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shows that he did not mention their inability as any excuse for their not coming to him, but considered it as very criminal in them, and as rather an evidence and aggravation of their wickedness. And he constantly invited and required all to come to him ; and told them their inability consisted in the strong and fixed opposition of their hearts to it. He said; " Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” We do not find him saying, since ye are not able to come to me, I will
prescribe to you some other duty, which you may and must do, while you refuse to come to me, and have such a strong opposition of heart to me, that you cannot
Nor has any one yet been able to discover any duty enjoined by him, which men may do with a heart which is wholly in opposition to him.
It is now left to the reader to judge, whether the particulars which have been here mentioned, considered in their connexion and consequences, do not prove the truth of the proposition to which they relate ; and make it evident, that in preaching the gospel, nothing is proposed and enjoined as duty, to be done by men, which is consistent with their rejecting the offers of it, and continuing impenitent.
That all true Believers, do persevere in Faith and Holi
ness, 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.
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 on until the day of Jesus Christ. * 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.”+ 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 cer. tainty 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 ho. liness, 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. • Phil. i. 6.
f 1 John iii. 9.
No 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.*
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.† 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 VOL. II.
16 • Phil. ii. 12, 13. † Heb 3, 39.
them, 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."* These and
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,
Matt. X. 26. John vüi. 31. xv. 6.