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to everlasting fire, for what was, in effect, his own act and deed?
I apprehend then this is no fallacious objection : but a solid and weighty one: and defy any man living, who asserts the unconditional decree of reprobation or preterition (just the same in effect) to reconcile this with the scriptural doctrine of a future judgment. I say, again, I defy any man on earth to shew, how, on this scheme, God can judge the world in righteousness.
PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS.
1: MANY large volumes have been already published on this important subject. But the very length of them makes them hard to be understood, or even purchased, by common readers. A short, plain treatise on this head, is what serious men have long desired, and what is here offered to those whom God has endowed with love and meekness of wisdom.
2. By the SAINTS, I understand, Those who are holy or righteous, in the judgment of God himself: those who are endued with the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience: those who are grafted into the good Olive-tree, the spiritual, invisible church : those who are branches of the true Vine, of whom Christ says, “ I am the Vine, ye are the branches :" those who so effectually know Christ, as by that knowledge to have escaped the pollutions of the world; those who see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and who have been made par. takers of the Holy Ghost, of the witness and fruits of the Spirit: those who live by faith in the Son of God: those who are sanctified by the blood of the covenant: those to whom all, or any of these characters belong, I mean by the term SAINTS.
3. Can any of these fall away? By falling away, we mean, not barely falling into sin. This, it is granted, they may. But can they fall totally? Can any of these so fall from God, as to perish everlastingly?
4. I am sensible, either side of this question is attended with great difficulties: such as reason alone could never
Therefore to the law and to the testimony. Let the living oracles decide: and if these speak for us, we neither seek nor want farther witness.
5. On this authority, I believe a Saint may fall away; that one who is holy or righteous in the judgment of God himself, may nevertheless so fall from God, as to perish everlastingly. · I. For thus saith the Lord, “ When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity;-in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die,” Ezek. xviii. 24.
That this is to be understood of eternal death, appears from the 26th verse: “When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them, [here is temporal death] for his iniquity that he hath done, he shall die;" here is death eternal.
It appears farther, from the whole scope of the chapter, which is to prove, “ The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” ver. 4. If you say, « The soul here means the body :" I answer, that will die whether you sin or not.
6. Again, thus saith the Lord, “When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live: if he trust to his own righteousness,” [yea, or to that promise as absolute and un. conditional] “ and committeth iniquity, all his righteous'ness shall not be remembered; but for the iniquity that he hath committed shall be die," chap. xxxiii. 13.
Again, “When the righteous turneth from his righteousness and committeth iniquity, he shall even die there. by," ver. 18. Therefore, one who is holy and righteous in the judgment of God himself, may yet so fall as to perish everlastingly.
7. But how is this consistent with what God declared elsewhere, “ If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments, I will visit their offences with the rod,
and their sin with scourges. Nevertheless, my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my truth to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips; I have sworn once by my holiness, that I will not fail David,” Psalm lxxxix. 31-34.
I answer, there is no manner of inconsistency between the one declaration and the other. The prophet declares the just judgment of God, against every righteous man who falls from his righteousness. The Psalmist declares, “ The old loving kindnesses which God sware unto David in his truth. I have found,” saith he, “ David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him. My hand shall hold him fast, and my arm shall strengthen him.--His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven. But if his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments-Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my truth to fail. My covenant will I not break. I will not fail David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me," ver. 21, 22, 30, 31.
May not every man see, That the covenant here spoken of, relates wholly to David and his seed, or children? Where then is the inconsistency between the most absolute promise made to a particular family, and that solemn account which God has here given of his way of dealing with mankind ?
Besides the very covenant mentioned in these words is not absolute, but conditional. The condition of repentance, in case of forsaking God's law, was implied, though not expressed. And so strongly implied, that this condition failing, not being performed, God did also fail David. He did alter the thing that had gone out of his lips, and yet without any impeachment of his truth. He abhorred and forsook his anointed, the seed of David, whose throne [if they had repented] should have been as the days of heaven," ver. 37. He did “break the covenant of his servant, and cast his crown to the ground,” ver. 38. So
vainly are these words of the Psalmist brought to contradict the plain, full testimony of the prophet.
8. Nor is there any contradiction between this testimony of God by Ezekiel, and those words which he spake by Jeremiah : “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” For, do these words assert, That no righteous man ever turns from his righteousness? No such thing. They do not touch the question, but simply declare God's love to the Jewish church. To see this in the clearest light, you need only read over the whole sentence. < At the same time, saith the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.”, “Thus saith the Lord, the people which were left of the sword, found grace in the wilderness, even Israel, when I caused him to rest." “ The Lord hath appeared of old unto me," saith the prophet, speaking in the person of Israel, saying, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee. Again, I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, О virgin of Israel," ch. xxxi. ver. 1-4.
Suffer me here to observe once for all, a fallacy which is constantly used, by almost all writers on this point. They perpetually beg the question by applying to particular persons, assertions, or prophecies, which relate only to the church in general, and some of them only to the Jewish church and nation, as distinguished from all other people.
If you say, “But it was particularly revealed to me, that God had loved me with an everlasting love:" I answer, suppose it was, ( which might bear a dispute,) it proves no more, at the most, than that you in particular shall perse vere: bạt does not affect the general question, whether others shall, or shall not?
vid retire 9. Secondly, One who is endued with the faith that puri. fies the heart, that produces a good conscience, may nevertheless so fall from God, as to perish everlastingły.
For thus saith the inspired, apostle, “War a good war fare, holding faith and a good conscience, which some