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Matth. . 22. Col. i. 23. It is opposed to total apostasy, and utter falling away from grace. It is continuing and holding on, joined to a good beginning.
SECONDLY, I am to shew how this perseverance is to be understood.
1. It is not to be understood of all who profess Christ. Hypocrites may be seeming saints, and may have seeming grace, which may blaze for a while, and afterwards be quite extinguished, totally and finally lost, John vi. 66. There are temporary believers, who continue for a while, but having no root, do wither quite away, Matth. xiii. 21. Mere outside Christians, and Christians in the letter, may so apostatise, as to lose all, and never recover.
2. It is to be understood of all real saints, those who are endowed with saving grace. Those who, by virtue of regeneration, may call God their Father, as well as the church their mother, shall abide in his family, and never fall out of it, John viii. 35. Though the counterfeit of grace may be utterly lost, yet real grace cannot. We own,
(1.) Saints may lose the evidence of grace, so that they cannot discern it in themselves. Thus it may suffer an eclipse, Isa. 1. 10. Sometimes a child of God not only believes, loves, &c. but knows he does so: but at other times it may be out of his sight, so as he may apprehend he has none. The jewel may fall by, though it cannot fall away; and the spiritual husband may lock uphimself in his chamber from his spouse, though he never quite leaves the house.
(2.) Saints may lose the exercise of grace, Cant. v. 9. Though the holy fire be not quite put out, yet it may cease to flame for a while; though they have spiritual armour lying by them, they may be so benumbed with the prevailing of corruption, that they cannot wield it. Wise virgins may slumber and sleep as well as the foolish.
(3.) They may lose much of the measure of grace they have had. True grace, though it cannot die out, yet is subject to languishing and decays in the strength thereof, Rev. iii. 2. They may lose much of their love to God, and one another, Rev. ii. 4. much of their former tenderness, as David's heart smote him when he cut off the lap of Saul's garment, but afterwards was guilty of murder and adultery; much of their liveliness in duties, Rev. iii. 2. and so of other graces. But,
(2.) Saints can never lose grace finally, so as never to recover it, 1 Pet. i. 5. John vi. 39. No doubt a child of God may stray away from the Lord, as well as another ; but though a servant may go, and never return to the house, yet a son will be sought out and brought back again, Psalm cxix. ult. John xiii. 35. • And the servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the son abideth ever.' So however far the saints may go wrong, the Lord will recover them.
(2.) Saints never lose grace totally neither; they never lose it altogether, though for ever so short a while, 1 John iii. 9. Their lamp may burn dim, but it is never quite put out; they may fall back, fall very low, so as themselves and others may have little hopes of their recovery, but they never fall off, never fall away, Psal. xxxvii. 24. • Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down : for the Lord up. holdeth him with his hand.
Both these hold true of relative grace; that is, there is no falling out of the state of justification, adoption, union with Christ, peace with God, the love of God, &c. and of in. herent grace, faith, love, the fear of God, &c.
THIRDLY, I proceed to shew that the saints shall persevere to the end. This is evident from,
1. The Lord's own promises. He has said it, and will he not do it? John X. 28, 29. Psalm cxxv. 1. “They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.' It is true they have many enemies that watch to do them mischief, but the Lord has promised to guard them, Isa sxvii. 3. “I the Lord do keep it, I will water it every moment ; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.' They may fall into sin, and provoke the Lord to anger against them; but he has promised, that though he lay his hand on them, he will not lift his love off them, Psal. lxxxix. 31,-34. Though they may be forsaken, yet it shall neither be total nor final, İsa. liv. 7,-10.
2. From the saints confidence of perseverance and eternal life. How confident was Asaph, Psal. Ixxii. 24. "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory? If the saints could fall away from grace, how, could they rejoice in hope of the glory of God ? Rom. v. 2. How could Paul triumph over · death, life, angels, prin. cipalities, powers; things present and to come, height, depth,' &c,? Rom. viii, 38, 39, Confidence in their own Vol. II.
management, is not the way of the godly. Prov. xxviii. 26. He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.'
3. Lastly, According to the scripture, perseverance is a discriminating mark betwixt the elect and non-elected, Matt. xxiv. 24. as also betwixt real saints and hypocrites, Luke viii. 13, 14, 15. 1 John ii. 19. From whence we may ga. ther, that the utter apostasy of the elect saints is impossible in respect of the decree of God; that those who get true grace, keep it to the end, while others lose theirs; and that they who utterly apostatise, never. were true saints.
FOURTHLY, I shall shew what are those things which make hypocrites fall away, but over the belly of which saints persevere. In the general, there are three things.
1. Satan's temptations, 1 Pet. v. 8. He is a subtle, pow. erful and malicious enemy, a liar and murderer from the beginning. Whatever hopeful signs are found about any, he sets himself to rob them of them, for their ruin. He seeks to set the hypocrite and the sincere through the wind, and prevails to blow away the one, but not the other. By a mi. racle of grace, the saints are preserved amidst his fiery darts, Luke xxii. 32.
2. The world's snares. While professors are in the world, there are snares to catch them, and carry them off the way. (1.) The world's prosperity is a great snare, and makes many, apostates, Prov. i. 32. and xxx. 9. But true grace will hold out against it, Cant. viii. 7. (2.) Its adversity. Tribulation and persecution offends the temporary believer, and makes a scattering among Christ's summer-friends, Matth. xiii. 20. 21. But the true Christian will weather out the storm, Job xvii. 9. •The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger. Poverty strips many of their religion, but not a true saint, Rev. xiv. 4. (3.) The example of the world; the torrent of an ungodly generation strips many of their form of god. liness, Matth. xxiv. 12. •Because iniquity shall abound the love of many shall wax cold.' But the saints shall not be carried away with the stream, Psal. xii. 7. “Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.'
3. Lastly, The corruptions and lusts of the heart. These betray the hypocrite into apostasy, Jer. iv. 3. Compare Luke viii. 14. Lusts lulled asleep for a while, but not mortified, rise up and make shipwreck of many souls. But true grace is never quite expelled by the flesh's lustings against it; but by the power of God is preserved, like a spark of fire in the midst of an ocean.
FIFTHLY, I proceed to shew the grounds of the perseverance of the saints.
1. The unchangeable decree of God's election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of the Father to them. Electing love is free love, and also unchangeable, Jer. xxxi, 3. "I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.' And God's pur. pose of grace and salvation cannot be disappointed, 2 Tim: ii. 29. The purpose of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.
2. The merit and intercession of Christ the Son. He redeemed them by paying a full price, which must be lost if they be lost, 1 Pet. i, 18, 19. And he ever liveth to make intercession for them,' Heb. vii. 25.
3. The perpetual abiding of the Spirit in and with them, John xiv. 16. which secures their union with Christ, and the preservation of the seed of grace, 1 John iii. 9.
4. Lastly, The nature of the covenant of grace, which is furnished with such pillars as the first covenant had not, namely, the promises of perpetual conservation in the state of grace, 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.'
SIXTHLY, I shall shew the means of perseverance. Let none think that they may live carelessly, having once got grace, because it cannot be lost: for besides, that one's gi. ving himself quite up to such an opinion and course is inconsistent with saving grace, God bas joined together the ends and means, and none shall separate them, Acts xxvii. 22. “And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship.'-Compare ver. 31. •Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.' Now, in the general, these are,
1. God's ordinances and providences. He makes use of both to keep the feet of his saints, John xv. 2. 2. The duties of religion, and exercise of the graces, faith,
them good: 6m; that I will not turake an everlasting
fear, watchfulness, &c. 8. Cor. x. 12. Wherfore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.
I shall conclude with a few inferences.
Inf. 1. Would ye have a treasure which ye cannot lose? then get grace. Ye may lose your wordly treasures, com. forts, and enjoyments; the world's good things may go.But grace is durable.
9. Take heed to yourselves, and beware of apostasy; for it is not the beginning well, but holding on to the end, that will secure your salvation, Matth. X. 22. «He that endureth to the end shall be saved. Beware lest Satan, the world, and your lusts, give you up your foot, and ye lose all ye have wrought, 2 John 8.
3. As ever ye would persevere, look well to the foundation of your religion; for sincerity will last, but hypocrisy is a disease in the vitals that will end in death. The builders endeavour to lay the foundation fast and securely, and then they are sure that the superstructure they raise upon it shall stand firm. Therefore lay the foundation well, and ye may be assured that the building shall weather all storms.
4. Lastly, Let those whose care it is to be found in Christ, and to live to him in all the duties of piety and righteousness, be comforted amidst all their temptations, snares, and corruptions, in that God who has begun the good work, will perfect it, Phil. i. 6.
OF THE BENEFITS WHICH BELIEVERS RECEIVE AT DEATH.
Phil. i. 21.–To me—to die is gain.
A LL must die ; but as men's lives are very different, so
A their account in death is also. To an ungodly manne death is a loss, the greatest loss : but to a believer it is gain, the greatest gain.
Paul was now a prisoner in Rome, and his case in itself was doubtful whether it would terminate in life or death, (though he was assured it would not be death at that time, ver, 25.) But having taken a view of both, he does, in the si text, in his own person, give us, (1.) The sum of a believers het life, that is, Christ. As all the lines drawn from the cir