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Again, Consider your poverty as creatures, and how utterly impossible it is for you to be happy in yourselves, and say, Arise, 0 my soul, from off this weak and tottering foundation, and build thyself up in God; cease pinching thyself within the straits of self-sufficiencies, and come, stretch thyself upon infinite goodness and fulness. Again, pore not upon your attainments; do not sit brooding upon your present accomplishments, but forget the things that are behind, and say, Awake, O my soul, there is yet infinitely much more in God; pursue after him for it, till thou hast gotten as much as a created being is able to receive of the divine nature. In a word, Take heed you live not by the lowest examples, (which thing keeps many in a dwindling state all their days) but by the highest. Consider the spouse, her temper, sick of love; David's temper, waiting for God more than they that watch for the morning, breaking in heart for the longing that he had to the Lord, and say, Arise, O my soul, and live as high as the highest. It is no fault to desire to be as good, as holy, and as happy, as an angel of God; and thus, O my soul, open thy mouth wide, and God hath promised to fill it.
That religion is a lasting and persevering principle in the
souls of men, proved by several Scriptures.
I COME now to the third property of true religion, contained in these words; and that is, the perseverance of it. And here the foundation of my following discourse shall be this proposition.“ True religion is a lasting and persevering principle in the souls of good men."
It is said of the hypocritical Jews, that their goodness was as the “early dew that soon passes away,” Hosea vi. 4. But that principle of goodness which God gives to the souls of his people is compared to a well of water, evermore sending forth fresh streams, and incessantly springing up towards God himself. Our Saviour compares hypocritical professors to “ seed sown upon stony ground, that springs up indeed, but soon withers away," Mark iv. 5, 6, but this well of water, which is in the sincere godly soul, springs up into everlasting life; it springs, and is never dried up; “it is a spring of water, whose waters fail not, or lie not, as it is expressed by the prophet, Isa. lviii. 11; or if you look upon it under the metaphor of oil, as it is sometimes expressed in Scripture, then it is truly that oil that faileth not, whereof the widow of Sarepta's cruse of oil was but a scant resemblance. Amongst other texts which the learned Dr. Arrowsmith brings to prove the infallibility of the perseverance of saints, this speech of our Saviour's, which is the subject of my whole discourse, is one. He also quoteth Theophylact for the same purpose, viz. the perseverance of this principle, yea, and somewhat more, even the growth and multiplication of it. To this effect the same excellent author quoteth John x. 27, 28. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” In which words our Saviour strongly asserteth the certain glorification of his elect, by using a verb of the present tense, I give unto them eternal life; he will as certainly give it them, as if they had it already; except the words do imply that they have it already, viz. the beginnings of it, even in this life: and if so, then the words do yet more strongly assert the doctrine of perseverance; for how can that life be called eternal, which may be ended? In the same words he seemeth purposely to prevent fears, and beforehand to answer objections, by securing them both from internal and external enemies; they shall never perish, viz. of their own accord, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand; for the word in the original is such as doth secure them from the power of devils as well as men; and what is said of the church in general, is also certain concerning every true member of it in particular; the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Christ hath not only chosen and ordained his people that they should be holy, but also that they should persevere in holiness; not only that they should bring forth good fruits, but that their “fruits should remain,” John XV. 16. " Hence they are said to be born again of incorruptible seed, which liveth and abideth for ever," 1 Pet. i. 23. He that is born of God, is said to have the seed of God in him, and remaining in him, and so remaining in him as that he shall never again commit sin, that is, shall not become any more ungodly, 1 John iii. 9. To all which may be added that strong and strengthening text, Rom. viii. 38, 39—“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:' which one text doth excellently assert both those high and comfortable doctrines of assurance and perseverance; and they are worthily to be honoured in the church of God, who have vindicated it from the corrupt glosses and cavils of the papists, who have endeavoured to rob Christians of the sweetness which may be sucked out of that pregnant honeycomb: in a word, let the holy Psalmist's experience of the supporting virtue of this doctrine shut up the proof of it at present, who found himself wonderfully comforted by it after all his fears and foils, Psalm lxxiii. 23, 24, where he sings of the loving kindness of the Lord in time past; “ Thou hast holden me by my right-hand;" and, at present, “I am continually with thee;" that is, thou art continually with me; and, with the like courage and confidence he speaks of all time to come, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory.”
Now, although the doctrine of the perseverance of saints be thus fully and clearly laid down in Scripture, yet it is easy to err in giving an account of it, and of the grounds of it. And therefore I shall proceed to the grounds of it, which I will briefly lay down negatively and affirmatively. First, negatively.
1. The certain perseverance of the saints in a state of grace, doth not arise from the absolute inamissibility of grace in the creature: it is one thing to affirm, that
shall not be lost, and another thing to affirm, that it is absolutely unloseable. God hath told us, that the world shall no more be drowned, but who will say for all that, that it is not in itself capable of drowning? Whilst we think to honour God, by asserting the permanency of grace, we must take heed lest we make a god of grace, and so dishonour him. Grace, as it is in God, in the fountain, which divines sometimes call active grace, is eternal and unchangeable, not subject to any defection or alteration. There is no time, or place, or