By John Rowe
For the comfort and assurance of the saints while on their earthly pilgrimage, the Lord in his word has been pleased to give them the fullest assurance of their final perseverance in his grace, and eternal settlement in immortal glory, notwithstanding their own natural weakness and imperfection, which at times threatens to prevail, yet over these, with every other impediment to the final glorification of the saints, Christ hath obtained complete victory; and through Him and His reigning grace the saints must prevail even unto the eternal day. That faith and holiness do inseparably follow election, is shown before; our business now is to show that faith and holiness are of an abiding nature, and shall never be finally lost, and this is that we call perseverance, which being the crown and glory of all the former points, we hope to be able to sustain by arguments brought from the character of God's grace, and from his holy word.
Grace is of that character that it turns not away from the work it begins, but prosecutes to its end, to the highest degree of perfection, and carries its subjects to the place it has prepared for them, and which they were appointed to. It is not enough for grace to give faith and sanctification, and then leave the recipients to run prodigal to a final waste of all such treasure. For to what end would the Lord sanctify, and give faith to a sinner, if he will not preserve him in that state. Our law provides that minor children shall not waste their inheritance; and shall men be thought wiser than God? Will not the Lord see that his chosen do not waste their inheritance by riotous living? Doubtless he will; and in order thereto he has reserved their inheritance in heaven and keeps them here in this world by his own power until it shall please him to take them to heaven where their inheritance is reserved for them, and then both it and them shall be secure.-Sec I Peter 1: 4, 5.
Let us note how cautious the Lord is to preserve men whom he designs for important stations in this life. Take Moses, for instance, who, according to the king's decree, was to have been slain as soon as he was born (Exodus 1: 16); but God disposed the midwives to fear him (verse 17), and so Moses escaped for the present, but when he could no longer be hid, the mother puts him in a little ark by the river's brink, and his sister watches the providence of God toward the child, and in order to his preservation Pharaoh's daughter must go clown to the river to wash herself, and she must go, too, to a point from which she could see the ark in which the child was concealed; for the Lord would use her as an instrument to preserve the child alive; and when she had opened the ark, behold, the child wept, and she had a compassion on him, though he was one of the Hebrew children. Moses' sister then suggested to call a nurse for the child of the Hebrew women, and when she was brought, behold, it was the mother of the child a very good nurse, one would think. So Moses was preserved, and who can not see the hand of Providence in his preservation? He was also brought up at the court of Pharaoh, and learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, because the Lord would use him after as an instrument to bring the seed of Abraham out of Egypt. But another difficulty arose. After Moses was grown, he slew an Egyptian whom he saw smiting a Hebrew, and Pharaoh, having heard this, sought to slay Moses, but he fled from the face of Pharaoh to the land of Midian, where he dwelt, until the Lord sent him back to Egypt to bring out his people.-Exodus x.
There was little Joseph, also, one whom the Lord would honor. Because his father loved him more than the rest, his brethren hated him, and because he had some dreams which signified his brethren's subjection to him, therefore they, with one consent, except Reuben, determined to kill him. Then said they, "We shall see what will become of his dreams."-Genesis 37: 20. Now, how shall Joseph escape ? His enemies are ten to one, and each one stronger than he. True, Reuben intercedes for him, but that was not it that prevailed, for they cast Joseph into a pit wherein' was no water, with the expectation be should fanish there. But God had a further use for Joseph, and was able to preserve him, though he was unable to preserve himself. Those dreams must be verified, and Joseph's brethren must smart for their sins; so, happily, or rather providentially, along come some Ishmaelitisb merchants, and Judah suggests that there was no profit in slaying their brother, and proposed to sell him to the Ishmaelites; and they carried Joseph to Egypt, right where the Lord had an important use for him (verses 26-28). Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's guard, buys Joseph from the Ishmaelites (xxxiv. 1), a person likely enough to deal roughly with him. But the Lord was with Joseph (verse 2), and he found favor in the eyes of his master, because the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake (verse 5), and he put all that he had in Joseph's core. Joseph is now likely to come to honor, but how soon it is dashed. He was a goodly person and well favored, therefore his master's wife tempts him to folly, which the fear of the Lord keeping him from, she misreports him to his master, charging her own wickedness upon him. Potiphar's favor is hereby lost, and Joseph is cast into prison; still the Lord will honor him. He gives a dream to two of Pharaoh's servants, his butler and baker, and to Joseph he gives the interpretation, which was, that the butler should be restored to his office, and Joseph hopes, through the intercession of the butler, to be released from prison. But how vain is our dependence upon men! The butler, when he is released, forgets Joseph, and thinks not more of him until the Lord gives Pharaoh a dream which troubles him; and when he had called for the magicians and wise men of Egypt, and none of them could interpret the dream, then the butler thinks of Joseph, and informs Pharaoh that he was an interpreter. Immediately he was sent for, and the Lord gives him the interpretation of Pharaoh's dreams, and Joseph is placed at the head of affairs in Egypt to store away corn against the seven years of famine. Genesis xli. Thus Joseph was preserved by the special providence of God, and that against seeming impossibility.
David's preservation against the wrath of Saul is not a little remarkable here. The Lord promised him the kingdom, and anoints him to it.-1 Sam. xvi. What! Notwithstanding all possible interveniences? Yes; the promise was absolute, and it should be made good. If, therefore, Saul cast a javelin at him unsuspected, to nail hint to the-wall, a watchful eye and activity of body shall be given him to avoid it. If Saul determine evil against him, Jonathan shall inform him of it.-1 Sam. 19: 7. If he send messengers to Naioth to apprehend him, they shall forget their errand and fall to prophesying; and if he send others, and others after them, they shall do likewise; yea, Saul himself shall turn prophet for a day and a night together (verses 20-24). If he be in a city that will betray him, and not a friend among then to inform him of it, the Lord himself will inform, and send him out.-1 Sam. 18: 12. If Saul's army have encompassed him, and no way is left to escape, the Philistines shall invade the land, and tidings shall come in the very instant, and take Saul off (verses 26-27). If a host encamps against him, he will not be afraid. Psalms xxvii. 3. Why so? The Lord hath made an absolute promise, and therefore if no help on earth, -He shall send from heaven and save me."-Psalms 57: 3. David's waverings at times, and the weakness of his faith, shall not hinder it, and the reason of all was this: The Lord took him to be a ruler of his people, and therefore he was with him wheresovcr he went. 1 Chron. 17: 7, 8.
Paul also was a chosen vessel to bear the name of Christ to the Gentiles, -and at lost to bear witness of him at Rome. This must be done, although bonds, imprisonment and death itself do attend him in every place. If, therefore, they lie in wait for him at Damascus, and watch the gates night and day, he shall be let down by the wall in a basket. If all Jerusalem be in an uproar to kill him, the chief captain shall come with an army and rescue him (Acts 21: 31, 32), though no friend to Paul nor to his cause. If more than forty men have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink until they have killed Paul, his kinsman shall bear of it, and by this means Paul shall escape, and by some effectual means he shall escape every danger, both on land and on the sea, until he shall finish his course at Rome.
Many other examples of God's special protection and preservation of men whom He designed for important service in the world might be given, but let these suffice to illustrate the point now in question, which is the final perseverance of the saints in grace. If the Lord is so careful to preserve men for lower concerns than that of eternal happiness, surely then he will preserve the saints, that none of them shall finally fall away. There is no end for which the Lord hath chosen men which is of that importance that eternal life is, and if he invincibly preserves men whom he has chosen to fill stations in this life, much more will he preserve such as he hath chosen to eternal glory, and that in spite of all possible interferences. If he hath chosen men to salvation, as he hath, and it is allowed even by such as deny absolute election, that the saints are elect after that they believe, and if the Lord hath chosen, redeemed and called a man out of darkness into light-yea, if he hath called a man from death unto life, any if any that are thus chosen, redeemed and called shall yet fall away and be lost eternally, to what end did the Lord choose, redeem and call such as fall? If any one has fallen, or shall fall, into hell, who was once a saint, the Lord knew it from eternity, and such saints as are supposed to fall into hell were not in the least benefited from being chosen, redeemed and called, and God's name is not glorified therein, but rather his name would be degraded thereby. But, you say, if a saint falls, the fault is his own. But that does not help the case at all; his being chosen, redeemed and called was the work of the Lord, and a needless piece of work, too, if he falls into hell, and the Lord knew at the time he was engaged in that work that it would come to naught; and if a man should wage in an enterprise, or do a considerable amount of labor, when he knew at the very time he was laboring that his work would not profit himself or anybody else a penny, he would be thought by sensible men to be insane. Neither would it be thought a deed of charity to settle a legacy upon an individual when the dispenser knew that the recipient would presently make way with, or waste, that which was bestowed upon him. When a father suspects that his son will run prodigal, he holds in his own right that which he designs for the benefit of his son ; and so the Lord reserves in heaven the inheritance of his children as before quoted.
All would run prodigal if left to themselves, and this the Lord knows; therefore, he provides better things. We had a good estate in Adam, and at our own will; but we forfeited all that when there was no great occasion; and if one who is naturally good runs into forfeit upon so slight a temptation, what might be expected of one who is naturally evil, and inclined to waste ? If we base perseverance upon the faithfulness of the old man, or the flesh, then none would persevere, for the flesh is faithful to nothing but sin; but if perseverance be based upon the new or spiritual man, as it is, then all must persevere; for the new man is Christ, and he hath both wisdom and power to preserve his own habitation, which is the heart of the saints. Christ binds Satan and casts him out of the heart of his people; if, then, Satan may bind and cast out Christ, then Satan and Christ prevail by turns; this is far from truth, for we know that Christ must prevail altogether. But you say that if there is no danger of apostasy, there is no need of so many cautions against it.
This conclusion is not drawn from the Scripture, for when Paul was going to Rome, the ship must be wrecked, but there should be no loss of any man's life -Acts 27: 22. This decree was absolute, and could not be reversed; yet caution and watchfulness were necessary, and should not be wanting. Paul did not conclude that an absolute promise dispensed with all need of watchfulness and case, but he watched the movement of the shipmen, and when they were about to escape from the ship, Paul said to the officer and soldiers, "except these abide in the ship ye can not be saved."-Acts 27: 31. Christ said to his disciples, "because I live ye shall live also" (John 14: 19); as if he had said, "you live because I live, and as long as I live you shall live also;" but Christ did not consider that so peremptory a promise precluded the need of caution ; otherwise, he had not given such cautions. The Lord ordinarily works by means, and as he has irrevocably decreed the final perseverance of the saints, and as he has cautioned them against apostasy, we may reasonably suppose that the Lord will make his cautions, with other means, effectual in preserving them. Besides, there are reasons enough, and good enough, for the cautions which we find in the Scripture, without inferring therefrom that a saint may possibly apostatize. That a saint may fall is evident, and as evident it is that he can not fall finally, for a just man falleth seven times and riseth up again, but the wicked shall fall into mischief (Prov. 24: 16); therefore, it is not impossible for saints `fall into sin and backslide, and cautions against this serve a good use.
But it is objected that the doctrine of absolute perseverance, if believed in, takes away the strongest bit by which our fleshly lusts are curbed; that is, the fear of future punishment. To this we reply, that the fear alluded to does not properly belong to the saints. The law is good; if lawfully used, it may do good service as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith (Galatians 3: 24), but when brought to Christ and justified by faith, then we need not the law to teach or to circle, for then we learn of Christ (Matthew 11: 29), and his love constraineth us.-2 Cor. 5: 14. Besides, in effectual calling, the saints receive not the spirit of bondage again to fear Rom. 8: 15. Such as are under the law, and apprehend its wrath, may indeed fall into hell, and if they do not, it will not be their fear of wrath that will keep them. Christ takes away the fear of wrath from his chosen by shedding his love abroad in their hearts, for perfect love casteth out fear. 1 John 4: 8. There is a fear, however, which properly belongs to the saints. To fear God is our duty (Eccl. 12: 13), but this is not that fear which perfect love casts out; that is, it is not that fear of God's wrath which is supposed to be necessary to circle our lust; but rather it is that filial fear which so well becomes children of noble parentage, and as the affectionate wife fears to wound the feelings of a loving husband. This is that fear which circles the fleshly lusts of the saints,-of which they, perhaps, know nothing,-who think that a fear of hell-fire is that which circles. If it is asked, How do the saints persevere? The answer must be, By faith. Then faith is the gift of God, and the saints' perseverance is by that gift; and if the Lord gives faith at all, then he will continually give it; and as long as the Lord gives faith, the saints are secure by it. Christ prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail (Luke 22: 32); therefore his faith failed not. Satan desired him, that he might sift him as wheat (verse 31); but the Lord prayed for Peter, and His prayer secured Peter's faith, and that secured him otherwise. His faith might have failed, and so might the faith of others; but if the Lord suffers Satan to lay his hand upon a saint, yet he shall not touch his life (Job 2: 6); he may operate upon the flesh, and winnow them as wheat; he may cause them to backslide and run astray, but their life is out of his reach. If salvation could be supposed to be by works, then final apostasy might be supposed upon that ground, for whatever may be obtained by care and attention may be lost by indolence and neglect; but if we Suppose that salvation is entirely of grace, it is certain it could not be so without the grace of perseverance. Whatever it is that first gives us a heavenward course, must keep us in that route. David did not feel a sufficiency of' himself to persevere, but calls upon the Lord to keep him "back from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me," is his cry (Psalms 19: 13); and if David was thus dependent, one whom the Lord stems to glory in, who he said was a man after his own heart, surely then his weaker children need his constant protection and restraint from evil.
But you say that the Lord does not. leave any without his helping hand ; and you say further, that some have apostatized and gone to perdition; and if they have, with the help of the Lord, then we suppose it could not have been helped; and if the help of The Lord is not sufficient for perseverance, then what of our reliance upon his help? You say that such as fall would help themselves. Help themselves, indeed! If we could not help ourselves, then we would not need the Lord's help. You say that they that fall would not do what they could; but Christ says without me ye can do nothing.- John 15: 5.
It is vain, therefore, to talk about our doing without Christ; and it is equally vain to talk about a saint's apostatizing with his help, for the first help of Christ is to help our unwillingness to help ourselves; and the next is to show us that we can not help ourselves; and thirdly, he helps us to trust entirely in him, but this help, we fear, they have not received who hold so stiffly the capacity of man. All admit that there is none that can live in this world entirely free from sin; the best of men are liable to be tempted to err, and all do err at times, either in word, thought or deed. So all would admit that a saint might be guilty of some sin, and yet not fall finally. This being so, if any ever have or shall fall finally, it must be by the commission of some particular sin, or else it must be some degree which the saint goes into sin, either of which must be a very delusive thought; for if a saint falls, and goes to hell for the commission of some particular sin, then no other sin subjects him to wrath but that one; he may, with impunity, go into all other sin, but he falls not; be is safe. If that particular sin should be murder, then the saint may thieve, lie, commit adultery, fornication-yea, he may be covetous, drunken, a blasphemer, proud, heady, high-minded, vain, effeminate, and commit any other ungodliness, and so that he does not commit murder he is safe; he is pardoned for all other sins. We suppose that none would take this side of the question, and so if a saint fall finally it must be some particular degree of sin into which they go-sin which causes them to fall from the love of God and go down to perdition. If you reject the former, the latter position you must take, or yield the point and admit the Bible doctrine of absolute perseverance. Now, if it is the degree of sin committed which causes a saint to fall finally, what degree would likely cause him to fall ? It matters not what number we take. Put it twenty degrees, and upon this supposition a saint may, with safety, go nineteen degrees into sin and rebellion against God without the least degree of disqualification for heaven. He may go thus far in sin, and yet be a saint; and if a saint still, of course all that nineteen degrees of sin is forgiven him; and, if forgiven, he never can be punished at all for that which he is forgiven. Hence such as are supposed to fall must be supposed to suffer the vengeance of eternal Fire for one degree of sin, after that nineteen degrees had been forgiven them. This theory is so absolutely absurd, that it is with a good degree of diffidence that I use any argument to expose it; and if an apology should be thought due, I offer the following 1 do not doubt that there are real saints who have been so far bewitched as to imagine that Christ will finally divorce his spouse on some possible contingency, and break his everlasting covenant with his children, by taking his laws out of their minds, and blotting out his own handwriting in their hearts. Perilous times have come, and evil men and seducers have waxed worse, until some of the very elect, no doubt, have been to some extent deceived. Thanks to God, they shall not be deceived finally.
Not long since I was
accidentally, or providentially, thrown into company with an old man who had
cast in his lot with such thieves as would rob Christ of his glory in preserving
'his children. He said this when young, as a saint, and was made to believe that
such a thing was possible that a saint should apostatize and lose his
inheritance. Alas, for him! He had backslidden
to some extent, and appeared to think that he had he told me how the Lord had discovered to him his wretched condition as a poor, helpless sinner, and how he had given him rest and hope in his righteousness, "but alas," said he, "I shall never enjoy such comforts again." As he manifested a deep concern in the matter, I endeavored to console him by discoursing upon the everlasting character of God's love and mercy, and the manner in which, and principle upon which, his love embraced his chosen, even when they were dead in sins. I told them that God's love was like himself, eternal, and that whom he loved he loved to eternity; and, therefore, if he had ever been an object of God's love, he would again manifest it to him. On hearing this the old man shed tears freely, and appeared much comforted. I know that a saint is none the better for believing that he may possibly be disinherited, and if I could I would speak to the ends of the earth and say to the saints, that their victory is sure. Christ has won the field, and though there may be straggling parties of the enemy still in view of the saints, yet they are disbanded, and will flee even at the presence of Christ.
But it is objected that many of Christ's disciples "went back and walked no more with him."-John 6: 66. This objection hath a sufficient answer made ready to its hand in 1 John 2: 19: "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." Let us note the cause of this apostasy, or going back. Christ preached to them that no man could come to him except it were given him of his rather, and we suppose such as went back were free willers, and did not like the doctrine. When disciples, who are only such outwardly, that is, such as make only an outward show of religion by conforming to the ordinances of Christ, hear the truth proclaimed, it is sure to cut them off; they go back universally; but if the real disciples, such as are circumcised in heart, be asked if they will also go away, the answer always is, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."-John 6: 68. Let a man's fleshly sympathy be wrought upon by eloquent discourses from the law, and terror of the Lord; let frightful imaginations of hell fire be thundered in his ears until he becomes frightened half out of his senses, and he will be very religious for a while, but such conversions do not generally last long; when the excitement passes off, all is gone that effected any change in the individual, and like the dog he turns to his vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire again (2 Peter 2: 22) ; and when a man is converted and falls in this manner a few times, he is apt to become a set infidel, and has no confidence in any one's religion. He knows his own was spurious, and he suspects others to be the same. But when an individual is taught by the Spirit to know the vileness of his natural heart, and is brought to trust in Christ alone, he will cling to him and say as Peter did, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."
The idea of perseverance may, with propriety, be inferred from the several relations which Christ and the Church mutually bear to each other. Their are related as husband and wife: "For thy Maker is thy husband, the Lord of hosts is his name."-Isaiah 54: 5. " Come hither and I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife."-Rev. 21: 9. 'They are related as parent and children: "Behold, I and the children which God hath given me."-Heb. 2: 13. Christ and the saints are related as shepherd and flock: ,The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" (Psalms 23: 1); and various other like relations Christ and the Church mutually bear to each other, from which it is manifestly clear that the saints must persevere finally.
As a loving husband, Christ loved the Church, and this, his love, is witnessed by the price he paid for her; and by a manifestation of his love to his people Christ wins their affections to him, and this love is of that kind that it fails not. Sometimes it is the case that men divorce their wives, but they have no such precept from the Lord, and Christ will not follow the example of such as divorce; no, the wife is the weaker vessel, and is to be ruled over by the husband, yet not in a rash manner, but with tenderness and affection. And so the Lord deals towards his bride, with such tenderness that, with love and kindness, he draws her after him. Jer. 31: 3.
We now come to consider, briefly, the relation of Christ and the saints, as parent and children. This is a close relation, upon which a strong tie of love is ordinarily based, and this love is reciprocal, and the interest of the parties is mutual. It is a rare case that a father disinherits a child, and that it is ever the case, shows not that the Lord will disinherit any of his, even should they be somewhat rebellious.
He may scourge and rebuke, and will ; yea, he will "visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes" (Psams 89: 32), but in the very next verse he says, "nevertheless, my loving kindness I will not utterly take from them, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail." And if he will not utterly take from his children his loving kindness, then it is certain they can not utterly fall ; for we know that the loving kindness of the Lord does not extend to any who are in hell. For our comfort and full assurance of the Lord's tender care for his children, he has illustrated his love in divers figures and manners. For our solid comfort and stronger confirmation in the doctrine of perseverance, he speaks to us as follows: " Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee."-Isaiali 49: 15. In how much stronger terms could the Lord's care for his people be expressed? The woman will hardly forget her sucking child, but it is much more unlikely that the Lord will forget his children. The woman may forget her sucking child, but the Lord affirms with emphasis, I will not forget the children which are mine; and this not forgetting implies that the chosen shall be preserved against all possible interveniences, for it is spoken for our comfort withal, and it would be little satisfaction to us to be remembered of the Lord, if yet we should be let run astray, and into hell at last; therefore, we shall be both remembered and preserved.
The saints are also related to Christ as a flock, and Christ is related to them as a shepherd ; and from this David infers that he should not want, a very rational inference, one would think, if he considered the duty of a shepherd toward his flock; yet, if one of the Lord's flock should ever run wild and stray finally, surely it could not be said of such that they should not want, for they would be wanting entirely, and no want supplied; but this shall not be, for Christ is the good shepherd, whose own the sheep are; therefore, he will both feed, clothe and shield his flock from every beast of prey. It is not supposed that the sheep have a capacity to protect and preserve themselves; therefore, shepherds are appointed to take care of, and to feed them; and if the wolf or dog scatters and devours the sheep, even one of them, it must be from incapacity of the shepherd to protect them; otherwise, it must be from indolence or indifference, neither of which may be imputed to Christ He is the good shepherd, and will not neglect his flock; nay, "he shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arms and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."-Isaiah 40: 11. Such expressions of care import nothing less than certain perseverance; he feeds his flock like a shepherd; therefore, none of them shall perish. John 10: 29. "The lambs he gathers with his arm." This denotes his power to bring them after him, and "he carries them in his boson." Surely they are secure from every beast of prey if carried in the bosom of Christ. That which a man will carry in his bosom he prizes very highly, and will surely preserve, if he can. So of Christ; he hath a peculiar interest in his flock; therefore, he carves the lambs in his bosom; "and those that are with young, he gently leads;" all which shows his peculiar interest and care for such as would be most likely to become a prey for dogs and wolves. Now we know that Christ has a sufficiency of power to preserve his flock, if all in heaven and earth be sufficient; therefore, if any should not be preserved it must be from the shepherd's neglect, which we dare not suppose. If Satan drags a saint into his pit he prevails both against Christ and his sheep, and this we know he shall not do; for Satan, though he would prevail, yet he has no power except what he hath from Christ he could not destroy a hog without the permission of Christ, and we know that he will not give Satan power to prevail over him. Hence the saints persevere in grace, and as it is grace which preserves them, they must persevere finally; otherwise, grace would not appear sufficient, as it is declared to be in 2 Cor. 12: 9. The saints are not sufficient of themselves to preserve grace though grace is sufficient of itself to preserve them. That doctrine of final apostasy supposes that the saints are required to preserve grace, but that would be as if. the greater should be blessed of the lesser, but without contradiction the less is blessed of the greater.-Hebrews 7: 7.
But the objector alleges that a righteous man may certainly turn away from his righteousness, and that so that he shall die, as we gather from Ezekiel 18: 24; to which we reply, that if ye will yet be under the old covenant, this only shows that you know nothing of the new, which speaketh better things than falling away. That Israel enjoyed the blessings of the old covenant only in proportion to her obedience, is not denied; that is, they realized the blessings of Canaan by obedience to that law which was delivered them by Moses; but Cancan itself they received by God's absolute promise; and it is worthy of remark, that the covenant which God made with the seed of Abraham as a people, secured none but temporal blessings, and even they were conditional If Israel obeyed the law, or covenant, they were blessed, but if they disregarded the covenant, they were punished accordingly; and for some offenses, death was inflicted. Hence, a Jew under that law might obey its precepts until he was old, and then turn away from his righteousness, and die under the penalty of the law, which otherwise would have protected him in this life; though this legal righteousness would not be sufficient to justify the soul, for by the deeds of the law none shall be justified. Romans 3: 20. If the new covenant is conditional, and its blessings to be forfeited by disobedience, then wherein is it better than the old? Doubtless it is better, and established upon better promises.-Hebrews 8: 6. But wherein are the promises of the new covenant better than the promises of the old? They are better in these very things:
1. The blessings of the new covenant are spiritual and eternal; in it are contained the blessings of justification and salvation, which follow thereupon, while the blessings of the old covenant were only temporal, such as the Jews enjoyed in the promised land. A man might obey the law to a jot, and so enjoy its privileges, and still be a wicked man in heart, as did Saul. One might suffer death under a penalty of that law, and yet be a subject of grace, as was the thief, and this shows very clearly the superiority of the new covenant.
2. The promises of the new covenant are absolute and unconditional (see Hebrews 8: 10-12), while the old covenant was conditional, and therefore liable to forfeiture, as expressed in Ezekiel 18: 24. Hence it does not follow that a saint may lose his inheritance, and miss of heaven merely because such as are held under law may forfeit the law's protection.
Such as infer the doctrine of final apostasy from the forfeitures under the old covenant, we fear, have not had the new written in their hearts ; otherwise they would not cling so closely to the old, for that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.-Heb. 8: 13 No man is a saint except he was predestinated of the Father to he conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8: 29), and chosen in Christ that he should be holy Eph.1: 4), and redeemed from all iniquity (Titus 2: 14), and called with an holy calling (2 Tim. 1: 19); and if a man should be predestinated to he conformed to the image of Christ, and chosen in him, that he should be holy and without blame in love; and if he may be redeemed from all iniquity, and called with an holy calling, and sanctified by God the Father (Jude), and if yet he may fall into hell, then surely we need not trust in the grace of predestination, nor the grace of election, nor the grace of redemption, nor the grace of heavenly calling. No, we need trust in none of these, separately considered, nor need we trust in all of them, jointly considered, if it may be true that we may be interested in all, and yet fall into hell. And if we may not infer final perseverance from all these blessings, neither separately nor jointly considered, then from what shall we infer perseverance? Will you say that perseverance is by our watching and striving against sin?
Very well; that is truth. But then our watching and striving is by the grace of God, by which, also, we persevere absolutely. If you say that perseverance is by any effort of the saints, which the Lord does not influence them to, or work in them to make, then you say that the saints are entitled to the greater praise of their salvation, as the success of all that Christ hath done depends upon what the saints do themselves; but if perseverance be put upon such watching, striving and praying as the Lord inclines then" to, or works in them, then he works in all; hence all must be supposed to persevere, and their perseverance is of grace, and therefore the praise is due to the Lord, and due to him alone. If we say that the Lord has not devised means of perseverance, but left that to the saints, that would be to say that Christ has not finished his work, though he has declared that he has. John xvii. 4. But if it is admitted that Christ has given means of perseverance, then if he hath, he hath given such "'calls as shall prove effectual, otherwise he had not given any at all; and if this you deny you represent him as giving his children a stone or a scorpion, though 'he affected to give them bread or a fish.
Another argument for absolute perseverance is taken from the nature of spiritual gifts, such as sanctification, faith, etc. As they are gift, they are of those good and perfect gifts which come down from above from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.-James 1: 11. This attribute of God's unchangeableness is fitly and significantly added to show that as good and perfect gifts are from God, and from him only, so be never changes in his purpose concerning those to whom he once gives them. If he gives faith and sanctification to a sinner, that such a sinner may be saved through such means, then he will continue to give them to the same end. Hence in every instance the end of sanctification and faith shall be obtained. There can happen no unworthiness of the saints after their calling which the Lord did not foresee, and if he would withdraw his spiritual gifts from them because of their unworthiness, to what end did he give them at first ? There can be no unworthiness in the saints for which the Lord will withdraw his gifts from them, but would as well have hindered him from giving them at first. As the word of the Lord is not yea and nay, so neither are his gifts. The saints are God's workmanship. We know, saith Solomon, that whatsoever God doeth, it shall he forever; nothing can be put, to it, nor any thing taken from it.-Eccl. 3: 14. If any thing at all would cause a saint to fall front the love and favor of God, it would be a notion of self worthiness and self ability to persevere. Our other fleshly weaknesses and imperfections are but small matters compared with that of taking to ourselves to tread the Lord's courts, or to perform that work which the Lord himself will have the honor of. It is of the work of faith to empty the soul of self-worthiness and self-ability, and cause it to trust in the Lord alone; and if faith clears our hearts of all fleshly reliance, and gives us to trust alone in the mercy and grace of God, then the Lord is able to keep that, which we have committed to his charge, and will; and so, trusting in the lord, no saint has or shall fall finally. Faith is an active grace, and diligent, and therefore thriving; he that hath it, shall have more of it. Luke 19: 26. Then surely he shall not lose that he hath. He that hath life, shall have it more abundantly, for to this end Christ came into the world.-John 10: 10. If sin abounds, grace abounds much more.-Rom. 5: 20. But this could not be said if a single saint should fall finally, for if one should, then all might, and would, for if Satan prevails in part, this gives him lever power, and so sin must abound more than grace; hence that doctrine of final apostasy can not be true, for Christ prays his Father that he and his saints may be one. How one ? Why, as he and the Father are one.-John 17: 21. Therefore, as well may we suppose that Satan call sever the union between the Father and the Son, as to suppose that he can sever the union between Christ and his chosen. They and he are one, and they are one with the Father, and therefore are out of the reach of principalities and powers. Hence their life and eternal happiness is as secure as the throne of Jehovah itself.
Satan hath a great power, it is true, and as true it is that he hath not power to prevail over the saints. The Lord prescribes his bounds, and beyond that he can not proceed. He may harass and perplex, as he doth, but Christ holds the keys of hell and of death.-Rev. 1: 18. Therefore, if Satan hath a saint at the very door of hell, he could not get him in, for Christ holds the keys; and if he permits the enemy to tempt and lead his people astray at times, he will rescue them at last, and show them that his grace abounds more than their sins, and the saints thus shall be the better prepared to magnify and glory in grace.
Nothing more clearly manifests the skill of a general than to give his enemy seemingly great advantages, and then at last obtain victory over him; and so Christ may give the devil, as it were, complete control of his chosen for a time, as he did over Peter when he denied Christ, and affirmed that he knew him not. So the Lord suffered Satan to prevail over David for a time, and to lead him into gross sin. Thus Christ gives Satan, as it were, the advantage of him, yet he makes his own victory complete by wresting both Peter and David front the power of the enemy, and in all this his grace appears most glorious and abounding. The Apostle said he was "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."-Rom. 8: 38, 39. I once heard a man commenting upon this passage, and he said that the Apostle did not say that sin would not separate the saints from the love of God. I thought, however, that sin would not likely separate them if it was not a power, and if it was it was included in the Apostle's catalogue. It is embarrassing to see what strange inconsistencies men will adopt rather than acknowledge the truth. The Apostle here brings to our view every thing that could be thought likely to separate the saints from the love of God, and cause them to apostatize, and says that none of such things shall separate them from the love of God. Death itself shall not separate them, as is evidenced by the number who have died rather than deny his love, thus sealing their testimony to God's love with their blood. Life will not separate the saints from the love of God, though it be a life of poverty, sorrow, affliction and distress; nay, though the saints be bereaved of all things else, yet they shall not be bereaved of Christ, nor separated from his love. Neither things present, that is, present temptations and difficulties ; nor things to come-that is, future temptations and trials, shall be able or sufficient to separate us from the love of God ; and if none of these, nor any other creature is able to separate us, then we shall abide in the love of God, and so persevere even to the eternal day.
It is for the elect's sake that till things else have their being. 2 Cor.4: 15. By the special providence of God, all things are made subservient to his purpose, hence all things work together for good to them that love God.--Rom. 8: 28. All the trials, afflictions, persecutions and temptations of the saints are ordered by divine providence for their good, though they can not always behold the dispensations of God in that light. When Jacob was bereaved of his children, as he supposed, he said, with despondency, "all these thinks are against me" (Gen. 42: 36), yet the Lord was working out of Jacob's sight, and preparing a way to preserve him and his family. This he must do to make good his promise to Abraham, and to this end every circumstance, even such as would seem casual to men, was directed to, and worked together for, the good of Jacob and his family. And so now the Lord suffers the saints to be tried, afflicted, tempted,-yet not more than shall be for their good,-but how such affliction, bereavements and temptations shall work for our good, we see only by faith. To these the flesh will not be reconciled, because by these things we become crucified to the world. Hence all these things, and all other things, work together for good to them that love God ; but if afflictions, weaknesses of faith, bereavements, temptations, or any thing" else, should cause a saint to apostatize, we see not how that could be for his good; indeed, we know it would be for his everlasting ruin, and as well we know that all the providences and dispensations of God are ordered to a different end. Our weakness of faith, haltings, doubting and fearing at times, are no evidences of a final fall. The Lord frequently withholds from his children the light of his countenance to show them their dependence upon him ; yet he will not forget them, though they may think that he has. Even David said at one time, " Surely the Lord hath forgotten to be gracious, and his mercy is clean gone forever." At another time he said, "I remembered God and was afraid." This is not unfrequcntly the case with the saints even now, when the Lord is pleased to leave his people in darkness for a time. Their faith becomes weak and wavering, and they conclude that the Lord has forgotten to be gracious, and his mercy is gone forever; then they remember the Lord and are afraid; they know something of the weight of his wrath by what they then feel, and alas! if I should be found destitute of the mercy and grace of God, I am undone forever. But in every instance, when the saint is fully humbled and prepared again to appreciate the smiles of God's countenance, he appears to them again in his loving kindness and says to them, "0 ye of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" Then the saint answers as David: "This is my infirmity, but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most high." Psalms lxxvii. 10. 'Then with the help of the Lord's countenance they say: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."--Psalms 23: 6.
It is supposed by some, who, we fear, have no other reliance for perseverance than their own efforts in performing the outward ceremonies of religion, that such assurances of final perseverance will lessen the diligence of the saints in serving God; but that such assurance has directly the opposite effect, is plain from the Scriptures, 'and that the reader may be convinced of this, we give here a few instances. This view is fully set forth in the above quotation from Psalms 23: 6: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." In this language the fullest assurance of perseverance is expressed; and what follows? Does David say, Because I am in the fullest manner possible assured that the goodness and mercy of the Lord shall follow me, and that all the days of my life; I will therefore disregard his commands and indulge my lusts! No, not a word of this, but quite the contrary; he adds, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever;" and for the goodness and mercy of the Lord to David, ,and for his assurance of the continuance of his mercy, he says: "Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name."--Psalms 8: 1. The Apostle says that "when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." This is an absolute promise, and imports nothing less than final perseverance; and what is the result of such a promise? It is its follows: "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, fornication, uncleanness, inordnate affection," etc.-Col. 3: 4, 5. Again, "We know that when he shall appear we shall be like him." And what is the fiuit of this knowledge? "Every man that hath this, hope in him purificth himself even as he is pure."-John 3: 2, 3. And yet again, "We know," says Paul, "that if the earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.'' Now, if the assurance of perseverance tends to licentiousness, as is supposed by some, what must have been the fruit of Paul's knowledge? and why would the Lord have given such assurance if it tends to make men worse ? But we know that such knowledge has no such effect, for the Apostle says: "Wherefore we labor that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him "2 Corinthians 5: 9. If the Lord would not have us believe the doctrine of absolute perseverance, then he had not recorded so many peremptory promises of the never failing of his grace; especially if in his account such promises would operate against our perseverance if he had withheld them. If men who love the ways of sin were assured of heaven in the end, it might give them encouragement to continue sinning; but that one who has been killed to the love of sin, and made alive unto God, will be encouraged to rebel by assurance of victory at last, will never be made out.
The doctrine of apostasy is so foreign from the teaching of the Scriptures, and the opposite doctrine of certain perseverance is so clearly indicated therein, that had it not been for other religious errors which men have fallen into, we think the doctrine of apostasy had hardly been argued by any. Apostasy is strictly consistent with the doctrine of conditional election and redemption, though neither is consistent with the Scriptures; and the depravity of the heart of men is such, as rather than acknowledge one truth which crosses their nature, they would hold half a dozen errors. If election be absolute, as it is, and redemption special, then perseverance must be certain; but in order to preserve a kind of harmony in their creed, Arminians will incorporate the doctrine of final apostasy. This they must do, or they could not combat personal election consistently. They also make election, redemption, effectual calling, and final perseverance, all conditional; and this is all very consistent with the human heart, and carnal reasoning. However, it is foreign from the teachings of God's word, and it also crosses the experience of the saints, and by this the people of God will the more readily detect the error of such theory.
Volumes might be written in defense of this one point. The scriptures absolute with such absolute promises as can not be reconciled to the notion of apostasy, and to these I refer the reader to examine for himself. I shall forbear to argue the point further in this treatise, hoping that a sufficiency has been written to enable the candid to settle down upon the truth of perseverance in and through God's rich and free grace. It has not been my expectation, however, to convince such as have eyes and see not, and ears and hear not, and hearts and understand not; for we are informed that if we should "bray a fool in a mortar with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him."-Proverbs 27: 22. But while it is certain that a saint can not fall finally, it is equally apparent from the Scriptures that they may fall into divers temptations and troubles; therefore, we should watch unto prayer, and see that our deportment be as becomes men professing godliness. We shall hardly make the world believe that we are chosen to holiness, if out general deportment should be otherwise; neither shall we appear as the light of the world, and the salt of the earth. The world now seems to have little or no confidence in religion, and as little respect for those professing it. This, no doubt, is in a good degree consequent upon the laxity of the manners of those who profess the name of Christ. There are many professing, who no otherwise distinguish themselves from the world than by a profession. They are often as covetous and conniving as those who make no pretensions to religion at all, and in some instances excel in pride, vanity, and even vice. Such persons seem to have no other intention but to conceal their wickedness behind a profession of godliness, but we know that their wickedness is not thereby concealed from God, who will call such professors to account in due time. We have some reason to fear that real saints give too loose a rein to the flesh, for in the flesh the saints differ not at all from the world that perisheth; yet they have the Spirit and a sufficiency of grace to enable them to bring into subjection their fleshly members, which is their indispensable duty, and their reasonable service to do, and which if they do not, they shall not escape the chastening of the Lord. If we would enjoy the smiles of our Father, and spiritual peace in our souls, we must give our fleshly lusts no quarter; the more they cry to be spared, the more we must crucify them, and thus we must do while they have any breath, which they will not be quite without while we have any. If the saints shall watch and war against their fleshly propensities,-which they have, even after they have been chosen, redeemed, and called to be saints,-they will find this is work enough for them, without the unbearable burden of working their own justification. It is work enough for the saints, who are saved by grace, to carry themselves worthy of that salvation,-and this is little enough, too. This is what the Lord requires of the saints, to "keep themselves unspotted from the world," that they may thus manifest their relation to Him who is holy, and this keeping ourselves unspotted from the world comprehends our whole duty as the children of God. If we keep ourselves unspotted from the world, we shall not be heard murmuring about the providences of God, nor railing against our fellow creatures as though vengeance is ours. If we keep ourselves unspotted front the world, when we are reviled we will revile not again, and when we are evil spoken of and persecuted, we shall not return evil for evil, but we shall do good to them that despitefully use us, and thus overcome evil with good. Again, if we keep ourselves unspotted from the world, we shall not be seeking worldly position and honor; we shall have as little to do with the world as possible ; we shall not covet the praise of men nor regard their frowns, being assured that our praise is not of men, but of God. If we keep ourselves unspotted from the world, we shall not be heard jesting, nor engaged in foolish and vain talking. All these, and other like restraints, we must lay upon our fleshly dispositions; and when we have done all these things we are to count ourselves unprofitable servants, and cast all our care and trust upon the Lord. When the saints perform all their obligations to the Lord as faithfully and punctually as others, who claim a reward. for outward service, and yet claim no merit at all, it argues strongly for the purity of their profession ; and what could be a greater incentive to the performance of good works, than that the Lord has blessed us with a full and free forgiveness of all our sins; that "when there was no eye to pity, nor arm to save, his own arm brought salvation" to poor, helpless sinners, who otherwise must have perished eternally; that the love of God to his elect was such as that he takes them from their filth and pollution, and makes them heirs of his kingdom, and joint heirs, too, with Christ, and makes us meet for such use and glory? He removed our transgressions from us, and that as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103: 12), another expression to show the eternal character of our forgiveness, our sins being removed from us as far as the east is from the west. They can not again attach to us until those opposite points-the east and the west-come together, and cease to be what they are; and such is good ground and motive for us to do all we can in the way of serving God, and none can but so judge who have experienced such a forgiveness. Upon this principle of the removal of all their transgressions, the saints are as sure of their final and eternal settlement in glory as if they were now present in heaven. None of their fleshly weaknesses, imperfections and temptations shall hinder it, for the Lord knows of all these, and did when he chose to salvation; and if lie had not determined that. his grace should abound more than these, he had not chosen them at all. But how is it that we can trust the Lord for all spiritual blessings, and yet make a difficulty of trusting him for temporal blessings and deliverances? This surely is a weakness of our nature, which must yet be accounted for, considering that temporal things are nearer our senses, that, is, our fleshly senses, and we in our present state of probation more sensibly feel our temporal wants; yet we have not reason to distrust God for every blessing, both temporal and spiritual. We have many gracious and absolute promises for temporal blessings as well as spiritual.
The Lord God is a sun and shield; he will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.-Psalms 89: 11. No, not any temporal good; but in the flesh we often desire such things as would tend to our hurt, and out of mercy the Lord withholds such things from us. The father is supposed to know better what the child needs than the child knows, and therefore the father withholds from his children such things and privileges as would prove an injury to them. This he does, not because he hates them, but because he loves them, and desires their welfare; and so the Lord deals with his children; he withholds from them that which they would consume upon their lusts, and Gives them all that is needful for them to have; for " 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?"-Rom. 8: 32. If the Lord so loved his people that he delivered up his Son for their salvation, is it likely that he will withhold any temporal good from them? No surely not ; haying bestowed upon them the greater good, he will not then withhold lesser favors. Hence we rusty justly conclude that if we are poor and hard pressed in this world, it is best for us to be so, though after the flesh, we are prone to think otherwise; yet we are taught that, having food and raiment, we should be therewith content; and that godliness with contentment is great gain. Let us, therefore, strive to be content with what we have from the Lord, and pray him to reconcile us to the dispensations of his providence, whether we be in prosperity, or'' in adversity. David says, "I have been young, and now am old ; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.''-Psalms 37: 25. 'Then let us trust the Lord for our preservation here, as well as for salvation hereafter. We can not believe better things, or greater, than he is hath able and willing to do for us. If we are afflicted the Lord knows of it, and will heal us in due time. If we are in trouble he knows of it, and has promised to deliver from all trouble. "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting" (Eccl. 7: 2), and the reason is, because when we are feasting, we may be easily puffed up; but when mourning, the heart is humbled. Let us remember Daniel, who was cast into the lions' den; and if we are in peril and trouble, let us remember the Lord who preserved him, even when all other help had failed. Our condition can not become more perilous than Daniel's was when he was thrown among such beasts, and yet Daniel was just as safe as if he had been in the king's palace, though it is certain he could not have helped himself, nor all the powers of earth could not have helped him; his safety and perseverance was of God alone, whose power is invincible, and whose grace is never failing. 'The Hebrew children, also, were preserved in the fiery furnace, arid it heated seven times hotter than it wgs wont to be heated. Surely the Lord is able to preserve us, and will; then let us trust him; if we are poor and afflicted in this world, our Father is rich, and all that is his, we inherit; so let us draw near unto the Lord, with full assurance of faith. We have all if we trust him, while we make nothing by distrust. The Lord has said many things to encourage our faith; he reminds us of the fowls which gather not in barns, yet they are fed; and even a sparrow shall not fall without our heavenly Father, that is, without his will, and he assures us that we are of more value than many sparrows. But if any feel so poor and worthless that, in their estimation, even a sparrow is of more value than they, you may rejoice on this account, for an humble, meet: and quiet spirit is a good adorning, and in the sight of God is of great price.-1 Peter 3: 4. To check our unnecessary care about raiment, he reminds us of the lily, which toils not, nor spin, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as these; "wherefore, .if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is east into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, 0 ye of little faith?" What greater assurance could we have front the Lord? and shall we still doubt his grace? If we should, we have no other trust, for by taking thought we can not add one cubit to our stature. However, if we become distrustful, and forget the Lord, yet will he not forget us; may, his people are bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh; and as a man nourisheth and cherisheth his own flesh, so the Lord nourishes his spouse; his left hand is under her head, and his right hand doth embrace her; therefore, she is safe. Whether she wake, or sleep, she is the Lord's, and he will take care of her. Though Satan may threaten to prevail against her, yet he shall not prevail against her head and husband, for he bath spoiled principalities and powers. Hence no weapon that is fornied against the saints shall prosper, and every tongue that riseth against them in judgment they shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.-Isaiah 54: 17. Hence Mount Zion is safe, which dwelleth in the top of the mountains; earth may rage and hell may vent her spite-yea, the saints may become weak and wavering at times, under afflictions and temptations, yet the Lord remains the same, and will sanctify their sorrows to their good; yea, though they should backslide and run into forbidden paths, yet will the Lord heal their backslidings, and lead them out from all their wanderings, and make even their rebellion turn to their profit. Peter gained ground by denying his Lord, for when he was converted, that is, convinced that he was not sufficient of himself to stand, then he was prepared to strengthen his brethren, and watch himself more closely at another time. So, if any are under peculiar afflictions, darkness, temptation, doubts and fears, we would say to such, lean upon the Lord, and make his name all your trust; he is able to deliver, and will, but let us pray for patience to wait upon him, and abide his time. Our afflictions in this world are but as ten days, and work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; and when we shall have filled our cup of suffering in this vale of sorrow, the Lord will take us to himself in glory, "where the wicked will cease from troubling, and the weary will be at rest," and where affliction, gloom, pain and death shall never enter; there the saints shall reign as kings and priests unto God; not temporarily, but eternally. Such immortal bliss is not to be expected in this world; but, through the resurrection and glorious triumph of Christ, these vile bodies shall be resurrected, and changed from corruption to incorruption, and from. natural to spiritual bodies; and so the saints shall ever be with the Lord. Amen.