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CHAPTER XXV.
OF IMPERFECT GLORIFICATION, WHEREIN ARE CONSIDERED THE DOCTRINES OF ASSURANCE AND FINAL PERSEVERANCE.

OF that increase which has reference to the Father and Son conjointly, the remaining part is Glorification.

Glorification is either imperfect or perfect.

Imperfect glorification is that state wherein, being justified and adopted by God the Father, we are filled with a consciousness of present grace and excellency, as well as with an expectation of future glory, insomuch that our blessedness is in a manner already begun. John xvii. 22. "the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them."

St. Paul traces this glorification by progressive steps, from its original source in the prescience of God himself: Rom. viii. 29, 30. "whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son 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." xv. 7. "receive ye one another, as <59> Christ also received us to the glory of God." Eph. i. 3. "blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." iii. 17-19. "that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." 1 Thess. ii. 12. "that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory." 2 Thess. ii. 14. "whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Pet. v. 10. "who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus." 2 Pet. i. 3, "that hath called us to glory and virtue."

Our blessedness is in a manner already begun. Matt. v. 3, &c. "blessed are the poor in spirit, for their's is the kingdom of heaven."

Both regeneration and increase are accompanied by confirmation, or preservation in the faith, which is also the work of God. 1 Cor. i. 8. "who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Cor. i. 21, 22. "now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." Eph. iii. 16. "that he would grant you according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." 1 Pet. v. 10. "the God of all grace, who hath called us... make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." Jude. 24. "unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and <60> to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."

These three, regeneration, increase, and preservation in the faith, considered as proximate causes on the part of God, and their effects, as faith, love, &c. considered as proximate causes on the part of man, or as acting in man, produce assurance of salvation and the final perseverance of the saints.

On the part of God, however, the primary or more remote cause is his predestination or election of believers. Rom. viii. 30. "whom he did predestinate," &c. as quoted above, xi. 29. "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." Heb. vi. 17, 18. "wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation," &c. 2 Pet. i. 4. "whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature."

Hence assurance of salvation is a certain degree or gradation of faith, whereby a man has a firm persuasion and conviction, founded on the testimony of the Spirit, that if he believe and continue in faith and love, having been justified and adopted, and partly glorified by union and fellowship with Christ and the Father, he will at length most certainly attain to everlasting life and the consummation of glory.

Has a firm persuasion; or, to speak more properly, ought, and is entitled to have a firm persuasion. 2 Pet. i. 10. "wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure," that is <61> the fruit of your calling and election, eternal life; for the calling itself cannot be made more sure, inasmuch as it is already past: but this is of no avail, unless we give diligence to make both sure. It follows, that, as far as this depends upon ourselves, it must be in our own power to make it sure.

If he believe. John iii. 16. "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." See also vi. 47. Rom. v. 2. "by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." 2 Cor. xiii. 5. "examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves: know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" But "Christ dwells in our hearts by faith." Eph. iii. 17. Hence we are enjoined to prove our faith, lest we should be reprobates; not our election, which cannot be sure without faith.

Continue in faith and love. Heb. vi. 18-20. "that we might have a strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us; which hope we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil." x. 22, 23. "let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water: let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering." 2 Pet. i. 9-11. "he that lacketh these things, is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins: wherefore the rather, brethren, &c... for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and <62> Saviour Jesus Christ." 1 John iii. 14. "we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." iv. 18. "there is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear." Rev. ii. 17. "to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Here each is represented as receiving the stone, or pledge of election, after he has individually obtained the victory.

Having been justified. Rom. v. 9, 10. "much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him: 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." We are only justified, however, through faith.

Adopted. Rom. viii. 15, 16. "ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."

On the testimony of the Spirit. Rom. viii. 16. "the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." Eph. i. 13, 14. "in whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." iv. 30. "grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." 1 Thess. v. 19. "quench not the Spirit." Certainly, if we grieve the Holy <63> Spirit, if we quench that by which we were sealed, we must at the same time quench the assurance of our salvation.

This assurance of salvation produces a joy unspeakable. John. xv. 10, 11. "ye shall abide in my love... these things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." Rom. xiv. 17. "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." 1 Pet. i. 8, 9. "in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."

The final perseverance of the saints is the gift of God who preserves them, whereby they who are foreknown, elect and born again, and sealed by the Holy Spirit, persevere to the end in the faith and grace of God, and never entirely fall away through any power or malice of the devil or the world, so long as nothing is wanting on their own parts, and they continue to the utmost in the maintenance of faith and love.

The gift of God's preserving power. Psal. xxvi. 1. "I have trusted in Jehovah, therefore I shall not slide." Luke. xxii. 32. "I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not." John. vi. 37. "all that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in nowise cast out." Rom. v. 5. "hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." Jude. 1. "preserved in Jesus Christ."

Foreknown. 2 Tim. ii. 19. "the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his; and, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."

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Born again. John viii. 35. "the servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the Son abideth ever."

Through any power or malice of the devil or the world. Matt. xxiv. 24. "insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." John x. 28, 29. "neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand: my Father which gave them me is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." xvii. 15. "that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." Rom. viii. 35, 38, 39. "who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? for 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."

So long as nothing is wanting on their own parts. In adding this limitation, I was influenced by what I had observed to be the uniform tenor of Scripture. Psal. cxxv. 1, 2. "they that trust in Jehovah shall be as mount Sion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever." 2 Chron. xv. 2. "Jehovah is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you." Jer. xxxii. 40. "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." In promising to put his fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from him, God merely engages to perform what is requisite on his part, namely, to bestow such a supply <65> of grace as should be sufficient, if properly employed, to retain them in his way. At the same time he enters into a covenant with them. Now a covenant implies certain conditions to be performed, not by one, but by both the parties. "They shall not depart from me;" that is, from my external worship, as the whole of the context shows, from the thirty-seventh verse to the end of the chapter, compared with the twentieth and twenty-first verses of the following; "if ye can break my covenant of the day..... then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant..... and with the Levites." Lastly, it appears that these very persons, in whose hearts he promised to put his fear that they should not depart from him, did actually so depart; for the same promise is made to their children, xxxii. 39. The event therefore proved, that although God had according to compact put his fear into their hearts to the very end that they should not depart, they nevertheless departed through their own fault and depravity. Moreover, the words are addressed to, and include, the whole nation; but the whole nation was not elect; it follows therefore that the passage cannot refer to the elect exclusively, as is contended. Ezek. xi. 19-21. "I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh... that they may walk in my statutes;... but as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads." Matt. vii. 24, 25. "whosoever heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man that built his house upon the rock." John iv. 14. "whosoever drinketh of <66> the water that I shall give him... it shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." vi. 51. "if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever." 1 Cor. x. 12. "let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." Philipp. ii. 12. "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." 1 John ii. 17. "he that doeth the will of God, abideth for ever." v. 28. "abide in him, that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming."

Continue to the utmost in the maintenance of faith and love. This clause is subjoined for the same reason as the former. John xv. 2. "every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away." v. 6. "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." v. 10. "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." Rom. xi. 20. "because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith." v. 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." Thus the gifts of God are said to be without repentance, v. 29. inasmuch as he did not repent of his promise to Abraham and his seed, although the greater part of them had revolted; but it does not follow that he did not change his purpose towards those, who had first changed theirs towards him. 2 Cor. i. 24. "by faith ye stand." Eph. iii. 17, "being rooted and grounded in love." 1 Pet. i. 5. "who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salva <67> tion." 2 Pet. i. 5-10. "beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue..... for if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful..... for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." That a real believer, however, may fall irrecoverably, the same apostle shows, chap. ii. 18. "they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error;" if indeed this be the right reading, and not, as others contend, escaped a little:[1] not to mention, that it appears doubtful whether the knowledge of the Lord should be understood here of a saving faith, and not of an historical only: and whether their escapefrom the pollutions of the world implies a truly regenerate and Christian purity of life, and not a mere outward and philosophical morality: so that from this passage nothing certain can be inferred. The text in Ezekiel xviii. 26, is clearer; "when a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness..... he shall die." The righteousness here intended must necessarily be true righteousness, being that from which whosoever turns shall die. But, it is replied, the event is conditional, if he turneth away; which, on our hypothesis, will never happen. I answer, first, that the Hebrew does not express any condition, and, secondly, that if it were so, an absurd and impractica <68> ble condition is inconsistent with the character of God. Two suppositions, both of them equally possi ble, are here made; v. 21. "if the wicked will turn from all his sins;" v. 26. "when a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness;" hence v. 25. "is not the way of the Lord equal?" The same mode of reasoning occurs again xxxiii. 12, 13, &c. Paul was a true believer, and yet he says, 1 Cor. ix. 27. "I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." The apostle to the Hebrews, vi. 4-6. seems also to speak of the possible final apostasy of the real believer, if the concluding clause of the passage be attentively considered: "if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance;" for the state described in the fourth and fifth verses, and from which they are represented as having fallen, can scarcely have been other than a regenerate state. Christ therefore prayed to the Father that the faith of Peter might not fail, Luke. xxii. 32. For it was possible for his faith to fail through his own fault, without any failure in the ordinary gifts of God's grace; wherefore Christ prayed, not that the grace of God, but that the faith of Peter, might not fail; which was to be dreaded at that time, unless he were strengthened by an extraordinary effusion of the grace of God at the request of Christ, 1 Tim. i. 19. "holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck." It cannot be doubted that the faith and good conscience which some had put away, as well as the faith concerning which some had made shipwreck, was genuine.

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Accordingly, not the elect, but those who continue to the end, are said to obtain salvation. Matt. xxiv. 12, 13. "the love of many shall wax cold; but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." See also x. 22. Heb. iii. 6. "whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope even to the end." v. 14. "we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." 1 John ii. 24. "if that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son." Rev. ii. 10. "be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." iii. 11. "hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." John viii. 31. "if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed." From this last passage, however, our opponents draw the in verse inference, "if ye be my disciples indeed, ye will continue;" in other words, your continuance will be a proof of your being really my disciples; in support of which they quote 1 John ii. 19. "if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be made manifest that they were not all of us." I reply, that these texts do not contradict each other, inasmuch as the apostle is not here laying down a rule applicable to believers in general, formally deduced from necessary causes; but merely giving his judgment concerning certain antichrists, which judgment, according to a common practice, he had formed from the event. He does not say, therefore, "if they had been of us, it was impossible but that they should have continued with us," nor does he mention the causes of this impossibility; but he merely says, "they would have continued." <70> His argument is as follows; since it is very rare that a true disciple does not continue in the faith, it is natural to suppose that they would have continued in it, if they had been true disciples. But "they went out from us." Why? Not to show that true believers could never depart from the faith, but that all who walked with the apostles were not true believers, inasmuch as true believers very rarely acted as they had done. In the same way it might be said of an individual, "if he had been a real friend, he would never have been unfaithful;" not because it is impossible that a real friend should ever be unfaithful, but because the case very seldom happens.[2] That the apostle could not have intended to lay down a rule of universal application, will be shown by inverting the hypothesis; "if they had continued, they would no doubt have been of us;" whereas many hypocrites continue in outward communion with the church even till their death, and never go out from it. As therefore those who continue are not known to be real believers simply from their continuing, so neither are those who do not continue proved thereby never to have been real believers; this only is certain, that when they went out from the church, they were not then real believers. For neither does Christ, with whom John undoubtedly agreed, argue thus, "ye are my disciples indeed, if ye continue in my word," but thus; if ye continue indeed (for this latter word must be taken with both members of the sentence) <71> then will ye be indeed my disciples;" therefore, "if ye do not continue, ye will not be my disciples."

It is said, however, in the same epistle, chap. iii. 9. "whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God;" from which they argue as follows; if he cannot sin, much less can he depart from the faith. We are not at liberty, however, thus to separate a particular verse from its context, without carefully comparing its meaning with other verses of the same chapter and epistle, as well as with texts bearing on the same subject in other parts of Scripture; lest the apostle should be made to contradict either himself, or the other sacred writers. He is declaring, in the verse above quoted, the strength of that internal aid with which God has provided us against sin; having previously explained what is required on our own part, v. 3. "every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure." He recurs again to the same point, v. 10. "in this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother." iv. 16. "God is love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him." v. 18. "whosoever is born of God, sinneth not, but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself —." Whosoever, therefore, is born of God, cannot sin, and therefore cannot depart from the faith, provided that he at the same time purify himself to the utmost of his power, that he do righteousness, that he love his brother, that he remain himself in love, in order that God and his seed may also remain in him; that finally he keep himself. Further, in what sense is it <72> said, "he cannot sin," when the apostle has already declared chap. i. 8. "if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us?" Doubtless we ought to understand by this phrase that he does not easily fall into sin, not voluntarily and intentionally, not wilfully and presumptuously, but with reluctance and remorse; and that he does not persist in the habit of sinning; for which reasons, and above all for Christ's sake, sin is not imputed to him. If then so much caution be necessary in explaining the word sin, we ought to proceed with no less care in the interpretation of the remaining part of the verse; and not to take advantage of the simplicity of style peculiar to this apostle, for the purpose of establishing a doctrine in itself absurd. For "not to be able," as the Remonstrant divines have rightly observed,[3] does not always signify absolute impossibility, either in common language or in Scripture. Thus we often say that a particular thing cannot be done, meaning that it cannot be done with convenience, honour, or facility, or with a safe conscience, or consistently with modesty, or credit, or dignity, or good faith.[4] In this sense it is said, Luke xi. 7. "I can <73> not rise and give thee," although the speaker shortly afterwards rises. So also Acts. iv. 20. "we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." Matt. xii. 34. "how can ye, being evil, speak good things?" whereas it is easy even for hypocrites to "speak good things." In like manner, when it is said in the present passage "he cannot sin," the meaning is, that he cannot easily fall into sin, and therefore cannot easily depart from the faith. The same divines have displayed equal sagacity and research in their explanation of the reason assigned by the apostle, "for his seed remaineth in him;" where they show that "to remain in him" means the same as "to be in him." So John xiv. 7. "he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." Thus also in the fourteenth verse of the very chapter under consideration; "he that loveth not his brother abideth in death;" that is, so long as he does not love his brother; for in any other sense it would be impossible for a man to escape death who had ever been guilty of not loving his brother. "Whosoever" therefore "is born of God cannot sin, because his seed remaineth" or "is in him;" it is in him as long as he does not himself quench it, for even the Spirit can be quenched; it remains in him, moreover, as long as he himself remains in love.

Those, however, who do not persevere in the faith, are in ordinary cases to be accounted unregenerate and devoid of genuine belief; seeing that God who keeps us is faithful, and that he has given believers so many pledges of salvation, namely, election, regenera <74> tion, justification, adoption, union and fellowship with him conjointly with Christ and the Spirit, who is the earnest and seal of the covenant; seeing also that the work of glorification is in them already begun. Prov. xxiv. 16. "a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again, but the wicked shall fall into mischief." Matt. xxv. 3. "they that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them." Luke. viii. 13. "these have no root." 2 Pet. ii. 22. "the dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." 1 John ii. 19. "they went out from us."

Or perhaps they are to be considered as apostates from the faith, in that sense of faith in which it is the object, not the cause of belief. 1 Tim. iv. 1. "the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils." Gal. v. 4. "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." However this may be, it is our duty to intreat God with constant prayer, in the words of the apostle, 2 Thess. i. 11. "that our God would count us worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power."

Thus far of the beginnings of glorification. As its perfection is not attainable in the present life, this part of the subject will be reserved for the concluding chapter of the present book.

[1]

The Alexandrian MS. here reads ὀλίγως, a little, instead of ὄντως. Other MSS. read ὀλίγον, and the Vulgate paululum. Wetstein's note upon the passage gives a full view of the various readings, and the authorities on which they rest. 'ὀλίγως 'A. B. 8, 9, 19. in ora 25. Editio Colinœi. Versio Vulg. Syr. utraque. Copt. Æthiop. Ephrem. prob. S. Castalione, T. A. Bengelio. ὀλίγον 32, 42. Editio Complut. Plant. Genev. ὄντας 40. ὀλίγου D. Heinsius. οὕτως Erasmi, οἰνοφλυγοῦντας R. Bentleius.'

[2]

'Sed inquies, vulgo dicitur de amico, eum nunquam fuisse verum amicum, qui tandem desiit esse. Respondeo, id non esse usquequaque et semper verum. Potest forsan id de aliquibus dici, sed non de omnibus,' &c. Curcellæi Instit. VII. 10, 12.

[3]

See Acta et Scripta Synodalia Dordracena,in Defensione sententiæ Remonstrantium circa Articulum V. de Perseverantia. 'In communi vita nihil familiarius est, quam illud impossibile dicere, quod alicujus ingenio et naturæ repugnat; ut temperantem hominem non posse inebriari; doctum hominem non posse ferre contemptum; probum hominem non posse calumniari, &c. In scripturis, 2 Cor. xiii. 8. non possumus quidquam adversus veritatem. Sic Act. iv. 20. Quibus phrasibus non omnimodo impossibilitas earum rerum quæ fieri non posse dicuntur, indicator, sed tantum moralis sive ethica, &c.' p. 320-324

[4]

'Apostoli mens est, illum qui ex Deo natus est, quatenus ex principio regenerationis suæ operatur, non posse peccato servire; sicut dicimus eum qui liberalis est, non posse sordide se gerere; qui temperans, non posse gulæ aut libidini indulgere; non quod absolute non possint in talia peccata labi, sedquia cum lapsi sunt, non se ut liberales aut temperantes solent et convenit, gesserunt.' Curcellæi Institut. VII. 3. 9.

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