« הקודםהמשך »
The following imperfect Treatise is printed solely for the use of the people of the Author's charge. To them the publication will explain itself. As it is not intended for general circulation, but few copies will be published.
But lest this Tract should fall into the hands of strangers unacquainted with the circumstances of its publication, it may be well to mention the cause of its appearance.
During the second week in April, a very general interest was excited in regard to the “Perseverance of the Saints,” by a public discussion of the question between two Ministering Brethren of different opinions and denominations. The subject having attracted the notice, and called forth the opinions of the other Ministers in Wilmington, and there appearing to be a general disposition to ex. amine the matter, I was requested by some of my friends to say something upon the subject on the ensuing sabbath.
Believing that a calm and charitable discussion of the topic would not be inju. rious to any one, while it might serve to confirm and establish my people in what I deemed an important doctrine of the Bible, I consented; and took the first opportunity of making the following unwritten though not undigested re. marks upon the subject. Some of the most judicious and respectable members of the church afterwards held a meeting and agreed to request a copy for publication. A complete copy it was not in my power to give, but as individual application had also been made to me for the Texts on which my leading arguments were founded, as their appeared a greater probability of my people read. ing a short though imperfect treatise by their Pastor, than longer though much better treatises by a stranger,--and as I could not see any thing in such proceed. ing necessarily offensive to other denominations, I resolved to prepare a Skeleton of the arguments adduced and objections answered.
The reader, therefore, will not expect any thing like a regular Sermon, but be content with some General Hints of arguments and answers.
I have present. ed the plain text, with only so much of a comment, as to give the inquirer a key to the reasoning founded on the text. The filling up and colouring are l'eft to the reader himself.
If the hints here given should be instrumental in turning the attention of the people of my charge to a more diligent perusal of the word of God, and be at all influential in establishing them in the "faith once delivered to the Saints,” I shall be amply compensated.
Note. As it is inconsistent with my plan to state arguments in full, the reader will pardon my emphasising or italicising those words upon which the argument hangs.
PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS.
MY DEAR BRETHREN,
My views of religious controversy are briefly these.
1. A degree of it is sometimes proper and even necessary. Otherwise the Apostle's exhortation was absurd, “ Contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." Jude 3.
2. One occasion on which it is not only lawful, but obligatory to contend with others is, when the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel are denied. When an association of men style themselves a “ Christian” Church, and yet deny the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, the Atonement, the plenary Inspiration of the Scriptures, and reject the doctrine of everlasting punishment, it appears to me, no principle of Christian charity forbids an ambassador of Christ to notice and condemn their errors. And more especially when these errors are widely diffused as they are in many parts of our land, and in none more so than in this region, it seems hardly reconcilable with true love to souls to be silent on the subject.
3. Controversy between Christian Brethren whether individuals or churches, or the non-essential points on which they differ (for they cannot differ on essen. tial points) is generally injurious and to be condemned. For the breach of charity which it occasions is far worse than immaterial errors in doctrine.
Yet a temperate discussion of the doctrines of your faith, in the presence of your own people, without any view directly to attack the faith or condemn the principles of another church, does not, in my opinion merit the name of controversy.
The doctrine of the infallible Perseverance of the Saints, I do not regard as a fundamental doctrine of the Gospel; of course, I admit, people may hold different sentiments and yet be saved. Yet I cannot but think it a very important doctrine, and one which is clearly and strongly taught in the word of God, one which is in a measure essential to a Christian's comfort, and greatly con. ducive to the glory of God.
In offering a few Remarks upon the subject at this time, therefore, I have no view to controversy, no design nor disposition to attack or condemn any of my Christian brethren. So far would I be from doubting the punity of those individuals or Churches who differ from us on this subject, that I believe there are in those churches some of the most consistent Christians upon earth, and think very probably as many real saints as in our own or any other church. But I wish to remind you of the Arguments upon which the doctrine of our church is built, and of the Answers which are usually offered to objections. I will
I. State and explain the DOCTRINE.
I. It seems proper to explain what we mean by the doctrine of the Perseven rance of the Saints.
1. By a “ Saint” I do not mean a perfectly holy person, for there is not such an one on earth. Nor, running to the other extreme, do I consider every awakened and convicted person a saint ; for many are alarmed, excited and partially reformed who are never thoroughly converted. The falling away of such persons we do not consider the falling away of saints. But by a saint I understand a real Christian, one that has been born again, John ii. 7.-who has become a new creature, 2 Cor. v. 17. or to use a favorite expression of our opponents, has been
soundly and thoroughly converted.” It is impossible such a person should perish.
2. When we say it is impossible for a saint to fall away and be lost; we do not mean that this impossibility arises from any thing in the Christian himself, but from the immutability of the purpose and promise of God. If left to himself, the Christian would fall in a moment; and hence arises the propriety of those cautions, exhortations and warnings against falling which abound in the word of God.
3. When we say it is impossible to fall from grace, we do not mean that it is impossible to lose many degrees of grace, or to be backsliders to a considerable extent ; for this we admit is a frequent occurrence: but that it is impossible to fall entirely away, to lose all grace and perish eternally. Dr. Emmons and some other New England divines admit a total, tho they deny a final falling from grace. Our church, in my opinion very properly, denies both; but the latter is the more important of the two, and it is to this I shall principally direct your attention.'
Our doctrine therefore is,
* That no real Christian, no one who has been truly regenerated and made a nero treature in Christ Jesus, will ever be suffered to perish eternally."
1. That it “it destroys free agency. God cannot decree the infallible perseverance of a saint without infringing his liberty as a moral agent.” And they say a great deal about necessity being inconsistent with liberty &c. To which we answer,
1. We grant that physical necessity, or force is inconsistent with liberty ; but moral necessity or certainty, which is all we plead for, does not interfere with liberty in the least.
2. We do not suppose any other or greater influence necessary to keep us in a state of grace than to bring us into that state at first. In a word it conversion by Divine power does not destroy free agency, preservation by the same power will not. Nothing but divine grace upholds a Christian for a moment; and if this upholding for a moment does not destroy free agency, why should uphold. ing for an hour, or a day, or a year, or our life time, destroy free agency?
3. If God cannot decree the infallible perseverance of a saint without destroying his free agency, then our Lord Jesus Christ was not a free agent; for his infallible perseveravce was certain and fixed. v. Isa. xlii. 1-4. The same may be said of angels whose perseverance depends entirely upon God, and yet they are free agents. And the same is true also of glorified suints of whom
“ because I live, ye shall live also.” Their perseverance therefore throughout eternity is as certain as the perseverance of Christ himself, And yet are they not free ? we wish no higher freedom.
OBJ. II. “ It tends to Lacentiousne38."
Answer. We cannot always judge accurately of the tendency of a doctrine, especially if it be one which we do not rightly understand, which is generally true of doctrines which we do not hold. The safest rule is to judge of the tendency by the actual effects. We think the doctrines of our Methodist brethren, for instance, to be of dangerous tendency; they think otherwise ; and the aca tual effects prove that we do not understand the true nature or tendency of their peculiar tenets. Let them make the same allowance for us. We are quite sure they do not understand the tendency of our faith ; for we know it tends to purify our hearts.
The certainty of their salvation did not tempt the primitive believers to licentiousness, why should it have a different effect on us! They could say (1 John iii. 2, 3.) “ We know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope purifieth himself even as he is pure." Why should the certainty of our perseverance have a different effect? Especially as we can have no hope, much less certainty of salvation, unless conscious of present holiness.
Besides, this objection has been brought in every age against the whole Gos pel system. Rom. iii. 7, & 31. vi. 1. ix. 19, &c.
Obs. III. « The certainty of their salvation is inconsistent with the Efforts and Labours of saints to save themselves."
The whole force of this objection lies here, that unless there be some uncertainty of success, a person will not labour for success ; and if there was a perfect certainty of salvation a Christian would not trouble himself to use the means.
Ans. 1. Christ had a perfect certainty of success and salvation, and yet he used the means, and laboured with strong “crying and tears.”
2. Paul had a perfect certainty of escape from shipwreck, and yet he used the means. Acts xxvii. In a desperate case, like that of a condemned and helpless sinner, uncertainty of escape, so far from being a stimulus, deadens every ef. fort! Let there be a glimmering hope and he will do something ; let there be a certainty of a blessing on his efforts and he will strive with all his might. And mind, Christians can have no certainty of salvation except through their own efforts. How can they expect to run the race without running, or fight the battle without fighting !
OBJ. IV. “The Exhortations, Cautions, and Warnings of the New Testament prove the possibility and the dunger of saints falling away."
Ans. 1. There is a possibility and a danger of saints falling away”-i.e. to a considerable extent. They are in continual “ danger" of complying with temp. tation, of conforming to the world, of sitting down in indolence, and of falling into sin. Hence the propriety of all these moral stimulants to activity and watchfulness. If a soldier, from the known character of his Captain, were sure of winning the battle, and of the life of every soldier being preserved, he would nevertheless fight, knowing that he would otherwise be knocked down, trodden ander foot, wounded and disgraced, even though he escaped with life. Just so, though Christ has promised that every soldier shall escape with life, he has not promised he shall escape with honour and receive the crown of victory unless he fight valiantly. He may and often does leave the indolent and the cowardly to be wounded, disgraced, and maimed for life.
As the present comfort of a Christian therefore, depends on his activity and holiness; and as his future reward will be measured by bis attainments here, there is the utmost propriety and kindness in administering these cautions and holding out these encouragements.
2. Viewed in himself, as I have hinted before, there is a possibility and danger, yea a certainty of his falling entirely away, unless he strives and labours. But there is neither certainty, possibility, nor danger of God's breaking an absolute promise to save all who come to Christ.
OBJ. V. "Facts of acknowledged saints falling into sin ;-such as David, Solomon, and Peter.” As great reliance is placed on this argument, I will notice it more particularly.
1. David. That he died a Christian and is now in heaven, I believe nobody questions. Of course he did not finally fall from grace, and bis example therefore is nothing to the point. They must bring an instance of a saint who actu. ally perished.
2. That he fell into sin, and into a great and complicated sin, is lamentably true. That his conscience was stunned by his fall, and his spiritual comfort entirely destroyed, I have no question. But that he fell entirely from grace, when I have so many clear declarations of God to the contrary in regard to every saint, I will not admit,_except on one condition, that those who assert it will produce some express declaration of God to that effect.
That the Lord was displeased with David, as he is with every: Christian when he sins, is not denied ; but that he wholly cast him off is no where said, and never can be proved. That the Holy Spirit took away the “joys of his salvation” is ad. mitted, but that the Spirit entirely left him cannot be proved, and the contrary is implied in Ps. 51. 11. A flame may be damped without being quenched, a seed may be buried deep without being killed, a man may be very sick and nigh unto death, and yet not dead, a saint may fall very far, and yet not be lost ; God may chastise but will “not utterly” destroy; may
“ hide his face for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will he have mercy" on his people. Ps. 89.30. 34. Isa. 54. 8.