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SERMON CX. The Fifth Commandment. The Duty of Children.--Ex.
CONSEQUENCES OF REGENERATION.-PERSEVERANCE.
PROVERBS iv. 18.—The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more
and more unto the perfect day. IN the preceding discourse I observed that the text naturally teaches us the following doctrines :
1. That the holiness of the Christian is a beautiful object; II. That it increases as he advances in life; III. That it continues to the end. The two first of these doctrines I have already examined. I will now proceed to a consideration of the third.
As this doctrine has been, and still is, vigorously disputed; it will be necessary to make it the subject of a particular examination. In doing this I shall first adduce several arguments as a direct proof of the doctrine; and shall then answer the principal objections.
ist. It is irrational to suppose, that God would leave a work, towards which so much has been done, unaccomplished.
To effectuate the salvation of such as believe in Christ, God has sent him, to become incarnate, to live a life of humiliation and suffering, and to die upon the cross.
He has raised him from the dead, exalted him at his own right hand, and constituted him, at once, an Intercessor for his children, and the Head over all things unto the Church. He has also sent the Spirit of grace, to complete, by his almighty energy, this work of infinite mercy, in sanctifying, enlightening, and quickening, the soul, and conducting it to heaven. Now, let me ask, Is it not in the nature of the case incredible, that Jehovah should commence, and carry on, this work, with such an amazing apparatus of labour and splendour, and leave it unfinished? Is it not incredible, that an Omniscient and Omnipotent Being should form a purpose of this nature; should discover in this wonderful manner, that he had it so much at heart; and should yet suffer himself to be frustrated in the end? Who can reconcile this supposition with the perfections of God?
2dly. The continuance of saints in holiness follows irresistibly from their Election.
It is unnecessary for the purposes of this discourse, that I should inquire into the metaphysical nature of Election. It is sufficient for my design, that saints are declared, abundantly throughout the Scriptures, to be chosen of God. Thus, Rev. xvii. 14, the Angel declares to John concerning the followers of the Lamb, that they
are called, chosen, and faithful. Thus, Luke xviii. 7, Christ, speaking of his followers, says, And shall not God avenge his own elect, or chosen? Thus St. Paul, Rom. vii. 33, Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? Thus St. Peter, in his first Epistle, chap. 2d, and verse 9th, Ye are a chosen generation: and thus, throughout the Scriptures.
It is to be remembered, that this appellation is given to Christians universally. In the passages, already quoted, it is plain, that the names elect and chosen, which, you know, are the same in the Greek, are equivalent to Saints or Christians; and accordingly are addressed to them without distinction. The same observation is, with the same truth, applicable to the numerous passages of Scripture, in which this language is adopted.
Of all these persons it is often said, that they were chosen from the beginning; or from before the foundation of the world. Thus St. Paul, 2 Thess. ii. 13, addressing the members of that Church, says, God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. Thus also, Eph. i. 4, the same Apostle, addressing the Christians at Ephesus, says, According as he hath chosen us in him ; that is, Christ; before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame, before him in love;
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. From these passages, and from many others of similar import, it is clear, that Christians are chosen by God unto salvation from the beginning; or from before the foundation of the world. But can it be supposed, that a purpose of God, thus formed, will be frustrated ? "As this is declared of Christians, as such ; it is evident, that it is alike applicable to all Christians. If, therefore, any Christian ceases to be holy; this purpose of God, solemnly adopted, and declared, will in one instance be frustrated; and in every instance, in which this event takes place. Thus far, then, God will be finally disappointed of one end of his government, really proposed by him, and expressly announced to the Universe. Who can believe this concerning the Creator ?
3dly. If Christians continue not in holiness unto the end, the Intercession of Christ will be frustrated.
In John xvii. 20, Christ, after having prayed for his Apostles, says, verse 20th, Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also, who shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee: that they also
be one in us. In this petition, Christ prays the Father, that all those, who should believe on him through the word of the Apostles; that is, all Christians; may become partakers of that divine union, which, in the heavens, is the most perfect created resemblance of the ineffable union of the Father and the Son. If, then, any Christian fails of sharing in this union, the prayer of Christ, here recited, will not be answered.
4thly. If the holiness of Christians does not continue unto the end, the joy of Heaven over their conversion is groundless, and in vain.
Our Saviour informs us, that there is joy oder one, that is, over every, sinner that repenteth, more than oter ninety and nine just persons, who need no repentance. No error exists in heaven. All the perceptions of its inhabitants are accordant with truth: all their emotions are founded in truth. The joy, excited there by the continuance of ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance, (that is, persons perfectly just) in their holiness, is a joy, founded on the everlasting holiness of these persons, and the everlasting happiness, by which it is inseparably attended. The joy, excited by the repentance of a sinner, is, however, greater than even this. As this is unconditionally asserted by Christ; it is unnecessary
for in the present case, to inquire into the reasons of the fact. But a joy, excited by the repentance of a sinner, whose everlasting holiness, and consequent everlasting happiness, is uncertain; nay, who may never be holy, nor happy, at all, beyond the first and feeblest efforts and enjoyments of a Christian in his infantine state ; cannot be founded in truth, nor dictated by wisdom. Nay, it cannot be accordant with common sense. Upon the plan here adopted, the object, on which this joy is founded, although a penitent to-day, may be a reprobate to-morrow; may thus finally lose both his holiness and his happiness; and, becoming a more guilty, may of course become a more miserable wretch, than if he had never repented. In this case, there would be, upon the whole, no foundation for joy at all; and the inhabitants of heaven would, in many instances, instead of rejoicing rationally, and on solid grounds, be merely tantalized by the expectation of good, which they were never to realize.
What, in this case, would be the conduct of rational men in the present world? We have instances enough of their conduct, in cases substantially of a similar nature, to furnish us with an unerring answer to this question. They would, as in all cases of such uncertainty they actually do, indulge a timorous, trembling hope, that the case might end well; that the penitent might persevere, and finally become safe. They would experience a degree of satisfaction, that this first step had been taken, because it was indispensable to the rest, and would feel a continual, anxious suspense, lest others, equally indispensable, should not follow. What wise and good men in this world would feel on such an occasion, wiser and better men in the world to come must of necessity also feel; and feel much more intensely; because they comprehend the subject in a manner so much clearer, juster, and more perfect. of course their suspense, their anxiety, must exist in a far higher degree. Such a suspense, such an anxiety, must, one would think, embitter even the happiness of heaven.
Frustrated expectations of great good, also, are, in this world, sources of extreme sorrow. The same fact must in that beneyolent world be a source of the same sorrow. But how often, according to this scheme, must such expectations be there frustrated! Can this be reconcilable with a state of unmingled happiness?
5thly. That the holiness of Christians should not continue to the end, is inconsistent with many Scriptural declarations.
We know, saith St. John, that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. 1 John iii. 14. It is impossible for any person to know, that he has passed from death unto life, unless he has actually thus passed. But St. John declares, that himself, and such other Christians as love the brethren, have this knowledge; or, perhaps more conformably with the Apostle's real design, all Christians know this, who know, that they love the breth
The love of the brethren is certain, absolute proof, that all those, in whom it exists, have passed from death unto life. And this proof exists, whether perceived by him, who is the subject of this love, or not perceived. But every Christian loves the brethren; and that, from the moment in which he becomes a Christian. Every Christian, therefore, has actually passed from death unto life. This, however, cannot be true, unless every Christian perseveres in holiness unto the end. Every Christian does, therefore, persevere.
Being confident, says St. Paul, of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. The word here rendered perform, signifies to finish, or complete. St. Paul was confident, therefore, that the Spirit of God, who had begun a good work, viz. the work of sanctification, in the Philippian Christians, would continue to complete it by various steps, until it was brought to perfection. But St. Paul, under the influence of inspiration, could not mistake concerning this subject. His confidence was founded in truth. The work, begun in the Philippian Christians, was completed. Of course it will be completed in all other Christians.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, says our Saviour, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is (hath) passed from death unto life. John v. 24. In this passage it is declared, that he that heareth the word of Christ, and believeth on him, by whom he was sent, has passed from death unto life. What is meant by this phrase is also decisively explained, when it is said, “ Every such person hath everlasting life;" and when it is further said,
66 He shall not come into condemnation.” But every Christian, when he becomes a Christian, hears the words of Christ, and believes on him that sent him. Therefore every Christian has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but has already passed from death unto life.