|« Prev||Section X. That all true Believers, do persevere…||Next »|
That all true Believers, do persevere in Faith and Holiness, to the End of Life, and cannot fail of eternal Salvation.
THE doctrine of the perseverance, and final salvation of all who believe in Christ, and are once interested in the covenant of grace, has been repeatedly brought into view, especially in the three preceding sections. It has been asserted, or often supposed, in what has been said on faith, justification, and the covenant of grace; and some scriptures have been mentioned, which do suppose and assert it. But it is proper that this point should be more particularly considered and explained, and the evidence of the truth of it, be set in as clear and convincing light as may be.115
Indeed, this doctrine is so connected with the other doctrines which have been advanced in the foregoing parts of this system, and so implied in them, or follows from them, as a natural and undeniable consequence, that they who understand and believe them, will not hesitate about the truth of this. They only are disposed to deny, or doubt of the truth of this doctrine, and do not see the evidence of it in divine revelation, who do not believe man to be naturally so totally corrupt, and so absolutely dependent on God, for a new heart, and every degree of holiness, and for salvation; and that all this so wholly depends on the decree and will of God, as has been represented above: But imagine that the salvation of men depends on their free will and conduct, independent of God, in such a manner and measure, that they turn the scale in favour of their salvation, and not God, by any powerful influence of his, which shall determine whether they shall be saved or not. And therefore, if they do now believe, and are in favour with God, it wholly depends on themselves, and not on any particular, determining influence of Heaven, whether they shall persevere or not, in faith and holiness, to the end of life; consequently there is no security against their falling away, and perishing. Therefore, if the doctrines which have been advanced in this system, have been proved to be contained in the holy scriptures; and consequently, that the scheme just mentioned is erroneous and unscriptural, the doctrine now under consideration, will be admitted of course, without any dispute. In order to explain this doctrine, and remove or obviate mistakes and misrepresentations respecting it, and state the evidence of the truth of it, the following observations must be made.
1. That believers never will totally and finally fall away, so as to perish, is not owing to the nature of true grace, or any power or sufficiency in themselves to persevere unto the end; but this depends wholly on the will, and constant influence and energy of God, working in them to will and to do. They are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. It is God. who having begun a good work in them, will carry it 116on until the day of Jesus Christ.188188 Phil. i. 6. If the holy Spirit were taken from the believer, and he left to himself to stand or fall, he would immediately cease to be a believer, and fall totally from a state of grace.
2. The perseverance of believers is consistent with their being sanctified but in part; and guilty of much sin; and even by surprise, and great temptations, of particular gross outward acts of sin. But they never become totally corrupt and sinful, as they were before, and as all the unregenerate are; and they do not sin with their whole heart: They being born of God, do not commit sin, in this sense, and as others do; “for his seed remaineth in them: And they cannot thus sin, because they are born of God.”189189 1 John iii. 9. By falling into sin, they may bring themselves into great darkness, and lose all sensible evidence that they are born of God: But their faith and grace never wholly fails; so that they do not fall from it totally; but this spiritual life continues in some degree of it at least, and it will sooner or later, and will doubtless in ordinary cases, very soon, kindle up in renewed sensible acts of repentance, faith and love. Peter was an instance of this; by which this observation is illustrated.
3. The certain perseverance of true saints in faith and holiness unto salvation does not imply or suppose, that they shall be saved, whether they thus persevere or not; or that they shall persevere without persevering. It would be quite needless to observe, that such a palpable contradiction is not implied in this doctrine, were it not that some have seemed to understand it so. They object to the doctrine, the tendency of it, to make those who believe it, careless about a holy life, and to lead them to indulge their lusts, and live in sin. There can be no tendency in this doctrine to this, unless the certainty of the perseverance of believers in faith and holiness renders it needless to persevere in faith and holiness, which is impossible, as it is a contradiction in terms. If true believers shall persevere in faith and holiness, then such perseverance is absolutely necessary to salvation, and there is no other way to be saved; and he is not a true believer who does not thus persevere. 117No doctrine therefore, can more assert and establish the importance and necessity of a careful and resolute perseverance in holy living, than this. And it affords the greatest encouragement to the believer, to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling, while he relies upon the promise and grace of God, to work in him, both to will and to do.190190 Phil. ii. 12, 13.
This leads to another observation.
4. The certain perseverance of the saints, in faith and holiness, does not render their activity, constant care and exertions, needless, or suppose this unnecessary; but the contrary. It is their own perseverance in faith and holiness which is made certain; they themselves, therefore, must live by faith and in the practice of holiness; for they cannot persevere in any other way, but by a constant attention to this matter, watching and praying, and working out their own salvation with fear and trembling. To neglect this, and to take a contrary course, is to draw back unto perdition, and not to believe to the saving of the soul.191191 Heb x. 39. How absurd is it, then, for a person to say, or think, that since his care and activity, in living a holy life, are made certain, as necessary in order to his salvation; therefore he will exercise no care and concern about it, nor do any thing towards it, but the contrary! It is very certain, that he who has a prevailing disposition to think, and feel thus, is not only guilty of gross contradiction, but is a stranger to true faith, and has neither part nor lot in this matter. Therefore,
5. The doctrine of the certain perseverance of believers unto the end of life, is so far from rendering the use of means, and setting motives before them, in order to promote and effect their living a life of faith and holiness, unreasonable or needless, that all this is as important and necessary, as if this doctrine were not true, and their perseverance were not made certain.
If God have promised that all who are interested in the covenant of grace, shall persevere in a holy life, and in this way be saved; this supposes that they shall be under advantages, and have proper means used with 118them, in order for this, and that they shall have motives constantly set before them, to induce and persuade them to obedience, and live a holy life; and to guard them against the contrary. Hence the propriety and necessity of all the institutions of the gospel, directions, instructions, exhortations and commands, and the various and numerous motives, to furnish believers with proper means, and to induce them to persevere in their faith; without which, the intention and promise of God, that, they shall persevere, could not be effected in a proper, rational way, consistent with the nature of man.
How greatly mistaken are they then, who suppose, if the perseverance of believers be made certain in the covenant of grace, this would render all such means, motives, exhortations, promises and threatenings useless and unreasonable! And because these do take place, according to the word of God, they infer, that this doctrine cannot be true!
6. This doctrine supposes perseverance to the end of life, in faith and holiness, necessary in order to salvation; that such only shall be saved: Therefore, that they who do not persevere, will not be saved, but perish; whatever good attainments, faith and holiness they may appear to have for a while; and however confident they may be that they shall be saved.
If believers might be saved, without persevering in faith, to the end of life, there would be no need that their perseverance should be made sure; and there would be no propriety in promising this, as such a great privilege, and as if it were necessary to salvation. It is abundantly declared in scripture, that they only who overcome and keep the words of Christ to the end, shall be saved. “He that continueth to the end shall be saved. If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered.”192192 Matt. x. 26. John viii. 31. xv. 6. These and many other, declarations in the scripture of the same kind, are so far from being inconsistent with the doctrine of the certain perseverance of all true believers, that the truth contained in such passages is supposed, and implicitly asserted in this doctrine.119
It has been asked, why such declarations are made in the scripture, if no true believer does ever fall away; but certainly will continue to the end?
The answer is at hand. They are made, because it is true that none can be saved, unless they persevere; and it is proper and important, that this truth should be known, and kept in view, to prevent persons flattering themselves, that they have been, and are true believers, though they sit still and do little or nothing, neglecting the work of faith, and labour of love; and though they have fallen into a settled course of apostasy. And such declarations are suited, and even necessary, to distinguish true believers from others; and to excite them to care and watchfulness, lest they should apostatize; and to zeal and activity in obedience, and engagedness to persevere in faith and holiness, by a patient continuance in well doing, seeking for glory, honour and immortality.
If any say, that these declarations suppose that true believers may fall away and perish; and therefore are inconsistent with the certain perseverance of all such:—
Answer. This is certainly a mistake. They neither assert, nor suppose any such thing. Every true believer may persevere to the end, consistent with these declarations, and they may be the means of their persevering.—It is true, that he who does not persevere, but draws back and apostatizes, shall not be saved; but it is equally true, that all such never were true believers; but their faith was essentially different from true faith, and therefore, only a temporary faith; and this is discovered by their falling away. Therefore, the apostle John says, of such apostates, “They went out from us, but they were not of us: For if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: But they went out, that they might be made manifest, that they were not all of us.”193193 1 John ii. 19. These declarations do indeed suppose that persons may set out and run well to appearance, for a time; but after that, when temptation comes, fall away, because they had no root in themselves, and never were true believers; and are suited to detect such, and to warn and guard all against apostasy.120
7. That the perseverance of believers in holiness to salvation, is secured to them in the covenant of grace, is abundantly asserted in divine revelation. A number of passages which express or imply this doctrine have already been occasionally mentioned, in the foregoing sections, and it would swell this section into a volume, to transcribe all the passages of scripture, which either expressly assert, or imply the certain perseverance and salvation of all who once become truly pious: Only a few therefore, of the many, will be mentioned. Indeed, if there were but one sentence in the Bible, which expressly, or even implicitly asserted this doctrine, which is so reasonable and desirable, it would be a sufficient warrant to receive it, as an important truth.
The promises so often made to them who believe that they shall be saved, do connect salvation with the first act of faith, which supposes, as has been before observed, that true faith is always a persevering faith; which could not be so, were it not made such, by the promise of God in the covenant of grace, by which he engages to the believer, that his faith shall never fail; but that he shall persevere in believing, so that the end of his faith shall be the salvation of his soul. The apostle Peter gives this account of the matter, and tells in what way believers persevere unto salvation. Speaking to believers, he tells them, that an inheritance, incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, is reserved in heaven for them, who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.194194 1 Peter i. 4, 5. The certainty of the final salvation of every one who believeth on him, is very particularly and expressly asserted by Christ, in the words following: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”195195 John v. 24. The believer could not be said to have everlasting life, and to have already passed from death unto life, so as never again to fall into a stale of condemnation, unless salvation were made sure to him, upon his first believing, and consequently perseverance in faith unto salvation, in the covenant of grace, the tenor of which is here expressed 121by the Redeemer. Still more express and strong, if possible, is the following declaration of his: “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”196196 John vi. 37, 40. And again he says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”197197 John x. 27, 28, 29. Agreeable to this, he prays the Father, that all who did then believe him, and all that should believe to the end of the world, might be kept secure from falling away, and persevere in holiness to eternal life. “Holy Father, keep through thine own name, those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are. I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil. Sanctify them through thy truth. Thy word is truth. Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me, where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on me through their word.”198198 John xvii.
The Apostle Paul asserts, that salvation and eternal glory is connected with conversion and justification, in the following remarkable passage, in his letter to the church at Rome; where he traces the salvation of sinners, from the foundation to the topstone. “We know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of his Son. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified: And whom he justified, them he also glorified.”199199 Rom. viii. 28, 29, 30. From this he goes on to the end of the chapter, to show the impossibility, that any true christian, should be separated from 122the love of God and Christ, and so perish. The apostle John says to believers, “The anointing which ye have received of him, abideth in you: As the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie; and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”200200 1 John ii. 27. By the anointing is meant the Spirit of Christ, which he promised his disciples should be in them and abide with them forever. “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth in you, and shall be in you.”201201 John xiv. 16, 17. Of the same holy Spirit he speaks, in his discourse with the woman of Samaria, when he says, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst: But the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.”202202 Chap. iv. 14. By this Spirit, believers are said to be sealed to the day of redemption. “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.”203203 2 Cor. i. 22. Eph. iv. 30. To be sealed, is to be secured as the property of Christ, and belonging to him, and a certain token of complete redemption. The earnest, is a part given, as a token and pledge that the whole shall be granted, even eternal life.
8. That all true believers in Christ should persevere in faith, and none of them perish, is consistent with all other truths contained in divine revelation, and is really contained in many of them; and this appears every way proper and reasonable.
That this doctrine is not inconsistent with any thing contained in the scripture, has been made evident; it is hoped, from what has been briefly said, in some of the above particulars, to obviate the objections which some have made to it, from not understanding it, or the scriptures, on which they have grounded their objections. And if man be so wholly dependent on God for salvation; so that this must be determined by his sovereign will, as it has been made evident the scripture represents him to be; and he is brought into a state of 123salvation by the sovereign, almighty influence of the divine Spirit, giving him a new heart, and making him a new creature, by which he is brought into a spiritual, vital union to Christ, and made a living member in his body, the Church; and is pardoned and justified for Christ’s sake; being, by this union, interested in his atonement and righteousness; and is constantly dependent on God for every holy act and right thought: Then it is unreasonable to suppose, that after God has done all this, of his own sovereign will, and made the believer so far meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light, having delivered him from the power of darkness, and translated him into the kingdom of his dear Son;204204 Col. i. 12, 13. he should relinquish this work, and give him up to the power of sin and Satan, and leave him to perish forever: But on the contrary, it is most reasonable to conclude, with the apostle Paul, and with him, “Be confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun such a good work in him, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”205205 Phil. i. 6.
I. See how exactly the blessings and promises of the covenant of grace are suited to the circumstances, and to the heart of the believer; and to exhibit and display sovereign grace. He is absolutely dependent on God for holiness, and perseverance in it unto salvation; he feels himself infinitely unworthy of any favour, and without strength in himself to do any good thing; he is surrounded with temptations and dangers; and Satan, that strong and subtle enemy, is seeking to destroy him. He would sink into despair immediately, were it not for the promised power and grace of Jesus Christ, who has promised he will never leave nor forsake them who trust in him: But this gives him sufficient and full support, and he acknowledges and admires the wisdom and grace of this covenant, as everlasting, and ordered in the best manner, in all things, and sure; and says with David, “This is all my salvation, and all my desire.” He knows this is no contrivance of man, no fiction, but an 124important glorious reality, which has a divine stamp upon it. He believes, and rejoices in hope of the glory of God.
II. We hence learn, what encouragement the poor, lost, infinitely guilty, and miserable sinner, has to come to Christ, and trust in him for every thing he can want. Christ ensures salvation, and perfection in holiness, to every one who will come to him; and promises he will in no wise cast them out, or forsake them. He will be their righteousness, wisdom and strength. He will furnish them with the whole armour of God, and teach their hands to war, and their fingers to fight successfully against sin and the devil, and lead them on to complete victory.
III. This doctrine affords sufficient encouragement to the trembling believer, who knows his own weakness, to make a public profession, and espouse the cause of Christ before the world, and engage, by his grace and assistance, to serve him, devoting himself to his interest and honour.
Some, who thought they were friends to Christ, have been afraid to make a public, christian profession, lest they should fall away and dishonour him by their sinful conduct. This is owing to their not well attending to the promises of the covenant of grace. If they have a heart to devote themselves to the service of Christ sincerely, and choose a holy life, in obedience to him, as the greatest privilege and happiness, they may safely trust in him for that assistance by which they may live a holy life; for he has promised never to leave nor forsake them, but that his grace shall be sufficient for them.
|« Prev||Section X. That all true Believers, do persevere…||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version