||delphia > Lectures on SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY by Charles G. Finney (page 10 of 11)
Charles G. Finney
A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age
by Charles Grandison Finney
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LECTURE LXXXI. -- Perseverance of Saints.
Consideration of principal arguments in support of the doctrine
LECTURE LXXXII. -- Perseverance of Saints.
[In the Contents of the printed book, there is no entry
for Lecture LXXXIII.]
LECTURE LXXXIII. -- Perseverance of Saints.
Further objections answered
This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.
LECTURE LXXXI. Back to Top
PERSEVERANCE OF SAINTS.
V. Consider the objections to it.
- Objection. 1. It is said that the natural tendency of this doctrine condemns
it; that it tends to beget and foster a carnal presumption in a life of sin, on the
part of those who think themselves saints.
- There is, I reply, a broad and obvious distinction between the abuse of a good
thing or doctrine, and its natural tendency. The legitimate tendency of a thing or
doctrine may be good, and yet it may be abused and perverted. This is true of the
atonement, and the offer of pardon through Christ. These doctrines have been, and
are, greatly objected to by universalists and unitarians, as having a tendency to
encourage the hope of impunity in sin. It is said by them, that to hold out the idea
that Christ has made an atonement for sin, and that the oldest and vilest sinners
may be forgiven and saved, tends directly to immorality, and to encourage the hope
of ultimate impunity in a life of sin; the hope that, after a sinful life, the sinner
may at last repent and be saved.
Now, there is so much plausibility in this objection to the doctrine of pardon and
atonement, that many sensible men have rejected those doctrines because of this objection.
They have regarded the objection as unanswerable. But a close examination will show,
that the objection against those doctrines is entirely without foundation; and not
only so, but that the real natural tendency of those doctrines affords a strong presumptive
argument in their favour. Who does not know, after all, that from the nature and
laws of mind, the manifestation of compassion and of disinterested good will, and
a disposition to forgive a fault on the part of the justly offended, tend in the
highest degree to bring the offender to repentance? "If thine enemy hunger,
feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of
fire upon his head." This command is the perfection of wisdom. It recognizes
mind, and the laws of mind as they are. The free offer of pardon to a convicted and
self-condemned sinner has no natural tendency to encourage him in sin, but is the
most potent influence possible to bring him to immediate repentance.
So the telling of a convinced and self-condemned sinner, that Christ has died for
his sins, and offers freely and at once to forgive all the past, has no natural tendency
to beget a spirit of perseverance in rebellion; but is on the contrary the readiest,
and safest, and I may add, the only effectual method of subduing him, and bringing
him to immediate repentance. But suppose, on the other hand, you tell him there is
no forgiveness, that he must be punished for his sins at all events, what tendency
has this to bring him to immediate and genuine repentance; to beget within him the
love required by the law of God? Assuring him of punishment for all his sins might
serve to restrain outward manifestations of a sinful heart, but certainly it tends
not to subdue selfishness, and to cleanse the heart; whereas the offer of mercy through
the death of Christ, has a most sin-subduing tendency. It is such a manifestation
to the sinner of God's great love to him, his real pity for him, and readiness to
overlook and blot out the past, as tends to break down the stubborn heart into genuine
repentance, and to beget the sincerest love to God and Christ, together with the
deepest self-loathing and self-abasement on account of sin. Thus the doctrines of
the atonement and pardon through a crucified Redeemer, instead of being condemned
by their legitimate tendency, are greatly confirmed thereby. These doctrines are
no doubt liable to abuse, and so is every good thing; but is this a good reason for
rejecting them? Our necessary food and drink may be abused, and often are, and so
are all the most essential blessings of life. Should we reject them on this account?
It is admitted, that the doctrines of atonement and forgiveness through Christ, are
greatly abused by careless sinners and hypocrites; but is this a good reason for
denying and withholding them from the convicted sinner, who is earnestly inquiring
what he shall do to be saved? No, indeed.
It is also admitted, that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is liable
to abuse, and often is abused by the carnal and deceived professor; but is this a
good reason for rejecting it, and for withholding its consolations from the tempted,
tempest-tossed saint? By no means. Such are the circumstances of temptation from
within and without, in which the saints are placed in this life, that when they are
made really acquainted with themselves, and are brought to a proper appreciation
of the circumstances in which they are, they have but little rational ground of hope,
except what is found in this doctrine. The natural tendency and inevitable consequence
of a thorough revelation of themselves to themselves, would be to beget despair,
but for the covenanted grace and faithfulness of God. What saint who has ever been
revealed to himself by the Holy Spirit, has not seen what Paul saw when he said,
"In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing?" Who that has been
made acquainted with himself does not know that he never did, and never will take
one step towards heaven, except as he is anticipated and drawn by the grace of God
in Christ Jesus? Who that knows himself does not understand that he never would have
been converted, but for the grace of God anticipating and exciting the first motions
of his mind in a right direction? And what true saint does not know, that such are
his former habitudes, and such the circumstances of trial under which he is placed,
and such the downward tendency of his own soul on account of his physical depravity
(see distinction between moral and physical depravity, Lecture XXXVIII. II), that
although converted, he shall not persevere for an hour, except the indwelling grace
and Spirit of God shall hold him up, and quicken him in the path of holiness?
Where, I would ask, is the ground of hope for the saints as they exist in this world?
Not in the fact that they have been physically regenerated, so that to fall is naturally
impossible. Not in the fact that they have passed through any such change of nature
as to secure their perseverance for an hour, if left to themselves. Not in the fact
that they can, or will sustain themselves for a day or a moment by their resolutions.
Where then is their hope? There is not even a ground of probability, that any one
of them will ever be saved, unless the doctrine in question be true, that is, unless
the promised grace and faithfulness of God in Christ Jesus goes before, and from
step to step secures their perseverance. But if this grace is promised to any saint,
as his only ground of confidence, or even hope that he shall be saved, it is equally,
and upon the same conditions, promised to all the saints. No one more than another
can place the least reasonable dependence on anything, except the grace equally promised
and vouchsafed to all. What does a man know of himself who hopes to be saved, and
who yet does not depend wholly on promises of grace in Christ Jesus?
The natural tendency of true and thorough conviction of sin, and of such a knowledge
of ourselves, as is essential to salvation, is to beget and foster despondency and
despair; and, as I said, the soul in this condition has absolutely little or no ground
of hope of ultimate salvation, except that which this doctrine, when rightly understood,
affords. However far he may have progressed in the way of life, he sees, when he
thoroughly knows the truth, that he has progressed not a step, except as he has been
drawn and inclined by the indwelling grace and Spirit of Christ; and that he shall
absolutely go no further in the way to heaven, unless the same gracious influence
is continued, in such a sense, and to such an extent, as to overcome all the temptations
with which he is beset. His only hope is in the fact, that God has promised to keep
and preserve him. Nothing but God's faithfulness to his Son procured the conversion
of any saint. Nothing but this same faithfulness has procured his perseverance for
a day, and nothing else can render the salvation of any soul at all probable. What
can a man be thinking about, or what can he know of himself, who does not know this?
Unless the same grace that secures the conversion of the saints, secures their perseverance
to the end, there is no hope for them. It is true, that the promises to sinners and
to saints are conditioned upon their faith, and upon the right exercise of their
own agency; and it is also true, that grace secures the fulfilment of the conditions
of the promises, in every instance in which they are fulfilled, or they never would
We have seen that the promises of the Father to the Son secure the bestowment upon
the saints of all grace to ensure their final salvation.
It shocks and distresses me to hear professed Christians talk of being saved at all,
except upon the ground of the anticipating, and persevering, and sin-overcoming,
and hell-subduing grace of God in Christ Jesus. Why, I should as soon expect the
devil to be saved, as that any saint on earth will be, if left, with all the promises
of God in his hands, to stand and persevere without the drawings, and inward teachings,
and over-persuading influences of the Holy Spirit. Shame on a theology that suspends
the ultimate salvation of the saints upon the broken reed of their own resolutions
in their best estate. Their firmest resolutions are nothing unless they are formed
and supported by the influence of the Spirit of grace, going before, and exciting,
and persuading to their formation and their continuance. This is everywhere taught
in the Bible; and who that has considered the matter does not know, that this is
the experience of every saint? Where, then, is the ground of hope, if the doctrine
in question be denied? "If the foundation be destroyed, what shall the righteous
do?" Where, then, is the evil tendency of this doctrine? It has no naturally
evil tendency. Can the assurance of eternal salvation through the blood, and love,
and grace of Christ, have a natural tendency to harden the heart of a child of God
against his Father and his Saviour? Can the revealed fact, that he shall be more
than a conqueror through Christ, beget in him a disposition to sin against Christ?
Impossible! This doctrine, though liable to abuse by hypocrites, is nevertheless
the sheet anchor of the saints in hours of conflict. And shall the children be deprived
of the bread of life, because sinners will pervert the use of it to their own destruction?
This doctrine is absolutely needful to prevent despair, when conviction is deep,
and conflicts with temptation are sharp. Its natural tendency is to slay and keep
down selfishness, to forestall selfish efforts and resolutions, and to sustain the
confidence of the soul at all times. It tends to subdue sin, to humble the soul under
a sense of the great love and faithfulness of God in Christ Jesus; to influence the
soul to live upon Christ, and to renounce entirely and for ever all confidence in
the flesh. Indeed, its tendency is the direct opposite of that asserted in the objection.
It is the abuse, and not the natural tendency of this doctrine, against which this
objection is urged. But the abuse of a doctrine is no reason why it should be rejected.
- Objection. 2. But it is said that real saints do sometimes fall into at
least temporary backsliding, in which cases the belief of this doctrine tends to
lull them into carnal security, and to prolong their backsliding, if not to embolden
them to apostatize. To this I reply,--
- That if real Christians do backslide, they lose for the time being their evidence
of acceptance with God; and withal they know that in their present state they cannot
be saved. This objection is levelled rather against that view of perseverance that
says, "once in grace, always in grace;" that teaches the doctrine of perpetual
justification upon condition of one act of faith. The doctrine as stated in these
lectures, holds out no ground of hope to a backslider, except upon condition of return
and perseverance to the end. Moreover, the doctrine as here taught is that perseverance
in holiness, in the sense, that, subsequent to regeneration holiness is at least
the rule, and sin only the exception, is an attribute of Christian character. Every
moment, therefore, a backslider remains in sin, he must have less evidence that he
is a child of God.
But as I said, he loses confidence in his own Christianity, and in this state of
backsliding he does not believe the doctrine of perseverance, as a doctrine of revelation.
It is absurd to say, that while backslidden from God he still has faith in his word,
and believes this doctrine as a Christian doctrine, and upon the strength of the
testimony of God. He does not in this state really believe the doctrine, and therefore
it is not the tendency of the doctrine when believed that harms him, but a gross
abuse and perversion of it. But the perversion of a doctrine is no objection to it.
The real tendency of the doctrine is to break the heart of the backslider, to exhibit
to him the great love, and faithfulness, and grace of God which tend naturally to
subdue selfishness, and to humble the heart. When backsliders are emboldened by this
doctrine and rendered presumptuous, it is never by any other than a gross perversion
and abuse of it.
But still it is said, that when Christians backslide, they know if this doctrine
is true, that they shall not die in a backslidden state, and that, therefore they
are naturally rendered presumptuous by it. I answer, that the same objection lies
against the doctrine of election, which cannot be denied. Who does not know that
sinners and backsliders say, If I am elected, I shall be saved; and if not, I shall
be lost? The event is certain at any rate, and if I am to use the means, I shall
use the means; and if I am to neglect them, I shall neglect them. If I am one of
the elect, I shall not die in sin; and if not, I shall, do what I may. The backslider
says, I have been converted, and am therefore one of the elect; for there is no evidence
that any of the non-elect are ever converted; but the elect cannot be lost, or will
not be lost, at any rate; therefore I shall be reclaimed before I die. Now who does
not see that all such refuges are refuges of lies? They are abuses of precious truth.
The objection we are considering is based upon an overlooking of the all-important
distinction between the natural tendency and the abuse of a doctrine. If this doctrine
has a natural tendency to mischief, it must be calculated to mislead a humble, honest,
and prayerful mind in search of truth. It must tend to lead a true saint away from,
instead of to Christ. The fact that sinners and backsliders, who for the time being
are the chief of sinners, will and do abuse and pervert it, is no better reason for
rejecting this doctrine, than it is for rejecting the doctrine of atonement, of justification
by faith, or the doctrine of the free pardon of the greatest sinners, upon condition
of repentance and faith. It is true that no person whom God foresees will be saved,
will die in sin. It is true that no elect person will die in sin; and as I believe
all true saints are elect, nevertheless, the natural tendency of this doctrine is
anything else than to beget presumption in the real saint; but on the contrary, it
has a natural and a powerful tendency to impress him with sin subduing views of the
infinite love, compassion, faithfulness, and grace of God, and to charm him away
from his sins for ever. If by any means he falls into temporary backsliding, he may
abuse this, as he may every other doctrine of the gospel; but let it be understood,
that he does not believe for the time being one of the doctrines of the gospel. Not
believing them, he of course is not injured by their natural tendency, but only by
a perverse abuse of them.
As well might a universalist complain, and accuse you of preaching smooth things,
and of encouraging sinners to continue in sin, by preaching that the vilest sinner
may be forgiven, as for you to object to this doctrine, that backsliders are rendered
presumptuous by it.
If one is more liable to abuse than the other, the difference is only in degree and
not in kind. The backslider cannot know that he was ever converted; for, as a matter
of fact, he has lost communion with God, and has lost the present evidence of acceptance.
He does not, therefore, rest in a real belief of this doctrine, but only in a perverse
abuse of it.
Those who persist in such objections should reflect upon their own inconsistency,
in making a manifest perversion and abuse of this doctrine an objection to it, when
they hold other doctrines, equally liable to abuse and equally abused, in spite of
such abuse. Let such persons see, that they are practically adopting a principle,
and insisting upon its application in this case, which, if carried out, would set
aside the whole gospel. They are thus playing into the hands of infidels and universalists,
and giving the enemies of God occasion to blaspheme.
- Objection. 3. It is objected, that the Bible speaks of the saints as if
there were real danger of their being lost. It requires them to spend the time of
their sojourning here in fear, and abounds with cautions, and warnings, and threatenings,
that are certainly out of place, and not at all to be regarded, if the salvation
of the saints is a revealed certainty. How, it is inquired, can we fear, if God has
revealed the certainty of our salvation? Is not fear in such a case a result of unbelief?
Can God reveal to us the fact, that we shall certainly be saved, and then call on
us or exhort us to fear that we shall not be saved? Can he require us to doubt his
word and his oath? If God has revealed the certainty of the salvation of all true
saints, can any saint fear that he shall not be saved without downright unbelief?
and can God approve and even enjoin such fears? If a person is conscious of possessing
the character ascribed to the true saints in the Bible, is he not bound upon the
supposition that this doctrine is true, to have and to entertain the most unwavering
assurance that he shall be saved? Has he any right to doubt it, or to fear that he
shall not be saved?
- I answer, that no true saint who has an evidence or an earnest of his acceptance
with God, such as the true saint may have, has a right to doubt for a moment that
he shall be saved, nor has he a right to fear, that he shall not be saved. I also
add, that the Bible nowhere encourages, or calls upon the saints to fear, that they
shall not be saved, or that they shall be lost. It calls on them to fear something
else, to fear to sin or apostatize, lest they should be lost, but not that they shall
sin and be lost. The following are specimens of the exhortations and warnings given
to the saints:--
Matt. xxvi. 41. "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit
indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Mark xiii. 33: "Take ye heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time
is. 34. For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house,
and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the
porter to watch. 35. So watch ye therefore; for ye know not when the master of the
house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at cock-crowing, or in the morning; 36.
Lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 37. And what I say unto you, I say unto
Luke xii. 37: "Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh, shall
find watching; verily I say unto you, That he shall gird himself, and make them to
sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them."
1 Cor. x. 12: "Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he
1 Cor. xix. 13: "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong."
Eph. v. 15: "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.
16. Redeeming the time, because the days are evil."
Eph. vi. 10. "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of
his might. 11. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against
the wiles of the devil."
Phil. i. 27: "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ;
that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that
ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the
gospel; 28. And in nothing terrified by your adversaries; which is to them an evident
token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God."
1 Thess. v. 6. "Therefore, let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch
and be sober."
1 Tim. vi. 12: "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto
thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses."
2 Tim. ii. 3: "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
2 Tim. iv. 5; "But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work
of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."
1 Pet. iv. 7. "But the end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober,
and watch unto prayer."
Matt. x. 22. "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake; but he that
endureth to the end shall be saved."
John xv. 6. "If 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."
Rom. ii. 6: "Who will render to every man according to his deeds; 7. To them
who, by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and honour, and immortality,
1 Cor. ix. 27: "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest
that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
2 Cor. vi. 1: "We, then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that
ye receive not the grace of God in vain."
Col. i. 23: "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved
away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to
every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister."
Heb. iii. 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 stedfast unto the
Heb. iv. 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 labour therefore
to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."
2 Pet. i. 10: "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling
and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall."
Rev. ii. 10. "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer; behold, the
devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried: and ye shall have
tribulation ten days; be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of
life. 11. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;
he that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. 17. He that hath an ear,
let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcometh will
I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone
a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it. 26. And he
that overcometh, and keepeth my words unto the end, to him will I give power over
Rev. xxi. 7: "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his
God, and he shall be my son."
1 Pet. i. 17: "And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons
judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear."
I find no instance in the Bible in which the saints are enjoined or exhorted to fear
that they shall actually be lost; but, on the contrary, this kind of fear is everywhere,
in the word of God, discountenanced and rebuked, and the saints are exhorted to the
utmost assurance that Christ will keep and preserve them to the end, and finally
bestow on them eternal life. They are warned against sin and apostacy, and are informed
that if they do apostatize they shall be lost. They are expressly informed, that
their salvation is conditioned upon their perseverance in holiness to the end. They
are also called upon to watch against sin and apostacy; to fear both, lest they should
Heb. iv. 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."
Heb. vi. 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 baptism, 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. And have tasted 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."
Heb. iii. 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 stedfast unto the end."
They are required to fear to sin, but not to fear that they shall sin in any sense
that implies any expectation of sinning. They are to fear to apostatize, but not
to expect, or fear that they shall apostatize. They are to fear to be lost, but not
that they shall be lost. To fear to sin lest we should be lost, is a very different
thing from fearing that we shall sin and shall be lost. There is just as much need
of our fearing to sin, and of fearing to be lost, as there would be if there were
no certainty of our salvation. When we consider the nature of the certainty of the
salvation of the saints, that it is only a moral and conditional certainty we can
see the propriety and the necessity of the warnings and threatenings which we find
addressed to them in the Bible. The language of the Bible is just what it might be
expected to be, in case the salvation of the saints were certain, with a moral and
But in replying to this objection, it is important to ascertain the meaning of the
terms used by the objector. I will first show what there is not, and what there is,
implied in the term danger:--
(1.) We have seen that all events are really certain by some kind of certainty. Danger,
then, cannot imply that there is any real uncertainty in respect to that of which
we predicate danger; for this cannot truly be said of any event whatever. It will
be in some way, and it is beforehand as really certain how it will be, as it is after
it has occurred. Danger, then, does not imply real uncertainty.
(2.) We generally use the term as implying uncertainty as it respects our knowledge
of how the event will be; that is, we predicate danger of that of which we are not
certain how it will turn out to be. We generally use the term as implying that we
regard the result as uncertain, and that there is at least a possibility, and even
a probability, that it may turn out differently from what we would have it. The term,
then, does not imply real, but only to us an apparent uncertainty. This is commonly
implied in the term "danger," as we use it.
(3.) But the term does not always and necessarily imply, that we are uncertain in
respect to the event of which we predicate danger. If a thing may fail by natural
possibility; if, moreover, the result is suspended on the action of free-will; and
if, humanly speaking, and judging of the probability of the result from the usual
course of events, there are seen to be many chances to one against it; and if from
the nature of the event nothing can make it certain, or secure its occurrence, but
the most strenuous care and watchfulness and effort on the part of those whose agency
is to be employed in its production; and if, moreover, it is understood, that those
concerned will have many temptations to take a course that would, if taken, defeat
it; to each of which temptations the agent can yield with the greatest ease, and
no compulsion will be used to prevent his yielding;--I say, when there is a concurrence
of such facts and circumstances, we should say that there was danger, even if the
result were a revealed certainty. There is in this case, in truth, as real and as
much danger of failure, as there is that any event whatever will be different from
what it in fact turns out to be; and considering the nature of the certainty, and
the multitude of apparent contingencies upon which the result is suspended; and,
humanly speaking, the many chances to one against its occurrence, we should in such
a case say there is danger, and could not but feel a sense of danger, although we
knew that the result was certain. For example, suppose a man about to cross the Niagara
river upon a wire just over the falls, and suppose it to be revealed to him and to
the world that he should cross in safety; but suppose it to be revealed also that
he is not to be preserved by a miracle, but that his safety is to depend upon his
own skill, prudence, and efforts, and the fact revealed to be simply that he will
so behave as to cross in safety. Now all would say and feel that there was danger
in this case, although they might have the fullest confidence in the result. The
danger is as real, in this case, as if the certainty were not revealed; and considering
the multitude of chances of failure, we should feel, and say that there is danger,
notwithstanding the revealed certainty. If the certainty were absolute, or were that
of necessity, we should not say or feel that there was danger. But when the certainty
is understood to be only a moral one, we should as properly say that there was danger,
as if the certainty, though real, were not revealed. By danger, then, we mean to
express, not a real, but only an apparent uncertainty, and a human probability, or
at least a natural possibility, that an event may turn out otherwise than we desire.
We do not always and necessarily mean that the event is uncertain to us, but that
humanly speaking, and judging from the ordinary course of events, it is possible
or probable that it may not occur as we would have it; and that nothing can render
it certain but care, and watchfulness, and diligence, and perseverance on the part
of him or them upon whose agency the event is suspended.
But this objection assumes a false philosophy of mind. It assumes that fear is out
of place and impossible, except when there is at least supposed uncertainty. It is
said that fear is an emotion that always implies real or apprehended danger in the
sense of uncertainty.
It is asserted, that the emotion of fear cannot exist but upon condition that the
subject does not regard himself as safe, or that he does not regard the interest
or thing safe, concerning which fear is excited; but this is a mistake. It is true
that fear is more readily excited when there is no accredited certainty in regard
to the safety of the thing or interest concerning which the fear is excited; and
it is also true, that this kind of fear tends, by reason of its strength and from
its nature, very strongly to selfish efforts to escape from apprehended danger. It
is also true, that fear may be and often is excited, when there is no accredited
uncertainty, and no apprehended danger, in the sense of uncertainty in regard to
the safety of self, or of the interest or thing respecting which the fear is excited.
For example, place an individual upon the verge of a precipice, beneath which yawns
a gulph of frightful depth, and withal chain him fast so that he knows that to fall
is impossible, and yet his fears will be excited. An emotion of fear will arise in
spite of himself. Webster quotes Rogers's definition of fear, thus: "Fear is
that passion of our nature which excites us to provide for our security on the approach
of evil." But this, as we shall see, is saying only half the truth. "Fear,"
Webster says, "expresses less apprehension than dread, and dread less than terror,
and terror less than flight. The force of this passion beginning with the most moderate
degree may be thus expressed: Fear, dread, terror, fright." He says again, "Fear
in scripture is used to express a filial, or a slavish passion. In good men, the
fear of God is a holy awe, or reverence of God and of his laws, which springs from
a just view and real love of the divine character, leading the subjects of it to
hate and shun everything that can offend such a holy being. Slavish fear is the effect
or consequence of guilt: it is the painful apprehension of merited punishment."
Every one knows that these two kinds of fear are frequently spoken of in the Bible.
Fear does not necessarily imply an apprehension of real danger. For example, to return
to the individual upon the verge of the precipice: here, although there is a known
natural impossibility of falling, and of course no apprehension of danger, in the
sense of uncertainty, yet who does not perceive, that even more than simple fear
would, at least in many cases, be excited? To look down, even if certain of not falling,
would excite in many minds a degree of dread, and even of terror, that would be almost
unendurable. Few individuals could be found, in whom the emotion of fear, and even
of terror would not, under such circumstances, be awakened. It is a great mistake
to suppose that this emotion cannot exist, except where there is real or apprehended
danger in the sense of uncertainty. Who, for example, cannot conceive, and who that
has considered the matter does not admit, that a view of the torments of the damned
may, and doubtless will, excite a wholesome fear and dread of sin in the inhabitants
of heaven? The witnessing of anything terrible in its nature tends to awaken the
emotion of fear or terror, whether we regard ourselves as exposed to it or not. Much
more is this true, when we know that the evil is naturally possible to us, and that
nothing but care and watchfulness on our part, prevents its actually coming upon
us. Now, although we are certain, that we shall not fall from a precipice upon which
we stand, yet a view of so terrible an object awakens the corresponding emotions
at once. Instead of saying that fear is an emotion that is awakened only by an apprehension
of real danger, it were more in accordance with truth to say, that it is an emotion
that is awakened when its correlated object is present to the thoughts; and its correlated
object is anything whatever that is fearful, or dreadful, or terrible in its nature,
whether we regard ourselves as really exposed to it in the sense of uncertainty or
not. Thus, should we stand on the shore and witness a shipwreck, or be within hearing
of a battle, or witness the rush of a distant tornado, as it spreads its wings of
desolation over a country or a city, and in a direction that forbids the possibility
of injury to us, the emotion of fear, and even of terror, in such cases would be
awakened, even if we were sure that no real harm would result to any being whatever.
All the emotions have their correlated objects; and it is a great mistake to say,
that the presence of these objects does not awaken them, except upon condition that
our own interest, or the interest of some one else, is to be affected thereby. Objects
naturally lovely, when presented to the mind, naturally awaken corresponding emotions.
Objects of beauty and deformity, of desire, and of terror, naturally awaken their
corresponding emotions, wholly irrespective of any apprehended pleasure or pain to
be derived from them. But surely I need not enter into a further statement or illustration
of a fact of universal consciousness. The affirmation that fear is correlated only
to real or apprehended danger, in the sense of uncertainty, and not at all to objects
naturally fearful or terrible, irrespective of apprehended danger, is so palpable
a contradiction of human consciousness, that few reflecting minds can fail to perceive
Again: the sanctions of law have and even in heaven will and must have, their
appropriate influence. But what is their appropriate influence? These sanctions are
remuneratory and vindicatory, as we have formerly seen. They present all that is
naturally desirable as the reward of virtue. They hold forth all that is dreadful
and terrible as the reward of sin. The contemplation of these sanctions naturally
begets their correlated emotions in all worlds and at all times. The inhabitants
of hell no doubt have their desires awakened by a contemplation of the happiness
of heaven, while the inhabitants of heaven have their pity, their fears, their dread
awakened in view of the torments of hell, and in neither case is it in view of any
apprehended uncertainty. The inhabitants of hell know that the joys of heaven are
certainly never to be theirs, and the inhabitants of heaven know that the miseries
of hell are never to be theirs. Nevertheless, the emotions respond to their correlated
objects in both worlds, and no doubt will as long as mind exists.
Sin is a hateful, and a fearful, and a terrible thing. The wrath of an offended God
is infinitely terrible in its nature. Endless torments are unspeakably fearful and
terrible. The flaming penalty of the divine law is an object of infinite terror.
These things are so correlated to the constitution of moral agents, as naturally
to excite their corresponding emotions, entirely irrespective of any apprehended
personal danger. When added to this tendency that results from the nature and correlations
of those objects, there is a sense of uncertainty in regard to our personal safety,
the contemplation of these objects causes intense agony. A certainty of personal
security relieves the agony, but it does not cause the emotion of fear, and awe,
and dread, wholly to subside. Enough remains to fix the attention, and to act as
a safeguard against presumption, in cases where there is a natural possibility of
the evil we fear becoming ours. What a mistake in psychology to affirm, that fear
cannot exist unless it be excited by a belief of personal danger, in the sense of
uncertainty in respect to whether the evil shall come upon us. I say again, that
the emotion is correlated to its object, and is not dependent upon an apprehension
of personal danger, as every one knows. When the apprehension of personal danger
is added, the excitement of the emotion is greatly and painfully aggravated. And
on the other hand, the emotion is modified and softened by a sense and certainty
of personal security. But still the emotion in a modified and softened form will
exist so long as an object, fearful and terrible in its nature, is made the object
In this life, time, and habit, and reflection, may cause emotions of fear to cease,
even in the presence of a fearful object, as in the case of the supposed precipice.
Continuing for a long time to look upon precisely the same object, and considering
that there was and could be no danger, in the sense of uncertainty, and familiarizing
the mind to this contemplation, might in time cause the sensible emotions of fear
to cease. The same would be true of any other emotion, such as an emotion of love,
or a sense of beauty, or deformity, &c. This would occur where the object contemplated
presented no new attractions on the one hand, or repulsions or terrors on the other.
But suppose the more the object was contemplated, the more it developed its beauties,
its deformities, or its terrors to the mind. In this case, the emotions corresponding
would never cease. This is precisely the case with the sanctions of moral law, with
the wrath and the love of God, with the joys of heaven and the pains of hell. These
objects will never lose their influence for the want of novelty. They will never
cease to beget their correlated emotions, for the reason that they will be ever new
in the sense of always presenting to the gaze of intelligent beings, more to desire
on the one hand, and more to fear and dread on the other.
But again: we see that this objection is based upon a gross error in
respect to the philosophy of moral government. Moral law exists with its sanctions
as really in heaven as on earth, and its sanctions have in heaven the very influence
that they ought to have on earth. It is as true in heaven as on earth, that the soul
that sinneth shall die. Now, can the sanctions of law exert no influence in heaven?
I suppose no reasonable person will doubt the certainty, and the known certainty
of the perseverance of all saints there. But if they are certain that they shall
not sin and fall, can they not be the subjects of fear in any sense? I answer, yes.
They are naturally able to sin, and may be sometimes placed under circumstances where
they are tempted to selfishness. Indeed, the very nature of mind renders it certain,
that the saints will always have need of watchfulness against temptation and sin.
Now, it is the design of the sanctions of law in all worlds to produce hope on the
one hand, and fear on the other; in holy beings the hope of reward, and the fear
to sin lest they should perish. This hope and fear in a being duly influenced by
them, is not selfishness. It is madness and desperate wickedness not to be influenced
by them. Our reason affirms that we ought to be influenced by them, that our own
salvation is of infinite value, and that our damnation were an infinite evil. It
therefore affirms that we ought to secure the one and to avoid the other. This is
law both on earth and in heaven. This we are not to do selfishly, that is, to seek
our own salvation, or to avoid our own damnation, exclusively or only, but to seek
to save as many as possible; to love our neighbour as ourselves, and ourselves as
our neighbour. In all worlds the sanctions of law ought to have their influence,
and with holy beings they have. Holy beings are really subjects of fear, to sin,
and to be lost, and are the only beings who have the kind of fear which God requires,
and which it is the design of the sanctions of law and of the gospel to inspire.
What! are we to be told that a certainty of safety is wholly inconsistent with every
kind and degree of fear? What, then, is the use of law in heaven? Must a man on earth
or in heaven doubt whether he shall have eternal life, in order to leave room for
the influence of moral law, and of hope, and of fear? or in order to leave play for
the motives of moral government? There is room for the same fear in heaven that ought
to be on earth. No one had a right to expect to violate the precept, and thereby
incur the penalty of law. But every one was bound to fear to do so. The penalty was
never designed on earth, any more than it is in heaven, to beget a slavish fear,
or a fear that we shall sin and be damned; but only a fear to sin and be damned.
A fear to sin and to be lost, will, to all eternity, no doubt, be a means of confirming
holy beings in heaven. The law will be the same there as here. Free agency will be
the same there as here. Perseverance in holiness will be a condition of continued
salvation there as really as here. There may, and doubtless will be, temptations
there as well as here. They will, therefore, need there substantially the same motives
to keep them that they need and have here. There will there be laws and conditions
of continued bliss as here. There will be the same place, and in kind, if not in
degree, the same occasion for fear there that there is here. I say again, that the
objection we are considering, overlooks both the true philosophy of mind, and of
the influence of the sanctions of moral law.
The objection we are considering is based upon the assumption that warnings, exhortation
to fear, &c., are inconsistent with the revealed certainty of the salvation of
the saints. But does not the Bible furnish abundant instances of warning in cases
where the result is revealed as certain? The case of Paul's shipwreck is in point.
This case has been once alluded to, but I recur to it for the sake of illustration
in this place. God, by Paul, revealed the fact, that no life on board the ship should
be lost. This he declared as a fact, without any revealed qualification or condition.
But when the sailors, who alone knew how to manage the ship, were about to abandon
her, Paul informs them that their abiding in the ship was a condition of their salvation
from death. The means were really as certain as the end; yet the end was conditionated
upon the means, and if the means failed, the end would fail. Therefore Paul appealed
to their fears of death to secure them against neglecting the means of safety. He
did not intend to excite in them a distrust of the promise of God, but only to apprise
them of the conditional nature of the certainty of their safety which had been revealed
to them, and thus cause them at once to fear to neglect the means, and to confide
in the certainty of safety in the diligent use of them. But this is a case, be it
understood, directly in point, and by itself affords a full answer to the objection
under consideration. It is a case where a revealed certainty of the event was entirely
consistent with warning and threatening. Nay, it is a case where the certainty, though
real, was dependent upon the warning and threatening, and the consequent fear to
neglect the means. This case is a full illustration of the revealed certainty of
the ultimate salvation of the saints; and were there no other case in the Bible where
warning and threatening are addressed to those whose safety is revealed, this case
would be a full answer to the assertion, that warnings and threatenings are inconsistent
with revealed certainty. Paul feared to have the means of safety neglected, but he
did not fear that they really would be, because he knew that they would not.
To the pertinency of this case as an illustration, it is objected, that the prophet
pronounced the destruction of Nineveh in forty days to be certain, as really as Paul
in this case revealed the certainty of the safety of all on board the ship; therefore,
it is contended that Paul did not intend to reveal the result as certain, because
when a revelation was made respecting the destruction of Nineveh, in just as unqualified
terms, the event showed that it was not certain. To this I reply, that in the case
of Jonah, it is manifest from the whole narrative that neither Jonah nor the Ninevites
understood the event as unconditionally certain. Jonah expressly assigned to God
his knowledge of the uncertainty of the event, as an excuse for not delivering his
message. So the people themselves understood, that the event might not be certain,
as their conduct abundantly shows. The difference in the two cases is just this:
one was a real and a revealed certainty, and the other was neither. Why then should
this case be adduced as setting aside that of the shipwreck? But it is said, that
no condition was revealed in the one case more than in the other. Now so far as the
history is recorded, no mention is made in the case of Nineveh, that Jonah intimated
that there was any condition upon which the destruction of the city could be avoided:
yet it is plain, that both Jonah and the Ninevites understood the threatening to
be conditional, in the sense of the events being uncertain. Jonah himself did not
expect it with much certainty. But in the case of Paul, he expressly affirms, that
he believed God that it should be as he had declared, that there should be the loss
of no man's life, and he encouraged them to believe the same thing. Paul understood
the end to be certain, though he knew, and soon informed them, that the certainty
was a moral one, and conditioned upon the diligent use of means. The two cases are
by no means parallel. It is true that Nineveh would have been destroyed, had they
not used the appropriate means to prevent it; and the same is true of the ship's
crew; and it is also true that, in both cases, it was really certain that the means
would not be neglected; yet, in one case, the certainty was really understood to
be revealed, and was believed in, and not in the other. Now observe, the point to
be illustrated by reference to this case of shipwreck. It is just this: Can a man
have any fear, and can there be ground and need of caution and fear, where there
is a real and revealed, and believed or knowing certainty? The objection I am answering
is, that, if the salvation of the saints is certain, and revealed as such, and is
believed to be certain, there is then no ground of fear, and no necessity or room
for warning, threatening, &c. But this case of shipwreck is one in which all
these things meet.
(1.) The event was certain, and of course the conditions were sure to be fulfilled.
(2.) The certainty was revealed.
(3.) It was believed. Yet,
(4.) There was warning, and threatening, and fear to neglect the means. But
these things did not all meet in the case of Jonah and the Ninevites. In this case,
((1.)) It was not certain that the city would be destroyed.
((2.)) It was not understood to be revealed as certain.
((3.)) It was not believed to be certain.
Why, then, I ask again, should these cases be taken as parallels? Paul's case is
conclusive for the purpose for which it is cited, to wit, as being an instance in
which there was:
(((2.))) Revealed certainty.
(((3.))) Believed certainty.
(((4.))) Threatening and warning.
(((5.))) Fear to neglect the means. It follows that threatenings, and warnings,
and fears, are consistent with revealed and believed certainty. This strikes out
the foundation of the objection.
This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.
LECTURE LXXXII. Back to Top
- Again, Paul repeatedly speaks of his own salvation as certain, and yet
in a manner that conditionates it upon his perseverance in faith and obedience to
the end. He says;
Philip. i. 19: "For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your
prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 25. And having this confidence,
I know that I shall abide and continue with you all, for your furtherance and joy
2 Tim. iv. 18: "And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will
preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever."
In this place it is plain, that he regarded his perseverance and ultimate salvation,
by and through the grace of God, as certain. Paul everywhere, as every attentive
reader of the Bible knows, renounces all hope but in the indwelling grace and Spirit
of Christ. Still he felt confident of his salvation. But if he had no confidence
in himself, on what was his confidence based? Again:
2 Tim. i. 12: "For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless
I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."
Here again Paul expresses the fullest confidence of his own salvation. He did not
merely intend to say that Christ was able, if he was disposed, to keep that which
he had committed to him, but he assumed his willingness and asserted his ability,
as the ground of his confidence. That he here expressed entire confidence in his
ultimate salvation, cannot reasonably be doubted. He did not say that he was persuaded
that Christ was able to save him, if he persevered; but his confidence was founded
in the fact, that Christ was able to secure his perseverance. It was because he was
persuaded that Christ was able to keep him, that he had any assurance, and I might
add even hope, of his own salvation. The same reason he assigned as the ground of
confidence that others would be saved. To the Thessalonians he says, 2 Thess. iii.
3: "But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil."
Again, Jude says, ver. 24: "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling,
and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."
Again, Peter says, of all the elect or saints, 1 Peter i. 5: "Who are kept by
the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time."
Thus we see, that the ground of confidence with the apostles was, that God and Christ
could and would keep them, not without their own efforts, but that he would induce
them to be faithful, and so secure this result. The same was true of Christ, as is
manifested in his last prayer for them. John xvii. 15, 16: "I pray not that
thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from
the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." But the
apostles frequently express their confidence, both in the certainty of their own
salvation, and also in the salvation of those to whom they wrote. Paul says, 1 Cor.
ix. 26, 27: "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly, so fight I, not as one
that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest
that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast away."
Here he expresses the fullest confidence that he shall win the crown, but at the
same time recognizes the condition of his salvation, and informs us that he took
care to fulfil it, lest he should be a cast away. He says, verse 26: "I therefore
so run, not as uncertainly, so fight I, not as one who beateth the air." He
alludes to the Olympic games, and in this connexion says, verses 24 and 25: "Know
ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run,
that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all
things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible."
He then adds, verse 26 and 27, "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly, so fight
I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection;
lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast
Of those who ran in these games, but one could win the prize. But not so in the Christian
race: here all might win. In those games, because but one could possibly win, there
was much uncertainty in respect to whether any one in particular could win the prize.
In the Christian race there was no need of any such uncertainty. As it respected
himself he says, verse 26: "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly, so fight
I, not as one that beateth the air:" that is, I do not run with any uncertainty
or irresolution, because of uncertainty in respect to whether I shall win the prize.
Nor do I fight as one that beateth the air, or as one who fights uncertainly or in
vain; but while I have this confidence, as a condition of this confidence, I keep
under my body. It has been denied that Paul intended to express a confidence in his
salvation in this place; but this cannot be reasonably denied. He was speaking in
this connexion of the Christian race, and of the conditions of winning the victor's
crown. He affirms that there was no real uncertainty whether he should win the crown.
In the Olympic games there was uncertainty, because but one could win; but here no
such ground of uncertainty existed; and, moreover, with him there was no real uncertainty
at all, while at the same time he understood the conditional nature of the certainty,
and kept under his body, &c. Can any one suppose that Paul really had any doubt
in regard to his own ultimate salvation? Now observe, these passages in respect to
Paul are not adduced to prove that all saints will be saved; nor that, if Paul was
sure of his salvation, therefore all saints may be. To prove this is not my present
design, but simply to show, that while Paul was sure, and had no doubt of his ultimate
salvation, he yet feared to neglect the means. He was not disheartened in the Christian
race, with a sense of uncertainty, as they who ran in the Olympic games. He was not,
as they might be, irresolute on account of their great uncertainty of winning. He
expected to win, and yet be dared not neglect the conditions of winning. Nay, he
expected to win, because he expected to fulfil the conditions; and he expected to
fulfil the conditions, not because he had any confidence in himself, but because
he confided in the grace and Spirit of God to secure his perseverance. Nevertheless,
he kept under his body, and feared self-indulgence, lest he should be a cast away.
Paul affirms of the Thessalonians, that he knew their election of God. 1 Thess. i.
14: "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." In both his epistles
to this church, he often speaks of them in a manner that implies, that he regarded
their salvation as certain, and yet he also frequently warns and exhorts them to
faithfulness, and to guard against being deceived by false teachers, &c. 2 Thess.
ii. 1-3: "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be
troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day
of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not
come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the
son of perdition." He addresses the same strain of exhortation to them that
he does to all Christians, and plies them with admonition and warning, just as might
be expected, considering the moral and conditional nature of the certainty of their
In writing to the Philippians, he says, Phil. i. 6, 7: "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. Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because
I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation
of the gospel, ye are all partakers of my grace." Here he expresses the confidence
of an inspired apostle, that Christ would secure their salvation. But yet in the
2d chapter, 12th and 13th verses, he says: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have
always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work
out your own salvation with fear and trembling; For it is God which worketh in you,
both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Here he warns them to work out
their salvation with fear and trembling. There is no stronger passage than this,
where the saints are exhorted to fear; and mark, this is addressed to the very persons
of whom he had just said, 1, 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."
Almost at the same breath he expresses the confidence of an inspired apostle, that
he who had begun a good work in them would carry it on until the day of Jesus Christ;
that is, that he would surely save them; and at the same time exhorts them to "work
out their salvation with fear and trembling." He did not express confidence
that they would persevere, except their perseverance was secured by Christ, but that
Christ would carry on the work he had begun. Paul also addresses the church at Ephesus
Eph. i. 1: "Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints
which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus. 2. Grace be to you, and
peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3. Blessed be the God
and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings
in heavenly places in Christ. 4. According as he hath chosen us in him before the
foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in
love. 5. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to
himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. 6. To the praise of the glory
of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved. 7. In whom we have
redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of
his grace. 8. Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence. 9. Having
made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which
he hath purposed in himself. 10. That in the dispensation of the fulness of times,
he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and
which are on earth, even in him. 11. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance,
being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after
the counsel of his own will. 12. That we should be to the praise of his glory, who
first trusted in Christ."
Now, let any one read the epistle through, and he will find, that these same elect
persons are addressed throughout with precept, exhortation, and warning, just as
all other saints are throughout the Bible. To quote the instances of this were only
to quote much of the epistle. Indeed this is the common usage of the inspired writers,
to address the saints as the elect of God, as persons whose salvation was secure
as a matter of fact, but whose salvation was after all conditionated upon their perseverance
in holiness; and they hence proceed to warn, admonish, and exhort them, just as we
might expect when we consider the nature of the certainty of which they were speaking.
But if it be still urged, that the fact of election is not revealed in any case to
the individuals who compose the elect; that if the fact of election were revealed
to any one, to him threatenings and warnings would be out of place; I reply, that
this is only saying, that if certainty is revealed as such at any time, and in respect
to anything, then warnings, and threatenings, and fears, are wholly out of place.
But this is not true, as we have seen in the case of the shipwreck. Here the certainty
was revealed to the individuals concerned, and accredited. Christ also revealed to
his apostles the fact of their election, as we have seen, also to Paul. Can any one
reasonably call in question the fact, that the apostles understood well their election
of God, not only to the apostleship, but also to eternal life? John directs one of
his epistles as follows: "The elder to the elect lady and her children."
Observe again, what Paul says in writing to the church at Ephesus, in the passage
which has just been quoted.
Here he expressly recognizes himself as one of the elect, as he does elsewhere, and
as the apostles always do, directly or by way of implication, and yet Paul and the
other apostles did not feel that warning, and watchfulness, and fear to sin were
at all out of place with them.
Job speaks as if the certainty of his salvation had been revealed to him. He says:
Job xix. 25: "For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at
the latter day upon the earth: 26. And though after my skin worms destroy this body,
yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall
behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me."
Can any one suppose that Job regarded threatenings, and warnings, and fear to sin,
as out of place with him?
It is generally admitted, that there is such a thing as the full assurance of faith
or hope, or as attaining to the certain knowledge that salvation is secure to us.
But would a saint who has made this attainment be less affected than others by all
the threatenings, and warnings, and exhortations to fear, found in the Bible? Would
such souls cease to tremble at the word of God? Would they cease to pass their time
of sojourning here with fear? Would they cease to "work out their salvation
with fear and trembling?" Would God no longer regard them as belonging to the
class of persons mentioned in Isa. lxvi. 1: "For all those things hath mine
hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I
look, even to him that is of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word."
Christ prayed for the salvation of his apostles, in their presence, in such a manner
as to leave no room for them to doubt their ultimate salvation, if they expected
his prayers to be answered. He did the same with respect to all that should believe
on him through their word. Now will you affirm, that they who are conscious of believing
in Jesus, must cease to have confidence in the efficacy of his prayers, before they
can feel the power, and propriety, and influence of warnings, and threatenings, and
the various motives that are addressed to the elect of God to preserve them from
falling? The supposition is preposterous. What! must we doubt the efficacy of his
prayers, in order to credit and appreciate the force of his warnings? In fact, the
more holy any one is, and the more certain he is of his eternal salvation, the more
does sin become an object of loathing, of fear, and even of terror, to him. The more
holy he is, the more readily he trembles at the word of God, and the more sensibly
and easily he is affected by a contemplation of sin and divine wrath, the more awful
and terrible these things appear to him, and the more solemnly do they affect him,
although he has the fullest assurance that he shall never taste of either sin or
hell. It is true, indeed, as we shall have occasion to remark hereafter, that in
general, the Bible assumes that individuals are not sure of their salvation, and
upon that assumption proceeds to warn them.
But still it is insisted that, if the end is certain, so are the means; and if one
is revealed as certain, so is the other; and that therefore it is absurd, and implies
unbelief, to fear that we shall neglect the means, or that either the end or means
will fail. But as we have said, to fear to neglect the means, and to fear that we
shall neglect them, are not the same. We are naturally able to neglect them, and
there is just as much real danger of our neglecting them, as there would be if no
revelation were made about it, unless the revelation of the certainty of their use
be a means of securing the use of them. We are therefore to fear to neglect them.
There is, in fact, as much real danger of our neglecting the means of our salvation,
as there is that any event whatever will be different from what it turns out to be.
There is no more real danger in one case than in the other; but in one case the certainty
is revealed, and in the other not. Therefore, when the certainty is not revealed,
it is reasonable to fear that the event will not be as we desire, and as it ought
to be. But in the other,--that is, when the certainty is revealed, we have no right
to fear that it will be otherwise than as revealed, nor to fear that the means will
in fact be neglected; but in all such cases we should fear to neglect the means,
as really and as much, as if no revelation of certainty had been made: just as Paul
did in the case of his shipwreck.
Again: it is inquired, are we not to fear that any of the saints will be lost,
and pray for them under the influence of this fear? I answer, no. The saints are
the elect. None of God's elect will be lost. We are to pray for them as Christ prayed
for his apostles, and as he prayed for all believers, not with the fear that they
will be lost, for this were praying in unbelief; but we are to pray for all persons
known to be saints, that they may persevere unto the end and be saved, with confidence
that our prayer will be answered. But it is said, that Paul expressed doubts in regard
to the salvation of the churches in Galatia. I answer, that he expressed no doubt
in respect to their ultimate salvation; he says, "I desire to be present with
you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you." Gal. iv. 20.
In the margin it reads, "I am perplexed for you." He says in the next chapter:
"I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded;
but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be." Gal. v.
10. Paul set himself zealously to reclaim these churches from error, and expresses
full confidence of the result; and no where, that I see, intimates, that he doubted
whether they would finally be saved.
But it is said still, that if the salvation of all the saints is secured, and this
certainty is revealed, there is no real danger of their either neglecting the necessary
means, or of their being lost, and therefore warnings, and threatenings, and fears
are vain; and that the certainty being granted, it is irrational and impossible to
fear, without doubting the truth of God; that certainty is certainty, and it matters
not at all of what kind the certainty is; that if it be granted that the event is
certain, all danger, and of course all cause of fear, is out of the question.
To this form of the objection I reply, that it proceeds upon the assumption, that
there is no danger of the saints' falling, if God has revealed the certainty of their
ultimate salvation. But what do we mean by danger? It has already been said, that
all events are certain, in the sense that it is and was from eternity as really certain
that they will be, and how they will be; and that all their circumstances and conditions
are, and eternally were, as certain, as they ever will be. So that there never is
any real danger, in the sense of uncertainty, that any event will be otherwise than
it turns out in fact to be. By danger, then, is not meant that there is really any
uncertainty in respect to how anything will be. But all that can properly be intended
by danger is, that there is a natural possibility, and, humanly speaking, a probability,
that it may be otherwise than as we desire; that this is probable in the sense that
there is, humanly speaking, from the circumstances of the case, and so far as we
can judge, from the course of events, a probability that a thing may not occur as
we would have it.
Now, a natural possibility always exists in respect to the falling and final destruction
of the saints; and in most cases at least, the circumstances are such, that humanly
speaking, and aside from the grace of God, there is not only real danger, but a certainty
that they will fail of eternal life. There are, humanly speaking, many chances to
one that they will fall and be lost. Now, this danger is as real as if nothing of
certainty had been revealed. The event would have been as certain without the revelation
of the certainty as with it, unless it be true, which I suppose in many cases is
the fact, that the revelation of the certainty helps to secure their perseverance.
But again: the objection overlooks the nature of the certainty, and
erroneously assumes that nothing depends upon its nature, when, in fact, everything
depends upon its nature. If it were a certainty of necessity, then there could be
no danger, because no possibility of being otherwise. In this case, warnings, expostulations,
threatenings, exhortations to fear, &c., would be out of place and mere trifling;
but since the certainty is but a certainty of liberty, or a moral certainty, and
one that is conditionated upon our own free acts, and upon the influence of those
warnings which are found in the Bible, as well as upon the influence of those fears
to sin to which we are exhorted;--I say, since the nature of the certainty is such
as to be conditionated upon these influences, it is preposterous to say that nothing
depends upon the nature of the certainty; for it is manifest that the entire event
may be dependent, and turn upon the nature, and an understanding of the nature of
the certainty. When the nature of the certainty is understood, it is entirely rational
and necessary to fear to sin, lest thereby we should lose our souls. For be it remembered,
we are able to apostatize, and should we do so, we must be lost. It is no answer
to say, that it is a revealed certainty that we shall persevere, and not be lost,
for the certainty that we shall not be lost is no greater than that we shall not
apostatize, and we are naturally able to apostatize. The certainty that we shall
be saved, is no greater than that we shall persevere to the end. If, then, we do
not persevere, but apostatize, we shall assuredly be lost. Fear to sin and apostatize,
fear to neglect perseverance, is just as rational as if the certainty of the event
were not revealed. Perseverance in holiness will no doubt be a condition of the abiding
of the saints in heaven; and, since they will be free, and there will be a natural
possibility of falling or of sinning, they will then fear to sin.
But it is said, that "perfect love casteth out fear." True, but what kind
of fear does love cast out? I answer, the "fear that hath torment." It
casts out the fear of hell, that is, of actually going to hell; but it does not cast
out the fear of God, nor the fear of sin, but begets both. Love casts out the fear
that we shall be lost, but not a fear to be lost. It cast out the fear that we shall
apostatize, but begets a fear to apostatize. The place for fear in the saints is
in the presence of temptation. When enticed or tempted to sin, a salutary fear and
dread of sin and of its consequences is aroused, and the soul recoils from the temptation
as from death and hell. Let it not be said, then, that if a thing is certain, it
is certain, and it matters not by what kind of certainty; for there is in no case
of real, known certainty, any rational ground of fear. Such things are loosely said.
Both the kind of certainty, and the kind of fear are here overlooked. It is true
that, in this case, there is no rational ground to fear that either the end or the
means will actually fail; but there is just as rational a ground to fear to neglect
the means, as if no certainty whatever were revealed. There is no more room for presumption
in one case than in the other. In both cases to neglect the conditions is possible;
and in our circumstances, extremely natural and easy, and even certain, but for the
preventing grace of God. This neglect would in either case prove fatal.
The temptations to neglect are alike in both cases: there are therefore equally rational
grounds of fear to neglect the conditions in both cases. There are not, it is true,
equal grounds to fear in both cases that we really shall neglect these conditions,
but there are equal grounds to fear to neglect them. A fear that we shall really
neglect them is not salutary. But a fear to neglect them is highly so. A fear that
we shall neglect them, and that we shall be lost, tends strongly to selfishness,
because it does not imply nor consist with confidence that we shall be preserved
and saved. But a fear to sin, to offend God, to be lost, is consistent with a confidence
that we shall be preserved and saved, and does not therefore tend to selfishness
in efforts to escape damnation, at least not to the same extent. The right kind of
fear tends to liberty and to life. The wrong kind of fear gendereth to bondage and
But it is said again, that fear implies a sense of danger, which it is said is impossible,
when we know the certainty. I answer again, that fear to sin does imply a sense of
the danger of sinning, and there is reason to have this sense of danger, when there
is, in fact, all the real danger that there is in any case whatever, that any event
may be different from what it turns out to be. As I have said, a sense of danger
is possible and reasonable when failure is possible, and when the event is conditioned,
not only upon free acts, but also upon the greatest watchfulness and perseverance
on our part. The danger is so real, and the sense of danger is so reasonable in this
case, that although the event is certain, yet it is conditioned upon this sense of
danger. Were not the danger as real as in cases where no certainty had been revealed,
and were there not a sense of danger, the result might fail. But the fact, that there
is as real a danger of the damnation of the saints as there is that any event may
turn out to be different from what in fact it will be; and the fact that the saints
have a sense of this danger, and understand the conditional and moral nature of this
certainty, are conditions of the certainty of their salvation, and tend to make it
certain. Surely this is extremely plain; For example, let us suppose again that a
man is about to venture down Niagara Falls in a bark canoe. It is revealed to him
that he shall go down safely, but at the same time it is also revealed that he is
not to be preserved from death by a miracle, but on the contrary that he must, as
a condition, exert all his skill, and avoid everything that tends to procure a failure,
and omit nothing that is essential to his descending safely without a miracle; that
the event, though certain, is conditioned upon the right and persevering exercise
of his own agency, and that although it is sure, and he may rest in the assurance,
that both the means and the end are certain, and that neither of these will fail;
yet to defeat the end by the neglect of the means is within his power; that he will
meet with great temptations to neglect the means--temptations to presumption on the
one hand, and to unbelief and despair on the other; temptations to levity, or to
despondency; to innumerable neglects and wanderings of attention, and such-like things,
which, if not guarded against will prove his destruction. Now who cannot see in this
case the propriety and necessity of both the assurance, and the warnings, and the
place for the salutary influence of a fear to neglect the necessary means? This I
regard as a fair illustration of a revealed certainty of the perseverance of the
saints, in the sense under consideration.
But thus far I have replied to the objections upon the assumption, that the certainty
of the salvation of the saints is revealed, in the sense that individual saints may
know the certainty of their own salvation. I have shown, as I trust, that admitting
this to be true, yet the nature of the certainty leaves abundant room for the influence
of a wholesome sense of danger, and for the feeling of hope and fear. But the fact
is, that in but few cases comparatively does it appear, that the certainty is revealed
to the individuals as such. The salvation of all true saints is revealed, as we have
seen, and the characteristics of true saints are revealed in the Bible. So that it
is possible for individual saints to possess a comfortable assurance of salvation,
upon the knowledge that they are saints. And as was shown, it is doubtless true that
in some cases, in the days of inspiration, and not improbably in some cases since
the Bible was complete, individuals have had a direct revelation by the Holy Spirit
that they were saints, and accepted of God.
But in the great majority of cases in all time hitherto, the saints have had no personal
and clear revelation of their being saints, and no evidence of it, except what they
gather from an experience that in their view accords with the Bible description of
the character of the saints. When Peter addressed his epistles to the elect saints,
for example, although he regarded the elect as certain of salvation, yet he did not
distinguish and address individuals by name; but left it for them to be satisfied
of their own election and saintship, by their own consciousness of possessing the
character that belongs to the saints. He did not reveal to any one in particular
the fact of his own election. This was for the most part true of all the letters
written to the churches. Although they were addressed as a body, as elect, and as
saints, yet from this they were not to infer, that they were all saints or elect,
but were to learn that fact, and who were real saints, from their conscious character.
We have seen, in another place, that the Bible represents perseverance, in the sense
already explained, as an attribute of Christian character; and therefore no one can
have evidence that he is a saint, any farther than he is conscious of abiding in
obedience. If saints do abide in the light, and have the assurance that they are
saints, we have seen the sense in which they may be influenced by hope and fear,
and the sense in which moral law with its sanctions may be useful to them. But when
a saint shall backslide, he must lose the evidence of his being a saint, and then
all the warnings and threatenings may take full effect upon him. He finds himself
not persevering, and has of course to infer that he is not a saint; and the doctrine
of the perseverance of the saints can be no comfort to him. It is in fact against
him; for this doctrine is, that the saints do persevere; and every day he lives in
backsliding, it becomes less evident that he is a saint. The Bible is manifestly
written, for the most part, upon the assumption, that individual saints do not certainly
know their election, and the certainty of their own salvation. It therefore addresses
them, as if there were real uncertainty in respect to their salvation; that is, as
if, as individuals, they were not certain of salvation. It represents the salvation
of real saints as certain, but represents many professed saints as having fallen,
and warns them against presumption and self-deception, in the matter of their profession,
privileges, and experience. It represents the danger of delusion as great, and exhorts
them to examine and prove themselves, and see whether they are truly saints. The
warnings found in the Bible, are for the most part, evidently of this kind; that
is, they assume that individuals may deceive themsleves, and presumptuously assume
their own election, and saintship, and safety, from their privileges, relations,
and experiences. Inspiration, therefore, proceeds to warn them, assuming that they
do not know the certainty of their own individual salvation. We shall by and by have
occasion to examine some passages that will illustrate and confirm this remark.
There is, therefore, I apprehend, no real difficulty in accounting for the manner
in which the Bible is written, upon the supposition that the doctrine under consideration
is true. But on the contrary, it appears to me, that the scriptures are just what
might be expected, if the doctrine were true. When we consider the nature of the
certainty in all cases, and also that the great mass of professed Christians have
no certain revelation of their being real saints, that there is so much real danger
of deception, in regard to our own characters, and that so many are and have been
deceived;--I say, when we consider these things, there can be no difficulty in accounting
for the manner in which both professors and real saints are addressed in the word
[In the Contents of the printed book, there is no entry
for Lecture LXXXIII.]
This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.
LECTURE LXXXIII. Back to Top
PERSEVERANCE OF SAINTS.
FURTHER OBJECTIONS ANSWERED.
- Objection. 4. A fourth objection to this doctrine is, that if, by the
perseverance of the saints is intended, that they live anything like lives of habitual
obedience to God, then facts are against it.
- To this objection I reply: that by the perseverance of the saints, as I use these
terms, is intended that, subsequently to their regeneration, holiness is the rule
of their lives, and sin only the exception. But it is said, that facts contradict
(1.) The case of king Saul is brought forward as an instance in point to sustain
To this I reply: that it is far from being clear that Saul was ever a truly regenerate
man. He appears, in connexion with his appointment to the throne of Israel, to have
been the subject of divine illuminations, in so far as to be much changed in his
views and deportment, and as to have had another heart, in so much that he prophesied,
&c.; but it is nowhere intimated that he became a truly regenerate man, a truly
praying child of God. Similar changes are not unfrequently witnessed in men, and
changes evidently brought about by the illuminations of the Holy Spirit, where there
is no good reason to believe that the subjects of them were truly regenerated. From
the history of Saul, subsequent to the change of which we are speaking, we gather
absolutely nothing that looks like true piety. His case therefore cannot properly
be brought as an objection to the doctrine in question, for the plain reason, that
evidence is wanting that he ever was a saint. His prophesying, as is evident from
the connexion in which it is spoken of, was merely speaking fervently upon religious
subjects. He was so much enlightened, as to manifest for a time considerable excitement
upon the subject of religion, and as to mingle with the schools of the prophets,
and take an interest in their exercises. But this was only similar to what we often
witness, when the end, and indeed when all the circumstances, duly considered, show
clearly that true regeneration has not taken place. Who has not seen men have, for
the time being, another, but not a holy, heart?
(2.) It is said, that David did not persevere in obedience, in the sense that obedience
was his rule, and sin only the exception. To this I reply--
(i.) It is not pretended that there is any doubt respecting the final salvation
(ii.) That David did not persevere, in the sense above defined, wants proof. His
Psalms, together with his whole history, show that he was a highly spiritual man.
He was an eminent type of Christ, and, for a man in his circumstances, was a remarkable
saint. To be sure, David practised polygamy, and did many things that in us, under
the light of the gospel, would be sin. But it should be considered, that David lived
under a dispensation of comparative obscurity, and therefore many things which would
now be unlawful and sinful, were not so in him. That David, with comparatively few
exceptions, lived up to the light he had, cannot be reasonably called in question.
He is said to have been a man after God's own heart. I know this is said of him as
a king, but I know also that, as king this could not have been said of him, unless
he had feared and served the Lord, and in the main lived up to the light with which
he was surrounded.
(3.) It is also said, that Solomon king of Israel did not persevere, in the sense
contended for in this discourse. Of Solomon I would say,--
(i.) That he was manifestly a type of Christ.
(ii.) That he at one period of his life, for how long a time it does not appear,
fell into grievous backsliding, and appears in some sense to have tolerated idolatry.
(iii.) His final apostacy has been inferred from the fact that idolatry was
practised in Israel after his supposed repentance, and until the end of his life.
The people were allowed to offer sacrifices, and to burn incense in the high places,
and therefore his repentance was not genuine.
To this I reply, that the same was true also during the reign of several of the pious
kings who succeeded him, and is probably to be accounted for by the fact that neither
Solomon nor his successors had, for a considerable time, political power or influence
enough to abolish idolatry altogether. The people were greatly divided in their religious
views and worship. Many were the priests and devotees of the groves and high places,
and multitudes of the high and more influential classes clave to their idols. It
was a very difficult matter to put an effectual stop to idolatry, and perhaps was
impossible in Solomon's day, and for a long time after. Solomon's idolatrous wives
and concubines had doubtless exerted great influence in rendering idolatry popular
with the people, and it was not until several generations had passed away, that the
pious kings seem to have had sufficient political power to banish idolatry from the
nation. Solomon's final apostacy, then, cannot be inferred from the fact, that idolatry
continued to be practised in the nation until long after his death. There is no reason
to believe that he continued to practise it himself. But,--
(iv.) I remark, that, from the writings of Solomon, we may gather sufficient
evidence that, in the general, he did not live a wicked life, though he fell into
many grievous sins. His Ecclesiastes seems to have been written after he was reclaimed
from backsliding, as appears from the fact, that the book contains many statements
of his views and experiences while in his wanderings from God. It appears to me,
that the book is inexplicable upon any other supposition. In his wanderings from
God, as is common, he fell into great doubts and embarrassments in regard to the
works and ways of God. He became sceptical, and in the book under consideration,
he states the sceptical views that he had entertained. But the book, as a whole,
contains conclusive evidence of piety at the time it was written. This probably will
not be called in question.
Again: the Proverbs and Song of Solomon show, that he was not only a pious
man, but also, at least when they were written, a highly spiritual man. Especially
is this true of his Song. The Proverbs were doubtless the result of deep and protracted
reflection and observation, and were written at intervals extending through his whole
or nearly his whole reign. He was a man of great study, and of great learning for
his day. He must have spent much time in deep meditation and communion with God,
and there is no greater mistake, as I apprehend, than to suppose that Solomon was
an apostate, or that he lived anything like a majority of his days in a state of
backsliding from God. His profound wisdom, manifested on various occasions, and his
history and writings altogether, when duly considered, render it extremely probable,
if not certain, that his backsliding was but temporary, and that he was soon reclaimed.
We have little more recorded of him than his public life, except what is contained
in his own writings. Should we judge of him only by his recorded history, apart from
his writings, we might infer that he lived, at least for a long time, in sin; but
from his writings we must infer, that his life as a whole was one of deep thought,
much profound meditation upon God and divine things, much research into the works,
and ways, and government of God, both moral and providential, and of much spirituality.
His practice of polygamy on so large a scale, and many other things that appear in
his life were, in the substance and principle of them, common to the most pious men
of that age and nation. Solomon's case, when duly considered, cannot disprove the
doctrine under consideration. Many things in him that shock us, might have been consistent
with his living in a state of acceptance with God.
- Objection. 5. Observation, it is said, conflicts with the doctrine in
question. So far as human observation can go, I admit that this is so; that many
persons seem to be born again, and to run well for a time, and afterwards fall, and
apparently live and die in sin. But it should be remarked, that observation cannot
be conclusive upon this subject, because we cannot certainly know, that any of the
cases just alluded to are real conversions to God. Hence the objection fails of conclusiveness.
Were it certainly known, that such persons were truly regenerated, and that afterwards
they fall away and live in sin, and die in that state, it would follow, that the
doctrine, at least in the form in which I have stated it, cannot be true. But this
is not, and cannot be certainly known by observation. If, as I trust, it has been
found to be true, in our examination, that the Bible plainly teaches the doctrine
in question, in the form in which I have stated it, it must follow of course that
observation cannot disprove it, for the reason that it is not a question that lies
within the reach of observation, in such a sense as to admit of certainty, or of
any such kind or degree of evidence as to shake the sure testimony of the Bible.
Objection. 6.But an appeal is also made to consciousness to overthrow this doctrine.
It is said, that the real saints, at least in some instances, know themselves to
have lived a great part of their lives in sin, and even by far the greater part of
their days subsequent to regeneration.
- This objection or assertion may be answered substantially as was the last. It
is true, indeed, that the saints may know themselves to have been regenerated; and
it is also true, that many may think they know this when they are deceived. A man
may know himself to be awake, but from this it does not follow that no one can think
himself awake while he is asleep. But since upon examination, it has been found that
the Bible plainly teaches the doctrine of the saints' perseverance, in the sense
in which I have defined it, we must of course yield the objection founded on experience,
and grant that such experiences can weigh nothing against the testimony of God. The
objection of course cannot be conclusive; for it is not one of the nature that admits
of no error or doubt. The Bible defines all the essential attributes of Christian
character. Now, if upon examination, perseverance in the sense here insisted on is
proved to be one of them, it is absurd to array against the doctrine the consciousness
of not persevering. It is to assume that we, and not the Bible, can decide who is
a Christian, and what are the essential attributes of Christian character.
- Objection. 7. But it is also objected to the doctrine of the perseverance
of the saints, that several passages of scripture plainly teach that some real saints
have fallen away and been lost. I will therefore now proceed to the examination of
those passages upon which the principal reliance is placed to disprove this doctrine.
The first one which I shall notice is found in 1 Cor. i. 10, "Moreover, brethren,
I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud,
and all passed through the sea; 2. And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud
and in the sea; 3. And did all eat of the same spiritual meat; 4. And did all drink
the same spiritual drink; (for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them,
and that rock was Christ); 5. But with many of them God was not well pleased, for
they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6. Now these things were our examples, to
the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7. Neither
be ye idolaters, as were some of them, as it is written; The people sat down to eat
and drink, and rose up to play. 8. Neither let us commit fornication as some of them
committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9. Neither let us tempt
Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10. Neither
murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11.
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our
admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 12. Wherefore, let him that
thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
- It is said of this passage, that the history of the Israelites is here introduced
as a warning to real Christians; consequently, the apostle must have assumed, that
those of the Israelites who fell were real saints, or there would have been no pertinency
or force in his allusion. To this I reply, that the pertinency and force of the allusion
appear to me to have been as follows. The Israelites composed the visible church
of God. At the time mentioned, they were all professors of religion. All possessed
great light and privileges compared with the rest of the world; they therefore felt
confident of their acceptance with God, and of their consequent safety and salvation.
But with many of them it turned out, that God was not well pleased. Some of them
turned out to be idolaters and were destroyed. Now, says the apostle, let this be
a warning to you. You are in like manner professors of religion. You are all members
of the visible church of God to which the promises are made. You have great light
and privileges when compared with the world at large. You may think yourselves to
be altogether safe, and sure of final salvation. But remember, that the history of
the ancient church is written for your benefit; and the destruction of those just
alluded to, is recorded for your admonition. Be not high minded, but fear. Do not
be presumptuous, because you are members in good standing in the visible church,
and possess great light and privileges; but remember, that many before you, who were
like you in these respects, have lost their souls; "Wherefore let him that thinketh
he standeth take heed lest he fall."
If the apostle had intended to convey the impression that they were real saints that
fell in the wilderness, and that real saints do fall away and are lost, he would
no doubt have said, let him that standeth, instead of him that thinketh he standeth,
take heed lest he fall. The term rendered thinketh is represented by Robinson as
correctly translated in this passage. The meaning of the apostle appears to have
been this, that others who were, from their circumstances and fancied characters,
very confident of their safety, had been finally cast off and lost; therefore, take
heed to yourselves, lest being similarly situated, you in like manner deceive yourselves;
and while you think that you stand, you should fall and perish.
But it may be said, that the apostle speaks of those as falling who had eaten of
the spiritual meat, and drank of the rock Christ, and therefore must have been real
saints. To this I reply, that the apostle does indeed use universal language, and
speak of all the Israelites as doing these things; but who will soberly contend that
he intended really to be understood as affirming, that all the Israelites that passed
through the sea, &c., were true saints? What he says does not necessitate the
conclusion that any of them were truly regenerated saints. They were all baptized
unto Moses, that is, were all introduced into the covenant of which he was the mediator.
They all ate of the same spiritual bread, that is, the manna on which the Lord fed
them. They all drank of the spiritual rock; that is, of the water that gushed from
the rock when Moses smote it with his rod, and which rock was a type of Christ, as
was also the manna. Now, does the apostle mean to say, that all the Israelites understood
the typical meaning of these waters, and this manna, and that they were all truly
spiritual or regenerate persons? I think not. All that he intended appears to me
to be, that all the church of the Jews at the time were so far partakers of the grace
of Christ, as to receive this baptism, and as to have this spiritual or typical bread
and water, and also to enjoy great light and much miraculous instruction, but that,
nevertheless, with many of them God was displeased. Their being baptized in their
passage through the Red Sea, did not imply that they so understood and consented
to it at the time, nor does the assertion that they ate the spiritual food, and drank
of the spiritual rock, imply anything more than that they enjoyed these great and
high privileges, and counted themselves as very secure in consequence of them. It
is certainly straining the sense to make the apostle affirm, that all the Israelites
were real saints who passed through the sea. Indeed, it is doubtful whether he intended
to affirm the real piety of any of them. It was not essential to his purpose to do
In examining the class of passages adduced to prove that some real saints have fallen
from grace and been lost, I am only concerned to show, that they do not by fair construction
necessitate this conclusion. I may admit that, if the doctrine of perseverance were
not found to be clearly taught in the Bible, the not unnatural construction of some
of the class of texts in question might lead to the conclusion that some, yea many,
real saints have been lost.
But since, from the previous examination it has appeared, that the doctrine is plainly
and unequivocally taught in the Bible, all that needs to be shown of the class of
texts now under consideration is, that they do not, when fairly interpreted, really
and unequivocally teach that some true saints have been lost. This showing will sufficiently
vindicate the scriptures against the imputation of self-contradiction, in both affirming
and denying the same doctrine. Observe, I am not called upon to show, that the passages
in question cannot be so construed, and with considerable plausibility, as to make
them contradict this doctrine; but all I am called upon to show in this place is,
that they do not necessarily, by fair construction, contradict it; that they do not
necessitate the admission either that the Bible contradicts itself, or that a different
construction must be given to the passages that seem to teach this doctrine.
With these remarks I proceed to the examination of 2 Peter ii. 9-22: "The Lord
knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto
the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in
the lust of uncleanness, and despise government: presumptuous are they, self-willed;
they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater
in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. But
these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the
things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to
riot in the day-time. Spots they are, and blemishes, sporting themselves with their
own deceivings, while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that
cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: a heart they have exercised with
covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone
astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice, forbade
the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried
with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they
speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh,
through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption:
for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage. For if after
they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord
and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter
end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to
have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to return from
the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according
to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was
washed to her wallowing in the mire."
Now observe, the apostle calls the persons of whom he speaks "wells without
water: clouds that are carried with a tempest:" that is, without rain. His whole
description of them shows, that he is speaking of false professors or hypocrites.
But it is inferred, that they are fallen saints, because it is said they have "forsaken
the right way, and are gone astray after the error of Balaam," &c. But this
does not necessarily imply that they were in heart ever in the right way, but that
they have forsaken the right way, so far as the outward life is concerned; in which
respect they had doubtless been in the right way, or they would not have been admitted
to membership in the church.
But it is said of these false professors, that "they allure through lust and
much wantonness those who were clean escaped from those who live in error."
But neither does this necessitate the conclusion, that they had escaped in heart
from those that lived in error, but merely that they had for the time being outwardly
abandoned their idolatrous practices and companions, and had made a profession, and
put on the form of Christianity.
But it is also said, verses 20-22: "For if after they have escaped the pollutions
of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are
entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse than the beginning. 21. For
it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after
they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22. But
it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his
own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."
Neither does this necessitate the conclusion, that they had in heart escaped from
the pollutions that are in the world, but merely that they had outwardly reformed.
What is said in the last verse seems to favour this construction. Verse 22: "But
it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his
own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."
That is, the dog has returned to his vomit, because he remains a dog, and is not
changed; and the sow that is washed to her wallowing in the mire, because she is
still a sow, and her washing has not changed her nature. So, the apostle would say,
by returning to their former ways, do the persons in question show, that they have
experienced no radical change; but on the contrary, that they are only like a washed
sow, sinners still, who have been only outwardly cleansed, while within they are
the same as ever. This appears to me to be all that can fairly be made out of this
I will now attend to 1 Tim. i. 19, 20: "Holding faith and a good conscience,
which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck. Of whom is Hymeneus
and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme."
Of this text I may say, that the apostle was writing to Timothy as an eminent religious
teacher, and was giving him cautions respecting his influence in that relation. Hymeneus
and Alexander, as we may infer from this, and which is still more plainly taught
in other passages, were religious teachers, who had cast off or perverted the true
faith or doctrine of the gospel, and thus made shipwreck. They had put away faith
and a good conscience, and by so doing had made shipwreck of the true gospel. This
passage does not teach that these men were true Christians, nor does it necessarily
imply that any had been true saints who had gone with them. The expression, "some
having put away," does not necessarily imply that they once had true faith and
a good conscience, but only that they taught that which was inconsistent with either;
or it may mean that they had rejected or refused both faith and a good conscience;
that they practised and taught things inconsistent with either true faith, or with
the true gospel, or with a good conscience, and had therefore run upon a rock, and
wrecked their souls, and the souls of those who followed them. But this proves nothing
in respect to their ever having been real saints.
The apostle was speaking in popular language, and represented things as they appeared
to the observer. Thus we should speak of spurious converts. It certainly does not
appear to me, that this passage would, without forced construction, warrant the conclusion
that some real saints had been lost, even apart from those passages that, we have
seen, seem unequivocally to teach the doctrine. Much less, when those passages are
considered, are we, as I think we have seen, authorized so to construe this passage
as to make it either contradict them, or to necessitate such a modification of their
construction as is contended for by those who deny the doctrine in question. If the
doctrine in question is not really taught in the Bible, we certainly should not believe
it; but if it is, we must not lightly reject it. We need candidly to weigh each passage,
and to understand, if we can, just what is the mind of God as therein revealed.
The case of Judas has been relied upon as an instance of utter apostacy, and of consequent
destruction. It is said, that in the Psalms Judas is spoken of as the familiar friend
of Christ in whom he trusted. Psalms xli. 9: "Yea, mine own familiar friend,
in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me."
There is no reason to believe that Ps. xli. primarily respected either Christ or
Judas. Christ quotes the 9th verse, as is common in the New Testament, not because
it was originally spoken of himself or of Judas, but because his case was like that
of the Psalmist. In the passage in which Christ quotes these words, he directly negatives
the idea of Judas being one of his true disciples. He says, John xiii. 18, "I
speak not of you all; I know whom I have chosen; but that the scripture may be fulfilled,
He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me."
Here Christ plainly teaches, that he to whom he applied these words, was not chosen
in the sense of being chosen to salvation, or in the sense of his being a true saint.
John vi. 64: "But there are some of you who believe not. For Jesus knew from
the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65. And
he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were
given him of my Father. 70. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and
one of you is a devil? 71. He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it
was that should betray him, being one of the twelve."
He had chosen twelve to follow him as pupils or disciples; but one of them he had
known from the beginning to be a wicked man. In John xvii. 12: Christ says, "While
I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me
I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture
might be fulfilled." Christ has been represented as saying to his Father in
this passage, that he had lost none that the Father had given him except the son
of perdition, that is Judas. But this is not the meaning of the passage in Christ's
prayer. He intended that of those that the Father had given him, he had lost none;
but the son of perdition was lost that the scripture might be fulfilled.
The same form of expression is used in Luke iv. 27: "And many lepers were in
Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving
Naaman the Syrian. Here eime is used in the original as meaning not except, but as
an adversative conjunction but. Naaman was not an Israelite, but a heathen. Christ
here used the same form of expression as in John xvii. 12: In this passage in Luke
it is plain, that he intended that the prophet was not sent to any Israelite, but
to a heathen. This same form is also used, Matt. xii. 4: "How he entered into
the house of God, and did eat the shew-bread, which was not lawful for him to eat,
neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests."
Here the same form of expression in the original is used, as in John xvii. 12. The
plain meaning of this form in Matt. xii. 4: is but, not except. It was not lawful
for David, nor for his companions to eat the shew-bread, but it was lawful for the
priests to do so. So also, Acts xxi. 25: "As touching the Gentiles which believe,
we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they
keep themselves from things offered unto idols, and from blood, and from strangled,
and from fornication." Here the same form is used, and the plain meaning of
the phraseology is just that which I am contending for, in the passage in Christ's
prayer. Likewise, Rev. xxi. 27: "And there shall in no wise enter into it anything
that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; but they
which are written in the Lamb's book of life." Here again the same form of expression,
and the same word in the original, are used in the sense now contended for. Nothing
shall enter into the city that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or
maketh a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life, shall enter
in. So beyond reasonable doubt, Christ intended to say in his prayer to his Father:
"While I was with them in the world I kept them in thy name: those that thou
gavest me I have kept and none of them is lost, that is, I have lost none of those
whom thou hast given me; but the son of perdition is lost, according to the scriptures."
But it seems to me, that the context shows clearly what the Saviour intended by this
form of expression. He says, verses 11 and 12: "And now I am no more in the
world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through
thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are. While
I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me
I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture
might be fulfilled:" that is: "Do thou keep them in thine own name and
lose none of them, for while I was with them I kept them in thy name, and lost none
of them; but the son of perdition is lost." He evidently did not mean to say,
I lost but one whom thou gavest me. Or that he kept in his Father's name all except
one of those whom the Father had given him. He says, 6: "I have manifested thy
name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou
gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. 7. Now they have known that all things,
whatsoever thou hast given me, are of thee. 8. For I have given unto them the words
which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came
out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. 9. I pray for them:
I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
10. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 11. And
now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy
Father, keep through thy own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be
one as we are. 12. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those
that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition;
that the scripture might be fulfilled."
Here he plainly represents, that all who had been given him by the Father, had known
and kept the word of God. They had believed and persevered, and Christ was glorified
in them. Since he had kept them in his Father's name, and had lost none of them,
he proceeds to pray, that now the Father will keep them in his own name. Let any
one ponder well this passage from verse 6 to 12, and he will see, I trust, that this
is a true view of the subject. At any rate this cannot be a proof text to establish
the fact, that any have fallen from grace: for the plain reason, that the text can
quite as naturally at least, and I think with much greater propriety, be quoted to
sustain the doctrine which it is adduced to disprove. Again:
Matt. xviii. 21: "Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how often shall my
brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22. Jesus saith unto
him, I say not unto thee until seven times; but until seventy times seven. 23. Therefore
is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of
his servants. 24. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him which
owed ten thousand talents. 25. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded
him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be
made. 26. The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have
patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27. Then the lord of that servant was
moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28. But the same
servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, which owed him a hundred
pence; and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that
thou owest. 29. And his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying,
Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30. And he would not; but went and
cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31. So when his fellow-servants
saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that
was done. 32. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou
wicked servant. I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desirest me: 33. Shouldest
not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee?
34. And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay
all that was due unto him. 35. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto
you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."
This has been adduced to prove that some do fall from grace, especially the 32nd
to the 34th verses. But from this whole passage it is evident, that what the Lord
meant, was to set in a strong light the necessity of a forgiving spirit, and that
this is a condition of salvation. It is a parable designed to illustrate this truth,
but does not assert as a fact, that any truly pardoned soul was ever lost; nor does
it imply this, as any one may see who will duly weigh the whole parable. It does
plainly imply, that a pardoned soul would be lost should he apostatize; but it does
not imply that such a soul ever did apostatize. I consider next, 1 Tim. v. 12: "Having
damnation, because they have cast off their first faith." This passage stands
in the following connexion:--
1 Tim. v. 9: "Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years
old, having been the wife of one man: 10. Well reported of for good works; if she
have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints'
feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good
work. 11. But the younger widows refuse, for when they have begun to wax wanton against
Christ, they will marry; 12. Having damnation, because they have cast off their first
faith. 13. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house;
and not only idle, but tattlers also, and busy bodies, speaking things which they
The word rendered damnation in this passage is often rendered judgment and condemnation;
and the meaning may be, that the younger widows were found to wax wanton and fall
into condemnation, and for a time at least to disgrace their profession, by casting
off their first faith; or it may mean, that they were apt to be found among those
who renounced the profession of the true faith, which they at first professed. They
were young widows. Uneducated as heathen women were and are, and it could not be
surprising that many of this class should make a spurious profession, and afterwards
cast off their profession through wantonness, and disgrace their profession. The
apostle, therefore, warns Timothy against too hasty a reception of them, or against
having too early a confidence in the reality of their piety.
As every one knows, that Dr. Adam Clarke was a strong opponent of the doctrine of
the perseverance of the saints, I give his views of this passage from his commentary.
See Clarke, on verses 3, 9, 11 and 12:--
"Verse 3: 'Honour widows that are widows indeed.' One meaning of the word timao,
to honour, is to support, sustain, &c., Matt. xv. 45, and here it is most obviously
to be taken in this sense. Provide for those widows especially, which are widows
indeed; persons truly destitute, being aged and helpless; and having neither children
nor friends to take care of them; and who behave as becometh their destitute state.
"Verse 9: 'Take not into the number.' Let her not be taken into the list of
those for which the church must provide. But some think that the apostle means the
list of those who were deaconesses in the church; and that no widow was to be admitted
into the rank who did not answer to the following character.
"Verse 11: 'But the younger widows refuse.' Do not admit those into this office
who are under sixty years of age. Probably those who were received into such a list,
promised to abide in their widowhood. But as young or comparatively young women,
might have both occasion and temptations to re-marry, and so break their engagement
to Christ, they should not be admitted. Not that the apostle condemns their re-marrying
as a crime in itself, but because it was contrary to their engagement.
"'Wax wanton.' Katastreniasosi, from kata intensive, and streniao, to act in
a luxurious or wanton manner. The word is supposed to be derived from sterein, to
remove, and enia, the rein; and is a metaphor taken from a pampered horse, from whose
mouth the rein has been removed; so that there is nothing to check or confine him.
The metaphor is plain enough, and the application easy.
"Verse 12: 'Having damnation.' In the sense in which we use this word, I am
satisfied the apostle never intended it. It is likely that he refers here to some
promise or engagement, which they made when taken on the list already mentioned;
and now they have the guilt of having violated that promise; that is the krima, or
condemnation, of which the apostle speaks.
"'They have cast off their first faith.' By pledging their fidelity to a husband,
they have cast off their fidelity to Christ; as a married life and their previous
engagement are incompatible. Dr. Macknight translates these two verses thus:--'But
the younger widows reject; for when they cannot endure Christ's rein, they will marry;
incurring condemnation, because they have put away their first fidelity.'"
This passage does not assert, that any real Christian had fallen and had been lost,
and the most that can be made of it is that they may, or can do so, and that there
is danger of apostacy. This I fully admit and maintain; that is, that humanly speaking
there is danger; which is the only sense in which there is danger that any event
may be different from what it, in fact, turns out to be. I have already said, and
shall have occasion to say again, that there is, and can be, no danger in the sense
of real uncertainty, that any event whatever will be different from what it turns
out to be, and from what God foresees that it will be. But in the sense of probability,
judging from the natural course of events as they appear to us, there may be a high
degree of probability, and therefore the utmost danger that things may be different
from what in fact they turn out to be, and from what God foresees that they will
be, and from what they really would be, were it not for the warnings, and threatenings,
and a consequent sense of danger.
Again: It has been said, that from Christ's letters to the churches in Asia,
recorded in Revelations, we learn that those churches, some of them at least, were
in a state of apostacy from God; and that from the fact that the judgments of God
annihilated those churches, there is reason to believe that the apostacy was complete
and final, and their destruction certain. To this I reply, that those letters were
written to churches as such, just as the prophets spoke of the Jewish Church as such.
The things which the prophets declare of the Jewish church were declared of them
as a body of professed saints, some generations of whom had more, and some less,
real piety. The prophets would rebuke one generation for their backsliding and apostacy,
without meaning to represent that the particular individuals they addressed were
ever true saints, but meaning only that the body as such was in a degenerate and
apostate state, compared with what the body as such had been in former times. So
Christ writes to the churches of Asia, and reproves them for their backslidden and
apostate condition, asserts that they had fallen, had left their first love, &c.,
from which, however, we are not to infer, that he intended to say this of those who
had been truly converted as individuals, but merely that those churches as bodies
had fallen, and were now composed of members as a whole who were in the state of
which he complained; just as we say of the Roman Catholic church, or of the Lutheran
or German Reformed, or of other bodies in which piety is at a low ebb, that they
have left their first love, &c. In saying this, we should not mean to be understood
as affirming, that the individuals who now compose those churches were at any time
in a better spiritual state than they are at present but only that the churches as
such are fallen from what those bodies once were, and had left the love, and zeal,
and obedience once manifested in them.
The churches of Asia were doubtless, when first gathered by the apostles and primitive
ministers, full of faith, and zeal, and love. But things had changed. Many of the
members had changed, and perhaps every member who had originally composed those churches
was dead, previous to the time when these letters were written. However this may
be, there had doubtless been great changes in the membership of those churches; and
since they were evidently addressed as bodies, it cannot be fairly inferred, from
what is said, that the same persons addressed had fallen from a state of high spirituality
into backsliding or apostacy, but that was true only of the then present membership,
when compared with the former membership and state of the churches. These letters
cannot be justly relied upon as disproving the doctrine in question; for the utmost
that can be made of them is, that those churches as bodies were at the time in a
state of declension.
The passages we have examined are, so far as I know, the principal ones upon which
reliance has been placed to disprove the doctrine in question. I have read over attentively
several times the views of Mr. Fletcher, in his Scripture Scales, and the passages
quoted by him to disprove this doctrine. His chief reliance is manifestly upon the
numerous passages that imply the possibility and danger of falling, rather than on
any passages that unequivocally teach that any have fallen or will utterly fall.
I am not aware that any respectable writer has laid much stress upon other passages
than those I have examined, as expressly teaching, or unequivocally implying the
fact of the fall and ruin of real saints. There may be such writers and such passages
as those of which I speak; but if there are, I do not recollect to have seen them.
- 1. If the doctrine under consideration is not true, I cannot 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 does not
protect them against the wiles and malice of Satan, in their feebleness, and in the
wreck of their habitation of clay, what has 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 in the end, 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 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 cannot, 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. 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 any other ground of hope? I know not where.
Introduction ---New Window
LECTURES 1-7 of page 1
LECTURES 8-16 of page 2 ---New Window
LECTURES 17-30 of page 3 ---New Window
LECTURES 31-38 of page 4 ---New Window
LECTURES 39-47 of page 5 ---New Window
LECTURES 48-57 of page 6 ---New Window
LECTURES 58-67 of page 7 ---New Window
LECTURES 68-74 of page 8 ---New Window
LECTURES 75-80 of page 9 ---New Window
LECTURES 81-83 of page 10 (this page)
APPENDIX on page 11 ---New Window
RELATED STUDY AIDS:
Section Sub-Index for Finney: Voices