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DR. DUBIUS.Under correction, Sir, I conceive man is never immutably good till he arrives in heaven. As long as he con-, verseth here below he is like other sublunary things, subject to change. * The reason is, beside temptations from without to allure and draw him, he hath a two-fold principle, a new and an old man within him,-the flesh and the spirit in contestation : “ The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” (Gal. v, 17.) This conflict is in the regenerate: And that he hath liberty to side with either of these parties, and so to change, I think cannot be denied. He hath a liberty through God's grace to side with the Spirit against the flesh; and hereupon he is exhorted to “ abstain from fleshly lusts, to mortify his earthly members, and to walk in the Spirit.” His liberty to side with the flesh, is but too evident. And therefore the words “ CANNOT sin" must be taken, not physicè but ethicè, “ Not for a natural impotency but a moral one."—He cannot do it legally ; + or for an averseness of mind, which, notwithstanding, is capable of being altered. It is said of Christ sometimes, that “ He could do no mighty work.” (Mark vi, 5.) And so it is said, that the brethren of Joseph “could not answer him.” (Gen. xlv, 3.) And the angel “ could do nothing against Sodom,” till Lot were escaped into Zoar. I (Gen. xix, 22.) And it is usual in our common speech to say, “We cannot do a thing," when the thing is not impossible to be done, but only it is unlanful or inconvenient for us to do it: If we set aside the inconvenience and step over the hedge of the law, (as many times we do,) we can find power enough to do it. And so it is here. Therefore to that of our Saviour, (Matt. vii, 18.) “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit,”. St. Jerome addeth, Quamdiù in bonitatis studio perseverat, “ as long as it perseveres in the study and love of goodness.” Thus “ he that is born of God,” while he acteth according to the nature of the principles of his new birth, and studies to follow and resemble his Heavenly Father, -cannot deliberately yield to any kind of sin. Hæc non admittet omnino qui natus è Deo fuerit ; non futurus Dei filius si admiserit,
* Quod Angelis casus hominibus mors. “ That which is a fall to Angels, IS DEATH to men."
+ Id possumus, quod jure possumus. “ We can do that which may lawfully be done."
See Jos. xxiv, 19, 21.
saith Tertullian; “ Jie that is born of God, will not at all admit such sins as these; he shall not be a child of God, if he doth admit them.” As for that guard you mention out of St. Peter, “ They are kept by the power of God;" We must consider that we are to add a guard of our own to it, as is required, (Jude xx, 21.) “ But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, KEEP YOURSELVES in the love of God:” And St. Peter adds, “ through faith.” (1 Pet. i, 5.) The Psalmist saith, “ Except the Lord keepeth the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” But he doth not say, “ The Lord will keep the city, whether the watchman waketh,” yea or no. He that setteth the watch, and is Captain of the guard over us, saith, “ Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation ;” and we can promise ourselves safety no longer than [while] we are upon our duty. “He that is begotten of God, keepeth himself; and that wicked one toucheth him not." (1 John v, 18.) That is the effect or event of his duty, if he be careful to observe it. But though Christ hath freed us from the dominion of the enemy, yet if we do voluntarily render ourselves up again to his power, “his servants we are to whom we obey.” (Rom. vi, 14, 16.) Or if we quit our guard, and suffer ourselves to be surprised through our wilful carelessness, · we are involved in a like thraldom ; for " of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.” (2 Pet. ii, 19.)
INDEFECTIBLE.-Sir, the Apostle hath taught us to distinguish betwixt “a sin unto death,” and “a sin not unto death.” (1 John v.) We confess, the regenerate may fall into sin, but not into sin unto death. “ Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” (Psalm xxxvii, 24.)
Dr. DUBIUS.-For that place of the Psalmist, the context đoth clear the meaning to be of falling, not into sin, but into affliction and misery. Yet I do not deny, but God out of his abundant mercy is ready, in a way agreeable to his wisdom and justice, to assist such as fall into sin, in order to their rising again. But I am in some doubt, whether the regenerate may not “ sin a sin unto death :” and that as well if you consider the event, as the demerit of his sin. For the moderate, and those not inferior in learning to the more rigid, of the Synod of Dort, do acknowledge, “that the regenerate may not only fall from certain degrees of grace, and intermit the acts of grace: but
likewise that they may fall into such sins as leave them under a damnable guilt, so that they have need of an actual renewal of repentance, and a new absolution ; that they lose their present aptness to enter into the kingdom of heaven, into which no unclean thing shall enter.”* And that David and Solomon fell thus far, will be evident, if you consider the nature of their sins, and apply these following Scriptures to them: 1 Cor. vi, 9, 10; Gal. v, 21 ; Apoc. xxi, 7, 8; 1 John iii, 15. Now let us consider, whether it be not possible for a man, that is fallen into this estate and condition, to be cut off in his sins before his repentance be renewed, and his new absolution received to remove his guilt, and restore him to an aptitude and a present actual capacity to enter into the kingdom of heaven. If it be possible for him to be cut off in this condition, then it will follow, that either he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven at all; or else there must be some purgatory after this life (for him to pass through) to cleanse and fit him for heaven-of which Protestants will not admit. But if we say, “ It is not possible for such a man to be cut off in his sin ;" then it must follow, (1.) That he hath a lease of his life granted, till his restoration; which will be a hard matter to make appear: And (2.) That God is bound by some covenant or promise to afford him as well grace as time to repent; and this will be as hard to evidence as the former; for, I presume, it is not to be denied, that there is required a greater measure of grace to raise up such a sinner, being fallen, than to keep him, while he stood, from falling. Now if God's covenant and promise did not bind him to give that less measure of grace to keep him actually from falling, how can we persuade ourselves that he is bound by it, to confer that greater measure of grace whereby he shall actually arise ?
INDEFECTIBLE.—The Apostle tells the Philippians, “ he is confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in them, will perform (or finish) it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil, i, 6.)
DR. DUBIUS.— I need not say, the Apostle's persuasion is not always an infallible argument of God's purpose. t For he had a persuasion of charity, as well as of faith ; † and that his per
suasion touching the Philippians was of this nature, appears by the verse following that which is alleged. But I say, God doth as well carry on as begin the work of grace in man's heart, in such a way as doth not evacuate but establish the necessity of man's duty; and, therefore, he backs that his confidence, with a vehement exhortation, “ As ye have always obeyed, work out your own salvation with fear and with trembling; for it is God, that worketh in you to will and to do, of his good pleasure.” (Phil. ii, 12, 13.) And we may observe in the Epistle to the Angel of the Church of Philadelphia, where God makes a promise to preserve him in a time of trial then at hand; though that promise was something of the nature of a reward, being made to him upon a consideration of his former fidelity, yet he subjoins an obligation of duty : “ Thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name: Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Rev. iii, 8, 10.) But to shew that his own care and constancy was requisite in order to the accomplishment of that promise, he adds, “ Behold, I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Verse 11.) Notwithstanding God's promise, if we grow careless, we may forfeit our reward and incur damnation, as is clearly threatened in Ezek. xviii, 24: “ But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doth ; shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done, shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.”
INDEFECTIBLE.--How can this consist with God's covenant and promise ?, “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.” (Jer. xxxii, 40.)
Dr. Dubius. That God doth not engage himself in that place to confer upon his people an irresistible power of grace, infallibly to effect the gift of perseverance in them, will be manifest, if we consider that the covenant, there mentioned, concerned the people of the Jews, and contained the favour that God would vouchsafe to do them presently upon their return
from the Babylonish Captivity, as appears clearly in the foregoing and following verses ; and yet, through their fault and want of compliance, this did not take effect, their renewed defection crossed God's promise, and the event happened far otherwise. For if you consider that people soon after their return from that captivity, they grew worse and worse, as appears from Nehemiah, the last [chapter]: And if you will refer the fulfilling of the promise till after the exhibition of the Messias, though that is against the scope of the words, yet then they grew worst of all. “ They resisted the Holy Ghost, (Acts vii, 5,) and rejected the counsel of God against themselves; (Luke vii, 30.) and judged themselves unworthy eternal life,” blaspheming and persecuting the Author, means, and ministry of it ; (Acts xiii, 45, 46, 50.) and so were “ cut off for their wilful unbelief.” (Rom. ix, 32.) In the covenant therefore we are to consider two things: (1.) A promise on God's part; and (2.) A stipulation of duty on their part who are concerned in the promise.—The promise on God's part is, “ I will be their God, and I will not (that is, of myself, or without provocation,) turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts.” But to what end is all this? Why, “ that they may be my people, and fear me, as my people, and not depart from me," as is expressed in the 39th and 40th verses of that chapter. This then being a voluntary duty which God requires, we must not imagine it to be intimated as the infallible effect or event of his promise, but as the end why he makes that promise to them, and the engagement which it puts upon them. But if they will not choose to have “ the fear of God before their eyes," and to excite that grace which he puts into their hearts, but “ out of an evil heart of unbelief, depart from the living God,” they by this their prevarication anıl apostacy becoming Non populus, “ ceasing to be his people,” he ceaseth likewise to be their God. Thus the Spirit of God by Azariah hath resolved it to Asa and all Judah and Benjamin : “ The Lord is with you, while ye be nith him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you : But if ye forsake him, he will forsake you :” (2 Chron. xv, 2.) “ Yea, and cast you off for ever,”—as David addeth to his son Solomon. (1 Chron. xxviii, 9.) So that there is a kind of reciprocal engagement betwixt God and man, and something is to be performed by either party in order to salvation. Now it so happens many times, that all which is promised to be