I believe in an Holy Catholic Church
Hitherto we have entreated of the first part of the Creed concerning God; now follows the second part thereof concerning the church; and it was added to the former upon special consideration. For the right order of a confession did require that after the Trinity, the church should be mentioned, as the house after the owner, the temple after God, and the city after the builder. Again, the Creed is concluded with points of doctrine concerning the church, because whosoever is out of it, is also forth of the number of GodŐs children; and he cannot have God for His Father, which hath not the church for his mother.
Question is made what the words are which are to be supplied in this article, the holy catholic church, whether I believe or I believe in; and ancient expositors have sufficiently determined the matter. One saith, ŇIn these words, in which is set forth our faith of the Godhead, it is said, In God the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Ghost; but in the rest where the speech is not of the Godhead but of creatures and mysteries, the preposition in is not added that it should be in the holy church, but that we should believe there is an holy church, not as God, but as a company gathered to God. And men should believe that there is remission of sins, not in the remission of sins; and they should believe the resurrection of the body, not in the resurrection of the body; therefore by this preposition the Creator is distinguished from the creatures, and things pertaining to God from things pertaining to men.Ó Another upon these words, This is the work of God that ye believe in Him (John 6:29), saith, ŇIf ye believe in Him, ye believe Him; not if ye believe Him, ye believe in Him; for the devil believed God, but did not believe in Him. Again, of the apostles, we may say we believe Paul, but we do not believe in Paul; we believe Peter but we believe not in Peter. For his faith that believeth in Him which justifieth the ungodly, is imputed to him for righteousness (Rom. 4:5). What is it therefore to believe in Him? By believing to love and like, and as it were to pass into Him, and to be incorporated into His members.Ó Now the reason why some papists bring to the contrary, to prove that we may believe in the creatures and in the church, are of no moment:
1. First, they allege the phrase of Scripture: (Exod. 14:31), They believed in God, and in Moses; (1 Sam. 27:12), And Achish believed in David; (2 Chr. 20:20), Believe in the prophets and prosper. Answer: The Hebrew phrase in which the servile letter Beth is used, must not be translated with a preposition that ruleth an accusative or ablative case, but with a dative on this manner: Believe Moses, David , the Prophets; and it doth not import any affiance in the creature but only a giving of credence one man to another.
2. Secondly, they allege that ancient fathers read the article on this manner: I believe in the holy catholic church. Answer: Indeed some have done so; but by this kind of speech they signified no more but thus much: that they believed that there was a catholic church.
Thus having found what words are to be supplied, let us come to the meaning of the article. And that we may proceed in order, let us first of all see what the church is: The church is a peculiar company of men predestinated to life everlasting, and made one in Christ. First, I say, it is a peculiar company of men; for St Peter saith (1 Pet. 2:9), Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, and a peculiar people. He speaks indeed of the church of God on earth, but his saying may be also extended to the whole church of God, as well in heaven as in earth. Now because there can be no company unless it have a beginning and cause whereby it is gathered; therefore I add further in the definition, predestinated to life everlasting. Noting thereby the ground and cause of the catholic church, namely, GodŐs eternal predestination to life everlasting; and to this purpose, Christ saith (Luke 12:32), Fear not little flock, for it is your FatherŐs will to give you the kingdom; signifying thereby that the first and principal cause of the church is the good pleasure of God whereby He hath before all worlds purposed to advance His elect to eternal salvation. Therefore one saith well, Only the elect are the church of God. And further, because no company can continue and abide for ever unless the members thereof be joined and coupled together by some bond, therefore I add in the last place, made one with Christ. This union maketh the church to be the church; and by it the members thereof, whether they be in heaven or in earth, are distinguished from all other companies whatsoever. Now this conjunction between Christ and the church is avouched by St Paul when he saith (Col. 1:18), Christ is the head to the body, which is His church; and when he ascribes the name of Christ not only to the Person of the Son, but to the church itself, as in the epistle to the Galatians Gal. 3:16), To Abraham and to his seed were the promises made; he saith not and to his seeds, as speaking of many, but and unto his seed, as speaking of one, which is Christ; that is, not the Redeemer alone, but also the church redeemed. For Christ as He is man, is not the only seed of Abraham. And this definition of the church is also in so many words set down in the Scriptures, in that it is called the family of God (Eph. 3:15), partly in heaven and partly in earth, named of Christ; and also it is called the heavenly Jerusalem, the mother of us all (Gal. 4:26); and the celestial Jerusalem; and the congregation of the firstborn (Heb. 12:22,23). Now for the better understanding of the nature, estate and parts of the church, two points among the rest must be considered: I. the efficient cause thereof, GodŐs predestination; and II. the form, the mystical union.
In handling the doctrine of predestination, my meaning is only to stand on such points as are revealed in the Word and necessary, tending to edification. And first I will shew what is the truth, and secondly the contrary falsehood.
In the truth, I consider four things:
1. What predestination is.
2. What is the order of it.
3. What be the parts of it.
4. What is the use.
Predestination may be thus defined: It is a part of the counsel of God whereby He hath before all times purposed in Himself to shew mercy on some men and to pass by others, shewing His justice on them for the manifestation of the glory of His own name. First, I say, it is part of His counsel because the counsel or decree of God universally extends itself to all things that are; and predestination is GodŐs decree so far forth as it concerns the reasonable creatures, especially men. Now in every purpose or decree of God, three things must be considered: the beginning, the matter, the end:
(1) The beginning is the will of God whereby He willeth and appointeth the estate of His creatures; and it is the most absolute, supreme and sovereign cause of all things that are, so far forth as they have being; having nothing, either above itself or out of itself, to be an impulsive cause to move or incline it; and to say otherwise is to make the will of God to be no will. Indeed menŐs wills are moved and disposed by external causes out of themselves, borrowed from the things whereof deliberation is made, because they are to be ruled by equity and reason; and a manŐs bare will without reason is nothing. Now GodŐs will is not ruled by another rule of reason or justice, but itself is an absolute rule both of justice and reason. A thing is not first of all reasonable and just, and then afterward willed by God; but it is first of all willed by God, and thereupon becomes reasonable and just.
(2) The matter of His purpose is a decreed manifestation of two of the most principal attributes of the Godhead, mercy and justice; and that with a limitation or restraint of mercy to some of the creatures, and justice to some others, because it was His good will and pleasure. And we are not to imagine that this is a point of cruelty in God; for His very essence or nature is not justice alone, or mercy alone, but justice and mercy both together; and therefore to purpose the declaration of them both upon His creatures over whom He is a sovereign Lord, and that without other respects, upon His very will and pleasure, is no point of injustice.
(3) The supreme end of the counsel of God, is the manifestation of His own glory, partly in His mercy and partly in His justice. For in common equity, the end which He propounds unto Himself of all His doing must be answerable to His nature; which is majesty and glory, and (as I have said) justice and mercy itself.
And because PaulŐs disputation in the ninth to the Romans gives light and sufficient confirmation to this which I now teach, I will stand a little to open and resolve the same:
From the first verse to the sixth, he sets down his grief conceived for his brethren the Jews, and therewithal that it might not be thought that he spake of malice, he doth only in close and obscure manner insinuate the rejection of that nation. This done, in the sixth verse he answers a secret objection which might be made, on this manner: If the Jews be rejected, then the Word of God is of none effect; that is, then the covenant made with the forefathers is void; but the covenant cannot be void; therefore the Jews are not rejected. The assumption he takes for granted, and denies the consequence of the proposition. And the ground of his denial is because there is a distinction between man and man, even among the Jews, whereby some are indeed in the covenant, some not. And this distinction is proved by three examples:
(i) The first in this verse, that of the children of Jacob the common parent of all the Jews, some are Israel, that is, truly in the covenant as Jacob was; and some are not Israel.
(ii) Now it might be further objected that the Jews are not only the posterity of Jacob, but the seed of Abraham in whom all nations of the earth are blessed; and therefore not to be rejected. And to this, Paul answers, verse 7, alleging a second example of the distinction between man and man out of the family of Abraham, in which some were indeed sons, some were not. For the proof of this, first, he sets down the words of the text in Moses: In Isaac shall thy seed be called; and secondly, makes an exposition of them with a collection on this manner: All they which are the sons of the promise are the seed of Abraham, or the sons of God; but Isaac is a son of promise and not Ishmael, therefore Isaac is the seed of Abraham and heir of the blessing, and not Ishmael. The proposition is in the eighth verse, the assumption in the ninth verse, the conclusion in the seventh verse. Here mark: (a) how he makes a double seed, one according to the flesh, the other spiritual; and two kinds of sons, one of the flesh, the other the son of the promise, or the son of God; for he puts one for the other. (b) That the distinction between Isaac and Ishmael, whereby one is in the covenant of grace, the other not; stands not in their foreseen faith and unbelief, and the fruits of them; but in the purpose and will of God itself. For Isaac is called the child of promise, because by virtue of it he was born, and believed, and was adopted the child of God, and made heir of the covenant given to Abraham; and therefore consequently the right of adoption befell him by the mere good pleasure of God, which is the first cause of our salvation without respect of anything in the person of Isaac. For what God by His promise brings to pass in time, that He most freely decreed before all times.
(iii) Now considering the Jews might say that Ishmael was rejected because he was born of the handmaid Hagar, whereas they for their part descend of Abraham and Sarah by Isaac the lawful son, Paul adds a third example of the distinction between man and man out of the family of Isaac, in which Jacob was a true son and heir of the promise, and Esau was not. Now the distinction of these two persons is propounded in the tenth verse, and confirmed in vv. 11-13, in which are set down three things:
(a) The time of this distinction, ere the children were born, and therefore when they had neither done good nor evil. And this circumstance is noted to shew that God was not moved by any prevision or preconsideration of JacobŐs godliness and EsauŐs profaneness, to prefer the one before the other.
(b) The end why this distinction was made at this time, and not afterward when they were born, is that the purpose of God which is according to His election might remain sure, not of works but by Him that calleth; that is, that by this means it might appear that when God receives any man into the covenant of eternal life, it proceeds not of any dignity in the man whom God calleth, but from His mercy and alone good pleasure, that His decree of saving the elect might remain firm and sure for ever. Hence it is manifest that there is an unchangeable decree of election of some men (for he that takes all and excepts none, cannot be said to choose) to salvation, depending upon the alone will of God; and therefore necessarily by the law of contraries, there is an opposite decree of reprobation; for in that God ordaineth some to eternal salvation, He testifies thereby that His purpose is to pass by some without shewing of mercy.
(c) The author of this distinction is God Himself by His purpose before all times, which purpose He made manifest by testimony given to Rebecca (Gen. 25:23), saying, the elder shall serve the younger; that is, the firstborn and more excellent according to the flesh, shall lose his birthright and the blessing of his father, and in respect of title to the covenant, be subject to the younger. And because this testimony concerning the freedom and servitude of Jacob and Esau might seem insufficient to prove the election of the first and the rejection of the second, therefore Paul adds a second testimony out of Malachi (Mal. 1:2,3), I have loved Jacob, and hated Esau; that is, I have purposed to love Jacob and to hate Esau. And these words no doubt are alleged to expound the former place out of Moses, and shew that the bondage of Esau was joined with the hatred of God, and the freedom of Jacob with the love of God as tokens thereof.
Against this received exposition of the former words which I have now propounded, sundry expositions are made:
(1) First, that the prerogative of Isaac above Ishmael, and Jacob above Esau, was only in temporal blessings, in that God vouchsafed unto them the right of the land of Canaan. Answer: If these places are to be understood of temporal blessings and not spiritual, then the apostle hath not fitly alleged the former examples to prove the rejection of the Jews from the covenant. For though it be granted there be a difference between man and man in respect of earthly blessings, yet doth it not follow that there shall be the same difference in things concerning the kingdom of heaven. If a father for some cause disinherit one or two of his children, it were absurd thereupon to conclude that he might therefore kill any of the rest. Again, the land of Canaan was not only an earthly inheritance, but also a pledge and figure unto our forefathers of a better inheritance in heaven; and therefore the excluding of Ishmael and Esau from the land of Canaan, was a sign that they were excluded from the covenant of grace and the right of eternal life.
(2) Some others say that by Jacob and Esau are not meant two persons, but two nations of the Idumeans and the Israelites. Answer: It is a manifest untruth. For it was not possible for two nations to strive in the womb of Rebecca, unless we considered them as they were comprehended under the two heads, to wit, the very persons of Jacob and Esau. And whereas they say that Esau in person never served Jacob but only in his posterity, the answer is that JacobŐs freedom and prerogatives were spiritual and not temporal, which by faith he saw afar off but enjoyed not; and therefore proportionally Esau was debased to the condition of a servant in respect of his younger brother, not so much in respect of his outward estate and condition, as in regard of the covenant made with his ancestors from which he was barred. And though it be granted that by Jacob and Esau two nations, and not two persons, are to be understood, yet all comes to one head; for the receiving of the nation of the Israelites into the covenant, and the excluding of the nation of the Edomites, both descending of Jacob and Esau, serve as well to prove GodŐs eternal election and reprobation, as the receiving and rejecting of one man.
(3) Others say that these words, I have hated Esau, are thus to be understood: I have less loved Esau than Jacob. But how then shall we say that Paul hath fitly alleged this text to prove the rejection of the Jews from the favour of God and the covenant of grace, considering that of men whereof one is loved more of God, the other less; both may still remain in the covenant?
(4) Lastly, it is alleged that the former exposition makes Ishmael and Esau damned persons. Answer: We must leave unto God all secret judgment of particular persons, and yet nevertheless, Paul doth very fitly in their two persons, both descending of Abraham, and both circumcised; set forth examples of such as for all their outward prerogatives, are indeed barred from the covenant of life everlasting before God. And again, the opposition made by Paul, requires that the contrary to that which is spoken of Isaac and Jacob, should be said of Ishmael and Esau. And there is nothing spoken of either of them in the Scriptures which argues the disposition of men ordained to eternal life. Ishmael is noted with the brand of a mocker, and Esau of a profane man.
To proceed in the text, because the doctrine of Paul delivered in the former verses might seem strange unto the Romans, therefore in the fourteenth verse, he lays down an objection and answers the same. The objection is this: If God put distinction between man and man, without respect had to their persons, upon His own will and pleasure, then is He unjust; but He is not unjust, therefore He makes no such distinction. Answer: The answer is God forbid. Whereby he denies the consequence of the proposition on this manner: Though God should elect some to salvation, and reject some others, and that upon His will, yet were there no injustice with God. The reason of this answer follows in the eighteenth verse. God hath absolute power or freedom of will, whereby without being bound to any creature, He may and can first of all have mercy on whom He will, and secondly, harden whom He will. For the proof of the first, that God hath mercy on whom He will, he lays down the testimony of Moses (v.15). I will have mercy on whom I will shew mercy, and I will have compassion on him, on whom I have compassion. And in verse sixteen, makes his collection thence, that it (namely, the purpose of God according to election, v.11) is not in him that willeth, or in him that runneth, but in God that sheweth mercy. Whereby he teacheth that the free election of God in order goes before all things that may in time befall man; and that therefore neither the intentions and endeavours of the mind, nor the works of our life, which are the effects of election, can be the impulsive causes to move God to choose us to salvation. The second, that God hardens whom He will, is confirmed and made plain by the testimony of Scripture concerning Pharaoh (v.17).
In the nineteenth verse there follows another objection arising out of the answer to the former, on this manner: If God will have some to be hardened and rejected, and His will cannot be refuted; then with no justice can He punish them that are necessarily subject to His decree; but God will have some to be hardened and rejected, and His will cannot be resisted; therefore (saith the adversary) with no justice can He punish man that is necessarily subject to His decree. Here, mark that if there had been an universal election of all men, and if men had been elected or rejected according as God did foresee that they would believe or not believe, the occasion of this objection had been cut off. But let us come to PaulŐs answer. In the twentieth verse he takes the assumption for granted, that some are rejected because God will; and that the will, that is, the decree of God cannot be resisted; and only denies the coherence of the proposition, checking the malapert pride of the adversary, and shewing that the making of this wicked and blasphemous collection against the will of God, is as if a man should sue God at the law, and bring Him as it were to the bar, and plead against Him as His equal, whereas indeed the creature is nothing to the Creator, and is absolutely to submit itself to His will in all things. In verse twenty-one, he proceeds to a second answer, shewing that GodŐs will is not to be blamed, because by His absolute sovereignty and the right of creation, He hath power to choose men, or to reject and harden them. And where there is right and power to do a thing, the will of the doer is not to be blamed. Now that God hath His right and power over His creature, it is proved by a comparison from the less to the greater, on this manner: The potter hath power over the clay to make of the same lump, one vessel to honour and another to dishonour; therefore may God much more make some vessels of mercy and some vessels of wrath prepared to destruction. The first part of the comparison is v.21, the second part, vv. 22,23. And lest any man should think that God makes vessels of honour and dishonour without sufficient and just cause in Himself, as the potter may do; therefore he sets down ends of the will of God: He makes vessels of dishonour to shew His wrath and to manifest His power; and again He condemns no man till He have suffered him with long patience. And He makes vessels of honour that He might declare the riches of His glory upon them. Hence it is manifest, partly in His justice, and partly in His mercy; secondly, that men are not elected or refused of God, for their foreseen corruptions or virtues; for then Paul would not have said that God made vessels of dishonour, but that being so already, He left them to their dishonour.
Thus from the sixth verse of this chapter to the twenty-fourth, Paul hath described unto us the doctrine of GodŐs eternal predestination, and that by the judgment of divines in all ages.
The order of GodŐs predestination is this: It is the property of the reasonable creatures to conceive one thing before another, whereas God conceives all things at once with one act of understanding, and all things both past and to come are present with Him; and therefore in His eternal counsel He decrees not one thing after another, but all things at once. Nevertheless, for our understanding sake, we may distinguish the counsel of God concerning man in two acts or degrees: The first is the purpose of God Himself, in which He determines what He will do, and the end of all His doings; and that is to create all things, specially man, for Hs own glory; partly by shewing on some men His mercy, and upon others His justice. The second is another purpose, whereby He decrees the execution of the former, and lays down means of accomplishing the end thereof. These two acts of the counsel of God, are not to be severed in any wise, nor confounded, but distinctly considered with some difference:
(1) For in the first, God decrees some men to honour by shewing His mercy and love on them, and again some to dishonour by shewing His justice on them; and this man more than that, upon His will and pleasure, and there is no other cause hereof known to us.
(2) In the second, known and manifest causes are set down of the execution of the former degree. For no man is actually condemned; yea, God decrees to condemn no man but for his sins; and no man is actually saved but for the merit of Christ.
Furthermore, this latter act of the counsel of God, must be conceived of us in the second place and not in the first. For evermore the first thing to be intended is the end itself, and then afterward the subordinate means and causes whereby the end is accomplished. Again, the second act of GodŐs counsel contains two others; one which setteth down the preparation of the means whereby GodŐs predestination begins to come in execution; and they are two: the creation of man, righteous after the image of God, the voluntary fall of Adam and withal the shutting up of all men under damnation; the other appoints the applying of the several means to the persons of men; that GodŐs decree, which was set down before all times, may in time be fully accomplished; as shall afterward in particular appear.
Predestination hath two parts, the decree of election, the decree of reprobation or no election. This division is plain by that which hath been said out of the ninth chapter to the Romans, and it may be further confirmed by other testimonies. Of some it is said that the Lord knows who are His (2 Tim. 2:19); and of some others, Christ shall say in the day of judgment, I never knew you (Matt. 7:23). In the Acts (Acts 13:48) it is said that as many of the Gentiles as were ordained to life everlasting, believed. And Jude (Jude 4) saith of false prophets that they were ordained to condemnation.
In the handling of the decree of election, I will consider three things:
(i) What election is.
(ii) The execution thereof.
(iii) The knowledge of particular election.
(i) For the first; GodŐs election is a decree in which according to the good pleasure of His will, He hath certainly chosen some men to life eternal in Christ for the praise of the glory of His grace. This is the same which Paul saith to the Ephesians (Eph. 1:4,5): God hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love; who hath predestinated us to be adopted through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. Now that we may the better conceive this doctrine, let us come to a consideration of the several points thereof.
First of all I say, election is GodŐs decree. For there is nothing in the world that comes to pass, either universally or particularly, without the eternal and unchangeable decree of God. And therefore whereas men are actually chosen and brought to life everlasting, it is because God did purpose with Himself and decree the same before all worlds. Now touching the decree itself, six things are to be observed:
(a) The first, what was the motive or impulsive cause that moved God to decree the salvation of any man? Answer: The good pleasure of God. For Paul saith (Rom. 9:18), He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy; and (Eph. 1:5), He hath predestinated us according to the good pleasure of God. As for the opinion of them that say that foreseen faith and good works are the cause that moved God to choose men to salvation, it is frivolous. For faith and good works are the fruits and effect of GodŐs election. Paul saith (Eph. 1:4), He hath chosen us, not because He did foresee that we would become holy, but that we might be holy. And (John 1:12), He hath predestinated us to adoption. Which is all one as if He had said, He hath predestinated us to believe, because adoption comes before believing. Now if men are elected that they might believe, then are they not elected because they would believe. For it cannot be that one thing should be both the cause and the effect of another.
(b) The second point is that GodŐs election is unchangeable; so as they which are indeed chosen to salvation cannot perish, but shall without fail attain to life everlasting. Paul takes it for a conclusion that (Rom. 9:11) the purpose of God according to election must remain firm and sure; and again (Rom. 11:29) that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. And Samuel saith (1 Sam. 15:29), The strength of Israel will not lie or repent; for He is not a man that He should repent. Such as GodŐs nature is, such is His will and counsel; but His nature is unchangeable, I am Jehovah, saith He (Mal. 3:6), and I change not; therefore His will likewise and His counsels be unchangeable. And therefore whensoever the Spirit of God shall testify unto our spirit that we are justified in Christ and chosen to salvation; it must be a means to comfort us and to establish our hearts in the love of God. As for the opinion of them that say, the elect may fall from grace and be damned, it is full of hellish discomfort, and no doubt from the devil. And the reasons commonly alleged for this purpose are of no moment, as may appear by the scanning of them:
i. First, they object that the churches of the Ephesians, Thessalonians and the dispersed Jews are called the elect by the apostles themselves, yet sundry of them afterward fell away. Answer: (a) There are two kinds of judgment to be given of men, the judgment of certainty and the judgment of charity. By the first indeed, is given an infallible determination of any manŐs election; but it belongs unto God principally and properly; and to men but in part, namely, so far forth as God shall reveal the estate of one man unto another. Now the judgment of charity belongs unto all men; and by it leaving all secret judgments unto God, we are charitably to think that all those that live in the church of God, professing themselves to be members of Christ, are indeed elect to salvation, till God makes manifest otherwise. And on this manner, and not otherwise, do the apostles call the whole churches elect. (b) They are called elect of the principal part, and not because every member thereof was indeed elect; as it is called an heap of corn though the bigger part be chaff.
ii. Secondly it is alleged that David prays that his enemies may be blotted out of the book of life (Psa. 69:28), which is the election of God, and that Moses (Exod. 32:32) and Paul (Rom. 9:3) did the like against themselves. Answer: DavidŐs enemies had not their names written in the book of life, but only in the judgment of men. Thus Judas, so long as he was one of the disciples of Christ, was accounted as one having his name written in heaven. Now hence it follows that menŐs names are blotted out of GodŐs book, when it is made clear and manifest unto the world that they were never indeed written there. And where Moses saith, Forgive them this sin; if not, blot me out of thy book; and Paul, I could wish to be accursed, etc., their meaning was not to signify that men elected to salvation might become reprobates; only they testify their zealous affections that they could be content to be deprived of their own salvation, rather than the whole body of the people should perish and God lose His glory. As for that which Christ saith (John 6:70), Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? It is to be understood, not of election to salvation, but of election to the office of an apostle; which is temporary and changeable.
(c) The third point is that there is an actual election made in time, being indeed a fruit of GodŐs decree, and answerable unto it, and therefore I added in the description of these words, whereby He hath chosen some men. All men by nature are sinners and children of wrath, shut up under one and the same estate of condemnation. And actual election is when it pleaseth God to sever and single out some men above the rest, out of this wretched estate of the wicked world, and to bring them to the kingdom of His own Son. Thus Christ saith of His own disciples (John 15:19), I have chosen you out of the world.
(d) The fourth point is the actual or real foundation of GodŐs election, and that is Christ, and therefore we are said to be chosen to salvation in Christ. He must be considered two ways (Eph. 1:4,5): as He is God, we are predestinated of Him, even as we are predestinated of the Father and the Holy Ghost. As He is our Mediator, we are predestinated in Him. For when God with Himself had decreed to manifest His glory in saving some by His mercy, He ordained further the creation of man in His own image, yet so as by his own fall he should enfold himself and all his posterity under damnation. This done, He also decreed that the Word should be incarnate actually, to redeem these out of the former misery, whom He had ordained to salvation. Christ therefore Himself was first of all predestinated as He was to be our Head, and as Peter saith (1 Pet. 1:20), ordained before all worlds, and we secondly predestinated in Him, because God ordained that the execution of manŐs election should be in Him. Here, if any demand how we may be assured that Christ in His passion stood in our room and stead, the resolution will be easy, if we consider that He was ordained in the eternal counsel of God to be our surety and pledge, and to be a public person to represent all the elect in His obedience and sufferings; and therefore it is that Peter saith (Acts 2:23) that He was delivered by the foreknowledge and determinate counsel of God. And Paul (2 Tim. 1:9), that grace was given unto us through Christ Jesus before the world was.
(e) The fifth point is concerning the number of the elect. And that I expressed in these words: hath chosen some men to salvation. If God should decree to communicate His glory and His mercy to all and every man, there could be no election. For he that takes all, cannot be said to choose. Therefore Christ saith (Matt. 20:16), Many are called but few are chosen. Some make this question, how great the number of the elect is; and the answer may be this: that the elect considered in themselves be innumerable, but considered in comparison to the whole world, they are but few. Hence it follows necessarily that saving grace is not universal but indefinite or particular, unless we will against common reason make the streams more large and plentiful than the very fountain itself. And this must excite us above all things in the world to labour to have fellowship with Christ and to be partakers of the special mercy of God in Him, yea to have the same sealed up in our hearts. Benefits common to all, as the light of the sun etc., are not regarded of any. Things common to few, though they be but temporal blessings, are sought for of all. God gives not riches to all men, but to some more, to some less, to some none. And hereupon how do men like drudges toil in the world from day to day and from year to year to enrich themselves? Therefore much more ought men to seek for grace in Christ, considering it is not common to all. We must not content ourselves to say, God is merciful; but we must go further and labour for a certificate in the conscience that we may be able to say that God is indeed merciful to us. When the disciples would have known how many should be saved, He omitting the question, answers thus (Luke 13:24): Strive to enter in at the strait gate.
(f) The last point is the end of GodŐs election, and that is the manifestation of the praise and excellency of the glorious grace of God (Eph. 1:6).
(ii) Thus having seen what election is, let us come to the execution thereof. Of which remember this rule: Men predestinated to the end, that is, glory, or eternal life, are also predestinated to the subordinate means whereby they come to eternal life; and these are vocation, justification, sanctification and obedience. For the first, he that is predestinated to salvation is also predestinated to be called, as Paul saith (Rom. 8:30), Whom he hath predestinated, them also He calleth. Secondly, whom God calleth, they also were predestinated to believe; therefore saving faith is called (Tit. 1:1) the faith of the elect. And (Acts 13:48), As many as were ordained to life everlasting, believed. Thirdly, whom God hath predestinated to life, them He justifieth, as Paul saith (Rom. 8:30), Whom He hath predestinated, them He calleth, and whom He calleth, them He justifieth. Fourthly, whom He hath predestinated unto life, them He hath predestinated to sanctification and holiness of life, as Peter saith (1 Pet. 1:2), that the Jews were elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father unto the sanctification of the Spirit. Lastly, they that are predestinated unto life are also predestinated to obedience, as Paul saith to the Ephesians (Eph. 2:10), We are the workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath ordained that we should walk in them.
This rule, being the truth of God, must be observed; for it hath special use:
(a) First of all it serves to stop the mouths of ungodly and profane men. They use to bolster up themselves in their sins by reasoning on this manner: If I be predestinated to eternal life, I shall be saved whatsoever come of it, how wickedly and lewdly soever I live; I will therefore live as I list and follow the swing of mine own will. But alas, like blind bayards they think they are in the way, when as they rush their heads against the wall and far deceive themselves. For the case stands thus: all men that are ordained to salvation are likewise ordained in the counsel of God to use all the good means whereby they may come to salvation; and therefore all the elect that live in this world shall be called, justified, sanctified and lead their lives in all good conscience before God and men; and they that live and continue in their own wicked ways disputing on this manner: If I be ordained to salvation, I shall not be damned; overshoot themselves, and as much as they can, plunge themselves headlong into the very pit of hell. And for a man to live and die in his sins, let the world dispute as they will, it is an infallible sign of one ordained to damnation.
(b) Secondly, there be others that think that the preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, admonitions, exhortations, laws, good orders, and all such good means are needless, because GodŐs counsels be unchangeable; if a man shall be condemned, nothing shall help; if a man shall be saved, nothing shall hinder. But we must still for our part remember that God doth not only ordain the end, but also the means whereby the end is compassed; and therefore the very use of all prescribed means is necessary. And for this cause we must be admonished with diligence to labour and use all good means, that we may be called by the ministry of the gospel, and justified, and sanctified, and at length glorified. If a king should give unto one of his subjects a princely palace, upon condition that he shall go unto it in the way which he shall prescribe; oh, what pains would that man take to know the way, and afterward to keep and continue in it! But behold, the kingdom of heaven is the most glorious and royal palace that ever was; and God hath bestowed the same on His elect; and He requires nothing at their hands, but that they would turn their faces from this world, and walk unto it in the way which he hath chalked forth unto them in His Word. Therefore if we would have life everlasting, we must come forth of the broad way which leads to destruction, and enter into the strait way that leads to eternal life. We must acquaint ourselves with the guides, which are the ministers of the Word, that will cry to us (Isa. 30:21), Here is the way, walk ye in it, when ye go to the right hand or to the left. Vocation, justification, sanctification, repentance, new obedience, are the marks of the way, and we must pass by them all; and thus out weary souls weltering a while in this wretched world, shall at length be received into eternal joy and happiness.
(iii) Touching the knowledge of particular election, two special points are to be scanned: (a) whether a man may know his election; (b) how it may be known.
(a) For the first, papists are of the mind that no man can certainly know his own election unless he be certified thereof by some special revelation from God; but the thing is false and erroneous which they say. When the disciples of our Saviour Christ returned from preaching and shewed what wonders they had done and how devils were subject unto them, the text saith they rejoiced greatly. But Christ answered them again, saying (Luke 10:20), In this rejoice not, but rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Whereby He signifies that men may attain to a certain knowledge of their own election. For we cannot, neither do we rejoice in things either unknown or uncertain. St Peter saith (2 Pet. 1:10), Give all diligence to make your election sure. Now in vain were it to use diligence, if the assurance of election could not be any ways compassed without an extraordinary revelation. And Paul saith to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 13:5), Prove yourselves whether ye be in the faith or not. Where he takes it for granted that he which hath faith, may know he hath faith, and therefore may also know his election; because saving faith is an infallible mark of election.
(b) The second point is how any man may come to know his own election. And there be two ways of knowing it: The one, is by ascending up as it were into heaven, there to search the counsel of God, and afterward to come down to ourselves. The second, by descending into our own hearts to go up from ourselves, as it were by JacobŐs ladder, to GodŐs eternal counsel. The first way is dangerous, and not to be attempted. For the ways of God are unsearchable and past finding out. The second way alone is to be followed, which teacheth us by signs and testimonies in ourselves, to gather what was the eternal counsel of God concerning our salvation. And these testimonies are two: the testimony of GodŐs Spirit and the testimony of our spirit; as Paul saith (Rom. 8:16), The Spirit of God beareth witness together with our spirit that we are the sons of God.
i Touching the testimony of GodŐs Spirit, two questions may be demanded:
a. The first is, by what means the Spirit of God gives a particular testimony in a manŐs conscience of his adoption? Answer: It is not done by any extraordinary revelation or enthusiasm, that is, an ordinary revelation without the Word; but by an application of the promises of the gospel in the form of a practical syllogism on this manner: Whosoever believeth in Christ is chosen to life everlasting. This proposition is set down in the Word of God, and it is further propounded, opened and applied to all that be in the church of God, by the ministers of the gospel set apart for this end. Now while the hearers of GodŐs Word give themselves to meditate and consider the same promise, comes the Spirit of God and enlightens the eyes, and opens the heart, and gives them the power both to will to believe and to believe indeed; so as a man shall with freedom of spirit, make an assumption and say, but I believe in Christ, I renounce myself, all my joy and comfort is in Him; flesh and blood cannot say this, it is the operation of the Holy Ghost. And hence ariseth the blessed conclusion which is the testimony of the Spirit: therefore I am the child of God.
b. The second question is, how a man may discern between the illusion of the devil and the testimony of the Spirit. For as there is a certain persuasion of GodŐs favour from GodŐs Spirit; so there be sleights and frauds of the devil whereby he flatters and soothes men in their sins; and there is in all men natural presumption in shew like faith, indeed no faith. And this counterfeit mock-faith is far more common in the world than true faith is. Take a view hereof in our ignorant and careless people; ask any one of them whether he be certain of his salvation or no; he will without bones-making, protest that he is fully persuaded and assured of his salvation in Christ; that if there be but one man in a country to be saved it is he; that he hath served God always; and done no man hurt; that he hath evermore believed, and that he would not for all the world so much as doubt of his salvation. These and such like presumptuous conceits in blind and ignorant persons run for a current faith in the world. Now the true testimony of the Spirit is discerned from natural presumption, and all illusions of the devil, by two effects and fruits thereof, noted by Paul in that he saith (Rom. 8:15,26) that the Spirit makes us cry Abba, that is, Father:
The first is to pray so earnestly with groans and sighs, as though a man would even fill heaven and earth with the cry not of his lips, but of his heart, touched with sense and feeling of his manifold sins and offences. And this indeed is a special and principal note of the Spirit of adoption. Now look upon the loose and careless man that thinks himself so filled with the persuasion of the love and favour of God, ye shall find that he very seldom or never prays; and when he doth, it is nothing else but a mumbling over the LordŐs prayer, the Creed, or the Ten Commandments for fashionŐs sake. Which argues plainly that the persuasion which he hath of GodŐs mercy, is of the flesh, and not of the Spirit.
The second fruit is the affection of a dutiful child to God, a most loving Father; and this affection makes a man stand in fear of the majesty of God, wheresoever he is, and to make conscience of every evil way. Now those that are carried away with presumption, so soon as any occasion is given, they fall straight into sin without mislike or stay, as fire burns with speed when dry wood is laid unto it. In a word, where the testimony of the Spirit is truly wrought; there be many other graces of the Spirit joined therewith, as when one branch in a tree buddeth, the rest bud also.
ii. The testimony of our spirit is the testimony of the heart and conscience, purified and sanctified in the blood of Christ. And it testifieth two ways: a. by inward tokens in itself, b. by outward fruits.
a. Inward tokens are certain special graces of God imprinted in the spirit, whereby a man may certainly be assured of his adoption. These tokens are of two sorts, they either [i] respect our sins, or [ii] GodŐs mercy in Christ.
[i] The first are in respect of sins past, present or to come:
[a] The sign in the spirit which concerneth sins past is (2 Cor. 7:10) godly sorrow, which I may term a beginning and mother-grace of many other gifts and graces of God. It is a kind of grief conceived in the heart in respect of God. And the nature of it may the better be conceived, if we compare it with the contrary. Worldly sorrow springs of sin, and it is nothing else but the horror of conscience and the apprehension of the wrath of God for the same. Now godly sorrow, it may indeed be occasioned by our sins, but it springs properly from the apprehension of the grace and goodness of God. Worldly sorrow is a grief for sin only in respect of the punishment; godly sorrow is a lively touch and grief of heart for sin because it is sin, though there were no punishment for it. Now that no man may deceive himself in judging of this sorrow, the Holy Ghost hath set down seven fruits or signs thereof whereby it may be discerned (2 Cor. 7:11). The first is care to leave all our sins; the second is apology whereby a man is moved and carried to accuse and condemn himself for his sins past, both before God and man. The third is indignation, whereby a man is exceedingly angry with himself for his offences. The fourth is fear, lest he fall into his former sins again. The fifth is desire, whereby he craveth strength and assistance that his sins take no hold on him as before. The sixth is zeal, in the performance of all good duties contrary to his special sins. The seventh is revenge, whereby he subdues his body, lest it should hereafter be an instrument of sin as it hath been in former time. Now when any man shall feel these fruits in himself, he hath no doubt the godly sorrow, which here we speak of.
[b] The token which is in regard of sins present, is the combat between the flesh and the spirit (Gal. 5:17), proper to them that are regenerate, who are partly flesh and partly spirit. It is not the check of conscience which all men find in themselves both good and bad, so oft as they offend God; but it is a fighting and striving of the mind, will and affections with themselves, whereby so far forth as they are renewed, they carry the man one way, and as they still remain corrupt, they carry him flat contrary. Men having the disease ephialtes [nightmares], when they are half asleep feel as it were some weighty thing lying upon their breasts and holding them down; now lying in this case, they strive with their hands and feet, and with all the might they have to raise up themselves and to remove the weight, and cannot. Behold here a lively resemblance of this combat. The flesh which is the inborn corruption of manŐs nature, lies upon the hearts of the children of God and presseth them down, as if it were the very weight of a mountain; now they according to the measure of grace received, strive to raise up themselves from under this burden, and to do such things as are acceptable to God; but cannot as they would.
[c] The token that respects sin to come, is care to prevent it. That this is the mark of GodŐs children appeareth by the saying of John (1 John 5:18): He that is born of God sinneth not, but keepeth himself, that the wicked one touch him not. And this care shews itself not only in ordering the outward actions, but even in the very thoughts of the heart. For where the gospel is of force, it brings every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), and the apostleŐs rule is followed (Phil. 4:8): Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, etc., think on these things.
[ii] The tokens which concern GodŐs mercy, are specially two:
[a] The first is when a man feels himself distressed with the burden of his sins, or when he apprehends the heavy displeasure of God in his conscience for them; then further to feel how he stands in need of Christ, and withal heartily desire, yea to hunger and thirst after reconciliation with God in the mercy of Christ, and that above all other things in the world. To all such, Christ hath made most sweet and comfortable promises, which can appertain to none but the elect. If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink, as saith the Scripture (John 7:37,38), out of his belly shall flow rivers of water of life. And (Rev. 21:6), I will give unto him which is athirst, of the well of the water of life freely. Now if he that thirsteth, drink of these waters, mark what followeth (John 4:14): Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never be more athirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.
[b] The second is a strange affection wrought in the heart by the Spirit of God, whereby a man doth so esteem and value, and as it were, set so high a price on Christ and His righteousness, that he accounts even the most precious things that are, to be but as dung in regard thereof. This affection was in Paul (Phil. 3:8), and it is expressed in the parable (Matt. 13:44), in which after a man hath found a treasure, he first hides it; and then sells all he hath and makes a purchase of the field where it is. Now every man will say of himself, that he is thus affected to Christ, and that he more highly esteems the least drop of his blood, than all things in the world besides; whereas indeed most men are of EsauŐs mind, rather desiring the red broth than IsaacŐs blessing; and of the same affection with the Israelites, which liked better the onions and flesh-pots of Egypt than the blessings of God in the land of promise. Therefore that no man may deceive himself, this affection may be discerned by two signs:
a. The first, is to love and like a Christian man because he is a Christian. For he that doth aright esteem of Christ, doth in like manner esteem of the members of Christ. And of this very point our Saviour Christ saith (Matt. 10:41), He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophetŐs reward; and he that receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, shall receive the reward of a righteous man. And St John saith (1 John 3:14), Hereby we know that we are translated from death to life, because we love the brethren; that is, such as are members even because they are so.
b. The second sign of this affection is a love and desire to the coming of Christ, whether it be by death unto any man particularly, or by the last judgment universally, and that for this end: that there may be a full participation of fellowship with Christ. And that this very love is a note of adoption, it appears by that which St. Paul saith (2 Tim. 4:8), that the crown of righteousness is laid up for all them that love the appearing of Christ.
b. The outward token of adoption is new obedience, whereby a man endeavours to obey GodŐs commandments in his life and conversation; as St John saith (1 John 2:3), Hereby we are sure that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. Now this obedience must not be judged by the rigour of the moral law, for then it should be no token of grace, but rather a means of damnation; but it must be esteemed and considered as it is in the acceptation of God (Mal. 3:17), who spares them that fear Him, as a father spares an obedient son, esteeming things done not by the effect and absolute doing of them, but by the affection of the doer. And yet lest any man should here be deceived, we must know that the obedience, which is an infallible mark of the child of God, must be thus qualified:
[i] First of all, it must not be done unto some few of GodŐs commandments, but unto them all without exception. Herod (Mark 6:20) heard John Baptist willingly, and did many things; and Judas had excellent things in him, as appears by this: that he was content to leave all and follow Christ, and he preached the gospel of GodŐs kingdom in Jewry as well as the rest; yet, alas, all this was nothing; for the one could not abide to become obedient to the seventh commandment in leaving his brother PhilipŐs wife; and the other would not leave his covetousness, to die for it. Upright and sincere obedience doth enlarge itself to all the commandments, as David saith (Psa. 119:6), I shall not be confounded, when I have respect to all thy commandments. And St James saith (Jam. 2:10), He which faileth in one is guilty of all; that is, the obedience to many commandments is indeed before God no obedience, but a flat sin, if a man wittingly and willingly carry a purpose to omit any one duty of the law. He that repents of one sin truly, doth repent of all; and he that lives but in one known sin without repentance, though he pretend never so much reformation of life, indeed repents of no sin.
[ii] Secondly, this obedience must extend itself to the whole course of a manŐs life after his conversion and repentance. We must not judge of a man by an action or two, but by the tenor of his life. Such as the course of a manŐs life is, such is the man; though he, through the corruption of his nature, fail in this or that particular action, yet doth it not prejudice his estate before God, so be it he renew his repentance for his several slips and falls not lying in any sin; and withal from year to year walk unblameably before God and men. St Paul saith (2 Tim. 2:19), The foundation of God remaineth sure; the Lord knoweth who are His. Now some might hereupon say, it is true indeed, God knows who are His; but how may I be assured in myself that I am His? To this demand, as I take it, Paul answers in the next words: Let everyone that calleth on the name of the Lord depart from iniquity; that is, let men invocate the name of God, praying seriously for things whereof they stand in need, withal giving thanks and departing from all their former sins, and this shall be unto them an infallible token that they are in the election of God.
[iii] Thirdly, in outward obedience it is required that it proceed from the whole man (1 Thess. 5:23), as the regeneration which is the cause of it, is through the whole man in body, soul and spirit. Again, obedience is the fruit of love, and (1 Tim. 1:5) love is from a pure heart, the good conscience and faith unfeigned.
Thus we have heard the testimonies and tokens whereby a man may be certified in his conscience that he was chosen to salvation before all worlds. If any desire further resolution at this point, let them meditate upon the fifteenth psalm and the first epistle of St John, being parcels of Scripture penned by the Holy Ghost for this end.
Here some will demand, how a man may be assured of his adoption, if he want the testimony of the Spirit to certify him thereof. Answer: Fire is known to be no painted but a true fire, by two notes: by heat and by the flame. Now if the case fall out that the fire want a flame, it is still known to be fire by the heat. In like manner, as I have said, there be two witnesses of our adoption: GodŐs Spirit and our spirit. Now if it fall out that a man feel not the principal, which is the Spirit of adoption, he must then have recourse to the second witness, and search out in himself the signs and tokens of the sanctification of his own spirit, by which he may certainly assure himself of his adoption, as we know fire to be fire by the heat, though it want a flame.
Again it may be demanded on this manner: How if it come to pass that after enquiry, we find but few signs of sanctification in ourselves? Answer: In this case we are to have recourse to the least measure of grace, less than which there is no saving grace. And it stands in two things: an hearty disliking of our sins because they are sins, and a desire of reconciliation with God in Christ for them all; and these are tokens of adoption, if they be soundly wrought in the heart, though all other tokens for the present seem to be wanting. If any shall say that a wicked man hath this desire, as Balaam, who desired to die the death of the righteous; the answer is that Balaam indeed desired to die as the righteous man doth, but he could not abide to live as the righteous; he desired the end but not the proper subordinate means which tend unto the end; as vocation, justification, sanctification, repentance etc. The first is the work of nature, the second is the work of grace. Now I speak not this to make men secure and to content themselves with these small beginnings of grace, but only to shew how any man assure themselves that they are at the least babes in Christ; adding this withal: that they which have no more but these small beginnings must be careful to increase them, because he which goes not forward goes backward.
Lastly, it may be demanded what a man should do if he want both the testimony of GodŐs Spirit and his own spirit, and have no means in the world of assurance? Answer: He must not utterly despair, but be resolved of this: that though he want assurance now, yet he may attain the same hereafter. And such must be advertised to hear the Word of God preached; and being outwardly of the church to receive the sacraments. When we have care to come into the LordŐs vineyard and to converse about the winepress, we shall find the sweet juice of heavenly grace pressed forth unto us plentifully by the Word and sacraments, to the comfort of our consciences, concerning GodŐs election. This one mercy, that God by these means in some part reveals His mercy, is unspeakable. When sickness or the day of death comes, the dearest servants of God, it may be, must encounter with the temptations of the devil, and wrestle in conscience with the wrath and displeasure of God, as for life and death; and no man knoweth how terrible these things are, but those which have felt them. Now when men walk thus through the valley of the shadow of death, unless God should as it were open heaven and stream down unto us in this world some lightsome beams of His love in Christ by the operation of His Spirit, miserable were the case even of the righteous.
Thus much of election, now follows reprobation; in handling whereof we are to observe three things:
(i) What it is.
(ii) How God doth execute this decree.
(iii) How a man may judge of the same.
(i) For the first, Reprobation is GodŐs decree in which, because it so pleased Him, He hath purposed to refuse some men by means of AdamŐs fall and their own corruptions, for the manifestation of His justice. First, I say, it is a decree, and that is evident thus: If there had been an eternal decree of God whereby He chooseth some men, then there must needs be another whereby He doth pass by others and refuse them. For election always implies a refusal. Again, what God doth in time, that He decreed to do before time; as the case falls out even with men of mean wisdom, who first of all intend with themselves the things to be done, and after do them. But God in time refuseth some men as the Scripture testifieth, and it appeareth to be true by the event. Therefore God before all worlds decreed the rejecting of some men.
Now in this decree, four points are to be considered:
(a) The first is the matter or object thereof, which is the thing decreed, namely, the rejection of some men in respect of mercy, or the manifestation of His justice upon them. This may seem strange to manŐs reason, but here we must with all submission strike our topsails, for the Word of God saith as much in plain terms. The apostle Jude, speaking of false prophets (Jude 4), saith that they were of old ordained to this damnation. And Paul saith in emphatical terms (Rom. 9:22) that God makes vessels of wrath prepared to destruction, and some are rejected, whom he opposeth to them which are elected to salvation.
(b) The second point is the impulsive cause that moved God to set down this decree concerning His creature, and that was nothing out of Himself but His very will and pleasure. He hardened Pharaoh with final hardness of heart because He would; and therefore He decreed to do so because He would. And our Saviour Christ saith (Matt. 11:25), I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and men of understanding, and hast opened them unto babes. But upon what cause did God so? It follows in the next words (v.26): It is so, Father, because thy good pleasure is such. And if it be in the power and liberty of a man to kill an ox or a sheep for his use, to hunt and kill the hare and partridge for his pleasure; then much more without injustice may it be in the will and liberty of the Creator to refuse and forsake His creature for His glory. Nay, it stands more with equity a thousand fold that all the creatures in heaven and earth should jointly serve to set forth the glory and majesty of God the Creator in their eternal destruction, than the striking of a fly or the killing of a flea should serve for the dignity of all men in the world. For all this, it is thought by very many to be very hard to ascribe unto God who is full of bounty and mercy, such a decree, and that upon His very will; but let us see their reasons:
i. First of all they say, it is a point of cruelty with God to purpose to create a great part of the world to damnation in hell fire; the answer is that by the virtue of this decree God cannot be said to create any to damnation, but to the manifestation of His justice and glory in his due and deserved damnation; and the doing of this is absolute justice.
ii. Secondly, it is alleged that by this means God shall hate His own creature, and that before it is; but it is an untruth. We must distinguish between GodŐs purpose to hate and actual hating. Now indeed God before all worlds did purpose to hate some creatures; and that justly so far forth as His hating of them will serve for the manifestation of His justice; but He neither hates them indeed, nor loves them before they are; and therefore actual hatred comes not in till after the creation. Whom God hath decreed to love, them, when they are once created, He begins to love in Christ with actual love; and whom He hath decreed to hate, them being once created, He hates in Adam with actual hatred.
iii. Thirdly, it is objected that by this doctrine God shall be the author of sin; for He which ordains to the end, ordains to the means of the end; but God ordains men to the end, that is damnation; therefore He ordains them to the means thereof, that is sin. Answer: The proposition being thus understood, He which ordains a man to an end, in the same order and manner ordains him to the means; it is false. For one may be ordained to the end simply, the end being simply good; and yet not be simply ordained to the means, because they may be evil in themselves and only good in part, namely, so far forth as they have respect of goodness in the mind of the ordainer. Secondly, the assumption is false; for the supreme end of GodŐs counsel is not damnation, but the declaration of His justice in the just destruction of the creature; neither doth God decree manŐs damnation as it is damnation, that is, the ruin of man and the putting of him forth to punishment, but as it is a real exercise of justice. Thirdly, we must make distinction between sin itself and the permission thereof; and between the decree of rejection and actual damnation. Now the permission of sin, and not sin itself properly is the subordinate means of the decree of rejection. For when God had decreed to pass by some men, He withal decreed the permission of sin, to which permission men were ordained; and sin itself is no effect, but only the consequent of the decree; yet so, as it is not only the antecedent, but also the efficient and meritorious cause of actual damnation.
(c) The third point is the real foundation of the execution of this decree, in just condemnation, and that is the voluntary fall of Adam and of all his posterity in him, with the fruit thereof, the general corruption of manŐs nature. For howsoever God hath purposed to refuse men because it so pleased Him, yet when His purpose comes to execution, He condemneth no man but for his sins; and sin though it were not in the counsel of God an impulsive cause that moved Him to purpose a declaration of justice and judgment, yet was it a subordinate means of damnation; God in wonderful wisdom ordering and disposing the execution of this decree, so as the whole blame and fault of manŐs destruction should be in himself. And therefore the Lord in the prophet Hosea saith (Hos. 13:9), One hath destroyed thee, but I will help thee; that is, salvation is of God, and the condemnation of men is from themselves. Now whereas many depraving our doctrine say that we ascribe unto God an absolute decree in which he doth absolutely ordain men to damnation, they may be here answered. If by absolute, they understand that which is opposed to conditional, then we hold and avouch that all the eternal decrees of God are simple and absolute, and not limited or restrained to this or that condition or respect. If by absolute, they understand a bare and naked decree without reason or cause, then we deny GodŐs decree to be absolute. For though the causes thereof be not known to us, yet causes there be, known to Him, and just they are; yea the very will of God itself is cause sufficient, it being the absolute rule of justice. And though men in reason cannot discern the equity and justice of GodŐs will in this point, yet may we not thereupon conclude that therefore it is unjust. The sun may shine clearly, though the blind man see it not. And it is a flat mistaking to imagine that a thing must first of all be just in itself, and then afterward be willed of God. Whereas contrariwise, God must first will a thing before it can be just. The will of God doth not depend upon the quality and nature of the thing, but the qualities of things in order of causes follow the will of God. For everything is as God wills it. Lastly, if it be called an absolute decree because it is done without all respect to manŐs sin, then we still deny it to be absolute. For as God condemns man for sin; so He decreed to condemn him for, and by his sin; yet so as if the question be made, what is the cause why He decrees rather in His justice to condemn this man and that man, no other reason can be rendered but His will.
(d) The last point is the end of GodŐs decree, namely the manifestation of His justice, as Solomon saith (Prov. 16:4), The Lord hath made all things for His own sake, and the wicked for the day of evil. And Paul saith (Rom. 9:22) that God made vessels of wrath, to shew His wrath, and to make His power known.
(ii) Thus we have seen what reprobation is; now follows the execution thereof; for that which God decrees before time, in time He executes. And here a special rule to be remembered is this: Those which are ordained to just damnation, are likewise ordained to be left to themselves in this world, in blindness of mind and hardness of heart, so as they neither shall, nor will repent of their sins.
The truth of this we may see in GodŐs Word. For St Peter, speaking of the priests and doctors and chief of the people among the Jews, saith plainly (1 Pet. 2:8), They stumbled at the Word, and were disobedient. Why so? The reason is there set down: because they were ordained to it of old. And so Paul saith to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 4:2) that he handled not the Word of God deceitfully, but in the declaration of the truth he appointed himself to every manŐs conscience in the sight of God. Now hereupon it may be said: how then comes it to pass that all receive not the gospel in Corinth; and to this he answers with a terrible sentence, If (saith he (2 Cor. 4:3)) our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that perish; giving us to understand that God leaves them to themselves in this world, whom He purposed to refuse. And the Lord by the prophet Isaiah saith of the Jews (Isa. 6:9,10), By hearing they shall hear and not understand, and by seeing they shall see and not perceive, lest they should hear with their ears, and see with their eyes, and understand with their hearts, and so turn and be saved.
The use of this is manifold:
Use 1. First, it serves to overthrow the opinion of carnal men, which reason thus: If I be ordained to damnation, let me live never so godly and well, I am sure to be damned, therefore I will live as I list; for it is not possible for me to alter GodŐs decree. Blasphemous mouths of men make nothing of this and like speeches, and yet they speak flat contraries. For whom God hath purposed in His eternal counsel to refuse, them also He hath purposed for their sins, to leave to the blindness of their minds and hardness of their hearts, so as they neither will, nor can live a godly life.
Use 2. Secondly, this rule doth as it were, lead us by the hand to the consideration of the fearful estate of many people among us. We have had for the space of thirty years and more the preaching of the gospel of Christ, and the more plentifully by reason of the schools of learning. But what hath been the issue of it? I doubt not but in many it hath been the means of their conversion and salvation; but to speak generally of the greater part, there is little or no fruit to be seen. The most after this long preaching remain as blind, as impenitent, as hard-hearted, and as unreformed in their lives as ever they were, though they have heard the Lord calling them to repentance from day to day, and from year to year. Well, if this rule be the truth of God, as no doubt it is, then I say plainly that there is a most fearful judgment of God among us. My meaning is not to determine or give sentence of any manŐs person, of any town, or people; nevertheless this may be avouched: that it is a terrible and dangerous sign of the wrath of God, that after this long and daily preaching, there is still remaining a general hardness of heart, impenitence and want of reformation in the lives of men. The smithŐs stithy, the more it is beaten, the harder it is made; and commonly the hearts of men, the more they are beaten with the hammer of GodŐs Word, the more dull, secure and senseless they are. This being so, it stands every man in hand to look to his own estate. We are careful to flee the infection of the bodily plague; oh then, how careful should we be to flee the common blindness and hardness of heart which is the very plague of all plagues, a thousand-fold worse than all the plagues of Egypt? And it is so much the more fearful, because the more it takes place, the less it is perceived. When a malefactor on the day of assize is brought forth of the jail, with great bolts and fetters, to come before the judge, as he is going all men pity him and speak comfortably unto him; but why so? Because he is now to be arraigned at the bar of an earthly judge. Now the case of all impenitent sinners is far more miserable than the case of this man; for they lie fettered in bondage under sin and Satan; and this short life is the way in which they are going every hour to the bar of GodŐs justice, who is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, there to be arraigned and to have sentence of condemnation given against them. Now canst thou pity a man that is before an earthly judge, and wilt thou not be touched with the misery of thine own estate, who goest every day to the bar of GodŐs justice; whether thou be sleeping or waking, sitting or standing, as a man on the sea in a ship goes continually toward the haven, though he stir not his foot? Begin now at length to lay this point to your hearts, that, so long as ye run on in your blind ways without repentance, as much as ye can, ye make post-haste to hell-ward; and so long as you continue in this miserable condition, as St Peter saith (2 Pet. 2:3), Your judgment is not far off, and your damnation sleepeth not.
Use 3. Thirdly, seeing those whom God hath purposed to refuse, shall be left unto themselves, and never come to repentance, we are to love and embrace the Word of God preached and taught unto us by the ministers of the gospel; and withal submitting ourselves unto it, and suffering the Lord to humble us thereby, that we may come at length out of the broad way of blindness of mind and hardness of heart leading to destruction, into the strait way of true repentance and reformation of life which leadeth to salvation. For so long as a man lives in this world after the lusts of his own heart, he goes on walking in the very same broad way to hell, in which all that are ordained to condemnation walk; and what a fearful thing is it, but for a little while to be a companion in the way of destruction with them that perish; and therefore I say once again, let us all in the fear of God, lay His Word unto our hearts, and hear it with reverence, so as it may be in us the sword of the Spirit to cut down the sins and corruptions of our natures, and work in us a reformation of life and true repentance.
(iii) The third point concerning the decree of reprobation, is the judgment to be given of it. This judgment belongeth to God principally and properly, because He knoweth best what He hath determined concerning the estate of every man, and none but He knows who they be which are ordained to due and deserved damnation. And again, He only knoweth the hearts and wills of men, and what grace He hath given them, what they are, and what all their sins be, and so doth no angel nor creature in the world beside. As for men, it belongs not to them to give judgment of reprobation in themselves, or in others, unless God reveals His will unto them and give them gift of discerning. The gift was bestowed on sundry of the prophets in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament on the apostles. David in many psalms (Psa. 69, 109) maketh request for the confusion of his enemies, not praying only against their sins (which we may do), but even against their persons which we may not do. No doubt he was guided by GodŐs Spirit and received thence an extraordinary gift to judge of the obstinate malice of his adversaries. And Paul prays against the person of Alexander the coppersmith (2 Tim. 4:14), saying, The Lord reward him according to his doings. And such kind of prayers were lawful in them, because they were carried with pure and upright zeal, and had no doubt a special gift whereby they were able to discern of the final estate of their enemies. Again, God sometimes gives this gift of discerning of some menŐs final impenitence to the church upon earth, I say not to this or that private person, but to the body of the church or greater part thereof. St John writing unto the churches saith (1 John 5:16), There is a sin unto death (that is, against the Holy Ghost), I say not that thou shouldest pray for it; in which words he takes for granted that this sin might be discerned by the church in those days. And Paul saith (1 Cor. 16:22), If any man believe not the Lord Jesus, let him be had in execration, Maranatha, that is, pronounced accursed to everlasting destruction. Whence it appears that the church hath power to pronounce men rejected to everlasting damnation, upon some special occasions, though I dare not say ordinarily and usually. The primitive church with one consent prayed against Julian the apostate, and the prayers made were not in vain, as appeareth by the event of his fearful end. As for private and ordinary men, for the tempering and rectifying of their judgment, in this case they must follow two rules:
(a) The one is that every member of the church is bound to believe his own election. It is the commandment of God binding the very conscience (1 John 3:23), that we should believe in Christ. Now to believe in Christ, is not only to put our affiance in him, and to be resolved that we are justified and sanctified, and shall be glorified by Him, but also that we are elect to salvation in Him before the beginning of the world, which is the foundation of the rest. Again, if of things that have necessary dependence one upon another, we are to believe the one, then we are to believe the other. Now election and adoption are things conjoined, and the one necessarily depends upon the other. For all the elect (as St Paul saith (Eph. 1:5)) are predestinated to adoption; and we are to believe our own adoption, and therefore also our election.
(b) The second rule is that concerning the persons of those that be of the church, we must put in practice the judgment of charity, and that is to esteem of them as the elect of God, till God make manifest otherwise. By virtue of this rule the ministers of GodŐs Word are to publish and preach the gospel to all without exception. It is true indeed there is both wheat and darnel in GodŐs field, chaff and corn in GodŐs barn, fish and dross in GodŐs net, sheep and goats in ChristŐs fold; but secret judgments belong unto God, and the rule of love, which is to think and wish the best of others, is to be followed of us that profess faith working by love.
It may be demanded, what we are to judge of them that as yet are enemies to God? Answer: Our duty is to suspend our judgment concerning their final estate; for we know not whether God will call them or no; and therefore we must rather pray for their conversion, than for their confusion.
Again, it may be demanded, what is to be thought of all our ancestors and forefathers that lived and died in the times when popery took place? Answer: We may well hope the best and think that they were saved; for though the papacy be not the church of God, and though the doctrine of popery raze the foundation, yet nevertheless in the very midst of the Roman papacy, God hath always had a remnant which have in some measure truly served Him. In the Old Testament, when open idolatry took place in all Israel, God said to Elijah (1 Kin. 19:18), I have reserved seven thousand to myself, that never bowed the knee to Baal; and the like is and hath been in the general apostasy under antichrist. St John saith (Rev. 12:17) that when the woman fled into the wilderness for a time, even then there was a remnant of her seed which kept the commandments of God, and had the testimony of Jesus Christ. And again, when ordinary means of salvation fail, then God can and doth make a supply by means extraordinary, and therefore there is no cause why we should say that they were condemned.
Thirdly, it may be demanded, whether the common judgment given of Francis Spira, that he is a reprobate, be good or no? Answer: We may with better warrant say no, than any man say, yea. For what gifts of discerning had they which came to visit him in his extremity; and what reason induced them to give this peremptory judgment? He said himself that he was a reprobate; that is nothing, a sick manŐs judgment of himself is not to be regarded. Yea, but he despaired; a senseless reason, for so doth many a man year by year, and that very often as deeply as ever Spira did; and yet by the good help of the ministry of the Word, both are and may be recovered. And they which will avouch Spira to be a reprobate, must go further and prove two things: that he despaired both wholly and finally; which if they cannot prove, we for our parts must suspend our judgments, and they were much to blame that first published the book.
Lastly, it may be demanded, what is to be thought of them that make very fearful ends in raving and blaspheming? Answer: Such strange behaviours are oftentimes the fruits of violent diseases which torment the body and bereave the mind of sense and reason; and therefore if the person lived well, we must think the best; for we are not by outward things to judge the estate of any man. Solomon saith (Eccl. 9:2) that all things come alike to all, and the same condition to the just and to the wicked.
Thus much of the parts of predestination; now follows the use thereof; and it concerns partly our judgments, partly our affections, and partly our lives.
(1) The uses which concern judgment are three:
(i) And first by the doctrine of predestination, we learn that there cannot be any justification of a sinner before God by his works. For GodŐs election is the cause of justification, because whom God electeth to salvation after this life, them He electeth to be justified in this life. Now election itself is of grace, and of grace alone, as Paul saith (Rom. 11:5,6), Election is by grace, and if it be by grace, it is no more of works; or else were grace no grace; therefore justification is of grace and grace alone; and I reason thus: The cause of a cause is the cause of all things caused; but grace alone is the cause of predestination, which is the cause of our vocation, justification, sanctification etc. Grace therefore is also the alone cause of all these. Therefore the Scriptures ascribe not only the beginning, but also the continuance and accomplishment of all our happiness to grace. For first, as election, so vocation is of grace. Paul saith (2 Tim. 1:9), God hath called us not according to our works, but according to His purpose and grace. Again, faith in Christ is of grace. So it is said (Phil. 1:29): To you it is given to believe in Christ. Also the justification of a sinner is of grace. So Paul saith plainly to the Romans (Rom. 3:24): You are justified freely by His grace. Again, sanctification and the doing of good works is of grace. So it is said (Eph. 2:10): We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath ordained that we should walk in them. Also perseverance in good works and godliness is of grace. So the Lord saith (Jer. 32:40): I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will never turn away from them to do them good, but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Lastly, life everlasting is of grace. So Paul saith (Rom. 6:23): Life everlasting is the gift of God through Jesus Christ. Now they of the church of Rome teach the flat contrary; they make two justifications; the first, whereby a man of an evil man is made a good man; the second, whereby of a good man he is made better. The first they ascribe to grace, but so, as the second is by works.
(ii) Secondly, hence we learn that the art of judicial astrology is vain and frivolous. They that practise it, do profess themselves to tell of things to come almost whatsoever, and this they do by casting of figures; and the special point of their art is to judge of menŐs nativities. For if they may know but the time of a manŐs birth, they take upon them to tell the whole course of his life from year to year, from week to week, and from day to day, from the day of his birth to the hour of his death; yea, that which is more, they profess themselves to tell all things that shall befall men, either in body, goods or good name, and what kind of death they shall die. But that this their practice is not of God, but indeed unlawful, it may appear by this: because it stands not with the doctrine of GodŐs predestination. Two twins begotten of the same parents and born both at one and the same time, by the judgments of astrologians must have both the same life and the same death, and be every way alike both in goods and good name; yet we see the contrary to be true in Jacob and Esau, who were born both of the same parents at one time. For Jacob took Esau by the heel, so as there could not be much difference between them in time; yet for all this, Esau was a fierce man and wild, given to hunting; but Jacob was mild of nature and lived at home; the one had favour at GodŐs hand and was in the covenant, but God kept back that mercy from the other. Again, in a pitched field are slain a thousand men at one and the same time; now if we consider the time of their births, it may be they were born at a thousand sundry times, and therefore under so many divers positions of the heavens, and so by the judgment of all astrologers should have all divers and sundry lives and ends; but we see according to the determination of the counsel of God, they have all one and the same end; and therefore this must admonish all those that are brought up in schools of learning, to have care to spend their time in better studies; and it teacheth those that are fallen into any manner of distress, not to have recourse unto these fond figure-casters. For their astrological judgments are false and foolish, as we may see by the two former examples.
(iii) Thirdly, the knowledge of God is one of the most special points in Christian religion; and therefore the Lord saith (Jer. 9:24), Let him that rejoiceth rejoice in this: that he understandeth and knoweth me. For I am the Lord which shew mercy and judgment in the earth. And our Saviour Christ saith (John 17:3), This is life eternal: to know thee, the only very God, and whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ. Now GodŐs predestination is a glass wherein we may behold His majesty. For first, by it we see the wonderful wisdom of God, who in His eternal counsel did foresee and most wisely set down the estate of every man. Secondly, His omnipotence, in that He hath power to save, and power to refuse whom He will. Thirdly, His justice and mercy both joined together in the execution of election: His mercy, in that He saveth those that were utterly lost; His justice in that He ordained Christ to be a Mediator to suffer the curse of the law and to satisfy His justice for the elect. Fourthly, His justice in the execution of the decree of reprobation; for though He decreed to hold back His mercy from some men because it so pleased Him, yet He condemneth no man but for his sins. Now the consideration of these and like points, bring us to the knowledge of the true God.
(2) The uses which concern our affections are these:
(i) First, the doctrine of predestination ministers to all the people of God matter of endless consolation. For considering GodŐs election is unchangeable, therefore they which are predestinated to salvation cannot perish; though the gates of hell prevail against them so as they be hardly saved, yet shall they certainly be saved; therefore our Saviour Christ saith (Matt. 24:24) that in the latter days shall arise false ChristŐs and false prophets which shall shew great signs and wonders, so that if it were possible they should deceive the very elect. In which words He takes for granted that the elect of God can never finally fall away. And hereupon He saith to His disciples when they rejoiced that the devils were subject to them (Luke 10:20), Rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven. And St Paul speaking of Hymenaeus and Philetus, which had fallen away from the faith, lest the church should be discouraged by their fall because they were thought to be worthy men and pillars of the church; he doth comfort them from the very ground of election, saying (2 Tim. 2:19), The foundation of God remaineth sure, and hath this seal: The Lord knoweth who are His. Where GodŐs election is compared to the foundation of an house, the building whereof may be shaken, but the groundwork standeth fast; and therefore Paul saith further (Rom. 8:33): Who shall lay anything to the charge of GodŐs elect? Now then that we may have comfort in distress, and something to stay upon in all our troubles; we in this world are as strangers in a far country; our passage homeward is over the sea of this world; the ship wherein we sail is the church; and Satan stirs up many blasts of troubles and temptations, and his purpose is to sink the ship, or to drive it on the rock; but we must take the anchor of hope, and fasten it in heaven upon the foundation of GodŐs election; which being done, we shall pass in safety and rejoice in the midst of all storms and tempests.
(ii) Secondly, whereas God refuseth some men, and leaves them to themselves, it serves to strike a fear into every one of us whatsoever we be, as St Paul saith in the like case (Rom. 11:20), the Jews being the natural branches, are broken off through unbelief, and thou standest by faith: be not high-minded but fear. This indeed was spoken to the Romans, but we must also lay it unto our hearts. For what is the best of us, but a lump of clay? And howsoever in GodŐs counsel we are chosen to salvation, yet in ourselves we are all shut up under unbelief, and are fit to make vessels of wrath. Our Saviour Christ calleth Judas a devil, and we know his lewd life and fearful end; now what are we better than Judas by nature? If we had been in his stead, without the special blessing of God, we should have done as he did; he betrayed Christ; but if God leave us to ourselves, we shall not only betray Him, but by our sins then crucify Him a thousand ways. Furthermore, let us bethink ourselves of this: whether there be not some already condemned in hell, who in their lives were not more grievous offenders than we. Isaiah (Isa. 1:10) called the people of his time a people of Sodom and Gomorrah; giving the Jews then living to understand that they were as bad as the Sodomites, and as the people of Gomorrah, on whom the Lord had shewed His judgments long before. If this be true, then let us with fear and trembling be thankful to His majesty that He hath preserved us hitherto from deserved damnation.
(3) The uses which respect our lives and conversations are manifold:
(i) First, seeing God hath elected some to salvation, and hath also laid down the means in His holy Word whereby we may come to the knowledge of our particular election, we must therefore as St Peter counselleth us (2 Pet. 1:10), give all diligence to make our election sure. In the world men are careful and painful enough to make assurance of lands and goods to themselves and to their posterity; what a shame it is then for us, that we should be slack in making sure to ourselves the election of God, which is more worth than all the world beside; and if we shall continue to be slack herein, the leases of our lands and houses and all other temporal assurances shall be bills of accusation against us at the day of judgment to condemn us.
(ii) Secondly, by this doctrine we are taught to live godly and righteously in this present world; because all those whom God hath chosen to salvation, He hath also appointed to live in newness of life, as St Paul saith (Eph. 1:4), God hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him. And again (Eph. 2:10), We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath ordained that we should walk in them. And (2 Thess. 2:13), God hath chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and faith of the truth. The elect are vessels of honour (Rom. 9:23; 2 Tim. 2:21); and therefore all those that will be of the number of the elect, must carry themselves as vessels of honour. For so long as they live in their sins, they be like vessels of dishonour, employing themselves to the most base service that can be, even to the service of the devil. The sun was ordained to shine in the day, and the moon in the night, and that order they keep; yea every creature in his kind observeth the course appointed unto it by creation, as the grass to grow, and trees to bring forth fruit. Now the elect were ordained to this end: to lead a godly life; and therefore if we should either persuade ourselves or the world that we are indeed chosen to salvation, we must be plentiful in all good works, and make conscience of every evil way; and to do otherwise, is as much as to change the order of nature, and as if the sun should cease to shine by day and the moon by night.
(iii) Thirdly, when God shall send upon any of us in this world crosses and afflictions, either in body or in mind, or any way else (as this life is the vale of misery and tears, and judgment must begin at GodŐs house), we must learn to bear them with all submission and contentment of mind. For whom God knew before, them He hath predestinated to be made like unto His Son (Rom. 8:29). But wherein is this likeness? Paul saith (Phil. 3:10): In the fellowship of His afflictions, and in a conformity to His death. And the consideration of this, that afflictions were ordained for us in the eternal predestination of God, must comfort our hearts and restrain our impatience so oft as we shall go under the burden of them. Hence again we learn that they which persuade themselves that they are in the favour of God because they live at ease in wealth and prosperity, are far deceived. For St Paul saith (Rom. 9:22), God suffereth with long patience the vessels of wrath prepared to destruction, to make known His power, and to shew forth His wrath on them. This being so, no man then by outward blessings ought to plead that he hath the love of God. Sheep that go in fat pastures come sooner to the slaughter house than those which are kept upon the bare commons; and they which are pampered with wealth of this world, sooner forsake God, and therefore are sooner forsaken of God, than others. Solomon saith (Eccl. 9:1), No man knoweth love or hatred, that is, by outward things; for all things come alike to all; the same condition is to the just and to the unjust, to the wicked and good, to the pure and polluted.
(iv) Lastly, it may be an offence unto us, when we consider that the doctrine of the gospel is either not known, or else despised and persecuted of the whole world; but we must stay ourselves with this consideration: that nothing comes to pass by chance, and that God knows who are His; and there must be some in the world, on whom God hath in His eternal counsel purposed to manifest His power and justice. Again, ministers of the gospel may be discouraged, when after long preaching they see little or no fruit of their labours; the people whom they teach remaining as blind, impenitent and unreformed as ever they were. But they must also consider that it is the purpose of God to choose some to salvation and to refuse others; and that of the first, some are called sooner, some later, and that the second being left to themselves never come to repentance. To this, Paul had regard when he said (2 Cor. 4:3), If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that perish. And again (2 Cor. 2:15), We are unto God the sweet savour of Christ in them that are saved, and in them that perish.
Hitherto I have delivered the truth of this weighty point of religion, which also is the doctrine of the Church of England. Now it followeth that we should consider the falsehood. Sundry divines have denied, and in their writings published a new frame or platform of the doctrine of predestination; the effect whereof is this: The nature of God (say they) is infinite love, goodness and mercy itself; and therefore He propounds unto Himself an end answerable thereunto, and that is the communication of His love and goodness unto all His creatures. Now for the accomplishing of this supreme and absolute end, He did four things: First, He decreed to create man righteous in His own image; secondly, He foresaw the fall of man after his creation, yet so as He neither willed it nor decreed it; thirdly, He decreed the universal redemption of all and every man actually by Christ, so be it they will believe in Him; fourthly, He decreed to call all and every man effectually, so as if they will, they may be saved. This being done, He in His eternal counsel foreseeing who would believe in Christ, did thereupon elect them to eternal salvation; and again foreseeing who would not believe but contemn grace offered, did thereupon also decree to reject them to eternal damnation.
This platform howsoever it may seem plausible to reason, yet indeed it is nothing else but a device of manŐs brain; as will appear by sundry defects and errors that be in it:
1. For first, whereas it is avouched that AdamŐs fall came by the pure prescience of God, without any decree or will of His, it is a flat untruth. The putting of Christ to death was a great a sin as the fall of Adam; nay in some respects a greater. Now that came to pass not only by the foreknowledge of God, but also (Acts 2:23) by His determinate counsel. And therefore as the church of Jerusalem saith (Acts 4:27,28), Herod and Pontius Pilate with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, gathered themselves together, to do whatsoever thine hand and thy counsel had determined before to be done; so may we say that Adam in his fall did nothing but that which the hand of God and His counsel had determined before to be done. And considering the will of God extends itself to the least things that are, even (Matt. 10:29) to sparrows, whereof none do light upon the ground without our heavenly Father, how can a man in reason imagine that the fall of one of the most principal creatures that are, shall fall out altogether without the will and decree of God? And there can be nothing more absurd than to sever the foreknowledge of God from His counsel or decree. For by this means, things shall come to pass God nilling it, then that is done which God would not have done, and to say so, is to bereave Him of His omnipotency. And if we shall say that things fall out, God not knowing of them; we make Him to be imprudent, and deny His omniscience. Lastly, if we shall say that a thing is done, God not regarding it, we bring in an idol of our own brains, and stablish the idol-god of the Epicureans.
But it is objected to the contrary, that if God any way decreed and willed the fall of Adam, then He was the author of sin; which once to say is blasphemy. Answer: The argument follows not. There be three actions in the will of God, one whereby He doth absolutely will anything and delight in it; and of all such things God Himself is the author. The second is, wholly or absolutely to nil a thing; and all things thus nilled, cannot possibly come to pass or have the least being in nature. There is also a third action which comes as a mean between the two former, which is remissly or in part both to will and nil a thing; whereby though God approve not evil, as it is evil, and therefore doth it not; yet He willeth the permitting of it to be done by others, or the being of it; because in respect of God that decreeth the permitting of evil, it is good that there should be evil. And on this manner and no otherwise God willed the fall of Adam; and therefore in the reason of any indifferent man, though He decreed the fall, yet shall He be free from the blame thereof, which lies wholly upon the doer; these two caveats always remembered: First, that God by His will did not constrain or force the will of Adam to sin, or infuse into it any corruption, and that therefore he sinned willingly and freely, only by the necessity of co-action; secondly, that God willed the fall for a most worthy end, which was to lay down a way tending to the manifestation both of justice and mercy.
Again, it is alleged that if God willed AdamŐs fall, then His will is flat contrary to itself, because He wills that which He had by express commandment forbidden. Answer: Indeed if God should both will and forbid one and the same thing in one and the same respect, there should be a contradiction in GodŐs will; but that God doth not. He forbad AdamŐs fall as it was sin, for so in every commandment sin, as it is sin, is condemned and punished; and yet because it was in a new respect, a means of manifesting His glory, who is able to bring light out of darkness; therefore he willingly decreed the permission of it. Incest as it is sin, it is condemned in the seventh commandment and punished with death; yet as incest was a punishment of DavidŐs adultery, God is said to take his wives and to give them to his son Absalom (2 Sam. 12:11).
Some again, as it appears by their writings, fear to ascribe unto God so much as a permission of AdamŐs fall; but no doubt they are deceived. For if these rules be true: that God is omnipotent; that He works all things that are by the counsel of His will and governs them; that He hath care and regard over men; that nothing is hidden from Him; that He is unchangeable; there must needs be permission of evil. If the devil (Mark 5:12) could not so much as enter into a herd of swine without permission, shall we think that he could compass the fall and overthrow of man, without a permission? Indeed to permit, is not to hinder evil when one may; and with men it is a fault, but not with God, because He is not bound to hinder the evil which He permits.
2. The second fault is that they make the prescience of manŐs faith and unbelief to be the impulsive cause of GodŐs decree. For they say that God eternally decrees to save or refuse men, because He did foresee that they would believe or not believe. But indeed it is a manifest untruth:
(1) Among the causes of all things that are, there is an order set down by God Himself, in which order some causes are highest, some lowest, some in the middle. Now the highest cause of all is that which overrules all and is overruled of none; and that is GodŐs will, beyond which there can be no higher cause; for God is placed above all and subject to none, and this very will of His is the cause of all things that have being; for we must not imagine that a thing first of all existeth, and then afterward is willed of God, but first of all God wills a thing, and then afterward it comes to have a being. Now to say that foreseen faith or unbelief are the moving causes whereby God was induced to ordain men either to salvation or just damnation, is to undo this divine order of causes and to displace the links; in that GodŐs will is made a secondary or middle cause subordinate to other causes placed above it; yea this is to make the will of God to depend upon the quality and condition of the creature, whereas contrariwise all things depend upon GodŐs will.
(2) Again, Paul saith (Eph. 1:9) that God had opened the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He had purposed to Himself; whereby he makes a distinction between the creature and the Creator. Men when they purpose the doing of anything, borrow reasons of their purpose and wills out of themselves from the things to be done; because manŐs bare will is no sufficient cause to warrant the doing of this or that, in this or that manner, unless there be just reason. But GodŐs will is a simple and absolute rule of righteousness, and a thing is good so far forth as God wills it. Therefore there is no cause why He should go forth of Himself for external inducements and reasons of His eternal counsel; His very will in Himself is a sufficient reason of all His purposes and decrees. And hereupon Paul saith that GodŐs purpose was in Himself, to shew that there is no dependence of His will upon the creature, and that in ordering and disposing of His decrees, He had no reference or respective consideration of the qualities and works of them.
(3) Thirdly, by this doctrine, there is fastened upon God want of wisdom, who is wisdom itself; and that is very absurd. A simple man that hath in him but a spark of the wisdom of God, first of all, intends with himself the end and event of the business to be done, and then afterward the means whereby the end is accomplished; but in this platform God is brought in, in the first place to foresee and consider with Himself the means which tend to the end, namely faith and unbelief of men, and then afterward to determine with Himself what shall be the end and final condition of every man either in life or death; as if a man should purpose with himself to build an house without any consideration of the end why; and afterward conceive with himself the particular uses to which he will apply it.
(4) Fourthly, hence it followeth that faith shall not only be an instrument, but also an efficient cause in the act of justification of a sinner before God. For the cause of a cause is also the cause of a thing caused; but foreseen faith is an impulsive cause whereby God was moved to choose some men to salvation (as it is said); and therefore it is not only an instrument to apprehend ChristŐs righteousness, but also a cause or means to move God to justify a sinner; because justification proceeds of election which comes of foreseen faith; now this is erroneous by the doctrine of all churches, unless they be popish.
(5) Fifthly, this doctrine takes it for granted that all both young and old, even infants that die in their infancy, have knowledge of the gospel, because both faith and unbelief in Christ presuppose knowledge of our salvation by Him; considering that neither ordinarily nor extraordinarily, men believe or condemn the thing unknown. But how false this is, even common experience doth shew.
(6) Lastly, this platform quite overthrows itself. For whereas all men equally corrupt in Adam, are effectually both redeemed and called, the difference between man and man, stands not in believing or not believing, for all have power to believe; but in this properly: that some are confirmed in faith, some are not. Now when all without exception are indued with grace sufficient to salvation, I demand why some men are confirmed in grace and others not confirmed; as also of angels, some were confirmed and stand, and some, not confirmed, fell? Answer: No other reason can be rendered but the will of God. And to this must all come, strive as long as they will, that of men being in one and the same estate, some are saved, some justly forsaken, because God would. Again, as the foreseeing of faith doth presuppose GodŐs giving of faith, unless men will say it is natural; so the foreseeing of faith in some men alone, doth presuppose the giving of faith to some men alone. But why doth not God confer the grace of constant faith to all? Answer: No other reason can be rendered, but because He will not. Thus then those men whose faith was foreseen, are saved, not because their faith was foreseen, but because God would.
3. The third fault is that they ascribe unto God a conditional purpose or counsel, whereby He decrees that all men shall be saved, so be if they will believe:
(1) For it is every way as much against common sense, as if it had been said that God decreed nothing at all concerning man. A conditional sentence determines nothing simply but conditionally, and therefore uncertainly; and when we speak of God, to determine uncertainly, it is as much as if He had determined nothing at all, especially when the thing determined is in the power of manŐs will, and in respect of God, the decree may come to pass or not come to pass. Men, if they might always have their choice, desire to determine of all their affairs simply without condition; and when they do otherwise, it is either because they know not the event of things, or because things to be done are not in their power. No reason therefore that we should burden God with that whereof we would disburden ourselves.
(2) Again, the majesty of God is disgraced in this kind of decree. God for His part would have all men to be saved; why then are they not? Men will not keep the condition and believe. This is flat to hang GodŐs will upon manŐs will, to make every man an emperor, and God his underling, and to change the order of nature by subordinating GodŐs will, which is the first cause, to the will of man, which is the second cause; whereas by the very law of nature, the first cause should order and dispose the second cause.
(3) But for the justifying of a conditional decree, it is alleged that there is no eternal hidden decree of God beside the gospel, which is GodŐs predestination revealed. Answer: It is an untruth. There be two wills in God: (i) one, whereby He determineth what He will do unto us or in us; (ii) the other, whereby He determineth what we shall do to Him. Now predestination is the first; whereupon it is commonly defined to be the preparation of the blessing of God, whereby they are delivered which are delivered; and the gospel is the second.
(4) Again, predestination determines who they are, and how many which are to be saved, and hereupon Christ saith (John 13:18), I know whom I have chosen; but the gospel rather determines what kind of ones and how they must be qualified which are to be saved.
(5) Lastly, predestination is GodŐs decree itself; and the gospel is an outward means of the execution of it; and therefore although the gospel be propounded with a condition, yet the decree of God itself may be simple and absolute.
4. The fourth defect is the opinion of universal saving grace; appertaining to all and every man; which may fitly be termed the school of universal atheism. For it puts down the pale of the church, and lays it waste at every common field; it breeds a carelessness in the use of the means of grace, the Word and sacraments; when as men shall be persuaded that grace shall be offered to everyone effectually, whether he be of the church or not, at one time or other; wheresoever or howsoever he live; as in the like case, if men should be told that whether they live in the market town or no, there shall be sufficient provision brought them, if they will but receive it and accept it, who would then come to market?
Universal grace hath three parts: Universal election; universal redemption; universal vocation:
(1) Universal election of all and every man, is a witless conceit; for if men universally be appointed to grace without exception, then there is no election or choosing of some out of mankind to grace; and if some alone be appointed to grace, as it must needs be in election, then is not grace universal. And it is flat against the Word of God. For Christ avoucheth plainly (Matt. 22:14) that fewer be chosen than called, and (afterward as we shall see) all are not called. And He further saith (John 17:2,11,24) that all which are given Him shall be one with Him, and have life everlasting; but all men shall not be one with Him and have life everlasting; and therefore all men are not given to Christ of the Father, that is, ordained to salvation. And the Scripture saith (Rev. 17:14; 20:15) that all menŐs names are not written in the book of life; and that the kingdom of heaven was not prepared for all. And whereas men build this universal election upon the largeness of the promise of the gospel; upon the like ground they might as well make a universal decree of reprobation, whereby God decrees all men to be damned indefinitely upon this condition: if they do not believe. Now if universal reprobation be absurd, as it is indeed; then universal election of all and every man must take part therewith.
(2) As for the universal redemption of all and every man, it is no better than a forgery of manŐs brain. There shall be many in the day of judgment of whom Christ shall say (Matt. 7:23) that He never knew them. Again, He saith (John 3:36), He which believeth not, is already judged, and the wrath of God abides upon him. But if all were effectually redeemed, and only condemned for not believing in Christ, it should have been said that they are already judged, and that the wrath of God not abides, but returns upon them. Christ makes no intercession for the world (John 17:9), and therefore His redemption is not effectual to all men. For the intercession is the means of applying the satisfaction. If it be said that by the world is meant only condemners of grace, it appears to be otherwise, in that Christ opposeth the world to them which are the FatherŐs, and are given to Christ by Him; thereby signifying that by the world, He means all such as are not the FatherŐs, and were never given to Christ. And (John 10:15), He lays down His life for the sheep. Now the sheep have all these brands or marks (vv.27,28): they hear His voice, they know Him, they follow Him, they shall not perish, none shall pluck them out of ChristŐs hands; and these are only such of whom Paul saith (Rom. 8:33), Who shall lay anything to the charge of GodŐs elect? It is God that justifieth, who shall condemn? And if this should be true, that Christ was crucified and died no less to make satisfaction for the sins of the damned, than for the sins of Peter and Paul and the rest of the saints, it follows necessarily that all their sins are forgiven, considering that remission of sin depends inseparably upon satisfaction made to GodŐs justice for sin; and satisfaction doth necessarily abolish all fault. We grant that ChristŐs death is sufficient to save many thousand worlds; we grant again it is every way most effectual in itself; but that it is effectual in or unto the person of every man, that we deny. For if it were thus effectual, then it should be applied to the person of every man, as to Cain, Judas, Nero, Heligoabalus, etc., even as the plaister is laid to the sore; being applied, ChristŐs righteousness should be imputed for the justification and sanctification of all and every man; and thus some justified before God, and sanctified, should after go to hell and be damned, whereas David, never so much as dreaming of this divinity, saith (Psa. 32:1) that they are blessed which have the pardon of their sins; and Paul (Rom. 5:1), that they which are justified have peace with God.
But let us hear what reasons may be alleged for the universality of redemption:
(i) (Ezek. 33:11) As I live, saith the Lord, I will not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked return from his wicked way. Answer: The place is to be understood not simply but in respect; of the twain God rather wills the repentance of the sinner than his death. Again, He wills not death as it is the destruction of His creature; and so this place may be understood; yet nevertheless He wills the same as it is a means of the manifestation of His justice; and therefore the prophet Isaiah saith (Isa. 45:6), God createth evil.
(ii) (1 Tim. 2:4) God would have all men to be saved; and come to the acknowledgement of the truth. Answer: The place is meant not of the persons of all particular men, but of the orders and kinds of men. For in the first verse Paul exhorted Timothy that prayer should be made for all men; and in the second verse, opening his own meaning, he addeth these words: for kings and all that be in authority; as though he should say, we must pray not only for private men and for the common people, but also for public persons, though they persecute the gospel. But why? Because in that very order God hath His elect which shall be saved. And on this manner, Paul expounds himself elsewhere (Gal. 3:28), There is neither Jew nor Grecian; there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ.
(iii) (Rom. 11:32) God hath shut up all in unbelief that He might have mercy on all. Answer: The word all, must be understood of all that are to be saved, both of Jews and Gentiles, as the article added to all importeth, and the meaning is that God will save all whom He purposeth to save, of His mercy and not of their merit, because all are sinners as well Jews as Gentiles. Thus Paul expounds himself (Gal. 3:22), The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by the faith of Jesus Christ should be given unto them that believe. And if we should expound the word all, for every particular man, as some would have it, Paul must contradict himself, who said before that God would have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom He will he hardeneth, and in this very chapter his drift is to prove the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles.
(iv) (John 3:16) God so loved the world that He hath given His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life; and (John 6:51), I will give my flesh for the life of the world. Answer: By world, we must not understand every particular man in the world, but the elect among the Jews and Gentiles; for in both these places Christ doth overthwart the conceit of the Jews which thought that they alone were loved of God and not the Gentiles. And how this world is to be understood in the New Testament, Paul doth fully declare (Rom. 11:12), If (saith he) the fall of them, that is the Jews, be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them, the riches of the Gentiles, etc., and (v.15), If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving be but life from the dead? Where, by the world, he understands the body of the Gentiles in the last age of the world. And thus he fully declares his own meaning, when he saith to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 5:19), God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.
(v) (Rom. 14:15) Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. (2 Pet. 2:1), Denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift damnation. Therefore Christ died for them also which are condemned. Answer: The reason is not good. For in these and such like places, the Scripture speaks of men, not as they are indeed before God, but as they are in appearance and profession, and as they are in acceptation with men. For so long as a man builds and embraces the Christian faith, so long in the judgment of charity we must esteem him to be one that is redeemed by Christ, though indeed he be not. And this is the meaning of Peter when he saith that false prophets deny the Lord that bought them.
(vi) In the preaching of the gospel, grace is freely offered not only to the elect, but to all men indifferently; and God in offering grace deludes no man; therefore ChristŐs death appertains and belongs to all men indiscriminately. Answer: The preaching of the gospel is an ordinance of God appointed for the gathering together and the accomplishment of the number of the elect; and therefore in the ministry of the Word, grace and salvation is offered principally and directly to the elect, and only by consequent to them which are ordained to just damnation; because they are mingled with the elect in the same societies, and because the ministers of God, not knowing His secret counsel, in charity think all to be elect. And though God in offering grace does not confer it to all, yet there is no delusion. For the offering of grace doth not only serve for the conversion of a sinner, but also to be an occasion by menŐs fault, of blinding the mind and hardening the heart, and taking away excuse on the day of judgment.
To conclude this point, universal redemption of all men we grant; the Scripture saith so; and there is an universality among the elect and believers; but universal redemption of all and every man, as well the damned as the elect, and that effectually, we renounce as having neither footing in Scripture nor in the writing of any ancient and orthodox divine for many hundreds of years after Christ, His words not depraved and mistaken.
(3) As for the universal vocation, it is of the same kind with the former; because it is flat against the Word of God in which is set down a distinction of the world from the creation to the days of Christ, into two parts: one, the people of God, being received into the covenant; the other (being the greatest part of the world), No people, and forth of the covenant. From the beginning of the world to the giving of the law, the church was shut up in the families of the patriarchs; and the covenant in the very family of Abraham was restrained to Isaac; and the members of these families, for this cause, were called the sons of God (Gen. 6:2); and the rest of the world beside being termed as they were indeed, the sons of men. From the giving of the law till Christ, the nation of the Jews was the church of God and the rest of the world beside, no people of God. And therefore Isaiah (Isa. 49:9) calls them prisoners and them that are in darkness; and Hosea (Hos. 2:23), such as are without mercy and no people; and Zechariah (Zech. 2:11), such as are not joined to the Lord; and Paul (Acts 14:16), such as are set to walk in their own ways, being (Eph. 2:12) without God and without Christ in the world. And this distinction between Jew and Gentile stood till the very ascension of Christ. And hereupon when He was to send His disciples to preach, He charged them (Matt. 10:5,6) not to go into the way of the Gentiles; and not to enter into the cities of the Samaritans, but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; and when the woman of Canaan made request for her daughter, He gave a denial at the first upon this distinction, saying (Matt. 15:24,26), It is not meet to take the childrenŐs bread and give it unto dogs, and again, I am sent but unto the lost sheep of Israel. It will be said that this distinction arose of this: that the Gentiles at the first fell away from the covenant, and contemned the Messiah. It is true indeed of the first heads of the Gentiles the sons of Noah; but of their posterity it is false, which in times following did not so much as hear of the covenant and the Messiah. The prophet Isaiah saith of Christ (Isa. 55:5), A nation that knew not thee, shall run unto thee. And Paul, speaking to the Athenians (Acts 17:30) saith that the times of this their ignorance God regarded not; but now admonisheth all men everywhere to repent; and to the Romans he saith (Rom. 16:25,26) that the ministry touching Christ and His benefits was kept secret since the world began, and now opened and published among all nations (1 Tim. 3:16). And if the Gentiles had but known of the Messiah, why did not their poets and philosophers, who in their writings notoriously abuse the Jews with sundry nicknames, at the least to signify the contempt of the Redeemer? Wherefore to hold, and much more to avouch by writing, that all and every one of the heathen were called, it is most absurd; and if it were so, the cannibals and the savage nations of America should have known Christ without preaching, which by the histories of those countries, is known to be false.
Again, if the vocation of every man be effectual, then faith must be common to all men either by nature or by grace, or both. Now to say the first, namely, that the power of believing is common to all by nature, is the heresy of the Pelagians, and to say it is common to all by grace is false. All men have not faith, saith Paul (2 Thess. 3:2), nay, many to whom the gospel is preached, do not so much as understand it and give assent unto it; Satan blinding their minds that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should not shine unto them (2 Cor. 4:4). And to say that faith is partly by nature and partly by grace, is the condemned heresy of the Semi-Pelagian; for we cannot so much as think a good thought of ourselves (2 Cor. 3:5).
The last defect in the platform, is that they ascribe to God a wrong end of His counsels; namely, the communication of mercy or goodness in eternal happiness. For the absolute and sovereign end of all GodŐs doings must be answerable to His nature, which is not mercy and love alone, but also justice itself; and therefore the right end is the manifestation of His glory both in justice and mercy by the express testimony of Scripture. Again, if the communication of His goodness were the highest end of all His counsels, all men without exception should be saved, because God cannot be frustrated of His end and purpose; and if but one man be damned, he is damned either because God will not save him or because He cannot. If they say He will not, then is He changeable; if He cannot, then is He not omnipotent, considering His purpose was to convey happiness to all creatures.
Thus much of the efficient cause of the church, namely, GodŐs predestination; which doctrine could not here be omitted, considering no man can believe himself to be a member of the church, unless withal he believe that he is predestinated to life everlasting. Now we come to the second point, namely, the mystical union, which is the very form of the church, wherein all that believe are made one with Christ (Gal. 3:16). To the causing of this union, two things are required: a donation or giving of Christ unto man, which is to be made one with Him, and a conjunction between them both.
Of the first, the prophet Isaiah saith (Isa. 9:6), Unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given, and Paul (Rom. 8:32), Who spared not His own Son, but gave Him for us all; how shall He not with Him give us all things also? And touching it, sundry points must be considered:
(1) The first is, what is meant by this giving? Answer: It is an action or work of God the Father by the Holy Ghost, whereby Christ as Redeemer in the appointed time is really communicated to all ordained to salvation, in such manner that they may truly say that Christ Himself with all His benefits is theirs, both in respect of right thereto, and in respect of all fruits redounding thence, and that as truly as any man may say, that house and land given him of his ancestors is his own both to possess and to use.
(2) The second point is, what is the very thing given? Answer: Whole Christ, God and man is given, because His humanity without His Godhead, or the Godhead without the humanity doth not reconcile us to God. Yet in this giving, there must be a divers consideration had of the two natures of Christ; for the communication of the Godhead is merely energetical, that is, only in respect of operation; in that it doth make the manhood personally united unto it to be propitiatory for our sins and meritorious of life eternal. And to avouch any communication of the Godhead in respect of essence, were to bring in the heresy of the Manichees, and to maintain a composition and a co-mixture of our natures with the nature of God. Again, in the manhood of Christ we must distinguish between the subject itself, the substance of body and soul, and the blessings in the subject which tend to our salvation. And the communication of the aforesaid manhood is in respect of both, without separation; for no man can receive saving virtue from Christ, unless first of all he receive Christ Himself, as (Matt. 13:44) no man can have the treasure hid in a field, unless he first of all have the field; and (John 6:53,54) no man can be nourished by meat and drink, unless first of all he receive the substance of both. And this is the cause why, not only in the preaching of the Word, but also in the institution of the LordŐs supper, express mention is made, not only of ChristŐs merit, but also of His very body and blood, whereby the whole humanity is signified, as appears by that place where it is said (John 1:14) that the Word was made flesh. And though the flesh of itself profit nothing, as St John saith (John 6:63), yet as it is joined to the Godhead of the Son, and doth subsist in His Person, it receiveth thence quickening virtue, to revive and renew all those to whom it shall be given. Lastly, among the blessings that are stored up in the manhood of Christ for our salvation, some are given unto us by imputation as when we are justified by the righteousness, indeed inherent in His manhood, but imputed unto us; some by infusion, as when holiness is wrought in our hearts by the Spirit, as a fruit of that holiness which is in the manhood of Christ, and derived from it, as the light of one candle from another.
(3) The third point is, in what manner Christ is given unto us? Answer: God the Father giveth Christ unto His church not in an earthly or bodily manner, as when a king bestows a gift with his own hand and putteth it in the hand of his subject; but the manner is altogether celestial and spiritual; partly because it is brought to pass by the mere divine operation of the Holy Ghost, and partly because, in respect of us, this gift is received by an instrument which is supernatural, namely faith, whereby we lay hold on, and apply unto ourselves the evangelical promises. And this manner of giving may be conceived thus: A man that never stirred foot out of England holds and enjoys land in Turkey; but how comes it to be his? Thus: the emperor was willing and content to bestow it; and the man for his part as willing to accept and receive it; and by this means that which at the first was the emperorŐs, by mutual consent becomes the manŐs. In the same manner, God the Father hath made an evangelical covenant with His church; in which of His mercy He hath made a grant of His own Son unto us, with righteousness and life everlasting in Him; and we again by His grace accept of this grant, and receive the same by faith; and thus by mutual consent according to the tenor of the covenant, any repentant sinner may say, though I now have my abode upon earth, and Christ in respect of His manhood be locally in heaven; yet is He truly mine to have and to enjoy, His body is mine, His blood is mine. As for the giving and receiving of the body and blood of Christ in bodily manner (which the papists maintain in avouching the real transubstantiation of bread and wine in the sacrament, into the body and blood of Christ, and the Lutherans also in teaching that His body and blood is substantially either in, or with, or under the bread and wine) is an erroneous conceit, flat opposite to sundry points of the Christian faith. For Christ to this very hour retaineth still the essence and essential properties of a true body, and we believe that really and visibly He ascended into heaven, and there abides till His second coming to the last judgment; who then having but common reason would imagine a communication of the body of Christ pent up in the element of bread, and conveyed into our bodies by the mouth and stomach?
(4) The fourth point is, whether we are not lords of Christ, He being thus given unto us? Answer: No; for this donation is not single but mutual. As Christ is given unto us, so we again are given to Christ, as He Himself saith (John 17:12), Those whom thou hast given me, Father, I have kept. And we are given unto Him, that our bodies and souls are made His, not only as He is God, but also as He is our Redeemer; and our sins with the guilt thereof are made His by imputation, and the punishment thereof is wholly laid upon Him. This is all the dowry which the church, being the spouse of Christ, hath brought unto Him.
(5) The fifth point is, how any man in particular may know that Christ is given unto him of the Father? Answer: When God gives Christ to man, He withal gives man grace and power to receive Christ, and to apprehend Him with all His benefits; and this we do when we utterly renounce ourselves, this world and all things therein, bewail our sins past, resting on the death of Christ for the pardon of them all, and as it were both the arms of faith catching hold upon Him in all estates, both in life and death. When the heart of any man is truly disposed and inclined to do these and the like things, we may truly say that God hath given him grace to receive Christ.
The second thing required to make us one with Christ, is the mystical union, which is a conjunction whereby Christ and His church are actually coupled into one mystical body. Now that we may the better conceive the nature of it, sundry questions are to be moved:
(1) The first, what kind of conjunction is this? Answer: In the Scripture we meet with three kinds of conjunctions:
(i) The first, is conjunction in nature, when sundry things are coupled by one and the same nature. As the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, being three distinct substances are all one, and therefore joined in one Godhead or divine nature. Now Christ and the believer are not joined in nature; for then they twain should have one body and soul.
(ii) The second conjunction is in person, when things in nature different, so concur together that they make but one person; as the body and soul make one man; and the Godhead of the Son with His manhood make but one Christ; in whom there is an union of distinct natures with unity of Person. Now Christ and a Christian are not joined in person; for Christ is one Person, Peter a second person, and Paul a third distinct from them both; and so many men as there be, so many several persons.
(iii) The third conjunction is in spirit; and this is the conjunction meant in this place; whereby Christ and His church are joined together; for the very same Spirit of God that dwells in the manhood of Christ and filleth it with all graces above measure, is derived thence and dwells in all the true members of the church and filleth them with the like graces in measure, and therefore St John saith (1 John 4:13), Hereby we know that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit. Hence it follows that the bond of this conjunction is one and the same Spirit descending from Christ the Head to all His members, creating also in them the instrument of faith, whereby they apprehend Christ and make Him their own.
(2) The second is, what are the things united? Answer: Not the body of the believer to the body of Christ, or the soul to His soul, but the whole person of the man to the whole Person of Christ; yet in this order: we are first of all and immediately joined to the manhood of Christ, and by the manhood to the Godhead.
(3) The third question is, what is the manner of this conjunction? Answer: We must not think that Christ and His church are joined by imagination, as the mind of man and the thing whereof he thinks; or by consent of heart, as one friend is joined with another, and as the Jews converted were all of one heart and soul; or by any abode in one place, or by touching, as sea and land are both joined together and make one globe; or by any composition or co-mixing of substances, as when many ingredients are put together to make one medicine. But this conjunction is altogether spiritual as the former giving was; and incomprehensible to manŐs reason; and therefore we must rather labour to feel it by experience in our heart than to conceive it in the brain. Yet nevertheless it shall not be amiss to consider a resemblance of it in this comparison: Suppose a man having the parts of his body disjoined far asunder, his head lying in Italy, one arm in Germany, the other in Spain, and his legs with us in England; suppose further, all these parts or quarters have all one soul, extending itself unto them all and quickening each of them severally, as though they were nearly joined together; and though the parts be severed many hundred miles asunder, yet the distance of place doth not hinder the conjunction, considering one and the same soul doth enlarge itself and give life unto them all. In the same manner, the Head of the mystical body Christ our Saviour is now in heaven, and some of His members in heaven with Him, and some in earth; and of these, some in England, some in Germany, some in Italy, some in Spain, distant many thousand miles asunder; and the Spirit of God as it were the soul of this body which gives spiritual life to all the members; distance of place doth not hinder this conjunction, because the Holy Ghost which linketh all the parts together is infinite.
The benefits which we receive by this mystical union are manifold; for it is the ground of the conveyance of all grace:
(1) The first is that by means hereof, every Christian as he is a Christian or a man regenerate, hath his beginning and being in Christ, howsoever as he is a man he hath his being and subsisting in himself, as Paul saith (1 Cor. 1:30), Ye are of God in Christ; and (Eph. 5:30), Ye are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. How (will some say) can this be? After this manner: The comparison is taken from our first parents. Eve was made of a rib taken out of AdamŐs side, he being cast into a slumber; this being done, Adam waked and said (Gen. 2:23), This now is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. Christ was nailed on the cross, and His most precious blood was shed, and out of it arise and spring all true Christians; that is, out of the merit of ChristŐs death and passion, whereby they become new creatures.
(2) Secondly, everyone that believeth in Christ by reason of this union hath an unspeakable prerogative; for hereby he is first united to Christ, and by reason thereof is also joined to the whole Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and shall have eternal fellowship with them.
(3) Thirdly, sundry men, specially papists, deride the doctrine of justification by imputed righteousness; thinking it is absurd that a man should be just by that righteousness which is inherent in the Person of Christ; as if we would say that one man may live by the soul of another; or be learned by the learning of another. But here we may see that it hath sufficient foundation. For there is a most near and straight union between Christ and all that believe in Him; and in this union, Christ with all His benefits according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, is made ours really; and therefore we may stand just before God by His righteousness; it being indeed His, because it is in Him as in a subject; yet so as it is also ours, because it is given unto us of God. Now there is no such union between man and man, and for that cause one man cannot live by the soul of another, or be learned by the learning of another.
(4) Fourthly, from this fountain springs our sanctification, whereby we die to sin and are renewed in righteousness and holiness. Worms and flies that have lien dead all winter, if they be laid in the sun in the springtime, begin to revive by virtue thereof; even so, when we are united to Christ, and are (as it were) laid in the beams of this blessed Son of righteousness, virtue is derived thence, which warmeth our benumbed hearts dead in sin, and reviveth us to newness of life; whereby we begin to affect and like good things, and put in practice all the duties of religion.
(5) Fifthly, hence we have the protection of GodŐs angels; for they always wait and attend on Christ, and because we are made one with Him, they attend upon us also.
(6) Lastly, by reason of this union with Christ, every believer comes to have interest and to recover his title in the creatures of God, and to have the holy and lawful use of them all. For we must consider that although Adam created in the image of God, was made lord over all things in heaven and earth; he, and in him all mankind, lost the title and use of them all. Now therefore that a man may recover his interest, he must first of all be united and made one with Christ; and then by Christ, who is Lord and King over all, shall he recover that title in the creatures of God, which he had by creation; and be made Lord over them again. But some will say, if this be so, then a Christian man may have and enjoy all creatures at his pleasure; and therefore the goods of other men? Answer: The reason is not good, for in this life we have no more but right unto the creature; and right in it, that is, actual possession is reserved for the life to come. Therefore we must content ourselves with our allowed portions given unto us by God, by His grace using them in holy manner, expecting by hope the full fruition of all things till after this life. Again, if all titles to the creatures be recovered by Christ, it may be demanded whether infidels have any interest to their goods or no? Answer: Infidels before men are right lords of all their lands and possessions which they have obtained by lawful means; and in the courts of men they are not to be deprived of them; but before God they are but usurpers; because they hold them not in capite, that is, in Christ; neither have they any holy and right use of them, for (Tit. 1:15) to the unclean, all things are unclean. And they must first of all become members of Christ, before they can hold and enjoy them aright, and use them with good conscience.
The duties which are to be learned of the doctrine of this union, are manifold:
(1) And first of all, we are taught to purge our hands and hearts of all our sins, and especially to avoid all those sins whereby menŐs bodies are defiled, as drunkenness, uncleanness, fornication; for they drive away the Spirit of God from His own house and dissolve the bond of the conjunction between Christ and us.
(2) Secondly, we must every one of us which profess ourselves to be members of Christ, labour to become conformable unto Him in holiness of life, and to become new creatures; for this union requireth thus much. Let a man take the grafts of a crabtree and set them into good stocks; yet will they not change their sap, but bring forth fruit according to their own nature, even sour crabs; but it must not be so with us; we are indeed wild olives, and the branches of wild vines; yet seeing we are persuaded that we are grafted into Christ, and made one with Him, we must lay aside our wild and sour nature, and take upon us the nature of the true vine, bear good fruit, have good juice in us, and render sweet wine.
(3) Thirdly, we are taught hence to be plentiful in all good works, considering we are joined to Him that is the fountain of grace. And therefore Christ saith (John 15:1,2), I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman; every branch that beareth not fruit in me, He taketh away; and every one that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bear more fruit. And the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 5:7) compares the church of God to a vineyard with a tower and winepress in it. And God Himself comes often down unto it (Song 6:11) to see the fruits of the valley, to see if the vine bud and the pomegranates flourish. And further, we must bring forth fruit with patience (Luke 8:15); for the Lord of this vineyard comes with crosses and afflictions, as with a pruning knife in His hand, to pare and to dress us that we may be fit to bring forth fruit, plentiful in duties of piety to God, and in duties of love to all men, yea to our enemies. Christian men are (Ezek.47:12) trees of righteousness growing by the waters of the sanctuary. But what trees? Not like ours; for they are rooted upward in heaven in Christ, and their grain and branches grow downward that they may bear fruit among men.
Hitherto we have heard what the church is; now to believe the church is nothing else but to believe that there is a company of the predestinated made one in Christ, and that withal we are in the number of them.
Before we proceed any further, three rules must be observed touching the church in general:
1. The first, that Christ alone is the Head of the catholic church (Eph. 1:22; Col. 2:19), and that He neither hath nor can have any creature in heaven or earth to be fellow herein. For the church is His body, and none but He can perform the duty of an Head unto it; which duty stands in two things:
(1) The first is to govern the church by such power and authority whereby He can and doth prescribe laws properly binding the conscience of all members.
(2) The second is by grace to quicken and to put spiritual life into them, so as they shall be able to say that they live not, but Christ in them.
As for the supremacy of the see of Rome, whereby the pope will needs stand ministerial head to the catholic church, it is a fantastical forgery. For the Headship (as I may term it) of Christ is of that nature or quality, that it can admit no deputy, whether we respect the commanding or the quickening power of Christ before named. Nay, Christ needs no vicar or deputy; for He is all-sufficient in Himself and always present with His church, as He Himself testifieth, saying (Matt. 18:20), Where two or three be gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst among them. And whereas all commissions cease in the presence of Him that gives the commission; it is as much pride and arrogance for the pope to take unto himself the title of the head and universal bishop of the church, as it is for a subject to keep himself in commission in the presence of his king.
2. The second rule is that there is no salvation out of the church, and that therefore everyone which is to be saved must become a member and a citizen of the catholic and apostolic church; and such as remains forever out of the same perish eternally. Therefore St John saith (1 John 2:19), They went out from us, they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but this cometh to pass that it might appear that they are not all of us. And again, that such as be holy are in the city of God; but without (Rev. 22:15) are dogs, enchanters, whoremongers, adulterers, etc. And the ark out of which all perished, figured the church, out of which all are condemned. And for this cause, St Luke saith (Acts 2:47) that the Lord added to the church from day to day such as should be saved. And the reason hereof is plain: for without Christ there is no salvation; but out of the militant church there is no Christ, nor faith in Christ; and therefore no salvation. Again, forth of the militant church there are no means of salvation, no preaching of the Word, no invocation of GodŐs name, no sacraments, and therefore no salvation. For this cause every man must be admonished evermore to join himself to some particular church being a sound member of the catholic church.
3. The third rule, that the church which here we believe is only one. As Christ Himself speaketh (Song 6:9), My dove is alone, and my undefiled is the only daughter of her mother. And as there is only one God, and one Redeemer, one faith, one baptism, and one way of salvation by Christ only, so there is but one church alone.
The catholic church hath two parts: the church triumphant in heaven, and the church militant on earth:
1. The triumphant church may thus be described: It is a company of the spirits of just men, triumphing over the flesh, the devil and the world, praising God. First, I say, it is a company of the spirits of men, as the Holy Ghost expressly termeth it, because the souls only of the godly departed, as of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, etc., are as yet ascended into heaven, and not their bodies. Furthermore the properties of this company are two:
(1) The first, is to make triumph over their spiritual enemies, the flesh, the devil, the world; for the righteous man, so long as he lives in this world, is in continual combat without truce with all the enemies of his salvation; and by continual faith obtaining victory in the end of his life, he is translated in glorious and triumphant manner into the kingdom of glory. This was signified to John in a vision, in which he saw (Rev. 7:9) an innumerable company of all sorts of nations, kindreds, people and tongues stand before the Lamb, clothed in long white robes, with palms in their hands, in token that they had been warriors, but now in Christ had gotten the victory and are made conquerors.
(2) Their second property, is to praise and magnify the name of God, as it followeth in the former place (Rev. 7:12), saying, Amen, praise and glory, and wisdom, and thanks, honour, power and might be unto our God for evermore. Hence it may be demanded, whether angels be of this triumphant church or no? Answer: The blessed angels be in heaven in the presence of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, but they are not of the mystical body of Christ, because they are not under Him as He is their Redeemer, considering they cannot be redeemed which never fell; and it cannot be proved that they now stand by the virtue of ChristŐs redemption; but they are under Him as He is their Lord and King; and by the power of Christ as He is God and their God, are they confirmed. And therefore as I take it, we cannot say that angels are members of the mystical body of Christ, or of the triumphant church; though indeed they be of the company of the blessed.
2. The church militant may be thus described: It is the company of the elect or faithful living under the cross, desiring to be removed, and to be with Christ. I say not that the militant church is the whole body of the elect, but only that part thereof which liveth upon earth; and the infallible mark thereof is that faith in Christ which is taught and delivered in the writings of the prophets and apostles; and this faith again may be discerned by two marks:
(1) The first, is that the members of this company live under the cross, and profit by it in all spiritual grace. And therefore it is said (Acts 14:22) that we must through many afflictions enter into the kingdom of heaven. And our Saviour Christ saith (Luke 9:23), If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross every day and follow me.
(2) The second mark, is a desire to depart hence and to be with Christ, as Paul saith (2 Cor. 5:8), We love rather to be removed out of this body and to be with Christ. And again (Phil. 1:23), I desire to be loosed and to be with Christ, which is best of all. Where yet we must remember that the members of Christ do not desire death simply and absolutely, but in two respects:
(i) That they might leave off to sin, and by sinning to displease God;
(ii) That they might come to enjoy happiness in heaven, and to be with Christ.
Touching the general estate of the militant church, two questions are to be considered:
(1) The first, how far forth God is present with it, assisting it by His grace? Answer: God gives His Spirit unto it in such a measure that although the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, yet nevertheless it remains still subject to error both in doctrine and manners. For that which is true in every member of the church, is also true in the whole; but every member of the militant church is subject to error both in doctrine and manners, because men in this life are but in part enlightened and sanctified; and therefore still remain subject to blindness of mind and ignorance, and to the rebellion of their wills and affections; whereby it comes to pass that they may easily fail either in judgment or in practice. Again, that which may befall one or two particular churches, may likewise befall all the particular churches upon earth, all being in one and the same condition; but this may befall one or two particular churches: to fail in either doctrine or manners. The church of Ephesus failed (Rev. 2:4) in leaving her first love, whereupon Christ threateneth to remove from her the candlestick. And the church of Galatia (Gal. 1:6) was removed to another gospel from Him that had called them in the grace of Christ. Now, why may not the same things befall twenty, yea a hundred churches, which befell these twain? Lastly, experience sheweth this to be true, in that general councils have erred. The council of Nicea being to reform sundry behaviours among the bishops and elders, would with common consent have forbidden marriage unto them, thinking it profitable to be so; unless Paphnutius had better informed them out of the Scriptures. In the third council of Carthage, certain books Apocrypha, as the book of Sirach, Tobit and the Maccabees, are numbered in the canon, and yet were excluded by the council of Laodicea. And the saying of a divine is received, that former councils are to be reformed and amended by the latter. But papists maintaining that the church cannot err, allege the promise of Christ (John 16:13), Howbeit when He is come which is the Spirit of truth, He will lead you into all truth. Answer: The promise is directed to the apostles, who with their apostolic authority had this privilege granted them: that in the teaching and penning of the gospel they should not err; and therefore in the council at Jerusalem they concluded thus (Acts 15:28): It seemed good unto us, and to the Holy Ghost. And if the promise be further extended to all the church, it must be understood with a limitation: that God will give His Spirit unto the members thereof to lead them into all truth, so far forth as shall be needful for their salvation.
(2) The second question is, wherein stands the dignity and excellence of the church? Answer: It stands in subjection and obedience unto the will and Word of her Spouse and Head, Christ Jesus. And hence it follows that the church is not to challenge unto herself authority over the Scriptures, but only a ministry or ministerial service, whereby she is appointed of God to preserve and keep, to publish and preach them, and to give testimony of them. And for this cause it is called (1 Tim. 3:15) the pillar and ground of truth. The church of Rome, not content with this, saith further that the authority of the church in respect of us, is above the authority of the Scripture, because (say they) we cannot know Scripture to be Scripture, but by the testimony of the church. But indeed they speak an untruth. For the testimony of men that are subject to error cannot be greater and of more force with us than the testimony of God who cannot err. Again, the church hath her beginning from the Word (for there cannot be a church without faith, and there is no faith without the Word, and there is no Word out of the Scriptures); and therefore the church in respect of us, depends on the Scripture, and not the Scripture on the church. And as the lawyer which hath no further power but to expound the law, is under the law; so the church which hath authority only to publish and expound the Scriptures, cannot authorise them unto us, but must submit herself unto them. And whereas it is alleged (Rom. 10:17) that faith cometh by hearing, and this hearing is in respect of the voice of the church, and that therefore faith comes by the voice of the church; the answer is that the place must be understood, not of that general faith whereby we are resolved the Scripture is Scripture, but of justifying faith whereby we attain to salvation. And faith comes by hearing the voice of the church; not, as it is the churchŐs voice, but as it is a ministry or means to publish the Word of God, which is both the cause and object of our believing. Now on the contrary, we must hold that as the carpenter knows his rule to be straight, not by any other rule applied unto it, but by itself; for casting his eye upon it, he presently discerns whether it be straight or no; so we know and are resolved that Scripture is Scripture, even by the Scripture itself, though the church say nothing, so be it we have the spirit of discerning when we read, hear and consider the Scripture. And yet the testimony of the church is not to be despised; for though it breed not a persuasion in us of the certainty of the Scripture, yet it is a very good inducement thereto.
The militant church hath many parts. For as the ocean sea which is but one, is divided into parts according to the regions and countries against which it lieth, as into the English, Spanish, Italian sea, etc., so the church dispersed over the face of the whole earth, is divided into other particular churches according as the countries are several in which it is seated, as into the Church of England and Ireland, the Church of France, the Church of Germany etc.
Again, particular churches are in a twofold estate: sometimes they lie hid in persecution, wanting the public preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments; and sometimes again they are visible, carrying before the eyes of the world an open profession of the name of Christ; as the moon is sometimes eclipsed and sometimes shineth in the full.
1. In the first estate was the Church of Israel in the days of Elijah, when he wished to die because (1 Kin. 19:14) the people had forsaken the covenant of the Lord, broken down His altars, slain His prophets with the sword, and he was left alone, and they sought to take his life also. Behold a lamentable estate when so worthy a prophet could not find another beside himself that feared God; yet mark what the Lord saith to him (v.18): I have left seven thousand in Israel, even all the knees that have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth that hath not kissed him. Again, it is said (2 Chr. 15:3) that Israel had been a long season without the true God, without priests to teach, and without the law. Neither must it trouble any that God should so far forth forsake His church; for when ordinary means of salvation fail, He then gathereth His elect by extraordinary means, as when the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness wanting both circumcision and the Passover, He made a supply by manna, and by the pillar of a cloud. Hence we have direction to answer the papists, who demanded of us where our church was three score years ago before the days of Luther; we say that then for the space of many hundred years, an universal apostasy overspread the whole face of the earth; and that our church then was not visible to the world, but lay hid under the chaff of popery. And the truth of this, the records of all ages manifest.
2. The second estate of the church, is when it flourisheth and is visible, not that the faith and secret election of men can be seen (for no man can discern these things but by outward signs), but because it is apparent in respect of the outward assemblies gathered to the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments, for the praise and glory of God and their mutual edification. And the visible church may be thus described: It is a mixed company of men professing the faith, assembled together by the preaching of the Word. First of all, I call it a mixed company, because in it there be true believers and hypocrites, elect and reprobate, good and bad. The church is the LordŐs field (Matt. 13:25) in which the enemy sows his tares, it is the corn floor in which lieth wheat and chaff; it is a band of men, in which beside those that be of valour and courage there be white-livered soldiers. And it is called a church of the better part, namely, the elect whereof it consisteth, though they be in number few. As for the ungodly, though they be in the church, yet are they no more parts of it indeed, than the superfluous humours in the veins and parts of the body.
But to proceed: How are the members of the visible church qualified and discerned? The answer followeth in the definition: professing the faith. Whereby I mean the profession of that religion which hath been taught from the beginning and is now recorded in the writings of the prophets and apostles. And this profession is a sign and mark whereby a man is declared and made manifest to be a member of the church.
Again, because the profession of the faith is otherwhiles true and sincere, and otherwhiles only in shew, therefore there be also two sorts of members in the visible church, members before God and members before men. A member of the church before God, is he that beside the outward profession of the faith, hath inwardly a pure heart, good conscience and faith unfeigned, whereby he is indeed a true member of the church. Members before men, whom we may call reputed members, are such as have nothing else but the outward profession, wanting the good conscience and the faith unfeigned. The reason why they are to be esteemed members of us, is because we are bound by the rule of charity to think of men as they appear unto us; leaving secret judgment unto God.
I added in the last place that the church is gathered by the Word preached, to shew that the cause whereby it is begun and continued, is the Word; which for that cause is called (1 Pet. 1:23) the immortal seed; whereby we are born anew, and (Heb. 5:23) milk, whereby we are fed and cherished to life everlasting. And hence it followeth necessarily that the preaching of the doctrine of the prophets and apostles, joined with any measure of faith and obedience, is an infallible mark of the true church. Indeed it is true, there be three things required of the good estate of the church: the preaching of the gospel, the administration of the sacraments and the due execution of discipline according to the Word; yet if the two latter be wanting, so be it there be preaching of the Word with obedience in the people, there is for substance a true church of God. For it is the banner of Christ displayed, under which all that war against the flesh, the devil, the world, must range themselves. As the Lord saith by the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 49:22), I will lift up my hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard unto the people, and they shall bring their sons in their arms, and their daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. Hence it followeth that men which want the preaching of the gospel, must either procure the same unto themselves; or if that cannot be, because they live in the midst of idolatrous nations, as in Spain and Italy, it is requisite that they should join themselves to those places where with liberty of conscience they may enjoy this happy blessing. Men are not to have their hearts glued to the honours and riches of this world, but they should be of DavidŐs mind (Psa. 84:10), and rather desire to be doorkeepers in the house of God than to dwell in the tents of ungodliness. In the Canticles (Song 1:7), the spouse of Christ saith, Shew me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou liest at noon; for why should I be as she that turneth aside to the flocks of thy companions? To whom He answereth thus (v.8): If thou know me, O thou the fairest among women, get thee forth by the steps of the flock, and feed thy kids by the tents of the shepherds; that is, in those places where the doctrine of righteousness and life everlasting by the Messiah is published. When the ShunamiteŐs child was dead, she told her husband that she would go to the man of God, to whom he answered thus (2 Kin. 4:23): Why wilt thou go to him today, it is neither new moon nor Sabbath day; whereby it is signified that when teaching was scarce in Israel, the people did resort to the prophets for instruction and consolation. And David saith (Psa. 84:7) that the people wheresoever their abode was, went from strength to strength till they appeared before God in Zion. And oftentimes they being proselytes, their abode must needs be out of the precincts of Jewry.
Thus we see what the visible church is; now further concerning it, three questions are to be scanned:
1. The first is, how we may discern whether particular men and particular churches holding errors, be found members of the catholic church or no. For the answering of this, we must make a double distinction, one of errors, the other of persons that err:
(1) Of errors, some are destroyers of the faith, some only weakeners of it:
(i) A destroyer is that which overturneth any fundamental point of religion; which is of that nature that if it be denied, religion itself is overturned, as the denial of the death of Christ, and the immortality of the soul, justification by works, and such like; and the sum of these fundamental points is comprised in the Creed of the apostles and the Decalogue.
(ii) A weakening error is that, the holding whereof doth not overturn any point in the foundation of salvation; as the error of free-will, and sundry such like. This distinction is made by the Holy Ghost (Gal. 5:1-5; Heb. 6:1-2), who saith expressly that the doctrines of repentance, and faith, and baptism, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection, and the last judgment, are the foundation, namely, of religion; and again that Christ is the foundation (1 Cor. 3:11), and that other doctrines consonant to the Word, are as gold and silver laid thereupon.
(2) Secondly, persons erring, are of two sorts: some err of weakness, being carried away by others; or of simple ignorance, not yet being convicted and informed concerning the truth. Some again err of obstinacy, or affected ignorance, which having been admonished and convicted, still persevere in their forged opinions.
This being said, we now come to the point. If any man or church shall hold an error of the lighter kind, he still remains a member of the church of God, and so must be reputed of us. As when a Lutheran shall hold that images are still to be retained in the church, that there is an universal election of all men etc.; for these and such like opinions may be maintained, the foundation of salvation unraised. This which I say is flatly avouched by Paul (1 Cor. 3:11-13). If any man (saith he) build on this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, timber, hay, stubble, his work shall be made manifest by the fire, etc., and (v.15) if any manŐs work burn, he shall lose, but yet he shall be safe himself. And therefore the hay and stubble of menŐs errors that are beside the foundation on which they are laid, does not debar them from being Christian or members of the church. A man breaks down the windows of his house, the house stands; he breaks down the roof or the walls, the house stands though deformed; he pulls up the foundation, the house itself falls and ceaseth to be an house. Now religion which we profess is like an house or building; and some points thereof are like windows, doors, walls, roofs, and some are the very foundation; and the former may be battered, the foundation standing. Again, if the error be directly or by necessary consequence, even in common sense against the foundation, consideration must be had whether the church or party erreth of weakness or malice. If of weakness, the party is to be esteemed as a member of the catholic church. And thus Paul writes unto the church of Galatia, as to a church of God, though by false teachers it had been turned away to another gospel, embracing the fundamental error of justification by works. But when any man or church shall hold fundamental errors in obstinacy or affected ignorance, we are not then bound to repute them any longer as churches or Christians, but as such to whom condemnation belongs, as Paul sheweth by the example of Jannes and Jambres (2 Tim. 3:8). And as Jannes and Jambres (saith he) withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth, men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. Yet withal, this caveat must ever be remembered: that we rather condemn the error than the person that erreth, because GodŐs mercy is like to a bottomless sea, whereby He worketh what He will and when He will in the hearts of miserable sinners.
2. The second question is, where at this day may we find such visible churches as are indeed sound members of the catholic church? And for the resolving of it, we are to go through all countries and religions in the world:
(1) And first to begin with Turks and Jews, we are not in any wise to acknowledge their assemblies for churches, because they worship not God in Christ who is the Head of the church.
(2) As for the assemblies of papists which have been a great part of the world, if thereby we understand companies of men holding the pope for their head and believing the doctrine established in the council of Trent; in name they are called churches, but indeed they are no true or sound members of the catholic church. For both in their doctrine and in the worship of God, they raze the very foundation of religion, which will appear by these three points:
(i) First of all, they hold justification by works of grace; avouching that they are not only justified before God by the merit of Christ, but also by their own doings. Which opinion flatly overturneth justification by Christ. For as Paul saith to the Galatians (Gal. 5:2), If ye be circumcised, Christ profiteth you nothing, that is, if ye look to be justified by the works of the ceremonial law, ye are fallen from Christ; join circumcision and Christ together in the matter of justification, and ye do quite overthrow justification by Christ. Now if this be true, which is the Word of God that cannot lie, then we say to the papists, If ye will needs be justified by works of grace, ye are fallen from grace.
(ii) The second point is that they maintain a daily real sacrifice of the body of Christ in the mass for the sins of the quick and dead. And this is also fundamental heresy. For ChristŐs sacrifice on the cross must either be a perfect sacrifice or no sacrifice, and if it be oft iterated and repeated by the mass-priest, it is not perfect but imperfect.
(iii) The third point is that they worship the images of the Trinity and saints departed, and their breaden-god, which is as vile an abomination as ever was among the Gentiles; all being directly against the true meaning of the second commandment, and defacing the worship of God is the very substance thereof.
Thus then it appears that the old church of Rome is changed, and is now at this day, of a spouse of Christ become an harlot; and therefore no more a church of Christ indeed, than the carcass of a dead man that weareth a living manŐs garment is a living man, though he look never so like him.
(i) And whereas they plead for themselves that they have succession from the apostles, the answer is that succession of person is nothing without succession of doctrine, which they want; and we see that heretics have succeeded lawful ministers.
(ii) Secondly, whereas it is alleged that in the popish assemblies the sacrament of baptism is rightly for substance administered; and that also is a note of a church, three things may be answered:
(a) First, that baptism severed from the preaching of the gospel, is no more a sign of a church than the seal severed from the indenture is of force; and that is nothing. Circumcision was used in Colchis, yet no church, and among the Samaritans, and yet no people.
(b) Secondly, baptism in the assemblies of the church of Rome, is as the purse of a true man in the hand of a thief; and indeed doth no more argue them to be churches than the true manŐs purse argues the thief to be a true man. For baptism though it be in their assemblies, yet doth it not appertain unto them, but unto another hidden church of God, which He hath in all ages gathered forth of the midst of them.
(c) Thirdly, though they have the outward baptism, yet they by necessary consequence of doctrine, overturn the inward baptism that stands in justification and sanctification.
(iii) Moreover, whereas it is alleged that they maintain the books of the Old and New Testament penned by the prophets and apostles; that answer is that they do it with adding to the canon, and by corrupting the native sense of the Scriptures in the very foundation; and therefore they are but as a lantern that shews light to others, and none to itself.
(iv) Fourthly, it is further said that they hold the Creed of the apostles, and make the same confession of faith that we do. I answer that in shew of words they do so indeed; but by necessary consequence in the rest of their doctrine they overturn one of the natures and all of the offices of Christ, and therewithal most of the articles of the Creed. And herein they deal as a father, that in outward shew tenders the body of his child, and will not abide the least blemish upon it; and yet by secret conveyances inwardly annoys the heart, or the liver, and so in truth destroys the same.
(v) Fifthly, it is alleged that Antichrist must sit in the temple of God, that is, the church; therefore say some that desire an union between us and the papists, popish assemblies are true churches; but the argument is not good. For it is one thing to be in the church, and another thing to be of it. And Antichrist is said to sit in the church, not as a member thereof, but as an usurper, or as a pirate in the ship of the merchant; and hence it cannot be proved that the assemblies of papists are churches, but that in them and with them there is mingled another hidden church, in the midst whereof Antichrist the pope ruleth, though himself hath no part therein.
(vi) Lastly, whereas some being no papists, think their churches to be like a body, diseased and full of sores and wounds from the head to the foot, and the throat also cut, yet so as life is still remaining; we may better think (their soul errors considered and their worship of God, which is nothing else but a mixture of Judaism and paganism) that it is a rotten and dead corpse void of spiritual life.
And therefore we have severed ourselves from the church of Rome upon just cause; neither are we schismatics in so doing, but they rather, because the ground and the proper cause of the schism is in them.
(3) As for the assemblies of Anabaptists, Libertines, Antinomians, Tritheists, Arians, Samosatenians, they are no churches of God, but conspiracies of monstrous heretics judicially condemned in the primitive church, and again by the malice of Satan renewed and revived in this age. The same we are to think and say of the Family of Love.
(4) As for the churches of Germany commonly called the churches of the Lutherans, they are reputed of us as the true churches of God. Though their Augsburg Confession has not satisfied the expectation of other Reformed churches, yet have they all the same enemies in matter of religion, and do alike confess the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and of the office of the Mediator, of faith and good works, of the Word, the church, and the magistrate, are all of one judgment. They differ indeed from us in the question of the sacrament, but it is no sufficient cause to induce us to hold them as no church; for that there is a true or real receiving of the body and blood of Christ in the LordŐs supper, we all agree; and we jointly confess that Christ is there present, so far forth that He doth truly feed us with His very body and blood to eternal life; and all the controversy lies in the manner of receiving; we contenting ourselves with that spiritual receiving which is by the hand of faith, they adding thereto the corporal, whereby they imagine themselves to receive Christ with the hand and mouth of the body. And though to maintain their opinion, they be constrained to turn the ascension of Christ into a disparition, whereby His body being visible becomes invisible, yet in the main points we agree: that He entered into His kingdom in our name and for us; that we are governed and preserved by His power and might; and that whatsoever good thing we have or do, proceeds wholly from the grace of His Spirit. Indeed the opinion of the ubiquity of the body of Christ, reviveth the condemned heresies of Eutychus and Nestorius, and it overturneth by necessary consequence most of the articles of faith; but that was private to some men, as Brentius and others, and was not received of the whole churches; and whereas the men were godly and learned, and we are uncertain with what affection, and how long they held this error, we rest ourselves in condemning it, leaving the persons to God. Again, popish transubstantiation and Lutheran consubstantiation, are both against the truth of the manhood of Christ, yet with great difference. Transubstantiation is flat against an article of faith; for if ChristŐs body be made of bread and His blood of wine (which must needs be, if there be a conversion of the one into the other), then was not He conceived and born of the virgin Mary, for it cannot both be made of bakerŐs bread and of the substance of the virgin. Again, it abolisheth the outward sign in the LordŐs supper, as also the analogy between the sign and the thing signified, and so overturns the sacrament; but consubstantiation doth not so, neither doth it overturn the substance of any particle of religion, but only a main point of philosophy, which is that a body doth occupy one only place at once.
(5) Furthermore, the churches of Helvetica and Savoy, and the free cities of France, and the Low Countries, and Scotland are to be reverenced as true churches of God, as their confessions make manifest. And no less must we think of our own churches in England and Ireland. For we hold, believe and maintain and preach the true faith, that is, the ancient doctrine of salvation by Christ, taught and published by the prophets and apostles, as the book of the articles of faith agreed upon in open parliament doth fully shew; and withal now we are, and have been ready to testify this our faith, by venturing our lives even in the cause of religion against foreign power, and especially the Spaniard; and hereupon all the churches in Europe give unto us the hand of fellowship. And whereas sundry among us that separate and indeed excommunicate themselves, give out that there is no church in England, no ministers, no sacraments; their peremptory asseverations wanting sufficient ground, are but as paper shot. They allege that our assemblies are full of grievous blots and enormities. Answer: The defects and corruptions of churches must be distinguished: some of them are errors indeed, but beside the foundation; and some errors directly against the foundation; and these overturn all religion, whereas the former do not. Now it cannot be shewed that in our churches is taught any one error that raiseth the foundation, and consequently annihilates the truth of GodŐs church. Indeed there is controversy among us touching the point of ecclesiastical regiment, confessing freely that there must be preaching of the Word, administration of the sacraments according to the institution, and the use of the power of the keys in admonitions, suspensions, excommunications; the difference between us is only touching the persons and the manner of putting this government in execution; and therefore men on both parts, though both hold not the truth in this point, yet because both hold Christ the foundation, they still remain brethren and true members of Christ. As for corruptions in manners, they make not a church to be no church, but a bad church. When as the wicked Scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23:2,3) sitting in MosesŐ chair, taught the things which he had written, the people are commanded to hear them, and to do the things which they say, not doing the things which they do. And whereas it is said that we hold Christ in word and deny Him in deed, that is answered thus: denial of Christ is double, either in judgment or in fact; denial in judgment joined with obstinacy, makes a Christian to be no Christian; denial in fact, the judgment still remaining sound, makes not a man to be no Christian, but a bad Christian. When the Jews had crucified the Lord of life, they still remained a church (if any upon earth); and notwithstanding this their fact, the apostles acknowledged (Rom. 9:4; Acts 2:39) that the covenant and the promises still belonged unto them; and they never made any separation from their synagogues, till such time as they had been sufficiently convicted by the apostolic ministry that Christ was the true Messiah.
3. Thus we see where at this day we may find the true church of God. Now I come to the third question, and that is, at what time a man may with good conscience make separation from a church? Answer: So long as a church makes no separation from Christ, we must make no separation from it; and when it separates from Christ, we may also separate from it; and therefore in two cases there is warrant of separation:
(1) The one is when the worship of God is corrupt in substance. And for this we have a commandment (2 Cor. 6:14-17), Be not (saith Paul) unequally yoked with infidels, for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness, or what communion hath light with darkness, or what concord hath Christ with Belial, or what part hath the believer with the infidel, or what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? Wherefore come out from among them, and separate yourselves, saith the Lord. And we have a practice of this in the Old Testament. When Jeroboam had set up idols in Israel (2 Chr. 11:14), then the priests and Levites came to Judah and Jerusalem to serve the Lord.
(2) The second is when the doctrine of religion is corrupt in substance; as Paul saith (1 Tim. 6:3-5), If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is puffed up; from which separate yourselves. A practice of this we have in the apostle Paul (Acts 19:9; 28:29), who being in Ephesus in a synagogue of the Jews, spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and exhorting to the things which concern the kingdom of God; but when certain men were hardened and disobeyed, speaking evil of the way of God, he departed from them and separated the disciples of Ephesus, and the like he did at Rome also. As for the corruptions that be in the manners of men that be of the church, they are no sufficient warrant of separation, unless it be from private company, as we are admonished by the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 5:11), and by DavidŐs (Psa. 17:4) and LotŐs (2 Pet. 2:8) examples.
By this which hath been said, it appears that the practice of such as make a separation from us, is very bad and schismatical, considering our churches fail not either in substance of doctrine, or in the substance of the true worship of God.
Now to proceed in the Creed. The church is further set forth by certain properties and prerogatives. The properties or qualities are two: holiness and largeness:
1. That the church is holy, it appears by Peter, which calls it (1 Pet. 2:9) an holy nation, and a chosen people; and by St John (Rev. 11:2; 22:19), who calls it an holy city. And it is so called that it may be distinguished from the false church, which is termed in Scripture (Rev. 2:9; 3:9), a synagogue of Satan, and (Psa. 26:5) the malignant church.
Now this holiness of the church is nothing else but a a created quality in every true member thereof, whereby the image of God, which was lost by the fall of Adam, is again renewed and restored. The author of it is God by His Word and Spirit, by little and little abolishing the corruption of sin and sanctifying us throughout, as Christ saith (John 17:17), Father, sanctify them in thy truth, thy Word is truth. And holiness must be conceived to be in the church on this manner: it is perfect in the church triumphant, and it is only begun in the church militant in this life, and that for special cause, that we might give all glory to God (1 Tim. 1:17); that we might not be high-minded (Rom. 11:20); that we might work our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12); that we might deny ourselves and wholly depend upon God (Mark 9:24).
Hence we learn three things:
(1) First, that the church of Rome erreth in teaching that a wicked man, yea such an one as shall never be saved, may be a true member of the catholic church; for in reason, every man should be answerable to the quality and condition of the church whereof he is a member; if it be holy, as it is, he must be holy also.
(2) Secondly, we are every one of us, as Paul saith to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:7), to exercise ourselves unto godliness, making conscience of all our former unholy ways, endeavouring ourselves to please God in the obedience of all His commandments. It is a disgrace to the holy church of God, that men professing themselves to be members of it, should be unholy.
(3) Thirdly, our duty is to eschew the society of atheists, drunkards, fornicators, blasphemers, and all wicked and ungodly persons, as Paul saith (Eph. 5:7,11), Be no companions of them, and have no fellowship with unprofitable works of darkness. And he chargeth the Thessalonians that if any man among them walk inordinately, they have no company with him, that he may be ashamed (2 Thess. 3:14).
2. The largeness of the church is noted in the word catholic, that is, general or universal. And it is so called for three causes:
(1) For first of all, it is general in respect of time, because the church hath had a being in all times and ages, ever since the giving of the promise to our first parents in Paradise.
(2) Secondly, it is general in respect of the persons of men, for it stands of all sorts and degrees of men, high and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, etc.
(3) Thirdly, it is catholic, or universal, in respect of place, because it hath been gathered from all parts of the earth, specially now in the time of the New Testament, when our Saviour Christ said (Matt. 26:13) that the gospel shall be preached in all the world. To this purpose, St John saith (Rev. 7:9), I beheld, and lo, a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, stood before the throne and before the lamb, clothed with long white robes and palms in their hands.
And the church which we here profess to believe, is called catholic, that we may distinguish it from particular churches, which are not believed, but seen with eye, whereof mention is made often in the Scriptures: (Rom. 16:5) The church in their house; (1 Cor. 16:19) The churches of Asia; (Col. 4:15) Salute Nymphas and the church in his house; (Acts 11:22) The church in Jerusalem; (Acts 13:1) The church at Antioch, etc.
That the church is catholic in respect of time, place, person, it ministers matter of endless comfort to us. For hereby we see that no order, degree, or estate of men are excluded from grace in Christ, unless they will exclude themselves. St John saith (1 John 2:1), If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. Now it might be answered: It is true indeed, Christ is an advocate to some men, but He is no advocate to me. St John therefore saith further (v.2), and He is the reconciliation for our sins, and not for our sins only, but for the whole world, that is, for all believers of what condition or degree soever.