... Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.—Revelation 15.3.
WHETHER A SOUND HEART
AND AN UNSOUND HEAD
CAN CONSIST TOGETHER?
And Vice Versa;
WHETHER TRUTH AND HOLINESS BE NOT
To the Assembly of Divines
It is one of the greatest objections against the suppressing and punishing of heresies, errors and schisms, O, say they, this is a persecuting of those that are godly; this is a wound to piety, and the power of godliness. I do not deny but there may be, and is, true piety in many who are somewhat infected with the leaven of false doctrine, and live in some erroneous opinion. I dare not appropriate the name of the godly party to those who are free from any of the errors of the times. Those that are truly godly may in divers things differ in opinion. Every error is not inconsistent with holiness, yet every error doth pro tanto, and proportionably retard, hinder, and prejudge holiness; and although the devil sow his tares among Christ’s wheat (I mean in the same persons as well as in the same church), yet who will say that a field of wheat is nothing the worse of the tares, for then to what end did the enemy watch an opportunity of that malicious hostile act, to sow the tares among the wheat? 2. Dangerous and damnable errors can no otherwise consist with true grace than dangerous and damnable sins. And this I will hold as a good rule in practical divinity, that as the want of true piety makes a person (if tempted) apt to be infected with error, so error of judgment, if continued in, doth not only hinder growing, but makes a dangerous decreasing and falling short in true piety; or thus, the stability of the mind and judgment in the faith of the gospel, and in the true reformed religion, and the stability of the heart in grace and true piety, stand or fall together, flourish or fade away together, lodge or flit together, live or die together.
First of all (to make good what I assert), let it be well observed, that the Scripture finds out the roots of heresies and errors in the corrupt hearts of men, in some reigning unmortified lust. An unstable heart makes an unstable head, and a corrupt affection makes a corrupt Judgment. This may appear in the general from Gal. 5.20, where heresies are reckoned among the works of the flesh; Col. 2.18, where a superstitious mind is called a fleshly mind; 1 Tim. 1.19, where faith is compared to a precious treasure carried in a ship; a good conscience to the ship that carries it, the loss of the ship is the loss of the ladening; 2 Tim. 3.6; 2 Thess. x. 11,12; Gal. 6.12; 2 Tim. 4.3; 1 John 2.19. It is therefore a good argument that protestant writers have used against the Pope’s infallibility, The Pope hath been, and may be, impious, profane, sensual, carnal, proud, covetous; therefore he may dangerously err in his inditement and decrees. Some have derived the origin of all the popish errors from ambition and avarice, or (as others), from the cardinals’ caps, and the monks’ bellies.
The apostle John reduceth all the cares, courses, studies, endeavours, opinions or practices of the children of this world, to one of these three, 1 John 2.16, “the lust of the flesh,” peculiarly so called; uncleanness, wantonness, gluttony, drunkenness; “the lust of the eyes,” when the soul is catched with something from without in the world which tempteth, such a thing is goodly to the eye, it entereth in upon the soul by the senses, riches, houses, lands, brave apparel, ornaments, &c; “the pride of life,” so called, because where pride reigns a man will as soon quit his life as that thing which his proud spirit loves; he had rather be dead before he get not his pride satisfied; so that his pride and his life are all one to him, and as it were things convertible.
You shall find many who have embraced new and erroneous ways have been led away with the lust of the flesh, Rom. 16.18; Philip. 3.19; 2 Pet. 2.13,14,18; Num. 25.1-3; 1 Kings 11.1,4,5. It was the sensual pleasantness of the groves and high places which made the Jews in so much love with them, that even in the times of reformation, yet the people still sacrificed in the high places. The lust of the eyes hath drawn away others from the way of truth, and from the true faith, 2 Pet. 2.3; 1 Tim. 6.9,10; Luke 16.4; Tit. 1.11; 1 Tim. 6.5: these count gain to be godliness, and have men’s persons in admiration for advantage; they will no longer adhere to the profession of the truth than they may enjoy the world withal, 2 Tim. 4.10. Such a one was that Eccebolus, who, under Constantius, seemed to be a precise Christian, but afterwards, under Julian the apostate, fell away and became a pagan, yet after all this turned Christian again under the next Christian emperor.
The pride of life hath corrupted the judgment of others, and perverted them in the way of religion. It was the love of pre-eminence which perverted Diotrephes, 1 John 3.9,10. It was pride which made Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, cry down the magistracy of Moses, and the priesthood of Aaron, and cry up the whole congregation as holy. It was the love of a crown that made Jeroboam set up his calves, and make another altar, and other priests, and erect that independent church of his, which should not go up with their hard cases to the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem. Henry IV. of France, who was once a Protestant, changed his religion for the same cause, that he might get a crown; so did Julian the apostate, once a Christian. Porphyrius forsook the Christians that he might be the better avenged upon some Christian in Cesarea of Palestine who had done him a wrong. Yea, there is an innate pride in all men by nature against Jesus Christ, Psal. 2.3; Luke 19.14; which pride must be mortified, 2 Cor. 10.5.
Secondly, There is a reciprocal influence, as of the will and affections upon the understanding, so of the understanding upon the will and affections. The will determines the understanding, quo ad exercitium, but the understanding determines the will, quo ad specificationem actus; that is, the will applies the understanding unto, or hindereth it from, the discerning of good and evil; yet the will itself hath not light in itself, but is guided by the light of the understanding; wherefore, as the rain makes vapours, and the vapours make rain, so a bad understanding makes a bad will, and a bad will makes a bad understanding. If the eye be single the body is full of light, Matt. 6.22; which makes good what the schoolmen tells us, that bonitas voluntatis dependet a recta a ratione velut regula, the goodness of the will depends on right reason as its rule. See Aquinas (q. 2æ, quest. 19, art. 3), and the commentators upon that place. It is to be observed that sometimes the Scripture speaketh of an error of the judgment concerning the faith as a fountain and cause of ungodliness, profaneness, Atheism, 2 Tim. 2.16-19; Gal. 5.4; 2 John 9; as, contrariwise, there is a light and knowledge which preserveth from sin and ungodliness, and leadeth the soul in ways of holiness and obedience, Psal. 9.10; 119. 33,34; John 17.17. If the knowledge of God, of his Christ, and of his word, and will, and name, and statutes, preserve us from sin, and lead us in the ways of obedience, then, by the rule of contraries, error of judgment in these things will ensnare us in sin and wickedness. For instance, an error concerning God, whether Father, John 15. 21, Son, 1 Cor. 2.8; 1 John 2.23; 2 John 9, or Holy Ghost, John 14.17.
Thirdly, As the infection of sin spreadeth itself throughout the whole soul, and all the faculties and powers thereof, so doth the work of the Spirit of God. We find light and holiness, 1 Pet. 2.9, joined together like the Urim and Thummim. See also 1 Thess. 5.23: here is both soul and spirit sanctified; which two are plainly distinguished, Heb. 4.12. The word of God is so quick and powerful as that it pierceth even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit. If either the intellectuals be not sound, or if the vitals and animals be not right, the word will find it out. A well-meaning pious soul, a good heart and affection, which perhaps a person may sit down satisfied with, will not excuse a corrupt mind, an erroneous spirit; neither will a sound and orthodox judgment excuse a corrupt heart and inordinate affections. Aristotle himself could distinguish art and knowledge from virtue, because the most excellent intellectuals cannot make a man so much as morally virtuous, without the practice and exercise of virtue. Both soul and spirit, both the inferior and superior part of the soul, must be sanctified. Reason is as the helm, the affections as the sails. Let the helm be steered never so right, if the wind either blow not at all, or blow cross in the sails, the ship makes no speed in her way; let the wind blow never so fair, and fill all the sails, yet if the helm be off its hinges, or be not rightly steered, the ship may quickly run upon a rock, or run ashore where it is not safe: so he that hath a sound judgment, without good affections, cannot move heavenward. He that hath good affections, without a sound judgment, will make more haste than good speed. Reason is as the rider; affections as a nimble horse. A man is but in an ill-taking if either this rider mistake his way, or the horse run away with him out of the way, having no reins to govern him, or if the horse be lame and cannot ride.
Fourthly, Consider what the Apostle saith, 2 Tim. 3.16,17. He tells us of four ends and uses of Scripture. The first two are commonly referred to doctrinals, the last two to practicals. The Scripture is profitable “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” If any of these be wanting, a Christian is not perfect, so much as in the perfection of parts. He is but half a Christian who is an orthodox believer, if he be not practical also; and he is but half a Christian who is practical, if he be not an orthodox believer. These ends of Scripture do not consist nor stand sure one without another.
Fifthly, To be led into all truth, and preserved from error, is a work of the Spirit of truth; and this Spirit of truth is the Comforter, and the Spirit of sanctification; which Spirit the Mediator prayeth the Father to give unto those that are his, John 14.16,17; 16.13,14; 1 John 2. 27: no promise of being led into all truth but to those that receive the anointing of the Holy Ghost, Isa. 54.13; Psal. 25.12.
Sixthly, By how much a man falls from the truth, by so much he falls from grace, and by how much a man falls from grace, by so much he falls from the truth; for stability in the state of grace dependeth in a manner upon stability in the truth; for proof whereof mark three ifs: Christ’s, John 8.31; Paul’s, Col. 1.23; John’s, 1 John 2.34. Again, stability in the truth dependeth upon stability in grace, for proof whereof make a fourth if, 1 John 2.19. These scriptural ifs have much in them, and should make us very cautious and heedful, that we do not so far deceive ourselves, as to divide what God hath joined together,—a sound head and a sound heart. Chrysostom exhorteth his hearers to join Christian virtues and purity of doctrines together; for, saith he, “It profits us nothing to be orthodox, if the life be vitiated; as, upon the other part, an uncorrupt life profiteth nothing without soundness of faith. Licentiousness of judgment in doctrines will certainly introduce licentiousness of heart and life” in practicals. Arminius himself (although many of his followers have cried up scepticism in religion) could say that different doctrines produce in a people a dubitation or hesitation concerning religion, that this doubting of the truth produceth despairing to find the truth, and thence follows Atheism and Epicurism; yet when heresies and false doctrines introduce Atheism and Epicurism, they do but discover those roots of bitterness which were before in the heart. Therefore, as Christ tells those Jews that believed on him, if they continue not in his word they are not his disciples indeed, John 8.21, so the apostle John gives this reason why Simon Magus, Hymeneus, Alexander, Philetus, Me-nander, Carpocrates, Basilides, Ebion, Corinthus, and such like, went out, and separated from the church, and from the profession of the truth, because, saith he, “they were not of us,” meaning in respect of lively faith, true grace and regeneration, therefore they went out from us, 1 John 2.19; which text John Jerome, in the close of his first book upon Jeremiah, applies to heretics in this respect,—when they fall away openly they do but show those very idols of their hearts which, in their inward parts, they worshipped before.
I will add a seventh reason. Look how the Scripture distinguisheth the elect from those who are of an ungodly life; in the same manner it distinguisheth them who are of an erroneous belief, 1 Cor. 11.19. The Apostle, 2 Thess. 2.10,11, tells us, that those who perish believe a lie, i.e., an error pretending to be a truth; but, ver. 13, he gives thanks for the believing Thessalonians, “Because God had chosen them to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth:” so that they who believe not the truth are no more elected than the unsanctified. Our Saviour, Matt. 24.24, intimateth that it is impossible that the elect should be deceived by false prophets; that is, in the same sense as he that is born of God doth not commit sin, 1 John 3.9. Christ characteriseth his true disciples, and distinguisheth them from others, not only by obedience and a good life, Matt. 7.17,24; 25.35; John 13. 35, but also by light in the eye of the understanding, Matt. 6.22,23, with Eph. 1. 17,18; by continuing in his word, John 8.31; by knowing his voice, and fleeing from a stranger, John 10.4,5. I hope I have abundantly proved what I undertook; and so I conclude that he said right who compared truth to the teacher, holiness and righteousness to the ruling elders. I add: Where heresy is the teacher, ungodliness and unrighteousness are the ruling elders; a holy heretic is a chimera; and a profane person believing aright is another.
But here, peradventure, some will think that the great objection lies, May not a profane person have a sound or orthodox judgment in all controverted truths? May not a man understand all mysteries and all knowledge, who yet hath no love, nor true sanctification? 1 Cor. 13.2. May not a person hold fast the profession of the true faith without wavering, whose heart, notwithstanding, is not right with God, nor steadfast in his covenant?
First, I answer, Where there is but a form of godliness there is but a form of knowledge. μορφωσις is a word nowhere used by the Holy Ghost but in two places, “A form of knowledge,” Rom. 2.20; and “A form of godliness,” 2 Tim. 3.5. It is not the true and real form, either of knowledge or godliness, which, as they have a true matter, so a true form. He saith not μορφην (which had been the proper word for a true form), but μορφωσιν, speciem scientiæ, speciem pietatis. If we have respect to the notation of the word, it is a formation or forming; I may call it a forming without mattering; so that the form of knowledge more than which an ungodly man hath not, be he never so learned, hath not the true substance and reality of knowledge. Theophylact saith, some understand it to be the image and false resemblance of knowledge; so Hesychius and Suidas understand μορφωσις to be εικων, an image of a thing.
Secondly, There is no sinfulness in the will and affections without some error in the understanding. All lusts which a natural man lives in, are lusts of ignorance, 1 Peter 1.14; the sins of the people are called the errors of the people, Heb. 9.7; and the wicked person is the fool in the Proverbs; the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; and what is the reason? because they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned, 1 Cor. 2.14; the world cannot receive the Spirit of truth, because it knoweth him not, John 14.17. The popish doctrines of free will, of justification by works, of meat, of implicit faith, of believing the Scriptures, because the church receiveth them (and what marvel that they do so, whose eyes are not opened to see the sunbeam of divine light in the Scripture itself, which is spiritually discerned), of the sacraments conferring of grace, and the like; also the Socinian tenets, that a man is not bound to believe any article of faith, nor any interpretation of Scripture, except it agree with his reason; that pastors and ministers of the word have not now any distinguishing sacred vocation authorizing them to be the ambassadors of Christ, to preach and minister the sacraments more nor other Christians (which is also maintained by a late Erastian writer in the Netherlands), these and the like errors professed and maintained by them, what are they but so many legible commentaries and manifest interpretations of those corrupt and erroneous principles which are lurking and secretly seated in the judgments and understandings of natural and unregenerated persons, as well learned as unlearned? These heretics do but bring forth to the light of the sun what is hid within the minds of other unregenerate persons, as in so many dark dungeons. The like I say of the Arminian doctrine of universal grace, and universal atonement by Christ’s death; and of original sin, that it is not properly sin (which doctrines are common to many Anabaptists with the Arminians). The like I say also of the Antinomian doctrines, that Christ hath abolished not only the curse, and rigour, and compulsion, but the very rule itself of the moral law; so that they who are under the covenant of grace are not bound to walk by that rule; that they ought not to repent and mourn for sin; that God doth not afflict them for sin; that faith, without the evidence of any marks or fruits of sanctification, doth assure the soul of its interest in Christ; and what is that scientia media which the Jesuits glory of as a new light, but the very old error of natural men, which looks upon things contingent as not decreed and determined by the will of God? And what is the Erastian way which oppugneth suspension from the Lord’s table, excommunication, and all church government,—what is it but a declaration or manifesto of the proud imaginations of men’s corruptions, which say within themselves, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us: and ye take too much upon you, Moses and Aaron, seeing all the congregation are holy every one of them, and the Lord is among them.” I conclude this point: Every natural man hath in his heart somewhat of Popery, somewhat of Socinianism, somewhat of Arminianism, somewhat of Anabaptism, somewhat of Antinomianism, somewhat of Erastianism (and I cannot but add), somewhat of Independency too, so far as it pleadeth for more liberty than Christ hath allowed; and if every man hath a Pope in his belly, as Luther said, then every man hath an Independent in his belly (for the Pope is the greatest Independent in the world); and it is natural (I think) to every man to desire to be judged by no man.
Thirdly, When an unregenerate or unsanctified person holds fast the profession of the faith, take heed it be not because he is not yet tempted, nor put to it in that thing which is the idol of his heart. Let him be brought to this, either to quit the truth and the faith, or to quit what is dearest to him in the world, and see what he will do in that case. His fruit is but such as grows upon the stony ground, but stay till the sun of persecution arise and scorch him.
I have the more fully and strongly asserted the inconsistency of heresy and holiness, as likewise of sound believing and profane living; and have showed the joint fading or flourishing of true grace and true holiness, that this being demonstrated and laid down for a sure principle, may lead us to many practical and useful conclusions and corollaries, which I will only here point at.
First, It cuts off the exception of those who cry out against the censuring, suppressing, and punishing of heretics by the Christian magistrate, as if this were a persecuting of piety or pious persons, when it is indeed a suppressing of a work of the flesh, for heresy is no other, Gal. 5.20, and of that which is either the cause or effect, either the usher or page of some impiety.
Secondly, It confuteth that most pernicious and cursed opinion, that if a man live well, he may be saved in any religion or any faith. Socinus did hold that all, whether Lutherans, or Calvinists, or Anabaptists, or Arians, so that they may live well, shall be saved (as hath been observed). He was a follower of Mahomet, for Mahomet having compiled his Alcoran partly out of the Jewish and partly out of the Christian tenets, and made it an hotch-potch out of both, that he might conciliate favour unto it among both, he held that every one who lives well, whether Jew or Christian, shall be saved. He that holds a man may be saved, whatever he believe, may, with as much truth, hold that a man may be saved whatever he do, or however he believe.
Thirdly, It stoppeth the mouths of heretics and sectaries, who call themselves the godly party. Arius, Photinus, Socinus, Arminius, and generally the chief heresiarchs which ever rose up in the church, have been cried up by their followers for men of extraordinary piety, as well as parts. All are not sheep that comes in sheep’s clothing. A false prophet is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Matt. 7.15; but it is added, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” Mark “by their fruits,” not by their green leaves nor fair flourishes. Let them pretend what they will, we must believe the word of the Lord, that one of the marks of those who are approved, is to hold fast gospel truths against heresies, 1 Cor. 11.19; and by the rule of contraries, those infected with heresy are made manifest not to be approved. If that which I have formerly asserted and cleared from Scripture be a truth, as most certainly it is, then it is no truth, but a most dangerous and grace-destroying doctrine which some hold, viz., that it is to be much questioned whether any opinions or heresies (as they are called) be absolutely inconsistent with believing in Jesus Christ (and so damnable, that is, accompanied with eternal damnation), but only that which is formally contradiction to such a believing. This writer (who is one of the fomenters of the scepticism of this time) makes much question whether any error or heresy be damnable which doth not formally contradict this proposition, “That whosoever believes in Jesus Christ shall not perish, but have everlasting life;” but I have showed elsewhere that heresies, denying the Godhead of Jesus Christ, are accompanied with damnation; and no marvel, for whosoever believeth in Christ, and yet believeth not him to be eternal God, doth but believe in a creature, and no creature can redeem us from hell, nor satisfy infinite justice; so are the heresies concerning justification (which hold that something besides Christ’s righteousness, whether our faith or works, is imputed to us to justification) damnable if continued in, Gal. 5.4; that if, by damnable heresies, we mean such errors as are of dangerous consequence, and, in this respect, justly and deeply condemnable or censurable by men, many who hold and publicly maintain damnable heresies, in this sense, may have, yea, and some (as far as men are able to discern, de facto) have true grace and goodness. If he mean that such have true grace and goodness in that sense as David, during the time of his continuing in the sin of adultery, or Peter during the time of his denying Christ, had true grace and goodness; that is, that such do not totally fall away from true grace, but have the seed of God abiding in them, then he pleadeth no better than as if one should say the sin of adultery, the sin of denying of Christ, are not damnable sins, at least, not inconsistent with true grace and goodness. But if he will yield that errors of dangerous consequence, which are justly and deeply condemnable, are inconsistent with true grace and goodness in the same sense as gross sins are inconsistent therewith; that is, that gross and condemnable errors are inconsistent with the soul’s growing, thriving, prospering, and flourishing,—yea, with any lively acting and putting forth of true grace,—yea, that gross errors do greatly and dangerously impair, abate, diminish, weaken, wound, hurt, and blast true grace and goodness, and do extremely grieve, and, in a great measure, quench the Spirit of grace,—then he must also grant that to bear with or wink at gross errors, is to bear with or wink at such things as are extremely prejudicial, obstructive, and impeditive to true grace and goodness.
Fourthly, It is but an ignorant mistake, and a dangerous soul-deceiving, presumption, for a profane loose liver, or for a close, unmortified, and rotten-hearted hypocrite, to think or promise that he will stand fast in the faith, and hold fast the truth without wavering. Whosoever maketh shipwreck of a good conscience cannot but make shipwreck of faith too. He that is overcome of a sin may be overcome of an error too, when he is tempted in that which is the idol of his heart; therefore let him who would have light from Christ awake from his sins, Eph. 5.14. He that hath not pious affections, and thinks his orthodox judgment will make him steadfast in the faith, is as great a fool as he that thinks to ride without a horse, or a captain that thinks to fight the enemy without soldiers, or a mariner that thinks to make out his voyage when his ship wants sails.
Fifthly, They that would have church censures put forth only upon heretics, apostates, or such as are unsound in the faith, but not upon profane livers in the church (which was the error of Erastus, and, before him, of the princes and states of Germany, in the Hundred Grievances; the original of which error, so far as I can find, was from the darkness of Popery; for there was an opinion that the Pope might be deposed for heresy, but not for a scandalous life; which opinion Æneus Sylvius, de Gestis Concilii Basil., lib. 1, confuteth); they also, upon the other hand, that would have the censure of excommunication put forth upon loose and scandalous livers within the church, but not for those things which the reformed churches call heresies; so Grotius, Annot. on Luke 6.22, and divers Arminians, divers also of the sectaries in England; these, I say, both of the one and of the other opinion, do but separate those things which ought not, cannot be separated.
Sixthly, There is cause to set apart days of fasting and prayers, when heresies and errors abound, as well as when profaneness and gross wickedness aboundeth in the lives of the people. Christ doth, in five of his epistles to the churches of Asia (to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Philadelphia), take notice of false teachers, sects, and erroneous doctrines, commending the zeal in Ephesus against them, blaming those in Pergamos and Thyatira for tolerating such amongst them, encouraging those in Smyrna and Philadelphia, by expressing his displeasure against those sects. No mention of loose and scandalous livers, distinguished from the sects, in those churches. Either there were such scandalous livers in those churches at that time, or not. If there were, then observe, Christ mentions not them, but the false teachers and sectaries; for although both are condemnable, yet he takes special notice of scandals in doctrine and profession, as being matters of the highest treason against him, and the most provoking sins in a church; as being also the more deceitful and secret poison, honeyed over with plausible pretences, and therefore the more needing a discovery. If there were no such scandalous and profane livers in these churches, then note, that Christ will have a great controversy against a church which hath false doctrines and pernicious sects in it, although there were never a scandalous person more in it. There is therefore cause to fast and pray, for which Christ makes a matter of controversy against his churches. If we have prayed away Popery, Prelacy, the old superstitious ceremonies, the malignant armies, &c., O let us cry mightily for this also! See if we can pray away heresies and pernicious doctrines, sects and schisms.
Seventhly, We must turn away from and avoid the fellowship of false teachers, and the spreaders of dangerous doctrines, not only that we may be steadfast in the truth, but that our hearts may be established with grace; for there are such reasons given in Scripture for avoiding the company of that kind of men as highly concern piety: Avoid them, because they serve not Christ, but their own bellies, Rom. 16.18; from such turn away, because they are men of corrupt minds, supposing gain to be godliness; and their disputings breed envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 1 Tim. 6.4,5; receive them not into your houses who bring not the doctrine of Christ, because such have not God, 2 John 9,10,11.
Eighthly, Let no man think that opinions are free more than practices, or that a man runs no hazard of his salvation by erroneous and heretical opinions. Error of judgment, as well as wickedness of practice, may bring death and destruction upon the soul, James 5.19,20; 2 Pet. 2.1; 3.16; Gal. 2.21. Heretics, as well as murderers and drunkards, are there excluded from the kingdom of heaven.
Ninthly, If thou wouldest keep thy head from erring, be sure to keep thy heart from erring: Psal. 95.10, “It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” As thou desirest not to be a backslider in the profession of the true faith, be not a backslider in heart, Prov. 14.14. If thou wouldest be preserved from erroneous opinions, pray for the mortification of thy corruptions, Gal. 5.20, with 24.
Tenthly, If thou wouldest be firm and stable in the truth, thou must not only have grace in the heart, but be established in grace, Heb. 13.9, “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines, for it is a good thing that the heart (he saith not have grace, but) be established (βεβαιουσθαι) in grace.” He that is not established in the present truth, i.e., in the truth of the times, proves himself (or otherwise makes himself) to be unstable in grace. If αβεβηλος be αβεβαιος, if he that is no profane one be yet an unstable one, what doth it profit? It is plainly intimated to us, 1 Pet. 5.8,9, that such as are not steadfast in the faith do not resist Satan, but are devoured by him; and, 2 Pet. 1.12, the Apostle thinks it not enough that Christians be established in the present truth, if they be not also growing in grace, and making sure their calling and election, and adding one grace to another; “Wherefore (saith he) I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things (to wit, which belong to the establishing of the heart in grace), though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.”
Now, that the heart may be established in grace (and so also in the truth), let us endeavour to walk always as under the eye of God, Psalm 16.8; Heb. 11.27; to improve the promises, and rest upon Christ for stability of heart, 1 Cor. 1.8; for he is our wisdom and sanctification, as well as righteousness and redemption, ver. 30. Let us entertain the Spirit of grace, and not grieve him, nor quench him; for by the Spirit of the Lord are we upholden, stablished, strengthened, Psal. 51.11,12; Eph. 3.16.
Eleventhly, When it comes to a time of trial, and to the sifting of the whole house of Israel, as corn is sifted in a sieve, Amos 9.9, they only are made manifest to be approved in whom there is both sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, both true piety and sound judgment: if either of these be found wanting, be sure the other is wanting too, whatever show there may be to the contrary. There is a text, 1 Cor. 11.19, worthy to be much and often thought upon in these days, “For there must be heresies (or sects) among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you;” of which text more anon. Now, then, forasmuch as the church is sometimes tried by heresies, sometimes by persecutions, sometimes by both, sometimes by other temptations, and, for our part, we know not what further trials we must endure before this work be at an end, or before we go off the stage, as we desire to hold out in a time of trial, let us hold fast truth and holiness together, and cast away from us whatsoever maketh us to offend, whether it be the right eye of an erroneous opinion, or the right hand of a sinful will, or the right foot of a carnal affection.
1. De Verbis Apost., ser. 24.
2. Orat. de Compon. Relig. Diffidio.
3. Vide Orat. in Abrah. Calovii. Anno 1643.
4. Mr J. Godwin, Hagiomastix, sect. 634.