The

CAUSE OF GOD AND TRUTH.

Part 1

Section 20Ezekiel 18:30.

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God: repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.


These exhortations are represented as contrary to the doctrines of absolute election and reprobation, and of unfrustrable grace in conversion. The argument from them stands thus;[1] "He who would have all men, to whom the gospel is vouchsafed, to come to repentance, hath not prepared this saving grace only for some few Christians, leaving the rest under a necessity of perishing for the want of it; for to all such persons he hath promised, that they shall not perish." And elsewhere, it is said,[2] that "such delude men with vain words, who teach, that a God of truth, and of sincerity, and of great goodness, should say to persons with such symptoms of passionate concern, Repent, and be converted from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin;when he himself had from eternity appointed them to ruin, and purposed to withhold from them that grace, without which it was impossible they should repent, or be converted;" and that,[3] "if conversion be wrought only by the unfrustrable operation of God, and man is purely passive in it, vain are all such exhortations." To all which I reply,

1. That these exhortations are not made to all men, but only to the house of Israel; and therefore do not contradict the preparation of saving grace for some few only, as the Israelites were; nor do we say, that God has prepared saving grace only for some few Christians,but for all Christians; that is, all that are Christ's; nor are any of them left under a necessity of perishing for the want of it, since it is given to them, and they have it, as their character supposes: and whereas it is said, that to all such persons God has promised, that they shall not perish; it is readily granted, and by the way, is an acknowledgement, of the doctrine of the saints' final perseverance; which is elsewhere greatly objected to. Moreover, inasmuch as they were the house of Israel,and every one of them, that are here spoken to, they are the wrong persons pitched upon to contradict the decrees of election and reprobation; for who will say of every one of them, that they were doomed to eternal death or appointed to everlasting ruin, who were chosen to be a peculiar people? It ought to be shown, if anything is done to purpose, that God has somewhere or other expressed himself in such language to all men, and particularly to such as shall not eventually be saved, as is here used to his professing people.

2. The repentance here exhorted to, is not to be understood of an evangelical one, which is a repentance unto life,and unto salvation;but of a national one, for national iniquities, and to prevent national judgments, with which they are here threatened; seeing it is the whole house of Israel,the whole nation, and every one of them, who are exhorted unto it. Now, though there can be no true evangelical repentance without the unfrustrable grace of God, yet there may be a national external repentance without it; as in the case of the Ninevites. Besides, was an evangelical repentance designed here, an exhortation to it being made to the people of God, as the house of Israel were, could only be to the exercise of it, the grace itself having been wrought in them by the power of God: or admitting that the words are spoken to such who had not the grace itself; such an exhortation might not be in vain, supposing the necessity of an unfrustrable operation; seeing it might be made use of to convince such of the necessity of repentance, and of their want of it; and so God may in this way bring his elect to it, according to his eternal purposes and designs. Moreover, turning from transgression,does not intend the first work of internal, saving conversion, which is wrought by the powerful and efficacious grace of God and in which men are purely passive; but an external reformation, or a bringing forth fruits meet for repentance,in which persons may be, and are active; since it is not reasonable to suppose that the house of Israel,and every one of them, should be in an unconverted state. Besides, some give the sense of these words thus: not turn yourselves,but turn others,every man his neighbor, or his brother; so R. Sol. Jarchi, R. David Kimchi, R. Sol. Ben Melec, and some Christian interpreters.

3. The ruin the house of Israel was in danger of through iniquity, and which they might escape by repentance and reformation, was not eternal but temporal; so iniquity shall not be your ruin,lwvkml a stumbling-block to you;an hindrance, an obstruction, lying in the way of your enjoyment of temporal blessings; therefore, cast away from you all your transgressions. This sense of the words may be confirmed from the advantages proposed to such who turned from their sins and transgressions (vv. 27, 28), as that such an one should save his soul alive;not with an everlasting salvation, for no man can save his soul alive in that sense; but with a temporal one, as did the Ninevites, by their repentance and reformation: it is also said, that he shall surely live,not a spiritual and eternal life; for he is said (Ezek. 33:19.) to live by his doing that which is lawful and right;whereas, no man can live spiritually and eternally by so doing; but it intends a civil life, in the comfortable enjoyment of outward mercies. It is moreover added, he shall not die,which is to be understood not of an eternal death, but of a temporal one, or of a death of afflictions, as has been observed under the preceding section.


ENDNOTES:

[1] Whitby, p. 70; ed. 69.

[2] Ibid. p. 34; ed. 2. 33.

[3] Whitby, pp. 237, 242; ed. 2. 231, 236.


Gill Index