« PreviousContinue »
À PREFACE TO THE READER.
READER, If thy inquiry be only after the substance of the truth in the ensuing treatise contended for, I desire thee not to stay at all upon this preliminary discourse, but to proceed thither where it is expressly handled from the Scriptures, without the intermixture of any human testimonies or other less necessary circumstances, wherein perhaps many of them inay not be concerned whose interest yet lies in the truth itself, and it is precious to their souls. That which now I intend and aim at is, to give an account to the learned reader of some things nearly relating to the doctrine whose protection, in the strength of Him who gives to his servants] suitable helps for the works and employments he calls them to, I have undertaken, and what entertainment it hath formerly found and received in the church, and among the saints of God. For the accomplishment of this intendment a brief mention of the doctrine itself will make way. Whom in this controversy we intend by the names of "saints” and“ believers,” the treatise following will abundantly manifest. The word perseverantia is of most known use in ecclesiastical writers: Austin hath a book with the inscription of it on its forehead. The word in the New Testament signifying the same thing is taipový. Of them that followed Paul, it is said that he “ persuaded them éripével en xágisi toữ Osoữ,” Acts xiii. 43; that is, “to persevere." "Υπομονή is of the same import : ο δε υπομείνας είς τέλος ούτος σωθήσεται, Matt. x. 22,—“He that persevereth to the end." The Vulgar Latin renders that word almost constantly by persevero. Kagregia is a word also of the same signification, and which the Scripture useth to express the same thing. Kpáros is sometimes by a metathesis expressed xapros: thence is rágra, valde; and xapregéw, spoken of him who is of a valiant, resolved mind.“ By faith Moses left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king, rov yaş đógatov ús ogão éxagrégnos," Heb. xi. 27;—"As eyeing the Invisible, he endured (his trial) with a constant, valiant mind." Ipooragregéw from thence is most frequently to persevere, Acts i. 14; and "Hoav de agoonagTEPOŪVTES Tjordan twv & Rootów, Acts ii. 42,_" They persevered in the doctrine of the apostles.” Ilgooxagrégnois, once used in the New Testament, is rendered hy our translators, “ perseverance,” Eph. vi. 18. In what variety of expression the thing is revealed in the Scripture is in the treatise itself abundantly declared. The Latin word is classical : persevero is constanter sum severus. In that sense, as Seneca says, "Res severa est verum gaudium.” Its extreme in excess is pertinacy, if these are not rather distinguished from their objects than in themselves. Varro, lib. iv. De Ling. Lat., tells us that pertinacia is a continuance or going on in that wherein one ought not to continue or proceed; perseverantia is that whereby any one continues in that wherein he ought so to do. Hence is that definition of it commonly given by the schoolmen from Austin, lib. lxxxüi. qu. 31,
who took it from Cicero (one they little acquainted themselves withal), lib. ii. De Invent. cap. liv. It is, say they, “In ratione bene consideratâ stabilis et perpetua permansio."
And this at present may pass for a general description of it that is used in an ethical and evangelical sense. Perseverance was accounted a commendable thing among philosophers. Morally, perseverance is that part of fortitude whereby the mind is established in the performance of any good and necessary work, notwithstanding the assaults and opposition it meets withal, with that tediousness and wearisomeness which the protraction of time in the pursuit of any affairs is attended withal. Aristotle informs us that it is exercised about things troublesome, lib. vii. cap. vi., Eth. Nicom., giving a difference between continence with its opposite vice, and forbearance or perseverance: Τούτων δ' ο μεν περί ηδονάς, άκρατης, ο δ' εγκρατής. ο δε περί λύπας μαλακός, ο δε καρτερικός. He that abides in his undertaken work, so it be good and honest, notwithstanding that trouble and perplexity he may meet withal, is ragtegıxós. Hence he tells us that razteginãs zīv, as well as owogóvws, is not pleasant to many, lib. X. cap. ix.; and that because so to live implies difficulty and opposition. And he also, as Varro in the place above mentioned, distinguishes it from pertinacy. And of men infected with that depraved habit of mind he says there are three sorts, idioyváloves, duabsis, and äygosxo1. All these are, in his judgment, loxugoyva poves, Nicom., lib. vii. cap. ix.; which perverse disposition of spirit he there clearly manifests to be sufficiently differenced from a stable, resolved frame of mind, whatever it may resemble it in. Now, though there is no question but that of two persons continuing in the same work or opinion, one may do it out of pertinacy, the other out of perseverance, yet amongst men, who judge of the minds of others by their fruits, and of the acts of their minds by their objects, these two dispositions or habits are universally distinguished, as before by Varro. Hence the terms of “pertinacy” and “obstinacy” being thrust into the definition of heresy by them who renounce any infallible living judge and determiner in matters of faith, to make way for the inflicting of punishment on the entertainers and maintainers thereof. They take no thought of proving.it such, but only because it is found in persons embracing such errors. The same affection of mind, with the same fruits and demonstrations of it, in persons embracing the truth, would by the same men be termed persever
But this is not that whereof I treat. Evangelical perseverance is from the Scripture at large explained in the took itself. As it relates to our acceptation with God, and the immutability of justification (which is the chief and most eminent part of the doctrine contended for), as it hath no conformity in any thing with the moral perseverance before described, so indeed it is not comprehended in that strict notion and signification of the word itself which denotes the continuation of some act or acts in us, and not the uninterruptibleness of any act of God. This, then, is the cause of perseverance, rather than perseverance itself, yet such a cause as being established, the effect will certainly and uncontrollably ensue. They who go about to assert a perseverance of saints cut off from the absolute unchangeableness of the decree, purpose, and love of God, attended with a possibility of a contrary event, and that not only in respect of the free manner of its carrying on, whereby he that wills to persevere may not will so to do, but also in respect of the issue and end itself, will, I doubt not, if they are serious in what they pretend, find themselves entangled in their undertaking. As perseverance is a grace in the subjects on whom it is bestowed, so it relates either to the
spiritual habit of faith or the principle of new life they have received from God, or to the actual performance of those duties wherein they ought to abide. In the first sense it consists in the point of being or not being. Whilst the habit of faith remains, there is in respect thereof an uninterrupted perseverance in him in whom it is; and this we contend for. As it respects actions flowing from that habit and principle, it expatiates itself in a large field; for as it imports not at all a perpetual performance of such acts without intermission (which were naturally as well as spiritually impossible, whilst we carry about us a “ body of death”), so neither doth it necessarily imply a constant tenor of proceeding in the performance of them, but is consistent with a change in degrees of performance, and in other respects also not now to be insisted on. Perseverance in this sense being the uninterrupted continuance of habitual grace in the hearts of believers, without intercision, with such a walking in obedience as God, according to the tenor of the new covenant, will accept, upon the whole of the matter it is in its own nature (as every thing else is that hath not its being from itself) liable and obnoxious to alteration; and therefore must be built and reposed on that which is in itself immutable, that it may be rendered, on that supposition, immutable also. Therefore is perseverance in this sense resolved into that cause of it before mentioned; which to do is the chief endeavour of the following treatise. Of the groundlessness of their opinion who, granting final perseverance, do yet plead for the possibility of a final apostasy and an intercision of faith, no more need be spoken but what, upon the account last mentioned, hath been argued already. Some discourses have passed both of old and of late concerning the nature of this perseverance, and wherein it doth properly consist. Many affirm it not really to differ from the habit of faith and love itself; for which Bradwardin earnestly contends, lib. ii. De Cau. Dei. cap. vii., concluding his disputation, that “ Perseverantia habitualis est justitia habitualiter preservata; perseverantia actualis est justitiæ perseverantia actualis, ipsum vero perseverare, est justitiam præservare;" whereupon (“suo more") he infers this corollary: "Quod nomen perseverantiæ nullam rem absolutam essentialiter significat, sed accidentaliter, et relative, charitatem videlicet, sive justitiam, cum respectu futuræ permansionis continue usque in finem; et quod non improbabiliter posset dici perseverantiam esse ipsam relationem hujus.” And therefore in the next chapter, to that objection, “ If perseverance be no more but charity or righteousness, then every one that hath once obtained these, or true grace, must also persevere,” he returns no answer at all, plainly insinuating his judgment to be so; of which afterward. And therefore he spends his 13th chapter of the same book to prove that the Holy Spirit is that “auxilium,” as he called it, whereby any persevere. And, chap. i., he resolves all preservation from being overcome by temptation, or not being tempted to a prevalency (the same for substance with perseverance), into the will and purpose of God. “Quicunque,” saith he, non tentatur, hoc necessario est a deo, quod nou tentatur. Sicut 11° pars 13. primi probat; et per 22 um primi, Deus necessario habet aliquem actum voluntatis circa tale non tentationem, et non nolitionem, quia tunc per decimum primi non tentaretur, ergo volitionem, quæ per idem decimum ipsum tentari non sinit,” etc. Others render it as a gift superadded to faith and love; of which judgment Austin seems to have been, who is followed by sundry of the schoolmen, with many of the divines of the reformed churches. Hence is that conclusion of Alvarez, De Auxil., lib. x. disp. 103, “Secundum fidem catholicam asserendum est, præter gratiam habitualem et virtutes infusas esse necessarium ad perse
verandum in bono usque in finem auxilium speciale, supernaturale scilicet donum perseverantiæ. And of this proposition he says, “ In hac omnes catholici conveniunt.” Of the same judgment was his master, Thomas, lib. iii. Con. Gen. cap. clv.; where, also, he gives this reason of his opinion: “Illud quod natura sua est variabile, ad hoc quod figatur in uno, indiget auxilio alicujus moventis immobilis; sed liberum arbitrium, etiam existens in gratia habituali, ad huc manet variabile, et flexibile a bono in malum: ergo ad hoc quod figatur in bono, et perseveret in illo usque ad finem, indiget speciali Dei auxilio :"—the same argument having been used before him by Bradwardin, though to another purpose, namely, not to prove perseverance to be a superadded gift to saving grace, which, as before was observed, he denied, but to manifest that it was immediately and wholly from God. His words are, lib. ii. cap. viii., Corol., “ Sicut secundum primi docet, omne quod est naturale, et non est per se tale, sed est mutabile in non tale, si manere debeat immutatum, oportet quod innitatur continue alicui per se fixo; quare et continue quilibit justus Deo.” The same schoolmen also (a generation of men exceeding ready to speak of any thing, though they know not what they speak nor whereof they affirm) go yet farther, some of them, and will distinguish between the gift of perseverance and the gift [of] confirmation in grace! He before mentioned, after a long dispute (namely, 104), concludes: “Ex his sequitur differentiam inter donum perseverantiæ et confirmationis in gratia" (he means that which is granted in via) “in hoc consistere, quod donum perseverantiæ nullam perfectionem intrinsecam constituit in ipsa gratia habituali, quod tamen perfectionem intrinsecam illi tribuit confirmatio in gratia.” What this intrinsical perfection of habitual grace, given it by confirmation, is, he cannot tell; for in those who are so confirmed in grace he asserts only an impeccability upon supposition, and that not alone from their intrinsical principle, as it is with the blessed in heaven, but from help and assistance also daily communicated from without. Durandus, in 3 d. 3 q. 4, assigns the deliverance from sin, which those who are confirmed in grace do obtain, unto the Holy Ghost. So far well; but he kicks down his milk by his addition, that he doth it only by the removal of all occasion of sin. But of these persons, and their judgment on the point under debate, more afterward.
For the thing itself last proposed, on what foot of account it is placed, and on what foundation asserted, the treatise itself will discover. That the thing aimed at is not to be straitened or restrained to any one peculiar act of grace will easily appear. The main foundation of that which we plead for is the eternal purpose of God, which his own nature requireth to be absolutely immutabie and irreversible. The eternal act of the will of God designing some to salvation by Christ, infallibly to be obtained, for “the praise of the glory of his grace,” is the bottom of the whole, even that foundation which standeth for ever, having this seal, “ The Lord knoweth them that are his." For the accomplishment of this eternal purpose, and for the procurement of all the good things that lie within the compass of its intendment, are the oblation and intercession, the whole mediatory undertaking of Christ, taking away sin, bringing in life and immortality, interposed, giving farther causal influence into the truth contended for. In him and for his sake, as God graciously, powerfully, and freely gives his Holy Spirit, faith, and all the things that accompany salvation, unto all them whom he accepts and pardons, by his being made “ sin for them" and "righteousness unto them;" so he takes them thereby into an everlasting covenant that shall not be broken, and hath therein given them innumerable promises that he will continue to be their God for ever, and preserve them to be, and in being, his people. To this end, because the principle of grace and living to him, as in them inherent, is a thing in its own nature changeable and liable to failing, he doth, according to his promise, and for the accomplishment of his purpose, daily make out to them, by his Holy Spirit, from the great treasury and storehouse thereof, the Lord Jesus Christ, helps and supplies, increasing of faith, love, and holiness, recovering them from falls, healing their backslidings, strengthening them with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness; so preserving them by his power through faith unto salvation. And in this way of delivering the doctrine contended about, it is clearly made out that the disputes mentioned are as needless as groundless; so that we shall not need to take them into the state of the controversy in hand, though I shall have occasion once more to reflect upon them when I come to the consideration of the doctrine of the schoolmen in reference to the opinion proposed to debate. The main of our inquiry is after the purpose, covenant, and promises of God, the undertaking of Christ, the supplies of grace promised and bestowed in him; on which accounts we do assert and maintain that all true believers,who are, in being so, interested in all those causes of preservation,—shall infallibly be preserved unto the end in the favour of God, and in such a course of gospel obedience as he will accept in Jesus Christ.
That, as was formerly said, which at present I aim at in reference to this truth is, to declare its rise and progress, its course and opposition, which it hath found in several ages of the church, with its state and condition at this day, in respect of acceptance with the people of God.
Its rise, with all other divine truths, it owes only to revelation from God, manifested in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament. Some of the most eminent places wherein it is delivered in the Old Testament are, Gen, iii. 15, xvü, 1; Deut. xxxiii. 3; Josh. i. 5; 1 Sam. xii. 22; Ps. i. 3, xxiii, 4, 6, xxxvii. 39, 40, lii. 8, 9, lxxxix. 31-36, xxxiii. 9-11, xcii. 12, etc.; Isa. xxvii. 3, xlvi. 4, lix, 21, liv. 9, 10, iv. 5, 6, xl. 27-31, xliii. 1-7; Jer. iii. 23, xxxi. 31–34, xxxii. 38-40; Ezek. xxxvi. 25-27; Hos. ï. 19, 20; Zech, x, 12; Mal. iii. 6, with innumerable other places. In the New Testament God hath not left this truth and work of his grace without witness; as in sundry other places, so it is testified unto Matt. vi. 13, vii. 24, 25, xii. 20, xvi. 18, xxiv. 24; Luke i. 70–75, viii. 8, xxii. 32; John üži, 36, iv. 13, 14, v. 24, vi. 35–57, vii. 38, 39, viï. 35, 36, x. 27-30, xiii. 1, xiv, 15-17, xvi. 27, xvii. throughout; Acts. ii. 47, xiii. 48; Rom. vi. 14, viii. 1, 16, 17, 28–34, etc.; 1 Cor. i. 8, 9, x. 13, 14, xv. 49, 58; 2 Cor. i. 21, 22; Eph. i. 13, 14, iii. 17, iv. 30, v. 25-27; Gal. ii. 20; Phil. i. 6, ii. 13; 1 Thess. v. 24; 2 Tim. iv. 17, 18; Tit. i. 1; Heb. vi. 19, x. 38, 39, xii. 9, 10, xiii, 5; 1 Pet. i. 2-5; 1 John ï. 19, 27, iii. 9, 19, v. 13, 18; Jude 1; Rev. xx. 6. So plentifully hath the Lord secured this sacred truth, wherein he hath inwrapped so much (if not, as in the means of conveyance, the whole) of that peace, consolation, and joy, which he is willing the heirs of promise should receive. Whether the faith hereof, thus plentifully delivered to the saints, found acceptance with the primitive Christians, to the most of whom it was “given not only to believe but also to suffer for Christ,” to me is unquestionable. And I know no better proof of what those first churches did believe than by showing what they ought to believe; which I shall unquestionably be persuaded they did believe, unless most pregnant testimony be given of their apostasy. That Paul believed it for himself and concerning others is evident. Rom. viii. 38, 39; 1 Cor. i. 8, 9; Phil. i. 6; Heb. vi. 9, 10, are sufficient proof of his