My Christian friends, our minds have been occupied to-day with some of the loftiest subjects that can engage the thoughts of man. Our attention has been directed to the infinitely wise and true God, and we have been endeavouring to conceive of him as the great, the infinite, the eternal; the great, the infinite, the eternal intellect, who, of himself, conceiveth the grandest schemes, and infallibly provides for their accomplishment, so that there can be no mistake, no failure. We know that every wise intellect forms its plan before it provides its mean, or attempts to carry out the idea conceived in the mind.
And the great doctrine of election, to which our attention was directed this afternoon, answers to the formation of the plan in the infinite mind of God. He foresaw, clearly, that the whole human race, represented by the first man, would fall into sin, and left to themselves, would certainly perish. To prevent a catastrophe so fearful, he determined in his infinite mind, to have a people for himself, a people that would comprise the vast majority of the fallen inhabitants of this world. They were all present before his mind; their names were registered in his book, which book was delivered into the hands of the Lamb, the Son of God, who accepted the book at the hands of his Father, and, as it were, signed it with his own name, so that it has been designated, "The Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." And Jesus looked upon this act as the committing of the people to himself, on purpose that he might take the charge of them, on purpose that he might carry out the Father's will respecting them, and gain eternal laurels and honours to himself, by placing them in splendor, majesty, and glory before his Father's face for ever. We therefore find him frequently when speaking with his Father, and referring to this act in the eternal counsels, saying, "Thine they were and thou gavest them me. Keep those whom thou hast given me by thine own name, that they may be one as we are." But election interferes not with man as standing in Adam, but with man as under sin the result of Adam's fall. It ensured their restoration, but it did not interfere with their fall, and consequently the elect, with the rest, all fell in the first man. The entire mass of human nature became depraved, polluted, rotten to the heart's core; so depraved, so polluted, so rotten, that nothing could effect a change but the omnipotent energy of the omnipotent God. There is that in depravity in every form, that defies the touch of any one but the Infinite; that refuses to succumb to anything but to Omnipotence itself. The heart of man is foul as the heart of Satan; the nature of man is foul as the nature of Satan; and the sin of man is worse than the sin of Satan. Satan, the great archangel, that fell from heaven, did a tremendous deed when he set mind in opposition to Deity; but man set not merely mind, but matter with mind, in opposition to the eternal God. God could once look upon the world and say, "Though mind is in rebellion, matter is not in opposition;" but after the fall of man, mind and matter alike were corrupt, were depraved, were in opposition to the Eternal. Every man's heart steams with enmity against God; every man's spirit rises in rebellion against God; and, as you have heard tonight, the verdict of every man's conscience in its fallen state is, "No God, no God;" and if the Eternal could be voted out of existence by the suffrages of his fallen creatures, every hand would be up, every heart would give its verdict, and every voice would vote for the annihilation of the Most High. The will of man strong, the will of man stern, the will of man determined, and opposed to the will of God, will yield to nothing but that which is superior to itself; it laughs at authority, it turns with disgust from holiness, it refuses to listen to invitation, and, in this state, man--universal man, is found. In this state, man, the entire mass of man, with the exception of those who had been saved on credit, and had been changed by the sacred influences of the Spirit--in this state man was found when Christ came into our world. He came and, as ye have heard, assumed humanity, and united it with Deity. The two natures constituted the one person of the glorious Mediator; that glorious Mediator stood the representative of his people; that Mediator stood the Surety of his family; that Mediator stood the Substitute of the multitude of his fallen ones. That Mediator came to be the sacrifice to which sin was to be transferred, by which sin was to expiated and removed out of the way, that God's mercy might freely flow, and from the sinner's conscience, that he might have peace and joy.
But as the election of the Father did not interfere with the falling of man's nature, so the redemption of the Son did not change the nature that had fallen. It was therefore necessary, that as the Father sent the Son, the Son should send the Comforter; and as it required an infinite victim to atone for man's guilt, it required an infinite agent to change man's fallen nature. As to the Father, the atonement must be made as the moral governor, as the maintainer of the rights of the eternal throne; so from the Father, through the Son, must the Holy Spirit descend to renew, to transform, to remodel, to fit human nature to gaze upon the unveiled glories of Deity, and to render to God the homage due unto his name. And this just brings me to my point--EFFECTUAL CALLING. This implies, that there is a calling that may not be effectual. Yes, there is a call that extends to the whole human family. As it is written, "Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is unto the sons of men." There is a call that refers to humanity as sinful, and to sinners as such, however fallen and depraved they may be. Repentance or a change of mind, repentance and remission of sins, are to be preached amongst all nations, and the disciples were to begin at Jerusalem; and, beginning at Jerusalem the slaughter-house of the Son of God, and the slaughter-house of the prophets, and of the saints,--beginning there, they said, "Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." But the people were like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear, and refuseth to hear the voice of the charmer--charm he never so wisely. The Baptist had come and cried, "Repent," and sternly, and impressively he preached, but they paid little regard,--at least, little regard that tended to life. And the Son of God, with all that was soft, and winning, and captivating, came and preached; but they turned away, and he said, "To whom shall I like the men of this generation--they are like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling to their fellows--We have piped unto you, but ye have not danced, and we have mourned unto you, but ye have not lamented." Now, this call must be given, because God commands it; this call must be given, because God works by it. In giving the general, the universal call to all that hear the gospel, we obey the high mandate of the Eternal God; we do honour and homage to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we employ an instrument--a weapon, if you please--by which the Spirit of God operates upon the human mind; for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but are mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds, and the casting down of imaginations, and every high thing, and the bringing into subjection every thought to the obedience of Christ. The general call leads to the special, to the particular, or what we designate, the "effectual call." We speak to me as men, and we reason with them; we speak to sinners as sinners, and we expostulate with them; but while we reason, and while we expostulate, we have the promise of the presence of the Master--"I am with you;" we have the promised presence of the Eternal Paraclete, who was sent to empower, sent to accompany, and sent to work by the Lord's servants; and, while we speak and give the call as we are commanded and commissioned, the Holy Spirit works--the infinite power of the Eternal Spirit comes into contact,--direct, immediate contact, with the mind of man. There is a power that goes with the word--distinct from the word--when it is accompanied by the energy of the Eternal Spirit; and that power produces in the heart, life--a spiritual, a Divine, an immortal life--a life that man dead in sin had not; a life which a man once having loseth not, for it is eternal; a life that was given us in Christ before the world was; a life preserved for us by Christ all through the past ages that have rolled away; a life that is communicated from the loving heart of Him who is the great depository of grace, and conducted by the Holy Ghost into the heart that is called by grace. Has the Spirit accompanying the word produced life? From that life springs conviction: not the cold conviction awakened occasionally in the mind of man, by the reasoning of man, by reflecting upon his past misconduct, or by the flashing of the forked lightnings of the law; but a conviction that is produced by the Holy Spirit bringing the law into contact with the conscience--the Gospel into contact with the heart. In the sinner's conscience God erects a tribunal, in the sinner's conscience God sits as judge, and to the tribunal, before the just judge, man is summoned to appear; and in the heart, in the soul, in the nature of man, there is a miniature of the judgment that is to take place at the completion and winding up of the present dispensation. The man is arraigned as a sinner, the man is convicted as a culprit, the man is condemned as a criminal; he stands before God, and he has nothing to say; every excuse has withered like the leaves of autumn, every excuse is carried away like the chaff from the summer's threshing-floor, every rag that the man boasted of is torn from him, and he stands, a naked sinner, before a heart-searching God. The penetrating eye of the Omniscient darts into the innermost recesses of his soul, and the gentle fingers of the Spirit turns over one fold of the heart after the other; the process may be long, or the operation may be quick, but sooner or later the man is brought to this.--"In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." He had once started at the Scriptural representation of man's fallen and depraved nature; he had once wondered that from the lip of truth had proceeded the startling words, "From within, out of the heart, proceed murders, adulteries, blasphemies, false witnesses, and abominable idolatries." He never could have thought that evil so dreadful, he never could have thought that sins so fearful, he never could have thought that principles so diabolical, could have been found in a nature like his; but there they are, and he has nothing to object--but, under the power of the deep conviction that is produced, he is filled with terrible alarm. If he casts his eye back, there are the crimes of his life; if he casts his eye forward, there is the tremendous judgment; if he lifts up his eyes to Heaven, there is the pure and holy God that he has insulted; and if he turns his eyes within, all is dark and vain and wild. He is filled with alarm--alarm that perhaps keeps him awake by night, and haunts and harasses him by day, until he is prepared to do anything, prepared to go anywhere, if he may but escape the just judgment of his God. He is by this discipline prepared to submit to God's method of salvation; he is prepared to give up proposing conditions according to which he would be saved; he no longer goes about to work out a righteousness of his own, but he is ready to submit himself to the righteousness of God. Being, therefore, conscious of his criminality, burdened with his guilt, trembling at the prospect of his destiny, he falls prostrate before the high throne of the Eternal, smites upon his breast, and cries "God be merciful to me a sinner," as if no such a sinner had ever appealed to God's mercy, as if no such culprit had ever stood before God's throne; before God he says, "If there can be mercy in thy heart sufficient to reach a case so dismal and so desperate, God be merciful to me;" and after having pleaded with earnestness, after having supplicated with intense emotion, and after having, perhaps, become a little bold, he is startled at his own temerity, and receding, as it were, from the position that he had taken, he cries--
"Depth of mercy, can there be Mercy in thy heart for me, O God of spotless purity?"
And, perhaps, like David, he groans in his heart, and mourns in his soul, until his bones wax old, through his roaring all the day long. But, no relief, no help is found, until, at length, he begins to make confession of his sin, and, as he confesses, the Spirit of God unveils and unfolds the gospel mystery, and, as in the days of the law, when the victim was brought to the Priest, and the man placed his hand upon its head, between its horns, and pressed with his might and confessed over it all his transgressions, all his iniquities, and all his sins, so the man lays his hand of faith upon the victim's head, and there confesses his sin. As he confesses, a change takes place in his feelings, the burden begins to disperse, a little bright light in the cloud attracts his attention, and, as he looks upward, he seems to catch the loving Father's eye, and feels an encouragement within him to approach unto God; and, as he approaches, still confessing, still pleading, still deploring, still resting his hand upon the victim's head, and trusting in the atonement you have heard of, and on that alone, he seems to hear strange music, delightful melody, and that music is the commencement of the sound of the trump of the Jubilee, when the oppressed one is to go free, and as he listens to the sound the chains drop from his hands, and the burden from his shoulders, the trouble is removed from his heart, and he lifts up his eyes, streaming perhaps with tears, to heaven, and says, "Oh Lord, I will praise thee, for though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me:" and looking around, on those about him, in the language of wonder, astonishment, and gratitude, he says, "Behold, behold a mystery, behold a miracle, behold one of the greatest wonders of the universe; behold, God is my salvation. I will trust, and not be afraid, for Jah Jehovah is my strength, and my song, he also is become my salvation." He has now peace flowing into his heart like a river, he has now a consciousness that God has accepted him in the beloved, and he now experimentally knows the truth, tastes the sweetness, and feels the power of the apostolic testimony, "Being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access into this grace, wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." He has now experienced the effectual call. It has been a call from darkness into marvellous light, from bondage into glorious liberty; out of prison the man comes to reign; from the dunghill he is lifted up to sit among the princes, even among the princes of God's people. And, now, as I must conclude, just observe, the origin of this call is the free, the sovereign, the distinguishing grace of God. It originates, not in man's will, nor in man';s disposition, nor in man's station in society, but of His will, and of His will alone, who is the great sovereign ruler of the universe, is this change effected; of man it cannot be, for it includes a new creation; a resurrection; and the inhabitants of God. Generally speaking, the instrumentality by which God works is the gospel, but in every instance the agent that produces the change is the holy and eternal Spirit of God. He quickens the soul dead in trespasses and sins, he enlightens the understanding that was in the midnight darkness of nature, he disposes the will which before ran counter to the will of God; he teaches the understanding that was once averse to everything pure and holy, and then gently, and lovingly, and sweetly he leads the soul to the Cross to gaze upon the wondrous Sufferer, he then leads the soul to the Church to confess Christ and him crucified, and then leads it in the paths of righteousness for his own name's sake. The calling is high, for it is from the High and Holy One; it is heavenly, in contrast with the earthly calling of the descendants of Abraham of old; it is an evidence of distinguishing love; and thanks, eternal thanks to God, it is irreversible; for the gifts and the callings of God are without repentance. From death to life we pass; from darkness into light we come; out of bondage into liberty we spring; from sin to the knowledge and enjoyment of holiness we are introduced; then at last from earth to heaven. Into the grace of Christ we are called, and we stand in his favour. Into the fellowship of Christ we are called, and when Christ who is our life shall appear, we also shall appear with him in glory. The Father draws; the Spirit quickens; the Son receives; and when locked in the arms of the Son of God, our effectual calling is realized and enjoyed. Its author, is God; its subjects, are the elect; its nature, is holy; and its end, is glorious. Thus, you perceive, my friends, all originated in God's thought, which thought sprung into a perfect plan, to carry out which plan provision was made, and this plan will be perfectly carried out to the praise of the glory of his grace. Thus, whether you think of election, whether you think of redemption, or whether you think of effectual calling,
"Give all the glory to his holy name, For to him all the glory belongs; Be your's the high joy still to sound forth his praise And crown him in each of your songs."
The REV. C. H. SPURGEON.--I think it was John Newton, who, speaking about good Calvinistic doctrine compared it to lumps of sugar; but he said, he did not so much give to his people the lumps of sugar, as diffuse the whole of it throughout his sermons; just as people do not eat sugar, but put it in their tea. Now, some of you have not yet grown patient enough to listen, I think, to a doctrine, however fully it may be brought out. Our people want anecdotes, illustrations, parables, and metaphors; even the best and sublimest things keep our minds on such a stretch when we listen to them, that there is good need that illustrations should yield us some relief. To-day was set apart that these doctrines might be fully brought out; this has been done, and there remains but one, and that my friend Mr O'Neil is to take, namely the final perseverance of the saints. Before he speaks, just one or two words. Has it never struck you that the scheme of doctrine which is called Calvinistic has much to say concerning God? It commences and ends with the Divine One. The angel of that system stands like Uriel in the sun; it dwells with God; he begins, he carries on, he perfects; it is for his glory and for his honour. Father, Son, and Spirit co-working, the whole Gospel scheme is carried out. Perhaps there may be this defect in our theology; we may perhaps too much forget man. I think that is a very small fault, compared with the fault of the opposite system, which begins with man, and all but ends with him. Man is a creature; how ought God to deal with him? That is the question some theologians seem to answer. The way we put it is--God is the Creator, he has a right to do as he wills; he is Sovereign, there is no law above him, he has a right to make and to unmake, and when man hath sinned, he has a right to save or to destroy. If he can save, and yet not impair his justice, heaven shall ring with songs; if he destroy, and yet his goodness be not marred, then hell itself with its deep bass of misery, shall swell the mighty rollings of his glorious praise. We hold that God should be most prominent in all our teachings; and we hold this to be a gauge by which to test the soundness of ministers. If they exalt God and sink the sinner to the very dust, it is all well; but if they lower the prerogatives of Deity, if he be less sovereign, less just, or less loving than the Scripture reveals him to be, and if man be puffed up with that fond notion that he is anything better than an unclean thing, then such theology is utterly unsound. Salvation is of the Lord, and let the Lord alone be glorified.
THE FINAL PERSEVERANCE OF BELIEVERS IN CHRIST JESUS;
Rev. WILLIAM O'NEILL,
MINISTER OF NEW BROAD STREET CHAPEL, LONDON.
My dear Brethren and Friends.
Most unexpectedly did the kind invitation of my esteemed brother, Mr Spurgeon, come to me, to take part in the present service of this beautiful house. And after I had engaged to come I sincerely wished that I had not. I felt, however, that it would not be proper to retire from the engagement, but seek to meet in a becoming spirit, both towards God's truth and God's people. I will now try to do this. I utter here, of course, my own sentiments. As I am not responsible for anything that has been or may be said by another speaker, so I alone am responsible for what I shall say. But though I am not the delegate or representative of any church, denomination, or community, I doubt not that my declaration of faith on the matter at hand will be, in all substantial points, that of a very large number who love Jesus and are living in His service. That I desire to believe what the Bible teaches, and that I am sincere in my convictions, I know to be true: but that there are thousands of excellent Christians on the other side admits of no doubt, and should not be questioned by any one. Of their deep sincerity, love to God and his Gospel, zeal and devotedness in holy things, self-denying labours in the Divine service, and the cultivation and manifestation of Christian graces, I would and do speak with the most earnest approval. I give them as much credit for sincerity as I claim for myself; and I do this not as a favour, but as a piece of simple justice. Yet we differ--differ as to what the Sacred Oracles teach on the doctrine now before us; and it is competent and right for all men to examine, each one for himself, which of our opinions is that which is taught in the Bible, for certainly both are not taught there.
The question--Is it possible for sincere Christians, truly regenerated persons, to be finally separated from Jesus, to lose the favour of God their Father, and be eternally shut out from His smile and Home?--is one of no small moment. It involves issues of the most momentous nature, and cannot but be unspeakably interesting to every believer in Christ. We say, with unfaltering tongue, that of all the dead, every one who was ever renewed in heart is now in heaven; and that reconciliation with God on earth, through Christ Jesus, will, in every case, end in the everlasting salvation of the soul. Did God, then, tell us that all who are here now are His regenerated people, (would that they were!) we should believe that when the roll of the finally saved shall be called, every one of them would answer to that call by saying, "Here am I, Lord: Thy right arm, and the effectual operation of Thy Spirit and grace has done it all, and now I am to be for ever happy, for ever sinless, for ever safe." It is hardly necessary to say, that we believe this view of the case to be in entire harmony with the teaching of God's Book. To the law and to the testimony, if we, or others, speak not on this and on all other matters according to that Word, it is because there is no light in us or in them. (Isaiah viii. 20.)
Having called public attention to this doctrine lately in a small book, in which I have sought to obey the Master's command,--"Search the scriptures,"--I will now, with your kind permission, direct attention to a few portions of the Divine Word that, we believe, fully establish the doctrine of the saints' final preservation and perseverance. On each of those texts my words must be few, as the time allotted to me is short.
Hear then the Holy Spirit's teaching when speaking by the prophet Samuel:--"For the LORD will not forsake His people for His great name's sake; because it hath pleased the Lord to make you His people." (1 Sam. xii. 22) This, we think, is conclusive. What Christian does not know, and knowing, does not mourn over, the untrustworthiness of his own heart? And feeling fully assured that it is impossible for him to vanquish "the world, the flesh, and the devil," how welcome to his heart is the declaration, "The LORD will not forsake His people." No; He thought proper to renew their hearts, to quicken them into spiritual life, and He will mercifully continue to carry on His good work in their souls till it be perfected in glory. The reason why "He will not forsake His people" is stated here most explicitly; just as much so as is the declaration of His unchangeable love. It is not that they were less sinful by nature or practice than others; or because of any moral qualities that were found in them; but "because it pleased the Lord to make them His people." Hear another portion: God, speaking by his prophet Isaiah, says,--"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands." (Isaiah xlix. 15, 16.) This we regard as a most interesting, as well as a most consolatory portion of Scripture. "Zion said, the LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me." This was not only an error in creed,--it was also a dishonourable estimate of the Divine character, and to it the Gracious One replies in these words:--"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will not I forget thee." The affection of a right-minded mother for her tender and helpless offspring is one of the strongest that is experienced by human beings. But, though strong, very strong, it may, alas! give way. It is, at best, only a creature's love, and therefore changeable; while that love which is exercised by God towards His believing children is, like Himself, unchangeable. These words prove, and were designed to prove, most conclusively, that the love of the Divine Father towards His adopted sons and daughters is not a fluctuating or changing thing. What other, or what lower interpretation can we put upon the words, "YET WILL NOT I FORGET THEE?" And not forgetting them is, in this case, equivalent to His continuing to care for, to keep, and tenderly regard them.
Hear God again speaking by the same prophet:--"For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid My face form thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee." These words deserve to hold a prominent place among those which God has spoken for the comfort and joy of His people. Their obvious design is--to sustain believers under the chastening hand of God, and to do this by considerations drawn from His own character, and not from anything in themselves. Vain, brethren, is it to trust, or put confidence in our own false hearts. They are weak as helpless infancy. To lean on them will only be evidence of our folly and of our sin. We are not to find consolation in our gifts, in our graces, in our labours, in our resolutions, or in our experience, nor by the grace of God will we do so. But when chastised by the everloving and good Father,--when smarting under his parental and deserved stripes,--we may feast our souls on His blessed words--words that fire those souls with confidence, hope, and love.--"In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy upon thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee." Such, brethren, are GOD'S utterances! These are the words of One who is unchangeable in affection; of One who says,--Oh! blessed be his adorable name for that saying,--"For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." (Mal. iii. 6.)
I name another passage:--"For there shall arise," says Jesus, "false Christ's, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch, that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." (Matt. xxiv. 24.) The plain and obvious meaning of this latter clause is, that it is not possible to deceive, or allure to their final ruin, the adopted sons and daughters of God, those whom He has chosen to be His. Nothing less, we believe, was intended by the Gracious Speaker, and we see not how any other meaning can be consistently given to the language which He here uses. The words, "If it were possible," only say, in another form, "It is not possible."
I now name such texts as connect faith, or believing in Christ, with salvation, of which the following are a few:--"God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "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." "And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Me hath everlasting life. I am the bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever." "The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." (John ii. 16, v. 24, vi. 47, 50, 51, 57; Rom. i. 16.) The plain teaching of these, and many similar passages, is, that every believer in Jesus hath everlasting life. They teach this or they teach nothing. Is this be not their meaning, what is? But, can that which is everlasting cease to be? Can it come to an end? No words can more plainly assert than these do, that whosoever believeth in Jesus SHALL NOT COME INTO CONDEMNATION; that all believers in him shall enjoy "everlasting life." We take these gracious assurances as proving, to the fullest extent, the doctrine for which we plead. If the belief of the Gospel be not followed, in every instance, by eternal blessedness, what did Paul mean when he said, "The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth?" (Rom. i. 16.) If, at the last day, a single one be unsaved of those who had believed the Gospel, who had been united to Christ by faith in His name--the apostle's words must needs be falsified--his teaching is not true. This, at least, is our opinion. No amount of adverse criticism can set aside the evidence that such verses as these furnish in support of the blessed doctrine which we now defend.
Hear Christ again:--"My sheep," he says, "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 one pluck them out of My hand. My Father who gave them Me is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand." We regard this entire passage as one of the most delightful and consoling in the Scriptures. It teaches most unequivocally,--in the plainest, strongest, and most conclusive terms,--that Christ's believing ones "SHALL NEVER PERISH;" that no enemy, human or hellish, shall be able to wrench them out of His or His Father's covenanted and secure grasp. Infinite power, no less than infinite love--both existing in their God and Saviour--stand guarantee for their security! Neither men nor demons shall be able to defeat or overturn the purpose of Divine grace concerning them! Difficulties, many and sharp, may surround them; and temptations, fierce and fiery, may assault their souls; but Divine love, wisdom, grace, and power shall be ever on their side. Jesus, the "faithful and true witness," says, "THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH." Elsewhere He says, "Because I live, ye shall live also." (John xiv. 17) The spiritual life of believers is in HIS keeping, and He here declares that it is as secure as His own. If He dies, and continues not to be their "Advocate with the Father," (1 John ii. 1) their Intercessor "at the right hand of God," (Rom. viii. 34) then may they die also, but not otherwise. In perfect keeping with his Lord's words are those which Paul uses, when referring to the same subject. "For if," he says, "when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." (Rom. v. 10) That is, we shall be preserved in that state of reconciliation by Christ's intercessory life at God's right hand in heaven. He, the God-man, lives there as Mediator, for them: He holds and exercises "all power in heaven and on earth" for the welfare and safety of His church. And they cannot die while He lives. The power that is to destroy the spiritual life of the weakest saint must first destroy the life of that saint's Head. "Their life," as the Holy Spirit by Paul elsewhere teaches, "is hid with Christ in God" (Col. iii. 3). Where, brethren, could it be safer, or as safe? In whose care or keeping could it be so secure? It is "hid with Christ in God." Not only so, but the Apostle goes on to say, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him IN GLORY." This, to say the least of it, is a glorious statement and declaration. Can language, we ask, go beyond that which is used in these texts to guarantee the eternal salvation of every believer in Jesus? The Head and members shall never be separated. They are bound up in an inseparable and an unchanging union.
Hear a Divine lesson given in another place:--"Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified" (Rom. viii. 30).
When it is said, "Whom He did predestinate, them He also called," we must interpret the word "called" to mean very much more than invited; for the Apostle goes on to say, "Whom He called, them He also justified." We know that this is only true of those who believe in Jesus--who are effectually called or drawn, by the combined operations of the Word and Spirit of God, into the blessed fellowship and joys of the Gospel (1 Cor. i. 9). That those, and only those, who believe in Christ are justified, is the uniform lesson of the Divine Word (John iii. 16, 36; Acts xiii. 39, 40; Rom. i. 16, iii. 22, 28). Let it be noted that Paul affirms three things here. The first is--"Whom He did predestinate, them He also called." The second is--"Whom He called, them He also justified." And the third is--"Whom He justified, them He also glorified." What, then, does he mean by the expression "glorified?" Does he, or can he mean anything less than the enjoyment of everlasting life? We say, then, that were only a single individual out of the whole number of those who have been, or shall be "justified" by faith in Jesus, to come short of heaven, the declaration would not be true that "Whom He justified, them He also glorified."
Hear another Divine proclamation relative to the security of God's people:--"For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, 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" (Rom. viii. 38, 39). These, brethren, are notes of the most triumphant character, relative to the ultimate blessedness of believers in Jesus. The terms which are here used are such as leave no doubt as to what the Holy Spirit, speaking by Paul, meant to teach. We deliberately affirm that language has no power to assert the doctrine for which we contend more conclusively than is here done. Words have no meaning, nor are they of any use in communicating thought, if these words were not used by a man who believed as we do on the matter in hand. And we are entirely willing to believe or disbelieve with the Apostle Paul, neither more nor less.
I quote him again. Hear what he wrote to the Church at Philippi:--"Being confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." I well remember how greatly this strengthened my own soul when, in the morning of my religious life, I was passing through much mental conflict. And are not these words well calculated to comfort the hearts of those who, through grace, have believed in the Saviour? Is there any room for objecting criticism here, or is there any ambiguity in the language employed? No, there is none whatever: the Apostle was "confident of this very thing." What "very thing?" Why, that wherever the Divine Spirit had commenced this "good work" of grace in the soul, He would complete it. No other power could have begun it, and no other power is competent to carry it forward to completion. That He who commences that "good work" is able to finish it, no professing Christian will deny: that He will finish it, this verse most clearly teaches. The Apostle Paul was "confident of THIS VERY THING;" and so are we.
Let us give attention to other words of the same sacred penman. Addressing one of the primitive Churches, he says:--"We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2 Thes. ii. 13). This is a most important portion of Scripture in relation to the question--What is the end of election? In what does it, or is it to terminate? What does it secure? Are its subjects merely chosen to enjoy the light of the gospel, the means of grace, and no more? Or, are they chosen to enjoy, in its full measure, everlasting life; the priceless favour and blissful fellowship of God here and for ever? This question is definitely settled by the language of inspiration employed here. The Apostle declares that the choice is "to salvation;" or, in other words, which he also uses in this place, "to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." This means, of course, eternal life in heaven, as well as all that precedes and prepares for it on earth. But how can this be realized? How can it be said, they were "chosen to salvation," if they may all apostatize finally from Jesus, fall out of the Divine favour, and be for ever numbered with the lost? The thing is, of course, impossible. If not saved,--fully and for ever,--it would not be true to say they were chosen "to salvation."
I beg to name one passage more. Speaking of believers, a divinely inspired teacher says:--"Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (1 Peter, i. 5). Here we are distinctly taught what the Divine Being is doing and will continue to do for His believing people. The Apostle asserts, that they are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." If so, nothing is more certain than that they shall reach it, and enjoy it for ever. Had Peter believed that it was possible for any number of them to become outcasts from God, and die in their sins, he would never have employed the language which is found here. The declaration that believers are "kept" or garrisoned in (for such is the meaning of the term here employed) "by the power of GOD through faith unto salvation," settles the point with us, and leaves us nothing more to desire in the shape of statement or promise. This is, indeed, a glorious declaration. Fellow pilgrims, let it fill you with the highest joy, as it gives you the fullest assurance that you are safe in the grasp and guardianship of Jehovah of hosts.
We hold and teach too, that the certain enjoyment of everlasting life is inseparably connected with continued faith in the Divine testimony concerning sin, Jesus, and His salvation. They shall be preserved in the exercise of faith in the Redeemer, until they shall enter upon the possession of the heavenly inheritance. This is clearly taught here, and nothing less.
I have now referred to a few out of the many portions of God's word which teach the doctrine for which we contend. God's people shall be preserved, and will persevere to the end, for they were given to Christ in the everlasting covenant, that covenant which is "ordered in all things and sure:" the stability of which is as safe as the oath, and promise, and power of God can make it (Psalm lxxxix. 30, 34; Heb. vi. 18, 19). They are "loved by Him with an everlasting love" (Jer. xxxi. 3); they are "chosen to salvation" (Eph. i. 4; 2 Thes. ii. 13); and God, their gracious and reconciled Father, "will rest in His love" (Zeph. iii. 17). Their safety, as believers in Jesus, is secured by the word and promise of the "God that cannot lie." He has said that He will never leave them nor forsake them (Heb. xiii. 2); that they shall never perish" (John x. 28); and that He will confirm them unto the end" (1 Cor. i. 8).
For this purpose the ever-availing intercession of Jesus is employed. He is at the right hand of God as their Brother, Representative, and Advocate. He prays for them that their faith fail not (Luke xxii. 32). They are, each and all, borne on His heart, and pleaded for in His gracious and ever-successful intercession. "Father," says he, "I will that they also, whom thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory" (John xvii. 24). Oh, what priceless joy do these words afford to the believer's heart! No weapon that is formed against them shall prosper. Their Almighty King will vanquish all their spiritual foes. He will so aid them that they shall contend victoriously against "the world, the flesh, and the devil." They shall be more than conquerors through Him that loved them (Rom. viii. 37). They shall be the saved of His right arm, and the everlasting monuments and trophies of His grace, love, and power. They are "sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest of their inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession" (2 Cor. i. 21, 22; Eph. i. 13, 14). Having received the "earnest," the pledge which guarantees the fulfilment of their Heavenly Father's covenant to save them, they are perfectly and for ever secure.
We build our faith in this doctrine on God's plain teaching. We extort no meaning from His word which cannot be found there by the simple and ordinary reader of it. We take its statements in their plain and grammatical sense, just as they would be interpreted by any unprejudiced expounder of language. We should be content to abide by the interpretation of them which would be given by any man, infidel or other, who felt no interest in our controversy, and who was entirely careless relative to our differences of opinion. One unequivocal passage teaching this doctrine would be, or should be sufficient to establish it, and to bring our opinions into harmony with Divine teaching; but we are not confined to one, or five, or ten; we have line upon line, promise upon promise, assurance upon assurance, and declaration upon declaration to this effect. So that we would fain ask,--If the doctrine be not taught in the portions of Scripture that I have named, what is taught in them? What is their import? What do they teach? Or, what language or terms would be thought sufficient to teach it? It is our firm conviction that no doctrine of religion is more clearly taught in the Bible than is this. It is expressed as plainly as words can possibly do it.
And are we, with these inspired declarations before us, to suppose it possible for wicked men or demons to say, when pointing to numbers of the lost,--"The Most High began to build up His kingdom in their souls, but He was not able to finish it! He quickened them into spiritual life,--renewed, pardoned, justified, and sanctified them; but now they are torn from His grasp, His enemies were able--contrary to the words of Jesus (1 John x. 21)--'to pluck them out of His hand,' and they have done it."
This would, indeed, make short work of many plain and positive declarations found in the Bible: it would prove, beyond doubt, that its promises, and assurances, and declarations are of very little value.
Let me, before I close, say--and say with the fullest emphasis possible--that we believe as firmly as any man living, as firmly as we believe any truth taught in the Bible, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. xii. 14). We know no other evidence of being in Christ, or of being a Christian, than that which is furnished by a life and behaviour becoming the Gospel. And though holiness is not the cause of God's first or continued love to His people, it is the effect and fruit of that love, and a main part of the salvation which is in Christ Jesus--that salvation to which they are chosen (Eph. i. 4); and he who is satisfying himself with the notion that he is safe for eternity, while he is living in any known sin, is turning the grace of our God into licentiousness, and is a deadly enemy of the Cross of Christ. The blessed doctrine which the Bible teaches, and in which we glory, is--the doctrine of the saints' final perseverance, and that doctrine was never designed to comfort any man who is not living a life of faith in the Son of God, intensely anxious to please God in all things, and to be the holy and happy subject of that mind which was in Jesus.
Very interesting, then, is the question, when asked in no wrong spirit--Are there few that be saved? If GOD does not hold up His people, if He does not keep them by His grace and power, they will be very few indeed--a child may count them, and, in fact, have none, not one, to count. But let no man charge our views with being "narrow," or "embracing only a few," or contemplating the eternal salvation of "a very limited number" of our race, for, according to the view which we hold and teach, they will be a numberless number. We believe, and our hearts swell with high and holy joy in believing, that every child of man who loved God,--every one of Adam's race who was renewed in heart,--all who were ever on the Lord's side,--will be found among the saved. Not one will be lost. Not one will be missed from the eternal banquet. Not one, will be outside the gates of the holy city. All, all shall be there, and there for ever, and ever, and ever!
"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, He will not, He cannot, give up to His foes; That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake, He'll never! no, never! no, never forsake!"
Unchanging Love. Tresidder, Ave Maria Lane, London. All the texts that are usually quoted in opposition to the doctrine now noticed are passed under calm review.