By Aaron Hills
PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS
On this subject we shall use a somewhat modified argument of John Wesley, which is unanswerable, and further supplement it by arguments of our own.
"A short, plain treatise on this subject," said Wesley, "is what serious men have long desired, and what is here offered to those whom God has endowed with love and meekness of wisdom.
By the saints I mean those who are holy, or righteous in the judgment of God Himself; those who are endowed with the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience; those who are grafted into the good Olive tree, the Spiritual, invisible church; those who are branches of the true vine, of whom Christ says, "I am the vine; ye are the branches"; those who so effectually know Christ, as by that knowledge to have escaped the pollutions of the world; those who see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, of the witness and fruit of the Spirit; those who live by faith in the Son of God; those who are sanctified by the blood of the Covenant; those to whom all or any of these characters belong. I mean by the term saints." Now if these people may not be called saints, then there are no such beings on the earth. If Mr. Wesley can show that such people may fall away fatally, then he has won his case, against, the doctrine of Calvinism. "Once in grace, always in grace."
Mr. Wesley continues: "By falling away we mean, not barely falling into sin. This, it is granted, they may. But can they fall totally? Can any of these so fall from God as to perish everlastingly? I am sensible either side of this question is attended with great difficulties, such as reason alone could never remove. Therefore, "to the law and the testimony." Let the living oracles decide; and if these speak for us, we neither seek nor want further witness.
On this authority I believe a saint may fall away; that one who is holy or righteous in the judgment of God Himself may never-the-less so fall from God as to perish everlastingly.
I. For thus saith the Lord: "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" (Ezek. 18: 24). That this is to be understood of eternal death appears from the 26th verse: "When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; (here is temporal death), for his iniquity which he hath done he shall die." (Here is death eternal.) It appears further, from the whole scope of the chapter, which is to prove, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (v. 4). If you say, "The soul here means the body," I answer, that will die, whether you sin or no. Again, thus saith the Lord: "When I shall say to the righteous that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, (yea, or to that promise as absolute and unconditional) and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed he shall die for it" (Ezek. 33: 13).
Again: "When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby" (v. 18). Therefore one who is holy and righteous, in the judgment of God Himself, may yet so fall as to perish everlastingly."
Objection. "But," some one asks, "how is this consistent with what God declared elsewhere? If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments, I will visit their offenses with the rod, and their sin with scourges. Nevertheless my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him nor suffer my truth to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. I have sworn once by my holiness, that I will not fail David" (Ps. 89:30-35).
Wesley's answer. "There is no inconsistency between one declaration and the other. The prophet declares the righteous judgment of God against every righteous man who falls from his righteousness. The Psalmist declares the old loving kindness which God sware unto David. . . . May not every man see that the covenant here spoken of relates wholly to David and his seed or children? (as a family) while the other is spoken to men as individuals. Where, then, is the inconsistency between the most absolute promise made to a particular family, and that solemn account which God has given of His way of dealing with all mankind?
"Beside, the very covenant mentioned in these words is not absolute, but conditional. The condition of repentance, in case of forsaking God's law, was implied that, this condition failing, not being performed, God did also fail David. He did "alter the thing that had gone out of His lips," and yet without any impeachment of his truth. He "abhorred and forsook His anointed," verse 38, the seed of David, whose throne if they had repented, should have been "as the days of heaven." He did break the covenant of His servant, and cast his crown to the ground" (v. 39). So vainly are these words of the Psalmist brought to contradict the plain full testimony of the prophet!
"Nor is there any contradiction between this testimony of God by Ezekiel, and those words which he spake by Jeremiah: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee." For do these words assert that no righteous man ever turns from his righteousness? No such thing. They do not touch the question, but simply declare God's love to the Jewish church. To see this in the clearest light you only need to read the context. "At the same time, saith the Lord, I will be a God to all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people," etc. (Jer. 31: 1-4).
Suffer me here to observe, once for all, a fallacy which is constantly used by almost all writers on this point. They perpetually beg the question, by applying to particular persons, assertions, or prophecies which relate only to the church in general; and some of them only to the Jewish Church or nation, as distinguished from all other people.
II. 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. For thus saith the inspired apostle: "War a good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck" (1 Tim. 1: 18, 19).
Observe 1st. These men (such as Hymeneus and Alexander) had once the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience, which they once had, or they could not have "put it away."
Observe 2nd. They made "ship-wreck" of the faith, which necessarily implies the total and final loss of it. For a vessel once wrecked can never be recovered. It is totally and finally lost.
And the Apostle himself, in his Second Epistle to Timothy, mentions one of these two as irrecoverably lost. "Alexander," says he, "did me much evil; the Lord shall reward him according to his works" (2 Tim. 4: 14). Therefore, 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."
Objection. "But how can this be reconciled with the words of the Lord: 'He that believeth shall be saved?"
Answer. "Do you think these words mean, 'He that believes' at this moment 'shall be saved' certainly and inevitably? If this interpretation be good, then, 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," Therefore that interpretation cannot be good. The plain meaning, then, of the whole sentence is: "He that believeth (if he continue in faith), shall be saved; he that believeth not (if he continue in unbelief), shall be damned."
Objection. "But does not Christ say elsewhere, "He that believeth hath everlasting life?" (John 3: 36), and "He that believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life?" (v. 24).
Answer. I answer. 1. The love of God is everlasting life. It is, in substance, the life of heaven. Now, every one that believes, loves God, and therefore, hath everlasting life." 2. Every one that believes "is" therefore, "passed from (spiritual) death unto life." 3. "Shall not come into condemnation," if he endureth in the faith unto the end; according to our Lord's own words, "He that endureth unto the end shall be saved"; and "Verily I say unto you, 'If a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death'" (John 8: 51).
III. Those who are grafted into the good Olive tree, the spiritual, invisible church, may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly. For thus saith the Apostle: "Some of the branches are broken off, and thou art grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the Olive-tree. Be not high-minded but fear; if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he spare not thee. Behold, the goodness and severity of God! On them which fell severity; but toward thee goodness, if thou continue in His goodness; otherwise thou shalt be cut off" (Rom. 11: 17-20-22). We may observe here:
1. The persons here spoken to were actually grafted into the Olive-tree.
2. This Olive-tree is not barely the outward visible Church but the invisible, consisting of holy believers. So the text: "If the first fruit be holy the lump is holy; and if the root be holy so are the branches" (v. 16). "And because of unbelief, they were broken off, and thou standest by faith."
3. These holy believers were still liable to be cut off, from the invisible church, into which they were then grafted.
4. Here is not the least intimation of those who were so cut off being ever grafted in again. Therefore those who are grafted into the good Olive-tree, the spiritual invisible church, may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly.
Objection. "But how does this agree with the twenty-ninth verse, 'The gifts and callings of God are without repentance'?"
Answer. "The preceding verse shows: 'As touching the election (the unconditional election of the Jewish nation), they are beloved for the Father's sake,-for the sake of their forefathers.' God has never regretted calling the Jewish nation, and He has blessings still in store for them as a nation. The words refer to the promised blessings to the nation: 'God is not a man that He should lie, neither the son of man that He should repent' (Num. 22: 19). The passage has no reference to the eternal salvation of individuals."
Objection. "But do you not hereby make God changeable? Whereas with Him is 'no variableness'" (James 1: 17).
Answer. "By no means, God is unchangeably holy; therefore He always loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity." He is unchangeably good; therefore He pardoneth all that "repent" and "believe the Gospel." And He is unchangeably just; therefore He "rewardeth every man according to his works." But all this hinders not His resisting the proud, to whom He gave great grace, when they were humble. Nay, His unchangeablehess, itself requires that, if they grow high-minded, God should cut them off; that there should be a proportionable change in all the divine dispensations toward them.
Objection. "But how then is God faithful?"
Answer. "In fulfilling every promise He hath made, to all to whom it is made, all who fulfill the condition of that promise. More particularly,
1. "God is faithful" in that "He will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able to bear."
2. The Lord is faithful to establish you and keep you from evil (if you put your trust in Him), from all the evil that you might otherwise suffer, "through unreasonable and wicked men" (2'Thess. 3:2, 3).
3. "Quench not the Spirit; hold fast that which is good; abstain from all appearance of evil; and your whole spirit, soul, and body, shall be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it" (1 Thess. 5: 19-23).
4. "Be not disobedient unto the heavenly calling; and God is faithful by whom ye were called, to confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:8, 9). Yet, notwithstanding all this, unless you fulfill the condition, you cannot obtain the promise.
Objection. "Nay, but are not all the promises, Yea and Amen?" Answer. "In many cases the condition is not expressed. But this does not prove there is none implied. No promise can be expressed in a more absolute form, than those cited from the eighty-ninth Psalm. And yet a condition was implied even there, though none was expressed.
Objection. "But there is no condition expressed or implied, in those words of St. Paul: 'I am persuaded that neither death nor life, 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: 39)."
Answer. "Suppose there is not, (which will bear dispute) yet what will this prove? Just this much, that the Apostle was at that time fully persuaded of his own perseverance. And I doubt not many believers at this day have the same persuasion, termed in Scripture 'the full assurance of hope.' But this does not prove that every believer shall persevere, any more than that every believer is thus fully persuaded of his perseverance."
IV. 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. For thus saith the blessed Lord Himself: "I am the true Vine and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit He taketh away. I am the Vine, ye are the branches. If a man abide not in me he is cast forth as a branch and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (John 15: 1-6). Here we may observe: 1. The persons here spoken of were in Christ, branches of the true vine. 2. Some of these branches abide not in Christ, but the Father taketh them away. 3. The branches which abide not are cast forth, cast out from Christ and His Church. 4. They are not only cast forth but withered; consequently are never grafted in again; nay, 5. They are not only cast forth and withered, but also cast into the fire; and 6. They are burned. 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.
By this clear, indisputable declaration of our Lord we may interpret those which might be otherwise liable to dispute; wherein it is certain, whatever He meant besides, He did not mean to contradict Himself. For example: "This is the Father's will, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing." Most sure, all that God hath given Him, or as it is expressed in the next verse, "every one that believeth on Him"-namely, to the end-"He will raise up at the last day, to reign with Him forever."
Again: "I am the living bread; if any man eat of this bread, (by faith, and continue eating) he shall live forever" (John 6: 51). True if he continue to eat thereof, and keep up the vital relation with Christ, and who can doubt it?
Again: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand" (John 10: 27-29). In the preceding text, the condition is only implied; in this, it is plainly expressed. They are my sheep that hear my voice (continually), and (always) follow me in all holiness. And, "if ye do these things, ye shall never fail." "None shall pluck you out of my hand."
Again. Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end (John 13: 1). "Having loved His own" (namely the apostles, as the next words, "which were in the world" evidently show) "He loved them unto the end" of His life, and manifested that love to the last.
Once more: "Holy Father, keep through Thine own name, those whom Thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are one" (John 17: 11). Great stress has been laid on this text; and it has been hence inferred, that all those whom the Father had given Him, (a phrase frequently occurring in this chapter) must infallibly persevere unto the end. And yet in the very next verse, our Lord Himself declares that one of those whom the Father had given Him did not persevere unto the end, but perished everlastingly. His own words are: "Those that Thou gavest me I have kept and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition" (John 17: 12). So one of these was finally lost! "Those whom thou hast given me," signifies here, if not in most other places, the twelve apostles, and them only.
On this occasion, I cannot but observe another common instance of begging the question, of taking for granted what ought to be proved; it is usually laid down as an indisputable truth that whatsoever our Lord speaks to or of, His apostles is to be applied to all believers. But this cannot be allowed by any who impartially search the Scriptures. They cannot allow, without clear and particular proof, that any one of those texts which related primarily to the apostles (as all men grant) belong to any but them.
V. Those who so effectually know Christ as by that knowledge to have escaped the pollutions of the world, may yet fall back into those pollutions, and perish everlastingly.
For thus saith the Apostle Peter: "If, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (the only possible way of escaping them), they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they had known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered them" (2 Pet. 2: 20, 21). That the "knowledge of the way of righteousness, which they had attained, was an inward, experimental knowledge, is evident from that other expression, "they had escaped the pollutions of the world," an expression parallel to that in the preceding chapter, verse 4, "having escaped the corruption that is in the world." And in both chapters the effect is ascribed to the same cause, - termed in the first, "the knowledge of Him who hath called us to glory and virtue," in the second, more explicitly, "the knowledge of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."
And yet they lost that experimental knowledge of Christ, and the way of righteousness; they fell back into the same pollutions, they had escaped, and were again "entangled therein and overcome." They "turned from the holy commandment delivered to them," so their "latter end was worse than their beginning."
Therefore those who so effectually know Christ as by that knowledge to have escaped the pollutions of the world may yet fall back into those pollutions and perish everlastingly. And this is perfectly consistent with St. Peter's words in the first chapter of his former Epistle: "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." Undoubtedly so are all they 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.
VI. Those who "see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," and 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 thus saith the inspired writer to the Hebrews: "It is impossible for those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, if they shall fall away, (and then fell away-New Version) to renew them again to repentance seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame (Heb. 6: 4-6).
Must not every unprejudiced person see the expressions here used are so strong and clear, that they cannot, without gross and palpable wresting, be understood of any but true believers?
1. They "were once enlightened,"-an expression familiar with the apostle Paul, and never applied by him to any but believers. So, "The God of our Lord Jesus Christ give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward that believe" (Eph. 1: 17-19). So again, "God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4: 6). This is a light which no unbelievers have. They are utter strangers to such enlightening. "The God of this world hath blinded the minds of them who believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should shine unto them" (verse 4).
2. "They had tasted of the heavenly gift, (emphatically so-called), and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost." So St. Peter likewise couples them together: "Be baptized for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2: 38), whereby the love of God was shed abroad in their hearts, with all the other fruits of the Spirit. Yea, it is remarkable that our Lord Himself, in His grand commission to St. Paul (to which the apostle probably alludes in these words) comprises all these three particulars: "I send thee to open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, (here contracted into that one expression, "they were enlightened"), that they may receive forgiveness of sins ("the heavenly gift") and "an inheritance among them that are sanctified" (Acts 26: 18); which are made "partakers of the Holy Ghost," of all the sanctifying influences of * the Spirit.
The expression, "They tasted of the heavenly gift," is taken from the Psalmist: "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps. 34: 8), As if he had said, Be ye as assured of his love as of anything you see with your eyes; and let the assurance thereof be sweet to your soul as honey is to your tongue. And yet those who had been thus "enlightened," had "tasted" this "gift," and been thus "partakers, of the Holy Ghost," so "fell away," that it was "impossible to renew them again to repentance."
Objection: "But the Apostle only makes a supposition: 'If they shall fall away.'"
Answer: "The Apostle makes no supposition at all. There is no 'if' in the original. The words are kai parapesontas-that is, in plain English, 'it is impossible to renew again unto repentance, those who were once enlightened, "and have fallen away"; therefore they must perish everlastingly.'"
Objection: "But if so, then farewell all my comfort!"
Answer: "Then your comfort depends on a poor foundation. My comfort stands, not on any opinion, either that a believer can, or cannot fall away, not on the remembrance of anything wrought in me yesterday; but on what is today; on my present knowledge of God in Christ, reconciling me to Himself; on my now beholding the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; walking in the light as He is in the light, and having fellowship with the Father and with the Son. My comfort is that through grace I now believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that His Spirit doth bear witness with my spirit that I am a child of God. I take comfort in this, and this only, that I see Jesus at the right hand of God; that I personally for myself, and not for another, have a hope full of immortality; that I feel the love of God shed abroad in my heart, being crucified to the world, and the world crucified to me. My rejoicing is this, the testimony of my conscience, that in simplicity and Godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God I have my conversation in this world.
Go and find, if you can, a more solid joy, a more blissful comfort, on this side of heaven. But this comfort is not shaken, be that opinion, true or false, whether the saints in general can, or cannot fall. If you take up with any other comfort short of this, you lean on the staff of a broken reed, which not only will not bear your weight, but will enter into your hand and pierce you.
VII. Those who live by faith may yet fall from God and perish everlastingly. For thus saith the same inspired writer. "The just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back my soul shall have no pleasure in him" (Heb. 10: 38). "The just"-the justified persons-"shall live by faith," even now shall he live, the life which is hid with Christ in God; and if he endure unto the end, he shall live with God forever. "But if any man draw back," saith the Lord, "my soul shall have no pleasure in him,"-that is, I will utterly cast him off; and accordingly the drawing back here spoken of is termed, in the verse immediately following, "drawing back to perdition."
Objection: "But the person supposed to draw back is not the same with him that is said to live by faith."
Answer: "I answer, 1. Who is it then? Can any man draw back from faith who never came to it? But, 2. had the text been fairly translated, there had been no pretense for this objection; for the original runs thus: 'But my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back my soul hath no pleasure in him' (Revised Version)."
Objection: "But the Apostle adds: 'we are not of them that draw back unto perdition.'"
Answer: "And what will you infer from thence? This is so far from contradicting what has been observed before, that it manifestly confirms it; It is a further proof that there are those who 'draw back unto perdition,' although the Apostle was not of the number. Therefore those who live by faith may yet so fall from God as to perish everlastingly."
Objection: But does not God say to everyone that lives by faith, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee?"
Answer: The whole passage runs thus: "Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have; for He hath said, 'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.' "True, provided "your conversation be without covetousness," and ye "be content with such things as ye have." Then ye may "boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.'" Do you not see,
1. That this promise relates only to temporal things?
2. That, even thus taken, it is not absolute, but conditional?
3. That the condition is expressly mentioned in the same sentence?
VIII. Those who are sanctified by the blood of the Covenant may so fall from God as to perish everlastingly. For thus again saith the Apostle: "If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin; but a certain looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witness. "Of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" (Heb. 10: 26-29). It is undeniably plain, 1. That the person mentioned here was once sanctified by the blood of the covenant. 2. That he afterward, by known, willful sin, trod under foot the Son of God. 3. That he hereby incurred a sorer punishment than death, namely, death everlasting.
Therefore those who are sanctified by the blood of the covenant may yet so fall as to perish everlastingly.
Objection: "What! Can the blood of Christ burn in hell? Or can the purchase of the blood of Christ go thither?"
Answer: I answer. 1. "The blood of Christ cannot burn in hell, no more than it can be spilled on the earth. The heavens must contain both His flesh and blood, until the restitution of all things. But, 2. If the oracles of God are true, one who was purchased by the blood of Christ may go thither. For he that was sanctified by the blood of Christ was purchased by the blood of Christ. But one who was sanctified by the blood of Christ may nevertheless go to hell, may fall under the fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries.
Objection: "Can a child of God, then, go to hell? Or can a man be a child of God today and a child of the devil tomorrow? If God is our Father once, is He not our Father always?"
Answer: "1. A child of God, that is, a true believer, (for he that believeth is born of God) while he continues a true believer, cannot go to hell. 2. If a believer make shipwreck of the faith, he is no longer a child of God; and then he may go to hell, yea, and he certainly will if he continues in unbelief. 3. If a believer may make shipwreck of faith, then a man that believes now may be an unbeliever some time hence; yea, very possibly tomorrow; but if so, he who is a child of God today, may be a child of the devil tomorrow. For, 4. God is the Father of them that believe, so long as they believe; but the devil is the father of them that believe not, whether they did once believe or no.
The sum of all is this: If the Scriptures are true, 1. Those who are holy or righteous in the judgment of God Himself: 2. Those who are endued with the faith that purifies the heart; that produces a good conscience; those who are grafted into the good Olive-tree, the spiritual, invisible Church; those who are branches of the true vine, of whom Christ says, I am the vine, ye are the branches; those who so effectually know Christ as by that knowledge to have escaped the pollutions of the world; 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; those who live by faith in the Son of God; those who are sanctified by the blood of the covenant, may nevertheless so jail from God as to perish everlastingly."
We have never seen this argument of Wesley's answered, and do not believe it can be.
II. The Bible continually warns the saints, as if there was real and constant danger of their backsliding fatally. It requires them to spend the time of their sojourning here in fear, and abounds in cautions and warnings and threatenings, that are most unaccountable, and illogical, and out of place if there is no possibility of fatal apostasy and the salvation of the saints is a revealed certainty. Can God reveal to us the fact, that we shall certainly be saved, and then call on us and exhort us to fear that we shall not be saved? Can He require us to doubt His word and His oath? If God has revealed the certainty of the salvation of all true saints, can any saint fear that he shall not be saved without down right unbelief? and can God approve, and even enjoin such fears?
Look at these amazing warnings.
1. 1 Cor. 10: 12. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he stand-eth take heed lest he fall."
2. "Be not high-minded but fear; for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will he spare thee."
3. "We entreat you that ye receive not the grace of God in vain." 2 Cor. 6: 1.
4. "Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God." Heb. 3: 12.
"Exhort one another, day by day, so long as it is called today; lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Heb. 3: 13.
5. "Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. Like as in the day of temptation, in the wilderness." Heb. 3: 8.
6. "Let us fear, therefore, lest haply, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it." Heb. 4: 1.
7. "Let us therefore give diligence to enter into the rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience." Heb. 4:11.
8. "Looking carefully, lest there be any man that falleth short of the grace of God." Heb. 12: 14-17.
9. "If ye call on Him as Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to each man's work, pass the time of your sojourning in fear." 1 Pet. 1: 17.
10. "Wherefore, brethren, give-the more diligence to make your calling and election sure." 2 Pet. 1: 10.
11. "Now I desire to put you in remembrance . . . how that the Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not the second time." Jude 5 (margin).
12. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life." Rev. 2: 10. Side by side with these solemn warnings of God I put this jumble of nonsense from a defender of the Calvinistic doctrine. "Once in grace always in grace." "No true saint who has an evidence, or an earnest of his acceptance with God, such as the true saint may have, has a right to fear for a moment that he shall fall nor has he a right to fear that he shall not be saved. I also add, that the Bible nowhere encourages or calls upon the saints to fear, that they shall not be saved, or that they shall be lost. It calls on them to fear something else, to fear to sin, or to apostatize, lest they should be lost, but not that they shall sin and be lost,"
When able men write such contradictions, the reason is, their mind is confused by a poor cause which they are laboring to defend.
III. The Bible has some most remarkable conditional sentences, which inferentially teach the possibility of fatally falling from grace. The following are specimens:
1. "Jehovah searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thought. If thou seek Him, He will be found of thee; but if thou forsake Him, He will cast thee off forever." 1 Chron. 28:9.
2. "He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved." Matt. 10: 22.
3. "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered." John 15: 6.
4. "To them that by patience in well-doing, seek for glory, and honor and incorruption, eternal life." Rom. 2:7.
5. "Be not high-minded, but fear; for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will He spare thee. Behold then, the goodness and severity of God; toward them that fell severity; but toward thee God's goodness, if thou continue in His goodness; otherwise, thou also shalt be cut off." Rom. 11: 20-22.
6. "I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage; lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected." 1 Cor. 9: 27.
7. "To present you holy and without blemish and unreproveable before Him; if so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and stedfast, and not moved away from the hope of the Gospel." Col. 1:23.
8. "Whose (Christ's) house are we, if we hold fast our boldness, and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end." Heb. 3: 6.
9. "For we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end." Heb. 3: 14.
10. "To him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of the tree of life." Rev. 2:7. "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death" (v. 11). "To him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of the hidden manna" (v. 17). "He that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations" (v. 26). "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come upon thee as a thief" (3:3). "He that over-cometh shall thus be arrayed in white garments; and I will in no wise blot his name out of the book of life" (v. 5). "Hold that fast which thou hast, that no one take thy crown." But suppose some of God's children do not "overcome" and do not "hold fast," and do not "keep Clod's words unto the end" (as many do not), what then? Then Jesus teaches here that they lose their crown, and their "name is blotted out of the book of life/' after being once put in it. No one would dream of any other interpretation, if he had not a doctrinal notion to drive through the Bible at any cost.
IV. The Scriptures seem to name many cases of those who once knew God and fatally fell.
1. The Israelite Fathers, "Who were baptized and eat of the same Spiritual drink" (Christ), but "God was not pleased with many of them, and overthrew them in the wilderness." And "some committed fornication and fell" and "some tempted Christ and were destroyed," etc. Now "these things were written for our admonition," "wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." 1 Cor. 10: 1-12.
2. Balaam, who knew God; and got remarkable answers to prayer, and God talked with him, and "whom he blessed was blessed, and whom he cursed was cursed." He was the "man who heareth the words of God, and knoweth the knowledge of the Most High." "The word that God putteth in my mouth that shall I speak," yet his carnal nature, through covetousness, caused him to backslide and fall, as many another prophet and preacher has fallen since. Num. chapters 22-24; 2 Pet. 2: 14, 15; Rev. 2: 14.
3. "God gave Saul another heart," "and turned him into another man," and the Spirit of God came mightily upon him and he prophesied." But he afterward disobeyed, and backslid, and God left him, and he became a suicide. 1 Sam. 10.
4. There was "a man of God," a prophet, by whom God sent a warning to Jeroboam. But he disobeyed God and was slain by a lion. 1 Kings 13.
5. As David declared, Solomon forsook God and was "cast off forever" though in his early life "Solomon loved Jehovah, walking in the statutes of David his father." 1 Chron. 28: 9; 1 Kings 3: 3.
6. Judas was one of the twelve Apostles, called to preach, and work miracles, and cast out devils. There is absolutely nothing to indicate that his early ministry was not as successful and acceptable as was that of the other apostles; but "from his apostleship Judas by transgression fell." Acts 1:25. It is unthinkable that Jesus chose an unbeliever and a child of the devil to be a minister and an apostle.
Hymeneus and Alexander had once the faith that purifies the heart and produces a good conscience. But they put their good conscience away, and made shipwreck of faith. 1 Tim. 1: 19, 20.
Men fatally backslid in the ancient church; and they have done the same in the modern. We have lived to see great Bible teachers, great evangelists and leaders of holiness, and bishops fall. Angels fell from heaven; and men, honored almost as angels, shining in the front ranks of the Church militant, have fallen, like Lucifer from heaven.
The great Finney used seventy-five large crowded pages to try to prove in his theology, that the saints could not fatally fall away from God. He would have needed less space, if he had argued a better cause. It was the poorest reasoning we ever read from his pen. No one can reason well against the truth.
Calvinists, who deny that salvation can ever be lost, reason on the subject in a marvelous way. They tell us, that no virgin's lamp can go out; no promising harvest be choked with thorns; no branch in Christ can ever be cut off for unfruitfulness; no pardon can ever be forfeited, and no name blotted out of God's book! They insist that no salt can ever lose its savor; nobody can ever "receive the grace of God in vain"; "bury his talents"; "neglect such great salvation"; trifle away "a day of grace"; "look back" after putting his hand to the gospel plow. Nobody can "grieve the Spirit" till He is "quenched," and strives no more, nor "deny the Lord that bought them"; nor "bring upon themselves swift destruction." Nobody, or body of believers, can ever get so lukewarm that Jesus will spew them out of His mouth."
They use reams of paper to argue that if one ever got lost he was never found. John 17: 12; that if one falls, he never stood. Rom. 11: 16-22 and Heb. 6: 4-6; if one was ever "cast forth," he was never in, and "if one ever withered," he was never green. John 15: 1-6; and that "if any man draws back," it proves that he never had anything to draw back from. Heb. 10: 38, 39; that if one ever "falls away into spiritual darkness," he was never enlightened. Heb. 6: 4-6; that if you lose the Holy Spirit, you never had Him to lose. Heb. 6: 4; that if you "again get entangled in the pollutions of the world," it shows that you never escaped. 2 Pet. 2: 20; that if you "put salvation away" you never had it to put away, and if you make shipwreck of faith, there was no ship of faith there!! in short they say: If you get it, you can't lose it; and if you lose it you never had it. May God save us from accepting a doctrine, that must be defended by such fallacious reasoning!