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PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS PROVED - A, PREVIOUS LECTURE - NEXT SECTION - HELP - FACEBOOK
The following considerations, taken together, seem to me to establish the truth of the doctrine in question beyond reasonable doubt.
1. God has from eternity resolved upon the salvation of all the elect. This we have seen. No one of this number will ever be lost. These are given to Christ from eternity, as a seed to serve Him. The conversion, perseverance, and final salvation of the elect, we have seen to be secured. Their conversion, perseverance, and salvation, are secured by means of the grace of God in Christ Jesus, prevailing through the gospel so to influence their free will as to bring about this result. The instructions, promises, threatenings, warnings, arguments of the Bible, with all the influences with which they are surrounded, are the instrumentalities by means of which the Holy Spirit converts, sanctifies, and saves them. At every step, as Fletcher acknowledges, "grace is beforehand with free will." God first comes to, and moves upon, the sinner; but the sinner does not come to and move, or attempt to move, God. God first draws, and the sinner yields. God calls and the sinner answers. The sinner would never approach God, did not God draw him.
Again: God calls effectually, but not irresistibly, before the sinner yields. He does not yield and answer to a slight call. Some indeed wait to be drawn harder, and to be called louder and longer than others; but no one, in fact, comes to God until effectually persuaded to do so; that is, until he is effectually hunted from his refuges of lies, and drawn with so great and powerful a drawing, as not to force, but to overcome his reluctance or voluntary selfishness, and as to induce him to turn to God and to believe in Christ. That the sinner is wholly disinclined to obey, up to the very moment in which he is persuaded and induced to yield, there can be no doubt. His turning, as we have seen, is an act of his own, but he is induced to turn by the drawings of the Holy Spirit.
Every person who was ever truly converted knows, that his conversion is not to be ascribed to himself, in any other sense, than that he finally consented, being drawn and persuaded by the Holy Spirit. The glory belongs to God, for the sinner only yielded after, perhaps, prolonged resistance, and never until after he was so convinced as to have no further excuse or apology for sin, nor until the Spirit, by means of truth, and argument, and persuasion, fairly overcame him, and constrained, not forced him to submit. This is a brief statement of the facts connected with the conversion of every soul that was ever converted to God. This is true of the conversion of all the elect of God; and if others besides the elect are ever converted, this is a true account of their conversion.
Again: the same is true of their perseverance in holiness, in every instance, in every act. The saints persevere, not by virtue of a constitutional change, but as a result of the abiding and indwelling influence of the Holy Spirit. "Free grace is always beforehand with free will"; that is, the will never obeys, in any instance, nor for one moment, except as it is persuaded to do so as really as at the first. The work begun by the Holy Spirit is not carried on, except as the same Spirit continues to work in the saints to will and to do of His good pleasure. Saints do not begin in the Spirit, and then become perfect through or by the flesh. There is no holy exercise that is not as really to be ascribed to the grace and to the influence of the Holy Spirit, as is conversion itself.
The saints convert not themselves, in the sense that they turn or yield, until persuaded by the Holy Spirit. God converts them in the sense, that He effectually draws or persuades them. They turn themselves, in the sense that their turning is their own act. God turns them, in the sense that He induces or produces their turning. The same is true of their whole course of obedience in this life. The saints keep themselves, in the sense, that all obedience is their own; all their piety consists in their own voluntary obedience; but God keeps them, in the sense, that in every instance, and at every moment of obedience, He persuades, and enlightens, and draws them, insomuch, that He secures their voluntary obedience; that is, He draws and they follow. He persuades, and they yield to His persuasions. He works in them to will and to do, and they will and do. God always anticipates all their holy exercises, and persuades the saints to put them forth. This is so abundantly taught in the Bible, that to quote scripture to prove it were but to waste your time. The saints are not only said to be converted, but also sanctified, and kept by the power of God.
No saint then keeps himself, except in so far as he is kept by the grace, and Spirit, and power of God. There is therefore no hope for any saint, and no reason to calculate upon the salvation of any one, unless God prevails to keep him from falling away and perishing. All who ever are saved, or ever will be, are saved by and through free grace, prevailing over free will, that is, by free grace securing the voluntary concurrence of free will. This God does, and is sure to do, with all the elect. It was upon condition of the foreseen fact, that God could by the wisest administration of His government, secure this result, they were elected to eternal salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. Now observe how the elect are saved. All the threatenings, warnings, and teachings of the Bible are addressed to them, as to all others. If there are any saints, at any time, who are not of the elect, the Bible nowhere notices any such persons, or speaks of them, as any less or more secure than the elect.
Again: the Bible nowhere represents or implies, that any but the elect are converted. It does not represent any but the elect as at any time coming in heart to Christ as at any time regenerated or born of God. The Bible nowhere acknowledges two classes of saints, elect and non-elect. But, if there were two such classes, and the salvation of the elect was certain, as it really is, and that of the non-elect not certain, it is incredible that the Bible should not reveal this fact. Again: so far is the Bible from recognizing or implying any such distinction, that it everywhere implies the contrary. It divides mankind into two, and but two classes, and these it sets one over against the other. These are contrasted by the names, saint and sinner; people of God, and people of this world; children of God, and children of this world, or children of the devil; the elect and the reprobate, that is, the chosen and the rejected; the sanctified and the unsanctified; the regenerated and the unregenerate; the repentant and the unrepentant. By whatever names they are called, it is manifest that the same classes and none others are meant. The elect of God is a common name for the saints or people of God. I cannot find in the Bible any evidence, that any were converted at any time, but the elect, or those whose salvation is sure. The elect are, or will be, every one of them certainly converted and saved. If any one chooses to contend that any other are ever converted, the burden of proof is upon him; let him prove it, if he can. But this he must prove, in order to establish the fact, that any truly regenerated persons are ever lost, for sure it is, that no one of the elect will ever be lost. But, since I am to take the affirmative, I must take the burden of showing, that none but the elect are recognized in the scriptures as saints; and as I am speaking only of the salvation of the saints, I shall take it for granted, that all those who were from eternity chosen to eternal salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, will certainly be saved.
Now, if it can be shown, that some saints have been really lost, it will follow, that some have been converted who were not of the elect. And, on the other hand, if it can be shown that no saint has been, or will be, finally lost; but, on the contrary, that all the true saints are, and will be, saved, it will follow that none but the elect are converted. For all who are, or will be, saved, are saved by God, and saved by design, and in accordance with an eternal design, and of course they were elected to salvation from eternity.
I have already said, that it is incredible that the Bible should read as it does, and that it should nowhere distinguish between elect and non-elect saints, if there is any such distinction. It cannot be said with justice, that the Bible purposely conceals from all saints the fact of their election, lest it should be a stumbling-block to them. This we have seen is not the fact, but on the contrary, that the elect, at least in some instances, have known that they were elect.