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have the promise of salvation. And the Lord also gives precious intimations of saving mercy to the seed of the faithful. “ I will be a God to thee, and to thy seed after
. thee in their generations,” is the summary of the promises. All the rich and precious promises of this covenant, depend on the truth of the doctrine of perseverance, For, “ He only that endureth unto the end shall be saved."
We now proceed to a number of plain testimonies of scripture, to establish, more fully, the doctrine before us: " The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. « Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down : For the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” 66 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory.' These and many other things in the Psalms, are exactly in point. Through the imperfection of his heart, David fell into some great and crying sins. But he was, at no time, utterly cast down. At no time, did he cease to be a subject of inward, sanctifying grace. If he, who had been so wonderfully enlightened, and had tasted more, perhaps, than any other man, of the heavenly gift; had actually fallen away; it would surely, have been impossible to renew him again to repentance. But, of the repentance of David, and even of the most prompt and genuine repentance of David; who can entertain a doubt ? After his grievous lapses, as well as before, he was the man after God's own heart; and fulfilled his will.
In the new testament, as well as the old, we have ample evidence of the doctrine of perseverance. Relating to the covenant of redemption, the Saviour says, 66 All that the Father hath given me, shall come upto me, and him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out." 66 And this is the Father's will, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing; but should raise it up at the last day.” The plain import is this, that of all who were given to Christ, in the covenant of redemption, as the reward of his sufferings, he should lose none; but should raise up the whole with him to eternal glory. Speaking of his followers, the Saviour adds this further
testimony ; “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.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”
In the eighth chapter to the Romans, we have as deci. sive evidence of the doctrine of perseverance, as can be expressed in human language. Speaking of the Saviour's intercession for the saints, according to the will of God, the Apostle adds, “ And we know, that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For, whom he did foreknow, them he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son; that he might be the first born among many brethren." If all things work together for the good of Christians, and if they are brought into a state of brotherhood, and heirship with the Son of God; will th not be continued the subjects of persevering grace, till they obtain the eternal inheritance? It is added, “ Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called ; and whom he called, then he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things ? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all; how shall he not, with him also, freely give us all things ? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again; who is even at the right hand of God; who also maketh intercession for
Will the blessed Redeemer, who has died for our sins, and risen again for our justification, who has ascended to heaven, and become an infinite advocate and intercessor for all his saints; pleading for them, and claiming them, as the reward of his humiliation and sufferings, according to the covenant of redemption ; will the faithful Redeemer, after all this, suffer his saints to apostatize ? become reprobate ? and bring an indelible reproach upon his kingdom? In prayer to the Father, Christ says, “I know that thou hearest me always."
, Will he refuse to hear his intercession for his elect, who
are given to him as trophies of his victory over all the powers of darkness ? The memorable passage before us proceeds: “ 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 heighth, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The Holy Ghost, foreseeing what strenuous opposition would be made, in every successive age of the Christian church, to the doctrine of perseverance by grace alone; took care, it seems, to make a statement, and proof of this doctrine, which exceeds almost every thing of the kind, on any subject. To say more, in confirmation of this doctrine, must be wholly needless.
1. It is evident from the discussion of this subject, that the actual perseverance of the saints consists in growth of grace. The growth of the children of God, like the growth of natural children, may often be retarded; and at times, be imperceptible. But, at other times, the progress may be visible and great. In their Christian childhood, they 5 desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby." Christians delight to search the scriptures; of course, they grow in knowledge. They delight in Christian conversation; of course, they grow in brotherly love. They call the sabbath a delight; of course, they grow in Christian fellowship, and social improvement; and the worship and ordinances of the sanctuary, become more and more interesting. They are gradually weaned from the world, and become more and more. humble, penitent, patient, submissive and joyful in God. At some times, as the Apostle says, * Their faith grows exceedingly;" so that “ believing, they rejoice, with joy unspeakable and full of glory." This is essential to the Christian character. 66 For the path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth inore and more, unto the perfect day." Where actual perseverance is realized, there is evidence of religion ; but where this evidence fails, there is awful reason to fear, that all the past appearances of religion are a delusion. Thus it is, that the Apostle John assigns the reason of apostacies
from the profession and external practice of religion. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, no doubt they would have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest, that they were not all of us."
2. Actual perseverance, being a solemn test of our character, and exhibiting so clearly, the sovereignty of God, in the bestowment of his grace, is, to sinners, an alarming and offensive doctrine. On these accounts it is, that so many oppose the doctrine, choosing rather to trust their eternal interest in their own hands, than in the hands of the wise and holy Sovereign of the universe. In their own strength, they hope to persevere, and work out their final salvation ; little considering the remainder of the text, “ For it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.”
3. Though it be by divine grace, that the saints persevere; yea, though it be the same as a continuation of the great work of regeneration; yet it requires the appointed means and motives of the gospel.
66 God worketh all things after the counsel of his own will; but always in the use of proper means and motives. Mankind, being free moral agents, never act, but in the view, and under the influence of motives. It is therefore of the utmost importance, to present, constantly, to the minds of Christians, the most powerful motives to perse
For to prove, that they are Christians indeed, they must 6 grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our
66 Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; to whom be glory, both now and forever.?.....AMEN.
Self-Denial, and True Benevolence.
At the head of all that is experimental and practical in religion, stands the important doctrine of self-denial; which is manifested in acts of pure benevolence, or holiness. Holiness, as we have found, comprises the whole moral character of God; and it equally comprises all that is morally excellent in man. For 6 love is the fulfilling of the law.” Pure love, or benevolence, is holiness, and to understand its nature and operations,
; is to understand the nature of true religion. Errors concerning the nature of holiness, or true benevolence, involve a general system of error, respecting both doctrine and practice.
The contrast to holy love, is selfishness; and it is easy to see, that the principle of selfishness is subversive, not only of the law, but of the gospel. Had Christ acted on the selfish principle, he would never have come down from heaven, to die for sinners. And had all inankind acted on the selfish principle, no one would ever have been a believer and follower of Christ. For his testimony is ; " If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” The selfish principle stands directly opposed to every doctrine which has been exhibited, and which will be exhibited, in the system of truth before us. Of course, self-denial is the basis of all doctrinal and practical religion. The essence of the whole is pure benevolence, or holy love-pure, impartial, disinterested affection.
But, if it still be enquired, what is self-denial ? It is a denial of self-interest. It is that holy disposition of heart, which was most clearly manifested, by the humiliation, sufferings and death, of the Saviour for sinners. No verbal definition of self-denial and true benevolence, can present the subject to our minds more clearly, than it is done by the examples of the blessed Redeemer. Acting in the capacity of a man, he evidently sought not