Imágenes de páginas

sovereignty of God acting itself in infinite wisdom and grace, is the sole foundation of the covenant of grace, and runs through the whole mystery of the gospel. Thence proceeded the incarnation of the Son of God, and his being filled with all grace to be a Saviour; John iii. 16. Col. i. 19. John i. 16. Other account thereof none can be given. Thence was his substitution as the surety of the covenant in our stead, to undergo the punishment due to our sins; Isa. liii. 6. 10. 2 Cor. v. 21. Eternal election flows from thence, and is regulated thereby; Rom. ix. 11. 18. So doth effectual vocation, Matt. xi. 25, 26. and justification by faith; Rom. iii. 30. The like may be said of all other mysteries of the gospel. Love, grace, goodness, dispensed in a way of sovereign, unaccountable pleasure, are in them all proposed as the objects of our faith.. The carnal mind is pleased with nothing of all this, but riseth up in opposition unto every instance of it. It will not bear that the will, wisdom, and pleasure of God, should be submitted unto and adored in the paths which it cannot trace. Hence the incarnation and cross of the Son of God are foolishness unto it; 1 Cor. i. 23-25. The decrees of God as to election and reprobation, unjust and unequal, overthrowing all religion; Rom. ix. 17-21. Justification through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, that which everts the law, and renders all our own righteousness unnecessary. So in the whole mystery, in all the doctrine, precepts, or promises of the gospel, that spring from, or are resolved into the sovereignty of God, the carnal mind riseth up in opposition unto them all. For whereas the formal nature of faith consisteth in giving glory to God, by believing the things that are above reason as it is ours, and against it as carnal; Rom. iv. 18-21. this sets up an enmity unto it in all things. It is therefore always tumultuating against the mysteries of the gospel; and if it once come to make itself the judge of them, taking aid from sensual affections, and the vain imaginations of the mind, it will make havoc of all the articles of faith. And thus it seems to have fallen out in this matter. Those concerning whom we treat, seem to have cast off a due regard unto the soveriegnty of God, because themselves were never bowed by faith savingly thereto. Wherefore, in an opposition unto it, they have set up their light within, as the rule, measure,

and judge of the truths and doctrines of the gospel. Instead of becoming fools by a resignation of their reason and wisdom to the sovereignty of God, that so they might in the issue be really wise, they have become wise in their own conceit, and have waxed vain in their foolish imaginations. Neither indeed is there any broader way of apostacy from the gospel, than a rejection of God's sovereignty in all things concerning the revelation of himself and our obedience, with a refusal to 'bring into captivity every thought unto the obedience of faith,' which first brought forth Pelagianism, and of late Socinianism, as hath been shewed, from which two the whole of the present defection is derived.

Sixthly, We may add hereunto, as another spring of this partial apostacy, want of an evidence in themselves of the divine authority of the Scriptures. It is not enough to establish any man in the profession of the gospel, to own in general that the Scripture is the word of God, or a divine revelation of his will. He that hath not an experience of a divine authority in it upon his own soul and conscience, will not be steadfast when his trial shall come. God looks with regard unto them alone who tremble at his word, as owning his present authority in it. Where this doth not abide upon them, unlearned and unstable men (as the apostle speaks) will be bold to wrest the Scriptures to their destruction, or to prefer other things before them, or at least to equalize them with them. It is not therefore enough that we assent unto the truth of the word of God, unless also we are sensible of its power, and of that claim which it makes in the name of God, of the absolute subjection of our whole souls and consciences unto it. Now this evidence in themselves of this present divine authority, differing it unconceivably from all other real or pretended conveyances of truth, these persons either never had, or have insensibly lost, or cast off openly, the yoke of God therein. Hereon every imagination of their own exalts itself into an equality of right and authority with it. The end of these things is, that God gives men up to 'strong delusions to believe a lie,' because they received not, or retained not the truth in the love thereof;' 2 Thess. ii. And when once it comes unto this, it is the work of Satan (which he easily accomplisheth), both to suggest unto them end


less delusions, and to render them so obstinate therein, as that they shall despise every thing that is tendered unto conviction.

This is the first way whereby men fall away from the gospel, namely, from the mystery and doctrine of it as it is the object of our faith; wherein they do what in them lies 'to crucify the Son of God afresh, and to put him unto open



Apostacy from the holiness of the gospel; the occasion and cause of it. Of that which is gradual, on the pretence of somewhat else in its room. THERE is, secondly, a falling away from the gospel, with respect unto the holiness of its precepts, which is to be the matter, as they are the rule of our obedience. And this also is of a nature no less perilous, and attended with consequents and effects no less dangerous than the former, and doth no less than that expose the Son of God to open shame. Yea, an apostacy from the holiness of the gospel, is on many accounts more dreadful and dangerous than a partial apostacy from its truth. For as it is more spreading and catholic than that is, and of less observation or esteem; so it is usually more irrecoverable, most men under it being greatly hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Besides, commonness hath taken off the sense of its evil and danger. If there be an error broached against the doctrine of the gospel, it is odds but some or other will take notice of it, confute it, and warn all men of the danger wherewith it is attended. But let the whole world (as it were) lie in evil, let the generality of mankind drown themselves in lusts and pleasures, let the lives and conversations of men be as contrary to the rule of the gospel as darkness is to light, so they make no disorder in this or that way of outward worship, and be either good Catholics, or good Protestants, or any thing else of that kind; he shall scarcely escape the censure of peevishness and severity (it may be of self-conceitedness and hypocrisy) who shall reflect any great blame on these things. And yet notwithstanding this

partiality in judgment or practice, with respect unto these evils, it is generally acknowledged that it is possible that men may please God and be accepted with him, notwithstanding many mistakes, errors, and misconceptions of their minds about spiritual things: but that any one should ever come unto the enjoyment of him, who lives and dies impenitently in any sin against the rule and tenour of that holiness which the gospel requireth, I know as yet none that pleadeth. For once to pretend that men may live in, and habitually act, any known sin, without striving against it, labouring for repentance, and endeavouring its mortification, is all one as avowedly to attempt the overthrow of Christian religion. Wherefore, on these and sundry other considerations, this latter sort of apostacy from the holiness of the gospel, is at least as perilous, as much to be opposed, and contended against, as that which is from the mystery and doctrine of it; and that whereof the generality of men are more earnestly to be warned, as the evil whereunto they are more obnoxious than to the other. And we do conjoin both these together, not only as those which are of the same tendency, and do alike both ruin the souls of men, and put the Lord Christ to open shame, but also as those concerning which we are forewarned, that they shall enter into and come in the world together in the latter days. And whatever sense the latter days mentioned in the Scripture may be taken in, either those of the world and of religion in general, or of the particular churches whereunto men may belong, they are unquestionably come upon us, whose danger and duty therefore is declared in these preadmonitions. Wherefore, of the first our apostle speaketh, 1 Tim. iv. 1. The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed I doubt to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.' not but this prediction had its signal accomplishment in the papacy; and am well persuaded, that the Holy Ghost had respect in particular unto those principles and practices which a learned person of this nation hath laid open, under the title of The Apostacy of the latter Times. But we find also by woful experience, and that renewed almost every day, that it hath respect unto us also and the times wherein we live.

[ocr errors]

The entrance and coming of that kind of apostacy which we have now designed to treat of, is in like manner foretold, 2 Tim. iii. 1-5. The sum of what the apostle there instructeth us, is, That in these latter times, under an outward profession of the gospel, men should give up themselves unto the pursuit of the vilest lusts, and the practice of the most abominable sins. And we fear this prediction is in like manner fulfilled.

Now although these things are evil and dangerous, both in their own nature and tendency, especially as they come together and make their joint attempt against the honour of Christ, and the salvation of the professors of the gospel; yet this prediction of them, and pre-admonition concerning them, may be of advantage unto them that are sincere and upright, if duly improved.

For, (1.) If this twofold ruinous apostacy will and doth press upon us, on whom these ends of the world are come, we ought surely to stand upon our guard, that we be not surprised with it, nor overcome by it. How ought we to spend our sojourning here in fear! It was the advice of him whose confidence had like to have been his ruin. It is assuredly no time for any to be careless and secure, who design or so much as desire to be preserved from this fatal evil. However, we cannot any of us plead that we were not warned of our danger, nor called on for that circumspection and watchfulness, that care and diligence, that earnestness for divine help and assistance, which our condition requireth, and which will be a means of deliverance and safety. And,

(2.) Being found in the way of our own duty, we need not be greatly moved or shaken in our minds when we see these things come to pass. It may be, a prospect of the state of religion at this day in the world is ready to terrify the minds of some, at least to fill them with amazement. For if things should always so proceed, they may be afraid lest Christian religion should at length lose all its beauty and glory. But these things are all of them punctually foretold, whereby the efficacy of the temptation from their coming to pass is prevented. Yea, considering that all our faith is resolved into the Scripture, and built on the infallibility of its prophecies and predictions, seeing they

« AnteriorContinuar »