George Barker (d. 1684): Sermon on the perseverance of the saints in a rural Yorkshire parish church

George Barker

 

George Barker (d. 1684) was a Reformed conforming churchman. He studied at St Catharine’s Hall, Cambridge (known today as St Catharine’s College), where he took a BA, MA, and BD, and where he also served as a fellow of St Catharine’s for ten years from 1649 until 1659. The masters of St Catharine’s during Barker’s studies and fellowship there were the two Westminster divines William Spurstowe and John Lightfoot. Barker departed St Catharine’s in 1659 to become the rector of Danby Wiske in rural Yorkshire (parish church pictured below), where he diligently ministered for the rest of his life, preaching twice every Sunday despite having such a small rural parish.

Danby_Wiske

A number of Barker’s sermons were collected and published posthumously as Sermons upon Several Texts of Scripture (1697). One of these sermons, preached to his parish at Danby Wiske, was based on Matthew 7:25, “…and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock.” From this text, Barker preached a ripper of a sermon on the perseverance of the saints which is worthy of being reproduced for modern readers. Accordingly, this post is significantly longer than usual, but I believe the read will be worth the reader’s while. Skipping the initial parts, the core of the sermon (p. 198-218) is given below, where Barker proclaims that a person who is “built upon the Rock Christ, can never fall totally, or finally”:

By a total fall I mean, such a fall as would be incurr’d by the Christian, should he be supposed to be removed off the foundation, and to lose his union to Christ. The consequence whereof, must necessarily be the loss of all saving grace; so that though he still retained some gifts and common graces, which might render him tolerable in the world, yea serviceable, yet he was wholly without saving grace: which might make his heart good, bent for God and holiness.

Now thus fall he cannot, though he may commit some sins, yea and gross sins; and also neglect some considerable duties, and come under the tyranny of some lust, which he was unacquainted with before, and little exercise such graces as formerly were stirring in him, yet still he can never be so, but he’ll have the root of grace in him, and still the bent of his heart will be heavenwards, though as to any actual motions of his soul that way, he be either diverted from them by some deceit, or hindr’d in them by some violence. Thus the stone has an inclination towards the center, though it move not that way so long as some hand interposes to stop its motion. The fountain has a strong tendency to send out streams of fresh water, though so long as the spring is stopt with stones, or mud, no water at all appears.

A Christian then may fall partially but he cannot fall totally.

By a final fall I understand such a fall as he will never recover out of, nor shake off the prejudice of.

Now a partial fall may be supposed, where there is no total. As there may be a final death, where there is no total. As when a man dies as to one part, be it a leg or an arm, which is so seized on by the palsey, as to lose all sense and motion, which he never recovers again; in this case he dies finally, as to one part, though he die not totally as to his whole body.

Now this we say of one, who is built on the Rock Christ, and is a Christian. As he can neither fall totally, so as to lose his whole new life, root and branch; so neither can he fall finally, so as never to recover that measure of life and grace, which he is supposed to lose. Indeed he may lie some while in his fall, without rising again by repentance, as it was with St. Peter, who after he had denied Christ once, went on to deny him again, and again more grievously, and continued in this sin without repentance for about three hours, (as divines by comparing together several circumstances of the history, do compute) from nine, till about midnight, though he was admonished of his sin, by the cock crowing twice (Luke. 22: 61). That St. Peter did not remember what Christ had told him about his denying him thrice, before the cock crew twice, till Christ looked upon him; and much more in David, who after he had defiled Bathsheba, and murdered Uriah, continued in his sin about a year not repenting, for he repented not till Nathan reproved him, and Nathan reproved him not, till a child was born of his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12:14). But God will order it so, that by some ordinance, or some providence he shall be excited, and enabled, to recover himself again, either during his lifetime, or however at his death; he shall recover himself so, as to be able and ready to forsake every sin he has lived in, to discharge every duty he has neglected, to overcome every lust he has been kept under by, to exercise every grace he has been deficient in.

But how do’s it appear, that those, who are built on Christ, neither do, nor can fall, either totally or finally?

I shall not go about to evidence either of these distinctly, but shall handle them conjointly.

1st, That life and grace, which Christians receive upon their union to Christ as their foundation, head and root, are resembled to such things as abide, if they do not grow and flourish. It is like a well of water, which usually is not dried up, though the summer be very droughty (John 4:14). A well of water, springing up into everlasting life. It is like a tree planted by the waters, which lives, and grows, and flourishes, when others are quite dead for want of rain (Jer. 17:8). It is like seed, which has taken root in good ground and therefore abides, and thrives, and brings forth fruit (Matt. 13:23; Luk. 8:15).

But you will say all these things have their end, few fountains but in time they quite fail: No trees, how commodiously soever planted, but in time die: No seed, but when it has brought forth as much fruit as it will, dies itself, and its fruit will in time decay.

Yet let it be considered that all these last full as long as it could be expected they should do according to their nature, and if they last not always, it is because their nature is but to continue for a time.

Now it’s the nature of saving grace to continue forever, for it is everlasting life as it is called (Jn. 3:36). He that believes on the Son hath everlasting life (1 Jn. 5:11). God hath given to us eternal life.

2dly. Those who are thus united unto Christ are such as God has chosen to salvation, and therefore they cannot fall away totally & finally; if they could, they would miss of that salvation which they are chosen to, and so God’s election would be frustrated.

Whoever are united to Christ are chosen of God, is evident, because all those are effectually called, (union to Christ being the immediate result of effectual vocation) and none are thus called by God, but such as he has chosen (Rom. 8:30). Whoever are chosen of God are chosen to salvation, is as evident, for this is the end, which God designs to advance to, when he culls out such from the world, as he judges fit for his purpose (2 Thess. 2:13). God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation &c. That whoever fall away from grace must assuredly miss of salvation, is evident to all, who understand and consider.

1st, What those, who are saved, are mainly saved from, and this is their lusts and sins (Matt. 1:21). He shall save his people from their sins, and this they cannot be, if they fall away from grace.

2dly. What they are mainly saved to, or for, and that is glory. Now those, who have lost grace, are incapable of glory, grace differing not at all from glory but in degrees, grace is but glory in its infancy, and glory is but grace in its full growth.

Now that those, who are elected by God unto salvation, cannot miss of it, is evident, whether we consider Scripture or reason. Scripture saith, it’s not possible for the elect to be seduced, i.e. into such errors or sins whereby they may miss salvation (Matt. 24:24). In so much that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Whoever are blinded, so as to miss salvation, the election obtains it, i.e. those who are elected by virtue of their election (Rom. 11:7). And reason shews, that whoever are chosen by God unto salvation must certainly attain it, unless God want either power, effectually to pursue his purpose till he have brought it about, or will, to do what he is able, neither of which can be supposed, granting but that which none can with any shew of reason deny, that God is omnipotent on the one hand, and all-wise on the other.

If he be almighty, he can effect whatever he has a mind to bring about; and if he be all-wise, he can never alter from what he purposes.

The only reason why men change and give over pursuing what once they intended, when still it is in their power so to pursue it as to attain it, is because they are now of another mind than once they were, and that because they find inconveniencies now, which formerly they never thought of; but this is their foolishness, which is not to be supposed in the all-wise God, who perfectly discerns whatever might be like to induce him to wave his choice before he makes it.

3dly. Those who are thus united unto Christ, are such as are apprehended by Christ for some end, and will not be let go by Christ till that end be attained. As St. Paul was apprehended by Christ, so are all that are in Christ (Phil. 3:12). At our first union unto Christ, Christ takes hold of us by the hand of his Spirit, and we take hold of him by the hand of our faith.

Now that which Christ takes hold of us for, is to bring us unto that, which a Christian by his inclination is carried out to reach after; I follow after, that I may apprehend that, for which also I am apprehended &c. Now there is no attaining this, which is holiness, and righteousness, in their perfection, with the peace, joy and glory, which is the necessary result of these, without holding fast grace, and holding on in good works, in obedience, patience, and self-denial.

Now they being in Christ’s hand, to be brought unto this end, unless Christ want either power to keep them in his hand, or power while he does keep them in his hand, to bring them unto that salvation he designs them for, how can those miss eternal life, of whom Christ saith, I give unto them eternal life (Jn. 10:28)? Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation (1 Pet. 1:5). They are come unto Christ, got into his hand, and such Christ will not cast out (Jn. 6:36). It is his Father’s will that he should lose none of them (v. 39). While he was on earth he kept those God gave him (Jn. 17:12). Those that thou gavest me I have kept &c.

4ly. Those who are thus united unto Christ, are such as have a love to God and Christ, and Christ has a love to them; now such no temptations can separate, it is Christ’s love to them, that makes him join himself to them, it is their love to Christ which makes them close with him. Now these Christ will always love, for his love is an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). Whom he loves he loves to the end (Jn. 13:1). And this love of Christ engages his wisdom, and power for their protection, and no temptations be they never so great are able to prevail against these (Rom. 8:35, 39). God will not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able &c (1 Cor. 10:13). These, by God’s help shall never overcome them so far, as to make them willing to leave Christ, and Christ will not leave them, though they should be willing to leave him, much less when they are not.

5ly. They are sealed by the Spirit unto salvation (2 Cor. 1). Who hath also sealed us. Ye are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest, &c. Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God. God by giving them his Spirit, does that to them which men do by setting to their seals, or by giving earnest, they do confirm the bargain, and make sure the performance of it; so that hereby God’s truth and faithfulness is engaged to make good the salvation which he by the seal and earnest, has obliged himself unto; which he cannot do without keeping them from total and final apostasy (1 Thess. 5:24). Faithful is he who has called you (1 Cor. 1:8-9). Who shall confirm you unto the end &c. God is faithful by whom ye were called.

6ly. Uniting a soul unto Christ as to its foundation is God’s work, which he begins with a design to complete, for this is an imperfect work in itself; the laying of a foundation is good to nothing unless their follow a building on the foundation, and a perfecting the building you shall not meet with any man who is in his wits, that lets his work rest immediately after he has laid the foundation, unless he be diverted by more urgent business, or hindered by downright violence, as the Jews were in the building of the Temple.

Now this being God’s work, he’ll perfect as well as begin it, for all God’s works are perfect (Deut. 32:4). He leaves them not half done. This made St. Paul confident of the Philippians doing well (Phil. 1:6). God had begun and he could not believe but he would go on.

7ly. For all such as are united to Christ, Christ did pray on earth, and still intercedes in heaven. What he prayed for Peter, he presses God for all, that their faith may not fail, however Satan be let out to tempt them (Luk. 22:32). He prays that God would keep them from evil (Jn. 17:5). And this he begs not only for his disciples that then attended him. But for all that should believe on him through their words (v. 2). Therefore it cannot be pretended that this prayer was made for some few and not for all Christ’s members. Now if the prayer of a righteous man be so effectual (Jam. 5:6), shall we think that the prayer of Christ, who is the holy one of God, the Son of God, that it shall prevail nothing? May Christians be confident that if they ask any thing according to God’s will he hears them (1 Jn. 5:14), and may they not be as confident that if Christ ask anything he shall not be denied? He himself was so (Jn. 11:41-42). I know that thou hearest me always. And St. Paul upon this account was very confident that none could rise up against him to condemn him, or otherwise hurt him, because Christ interceded for him, among others (Rom. 8:34).

8ly. This is the great thing which those who are united to Christ do most prize, love, and desire, seek, and pray for, that they may be established in what is good (1 Pet. 5:10). Peter begged no more for the dispersed Jews, than every sincere Christian begs for himself, that they may be kept from the evil of temptations (Matt. 6:13), Christ teaches them thus to pray by his Spirit that they may be made to go in the paths of his commandments (Ps. 119:35). Make me to go &c. Incline mine heart &c. Turn away mine eyes &c. Now shall not he who fulfills the desire of such as fear him (Ps. 145:19) answer them in these which are so every way agreeable to his will? When they desire to be kept close to God, and God desires it too; shall the devil, or the world, or the flesh be able to hinder it? When God bids them ask, seek, knock, and encourages them to this, by telling them they shall receive, find, and get opened (Matt. 7:7)? And when they follow his counsel, and obey his commands and take heart by his encouragements, will he disappoint them?

9ly. God is engaged by covenant to keep them from falling, and therefore he is engaged to do his utmost towards this, and he is able to do what he has engaged to do (Jude 24). Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling &c. This is the tenure of the new covenant which God has entered into with everyone who is really united to Christ, to put his law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts &c (Jer. 31:33). That he’ll neither depart from them nor they from him (Jer. 32:39-40). They shall fear him forever &c. That he’ll cause them to walk in his statutes and keep his judgments and do them (Ezek. 36:27). That he’ll betroth them to himself for ever &c (Hos. 2:19-20). That the mountains should sooner depart, and the hills be removed &c (Is. 54:9-10). That his Spirit shall not depart from them, nor their seed (Is. 59:11). Indeed these promises seem to be made unto Israel after the flesh, but they were designed for Israel after the Spirit; the Jews literal are but a type of the Jews mystical, and the promises, which were made to them in the letter, according to their more spiritual and high meaning belong to the true Israel of God. And we have the very same things promised in the New Testament, though in other terms, that God will build his Church so on a rock that hell’s gates, with all the power and policy of hell, cannot prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). And that the Spirit, which God gives his people, shall abide with them forever (Jn. 14:16). It’s true also, that these promises are not sensibly made good to his people of a long while, yet even then they are really made good, though not so fully as they shall be; they cleave to God, when their hearts seem to wander from him, they fear God, when their hearts seem most hardened from his fear.

10ly. In those, who are truly united unto Christ, sin is so mortified as never to recover life again, and the soul is so quicken’d as never to die again, no more than Christ died after he once rose; those who are really united unto Christ, are baptized into his death, so as they begin to die unto sin, and though sin does not die forthwith in them, no more than Christ dies immediately after he was nailed on the cross, yet they continue dying by degrees, as Christ did, until they be quite dead, and they are baptized into his resurrection, so as to be raised to a new life which shall no more die than Christ did, after he was once raised. And this is the importance of Rom. 6:3, 11, Know ye not that so many of us, as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Likewise reckon yourselves dead unto sin, but alive to God. And those whom it is thus with, can never fall either totally or finally.

11ly. Those who thus fall, evidence that whatever they seemed, they never really were united unto Christ, for if they had been, they would have kept to him. It will appear, that we are Christ’s house, if we hold on to the end (Heb. 3:6). We are partakers of Christ, if we hold to the end (v. 14). It will appear that we are disciples indeed, if we continue in Christ’s words (Jn. 8:31). He saith not, we shall be partakers of Christ, or we shall be Christ’s disciples; but we are already, if we have that in us, which will make us steadfast. It will appear that we are sons, if we abide in God’s house forever (v. 35). ‘Tis a certain sign that those were never of the true church of Christ, who at any time go out from it (1 Jn. 2:19).

But, you will say, what reason is there, why those who are thus built on Christ, cannot fall neither totally nor finally?

I answer first, because the foundation itself cannot fail, it being the Rock of Ages (Ps. 26). Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). He is a sure foundation (Is. 28:16).

2ly. The union between the soul and Christ the foundation cannot be dissolved. On Christ’s part it cannot, because he is altogether unchangeable: On the soul’s part it cannot, because tho’ it be mutable in itself, yet it is established in Christ. There is a double reason of its establishment.

1st. From the nature of that life, which springs up in it from the foundation of life, Christ, unto whom it is united. This continually springing up keeps the will, which otherwise would be fickle enough, steadily bent for God the same way heavenwards; hence it is that he, who is born of God, cannot sin (Jn. 3:9). For there is no sin, but what is voluntary, now their will is already engaged for God: They may do, what ought not to be done, through ignorance or weakness, being overpowered by temptations, transported by lusts and passions, but their will cannot fully consent to sin, because it is otherwise pre-engaged. Thus a weather-cock is very mutable of itself, but if there be a wind, that blows on it continually, that keeps continually in the same quarter, the weather-cock itself will keep immoveable; thus a cork  or some such light thing is easily moveable this way or that way, but if it be cast into a stream, which continually moves the same way, it is determined to a certain motion.

2ly. From the power of God, which helps it against whatever would move it.

To make this help God is inclined both by his infinite goodness, and his peculiar love to them; he is obliged by his faithful promise, he having said, I will strengthen thee, I will help thee, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness (Is. 41:10).

He is concerned, as he consults his own honour, which is engaged to bring those into Canaan, whom he has brought out of Egypt, and suffer not them to perish in the wilderness: He is enabled by his unsearchable wisdom, his irresistible power, and his being everywhere present, and continuing to eternity, so that in no time or place can there any temptation befall his people, which he is not acquainted with, and which he is not every way able to secure them against.

As for the exceptions against this truth, they are several.

1st. Those, who should best understand this, if it were so, seem to doubt of it, as St. Paul (1 Cor. 9:27), Lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway; (Phil. 3:11) If by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead.

Ans. If this instance were brought of any other, besides St. Paul and some of like eminent graces with him, or if it was brought of St. Paul when he lay under some great temptation, we might answer, that tho’ this were never so certain a truth, yet those who lie under much darkness (as even these, who are called into the marvelous light of God, during the disadvantages of this life do) may question it. But I rather say, St. Paul there does not declare, that he doubts lest he should become a reprobate, or lest he should come short of that eminent grace, which he expresses by the periphrasis of the resurrection of the dead; but he declares, that if he did not use due means to avoid being a reprobate, and to attain the resurrection of the dead, he might be a reprobate and miss that resurrection; and therefore he could not but bestir himself in the use of means, that he might avoid this danger. He who says, he puts on hard, lest he should not get to his journey’s end that night, does not declare, that he doubts he shall not get to his journey’s end, though he should ride never so hard: he only declares, that without riding hard he expects it not, and if he do but ride hard, he fears it not.

Obj. 2. But what need there any caution, when there is no danger? Thou standest by faith, be not high-minded, but fear (Rom. 11:20). Let him, that thinketh he standeth, take heed least he fall (1 Cor. 10:12).

Ans. 1. Though there be no falling from saving grace, yet there may be from common grace. He that has the talent and improves it not, may lose it. There are none that deny, but common grace, which is only the workings of the Spirit upon a man, may be lost. And it is a disadvantage to lose it (tho’ of itself it is not sufficient to salvation) both because those, who have common grace are nearer to salvation than those, who have it not, and also because, if they should miss of salvation, they are however even by common grace restrained from many sins, which otherwise they would run into, and thereby aggravate their own guilt and increase their misery. Seeing therefore, many of those the Apostle wrote to, were such as had but a common work of grace upon them, (as the generality of the visible church ordinarily have no more) such cautions as these might be of use to them.

2ly. Tho’ one who has saving grace, cannot fall totally and finally from grace, yet they may fall in part, and for a while; they may lose much of their light and strength, and thereby be less holy, & unblameable, and exemplary in their lives, and have less comfort in their hearts, God may be less pleased and honoured by them, and others less edified. Now this is so considerable a disadvantage, that they may well be concerned to take heed of incurring it.

3ly. Tho’ those, who have saving grace, be in no danger of falling quite from it, yet it is not to be expected, they should be preserved without their own watchfulness and wariness. That which is the great security of God’s people in their grace is, that one part of their grace is a fear of God, and a jealousy of themselves, and that which does excite this fear, and awaken this jealousy in them is the being cautioned of their danger. This makes them work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). Though the nurse have such hold of the child, as to keep it from falling, yet to make it more cautious in its walking, she may fright it by minding it of the danger it is in of falling, if it be left to itself, and this fear of falling may be one means to keep it on its legs.

Obj. 3. But does not this open a door to all licentiousness, to tell men that they cannot fall away from Christ? May they not then say we may do as we list?

Ans. 1st. Those, whom we assert to be past this danger, are only such, whose hearts are firmly principled with a love to holiness and righteousness, and an hatred of all impurity and iniquity; and those who are such, would not allow themselves in sin, though they should not apprehend any disadvantage by it.

2ly. Those know well that what mainly secures them against this great danger of falling away, is that principle of fear, which God has implanted in them, and that it is the exercise of this, which is the means to preserve them.

3ly. Even those know, that should they give way unto corruptions and temptations, tho’ they do not fall away, yet they may incur other inconveniences, whereby their sorrows may be multiplied, and God’s judgments may be heaped upon them. None can expect to gain by presuming to sin, because they are so joined to Christ as they cannot be separated from him; God will follow them with such inward terrors, and outward pressures, as will weary them out of all these sinful courses.

Use. 1st. This shews the Excellent state, to which Christians (such as are so indeed) are arrived. They have got grace, which is the most precious thing in the world, for it is the seed of glory.

They are got into God’s favour, that favour, which is the original of all blessings whatsoever both of soul and body: They are sons of God, brethren of Christ, temples of the Holy Ghost, heirs of Heaven, objects of God’s love and care, the charge of his providence. And what makes all these advantages complete is, that they are so firmly stated in them, that they can never wholly lose them; whereas all worldly enjoyments and accomplishments are exposed to variety of hazards, even the firmest and surest of them. What reason then have those, who are advanced thus high, to give thanks to their good God for what he has already done for them and further intends them? What need they care, though they want many of the conveniences of the world which others have, when they have that, which is incomparably of greater worth, which the generality of the world are without?

2ly. Take heed of taking up with such attainments in grace, as may be lost again; that which may be lost, can never everlastingly advantage us; we are not rooted and grounded in it. We are not born again of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever (1 Pet. 1:23). Indeed common grace is better than no grace, as it is a step nearer saving grace, and as it restrains from such extravagances as would increase our misery in hell, but it is not to be rested in, how specious soever it be, because it cannot assure us of heaven, nor secure us from hell.

We should therefore be much in examining ourselves, whether that grace, which we please ourselves in, have a root and a spring within us; if not, it will not last long, it will never abide the trials, it shall meet with in life and death. If it be not a new nature in us, altering the very bent and inclinations of our hearts, it will never continue. If the living Word be not ingrafted in us, it will never stay long with us.

Whoever they be that think, that saving grace may be so easily lost, it is much to be doubted, whether ever they knew the power of it, what a great alteration it works in the soul.

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Thomas Allen (1681-1755) on the perseverance of the saints

ThomasAllen

 

Thomas Allen (1681-1755) was a Reformed conforming churchman and rector of Kettering, Northamptonshire, for a sturdy innings of 41 years from 1714 until his death. Prior to his long ministry at Kettering, Allen studied at Wadham College, Oxford, and served as rector of Irchester, Northamptonshire. He died in his parish church (St Peter and St Paul’s, Kettering) as he was reading prayers.

Allen published a number of works during his lifetime, one of which is his devotional book The Practice of a Holy Life; or, the Christian’s Daily Exercise, in Meditations, Prayers, and Rules of Holy Living (1716). One of the “daily exercises” in this book treats the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Allen writes that, if it were possible for the faith of a true regenerate Christian to be overthrown, then it must be overthrown “either by God, or by some inferior cause.” Yet “God will not, and no inferior [cause] can overthrow it.”

God will not overthrow the faith of regenerate believers because:

he has made an everlasting covenant with them, never to turn from them, to do them good; but will put his fear into their hearts, that they shall not depart from him (Jer. 32:40); that is, his fear shall be the cement whereby they shall adhere and cleave unto him forever. Whom he loves in Christ Jesus, he always loves unto the end (John 13:1). They that trust in him, are like Mount Sion, which cannot be removed (Ps. 125:1). They are sheep, which no man can pluck out of his hands (John 10:29), chosen ones, whom it is not possible to seduce: Neither shall they be tempted above what they are able to bear (Matt. 24:24; 1 Cor. 10:3). And tho’ they fall, yet shall they not utterly be cast down; for the Lord upholdeth them with his hand (Ps. 37:24). Christ Jesus will not undermine their happy state; for he is the prince of their salvation, has washed them in his own blood (Rev. 7:14), has engaged himself to advance them to his glory, and, of all the Father giveth him, he loseth not one (John 6:39). The Holy Ghost will not alter it; for he it is that enables them to do the will of God, seals them unto the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30), and is not come to stay a day or two, but abide in them forever (John 14:16).

Allen hence concludes that “[s]ince it cannot be by God, it must be by some inferior cause, either the Devil, or by the loss of faith, or by some great sin, that their estate is vanquishable, or not at all.” He accordingly goes through these three inferior causes to determine whether it is possible for them to cause the falling away of a believer, and argues:

Not by the Devil; for though he be a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, and his wrath is increased, because his time is short (1 Pet. 5:8), yet his head is broken (Rev. 12:12), his main strength is gone (Gen. 3:15), and greater is he that is in them, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).” And tho’ he marcheth after the sons of God, as Pharaoh did after Israel, with all his strength, yet they go forth with an high hand (Ex. 14:8) and mighty is he that defends their cause against him.

Neither can they hazard their estate by the loss of faith. This indeed is the very bond of adoption: and if [there was a way] it could be lost, there were danger; but, blessed be God, there is none. Faith is the gift of God, begotten in them by the Holy Ghost, independent of the will of the flesh, or of man (John 1:13), and therefore must partake of the nature of God, which is, to be unchangeable (Mal. 3:6) and without repentance (Rom. 11:29). And though it may be much weakened, and for a time be without fruit, as trees in winter, and seemingly lifeless, and dead; yet that it should finally miscarry, is impossible: for Christ, in the person of St. Peter, has prayed for the faith of all his elect (Luke 22:31). And God cannot but hear, and answer, a prayer so agreeable to his own will: otherwise, if but one could perish, then may all; for one has no more privilege than another: and if all, then Christ may have died in vain, which is a gross absurdity.

Neither, lastly, can sin dispossess the sons of God from their inheritance: Nothing can separate them from the love of God (Rom. 8:35), therefore not sin: All things shall work together for their good (v. 28) and therefore sin, among the rest, though contrary to its own nature, shall promote it: much wariness, fear, humility, thankfulness to God, and charity to men, is wrought by it. And though God permits them to fall into it, to shew them their weakness, he will not let them lye in it, to shew them his power. The promise of God to Solomon, is the freehold of all his children: I will be his Father, and he shall be my son: if he sin, I will chasten him with the rod; but my mercy shall not depart from him (2 Sam. 7:14). And they are bidden daily to pray, lead us not into temptation (Matt. 6:13), which were to no purpose, if it were not his will to hear them, and to establish, strengthen, and settle them in every good word, and work, till he has brought them to his heavenly kingdom.

Stable therefore is the adoption of sons by faith in Christ, which, whosoever is possess’d of, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters; new graces, and new assurances of that eternal life which he is hastening to; such a I know, whom I have believed. I am persuaded, that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him, against that day; that he will deliver me from all evil, and preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom. Who will lay anything to my charge? Who will separate me from the love of God in Jesus my Lord? I have fought a good fight; I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.

Thomas Allen (1681-1755), The practice of a holy life; or, the Christian’s daily exercise, in meditations, prayers, and rules of holy living (1716), p. 265-267.

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.

Nathanael Taylor (fl. 1671-1691): Reformed instruction of children in a rural post-Restoration Church of England parish

Nathanael Taylor

 

Nathanael Taylor (fl. 1671-1691) was a Reformed conforming churchman, vicar of Hibaldstow, Lincolnshire, and first master of the Grammar School in nearby Brigg, Lincolnshire – which still exists today as Sir John Nelthorpe School, Brigg. Little else is known about Taylor, and he is not to be confused with his dissenting contemporary namesake Nathanael Taylor (d. 1702). In the picture above, taken from the front matter of a published sermon of his, Taylor can be seen in clerical habit, teaching the children at his school.

Despite information on his life having been lost in the sands of time, we can nevertheless get a good idea of the doctrine Taylor the rural parish minister would have taught his pupils, as in 1683 he published his A Practical and Short Exposition of the Catechism of the Church of England by way of Question and Answer, which, the title page explains, is intended to “instruct children in the true Protestant religion of the Church of England.” Two extra editions of this exposition were released over the following two years.

It does not take long to spot the Reformed credentials of Taylor’s exposition, which is peppered with citations from various domestic and foreign Reformed divines, including William Nicholson, John Arrowsmith, Richard Baxter, Edward Leigh, Franciscus Junius, Immanuel Tremellius, Richard Hooker, James Ussher, John Pearson, Philippe Du Plessis-Mornay, Johann Heinrich Alsted, John Calvin, William Ames, and even the Belgic Confession. This work was furthermore published under the patronage of the bishop of his diocese, the Reformed churchman Thomas Barlow, bishop of Lincoln.

Judging by the lack of information on his life, Taylor was most probably never well known to his contemporaries, as of course has been the case with most parish ministers throughout the ages, particularly rural ones. Yet his reading and absorption of the Reformed sources of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was clearly extensive, and undoubtedly those children who had sat at the feet of this Gamaliel in a small Lincolnshire town would have been nurtured in Reformed orthodoxy from a young age. Below is a sample :

Q. How doth Christ save us?

A. 1. Christ underwent the whole wrath of God due to us, and so satisfied God’s offended justice (2 Cor. 5:21; Matt. 26 and 27). 2. He performed actively what the law required, and so was without sin (Matt 3:17; 5:17). 3. Hence God is, through him, reconciled to us (2 Cor. 5: 18, 20-21). 4. Christ hath made known to us the terms of salvation, that we on our repentance for sin, and closing with him by faith, and living in obedience to him in the life of faith, may be saved (Luk. 24:47; Joh. 3:16). 5. He by his Word, ordinances, ministers, Spirit and graces, instructs us in his will, and enables us to perform what he requires (Jam. 1:28; Phil. 1:6). 6. He intercedes with God his Father, for the pardon of those sins attending our persons and performances, and pleads for the acceptance of us and them, on the account of his merits and mediation. (p. 31)

As a final taster, consider also Taylor’s beautiful exposition of what we should learn from Christ’s threefold office:

I learn from the offices of Christ, 1. That as Christ is my Lord and King, so I ought to obey him; and as he loved me so as to dye for me, I ought to love him so as to live to him, and to my power promote his kingdom and glory (2 Cor. 5:15). 2. As Christ is Prophet I ought to reverence God’s Word, ordinances and ministers, and to obey what Christ by them and his Spirit doth teach me to be my duty, it becoming me to have an ear to hear where the Almighty God condescends to speak (Prov. 1:24, 26, 28). 3. As Christ is my High Priest and Saviour to expiate my sin, and save my soul by his merits and mediation. I learn to disown all merits and works of righteousness of my own, and not to relie on any creature’s righteousness for justification, but wholly by faith and obedience, close with and live to him, expecting from him my salvation on the account of his own merits and free grace (Is. 64:6; Luk. 17:19). I learn also to disown all co-mediators, as saints and angels, and to account him as the sole procurer of my happiness, to whom my complaints of wants, and prayers for supplies, ought to be offered up and made known. (p. 32-33)

James Clifford (c. 1622-1698) on the second article of the Creed

Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 13.43.02

 

James Clifford (c. 1622-1698) was a Reformed conforming churchman and musician, chorister of Magdalen College, Oxford, canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, curate of St. Gregory by St. Paul’s, and chaplain to the Society of Serjeant’s Inn, Fleet Street. While known primarily for his The Divine Services and Anthems usually sung in the Cathedrals and Collegiate Choires in the Church of England (first edition 1663), Clifford three decades later also wrote A Catechism containing the Principles of Christian Religion (1694), which contains the following golden Q&A on the second article of the Apostles’ Creed. Notice also the emphasis on comfort in relation to each doctrine, taking its cue from the Heidelberg Catechism:

Q. Declare unto me the second part of the Creed, concerning faith in God the Son. Which is the second article?

A. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

Q. What is signified by that word JESUS?

A. This word signifieth a Saviour. (Matt. 1:21)

Q. Why is the Son of God called Jesus, that is, a Saviour?

A. Because he saveth us from all our sins (Heb. 7:25). Neither ought any safety to be sought for from any other, nor can elsewhere be found (Acts 4:12; Is. 43:11).

Q. Whom doth he save?

A. He saveth all and only the elect and believers, which have been, are, or shall be, even from the beginning to the end of the world (Jn. 3:16).

Q. What evils doth he deliver his elect from?

A. From all sin. So the angel testifieth (Matt. 1:21; 1 Jn. 1:7). And also from the punishment of sin: for the cause being taken away, which is sin; the effect is taken away, which is punishment (Rom. 8:1).

Q. How doth Christ save his elect?

A. 1st, He saveth us by his merit or satisfaction: because, by his obedience, passion, death, and intercession, he hath merited for us remission of sins, reconciliation with God, and everlasting life (1 Jn. 1:7; Rom. 5:19; Is. 53:5; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). 2ndly, He saveth us by his efficacy, power, and operation: because he not only obtaineth, by his meriting for us, remission of sins, and that life which we had lost; but also applieth effectually unto us, by virtue of his Spirit, through faith, the whole benefit of our redemption. For what benefits he merited by his death, he doth not retain them unto himself, but bestoweth them on us.

Q. What is it therefore to believe in Jesus?

A. It is not only to believe, that he is able to save, and that he is the only means to obtain salvation by; but also, that he is my Saviour (Lk. 1:47; Ps. 27:1). And that I rely wholly upon him, and none but him, for the salvation of my soul (Jn. 6:68).

Q. What comfort hast thou by this?

A. That though I am guilty of innumerable sins, both original and actual, even the breach of the whole law, and so am worthy to be damned; and have all the plagues of God, due to my sin, cast upon me; yea though I were a bond-slave to sin and Satan: yet I believe that Jesus is my Saviour, and that he hath delivered me from all my sins, both the guilt, and the satisfactory punishment of them; and also from the power of sin and Satan (Lk. 4:18).

Q. What is signified by the word CHRIST?

A. Christ signifieth anointed.

Q. Why is he called Christ, that is, anointed?

A. Because he was ordained of the Father, and anointed of the Holy Ghost, the chief Prophet and Doctor (Deut. 18:15), who hath opened unto us the secret counsel, and all the will of his Father, concerning our redemption (Jn. 15:15). And the High Priest, who, with that one only sacrifice of his body, hath redeemed us (Heb. 9:28), and doth continually make intercession to his Father for us (Rom. 8:34). And a King, who ruleth us by his Word and Spirit; and defendeth and maintaineth that salvation which he hath purchased for us (Lk. 1:33; Jn. 10:28).

Q. What benefit hast thou by this?

A. That both I, and all the elect of God, are made spiritual kings, priests, and prophets (Rev. 1:5-6). Kings, in bearing rule over our hearts, and mastering our rebellious thoughts, wills, and affections (Rom. 6:12). Priests, in offering up to God our spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet. 2:5) of prayer (Ps. 141:2), of thanksgiving (Heb. 13:15), of alms (Heb. 13:16), of a contrite heart (Ps. 51:17), of our whole souls and bodies for the service of God (Rom. 12:1). And prophets, in applying that knowledge we have, to the benefit and good of others (Lk. 23:32).

Q. Now shew me why this Jesus Christ is called the only Son of God, seeing we also are said to be the sons of God?

A. Christ is called God’s only Son, because he alone is the co-eternal and natural Son of the eternal Father (Jn. 1:14; Heb. 1:5). The angels also, and Adam before his fall, are his sons, by creation. But we are sons adopted of the Father, by grace, for his sake (Eph. 1:5; Jn. 1:12).

Q. What comfort cometh by this?

A. It sheweth the wonderful love, and great mercy of God to me, that when I was, by nature, the child of wrath and perdition, he spared not to give his only Son for me, to make me his child, and heir, by the grace of adoption (Jn. 3:16).

Q. Wherefore is he called our Lord?

A. Because he redeeming and ransoming both our body and soul from sin, not with gold and silver, but with his precious blood, and delivering us from all the power of the devil, hath set us free to serve him (1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:9).

Q. What is the comfort of this?

A. That Christ being my Lord, and I living under his dominion, I need not fear what enemies, whether devil, or wicked men, can do unto me: If God be on our side, who can be against us? And though I was under the prince of darkness, having Satan my Lord, until I believed in Christ; yet since I am Christ’s, and he is my only Lord, and that by purchase with his blood, by gift from his Father; and by marriage contracted, to be consummate at his appearing.

– James Clifford (c. 1622-1698), A Catechism containing the Principles of Christian Religion, p. 50-59.

Andreas Essenius (1618-1677) on Christ’s ascension

Andreas Essenius

 

The Utrecht professor Andreas Essenius (1618-1677) discusses Christ’s ascension in his Compendium Theologiae Dogmaticum, Chapter XII, Section LXI, which I have translated below:

The ascension to heaven is the second step of [Christ’s] exaltation [the resurrection being the first], by which Christ was carried up from earth to the highest heaven locally and visibly; where he dwells for the good of the Church, until he will return for the final universal judgment. ‘After the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven’ (Mk. 16:19).

The moving subject was Christ himself according to his human nature: and so the same soul and the same body which was united in his resurrection should here be held in view […]

The terminus a quo was the Mount of Olives near Bethany (Lk. 24:50-51). The terminus ad quem was the highest heaven, or the heaven of the blessed (Eph. 4:10; Heb. 7:26).

As pertains to the manner, this ascension happened locally, by departing earth, and by advancing on high through means [presumably Essenius has the clouds on which Christ ascended in mind here]; and at the same time visibly, his disciples beholding this movement for some time by sight (Acts 1:9-11).

Concerning the time, this happened after Christ had for 40 days affirmed the truth of his resurrection and further instructed his disciples about various things.

This was predicted (Ps. 68:18; cf. Eph. 4:8-11) and prefigured by the high priest, when he annually entered the holy of holies, which is a type [exemplar] of heaven (Lev. 16:12-17; cf. Heb. 9:7, 24).

The efficient cause was the same as that of the resurrection, namely the power of God, and hence with respect to the Father it is called assumption; but with respect to the Son it is called ascension (Acts. 1:11) […]

Its ends were the following:

1) So that he would position his human nature, now truly glorified, in its true abode of glory; that he would demonstrate himself as Lord of heaven: and that he would most gloriously triumph over all his enemies (Eph. 1:20-21; 1 Cor. 15:47-49; Eph. 4:8).

2) So that he would dispense those things which he had accomplished for the salvation of the elect in heaven by his intercession, and at the same time would send the Spirit to his own, to distribute his various gifts (Heb. 9:24; Jn. 14:2-3; 16:7).

3) So that he would take possession of his own by name in the kingdom of heaven; and so that from this we would have a most assured evidence of our own ascension to heaven (Eph. 2:6; 1 Cor. 15:49; Jn. 17:24; Rev. 3:21).

4) So that we would be in constant meditation on heavenly things, and always be attentive of things above (Col. 3:1; Phil. 3:20).

John Brown of Wamphray (c. 1610-1679): Christ’s active obedience was entirely for us

John Brown of Wamphray Life of Justification Opened

 

In his The Life of Justification Opened, the Scottish Covenanter and exile to the Netherlands, John Brown of Wamphray (c. 1610-1679), argues strongly for the imputation of Christ’s active obedience against the Arminian Neonomian John Goodwin (c. 1594-1665), countering Goodwin’s The Banner of Justification Displayed virtually clause by clause.

According to Brown’s quotations from Goodwin, the latter provided the following eight reasons for why it was necessary for Christ to actively obey the divine law (instead of for the sake of imputing this righteousness to believers):

1. “To procure the greater authority and deeper reverence to the doctrine, which he taught.”

2. “The active obedience of Christ was serviceable to that same great end, whereunto our righteousness and obedience are subservient, viz. the glory of God, and the advancement of his kingdom.”

3. “The exemplariness of it.”

4. “It had an excellent importance to draw to imitation.”

5. “It was a means of continuing his person in the love and complacency of his Father, which was a thing of absolute necessity, for the carrying on of the great work of redemption: for if he had once miscarried, who should have mediated for him?”

6. “It was of absolute necessity to qualify and fit the Sacrifice for the altar, and render him a person meet [i.e. fitting/appropriate] by his death and sacrifice of himself, to make atonement for the world, and to purge and take away the sin of it.”

7. “As Christ was a sacrifice, so was he and yet is, and is to be forever a high priest (Heb. 7:27, etc.), and that righteousness of his we speak of, qualifieth him, that is, contributeth to his qualification for Priesthood, as well as it did for his sacrifice.”

8. “That holy pleasure and contentment, which Christ himself took in these works of righteousness, may be looked upon, as one considerable end [of obeying the law].

These are Goodwin’s reasons for why Christ had to actively obey the divine law, while completely rejecting the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers by faith. For our present purposes, we shall only consider Brown’s responses to Goodwin’s fifth, sixth, and seventh reasons (please note that I have in some places slightly edited Brown’s spelling as well as his punctuation for the sake of fluidity – Brown was one of those, writers, who wrote, like this, using, too many, commas).

Regarding Goodwin’s idea that perfect obedience was necessary for Christ’s Person, Brown answers (p. 103):

“As to His Person, He was God equal with the Father in power and glory: It were therefore blasphemy once to suppose that His person stood in need of this for any such end: or to suppose that He could have failed as to any act of obedience, and thereby have displeased God. Wherefore His obedience being the obedience of one who was and is God over all, blessed for ever, it could not be necessary to Himself unto any such end. Therefore it behoved to be wholly for us, for whom He was made under the law; as He was given to us, and born for us.”

Concerning Goodwin’s view that Christ had to obey the law in order to qualify as an appropriate sacrifice, Brown counters (p. 103-105):

“Shall we think that He, who was God, was not a fit enough sacrifice for the world; but that he must be made fit  and prepared by acts of obedience? And as for his human nature, which was no person, but did subsist in the divine nature, being assumed into the subsistence thereof, was it not sufficiently fitted to be a sacrifice by its personal union with the Godhead? Was it not thereby holy, harmless, and undefiled and separate from sinners, which is all that the Apostle requireth, Heb. 7:26? Was not the human nature personally united unto the Godhead from the very first moment of conception? The holiness then, that consisteth in acts of actual obedience, was not required unto this union: and after this union it was not possible that he could sin: as it is not possible that the glorified now in heaven can break the laws that we break here, while on earth; and yet it will not follow that they are under the same particular obligations to particular acts of commanded duties that we stand under. So nor was Christ, as to himself, under the obligation of the particular duties of the law, to which he willingly submitted himself and gave obedience; but all this was for us. Nor was this necessarily required to make his sacrifice holy; for his human nature, being once united to the divine, could not otherwise be but holy and without sin, and so a sinless and holy sacrifice. And withal we would take notice that the actions of the Mediator were the actions of the person, and not of either of the natures alone; and therefore must not be looked upon as the actions of a mere man. So that his acts of obedience were the acts of obedience of God-man, or of that person that was God.

He [Goodwin] needeth not then tell us that the absolute holiness and righteousness of the humanity itself was of necessary concurrence unto his obedience: for we grant it, and this flowed from the hypostatical union: but that which we deny is that there was an holiness and righteousness in acts of outward obedience to the law requisite thereunto, as if the human nature, by virtue of the hypostatical union, had not been holy and harmless antecedently unto those outward acts of obedience, and so had not been a sinless and holy sacrifice, if he had been offered up in his infancy, or before he was in capacity to do any commanded acts. He [Goodwin] needeth not say (as he doth pag. 204) that we conceive that Christ-man might have been righteous without doing the works of righteousness, which is all one as to say that he might have been righteous, though he had transgressed: for not to keep the law in those to whom the law is given, is nothing else but to transgress. For we neither do, nor need assert any such thing: for by virtue of the hypostatical union, he was righteous and could not transgress, or do anything contrary to what was imposed upon him: but we say that by virtue of this union, as to himself, the human nature was not under the law, as we are; but he was under the law that he might fulfil it for others, and not to fit and qualify him to be a meet sacrifice, as if for this his human nature had not been meet enough before.

To this he saith, pag. 205, Let this supposition be admitted, that Christ had suffered in the womb, and that this suffering of his had been fully satisfactory; yet had he been as perfectly righteous in this case, and consequently had kept the law perfectly, as now he hath done; for the law requireth of infants, during their infancy, nothing but holiness of nature. I answer (1) This is enough to confirm what we say, viz. that all his after actual obedience was not necessary to this end. (2) And beside, though this holiness of nature was conformed to the law upon the matter, yet it was not a formal obedience unto the law, if we speak of him in reference to himself; for the human nature had this holiness by virtue of the hypostatical union: and Christ, when the human nature was first conceived, was God-man, and the person was under no law, and so was not under the obligation of any such law, but was made under the law as Mediator. And so, for us, and not for himself; nor is it any more to advantage to except again and say, that His meaning is not that there was an absolute necessity that he should keep the law upon the same terms in every way, which now he hath done, as that he should perform the same individual acts of obedience, or the same number of acts, in case he had been called to suffer any whit sooner: but that until the very instant in which he should suffer, whether it were sooner or later, he should in all things submit himself unto the good pleasure of God. For it doth hence sufficiently appear that all his after obedience, in all these particular acts, was not necessary to fit him as a sacrifice, and so could not be necessary for himself. And therefore, seeing he had been a sufficiently holy sacrifice had he been offered up before the actual performance of these commanded duties in the law, it is manifest that these duties were not required unto the end alleged: but that, as he was made under the law for us, so all his actual obedience to the law was for us, and not for himself.  The Exceptor [Goodwin], in the end, perceiving the invalidity of all his own discourse here, closeth the matter thus, pag. 206, But however we suppose this necessity or use of the righteousness of Christ could not be sufficiently cleared; yet since there are many others of undeniable evidence, the position so much contended for, to wit, that the Godhead of Christ sufficiently qualified him for such a sacrifice as he was, makes nothing at all for the imputation of his righteousness. Therefore we shall not trouble either ourselves or our reader any further with untying an impertinent knot. What these others of undeniable evidence are, we have not yet seen: and, sure, this one ground is sufficient to demonstrate that his obedience to the law, in all points, was not for himself, nor to qualify him as a sacrifice, but for us: and therefore it must be imputed, and made over to us and become our righteousness, whereby and whereupon, together with his sufferings, made over to us also, we are to be justified and accepted of God as righteous; and not only have pardon of sins, but also a right to the inheritance, and to the reward promised upon obedience.”

Finally, if you have managed to bear with Brown up to here, he refutes Goodwin’s assertion that Christ’s active obedience was necessary to qualify him as our high priest (p. 105):

“Seeing it cannot be proved that his actual obedience to the law (which is the righteousness we are here speaking of) was necessary to qualify him to be a sacrifice here on earth, much less can it be proven that it was necessary to qualify him for his priesthood in heaven. And all these qualifications mentioned, Heb. 7:26, he had before that actual obedience was either performed, or he was in a capacity to perform it: and therefore his actual obedience was not necessary thereunto.”