Part 2 Chapter 6

Section 17óJohn 10:28.

And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.

These words are spoken of the sheep of Christ who hear his voice and follow him, true believers; whose final perseverance, and everlasting safety, are here strongly asserted: for if Christ gives them eternal life,they can never be hurt of the second death; if he says they shall never perish,who dare say they may or shall? And, if none can pluck them out of his hands, they must be safe, and shall be saved with an everlasting salvation. But,

1. It is said,[1] that "the frequent cautions and exhortations directed in the scripture to Christ's sheep, not to fall from grace, but continue steadfast in the faith, are certain demonstrations that they may do so" To which I reply, that there is not one single caution, or exhortation, much less frequent ones, directed in the scripture to Christ's sheep not to fall from grace; they are, indeed, directed to take heed lest they fall; but not lest they fall from grace: they may fall into many sins, snares and temptations, which make such cautions necessary; and yet not lest they fall from grace. Where any intimations are given of the danger any are in of falling from, or failing of the grace of God, as in Galatians 5:4, Hebrews. 12:15, these are to be understood, not of the grace and favor of God in his own heart towards them, nor of his grace implanted in them; but of the doctrine of grace they had made a profession of. And, though there are exhortations directed in scripture to the saints to continue steadfast in the faith; yet these, at most, only suppose, that they are in danger of falling, or that they may fall from some degree of steadfastness in it; and which they may be left to, without falling finally and totally from the grace of God. Besides, such exhortations are designed to make and keep them steadfast and immovable in it, and are made use of, and blessed by the Spirit of God, as means of their final perseverance; and therefore are not in vain, nor should they be improved into arguments against it.

2. It is urged,[2] as a direct answer to this text, "that Christ here only promises his sheep should never perish through any defect on His part, or by the force of any plucking them by violence out of his hands: not but by the allurements of the world, the flesh and the devil, they may choose to go from him, though they are not snatched out of his hands." To which I reply, that the promise here made, that Christ's sheep shall never perish,is absolute and full, not depending on any thing to be performed on the part of the sheep; the fulfillment of it wholly and entirely lying on Christ. If therefore they shall never perish through any defect on his part, they shall never perish at all; since he is both able and willing to keep them from falling, and has a power to give, as well as to promise, eternal life to them. Moreover, if Christ's sheep cannot be plucked out of his hands by the force and violence of all their adversaries, then they shall never perish; and this the particle kai, which, as the learned writer at tended to observes, is here illative, shows they shall never perish; for none shall pluck them out of my hands. Now, if these sheep may perish and come short of eternal life then the illation, the consequence, is not just proper and pertinent, and is to be denied since it may be objected, that they may be lost by some means or other, though they cannot by force and power, be snatched out of Christ's hands. But Christ says they shall never perish,and gives this as the reason of it. Besides, as the world, the flesh and the devil, cannot, by open force and power, pull Christ's sheep out of his hands; so neither can they, by secret allurements, snares and temptations, draw them from thence (see 1 Cor. 10:13). Add to this, that it is not only contrary to the will of the Father who has committed these sheep to the care of Christ, but also to the love and affection which Christ has expressed towards them particularly by laying down his life for them; and even to his office as the great shepherd of them, to suffer any of them to be lost in any way whatever; for it is his work and business, as such, not only to protect his sheep from the open rapine and violence of their enemies; but also to preserve them from secret snares, and to restore them, even when they, either of themselves or through temptation, wander and go astray: and this he does as the good shepherd; he seeks that which was lost, and brings again that which was either driven, or which went away; and so not one of them shall perish, but have everlasting life.

3. It is farther observed,[3] that "this text seems only to speak of such sheep, who have already persevered; and so is not a promise of perseverance, but of the reward of it, eternal felicity, which shall be incapable of interruption." But this is not to be gathered, as is said, from the former verse, where Christ describes his sheep as such who hear his voice,and follow him; which represents them as then hearing his voice, and at that time following him: but not as having hearkened to his voice, and having followed him to the end: and therefore he may be reasonably supposed to promise that they should hear his voice, and follow him still unto the end; since he adds, I give unto them eternal life;the promise of it, a right unto it, that grace which makes meet for it, and is connected with it, pledges, and foretastes of it; and therefore, they shall never perish,but everlastingly enjoy it. Besides, if these words speak only of such who have already persevered, it speaks not of living saints who now hear Christ's voice and follow him in this militant state, but of the saints that are dead; for none can be said to have already persevered to the end, but such as are dead. And the saints, as soon as they die, are in heaven, enjoying eternal life, in no fear or danger, no not in their own apprehensions of perishing, or of being plucked out of Christ's hands; and so stand in no need of such promises to support faith, or to comfort them under trials from the world, the flesh and the devil, which no more attend them; and as these words, in this sense of them, are needless to the saints above, so they must be useless to those below; since, notwithstanding what is said in them, Christ's sheep, whilst in this state, may be plucked out of his hands, even by force and violence, as well as drawn from him by deceits and allurements; and so perish eternally, and never enjoy everlasting life.


[1] Whitby, p. 475; ed. 2.455.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Whitby, p. 476; ed. 2.455.

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