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The question is not, whether a true saint who falls into sin, will be saved if he should die impenitent. It is undeniable, that no person, whether a saint or a sinner, can be pardoned without repentance. The point at issue, is, whether a true saint will be suffered to fall and die impenitent.
The question is not, whether a true believer will be saved, whether he endure to the end or not. It is certain that those only will be saved, who shall endure to the end. The point which I maintain, is, that all true believers will endure to the end.
The question is not, whether saints will persevere without their own exertions. This is evidently impossible; as much so, as it would be, to run without moving. To persevere without their own exertions, would be to persevere without perseverance.
But the question is this: whether any who have been born of the Spirit, justified by grace, and adopted as God's children, will be left to utter and final apostacy? Or whether God has not promised that all such shall persevere in faith and holiness to the end of life and be saved?
Before I proceed to state and answer objections, I will just mention what it is incumbent on the objector to prove. He must prove that some real saints have utterly and finally apostatized; or that some will thus apostatize.
It is nothing to his purpose to show, that Christians are commanded to persevere. The question is, whether they do or do not obey the command. Surely, it is not sound reasoning to infer from a command, that those to whom it is given, will disobey it. All the saints and angels in heaven are commanded to persevere;-and are we hence to conclude, that more or less of them, will yet apostatize?
Nor is it to the objector's purpose to show, that if real saints should fall away and die impenitent, they would be lost. That this would be the consequence is certain. And it is equally certain that if Gabriel should apostatize, he would be cast down to hell; and are we hence to infer that Gabriel will apostatize?
Nor is it to the objector's purpose to show, that saints are cautioned against apostacy. It becomes him to prove,
that these cautions will not be made effectual to prevent their apostacy.
Nor is it to his purpose to show, that the promises of salvation are conditional. He must show that some true believers will fail of complying with the conditions.
Nor is it to his purpose to show, that real saints have sometimes fallen into great sins. It is incumbent on him to prove that their apostacy was total and final.
Nor is it to his purpose to show, that persons who once professed religion, and who appeared to possess it, have fallen away and perished. It becomes him to prove that they were true saints.
Let these remarks be kept in view, while we proceed to examine the objections against the doctrine under consideration.
1. One of the most plausible objections, which has ever been urged against this doctrine, is derived from the following passage of scripture. Ezek. xviii. 24. "But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned; in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die."
It may admit of a question, whether the term righteous in this passage was intended to denote a real saint. Persons are often spoken of in the scriptures according to their apparent or visible character. By the righteous, here may be meant, one who is only reputed to be such; and the sentiment of the passage may be, that whatever evidence a man may give of genuine piety, yet if he shall apostatize, all his former appearance of religion shall be regarded as worthless, and he shall be treated according to his real character.
But supposing a true saint to be denoted by the term righteous in this passage; it is not asserted that a righteous man will turn away from his righteousness; but only that should he thus turn away, he would die. A supposition is expressed, and a consequence stated. It is admitted, that the consequence would follow, if the thing supposed should take place. But the question is, whether the thing supposed ever will take place. That it will,
can by no means be inferred with certainty from the supposition; because there are many hypothetical cases stated in the Bible, when it is certain that the thing supposed never will take place. Take the following. Levit. xviii. 5. "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them." The meaning of this passage is, as appears from Rom. x. 5, and Gal. iii. 12, that if a man should obey perfectly the law of God, he would be justified by his own works. And are we hence to infer, that any mere man ever did, or ever will obey perfectly the whole law? especially when it is declared, Rom. iii. 20, “By the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified." Again. Paul said, Gal. i. 8, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." And may we hence infer that an angel from heaven ever will preach another gospel? If I were to say, when an Ethiopian shall change his skin, or a leopard his spots, then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil; should I be understood to affirm, that an Ethiopian ever did, or ever will change his skin, or a leopard his spots? Or if I were to say, when a camel shall go through the eye of a needle, then a rich man may enter into the kingdom of heaven; should I be understood to assert, that a camel ever did, or ever will go through the eye of a needle?
Supposing the term 'righteous' to denote a true saint, the text under consideration may be regarded as the statement of a strong case, to illustrate more clearly and forcibly the subject under consideration. God is vindicating his character against the aspersions of his enemies. They alleged that his ways were not equal; that he punished children for the sins of their parents. He repels this allegation, and assures them, that every individual is treated according to his own personal character. He affirms that all who repent and reform, shall live; and that all who persist in their sins shall die; and to show clearly the equality of his dealings, he makes the supposition, that if even a righteous man should turn from his righteousness, and do according to the abominations that the wicked man doeth, he should die. But this is not deciding the question, whether a truly right
eous man ever will thus apostatize. This question is left to be settled by other parts of the scriptures.
I will now refer you to one or two passages, which expressly assert that a truly righteous man never will thus apostatize. Job xvii. 9. "The righteous shall hold on his way." Ps. xxxvii. 23, 24. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord;—though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand." Here we have direct assertions against the utter apostacy of the truly righteous. And are such plain assertions to be set aside by inferences drawn from hypothetical declarations ?
2. We are referred to a parable of our Saviour, recorded Matt. xviii. 23-35.* This parable has been supposed to teach the doctrine, that after sinners have been pardoned, they may so sin, as finally to perish.
To obviate this objection, permit me to make a remark, in regard to the interpretation of parables. A parable is a story related at length, for the purpose of illustrating some important truth. But it is not to be supposed, that every incident related in a parable can be literally applied; because in comparing spiritual things with natural, the comparison will not always hold in every particular. Take, for example, the parable of the treasure hid in a field. Matt. xiii. 44. If every incident in this parable is literally applied, we shall prove, that when a man hath obtained religion, it is his duty to conceal it. By a similar mode of interpretation, we may prove from the parable of the unjust steward, Luke xvi. that we ought to practice fraud and dishonesty to obtain friends in heaven. It is always dangerous to raise a doctrine from an incident related in a parable. Every parable is designed to illustrate some important truth, and that truth may always be ascertained by attending to its general scope. So in the parable before us, the obvious sentiment is, that we must exercise a spirit of forgiveness, in order to expect to be forgiven of God.
But let us for a moment take the ground of the objector, and see to what consequences it will lead us. When sinners are pardoned, God says, their sins and iniquities
*I do not quote the parable on account of its length.
will I remember no more. But those who perish will be punished for all their sins. They shall have judgment without mercy, and receive for all the deeds done here in the body. Suppose then a person should fall away and perish after he has been pardoned. In that case, he will be punished for sins which God has forgiven, and which he has promised to remember no more.
3. We are referred to the parable of the ten virgins. Matt. XXF The foolish virgins, it has been supposed, represen apostates from true religion. But it is very obvious, that this parable was designed to show the danger of self deception, not of falling from grace. The foolish virgins represent false professors, who never were truly converted. But with an air of triumph, it has been asked, if their lamps were never lighted, how could they go out? By whom is it said, that their lamps went out? Not by our Saviour, but by the foolish virgins themselves. They said unto the wise, give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. But if their lamps were lighted, as they undoubtedly supposed they were, with what were they lighted? Not with oil, surely, which is the emblem of grace; for it is said expressly that they took their lamps, and took no oil with them. And besides, they were foolish virgins when they took their lamps. It is not said, that they were all wise, and that five became foolish, but that five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Nothing can be more evident, than that the foolish virgins denote false professors, who never were true believers.
4. We are referred to John xv. 2. "Every branch in me, that beareth not fruit, he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." In this passage, it has been supposed, there is an intimation, that true believers may become so unfruitful, as to be finally separated from Christ. But perhaps, upon close examination, it will be found to contain a very different sentiment. Wherever true grace exists in the heart, it will produce some fruit. Every true believer, therefore, is a branch which does bring forth some fruit; "and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." true believers, therefore, will be made fruitful, and will