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persevere in the ways of Christian piety, virtue, and charity, to the close of their probation. In no pe. riod of the present life then does a man make those Christian attainments, which raise him above the danger of falling into a fatal course of sin.
But the doctrine we are considering rests wholly on scriptural authority. I shall therefore,
1. Review those passages of scripture which are the most frequently adduced as proof of the perse. verance of saints.
2. Examine those texts, that are thought to prove that Christians may and have fatally fallen into a course of habitual sin.
3. Consider several of those exhortations of the sacred writers, which warn saints of the danger of a fatal miscarriage, and animate them to steadfastness and constancy
1. To review those passages of scripture, which are the most frequently adduced as proof of the perseverance of saints.
Many passages of scripture are mentioned, which are supposed to promise to the disciples of Jesus Christ persevering grace.
Several of these are found in the gospel of John. Whosoever drinketh of the water I shall give him, shall never thirst ; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.”* This is figurative language ; and the obvious meaning of it is, that the instruction and assist. ance which Jesus Christ grants to his disciples, are sufficient to enlighten the honest mind in all religious truth necessary for salvation, and to guide the
John iv. 14.
sincere and diligent disciple in the path of peace and joy to the gate of heaven.
Anuther passage from the same gospel follows :-“This is the Father's will, who hath sent me, that of all which he has given me, I should lose nothing, but raise it up at the last day."* The assurance here given is not, that no disciple shall fall away ; but that no diligent and persevering disciple shall fail of his heavenly reward. Assuredly he will not.
. Christ will certainly raise all his faithful followers from the silence of the tomb to immortal life. John has recorded the following observations of our Saviour “ 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. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hands.” They who are worthily denominated the sheep of Christ, are persons of a meek, peaceable, and heav. enly temper. God has committed all who cherish and maintain this disposition to the safe keeping of our Saviour. He, being above thrones, principalities and powers, will not suffer them to perish in the grave ; but will give them life eternal. Our Saviour also in this gospel gives thanks to God for the preservation of his disciples.-" Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition.”'t The best com. mentators apply this passage to the preservation of
John vi. 39.
the lives of the twelve apostles ; but if it be refer. red to Christians generally, it makes directly against the doctrine of perseverance ; for our Saviour expressly includes Judas in the number given to him ; and he fell away and was lost.
The advocates of the doctrine of perseverance bring passages in which the apostles express the highest persuasion of their own perseverance, and of that of their fellow saints. Thus from St. Paul“I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to conie, 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.”* The amount of this animated paragraph is a strong persuasion, that neither the dangers of persecution, the conflicts of the world, nor the temptations of evil beings, would separate the apostle or his fellow disciples from love and obedience to God, and thereby deprive them of the blessings of the love of God in Christ Jesus. In the previous context, St. Paul asks—" Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ?” The exhortation of St. Jude may be considered as a comment on the above sentence from St. Paul" Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”+ A passage from the epistle to the Philippians is cited in support of the doctrine of perseverance." Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work
* Rom. viii. 38, 39.
1 Jude 21.
in you, will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ."* God works within men to will and to do of his good pleasure, that they may work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. And in the succeeding verse, the apostle expresses his confidence that his Philippian converts would in such a manner co-operate with the divine measures adopted for their salvation, as to render them effectual." Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart.” To the purpose mentioned, the words of the apostle Peter are adduced—“ Who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.”+ In the previous context this apostle observes, that God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, has begotten Christians to the hope of immortality ; in the verse quoted, he declares, that Christians are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. The condition then is, that men remain in the faith ; and on this condition alone, are they entitled to the promise.
It is affirmed that various passages of the New Testament directly assert the perseverance of saints. Such is the declaration of our Saviour“ There shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders ; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."# By the elect, in this place, are meant those who believe in the divine mission of Jesus Christ, and who with sincerity obey his commands. The expression, “ If it were possible,” implies not an impossibility, but a high degree of improbabili.
* Phil. i. 6.
+ 1 Pet. i. 5.
$ Matt. xxiv. 24.
ty. It expresses the great difficulty with which a purpose can be accomplished. The meaning of our Saviour in this place may be known, from a view of other places in scripture where the same phraseology is used. We are told, that St. Paul hasted, if it were possible for him to be at Jerusa. lem on the day of Pentecost. There was not an impossibility of this; but the accomplishment of his design would be attended with difficulty.-" If it be possible," exhorts the apostle, “ as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” The words of our Saviour amount to this declaration : They who are grounded and settled in their religion are with difficulty led to apostacy. That they imply not an impossibility that Christians should apostatize, is evident, from the caution which he gives to his disciples to be on their guard, lest they should be led astray by the seducing artifices of false Christs and false prophets." Take heed that no man deceive you,”'* He solemnly warns them. -"Take ye heed : behold, I have foretold you all things.”+ He directs them to watch and pray, that they might be counted worthy to escape those evils. He expressly says, that “because of these things, the love of many shall wax cold.” But he promises, that " he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”+
I will introduce one passage more, which is brought in proof of the doctrine of perseverance, " Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him ; and he cannot sin,
Matt. xxiv. 4.
+ Mark xiii. 23.
* Matt. xxiv. 13,