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and irrevocably bound himself, to make you faithful unto death
“ Well, then,” says an Arminian, " if these things are so, I am safe at all events. I may fold up my arms, and even lay me down to sleep. Or, if I choose to rise and be active, I may live just as I list.”. Satan was the coiner of this reasoning; and he offered it, as current and sterling, to the Messiah; but Christ rejected it as false money.-If thou be the son of God, said the enemy; if thou be indeed that Messiah whom God upholds, and his elect, in whom his soul delighteth, cast thyself headlong; it is impossible thou shouldst perish, do what thou wilt; no fall can hurt thee; and thy father has absolutely promised, that his angels shall keep thee in all thy ways; jump therefore, boldly, from the battlements, and fear no evil.
The devil's argumentation was equally insolent and absurd, in every point of view. He reasoned, not like a serpent in his wits, but like a serpent whose head was bruised (a), and who had no more of understanding than of modesty. Christ silenced this battery of straw, with a single sentence: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God (6). So said the Messiah. And so say we.
And this is answer enough, to a cavil, whose palpable irrationality would cut its own throat, without the help of any answer at all.
God's children would be very glad, if they could “ live as they list.” How so? Because it is the will, the desire, the wish, of a renewed soul (i. e. of the new man, or the believer's regenerate part; for old Adam never was a saint yet, nor ever will be); it is, I say, the will and the wish of a renewed soul, to please God in all things, and never to sin, on any occasion, or in any degree. This is the state, to which our pantings aspire; and in which (would the imperfection of human nature admit of such hap
piness below) we“ list” to walk. For every truly regenerated person can sincerely join the apostle Paul, in saying, With my mind I myself serve the law of God (a), and wish I could keep it better.
God's preservation is the good man's perseverance. He will keep the feet of his saints (6). Arminianism represents God's Spirit, as if he acted like the guard of a stage-coach, who sees the passengers safe out of town for a few miles ; and then, making his bow, turns back, and leaves them to pursue the rest of the journey by themselves. But divine grace does not thus deal by God's travellers. It accompanies them to their journey's end, and without end. So that the meanest pilgrim to Sion may shout, with David, in full certainty of faith, Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all my days, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (c). Therefore, for preserving grace, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give the glory, for thy loving mercy, and for thy truth's sake.
7. After God has led his people through the wilderness of life, and brought them to the edge of that river which lies between them and the heavenly Canaan, will he intermit his care of them, in that article of deepest need ? No, blessed be his name. On the contrary, he always safely; and, generally, comfortably) escorts them over to the other side; to that good land which is very far off, to that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.
I know there are some flaming Arminians who tell us, that “ a man may persevere until he comes to die, and yet perish in almost the very article of death :” and they illustrate this wretched, goddishonouring, and soul-shocking doctrine, by the simile of “a ship's foundering in the harbour's mouth."
(a) Rom. vii, 25.
(6) 1 Sam. ii. 9,
(c) Psalm xxiii.
It is very true, that some wooden vessels have so perished. But it is no less true, that all God's chosen vessels are infallibly safe from so perishing. For, through his goodness, every one of them is insured by him whom the winds and seas, both literal and metaphorical obey. And their insurance runs this: When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and when through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee (a). The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion, with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads (6): so far from foundering within sight of land.
Even an earthly parent is particularly careful and tender of a dying child : and, surely, when God's children are in that situation, he will (speaking after the manner of men) be doubly gracious to his helpless offspring, who are his by election, by adoption, by covenant, by redemption, by regeneration, and by a thousand other indissoluble ties.
There are no marks of shipwrecks, no remnants of lost vessels, floating upon that sea, which flows between God's Jerusalem below and the Jerusalem which is above. The excellent Dr. William Gouge (c) has an observation full to the present point. “If a man,” says he,
says he, “ were cast into a river, we should look upon him as safe, while he was able to keep his head above water. The church, Christ's mystic body, is cast into the sea of the world [and, afterwards, into the sea of death]; and Christ, their head, keeps himself aloft, even in heaven. Is there then any fear, or possibility, of drowning a member of this body ? If any should be drowned, then either Christ himself must be drowned first, or else that member must be pulled from Christ: both which are impossible. By virtue, therefore, of this union, we see that on Christ's safety, ours depends. If he is safe, so are we. If we perish, so must he."
(a) Ita. xliii. 2.
(6) Isa. xxxv. 10.
(c) Expos. of Eph. v.
Well, therefore, may dying believers sing, Not unto us, O Lord, but to thy name, give glory! Thy loving mercy carries us, when we cannot go: and, for thy truth's sake, thou wilt save us to the utmost without the loss of one.
8. When the emancipated soul is actually arrived in glory, what song will he sing then? The purport of the text will still be the language of the skies : Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give the praise.
Whilst we are upon earth, we have need of that remarkable caution, which Moses gave the children of Israel (a): Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, for my righteousness, the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess this land.
Understand, therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land, to possess it, for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiff-necked people. Now, if the earthly Canaan, which was only a transitory inheritance, was unattainable by human merit; if even worldly possessions are not given us for our own righteousness' sake; who shall dare to say, that heaven itself is the purchase of our own righteousness! If our works cannot merit even the vanishing conveniences and supplies of time : how is it possible, that we should be able to merit the endless riches of eternity? We shall (6) need no
(a) Deut. ix. 4, &c.
(6) I have been informed, that, when the news of John Goodwin's death was brought to his uncle, Dr. Thomas Goodwin, the latter cried out, “ Then there is another good man gone to heaven.”—“ Gone to heaven, Sir?” answered the person; why, your nephew was an Arminian.”. - The Doctor replied, “ True: he was an Arminian, on earth ; but he is not an Arminian now.”
Whether Jobn Goodwin went to heaven, or not (which is a question too high for sublunary decision), certain it is, as I have already observed, that not one inhabitant of the celestial city ever
cautions against self-righteousness, when we get safe to that better country. The language of our hearts, and of our voices will be; and angels will join the concert; and all the elect, both angels and men, will, for ever and ever, strike their harps to this key; Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name, give the glory, for thy loving mercy, and for thy truth's sake.
O may a sense of that loving mercy and truth be warmly and transformingly experienced in our hearts! For indeed, my dear brethren, it is ex, perience, or the felt power of God upon the soul, which makes the gospel a savour of life unto life. Notwithstanding God's purpose is stedfast as his throne; notwithstanding the whole of Christ's righteousness and redemption is finished and complete, as a divine and almighty agent could make it; notwithstanding I am convinced, that God will always be faithful, to every soul whom he has called out of darkness into his marvellous light; and notwithstanding none can pluck the people of Christ from his hands; still, I am no less satisfied, that it must be the feeling sense of all this, i. e. a perception wrought in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, that will give you and me the comfort of the Father's gracious decrees, and of the Messiah's finished work.
I know it is growing very fashionable, to talk against spiritual feelings. But I dare not join the cry. On the contrary, I adopt the apostle's prayer, that our love to God, and the manifestations of his love to us, may abound yet more and more, in knowledge and in all feeling (a). And it is no enthucarried a single particle of Arminianism with him into the gates of that Jerusalem. Of every Arminian now living, whose name is in the book of life, it may be truly said, that, if grace do not go so far as to make him a Calvinist on earth, glory (i. e. grace made perfect) will certainly stamp him a Calvinist, in the kingdom of God, at farthest.
(a) Phil i. 9.–The word awonois (rendered judgment in our English translation) literally and properly signifies feeling, or