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less, unrenewed men; and therefore proves it possible for Christians to fall from grace.
M. I find that we are still agreed: but for the sake of farther satisfaction permit me to call your attention to several other texts which appear to be rather hostile to the Calvinistie doctrine of final perseverance.
C. With all pleasure; for the truth is precious beyond all estimation.
M. What then is the apostle's object when he says, Heb. x. 26. "For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins?" He also adds, while attending to the destruction of those who violated the law of Moses: "Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the spirit of grace ?"
C. The apostle's object, Sir, in these and all similar passages is to press the absolute necessity of final perseverance in order to obtain salvation.
M. What is your exposition of this text; "Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him?"
C. It is this; there is a possibility of the Christian's falling from grace, or of drawing back to perdition: otherwise this hypothetical mode of expression is destitute of instruction. Accordingly the apostle says, in the next verse: "But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them who believe to the saving of the soul."
M. I tell you, Sir, I am really amazed!
C. At what, my friend?
M. At your coincidence with Methodists who advocate the possibility of Christians falling from grace.
C. I am not a Methodist; and there is no occasion for amazement relative to my construction of the texts which have been examined, if we view things correctly. But let me ask; have you any other cardinal texts in mind which in your judgment disprove the final perseverance of saints ?
M. We could mention a few others of similar complexion; but as the texts already examined are our cardinal ones, we shall enumerate no more.
C. Then you will give me leave to be deeply surprised and amazed too in my turn!
M. Why so, my friend?
C. Because the texts already mentioned, and a thousand more of the same import, are nothing to your purpose; for
they only urge the necessity of constant faithfulness, because it is naturally possible for Christians to fall from grace.They prove that persevering faith in Christ is the condition of salvation; but not that any good man ever did, or ever will finally fall from grace.
M. But how, Sir, is all this? For I verily thought you coincided with me, in the construction of those texts which invalidate the doctrine of final perseverance.
C. The mistake, Sir, is yours. For instead of acceding that the texts we examined discarded the Calvinistic doctrine of final perseverance, I only held that they prove the natural possibility of falling from grace, and the necessity, the absolute necessity of unremitting faithfulness in order to be saved. M. And do you after all hold to the doctrine of final perseverance?
C. Yes, Sir, as firmly and decidedly as I believe the perpetuity of the throne and existence of Deity. Accordingly, says the great Shepherd; "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 pluck them out of my hand. My Father who gave them me is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."
M. Sir, I now wish to understand your theory rather than to dispute it. "How can these things be?"
C. There is no perplexity attending them. This, Sir, is a state of probation and not a state of confirmation. As the apostate angels and men were probationers till they violated God's command; so all Christians on earth are in a state of probation, and therefore have natural ability to fall from grace. For it is absurd to style Christians probationers, unless they are capable of proving themselves the final enemies of Christ as well as his final friends. Aside from this consideration Christians have no alternative of life or death, and are not in a state of probation. You will not deny that Christians are probationers.
M. It must be confessed, that Christians are in a state of probation. It must also be confessed, that they have the alternative of life or death; and consequently that it is naturally possible for them to choose death rather than life. The connexion of these truths is convincing and undeniable.
C. It will then follow, that all Christians, seeing they are sanctified but in part, need the powerful motive to unremitting faithfulness which is urged by the texts we have examined. For none except those who endure to the end will be saved.
M. Sir, I see it ; and I see that those who have natural ability to keep the strait and narrow way which leads to eternal life, have also the same ability to forsake it, and prefer the broad road which leads to destruction. For he who has ability to act rightly has equal ability to act wrongly.
C. Yes, Sir, the necessity of dying faith in order to salvation proves the equal necessity of living faith. For living men are dying men, and know not how suddenly and unexpectedly they shall be summoned to appear before their Judge. Hence the necessity of all those exhorting texts we have examined which not only prove the necessity of faith at a dying moment, but the possibility of being arrested by death while destitute of it. Hence we infer,
1. That Arminians or Methodists cannot disprove the doctrine of final perseverance. For the texts they press for this purpose are volunteers to urge the necessity of perseverance on the natural possibility of final failure. The Bible, while Christians are saved by the merit of Christ only, obliges them to persevere in holiness as though their salvation were attainable by their own personal faithfulness.
2. We infer that the doctrine of the saints final perseverance does not, as Arminians pretend, flatter careless and licentious characters. Christians, even the best Christians, must work or die. Like Paul they must bridle their lusts and restrain their appetites; they must keep under their bodies and bring them into subjection; they must run with the utmost vigor, and resolutely fight the good fight of faith, till death shall terminate the conflict; or they will lose the prize and destroy their souls.
3. We have reason to fear there are many false professors of religion. For there are but few church members who appear to be suitably disengaged from temporal objects and suitably attentive to the high concerns of the eternal world.
4. We infer that men must be addressed on the subject of duty according to the natural ability they possess, and not according to their destitution of it. For neither the decretive will of God, nor his elective will, nor the universality of his government, nor any influence whatever interferes with man's voluntary agency. Men are free, and the universe is full of motives to induce all right volitions and to suppress all wrong volitions.
M. I confess your consistency; and will farther examine the subject. For the Bible is a harmonious book,
C. Think of these questions.
1. Have the non-elect natural ability to believe? for God has determined they shall not.
2. Have the elect natural ability to disbelieve?
3. Could man be a moral agent if destitute of natural ability to do rightly and wrongly ? FAREWELL.
Under a fearful apprehension that I should never obtain mercy through the redemption that there is for our fallen race in Christ Jesus, and a deep conviction of the justice of God in casting me off forever, I have found my heart, if I can learn any thing concerning it, approving of that justice, and if any thing can please my anxious mind, I have enjoyed a melancholy pleasure in a firm belief, which I have, that in my punishment God's glory will be exhibited to all holy beings, and that this will conduce to their felicity and impressed with these feelings it is now almost five years that my prayer to God has been, that, if the greatest good of his kingdom require my endless punishment, I may have a will submissive to the divine will in the world to come, and an heart given me to hate sin. I am sensible that such a prayer is inconsistent, for where there is holiness there must be happiness; and for a few weeks past I have been at a loss whether the feelings above expressed are not those of a new creature in Christ Jesus. If you would discuss the question herein involved I have taken means to learn the result.
ON SELF-LOVE AND BENEVOLENCE.
QUESTION: Can Benevolence be inferred from Self-love, or from the love any being has for himself?
NO man will assert, that divine and created existence constitutes but one individual being. For this would be to affirm, there is but one individual being in the universe. The fact is, there are distinct, individual, created existences. Every man is an individual existence, as distinct and separate from the divine, as he is from created beings. If there were but one intelligent being, there would be but one such object to be loved. But as there are many distinct, intelligent beings; there are many objects of this kind to be loved; so that one being may not only love himself, but he may love another, because there is another; but were he the only being, he could love no other, since there is no other to be loved.
And does not that love of benevolence, which comprises all moral goodness, necessarily imply love to others, as well as to ourselves? That all beings love themselves is granted by all. Yet all beings are not holy. To be holy we must love others, as well as ourselves. Hence it does not follow, from self-love, that any being is holy, unless love to others can be inferred from love to self.
But can love to others be inferred from love to self?— God, it is granted, loves himself; but can we from this infer, that he loves other beings-any of his intelligent creatures? Let us enquire. Is a being's existence the object intended in his loving himself? Granting it, does it follow from hence, that he loves another being's existence? If it can be inferred, from love to myself, that I love others with a benevolent affection, then all beings are benevolent, for all love themselves. Granting, also, that in a being's loving himself his happiness is his object, if it follows from hence, that he has a love for the happiness of others; then all beings love each others happiness; for all love their own happiness. If love to self intends no more, than a love to those things, which please us, from this we cannot infer, that the happiness of others is one thing that pleases, without inferring, that the happiness of others is a source of pleasure to all beings; because there is something which pleases every intelligent being. I know of no other sense in which love to self can be defined. But from neither of these can love to other beings be inferred. Therefore, we can never infer from a being's loving himself, that he loves others, or, in other words, that he is benevolent. Benevolent affection can no more be inferred from love to infinite, if any should suppose it, than from finite existence. For allowing my existence to be the object of my love, should it be increased to an infinite degree, were it possible, then the object of my love would be infinite existence. By what rule of reasoning does it follow, that other beings, distinct from myself, are the objects of my love? Granting also that, instead of my existence, I am infinitely happy, and this is the object of my love, does this contain an inference, that I love and am united to the happiness of other beings? No, no more, than love to others can be inferred from love to my present, finite happiness. Instead of the former, let us suppose, that the things which are agreeable to me are the objects of my love; so that self-love is loving whatever is agreeable. From this it cannot be inferred, that I love other beings, whether I be finite or infinite, until it is proved, that either the existence or the happiness of others, is agreeable to me. But, assert