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the adultery of the psalmist, nor St Peter's base denial of his master, were reckoned sins in the sight of God.
I should be loth to impute the bad consequences of any
doctrine to the maintainers of it, when such consequences are openly, on their part, disavowed and solemnly denied : But as, in the present instance, the consequences flowing from the doctrine are of the most suspicious nature, as they regard both the christian's faith and his practice, it becomes a matter of duty to guard the theological student against the doctrine, be the abettors of it who or what they will. I am aware of what has been said, and of all that can well be said, in support of this darling tenet, which has long been dignified with the specious title of “The perseverance of the • saints ;' and which, under such a bewitching designation, does at this hour bid, as it were,
defiance to all contradiction. Without however entering into the wide field of disputation, which has been traversed for authorities both for and against the * saints' perseverance,' I shall content myself with denying the authority which the scriptural examples above noticed are supposed to afford ; and would have it observed, that the instances of king David, and of the apostle St Peter, and the like, admitting that their transgressions were covered by the especial measures of divine grace bestowed upon them, yet being cases of particular persons, un
under particular circumstances, and selected for exhibiting particular views of divine wisdom, they are, on no account whatever, to be brought into general application, as precedents adapted to the use of christians at large. Tneir faith and their practice ought to be regulated entirely by the concurrent testimony of the whole code of divine revelation; not by insulated texts, or by particular mercies vouchsafed to the particular objects of sacred history, who are, on that account, no more to be esteemed standards of general belief, or ot general hope and confidence, than St Paul, in his miraculous conversion and extraordinary mission, can be said to be.
Besides, none have a right to be denominated * saints' but such as persevere to the end ;' as, in my apprehension, the Westminster catechism itself teaches, when it asserts, that the souls of be• lievers are at their death made perfect in holi* ness;' which surely implies that till death, the • holiness,' that is, the saintship,' of believers is not perfect ; and consequently, that none but those who persevere until death are proper and perfect saints. Hence it follows, that the perseverance of the saints;' and the saintsh:p of perseverance' are convertible terins, and precisely of the same siguitication; so that in the captivating title bestowed on this unscriptural doctrme, there appears an intentional ambiguity of expression, which has only to be detected, to shew the deceit which its authors have but too
successfully practised on the thoughtless and unwary.
But as this point of doctrine, with all its consequences of what nature soerer, is involved in another branch of systematic error, to which I shall by and by have occasion to speak, I shall forbear to enlarge upon it now; and pass on to discuss another equally suspicious tenet, held and avowed by the abettors of the doctrine of · Perseverance,' &c. that they, who fall from grace once received, can
never be restored to it again, but must incvitably, and ' for ever perish,'
This strange and appalling opinion was first broached in the second century by the Montanist party, to whose principles the reputation of the famed Tertullian, who latterly became a Montanist, gave some sort of character. It was afterwards, when a little improved and mollified, vigorously maintained by the Novatians, who indeed referred all, who had thus fallen from grace once received, to the secret disposal of Almighty God, peremptorily excluding them from any hope or prospect of pardon in or by the church. This rigorous discipline the Novatians founded upon some expressions of St Paul, which seem to give it countenance ; not forgetting to make use of our Saviour's own declaration, that • the sin against the Iloly Ghost' is a sin beyond the reach of forgiveness. Yet, all interpreters and commentators, ancient and modern, Romanist and
reformed, agree 'in this, that the sin against the • Holy Ghost, which our Saviour particularizes, and to which St Paul, in the severe denunciations which his epistles contain, seems to allude, was of a nature peculiarly atrocious, being fraught with danger peculiar to the circumstances and the
opportunities of the early ages of christianity ; to which circumstances after-times are not exposed, and with which opportunities they are not blessed. Hence, it is most warrantably concluded, that the harsh doctrine drawn from this declaration, and from the apostle's denunciation, (whatever may have been the import of them, so long as the circumstances and opportunities, enjoyed by these early ages, existed), is now, on no account, to be extended beyond its original design, or to be applied to the deviations and backslidings, incident to human nature, in the very best of christians.
Our belief, therefore, in opposition to both the ill-founded doctrines above noticed, is this that taking, as scripture directs, things natural to be emblems of things spiritual, and parabolically instructive of the latter, our spiritual health may be said to correspond with our bodily health ; both of them are equally precarious, equally liable to interruption; while both, in a large majority of cases, are recoverable by a timely application to the proper remedies, and by a regimen adapted to such remedies, when seasonably applied. • He that is whole needeth not a physician, but he that is sick.' UU 2
• That there is no health in us,' is however our daily confession; in which case, the great Physician of souls, of whose aid we all stand so much in need, has provided sufficient • medicine to heal our sick. ness;' and has withal prescribed the proper regimen both for restoring, and for preserving when restored, our spiritual health and strength. His household, the church, may be considered as the place of cure to which the christian is commanded to resort; that therein he may receive from the duly-appointed officers of the household, whose durty it is to . minister in holy things, the means of grace and salvation and that without respect of persons. For the trite distinctions of sins, into what are termed · deadly,' and * venial,' I see no authority ; as, every sin, being a transgression of the divine law, is to be reckoned deadly' in one sense, and venial in another * ; dearly, when habitually and obstinately persisted in ; and venial, when sincerely and seasonably repented of, and duly washed away by the means now recommended. As there is no absolute perfection in any thing temporal or spiritual to be attained here below, all christian people ought to be very careful, lest they be, on the one hand, paffed up with an overweening conceit of their own attainments in grace, to the contempt of the instituted means of grace; or lest they be, on
of sin is death-Rom. vi. 23. 2 As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive> Cor. xv. 22.