Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

1. Consider, that the doctrine of perseverance hath nothing in it to encourage security. The very controversies about it, may cause you to conclude, that a certain sin is not to be built upon a controverted doctrine. Till Augustine's time, it is hard to find any ancient writers, that clearly asserted the certain perseverance of any at all. Augustine and Prosper maintain the certain perseverance of all the elect, but deny the certain perseverance of all that are regenerated, justified, or sanctified: for they thought that more were regenerate and justified than were elect, of whom some stood (even all the elect) and the rest fell away: so that I confess, I never read one ancient Father, or Christian writer, that ever maintained the certainty of the perseverance of all the justified, of many hundred, if not a thousand years after Christ. And a doctrine, that to the church was so long unknown, hath not that certainty, or that necessity, as to encourage you to any presumption or security. The churches were saved many hundred years without believing it.

2. The doctrine of perseverance is against security, because it uniteth together the end and the means: for they that teach, that the justified shall never totally fall from grace, do also teach, that they shall never totally fall into security, or into any reigning sin. For this is to fall away from grace. And they teach that they shall never totally fall from the use of the necessary means of their preservation; nor from the cautious avoiding of the danger of their souls: God doth not simply decree that you shall persevere; but that you shall be kept in perseverance by the fear of your danger, and the careful use of means; and that you shall persevere in these, as well as in other graces. Therefore if you fall to security and sin, you fall away from grace, and shew that God never decreed or promised, that you should never fall away.

away

3. Consider how far many have gone that have fallen : the instances of our times are much higher than any I can name to you out of history. Men that have seemed to walk humbly and holily, fearing all sin, blameless in their lives, zealous in religion, twenty or thirty years together, have fallen to deny the truth, or certainty of the Scriptures, the Godhead of Christ, if not Christianity itself. And many

that have not quite fallen away, have yet fallen into such grievous sins, as make them a terrible warning to us all, to take heed of presumption and carnal security.

4. Grace is not in the nature of it, a thing that cannot perish or be lost. For, 1. It is a separable quality. 2. Adam did lose it. 3. We lose a great degree of it too oft; and the remaining degrees are of the same nature. It is not only possible in itself to lose it, but too easy; and not possible without co-operating grace to keep it.

5. Grace is not natural tó us; to love our ease, and honour, and friends, is natural; but to love Christ, and his holy ways and servants, is not natural to us: indeed when we do it, it is our natural powers that do it; but not as naturally disposed to it, but as inclined by the cure of supernatural grace. Eating, and drinking, and sleeping we forget not, because nature itself remembereth us of them; but learning and acquired habits may be lost, if not very deeply radicated; and it is commonly concluded as to the nature of them, that Habitus infusi habent se ad modum acquisitorum :' 'Infused habits are like to acquired ones.'

[ocr errors]

6. Grace is, as it were, a stranger, or new comer in us. It hath been there but a little while; and therefore we are but raw, and too unacquainted with the right usage and improvement of it; and are the apter to forget our duty, or to neglect it, or ignorantly to do that which tendeth to its destruction.

7. Grace dwelleth in a heart, which is not wholly dispossessed of those objects which are against its work, nor delivered from those principles which have an enmity against it. The love of the world and flesh was in the heart, before the love of God and holiness and ignorance was before knowledge, and pride before humility, and selfishness before self-denial. And these are not wholly rooted out; we have dealt so gently with them, (as the Israelites with the Canaanites, Jebusites and other inhabitants of the land) that they are left to try us, and to be thorns in our sides. And the garrison is not free from danger, that hath an enemy always lodged within: our enemies are in the house with us; they lie down and rise up with us, and are as near as our flesh and bones : we can never be where they are not, nor leave them behind us, whithersoever we go, or whatever we do.

No marvel, if brother be against brother, and the father against the son; when we are so much against ourselves". And are we yet secure?

8. And the number of snares that are still before us, and of the subtle, malicious enemies of our souls may easily convince us that we are not wholly free from danger. How subtle and diligent is the devil? How much do his servants imitate him? Every creature or person that we have to do with, and every common mercy which we receive, hath matter of danger in it, which calleth us to fear and watch. 9. Perseverance is nothing else but our continuance in the grace which we received: and this grace consisteth in act as well as in habit: and the habit is for action; and the act is it that increaseth and continueth the habit. And the fear of God, and the belief of his threatenings, and repenttance, and watchfulness, and diligent obedience, are a great part of this grace. And the acts are ours, performed by ourselves, by the helps of God: God doth not believe, and repent, and obey in us, but causeth us ourselves to do it. Therefore to grow cold, and secure, and sinful, upon pretence that we are sure to persevere, this is to cease persevering, and to fall away, because we are sure to persevere, and not to fall away: which is a mere contradiction.

66

10. Lastly, Bethink you well what is the meaning of all these texts of Scripture, and the reason that the Holy Ghost doth speak to us in this manner. "And you-hath he reconciled,--to present you holy :--if ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel"." Abide in me, and I in you. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withered. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye willd." "Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." Keep yourselves in the love of God." They drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ; but with many of them God was not well pleased: wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he falls."

66

"Be

not highminded, but fear; for if God spared not the natural

X. 21.

b Matt. xiii. 12.

• Heb. iv. 1.

66

C Col. i. 21-23.
f Jude 21.

d John xv. 4—7.

1 Cor. x. 4, 5. 12.

branches, take heed lest he spare not thee"." "Ye are fallen from grace i." "He that endureth to the end shall be saved k." "Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. For we are partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end1." 66 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the ample of unbelief." "Hold fast till I come "." that overcometh and keepeth my words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations"."

66.

Take heed therefore of that doctrine which telleth you, that sins to come are all pardoned to you before they are committed, and that you are justified from them, and that it is unlawful to be afraid of falling away, because it is impossible, &c. For no sin is pardoned before it is committed, (though the remedy be provided :) for it is then no sin and you are justified from no sin, any further than it is pardoned. Suppose God either to decree, or but to foreknow the freest, most contingent act, and there will be a logical impossibility in order of consequence, that it should be otherwise than he so decreeth or foreseeth. But that inferreth no natural impossibility in the thing itself: for God doth not decree or foresee that such a man's fall shall be impossible, but only non futurum.'

6

Direct. IV. In a special manner take heed of the company and doctrine of deceivers; yea, though they seem most religious men, and are themselves first deceived, and think they are in the right. And take heed of falling into a dividing party, which separateth from the generality of the truly wise and godly people '.' For this hath been an ordinary introduction to backsliding; false doctrine hath a mighty power on the heart. And he that can separate one of the sheep from the rest of the flock, hath a fair advantage to carry him away 9.

6

Rom. xi. 20, 21.
1 Heb. iii. 6. 14.

• Rev, iii. 2, 3. ii. 4.
See Rom. xvi. 16, 17.

<

Direct. v. Be very watchful against the sin of pride, especially pride of gifts, or knowledge, or holiness, which some call spiritual pride;' for God is engaged to cast down

same ex"And he

[blocks in formation]

the proud. "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." Satan assaulted our first parents by that way that he fell himself; and his success encourageth him to try the same way with their posterity. And, alas, how greatly hath he succeeded through all ages of the world till now!

6

Direct. vI. Take heed of a divided, hypocritical heart, which never was firmly resolved for God, upon expectation of the worst, and upon terms of self-denial, nor was ever well loosed from the love of this present world, nor firmly believed the life to come.' For it is no wonder that he falleth from grace, who never had any grace but common, which never renewed his soul. It is no wonder that falsehearted friends forsake us, when their interest requireth it; nor that the seed which never had depth of earth, doth bring forth no fruit, but what will wither when persecution shall arise, or that which is sown among thorns be choked. Sit down and count what it will cost you to be Christians, and receive not Christ upon mistakes, or with reserves.

[ocr errors]

Direct. VII. Take heed lest the world, or any thing in it, steal again into your hearts, and seem too sweet to you.' If your friends, or dwellings, or lands and wealth, or honours, begin to grow too pleasant, and be overloved, your thoughts will presently be carried after them, and turned away from God, and all holy affection will be damped and decay, and grace will fall into a consumption. It is the love of money that is the root of all evil; and the love of this world which is the mortal enemy of the love of God. Keep the world from your hearts, if you would keep your graces.

Direct. VIII. Keep a strict government and watch over your fleshly appetite and senset.' For the loosing of the reins to carnal lusts, and yielding to the importunity of sensual desires, is the most ordinary way of wasting grace, and falling off from God.

[ocr errors]

Direct. Ix. Keep as far as you can from temptations, and all occasions and opportunities of sinning.' Trust not to your own strength; and be not so foolhardy as to thrust yourselves into needless danger. No man is long safe that

Matt. xiii. Luke xiv. 26. 29. 33.

r Prov. xvi. 18.

t Rom. viii. 13. xiii. 13, 14.

« ÖncekiDevam »