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inwardly revealed; for though the reconciliation to God in regard to past offences is, and must be by the death of Christ, and that not without our being buried with him by baptism into real death to sin, filling up what remains behind of his sufferings, yet the joy of God's salvation is only known in and by the life of Christ in man, Christ in us the hope of glory. He that rightly believes in Christ, not every historical believer, not every one that believes with man's faith, or the faith of the creature, but every one who believes with that faith, which is livingly felt to be of the operation of God, “out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters.” This Christ has promised; it cannot fail. Every true believer witnesseth it; it is in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life. He can say, "Spring up, O well !"—he can sing livingly unto it: here is the new song, the song of salvation. This is being saved by the life of Christ. These can never despise the doctrine of imputation in its true meaning; they bow down before the throne of the Lamb forever; they acknowledge the remission of their manifold sins; they give, they sing glory to God on high, in that he so loved us, that he gave his only begotten son for us; they ascribe their reconciliation wholly to Christ, but can never be such idle dreamers, as to imagine that he saves people in their sins, or that his merits are imputed to such as are daily crucifying him in the spirit, so as to justify them in the sight of God.
It is by some believed, that none can fall from a state of grace, so as not to be finally restored, or saved. I think this opinion contrary to scripture, and very dangerous to mankind; and therefore, however some very sincere hearted Christians may believe it, I hope none will be offended at the following remarks.
Christ hath said, “Every branch in me that bringeth forth fruit, my Father purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” John xv. 2. And on the other hand, of every branch that bringeth not forth fruit, he testifieth “ that he taketh it away." Now I ask, What is meant by taking it away? Christ is the vine, his members are the branches, and none are branches in him, but such as are really his members, for he exhorts them to abide in him--“Every branch in me," &c.
It seems, therefore, clear, that taking away, is separating from Christ the vine ;-certainly taking away is a removal. From what then, or from whom removed, if not from Christ? Could any other removal, or taking away, than a separation from him, a removal from a place, or state of ingraftment into, and dwelling, or abiding in him the vine, have been meant, or spoken of by our Lord in this place, and on this subject ?
It must be this or nothing. And this is agreeable to Paul's testimony, Rom. xi. 17 to 22, where speaking of such Gentiles. as were truly grafted into Christ, partook of the fatness of him, the true olive-tree, and so stood by faith, the apostle was yet so far from supposing that they would certainly and unavoidably persevere, so as finally to be saved, that he pressingly exhorts them thus: “Thou standest by faith ; be not high-minded, but fear; for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he spare not thee.” Nor does he stop here, though this seems to me enough to evince to every candid and unprejudiced mind, that Paul was deeply sensible of a possibility, and even a danger, that some of these might fall away: but he proceeds, “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.” How clear, how positive! What words, what arrangement of assertions could he have used, more strongly to confute every idea of once in grace always in grace ?
These were actually grafted into Christ; did partake of his richness and fatness, did stand by faith, therefore surely were once in grace; yet he warns them of their danger; " be not bigh-minded, but fear.” And to convince them that they were really in danger, and had something to fear, tells them, that the continuance of God's love and favour to them was conditional; “if thou continue in his goodness :"--and in the most peremptory manner assures them, “ otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” Cut off from what? why surely from the good olive-tree, into which they were grafted; or, as Christ himself expresseth it: "every branch that bringeth not forth fruit, my Father taketh it away." Is it possible to be cut off, and taken away, and yet to remain in, and united to Christ, the true vine and good olive-tree? By no means. What greater grounds then, have such who have been once in him, and are thus cut off and taken away, to depend upon final acceptance with him, for what they once were, than those who never were grafted into him? seeing they are the very persons who “ crucify him afresh, and put him to open shame,” Heb. vi. 6. which is the very reason the apostle elsewhere giveth, why it is impossible, as he positively declares it is, “ to renew them to repentance ?"
How are they then ever to be saved ? Is it not clear, that for such “there remains no more sacrifice for sin, but a fearful looking for of judgment,” Heb. x. 27. which will assuredly overtake, and shall devour all such adversaries. Indeed, it is admirable, that Christians can believe, that such apostates are in covenant with God-in a state of grace, and must be saved !
It is urged in support of this opinion, that Christ tells the believers, that “none can pluck them out of his hand.” This is granted, none can. A true believer, remaining such, was never plucked out of his holy hand, and never will be; either by satan to devour, or by wicked men, to afflict and annoy. Satan may tempt and roar; ill men may censure, despise, and, if God permit, even slay, but still he holds them in his hand; in all their trials, persecutions, and even in death they are safe, and all things work together for their good.
It is remarkable, that Christ is speaking here of his sheep, which he several times calls his own sheep,"--declares they hear his voice and follow him, and will not follow a stranger;" declares he puts them forth, and goes before them; and repeats it, that they follow him. Read John 10th chapter.
Now, is it possible for those, who are put forth by him, hear his voice, continue steadfastly following him, and will not hearken to, nor follow a stranger, to be plucked out of his hand ?. I conceive it is not possible. But what has this to do with such, who, trusting to their having been once in Christ, grow high minded, and presuming upon the certainty of their eternal salvation, continue not to follow Christ in the regeneration ; hearken not to his voice, but listen to the stranger, the voice of the old seducer who, as he persuaded Eve, that though she disobeyed the law of God she would not die; so be now persuades these, that though they sin, they are sure of eternal life? What security is there, in a promise made only to such as hear the voice of the Shepherd, and so steadfastly follow him as not to hearken to, but flee from the stranger, unto those who thus daringly revolt from him, go back, (as did some formerly,) and walk no more with him? Of these, however confidently they may presume upon the certainty of their eternal salvation, as they do not continue in the goodness of God, the apostle pronounces, " they shall be cut off.”
Do we not read of many who, being once true children of God, afterwards became apostates? Does not the scripture declare that the righteousness of men who depart from it, shall not be mentioned? Ezek. xviii, 25. And God's ways are strictly just and equal herein, though many then were ready to say, “ the way of the Lord is not equal.” And many now cannot see how he can cast off sinners forever, because of their revoltings, seeing they were once righteous men, and chosen of him. But it seems, this inspired prophet thought it very unequal, that a man, because he was once righteous, and in a state wherein, had he continued, he should surely have lived and not died, should, notwithstanding “he turned away from his righteousness, committed iniquity, and did all the abominations that the wicked man doeth," be so distinguished from other wicked men, as still to live in favour and covenant with God! And indeed, this would be unequal, and a manifest respect of persons, too gross to be ascribed to God; and hence the
prophet asks, in regard to such an one, who thus turns from his righteousness, and does the very things for which the wicked die, “shall he live?” Ezek. xvii. 24. He knew it could not consist with the justice of him, whose ways are altogether equal, to order things in such an unequal and partial manner; and therefore he not only asks, as if he abhorred the idea, “ shall he live ?" but immediately adds, as expressive of the justice of God, “ all his righteonsness that he hath done, shall not be mentioned;" and then positively declares, “ in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die."
Here is the end of such wicked men as were once really righteous, and acceptable to God, and who, had they so continued, would have lived forever: but turning aside, they die in their sins! And can those who die in sin, be saved in Christ? Nay, verily; where he is gone, they can never come.
Judas once partook of the gospel ministry and apostleship, and had it not been for his transgression, would doubtless, have continued therein; but it is declared, that by transgression he fell therefrom. Acts i. 25. Could any one partake of the true gospel ministry, and apostleship, and not be in a state of grace ? or fall therefrom by transgression, and remain in a state of grace? It is evident he was once in a better state, or be could not have had part in the ministry and apostleship of Jesus ; nor could he else have fallen therefrom. And did he not so transgress and fall away, as even to become a devil, and go to his