Eden, the garden of earthly delight, fades when compared with a far more blessed reality, "the Paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7). The trees and rivers and precious things of Eden are images and types of beauty that are too little understood. This is to our shame, for the fruits of the tree of life await the Ephesian overcomer of Revelation 2:7- the child of God who amid general decay and departure of heart from Christ, holds fast in his heart the freshness of first, new-born love. A truer devotedness of heart to Him would give us even now a fuller knowledge and a richer enjoyment of what the Paradise of God will be.
He who has the "keys of death and hell" has also, we may be sure, the key of Paradise as well.
The Perseverance of the Saints
The question as to what is commonly called "the perseverance of the saints," includes in it another and a most serious one. That question is as to the footing upon which the believer, justified by faith, stands before God. Thus it is a point of the greatest moment to ascertain what the Scripture truth is. It is not too much to say, that the nature and character of the peace which as Christians we enjoy, and of our life and walk as such, are all materially affected by the view we entertain with regard to the truth before us.
I would at once then put the question, What is the nature of the salvation we have received, and what the footing upon which we now stand as believers before God?
I. In Christ
Clearly, we stand as such, before God "in Christ," "accepted in the Beloved." (Eph 1:6.) Christ in glory, risen from the dead, having finished in our behalf the work of atonement, stands as our representative in the presence of God. So fully, that what He has passed through for us we are accredited with. Thus we are said to be "dead," "buried," "quickened," and "raised up" with Him; and even "seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Rom 6:8; Eph 2:5-6.) His being in heaven for us is thus as if we had actually gone in there and taken possession already of our final home; and there we are, presented to the eye and heart of God as identified with Him who, "when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high."
Our former state and condition as sinners has thus found its judgment in the cross. "Our old man was crucified with Christ:"--not should, or shall be, but "was;" not was crucified in me, but "with Him." (Romans 6.) Thus, for God and for faith, the old standing has passed away. "We are not in the flesh" (Rom 8:9); "not of the world, even as Christ is not of the world." (John 17:14.) To sum up all in a word, the apostle's words as to the Christian's place are, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor 5:17.)
I know that all these things are read, or sought to be read, in the light of experience, and referred to an inward work in the soul instead of to our place in Christ, and what belongs to it. Yet Scripture says distinctly in this last case, as in others, "if any man be in Christ," and then uses expressions which would certainly not be true of "any man in Christ," (mark) if applied to the inward work. "All things new," who indeed can pretend to, that knows anything of himself? Thus these blessed texts taken from their true application are made instruments of self- torture for souls seeking honestly but blindly to find in themselves evidences that they are accepted of God. While, with the eye on Christ, and the knowledge that we are in Him, and therefore, "as He is, so are we" (1 John 4:17), they become the sweetest, fullest assurances of where divine love has placed us, and what we are to God as in His Son. Is there any "old thing" in Him? If I am thus accepted of God, are not the "old things passed away"? Are not "all things become new"? Yes, indeed, wholly. I can take it in the simplest way, and believe it to the fullest extent, and find it unutterable joy, and only that.
Well, this is how we are accepted. We have travelled through death in Christ, and come up out of it. We have taken possession, in Him, already of our place above. We are accepted of Him where no whit of the "old things" is found. Look at this, beloved reader, and then answer me, oh answer me - is this security? Will Christ fail to satisfy God? Will God, who has accepted Him for me, repent, and again turn to what I am? Alas for me if He does! Alas for me and for you; and that, not at our worst, but at our best!
But no; that is impossible; for with Christ - in Christ's death - we have died. "He that is dead is justified from sin." (Rom 6:7, margin.) Our life, our history, ended with the cross in complete and utter judgment. We live before God in Christ alone. His own words are now, "Because I live, ye shall live also." (John 14:19.)
II. Peace with God
And thus have we "peace;" and upon such ground as this is "peace" in the proper sense alone possible. I need scarcely waste words in proving that it is peace that God is preaching by Jesus Christ (Acts 10:36); and that, "being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom 5:1.) Not only "the full assurance of faith" (Heb 10:22), but "the full assurance of hope" also is what God designs for us. (Heb 6:11.) This is peace as to the past, the present, and the future; and this is alone true peace. However blessed my portion in the present, if there is danger that I lose it, who shall say I ought not to be afraid? It is no comfort to say to me, "It all depends upon yourself, " when "myself" is just what I have learned most of all to be afraid of. Ought I to have "perfect peace" in looking onward to the future, if it is to consist in assurance that I shall never backslide and depart, though many have! If I read, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee," I can understand that, if I may trust Him for the future too. If I may say, in confidence that I have committed my soul into His hands, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed unto Him against that day" (2 Tim 1:12), then indeed all is well. If He will not keep it, except I do my part (little or much), then how can it be peace? To trust Him fully, if He be all in it, is surely well, and what I ought to do; but, on the other hand, I ought to distrust myself. "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." But if I am not to think I stand, and yet my salvation depends upon my standing, ought I to be at rest?
III. Eternal Salvation
But, blessed be God, it is not so. Perfected as a Savior through the suffering of the cross, Christ is become "the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him." (Heb 5:9.) What is "eternal" salvation? And when do I receive it? Well, Paul says to us, that God "HATH saved us." (2 Tim 1:9.) Is not that, then, "eternal salvation"? If I have obeyed Him - for the gospel calls for obedience, most surely (Rom 10:16) - if I have obeyed His call of grace, and come to Him, is He not the author of eternal salvation to me just then? Or must I wait till there is no more danger before I can speak of being saved for ever?
IV. Eternal Redemption
But redemption, too, is eternal. "He hath entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." (Heb 9:12.) Well, are we redeemed? Yes, assuredly, "we HAVE redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." (Eph 1:7.) Is that, then, "for ever"? Alas! through how many of the plainest testimonies of Scripture the legality and unbelief of the human heart will work their way. Yet there it lies, the only true and perfect rest for the conscience, as we are witness to ourselves; there it lies before us, preaching peace without presumption, because "peace through Jesus Christ." Will He rebuke me, think you, because I cast this burden with all other burdens on Himself? May I not cast this care for the future too upon Him? Will He not justify my trust? Will He not care also for this?
V. Eternal Life
But my "life," too, is "eternal." I already have "everlasting life." How He has compassed me about with these eternities, as if to build me up an infinite rampart against doubt! For thus saith the Lord Himself, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word and believeth on Him that sent me, HATH everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24.)
Beloved reader, these are the Lord's own words. Solemnly uttered and affirmed as truth, they link the present and the future of the believer indissolubly together. He says, the one who has eternal life (in the present) shall not (in the future) come into condemnation. Do you believe that? There is no "guarding" of that statement, such as men suggest; no "if" nor "but" to mar the blessed peace that that assurance gives. Are you going to put it in? Are you going to bring some other Scripture to qualify or modify the simple meaning of this? It is in vain; for "Scripture cannot be broken," and He who gave it cannot so deny Himself. The whole idea of balancing one passage with another, as if, taken simply as they stand, they were opposed to one another, is false, and a fatal denial of the truth of God. What simple soul could lay hold of the truth in a statement which had to be balanced with an unknown number of other statements, before the precise meaning could be settled? The divine Lover of men's souls could not speak so to them. He could not use words which, taken simply and literally as they stand, would deceive. No, He could not do this. And thus, if I get what really He has said, I may be sure He has said nothing else to contradict or empty it of meaning. I may rest my soul upon it safely. I may build on it as on a rock.
I know few sadder signs of the little authority the Word of God has in the present day, than this deplorable habit of ranging Scripture against Scripture. On one side a text is produced; instead of reverent inquiry as to what it means, a text in opposition to it, as men deem, is produced. James' "justification by works" is put in the one scale; Paul's "justification by faith" in the other. Arminian texts are balanced with Calvinistic. Alas! God's Word is gone as an authority, and common sense and human reason become supreme judges as to the side on which the scale of truth inclines.
How unlike our Lord's "Verily, verily"! What a relief to come back to that out of the fog of human uncertainty! "He spake as One that had authority, and not as the scribes." Do you fear to trust Him, beloved reader, apart from all His commentators? Certainly, then, what He says of the believer is, that he has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but - here is the confirmation of it - is passed from death unto life. His future condition is settled by his present one; for already he has "EVERLASTING life." He is alive to God for ever.