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of God respecting the salvation of the believer, is called an immutable counsel. That he might shew to the heirs of promise the immutability of his coursel, he confirmed it by an oath."
So it is said, that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." As the cause is immutable and everlasting, so must the effect be. Hence this work cannot fail. His seed remaineth in him and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. He that hath begun a good work in you will carry it on.”
The same doctrines may be argued from the absolute nature of the promises of life. By absolute, I mean, that there are no conditions but what are secured by the promise. “ He that believeth shall be saved. Their sins and iniquities will I remem. ber no more. I will be a God to thee and thy seed after thee.” These promises are absolute, in the sense that I have mentioned. No conditions are held up. Should it be said that there is a con. dition understood--this is settled in Jer. xxxi. 31. in which God engages that he will write his law in their hearts, that he will be to them a God, and they shall be to him a people. So in the epistle to the Hebrew3, it is expressly held up, that, in this respect, it was a established on better promises."The Apostle considers the covenant as a ground of strong consolation in the fullest manner, "confirmed by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie.”
There are various passages of Scripture, which establish the doctrine of the saint's perseverance Our text and context are full to this
The Apostle asks, “who shall be able to separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or bakedness, or peril, or sword.” He says that they cannot. “We are more than conquerors through him that loved
us." The Apostle expresses his confidence, that the Hebrew church would not apostatize ; for, says he, “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love." .:. This, he supposes, would be inconsitent with God's covenant faithfulness, which he here calls righteousness."In like manner, he expresses a strong confidence, that he, who had begun a good work in them, would complete it. I pass now
111. To consider some objections against the doctrine. • 1. It is objected, that effectual grace which should secure the perseverance of the saints, would be inconsistent with free agency. But the objection holds equally against the doctrine of special grace in conversion. If, in conversion, God effectually bows the will of an obstinate sinner, and he still acts freely, and is made willing, why should it be thought strange that God should uphold saints.
This God can as easily do, consistently with the freedom of the creature that bem lieves, as to uphold the saints and angels in glory... -The Bible cleclares it as a fact, that God does
work in us, both to will and to do." And yet. we know, that we are free.
2. It is objected, that this is a licentious doctrine. I presume there are not more instances of apostacy among those who believe the doctrine, than among Methodists and those who deny it.
The objection supposes religion to be something which it is not, viz. that the motive in what christians. do, is self. Whereas, true christians pursue religion from delight. The Bible considers that special, effectual grace, instead of hindering zeal, is a motive to strive, and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling ; for God work eth in us both to will and to doo
3. It is objected, that the Bible furnishes instances of apostacy - Judas is mentioned as one. But it is clear, that Judas never was a real subject of grace.i.
It is asked, do we not see many who appear to be christians, who after a while, fall away? It is true. But we do not perceive, that they fall from a state of grace. The Apostle, speaking of Hy. meneus and Philetus, who apostized, says, “they went out from us, for they were not all of us,"
It is further objected, that David especially, was an instance of apostacy. The Bible says, that no murderer hath eternal life ahiding in him, But David, it is said, was a murderer, and there, fore fell from grace.--That David fell into the sin of murder, is not denied : But it is denied, that David was a murderer. One aet, especially where it is condemned in repentance, does not constitute a character. The character must be determined from prevailing bias and pursuit. The character of Moses was that of meekness, though he was left to speak unadvisedly at the waters of Meribah.Peter is brought as another instance of Apostacy. But if David, Peter, and others, fell from a state of grace, as it is attempted to be proved that the christian may, from Hebrews, then it is impossible that they should have been renewed. *. It is objected, that the Scripture is abundant in directions to us, to strive after salvation, and urges overcoming and enduring to the end, as neces sary to salvation ; which supposes their salvation doubtful. That these are necessary means and qualifications for salvation, is not doubted by those who hold to the perseverance of saints. But how does this militate against the idea, that God should effectually enable the belieyer thus to striye, overcome and continue ?
It is objected against the doctrine of the certainty of the saint's perseverance that it is spoken of, as hy pothetical or conditional. " Except ye abide. If the righteous man turn from his righteousness: If they fall away, &c." If such expressions prove that there may, and have been cases of apostacy, then many things may be proved, which no one will admit to be true. No one will suppose that any child of Adam ever perfectly kept the commands of God. It is said, “ifa man hath not eaten up on the mountains, &c. If ye are justified by law, ye are fallen from grace : If so be the dead rise mot. If Christ be not risen, &c.". The use of the word, if, in these places, by no means supposes that there ever was, or will be such a case The Apostle says, “ if they fall away, it is impossible to renew them,” but says he, we are per suaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation >>
Improvement 1. If God always does carry on the work of grace which he begins in regeneration, and if any who seem to set out in religion, fall back, we have reason to think, that they never did, in fact, experience true religion. We have reason also to conclude, that many who think they have a hope, are deceived with respect to themselves. How should this excite ali to close self-examination !
2. We see, that it is a great thing to be saved. None may expect to go to heaven in their sloth. It is not only a great thing to pass the new birth, but to continue in holiness. All that do, are kept by the power of God. If any feel as if they had strength in themselves, it is most likely that they never saw their own weakness. How vain then, are the flattering hopes of sinners, that they shall, by and by, set out. Let such consider that their danger is great.
3. We see that this doctrine affords ño encourägement to sloth. It is our duty to overcome, to hold out, and to keep under the body. If we take encouragement from this doctrine, to indulge in sloth, it shows what our religion is. This teaches the necessity of being much in prayer and watchfulness
4. We see what a source of consolation there is to the godly... When you are unable to see clearly with respect to many things, and yet know, that you have taken God as your portion, you may view the inheritance secure.
If there was not so divine a promise that God had engaged to carry on this work, you might and would despair.
5. We see what a wonderful scheme the gospel plan is. In it, God is all and in all. Every step teaches us to look to God, and rest in his strength. All our quickening and comfort flow from his effectual grace.
LUKE XVI. 2%.
The rich man also died, and was buried.
THE parable, of which the text is a part, is a very affecting representation of the condition of the righteous and the wicked. Our Saviour draws the character of the wicked in the unmerciful and rich glutton, who wallowed in wealth and sensual pleasure. The good man was in op