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DR.WHITBY says, “it were easy to confirm this doctrine (of the saints’ apostasy) from the concurrent suffrage of the ancient fathers; but this seems to him unnecessary, after the confession of the learned Vossius, communem hanc fuisse antiquitatis sententiam, ‘that this was the common judgment of antiquity, or of the ancients;’ and that antiquitas tota indeficibilitati adversatur, ‘all antiquity was contrary to this doctrine,’ of the indefectibility of the saints.” But it should be known, that Vossius, who sets himself with all his might to prove these assertions, not only in the same place owns, that the holy fathers (Austin and Prosper) held, “that God decreed from eternity to bring some by infallible means to eternal life, whose faith and love therefore should either never fail, or being lost, should be restored before the end of life; seeing God’s purpose of saving them whom he hath once chosen to life, can by no means be made void.” In which Austin thought the writers before him agreed with him, as appears from his book De Bono Perseverantiae; but Vossius also in his next thesis observes, that the fathers distinguished faith into three degrees, the last of which they call a perfect, solid, rooted one; and this they say can by no means be lost. He also farther observes, that “when the holy fathers teach that justifying faith may fail, and sometimes does really fail, they understand this with respect to acts which flow from the power and habit of faith; for this power, which we may call the seed of actual faith, they own, is not utterly taken away, at least in the elect.” What is the sense of these ancient writers may be better judged of by what will be produced under the following Sections.
CLEMENS ROMANUS. A.D. 69.
CLEMENT of Rome gives plain hints of the firmness of true faith, and the perseverance of the saints in it to the end. When addressing the members of the church at Corinth, he says? “Who has dwelt among you, that has not had an experience of, or proved, ten panareton kai bebaian umon pistin, your all-powerful, and firm or stable faith?” He also observes, f1842 that “whereas it is the will of God, that all whom he loves should partake of repentance, and so not perish with the unbelieving and impenitent, esterizen to pantokratoriko boulemati autou, ‘he has established it by his almighty will.’ But if any of those whom God wills should partake of the grace of repentance, should afterwards perish, where is his almighty will?
And how is this matter settled and established by such a will of his?”
BARNABAS. A.D. 70.
BARNABAS, an apostolic man, bears testimony to the doctrine of the saints’ final perseverance: when he says, that “he that hopes in Christ, sterean petran, ‘ the firm and solid rock,’ shall live for ever;” which he afterwards repeats in answer to a question, why the wool and the wood were used in the legal ceremonies: “Because,” says he, the kingdom of Jesus depends upon the tree (he means the cross,) wherefore they that hope in him shall live for ever.” And in another place, he cites the following words as a passage of Scripture, And there was a river drawing, or running, on the right hand, and out of it sprung up beautiful trees, and whosoever eats of them shall live for ever; upon which he observes, that “ this he says because we go down into the water (meaning in baptism) full of sins and filth, and we come up out of it bringing forth fruit; having in the heart fear and hope in Jesus through the Spirit, ‘and whosoever eats of these shall live for ever;’ this he says, that whosoever hears the things that are said, kai pisteuse, and believes, shall live for ever.”
IGNATIUS. A. D. 110.
IGNATIUS also is a witness to this most comfortable truth of the gospel, when he exhorts the saints to “ avoid those evil excrescences which bring forth deadly fruit, of which whoever tastes dies; for they are not the Father’s planting;” for if they “were, the branches of the cross would appear, kai en auto karpos autos aphthartos, ‘ and their fruit would be incorruptible;’ whereby through his sufferings he hath called you, being his members, ou dunatai ouk kophale choris gennethenai aneu melon, for the head cannot be born, or be, without the members.” And in another place he says, “ No man professing faith, sins; nor having obtained love, hates.
The tree is known by its fruit. So they that profess to be Christians shall be seen by what they do; for now it is not the business of a profession, all’ en dunamei pisteos ean tis eurethe eis telos, but it is through the power of faith, if any one is found to the end.” By which he intimates, that such is the strength and virtue of true faith, that such who have it are preserved and continued Christians to the end, and are then found to be so. His epistle to the Philadelphians is directed to them as a church firmly settled in the harmony of God, as being an everlasting and permanent joy; and their bishops, elders, and deacons, such whom Christ, according to his own will, esterixen en bebaiosune, “ had firmly established, through his Holy Spirit.”
IRENAEUS. A. D. 180.
IRENAEUS has several passages in his writings which favor this doctrine.
Allegorizing the history of Lot’s wife, he thus expresses himself: “The church which is the salt of the earth, is left in the confines of the of the earth, suffering the things which are human; and whilst whole members are often taken away from it, perseverat statua salis qued est firmamentum fidei, firmans et praemittens filios ad Patrem ipsorum, ‘ the pillar of salt continues, which is the firmament of faith, confirming and sending before the children to their Father.” He speaks of the grace of love as an abiding one: “Love,” says he, “ perfects the perfect man; and he that loves God is perfect both in this world, and in that which is to come; nunquam enim desivimus diligentus Deum, for we never cease loving God, but the more we look upon him, the more we love him.” He also represents the Spirit of God as never leaving the man he has taken up his residence in; for, he says, “The breath of life is one thing, which makes the man animal, and another the quickening Spirit, which makes him spiritual. That which is made is different from him that makes it, wherefore the breath is temporal, to de Pneuma aennaon, the Spirit eternal.” The breath indeed is vigorous for a little while, and remains some time, after which it goes away, leaving it breathless where it was before; but the Spirit encompasses man within and without, ate aei paramonimon oudepote kataleipei auton, as always abiding, and never leaves him.” Yea, he represents it as blasphemy to say, that the members of Christ shall not be saved, but destroyed; for he makes this observation on 1 Corinthians 3:17, If any one defile the temple of God, etc.: Templum igitur Dei in quo Spiritus inhabitat Patris, et membra Christi non participare salutem, sed in perditionem redigi dicere, quomodo non maximae est blasphemiae? Therefore to say, that the temple of God, in which the Spirit of the Father dwells, and the members of Christ, shall not partake of salvation, but be brought down to destruction, is it not the highest blasphemy? Vossius refers to a chapter in Irenaeus, as militating against the doctrine of the saints’ final perseverance, in which are these expressions: “ All are of the same nature, and able to retain and do good, and able to lose it again, and not do it.” And a little after, f1854 “ Disobedience to God, and loss of good, are indeed in the power of man.”
But it should be known and observed, that Irenaeus is disputing against those heretics who held, that some men were by nature good, and others evil; whereas, he says, they are all of the same nature, as at first created by God, capable of doing good and evil. Besides, he speaks only of the loss of natural and moral good in the natural man, and not of the loss of spiritual good, or of supernatural grace in the regenerate man. Moreover, Irenaeus has a passage in the very same chapter which seems to favor the saints’ perseverance; for he says, that “ the Lord bore all these things for us, that by all things being learned in all, we might be cautious for the future, et perseveremus in omni ejus dilectione, and persevere in all love to him.”
EPISTOLA MARTYRUM GALLIAE. A.D. 180.
THE letter of the Martyrs in France I place here, because it is thought by some learned men to have been drawn up by Irenaeus, who was first a presbyter, and then bishop of the church at Lyons. In what year it was written is not certainly known; it must be after the death of Pothinus, predecessor to Irenaeus, since it gives an account of his martyrdom. The letter is written in a truly grand, noble, Christian spirit; it begins thus: “ The servants of Christ dwelling in Vienna, and Lyons in France, to the brethren in Asia and Phrygia, which have the same faith and hope of redemption with us, peace, and grace, and glory, from, God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord. In it they give an account of the sufferings and martyrdom of many excellent and godly persons in those parts, how bravely they endured, persevered, and held out to the end; which constancy and perseverance they all along ascribe to the grace and power of God. Among other expressions they have these: “ When,” say they, we were not only driven from houses, baths, and markets, but were entirely forbid to appear in any place, antistrategei de e charis tou Theou, ‘the grace of God fought for us against the adversary,’ and delivered the weak, and set against him firm or solid pillars, able, through patience, to draw upon themselves the whole force or power of the wicked one.” And a little after they make mention of others, “ who were bitterly tormented, insomuch that it seemed as though they could not live, notwithstanding every kind of medicine they made use of; they remained in prison, destitute indeed of the help and care of men, but anarronumenoi upo ten Kurion kai endunamoumenoi kai somati kai psuche, ‘being afresh strengthened by the Lord, and enabled or assisted in body and soul,’ they stirred up and comforted the rest.” And of Blundina, in particular, they say, that “ though she was little, and weak, and despicable, yet, megan kai akatagoniston athleten Christon endedumene, ‘being clothed with that great and invincible champion, Christ,’ many a time overcame the enemy, and through the combat is crowned with the crown of immortality.” And after having taken notice of some who had denied the faith at first, afterwards, beyond the expectation of the heathens, made a confession of it; whereby Christ was greatly glorified, and all they were added to the number of the martyrs. They speak of others after this manner: “But they remained without, oi me de ichnos popote pisteos, ‘who never had the least appearance of faith,’ nor sense of the wedding garment, nor understanding of the fear of God, but through their whole conversation caused the way to be blasphemed; that is to say, the sons of perdition.”
From whence it appears, that these early pious Christians, as they observe that such as had the true grace of God held out to the end, which they ascribe to the power of God; so such as finally and totally fell away, were such who never had the root of the matter in them.
CLEMENS ALEXANDRINUS. A.D. 190.
CLEMENT of Alexandria frequently suggests the stability and permanency of such as have received the grace of God. Thus allegorizing Isaac’s sporting with Rebecca his spouse, whom he makes to signify the church; “which has,” says he, a firm and solid name put upon her, upomone, ‘patience; either because she only eis tous aionas menei, abides for ever,’ always rejoicing; or because she consists of the patience of believers, who are the members of Christ, and the testimony of them ton eis telos upomeinanton that endure the end.” And in, another place he says, f1862 “ David cries out, “ the righteous shall not be moved for ever,” neither by deceitful words, nor by deceitful pleasure hence neither shall he be moved from his own inheritance, nor shall he be afraid of evil tidings, nor of vain calumny nor of false opinion that is about him.” And elsewhere, f1863 speaking of a devout and religious person, he says, that “such a soul ou diorizetai pote tou Theou kat’ oudena kairon, shall never at any time be separated from God.” Having cited Psalm 48:12 he gives this sense of the words: “It signifies, I think, that such who have received the word from on high, shall be high as towers, kai bebaios en to to pistei kai to gnosei stesesthui, and shall stand firmly in faith and knowledge.” Both which, namely, faith and knowledge, he often represents as abiding and durable: of the former he has these expressions: “The life of Christians, which we are now giving some instructions about, is a certain system of rational actions, that is, of those things which are taught by the Logos, or Word, adiaptotos energeia, ‘a never-failing energy,’ which we indeed have called faith.” And in another place, “Faith, I say, whether it is founded on love or on fear, is something divine, mete upo alles philias kosmikes diaspomenen, mete upo phobon parontos dialuomenen, which cannot be pulled assunder by any other worldly friendship, nor be dissolved by present fear.” And elsewhere, “Faith is ischus eis soterian ‘kai dunamis eis zoen aionion, strength unto salvation, and a power unto everlasting life.” Yea, he observes, “The power of faith is such, that it exceeds every thing that is contrary to it, kai auton olou enistamenou tou kosmou, and even the whole world itself that it stands in the way of it.” To which may be added another passage of Clement’s f1869 : “I am persuaded that neither death, which is inflicted by persecutors, nor the life which we here live, nor angels, the apostate ones, nor principalities, the principality of Satan, which is the life he chooses, for such are the principalities and powers of darkness, according to him; nor things present, among which we are in this time of life, as the hope of the soldier, the gain of the merchant; nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, by an operation proper to men, resists the faith of him who makes a free choice. Creature, synonymously, is called operation, being our work, and such an operation cannot separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our lord.
And as to the continuance of true spiritual knowledge he thus expresses himself: “Divine instruction,” says he, “ktema estin eis aei paramenon, is a possession that abides for ever.” Yea, he speaks of it as what cannot be lost: “To him that has by exercise, proceeding from knowledge,” says he, “ got that virtue which cannot be lost, the habit of it becomes natural, and as heaviness to a stone, outos toude e episteme anapobletos, ‘so his knowledge cannot be lost,’ neither unwillingly nor willingly; by the power of reason, knowledge, and providence, it is so established that it cannot be lost; through a godly fear it becomes so as that it cannot be lost. The greatest thing therefore is the knowledge of God, because this is so preserved that virtue cannot be lost.” This perseverance of the saints is ascribed by Clement, not to themselves, but to the power and kindness of their Lord. “We shall not fall, says he, “ into corruption, who pass through into incorruption, oti anthexetai emon autos, ‘ because he sustains us;’ for he hath said, and he will do it.” And a little after he says, that “his, that is, Christ’s goodness towards them, who through hearing have believed, is ametakinetos se kai arrepes, immoveable, and turns neither one way nor another.” Vossius refers to this writer as favoring the saints’ apostasy; who does indeed, in the book referred to, cite Hebrews 10:26, and observes, that those who go on sinning and repenting, repenting and sinning, do not at all differ from such who never believed; and that he knows not which is worse, to sin willfully, or to repent for sin, and sin again; but then he gives no intimations, that he thought that such had ever received the true grace of God, who go on at this rate, and were now fallen from it. I have produced two passages out of the same book in proof of the doctrine of perseverance.
TERTULLIAN. A.D. 200.
TERTULLIAN was no stranger to the doctrine of the saints’ final perseverance. “ Satan,” he says, “cannot do anything against the servants of the living God, unless he permits, ut aut ipsum destruat per fidem electorum in tentatione victricem, aut homines ejus fuisse traducat, qui defecerint ad eum, ‘either that he may destroy him through the faith of the elect, which overcomes in temptation, or that he may openly show that the men were his, who fell off to him.” You have an example in Job. So he desired power to tempt the apostles, not having it but by permission; since the Lord in the Gospel says to Peter, Satan hath desired that he might sift thee as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; ne tantum Diabolo permitteretur, ut fides periclitaretur, ‘lest only it should be permitted to the devil, as that faith should be in danger;’ whereby it showed, that both are with God, and shaking of faith, and the protection of it; since both are desired of him, shaking by the devil, protection by the Son; and seeing the Son of God has the protection of faith in his own power, which he requested of the Father, from whom he receives all power in heaven and in earth; how can the devil have the shaking of faith in his own hand?” And a little after he observes, that “ the legion of devils had had no power over the herd of swine, unless they had obtained it of God; tantum abest ut in oves Dei habeat, ‘so far are they from having any over the sheep of God.’ The devil seems now to enjoy his own power, si forte in eos qui ad Deum non pertinent, though perhaps over them who do not belong to God.” Moreover, against the household of God he can do nothing of his own power; for when he is allowed, the instances in Scripture demonstrate from what causes it is; for either the power of tempting is granted to him, provoked or provoking, for the sake of probation, as in the cases above; or for the sake of reprobation, is the sinner delivered to him as to an executioner for punishment, as Saul; — or for the sake of restraint, as the apostle relates, that there was given him a staff, a messenger of Satan to buffet him. Nor is this kind permitted to the devil, for the humbling of the saints, by afflicting the flesh; nisi simul ut et virtus tolerantiae scilicet in infirmitate perfici possit, “ unless that also, at the same time, the power of patience might be made perfect, namely, in weakness.” He elsewhere suggests, that it is impossible the elect of God should be destroyed by Satan, notwithstanding all the signs and wonders done by him. “ God forbid,” says he, “ that we should believe that the soul of any saint, much less of a prophet, should be drawn out by the devil, who are taught, that Satan may be transfigured into an angel of light; not only into a man of light; yea, that in the end he will affirm himself to be God, and will do more wondrous signs, ad evertendos si fieri possit electos, to destroy the elect, if possible.”
Moreover, Tertullian asserts, that the work of God cannot be lost, extinguished, or cease; “for what is of God,” says he, “ is not so extinguished, as it is overshadowed; for it may be overshadowed,, because it is not God;. it cannot be extinguished, because it is of God.” And if this is true of natural good, which God puts into men, of which he seems to speak, it must be much more so of supernatural good infused into them.
And in another place he asks, “ How is it, that though Satan is always working, and adding daily to the wicked wits of men, opus Dei aut cessaverit aut proficere destiterit, that, either the work of God should cease, or stop going forward.” Vossius indeed refers us to two places in this writer, in favor of the saints’ defectibility from the grace of God.
Saul, a good man, above the rest, is overthrown by envy; David, a good man, according to the Lord’s heart, is afterwards guilty of murder and adultery; Solomon, endued with all grace and wisdom by the Lord, is by women induced to idolatry: for to the Son of God alone was it reserved to abide without sin. What if, therefore, a bishop, a deacon, a widow, a virgin, a doctor, yea, even a martyr, should fall from the rule, shall heresies on that account seem to obtain truth? Do we prove faith by persons, or persons by faith? No man is wise, but a believer; no man of great name, but a Christian; no man a Christian, but he who shall persevere to the end.” All which amounts to no more, than that the best of men may fall into sin; that none are exempt from it but the Son of God; therefore we should not think ill of the doctrine of faith, because of the falls of the professors of it; no man being a true Christian but he that shall persevere to the last; for such who do not, were never true Christians; to all which we heartily subscribe.
Tertullian, both before and after this passage, says such things as are so far from destroying, that they serve to strengthen the doctrine of perseverance.
Before it he observes, that “ heresies prevail through the infirmities of some, which would not prevail at all, si in bene valentem fidem incurrant, had they attacked one whose faith was sound and well.” And after it he has these words, which gave great light into his sense and meaning; “The Lord knows them that are his, and the plant which the Father has not planted he roots up, and of the first shows the last, and carries the fan in his hand to purge his floor. Let the chaff of light faith fly away with every breath of temptation, as much as can fly, eo purior massa frumenti in horrea Domini reponetur, ‘so that the more pure mass of wheat may be laid up in the Lord’s garners.’ Shall not some of the learners, being offended, turn away from the Lord? Yet the rest should not therefore think of departing from following him; but they that know that he is the word of life, and came from God, perseveraverunt in comitatu ejus usque ad finem, ‘ have persevered in his company unto the end,’ when he mildly offered to them to depart if they would. It is a lesser matter if such as Phygellus, Hermogenes, Philetus, and Hymeneeus, leave his apostle. The betrayer of Christ was of the apostles. We wonder at his churches, if they are deserted by some, when these things show us Christians, what we suffer after the example of Christ himself; They went out from us, says he, 1 John 2:19, for they were not of us,” etc. In the other place referred to stands this passage: “Do not many afterwards fall? Is not the gift taken away from many? These are they, namely, who creep in by stealth; who, attempting the faith of repentance, place their house, about to fall upon the sands.”
But Tertullian is manifestly speaking of such who never had the true grace of God, or built upon a right foundation, from whom was taken away that which they seemed to have; having fallen, not from true faith they never had, but from a profession of it: so he sometimes calls Simon Magus a believer, because he professed to be one; though he afterwards says, that he was cursed by the apostles, and cast out from the faith, that is, from the church of God, and a profession of faith in it. So when he speaks of some ready to perish after baptism, he is to be understood of such who have not, and never had, oil in their lamps.” Or, when he speaks of true believers losing their faith, he does not mean that they shall finally and totally perish; “for,” says he, “though such an one may be said to perish, it will be of such kind or perdition as to be recovered again; because the sheep perishes, not by dying, but by wandering, and the piece of silver, not by decaying, but by lying hid; so that may be said to perish which is safe; wherefore also a believer, falling into a sight of the charioteer’s fury, the fencer’s blood, the filthiness of the stage, etc., perishes;” yet he observes, that he ought to be sought after and fetched back.
ORIGINES ALEXANDRINUS. A.D. 230.
ORIGEN has many things in his writings which countenance the doctrine of the perpetuity of grace in the saints, and their final perseverance. “ To me,” he says, “those things seem firmer which are by grace, than those which are of the law; because those are without us, they are within us, and these consist in frail matter, so as that they may easily decay, but they are written by the Spirit of God, and being impressed in the inward chambers of the soul, firmitatem perpetuitatis obtinent, obtain the firmness of perpetuity.” Again, he observes, “ that the grace and gift of our Savior,” referring to John 4:10,14, anaphairetos kai me analiskomene, mede phtheiromene, “cannot be taken, away, nor consumed, nor destroyed in him that partakes of it.” Particularly he observes, agreeably to the Scripture, that “charity, or the graces of love never fails; wherefore,” adds he “the apostle being confident that he had received it entire, said, Who shall separate us from the love of God? shall tribulation, etc., for from charity never failing, were those words of his,” Romans 8:35. In another place he takes notice of a twofold light, the light of the ungodly, which will be put out, and. the light of the righteous, quae permanet in aeternum, “which abides for ever;” and then argues thus: “Our soul is enlightened either with the true light, quod nunquam extinguetur, ‘which shall never be put out,’ which is Christ; or if it has not in it that light which is. eternal, without doubt it is enlightened with a temporal and extinguishable light, by him who transforms himself into an angel of light.”
Moreover, having observed, as before, that “charity never falls; so,” says he, “ the possession and house of the saints never falls, is never taken away, is never separated from their right; for how can that house be separated from the priest, which is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, in which Jesus Christ is the chief corner stone?” He often argues the inexpugnableness and safety of the saints, and church of Christ, from their being built upon a foundation, and upon a rock. “The church,” he says, “as the building of Christ, who builds his own house wisely upon the rock, anepidektos esti pulon adou, ‘cannot admit of the gates of hell;’ which indeed prevail against every man without the rock and church, but can do nothing against it.” And a little after, “No gate of hell can prevail against the rock, or the church which Christ has built upon it.” Hence he asserts, that none that belong to Christ, even the least, can ever perish, or the elect be deceived; his words are these; after citing the passage in Matthew 17:10, he adds, “He that is now a little one, can neither be offended nor perish, for great peace have they which love the name of God, and nothing shall offend them. Even he that is the least of all the disciples of Christ, ouk an apoloito, cannot perish, and therefore he is great, and may say this, Who shall separate us from the love?” etc. And Elsewhere, referring to Matthew 24:24, he says, “If it be possible, is a word of exaggeration; for he does not affirm, or say, that the elect also may be deceived; but would show that the words of heretics are frequently very persuasory and powerful to move even them that hear wisely.” Satan, as powerful an adversary as he is, is represented as unable to hurt and destroy those that fear the Lord. “We do not deny,” says he, that there are many devils on earth; we say there are, and that they are powerful in the wicked because of their wickedness; but can do nothing to those who have put on the whole armor of God, and have received strength to stand against the wiles of the devil.” And a little after: “ Others, who through ignorance subject themselves to them, may suffer by them; but the Christian, the true Christian, who subjects himself to God only, and to his word, cannot suffer anything by the devils, being greater than them; and he cannot suffer or be hurt by them, because the angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear him.” And a little after he adds, “So that the contrary angels, nor the prince of them, who is called the prince of this world, can do nothing effectually against those who are devoted to God.”
I own there are some passages in the writings of this father which are not agreeable to this doctrine, though frequently suggested by him: as when he supposes Judas to be a true believer, and observes, that though none can pluck Christ’s sheep out of the hands of God, yet they may fall out of them through their own negligence, or by setting themselves afar off from the hand of God. As also when he intimates, that the Spirit of God is sometimes in the saints, and sometimes not; though this may be understood of the gifts of the Spirit, bestowed at certain times for peculiar service; or of the graces of the Spirit not being always in exercise, though in being. And in the first passage referred to by Vossius, where Origen says, that the Holy Spirit is taken away from persons unworthy, and that he who is now worthy of the participation of him, and turns back, is really guilty of blasphemy against him, he is to be understood of the gifts, and not of the grace of the Spirit. His second passage is not to be met with, there being no such chapter in the book he cites. In his third reference are plain intimations of the doctrine of perseverance; he says, that they, of whom the apostle says they made shipwreck of faith, were indeed called, but not justified; and observes, that neither the death of the body, nor the life of sin, nor the vain glory of this world, nor the prince of the world, and other powers, though they desire and endeavor, they cannot separate any from the love of God. It is true, he adds, if love is perfect, and rooted and grounded; and so it is in every true believer, as to the principle, though not as to the degree and exercise of it.
CYPRIAN. A. D. 250.
CYPRIAN must be reckoned among the assertors of the final perseverance of the saints, and of the indefectibility of true believers, as will appear from the following passages in his writings. He makes this observation on Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us etc. “Nihil horum potest separare credentes, ‘ none of these things can separate believers; nothing can pull them away that cleave to his body and blood.” And to the same purpose he speaks in another place, “The church, that is, the people fixed in the church faithfully and firmly persevering in that which they have believed, nothing can separate from Christ, quo minus haereat semper et maneat in individua dilectione, that they should not always continue and remain in individual love.” Again he observes, that “the Lord, the protector and defender of his people, will not suffer, triticum de area sua diripi, ‘ the wheat to be taken from off his floor,’ but the chaff only can be separated from the church.” Agreeable to which he elsewhere says, “ He that is not planted in the precepts and admonitions of God the Father, solus poterit de ecclesia ille discedere, he only can depart from the church.” And again, “The church which believes in Christ, and which holds that which it has once known, never departs from him at all; and they are the church who remain in the house of God; but there is a plantation which is not planted by God the Father, whom we see are not made firm and solid with the stability of wheat, but are winnowed like chaff with the breath of the scattering enemy; of whom John in hi, epistle says, They went out from us,” etc. Here presents faith as inexpugnable, and says, that “the strength of believers remains immoveable, and that integrity continues stable and strong with those who fear and love God with their whole heart.” To which may be added the following expressions of his, “ The strength of hope, and firmness of faith, are vigorous with us, and we have a mind erect, virtue immoveable, patience ever joyful, and a soul secure of its own God, amidst the ruins of a decaying age; as the Holy Ghost, by the prophet, speaks and exhorts, strengthening with a heavenly voice the firmness of our faith and hope, Although, says he, the fig-tree shall not blossom,” etc. He denies, “that a man of God, and a worshipper of him, leaning on the truth of hope, and founded on the stability of faith, can be moved by the troubles of this world and age.” Once more he says, “ To whom remission of sins is given, to them the name of children is ascribed, and to them eternity is promised, according to John 8:34,35. Now this perseverance of the saints, Cyprian considered as the gift of God’s grace, and owing to his almighty power; hence, says he, “This we desire and entreat, that we who are sanctified in baptism, might persevere in that which we have begun to be.” And a little after, “This we request night and day’, that sanctification and vivification which proceeds from the grace of God, ipsius protectione servetur, might be preserved by his protection.”
Which passages, with others, are cited by Austin for the same purpose to show the sense of this great and good man, who not only held the doctrine, but had the grace of perseverance unto the end; for when the proconsul put the question to him, “Dost thou then persevere in this mind, that thou wilt not sacrifice?” he answered, Bona voluntas, quae Deum novit mutari non potest, “A good mind which knows God cannot be changed.’” which were some of his last words, as Pontius his deacon relates. Vossius refers to three places in Cyprian, showing that the saints may lose the true grace of God, and finally and totally perish. The two first of them regard one of the same case, that of Solomon’s, of whom he says, that “while he walked in the ways of the Lord, he enjoyed the grace of the Lord, but when he left them he lost it.” Where, by the grace of the Lord, I apprehend he means the discoveries of the love and favor of God to him, which he enjoyed whilst he walked in his ways, and lost when he departed from them; since he adds, “ and the Lord raised up Satan, or an enemy, to Solomon.” Which may be the case of a true believer, and yet not fall from grace, as in the heart of God, or as implanted in his own heart, much less finally and totally perish; nor does Cyprian suggest any such thing concerning Solomon. Besides, in one of the places where this case is mentioned, he says many things which confirm the doctrine we plead for. Thus speaking of the saints, he observes, that “ He (Christ) says, that they are strong and stable, and founded upon a rock of a mighty bulk, and that they are solidly settled with an immoveable and unshaken firmness against all the storms and tempests of the world.”
Again, says he, “Let no man think, bonos de ecclesia posse discedere, ‘that good men can depart from the church.’ The wind does not take away the wheat, nor does a storm root up the tree that is founded with a solid root; empty chaff is carried away with a tempest; weak trees are overturned at meeting a whirlwind; these the apostle John curses and strikes at, first epistle,1 John 2:19” Once more, “The Lord chose Judas,” says he, “ though Judas afterwards betrayed the Lord, non tamen ideireo apostolorum fides et firmitas cecidit, ‘yet the faith and firmness of the apostles did not fall,’ because Judas, the betrayer, fell from their society; so here, the holiness and dignity of confessors are not immediately broke to pieces, because the faith of some is broken. The blessed apostle in his epistle speaks, saying, “ For what if some of them fell from the faith?” etc. Now, supposing that in the case before us, Cyprian had expressed himself a little incautiously, must this instance prevail against so many testimonies which have been produced to the contrary? In the other place, referred to by Vossius, are these words, “And on the contrary oftentimes, some of those who are baptized in health, if afterwards they begin to sin, are shaken by the unclean spirit returning; so that it is manifest, that the devil, who is excluded in baptism by the faith of the believer, returns, si fides postmodum defecerit, if faith should afterwards fail.” But then let it be observed, that Cyprian does not assert, only supposes the failing of faith after baptism; and had he asserted it, Vossius himself has taught us how to understand the fathers, when they say that faith may fail, and sometimes really does; by which they mean, not the habit or seed of faith, but the acts which flow from it; and that true faith, as to the acts and exercise of it, may fail, is not denied by us.
LACTANTIUS. A.D. 320.
LACTANTIUS clearly asserts the perpetuity of virtue or grace, when he affirms, that where it once is, it can never remove; his words are these, f1926 “ virtue is perpetual, without any intermission; nec discedere ab eo potest, qui enim semel cepit, ‘nor can it depart from him who has once received it;’ for if it has any interval, if we can at any time be without it, vices immediately return, which always oppose virtue; nor is it therefore laid hold on, if it leaves, if it at any time departs; but seeing it has placed for itself a stable habitation, it must needs be conversant in every act; nor can it truly repel vices, and cause them to flee away, unless it fortifies the breast where it has its seat, perpetua statione, ‘with a perpetual station; wherefore the perpetuity of virtue shows, that the human mind, if it has received virtue, continues, because virtue is perpetual, and the human mind only is capable of it.”
EUSEBIUS CAESARIENSIS. A. D. 330.
EUSEBIUS observes, that Christ foretold, that “ the church gathered out of all nations should be aetteton kai akatamacheton, ‘unconquerable and inexpugnable,’ and never to be overcome by death itself; but should stand and abide unshaken, being established by his power, and fixed as upon an immoveable and unbroken rock.” And elsewhere, he affirms it to be a matter out of question and “without controversy, that a new nation has appeared, not small, nor situated in a corner of the earth, but of all nations most populous and religious to this day, anoletron kai aetteton e kai esaei, tes para Theou boetheias tugchanei, not being liable to ruin, but insuperable, because it has always help from God.” And in another place, having mentioned Psalm 47:9, he observes, that “ this shows yet more clearly, that the princes of the church of Christ, among the Gentiles, are translated into the inheritance of the prophets, formerly dear to God: and these being strengthened by the power of our Savior, are lifted up very high oudenos anthropon katabalein autous kai tapeinosai dedunemenou, ‘ insomuch that no man is able to cast them down and lay them low,’ because of the right hand of God that lifts them up, and strengthens them.”
Once more, he says,: “The Lord himself being both shepherd and Lord of the flock, is said to feed it by himself in strength, so that the sheep being kept with a mighty hand, and a high arm, meden ti pathein deinon pros ton ephedreuonton autois agrion kai apenon therion, suffer no evil from the wild and savage beasts which lie in wait for them.”
CHRONOMATIUS. A. D. 335.
CHRONOMATIUS was, as we learn from Jerome, bishop of Aquileia; he is said to flourish about A.D. 335, and therefore must live to a great age, as appears from Jerom’s knowledge of him, and acquaintance with him. He wrote upon the Beatitudes, and some other passages in the fifth chapter of Matthew, and part of the sixth. Vossius refers to a passage in this writer as militating against the perseverance of the saints; who indeed observes, that “they are infatuated, who, when once taught by faith’, and the heavenly wisdom, and ought to remain faithful and stable, leave the faith and divine wisdom, and either fall into heresy, or return to the folly of the heathens.” But it is plain that he is speaking of nominal Christians, and of their leaving the doctrine of faith they were once instructed in, and professed, but not of their losing the grace of faith, which they never had. He instances in Judas, “ who,” he says, “was of these sort of salts, but afterwards he rejected that divine wisdom, and of an apostle became an apostate; not only could not be profitable to others, but became miserable and unprofitable to himself.” And a little after, “Judas, of the household of faith, became an enemy of the truth.” All which only regard the office to which he was called, the external gifts bestowed upon him, and outward profession of faith he made, and the character he bore in the esteem of others, from which he sadly fell. But this is no proof of the apostasy of a true believer. Besides, Chronomatius observes in the same work, “as salt, when it operates in any flesh, it does not admit of corruption, it taxes away ill smells, it purges out filth, it does not suffer worms to be generated; so the heavenly grace of faith, which was given through the apostles, in like manner works in us; for it takes away the corruption of carnal concupiscence, it purged out the filth of sin, it excludes the odor of an evil conversation, and does not suffer the worms of sin to be generated, that is, lustful and deadly pleasures to rise out of the body And as salt indeed is put without, but inwardly operates by virtue of its own nature so the heavenly grace penetrates through the outward and inward parts of the man; et totum hominem, integrum a peccato incorruptumque conservat, and preserves the whole man entire, and incorrupt from sin.” Which may be considered as a testimony for the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance.
ATHANASIUS. A. D. 350.
ATHANASIUS expressly asserts the stability of the church, and the safety of believers, as they are established upon the rock Christ Jesus. Having cited Matthew 16:18, he makes this observation upon it: “Faithful is the saying, and immoveable the promise, kai e ekklesia aettetos, ‘ and the church invincible,’ though hell itself should be moved, and the rulers of darkness in it.” And in another place he says, “ A faithful disciple of the gospel, that has grace to discern spiritual things, builds his house of faith upon a rock, kai esteken edraios kai asphales apo tes touton apates diamenon, and stands firm, and ‘abides safe from their deceit;” that is, from the deceit of false christs and false prophets he had been speaking of before. And having elsewhere mentioned some instances, in the Psalms, he adds, “Wherefore it is manifest, that we being made one, are able, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, bebaion echein tes agates ton sundesmon, to hold the bond of love firm.” He suggests, that the reason why Christ receives grace for men, is, that it might remain safe for them. “ He, the Lord,” says he, “received, that the gift residing in him, bebaia e charis diamene, ‘grace might remain firm;’ for if men only had received, it was possible that it might be taken away again, which is shown in Adam, for what he received he lost; ina de anaphairetos e charis genetai kai bebaia phugachthe tois anthropois, ‘now that this grace might not he taken away, but be kept safe from men,’ therefore he made this gift his own, and says, that he received power as man, which he always had as God.” He also represents it as the effect of Christ’s redemption, that the redeemed die no more; for thus he introduces Christ’s speaking: “I have finished the work, which thou, Father, gavest me; the work is finished; for the men that are redeemed from sin, ouketi menousi nekcroi, no longer remain dead. But if any of them should perish who are redeemed by Christ, how would this end of redemption be answered in such persons, or the effect of it appear in them? Vossius appeals to a passage in Athanasius, as militating against this doctrine, which is this: “ When any one falls from the Spirit, through some wickedness, grace indeed remains irrevocable, with those who are willing; though a man falls, he may repent; but such an one that falls is no longer in God, because the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, which is in God, departs from him; but the sinner is in him, to whom he has subjected himself, as in the case of Saul; for ‘the Spirit of God departed from him, and an evil spirit afflicted him.’” But this must be understood of the external gifts of the Spirit, as the instance of Saul directs us to observe, and not of the special grace of the Spirit in effectual vocation; for Athanasius, in the very same page, says, that it never fails, is without repentance, and being once bestowed, is never revoked.’
His words are these: That phrase, as we are one, referring to John 17:92, means nothing else, than that the grace of the Spirit which the disciples had, might be adiaptotos kai ametameletos, ‘never-failing and irrevocable;’ for, as I said before, what the Word had by nature to be in the Father, he desires might be irrevocably given us by the Spirit; which the apostle knowing, said, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? For the gifts of God, and the grace of calling, are without repentance.’” SECTION 14.
MACARIUS AEGYPTUS. A. D. 350.
MACARIUS gives plain intimations, that such who are truly born again shall never perish, but have everlasting Fife. “The true death,” he says, is inbred in the heart, and is hidden, and the inward man is become dead; if therefore any one passes from this death unto the life which is hidden, verily he shall live for ever, kai ouk apothneskei, and not die.” Again: f1945 “The soul shall be kept by the power of the Lord, which, as much as it is able, restrains itself, and turns from every worldly lust; and so it is helped by the Lord, that it may be truly kept from the aforesaid evils; for whenever the Lord sees any one bravely declining the pleasures of life, distractions, gross cares, earthly bonds, and the wanderings of vain reasonings, he grants the peculiar assistance of grace, aptoton diateron ten psuchen ekeinen, preserving that soul from falling.” Once more: “ The humble man never falls, for from whence should he fall who is under all?” And in another place, speaking of Mary, he observes, that a divine power filled her heart; and adds, “That power, wherever it is necessary, becomes permanent, os ktema anaphairdon, as a possession that cannot be taken away.” Once more he says, that a soul “ calling upon the Lord is able to continue en pistei adisakto, in faith, without doubting.” Vossius re fers to several Homilies of this writer, as containing in them passages which militate against the saints’ perseverance. Out of the fourth homily referred to, I have produced an instance in favor of it: in it, he does indeed make mention or the foolish virgins, but then he supposes them to be such who were in a state of nature, were never regenerated by the Spirit of God, and were destitute of the oil of grace; and in it also he represents God as not ashamed to receive such that fall, provided they repent, turn to him, and desire help of him. In the fifteenth, these questions are put: Whether a man having grace can fall? whether grace remains after man is fallen? To which he replies, that he may fall if he is negligent, which may prove a loss to him, but he does not say that grace itself may be lost. And out of the same homily I have cited a passage in proof of the doctrine contended for.
In the twenty-fourth homily referred to, I do not meet with any thing that looks like the doctrine of the saints’ final and total apostasy. In the twentysixth he says, that many who think they have attained to perfection wander from the grace they have, by which he means gifts; for he supposes treat a man may have this grace, and yet his heart not purified, or be a Christian; for as for Christians, he says, though Satan wars against them without, they are inwardly safe by the power of God, and care not for Satan. In the twenty-seventh homily he indeed cites Hebrews 6:4-6, and makes this remark upon it: “Behold, they that are enlightened, and have tasted, fall;” which nobody denies. And in the same page he has these words, “He that has these things,” meaning gifts, “ falls; but he that has charity, or love, aptotos estin, cannot fall.”
HILARIUS PICTAVIENSIS. A.D. 350.
HILARY of Poictiers says many things which favor the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance: he often speaks of faith as invincible and immoveable. “This is the mystery of divine revelation,” says he, “not only to say, but also to believe, that Christ is the Son of God: — this faith is the foundation of the church, through this faith the gates of hell against it are weak.”
Again, “When he (Christ) asked Martha, praying for Lazarus, whether she believed that those that believed in him should never die; she spake out the faith of her own conscience, saying, Yea, Lord, I believe, etc. Confessio haec aeternitas est et fides ista non moritur, this confession is eternity, and this faith dies not.” In another place he says, “We do not depend on uncertain and idle hopes, as mariners, who,. sometimes sailing rather, by wishes than in confidence, the wandering and unstable either drive or leave; but we have insuperabilis fidel spiritus dono unigeniti Dei permanens, “ the insuperable spirit of faith, through the gift of the only begotten of God,’ abiding, and leading us by an unalterable course to the quiet haven.” Much the same he says of hope as he does of faith: “By him (Christ), he observes, “we are brought into the hope of eternity, and in this hope we are not confounded; because this same hope, nobis fortitudinis turris est facta, ‘ is made unto us a tower of strength.’ Through this hope we sustain the force of the devil and his snares, being hedged about tutissima fidei munitione, ‘with the most safe munition of faith,’ against him and his spiritual wickednesses.” Hence he represents the case of believers to be such, that there need be no hesitation about enjoying eternal happiness. “ The kingdom of heaven,” says he, “which the prophets declared, John preached, our Lord professed was in himself, he wills should be hoped for, sine aliqua incertae voluntatis ambiguitate, ‘ without any doubtfulness of an uncertain will,’ otherwise there is no justification by faith, if faith itself should he doubtful;” for, as he observes a little after, “In the sayings of God is truth, and all the efficiency of created things is in the Word; wherefore neither what he has promised is doubtful, nor what he speaks is ineffectual.” He further intimates, that such as are built upon the foundation, Christ, can never be moved or perish. Commenting on Matthew 7:24, he says, “By the which the Lord makes himself the strong foundation of a high building, and that he who from him grows up into a sublime work, cannot be moved, either by rains, or floods, or wind; by rains, he means the allurements of flattering pleasures, and which sensibly slide into the open chinks, whereby faith is first made wet; after that, a run of torrents, that is, of motion, of grievous lusts, rush in; and then the whole force of the winds blowing about, rages; namely, the whole breath of devilish power is brought in; but the man built upon the foundation of the rock, insistet, nec moveri loco suo poterit, will stand, nor can he be moved out of his own place.” Again, he says, “ A house reared up by men’s works does not abide; nor does that stand which is instituted by the doctrines of the world; nor will it be kept by the empty labor of our care; it is to be built up other ways, it is other ways to be kept: it is not to be begun upon the earth, nor upon the fluid sliding sand, but its foundation is to be laid upon the prophets and apostles; it is to be increased with living stones; it is to be held together by the cornerstone; it is to be built up by the increase of mutual connection, into a perfect man, and into the measure of the body of Christ: and also to be adorned with the form and beauty of spiritual grace; this house, so built by God, that is, by his doctrines, non concidet, shall not fall.” On these words, the Lord keepeth them that love him, he has this note, “He will save by keeping them, that is, by reserving them to be partakers of the everlasting kingdom; but they are those who will fear, pray, and. love.” Once more, he observes, f1958 that “this is the constitution of invariable truth, in the beginning of the words of God is truth, that the new man, regenerated in Christ, vicat deinceps aeternus, ‘may henceforth live eternal,’ according to the image of the eternal God, that is of the heavenly Adam.”
BASILIUS CAESARIENSIS. A.D. 370.
BASIL gives plain intimations, that such who are redeemed by Christ, and are truly gracious souls, shall never perish. “ He,” says he, “that has chosen the narrow and laborious way, before the smooth and easy one, shall not see everlasting corruption: namely, the affliction that shall endure for ever.” And a little after, “Persuasions of knowledge, falsely so called, give occasion of death to them that receive them; which death he shall not see who is redeemed by him, whom it hath pleased by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.” Virtue, grace, righteousness, holiness, faith, and such like, he represents as what always remain, and can never be destroyed. “Virtue,” he says, “is the only possession, anaphaireton, ‘ that cannot be taken away,’ and continues with a man living and dying.” Again, “Holiness and righteousness, which are brought in the room of them (sins), are easy and fight; kai ouk eidota kumasi kaluphthenai tisi, and which cannot be covered or borne down by any floods.” And elsewhere he observes, that the preaching of the gospel has great power of leading and drawing unto salvation, and every soul is held by its immoveable doctrines, and is by grace confirmed pros ten adaleuton eis Christen pistin, in the unshaken faith of Christ.” And in another place the question is asked, “What is the property of faith?”
The answer is, “ An undoubted full assurance of the truth of the divine word, which by no reason induced by natural necessity, or having the appearance of piety, diasaleuomenh, can be moved.” Once more he observes, “that because God is in the midst of his own city, he gives it to asaleton, ‘ stability,’ whether this name of a city agrees with the Jerusalem that is above, or the church which is below.” Vossius refers us to several of the homilies of this father, as militating against this doctrine of the saints’ perseverance; but in some of them that are referred to, there are very strong expressions in favor of it; in the first of them he thus says, “ These words, I have loved because the Lord hath heard the voice of my prayer, seem to be equivalent to the words of the apostle, and to be said with the same affection by the prophet as by the apostle, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ! Shall tribulation, etc. Therefore I have loved all those things, knowing that I can bear those dangers for the sake of godliness.” And a little after, says he, “ Not that I can by my own power strive against those sorrows; but because I have called upon the name of the Lord.” In the second stands this passage, “ Prudence itself will give to one that builds a house to lay the foundation upon a rock; that is, to found it in the faith of Christ, wote aseiston diamenein , that it may abide immoveable and firm.” And in the last of them, he observes, f1968 “ that we are not angels, but men, and fall and rise again, and that often in the same hour;” and instances in David and Peter; and of the latter he says, that “ though he was a rock, yet he was not a rock as Christ; for Christ truly is the immoveable rock; but Peter so, because of the rock.” In the third of them he does indeed say, that “ sin abolishes the grace given us by the washing of regeneration; and that sin precedes the loss of grace, which is given through the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But what he means by that grace is not very evident. And in the fourth he says, that “the Spirit must needs excel them that receive, and are sanctified by him, when he comes; but are corrupted, he leaving them; he himself always being the fountain of everlasting life.” But then this must be understood of such who receive him not aright, for, as he elsewhere expresses himself, “ The saints receive water springing up unto eternal life, which opes gignetai en tois kalos labousi in them that receive it rightly, it becomes so.”
GREGORIUS NAZIANZENUS. A.D. 350.
GREGORY of Nazianzum has several expressions in his writings which favor the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance. He says, “A man may possess such a habit of virtue, oste kai schedon adunaton, genesthai ten peri ta geiro poron, so as that it is almost impossible that he should be carried away to that which is evil.” And as for the grace of faith, he says, “that, only of all things is analwton inexpugnable, and elsewhere, for the consolation of the people of God under reproaches and afflictions, he thus expresses himself; “ Are we reproached? Let us bless them that do ill. Are we spit upon? Let us study to have honor from God.
Are we made to fly? Not from God, tout ouk afaireton ge twn pantwn monon, this alone of all things cannot be taken away.” With what exultation and joy does he express himself in a view of interest in Christ! “O, my Christ,” says he, thou art my portion, which to have is better than to have all things else, monon bebaion ktematon kai eleutheron, this is the only firm and free possession.” Those who fall off from a profession of faith, and desert the interest of Christ and religion, he represents as such “who never were sown epi ten sterean petran kai aseiston, ‘upon the firm and unshaken rock, but upon dry and barren land; these are they who come to the word in a superficial way, and are of little faith; and because they have no depth of earth, suddenly arise, and looking to please others, after a short assault of the evil one, and a little temptation and heat, are withered and die.” Vossius refers to a passage in this writer as militating against this doctrine; in which Gregory advises such as are cleansed “to keep themselves, lest the issue of blood should flow again, and they not be able to lay hold on Christ; and such who have been made whole to sin no more, lest a worse thing should befall them, and should appear to be evil, after having received a great and considerable benefit; and such who had heard that great voice, “Lazarus, come forth;” and were come forth, to take heed lest they die again, when it would be uncertain, whether they would be raised again until the last and common resurrection.” These expressions, it must be owned, do seem to intimate, that persons may be purged, and yet perish; be made whole, and yet lost; be quickened, and yet die again. But then they must be imputed to this author’s great zeal for the good of souls, and care of them, and concern for them, and to his earnestness in cautioning of them against sin, and advising them to that which is good.
GREGORIUS NYSSENUS. A.D. 380.
GREGORY of Nyssa gives plain intimations of the security of the saints, and the perpetuity of grace where it is once implanted. Having taken notice of Balaam’s being sent for to curse Israel, which he was not able to do, he makes this remark on it; “Hence we understand that no enchantment is effectual against those who live virtuously; but such being satiated through divine assistance, pases uperischuein epiboules, prevail over every snare.”
And in another place he observes, that “the earth first apostatized through sin, but now, through the knowledge of God has a firm standing; we are all God’s earth, who were first unstable in that which is good, and therefore became a curse; but afterwards, being delivered from the curse, we again obtain a standing in that which is good.” And a little after, he makes this observation on Psalm 47:1, “ Beautifully he calls the souls of them that show to edraion to kai ametatheton, ‘firmness and immoveableness in temptations, isles;’ whom the salt waters of wickedness surround on every side, and yet dash not against them with so much strength os kai salon tina to pagio tes aretes empoiesai, as to cause any fluctuation in the firmness of virtue.” Psalm 52:8, he explains of such an one “ that is rooted in the house of God as a fruitful olive tree, kai to edraion to kai ametakineton tou kata ten pistin stereomatos en eauto bebaiosas, and has the firm and immoveable ground of faith established in himself.” He more than once represents the grace of faith as permanent and lasting. The good of the sons of men, which Solomon desired to see, he says, “ appears to him to be no other than the work of faith, whose energy is common to all; being equally set before them that will, and is pantodunamos kai diarkos to zoe paramenousa, all-powerful, and abides in life continually.” And elsewhere, speaking of the saints’ spiritual armor, among other things he observes, that “the shield, which is a piece of armor that covers, is, e arrages pistis, faith that cannot be broken.” He says the same of all other graces: explaining the beams of the house in Song of Solomon 1:17, “ These,” says he, “ should be the virtues, which do not admit the floods of temptations within themselves, sterrai to ousai kai anendotoi ‘being firm, solid, and not giving way,’ and preserve in temptations from being softened into wickedness.” And in another place, says he, “ He describes the house of virtue whose matter for covering is cedar and cypress, which are not susceptible of rottenness and corruption; by which he expresses to monimon to kai ametabeton tes pros to agathon scheseos, the permanency and immutability of the habit to that which is good.” Now all this he ascribes, not to the saints themselves, but to God; he observes, that “David says, Theou ergon to en eusebeia kratunein ton anthropon, ‘ it is the work of God to confirm a man in piety;’ for thou art my strength and my refuge, says the prophet, and the Lord is the strength of his people; and, the Lord will give strength unto his people.” SECTION 19.
HILARIUS DIACONUS. A.D. 380.
HILARY, the deacon, puts perseverance upon the foot of election, and intimates, that the reason why any persevere, is because, they are elected; and that if any who have thought to have been believers do not persevere, it is a plain case that they never were elected. “ Those,” says he, f1987 “ whom God foreknew would be devoted to him, them he chose to enjoy the promised rewards; that those who seem to believe and do not continue in the faith begun, may he denied to be God’s elect; quia quos Deus eligit apud se permanent, for whom God hath chosen, they continue with him.” And a little after, “ Whom God foreknew to be fit for himself, these continue believers, quia aliter fieri non potest, ‘ for it cannot be otherwise,’ but that whom God foreknows, them he also justifies, and so hereby glorifies them, that they may be like the Son of God. As to the rest, whom God has not foreknown, he takes no care of them in this grace, because he has not foreknown them; but if they believe, or are chosen for a time, because they seem good, lest righteousness should be thought to be despised, they do not continue that they may be glorified; as Judas Iscariot, or the seventy-two, who, being chosen, afterwards were offended, and departed from the Savior.” Again, “ Whom God is said to call, they persevere in faith; hi sunt quos eligit ante mundum in Christo, ‘these are they whom he has chosen in Christ before the world began,’ that they be unblameable before God in love.” And in another place he observes, that some persons may seem to be in the number of good men, when, according to God’s prescience, they are in the number of evil men; “ Hence God saith to Moses, if any one sins before, me, I will blot them out of my book.
So that, according to the righteousness of the judge, he then seems to be blotted out, when he sins; but according to prescience, nunquam in libro vitae fuisse, ‘he never was in the book of life.’ Hence the apostle John says of such, They went out from us, but they were not of us, etc. 1 John 2:19.” He represents a believer’s love to Christ as insuperable, ant the love of God in Christ to him as inseparable. Of the former he says “no torments overcome the love of a firm Christian.’ And of the latter, f1991 “there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.” “This confidence,” he says, “arises from the engagement of Christ, by which he has promised to help in tribulation that faith which is devoted to him.” And as to faith itself, he says it is res aeterna “an everlasting thing,” written by the Spirit, that it may abide. To which add another observation of his, “Because God hath promised to give the heavenly kingdom to them that love him, et det necesse est, ‘and he must needs give it,’ because he is faithful: therefore he is present with them that are afflicted for him; nor will he suffer so much to be laid upon them as cannot be borne; but will either make the temptation to cease quickly, or if it should be long, will give power to bear it, otherwise he will not bestow what he has promised; because he that suffers will be overcome; for man is subject to weakness, and there will be none to deliver; but because God is faithful who has promised, he helps, that it may fulfill what he as promised.’ Vossius refers us to the commentary of this writer upon the ninth of the Romans, but therein does not appear any thing against, but for the saints’ perseverance, as has been already cited out of it.
AMBROSIUS MEDIOLANENSIS. A.D. 380.
AMBROSE, of Milain, says many things in favor of the saints’ perseverance; he speaks of it as a thing certain, and not at all to be doubted of. “There is nothing,” says he, “we may fear can be denied us, nothing in which we ought to doubt of the continuance of divine goodness; the abundance of which has been so daily and constant, as that first he should predestinate, then call, and whom he calls he justifies, and whom he justifies them he also glorifies. Can he forsake those, whom he follows with such benefits of his own, even unto rewards? Among so many blessings of God, are the snares of the accuser to be feared? But who dare accuse them, who in the judgment are counted the elect? Can God the Father himself rescind his own gifts, who has bestowed them, and banish them from the grace of paternal affection, whom he, by adoption, has received? But it is feared, lest the judge should be more severe. Consider what judge thou must have; the Father hath given all judgment to Christ. ‘Can he damn them whom he has redeemed from death?’ For whom he offered himself whose life, he knows, is the reward of his own death?” And in another place he observes, that “many waters cannot quench love; so that thy love cannot be lessened by any persecution, which many waters cannot exclude, nor floods overflow. Whence is this? Consider that thou hast received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and piety the spirit of holy fear; and keep what thou hast received. God the Father hath sealed thee; Christ the Lord hath confirmed thee, and hath given the pledge of the Spirit in thine heart.”
Again he says: f1998 : “The righteous man falls sometimes, but if he is righteous, though he falls he shall not be confounded. What is of nature falls, what is of righteousness rises again; for God does not forsake the righteous, but confirms his hands.” And in another place, “His (the good man’s) soul does not perish for ever; neither does any one snatch it out of the hand of the Almighty, Father or Son; for the hand of God, that established the heavens, quos tenuerit non admittit, does not lose whom it holds.” Faith he not only represents as firm itself, but says, that it is the stable foundation of all virtues; and speaks of grace in general as perpetual. “This,” says he, “Is the alone possession, which being obnoxious to no tempests, brings forth the fruit of perpetual grace.” And though the church of Christ, saints, righteous ones, true believers, are liable to many afflictions, temptations, and trials, yet he intimates that he shall be preserved in the midst of all. “Zebulon shall dwell by the sea,” he observes, “that he may see the shipwrecks of others, whilst he himself is free from danger; and behold others fluctuating in the straits of this world, who are carried about with every wind of doctrine, whilst he perseveres immoveable in the root of faith; as the holy church is rooted and founded in faith; beholding the storms of heretics, and shipwrecks of Jews, because they have denied the governor they had.” And in another place, daily, it is not dashed against the rock, nor sunk to the bottom. ‘ Again, “The soul, which deserves to be called the temple of God, or the church, is beaten with the floods of worldly cares, but not overturned; it is stricken, but not destroyed.” One, more, “The righteous, placed in the house of God, tried ‘by worldly afflictions, but not estranged from the house of God, and from the keeping of the heavenly commands.” All which preservation from evil, and continuance from grace he ascribes not to the power of man, the grace of God. “Perseverance,” says he, “is neither of man that willeth or runneth; non est enim in hominis potestate, ‘for it is not in the power of man,’ but it is of God that showeth mercy, that thou canst fulfill what thou hast begun.” There are many other passages f2007 which countenance this doctrine I forbear to transcribe.
JOANNES CHRYSOSTOMUS. A.D. 390.
CHRYSOSTOM represents the church, and all the people of God, as invincible, and the graces of faith and hope as always abiding. “He calls the church,” says he, “a mountain, to ton dogmaton akatagoniston, ‘being as to its doctrines inexpugnable;” for a thousand armies may encamp against mountains, bending their bows, wielding their shields, and using stratagems, but cannot hurt them, and when they have destroyed their own power go away; so likewise all they that war against the church, tauten men ouk eseisan, cannot move her.” Again, “Neither the tyrant, nor the populace, nor battalias of devils, nor the devil himself, perige esthai auton ischusen, are able to prevail against them, the saints.” He not only observes, that faith is a foundation, and the rest the building; but f2011 calls it tes petras tes arragous, “the unbroken rock;” and adds, “neither rivers nor winds failing upon us can do us any hurt, for we stand unshaken upon the rock.” And elsewhere, “Well does he say, in which we stand; for such is the grace of God, that ouk echei telos, ouk eide peras, it has no end, it knows no bounds.” And in another place he observes, that the apostle “ rightly calls faith a shield, for as that is cast about the whole body, being as a wall, so is faith, panta gar aute eikei, ‘for all things give way to it;’ wherewith,” says he, “ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one; ouden gar dunatai touton ton thureon diakopsai, seeing nothing is able to cut this shield in pieces.” And elsewhere he asks, f2014 “Are our good things in hopes? In hopes, but not human; these fail, and often make the man that hopes ashamed; or he dies, who is expected to do these things; or if he lives, he changes; ours are not such, alla bebaia kai akinetos e elpis , but our hope is firm and immovable.” There are two or three places in this writer referred to by Vossius, against the saint’s perseverance, which have not occurred to me; and the last of these references is to a homily, which, and many others with it, he owns is none of his, but a collection from him; and, as he observes, is not to be depended upon as genuine; it being usual with such collectors to add things foreign to the doctrine of Chrysostom, and out of other authors.
HIERONYMUS. A.D. 390.
JEROM says many things which countenance the doctrine of the perseverance of the church, of righteous persons, true believers, and regenerate ones. Upon Amos 9:14, he has this note, “From hence we understand, that the church, to the end of the world, will be shaken indeed with persecution, sed nequaquam posse subverti, ‘but can in nowise be overthrown;’ will be attempted but not overcome; and this will be, because the Lord God omnipotent, or the Lord God of it, that is, of the church, hath promised that he will do it,” And in another place says, f2018 We know that the church, in faith, hope and love, is inaccessible and inexpugnable, there is none in it immature, every one is docible; impetu irrumpere vel arte illudere potest nullus, no one by force can break in upon it, or by art illude it.” And elsewhere he observes, that “as the islands are indeed smitten with frequent whirlwinds, storms, and tempests, but are not overthrown, for an example of the evangelic house, which is founded upon a rock of a mighty bulk; so the churches which hope in the law, and in the name of the Lord the Savior, speak by’ Isaiah, saying, I am a strong city, a city which is not assaulted;’. that is, so as to be taken and destroyed.
Much like to this is his remark, on Isaiah 51:5, The right hand and arm of the Lord is he who saves for himself those who first were lost, ut nullus periret de his quos ei Pater dederat, ‘that none of them might perish whom the Father had given to him;’ for that either the souls of the saints, who in the midst of the persecutions of this world, anna in Deum solididatae sunt fide, ‘are established with a firm faith in God,’ or the multitude of churches among the Gentiles, are called isles, we have frequently declared,” Having mentioned Proverbs 24:17, he puts these questions, “If he falls, how is he just? If just, how does he fall?” which he answers thus, “but he does not lose the name of a just man, who by repentance, always rises again:” moreover, having cited Psalm 92:12, he explains it after this manner, “They that are planted in the house of the Lord are just men in ecclesia conformati, ‘established in the church;’ but they, not at present, but hereafter shall flourish in the courts of the Lord, where there is pure and safe possession.” And, says he, in another place, “Dost thou say that the resurrection is of the soul, or of the flesh I answer, Which with the soul is regenerated in the laver; Et quomodo peribit quae in Christo renata est, And how shall that perish which is regenerated in Christ?” And else where he observes, that “he who with his whole mind trusts in Christ, though as a fallen man he was dead in sin, fide sua vivit in perpetuum, by his faith lives for ever.” Once more, “The building,” says he, “which is laid upon the foundation of Christ, of which the apostle speaks, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, nunquum destruetur, sed permanebit in perpetuam shall never be destroyed, but shall abide for ever.” He asserts the security of the saints notwithstanding all the efforts and attempts of Satan by his power and policy to destroy them. “He” (the devil,) says ‘he, “will endeavor to enter into Judah, that is, the house of confession, and frequently, through them who are negligent in the church, he will come up even to the neck, desiring to suffocate believers in Christ; and he will stretch out his wings, filling the whole country of Immanuel, sed non poterit obtinere, quia habet Judas praesentem Deum, but cannot obtain, because Judah has God present with him.” Upon Isaiah 14:16, he makes this remark, “He shook, he does not overthrow; hence one of them that were shaken, and yet did not fall, says, my feet were almost gone; and the apostle speaks to believers to take the amour of God, and stand against the snares of the devil. The house indeed which is founded on a rock, is not shaken by any tempest; that is, so as to be overthrown. He has another passage to the same effect. “When,” says he, “the devil shall come, who is, by interpretation, the reprover and corrector, upon the land and country of believers, and of them whom the Lord shall feed, in the strength and in the majesty of the Lord his God; and he, the devil, shall tread upon them through various tribulations, and as a proud man shall ascend and depress the houses of our souls, that is, our bodies, et tamen nihil nos a Christi charitate separaverit, yet nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ.”
The grace of love he more thou once represents as that which shall abide, and never be lost. Upon Matthew 34:12, he has this note; “he does not deny the faith of all, but many, for many are called, but few chosen; for in the apostles, et similibus eorum, permansura est charitas, ‘and them that are like them, love remains;’ concerning which it is written in Song of Solomon 8:7, Romans 8:35.” And in another place he expresses himself thus; “And because love never fails, he who is in the soundness of love,” that is, as he explains it in the same place, “who loves the Lot with all his soul, with all his heart, and with all his strength, nunquam et ipse corruit, he himself also never falls,’ according to Romans 8:35.”
Now this perseverance and continuance in grace he denies is owing to the free will of man, but is to be ascribed to the mercy and power of God; which he concludes from 2 Thessalonians 3:3, ergo non liberi arbitrii potestatesed Dei clementia conservamur , “therefore,” says he, “we are preserved, not by the power of free will, but by the clemency of God.”
And a little after, having mentioned the words of Christ to Peter in Luke 22:32, he thus addresses the Pelagians et certe juxto vos in apostoli erat positum potestate, si voluisset, ut non deficeret fides ejus, “but truly, according to you, it was in the power of the apostle, if he would, that his faith should not fail.” Jerom does indeed sometimes f2033 speak of the Spirit of God being taken away and quenched, but then by the Spirit, he means the gifts of the Spirit, such as are mentioned in Corinthians 12:8-10. The text in Ecclesiastes 7:15, he understands, f2034 not of one that is really just, but of one who seems to himself to be so. It must be owned that there are some expressions of Jerom’s here and there, which are not easy to be reconciled either with himself or this doctrine; as when he seems to make the perpetuity of God’s gifts to depend upon the worthiness of men, and men’s continuance of grace to lie in the power of their wills, contrary to what he at other times asserted, which has been already observed; as also when he says that “God indeed has planted, and no man can root up his plantation; but because this planting is in his own free will, no other can root up, nisi ipsa praebuerit assensum, unless that assents to it.” And in another place he says, that “though no one can pluck out of the hand of God, yet he that is held may fall out of the hand of God, propria voluntate, by his own will. And again, that “he who is like an adamant stone, which cannot be hurt or overcome by any, yet may be dissolved by the alone heat of deadly lust.” And this he says after he had expressed the doctrine of the saints’ perseverance in a very strong manner. Moreover, he asserts, that the Ethiopians may, upon repentance, become the children of God; and the children of God, by falling into sin, may become Ethiopians; and yet in the same leaf stands a testimony to the doctrine of perseverance, which is cited above. But these must be reckoned among Jerom’s unguarded expressions, by which we are not to form a judgment of his sentiments against the numerous testimonies produced to the contrary.