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  • PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS - C,
    CHARLES FINNEY SYS. THEOLOGY

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    I remark, again, that there is a difference between real danger, and a knowledge or sense of danger. There may be as great and as real danger when we have no sense or knowledge of it, as when we have. And on the other hand, when we have the highest and the keenest sense of danger, there may be, in fact, no real danger; and indeed, as has been said, there never is any danger in the sense that anything will, as a matter of fact, turn out differently from what God foresees it will be.

    Again: the fact that anything is revealed as certain, does not make it certain; that is, the revelation does not make it certain. It had been certain, had not this certainty been revealed, unless it be in cases where the revelation is a condition or means of the certainty revealed. An event may be really certain, and may be revealed as certain, and yet humanly speaking, there may be millions of chances to one, that it will not be as it is revealed; that is, so far as human foresight can go, the probabilities may all be against it.

    State what is not intended by the perseverance of the saints, as I hold the doctrine.

    1. It is not intended that any sinner will be saved without complying with the conditions of salvation; that is, without regeneration, and persevering in obedience to the end of life, in a sense to be hereafter explained.

    2. It is not intended that saints, or the truly regenerate, cannot fall from grace, and be finally lost, by natural possibility. It must be naturally possible for all moral agents to sin at any time. Saints on earth and in heaven can by natural possibility apostatize and fall, and be lost. Were not this naturally possible, there would be no virtue in perseverance.

    3. It is not intended, that the true saints are in no danger of apostasy and ultimate damnation. For, humanly speaking, there may be, and doubtless is, the greatest danger in respect to many, if not of all of them, in the only sense in which danger is predicable of any event whatever, that they will apostatize, and be ultimately lost.

    4. It is not intended, that there may not be, humanly speaking, myriads of chances to one, that some, or that many of them will fall and be lost. This may be, as we say, highly probable; that is, it may be probable in the only sense in which it is probable, that any event whatever may be different from what it will turn out to be.

    5. It is not intended, that the salvation of the saints is possible, except upon condition of great watchfulness and effort, and perseverance on their part, and great grace on the part of God.

    6. It is not intended, that their salvation is certain, in any higher sense than all their future free actions are. The result is conditionated upon their free actions, and the end can be no more certain than its means or conditions. If the ultimate salvation of the saints is certain, it is certain only upon condition, that their perseverance in obedience to the end of life is certain. Every act of this obedience is free and contingent in the highest sense in which contingency can be predicated of any thing whatever. It is also uncertain by the highest kind of uncertainty that can be predicated of any event whatever. Therefore there is and must be, as much real danger of the saints failing of ultimate salvation, as there is that any event whatever will be different from what it turns out to be.

    But here it should be distinctly remembered, as was said, that there is a difference between a certainty and a knowledge of it. It is one thing for an event to be really certain, and another thing for us to have a knowledge of it as certain. Everything is really equally certain, but many things are not revealed to us as certain. Those that are revealed as certain, are no more really so than others, but with respect to future things, not in some way revealed to us, we know not how they will prove to be. The fact that a thing is revealed to us as certain does not make it certain, nor is it really any the less uncertain because it is revealed to us as certain, unless the revelation tends to secure the certainty. Suppose the ultimate salvation of all the saints is certain, and that this certainty is revealed to us; unless this revelation is the means of securing their salvation, they are in just as much real danger of ultimately failing of eternal life, as if no such revelation had been made. Nevertheless the certainty of their salvation, and the fact that this certainty is revealed to them, there is just as much real, though unknown, certainty or uncertainty, in respect to any future event whatever, as there is in respect to this. All events are certain with some kind of certainty, and would be whether any being whatever knew the certainty or not. So all events, consisting in or depending upon the free acts of free agents, are really as uncertain as any event can be, and this is true whether the certainty is revealed or not. The salvation of the saints then, is not certain with any higher certainty than belongs to all future events that consist in, or are conditionated upon, the free acts of free will, though this certainty may be revealed to us in one case, and not in the other.

    7. Of course the salvation of the saints is not certain by any kind or degree of certainty that affords the least ground of hope of impunity in a course of sin. "For if they are to be saved, they are to be saved upon condition of continuing in faith and obedience to the end of life."

    Moreover, their salvation is no more certain than their future free obedience is. The certainty of future free obedience, and a knowledge of this certainty, cannot be a reason for not obeying, or afford encouragement to live in sin. So no more can the knowledge of the conditional and moral certainty of our salvation afford a ground for hope of impunity in a life of sin.

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