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will be shown by inverting the hypothesis; if they had continued, they would no doubt have been of us; whereas many hypocrites continue in outward communion with the church even till their death, and never go out from it. As therefore those who continue are not known to be real believers simply from their continuing, so neither are those who do not continue proved thereby never to have been real believers; this only is certain, that when they went out from the church, they were not then real believers. For neither does Christ, with whom John undoubtedly agreed, argue thus, ye are my disciples indeed, if ye continue in my word, but thus; if ye continue indeed (for this latter word must be taken with both members of the sentence) then will ye be indeed my disciples; therefore, if ye do not continue, ye will not be my disciples.
It is said, however, in the same epistle, chap. iii. 9. whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God; from which they argue as follows; if he cannot sin, much less can he depart from the faith. We are not at liberty, however, thus to separate a particular verse from its context, without carefully comparing its meaning with other verses of the same chapter and epistle, as well as with texts bearing on the same subject in other parts of Scripture; lest the apostle should be made to contradict either himself, or the other sacred writers. He is declaring, in the verse above quoted, the strength of that internal aid with which God has provided us against sin; having previously explained what is required on our own part, v. 3. every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure. He recurs again to the same point v. 10. in this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. iv. 16. God is love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. v. 18. whosoever is born of God, sinneth not, but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself—. Whosoever, therefore, is born of God, cannot sin, and therefore cannot depart from the faith, provided that he at the same time purify himself to the utmost of his power, that he do righteousness, that he love his brother, that he remain himself in love, in order that God and his seed may also remain in him; that finally he keep himself. Further, in what sense is it said, he cannot sin, when the apostle has already declared chap. i. 8. if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us? Doubtless we ought to understand by this phrase that he does not easily fall into sin, not voluntarily and intentionally, not wilfully and presumptuously, but with reluctance and remorse; and that he does not persist in the habit of sinning; for which reasons, and above all for Christ's sake, sin is not imputed to him. If then so much caution be necessary in explaining the word sin, we ought to proceed with no less care in the interpretation of the remaining part of the verse; and not to take advantage of the simplicity of style peculiar to this apostle, for the purpose of establishing a doctrine in itself absurd. For not to be able, as the Remonstrant divines have rightly observed,” does not always signify absolute impossibility, either in common language or in Scripture. Thus we often say that a particular thing cannot be done, meaning that it cannot be done with convenience, honour, or facility, or with a safe conscience, or consistently with modesty, or credit, or dignity, or good faith." In this sense it is said, Luke xi. 7. I cannot rise and give thee, although the speaker shortly afterwards rises. So also Acts iv. 20. we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. Matt. xii. 34. how can ye, being evil, speak good things 2
* See Acta et Scripta Synodalia Dordracena, in Defensione sententia Remonstrantium circa Articulum V. de Perseverantia. “In communi vita nihil familiarius est, quam illud impossibile dicere, quod alicujus ingenio et naturae repugnat; ut temperantem hominem non posse inebriari; doctum hominem non posse ferre contemptum; probum hominem non posse calumniari, &c. In scripturis, 2 Cor. xiii. 8. non possumus quidquam adversus veritatem.
Sic Act. iv. 20. Quibus phrasibus non omnimodo impossibilitas earum rerum quae fieri non posse dicuntur, indicatur, sed tantum moralis sive ethica, &c.’ p. 320–324.
• ‘Apostoli mens est, illum qui ex Deo natus est, quatenus ex principio regenerationis suse operatur, non posse peccato servire; sicut dicinus eum qui liberalis est, non posse
solute non possint in talia peccata labi, sed quia cum lapsi sunt, non se ut liberales aut temperantes solent et convenit, gesserunt. Curcellaei Instit. VII. 3.9.
whereas it is easy even for hypocrites to speak good things. In like manner, when it is said in the present passage he cannot sin, the meaning is, that he cannot easily fall into sin, and therefore cannot easily depart from the faith. The same divines have displayed equal sagacity and research in their explanation of the reason assigned by the apostle, for his seed remaineth in him; where they show that to remain in him means the same as to be in him. So John xiv. 7. he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. Thus also in the fourteenth verse of the very chapter under consideration; he that loveth not his brother abideth in death; that is, so long as he does not love his brother; for in any other sense it would be impossible for a man to escape death who had ever been guilty of not loving his brother. Whosoever therefore is born of God cannot sin, because his seed remaineth or is in him; it is in him as long as he does not himself quench it, for even the Spirit can be quenched; it remains in him, moreover, as long as he himself remains in love.
Those, however, who do not persevere in the faith, are in ordinary cases to be accounted unregenerate and devoid of genuine belief; seeing that God who keeps us is faithful, and that he has given believers so many pledges of salvation, namely, election, regeneration, justification, adoption, union and fellowship with him conjointly with Christ and the Spirit, who is the earnest and seal of the covenant; seeing also that the work of glorification is in them already begun. Prov. xxiv. 16. a just man Jalleth seven times, and riseth up again, but the wicked shall fall into mischief Matt. xxv. 3. they that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them. Luke viii. 13. these have no root. 2 Pet. ii. 22. the dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. I John ii. 19. they went out from us.
Or perhaps they are to be considered as apostates from the faith, in that sense of faith in which it is the object, not the cause of belief. 1 Tim. iv. 1. the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. Gal. v. 4. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of gou are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. However this may be, it is our duty to intreat God with constant prayer, in the words of the apostle, 2 Thess. i. 11. that our God would count us worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.
Thus far of the beginnings of glorification. As its perfection is not attainable in the present life, this part of the subject will be reserved for the concluding chapter of the present book.
OF THE MANIFESTATION of THE Covenant of GRACE ; INCLUDING
The nature and process of renovation, so far as it is developed in this life, have been considered. We are now to trace its manifestation and exhibition in the covenant of grace.
THE covenaNT of GRACE itself, on the part of God, is first declared Gen. iii. 15. I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel; compared with Rom. xvi. 20. the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. 1 John iii. 8. for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. On the part of man its existence may be considered as implied from the earliest period at which it is recorded that mankind worshipped God.
THE MANIFESTATION OF THE coven ANT OF GRACE consists in its exhibition and its ratification. Both existed under the law, and both continue under the gospel.
Even under the law the existence of a Redeemer and the necessity of redemption are perceptible, though obscurely and indistinctly. Heb. ix. 8, &c. the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing; which was a figure for the