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never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” Here then is a direct promise of the great Head of the church to his people, that they shall never perish, nor be plucked out of his hand. Observe, too, that he says, “ I know them.” If, now, any of them should “ fall away,” in the sense of the text, with what truth can he say to them in the great day, as he will say to all on his left-hand, “ I never knew you ?” Again, he tells them, “ Because I live, ye shall live also ;" as much as to say, that their eternal life is as secure as his own. “ Being confident,” says an apostle, “ of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” But if he does not perform it, and the work of grace is cut short, so that the Christian fails of heaven; the confidence of the inspired apostle was certainly misplaced, and the encouragement which he intended to afford his Philippian brethren had no foundation in truth. Peter also encourages his brethren, "elect according w the foreknowledge of God," with the same doctrine; telling them that they “ are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.” What can be plainer or more positive than this declaration ? “ Moreover," says Paul, “ whom he did predestinale, them he also called ; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Here the golden chain of Divine grace is unbroken; not a link is wanting. On the one hand, it is made fast in the eternal purpose of God; and extending through the effectual calling, and the free justification, reaches to eternal glory. Believing this, the apostle triumphantly exclaims, “Who shall separate us from the love of God ?” “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come; nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The beloved John, speaking of certain heretics, says, “ 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." In what plainer terms could he have declared his belief in the final perseverance of the saints? And does not the great Intercessor pray, that “all who believe on him may be with him where he is, and behold his glory?" and are not the pleas of such an Advocate always successful ? Besides, if the sinner who has repented and fed to Christ for refuge is not “ kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation,” to what purpose do angels rejoice over him? If they do not believe the final perseverance of the saints, their joy over repenting sinners, it would seem, must be mingled with much trembling and many fears. And what is the purport of that covenant which God has made with his people? Is it not that he will be their God? that, as their day is, so shall their strength be? that he will withhold no good thing from them? and that his grace shall be sufficient for them in all their trials and temptations ? And has he not " confirmed his promise by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, his people might have strong consolation ?" Here, indeed, is "strong consolation” for the oppressed, tempted, trembling believer. God, who hath promised, abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself.
These are some of the reasons which induce me to believe that no real Christian ever did, or ever will, “ fall away” so as to come short of heaven. His safety, however, lies not in himself, nor in the nature of holiness, nor in the powers of moral agency; but in the promised grace of a covenant keeping God. Left to himself, he no doubt would fall to rise no more ; but through Christ strengthening and sustaining him, he will come off victorious over every foe, and obtain salvation with clernal glory. But if these things are so, it may be asked,
6. Of what use are such fearful warnings against apostacy as those contained the text, and in many other passages of the inspired volume ?
In answer to this, I should say, that God deals with Christians as free agents and subjects of moral government. And, so far as we know, there is no way in which a moral government can be administered except through the medium of motives. To resort to any thing like physical force in the government of moral agents would manifestly be an infringement of their freedom of choice and refusal. If then Christians are free moral agents, and God has determined to secure their final perseverance in holiness, what means can be so well adapted to accomplish this object as those which he has in fact adopted, that is, moral means ? Physical force would be altogether incongruous, and incompatible with the end to be secured. A moral object must be attained by moral means. The perseverance of the saints, being an object of a moral nature, must be secured, if secured at all, by means of a similar nature. And now I ask, what are the truths, and promises, and consolations, and warnings, and reproofs, and threatenings of the Bible, but so many means of a moral nature, whieh God is using in order to secure the salvation of his people whom he foreknew? By these, God addresses the principles of love and gratitude, of hope and fear, which are implanted in them. On the supposition that it is his purpose to keep his people through faith unto salvation, can we imagine any means more suitable for the attainment of this object? And are not these every way fitted to accomplish it? If, for instance, the Christian is inquiring for the path of duty in a particular case, he will find in the word of God either a direct precept, a general principle, or an inspired example, recorded for his instruction. Is he disheartened in view of the number and greatness of his sins, and fearful that he shall not be able to hold on his way? Here is a promise of all needful grace for his encouragement. Is he running greedily after things seen and temporal ? He may hear that warning voice, “ Let him that shinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” Perhaps after he has put his hand to the plough, he is tempted, by a deceitful world, and a still more deceitful heart, to look back wishfully, as did the Hebrews towards the land of their servitude, and is wellnigh ready to give up his efforts to obtain salvation. But the thought has scarcely found entrance into his heart, ere he is met by some fearful threatening from the Divine Word, which, like an angel of God with a drawn sword in his hand, stands in his path, crying, Wo, wo, wo; this is the way to eternal death ; whoso walks therein shall never return. “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” “ For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come ; if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance: seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." "If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.” Now are not such tremendous warnings well adapted to make the way. ward Christian pause and bethink himself? Were they not caused to be writ. Len for this very purpose? In like manner, nearly all the leading doctrines of
revelation are fitted, on the one hand, to strike terror into the minds of the halting, the careless, the disobedient; and on the other, to afford comfort and encouragement to those who are panting and struggling for the prize of their high calling. It is in this way, as I apprehend, that God fulfils his promises, accomplishes his gracious purpose respecting his people, and carries them safely through their conflict, onward to the glories of a complete, eternal conquest. These awful warnings and threatenings are a part of those moral means which he uses with Christians as moral agents, in order to keep them by his mighty power through faith unto salvation.
7. But how, it may be asked, shall we account for those instances of apparent defection from true religion, which we sometimes witness ? “ They went out from us,” says the apostle, “but they were not of us ; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us. This passage lets us, at once, into the secret of all such apostacies. The religion of such persons was only a deceptive appearance, not a reality. Their moral sensibilities were perhaps aroused; they felt that they were sinners exposed to the penalty of God's law, and trembled in view of the doom which awaits the ungodly! But instead of submitting themselves unreservedly to God, a rebellious, deceitful heart led them astray, and they took shelter in some refuge of lies. And now, supposing themselves to be secure from danger, they were filled with great joy and peace; and mistook these things for religion. For a time they seemed to run well, and gave promise, it may be, of being ornaments to the kingdom of Christ on earth. But their joy and peace gradually subsided into a lethargic stupidity; and byand-by, they were offended, and went back. And this is just what we should have expected from the first, had we known their hearts. They “fell away,” not from religion, for this they never possessed, but from the appearance of religion. And what wonder is it, when the winds blow, and the floods come, that a house built upon the sand should fall, and be swept away? Sometimes indeed these deceptive appearances are kept up for a long course of years, and even through life; but the hypocrite will fall at last-his hope will perish at the giving up of the ghost.
8. What class of professed Christians have a right to derive encouragement and consolation from the doctrine of the saints' perseverance ? Certain it is, there are not a few that call themselves Christians — who have no right to take encouragement from this or any other doctrine of the Bible. Too often, alas! do we find within the enclosures of the sanctuary careless, stupid professors, who, if they ever knew any thing of the power of religion, are at present very far from God. And there are some who, if we may judge from their fruits, are mere baptized worldlings, whose chief evidence of discipleship is, that they are seen, from time to time, sitting at the table of Christ. None of these surely have any title to the “ strong consolation” which flows from the doctrine of the saints' perseverance. And if they are disposed to take encouragement from it, this in itself is fearful evidence against them. If we look at the manner in which the apostles made use of this doctrine, we shall find that it is generally thrown in as matter of encouragement to those Christians who are struggling with difficulties, and contending with trials which darken their hopes, and make them fear and tremble for their safety. In the secret recesses of the believer's heart, there is sometimes a violent, agonizing struggle, unknown to any except himself and that God who seeth in secret. He is afflicted, and tossed with tempests. The deep depravity of his nature is unveiled. He can describe the workings of his inherent pollution only by saying, “ Deep calleth unto deep." He is wellnigh overwhelmed; his heart sinks within him ; his courage fails. Now to a Christian in such circumstances, how appropriate the promises of all needful grace and strength! They are like cold water to a thirsty soul. When he reads the declaration of Christ, that his followers “shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand,” it inspires him with new hope and fresh courage. He girds on his armor, and goes forth to the conflict, humbly trusting that, through Christ, he shall yet come off more than conqueror, over sin, and death, and hell. The assured hope of victory does not, as some seem to suppose, paralyze his efforts, and make him resign himself up to sloth. Far from it. It nerves his arm ; quickens his pace; and rouses up all the energies of his soul. Christians in these and similar circumstances have a right to the consolation which flows from this doctrine. It is their peculiar privilege.
In bringing these remarks to a close, let me admonish Christians that they are beset with dangers great and real ; that they have need to watch and pray without ceasing ; that they have a great and difficult work to accomplish; and that the evidence of their union with Christ will not be full and complete till the conflict is ended, the victory won. Have you, then, suffered the love of the world, the lust of the eye, the pride of life, to lead you captive? Have you lost that delightful sense of the Divine presence and favor which you once enjoyed ? Have prayer and secret communion with God become a weariness? Are you running greedily after the riches and honors and pleasures of this fleeting world? Has the fear of man driven you from the post of duty, and made you relinquish what, as a Christian, you could not relinquish without violating your covenant vows? Then let me tell you, that you have no right to take encouragement from the doctrine of the saints' perseverance in holiness ; it does not apply to you: but if there be truth in the Bible, your soul is in danger. Many a poor deluded mortal has suffered shipwreck in the very seas which you are now sailing. Here, too, the foot of many a Christian has slipped, and he has fallen, oh how low! has pierced himself through with many sorrows, and perhaps gone down to the grave in the bitterness of his spirit
. Ah! survey these melancholy wrecks. Recollect those which you yourself have witnessed; and remember the solemn admonition, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” “ He that endureth to the end shall be saved.” If you are disposed to quiet yourself in your wanderings, on the ground that you were once converted, and shall therefore be saved; there is fearful evidence that you are yet in your sins, and have no part nor lot in the great salvation. Oh, then, rouse up, awake to righteousness, and sin no more. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." For thus saith the Lord, “ When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.” “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” “If we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin.” · For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance : seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
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