... for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?—Canticles 1.7.
Covenant of Grace;
Against the Arminians and the Antinomians.
Christ Dying, & Drawing Sinners to Himself,
Antinomians believe, that all the Promises in the Gospel, made upon Conditions to be performed by Creatures, especially Free-will casting in its Share to the Work, smell of some Grains of the Law, and of Obedience for Hire; and that Bargaining of this Kind, cannot consist with free-grace. And the Doubt may seem to have Strength, in that our Divines argue against the Arminian Decree of Election to Glory, upon Condition of Faith and Perseverance, foreseen in the Person so chosen; because then Election to Glory should not be of mere Grace, but depend on something in the Creature, as on a Condition or Motive at least, if not as on a Cause, Work, or Hire. But Arminians reply, The Condition being of Grace, cannot make any Thing against the Freedom of the Grace of Election; because so Justification and Glorification should not be of mere Grace; for sure, we are justified and saved upon Condition of Faith, freely given us of God. The Question then must be, Whether there can be any conditional Promises in the Gospel of Grace; or whether a Condition performed by us, and Free-grace, can consist together? Antinomians say, They are contrary, as Fire and Water.
Hence these Positions, for the clearing of this considerable Question.
Position 1. The Condition that Arminians fancy to be in the Gospel, can neither consist with the Grace of Election, Justification, Calling of Grace, or Crowning of Believers with Glory. This Condition they say we hold, but they err; because it is a Condition of Hire, that they have borrowed from Lawyers, such as is between Man and Man, ex causa onerosa, 'tis absolutely in the Power of Men to do, or not to do; and bows and determineth the Lord and his Free-will, absolutely to this Part of the Contradiction, which the Creature chooseth, tho' contrary to the Inclination, and antecedent Will and Decree of God, wishing, desiring, and earnestly inclining to the Obedience and Salvation of the Creature. Now, Works of Grace, and infinite Grace, flow from the Bowels, and inmost Desire of God; nothing [from] without laying Bonds, Chains, or Determination on the Lord's Grace, or his holy Will. Could our Well-doing milk out of the Breasts of Christ's Free-grace, or extrinsically determine the Will or Acts of Free-bounty, [then] Grace should not be Grace. But without Money or Hire, the Lord giveth his Wine and Milk, Isa. 55.1; Eph. 2.1,2; Ezek. 16.5-7; 2 Tim. 1.9; Titus 3.3. (2.) Because such a Condition is of Work, not of Grace; and so of no less Law-debt and Bargaining, than can be between Man and Man. And the Party that fulfilleth the Condition, is, [1.] Most free to forfeit his Wages, by working, or not working, as the Hireling, or Labourer in a Vineyard; yea, or any Merchant engaged to another, to perform a Condition, of which he is Lord and Master, to do or not do. [2.] He is nowise necessitate nor determined any Way, but as the Hire or Wages do determine his Will, who so worketh; but the Wages being absolutely in his Power to gain them, or lose them, determine his Will; which cannot fall in the Almighty. [3.] Such a Condition, performed by the Creature, putteth the Creature to glory, but not in the Lord, but in himself, Rom. 4.2. For if Abraham were justified by Works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God. Yea, Adam, before the Fall, and the elect Angels, hold not Life eternal by any such free Condition of Obedience, as is absolutely referred to their Free-will, to do, or not to do; so our Divines deny against Papists, with good Warrant, the Freehold of Life eternal, by any Title of Merit. Sure, if God determine Free-will in all good and gracious Acts, as I prove undeniably from Scripture. 2. From the Dominion of Providence. 3. The Covenant between the Father and the Son Christ. 4. The Intercession of Christ. 5. The Promises of a new Heart, and Perseverance. 6. Our Prayers to bow the Heart to walk with God, and not to lead us into Temptation. 7. The Faith and Confidence we have, that God will work in the Saints to will, and to do to the End. 8. The Praise and Glory of all our good Works; which are due to God only, &c. If God (I say) determine Free-will to all Good, even before, as after the Entrance of Sin into the World, and that of Grace, (for this Grace hath Place in Law-obedience, in Men and Angels) then such a Condition [as that of the Arminians] cannot consist with Grace. For such a Condition puts the Creature in a State above the Creator, and all Freedom in him.
Position 2. Evangelick Conditions, wrought in the Elect by the irresistible Grace of God, and Grace, do well consist together. John 5.24, Verily, Verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my Word, and believeth in him that sent me, hath everlasting Life, and shall not come into Condemnation; but is passed from Death to Life. Chap. 7.37, If any Man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. Acts 13.39, And by him, all that believe, are justified from all Things, from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses. Acts 16.30, The Jailor saith to Paul and Silas, What must I do to be saved? verse 31, And they said, Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy Household. There is an Express [condition] required of the Jailor, which he must perform, if he would be saved. And Rom. 10, look as a Condition is required in the Law, v. 5, For Moses describeth the Righteousness of the Law, that the Man that doth these Things, shall live by them; So Believing is required as a Condition of the Gospel, v. 6, But the Righteousness which is of Faith, &c. v. 9, saith, That if thou confess with thy Mouth, the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine Heart, that God hath raised him from the Dead, thou shalt be saved. Rom. 3.27-30; chapters 4 & 5. Faith is the Condition of the Covenant of Grace, and the only Condition of Justification, and of the Title, Right, and Claim, that the Elect have, through Christ, to Life eternal. Holy Walking, as a Witness of Faith, is the Way to the Possession of the Kingdom; As Rom. 2.6, Who will render to every Man according to his Deeds. Verse 7, To them who by patient Continuance in Well-doing, seek for Glory and Honour, and Immortality, eternal Life. Verse 8, To them that are contentiousVerse 9, Tribulation and Anguish upon every Soul of Man that doth Evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile. Matt. 2.34, Then shall the King say to them on his Right-hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the Foundation of the World. Verse 35, For I was hungered, and ye gave me Meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me Drink, &c. And let Antinomians say, We are freed from the Law, as a Rule of holy Walking; sure the Gospel and the Apostles command the very same Duties in the Letter of the Gospel, that Moses commanded in the Letter of the Law; as, that Children obey their Parents, Servants their Masters; that we abstain from Murder, Hatred of our Brother, Stealing, Defrauding, Lying, &c. that we keep ourselves from Idols, Swearing, strange gods. I do not say, that these Duties, are commanded in the same Way, in the Gospel, as in the Law: For, sure we are, out of a Principle of Evangelick Love, to render Obedience; and our Obedience now is not legal, as commanded by Moses, in strict Terms of Law, but as perfumed, oiled, honeyed, with the Gospel-sense of Remission of Sins, the tender Love of God in Christ. So that we justly challenge two extreme Ways, both blasphemous, as we conceive.
1. Arminians object to us, that which the Antinomians truly teach, to wit, That we destroy all Precepts, Commands, Exhortations, and active Obedience in the Gospel; and render Men, under the Gospel, mere Blocks, and Stones, which are immediately acted by the Spirit, in all Obedience, and freed from the Letter of both Law and Gospel, as from a legal Bondage. This we utterly disclaim; and do obtest and beseech Antinomians, as they love Christ and his Truth, to clear themselves of this, which to us is wild Libertinism. And by this, Arminians turn all the Gospel, in literalem gratiam, in a Law-gospel, in mere golden Letters, and sweet honeyed Commandments of Law precepts, and will have the Law possible, Justification by Works, Conversion by the Power of Free-will, and moral Suasion, really without the mighty Power of the Spirit and Gospel grace, and receive the Doctrine of Merit, and set Heaven and Hell on new Poles to be rolled about, as Globes on these two Poles, the Nilling and Willing of Free-will; and they make Grace to be sweet Words of Silk and Gold. On the other Hand, Antinomians do exclude Words Letter-persuasions, our Actions, Conditions of Grace, Promises written or preached from the Gospel; and, make the Spirit, and celestial Raps, immediate Inspirations, the Gospel itself, and turn Men regenerate into Blocks: And how M. Den can be both an Antinomian, and loose us from the Law, and an Arminian, defending both universal Atonement, and the resistible Working of Grace, and so subject us to the Law, and to the Doctrine of Merit, and make us Lords of our own Faith, and Conversion to God; let him and his Followers see to it. We go a middle Way here, and do judge the Gospel to be an evangelick Command, and a promising and commanding Evangel, and that the Holy Ghost graceth us to do, and the Letter of the Gospel obligeth us to do.
Position 3. The Decree of Election to Glory, may be said to be more free and gracious in one Respect, and Justification, and Glorification, and Conversion, more free in another Respect; and all the Four, of mere Free-grace. For Election, as the Cause and Fountain-grace, is the great Mother, the Womb, the infinite Spring, the Bottomless Ocean of all Grace; and we say, Effects are more copiously and eminently in the Cause than in themselves; as Water is more in the Element and Fountain, than in the Streams; the Tree more in the Life, and Sap of Life, than in the Branches: And Conversion, and Justification have more Freedom, and more of Grace, by Way of Extension, because Good-will stayeth within the Bowels and Heart of God, in free Election; but in Conversion, and Justification, infinite Love comes out, and here the Lord giveth us the great Gift, even himself, Christ, God, the Darling, the Delight, the only, only Well-beloved of the Father; and he giveth Faith to lay hold on Christ, and the Life of God, and all the Means of Life in which there may be many divided Acts of Grace (to speak so) which were all one in the Womb of the Election of Grace.
Position 4. Conversion, Justification, are free for Election; and therefore Election is more free: But all these, as they are in God, are equally free, and are one simple Good-will. Tho' Christ justify and crown none, but such as are qualified with the Grace of Believing, yet Believing is a Condition, that removeth nothing of the Freedom of Grace, (1.) Because it worketh nothing in the Bowels of Mercy, and the Free-grace of God, as a Motive, Cause, or moving Condition, that doth extract Acts of Grace out of God. Only we may conceive this Order, that Grace of Election to Glory steers another Wheel (to speak so) of Free-love, to give Faith, Effectual Calling, Justification, and Eternal Glory. (2.) It is no Hire, nor Work at all; nor doth it justify, as a Work, but only lay hold on the Lord our Righteousness.
Objection. There is more of God in Election to Glory than in giving of Faith, or at least of Christ's Righteousness, and eternal Glory; therefore there must be more Grace in the one than in the other. The Antecedent is thus proved; because God simply, and absolutely, may choose to Glory Moses, Peter, or not choose them to Glory; and here is Liberty of Contradiction, and Freedom, in the highest Degree: But having once chosen Moses and Peter to Glory, if they believe, the Lord cannot but justify them, and crown them with Glory; because his Promise and Decree doth remove this Liberty of Contradiction, so as God cannot choose, but justify and glorify those that believe, both in regard of his immutable Nature, who cannot repeal what he hath once decreed, and of his Fidelity, in that he cannot but stand to his own Word and Promise, in justifying and saving the Ungodly that believe. Again, in Election to Glory, there is nothing of Men, but all is pure Free-grace; no Condition, no Merit, no Faith, no Works required in the Party chosen to Glory; but in the Justified there is more of Man, ere he can be justified and saved, he must hear, consider, be humbled, know the Need he hath of a Saviour, and believe; and without these he cannot be justified.
Answer (1.) I deny, That Liberty of Contradiction belongeth to the Essence and Nature of Liberty. It is enough to make Liberty, that, (1.) It proceeds not from a Principle determined by Nature, to one Kind of Action; so the Sun is not free to give Light. (2.) That the Principle be free of all foreign Force; the Malefactor goeth not freely to the Place of Execution, when haled to it. (3.) That it proceed from Deliberation, Reason, Election, and Wisdom, seeing no essential Connexion, or necessary, or natural Relation, between the Action, and the End thereof, of themselves, but such as may be dispensed with; if these three be, tho' there be a Necessity, in some Respect, from a free Decree, and a free Promise, tho' there be not Liberty of Contradiction, simply to do, or not to do, yet is not any Degree of the Essence of Liberty removed. I well remember, Dr. Jackson, denying all Decrees in God, that setteth the Almighty to one Side of the Contradiction, resembleth God to the Pope, whose Wisdom he commendeth, in that the Pope's Decrees, Grants, Laws, Promises, are fast and loose, and all made with a Reserve of After-wit, so as if the Morrow's Illumination be better than the Day's; while his Life breatheth in, and out, he may change and retract his Will; so saith he, Papa nunquam sibi ligat manus, the Pope ties all the World to himself by Oaths, Laws, Promises; but that lawless Beast is tied to none. Now, the Scripture teacheth us, that the Decrees and Counsels of God are surer than Mountains of Brass, and unchangeable, and that his Promise cannot fail. But who dare say, when he executes his Decrees, and fulfilleth his Promise, that he forfeiteth or loseth one Inch, Degree, or Part of his essential Liberty? God should then be less free to create the World, than if we suppose he had never decreed to create it, and yet doth create it; as if the Lord's free Decree lavished away, and should drink up, and waste any Part of his natural Freedom in his Actions; or as if his Faithfulness to make good what he promised, should render him lame, and dismember him of the Fullness and Freedom of his Grace; and so, the more faithful and true, the less gracious; and the more unchangeable in his Counsels, the more fettered and chained, and the less free in all these Actions, that he doth according to the Counsel of his Will. A gross Misconception: And I deny, that God is less free in the Justifying, and Crowning the Believer, than in electing, and choosing him both to Glory, and to Faith. It may be Mens' Decrees, and Promises that are rash, and may be at the second, or third Edition, like their Books, corrected by a new-born Wit, or because they aim at Under-board-dealing diminish of their Liberty; but it is not so in the Almighty. When the Lord by a Promise to Men, maketh himself Debtor to his Creature, and that of Free-grace, with one and the same infinite Freedom of Grace, he contracteth the Debt, and payeth the Sum; for so the Freedom of infinite Grace should ebb and flow, as the Seas, and ascend and descend as the Sun, which I cannot conceive; the Effects of free Grace I grant, being created and finite Things in Men are more or less according to the free Dispensation of God.
Answer 2. It is no Marvel, that there be more of Men in Justification and Glorification, that are transient Acts passing out of the Creature, than in Election to Glory, that is an immanent and eternal Act; and so I grant Justification to be more conditionate, than Election; but if more gracious, that is the Question: For the Condition of Grace, is a Thing of Free-grace. Indeed, we argue against the Arminian Election, that hangeth upon a Condition of Free-will's Carving, such as their Faith is, and their Perseverance; and from thence we conclude, from such a Condition, their Election to Glory cannot be of Free-grace, but in him that willeth and runneth; because Man's Will determining God's Will to choose this Man to Glory, not this Man, is a running Will, and a mad and a proud Will, that will sit above Grace.
Position 4. Tho' it be true, that Grace is essentially in God, and in us by Participation; yet it is false, that Grace is not properly in us, but that Faith, Hope, Repentance, and the like, that are in us, are Gifts, not Graces. For Grace in us may be called a Gift, in that it is freely given us; as a Fruit of the Grace and Favour of Election, and Free-redemption, which indeed is the only saving Fountain-grace of God; but if Grace be taken for a saving Qualification, and a supernatural Act, Work, or Quality, given freely of the Father through Christ, upon God's gracious Intention, to cause us freely believe, repent, love Christ, rejoice in the Hope of Glory, work out our Salvation in Fear and Trembling: So Grace is not only in Christ, but in us properly; tho' Antinomians hold all Saving-grace to be properly in Christ, and that there is nothing inherent in a Believer, that differenceth him from Hypocrites; all the Difference must be in Christ (say they.) (1.) The Word saith, There was another Spirit in Caleb and Joshua, than was in the rest of the Spies; Ergo, there was some distinguishing Saving-grace in them. 2 John 1.16, And of his Fullness we have all received, and Grace for Grace. When he ascended to Heaven, he sent down the Holy Ghost, John 14.17, He dwelleth in you, and shall abide in you. John 16.13, He will guide you in all TruthHe will shew you Things to come. So there is a Spirit of Grace poured on the Family of David. Zech. 12.10. On the thirsty Ground, Isa. 44.3. A new Heart, put in the Midst of the covenanted People, Ezek. 36.26. Fear of God put in their Hearts, Jer. 32.40. Jer. 31.33; 1 John 3.9. (3.) There is Grace in the Saints, that denominates them gracious. 1 Cor 15.10, By the Grace of God, I am that I am. Gal. 2.20, I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, &c.
There is a great Deceitfulness in our Heart, in the Matter of performed Conditions, so soon as we have performed a Condition, tho' wrought in us by mere Grace, we hold out our Hand, and cry, Pay me, Lord, my Wages, for I have done my Work; so near of Kin to our corrupt Hearts, is the Conceit of Merit.
2. A second Deceit is, When an Obligation of Obedience presseth us, we overlook the Condition, and fix our Eyes on the Promise, when we should eye the Precepts; and when it cometh to the Reward, when we should most look to the Promise of Free-grace, then we eye the Precept, and challenge Debt, and forget Grace.
3. When we are pressed with the supernatural Duty of Believing and should look only to Free-grace, which only must enable us to that high Work of Believing, we look to ourselves, and complain, Oh, I am not weary and laden, and therefore not qualified for Christ; and so we turn wickedly and proudly wise, to shift ourselves of Christ; when we should look to ourselves, we look away from ourselves, to a Promise of our Wages; but our bad Deservings, if looked to, would turn our Eyes on our Abominations, that we might eye Free-grace; and when we should eye Free-grace, we look to our sinful Unfitness to believe and come to Christ.
Use. Beware of false Preparations, that ye take them not for Preparations, or for Grace: For, (1.) Discretion, Mark 12.34, is not Grace, but Wings and Sails to carry you to Hell. (2.) Profession is a deceiving Preparation, it blossoms and laughs, and deludes under Forms. (3.) Victorious Strugglings against Lusts, upon natural Motives, look like Mortification, and are but bastard Dispositions. (4.) Education, if civil and externally religious, and civil strained Holiness from Fear of eternal Wrath, or worldly Shame, are not to be rested upon. When the Man is sick, and between the Millstones of divine Wrath, in heavy Afflictions, his Lusts may be sick, and not mortified. The strongest Man living, under a Fever, can make no Use of his Strength and Bones, yet he hath not lost it. It may be a Query, Whether the Lord in-stamps something of Christ on Preparations in the Elect that are converted, which is not in all the legal Dejections of Saul, Cain, and Judas. (2.) It may be a Query, Whether this be any Thing really inherent in these Preparations; or only, which is more probably, an intentional Relation in God, to raise these to the highest End proposed in the Lord's eternal Election.
Use. If God bestow Saving-grace freely on us, without Hire and Price, then temporal Deliverances may be bestowed on the Church, when they are not yet humbled: It is true, (1.) The People of God are low, and their Strength is gone, before the Lord delivereth, Deut. 32.36. (2.) He delivereth his People when they are humbled, Levit. 26.41,42. But, (3.) God keeps not always this Method; nor is it like he will observe it with Scotland and England, first to humble, and then deliver; but contrarily, he first delivers, and then humbles. As, Ezek. 39.42, And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall bring you unto the Land of Israel, unto the Country, for the which I lifted up mine Hand, to give it to your Fathers. v. 43, And there in that Place, [Hebr. Scham] when ye are delivered, ye shall remember your Ways, and all your Doings, wherein ye have been defiled, and ye shall loath yourselves in your own Sight, for all your Evils, that ye have committed. Ezek. 36.33, And I will Sanctify my great Name, which was profaned among the Heathen, which ye have profaned in the Midst of the Heathen (Then they were not humbled before they were delivered;) v. 24, For I will take you from among the Heathen, and gather you out of all Countries, and bring you unto your own Land. So, when the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, were they humbled? nay, their Murmuring against Moses and Aaron, Exod. 5.20-22, testifieth their Pride: And in that miraculous Deliverance, and greatest Danger, when they were between Satan and the deep Sea, they were not humbled; but, Psalm 106.7, They provoked him at the Sea, even at the Red-sea, Exod. 14.11,12. The Lord must also now first deliver us, and shame and confound us in Scotland with Mercy, and so humble us; for Mercy hath more Strength to melt Hearts of Iron and Brass, than the Furnace of Fire hath, or a Sea of Blood, or a destroying Pestilence.
Use. The third particular Use is, We have no gracious Disposition to Christ: Every Man hath a fore-stall'd Opinion, and a Prejudice against Christ; and our Humiliation before Conversion should humble us. The Merit of Decency, devised of late by Jesuits; of Congruity, formed of old; or of Condignity, to buy Grace or Glory, are all but counterfeit Metal. Grace, the only Seed of our Salvation, is the freest Thing in the World, and least tied to Causes without. (1.) That of two equal Matches in Nature, two born Brethren in one Womb, the Lord chooseth one, and refuseth another. (2.) Of two Sinners of which one hath one Devil, another hath seven Devils, he sheweth Mercy upon one that hath seven Devils, and forsaketh the other. (3.) Of two equally disposed and fitted for Conversion, tho' none be fitted aright, he calleth one of mere Grace, and not the other. (4.) Grace is so great, that, Rev. 5.11, when Ten thousand Times ten thousand, and Thousand of thousands, are set on Work to sing, v. 12, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive Power, Riches and Strength: Yea, and to help them, every Creature that is in Heaven and Earth, and under the Earth, and such as are in the Sea, cry, Blessing, and Honour, and Power, be to him that sits on the Throne, and to the Lamb. And they have been since the Creation upon this Song, and shall be for all Eternity upon it; but all of them, for ever and ever, shall never out-sing these Praises to the Bottom; there is more yet, and more yet to be said of Christ, and ever shall be. What Wonder then, that we have no Leisure to praise Grace being of so little Strength, and being clothed with Time. Can you out-bottom the Song of Free-grace? Or can any Soul say so much of Christ's Love, but there is a World more, and another World yet more to be said? And when will ye end, or come to an Height? I know not. O be in Grace's Debt, and take the Debt to Eternity with you.