CHARLES G. FINNEY
PERSEVERANCE OF SAINTS.
(6.) Another argument in support of the doctrine under consideration, I deduce from the fact that Paul, an inspired apostle, believed it.
Phil. 1:1. Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons; 2. Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4. (Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,) 5. For your fellowship in the gospel, from the first day until now. 6. Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Here the apostle represents himself as giving thanks for all the saints at Philippi, upon the ground of his confidence that he who had begun a good work in them would perform or perfect it until the day of Christ. His confidence did not rest in them, but in the faithfulness of Christ. He did not express a confidence that they would of themselves persevere, but that he who had begun a good work in them, would carry it on: that is, that he would so work in them as to keep them and as to secure their perseverance to the end. This he expected with respect to all the saints at Philippi. But if he believed this of all the saints at that place, it is plainly and fairly inferable that he believed it, simply because he expected this as to all true saints. He does not intimate that he expected this because of any peculiarity in their case, that is, not because they were better than other saints. or that God would do more for them than for others. He seems plainly to have expressed this confidence upon the ground of his expectation that he who begins a good work in any saint will carry it on and perfect it until the day of Christ. Should it be said that Paul intended merely to express the conviction or opinion of a good man that the Philippian saints would be saved, but that he did not intend to utter this as the voice of inspiration, I reply that Paul plainly expresses a confidence that they would all be saved, and that God would perfect the work which he had begun. Now how came he by this confidence? He was an inspired man. If inspiration had taught him that real saints do fall away and are lost how could he consistently express so thorough a persuasion that all the saints at Philippi would be saved? If Paul believed in the perseverance of the saints, it must be true, or he was deceived in respect to this important doctrine. But is it not safe to trust Paul's opinion of this doctrine? If any one is disposed to contend that we can not with strict justice infer that Paul believed the same in respect to God's perfecting the work in all saints, that he believed in respect to the Philippians, I will not contend with him with respect to this. It is, however, clear that Paul no where in this epistle nor elsewhere, intimates that he had higher expectations in regard to the salvation of the Philippians than he had in respect to the salvation of all true saints. In writing to the churches the apostles appear to have regarded and spoken of all true saints as the elect children of God. They seem to represent the salvation of all such persons as certain, but always keeping in mind and holding forth either expressly or by way of implication the nature of this certainty, that it was conditioned upon the right and persevering use of their own agency. They consequently constantly endeavor to guard the churches against delusion in regard to their being real saints, and admonish them to prove themselves in this respect, and also warn them against the supposition that they can be saved without actual perseverance in faith and obedience to the end of life.
(7.) The apostles seemed to have regarded the conversion of sinners as an evidence that God designed to save them or that they were of the elect:
Acts 2:47. Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
13:48. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.
In these passages as elsewhere, the conversion of sinners is spoken of as settling the question of their salvation. But if true saints do fall from grace and perish, why should the inspired writers so often express themselves as if they regarded the regeneration of a person as an indication that he is one of the elect and as securing his salvation?
So common is it for Christ and the apostles to speak of regeneration as settling the question of the salvation of those who are regenerated, that great multitudes have overlooked the fact that there was any other condition of salvation insisted on in the bible. When the Jailor demanded of Paul and Silas what he should do to be saved, Paul replied to him "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house."
Here, as is common in the bible, faith is spoken of as if it were the sole condition of salvation. Repentance, faith, regeneration. &c., are often, as every student of the bible knows, spoken of as if they were the only conditions of salvation. Now it seems to me that this could not and ought not to be if there is not a certain connection of some sort between real conversion and eternal salvation. It is true the necessity of perseverance to the end, is often mentioned and insisted upon in the bible as a condition of salvation, just as might be expected when we consider the nature of the certainty in question. If there is not, however, a certain connection between true regeneration, or faith, or repentance and salvation, it seems to me incredible that we should so often find faith, and repentance, and conversion spoken of as if they secured salvation.
Those who believe are represented as already having eternal life, as not coming into condemnation, but as having passed from death unto life. The following passages are specimens of the manner in which the scriptures speak upon this subject.
John 1:12. But Its many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
3: 36. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. 16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 18. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
4:14. But whosoever drinketh of the water that 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.
5:24. Verily, verily, I say unto you. He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
6:37. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 40. And this is the will of him that sent me, That every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. 45. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. 47. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
Acts 2:38. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
13:48. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.
16:31. And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved, and thy house.
Mark 16:15. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Now it seems to me that this numerous class of passages strongly imply that there is a certain connection of some sort between coming to Christ, receiving Christ, &c., and eternal life. Observe, I do not contend that perseverance faith and obedience is not also a condition of salvation, but, on the contrary, that it actually is. Nor do I contend that such like representations as the above, settle the question that all who at any time repent, believe, or come to Christ, will be saved. The thing which I here intend is, that this class of texts is just what we might expect, if the fact of regeneration were certainly connected with salvation, and just what it seems they ought not to be in case this were not true.
To this it is objected that many who attended on Christ's ministry are represented from time to time as believing, of whom it is almost immediately said that they turned back and walked no more with him. I answer that the Bible manifestly recognizes different kinds of faith, such as an intellectual faith, a faith of miracles, and the faith of the heart. The following are specimens of the Bible treatment of this subject:
Acts 8:13. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. 21. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 37. And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
James 2:19. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble.
These and many other passages manifestly speak of an intellectual faith, or of a simple conviction of the truth.
Matt. 7:22,23; 1 Cor. 13:1,2; are specimens of the manner in which the faith of miracles is represented.
See Rom. 10:9,10,11. Acts 8:37. Gal. 5:6. These and such like passages speak of evangelical faith or the faith of the heart. When the multitude are spoken of as believing under Christ's instruction or in view of his miracles, and then as going back and walking no more with him, we are doubtless to understand those passages as teaching simply that they were at the time convinced of his Messiahship, and that they intellectually believed that he was what he professed to be. But their history seems to forbid the conclusion that they were truly regenerated, or that they had the true faith of the gospel.
Again, John speaks of those who openly apostatized as if they had not been true christians: 1 John 2:19. "They went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. Observe the force of the expressions, "They went out from us, but they were not of us;" that is, were nor[not] truly Christians. Why does he say so? He assigns the reason for this assertion; "for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. but they went out from us that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." That is, a part of the professed disciples went out from the rest and returned to the world, that it might be made manifest who were and who were not Christians. I do not say, however, that this is indubitably taught in this passage; but it cannot be denied that this is its most natural construction.
(8.) The inhabitants of heaven seem to believe that there is a certain connection between repentance and salvation.
Luke. 15:7. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance.
Now surely this joy is premature unless they expect the penitent to be saved. If after all, there is an uncertainty about the result in their estimation, and if it may be, and there is a probability that the penitent will fall and suffer a vastly more aggravated damnation than if he had never been enlightened, one would think that they would at least suspend their triumph until the result was known. To be sure they might rejoice if the sinner broke off temporarily from his sin, and rejoice at the bare prospect of his salvation, but to me this passage reads just as it might be expected to read if they regarded repentance as certainly connected with ultimate salvation.
Again: there are several parables that seem to take the perseverance of the saints for granted or to assume its truth. The one immediately preceding the verse upon which I have just remarked is one of them.
Luke. 15:3. And he spake this parable unto them saying: 4. What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance.
Now why this joy at the return of a strayed or lost sheep if there is no certainty or scarcely any probability that he will not stray again and be finally lost with an aggravated destruction?
Immediately following this is another parable of the same import.
Luke. 15:8. Either what woman, having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9. And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found that which was lost. 10. Likewise, I say unto you, There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
Here again it may be asked, why this great joy at finding the sinner, unless his conversion is to result in his salvation?
I do not quote these passages as proving the doctrine in question, but only as specimens of the class of passages that seem to assume the truth of the doctrine and as being just what might be expected if the doctrine is true, and just what might not be expected if the doctrine is not true.
To this it may be, and has been replied that there are many passages that are just what we could not expect if the perseverance of the saints were true. The following are relied upon as examples of this class:
Heb. 6:1. Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God. 2. Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment, 3. And this will we do if God permit. 4. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5. Shall have tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6. If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Ez. 18:24. But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned; in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.
33:13. When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, be shall die for it.
Matt. 10:22. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake; but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
Jno. 15:6. I( a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
1 Cor. 10:12. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
Heb. 3:6. But Christ as a Son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. 12. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13. But exhort one another daily while it is called To-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.
4:1. Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 11. Let us labor therefore, to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
2. Pet. 1:10. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.
These passages have been quoted in another connexion, but are repeated here again, because the objection occurs in this place.
In reply to this objection I remark, as I have in substance before done, that instead of these passages being otherwise than might be expected if the doctrine in question were true, and therefore implying that the doctrine is not true, they are precisely what might be expected if the doctrine as I have stated it, were true. If the certainty be but a moral certainty, even when the fact of conversion is settled beyond all doubt or possibility of mistake, if the final salvation of the truly regenerate be as really conditioned upon perseverance as if there was no certainty about it, and if moreover the fact of conversion is seldom settled in this life beyond the possibility of mistake, then these passages instead of implying any real uncertainty in regard to the final salvation of the saints, are just as and what might be expected because they are just what is needed upon the supposition that the doctrine in question is true. They do not affirm that any true saints are or will be lost. They do imply the natural possibility and, humanly speaking, the danger of such an event. They further imply that without watchfulness and perseverance salvation is impossible. They also imply that caution, warning, and threatening, are needed. They also imply that some men, to say the least, are not certain of their own salvation, and, that they do not certainly know that they are saints beyond all possibility of mistake.
Now these things that are fairly implied in this class of passages are really true: hence these passages just meet the necessities of the church, and are therefore just what might be expected when all the facts in the case are considered. I do not intend that this class of passages imply the truth of the doctrine under consideration, but that they are consistent with it and might be expected if the doctrine, as I have stated it, were true.
(9.) Regeneration is represented as securing perseverance in obedience: 1st. In those passages that make it the condition of salvation. 2nd. In those passages that expressly affirm that the truly regenerated do not and cannot live in sin. 1st Jn. 3:9. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 4:7. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 5:1. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him that is begotten of him. 4. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 18. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not: but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. These and similar passages expressly teach the persevering nature of true religion through the indwelling of the Holy spirit: in other words, they teach that the truly regenerate do not sin, in the sense at least of living in any thing like habitual sin. They teach that with all truly regenerate souls, holiness is at least the rule and sin only the exception; that instead of its being true that regenerate souls live a great majority of their days subsequent to regeneration in sin, it is true that they so seldom sin, that in strong language it may be said with truth that they do not sin. This language so strongly and expressly teaches that perseverance is an unfailing attribute of christian character, that but for the fact that other passages constrain us to understand these passages as strong language used in a qualified sense, we should naturally understand them as affirming that no truly regenerate soul does at any time sin. But since it is a sound rule of interpreting the language of an author, that he is if possible to be made consistent with himself; and since John in other passages in this same epistle and elsewhere, represents that christians or truly regenerate persons do sometimes sin; and since this is frequently taught in the bible, we must understand these passages just quoted as only affirming a general and not a universal truth; that is, that truly regenerate persons do not sin any thing like habitually, but that holiness is the rule with them and sin only the exception. Certainly these passages can not be reasonably understood as affirming and meaning less than this. I know it has been said that being born of God is used by John in these cases in a higher sense and as meaning more than simple conversion or regeneration, as representing a higher state than can be predicated of all true christians. But observe, he especially affirms that all who truly believe are born of God.
1st. John 5:1. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him.
Again: Christ speaks as if he regarded those only as having truly believed who persevere in obedience. John 8:31. Then said Jesus to those Jews who believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed. The parable of the sower appears to have been designed expressly to teach the persevering nature of true religion.
Luke 8:5. A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. 6. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. 7. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. 8. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit a hundred fold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 11. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12. Those by the way-side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15. But that on the good ground are they, which, in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
If this parable was not designed to distinguish true religion from its counterfeits and to illustrate the persevering nature of true religion, I do not know and can not conceive what was its design. I need not enlarge upon it. Let any one read and consider the parable for himself.
Again the parable of the leaven, seems designed also to teach the progressive and persevering nature of true religion.
Matt. 13:33. Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
This parable I understand to represent or teach the aggressive nature of true faith and piety as it exhibits itself both in the hearts and lives of individual christians and also as it progresses and extends itself in the world. It is in its nature persevering and aggressive, and when it once truly exists, it will through grace triumph. When I speak of the persevering nature of true religion, I do not mean that religion as it exists in the hearts of the saints in this life would of itself, if unsupported by the grace and indwelling Spirit of God, prevail and triumph over its enemies; but the thing intended is that through the faithfulness of God, he that has begun or shall begin a good work in any heart will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ. The persevering character of true religion is owing to the indwelling Spirit of God. This leads me to remark,
Again, that repentance is made the condition of receiving the Holy Spirit; and when this Spirit is received it is with the express promise and pledge, that he shall abide in the heart forever.
John 7:37. In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried. saying, If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
Here we learn that water represents the Holy Spirit. This is abundantly taught in the bible. Now let us hear what Christ said to the woman of Samaria.
John 4:13. Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again. 14. But whosoever drinketh of the water that 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.
The prominent truth taught in this text is that whosoever shall drink of this water shall never thirst. In this particular respect the Savior contrasts it with the water of Jacob's well, and says 13,14: "Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that 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 Christ plainly states as a fact.
That is, he shall never perish for lack of this Spirit or water, but it shall abide in him and spring up into eternal life. The Spirit shall remain in him and secure him against falling and perishing. The fact that the Spirit shall abide with and in all who ever receive him and shall prevail to secure their salvation, seems to be plainly taught in this passage.
Again, Ro. 8:9. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10. And Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Here it is expressly declared that none are christians who have not the Holy Spirit, or Spirit of Christ, and that they who are Christ's do not walk after the flesh but after the Spirit; that they who are Christ's have crucified, that is, killed the lusts of the flesh. This is the real character of all true saints. Such like passages, observe, are designed to distinguish true religion from its counterfeits, and to teach that perseverance in true obedience is a characteristic of all saints.
The bible every where represents professors who do not persevere and abide steadfast as hypocrites, or as self-deceived. Job says:
Job 27:8. For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? 9. Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him? 10. Will he delight himself in the Almighty? will he always call upon God?
Here he represents the failing to always call upon God as a demonstration of hypocrisy. Christ expressly represents perseverance as the characteristic of true believers. "My sheep hear my voice and follow me." This must relate at least to habitual character.
(10.) Christ represents it as impossible to deceive the elect. Matt. 24:24. We have seen that the elect unto salvation includes all true christians; that is, that all christians are the elect children of God. They have come to Christ. Observe the Savior himself teaches, as we have seen,
[1.] That no one can come to, or believe in him, unless the Father draw him.
[2.] That the Father draws those; and only those to Christ whom he has given to him.
[3.] That all whom the Father has given to him shall come to him, and of those that come to him he will lose none, but will raise them up at the last day.
John 6:44. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. 37. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 37.[39.] And this is the father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
False theories are represented as permitted to test the piety of true and false professors. 1 Cor. 11:19. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." Those who are of the elect or are true children of God will not follow heresies. Christ says, John 10:4. "And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. 27. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand."
But those who are not true believers will not and do not hear and know his voice and follow him, John 10:26. "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you."
(11.) The eighth chapter of Romans seems to settle the question, or rather is of itself a clear proof of the doctrine we are examining. We need to read and ponder prayerfully the whole chapter, to apprehend distinctly the scope of the apostle's teaching upon this subject. He had in the seventh chapter been dwelling upon and portraying a legal experience. He begins this chapters by asserting, Ro. 8:1. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; 4. That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. 5. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8. So then they that are in the flesh can not please God. 9. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now, any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life, because of righteousness. 11. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. 12. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ: if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18. For I reckon, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Here he describes the character of true believers as distinguished from mere legalists of whom he had been speaking. True believers, he here asserts, are justified; they are in Christ Jesus, they walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit; the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them, that is, the law is written in their hearts; they have the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of adoption; the Spirit witnesses with their spirit that they are the adopted children of God; "If children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ;" the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in them. Verse 24 he says: "For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen, is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
He then proceeds to notice the ground of this hope. The first particular he notices is, that the Spirit which he had just said, dwells in all true believers, and of which, as we have seen, Christ says that when he is once given, the soul that has received him shall never thirst, but that he shall be in him like a well of water springing up into everlasting life: Paul says of this spirit, verse 26 and 27, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which can not be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." This, observe, he affirms to be true of all who are Christ's or who are true believers. Of this spirit he affirms the following things: (1.) That all christians possess this Spirit; (2.) That this Spirit bears witness with the spirits of christians that they are the children of God. Verse 16, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." (3.) That he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God, that is, that he prays in them or excites them to pray, and to pray aright, for those things which it is the will of God to grant to them. He then in the 28th verse says, "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." Here he represents those who love God and those who are the called according to his purpose, as the same persons, and affirms that we know that all things shall work together for their good. This he notices as a second ground of hope. He next proceeds to state how we know that all things work together for the good of those that love God, or, which he regards as the same thing, to those who are the elect, called according to the election or purpose of God. He says verse 29, "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:" that is, we know it because they are predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son. Not if they will be, but to be, and therefore all things must directly or indirectly contribute to this result. He then says, "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." That is, furthermore we, know this, and have good ground of hope from the fact that whom he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, them, that is the same persons, he also called, and whom, that is, the same persons whom he had predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son and had called, them he also justified, and whom he predestinated and called and justified them, that is, the same persons, he also glorified.
Here then, he concludes, is a firm foundation for the hope of which he had spoken, the grounds of which he had been pointing out. He accordingly proceeds to say in a spirit of triumph:
Rom. 8:31. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" 32. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Here he says, "if God be for us, who can be against us?" and then proceeds to point out several other considerations that enter into this ground of confidence. All who love God are his elect. God justifies them, and who is he that condemns them? God is for them, and who shall be against them? God freely gave his Son for all of them, how much more shall he freely give them all things? If he did not withhold his Son, surely he would withhold nothing else from them that was necessary to secure their salvation. Furthermore it was Christ that died and, still more and rather, that had risen again and maketh intercession for them. If these things are so we may well inquire:
35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine or nakedness, or peril or sword? 36. (As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.)
He then triumphantly affirms, verses 37--39: "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.
If Paul in the eighth of Romans does not settle the question that all true saints will be saved how could it be settled? Let us in few words sum up the argument as he here presents it:
[1.] We are saved already in anticipation or in hope, and only by hope, for as yet we have not received our crown.
[2.] The grounds of this hope are that we are in Christ Jesus, have the spirit of Christ, spirit of adoption. We walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. This Spirit witnesses that we are children and heirs of God. He makes intercession for us according to the will of God. We also know that all things work together for good to them who love God, for they are the called according to his purpose. They who are called, that is, effectually called, are called in conformity with their predestination to be conformed to the image of the Son of God. Hence those who are thus predestinated are called and justified and glorified. Therefore no one can lay any thing to the charge of God's elect. God justifies, and who shall condemn them? Christ died for them, yea, rather, has risen and makes intercession for them. God withheld not his Son, and of course will withhold from christians nothing that is essential to secure their salvation. Wherefore he concludes that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God.
I know that to this it has been replied, that although nothing else can separate us from the love of God, yet we may separate ourselves from his love.
To this I answer, true we may or can do so, but the question is, shall we or will any of the elected and called do so? No, indeed; for this is the thing which the apostle intended to affirm, namely, the certainty of the salvation of all true saints. The apostle manifestly in this passage assumes or affirms that all who ever truly love God are elect or are chosen to be conformed to the image of his Son; and are called and sanctified, and justified, in conformity with such predestination.
If this is not his meaning, what is? If this is not his meaning, what ground of hope do we, after all, find in what he says?
The apostle seems to have had the same thought in his mind in writing to the Hebrews.
Heb. 6:17. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; 18. 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; 19. Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail; 20. Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high-priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec.
There are a great many other passages of scripture, of the same import as those I have quoted in support of this doctrine, as every one knows who has taken the trouble to examine for himself.
But I have pursued this investigation far enough. If what has been said fails to satisfy any mind, it is presumed that nothing which might be added would produce conviction. I will therefore drop the discussion, and conclude, with several
1. If the doctrine under consideration is not true, I can not see upon what ground we can affirm or even confidently hope that many of our pious friends who have died have gone to heaven. Suppose they held on their way until the last hours of life. If we may not believe that the faithfulness of God prevailed to keep them through the last conflict, what reason have we to affirm that they were preserved from sin and apostacy in their last hours, and saved? If the sovereign grace of God do not protect them against the wiles and malice of Satan in their feebleness and in the wreck of their habitation of clay, what will become of them? I must confess that if I did not expect the covenanted mercy and faithfulness of God to prevail and to sustain the soul under such circumstances I should have very little expectation that any would be saved. If I could have any confidence that christians would stand fast while in health aside from the truth of this doctrine, still I should expect that Satan would overcome them at the last when they passed through the last great struggle. Who could then trust to the strength of his own purposes.
2. But I could no more hope that myself or any one else would persevere in holiness in our best estate, even for one day or hour, if not kept by the power of God through faith, than I could hope to fly to heaven.
As I have before said, there is no hope of any one's persevering, except in so far forth as free grace anticipates and secures, the concurrence of free will. The soul must be called and effectually called and perpetually called or it will not follow Christ for an hour. I say again that by effectual calling, I do not mean an irresistible calling. I do not mean a calling that can not or that might not be resisted; but I do mean by an effectual calling, a calling that is not in fact resisted, a calling that does in fact secure the voluntary obedience of the soul. This is my only hope in respect to myself or any body else. This grace I regard as vouchsafed to me in the covenant of grace or as a reward of Christ's obedience unto death. It is pledged to secure the salvation of those whom the Father has from eternity given to the Son. The Holy Spirit is given to them to secure their salvation, and I have no expectation that any others will ever be saved. But these, every one of them, will surely be saved. There is, there can be no hope for any others. Others are able to repent, but they will not. Others might be saved if they would believe and comply with the conditions of salvation. but they will not.
We have seen that none come to Christ except they are drawn of the Father, and that the Father draws to Christ those and those only whom he has given to Christ; and also that it is the Father's design that of those whom he has given to Christ he should lose none, but that he should raise them up at the last day, to be with him and to behold his glory. This is the only hope that any will be saved. Strike out this foundation and what shall the righteous do? Strike out from the bible the doctrine of God's covenanted faithfulness to Christ--the truth that the Father has given to him a certain number whose salvation he foresees that he could and should secure, and I despair of myself and of every body else. Where is the ground of hope? I know not where.
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