August 27, 2009

John Cotton (1584–1652) Explains God's Sincere and Earnest Will and Desire for the Salvation of the World

Since we do not have Cotton's original Treatise dealing with predestination, we must rely on Twisse's copy in his examination of this Treatise. He records Cotton's words as follows:
Besides, to cleare this point more fully, the will of God towards the world is put forth in a disjunct axiome; viz. either to give life unto the world, upon the condition of their obedience; or to inflict death, upon the condition of their disobedience. Now, as in a disjunct axiome the whole proportion is true, if either part be true; so the will put forth in a disjunct axiome is alwayes accomplished, if either act be accomplished.

But if it be objected, how may it appeare this will of God to give life to the world, upon condition of their obedience, is serious and not pretended; since if hee would hee is able to give them such hearts as would cause them to obey him?

I answer; That God willeth it seriously, appeares manifestly by the declaration of his will already mentioned; viz. his Oath, his Covenant, yea, and the workes of each Person in the Trinity, tending to this end, to give life to the world: all which it were blasphemy to thinke they were not done seriously. Doth the living God sweare, and not sweare in earnest? God forbid. Doth God enter into Covenant with his creature, and intend no performance of promise according to his Covenant? farre be it from the just and holy God to doe it, and from us to imagine it. Shall we think each Person in the Trinity slighteth the worke of the salvation of mankind, because mankind slighteth to work out their salvation with the Trinity?

But, besides the declaration of Gods will, thus seriously expressed, I produce the teares of our Saviour over Jerusalem, lamenting their carelesse neglect of the day of their peace: which argued, not onely in Christ as man, a serious compassion of their affected ignorance and misery; but also, as God, a tender consideration of their peace, and of providing the meanes for it. Moreover, what shall we thinke of those passionate exclamations? Oh, that there were in this people an heart to feare mee, and to keep my commandments alwayes, that it may goe well with them, and with their children forever! Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! Oh, that my people had hearkened unto mee, and that Israel had walked in my wayes! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries. Do not all these speeches expresse an earnest and serious affection in God, as concerning the conversion and salvation of this people, whereof sundry died in their sinnes? It is true, God might have given them such hearts as to have feared and obeyed him; which though hee did not, yet his will that they had such hearts was serious still. To cleare it by a comparison: The father of the family hath both his son and servant dangerously sick of the stone; to heale them both, the father useth sundry medicines, even all that art prescribeth, except cutting: when hee seeth no other remedy, he perswades them both to suffer cutting, to save their lives: they both refuse it; yet his sonne hee taketh, and bindeth him hand and foot, and causeth him to endure it, and so saveth his life. His servant also hee urgeth with many vehement inducements, to submit himselfe to the same remedy; but if a servant obstinately refuse, hee will not alwayes strive with him, nor enforce him to such breaking and renting of his body. But yet, did not his Master seriously desire his healing and life, though hee did not proceed to the cutting asunder of his flesh, which hee saw his servant would not abide to heare of? So in this case, both the elect and men of this world are dangerously sicke of a stony heart; to heale both sorts the Lord useth sundry meanes; promises, judgments, threatnings, and mercies: when they refuse, hee draweth them both; the one with his almighty power, the other with the cords of man, (viz. such as are resistible) to this cutting and wounding, that their soules might live: and the elect are brought to yeeld; and the men of this world break all cords asunder, and cast away such bonds from them. Shall we now say, God did not seriously desire the healing of such mens hearts, because hee procured not to bind them with strong cords, to breake them with such woundings as they will not abide to heare of? Thus having laid down the grounds of my judgment touching the first Point, That there is a will and purpose in God for to reward the world as well with life, upon condition of obedience; as with death, upon condition of disobedience; I come now to the grounds of the second Point.
William Twisse, A Treatise of Mr. Cottons (London: Printed by J. D. for Andrew Crook, and are to be sold at his shop at the Signe of the Green Dragon in Pauls Church-yard, 1646), 100–102.

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