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Some Questions relative to the final Perseverance
of the Saints.
The doctrine of Final Perseverance has been so repeatedly and amply proved to be true and important from a vast number of express scripture testimonies; from the divine character and perfections; from the nature of the whole scheme of salvation, and from the security of the covenant of grace, that it would be superfluous to add any thing to the evidence that hath already been adduced. -
Yet there are many persons that appear to be, and doubtless are, true christians, who not only hesitate to embrace this truth, but have strong prejudices against it. This, I apprehend, frequently arises from the too common want of accuracy in our method of stating the doctrine; from the
abuses of which it not only is supposed capable, but which are actually made of it, in buoying up the vain confidence, and ministering to the unhallowed joys of hypocritical professors; and from their not seeing how it can be guarded from such dishonourable perversions. To obviate therefore such objections against a part of divine truth, which is so useful for the peace and establishment of the humble christian, and rescue it
from those abuses which expose it to the score of pharisees and infidels, should be the uniform endeavour of every one who believes and finds spiritual advantage from it. I would therefore propose and attempt to answer a few plain questions relative thereto.
1. Who are the persons that shall finally persevere?
It is easy to answer in general, that all believers, children of God, or saints, shall finally persevere; but this leaves the matter where it was; to remove the difficulty we must enter more particularly into the subject.
No minister of the gospel by preaching this doctrine intends to convey the idea, that the whole company of persons who profess to believe this, or any other doctrine, or all the other doc. trines of their system, shall finally be saved; or that the privilege of final perseverance is confined to those who make it an article of their creed. The belief of this doctrine may do the pious per. son important services; the rejection of it may be very prejudicial to him, without being either the cause of perseverance on the one hand, or of apostacy on the other. Those hearers of the word, in all congregations, who receive the seed by the way side, which, taken away by Satan, does not strike root: Those who received it in stony ground, an unhumbled heart, whose temporary
faith, and ostentatious profession, sooner or later will come to nought: And those who receive it among thorns, who are so attached to and encumbered by worldly things, that they bear no fruit, having no grace can persevere in nothing but open sin or specious hypocrisy. The word of God gives us reason to suspect, that even of those professors who stand very high in the estimation of the most experienced and judicious servants of God, some will end no better than Ahithophel, Judas, or Demas; whether they per. severe in their unsound profession or apostatize from it. God alone can see the heart; and though he hath given us such rules of judgment, as suffice to direct us in our duty, yet he never meant to communicate his divine prerogative of certainly knowing others to be true christians. How then can we certainly know of any man that he will infalliby so persevere as to be saved ? “Let God be true, though every man be a liar.” If any professor, however eminent, apostatize, and live and die an apostate (which by the way is not very easy for another man to be sure of;) let us not bring it as a matter of fact to overturn the truth of God, by saying, ' A child of God has fallen away finally;' nor let us rashly suppose an impenitent apostate has been saved; rather let us say, a very specious hypocrite has beert unmasked.
But though we cannot certainly know concern
ing others whether they have real grace, because we have no consciousness of what passes in their hearts; yet, as conscious of what passes in our own, we may, in some cases at least, certainly know that we have true grace, and therefore shall finally persevere. Whilst grace
very small, and the discerning faculty very dim, and sin prevails very much, the minuteness of the object, the imperfection of the organ, and the surrounding obstacles, must make it difficult to decide absolutely; but when the judgment is matured, and grace increased, and corruptions more brought under, I apprehend we may determine in a more confident manner.
This premised, the matter comes to an issue. The true christian shall finally persevere. He who is sure of his christianity, may thence certainly infer his perseverance. Now true christians perceive a vast importance in eternal things, and judge temporal, comparatively, worthless.
True christians see great hatefulness in sin, and much sin in their past lives, present conduct, and in their hearts, which produces deep humiliation, sorrow for sin, and unfeigned repentance; and causes them to set themselves against all sin, espe« cially that sin which is most customary to them; to watch against it, to pray against it, to dread it, and consider sin as the worst thing that can come to them. · True christians are influenced in their daily
walk by a realizing belief, that things are, have been, and will be, as the word of God declares them.
True christians especially believe the whole tèstimony of God concerning Jesus Christ, and humbly conscious of their need of such a salvation, and its suitableness, freeness, and sufficiency, renounce all other hopes to flee to, lay hold of, apply for, and trust in Jesus Christ, and God's grace and mercy through him.
True christians count every personal endowment, attainment, or performance, and every worldly interest, connexion, and comfort, worthless in comparison of Christ; and are thus prepared to part with any or all of them, when they come in competition with him, and have actually given up many things for his sake.
True christians receive him unreservedly in all his offices, and live by faith in him, as their Prophet, Priest, and King, for the pardon of all their sins, and the supply of all their wants.
True christians have the law of God written in their hearts, inwardly delight in it, though they cannot obey it as they would; they are then most in their element, and happiest when they are engaged in religious exercises and holy services. They allow of no known sin, and neglect no known duty; but “ by the grace of God, which
bringeth salvation, are taught to deny ungodliVol. IV.
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