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So that there is as much need of persons exercising care and diligence to persevere in order to their salvation, as there is of their attention and care to repent and be converted, For our own care and diligence is as much the proper and decreed. means of perseverance, as of any thing else; and the want of perseverance, is as much an evidence
the want of true conversion, as the want of conversion is a sign of the want of election. Labour and diligence to persevere, is as rational a way to make sure of the truth of grace, as they are to make sure of the truth of election. God's wrath and future punishment are proposed to all sorts of men, as motives to an universal and constant obedience, not only to the wicked, but also to the godly. Indeed, those that have obtained full assurance of their safe estate, are not capable of this motive, and they have no need of it. But when persons are most capable of the fear of hell, through their want of assurance and their uncertainty, whether or no they are not exposed to damnation-by reason of the weakness of their grace, then they have most need of caution.
Coroll.--Here we may observe, that it is not the scripture way of judging of the truth of grace, to be determined principally by the method and steps of the first work, but by the exercise and fruits of grace in a holy life.
§ 3. Perseverance in faith, is, in one sense, the condition of justification; that is, the promise of acceptance is made only to a persevering sort of faith; and the proper evidence of its being of that sort, is actual perseverance. Not but that a man may have good evidences that his faith is of that sort, before he has finished his perseverance, yea, the first time that he exercises such a faith, if the exercises of it are lively and vigorous. But when the believer has those vigorous exercises of faith, by which he has clear evidences of its being of a persevering kind, he evermore feels most disposition and resolution to persevere, and most of a spirit of dependence upon God and Christ, to enable him so to do.
$ 4. As to the passages of scripture like that, Ezekiel xvii. 24, wherein are declared the fatal consequences of turning or falling away from righteousness, they do not at all argue but that there is an essential difference, in the very nature of the righteousness of those that persevere, and the righteousness of those that fall away.
The one is of a lasting sort, the other not; and so, falling away, or holding out, are in those places respected as natural fruits, or discoveries, of the nature of the righteous, or of the wicked. If a man that had a prospect of being, ere long, in calamitous circumstances, of being poor, and the object of general contempt, and should make this declaration concerning his friend, or him that now appeared to be such, that if his friend would cleave to him through all his circumstances, he would receive him and treat him ever after as his true friend, but, otherwise, he would utterly desert him as a false friend; this would not argue, that he thought there was no difference between the love of friendship that was persevering, and that which fails when it is tried; but only, that those difficulties discover the difference, and show whose love is of a lasting sort, and whose not. The promises in scripture are commonly made to the signs of grace; though God knows whether men be sincere or not, without the signs whereby men know it.
$5. God, when he had laid out himself to glorify his mercy and grace in the redemption of poor fallen men, did not see meet, that those who are redeemed by Christ, should be redeemed so imperfectly, as still to have the work of perseverance left in their own hands. They had been found already insufficient for this, even in their perfect state, and are now ten times more liable than formerly to fall away, and not to persevere, if, in their falien, broken state, with their imperfect sanctification, the care of the matter be trusted with them. Man, though redeemed by Christ, so as to have the holy Spirit of God, and spiritual life again restored in a degree ; yet is left a very poor, piteous creature, because all is suspended on his perseverance as it was at first; and, the care of that affair, is left with him as it was then; and, he is ten times more likely to fall away than he was then, if we consider only what he was in himself, to preserve him from it. The poor creature sees his own insufficiency to stand, from what has happened in time past ; his own instability has been his undoing already ; and now he is vastly more unstable than before. thing wherein the first covenant was deficient, was, that the fulfilment of the righteousness of the covenant, and man's perseverance, was entrusted with man himself, with nothing better to secure it, than his own strength. And, therefore, God introduces a better, which should be an everlasting covenant, a new and living way ; wherein that which was wanting in the first, should be supplied, and a remedy should be provided against that, which, under the first covenant, proved man's undoing, viz. man's own weakness and instability ; by a mediator being given, who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; who cannot fail; who should undertake for his people, and take care of them. He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God through him; and ever lives to make intercession for them. God did not see it fit that man should be trusted to stand in his own strength a second time. It is not fit, that in a covenant of grace, wherein all is of mere, free, and absolute grace, that the reward of life should be suspended on the perseverance of man, as dependent on the strength and steadfastness of his own will.
It is a cove
nant of works, and not a covenant of grace, that suspends eternal life on what is the fruit of a man's own strength. Eternal life was to have been of works in those two respects, viz. as it was to have been for man's own righteousness, and as it was suspended on the fruit of his own strength. For, though our first parent depended on the grace of God, the influences of his Spirit in his heart; yet that grace was given him already, and dwelt in him constantly, and without interruption, in such a degree as to hold him above any lust or sinful habit or principle. Eternal life was not merely suspended on that grace that was given him, and dwelt in him, but on his improvement of that grace which he already had. For, in order to his perseverance, there was nothing further promised beyond his own strength ; no extraordinary occasional assistance was promised. It was not promised but that man should be left to himself as
But the new covenant is of grace, in a manner dis. tinguishing from the old, in both these respects, that the reward of life is suspended neither on his own strength nor worthiness. It provides something above either. But if eternal life, under the new covenant, was suspended on man's own perseverance, or his perseveringly using diligent endeavours to stand without the promise of any thing further to ascertain it than his own strength, it would herein be further from being worthy to be called a covenant of grace than the first covenant; because man's strength is exceedingly less than it was then, and he is under far less advantages to persevere And, if he should obtain eternal life, by perseverance in his own strength now, eternal life would, with respect to that, be much more of himself than it would have been by the first covenant; because, perseverance now, would be a much greater thing than under those circumstances; and he has but an exceeding small part of that grace, dwelling in him, to assist him, that he had then ; and that which he has, does not dwell in him in the exercise of it by such a constant law as grace did then, but is put into exercise by the spirit of grace, in a far more arbitrary and sovereign way.
6. Again, Christ came into the world to do that in which mere men failed. He came as a better surety, and that in him those defects might be supplied, which proved to be in our first surety, and that we might have a remedy for the mischief that came by those defects. But the defect of our first surety was, that he did not persevere. He wanted steadfastness; and, therefore, God sent us, in the next surety, one that could not fail ; but should surely persevere. But this is no supply of that defect to us, if the reward of life be still suspended on perseverance, which has nothing, as to ourselves, greater to secure it still, than the strength of mere man; and the perseverance of our second surety, is no remedy against the like mischief,
which came by failure of our first surety ; but, on the contrary, we are much more exposed to the mischief than before. The perseverance on which life was suspended, depended then indeed on the strength of mere man: but now (on the supposition) it would be suspended on the strength of fallen man.
In that our first surety did not persevere, we fell in and with him ; for, doubtless, if he had stood, we should have stood with him. And, iherefore, when God in mercy has given us a better surety to supply the defects of the first, a surety that might stand and persevere, and one that has actually persevered through the greatest imaginable trials; doubtless we shall stand and persevere in him. After all this, eternal life will not be suspended on our perseverance by our own poor, feeble, broken strength. Our first surety, if he had stood, would have been brought to eat of the tree of life, as a seal of a confirmed state of life in persevering and everlasting holiness and happiness; and he would have eat of this tree of life as a seal of persevering confirmed life, not only for himself, but as our head. As when he eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he tasted as our head, and so brought death on himself, and all his posterity ; so, if he had persevered, and had eat of the tree of life, he would have tasted of that as our head, and therein life and confirmed holiness, would have been sealed to him and all his posterity. But Christ, the second Adam, acts the same part for us that the first Adam was to have done, but failed. He has fulfilled the law, and has been admitted to the seals of confirmed and everlasting life. God, as a testimony and seal of his acceptance of what he had done, as the condition of life, raised him from the dead, and exalted him with his own right hand, received him up into glory, and gave all things into his hands. Thus the second Adam has persevered, not only for himself, but for us; and has been sealed to confirmed and persevering and eternal life, as our head; so that all those that are his, and who are his spiritual posterity, are sealed in him to persevering life. Here it will be in vain to object, that persons, persevering in faith and holiness, is the condition of their being admitted to the state of Christ's posterity, or to a right in him, and that none are admitted as such, till they have first persevered. For this is as much as to say, that Christ has no church in this world; and that there are none on this side the grave admitted as his children or people ; because they have not yet actually persevered to the end of life, which is the condition of their being admitted as his children and people; which is contrary to the whole scripture.
Christ having finished the work of Adam for us, does more than merely to bring us back to the probationary state of Adam, while he had yet his work to finish, knowing his eternal life uncertain, because suspended on his uncertain perseverance. That alone is inconsistent with Christ's being a second Adam. For if Christ, succeeding in Adam's room, has done and gone through the work that Adam was to have done, and did this as our representative or surety, he has not thereby set us only in Adam's probationary, uncertain state, but has carried us, who are in him, and are represented by him, through Adam's working probationary state, unto that confirmed state that Adam should have arrived at, if he had gone through his own work.
$ 7. That the saints shall surely persevere, will necessarily follow from this, that they have already performed the obedience which is the righteousness by which they have justification unto life ; or it is already performed for them, and imputed to them: for that supposes, that it is the same thing in the sight of God as if they had performed it. Now, when the creature has once actually performed and finished the righteousness of the law, he is immediately sealed and confirmed to eternal life. There is nothing to keep him off from the tree of life. But as soon as ever a believer has Christ's righteous. ness imputed to him, he has virtually finished the righteousness of the law.
It is evident the saints shall persevere, because they are already justified. Adam would not have been justified till he had fulfilled and done his work; and then his justification would have been a confirmation. It would have been an approving of him as having done his work, and as standing entitled to his reward. A servant that is sent out about a work, is not justified by his master till he has done : and then the master views the work, and seeing it to be done according to his order, he then approves and justifies him as having done his work, and being now entitled to the promised reward; and his title to his reward is no longer suspended on any thing remaining. So, Christ having done our work for us, we are justified as soon as ever we believe in him, as being, through what he has accomplished and finished, now already actually entitled to the reward of life. And justification carries in it not only remission of sins, but also being adjudged to life, or accepted as entitled by righteousness to the reward of life ; as is evident, because believers are justified by communion with Christ in his justification. But the justification of Christ did most certainly imply both these things, viz. his being now judged free of that guilt which he had taken upon him, and also his having now fulfilled all righteousness—his having perfectly obeyed the Father, and done enough to entitle him to the reward of life as our head and surety--and therefore he then had eternal life given him as our head. That life which was begun when he was raised from the dead, was eternal life.