THE LAST ARGUMENT FROM SCRIPTURE ANSWERED.
III. I COME, in the next place, to the third and last argument, drawn from the Scripture, wherewith the Arminians and their successors (as to this point) do strive to maintain their figment of universal redemption; and it is taken from such texts of Scripture as seem to hold out the perishing of some of them for whom Christ died, and the fruitlessness of his blood in respect of divers for whom it was shed. And on this theme their wits are wonderfully luxuriant, and they are full of rhetorical strains to set out the unsuccessfulness and fruitlessness of the blood of Christ in respect of the most for whom it was shed, with the perishing of bought, purged, reconciled sinners. Who can but believe that this persuasion tends to the consolation of poor souls, whose strongest defense lieth in making vile the precious blood of the Lamb, yea, trampling upon it, and esteeming it as a common thing? But, friends, let me tell you, I am persuaded it was not so unvaluable in the eyes of his Father as to cause it to be poured out in vain, in respect of any one soul. But seeing we must be put to this defense, wherein we cannot but rejoice, it tending so evidently to the honor of our blessed Savior, let us consider what can be said by Christians (at least in name) to enervate the efficacy of the blood-shedding, of the death of him after whose name they desire to be called. Thus, then, they argue: If Christ died for reprobates and those that perish, then he died for all and every one, for confessedly he died for the elect and those that are saved; but he died for reprobates, and them that perish: therefore, etc.
Ans. For the assumption, or second proposition of this argument, we shall do what we conceive was fit for all the elect of God to do, positively deny it (taking the death of Christ, here said to be for them, to be considered not in respect of its own internal worth and sufficiency, but, as it was intended by the Father and Son, in respect of them for whom he died). We deny, then, I say, that Christ, by the command of his Father, and with intention to make satisfaction for sins, did lay down his life for reprobates and them that perish.
This, then, they prove from Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11; 2 Peter 2:1; Hebrews 10:29. Now, that no such thing as is pretended is proved from any of the places alleged, we shall show by the consideration of them in the order they are laid down in.
1. The first is Romans 14:15, But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died.
Ans. Had we not experience of the nimbleness of our adversaries in framing arguments for their cause, I should despair to find their conclusion pressed out of this place; for what coherence or dependence, I beseech you, is here to be discerned? The apostle exhorteth strong and sound believers to such a moderate use of Christian liberty that they do not grieve the spirit of the weak ones, that were believers also (professors, all called saints, elect, believers, redeemed, and so in charity esteemed), and so give them occasion of stumbling and falling off from the gospel: therefore, Jesus Christ died for all reprobates, even all those that never heard word nor syllable of him or the doctrine of the gospel. Must he not be very quick-sighted that can see the dependence of this inference on that exhortation of the apostle? But ye will say, Is it not affirmed that he may perish for whom Christ died?
Ans. In this place there is no such thing at all once mentioned or intimated; only others are commanded not to do that which goeth in a direct way to destroy him, by grieving him with their uncharitable walking. But why should the apostle exhort him not to do that which he could no way do, if he that Christ died for could not perish?
Ans. Though the one could not perish in respect of the event, the other might sinfully give occasion of perishing in respect of a procuring cause. May not a man be exhorted from attempting of that which yet if he should attempt he could not effect? No thanks to the soldier who ran a spear into the side of our dead Redeemer, that therewith he brake none of his bones. Besides, is everyone damned that one attempts to destroy, by grieving him with uncharitable walking? Such arguments as these are poor men of straw. And yet, notwithstanding, we do not deny but that many may perish, and that utterly, whom we, in our walking towards them and converse with them, are bound to conceive redeemed by Christ; even all being to be thought so who are to be esteemed saints and brethren, as the language of the Scripture is concerning the professors of the gospel. And this is most certain, that no one place makes mention of such to be bought or redeemed by our Savior, but those which had the qualification of being members of this visible church; which come infinitely short of all and everyone.
2. But let us see a second place, which is 1 Corinthians 8:11,
And through thy knowledge shall thy weak brother perish, for whom Christ died.
This seemeth to have more color, but really yieldeth no more strength to the persuasion for whose confirmation it is produced, than the former. A brother is said to perish for whom Christ died. That by perishing here is understood eternal destruction and damnation, I cannot apprehend. That which the apostle intimates whereby it is done, is eating of things offered to an idol, with conscience or regard of an idol, by the example of others who pretended to know that an idol was nothing, and so to eat freely of the things offered to them. That so doing was a sin in its own nature damnable, none can doubt. All sin is so; every time we sin, for anything that lieth in us, we perish, we are destroyed. So did the eater of things offered to idols. But that God always revengeth sin with damnation on all in whom it is, we deny; he hath otherwise revealed himself in the blood of Jesus Christ. That every such a one did actually perish eternally, as well as meritoriously, cannot be proved. Besides, he that is said to perish is called a brother, that is, a believer; we are brethren only by faith, whereby we come to have one Father. As he is said to be a brother, so Christ is said to die for him. That a true believer cannot finally perish may easily be proved; therefore, he who doth perish is manifestly declared never to have been any: They went out from us, because they were not of us. If any perish, then, he was never a true believer. How, then, is he said to be a brother? Because he is so in profession, so in our judgment and persuasion; it being meet for us to think so of them all. As he is said to be a brother, so Christ is said to die for him, even in that judgment which the Scripture allows to us of men. We cannot count a man a brother, and not esteem that Christ died for him; we have no brotherhood with reprobates. Christ died for all believers, John 17. So we esteem all men walking in the due profession of the gospel, not manifesting the contrary; yet of these, that many may perish none ever denied. Farther; this, so shall he perish, referreth to the sin of him that layeth the offense; for aught that lieth in him, he ruins him irrecoverably. Hence see their argument: The apostle telleth persons walking offensively, that by this abusing their liberty, others will follow them, to the wounding of their conscience and ruin, who are brethren, acknowledged so by you, and such as for whom Christ died: therefore, Christ died for all the reprobates in the world. Is it just and equal, saith the apostle, that ye should do such things as will be stumbling-blocks in the way of the weak brother, at which he might stumble and fall? therefore, Christ died for all. We do not deny but that some may perish, and that eternally, concerning whom we ought to judge that Christ died for them, whilst they live and converse with us according to the nile of the gospel.
3. The next place is much insisted on, namely, 2 Peter 2:1,
There shall be false teachers, denying the Lord that bought them, and bringing upon themselves swift destruction.
All things here, as to any proof of the business in hand, are exceedingly dark, uncertain, and doubtful. Uncertain, that by the Lord is meant the Lord Christ, the word in the original being Despo>thv, seldom or never ascribed to him; uncertain, whether the purchase or buying of these false teachers refer to the eternal redemption by the blood of Christ, or a deliverance by Gods goodness from the defilement of the world in idolatry, or the like, by the knowledge of the truth, which last the text expressly affirms; uncertain, whether the apostle speaketh of this purchase according to the reality of the thing, or according to their apprehension and their profession.
On the other side, it is most certain, First, That there are no spiritual distinguishing fruits of redemption ascribed to these false teachers, but only common gifts of light and knowledge, which Christ hath purchased for many for whom he did not make his soul a ransom. Secondly, That, according to our adversaries, the redemption of any by the blood of Christ cannot be a peculiar aggravatior of the sins of any, because they say he died for all; and yet this buying of the false teachers is held out as an aggravation of their sin in particular.
Of the former uncertainties, whereon our adversaries build their inference of universal redemption (which yet can by no means be wire-drawn thence, were they most certain in their sense), I shall give a brief account, and then speak something as to the proper intendment of the place.
For the first, It is most uncertain whether Christ, as mediator, be here intended by Lord or no. There is not anything in the text to enforce us so to conceive, nay, the contrary seems apparent, First, Because in the following verses, God only, as God, with his dealings towards such as these, is mentioned; of Christ not a word. Secondly, The name Despo>thv, properly Herus, attended by dominion and sovereignty, is not usually, if at all, given to our Savior in the New Testament; he is everywhere called Ku>riov, nowhere clearly Despo>thv, as is the Father, Luke 2:29, Acts 4:24, and in divers other places. Besides, if it should appear that this name were given our Savior in any one place, doth it therefore follow that it must be so here? nay, is the name proper for our Savior, in the work of redemption? Despo>thv is such a Lord or Master as refers to servants and subjection; the end of Christs purchasing any by his blood being in the Scripture always and constantly expressed in other terms, of more endearment. It is, then, most uncertain that Christ should be here understood by the word Lord.
[Secondly], But suppose he should, it is most uncertain that by buying of these false teachers is meant his purchasing of them with the ransom of his blood; for, First, The apostle insisteth on a comparison with the times of the Old Testament, and the false prophets that were then amongst the people, backing his assertion with divers examples out of the Old Testament in the whole chapter following. Now, the word ajgora>zw, here used, signifieth primarily the buying of things; translatitiously, the redemption of persons; and the word hd;P; in the Old Testament, answering thereunto, signifieth any deliverance, as Deuteronomy 7:8, 15:15, Jeremiah 15:21, with innumerable other places: and, therefore, some such deliverance is here only intimated. Secondly, Because here is no mention of blood, death, price, or offering of Jesus Christ, as in other places, where proper redemption is treated on; especially, some such expression is added where the word ajgora>zw is used to express it, as 1 Corinthians 6:20, Revelation 5:9, which otherwise holds out of itself deliverance in common from any trouble. Thirdly, The apostle setting forth at large the deliverance they had had, and the means thereof, verse 20, affirms it to consist in the escaping of the pollutions of the world, as idolatry, false worship, and the like, through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; plainly declaring that their buying was only in respect of this separation from the world, in respect of the enjoyment of the knowledge of the truth; but of washing in the blood of the Lamb, he is wholly silent. Plainly, there is no purchase mentioned of these false teachers, but a deliverance, by Gods dispensations towards them, from the blindness of Judaism or Paganism, by the knowledge of the gospel; whereby the Lord bought them to be servants to him, as their supreme head. So that our adversaries argument from this place is this: God the Lord, by imparting the knowledge of the gospel, and working them to a professed acknowledgment of it and subjection unto it, separated and delivered from the world divers that were saints in show, really wolves and hypocrites, of old ordained to condemnation: therefore, Jesus Christ shed his blood for the redemption and salvation of all reprobates and damned persons in the whole world. Who would not admire our adversaries chemistry?
Thirdly, Neither is it more certain that the apostle speaketh of the purchase of the wolves and hypocrites, in respect of the reality of the purchase, and not rather in respect of that estimation which others had of them, and, by reason of their outward seeming profession, ought to have had, and of the profession that themselves made to be purchased by him whom they pretended to preach to others; as the Scripture saith [of Ahaz], The gods of Damascus smote him, because he himself so imagined and professed, 2 Chronicles 28:23. The latter hath this also to render it probable, namely, that it is the perpetual course of the Scripture, to ascribe all those things to everyone that is in the fellowship of the church which are proper to them only who are true spiritual members of the same; as to be saints, elect, redeemed, etc. Now, the truth is, from this their profession, that they were bought by Christ, might the apostle justly, and that according to the opinion of our adversaries, press these false teachers, by the way of aggravating their sin. For the thing itself, their being bought, it could be no more urged to them than to heathens and infidels that never heard of the name of the Lord Jesus. Now, after all this, if our adversaries can prove universal redemption from this text, let them never despair of success in anything they undertake, be it never so absurd, fond, or foolish. But when they have wrought up the work already cut out for them, and proved, first, That by the Lord is meant Christ as mediator; secondly, That by buying is meant spiritual redemption by the blood of the Lamb; thirdly, That these false teachers were really and effectually so redeemed, and not only so accounted because of the church; fourthly, That those who are so redeemed may perish, contrary to the express Scripture, Revelation 14:4; fifthly, Manifest the strength of this inference, Some in the church who have acknowledged Christ to be their purchaser, fall away to blaspheme him, and perish forever: therefore, Christ bought and redeemed all that ever did or shall perish; sixthly, That that which is common to all is a peculiar aggravation to the sin of any one more than others; I will assure them they shall have more work provided for them, which themselves know for a good part already where to find.
4. The last place produced for the confirmation of the argument in hand is Hebrews 10:29,
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
Nothing, say our adversaries, could be affirmed of all this concerning apostates, namely, That they have trodden under foot, etc., unless the blood of Christ was in some sense shed for them.
Ans. The intention of the apostle in this place is the same with the general aim and scope of the whole epistle, to persuade and urge the Jews, who had embraced the doctrine of the gospel, to perseverance and continuance therein. This, as he doth perform in other places, with divers and various arguments, the most of them taken from a comparison at large instituted between the gospel in its administration, and those legal shadows which, before their profession, they lived under and were in bondage unto, so here he urgeth a strong argument to the same purpose ab incommode, seu effectu pernicioso, from the miserable, dangerous effects and consequences of the sin of backsliding, and willful renunciation of the truth known and professed, upon any motives and inducements whatsoever; which he assureth [them] to be no less than a total casting off and depriving themselves of all hopes and means of recovery, with dreadful horror of conscience in expectation of judgment to come, Hebrews 10:26, 27. Now, this he confirms, as his manner is in this epistle, from some thing, way, and practice which was known to them, and wherewith they were all acquainted by that administration of the covenant under which they had before lived, in their Judaism; and so makes up his inference from a comparison of the less; taking his example from the punishment due, by Gods own appointment, to all them who transgressed Moses law in such a manner as apostates sin against the gospel, that is, with an high hand, or presumptuously: for such a one was to die without mercy, Numbers 15:30, 31. Whereupon, having abundantly proved that the gospel, and the manifestation of grace therein, is exceedingly preferred to and exalted above the old ceremonies of the law, he concludes that certainly a much sorer punishment (which he leaves to their judgment to determine) awaits for them who willfully violate the holy gospel, and despise the declaration of grace therein contained and by it revealed; which farther also to manifest, he sets forth the nature and quality of this sin in all such as, professing redemption and deliverance by the blood of Christ, shall willfully cast themselves thereinto. It is, saith he, no less than to tread under foot or contemn the Son of God; to esteem the blood of the covenant, by which he was set apart and sanctified in the profession of the gospel, to be as the blood of a vile man; and thereby to do despite to the Spirit of grace. This being (as is confessed) the plain meaning and aim of the apostle, we may observe sundry things, for the vindication of this place from the abuse of our adversaries; as,
First, He speaketh here only of those that were professors of the faith of the gospel, separated from the world, brought into a church state and fellowship, professing themselves to be sanctified by the blood of Christ, receiving and owning Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and endued with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as Hebrews 6:4, 5. Now, it is most certain that these things are peculiar only to some, yea to a very few, in comparison of the universality of the sons of men; so that what is affirmed of such only can by no means be so extended as to be applied unto all. Now, if anyone may be exempted, universal redemption falleth to the ground; from the condition of a very few, with such qualifications as the multitude have not, nothing can be concluded concerning all.
Secondly, The apostle doth neither declare what hath been nor assert what may be, but only adds a commination upon a supposition of a thing; his main aim being to deter from the thing rather than to signify that it may be, by showing the misery that must needs follow if it should so come to pass. When Paul told the soldiers, Acts 27:31, that if the mariners fled away in the boat they could not be saved, he did not intend to signify to them that, in respect of the event, they should be drowned, for God had declared the contrary unto him the night before, and he to them; but only to exhort them to prevent that which of itself was a likely way for their ruin and perishing. Neither shall the Remonstrants, with all their rhetoric, ever persuade us that it is in vain and altogether fruitless to forewarn men of an evil, and to exhort them to take heed of those ways whereby it is naturally, and according to the order among the things themselves, to be incurred; although, in respect of the purpose of God, the thing itself have no futurition, nor shall ever come to pass. A commination of the judgment due to apostasy, being an appointed means for the preserving of the saints from that sin, may be held out to them, though it be impossible the elect should be seduced. Now, that Paul here deals only upon a supposition (not giving being to the thing, but only showing the connection between apostasy and condemnation, thereby to stir up all the saints to take heed lest there should be in any of them an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God) is apparent from Acts 27:26, where he makes an entrance upon this argument and motive to perseverance: For if we sin wilfully. That believers may do so, he speaks not one word; but if they should do so, he shows what would be the event; as, that the soldiers in the ship should perish, Paul told them not; but yet showed what must needs come to pass if the means of prevention were not used. Now, if this be the intention of the apostle, as it is most likely, by his speaking in the first person, If we sin wilfully, then not anything in the world can be hence concluded either for the universality of redemption or the apostasy of saints, to both which ends this place is usually urged; for suppositio nil ponit in esse.
Thirdly, It is most certain that those of whom he speaks did make profession of all those things whereof here is mention, namely, that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, that they were sanctified by the blood of the covenant, and enlightened by the Spirit of grace; yea, as is apparent from the parallel place, Hebrews 6:4, 5, had many gifts of illumination; besides their initiation by baptism, wherein open profession and demonstration was made of these things. So that a renunciation of all these, with open detestation of them, as was the manner of apostates, accursing the name of Christ, was a sin of so deep an abomination, attended with so many aggravations, as might well have annexed to it this remarkable commination, though the apostates never had themselves any true effectual interest in the blood of Jesus.
Fourthly, That it was the manner of the saints, and the apostles themselves, to esteem of all baptized, initiated persons, ingrafted into the church, as sanctified persons; so that, speaking of backsliders, he could not make mention of them any otherwise than as they were commonly esteemed to be, and at that time, in the judgment of charity, were to be considered. Whether they were true believers or no, but only temporary, to whom this argument against apostasy is proposed, according to the usual manner of speech used by the Holy Ghost, they could not be otherwise described.
Fifthly, If the text be interpreted positively, and according to the truth of the thing itself, in both parts thereof (namely,
1. That those of whom the apostle speaketh were truly sanctified;
2. That such may totally perish), then these two things will inevitably follow, first, That faith and sanctification are not the fruit of election; secondly, That believers may fall finally from Christ; neither of which I as yet find to be owned by our new Universalists, though both contended for by our old Arminians.
Sixthly, There is nothing in the text of force to persuade that the persons here spoken of must needs be truly justified and regenerated believers, much less that Christ died for them; which comes in only by strained consequences. One expression only seems to give any color hereunto, that they were said to be sanctified by the blood of the covenant. Now, concerning this, if we do but consider, first, The manner and custom of the apostles writing to the churches, calling them all saints that were called, ascribing that to everyone that belonged only to some; secondly, That these persons were baptized, (which ordinance among the ancients was sometimes called fwtismo>v, illumination, sometimes aJgiasmo>v, sanctification,) wherein, by a solemn aspersion of the symbol of the blood of Christ, they were externally sanctified, separated, and set apart, and were by all esteemed as saints and believers; thirdly, The various significations of the word aJgia>zw (here used) in the Scripture, whereof one most frequent is, to consecrate and set apart to any holy use, as 2 Chronicles 29:33, Leviticus 16:4; fourthly, That Paul useth in this epistle many words and phrases in a temple sense, alluding, in the things and ways of the Christian church, unto the old legal observances; fifthly, That supposed and professed sanctity is often called so, and esteemed to be so indeed; if, I say, we shall consider these things, it will be most apparent that here is indeed no true, real, internal, effectual sanctification, proper to Gods elect, at all intimated, but only a common external setting apart (with repute and esteem of real holiness) from the ways of the world and customs of the old synagogue, to an enjoyment of the ordinance of Christ representing the blood of the covenant. So that this commination being made to all so externally and apparently sanctified, to them that were truly so it declared the certain connection between apostasy and condemnation; thereby warning them to avoid it, as Joseph [was] warned to flee into Egypt, lest Herod should slay the child; which yet, in respect of Gods purpose, could not be effected. In respect of them that were only apparently so, it held out the odiousness of the sin, with their own certain inevitable destruction if they fell into it; which it was possible they might do.
And thus, by the Lords assistance, have I given you, as I hope, a clear solution to all the arguments which heretofore the Arminians pretended to draw from the Scripture in the defense of their cause; some other sophisms shall hereafter be removed. But because of late we have had a multiplication of arguments on this subject, some whereof, at least in form, appear to be new, and may cause some trouble to the unskillful, I shall, in the next place, remove all those objections which Thomas More, in his book of the Universality of Free Grace, hath gathered together against our main thesis, of Christs dying only for the elect, which himself puts together in one bundle, chap. 26., and calleth them reasons.