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A. It should be considered as all important. It was clearly taught and maintained by the primitive Christians, and by the Reformers, as vital to the system of religion once delivered to the saints. It affects more or less all the doctrines, experience, and practice of Christians. Paul says to the Galatians, that those who denied it taught another gospel, and he pronounced a wo upon them. (g)
Q. 1. What is meant by the perseverance of the saints?
A. I. By it is meant, negatively, 1. Not that none who profess religion will fall away and perish. Hypocrites may, and unless renewed by the Holy Spirit will, apostatize, as did Alexander, Hymeneus, Philetus, and Judas: 2. Not that saints never fall into sin. They sin daily, and, sometimes, most awfully, as did David, Solomon, and Peter, and thereby fall under God's fatherly displeasure: 3. Not that saints in themselves or of themselves will persist in holiness. The best believers, if left to themselves, would certainly apostatize and perish. There is nothing in the nature of regeneration or holiness to prevent it: 4. Not that saints will uniformly increase in holiness, and enjoy the consolations and hopes of religion. Christians sometimes are stationary, sometimes backslide, and sometimes lose the comforts of religion, and sink into the depths of despondency: 5. Not that those who are once justified will be saved, whether they continue in holiness through life or not. None will be
(g) Gal. ii. 16. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.-Gal. i. 8. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
saved but those who endure to the end: 6. Not that saints will persevere in godliness without their own exertions. Perseverance is theirs, and every exercise of heart and action of life is theirs: But, II. By the perseverance of saints is meant, positively, that all who are truly regenerated by the Spirit of God, will be preserved from total and final apostasy from the state of grace, and will persevere in holiness unto the end of life, and be saved. They will continue in a state of grace till they arrive at a state of glory. God will preserve them through faith unto salvation. There is an inseparable connection between the first exercise of true faith and eternal life. This is what is meant by the perseverance of the saints.
Q. 2. How does it appear, that the doctrine of the saints' perseverance is true?
A. From the Sacred Scriptures. The Bible nowhere asserts, that any saints will totally and finally apostatize. It does not mention a single instance of a real saint's apostatizing. But it teaches the doctrine, that the saints will persevere, by passages which expressly declare it or imply it. In fact, all the other doctrines of grace imply the truth of this. (a)
(a) 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 went out that they might be made manifest, that they were not all of us.-Matt. vii. 22, 23. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity, -Heb. vii. 25. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.-Rom. viii. 38, 39. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.-John xiv. 16, 17. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.-1 John iii. 9. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in
Q. 3. How do the saints persevere ?
A. By the aids of Divine grace in the use of means which God has appointed. The use of means is as necessary in sanctification as in regeneration. Man, as a moral being, never acts but in the view and under the influence of motives.
him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.-Eph. iv. 30. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.-Jer. xxxi. 3. The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea; I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.-2 Tim. ii. 19. Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his. Phil. i. 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.-2 Thess. iii. 3. But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil. Jer. xxxii. 40. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.John xvii. 12. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name; those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled.--John vi. 64. 70, 71. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon; for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.-John vi. 37. 39. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.-John x. 27-29. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.-Ps. xxxvii. 23, 24. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.--1 Pet. 1. 4, 5. To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you. Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.-Job xvii. 9. The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.
Q. 4. How ought persons who profess to have experienced a change of heart to view their experience, if they do not persevere in the Christian life?
A. They ought to fear that their religious experience is not genuine, but delusive. A person has no evidence of his being a Christian, any further than he lives the life of a Christian.
Q. 5. Do the commands and exhortations to persevere in holiness, and the warnings against apostasy given in Scripture, prove that saints may apostatize?
A. Certainly not. They only prove that they are liable in themselves to fall away, and show what would be the consequence if they should apostatize; not that they ever in fact do. It is in this light that those passages of Scripture are to be viewed which are usually brought to disprove the doctrine of the saints' perseverance. They are merely hypothetical, and were written to be used as means in securing the saints from apostasy.
Q. 6. What effect is the doctrine of perseverance calculated to have upon saints?
A. It is calculated to excite them to the duty of self-examination, to console weak believers, and to encourage all to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, in the hope that it will finally be well with them. The certainty of the end does not supersede the necessity of means, but lays a foundation for the use of them. The doctrine of the saints' perseverance in no sense tends to licentiousness. To the truth of this saints on earth and saints in heaven can attest.
Q. 1. What is death?
A. It is the extinction of animal life, and the separation of soul and body. When this event takes place, the animal functions cease, the body becomes lifeless, and the soul enters the eternal world disembodied, or freed from its tenement of clay.
Q. 2. Is death the portion of all men?
A. All have died to the present generation, Enoch and Elijah only excepted, and all that now live, and shall hereafter live, will die, except those who are alive on the earth at Christ's second appearing, who will be changed as to their bodies, and pass into eternity without seeing death. (a)
Q. 3. Can death in any way be averted?
A. It cannot. Neither infancy, youth, manhood, health, strength, beauty, nor goodness, can resist its approach. But though there is a certainty of death, yet the time, manner, and other circumstances of it, are uncertain. (b)
Q. 4. Would mankind have died if they had not sinned?
A. They would not; but would probably have been translated to heaven at the close of their probation, as were Enoch and Elijah.
(a) Gen. iii. 19. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.-Eccl. xii. 7. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.-Heb. ix. 27. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judginent.-Heb. xi. 5. By faith Enoch was translated, that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.-2 Kingii. 11. And it came to pass, as they still went on and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.-1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
(b) Eccles. viii. 3. There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death; and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.-Job xiv. 5. Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass. -Job xxx. 23. For I know, that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living.-James iv. 14. Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? it is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.