The GOSPEL TRUTH
PERSEVERANCE OF SAINTS.
FARTHER OBJECTIONS ANSWERED.
3. It is objected that the bible speaks of the saints as if there were real danger of their being lost. It requires them to spend the time of their sojourning here in fear, and abounds with cautions and warnings and threatenings that are certainly out of place, and not at all to be regarded, if the salvation of the saints is a revealed certainty. How, it is inquired, can we fear, if God has revealed the certainty of our salvation? Is not fear in such a case a result of unbelief? Can God reveal to us the fact that we shall certainly be saved and then call on us or exhort us to fear that we shall not be saved? Can he require us to doubt his word and his oath? If God has revealed the certainty of the salvation of all true saints, can any saint fear that he shall not be saved without downright unbelief? and can God approve and even enjoin such fears? If a person is conscious of possessing the character described to the true saints in the bible, is he not bound upon the supposition that this doctrine is true, to have and to entertain the most unwavering assurance that he shall be saved? Has he any right to doubt it or to fear that he shall not be saved?
I answer, that no true saint who has an evidence or an earnest of his acceptance with God, such as the true saint may have, has a right to doubt for a moment that he shall be saved, nor has he a right to fear that he shall not be saved. I also add that the bible no where encourages or calls upon the saints to fear that they shall not be saved, or that they shall be lost. It calls on them to fear something else, to fear to sin or apostatize lest they should be lost, but not that they shall sin and be lost. The following are specimens of the exhortations and warnings given to the saints:
Matt. 26:41. Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Mark 13:33. Take ye heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is. 34. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. So watch ye therefore; for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning; 36. Lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 37. And what I say unto you; I say unto all, Watch.
Luke 12:37. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh, shall find watching, verily I say unto you, That he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
1 Cor. 10:12. Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
19:13. Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
Eph. 5:15. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. 16. Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
6:10. Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. 11. Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Phil. 1:27. Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ; that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. 28. And in nothing terrified by your adversaries which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.
1 Thes. 5:6. Therefore, let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
1 Tim. 6:12. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
3[2.] Tim. 2:3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
4:5. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
1 Pet. 4:7. But the end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
Matt. 10:22. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake; but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
John 15:6. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
Ro. 2:6. Who will render to every man according to his deeds; 7. To them who, by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life.
1 Cor. 9:27. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
2 Cor. 6:1. We, then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
Col. 1:23. If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.
Heb. 3: But Christ as a Son over his house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. 12. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13. But exhort one another daily, while it is called, To-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.
4:1. Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 11. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
2 Pet. 1:10. Wherefore the rather brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.
Rev. 2:10. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer; behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried: and ye shall have tribulation ten days[;] be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. 11. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; he that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. 17. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. 26. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.
21:7. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
1 Pet. 1:17. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.
I find no instance in the bible in which the saints are enjoined or exhorted to fear that they shall actually be lost; but on the contrary this kind of fear is every where, in the word of God, discountenanced and rebuked, and the saints are exhorted to the utmost assurance that Christ will keep and preserve them to the end, and finally bestow on them eternal life. They are warned against sin and apostacy, and are informed that if they do apostatize they shall be lost. They are expressly informed that their salvation is conditioned upon their perseverance in holiness to the end. They are also called upon to watch against sin and apostacy, to fear both, lest they should be lost:
Heb. 4:1. Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
6:1. Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2. Of the doctrine of baptism, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3. And this will we do, if God permit. 4. 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, 5. And have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, 6. If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
3:12. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you, an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13. But exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.
They are required to fear to sin but not to fear that they shall sin in any sense that implies any expectation of sinning. They are to fear to apostatize, but not to expect, or fear that they shall apostatize. They are to fear to be lost, but not that they shall be lost. To fear to sin lest we should be lost, is a very different thing from fearing that we shall sin and shall be lost. There is just as much need of our fearing to sin, and of fearing to be lost as there would be if there were no certainty of our salvation. When we consider the nature of the certainty of the salvation of the saints, that it is only a moral and a conditional certainty, we can see the propriety and the necessity of the warnings and threatenings which we find addressed to them in the bible. The language of the bible is just what it might be expected to be, in case the salvation of the saints were certain with a moral and conditional certainty.
But in replying to this objection, it is important to ascertain the meaning of the terms used by the objector. I will first show what is not, and what is implied in the term danger:
(1.) We have seen that all events are really certain by some kind of certainty. Danger then can not imply that there is any real uncertainty in respect to that of which we predicate danger, for this can not truly be said of any event whatever. It will be in some way, and it is beforehand as really certain how it will be, as it is after it has thus occurred. Danger, then, does not imply real uncertainty.
(2.) We generally use the term as implying uncertainty it respects our knowledge of how the even will be; that is, we predicate danger of that of which we are not certain how it will turn out to be. We generally use the term as implying that we regard the result as uncertain, and that there is at least a possibility and even a probability that it may turn out differently from what we would have it. The term, then, does not imply real, but only to us an apparent uncertainty. This is commonly implied in the term danger as we use it.
(3.) But the term does not always and necessarily imply that we are uncertain in respect to the event of which we predicate danger. If a thing may fail by natural possibility; if, moreover, the result is suspended on the action of free will; and if, humanly speaking and judging of the probability of the result from the usual course of events there are seen to be many chances to one against it; and if from the nature of the event, nothing can make it certain, or secure its occurrence, but the most strenuous care and watchfulness and effort on the part of those whose agency is to be employed in its production; and if, moreover, it is understood that those concerned will have many temptations to take a course that would, if taken, defeat it, to each of which temptations the agent can yield with the greatest ease and no compulsion will be used to prevent his yielding--I say, when there is a concurrence of such facts and circumstances, we should say that there was danger even if the result were a revealed certainty. There is in this case, in truth, as real and as much danger of failure as there is that any event whatever will be different from what it in fact turns out to be; and considering the nature of the certainty, and the multitude of apparent contingencies upon which the result is suspended, and, humanly speaking, the many chances to one against its occurrence, we should in such a case say there is danger, and could not but feel a sense of danger although we knew that the result was certain. For example, suppose a man about to cross the Niagara river upon a wire just over the fails, and suppose it to revealed to him and to the world that he shall cross in safety; but suppose it to be revealed also that he is not to be preserved by a miracle, but that his safety is to depend upon his own skill, prudence and efforts, and the fact revealed to be simply that he will so behave as to cross in safety. Now all would say and feel that there was danger in this case, although they might have the fullest confidence in the result. The danger is as real in this case as if the certainty were not revealed; and considering the multitude of chances of failure, we should feel and say that there is danger, notwithstanding the revealed certainty. If the certainty were absolute, or were that of necessity, we should not say or feel that there was danger. But when the certainty is understood to be only a moral one, we should as properly say that there was danger, as if the certainty, though real, were not revealed. By danger, then, we mean to express, not a real, but only an apparent uncertainty, and a human probability, or at least a natural possibility that an event may turn out otherwise than we desire. We do not always and necessarily mean that the event is uncertain to us, but that humanly speaking and judging from the ordinary course of events, it is possible or probable that it may not occur as we would have it, and that nothing can render it certain but care and watchfulness and diligence and perseverance on the part of him, or them, upon whose agency the event is suspended.
But this objection assumes a false philosophy of mind. It assumes that fear is out of place and impossible except when there is at least supposed uncertainty. It is said that fear is an emotion that always implies real or apprehended danger in the sense of uncertainty.
It is asserted that the emotion of fear can not exist but upon condition that the subject does not regard himself as safe, or that he does not regard the interest or thing safe, concerning which fear is excited. But this is a mistake. It is true, that fear is more readily excited when there is no accredited certainty in regard to the safety of the thing or interest concerning which the fear is excited; and it is also true that this kind of fear tends, by reason of its strength and from its nature, very strongly to selfish efforts to escape from apprehended danger. It is also true that fear may be and often is excited when there is no accredited uncertainty and no apprehended danger in the sense of uncertainty in regard to the safely of self or of the interest or thing respecting which the fear is excited. For example, place an individual upon the verge of a precipice, beneath which yawns a gulph of frightful depth, and withal chain him fast so that he knows that to fall is impossible, and yet his fears will be excited. An emotion of fear will arise in spite of himself. Webster quotes Rogers' definition of fear thus. "Fear is that passion of our nature which excites us to provide for our security on the approach of evil." But this, as we shall see, is saying only half the truth. "Fear," Webster says, "expresses less apprehension than dread, and dread less than terror, and terror less than fright. The force of this passion beginning with the most moderate degree may be thus expressed: Fear, dread, terror, fright." He says again, "Fear in scripture is used to express a filial or a slavish passion. In good men, the fear of God is a holy awe or reverence of God and of his laws, which springs from a just view and real love of the divine character, leading the subjects of it to hate and shun every thing that can offend such a holy being. Slavish fear is the effect or consequence of guilt: it is the painful apprehension of merited punishment." Every one knows that these two kinds of fear are frequently spoken of in the bible. Fear does not necessarily imply an apprehension of real danger. For example, to return to the individual upon the verge of the precipice: here, although there is a known natural impossibility of falling, and of course no apprehension of danger in the sense of uncertainty, yet who does not perceive that even more than simple fear would, at least in many cases, be excited. To look down, even if certain of not falling, would excite in many minds a degree of dread and even of terror that would be almost unendurable. Few individuals could be found in whom the emotion of fear and even of terror would not, under such circumstances be awakened. It is a great mistake to suppose that this emotion can not exist except where there is real or apprehended danger in the sense of uncertainty. Who, for example, can not conceive, and who that has considered the matter does not admit, that a view of the torments of the damned may and doubtless will excite a wholesome fear and dread of sin in the inhabitants of heaven? The witnessing of any thing terrible in its nature tends to awaken the emotion of fear or terror whether we regard ourselves as exposed to it or not. Much more is this true when we know that the evil is naturally possible to us, and that nothing but care and watchfulness on our part, prevents its actually coming upon us. Now although we are certain that we shall not fall from a precipice upon which we stand, yet a view of so terrible an object awakens the corresponding emotions at once. Instead of saying that fear is an emotion that is awakened only by an apprehension of real danger, it were more in accordance with truth to say that it is an emotion that is awakened when its correlated object is present to the thoughts; and its correlated object is any thing whatever that is fearful, or dreadful, or terrible in its nature, whether we regard ourselves as really exposed to it in the sense of uncertainty or not. Thus should we stand on the shore and witness a shipwreck, or be within hearing of a battle, or witness the rush of a distant tornado, as it spreads its wings of desolation over a country or a city, and in a direction from us that forbids the possibility of injury to us, the emotion of fear and even of terror in such eases would be awakened even if we were sure that no real harm would result to any being whatever. The emotions all have their correlated objects, and it is a great mistake to say that the presence of these objects does not awaken them except upon condition that our own interest or the interest of some one else is to be affected thereby. Objects naturally lovely when present to the mind, naturally awaken corresponding emotions. Objects of beauty, and deformity, of desire, and of terror, naturally awaken their corresponding emotions, wholly irrespective of any apprehended pleasure or pain to be derived from them. But surely I need not enter into a further statement or illustration of a fact of universal consciousness. The affirmation that fear is correlated only to real or apprehended danger in the sense of uncertainty and not at all to objects naturally fearful or terrible, irrespective of apprehended danger, is so palpable a contradiction of human consciousness that few reflecting minds can fail to perceive it.
Again, the sanctions of law have, and even in heaven will and must have their appropriate influence. But what is their appropriate influence? These sanctions are remuneratory and vindicatory as we have formerly seen. They present all that is naturally desirable as the reward of virtue. They hold forth all that is dreadful and terrible as the reward of sin. The contemplation of these sanctions naturally begets their correlated emotions in all worlds and at all times. The inhabitants of hell no doubt have their desires awakened by a contemplation of the happiness of heaven, while the inhabitants of heaven have their pity, their fears, their dread awakened in view of the torments of hell, and in neither case is it in view of any apprehended uncertainty. The inhabitants of hell know that the joys of heaven are certainly never to be theirs, and the inhabitants of heaven know that the miseries of hell are never to be theirs. Nevertheless the emotions respond to their correlated objects both worlds, and no doubt will as long as mind exists.
Sin is a hateful and a fearful and a terrible thing. The wrath of an offended God is infinitely terrible in its nature. Endless torments are unspeakably fearful and terrible. The flaming penalty of the divine law is an object of infinite terror. These things are so correlated to the constitution of moral agents, as naturally to excite their corresponding emotions entirely irrespective of any apprehended personal danger. When added to this tendency that results from the nature and correlations of those objects, there is a sense of uncertainty in regard to our personal safety, the contemplation of these objects causes intense agony. A certainty of personal security relieves the agony, but it does not cause the emotion of fear and awe and dread wholly to subside. Enough remains to fix the attention, and to act as a safeguard against presumption in cases where there is a natural possibility of the evil we fear becoming ours. What a mistake in psychology to affirm that fear can not exist unless it be excited by a belief of personal danger in the sense of uncertainty in respect to whether the evil shall come upon us. I say again that the emotion is correlated to its object, and is not dependent upon an apprehension of personal danger, as every one knows. When the apprehension of personal danger is added, the excitement of the emotion is greatly, and painfully aggravated. And on the other hand the emotion is modified and softened by a sense and certainty of personal security. But still the emotion in a modified and softened form will exist so long as an object, fearful and terrible in its nature, is made the object of contemplation.
In this life, time and habit and reflection may cause emotions of fear to cease even in the presence of a fearful object, as in the case of the supposed precipice. Continuing for a long time to look upon precisely the same object and considering that there was and could be no danger in the sense of uncertainty, and familiarizing the mind to this contemplation, might in time cause the sensible emotions of fear to cease. The same would be true of any other emotion, such as an emotion of love, or a sense of beauty, or deformity, &c. This would occur where the object contemplated presented no new attractions on the one hand, or repulsions or terrors on the other. But suppose the more the object was contemplated, the more it developed its beauties, its deformities, or its terrors to the mind. In this case the emotions corresponding would never cease. This is precisely the case with the sanctions of moral law, with the wrath and the love of God, with the joys of heaven and the pains of hell. These objects will never lose their influence for want of novelty. They will never cease to beget their correlated emotions, for the reason that they will be ever new in the sense of always presenting to the gaze of intelligent beings more to desire on the one hand and more to fear and dread on the other.
But again, we see that this objection is based upon a gross error in respect to the philosophy of moral government. Moral law exists with its sanctions as really in heaven as on earth, and its sanctions have in heaven the very influence that they ought to have on earth. It is as true in heaven as on earth that the soul that sinneth shall die. Now can the sanctions of law exert no influence in heaven? I suppose no reasonable person will doubt the certainty, and the known certainty of the perseverance of all saints there. But if they are certain that they shall not sin and fall, can they not be the subjects of fear in any sense? I answer yes. They are naturally able to sin and may be sometimes placed under circumstances where they are tempted to selfishness. Indeed the very nature of mind renders it certain that the saints will always have need of watchfulness against temptation and sin.
Now, it is the design of the sanctions of law in all worlds to produce hope on the one hand, and fear on the other; in holy beings the hope of reward and the fear to sin lest they should perish. This hope and fear in a being duly influenced by them, is not selfishness. It is madness and desperate wickedness not to be influenced by them. Our reason affirms that we ought to be influenced by them, that our own salvation is of infinite value and that our damnation were an infinite evil. It, therefore, affirms that we ought to seek to secure the one and to avoid the other. This is law both on earth and in heaven. This we are not to do selfishly, that is, to seek our own salvation or to avoid our own damnation exclusively or only, but to seek to save as many as possible; to love our neighbor as ourselves, and ourselves as our neighbor. In all worlds the sanctions of law ought to have their influence, and with holy beings they have. Holy beings are really subjects of fear to sin and to be lost, and are the only beings who have the kind of fear which God requires, and which it is the design of the sanctions of law and of the gospel to inspire. What! are we to be told that a certainty of safety is wholly inconsistent with every kind and degree of fear? What then is the use of law in heaven? Must a man on earth or in heaven doubt whether he shall have eternal life in order to leave room for the influence of moral law and of hope and fear? or in order to leave play for the motives of moral government? There is room for the same fear in heaven that ought to be on earth. No one had a right to expect to violate the precept and thereby incur the penalty of law. But every one was bound to fear to do so. The penalty was never designed on earth, any more than it is in heaven, to beget a slavish fear, or a fear that we shall sin and be damned; but only a fear to sin and be damned. A fear to sin and to be lost will to all eternity, no doubt, be a means of confirming holy beings in heaven. The law will be the same there as here. Free agency will be the same there as here. Perseverance in holiness will be a condition of continued salvation there as really as here. There may, and doubtless will be temptations there as well as here. They will therefore need there substantially the same motives to keep them that they need and have here. There will there be laws and conditions of continued bliss as here. There will be the same place, and in kind, if not in degree, the same occasion, for fear there that there is here. I say again, that the objection we are considering, overlooks both the true philosophy of mind and of the influence of the sanctions of moral law.
The objection we are considering is based upon the assumption that warnings, exhortation, to fear, &c., are inconsistent with the revealed certainty of the salvation of the saints. But does not the bible furnish abundant instances of warning in cases where the result is revealed as certain? The case of Paul's shipwreck is in point. This case has been once alluded to, but I recur to it for the sake of illustration in this place. God, by Paul, revealed the fact that no life on board the ship should be lost. This he declared as a fact, without any revealed qualification or condition. But when the sailors, who alone knew how to manage the ship, are about to abandon her, Paul informs them that their abiding in the ship was a condition of their salvation from death. The means were really as certain as the end; yet the end was conditionated upon the means, and if the means failed, the end would fail. Therefore Paul appealed to their fears of death to secure them against neglecting the means of safety. He did not intend to excite in them a distrust of the promise of God, but only to apprise them of the conditional nature of the certainty of their safety which had been revealed to them, and thus cause them at once to fear to neglect the means, and to confide in the certainty of safety in the diligent use of them. But this is a case, be it understood, directly in point and by itself affords a full answer to the objection under consideration. It is a case where a revealed certainty of the event was entirely consistent with warning and threatening. Nay, it is a case where the certainty, though real, was dependent upon the warning and threatening, and the consequent fear to neglect the means. This case is a full illustration of the revealed certainty of the ultimate salvation of the saints. and were there no other case in the bible where warning and threatening are addressed to those whose safety is revealed, this case would be a full answer to the assertion that warnings and threatenings are inconsistent with revealed certainty. Paul feared to have the means of safety neglected, but he did not fear that they really would be, because he knew that they would not.
To the pertinency of this case as an illustration, it is objected that the prophet pronounced the destruction of Nineveh in forty days to be certain, as really as Paul in this case revealed the certainty of the safety of all on board the ship; therefore, it is contended that Paul did not intend to reveal the result as certain, because when a revelation was made, respecting the destruction of Nineveh in just as unqualified terms, the event showed that it was not certain. To this I reply that in the case of Jonah, it is manifest from the whole narrative that neither Jonah nor the Ninevites understood the event as certain. Jonah expressly assumed his knowledge of the uncertainty of the event as an excuse for not delivering his message. So the people themselves understood that the event might not be certain, as their conduct abundantly shows. The difference in the two cases is just this: one was a real and a revealed certainty, and the other was neither. Why then should this case be adduced as setting aside that of the shipwreck? But it is said that no condition was revealed in the one case more than in the other. Now so far as the history is recorded, no mention is made in the case of Nineveh that Jonah intimated that there was any condition upon which the destruction of the city could be avoided: yet it is plain that both Jonah and the Ninevites understood the threatening to be conditional in the sense of the events being uncertain. Jonah himself did not expect it with much certainty. But in the case of Paul, he expressly affirms that he believed God that it should be as he had declared, that there should be the loss of no man's life, and he encouraged them to believe the same thing. Paul understood the end to be certain though he knew, and soon informed them, that the certainty was a moral one, and conditioned upon the diligent use of means. The two cases are by no memos parallel. it is true that Nineveh would have been destroyed, had they not used the appropriate means to prevent it; and the same is true of the ship's crew, and it is also true that in both cases, it was really certain that the means would not be neglected, yet in one case the certainty was really understood to be revealed, and was believed in, and not in the other. Now observe, the point to be illustrated by reference to this case of ship-wreck: It is just this: Can a man have any fear, and can there be ground and need of caution and fear, where there is a real and revealed, and believed or known certainty? The objection I am answering is that if the salvation of the saints is certain, and revealed as such, and is believed to be certain, there is then no ground of fear and no necessity or room for warning, threatening, &c. But this case of ship-wreck is one in which all these things meet.
(1.) The event was certain and of course the conditions were sure to be fulfilled.
(2.) The certainty was revealed.
(3.) It was believed. Yet,
(4.) There was warning and threatening and fear to neglect the means. But these things did not all meet in the case of Jonah and the Ninevites. In this case,
(1.) It was not certain that the city would be destroyed.
(2.) It was not understood to be revealed as certain.
(3.) It was not believed to be certain.
Why, then, I ask again, should these cases be taken as parallels? Paul's case is conclusive for the purpose for which it is cited, to wit, as being an instance in which there was,
(2.) Revealed certainty.
(3.) Believed certainty.
(4.) Threatening and warning.
(5.) Fear to neglect the means. It follows that threatenings, and warnings, and fears are consistent with revealed and believed certainty. This strikes out the foundation of [t]he objection.
Again, Paul repeatedly speaks of his own salvation as certain, and yet in a manner that conditionates it upon his perseverance in faith and obedience to the end. He says,
Phil. 1:19. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 25. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all, for your furtherance and joy of faith.
2 Tim. 4:18. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever.
In this place it is plain that he regarded his perseverance and ultimate salvation, by and through the grace of God, as certain. Paul every where, as every attentive reader of the Bible knows, renounces all hope but in the indwelling grace and Spirit of Christ. Still he felt confident of his salvation. But if he had no confidence in himself, on what was his confidence based? Again,
2 Tim. 1:12. For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
Here again Paul expresses the fullest confidence of his own salvation. He did not merely intend to say that Christ was able, if he was disposed, to keep that which he had committed to him, but he assumed his willingness and asserted his ability as the ground of his confidence. That he here expressed entire confidence in his ultimate salvation, can not reasonably be doubted. He did not say that he was persuaded that Christ was able to save him if he persevered, but his confidence was founded in the fact that Christ was able to secure his perseverance. It was because he was persuaded that Christ was able to keep him that he had any assurance, and I might add even hope, of his own salvation. The same reason he assigned as the ground of confidence that others would be saved. To the Thessalonians he says, 2 Thess. 3:3: "But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil." Again, Jude says, 1:24: "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy." Again, Peter says of all the elect or saints, 1 Peter 1:5: "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time." Thus we see that the ground of confidence with the apostles was that God and Christ could and would keep them, not without their own efforts, but that he would induce them to be faithful and secure this result. The same was true of Christ as is manifest in his last prayer for them. John 17:15,16, "I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." But the apostles frequently expressed their confidence, as we shall more fully see hereafter, both in the certainty of their own salvation and also in the salvation of those to whom they wrote. Again, Paul says, 1 Cor. 9:26,27, "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly, so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast away." Here he expresses the fullest confidence that he shall win the crown, but at the same time recognizes the condition of his salvation and informs us that he took care to fulfill it lest he should be a cast away. He says, verse 26, "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly, so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:" He alludes to the Olympic games, and in this connection says, verses 24 and 25, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible." He then adds verse 26 and 27, "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly, so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
Of those who ran in these games, but one could win the prize. But not so in the christian race: here all might win. In those games, because but one could possibly win, there was much uncertainty in respect to whether any one in particular could win the prize. In the christian race there was no need of any such uncertainty. As it respected himself he says, verse 26, "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly, so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:" that is, I do not run with any uncertainty or irresolution because of uncertainty in respect to whether I shall win the prize. Nor do I fight as one that beateth the air, or as one who fights uncertainly or in vain; but while I have this confidence, as a condition of this confidence, I keep under my body. It has been denied that Paul intended to express a confidence in his salvation in this place; but this cannot be reasonably denied. He was speaking in this connection of the christian race, and of the conditions of winning the victor's crown. He affirms that there was no real uncertainty whether he should win the crown. In the Olympic games there was uncertainty, because but one could win, but here no such ground of uncertainty existed; and moreover with him there was no real uncertainty at all, while at the same time he understood the conditional nature of the certainty, and kept under his body, &c. Can any one suppose that Paul really had any doubt in regard his own ultimate salvation? Now observe, these passages in respect to Paul are not adduced to prove that all saints will be saved; nor that, if Paul was sure of his salvation, therefore all saints may be. To prove this, is not my present design, but simply to show that while Paul was sure and had no doubt of his ultimate salvation, he yet feared to neglect means. He was not disheartened in the christian race with a sense of uncertainty as they were who ran in the Olympic games. He was not, as they might be, irresolute on account of their great uncertainty of winning. He expected to win, and yet he dared not neglect the conditions of winning. Nay, he expected to win because he expected to fulfill the conditions; and he expected to fulfill the conditions, not because he had any confidence in himself, but because he confided in the grace and Spirit of God to secure his perseverance. Nevertheless he kept under his body and feared self-indulgence lest he should be a castaway.
Paul affirms of the Thessalonians that he knew their election of God. 1 Thes. 1:4: "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." In both his epistles to this church, he often speaks of them in a manner that implies that he regarded their salvation as certain, and yet he also frequently warns and exhorts them to faithfulness and to guard against being deceived by false teachers, &c. 2 Thes. 2:1--3: "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." He addresses the same strain of exhortation to them that he does to all christians, and plies them with admonition and warning just as might be expected considering the moral and conditional nature of the certainty of their salvation.
In writing to the Phillipians[sic.] he says, Phil. 1:6,7: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace." Here he expresses the confidence of an inspired Apostle, that Christ would secure their salvation. But yet in the 2d chapter 12th and 13th verses, he says, "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Here he warns them to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. There is no stronger passage than this, where the saints are exhorted to fear; and mark, this is addressed to the very persons of whom he had just said, 1:6: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Almost at the same breath he expresses the confidence of an inspired Apostle, that he who had begun a good work in them would carry it on until the day of Jesus Christ; that is, that he would surely save them; and at the same time exhorts them to "work out their salvation with fear and trembling." He did not express confidence that they would persevere except their perseverance was secured by Christ, but that Christ would carry on the work he had begun. Paul also addresses the church at Ephesus as follows:
Eph. 1:1. "Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus. 2. Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, 4. According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love: 5. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved; 7. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8. Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9. Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10. That in the dispensation of the fullness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in him; 11. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will; 12. That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ."
Now, let any one read the epistle through, and he will find that these same elect persons are addressed throughout with precept, exhortation, and warning, just as all other saints are throughout the bible. To quote the instances of this, were only to quote much of the epistle. Indeed this is the common usage of the inspired writers, to address the saints as the elect of God, as persons whose salvation was secure as a matter of fact, but whose salvation was after all conditionated upon their perseverance in holiness; and they hence proceed to warn, admonish, and exhort them just as we might expect when we consider the nature of the certainty of which they were speaking.
But if it be still urged that the fact of election is not revealed in any case to the individuals who compose the elect; that if the fact of election were revealed to any one, to him threatenings and warnings would be out of place, l reply that this is only saying that if certainty is revealed as such at any time. and in respect to any thing, then warnings, and threatenings, and fears are wholly out of place. But this is not true, as we have seen in the case of the ship-wreck. Here the certainty was revealed to the individuals concerned, and accredited. Christ also revealed to his apostles the fact of their election as we have seen, also to Paul. Can any one reasonably call in question the fact that the Apostles understood well their election of God, not only to the apostleship but also to eternal life? John directs one of his epistles as follows: "The elder to the elect lady and her children." Observe again, what Paul in writing to the church at Ephesus says:
Eph. 1:1. "Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus. 2. Grace he to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; 4. According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. 5. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. 6. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8. Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9. Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself. 10. That in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him, 11. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
Here he expressly recognizes himself as one of the elect, as he does elsewhere, and as the apostles always do, directly or by way of implication, and yet Paul and the other apostles did not feel that warning and watchfulness and fear to sin were at all out of place with them.
Job speaks as if the certainty of his salvation had been revealed to him. He says:
Job 19:25. For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.
Can any one suppose that Job regarded threatenings and warnings, and fear to sin as out of place with him?
It is generally admitted that there is such a thing as the full assurance of faith or hope, or as attaining to the certain knowledge that salvation is secure to us. But would a saint who has made this attainment be less affected than others by all the threatenings, and warnings, and exhortations to fear, found in the bible? Would such souls cease to tremble at the word of God? Would they cease to pass their time of sojourning here with fear? Would they cease to "work out their salvation with fear and trembling?" Would God no longer regard them as belonging to the class of persons mentioned in Isa. 66,1: "For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word."
Christ prayed for the salvation of his apostles, in their presence, in such a manner as to leave no room for them to doubt their ultimate salvation, if they expected his prayers to be answered. He did the same with respect to all that should believe on him through their word. Now will you affirm that they who are conscious of believing in Jesus must cease to have confidence in the efficacy of his prayers before they can feel the power and propriety and influence of warnings and threatenings, and the various motives that are addressed to the elect of God to preserve them from falling? The supposition is preposterous. What! must we doubt the efficacy of his prayers, to credit and appreciate the force of his warnings? In fact, the more holy any one is and the more certain he is of his eternal salvation, the more does sin become an object of loathing, of fear, and even of terror to him. The more holy he is, the more readily he trembles at the word of God, and the more sensibly and easily he is affected by a contemplation of sin and divine wrath; the more awful and terrible these things appear to him, and the more solemnly do they affect him, although he has the fullest assurance that he shall never taste of either sin or hell. It is true, indeed, as we shall have occasion to remark hereafter, that in general the bible assumes that individuals are not sure of their salvation, for reasons that I shall notice, and proceeds to warn them upon that assumption.
But still it is insisted that if the end is certain, so are the means, and if one is revealed as certain so is the other, and therefore it is absurd and implies unbelief to fear that we shall neglect the means, or that either the end or means will fail. But as has been said, to fear to neglect the means, and to fear that we shall neglect them are not the same. We are naturally able to neglect them, and there is just as much real danger of our neglecting them, as there would be if no revelation were made about it, unless the revelation of the certainty of their use be a means of securing the use of them. We are therefore to fear to neglect them. There is in fact as much real danger of our neglecting the means of our salvation as there is that any event whatever will be different from what in fact it turns out to be. There is no more real danger in one case than in the other, but in one case the certainty is revealed, and in the other not. Therefore when the certainty is not revealed, it is reasonable to fear that the event will not be as we desire, and as it ought to be. But in the other, that is, when the certainty is revealed, we have no right to fear that it will be otherwise than as revealed, nor to fear that the means will in fact be neglected; but in all such cases, we should fear to neglect the means, as really and as much as if no revelation of certainty, had been made, just as Paul did in the case of his shipwreck.
Again, it is inquired, Are we not to fear that any of the saints will he lost, and pray for them under the influence of this fear? I answer, no. The saints are the elect. None of God's elect will be lost. We are to pray for them as Christ prayed for his apostles, and as he prayed for all believers, not with the fear that they will be lost--for this were praying in unbelief,-- but we are to pray for all persons known to be saints, that they may persevere unto the end and be saved, with confidence that our prayer will be answered. But it is said, that Paul expressed doubts in regard to the salvation of the churches in Galatia. I answer that he expressed no doubt in respect to their ultimate salvation; he says, "I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you."--Gal. 4:20. In the margin it reads, "I am perplexed for you." He says in the next chapter, "I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded; but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be."--Gal. 5:10. Paul set himself zealously to reclaim these churches from error, and expresses full confidence of the result, and no where that I see, intimates that he doubled whether they would finally be saved.
But it is said still that if the salvation of all the saints is secured, and this certainty is revealed, there is no real danger of their either neglecting the necessary means or of their being lost, and therefore warnings, and threatenings, and fears are vain; and that the certainty being granted, it is irrational and impossible to fear without doubting the truth of God; that certainty is certainty, and it matters not at all of what kind the certainty is; that if so be that the event is certain, all danger, and of course all cause of fear, is out of the question.
To this form of the objection I reply, that it proceeds upon the assumption that there is no danger of the saints falling if God has revealed the certainty of their ultimate salvation. But what do we mean by danger? It has already been said that all events are certain in the sense that it is and was from eternity as really certain that they will be, and how they will be; and that all their circumstances and conditions are and eternally were, as certain as they ever will be. So that there never is any real danger, in the sense of uncertainty, that any event will be otherwise than it turns out in fact to be. By danger, then, is not meant that there is really any uncertainty in respect to how any thing will be. But all that can properly be intended by danger is, that there is a natural possibility, and, humanly speaking, may be a probability, that it may be otherwise than as we desire; that this is probable in the sense that there is, humanly speaking, from the circumstances of the case, and, so far as we can judge, from the course of events, a probability that a thing may not occur as we would have it.
Now a natural possibility always exists in respect to the falling and final destruction of the saints; and in most eases at least, the circumstances are such, that humanly speaking, and aside from the grace of God, there is not only real danger, but a certainty, that they will fail of eternal life. There are, humanly speaking, many chances to one that they will fall and be lost. Now this danger is as real as if nothing of certainty had been revealed. The event would have been as certain without the revelation of the certainty as with, unless it be true, which I suppose in many cases is the fact, that the revelation of the certainty helps to secure their perseverance.
But again the objection overlooks the nature of the certainty, and erroneously assumes that nothing depends upon its nature, when, in fact, every thing depends upon its nature. If it were a certainty of necessity, then there could be no danger, because no possibility of being otherwise. In this case, warnings, expostulations, threatenings, exhortations to fear, &c., would be out of place and mere trifling; but since the certainty is but a certainty of liberty or a moral certainty, and one that is conditionated upon our own free acts and upon the influence of those warnings which are found in the Bible, and upon the influence of those fears to sin to which we are exhorted; I say since the nature of the certainty is such as to be conditionated upon these influences, it is preposterous to say that nothing depends upon the nature of the certainty, for it is manifest that the entire event may be dependent, and turn upon the nature, and an understanding of the nature of the certainty. When the nature of the certainty is understood, it is entirely rational and necessary to fear to sin, lest thereby we should lose our souls. For be it remembered, we are able to apostatize, and should we do so, we must be lost. It is no answer to say that it is a revealed certainty that we shall persevere and not be lost; for the certainty that we shall not be lost is no greater than that we shall not apostatize, and we are naturally able to apostatize. The certainty that we shall be saved, is no greater than that we shall persevere to the end. If, then, we do not persevere, but apostatize, we shall assuredly be lost. Fear to sin and apostatize, fear to neglect perseverance, is just as rational as if the certainty of the event were not revealed. Perseverance in holiness will no doubt be a condition of the saints' abiding in heaven, and since they will be free, and there will be a natural possibility of falling or of sinning, they will then fear to sin.
But it is said that "perfect love casteth out fear." True, but what kind of fear does love cast out? I answer, that "fear that hath torment." It casts out the fear of hell, that is, of actually going to hell; but it does not cast out the fear of God nor the fear of sin, but begets both. Love casts out the fear that we shall be lost, but not a fear to be lost. It casts out the fear that we shall apostatize, but begets a fear to apostatize. The place for fear in the saints is in the presence of temptation. When enticed or tempted to sin, a salutary fear and dread of sin and of its consequences is aroused, and the soul recoils from the temptation as from death and hell. Let it not be said, then, that if a thing is certain, it is certain, and it matters not by what kind of certainty, for there is in no case of real, known certainty, any rational ground of fear. Such things are loosely said. Both the kind of certainty and the kind of fear are here overlooked. It is true that in this case there is no rational ground to fear that either the end or the means will actually fail; but there is just as rational a ground to fear to neglect the means as if no certainty whatever were revealed. There is no more room for presumption in one case than in the other. In both cases to neglect the conditions is possible, and in our circumstances, extremely natural and easy, and even certain but for the preventing grace of God. This neglect would in either case prove fatal.
The temptations to neglect are alike in both cases: there are therefore equally rational grounds of fear to neglect the conditions in both cases. There are not, it is true, equal grounds to fear in both cases that we really shall neglect these conditions, but there are equal grounds to fear to neglect them. A fear that we shall really neglect them is not salutary. But a fear to neglect them is highly so. A fear that we shall neglect them and that we shall be lost tends strongly to selfishness, because it does not imply nor consist with confidence that we shall he preserved and saved. But a fear to sin, to offend God, to be lost, is consistent with a confidence that we shall be preserved and saved, and does not therefore tend to selfishness in efforts to escape damnation, at least to the same extent. The right kind of fear tends to liberty and to life. The wrong kind of fear gendereth to bondage and to death.
But it is said again, that fear implies a sense of danger, which, it is said, is impossible when we know the certainty. I answer again that fear to sin does imply a sense of the danger of sinning, and there is reason to have this sense of danger, when there is in fact all the real danger that there is in any case whatever that any event may be different from what it turns out to be. As I have said, a sense of danger is possible and reasonable when failure is possible and when the event is conditioned, not only upon free acts, but also upon the greatest watchfulness and perseverance on our part. The danger is so real and the sense of danger is so reasonable in this case that although the event is certain, yet it is conditioned upon this sense of danger. Were not the danger as real as in cases where no certainty had been revealed, and were there not a sense of danger, the result might fail. But the fact that there is as real danger of the damnation of the saints as there is that any event may turn out to be different from what in fact it will be, and the fact that the saints have a sense of this danger and understand the conditional and moral nature of this certainty, are conditions of the certainty of their salvation and tend to make it certain. Surely this is extremely plain; for example, let us suppose again that a man is about to venture down Niagara Falls in a bark canoe. It is revealed to him that he shall go down safely, but at the same time it is also revealed that he is not to be preserved from death by a miracle, but on the contrary that he must, as a condition, exert all his skill, and avoid every thing that tends to procure a failure, and omit nothing that is essential to his descending safely without a miracle; that the event, though certain, is conditioned upon the right and persevering exercise of his own agency, and that although it is sure, and he may rest in the assurance, that both the means and the end are certain and that neither of these will fall; yet to defeat the end by the neglect of the means is within his power; that he will meet with great temptations to neglect the means--temptations to presumption on the one hand, and to unbelief and despair on the other; temptations to levity, or to despondency; to innumerable neglects and wanderings of the attention, and such like things, which, if not guarded against, will prove his destruction. Now who can not see the propriety and necessity of both the assurance and the warnings and the place for the salutary influence of a fear to neglect the necessary means in this case. This I regard as a true illustration of the revealed certainty of the perseverance of the saints in the sense under consideration.
But thus far I have replied to the objection, upon the assumption that the certainty of the salvation of the saints is revealed in the sense that individual saints know the certainty of their own salvation. I have shown, as I trust, that admitting this to be true, yet the nature of the certainty leaves abundant room for the influence of a wholesome sense of danger and for the feeling of hope and fear. But the fact is, that in but few cases comparatively does it appear that the certainty is revealed to the individuals as such. The salvation of all true saints is revealed, as we shall see, and the characteristics of true saints are revealed in the bible. So that it is possible for individual saints to possess a comfortable assurance and even to know that they are saints. And as has been shown, it is doubtless true that in some cases in the days of inspiration and not improbably in some cases since the bible was complete, individuals have had a direct revelation by the Holy Spirit, that they were saints, and accepted of God.
But in the great majority of cases in all time hitherto, the saints have had no personal and clear revelation of their being saints, and no evidence of it except what they gather from an experience that in their view accords with the bible description of the character of the saints. When Peter addressed his epistles to the elect saints for example, although he regarded the elect as certain of salvation, yet he did not distinguish and address individuals by name, but left it for them to be satisfied of their own election and saintship by their own consciousness of possessing the character that belongs to the saints. He did not reveal to any one in particular the fact of his own election. This was for the most part true of all the letters written to the church. Although they were addressed as a body as elect and as saints, yet from this they were not to infer that they were all saints or elect, but were to learn that fact, and who were real saints, from their conscious character.
We shall see in its proper place that the bible represents perseverance, in the sense already explained, as an attribute of christian character, and therefore no one can have evidence that he is a saint any farther than he is conscious of abiding in obedience. If saints do abide in the light and have the assurance that they are saints, we have seen the sense in which they may be influenced by hope and fear, and the sense in which moral law with its sanctions may be useful to them. But when a saint shall backslide, he must lose the evidence of his being a saint, and then all the warnings and threatenings may take full effect upon him. He finds himself not persevering, and has of course to infer that he is not a saint, and the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints can not be a comfort to him. It is in fact against him; for this doctrine is that the saints do persevere, and every day he lives in backsliding, it becomes less evident that he is a saint. The bible is manifestly written, for the most part, upon the assumption that individual saints do not certainly know their election and the certainty of their own salvation. It therefore addresses them as if there were real uncertainty in respect to their salvation; that is, as if, as individuals, they were not certain of salvation. It represents the salvation of real saints as certain, but represents many professed saints as having fallen and warns them against presumption and self-deception, on account of their profession and privileges and experience. It represents the danger of delusion as great, and exhorts them to examine and prove themselves, and see whether they are truly saints. The warnings, for the most part, found in the bible are evidently of this kind; that is, they assume that individuals may deceive themselves and presumptuously assume their own election and saintship and safety from their privileges, relations, and experiences. Inspiration, therefore, proceeds to warn them, assuming that they do not know the certainty of their own individual salvation. We shall by and by have occasion to examine some passages that will illustrate and confirm this remark.
There is, therefore, I apprehend no real difficulty in accounting for the manner in which the bible is written upon the supposition that the doctrine in question is true. But on the contrary it appears to me that the scriptures are just what might be expected if the doctrine were true. When we consider the nature of the certainty in all cases, and also that the great mass of professed christians have no certain revelation of their being real saints, that there is so much real danger of deception in regard to our own characters, and that so many are, and have been deceived; I say, when we consider these things, there can be no difficulty in accounting for the manner in which both professors and real saints are addressed in the word of God.
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