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ordinances and providential exercises of goodness or justice. In this there was great variety as to the latter part, comprehending only external effects or products of the power of God; in which regard he can pull down what he hath set up, and set up what he hath pulled down, without the least shadow of turning, these various dispensations working uniformly towards the accomplishment of his unchangeable purposes. And this is all that Mr Goodwin's exceptions reach to, even a change in the outward dispensation of providence; which none ever denied, being that which may be, nay is done, for the bringing about and accomplishment, in a way suitable to the advancement of his glory, of his unchangeable purposes. What proportion there is to be argued from between the general effects of various dispensations and that peculiar love and grace of the covenant thereof, wherein God assures his saints of their stability upon the account of his own unchangeableness, I know not. Because he may remove his candlestick from a fruitless, faithless people, and give them up to desolation, may he therefore take his Holy Spirit from them that believe? For whilst that continues, the root of the matter is in them. So that, secondly, there is a peculiar dispensation of grace exerted towards those peculiar ones whom he owneth and receiveth, as above mentioned, wherein there are such engagements of the purposes, decrees, and will of God, as that the stream of them cannot be forced back without as great an alteration and change in God as the thoughts of the heart of the meanest worm in the world are liable unto; and on this the Lord asserts the steadfastness of his love to them in the midst of the changes of outward dispensations towards the body of that people, wherein also their external concernments were wrapped up, 1 Sam. xii. 22. But this will afterward be more fully cleared. The substance of this exception amounts only to thus much: There are changes wrought in the works which outwardly are of God, as to general and common administrations; therefore, also, are his eternal purposes of spiritual grace liable to the like altera- . tions. Whereas Mr Goodwin says that this will not import any alteration in God, at least any such alteration as is incompetent to him, I know not of any shadow of alteration that may be ascribed to him without the greatest and most substantial derogation from his glory that you can engage into.
And this farther clears what is farther excepted to the end of sect. 40, in these words: “Therefore, neither the unchangeableness nor changeableness of God is to be estimated or measured, either by any variety or uniformity of dispensation towards one and the same object; and, consequently, for him to express himself, as this day, towards a person, man or woman, as if he intended to save them, or that be really intended to save them, and should on the morrow, as the alteration in the interim may be, or however may be supposed, in these persons, express himself to the contrary, as that he verily intends to destroy them, would not argue or imply the least alteration in him."
Ans. It is true, such dispensations of God as are morally declarative of what God approves, or what he rejects,--not engagements of any particular intendment, design, or purpose of his will,—or such as are merely outward acts of his power, may in great variety be subservient to the accomplishment of his purposes, and may undergo (the first in respect of the objects, the latter of the works themselves) many alterations, without prejudice to the immutability of God. The first in themselves are everlastingly unchangeable. God always approves the obedience of his creatures, according to that light and knowledge which he is pleased to communicate unto them, and always condemns and disallows their rebellions; yet the same persons may do sometimes what he approves and sometimes what he condemns, without the least shadow of change in God. Whilst they thus change, his purposes concerning them, and what he will do to them and for them, are unchangeable as is his law concerning good and evil. For the latter, take an instance in the case of Pharaoh. God purposeth the destruction of Pharaoh, and suits his dispensations in great variety and with many changes for the bringing about and accomplishing of that his unchangeable purpose; he plagues him and frees him, he frees him and plagues him again. All these things do not in the least prove any alteration in God, being all various effects of his power, suited to the accomplishment of an unchangeable purpose. So in respect of persons whom he intends to bring, through Christ, infallibly to himself, how various are his dispensations, both temporal and spiritual! He afflicts them and relieves them, sends them light and darkness, strength and weakness, forsakes and appears to them again, without the least alteration in his thoughts and purposes towards them; all these things, by his infinite wisdom, working together for their good. But now, if by“ dispensation" you understand and comprehend also the thoughts and purposes of God towards any for the bringing of them to such and such an end, if these be altered, and the Lord doth change them continually, I know no reason why a poor worm of the earth may not lay an equal claim (absit blasphemia) to immutability and unchangeableness with him who asserts it as his essential property and prerogative, whereby he distinguisbeth himself from all creatures whatsoever.
There is also an ambiguity in that expression, “That God expresseth himself this day towards a man or woman that he really intends to save them, and on the morrow expresseth himself to the contrary.” If our author intend only God's moral approbation of duties and performances, as was said before, with the conditional approbation of persons with respect to them, there being therein no declaration of any intention or purpose of God properly so called, the instance is not in the least looking towards the business we have in hand. But if withal he intend the purposes and intentions of the will of God, as these terms," really intend” and “verily intend," do import, I know not at to call or account alteration and change if this be not. Surely if a man like ourselves do really intend one thing one day, and verily intend the clean contrary the next day, we may make bold to think and say he is changeable; and what apology will be found, on such a supposal, for the immutability of God doth not fall within the compass of my narrow apprehension. Neither is that parenthetical expression, of a change imagined in the persons concerning whom God's intentions are, any plea for his changeableness upon this supposal; for he either foresaw that change in them or he did not. If he did not, where is his prescience? yea, where is his deity ? If he did, to what end did he really and verily intend and purpose to do so and so for a man, when at the same instant he knew the man would so behave himself as he should never accomplish any such intention towards him? We should be wary how we ascribe such lubricous thoughts to worms of the earth like ourselves; “but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall entreat for him?" If one should really and verily intend or purpose to give a man bread to eat to-morrow, who he knows infallibly will be put to death to-night, such an one will not, perhaps, be counted changeable, but he will scarce escape being esteemed a changeling. Yet it seems it must be granted that God verily and really intends to do so and so for men, if they be in such and such a condition, which he verily and really knows they will not be in! But suppose all this might be granted, what is it at all to the argument in hand concerning the Lord's engaging his immutability to his saints, to secure them from perishing upon the account thereof? Either prove that God doth change, which he saith he doth not, or that the saints may perish though he change not, which he affirms they cannot, or you speak not to the business in hand.
The 41st section contains a discourse too long to be transcribed, unless it were more to the purpose in hand than it is. I shall, therefore, briefly give the reader a taste of some paralogisms that run from one end of it to the other, and then, in particular, roll away every stone that seems to be of any weight for the detaining captive the truth in whose vindication we are engaged:
First, From the beginning to the ending of the whole discourse the thing in question is immodestly begged, and many inferences made upon a supposal that believers may become impenitent apostates; which, being the sole thing under debate, ought not in itself to be taken as granted, and so made a proof of itself. It is by us asserted that those who are once freely accepted of God in Christ shall not be so forsaken as to become impenitent apostates, and that upon the account
of the immutability of God, which he hath engaged to give assurance thereof. To evince the falsity of this, it is much pressed that if they become impenitent apostates, God, without the least shadow of mitability, may cast them off and condemn them; which is a kind of reasoning that will scarce conclude to the understanding of an inteligent reader. And yet this sandy foundation is thought sufficient to bear up many rhetorical expressions concerning the changeableness of God, in respect of sundry of his attributes, if he should not destroy such impenitent apostates as it is splendidly supposed believers may be. “O famâ ingens, ingentior armis vir Trojane.” This way of disputing will scarce succeed you in this great undertaking.
The second scene of this discourse is a gross confounding of God's legal or moral approbation of duties, and conditional (approbation] of persons in reference to them (which is not love properly so called, but a mere dechration of God's approving the thing which he commands and requires, with the will of God's purpose and intention, and actual acceptation of the persons of believers in Jesus Christ, suited thereunto. Hence are all the comparisons used between God and a judge in his love, and the express denial that God's love is fixed on any materially,-tint is, on the persons of any, for that is the intendment of it,—but only formally, in reference to their qualifications. Hence, also, is that instance again and again insisted on, in this and the former section, of the love of God to the fallen angels whilst they stood in their obedence. Their obedience, no doubt (if any they actually yielded), fell under the approbation of God; but that it was the purpose and intention of God to continue and preserve them in that obedience cannot be asserted without ascribing to him more palpable mutability than can fall upon a wise and knowing man.
Thirdly, The discourse of this section hath a contribution of strength, such as it is, from a squaring of the love of God unto the sweet nature and loving disposition of men; which is perhaps no less gross anthropomorphitism than they were guilty of who assigned him a body and countenance like to ours.
And upon these three stilts, whereof the first is called “Petitio Principii,” the second “Ignoratio Elenchi,” and the third “Fallacia non causæ pro causa," is this discourse advanced.
I shall not need to transcribe and follow the progress of this argumentation; the observation of the fallacies before mentioned will help the meanest capacity to unravel the sophistry of the whole. The close only of it may seem to deserve more particular consideration. So, then, it proceedeth: “The unchangeableness assumed by God himself unto himself in the work in hand, 'I am the LORD, I change not,' is, I conceive, that which is found in him in respect of his decrees; the reason is, because it is assigned by him as the reason why they were not utterly destroyed: 'I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. In the beginning of the chapter he did declare unto them his purpose and decree of sending his only-begotten Son, whom he there calls "The messenger of the covenant,' unto them. He predicteth, verses 3, 4, the happy fruit or consequence of that his sending, in reference to their nation and posterity. To the unchangeableness of this his decree he assigns the patience which he had for a long time exercised towards them under their great and continued provocations; whereby he implies, chat if he could have been turned out of the way of his decree concerning the sending of his Son unto them in their posterity, they would have done it by the greatness of their sins. But insomuch as this his decree, or himself in this his decree, was unchangeable, and it must have been changed in case they had been all destroyed, for the decree was for the sending to their nation and posterity, ‘hence,' saith he, 'it comes to pass, that though your sins otherwise abundantly have deserved it, yet I have spared you from a total ruin. Therefore, in these two last Scripture arguments, there is every whic as much, or rather more, against than for the common doctrine of perseverance.
Ans. That the unchangeableness of God, which is mentioned in this text, hath relation to the decrees of God is granted; whatever, then, God purposeth or decreeth is put upon a ce-tainty of accomplishment upon the account of his unchangeableness. There may be some use hereafter made of this concession, when,
the evasions that will be used about the objects as those decrees and their conditionality will scarce waive the force of our arguing from it. For the present, though I willingly embrace the assertion, yet I cannot assent to the analysis of that place of Scripture which is introduced as the reason of it. The design if the Lord in that place hath been before considered. That the cousolation here intended is only this, that whereas God purposed to send the Lord Christ to the nation of the Jews, which he would certainly fulfil and accomplish, and therefore did not, nor coud, utterly destroy them, will scarcely be evinced to the judgment of any one who shall consider the business in hand with so much Lberty of spirit as to cast an eye upon the Scripture itself. That afer the rehearsal of the great promise of sending his Son in the flesh to that people, he distinguisheth them into his chosen ones and tiose rejected, his remnant and the refuse of the nation, being the main body thereof, threatening destruction to the latter, but engaging himself into a way of mercy and love towards the former, hath been declared. To assure the last of his continuance in these thoughts and purposes of his good-will towards them, he minds them of his unchangeableness in all such purposes, and particularly encourages them to rest upon it in respect of his love towards themselves. That God intended to administer con