Part 2 Chapter 6

Section 4ŚMatthew 24:24.

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that (if it were possible) they shall deceive the very elect.

1st. The argument from hence, in favor of the perseverance of the saints, very much depends on their being the elect of God, the impossibility of their deception being placed to this their character; which designs particular persons absolutely, and from eternity, chosen to everlasting life, who therefore cannot be so deceived as to be lost for ever, since their election is an eternal act, and therefore cannot be made void by a temporal one: it passed before the persons had done either good or evil;wherefore, as no good thing done by them was the cause of it, so no evil thing can annul or frustrate it; which strongly concludes the sure and certain salvation of all who are interested in it. But it is said[1] that by the elect we are to understand the choicest believers, or the persevering Christians. To which I reply, that it is certain that such who are truly converted, or are true believers, are persevering Christians, and such without dispute are the elect: but then the reason why they are, and are called the elect, is not because they are converted, are true believers, and persevering Christians; but, on the contrary, the reason why they are converted, become true believers, and so persevering Christians, is because they are elected. Conversion, faith, and perseverance, are not the causes or conditions, but fruits and effects of election: hence faith is styled the faith of God's elect;(Titus 1:1; Acts 13:48.) and it is also said, that as many as were ordained unto eternal life believed;wherefore such cannot be finally deceived. Besides, to talk of the final seduction of a persevering Christian is a contradiction in terms: such an interpretation of the phrase must be absurd and impertinent; for who knows not, that a persevering Christian cannot be finally and totally deceived?

2ndly When we say, that the elect of God cannot be deceived, we allow that they may be, and are deceived before conversion. This is one part of their character, whilst unregenerate, (Titus 3:8) foolish, disobedient, deceived,etc., yea, that they may be, and oftentimes are deceived after conversion; but then this is in part only, and not totally; in some lesser, and not in the greater matters of faith; not so as to let go their hold of Christ, the head, and quit the doctrine of salvation by him, or fall into what the apostle calls (2 Pet. 2:1) damnable heresies.They may be seduced from the simplicity of the gospel, but not finally; for they shall be recovered out of the snare of the Devil,and not be left to perish in such deceivings. To this are excepted,

1. That Christ[2] solemnly exhorts his disciples to use the greatest caution that they be not deceived; and, in the same chapter, to watch and pray, lest the hour of temptation should come suddenly on them; which, surely, he would not do, if he knew that they could not be deceived. To which I reply, that inasmuch as they were liable to a partial seduction, and for a time, though not to a total and final one, there was good reason why these exhortations should be given and taken. Besides, such cautions might be useful to quicken their diligence to search and read the Scriptures, and by them try the spirits, whether they were of God or no, and by their fruits,their doctrines, discover impostors, and avoid them. Hence these cautions should not be improved into arguments against the final perseverance of the saints, seeing they may be considered as means of it.

2. That[3] Christ here declares, that by reason of the extreme affliction of these times, many should be offended, and their love was cold.But it should be observed, that supposing true believers are intended, love in them may wax cold when it is not lost, which was the case of the church at Ephesus; and so is no proof of the saints falling from grace. Besides, the many that shall be deceived, offended,and fall off from the doctrine of faith are not the same persons with, but distinguished from, the elect, who cannot be deceived.

3rdly When we say, that it is impossible that the elect of God should be deceived, we mean not that it is impossible they should, considered in themselves, or if left to themselves, being, generally speaking, the foolish things of this world;or if left to that old Serpent, the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world;or to false teachers, who lie in wait to deceive (1 Cor. 1:27; Rev. 12:10; Eph. 4:14): but we say it is impossible, considering the purposes and promises of God, the provisions of his grace, the security they have in the hands of Christ, and their presentation by the mighty power of God: and upon this account we judge, that their final and total deception is hero represented as impossible. But to this is excepted,[4] that the phrase eij oguna>ton, if it were possible,denotes only a great difficulty in the performance of an act possible, (seeActs 20:16; Rom.12:18; Matthew 26:39), and also that it does not import what the event would be, but the vehemency of the endeavors should it respect the event, it is only with relation to the means here mentioned, being such as should prevail to seduce even Christians, were it possible for impostors, by lying signs and wonders, to deceive them who are invested with a power of working greater signs and wonders. To which I reply, the instances to prove that this phrase only denotes great difficulty, and not an absolute impossibility, are insufficient. The words of the apostle Paul (Acts 20:16), are conjectural; he knew not whether it was possible or no, that he could be at Jerusalem before Pentecost; of which sort, surely, the words of Christ here cannot be thought to be. The same apostle's exhortation in Romans 12:18, supposes, that which is matter of fact, that it is impossible to live peaceably, with some men; and what followed upon our Lord's petition in Matthew 26:39, shows that it was impossible that the cup should pass from him, considering the purpose of God, his covenant with him, and the salvation of his people. Moreover, should this phrase only import the vehemency of the endeavors of seducers, and not respect the event only with relation to the means here mentioned, great signs, and wonders,it follows, that if, notwithstanding the vehement endeavors of seducers, and the utmost they can do to deceive the saints; if, notwithstanding their showing great signs and wonders,they are not able to prevail over them, being invested with a power superior to them; it may be concluded and pronounced, that it is impossible they should be deceived either by them, or by any other, or by any other means; since these are the most effectual of any, being according to the working of Satan, with all power, and sign,, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish:but says, the apostle, in the same place (2 Thess. 2:9,10,13), we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation; which is the saints grand security from a final and total deception, either by Satan or any of his emissaries.


[1] Whitby, p. 43; ed. 2.42; Remonstr. Coll. Hag. art. 1:p. 85; art. 5:p. 83; Limborch. p. 723.

[2] Whitby, p. 439; ed. 2.427; Remonstr. Coll. Hag, art. 5:p. 82; Limborch, p. 723.

[3] Whitby, p. 440; ed. 2.428; Remonstr. and Limborch, Ibid.

[4] Whitby, p. 440, 441; ed. 2.429; Remonstr. and Limborch, Ibid.

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