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Declarations of the same import abound in the Scriptures. It cannot be necessary to multiply quotations any farther. If these are not believed, none will be believed.
6thly. The doctrine, against which I contend, is inconsistent with many Scriptural promises.
Such a promise is contained in the passage last recited. He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, shall not come into condemnation.
Another is contained in the following words, John vi. 37, Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out. Every Christian has come to Christ, in the very sense of this passage. Should he, then, be rejected afterward, he would be as really cast out, as if rejected at first; and the promise would not be performed.
Another example of the same nature is found in Mark xvi. 16, He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved. Every Christian has believed : every Christian will therefore be saved.
Another is found in John x. 27, 28, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me : And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.
Another in the 9th verse of the same chapter: I am the door : by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.
All these are promises, uttered by Christ himself; and it will not be denied, that he understood the import of his own promise, nor that he will faithfully perform it to the uttermost.
Finally; St. Paul has declared his views concerning this subject in a manner, which one would expect to terminate the controversy. Moreover, says this Apostle, whom he did predestinate, them he also called ; and whom he called, them he also justified ; and whom he justified, them he also glorified. This is both a declaration, and a promise ; and in both respects is unconditional and universal. In the most express language it asserts, that every one, who is effectually called, is justified, and will in the end be glorified also. But every Christian is thus called.
I shall now proceed to consider the principal objections against the perseverance of Christians.
1st. It is objected, that this doctrine is inconsistent with Free agency.
This objection, as to its real import, I have had occasion to consider in several preceding discourses. If the answers, made to it then, were just and sufficient; they must admit of a satisfactory application to this subject. The drift of the objection in every case is against the doctrine, that God can create a free agent, who shall yet be a holy being. If he can create such an agent, and make him holy from the beginning; he can, undoubtedly, with equal ease, and equal consistency, render such an agent holy after he is created. But it cannot be Scripturally denied, that our first parents, or the angels, were created holy; nor that the man, Jesus Vol. III.
Christ, was created holy. Nor can it be denied, that all these were in the fullest sense free agents. The very acknowledgment, that they were holy, is an acknowledgment, that they were free agents ; for holiness is an attribute of free agents only. It is certain then, that God can render such agents holy, at any time after they are created, without infringing at all the freedom of their agency. In other words, he can regenerate them; can sanctify them afterwards, at successive periods; and can, of course, continually increasc their holiness to the end of their lives.
Further ; Angels, and glorified Saints, will persevere in holiness throughout eternity; and their perseverance is rendered absolutely certain by the unchangeable promise of God. Yet neither this perseverance, nor the certainty of it, will at all diminish the freedom of their agency. The perseverance of Saints in this world may, therefore, exist to the end of life, and may be absolutely certain, without any diminution of the freedom of their agency.
2dly. It is alleged, that the Scriptures promise eternal life to Christians conditionally; and that this is inconsistent with the supposition, that every Christian will certainly persevere in holiness. For example ; He, that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved : and again; For we are made partakers with Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.
There are many passages of this nature in the New Testament. As the import of them all is exactly the same, it will be unnecessary to quote any more. Their universal tenour, whether given in the form of promises, cautions, exhortations, or commands, is this : that eternal life will not be allotted to any of mankind, except those who continue in obedience unto the end. Hence it is argued, that a discrimination is here intentionally made between such Christians as do, and such as do not, thus continue in their obedience. Otherwise, it is observed, the condition would be useless, and without any foundation in fact.
To this I answer, first, that a conditional promise, collateral to an absolute one, can never affect, much less make void, the absolute promise. The promises, which I have recited, of eternal life to every Christian, are all absolute; as are also many others, of the same nature. They cannot, therefore, be made void by these conditional ones.
Secondly; it is still true, that none, but those who endure to the end, will be saved; and equally true, that every Christian will endure to the end.
It is elsewhere said in the Scriptures, that, if we do not believe, we shall be damned; that, if we do not repent, we shall perish; that if we do not love the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be anathema ; that without holiness no man shall see the Lord; that he who hateth his brother abideth in death; and that without love we are nothing. From these passages it might with the same force be concluded, that some persons believe, who do not repent; that some repent, who are not holy; and that some are holy, who yet hate their brethren; and that, thus, a discrimination was intended to be made between believing Christians and penitent ones, and between both these and such as are holy. The truth is : every Christian does all these things. These several descriptions were given, partly to show us the whole nature of Christianity; partly to teach us all our duty; partly to show us, that all of it is indispensable; and partly to furnish us with useful and necessary evidence of our Christian character.
At the same time, all these conditional promises, and exhortations, are, and were intended to be, powerful means of the very perseverance, which is the principal subject of them. We are not constrained, or forced, to persevere; nor should we, on the other hand, persevere, were we wholly left to ourselves. Our perseverance is owing to two great causes : the influence of the Spirit of God on our hearts; and the various means furnished in the word, ordinances, and providence, of God, accompanied with the divine blessing upon the use of them. Among these means, the very condition, here suggested in so many impressive forms, is of high importance; and has contributed to the perseverance of Christians in holiness ever since the Scriptures were published. Although, therefore, all Christians actually thus persevere; yet it is not improbable, that without the aid of those passages of Scripture, here alluded to, multitudes might have fallen away. Christians have no other satisfactory knowledge of their Christianity, except their continuance in obedience. The earnest desire of possessing this knowledge on the one hand, and the fear of being found destitute of the Christian character on the other, cannot but serve as powerful motives, (motives too powerful, in my view, to be safely omitted in the Scriptural system) to produce in the Christian perseverance in holiness.
3dly. It is objected, that this doctrine naturally contributes to lessen the diligence of the Christian in his duty.
For an answer to this objection I must refer you to the observations, made in a former discourse on the same Objection to the doctrine of Justification by faith. In that discourse, the objection was applied to the doctrine now under consideration; and, if I mistake not, was satisfactorily obviated.
4thly. It is objected, that several passages of Scripture teach the contrary doctrine.
Among these is Heb. i. 4—8, For it is impossible for those, who were once enlightened; and have tasted of the heavenly gift; and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost; and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; if they shall fall away, to renew them unto repentance : seeing they crucify lo themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame, For the earth, which drinketh in the rain that cometh bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth
upon it, and
blessing from God; but that, which beareth thorns and briers, is rejected; and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned.
It will be unnecessary for me to determine, here, who are the persons, meant by the Apostle in this
passage. He himself has decided, that they are not Christians. Their character is fully expressed in the 8th verse, under the image of the earth, which beareth thorns and briers ; while that of Christians is expressed in the 7th verse, under the image of the earth, which bringeth forth herbs, meet for them by whom it is dressed. These are here studiowoły contrasted. The character of the former is, therefore, exhibited by the Apostle as a direct contrast to that of Christians; who, it is to be remembered, are represented every where in the Scriptures as bringing forth good fruit. This passage, then, teaches nothing, opposed to the doctrine which I am endeavouring to support.
Secondly. It is not asserted by the Apostle, that those, of whom he speaks, ever actually fall away. The case is stated only in the form of a supposition, and he declares only, that, should they fall away, there is no possibility of renewing them unto repentance. Whether such persons do in fact fall away is, therefore, left uncertain.
Should it be thought, that the expressions in this passage amount to a description of Christianity; and that, therefore, Christians are meant in it: I answer; that neither of the expressions taken separately, nor all of them together, involve any necessary description of Christianity. It is true, that Christians sustain all these characteristics, except two; viz. partaking of the Holy Ghost, and the powers of the world to come : je dovtos alwvos, the fu
that is, the period of the Christian dispensation, thus denominated. These phrases indicate the miraculous powers, possessed by many Christians, when this passage was written, but never belonging to Christians as such. They, therefore, denote no part of Christianity. Judas possessed these characteristics. The remaining expressions are all indefinite; and as truly applicable to men, who, still continuing to be sinners, have enjoyed peculiar Christian advantages, as they can be to Christians. The whole drift of this passage, therefore, even when construed most favourably for those whom I oppose, is only ambiguously in favour of their doctrine; and is, in my view, decided against them by the Apostle himself. But it cannot be rationally believed, that a doctrine of this importance would, in opposition to so many clear, decisive declarations, have been left to expressions merely ambiguous.
Another passage, pleaded for the same purpose, is the declaration of Christ, John xvii. 12, Those whom thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition. To discover the true meaning of this passage, we need only recur to other declarations of the same glorious Person. Many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias; but unto none of them was Elias
sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. The widow of Sarepta is here, by the very same phrase. ology, included among the widows of Israel ; as Judas was included among those that were given to Christ. Yet we know, and this passage declares, that she was not an Israelitish, but a Sidonian widow: and we know, equally well, that Judas was never given to Christ, as a Christian.
Again; There were many lepers in Israel, in the time of Elisæus the prophet; and none of ihem were cleansed, saving Naaman, the Syrian. Naaman, the Syrian, was not an Israelitish leper; though, in the first apparent meaning of the passage, mentioned as such. Judas was not given to Christ, although apparently mentioned as thus given. The whole meaning of this phrase would be completely expressed thus : Those whom thou gavest me have I kept; and none of them is lost : but the son of perdition is lost.
That Judas was never given to Christ we know from his whole history, and the repeated declarations of his Master. This passage, therefore, has not even a remote reference to the subject in debate.
Another passage of the same nature is that, 1 Tim. i. 19, Holding faith, and a good conscience ; which some having put away, concerning faith, have made shipwreck. The meaning of this
passage may be easily learned from a correct translation. Holding fast faith, faithfulness or fidelity, and a good conscience; which some, that is, some teachers, having cast away, concerning the faith, sau Flotiv, that is, the doctrines of the Gospel, have made shipwreck.
Generally, it may be observed, that the doctrine, against which I contend, is not supported in a single, unequivocal declaration of the Scriptures. I know of none, in which it is asserted in terms so favourable to it, as those which I have considered. Whatever is said concerning the apostacy of any Christian professors is decisively explained by St. John. They went out from us, but they were not of us : for, if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.
REMARKS. 1st. The faithfulness of God is highly conspicuous in the truths, which have been discussed.
Christians provoke God daily; and awaken his anger against themselves more and more continually. By every sin, they persuade him, if I may be allowed the expression, to desert them, and to give them up to themselves. Still he preserves them from destruction. He has promised them life. He has established his covenant with them for an everlasting covenant; and it shall never be forgotten. On his Immutability their safety stands immoveable. In this manner is it exhibited by himself. For I, saith he, am JeHOVAH: I change not : therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. This attribute is the seal, the certainty, of every promise : and