Richard Duke (1658-1711) on faith’s role in justification

Richard Duke

 

To add to previous posts from William Ames, Thomas Chalmers, Henricus Siccama, and H.C.G. Moule on faith’s role in justification, here is a small snippet from the Reformed conforming churchman Richard Duke (1658-1711), who served as a prebendary of Gloucester, rector of Witney, Oxfordshire, and royal chaplain to Queen Anne. The excerpt is taken from his Fifteen Sermons preach’d on Several Occasions (1715), p. 254:

As there is no merit in works, so neither is there in faith; and tho’ God do’s justifie the believing man, it is not for the worthiness of his belief, but the worthiness of him, in whom he believes. In whom he believes, and from whom alone it proceeds also that he do’s believe. For let us give to faith all the highest elegies that are recorded of it, and very glorious things are spoken of it in the Book of God; let us own all its victories which are so triumphantly display’d in the 11th chapter to the Hebrews, and what is greater than all those what the same Apostle speaks of it in the text, through it ye are sav’d, yet that there may be no room for doubt but that salvation is still entirely to be ascrib’d to grace, we are at the same time taught that this faith, instrumentally imploy’d in so great a work, is itself of grace, it is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

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George Stradling (1620/21-1688): The inheritance of the saints, by its very nature as an inheritance, excludes all purchase on our part

George Stradling

 

George Stradling (1620/21-1688) was a Reformed conforming churchman who served as Dean of Chichester Cathedral for the final sixteen years of his life. Before becoming Dean of Chichester, Stradling had successively been a fellow of All Souls’ College and Jesus College, Oxford, and served in a number of parishes, including Fulham and St. Bride’s Fleet Street, London. He was furthermore also a canon of both St. Paul’s and Westminster.

In an All Saints’ Day sermon on Col. 1:12 included in his posthumously-published Sermons and Discourses upon Several Occasions (1692), Stradling discourses beautifully on the saints’ inheritance as being entirely a gift from God:

1. Our Lord himself hath told us, that God is beforehand with us; that whatsoever we can do is due from us to Him; that when we shall have done all those things which are commanded us, we must say, that we are unprofitable servants, and have done but that which was our duty to do (Luk. 17:10). And then what merit can there be in paying just debts?

And, 2. St. Paul hath told us, That we can do no good thing without Him too, who worketh in us both to will and to doe of his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). So that He crowns His own gifts in us, and rewards not our deservings.

Besides, 3. Our goodness extendeth not to God, says David (Ps. 16:2). And being unuseful, how can it be meritorious? Nay, our best works are so imperfect and so sinful too, that the utmost they can expect is but a pardon, and not a reward; and were they never so good and perfect, yet what proportion can they bear to such a reward as an inheritance in light? Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, to a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory? (2 Cor. 4. 17). Where we must not let pass an elegant antithesis; For affliction there is glory; For light affliction, a weight of glory; and for momentary affliction, an eternal weight of glory; to shew the vast disproportion between these things; so vast, that even martyrdom itself (the highest, utmost proof of our love to God) is, in St. Paul‘s account, nothing in comparison of that glory we expect; For I reckon, says he, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8. 18)

IV. And lastly, the very word inheritance excludes all purchase on our part. For this were to renounce succession, to cast off all filial duty and affection, not to own ourselves sons, but mercenary purchasers; yea, and purchasers of an inheritance already purchased for us by Christ, and for his sake freely bestowed upon us by our Heavenly Father out of his own pure goodness and bounty, to which alone we must ascribe it. For we all (the best of us) have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). And we are told (Rom. 6:23) that, The wages of sin (our proper wages) is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. The Apostle might have said (and indeed the antithesis or opposition there seem’d to require it) But the wages of Righteousness is eternal life; but he altered the phrase on set-purpose, and chose rather to say, The gift of God is eternal life; that we might from this change of the phrase learn, that although we procure death unto ourselves, yet ‘tis God that bestows eternal life on us; that as He hath called us to his kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2:12), so he gives that glory and that kingdom for no other reason but because he is pleased so to do; It is your Father’s good pleasure, for into God the Father’s good pleasure Christ resolves it, to give you a kingdom (Luk. 12:32). No merit, nor so much as any good disposition in us for it; He prepares it for us (Matt. 20:23). And he prepares us for it too here in the Text, by making us meet to be partakers thereof.

For what meetness could he find in us for such an inheritance? Title to it we have none, being by nature the children of wrath and disobedience (Eph. 2:2, 3). Mere intruders here and usurpers, The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and we, the violent take it by force (Matt. 11:12). Qualifications proper for it we have none too; that, an inheritance in light, we, darkness; that, an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away (1 Pet. 1:4), we corruptible, polluted, and still decaying. Οὐχ ἱκανοί ἐσμεν —cries out our Apostle, We are not sufficient, not fit (for the word signifies either) as of ourselves, but our sufficiency, or fitness (call it which you will), is of God, (2 Cor. 3:5; 2 Pet. 1:4), who as He makes us partakers of his divine nature, so meet partakers of the divine inheritance, not by pouring out the divine essence, but by communicating to us those divine qualities which will fit and prepare us for the sight thereof; by putting light into our understandings and holiness into our wills, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). By cleansing our hearts, and washing our hands, that so we may ascend into the hill of the Lord, dwell and rest in his Tabernacle (Ps. 15:24). He gives us faith, and with that a prospect of our inheritance; and He gives us hope, and with that an interest therein; And, to sum up all in one, He gives us his Holy Spirit, the earnest of that inheritance (Eph. 1:14), who worketh all our works in us, writes his laws in our hearts, and by softening, makes them capable of his divine impressions: In short, that divine Spirit, which by regenerating makes us new creatures, and so fit inhabitants for the new Jerusalem, calling us first to virtue, and then to glory: to that, as the way; to this, as the end (2 Pet. 1:3).

2. But besides this divine operation, we need divine acceptation also, whereby we may be accounted worthy of the kingdom of God, our inheritance (2 Thess. 1:5). For all our works and graces here being imperfect, can never capacitate us for it without God’s gracious acceptance. And therefore κατηξίωσεν ἡμας saith St. Chrysost. here. ‘Tis God’s καταξίωσις, not our ἄξια, his dignifiying of us, not our own dignity, that renders us worthy. And ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς, He makes us accepted in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6). And when the saints of God are said to be worthy to walk with Christ in white (Rev. 3. 4), ‘tis because He casts his garment of righteousness about them; and if their good works (which yet are but God’s own gifts) weigh down, ‘tis because He puts his grains of allowance into the scale.

But what need all this, either divine operation or acceptation, to make us meet partakers of the inheritance in light, may the enemies of God’s grace here say? What need we go farther than ourselves and our own nature for it? For Pelagius will tell us, that we are in as good a condition now as Adam himself was before his fall; our faculties the same, as strong and as able as ever; our understandings as clear to discern, and our wills as free to choose good and evil; that all the harm our first parent did us, was but to give us a bad Example, which ‘tis our fault if we will follow, and since our happiness depends on ourselves, that we are to blame ourselves, if we miss of it. And although some have thought this too gross to make man the sole author of his own fate, yet they have very little mended the matter, by so parting stakes between God and him, that they still allow the latter the better share in the work of his salvation. For they deny all preventing grace (the proper mark of a Semi-Pelagian) although they are pleased to grant a concurrent and subsequent one on God’s part to enable him to do his work with more ease and sureness, which otherwise would cost him more pains and hazard. However they so far agree with Pelagius, as to place this meetness for the inheritance in man himself, putting it into his own power to dispose himself to his conversion by an act of his own free-will, antecedent to God’s grace. A piece of heathen divinity borrowed from Seneca and Tully. For Seneca in a Stoical brag could say, That we live, is from God; but that we live well, is from ourselves. And, This is the Judgment of all Mankind, says Tully; That Prosperity is to be sought of God, but Wisdom to be taken up from our selves. On which saying of his, St. Augustine passes this judgment, That by making Men free, he made them sacrilegious. For what greater sacrilege than to rob God of his power to convert us, or at least to let him go but as a sharer with as therein? When, as to the first act of our conversion, we are as purely passive as to that of our creation or resurrection. We cannot create ourselves, and, being dead in trespasses and sins, no more raise up ourselves to a spiritual, than to a natural life: No, God must convert us, that we may be converted: Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned, says the Prophet Jeremy (Lam. 5:21. & Jer. 31:18). Nay, The very preparations of the heart in Man are from the Lord, says Solomon (Prov. 16:1). And, It is God who worketh in us both to will and to do, says St. Paul (Phil. 2:13). We cannot come to Christ, except the Father draw us (Joh. 6:44). Nor when we are drawn to Him, do anything without Him; Himself plainly telling us so (Joh. 15:5). Without me ye can do nothing; He does not say a little, but nothing. God must prevent and follow us with his grace, plant good inclinations in us, and nurse them up too. He hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (Eph. 1:4), not that we were so before he chose us. He chose us first too, Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you (Joh. 16:15; 1 Joh. 4:10). He chose us also out of his own love, and then loved us for his choice, and made us Holy by his very choosing us. No prevision of our faith or good Works, but his own free goodness and mercy determined his choice; He found us not meet to partake of the inheritance, but made us so, says the text; Could we make ourselves meet, we might thank ourselves and not the Father, as the Apostle here exhorts the Corinthians and us to do.

– George Stradling (1620/21-1688), Sermons and Discourses upon Several Occasions, p. 300-308

Robert South (1634-1716) on election and the efficacy of Christ’s death

Robert South

Robert South (1634-1716) was a high churchman, prebendary of Westminster, canon of Christ Church, Oxford, and one of the preeminent Reformed conforming divines of the post-Restoration era. South was renowned particularly for his numerous sermons, which were very much “in vogue” in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and which were known by his contemporaries for their sometimes outspokenly Reformed contents.

One such example is found in a Good Friday sermon preached before the University of Oxford in Christ Church cathedral, on March 20, 1668. The excerpt below is taken from the 6th edition of South’s Twelve Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions, vol. 3, p. 368-370. The text for this sermon was Is. 53:8, “For the transgression of my people was he stricken,” and South raises the question of how the people mentioned in the text came to be God’s people:

If it be here asked, upon what account the persons here spoken of were denominated and made God’s people? I answer, that they were so by an eternal covenant and transaction between God the Father and the Son; by which the Father, upon certain conditions to be performed by the Son, consigned over some persons to him to be his people. For our better understanding of which we are to observe that the business of man’s redemption proceeds upon a two-fold covenant.

First, an eternal covenant made between the Father and the Son, by which the Father agreed to give both grace and glory to a certain number of sinners, upon condition that Christ would assume their nature, and pay down such a ransom to his justice, as should both satisfy for their sin, and withal merit such a measure of grace as should effectually work in them all things necessary to their salvation. And this covenant may be properly called a covenant of suretyship or redemption. Upon which alone, and not upon any covenant made between God and man in their own persons, is built the infallibility of the future believing, repenting, and finally persevering, of such as Christ from all eternity undertook to make his people.

Secondly, the other covenant made in time, and actually entered into by God and man, by which God on his part promises to men eternal salvation, upon condition of faith and repentance on theirs. And this is called in Scripture, the second covenant, or the covenant of grace, and stands opposed to that which is there called the first covenant, or the covenant of works.

Now by that eternal compact or transaction between the Father and the Son (of which alone we now speak) was this donation of a certain determinate number of persons made to Christ to be his people, by virtue of which agreement or transaction he was in the fullness of time to suffer for them, and to accomplish the whole work of their redemption from first to last. For to affirm that Christ died only to verify a proposition (that whosoever believed should be saved) but in the meantime to leave the whole issue of things in reference to persons so loose and undetermined, that it was a question, whether ever any one should actually believe, and very possible that none ever might, and consequently that after Christ had suffered, had been stricken, and died for transgression, yet for anything that he had done in all this, he might never have had a people; this certainly is a strange and new Gospel, and such as the doctrine of our Church [of England] seems utterly unacquainted with.

Ezekiel Hopkins (1634-1690) on union with Christ, double imputation, and justification

Ezekiel Hopkins

 

In a previous post we looked at a snippet from John Edwards of Cambridge (1637-1716) on the believer’s union with Christ as the foundation of double imputation. The same doctrine can be seen beautifully treated by another Reformed conforming churchman, Ezekiel Hopkins (1634-1690), Bishop of Derry in Ireland, in his posthumously published The Doctrine of the Two Covenants (1712, p. 52-53):

…Faith gives us a title to the righteousness of Christ, and makes it ours not only by the promise of God, but as it is the bond of union between Christ and the soul. By faith it is that we are made mystically one with Christ, living members in his body, fruitful branches of that heavenly and spiritual vine. We have the communication of the same name. So also is Christ, saith the Apostle (1 Cor. 12:12), speaking there of Christ mystical, both his Person and his Church. We have the same relations, I ascend to my Father and to your Father (John 20:17). We are made partakers of the same Spirit, for if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his (Rom. 8:9), he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). And finally, the very life that we live is said not to be ours, but Christ liveth in us, and that we live by the faith of the Son of God (Gal. 2:20). So that being thus one with Christ, his righteousness becomes our righteousness, even as our sins became his: and God deals with Christ and believers, as if they were one person. The sins of believers are charg’d upon Christ, as though they were his; and the righteousness of Christ is reckoned to believers as theirs: neither is God unjust either in the one, or the other imputation, because they are mystically one; and this mystical union is a sufficient ground for imputation. Yet from this union flows the participation only of the benefits of his mediatorship: for we are not hereby transubstantiated or deify’d, as some of late years have blasphemously conceited; neither the Godhead of Christ, nor his essential righteousness as God, nor his divine and infinite properties are made ours; but only the fruits and effects of his mediation: so that hereupon God graciously accounts of us as if we had done in our own persons, whatsoever Christ hath done for us, because by faith Christ and we are made one.

Later on he offers a further discussion of this doctrine, this time drawing on the biblical imagery of the marriage between Christ and believers (p. 186-188):

Faith makes the righteousness of Christ to be ours, as it is the bond of that mystical union that there is between Christ and the believing soul. If Christ and the believer be one, the righteousness of Christ may well be reckoned as the righteousness of the believer. Nay, mutual imputation flows from mystical union: the sins of believers are imputed to Christ, and the righteousness of Christ to them; and both justly, because being united each to [the] other by a mutual consent (which consent on our part is faith) God considers them but as one person. As it is in marriage, the husband stands liable to the wife’s debts, and the wife stands interested in her husband’s possessions, so it is here: faith is the marriage-band and tie between Christ and a believer; and therefore all the debts of a believer are chargeable upon Christ, and the righteousness of Christ is instated upon the believer: so that upon the account of this marriage-union he hath a legal right and title to the purchase made by it. Indeed this union is an high and inscrutable mystery, yet plain it is that there is such [a] close, spiritual, and real union between Christ and a believer. The Scripture often both expressly affirms it, He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17); and also lively illustrates it by several resemblances. It is likewise plain that the band of this union on the believer’s part is faith: consult Rom. 11:17 with 11:20. And therefore from the nearness of this union there follows a communication of interests and concerns: insomuch that the Church is called Christ (1 Cor. 12:12, so also is Christ), and their sufferings called the sufferings of Christ (Col. 1:24; Acts 9:4). So likewise from this mystical union the sins of believers are laid upon Christ, and his righteousness imputed unto them: see this as to both parts: He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21) and He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, that the blessing of Abraham might come upon us (Gal. 3:13-14). It is still upon the account of this union that Christ was reckoned a sinner, and we are reckoned as righteous. And therefore as faith is the bond and tye of this union, so it is, without more difficulty, the way and means of our justification. By faith we are united unto Christ; by that union we have truly a righteousness; and upon that righteousness the justice of God, as well as his mercy, is engaged to justifie and acquit us.

Edward Lake (1641-1704) on the remarkable faith of the thief next to Christ on the cross

Edward_Lake

Edward Lake (1641-1704) was a Church of England minister, chaplain and tutor to princesses Mary and Anne, Archdeacon of Exeter, and rector of the united parishes of St. Mary-at-Hill and St. Andrew Hubbard in London. In a sermon on Luke 23:43, Lake speaks about the remarkable faith of the thief next to Christ on the cross:

There are three famous conversions recorded in Scripture, which we most gratefully commemorate: St. Paul’s, Mary Magdalen’s, and this penitent thief’s. But among them all, this of the thief appears most illustrious: For Mary Magdalen had seen many of our Saviour’s miracles, had heard many of his sermons; and withal her sister’s good example might influence her, and work much upon her: And for St. Paul, he saw Christ surrounded with glory, more resplendent than the sun at noon day; he likewise heard his powerful voice calling upon him to return: but this convert never saw miracle, never heard sermon, never had seen the good example nor the glory of Christ; but only saw him in his humiliation and disgrace, rent and torn upon the cross, as if he had been as arrant a malefactor as himself. O wonderful change! That a man deservedly condemned to the cross, should in an instant turn and become a confessor. We may say of him, as our Saviour did of the Syrophoenician woman, Great is thy faith, which can see the sun under so thick a cloud, that can discover a Saviour under such a veil of misery, and call him Lord; that when he saw Jesus struggling for his own life, when no deliverer came to him, yet could cast himself upon him for his everlasting safety, Lord remember me. I question whether the apostles themselves reached in some particulars to such a faith; they acknowledged indeed Jesus to be Christ while he lived, but denied him upon his arraignment; and when he was dead, they spake diffidently, We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel; they could not tell what to make of it: but this man very stoutly confesseth him even while he was dying.

– Edward Lake (1641-1704), Sixteen sermons preached upon Several Occasions, p. 73-74

Matthew Hale (1609-1676): All my intellectual power was given me “to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”

matthew_hale

 

The following is from Sir Matthew Hale (1609-1676), the great Puritan-minded English jurist, in his The Account of the Good Stewart, chapter XI, titled “The Account of my Learning of Natural Causes and Effects, and of Arts and Sciences.” While especially relevant to Christian students and academics, it is nevertheless applicable to any Christian, and I deem it worthy to be reproduced here in full:

I have not esteemed them [i.e. the learning of arts and sciences] the chiefest or best furniture of my mind: but have accounted them but dross in comparison of the knowledge of Thee [i.e. God], and thy Christ, and Him crucified. In the acquiring of them I have always observed this care: – 1. That I might not too prodigally bestow my time upon them, to the prejudice of that time and pains for the acquiring of more excellent knowledge, and the greater concernments of my everlasting happiness.

2. I carried along with me, in all my studies of this nature, this great design of improving them, and the knowledge acquired by them to the honour of thy name, and the greater discovery of thy wisdom, power, and truth; and so translated my secular learning into an improvement of divine knowledge. And had I not had, and practised that design in my acquests of human learning, I had concluded my time misspent; because I ever thought it unworthy of a man that had an everlasting soul, to furnish it only with such learning, as either would die with his body, and so become unuseful for his everlasting state, or that in the next moment after death, would be attained without labour or toil in this life. Yet this advantage I made and found in my application to secular studies: –

It enlarged and habituated my mind for more useful inquiries.

It carried me up, in a great measure, to the sound and grounded knowledge of Thee, the first cause of all things.

It kept me from idleness and rust.

It kept my thoughts, and life oftentimes, from temptations to worse employments.

My learning and knowledge did not heighten my opinion of myself, parts or abilities; but the more I knew, the more humble I was.

I found it was thy strength and blessing that enabled me to it; that gave me understanding and enlarged it. I did look upon it as a talent lent me, not truly acquired by me.

The more I knew, the more I knew my own ignorance. I found myself convinced that there was an ignorance in what I thought I knew; my knowledge was but imperfect, and defective; and I found an infinite latitude of things which I knew not: the farther I waded into knowledge, the deeper still I found it; and it was with me, just as it is with a child that thinks, that if he could but come to such a field, he should be able to touch the hemisphere of the heavens; but when he comes thither, he finds it as far off as it were before. Thus, while my mind pursued knowledge, I found the object still as far before me as it was, if not much farther; and could no more attain the full and exact knowledge of any one subject, than the hinder wheel of a chariot can overtake the former: though I knew much of what others were ignorant, yet still I found there was much more, whereof I was ignorant, than what I knew; even in the compass of a most confined and inconsiderable subject. And as my very knowledge taught me humility, in the sense of my own ignorance; so it taught me that my understanding was of finite and limited power, that takes in things little by little, and gradually; – That thy wisdom is unsearchable and past finding out; – That thy works, which are but finite in themselves, and necessarily short of that infinite wisdom by which they are contrived, are yet so wonderful, that as the wise man saith, “No man can find out the work that thou makest, from the beginning to the end” (Eccl. 3:11). If a man would spend his whole life in the study of a poor fly, there would be such a confluence of so many wonderful and difficult exhibits in it, that it would still leave much more undiscovered than the most singular wit ever yet attained.

It taught me also, with the wise man, to write vanity and vexation upon all my secular knowledge and learning (Eccl. 1:14). That little that I know, was not attained without much labour, nor yet free from much uncertainty; and the great residuum which I knew not, rendered that [which] I knew poor, and inconsiderable: and therefore: –

I did most evidently conclude, that the happiness and perfection of my intellectual power, was not to be found in this kind of knowledge; in a knowledge thus sensibly mingled with ignorance, in the things it seems to know; mingled with a dissatisfaction, in respect of the things I know not; mingled with a difficulty in attaining, and restlessness when attained. The more I knew, the more I knew that I knew not. My knowledge did rather enlarge my desire of knowing than satisfy it; and the most intemperate sensual appetite under heaven, was more capable of satisfaction by what it enjoyed, than my intellectual appetite or desire was, or could be satisfied with the things I knew: but the enlarging of my understanding with knowledge, did but enlarge and amplify the desire and appetite I had to know; so that what Job’s return was upon his inquisition after wisdom: “The depth saith, It is not in me; and the sea saith, It is not in me” (Job 28:14); the same account all my several boxes or kinds of knowledge gave me, when I inquired for satisfaction in them. My abstract and choice speculations in the Metaphysics were of that abstract and comprehensive nature, that when I had perused great volumes of it, and intended [i.e. applied] my mind close to it, yet it was so mercurial, that I could hardly hold it; and yet so extensive and endless, that the more I read or thought of it, the more I might. – Natural Philosophy (though it were more tractable, because holding a greater vicinity to sense and experiment, yet) I found full of uncertainty; much of it grounded upon imaginary suppositions, impossible to be experimented; the latter philosophers censuring the former, and departing from them, and the latest despising and rejecting both; the subject as vast as the visible or tangible universe, and yet every individual so complicated, that if all the rest were omitted, any one had more lines concentred in it, than were possible for any one age to sift to the bottom; yet any one lost, or not exactly scanned, leaves all the rest uncertain and conjectural: the very disquisition concerning any one part of the brain, the eye, the nerves, the blood, hath perplexed the most exact scrutators. – Those more dry, yet more demonstrable conclusions in the Mathematics, yet they are endless and perplexed. The proportion of lines to lines, of superficies to superficies, bodies to bodies, numbers to numbers, – nay, to leave the whole latitude of the subject, see what long, and intricate, and unsatisfactory pains men have taken about some one particular subject, the quadrature of the circle, conical, oval, and spiral lines; and yet if it could be attained in the perfection of it, these three unhappinesses attend it:

1. That it is but of little use: it is only known that it may be known. That which is of ordinary use either in Architecture, Measuring of bodies and superficies, Mechanics, Business of Accounts, and the like, is soon attained, and by ordinary capacities: the rest are but curious impertinents, in respect of use and application.

2. That they serve only for the meridian of this life, and of corporal converse. A separated soul, or a spiritualized body, will not be concerned in the use and employment of them.

3. But admit they should; yet, doubtless, a greater measure of suck knowledge will be attained in one hour after dissolution, than the toilsome expense of an age in this life would produce. And the like may be said for Astronomical disquisitions. What a deal to do there is, touching the motion or consistency of the sun or earth; the quality and habitableness of the moon; the matter, quantity, and distance of the stars; the several positions, continuity, contiguity, and motions of the heavens; the various influences of the heavenly bodies in their oppositions, conjunctions, aspects. When once the immortal soul hath flown through the stories of heaven, in one moment all these will be known distinctly, clearly, and evidently, which here are nothing but conjectures and opinions, gained by long reading or observation.

Upon all these considerations I concluded, that my intellectual power, and the exercise of it in this life, was given me for a more sure and certain, useful, advantageous, suitable and becoming object, even “To know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). – A knowledge that is useful for the acquiring of happiness here and hereafter; a knowledge of a subject, though infinitely comprehensive, yet but one; a knowledge, that though it still move farther, yet it satisfies in what is acquired, and doth not disquiet in attaining more; a knowledge that is of such use in the world that is to come, as it is here; a knowledge, that the more it is improved in this life, the more it is improved in that which is to come; every grain of it here is enlarged to a vast proportion hereafter; a knowledge that is acquired, even with a consent, a desire to know, because thy goodness pleaseth to fill such a desire, to instruct from thyself, and there is none [that] teacheth like thee.

John Edwards (1637-1716): None predestined to eternal life who are not also predestined to be conformed to Christ

John_Edwards

 

This [i.e predestination] is a doctrine of great use and advantage, if we believe the Church [of England] in her foresaid Article of predestination; where she tells us, that it is full of sweet, pleasant and unspeakable comfort to godly persons; that it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation, to be enjoyed through Christ; and that it doth fervently kindle their love to God. It is an effectual antidote against pride and an undue opinion of our own worth and ability: and it is a powerful motive to obedience and good works; for God hath chosen us in Christ before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and without blame (Eph. 1:4). Which last thing is sufficient to acquaint us with the perverse spirit of our adversaries: they all agree to assert, that the doctrine of absolute predestination tends to the promoting of an unholy and vicious life. For if persons (say they) be predestinated to eternal glory and happiness, they have free leave to live as they list, and they may do it without any danger: for if they be preordained to happiness, they cannot possibly miss of it, whatever their behaviour is. This is proclaim’d aloud by all Arminian writers and preachers, and they have taught every one of their disciples and followers to object this against the decree of election. But this shews, that they wilfully reject and contradict the foresaid text of the Apostle, which acquaints us that the election of certain persons from eternity was in order to their sanctification; they were chosen that they should be holy. And the same Apostle informs us, that whom God did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29).

God hath predestinated no man to eternal life, whom he hath not also predestinated to be conform’d to Christ in righteousness and holiness. This is the election which we assert; and we see that it is so far from promoting a vicious and unholy life (as the Arminian sect have the confidence and hardiness to aver), that there cannot possibly be any holiness in men’s lives without this election, and the effectual grace of God which follows it; both which are the great source of all personal righteousness and sanctity.

– John Edwards (1637-1716), The Arminian Doctrines Condemn’d, p. 131-132