remarkable. When he was apprehensive that he was very near his death, he said, “When I fall so low that I am not able to speak, I’ll shew you a sign of triumph, when I am near glory, if I be able;” which accordingly he did, by lifting up his hands, and clapping them together, when he was speechless, and in the agonies of death.

Many more instances might have been given to illustrate this argument, whereby it will evidently appear, that God is pleased, sometimes, to deal familiarly with men, by giving them extraordinary manifestations of his presence, before he brings them into the immediate enjoyment of himself in heaven; which may be well called an earnest or prelibation thereof.[115] And it may serve as a farther illustration of an argument before insisted on,[116] to prove that assurance of God’s love is attainable in this life, from the various instances of those who have been favoured with it. This assurance, as it may be observed, is accompanied with the lively acts of faith, by which it appears to be well grounded; so that, as the apostle says, The God of hope is pleased to fill them with all joy and peace in believing; whereby they abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost, Rom. xv. 13. in which respect it may be said, to use the prophet’s words, that they joy before thee, according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil, Isa. ix. 3. This is like the appearing of the morning-star, which ushers in a bright and glorious day, and gives a full discovery to themselves and others, that there is much of heaven enjoyed in the way to it, by those whom God delights to honour. Thus concerning the communion in glory, which the members of the invisible church sometimes enjoy in this life; which leads us to consider,

II. The miserable condition of the wicked in this life, when God is provoked, as a sin-revenging Judge, to fill them with a sense of his wrath; from whence arises horror of conscience, 289and a fearful expectation of judgment; which is the beginning of those torments which they shall endure after death, as it is observed in the latter part of this answer. We have many instances in scripture, of the punishment of sin in this world, in whom God is said to reprove and set their iniquities in order before their eyes, Psal. l. 21. which fills them with horror of conscience,[117] and leaves them in utter despair. They who once thought themselves in a prosperous condition, concerning whom it is said, Their eyes stand out with fatness, they have more than heart could wish, Psal. lxxiii. 7. yet their end was terrible, when it appears that they were set in slippery places, being cast down into destruction, brought into desolation as in a moment, and utterly consumed with terrors, ver. 18, 19.

We have a sad instance of this in Cain, after he had slain his brother, and fell under the curse of God, whereby he was sentenced to be a fugitive and vagabond in the earth. He separated himself indeed from the presence of the Lord, and the place in which he was worshipped; but could not fly from the terrors of his own thoughts, or get any relief under the uneasiness of a guilty conscience; which made him fear that he should be slain by the hand of every one that met him; and complain, My punishment is greater than I can bear, Gen. iv. 13.

And some understand that expression of Lamech in the same sense, when he says, I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged seven-fold, truly Lamech seventy and seven-fold, Gen. iv. 23, 24. The wrath of God was also denounced against Pashur; as it is said, the Lord hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magor-missabib; for thus saith the Lord, I will make thee a terror to thyself, and to all thy friends, Jer. xx. 3, 4.

And Judas, after he had betrayed our Saviour, was filled with the terrors of an accusing conscience, which forced him to confess, not as a believing penitent, but a despairing criminal; I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood; after which it is said, He departed, and went and hanged himself, Matt, xxvii. 4, 5. Nothing is more terrible than this remorse of conscience, which renders sinners inexpressibly miserable. This is a punishment inflicted on those who sin wilfully, presumptuously, and obstinately against the checks of conscience and rebukes of providence, and various warnings to the contrary, who treasure up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath; who are contentious, and do not obey the truth; that is, they are so far from obeying it, that they persecute and oppose it; and, on the other hand, obey unrighteousness: to these belong, as the apostle says, indignation and wrath, tribulation 290and anguish, Rom. ii. 5, 8, 9. This not only waits for them, as laid up in store, and sealed up among God’s treasures, to whom vengeance belongeth, Deut. xxxii. 34, 35. but they are made to taste the bitterness of that cup, which shall afterwards be poured forth without mixture. In this world their eyes shall see their destruction, and afterwards they shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty, Job xxi. 20. This is a most affecting subject; how awful a thing is it to see a person surrounded with miseries, and, at the same time, shut up in darkness, and left destitute of hope! With what horror and anguish was the soul of Saul filled, when he uttered that doleful complaint; I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, 1 Sam. xxviii. 15. much more for a person to apprehend himself fallen into the hands of the living God, who is a consuming fire; and having nothing left but the fearful expectation of future judgment, and an abyss of woes that will ensue hereupon. These are the evils that some endure in this life; which is no less terrible to them than the comfortable foretastes of the love of God are joyful to the saints.

From the different view of the end of the wicked, and the righteous, many useful instructions may be learned.

1. When we consider the wicked as distressed with the afflicting sense of what they feel, and with the dread of that wrath which they would fain flee from, but cannot, we may infer,

(1.) That a state of unregeneracy, whatever advantages may attend it, as to the outward blessings of common providence, is a very sad and deplorable condition, far from being the object of choice to those who duly consider the consequences hereof. The present amusements that arise from the enjoyment of sensual pleasures, from whence the sinner concludes himself to be happy, is the most miserable instance of self-deceit, and will appear to be so, if we consider the end thereof, or that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment, Job xx. 5. and after that, nothing shall remain but what wounds his spirit, and makes his misery intolerable.

(2.) When we meet with instances of persons sunk in the depths of despair, and tormenting themselves with the fore views of hell and destruction, let this be a warning to others to flee from the wrath to come. I would not be peremptory in passing a judgment on the state of those who apprehend themselves to be irretrievably lost, and feel those terrors in their consciences which no tongue can express. A person can hardly read the account of the despair of poor Spira, soon after the reformation; and how much his sentiments concerning 291himself, resembled the punishment of sin in hell, without trembling: he was, indeed, a sad instance, of the wrath of God breaking in upon conscience; and is set up as a monument to warn others, to take heed of apostacy; and in this, and suchlike instances, we have a convincing proof of the reality of a future state of misery; or, that the punishment of sin in hell is not an ungrounded fancy: nevertheless, it is not for us to enter into those secrets which belong not to us, or to reckon him among the damned in another world, because he reckoned himself among them in this. And as for any others that we may see in the like circumstances, we are not so much to pass a judgment concerning their future state, as to infer the desperate estate of sinners, when left of God, and to bless him that it is not our case. And on the other hand, let not unregenerate sinners think that they are safe, merely because their consciences are quiet, or rather stupid, since that false peace, which they have, is no better than the hope of the hypocrite, which shall perish, and be cut off; and his trust shall be as a spider’s web, if he continue in his present condition.

From what has been said concerning the happiness of the righteous, in the enjoyment they have of the first fruits of the heavenly glory, we may learn,

(1.) That this may afford farther conviction to us, that there is a state of complete blessedness reserved for the saints in another world; since, besides the arguments we have to prove this taken from scripture, we have others founded in experience, so far as it is possible for any to attain to the joys of heaven before they come there. Though the instances we have here given thereof are uncommon, yet this inference from them is just, and may afford matter of conviction to those who are wholly taken up with earthly things, and have no taste of, nor delight in things spiritual, that religion has its own rewards attending it, and consequently that a believer is the only happy man in the world.

(2.) This may serve as an encouraging motive to induce Christians to hold on their way. Whatever difficulties or distressing providences they may meet with in this life, if they have the earnest and foretastes of heaven at any time, this will make their afflictions seem light; inasmuch as they work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. And if they are rather waiting and hoping for them, than actually enjoying them, let them adore and depend on the sovereignty of God, who dispenses these comforts when he pleases: and if they are destitute of the joy of faith, let them endeavour to be found in the lively exercise of the direct acts thereof, trusting in Christ, though they have not such sensible communion with him as others have; and let them bless God, (though they have 292not those foretastes of the heavenly glory, which accompany a full assurance thereof,) if they have a quiet, composed frame of spirit, and are not given up to desponding thoughts, or unbelieving fears, and have ground to conclude, that though their state be not so comfortable as that of others; yet it is no less safe, and shall, at last, issue into the fruition of that felicity of which others have the first-fruits here on earth.

(3.) Let them who are at any time favoured with this privilege of assurance, and the joy that arises from it, walk very humbly with God, as being sensible that this frame of spirit is not owing to themselves, but to the quickening and sealing influences of the Holy Ghost; and if, by neglecting to depend on him for the continuance thereof, we provoke him to leave us to ourselves, we shall soon lose this desirable frame, and be left in darkness: since as without him we can do nothing, so without his continued presence we can enjoy none of those privileges which tend to make our lives comfortable, and give us an anticipation of future glory.

Quest. LXXXIV., LXXXV.

Quest. LXXXIV. Shall all men die?

Answ. Death being threatened as the wages of sin, it is appointed unto all men once to die; for that all have sinned.

Quest. LXXXV. Death being the wages of sin, why are not the righteous delivered from death, seeing all their sins are forgiven in Christ?

Answ. The righteous shall be delivered from death itself at the last day, and even in death are delivered from the sting and curse of it; so that, although they die, yet it is out of God’s love, to free them perfectly from sin and misery; and to make them capable of farther communion with Christ in glory, which they then enter upon.

In these answers we have an account,

I. Of the unalterable purpose of God, or his appointment that all men once must die; which is also considered as the wages of sin.

II. It is supposed, that death has a sting and curse attending it with respect to force.

III. It is the peculiar privilege of the righteous, that though they shall not be delivered from death, yet this shall redound to their advantage: For,

1. The sting and curse of it is taken from them.

2. Their dying is the result of God’s love to them; and that in three respects,

293(1.) As they are thereby freed from sin and misery.

(2.) As they are made capable of farther communion with Christ in glory, beyond what they can have in this world.

(3.) As they shall immediately enter upon that glorious and blessed state when they die.

I. God has determined, by an unalterable purpose and decree, that all men must die. Whatever different sentiments persons may have about other things, this remains an incontestable truth. We have as much reason to conclude that we shall leave the world, as, at present, we have that we live in it. I know, says Job, that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living, Job xxx. 23. and upon this account the Psalmist says, I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were, Psal. xxxix. 12. And if scripture had been wholly silent about the frailty of man, daily experience would have afforded a sufficient proof of it. We have much said concerning man’s mortality in the writings of the heathen; but they are at a loss to determine the origin or first cause of it; and therefore they consider it as the unavoidable consequence of the frame of nature, arising from the contexture thereof, as that which is formed out of the dust must be resolved into its first principle; or that which is composed of flesh and blood, cannot but be liable to corruption. But we have this matter set in a true light in scripture, which considers death as the consequence of man’s first apostacy from God. Before this he was immortal, and would have always remained so, had he not violated the covenant, in which the continuance of his immortality was secured to him; the care of providence would have prevented a dissolution, either from the decays of nature, or any external means leading to it. And therefore some of the Socinian writers have been very bold in contradicting the express account we have hereof in Scripture, when they assert that death was, at first, the consequence of nature;[118] for which reason man would have been liable to it, though he had not sinned; whereas the apostle says, By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned, Rom. v. 12.

We have a particular account of this in the sentence God passed on our first parents immediately after their fall; when having denounced a curse upon the ground for their sake, he says, Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return, Gen. iii. 19. And it may be observed, that as this is unavoidable, pursuant to the decree of God, so the constitution of our nature, as well as the external dispensations of providence, lead to it. This sentence no sooner took place, but the temperament of 294human bodies was altered,[119] the jarring principles of nature, on the due temperament whereof life and health depends, could not but have a tendency by degrees to destroy the frame thereof; if there be too great a confluence of humours, or a defect thereof; if heat or cold immoderately prevails; if the circulation of the blood and juices be too swift or slow: or if the food on which we live, or the air which we breathe be not agreeable to the constitution of our nature, or any external violence be offered to it; all these things have a necessary tendency to weaken the frame of nature, and bring on a dissolution. David includes the various means by which men die, in three general heads, speaking concerning Saul, The Lord shall smite him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall descend into battle, and perish: the Lord shall smite him, 1 Sam. xxvi. 10. denotes a person’s dying by a sudden stroke of providence, in which there is the more immediate hand of God; and his falling into battle, a violent death by the hands of men; in both which respects men die before that time which they might have lived to, according to the course of nature; and what is said concerning his day’s coming to die; that is, a person’s dying what we call a natural death, or when nature is so spent and wasted that it can no longer subsist by all the skill of the physicians, or virtue of medicine; and then the soul leaves its habitation, when it is not longer able to perform the functions of life.

We might here consider those diseases that are the fore-runners of death, which sometimes are more acute; and by this means, as one elegantly expresses it, nature feels the cruel victory before it yields to the enemy. As a ship that is tossed by a mighty tempest, and by the concussion of the winds and waves, loses its rudder and masts, takes water in every part, and gradually sinks into the ocean: so in the shipwreck of nature, the body is so shaken and weakened by the violence of a disease, that the senses, the animal and vital operations decline, and, at last, are extinguished in death.[120] This seemed, so formidable to good Hezekiah, that he utters that mournful complaint, Mine age is departed and removed from me as a shepherd’s tent: I have cut off like a weaver, my life; he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night, wilt thou make an end of me. I reckoned till the morning, that as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me, Isa. xxxvii. 12, 13.

We might here consider the empire of death as universal; as the wise man says, One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, Eccl. i. 4. and then they pass away also, like the ebbing and flowing of the sea. Death spares none; the 295strongest constitution can no more withstand its stroke, than the weakest; no age of man is exempted from it. This is beautifully described by Job; One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet: his breasts are full of milk, and his bones are moistened with marrow: and another dieth in the bitterness of his soul; and never eateth with pleasure: they shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them, Job xxi. 23-26.

We might also consider the body after death, as a prey for worms, the seat of corruption; and lodged in the grave, the house appointed for all living; and then an end is put to all the actions, as well as enjoyments of this life; and, as the Psalmist speaks, In that very day all their thoughts perish, Psal. cxlvi. 4. Whatever they have been projecting, whatever schemes they have laid, either for themselves or others, are all broken: as the historian observes concerning the Roman emperor, that when he had formed great designs for the advantage of the empire,[121] death broke all his measures, and prevented the execution thereof.

We might also consider it as putting an end to our present enjoyments, removing us from the society of our dearest friends, to a dismal and frightful solitude. This was one of the consequences thereof, that was very afflictive to Hezekiah, when he says, I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world, Isa. xxxviii. 11. It also strips us of all our possessions, and the honours we have been advanced to in this world, as the Psalmist speaks, When he dieth he shall carry nothing away, his glory shall not descend after him, Psal. xlix. 27.

We might also consider the time of life and death as being in God’s hand. As we were brought into the world by the sovereignty of his providence, so we are called out of it at his pleasure; concerning whom it is said, Our times are in his hand, Psal. xxxi. 15. So that as nothing is more certain than death, nothing is more uncertain to us than the time when. This God has concealed from us for wise ends. Did we know that we should soon die, it would discourage us from attempting any thing great in life; and did we know that the lease of life was long, and we should certainly arrive to old age; this might occasion the delaying all concerns about our soul’s welfare, as presuming that it was time enough to think of the affairs of religion and another world, when we apprehend ourselves to be near the confines thereof; and therefore, God has by this, made it our wisdom, as well as our duty, to be waiting all the days of our appointed time, till our change come.

From what has been said under this head, we may learn,

1. The vanity of man as mortal. Indeed, if we look on believers as enjoying that happiness which lies beyond the grave, 296there is a very different view of things; but as to what respects the world we have reason to say as the Psalmist does, Verily, every man at his best estate is altogether vanity, Psal. xxxix. 5. We may see the vanity of all those honours and carnal pleasures which many pursue with so much eagerness, as though they had nothing else to mind, nothing to make provision for but the flesh, which they do at the expence of that which is in itself most excellent and desirable: We may also infer,

2. That this affords an undeniable and universal motive to humility; since death knows no distinction of persons, regards the rich no more than the poor; puts no mark of distinction between the remains of a prince and a peasant; and not only takes away every thing that men value themselves upon, but levels the highest part of mankind with common dust: They who boast of their extract, descent, and kindred, are obliged, with Job, to say, to corruption, Thou art my father; to the worm, Thou art my mother and my sister, Job xvii. 14. Shall we be proud of our habitations, who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust? chap. iv. 19. Are any proud of their youth and beauty? this is, at best, but like a flower that does not abide long in its bloom, and when cut down, it withers. The finest features are not only spoiled by death, but rendered unpleasant and ghastly to behold; and accordingly are removed out of sight, and laid in the grave.

3. From the consideration of man’s liableness to death, and those diseases that lead to it, as the wages of sin, we may infer; that sin is a bitter and formidable evil. The cause is to be judged of by its effects. As death, accompanied with all those diseases which are the forerunners of it, is the greatest natural evil that we are liable to; sin, from whence it took its rise, must be the greatest moral evil; we should never reflect on the one without lying low before God in a sense of the other. The Psalmist, when meditating on his own mortality, traces it to the spring thereof; and ascribes it to those rebukes with which God corrects men for their iniquities, that they die, and their beauty consumes away like a moth, Psal. xxxix. 11. And elsewhere, when he compares the life of man to the grass, which in the morning fourisheth, and groweth up; and in the evening is cut down and withereth, he immediately adds; thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance, Psal. xc. 6, 8. And when Hezekiah had an intimation of his recovery, after he had the sentence of death within himself, he speaks of his deliverance from the pit of corruption, Isa. xxxviii. 17. as that which was accompanied with God’s casting all his sins behind his back. And since we cannot be delivered from these sad effects of sin, till the frame of 297nature is dissolved, and afterwards rebuilt; it should put us upon using those proper methods whereby we may be freed from the guilt and dominion thereof; and accordingly it should have a tendency to promote a life of holiness in us.

4. From the uncertainty of life, let us be induced to improve our present time, and endeavour so to live, as that, when God calls us hence, we may be ready. And therefore, we ought to pray with the Psalmist, So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom, Psal. xc. 12. that by this means, that which deprives us of all earthly enjoyments, may give us an admission into a better world, and be the gate to eternal life. This leads us to consider,

II. That death has a sting and curse annexed to it, with respect to some. Thus the apostle expressly says, The sting of death is sin, 1 Cor. xv. 56. As sin at first brought death into the world; so it is the guilt thereof, lying on the consciences of men, which is the principal thing that makes them afraid to leave the world; not but that death is, in itself, an evil that nature cannot think of without some reluctancy. And therefore the apostle Paul, although he expresses that assurance which he had of happiness in another world, which he groaned after, and earnestly longed to be possessed of; yet had it been put to his choice, he would have wished that he could have been clothed upon with the house which is from heaven, 2 Cor. v. 2. that is, had it been the will of God, that he might have been brought to heaven without going the way of all the earth, this would have been more agreeable to nature. But when the two evils of death meet together, namely, that which is abhorrent to nature, and the sting which makes it much more formidable, this is, beyond measure, distressing. In this answer, the sting and curse of death are both put together, as implying the same thing. Accordingly, it is that whereby a person apprehends himself liable to the condemning sentence of the law, separated from God, and excluded from his favour, so that death appears to him to be the beginning of sorrows; this is that which tends to embitter it, and fills him with dread and horror at the thoughts of it. Which leads us,

III. To shew that it is the peculiar privilege of the righteous, that though they shall not be delivered from death, yet this shall redound to their advantage. That they shall not be exempted from death is evident; because the decree of God relating hereunto, extends to all men. We read, indeed, of two that escaped the grave, viz. Enoch, who was translated that he should not see death, and Elijah, who was carried to heaven in a fiery chariot; but these are extraordinary instances, not designed as precedents, by which we may judge of the common lot of believers. And the saints that shall be found 298alive at Christ’s second coming, shall undergo a change[122], as the apostle speaks; which though it be equivalent to death, it cannot properly be styled a dying; inasmuch as he opposes it thereunto, when he says, We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 1 Cor. xv. 51. and he speaks of it as a future dispensation of providence, which does not immediately concern us in this present age. Therefore we must not conclude that believers are delivered from the stroke of death; nevertheless, this is ordered for their good, as the apostle says, with a particular application to himself, For me to die is gain, Phil. i. 21. And when he speaks of the many blessings that believers have in possession or in reversion, he says, Death is yours; as though he should say, it shall redound to your advantage; and this it does if we consider,

1. That the sting of death is taken away from them. This is the result of their being in a justified state; for since a person’s being liable to the condemning sentence of the law is the principal thing that has a tendency to make him uneasy, and may be truly called the sting that wounds the conscience; so a sense of his interest in forgiveness through the blood of Christ, tends to give peace to it; such an one can say, who shall lay any thing to my charge? It is God that justifieth; or though I have contracted guilt, which renders me unworthy of his favour; yet I am persuaded that this guilt is removed; and therefore iniquity shall not be my ruin; and even death itself shall bring me to the possession of those blessings that were purchased for me by the blood of Christ, which I have been enabled to apply to myself by faith; and with this confidence he can say with the apostle, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Cor. xv. 55.

2. Their dying is an instance of God’s love to them. As those whom Christ is said to have loved in the world, he loved unto the end of his life; so he loves them to the end of theirs, John xiii. 1. And as nothing has hitherto separated them from this love, nothing shall be able to do it. There are three instances wherein the love of God to dying believers discovers itself.

(1.) In that they are hereby freed from sin and misery; this they never were, nor can be till then. As for sin, there are the remainders thereof in the best of men, which give them great disturbance, and occasion for that daily conflict which there is between flesh and spirit, as has been before observed. But at death the conflict will be at an end, and the victory which they shall obtain over it, compleat. There shall be no law in the members warring against the law of the mind; no propensity or inclination to what is evil; nor any guilt or defilement contracted; 299which would be inconsistent with a state of perfect holiness. And as it is a state of perfect happiness, there is an entire freedom from all those miseries which sin brought into this lower world. These are either internal or external, personal or relative; none of which shall occur to allay, or give any disturbance to the saints’ blessedness after death. But more of this will be considered under a following answer; in which we shall be led to speak of the happiness of the righteous at the day of judgment, both in soul and body[123]; and therefore we proceed to consider,

(2.) That the death of a believer appears to be an instance of divine love, in that hereby he is made capable of farther communion with Christ in glory. Persons must be made meet for heaven before they are admitted to it. Though our present season and day of grace is a time in which God is training his people up for glory; and there is an habitual preparation for it, when the work of grace is begun; which is what the apostle intends when he speaks of some who are made meet to be made partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, Col. ii. 12. when they were first translated into Christ’s kingdom: nevertheless this falls very short of that actual meetness which the saints must have when they are brought to the possession of the heavenly blessedness. Then they shall be made perfect in holiness, as will be observed in the next answer; otherwise there can be no perfect happiness.

And besides this, the soul must be more enlarged, that hereby it may be enabled to receive the immediate discoveries of the divine glory, or to converse with the heavenly inhabitants, than it can be here. The frame of nature must be changed; which is what the apostle intends, when he says, Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption, 1 Cor. xv. 50. accordingly he adds, ver. 53. This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality; whereby he intimates, that frail, mortal, and corruptible man, is not able to bear that glory which is reserved for a state of immortality. Therefore the soul must be so changed as to be rendered receptive thereof; and in order thereto, all its powers and faculties must be greatly enlarged; otherwise it can no more receive the immediate rays of the divine glory, than the weak and distempered eye can look steady on the sun shining in its meridian brightness. In this world our ideas of divine things are very imperfect, by reason of the narrowness of our capacities, and God condescends to reveal himself to us in proportion thereto; but when the saints shall see him as he is, or have a perfect and immediate vision and fruition of his glory, they shall be made receptive 300of it; this is done at death; whereby they are rendered capable of farther communion with Christ in glory.[124]

301(3.) At death believers immediately enter upon, and are admitted into the possession of this glory. At the same time that the soul is enlarged and fitted for the work and enjoyment of heaven, it is received into it; where it shall have an uninterrupted communion with Christ in glory; which is the subject insisted on in the following answer.

Quest. LXXXVI.

Quest. LXXXVI. What is the communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death?

Answ. The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, which, even in death, continue united to Christ, and rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls: Whereas the souls of the wicked are at death cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, and their bodies kept in their graves, as in their prisons, till the resurrection and judgment of the great day.

Having considered the soul as separated from the body by death; the next thing that will be enquired into, is what becomes of it, and how it is disposed of in its separate state? and here we find that there is a vast difference between the righteous and the wicked in this respect: the former have communion with Christ in glory, the latter are in a state of banishment and separation from him; being cast into hell, and there remaining in torments and utter darkness. Both these are particularly insisted on in this answer. In speaking to which, we must consider,

302I. That there is something supposed; namely, that the soul of man is immortal; otherwise it could not be capable of happiness or misery.

II. We shall consider the happiness which the members of the invisible church enjoy; which is called communion with Christ in glory.

III. The misery which the souls of the wicked endure at death; which is contained in the latter part of the answer.

I. To speak concerning the thing supposed in this answer; namely, that the soul of man is immortal. This is a subject of that importance, that we must be first convinced of the truth of it before we can conclude that there is a state of happiness or misery in another world. But before we proceed to the proof of it, it is necessary for us to explain what we are to understand thereby; accordingly let it be premised,

1. That we read, in scripture, of the death of the soul, in a spiritual sense, as separated by sin, from God, the fountain of life and blessedness, and as being destitute of a principle of grace; whereby it is utterly indisposed to perform any actions that are spiritually good, as much as a dead man is unable to perform the functions of life. In this sense we are to understand the apostle’s words, She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth, 1 Tim. v. 6. And in this respect unregenerate persons are said to be dead in trespasses and sins, Eph. ii. 1. and a condemned state, which is the consequence hereof, is a state of death. Now that which is opposed hereunto, is called, in scripture, a spiritual life, or immortality; but this is not the sense in which we are to consider it in our present argument.

2. Immortality may be considered as an attribute peculiar to God, as the apostle says, he only hath immortality, 1 Tim. vi. 16. the meaning of which is, that his life, which includes his Being, and all his perfections, is necessary and independent; but in this respect no creature is immortal; but their life is maintained by the will and providence of God, which gave being to it at first.

3. When we speak of creatures being immortal, we must consider them either as not having any thing in the constitution of their nature, that tends to a dissolution, which cannot be effected by any second cause; or their eternal existence, pursuant to the will of God, who could, had he pleased, have annihilated them. It is in both these senses that we are to consider the immortality of the soul.

That it is in its own nature immortal, has been allowed by many of the Heathens, who have had just conceptions of the spirituality of its nature, possessed due regards to the providence of God, and those marks of distinction that he puts between 303good and bad men, as the consequence of their behaviour in this life. That the soul survives the body, has been reckoned, by some of the Heathens, as an opinion that has almost universally obtained in the world[125]. Thus Plato introduces Socrates[126] as discoursing largely on this subject, immediately before his death: and, in some, other of his writings, not only asserts, but gives as good proofs of this doctrine as any one, destitute of scripture-light, could do. One of his followers, in the account he gives of his doctrine, recommends and insists on an argument which he brings to prove it, which is not without its weight, namely, that the soul acts from a principle seated in its own nature, and not by the influence of some external cause, as things material do[127]. And Strabo speaks of the ancient Brachmans, among the Indians, as entertaining some notions of the immortality of the soul, and the judgment passed upon it in its separate state; agreeable to what Plato advances on that subject[128].

Some, indeed, have thought that this notion took its rise from Thales, the Milesian, who lived between two and three hundred years before Plato, and about six hundred years before the Christian Æra, from an occasional passage mentioned by Diogenes Laertius, in his life, which is hardly sufficient to justify this supposition; which he brings in only as matter of report[129]: And Cicero[130] supposes it was first propagated by Pherecydes, who was cotemporary with him; though Diogenes Laertius makes no mention of it. But it may be inferred from many things in Homer, the oldest writer in the Greek tongue, who lived above three hundred years before Thales, that the world had entertained some confused ideas of it in his time: As we often find him bringing in the souls of the deceased heroes appearing in a form, and speaking with a voice like that which they had when living, to their surviving friends. And he not only supposes, but plainly intimates that their souls existed in a separate state[131]. And in other places he represents some suffering 304punishment for their crimes committed here on earth[132]; which plainly argues, whatever fabulous account we have of the nature of punishment, or the person suffering it, that it was an opinion, generally received at that time, that the soul existed in a separate state.

And, indeed, this maybe inferred from the doctrine of Dæmons, or the superstitious worship of the heathens, which they paid to the souls of those heroes who formerly lived on earth, and had done some things which they thought rendered them the peculiar favourites of God, and the objects of worship by men; and that their souls existed with God in great honour and favour in a separate state[133]. But passing this by, it may be farther observed, that whatever notions some of the heathens had of the immortality of the soul in general; they were very much at a loss, many of them, in determining the place, or many things relating to the state in which they were; and therefore many of them, with Pythagoras, asserted the doctrine of transmigration of souls, or their passing from one body to another; and being condemned to reside in vile and dishonourable bodies; which, though it perverts, yet doth not overthrow the doctrine of the soul’s immortality; and others seemed to doubt whether, after four or five courses of transmigration of souls from one body to another, they might not at last shrivel into nothing.

It must also be acknowledged, that there was a considerable 305party among the heathen that adhered to the sentiments of Epicurus, who denied the immortality of the soul, as supposing it to be material. And the Sadducees are represented, in scripture, as imbibing that notion; who are said to deny both angels and spirits, Acts xxiii. 8. In this respect they gave into his philosophy, as to what concerns his denying the immortality of the soul, or its existence in a future state[134]: But passing this by, we may observe, that notwithstanding all that has been said concerning this doctrine, by the better and wiser part of the heathen in their writings; yet their notions seem very defective, if we trace them farther than what concerns the bare separate existence of the soul; or, if they attempt to speak any thing concerning its happiness in a future state, they then discover that they know but little of this matter; and many of them, though they cannot deny the soul’s immortality, yet they seem to hesitate about it; and therefore we may say with the apostle, that life and immortality is brought to light through the gospel, 2 Tim. i. 10. that is, if we would be sure of the immortality of the soul, and know its state and enjoyments in another world, we must look farther than the light of nature for it: and in seeking for arguments in scripture, we shall find great satisfaction concerning this matter, which we cannot do from the writers before mentioned.

That some of the heathen were in doubt about this important truth, is very evident from their writings; for Plato himself[135], notwithstanding the many things which he represents Socrates as saying, concerning a state of immortality after death, endeavouring to convince his friend Cebes about that matter, and apprehending that he had so far prevailed in the argument, as that his antagonist allowed that the soul survived the body, but yet held the transmigration of souls into other bodies; this he seems to allow him, and adds, that it is uncertain whether the soul, having worn out many bodies, may not at last perish with one that it is united to[136]. And he farther says to him, that 306I must now die, and you shall live; but which of us is in the better state God only knows[137].

As for Aristotle, though, in many places of his writings, he seems to maintain the immortality of the soul; yet in others it appears that he is in doubt about it; and seems to assert, that neither good nor evil happens to any man after his death[138]. And the Stoicks, who did not altogether deny this doctrine; yet they supposed that in process of time, it would be dissolved[139]. And even Cicero himself, notwithstanding all that he says, by which he seems to give into this doctrine; yet sometimes speaks with great hesitation about it[140]. And notwithstanding what Seneca says concerning the immortality of the soul, as has been often before observed; yet he speaks doubtfully of it[141]; so that we must have recourse to scripture, and those consequences that are deduced from it, as well as those things that may be inferred from the nature of the soul to prove that it is immortal. And,

(1.) For the proof of this doctrine, let it be considered, that the soul is immaterial; which appears from its being capable of thought, whereby it is conversant about, and takes in ideas of things divine and spiritual, which no creature below man can do. It has a power of inferring consequences from premises, and accordingly is the subject of moral government, capable of conversing with God here, and expecting rewards or punishments from him hereafter; all this cannot be produced by matter or motion: As for matter, that is in itself altogether unactive; and when motion is impressed upon it, the only change that is made therein, is in the situation and contexture of its parts, which cannot give it life, sensation or perception, much less a power of judging and willing, or being conversant about things spiritual and immaterial.

307(2.) This power of thinking or reasoning was not derived from the body to which it was united; for that which has not in itself those superior endowments, cannot communicate them to another: Its union with the soul cannot impart them to it; for whatever sensation the body has, (which is below the power of reasoning,) is derived from the soul, as appears from its being wholly destitute thereof, when the union between the soul and body is broken: And therefore, since those superior powers, or excellencies of the soul, are produced by another cause, we must conclude, that they are immediately from God: This evidently appears from scripture; the body of Adam was first formed, and then it is said, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, Gen. ii. 7. that is, he put into it that soul which was the spring and fountain of all living actions; and then it follows, man became a living soul: And it is considered as a peculiar display of the glory of God, that he formeth the spirit of man within him, Zech. xii. 2.

(3.) It follows from hence, that the dissolution of the body makes no alteration in the powers and faculties of the soul; which is not hereby rendered subject to death. For, as it did not derive those powers from the body, as was before observed, it could not be said to lose them in the ruin of the body: Thus our Saviour speaks of the soul as not being affected with those injuries that tend to the bodies destruction, when he says, Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, Mat. x. 28.

(4.) We have a particular account in scripture, of the soul when separated from the body, as disposed of in a different way from it; it does not go down to the earth as the body does, from whence it was, but returns to God who gave it, Eccl. xii. 7. Its return to God supposes that it was accountable to him for its actions performed in the body, or the way and manner in which the faculties were exerted; and accordingly, when separate from it, it is represented as returning to God to give an account of its behaviour in the body, and to reap the fruits and effects thereof. And as it is said to return to God; so believers breathe forth their souls, and resign them by faith into the hand of God, as our Saviour expresses it, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit, Luke xxiii. 46. or, as Stephen says, Lord Jesus receive my spirit, Acts vii. 59.

(5.) The soul’s immortality may be proved from the extent of the capacities thereof, and the small improvement men make of them in this world, especially the greatest part of mankind. What a multitude are there who never had the faculties of the soul deduced into act, in whom the powers of reasoning were altogether useless, while in this world; I mean in those whose souls are separated from their bodies as soon as they are born; 308others die in their childhood, before reason comes to maturity; and how great a part of the world live to old age, whose souls have not been employed in any thing great or excellent, in proportion to their capacities? Were these made in vain? or did God design, when he brought them into, or continued them either a longer or a shorter time in the world, that they should never be employed in any thing that is worthy of these noble faculties? Therefore we must conclude that there is another state, in which the soul shall act more agreeably to those capacities which it is endowed with.

(6.) This may be farther proved, not only from the natural desires, which there are in all men, of immortality; but more especially those desires, which the saints have, of enjoying some things in God, which cannot be attained in this life. The natural desire of immortality is what belongs to all: With what reluctancy does the soul and body part; which arises from a natural aversion to a dissolution, unless there be a well-grounded hope of a life of blessedness that shall ensue? Moreover there is not only a desire but an expectation of the soul’s living for ever, when separated from the body, in a state of happiness; which believers are made partakers of, as a peculiar blessing from God: Therefore we must conclude, that he that gave them will satisfy them; so that as they have a thirst after happiness, which is the effect of a supernatural power, they shall not be disappointed or destitute of it; which they must be if the soul does not survive the body.

(7.) The immortality of the soul may be proved from the justice of God as the Governor of the world. This divine perfection renders it necessary that rewards and punishments should be distributed according to men’s behaviour in this life. We observe, under a foregoing head, that man is supposed to be accountable to God, from the consideration of the spirit’s returning to him: And it also follows, from what was said under another head, concerning the soul’s being the subject of moral government: But this argument will be farther improved under a following answer, when we consider our Saviour’s coming to judge the world[142]. All the use therefore that we shall at present make thereof, is, that the soul being thus accountable to God, has reason to expect some peculiar marks of favour beyond what it receives in this world; or to fear some punishment as the consequence of crimes committed, from the hand of the supreme Judge of all: Thus it is said, God will render to every man according to his deeds, Rom. ii. 6. And elsewhere, Every one shall receive according to what he hath done in the body, whether it be good or bad, 2 Cor. v. 10. Now that which makes for our present argument, is, that the best 309men in the world do not receive those peculiar marks of divine favour, as to what respects their outward condition therein, as some of the vilest men often do: This the prophet Jeremiah takes notice of, when he says, Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee; yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? Jer. xii. 1. And the Psalmist, when observing the prosperity of the wicked, says, They are not in trouble like other men; neither are they plagued like other men, Psal. lxxiii. 5. that is, not exposed to those rebukes of providence, as to what concerns outward things, as good men are.

That which is alledged by some to solve this difficulty, is, that virtue has its own reward; and therefore, the good man cannot but be happy, whatever troubles he meets with in this life, since he has something within himself that makes him so. But to this it may be replied, that this cannot give the least satisfaction, that the divine distributions are just and equal, to those who are destitute of this inward comfort; and the principal ingredient in that internal happiness which arises from the exercise of religion and virtue, consists in the divine approbation, and the interest which such have in that love, which shall discover itself more fully, when the soul, being separate from the body, shall enjoy the happiness resulting from it in another world: Therefore, this is so far from militating against the doctrine we are maintaining, that it affords a considerable argument to support it.

If it be objected also, on the other hand, that sin brings its own punishment along with it, in that uneasiness which the wicked find in their own breasts; concerning whom it is said, They are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest; whose waters cast up mire and dirt, Isa. lvii. 20. This also proves the immortality of the soul; inasmuch as this fear arises from a sense of guilt, whereby persons are liable to punishment in another world, who are not in the least concerned about the punishment of sin in this, and are ready to conclude themselves out of the reach of human judicature; therefore, that which they are afraid of, is God’s righteous judgments in another world, which they cannot, by any means, free themselves from the dread of. We must therefore conclude that this is as natural to man, considered as sinful, as the hope of future blessedness is to one that is righteous; and both these are the result of a divine impression enstamped on the souls of men, which affords an evident proof of their immortality.

The objections against this doctrine, are generally such as carry in them the lowest and most abject thoughts of human nature in those who may truly be said to despise their own 310souls. When they pretend, as was before observed, that they are material, this is to set the soul on a level with the body; for matter, how much soever it be refined, when it is resolved into the particles of which it consists, has no excellency above other material beings.

As to the objections that are brought against this doctrine from scripture, by which the frailty of this present life is set forth: These do not in the least tend to overthrow the immortality of the soul. Thus, when it is said in Eccles. iii. 19, 20. That which befalleth the sons of men, befalleth beasts, even one thing befalleth them: As the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast; all go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. It is plain, that Solomon here speaks of the inferior part of man, in which he has no pre-eminence above the beasts, as the body is resolved into dust, as well as the bodies of the brute creatures; but then the following words sufficiently confute the objection, in which it is said, the spirit of man goeth upward; whereby he asserts, not only the superior excellency, but the immortality of the soul.

Again, when it is said in chap. ix. 5. The living know that they must die, but the dead know not any thing; neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. This is sufficiently answered by only reading the following words; by which it appears, that their memory is forgotten; and they are said to have no farther reward in this world; or, as it is expressed, They have no more any portion for ever, in any thing that is done under the sun; but this does not in the least intimate that they have no portion in what respects the things of another world; and, indeed, their labour being unrewarded here, affords us an incontestible argument, that they shall have it hereafter, when the soul leaves this world.

And as for other scriptures, that seem to intimate as though death put an end to all those actions of religion which were performed by good men in this life, as in Psal. xxx. 9. ‘When I go down to the pit, shall the dust praise thee, shall it declare thy truth?’ and, ‘The dead praise not the Lord; neither any that go down into silence,’ Psal. cxv. 17. and what Hezekiah says to the same purpose, ‘The grave cannot praise thee; death cannot celebrate thee; they that go down to the pit cannot hope for thy truth,’ Isa. xxxviii. 18. These and such-like expressions intend nothing else but this; that the praises of God cannot be celebrated by those who are in the state of the dead, in such a way as they were by them while they lived in this world, viz. in the assemblies of his saints, from which they are separated, being no longer considered as members of the militant church; neither are they apprized of, or affected with the 311things done in this lower world, in which respect they are said to know nothing: But this does not in the least, militate against their praising God with the church triumphant, and having those privileges conferred upon them, which are adapted to a state of immortality and eternal life.

As to what is farther objected by others, that the immortality of the soul respects only the righteous; because the apostle says in 1 John ii. 17. ‘The world passes away, and the lust thereof, but he that doth the will of God abideth for ever.’ This sense given of the words contradicts all those scriptures that speak of the punishment of sin in another world; for if none are said to abide for ever, but the righteous, or they who do the will of God; the wicked must necessarily go unpunished. Therefore we must understand the word abiding in the same sense as the Psalmist does, when he says, ‘The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous,’ Psal. i. 5. which does not signify their not existing in a future state, but not being admitted into the congregation of the righteous, or made happy with them therein.[143]

312II. We shall consider the happiness that the members of the invisible church enjoy; which is called communion with Christ in glory, as it includes in it perfect holiness; accordingly we read of the spirits of just men made perfect, Heb. xii. 23. This perfection consists in the rooting out all those remainders of corruption, and those habitual inclinations to sin, that they were never wholly freed from in this world. The most that can be said concerning a believer at present, is, that he has a principle of spiritual life and grace, which inclines him to oppose, and stand his ground against, the assaults of sin that dwelleth in him, whereby it is mortified, but not wholly destroyed. The work of sanctification is daily growing to perfection, though it does not fully attain to it: But when the soul leaves the world, it arrives to perfection in a moment; so that the power which man had at first, to yield sinless obedience, which was lost by the fall of our first parents, is regained with great advantage. For this perfection of holiness not only denotes a sinless state, but the soul’s being confirmed therein; and accordingly it is said to be received into the highest heaven, the place into which no unclean thing can enter; where there is spotless purity, as well as everlasting happiness; and here they are described as beholding the face of God in light and glory. These things need not be particularly insisted on in this place, since the same privileges are said, in a following answer, to belong to believers after the day of judgment, both in their souls and bodies, when they shall be received into heaven, and be made perfectly holy and happy, and be blest with the immediate vision of God[144]; Therefore all that we shall consider at present, with relation hereunto, is,

1. That the soul is immediately made partaker of this blessedness on its separation from the body.

2. It is farther described as waiting for the full redemption of the body, which is still supposed to continue under the dominion of death, though united to Christ, and consequently under his special protection: Upon which account believers are said, when they die, to rest in their graves as in their beds, till their bodies are again united to their souls at the last day.

1. We shall consider that the soul is made partaker of this 313blessedness immediately after its separation from the body, as it is observed in this answer; which seems to militate against three opinions that have been advanced relating to the state of separate souls.

[1.] That of the Papists, who maintain that the soul is not made perfect in holiness at death, but enters into a middle-state, which they call purgatory, in which it is to endure exquisite torments, designed partly as a punishment inflicted for those sins committed in this life, which have not been expiated by satisfaction made by them, and partly to free them from the sin which they brought with them into that state.

[2.] Another opinion which seems to be opposed in this answer, is what was maintained by some of the ancient Fathers; namely, that the souls of believers do not immediately enter into the highest heaven before they are reunited to their bodies, but into paradise; not to suffer, as the Papists pretend that they do who are in purgatory; but to enjoy those pleasures which are reserved for them in a place not much inferior to heaven.

[3.] There is another opinion which is subversive of the doctrine contained in this answer; namely, that the soul, at its separation from the body, sleeps till the resurrection; and consequently, in that intermediate space of time in which it is separate, it is no more capable of happiness or misery than the body that lies in the grave. The absurdity of these opinions we shall take occasion farther to consider. And,

[1.] That of the Papists concerning a middle-state, into which they suppose, souls enter at death, in order to their being cleansed from the remainders of sin, whereby they are made meet for heaven. This doctrine, how ludicrous and ungrounded soever it may appear to be, they are so fond of, that it will be as hard a matter to convince them of the absurdity thereof, as it was of old to convince the worshippers of Diana at Ephesus, of their stupid idolatry; because it tends to promote their secular interest. They first endeavour to persuade the poor deluded people, that they must suffer very great torments after death, unless they be relieved by the prayers of their surviving friends; and then, to induce them to shew this favour to them, as well as that they may merit some abatement of these torments or a speedy release from them, they tell them, that it is their duty and interest to leave their estates, by their last will and testament to pious uses; such as building of churches, endowing of monasteries, &c. by which means they have got a great part of the estates of the people into their own hands. And to carry on this cheat, they give particular instances, in some of their writings, of souls being released from this dreadful place by their prayers.

The account they give of this middle-state, between heaven 314and hell, is not only that they are not admitted into the immediate presence of God; but are exposed to grievous torments by fire, little short of those that are endured in hell; and if they are not helped by the prayers of the church, they are in danger of being sent from thence directly to hell, from whence there is no release. They also add, that the punishment, in this state, is either longer or shorter, in proportion to the crimes committed in this world; for which satisfaction has not been made by penances endured, or money given to compensate for them. Some, indeed, are allowed, by them, to pass immediately into heaven, without being detained here; namely, those who have performed works of supererogation; or if by their entering into a vow of poverty, they have parted with their estates, while living in the world, for the use of the church, in which case no end could be answered, by telling them of this fable of purgatory. Others are told that they may escape it, by entering into a vow of chastity and canonical obedience; which belongs more especially to the priests, when entering into holy orders; whereby they take care to make provision for themselves, that so the deluded people may have a greater regard to their prayers, since they will find none in purgatory to perform that service for them. This is so vile and absurd an opinion, that it cannot but expose the church of Rome to the scorn and contempt of all who are not given up to strong delusions.

But though it sufficiently appears, that secular interest is the main foundation of this doctrine; yet there are some arguments, which they take from scripture, to support it; which is the only thing that requires our notice.

One scripture brought to this purpose, is in Isa. iv. 4. where the prophet speaks concerning the Lord’s purging the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning; supposing that this should have its accomplishment when the soul left the body, and was detained in this place of torment. But this is very remote from the design of the Holy Ghost herein; for it only contains a metaphorical description of some judgments which God would inflict on people in this life, and as a means to reclaim them from them: therefore we often read, in the prophets, of God’s refining his people in the furnace of affliction, Isa. xlviii. 10. and accordingly it is said, that the Lord’s fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem, chap. xxxi. 9. denoting the sore judgments they should undergo in this world, as a punishment for their idolatry.

Another scripture, which is miserably perverted, to support this doctrine, is that in Zech. ix. 11. By the blood of thy covenant have I sent forth thy prisoners, out of the pit wherein is 315no water; which they suppose, is to be understood of some state after this life; because it is called the pit; and it is also described as a place of misery, inasmuch as there is no water, that is, no refreshing comforts; and they add, that the prophet does not speak of hell because some persons are described as sent forth, or released from it; therefore it must needs be understood of this middle-state, between heaven and hell. But this is far from being the sense of the text, since it contains a prediction of their being delivered from the Babylonish captivity, which, in a metaphorical way of speaking, is called the pit, wherein is no water, to denote the great distress that the people were to be brought under therein; thus the prophet Isaiah, speaking of their deliverance from the captivity, says, The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, Isa. li. 14. Or else it denotes some future deliverance, which the church was to expect after great calamities undergone by them; and this is said to be by the blood of the covenant, denoting that all the happiness the church shall enjoy in this world, as well as the other is founded in the blood of Christ, pursuant to the covenant of grace: and if the text must necessarily be understood of a deliverance from evil after death, it may be considered as a prediction of our being delivered from eternal destruction, by the blood of Jesus.

Again, another scripture which they bring to support this fabulous doctrine, is in 1 Cor. iii. 13, 14, 15. Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is, If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burnt, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. The reason why this scripture is forced into that cause which they maintain, is, because we read of persons being saved so as by fire; and this they suppose to respect that which should follow after the particular judgment of every one at death in which, a scrutiny shall be made concerning their works, or their behaviour in this world; and if they are found faulty, they may, notwithstanding, be saved after they have endured those sufferings which are there allotted for them.

But there is nothing in the text that gives the least countenance to this notion, since the apostle seems to be speaking concerning those ministers who preach false doctrines, that is, propagate errors not directly subversive of the fundamental articles of faith, but such as tend to embarrass the consciences of men, and, in many respects, lead them out of the way; or of others, who have been perverted by them, and have embraced pernicious errors, which, in their consequences, are subversive 316of the faith, but yet do not hold those consequences: these may be saved, but their salvation shall be attended with some difficulty, arising from the mistaken notions which they have imbibed. Some compare this to a person whose house is in flames, and he saves his life with difficulty, being scorched thereby. God will, in his own time, take some method to discover what notions we have received in religion; and he is said to do it by fire. Whether this, as a learned writer observes, is to be understood of the clear gospel-dispensation,[145] or else respects some trying dispensation of providence, accompanied with a greater measure of the effusion of the Spirit, that shall lead men into the knowledge of their mistakes, and set them in the right way, I will not determine. But whether the one or the other of these senses of the texts seems most agreeable to the mind of the apostle, it is sufficiently evident that no countenance is given, either in this or any other scripture, to this absurd doctrine of the Papists.

Another scripture which they bring for the proof of this doctrine, is in 1 Pet. iii. 19. in which it is said, that our Saviour went and preached unto the spirits in prison. The sense they give of that text, compared with the foregoing verse, is, that as our Saviour, after his death, visited those repositories, where the Old Testament-saints were lodged, and preached the gospel to them, which they embraced; and pursuant hereupon, were admitted into heaven: so he went down into this subterraneous prison, and preached to them also; but whether this was attended with the same success, or no, they pretend not to determine; but only allege this as a proof that there is such a place: and to give countenance to this sense they say, that by the prison here spoken of, the prison of hell cannot be intended; inasmuch as there is no hope of salvation there, and consequently no preaching of the gospel. And it cannot be meant of his preaching to any in this world; for they suppose, that he went after he left the world, and preached to spirits, that is, to persons, whose souls were separate from their bodies; therefore he went, as they argue, and preached to those that are in purgatory: but in giving this sense of the text, they are obliged to take no notice of what follows, which, if duly considered, would plainly overthrow it.

The meaning of this scripture therefore is this, that our Saviour preached by his Spirit, to the old world, in the ministry of Noah, while he was preparing the ark; but they being disobedient, were not only destroyed by the flood, but shut up in 317the prison of hell; in which respect it is said he preached to those that are now in prison: so that this scripture makes nothing for that doctrine which we are opposing; nor any other that is or can be brought; so that all the arguments pretended to be taken from it, are a manifest perversion thereof.

However, there is one method of reasoning which they make use of, that I cannot pass over; inasmuch as they apprehend that it contains a dilemma that is unanswerable; namely, that there is some place in which persons are perfectly freed from sin, which must be either this world, or heaven, or some middle state between them both. It is allowed by all, that there is no perfect freedom from sin in this world; and to suppose that persons are perfectly freed from sin after they come to heaven, is to conclude that that is a state of probation, in which the gospel must be preached, and persons that attend upon it, inclined to embrace it, which is not agreeable to a state of perfection: and this is contrary to scripture, which speaks of no unclean thing entering therein. Therefore it follows, that the state in which they are fitted for it, must be this which they plead for, to wit, a middle-state, in which they are first purged, and then received into heaven.

But to this it may be replied, that it is true, believers are not perfectly freed from sin in this world, nor do they enter into heaven, either with the guilt or pollution of their sins upon them; but they are made perfect in an instant, in passing out of this world into heaven: the same stroke which separates the soul from the body takes away the remainders of corruption, and fits it for the heavenly state; it passes out of this world perfect, though it was imperfect while in it; in like manner as the body being raised out of the grave is rendered incorruptible thereby, so that we have no occasion to invent a middle state, into which the saints are brought. Therefore it follows, as it is expressed in this answer, that the souls of believers, immediately after death, are made perfect in holiness.

[2.] There is another opinion embraced by some of the Jews, and several of the Fathers, in which they are followed by some modern writers; namely, that the souls of believers, at death, enter into paradise, where they continue till they are reunited to their bodies, and, after the day of judgment, are received into the highest heaven: thus they understand our Saviour’s words to the penitent thief on the cross, To day thou shalt be with me in paradise, in a literal sense, as contra-distinguished from heaven. And these assert, that the soul of our Saviour, when separate from his body, went immediately into paradise, and not into heaven, till after his resurrection. This is supposed to import the same thing as Abraham’s bosom does in the 318parable; and indeed, the Greek word,[146] in the metaphorical sense thereof, which we translate bosom, signifies a port or haven; which is, as it were, a bosom for shipping.

This is described as very distinct from the Popish doctrine of purgatory; for it is not a place of suffering, but of delight and pleasure. Tertullian, who gave into this notion,[147] describes it as a place of divine pleasure, designed for the reception of the spirits of holy men, being separate either from the world, or other places near it, by an inclosure of fire, designed to keep the wicked out.

This is what they suppose the apostle Paul speaks of when he says, that he was caught up into paradise, 2 Cor. xii. 5. and they conclude that this vision or rapture which he mentions, includes in it what he experienced at two several times; and that this is agreeable to what he mentions in verse 1. where he speaks not of one single vision, but of visions and revelations. Accordingly they suppose that he had first of all a vision of the glory of heaven, and then he had another of paradise: thus a late writer understands the text.[148] However, I cannot think that this can be sufficiently inferred from the apostle’s words, which are, as it were, a preface to introduce the account which he gives of himself, when he says, I will come to visions and revelations; that is, I will now tell you how God sometimes favours his people with extraordinary visions and revelations: then he proceeds to give an instance hereof in himself, as being caught up into the third heaven, or into paradise; for I cannot suppose that he speaks of two visions, or distinguishes paradise from heaven; and therefore I am obliged not to pay that deference to the sentiments of the Fathers he mentions, as he does, but must conclude the notion to be altogether ungrounded, though it is supported by the credit of Irenæus, Tertullian, Epiphanius, Methodius, as well as of several Jewish writers; such as Philo, and some others,[149]

[3.] We shall now consider another doctrine, maintained by some, which is inconsistent with what is said in this answer, concerning the souls of believers being made perfect in holiness, and entering immediately into heaven, when separate from their bodies, viz. that at death the soul sleeps as well as the body, till the resurrection, when one shall be raised, and the other awakened out of its sleep. These do not suppose that the soul ceases to exist; but that it enters into, and continues in, a state of inactivity, without any power to exercise the faculty 319of thinking, and, as a consequence thereof, whilst remaining in this state, it must be incapable either of happiness or misery. These do not assert that there shall be no rewards and punishments in a future state; but that there will be a deferring thereof until the last day.

This doctrine was generally maintained by the Socinians, as may be seen in several of their writings referred to by a learned author, who opposes them;[150] and the arguments by which it is usually supported, are taken partly from the possibility of the soul’s being destitute of thought, and partly from those scriptures that compare death to a sleep; by which they understand not only a cessation of action in the body, but likewise in the soul. In defence of the former of these, viz. that it is possible for the soul to be without the exercise of thought, they argue, that the soul of a new-born infant, (or, at least, before it is born,) has no ideas: though there be a power of reasoning, which is essential, to the soul; yet this is not deduced into act, so as to produce thought, or actual reasoning, from whence moral good or evil would proceed, and a sense of happiness or misery, arise from it. And this notion is carried somewhat farther by a late celebrated writer;[151] who, though he takes no notice of the tendency of his assertion to support this opinion concerning the soul’s sleeping at death; yet others make a handle of it, to defend it with a greater shew of reason than what was formerly discovered in maintaining this argument.

He asserts, that the souls of those that are adult do not always think; and particularly when a person is in a sound sleep, that he has no thought; how much soever there may be the exercise of thought, though confused and irregular, in those who, between sleeping and waking, not only dream a thousand things which they never thought of before, but also remember those dreams when they awake. That a person, in a sound sleep, 320has no dreams, and consequently is destitute of thought, he attempts to prove; inasmuch as when any one is suddenly waked out of a sound sleep, he can give no account of what he had been thinking of; and he supposes it impossible for a person who was thinking, to forget the next moment what his thoughts were conversant about. This is the principal argument whereby he supports this notion; and he has so far the advantage thereof, as that it is impossible for us to prove the contrary from any thing that we know or experience concerning ourselves: Nevertheless, it will not appear very convincing, when we consider that there are innumerable thoughts which we have when awake, that we can hardly give an account of the next minute: And if the thoughts are very active in those that dream, (who are as much asleep as others that do not dream; though the sleep may not be so refreshing as if it were otherwise,) I cannot see how this consequence can be inferred, that sleep is inconsistent with thought. Moreover, a person who is delirious, or distracted, undoubtedly thinks, though his thoughts are disordered; but when the delirium or distraction is over, he can no more remember what he thought of, than a person that is waked out of the soundest sleep: This argument therefore tends rather to amuse, or embarrass the cause they maintain, than to give sufficient conviction.

Now from this method of reasoning it is inferred, that when the soul is separated from the body, it is altogether destitute of the exercise of thought, which is what they mean by the soul’s sleeping: And to give farther countenance to this matter, they produce several scriptures, in which death is compared to a sleep; as when God speaks of the death of Moses, he says, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, Deut. xxxi. 26. and Job speaks of sleeping in the dust, Job vii. 21. And concerning the resurrection after death, he says, That man lieth down and riseth not, till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake nor be raised out of their sleep, chap. xiv. 12. and David prays, Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, Psal. xiii. 3. and our Saviour, speaking concerning Lazarus, when dead, says, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep, John xi. 11. which he afterwards explains, ver. 14. when he says, Lazarus is dead. There are several other scriptures to the like purpose, they bring to prove that the soul sleeps in death, taking the word in the literal sense thereof.

But to this it may be replied, that as to what respects the possibility of the soul’s being rendered incapable of thinking, when separate from the body; it is no just way of reasoning to infer from the possibility of a thing, the actual being of it: Therefore if it could be proved to a demonstration, (as the author above-mentioned supposes he has done, though, I think, 321without sufficient ground,) that sleep deprives a person of thought; yet it will not follow from hence, that the soul, when separate from the body, ceases to think. When the powers and faculties of the soul are deduced into act, experience tells us, that they are greatly improved and strengthened; and therefore the exercise thereof cannot be so easily impeded as is pretended; especially when we consider that it does not derive this from the body, which contributes very little to those ideas it has of things immaterial, which are not the objects of sense; and how much soever bodily diseases may weaken or interrupt the soul in its actings, we do not find that they so far destroy those powers, but that, when the distemper ceases, the former actings return, like the spring of a watch, which may be stopped by something that hinders the motion of the wheels, which, when it is removed, continues to give motion to them as it had done before: The body, at most, can be considered but as a clog and impediment to the activity of the soul; and consequently it may be argued from thence, that in a state of separation the soul is so far from being impeded in its actings, that it becomes more active than before.

But that which I would principally insist on, as what will sufficiently overthrow this doctrine, is, the account which we have in many scriptures; and several just consequences which may be deduced from them, by which it will appear, that nothing that has been said concerning the possibility of the soul’s being unactive, when separate from the body, can enervate the force of the argument taken from thence to support the contrary doctrine. It is true, the scripture oftentimes represents death as a sleep, as in the places before-mentioned; and it is sometimes described as a state of rest, which is of the same import with sleep; but this is explained as a state of peace, holiness, and happiness, and not a cessation from action. Thus it is said, He shall enter into peace, they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness, Isa. lvii. 2. which is plainly meant of the death of the righteous, as appears from the preceding verse, where it is said, The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart. Now these are said to enter into peace; which supposes that they are capable of the enjoyment of those blessings which the soul shall then be possessed of, and they are said to walk in their uprightness; which signifies their being active in what respects the glory of God, which is very inconsistent with the soul’s sleeping, when separate from the body. Rest and sleep are metaphorical expressions, when applied to this doctrine; and nothing is more common than for such figurative ways of speaking to be used in the sacred writings; and therefore it is very absurd for us to understand the words otherwise in this instance before us.

322We will now proceed to consider those proofs we have from scripture, of the soul’s being in a state of activity when separate from the body.

The first scripture that may be brought to prove this, is what the apostle says in 2 Cor. xii. 2, 3, 4. when speaking concerning himself as caught up into the third heaven; and not knowing whether he was at the same time, in, or out of the body. If he was in the body, his senses were locked up, and he must be supposed to have been in a trance; which militates against the supposition that the soul’s power of acting may be impeded either by sleep or some bodily disease, in which there is not the exercise of the senses. Or if, on the other hand, he was out of the body, his hearing unspeakable words plainly proves our argument, viz. that the soul is capable of action, and consequently of enjoying the heavenly glory, when separate from the body.

Moreover, this is evident from our Saviour’s words to the penitent thief on the cross, Verily I say unto thee, to day shalt thou be with me in paradise, Luke xxiii. 43. To be in paradise is certainly to be in heaven in a state of compleat blessedness, where the soul delights itself in the enjoyment of God, which is altogether inconsistent with a state of insensibility. Were it otherwise, it ought rather to have been said, thou shalt be with me in paradise after the resurrection of the body, than to day. The method which some take to evade the force of the argument, who say, that to day, refers not to the time of his being admitted into heaven, but to the time when Christ spake these words, is so low and trifling, that it doth not deserve an answer.

There is another scripture which fully proves this doctrine, namely, what the apostle says, I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better, Phil. i. 23. In which he takes it for granted, that as soon as he departed out of this world, he should be with Christ; which denotes that he should be in his immediate presence, beholding his glory; which is inconsistent with the supposition that the soul sleeps at death. And this is farther evident from what he says, that this is far better, which could not be said to be, if the notion we are opposing were true; for it is so much better for a saint to be serving Christ’s interest in this world, and made so eminently useful in promoting his glory, as the apostle was, than to be in a state of inactivity, wherein the soul is not capable of doing any thing for him, nor enjoying any thing from him, that there is no comparison between them; and whereas he was in a strait which of these two he should chuse, had it been referred to him, the matter might easily have been determined in favour of his continuing in this world; for there he was useful; whereas, in the other, he would not only 323be useless, but incapable of enjoying those privileges which he was made partaker of here.

My next argument shall be taken from what is said in 2 Cor. v. 8. We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord; where one infers the other, without any intimation of his waiting till the soul is united again to the body, before he is admitted into Christ’s presence.

Again, this farther appears from the words of Solomon, in Eccl. iv. 2. I praised the dead which are already dead, more than the living which are yet alive. By which we are to understand, that the state of believers, when they die, is much more happy than it can be in this life; which supposes that they are capable of happiness, and consequently that the soul, when separated from the body, is not in a state of insensibility; which is altogether inconsistent with happiness.

And to all this we may add what our Saviour says in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus; the beggar died, and was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom: The rich man also died and was buried, and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, Luke xvi. 22, 23. In which parable we have an account of the different state of the souls of the righteous and wicked at death, and not barely what shall follow upon the resurrection of the body; for when the rich man is represented as being in torments, he says, in a following part of the parable, I have five brethren; and he would have had Lazarus sent to testify to them, lest they should also come into that place of torment; to which it is replied, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them, ver. 28, 29. which plainly intimates, that the parable refers to the state of separate souls, before the resurrection, whilst others enjoyed the means of grace; and consequently it proves that the soul, when separate from the body, is capable of happiness or misery; and which is more, is fixed in one or the other of them.

As to those scriptures that speak of the happiness or misery of men, as deferred to the end of the world. It is intimated in the parable of the tares, that the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from the just, Mat. xiii. 9. and the former are said to be cast into a furnace of fire, ver. 49, 50. and the latter, viz. the righteous, to shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, ver. 43. which respects the dealings of God with man, in the end of time. Moreover our Saviour speaks of his people as blessed and recompensed at the resurrection of the just, Luke xiv. 14. And the apostle Paul expresses his hope of a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, should give him at that day, 2 Tim. iv. 8. that is, the day of his coming to judgment; and several other scriptures that speak 324of what is consequent to the resurrection. To this it may be replied, that these scriptures respect not the beginning, but consummation of the happiness of the saints, or their compleat blessedness in soul and body, which is not inconsistent with the happiness that separate souls enjoy before the resurrection. Nor is the misery that is consequent upon the resurrection, inconsistent with that which sinners endure before it, when their souls are separate from their bodies. Thus concerning the happiness of the souls of believers at death; which leads us to consider,

2. What is farther observed in this answer, concerning the soul’s waiting for the full redemption of the body; which though it continues under the dominion of death, is notwithstanding united to Christ; and accordingly believers are said to rest in their graves as in their beds, till the resurrection.

The souls of believers are described as waiting for the full redemption of their bodies; which is the same expression that the apostle uses, Rom. viii. 23. where redemption denotes a full discharge from that prison, or state of confinement in the grave; in which the body was rendered incapable of answering the end for which it was redeemed by Christ, and, at the same time, the soul was destitute of that happiness which its re-union therewith shall convey to it. Its enjoyments were all spiritual, and, in their kind perfect; but yet it was naked, or, as the apostle expresses it unclothed; inasmuch as it wanted that which was designed to be a constituent part, necessary to compleat the human nature; without which it was indisposed for those actions and enjoyments which arise from its union with the body. This it is said to wait for, as a desire of re-union therewith is natural to it. Nevertheless it waits without impatience, or any diminution of its intellectual happiness.

(2.) As to what respects the bodies of believers, they are said to continue united to Christ, which is the result of their being redeemed by him, and of his condescending to dwell in them by his Spirit. Accordingly his love extends itself to their lower part, as well as to their souls; and, as the apostle says, Nothing shall separate a believer from his love, no, not death itself, ver. 38, 39. upon which account they are said to sleep in Jesus, 1 Thes. iv. 14. or to die in the Lord, Rev. xiv. 14. They are indeed buried in the grave, and seem to lie neglected like common dust: nevertheless it is said, Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints, Psal. cxvi. 15. Christ reckons every particle of their dust among his jewels, Mal. iii. 17. and is no more ashamed to own them as his peculiar care, than he was when they were in their most flourishing state in this world; and for this reason they are also said to rest in their graves as in their beds. This is a scripture-expression, as the 325Psalmist says, My flesh shall rest in hope, Psal. xvi. 9. and the prophet Isaiah, He shall enter into peace, they shall rest in their beds, Isa. lvii. 2. The body, indeed, remains, at the same time, under the external part of the curse due to man for sin; yet it is freed from that which is the most bitter ingredient therein; which will be abundantly demonstrated when death shall be compleatly swallowed up in victory. In this the bodies of believers have the advantage of all others. The frame of nature indeed is dissolved; there is no visible mark of distinction from the wicked put upon them in the grave; yet there is a vast difference in God’s account, which one elegantly compares to the removing of the tabernacle in the wilderness: when the Israelites changed their stations, all the parts thereof were carefully taken down and delivered to the Levites’ charge, in order to its being raised again with honour; whereas, the house incurably infected with the leprosy, was plucked down with violence, and thrown into an unclean place with execration. The bodies of the saints are committed to the bosom of the earth, as the repository Christ has appointed for them; from whence he will call them forth at last, when their souls shall be again united to them in the glorious morning of the resurrection. This leads us to consider,

III. The misery which the souls of the wicked endure at death, which is contained in the latter part of this answer.

We have here a different scene opened, the final estate of the wicked described in words adapted to strike dread and terror into those who have, at present, no sense of their future misery: their souls are considered as cast into, or shut up in hell; their bodies imprisoned in the grave, and both, the objects of divine wrath. We shall have occasion, under a following answer,[152] farther to speak concerning the punishment that shall be inflicted on sinners, whose torments shall be inexpressible, both in body and soul, after the day of judgment: and therefore we shall, at present, consider the misery which the souls of the wicked shall undergo before they are united to their bodies. The soul, which carries out of the world with it the power of reflecting on itself as happy or miserable, immediately sees itself separate from the comfortable presence of God, the fountain of blessedness. And that which tends to enhance its misery beyond what it is capable of in this life, will be the enlargement of its faculties; as the apprehension shall be more clear and its sensation of the wrath of God more pungent; when it is not oppressed with that drowsiness and stupidity as it was before; nor will it be possible for it to delude itself, with those vain hopes, which it once conceived, of escaping that misery, which it is now plunged into; when all the waves and billows 326of the Almighty shall overwhelm and swallow it up. The soul is, in a peculiar manner, the subject of misery, as it is made uneasy by its own thoughts; which are compared to the worm that dieth not. While it looks backwards, and calls to mind the actions of his past life, and all his sins are charged upon him, this fills it with such a sense of guilt and confusion as is inexpressibly tormenting; and when he looks forward, there is nothing but what administers despair, which increases his misery to the highest degree. These torments the soul endures before it is reunited to the body, and thereby rendered receptive of others, which we generally call the punishment of sense, that are conveyed by it.

The place of punishment is the same that is allotted for soul and body, viz. hell; and this is called utter darkness; which is an expression used to signify the greatest degree of misery. As for their bodies, they dread the thoughts of being united to them again; inasmuch as that will bring with it new accessions of torment. These are considered as liable to a double dishonour; not only that which arises from their being in a state of corruption in common with all mankind; but in their being detained in the grave, as prisoners to the justice of God, from whence they shall not be released as persons acquitted or discharged, but remanded from that prison to another, from whence there is no deliverance. But more of this under a following answer.

Quest. LXXXVII.

Quest. LXXXVII. What are we to believe concerning the resurrection?

Answ. We are to believe, that at the last day there shall be a general resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust; when they that are then found alive, shall, in a moment, be changed; and the self-same bodies of the dead which were laid in the grave, being then again united to their souls for ever, shall be raised up by the power of Christ; the bodies of the just, by the Spirit of Christ, and by virtue of his resurrection, as their head, shall be raised in power, spiritual, incorruptible, and made like to his glorious body; and the bodies of the wicked shall be raised up in dishonour, by him, as an offended Judge.

In the foregoing answers, we have considered the soul and body as separated by death, the body turned to corruption, and the soul immediately entering into a state of happiness or misery; and are now led to insist on the doctrine of the resurrection, 327when these two constituent parts of man shall be reunited. And accordingly we shall endeavour,

I. To explain what we are to understand by the resurrection of the dead.

II. We shall prove that there is nothing in this doctrine contrary to reason, at least, if we consider it as a supernatural and divine work.

III. We shall farther observe, that this doctrine could not be known by the light of nature; and therefore we believe it as founded in divine revelation.

IV. What arguments are contained in scripture for the proof thereof; some of which might be taken from the Old Testament, and others from the New, in which it is more clearly revealed.

V. We shall answer some of the most material objections brought against it.

VI. We shall consider it as universal, as it is here styled a general resurrection of the dead, from the beginning of time to Christ’s second coming; yet with this exception, that they who are found alive shall be changed. And,

VII. The condition in which the body shall be raised; and those circumstances of honour and glory, which respect, more especially, the resurrection of the just. And, on the other hand, we shall consider the resurrection of the wicked, as being in dishonour, by Christ, as an offended Judge.

I. What are we to understand by the resurrection of the dead. We sometimes find the word taken, in scripture, in a metaphorical sense, for God’s doing those things for his church, which could not be brought about any otherwise than by his extraordinary and supernatural power. Sometimes the work of regeneration is set forth by this figurative way of speaking; whereby they who are dead in trespasses and sins, are said to be quickened; and our Saviour speaks of this when he says, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live, John v. 25. But we are to understand it in a proper sense, as denoting that change which shall pass upon the body, when it shall be delivered from the state of corruption, into which it was brought at death, and reunited to the soul; which is distinguished in a following verse, from this metaphorical sense of it, when he says, All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation, ver. 28. This includes in it not barely the repairing, but the rebuilding the frame of nature; which was not only decayed, but dissolved in death; or the gathering together those particles of matter, of which the body was before constituted; 328which was not only turned into corruption, but common dust; whereby a new body, as to the form and qualities thereof, is erected out of its old materials; otherwise it could not be called a resurrection. It is said, indeed, that the body shall not, in all respects, be the same that it was when separated from the soul; as the apostle compares to a grain of wheat sown in the ground, which, when it springs up, is not altogether the same as it was before; for God giveth it a body,[153] as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body, 1 Cor. xv. 37, 38. It is the same for substance, as it consists of the same materials, but very different as to its qualities; as will be farther considered, when we speak concerning the condition of the body when raised from the dead; and as it is raised with a design that it should be re-united to the soul, which will immediately follow upon it; and this union shall be indissoluble and eternal.

II. We shall now consider that there is nothing contrary to reason, or impossible, from the nature of the thing, which might have a tendency to overthrow this doctrine; especially if we consider it as a supernatural and divine work, brought about by the almighty power of God.

If we look no farther than the power of natural causes, we may conclude it to be impossible for a creature to effect, as much as it was at first to produce the body of man out of the dust of the ground; but this is not impossible with God: He that gave life and being to all things; and, by his sovereign will, puts a period to that life, which had been, for some time continued by his power and providence, can give a new life to it; especially if there be nothing in this work that renders it unmeet for it to be performed by him.

That there is nothing in the nature of the thing that renders a resurrection impossible, appears, in that death, though it be a dissolution of the frame of nature, does not annihilate the 329body. If the body, indeed, were annihilated at death, then it would be impossible, or contrary to the nature of things, that there should be a resurrection thereof; since the bringing it again into a state of existence would be a new creation; which, though it would not be too great a work for omnipotency, yet it could not be styled a resurrection, or restoring the same body to life that was separated from the soul, to which it was once united. But when we suppose that the matter of which the body consisted is still in being, and nothing is necessary to the raising it from the dead but the recollecting the various particles thereof, and forming it again into a body, fitted to receive the soul: this is not in its own nature impossible; nor does it infer a contradiction, so as that we should argue from thence, that it cannot be brought about by divine power.

That this may more fully appear, let it be considered, that nothing which God has brought into being, can be annihilated, but by an act of his will; since nothing can defeat or disannul his providence, which upholdeth all things that were brought into being by the word of his power. It is also certain, that God has given us no ground to conclude that any part of his material creation has been, or shall be turned into nothing; from whence it follows, that the particles of all the bodies of men, that once lived in this world, though turned to corruption or dust, are as much in being as ever they were, though not in the same form.

Again, it is certain that God, who made and upholdeth all things, has a perfect knowledge of that which is the object of his power, since his understanding is infinite: therefore he knows where the scattered dust, or the smallest particles of matter that once constituted the bodies of men, are reserved: and when we speak of a resurrection from the dead, we understand hereby the gathering them together, and disposing them in such a way as that new bodies shall be framed out of them: therefore, though this could not be done by any but God, it is not impossible, from the nature of the thing, for him to do it; and that he will do it will be considered, when we come more directly to the proof of this doctrine. We shall therefore proceed,

III. To consider it as a matter of pure revelation, such as we could not have known by the light of nature, without the assistance of scripture-light. Something, indeed, might be known by reason concerning the immortality of the soul, and its being not only capable of happiness or misery in a future state, but dealt with therein according to its behaviour in this world: nevertheless, when we enquire into that part, which the body shall bear therein; whether it shall be raised and reunited to the soul, to be for ever a partner with it in what respects 330its state in another world, or shall remain for ever in a state of corruption; this cannot be known by the light of nature.

There are, indeed, many things which we find in the writings of the Heathen, that discover them to have had some notion of what bears a resemblance to a resurrection: as when they speak concerning the transmigration of souls, or their living in other bodies, when separated from those which they formerly were united to. And others of them speak concerning the general conflagration, and the restoration of all things, immediately after, to their former state, as well as give some hints which are contained in their writings, concerning particular persons that have been raised from the dead, at least, pretended to have been so. What we find of this nature therein, very much resembles the fabulous account we have in the Popish legends of miracles, said to have been wrought, though without proof: thus we are told of one Aristeas, the Proconnesian, who had a power of expiring and returning to life at pleasure, and relating what he had seen in a separate state.[154] The same is reported of one Hermotimus of Clazomena.[155] But the most famous story of this kind, is what is related by Plato,[156] and transcribed from him by Eusebius,[157] concerning one Er, the son of Armenius; who, after he was slain in battle, and had continued ten days among other dead bodies, was brought home to his house; and two days after, being laid on his funeral pile, came to life again: this Plato, while he is relating it, calls little better than a fable.[158] And it was treated by others with ridicule, how much soever believed by some who regarded reports more than solid evidence of the truth thereof.

I might also mention others, who are said, by Heathen writers to have been translated into heaven in their bodies and 331souls[159]: Which might take its first rise from what they had received by tradition, concerning the translation of Enoch and Elijah; as the stories of those that were raised from the dead might be first invented by them with this view, that their religion might have as great reputation as that of the Jews.

But notwithstanding these particular instances related by them, of some translated, or others raised from the dead; there were very few of them that believed the doctrine of the resurrection; and some treated it with as much contempt as we do the before-mentioned account which they give of particular persons raised from the dead[160]. This agrees very well with what we read in scripture, concerning the treatment the apostle Paul met with, when he encountered the Epicureans and Stoicks at Athens, preaching to them Jesus and the resurrection, Acts xvii. 18. upon which occasion they call him babbler; and insinuated that he seemed to be a setter forth of strange gods. Oecumenius and Chrysostom think, that they supposed he reckoned the resurrection among the gods[161], as well as Jesus, whose divinity he doubtless maintained; but whether they were so stupid as thus to wrest his words, is not material. It is no wonder to find the Epicureans treating this doctrine with ridicule; for they, denying the immortality of the soul, could not entertain the least idea of the resurrection of the body in any sense: Whereas the Stoicks, though they did not own the doctrine of the resurrection, yet they could not think it so strange a doctrine as some others might do; since they held that the soul, after death, continued at least, as long as the body; and they knew very well, that many of the philosophers strenuously maintained the transmigration of souls; and, indeed, this was held by many of them, as well as the Platonists and Pythagoreans; and therefore the resurrection, though it differed from it, could not seem so strange and unheard of a 332notion, as that they should reckon it among the gods: However, it plainly appears from hence that this doctrine could not be learned by the light of nature; whatever confused ideas the Heathen might have entertained by tradition, concerning it.

Therefore it follows from hence, that we must look for a satisfactory account hereof from scripture: Thus when the Sadducees put a stupid question to our Saviour concerning the woman that had seven husbands, which successively died; and they would know whose wife she should be in the resurrection; by which they designed to express their opposition to this doctrine, rather than a desire of information as to the question proposed: Our Saviour in his reply to them refers them to the scriptures, Matt. xxii 29. as the fountain from whence a clear and satisfactory knowledge of this doctrine is to be derived as well as from the power of God. This divine perfection argues the possibility thereof, the justice and goodness of God, its expediency; but the scriptures, which contain a revelation of his will, represent it as certain; and this leads us to consider some arguments that are contained in, or deduced from scripture for the proof thereof; and here we shall consider,

1. Those proofs which we have for it, taken from the Old Testament. These I chuse first to insist on, because I am sensible there are many who think, that the church knew nothing of it, till it was revealed, by our Saviour, in the New Testament: This very much detracts from the importance of the doctrine, as well as renders the state of those who lived before Christ’s incarnation, very uncomfortable, since the saints, according to this opinion, must have had no hope of a glorious resurrection to eternal life. This notion is defended by many who extend the darkness of the dispensation farther than what is convenient; and among others, it is generally maintained by the Socinians, probably with this design, that since according to them, our Saviour had little else in view, in coming into the world, but to lead men into the knowledge of some things which they were ignorant of before; this might be reckoned one of those doctrines that he came to communicate. Thus Volkelius denies that there were any promises of eternal life made to the church under the Old Testament; and concludes that there was no one who had the least surmise that any such doctrine was contained in those scriptures which we commonly bring from thence to prove it[162]. And to give countenance 333to this opinion, several quotations are often taken from Jewish writers, since our Saviour’s time, who either speak doubtfully of this matter, or give occasion to think that they did not understand those scriptures which establish the doctrine of the resurrection in the Old Testament, as having any reference to it.

Therefore it may not be amiss for us to enquire; what were the sentiments of some of the Jews about this matter? Every one knows that there was one sect amongst them, namely, the Sadducees, who distinguished themselves from others by denying it: And Josephus gives the largest account of any one, concerning another sect, to wit, the Essens, who affected to lead a recluse life, in their respective colleges, and were governed by laws peculiar to themselves: Among other things which he relates concerning their conduct and sentiments, he says, that it was an opinion established among them, that the bodies of men were corruptible, and the matter of which they were compounded, not perpetual; though the soul remained for ever: And then he represents them as speaking, according to the Pythagorean and Platonick way, concerning the body’s being the prison of the soul, and its remaining when released from it, and of the soul’s dwelling in a pleasant place, and enjoying many things that tend to make it happy, &c.[163]. Nevertheless, his account of them is so short, and the expression on which the whole stress of this supposition is founded, a little ambiguous, namely, that the bodies of men are corruptible, and their matter not perpetual, which may be understood as agreeing with the common faith concerning man’s mortality, and the body’s turning to corruption, and not remaining in the same state in which it was; that it seems to leave the matter doubtful, whether they asserted or denied the resurrection. It is also supposed, that Philo denied this doctrine from several passages observed in his writings, which a late learned writer takes notice of[164]; but this is only the opinion of a single person, who, according to his general character, seems to be halting between two opinions, to wit, the doctrine of Moses, and the philosophy of Plato; and therefore I take his sentiments, about this, to be nothing else but an affection of thinking or speaking agreeably to the Platonic philosophy, which had probably given such a tincture to his notions, that he might deny the resurrection. And if the Essens, before-mentioned, should be allowed to have denied it, they received it from their attachment to the same, or, at least, the Pythagorean philosophy: But we cannot from hence conclude that the doctrine of the resurrection was denied by the main body of the Jews, or the greatest part 334of them; or by any, excepting those who were led out of the way, by the writings of the philosophers: Which gave occasion to the apostle Paul to warn the church to beware of philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ, Col. ii. 8. as foreseeing that some of them, in after-ages, would, in many respects, corrupt the doctrines of the gospel, by accommodating them to, or explaining them by what they found in the writings of the Heathen philosophers, as Origen, Justin Martyr, and some others did; and he seems to take the hint from what had been before observed relating to the corruption of the Jewish faith, by those who were attached to them. Thus concerning the opinion of those Jews, who are supposed to deny the doctrine of the resurrection.

On the other hand, there are several Rabbinical writers, who sufficiently intimate their belief of this doctrine; though it is true, some of them infer it from such premises, as discover great weakness in their method of reasoning. Thus the learned bishop Pearson observes, that they produce several places out of Moses’s writings, which when the resurrection is believed, may, in some kind, serve to illustrate it, but can, in no degree, be thought to reveal so great a mystery[165]. And Dr. Lightfoot produces other proofs, which they bring for this doctrine, as little to the purpose[166], of which all the use that can be made is, that we may from hence observe, that they believed the doctrine we are maintaining, to be contained in scripture. Whether they were able to defend it by shewing the force of those arguments on which it is founded therein or no, 335is not much to our present purpose, my design in referring to their writings being to prove that this doctrine was embraced by the Jews, in the ages before, as well as since our Saviour’s time. It is true, the Talmud, and other writings, which are generally quoted for the proof of it, are of later date, and the most ancient of the Chaldee paraphrases now extant, is supposed to have been written about that time, or, at least, but little before it: And there are no uninspired writings, relating to the Jewish affairs, more ancient, except those which we generally call Apocryphal; which most suppose to have been written about 150 years before the Christian Æra. And it is very evident, that about that time the doctrine of the resurrection was believed by the Jewish church; as the author of the book of Maccabees, in the history of the martyrdom of the seven brethren in the reign of Antiochus[167], represents some of them in the agonies of death, as expressing the firm belief they had of a resurrection to eternal life; their mother, in the mean while, encouraging them from the same consideration. These, as it is more than probable, the apostle includes in the number of those noble Old Testament worthies who were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection, Heb. xi. 35. which is an undeniable evidence that the church at that time believed the doctrine of the resurrection.

All that I shall add under this head is, that how weak soever the reasoning of some Jewish writers, concerning this subject, has been, there are others who give substantial proofs from the Old Testament; which not only argues that they believed it, but that their belief proceeded from a just conviction of the truth thereof. And they give the same sense of some of those scriptures which are generally produced for the proof hereof, as we do[168].

The first scripture that we shall take notice of, is what contains the vision mentioned in Ezek. xxxvii. 1, & seq. concerning the valley which was full of bones, which were very dry: Upon which occasion God says, Son of man, Can these bones 336live? to which he replies, O Lord God, thou knowest. And afterwards we read of God’s laying sinews, and bringing up flesh upon them, covering them with skin, and putting breath into them; and their being hereupon restored to life. I am sensible that they who are on the other side of the question, pretend that this is no proof of a resurrection; because the design thereof was to illustrate and make way for the prediction mentioned in the following verses, concerning the deliverance of God’s people from the Babylonish captivity: But that which seems to have its weight with me is, that God would never have made use of a similitude to lead them into this doctrine, taken from a thing which they had no manner of idea of: But if we suppose that they believed that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, agreeable to the literal sense of the words here made use of to illustrate it, then the argument taken from thence is plain and easy, q. d. as certainly as you have ground to believe that the dead shall be raised at the last day (which though it could not be brought about by any natural means, yet it shall be effected by the power of God;) so your deliverance, how unlikely soever it may appear to those who look no farther than second causes, shall come to pass by God’s extraordinary power and providence, which will be as life from the dead.

And whereas it is farther objected, that when God asked the prophet, whether these dry bones could live? He seems to be in doubt about it; which argues that he had no idea of the resurrection of the dead. To this it may be replied, that his doubt respected an event that should immediately ensue; he knew that God could put life into these bones; but whether he would do it now or no, he could not tell: Therefore it does not contain any disbelief of the doctrine of the resurrection at the last day; and, indeed, this scripture, how little soever it may seem to some to make for the doctrine we are maintaining, is alleged by others, as an undeniable proof of it. Tertullian expressly says, that this would have been a very insignificant vision, if this doctrine were not true[169]. And Jerome speaks to the same purpose, supposing that God would never illustrate any truth which they were in doubt of, by a similitude taken from an incredible fiction[170]. And Menasseh Ben Israel, a learned Jew, supposes this text to be an express and infallible proof of the resurrection; which plainly argues that he thought the Jews, in former ages, were convinced of this doctrine thereby[171].

337But supposing this scripture be not reckoned sufficient to evince the truth of this doctrine, there is another which has more weight in it, viz. that in Job xix. 25-27. I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another, though my reins be consumed within me. Job, as is generally supposed, lived in Moses’ time; therefore, if it can be made appear that he professes his faith in the doctrine of the resurrection, we may conclude that the church was acquainted with it in the early ages thereof; and nothing seems more evident, from the plain sense of the words, than that he here professes his faith in, and encourages himself from the hope of future blessedness, both in soul and body, at Christ’s second coming in the last day.

It is with a great deal of difficulty that they who deny this doctrine, are obliged to account for the sense of this text, so as to evade the force of the argument taken from thence to prove it. These suppose that Job intends nothing hereby but a firm persuasion which he had, that he should be recovered from that state of misery in which he then was, which not only affected his mind, but his body, as it was smitten with sore boils, from the sole of his foot unto his crown, Job ii. 7. his flesh being clothed with worms, and his skin broken and become loathsome, chap. vii. 5. and accordingly he says, I shall be redeemed from this affliction, and brought into a happy state before I die; and so they suppose that the words are to be taken in a metaphorical sense; and therefore do not prove the doctrine of the resurrection. But this will appear to be a very great perversion of the sense of this text, if we consider,

1. In how solemn a manner he brings it in, in the verses immediately foregoing. Oh that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book! that they were graven with an iron pen and lead, in the rock for ever! Which seems to import that he had something to communicate, that was of far greater moment than the account of his deliverance from the afflictions he was under in this world. Therefore it seems more agreeable to understand the sense of the words, as denoting that great and important truth, in which all believers are concerned, relating to Christ’s second coming, and the happiness that his saints shall then enjoy in soul and body; this deserves to be writ with a pen of iron, that it may be transmitted to all generations. But,

2. It is evident that he is here speaking of something that should be done, not whilst he lived, but in the end of time; for he considers his Redeemer, as standing in the latter day upon the earth. The person whom he here speaks of as his Redeemer, 338is, doubtless, our Saviour, who is frequently described, both in the Old and New-Testament, under that character: And, if at any time God the Father is called the Redeemer of his people, it may farther be observed that he is never said in redeeming them to make himself visible to their bodily eyes, or to stand upon the earth, much less to do this in the latter or last day, in which Christ is said to come again in a visible manner, to raise the dead and judge the world: And this Job intends when he says, In my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.

3. It is evident also that he intends hereby something that should befal him after his death, and not barely a deliverance from his present misery in this world; for he speaks of his skin or body as devoured by worms, and his reins consumed within him; which can intend no other than a state of corruption in death.

4. It does not appear that Job had any intimation concerning the change of his condition in this world, before God turned his captivity, having first made him sensible of his error, in uttering that which he understood not, when he testified his reconciliation to his friends, notwithstanding the injuries he had received from them, by praying for them, chap. xlii. 3, 10. And, indeed, he was so far from expecting happiness in this life, that he says, Mine eye shall no more see good, viz. in this world, chap. vii. 7. and hereupon he takes occasion to meditate on his own mortality in the following words; The eye of him that hath seen me shall see me no more; thine eyes are upon me, and I am not: And after this he prays, O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave, chap. xiv. 13. &c. And immediately before he speaks of his Redeemer as living, and the deliverance which he should obtain in the latter day, in the text under our present consideration, he earnestly desires the compassion of his friends: Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me; which does not well agree with the least expectation of a state of happiness in this world; in which case he would not need their pity; he might only have convinced them of the truth thereof, and it would have given a turn to their behaviour towards him; for we find, that, when God blessed his latter end more than his beginning, every one was as ready to comfort him concerning the evil that the Lord had brought upon him, and shew their very great respect to him, by offering him presents, as any were before to reproach him. Therefore upon the whole, it is very evident that Job is not speaking concerning his deliverance from his present evils in this world, but of a perfect deliverance from all evil in the great day of the resurrection: Accordingly we must conclude, that the doctrine of the resurrection 339is plainly asserted in this scripture; and indeed, Jerome says, that no one who wrote after Christ has more plainly maintained the doctrine of the resurrection than Job does in this scripture, who lived before him[172].

There is another scripture, by which, if I do not mistake the sense thereof, Job appears to have had a steady faith in the doctrine of the resurrection, and was firmly persuaded concerning his happiness, when raised from the dead, namely, in chap. xiv. 13, 14, 15. in which he says, O! that thou wouldst hide me in the grave, that thou wouldst keep me secret until thy wrath be past; that is, till a full end is put to all the afflictive providences which men are liable to in this present world, namely, till the day of Christ’s second coming; or, that thou wouldst appoint me a set time, and remember me; namely, that thou wouldst deliver me from the evils which I now endure. As to the former of these expedients, to wit, his deliverance by death, that he counts a blessing, because he takes it for granted that if a man die he shall live again, ver. 14.[173] and therefore says, all the days of my appointed time, that is, not of the appointed time of life, but the time appointed that he should lie in the grave, in which he desired that God would hide him; there, says he, I shall wait, or remain, till my change come, that is, till I am changed from a state of mortality to that of life. And he goes on in the following words, Thou shalt call, that is, by thy power thou shalt raise me, and I will answer thee, or come forth out of my grave; and hereby thou wilt make it known that thou hast a desire to the work of thine hands.

If it be objected to this sense of the words, that Job says, ver. 12. that man lieth down, and riseth not till the heavens be no more; they shall not awake nor be raised out of their sleep; therefore he is so far from expecting relief from his misery in the resurrection, that he seems plainly to deny it. To this I answer, that he doth not deny the doctrine of the resurrection in those words wherein he says that they shall not be raised from the dead, till the heavens be no more; which seems to intimate that he concluded that the dead should rise when the frame of nature was changed, as it will be, at the last day, in which the heavens shall be no more. I confess this sense is not commonly given of these verses, nor any argument drawn from, them to prove a resurrection from the dead; therefore I would not be too tenacious of mine own sense thereof; but I cannot but think it more probable than the common sense that is given 340of the words, and if so, it may be considered as a proof of the doctrine that we are maintaining.

There is another scripture which plainly proves the doctrine of the resurrection, namely, Dan. xii. 2. Many of them that sleep in the dust shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. This scripture is brought by several Rabbinical writers, as a proof of this doctrine; and the words are so express, that it will be very difficult to evade the force of them; though, it is true, some modern writers, who are ready to conclude that the Old Testament is silent as to the doctrine of the resurrection, take the words in a metaphorical sense, for the deliverance of the church from those grievous persecutions which they were under in the reign of Antiochus; and so sleeping in the dust is taken, by them, for lying in the holes and caves of the earth, the Jews being forced to seek protection there from the fury of the tyrant: But this cannot be properly called sleeping in the dust of the earth; and their deliverance from this persecution is not consistent with the contempt that should be cast on some that were raised out of the dust; nor could the happiness that others enjoyed in this deliverance, be called everlasting life, it being only a temporal salvation, that according to them, is here spoken of; and it must be a straining the metaphor to a great degree, to apply the following words to their wise men and teachers, after this deliverance, that they should shine as the brightness of the firmament; therefore this sense has such difficulties attending it, that every person who is not prepossessed with prejudice must give into the literal sense of the text; and confess that it is an argument to prove the doctrine of the resurrection.

The only difficulty that is pretended to be involved in this sense of the text is its being said, Many of them that sleep in the dust shall awake; whereas the doctrine that we are defending, is that of an universal resurrection. But since we shall have occasion to speak to that under a following head, we shall rather choose to refer it to its proper place, in which, according to our designed method, we are to consider that all who have lived from the beginning to the end of time, shall be raised.

There are other scriptures in the Old Testament that might be brought to prove this doctrine, such as that in Deut. xxxii. 39. in which God says, I kill, and I make alive; and that parallel text, in which the same thing is confessed, and farther explained, by Hannah, in her song, in 1 Sam. ii. 6. The Lord killeth and maketh alive, he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. I know that death and life are sometimes taken for good and evil; but why should deliverance from the miseries of this present life be represented by the metaphor of a resurrection, and this attributed to the almighty power of God, 341if the doctrine of the resurrection was reckoned by the church at that time, no other than a fiction or chimera, as it must be supposed to be if they had no idea of it, as not having received it by divine revelation?

We might, as a farther proof of this doctrine, consider those three instances that we have in the Old Testament of persons raised from the dead, namely, the Shunamite’s child, by the prophet Elisha, 2 Kings iv. 35. and the man who was cast into his sepulchre, that revived and stood on his feet, when he touched his bones, chap. xiii. 21. and the widow of Zarephath’s son, by the prophet Elijah, on which occasion it is said, He cried to the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee let this child’s soul come into him again; and accordingly the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived, 1 Kings xvii. 21, 22. From hence we must conclude, that this doctrine was not unknown to the prophet; for if it had, he could not have directed his prayer to God in faith. And these instances of a resurrection of particular persons could not but give occasion to the church at that time, to believe the possibility of a resurrection at the last day; so that it might as reasonably be expected that God will exert his power by raising the dead then, as that he would do it at this time, unless there was something in this possible event contrary to his moral perfections; but the resurrection appeared to them as it doth to all who consider him as the governor of the world, and as distributing rewards and punishments to every one according to their works, as not only agreeable to these perfections, but, in some respects, necessary for the illustration thereof. Therefore we must conclude, that as they had particular instances of a resurrection, which argued the general resurrection possible, they might easily believe that it should be future; which is the doctrine that we are maintaining.

To this we may add, that the patriarch Abraham believed the doctrine of the resurrection; therefore he had it some way or other revealed to him, before the word of God was committed to writing. This appears from what the apostle says when speaking concerning his offering Isaac, that he accounted that God was able to raise him up even from the dead, Heb. xi. 19. From hence it is evident that he was verily persuaded when he bound him to the altar, and lifted up his hand to slay him, that God would suffer him to do it, otherwise it had been no trial of his faith, so that his being prevented from laying his hand on him was an unexpected providence. Now how could he solve the difficulty that would necessarily ensue hereupon; had he expected that God would give him another seed instead of Isaac, that would not have been an accomplishment of the promise which was given to him, namely, that in Isaac his seed 342should be called; therefore the only thing that he depended on, was, that when he had offered him, God would raise him from the dead, and by this means fulfil the promise that was made to him concerning the numerous seed that should descend from him; therefore it cannot be supposed that Abraham was a stranger to the doctrine of the resurrection.

There are other scriptures by which it appears that the doctrine of the resurrection was revealed to the church under the Old Testament dispensation, either from the sense of the words themselves, or the explication thereof in the New, which refers to them: thus it is said in Psal. xvi. 10. Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption; which the apostle Peter quotes to prove the resurrection of Christ, in Acts ii. 24-27. If David therefore knew that the Messiah should be raised from the dead (which, as will be considered under a following head, is a glorious proof of the doctrine of the resurrection of the saints) we cannot suppose that he was a stranger to this doctrine himself.

Again, it is said in Isa. xxv. 8. He will swallow up death in victory; and this is mentioned immediately after a prediction of the glorious provision, which God would make for his people under the gospel-dispensation, which is called, by a metaphorical way of speaking, ver. 6. A feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined; and of the gospel’s being preached to the Gentiles, ver. 7. which is expressed by his destroying the face of covering, and the veil that was spread over all nations: therefore it may well be supposed to contain a prediction of something consequent thereupon, namely, the general resurrection: and there is another scripture to the same purpose, viz. Hos. xiii. 14. I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plague; O grave, I will be thy destruction; and both these scriptures are referred to by the apostle, as what shall be fulfilled in the resurrection of the dead; when he says, Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Cor. xv. 54, 55. Therefore we cannot but think that the prophets, and the church in their day, understood the words in the same sense.

There is another scripture in the Old Testament, in which the premises are laid down, from whence the conclusion is drawn in the New for the proof of this doctrine, namely, when God revealed himself to Moses, Exod. iii. 6. which our Saviour refers to, and proves the doctrine of the resurrection from, against the Sadducees. Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord, the God of 343Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: for he is not the God of the dead, but of the living, Luke xx. 37, 38. which argument was so convincing, that certain of the Scribes, said, in the following words, Master, thou hast well said; and after that, they, that is, the Sadducees, durst not ask him any question at all; so that it silenced, if it did not convince them. There are some, indeed, who, though they conclude that it is a very strong proof of the immortality of the soul, which the Sadducees denied, since that which does not exist cannot be the subject of a promise; yet, they cannot see how the resurrection can be proved from it; whereas it is brought, by our Saviour, for that purpose: therefore, that the force of this argument may appear, we must consider what is the import of the promise contained in this covenant, that God would be the God of Abraham; which is explained elsewhere, when he told him, I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward, Gen. xv. 1. He was therefore given hereby to expect, at the hand of God, all the spiritual and saving blessings of the covenant of grace; but these blessings respect not only the soul, but the body; and as they are extended to both worlds, it is an evident proof of the happiness of the saints in their bodies in a future state, and consequently that they shall be raised from the dead. This leads us,

2. To consider those arguments to prove the doctrine of the resurrection which are contained in the New Testament, in which it is more fully and expressly revealed than in any part of scripture. Here we may first take notice of those particular instances in which our Saviour raised persons from the dead in a miraculous way, as the prophets Elijah and Elisha did under the Old Testament dispensation, as was before observed. Thus he raised Jairus’s daughter, whom he found dead in the house, Matt. ix. 25. and another, to wit, the widow’s son at Nain, when they were carrying him to the grave; which was done in the presence of a great multitude, Luke vii. 11, 14, 15. and there was another instance hereof in his raising Lazarus from the dead, John xi. 43, 44. which he did in a very solemn and public manner, after he had been dead four days, his body being then corrupted and laid in the grave, from whence Christ calls him, and he immediately revived and came forth. These instances of the resurrection of particular persons tended to put the doctrine of the general resurrection out of all manner of doubt; and, indeed, it was, at this time, hardly questioned by any, excepting the Sadducees: therefore before Christ raised Lazarus, when he only told his sister Martha that he should rise again, she, not then understanding that he designed immediately to raise him from the dead, expresses her faith in the doctrine of the general resurrection; I know that he shall 344rise again in the resurrection at the last day, John xi. 24. upon which occasion our Saviour replies, I am the resurrection and the life, ver. 25. denoting that this work was to be performed by him.

Moreover, this doctrine was asserted and maintained by the apostles, after Christ had given the greatest proof hereof in his own resurrection from the dead: thus it is said, that they preached through Jesus, the resurrection from the dead, Acts iv. 2. And the apostle Paul standing before Felix, and confessing his belief of all things which are written in the law and the prophets, immediately adds, that he had hope towards God, which they themselves also allow; that is, the main body of the Jewish nation; that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust.

And he not only asserts but proves it with very great strength of reasoning, in 1 Cor. xv. and the argument he therein insists on, is taken from Christ’s resurrection, ver. 13. If there be no resurrection, then is Christ not risen; which is a doctrine that could not be denied by any that embraced the Christian religion, as being the very foundation thereof; but if any one should entertain the least doubt about it, he adds, ver. 17. If Christ be not raised from the dead, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins; that is, your hope of justification hereby is ungrounded, and they also which are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished; but this none of you will affirm; therefore you must conclude that he is risen from the dead: and if it be enquired, how does this argument prove the general resurrection, that he farther insists on from ver. 20. Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept? Christ’s resurrection removes all the difficulties that might afford the least matter of doubt concerning the possibility of the resurrection of the dead; and his being raised as the first-fruits of them that slept, or, as the head of all the elect, who are said to have communion with him in his resurrection, or to be risen with him, Col. iii. 1. renders the doctrine of the resurrection of all his saints, undeniably certain. As the first-fruits are a part and pledge of the harvest, so Christ’s resurrection is a pledge and earnest of the resurrection of his people. Thus the apostle says elsewhere, If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies, Rom. viii. 11. And our Saviour, when he was discoursing with his disciples concerning his death, and resurrection that would ensue thereupon, tells them, that though after this he should be separated for a time from them, and the world should see him no more, yet that they should see him again; and assigns this as a reason, because I live ye shall live also, John xiv. 19. q. d. because I 345shall be raised from the dead, and live for ever in heaven; you, who are my favourites, friends, and followers, shall be also raised and live with me there; so that the resurrection of believers is plainly evinced from Christ’s resurrection.

I might produce many other scriptures out of the New Testament, in which this doctrine is maintained; but we shall proceed to consider what proofs may be deduced from scripture-consequences. And it may here be observed, that our Lord Jesus Christ, has by his death and resurrection, as the consequence thereof, purchased an universal dominion over, or a right to dispose of his subjects in such a way as will be most conducive to his own glory and their advantage. Thus the apostle speaks of him as dying, rising, and reviving, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living; and infers from thence, that whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s, Rom. xiv. 8, 9. And his being Lord over the dead is expressed in other terms, by his having the keys of hell and death; and this is assigned as the consequence of his being alive after his death, or of his resurrection from the dead, Rev. i. 18. Therefore he has a power, as Mediator, to raise the dead. And to this we may also add, that this is what he has engaged to do, as much as he did to redeem the souls of his people. When believers are said to be given to him, or purchased by him, it is the whole man that is included therein; and accordingly he purchased the bodies as well as the souls of his people, as may be argued from our obligation hereupon, to glorify him in our bodies as well as in our spirits which are God’s, 1 Cor. vi. 20. And they are both under his care; he has undertaken that their bodies shall not be lost in the grave; which is very emphatically expressed, when he is represented as saying, this is the will of the Father which hath sent me, John vi. 39, 40. or, contained in the commission that I received from him, when he invested me with the office of Mediator; that of all which he had given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. What should be the reason that he here speaks of things rather than persons, if he had not a peculiar regard to the bodies of believers? which, as they are the subjects of his power when raised from the dead; so they are the objects of his care, and therefore he will raise them up at the last day.

We might farther consider Christ’s dominion as extended to the wicked as well as the righteous. He is not, indeed, their federal head; but he is appointed to be their Judge; and therefore has a right to demand them to come forth out of their graves, to appear before his tribunal; though they are neither the objects of his special love, nor redeemed by his blood, nor the dutiful and obedient subjects of his kingdom; inasmuch as it is said, God has appointed a day in which he will judge the 346world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead, Acts xvii. 31. And elsewhere it is said, that he was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead, chap. x. 42. Therefore we read, that he shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all nations, Matt. xxv. 31, 32. and of his determining the final estate, both of the righteous and the wicked, as it is expressed in the following verses; and this is described more particularly as being immediately after the universal resurrection; as it is said, ‘I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened,’ Rev. xx. 12, 13. which, as will be observed under our next answer, respects his judging the world; and in order hereto it is farther said, that ‘the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works.’ And since Christ is represented as a judge, it is necessary that he should execute his vindictive justice against his enemies, and punish them as their sins deserve; but this respects not only the soul but the body; and therefore Christ that he may secure the glory of his justice, shall raise the bodies of sinners, that he may punish them according to their works; and therefore he is said to be the object of fear, in that he is able to destroy both soul and body in hell, Matt. x. 28.

Thus we have endeavoured to prove the doctrine of the resurrection by arguments taken from the Old and New Testament, and those scripture-consequences from which it may be plainly deduced: so that how much soever it may be thought a strange and incredible doctrine, by those who have no other light to guide them but that of nature; it will be generally believed by all whose faith is founded upon divine revelation, and who adore the infinite power and impartial justice of God, the Governor of the world: and, indeed, it is not attended with such difficulties arising from the nature of the thing, as many pretend, since we have several emblems in nature which seem to illustrate it; which are very elegantly represented by some of the Fathers, and especially by Tertullian;[174] whom the learned and excellent bishop Pearson refers to and imitates in his style and mode of expression;[175] his words are these; “As the 347day dies into night, so doth the summer into winter: the sap is said to descend into the root, and there it lies buried in the ground. The earth is covered with snow, or crusted with frost, and becomes a general sepulchre. When the spring appeareth all begin to rise; the plants and flowers peep out of their graves, revive, and grow, and flourish; this is the annual resurrection. The corn by which we live, and for want of which we perish with famine, is notwithstanding cast upon the earth, and buried in the ground, with a design that it may corrupt, and being corrupted, may revive and multiply; our bodies are fed with this constant experiment, and we continue this present life by succession of resurrections. Thus all things are repaired by corrupting, are preserved by perishing, and revive by dying; and can we think that man, the lord of all those things, which thus die and revive for him, should be detained in death, as never to live again? Is it imaginable that God should thus restore all things to man, and not restore man to himself? If there were no other consideration but of the principles of human nature, of the liberty, and remunerability of human actions, and of the natural revolutions and resurrections of other creatures, it were 348abundantly sufficient to render the resurrection of our bodies highly probable.” We shall now consider,

V. Some objections that are generally brought against the doctrine of the resurrection. Some things, indeed, are objected against it, that are so vain and trifling, that they do not deserve an answer: as when the followers of Aristotle assert that it is impossible for a thing which is totally destroyed, to be restored to that condition in which it was before[176]: And some have been so foolish as to think that those nations, who burnt their dead bodies, put an eternal bar in the way of their resurrection; since the particles being so changed and separated by fire as they are, can never return again to their former bodies; or they who have been swallowed up by the ocean, and the particles of which they consisted, dissolved by water; and every one of them separated from the other, can never be again restored to their former situation. Such-like objections as these, I say, do not deserve an answer; because they consider the resurrection as though it were to be brought about in such a way, as effects are produced by second causes, according to the common course of nature; without any regard to the almighty power of God, that can easily surmount all the difficulties which, they pretend, lie in the way of the resurrection.

And there are other objections, taken from a perverse sense, which they give of some texts of scripture, without considering the drift and design thereof, or what is added in some following words, which sufficiently overthrows the objection. Thus some produce that scripture in Eccles. iii. 19, 20, 21. where it is said, That which befalleth the sons of men, befalleth beasts. So that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast, all go unto one place, and all are of the dust, and all turn to the dust again; which we before mentioned as brought against the immortality of the soul; and it is also alleged against the resurrection of the body, by those who conclude that it shall be no more raised from the dead than the bodies of brute creatures. But this is rather a cavil or a sophism, than a just way of reasoning; inasmuch as the following words plainly intimate, that men and beasts are compared together only as to their mortality, not as to what respects their condition after death; and therefore it is no sufficient argument to overthrow the doctrine of the resurrection. These and such-like objections are so trifling, that we shall not insist on them: However, there are three or four that we shall lay down, and consider what answers may be given to them.

Obj. 1. It is objected against the doctrine of the resurrection, that though the power of God can do all things possible 349to be done; yet the raising the dead, at least, in some particular instances thereof, is impossible from the nature of the thing; and therefore we may say, without any reflection cast on the divine Omnipotency, that God cannot raise them, at least, not so as that every one shall have his own body restored to him; since there are some instances of Cannibals, or men-eaters, who devour one another, by which means the flesh of one man is turned into the flesh of the other. And in those instances which are more common, the bodies of men being turned into dust, produce food, like other parts of the earth, for brute creatures; and accordingly some of those particles of which they consisted, are changed into the flesh of these creatures; and these again are eaten by men; so that the particles of one human body, after having undergone several changes, become a part of another; therefore there cannot be a distinct resurrection of every one of those bodies that have lived in all the ages of the world.

Answ. To this it may be replied, that it cannot be proved, that in those instances mentioned in the objection, that when one man preys upon another, or when brute creatures live upon that grass which was produced by the ground, which was made fertile by the bodies of men turned to corruption, and it may be, may have some of the particles thereof contained in them: It cannot, I say, be proved, that these particles of the bodies of men are turned into nourishment, and so become a part of human flesh; since providence did not design this to be for food. If so, then it is not true in fact, that the particles of one human body become a part of another. But, suppose it were otherwise (to give the objection as much weight as possible) we may farther observe, that it is but a very small part of what is eaten, that is turned into flesh; and therefore those particles of one human body, that by this means are supposed to pass into another, make up but a very inconsiderable part thereof. Therefore, if some few particles of one human body in the resurrection are restored again to that body to which they at first belonged, this will not overthrow the doctrine of the resurrection of the same body. If the body of man loses a few ounces of its weight, no one will suppose that it is not the same body. So when the bodies of men are raised from the dead, if the far greater part of the particles thereof are recollected and united together, they may truly be said to constitute the same body; this therefore does not overthrow the resurrection of the same body from the nature of the thing.

Object. 2. It is farther objected, especially against the possibility of the resurrection of the same body that was once alive in this world; that the bodies of men, while they live, are subject to such alterations, that it can hardly be said that we are 350the same when we are men as when we are children. The expence of those particles which were insensibly lost by perspiration, and others being daily gained by nutrition, make such an alteration in the contexture of the body, that, as some suppose, in the space of about seven years, almost all the particles of the body are changed, some lost and others regained. Now if it be supposed that the same body we once had shall be raised, it is hard to determine; whether those particles of which it consisted when we were young, shall be gathered together in the resurrection, or the particles of the emaciated or enfeebled body, which was laid down in the grave.

Answ. We are obliged to take notice of such-like objections as these, because they are often alleged in a cavilling way, against the doctrine of the resurrection. The answer therefore that I would give to this, is, that the more solid and substantial parts of the body, such as the skin, bones, cartilages, veins, arteries, nerves, fibres, that compose the muscles, with the ligaments and tendons, are not subject to this change that is mentioned in the objection, by evaporation or perspiration; which more especially respects the fluids, and not the solids of the body. These remain the same in men as they were in children, excepting what respects their strength and size: And if the body, as consisting of these and some other of the particles that it has lost, which the wisdom of God thinks fit to recollect, be gathered together in the resurrection; we may truly say, that the same body that once lived, notwithstanding the change made in the fluids thereof, is raised from the dead.

Obj. 3. There is another objection which is sometimes brought against the doctrine of the resurrection of the just, especially against their being raised with the same body they once had, taken from the inconsistency hereof, with their living in the other world, called heaven; which is generally distinguished from the earth, as being a more pure subtil and etherial region, therefore not fit to be an habitation for bodies compounded of such gross matter as ours are, which are adapted to the state and world in which they now live: Whereas, to suppose them placed in heaven, is inconsistent with the nature of gravity; so that we may as well conclude a body, which naturally tends to the earth its centre, to be capable of living in the air, at a distance from the surface of the earth, as we can, that it is possible for such a body to live in heaven: Therefore they argue that the bodies of men, at the resurrection must be changed, so as to become etherial, which does, in effect, overthrow the doctrine of the resurrection, as respecting, at least, the restoring the bodies of men to the same form which once they had.

Moreover, this objection is farther improved by another supposition: 351which gave the Socinians occasion to assert, that the same body shall not be raised; namely, that if the bodies of men should be the same as they are now, they would be rendered incapable of that state of immortality which is in heaven. For by the same method of reasoning, by which, as has been before observed, they argue that man would have been liable to mortality, though he had not sinned, viz. that death was then the consequence of nature, inasmuch as the body was to be supported by food, breathe in proper air, and be fenced against those things that might tend to destroy the temperament thereof, or a dissolution would ensue, they conclude that we must not have such bodies as we now have, but etherial. And to give countenance to this, they refer to the apostle’s words in 1 Cor. xv. 50. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God: And ver. 40. where he speaks of celestial bodies as distinguished from terrestrial, and of the body’s being raised a spiritual body, ver. 44. And there is another scripture generally referred to, wherein our Saviour speaks of believers, in the resurrection, being as the angels of God, Matt. xxii. 30. which is to be understood, at least, as signifying that their motion will be no more hindered by the weight of the body, than the motion of an angel is; therefore their bodies must be of another kind than what we suppose they shall be in the resurrection.

Answ. 1. As to what respects the inconsistency of bodies like ours, living in the upper world, as being contrary to the nature of gravitation: It may be answered, that according to the generally received opinion of modern philosophers, gravity arises from an external pressure made upon bodies which are said to be heavy or light, according to the force thereof; and therefore those bodies that are in the upper regions, above the atmosphere, are equally adapted to ascend or descend; which sufficiently answers that part of the objection. This a learned writer takes notice of[177]: And if this be not acquiesced in, he advances another hypothesis; which, because it has something of wit and spirit in it, I shall take leave to mention, though I must suspend my judgment concerning it, whether it be true or false. He says, perhaps, our heaven will be nothing else but an heaven upon earth; and that it seems more natural to suppose that, since we have solid and material bodies, we shall be placed as we are in this life, in some solid and material orb; and this he supposes agreeable to the apostle Peter’s words, when he speaks of a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, 2 Pet. iii. 13. From whence he concludes, that either this world shall be fitted to be the seat of the blessed, or some other that has a solid basis like unto it. And to give countenance 352to this opinion, he refers to some ancient writers; and particularly tells us, that Maximus speaks of it as the opinion of many in his time; and Epiphanius brings in Methodius in the third century, as asserting the same thing.

2. As to what concerns that part of the objection, that bodies, like those we have now, are unmeet for the heavenly state, inasmuch as they cannot be supported without food and other conveniences of nature, which tend to the preservation of life in this world. To this it may be answered, that it is not necessary to suppose that the body shall be raised with such qualities as that it will stand in need of food, rest, or other conveniences of nature; which, at present, tend to the support of life: The apostle seems to assert the contrary, when he says, Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; but God shall destroy both it and them, 1 Cor. vi. 13. There is certainly a medium between asserting, with some, that we shall be raised with an etherial body, in all respects unlike to that which we have at present; and maintaining, that we shall have such as are liable to the imperfections of this present state, and supported in the same way in which they now are.

As to what the apostle says concerning flesh and blood not inheriting the kingdom of heaven, he does not mean thereby that our bodies shall be so changed, that they shall in no respect consist of flesh and blood: And when he speaks of celestial and spiritual bodies, it is not necessary for us to suppose, that hereby he intends ærial or etherial bodies. But this will be more particularly considered under a following head, when we speak of the circumstances in which the bodies of believers shall be raised from the dead. As for that other scripture, in which they are said to be as the angels of God in heaven, that respects their being immortal and incorruptible; or as the context seems to intimate, that they need not marriage, to perpetuate their generations, in that world: Therefore we have no occasion to strain the sense of the words, so as to suppose that our Saviour intends in his saying they shall be as the angels, that they shall cease to be like what they were when men on earth.

Objec. 4. The last objection which we shall mention, is taken from its not being agreeable to the goodness of God, extended to those who are made partakers of the resurrection to eternal life; inasmuch as it is a bringing them into a worse condition than the soul was in, when separate from the body. This objection is generally brought by those who give into that mode of speaking often used by Plato[178] and his followers, that the 353body in this world, is the prison of the soul, which at death, is set at liberty: therefore they suppose, that its being united to the body again, is no other than its being condemned to a second imprisonment, which is so far from being a favour conferred, that it rather seems to be a punishment inflicted. Others, with Celsus, reckon it a dishonour for the soul to be reunited to a body that is corrupted.[179] And others speak of the body as being a great hindrance to the soul in its actings; and frequently inclining it to the exercise of some of those passions that tend to make men uneasy, and thereby unhappy; and that this may, some way or other, take place in a future state.

Answ. It is no great difficulty to answer this objection, in which there is not a due difference put between the present and future state of believers. The only thing which might give occasion to men to conclude that their souls are imprisoned in this world is, because they are abridged of that happiness which they shall be possessed of in another; which the apostle calls The glorious liberty of the children of God, Rom. viii. 21. And as for the reproaches which some of the greatest enemies to Christianity have cast on this doctrine, these are not sufficient to beget the least dislike of it in the minds of serious and unprejudiced Christians. What though the body be turned to corruption? It shall be raised incorruptible, and in glory; and therefore shall be a palace fit to entertain its noble inhabitant: what though it has, in this world, offered many temptations to the soul to sin, by which it has been sometimes overcome and exposed to those passions that have defiled, and made it very uneasy; is this to be objected against its being raised from the dead in such a state of perfection, that it shall never more contract any guilt, or render the soul unhappy, by any inconvenience arising from it? But this will farther appear, when we speak of the condition in which the body shall be raised under a following head. We shall therefore proceed,

VI. To consider the resurrection of the dead as universal, including in it all who have lived, or shall live, from the beginning of time, till Christ’s second coming, excepting those who shall be found alive; on whom a change shall pass which is equivalent to a resurrection.

1. That all the dead shall be raised: this is expressly mentioned in that vision, I saw the dead both small and great, standing before God; and the books were opened; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were 354in them; and they were judged every man according to their works, Rev. xx. 12, & seq. where the Judge is represented as demanding the bodies of men of all ranks, conditions, and ages, out of those places where they have been lodged, with a design to reward or punish them according to their works: therefore, if the justice of God is to be displayed in this solemn and awful transaction, and the bodies as well as the souls of men, are the subjects on which this judgment must pass; then it follows, that it will be universal: thus our Saviour says, All that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation, John v. 28, 29. This is so evident a truth, founded on the divine perfections, as well as express words of scripture, that it is strange to find that any, who allow that the dead shall be raised, should deny the universality thereof.

However, we meet with several expressions in Rabbinical writers, which seem to speak of it as a peculiar privilege belonging to some, but not to all; and therefore they have a proverbial expression, that though the rain descends on the just and on the unjust, yet the resurrection of the dead belongs only to the just:[180] and this they infer from the words of the prophet Daniel, in chap. xii. 2. Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; which words contain a difficulty which most have found it an hard matter to account for, agreeably to the sense of the prophet, who speaks, in the words immediately following, of the consequence hereof, as, some shall awake to everlasting life, and some to everlasting shame and contempt; whereby he divides the world into two parts, and considers one as happy, the other as miserable; therefore he must, doubtless, speak of an universal resurrection. But the great difficulty lies in these words; Many of them that sleep in the dust shall arise; from whence, some conclude that this expression contains an exception of others who shall not arise: thus some Jewish writers seem to have understood it; but I rather think, that the word many, there, imports nothing else but the multitude, q. d. the whole number of those that sleep shall awake.[181]

355It is somewhat hard to determine what the Rabbinical writers intend when they seem to confine the resurrection to the Israelites; and some of them to exclude, not only the wicked from it, but those that had not addicted themselves to the study of the law, whom they call the Gnam Haaretz: thus they are represented in scripture as giving them but a very indifferent character, The people that knoweth not the law are accursed, John vii. 49. by this means they bring the number of those that shall be raised from the dead into a very narrow compass: nevertheless they speak of future rewards and punishments in another world; therefore some have thought, when they exclude all but the Israelites, and, of them, all but those who were in the greatest reputation amongst them, that they understand nothing else by the resurrection, but that which they fancied would happen in the days of the Messiah; in which, they suppose, that some of the Jews shall be raised from the dead before the general resurrection at the last day; and in this sense we may easily understand their exclusive account, when they speak of many that shall not be partakers of this privilege; and if it be extended to the resurrection at the last day, then I am apt to think, that they intend hereby a resurrection to eternal life, and so some understand that common proverb but now mentioned, concerning the rain’s descending upon all; but the resurrection’s belonging only to the just, in this sense; that though the rain descends upon the wilderness, and barren ground; yet it is only some places which are made fruitful thereby: accordingly, though the resurrection be universal, both of the righteous and wicked; yet the resurrection to eternal life belongs only to the just.[182]

All that I shall observe at present is, that this is not altogether disagreeable to the scripture-mode of speaking; which, though in some places it asserts the resurrection of the whole world, in others, by the resurrection, we are to understand nothing else, but a resurrection to eternal life: thus the apostle Paul, when he speaks of his attaining unto the resurrection of the dead, Phil. iii. 11. intends hereby his obtaining a glorious resurrection. And our Saviour, when speaking concerning the 356happiness of the saints in another world, expresses it on this wise; that they shall be counted worthy, or meet, to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, Luke xx. 35. so that whatever is said by Jewish writers, tending to limit the resurrection of the dead to eternal life, to some particular persons, it does not appear but that even they held, in other respects, a general resurrection, both of the just and unjust; which is as demonstrable as is the resurrection in general.

2. They who are found alive at Christ’s second coming, shall undergo a change; which, though it cannot be called a resurrection, will be equivalent to it. The apostle Paul gives an account of this, as what was before unknown to the church; Behold I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. And elsewhere he speaks of them when thus changed, as caught up in the clouds together with other saints, that are raised from the dead, to meet the Lord in the air, 1 Thess. iv. 17. This is no less an effect of almighty power than a resurrection; for hereby their bodies, though never separated from their souls, are brought into the same state as the bodies of others shall be, when re-united to them, and thereby be rendered incorruptible and immortal, as the bodies of all other saints shall be, and made partakers of the same glory with which they are said to be raised. We have an emblem of this in Christ’s transfiguration, when there was such a change made, for the present, on his body, that his face shined as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And there was not only a resemblance, but a kind of specimen hereof, in the translation of Enoch and Elijah, whose bodies were before this, liable to corruption, and all other infirmities that attend this present life, but were made, in a moment, celestial and glorious. And the body of our Saviour, though it was raised from the dead incorruptible and immortal, yet, during the space of forty days, while he continued on earth, it was not made so glorious as it was immediately after the cloud received him into heaven, when it underwent such a change as was agreeable to the place and state into which he then entered; even so the bodies of the saints, at last, shall, by this change, be made meet for heaven, and received, with other saints into it.

VII. We shall now consider the condition in which the body shall be raised. And,

1. Those circumstances of honour and glory which respect more especially the resurrection of the just: this the apostle mentions, and describes them as raised in glory, 1, Cor. xv. 43. It is the same body indeed, that is raised, which he illustrates by a grain of wheat springing up, and changed into a full-grown ear; which, though it be greatly improved, and very 357much altered from what it was, when cast into the ground, yet every seed, as he observes, has its own body, ver. 38. From whence we may infer, that the same body shall be raised from the dead, though with very different qualities. There are several things mentioned by the apostle, in the account he gives of the bodies of the saints after the resurrection; which some have attempted to explain in such a way, as is hardly consistent with a resurrection of the same body. The Socinians generally maintain that the body shall be altogether new, as to its substance, as well as its qualities: and others speak of it as an aerial body; as supposing that the gross and heavy matter, of which it formerly consisted, is not adapted to an heavenly state, and would render it not altogether free from a liableness to corruption. This opinion a late writer mentions, as what was espoused by some of the Fathers, which he speaks very favourably of; and inasmuch as the apostle calls it a spiritual body, 1 Cor. xv. 45. and seems to distinguish it from flesh and blood, which cannot inherit the kingdom of God, ver. 50. he thinks that though the same flesh and blood may rise from the grave, it will then or afterwards, receive such a change, as will render it spiritual and incorruptible; and so, perhaps, when it comes to heaven, will not be flesh and blood; or, that it will clothed with such an heavenly body as will keep it from a possibility of corruption; and accordingly he supposes that the apostle is to be understood in this sense, that flesh and blood unchanged and unclothed with its heavenly body, cannot inherit the kingdom of God; and that this body with which it shall be invested, will be thin, aerial, spiritual, bright, and shining; and, in that respect, may be called celestial.[183] The reason he assigns why flesh and blood, namely, such as is subject to corruption here, cannot inherit the kingdom of God, is, because the flesh may be cut and divided, and the blood let out, which would subject it to corruption; therefore it must be changed, and put on incorruption.

This account of the bodies of the just after the resurrection, seems, indeed, to be a medium between the two extremes, either of those who suppose that the body shall differ but little from what it was whilst here on earth, or of others, who conclude it to be nothing else but an aerial body; yet it contains several things taken for granted, without sufficient proof, which I cannot readily give into: nevertheless what he farther adds on this 358subject is undeniably true, viz. that the body, which before was subject to filth and deformity, is raised in glory and splendor, shining like the sun, Matt. xxiii. 43. That which was once vile, is fashioned like Christ’s glorious body, Phil. iii. 21. and is freed from all defect or deformity in its members, and from any dishonourable parts. Not subject to weakness by labour, decays of age, to impotency and wasting by diseases; but nimble, strong, active, and that without reluctancy or molestation, grief, pain, or lassitude; it is raised a spiritual body, possessed and acted by the Holy Spirit; and advanced so far to the perfection of spirits, as to be free from grossness, ponderosity, from needing rest, sleep, or sustenance, and is fitted for a spiritual and celestial state in which our bodies shall wholly serve our spirits, and depend upon them, and therefore may be styled spiritual. If we stop here, without giving too much scope to our wit and fancy, in advancing things too high for us, and confess that we know not, or, at least, but a little of the affairs of an unseen world; or, as the apostle says, what we shall be, Phil. iii. 21. we say enough to give us an occasion to conclude that it is a glorious and desirable state, and the change wrought therein, such as fully answers our most raised expectations, and is agreeable to a state of perfect blessedness. Thus concerning the condition and circumstances in which the saints shall be raised.

There is one thing which must not wholly be past over, which is farther observed in this answer, namely, that the bodies of the just shall be raised by the Spirit of Christ: This is what the apostle expressly says, If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you, Rom. viii. 11. The bodies of believers, which were, in this world, the temple of the Holy Ghost, and were under his divine influence whilst living, shall not cease to be the objects of his care when dead; and as an instance of his regard to them, as well as denoting the subserviency hereof, to their attaining that complete redemption which Christ has purchased for them, the Spirit, in a peculiar manner, demonstrates his personal glory in raising them from the dead: Whereas, others are said to be raised only by the power of Christ.

2. We shall now consider the circumstances in which the wicked shall be raised, namely, in dishonour; or, as the prophet Daniel expresses it, to shame and everlasting contempt. Some marks of dishonour shall, doubtless, be impressed on their bodies, in that they shall be raised with all those natural blemishes and deformities, which rendered them the object of contempt. That part which the body bore in tempting the soul 359to sin, shall tend to its everlasting reproach; and when reunited to it, those habits of sin which were contracted, shall incurably remain, as well as the tormenting sense of guilt consequent hereupon, which exposes them to the wrath of God for ever; so that their resurrection, which renders them immortal, brings upon them endless misery. And it is said to be brought about by Christ, as an offended Judge, as the consequence whereof, they are summoned to his tribunal, who will render to every one according to his works. Which leads us to consider Christ as coming to judge the world; which is that solemn transaction that will immediately follow after the resurrection.

Quest. LXXXVIII.

Quest. LXXXVIII. What shall immediately follow after the resurrection?

Answ. Immediately after the resurrection shall follow the general and final judgment of angels and men; the day and hour whereof no man knoweth, that all may watch and pray, and be ever ready for the coming of the Lord.

Our Lord Jesus Christ having finished the work which he undertook to perform, in gathering in his elect, and bringing that grace which he wrought in them to perfection; the only thing then remaining to be done, will be his receiving them into his immediate presence, to behold his glory; and banishing others, for ever, from him, with marks of infamy and detestation. And, in order hereunto, he will raise the dead, and give a summons to the whole world of angels and men, to appear before his tribunal in that day in which he is appointed, by the Father, to judge the world in righteousness; which is the subject insisted on in this answer. In speaking to which, we shall

I. Prove that there shall be a day of judgment.

II. Consider the person, the character, and the solemnity of the appearing of the great Judge, to whom this work is committed.

III. The persons to be judged, angels and men.

IV. The manner in which he shall proceed in judging them. And,

V. Some circumstances concerning the place where, and the time when this great and awful work shall be performed.

I. We are to prove that there shall be a day of judgment. This is as evident a truth as that there is a providence, or that God is the Governor of the world. Every intelligent creature, who is the subject of moral government, affords an argument for the proof of this doctrine. And accordingly we must consider 360them as under a law which he has given, as that by which they are to be governed. From hence arises our obligation to duty, and being rendered accountable to the great Lawgiver, as to what concerns our obedience to, or violation of his law. And God is obliged, in honour, to make a scrutiny into, or take an account of our behaviour, that it may be known whether we have obeyed or rebelled against him. This is evident from the concern which the glory of his own perfections has herein; and the promises and threatnings annexed to his law, which he is obliged to fulfil or execute. From whence it follows, that God will display his glory as the Judge of the world.

This is plainly revealed in scripture; it was foretold in the early ages of the world, as contained in the epistle of Jude, in ver. 14, 15. Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds, which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him: which words, though they might have a peculiar relation to the judgment which God would execute in the destruction of the old world; yet it is plain by the application hereof made by the apostle, that it looks as far as the final judgment, which shall be in the end of time. And this likewise appears from what is said in Eccles. xii. 14. that God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. There are, indeed, many displays of God’s judicial hand in the present dispensations of his providence, as he is said to be known by the judgment which he executeth, Psal. ix. 16. The visible token of his regard to his saints in this world, as well as the public and dreadful display of his vengeance poured forth upon his enemies, proclaim his glory, as God, the Judge of all. But inasmuch as sin deserves greater punishments than what are inflicted here; and the promises which God has made for the encouragement of his people, give them occasion to look beyond the present scene of affairs; and especially since the divine dealings with men, as to what respects outward things, cannot so clearly be accounted for, while we behold the righteous oppressed, and many of the wicked having, as it were, more than heart could wish; this plainly argues, that there is a time coming when matters will be adjusted; and, as the Psalmist says, ‘A man shall say,’ or every one shall have occasion to say, ‘Verily there is a reward for the righteous; verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth,’ Psal. lviii. 11.

Moreover, this doctrine is not only revealed in scripture, but it is impressed on the consciences of men; which, though they never took so much pains to extinguish their apprehension or 361dread thereof, it is impossible for them to do it. That secret remorse or terror which sinners feel within their own breasts, which makes them restless and uneasy, especially when they perceive themselves to stand on the confines of another world, is an undeniable argument that there is a future judgment. What was it that made Belshazzar’s countenance to change? Why did his thoughts trouble him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another, when he saw the hand-writing on the wall, in the midst of all his mirth and jollity? Dan. v. 6. Was he afraid of the united forces of the Persians and Medes, who at that time invested the capital city in which he was? Did he know that he should be slain before the morning? That was most remote from his thoughts, as apprehending himself safe from any danger that might arise from that quarter. Was he afraid of punishment from men? His condition in the world set him above the dread of any such event. It was only the sense he had of a future judgment from God, that produced these effects in him. It was this that made the Heathen governor tremble, when the apostle reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Acts xxiv. 25. And when he was disputing with the Athenians, though they mocked and treated what he said about the resurrection with ridicule; yet none of them had any thing to object against this doctrine that God would judge the world in righteousness, chap. xvii. 31.

It may be observed that the doctrine of future rewards and punishments, as the result of a sentence passed on men after death, is so often mentioned by heathen-writers, that it is evident they either received by tradition, or understood it by the light of nature; though, when they enter into particular explications thereof, we meet with little but what is fabulous and trifling. Some of them suppose the rewards and punishments to be in other bodies, agreeably to the doctrine of the transmigration of souls, as before-mentioned. Others speak of fictitious lakes and rivers in the other world, where men are doomed to abide, at least, for some time; though they know nothing of the day of judgment, or the appearance of the whole world before Christ’s tribunal; which is a matter of pure revelation[184].

362II. We are now to consider the person, character, and solemnity of the appearing of the great Judge, to whom this work is more especially committed. This is a doctrine that can be known no other way than by divine revelation. The light of nature, indeed, discovers to us that God shall judge the world; but there is something more than this may be learned from scripture, as well as those circumstances of glory with which this work shall be performed. Accordingly we read,

1. That the person who is to perform this great work, is the Lord Jesus Christ; of whom it is said, he shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing, and his kingdom, 2 Tim. iv. 1. And elsewhere, We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; 2 Cor. v. 10. If we consider his glory as a divine person, he is fit to engage in it. For as he knoweth all things, he can judge the secrets of men, which no mere creature can do; and as he has all the other perfections of the divine nature, he can display and glorify them, in such a way as is necessary, in determining the final estate of men, and rewarding every one according to his work.

We may also observe, that this is a branch of his Mediatorial dignity, and contains in it a part of the execution of his Kingly office; it was contained in that commission which he received of the Father. Thus it is said, that the Father judgeth no man, John v. 22. that is, not in a visible manner, or by any delegated power, which he is invested with, ‘but hath committed all judgment to the Son,’ and, it is said, he has ‘given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man,’ ver. 27. And to this we may add, that it is a part of the work which was incumbent on him in the application of redemption, which cannot be said to be brought to the utmost perfection, till the day of judgment: Thus when he speaks concerning his ‘coming in a cloud with power and great glory’; then he bids his people ‘lift up their heads, inasmuch as their redemption draweth nigh,’ Luke xxi. 27, 28. We might also add to this, that it was very expedient that he should judge the world, since he was unjustly judged and condemned by the world; therefore the cause must have a second hearing, that his enemies, at whose bar he once stood, may be fully convinced, to their eternal confusion, that he was not the person they took him to be, that he did not deserve the treatment and rude insults which he met with from them, when he stood 363at their tribunal. They asked him this question, ‘Art thou the Christ, the Son of the blessed?’ to which he replied, ‘I am: And ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven,’ Mark xiv. 61-64. wherein he applied to himself what the prophet Daniel said concerning him, Dan. vii. 13. and thereby intimated, that this would be the most visible and incontestible proof of his Mediatorial glory, with which he was invested, as the Son of man; upon which the high-priest rent his clothes, apprehending that he spake blasphemy; after which they all condemned him to be guilty of death. Therefore it is expedient that this visible proof of his Sonship and Mediatorial glory should be given, and that he should perform this great work, which was incumbent on him, as he gave them to expect. It is his ‘coming with clouds, that every eye shall see;’ that shall oblige ‘them which pierced him, and all the kindreds of the earth,’ who set themselves against him, ‘to wail because of him,’ Rev. i. 7.

It was also necessary that he should judge the world, that he might publicly vindicate his people, who have been judged and condemned by the world for his sake; and that his cause and interest, which has been trampled on by them, might be defended in the most public and glorious manner, which will afford an everlasting conviction, that he whom men despised, whose glory was set light by, whose gospel was rejected and persecuted, is a person worthy of universal honour and esteem. Thus concerning the person who is appointed to judge the world, and the character in which he shall do it: which leads us,

2. To consider the solemnity of his appearing, when engaging in it. The work being the most glorious that ever was performed since the world was created, and the honour redounding to Christ as the result thereof, being the last and highest degree of his state of exaltation; it cannot but be supposed that he will appear with those ensigns of majesty and regal dignity that become his character as the Judge of quick and dead: accordingly we have an account of his ‘appearing in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels,’ Luke ix. 26. His own glory respects the rays of his divinity shining forth; whereby it will appear, that he has a natural right to summon the whole world before him. This cannot but strike a terror into his enemies, and enhance the joy and triumph of his friends, and excite the adoration that is due to so glorious a person. His appearing in his Father’s glory, denotes that this is the highest display of his Mediatorial dignity; the reward of his having perfectly fulfilled the commission given him by the Father, and fully answered the end for which he 364became incarnate. And his appearing in the glory of his holy angels, implies the reverence and homage which they will pay to him, into whose hands they are given, as ministering spirits, to fulfil his pleasure, and who always rejoice in the advancement of his kingdom.

The angels shall not indeed be employed in raising the dead, for that is a work too great for finite power; but we read of their ministry as subservient to the glory of the solemnity, as consisting in their appearing with Christ as his retinue; so it is said, that he shall ‘come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him,’ Matt. xxv. 31. These, indeed make up his train; but do not convey to him the least branch of that glory or character he is invested with: but it is their honour to attend him, whose servants they are; their work is to praise and adore him, and to shew their readiness to fulfil his pleasure, without desiring to usurp the least branch of his glory.

The first thing they are represented as doing, is, their attending his coming with a shout, or the word of command first given forth by Christ, and transmitted by them to the whole world, whereby they shall be summoned to appear before him. This shall doubtless be attended with universal joy and triumph expressed by them. And whereas Christ is said to come with the sound of a trumpet, 1 Thess. iv. 16. this is either to be considered in allusion to the custom of calling the hosts together, which was by the sound of a trumpet, Num. x. 2. &c.[185] or else we may understand it in a literal sense, for some sound like that of a trumpet, which shall be heard throughout the world, which shall have a tendency to excite the joy and triumph of the saints, and to strike terror into the wicked. And as this trumpet gives an alarm to all to appear before Christ’s tribunal; the angels are represented as assisting in bringing them thither. It is by them that the saints which remain alive, shall be caught up with others in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, 1 Thess. iv. 17. and they are said to gather together the elect from the four winds, from one end of the heaven to the other.[186] And elsewhere, our Saviour, speaking of the end of the world, which he calls the harvest, represents the angels as reapers, Matt. xiii. 39. which he explains as denoting that at the end of the world the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, ver. 49. which plainly intimates 365that they are to gather the elect together. And inasmuch as there must be a separation between them and the wicked, so that one shall be set at Christ’s right hand, the other at his left; this, as it is more than probable, shall be done by the ministry of angels, chap. xxv. 32. And then the Judge is represented as sitting on his throne, ver. 31. this is called elsewhere a judgment-seat, agreeable to his character as a judge; and it is here styled his throne, as expressive of the majesty and royal dignity with which he shall perform this great work. Which leads us,

III. To consider the persons who are to be judged, things being thus prepared for it; and these are said to be angels and men, i. e. all who are summoned to appear before Christ’s tribunal. Whether the holy angels are included in the number of those whom Christ will judge, it is not safe for us to pretend to determine, since scripture is silent as to this matter. That they are the subjects of moral government is evident, because they are intelligent creatures; and it follows from hence, that they are accountable to God for their behaviour as such. It is also certain, that they are employed by our Saviour, in fulfilling his pleasure; and pursuant thereto, they are sent forth by him to minister to the heirs of salvation, Heb. i. 14. and upon this account it may not be reckoned foreign to the work of the day, for Christ to give a public testimony to their faithfulness in the discharge of every work which has been committed to them; especially since the saints, who, in some respects, may be said to have been their charge and care, have received no small advantage from the good offices which they have performed for them by Christ’s appointment: but more than this, I think, cannot be determined, with respect to their being judged by Christ. Therefore, many conclude, that, properly speaking, they are not included in the number of those that shall be judged by him; and that either because they are represented as attending him, when he comes to judgment; and are never spoken of as standing before his tribunal, as persons whose cause is to be tried by him; or because they are considered, as long before this confirmed in holiness and happiness, and as beholding the face of God in heaven; and consequently not to be dealt with as those who are to undergo a farther scrutiny, in order to their having, a new sentence passed upon them.

As to what respects the fallen angels, they are to be brought as criminals before Christ’s tribunal, in order to his passing a righteous sentence upon them. Whether the charge of their apostacy from God, shall be again renewed, and hereby sin traced to the very first spring and fountain of it, we know not: but all the guilt that they have contracted since they were, by a former sentence, cast out of heaven, shall be laid to their 366charge: all that they have done against the interest of God in the world, begun in the seduction of our first parents, and continued ever since, with all those methods of revenge and subtilty whereby they have opposed the kingdom of Christ in the world, and endeavoured to ruin his people, will be alleged against them, as well as the bold attempt they made on him in his own Person, whilst he was in a state of humiliation. Thus the fallen angels, though represented as cast down to hell, are yet said to be delivered into chains of darkness, and reserved unto judgment, 2 Pet. ii. 4. Jude, ver. 6. This they are, at present, apprehensive of, and are accordingly said to tremble, Jam. ii. 19. at the fore-thoughts of it: it may also be inferred from what they said to our Saviour, Art thou come to torment us before the time, Matt. viii. 29. and, as the result hereof, it is said, that the devil was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, Rev. xx. 10. i. e. adjudged to endure a greater degree of torment in proportion to the increase of his guilt.

But that which is more particularly insisted on in scripture, in which we are immediately concerned, is what relates to men, as those who are to be judged by Christ. This is set forth in universal terms; the apostle says, We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad, 2 Cor. v. 10. men of all ranks and conditions, small and great, Rev. xx. 12. quick and dead, 2 Tim. iv. 1. i. e. those who died before, or shall be found alive at his coming, the righteous and the wicked, Eccl. iii. 17. and among these, not only them that have lived under the gospel-dispensation; but others, who have had no other light but that of nature; As many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law, Rom. ii. 12. We have no account, indeed, in scripture, of their being adjudged to eternal life, for their doing, by nature, some things that are contained in the law; to suppose this, is to be wise above what is written; and, indeed, it seems contradictory to those scriptures which assert the necessity of faith in Christ to salvation; but these are generally described as suffering punishment proportioned to their works. Thus we read of the men of Nineveh, Matt. xii. 41. the queen of the South, ver. 42. the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon, chap. xi. 22. and those of Sodom and Gomorrah, ver. 24. as appearing in judgment, and exposed to a less degree of punishment than those that sinned against greater light; but there is not the least intimation given of their being discharged from condemnation. Our Saviour, indeed, speaks of the ‘servant which knew his master’s will, and prepared not himself to do according to it, who should be beaten with many stripes,’ i. e. exposed to a greater condemnation; nevertheless, he, at the same time, intimates that the 367servant who did not know, i. e. who sinned under greater disadvantages for want of gospel-revelation, even he should be beaten with few stripes; or adjudged to suffer a less degree of punishment.

The Pelagians, indeed, have endeavoured not only to exempt the Heathen from the consequences of this judgment; but some have insinuated as though they were not concerned in it at all: thus one[187] supposes, that the persons who are represented as appearing at Christ’s tribunal, Matt. xxv. and sentenced, by him, according to their works, are only those who made a profession of the Christian religion. And the principal argument that he brings to support this opinion is, because they, on whom a sentence of condemnation is passed, are accused of not ministering to Christ’s members, which is interpreted as not giving him meat, when he was hungry, or drink when he was thirsty, &c. which charge could not have been brought against those that never heard of Christ; or if it had, they might have excused themselves by alleging that it was impossible for them to shew this respect to him whom they never knew. But to this it may be replied, that though our Saviour’s design here, is to aggravate the condemnation of those who sinned under the gospel, and to charge some with crimes of the highest nature; yet there is nothing mentioned, exclusive of others, so as to give occasion to suppose that the judgment of the great day will respect only those who have set under the sound of the gospel. Therefore we have ground to conclude, that as the resurrection of the dead will be universal; so all that have lived, or shall live, from the beginning to the end of time, shall be the subjects of the judicial proceedings in that solemn and awful day; which leads us to consider,

IV. The manner in which Christ shall proceed in judging the world. It is evident, that the design of this glorious transaction is to determine the final state of all men, which will be done in a public and visible manner, that it may appear that the Judge of all does right: this differs very much from that particular judgment that is passed on every one at death; in which, though their state be unalterably determined, yet it is not done in an open and visible manner; but with a design that the cause should be tried again in that day which is appointed for it. The account we have in scripture, of the manner in which this shall be done, bears some resemblance to the proceedings in human courts of judicature; accordingly the day is set in which causes are to be tried; the Judge appears with the ensigns of his autho