The

CAUSE OF GOD AND TRUTH.

Part 1

Section 19—Ezekiel 18:24.

But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doth, shall he live? all his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned; in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.


This scripture is placed at the front of those which are[1] said "expressly to assert the possibility, that true believers, true penitents, men truly just and righteous, may fall from their righteousness, and die in their iniquity." But,

1. The man here spoken of, is not one truly just and righteous; seeing he is denominated righteous from his own righteousness in which he trusted, and from which he is supposed to turn. Now none are truly, and in an evangelic sense, righteous by their own righteousness; only such are, who are made so by the obedience of Christ; and these never can, nor shall they turn from this righteousness, which is the righteousness of God, an everlasting one, and is revealed from faith to faith;nor do they commit sin,that is, make a trade of sinning, live in a course of it; much less do they according to all the abominations of the wicked;nor can it be said of them, that their righteousness shall not be mentioned,since it endures for ever;and they, on the account of it, shall be in everlasting remembrance.Nor can they ever die, in the Arminian sense of the phrase here used; for they are justified by Christ's righteousness from all their sins, and therefore shall not die in them; they live by faith on it, and shall never die the second death; there is more virtue in the righteousness of Christ to justify them, than there is in all their sins to condemn them; their justification and glorification are inseparably connected together. Besides, such are the love, care, and power of God, which are engaged on their side, and exercised towards them, that it is impossible they should everlastingly perish. The man here designed, is one that is outwardly righteous before men;who imagines himself to be so; trusteth to his own righteousness (Ezek. 33:13); concludes, that what he suffered was owing to his father's sin, and not any iniquity of his own; and therefore complains of injustice in God; whose folly, vain opinion of himself, and unrighteous notions of God's providence, are fully and justly exposed in this chapter. The righteousness from which he is denominated righteous, is his own, and not another's, and what he himself hath done,and not what Christ hath done for him: a mere moral, righteousness, consisting of some negative holiness, and a few external, moral performances, as appears from verses 5-9; from such a righteousness a man may turn, commit iniquity, sin and die; but then this is no proof or instance of the apostasy of the saints, of true believers, true penitents, men truly just and righteous. It is indeed said,[2] "that the righteous man here spoken of, is one truly righteous; for he is one who sinneth not, committeth not iniquity, and turneth not away from his righteousness;one who walketh in God's statutes, and keeps his judgments, yea, who walketh in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity;and therefore assuredly is one, who is truly and inwardly righteous, and not in outward profession only." To which I answer; the texts referred to in Ezekiel 33:12, 13, and 8:9, 17, 19, say not any one of these things concerning the righteous man; but on the contrary, suppose he may sin, commit iniquity, and turn from his righteousness; and indeed, there is not a just man,one that is truly so, that lives and sins not;nor is any man righteous in the sight of God by virtue of his inward holiness, or outward walk; besides, the same author contradicts himself in the next page,[3] when he says," the righteous man who turneth away from his righteousness, is one who committeth iniquity and doth according to all the abominations which the wicked man doth;and therefore must be one to whom belongs the portion of the wicked, which is death eternal." It is further objected[4] from Dr. Prideaux, that "should he (the righteous man) only turn from his counterfeit and hypocritical righteousness, should he not rather live than die; inasmuch as he would put off the wolf, to put on the lamb?" which will be fully answered by observing the horrid blunder, and wretched mistake, that one doctor has made, and another by him is led into; for the turn is not from a counterfeit and hypocritical righteousness to a real one; but from a mere external moral righteousness, which had some appearance and degree of obedience in it, to an open. shameful, and abominable course of sinning; which is so far from putting off the wolf to put on the lamb, that it is just the very reverse; it is to put off the lamb or sheep's clothing, in which he appeared, to put on the wolf he really was; and consequently such an one should rather die than live.

2. The death threatened to the righteous man that turns from his righteousness, is not an eternal death, or the death of the soul and body in hell; since this death was then upon them, what they were complaining of, imagining it came upon them for the sins of their parents; and besides, they might have been recovered from it by repentance and reformation. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God; and not that he should return from his ways and live? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth; wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye (Ezek. 18:13); all which cannot be said of an eternal death; dying in his iniquity,is the same with dying for his iniquity,as it is rendered in verse 26, and designs some severe temporal calamity or affliction; which is often in Scripture called a death (Ex. 10:17, 2 Cor. 1:10; 11:23); such as captivity, in which the Jews then were, of which they were complaining, what was owing to their sins, and from which they were capable of being recovered. "This answer, it is said,[5] contradicts the express words of the prophet about twenty times;" though not one single instance of it is given. Wherefore,

3. Admitting that the truly just and righteous man is here intended; it is no proof of a possibility of his turning away from his righteousness and sinning, so as to be finally lost and perish; only so as to be afflicted, or suffer in a general calamity; besides, the words are delivered in a conditional form, being to be read thus: If the righteous man turneth away from his righteousness.Now suppositio nil ponet in esse, a supposition puts nothing in being,is no proof or instance of matter of fact. But this is said[6] to be "flying for refuge to a mere mistake; the words in the original being not if, but beshub,en h an hmera epistreyh, in the day that he turns away from his righteousness." To which I reply, that the word bwvb beshub may be rendered, if he turns; as it is by the Vulgate Latin and Pagnine[7] here and by our translators in Ezekiel 33:19, agreeable to the like forms of expression in other places; as Psalm 46:2, Therefore will not we fear xra rymtb, though,or if the earth be removed,syrh jwmbw. and though,or if the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.Nor does the Greek version of the Septuagint read the words, en h an hmera epistreyh, in the day that he turns away;but en de tw apostreyai, in his turning, or when he turns.Add to this, that a conditional form is not only signified by if,but by when.And whereas it may be said, as it is, that such a form of words suppose something in possibility, though not in being, as it does in a wicked man's turning from his wickedness, opposed unto; it will be allowed that, there is a possibility of a truly righteous man's falling away, was he left to himself, and not kept by the power and grace of God; and therefore such a supposition as this may be designed for, and made use of, as a means to show him his weakness, make him cautious of his walk, and lead him wholly to rely and depend on superior help and assistance, and so consequently be the means of his final perseverance.


ENDNOTES:

[1] Remonstr, in Coll. Hag. art. 5. p. 14; Act Synod. p. 218; Limborch. 1. 5, c. 81, sect 1, p. 705; Whitby, p. 401, ed. 2. 390.

[2] Whitby, p. 402, ed. 2. 3.

[3] Ibid. p. 403; ed. 2. 392.

[4] Ibid. p. 402; ed. 2. 391.

[5] Whitby, p .402; ed. 2. 391.

[6] Whitby, p. 403; ed. 2. 392.

[7] So even Vorstius reads the words, and argues from them for a conditional decree in God. Amic. Collat. cum Piscator, sect 4, p. 10.


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