Page images
PDF
EPUB

pressed to care and caution, and earnest endeavours to per: severe, is most reasonable; and it cannot be otherwise, notwithstanding their having an absolute, unchangeable promise, that they shall persevere. For still perseverance is their duty, and what they are to do in obedience to God. For that is the notion of perseverance, their holding out in the way of God's commandments. But if it were absurd to command them to persevere, as the work they have to do, then how would they do it in obedience to him? The angels in heaven are confirmed, and it is promised unto them that they never shall sin: Yet it is proper for God to give them commands, though in so doing he requires the improvement of their care and endeavours to obey and fulfil his will exactly. It is not obedience, if they do not take care and endeavour to obey. If they should cease to take care, that very thing would prove their fall. So, in this case, if Christians cease to take care to persevere, that very thing is falling away.

§ 17. It shews the infallible perseverance of true Christians, that their spiritual life is a participation with Christ in the life that he received as risen from the dead. For they live by Christ's living in them : Gal. ii. 20. “ I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” That is, by the life that he bas received since his resurrection, and by his communicating to them that fulness which he received when he rose from the dead. When he rose, he received the promise of the Father, the Spirit of life without measure, and he sheds it forth on believers. The oil poured on the risen head goes down to the skirts of the garments; and thus Christ lives in believers by his Spirit dwelling in them. Believers, in their conversion, are said to be risen with Christ; Col. ii. 12, 13. “ Ye are risen with bim through the faith of the operation of God, who hatla raised him from the dead. And you being dead in your sins, and the circumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him.” And chap. iii. I. “ If ye then be risen with Christ," &c. And Eph. ii. 5, 6. “ Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together.” Rom. v. 10. “ For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." This spiritual resurrection and life is procured and purchased for Christ's members, by Christ's suffering obedience, in the same manner as his own resurrection and life is purchased by it. And they receive life as united to him, as members of a risen Saviour; and as being married in their conversion to him.

$18. The perseverance of faith is necessary to a congruity to salvation. For it is implied in several places of scripture, that if true believers should fail in persevering in faith, they would be in a lost state; John xviii. 8, 9. “Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he. If, therefore, ye seek me, let these go their way: That the saying might be fulgilled which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me, have I lost none;" i. e. Christ took care that they might go away, that they might not be in the way of such temptations as would be in danger of overthrowing them, so that they should not persevere. And it is implied, that if they were overthrown, and should not persevere, Christ would bave lost them; the saving relation that they stood in to Christ would have been dissolved. The same seems fully implied in Christ's prayer in the 17th chapter of John. Thus, he makes use not only of their having received God's word, and believed that God had sent him, but their having kept bis word, as a good plea for their title to that favour and acceptance of the Father, which he asks of the Father for them; as ver. 6, 7, 8, &c.—The same is implied in the Ulth verse: “ Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” This implies, that their being one, or their standing in a saving relation to him, and in union with his mystical body, depends on the perseverance of their faith, even that union on wbich a title to all spiritual and saving benefits depends, which is more fully spoken of in the 21st and following verses. This perseverance of believers seems to be the benefit which is the principal subject of this whole prayer. And in Luke xxii. 31, 32. it is implied, that if Peter's faith had failed, Satan would have had him: “ And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” 1 Pet. i. 5. • Who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.” Where it seems implied, that if they were not kept through faith, or if their faith did not persevere, they never would come to salvation. So, believers being overthrown in their faith, or their not knowing Christ's voice and following him, is called a being plucked out of Christ's hand; and it is implied, that the consequence would be their perishing. It also seems to be implied, that their possession of eternal life by Christ's gift depends on their perseverance; John x. 27, 28. “ My sbeep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I will give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of mine hand.” And

VOL. VIII.

[ocr errors]

2 G

in the 15th chapter of John, believers persevering in faith in Christ, or their abiding in him, is spoken of as necessary to the continuance of the saving union and relation that is between Christ and believers, and Christ's abiding in them; as ver. 4, 5. “ Abide in me, and I in you, I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit." And in the 6th verse, it is spoken of as the necessary consequence of their not abiding in Christ, if that were possible; that the union should be utterly broken between Christ and them, and that damnation should be the consequence. “ If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered, and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” And in the 7th verse, this perseverance of faith is spoken of as the necessary means of the success of faith as expressed in prayer, which is faith's voice, necessary to obtain those good things which faith and prayer seek. “ If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.'

And in the 9th and 10th verses, it is implied that Christ's acceptance of us, and favour to us as his, depends on our perseverance: “ As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you. Continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.” So, the same perseverance is spoken of as necessary to our continuing in the favour and grace of God. “ Now, when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. -And so it is spoken of as necessary to continuing in the goodness of God; and being cut off, is spoken of as a certain consequence of the contrary. Rom. xi. 22. “Behold therefore, the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity ; but towards thee goodness, if thou continue in his goodness : otherwise, thou also shalt be cut off.” Tbat expression, of standing fast in the Lord, I Thess. iii. 8. and Phil. iv. 1. implies that perseverance is necessary to a continuing in Christ, or in a saving relation to him; and more plainly still in 1 John ii. 24. “Let that therefore abide in you which you have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son and in the Father.” See 1 Cor. xv. 2. and 2 Tim. iy. 7, 8. and Heb. xii. 28. See also Jer. iii. 19.

§ 19. Concerning the objection from Ezekiel xviii. 24. “ If the righteous shall fall from his righteousness and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but in the iniquity which he hath done shall he die,” and the like; God saying this does not at all prove, that it is supposed possible that a truly righteous man should fall from his righteousness ; any more than God's saying, Levit. xviii. 4, 5. * Ye shall do my judgments and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God; ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them." The scripture, in saying, he that doeth these things shall live in them, does not design to teach us, that in the present state of things, it is possible for us to do those things in a legal sense, (in which sense the words are certainly proposed, as the apostle teaches ;) but only teaches the certain connection there is between doing these things and living in them, for wise ends ; particularly to lead us, by such a legal proposal, to see our utter inability to obtain life by our own doings. So the law is our schoolinaster to bring us to Christ. The scripture, in saying, if the righteous shall fall away from his righteousness, he shall die; does not teach us, that in the present state of things, since the fall, it is possible for a truly righteous man to fall from his righteousness; but only teaches us the certain connection between the antecedent and the consequent, for wise ends; and particularly, that those who think themselves righteous, may beware of talling from righteousness. For it is not unreasonable to suppose that God should put us on bewaring of those things that are already impossible, any more than that he should direct us to seek and pray for those things that are promised and certain.

§ 20. With respect to those texts in Ezekiel—that speak of a righteous man's falling away from his righteousness the doctrine of perseverance was not so fully revealed under that dispensation. It was of service to the godly to make them wary ; but especially to those who were legally righteous, and trusted in their own righteousness, as Ezekiel's hearers did; to convince them of this, that there was a connection between the antecedent, falling away, and the consequent, the dying in their iniquity. Jer. xxxii. 39, 40. “And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear nie for eyer, for the good of them, and of their children after them; and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” And it is so spoken of once and again by this very prophet, chap. xi. 17-21. and chap. xxxvi. 24—29. Yea, in this very chapter, after he had been declaring the danger of falling away from righteousness, the children of Israel seem to be exhorted to this very thing as a remedy against falling away; ver. 91.

“ Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will ye die, house of Israel?” They needed not only to turn from their transgressions, but to cast them away utterly, to have finally done with them, and to make them a new heart; for the prophet declares, that their old heart was a backsliding heart, bent to backslide, as the prophet often complains.

§ 21. The godly themselves were really exposed to die in their iniquity, i. e. they were liable to be destroyed by God's awful judgments in this world. The prophet has a special eye to those destroying judgments that God had lately brought on the nation of the Jews, which are very much the subject of the prophecy, and seem to have given occasion for it, and which the Jews had respect to in the proverb wbich they used, and which gave occasion to what is said in this chapter. If the sinner turned from his outward wickedness, unto an outward righteousness only, he would save his soul alive with regard to those outward calamities; and if the righteous fell away outwardly by committing some grievous sin, and getting into a bad way, they exposed themselves to die by this their iniquity in this manner.

$ 22. That there is a real difference between them that fall away, and them that persevere, even before they fall away, is evident by the things that are given as a reason of their falling away: because they have no root in themselves ; because they have not counted the cost, and because they have no oil in their vessels. Those that have no root, differ from those who have root, before there be the effect of their baving no root: And so those that have no oil, &c. And it appears again, by what is said, John ii. 23, &c. that " when Christ was at Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” And so, “ They went out from us, because they were not of us. If they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.'

§ 23. Objection. But it is in the same chapter said, “ That if a wicked man turn from his wickedness, and do that wbich is lawful and right, he shall live:" where doubtless must be understood by “ doing that which is lawful and right,” sincere and gracious righteousness, because there is a promise of life. And we must doubtless understand doing that w bich is lawful and riglit here, in the same sense as before.

« PreviousContinue »