LECTURE 49 PERSEVERANCE PROVED
2. I remark, that God is able to preserve and keep the true saints from apostasy, in consistency with their liberty: "For the which cause I also suffer these things; nevertheless, I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day" (2 Tim. 1:12). Here the apostle expresses the fullest confidence in the ability of Christ to keep him: and indeed, as has been said, it is most manifest that the apostles expected to persevere and be saved only because they believed in the ability and willingness of God to keep them from falling. Again, "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant; to his own master he standeth or falleth; yea, he shall be holden up, for God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4). Again, "Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Phil. 3:21). Again, "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" (Eph. 3:20). Again, "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). Again, "And God is able to make all grace abound towards you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work" (2 Cor. 9:8). "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that we may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1:18-20). Again, "Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:5). These and many other passages prove beyond a doubt that God is able to preserve His saints.
3. God is not only able to keep all that come to Christ or all true Christians, but He is also willing. But Christ has settled this question, as we have seen.
"All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me; And this is the Father's will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 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" (John 6:37-40).
Here, then, we have just seen these two points settled, namely, that God is able to save all saints, or all who at any time truly believe and come to Christ; and, that He is willing, or wills to do it. Now if He is both able and willing to keep and save all the saints, He certainly will do it.
But here I know it will be objected, that by this course of argument, the doctrine of universal salvation may be established. The Bible, it is said, represents God as both able and willing to save all men, and if His being both able and willing to save the saints, proves that they will all be saved, it follows that His being able and willing to save all men proves that all men will be saved. But the cases are not parallel; for God nowhere professes ability to save all men, but on the contrary, disclaims such ability, and professes to be unable to save all men; that is, He cannot, under the circumstances, wisely save them, nor can He wisely do any more for saints or sinners than He does. No passage can be found in the Bible, in which God asserts His ability to save all men. The passages that affirm that "God can do all things" (Deut. 3:24), and that "nothing is too hard for the Lord" (Jerem. 32:17), and the like, cannot be understood as affirming God's ability to save all men. They do imply, that He has power to do whatever is an object of physical omnipotence; but to save sinners is not an object of physical power. Their salvation, if accomplished at all, must be brought about by a moral and persuasive influence, and not by the exercise of physical omnipotence. In the sense in which we can justly apply the terms ability and inability to this subject, God is really unable to do what it is unwise for Him to do. He has an end in view. This end is the highest good and blessedness of universal being. This end can be accomplished only by the appropriate means, or upon certain conditions. These conditions include the perfect holiness of moral agents. If God cannot wisely use such means as will secure the conversion and sanctification of sinners, He cannot save them. That is, He is unable to save them. This He repeatedly professes to be unable to do.
"Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die, saith the Lord God; and not that he should return from his ways, and live? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God; wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye" (Ezek. 18:23, 32).
"Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezek. 33:11).
"What could have been done more to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" (Isaiah 5:4). "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? My heart is turned within Me, My repentings are kindled together" (Hosea 11:8).
These are only specimens of the manner in which God speaks of His ability to save sinners, and to do more for the church or the world than He does. From such professions on the part of God, we are to understand Him, as disclaiming ability to do more or otherwise than He does, in consistency with the highest good of being in general. Since the highest good of being in general is the end which He is aiming to secure, He "may justly be said to be unable to do whatever He cannot do in consistency with the use of those means that will secure this end." God, therefore, does not affirm His ability to save all men, but fully disclaims any such ability, and professes to do, and to be doing, all that He can to save them. He professes to be perfectly benevolent and infinitely wise, and to be doing all that infinite wisdom and benevolence can do for sinners and for all men, and complains, that all He can do does not save, and will not save many of them.
But with respect to the saints, He does expressly affirm His ability to keep them, in a sense that will secure their salvation. This we have seen. He does for them all that He wisely can, and does enough, as He expressly affirms, to secure their salvation. No one can attentively read and consider the passages relating to God's ability to save all men, and His ability to save His people, without perceiving, that the two cases are not parallel, but that in fact they are contrasts. He expressly affirms His ability to keep, to sanctify, and to save His elect children, whilst He repeatedly, either expressly, or by implication, disclaims ability to save all men.
Again: the Bible nowhere represents God as willing the salvation of all men, in the same sense in which it represents Him as willing the salvation of Christians, or of His elect. Such passages as the following are specimens of God's professions of willingness to save all men.
"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4).
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:16-17).
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
These and similar passages teach that God wills the salvation of all men, only in the sense of desiring it. This we know from the fact, that He nowhere intimates a willingness, in the sense of a design or intention, to save all men; but on the contrary, plainly reveals an opposite purpose or design; that is, He reveals the fact, that He cannot, shall not, and of course, does not, expect or design to save all men. By the profession of a willingness to save all men, we can therefore justly understand Him to mean, only that He desires the salvation of all men, and that He would secure their salvation if He wisely could. This is all that we can understand Him as affirming, unless we would accuse Him of self-contradiction.
But He professes a willingness to save His elect, or in other words, all regenerate persons, or all believers in Christ, and all whoever will truly believe in Him, in the sense of purposing or designing to save them. This is most manifest from the scriptures we have already examined, and this will still further appear from the passages to be examined.
We have seen that the Father has given a certain number to Christ, with express design to secure their salvation; that He has committed to Him all the requisite power and influences to save them, and that they will actually be saved. Nothing like this can be found in the Bible, respecting any other class of men whatever. This objection, then, is without foundation, and the argument from the ability and willingness of God to save His saints, remains in full force and conclusiveness.
4. Again: Christ expressly prayed for all believers, and in a manner that secures their being kept and saved:
"As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him. I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world; Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are of Thee; For I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me. I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me, for they are Thine. And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy name: those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe Me through their word. That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me. 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, for Thou lovest Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:2, 6-14, 0-24).
Now observe, that in this most affecting prayer Christ says:
(1.) Verse 2. "As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him." We have seen, that, in the 6th chapter of this book Christ expressly teaches, that all are given to Him that come to Him by the Father.
(2.) He proceeds to affirm, that He had in the exercise of this power kept in His Father's name all who had been given, and had come to Him, and had lost none.
(3.) He asks the Father henceforth to keep them in His own name, as He was about to leave them, as to His bodily presence. He says, verse 15, "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil." Again, He says, 20-24: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word. That they all may be one in us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me. 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; for Thou lovest Me before the foundation of the world."
Now, as surely as Christ's prayer is answered, all believers will be saved; that is, at least all who ever have believed, or ever will believe, subsequent to the offering of this prayer. But Christ's prayers are always answered.
To this it is objected, that a part of this same prayer is not answered, and of course never will be. It is said, for example, that in the 21st verse He prays for the union of all believers, which has been far enough from having been answered. The verse reads, "That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me." Here He explains the sense in which He prays that all believers may be one, not that they should be all of one denomination or creed, but that they should possess one and the same spirit; that the same spirit that united the Father and the Son, that is, the Holy Spirit, who is in the Father and the Son, might also be in all Christians. This is plainly His meaning; and that this is true of all real Christians, that they possess the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit that dwells in the Father and the Son, no one can doubt who understands and believes his Bible.
But it is objected again, that Christ prayed to be delivered from crucifixion, and His prayer was not answered.
I reply, that He did not pray for this, if at all, unqualifiedly. He says, "If it be possible, nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt" (Matt. 26:39). If it were the pains of the cross from which His soul shrunk in the garden, and from which He desired, if possible, to be excused, it is plain that He did not pray unqualifiedly to be delivered; but, on the contrary, submitted the question to the will of His Father. But in the prayer, in John 17, He made no such condition. He knew that in this case it was His Father's will to grant His request. Of this He had expressly informed His disciples, as we have seen; that is, that it was His Father's will to keep and save all who were given to Christ, and had been drawn by the Father to Christ. The spirit of this petition accords precisely with His teaching upon the subject. He had taught before that all believers would be kept and saved, and that this was His Father's will; now, could He, either expressly or impliedly, in this prayer, put in the condition that was in the prayer just referred to, namely, "If it be Thy will?" But, although what has been said is a full answer to the assertion that Christ's prayers were not always answered, it may be, for some minds, important to say, that it is far from being certain that Christ prayed to be delivered from crucifixion.
But be this as it may, we are to remember that Christ expressly affirms, that His Father always hears, that is, answers His prayers.
"And I knew that Thou hearest Me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me" (John 11:42).
Again, Paul says of Christ, "Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:5).
Here he asserts, that Christ is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by Him, seeing He always lives to make intercession for them. This, as plainly as possible, implies that His intercessions are all prevailing. Indeed, as He is the mediator, they must be.
Now let us consider how far we have advanced in establishing the perseverance and final salvation of all believers.
(1.) We have seen, that all the elect to salvation will be saved. (2.) That all true believers are of this number. (3.) That God and Christ are able to keep them from apostasy, and save them. (4.) That He is willing or wills to do it. (5.) That Christ expressly prayed for the perseverance and final salvation of
all believers. (6.) That He prayed in express accordance with the revealed will of His Father;
and: (7.) That His prayers always prevail and are answered.
In Christ's prayer in John 17., He expressly affirms that He did not pray for the world, that is, for all men. He prayed only for those whom the Father had given Him. For these He prayed, not merely that God would save them upon condition of their perseverance, but that God would keep them from the evil that is in the world, and save them, and make them one, in the sense, that one Spirit should be in them all. He asked manifestly the same things for all that in future believe, that He asked for those who had already believed.
Should I proceed no further the argument is complete, and the proof conclusive. But since this doctrine is so abundantly taught, either expressly or impliedly, in the Bible, I proceed to the consideration of a number of other passages which will throw still further light on the subject.
5. Christ expressly and designedly teaches this doctrine: "And this is the Father's will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 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. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:39, 40, 47, 51).
Here He expressly teaches, as we have before seen, that it is His Father's will, that all believers, or all who at any time believe, (for this is plainly His meaning), shall be saved; that He should lose none of them, but as we have seen, John 17:2, should give them eternal life. Then He claims ability to keep and save them agreeably to His Father's will. This, remember, respects all believers, or all who are given to Christ, who, we have learned, are the same persons.
"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" (John 10:27-29).
The whole connection shows, that Christ intended to teach the certainty of the salvation of all His sheep, or of all the elect, or, which is the same, of all true believers. But, to this it is objected, that none are sheep any longer than they remain obedient, and therefore the assertion that He will save the sheep, does not secure those who at any time sin. But I reply, that Christ recognizes all the elect as His sheep, whether converted, or whether in a state of temporary backsliding, or not. He represents His sheep as hearing His voice, and as following Him, and those who are not of His sheep as not hearing His voice, and as not following Him, "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you" (John 10:16, 26).
Again, "How think ye? If a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish" (Matt. 18:12-14).
The design of this parable is to teach the doctrine I am defending. If not, what is its design? This is a full answer to the objection, that no one is recognized as a sheep who has gone astray.
But again, it is said, that although no one else can pluck the sheep out of the Father's hand, yet we can do it ourselves. I grant that we can by natural possibility; but this objection is good for nothing, for Christ expressly 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" (John 10:27-29).
Not only is no one able to pluck them out of His Father's hand, but Christ gives unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish. This implies, that while they might or are able to apostatize and be lost, yet, as a matter of fact, they never will. What could be made out of all He says of Himself as a shepherd in this passage, if, after all, He loses some of His sheep? Let any one ponder the whole chapter and see.
6. Another argument, in support of the doctrine under consideration, I deduce from the fact, that Paul, an inspired apostle, believed it.
"Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons; Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, (Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy), For your fellowship in the gospel, from the first day until now. 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" (Phil. 1:1-6).
Here the apostle represents himself as giving thanks for all the saints at Philippi, upon the ground of his confidence that He who had begun a good work in them would perform, or perfect it, until the day of Christ. His confidence did not rest in them, but in the faithfulness of Christ. He did not express a confidence, that they would of themselves persevere, but that He who had begun a good work in them, would carry it on: that is, that he would so work in them as to keep them, and as to secure their perseverance to the end. This he expected with respect to all the saints at Philippi. But if he believed this of all the saints at that place, it is plainly and fairly inferable that he believed it, simply because he expected this, as to all true saints. He does not intimate, that he expected this because of any peculiarity in their case, that is, not because they were better than other saints, or that God would do more for them than for others. He seems plainly to have expressed this confidence, upon the ground of his expectation, that He who begins a good work in any saint, will carry it on and perfect it until the day of Christ. Should it be said, that Paul intended merely to express the conviction or opinion of a good man, that the Philippian saints would be saved, but that he did not intend to utter this as the voice of inspiration; I reply, that Paul plainly expresses a confidence that they would all be saved, and that God would perfect the work which He had begun. Now, how came he by this confidence? He was an inspired man. If inspiration had taught him that real saints do fall away and are lost, how could he consistently express so thorough a persuasion, that all the saints at Philippi would be saved? If Paul believed in the perseverance of the saints, it must be true, or he was deceived in respect to this important doctrine. But is it not safe to trust Paul's opinion of this doctrine? If any one is disposed to contend, that we cannot with strict justice infer that Paul believed the same in respect to God's perfecting the work in all saints, that he believed in respecting the Philippians, I will not contend with him with respect to this. It is, however, clear, that Paul no where in this epistle, nor elsewhere, intimates that he had higher expectations in regard to the salvation of the Philippians, than he had in respect to the salvation of all true saints. In writing to the churches, the apostles appear to have regarded and spoken of all true saints as the elect-children of God. They seem to represent the salvation of all such persons as certain, but always keeping in mind and holding forth, either expressly or by way of implication, the nature of this certainty, that it was conditionated upon the right and persevering use of their own agency. They consequently constantly endeavor to guard the churches against delusion, in regard to their being real saints, and admonish them to prove themselves in this respect, and also warn them against the supposition, that they can be saved, without actual perseverance in faith and obedience to the end of life.
7. The apostles seemed to regard the conversion of sinners as an evidence that God designed to save them, or that they were of the elect:
"Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).
"And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed" (Acts 13:48).
In these passages as elsewhere, the conversion of sinners is spoken of as settling the question of their salvation. But if true saints do fall from grace and perish, why should the inspired writers so often express themselves, as if they regarded the regeneration of a person as an indication that he is one of the elect, and as securing his salvation?
So common is it for Christ and the apostles to speak of regeneration as settling the question of the salvation of those who are regenerated, that great multitudes have overlooked the fact, that there was any other condition of salvation insisted on in the Bible. When the jailor demanded of Paul and Silas what he should do to be saved, Paul replied to him, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Acts 16:31).
Here, as is common in the Bible, faith is spoken of as if it were the sole condition of salvation. Repentance, faith, regeneration, etc., are often, as every student of the Bible knows, spoken of as if they were the only conditions of salvation. Now, it seems to me, that this could not, and ought not to be, if there is not a certain connection of some sort between real conversion and eternal salvation. It is true, the necessity of perseverance to the end is often mentioned and insisted upon in the Bible as a condition of salvation, just as might be expected when we consider the nature of the certainty in question. If there is not, however, certain connection between true regeneration or faith, or repentance and salvation, it seems to me incredible, that we should so often find faith, and repentance, and conversion spoken of as if they secured salvation.
Those who believe are represented as already having eternal life, as not coming into condemnation, but as having passed from death unto life. The following passages are specimens of the manner in which the scriptures speak upon this subject.
"But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in His name; Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12).
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:36, 16, 18).
"But 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" (John 4:14).
"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" (John 5:24).
"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. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life" (John 6:37, 40, 45, 47).
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38).
"And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:15-16).
Now it seems to me, that this numerous class of passages strongly imply that there is a certain connection of some sort between coming to Christ, receiving Christ, etc., and eternal life. Observe, I do not contend that perseverance in faith and obedience is not also a condition of salvation, but on the contrary, that it actually is. Nor do I contend that such like representations as the above, settle the question that all who at any time repent, believe, or come to Christ, will be saved. The thing which I here intend is, that this class of texts is just what we might expect, if the fact of regeneration were certainly connected with salvation, and just what it seems they ought not to be, in case this were not true.
To this it is objected, that many who attended on Christ's ministry are represented from time to time as believing, of whom it is almost immediately said, that they turned back and walked no more with Him.
I answer, that the Bible manifestly recognizes different kinds of faith, such as an intellectual faith, a faith of miracles, and the faith of the heart. The following are specimens of the Bible treatment of this subject:
"Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God" (Acts 8:13, 21).
"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble" (James 2:19).
These and many other passages manifestly speak of an intellectual faith, or of a simple conviction of the truth.
Matt. 7:22, 23; 1 Cor. 13:1, 2, are specimens of the manner in which the faith of miracles is represented.
See Romans 10:9-11; Acts 8:37; Gal. 5:6 These and such like passages speak of evangelical faith, or the faith of the heart. When the multitude are spoken of as believing under Christ's instruction, or in view of His miracles, and then as going back and walking no more with Him, we are doubtless to understand those passages as teaching simply, that they were at the time convinced of His Messiahship, and that they intellectually believed that He was what He professed to be. But their history seems to forbid the conclusion that they were truly regenerated, or that they had the true faith of the gospel.
Again: John speaks of those who openly apostatized as if they had not been true Christians: "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" (1 John 2:19). Observe the force of the expressions, "They went out from us, but they were not of us"; that is, were not truly Christians. Why does he say so? He assigns the reason for this assertion: "for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us, but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." That is, a part of the professed disciples went out from the rest and returned to the world, that it might be made manifest who were and who were not Christians. I do not say, however, that this is indubitably taught in this passage; but it cannot be denied, that this is its most natural construction.
8. The inhabitants of heaven seem to believe that there is a certain connection between repentance and salvation. "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance" (Luke 15:7). Now surely this joy is premature, unless they expect the penitent to be saved. If, after all, there is an uncertainty about the result, in their estimation, and if it may be, or there is a probability, that the penitent will fall, and suffer a vastly more aggravated damnation than if he had never been enlightened, one would think that they would at least suspend their triumph until the result was known. To be sure they might rejoice, if the sinner broke off temporarily from his sin, and rejoice at the bare prospect of his salvation; but to me this passage reads just as it might be expected to read, if they regarded repentance as certainly connected with ultimate salvation.
Again: there are several parables that seem to take the perseverance of the saints for granted, or to assume its truth. The one immediately preceding the verse upon which I have just remarked is one of them.
"And He spake this parable unto them saying: What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance" (Luke 15:3-7).
Now, why this joy at the return of a strayed or lost sheep, if there is no certainty, or scarcely any probability, that he will not stray again, and be finally lost with an aggravated destruction? Immediately following this is another parable of the same import.
"Either what woman, having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found that which was lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth" (Luke 15:8-10).
Here again it may be asked, why this great joy at finding the sinner, unless his conversion is to result in his salvation? I do not quote these passages as proving the doctrine in question, but only as specimens of the class of passages that seem to assume the truth of the doctrine, and as being just what might be expected, if the doctrine is true, and just what might not be expected if the doctrine is not true.
To this it may be, and has been replied, that there are many passages that are just what we could not expect, if the perseverance of the saints were true. The following are relied upon as examples of this class:
"Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God; Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost; And have tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame" (Heb. 6:1-6).
"But when the righteous turneth away from righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned; in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die" (Ezek. 18:24).
"When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it" (Ezek. 33:13).
"And ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake; but he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matt. 10:22).
"If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (John 15:6).
"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).
"But Christ as a Son over His own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end" (Heb. 3:6, 12-14).
"Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Heb. 4:1, 11).
"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Peter 1:10).
In reply to this objection I remark, that instead of these passages being otherwise than might be expected if the doctrine in question were true, and therefore implying that the doctrine is not true, they are precisely what might be expected, if the doctrine as I have stated it, were true. If the certainty be but a moral certainty, even when the fact of conversion is settled beyond all doubt, or possibility of mistake, if the final salvation of the truly regenerate be as really conditionated upon perseverance as if there was no certainty about it; and if, moreover, the fact of conversion is seldom settled in this life beyond the possibility of mistake, then these passages, instead of implying any real uncertainty in regard to the final salvation of the saints, are just as and what might be expected, because they are just what is needed, upon the supposition, that the doctrine in question is true. They do not affirm that any true saints are, or will be, lost. They do imply the natural possibility, and, humanly speaking, the danger of such an event. They further imply, that without watchfulness and perseverance salvation is impossible. They also imply, that caution, warning, and threatening, are needed. They also imply, that some men, to say the least, are not certain of their own salvation, and that they do not certainly know that they are saints, beyond all possibility of mistake.
Now, these things that are fairly implied in this class of passages are really true: hence these passages just meet the necessities of the church, and are therefore just what might be expected when all the facts in the case are considered. I do not intend that this class of passages imply the truth of the doctrine under consideration, but that they are consistent with it, and might be expected, if the doctrine, as I have stated it, be true.
9. Regeneration is represented as securing perseverance in obedience:
First, In those passages that make it the condition of salvation.
Secondly, In those passages that expressly affirm, that the truly regenerated do not, and cannot, live in sin.
"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John 3:9).
"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God" (1 John 4:7).
"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of Him. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not: but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not" (1 John 5:1, 4, 18).
These and similar passages expressly teach the persevering nature of true religion, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit: in other words, they teach that the truly regenerate cannot sin, in the sense at least of living in anything like habitual sin. They teach, that with all truly regenerate souls, holiness is at least the rule, and sin only the exception; that instead of its being true, that the regenerate souls live a great majority of their days subsequent to regeneration in sin, it is true that they so seldom sin, that in strong language it may be said in truth, they do not sin. This language so strongly and expressly teaches that perseverance is an unfailing attribute of Christian character, that but for the fact that other passages constrain us to understand these passages as strong language used in a qualified sense, we should naturally understand them as affirming that no truly regenerate soul does at any time sin. But since it is a sound rule of interpreting the language of an author, that he is, if possible, to be made consistent with himself; and since John, in other passages in this same epistle and elsewhere, represents that Christians, or truly regenerate persons, do sometimes sin; and since this is frequently taught in the Bible, we must understand these passages just quoted as only affirming a general and not a universal truth; that is, that truly regenerate persons do not sin anything like habitually, but that holiness is the rule with them, and sin only the exception. Certainly these passages cannot be reasonably understood as affirming and meaning less than this. I know that it has been said, that being born of God is used by John in these cases in a higher sense, and as meaning more than simple conversion or regeneration, as representing a higher state than can be predicated of all true Christians. But observe, he especially affirms that all who truly believe are born of God.
Again: Christ speaks as if He regarded those only as having truly believed who persevere in obedience. "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, if ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed" (John 8:31). The parable of the sower appears to have been designed expressly to teach the persevering nature of true religion. "A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit a hundred fold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him bear. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which, in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience" (Luke 8:5-8, 11-15).
If this parable was not designed to distinguish true religion from its counterfeits, and to illustrate the persevering nature of true religion, I do not know, and cannot conceive, what was its design. I need not enlarge upon it. Let any one read and consider the parable for himself.
Again: the parable of the leaven seems designed also to teach the progressive and persevering nature of true religion.
"Another parable spake He unto them: the kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened" (Matt. 13:33).
This parable I understand to represent or teach the aggressive nature of true faith and piety, as it exhibits itself both in the hearts and lives of individual Christians, and also as it progresses and extends itself in the world. It is in its nature persevering and aggressive, and when it once truly exists, it will through grace triumph. When I speak of the persevering nature of true religion, I do not mean, that religion as it exists in the hearts of the saints in this life would of itself, if unsupported by the grace and indwelling Spirit of God, prevail and triumph over its enemies; but the thing intended is, that through the faithfulness of God, He that has begun or shall begin a good work in any heart, will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ. The persevering character of true religion is owing to the indwelling Spirit of God.
This leads me to remark again, that repentance is made the condition of receiving the Holy Spirit; and when this Spirit is received, it is with the express promise and pledge that He shall abide in the heart for ever.
"In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst let Him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37, 39).
Here we learn that water represents the Holy Spirit. This is abundantly taught in the Bible. Now let us hear what Christ said to the woman of Samaria.
"Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again. But 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" (John 4:13-14).
The prominent truth taught in this text is, that whosoever shall drink of this water shall never thirst. In this particular respect the Savior contrasts it with the water of Jacob's well, and says, 13, 14: "Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but 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." This Christ plainly states as a fact.
That is, he shall never perish for lack of this Spirit or water, but it shall abide in him, and spring up into eternal life. The Spirit shall remain in him, and secure him against falling and perishing. The fact that the Spirit shall abide with and in all who ever receive Him, and shall prevail to secure their salvation, seems to be plainly taught in this passage.
Again, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Romans 8:9-11).
Here it is expressly declared, that none are Christians who have not the Holy Spirit, or Spirit of Christ, and that they who are Christ's do not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit; that they who are Christ's have crucified, that is killed, the lusts of the flesh. This is the real character of all true saints. Such like passages, observe, are designed to distinguish true religion from its counterfeits, and to teach that perseverance in true obedience is a characteristic of all real saints.
10. Christ represents it as impossible to deceive the elect: (Matt. 24:24). We have seen that the elect unto salvation include all true Christians; that is, that all Christians are the elect children of God. They have come to Christ. Observe, the Savior Himself teaches, as we have seen:
(1.) That no one can come to, or believe in Him, unless the Father draw Him.
(2.) That the Father draws those, and only those to Christ, whom He has given to Him.
(3.) That all whom the Father has given to Him shall come to Him, and of those that come to Him He will lose none, but will raise them up at the last day.
"No man can come to Me except the Father which hath sent Me, draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me. All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. And this is the father's will which hath sent Me, that of all which he hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 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" (John 6:44, 45, 39, 38, 37, 40).
False theories are represented as permitted to test the piety of true and false professors. "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you" (1 Cor. 11:19). Those that are of the elect, or are true children of God, will not follow heresies. Christ says, "And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him; for they know His voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. 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" (John 10:4, 6, 9, 27, 28).
But those who are not true believers will not, and do not hear and know His voice, and follow Him. "But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you" (John 10:26).
11. The eighth chapter of Romans seems to settle the question, or rather is of itself a clear proof of the doctrine we are examining. We need to read and ponder prayerfully the whole chapter, to apprehend distinctly the scope of the apostle's teaching upon this subject. He had in the seventh chapter been dwelling upon and portraying a legal experience. He begins this eighth chapter by asserting, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life, because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ: if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:1-18).
Here he describes the character of true believers as distinguished from mere legalists, of whom he had been speaking. True believers, he here asserts, are justified; they are in Christ Jesus; they walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them, that is, the law is written in their hearts; they have the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of adoption; the Spirit witnesses with their spirit that they are the adopted children of God: "If children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ"; the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in them. He says: "For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen, is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" (Romans 8:24).
He then proceeds to notice the ground of this hope: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26-27). This, observe, he affirms to be true of all who are Christ's, or who are true believers. Of this Spirit He affirms the following things: (1.) That all Christians possess this Spirit (2.) That this Spirit bears witness with the spirits of Christians that they are the children of God. (3.) That He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God; that is, that He prays in them or excites them to pray, and to pray aright, for those things which it is the will of God to grant to them. He then says, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). Here he represents those who love God, and those who are the called according to His purpose, as the same persons; and affirms, that we know that all things shall work together for their good. This he notices as a second ground of hope. He next proceeds to state, how we know that all things work together for the good of those that love God: or, which he regards as the same thing, to those who are the elect, called according to the election or purpose of God. He says, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29), that is, we know it, because they are predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son. Not if they will be, but to be, and therefore, all things must directly or indirectly contribute to this result. He then says, "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" (Romans 8:30). That is, furthermore, we know this, and have good ground of hope from the fact, that whom he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, them, that is the same persons, He also called; and whom, that is, the same persons whom He had predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son and had called, them He also justified; and whom He predestinated, and called, and justified, them, that is, the same persons, He also glorified.
Here then, he concludes, is a firm foundation for the hope of which he had spoken, the grounds of which he had been pointing out. He accordingly proceeds to say in a spirit of triumph:
"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is He that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Romans 8:31-34).
Here he says, "if God be for us, who can be against us?" and then proceeds to point out several other considerations that enter into this ground of confidence. All who love God are His elect. God justifies them, and who is he that condemns them? God is for them, and who shall be against them? God freely gave His Son for all of them, how much more shall He freely give them all things? If He did not withhold His Son, surely He would withhold nothing else from them that was necessary to secure their salvation. Furthermore, it was Christ that died, and still more and rather, that had risen again, and maketh intercession for them. If these things are so, we may well inquire:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.)" (Romans 8:35-36).
He then triumphantly affirms, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:37-39).
If Paul in the eighth of Romans does not settle the question, that all the saints will be saved, how could it be settled? Let us in few words sum up the argument, as he here presents it:
We are saved already in anticipation, or in hope; and only by hope, for as yet we have not received our crown. The grounds of this hope are, that we are in Christ Jesus, have the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of adoption. We walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. This Spirit witnesses that we are children and heirs of God. He makes intercession for us according to the will of God. We also know, that all things work together for good to them who love God, for they are the called according to His purpose. They who are called, that is, effectually called, are called in conformity with their predestination to be conformed to the image of God. Hence those who are thus predestinated are called, and justified, and glorified. Therefore, no one can lay anything to the charge of God's elect. God justifies, and who shall condemn them? Christ died for them, yea rather, has risen and makes intercession for them. God withheld not His Son, and of course will withhold from Christians nothing that is essential to secure their salvation. Wherefore he concludes, that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God.
I know that to this it has been replied, that although nothing else can separate us from the love of God, yet we may separate ourselves from His love. To this I answer, true; we may, or can do so; but the question is, shall we, or will any of the elected and called do so? No, indeed; for this is the thing which the apostle intended to affirm, namely, the certainty of the salvation of all true saints. The apostle manifestly in this passage assumes, or affirms, that all who ever truly loved God are elect, or are chosen to be conformed to the image of His Son; and are called, and sanctified, and justified, in conformity with such predestination. If this is not his meaning, what is? If this is not his meaning, what ground of hope do we, after all, find in what he says? The apostle seems to have had the same thought in his mind in writing to the Hebrews.
"Wherein God willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us; which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high-priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 6:17-20).
There are a great many other passages of scripture, of the same import as those I have quoted in support of this doctrine, as every one knows who has taken the trouble to examine for himself. But I have pursued this investigation far enough. If what has been said fails to satisfy any mind, it is presumed that nothing which might be added would produce conviction. I will therefore, after replying to some further objections, conclude the discussion of this subject.