« PreviousContinue »
Ps. lxxxix. 30–37, opened—A condition of backsliding supposed in believers, yet they not rejected—God's abiding with his saints upon the account of his, 1. Faithfulness; 2. Loving-kindness; 3. Covenant; 4. Promise; 5. OathThe intendment of the words insisted on from 1 Sam. xii. 22—Isa. xxvii. 2, 3, Zeph. iii. 17, illustrated— The intendment of these words, “I will not forsake thee”—The reason of the promise, and means promised therein-No cause in them to whom the promise is made_Ezek. xxxvi. 32, Isa. xliii. 22–25, opened; also Isa. lvii. 17—The cause in God himself only—The “name" of God, what it imports; his all-sufficiency engaged therein, and his goodness -The rise and fountain of all God's goodness to his people in his own good pleasure—The sum of our argument from this place of Scripture-Ps. xxiii. 4, 6, opened; the psalmist's use of assurance of perseverance-Inferences from the last use—2 Tim. iv. 18 opened—All believers in the same condition as to perseverance with David and Paul—The second inference from the place insisted on
- Assurance a motive to obedience, and is the end that God intends to promote thereby—Ps. cxxv. 1, 2 explained ; Ps. xxxvii. 28; Deut. xxxiii. 3 --Inferences from that place of the psalmist—Perpetual preservation in the condition of saints promised to believers—Mr G.'s objections and exceptions to our exposition and argument from this place removed—Promises made originally to persons, not qualifications—Not the same reason of promises to the church and of threatenings to sinners—Other objections removed—Isa. liv. 7-10, the mind of the Lord in the promise mentioned in that place opened— The exposition given on that place and arguments from thence vindicated—Direction for the right improvement of promises—Hos. ii. 19, 20, opened— Of the general design of that chapter—The first part, of the total rejection of the church and political state of the Jews—The second, of promises to the remnant according to the election of grace-Of this four particulars: 1. Of conversion, verses 14, 15; 2. Of obedience and forsaking all false worship, verses 16, 17; 3. Of peace and quietness, verse 18; 4. Discovering the fountain of all the mercies, verses 19, 20—Some objections removed— To whom this promise is made—The promise farther opened; the persons to whom it is made-Verse 14 of that chapter opened—The wilderness condition whereunto men are allured by the gospel, what it imports: 1. Separation; 2. Entanglement—God's dealing with a soul in its wilderness condition-Promises given to persons in that condition—The sum of the foregoing promises— The persons to whom they are made farther described—The nature of the main promise itself considered—Of the main covenant between God and his saints—The properties of God engaged for the accomplishment of this promise-Mr G.'s exposition of this place considered and confuted—John x. 27–29 opened, vindicated.
HAVING cleared the truth of the one and meaning of the other proposition mentioned in the argument last proposed, I proceed to confirm the latter by an induction of particular promises. The first that I shall fix upon is that of Joshua i. 5, “I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” This promise, it is true, in this original copy of it, is a grant to one single person entering upon a peculiar employment; but the Holy Ghost hath eminently taught the saints of God to plead and improve it in all generations for their own advantage, and that not only upon the account of the general rule of the establishment of all promises in Jesus Christ to the glory of God by us, but also by the application which himself makes of
1 2 Cor. i. 20.
it unto them, and all their occasions wherein they stand in need of the faithfulness of God therein: Heb. xiii. 5, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." The apostle layeth down an exhortation in the beginning of the verse against the inordinate desire of the things of the world, that are laboured after upon the account of this present life. To give power and efficacy to his exhortation, he manifesteth all such desires to be altogether needless, upon consideration of His all-sufficiency who hath promised never to forsake them; which he manifests by an instance in this promise given to Joshua, giving us withal a rule for the application of all the promises of the Old Testament which were made to the church and people of God. Some labour much to rob believers of the consolation intended for them in the evangelical promises of the Old Testament, though made in general to the church, upon this account, that they were made to the Jews, and being to them peculiar, their concernment now lieth not in them. If this plea might be admitted, I know not any one promise that would more evidently fall under the power of it than this we have now in consideration. It was made to a peculiar person, and that upon a peculiar occasion,-made to a general or captain of armies, with respect to the great wars he had to undertake upon the special command of God. May not a poor, hungry believer say, "What is this to me? I am not a general of an army, have no wars to make upon God's command. The virtue, doubtless, of this promise expired with the conquest of Canaan, and died with him to whom it was made.” To manifest the sameness of love that is in all the promises, with their establishment in one Mediator, and the general concernment of believers in every one of them, however and on what occasion soever given to any, this promise to Joshua is here applied to the condition of the weakest, meanest, and poorest of the saints of God, to all and every one of them, be their state and condition what it will. And, doubtless, believers are not a little wanting to themselves and their own consolation that they do not more particularly close with those words of truth, grace, and faithfulness, which, upon sundry occasions and at divers times, have been given out unto the saints of old, even Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and the residue of them who walked with God in their generations. These things in an especial manner are recorded for our consolation, “ that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope,” Rom. xv. 4. Now, the Holy Ghost, knowing the weakness of our faith, and how apt we are to be beaten from closing with the promises, and from mixing them with faith, upon the least discouragement that may arise (as, indeed, this is none of the least, “That the promise is not made to us, it was w.ade to others, and they may reap the sweetness of it; God may be
faithful in it though we never enjoy the mercy intended by it;" I say), in the next words he leads believers by the hand to make the same conclusion with boldness and confidence, from this and the like promises, as David did of old, upon the many gracious assurances that he had received of the presence of God with him: Heb.xiii. 6, “So that," saith he (upon the account of that promise), “we may say boldly" (without staggering at it by unbelief), “The Lord is my helper.” This is a conclusion of faith: “Because God said to Joshua, a believer, 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee' (though upon a particular occasion, and in reference to a particular employment), every believer may say with boldness, 'He is my helper.
It is true, the application of the promises here looks immediately unto temporals, but yet, being drawn out from the testimony of the continuance of the presence of God with his saints, doth much more powerfully conclude to spirituals; yea, the promise itself is of spiritual favour, and what concerns temporals is only from thence extracted. Let us, then, weigh a little the importance of this promise, which the apostle hath rescued from suffering under any private interpretation, and set at liberty to the use of all believers. To every one of them, then, God saith, directly and plainly, that he will "never leave them nor forsake them.” If there should any ques. . tion arise whether he should be taken at his word or no, it must be the devil that must be entertained as an advocate against him. Unbelief, indeed, hath many pleas, and will have, in the breasts of saints, against closing with the faithfulness of God in this promise, and the issue of confidence in him which from a due closing with it would certainly flow. But shall our unbelief make the truth of God of none effect? He hath told us that “he will never leave us, nor forsake us." The old serpent, and some arguing from him herein, are ready to say, “Yea, 'hath God indeed said so?' The truth of it shall not indeed be surely so. It may be otherwise; for God doth know that many cases may fall out, that you may be utterly rejected by him, and cast out of his presence. You may have such oppositions rise against you in your walking with him as shall certainly overcome you and set you at enmity with him, or you may fully depart from him." And many such like pleadings will Satan furnish the unbelief of believers withal. If they are not sufficiently taught by experience what it is to give credit to Satan endeavouring to impair and call in question, upon any pretence whatever, the faithfulness of God and his truth, when will they learn it? Surely they have little need to join with their adversaries for the weakening of their supportments or the impairing of their consolations. Whereas there is an endeavour to make men believe that the denying any absolutely unchangeable promise of God unto believers makes much
1 Gen. iii. 1.
for their comfort and refreshment, it shall afterward be considered in common, in reference also to those other demonstrations of the saints' perseverance that shall, God willing, be produced.
It will be excepted, that “God will not forsake them whilst they are believers; but if they forsake him and fall from him, he is at liberty to renounce them also." But that God's not-forsaking of any is no more but a mere non-rejection of them shall afterward be disproved. Whom he doth not forsake as a God in covenant, to them doth he continue his presence, and towards them he exerciseth his power and all-sufficiency for their good. And if he can(not] by his Spirit and the power of his grace keep them whom he doth not forsake in a state and condition of not-forsaking him, he doth forsake them before they forsake him, yea, before he is said to forsake them. God's not-forsaking believers is effectually preventive of that state and condition in them on the account whereof it is asserted that he may forsake them.
1 Sam. xii. 22, the truth we have under consideration is confirmed by the prophet in the name and authority of God himself; and the words wherein it is done have the force of a promise, being declarative of the good-will of God unto his people in Christ: “For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name's sake; because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.”
The expression is the same with that which the Lord gives his people of his good-will in the covenant of grace; of which I have spoken before. Many may be their calamities and afflictions, many their trials and temptations, many their desertions and darknesses, but God will not forsake them; he will not utterly cast them off for ever. That his people are his people in covenant, his secret ones, his spiritual church, the “remnant according to the election of grace, hath been before declared, in the handling of like places of Scripture. It is to vindicate this and the like promises from all surmises of failing and coming short of accomplishment that the apostle saith, “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew,” Rom. xi. 2; that is, he hath made good his promise to them, even to them among the Jews whom he did so foreknow as also to "predestinate them to be conformed to the image of his Son, chap. viii. 29: so out of all Israel saving "all Israel," even the whole Israel of God. That a dis
a criminating purpose of God is intended in that expression hath been already declared, and shall, the Lord assisting, be farther manifested.
The promise as here mentioned hath a double use:
1. It is held out as an inducement to obedience to that whole people; in reference whereunto he telleth them that “if they did wickedly, they should be destroyed, both they and their king,”1 Sam. xii. 25. In the dreadful threatenings that God denounceth against
1 Gen. xvii. 1; Jer. xxxii. 38, 39.
wicked and impenitent ones, he hath an end to accomplish in reference to his saints, unto his own, even to make them know his terror, and to be acquainted with the abomination of sin. And in his promises, intended directly to them, he hath designs to accomplish upon the most wicked and ungodly, even to discover his approbation of that which is good, that they may be left inexcusable.
2. It was a testimony of his good-will unto his secret ones, his remnant, his residue, his brand out of the fire, unto his people called according to his eternal purpose, in the midst of his people by exter
, nal profession, and of his presence with them, under the accomplishment of the threatening mentioned upon the generality of that nation. He did not forsake them when the people in general and their king were destroyed. Whatever outward dispensation he bringeth upon the whole, the love and grace of the promise shall certainly be reserved for them; as, Isa. iv. 2-4, the “remnant,” the
escaping of Israel,” those that were “written unto life,” shall obtain, when the rest are destroyed or hardened.
So Ps. Ixxxix. 30–37, “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.
It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah."
A supposal is made of such ways and walkings in the spiritual seed and offspring of the Lord Christ (which in the psalm is typed out by David), that the Lord will be as it were compelled to deal sharply with them for their iniquities and transgressions: yet his "loving-kindness," that shall abide with Christ in reference to the preservation of his seed; his " faithfulness,” that shall not fail; his covenant and his oath shall be made good to the uttermost.
It is supposed (which is the worst that can be supposed) that in some degree, at least for some season, they may forsake the law, not keep the commandments, and profane the statutes of God (which continues the burden of poor believers to this day); yet the worst that the Lord threatens them with on this account, when they might have expected that he would have utterly cast off such unthankfui, unfruitful backsliders, poor creatures, is but this, “I will visit them with a rod, and with stripes.” They shall have whatever comes within the compass of correction or affliction; rod and stripes shall be on them, and that whether outward correction or inward desertion. But will the Lord proceed no farther? will he not for ever cast them