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Since the church of God, redeemed by the blood of his Son, and sanctified by his Spirit, is the glory of the universe, as Canaan was the glory of the earth, it must constitute an interest that he greatly cares for; and it might naturally be expected that his eyes would be always upon it for good. See Deut. ii. 12. If the gates of hell could prevail against the church, to destroy it by causing an apostacy among the children of the second Adam, there would be nothing to assure us, that the whole display of divine glory, which is made in the works of cre. ation and providence, would not be lost. If it should be said, the redeemed church can not be destroyed, apostacy can never extend to all the children of the last Adam; I would ask, where are the promises to secure us against a universal apostacy, which do not give security to every individual who has by grace been adopted into the family of Christ? When this holy family is figuratively represented by a taber. nacle, assurance is given that it shall never be taken down; that not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be moved, neither any of the cords thereof broken : and when it is represented by corn in the sieve, we are as. sured however violently it may be tossed, that not the least grain shall fall upon the earth. Isa. xxxiii. 20; Amos ix. 9.
It is moral perfection that makes the greatness of the Divine Being an “ excellent greatness." The more ample the proof which he gives, that his immense natural attributes are equalled by his unchanging holiness, the more valuable is the manifestation which he makes. In a holy character veracity is an essential ingredient. It has a conspic. uous place in the character of our Creator. “God cannot lie.” What he has spoken with his mouth, he will fulfill with his hand. But how does he make it appear that he cannot lie? There is nothing that has come to our knowledge, in which he shows his regard to truth in so clear and convincing a manner, as in keeping covenant with his re. deemed people, especially during that period of their existence while they remain upon
earth. In establishing this covenant with them, he shows the greatest possible favor to creatures, who had always hated him without a cause ; and who, after he had provided a way for their reconciliation by the death of his Son, manifested nothing but ingrati. tude and obstinate rebellion. The act, by which he first reconciles them to himself, is a bright manifestation of his power
but it is in their after preservation that his truth and faithfulness are the most wonderfully displayed. They would never persevere, were it not for his aid. It is by the power of God they are kept. The provoca. tions of which they are guilty, after their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, their emancipation from Satan's yoke, are innumerable ; and yet he does not cast them off; he does not disinherit them; no, not one of them. He has made an engagement to them all, to be a Father to them; therefore, instead of forsaking them, as their sins deserve, he subdues their iniquities, and casts their sins into the depths of the sea. Micah vii. 19. Though they fall, they rise again, and hold on their way even to the end of their days. They shall still bring forth
fruit io old age, to show that the Lord is upright. Ps. xcii. 13, 14. Their enduring to the end, and bringing forth fruit in old age, in contradis. tinction from their religion's withering away and coming to nothing, will show that the Lord is upright; that he is a God of truth, on whose
promises we may most implicitly rely. It will illustrate that sweet declaration, so often repeated in the 136th Psalm, His mercy endureth forever. The proof of veracity, which the Most High has given in keeping covenant with his elect angels, is not to be compared with this; for they have done nothing to provoke him to forsake them. But such are the provocations of his elect people on earth, that their case would be hopeless, were it not that his mercy is built up forever, and his faith. fulness established in the very heavens. Ps. lxxxix. 2. To be depri. ved of that display of divine faithfulness, which is made by the estab. lished connection between grace and glory-between the dawn of light and the perfect day, would be an infinite loss to the universe.
There is no discord between this and the third Article. The law, it is true, makes no provision for such a thing as forgiveness, even in a single instance; but it presents no obstacle to its repetition, however frequent, when the way is prepared for its consistent exercise. It would be repugnant to the spirit of the third Article, if transgressors were to receive forgiveness, short of their taking the side of the law, and returning to their allegiance. And it would be casting contempt on the law, to have a perpetuity of divine favor secured, unless their penitence, faith, and obedient character, were also made sure.
This Article harmonizes with the fourth. Creatures, who are but partially recovered from the ruins of the fall, certainly need a covenant of free grace--a covenant of enduring mercy. No other would reach the necessity of their case. They need better security for perseverance, than their own good resolutions, even when they are in their best frames. We do not see how it is possible, that the man who has become experimentally convinced of his moral impotence, unless he has also been en lightened into the truth of the present Article, should start in the Chris. tian race, with the least expectation of winning the prize.
The agreement between this and the fifth Article, is very apparent. The atonement which God has provided for this fallen world, contains virtue enough to give support to the doctrine of the final perseverance of all such as become interested in its benefits. The blood of Christ is sufficient to insure this happy result; for it cleanseth from all sin. His love is also equal to it; for it is testified of him, that “ having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” There is a special sense in which God has given them his Son; and how shall he not with him also freely give them all things ; even all things that are necessary to their final perseverance? If any man, any believer in Christ, sin, we have an Advocate with the Father.
In the sixth and seventh Articles there is nothing in opposition to the one now before us. Those Articles show that the salvation of the gospel is offered to all men, and that it is rejected by all the unregene. rate. Now these facts seem to imply ; that when, by means of regene. rating grace, the offer has been accepted, we are placed on new ground; so that henceforward it shall not be with us as though it had not been accepted.
Between this and the eighth, ninth, and tenth Articles, the agreement is very manifest. In the eighth, we saw Gud, by his own power, effecting a radical change in the hearts of the sinful children of men; in the ninth it was shown, that this was an act of grace, both special
and sovereign; and in the tenth, that it was according to the wise purpose of his own mind concerning those individuals who are “par. takers of the benefit.” Now it must be evident to all, that if God can quicken us when we are dead in sins, he can preserve the spiritual life he has imparted, and revive it when it is languishing. If he has such a direct access to the mind that he can cause the stubborn will to bow, he can keep it in subjection.* And if his grace is great enough to induce him to begin the work, it is natural to expect it should lead him to finish it. Paul testifies, “ By the grace of God I am what I am.” The salvation of every one of the redeemed is grace in the foundation; and the top-stone will be brought forth with shouting, crying grace, grace unto it. “ If when we were enemies we were reconciled by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” If we have been called into the kingdom of God according to his eternal purpose, is it not unnatural to suppose this purpose to have its full accomplishment in our conversion ? "Is it not much more reasonable to view it as reaching forward to the perfect holiness and blessedness of heaven, taking conversion in the way as a necessary preparation for such a heaven? “ As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”
This Article makes an entire concord with the one which stands immediately before it. As soon as we are made acquainted with the gracious way in which the believer is justified, we should expect to find it a “ justification unto life,” even eternal life. We should natu. rally anticipate the declaration which the apostle makes concerning it, when he says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus :” and come to the conclusion ; that when grace has gotten dominion, in a way so honorable to divine justice, it would reign unto eternal life through righteousness, even that righteousness which is by Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom, v, 21.
1. If the perseverance of all true saints is certain, then he who makes his calling and election sure, also makes sure his salvation. But if an individual, among those who are called into the kingdom, can fail of being glorified, then making one's calling sure, does not make sure his glorification. Nor, in this
case, could any saint, however eminent his attainments, be assured of his eternal salvation, unless he should be certified of it by an express revelation from God.
2. If the evidence of regeneration were obtained by some visionary, or other unholy experience, the doctrine of an infallible connexion between this change and eternal life, might be prejudicial to the cause of holiness. But they who consider nothing as an evidence of it, except boliness of heart and life, can sustain their hope in no way different from that in which they acquired it.
Such do not, by
* I never knew an individual, among those who believe that regeneration is effected by a special and direct influence of the Spirit on the heart, disbelieve the certainty of the saints' perseverance.
connecting the doctrine of perseverance with a hope once obtained, sit down contented with this for all subsequent life. They still look for scriptural evidences of this change; and so far as these are discov. ered, the doctrine in question ministers comfort, because it gives them just as much assurance that they shall at length reach the heavenly country, as they now have that they are in the way which leads to it.
3. If God has promised to sustain and carry on a work of grace in every heart where he begins it, we can see what it is emboldens the convert to make an open profession of his religion, together with an engagement to serve Christ to the very end of his life. He has no stock of grace, no, not enough to last him a single day; and yet he engages a whole life of obedience. This he may do without arrogance or self-sufficiency, since the all-sufficient God has said to him, “ My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weak.
4. If an interest in Christ is a good of such a nature, that being once acquired can never be lost, it has a peculiar claim to our attention. Its intrinsic superiority to all other blessings is so great, that it well deserves to be called the one thing needful ; and, in distinction from all others, it is “that good part which shall not be taken away.” God gives property, and takes it away. He gives life and health, and takes them
away. He gives the means of grace, and when they are abused, takes them away. After giving his Spirit to strive with men, he often takes it away. But when he gives the true riches, he never takes them
away. “ The Lord will give grace and glory.” When he gives the one, he always gives the other. Grace is the only blessing God gives to men, which he stands engaged neither to take from them him. self, nor to suffer them to lose by their own folly.
“ Ho, ye that part for living streams,
And pine away and die ;
With springs that never dry."
AT THE END OF THE WORLD THERE WIIL BE A GENERAL JUDGMENT, IN WHICH CHRIST WILL PRESIDE AS SUPREME JUDGE; WHEN HE WILL PASS AN IRREVERSIBLE SENTENCE OF APPROBATION ON THE RIGHTEOUS,
AND OF CONDEMNATION ON THE WICKED.
This forms an essential Article of Christian faith, and is so clearly revealed, that no doubt can be entertained concerning its truth. Each particular comprehended in it, can be fully proved by the word of God: viz. That the judgment will be general-That Christ will preside as
supreme Judge That the righteous and the wicked will each receive an appropriate sentence, the one of approbation, and the other of condemnation—And that in both cases the sentence will be irreversible.
1. The judgment will be general. The scriptures very naturally lead us to the conclusion, that all God's intelligent creatures will be judged, that is, that they will undergo a trial in public, in which their conduct, during their different probationary seasons, will be impartially examined, with a view to its being approved or condemned, according to its character. Of the extent of the intelligent creation we are not informed. The revelation with which we are favored, makes explicit mention of two, and only two orders of accountable creatures, namely, angels and men. Both these will be brought before the same judgment seat. That the fallen angels will be arraigned at the same tribunal with the human race, is made evident by a passage which we find in the epis. tle of Jude : “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under dark. ness, unto the judgment of the great day.” The judgment of the great day, unto which the rebel angels are reserved, is the same at which all the children of men must appear. It is here that the saints will judge angels, (i. e. apostate angels, as they will not only inwardly approve, but openly express their approbation of that sentence of condemnation which the supreme Judge will pronounce upon them. 1 Cor. vi. 3. And if the fallen angels are to appear at the same judgment seat with the human race, it may be inferred that the holy angels will appear there too. Since holy men are brought before the same tribunal with wicked men, there would be a want of analogy in the procedure, in case holy angels were not to appear in judgment with those angels that rebelled. Nor are we left to mere analogical reasoning to prove the point, that holy as well as apostate angels will be summoned to the bar of the Judge: for when he shall come to gather the inhabitants of the earth before him, he tells us himself, that he shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him.” That they will not come merely as his attendants to grace the august occasion, but also as his accountable creatures to stand before him in judgment, is strongly implied in the circumstance, that on this occasion they all come, not one remains be. hind. See Matt. xxv. 31.
That the judgment will extend to the whole of Adam's race will not be disputed. Immediately anterior to the resurrection, the whole race will be comprehended in two classes, denominated the quick and dead : and both are to be arraigned before the judgment seat. By the quick are meant the living, even all who shall remain on the earth at the second coming of Christ ; and the dead comprehend all those who shall have died before that period. Both classes, however, will be alive at the time of the judgment; for this solemn event will be immediately preceded by the resurrection of the dead. The universality of the resurrection, is an argument to prove that the judgment will be universal
, extending to all the race. All ages and ranks of men will arise from the sleep of death; and they will arise to be judged. John, in the Revelation, testifies, “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God." Rev. xx. 12. The resurrection will include both classes of characters, of which our world is composed; for it is said, " There