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not finally, is only to say that God accomplishes his purpose. The
purpose of God must especially be considered. For there are many excellent gifts flowing from him, which the condemned, as well as the saved, have had possession of-yea gifts, the peculiar operation of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has, we must remember, various offices. It was he, that in creation, brooded on the primal waters, and, by his energy, brought that shapeless mass into a fair, well-ordered world. It is by him, that we live, and perform the functions of animal and rational existence. Every endowment of mind is the offspring of his power. Indeed there is nothing that the Deity performs, which depends not for its effect on the Holy Ghost. So, for instance, when Saul was to be fitted for kingly station, we read, that he was furnished with the necessary qualifications, by the Spirit of the Lord. As endued with political wisdom, which was a divine gift, he became a new man. It is evident that the change extended no farther : for his conduct, almost immediately after his elevation to the throne proved, and ever continued to prove, that he was a stranger to vital godliness. Similarly, it was by the Spirit of the Lord, we are told, that Samson was enabled to slay the lion that roared against him. The same Spirit wrought in Judas, as in the rest of the apostles, when they were sent forth, by our Saviour, to perform miracles. And yet with respect to Saul and Judas, it were surely a singular charity to hope that they are not among the miserable number of the lost. To bring an instance therefore of the Spirit's being said to depart from any man is not to make an argument against the doctrine I have laid down, unless you could also show that the Spirit's influence had been exerted on that man with a saving purpose. And I think it must be allowed, from the essential character of the Deity, that he can neither act without some intuition, nor suffer his actings to be rendered vain, by the frustration of his will, “Hath he said, and shall he not do it? hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" It certainly follows not, that because he has not set his peculiar love on any man, he therefore must withhold from that individual all gifts, all communications of his Spirit-the contrary is expressly shews by the apostle Paul, (1 Cor. xiii ;) it does follow, from the fact, that there is with him “no variableness neither shadow of turning,” that whom he, at one time, chooses for his own, he will not, at another, altogether reject.
It must be allowed, that by the grace of God we stand in the faith. It is not by our own power, or goodness, we are at any time faithful to bim. Were he to withdraw, for ever so short a moment, his aid, we should stumble and fall. And this is true not only of us fallen creatures, but of every creature. Every creature, as a creature, is continually dependent on the Creator. His support indeed is administered through the reasonable faculties which he has bestowed on us—inasmuch as we are moral agentsbut yet it is, at all times, necessary for our well-doing. We acknowledge in the child of God a perpetual tendency to defection, but if this tendency be at one time counteracted by divine love, why should it not, if that love he consistent, be counteracted for ever?
The love of God is always described in scripture
as faithful and abiding. “ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 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.” And our Lord declares “ 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 hand : my Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.” It is mere special pleading, to say, in reply to these testimonies, that though no external enemy can destroy the elect, they may destroy themselves. Undoubtedly, they have, as I have shewn above, the perpetual tendency to self-destruction-but this is just what the love and power of Christ will preserve them from or else, and mark the inevitable consequence, no one fallen man could ever be saved at all. Besides, our Saviour not indistinctly intimates in another place (Matt. xxiv. 24.) the impossibility of the elect's being deceived into destruction.
It may be alleged, that there are many passages, which seem to countenance an opposite doctrine ; that awful warnings against apostacy (e. g.) Heb. vi.) are addressed to real believers, and that the possibility must be hence admitted of final fall, by those who have been once enlightened. I have already allowed that an ungodly man may possess, and consequently will be deprived of, many great and valuable gifts. These make the persons who misemploy them less excusable than others : their danger in committing sin is therefore extreme, they are least likely to be wrought on to repentance. But even, if I concede fully that the state described—“ who have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost”-is that of men actually reconciled to God, I see no argument against the view I have in this paper taken. Are not Christians to be solemnly and earnestly warned against the perils of apostacy and consequent destruction? Are they not to be treated as rational beings, and wrought upon, by moral means, adapted to their nature, instead of being kept by mere physical power? Then, certainly, there must be such admonitions as those just referred to— Let any man,' says a judicious expositor, ‘speculate as he pleases on this subject, when he addresses Christians by way of warning, he will inevitably fall into the same modes of address. And plainly he ought to do so: for thus have all the sacred writers done, and thus did the Saviour himself.'
This doctrine has the deliberate sanction of the venerable Hooker—They which areof God,' says he, 'do not sin, in any thing, any such sin as doth quite extinguish grace, clean cut them off from Christ Jesus; be
“ the seed of God abideth” in them, and doth shield them from receiving any irremediate wound. Their faith, when it is at strongest, is but weak:yet even then, when it is at the weakest, so strong, that utterly it never faileth, it never perishes together, no, not in them who think it extinguished in themselves.-The word of the promise of God unto his people is—“I will not leave thee nor forsake thee”-upon this the simplicity of faith resteth, and is not afraid of famine, "I know in whom I have believed?” I am not
ignorant whose precious blood hath been shed for me; I have a shepherd full of kindness, full of care, and full of power, unto him I commit myself; his own finger hath engraven this sentence in the tables of my heart, “Satan hath desired to window thee as wheat, but I have prayed that thy faith fail not:” therefore, the assurance of my hope I will labour to keep, as a jewel, unto the end : and by labour, through the gracious mediation of his prayer, I shall keep it.'
The same great theologian is careful to observe, it was not the meaning of our Lord and Saviour in saying, “ Father, keep them in thy name,” that we should be careless to keep ourselves. To our own safety, our own sedulity is required.' The right consideration of this doctrine is, therefore, very far from leading men to carelessness of life. For he that is Christ's follower, whom Christ will keep, treads in Christ's steps. No man, that treads not in his steps, has any warrant to conclude that the Lord's preserving care is over him.
And we are kept, if kept at all, in the faith. He, therefore, that holds not the purity of faith, and keeps not that faith which worketh by love, has no warrant to conclude that he shall not finally fall. To the humble, zealous believer, this truth is full of unspeakable comfort, and powerful encouragement: to the hypocrite and formalist, it speaks loudly to judge himself, that he be not judged of the Lord.