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doctrine of perseverance was not so fully revealed under that dispensation. It was of service to the godly to make them wary ; but especially to those who were legally righteous, and trusted in their own righteousness, as Ezekiel's hearers did ; to convince them of this, that there was a connexion between the antecedent, falling away, and the consequent, the dying in their iniquity. Jer. xxxii. 39, 40. “ And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them; and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." And it is 60 spoken of once and again by this very prophet, chap. xi. 17–21. and chap. xxxvi. 24—29. Yea, in this very chapter, after he had been declaring the danger of falling away from righteousness, the children of Israel seem to be exhorted to this very thing as a remedy against falling away ; ver. 31. 56 - Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will ye die, O house of Israel ?” They needed not only to turn from their transgressions, but to cast them away utterly, to have finally done with them, and to make them a new heart, for the prophet declares, that their old heart was a backsliding heart, bent to backslide, as the prophet often complains.
$ 21. The godly themselves were really exposed to die in their iniquity, i, e. they were liable to be destroyed by God's awful judgments in this world. The prophet has a special eye to those destroying judgments that God had lately brought on the the nation of the Jews, which are very much the subject of the prophecy, and seem to have given occasion for it, and which the Jews had respect to in the proverb which they used, and which gave occasion to what is said in this chapter. If the sinner turned from his outward wickedness, unto an outward righteousness only, he would save his soul alive with regard to those outward calamities ; and if the righteous fell away outwardly by committing some grievous sin, and getting into a bad way, they exposed themselves to die by this their iniquity in this manner.
§ 22. That there is a real difference between them that fall away, and then that persevere, even before they fall away, is evident by the things that are given as a reason of their falling away ; because they have no root in themselves; because they have not counted the cost, and because they have no oil in their vessels. Those that have no root, differ from those who have root, before there be the effect of their having no root; And so those that have no oil, &c. And it appears again, by what is said, John ii. 23, &c. that " when Christ was at Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his
name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” And so, “ They went out from us, because they were not of us. If they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us." $23. Objection. But it is in the same chapter said, That
" if a wicked man turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live :" where doubtless must be understood by “ doing that which is lawful and right,” sincere and gracious righteousness, because there is a promise of life. And we must doubtless understand doing that which is lawful and right here in the same sense as before. Answer. We may understand it in the same sense, for an external, visible, material righteousness. When it is said, if he turn from his iniquity and do that which is lawful and right, it must be understood, if he continues so to do and do not turn from it again. According to the schemes of both Arminians and Calvinists, this must be understood. Whereby the objection is overthrown.
Visible Christians are, in Scripture, called saints, or holy; which is equivalent to the calling them righteous. The Jews are called an holy nation: the land is a land of uprightness ; when only visibility is intended. By righteous, sometimes is meant only innocent, or materially righteous in some particu. lar. “ Wilt thou, also, destroy a righteous nation ?" Gen. XX. 4. Exod. xxiii. 7. “The innocent and the righteous, slay thou not:" Deut. xxv. 1. Ye shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked :" 1 Sam. iv. ll. - How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person?” 2 Kings x. 9. By the righteous man that the prophet Ezekiel speaks of, he certainly does not speak in so limited a sense as to mean those that are of perfect and upright hearts, but so as to include those of an unsound heart, that trust in their own righteousness to commit iniquity; (see Ezek. xxxiii. 13;) i. e. those whose motive is only self-love, and their own safety, and so trust that they have righteousness enough to render them safe, though they do commit sin. Those that are only restrained from committing sin by fear, and are ready to embrace, and are glad of opportunities of committing sin with impunity; these cannot be such as the sincerely righteous are often described to be, viz. such as love God with all their hearts and souls ; that love the way of his commandments; that choose the way of his commands, &c. The reason why some do not persevere, is, that there is not now a right heart in them; as is evident by Deut. v. 29. "O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep my commandments!" &c.
§ 24. When it is said, so If a righteous man turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, his righteousness shall not be remembered, but he shall die in his iniquity;" we need not, according to the Scripture manner of expression, understand any thing, but his seeming rightrousness, or the righteousness that he seemeth to have. Christ has often such an aphorism as this, “ Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and be shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath ;" which he applies to that apparent godliness, grace, or piety, which natural men have, as is evident by the contexts, and the occasions of his using this aphorism ; as Matt. xiii. 12. and Matt. xxv. 29. and Mark iv. 25. This, in another place, is explained thus :“ Whosoever bath, to him shall be given ; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have;" Luke viii. 18. Being a righteous man, does, indeed, commonly signify to be one that is truly and sincerely godly. And so is believing in Christ mentioned frequently as the distinguishing character of one that is truly Christ's disciple. Yet we read of some that are said to believe, who, even at that very time, are spoken of as wanting something necessary to make them true disciples: John ii. 23, 24, 25. “ Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many be. lieved in his naine, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself to them because he knew all men; and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man.' These words intimate, that though they believed, yet Christ knew that they had not that in then then, that was to be depended on for perseverance; which implies, that if they were true believers, of a right principle, their perseverance might be depended on.
And we are elsewhere told, why some that believe, endure but for a while, and do not persevere, viz. because they have no root in them. selves.
$ 25. That there is an essential difference between the faith and seeming grace of such professors as fall away, and such as persevere, even before any distinction appears as to perse. verance, or while both retain their religion, is exceedingly manifest by John vi. 61, 65. “But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto bim of my Father.” And verse 70: " And Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil ?" Here, before Judas had fallen away, he is said not to believe, and to be a devil. Now Judas was a professing disciple, and a distinguished one. He was a visible believer. Christ speaks of him as one that had
forsaken all, and followed him in the regeneration, as is evident in Matt. xix. 27, 28; and as one that had continued with Christ in his temptations, Luke xxii. 28.—compared with verse 30.
There were great appearances of true grace in him, as there were in Ahitophel, his type, with whom David took sweet counsel, &c. And, therefore, as a righteous man, Christ had given him the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, and sent him forth to preach the gospel, and heal the sick, and cast out devils.-Yet he, even before he fell away, is said not to believe, but to be then a devil : which is agreeable to what the apostle says of apostates;---" They went out from us, because they were not of us. If they had been of us, they would, no doubt, have continued with us."
$26. That they who once truly believe in Christ, never fall away finally and perish, is evident, because they that now believe not, and are in a state of condemnation, are spoken of as those that never have believed, John ii. 18. “ Because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Which supposes, that none of those that have believed, are now unbelievers, or are now in a state of condemnation. So again, those who shall be condemned at the day of judgment, are represented as those, not only whom Christ then will know not, but as those whom he never knew, Matt. vii. 23. But how can this be a true representation, if some of them were once true Christians, and so were known and owned by Christ, but only have since apostatized? When St. Paul kept under his body, lest he should be a cast-away, (1 Cor ix. 27.) he did no otherwise than he was wont to do in temporal concerns, in cases wherein he was beforehand certain of the event. So he sent word to the chief captain of the Jews lying in wait to kill him, lest he should be murdered by them, though it was revealed to him from God, but the very night before, that he should live to see Rome; Acts xxiii. 12—21. So he would not allow the sailors to leave the ship.” &c. Bellamy's True Religion, Disc. 1. Inference 9. 1 John iii. 6. “ Whosoever sin- . neth, hath not seen him, neither known him.” This could not be true, if a man who has truly seen him, and known him, might finally fall away to sin.
$ 27. As to scripture cautions against falling away, lest it should issue in damnation ; we may observe that God had been pleased to connect eternal life with eating the fruit of the tree of life ; and therefore, although it was utterly impossible that Adam should have eternal life in himself, after he had fallen, as God's peremptory declaration and unalterable constitution had made it impossible; yet we are told, that after the fall, God placed cherubims and a flaming sword to keep the way of the tree of life, lest the man should put forth his hand, and take and eat of the fruit of the tree, and live for ever.
So God has connected damnation with living in allowed sin, and being overcome by sin, and brought under its power. And therefore, although it be impossible, that men, after they are once truly converted, should ever perish, yet they are warned against falling away and yielding to the power of sin, lest they should perish : and the apostle Paul kept under his body, lest he should be a cast-away.
$ 28. As to objections from such hypothetical propositions as those, Heb. x. 27, &c. “ If we sin wilfully, after we have re
. ceived the knowledge of the truth.” Heb. vi. 4, &c. “ For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, if they fall away,” &c. Such hypothetical propositions may be true, when one or both parts of it are impossible, as the truth of such à proposition consists in the connexion of the antecedent and consequent; as when our Lord said to the Jews, “If I should say, I know him not, I should be a liar like unto you." See Gill against Whitby, vol. i. p. 271.
$ 29. Objection. That we are required to TAKE CARE and to pray that we may persevere. It was impossible for Christ to fail under his trials; and yet how evident is it that he used means, endeavours, care, labour, and earnest prayers, that he might persevere ?-In order to show, that an absolute promise of perseverance does consist with counsels and exhortations to endeavour, and care to persevere, I would lay down the following positions.
Position I, What it is proper for us to seek by earnest and importunate prayer, it is proper for us to use means, labour and care, for that end. The reason is plain : prayer is one kind of seeking the thing; it is using means, and one way of labouring for it, taking care to obtain it, and pursuing after it. There are many instances of prayer, and commands to pray for things promised. Christ on earth prayed for things promised ; and he continually intercedes in heaven for things promised,
Position II. What it is proper that persons should use endeavours, means, and care for, they are properly exhorted to use those means and endeavours.
Position 1II. That which it is proper for another to use means, labours, and care for, that he may obtain it, though he knows it is certainly promised, it is proper that we should use means. &c. to obtain for ourselves, though it is promised. But Christ used means, endeavours, labour, &c. for the salvation of sincerely good men, though it be promised. He laboured, took care, denied himself, and suffered for the salva. tion of sincerely good men; which yet had been before abundantly promised to him, and promised to men in the Old Testament; and Christ himself had promised it. The scripture represents, that Christ ran a race to win a prize, and endured the cross for the joy that was set before him.