The Doctrine of the Saints Final Perseverance,

ASSERTED AND VIDICATED;
in Answer to a Late Pamphlet called “Serious Thoughts” on that Subject

John Gill

The doctrine of the saints final perseverance in grace to glory, being a doctrine so fully expressed in the sacred scriptures, so clearly wrote there as with a sun-beam, having so large a compass of proof; as scarce any other doctrine has; a doctrine so agreeable to the perfections of God, and the contrary so manifestly reflecting dishonor upon them, particularly the immutability of God, his wisdom, power, goodness, justice, truth, and faithfulness; a doctrine so well established upon his purposes and decrees, his counsel and covenant, and which so well accords with all his acts of grace towards, and upon his people; a doctrine so well calculated for their spiritual peace and comfort, and to promote holiness of life and conversation; a doctrine one would think, that every good man must wish at least to be true; it may seem strange, that any man believing divine revelation, and professing godliness, should set himself to oppose it, and call such an Opposition Serious Thoughts upon it, as a late writer has done; who has published a pamphlet under such a title, and which now lies before me, and which I have undertook to answer, and shall attempt to do it in the following manner. And, it is to be hoped, he will think again, and more seriously, and that his latter thoughts will be better than his former.

I shall not dispute his account of saints, and the characters of them, though there are some things which require distinction and explanation. He has rightly observed, that the question about the saints falling away, is not meant of barely falling into sin, but so as to perish everlastingly and therefore he has not produced the instances of David, Solomon, Peter, and others; which, with great impertinence and impropriety are usually brought into this controversy. He has put what he has to say upon this subject into Eight propositions, which he endeavors to confirm by scripture authorities. And,

The First is, “That one who is holy or righteous in the judgment of God himself, may nevertheless so fall from God, as to perish everlastingly;” in support of which he produces Ezekiel 18:24, but when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity—In his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die. Which he understands of eternal death, as he thinks is evident from verse 26 (Serious Thoughts, hereafter S. T., pp. 4, 5). But 1. such a sense of the words is contrary to the scope and design of the whole chapter, which not at all concerns the perseverance or apostasy of saints, and neither their salvation nor damnation; but the sole view of it is to vindicate the justice of God, from a charge of punishing the Jews, not for their own sins, but the sins of their fathers, and of injustice and inequality in his providential dealings with them, and has nothing to do with the spiritual and eternal affairs of men.—2. The whole context wholly and solely regards the house of Israel, and the land of Israel, and the conduct of the people of Israel in it, according to which they held or lost their tenure of it, and were either continued in it, or removed from it: so that it is quite impertinent to the case before us and this writer is guilty of what he calls a fallacy in others, in applying that to the saints in particular, which relates to the Jewish church and nation only, as distinguishable from all other people (S. T., p. 7), and so stands self-condemned.— 3. The righteous man here spoken of, is indeed called and allowed by the Lord himself to be so; yet that righteousness by which he is denominated, only regards him as an inhabitant of the land of Israel, and as giving him a title and claim to the possession and enjoyment of it; but not as justifying him before God, and giving him a title to eternal life and happiness. For this righteousness is called his, his own, and not another’s, which he himself had done, and not what Christ had done for him, his own in which he trusted; it was a righteousness of works, as appears from verses 5-9, and not the righteousness of faith; there is not a word of faith in the account, nor of the obedience of Christ, nor of the sanctifying grace of the Spirit; this man does not appear to be either a righteous man or a holy man in an evangelical sense; wherefore the instance is quite impertinent. Millions of instances of this kind will never enervate the doctrine of the saints perseverance; let it be proved if it can, that any one that has been made righteous by the obedience of Christ, and has been truly and inwardly sanctified by the Spirit and grace of God, ever so fell away, as everlastingly to perish; let this be proved and we have done: As for a man’s own righteousness and outward acts of holiness, we allow a man may turn from them and be lost, but not from the righteousness of Christ, which is everlasting, nor from an inward principle of grace and holiness, which ever abides.—4. Besides, admitting that a righteous man in an evangelical sense is here meant, though it cannot be allowed; yet what is here said is only a supposition, which puts nothing in being, and is no proof or instance of matter of fact.—And, 5. the death here spoken of, is not eternal death, or the death of soul and body in hell; for this death was now upon them, what they were complaining of as wrongfully punished with; it being, as they supposed, on account of their fathers sins, and not their own; and from which death also they might be delivered by repentance and reformation, see verses 23, 32. All which cannot be said of eternal death; but it is to be understood of some temporal affliction and calamity, which in Scripture is often called a death, as in Exodus 10:17; 2 Corinthians 1:10 and 11:23, such as captivity in which the Jews now were on account of their sins, and was the subject of their complaint. Dying in his iniquity, is the same as dying for his iniquity, and both in verse 26 (Ezekiel) signify the same thing, and are not two different deaths; which is repeated to shew the certainty of it; and is also what is meant by the death of the soul, not of the soul only, or of the body only, but of the person of the sinner, punished with a temporal affliction for his sins; and so falls short of proving that a truly righteous and holy man may perish everlastingly.

The Second proposition is, that “one who is endued with the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience, may nevertheless so fall from God, as to perish everlastingly.” In proof of which is produced, 1 Timothy 1:19, 20, holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck, of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander (S. T., p. 8)—But, 1. It does not appear that these men ever had their hearts purified by faith; this should be first proved, before they are produced as instances of the apostasy of real saints; the contrary appears in their characters; they were ungodly men, and were never otherwise for any thing that is said of them; and after their profession of religion, they increased and proceeded to more ungodliness; they were vain-babblers, opposers of the doctrines of the gospel, and blasphemers of it, and were never upon the foundation that stands sure, or were known by the Lord as his, (see 1 Tim 1:20 and 2 Tim. 2:16, 19; 4:14, 15).—2. Nor is it clear from the text, that they ever had a good conscience, but rather that they never had one; putting it away does not necessarily suppose they had it, but rather that they had it not, they rejecting it with dislike; as the Jews who never had the gospel are said to put it away; when they contradicted, blasphemed and rejected it, the apostle says, ye put it from you, avpwqei/sqe, the same word that is here used; ye rejected it, cast it from you, and would not receive it, so here; had these persons ever had a good conscience, it would rather have been said, which some having put out of them; but they never had it; when it was proposed to them, as the Christian religion proposes that a man should exercise a good conscience, they disliked it, and put it away, and would not attend to it, and chose rather to drop the faith they professed, as being contrary to their evil consciences and practices; besides, persons may have a good conscience in some sense, and as it is shews itself by an external behavior among men, which does not arise from an heart purified by faith; the apostle had such an one before he had faith in Christ, Acts 23:1. though it does not seem as if these men had ever such an one.—3. The faith they made shipwreck of, is not the grace of faith, which it does not appear they ever had, but the doctrine of faith, the Gospel; peri. th.n pi,stewn, concerning the faith, is a phrase that is never used but of the doctrine of faith, see Acts. 24:24; 1 Timothy 6:21; 2 Timothy 3:8. This is the faith they made shipwreck of, denied and destroyed, or contradicted and blasphemed, as it is explained in the next verse; and the particular doctrine of faith they made shipwreck of. erred concerning, and swerved from, was the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, see 2 Timothy 2:17, 18. Men may profess the doctrine of faith and fall from it; but this is no instance of a man’s having true faith which purifies the heart, and falling from God so as to perish.

The Third proposition is (S. T., p. 9), that “Those who are grafted into the good olive tree, the spiritual invisible church: may nevertheless so fall from God, as to perish everlastingly.” To support which, the text in Romans 11:17-24 is produced, but to no purpose.—For, 1. By the olive tree, is not meant the spiritual and invisible church of Christ that is, the general assembly and church of the firstborn which were written in heaven, and consists only of the chosen, redeemed, and saved; to which there can be no addition, and of which there can he no diminution; no fresh engrafture can he made into it, nor any excision from it.—But, 2. The outward Gospel-church-state, or the outward state of the church under the Gospel-dispensation; the national church of the Jews being abolished, and its branches broken, see Jeremiah 11:16, which signify the unbelieving Jews; who because of their unbelief also were left out of the Gospel-church-state; and the few believing Jews were together with the Gentiles grafted into that true olive tree, the Gospel-church and the first coalition was at Antioch.—3. Those that are signified by the broken branches, were never true believers in Christ; and because of their unbelief, were broken off, and they were left out of the Gospel-church; they are distinguished from the remnant according to the election of grace among the Jews, and are the rest that were blinded, verses 5, 7; and so no instances of the apostasy of true believers.—4. Though the persons the apostle speaks to were grafted into the olive tree, and were holy believers, and stood by faith, and are threatened in case they did not behave suitable to their character and profession, that they should be cut off: yet this can only intend a cutting off from the outward church-state, in which they were, and from the privileges of it; and had it took place, would have been no proof of their perishing everlastingly.—5. There is a strong intimation, though this writer says there is not the least intimation given, that such that were cut off should be grafted in again; since it is not only said, that God is able to do it, but that if they abode not in unbelief, it should be done; and the probability of it is argued; and so it will be in the latter day, when the Jews shall be converted, and all Israel, be saved, verses 23-26 of which the first Jews that believed in Christ, were the first-fruits and root, said to be holy, verse 16, and so were the pledge and earnest of the future engrafture of their people into the Gospel-church-state. Upon the whole, this is an insufficient proof that any belonging to the invisible church ever so fell, as to perish everlastingly. Let it be proved, if it can, that ever any of the church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven; that any of that church of which Christ is the head, whom he loved, gave himself and died for; that any of that body which is the fullness of him, that filleth all in all; or that any who are baptized by one Spirit into it, and have been made to drink of that Spirit, were ever lost or did eternally perish.

The Fourth proposition is, that “those who are branches of the true vine, of whom Christ says I am the vine, ye are the branches, may nevertheless so fall from God, as to perish everlastingly (John 15:1-5), where it is observed, the persons spoken of are branches in Christ, some which abide not in him, but are cast forth from him and his church, and are withered, and so consequently never grafted in again, yea cast into the fire and burned. Wherefore it is not possible for words more strongly to declare, that even those who are now branches in the true vine, may yet so fall, as to perish everlastingly” (S. T., p. 13). To which I answer, that there are two sorts of branches in Christ the vine, the one fruitful, and the other unfruitful; the one are such who were chosen in him before the foundation of the world to be holy and happy; and who are truly regenerated by his Spirit and grace in time, and made his new creatures; for if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17); these are openly, truly, and savingly in him: he is the green fir tree to them, from whom all their fruit is found; they are rooted in him, and receive their life and nourishment and fruitfulness from him, and abide in him; and can never wither away and perish, as is clear from the text and context: these are the branches which the husbandman, Christ’s heavenly father, purges and prunes, that they may bring forth more fruit; and these as they were loved by Christ in the same manner as his father loved him, so they were chosen and ordained by him, to go and bring forth fruit, and that their fruit might remain and so not perish, verses 2, 9, 16, hence this parable of the vine and branches, furnishes out an argument for, and not against the perseverance of the saints. The other sort of branches are such who are in Christ only by profession: who submit to outward ordinances, and get into churches, and so are reckoned in Christ, being professors of him, and in a church-state; as the churches of Judea and Thessalonica, and others, are said to be in Christ though it cannot be thought, that every individual person in those churches were truly and savingly in him (Col. 1:21; 1 Thess. 1:1). These are such who were never rooted in Christ, or ever received any life, grace, or fruitfulness from him, and so are unfruitful branches; and in a course of time wither away in their profession; and whom the husbandman by one means or another takes away; and who are cast out of the churches into which they get, and by which they have a name of being in Christ, either for their bad principles or practices, or both; and at last, as chaff are burnt with unquenchable fire; but what is all this to real saints or true believers in Christ? no proof at all of their falling and perishing everlastingly.

The Fifth proposition is, that “those who so effectually know Christ, as by that knowledge to escape the pollutions of the world, may yet fall back into these pollutions, and perish everlastingly” (S. T., p. 16); the text to prove it is 2 Peter 2:20, 21, which this writer understands of an experimental knowledge of Christ, which some had and lost and fell back into pollutions, and perished.—But, 1. it does not appear that the knowledge the persons in the text are said to have, was an inward experimental knowledge of Christ: had it been such, they could not have lost it for those who truly and experimentally know him, shall follow on to know him; and such a knowledge of him has eternal life inseparably connected with it; yea, that itself is eternal life, and therefore can never be lost (Hos. 6: 3; John 17:3).— 2. The effect ascribed unto it, escaping the pollutions of the world, does not prove it to be an inward experimental knowledge; since that signifies no more than an outward reformation and amendment of life, which may follow upon a notional and speculative knowledge of Christ, or an outward acknowledgement and profession of him.—3. There is nothing said of these persons which shew that they were partakers of the true grace of God, or but what may be said of such that are destitute of it; all the characters of them in the context, for they are no other than the false teachers there described, shew them to be very vile and wicked men: they do not appear ever to have had any change wrought upon them; they ever were no other than dogs and swine; not, only before and after, but even while they were under a profession of religion, and outwardly abstained from gross enormities, as the application of the Proverb to them shews; it is happened to 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, verse 22. Wherefore the characters and case of these persons can never be improved into an argument against the perseverance of real saints, and such as have a spiritual and experimental knowledge of Christ.

The Sixth proposition is, that “Those who see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and who have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, of the witness and fruits of the Spirit, may nevertheless so fall from God, as to perish everlastingly;” for the proof of this, we are referred to Hebrews 6:4-6, where it is said, the expressions used are so strong and clear, that they cannot, without gross and palpable wresting, be understood of any but true believers (S. T., p. 17).—But, 1. admitting that true believers are meant, the words are only a supposition of their falling away, if they, fall away, and prove no matter of fact, that ever any did; and at most are only expressive of the danger they are in of falling, and of the difficulty of restoring them, from a partial fall, a final and total one being prevented by the power and grace of God. But, says our author, the apostle makes no supposition at all, there is no if in the original the words are in plain English, it is impossible to renew again to repentance, those who were once enlightened, and have fallen away but, though the if or condition is not expressed, yet it is implied, and the sense is the same as if it was an hypothetical or conditional proposition may be as truly expressed without an if, as with it, as it is here; the words in the original lie literally thus, it is impossible that those who were once enlightened, kai. parapeso,ntaj, and they falling away, to renew them again unto repentance; that is, should they fall away, which in plain English is, if they fall away; our translators have therefore rightly resolved the participle into a conditional verb, as many other learned men have done, as Erasmus, Beza, Piscator, Paræus, and others, the words are indeed in some versions translated without the condition, but then in such manner as to contain an argument for the perseverance of the saints, thus: it is impossible that any that have been once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gifts,—and yet fall away; that is, it is impossible that such should fall away; and so the Syriac version of the words is, it is impossible, &c. that they should sin again; so as to die spiritually, or lose the grace of God; which would require the crucifying of Christ again, and exposing him again to open shame; things impossible to be done, and therefore the former: for according to this version, the several other things mentioned are joined the word impossible; as that they should be renewed to repentance; and also that they should crucify the Son of God and put him to shame.—But, 2. there is nothing in the characters of these persons which shew them to be true believers; there is nothing said of their believing in Christ, or that necessarily implies it; there is nothing said that is peculiar to true believers; they are not said to be regenerated by the Spirit of God, called by the grace of God, or sanctified, or justified, or adopted, or heirs of God, and meet for the inheritance, or sealed by the Holy Ghost, or any thing of that kind.—3. What is said of them, is no more than what is to he found in many that are destitute of the grace of God; they might be enlightened, or baptized, as the Syriac, and Ethiopic versions understand and render it; or they might be enlightened into the doctrines of the Gospel, and to such a degree as to preach them to others, and yet be strangers to the true grace of God, and the spiritual enlightenings that true believers have of their lost estate by nature, need of Christ, and interest in him; they might taste of the heavenly gift, whether it be understood of a justifying righteousness, remission of sins, or eternal life; that is, they might have some speculative notions about these things, and desires after them; which might only arise from a natural principle of self-love, and be destitute of any inward spiritual principle of grace: they might be partakers of the Holy Ghost, not of his person or special grace, but of his gifts; and that not only ordinary but extraordinary also, as Dr. Hammond and Dr. Whitby both understand the phrase, they might taste the good word of God, in the bare form and notion of it, and have a superficial knowledge of, and gust for it; and yet never have felt the effectual power of it upon their hearts; they might also taste the powers of the world to come; and these, whether they intend the glorious things relating to the state of the church after the first resurrection, or the ultimate joys and glories of heaven; they might have some notions of, and make some natural and self-pleasing reflections on them, without having those foretastes which are peculiar to the people of God: or whether they may intend the du,nameij, miracles, and mighty works done in the times of the Messiah, the Jews, which many, as Judas, and others, were able to perform, who were not true believers in Christ, (see Matthew 7:22, 23).— Besides. 4. these persons seem to be represented by the unfruitful earth (v. 8), which bears thorns and briers, and is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing, and its end to be burned; and true believers are manifestly distinguished from them, of whom the apostle was persuaded better things, things that accompany salvation, though he thus, spoke; put such a case, in the hypothetical and conditional form; and which was applicable enough to other persons, though not to them (v. 9), so that nothing can be fairly concluded from hence, against the final perseverance of the saints.

The Seventh proposition is, that “Those who live by faith, may yet fall from God, and perish everlastingly;” to establish which, the passage in Hebrews 10:38 is produced; now the just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back my soul shall have no pleasure in him: from whence it is inferred that a justified person that now lives the life that is hid with Christ in God, may not endure to the end, may draw back to perdition, and be utterly cast off (S. T., p. 20).— But, 1. One that is just and righteous by the righteousness of Christ, or that is truly justified by it, ever remains so; he cannot be condemned or enter into condemnation; he will be eternally glorified; whom he justified, them he also glorified (Rom. 8:30, 33, 34). Such whose life is hid with Christ in God, their life is safe, and can never be destroyed; therefore, when he their life shall appear, they shall appear with him in glory (Col. 3:3, 4), and such who live by faith on Christ, shall never die; for so our Lord himself says, whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die (John 11:20), that is, he that lives by faith on Christ, shall never die spiritually, or die the second and eternal death; and therefore, such an one can never so fall, as to perish everlastingly.—2. These words are so far from militating against the doctrine of the saints deliverance, that they greatly establish it; for here are manifestly two sorts of persons mentioned: one that were “of faith;” that had true faith in Christ, and lived by faith on him, did not draw back to perdition, but went on believing to the saving of their souls; or till they received the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls; of this number were the apostle and others with him, included in the word we, and every truly just, and righteous man. The other were “of the withdrawing,” or separation; who forsook the assembly of the saints (v. 25), withdrew from their society and communion, and apostatized from the ways and worship of God; now by this distinction and opposition between these two sorts of persons, it clearly appears, that those that truly believe, do not draw back unto perdition, but continue in the faith of Christ, and in the true worship of God, until they are everlastingly saved; which is a firm testimony to the final perseverance of the saints; so likewise, that those that draw back unto perdition, were not of the faith, were not true believers, nor ever the just ones that live by faith: and so their drawing back or apostasy which was not from faith they never had, but from their profession of religion they once made, is no proof of one that lives by faith falling away, so as everlastingly to perish.—3. It is indeed said, that the text is not fairly translated, and that the original runs thus: the just man that lives by faith draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him; making he that draws back to refer to the just man that lives by faith; but that this cannot be the sense, and so not the true rendering of the words, appears from the original text in Habakkuk 2:4, from whence these words are taken; Behold his soul which is lifted up, is not upright in him; which the Greek version and the apostle render, if he withdraws, or draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him: this then is the man that draws back, and who is opposed unto, and distinguished from the righteous in the following clause, but the just shall live by his ,faith: hence it is a clear case, that he that draws back, and the righteous man, are not one and the same; and therefore, our translators are to be vindicated in rendering the words by an adversative but, and in their supplement of any man; which is supported by the authority of other learned men, as Flaccus, Illyricus, Beza, Piscator, and others; and even Grotius himself, who was no friend to the doctrine contended for, owns the justness of it, that ti,j, any one, ought to be supplied, as agreeable to the grammatical construction of the words. Besides, could the translation this writer gives be established, which upon a little reflection he will easily see is inaccurate; it only contains a supposition of a righteous man’s drawing back, which proves no matter of fact; and moreover, though such a man may draw back partially, and so as to incur the divine displeasure, yet not draw back into perdition; for from one that does so, the just man is distinguished, as appears from the following verse; but we are not of them that draw back unto perdition, &c. which seems to be mentioned on purpose to encourage true believers from the doctrine of perseverance when so many professors were forsaking their communion.

The Eighth proposition is, that “Those that are sanctified by the blood of the covenant, may so fall from God, as to perish everlastingly;” in proof of which, Hebrews 10:29 is produced; on which it is observed (S. T., p. 22), that it is undeniably plain, that the person mentioned was once sanctified by the blood of the covenant; that he afterwards by known willful sin trod under the foot the Son of God, and hereby incurred a sorer punishment than death, namely, death everlasting; whence it follows, that one so sanctified may fall, as to perish everlastingly. The sense of the passage, and the argument upon it, depend entirely upon the meaning of the phrase, sanctified by the blood of the covenant, and of whom it is spoken: and according to the rules of speech, since the immediate antecedent to the relative he, is the Son of God, it must be he and not the apostate that is here intended; and it is mentioned as an aggravation of the sin of such a person, that counted that blood unholy by which the Son of God himself was sanctified, set apart, hallowed and consecrated, to the discharge of that part of his priestly-office, which lay in intercession for his people; as Aaron and his sons were by the sacrifices of slain beasts, to minister in the priest’s office: it was a most grievous sin to treat with contempt such a person, as not only God the Father had sanctified, and sent into the world, and who had also sanctified, and set apart himself for the redemption of his people, that they might be sanctified through the truth; but having offered himself a sacrifice for their sins, whereby the covenant of grace was ratified and confirmed, was through the blood of that covenant brought again from the dead, and declared to be the Son of God; and so was sanctified or set apart by it to accomplish the other part of his priestly office, intercession for his people; to do which he ever lives and sits at the right hand of God. And this being the sense of the words, it leaves no room for any argument to be taken from hence, against the final perseverance of the saints.—But., 2. admitting that the words are to be understood of the apostate having been sanctified by the blood of the covenant; it should be explained in what sense he had been so, which this writer does not pretend to do, that we may judge whether it is a descriptive character of a real saint, or no; for if it is not, then it is still nothing to the purpose. It is not to be understood of the inward sanctification of nature, or of the heart; for that is by the Spirit of God; this the Arminians do not say: Dr. Whitby himself owns (Discourse Concerning Election, &c. pp. 141, 406), it has no relation to that; yet this is what ought to be proved, to make the person to be a real saint, or a true believer; or else he can be no instance of the saints final and total apostasy. Nor is it to be understood of remission of sins, and justification by the blood of Christ, as the above Doctor interprets it; for either this must be a partial remission of sins, and justification from them, or a full one; not a partial one, for when God forgives sins for Christ’s sake, he forgives all sins, and justifies from all iniquities; and if a full one, then even these heinous crimes he is charged with, must be forgiven; and so he stood in no need of any more sacrifice for sin; nor could any punishment be inflicted on him for them nor need he fear any; and especially so sore and severe a one as is here represented: wherefore if these words are to be understood of an apostate, and of his having been sanctified by the blood of the covenant; the meaning must be, either that he was sanctified and separated from others by a visible profession of religion, had submitted to baptism, and partook of the Lord’s Supper, had drank of the cup, the blood of the New Testament or covenant, though he did not spiritually discern the body and blood of Christ in the ordinance, but counted the bread and wine, the symbols thereof, as common things; or else that he professed. himself to be sanctified, or to have his sins expiated by the blood of the covenant, and to be justified by it, and was looked upon by others to be so, when he really was not: and take the sense either way, it furnishes out no argument against the final perseverance of the saints.

Thus having gone through the Eight propositions, laid down by the writer of the Serious Thoughts, &c. and shewn that they are without any foundation or authority in the word of God, and that the doctrine of the saints final perseverance stands unshaken by them; I shall now proceed to offer some arguments in proof of it, and to establish the minds of God’s people in it, and shall vindicate such of them, as are excepted to by the above writer. And,

First, This doctrine may be concluded from the perfections of God: whatever is agreeable to them, and they make necessary, must be true; and whatever is contrary to them, and reflects dishonor on them, must be false. The doctrine of the saints final perseverance is agreeable to them, and is made entirely necessary by them, and therefore must be true; and the contrary doctrine, of the falling away of real saints, so as to perish everlastingly, is repugnant to them, and reflects great dishonor on them, and therefore must be false; as will appear by the following particulars.

1. The immutability of God is concerned in this affair; I am the Lord, I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed (Mal. 3:6): if they were, he must change in his love to them, and whom he now loves he must hate; he must alter his purposes concerning them; whereas, he has appointed them to salvation, he must consign them over to ruin and destruction; he must reverse his promises to them, and his blessings of grace bestowed on them; he must alter the thing that is gone out of his lips, his counsel, and his covenant, and be of a different mind from what he has been; but he is of one mind, and who can turn him? he is the same to-day, yesterday, and for ever: and, therefore, his saints shall never perish; this is inconsistent with the unchangeableness of his nature, will and grace, and would greatly reproach this glorious perfection of his. This doctrine makes God changeable, with whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning; nor can this writer disprove it; he is indeed unchangeably holy, just and good, as he says (S. T., p. 11); but he is also unchangeably loving to his people; unchangeably true and faithful, and unchangeable in his will, purposes, promises, and covenant; which he would not be, if his beloved, chosen, and covenant ones should perish.

2. The wisdom of God is concerned in this doctrine: No wise man that has an end in view, but will prepare and make use of proper means; and, if in his power, will make those means effectual to attain the end, or he will not act a wise part: the end which God has in view, and has fixed, is the salvation of his people; and is it consistent with his wisdom to appoint insufficient means, or not to make those means effectual when it is in his power to do it? which must be the case, if any of those he has appointed to salvation should perish: No, as he has appointed the end, salvation, he has fixed the means, sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, which he prepares, produces, and makes effectual. Where would be his wisdom to appoint men to salvation, and never save them, to send his Son to redeem them, and they never the better for it; to begin a good work of grace in them, and not finish it? No, the wisdom of God is wonderfully displayed in this affair, in providing all blessings for his people in a covenant ordered in all things, and sure; in putting them into the hands of his Son for the security of them; in their complete redemption by him, wherein he has abounded in all wisdom, and prudence; and in assigning the work of sanctification in its beginning, progress, and issue, to the divine Spirit, who is equal to it, and will perform it. There is no searching of his understanding; hence he giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.—Wherefore, they shall run, and not be weary, and walk, and not faint (Isa. 40:28, 29, 31); shall persevere to the end, and get safe to heaven and happiness.

3. The power of God is concerned in this matter: such who are the elect according to the fore-knowledge of God the Father, and are begotten again according to his abundant mercy, who have a lively hope of a glorious inheritance, these are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation (1 Pet. 1: 2, 3, 5); they are kept as in a garrison, as the word used signifies they are surrounded with the power of God: he is a wall of fire round about them (Zech. 2:5), to protect and defend them, and to offend their enemies: as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so is the Lord round about his people, from henceforth, even for ever. Wherefore they that trust in the Lord, shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides for ever (Ps. 125:1, 2); and this power of God is continually employed in the preservation of his people, he keeps them night and day, lest any hurt them (Isa. 27:3); they are kept in, and through a course of believing unto the end; and their faith is as much secured and preserved by the power of God, as their persons are, who performs the work of faith with power, as well as begins it; they are kept by it, unto, and till they come to complete salvation in heaven; their whole spirit, soul and body, are preserved blameless, to the coming of our Lord Jesus, and safe unto his heavenly kingdom (1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Tim. 4:18): and therefore, since the power of God is so strongly engaged for them, they cannot fall so as to perish everlastingly. The writer, I have to do with, owns, that “undoubtedly so are all they (kept by the power of God) who ever attain eternal salvation; it is the power of God only, and not our own, by which we are kept one day or one hour.” Now there are not any real saints who are not kept by the power of God, and do not attain salvation; and it lies upon him to shew how the falling away of such, so as to perish everlastingly, is consistent with the words the apostle Peter referred to, as he says it is, or with their being kept by almighty power.

4. The goodness, grace, and mercy of God, serve to establish this truth; his goodness endures for ever; his mercy is from everlasting to everlasting, on them that fear him (Ps. 103:17); the mercy of God as it is free and sovereign, plenteous, boundless, and infinite, so it is sure, permanent and perpetual; those that are once the objects of it, are always so, and therefore can never perish: it is of the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not (Lam. 3:22); which they would, should any of his he consumed and perish. Can it be thought that that God who is gracious and merciful, abundant in goodness and truth, pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin; that he who has begotten men again, according to his abundant mercy, and because he is rich in it, and for his great love to them, quickens them when dead in trespasses and sins, after all will suffer them so to fall, as to perish everlastingly? No, as the Psalmist says, the Lord will perfect that which concerneth me; the work of grace upon his heart, his whole salvation; his reason for it is, thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: hence follows a prayer of faith, forsake not the work of thine own hands (Ps. 138:8); God will not.

5. The justice of God requires that those should be certainly and eternally saved, for whose sins Christ has died, for which he has made satisfaction by suffering the punishment due unto them; it is contrary to the justice of God to punish sin twice, once in the surety, and again in the redeemed, Christ is a surety for; and yet this must be the case, if true believers in Christ, for whom Christ suffered and died, should everlastingly perish: for to perish everlastingly, is the same as to be punished with everlasting destruction.

6. The truth and faithfulness of God secures the final perseverance of the saints; his counsels of old are faithfulness and truth (Isa. 25:1); whatever he has appointed shall be performed he is faithful that has promised (Heb. 10:23); and will make good whatever he has said; and, whereas there are many things he has said respecting the perseverance of his saints, his faithfulness is engaged to fulfil them; God is faithful by whom they are called to the fellowship of his Son, to confirm them to the end, that they may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 1:8, 9): and though he suffers them to be afflicted and tempted, yet he is faithful, who will not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able to bear, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape (1 Cor. 10:13): and those whom he sanctifies, shall be preserved unto the coming of our Lord Jesus, faithful is he that has called them, who also will do it; and the same Lord is faithful, who shall establish and keep his people from evil (1 Thess. 5:23, 24; 2 Thess. 3:3): but if any of these should perish everlastingly, where is his faithfulness? we may be assured therefore they shall not perish, for he will never suffer his faithfulness to fail (Ps. 89:33): nor is there any condition annexed to those declarations and promises; the conditions this writer suggests (S. T., pp. 11, 12), are not of God’s making, but of his own forging.

Secondly, The final perseverance of the saints, may be concluded from the everlasting love of God unto them. Those who are once the objects of God’s love, are always so; his love to them in every state and condition into which they come is invariable and unalterable: it is constant, permanent, perpetual, and for ever. God loves his people with the same love he loves his Son, and therefore it will always continue; and if it always continues, it is impossible they should ever perish; can a man perish everlastingly, and yet be the object of everlasting love? the love of God to him must cease, or he can never perish but that never can; God always rests in his love to his people; it is more immovable than hills and mountains; they may depart, but his loving-kindness never shall, that is from everlasting to everlasting; I have loved thee, saith the Lord (Jer. 31:3), with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee: but it is said (S. T., p. 7), this “simply declares God’s love to the Jewish church; be it so, whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope (Rom. 15:4) The Jewish and Christian church are loved with the same love; saints under the gospel-dispensation are not less loved, than under the legal one; if the Jewish church was loved with an everlasting love, then much more the Christian church, and believers in it, since their privileges are greater; and if the blessings of goodness bestowed on the Jewish church, by which the Lord drew and engaged them to himself, were evidences of his everlasting love to them; then surely the blessings of the new covenant bestowed upon saints under the present dispensation, and particularly, the Lord’s drawing them by powerful and efficacious grace in conversion to himself, and to his Son, must be evidences of his everlasting love to them and therefore, they cannot everlastingly perish, because from his love they can never be separated; for I am persuaded, says the apostle (Rom. 8:38, 39), that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord: which words do not merely declare the apostle’s full persuasion of his own perseverance at that time, as our author suggests (S. T., p. 12); for he does not say, shall not separate me, but us, and expresses his full persuasion of the perseverance of all saints, whether they themselves had the full assurance of faith, or no; even of all the elect of God, against whom no charge can be laid, because God has justified them, and on whom no condemnation can come, because Christ has died for them, and whose salvation is sure and certain, because he ever lives to make intercession for them, and had made them more than conquerors over all their enemies; and therefore, nothing can obstruct their eternal happiness, or the bringing of them safe to glory (Rom. 8:33-37).

Thirdly, This doctrine of the saints final perseverance, may be established from the counsels, purposes, and decrees of God; particularly the decree of election, which stands, sure, not upon the loot of works, but upon the will of him that calleth (Rom. 9:11), which is unalterable and irreversible. I take it for granted, that there is such a decree, by which God has chosen and appointed some men to everlasting salvation by Jesus Christ; this writer may dispute it with me if he pleases. My argument upon it is this, if God has chosen some men to eternal life by Christ, and any of these should everlastingly perish, then the purpose of God according to election concerning them, would not stand; but his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure (Isa. 46:10); for who, or what can disannul his purpose? as he has thought, so shall it come to pass, and as he has purposed, so shall it stand (Isa.14: 24, 27); and therefore they shall not perish. Divine predestination to life, and eternal glorification are inseparably connected together; the former infallibly secures the latter, and all the intermediate grace and means heading to it whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified (Rom.8:30).

Fourthly, This truth will receive further strength, from the consideration of the covenant of grace, made with the elect in Christ, before the world began; which is ordered in all things, with all blessings and promises, as well to provide for, and secure the certain perseverance, and eternal salvation of the persons in it, as to promote the glory of God; and it is sure, all the blessings and promises of it, and the salvation in it, are sure to all the seed, to all the covenant-ones; it is a covenant of peace, that can never be removed; sooner may rocks, hills, and mountains be removed than that: it has the oath of God annexed to it, and the faithfulness of God is engaged to fulfil it; who says (Ps. 89:33-35), I will not suffer my faithfulness to fail, my covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips; once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. Which covenant does not relate wholly to David and his family, literally understood, but to our Lord Jesus Christ, the son and antitype of David, and who is sometimes called David himself; this is he, whom the Lord found in his infinite wisdom to be a proper Saviour of lost sinners; this is the mighty one, on whom he laid the help of his people; this is he, whom he chose out from among them, and anointed to be, and invested with the office of, the Mediator, to whom he promised all help and assistance as man; this is his first-born, he has made higher than the kings of the earth, and whose spiritual seed and offspring shall endure for ever; all which can never be said of David and his family, in a literal sense. Nor was this covenant a conditional one; there is no condition either implied or expressed, on the failure of which God failed David, altered the thing that had gone out of his mouth, and broke the covenant of his servant; all which is without truth affirmed (S. T., p. 6): sooner may the covenant with day and night be broken than this covenant with David. Indeed, in the latter part of the psalm, some objections are made to the everlasting love of God to his Son, to the immutability of his covenant and the certain performance of it, taken from the sufferings and death of Christ, and his continuance under the power of the grave; when the faith and hope of his people were almost sunk and gone, see Luke 24:21, and when it seemed to them, being under the prevalence of unbelief, that the covenant made with Christ was made void: but shall the unbelief of men make the faith of God of none effect? whom shall we believe, God that says, my covenant will I not break; or his people in unbelieving frames, saying, Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant? not the latter, but the former. Besides, these persons whom the Psalmist represents, emerged out of their temptation, darkness, and unbelief, when they saw the Lord risen from the dead, and triumphing over death, and the powers of darkness, having obtained eternal redemption for them; wherefore the psalm is closed with expressions of joy and thankfulness; blessed be the Lord for ever more, amen, and amen. Since therefore the covenant of grace can never be broken and made void, those who are interested in it can never perish everlastingly; sooner may the heavens above be measured, and the foundations of the earth be searched, than that all, or any of the spiritual seed of Israel, and of the antitypical David be cast off so as to perish, and be lost eternally (Jer. 31:35-37; 33:20-21).

Fifthly, This may be further concluded from the special and particular promises made in this covenant, and which stand on divine record, relating to the perseverance of the saints; and these are so many, that to name them all, would be to transcribe a great part of the Scriptures; as that the Lord will establish and keep his people from evil; will confirm them to the end, and preserve them safe to his kingdom and glory (1 Cor. 1:8; 1 Thess 3:2; 2 Tim. 4:18); that he will uphold them with the right hand of his righteousness, that they shall not be utterly cast down (Isa. 41:10; Ps. 37:23, 24); that the righteous shall hold on their way, and shall grow stronger (Job 17:9); that he will put his fear into their hearts, and they shall never depart from him (Jer. 32:40); with a multitude of others of the same import, which are all yea, and amen, in Christ Jesus and these promises are absolute and unconditional: it is indeed said (S. T., p. 12), that in many the condition is expressed, and in others implied; but let it be named what the condition is, that is either expressed or implied in the above promises: and let the condition be what it will, it will be no difficult thing to prove that it is either elsewhere absolutely promised by the Lord, or undertook by Christ, or will be performed by the Spirit of God, in, and upon the Lord’s people; so that their perseverance is not at all affected with it: That famous promise, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee, applied to New Testament believers, Hebrews 13:5 which, as it is an instance of a promise made to a particular person belonging to all the saints in common, and of one being made to a saint under the Old Testament, Joshua, belonging to those under the New Testament, so is not a conditional one, as is asserted (S. T., p. 22); so far is any condition from being expressly mentioned in it, or along with it, that that which is said to be so, is strongly enforced by this absolute and unconditional promise; and though it is recited to encourage in things temporal, yet it also may be, and is accommodated to things spiritual; and is of use with respect to such things, as appears from the inference deduced from it; so that we may boldly say, the Lord is our helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me; no, nor devils neither: and, if God will never leave his people in time nor eternity, as the phrase takes in both, then they cannot perish everlastingly: now, seeing the promises of God to his people are free, absolute, and unconditional, and he is able to perform them, and his faithfulness is engaged to do it, there is all the reason in the world to believe he will; and, if he will, and does make good these promises to them, it is impossible they should so fall, as to perish everlastingly.

Sixthly, This may be further argued from several acts of God’s grace towards his people, which are of such a nature, as ascertain their sure and everlasting salvation; and, besides his acts of election of them, and making a sure covenant with his Son on their account, before-mentioned, and the putting of them into the hands of his Son, with all grace and glory for them, of which more hereafter, the following ones may be observed:

1. The adoption of them into his family. Predestination to it is according to the good pleasure of God’s will, and does not arise from, or depend upon any merit, motive, or condition, in the adopted; the covenant in which God takes men into this relation is absolute and unconditional; it runs thus, I will be a father to you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters (2 Cor. 6:18): all obstructions are removed, and way is made for the reception of this blessing through the redemption of Christ; the power and privilege of it is a gift of his, and his Spirit bears witness to it, hence called the Spirit of adoption; and such who thus become the children of God, always remain so; they that are of the household of God, are no more strangers and foreigners, they abide in his house and family for ever and are never cast out; if sons, no more servants, but heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, and shall enjoy the eternal inheritance reserved for them (Eph. 2:19; John 8:35; Gal. 4:7); and, therefore, cannot perish everlastingly. To say as our author does (S. T., pp. 23, 246), that “he who is a child of God today, may be a child of the devil tomorrow,” is a most vile expression, and reflects great dishonor on that manner of love the Father has bestowed on men, that they should be called the sons of God (1 John 3:1) his reason for it is weak and groundless: “That a believer today, may be an unbeliever tomorrow, seeing he may make shipwreck of faith, and so no longer be a child of God;” but what, though a blaspheming heretic may make shipwreck of the doctrine of faith, which is all that can be proved from the instance referred to, does it follow that a true believer can make shipwreck of the grace of faith? no he cannot: besides, adoption does not depend upon faith; it is not faith that makes men the children of God, but is what makes them manifest, or makes them appear to be so; it is the free sovereign grace of God, which puts them into this relation, and keeps them there, and therefore, they shall never perish.

2. The justification of them by the righteousness of Christ. Such who are justified, can never be unjustified, or be removed from the state of justification, in which they are, into a state of condemnation, but always remain righteous persons through the righteousness of Christ, imputed to them; the righteousness by which they are justified is an everlasting one; the sentence of justification passed upon them, can never be reversed by man or devil; if God justifies who can bring a charge of any avail? who or what can condemn? there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ, and are clothed with his righteousness; they are passed into justification of life, and shall never enter into condemnation; they have a right to eternal glory, through the justifying righteousness of Christ, and shall enjoy it; between their justification and glorification there is an inseparable connection: Whom he justified, them he also glorified (Rom. 8:30, 33, 34). Wherefore, those that are righteous in the judgment of God himself, as all such are whom he justifies by the righteousness of Christ, cannot possibly so fall, as to perish everlastingly.

3. The pardon of their sins by the blood of Christ. Those for whom Christ has shed his blood, for whose sins he has made satisfaction by his sacrifice; these God pardons for Christ’s sake; and these he forgives all trespasses; he heals all their diseases, and forgives all their iniquities (Col. 2:13; Ps. 103:3); not one sin of theirs is left unsatisfied for by Christ, or unpardoned by the Lord; and if so, then all the sins they ever fall unto, or are guilty of, are pardoned; and consequently, they never so fall, as to perish everlastingly: for, is it possible for a man to go to hell, and perish eternally, with the pardon of all sins? it is impossible; what should he, what can he perish for, when all his sins are satisfied for and forgiven?

Seventhly, This truth may be proved by the love of Christ to his saints, his care of them, what he has done and does for them, their interest in him, and relation to him.

1. The love of Christ to them. They are the objects of his everlasting love; before the world was, his delights were with these sons of men (Prov. 8:31), and have continued ever since; as his incarnation, sufferings, death, and intercession show. He loves them as his Father loved him (John 15:3); and therefore, his love to them must be very great, permanent and lasting, yea everlasting; and indeed, nothing can separate from it (Rom. 8:35): and therefore, such who are interested in it, can never perish everlastingly; having loved his Own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end (John 13:1). This, the writer I am concerned with (S. T., p. 14), understands of the apostles only, and of Christ’s loving them to the end of his life, and not theirs; to which may be replied, that all the apostles were not his own in a special sense, one of them was a devil, and was the devil’s, and was not the object of Christ’s special love, nor did he love him to the end; and besides, were the apostles the only persons that were his own? had he, and has he no special property in others also? certainly he has; who are equally the objects of his love as they were; and are loved by him, not to the end of his life on earth only, but to the end of their lives, even for ever, to all eternity; which is the sense of the phrase used: for to understand it only of Christ’s life as man on earth, is a most trifling sense; it makes the love of Christ to be only an human affection, and to last no longer than he lived; whereas, Christ loves his not merely as a man, but as a divine person, and the Saviour of men; and loves them as much now he being in heaven, as when on earth; as his advocacy, intercession and preparations for them there show. Moreover, eivj telo,j, which we translate to the end, may be rendered continually, as in Luke 17:5, for ever; in which sense it is used by the Septuagint in Psalm 9:6, 18. and 44:23, and answers to an Hebrew word, which signifies for ever; and so the text in John is rendered by the Ethiopic version, he loved them for ever.

2. Those who are the objects of Christ’s love, are given unto him by the Father, as his portion and inheritance, and to be kept and preserved by him: and will he lose his portion, his jewels, when it is in his power to keep them? He will not; he will keep them as the apple of his eye; they shall be mine, says he, in the day when I make up my jewels, and I will spare them, as a man spareth his only son that serveth him (Mal. 3:17): when they were given to him by his Father, it was with such a charge, with such a declaration of his Will, that of all which he gave him, he should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day (John 6:39); which Will he perfectly observed; those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition (John 17:12). It is indeed said, “the phrase, those that thou gavest me, signifies here (if not in most other places too) the twelve apostles, and them only; and that one of those whom the Father had given him, did not persevere unto the end, but perish everlastingly” (S. T., p. 15); and so is rather against than for the doctrine of perseverance; to which I answer, that what in the passage and throughout the chapter is spoken of the apostles, is not said of them purely as such, but as believers in Christ, and the disciples of him, and so in common belongs to all in that character; and, if such a fallacy can take place, once and again observed by our author, that what spiritual things are said of the Jewish church under the Old Testament, and of the apostles in the New, must be restrained to them, and them only, there will be little left for the saints to build their faith and hope upon: besides, it is a most clear case, that others besides the apostles are meant by this phrase, in that chapter where it is so much used; more are meant by the many the Father had given him, verse 2, to more than the apostles had Christ manifested his Father’s name verse 8, such as are given him by the Father are opposed to the whole world, and distinguished from them; and even all that the Father had are claimed by him as his, by virtue of this gift, and for whom he prays, verses 9, 10, and it is certain, he prayed for more than the apostles; even for all them that should believe in him through their word, verse 20, as for Judas, the son of perdition, it does not appear, though he was an apostle, that he was among those that were given him by the Father; he is distinguished from them in the very passage, and is opposed to them; for, eiv mh>, but, is not exceptive, but adversative; and the sense is, that none of those that were given to Christ in a way of special grace were lost, but the son of perdition, who was not given him in any such way, he was lost; and so is no instance of the apostasy of such who were given to Christ; for of every one of these at the great day, he will say, behold I and the children which God hath given me (Heb. 2:13).

3. These same persons were put into the hands of Christ for safety and preservation, even as early as the everlasting covenant was made with him: yea he loved the people, all his saints are in thy hands (Deut. 33:3): hence they are said to be preserved in Christ Jesus, as the effect of their being sanctified, or set apart by God the Father in election, and previous to their being called effectually by grace (Jude 1); so they were preserved through the fall of Adam, though not from it, and in their nature-state, till called to be saints, where they remain safe and secure; they are set as a seal on his heart, and as a seal on his arm; they are engraven on the palms of his hands, and their walls are continually before him; they are a crown of glory, and a royal diadem in his hand (Cant. 8:6; Isa. 49:16; 62:3), and can never he removed from thence; they are called the sheep of his hand (Ps. 95:7), from whence none can pluck them; I give unto them, says Christ (John 10:28, 29), eternal life; and who or what then can hinder them of it? and they shall never perish; who dare say they may or shall, when Christ says they shall not? neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand; ti,j, not any one, man or devil, nor they themselves; nor is there any condition expressed in these words, or in the context, on which the fulfillment of them depends; hearing Christ’s voice and following him, are not conditions of these promises, as is said (S. T., p. 13); but descriptive of the sheep of Christ in his hand, and are plain marks of their perseverance; which is in the strongest manner insured to them by these words of Christ, and still more confirmed by the following; my Father which gave them me is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hands. I and my Father are one.

4. They that are loved by Christ, given him by his Father, and put into his hands, are redeemed by him, and are the purchase of his blood, and therefore, can never perish; should they, it must be either for want of sufficiency in the price paid for them, or of power in Christ to keep them; neither of which can be said: the price of Christ’s blood is a sufficient and effectual price for them; and he is able to keep them and will: he will never lose the purchase of his blood; should he in any one instance, his death would be so far in vain; nor could it be said, that the pleasure of the Lord has prospered in his hand, or that he sees of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied (Isa. 53:10, 11): but our author says (S. T., p. 23), horresco referens, enough to make a man shudder to read it; “If the oracles of God are true, one who was purchased by the blood of Christ, may go thither, (that is, to hell,) for he that was sanctified by the blood of Christ, was purchased by the blood of Christ, and such an one may nevertheless go to hell:” The assertion is bold and shocking, and stands upon a mistaken sense of the passage in Hebrews 10:29, as has been shewn before, and is without any foundation in the oracles of God.

5. Those whom Christ loves, were given to him, and for whom he died, for them he ever lives to make intercession; in which he is always heard, and therefore they cannot perish: in particular he prays for their perseverance; he prays for them that their faith fail not; that God would keep them through his name, that they might be one; that he would keep them from the evil of the world, and that they might be with him where he is, to behold his glory; and now as he himself says to his Father, I know that thou hearest me always: if he is always heard, and his intercession is prevalent and effectual in all things, for which it is made, then it is impossible that those for whom it is made, should perish everlastingly; and besides, should they, his preparations of mansions of glory for them in his Father’s house would be in vain, John 14:2, 3.

6. There is a close and inseparable union between Christ and the saints which effectually secures them from a final and total falling away, or so as to perish everlastingly; he is the head, and they his body; they are members of his body; they are the fulness of him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23); and, if any one member, even the least, should perish, they could not be said to be his fulness: nay, they that are joined to the Lord, are not only one body, but one spirit, with him; they have their life from him; it is hid with him, and secured in him; because he lives, they shall live also; their life is bound up in the bundle of life with his (1 Cor. 6:17; Gal. 3:3; John 14:13; 1 Sam. 25:20): so, that as Luther said, si nos ruimus, ruit & Christus, “if we fall, Christ must fall too.” They are laid on a foundation that is sure: they are built on a rock, against which, the gates of hell can never prevail; and from whence, all the winds and waves and floods of their own corruptions, Satan’s temptations, and the world’s persecutions can never remove them (Matt. 16:18; 7:24, 25).

Eighthly, The doctrine of the saints final perseverance, may be concluded from the Spirit’s work of grace upon their hearts, from his habitation in them; and from his being the earnest of their inheritance, and the sealer of them unto the day of redemption.

1. From his work of grace upon their hearts. The grace that is wrought in them by him, is a seed which remaineth, and therefore, the man in whom it is, cannot sin, that is, the sin unto death, or so as to perish everlastingly; the seed he is born of is incorruptible, immortal, and never dies; the grace which is put into him, is a well of water springing up into everlasting life; eternal life is the certain fruit and effect of it; grace and glory are inseparable things; to whomsoever God gives grace he gives glory (1 John 3:9; 1 Pet. 1:23; John 4:14; Ps. 84:11). The several graces of the Spirit are abiding ones, particularly faith, hope, and love; and now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three (1 Cor. 13:13) love, though the first ardour of it, may be abated and first-love may be left, it cannot be lost; it may wax cold, yet cannot be extinguished; many waters cannot quench it; nothing can separate from the love of Christ (Cant. 8:7; Rom. 8:35); as not from Christ’s love to his people, so neither from theirs to him, so that it is entirely gone: No, in the worst of times, under whatsoever darkness, desertion, temptation or affliction, a believer is, still Christ is the object of his love; as the cases of the church in Canticles (Cant. 3:1-3; John 21:17), and of Peter shew: hope is an anchor sure and stedfast, being cast on Christ the foundation, from whence it can never be removed (Heb.6:19); and faith is that race, which is much more precious than gold that perisheth (1 Pet. 1:7); and what gives it its superior excellency is, because it does not perish itself: Christ is the author and finisher of it; he prays for it that it fail not (Heb. 12:27; Luke 22:32), and performs the work of it with power: salvation is annexed to it, and inseparably connected within it; he that believeth shall be saved (Mark 16:16); nay it is said, that such an one hath everlasting life; is entered upon it, does in some sense possess it, has the foretaste, earnest, and pledge of it; and that he is passed from death to life; and shall not come unto condemnation (John 5:24); and therefore, cannot perish everlastingly. But our author says (S. T., p. 9), the plain meaning is, he that believeth, if he continue in the faith, shall be saved. But this is an interlineation of his; and to interline a record is felony; and what crime must that man be guilty of that interlines the record of heaven, the great charter of our salvation, the will and testament of our heavenly Father, confirmed by Christ the testator? Besides, he that believes shall continue in the faith; there is no if or doubt to be made of it; he is of them that believe, or goes on believing, to the saving of the soul, till he receives the end of his faith, even the salvation of his soul (Heb. 10:39; 1 Pet. 1:9); or otherwise it could only be said he may be saved: and moreover the phrase, he shall be saved, ascertains his continuance in faith, as well as his salvation. But then it is urged (S. T., pp. 8, 9), that “by all the rules of speech,” the other part of the sentence must mean “he that does not believe at this moment, shall certainly and inevitably be damned.” To which I reply, that there is a great difference between faith and unbelief, or between a believer and an unbeliever at the present moment; the one is certainly final, the other may not be final; he that truly believes this moment goes on to believe, and shall certainly be saved: he that does not believe this moment may believe hereafter, and so not he damned: or take the answer in other words, more in the language of Scripture, he that believeth hath everlasting life, now, this moment; and according to the tenor of the Gospel, he shall be certainly and inevitably saved: he that believeth not, according to the tenor of the law, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him (John 3:36), even now, this moment; and he shall be certainly and inevitably damned, unless God of his grace bestows faith on him; and then he is openly entitled to what is in the other declaration, he that believeth shall be saved. Upon which every individual believer may thus argue, whoever believes shall be saved; I believe, and therefore I shall be saved, and not perish everlastingly.

2. In whomsoever the Spirit of God works the good work of grace, in them he takes up his residence; they are his temples in whom he dwells, and in these he dwells, for ever: I will pray the Father, says Christ (John 14:16), and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; and if he abides with them for ever, then they cannot everlastingly perish; he is that anointing they have received of Christ, which abideth in them (1 John 2:27), from whence they are denominated Christians, and by which they continue such; and it is by virtue of his inhabitation and abiding in them, that their mortal bodies shall be quickened and raised, and be brought into a state of immortality and bliss (Rom. 8:11).

3. The Spirit of God not only continues in the hearts of his people, but he continues there as an earnest of their inheritance, which ensures it to them, for as sure as they have the earnest, and which they have from God himself, and is no other than the Lord the Spirit, so sure shall they have the whole; and if an earnest makes things sure and certain among men, it must needs do so between God and his people. Moreover, the Spirit is the sealer of them until the day the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13, 14; 4:30); until their bodies are redeemed from the dust of death, from mortality and the graves, he has set his seal and mark upon them, which can never be broken or erased; and assures them of their salvation, and bears witness to their spirits, that they are the children of God, and so heirs of him, and joint-heirs with Christ; but of what avail would this earnest, seal and witness be, if they should eternally perish? But from hence it may be most assuredly gathered that they never shall.

Ninthly, From all that has been said, it clearly appears, that the glory of all the three persons in the Godhead, Father, Son, and Spirit, is concerned in this affair, and they must lose it, if this doctrine is not true; or if the saints should everlastingly perish, where would be the Father’s glory in election, in the covenant of grace, and in the mission of his Son? Where would he the glory of the Son of God in the redemption of his people, in his sacrifice and satisfaction, and in his intercession for them? And where would be the glory of the divine Spirit in the sanctification and sealing of them, if after all this they perish everlastingly? For all depends upon their final perseverance and complete salvation. And therefore we may be assured, that since the saints are held with this threefold cord, which can never be broken, their final perseverance is certain, and their everlasting salvation sure.

Tenthly, The contrary doctrine takes away the foundation of a believer’s joy and comfort; it makes the love of God changeable: the covenant of grace failable; the redemption and satisfaction of Christ insufficient; and the work and graces of the Spirit loseable; and so, must consequently fill the minds of the children of God with great doubts, fears and distresses, if not despair; since their state and condition is so very precarious: what comfort can a believer take in his present circumstances, if they are such as by a single act of sin, to which he is liable every moment, he may be removed from a state of grace into a state of condemnation, and, not withstanding all the favors bestowed on him, and promises made unto him, and grace given him, he may perish everlastingly? but this writer I have been considering tells us (S. T., pp. 19, 20), that his comfort is not affected hereby; it does not stand upon this, but upon his present knowledge, sight, faith, frames, and a good conversation; and bids men go and find a more solid joy, a more blissful comfort on this side heaven. But blessed be God, we have a better foundation for joy and comfort than all this; the true believer, though he lives by faith, he does not live upon it; he lives by it as Esau did by his sword (Gen. 27:40); he did not live upon it, that would have been hard living indeed, but he lived upon what it brought him: so a believer lives not on his faith, but upon Christ, and the grace of Christ, faith brings nigh unto him. He has better things than uncertain precarious frames to live upon and receive his comforts from; even the unchangeable love of God; the unalterable covenant of grace; the faithfulness of God, who though we believe not, yet he abides faithful (2 Tim. 2:13); absolute and unconditional promises; Jesus Christ the same today, yesterday, and for ever; his precious blood, perfect righteousness, atoning sacrifice, and that fullness of grace which is in him.

To conclude: If a man may be confident of any one thing in this world, he may be confident of this very thing, that in whomsoever, whether in himself, or in any other, God hath begun a good work, he will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:9); and that all the true Israel of God shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation (Isa. 45:17); and that not one of them shall eternally perish.

 

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From the Institutes of the Christian Religion

Our opponents take great pains to heap up Scriptural passages: and they do this so unremittingly that, although they cannot prevail, in the numbers at least they can bear us down. But as in battle, when it comes to a hand-to- hand encounter an unwarlike multitude, however much pomp and ostentation it may display, is at once routed by a few blows and compelled to flee, so for us it will be very easy to disperse these adversaries with their host. All the passages that they misuse against us, when they have been sorted out into their classes, group themselves under a very few main headings. Hence one answer will suffice for several; it will not be necessary to dispose of each one individually.

They set chief stock by God’s precepts. These they consider to be so accommodated to our capacities that we are of necessity able to fulfill all their demonstrable requirements. Consequently, they run through the individual precepts, and from them take the measure of our strength. Either God is mocking us (they say) when he enjoins holiness, piety, obedience, chastity, love, gentleness; when he forbids uncleanness, idolatry, immodesty, anger, robbery, pride, and the like; or he requires only what is within our power.

Now we can divide into three classes almost all the precepts that they heap up. Some require man first to turn toward God; others simply speak of observing the law; others bid man to persevere in God’s grace once it has been received. We shall discuss them all in general, then we shall get down to the three classes themselves.

A long time ago it became the common practice to measure man’s capacities by the precepts of God’s law, and this has some pretense of truth. But it arose out of the crassest ignorance of the law. For, those who deem it a terrible crime to say that it is impossible to observe the law press upon us as what is evidently their strongest reason that otherwise the law was given without purpose. Indeed, they speak as if Paul had nowhere spoken of the law. What then, I ask, do these assertions mean: “The law was put forward because of transgressions” [Galatians 3:19, cf. Vg.]; “Through the law comes knowledge of sin” [Romans 3:20]; the law engenders sin [cf. Romans 7:7-8]; “Law slipped in to increase the trespass” [Romans 5:20, cf. Vg.]? Was the law to be limited to our powers so as not to be given in vain? Rather, it was put far above us, to show clearly our own weakness! Surely, according to Paul’s definition of the law, its purpose and fulfillment is love [cf. 1 Timothy 1:5]. And yet when Paul prays for the hearts of the Thessalonians to abound with it [1 Thessalonians 3:12] he fully admits that the law sounds in our ears without effect unless God inspires in our hearts the whole sum of the law [cf. Matthew 22:37-40].

THE LAW ITSELF POINTS OUR WAY TO GRACE

Of course, if Scripture taught nothing else than that the law is a rule of life to which we ought to direct our efforts, I, too, would yield to their opinion without delay. But since it faithfully and clearly explains to us the manifold use of the law, it behooves us rather to consider from that interpretation what the law can do in man. With reference to the present question, as soon as the law prescribes what we are to do, it teaches that the power to obey comes from God’s goodness. It thus summons us to prayers by which we may implore that this power be given us. If there were only a command and no promise, our strength would have to be tested whether it is sufficient to respond to the command. But since with the command are at once connected promises that proclaim not only that our support, but our whole virtue as well, rests in the help of divine grace, they more than sufficiently demonstrate how utterly inept, not to say unequal, we are to observe the law. For this reason, let us no longer press this proportion between our strength and the precepts of the law, as if the Lord had applied the rule of righteousness, which he was to give in the law, according to the measure of our feebleness. We who in every respect so greatly need his grace must all the more reckon from the promises how ill-prepared we are.

But who will believe it plausible (they say) that the Lord intended his law for stocks and stones? No one is trying to argue thus. For the wicked are not rocks or stumps when they are taught through the law that their lusts are opposed to God and they become guilty on their own admission; nor are believers stocks and stones when they are warned of their own weakness and take refuge in grace. On this point these profound statements of Augustine are pertinent: “God bids us do what we cannot, that we may know what we ought to seek from him.” “The usefulness of the precepts is great if free will is so esteemed that God’s grace may be the more honored.” “Faith achieves what the law commands.” “Indeed, it is for this reason the law commands, that faith may achieve what had been commanded through the law. Indeed, God requires faith itself of us; yet he does not find something to require unless he has given something to find.” Again, “Let God give what he commands, and command what he will.”

THE SEVERAL KINDS OF THE COMMANDMENTS CLEARLY SHOW THAT WITHOUT GRACE WE CAN DO NOTHING

This will be more clearly seen in reviewing the three classes of precepts that we have touched on above. (1) Oftentimes both in the Law and in the Prophets the Lord commands us to be converted to him [Joel 2:12; Ezekiel 18:30-32; Hosea 14:2 f.]. On the other hand, the prophet answers: “Convert me, O Lord, and I will be converted… for after thou didst convert me I repented,” etc. [Jeremiah 31:18-19, Vg.]. He bids us circumcise the foreskin of our heart [Deuteronomy 10:16; cf. Jeremiah 4:4]. But through Moses he declares that this circumcision is done by His own hand [Deuteronomy 30:6]. In some places he requires newness of heart [Ezekiel 18:31], but elsewhere he testifies that it is given by him [Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26]. “But what God promises,” as Augustine says, “we ourselves do not do through choice or nature; but he himself does through grace.” This observation he lists in fifth place among the rules of Tychonius: we must distinguish carefully between the law and the promises, or between the commandments and grace. Now away with those who infer from the precepts that man is perhaps capable of obedience, in order to destroy God’s grace through which the commandments themselves are fulfilled. (2) The precepts of the second kind are simple: by them we are bidden to honor God, to serve his will and cleave to it, to observe his decrees, and to follow his teaching. But there are countless passages that bear witness that whatever righteousness, holiness, piety, and purity we can have are gifts of God. (3) Of the third type is the exhortation of Paul and Barnabas to believers “to remain under God’s grace,” referred to by Luke [Acts 13:43]. But Paul also in another place teaches the source from which that virtue of constancy is to be sought. “It remains, brethren,” he says, “for you to be strong in the Lord.” [Ephesians 6:10 p.] Elsewhere he forbids us to “grieve the Spirit of God in whom we were sealed for the day of our redemption” [Ephesians 4:30 p.]. Since men cannot fulfill what is there required, Paul asks of the Lord in behalf of the Thessalonians to “render them worthy of his holy calling and to fulfill every good resolve of his goodness and work of faith in them” [2 Thessalonians 1:11 p.]. In the same way Paul, dealing in the second letter to the Corinthians with alms, often commends their good and devout will [cf. 2 Corinthians 8:11]. Yet a little later he gives thanks to God, “who has put in the heart of Titus to receive exhortation” [2 Corinthians 8:16 p.]. If Titus could not even make use of his mouth to exhort others except in so far as God prompted it, how could others be willing to act unless God himself directed their hearts?

THE WORK OF CONVERSION IS NOT DIVIDED BETWEEN GOD AND MAN

The craftier of our opponents quibble over all these testimonies, holding that nothing hinders us from bringing all our strength to bear while God supports our weak efforts. They also bring forward passages from the Prophets in which the carrying out of our conversion seems to be divided equally between God and ourselves. “Be converted to me and I shall be converted to you.” [Zechariah 1:3.] What assistance the Lord provides us has been demonstrated above, and there is no need to repeat it here. I wish this one thing at least to be conceded to me: it is pointless to require in us the capacity to fulfill the law, just because the Lord demands our obedience to it, when it is clear that for the fulfillment of all God’s commands the grace of the Lawgiver is both necessary and is promised to us.

Hence it is evident that at least more is required of us than we can pay. And that statement of Jeremiah cannot be refuted by any cavils: that the covenant of God made with the ancient people was invalid because it was only of the letter; moreover, that it is not otherwise established than when the Spirit enters into it to dispose their hearts to obedience [Jeremiah 31:32-33]. Nor does this sentence lend support to their error: “Be converted to me and I shall be converted to you” [Zechariah 1:3]. For God’s conversion there signifies not that by which he renews our hearts to repentance, but that by which he testifies through our material prosperity that he is kindly and well disposed toward us, just as by adverse circumstances he sometimes indicates his displeasure toward us. Since, therefore, the people, harassed by many sorts of miseries and calamities, complain that God is turned away from them, he replies that they will not lack his lovingkindness if they return to an upright life and to himself, who is the pattern of righteousness. Therefore they wrongly twist this passage when they infer from it that the work of conversion seems to be shared between God and men. We have touched this matter the more briefly because its proper place will be under the discussion of the law.

1. MAN’S ILL-DESERT

The Bible declares that the salvation of sinful men is a matter of grace. From Eph. 1:7-10 we learn that the primary purpose of God in the work of redemption was to display the glory of this divine attribute so that through succeeding ages the intelligent universe might admire it as It is made known through His unmerited love and boundless goodness to guilty, vile, helpless creatures. Accordingly all men are represented as sunk in a state of sin and misery, from which they are utterly unable to deliver themselves. When they deserved only God’s wrath and curse, He determined that He would graciously provide redemption for them by sending His own eternal Son to assume their nature and guilt and to obey and suffer in their stead, and His Holy Spirit to apply the redemption purchased by the Son. On the same representative principle by which Adam’s sin is imputed to us, that is, set to our account in such a way that we are held fully responsible for it and suffer the consequences of it, our sin in its turn is imputed to Christ and His righteousness is imputed to us. This is briefly, yet clearly expressed in the Shorter Catechism, which says, “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” Ans. to Q. 33.

We should keep clearly in mind the distinction between the two covenants: that of works, under which Adam was placed and which resulted in the fall of the race into sin; and that of grace, under which Christ was sent as a Redeemer. As stated in another connection, the Arminian system makes no essential distinction in principle between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, unless it be that God now offers salvation on lower terms and instead of demanding perfect obedience He accepts only such faith and evangelical obedience as the crippled sinner is able to render. In that system the burden of obedience is still thrown upon man himself and his salvation in the first place depends upon his own works.

The word “grace” in its proper sense means the free and undeserved love or favor of God exercised toward the undeserving, toward sinners. It is something which is given irrespective of any worthiness in man; and to introduce works or merit into any part of this scheme vitiates its nature and frustrates its design. Just because it is grace, it is not given on the basis of preceding merits. As the very name imports, it is necessarily gratuitous; and since man is enslaved to sin until it is given, all the merits that he can have prior to it are bad merits and deserve only punishment, not gifts, or favor. Whatever of good men have, that God has given; and what they have not, why, of course, God has not given it. And since grace is given irrespective of preceding merits, it is therefore sovereign and is bestowed only on those whom God has selected for its reception. It is this sovereignty of grace, and not its foresight or the preparation for it, which places men in God’s hands and suspends salvation absolutely on His unlimited mercy. In this we find the basis for His election or rejection of particular persons.

Because of His absolute moral perfection God requires spotless purity and perfect obedience in his intelligent creatures. This perfection is provided in Christ’s spotless righteousness being imputed to them; and when God looks upon the redeemed He sees them clothed with the spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness, not with anything of their own. We are distinctly told that Christ suffered as a substitute, “the just for the unjust”; and when man is encouraged to think that he owes to some power or art of his own that salvation which in reality is all of grace, God is robbed of part of His glory. By no stretch of the imagination can a man’s good works in this life be considered a just equivalent for the blessings of eternal life. Benjamin Franklin, though by no means a Calvinist, expressed this idea well when he wrote: “He that for giving a drink of water to a thirsty person, should expect to be paid with a good plantation, would be modest in his demands, compared with those who think they deserve heaven for the little good they do on earth.” We are, in fact, nothing but receivers; we never bring any adequate reward to God, we are always receiving from Him, and shall be unto all eternity.

2. GOD MAY GIVE OR WITHHOLD GRACE AS HE PLEASES

Since God has provided this redemption or atonement at His own cost, it is His property and He is absolutely sovereign in choosing who shall be saved through it. There is nothing more steadily emphasized in the Scripture doctrine of redemption than its absolutely gracious character. Hence, by their separation from the original mass, not through any works of their own but only through the free grace of God, the vessels of mercy see how great a gift has been bestowed upon them. It will be found that many who inherit heaven were much worse sinners in this world than were many others who are lost.

The doctrine of Predestination cuts down every self-righteous imagination which would detract from the glory of God. It convinces the one who is saved that he can only be eternally thankful that God saved him. Hence in the Calvinistic system all boasting is excluded and that honor and glory which belong to God alone is fully preserved. “The greatest saint,” says Zanchius, “cannot triumph over the most abandoned sinner, but is led to refer the entire praise of his salvation, both from sin and hell, to the mere goodwill and sovereign purpose of God, who hath graciously made him to differ from that world which lieth in wickedness.”1

3. SALVATION NOT TO BE EARNED BY MAN

All men naturally feel that they should earn their salvation, and a system which makes some provision in that regard readily appeals to them. But Paul lays the axe to such reasoning when he says, “If there had been a law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the law,” Gal. 3:21; and Jesus said to His disciples, “when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded of you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do,” Luke 17:10.

Our own righteousness, says Isaiah, is but as a polluted garment — or, as the King James Version puts it, as filthy rags — in the sight of God (64:6). And when Isaiah wrote, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price,” 55:1, he invited the penniless, the hungry, the thirsty, to come and take possession of, and enjoy the provision, free of all cost, as if by right of payment. And to buy without money must mean that it has already been produced and provided at the cost of another. The further we advance in the Christian life, the less we are inclined to attribute any merit to ourselves, and the more to thank God for all. The believer not only looks forward to everlasting life, but also looks backward into the ante-mundane eternity and finds in the eternal purpose of divine love the beginning and the firm anchorage of his salvation.

If salvation is of grace, as the Scriptures so clearly teach, it cannot be of works, whether actual or foreseen. There is no merit in believing, for faith itself is a gift of God. God gives His people an inward working of the Spirit in order that they may believe, and faith is only the act of receiving the proffered gift. It is, then, only the instrumental cause, and not the meritorious cause, of salvation. What God loves in us is not our own merits, but His own gift; for His unmerited grace precedes our meritorious works. Grace is not merely bestowed when we pray for it, but grace itself causes us to pray for its continuance and increase.

In the book of The Acts we find that the very inception of faith itself is assigned to grace (18:27); only those who were ordained to eternal life believed (13:48); and it is God’s prerogative to open the heart so that it gives heed to the gospel (16:14). Faith is thus referred to the counsels of eternity, the events in time being only the out-working. Paul attributes it to the grace of God that we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them,” Eph. 2:10. Good works, then, are in no sense the meritorious ground but rather the fruits and proof of salvation.

Luther taught this same doctrine when he said of some that,

They attribute to Free-will a very little indeed, yet they teach us that by that very little we can attain unto righteousness and grace. Nor do they solve that question, Why does God justify one and leave another? in any other way than by asserting the freedom of the will, and saying, Because the one endeavors and the other does not; and God regards the one for endeavoring, and despises the other for his not endeavoring; lest, if he did otherwise, he should appear to be unjust.”2

It is said that Jeremy Taylor and a companion were once walking down a street in London when they came to a drunk man lying in the gutter. The other man made some disparaging remark about the drunk man. But Jeremy Taylor, pausing and looking at him, said, “But for the grace of God, there lies Jeremy Taylor!” The spirit which was in Jeremy Taylor is the spirit which should be in every sin-rescued Christian. It was repeatedly taught that Israel owed her separation from the other peoples of the world not to anything good or desirable in herself, but only to God’s gracious love faithfully persisted in despite apostasy, sin, and rebellion.

Paul says concerning some who would base salvation on their own merits, that, “going about to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit themselves to the righteousness of God,” and were, therefore, not in the Church of Christ. He makes it plain that “the righteousness of God” is given to us through faith, and that we enter heaven pleading only the merits of Christ.

The reason for this system of grace is that those who glory should glory in the Lord, and that no person should ever have occasion to boast over another. The redemption was purchased at an infinite cost to God Himself, and therefore it may be dispensed as He pleases in a purely gracious manner. As the poet has said:

“None of the ransomed ever knew,
How deep were the waters crossed,
Nor how dark was the night that the
Lord passed through,
E’er He found His sheep that was lost.”

4. SCRIPTURE TEACHING

Let us now notice some of those scriptures which teach that our sins were imputed to Christ; and then notice some which teach that His righteousness is imputed to us.

“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” Is. 53:4,5. “By the knowledge of Himself shall my righteous servant justify many, and He shall bear their iniquities He bare the sin of many,” Is. 53:11, 12. “Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” II Cor, 5:21. Here both truths are plainly stated, — our sins are set to His account, and His righteousness to ours. There is no other conceivable sense in which He could be “made sin,” or we “made the righteousness of God.” It was Christ “who His own self bare our sins in His body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes we are healed,” I Peter 2:24. Here, again, both truths are thrown together. “Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God,” I Peter 3:18. These, and many other such verses, prove the doctrine of His substitution in our stead, as plainly as language can put it. If they do not prove that the death Of Christ was a true and proper sacrifice for sin in our stead, human language cannot express it.

That His righteousness is imputed to us is taught in language equally plain. “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight . . . But now apart from the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested . . . even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe . . . being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in His blood, to show His righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God; for the showing, I say, of His righteousness at this present season; that He might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus. Where then is the glorying? It is excluded. By what manner of law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith. We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law,” Rom. 3:20-28. “So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous,” Rom. 5:18, 19. Paul’s testimony in regard to himself was: “I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith,” Phil. 3:8,9. Now, is it not strange that any one who pretends to be guided by the Bible, could, in the face of all this plain and unequivocal language, uphold salvation by works, in any degree whatever?

Paul wrote to the Romans, “Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under law, but under grace,” 6:14. That is, God had taken them out from under a system of law and had placed them under a system of grace; and as their Sovereign, it was not His purpose to let them again fall under the dominion of sin. In fact, if they were to fall, it could only be because God had taken them out from under grace and again placed them under law, so that their own works determined their destiny. In the very nature of the case as long as the person is under grace he is entirely free from any claim that the law may have on him through sin. For one to be saved through grace means that God is no longer treating him as he deserves but that He has sovereignly set the law aside and that He saves him in spite of his ill-desert, — cleansing him from his sin, of course, before he is fit to enter the divine presence.

Paul goes to great pains to make it clear that the grace of God is not earned by us, is not secured by us in any way, but is just given to us. If it be earned, it ceases by that very fact to be grace, Rom. 11:6.

5. FURTHER REMARKS

In the present state of the race all men stand before God, not as citizens of a state, all of whom must be treated alike and given the same “chance” for salvation, but rather as guilty and condemned criminals before a righteous judge. None have any claim to salvation. The marvel is, not that God doesn’t save all, but that when all are guilty He pardons so many; and the answer to the question, Why does He not save all? is to be found, not in the Arminian denial of the omnipotence of His grace, but in the fact that, as Dr. Warfield says, “God in His love saves as many of the guilty race of man as He can get the consent of His whole nature to save.”3 For reasons known to Himself He sees that it is not best to pardon all, but that some should be permitted to have their own way and be left to eternal punishment in order that it may be shown what an awful thing is sin and rebellion against God.

Time and again the Scriptures repeat the assertion that salvation is of grace, as if anticipating the difficulty which men would have in coming to the conclusion that they could not earn salvation by their own works. Thus also they destroy the widespread notion that God owes salvation to any. “By grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory,” Eph. 2:8, 9. “But if it is of grace, it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace,” Rom. 11:6. “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified,” Rom. 3:20. “Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned as of grace, but as of debt,” Born. 4:4. “Who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” I Cor. 4:7. “By the grace of God I am what I am,” I Cor. 15:10. “Who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” Born. 11:35. “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Rom. 6:23.

Grace and works are mutually exclusive; and as well might we try to bring the two poles together as to effect a coalition of grace and works in salvation. As well might we talk of a “purchased gift,” as to talk of “conditional grace,” for when grace ceases to be absolute it ceases to be grace. Therefore when the Scriptures say that salvation is of grace we are to understand that it is through its whole process the work of God and that any truly meritorious works done by man are the result of the change which has already been wrought.

Arminianism destroys this purely gracious character of salvation and substitutes a system of grace plus works. No matter how small a part these works may play they are necessary and are the basis of the distinction between the saved and the lost and would then afford occasion for the saved to boast over the lost since each had equal opportunity. But Paul says that all boasting is excluded, and that he who glories should glory in the Lord (Rom. 3:27; 1 Cor. 1:31). But if saved by grace, the redeemed remembers the mire from which he was lifted, and his attitude toward the lost is one of sympathy and pity. He knows that but for the grace of God he too would have been in the same state as those who perish, and his song is, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake.”

There are three things told us in Scripture concerning the nature of God. First, “God is spirit” (John 4:24). In the Greek there is no indefinite article, and to say “God is a spirit” is most objectionable, for it places Him in a class with others. God is “spirit” in the highest sense. Because He is “spirit” He is incorporeal, having no visible substance. Had God a tangible body, He would not be omnipresent, He would be limited to one place; because He is spirit He fills heaven and earth. Second, God is light (1 John 1:5), which is the opposite of “darkness.” In Scripture “darkness” stands for sin, evil, death; and “light” for holiness, goodness, life. God is light, means that He is the sum of all excellency. Third, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It is not simply that God “loves,” but that He is Love itself. Love is not merely one of His attributes, but His very nature.

There are many today who talk about the love of God, who are total strangers to the God of love. The Divine love is commonly regarded as a species of amiable weakness, a sort of good-natured indulgence; it is reduced to a mere sickly sentiment, patterned after human emotion. Now the truth is that on this, as on everything else, our thoughts need to be formed and regulated by what is revealed thereon in Holy Scripture. That there is urgent need for this is apparent not only from the ignorance which so generally prevails, but also from the low state of spirituality which is now so sadly evident everywhere among professing Christians. How little real love there is for God. One chief reason for this is because our hearts are so little occupied with His wondrous love for His people. The better we are acquainted with His love—its character, fulness, blessedness—the more will our hearts be drawn out in love to Him.

1.  The love of God is uninfluenced. By this we mean, there was nothing whatever in the objects of His love to call it into exercise, nothing in the creature to attract or prompt it. The love which one creature has for another is because of something in them; but the love of God is free, spontaneous, uncaused. The only reason why God loves any is found in His own sovereign will: “The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved thee” (Deut. 7:7,8). God has loved His people from everlasting, and therefore nothing of the creature can be the cause of what is found in God from eternity. He loves from Himself: “according to His own purpose” (2 Tim. 1:9).

“We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God did not love us because we loved Him, but He loved us before we had a particle of love for Him. Had God loved us in return for ours, then it would not be spontaneous on His part; but because He loved us when we were loveless, it is clear that His love was uninfluenced. It is highly important if God is to be honored and the heart of His child established, that we should be quite clear upon this precious truth. God’s love for me, and for each of “His own,” was entirely unmoved by anything in them. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, everything to repel Him, everything calculated to make Him loathe me—sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with “no good thing” in me.

“What was there in me that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
‘Twas even so, Father, I ever must sing,
Because it seemed good, in Thy sight.”

2.  It is eternal. This of necessity. God Himself is eternal, and God is love; therefore, as God Himself had no beginning, His love had none. Granted that such a concept far transcends the grasp of our feeble minds, nevertheless, where we cannot comprehend, we can bow in adoring worship. How clear is the testimony of Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” How blessed to know that the great and holy God loved His people before heaven and earth were called into existence, that He had set His heart upon them from all eternity. Clear proof is this that His love is spontaneous, for He loved them endless ages before they had any being.

The same precious truth is set forth in Ephesians 1:4,5, “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 having predestinated us.” What praise should this evoke from each of His children! How tranquilizing for the heart: since God’s love toward me had no beginning, it can have no ending! Since it be true that “from everlasting to everlasting” He is God, and since God is “love,” then it is equally true that “from everlasting to everlasting” He loves His people.

3.  It is sovereign. This also is self-evident. God Himself is sovereign, under obligations to none, a law unto Himself, acting always according to His own imperial pleasure. Since God be sovereign, and since He be love, it necessarily follows that His love is sovereign. Because God is God, He does as He pleases; because God is love, He loves whom He pleases. Such is His own express affirmation: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:19). There was no more reason in Jacob why he should be the object of Divine love, than there was in Esau. They both had the same parents, and were born at the same time, being twins; yet God loved the one and hated the other! Why? Because it pleased Him to do so.

The sovereignty of God’s love necessarily follows from the fact that it is uninfluenced by anything in the creature. Thus, to affirm that the cause of His love lies in God Himself, is only another way of saying, He loves whom He pleases. For a moment, assume the opposite. Suppose God’s love were regulated by anything else than His will, in such a case He would love by rule, and loving by rule He would be under a law of love, and then so far from being free, God would Himself be ruled by law. “In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to”—what? Some excellency which He foresaw in them? No; what then? “According to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:4,5).

4.  It is infinite. Everything about God is infinite. His essence fills heaven and earth. His wisdom is illimitable, for He knows everything of the past, present and future. His power is unbounded, for there is nothing too hard for Him. So His love is without limit. There is a depth to it which none can fathom; there is a height to it which none can scale; there is a length and breadth to it which defies measurement, by any creature-standard. Beautifully is this intimated in Ephesians 2:4: But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us: the word “great” there is parallel with the “God so loved” of John 3:16. It tells us that the love of God is so transcendent it cannot be estimated.

No tongue can fully express the infinitude of God’s love, or any mind comprehend it: it “passeth knowledge” Eph. 3:19). The most extensive ideas that a finite mind can frame about Divine love, are infinitely below its true nature. The heaven is not so far above the earth as the goodness of God is beyond the most raised conceptions which we are able to form of it. It is an ocean which swells higher than all the mountains of opposition in such as are the objects of it. It is a fountain from which flows all necessary good to all those who are interested in it (John Brine, 1743).

5.  It is immutable. As with God Himself there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17), so His love knows neither change or diminution. The worm Jacob supplies a forceful example of this: “Jacob have I loved,” declared Jehovah, and despite all his unbelief and waywardness, He never ceased to love him. John 13:1 furnishes another beautiful illustration. That very night one of the apostles would say, “Show us the Father”; another would deny Him with cursings; all of them would be scandalized by and forsake Him. Nevertheless “having loved His own which were in the world, He love them unto the end.” The Divine love is subject to no vicissitudes. Divine love is “strong as death … many waters cannot quench it” (Song of Sol. 8:6,7). Nothing can separate from it: Romans 8:35-39.

“His love no end nor measure knows,
No change can turn its course,
Eternally the same it flows
From one eternal source.”

6.  It is holy. God’s love is not regulated by caprice passion, or sentiment, but by principle. Just as His grace reigns not at the expense of it, but “through righteousness” (Rom. 5:21), so His love never conflicts with His holiness. “God is light” (1 John 1:5) is mentioned before “God is love” (1 John 4:8). God’s love is no mere amiable weakness, or effeminate softness. Scripture declares, “whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. 12:6). God will not wink at sin, even in His own people. His love is pure, unmixed with any maudlin sentimentality.

7.  It is gracious. The love and favor of God are inseparable. This is clearly brought out in Romans 8:32-39. What that love is from which there can be no “separation,” is easily perceived from the design and scope of the immediate context: it is that goodwill and grace of God which determined Him to give His Son for sinners. That love was the impulsive power of Christ’s incarnation: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Christ died not in order to make God love us, but because He did love His people, Calvary is the supreme demonstration of Divine love. Whenever you are tempted to doubt the love of God, Christian reader, go back to Calvary.

Here then is abundant cause for trust and patience under Divine affliction. Christ was beloved of the Father, yet He was not exempted from poverty, disgrace, and persecution. He hungered and thirsted. Thus, it was not incompatible with God’s love for Christ when He permitted men to spit upon and smite Him. Then let no Christian call into question God’s love when he is brought under painful afflictions and trials. God did not enrich Christ on earth with temporal prosperity, for “He had not where to lay His head.” But He did give Him the Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34). Learn then that spiritual blessings are the principal gifts of Divine love. How blessed to know that when the world hates us ,God loves us!

What are distinguishing scripture evidences of a work of the Spirit of God.

Having shown, in some instances, what are not evidences that a work wrought among a people, is not a work of the Spirit of God, I now proceed, in the second place, as was proposed, to show positively, what are the sure, distinguishing scripture evidences and marks of a work of the Spirit of God, by which we may proceed in judging of any operation we find in ourselves, or see among a people, without danger of being misled.—And in this, as I said before, I shall confine myself wholly to those marks which are given us by the apostle in the chapter wherein is my text, where this matter is particularly handled, and more plainly and fully than any where else in the Bible. And in speaking to these marks, I shall take them in the order in which I find them in the chapter.

I. When the operation is such as to raise their esteem of that Jesus who was born of the Virgin, and was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem; and seems more to confirm and establish their minds in the truth of what the gospel declares to us of his being the Son of God, and the Saviour of men; is a sure sign that it is from the Spirit of God. This sign the apostle gives us in the 2d and 3d verses,. “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God; and every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.” This implies a confessing not only that there was such a person who appeared in Palestine, and did and suffered those things that are recorded of him, but that he was Christ, i.e. The Son of God, anointed to be Lord and Saviour, as the name Jesus Christ implies. That thus much is implied in the apostle’s meaning, is confirmed by the 15th verse, where the apostle is still on the same subject of signs of the true Spirit; “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” And it is to be observed that the word confess, as it is often used in the New Testament, signifies more then merely allowing: it implies an establishing and confirming of a thing by testimony, and declaring it with manifestation of esteem and affection; so Matt. x. 32. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” Rom. xv. 9. “I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.” And Phil. ii. 11. “That every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” And that this is the force of the expression, as the apostle John uses it in the place, is confirmed in the next chapter, ver. 1. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God, and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him.” And by that parallel place of the apostle Paul, where we have the same rule given to distinguish the true Spirit from all counterfeits, 1 Cor. xii. 3. “Wherefore I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God, calleth Jesus accursed; (or will show an ill or mean esteem of him;) and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”

So that if the spirit that is at work among a people is plainly observed to work so as to convince them of Christ, and lead them to him—to confirm their minds in the belief of the history of Christ as he appeared in the flesh—and that he is the Son of God, and was sent of God to save sinners; that he is the only Saviour, and that they stand in great need of him; and if he seems to beget in them higher and more honourable thoughts of him than they used to have, and to incline their affections more to him; it is a sure sign that it is the true and right Spirit; however incapable we may be to determine, whether that conviction and affection be in that manner, or to that degree, as to be saving or not.

But the words of the apostle are remarkable; the person to whom the Spirit gives testimony, and for whom he raises their esteem, must be that Jesus who appeared in the flesh, and not another Christ in his stead; nor any mystical fantastical Christ; such as the light within. This the spirit of Quakers extols, while it diminishes their esteem of and dependence upon an outward Christ—or Jesus as he came in the flesh—and leads them off from him; but the spirit that gives testimony for that Jesus, and leads to him, can be no other than the Spirit of God.

The devil has the most bitter and implacable enmity against that person, especially in his character of the Saviour of men; he mortally hates the story and doctrine of his redemption; he never would go about to beget in men more honourable thoughts of him, and lay greater weight on his instructions and commands. The Spirit that inclines men’s hearts to the seed of the woman, is not the spirit of the serpent that has such an irreconcileable enmity against him. He that heightens men’s esteem of the glorious Michael, that prince of angels, is not the spirit of the dragon that is at war with him.

II. When the spirit that is at work operates against the interests of Satan’s kingdom, which lies in encouraging and establishing sin, and cherishing men’s worldly lusts; this is a sure sign that it is a true, and not a false spirit. This sign we have given us in the 4th and 5th verses. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world, therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.” Here is a plain antithesis: it is evident that the apostle is still comparing those that are influenced by the two opposite kinds of spirits, the true and the false, and showing the difference; the one is of God, and overcomes the spirit of the world; the other is of the world, and speaks and savours of the things of the world. The spirit of the devil is here called, “he that is in the world.” Christ says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” But it is otherwise with Satan’s kingdom; he is “the god of this world.”

What the apostle means by the world, or “the things that are of the world,” we learn by his own words, in the 2d chapter of this epistle, 15th and 16th verses. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world: if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him: for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” So that by the world the apostle evidently means every thing that appertains to the interest of sin, and comprehends all the corruptions and lusts of men, and all those acts and objects by which they are gratified.

So that we may safely determine, from what the apostle says, that the spirit that is at work amongst a people, after such a manner, as to lessen men’s esteem of the pleasures, profits, and honours of the world, and to take off their hearts from an eager pursuit after these things; and to engage them in a deep concern about a future state and eternal happiness which the gospel reveals—and puts them upon earnestly seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and the spirit that convinces them of the dreadfulness of sin, the guilt it brings, and the misery to which it exposes; must needs be the Spirit of God.

It is not to be supposed that Satan would convince men of sin, and awaken the conscience; it can no way serve his end, to make that candle of the Lord shine the brighter, and to open the mouth of that vicegerent of God in the soul. It is for his interest, whatever he does, to lull conscience asleep, and keep it quiet. To have that, with its eyes and mouth open in the soul, will tend to clog and hinder all his designs of darkness, and evermore to disturb his affairs, to cross his interest, and disquiet him, so that he can manage nothing to his mind without molestation. Would the devil, when he is about to establish men in sin, take such a course, in the first place, to enlighten and awaken the conscience to see the dreadfulness of sin, and make them exceedingly afraid of it, and sensible of their misery by reason of their past sins, and their great need of deliverance from their guilt? Would he make them more careful, inquisitive, and watchful to discern what is sinful; and to avoid future sins; and so more afraid of the devil’s temptations, and more careful to guard against them? What do those men do with their reason, that suppose that the Spirit that operates thus, is the spirit of the devil?

Possibly some may say, that the devil may even awaken men’s consciences to deceive them, and make them think they have been the subjects of a saving work of the Spirit of God, while they are indeed still in the gall of bitterness. But to this it may be replied, that the man who has an awakened conscience, is the least likely to be deceived of any man in the world; it is the drowsy, insensible, stupid conscience that is most easily blinded. The more sensible conscience is in a diseased soul, the less easily is it quieted without a real healing. The more sensible conscience is made of the dreadfulness of sin, and of the greatness of a man’s own guilt, the less likely is he to rest in his own righteousness, or to be pacified with nothing but shadows. A man that has been thoroughly terrified with a sense of his own danger and misery, is not easily flattered and made to believe himself safe, without any good grounds. To awaken conscience, and convince it of the evil of sin, cannot tend to establish it, but certainly tends to make way for sin and Satan’s being cut out. Therefore this is a good argument that the Spirit that operates thus, cannot be the spirit of the devil; except we suppose that Christ knew not how to argue, who told the Pharisees—who supposed that the Spirit by which he wrought, was the spirit of the devil—that Satan would not cast out Satan, Matt. xii. 25, 26.—And therefore, if we see persons made sensible of the dreadful nature of sin, and of the displeasure of God against it; of their own miserable condition as they are in themselves, by reason of sin, and earnestly concerned for their eternal salvation—and sensible of their need of God’s pity and help, and engaged to seek it in the use of the means that God has appointed—we may certainly conclude that it is from the Spirit of God, whatever effects this concern has on their bodies; though it cause them to cry out aloud, or to shriek, or to faint; or, though it throw them into convulsions, or whatever other way the blood and spirits are moved.

The influence of the Spirit of God is yet more abundantly manifest, if persons have their hearts drawn off from the world, and weaned from the objects of their worldly lusts, and taken off from worldly pursuits, by the sense they have of the excellency of divine things, and the affection they have to those spiritual enjoyments of another world, that are promised in the gospel.

III. The spirit that operates in such a manner, as to cause in men a greater regard to the Holy Scriptures, and establishes them more in their truth and divinity, is certainly the Spirit of God. This rule the apostle gives us in the 6th verse:. “We are of God; he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us: hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” We are of God; that is, “We the apostles are sent forth of God, and appointed by him to teach the world, and to deliver those doctrine and instructions, which are to be their rule; he that knoweth God, heareth us,” &c.—The apostle’s argument here equally reaches all that in the same sense are of God; that is, all those that God has appointed and inspired to deliver to his church its rule of faith and practice; all the prophets and apostles, whose doctrine God has made the foundation on which he has built his church, as in Eph. ii. 20. in a word, all the penmen of the Holy Scriptures. The devil never would attempt to beget in persons a regard to that divine word which God has given to be the great and standing rule for the direction of his church in all religious matters, and all concerns of their souls, in all ages. A spirit of delusion will not incline persons to seek direction at the mouth of God. To the law and to the testimony, is never the cry of those evil spirits that have no light in them; for it is God’s own direction to discover their delusions. Isa. viii. 19, 20. “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? For the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The devil does not say the same as Abraham did, “They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them:” nor the same that the voice from heaven did concerning Christ, “Hear ye him.” Would the spirit of error, in order to deceive men, beget in them a high opinion of the infallible rule, and incline them to think much of it, and be very conversant with it? Would the prince of darkness, in order to promote his kingdom of darkness, lead men to the sun? The devil has ever shown a mortal spite and hatred towards that holy book the Bible: he has done all in his power to extinguish that light; and to draw men off from it: he knows it to be that light by which his kingdom of darkness is to be overthrown. He has had for many ages experience of its power to defeat his purposes, and baffle his designs: it is his constant plague. It is the main weapon which Michael uses in his war with him: it is the sword of the Spirit, that pierces him and conquers him. It is that great and strong sword, with which God punishes Leviathan, that crooked serpent. It is that sharp sword that we read of, Rev. xix. 15. That proceeds out of the mouth of him that sat on the horse, with which he smites his enemies. Every text is a dart to torment the old serpent. He has felt the stinging smart thousands of times; therefore he is engaged against the Bible, and hates every word in it: and we may be sure that he never will attempt to raise persons’ esteem of it, or affection to it. And accordingly we see it common in enthusiasts, that they depreciate this written rule, and set up the light within or some other rule above it.

IV. Another rule to judge of spirits may be drawn from those compellations given to the opposite spirits, in the last words of the 6th verse,. “The spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” These words exhibit the two opposite characters of the Spirit of God, and other spirits that counterfeit his operations. And therefore, if by observing the manner of the operation of a spirit that is at work among a people, we see that it operates as a spirit of truth, leading persons to truth, convincing them of those things that are true, we may safely determine that it is a right and true spirit. For instance, if we observe that the spirit at work makes men more sensible than they used to be, that there is a God, and that he is a great and sin-hating God; that life is short, and very uncertain; and that there is another world; that they have immortal souls, and must give account of themselves to God, that they are exceeding sinful by nature and practice; that they are helpless in themselves; and confirms them in other things that are agreeable to some sound doctrine; the spirit that works thus operates as a spirit of truth; he represents things as they truly are. He brings men to the light; for whatever makes truth manifest is light; as the apostle Paul observes, Eph. v. 13. “But all things that are reproved (or discovered, as it is in the margin) are made manifest by the light; for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” And therefore we may conclude, that it is not the spirit of darkness that doth thus discover and make manifest the truth. Christ tells us that Satan is a liar, and the father of lies; and his kingdom is a kingdom of darkness. It is upheld and promoted only by darkness and error. Satan has all his power of dominion by darkness. Hence we read of the power of darkness. Luke xxii. 53. And Col. i. 13. And devils are called “the rulers of the darkness of this world.” Whatever spirit removes our darkness, and brings us to the light, undeceives us, and, by convincing us of the truth, doth us a kindness. If I am brought to a sight of truth, and am made sensible of things as they really are, my duty is immediately to thank God for it, without standing first to inquire by what means I have such a benefit.

V. If the spirit that is at work among a people operates as a spirit of love to God and man, it is a sure sign that it is the Spirit of God. This sign the apostle insists upon from the 6th verse to the end of the chapter. “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God: he that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love,” &c. Here it is evident, that the apostle is still comparing those two sorts of persons that are influenced by the opposite kinds of spirits; and mentions love as a mark by which we may know who has the true spirit: but this is especially evident by the 12th and 13th verses. “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us: hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.” In these verses love is spoken of as if it were that wherein the very nature of the Holy Spirit consisted; or, as if divine love dwelling in us, and the Spirit of God dwelling in us, were the same thing; as it is also in the last two verses of the foregoing chapter, and in the 16th verse. of this chapter. Therefore this last mark which the apostle gives of the true Spirit he seems to speak of as the most eminent: and so insists much more largely upon it, than upon all the rest; and speaks expressly of both love to God and men; of love to men in the 7th, 11th, and 12th verses;. and of love to God, in the 17th, 18th, and 19th verses.; and of both together, in the last two verses; and of love to men, as arising from love to God, in these last two verses.

Therefore, when the spirit that is at work amongst the people, tends this way, and brings many of them to high and exalting thoughts of the Divine Being, and his glorious perfections; and works in them an admiring, delightful sense of the excellency of Jesus Christ; representing him as the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely, and makes him precious to the soul; winning and drawing the heart with those motives and incitements to love, of which the apostle speaks in that passage of Scripture we are upon, viz. The wonderful, free love of God in giving his only-begotten Son to die for us, and the wonderful dying love of Christ to us, who had no love to him, but were his enemies; must needs be the Spirit of God, as ver. 9, 10. “In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because God sent his onlybegotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” And ver. 16. “And we have known, and believed, the love that God hath to us.” And ver. 19. “We love him because he first loved us.” The spirit that excites to love on these motives, and makes the attributes of God as revealed in the gospel, and manifested in Christ, delightful objects of contemplation; and makes the soul to long after God and Christ—after their presence and communion, acquaintance with them, and conformity to them—and to live so as to please and honour them; the spirit that quells contentions among men, and gives a spirit of peace and good will, excites to acts of outward kindness, and earnest desires of the salvation of souls-and causes a delight in those that appear as the children God, and followers of Christ; I say, when a spirit operates after this manner among a people, there is the highest kind of evidence of the influence of a true and divine spirit.

Indeed there is a counterfeit love, that often appears among those who are led by a spirit of delusion. There is commonly in the wildest enthusiasts, a kind of union and affection, arising from self-love, occasioned by their agreeing in those things wherein they greatly differ from all others, and from which they are objects of the ridicule of all the rest of mankind. This naturally will cause them so much the more to prize those peculiarities that make them the objects of others’ contempt. Thus the ancient Gnostics, and the wild fanatics that appeared at the beginning of the reformation, boasted of their great love one to another; one sect of them, in particular, calling themselves the family of love. But this is quite another thing, than that christian love I have just described: it is only the working of a natural self-love, and no true benevolence, any more that the union and friendship which may be among a company of pirates, that are at war with all the rest of the world. There is enough said in this passage of the nature of a truly christian love, thoroughly to distinguish it from all such counterfeits. It is love that arises from apprehension of the wonderful riches of the free grace and sovereignty of God’s love to us, in Christ Jesus; being attended with a sense of our own utter unworthiness, as in ourselves the enemies and haters of God and Christ, and with a renunciation of all our own excellency and righteousness. See ver. 9, 10, 11, and 19. The surest character of true divine supernatural love—distinguishing it from counterfeits that arise from a natural self-love—is, that the christian virtue of humility shines in it; that which above all others renounces, abases, and annihilates what we term self. Christian love, or true charity, is an humble love. 1 Cor. xiii. 4, 5. “Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked.” When therefore we see love in persons attended with a sense of their own littleness, vileness, weakness, and utter insufficiency; and so with self-diffidence, self-emptiness, self-renunciation, and poverty of spirit; these are the manifest tokens of the Spirit of God.

He that thus dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him. What the apostle speaks of as a great evidence of the true Spirit, is God’s love or Christ’s love; as ver. 12.—”his love is perfected in us.” What kind of love that is, we may see best in what appeared in Christ’s example. The love that appeared in that Lamb of God, was not only a love to friends, but to enemies, and a love attended with a meek and humble spirit. “Learn of me,” says he, “for I am meek and lowly in heart.”—Love and humility are two things the most contrary to the spirit of the devil, of any thing in the world; for the character of that evil spirit, above all things, consists in pride and malice.

Thus I have spoken particularly to the several marks the apostle gives us of a work of the true Spirit. There are some of these things which the devil would not do if he could: thus he would not awaken the conscience, and make men sensible of their miserable state by reason of sin, and sensible of their great need of a Saviour; and he would not confirm men in the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and the Saviour of sinners, or raise men’s value and esteem of him: he would not beget in men’s minds an opinion of the necessity, usefulness, and truth of the Holy Scriptures, or incline them to make much use of them; nor would he show men the truth, in things that concern their souls’ interest; to undeceive them, and lead them out of darkness into light, and give them a view of things as they really are. And there are other things that the devil neither can nor will do; he will not give men a spirit of divine love, or christian humility and poverty of spirit; nor could he if he would. He cannot give those things he has not himself: these things are as contrary as possible to his nature. And therefore when there is an extraordinary influence or operation appearing on the minds of a people, if these things are found in it, we are safe in determining that it is the work of God, whatever other circumstances it may be attended with, whatever instruments are used, whatever methods are taken to promote it; whatever means a sovereign God, whose judgments are a great deep, employs to carry it on; and whatever motion there may be of the animal spirits, whatever effects may be wrought on men’s bodies. These marks, that the apostle has given us, are sufficient to stand alone, and support themselves. They plainly show the finger of God, and are sufficient to outweigh a thousand such little objections, as many make from oddities, irregularities, errors in conduct, and the delusions and scandals of some professors.

But here some may object to the sufficiency of the marks given, what the apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. xi. 13, 14. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ; and no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”

To which I answer, that this can be no objection against the sufficiency of these marks to distinguish the true from the false spirit, in those false apostles and prophets, in whom the devil was transformed into an angel of light, because it is principally with a view to them that the apostle gives these marks; as appears by the words of the text, “Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God;” and this is the reason he gives, because many false prophets are gone out into the world: viz. “There are many gone out into the world who are the ministers of the devil, who transform themselves into the prophets of God, in whom the spirit of the devil is transformed into an angel of light; therefore try the spirits by these rules that I shall give you, that you may be able to distinguish the true spirit from the false, under such a crafty disguise.” Those false prophets the apostle John speaks of, are doubtless the same sort of men with those false apostles, and deceitful workers, that the apostle Paul speaks of, in whom the devil was transformed into an angel of light: and therefore we may be sure that these marks are especially adapted to distinguish between the true Spirit, and the devil transformed into an angel of light, because they are given especially for that end; that is the apostle’s declared purpose and design, to give marks by which the true Spirit may be distinguished from that sort of counterfeits.

And if we look over what is said about these false prophets, and false apostles, (as there is much said about them in the New Testament,) and take notice in what manner the devil was transformed into an angel of light in them, we shall not find any thing that in the least injures the sufficiency of these marks to distinguish the true Spirit from such counterfeits. The devil transformed himself into an angel of light, as there was in them a show, and great boast, of extraordinary knowledge in divine things; Col. ii. 8. 1. Tim. i. 6, 7. and chap. vi. 3-5. 2 Tim. ii. 14-18. Tit. i. 10, 16. Hence their followers called themselves Gnostics, from their great pretended knowledge: and the devil in them mimicked the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, in visions, revelations, prophecies, miracles, &c. Hence they are called false apostles, and false prophets: see Matt. xxiv. 24. Again, there was a false show of, and lying pretensions to, great holiness and devotion in words: Rom. xvi. 17, 18. Ephes. iv. 14. Hence they are called deceitful workers, and wells and clouds without water. 2 Cor. xi. 13. 2 Pet. ii. 17. Jude 12. There was also in them a show of extraordinary piety and righteousness in their superstitious worship: Col. ii. 16-23. So they had a false, proud, and bitter zeal: Gal. iv. 17, 18. 1 Tim. i. 6. and chap. vi. 4, 5. And likewise a false show of humility, in affecting an extraordinary outward meanness and dejection, when indeed they were “vainly puffed up in their fleshly mind:” and made a righteousness of their humility, and were exceedingly lifted up with their eminent piety: Col. ii. 18, 23. But how do such things as these in the least injure those things that have been mentioned as the distinguishing evidences of the true Spirit?—Besides such vain shows which may be from the devil, there are common influences of the Spirit, which are often mistaken for saving grace; but these are out of the question, because though they are not saving, yet are the work of the true Spirit.

Having thus fulfilled what I at first proposed, in considering what are the certain, distinguishing marks, by which we may safely proceed in judging of any work that falls under our observation, whether it be the work of the Spirit of God or no; I now proceed to the Application.

Section II of the document:

THE DISTINGUISHING MARKS
OF A WORK OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD,
APPLIED TO THAT UNCOMMON OPERATION THAT HAS LATELY APPEARED ON THE MINDS OF THE PEOPLE OF NEW ENGLAND:
WITH A
PARTICULAR CONSIDERATION OF THE EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES WITH WHICH THIS WORK IS ATTENDED

Jonathan Edwards

“The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox’s gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again.”—C. H. Spurgeon

It is a great thing to begin the Christian life by believing good solid doctrine. Some people have received twenty different “gospels” in as many years; how many more they will accept before they get to their journey’s end, it would be difficult to predict. I thank God that He early taught me the gospel, and I have been so perfectly satisfied with it, that I do not want to know any other. Constant change of creed is sure loss. If a tree has to be taken up two or three times a year, you will not need to build a very large loft in which to store the apples. When people are always shifting their doctrinal principles, they are not likely to bring forth much fruit to the glory of God. It is good for young believers to begin with a firm hold upon those great fundamental doctrines which the Lord has taught in His Word. Why, if I believed what some preach about the temporary, trumpery salvation which only lasts for a time, I would scarcely be at all grateful for it; but when I know that those whom God saves He saves with an everlasting salvation, when I know that He gives to them an everlasting righteousness, when I know that He settles them on an everlasting foundation of everlasting love, and that He will bring them to His everlasting kingdom, oh, then I do wonder, and I am astonished that such a blessing as this should ever have been given to me!

“Pause, my soul! adore, and wonder!
Ask, ‘Oh, why such love to me?’
Grace hath put me in the number
Of the Saviour’s family:
Hallelujah!
Thanks, eternal thanks, to Thee!”

I suppose there are some persons whose minds naturally incline towards the doctrine of free-will. I can only say that mine inclines as naturally towards the doctrines of sovereign grace. Sometimes, when I see some of the worst characters in the street, I feel as if my heart must burst forth in tears of gratitude that God has never let me act as they have done! I have thought, if God had left me alone, and had not touched me by His grace, what a great sinner I should have been! I should have run to the utmost lengths of sin, dived into the very depths of evil, nor should I have stopped at any vice or folly, if God had not restrained me. I feel that I should have been a very king of sinners, if God had let me alone. I cannot understand the reason why I am saved, except upon the ground that God would have it so. I cannot, if I look ever so earnestly, discover any kind of reason in myself why I should be a partaker of Divine grace. If I am not at this moment without Christ, it is only because Christ Jesus would have His will with me, and that will was that I should be with Him where He is, and should share His glory. I can put the crown nowhere but upon the head of Him whose mighty grace has saved me from going down into the pit. Looking back on my past life, I can see that the dawning of it all was of God; of God effectively. I took no torch with which to light the sun, but the sun enlightened me. I did not commence my spiritual life—no, I rather kicked, and struggled against the things of the Spirit: when He drew me, for a time I did not run after Him: there was a natural hatred in my soul of everything holy and good. Wooings were lost upon me—warnings were cast to the wind—thunders were despised; and as for the whispers of His love, they were rejected as being less than nothing and vanity. But, sure I am, I can say now, speaking on behalf of myself, “He only is my salvation.” It was He who turned my heart, and brought me down on my knees before Him. I can in very deed, say with Doddridge and Toplady—

“Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes o’erflow;”

and coming to this moment, I can add—

“‘Tis grace has kept me to this day,
And will not let me go.”

Well can I remember the manner in which I learned the doctrines of grace in a single instant. Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this. I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths in my own soul—when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man—that I had made progress in Scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, the clue to the truth of God. One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.”
I once attended a service where the text happened to be, “He shall choose our inheritance for us;” and the good man who occupied the pulpit was more than a little of an Arminian. Therefore, when he commenced, he said, “This passage refers entirely to our temporal inheritance, it has nothing whatever to do with our everlasting destiny, for,” said he, “we do not want Christ to choose for us in the matter of Heaven or hell. It is so plain and easy, that every man who has a grain of common sense will choose Heaven, and any person would know better than to choose hell. We have no need of any superior intelligence, or any greater Being, to choose Heaven or hell for us. It is left to our own free-will, and we have enough wisdom given us, sufficiently correct means to judge for ourselves,” and therefore, as he very logically inferred, there was no necessity for Jesus Christ, or anyone, to make a choice for us. We could choose the inheritance for ourselves without any assistance. “Ah!” I thought, “but, my good brother, it may be very true that we could, but I think we should want something more than common sense before we should choose aright.”
First, let me ask, must we not all of us admit an over-ruling Providence, and the appointment of Jehovah’s hand, as to the means whereby we came into this world? Those men who think that, afterwards, we are left to our own free-will to choose this one or the other to direct our steps, must admit that our entrance into the world was not of our own will, but that God had then to choose for us. What circumstances were those in our power which led us to elect certain persons to be our parents? Had we anything to do with it? Did not God Himself appoint our parents, native place, and friends? Could He not have caused me to be born with the skin of the Hottentot, brought forth by a filthy mother who would nurse me in her “kraal,” and teach me to bow down to Pagan gods, quite as easily as to have given me a pious mother, who would each morning and night bend her knee in prayer on my behalf? Or, might He not, if He had pleased, have given me some profligate to have been my parent, from whose lips I might have early heard fearful, filthy, and obscene language? Might He not have placed me where I should have had a drunken father, who would have immured me in a very dungeon of ignorance, and brought me up in the chains of crime? Was it not God’s Providence that I had so happy a lot, that both my parents were His children, and endeavoured to train me up in the fear of the Lord?
John Newton used to tell a whimsical story, and laugh at it, too, of a good woman who said, in order to prove the doctrine of election, “Ah! sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else He would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards.” I am sure it is true in my case; I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that great Biblical doctrine. I recollect an Arminian brother telling me that he had read the Scriptures through a score or more times, and could never find the doctrine of election in them. He added that he was sure he would have done so if it had been there, for he read the Word on his knees. I said to him, “I think you read the Bible in a very uncomfortable posture, and if you had read it in your easy chair, you would have been more likely to understand it. Pray, by all means, and the more, the better, but it is a piece of superstition to think there is anything in the posture in which a man puts himself for reading: and as to reading through the Bible twenty times without having found anything about the doctrine of election, the wonder is that you found anything at all: you must have galloped through it at such a rate that you were not likely to have any intelligible idea of the meaning of the Scriptures.”
If it would be marvelous to see one river leap up from the earth full-grown, what would it be to gaze upon a vast spring from which all the rivers of the earth should at once come bubbling up, a million of them born at a birth? What a vision would it be! Who can conceive it. And yet the love of God is that fountain, from which all the rivers of mercy, which have ever gladdened our race—all the rivers of grace in time, and of glory hereafter—take their rise. My soul, stand thou at that sacred fountain-head, and adore and magnify, for ever and ever, God, even our Father, who hath loved us! In the very beginning, when this great universe lay in the mind of God, like unborn forests in the acorn cup; long ere the echoes awoke the solitudes; before the mountains were brought forth; and long ere the light flashed through the sky, God loved His chosen creatures. Before there was any created being—when the ether was not fanned by an angel’s wing, when space itself had not an existence, when there was nothing save God alone—even then, in that loneliness of Deity, and in that deep quiet and profundity, His bowels moved with love for His chosen. Their names were written on His heart, and then were they dear to His soul. Jesus loved His people before the foundation of the world—even from eternity! and when He called me by His grace, He said to me, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
Then, in the fulness of time, He purchased me with His blood; He let His heart run out in one deep gaping wound for me long ere I loved Him. Yea, when He first came to me, did I not spurn Him? When He knocked at the door, and asked for entrance, did I not drive Him away, and do despite to His grace? Ah, I can remember that I full often did so until, at last, by the power of His effectual grace, He said, “I must, I will come in;” and then He turned my heart, and made me love Him. But even till now I should have resisted Him, had it not been for His grace. Well, then since He purchased me when I was dead in sins, does it not follow, as a consequence necessary and logical, that He must have loved me first? Did my Saviour die for me because I believed on Him? No; I was not then in existence; I had then no being. Could the Saviour, therefore, have died because I had faith, when I myself was not yet born? Could that have been possible? Could that have been the origin of the Saviour’s love towards me? Oh! no; my Saviour died for me long before I believed. “But,” says someone, “He foresaw that you would have faith; and, therefore, He loved you.” What did He foresee about my faith? Did He foresee that I should get that faith myself, and that I should believe on Him of myself? No; Christ could not foresee that, because no Christian man will ever say that faith came of itself without the gift and without the working of the Holy Spirit. I have met with a great many believers, and talked with them about this matter; but I never knew one who could put his hand on his heart, and say, “I believed in Jesus without the assistance of the Holy Spirit.”
I am bound to the doctrine of the depravity of the human heart, because I find myself depraved in heart, and have daily proofs that in my flesh there dwelleth no good thing. If God enters into covenant with unfallen man, man is so insignificant a creature that it must be an act of gracious condescension on the Lord’s part; but if God enters into covenant with sinful man, he is then so offensive a creature that it must be, on God’s part, an act of pure, free, rich, sovereign grace. When the Lord entered into covenant with me, I am sure that it was all of grace, nothing else but grace. When I remember what a den of unclean beasts and birds my heart was, and how strong was my unrenewed will, how obstinate and rebellious against the sovereignty of the Divine rule, I always feel inclined to take the very lowest room in my Father’s house, and when I enter Heaven, it will be to go among the less than the least of all saints, and with the chief of sinners.
The late lamented Mr. Denham has put, at the foot of his portrait, a most admirable text, “Salvation is of the Lord.” That is just an epitome of Calvinism; it is the sum and substance of it. If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, “He is one who says, Salvation is of the Lord.” I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. “He only is my rock and my salvation.” Tell me anything contrary to this truth, and it will be a heresy; tell me a heresy, and I shall find its essence here, that it has departed from this great, this fundamental, this rock-truth, “God is my rock and my salvation.” What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ—the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.

“If ever it should come to pass,
That sheep of Christ might fall away,
My fickle, feeble soul, alas!
Would fall a thousand times a day.”

If one dear saint of God had perished, so might all; if one of the covenant ones be lost, so may all be; and then there is no gospel promise true, but the Bible is a lie, and there is nothing in it worth my acceptance. I will be an infidel at once when I can believe that a saint of God can ever fall finally. If God hath loved me once, then He will love me for ever. God has a master-mind; He arranged everything in His gigantic intellect long before He did it; and once having settled it, He never alters it, “This shall be done,” saith He, and the iron hand of destiny marks it down, and it is brought to pass. “This is My purpose,” and it stands, nor can earth or hell alter it. “This is My decree,” saith He, “promulgate it, ye holy angels; rend it down from the gate of Heaven, ye devils, if ye can; but ye cannot alter the decree, it shall stand for ever.” God altereth not His plans; why should He? He is Almighty, and therefore can perform His pleasure. Why should He? He is the All-wise, and therefore cannot have planned wrongly. Why should He? He is the everlasting God, and therefore cannot die before His plan is accomplished. Why should He change? Ye worthless atoms of earth, ephemera of a day, ye creeping insects upon this bay-leaf of existence, ye may change your plans, but He shall never, never change His. Has He told me that His plan is to save me? If so, I am for ever safe.

“My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impress’d on His heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace.”

I do not know how some people, who believe that a Christian can fall from grace, manage to be happy. It must be a very commendable thing in them to be able to get through a day without despair. If I did not believe the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, I think I should be of all men the most miserable, because I should lack any ground of comfort. I could not say, whatever state of heart I came into, that I should be like a well-spring of water, whose stream fails not; I should rather have to take the comparison of an intermittent spring, that might stop on a sudden, or a reservoir, which I had no reason to expect would always be full. I believe that the happiest of Christians and the truest of Christians are those who never dare to doubt God, but who take His Word simply as it stands, and believe it, and ask no questions, just feeling assured that if God has said it, it will be so. I bear my willing testimony that I have no reason, nor even the shadow of a reason, to doubt my Lord, and I challenge Heaven, and earth, and hell, to bring any proof that God is untrue. From the depths of hell I call the fiends, and from this earth I call the tried and afflicted believers, and to Heaven I appeal, and challenge the long experience of the blood-washed host, and there is not to be found in the three realms a single person who can bear witness to one fact which can disprove the faithfulness of God, or weaken His claim to be trusted by His servants. There are many things that may or may not happen, but this I know shall happen—

“He shall present my soul,
Unblemish’d and complete,
Before the glory of His face,
With joys divinely great.”

All the purposes of man have been defeated, but not the purposes of God. The promises of man may be broken—many of them are made to be broken—but the promises of God shall all be fulfilled. He is a promise-maker, but He never was a promise-breaker; He is a promise-keeping God, and every one of His people shall prove it to be so. This is my grateful, personal confidence, “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me”—unworthy me, lost and ruined me. He will yet save me; and—

“I, among the blood-wash’d throng,
Shall wave the palm, and wear the crown,
And shout loud victory.”

I go to a land which the plough of earth hath never upturned, where it is greener than earth’s best pastures, and richer than her most abundant harvests ever saw. I go to a building of more gorgeous architecture than man hath ever builded; it is not of mortal design; it is “a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.” All I shall know and enjoy in Heaven, will be given to me by the Lord, and I shall say, when at last I appear before Him—

“Grace all the work shall crown
Through everlasting days;
It lays in Heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise.”

I know there are some who think it necessary to their system of theology to limit the merit of the blood of Jesus: if my theological system needed such a limitation, I would cast it to the winds. I cannot, I dare not allow the thought to find a lodging in my mind, it seems so near akin to blasphemy. In Christ’s finished work I see an ocean of merit; my plummet finds no bottom, my eye discovers no shore. There must be sufficient efficacy in the blood of Christ, if God had so willed it, to have saved not only all in this world, but all in ten thousand worlds, had they transgressed their Maker’s law. Once admit infinity into the matter, and limit is out of the question. Having a Divine Person for an offering, it is not consistent to conceive of limited value; bound and measure are terms inapplicable to the Divine sacrifice. The intent of the Divine purpose fixes the application of the infinite offering, but does not change it into a finite work. Think of the numbers upon whom God has bestowed His grace already. Think of the countless hosts in Heaven: if thou wert introduced there to-day, thou wouldst find it as easy to tell the stars, or the sands of the sea, as to count the multitudes that are before the throne even now. They have come from the East, and from the West, from the North, and from the South, and they are sitting down with Abraham, and with Isaac, and with Jacob in the Kingdom of God; and beside those in Heaven, think of the saved ones on earth. Blessed be God, His elect on earth are to be counted by millions, I believe, and the days are coming, brighter days than these, when there shall be multitudes upon multitudes brought to know the Saviour, and to rejoice in Him. The Father’s love is not for a few only, but for an exceeding great company. “A great multitude, which no man could number,” will be found in Heaven. A man can reckon up to very high figures; set to work your Newtons, your mightiest calculators, and they can count great numbers, but God and God alone can tell the multitude of His redeemed. I believe there will be more in Heaven than in hell. If anyone asks me why I think so, I answer, because Christ, in everything, is to “have the pre-eminence,” and I cannot conceive how He could have the pre-eminence if there are to be more in the dominions of Satan than in Paradise. Moreover, I have never read that there is to be in hell a great multitude, which no man could number. I rejoice to know that the souls of all infants, as soon as they die, speed their way to Paradise. Think what a multitude there is of them! Then there are already in Heaven unnumbered myriads of the spirits of just men made perfect—the redeemed of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues up till now; and there are better times coming, when the religion of Christ shall be universal; when—

“He shall reign from pole to pole,
With illimitable sway;”

when whole kingdoms shall bow down before Him, and nations shall be born in a day, and in the thousand years of the great millennial state there will be enough saved to make up all the deficiencies of the thousands of years that have gone before. Christ shall be Master everywhere, and His praise shall be sounded in every land. Christ shall have the pre-eminence at last; His train shall be far larger than that which shall attend the chariot of the grim monarch of hell.
Some persons love the doctrine of universal atonement because they say, “It is so beautiful. It is a lovely idea that Christ should have died for all men; it commends itself,” they say, “to the instincts of humanity; there is something in it full of joy and beauty.” I admit there is, but beauty may be often associated with falsehood. There is much which I might admire in the theory of universal redemption, but I will just show what the supposition necessarily involves. If Christ on His cross intended to save every man, then He intended to save those who were lost before He died. If the doctrine be true, that He died for all men, then He died for some who were in hell before He came into this world, for doubtless there were even then myriads there who had been cast away because of their sins. Once again, if it was Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood. That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption. To think that my Saviour died for men who were or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain. To imagine for a moment that He was the Substitute for all the sons of men, and that God, having first punished the Substitute, afterwards punished the sinners themselves, seems to conflict with all my ideas of Divine justice. That Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those very men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity that could ever have been imputed to Saturn, to Janus, to the goddess of the Thugs, or to the most diabolical heathen deities. God forbid that we should ever think thus of Jehovah, the just and wise and good!
There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer—I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. But far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views. Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one “of whom the world was not worthy.” I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Saviour, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist in or out of Heaven.
I do not think I differ from any of my Hyper-Calvinistic brethren in what I do believe, but I differ from them in what they do not believe. I do not hold any less than they do, but I hold a little more, and, I think, a little more of the truth revealed in the Scriptures. Not only are there a few cardinal doctrines, by which we can steer our ship North, South, East, or West, but as we study the Word, we shall begin to learn something about the North-west and North-east, and all else that lies between the four cardinal points. The system of truth revealed in the Scriptures is not simply one straight line, but two; and no man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once. For instance, I read in one Book of the Bible, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Yet I am taught, in another part of the same inspired Word, that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” I see, in one place, God in providence presiding over all, and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions, in a great measure, to his own free-will. Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act that there was no control of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to atheism; and if, on the other hand, I should declare that God so over-rules all things that man is not free enough to be responsible, I should be driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism. That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.
It is often said that the doctrines we believe have a tendency to lead us to sin. I have heard it asserted most positively, that those high doctrines which we love, and which we find in the Scriptures, are licentious ones. I do not know who will have the hardihood to make that assertion, when they consider that the holiest of men have been believers in them. I ask the man who dares to say that Calvinism is a licentious religion, what he thinks of the character of Augustine, or Calvin, or Whitefield, who in successive ages were the great exponents of the system of grace; or what will he say of the Puritans, whose works are full of them? Had a man been an Arminian in those days, he would have been accounted the vilest heretic breathing, but now we are looked upon as the heretics, and they as the orthodox. We have gone back to the old school; we can trace our descent from the apostles. It is that vein of free-grace, running through the sermonizing of Baptists, which has saved us as a denomination. Were it not for that, we should not stand where we are today. We can run a golden line up to Jesus Christ Himself, through a holy succession of mighty fathers, who all held these glorious truths; and we can ask concerning them, “Where will you find holier and better men in the world?” No doctrine is so calculated to preserve a man from sin as the doctrine of the grace of God. Those who have called it “a licentious doctrine” did not know anything at all about it. Poor ignorant things, they little knew that their own vile stuff was the most licentious doctrine under Heaven. If they knew the grace of God in truth, they would soon see that there was no preservative from lying like a knowledge that we are elect of God from the foundation of the world. There is nothing like a belief in my eternal perseverance, and the immutability of my Father’s affection, which can keep me near to Him from a motive of simple gratitude. Nothing makes a man so virtuous as belief of the truth. A lying doctrine will soon beget a lying practice. A man cannot have an erroneous belief without by-and-by having an erroneous life. I believe the one thing naturally begets the other. Of all men, those have the most disinterested piety, the sublimest reverence, the most ardent devotion, who believe that they are saved by grace, without works, through faith, and that not of themselves, it is the gift of God. Christians should take heed, and see that it always is so, lest by any means Christ should be crucified afresh, and put to an open shame.

The following is from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion Book II Chapter II.

20. Man’s knowledge of God is God’s own work

If we were persuaded of a truth which ought to be beyond dispute, viz., that human nature possesses none of the gifts which the elect receive from their heavenly Father through the Spirit of regeneration, there would be no room here for hesitation. For thus speaks the congregation of the faithful, by the mouth of the prophet: “With thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light,” (Ps. 36: 9.) To the same effect is the testimony of the Apostle Paul, when he declares, that “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost,” (1 Cor. 12: 3.) And John Baptist, on seeing the dullness of his disciples, exclaims, “A man can receive nothing, unless it be given him from heaven,” (John 3: 27.) That the gift to which he here refers must be understood not of ordinary natural gifts, but of special illumination, appears from this – that he was complaining how little his disciples had profited by all that he had said to them in commendation of Christ. “I see,” says he, “that my words are of no effect in imbuing the minds of men with divine things, unless the Lord enlighten their understandings by His Spirit.” Nay, Moses also, while upbraiding the people for their forgetfulness, at the same time observes, that they could not become wise in the mysteries of God without his assistance. “Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; the great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and these great miracles: yet the Lord has not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this, day,” (Deut. 29: 2, 3, 4.) Would the expression have been stronger had he called us mere blocks in regard to the contemplation of divine things? Hence the Lord, by the mouth of the Prophet, promises to the Israelites as a singular favour, “I will give them an heart to know me,” (Jer. 24: 7;) intimating, that in spiritual things the human mind is wise only in so far as he enlightens it.

This was also clearly confirmed by our Saviour when he said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him,” (John 6: 44.) Nay, is not he himself the living image of his Father, in which the full brightness of his glory is manifested to us? Therefore, how far our faculty of knowing God extends could not be better shown than when it is declared, that though his image is so plainly exhibited, we have not eyes to perceive it. What? Did not Christ descend into the world that he might make the will of his Father manifest to men, and did he not faithfully perform the office? True! He did; but nothing is accomplished by his preaching unless the inner teacher, the Spirit, open the way into our minds. Only those, therefore, come to him who have heard and learned of the Father. And in what is the method of this hearing and learning? It is when the Spirit, with a wondrous and special energy, forms the ear to hear and the mind to understand. Lest this should seem new, our Saviour refers to the prophecy of Isaiah, which contains a promise of the renovation of the Church. “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee,” (Is. 54: 7.) If the Lord here predicts some special blessing to his elect, it is plain that the teaching to which he refers is not that which is common to them with the ungodly and profane.

It thus appears that none can enter the kingdom of God save those whose minds have been renewed by the enlightening of the Holy Spirit. On this subject the clearest exposition is given by Paul, who, when expressly handling it, after condemning the whole wisdom of the world as foolishness and vanity, and thereby declaring man’s utter destitution, thus concludes, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned,” (1 Cor. 2: 14.) Whom does he mean by the “natural man”? The man who trusts to the light of nature. Such a man has no understanding in the spiritual mysteries of God. Why so? Is it because through sloth he neglects them? Nay, though he exert himself, it is of no avail; they are “spiritually discerned.” And what does this mean? That altogether hidden from human discernment, they are made known only by the revelation of the Spirit; so that they are accounted foolishness wherever the Spirit does not give light. The Apostle had previously declared, that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him;” nay, that the wisdom of the world is a kind of veil by which the mind is prevented from beholding God, (1 Cor. 2: 9.) What would we more? The Apostle declares that God has “made foolish the wisdom of this world,” (1 Cor. 1: 20;) and shall we attribute to it an acuteness capable of penetrating to God, and the hidden mysteries of his kingdom? Far from us be such presumption!