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testimony; “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.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” In the eighth chapter to the Romans, we have as decisive evidence of the doctrine of perseverance, as can be expressed in human language. Speaking of the Saviour’s intercession for the saints, according to the will of God, the Apostle adds, “And we know, that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For, whom he did foreknow, them he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son; that he might be the first born among many brethren.” If all things work together for the good of Christians, and if they are brought into a state of brotherhood, and heirship with the Son of God; will they not be continued the subjects of persevering grace, till they obtain the eternal inheritance? It is added, “ Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things P. If God be for us, who can be against us ; He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all; how shall he not, with him also, freely give us all things P. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect P. It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth P. It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again; who is even at the right hand of God; who also maketh intercession for als.” Will the blessed Redeemer, who has died for our sins, and risen again for our justification, who has ascended to heaven, and become an infinite advocate and intercessor for all his saints; pleading for them, and claiming them, as the reward of his humiliation, and sufserings, according to the covenant of redemption; will the faithful Redeemer, after all this, suffer his saints to apostatize? become reprobate o and bring an indelible reproach upon his kingdom P. In prayer to the Father, Christ says, “I know that thou hearest me always.” Will he refuse to ho intercession for his elect, who I
are given to him as trophies of his victory over all the powers of darkness P The memorable passage before us proceeds: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword P Nay, in all these things, we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor . present, nor things to come 3 nor heighth, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate }. o the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our ord.”
The Holy Ghost, foreseeing what strenuous opposition
would be made, in every successive age of the Christian church, to the doctrine of perseverance by grace alone; took care, it seems, to make a statement, and proof of this doctrine, which exceeds almost every thing of the kind, on any subject. To say more, in confirmation of this doctrine, must be wholly needless.
1. It is evident from the discussion of this subject, that the actual perseverance of the saints consists in growth of grace. The growth of the children of God, like the growth of natural children, may often be retarded; and at times, be imperceptible. But, at other times, the progress may be visible and great. In their Christian childhood, they “desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby.” Christians delight to search the scriptures; of course, they grow in knowl
edge. They delight in Christian conversation; of course,
they grow in brotherly love. They call the sabbath a delight; of course, they grow in Christian fellowship, and social improvement; and the worship and ordinances of the sanctuary, become more and more interesting They are gradually weaned from the world, and become more and more humble, penitent, patient, submissive and joyful in God. At some times, as the Apostle says,
“Their faith grows exceedingly;” so that “believing, they rejoice, with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” This is essential to the Christian character. “ For the path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more, unto the lo day.” Where actual perseverance is realized, there is evidence of religion; but where this evidence fails, there is awful reason to fear, that all the past appearances of religion are a delusion. Thus it is, that the Apostle John assigns the reason of apostacies from the profession and external practice of religion. “ They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, no doubt they would have continued with us; but they went out, that the might be made manifest, that they were not all of us.”
2. Actual perseverance, being a solemn test of our character, and exhibiting so clearly, the sovereignty of God, in the bestowment of his grace, is, to sinners, an alarming and offensive doctrine. . On these accounts it is, that so many oppose the doctrine, choosing rather to trust their eternal interest in their own hands, than in the hands of the wise and holy Sovereign of the universe. In their own strength, they hope to persevere, and work out their final salvation; little considering the remainder of the text, “For it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.”
3. Though it be by divine grace, that the saints persewere; yea, though it be the same as a continuation of the great work of regeneration; yet it requires the appointed means and motives of the gospel. “God worketh all things after the counsel of his own will; but always in the use of proper means and motives. Mankind, being free moral agents, never act, but in the view, and under the influence of motives. It is therefore of the utmost importance, to present, constantly, to the minds of Christians, the most powerful motives to persewerance. For to prove, that they are Christians indeed, they must “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour. Jesus Christ; to whom be glory, both now and forever.”.....AMEN.
At the head of all that is experimental and practical in religion, stands the important doctrine of self-denial; which is manifested in acts of pure benevolence, or holiness. Holiness, as we have found, comprises the whole moral character of God; and it equally comprises all that is morally excellent in man. For “love is the fulfilling of the law.” Pure love, or benevolence, is holiness; and to understand its nature and operations, is to understand the nature of true religion. Errors concerning the mature of holiness, or true benevolence, involve a general system of error, respecting both dottrine and practice. The contrast to holy love, is selfishness; and it is easy to see, that the principle of selfishness is subversive, not only of the law, but of the gospel. Had Christ acted on the selfish principle, he would never have come down from heaven, to die for sinners. And had all mankind acted on the selfish principle, no one would ever have been a believer and follower of Christ. For his testimony is; “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” The selfish principle stands directly opposed to every doctrine which has been exhibited, and which will be exhibited, in the system of truth before us. Of course, self-denial is the basis of all doctrinal and practical religion. The essence of the whole is pure benevolence, or holy love—pure, impartial, disinterested affection. But, if it still be enquired, what is self-denial P It is a denial of self-interest. It is that holy disposition of heart, which was most clearly manifested, by the humiliation, sufferings and death, of the Saviour for sinners. No verbal definition of self-denial and true benevolence, can present the subject to our minds more clearly, than it is done by the examples of the blessed RedeemerActing in the capacity of a man, he evidently sought not his own glory; but the glory of him that sent him. Christ evidently, pleased not himself. He went about doing good, both to the bodies and souls of men; rather than seeking any private benefit. He labored and suffered, not for his own private advantage; but for the honor of God, and for the salvation of perishing sinners. For them he lived, as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and for them he died, the accursed death of the cross. He made himself an offering, and a sacrifice for sin. Here we discover an astonishing instance of self-denial and pure benevolence. The marvellous condescension of the Saviour, in descending from his infinite dignity in heaven, to the death of the cross, is stated b the Apostle, expressly as an example of self-denial, which we are required to imitate. “Let this mind be in ou, which was also in Christ Jesus; who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant; and was made in the like'ness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” In this statement, we discover the nature of self-denial, and true benevolence. Self-denial is taught, not only by the examples, but by the precepts of Christ. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” “ He that loveth his life shall lose it; but he that hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal.” “If any man come to me and” (comparativel ‘speaking) “hate not his father, and mother, and wife and children, and brethren, and sisters; yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” The doctrine of self-denial is also 'strongly expressed by the beloved Apostle John. “Hereby perceive we the love of God,” or of Christ, “ because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” To lay down our lives for the good of our fellow * or for the defence and sup- *1