« AnteriorContinuar »
lose his image and favor. God is immutable in his goodness: but this is no ground of certainty that the same individuals who were once dear to him, may not forfeit his love, and become the vessels of his wrath. . This hath in fact been the case, in re. gard to the angels who kept not their first estate ; and whom he hath reserved in chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.
But, although this doctrine of the infallible perseverance and final happiness of all true believers in Christ, rests entirely on divine revelation ; yet, let us not be apprehensive that it wants proof. The testimony of the scriptures in support of it, it appears to me, is very express and abundantly full.
1. From the general descriptions which are given of the covenant of grace, it is evident that the salvation of all who have once an interest in this covenant, is effectually secured.
This is the covenant ultimately intended, no doubt, in those last words of David, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5, “ Although my house be not so with God ; yet he hatlt made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and suré, for all my salvation, and all my desire." This covenant is described, and set in contrast with the covenant of works, Jer. xxxi. 31, 32, 33, “ Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; (which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord;) But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel ; After those days,
saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward • parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their
God, and they shall be my people.” And again, chapter xxxii. 40, “I will make an everlasting
covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” · The apostle to the Hebrews speaks of Christ as being the Mediator of a better covenant, established upon better promises : for the illustration and proof of which he quotes the foregoing words of Jeremiah. In another place he says ; Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise, the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath : That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” If that divine influence which will infallibly secure the perseverance of believers, be absolutely promised in the covenant of grace, it may easily be seen that this new covenant is ordered in all things and sure ; and that those who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon this hope, have firm ground for strong consolation. But, on supposition that glory is only conditionally promised, to those who are in Christ by faith, and grace
to fulfil the condition is not divinely engaged, it will be difficult to see how the new covenant is any more sure, or any better established, than former covenants were. It was always certain that God would give the blessings promised, provided his people were steadfast in the covenant on their part. This was certain in the covenant with Adam, and in the Sinai covenant. All the fault-all the weakness—all the possibility of failure was, the fulfilment on the part of men was left to them : grace to keep them steadfast was not promised. And were the gospel covenant left, in the same manner, without the promise of persevering grace, this would be as liable to fail as former covenants. Were that the case, christians might trust in God, that if they endured unto the end, they should be saved; but that they should thus endure, they could only depend
upon themselves. After having fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us, whatever assur: ance they might have of this, their strong consolation must still be grounded on the strength and stability of their present good purposes and resolutions. Conditionally, their faith and hope might be in God; but for the performance of the condition on which all was still suspended, they could only have self-confi. dence. The hope that they should not be so weak as to fall away, amidst all possible temptations without any certain expectation of effectual divine aid, would be all the hope they could have. And could such an hope as this, be an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast? “ He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.”
We must conclude that the better covenant, established upon better promises—the covenant of which Christ is the mediator and surety, all the promises of which in him are yea, and in him amen, is not thus left to stand, one foot of it entirely upon the mutable goodness of man. Every part of it must rest on the promised grace of the immutable God, or it could not deserve the name of “ an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure ; ascertaining to the saint,” all his salvation, and all his desire.
2. Besides these general descriptions of the covenant of grace, there are many particular passages of scripture in which this doctrine, of the infallible perseverance and salvation of the truly pious, is most strongly expressed. Among a multitude of others, which are full to this purpose, see the following texts. Job xvii. 9, “ The righteous shall hold on his way,
.' Psal. xxxvii. 23, 24, “ The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord :--though he fall
, he shall not be utterly cast down : for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” Prov. iv. 18, “ The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Isa. liv. 10, “ The
mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed ; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” John v. 24,“ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation." John x. 27, 28, 29, “ 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 pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.” Rom. viii. 28, 29, 30, “ And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called ; and whom he called, them he also justified ; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” And ver. 35-39, “ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ?-Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. 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 are the plain and indisputable scripture proofs, of this important doctrine of the saints' perseverance. There are objections against it, however, which deserve a very particular attention. But the due consideration of these will require so much time, that it will be left for another opportunity.
ON THE PRESERVATION AND PERSEVERANCE OF
TRUE BELIEVERS IN CHRIST.
1 PETER I. 5.
Who are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salva
IN a former discourse on these words, wę considered the character and state of those who are thus kept-How far they are kept-In what way they are kept-And the certainty of their being so kept. It only remains, according to the method proposed,
That we consider, in the last place, what is objected against believing that all who are once in a state of grace, are so kept by the power of God, that it is impossible they should finally, or totally, fall away.
The objections which have been made to this doctrine, are many and of various kinds. They are taken from scripture ; from the nature of things; and from the supposed bad tendency of teaching any men, that they are thus out of all danger in this life. I shall begin with the objections from scripture. Here,