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THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS PROVED
Romans vill. 38, 39.
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
SUCH another collection of terms can scarcely be produced from sacred or profane history, to enforce and establish a sentiment, as these before us. Surely a sentiment must be of high importance in the christian system, which can call forth such strong language from the pen of inspiration for its establishment. This great sentiment is, “ That nothing can separate believers « from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lorde" Is the love of God to his people, bestowed through Christ, of such a permanent nature, that it is absolutely indissoluble? This is evidently the affirmation in the text. That this love of God, whether objectively or subjectively considered, is absolutely ine extinguishable ; and the whole foundation and medium of it is Jesus Christ. The assertion is certainly the strongest that was ever brought forth to view. That the love of God to believers, and their love to him, is indissolvable ; and that the reciprocity of this love is founded in a Mediator, who hath infinite power with God, and effectual influence with men. Hence this love, granted or received, through this medium, is or can by no means be destroyed. God is infinite, the Mediator is infinite, therefore, this love or grace must be permanent; hence believers are so connected with God through Jesus Christ, by the constitution of the covenant of grace, that they can never totally or finally be separated from him. As this is the obvious idea here communicated, then the perseverance of the saints in grace to eternal life, is absolutely certain. This is the sentiment, the strongest images in nature are produced to establish. They are introduced as negatives to give the affirmation the more irresistable force.
The words of the text are a kind of deduction from what the Apostle had been previously declaring, that neither “ Tribulation, ** distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword,” could separate saints from Christ Jesus. “ Nay, in all these things, says he, “ we are not only conquerors, but we are more than e conquerors, through him that loved us." Yea, he rises in his argument, “ For I am persuaded," that is fully satisfied and assured, “ that neither death nor life ;" to wit, neither the awful liorrors of tive one, in its most terrific forms, nor the allurements of the other, in all its captivating and enticeing prospects, can break the bond of this unchangeable love. Where once it exists, it continues forever. Fa proceeds in his group of imagery :“ Nor angels, nor priscipalities, nor powers.” That is, let all the angels in heaven, the principalities of hell, and powers of eartii, if possible, foron a combination, to destroy this love, or violate the connection between God and the believer, the effort will be vain,
Yea, further, “ Neither things present, nor things to come,” can accomplish the fatal purpose. By this sentence may be understood, all the corruptions in which the christian is inveloped, all the afflictions, crosses and trials laid upon him, and all tlie temptations with which he is assaulted ; and every future thing of this nature, with all imaginable aud aggravated accumulations, cannot effect the purpose of a separation.
He still adds, “ Neither height nor depth,” can break this indissoluble tie. Neither the height of honor, nor depth of ignominy. Let the christian be exalted to the highest throne, and crowned the emperor of the world, or despised with Lazarus, thrown into the open street, covered with sores, and forsaken of the whole human species, and left to the licking friendship of dogs, yet these extended extremes of prosperity and adversity, cane not create the separation.
And as if the Apostle had finished the whole extension of imagery, and exhausted all the powers of language, he closes this induction with this universal clause, “ Nor any other creature."" Compress all creation in heaven, carth and hell, angels, men and devils, their united power is incapable of this dissolution. How strong the union between God and believers, established by the mediation of Jesus Christ !
The simple doctrine for which this text was selected, was to prove the perseverance of the saints. We firmly believe that true and real christians, or those who become the objects of the special love of God, and are regenerated and united to Christ by a new and living faith, can neither totally or finally fall away from that saving grace which they once received. We believe that good men, and saints who are now in heaven, have entertained different opinions upon this subject.—Some have believed, that they who were the subjects of special grace might lose it, and finally perish. The contenders for this opininion have been few. But the advocates for a total, though not a final falling away, have been many.
I confess the latter have much plausibility in favour of their opinion--the former nothing of weight, yet I think both will fail by the testimony of divine revelation.
This doctrine wholly depends upon our construction of divine revelation, and this shall be the sole rule of the present enquiry.
First, The scriptural arguments for the perseverance of the saints shall be produced.
Secondly, The grounds on which this doctrine is founded.
Thirdly, Attend to some of the perplexities, difficulties, or objections in which this doctrine is involved.
First, The scriptural assertions in support of the doctrine of the saint's perseverance in grace are these. I hope I shall be ex. cused from diffuse paraphrase, being confined to the narrow limits of a pulpit discourse.
The first authority always produced in support of this doctrine, is Jesus Christ. He makes this strong assertion to the cavilling Pharisees, respecting his sheep, or all true believers, past, present and to come: “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall ne
ver perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hands,”Consider the import of this declaration. Eternal life is given by Christ to his people ; the amplifications are, they shall never perish, or be lost. Neither shall any in heaven, earth or hell, pluck them out of his hands. Can stronger language be produced in favour of the safety ef the saints, than what is here uttered by truth itself, the Almighty Saviour.
Christ often represents himself under the image of bread, and other provisions which sustain this inortal life-but these are represented as everlasting in their effects. Hearken to his own declarations. “I am the bread of life, whereof, if a man eat, he " shall never die. I am the living bread which came down from “ heaven ; if a man eat of this bread, he shall live forever :" Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal " life, and I will raise him up at the last day. He that cateth “ me shall live by me ; be that eateth of this bread shall live “ forever,” &c. Time would fail to quote the assertions of our Lord, in favour of the peresverance of all, who are united to hiin by faith, unto eternal life.
The current testimony both of the old and new testament, unite in the support of this doctrine. Hence Isaiah, speaking of special grace says, “ It is a spring of water, whose waters fail " not.” Job declares, “My Redeemer liveth, whom I shall see “ for myself and not another." The Psalmist expresses the most perfect assurance of perseverance. “Thou shalt guide me by thy “ counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory. The righteous “ go from strength to srength, every one of them in Zion ap6 peareth before God."
The new Testament pronounces grace, “ An incorruptible seed, a seed that remaineth in him ; they are the temple of the “ living God, in them he dwells and walks. He will be their “God, and they shall be his people. He that believeth shall be “ saved. The word of God abideth in them." The passages to this purpose are innumerable. All which hold forth this doctrine, that the connection between true faith, regeneration, and the love of God to believers, is absolutely indissoluble..
Let us consider,
Secondly, The grounds on which this wonderful doctrine is founded.
It is not founded on the inadinissibility of grace in the creature. This would be a feeble foundation indeed. It would be like building a castle on the stalk of a tulip. The holiness of angels failed, the perfect holiness of Adam perished. Wherefore, the perseverance of believers in grace must have a very different foundation from any thing found in themselves. It is one thing to afñrm the perseverance of the saints--and another to say, that grace in its nature is absolutely unloseable. This world will never again be destroyed by a deluge ; surely it is as capable now of this destruction as formerly ; but the declaration of God has given a more infallible security against it, than the bow in the clouds.