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It has been asked, why such declarations are made in the scripture, if no true believer does ever fall away; but certainly will continue to the end?
The answer is at hand. They are made, because it is true that none can be saved, unless they persevere; and it is proper and important, that this truth should be known, and kept in view, to prevent persons flattering themselves, that they have been, and are true believers, though they sit still and do little or nothing, neglecting the work of faith, and labour of love; and though they have fallen into a settled course of apostasy. And such declarations are suited, and even necessary, to distinguish true believers from others; and to excite them to care and watchfulness, lest they should apostatize; and to zeal and activity in obedience, and engagedness to persevere in faith and holiness, by a patient continuance in well doing, seeking for glory, honour and immortality.
If any say, that these declarations suppose that true believers may fall away and perish; and therefore are inconsistent with the certain perseverance of all such:
ANSWER. This is certainly a mistake. They neither assert, nor suppose any such thing. Every true believer may persevere to the end, consistent with these declarations, and they may be the means of their persevering. It is true, that he who does not persevere, but draws back and apostatizes, shall not be saved; but it is equally true, that all such never were true believers; but their faith was essentially different from true faith, and therefore, only a temporary faith; and this is discovered by their falling away. Therefore, the apostle John says, of such apostates, "They went out from us, but they were not of us: For if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: But they went out, that they might be made manifest, that they were not all of us." These declarations do indeed suppose that persons may set out and run well to appearance, for a time; but after that, when temptation comes, fall away, because they had no root in themselves, and never were true believers; and are suited to detect such, and to warn and guard all against apostasy.
* 1 John ii. 19.
7. That the perseverance of believers in holiness to salvation, is secured to them in the covenant of grace, is abundantly asserted in divine revelation. A number of passages which express or imply this doctrine have already been occasionally mentioned, in the foregoing sections, and it would swell this section into a volume, to transcribe all the passages of scripture, which either expressly assert, or imply the certain perseverance and salvation of all who once become truly pious: Only a few therefore, of the many, will be mentioned. Indeed, if there were but one sentence in the Bible, which expressly, or even implicitly asserted this doctrine, which is so reasonable and desirable, it would be a sufficient warrant to receive it, as an important truth.
The promises so often made to them who believe that they shall be saved, do connect salvation with the first act of faith, which supposes, as has been before observed, that true faith is always a persevering faith; which could not be so, were it not made such, by the promise of God in the covenant of grace, by which he engages to the believer, that his faith shall never fail; but that he shall persevere in believing, so that the end of his faith shall be the salvation of his soul. The apostle Peter gives this account of the matter, and tells in what way believers persevere unto salvation. Speaking to believers, he tells them, that an inheritance, incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, is reserved in heaven for them, who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.* The certainty of the final salvation of every one who believeth on him, is very particularly and expressly asserted by Christ, in the words following: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." The believer could not be said to have everlasting life, and to have already passed from death unto life, so as never again to fall into a state of condemnation, unless salvation were made sure to him, upon his first believing, and consequently perseverance in faith unto salvation, in the covenant of grace, the tenor of which is here expressed 1 Peter i. 4. 5. ↑ John v. 24.
by the Redeemer. Still more express and strong, if possible, is the following declaration of his: "All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."* And again he says, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."+ Agreeable to this, he prays the Father, that all who did then believe him, and all that should believe to the end of the world, might be kept secure from falling away, and persevere in holiness to eternal life. "Holy Father, keep through thine own name, those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are. I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil. Sanctify them through thy truth. Thy word is truth. Thy word is truth. Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me, where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on me through their word."‡
The Apostle Paul asserts, that salvation and eternal glory is connected with conversion and justification, in the following remarkable passage, in his letter to the church at Rome; where he traces the salvation of sinners, from the foundation to the topstone. "We know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of his Son. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified: And whom he justified, them he also glorified." From this he goes on to the end of the chapter, to show the impossibility, that any true christian, should be separated from * John vi. 37, 40. ↑ John x. 27, 28, 29. ‡ John xvii. § Rom. viii. 28, 29, 30.
the love of God and Christ, and so perish. The apostle
8. That all true believers in Christ should persevere in faith, and none of them perish, is consistent with all other truths contained in divine revelation, and is really contained in many of them; and this appears every way proper and reasonable.
That this doctrine is not inconsistent with any thing contained in the scripture, has been made evident; it is hoped, from what has been briefly said, in some of the above particulars, to obviate the objections which some have made to it, from not understanding it, or the scriptures, on which they have grounded their objections. And if man be so wholly dependent on God for salvation; so that this must be determined by his sovereign will, as it has been made evident the scripture represents him to be; and he is brought into a state of * 1 John ii. 27. ↑ John xiv. 16, 17. + Chap. iv. 14. §2 Cor. i. 22. Eph. iv. 30.
salvation by the sovereign, almighty influence of the
I. SEE how exactly the blessings and promises of the covenant of grace are suited to the circumstances, and to the heart of the believer; and to exhibit and display sovereign grace. He is absolutely dependent on God for holiness, and perseverance in it unto salvation; he feels himself infinitely unworthy of any favour, and without strength in himself to do any good thing; he is surrounded with temptations and dangers; and Satan, that strong and subtle enemy, is seeking to destroy him. He would sink into despair immediately, were it not for the promised power and grace of Jesus Christ, who has promised he will never leave nor forsake them who trust in him: But this gives him sufficient and full support, and he acknowledges and admires the wisdom and grace of this covenant, as everlasting, and ordered in the best manner, in all things, and sure; and says with David, "This is all my salvation, and all my desire." He knows this is no contrivance of man, no fiction, but an
Col. i. 12, 13.
† Phil. i. 6.