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« But exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,”_" For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.”
On the Perseverance of the Saints.
SECTION twelfth of the work before us, contains the re. marks of Mr. H. on the Perseverance of the Saints. This doctrine our opponents hold from choice, or necessity, or perhaps from both, It is inseparably connected with the other parts of the Calvinistic system ; for if God has unconditionally elected some men to eternal life, doubtless they cannot avoid persevering to the end. And on the other hand, if he has unconditionally reprobated all the rest, doubtless they cannot avoid persevering to eternal death; but should it be shown that this key-stone of their “royal arch" has no existence, it will do much towards showing that the whole system is defective.
The first question is, “What are we to understand by the perseverance of the saints ?" p. 163. So full does the
apostacy of thousands of real Christians stare our opponents in the face, that our author commences his answer to the above question, by making a number of concessions. It is not meant," says he, “when we assert that the saints will cer. tạinly persevere, but that they may be left to commit great
“Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David, Solomon and Paul, were left to show very decidedly that they were imperfect, after they had become eminently pious.”
Here, I think, our author has taken for granted what re
mains to be proved, viz ;-that the Lord "leaves men to commit great sins," while their day of visitation lasts. I say while their day of grace lasts; for after this is past, no doubt but sinners are left to commit sin, having entirely rejected the offer of salvation.—But Mr. H. does not allow that these mentioned above, were thus given over to a repro. bate mind, but contends, that they were children of God, notwithstanding their great sins. Now that the Lord leaves no man to commit sin, while his day of merciful visitation lasts, is abundantly proved from the word of God." The Lord is with you while ye be with him ; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you." From this it is plain the Lord leaves no man until he leaves the Lord. Moreover, does not Mr H. tacitly acknowledge by this assertion, that if they had not been left by God to commit sin, they would not have exhibited these marks of imperfection. And does he not, therefore, indirectly charge God with being the author of their great sins ? But to the main point. He acknowledges these men did commit great sins, even “after they had become eminently pious." This concession is, of itself, sufficient, to prove the possibility of the entire apostacy of the saints ; for," he that sinneth,” (and especially lie that commits “great sins,") is of the devil.” Now let us try the sentiment of our author by this text. “Eminently pious" men may" commit great sins," without endangering their eternal interest, but “ he that sinneth is of the devil.”_ Therefore, eminently pious men may be of the devil without endangering their eternal interest !
But take one out of the number of those mentioned above-say the case of David, for example. He was eminently pious" a man after God's own heart,"_and yet it will not be denied but that he committed adultery, and covered it with murder. But will it be contended, that at the time of these acts of sin, David pos. sessed the grace of God in his heart? Was he at this time a child of God--a man after God's own heart? It is true Mr. H. admits, (p. 164,) that David, “sor a time, lost all appearance of piety," but this itself show's, that he believes David was pious all the while at heart that he only “ lost the appearance of piety”! David's visiting Uriah's bed, and then concealing it with murder, did not, according to Mr. H. endanger his eternal salvation in the least ! Now the error of this doctrine appears. 1. From the word of God—“no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him;” but David was a murderer, therefore David, at that time, had no eternal life abiding in him He was, therefore, entirely apostatized, not in " appearance," only, but in reality. 2. From its licentiousness. Not a crime, however heinous in the sight of God, or disgraceful to human nature, but may be committed with perfect safety (as to any eternal loss,) by the elect ! O, ye believers in such a sentiment! Do you know the exceeding great liberty of the gospel ? You may visit your neighbors bed, and if it is likely to be known, you may murder him, and yet lose nothing but the “appearance of piety: you will still be the dear children of God, and in the direct way to heaven! Oh! error! error! error! what art thou doing in our world! 3. The error of this doctrine appears from this, that it destroys the probationary state of the Christian in this life. The present according to our opponents, is with him, a state of confirmation. The probationary state, according to them, lasts no longer than the day of our conversion. After this he cannot commit a sin, which will finally shut him out of heaven! But it may be said, that when a christian sins against God, he suffers for it in this life. The stings of a guilty conscience, for wounding Christ, in the house of his friend, forms a most severe punishment. But do not sinners suffer the stings of a guilty
conscience in this life, and damnation in the next besides i Now is the sinner suffer for the same offence, in this life, al! that the christian suffers for the same, and eternal destruction besides, will it not argue that the same sin in a christian is not so henious as in the sinner? Is this the truth? Do not all agree that we had better never have known the way of righteousness, than, after we have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to us ? And is it not also certain, that “ If we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin,”? Surely the christian cannot sin so cheap as the sinner, but his sin against the greater light is the greater offence. But this sentiment of our opponents, not only destroys the probationary state of the christian in this life, but,“ so far, mingles the scenes of retribution, with those of trial and brobation.” So that the very pit, which Mr. H. has dug, (p. 87,) for his opponent, his own system has plunged himself into. Another remark of his, is the following:~" It is, however, most certain, that they may be real christians, while no distinguishing evidences are seen by men in their conduct." p, 164. Now, to show what contradictions error will lead men 10, we have only to make another quotation from the same page.-" They have no evidence that they are christians, when they exhibit no appearance of holiness in their conduct.” Here we are told that they have no evidence that they are christians, unless they exhibit the fruits of holiness in their conduct; but there, that it is certain that they may be real christians, while no distinguishing evidences are seen! This last stalement, if it were true, would be of great importance to the character of David, (and, indeed, to every backslider,) as it would make him to have been a "real christian,” while guilty of adultery and murder. But what answer would our
Lord have given to the pretensions of such “real chris. tians"? Doubtless the same which he gave to the Jews, by the mouth of John—"O, generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come ? Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance," &c. “By their fruits ye shall know them ; do men gather grapes from thorns," or adultery and murder from real christians ? Surely not. The sentiment, therefore, which we oppose, belongs not to the building fitly framed,"
The next attempt of our author to establish his theory, is by a reference to the parable of the ten virgins. His first argument from it is, “real christians may be asleep," • They all slumbered and slept.' Now if this argument proves any thing in the way he has used it, it certainly proves too much ; for, on this ground, 1. There is no dis. tinction between the righteous and the wicked. 2. It would prove that all real christians sleep in sin; for “they all slumbered and slept," both the wise and foolish, As this ground is utterly untenable, we must seek for the original design of the parable, which, we think, will set the subject at rest, as to any argument to be drawn from it in this debate. It should, however, be remembered, that in explaining parables, we must not expect to find a correspondence in every minute particular.--This is impossible.
Hence we are not to understand by the words, “ five of them were wise, and five were foolish,” that mankind are equally divided in their moral characters. 1. Then, by the ten virgins," I understand, all mankind--that, when they arrive to a state of accountability, they are all favored with a degree of spiritual light.“ The grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men,” &c. I understand, by this light, their lamps, with which they all set out. 2. By five being wise, I understand that a part of mankind