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breaking the tables of the law.” But is it not enthusiasm to talk of holding intercourse with God, and of knowing ourselves to be objects of his special love ?" No more enthusiastical (so we keep within scripture bounds), than it is for a favourite child to converse with his parents, and to know that they have a particular affection for him. Neither, in the strictest reason and nature of things, is it at all absurd, to believe and expect, that God can and does, and will, communicate his favour to his people, and manifest himself to them, as he does not to the world * at large.
Yet, though God is thus graciously indulgent to many of his people (I believe to all of them at some time or other, between their conversion and death); still, if they trespass against him, he will not let their offences pass unnoticed nor uncorrected. Though grace itself is inamissible, the comfort of it may be sinned away. Salvation is sure to all the redeerned; but the joy of it may be lost. Psalm li. 12. Great peace have they that love thy law; and they only. Holiness and consolation are wisely and intimately connected. In proportion as we are enabled to live near to God, to walk humbly and closely with him, and to keep our moral garments clean, we may hope for freedom of intercourse with him, and to assure our hearts before him t: like the happy believers of old, concerning whom it is said, that they walked at once in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost #.
Let not, however, what has been observed concerning the blessing of assurance, stumble or discourage the feeble of God's flock, on whom, for reasons wise and good, it may not, hitherto, have been his pleasure to bestow this unspeakable gift. The scripture, plainly, and repeatedly, distinguishes between faith ; the assurance of faith; and the full assurance of faith : and the first may exist where the other two are not. I know some who have, for years together, been distressed with doubts and fears, without a single ray of spiritual comfort all the while. And yet, I can no more doubt of their being true believers, than I can question my own existence as a man. I am sure they are possessed, not only of faith in its lowest degree, but of that which Christ himself pronounces great faith * : for they can at least, say, Lord, I am not worthy, that thou shouldest come under my roof; but speak the word only, and thy servant shall be healed. Faith is the eye of the soul; and the eye is said to see almost every object but itself; so that you may have real faith, without being able to discern it. Nor will God despise the day of small things. Little faith goes to heaven, no less than great faith ; though not so comfortably, yet altogether as surely. If you come merely as a sinner, to Jesus, and throw yourself, at all events, for salvation, on his alone blood and righteousness, and the grace and promise of God in him, thou art as truly a believer, as the most triumphant saint that ever lived. And, amidst all your weakness, distresses and temptations, remember, that God will not cast out nor cast off the meanest and unworthiest soul that seeks salvation only in the name of Jesus Christ the righteous. When you cannot follow the rock, the rock shall follow you ; nor ever leave you, for so much as a single moment, on this side the heavenly Canaan. If you feel your absolute want of Christ, you may, on all occasions, and in every exigence, betake yourself to the covenant love and faithfulness of God, for pardon, sanctification and safety; with the same fulness of right and title, as a traveller leans upon his own staff, or as a weary labourer
* John xiv. 21, 22.
+ John iii. 19.
Acts ix. 31.
throws himself on his own bed, or as an opulent nobleman draws upon his own banker for whatever sum he wants. I shall only detain you farther, while I warn you.
IX. Against another limb of Arminianism, totally contrary to sound doctrine : I mean, that tenet, which asserts the possibility of falling finally from a state of real grace. God does not give, and then
He does, indeed, frequently resume what he only lent; such as health, riches, friends, and other temporal comforts: but what he gives, he gives for ever. In a way of grace, the gifts and calling of God are without repentance*: he will never repent of bestowing them; and every attribute he has, forbids him to revoke them. The blessings of his favour are that good part, which shall not be taken from those that have it t.
A parent of moderate circumstances, may give his children something to set up with in the world, and address them to this effect: “ I have now done for you all that is in my power to do, and gone as far as my circumstances will allow : you must, from henceforward, stand on your own feet, and be good husbands of the old stock. The preservation and improvement of what I have given you, must be left to chance and yourselves.” In this very view does Arminianism represent the Great Father Almighty. But how does scripture represent him ? as saying, I will never leave thee, or forsake thee F.Even to your old age, I am he; and even to hoary hairs will I carry you ; I have made, and I will bear, even I will carry and will deliver you S.My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand II.
In a word; * Rom. xi. 29. + Luke x. 42. | Heb. xii. 5. xlvi. 4. || John x. 28. True, said an Arminian schismatic, grown grey in the service of error, and who still goes up and down sowing
any of God's people can be finally lost, it must be occasioned, either by their departing from God, or by God's departure from them. But they are certainly and effectually secured against these two, and these only possible sources of apostasy. For, thus runs the covenant of grace; I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me, Jer. xxxii. 40. Now, if God will neither leave them, nor suffer them to leave him, their final perseverance in grace to glory must be certain and infallible.
Having greatly exceeded the limits I designed, I shall forbear to adduce the attestations of the church of England, to the doctrines of assurance and perseverance; especially, seeing I have done this somewhat largely elsewhere *. I must not, however, conclude without observing, that irreversible justification on God's part, and subjective assurance of indefectibility on ours, do by no means invest an offending Christian with immunity from sufferings
his tares, seeking whom he may devour, and compassing sea and land to make proselytes: “ True, Christ's sheep cannot be plucked forcibly out of his hand by others; but they themselves may slip through his hands, and so fall into hell, and be eternally lost.” They may slip, may they? as if the Mediator, in preserving his people, held only a parcel of eels by the tail ! Is not this a shameless
of slipping through a plain text of scripture? But I would fain ask the slippery sophister, how we are to understand that part of the last cited passage, which expressly declares, concerning Christ's people, that they shall never perish ? since perish they necessarily must, and certainly would, if eventually separated from Christ; whether they were to be plucked out of his hands, or whether they were only to slip through them. I conclude then, that the promise made to the saints, that they shall never perish, secures them equally against the possibility of being either wrested from Christ's hand, or of their own falling from it; since, could one or other be the case, perish they must, and Christ's promise would fall to the ground.
* The church of England vindicated from the charge of Arminianism.
and chastisement. Thus, Nathan said to David, The Lord hath put away thy sin, thou shalt not die: yet was he severely scourged, though not disinherited, for his transgressions. The tenor of God's immutable covenant with the Messiah, and with his people in him, is this: His seed will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven, If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes : nevertheless, my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. I have sworn, once for all, by my holiness, that I will not lie unto Jesus the Antitypical David, by suffering any of his redeemed people to perish *. Hence, as it is presently added, they shall be established for ever, as the moon; and as the faithful witness in heaven: nay, they shall stand forth and shine, when the sun is turned into darkness, and the moon into blood; when the stars shall drop from their orbits, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken. As an excellent person somewhere observes, “ Our own unbelief may occasionally, tear the copies of the covenant, given us by Christ; but unbelief cannot come at the covenant itself. Christ keeps the original deed in heaven with himself, where it can never be lost.”
Upon the whole: are these things so? Then,
1. How great and how deplorable, is the general departure from the scripture doctrines of the church of England, and the first principles of the reformation !
2. How blessed are the eyes that see! how happy are the hearts that feel, the propriety and the energy of these inestimable truths! And,
* Psalm lxxxix. 20.