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were future. Moreover a thing is said to be possible, in reference to some power which can accomplish it; whether it be God's power or angel's or man's. God hath decreed that none of his elect shall finally or totally fall away and perish ; and therefore their so falling and perishing is not future ; that is, it is a thing that shall never come to pass. But God never decreed that it should be utterly impossible, and therefore it still remaineth possible, though it shall never come to pass.
Object. • But it is said, “They shall deceive, if it were possible, the very elect.
' Answ. A most comfortable place, which many oppposers of election and free grace do in vain seek to obscure. But let me tell you for the right understanding of it, That as I said, possible and impossible are relative terms, and have relation to the power of some agent, as proportioned to the thing to be done. Now this text speaks only of the power of false Christs, and false prophets and the devil by them. Their power of deceiving is exceeding great, but not great enough to deceive the elect; which is true in two respects, 1. Because the elect are guided and fortified by God's Spirit. 2. Because seducers work not efficiently, but finally, by propounding objects ; or by a moral, improper efficiency only. All their seducement cannot force or necessitate us to be deceived by them. But though it be impossible to them to do it, yet it is possible to God to permit (which yet he never will,) and so possible for ourselves to be our own deceivers, or to give deceivers strength against us, by a wilful receiving of their poisoned baits. 3. Besides Christ spoke not in Aristotle's school, but among the vulgar, where words must be used in the common sense, or else they will not be understood. And the vulgar use to call that impossible which shall never come to pass.
There is a consequential impossibility of the event, because it is directly impossible that God should be mutable or deceived; even as contingents may be consequentially and accidentally necessary. But in its own nature, alas our apostacy is more than possible.
And indeed when we say that it is possible or impossible for a man to sin or fall away, there is some degree of impropriety in the terms, because possible and impossible are terms properly relating
to some power apportioned to a work; but sinning and falling away thereby, are the consequents of impotency, and not the effects of power ; except we speak of the natural act, wherein the sin abideth. But this must be borne with, for want of a fitter word to express our meaning by. But I will leave these things which are not fit for you, and desire you to leave them and overpass them, if you understand them not.
I here told you also, that you must not look to be above all apprehension of danger of your miscarrying. The grounds of this are these : 1. Because as is said, our miscarrying remaineth still possible. 2. Because the perfect, certain knowledge of our election, and that we shall not fall away, is proper to God only; we have ourselves but a defective, interrupted assurance of it. 3. The covenant gives us salvation but on condition of our perseverance, and perseverance on condition that we quench not the Spirit, which we shall do if we lose the apprehension of our danger. 4. Accordingly there is a connexion in our assurance, between all the several causes of our salvation, and necessaries thereto; whereof the apprehension of danger is one. We are sure we shall be saved, if we be sure to persevere ; else not. We are sure to persevere, if we be sure faithfully to resist temptations. We can be no surer of faithful resisting of temptations, than we are sure to be kept in an apprehension of our danger.
I still say therefore, that the doctrine of Antinomians is the most ready way to apostacy and perdition ; and no wonder if it lead to licentiousness and scandals, which our eyes have seen to be its genuine fruits ! They cry down the weakness, unbelief, and folly of poor Christians, that will apprehend themselves in danger of falling away, and so live in fear, after they are once justified ; and that if they fall into sin (as whoredom, drunkenness, murder, perjury, destroying the ministry, and expelling the Gospel, &c.), will presently question or fear their estates and their justification. Such like passages I lately read in some printed sermons of one of my ancient acquaintance, who would never have come to that pass that he is at now, if his judgment and humility had been as great as his zeal. I entreat you therefore never to expect
uch an assurance as shall extinguish all your apprehensions of danger. He that sees not the danger, is nearest it, and likely to fall into it. Only he that seeth and apprehendeth it, is likely to avoid it. He that seeth no danger of falling away, is in greatest danger of it. I doubt not but that is the cause of the seditions, scandals, heresies, blood-guiltliness, destroyers of the churches of Christ, and most horrid apostacies, hypocrisy, and wickedness, which these late times have been guilty of; and they apprehended not the danger of ever coming into such a state, or ever doing such things, but would have said, "Am I a dog ? to him that should have foretold them what is come to pass. Wonderful! that men should be so blinded by false doctrine, as not to know that the apprehension of danger is made in the very fabrication of the nature of man, to be the very engine to move his soul in all ways of self-preservation and salvation! Yea, it is that very supposed principle upon which all the government of the world, and the laws and order of every nation, are grounded. We could not keep the very brutes from tearing us in pieces, but for their own safety, because they apprehended themselves to be in danger by it. The fear of man is that restraineth them. But for this, no man's life would be in any safety, for every malicious man would be a murderer. He that feareth not the loss of his own life, is master of another man's. Do these men think that the apprehension of bodily dangers may carry them on through all undertakings, and be the potent string of most of their actions, and warrant all those courses that else would be unwarrantable, so that they dare plead necessity to warrant those fearsul things which by extenuating language (like Saul's) are called irregularities! And yet that it is unlawful or unmeet for a Christian, yea the weakest Christian, to live in any apprehensions of danger to their soul : either danger of sinning, or falling away, or perishing for ever? No wonder if such do sin, and fall away and perish. Would these men have fought well by sea or land, if they had apprehended no danger ? Would the earth have been so covered with carcasses, and with blood (yea, even of saints) and the world filled with the doleful calamities that accompanied and have followed, if there had been no apprehensions of danger? Would they
ke physic when they are sick? Would they avoid fire or water, or thieves, but through an apprehension of danger? Let them talk
what they please, if ever they escape hell, without a deep apprehension of the danger of it, it must be in a way not known by Scripture, or by nature. Sure I am Paul did tame his body, and bring it into subjection, through an apprehension of this danger, lest when he had preached to others, himself should be a castaway or reprobate? 2 Cor. ix. 27. And Christ himself, when he biddeth us " fear not them that can kill the body," (whom yet these men think it lawful to fear and fight against) yet chargeth us with a double charge, to “ fear him that is able to destroy both body and soul in hell : yea, I say unto you, (saith Christ,) fear him ;" Luke xii. 5. What can be plainer ? and to his disciples ? My detestation of these destructive Antinomian principles, makes me to run out further against them than I intended; though it were easy more abundantly to manifest their hatefulness. But my reasons are these : 1. Because the mountebanks are still thrusting in themselves, and impudently proclaiming their own skill, and the excellency of their remedies for the cure of wounded consciences, and the settling of peace ; when indeed their receipts are rank poison, gilded with the precious name of Christ, and free grace. 2. Because I would not have your doubtings cured by the devil ; for he will but cure one disease with another, and a lesser with a far great
If he can so cure your fears and doubtings, as to bring you into carnal security and presumption, he will lose nothing by the cure, and you will get nothing. If he can turn a poor, doubting, troubled Christian to be a secure Antinomian, he hath cured the smart of a cut finger by casting them into a lethargy, or stupefaction by his opium. To go to Antinomian receipts to cure a troubled soul, is as going to a witch to cure the body. 3. I would have you sensible of God's goodness to you, in these very troubles that you have so long laid under. Your blessed physician knew your disease, and the temperature of your soul. Perhaps he saw that you were in some danger of being carried away with the honors, profits, or treasures of this world; and would have been entangled in either covetousness, pride, voluptuousness, or some such desperate sin. And now by these constant and extraordinary apprehensions of your danger, these sins have been much kept under, temptations weakened, and your danger prevented. If you have found
no such inclinations in yourself, yet God might find them. Had it not been far worse for you to have lain so many years in pride, sensuality, and forgetfulness of God, and utter neglect of the state of your soul, than to have lain so long as you have done in the apprehensions of your danger ? O love and admire your wise Physician! Little do you know now what he hath been doing for you ; nor shall you ever fully know it in this life ; but hereafter you shall know it, when your sanctification, and consolation and his praises shall be perfected together. 4. If you should for the time to come, expect or desire that God should set you out of all apprehension of danger, you know not what it is that you desire. It were to desire your own undoing. Only see that you apprehend not your danger to be greater than it is; nor so apprehend it as to increase it, by driving you from Christ, but as to prevent it by driving you to him. Entertain not fancies and dreams of danger, instead of right apprehensions. Apprehend your happiness and grounds of hope and comfort, and safety in Christ, and let these quite exceed your apprehensions of the danger. Look not on it as a remediless danger, or as greater than the remedy. Do not conclude that you shall perish in it, and it will swallow you up. But only let it make you hold fast on Christ, and keep close to him in obedience. Shall I lay open all the matter expressed in this section, by familiar comparison?
A king having many subjects and sons, which are all beyond sea, or beyond some river, they must needs be brought over to him before they can live or reign with him. The river is frozen over at the sides, till it come almost to the middle. The foolish children are all playing on the ice, where a deceiving enemy enticeth them to play on till they come to the deep, where they drop in one by one and perish. The eldest son, who is with the father on the other side, undertaketh to cast himself into the water, and swim to the fürther side, and break the ice, and swim back with them all that will come with him and hold him. The father bids him, “Bring all my subjects with you, if they will come and hold by you ; but
fail not to bring my sons. This is resolved on; the prince casteth himself into the water, and swimmeth to the further side. He maketh a way through the ice, and offereth all of them
be sure you