Some Mistaken Scriptures
In Answer to One Infected With Some Pelagian
When He Was First Prisoner in Coventrie.
Now Published by the Author for the Clearing of
I Corinthians 2:14
The Natural Man Receives Not the Things of the
Spirit of God, for They Are Foolishness Unto Him, Neither Can He Know Them,
Because They are Spiritually Discerned.
Licensed and Entered According to Order.
Printed by Thomas Paine, Living in
Red-Cross-Street in Gold-Smiths Alley, Over Against the Sugar Loaf.
Some Mistaken Scriptures Sincerely Explained,
in Answer to One Infected With
Some Pelagian Errors.
Whereas you say that some Scriptures
seem to hold forth unto you that a man has a free-will, I desire you, for your
better information, to take notice of these two Propositions:
We do not simply deny that a man has
any freedom of will, but only do hold that no natural man, not any man of
himself, has a sufficient power, or freedom of will, unto the choosing of that
way, which is good and right, and acceptable in the sight of God. To the
choosing of evil ways, we grant that every natural mans has freed enough, if so
be this may be termed by so good a name as Freedom. Consequently, we do not
hold that any man is compelled or enforced by violence to choose the evil, or to
refuse the good, but that through the corruption of nature man unrenewed does
willingly and willfully refuse the good way and chooses the evil way. Whereas
the unregenerate person can do no otherwise, this is not the fruit of any force
or compulsion laid upon him, but only of the obstinate wickedness, or wicked
obstinacy of his own corrupted and depraved will. The truth hereof appear by
these Scriptures, Gen. 8:21; Eccles. 9:3; Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19; Romans
3:9, 10, 11; Romans 8:6-8; James 1:13-15; John 8:44.
The elect do indeed, with unfeigned
willingness, obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and choose the Lord to be their
God, but this they do when they are effectually called, and not before. This
they do, not of themselves, not only by the well using of an ability or power
given to all men, but by the special grace of God, afforded to them, Who works
in them both to will and to do and this according to the good pleasure of His
own will concerning them from all eternity. The truth of this appears in these
places, Isaiah 54:13; compared with John 6:44, 45, 64, 65; Ezek. 36:26, 27;
Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:4, 5, 11; Phil. 1:29; Phil. 2:13; James 1:18.
These Propositions being thus laid down
and cleared, I come now to consider those Scriptures which you name to prove
that a man has free will or free choice, Deut. 30:19; Joshua 24:15, 22; Judges
10:14; Isaiah 65:12; and 66:13; I Kings 3:5-11; Psalms 119:30; Luke 10:42.
I call heaven and earth to record this
day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and
cursing, therefore choose life, &c.
This place shows what was the duty of
the Israelites to do, but it does not prove that they had any ability of
themselves to do it, or that God gives any such ability to all men. Compare
this place with 2 Corinthians 3:5 and Deut. 29:4.
And if it seem evil unto you to serve
the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve, &c.
Here I somewhat question what part of
the verse you would have especially to be opened, whether this: "Choose you this
day whom you will serve," or this "But as for me and my house, we will serve the
Lord." The first implies that Idolaters do freely choose those Idols, with
which they commit spiritual whoredome. Freely, that is to say, not being
enforced or compelled thereunto by any violence constraining them to this motion
of their will. This is not denied, but acknowledged and held by us, as you may
see in the first proposition. The last part of the verse holds forth the free
and constant resolution of the Saints to serve the Lord. This also is taught in
my second proposition. But there you must likewise remember, that this is the
fruit of the special grace of God afforded to the Elect, Who works in them both
to will and to do, Phil. 2:13. This work is wrought by the infinite power of
God, Ephesians 1:19 and 3:10.
You are witnesses against yourselves
that you have chosen you the Lord, to serve Him.
This is meant directly and only of that
which went before in verse 21. "The people said unto Joshua, Nay, but we will
serve the Lord." They who were Israelites indeed, did in truth and sincerity
make this promise and choice, but they did not this of themselves, but through
the special grace of God, as has been proved already.
Go and cry unto the Gods which ye have
When I speak, you did not hear, but did
evil before mine eyes and did chose that wherein I delighted not.
They have chosen their own ways, and
their soul delights in their abominations.
These three places imply no more than
what we clearly hold, as you may see in my first proposition.
I Kings 3:5, 6, 9, 10
God said, ask what I shall give thee,
And Solomon said, Give thy servant an understanding heart, and the speech
pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
This places seems to you to import,
that Solomon did freely make choice to ask of God for an understand to here
judgment. This we deny not. But consider also that this choice and petition was
the fruit the wisdom and grace which God had already given him. Compare this
place with Zech. 12:10, "I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the
inhabits of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace, and of supplication," See also
I have chosen the Way of Truth.
Mary has chosen that good part.
True, but it was the special grace of
God, the special, gracious and powerful work of God's spirit, which caused David
and Mary to make that good choice, as also has been already proved. Thus, I am
done with your first catalogue of tests of Scripture.
Your second catalogue contains certain
places, in which (as you conceive) the promises of God do depend upon our doing
of His commands. Hereto I answer first more generally:
Second Catalogue of Scriptures
The Scripture promises eternal like to
those who obey the Gospel of Christ, Hebrews 5:9; and threatens eternal
destruction to the disobedient, John 3:36; 2 Thess 1:8. Thus we acknowledge and
thus we teach. But consider that which I have also already proved, that the
elect of God perform this obedience through God's special Grace, and that this
special grace is freely given to them of God according to His own purpose
concerning them from all eternity, and that God has freely promised this grace
to His elect. All this appears by places of Scripture already alleged for the
confirmation of my second proposition.
Thus I descend to consider more
particularly the places of Scripture that you here present unto me, viz., Lev.
26:3; and Isaiah 1:19; Proverbs 1:23; Jer. 7:13; Matthew 19:17; Matthew 11:28;
Matthew 11:21; Matthew 23:37; Luke 16:16; Jeremiah 3:22.
If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my
commandments, and do then, then I will give you, &c.
Here we must remember:
1. That since Adam's fall no mere man
either did or could keep God's commandments and do them according to the rigor
and strictness of the Law, Eccles. 7:20.
2. That where as the Elect among the
Israelites did truly believe in the promised Messiah, and did show the truth of
their faith by the sincerity of their obedience to God's revealed will in every
thing, this was the fruit of God's special grace to them afforded, Numbers
14:24; Psalms 119:22,36. These clear truths may also free you from your doubts
that seem to arise from the next place by you mentioned, viz. Isaiah 1:19.
Turn you at my reproof, behold I will
pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
The former part of this verse is an
exhortation. It is the conceit of some that such exhortations do always imply
that the persons exhorted have a sufficient ability in them to obey the
exhortation directed unto them. But this conceit is a mere presumption, not
only without ground, but also against the Scripture, as in John 6:65, and other
places. It is demanded, why then are such exhortations used, I answer,
1. To mind the persons exhorted of
their duty, and to leave them the more inexcusable in their willful
2. Because the Lord is pleased to work
powerfully upon the Elect by such exhortations.
The latter part of this verse contains
a promise. You (as it seems) conceive the promise to be here made only unto
those who obey the exhortation afore going. Be it so. Only remember then, that
they which obey the exhortation, do obey the same through God's special grace,
and that the promise serves to assure them of the continuance and increase of
And now because you have done all this
work, said the Lord and I spake unto you, rising up early, and speaking, but ye
heard not, and I called you, but you answered not.
If you consider this verse only, and
read no further, it only holds forth the goodness and patience of God, in
admonishing and exhorting the stubborn Jews and their willful and obstinate
disobedience to God's Word. If you read the verses following also, this
Scripture minds you that the disobedience and obstinacy of the Jews was the
cause of their destruction. All these things we readily acknowledge neither do
they make any thing at all against us.
If you will enter into life, keep the
Here you must consider to whom our
Savior spake this, viz., of one who sought to establish his own righteousness,
and to get Heaven by his own doing of the good works which the Law required, who
accordingly had propounded this question, "What good thing shall I do that I may
have eternal life?" The meaning of our Savior's answer is this, if thou wilt
think to get eternal life this way, you must keep the commandments, that is, you
must be found as a person not any way guilty of any transgression against God's
commandments. This was a thing of mere and utter impossibility and our Savior's
scope in returning to him this answer, was to discover unto him the vanity and
madness of his proud and foolish imagination. Thus, this place rightly
understood has not in it the least show of opposition against our doctrine.
Come unto me all you who labor, and are
heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Here Christ promises to give rest, not
to all persons whatsoever, but only to those laboring and heavy laden ones who
come to Him, namely by a true faith in Him. This makes nothing against us. It
still remnants true that they, and only they, do thus come unto Christ, in whose
hearts God works lively faith. This God works in His Elect and only in them.
Woe unto thee Chorazin, woe unto thee,
Bethsaida, for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre
and Sidon, &c.
The manifest scope of our Savior in
this place, is to show the open inexcusable enesse of the impenitence and
unbelief of Chorazin and Bethesaida. The last words of the verse, from which
your doubt arises, may be understood to be a figurative speech, like unto that
in Luke 19:40, "If these should hold their peace, the stones should immediately
cry out." Otherwise the words may be thus rendered, "They had possibly
repented, or, They would possibly have repented." This translation would be
found well to agree to the signification of the potential particle which is here
used in the Greek. Then this will be the true and easy interpretation of this
passage, viz., "A man would think they should have repented." Beyond this, this
place must not be stretched, For no interpretation must be given of any place of
Scripture, which shall indeed make it to contradict the Scripture itself in
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would
I have gathered your children together, even as a Hen gathers her chickens under
her wings and you would not.
The meaning is this, How often have I
graciously afforded unto the people of Jerusalem excellent means of salvation?
But the stubborn people of Jerusalem have willfully refused to accept of those
means of salvation, and to profit by the same. This is all that this place does
import, and this makes nothing at all against us.
The Law and the Prophets were until
John, since that time the kingdom of God is preached and every man, &c.
The words in this verse which you would
have to be opened are thus commonly rendered: The kingdom of God is preached,
and every man presses into it," suppose this translation to be right and the
meaning to be the same that our common expositions have held forth in this
ensuing interpretation; Every man, that is to say, many men or every older and
degree of men presseth into it," that is, with willingness and forwardness
receives the doctrine of the kingdom and so entering into the kingdom of God.
Suppose I say that this were indeed the meaning of this place, yet it would be
found to make nothing at all against us. For still it will remain true, that
the Elect do this through God's special grace. But the truth is, that this
interpretation does not teach our Savior's meaning in this place. The words
should thus be rendered; "every man offereth violence unto it." The meaning is
this, "every man," that is, the whole world of ungodly men, offered violence
unto it, that is, makes a violent opposition against the kingdom of God and the
preaching thereof, See Matthew 11:12, compared with verse 16-18, &c.
Return ye backsliding children, &c.
In this verse is contained:
1. An exhortation, Return ye,
2. A Promise, I will heal your
This promise you understand to belong
only unto those who obey the aforesaid exhortation. Even so this makes nothing
against us, but perfectly agrees with our doctrine. But let me here mind you
that this promise may be understood not only to be a promise of pardon to them
who repent, but also a promise of the gift of repentance to the Elect, see
Jeremiah 31:33, 34 and Acts 5:31. The particle and here inferred, seems to make
against this. But this need not trouble us, since it is only a supplement or
addition of the translations, and is not in the text.
3. A Profession of repentance and
faith, Behold, we come unto thee, for thou are the Lord our God. You must
understand this to be the speech of the Elect endued with God's special grace,
see Jeremiah 31:18, 19.
Thus according to your request, according to the ability which God has given to me, I have opened the Scriptures that you have mentioned. The Lord open your understanding, that you may discern the truth and acknowledge the same to the glory of God.
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