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mere external union is intended. On the whole, I am compelled to believe, that being in Christ, means a vital union with him. The remaining question, therefore, and that which involves the difficulty, is, whether the text imply, that it is possible for such to fall away?
per, his salvation is secure, though it were the first exercise of the kind he ever put forth. But the question is, whether, a person possessed of such a temper, may not, in fact, be divested of it? and whether the language of St. Paul, in the place referred to, do not countenance such an
2. St. Paul, 1 Cor. ix. 27, as opinion? signs, as the reason of his care. and solicitude in subduing the vicious propensities of his body, that having preached to others, he might not himself prove a cast-a. way. But if the doctrine, we are considering, be true, does he not assign that as a reason, which could not be the true reason? We are not at liberty, I apprehend, to suppose, that St. Paul was uncertain whether he were the subject of gospel grace. But if he were certain of this, then, if the doctrine of perseverance be true, he was certain that he should not prove a cast-away. How then could he assign the fear of what, he certainly knew, would never take place, as the motive of his constant care and vigilance in the government of his appetites and passions? Besides, it is intimated by the apostle, that his final salvation was suspended on the condition of his subduing his sinful inclinations, or bringing his body into, subjection. Does not this weaken the conclusion of those who argue the final perseverance of saints from the nature of holiness; a single exercise of which, they say, gives an infallible title to everlasting salvation? But if final salvation is suspended on the condition mentioned above, this reasoning is inconclusive. It is not doubted that if a person die in the exercise of a holy tem
3. That text, Heb. x. 38, Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. This I am altogether unable to understand in consistency with this doctrine.
4. Matt. xxiv. 12 and 13. Be, cause iniquity shall abound,the love of many shall wax cold: but he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. How could their love be said to wax cold, who never had any as most certainly none but renewed souls ever had. Besides, no distinction is intimat ed, as to its nature, between the love of the one class, and that of the other; but only in regard to its continuance. Does it not seem, therefore, that reference is here made to those, who were indeed the sincere disciples of Christ? If so, what is meant by the love of such being said to wax cold? Is it not something, the effect of which will be their loss of salva.. tion? For, in its effects, it is di rectly opposed to that enduring, to which salvation is promised.
5. Some passages occur, in Ezek. xviii. and xxiii. in which I meet with very formidable difficulties. These are so appar ent to all, who peruse the contexts, that it is needless to point them out.
6. Heb. vi. 4-6. 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. Respecting this passage, I would propose these questions: Do the terms here used, necessarily imply, that those, to whom they were applied, were regenerate persons? If so, do they contemplate the event spoken of, (the defection of such) as possible; or only affirm what would be their situation, should such an event take place? If the latter, where is the force and propriety of the apostle's admonition? This must be the amount of his observations; "I exhort you to diligence and assiduity in studying the principles of our holy religion, and to progress in the knowledge of its sublime, and glorious truths; and I sanction my exhortation with this alarming consideration, viz. That if you fail to do this, and thus for want of being rooted and grounded in the truth, suffer yourselves to be shaken from your stedfastness,, and moved from your faith in the gospel, it will be impossible to recover you; though at the same time, you very well know, that it is absolutely certain this never will hap
7. With regard to the example of David I request an answer to the two following questions: Was David in a state of favour and acceptance with God previously to his sin, in the matter of Uriah? If so, were his flagrant, and abominable crimes, of adullery and murder, compatible with
the existence of a holy principle in his heart?
Thus I have endeavoured, as clearly and concisely as possible, to state the difficulties, of greatest weight, in my mind, respecting the doctrine of final perseverance. To discover the truth is, I hope, my only object. Should you deem it consistent with the purposes of your undertaking, I request you to give these queries a place in the Panoplist; in order that some writer may have an opportunity to attend to the difficulties proposed; and to gratify me and the public with such remarks as may appear to him pertinent and proper. J. C.
REMARKS ON THE FOREGOING STATEMENT OF DIFFICULTIES.
Ir cannot be urged as any objection against the doctrine of the saints' perseverance, that hypocritical pretenders to religion have openly forsaken the cause of truth. Nor can it be considered any proof of their real saintship, that, while they maintained the appearance of religion, God in his word and providence treated them, as saints. Both in his word and providence God conducts towards men according to their visible character. He does not expose them, except by giving them opportunity to expose themselves. Thus Judas, Simon Magus, and others have been treated. The apostasy of such persons means no more, than a visible apostasy, or a falling away from their standing in the visible church; which, in fact, implies no real alteration in them, but only a manifestation of their true character. Such is the sentiment contained in the
apostle's words; 1 John ii. 19. 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; but they svent out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of 218. But while there are some, that is, false professors, who actually draw back to perdition; there are others, that is, real saints, who do not. Thus the apostle, speaking of real believers, says; we are not of them, who draw back to perdition, but of them who believe to the saving of the soul. Here the distinction is evidently marked between those who are saints in reality, and those who are saints merely in appearance. Now whatever passages of scripture are designed to characterize false professors, have nothing to do with the subject before us.
It is granted, that most of the passages, which J. C. urges against the doctrine of perseverance, and other similar passages, are descriptive of real Christians. The construction, which has often been put upon Heb. vi. 4,5, appears not well supported. There is scarcely in the Bible a higher description of the regenerate.
cy of God, which secure the final perseverance of all his chosen people, are not in the least degree inconsistent with their moral agen cy.
Innumerable examples might be produced, in which God's purpose, promise, and agency conspired to render an event certain; and yet those, who were concerned in its ac complishment, were as free and voluntary, as they could have been upon any supposition whatever. I might mention the death of Jesus, which was deterinined before the foundation of the world, and was rendered certain to the church by the promise of God. Notwithstanding this, Jesus was perfectly unconstrained in laying down his life, and the murderous Jews were no less free and voluntary The in taking it from him. same might be asserted of the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, of the con, version of the Gentiles, and of a
thousand other events.
In compliance with the request of J. C. it is my design to offer what assistance I am able, to the candid and inquisitive, in discerning the consistence between the passages, which he quotes, and the gospel doctrine of the saints' perseverance. It must be remembered, that long and minute investigation is not compatible with the brevity which is necessary in this reply.
I desire it may be considered, in the first place, that the gracious purpose, promise, and agen
Now if the purpose, the prom ise, and the agency of God, ren, dering the salvation of all believers certain, leave them in the unimpaired possession of their moral freedom; it is evidently suitable to address them, as free, moral agents. But in what manner is it suitable to address moral agents, who are probation. ers for eternity, in order to per suade them to virtuous conduct? Infinite wisdom' teaches, that it is suitable to address them with motives; to set life and death before them; to hold up the mercies and the terrors of the Lord. Thus has God dealt with mankind in all ages; and what he has done is confessedly just, because mankind are intelligent
creatures, or moral agents, capable of being influenced by rational considerations. Have not the saints as much moral freedom, or rational agency, as others? Why, then, is it not proper to address to them the same motives? Why shall not they, as well as others, have the advantage of seeing life and death placed before them? Why shall they not be guarded against apostasy by divine threats, as well as excited to unfailing diligence by great and precious promises? Will any one say, this is improper, if the doctrine of the saints' perseverance is true? Does the truth of that doctrine take away the moral agency of Christians? Are they any the less free and voluntary, because there is a promise, that those who sustain the Christian character shall be saved? Do they cease to be rational creatures, because, through the grace of God, they are believers? If they are still rational, moral agents, they may be influenced by the promises and threats of the gospel. Indeed it is true religion, which gives those promises and threats their proper influence. When it is declared, that unfailing goodness shall be rewarded with the everlasting enjoyment of God, and that backsliding and impenitence shall be punished with his everlasting wrath; believers are effectually roused to pious caution and diligence. Shall motives be concealed from persons, as soon as they are disposed to be properly influenced by them?
But it is still urged, that, if the salvation of believers is certain, to threaten them with the bes of salvation on supposition of
their apostasy, is unmeaning and futile. If by the certainty of salvation be meant its certainty in the divine mind, it can have no conceivable effect on the actions of believers. If certainty in the mind of believers be intended; I observe, that believers in their best state are never more certain of their salvation, than they are of the absolute necessity of persevering faith in order to salvation, and of their unavoidable ruin, if they forsake the way of holiness. If we can say to believers; we are persuaded that God will give you the victory, and that nothing shull be able to separate you from his love; we may with equal propriety say; you must continue to the end, or you cannot be saved. Be sober, be vigilant. Set a strong guard against the first step to apostasy. For if you draw back, God's soul will have no pleasure in you. Is the propriety of such an address to Christians doubted? To il lustrate this point by a well known scripture fact, let me ask, whether it was consistent for Paul to say of some, who were ready to leave the ship; "except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved," when he had certain information from an infallible source, that none of them should be lost in the wreck? According to the common course of Providence, suitable means are absolutely necessary to accomplish events, which are divinely predicted, and so rendered certain by unchangeable perfection. Now if proper means must be employed by rational creatures in order to accomplish events, which are made certain by the purpose and promise of God; then why is it not proper
falling from grace, the language of inspiration would appear very incorrect. That such an event is, in some sense, possible, is the plain, direct implication of many Scriptures. Without supposing that good men have natural pow er to fall from grace, we cannot consider them in a probationary state; for that state must imply that life and death are set before them, and that their choice and corresponding practice will determine their future condition.
After a long and ingenious attempt to prove that the passage in John xv. 2, is applicable to those, who have a vital union with Christ, he states this as the question, which involves the great difficulty; Whether it is implied in the passage, that it is possible for such to fall away? They, who have carefully attended to the distinction, which President Edwards and others, before and after him, have made between natural and moral pow er, possibility, necessity, &c. need not be embarrassed with the difficulty here supposed. Upon the ground of that distinction, it is readily conceded, that the final apostasy of good men is naturally possible. Considered as rational, voluntary agents, they are liable to fall away. Their natural powers render them as capable of forsaking the way of holiness, as of persevering in it. It is not their want of natural power to continue in sin, that secures their perseverance in religion. Were there no possibility, in any sense, of their
If the certainty of the saints' final perseverance implies, that they have not, in any sense, power to fall away; then, the certainty of any event makes it utterly impossible, that the contrary event should take place. According to this false reasoning, it is utterly impossible, in every sense, that those sinners, who will finally perish, should repent; for their perdition is a certainty in the mind of God. Whereas it will be one part of the misery of sinners hereafter, that they might have been saved, but misimproved their opportunity.
Let this be well considered; viz. that believers being in a state of probation and having natural power to apostatize from the faith of the gospel, as well as to persevere in it, is not in the least degree incompatible with the certainty of their final perseverance; because that certainty rests wholly on a cause, which does not impair their natural power or moral agency, but leaves them fully possessed of all that belongs to rational, free, dependent beings.
Paul's words, 1 Cor. ix. 27, are remarkable. To J. C. it appears, that, admitting the doctrine of the saints' perseverance,