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power on earth or in hell shall be able to pluck them out of the hands of divine Omnipotence; that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his ways, shall save a soul from death,' and himself shall 'shine as the stars for ever and ever;' and that the happy subject of his instrumentality, being 'sealed unto the day of redemption,' shall be raised up at the last day, when the words of Christ shall be literally fulfilled, 'that of all which he (the Father) hath given me, I should lose nothing,' i. e. none of them-'but should raise it up at the last day.' But conversely; allowing that saints do totally and finally fall-hundreds, thousands, millions, into perdition; that sin and Satan have power to regain them as soon as they are converted, and reduce to nothing the work of the Holy Spirit in their regeneration, and in the end full victory boast,' and triumph in their eternal damnation; allowing all this, as the opposing doctrine must avow, what encouragement is there to labor in winning souls to Christ, if there is no certainty of their being his at last? And on what ground can the angels of glory, with the saints above and below, rejoice over the conversion of one sinner, having no assurance of his final salvation?
3. The subject requires solemn, individual, self-examination. Who is on the Lord's side?' 'Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? and who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart;' 'he that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.' Such, and such only, are 'saints;' and these shall hold out unto the end and be saved. These shall see God-shall stand in the judgment, and in the congregation of the righteous, and inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. O, that the preacher and his hearer may be of that happy number! Amen.
VOL. V. PITTSBURGH, OCTOBER, 1836.
BY JAMES H. THORNWELL,*
OF SOUTH CAROLINA.
THE GRACE OF GOD SECURES THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS.
ROMANS 11:29. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
REAL Christians are brought much nearer together by the gracious operations of a common Spirit than they are often willing to confess. Could they know each other even as they are known of Christ, they would find much less cause of “strife and debate" than they probably imagine. In a spirit of conciliation, then, I discuss the question of the final perseverance of the saints.
This doctrine has reference to none but Christians; and if the presumptuous hypocrite takes encouragement from it to continue in sin, his fatal delusions should not be charged upon the doctrine itself, but upon his own perverted understanding and deceitful heart. It is not a perseverance of hypocrites or self-deceivers, but a perseverance of those who are truly and really saints; and that in a state of grace. The apostle Paul concisely expresses the sum and substance of the Calvinistic views on this point, in Phil. 1:6: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." An individual must first be in a truly saving state-must have "a good work begun" in him, by the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit, before he can be entitled to the hopes and encouragements which this cheering doctrine presents. Observe the terms in which it is stated in the Westminster Confession: "They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved-effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved."
Here it is manifestly declared, that the individuals who persevere are justified by Christ, and savingly renewed by the Spirit, and, therefore, in a state of grace, and that their perseverance is a perseverance in this blessed statea state of justification-of peace with God-of love to his character-of love to holiness and of hatred to sin. This, then, seems to be the statement of the question; that ALL, WHO ARE TRULY SAINTS, SHALL PERSEVERE IN A STATE OF GRACE. This proposition I shall now endeavor to establish by a few plain Scriptural arguments.
1. It is necessarily involved in the doctrine of election. I know that those who deny the one, deny the other, but still it is delightful to us, who sincerely receive them both, to trace the harmony, and connection, and beautiful symmetry of Scriptural truth. Total depravity, effectual calling, gracious election, and final perseverance, are so intimately blended and linked together, that a
* Published by request of the session of the Presbyterian church at Cheraw.
denial of any one of these cardinal points of faith, must seriously affect our views of the others.
In the case of election, there is no acknowledgment in the Bible of those disastrous and fatal results which human ignorance and timidity have drawn from it; and if there are serious difficulties involved in it, let it be remembered that these difficulties arise, not from the doctrine itself in its own intrinsic nature, but from the limited extent of the human understanding. The objections to a resurrection from the dead, drawn from the unavoidable confusion into which they supposed that it must necessarily throw those who had been repeatedly married, seemed to the Sadducees absolutely insurmountable. And I believe that most of the objections to the sovereign election of God, drawn from the acknowledged moral agency of man, are just about as reasonable and deserve about as much attention from the humble Christian as the flimsy cavils of the Sadducees. They are founded in ignorance. The owl, it is said, is blind in the day, but does it follow, because she cannot see, that there is no light in the day? I cannot see how election and moral agency are reconciled, but does it follow, because I cannot see how, that they really cannot be reconciled? Without presuming then to be "wise above what is written," or charge upon Divine Revelation what that Revelation expressly disavows, it would be well to inquire, with the docile temper of children, what the Scriptures actually teach on the subject of election. And if it be found that they hold it up as eternal, sovereign, absolute and personal, then the doctrine of final perseverance is, not so much a consequence from it, as a necessary element involved in it. Such texts as these are not to be discarded with & sneer: "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love, having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Christ Jesus to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will to the praise of the glory of his grace wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." Eph. 1:4—6, 11. "Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." 2 Tim. 1:9. Compare 2 Thess. 11:13. Rom. 8:29, 30. Rom. 9, &c. From these texts-and many others might be adduced-we learn that election is personal-" hath chosen us"-that is, Paul himself and the "saints at Ephesus"-for he is writing to them and not to the Gentiles as such. It is unconditional or irrespective of works-" not according to our works, but according to his purpose and grace." It is an election to holiness, and therefore precludes the liberty of sinful indulgence or carnal security-"that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." It is sovereign-" being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." But whatever may be said in regard to these passages which, in my view, teach election or nothing, there are facts recorded in the Acts of the Apostles well calculated to convince the pious Arminian-facts which cannot be avoided without a sad degree of unfair dealing and shuffling with the Scriptures. I have allusion now to the case of Christ. There was a plain decree in regard to his death and sufferings, and yet under that decree the agency of man was exerted in deeds of darkness. So far was this decree from annulling human responsibility, that fearful guilt was incurred by the Jews and tremendous sufferings inflicted upon them.
"Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." Acts 2:23. "For of a truth, against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate with the Gentiles and people of Israel were gathered together for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." Acts 4:27, 28.
Now here it is said expressly that the enemies of our Lord acted only ac cording to "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," and did only what his hand and his counsel determined before to be done," and yet they are charged with guilt and wickedness" ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." So that the apostle was clearly of opinion that the absolute and sovereign predestination of God, did not take away responsibility from man nor remove the guilt of his transgressions. All the difficulties involved in the doctrine, or that have ever been charged upon it, are involved and with equal propriety may be charged upon this particular case. Election
to grace is no stronger a feature of the absolute predestination of God, than the death and sufferings of Christ, and if all the circumstances connected with the one could be positively decreed and rendered absolutely certain, consistently with the liberty of moral and rational agents, then all the circumstances connected with the other may also be determined without the destruction or infringement of the agency of man. It is sometimes forgotten in the heat of argument that personal election is not an isolated feature of the divine government, but is only a part of "his eternal purpose according to the counsel of his own wil whereby for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass."
Predestination is a broad principle covering the whole field of the divine economy; and it amounts to nothing more nor less than this: "My counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure." And unless we admit such a prinesciple we reduce the world to lawless confusion; for it must have been formed without a plan and must now be governed without a Providence. The wisdom and omniscience of God are destroyed at a blow, and the eternal interests of immortal souls are left to the ceaseless fluctuations of caprice and accident. To deny an eternal purpose is a virtual dethronement of God in his own dominions; and the voice of reason remonstrates as loudly as the voice of revelation against the disastrous and ruinous results to which such a denial must lead. To admit an eternal purpose is to admit a personal election, in harmonious accordance with the word of God and the experience of the Christian: And if a personal election to grace be established, then the final perseverance of all the elect is involved in election as a necessary element, and must, therefore, be regarded as equally settled.
2. My second argument is deduced immediately from the text, and is, to a Calvinist, only a fuller development of the first " The gifts and calling of God are without repentance"—that is, without any charge on God's part. Even granting, as I am willing to do, that the "gifts and calling" here expressed are collective and not individual, a general principle is established which secures conclusively the final perseverance of the saints. It is admitted by all evangelical Christians that regeneration is an act of God's grace, and that saving faith is a gift of God, and that no man can, by his own unassisted powers, regenerate his own heart, or exercise a saving trust in the blessed Redeemer. "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." "Without me ye can do nothing." "The carnal heart is enmity against God-it is not subject to the law of God, neither, indeed, can be." “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned." The bones in the valley of vision had just about as much power to clothe themselves with flesh and to assume the form and functions of living men, as the sinner "dead in trespasses and sins," to quicken his heart and "arise to newness of life." The views which are given of human depravity in the Bible, preclude all, even the remotest, regard for the "things of God." "The whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint;" that is, understanding, affections, and will, all are equally "out of the way." There are so many multiplied passages of Scripture which bear upon this point, that I cannot see how the conclusion is avoided that man is "dead in sin, and wholly defiled in