Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

therefore, if persons are out of the way of these means, there is no likelihood of their receiving grace. Because God bestows his grace by means; and so the more they are in the way

of means, and the more they attend them, the more are they in the way of being met with by God, and receiving his grace, by those means.

§ 74. Indefinite promises, as they are called, seem to be no other than promises of the public covenant, or the promises made to a professing covenant people. God has promised to his visible church a blessing on his ordinances; and with respect to the public society, the visible church to whom the promises are made, they are absolutely promised. But, not being limited to particular persons, to them they are no more than encouragements. Such promises as these, children are interested in by baptism. God has promised to bestow salvation on his church, and in the way of his appointed worship. “ In all places where I record my name, there will I come unto thee, and will bless thee.” Wben God set bis tabernacle amongst his people, be annexed a promise of his blessing.

VOL. VIII.

CHAP. V.

CONCERNING TIIE PERSEVERANCE OF SAINTS.

$1. There is just the same reason for tbose commands of earnest care and laborious endeavours for perseverance, and threatenings of detection, notwithstanding its being certain that all that have true grace shall persevere, as there is for earnest endeavours after godliness, and to make our calling and election sure, notwithstanding all that are elected, shall undoubtedly be saved. For as the case with respect to this is the same, decree or no decree, every one that believes shall be saved, and he that believes not shall be damned. They that will not live godly lives, find out for themselves that they are not elected; they that will live godly lives, bave found out for themselves that they are elected. So it is here: he that to his utmost endeavours to persevere in ways of obedience, finds out that his obedience and righteousness are true; and he that does not, discovers that his is false.

§ 2. As persons are commanded and counselled to repent and be converted, though it is already determined whether they shall be converted or no; after the same manner, and with the same propriety, persons are commanded and counselled to persevere, although by their being already converted, it is certain they shall persevere. By their resolutely and steadfastly persevering through all difficulties, opposition, and trials, tbey obtain an evidence of the truth and soundness of their conversion ; and by their unstableness and backsliding, they procure an evidence of their unsoundness and hypocrisy. And it always happens, that persons who have the most need of being cautioned and counselled against falling, and apostacy, by reason of the weakness of their grace, have most need of an evidence of the truth of their grace. And those who have the least need of any evidence, by reason of the strength and lively exercise of grace, have least need of being warned against falling, they being least in danger of it. And so the same persons, when they are most in danger of falling,--by reason of the languishing of their graces, their

ill-temper and workings of corruption--have most need of evidence; and, when in least need of care and watchfulness not to fall, by reason of the strength and vigorous actings of grace, they have least need of evidence. So that there is as much need of persons exercising care and diligence to persevere in order to their salvation, as there is of their attention and care to repent and be converted. For our own care and diligence is as much the proper and decreed means of perseverance, as of any thing else; and the want of perseverance, is as much an evidence of the want of true conversion, as the want of conversion is a sign of the want of election. Labour and diligence to persevere, is as rational a way to make sure of the truth of grace, as they are to make sure of the truth of election. God's wrath and future punishment are proposed to all sorts of men, as motives to an universal and constant obedience, not only to the wicked, but also to the godly. Indeed, those that have obtained full assurance of their safe estate, are not capable of this motive, and they have no need of it. But when persons are most capable of the fear of hell, through their want of assurance—and their uncertainty, whether or no they are not exposed to damnation -by reason of the weakness of their grace, then they bave most need of caution.

Coroll. Here we may observe, that it is not the scripture way of judging of the truth of grace, to be determined principally by the method and steps of the first work, but by the exercise and fruits of grace in a holy life.'

§ 3. Perseverance in faith is, in one sense, the condition of justification ; that is, the promise of acceptance is made only to a persevering sort of faith; and the proper evidence of its being of that sort is actual perseverance. Not but that a man may have good evidences that his faith is of that sort, before he has finished bis perseverance, yea, the first time that he exercises' such'a faith, if the exercises of it are lively and vigorous. But when the believer has those vigorous exercises of faith, by which he has clear evidences of its being of a persevering kind, he everinore feels most disposition and resolution to persevere, and most of a spirit of dependence upon God and Christ to enable him so to do.

§ 4. As to the passages of scripture like that, Ezekiel xviii. 24. wherein are declared the fatal consequences of turning or falling away from righteousness, they do not at all argue but that there is an essential difference, in the very nature of the righteousness of those that persevere, and the righteousness of those that fall away. The one is of a lasting sort, the other not; and so, falling away or holding out, are

in those places respected as natural fruits or discoveries of the nature of the righteous or of the wicked. If a man that had a prospect of being ere long in calamitous circumstances, of being poor, and the object of general contempt, and should make this declaration concerning his friend, or him that now appeared to be such, that if his friend would cleave to him through all bis circumstances, he would receive him and treat him ever after as his true friend, but otherwise he would utterly desert him as a false friend ; this would not argue, that he thought there was no difference between the love of friendship that was persevering, and that which fails when it is tried; but only, that those difficulties discover the difference, and shew whose love is of a lasting sort, and whose not. The promises in scripture are commonly made to the signs of grace; though God knows whether men be sincere or not, without the signs whereby men know it.

§ 5. God, when he had laid out himself to glorify his mercy and grace in the redemption of poor fallen men, did not sce meet, that those who are redeemed by Christ, should be redeemed so imperfectly, as still to have the work of perseverance left in their own hands. They had been found already insufficient for this even in their perfect state, and are now ten times more liable than formerly to fall away and not to persevere, if, in their fallen broken state, with their imperfect sanctification, the care of the matter be trusted with them. Man, though redcemed by Christ, so as to have the holy Spirit of God, and spiritual life again restored in a degree; yet is left a very poor piteous creature, because all is suspended on his perseverance as it was at first; and the care of that affair is left with him as it was then ; and he is ten times more likely to fall away than he was then, if we consider only what he was in himself to preserve him from it. The poor creature sees his own insufficiency to stand, from what has happened in time past; his own instability has been his undoing already; and now he is vastly more unstable than before. The great thing wherein the first covenant was deficient, was, that the fulfilment of the righteousness of the covenant, and man's perseverance, was entrusted with man bimself, with nothing better to secure it than his own strength. And therefore, God introduces a better, which should be an everlasting covenant, a new and living way; wherein that which was wanting in the first should be supplied, and a remedy should be provided against that, which under the first covenant proved man's undoing, viz. man's own weakness and instability; by a mediator being given, who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; who cannot fail; who should undertake for his people, and take care of them. He is able

to save to the uttermost all that come unto God through him ; and ever lives to make intercession for them. God did not see it fit that man should be trusted to stand in his own strength a second time. It is not fit that in a covenant of grace, wherein all is of mere, free and absolute grace, that the reward of life should be suspended on the perseverance of man, as dependent on the strength and steadfastness of his own will. It is a covenant of works, and not a covenant of grace, that suspends eternal life on what is the fruit of a man's own strength. Eternal life was to have been of works in those two respects, viz. as it was to have been for man's own righteousness, and as it was suspended on the fruit of his own strength. For, though our first parent depended on the grace of God, the influences of his Spirit in his heart; yet that grace was given him already, and dwelt in him constantly, and without interruption, in such a degree as to hold him above any lust or sinful habit or principle. Eternal life was not merely suspended on that grace that was given him and dwelt in him, but on his improvement of that grace which he already had. For, in order to his perseverance, there was nothing further promised beyond his own strength; no extraordinary occasional assistance was promised. It was not promised but that man should be lest to himself as he was. But the new covenant is of grace, in a manner distinguishing from the old, in both these respects, that the reward of life is suspended neither on his own strength nor worthiness. It provides something above either. But if eternal life under the new covenant was suspended on man's own perseverance, or his perseveringly using diligent endeavours to stand without the promise of any thing farther to ascertain it than his own strength, it would herein be farther from being worthy to be called a covenant of grace than the first covenant; because man's strength is exceedingly less than it was then, and he is under far less advantages to persevere. And if he should obtain eternal life by perseverance in his own strength now, eternal life would, with respect to that, be much more of himself than it would have been by the first covenant; because perseverance now would be a much greater thing than under those circumstances; and he has but an exceeding small part of that grace, dwelling in him, to assist him, that he had ihen : and that which he has, does not dwell in him in the exercise of it by such a constant law as grace did then, but is put into exercise by the spirit of grace, in a far more arbitrary and sovereign way.

4

§ 6. Again, Christ came into the world to do that in which mere men failed. He came as a better surety, and that in him those defects might be supplied, which proved to

« ZurückWeiter »