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.

 

 

THE LOVE OF GOD

 

CONSIDERED.

 


 

2 THESSALONIANS 3:5
And the Lord God direct your hearts into the Love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.


One principal part of the apostle’s design in writing this epistle was to satisfy some persons in this church, who were shaken in mind, and troubled, as though The day of Christ was at hand. He assures them, therefore, in the second chapter, that it was not; for there were several things to he done previous thereunto: such as the removal of the Roman empire; the great apostasy that was to befall the churches; and the setting up the man of sin, the Papal Antichrist. He therefore exhorts them to steadfastness in the doctrines of the gospel; and wishes them a great many good things. In the beginning of this chapter, he desires them to pray for him, and the rest of the ministers of the gospel; hints what he would have them pray for, and the reason why. Finally, brethren, pray for us; that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified; that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for all men have not faith. And then, for their comfort, expresses his assurance of their final perseverance. But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil. As also, his great confidence of their cheerful and universal obedience to the commands of God, saying, And we have confidence in the Lord, touching you, that ye both do, and will do, the things which we command you. In order to which, he puts up a prayer for them, in the words of the text. The Lord direct your hearts, &c. So that the words are a prayer of the apostle consisting of two petitions, namely, That the Lord would direct their hearts into the Love of God. And, that the same Lord would also direct their hearts into the patient waiting for Christ. It is the former of these that shall insist upon at this time. In order to explain which, I shall make the following enquiries,

I. What are we to understand by the Love of God.

II. What it is to have our hearts directed into it.

III. Who this Lord is, who is prayed unto to do this for us. And,

IV. What is the great usefulness of having our hearts so directed.

I. What we are to understand by the Love of God. This may be understood either actively or passively. Actively, of the love wherewith we love God. Or, passively, of the love wherewith we are loved by God. In other words, by it may be meant, either our love of God, or God’s love to us; and seeing the words will admit of either sense, I shall consider them in both. And by the Love of God, may be meant, our love to God; concerning which, let the following things be observed.

1. That this is the sum and substance of the moral law; at least, it is the main and principal part thereof, as may easily be collected from our Lord’s answer to the lawyer’s question, in Matt. 22:35, 40. The lawyer’s question is, Master, which is the great commandment in the law ? Christ’s answer is, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thysoul, and with all thymind; this is the first and great commandment. Love to God, urged under the gospel dispensation, is the same with that enjoined by the law of Moses. Christ and Moses agree in this, as appears from Deut. 4:4, 5. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. This is no new commandment of the gospel; only it is renewed under the gospel dispensation, and pressed with stronger motives.

2. Let it also be observed, that every man by nature, is destitute of love to God: nay, there is not only a want of affection, but even an aversion to him; yea, an enmity against him. For the carnal mind is enmity against God. One part of the character given of the Heathens (Rom. 1:30) who were left of God and given up to their own lusts, is that they were θεοσυγεις; which signifies, not only that they were hateful to God, but that they were haters of God. Likewise in the account the apostle gives of the degeneracy which shall be in the latter day, he says, (2 Tim. 3:4) Men shall he lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of God. And this is not only the case of those persons now mentioned, but of all mankind even of God’s elect themselves, while in a state of nature. For they, as well as others, are enemies in their minds, by wicked works. They live in a state of rebellion, and commit open acts of hostility against the God of heaven. They stretch out their hands against God, and strengthen themselves against the Almighty. They run upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his buckler.

3. Let it be further observed, that love to God is a grace implanted in the heart, by the Spirit of God. This is one of the fruits of the Spirit; and is mentioned at the head of them, Gal. 5:22. The fruit of the Spirit is love, &c. It is, with other graces, wrought in the soul at regeneration. That grace of the Lord, which comes in with it, flows into the sinner’s heart at conversion; is exceeding abundant, with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. These two graces always go together; being implanted at one and the same time: by one and the same hand. And faith, particularly, works by love: and love is usually most warm, active, and vigorous, at first conversion. Insomuch, that the Lord takes special notice when it is left by us; according to Jer. 2:2. Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Which leads me to observe,

4. The fervour of this love often abates; though the grace itself can never he lost. This frequently arises from the aboundings of sin, both in ourselves and others. Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold, according to Matt. 24:12. Very often, also it arises from an immoderate pursuit after the things of this world. Hence the apostle, 1 John 2:15, advises, not to love the world, neither the things that are in the world: for, says he, If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. That. is, there is but little evidence of love to God, in that man’s heart, whose affections are set upon the things of this world. These things, though they cannot destroy the grace, where it is once wrought; yet they strike a very great chill upon it. The grace of Love indeed, cannot be lost; but then it may be left, as it was by the church at Ephesus, of whom the Lord complains, Rev. 2:4, saying, Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. He does not say, because thou hast lost it ; the word signifying not Amittere, to lose; but Remittere, to remit, or abate, in the fervour of it. And this, all the people of God, more or less, sooner or later, experience to their great sorrow: especially in the day in which we live. Therefore,

5. There is great need to pray, with the apostle, that the Lord would direct our hearts into this love. That is, that he would work upon our hearts, and excite our love to God: stir and blow it up into a flame. This he does, by shewing us the vanity of all earthly enjoyments: what God is in himself, and what he is to his people. How worthy he is of their highest affection; and more especially, by shedding abroad the love of God in our hearts; than which nothing can more effectually do it. For we love him, because he first loved us, 1 John 4:19. A sense of this, invigorates our love, ravishes our souls, and obliges us to say with the Psalmist, Whom have I in heaven but thee; and there is none upon earth, that I desire besides thee. Psalm 73:25. But I choose rather,

By the love of God here, to understand God’s love to us; concerning the nature and glory of which, take the following hints.

1. As to the original of it, it is free and sovereign, Nothing out of God moved him to it. He did not set his love upon us, because of any loveliness in us; or because of any love in us to him. Not because of any loveliness in ourselves. For we were in no wise better than others, being by nature the children of wrath. Nor because of any love in us to him; for his love is prior to ours, as the cause is to the effect. And, indeed, he loved us, before we had done either good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand. No other reason can he given of God’s loving his people, but his own Ευδοχια; his Sovereign good will and pleasure. Nor ought any other to be sought for, he loves them because he will love them. And though, perhaps, this may not be allowed to be a sufficient reason, by your men of reason; yet it is what the Holy Ghost thought fit to give us, and we should be satisfied with it, Deut. 7:7, 8. 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 you.

2. As to the objects of God’s love, it is special and discriminating. He loves some, and not others. It is true, he has a general love and regard to all his creatures. He is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. They all share in the bounties of his providence. He makes his sun to shine on the evil and on the good. He sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. But then, he has chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure. Hence he bestows peculiar blessings on those to whom he bears a peculiar love. David says, Psalm 106:4, Remember me with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: very plainly intimating, that it was special and discriminating; of a different nature from that which he bore to others. A full instance of this distinguishing love, we have in Mal. 1:2, 3, I have loved you, saith the Lord; yet ye say, wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and hated Esau. And, as I said before, no other reason can be given of this distinction, which God makes among the lost sons of Adam, but his own sovereign will; who will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and will be gracious to whom he will be gracious, let a wrangling world say what they please.

3. As to its commencement, it is from eternity. God has loved his people with an everlasting love; and therefore with loving-kindness he draws them to himself in time. Many are the instances which might be given, in proof of the antiquity of this love. His choosing them in Christ, before the foundation of the world, was an act of his love, for Electio præsupponit dilectionem. Election pre-supposes love. His entering into an everlasting covenant with his Son, on the account of those he chose; his setting him up as the Mediator of that Covenant, from everlasting; and his donation of grace to them, in him, before the world began; are so many demonstrations of his early love to them. As also, his putting their persons into the hands of Christ, and so making them his care and charge. Because he loved the people (Deut 33:5), all his saints are in his hand. Now, can it ever be imagined, that there should be a choice of persons; a covenant of grace, so well formed and stored; a promise of life granted; and security given both for person and grace, and yet no love all this while? No, these things prove his love, and this love does not commence with ours; nor, indeed, with time; but bears date from eternity.

4. As to the duration of it, it is to eternity; for it reaches from one eternity to another. Having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. He loves them to the end of time, and will love them throughout the endless ages of eternity; for he rests in his love towards them, and from it there can be no separation. For I am persuaded, that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8:38, 39.

5. As to the degree of it, it is unparalleled. It appears very great in the conversion of a poor sinner. Hence, says the apostle, Eph. 2:4, 5, God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. But in sending his Son to die for sinners, it appears yet greater. Scarcely for a righteous man (says the apostle, Rom. 5:7, 8  ) will one die; but God commended his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. There is in those words a very beautiful gradation. The apostle seems to allude to the distribution of the Jewish people; among whom were three sorts of persons. One sort they called Righteous persons, very strict observers of the letter of the law; but did no more than just what they were obliged to do by the law. There was another sort called, Good men. These were very generous and liberal to the poor, and towards defraying all the expenses of the temple service, in which they exceeded the strict demands of the law. But then there was a third sort, called Wicked men; the profligate and abandoned part of the people, given up to their own lusts, and the very refuse of mankind. Now it is as if the apostle should say, scarcely for one of these righteous persons will one die, who will do no more than just what he is obliged to; yet, peradventure, for one of these good men, who were so generous (and, consequently, had the affections of the people) some would even dare to die. But who will die for those wicked, profligate, and abandoned wretches? Not one; but God commended his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Matchless, unparalleled grace!

6. As to the nature and quality of it, it is unchangeable. It is as invariable as his own nature; nay, it is his nature: for God is love. (1 John 4:16) The blessings of his grace are irreversible, because they proceed from him, who is the Father of lights, with whom there is nor variableness, nor shadow of turning. Hence also it is, that our salvation does not stand upon a precarious foundation; which it would do, if his love to us changed, as ours to him does. But he is the Lord, who changes not; therefore the sons of Jacob are not consumed. God sometimes changes the dispensations of his providences towards his people; but never changes his love. He sometimes hides, and he sometimes chides; but at all times he loves. When he hides his face from his people, for a moment; he still, with everlasting kindness will have mercy on them. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee. (Isa. 54:8, 10) Love makes alterations in the condition of God’s people; but those alterations make no change in God’s love. Love made a strange alteration in the state of the apostle Paul; who, of a persecuting, blaspheming, and injurious Saul, was made, not only a believer in Christ, but a preacher of the everlasting gospel. But this wonderful change in him, produced none in God, nor in his love. But if things be so, you’ll say, ” Then God loves his people with the same love, before conversion, as after.” And where is the great hurt of saying so? For once, I will assert, he does; and a very few considerations will bring you to an acknowledgment of it. Let us a little consider, the instances of God’s love, before and after conversion, and compare them together; from whence we may be able to conclude which exceeds. I might take notice of God’s love in choosing them in Christ; in making a covenant of grace with him, on their account; and in putting both their persons and their grace into his hands which are all great instances of love, before conversion. But I shall only observe to you three great gifts of Gods love to his people before conversion; which, I think, can never be equaled by any instance after conversion. And they are these,

1. God’s gift of himself to them: for God has, in his everlasting covenant (and this long before conversion) made over himself unto his people. The tenure of which runs thus, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

2. The great gift of his Son to them, and for them; in which he has shewn the exceeding greatness of his love towards them. Herein is love, says the apostle, not that we loved God: (so far from it, that we were enemies to him; for it was, while we were yet sinners, that Christ died for us) but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10; John 3:16; Rom. 5:6, 8, 10)

3. The great gift of the Spirit, who is sent into the hearts of God’s people, previous to conversion, in order to effect that great work; namely, to convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. And now, having observed these things, I am ready to ask, Can any greater instance of God’s love to his people, after conversion, be produced? If the heavenly glory itself should be mentioned, with all the joys of that delightful state; I deny it to he a greater instance of God’s love, than the gift of himself, or that of his Son, of that of his Spirit. And, indeed, all that God does in time, or will do to eternity, is only telling his people, how much he loved them from everlasting; all is but, as it were, a comment upon that ancient love of his. If, then, no greater instance of love can be produced, after conversion, than was before, we need neither to be afraid, nor ashamed to say, That God loves his people with the same love before conversion, as he does after.

This doctrine, I am sensible, is not easily digested; and therefore, many distinctions are formed, in order to lay it aside. Some distinguish God’s love into Antecedent and Consequent; a distinction without any foundation in the word of God; and is, indeed, in itself a mere jargon of words, which convey no proper ideas of God’s love: but such as are derogatory to the glory of his being and perfections, and serve only to introduce confusion and distress in the minds of men.

There is another distinction of God’s love, which I have observed pretty much obtain among persons, though as groundless as the former. It is this, God loves his people before conversion, with a love of benevolence, or goodwill. He wishes them well; but he does not love them with a live of complacency, till after conversion. But purely the Lord Jesus Christ loved his people, with a low of complacency, before conversion; for, it is said, from the beginning, or ever the earth was, his delights were with the sons of men. (Prov. 8:23-31) The Hebrew word translated delights, is not only in the plural number, but its radical letters are doubled; which, according to the usage of that language, always increases the signification of the word: so that it is expressive of the exceeding greatness of Christ’s delight and complacency, which he took in his people. Nay, he seems to have taken a pleasure in the fore-views of the very places where he knew his elect should dwell: for it is said, that he was rejoicing in the habitable parts of his earth. And now, why God the Father should not love them with the same love the Son did, I cannot see. God’s love is invariably the same, as his nature and essence are. It does indeed appear more in some acts of God than in others and is more clearly manifest at one time than another; but in itself it is always the same. All the difference between God’s love before, and after conversion, lies in the manifestation of it. It is manifested at, and after conversion; and that sometimes more, and sometimes less; but was not at all manifested before. But the change is in us, and not in God’s love.

But if this doctrine be true, you will say, God must love his people in their sins. Well, and where is the hurt of saying he does? It would have been miserable, to all intents and purposes, with you and me, had he not done so. When he saw us wallowing in our blood, in all the impurity of our nature, with our numerous sins and transgressions attending us; had not then his time, been a time of love, had he not then spread his skirt over us, and manifested his covenant grace to us, we had never been his. Perhaps it may be replied, according to this notion, God takes pleasure in the sins of his people, but where is the reason so to conclude? What, can no distinction be made between God’s taking delight in the persons of his elect, and his taking delight in their sins? The distinction is allowed after conversion; that God loves the persons of his people, though he hates their sins. And why may not the same distinction he allowed before, as after conversion ? We know that God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, or look upon iniquity: that he takes no pleasure in sin, neither shall evil dwell with him, but hates all the workers of iniquity. We abhor and detest all notions to the contrary; yet firmly believe the unchangeableness of God’s love to his people. It may he asked, how is it possible that a person should be a child of wrath, and an object of love, at one and the same time? For the elect of God are by nature children of wrath even as others: how then at the same time can they be the objects of Love? I answer, how was Jesus Christ the object of his Father’s Love and wrath, at one and the same time? Why it was as he bore two different characters, and stood in two different relations to his Father; viz. That of a Son, and that of a surety. As he was the Son of God, he was always the object of his love and delight; but as he was the sinner’s surety, he was the object of his wrath and displeasure. Hence it is said, thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wrath with thine anointed, (Psa. 89:38)with thy Messiah, or Christ. But yet even when he poured forth his wrath upon him to the uttermost, on account of the sins of his people; when he ordered Justice to draw the sword, and sheath it in him, his love towards him was not in the least abated. Thus also the elect of God, considered in different views, may be truly said to be the children of wrath, and yet objects of love at one and the same time. Considered in Adam, and under a covenant of works, they were children of wrath; exposed to the curses of God’s righteous law, and liable to the wrath of God. But as considered in Christ, and under the covenant of grace, they always were, and ever will he the objects of God’s love.

Nor has this doctrine any tendency to encourage licentiousness; or to discourage the performance of good works; or to prejudice true humiliation for sin; but all the reverse. The consideration of this, that God loved me, before I loved him; nay, when I was an enemy to him; that his thoughts were running out on my salvation, when I had no thoughts of him, or concern for myself; lays me under ten thousand times greater obligations to serve, fear, and glorify him, than a supposition that he began to love me, when I began to love him, or because I did so, can possibly do. This may he a full answer to those who ask where is the usefulness of this doctrine?

7. If we inquire into the excellency of God’s love, it is preferable to all creature enjoyments; thy loving kindness is better than life. And if so, it must be better than all the comforts and pleasures of life. The streams of this river of God’s love, make glad the city of God. A sense of it makes the believer cheerful under all his trials, and fixes his confidence in God. How excellent is thy loving kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. Psalm 34:7. But I proceed,

II. To enquire what it is, to have our hearts directed into this Love. And,

1. To have our hearts directed into the love of God, is to be led into it, as it were, by a straight line; for so the word κατευθύ ναι, here used, properly signifies. Now it is the work of the Spirit of God, to lead souls into the love of God, directly, at once, in a straight line; and not in a round about way, as some persons are led, being directed by false guides; who tell them, they must go through the valley of humiliation, and up the hill of obedience, before they can get into the love of God. But the Spirit of God; leads the soul directly into it, independent of all its obedience and humiliation for sin: which love, when directed into, will set persons in the road of obedience, and put them upon humiliation for sin, in another way and manner.

2. To have our hearts directed into the love of God, is to be led into it further and further; so as to be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth of it. This work is progressive, and may very well be represented by Ezekiel’s waters; which were first up to the ankles, then to the knees, and then to the loins; but after that, they were waters to swim in, a river that. could not be passed over, Ezek. 47:3-5.

3. To have our hearts directed into the love of God, is to be led into it, so as to know our own particular interest in it. Thus the apostle Paul knew that God loved him in particular, and was persuaded that nothing should be able to separate him from it, Rom. 8:38, 39.

4. To have our hearts directed into the love of God, is so to be led into it, as to have our hearts affected with it; and influenced by it. A man may have notions of God’s love in his head, who never felt the power of it upon his heart: and I am afraid that some persons are more solicitous to have their heads filled with notions about it, than to have their hearts and lives influenced by it. But our apostle does not pray, that the Lord would direct their heads but their hearts, into the love of God. I now proceed,

III. To enquire who is meant by the Lord here; who is prayed unto to do this for the saints. The word κύιος, here used, is commonly in the New Testament applied to Jesus Christ; though the Holy Spirit is also sometimes signified thereby, as in 2 Cor. 3:17. Now the Lord is that Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. And, I am of opinion, that by the Lord, in our text, we are to understand the Holy Spirit; for he is very manifestly distinguished from God the Father, into whose love, and from Jesus Christ, into whose patient waiting for, the hearts of the saints are to be directed. So that we have here a proof of the doctrine of a Trinity of Persons. Besides, we are furnished from hence, with more arguments than one, in favour of the Divinity of the Holy Ghost; who is not only called the Lord, which is expressive of dominion: but is also said to direct the heart; which none but God can do. For the king’s heart, and so every man’s heart, is in the hands of the Lord, and in his only; as the rivers of waters, he turneth it whithersoever he will: (Prov. 21:1) and especially, he must be God, that can direct the heart into the love of God; which is one of the deep things of God, which the Spirit of God only can search into, and reveal to us. Besides, prayer is here directed to him; which is so considerable a part of divine worship, that it is sometimes put for the whole of it, as in Rom. 10:13, and therefore would never be offered up to the Spirit, was he not the true God. Now it is the work of the Spirit, to direct souls into the love of God. He not only takes of the things of Christ (his person, blood, and righteousness) and shews them to us, and our interest in them; but he takes also of the things of the Father, and particularly his love, he sheds it abroad in our hearts, and directs our hearts into it; and, in so doing, acts the part of a Comforter to us. I now come,

IV. To enquire into the usefulness of having our hearts directed into the love of God. And,

1. It is very useful to increase our love to God. Never was love to God, to Christ, to his gospel, people, ways, and ordinances, more cold than it is now. Great need there is to have it revived and increased; and nothing can more effectually do it, than this, to have our hearts directed into the Love of God. It was this, which, being let down into our hearts, first produced our love to God; and which only can animate and excite it, when it is grown cold. According to the perception we have of God’s love to us, does our love to him rise. Her sins, which were many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, same loveth little, Luke 7:4.

2. It is very useful to promote our love to one another. There is a very visible decay of brotherly love among the saints, in this day; as is manifest from those discords, divisions, contentions, and backbitings, which every where abound in churches. Now nothing is more likely to retrieve our love to one another, than to have our hearts directed into the love of God. The primitive saints having a large effusion of the Spirit upon them, and a large sense of the love of God to them, were full of affection to each other. Insomuch that they had no need to be stirred up; for they were taught of God to love one another. Nay, even in Tertullian’s time, so strong and vehement was their love to each other, that the very Heathens could not but take notice of them, as they walked about the streets, and say, Vide, ut se invicem diligant. See, how they love one another! No greater incentive to this duty is there than the love of God and of Christ. Hence the apostle John, after having discoursed of the love of God in sending his Son to die for sinners, thus argues, Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another: well knowing, that nothing could more vehemently provoke unto it.

3. It is very useful to enlarge our obedience to God. And indeed, it seems to be with this view, that the apostle puts up this petition here. In the preceding verse he expresses his confidence in these Thessalonians, that they both did, and would do, the things that were commanded them: and in order to that, he prays, that the Lord would direct their hearts into the love of God; knowing, that nothing would more enlarge their hearts, to run with cheerfulness in the ways of God’s commandments. ‘Tis this which constrains souls to live to the glory of God; and makes even those that were slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Never was there more need of having our hearts directed into the love of God than now ; when there is such a neglect of duty among professors; not only in their closets and families, but also in the church of God.

4. It is very useful to enable us to mourn for sin aright. We have great reason to be humbled before God, and to mourn both for our own sins, and for the sins of others. But we never mourn more, nor better, than when impressed with a sense of God’s love. It is this which throws our humiliation for sin into a proper channel. Our sorrow for it never rises higher; nor are our shame for it, and detestation of it more increased, than when we are made sensible of God’s pacifying love towards us. See Ezek. 16:61-63. It was a look of love from Christ that sent Peter out of the hall to weep bitterly, after he had so shamefully denied his Lord; and it was a discovery of Christ’s love to the poor woman, which fetched those floods of tears from her eyes, and which put her upon washing Christ’s feet therewith, and wiping them with the hairs of her head.

5. It is very useful to enable us to bear the cross of Christ cheerfully; and perhaps that may be the reason why this other clause is added, And unto the patient waiting for Christ. This may intend, either a patient waiting for Christ’s second Advent, and is what our version seems to regard; or a patient bearing the cross for the sake of Christ. The words in the original, will admit of either sense. It is the saints’ duty to bear all reproaches and trials, patiently, for the sake of Christ; and that, in imitation of him who has left them an example. And great need they have to consider him, who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself; lest they be weary, and faint in their minds. And not only a consideration of Christ’s person, but a sense of God’s love is very requisite to support them under adverse dispensations of providence; which when they have, they glory in tribulations; knowing, that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us. (Rom. 5:3-5) Wherefore the apostle maybe thought to pray, that their hearts might be directed into the love of God, in order that they might patiently bear all things for the sake of Christ. Thus having considered the nature of God’s love, and shewn you what it is to be directed into it, I shall close all with those hearty petitions of the apostle in the two last verses of the preceding chapter . . . Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

Having considered those attributes of God which bear a likeness to affections in men; I proceed to consider those which in them may be called virtues; as holiness, justice, or righteousness, truth, or faithfulness; and shall begin with the holiness of God. And,

1. First, show that it is in God, and belongs to him, and what it is. The scriptures most abundantly ascribe it to him; he is very frequently called “holy”, and “the Holy One”; this title he takes to himself, (Isa. 40:25; Hoses 11:9) and is often given him by others, angels and men; and, indeed, without holiness he would not be that perfect being he is; unholiness is the imperfection of every rational being in whom it is; it is what has made angels and men both impure and imperfect; and since no men, even the best, are without sin; therefore none are in themselves perfect. But as for God, his ways and works are perfect, and so is his nature; being just and true, and without iniquity (Deut. 32:4). Holiness is the purity and rectitude of his nature; whose nature is so pure, as to be without spot or stain, or anything like it: he is light and purity itself, and in him is no darkness or impurity at all; as “he is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity”, so he is of a purer heart and mind than to have one sinful thought in it: his thoughts are not as ours; he is the pattern of purity and holiness, and to be copied after: men should be holy, as and because he is holy; it is one of the imitable perfections of God, in which he is to be followed; though it cannot be attained to, as it is in him, (Lev. 11:44, 45, 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15, 16).

Holiness is an essential attribute of God; it is his nature and essence; it is himself; he is holiness itself; “he swears by himself, because he can swear by no greater”; and he will not swear by any less, and yet he swears by his holiness, (Heb. 6:13; Ps. 89:35; Amos 4:2, 6:8) which places put and compared together show that the holiness of God is himself; and it has been thought to be not so much a particular and distinct attribute of itself, as the lustre, glory, and harmony of all the rest; and is what is called “the beauty of the Lord”, (Ps. 27:4) as it is the beauty of the good angels, and of regenerate men; and, indeed, what is wisdom or knowledge, without holiness, but craft and cunning? or what is power, without it, but tyranny, oppression, and cruelty? but God is “glorious in holiness”, (Ex. 15:11) this dives a lustre to all his perfections, and is the glory of them; and therefore none of them are or can be exercised in a wrong manner, or to any bad purpose. And as it is his nature and essence, it is infinite and unbounded; it cannot be greater than it is, and can neither be increased nor diminished; when, therefore, men are exhorted to “sanctify” the Lord, and are directed to pray that his “name” may be “hallowed”, or sanctified, (Isa. 8:13; Matthew 6:9) the meaning is not as if he was to be, or could be made more holy than he is; but that his holiness be declared, manifested, and celebrated more and more; it is so perfect that nothing can be added to it. And as it is his nature and essence, it is immutable and invariable; the holiness of a creature is changeable, as the holiness of angels and men; which has appeared by the apostasy of the one, and the fall of the other; and the holiness of saints, though its principle is the same, the acts and exercises are variable. But God is always the same holy Being, without any variableness, or shadow of turning. He is originally holy, he is so in and of himself, and of no other; there is none prior and superior to him, from whom he could derive or receive any holiness; as his Being is of himself, so is his holiness, which is himself: the holiness of angels and men is not of themselves, but of God; he is the fountain of holiness to all rational creatures that partake of it; it is peculiar to him, yea, only in him; Hannah says, in her song, “There is none holy as the Lord”, (1 Sam. 2:2). In another song yet to be sung, the song of Moses and of the Lamb, it is said, “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy” (Rev. 15:4). The holiness of creatures is but a shadow of holiness, in comparison of the holiness of God; the holy angels are chargeable with folly in his sight, and they cover their faces with their wings, while they celebrate the perfection of God’s holiness; as conscious to themselves, that theirs will not bear to be compared with his (Job 4:17,18; Isa. 6:2, 3). God only is essentially, originally, underivatively, perfectly, and immutably holy.

This must be understood not of one person in the Deity, to the exclusion of the rest; as not of the Spirit, though he is peculiarly called the “Holy Ghost”, and the Holy Spirit, yet not to the exclusion of the Father and Son; so not of the Father, to the exclusion of the Son and Spirit; for as they are the one God, who is a Spirit, they partake of the same common and undivided nature, and all the perfections of it, and of this with the rest. Hence we read of the holy Elohim, or divine Persons, in the plural number; and of the Holy Ones, the Holy Father, the Holy Son, and the Holy Spirit, (Josh. 24:19; Prov. 30:5; Dan. 4:17). And no doubt respect is had to the holiness of the three divine persons, by the seraphim, when they said, “holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts!” (Isa. 6:3) and by the four beasts, or living creatures, continually employed in the same divine service, celebrating the perfections of God in much the same language, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty!” (Rev. 4:8). As there is no doubt made of the Deity of the Father, there can be none of his holiness: our Lord addresses him under the relation of “Father”, and under the epithet of “Holy Father”, (John 17:11) and all that has been said of the holiness of God belongs to him; of which there can be no question made: and it is as true of the Son as of the Father; for as the Father is the holy Father, he must be the holy Son, since he is of the same nature, and is “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person”; and as the Father is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, so is the Son; as the Father loves righteousness and hates iniquity, this is expressly said of the Son, (Heb. 1:8, 9) he is eminently called “the Holy One of God”, (Ps. 16:10) and “the Holy One of Israel”, more than thirty times in the prophecy of Isaiah; and particularly is so called along with the titles of Redeemer and Husband, which are peculiar to the second Person, the Son of God, the Redeemer of his people, and the Husband of his church, (Isa. 47:4, 54:5) yea, he is called the “most holy”, who was anointed with the Holy Ghost above his fellows, and “having the Spirit without measure”, (Dan. 9:24) the title of holy he takes to himself when addressing the church, which is an emblem of the purest state of the church militant on earth, the church of Philadelphia; “These things saith he that is holy” (Rev. 3:7). Nay, the devil himself gives it to him; “I know thee, who thou art, the Holy One of God” (Luke 4:34). Besides, Christ is not only holy in his human nature, even perfectly so, and sanctified and set apart to his office as Mediator, by his Father; for which office holiness is a necessary requisite and qualification; but he is the Fountain of holiness to his church and people; they are sanctified in him and by him; he is made sanctification to them, and all the holiness, or holy graces that are in them, are all from him, (John 1:14, 16) which could not be, if he was not holy, and even holiness itself. And as for the blessed Spirit, the third Person in the Deity, the epithet of “holy” is commonly given to him, as before observed; and very truly, since he is of the same nature with the Father and the Son; and so he is holy by nature and essence, and as appears by his graces, operations, and influences; and by his being grieved, speaking after the manner of men, with the sins and impurities of men; the reason of which is, because they are so contrary to his pure and holy nature, that he cannot bear them, but expresses his dislike and displeasure at them (Eph. 4:29, 30). And all this will be still more clear and manifest, by considering,

2. Secondly, The instances whereto and whereby the holiness of God is displayed, which are his works, and actions, and proceedings towards his creatures; God is holy in all his works; or his holiness is manifest in them, and by them (Ps. 145:17).

2a. The holiness of God the Father; which is visible,

2a1. In the works of creation; for as he made all things by his Son, not as an instrument, but as co-efficient with him, so when he overlooked them, he pronounced them very good; which he would not have done, had there been anything impure or unholy in them. Angels, not only those that stood, but those that fell, were originally holy, as made by him: the elect angels continue in the holiness in which they were created; and the angels that sinned are not in the estate in which they were at their creation; they kept not their first estate, which was an estate of purity and holiness; and abode not in the truth, in the uprightness and integrity in which they were formed (Jude 1:6; John 8:44). And as for man, he was made after the image, and in the likeness of God, which greatly consisted in holiness; a pure, holy, and upright creature he was; and had a law given him, holy, just, and good, as the rule of his obedience, and which was inscribed on his heart; some remains of which are to be found in his fallen posterity, and even in the Gentiles.

2a2. The holiness of God appears in his works of providence; which, though many of them are dark and intricate, not easily penetrated into, and to be accounted for; yet there is nothing criminal and sinful in them: the principal thing objected to the holiness of God in his providences, is his suffering sin to be in the world; but then, though it is by his voluntary permission, or permissive will, yet he is neither the author nor abettor of it; he neither commands it, nor approves of it, nor persuades to it, nor tempts nor forces to it; but all the verse, forbids it, disapproves of it, dissuades from it, threatens to punish for it, yea, even chastises his own people for it; and, besides, overrules it for great good, and for his own glory; as the fall of Adam, the sin of Joseph’s brethren, the Jews crucifixion of Christ; which have been instanced in, and observed under a former attribute: wherefore the dispensations of God, in his providence, are not to be charged with unholiness on this account.

2a3. The holiness of Jehovah the Father is to be observed in those acts of grace which are peculiar to him; as in choosing some in Christ his Son to everlasting life, before the world began. Now though not the holiness of the creature, nor even the foresight of it, is the cause of this act; yet holiness, or the sanctification of the Spirit, is fixed as a means in it; and it is the will of God, that those whom he chooses and appoints to salvation should partake of it, or come to salvation through it; nay, he has not only chosen them “through” it, as a means, but he has chosen them to it, as a subordinate end; he has chosen them to be holy in part, in this life, and perfectly in the life to come; and holiness of heart and life, is the evidence of interest in it, and nothing more powerfully excites and engages to it. The covenant which he has made with his Son Jesus Christ, on the behalf of the chosen ones, provides abundantly for their holiness, both internal and external; see (Ezek. 36:25-27) and the promises of it serve greatly to promote it, and to influence the saints to be “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). And in this covenant is laid up a rod of correction, in love, to chastize with it the sins of God’s people (Ps. 89:29-34). Justification is an act of God’s grace towards them; it is God, even God the Father, that justifies, through the imputation of his Son’s righteousness to them; by which the holy law of God is so far from being made void, that it is established, magnified, and made honourable: nor are justified persons exempted from obedience to it, but are more strongly bound and constrained to serve it; and though God justifies the ungodly, yet not without a righteousness provided for them, and imputed to them: nor does he justify, vindicate, or approve of their ungodliness, nor connive at it; but turns it from them, and them from that: and faith, which receives the blessing of justification from the Lord, by which men perceive their interest in it, and enjoy the comfort of it, is an operative grace, works by love to God, to Christ, and his people; and is attended with good works, the fruits of righteousness: the like may be observed with respect to other acts of the Father’s grace; as adoption, pardon, &c.

2b. Secondly, The holiness of the Son of God is to be seen in all his works; in the works of creation and providence, in common with his divine Father; and in all his works of grace; in giving himself to sanctify his church, and make it a glorious one, without spot or wrinkle, through his blood and righteousness; in redeeming his people from all iniquity, to purify them to himself a peculiar people; in bearing their sins, and making satisfaction for them, that they might live unto righteousness, and that the body of sin might be destroyed, (Eph. 5:25, 27; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24; Rom. 6:6) and so in the execution of all his offices; as a Prophet, he has appeared to be an Holy One; the faith delivered by him to the saints, is a most holy faith, wholesome words, doctrines according to godliness: as a Priest, he is holy and harmless, separate from sinners, and has offered up himself without spot to God; and though he makes intercession for transgressors, it is upon the foot of his sacrifice and righteousness: as a King, all his administrations are in purity and righteousness; and his laws, commands, and ordinances, are Holy Ones; and when he comes as judge of the world, he will appear without sin, and “judge the world in righteousness”.

2c. Thirdly, The holiness of the blessed Spirit, is visible in the formation of the human nature of Christ; in separating that mass out of which it was framed in the virgin; in sanctifying it, and preserving it from the taint and contagion of original sin; in filling the human nature, when formed, with his holy gifts and graces, and that without measure; and through him it was offered up without spot; and he was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the Spirit of holiness, through the resurrection from the dead. Moreover, his holiness is manifest in the sanctification of the chosen of God, and the redeemed of the Lamb, which is therefore called, “the sanctification of the Spirit”, (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2) in convincing them of sin, of the evil nature and just demerit of it; in converting them from it; in calling them with an holy calling, and to holiness; in implanting principles of grace and holiness in them; in purifying their hearts by faith, through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus; in leading them in the way of holiness, in which men, though fools, shall not err; and in carrying on, and perfecting the work of sanctification in them, “without which none shall see the Lord”.