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INOW proceed to consider Dr. Whitby’s discourse on the perseverance of the saints. His first chapter is taken up in premising that which is granted on both sides, for the better stating of the question between us. For his own side he grants, that they, who are preserved to salvation, are so preserved by tie power of God through faith; that God has engaged his faithfulness, that all, who do not wickedly depart from him, shall never be forced from him by the power of any adversaries; and that God has promised perseverance in the ways of righteousness to the end, to those who constantly and conscientiously use the means prescribed by him for that end: but utterly denies, that God has promised to keep them by his power from making shipwreck of faith, and from falling into those sins he cautions them to avoid; or to interpose his power unfrustrably to engage all true believers to use the means prescribed by him. He gees on to observe, that the assertors of the doctrine of the saints’ final perseverance hold, that the foundation of it is the absolute election of persons to salvation, and to the means which shall unfrustrably conclude in it; that they grant that it is not from the strength, steadiness, and immutability of the new nature, renewed mind, will, and affections, but purely from the promise of God, that true believers cannot fall away; and that though they cannot fall totally and finally, yet may fall into horrid sins; such as may at present unfit them for heaven, require a renewal of grace, and by the guilt of which they stand condemned till they are renewed by faith and repentance. I own, that election is a foundation of the saints’ final perseverance, but it is not the only thing on which it is founded; nor does this show the inconsistency of two of our arguments for perseverance, taken from the prayers of the saints, and the intercession of Christ, as is intimated; since the saints may pray, as Christ did, John 17:1,5, for that which God has absolutely decreed, from all eternity, shall come to pass. And though we grant that it is from the promise, yet not purely from the promise of God, that true believers cannot fall away; for though we own that the new creature is imperfect, yet affirm that such is the nature, strength, and firmness of true grace, that it can never perish. Wherefore our arguments, taken from the nature of faith, conversion, and the new birth, sufficiently prove the doctrine we plead for. Moreover, though we allow that true believers may fall into gross sins, which may require a renewed exercise of faith and repentance, yet that they shall not deprive them either of meetness or right to heaven; nor do they ever stand condemned before God for them. The doctor’s second chapter contains arguments from scripture against the doctrine of the saints’ final perseverance, which have been considered in the former part of this work. His third and fourth chapters are an answer to those texts produced on our side in favor of the doctrine: the vindication of which texts is attempted, in the following Sections.
Having loved his own which were in the world he loved them unto the end. — John 13:1.
THESE words are expressive of the unchangeable and everlasting love of Christ to his people; who are his own by choice, by his Father’s gift, and his own purchase. Now such shall certainly persevere to the end, and be eternally saved; for who shall separate from the love of Christ? But to this, the following things are objected. 1. That “Christ speaks not of them, whom he had chosen to eternal life, but of them only, whom he had chosen to be his apostles.” To which I reply that though Christ speaks of his apostles, yet not of them all; I speak not of you all, says he, I know whom I have chosen: and of whom he does speak, he does not speak of them as chosen to be apostles, but as men chosen to eternal life; which was not the case of them all, nor were they all his own in this special sense; one of them was a devil, and the son of perdition. Nor does he speak only of these. Were none his own but the apostles? Had he no propriety in any but them? Certainly he had: and if he loved his apostles unto the end, why may he not be thought to love all to the end, who are equally his own, and equally loved by him as they were? 2. That Christ’s loving them to the end, only signifies “the affection he showed to them, by washing their feet when he was to leave them.” To which may be replied, that this was not so much an instance of affection to them, as of humility and meekness; and was designed as an instruction and example to them, how they should behave to each other; and at most was an instance only of his love to them, and what Judas had a share in with the rest of the apostles; and not to be compared with some other instances of his love, and which were nearer the end of his life, as particularly his shedding his blood for them on the cross. Now there is no comparison between washing the feet of his disciples with water, and washing us from our sins in his own blood. 3. That he here speaks “not of his love of them to the end of their lives, but of his own life on earth. ” Christ’s love is not allowed to continue to the end of their lives, for that would prove their final perseverance; but the end of his life, as if his love ended with his life: whereas Christ still expresses his love to his people, by appearing in the presence of God, acting as an advocate, and interceding with the Father, and preparing mansions in his Father’s house for them. It is much, that the love of Christ to his own is not confined, by the writers of this cast, to supper time, or to the end of the supper; since it immediately follows, and supper being ended , which would scarce be a more jejune sense of the words than what is given. Why may not te>lov be understood of the end of their lives, as in Matthew 24:13? or of the end of the world, verse 6, 14,? or of the end of all things, as in 1 Peter 4:7? Besides, eijv te>lov may be rendered continually, as it is in Luke 18:5, or for ever, in which sense it is used by the Septuagint in Psalm 9:6,18, and Psalm 44:23, where it answers to t[nl , which signifies for ever: and agreeably the words may be read, Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them for ever, as they are rendered by the Ethiopic version. And then the sense of them is, that those who are Christ’s, are loved by him with an everlasting love; and therefore shall not perish, but have eternal life.
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me, I have kept: and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition: that the scripture might be fulfilled. — John 17:12.
THE argument formed from this text, in favor of the saints’ final perseverance, stands thus: If those who are given to Christ are so kept by him, from the evil that is in their own hearts, and in the world, as that they shall not be eternally lost; then they must and shall persevere unto the end.
But those that are given to Christ, are so kept, etc., therefore, etc. To which is answered, f437 1. “That this passage was spoken only of the twelve apostles, as is evident from the whole context; and so there is no reason to extend it to all true believers.” What has been said under the preceding Section, is a sufficient reply to this: for though it is evident from the context, that Christ is speaking primarily, and more immediately of the apostles, yet not of them only, nor of them as apostles, but as members of him, given unto him, and believers in him, and so preserved by him. And if the preservation of them was secured to them, by being so, why may not the preservation of all other true believers be equally as sure and certain? 2. It is said, that “the very next chapter shows that this was spoken of their preservation from temporal death; Christ requesting that his disciples might be permitted to go away when he was apprehended, that this saying of his might be fulfilled, John 18:8,9.” I reply, that though the very next chapter shows that these words of Christ were fulfilled in the temporal preservation of the disciples; yet it does not follow, that this was all, or that it was the principal thing designed by them; for Christ prays the Father that he would keep them as he had done. Now the rest of the petitions are of a spiritual kind; such as sanctification through the truth, perfect union and eternal glorification: wherefore, it is reasonable to suppose, that this was of the same nature also. Besides, if this was spoken of preservation from temporal death, the sense of the words must be this: those that thou gavest me, I have kept from a temporal death, and none of them is lost by a temporal death; but the son of perdition, he is lost by a temporal death: which last was not true; for Judas was yet alive, he had not at this time betrayed him; and it was not until after the condemnation of Christ that he went and hanged himself. Add to this, that as Christ had kept his disciples, so he prays that his Father would keep them, verse 11,15. Now, if he prayed for their preservation from temporal death, he was not heard; for every one of them died a violent death, suffered martyrdom, though they were all in a spiritual sense preserved to the kingdom and glory of God, as all true believers will be. 3. It is observed, that this passage taken in “our sense, is rather an argument that some of them, who were given by God to Christ, may perish; because it is affirmed, that one of them, who was thus given to Christ, did so.” To which I answer, that though Judas, the son of perdition, was given to Christ, and chosen by him as an apostle, yet he was not given to him by a special act of the Father’s grace, nor chosen in him, or by him, and united to him, as a member of him, as the rest of the apostles and all the elect of God are. I speak not of you all, says he, ( John 13:18.) I know whom I have chosen, that is, to eternal life; for, otherwise, he had chosen Judas as an apostle equally with the rest: ( John 6:70.) have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? And from all the accounts that are given of him, it does not appear that he ever received the true grace of God; and therefore his perdition, to which he was appointed, which is the reason of his being called the son of perdition, is no instance of the apostacy Of a real saint, or true believer, or of one who, in a way of special grace, was given by the Father to Christ. Moreover eji mh> , which is rightly rendered by our translators but, is not exceptive, but adversative, (See Galatians 1:7; Revelation 21:27.) and does not imply, that Judas was one of those that were given to Christ, and that his perdition is an exception to the preservation of them all; but the sense of the text is, None of those that thou gavest me is lost; but the son of perdition is lost, he having never been given to me as an object of thy love, only as an apostle, and, therefore, is left to that perdition to which he was appointed; whereby the Scripture, that speaks of his destruction, will be fulfilled.
THE gifts of God, such as justification, pardon of sin, adoption, sanctification, and eternal life, flow from his immutable decree of election, as appears from the preceding verse. The calling here spoken of, is that internal, effectual calling, with which God’s elect are called according to the purpose and grace of God. Now, since the purpose of God to bestow the gifts of his grace stands firm and sure, and these gifts, when bestowed in calling, are without repentance, and will never be taken away, the final perseverance of these called ones must be certain. And though the apostle is only speaking of the elect of God among the Jews, the argument holds equally good of all others, who have, or for whom God has designed, the same gifts and calling. But to this is excepted, that, This “passage is evidently spoken of those Jews who were then hardened, given up to a spiritual slumber, broken off from their own olive-tree, and in that state of infidelity in which they have continued almost one thousand seven hundred years; and only intimates, that God will, in his good time, receive them again into his favor.” But nothing is more evident, than that the apostle is speaking of the Jews in the latter day, and of God’s eternal purposes and promises of grace concerning them; which shall be accomplished when the fullness of the Gentiles is come in, towards whom he had gracious designs, for whom he had gifts in reserve, and whom he would call by his grace, in such a manner, as that neither his gifts nor his calling should be repented of, and so all Israel should be saved; and not of that present generation, much less of those Jews who were then hardened, given up to a spiritual slumber, and broken off; for these were the rest that were blinded, and are distinguished from the election that then obtained, and who never were called, nor had any spiritual gifts or saving blessings of grace bestowed on them.
The arguments from the three last scriptures are said to need very little answer, as being wholly alien from the purpose, and very impertinent; but, whether they are so or no, the reader must judge. Our author proceeds to consider the arguments which seem to have a greater force in them, taken either from those scriptures which seem plainly, or by just consequence, to assert this doctrine, or else to promise this perseverance of the saints; the vindication of which will be attended to.
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that (if it were possible) they shall deceive the very elect. — Matthew 24:24,. 1st. THE argument from hence, in favor of the perseverance of the saints, very much depends on their being the elect of God, the impossibility of their deception being placed to this their character; which designs particular persons absolutely, and from eternity, chosen to everlasting life, who therefore cannot be so deceived as to be lost for ever, since their election is an eternal act, and therefore cannot be made void by a temporal one: it passed before the persons had done either good or evil; wherefore, as no good thing done by them was the cause of it, so no evil thing can annul or frustrate it; which strongly concludes the sure and certain salvation of all who are interested in it.
But it is said that by the elect we are to understand the choicest believers, or the persevering Christians. To which I reply, that it is certain that such who are truly converted, or are true believers, are persevering Christians, and such without dispute are the elect: but then the reason why they are, and are called the elect, is not because they are converted, are true believers, and persevering Christians; but, on the contrary, the reason why they are converted, become true believers, and so persevering Christians, is because they are elected. Conversion, faith, and perseverance, are not the causes or conditions, but fruits and effects of election: hence faith is styled the faith of God’s elect; ( Titus 1:1; Acts 13:48.) and it is also said, that as many as were ordained unto eternal life believed; wherefore such cannot be finally deceived. Besides, to talk of the final seduction of a persevering Christian is a contradiction in terms: such an interpretation of the phrase must be absurd and impertinent; for who knows not, that a persevering Christian cannot be finally and totally deceived? 2ndly When we say, that the elect of God cannot be deceived, we allow that they may be, and are deceived before conversion. This is one part of their character, whilst unregenerate, ( Titus 3:8) foolish, disobedient, deceived, etc., yea, that they may be, and oftentimes are deceived after conversion; but then this is in part only, and not totally; in some lesser, and not in the greater matters of faith; not so as to let go their hold of Christ, the head, and quit the doctrine of salvation by him, or fall into what the apostle calls ( 2 Peter 2:1) damnable heresies. They may be seduced from the simplicity of the gospel, but not finally; for they shall be recovered out of the snare of the Devil, and not be left to perish in such deceivings.
To this are excepted, 1. That Christ solemnly exhorts his disciples to use the greatest caution that they be not deceived; and, in the same chapter, to watch and pray, lest the hour of temptation should come suddenly on them; which, surely, he would not do, if he knew that they could not be deceived. To which I reply, that inasmuch as they were liable to a partial seduction, and for a time, though not to a total and final one, there was good reason why these exhortations should be given and taken. Besides, such cautions might be useful to quicken their diligence to search and read the Scriptures, and by them try the spirits, whether they were of God or no, and by their fruits, their doctrines, discover impostors, and avoid them. Hence these cautions should not be improved into arguments against the final perseverance of the saints, seeing they may be considered as means of it. 2. That Christ here declares, that by reason of the extreme affliction of these times, many should be offended, and their love was cold. But it should be observed, that supposing true believers are intended, love in them may wax cold when it is not lost, which was the case of the church at Ephesus; and so is no proof of the saints falling from grace. Besides, the many that shall be deceived, offended, and fall off from the doctrine of faith are not the same persons with, but distinguished from, the elect, who cannot be deceived. 3rdly When we say, that it is impossible that the elect of God should be deceived, we mean not that it is impossible they should, considered in themselves, or if left to themselves, being, generally speaking, the foolish things of this world; or if left to that old Serpent, the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; or to false teachers, who lie in wait to deceive: ( 1 Corinthians 1:27; Revelation 12:10; Ephesians 4:14.) but we say it is impossible, considering the purposes and promises of God, the provisions of his grace, the security they have in the hands of Christ, and their presentation by the mighty power of God: and upon this account we judge, that their final and total deception is hero represented as impossible.
But to this is excepted, that the phrase eij oguna>ton, if it were possible, denotes only a great difficulty in the performance of an act possible, so Acts 20:16, Romans 12:18, Matthew 26:39, and also that it does not import what the event would be, but the vehemency of the endeavors of seducers, who would do the utmost they could to seduce Christians: and should it respect the event, it is only with relation to the means here mentioned, being such as should prevail to seduce even Christians, were it possible for impostors, by lying signs and wonders, to deceive them who are invested with a power of working greater signs and wonders. To which I reply, the instances to prove that this phrase only denotes great difficulty, and not an absolute impossibility, are insufficient. The words of the apostle Paul, in Acts 20:16, are conjectural; he knew not whether it was possible or no, that he could be at Jerusalem before Pentecost; of which sort, surely, the words of Christ here cannot be thought to be. The same apostle’s exhortation in Romans 12:18, supposes, that which is matter of fact, that it is impossible to live peaceably, with some men; and what followed upon our Lord’s petition in Matthew 26:39, shows that it was impossible that the cup should pass from him, considering the purpose of God, his covenant with him, and the salvation of his people. Moreover, should this phrase only import the vehemency of the endeavors of seducers, and not respect the event only with relation to the means here mentioned, great signs, and wonders, it follows, that if, notwithstanding the vehement endeavors of seducers, and the utmost they can do to deceive the saints; if, notwithstanding their showing great signs and wonders, they are not able to prevail over them, being invested with a power superior to them; it may be concluded and pronounced, that it is impossible they should be deceived either by them, or by any other, or by any other means; since these are the most effectual of any, being according to the working of Satan, with all power, and sign,, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish: but says, the apostle, in the same place, ( 2 Thessalonians 2:9,10,13.) we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation; which is the saints grand security from a final and total deception, either by Satan or any of his emissaries.
And this is the Father’s will, which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. — John 6:39,40.
THE persons here spoken of, are such as were given by the Father to Christ in eternal election, and in the everlasting covenant of grace, and who in time are enabled to believe on him for life and salvation; concerning whom the will of God is, that Christ should lose none of them, nor anything that belongs to them, neither their souls nor their bodies, no, not the least dust, but that he should raise it up again, and that these should also have everlasting life; which is the will of the Father of Christ, as well as of their Father, and therefore will be strictly regarded. Besides, this is the will of God, and not man, which cannot be resisted, so as to be frustrated; and is eternal, and therefore cannot be made void by any temporal act; and consequently, these words furnish out a considerable argument in proof of the saints’ final perseverance. To which is excepted, 1st. That “they treat not of the loss of believers by a defection from the faith, but of their perdition by death; wherefore Christ promises, that he would raise them from death to a salutary life.” Be it so, that these words speak not of the saints’ preservation from an apostacy from the faith, but of their resurrection at the last day; yet, since their resurrection will be the resurrection of life, or will be unto eternal life, they must persevere to the end, and die in the Lord, in order to enjoy such a resurrection. If, therefore, it is the will of God, that all those whom he has given to Christ, and who see the Son, and believe on him, should be raised unto eternal life, their perseverance in grace is out of question; and after the resurrection, they will be out of any danger of apostacy; for being raised, they will be caught up with living saints to meet the Lord, and shall be for ever with him. 2ndly It is said, that “promises and declarations of the like nature with these which engage that God will give eternal life to the believer, are only to be understood of such a faith as doth endure to the end, and belong only to such as continue in the faith: and then it is demonstratively evident, that perseverance is included in them; and therefore cannot be proved from them, without begging the question.” To which I reply, that all true faith does endure to the end; it is an incorruptible seed of grace; part of that living water, which springs up into everlasting life; is the gift of God; whose gifts and calling are without repentance; of the operation of God, which he begins and performs with power; Christ is the author and finisher of it, and his powerful and prevalent intercession secures it from ever failing: hence those who have it, shall continue in it; and therefore their perseverance is certain. And if perseverance is insured to true faith, and is included in these promises of eternal life to true believers, to them only do such promises belong; for such who fall away were never true believers: then it is demonstratively evident, that it is to be proved from them, and that without begging the question. But to this it is objected, 1. That such who fall away, “are expressly styled true believers, as others are.” But the places where they are so expressly styled cannot be named; the instances alleged from Matthew 18:6,15; Luke 8:13; Romans 14:14,15,20; 1 Corinthians 8:11; John 4:39,42; Acts 8:10, and Acts 21:20, are insufficient proofs of it. Some of the persons instanced in, though they may be allowed to be true believers; yet it does not appear, from what is said of them, that they totally and finally fell away; such as the little ones that believed in Christ, Matthew 18:6, and the weak brother in Romans 14., and 1 Corinthians 8. Since what is said of their being offended and perishing, is not to be understood of eternal destruction, but of their being slighted and rejected, and their minds grieved, consciences wounded, and their spiritual peace broken in upon and interrupted; as has been shown in the former part of this work: nor does it appear that the Samaritans, who believed in Christ, all fell off from him to Simon Magus; since those who truly believed might be dead, and safe in heaven, before his infatuation began and spread in Samaria: besides, it is not very evident that they were true believers in Christ; they might give their assent to him, as the Messiah and Savior of the world, without having true saving faith in him for themselves: nor does it appear that many of those myriads of Jews that believed, afterwards fell away. The epistle to the Hebrews is no proof of it. And if any of them did, it will not be easily proved that they were true believers. And it is certain that those represented by the stony ground, in Luke 8:13, who believed for a while , and then fell away, had not the true grace of God; since it is expressly said of them, that they had no root in them. 2. It is observed, “that this faith, that is, of such who fall away, as to its kind, is true; is evident from this consideration, that Christ and his apostles require such persons not to change it, but only to continue in it; not to believe with a faith true and real as to kind, but to be steadfast in the faith they had already. But the passages produced do not prove that Christ and his apostles spoke to such persons; not the passage in John 8:31, where our Lord says to the Jews that believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then ye are my disciples indeed; that is, you will appear to be really so, and will be made free by the truth; and consequently, it will be evident, that you are sons who shall abide in the house for ever, and never be cast out: nor the passage in Acts 14:22, where Paul and Barnabas exhort the believers, to continue in the faith; in which they do not give the least intimation, or supposition, that any of them should fall away, but, on the contrary, that through much tribulation, they should enter into the kingdom of God; and in order to their preservation to it, commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. 3. It is said, that “this answer thwarts those numerous texts of scripture, which suspend the benefits promised to believers on their continuance in the faith.” To which I answer, that the numerous scriptures referred to, which are Colossians 1:23; 1 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 3:6,14; 1 John 2:25; Romans 11:22, do not represent continuance in the faith as a precarious and uncertain thing; or suppose, that true believers may fall away finally and totally; nor do they suspend the benefits promised to believers, on the continuance of their faith, as a condition of their enjoying them; but represent continuance in the faith, as the evidence of their partaking of some of them already, and as a pledge and assurance of their enjoying the rest here after. 4. It is further objected, that if this be the case, “all exhortations to steadfastness in the faith are enervated; and all declarations that we must be faithful to death, and endure to the end, are needless.” To which I reply, that exhortations of this kind are not hereby enervated, nor are such declarations needless; since these may be, and are, made use of by the Spirit of God, for the increase of faith, and steadfastness in it; and so be the means of the saint’s final perseverance. And whereas it is said, that the only distinction between a living and dead faith is, that the one is attended with, the other is without good works; and that the only difference between a temporary and saving faith, is this, that the one continues, and the other does not: it may be replied, that though good works are an evidence of a living faith, yet the life of faith does not consist in works, but in special acts of it on its proper object, Christ; and a temporary faith is only an assent to the truth of some propositions concerning Christ; but is not as saving faith, a going out unto him, depending on him, and believing in him, for the salvation of the soul.
THOUGH the number of God’s people, in some ages of the world, is very small, as it was among the Israelites at the time of the apostle’s writing this epistle, yet God has not, nor will he cast away, or cast off his people, whom he has foreknown; he may hide his face from them, afflict them in a fatherly way, and not immediately arise for their help; yet he will not cast them out of his affections, nor from his sight, nor out of the hands of his Son, nor out of the covenant of his grace, nor out of his family, or so as that they shall perish eternally: so far from it, that he takes the utmost delight and pleasure in them, gives them the greatest nearness to himself, lays them in his bosom, embraces them in his arms, keeps them as the apple of his eye, holds them by his right hand, and preserves them by his power unto salvation: the reasons of which are, his everlasting love unto them, his unchangeable purposes and promises concerning them, and because they are his jewels, his portion and inheritance: wherefore their final perseverance is certain. But to the argument from hence, it is objected. f453 “That this text cannot relate to any foreknowledge God hath of his elect from all eternity, but only to his foreknowledge and choice of the Jewish nation, before any other nations of the world; and only signifies, that God had not entirely cast off his people, Israel.” To which I reply, 1. That it is most reasonable to conclude, that the word proe>gnw , is used in the same sense here, as it is elsewhere in this epistle; particularly in Romans 8:29,30, where God’s foreknowledge is spoken of as antecedent to predestination, vocation, justification, and glorification: and so must relate to God’s foreknowledge of his elect from all eternity, and not of the Jewish nation; since all of them are not predestinated, called, justified, and glorified. 2. Though the people of Israel were chosen to be a peculiar people above all people, ( Deuteronomy 7:6; Amos 3:2.) and were known before all the families of the earth: yet they were not all a foreknown people in the special sense; and which is the apostle’s sense of the phrase; all were not Israel that were of Israel. ( Romans 9:6.)
Among that chosen and known people there were a special foreknown people, a remnant, according to the election of grace; ( Romans 11:5,7.) who were the election that obtained when the rest were blinded.
And these are the people God had not cast away; for as for the bulk, and body, and majority of that people, God had, or was about to cast them away, as is sufficiently evident from this chapter. And the apostle’s single instance of himself, and could he have instanced in seven thousand more, as in the times of Elias, would have been an insufficient proof of God’s not having cast away the bulk and body of that people; but is a full and pertinent one, of God’s not having cast away his special and foreknown people among them. 3. Though this text relates to the elect of God among the Jews, yet, inasmuch as the same characters belong to the elect of God among others, as that they are his special people, whom he has foreknown, being elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father; ( 1 Peter 1:2) it is equally true of them, as of the elect among the Jews, that God has not, nor will he, cast any of them away.
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. — Romans 8:38,39.
IF neither death, in any view of it, nor life under any consideration whatever, nor angels, good or bad, nor principalities, nor powers, civil magistrates, ever so potent, tyrannical, fierce and cruel, nor things present, nor things to come, whether good or evil, nor height, nor depth, anything in heaven, earth or hell, nor any other creature, any person, or thing, within the compass of created beings, shall be able to separate from the love with which God loves his people; since it is the love of God, and not man; the love of him who changes not, and is besides in Christ Jesus our Lord; then those who are interested in it cannot perish, or fail of glory; for it is impossible that any should perish, and yet continue the objects of God’s love. Now, 1. It is owned, that these words respect not “the love with which we love God, but his affection towards us; and that the apostle only intimates, that such persons continuing in the love of God, shall be preserved by him from the temptations here mentioned; and so supported by his grace and Spirit as to be able to bear them.” And if so, since all such who have interest in the love of God, shall continue in it, what should hinder their final perseverance? And whereas it is observed, that “he does not say, the love of no Christian shall wax cold, Matthew 24:12, that none of them shall lose his first love, Revelation 2:4. And were there no cause to fear this, it is asked, why doth Christ exhort his disciples to abide in his love, John 15:9, and his apostles exhort others to keep themselves in the love of God, Jude 1:21, and to look diligently to it, that they fall not from the grace and favor of God, Hebrews 12:15, and to continue in the grace of God, Acts 13:43?” I answer, that the love even of true believers may wax cold and yet not cease, nor the love of God cease towards them; nor does the scripture anywhere say, that any of them has lost, or may lose, but only have left their first love; nor do the exhortations of Christ and his apostles, to abide in his love, and keep themselves in the love of God, suppose this, but are made use of as means to prevent it: and as for the two last passages referred to, they are not to be understood, either of the love of the saints to God, or of his love and favor to them, but of the doctrine of grace. 2. It is farther observed, “that the apostle does not say, that nothing can separate true believers from the love of God, or Christ; but only declares his persuasion, that nothing would do it, or that they had no cause to fear these things, or to be shaken from their steadfastness, in expectation of those inestimable blessings God had promised to, and Christ had purchased for them, by any of “these tribulations.” But, if this persuasion of the apostle’s was a well-grounded one; and if there was no just cause of fearing these things; then it is certain, that nothing can separate true believers from the love of God. And besides, since “they have good ground to hope, that all the evils they shall bear shall conduce to their good, that Christ will still be ready to support them under them by his power, and to help their infirmities by his Spirit, and at last give them the glory prepared for the sons of God;” not only the apostle might well persuade himself, but they also may well persuade themselves, that nothing shall ever be able to separate them from this love of God: nor do the fears the apostle elsewhere expresses, of their being shaken and tempted, so as that his labor would be in vain, and the arguments and motives he offers to prevent this effect of temptations, contradict this persuasion: nor was this persuasion of his concerning them, that they would persevere, and continue steadfast in the love of God, to which they had so great inducements; but that nothing should separate them from the affection of God towards them; which sense this author himself before acknowledged; though he now thinks fit to contradict himself.
In whom, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise: which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. — Ephesians 1:13,14. See also Ephesians 4:30, Corinthians 1:21,22.
THE argument from these passages of scripture, proving the saints’ final perseverance, may be thus formed: if true believers are sealed, certified and assured, by the Spirit of God, that they are the sons and heirs of God, and shall enjoy the heavenly inheritance: and if the same Spirit is the earnest and pledge of it, and that until the redemption of the purchased possession, or until the day of redemption ; that is, until all those who are the possession of Christ, or his peculiar people, whom he has purchased with his blood, are redeemed from their mortality and corruption, which will be done in the resurrection morn, and not before; I say, if the Spirit of God does thus seal believers, and is, and continues to be an earnest of their future glory, until this time; then they shall certainly and finally persevere.
But the Spirit of God does do, and is all this to them, unto this time; therefore, they shall certainly and finally persevere. In answer to this it is said, f458 1st. “That these metaphors neither do, nor can signify that they, who have once the Spirit, can ever lose him, or cause him to depart from them, is evident from these considerations; 1. “That they who have been the temples of God, by virtue of his Spirit dwelling in them, may so corrupt this temple as to be themselves destroyed, as is demonstrable from 1 Corinthians 3:16,17, and that they, whose bodies are the members of Christ, and who are one spirit with him, may make these bodies the members of an harlot; and so cease to be the members of Christ, 1 Corinthians 6:15.” I reply that these metaphors both can, and do signify that they, who have once the Spirit, can never wholly lose him, or cause him finally and totally to depart from them; for otherwise he would not be a sealer of them, nor an earnest of their inheritance to them, until the day of redemption: nor do the words of the apostle, in 1 Corinthians 3:16,17, demonstrate that they, who have been the temples of God, may so corrupt this temple as to be themselves destroyed; but only that such, who attempt to corrupt or defile the temple and church of God, by bringing in among them damnable heresies, shall be destroyed by God; and not they who are the temples of God: nor do the words, in 1 Corinthians 6:15, prove that they, whose bodies are the members of Christ, may make them the members of an harlot. The apostle only puts the question, Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? Which he answers with a God forbid. And his design is to show how unbecoming the sin of fornication is to such, whose bodies are the members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Ghost; but does not in the least insinuate that such, who were truly so, might cease to be the members of Christ, or cause the Holy Spirit entirely to depart from them. 2. This is also said to be “farther evident from the apostle’s fears, that Satan might so far have tempted his Thessalonians, as to render all his labor vain among them; whom yet he acknowledges, had received the word with joy of the Holy Ghost, and were the elect of God. ” But it should be observed, that the apostle’s fears were not, lest, through Satan’s temptations, they might so fall away as to cause the Holy Spirit wholly to depart from them; but lest Satan, through false teachers, should so stagger their faith, that they should in any respect give way to erroneous principles and practices; and thereby not all his labor, but that part of it should be in vain, which he had bestowed upon them in establishing them in the truths of the gospel. 3. This is said to be still farther evident “from the exhortations in these epistles, directed to those men, who are said to have this seal and earnest of the Holy Spirit; as to the Corinthians 2 Corinthians 6:1; 11:3, and 12:20, 21, and to the Ephesians, Ephesians 5:3,6, and Ephesians 3:13, and Ephesians 6:13. To which may be replied, that these exhortations, which regard the saints continuing in the doctrines of the gospel, avoiding sin, and withstanding temptations, though they imply danger to the saints, as considered in themselves, as of falling from some degree of steadfastness in the faith, and into sin, and of fainting in the evil day; yet do not suppose that they may, or shall fall finally and totally, or so as that the Holy Spirit would wholly withdraw from them; though they might so fall and faint as to grieve him, to do which would be unkind and ungenerous; since he is the sealer of their persons, and the earnest of their inheritance. Besides, these exhortations are to be considered as means, being designed, and doubtless as such were blessed, for the final perseverance of God’s sealed ones. 2ndly In answer to the argument above, it is observed, that “the expressions are designed only to inform us that the Holy Spirit, vouchsafed to Christ’s church and members, gave them a just assurance of the truth of the Christian faith; and consequently of the farther blessings promised to his faithful persevering servants in the world to come. Hence it is evident, that they who had these first fruits of the Spirit, had thereupon an argument to satisfy them of the future blessings promised to them. And hence they, by his Spirit, are said to have the earnest of their future inheritance, and to be sealed up to the day of redemption. ” But let it be observed, that the Holy Spirit, vouchsafed to Christ’s church and members, does not only give a just assurance of the truth of the Christian faith, as a doctrine; but also assures believers of the truth of the grace of faith, and of all other graces in them, and of their right to glory, and certain enjoyment of it..
Moreover, if the Spirit, thus vouchsafed, gives a just assurance of farther blessings promised by Christ; and if such, who have these first fruits of the Spirit, have thereupon an argument to satisfy them of these blessings; then they may, with faith and patience, wait for the redemption of the body: and be assured that when this earthly tabernacle is dissolved, they have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens; and that the Lord will deliver them from every evil work, and preserve them unto his heavenly kingdom. ( Romans 8:23; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Timothy 4:18.)
THESE words, in connection with the preceding verses, show that such as are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, and are begotten again unto a lively hope of an incorruptible inheritance, are kept frourroume>nouv, as in a garrison, by , or in the power of God, safe and secure from a final and total falling away, through the grace of faith unto consummate salvation,, to be enjoyed for ever in heaven. In answer to which, it is said. f463 1. “That this place only proves that all, who are preserved to salvation, are so kept by the power of God; but not that all believers are so kept.” I reply, we do not say, that all believers are so kept; since there are some who are nominal believers, have no true grace, believe but for a time, and fall away; but then we say, that all true believers are so kept; otherwise the words of our Lord, Mark 16:16, would not he true, nor the will of his Father, John 6:40, be fulfilled; for how should every one that believes be saved, unless they are preserved unto salvation? And if those who are preserved unto salvation, are kept by the power of God unto it, as is owned; it follows, that since every true believer will be saved, and in order to it be preserved unto salvation, then every one of them is, and will be, kept by the power of God unto it. 2. It is farther said, that this place “proves only that they are kept through faith; that is, if they continue in the faith, and hold the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end.” But it should be observed, that there is no if in the text; faith is not represented as a condition, but as a means of preservation, engaged by the power of God, for that is as much secured by the power of God as salvation itself, or preservation to it.
Besides, such a sense of the words is no other than this, that these persons are kept by the power of God, if, or so long as, they keep themselves; which, as it greatly depreciates the power of God, and ascribes too much to the creature, so it is in itself exceeding trifling. Add to this, that if this faith, through which believers are kept to salvation, will render them victorious over the world, enable them to resist the temptations of the devil, to prefer afflictions before the pleasures of sin, and even to suffer death, not accepting deliverance, in expectation of a better resurrection; and, lastly, engage the power of God in their preservation, and so cause them out of weakness to be strong, all which is owned by our author; this, surely, proves that they shall certainly continue in the faith, and so be preserved safe unto the kingdom and glory of God.
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would, no doubt, have continued with us. But they went out, that they might be made manifest, that they were not all of us. — 1 John 2:19.
THE meaning of these words is, that there were some persons in the apostle John’s time, who had made a profession, of religion, were members of the church, and some of them, perhaps, preachers; and yet departed from the faith they professed, withdrew themselves from the church or churches, to which they belonged, and set up separate assemblies of their own. These, the apostle says, were not of us; that is, they were not regenerated by the grace of God, and so apparently were not of the number of God’s chosen ones; for had they been born again of the incorruptible seed, had they had that anointing which abides, and from which persons are truly denominated Christians; as they would have appeared to have been chosen, so they would have continued in the faith, and have remained with the churches of Christ, and not have fallen into such errors and heresies, into which it is impossible that God’s elect, or true believers, should ever fall. But the defection of these persons was permitted by God, that they might be made manifest, that they had never received the grace of God in truth. It follows, therefore, that as such who so fall were never true believers, so such who are true believers, shall never totally and finally fall away. To which is answered, f465 1. “That these words, they were not of us, cannot signify they were not of the number of the elect; but only they were not of the church in general, and of the mind of the apostles, and the church that adhered to them.” But surely the apostle would never deny that these persons were of the church, and of the same mind with it, at least in profession, antecedent to their going out; for had they not been in communion with the church, they could not be properly said to go out of it; and if they had not been of the same mind and faith and profession, they could not be said to depart from it. The reason this author gives, as an evidence of their not being of the church, “that from them they went out, and with them they might have remained,” is a reason invincibly proving that they were of them, as a church otherwise they could not have went out from them; with whom they not only might but would have remained, had their hearts been right with God. And whereas it is farther observed, that “they could not go out from the elect only, who are not visible, nor could they have remained with them, who were never of them;” it may be replied, that though they were never of them as elect, yet they were of them as a church, become visible by a profession of faith; and therefore could, as they did, go out from them as such; though had they been true believers in Christ, they would have appeared to have been elect likewise, and would have continued and remained with them both as elect and as a church. It is moreover added, f466 that “their going out from them for a season, was no certain argument that they were not of the elect; since it is confessed, that they may fall totally, though not finally.” Who they are that have made this confession, I shall not inquire; for my own part, I affirm that God’s elect, or true believers in Christ, cannot totally fall, that is, wholly and entirely lose the grace of God bestowed on them, or wrought in them. However, the going out of these persons was in such a mariner, that it was a certain argument that they were not of the elect; since they became antichrists, verse 18, the forerunners of the man of sin, avowed enemies to Christ, who denied him to be the Christ, verse 22, or that he was come in the flesh,1 John 4:3, and therefore said to be of the world, and not of God, verse 4-6. 2. It is said, that “the true sense of the words seems plainly to be this: these antichrists, or deceivers, went out from the apostles and churches of Judea, Acts 15:1,24, to preach destructive doctrines to the Gentiles, which both the church of Judea, and the apostles assembled for that purpose, flatly disowned and censured; by which it sufficiently appeared, that all the preachers of these doctrines were not of them.” But this sense of the words confines them to preachers only; whereas, though many of these antichrists might be preachers, yet not all; whoever denied the Father and the Son, or that Christ was come in the flesh, was an antichrist, whether he was in a public or private capacity. Besides, not the true and faithful ministers of the word, but private believers, are opposed to these persons in the following verse, But ye have an unction from the Holy One , etc. This sense of the words also makes the us to be the apostles, and churches of Judea; whereas, when the apostle John wrote this epistle, the rest of the apostles were all dead; and he speaks of these antichrists as men that were, in that last time, risen up among them, and went out from them; and, therefore, could not, with any propriety, say that they went out from the apostles. Besides, whenever this pronoun us is used elsewhere, in this epistle, it is never restrained to the apostles; but the apostle John in it includes, with himself, all true believers. Nor is there any reason to conclude, that he had in view the church of Judea, and a case in which that was concerned near forty years ago, but rather the churches of Asia, among whom he was, and particularly the church at Ephesus, where he is generally thought to have resided. Now the apostle Paul, many years before this, had told ( Acts 20:29,30.) the elders of the church, that after his departure, not only grievous wolves should enter in among them, but also of their own selves should men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them: and the apostle John lived to see these predictions fulfilled. Add to all this, that this sense of the words makes their going out to be merely local and corporal. — Now to go out from the apostles, in this sense, was not criminal; the persons that went down from Judea to Antioch, Acts 15:1,24, are not blamed for going thither, nor for going out from the apostles thither, but for troubling the disciples with words to the subverting of their souls. Nor was a corporal departure from the apostles any evidence of not being of the same mind with them, for they often departed one from another, and yet continued of the same mind and faith. The departure here spoken of was of men from the true church of Christ, both in doctrine and in affection; and that not of preachers only, but of others who were only nominal Christians, and was so understood by the ancient fathers, particularly Tertullian and Cyprian. f469 SECTION 11.
HE that is born of God is one that is regenerated by the Spirit and grace of God; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, or spiritual; it is a new man, a new creature, which neither does, nor can commit sin; though it is as yet imperfect, there is no impurity in it, no bias, tendency; or inclination to sin, but all the reverse; it is born of an incorruptible seed which remains, it is a principle of grace which is of God, and can never be lost. Hence it follows, that regenerate persons cannot cease to be so. In answer to this, it is said,” f470 1. “That these words cannot be intended to signify that he who is born of the Spirit and the word, can never fall from that state is evident; partly, because he hath been proved already that the Holy Spirit may depart and quit his habitation; and so he who was once born of the Spirit may cease to be so; and partly, because men may not continue in the word, nor the word abide in them, nor they in Christ, and may lose their interest in God, and the things which they had wrought, as is clearly intimated by these exhortations, 1 John 2:24,27,28; 2 John 1:8,9.” But it has been also already proved that the Holy Spirit does not finally and totally depart from true believers. Nor is it possible that he that is once born of the Spirit can cease to be so; a man can be but once regenerated; and he that is once born again cannot be again unborn. Nor do the exhortations referred to intimate that regenerate persons may not abide in the word, or that in them, or they not in Christ, or that they may lose their interest in God; but are so many encouragements to the performance of duty, as a means of their final perseverance. 2. It is argued that “as those words of Christ, Matthew 7:18, and those of the apostle, Romans 8:7, do not prove that corrupt tree cannot cease to be corrupt, and become good; or that the carnal mind cannot cease to be so, and become spiritual, so neither do these words prove that he who is born of God cannot cease to be so.” But it should be observed, that as the words of Christ and the apostle referred to, prove that a corrupt and carnal man cannot become good and spiritual without the powerful and efficacious grace of God, which can only make him so; so these words prove that a regenerate man cannot cease to be one, or in such sense sin as to be lost and perish; for this reason, because there is a principle of mighty grace in him, which overcomes the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Again, it is urged, that “as these words in Matthew 12:34, John 7:7, and John 12:39, and John 14:17, do not signify an impossibility that it should be otherwise, but only their present indisposition to the contrary, and the aversation of their minds from those things which it is said they cannot do: so those words do not import any impossibility that they should do so, but only that they have at present that frame of spirit, which renders them strongly averse from sin, and indisposed to yield to any temptations to commit it.” But it is easy to observe, that the apostle does not conclude the regenerate man’s not sinning, or not being able to sin, from any present precarious frame of spirit; but from his constitution, as being born of God , and from the seed of God , a principle of grace remaining and abiding in him. 3. It is said, that “the interpretation which many of the ancient fathers give us of these words, are a demonstration that they believed not the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance; for they expound the words thus; He that is born of God sinneth not, neither can sin, quamdiu renatus est, whilst he is born of God ; because he ceaseth to be a child of God when he sins.” Whether the ancient fathers believed the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance, or not, will be considered (God willing) in an after part of this work. Who the many of the ancient fathers are, that give this interpretation of the words, we are not told: not Ignatius, nor Clemens of Rome, nor of Alexandria, nor Irenaeus, nor Justin Martyr, nor Cyprian.
Tertullian comes the nearest to it, when he says. Haec non admittet omnino qui natus a Deo fuerit, non futurus Dei filius si admiserit; He that is born of God, will not at all commit these things, speaking of some grievous sins; should he commit them he would not be a child of God. His meaning I take to be this; should any one that professes to be born of God, commit such and such things, it would be evident that he was not a child of God: but he adds afterwards, We know that every one that is born of God, sinneth not; scilicet, delictum quod ad mortem eat, namely, the sin unto death.
For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee. — Isaiah 54:10.
THESE words contain an irresistible argument in favor of the saints’ final perseverance; proving that they cannot fall from the grace of God, or ever be deprived of an interest in the covenant of peace, and the blessings of it.
In which, the unalterableness of God’s love to his people, and the immoveableness of his covenant with them, are illustrated and confirmed, by the departure and removing of mountains and hills; when neither of these shall depart, nor be removed. Wherefore if the kindness of God to them never will depart from them, notwithstanding their fall in Adam, the depravity of their natures, their many actual sins before conversion, their frequent backslidings after; and though he hides his face from them as to sensible communion, and chides and chastises them in the course of his providence; if this is the case, I say, as it certainly is, then it is impossible that persons, thus held and embraced in the arms of everlasting love, should ever totally and finally fall away, so as to be lost and perish eternally. Moreover, if the covenant of peace is an immoveable one, as there is the highest reason to believe it is; since God has not only said, but swore to it, that he will not break it nor alter the thing that is gone out of his lips; seeing it is made with Christ, with whom it shall stand fast: then the persons interested in it cannot fail of grace here, and glory hereafter, which are blessings secured for them in it. But, in answer to these arguments, 1. It is said, “that it is exceeding evident that this place, with some others, hereafter to be considered, speaks of nations in the general, and not of a few private persons among them.” To which I reply; that it is exceeding evident that the persons spoken to, which are no other than the church of Christ, are spoken to in the singular number, as appears from the words thou and thee used almost in every verse in the chapter; which is not very suitable to the nations in general. Besides, the relations that Jehovah stands in to these persons are such in which he does not stand to the nations in general; for, though he is the maker of them all, and the God of the whole earth; yet he is only a husband and a redeemer of particular persons, verse 5. Likewise, the expressions of God’s love and kindness, verse 7-10, are too strong to be applied to the nations in general; as well as the promises of glory and happiness, verse 11, 12, and particularly, that all her children should be taught of the Lord, and great should be the peace of them, verse 13. Add to this, that these persons are distinguished from the nations in general, verse 3, and from those that should gather and rise up against them, verse 15-17. And the whole prophecy, concerning them, concludes thus; this is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord: which words contain in them both characters and privileges which do not belong to the nations in general. 2. It is further objected, that the prophet here speaks of the time of the Jews’ general conversion to the faith; as is evident from verse 11, 12, compared with Revelation 21. But it unhappily falls out for this objector, that the prophet is speaking of the conversion of the Gentiles, and not of the Jews; as appears from verse 1-3, compared with Galatians 4:27, in which he predicts, that the instances of conversion among the Gentiles, at the first preaching of the Gospel to them, would be far more numerous than what had been among the Jews. And it is evident from verse 11, 12, compared with Revelation 21:that he is there speaking of a very glorious state of the church among the Gentiles in the latter day; when their fullness shall come in, and the nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of that glorious state, and the kings of the earth shall bring the glory and honor of the nations to it. ( Revelation 21:19,23,24.)
And it is also very evident, that the prophet is speaking, in verse 12, of the time when the earth, not the land of Judea, but the Gentile world, shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. ( Isaiah 11:9.)
But supposing that the time of the Jews’ conversion is here referred to, and the converted Jews are the only persons intended; how does this militate against the saints’ final perseverance? Since these converted Jews will appear to have a share in that kindness which shall never depart from them, and to be interested in that covenant which shall never be removed. And it should be observed, that this exception destroys the former; for if the Jews, and their conversion are spoken of, then not the nations in general. 3. It is farther urged, that “the promise of a covenant of peace that should not fail, was made under a condition, as the words in Isaiah 55:3, show.” To which I answer, that the phrases of inclining the ear, and hearkening to the Lord, mentioned in the place referred to, were not the conditions of God’s making, that is, making known, and confirming his covenant to them; but the promises of making good, and applying the blessings of the covenant, is used as an encouragement to incline the ear to hearken to him. Besides were this covenant of peace a conditional one, depending on any thing to be performed by man, it would not be better than the old covenant; whereas the covenant of grace and peace, is represented as a new and a better one, established upon better promises, ( Hebrews 8:6-8.) which are absolute and unconditional. Add to this, that the covenant here spoken of, is represented to be such a one, verse 9, as was made with Noah. Now the covenant made with Noah was without any condition required on the part of man, as appears from Genesis 9:11.
As for me, this is my covenant with them saith the Lord, My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, or out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever. — Isaiah 59:21.
THESE words are to be understood of the church of Christ under the New Testament dispensation, and of all true believers, which are the seed of the church, and her seed’s seed in successive ages; being born in her, nursed up at her side, and are her children in a spiritual sense; among whom the Spirit and the Word, two grand blessings of the covenant of grace, shall always remain, and never depart from them; and so contain a very considerable argument, not only of the continuance of the church of Christ in all ages, and of his Spirit and gospel in it, but of the final perseverance of particular saints. For, if the Spirit of the Lord shall not finally and totally depart from such, in whom he is as a spirit of regeneration, sanctification, faith, adoption, etc., though his grace in them is not always in exercise, and he may, for a time, withdraw his sensible presence and gracious influence, then the saints shall finally persevere, and cannot perish; for it is impossible they should ever perish with him in them, who is “the well of living water springing up unto eternal life:” the abiding seed in them, who is “greater than he that is in the world;” and will “perform the good work of grace begun in them, until the day of Christ.” Moreover, if the gospel, though it may depart from a nation, as it did from the Jews, and has done for others, and from visible, particular congregated churches such as the seven churches of Asia, and out of the mouths of formal professors, who may drop, deny, and blaspheme it; shall never depart out of the mouths of such who have received it in the love of it, and in whose hearts it works effectually, then they shall finally persevere; since this “gospel is the power of God unto salvation” to them, and the “engrafted word able to save” them. But, in answer to this, it is urged, 1. That the words are a conditional promise, being made with such who turn from transgression, verse 20, and on the account of their so doing; and no longer binding, than that is continued. To which may be replied, that there is not the least appearance of a condition in the words, or in the preceding verse referred to: it is not said, If they turn away from transgression then my spirit and my words shall not depart from them.
Their turning away from transgression is mentioned not as the cause, or condition of God’s covenant with them, and of these articles in it; but only as descriptive of the persons interested therein. Besides, as the words are cited by the apostle Paul in Romans 11:27, they contain an absolute promise of what the Redeemer would do for them when he came, and not what they should do themselves. 2. It is observed, “that something external, and peculiar to the Israelites, is here promised.” To which I reply; whatever may be said for the words of the Lord being in their mouths, as something external; it is certain that the Spirit of the Lord being upon, or in them (for l[ , is put for b , as Kimchi explains the words) designs nothing external, nor the gifts of the Spirit, either ordinary, or extraordinary; but the internal operations of his grace, in which sense the phrase is used in Isaiah 44:3,4.
Moreover, though the Jews, under the Old Testament dispensation had many external things peculiar to themselves, in which they had the advantage of the Gentiles; yet, under the New Testament dispensation, there is no difference made between believing Jews, and believing Gentiles; see Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11. Besides, these promises were not made to the Israelites or Jews, literally considered; but to the church of Christ, and true believers in him, figuratively signified by Zion and Jacob. 3. It is added, f480 : “that these promises regard a particular time from which they commenced, from henceforth, and for ever; and particular persons, who are distinctly and emphatically, and by a climax, mentioned; from thy mouth, and the mouth of thy seed, and of thy seed’s seed. Whereas the promise of perseverance, according to our notions of it, must belong equally to all the elect in all ages, before, as well as after, these promises were made.” To which I answer, that the covenant here spoken of regards the new covenant, or the administration of that covenant of grace, under the gospel dispensation, which was to take place from the coming of the Redeemer, ver.20, the date intended, nor was there any need to include more; nor could more be included in these promises than the saints under the gospel dispensation. And the reason why the church, her seed, and seed’s seed, are so distinctly mentioned, may be to remove all doubts and scruples from the minds of believers, in all the periods of that dispensation, and the more strongly to confirm them in the belief of these things. 4. It is said, “that the apostle Paul plainly refers these words to the time of the Jews’ conversion to the faith; who, when brought home to Christ, should never fall from him. Be it so, that they do more particularly belong to that time, than any other: this sense of them is far from militating against the saints’ final perseverance; since it strongly proves that the Jews, when converted, shall not fatally and totally fall away; which is not a blessing peculiar to them, but what they will have in common with Gentile believers. 5. It is urged, that if these promises belong to the elect, the seed of the elect, and their seed’s seed, must be elected also; whereas it is certain, from experience, that the seed of the elect are often very wicked; and therefore not elect, but reprobates.” It must be owned, that there would be a good deal of force in this objection, were the words to be understood of believers, and their natural seed and offspring, as such; and therefore such who understand the words in this sense, would do well to consider how they betray the doctrine of perseverance into the hands of our opponents.
But when it is, observed, that these words respect not the children of the flesh, or the natural seed of believers, but the children of the promise, who are counted for the seed ( Romans 9:7.) there will appear no weight in the objection.
And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness, and thou shalt know the Lord. — Hosea 2:19,20.
THE certain and final perseverance of the elect, appears very evident from this passage of scripture. For, if the Lord Jesus Christ does, by an act of his free grace betroth his people to himself; and that in righteousness, in the wedding garment of his own righteousness; and also in judgment, which may intend the powerful protection of them from all insults and injuries; and likewise in loving-kindness, and in mercies, which he has shown in dying for them, in nourishing and cherishing of them, and in sympathizing with them, as well as in faithfulness, which he will never suffer to fail; and all this for ever; so that this marriage relation shall never cease; I say if Christ has thus closely and eternally joined and united his people to himself, it is not possible they should ever be separated from him; or so fall from his grace as to be eternally lost. But to this, the following things are objected. 1. That these words are spoken “of them, who came out of the land of Egypt, who had burnt incense to Baalam, and whose feast days were new moons and sabbaths, and so cannot concern the elect only, or their final perseverance.” To which I reply, that it is very evident, that though these words are spoken of the Israelites, yet not of the same individual persons who came out of Egypt, or who had burnt incense to Balaam; but regard other persons and times, even the times when the ceremonial law was to be abolished, and the new moons, sabbaths, and solemn feasts, made to cease, verse 11, when the land of Judea with its vines and fig-trees, shall be destroyed, verse 12, and which are distinguished from the days of the youth of this people, as a body politic, when they came out of the land of Egypt, verse 15, and so concern the elect of God among that people, who being allured into the wilderness of the Gentile world, verse 14, were met with, and converted under the ministry of the apostles, and so openly betrothed unto the Lord Jesus Christ: and was a pledge of what will be more largely done at the time of their general conversion; when it shall be said, the marriage of the Lamb is come. Besides, these words regard not only the elect of God among the Jews, but among the Gentiles also, as appears from Romans 9:23-26. 2. It is objected, that “if these spiritual promises respect the elect, then the temporal ones must do so likewise; and then they must abound with corn, and wins and oil, verse 22, which yet were never looked upon as promises made to the elect, much less as things peculiarly belonging to them.” But why these should not be looked upon as promises made to the elect, I see not: does not God take care of his own elect in temporal things? which, though not peculiar to them, yet are given to them in a peculiar manner, being blessings indeed to them, whilst they are curses to others. Besides, nothing is more evident than that oftentimes, in the writings of the Old Testament, temporal blessings are spoken of, as figurative of spiritual ones. 3. It is moreover observed, “that the promise here made to Israel, is only made to her returning to her first husband, verse 7,” and is not an absolute, but a conditional one. But whoever reads it with any care, will easily see that it is expressed in the most absolute and unconditional terms; no less than three times, to express the certainty of the thing, does the Lord say, I will betroth thee unto me, and adds, and thou shall know the Lord; that is, believe in him, own, acknowledge, love, honor, and obey him, as thy lord and husband. He does not say, if thou wilt own and acknowledge me, love, honor and obey me, or return to me, and remain inviolably chaste and faithful to me, then I will betroth thee to myself; nor is there any connection between these words and verse 7. And was there any between them; yet even they are delivered in very absolute terms thus, she shall say under strong convictions of mind, and impressions made by powerful and efficacious grace, I will go and return to husband, for then it was better with me than now.
IF the covenant God makes with his people is an everlasting one, interest in it indissoluble, the grace of it always sufficient, its blessings irreversible, its promises sure, and the mediator of it always the same, than which nothing is more certain; if God, the maker of this covenant, will not turn away his love and affections from them, but will do them all the good he has either purposed or promised, and if he puts his fear in their hearts, so as that they shall not depart totally from him; their final perseverance must be abundantly secured. Now, in answer to this it is said, 1. That “these promises are made expressly to the whole house of Israel, and to all the children of Israel and Judah; and therefore cannot concern the elect only, or their final perseverance.” I reply, that Israel and Judah were typical of God’s elect, under the gospel dispensation; and supposing that they are literally intended, it is enough to secure the faithfulness of God in these promises, that they were made good to his elect among them. The apostle has taught us to answer such an objection in this manner, when he says, ( Romans 9:6, and Romans 11:1,2,7.) “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect, for they are not all Israel, which are of Israel; God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew; the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.”
Besides, the words all and whole, are neither in the text, nor context; and were they, yet, if these promises regard the time of the Jews’ conversion as this author pleads for, when all Israel shall be saved, and so appear to be elected, these must needs concern the elect only, and their final perseverance. 2. It is objected, that “these promises are for ‘the good of their children after them,’ who therefore must be elected also; whereas it is certain from experience, that the seed of the elect are often very wicked persons.” To which may be replied, that God does not here promise to make an everlasting covenant with their children, nor that he will not turn away from their children to do them good, nor that he will put his fear in the hearts of their children that they shall not depart from him; only that he “will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear him for ever, for the good of them and of their children after them; which is true, since the religious conduct of parents towards their children, the religious examples set them, and the religious education given them, may be in many instances for their good, even though many of them may prove wicked, and without supposing them all to be elected. 3. It is excepted, that “if these spiritual promises respect the elect, then the promises of temporal blessings being made to the same persons, must respect them also; and so they must all abide safely in the land of Canaan and buy there fields for money.” In answer to which, it is easy to observe, that very frequently in the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, especially when God promises temporal blessings, and particularly deliverance from captivity to the people of the Jews in general, he takes the opportunity to make mention of some spiritual blessings which were peculiar to his elect among them, and who in common shared the temporal blessings with them; which spiritual ones are the same, his elect in all ages, and in all nations, partake of. Besides the temporal blessings promised to the Jews were, in many instances, figurative of spiritual ones, which God’s elect among the Gentiles, as well as Jews in the times of the gospel, were to enjoy; who though they are not blessed with the temporal blessings promised to Abraham, and his natural seed, yet are “blessed with faithful Abraham,” and his spiritual seed, with all spiritual blessings. 4. The promises here made are said to be conditional; whereas there is not the least indication of a condition in any of them, but are expressed in the strongest and most absolute manner imaginable. I will make an everlasting covenant with them, I will not turn away from them, I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me: as are also the passages referred to, to be joined with these promises, though without any reason, as Jeremiah 24:7, and 3:19, Isaiah 55:3. The text in Jeremiah 12:16, the only conditional one mentioned, regards not the people of Israel, but their evil neighbors, as is evident both from the text and context. 5. It is urged, that “the promise is not an absolute promise, that they should fear him always; but only an indication, that his kind providences should be such towards them as should lay upon them the highest obligations to continue steadfast in his fear: le and lebalti being often used, not to signify the certainty of the event, but the design and purpose of God in affording the means; so Deuteronomy 10:13, and Deuteronomy 17:19,20, and Deuteronomy 4:10, John 16:1, Ezekiel 11:19,20. “But, if this is not an absolute promise, I will put ray fear in their hearts, what can be called so? And surely, God’s putting his fear in their hearts, is more than by kind providences to lay upon them the highest obligations to continue steadfast in his fear, or barely affording means thereof; but must intend an internal, special, powerful operation, and implantation of his grace in their hearts. Nor does the word here used, signify only God’s design, and not the certainty of the event. The text should not be read that they may not depart, but, that they shall not depart from me. The Hebrew particle, ytlbl , lebilti, not lebalti, signifies the certainty of the event, as well as design; see Leviticus 26:15, Deuteronomy 4:21, Ezekiel 20:15, nor is it used, but in one of the passages referred to by the learned objector; and it is very odd that John 16:1, should stand among the instances of the sense of a Hebrew particle. Besides, admitting that it signifies here the design and purpose of God, this is not to be separated from the event, which is certain by it; since his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure. 6. Whereas it is further objected, that “this text only contains a promise, that when the Jewish nation shall be converted at the close of the world, they should never fall off any more from being his people, as they had done before.” This is so far from militating against the doctrine of the saints’ final perseverance, that it serves to confirm it; since, when the Jews shall be converted, they shall not fall away, but “all Israel shall be saved;” so all God’s elect, being converted, whether among Jews or Gentiles, shall certainly persevere to the end, and be saved; seeing they are converted by the same grace, and kept by the same power, as the Jews then will be. The Remonstrants own, that this promise regards the Gentiles under the New Testament.
And 1 will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. — John 14:16, with John 4:14, and John 6:35. THE other Comforter Christ prays to his Father for, is no other than the Spirit of truth, verse 17, which is the Holy Ghost, verse 26, who, when he once takes up his residence in the hearts of any, never departs, but abides for ever; otherwise, this prayer of Christ would not be answered. Whence it follows that true believers, who are the temples of the Holy Spirit, shall certainly persevere to the end, and not be eternally destroyed. In answer to this, 1. It is affirmed, “that the Holy Spirit may entirely depart from them, in whom he once inhabited.” This is said, but not proved: the graces of the Spirit may be very low as to the exercise of them, believers may be without the comforts and gracious influences of the Spirit; they may so vex and grieve him, as that he may leave them, for a while, without his sensible presence; and yet not entirely depart from them who know him, and have had an experience of his powerful operation on them; for he dwelleth with them, and shall be in them, and that for ever. 2. It is urged, that this “promise is only ] made on condition that they continue so to love Christ as to keep his commandments. To which I reply: that this promise is entirely absolute, nor is there the least intimation of a condition in it: Christ says not, if ye love me so as to keep my commandments, I will pray the Father; or, if ye do keep my commandments, the Father will give you another, Comforter; or, if ye do whatsoever I enjoin you, then the Spirit shall abide with you forever; but he says, I will pray, he shall give, that he may abide. Besides, the giving of the Spirit to the Lord’s people, is antecedent to their keeping of the commands of Christ, and in order to cause them to walk in his statutes, and to keep his judgments, and do them. ( Ezekiel 36:27.) 3. It is said, that this promise “seems only to concern Christ’s apostles, with whom he was then corporally present; or to concern only the Spirit’s presence with his church in general, not in the heart of every Christian; for so Christ himself abode not with them.” I answer; admitting that it concerns the apostles only, it will be allowed, it is to be hoped, that it secured their perseverance: and why may not the perseverance of others be as certain, who have been all made to drink into one Spirit, ( 1 Corinthians 12:13; 2 Corinthians 4:13) have received the same spirit of faith, and have been baptized into one and the same body? Though if this promise only concerned the apostles, why should it be said, that he may abide with you for ever? It seems rather to concern a succession of men, of believers unto the end of the world; see Isaiah 54:21. Moreover, should it be thought that it rather concerns the presence of the Spirit with the church of Christ in general; the Spirit dwells there, by dwelling in the hearts of particular believers; where also Christ dwells by faith, and with whom he makes his abode: it is in the hearts of particular saints, that the Spirit of the Lord is a well of water springing up into everlasting life; which must certainly secure their final perseverance: for he is a well of water, to supply all their wants, and satisfy their thirst, and as such abides for ever, and can never be expelled; otherwise, it could not be said to be springing up into everlasting life, nor be the earnest of their future inheritance, though this text now mentioned, John 4:14, together with John 6:35, He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth in me shall never thirst, it is said, may be understood of Christ’s doctrine; and the meaning be, “he that cometh to learn my doctrine, and believeth it when he hath learnt it, shall need no further teaching in order to his future happiness; because the observance of what he hath learned from me already will bring him to eternal life.” Now, besides the falsehood of the last sentence, which attributes eternal fife to what they have learnt, being contrary to the grace of God, and the righteousness of Christ, which only bring persons to it; let it be observed, that sensible sinners come to Christ, not barely to learn his doctrine; but they come to him as the bread of life, for food for their souls, for righteousness and eternal life, for grace here, and glory hereafter. Besides, they first learn the doctrine of eternal life and salvation, and him, in some measure, before they come to him for it: Every man that hath heard and learnt of the Father, cometh unto me; and such shall be preserved and nourished unto everlasting life.
THESE words are spoken of the sheep of Christ who hear his voice and follow him, true believers; whose final perseverance, and everlasting safety, are here strongly asserted: for if Christ gives them eternal life, they can never be hurt of the second death; if he says they shall never perish, who dare say they may or shall? And, if none can pluck them out of his hands, they must be safe, and shall be saved with an everlasting salvation. But, 1. It is said, that “the frequent cautions and exhortations directed in the scripture to Christ’s sheep, not to fall from grace, but continue steadfast in the faith, are certain demonstrations that they may do so” To which I reply, that there is not one single caution, or exhortation, much less frequent ones, directed in the scripture to Christ’s sheep not to fall from grace; they are, indeed, directed to take heed lest they fall; but not lest they fall from grace: they may fall into many sins, snares and temptations, which make such cautions necessary; and yet not lest they fall from grace. Where any intimations are given of the danger any are in of falling from, or failing of the grace of God, as in Galatians 5:4, Hebrews. 12:15, these are to be understood, not of the grace and favor of God in his own heart towards them, nor of his grace implanted in them; but of the doctrine of grace they had made a profession of. And, though there are exhortations directed in scripture to the saints to continue steadfast in the faith; yet these, at most, only suppose, that they are in danger of falling, or that they may fall from some degree of steadfastness in it; and which they may be left to, without falling finally and totally from the grace of God. Besides, such exhortations are designed to make and keep them steadfast and immoveable in it, and are made use of, and blessed by the Spirit of God, as means of their final perseverance; and therefore are not in vain, nor should they be improved into arguments against it. 2. It is urged, as a direct answer to this text, “that Christ here only promises his sheep should never perish through any defect on His part, or by the force of any plucking them by violence out of his hands: not but by the allurements of the world, the flesh and the devil, they may choose to go from him, though they are not snatched out of his hands.” To which I reply, that the promise here made, that Christ’s sheep shall never perish, is absolute and full, not depending on any thing to be performed on the part of the sheep; the fulfillment of it wholly and entirely lying on Christ. If therefore they shall never perish through any defect on his part, they shall never perish at all; since he is both able and willing to keep them from falling, and has a power to give, as well as to promise, eternal life to them.
Moreover, if Christ’s sheep cannot be plucked out of his hands by the force and violence of all their adversaries, then they shall never perish; and this the particle kai< , which, as the learned writer at tended to observes, is here illative, shows they shall never p erisA; for none shall pluck them out of my hands . Now, if these sheep may perish and come short of eternal life then the illation, the consequence, is not just proper and pertinent, and is to be denied since it may be objected, that they may be lost by some means or other, though they cannot by force and power, be snatched out of Christ’s hands. But Christ says they shall never perish, and gives this as the reason of it. Besides, as the world, the flesh and the devil, cannot, by open force and power, pull Christ’s sheep out of his hands; so neither can they, by secret allurements, snares and temptations, draw them from thence, see 1 Corinthians 10:13. Add to this, that it is not only contrary to the will of the Father who has committed these sheep to the care of Christ, but also to the love and affection which Christ has expressed towards them particularly by laying down his life for them; and even to his office as the great shepherd of them, to suffer any of them to be lost in any way whatever; for it is his work and business, as such, not only to protect his sheep from the open rapine and violence of their enemies; but also to preserve them from secret snares, and to restore them, even when they, either of themselves or through temptation, wander and go astray: and this he does as the good shepherd; he seeks that which was lost, and brings again that which was either driven, or which went away; and so not one of them shall perish, but have everlasting life. 3. It is farther observed, that “this text seems only to speak of such sheep, who have already persevered; and so is not a promise of perseverance, but of the reward of it, eternal felicity, which shall be incapable of interruption.” But this is not to be gathered, as is said, from the former verse, where Christ describes his sheep as such who hear his voice, and follow him; which represents them as then hearing his voice, and at that time following him: but not as having hearkened to his voice, and having followed him to the end: and therefore he may be reasonably supposed to promise that they should hear his voice, and follow him still unto the end; since he adds, I give unto them eternal life; the promise of it, a right unto it, that grace which makes meet for it, and is connected with it, pledges, and foretastes of it; and therefore, they shall never perish, but everlastingly enjoy it. Besides, if these words speak only of such who have already persevered, it speaks not of living saints who now hear Christ’s voice and follow him in this militant state, but of the saints that are dead; for none can be said to have already persevered to the end, but such as are dead. And the saints, as soon as they die, are in heaven, enjoying eternal life, in no fear or danger, no not in their own apprehensions of perishing, or of being plucked out of Christ’s hands; and so stand in no need of such promises to support faith, or to comfort them under trials from the world, the flesh and the devil, which no more attend them; and as these words, in this sense of them, are needless to the saints above, so they must be useless to those below; since, notwithstanding what is said in them, Christ’s sheep, whilst in this state, may be plucked out of his hands, even by force and violence, as well as drawn from him by deceits and allurements; and so perish eternally, and never enjoy everlasting life.
Who shall also confirm you to the end, that ye be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom, ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. — Corinthians 1:8, 9. With 1 Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:23,24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3. THE argument from these passages of scripture, in favor of the doctrine of the saints’ final perseverance, stands thus: If God’s fidelity be engaged to confirm them unblameable to the end, whom he hath called to the communion of his Son; if his faithfulness will not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able to bear, but will make a way to escape; if St.
Paul had ground of confidence that “he, who had begun the good work h his Philippians, would perform it until the day of Jesus Christ; if it be part of God’s fidelity to sanctify them wholly, and to preserve their whole spirit, soul and body, blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ whom he hath called; then must they persevere to the end, but all these are the express assertions of the holy scriptures; therefore, now, 1st. For a general answer to all these texts, it is proposed to consideration, “that God in scripture is often said to do a thing, when he does that which hath a proper tendency to the effect, and is sufficient to procure it, and hath done all that was requisite on his part in order to it; so that if the effect be not wrought in us, it is by reason of some defect in us, or some neglect of doing that which he hath given us sufficient means and motives to perform.” Of which divers instances are produced out of Ezekiel 24:13; Jeremiah 13:11; Isaiah 48:17,18, and Isaiah 43:21-23; Jeremiah 51:9; Romans 1:20,21, and Romans 2:3,4; 2 Corinthians 5:19,20; Titus 2:11,12; Acts 2:47: Corinthians 1:18. To which I reply, that this rule can only hold good in moral cases, in which God only acts as a moral agent; but not in such which require a divine operation and almighty power, and solely belong to him to begin, carry on and finish, all which he promises absolutely to perform, which is the case before us. Besides, the instances produced are very impertinent. When God is said to have purged Jerusalem, and she was not purged, it does not signify what he had done sufficient for her purgation; but what he had commanded to be done, and was not done.
When he is said to have caused the whole house of Israel to cleave unto him, as the girdle cleaves to the loins of a man; it is expressive, not of what he has done, which proved ineffectual; but of the temporal good things he had bestowed on that people; which showed them to be a people near into him, and which he mentions to expose their base ingratitude, who, notwithstanding, would not hearken to him. When he is said to teach Israel to profit, and lead him in the way he should go, though he hearkened to his commandments, it is to be understood of those moral instructions, and civil laws given to them, as a nation, which, had they hearkened to, would have issued in their temporal peace and prosperity.
The people the Lord had formed for himself, are not the same with Jacob and Israel, of whom he complains that they were weary of him; but the Gentiles, whom he had determined to call, and did call by his grace, that they might show forth his praise: see 1 Peter 2:9,10. As for what is said of Babylon, we would have healed Babylon, and she is not healed; they are not the words of God; but either of the Israelites or of some others concerned for her temporal welfare. The heathens had not only the means to know God imparted to them by his providence, but they did know him as the God of nature, though they did not glorify him as such; and therefore were given up to judicial blindness. The goodness of God, indeed, has a tendency to lead persons to repentance; and one would think, if any means or motives would do it, this would; and yet such is the hardness of men’s hearts, that they will still remain impenitent, unless God exerts his powerful and efficacious grace. When God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, he actually reconciled them to himself, and forgave their iniquities; nor is this contradicted by the exhortation of the apostle, Be ye reconciled to God; since that is spoken to believers, and regards their peaceable submission to the dispensations of providence, and to the order and ordinances, discipline and laws of Christ, in his house. The gospel of the grace of God is called saving grace, not because it teacheth us to do that which, if we conscientiously perform, we shall be saved; but because it brings the good news of complete salvation by Jesus Christ. The converted Jews are, indeed, styled o\i swzo>menoi, the saved; but then it can never be proved, to the end of the world, that any one of them, whom the Lord then added to the church, and are said to be such as should be saved, ever fell away so as to be lost and perish. Nor are all the members of the church at Corinth styled the saved, much less those who repented not of their sins and iniquities, but all those, and only those, who were called by grace, whether Jews or Gentiles, verse 24. But, 2ndly Our author proceeds to a particular answer to the texts alleged; and, 1. To words cited from 1 Corinthians 1:8,9, and observes, that “these cannot contain a promise of perseverance made to the elect only among the Corinthians; because, (1.) “The apostle plainly speaks to the whole body of the church at Corinth.” Be it so, inasmuch as the whole body of this Church, and the several members of it, were under a visible profession of Christianity, and were considered as sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, and so looked upon as the elect of God; upon this supposition, which is no uncharitable one, the apostle might affirm, with the greatest assurance, that God would confirm them to the end blameless. Moreover, though this epistle was in general directed to church of God, which is at Corinth, yet the apostle had a particular regard to such among them, who were truly sanctified in Church, and really called to be saints; and not only them, but all that in every place, as well as at Corinth, call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours, verse 2. Besides, those whom the apostle says, God is faithful to confirm to the end, are such whom he had called not externally, or to some outward privileges, but unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ. (2.) “Because he speaks not only of their not falling away finally, but of their being preserved unblameable; whereas it is certain that the elect are not always so preserved.” I observe, that it is allowed that the apostle speaks of these persons not falling away finally, which is the thing we contend for; and also of their being preserved blameless, which it is suggested cannot be said of the elect because they are not always so preserved.
Which, if understood of them in themselves, and in this life, it will be readily granted, that they are not all of them, nor any of them always so preserved; but then they are all of them always so preserved in Christ and will appear so in the day of our lord Jesus; for they are chosen in his, that they should be holy, and without blame before him in love. ( Ephesians 1:4) (3.) The sense of these words, according to the ancients is said to be this; “God is faithful, who hath promised to them that obey the Gospel, uJioqesi>an, the adoption; that is, the redemption of the body, or that they shall be partakers of that kingdom and glory to which he hath called them.”
But the phrase, to them that obey the Gospel, is neither in the text, nor context: and supposing it had been in either, or should it be thought to be implied, those that truly obey the Gospel are called by grace, and such as the elect of God: if therefore God is faithful, who has promised them the adoption, to which they are predestinated, according to the good pleasure of his will; ( Ephesians 1:5) or, that they shall be partakers of the kingdom and glory to which he has called them; then they must persevere to the end. (4.) These words are said to be “well expounded by Grotius, thus: He will do, good suarum est partium, all that is requisite of his part, to render you umblameable to the end; so that you shall not fail of being so through any want of divine grace requisite to that end, or any unfaithfulness on his part to his promise.” To which I reply: that Scripture is not of private interpretation; nor are we bound down to the sense given of Scripture, either by ancient or modern interpreters. That these words are not well expounded by Grotius, appears from this consideration, that God’s faithfulness is engaged to confirm to the end unblameable, not in part, but in whole; the work is wholly his, what he has promised to do, and will faithfully perform. And therefore, if the saints shall not fail of being so, through, any want of divine grace requisite to that end, whose grace is sufficient ( 2 Corinthians 12:8) for it; or through any unfaithfulness to his promise, who, though we behave not, yet abides faithful; ( Timothy 2:13.) it is certain that they shall be confirmed to the end, and be preserved blameless, or in other words, finally persevere. The text in Colossians 1:22,23, is not conditional, but descriptive of the persons who shall he presented unblameable, and unreprovable in the sight of God. 2. To the words in 1 Corinthians 10:13, it is answered, f502 (1.) “That these words ought not to be restrained to the elect; for the preceding ones are spoken to the whole church at Corinth.” What has been said to a like objection to the sense of the foregoing text, may be a sufficient reply to this. (2.) It is said, “this text must be impertinently alleged; because it only contains a promise of ability sufficient to resist temptations, if men will use it; but doth not contain an engagement that this strength shall be effectual, or certainly informed to the end.” But these words do not contain a promise of sufficient ability to resist temptations, but of sufficient strength to bear them; which strength God put into his people, and does not leave it barely to their use, but makes his strength perfect in their weakness. ( Corinthians 12:8.) Besides, these words do not contain only a promise of this, but also that God will make a way to escape, that they may be able to bear them. (3.) This author says, “I have showed, when I discoursed of the cautions given to believers, that in the words immediately preceding and following, there is a plain indication that they, who truly think they stand, may fall, as did the Jews there mentioned, and might be guilty of idolatry; which he (the apostle) himself declares to be a sin exclusive from the kingdom of Christ, 1 Corinthians 6:9.” And I have also showed, in answer to it, that there is not, in those words, a plain indication that they, who truly think they stand, may fall; but that such, who seem to themselves and others to stand, may fall: and that, supposing them spoken to true believers, such exhortations may be useful to them, to preserve them from partial falls to which they are subject, and be blessed to them as means of their final perseverance. 3. To the words cited from Philippians 1:6, it is answered, f503 (1.) “That it is evident the apostle speaks not out of any opinion of the election of any, much less of all the Philippians to eternal life, or of the certainty of their perseverance to the end; for why then doth he exhort them as he does in Philippians 2:12,16, and Philippians 4:1?” I answer, that these exhortations are so far from militating against either their election of God, or perseverance to the end, that they express the fruits and effects of those things, through which men are chosen unto salvation; and which, as has been before observed, are made use of, and blessed as the means of the saints’ final perseverance. (2.) It is affirmed, that “he (the apostle) speaks this from a judgment of charity; because, says he, it is just or fit for me to conceive thus of you, by reason of that great affection you have for me, and your patience under the like sufferings.” I reply, that the apostle does, indeed, speak from a judgment of charity in verse 7, when he says, Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all; where the word all is used, which is not in verse 6, and seems to be carefully omitted by our author in his citation of verse 7.
Now the apostle, from a judgment of charity, did say this of them all; but with the strongest confidence of them in whom the good work was begun.
A judgment of charity is precarious and uncertain; but the persuasion of the apostle was sure and firm, and which lie expresses with a view to encourage a like persuasion of their own salvation in the hearts of those he writes to; which surely must be more than a judgment of charity concerning themselves, and their own state and condition. Besides, a judgment of charity proceeds upon external signs; whereas the apostle’s confidence and firm persuasion was grounded, not on their affection to him, or patience under suffering, but upon the nature, of the good work of grace begun, in them, and upon the promise and power of God to perform it; and was greatly encouraged by their continuance in an inward, spiritual fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, verse 5. 4. It is said, that “those words, 1 Thessalonians 5:23,14, and for the same reason the words cited from 2 Thessalonians 3:3, do only signify that he (God)will not be wanting, on his part, towards sanctifying and preserving them blameless unto the end; for it the fidelity of God required he should do this without their care and industry, or should work in them certainly and absolutely that care, and the apostle believed this; how could he fear, lest these Thessalonians should be so overcome by Satan’s temptations, as that his labor with them might have been in rain?” To which I reply, that the care and industry of God’s people, in the use of means, are very proper and requisite, and what the grace of God wrought in their souls will put them upon: nor are they set aside, or rendered useless, by the promise and faithfulness of God in keeping them; but rather made more necessary and useful thereby. But then it should be observed, that God’s fidelity is engaged to sanctify them wholly, and to preserve their whole spirit, soul, and body, blameless; so that the work is entirely his own; and that until the coming of Christ; after which there will be no danger nor fear of apostacy; whence it must needs follow, that the saints shall certainly persevere to the end; nor do the fears expressed by the apostle, concerning the Thessalonians, contradict it; since these fears do not concern their eternal salvation; but lest, through the afflictions that attended the gospel, their faith should be in any measure weakened though not dropped; or lest they should be any way corrupted from the simplicity of the Gospel; and so his labor, in instructing and establishing them in gospel truths, be so far in vain.