« AnteriorContinuar »
Now, this state, with the qualifications of it, is a state,-1. Of death: John v. 25, “The dead hear the voice of the Son of God.” Christ speaks to them who are dead, and so they live. 2. Of darkness, Acts xxvi. 18; “God calleth them out of darkness into his marvellous light,” 1 Pet. ii. 9,-a state of ignorance and alienation from God, Eph. iv. 18. The grace of vocation, or effectual calling, finding men in a state of enmity to God and alienation from him, if they may be prevailed withal to continue in such still, this gift shall never be recalled nor repented of!
But perhaps the gift and grace of sanctification finds men in a better condition, in a state wherein if they abide then that also shall abide with them for ever. The Scripture so abounds in the description of this state that we shall not need to hesitate about it: Eph. ii. 1, 2, “You bath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Quickening and renewing grace is given to persons dead in sins, and is so far from depending as to its unchangeableness upon their continuance in the state wherein it finds them, that it consists in a real change and translation of them from that state or condition. The apostle sets out this at large, Tit. iii. 3–5, “We ourselves were sometimes foolish,” etc. The state of men when God bestows these gifts upon them is positively expressed in sundry particulars, verse 3; the qualifications on which this gift or grace is grafted (of which Mr Goodwin speaks afterward), negatively, verse 5. It is not on any work that we have done; which is unquestionably exclusive of all those stocks of qualifications which are intimated, whereon the gifts and graces of God should be grafted. The gift itself here bestowed is the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost," saving us through “ mercy" from the state and condition before described. In brief, that the condition wherein this grace of God finds the sons of men is a state of death, blood, darkness, blindness, enmity, curse, and wrath, disobedience, rebellion, impotency, and universal alienation from God, is beyond all contradiction (by testimonies plentifully given out, here a little and there a little, line upon line) manifest in the Scripture. Shall we now say that this grace of God is bestowed on men upon the account of these qualifications, and continued without revocation on condition that they abide in the same state, with the same qualifications? Let, then, men continue in sin, that grace may abound!
Is the case any other as to justification? Doth not God justify the ungodly? Rom. iv. 5. Are we not in filthy robes when he comes to clothe us with robes of righteousness ? Zech. iii. 3. Are we not reconciled to God when alienated by wicked works? Col. i. 21.
Isa. Ixv. 1; Rom. ix. 25; Hos. ii. 23; 1 Pet. ii. 10; Eph. ü. 12. viii. 22; Rom. vi. 13; Co!. ii, 13. 3 Ezek. xvi. 6; Isa. iv. 4; Job xiv. 4; John iii. 6. • John i. 5; Eph. v. 8; Col. i. 13; Luke iv. 18. 5 Rom. viii. 6-8, v. 10; Col. i. 21; Gal. iii. 13; John iii. 35.
These are the qualifications on which, it seems, God grafts his gifts and graces, and whose abode in the persons in whom they are is the condition whereon the irrevocableness of those gifts and graces does depend. Who would have thought they had been of such reckoning and esteem with the Lord! And this, considering what is learnedly discoursed elsewhere, may suffice.
As to the other assertion, that God gives his gifts and graces to qualifications, not to persons: Those qualifications are either gifts of God or not. If not, who made those men in whom they are differ from others? 1 Cor. iv. 7. If they are, on what qualifications were those qualifications bestowed? That God freely bestows on persons, of his own good pleasure, not grafting on qualifications, his gifts and graces, we have testimonies abundantly sufficient to outbalance Mr Goodwin's assertion: Rom. ix. 18, “He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy.” He bestows his mercy and the fruits of it, not on this or that qualification, but on whom or what persons he will; and “to them it is given," saith our Saviour, "to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to others it is not given.” I see no stock that his gift is grafted on but only the persons of God's good-will, whom he graciously designs to a participation of it.
Truth is, I know not any thing more directly contradictory to the whole discovery of the work of God's grace in the gospel than that which is couched in these assertions of Mr Goodwin; neither is it any thing less or more than that which of old was phrased, “The giving of grace according to merit," ascribing the primitive discriminating of persons as to spiritual grace unto self-endeavours, casting to the ground the free, distinguishing good pleasure of God, and that graciousness of every gift of his (I speak as to the first issue of his love, in quickening, renewing, pardoning grace) which eminently consists in this, that he is found of them that seek him not, and hath mercy on whom he will, because so it seemeth good to him.
Not to digress farther, in the discovery of the unsatisfactoriness of this pretence, from the pursuit of the argument in hand: Because God's gifts are not repented of, therefore do men continue, not in the condition wherein they find them, but wherein they place them; and all qualifications in men whatever that are in the least acceptable to God are so far from being stocks whereon God grafts bis gifts and graces, that they are plants themselves which he plants in whomsoever he pleaseth. Yea, the tree is made good before it bear any good fruit, and the branch is implanted into the true olive before it receive the sap or juice of any one good qualification. The sum of Mr Goodwin's answer amounts to this: Let men be steadfast in a good condition, and God's gifts shall steadfastly abide with them; if they change, they also shall be revoked;—which is directly opposite to the plain intendment of the place, namely, that the steadfastness of men
depends upon the irrevocableness of God's grace, and not e contra. There is not, in his sense, the least intimation in these words of the permanency of any gift or grace of God with any one on whom it is bestowed, for a day, an hour, or a moment; but, notwithstanding this testimony of the Holy Ghost, they may be given one hour, and taken away the next,—they may flourish in a man in the morning, and in the evening be cut down, dried up, and withered. This is not to answer the arguings of men, but positively to deny what God affirms. To conclude: God gives not his gifts to men (I mean those mentioned) because they please him, but because it pleaseth him so to do, Jer. xxxi. 31, 32; he does not take them away because they displease him, but gives them so to abide with them that they shall never displease him to the height of such a provocation; neither are the gifts of God otherwise to be repented of than by taking them from the persons on whom they are bestowed. But this heap being removed, we may proceed.
Furthermore, then, in sundry places doth the Lord propose this for the consolation of his, and to assure them that there shall never be an everlasting separation between him and them; which shall be farther cleared by particular instances. Things or truths proposed for consolation are, of all others, most clearly exalted above exception; without which they were no way suitable (considering the promptness of our unbelieving hearts to rise up against the work of God's grace and mercy) to compass the end for which they are proposed.
Isa. xl. 27-31, “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” Verse 27, Jacob and Israel make a double complaint, both parts of it manifesting some fear or dread of separation from God; for though in general it could not be so, yet in particular believers under temptation may question their own condition, with their right unto and interest in all the things whereby their state and glory is safeguarded. “My way," say they, “is hid from tue LORD;"_"The Lord takes no more notice, sets his heart no more upon my way, my walking, but lets me go and pass on as a stranger to him." And farther, “ My judgment is passed over from my God;"_“ Mine enemies prevail
, lusts and corruptions are strong, and God doth not appear in my behalf ; judgment is not executed on
them, and what will be the issue of this my sad estate?” What the Lord proposeth and holdeth out unto them, for their establishment in this condition, and to assure them that what they feared should not come upon them, he ushers in by an effectual expostulation: Verse 28, “Hast thou not known?”—“Hast thou not found it true by experience?” “Hast thou not heard?”—“Hast not thou been taught it by the saints that went before thee?” What it is he would have them take notice of, and which he so pathetically insinuates into their understandings and affections, for their establishment, is an exurgency of that description of himself which he gives, verse 28: from his eternity,--He is “the everlasting God;" from his power, -He is “the Creator of the ends of the earth;" from his unchangeableness,—“He fainteth not,” he waxeth not weary, and therefore there is no reason he should relinquish or give over any design that he hath undertaken, especially considering that he lays all his purposes in that whereby he describes himself in the last place, even his wisdom,—“There is no end of his understanding." He establisheth, I say, their faith upon this fourfold description of himself, or revelation of these four attributes of his nature, as engaged for the effecting of that which he encourageth them to expect. “Who is it, O Jacob, with whom thou hast to do, that thou shouldst fear or complain that thou art rejected ? He is eternal, almighty, unchangeable, infinitely wise; and if he be engaged in any way of doing thee good, who can turn him aside, that he should not accomplish all bis pleasure towards thee? He will work; who shall let him?" It must be either want of wisdom and foresight to lay a design, or want of power to execute it, that exposeth any one to variableness in any undertaking. Therefore, that they may see how unlikely, how impossible a thing it is that “their way should be hid from the LORD,” and “their judgment passed over from their God,” he acquaints them who and what he is who hath undertaken to the contrary. But, alas! they are poor, faint creatures: they have no might, no strength to walk with God; unstable as water, they cannot excel; it is impossible they should hold out in the way wherein they are engaged unto the end. To obviate or remove such fears and misgiving thoughts, he lets them know, verse 29, that though they have, or may have, many decays (for they often faint, they often fail, whereof we have examples and complaints in the Scripture, made lively by our own experience), yet from him they shall have supplies to preserve them from that which they fear. He is eternal, almighty, unchangeable, and infinitely wise; he will give out power and increase strength when they faint and in themselves have no might at all. The Lord doth not propose himself under all these considerations to let them know what he is in himself only, but also that he will exert (and act suitably to) these properties in dealing with them, and
making out supplies unto them, notwithstanding all their misgiving thoughts, which arise from the consideration of their own faintings and total want of might. Though in themselves they are weak and faint, yet their springs are in him, and their supplies from him, who is such as he hath here described himself to be. Hereupon, also, he anticipates an objection, by way of concession: Verse 30, “ Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.” Men that seem to have a great stock of strength and ability may yet fail and perish utterly ;-an objection which, as I formerly observed, these days have given great force unto. We see many who seem to have the vigour of youth and the strength of young men in the ways of God, that have fainted in their course and utterly failed; they began to run well, but lay down almost at the entrance.
“ And be it so," saith the Lord; "it shall so come to pass indeed. Many that go out in their own strength shall so fall and come to nothing: but what is that to thee, O Jacob, my chosen, thou that waitest upon the Lord? The unchangeable God will so make out strength to thee, that thou shalt never utterly faint, nor give over, but abide flying, running, walking, with speed, strength, and steadfastness, unto the end,” verse 31. That expression, “They that wait upon the LORD,” is a description of the persons to whom the promise is made, and not a condition of the promise itself. It is not, “If they wait upon the LORD,” but “They that wait upon the LORD." If it were a condition of this promise, there were nothing promised; it is only said, “If they wait on the LORD, they shall wait on the LORD.” But of the vanity of such conditionals I shall speak afterward.
A scripture of the like importance you have, Isa. xliv. 1-8, “ Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen : Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the watercourses. 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 surname himself by the name of Israel. Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God,” etc. I shall not need to insist long on the opening of these words: the general design of them is to give consolation and assurance unto Israel, from the eternity, unchangeableness, and absoluteness of God, with some peculiar references to the second person, the Redeemer, who is described, Rev. i. 8, with the titles, for the substance of them, whereby the Lord here holds out his own excellency.