THE DOCTRINE OF
STATED, AND SET IN THE
In Opposition to Mr. Wesley's Predestination calmly Considered, with a Reply to the Exceptions of the said Writer to The Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints.
Mr. Wesley having declared himself the author of the Serious Thoughts upon the Perseverance of the Saints, to which I lately returned an answer; has been pleased to shift the controversy from perseverance to predestination: contenting himself with some low, mean and impertinent exceptions to a part of what I have written on the subject of perseverance; not attempting to answer any one argument advanced by me in vindication of it; and yet he has the assurance in the public papers, to call this miserable piece of his, chiefly written on another subject, A full answer to Dr. Gill's pamphlet on perseverance; any other man but Mr. Wesley would, upon reflection, be covered with shame and confusion; though to give him his due, in his great modesty, he has left out the word full in some after-papers; as being conscious to himself, or it may be, some of his friends pointed it to him, that it was an imposition on the public, and tended greatly to expose himself and his cause since he has left me in tile full possession of all my arguments; which I will not say are unanswerable, though I think they are; and it looks as if Mr. Wesley thought so too, seeing he has not attempted to answer one of them; yet this I may say, that as yet they are not answered at all, and much less is a full answer given unto them.
And now, though I might be very well excused following him in this wild pursuit on the subject of predestination; since he has not meddled with my argument from it for the saints perseverance; since he has not pursued that subject, as his title promises; and since throughout the whole he does not argue, only harangue upon it; and that only a part of it, reprobation, which he thought would best serve his purpose; yet for the sake of weak and honest minds, lest through his subtlety, they should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ; I shall endeavour to state the doctrine of predestination, and set it in a true light according to the Scriptures, with the proofs of it from thence; and take notice of the principal objections raised by Mr. Wesley in his harangue on that part of it which respects reprobation; and then close this treatise with a reply to his trifling exceptions to what I have written on the subject of the saints perseverance.
As to the doctrine of predestination, it may be considered either,
I. In general as respecting all things that have been, are, or shall be, or done in the world; every thing comes under the determination and appointment of God "he did, as the assembly of divines say in their confession, from all eternity, unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass;" or, as they express it in their catechism, "God's decrees are the wise, free and holy acts of the counsel of his will whereby, from all eternity, he hath, for his own glory, unchangeably fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass in time:" and this predestination and fore-appointment of all things, may be concluded from the fore-knowledge of God; known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world, ap aiwnoV , from eternity (Acts 15:18); they were known by him as future, as what would be, which became so by his determination of them; for, the reason why he knew they would be, is, because he determined they should be: also from the providence of God, and his government of the world, which is all according to the counsel of his own will (Eph. 1:11): for he does every thing according to that, or as he has determined in his own mind. Eternal predestination in this sense, is no other than eternal providence, of which actual providence in time is the execution. To deny this, is to deny the providence of God, and, his government of the world, which none but Deists and Atheists will do; at least it is to think and speak unworthy of God, as not being the all-knowing and all-wise and sovereign ruler of the world, he is once more the very wonderful thing, prophecy, or foretelling things to come, could not be without a predestination of them; of which there are so many instances in Scripture such as the stay of the Israelites in Egypt, and their departure from thence; the seventy years captivity of the Jews in Babylon, and their return at the end of that time; the exact coming of the Messiah at such a certain time; with many others, and some seemingly the most casual and contingent; as the birth of persons by name a hundred or hundreds of years before they were born, as Josiah and Cyrus; and a man's carrying a pitcher of water, at such a time, to such a place (1 Kings 13:2; Isa. 44:28; 45:1; Luke 22:10, 13): how could these things be foretold with certainty, unless it was determined and appointed they should be? There is nothing comes by chance to God, nothing done without his knowledge, nor without his will or permission, and nothing without his determination; every thing, even the most minute thing, respecting his creatures, and what is done in this world in all periods and ages of time, is by his appointment; for the proof of which see the following passages.
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2-To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven; a time to be born and a time to die, &c. a time fixed by the purpose of God for each of these.
Job 14:5-Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass. Chapter 23:14, He performeth the thing that is appointed for me, and many such things are with him.
Daniel 4:35-And he doth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what dost thou?
Ephesians 1:11-Being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
Acts 15:18-Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Chapter 17:26—and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.
Matthew 10:29, 30-Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fail to the ground without your Father; but the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
II. Predestination may be considered as special, and as relating to particular persons, and to things spiritual and eternal; whereas predestination in general respects all creatures and things, even things temporal and civil.
First, Christ himself is the object of predestination; he was fore-ordained to be the mediator between God and man; to be the propitiation for sin; to he the redeemer and saviour of his people; to be the head of the church; king of saints, and judge of the world: hence he is called, God's elect, and his chosen one; and whatsoever befell him, or was done unto him, was by the determinate council and fore-knowledge of God; even all things relating to his sufferings and death in proof of which read the following Scriptures.
Romans 3:5-Whom God hath set forth, proeqeto, fore-ordained to be a propitiation.
1 Peter 1:20-Who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world, that is, to he the Lamb slain. See chapter 2:4.
Luke 22:29-And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me.
Acts 18:31-Because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained. See also chapter 10:42.
Isaiah 43:1-Behold my servant, whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth. See Matthew 12:18.
Luke 22:22-And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined, but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed.
Acts 2:23-Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God, ye have taken, &c. Chapter 4:28—For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
Secondly, Angels also are the objects of predestination, good and bad; the blessed angels are chosen unto life, and to continue in their happy state to all eternity: and their perseverance therein, and eternal felicity, are owing to the eternal choice of them in Christ their head; I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things (1 Tim. 5:21). The evil angels are rejected of God, and left in that miserable estate their apostasy brought them into, without any provision of grace and mercy for them: they are delivered into chains of darkness, to be reserved to the judgment of the great day; and everlasting fire is prepared for them, according to the determinate counsel and will of God, (2 Pet. 2:4; Matthew 25:41).
Thirdly, Predestination which the Scriptures chiefly treat of, is what respects men, and consists of two parts, election and reprobation; the one is a predestination unto life, the other unto death.
I. Election, which is a predestination unto life, is an act of the free grace of God, of his sovereign and immutable will, by which from all eternity he has chosen in Christ, out of the common mass of mankind, some men, or a certain number of them, to partake of spiritual blessings here, and happiness hereafter, for the glory of his grace.
1. The objects of election are some men, not all, which a choice supposes; to take all would be no choice; called therefore, a remnant according to the election of grace (Rom. 11:3). These are a certain number, which though unknown to us, how many, and who they are, are known to God; the Lord knows them that are his (2 Tim. 2:19). And though they are in themselves a great multitude, which no man can number (Rev. 7:9), yet when compared with those from whom they are chosen, they are but few; many are called, but few chosen (Matthew 20:16). These are chosen out of the same common mass of mankind, be it considered as corrupt or pure; all were on an equal level when the choice was made; hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour (Rom. 9:21)? these are not whole nations, churches, and communities, but particular persons, whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life; Jacob have I loved, &c. salute Rufus chosen in the Lord: according as he hath chosen us in him &c. (Rom 9:13; 16:13; Eph. 1:4), not a set of prepositions, but persons; not characters, but men; or not men under such and such characters, as believers, holy, &c., but men as having done neither good nor evil; before they had done either (Rom. 9:11).
2. This act of election, is an act of God's free grace, to which he is not moved by any motive or condition in the object chosen: wherefore it is called the election grace; concerning which the Apostle's reasoning is strong and invincible; and if by grace, then it is no more of works, other wise grace is no more grace; but if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work (Rom. 11:5, 6), it is according to the sovereign and unchangeable will of God, and not according to the will or works of men; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will (Eph. 1:5), and again, verse 11, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will; hence it stands immutably firm and sure, even the purpose of God according to election, not of works but of him that calleth (Rom. 9:11).
3. This act of election is irrespective of faith, holiness, and good works, as causes or conditions of it; faith flows from it; is a fruit and effect of it, is secured by it, and is had in consequence of it: as many as were ordained unto eternal life, believed (Acts 13:48), hence it is called the faith of God's elect (Titus 1:1), and though holiness is a means provided in the act of election, it is not the cause of it; men are chosen, not because they are, but that they should he holy (Eph. 1:4), good works do not go before, but follow after election; it is denied to be of them, as before observed, and it passed before any were done (Rom. 9:11; 11:5, 6), they are the effects of God's decree, and not the cause of it; God hath fore-ordained them that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10),
4. The act of election was made in Christ, as the head, in whom all the elect were chosen, and into whose hands, by this act of grace, were put their persons, grace, and glory; and this is an eternal act of God in him; according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), and so the apostle tells the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 2:13), God hath from the beginning chosen you unto salvation; not from the first preaching of the gospel to them, or from the time of their conversion by it, but from the beginning of time, even from all eternity, as the phrase is used in Proverbs 7:23, hence nothing done in time could be the cause or condition of it.
5. What men are chosen unto by this act are, grace here, and glory hereafter; all spiritual blessings, adoption, justification, sanctification, belief of the truth, and salvation by Jesus Christ. Salvation is the end proposed with respect to men; sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth are the means appointed and prepared for that end. Ephesians 1:4, 5, Hath chosen us in him,—that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, &c. 2 Thessalonians 2:13, We are bound to give thanks to God alway for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord; because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. 1 Peter 1:2, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:9, For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.
6. Both means and end are sure to the chosen ones, since this is an act of God's immutable will; these are redeemed by the blood of Christ: he died for their sins, and made satisfaction for them; they are justified by his righteousness and no charge can be laid against them; they are effectually called by the grace of God; they are sanctified by his Spirit; they persevere to the end, and cannot totally and finally be deceived and fall away, but shall be everlastingly glorified: Romans 8:33, Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? it is God that justifieth: Who is he that condemneth! That is, the elect. It is Christ that died, that died for them. Romans 8:30, Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Matthew 24:24, For there shall arise false Christs, and false Prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch that if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect; but that is not possible.
7. The ultimate end of all this, with respect to God, is his own glory; the glory of all his divine perfections; the glory of his wisdom in forming such a scheme, in fixing on such an end, and preparing means suitable unto it; the glory of his justice and holiness, in the redemption and salvation of these chosen ones, through the blood, righteousness, and sacrifice of his Son; and the glory of his rich grace and mercy exhibited in his kindness to them through him; and the whole of it is, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved (Eph. 1:6).
This now is the Scripture doctrine of predestination, or that part of it which is called election; from whence it appears to be absolute and unconditional, irrespective of any thing in man as the cause and condition of it. Mr. Wesley believes, that, "election is a divine appointment of some men to eternal happiness;" so that he owns a particular and personal election, and calls it an eternal decree; but believes that it is conditional: but if it is conditional, the condition is to be named; let him name the condition of it: let: him point it out to us, and in what passage of Scripture it is; this lies upon him to do, and I insist upon it, or else he ought to give up his unscriptural notion of conditional election. Mark 16:16. is no expression of this decree, but a declaration of the revealed will of God: and points out to us what will be the everlasting state of believers and unbelievers: But believers, as such, are not the objects of God's decree; it is true, indeed, that they who are real believers, are the elect of God; but then the reason why they are the elect of God is not because they are believers, but they become believers, because they are the elect of God; their faith is not the cause or condition of their election, but their election the cause of their faith; they were chosen when they had done neither good nor evil, and so before they believed: and they believe in time, in consequence of their being ordained unto eternal life, from eternity: faith is in time, election before the world was; nothing temporal can be the cause or condition of what is eternal. This is the doctrine of the Scriptures; if Mr. Wesley will not attend to these, let him hear the articles of his own church; the seventh of which runs thus:
Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel, secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.
This is an article agreeable to the Scripture; an article of his own church; an article which he as a true son of the church, has treacherously departed from; an article which Mr. Wesley must have subscribed and sworn to; an article which will stare him in the face as long as subscriptions and oaths stand for any thing with him.
The doctrine of election, as above stated, standing in so glaring a light in the sacred Scriptures, and appearing with such evidence, as is impossible for all the art and sophistry of men to set aside; the other branch of predestination necessarily follows, which we deny not, but maintain. Mr. Wesley would have an election found out which does not imply reprobation; but what election that can be, the wit of man cannot devise; for if some are chosen, others must be rejected; and Mr. Wesley's notion of election itself implies it; for if, as he says, "election means a divine appointment of some men to eternal happiness;" then others must be left out of that choice, and rejected. I proceed therefore,
II. To the other branch of predestination commonly called Reprobation; which is an immutable decree of God, according to his sovereign will, by which he has determined to leave some men in the common mass of mankind, out of which he has chosen others, and to punish them for sin with everlasting destruction, for the glory of his power and justice. This decree consists of two parts, a negative and a positive; the former is by some called preterition, or passing by, a leaving some when others are chosen; which is no other than non-election; the latter is called pre-damnation, being God's decree to condemn or damn men for sin.
First, Preterition is God's act of passing by, or leaving some men when he chose others, according to his sovereign will and pleasure; of which act of God there is clear evidence in the sacred Scripture; as well as it is necessarily implied in God's act of election which has such clear and uncontestable proof. These are oi loipoi, the rest, those that remain unelected whilst others are chosen; the election hath obtained it; or elect persons obtain righteousness, life and salvation, in consequence of their being chosen; and the rest are blinded (Rom. 9:7), being left, they remain in their native darkness and ignorance, and for their sins are given up to judicial blindness and hardness of heart. These are they that are left out of the book of life, whilst others have their names written in it; of whom it is said, whose names are not written in the book of life (of the Lamb) from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8; 17:8).
Secondly, Pre-damnation, is God's decree to condemn men for sin, or to punish them with everlasting damnation for it: And this is the sense of the Scriptures; and this is the view which they give us of this doctrine (Prov. 16:4), The Lord hath made all things for himself, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. Not that God made man to damn him; the Scripture says no such thing, nor do we; nor is it the sense of the doctrine we plead for; nor is it to be inferred from it. God made man neither to damn him, nor save him, but for his own glory, that is his ultimate end in making him, which is answered whether he is saved or lost: but the meaning is, that God has appointed all things for his glory, and particularly he has appointed the wicked man to the day of ruin and destruction for his wickedness. Jude verse 4, For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation: But who are they? They are after described ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence the objects of this decree are called vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, that is, by sin (Rom. 9:22). And now what is there shocking in this doctrine, or disagreeable to the perfections of God? God damns no man but for sin, and he decreed to damn none but for sin.
Thirdly, This decree, we say, is according to the sovereign will of God, for nothing can be the cause of his decree but his own will let the object of that part of the decree, which is called Preterition, be considered either in the corrupt or pure mass of mankind, as fallen or unfallen creatures, they are to be considered in the same view, and as on an equal foot and level with those that are chosen and therefore no other reason can he given, but the will of God, that he should take one, and leave another. And though in that branch of it, which is an appointment of men to condemnation, sin is the cause of the thing decreed, damnation; yet; it is the will of God that is the cause of the decree itself, for this invincible reason; or otherwise he must have appointed all men to damnation, since all are sinners: let any other reason be assigned if it can be, why he has appointed to condemn some men for their sin, and not others.
Fourthly, God's end in all this is the glorifying of himself, his power and his justice; all his appointments are for himself, for his own glory, and this among the rest; What if God willing, to shew his wrath, his vindictive justice, and to make his power known, in the punishment of sinners for their sin, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction! (Rom 9:22).
The doctrine of reprobation, considered in this light, has nothing in it contrary to the nature and perfections of God. Harsh expressions, and unguarded phrases, which some may have used in speaking or writing about this doctrine, I will not take upon me to defend: but as it is thus stated, I think it is a defensible one, equally as the doctrine of election, and is demonstrable by it. The Scriptures are indeed more sparing of the one than of the other, and have left us to conclude the one from the other, in a great measure, though not without giving us clear and full evidence; for though reprobation is not so plentifully spoken of, yet it is clearly spoken of in the sacred writings; wherefore, upon this consideration we judge it most proper and prudent, not so much to insist on this subject in our discourses and writing; not from any consciousness of want of evidence, but because of the awfulness of the subject. This our opponents are aware of; and therefore press us upon this head, in order to bring the doctrine of election into contempt with weak or carnal men; and make their first attacks upon this branch of predestination, which is beginning wrong since reprobation is no other than non-election, or what is opposed to election; let the doctrine of election be demolished, and the other will fall of course; but that will cost too much pains; and they find a better account with weak minds in taking the other method; a method which the Remonstrants formerly were desirous of, at the synod of Dort, could it have been allowed, a method which Dr. Whitby has taken in his discourse of the five points; and this is the method which Mr. Wesley has thought fit to take, and indeed he confines himself wholly to this subject: for though he calls his pamphlet, Predestination Calmly Considered; yet it only considers one part of it, reprobation, and that not in a way of argument, but harangue; not taking notice of our arguments from Scripture or reason, only making some caviling exceptions to it; such as have the face of an objection, shall gather up, as well as I can, from this wild and unmethodical performance, and make answer to. And,
1st, He desires it may be impartially considered, how it is possible to reconcile reprobation with the following Scriptures: Genesis 3:17 and 4:7; Deuteronomy 7:9, 12; 12:26-28. and 30:15; 2 Chronicles 15:1; Ezra. 9:13, 14; Job 36:5; Psalm 145:9; Proverbs 1:23; Isaiah 65:2; Ezekiel 18:26; Matthew 7:26; 11:20; 12:41; 13:11, 12; 22:8; and chapter 25; John 3:18 and 5:44; Acts 8:20; Romans 1:20; and 2 Thessalonians 2:10 (Predestination Calmly Considered, p. 13). In all which there is not a word that militates against the doctrine of reprobation; nor is any thing pointed at worthy of consideration: we know very well, nor is it contrary to this doctrine, that the curse came upon men for sin; and that it is that which renders them unacceptable to God, and is the reason why at last they shall find none with him, nor him favorable to them: there is a repentance which may be found in non-elect persons; instances of that kind do not at all weaken the doctrine. Matthew 13:11 and 12, proves it. The word any, is not in the original text in Job 36:5. It is certain there are some whom God despises, Psalm 53:5 and 73:20. It is pity but he had transcribed two or three hundred more passages when his hand was in; even the whole books of Chronicles, and the book of Esther, which would have been as much to his purpose as those he has produced.
2dly, He proposes the following Scriptures which declare God's willingness that all should be saved, to be reconciled to the doctrine of reprobation, Matthew 21:9; Mark 16:15; John 5:34; Acts 17:24; Romans 5:18 and 10:12; 1 Timothy 2:3, 4; James 1:5; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 4:14 (Predestination Calmly Considered, pp. 16, 17). Some of which do not respect eternal salvation at all, but the temporal salvation of the Jews; and others have nothing to do with salvation in either sense; some speak only of God's will to save his elect, to whom he is long-suffering; and others of his will, that Gentiles as well as Jews, should be saved; and that it is his pleasure that some of all sorts should he saved by Christ; neither of which militate against the doctrine of reprobation.
3dly, He thinks this doctrine is irreconcilable with the following Scriptures, which declare that Christ came to save all men; that he died for all; that he atoned for all, even for those that finally perish; Matthew 17:11; John 1:29; 3:17 and 7:14; Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 7:11; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 2:1 and 1 John 2:1, 2 (Predestination Calmly Considered, pp. 16, 17). But these Scriptures say not that Christ came to save all that are lost; or that be came to save all men, or died for all men, for all the individuals of human nature; there is not one text of Scripture in the whole Bible that says this: that which seems most like it is Hebrews 2:9, That he might taste death for every man; but the word man is not in the original text; it is only uper pantoV , for every one; for every one of the sons of God, of the children, of the brethren of Christ, and seed of Abraham a spiritual sense, as the context determines it. As for the above-cited passages, they regard either the world of God's elect; or the Gentiles, as distinguished from the Jews; or all sorts of men; but not all the individuals of mankind: and those who are represented as such that should perish, or in danger of it, are either such who only professed to be bought by Christ or real Christians whose peace and comfort were in danger of being destroyed, but not their persons; and none of the passages militate against the doctrine under consideration.
4thly, This doctrine is represented as contrary to, and irreconcilable with the justice of God, and with those Scriptures that declare it, particularly Ezekiel 18 (Predestination Calmly Considered, p. 19). To which may be replied, that, that chapter in Ezekiel concerns the people of the Jews only, and not all mankind; and regards only the providential dealings of God with them, with respect to civil and temporal things, and a vindication of them from inequality and injustice; and not spiritual and eternal things: or the salvation and damnation of men; and therefore is impertinently produced. And if any one does but seriously and impartially consider the doctrine as above stated, they will see no reason to charge God with injustice, or find any difficulty in reconciling it to his justice. In the first branch of this decree, called Preterition, let the objects be creatures fallen or unfallen, it puts nothing into them; it leaves them as it finds them; and therefore does them no injustice: in the other branch of it, appointment to condemnation, this is only but for sin; is there unrighteousness with God on that account? No surely; if it is not injustice in him to condemn men for sin, it can be no injustice in him to decree to condemn them for sin: and if it would have been no unrighteousness in him to have condemned all men for sin, and to have determined to have done it, as he doubtless might; it can be no ways contrary to his justice to condemn some men for sin, and to determine so to do; wherefore all that is said under this head is all harangue, mere noise and stands for nothing. Let the above argument be disproved if it can.
5thly, This doctrine is represented as contrary to the general judgment; and that upon this scheme there can be no judgment to come, nor any future state of reward and punishment (Predestination Calmly Considered, pp. 26, 30): but why so? How does this appear? Why, according to our scheme, "God of old ordained them to this condemnation:" but then it was for sin; and if for sin, how does this preclude a future judgment? It rather makes one necessary; and certain it is, that a future judgment is agreeable to it, and quite inevitable by it; God decrees to condemn men for sin; men sin, and are brought to the judgment-seat of God, and are justly condemned for it. The judgment of God takes place, and the just reward of punishment pursuant to the righteous purpose of God, and according to the rules of justice. But this writer has the assurance to affirm, that we say, that "God sold men to work wickedness, even from their mother's womb; and gave them up to a reprobate mind, or ever they hung upon their mother's breasts." This is entirely false; we say no such thing; we, say, with the Scripture, that men sell themselves to work wickedness as they grow up; and that God gives men up to a reprobate mind after a long train and course of sinning; and it must be a righteous thing with God to bring such persons to judgment, and condemn them for their wickedness. But then it is said they are condemned "for not having that grace which God hath decreed they never should have." This is false again; we say no such thing; nor does the doctrine we hold oblige us to it; we say, indeed, that the grace of God is his own; and whether it is the sense of the text in Matthew or no, it matters not, it is a certain truth he may do what he will with his own grace: we own that he has determined to give it to some and not to others, as we find in fact he does: but then we say, he will condemn no man for want of this grace he does not think fit to give them; nor for their not believing that Christ died for them; but for their sins and transgressions of his righteous law. And is not here enough to open the righteous judgment and proceed upon? Besides the sovereign decrees of God respecting the final state of men, are so far from rendering the future judgment unnecessary, that will proceed according to them, along with other things: for with other books that will be opened then, the book of life will be one, in which some men's names are written, and others not; and the dead will be judged out of those things which are written in the books, according to their works.—And whosoever is not found written in the book of life, shall be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:12, 15); I never knew you, depart from me (Matt. 7:23).
6thly, This doctrine is said to agree very ill with the truth and sincerity of God, in a thousand declarations, such as these, Ezekiel 18:23, 32:32; Deuteronomy 5:29; Psalm 81:12; Acts 17:30; Mark 16:15 (Predestination Calmly Considered, pp. 31, 33). To which I reply, that some of those declarations, concern the Jews only, and not all mankind; and are only compassionate inquiries and vehement desires after their civil and temporal welfare: and at most only shew what is grateful to God, and approved of by him, and what was wanting in them; with which they are upbraided, notwithstanding their vain boasts to the contrary. Others only shew what is God's will of command, or what he has made the duty of man; not what are his purposes man shall do, or what he will bestow upon him; and neither of them suggests any insincerity in God, supposing the doctrine of reprobation. The gospel is indeed ordered to be preached to every creature to whom it is sent and comes; but as yet, it has never been brought to all the individuals of human nature; there have been multitudes in all ages that have not heard it. And that there are universal offers of grace and salvation made to all men I utterly deny; nay, I deny they are made to any; no, not to God's elect; grace and salvation are provided for them in the everlasting covenant, procured for them by Christ, published and revealed in the gospel, and applied by the Spirit; much less are they made to others wherefore this doctrine is not chargeable with insincerity on that account. Let the patrons of universal offers defend themselves from this objection; I have nothing to do with it; till it is proved there are such universal offers, then Dr. Watts's reasoning on that head, will require some attention; but not till then.
7thly, It is said that the doctrines of election and reprobation least of all agree with the scriptural account of the love and goodness of God (Predestination Calmly Considered, p. 135). The doctrine of election surely can never disagree with the love and goodness of God; since his choosing men to salvation is the fruit and effect of his everlasting love and free grace; the reason why any are chosen is, because they are beloved of God; election presupposes love: this the apostle points out clearly to us, when he says, we are bound to give thanks always to God, for you brethren, beloved of the Lord; because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation (2 Thess. 2:13). And the goodness of God greatly appears in consequence of this decree in the redemption of the chosen ones by Christ, in the regeneration and sanctification of them by the Spirit, and in bringing them at last to eternal glory and happiness according to his original design. But it may be, it is the doctrine of reprobation only, though both are put together by our author, that so ill agrees with the love and goodness of God. It is not inconsistent with his providential goodness; in which sense the Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works; and notwithstanding this decree, all men have a large share of this goodness of God; and though they may abuse this goodness, which will be an aggravation of their condemnation; this is their own sin and fault, and not to be charged on the decree of God, as this writer falsely does; who says, that God, according to us, gives men this world's goods on purpose to enhance their damnation; and every one of their comforts is, by an eternal decree of God, to cost them a thousand pangs in hell; whereas the abuse of mercies given, which will enhance their damnation, flows not from the decree, but from their own wickedness. The special mercy and goodness of God is denied to such indeed, which is at his sovereign will to give to whom he pleases; who will have mercy on whom he will have mercy: the act of election is an act of God's love, and flows from it; reprobation indeed flows from his hatred, which is an appointment to wrath; but then it is from his hatred of sin, which is no ways contrary to his being a God of love and goodness: besides there is a much greater display of the love, grace, mercy, and goodness of God in choosing some men to salvation and infallibly securing it unto them, and bringing them safely to the enjoyment of it, than in the contrary scheme: according to which not one man is absolutely chosen to salvation; salvation is not insured to any one single person; it is left to the precarious and fickle will of man: and it is possible, according to that scheme, that not one man may be saved; nay, it is impossible that any one man should be saved by the power of his own free-will. Let it be judged then, which scheme is most merciful and kind to men, and most worthy of the God of love and goodness. Upon the whole, the doctrine of reprobation, though set in so ill a light, and represented in such an odious manner, is a defensible doctrine when stated and cleared; nor are we afraid to own and maintain it.
This cloven foot does not affright us; so Mr. Wesley calls (Predestination Calmly Considered, p. 11), as he thinks, beautifully, but most blasphemously, an act of the divine will; nor is this a millstone that hangs about the neck of our hypothesis, as he no doubt very elegantly expresses it (Predestination Calmly Considered, p. 77); but let me tell him, it will be his distinguishing mercy, if it is not a millstone about his own neck. From hence he wanders to free-will and irresistible grace: sometimes he is for free-will, sometimes for free-grace; sometimes for resistible, and sometimes for irresistible grace. When he can agree with himself, he will appear in a better light, and may be more worthy of notice. What he says of free-will on the one side and reprobation on the other, as agreeing or disagreeing with the perfections of God, may be reduced to one or other of the above objections, where they have had their answer.
It is scarcely worth my while to observe what be says of the covenant of grace (Predestination Calmly Considered, p. 52); which he owns he has no understanding of; and I believe him, as that "God the Father made a covenant with his Son before the world began, wherein the Son agreed to suffer such and such things and the Father to give him such and such souls for a recompense, in consequence of which these must be saved." And then he asks where it is written? And in what part of Scripture this covenant is to be found? Now not to inform or instruct Mr. Wesley, but for the sake of such who are willing to be informed and instructed, read Psalm 40:6-8; Isaiah 49:1-6 and 53:10-12; Psalm 89:3, 4, 28-36, in which will appear plain traces and footsteps of a covenant, or agreement, of a stipulation and re-stipulation, between the Father and the Son; in which the Father proposes a work to his Son, and calls him to it, even the redemption of his people; to which the Son agrees, and says, Lo I come to do thy will, O my God! and for a recompence of his being an offering for sin, and pouring out his soul unto death; it is promised he should see his seed and prolong his days, and have a portion divided him with the great, and a spoil with the strong. And that theme was such a covenant subsisting before the world began is clear; for could there be a Mediator set up from everlasting, as there was, and a promise of life before the world began made to Christ and put into his hand, and all spiritual blessings provided, and all grace given to his people in him, before the foundation of the world; and yet no covenant in being? See Proverbs 8:23; Titus 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:1, 9 and Ephesians 1:3. The covenant of circumcision made with Abraham, and that made with the Israelites on mount Sinai, are no instances of the covenant of grace; but are covenants that are waxen old, and vanished away; and do not so concern us who are not under the law, but under grace: but however these covenants were conditional to them that were under them; the covenant of grace is absolute and unconditional to us, being made with Christ our head, who has fulfilled all the conditions of it.
But I proceed now to vindicate what I have written on the subject of the saints Final Perseverance, from the exceptions made unto it. Mr. Wesley says (Predestination Calmly Considered, p. 57), "this is so pleasing an opinion, so agreeable to flesh and blood, so suitable to whatever of nature remains in those who have tasted the grace of God, that I see nothing but the mighty power of God, which can restrain any who hear it from closing with it." Strange! that the doctrine of perseverance in grace and holiness, for no other perseverance do we plead for, should be so pleasing and agreeable to corrupt nature, besides much who have tasted the grace of God, as they have a principle of grace in them, cannot easily give into a doctrine which manifestly gratifies corrupt nature, but would oppose and reject it; surely it must come with very great evidence, that nothing but the power of God can restrain from closing with it; and which they close with, not to indulge their corruptions, but to encourage their faith and hope, and to promote holiness of heart and life; to which they are induced both by arguments, from experience, and from Scripture; the former it seems, weigh but little with those who believe the possibility of falling; and the latter are not plain and cogent. There are some Scriptures, it is said, against perseverance, and determine the other way; the arguments from them have been considered in a former treatise; to which Mr. Wesley has made some exceptions, and to which I shall now make a reply.
The first text produced against the perseverance of the. saints, is Ezekiel 18:24. When the righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, &c. This passage, and the whole context, I have observed wholly and solely regard the house of Israel, and is impertinently produced. Mr. Wesley calls upon me to prove this. What proof would he have? Let him read the chapter, and he will see it with his own eyes; the house of Israel is mentioned by name, and that only; the addresses are only made to them; the expostulations and reasonings are only with them; and the exhortations are unto them; the dispute is between God and them, the charge against God is brought by them; and the answer to it is returned to them. Let Mr. Wesley disprove this if he can; it lies upon him to point out any other person or persons than the house of Israel, to whom any passage in the chapter is directed. The righteousness of the righteous man, spoken of in it, I have affirmed to be his own righteousness, and not the righteousness of faith nor is there the least hint of the sanctifying grace of the Spirit in the account of it. To disprove this, Mr. Wesley refers to verse 31. Cast away from you all your transgressions—make you a new heart, &c. Monstrous! This is a most evident proof that the Jews had no true righteousness; that notwithstanding their pretensions to it, they had not cast away their transgressions, and were without any inward principle of grace or holiness. I further observe, that what as said of the righteous man, admitting him truly righteous, is only a supposition. This Mr. Wesley flatly denies. But if he reads over the chapter to which he directs, he will find the facts supposed and not asserted, verse 5, If a man be just, &c. verse 10, if he beget a son—that doth not any of these duties, &c. verse 24, If he beget a son that seeth all his father's sins, &c. and in the passage under consideration, verse 24, When the righteous man turneth away from his righteousness; that is, if he should; and so it is rendered in the Vulgate Latin version, and by Pagnine, and is the sense of our own translation; for a supposition is as well expressed by when, an adverb of time, as by the conjunction if: For instance; when Mr. Wesley writes more to the purpose, he will deserve more attention; that is, if he should. Whereas I explained the death in verse 26, of one and the same death, a temporal death for sin; it is no unusual thing for one and the same thing to he expressed by different words; and which may be the case here, without any force upon the text, or making it speak nonsense; for which I have given a reason that is not taken notice of: and that this death is a temporal, and not an eternal one, is clear, because it was now upon them, and of which they complained, and from whence they might be delivered by repentance and reformation; and which, I say again, cannot be said of eternal death, when a person is once under it. Upon the whole, as this chapter relates not to eternal salvation or damnation, the passage from it is an insufficient proof of the apostasy of real saints.
The second text of Scripture brought in favor of the said, doctrine, is 1 Timothy 1:19, holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck: in which I have observed, that it does not appear, that these men referred to, whose names are mentioned in the next verse, ever had their hearts purified by faith; but were ungodly men, and so no instances of the apostasy of true believers. To this no reply is made. I further observe, that putting away a good conscience, does not necessarily suppose they had it, but rather that they had it not; which I support; by the use of the same word in Acts 13:46, where the Jews are said to put the word of God from them. This instance Mr. Wesley says makes full against me, it being undeniable they had the word of God till they put it away. But this I must deny; they never had it; they never received it, never gave their assent to it, or embraced it, but contradicted and blasphemed it; and so is an instance of the use of the word to my purpose. It is owned by him that men may have a good conscience in some sense, without true faith; but such is not that the apostle speaks of, because he exhorts Timothy to hold it. Be it so; yet it does not appear that these men had such a conscience that arises from a heart purified by faith; putting it away, we see, does not prove it; and, besides, it deserves consideration, that it is not said they made shipwreck of a good conscience, which it does not appear they even had, but of faith which they once professed, even the doctrine of faith: but that faith means only the doctrine of faith, wants better proof, he says. What proof would he have? I have shewn that the phrase is never used but of the doctrine of faith, and have pointed to the places where it is so used; nay have pointed out the particular doctrine of faith they made shipwreck of. It lies upon him to disprove this. From the whole it appears, that this also is an insufficient proof of the apostasy of real saints.
The third text of Scripture insisted on as a proof of the doctrine, is Romans 11:17-24, concerning the breaking off of the branches, and cutting off those that are grafted into the olive-tree; which olive-tree I understand not of the invisible church, but of the outward gospel-church-state, or the visible gospel-church. This Mr. Wesley says, I affirm, and he proves the contrary. But though I affirm, yet not without a reason for it; a reason which he takes no notice of, nor makes any reply to: and how does he prove the contrary, that it is the invisible church? Why, because it consists of holy believers which none but the invisible church does. But does not the visible church consist of such? Are there no holy believers in it? Read over the epistles to the visible churches, and you will find the members of them are called holy and believer's, saints and faithful in Christ Jesus. I observe that those signified by the broken branches, were never the believers in Christ, and so no instances of the apostasy of such. To this he replies, That he was not speaking of the Jews. Very well, but I was; but of the Gentiles, exhorted to continue in his goodness, and so true believers; and yet liable to be cut off. So they might be, though it does not necessarily follow from the apostle's exhortation; which is to be understood not of the goodness of love, and favor of God; but of the goodness of a gospel-church state, the ordinances of it, and an abiding in them, and walking worthy of them; or otherwise they were liable to be cut off from the church-state in which they were. This is said to be a forced and unnatural construction, and requires some argument to support it. But what else could they be cut off from? If the olive-tree in which they are said to be engrafted, is not the invisible, but the visible church, as is proved by an argument not answered; then the cutting off from the olive-tree, must be a cutting off from that. And whereas there is a strong intimation that the Jews, the broken branches, may be grafted in again; why may not those be grafted in again which are cut off, when restored by repentance, which is often the case. It remains then, that this passage of Scripture does not in the least militate against the final perseverance of the saints.
The fourth text of Scripture quoted as against the doctrine of perseverance, is John 15:1-5, concerning the branches in Christ the vine, which abide not, are taken away, are cast forth and withered, and are cast into the fire and burned. I observe that there are two sorts of branches in Christ, the one fruitful, the other unfruitful; the one in him by regenerating grace, the other only by profession; of the latter are all the above things said, not of the former. This Mr. Wesley says is begging the question, and taking for granted the point to he proved: far from it, I answer to the instance alleged, by distinguishing the different branches in the vine; I prove the distinction from the text and context; as well as illustrate it by time instances of the churches in Judea and Thessalonica, being said to be in Christ; all the members of which cannot be thought to be really in him, but by profession. There are some that never bore fruit, and so never gave any evidence of their being true believers, and consequently can be no instances of the apostasy of such. There are others that bring forth fruit and are purged, that they may bring forth more fruit, and whose fruit remain, and are instances of perseverance. Let it be proved, if it can, that any of those who never brought forth any fruit, that we read of, were true believers in Christ; or ever received true grace or life from him, that are said to be cast out and burnt; and that any of those who brought forth fruit and were purged and pruned by the Father of Christ, that they might bring forth more fruit, ever withered away and were lost. Till this is done, this passage will be of no service for the apostasy, or against the perseverance of the saints.
The fifth text of Scripture pressed into this argument is, 2 Peter 2:20, 21, concerning those that have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of Christ, being entangled therein and overcome. Of whom I observe, that it does not appear that those persons had an inward experimental knowledge of Christ; which is what ought to be proved, or else it furnishes out no argument against the perseverance of real saints. Had it been such, I add, they could not have lost it. This Mr. Wesley calls begging the question. It might seem so, if my argument had rested here; but I gave reasons why such a knowledge cannot be lost: which he conceals and takes no notice of; as the promise of God, that such shall follow on to know him, and the declaration of Christ, that eternal life is inseparably connected with such knowledge (Hosea 6:3; John 15:3). Escaping the pollutions of the world does not prove the persons to have such knowledge, or to be real saints, since it signifies no more, I say, that an outward reformation. Here, he says, I aim at no proof at all. Let him make more of it, if he can. He owns that these persons might he called dogs and swine before their profession of religion, and after their departure from it, but not whilst under it: but unless it can he proved that they passed under a real change, and were truly converted, which their having knowledge and escaping the pollutions of the world are no proofs of; they might as well deserve the appellation during the time of their profession, as before and after. If any thing is done to any profession from this instance, it should be proved that these men had an inward spiritual and experimental knowledge; that from dogs and swine they became the sheep of Christ, and had the nature of such, and from the sheep of Christ became dogs and swine again; or it can never be thought to be any proof of the final and total falling away of true believers.
The Sixth text produced in favor of the saint's apostasy, is Hebrews 6:4-6, which speaks of enlightened persons, and such that have tasted the heavenly gift, &c. falling away. Upon which I observe, that the words contain only a supposition, if they fall away. Mr. Wesley says, there is no if in the original. I reply, though it is not expressed, it is implied, and the sense is the same, as if it was; and that the words in the original lie literally thus; It is impossible that those who were once enlightened—kai parapesontaV , and they falling away, to renew them again to repentance; that is, should they fall away, or if they fall away. Here Mr. Wesley rises up in great wrath, and asks, "Shall a man lie for God? Either you or I do;" and avers, that the words do not literally lie thus; and that they are translated by him, and have fallen away, as literally as the English tongue will bear; and calls upon all that understand Greek to judge between us. I am well content, and extremely desirous they should, and even willing to be determined by them, which is the most literal version, mine, which renders it as a participle as it is; or his, which renders it as a verb, which it is not. I am supported in mine by the authority of the great and learned Dr. Owen (On Perseverance, c. 17), whose knowledge of the Greek tongue no one will scruple, that is acquainted with his writings: he says, that verbum de verbo, or literally the words lie in the text, and they falling away, just as I have rendered them. Take some instances of the participle of the same tense, both in the simple theme of the word, and in other compounds, as so rendered by our translators; peswn (1 Cor. 14:25), falling down on his face; prospesousa (Luke 8:47), falling down before him; peripesonteV (Acts 27:41), falling into a place where two seas met. Did these learned men lie for God? Mr. Wesley's quibble is, because the participle is not of the present but of the aorist: the instances now given are of the same tense. Every one that has learned his Greek Grammar knows that the aorist or indefinite, as he names it, is so called, because it is undetermined as to time, being used both of time present, and of time past (Of which see instances in Dugard's Greek Grammar, p. 126); and when of the latter, it is left undetermined, whether just now past, or sometime ago, is meant, but as the circumstances of the place shew: but let it be rendered either way, either in the present or past, the sense is the same, and the condition is implied; be it and they falling away, or and they having fallen away; for one or other it must be to render it literally; that is, should they fall away, or should they have fallen away; or, in other words, if they should. And now why all this wrath, rudeness, and indecency? Is this the calm Considerer, as the title of his book promises? The man is pinched and rages. This puts me in mind of a story of a country fellow listening with great attention to a Latin disputation; which a gentleman observing, stepped to him, and said, Friend you had better go about your business, than stand here idling away your time to hear what you do not understand. To which he replied, I am not so great a fool neither, but I know who is angry; suggesting by the temper of the disputants, one of them being very angry, he knew who had the better, and who the worst of the argument. And since Mr. Wesley has brought it to this dilemma, that either he or I must lie for God; I am very unwilling to take it to myself, seeing no reason for it: and therefore without a compliment, must leave it to him to get out, and off, of it as he can. But to return to the argument; let it be a supposition or a fact contained in the words; the question is, who these persons supposed, or said to fall away are, and from what they fell? There is nothing in the characters of them, as has been observed, which shew them to be regenerated persons, real saints, and true believers in Christ. This ought to be proved, ere they can be allowed to be instances of the apostasy of such; whereas they are distinguished from them, and are opposed to them, verses 7-9. There is nothing in the account of them, but what may be said of a Balaam, who had his eyes open and saw the vision of the Almighty, and of such who are only doctrinally enlightened; or of a Herod that heard John gladly, and of the stony-ground hearers, who received the word with joy; or of a Judas who had no doubt both the ordinary and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, and a power of performing miraculous works, called the powers of the world to come, or the gospel dispensation. So that from hence nothing can be concluded against the perseverance of the saints.
The seventh passage of Scripture brought into this controversy, is Hebrews 10:38. The just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him: But very impertinently; since he that is said to live by faith, and he that is supposed to draw back, is not one and the same person. Mr. Wesley asks, "Who is it then? Can any one draw back from faith, who never came to it?" To which I answer, though he cannot draw back from faith he never had, yet he may draw back from a profession of faith he has made. In order to make it appear, that one and the same person is meant, Mr. Wesley, finding fault with our translation, renders the words thus: If the just man that lives by faith draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. This translation I call inaccurate. He desires to know wherein; I will tell him. Ean, if, is by force removed from its proper place, even from one sentence back to another; inserting the word that before live is doing violence to the text; rendering znsetai, that lives, as if it was of the present tense, when it is future, and should be shall live. Leaving out kai, and or but, which distinguishes two propositions; so confounding them and making them one. And after all, were one and the same person meant, it is only a supposition, which, I say again, proves no matter of fact; let Mr. Wesley shew that it does if he can: it is a clear case, that the just man in the text, and he that draws back, are two sorts of persons; it is most manifest, and beyond all contradiction, that in the original text in Habakkuk 2;4 the man whose soul is lifted up with pride and conceit of himself, and is not upright in him, has not the truth of grace in him, is the person who both according to the Apostle and the Seventy is supposed to draw back; from whom the just man that lives by faith is distinguished, and to whom he is opposed: and by the Apostle two sorts of persons are all along spoken of in the context, both before and after; besides, that these two must be different and not the same, is evident, since it is most surely promised the just man, that he shall live; which would not be true of him, if he drew hack to perdition. So that this also is an insufficient testimony against the perseverance of the saints.
The eight text of Scripture made use of to prove the Apostasy of true believers, is Hebrews 10:29, Of how much sorer punishment 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. The stress of this proof lies upon the person being sanctified with the blood of the covenant, who is supposed to be the same that trod under foot the Son of God. But I have observed that the antecedent to the relative he is the Son of God, and so consequently he, and not the apostate, is said to be sanctified with the blood of the covenant; wherefore the words are no proof of the apostasy of truly sanctified persons. Mr. Wesley says I forgot to look at the original, or my memory fails. Neither, is the case. However, I have looked again to refresh my memory, had it failed; and find indeed other words going before, but no other substantive but uioV , the Son of God, to whom the relative he can refer; and that this does refer to the Son of God in the clause immediately preceding, is not a singular opinion of mine that learned Dutchman Gomarus (Comment in Heb. 10:29), and our very learned countrymen Dr. Lightfoot (Harmony, &c. p. 341), and Dr. Owen (On Perseverance, p. 432), of the last age, and Dr. Ridgley (Body of Divinity, Vol. II, p. 125), of the present, are of the same sentiment. But admitting that it refers to the apostate, since this may be understood of his being sanctified or separated from others by a profession of religion, by church-membership and partaking of the Lord's Supper, in which the blood of the covenant is represented; and of his being sanctified by it in his own esteem and in the esteem of others, when he was not inwardly sanctified by the Spirit; this can be no proof of the apostasy of a real saint. It should be proved, that this sanctification is to be understood of inward sanctification, or else it proves not the point in debate. Mr. Wesley thinks it may be so understood, and that for this reason; because the words immediately following are, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace. Surprising; that a man's having done despite to the Spirit of grace, should be a proof of his having been inwardly sanctified by him; which might more reasonably be thought to be a proof of the very reverse. So then it remains, that this passage also does not militate against the doctrine of the saints final perseverance.
Mr. Wesley has thought fit to add several other texts, which he proposes to consideration, as proving that a true believer may finally fall; but as he has not advanced any argument upon them, I shall not enter into any examination of them, and of the weight they bear in this controversy; and besides, they being such as either do not respect true believers, about whom the question is, or only them falling from some degree of grace and steadfastness of it, and do not design a total and final falling away; or else they only intend persons receiving the doctrine of grace and a falling from that, and so are nothing to the purpose. And unless something more to the purpose is offered, than yet has been, I shall not think myself under any obligation to attend unto it.