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from death unto life." “ The water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life."
What can be clearer than these words of the Great Teacher ? None that were given to him shall be lost. And the dividing line which he fixes between death and life is not drawn across the farther end of the believer's course, but across its beginning. In his first exercise of justifying faith, in his first partaking of the Redeemer's flesh and blood, in his new birth, he actually passes the line between death and life; henceforth, because He in whom his life is, lives, he shall live also. Not that he shall be compelled to go to heaven, whether he will or not. “My sheep,” says the Great Shepherd, “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. My Father, which gave them me, those of whom I am to lose none,) is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.” How perfectly do these words guard every sheep of the fold ! These are the ones who are in the everlasting covenant, of whom God has declared, “I will not turn away from them to do them good;” not, if they are faithful, and turn not away from me; but “I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me."
These are the elect, whom the Saviour declared it impossible for false Christs and false prophets, with all their signs and wonders, to deceive. These are they who are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation; they whom God will not suffer to be tempted above what they are able to bear, but, in his wisdom, and by his power, will ever, in faithfulness, make a way for their escape.
And I now furtker remark, that this doctrine is not only clearly intimated in the Old Testament, and clearly taught by the Lord Jesus, but it is proclaimed and exulted in by the apostles. “And we know," says Paul, “that all things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to his purpose. How so?
May they not by any enemy or instrumentality be deceived, ensnared, ruined? By no means. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.
Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Here is a complete and heaven-wrought chain, linking those whom God foreknew to glory; and it is described as already finished in the purpose of Jehovah.
And it is not important to the doctrine in hand, let it be distinctly observed, which of the three main significations claimed for the word foreknow, is given to it. Give it the Arminian one, prescience of repentance and faith; or the mixed one, loved or approved, whether from a foresight of obedience or not; or give
it the sense to select or determine upon, the Calvinistic election of grace, and the chain in either case remains alike unbroken. Whom God knew would repent and believe, or whom he loved from a foresight of goodness or otherwise, or whom he selected of his own good will as the subjects of regeneration, them he predestinated to a conformity to the image of his Son, to be holy.]
Moreover, whom he did predestinate, to be holy,] them he also called ; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
And then, in view of this chain of grace, joining every true believer to glory, the fervid apostle kindles into exultation, and triumphantly exclaims, as if in defiance of all the enemies of the Church of God, “If God be for us, who can be against us ?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ?
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Perfectly confident was the apostle that He who began a good work in Christians would perform (finish) it ; and that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance-not abandoned.
And how childish and short-sighted is the answer so often made to the above triumphant passage of the apostle, that this is all conditional ; none of these things can separate a Christian from the love of God unless he yields to them ? Indeed ! and who ever supposed they could ? Is there any other way for a Christian to fall than by yielding to evil ? Does the objector think this passage means that no creature is stronger than God, and that all this triumphing of the apostle is a mere flourish of trumpets over the fact that no creature of earth or hell can make effectual war upon the Almighty, and tear away an obedient child from his arms? If this is not what he thinks, then he is entertaining himself with a mere truism, which, of course, nobody denies: nothing can ruin the child of God unless he yields. And this is the precise point to which the whole passage relates. As there is no other way to pluck a child from His hands but by inducing apostacy, it is over the want of power in all the enemies of the Christian to effect this that the apostle triumphs so exultingly. His assuranc was, and ours is, that all the wisdom, wonders, temptations, lies, allurements, and enchantments of men and devils, cannot cause a Christian to apostatize from his God!
Another inquiry : Does the perseverance of the saints, thus revealed, thus promised, and hence sure, consist in simply retaining the grace and obedience possessed immediately on conver
sion, or does it involve a progress and a growth? Is the Christian stereotyped at the moment of the new birth? and does he pass on through a life which is dead level, or does he grow and travel in a path which leads upward where the light is clearer, the atmosphere purer--nearer heaven and nearer God ?
To this question the Bible returns no unequivocal answer. It represents the life of the Christian as anything but stereotyped, and the on same plane with the point of his departure. Though he sometimes falls into sin, and sometimes backslides from a point to which he had previously attained, yet, on the whole, his strength increases, and his progress is upwards. Having clean hands, he grows stronger and stronger; and being just, his path shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
In the New Testament, this feature of the saints' perseverance is frequently taught in the clearest form. The Christian is at first a babe in Christ, from which he grows to a perfect man in Christ. His religious life is symbolized by the figure of a mustard-seed growing to a tree ; of leaven leavening the whole lump; of grain in the progress of growth : "first the blade, then the ear, afterwards the full corn in the ear.”
The figure of a warfare, too, under which his life is represented, and in which he is the habitual victor, includes the idea of progress ; just as though he conquered one foe, and then passed on to attack another; subdued one sin or evil passion, and then addressed his efforts to another; and so prosecuted his course, growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, until he arrives home in glory.
Thus I have endeavored to educe from the Scriptures their teaching on the subject of the perseverance of the saints. Though possessing free will, and the power to apostatize, they will--for God promises that they shall-persevere in holiness-- a holiness increasing, on the whole, to the end of life--and ultimately enter into glory.
What God knows will occur, and what he hence promises shall occur, I now remark, he knows and promises as depending upon foreseen agency or instrumentality. The saints' perseverance has such a dependence as this. God foresees and appoints it. Do the Scriptures teach us any thing in relation to this dependence ?
Most clearly they do ; and we turn for a moment to what may be styled the saints' preservation. Though they persevere, it is by virtue of their preservation. They are kept ; they do not keep themselves alone : “ Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation."
This power of God, it is evident from the nature of the case, is not the same as that by which the worlds were made, and by which the stars are kept in the heavens. It is the power
he has of securing the moral results which his benevolence demands; and it lies rather in his wisdom than in his natural attribute of strength. He is so wise that he is able to preserve all his saints; he is so wise that he has mighty power in secaring to them the faith through which they are kept, and which links them indissolubly to life.
Without dwelling upon the atonement of Christ a wonderful power of God to accomplish moral effects, and which is emphatically the offspring of his wisdom, and yet in itself alone relates to the sinner as much as to the saint-I would direct you to one of the agencies in which he preserves the saints; namely Christ's intercession. This he did for his disciples just before he suffered; and for all who, after them, should believe on him. And now since his ascension, as the apostle repeatedly declares, he ever appeareth in the presence of God, to make intercession for his people. To this agency has he been appointed, and in it he must continue to the end, when he will cease, delivering up the kingdom to the Father, and laying down all authority and power.
And, in connection with these intercessions, which God the Father ever hears, there is, with direct reference to the saint, the office-work of the Spirit, and the instrumentality of the truth: “Chosen unto salvation," he is said to be," through sanctifica. tion of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.” Dwelling in the children of God, the Holy Spirit seals them and gives them an earnest of their future inheritance, a part as a surety of what remaineth. And the truth is essential to the existence of faith--for how can they believe on him of whom they have not heard ?-and of course essential to all the saving effects of faith on the life. The truth, as is evedient from every page of the sacred record, is a fit and indispensable instrumentality, by which not only to begin but to perpetuate holiness, to strengthen and sustain the soul in its onward sanctifying work and preparation for glory.
Thus it would seem that the perseverance of the saints, when viewed in its relation to the agencies and means by which it is effected—foreseen of God as they are, and appointed in his wisdom-might more appropriately be styled the saints' preservation. True it depends upon the free will, but more upon free grace ; true, the saint perseveres, but he is kept by the power of God; he practises holiness, but only as he is drawn to it by the Holy Spirit. God is first in all the process, executing the demands of his own benevolence and glory.
I remark now,
1. The true doctrine of the perseverance of the saints makes the final salvation of the Christian conditional. It says, “He that endureth to the end shall be saved," and no others. It says that if the Christian should fall away, he would not only perish, but he could not be renewed again to repentance.
2. The true doctrine of the perseverance of the saints makes the final salvation of the Christian certain. It insures the performance of the condition upon which that salvation is based; it says that he shall hold on his way, and wax stronger and stronger. It puts into the mouth of the Church, in relation to all apostates,
They went out from us, because they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” Christ says that he knows his sheep. This doctrine claims that at the last day he shall truly say to every opostate, with how many tongues soever he may have spoken; with whatever gifts of prophecy, of knowledge, or of faith, he may have been endowed; whatever goods he may have given to the poor ; however clean he may have been washed from the pollutions of the world; how often soever he may have eaten and drunk at his table, “I never knew you; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.”
A conditional salvation, and a certain one, both harmonize in this doctrine, because the performance of the condition is certain also.
3. The true doctrine of the perseverance of the saints demands the diligent use of all the means of promoting the divine life. The Christian cannot say, "If I am to persevere, I shall persevere, let me do as I will.” The doctrine is, that he wills to
persevere; and to say that he will persevere, if he wills not to, is to deny the doctrine. The certainty of a thing by no means tends to relax effort for its attainment, especially when efforts are appointed and ordained to the end. What general ever doubted that his soldiers would fight more bravely, if he could inspire them with the assurance of victory? What teacher ever doubted that his pupils would be more diligent, if he could make them certain of getting their lessons ? Paul did not allow the assurance he had of his own salvation to prevent his keeping his body under; he did not allow the pledge he had that he should see Rome, to prevent his seeking the protection of the Roman centurion, that he might not be put to death by the forty Jews who had bound themselves under a curse that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed him. And when he was sailing to Rome, he did not allow the certainty, not only that his own life should be preserved from the perils of the deep, but also the lives of all those who sailed with him, and which certainty he had already proclaimed to them, to prevent his saying, when the seamen were preparing to leave the ship, “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved."
Anything may be certain and yet conditional, the performance of the condition being certain also. And the certainty of the perseverance of the saints in a growing Christian life, involves their willingness, and watchfulness and prayer; their study of the Holy Scriptures, their crucifying the flesh, with its affections and