A Compendium of Christian Theology

By William Burt Pope, D.D.,

Volume Three

Chapter 3

Tenure of Covenant Blessings



            Scriptural Doctrine;

            Historical Review;

            Test of Religious Systems



            Resurrection of Christ;

            Means of Grace. Subjective:

            The Spirit;

            Plerophoria of Faith and Hope and Understanding;


            Witness of the Spirit







            Grace and its Ground;




            Covenant of Redemption;

            Argument from Scripture


The Holy Spirit, the Administrator of Redemption, confers its blessings absolutely as the free gift of God in Christ, but not unconditionally and irreversibly. There is no fixed decree which has guaranteed all the concurrences of Providence, all the operations of grace, and all the gifts that assure an abundant entrance into heaven. The Christian covenant places man in a new and gracious PROBATION, gives ample ground of personal ASSURANCE, which as the assurance both of faith and of hope encourages to PERSEVERANCE. The present subject, therefore, requires a consideration of those three terms in their mutual relations

There is a doctrine of Final Perseverance, which as such is only a conventional term used to signify one aspect of the covenant of grace: the irreversible bestowment of its blessings on those for whom Christ died, and for whom it is supposed He cannot have died in vain

According to the view of truth already given, perseverance is an ethical duty, and not a specific gift of the covenant. So far as provision is made for it in that covenant, it belongs to the doctrine of Assurance, which in some form occupies a large and important place in the New Testament. Omitting the term Final, which is the symbol of a peculiar dogma, Perseverance may be made an independent section, for the sake of its own importance, as also to give opportunity of controverting error on the subject, or of setting the truth underlying that error in its right point of view. Thus we have three watchwords which are so correlated that they cannot well be disjoined. Perseverance is only the constant preservation of the Assurance of faith which is the conditional assurance given to a soul in Probation. The believer in Christ begins a new life in a new probation; goes on his way with an habitual assurance; and thus is animated to persevere to the end. This is the New- Testament economy of the Christian life, to which it is everywhere faithful


Probation is the moral trial of a free spirit, continuing for a season under conditions appointed by God, and issuing in the confirmation of an abiding and unchangeable state

The Christian scheme, as administered by the Holy Ghost, has not abolished probation, but has invested it with a new and peculiar character of grace, which, however, leaves it probation still

I. Probation has not ceased in the economy of Redemption. The Scripture which says, Ye are not under [the] law but under grace,1 does not mean that we are exempted from test and predestinated to life. It is true that when Adam fell his first estate of trial ended for himself and the race in him; and, according to the analogy of the doom of evil spirits, his destiny and the destiny of manhood was then settled. But the Divine condition of human probation included the prospect of a new and different test applied to the posterity of Adam individually under very different conditions. Man's independent probation ceased for ever; and began again through a Mediator. Probation did not cease, but its conditions changed. Redemption has not interfered with the law of probationary decision which so far as we know governs the destiny of every created intelligence. Generally, every covenant of God with man implies probation; and in a certain sense all probation involves the idea of covenant. Though diatheke is not precisely sontheke—it is rather Disposition or Arrangement than Covenant proper—it is commandment with promise and condition

And these are the essentials of probation. Strictly speaking, covenant only began with the Fall: being the arrangement for salvation through a Mediator. The peculiar kind of covenant of which Scripture speaks is always propounded, ratified, and administered through the mediatorial sacrifice

1 Rom. 6:14

II. Probation runs through the new covenant as individual

1. Generally, the entire economy of this dispensation of grace, in all the stages of its development on earth, is filled with the ideas and terms of test. The short history of Paradise is entirely governed by this principle. The Covenant of Grace— before the Law, under the Law, in the Gospel, these three being one—is not less subject to this rule. On God's part we have a long series of expressions, used to exhibit His relations to men, which are inconsistent with anything but a purpose to discipline and test character, to refuse the evil and choose the good: for instance, all such words as covenanting, testing, or temptation, striving, trial, discipline, forbearance, hardening or melting the heart, judgment, present and future, rewarding and punishing, reprobation, day of grace; which imply the Divine appointment or institute of probation, and are utterly incomprehensible on any other theory or principle of the destiny of mankind. Similarly, on man's part, we have a long series of counterpart expressions: submission, rebellion, choosing good or evil, tempting God, yielding to or vexing or grieving or quenching His Spirit, conscience, and self-judgment; all these being inexplicable on any other principle than that of a certain control over his own destiny

2. This may, particularly, be viewed with reference to the three main elements of individual probation: its beginning, and its processes, and its end

(1.) The doctrine of Vocation has shown that the beginning of the Gospel in any heart is a test of the moral nature, as the Fall has left it, and of the preliminary and universal influences of the Spirit. Everyone that is of the truth heareth My voice:1 this must refer to the very commencement of a probation: the first word of God to the soul is a test, the very first thought of Christ is a revelation of the hidden fibers of the being. Compel them to come in!2 means simply the vehement appeal that through the mind and heart persuades the will; and the final mystery of acceptance or rejection, notwithstanding all the power of Divine grace, is to be found in a moral attitude of that will. The Cross attracts: I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me:3 helkusoo. No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him:4 helkusee. The former is the general and the latter is the individual attraction; but both alike detect the character and confirm it. The result is always referred to as the sustaining or failing under a test

The preaching of the Gospel is a savor of life unto life, and of death unto death.5 God's co-workers beseech us to receive not the grace of God in vain.6 The Cross is a new testing tree of knowledge of good and evil: man, under the new probation, however, is commanded not to abstain but to take. The probation is now outside of Paradise, but in many of its characteristics it is precisely the same as within. It is bound up with all the issues of Christ's coming. And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world:7 this answers at the close to those words of the beginning, This Child is set for the fall and rising again of many... that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.8 Either through direct preaching or through indirect, in this world or beyond it, certainly before the Judgment Day, the name of Jesus will be, it must be, the touchstone of every man's will and the arbiter of his doom

1 John 18:37; 2 Luke 14:23; 3 John 12:32; 4 John 6:44; 5 2 Cor. 2:16; 6 2 Cor. 6:1; 7 John 9:39; 8 Luke 2:34,35

(2.) The processes of the Christian life are all probationary. The Scriptures never address Christians as saved prospectively, only as saved retrospectively : as soozomenous, such as should be saved,1 or who are in process of salvation. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal:2 this does not refer only to special endowments; including these, it becomes a universal principle. The whole design of grace is disciplinary. The grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men hath appeared, teaching us;3 paideuousa, it puts us under training and discipline. It is to enable us to make our calling and election sure;4 that in its strength we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.5 On the one hand the injunction is prove your own selves:6 this is one of the few texts in which the very term probation is used; and it signifies that we have to test, and try, and find out the secrets of our own hearts, watching ourselves under the eye of God as God watched Adam in Paradise. Another is, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.7 Reprobation is never mentioned save in regard to the Christian's failure under test: know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates,8 adokimoi. The word is unknown in the Bible save as the result of man's own act: the only reprobation is the being tried and found wanting. There is no worse self-deception than to regard personal religion as the working out of an absolute and final decree, and to it we may apply St

Paul's words: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.9 The probation is not only decisive as to the degree of our salvation, but decisive of our salvation itself. The test is not simply to ascertain how many cities we may rule over; but whether we shall be trusted at all or rejected

1 Acts 2:47; 2 1 Cor. 12:7; 3 Tit. 2:11,12; 4 2 Pet. 1:10; 5 Eph. 6:13; 6 2 Cor. 13:5; 7 Rom. 12:2; 8 2 Cor. 13:5; 9 Gal. 6:7

(3.) At the end of all it is not said that the Judge will separate them one from another only, but that it will be as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:1 the context shows that these words describe their several characters as the result of the probation of a life. And this declaration winds up a series of parables all of which make the eternal issues depend on watchfulness and fidelity: Well done, thou good and faithful servant.2 The final judgment is the revelation of the result of a probationary course. There is a book of life which is the record of the called and chosen3 AND FAITHFUL: this last is now at length added to complete the former. The Lord had again and again referred to the many called and few chosen; and He also indirectly spoke of the still fewer who would endure to the end. But now He combines them all. This is the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.4 But the names were not indelibly written in it from the foundation of the world: had the individual names been written there, in any other sense than as foreseen to be there, it would not have been declared that the preservation of it is the reward of fidelity: to him that overcometh, the promise is, I will not blot out his name out of the look of life.5

1 Mat. 25:32; 2 Mat. 25:21; 3 Rev. 17:14; 4 Rev. 13:8; 5 Rev. 3:5

III. Christian Probation has a specific character of grace. It ought not to be taught as a hard and rigorous doctrine, calmly leaving man to the decision of his own destiny. It is possible that, in recoiling from the former extreme which denies probation altogether, we fall into another which leaves too much in man's destiny to his own caprice. The ceasing of the first probation has introduced another presided over by grace; extending over mankind, in all their states and varieties

1. As it regards the world all men are and ever have been under a probationary constitution of mercy. The kindness and love of God our Savior toward MAN appeared finally in the Gospel; but the same PHILANTHROPY has governed the world from the beginning. The new trial of the race as such is a profound mystery, but a mystery of mercy. Grace, like the Gospel which is its proclamation, was in the world before Christ came; and the nations of men will be dealt with by the righteousness of Him of Whom it was said in the beginning of history, Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?1 The probation of the world at large may be regarded under two aspects. (1.) Nationally, bodies and communities of men are dealt with by the Supreme Governor; they will be judged with strict regard to every advantage which they have enjoyed, and every disadvantage under which they have labored. The laws by which God governs families, communities, nations, and more or less the race at large, are laws which issue from the Mediatorial Court, are administered by the Redeemer of all men. But with this we have not now to do: it has been and will be discussed in other departments. (2.) The probation of all men individually is one of grace. We can hardly tell how to reconcile this with some of the sayings of Scripture; but the duty of theology is to reconcile those sayings with this truth. The probationary discipline of vast multitudes of the human race in the present life, the hidden processes of their trial, and the apportionment of their doom hereafter, are among the reserved mysteries of faith. Not an individual of all the countless hosts of the descendants of Adam will be dealt with save on the basis of a trial that was appointed for himself as if he were the only individual in probation

1 Gen. 18:25

2. As it regards those who receive revealed truth Evangelical mercy yet more obviously directs probation. All things are ordered to enlist the free will on the side of God. The condemnation of original sin is removed; and its bias to evil is controlled by strong influences of grace. The power of the Holy Spirit is greater than that of evil can be. The force of Divine truth, applied by His Divine energy, and confirmed by the demonstration of Providence, is an element the strength of which must be estimated very highly in the consideration of the trial ordained for those who hear the Gospel. And as to those who hear it amidst the utmost disadvantages for its reception, we must fall back upon the mysterious internal influence which is present to every man behind and in concurrence with the earliest movements of evil

3. In the case of the regenerate probation is peculiarly rich in the provisions of grace. (1.) Every Christian is the object of personal care and most tender solicitude to the Holy Ghost. A comparison is sometimes made between the probation of Paradise and that of the believer in a fallen world: such a comparison can hardly be instituted to any good purpose. Whatever disabilities sin has entailed on us are more than made up by an indwelling Spirit, the Spirit of a new and higher life. Where sin abounded grace did much more abound.1 (2.) And all events are so ordered that the difficulties of religious experience tend to invigorate the spirit. As blessings temperately enjoyed increase love, so afflictions endured with resignation strengthen the inner man. Through the secret control of the Holy Ghost, not an event in life but contributes to test the character; and under His rule every test sustained leaves that character the stronger. Hence we are bidden to count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.2 The highest graces of religion, those which the passion of Jesus has invested with a supreme dignity, are the issue of stern probation encountered with patience

1 Rom. 5:20; 2 Jas. 1:2

4. But, after all, the Christian covenant leaves men to a probation that is exceedingly solemn. Everyone is taught by the Scripture to regard himself as deciding his lot for eternity. There is very much against him, very much for him; two worlds, of good and evil, enter into his being and contend for his soul. Under other conditions, and with differences that almost forbid the analogy, we all are undergoing the ordeal of the Garden again. The ordinary speech of mankind is true to this most affecting and impressive principle, that the present world is the scene of our trial for the eternal future. We are still in the garden of test; but the object of the discipline of life is to win back the Paradise lost through the grace of Him whose justice cast us out. Youth is a season of probation. In another sense every critical period of life is such: especially the evil day of affliction. But time, every man's portion of it, is his probationary term. Whatever a man soweth that shall he also reap!1 is the warning exhortation. That ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand:2 this is the encouragement. The result closes the Bible: he that is unjust, let him be unjust still I and he that is holy, let him be holy still!3 Though these words do not directly refer to the eternal state

1 Gal. 6:7; 2 Eph. 6:13; 3 Rev. 22:11


This doctrine of probation and test is itself the test of ecclesiastical systems. The history of dogma on this subject, in its wider bearing on the Divine Decrees, has already been briefly given. It is needful now only to make a few more specific allusions to some more prominent relations

I. All systems of Fatalistic Predestinarianism are condemned by the true doctrine of human probation: whether the ancient Fatalism which renounced the idea of one supreme personal God, bringing its Pantheon under the sway of Destiny as the final authority; or the modern Pantheistic Fatalism which makes all things the necessary manifestation— material or spiritual—of one substance, God or nature. If the Deity is for ever evolving Himself in humanity, there can be no probation. The good and evil— good OR evil is interdicted language — are alike God: choice, decision, probation are excluded. The tranquil confidence of many Pantheists in ancient and modern times is pure resignation to the inevitable. The triumph of Christianity is that it gives a still more perfect resignation to one who at the same time knows that every passing hour is pregnant with his eternal interest

II. The dogma of Absolute Sovereignty in God and His government, and the decree of election flowing from it, are to a great extent inconsistent with just ideas of the probation of collective mankind, or of individual man. This may be looked at from several points of view

1. The dogma of an eternal and fixed predestination to salvation and perdition cannot be made to combine with moral trial Probation may indeed be reduced to mean the mere exhibition of the fact and the means of declaring the decree; it may also be made serviceable as tending to decide the varieties of Christian character and the degrees of final reward. But the Christian idea of a moral test is lost; for all its processes are supposed to be already predetermined

2. The more modern Federal Theology which has been grafted on Calvinism shows this still more strikingly. According to this scheme the history of Redemption is distributed under three covenants: first, the Covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Son; secondly, the Covenant of Works made with Adam, including his posterity; and, thirdly, the Covenant of Grace, this being subdivided again into the covenant before the Law, under the Law, and under the Gospel

(1.) With regard to the first, it almost seems to place Christ Himself under a special and peculiar probation: if not in words yet in reality. On behalf of a certain portion of the race the Son of God is supposed to have undertaken the obligation of passive and active obedience: on the condition of His fidelity, this portion of the race is assigned to Him

They are secure, at the expense of an infinite cost to their Surety. His is the stern probation, and not theirs. Though this theology would admit that He could not fail nor be discouraged, and cannot be charged with making Christ's undertaking doubtful; yet this is a noble inconsistency on its part. In fact, with respect neither to the Surety nor to the assured, is the strict idea of probation retained. But of such a covenant with the Holy Trinity for the partition of mankind the Scripture says nothing

(2.) As to the second there is no such covenant of works in the record. If it is regarded as coming after that first eternal covenant it thereby loses its character as a covenant: the race of Adam is dealt with as necessarily fallen, and sin is made dangerously to rival the Atonement itself, predestined before the foundation of the world. If, on the Sublapsarian theory, the Covenant of Redemption is supposed to be based upon the Fall as a fact, then that covenant still absorbs and destroys the probation of men. The race of Adam failed in one test, and then was under trial no more. The covenant of works remains indeed as a continual remembrance of the Fall; but its only use is to detect and condemn sin and drive men to the better Covenant of Grace ordered in all things and sure

(3.) As to this third, it cannot retain the essential elements of a covenant, supposing personal probation with its contingent issues to be excluded. It may be asserted that the compact of probation ceased when it really began in Christ. To say that God took the elect out of their own hands, and saved them through a Substitute who left nothing to their own will and effort and fidelity, or to contingency, is to contradict the tenor of Scripture, however much it may seem to honor the Divine sovereignty

3. The dogma of the express and distinct imputation of Christ's active righteousness secures the final presentation of the believer before God without spot and blameless; hence there is no deciding test as to his ultimate state. The growth of a new character under the Redeemer's perfect robe has nothing strictly probationary in it: the Christian will not appear in the garment woven of his own righteousness save for the regulation of his reward, and even that is inconsistent with the essential principle that Christ virtually takes the place of the saint and the saint appears as Christ in the entire administration of substitutionary grace

4. The exaggeration of the Divine sovereignty gives this dogma the character of Fatality which we have not hesitated to ascribe to it: it is no other than a Christianised Pantheistic Fatalism. Not unknown Fate or Destiny or moira, but the God and Father of all absolutely disposes, of the souls of men. Probation is, like all things else pertaining to their Christian estate, only imputed to them. Trial, test, and judgment and doom, are mere fiatus vocis, the veils and economical disguises of a dispensation of fixed and necessitated grace

III. There are theories of Universalism which deal with this subject, and must be tested by our principle

1. That of a certain final Universal Destruction of Evil teaches that there is room enough in the universe, and time enough in the bosom of eternity, and resources enough in Divine omnipotence, for the gradual and sure annihilation or elimination of all defect, infirmity, and sin from the sum of things. This unlimited dogma maintains the idea of test in its own way: all who fail to sustain the test in this life, and in the succeeding aeons, will be finally destroyed. This is Probation without one of the alternatives of confirmation, which are necessary to its definition, the fixed continuance in evil; and with a new element added, the determination of sovereign Omnipotence. It holds the Calvinistic Sovereignty with a peculiar modification of its own. Whereas Predestinarian Election has for its dark side the foreordained reprobation of the evil as doomed to a fixed estate of eternal ruin, this notion avails itself of an eternal decree for the riddance of the universe from evil. It will plead that the idea of test includes only the detection of evil and no more; but this is neither the philosophical nor the Scriptural meaning of the word

2. The theory of Universal Restoration does the same, but for a different issue. It has the dogma of fixed Predestination, without the Election of Calvinism. It makes the tremendous history of human sin only an interlude that will be forgotten, or only drawn out of the recesses of oblivion as a precedent in the government of other worlds

According to such an idea of probation the Creator indeed experiments with the principle of test and fails; finally withdrawing His creatures from this law with its responsibility, and constraining them to sanctity. Hence this scheme pleads like the former that test aims at the detection of evil alone, but only to bring out the unfathomable resources of Divine grace. In some exhibitions of this principle, the test indeed runs on after this life on principles independent of the redemption of Christ. But in them also, as in all these forms of Universalism, the strict notion of test leading to fixed confirmation is lost

IV. The Hierarchical and Sacramentarian theories of the administration of grace, with their dogma of Merit, in their extreme forms seriously affect this doctrine

1. The principle of a necessary conveyance of grace through Sacraments in the hand of a human mediator tends to undermine the sanctity of human probation: if not in theory certainly in practice. It may be said that the failure of that grace in the case of persons interposing the bar of mortal sin leaves the issues to the applicant: this may indeed save the system from its worst theoretical consequences, but practically it impairs the sense of personal probation, making the Church with its sevenfold hedge of Sacramental ordinances the same kind of refuge from the strain of personal responsibility which Antinomianism makes the merit of Christ. Here, as often, two opposite schools meet

2. The specific dogma that the Counsels of Perfection test the character of believers, and stimulate them to a higher attainment, is an unscriptural one, so far as it introduces a new element in probation. It will be urged that our Lord Himself applied these as tests during His personal administration of His kingdom. But it must be remembered that He used these tests under special circumstances; that, strictly speaking, He never applied but one of the Counsels, that of the renunciation of property; and that, in the application of this, He only laid down a principle of universal importance with a specific reference to the need of a particular case. He never used tests of probation which should distinguish one class of His disciples from another in all ages

3. Hence the doctrine and practice of Romanism as the chief representative of the Sacramentarian system, and that of Merit resulting from obedience to Counsels, in two ways interfere with the reality of probation: first, by taking away to some extent the probationary responsibility of the believer, and, secondly, by applying a superfluous and limited test. Probation is in Christianity the same for all, and for all alike. It is not meant that these systems absolutely undermine the foundations of human trial. They retain the broad features of it, with its eternal issues; but they deeply prejudice its true Evangelical character

V. The general principles of the doctrine here laid down will be found in the Analogy of Bishop Butler, whose chapters on the State of Trial, the Moral Government of God, and the State of Probation, should be carefully studied. A few extracts of a defensive character may appropriately close these remarks

"The general doctrine of Religion, that our present life is a state of probation for a future one, comprehends under it several particular things, distinct from each other. But the first and most common meaning of it seems to be that our future interest is now depending, and depending upon ourselves; that we have scope and opportunity here for that good and bad behavior which God will reward and punish hereafter; together with temptations to one, as well as inducements of reason to the other. And this is, in a great measure, the same with saying that we are under the moral government of God, and to give an account of our actions to Him. For, the notion of a future account and general righteous judgment implies some sort of temptations to what is wrong: otherwise there would be no moral possibility of doing wrong, nor ground for judgment or discrimination. But there is this difference, that the word probation is more distinctly and particularly expressive of allurements to wrong, or difficulties in adhering uniformly to what is right, and of the dangers of miscarrying by such temptations, than the words moral government

"But the thing here insisted upon is, that the state of trial, which Religion teaches us we are in, is rendered credible, by its being throughout uniform and of a piece with the general conduct of Providence towards us, in all other respects within the compass of our knowledge. Indeed if mankind, considered in their capacity as inhabitants of the world only, found themselves, from their birth to their death, in a settled state of security and happiness, without any solicitude or thought of their own: or if they were in no danger of being brought into inconveniences and distress, by carelessness, or the folly of passion, through bad example, the treachery of others, or the deceitful appearances of things: were this our natural condition, then it might seem strange, and be some presumption against the truth of Religion, that it represents our future and more general interest, as not secure of course, but as depending upon our behavior, and requiring recollection and self-government to obtain it. For it might be alleged, 'What you say is our condition in one respect, is not in any wise of a sort with what we find, by experience, our condition is in another. Our whole present interest is secured to our hands, without any solicitude of ours; and why should not our future interest, if we have any such, be so too?' But since, on the contrary, thought and consideration, the voluntary denying ourselves many things which we desire, and a course of behavior far from being always agreeable to us, are absolutely necessary to our acting even a common decent, and a common prudent part, so as to pass with any satisfaction through the present world, and be received upon any tolerable good terms in it: since this is the case, all presumption against self-denial and attention being necessary to secure our highest interest, is removed. Had we not experience it might, perhaps speciously, be urged, that it is improbable anything of hazard and danger should be put upon us by an Infinite Being when everything which is hazard and danger in our manner of conception, and will end in error, confusion, and misery, is now already certain in His foreknowledge." ASSURANCE

The full confidence of salvation, which the Divine Spirit works in the believer, is best studied under two aspects. First, there is objective and external ground of assurance provided in the work of redemption and the means of grace. Secondly, there is the individual assurance of faith and of hope and of understanding based upon or flowing from the former through the operation of the Holy Ghost. Having considered these, we must then review the several points in which Christian Confessions vary on these important questions

As to the internal assurance, much has already been said in relation to the Spirit's evidence of the several blessings in the Christian covenant; and as to the external something will be added under the doctrine of the Sacraments. But a general view of the ground and nature of assurance is necessary here, as belonging to the theology of Probation


The external and everlasting ground of certainty to the Christian Church that the covenant of grace is sure is the resurrection of its Surety, which is declared historically and confirmed by the Holy Ghost. This confirmation, however, is connected with certain appointed means of grace, which are standing pledges of the Divine fidelity

I. The resurrection of our Lord is set forth throughout the New Testament as the abiding ground of Christian confidence: especially by St. Paul, who knew the Redeemer only as risen. In his First Epistle to the Corinthians, he writes: If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.1 Preaching in Antioch his first recorded sermon, he marks very emphatically the pledge given in Christ's resurrection. The Father receives the Son: Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee!2 begotten perfectly in human nature as the finished Mediator, Priest, and Prophet, and King. Turning to us He says: I will give you the sure mercies of David, as the pledge of the accomplishment of all the promise which was made unto the fathers. To those who doubt the resurrection of Christ there is not only no assurance as to the truth of Christianity, but there is no assurance of any revelation from God; and from this there is but a step to universal skepticism. This has been exhibited under the Mediatorial Work. It is needful only to sum up:

1 1 Cor. 15:14; 2 Acts 13:32,33,34

1. In the resurrection of Christ, the body of believers are certified that sin is abolished as a condemnation and a power, By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified:1 perfected their ground of assurance, whence their boldness to enter into the holiest. St. Paul says, on behalf of the whole company of saints: I am crucified with Christ!2 His certitude is the certitude of all who are united with the Redeemer, that His life, following on His death of expiation, declares the eternal abolition of the penalty and strength of the law

1 Heb. 10:14,19; 2 Gal. 2:20

2. His resurrection is the pledge of the presence of a living omnipotent Savior in heaven: He is Lord of all,1 said St. Peter in his grand parenthesis: that Jesus, namely, "Whom God raised up the third day and showed Him openly. As the Living Lord who died He Himself gives assurance in His last and most glorious manifestation on earth: Fear not; I am the First and the Last; I am He that liveth and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore, [Amen]; and have the keys of death and of Hades.2 The interpolated AMEN is common to Christ and the Church: the mutual seal of a full assurance. This is the living pledge or Sacrament in heaven. Him the heavens must receive until the times of restoration of all things:3 the rendering given by Lutheran theology, Who must receive the heavens—that is, for us—is sound theology but unsound interpretation. Christ is, however, in heaven, and the true Tree of life which is in [the midst of] the paradise of God.4 Of this assurance the Church might say: IT IS ENOUGH; let this be instead of all other pledges and Sacraments

1 Acts 10:36,40; 2 Rev. 1:17,18; 3 Acts 3:21; 4 Rev. 2:7

II. But in the purpose of God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel,1 it is not enough. What the presence of Christ in heaven is as an undying pledge the means of grace are on earth

1 Heb. 6:17

1. Generally, all means of grace are also seals of grace: the Word or Bible, Prayer, the House of God, the Assembly, the Christian Sabbath, are all standing ordinances which guarantee the certitude, of salvation. The entire institute of external Christianity is an attestation of Divine fidelity to the covenant of grace; an abiding memorial of the risen Lord

2. Specifically, the Sacraments are silent pledges and seals as well as instruments of grace: such is Baptism at the threshold and such is the Eucharist within; both are seals of the grace of justification, regeneration, and sanctification. Baptism for ever pledges the first and the constant washing away of sin. The Eucharist pledges the first and the constant partaking of Christ: the latter is, in this view, the continuation of the former; and they unite to assure the certitude of the common salvation

3. These are all external or objective pledges for assurance. The very existence of an institute of worship, the everflowing water of baptism, and the table always spread, are silent tokens that salvation is with us: we see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.1 These ordinances are midway between us and the living eternal Sacrament in heaven: they are sealing ordinances in the Church

We approach them as outward and visible pledges, VERBA VISIBILIA, which cry on earth as the resurrection of Christ does in heaven: Be it known unto you, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.2 But the external becomes the internal pledge: the seal without becomes the seal within

1 John 1:51; 2 Acts 13:38


The blessing of personal assurance is the gift of the Holy Ghost, whose office is to bear His witness TO the conscience of justification, of adoption WITH the spirit, and IN the soul of sanctification. The assurance is the assurance of faith for the present, of hope for the future, and of understanding as underlying all. As this internal assurance is not independent of the external seals and pledges, so it is itself verified by the testimony of the fruits of faith in the life. The testimony of the Spirit is one, though not one and the same, with the testimony of conscience


The Holy Spirit discharges, as has been seen, two classes of office on behalf of the Redeemer. He testifies TO the soul the virtue of the things of Christ, and He effects WITHIN the soul the formation of Christ Himself. There is a sense in which both are equally within the human spirit; but we now consider His witness as, so to speak, external

1. He is not expressly said to assure of pardon. That is rather implied and involved than stated. The Savior declared personal forgiveness in His own name, that men might know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins.1 So often did He utter this word that we cannot doubt as to its being the universal prerogative of penitence to hear it. It may be taken for granted that this most blessed formula was among others to be for ever brought to remembrance by the Holy Ghost: though our Lord has, so to speak, reserved it for Himself, If His servants were to pronounce it in His name, it was only as the organs of the Spirit. Jesus was exalted by God to give repentance and forgiveness of sins, of which there are two witnesses: first, the preachers of the Gospel, we are witnesses of these things; secondly, the Holy Ghost Whom God hath given to them that obey Him.2 It is through the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that we know that there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.3 Our Lord's forgiveness, for it is His, His Agent evermore pronounces

1 Mat. 9:6; 2 Acts 5:31,32; 3 Rom. 8:1,2

2. One of His names is the Spirit of adoption. Though it is our own spirit regenerate that as it were naturally says Abba, Father,1 it is the Holy Spirit in our spirit: the distinction between the regenerate spirit and the Holy Spirit is nearly lost in the New Testament. The Spirit Itself beareth witness with our spirit:2 summartureí toó pneúmati heemoó. He mingles His life and breath with ours: we cry Father, yet not we but the Spirit in us and with us. The sun preserves the distinction, but it is lost again in the filial cry

1 Gal. 4:6; 2 Rom. 8:16

3. In the temple of Christian privilege, the Spirit is a silent seal of consecration: ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.1 This is the personal Spirit of witness, WHO is the earnest, os, and concerning Whom we are exhorted, grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.2 Mark that it is the temple-epistle which alludes to the sealing, and mentions no other witness of the Spirit, though this one includes and perfects all the rest

1 Eph. 1:13; 2 Eph. 4:30


The certitude of the believer is constantly referred to by two terms: assurance and confidence. These may be considered first as corresponding to each other, and then as united: the former being the certitude of the inner man, the latter the expression of it in the outer life

I. The instances wherein the former, pleeroforia, is used are three, which must be observed in their order

1. St. Paul, in his First Epistle, speaks of the Gospel having come to the Thessalonians in much assurance:1 explained afterwards as the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.2 This is the internal assurance of which he speaks as the being sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, esfragistheete, after that ye believed,3 pisteusantes, on their believing, and it must be observed that the term used connotes both the sealing for God and the sealing of the truth to the believer himself. The former meaning is more in harmony with other instances of its use in the New Testament, but the latter cannot be excluded; it is indeed preferred by many expositors, who seem to confound the sealing of the truth to the mind with the sealing of the mind receiving it

Believers are assured of the Word of Truth of the Gospel of salvation on their believing, and this their assurance is their seal for God. They retain this confidence, and always draw near in full assurance of faith,4 having their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. This is wrought by the Spirit; it is not of the essence of faith itself but its highest prerogative; it is the general privilege of those who truly believe

1 1 Thes. 1:5; 2 1 Thes. 2:13; 3 Eph. 1:13; 4 Heb. 10:22

2. As it respects the future faith is hope: its confidence somewhat changes its character

Absolute confidence as to the present, it may increase as it regards the future. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:1 spoudeén prós teén pleeroforían teés elpídos áchri télous. More and more full as the toil or labor of love2 increases, it never outgrows hope. It becomes indeed the full assurance of hope: a subtle and most beautiful expression that experience only can comprehend: the substantiation of things hoped for

1 Heb. 6:10,11; 2 1 Thes. 1:3

3. Once only is the full assurance of understanding spoken of: St. Paul prays on behalf of the Colossians that they might add to the two other kinds of assurance an abounding and undimmed confidence of the understanding, suneseoos, in all the truths that belong to the mystery of God,1 which is Christ. It imports that it is the privilege of all who receive Christ to have an intellectual and experimental hold of Him, and of the whole circle of His doctrine. They know truth, as truth is in Jesus:2 that is, not only the truth but truth

They have the highest knowledge which is the knowledge of faith, they have such faith in this Object as makes it the certitude of knowledge. This is that TESTIMONIUM SPIRITUS SANCTI which the old confessions held; the seal of the Holy Ghost confirming to the believer the; verity of the Christian Faith, without which all belief of the understanding is dead

1 Col. 2:2; 2 Eph. 4:21

II. The latter, parrhesia, occurs in remarkable correspondence with the former

1. There is in the New Testament a parrhesia for each pleeroforias, the external profession of that internal assurance. We are exhorted to come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy:1 the confidence with which we ask for the mercy and seasonable help we still and always need is the confidence of uttered boldness. This is equivalent to the outward expression of inward confidence in our sympathizing High Priest: let us hold fast our profession. The inward and outward assurance go together, or are united at the foot of the throne. We have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him:2 a forcible expression in which faith, its assurance, and its confident speech to God are delicately distinguished. And this is the confidence that we have in Him,3 pros auton: this pros has a very wide meaning; it is the strongest preposition that could be used to signify the intimate familiarity of trust. Here then is the confident speech of the full assurance of faith

1 Heb. 4:14,16; 2 Eph. 3:12; 3 1 John 5:14

2. Cast not away therefore your confidence,1 teen parreesian: this is the confidence of hope, for ye have need of patience; of that hope wherein faith is the substance of things hoped for.2 Again: And now, little children, abide in Him, that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, parreesian: may not have lost it, not be ashamed before Him at His coming.3 Faith is certain now, as hope it is conditionally certain, and must persevere if it is not to be made ashamed. Here then is the confident expectation and bold expression of the full assurance of hope

1 Heb. 10:35,36; 2 Heb. 11:1; 3 1 John 2:28

3. Lastly, the confidence and boldness of confession answers to the full assurance of understanding. They that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree and great boldness,1 parreesian polleen, in the faith of Christ Jesus. The deacon's reward of fidelity is the blessing of an unfaltering confidence in the truth of what he preaches. When the Apostle says, Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech,2 parreesia, he means that steadfast and tranquil proclamation which the sight of the unveiled Christ inspires. As the boldness of hope increases so also the confidence of the understanding. The transcendent blessing of faith and hope and understanding is one in this boldness of confession which believes and does not tremble, which believes and is raised above all shadow of doubt

1 1 Tim. 3:13; 2 2 Cor. 3:12

III. The Epistle to the Hebrews, which has given us so many illustrations of our doctrine, sums up its own teaching of assurance and boldness at the close, in a sentence which drops the two words but retains their meaning: just as it sums up its doctrine of the altar and temple in new terms: We have an altar!1 éstin dé pístis elpizoménoon hupóstasis pragmátoon élengchos ou blepoménoon.2 The great chapter of faith contains its full assurance of present acceptance, its full assurance of a conditional hope, and its full assurance of understanding as to the three supreme articles of all faith, concerning God that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him,3 concerning the Gospel Righteousness which is by faith, and concerning the better country of everlasting life in which all the saints shall be made perfect. As we are saved by hope, faith as hope comes first: faith gives body and substance to things unseen and future for present experience of their reality and trust in their future possession; and its labors to make its assurance of hope perfect are the subject of the whole chapter and make the two economies of grace one. The entire strain witnesses the good confession of faith, the parreesia of its pleeroforia

1 Heb. 13:10; 2 Heb. 11:1; 3 Heb. 11:6,7,40


The interior assurance is connected with the external; it guards and confirms it; and is itself guarded and confirmed by the evidence of the fruits of holiness, or the testimony of a conscience void of offence. This may be called the witness of our own spirit, though Scripture does not so term it

1. The direct assurance or witness of the Holy Spirit rests generally upon the indirect witness of the external pledges. (1) There may be occasional departures from this law: for instance, where the Gospel vocation is independent of the Christian Church and its organization; where, in certain transcendent and irregular dealings of Divine grace, the soul is rapt into a region higher than the appointed ordinances. The ordinary public means of grace, including the Sacraments, may seem occasionally to be only indirectly connected with the soul's assurance. (2) But the Word of God and prayer are invariably the vehicle, instrument, and channel for His impartation of assurance: it is in answer to prayer, sometimes solitary and sometimes only ejaculatory; and generally through the application to the soul of the promises of the Holy Scripture. We also joy in God through our Lord, Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received the Atonement:1 the objective Atonement provided for all men in Christ must be received and internally appropriated; and without this appropriation, through faith in the Word of reconciliation, there can be no confidence towards God. Concerning this reception it is said that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us:2 shed abroad in the consciousness

1 Rom. 5:11; 2 Rom. 5:5

2. This is the seal set by the soul itself in its experience, to the verity and value of the external pledges. Receiving the testimony given in the Word and Sacraments to a heavenly grace provided for man, the satisfied believer, finding in himself the Spirit's own assurance, having received His testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true:1 hath added his own seal to the seal of God. Thus the Spirit's interior seal becomes to those who believe their own seal of the exterior Sacrament: they can say, Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard Him ourselves.2

1 John 3:33; 2 John 4:42

3. The Spirit's evidence, based on the Word and Sacrament, is guarded by the ethical and moral testimony of the life. Where-ever the assurance of the Spirit is mentioned there is to be found hard by the appeal to the resulting and never absent evidences of devotion, obedience, and charity. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, in Whom we cry, Abba, Father.1 The former verse gives the test whereby we know that we are the sons of God: the test of our submission to His Spirit

The latter gives another test: the voice within us of the Spirit of adoption. Concerning both and united it is said: if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His. So in St. John's First Epistle, the witnessing, indwelling, and renewing Spirit are one and indistinguishable. Hereby know we that we dwell in Him2—accepted in the Beloved— and He in us—working out our holiness—because He hath given us of His Spirit. God the Holy Ghost does not in His testimony supersede conscience: He honors that ancient representative of the Divine voice within the nature of man; and never disjoin? His evidence from that of the subjective moral consciousness which condemns or approves— in this case approves—according to the standard of law written on the heart, or the conscience objective. He is indeed greater than our heart3—or conscience— and knoweth all things. He knoweth the mystery of the Atonement and may silence the condemning heart. But if he assures of pardon He commits the assurance to the conscience as its guardian; so that if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God.4 The same Apostle who said, We, joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received the Atonement, kauchoomenoi, said also, For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience: kaucheesis heemoon. The repetition of this expressive word deserves to be considered. The very rejoicing which the Holy Ghost inspires by shedding the love of God abroad in the heart reappears as the rejoicing of the regenerate soul conscious only of walking by the grace of God, in simplicity and godly sincerity.5

1Rom. 8:14,15; 2 1 John 4:13; 3 1 John 3:20,21; 4 Rom. 5:11; 5 2 Cor. 1:12

4. Thus, God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel,1 hath given seal upon seal, pledge upon pledge. The Holy Ghost, the Parakleetos, gives us strong consolation, ischuran parakleesin. There are the silent pledges in which each emblem being dead yet speaketh: there is the inward personal assurance, the Sacrament in the heart; there is the confirming attesting witness of the life; and, over all, as heaven is over all, the Risen Son of Man, the Crucified Mediator upon earth who is in the Holiest our Living Surety, Who hath entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.2

1 Heb. 6:17,18; 2 Heb. 9:24


Bringing the several Confessions to this standard of doctrine, and testing them by this one article of assurance, we find many variations of more or less significance

I. The Sacramentarian doctrine of assurance contains some most important elements of truth, as has been seen, but some errors also, which may be noted in the following tendencies

1. In Romanism and in Romanising theories it makes the evidence of salvation a concomitant of the sacrament of Penance, or of the priestly absolution; and this, when received, is fitful and occasional, and dependent on the contingency of a sufficient compliance with the conditions. It falls very much below the dignity and blessedness of a direct communication of the Eternal Spirit to the spirit of the believer in Christ

2. The Sacramental theory in general denies rightly that to any mortal is given the assurance of final acceptance; the day of judgment being the sealing revelation, and last assurance of safety: looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.1 But it too often refuses to admit a state of present certainty as included in the provisions of the Christian covenant, at least as the common privilege of all who believe

1 Jude 21

3. It has introduced a special charisma or gift of assurance of Perseverance, a sealing for the elect of the Elect: thus combining in one extraordinary privilege the assurance of faith for the present and that of hope for the future, or, in other words, adding to the witness of the Spirit a pledge of final perseverance

4. In some forms it has sunk much below the true doctrine. As, for instance, among those who so far recoil from the fanaticism, as they term it, of the doctrine of assurance as to deny altogether the possibility of its attainment? This is sometimes an exaggeration of ascetic humility, sometimes an irrational recoil from enthusiasm, and sometimes the result of an undue preponderance given to the sterner side of probation

II. Mysticism has always abounded in its own peculiar developments of the doctrine of probationary assurance

1. Its best and purest theology has generally maintained a present assurance of faith, generally though not always imparted, but without the absolute assurance as to the future

It has sometimes undervalued the objective grounds of confidence in its preference for the internal light. Mysticism has been in all ages either avowedly or virtually a reaction and protest against superstitious dependence on the external props of Christian certitude, and such exaggeration of the soleness of the inward witness was to be expected. It is seen among the Pietists of Germany, among the Friends, and occasionally among the less instructed Methodists: in fact, among all who have been suddenly aroused by strong tides of religious revival from indifference or from ceremonialism to the intense pursuit of personal salvation

2. The extravagant Mystics of the Illuminist and Quietist types erred exceedingly: the former, forgetting the conditions of assurance, repentance, and faith; the latter, making the perfection of religion to consist in an absolute indifference to assurance and evidence and feeling of every kind. Their doctrine of disinterested love, pressed to the extreme of the utter extinction of desire of heaven and fear of hell, overturns the very foundation of any theory of personal evidence of salvation

III. The doctrine of Assurance, taught by what may be called the Calvinistic system, on the one hand, falls below the standard of Scripture, while, on the other, it goes beyond its plain teaching. Both the defect and the excess must be studied

1. It falls below the calm and steadfast confidence which the whole New Testament declares to be the privilege for the present moment of him who believes in Christ. (1) It distinguishes too sharply between assurance and faith, and is disposed rather to overvalue the external grounds of confidence in comparison of the internal. Certainly faith may exist without assurance; nor is assurance absolutely and unconditionally necessary to salvation. But, though faith itself has no reflex thought of itself, looking only at Christ, it is in its perfect saving energy accompanied by the assurance which is indeed indistinguishable from faith in its highest exercise. He loved me and gave Himself for me1 was the testimony of St. Paul, who, though he spoke in this style of appropriating confidence only once, evidently intended to define by its highest privilege the Christian's true faith of the Son of God in which he lives. (2) It makes assurance a special privilege of the few who through much discipline attain it as a gift of God; and, accordingly, dwells too much on the alternations and fluctuations of experience to which it pleases God for the trial of their constancy to subject believers. (3) It confounds the assurance of present faith with the assurance of hope: making the former only the confidence that Jesus is what He is declared to be generally, and the latter the confidence in personal salvation. That distinction is contrary to Scripture, which does not present as the object of saving faith only Christ's Person, work, and ability, and willingness to save us generally if we believe, but also His present relation to us individually as a Savior. Until faith embraces the Lord as a personal Deliverer it is not that faith in its integrity of which we now speak. Granted that a firm appropriating trust in Christ, apart from the evidence of it, insures salvation, as salvation is an objective act of God, subjective or experienced salvation has no meaning without the knowledge of it. The word has not its full significance and its perfect rights until the objective and the subjective blend. This will be abundantly clear if we change the expression into justification or pardon or adoption or life from the dead. These blessings pronounced by God must be heard by man, or they are not truly his. Hence the Word of God bids those who are supposed to have the assurance of present faith to confirm continually the confidence of their hope by holy living

1 Gal. 2:20

2. On the other hand, it goes beyond the standard of Scripture. When once attained, the assurance is indefectible: while the essence of saving faith is regarded as the assurance that Christ generally is all that He is set forth, and will do all that He promises—a faith therefore, we repeat, independent as such of any personal appropriation—the assurance of our own personal salvation is an independent fruit of faith, and a high attainment of the spiritual life. It is the Divinely inwrought confidence of an eternal salvation, and the exhortation not to cast away its confidence is, if not superfluous, only a prudential expedient for moral discipline. But this subject belongs to our next section

3. Both the defect and excess of the doctrine, and also its true points, are seen in the following words of the Westminster Confession: " This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure." Here is a certain inconsistency in making a free gift the result of diligent seeking. When it is added that " true believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken," that is true of all assurance, though not precisely in the sense of this document

IV. Methodism has done much to clear the Scriptural doctrine of Assurance from the misapprehensions that have obscured it in its system of religious teaching the following points are made prominent and sharply defined 1. It is asserted to be the COMMON PRIVILEGE of all who believe; being the accompaniment of every blessing of the Christian covenant: not, indeed, of the essence of justifying faith, but a result of it that may be expected, and should be sought

(1.) Mr. Wesley says on the former subject: "Is justifying faith a sense of pardon? Negatur. 1. Everyone is deeply concerned to understand this question well; but Preachers most of all. 2. By justifying faith I mean that faith which whosoever hath not is under the wrath and the curse of God. By a sense of pardon I mean a distinct explicit assurance that my sins are forgiven. I allow (1) that there is an explicit assurance; (2) that it is the common privilege of real Christians; (3) that it is the proper Christian Faith which 'purifieth the heart' and 'over-cometh the world.' But I cannot allow that justifying faith is such an assurance, or necessarily connected therewith. 3. Because if justifying faith necessarily implies such an explicit assurance of pardon, then everyone who has it not and everyone so long as he has it not is under the wrath and the curse of God. But this is a supposition contrary to Scripture as well as to experience. Contrary to Is. 1: 10, and Acts 10: 34, 35. Again, the assertion justifying faith is a sense of pardon/ is contrary to reason: it is flatly absurd. For how can a sense of pardon be the condition of our receiving it?" (2.) As to the latter: " The second inference is, let none rest in any supposed fruit of the Spirit without the witness. There may be foretastes of joy, of peace, of love, and those not delusive, but really from God, long before we have; the witness in ourselves; before the Spirit of God witnesses with our spirits that we have redemption in the blood of Jesus, even the forgiveness of sins.' Yea, there may be a degree of longsuffering, of gentleness, of fidelity, meekness, temperance, (not a shadow thereof, but a real degree, by the preventing grace of God,) before we 'are accepted in the Beloved,' and, consequently, before we have a testimony of our acceptance: but it is by no means advisable to rest here; it is at the peril of our souls if we do. If we are wise, we shall be continually crying to God, until His Spirit cry in our heart, Abba, Father!' This is the privilege of all the children of God, and without this we can never be assured that we are His children

Without this we cannot retain a steady peace, nor avoid perplexing doubts and fears. But when we have once received this Spirit of adoption, this ' peace, which passcth all understanding/ and which expels all painful doubt and fear, will ' keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.' And when this has brought forth its genuine fruit, all inward and outward holiness, it is undoubtedly the will of Him that calleth us, to give us always what He has once given; so that there is no need that we should ever more be deprived of either the testimony of God's Spirit, or the testimony of our own, the consciousness of our walking in all righteousness and true holiness." (3.) He also in many passages of his writings shows that the testimony of the Spirit is borne to our justification, adoption and sanctification severally and respectively. As to the two former no evidence is needed: as to the witness of sanctification he says: "To this confidence, that God is both able and willing to sanctify us now, there needs to be added one thing more, —a Divine evidence and conviction that He doeth it. In that hour it is done, God says to the inmost soul, ' According to thy faith be it unto thee!' Then the soul is pure from every spot of sin; it is clean ' from all unrighteousness/ The believer then experiences the deep meaning of those solemn words, 'If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.'" Here two remarks must be made. The distinction maintained above, between the faith and its assurance, still holds good. By the " conviction that He doeth it" is meant the certainty conveyed to the soul that the work of entire sanctification is wrought. The " evidence " that is the perfection of faith itself, and the confidence that it has its object, are not always kept asunder in the Sermons. But it is undoubted that Mr. Wesley taught that the witness of finished sanctification is to be expected. Again, by " sanctify" here he means entirely sanctify: not being always careful to observe his own rule on the subject. There is no text of Scripture that directly promises the knowledge of so great an internal work; but none is necessary. It is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit to make His indwelling and work evident to the consciousness: " God 'sealeth us with the Spirit of promise' by giving us ' the full assurance of hope/ such a confidence of receiving all the promises of God, as excludes the possibility of doubting; with that Holy Spirit, by universal holiness, stamping the whole image of God on our hearts." The subject of this last assurance will come up again. Meanwhile, it is enough to say that the Methodist doctrine of the Spirit's witness covers the whole ground of the Spirit's work. It rests upon the firm foundation of the Scripture that we know the things that are freely given unto us of God.1 The assurance in the several departments of covenant blessing may bear various characters. Given to the pardoned sinner it is a sense of unspeakable relief to the conscience; in the heart of the adopted child it is the irrepressible filial confidence; in the regenerate spirit sanctified to God it is the silent seal of a Divine indwelling, abiding in the soul as the awful sense of the Triune God within and deepening into the assurance that He fills the whole heart, or the witness of entire sanctification

1 1 Cor. 2:12

2. It is the DIRECT WITNESS of the Spirit, not independent of the objective and external grounds of assurance, but given through them, or indeed without them, directly to the soul. " The sum of all is this: The testimony of the Spirit is an inward impression on the souls of believers, whereby the Spirit of God directly testifies to their spirit, that they are children of God. And it is not questioned, whether there is a testimony of the Spirit; but whether there is any direct testimony; whether there is any other than that which arises from a consciousness of the fruit of the Spirit. We believe there is; because this is the plain natural meaning of the text, illustrated both by the preceding words and by the parallel passage in the Epistle to the Galatians; because, in the nature of the thing, the testimony must precede the fruit which springs from it; and, because this plain meaning of the Word of God is confirmed by the experience of innumerable children of God; yea, and by the experience of all who are convinced of sin, who can never rest till they have a direct witness; and even of the children of the world, who, not having the witness in themselves, one and all declare, none can know his sins forgiven." The directness or immediateness of this testimony was contended against in the early days of Methodism, as it has been opposed, more or less, in all ages. The opposition, however, was of two kinds. Some denied the possibility on the general ground that there could be no security against enthusiasm. But the Spirit within the spirit of man is to all who know God the most real of all realities. Others insisted that there could be no such witness apart from the testimony of the consciousness of a sincere use of the external means of grace, and obedience to the commandments of God: in other words, that the testimony of the Spirit must in the nature of things be indirect if the means of grace are the objective grounds of assurance. But there are some plain passages concerning the testimony which expressly preclude the possibility that it is borne through the medium of any symbol or sacrament

Whatever voice, or word, or ordinance may be employed—each and all may be employed, and the Word in some form always—the assurance must ultimately be conveyed direct from Spirit to spirit. Mr. "Wesley in his candor understates his argument again and again. He deals with an objector thus: " ' But the direct witness is never referred to in the Book of God.' Not as standing alone; not as a single witness; but as connected with the other; as giving a joint testimony; testifying with our spirit, that we are children of God." Strictly speaking, there is no passage which more absolutely declares the direct and sole testimony of the Holy Ghost. The summarturei is indeed a joint testimony; but our own spirit is not supposed to bring its inferences to be confirmed; rather the witness of the Holy Ghost to our adoption is borne through the spirit of our new regenerate life. Elsewhere Mr. Wesley says, with more ‘precision: " the preposition sun only denoting that He witnesses this at the same time that He enables us to cry Abba, Father. But I contend not; seeing so many other texts, with the experience of all real Christians, sufficiently evince that there is in every believer both the testimony of God's Spirit, and the testimony of his own, that he is a child of God." These last words suggest the remark that the Methodist doctrine is unfairly dealt with when it is supposed to rest upon one, two, or three cardinal passages. The Sermon quoted ranges through a wide variety of Scriptural proofs; and it does not include all Hard by the words here and habitually quoted there are others which even yet more strongly declare the Mystery of the inward assurance of the child of God: that, namely, which speaks of the Searcher of hearts hearing the voice of the interceding Spirit in the inmost consciousness of His suffering children

3. It is always confirmed by the accompaniment of the INDIRECT WITNESS, or testimony of the conscience on the evidence of a sincere life. The latter phrase seems preferable for the reason just assigned. Though Mr. Wesley writes of it as " The Witness of our own spirit" his discourse is or the characteristics of a good conscience. " Neither is it questioned whether there is an indirect witness or testimony, that we are the children of God. This is nearly, if not exactly, the same with the testimony of a good conscience towards God; and is the result of reason, or reflection on what we feel in our own souls. Strictly speaking, it is a conclusion drawn partly from the Word of God, and partly from our own experience. The Word of God says, everyone who has the fruit of the Spirit is a child of God; experience, or inward consciousness, tells me that I have the fruit of the Spirit; and hence I naturally conclude, 'Therefore I am a child of God/" This witness is indirect as a conclusion: but as the consciousness of experience, or of conscience, which is the moral consciousness, it is as direct as that of the Spirit Himself, who may be said to bear witness together with our conscience. The two are united ever in the perfect experience of the Christian. But both admit of variations. " Nor do we assert that there can be any real testimony of the Spirit without the fruit of the Spirit. We assert, on the contrary, that the fruit of the Spirit immediately springs from this testimony: not always indeed in the same degree, even when the testimony is first given; and much less afterwards. Neither joy nor peace is always at one stay; no, nor love; as neither is the testimony itself always equally strong and clear." None of the doctrines to which Methodism gives prominence is more diligently fenced and defended from the imputation of fanaticism than this of the direct and indirect witness of the Holy Spirit


Provision is made in the Christian covenant for the maintenance of religion in the soul to the end. The source of this grace is the effectual intercession of Christ, caring for His own. The manifestation of it is the all-sufficient power of the Holy Spirit; in its nature and operation it is superabundant and persistent; not indefectible however, but conditional on perseverance in fidelity

The general subject belongs to the Ethics as well as to the Doctrines of Redemption. So far as it belongs to doctrine, two things must be noted. First, there is a specific GRACE OF PERSEVERANCE provided in the Christian covenant which is too often forgotten in the ardor of controversy: this we must dwell upon briefly. Secondly, the chief stress of the treatment must needs be laid on the polemical or historical aspect of it: that is, in the confutation of the conventional dogma of FINAL PERSEVERANCE


Christ's eternal love to His own, as proved once for all in His supreme sacrifice, is the pledge of persevering grace being granted by Him according to all the varieties of their need. That love shows itself in special and effectual intercession for them: intercession which is the Redeemer's expressed will, and also His prayer giving efficacy to ours

1. There is a sense in which the Lord regards the body of believers as His own for time and for eternity. By His atonement He has secured them for Himself, and secured for them every provision for eternal salvation. They are His portion of the human race; and their continuance in grace is provided for: not only for their own sake but also for His. He waits to rejoice over them in heaven as His purchased possession,1 as His heritage or the portion that falleth to Him: And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine.2 There is no more impressive and affecting representation of the bond between Christians and Christ their Head than this, that they are given Him of the Father

1 Eph. 1:14; 2 John 17:10

2. For this body, as distinguished from the world, He intercedes. His will is their eternal salvation. Father, I will that, theloo hina, they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.1 His one Divine reward for His Divine-human obedience is the salvation of His own. It also takes a human form: the Father highly exalted Him and gave Him supreme dominion. He did not Himself stipulate for this; He never even seems to glance beyond this world for His recompense; but He does most expressly lay claim to His people as His inheritance; satisfied with them, but with nothing less than they: of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing.2 Death seems to appropriate part of them; but death must relinquish its prey: I will raise it up again at the last day. His request or intercession also—almost as strong as His will—is for their grace unto perseverance. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.3 And in praying—eroto—for sufficient grace unto perseverance, our Lord included all His own to the end of time: not simply as His own, however, but as believers, for them also which shall believe on Me.4 They are His heritage, but as believing in Him: not one without the other

1 John 17:24; 2 John 6:39; 3 John 17:15; 4 John 17:20

3. Hence, nothing is more certain than the perseverance of those who continue in that body. They shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of My hand.1 The, Father and the Son in eternal essence one, are united in the counsel of redemption. But there is a special emphasis upon their unity in the accomplishment of the design of grace as to the elect: I and My Father are One.2 The members of Christ's mystical body are eternally foreknown, and grace will be found to have been sufficiently provided for their whole estate of probation. He who redeemed the world especially redeemed the Church; and known unto Him from the beginning was the whole contest and diversified trial through which His Church must become eternally His. Therefore He added to the treasure of His redeeming merit the continual energy of His active intercession, providing grace for every time of need. The High Priest of mankind is especially the Advocate of His people: If any man sin we have an Advocate with the Father... Who is the Propitiation for the sins of the world.3

1 John10:28; 2 John 10:30; 3 1 John 2:1,2


The grace of Perseverance is the constant impartation of the Holy Ghost: indwelling as a seal and bringing effectual succor in every time of need

I. St. Paul, in one of those passages into which he condenses the entire substance of Gospel privilege, says: in Whom also after that ye believed ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.1 As to God, the Spirit is His seal on the regenerate soul. As to the believer, the Spirit is to him the earnest of a future inheritance. As to Christ, the Spirit is His representative in the soul until He redeems His possession. But it is remarkable that in the Epistle which mentions most emphatically the seal of the Spirit, of the personal Indweller, we have the most urgent exhortation, grieve not the Holy Spirit.2 Though nothing in this tranquil Epistle is said of the possibility of the seal being broken, nothing is said as to its being inviolable. Be not ye therefore partakers with them3 is an injunction which seems to refer as much to the wrath of God as to these things which caused it: have no participation with them, either in their doings or in the punishment of those doings. In another document, which teaches the same doctrine of the sealing Spirit, we read: If any man destroy the temple of God, Mm shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.4

1 Eph. 1:13,14; 2 Eph. 4:30; 3 Eph. 5:6,7; 4 1 Cor. 3:7

II. Persevering grace is imparted for every requirement of our infirmity, and that in three ways

1. It is the grace of watchfulness to keep what is attained: I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.1 This was said to one who failed in part: and did not wholly fail only because grace was given to him which he used. The grace he received taught him the need of watchfulness. He was bidden, when converted, strengthen thy brethren; and his Epistles are specially adapted to encourage confidence in the riches of the grace of Christ, the Keeper of Israel, at the same time that they lay very great stress upon the humility that receives and the diligence that uses His effectual grace. Be sober, be vigilant follows hard upon Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.2 A watchful spirit is the gift of God; but its watchfulness is its own use of that gift

1 Luke 22:31,32; 2 1 Pet. 5:7,8

2. It is the manifold grace which enables the soul to accomplish every duty of life. God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:1 this applies not only to the duty of liberality, but to every duty. Having all-sufficiency from God we must abound in our own diligence

There is no commandment without promise: promise of reward for obedience, and promise of help to perform. But the grace which strengthens for endlessly diversified duty is pledged to those and to those only who use it. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.2 The good pleasure which is here the spring and the rule of the Divine working in us must become our own good pleasure. St. Paul elsewhere gives us a variation on this great saying. We pray always for you that our God may . . . fulfill every desire of goodness and every work of faith with power.3

1 2 Cor. 9:8; 2 Phil. 2:12,13; 3 2 Thes. 1:11

3. It is the effectual grace of support that enables the believer to sustain the pressure of affliction and to endure all the will of God. The Apostle's prayer for the Colossians is, that they might be strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.1 But another Apostle says that the grace which enables the soul to sustain what is a sharper test than any Satan can apply—the visitation of Providence, and the spiritual suffering which precedes the death of the body of sin in conformity with Christ who suffered for us in the flesh2—is to be used as our own amour, not God's alone: Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind. Finally, however, when we have done and suffered all, and while we are doing and suffering all, persevering grace is the Divine gift: But the God of all grace. Who hath called you to His eternal glory in Christ \Jesus\ after that ye have suffered awhile, will make perfect, stablish, strengthen, [settle] you.3

.1 Col. 1:11; 2 1 Pet. 4:1; 3 1 Pet. 5:10


This grace is, as has been seen, strong and persistent; but mighty and enduring as it is, it is still conditional

I. However viewed, the grace of Christ towards His own, and the power of the Holy Spirit within them, go far to secure absolutely the final salvation of the regenerate. The surpassing and unlimited love of the Redeemer, the reluctance of the Spirit to forsake the work of His hands, the plenitude of the means of grace, the growing blessedness of true religion, the might of intercessory prayer both Divine and human, the feebleness of the Lord's enemies in comparison of His lightest influence, all conspire to show that the utter relapse and final ruin of a regenerate soul is a hard possibility. If the Holy Ghost forsakes the soul for ever which He has once inhabited, such a departure, rendering the place so deeply and unalterably desolate, must be spoken of in the language of the prophet as His strange work, His strange act.1

1 Isa. 28:21

1. This blessed truth explains much in Scripture that seems to declare that the Christian heritage is absolutely secure. If God be for us, who can be against us?1 Here is both the question of confidence and the apostrophe of defiance. The latter is continued in the glowing words which assert that nothing, sin always excepted, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord

1 Rom. 8:31-39

2. It explains the tone of assurance with which the future is looked forward to among the Christians of the New Testament. We are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.1 There is a drawing back; but we may feel ourselves secure. Hence the strengthener of his brethren, the Apostle of perseverance, bids them make your calling and election sure:2 bebaian humoon. It may be made SURE, and this is the guarantee of assurance. It must be MADE sure, and this is the pith of perseverance

1 Heb. 10:39; 2 2 Pet. 1:10

3. But it must be reconciled with the most positive testimonies that no man in the present life can go beyond the assurance of hope. What a man seeth, why doth he yet hope far?1 The solitary passage in the New Testament which describes faith and hope as one and interchangeable gives the formula of the true doctrine. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for:2 the present substantial realization of what is ours only in hope. And very impressive is the fact that St. Paul in two other passages describes Christian hope as keeping pace in its measures with the increase of faith: Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost;3 and in another with the increase of experience: tribulation worketh patience, and patience probation, and probation hope. This hope maketh not ashamed; but no other reason of this is given than that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.4

1 Rom. 8:24; 2 Heb. 11:1; 3 Rom. 15:13; 4 Rom. 5:3,4,5

II. The grace of continuance is conditional, notwithstanding all that has been said

Unconditional grace may be spoken of as provided for the world as such, and for the mystical Church as such: as received by individuals it is conditional. Whether in the beginning of preliminary life, or in the mature life of the regenerate, or in the most confirmed saints, its very nature as grace is bound up with the condition that it is used by the free concurrence of him who receives it

1. All grace of God is unconditional in its impartation to the old race in Adam, and to the new race in Christ. The grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.1 As all mankind share the displeasure of God caused by sin, so all share the beginnings of His mercy drawing them to repentance. This preliminary grace, whether manifest through its appointed means or imperceptible in its mysterious influence on the human heart, is unconditional. So also the plenary gifts of grace, which all believers receive out of His fullness,2 are unconditionally bestowed on the mystical body of Christ, whatever and of whomsoever composed that body may be

The Church, as such, is a predestined object of our Lord's eternal complacency. Hence the language of the Scripture runs in the strain of indefectible gift of grace to the body and fellowship of believers as foreseen and predestinated from the foundation of the world

1 Rom. 5:15; 2 John 1:16

2. But all grace, whether preliminary or saving, is as it concerns the individual, and with respect to its effectual operation, conditional. Therefore St. Paul's exhortation, beseeching us that we receive not the grace of God in vain:1 received freely in one sense and as irresistible, in another sense it may be received in vain. Unless eis kenon ceases to mean to no purpose, or without result, and unless it can be shown that St. Paul was addressing spurious Christians, saving grace is not irremissible, But he certainly addressed, by every token in the context, true believers in Christ, when he uttered this most impressive appeal

1 2 Cor. 6:1


The conventional dogma of Final Perseverance belongs to the Augustinian or Calvinistic type of doctrine. There have been sundry attempts to attach this doctrine to other systems, but they have been vain : it comports with no other theory of the economy of grace than which limits it to a definite and elect number, predetermined in the councils of eternity

Supposing redemption to be universal, and the offer of grace free for all, and salvation possible to every man, some have also supposed that the grace of an effectual regeneration must needs be indefectible and eternal. But a more thorough examination of the Christian covenant tends to show that this generous interpretation of the doctrine of persevering grace cannot be made consistent with the freedom of will and personal responsibility which lie at the foundation of universal redemption. The arguments for the indefectibility of grace in the Elect are such as rest, first upon the nature of the Christian Covenant, and then upon misunderstood Scriptures


What is called Final Perseverance, or the doctrine that grace can never be finally lost, is defended generally not so much by Scripture as by the necessary principles of the socalled Covenant of Redemption. So absolute and all-pervading in this view of the Gospel is the idea of a fixed and unalterable division of mankind that it is made a canon to which the interpretation of every passage of Scripture must conform. What seems to be wrong in these principles has been already indicated, but may be summarized once more

1. The Absolute sovereignty of the Divine will presides over an imaginary covenant between the Father and the Son before time began; a certain number were to be redeemed and given to the Redeemer as the fruit and reward of His atoning submission; and fidelity to that covenant demands the immunity from possible fall of all who were included in the portion of Christ. There is no Scriptural evidence of such an unconditional covenant, though there is a catholic truth of inestimable importance underlying the error. The Redeemer has indeed His portion of mankind divided to Him; but not by an absolutely sovereign and despotic disposal of the eternal destinies of men. He rejoices over those who were given Him of the Father; but He laments over one of them as lost. Moreover He speaks of them as being drawn to Him one by one, and promises them: him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. Not in this style would He speak of those who were unconditionally His before time began. He prays for the Glory which He had before the foundation of the world, but not for the people who were then assigned to Him

1 John 6:37

2. The relation of Christ to those thus given Him is supposed to be such that their salvation is assured. He is their Substitute and Surety, and more than their Representative: He assumes their place at all points; suffers for them, obeys for them, and insures them an eternal sanctity. We have seen that the Saviour's righteousness is not otherwise imputed to His people than as their sin was imputed to Him. We may conceive of an imputation of the active righteousness in the sense that we are reckoned righteous as well as forgiven; but even of that the Scripture does not so speak. We are predestinated elect, St. Peter says, only through sanctification of the Spirit.1

1 1 Pet. 1:2

3. The irresistibility of Divine grace as an operation of the Spirit within the soul is necessary to the dogma of Final Perseverance. But grace, as such, is never represented as irresistible: it is free in God, and to be freely received by man. Like the will it cannot tolerate the idea of constraint, by its very name. God is irresistible; and His will is irresistible; but not His grace, which is only His undeserved lovingkindness moving on free intelligences. His will redeemed the world; and that will was irresistible. The grace that bringeth salvation to all men1 was absolute and unconditional; though even that grace may be received in vain2 by individuals. As working within the heart it is an influence of discipline: it teacheth us the way of holiness, paideuei

1 Tit. 2:11; 2 2 Cor. 9:1

4. The distinction between the special grace that insures salvation and the common grace that may be, and by the terms must be, in many cases, unprofitable, is arbitrary. No grace of God should be called common: its slightest influence may lead to heaven, and is given with that intention. There is no necessity in the system more hard, no dogma in it more intolerable than that which requires us to believe in a large and most affecting expenditure of the grace of God intentionally insufficient for salvation

5. The gift of Final Perseverance is an unreality, whether in the expression or in the thought which it expresses. Perseverance is an ethical duty. The gift, or charism, of perseverance is bestowed from moment to moment; it is the diligent use of the grace of every hour. That it should be imparted once for all as a blessing of the Christian covenant is a contradiction in terms; and the necessity of choosing such a phrase for the doctrine is an argument against it


The testimonies of Scripture introduced into this controversy may be divided into two classes: those which the advocates of Final Perseverance use in offensive warfare, and those which they resist when alleged against them. Both classes have been already alluded to; but the importance of the subject demands that they be more formally exhibited in their seeming contrariety

I. Positive declarations of the Bible in favor of the necessary perpetuity of grace are confessedly few. The argument most depended on is as we have seen the nature of the covenant of grace, or the compact between the Father and the Son as already explained

The few testimonies to which appeal is made may be referred to the decrees of God, to our Lord's sayings, and to the Apostolical testimonies as such

1. Whom He called them He also justified, and whom He justified them He also glorified.1 This golden chain, with others like it, only sets forth the order of grace: not a necessary sequence, save in the case of the finally saved; the links are beheld from eternity and not from time. It goes back to what we call the past, proegnoo, He did foreknow; all whom He foreknew, prooorise, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son. Then it goes forward, as we might say, to the end: as if all were accomplished, them He also called, elakese; them He also justified, edikaioose, their adoption and sanctification being included in the image of His Son; and them He also glorified, edoxasen. This representative text stands for all those which refer to the electing and determinate purpose of God: passages which are to be interpreted as speaking in the prospect of an eternal accomplishment already decided in the Divine mind with reference to the believing heirs of grace and glory, therefore as referring not so much to the individual as to the Church viewed in its corporate mystical capacity

1 Rom. 8:29,30

2. Our Lord's declarations on this subject are few. His parable of the sheep, of whom He says that they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand,1 must be interpreted in the light of that other of the Vine, whose branches are eternal, while an individual branch might be cast forth and be withered.2 This we shall mark hereafter: meanwhile, our Lord declares of His sheep that as such they shall never lack pasture from Him, nor shall any wrest them from Him. That they may not forsake Him He does not add; nor could that be added by the same lips which testified, severed from Me ye can do nothing

1 John 10:28; 2 John 15:5,6

3. A few typical passages from the Apostles may be adduced: each represents a class, though a very small one

(1.) St. Paul writes: Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.1 The Apostle, when he speaks of the coming day of Christ, almost invariably has in view the community character of Christians: death was to the individual at least an alternative prospect; it was not so to the Church, which has only before it the coming of Christ. Hence the IN is really equivalent to AMONG you. In any case, the emphasis is in the relation between the beginning and the performing; and the safeguard is supplied in the prayer that ye may be sincere and without offence unto the, day of Christ. Such passages mast have a generous interpretation, but not too generous. It is the will of God to accomplish fully all that He begins in love; but not all the gifts of universal mercy are without repentance: witness its vast miscarriage in those who turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness,2 the grace that bringeth salvation to all men.3

1 Phil. 1:6-10; 2 Jude 4; 3 Tit. 2:11

(2.) The only testimony of St. John that can be pressed into the service is this: they went out from us but they were not of us; for, if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.1 He is speaking of Antichrists, teaching without the unction from the Holy One

Comparison with this Apostle's own parable of the Vine will show that he could not refer to a necessary continuing or abiding in Christ, as such

1 1 John 2:19,20

(3.) St. Peter, the Apostle who fell and rose again, whose gentle penalty was, when thou hast turned again, stablish thy brethren,1 is naturally appealed to on this question. He has many important sayings in relation to it. All Christian communions hold that doctrine of indefectible grace and final perseverance which is taught in the word: kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation,2 which indeed contain the whole truth in summary form. As the Atonement is set forth by the Divine counsel independently of man, but made a reality to him only through faith, —Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation by His blood through faith,3 so the final salvation to which it leads is set forth in the Divine mind for the Church, but becomes personal privilege only through faith. A passage, however, soon follows which has been a classical proof-text, and much relied on, so far that is as isolated texts are relied on in this controversy. It is that of the incorruptible seed. There are two kinds of life mentioned by the writer. Of the one it is said, all flesh is as grass: the glory and beauty of physical or temporal life perisheth. Of the other it is said: begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God which liveth and abideth [for ever].4 The glory and beauty of that life of which Christ says, / am come that they may have life, and may hare it [more] abundantly,5 never passeth away. With St. Peter's text may be compared St. John's, Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him.6 The two passages are strictly parallel; but neither does St. John teach that the incorruptible seed as such makes the regenerate absolutely sinless, nor St. Peter that it absolutely insures eternal life

1 Luke 22:32; 2 1 Pet. 1:5; 3 Rom. 3:25; 4 1 Pet. 1:23; 5 John 10:10; 6 1 John 3:9

II. Many passages running in an opposite direction are so clear as effectually to overturn the high theory of Final Perseverance

1. There are some, indeed, which ought not to be pressed into the controversy on either side. Such are those which refer to the falls of the saints: they might often fall, but not finally, Simon Peter being an instance, with David and Solomon, and many others. Nor should we urge the texts which enforce fidelity, diligence, and watchfulness generally as necessary to salvation. It may be fairly said that the Divine purpose includes the means with the end: the opponents of indefectible grace are glad of an analogous argument when they connect foreknowledge and election. As election is based on foreknowledge, so, might it be said, final perseverance is assured on the foreknowledge of fidelity. Nor should we use those which speak of the apostasy of Judaism or of the fall of the Israelites in the wilderness: apart, that is, from the Apostolic specific application of this latter, which does give a very solemn individual aspect to the admonition. Nor is it right to appeal to the decline and destruction of the Asiatic Churches. All these instances of a final lapse from grace may be referred to communities and not to individuals: here again we must allow our opponents the measure we mete with ourselves. But there is a series of declarations running through the Word of God which the advocates of the irremissibility of grace are obliged to wrest from their obvious signification, or interpret by a special canon of Hermeneutics devised for the purpose

2. There are many sayings which are uttered by God, as it were without specific relation to the redeeming purpose, as the Moral Governor of the universe simply. If thou forsake Him He will cast thee off for ever:1 this expressed a universal principle applicable to all economies, and to all times, and to all unfaithful stewards of the Divine gifts, the unknown prophet who was raised up to rebuke Eli, speaks thus the Divine message: I said indeed . . .. But now the Lord saith, Be it far from Me; for them that honor Me I will honor, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.2 This is not a theocratic principle only, it is a statement of God's everlasting law. No sophistry can avail to soften the words spoken by God to the children of His people for ever: the righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression.3 Both in the New and in the Old Testaments God is no-respecter of persons.4 As a Father, He judgeth according to every man's work.5 Our God—even in the Christian covenant—is a consuming fire:6 consuming His people's sins, indeed; but it was not to express such a meaning the word was uttered; it was as a warning to all who, having received the grace of the earlier covenant, reject that of the later

1 1 Chr. 28:9; 2 1 Sam. 2:30; 3 Eze. 33:12; 4 Acts 10:34; 5 1 Pet. 1:17; 6 Heb. 12:29

3. Our Lord has left some clear sayings, recorded by the same Evangelist who has most profoundly exhibited the bond between Christ and His elect. The parable-allegory of the Vine is the pendant of that of the sheep that never perish. Without Me— chooris emou ye can do nothing.1 If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered.2 This follows the great words of mystical union, Abide in Me, and I in you; the warning therefore is not given to those who heard it as they were Apostles. Nor was the calling of Judas only Apostolic; he was cast forth of the living Vine, and his loss was acknowledged as the separation of one of the elect: those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition.3 Three terms are used in relation to Judas which show that he had been one of the objects of the Saviour's grace in common with the other Apostles: he was given to Christ of the Father, he was chosen, and as lost he had partaken of salvation. It may be said that while the Lord was in the world, and especially during His earlier ministry, His teaching did not as yet penetrate to the strict bonds of the eternal covenant. But there is no teaching of His servants on this or any subject higher than His own. And the tone of His instruction from the beginning to the end tends to exactly the opposite of the doctrine of a necessary indefectible grace

Witness the close of the Sermon on the Mount: the last parables of the Talents and the Pounds and the Virgins; and the final Eschatological discourses. We cannot but feel that He speaks, not of a class of persons never really Christians, but of us all. But the series of testimonies to which we here refer belongs rather to the ethics than to the doctrines of the covenant of grace. They are therefore not here quoted and classified

1 John 15:4,5,6; 2 John 10:28; 3 John 17:12

4. A few of the Apostolical testimonies may be added: each the representative of a considerable class

(1.) The last words of the first Apostolic writer: let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins.1 The sins thus hidden are such as cause error from the way of eternal life: St. John forbids the other interpretation when, as to the sin unto death, he says, I do not say that he shall pray for it.2 St. James makes very emphatic the probationary character of religion: he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy.3 The Apostle is speaking to Christian men, who may forget the royal law of charity; and what in their case must mean JUDGMENT WITHOUT MERCY!

1 Jas. 5:19,20; 2 1 John 5:16; 3 Jas. 2:13

(2.) St. Peter thus exhorts: give diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if ye do these things ye shall never fall,1 purely this is not language used of an impossible lapse. Satan may indeed by a violent interpretation be supposed to be self-deceived in seeking whom he may devour.2 But the Apostle warns all not to fall from their own steadfastness.3

1 2 Pet. 1:10; 2 1 Pet. 5:8; 3 2 Pet. 3:17

(3.) St. Jude, in his short Epistle, speaks of backsliders like autumn, trees, without fruit, twice dead;1 and of men once Christians who had become sensual, having not the Spirit: these had been in the spiritual family, else how could they make separations? The tenor of the Epistle is no other than a warning against eternal apostasy. Those who are preserved in Jesus Christ2 are bidden keep yourselves in the love of God.3 The doxology to Him that is able to keep you from falling4 is one that all confessions join in. These three KEEPINGS must be combined. The two former have the same Greek verb: those who are preserved in Christ must preserve themselves in God's love. The third varies the expression in two words: God is able to guard from falling, and He is ABLE to guard

Here is the threefold cord; all true Christians rejoice in the combination of its strands; but none should find in it more than the everlasting security which unites Almighty power and human fidelity

1 Jude 12; 2 Jude 1,12; 3 Jude 24; 4 Jude 25

(4.) St. Paul's view of redemption delights in the perfect stability of the eternal counsels

He evermore sees the consummation of the Divine designs, and all the heirs of salvation as already hid with Christ in God.1 But some of his words absolutely deny the indefectibility of grace. Besides leaving on record some other declarations which have been already referred to, he speaks of his rigor in the care of his own soul, lest . . . I myself should be rejected:2 no believer in an inalienable salvation would have adopted such language, certainly no inspired teacher of the truth would have spoken so unguardedly even in his deepest humility

1 Col. 3:3; 2 1 Cor. 9:27

(5.) The Epistle to the Hebrews contains passages which cannot accord with the necessary permanence of grace. Though their meaning may be exaggerated by those who make them deny the possibility of restoration after a certain measure and degree of fall, it is no exaggeration that they teach the possibility of an extinction of grace in such as had tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.1 This, with the previous injunction, that no man fall after the same example of unbelief,2 the exhortation Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward,3 with the assurance that we are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end,4 and other such passages, are thought by some simply to lay down a desperate and impossible hypothesis, or to refer only to an external profession without corresponding reality, or to speak of a lapse from a presumed state of grace, the hollowness of which is supposed to be detected. But on such principles of interpretation Scripture can be made to prove nothing, or rather can be made to prove anything

1 Heb. 6:4,5; 2 Heb. 6:11; 3 Heb. 10:35; 4 Heb. 3:14

(6.) The last organ of inspiration, whose writings perfect the New Testament, gives his clear testimony. St. John's First Epistle speaks of the possibility of being ashamed before Him at His coming,1 and that to little children, his affectionate term for true Christians

What he means by being ashamed a later text shows, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment:2 there will be no shame at the Judgment Day but in those who experience the dread calamity threatened by our Lord Himself again and again: of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed.3 St. John's Gospel contains no teaching of his own, at least on this subject. In the Apocalypse also not John but his Lord speaks: and, although the threats against apostate Churches must not be pressed, the final words of the Redeemer are profoundly solemn: God shall take away his part from the tree of life:4 not refuse it to him, but take it away. Thus the Scriptures close with a testimony that is most decisive against the doctrine of an inevitable and unconditional predestination to Final Perseverance

1 1 John 2:28; 2 1 John 4:17; 3 Mark 8:38; 4 Rev. 22:19

III. Although they thus speak, the opponents of this doctrine feel that there is a peculiarity in the present controversy which must always distinguish it from every other

1. The instinct of the true Christian loves the dogma that he is obliged to oppose: and the same instinct makes the true Christian who holds it act as if he held it not. Practically all who bear this character are one in the doctrine that Final Perseverance is a duty and a privilege. Those who deny that union with Christ, once effected, is inviolable—and deny it confidently because our Savior Himself says, If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch1—nevertheless earnestly contend that such and so sacred a union is not easily and is not often finally dissolved. They admit that many lapses, and many grievous lapses, are consistent with that indwelling secret grace which is of all things the most tenacious of its hold on the heart of man. They know full well that there may be the residue of grace in the soul which seems almost sealed in reprobation; that the eye of mercy, never more quick to discern the secrets of the heart than when seeking for the traces of Good in the hidden, depths of man's nature, may behold life where the eye of man's judgment would see only death; and that Infinite Compassion may fan into flame the all but extinguished fire which none but Himself could discern. They feel the full meaning of the apologetic and almost retracting words which follow the plain warning against total apostasy: but, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.2

1 John 15:6; 2 Heb. 6:9

2. There is a sense in which the doctrine of Perseverance is common to all Confessions and must by all Christians be held. To the foreknowledge of the Omniscient not only is the mystical body sealed, but the salvation of every member of it is fixed. Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world:1 these words of St. James have a direct reference to the subject of our discussion; the God of Israel is visiting the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.2 The number of the saved is before Him as if the whole process were over: an hundred and fifty and three were reckoned in the last symbolical fishing; the exact and finished number of the eternally sealed is now present to the Supreme Eye; and each individual of those who dispute over this doctrine is either saved or not saved in that future which is to God as the present

1 Acts 15:18,14; 2 John 21:11

3. But here we are on the brink of the unsearchable mystery of the union or unity between the Divine foreknowledge and the Divine predestination. What is now known to God must be to us nevertheless an issue not determined. Contemplating this truth as in the light of God's knowledge we may say that everyone finally saved must persevere. But in that light we must not contemplate it. God sees the end as an accomplished fact which man is working out as a contingency. We are all in PROBATION: each one of his descendants as certainly as Adam was. Personal ASSURANCE is given, or provision is made that it may be given, to each as the daily bread of life. And PERSEVERANCE is nothing but the holding that full assurance of hope unto the end.1

1 Heb. 6:11