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whose sentiments bear some affinity to, or are derived from their scheme. And, indeed, when we find persons endeavouring to establish the doctrine of conditional election, universal redemption, &c. or when they explain the nature of human liberty, as they do, who make the grace of God to be dependent on it for its efficacy in the beginning and carrying on the work of conversion and sanctification ; and accordingly assert, that the will has an equal power to determine itself to good or evil; or, that the grace of God affords no other assistance to promote the cne or fence against the other, than what is objective, or, at least, by supporting our natural faculties ; and if there be any divine concourse, that it consists only in what re spects the external dispensations of providence, as a remote means conducive thereunto, the event hereof depending on our own conduct or disposition to improve these means: I say, if persons maintain these and such-like doctrines, it is not to be wondered, when we find them pleading for the possibility of a believer's falling totally and finally from the grace of God. For they who have brought themselves into a state of grace, may apostacize, or fall from it. If the free-will of man first inclined itself to exercise those graces which we call spen cial, such as faith, repentance, love to God, &c. then it will follow, that he may lose them and relapse to the contrary vices; and by this means men may plunge themselves into the same depths of sin and misery from whence they had before escaped; and, according to this scheme, there may be, in the course of our lives, a great many instances of defection from the grace of God, and recovery to it, and finally, a drawing back unto perdition : Or if a person be so happy as to recover himself out of his last apostacy before he leaves the world, then he is saved; otherwise he finally perishes. This is a doctrine which some defend, the contrary whereunto we shall endeavour to maintain, as being the subject insisted on in this answer. "
But before we proceed to the defence thereof, it may not be amiss to premise something, which may have, at least, a remote tendency to dispose us to receive conviction from the arguments which may be brought to prove it. Thus we may consider that the contrary side of the question is in itself less desirable, if it could be defended. It is certain, that the doctrine of the possibility of the saints falling from grace, tends very much to abate that delight and comfort which the believer has in the fore-views of the issue and event of his present state. It is a very melancholy thought to consider, that he who is now advanced to the very borders of heaven, may be cast down into hell ; or that, though he has at present an interest in the special and discriminating love of God, he may afterwards become the object of his hatred, so as never to be. hold his face with joy in a future world; or that, though his feet are set upon a rock, yet his goings are pot established ; though he is walking in a plain and safe path, yet he may be etisnared, entangled, and fall, so as never to rise again, that though God be his friend, yet he may suffer him to fall into the hands of his enemies, and be ruined and undone thereby, as though his own glory were not concerned in his coming off victorious over them, or connected with the salvation of his people : So that as this doctrine renders the state of believers very precarious and uncertain, it tends effectually to damp their joys, and blast their expectations, and subject them to perpetual bondage ; and it is a great hindrance to their offering praise and thanksgiving to God, whose grace is not so much magnified towards them, as it would be, had they ground to conclude that the work which is now begun, should certainly be brought to perfection,
And on the other hand, the doctrine which we are to maintain,, is in itself so very comfortable, that if we were, at present, in suspense concerning the truth thereof, we cannot but desite that it may appear to be agreeable to the mind of God: It is certainly a very delightful thing for us to be assured, thac what is at present well, shall end well; that they who are brought to believe in Christ, shall for ever abide with him ; and that the work of grace, which, at present, affords so fair and pleasing a prospect of its being at last perfected in glory, shall not miscarry, This will have a tendency to enhance our joy in proportion to the ground we have to conclude that the work is true and genuine ; and it will excite our thankfulness to God, when we consider, that he who is the auphor, will also be the finisher of faith : So that it is certain this doctrine deserves confirmation; and accordingly we shall endeavour to establish our faith therein in the following method ; . . .,
I. We shall consider what we are to understand by persevering in grące, or falling from it,
II. We shall proye, that the best believers would certainly fall from grace, were they left to themselves : So that their perseverance therein, is principally to be ascribed to the power of God, which keeps them, through faith, unto salvation.
III. We shall consider, what ground we have to conclude that the saints shall persevere in grace; and so explain and illustrate the scycral arguments insisted on in this auswer; to which we shall add some others taken from several scriptures by which this doctrine may be defended...s
IV. We shall endeavour to answer some objections that are generally, brought against it,
1. We shall consider what we are to understand, by per: qevering in grace, or falling from it.
1. When we speak of a person as persevering in grace, this supposes that he has the truth of grace. We do not hereby intend that a person may not fall away from a profession of faith ; or that no one can lose that which we generally call common grace, which, in many things, bears a resemblance to that which is saving. We have before considered, that there is a temporary faith, whereby persons appear religious, while it comports, with their secular interest ; but when they are called by reason of persecution or tribulation, which inay arise for the sake of the gospel, to forego their worldly interests, or quit their pretensions to religion, they fall away, or lose that grace which they seemed to have, as the Evangelist expresses it, Luke viii. 18. We read of some whose hope of salvation is like the spider's wcb, or the giving up of the ghost; but these are described not as true believers, but hypocrites. It is beyond dispute that such may apostatize, and not only lay aside the external practice of some religious duties, but deny and oppose the doctrines of the gospel, which they once assented to the truth of.
2. It is certain that true believers may fall into very great sinş; but yet they shall be recovered and brought again to repentance: therefore we must distinguish between their dishonouring Christ, disobeying his commands, and thereby proyoking him to be angry with him; and their falling away totally from him. We have before considered, when we proved that perfection is not attainable in this life, that the best men are sometimes chargeable with great failings and defects. And indeed, sometimes their sins are very heinously aggravated, their conyersation in the mean while discovering that they are destitute of the actings of grace, and that to such a degree that they can hardly be distinguished from those who are in an unregenerate state ; accordingly it is one thing for a believer not to be able to put forth those acts of grace which he once did; and another thing for him to lose the principle of grace : it would be a very preposterous thing to say, that when David sinned in the matter of Uriah, the principle of grace exerted itself; yet it was not wholly lost. It is not the same in this case, as in the more common instances of the saints' infirmities, which they are daily chargeable with, in which, the conflict that there is between the Aesh and spirit appears; for when corrupt nature exerts itself in such a degree that it leads persons to the commission of deliberate and presumptuous sins, they hardly appear to be believers at that time: nevertheless if we compare what they were before they fell, with what they shall be when brought to repentance, we may conclude, that they did not, by their fall, bring themselves altogether into a etate of unregeneracy.
3. It is beyond dispute, that as a believer may be destitute of the acts of grace; so he may lose the comforts thereof, and sink into the depths of despair. Of this we have several in. stances recorded in scripture, which are agreeable to the ex. periences of many in our day : thus the Psalmist, at one time, speaks of himself, as cast down, and his soul disquicted within him, Psal. xliii. 5. and cxvi. 3. And at another time he says,
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me. And elsewhere he complains, Will the Lord cast off for ever? will he be favourable no more? is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? hath God forgotten to be gracious ? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies, Psal. lxxvii. 7-9. And again, a believer is represented as being altogether destitute of a comfortable sense of the divine love, when complaining, Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Wilt thon shew wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise thee? Shall thy loving kindness be declared in the grave, or thy faithfulness in destructiön? Thy fierce wrath goeth over me, thy terrors have cut me off, Psal. lxxxvï. 6. &C. And it is certain, that when at any time he falls into very great sins, which seem inconsistent with a state of grace, he has no present evi. dence that he is a believer; and is never favoured with a comfortable sense of his interest in Christ, nor is the joy of God's salvation restored to him, till he is brought (unfeignedly to repent of his sin. Former experiences will not evince the truth of grace, while he remains impenitent. It is a bad sign when any one, who formerly appeared to have the truth of grace, but is now fallen into great sins, concludes himself to be in a state of grace, without the exercise of true repentance ; for this can be deemed little better than presumption : however, God, whose mercy is infinitely above our deserts, will, in the end, recover him; though, at present, he does not look like one of his children. :> 4. There are some who suppose that a believer may fall totally, though not finally from grace. And their reason for it is this ; because they conclude, as they have sufficient warrant to do, from scripture, that they shall not fall finally, inasmuch as the purpose of God concerning election, must stand; if they had not been chosen to salvation they would never have been brought into a state of grace: they are supposed, before they fell, to have been sanctified; whereas sanctification is inseparably connected with salvation, and therefore, though they consider them, at this time, as having lost the grace of sancti. fication, and so to have fallen totally; yet they shall be recovered, and therefore not fall finally, Sanctification is Christ's purchase; and where grace is purchased for any onę, a price of redemption is paid for his deliverance from condemnation ; and consequently he shall be recovered and saved at last, though,, at present, he is, according to their opinion, totally fallen.
These suppose, not only that the acts of grace may be lost, but the very principle, and the reason hereof is, because they cannot see, how great and notorious sins, such as those committed by David, Peter, Solomon, and some others, can consist with a principle of grace: this indeed cuts the knot of some difficulties that seem to attend the doctrine of the saints perse. verance, though falling into great sins: nevertheless, I think it may easily be proved, which we shall endeavour to do, that they shall be preserved from a total, as well as a final apostacy: or, that when they fall into great sins, they do not lose the principle of grace, though it be, at present, innactive; which we shall take occasion to insist on, more particularly under a following head, when we consider that argument mentioned in this answer for the proof of this doctrine taken from the Spirit and seed of God abiding in a believer, as that which preserves him from a total as well as a final apostacy. i : . : II. We shall now consider, that the best believers would certainly fall from grace, were they left to themselves : so that their perseverance therein is principally to be ascribed to the power, of God, that keeps them through faith unto salvation, This is particularly observed in this answer, in which several arguments are laid down to prove the doctrine of the saints perseverance in grace, and it is supposed to be founded on his power, and will, to maintain it. God is styled the preserver of men, Job vii. 20. inasmuch as he upholds all things by the word of his power, so that independency on him is inconsistent with the idea of our being creatures; and we have no less ground to conclude, that his power maintains the new creature, or that grace, which took its first rise from him. Should he fail or forsake us, we could not put forth the least act of grace, much less persevere therein. When man at first came out of the hands of God, he was endowed with a greater ability to stand than any one, excepting our Saviour, has been favoured with, since sin entered into the world; yet he apostatized, not from any necessity of nature, but by adhering to that temptation which he might have withstood. Then how unable is he to stand in his present state, who is become weak, and, though brought into a state of grace, renewed and sanctified but in part; having still the remainders of corruption, which maina tain a constant opposition to the principle of grace? Our perseverance in grace cannot therefore be owing to ourselves; accordingly the apostle ascribes this to a divine hand, when he
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