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Book 3 - Chapter 13: Of Conservation - by Herman Witsius

The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man by Herman Witsius

Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.

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Herman Witsius (1636-1708)

Arguably known for the best work on Covenant Theology in print (at least in the top 5).

Herman Witsius (1636-1708) was Professor of Divinity in the Universities of Franeker, Utrecht, and Leyden. A brilliant and devout student, he was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by the age of fifteen, when he entered the University of Utrecht. He was ordained at twenty-one and served in several pastorates, filling both the pulpit and the academic chair over the course of his life.

This, his magnum opus, is a reflection of some of the most fruitful and mature thinking on federal theology during the seventeenth century, and still holds a preeminent place in our own day.

Chapter XIII: Of Conservation

I. THOSE to whom God has freely given faith and holiness, he likewise keeps with such solicitous care, that it is impossible for any true believer totally and finally to fall away from that holiness, when once it is begun, and thereby forfeit the salvation appointed for him. “The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil,” 2 Thess. 3:3.

II. Conservation is a gracious work of God, whereby he so keeps the elect, the redeemed, the regenerated, the faithful, and the sanctified, though in themselves weak and apt to fall away, internally by the most powerful efficacy of his Spirit, externally by the means which he has wisely appointed for that purpose, that they shall never quite lose the habits of those graces once infused into them, but be certainly brought by a stedfast perseverance to eternal salvation.

III. They whom God preserves and enables to persevere, are elected persons, or persons appointed by the immutable counsel of God, not only to some external communion of a national covenant, Deut. 8:6, but to an internal glory, Eph. 1:4, 5. They are redeemed by Christ, not only bought by that master of a family, who obtains very great though only common benefits for some, and takes them into his family in the capacity of servants, who, in that great house are at length found to be “vessels to dishonour,” 2 Tim. 2:20, of whom Peter speaks, 2 Peter. 2:1, but also redeemed from the bondage of sin by the precious blood of Christ the Lord, 1 Peter 1:18, 19. They are regenerated, who have not only acquired a name to live, whereby they impose on themselves and others by some external actions which resemble the spiritual life, Rev. 3:1, but who have a principle of spiritual life implanted in them by the spirit of life, which is in Christ, Rom. 8:2. They are faithful, or believers, having not only that faith, which consists in a bare assent, nor that called temporary by our Lord and having no root, but that which is unfeigned, 1 Tim. 1:5, which influences the whole soul, and, being rooted in Christ, brings forth the fruits of holiness. They are sanctified, not only by a fœderal holiness, which gives a right to the sacraments in the visible church, 1 Cor. 7:14; nor by that external holiness, whereby one has “escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 2:20, while yet they still retain their canine and swinish nature, ver. 22; but by a true and thorough holiness, whereby righteousness and true holiness are brought into the soul, Eph. 4:24.

IV. All these things are to be well observed lest any one should object to us, either the covenant-breaking Israelites, who were really chosen to the communion of an external covenant, but distinguished from those who were “elected to glory,” Rom. 11:7, or the false prophets, who deny the Master who bought them, and who are different from those, whom not the Master, but the Lord not only bought for any kind of benefits, but redeemed by his precious blood, 1 Peter 1:18; or those branches of Christ, who abide not in him, but are “cast forth and withered,” John 15:6; for, though they may be said to have been in Christ, as to the knowledge and profession of him, and the external communion with the church, the mystical body of Christ, and in so far with Christ himself; yet they were always without the quickening communion of Christ and the nourishment of his vivifying Spirit, or those temporary believers, mentioned Matt. 12:21, whose faith, though it may be said in a sense to be true, because by a mask of a feigned profession, they do not counterfeit what they have not in their heart, but sincerely profess what they believe concerning Christ, yet this is not that true faith eminently so called, which “knoweth the grace of God in truth,” Col. 1:6, and which alone constitutes the true disciples of Christ, John 8:31; or in fine, those who “trample under foot the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified,” Heb. 10:29. For if that sanctification is to be referred to those profane men (which yet is not necessary, as we have elsewhere shown), it is altogether to be understood of a fœderal, a sacramental, and an external sanctification, such as is also found in the dogs and swine mentioned by Peter. It was proper to premise these things concerning the genuine object of a gracious conservation, because by this very means we obviate many objections of adversaries, arising from the improper manner of handling this subject.

V. It is true, elect believers considered in themselves and in their internal principles, are weak and may fall away; nor are they alone sufficent to surmount the assaults of the world and the devil. Indwelling sin, “which easily besets them,” Heb. 12:1, still resides in their members. They are often tempted by the flattering lusts of the flesh, Gal. 5:17. The very habits of engrafted graces are exceedingly imperfect in this life; and frequently, some degrees of sloth and drowsiness steal even upon the wise virgins and the chaste spouse of Christ, Matt. 25:5, Cant. 5:2, while the devil, that cunning and powerful enemy, watches these opportunities of acting, that he might easily bring them under his power, were they left to themselves alone. The perseverance therefore of those who are so weak in themselves, is owing partly to the internal principle of immortal life, which God has graciously bestowed upon them, and partly to the external superadded divine protection, guardianship, and support, which the immutability of the divine covenant causes to be perpetually, though not equally present with them.

VI. That which God preserves in his people is the essence of the spiritual life and the habits of the Christian graces. For as to the acts, we really own it to be possible, that a true believer may gradually sink to so torpid a state, as that the activity of that excellent life may seem almost to cease, and himself be like trees almost killed by a long and severe winter. For the church of God has also its alternate changes of winter and of summer, Cant. 2:11. Nor is that remarkable prophecy, Jer. 17:8, any objection to this assertion, which experience has so often proved, “He shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” For that promise is not universal, nor the lot of all believers, in whatever spiritual state they may be, seeing it is certain they are sometimes like a “bruised reed,” Isa. 42:3, which certainly differs very much from such a fruitful tree. Neither by heat and withholding of rain, is here understood spiritual dryness, arising from restraining that mystical influence which is the cause of vigour in believers; for, on the contrary, the abundance of that influence is supposed, when this tree is said to be planted “by the waters” and “to spread out her roots by the river;” whereby he intimated, that it is not without the watering of the stream that washes it from which the root may draw its juice and sap. The words therefore of God in Jeremiah, contain a description of a believer, who being filled with the grace of the Spirit of God, brings forth the fruits of righteousness most abundantly, in the midst of adversities and in the want of external things.

VII. We add, that it is possible a sanctified person may be guilty of some acts, which are directly opposite to spiritual life, and to the habits of Christian graces. And experience, as well as Scripture, has proved, that the most eminent men of God have frequently fallen into grievous and atrocious sins, by which they not only deserve the entire desertion on the part of God, disinheritance, and spiritual death; but also actually very much grieve the Spirit of grace, wound the spiritual life, and very greatly diminish the assurance of faith; nay, would entirely stifle the principle of life, unless their guilt being taken away by the blood of Christ, his quickening Spirit graciously prevented this mortal efficacy of such sins.

VIII. Nor do we disown that habits themselves, as to the facility and readiness of acting, are sometimes impaired, and spiritual life itself sometimes undergoes so violent a fainting fit, as to seem to be just at the point of death. This is thought by some practical writers to have been the case of Heman, when he complained, Psa. 88:15: “I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted.”

IX. When we therefore speak of conservation, we mean, that God so continues to cherish by his gracious influence the principle of spiritual life once ingrafted, and the habits of Christian graces once bestowed, that though they may be many ways shaken by various temptations, and sometimes by very grievous sins, yet they will never entirely fall away; but afterwards resuming strength, and renewing faith and repentance, they will at last triumph over all their enemies, and continue stedfast unto death.

X. Neither do we assent to those who teach, that the salvation of the elect is so secured that death shall not come upon them while they are destitute of faith, yet who think that the spiritual life is sometimes quite destroyed, but may afterwards be restored by some new and singular act of the grace of God, so that they admit a total defect of spiritual life sometimes in the regenerate, but deny equally with us a final. They are, indeed, to be commended in that they deny not the certainty of the salvation of the elect, but are to be blamed in that they would overthrow the stability of faith.

XI. The absurdity of this opinion, not to mention other things, appears from this, that should the believer wholly apostatize from his faith, he would then no longer have any interest in Christ, to whom we are united by faith alone, would be brought under the power of the devil, become his child, and be entirely excluded the communion of God for that time, which would be effects and indications of the grievous wrath of God towards the believer under the guilt of great wickedness. But now if the wrath of God could be so great towards his children, while as yet believers, as to deprive them of the faith and right of children, I would ask, after they shall be altogether wicked and enslaved to the devil, what shall bring them again into favour, that being anew adopted and restored, they may obtain the gift of faith? For if he shall be so offended with his own children, as for their condign punishment to deprive them of life, and seclude them wholly from the communion of the Lord Jesus, in whom alone he can be reconciled (which yet is not at all suitable to the goodness and clemency of our heavenly Father), there can be no reason given why he should again receive them into his favour, when they are neither reformed nor yet lament their past sins, which they cannot do without the preventing grace of God. For on what account could they, who are thus disinherited, be received into favour? No probable cause can be assigned, but the satisfaction and intercession of Christ. But if that can procure the restoration of those who are already cast out of their Father’s house, disinherited, and enslaved to the devil; shall it not rather procure, that they whose sin is pardoned shall never be ejected, disinherited, or brought under the power of the devil, but rather be corrected in measure, by their most gracious Father according to their fault? This is much more probable, and far more becoming God.

XII. The whole adorable Trinity concurs to that conservation of believers above described. The Father has, by a sure and immutable decree, predestinated them to eternal salvation, which we proved at large chap. iv. sect. xiv. seq. But they cannot obtain salvation unless they persevere in faith and holiness. Neither can they persevere unless they are supported by the power of God. Hence Christ himself infers the impossibility of the seduction of the elect from their election. Matt. 24:24: “They shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that (if it were possible) they shall deceive the very elect.” It is plain that the Lord Jesus there treats of the elect after their calling, and being brought to the knowledge of the truth; and speaks, not of any seduction whatever, but of that which is total and final; whereby, having forsaken Christ, they give credit to the most false and lying deceivers. He, moreover, foretells, that such would be the efficacy of those false prophets to deceive, that they would not only seduce those, who at least make some slight attempts after faith, but impose on the very elect, if (as it is not) the power of any seduction was so great, as to overthrow the faith of such. But that those words, “if it were possible,” intimate a real impossibility, from the supposition of the divine decree, is evident from this; because if it was possible for any of the elect to be seduced, which our adversaries suppose; it would also happen, according to our Lord’s expression, that some of the elect might be actually deceived by the false prophets; which is contrary both to the intention of Christ, to experience, and all sound reasoning.

XIII. Yet our adversaries insist and pretend that the phrase, “if it were possible,” does not always denote an absolute impossibility, but often the difficulty of doing a thing; and bring, for that purpose, various places of Scripture; as Acts 20:16, where Paul is said “to have hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of pentecost.” Rom. 12:18, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Gal. 4:15, “I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.” Matt. 26:39, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”

XIV. But the answer is at hand. 1st. If the thing spoken of should really happen, then the expression “if it be possible,” would denote the great difficulty of executing the same; if it should not, its real impossibility is then intended. Paul was in doubt whether it were possible for him, at so great a distance, to be at Jerusalem on the feast day; which was very difficult, nay, impossible, unless he made more than ordinary expedition. It is impossible, considering the great perverseness of mankind, to live always in peace with all men. It was impossible for the Galatians to pluck out their own eyes and give them to Paul, that they might become his and be of service to him. The thing could not be, except we suppose them out of their senses, thus without advantage to any, they should exercise such an act of cruelty on their own body; and without suppose Paul to be out of his mind, who, for his own honour, would permit and commend it. In fine, it was impossible for that cup to pass from Christ without his drinking it. Impossible, I say, not absolutely, in which sense Christ says, “O my Father, all things are possible to thee;” but from the supposition of the divine decree, the suretiship he had undertaken, the prophecies and types by which he was foretold and perfigured. For Christ was to make satisfaction to the utmost farthing. Which satisfaction is represented by his drinking the cup. 2dly. Should we grant our adversaries what they strenuously content for, that impossible, sometimes denotes what is difficult; and possible, what is easy; yet that sense would not suit this passage. For, should any transform our Saviour’s words, thus: “They will show signs and wonders, so as to deceive (if it might be easily done) the elect themselves;” he would render that most wise sentence impertinent and foolish.

XV. Secondly. The Father gave believers to Christ, John 17:6, for his inheritance, and as the reward and price of his labour, Psa. 2:8. But the Father will neither suffer the inheritance of his only begotten Son to be alienated, nor him to lose his purchase. Christ was secure as to this when he said, Isa. 49:4: “Surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God;” and John 10:29, “My Father which gave them me is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hands:” that is, neither Satan, nor the world, nor the flesh, which three are the enemies of Christ’s sheep, shall ever have so much power as to make them unwilling to abide under the saving protection of the Father; for they cannot be pulled away against their will. This violent taking them away consists in the alone change of the will. Whence it appears, that these persons trifle in a matter of serious importance, who would have this condition understood, viz. unless they willingly depart from God. For the tendency of Christ’s discourse is to assure believers that their enemies shall never be able to make them foolishly steal away from God. We are to attend to Christ’s manner of arguing, which runs thus: “I give life to my sheep, nor shall they ever perish, because none can pluck them out of mine or my Father’s hands.” But if our adversaries’ answer be true, that they may cease to be sheep, and of their own accord, by their sins fly out of his hands, though not plucked out of them; then Christ’s reasoning would be weak and inconclusive. It is the greatest absurdity to restrict these words of Christ to those who have died in the faith; and that the plucking them out of Christ’s hand, denotes the detaining them under death and condemnation, and preventing their being raised by Christ from death to eternal life. For, 1st. Christ here speaks of the sheep which hear his voice and follow him; the voice of a stranger they hear not, but fly from him: all which belong to the state of this life. 2dly. It is evident that Christ here comforts believers against those temptations by which they are most of all annoyed. But what believer is much disquieted by the thought, that, when he is dead in the faith of Christ, and his soul is received into the heavenly mansions, he shall be detained under death and condemnation? Who once doubts, but his happiness is then firmly secured? 3dly. Nothing can be spoken more unsoundly than that “they who have died in the faith of Christ, are detained under death and condemnation;” as the babbling apologist for the Remonstrants is pleased to say. What! are those who have died in the faith of Christ under a condemnation, under which they can apprehend they may be detained?

XVI. 3dly. The Father has, by an immutable covenant and testament, promised to take care that the elect should not fall away from him to their eternal destruction. But to doubt of the faithfulness of God promising and bequeathing by testament is blasphemous. To this purpose is Isa. 54:10, “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee.” By which words, God not only in general declares that he will faithfully adhere to what he has promised in behalf of his children; but intimates the stability of the covenant of grace, which he calls the covenant of peace, beyond the covenant of works. Certainly God would have performed what he had promised in the covenant of works, provided man had persevered in his obedience; but in the covenant of peace he absolutely promises, that his goodness shall not depart from his covenant-people, because it was that which was to preserve them in holiness, and so to bring them to happiness. And in this sense also, it may be said of the new covenant, that “it is better, and established upon better promises,” Heb. 8:6, namely such as are absolute, without depending on any uncertain condition.

XVII. The same thing is more fully inculcated, Jer. 32:38–40, “and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: and I will give [put within] them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever. 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.” The very same thing we have Jer. 31:31, 32, 33. On these testimonies we are to observe, 1st. That God here, in explaining his gracious covenant, proposes it by way of testament, while he absolutely promises what he is to do, requiring no conditions to be performed by man. 2dly. That this covenant or testament, is said to be perpetual, or everlasting, with an express opposition to another Covenant, which depended on a mutual condition, broken by man, and abrogated by God, Jer. 31:32. 3dly. That there is not only a promise of the constant affection of God towards them, whereby he will never turn away from doing them good, to which promise some condition might be understood; but also of that fear of God whereby they shall not depart from him. Which being supposed, nothing further can be required. 4thly. That God says not he will invite them by his word, by the greatest promises, and by very many benefits to a constant fear of himself, and thus, by moral suasion, incline their minds as much as in him lay, which the Remonstrants repeat after the Socinians, but that he would actually, and by the invincible efficacy of his Spirit, put his fear in their hearts; the consequence of which would be, that “they should not depart from him.” Could this almighty conservation of believers be possibly promised in clearer terms?

XVIII. Almighty, I say: for what we are fourthly to observe is, that God exerts his super-eminent power in the performance of those promises, for their conservation: that power by which he is “greater than all,” as we have just heard our Saviour declaring. Of this Peter speaks 1 Pet. 1:5, “Who are kept by the power of God (as a garrison) through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.” There Peter testifies, 1st. That the elect are kept unto salvation by the power of God. It is not therefore possible they should perish. 2dly. He compares that power to a strong garrison, which may not only bravely repulse all external violence, but also easily quell all commotions of intestine rebellion; for both these are incumbent on soldiers in garrison. 3dly. He shows the means of their conservation, namely faith, whereby we cannot be preserved unless it also be preserved in us. Thus far of the Father.

XIX. Now let us take a view of the SON. And first consider at what rate he purchased the elect; not with gold or silver, but with his precious blood, with dreadful horrors of soul and tortures of body, with an accursed death, accompanied by the pains of spiritual and eternal death. Can any one think it probable, that Christ would suffer those, whom he purchased at so dear a rate, to be taken away from him, and to fall into the power of another, and even of him who is our most enraged enemy? What! Will not Jesus protect them who are now become his peculiar property? Why was he willing to be at such expense for their purchase? Why are they called “λαος εἰς περιούησιν, a people purchased,” 1 Pet. 2:9; and “λαος πἑριούσιος, a peculiar people,” Tit. 2:14? For περιποίησις and περιοὑσία are interpretations of the Hebrew word סנלה Segullah, which signifies a peculiar treasure, a thing of value, that is, a thing acquired by one’s labour and expence, and therefore exempted from all foreign right and power, to be carefully kept by the purchaser, and its loss to be deemed a great detriment and damage. Elegantly says Moses Gerundensis on Exod. 19:5, “Ye shall be in my hands a purchase, a beloved thing, which one puts not into the hands of another.” See what we have more fully said on these words in the preceding chapter, sect. 7. Or can he not keep them, unless they also themselves are willing? But he who could act so powerfully by his inclining efficacy on their will, when beset on every hand by the devil, as with full bent of soul towards him to rest, by faith and love, upon him; why can he not, by the same inclining efficacy, cause them, after having fully tasted his incredible sweetness, to abide with him with a fixed purpose of soul? Nay, he is both willing and able to keep them, and actually does so: “Those that thou gavest me, I have kept, and none of them is lost.” John 17:12. From what our Lord adds, “but the son of perdition,” we are not to conclude that Judas was, in the same manner given to Christ as the other apostles were; namely to be redeemed and saved. For “Christ knew who were his;” had long before known that Judas was a devil. John 13:18, and John 6:70. It is therefore plain that we cannot conclude, from the ruin of Judas, the perdition of those who are given to Christ to be redeemed, and whom he actually has redeemed with his own blood.

XX. Secondly, It is evident that the Lord Jesus is heard by his Father in all things, especially in those things which he asks as our intercessor. John. 11:42. But he prays the Father for all believers, that “he would keep them from the evil,” or the evil one. John 17:15, 20. Our adversaries, by a ridiculous sophistry, endeavour to subvert this invincible argument, by affirming that Christ has nowhere prayed for the absolute perseverance of believers in the faith; nay, would not have prayed so earnestly for their preservance, had God absolutely determined it should be so. This assertion, together with the reason annexed, is very rash and extremely false. It is a rash assertion: for, 1st. Where, in this petition of our Lord, is there the least sign of a conditional prayer? It is not for us to frame conditions at our pleasure. And then, 2dly, What condition is understood, when Christ says, keep them from the evil, or the evil one? Is it this? unless they become willing to join themselves to that evil one? But their conservation consists in this very thing, that they shall be constantly unwilling to do that. 3dly. The Remonstrants themselves deny not that Christ prayed for the absolute perseverance of Peter. Luke 22:32. But that immunity from defection, which he prayed for in behalf of his disciples, he also prayed for in behalf of all who were to believe by their ministry. John 17:20. The reason they gave is most false, because it supposes that none earnestly prays for what he knows to be certainly decreed by God. The contrary appears in David, 2 Sam. 7:27–29, “For thou, O Lord, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house; therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee.” And in Daniel; who, when he had found from the prophecies of Jeremiah, that the determined period for the Babylonish captivity was seventy years, immediately “set his face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications,” that he would do, what David knew from Jeremiah was certainly decreed by God. Dan. 9:3. And lastly, in Christ himself, who certainly knew that it was a thing fixed and decreed, that he was to be glorified with the glory which he had with the Father before the world was; and yet with no less earnestness does he ask for that, in this veryprayer, than he did for the conservation of his own people. John 17:5.

XXI. Thirdly, We have Paul’s authority to assert, that Jesus Christ built the church for his own house, Heb. 3:3. But Christ speaks of that building in order to show, by the strongest reasons, its impregnable stability; Matt. 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” From which place we argue these three ways. 1st. The building or house of Christ consists of “lively stones,” 1 Pet. 2:5, “fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth.” Eph. 4:16. But should it happen (which our adversaries pretend it sometimes does) that some lively stones die away, and that the dead are removed from their place; the work would be interrupted, the towering walls totter, and the edifice of the greatest artist be disgraced with many flaws. 2dly. A house built upon a rock stands secure against all the shocks of storms, streams and tempests. Matt. 7:25. But what rock is that? Here let that of the apostle directly strike our mind, 1 Cor. 10:4, “that rock was Christ.” “Who is a rock save our God?” Psa. 18:31. “Yea, there is no (rock) God, I know not any.” Isa. 44:8. Christ, therefore, is at the same time, under a different metaphor, both the architect and the foundation of this house. 1 Cor. 3:11. And seeing he his “the rock of ages,” Isa. 12:4, not only because he is from everlasting to everlasting, but also because he gives a blessed eternity and an eternal security to all those who are spiritually united to him: it is not possible that they should be torn, by any violence, or by any stratagem, from that rock on which they are built.

XXII. 3dly. What our Lord adds is most emphatical: “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Hell, in Greek ἄδης, Hades, in Hebrew שארל Sheol, in Scripture style signifies, the place and state of the dead: ἅδες property signifies, τον ἀϊδῆ τοπον, the unseen place, in which they who are, do not appear: שארל denotes that place, in which he who is, is to seek; whom you may seek, but not find. This place the Scriptures set in the lowermost parts, and oppose it to the high heavens. Matt. 11:23. Sometimes it signifies not so much a place as a state, as Gen. 37:35, where Jacob says, “I will go down שאולה, ἐις ἄδην, into the grave (Hades) unto my son, mourning;” though he imagined his son was devoured by beasts. In like manner, Psa. 49:14, “like sheep they are laid לשאול, ἐν ἄδη, in the grave (Hades).” Who yet are neither laid in a burying-place, nor carried away to a place of eternal torments. It therefore denotes the state of the dead: thus also Theophylact, on Luke 21. defines it, according to the opinion of many, “the translation of the soul from the state in which it appears (namely by its operations), into that in which neither appears nor is seen.” Moreover, both the place and the state of the dead may be considered, either with respect to the body or the soul; and both are called Hell or Hades. Hezekiah spoke of the former, Isa. 38:10, I shall go to the gates of (Sheol or Hades) the grave;” and the sacred writers very frequently. The profane writers place all the souls both of the just and unjust in Hades. Diodorus Siculus explains the fabulous figment of Hades, by “the torments of the wicked; and the Elysium, or flowery meadows of the pious.” And Iamblichus says, “We shall obtain in Hades, as the wise poets assert, the rewards of virtue:” Grotius, on Luke 16. has collected very much to this purpose. Yet I do not recollect that the Scriptures ever place the souls of the righteous in Hades. It therefore remains, that Sheol and Hades, when applied to the soul, denote a place of torments: and I see no reason why some learned men should deny this. For both Luke 16:23, and Prov. 5:5, persuade us of this; where Solomon says of the adulteress, “Her steps take hold on hell.” Her steps are not directed to that which is truly life, but to [Sheol] the place of eternal misery; and Prov. 7:27, “Her house is the way to hell (Sheol):” compare 1 Cor. 4:10, and Rev. 21:8, where whoremongers are excluded the kingdom of heaven, and thrust into the place which burns with fire and brimstone. To this purpose also is Prov. 15:24; “The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell (Sheol) beneath:” which the Septuagint translate, “ἴνα ἐκκλίνας ἐκ τοῦ ἄδοῦ σωθῆ, that declining from hell (Hades), he may be saved.” The wise man’s meaning is, that he may ascend to the heavenly mansions, where true life is enjoyed; and never sink down to hell, the place of eternal death. We see then, what hell signifies in Scripture; namely, in general, the state and place of the dead; and more especially the state and place of souls spiritually dead, who are associated with devils.

XXIII. But what mean the gates of hell? I think it may be far better learnt from Scripture than from the expressions used by the profane poets. 1st. Gates are the defence of a town, where bands of soldiers, and arms, and whatever may be necessary in sallies for repelling force, are usually kept in readiness. Hence we read of “the gates of the foundation,” 2 Chron. 23:5, which 2 Kings 11:6, is called, “the gate of retreat,” whither one may safely retire. 2dly. In the gates they formerly held courts of justice; Amos 5:15, “Establish judgment in the gate.” 3dly. In the gates was held the solemn assembly of the citizens, where they deliberated on difficult matters, and the elders gave prudent counsel: hence Ruth 3:11, “All the city (gate) of my people doth know,” that is, the whole assembly which usually meets in the gate; and Lament. 5:14, “the elders have ceased from the gate.” The gates of hell therefore signify: 1st. All the power of death, and of him who hath the dominion of it, that is the devil. 2dly. The bloody edicts passed, and cruel sentences of death pronounced, at the instigation of the devil, by the princes and dreaded tyrants of the world, on the confessors of the Christian truth. 3dly. All the craft and cunning of evil spirits, exciting each other mutually to deceive the godly.

XXIV. It is not to be doubted but these gates of hell have great strength and power; and yet they shall not prevail against the church. No force of the devil, though ever so strong, though he sallies out with his powers from the gates of hell against believers: no edicts of emperors, kings, and princes, though never so cruel, that are passed against them; no arts and deceits framed in the very council of hell, shall be able to subdue and force the saints from their faith in, and union with, Christ. And hence it is, that neither death, nor he that hath the power of death, can either bring or detain them under his dominion. This to us seems to be the fullest meaning of that saying.

XXV. Fourthly, Christ unites believers to himself, so that he is the head, and they, collectively taken, are the body; and every one in particular is a member of his body. Eph. 5:23. From this likewise we have a twofold argument. 1st. As it is impossible any member should be torn from the natural body of Christ, who is now in a state of glory; so it is no less impossible that any such thing should befall his mystical body. Because, as Christ, by the merit of his humiliation, obtained for himself a constant immunity in glory from all harm; so by the same merit he also obtained, “that he might present to himself” his whole mystical body “glorious,” Eph. 5:27, that is, the true church, and each spiritual member thereof. But this he could not do, were any of his members to be wholly cut of. 2dly. As the animal spirits, which produce motion in the members by means of the nerves, incessantly flow from the head to the lower parts, so that power and efficacy, wherein spiritual life both consists and is exercised, flows continually from Christ to believers; and though it unequally moves them to produce spiritual actions, he at least preserves that life, and will not suffer it altogether to be stifled.

XXVI. There is no ground to object the instance of David, as if, when he defiled himself by his adultery with Bathsheba, and was joined to her, “he had taken a member of Christ, and made it a member of an harlot,” according to 1 Cor. 6:15. For, 1st, It is certain that David was neither finally nor totally cut off from Christ. For the spiritual life, which incessantly flowed from Christ, being exceedingly oppressed, and almost stifled with the poison of sin, did, in its appointed time, powerfully exert itself by the evidence of a sincere repentance. Hence he begged of God “not to take his Holy Spirit away from him,” Psa. 51:11; intimating, that though he was indeed very much grieved and oppressed, yet not quite taken away. 2dly, Paul’s words run thus: “Α ρας οὖν τὰ μἕλη τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ποίησω πόρνης μἔλη; shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of on harlot?” But the verb ἄρω does not always signify to take away, but to take upon oneself, to attempt or enterprise something therewith. And so the meaning is, shall I take upon me to put the members of Christ to so vile a use? 3dly, The apostle does not say, that a person is so estranged from Christ by one act of incontinence, as to become one with the harlot; but speaks of him who is “joined to an harlot;” being as much inclined towards her, as a husband, by the command of God, towards his lawful spouse. In sum, “he declares the natural consequence of whoredom, and the usual case of those who do not desist from it: but he does not limit the grace and mercy of God; as if he who has joined himself to a harlot, could not for some time be continued in union with Christ.” These are the words of Ames in his Antisynodalia, de persever. sanct. c. 5.

XXVII. The HOLY SPIRIT, by an insurmountable efficacy, takes possession of the hearts of the elect, which was the place Christ had designed for him, and having vanquished and expelled the evil spirit, keeps his throne constantly there alone, and never quite forsakes his habitation: according to what Christ says, John 14:16, 17: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you.” This promise was not made to the apostles alone, nor does it treat of that effect of the Spirit only, by which they were rendered infallible, in preaching the gospel; but regards all believers. For, 1st, It is proposed as the fruit of our Lord’s ascension to heaven, and of his sacerdotal intercession; the benefit of all which redounds to all the elect. 2dly, He is not speaking concerning the Spirit, as the author of infallibility in teaching, which the apostles and some other evangelists had; but as an advocate and comforter, which belongs to all the faithful. 3dly, They to whom the Spirit is promised, are not distinguished from other believers, as teachers are from the common people; but from the world of reprobates, who neither see nor know the Spirit, and consequently cannot receive him. Nor are we to think that this continual indwelling of the Spirit is so promised to the whole church, that every member of it cannot claim it to himself: for, by these words, our Lord comforts every one of his disciples in particular; for being grieved for his approaching departure, he gives them the promises of such a presence of the Spirit, that shall never at any time be entirely taken from them. But so long as the Spirit of Christ dwells in any person, so long, it is self-evident, he is Christ’s, nor can he belong to the devil. We, indeed, allow, that the Holy Spirit, when he is ill treated and grieved by believers, will sometimes depart, as to the influences of his consolations, and their having cheerfulness in the spiritual life: yet abides with them as the source of their life, and the band of their union with Christ.

XXVIII. Nor is there any reason to object David’s prayer, Psa. 51:11, where he so earnestly entreats that God would not take away his Holy Spirit from him; which he would not have done, had he been assured he was never taken from the elect. For, 1st, We have proved already, sect. xx., the falsehood of that hypothesis; namely, that none prays fervently for what he is well assured will be granted him. 2dly, After a believer has fallen into so horrid a sin, his faith and his full assurance are usually so much shaken, that he dare not always securely promise himself the continuance of divine grace in that state: hence those sighs and anxious ejaculations of soul to his God. 3dly, When David prays that the Spirit of God may not be taken from him, it may be understood,—1. Of the Spirit of royal wisdom and military prowess, of which he had seen a melancholy instance in Saul. 2. Of the prophetic Spirit, which had before spoken by his mouth, 2 Sam. 23:2. 3. Of that operation of the Spirit, which should prevent his commission of other sins in the administration of government, whereby the wrath of God would be kindled against Israel. 4. Of those motions of the Spirit, whereby he now found his heart pricked, and which he sincerely wished, that they might not be stifled again, but heightened by new accessions, so as to end in a true and solid repentance.

XXIX. The case is different as to what we read, Isa. 63:10, “But they rebelled, and vexed his Holy Spirit; therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.” For he is not there speaking of elect believers, but of the rebellious Israelites. God had placed among that people his Holy Spirit, who spoke by the prophets and sanctified the elect. The rebellious resisted that Spirit, rushed upon him like wild beasts, Acts 7:51, by persecuting the faithful servants of God and his dear children,* Isa. 66:5. In this manner then, “they vexed his Holy Spirit,” who dwelt not in them, but in the prophets and other holy persons; that is, they gave him occasion to do those things which are the effects of wrath, and which are usually done by him who avengeth the injuries he has received; or, if we may explain it of the Spirit working in those rebels, then it is to be understood of the convictions of natural conscience, excited by the Spirit, which they impiously opposed. Therefore it was, “that he turned to be their enemy,” and rejected that people, and took their kingdom from them, and gave them up to hardness of heart: “and fought against them,” as well externally by his armies, which slew them, and destroyed their city and polity; as internally by terrors and anguish of conscience, Deut. 28:65. All which is no proof of the total departure of the Holy Spirit from believers.

XXX. As that Spirit continually abides in believers, so he is also in them as the spring of eternal life. For he is “the Spirit of life,” Rom. 8:3. His holy and comfortable energy is the life of the soul: for death reigns in a blind and depraved mind. John 17:3: “This is life eternal, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Spiritual life consists in knowing, loving, revering the grace and truth of God the Father and of Christ, and in the joy which arises from these; which is called eternal, because, when it is begun in this world, it is carried on by the continual influence of the Spirit, and brought to perfection in the world to come. In another place it is called “a root within,” Matt. 13:21. “The anointing which abideth,” 1 John 2:27. “The seed that remaineth,” 1 John 3:9. “A well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14.

XXXI. The nature of that life, which is infused into the elect in regeneration, is far different from that which was in Adam in innocence, though even that was holy, and from the Holy Spirit. For, 1st, In that state, man was left to himself, without any promise of the constant inhabitation of the Spirit; such as, we have just proved, the elect have now. 2dly, That cause which first produced this life, seems also to be the same which makes them persevere therein; but this life is implanted in man, who resists it, and takes pleasure in spiritual death, and sets himself with all his might against God: it is infused, I say, by the invincible efficacy of the Spirit, which Paul has so highly commended, Eph. 1:19. As, therefore, that efficacy of the Spirit has, notwithstanding, overcome and subdued those that resisted and opposed his operations, so, in like manner, after he has once settled himself in souls thus vanquished and subdued, he constantly keeps the place he has once occupied; and should any thing arise, either from within or from without, that should attempt to weaken it; the more violent the attack, the more carefully it will collect its whole force and prepare for a resistance. And what should retard its progress, when its enemies are now vanquished; seeing nothing could withstand its power in the beginning, when every thing was against it.

XXXII. Moreover, 3dly, This life flows from the life of Christ, Gal. 2:20, “Nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Moreover Christ, by his death, has obtained, that he should live for ever. Rev 1:18: “I am he that liveth, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore.” But Christ lives not only in glory with the Father as to his person, but also by his Spirit in the elect. The Spirit of life, which, residing in him as the fountain, flows from thence to his people, and he is the author of the same glorious life in them, which shall be perfected in their several degrees. And hence he argues from his own to our life, John 14:19, “because I live, ye shall live also.” This life therefore of Christ in us is different from the life implanted in Adam by creation. For that was given him for the trial of his constancy, and might therefore be lost. But after his constancy was at length tried, he might expect a confirmation in a holy and blessed life, as was the case with the blessed angels. Whereas the life of Christ in believers is the fruit of his satisfaction and merits, and therefore must be everlasting and eternal, that he might not lose the pains he had been at: and is to be compared, as, to its duration, not with the life of Adam, when in a state of probation, but with that life which he was to obtain, had he happily finished the course of his trial.

XXXIII. That expression of Paul is very memorable, which we have, Col. 3:3, “ye are dead,” namely, to the devil, the world, sin, and yourselves, “and your life is hid with Christ in God;” every word of this sentence is sufficient to prove the perpetuity of this life. Life here denotes that holy and blessed energy, or activity of believers, which result from the communication of the Spirit of Christ, which begins in this life, and is perfected in that which is to come. That life is hid, 1st, From believers themselves, who do not fully conceive the manner in which the Spirit now worketh in them; and still less that inexplicable knowledge, that perfect holiness, that unshaken love, that unspeakable joy, which is ready to be revealed in the last time, 1 Pet. 1:5; 1 John 3:2. 2ndly, From the world. For as Christ, who is our life, is not seen by the world; so neither does the world know, how we live in Christ, and Christ in us; but reckons these mysteries of our Christianity as a kind of melancholy madness. 3rdly, From the devil;* whose mortal blows and triumphs can have no access to it. The life of God’s children, like a most precious treasure, is laid up in a secret place, from which the evil Spirit cannot take it away, neither by open violence, or secret stratagem. In this sense it is said, Psa. 83:3: “They have consulted against thy hidden ones,” whom thou protectest in thy bosom. This life is hid “with Christ,” to whose care and custody it is intrusted, “who is able to keep that which is committed unto him against that day.” 2 Tim. 1:12. As Christ therefore, though invisible to the world, actually sits at God’s right hand, and will be really revealed; so in like manner, our life is with Christ, and is really kept for us. In fine, the same life is hid in God: that is, is contained in the decree and love of God, who, in his own time, will make it manifest for what end he loved us in Christ. The bosom of God is that most sacred repository, in which that treasure is kept safe.

XXXIV. The same Spirit, who is the author of this everlasting life, is the seal wherewith believers are sealed, Eph. 1:13. The apostle compares believers to “an epistle, written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God,” 2 Cor. 3:3. Now, that epistle contains God’s testament. And whenever the elect have received the promises of that testament by a lively faith, then, in some measure, they have the Spirit to write them on their minds. Moreover, God ratifies that inscription with the stamp of his seal. That seal is the Spirit of promise, not only with respect to the extraordinary gifts, which formerly abounded in the church (for these were neither conferred on all, nor on true believers only, neither were they an earnest of the hevenly inheritance), but chiefly with respect to saving gifts or graces. It is called “the Spirit of promise,” either because he was promised, or because it is his office to intimate to, write and seal the promises of the Gospel upon the hearts of believers. A sealing is the impression of the image, which is on the seal upon the thing sealed, whereby we both assure the person to whom we write, of the author thereof, and more strongly confirm the contents of the epistle or testament, so as he may have no doubt about the truth of the thing. This mystical sealing, therefore, by the seal of the Spirit, consists in the effectual communication of that divine light, purity, holiness, righteousness, goodness, blessedness, and joy which are found in the Holy Spirit; of which the first lines are drawn at the beginning of regeneration, and this is the writing on the heart by the Spirit. But after faith in Christ comes to be strong and operative, all these things are confirmed, strengthened, increased, and more deeply imprinted by the same Spirit; and in this deeper impression consists the sealing, by the view and sense of which believers have assurance that they are the children of God.

XXXV. Moreover, this sealing of the Spirit is a proof of the unshaken steadiness of believers, for the apostle himself with good reason, joins their establishment with this sealing, 2 Cor. 1:21, 22. “He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us.” For, 1st, The promises of the eternal testament are confirmed and ratified to us by that seal. The wonderful and almost incredible goodness of God shines forth in this matter. He not only promises the elect, that he will never depart from them, but will so order it, that they shall never depart from him. And he likewise ratifies the same in the sacred and inviolable writings of both testaments: but this is not all, for he also engraves the same promises, by the finger of his Spirit, on the hearts of the elect. Nor does he stop here: but he adds the seal of the same Spirit whereby they are assured, in the highest degree, of the donation of these excellent promises. 2dly, This sealing denotes a firm and indelible impression of the graces of the Holy Spirit. For who can efface God’s own seal, which he has appended to his eternal testament, and deeply impressed on the hearts of his people? 3dly, By this sealing, the sealed are rendered inviolable or sacred: thereby God declares that they are his peculiar property, which he will never suffer to be alienated, Rev. 7:3.

XXXVI. We cannot here omit that remarkable passage, 2 Tim. 2:19: “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his; and let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Chrysostom, by the “sure foundation of God,” understands, “These stedfast souls, who stand firm and immoveable.” Which exposition is suitable both to this context and to the language of Scripture. It is agreeable to this context: for the sure foundation of God is distinguished from those men, who suffered themselves to be drawn aside from the doctrine of the true faith, by the new doctrines and deliriums of deceivers, such as were Hymenæus and Philetus. And it is agreeable to the language of Scripture, where the believer is called “an יסרד עולם,” a foundation of ages, or “an everlasting foundation,” Prov. 10:15; and “a pillar in the temple of God, which shall go no more out,” Rev. 3:12. To this also might be referred, Isa. 28:16, where Christ is called פנת יקרת מוסד מוסד which may be translated “a precious corner (corner stone) of the surest foundation.” For, Christ is the corner-stone of his church, which, being built upon a rock, has the surest foundation; therefore the church of the faithful is the foundation. And as none but God can lay such a firm foundation, it is therefore called “the foundation of God.” “Ye are God’s building,” 1 Cor. 3:9. That foundation of God stands sure, and unshaken against all temptations. But what is the reason and cause of that stability? Believers have it not of themselves, but from the seal of God: of which seal a two-fold use is here proposed, 1st, To set a mark on the elect, as those who are known to and beloved by God, and on whom he imprints characters, as his peculiar treasure which he highly esteems and choicely keeps, and as testimonies of his dominion and property: of this it is said, “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” 2dly. To impress upon them the likeness of that holiness, which is in the seal, that is, in the Holy Spirit, whereby they are made to be diligently on their guard against iniquity and defection. To this purpose is the caution, “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.” For, whoever has this law inscribed within, so that it becomes the proper law of his heart, which he frequently repeats to himself, as from this he may know that he is chosen and beloved of God, so he carefully reserves himself for God, to whom he belongs.

XXXVII. In the last place, this Spirit is “ἀῤῥαβῶν τῆς κληρονομίας ἡμῶν, the earnest of our inheritance,” Eph. 1:14. Grotius has learnedly observed on this place, that the word ἀῤῥαβῶν (earnest) is not of Greek, but Syriac origin; but we say, it is of Hebrew derivation, as appears from Gen. 38:17, where Tamar asks ערבון Arabon, a pledge, of Judah. It is probable, the Greeks had this word from the Phenicians, with whom they carried on much commerce. But arrabo, an earnest, or, as the Latins express it shorter, arra, is a part of the price given beforehand, as an assurance that the whole should afterwards follow. And Chrysostom says, “ὸ ἀῤῥαβῶν μερος εστὶ τοῦ παντός, an earnest is part of the whole.” In like manner, those gifts of the Spirit of which we have just spoken, are a part of the future happiness, and of the principal thing that is to come after: and they clearly resemble that earnest, which the bridegroom gives to the bride in testimony of her communion with him in all his possessions. For who will not readily believe, that there is a reference here to the ceremony of betrothing? to which there is certainly an allusion, Hos. 1:21, 22. Moreover, that possession of which the Spirit is an earnest, is called “the inheritance of the children of God,” because it is perpetual, and never to be alienated from the possessors: whoever has it, has it continually, from the first moment of possession, through all the ages of eternity. Therefore we conclude, that it is not possible that they, who have once received the Holy Spirit, can forfeit the heavenly inheritance: because, otherwise, which God forbid, the Spirit of truth would be a false and fallacious earnest.

XXXVIII. Thus far we have shown, that the whole adorable Trinity contribute their part to the conservation of believers, whence it appears that their salvation is secure under such guardians. Let us now further enquire into the method which God takes for their conservation. First, then, he employs that infinite and supernatural power, by which he, at first, infused the beginning of the spiritual life into elect souls, so that it may be cherished and maintained for ever by no less efficacy than it was at first produced. To this purpose is what we have advanced, Sect. xviii. concerning the power of God displayed in this affair.

XXXIX. But, as it becomes God, to deal with a rational creature in a way suitable to its nature; so he superadds to that supernatural power some means, acting morally, as they commonly speak, by which the elect themselves are excited carefully to keep themselves under God’s protection. Here he uses the ministry of his Word, which is “the incorruptible seed,” and “the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever,” 1 Pet. 1:23. He sets before them the excellence of faith and godliness, thereby “confirming the souls” of his people, and “exhorting them to continue in the faith,” Acts 14:22. He gives the promises of a great reward to those and only those who persevere, Matt. 24:13. Rev. 2:10, 11. He subjoins the threatenings of a dreadful vengeance against backsliders and apostates, Ezek. 33:13–15: and at times awakens dull and drowsy souls with his chastening rod, and reminds them of their duty, Psa. 119:67, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept thy word.” These admonitions, promises, threatenings, and the like actions of God, towards the elect, are so far from giving the least ground to conclude any thing against their perseverance; that, on the contrary, they are powerful means for their conservation.

XL. For when God, by the power of his Spirit, excites the mind attentively to consider these things, a certain holy fear and trembling are produced on man, Phil. 2:12, which stir him up to be diligently upon his guard against the flesh, the world, and the devil, and all their snares, least, by being imposed upon by their deceits, he should do any thing prejudicial to his own salvation. And should it happen, that he has departed from God by some abominable iniquity, the sense of the wound he has given his conscience, and which, unless timely cured, must at last issue in eternal death, does not suffer him to be easy till, by renewed repentance, he has returned to God and obtained, with many tears, the pardon of his sin from his infinite mercy. And as every believer is conscious of his own weakness, therefore, with humble dependence on the assistance of divine grace, he is earnest in devout prayers for the continual influences of it, in order to his conservation and corroboration; praying, according to our Lord’s direction, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” And in this manner all true believers, being excited and assisted by God, also persevere and preserve themselves: “We know, that whosoever is born of God, sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not,” 1 John 5:18. And indeed, whoever forms a right judgment of the vileness of sin, the torments of hell, and the greatness of divine wrath; whoever has had but the slightest taste of the beauty of religion, the pleasantness of grace, the honour of eternal glory, and the incredible sweetness of the love of God; it is not possible he should not exclaim: “Lo! they that are far from thee shall perish; thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee: but it is good for me to draw near to God,” Psa. 73:2, 28. This is “with purpose of heart to cleave to the Lord,” Acts 11:23.

XLI. Hence appears the falsehood of the calumny of our adversaries, that, by this doctrine concerning the almighty conservation of God, a wide door is opened to profaneness and carnal security. That it is highly useful and effectual for the consolation of believers, provided it is true, will not be contradicted even by those who deny it. But nothing can be effectual for the consolation of the saints, which, at the same time, is not effectual for the promoting of holiness. For in every consolation, there is a demonstration of the beneficent love of God towards the wretched sinner who is solicitous about his salvation; and the clearer that demonstration of divine love is, and the more particular the application, the stronger also is the consolation. Besides, nothing is more powerful for inflaming our hearts with love to God, than the knowledge, sense, and taste of the divine love shed abroad in them. Whoever, therefore, most amplifies the powerful grace of God in his consolation, which impudence itself will not deny we do, presents to the saints the most powerful motives to divine love and the consequences thereof.

XLII. But let us more particularly show, that our doctrine is far more adapted to promote piety, than what our adversaries maintain concerning the unstable happiness of believers. And first, our doctrine doth certainly most of all illustrate the glory of God, which the opposite tends to obscure. We celebrate the infinite power of the Deity, whereby he can not only restrain our outward enemies from overthrowing our salvation, but also so fix the wavering disposition of our will, that it may not depart from the constant love of holiness; also his truth in the promises of the covenant of grace, on which we safely and securely rely; being assured, that he who hath promised will also perform; and his goodness, whereby he does not altogether reject or disinherit his children, or cut them off from the communion of Christ, even when they have fallen into some grievous sin, but by his fatherly chastisements, graciously recovers them from their fall and stirs them up to repentance; and his holiness, to which it is owing that he hides his face from his children, when, for some time, they seem to give too much way to sin, so that he does not grant them familiar access to himself, nor the influences of his consolations, but sharply stings and thoroughly terrifies their conscience with the sense of his indignation, lest he should appear to be like the sinner, or could bear with sin in his own people without resentment; and the efficacy of the merits and intercession of Christ, whereby he has acquired and preserves for himself an inheritance never to be alienated. In fine, we celebrate the invincible power of the Holy Spirit, who so preserves his mystical temple, that it neither can be destroyed, nor be made an habitation of impure spirits. But as the sum of our religion consists in glorifying God; so that which illustrates the glory of God in this manner, does most of all promote godliness.

XLIII. But as the opposite doctrine separates the immutable bent of the free will to good from the efficacy of divine grace; as it maintains that God does not always perform what he has promised; as it will not grant that God’s children, when they fall into some grievous sins, are chastised with rods, but disinherited and punished by spiritual death; as it asserts that the impetration of salvation by Christ may be perfect, and in every respect complete, though none should happen actually to be saved thereby, and that Christ was not always heard in his prayers; and that the Holy Spirit is sometimes constrained, by the mutability of the human will, to give up his habitation to the evil spirit; the opposite doctrine, I say, must in many respects, be injurious to the power, truth, and goodness of God the Father, to the merits and intercession of God the Son, and to the invincible efficacy of the Holy Spirit.

XLIV. 2dly, Our doctrine is excellently adapted to allure the unconverted seriously to endeavour after conversion and repentance; for the more sure and stable that happens it, which is promised to the penitent, the more effectual is the motive taken from the consideration of it. The Scripture every where dissuades men from searching after the good things of this world, and encourages them to seek those good things which are spiritual, from this argument, that the former will perish, but the latter endure for ever. John 6:27: “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.” 1 John 2:15, 17: “Love not the world: the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” And indeed, what can be more powerful to excite to repentance than this reflection? “As long as I am distracted with the anxious cares of this life, let my success be ever so great, I can only amass perishing treasures, of which I may perhaps be deprived in this very life, and the remembrance of which shall certainly torment me in the next. But if I diligently pursue the work of my conversion, I shall, from the very first moment of that, obtain that love of God in Christ, from which nothing shall ever be able to separate me again; and the sooner I enjoy that, the sooner I acquire that supreme good which is possessed without any danger of having my misery renewed.”

XLV. But the opposite doctrine is adapted to procrastinate endeavours after repentance. For, when it is inculcated on a man, that a child of God by regeneration, after having for some time been engaged in the practice of holiness, not only may, but actually has often fallen away, and become a child of the devil, been disinherited by his heavenly Father, and is with greater difficulty renewed to repentance, the further progress he had made in holiness: the thought will easily be entertained by those who hear of exhortations to repentance, that there is no occasion to press the matter of their conversion so strenuously in their tender years, lest perhaps, considering the great inconstancy of unstable youth, they be overtaken by some great sin and their condition be far worse than it was before: that it is more advisable to wait for those years (for we generally promise ourselves long life), in which both our judgment is riper, and the mind usually pursues with more constancy what it has once applied to, enjoying in the mean time the delights of this world. Now, nothing can be more pestilential than this thought, which yet this doctrine suggests.

XLVI. 3dly, Our doctrine is also very powerful to confirm the elect, already converted in the spiritual life, and to quicken them to the constant practice of religion, which may be proved various ways: 1st, All the arguments which are raised from the possible apostasy of the saints, are taken from the fear of punishment and the terror of dreadful threatenings; but those taken from God’s most powerful conservation, breathe nothing but his love and the incredible sweetness of divine grace. Moreover it is certain, that the children of God, “who have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father,” Rom. 8:15, are more powerfully drawn by the cords of love, than driven by the scourge of terror; for, “that love of Christ constraineth us,” 2 Cor. 5:14. 2dly, All our religion is nothing but gratitude; but it is clear, that that person more effectually promotes gratitude, who proves by cogent arguments, that the happiness bestowed from grace, shall be perpetual by the help of the same grace, than he who maintains, that though it be truly great, yet it may be lost. 3dly, It is equitable, that the better secured the reward of our duty is, the more diligent we should be in the practice of religion. For the consideration of the reward is among those things which render the commands of God sweet, Psa. 19:10. But we assure the faithful worshippers of God from his own word, that, from their very first entrance on the course of sincere godliness their reward is sure; calling upon them with the apostle, 1 Cor. 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” But our adversaries unhappily discourage all diligence, while they teach that we know not whether our labour shall be in vain or not, since it is possible we may fall away, and so have all along laboured for nothing.

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Reformed Theology at A Puritan's Mind