The

CAUSE OF GOD AND TRUTH.

Part 2 Chapter 6

Section 181 Corinthians 1:8, 9.

[With 1 Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3.]
Who shall also confirm you to the end, that ye be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom, ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.


The argument from these passages of scripture, in favor of the doctrine of the saints' final perseverance, stands thus: If God's fidelity be engaged to confirm them unblameable to the end,whom he hath called to the communion of his Son; if his faithfulness will not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able to bear,but will make a way to escape;if St. Paul had ground of confidence that "he, who had begun the good work h his Philippians, would perform it until the day of Jesus Christ; if it be part of God's fidelity to sanctify them wholly, and to preserve their whole spirit, soul and body, blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ whom he hath called; then must they persevere to the end, but all these are the express assertions of the holy scriptures; therefore, now,

1st. For a general answer to all these texts, it is proposed[1] to consideration, "that God in scripture is often said to do a thing, when he does that which hath a proper tendency to the effect, and is sufficient to procure it, and hath done all that was requisite on his part in order to it; so that if the effect be not wrought in us, it is by reason of some defect in us, or some neglect of doing that which he hath given us sufficient means and motives to perform." Of which divers instances are produced out of Ezekiel 24:13; Jeremiah 13:11; Isaiah 48:17, 18, and Isaiah 43:21-23; Jeremiah 51:9; Romans 1:20, 21, and Romans 2:3,4; 2 Corinthians 5:19,20; Titus 2:11, 12; Acts 2:47: 1 Corinthians 1:18. To which I reply, that this rule can only hold good in moral cases, in which God only acts as a moral agent; but not in such which require a divine operation and almighty power, and solely belong to him to begin, carry on and finish, all which he promises absolutely to perform, which is the case before us. Besides, the instances produced are very impertinent. When God is said to have purged Jerusalem,and she was not purged,it does not signify what he had done sufficient for her purgation; but what he had commanded to be done, and was not done. When he is said to have caused the whole house of Israel to cleave unto him, as the girdle cleaves to the loins of a man;it is expressive, not of what he has done, which proved ineffectual; but of the temporal good things he had bestowed on that people; which showed them to be a people near into him, and which he mentions to expose their base ingratitude, who, notwithstanding, would not hearken to him. When he is said to teach Israel to profit,and lead him in the way he should go,though he hearkened to his commandments,it is to be understood of those moral instructions, and civil laws given to them, as a nation, which, had they hearkened to, would have issued in their temporal peace and prosperity.

The people the Lord had formed for himself, are not the same with Jacob and Israel, of whom he complains that they were weary of him; but the Gentiles, whom he had determined to call, and did call by his grace, that they might show forth his praise:(see 1 Pet. 2:9, 10). As for what is said of Babylon, we would have healed Babylon, and she is not healed; they are not the words of God; but either of the Israelites or of some others concerned for her temporal welfare. The heathens had not only the means to know God imparted to them by his providence, but they did know him as the God of nature, though they did not glorify him as such; and therefore were given up to judicial blindness. The goodness of God, indeed, has a tendency to lead persons to repentance;and one would think, if any means or motives would do it, this would; and yet such is the hardness of men's hearts, that they will still remain impenitent, unless God exerts his powerful and efficacious grace. When God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, he actually reconciled them to himself, and forgave their iniquities; nor is this contradicted by the exhortation of the apostle, Be ye reconciled to God;since that is spoken to believers, and regards their peaceable submission to the dispensations of providence, and to the order and ordinances, discipline and laws of Christ, in his house. The gospel of the grace of God is called saving grace,not because it teacheth us to do that which, if we conscientiously perform, we shall be saved; but because it brings the good news of complete salvation by Jesus Christ. The converted Jews are, indeed, styled o{i swzo>menoi, the saved;but then it can never be proved, to the end of the world, that any one of them, whom the Lord then added to the church, and are said to be such as should be saved,ever fell away so as to be lost and perish. Nor are all the members of the church at Corinth styled the saved,much less those who repented not of their sins and iniquities, but all those, and only those, who were called by grace, whether Jews or Gentiles (v. 24). But,

2ndly Our author proceeds to a particular answer to the texts alleged; and,

1. To words cited from 1 Corinthians 1:8, 9, and observes,[2] that "these cannot contain a promise of perseverance made to the elect only among the Corinthians; because,

(1.) "The apostle plainly speaks to the whole body of the church at Corinth." Be it so, inasmuch as the whole body of this Church, and the several members of it, were under a visible profession of Christianity, and were considered as sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints,and so looked upon as the elect of God; upon this supposition, which is no uncharitable one, the apostle might affirm, with the greatest assurance, that God would confirm them to the end blameless.Moreover, though this epistle was in general directed to church of God, which is at Corinth,yet the apostle had a particular regard to such among them, who were truly sanctified in Church,and really called to be saints;and not only them, but all that in every place,as well as at Corinth, call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours,(v. 2). Besides, those whom the apostle says, God is faithful to confirm to the end,are such whom he had called not externally, or to some outward privileges, but unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ.

(2.) "Because he speaks not only of their not falling away finally, but of their being preserved unblameable; whereas it is certain that the elect are not always so preserved." I observe, that it is allowed that the apostle speaks of these persons not falling away finally, which is the thing we contend for; and also of their being preserved blameless, which it is suggested cannot be said of the elect because they are not always so preserved. Which, if understood of them in themselves, and in this life, it will be readily granted, that they are not all of them, nor any of them always so preserved; but then they are all of them always so preserved in Christ and will appear so in the day of our lord Jesus;for they are chosen in his,that they should be holy, and without blame before him in love (Eph. 1:4).

(3.) The sense of these words, according to the ancients is said to be this; "God is faithful, who hath promised to them that obey the Gospel, uJioqesi>an, the adoption;that is, the redemption of the body,or that they shall be partakers of that kingdom and glory to which he hath called them." But the phrase, to them that obey the Gospel,is neither in the text, nor context: and supposing it had been in either, or should it be thought to be implied, those that truly obey the Gospel are called by grace, and such as the elect of God: if therefore God is faithful, who has promised them the adoption,to which they are predestinated, according to the good pleasure of his will (Eph. 1:5), or, that they shall be partakers of the kingdom and glory to which he has called them; then they must persevere to the end.

(4.) These words are said to be "well expounded by Grotius, thus: He will do,good suarum est partium, all that is requisite of his part,to render you umblameable to the end; so that you shall not fail of being so through any want of divine grace requisite to that end, or any unfaithfulness on his part to his promise." To which I reply: that Scripture is not of private interpretation; nor are we bound down to the sense given of Scripture, either by ancient or modern interpreters. That these words are not well expounded by Grotius, appears from this consideration, that God's faithfulness is engaged to confirm to the end unblameable, not in part, but in whole; the work is wholly his, what he has promised to do, and will faithfully perform. And therefore, if the saints shall not fail of being so, through, any want of divine grace requisite to that end, whose grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:8) for it; or through any unfaithfulness to his promise, who, though we behave not, yet abides faithful (2 Tim. 2:13); it is certain that they shall be confirmed to the end, and be preserved blameless, or in other words, finally persevere. The text in Colossians 1:22, 23, is not conditional, but descriptive of the persons who shall he presented unblameable, and unreprovable in the sight of God.

2. To the words in 1 Corinthians 10:13, it is answered,[3]

(1.) "That these words ought not to be restrained to the elect; for the preceding ones are spoken to the whole church at Corinth." What has been said to a like objection to the sense of the foregoing text, may be a sufficient reply to this.

(2.) It is said, "this text must be impertinently alleged; because it only contains a promise of ability sufficient to resist temptations, if men will use it; but doth not contain an engagement that this strength shall be effectual, or certainly informed to the end." But these words do not contain a promise of sufficient ability to resist temptations, but of sufficient strength to bear them; which strength God put into his people, and does not leave it barely to their use, but makes his strength perfect in their weakness (1 Cor. 12:8). Besides, these words do not contain only a promise of this, but also that God will make a way to escape,that they may be able to bear them.

(3.) This author says, "I have showed, when I discoursed of the cautions given to believers, that in the words immediately preceding and following, there is a plain indication that they, who truly think they stand, may fall, as did the Jews there mentioned, and might be guilty of idolatry; which he (the apostle) himself declares to be a sin exclusive from the kingdom of Christ (1 Cor. 6:9)." And I have also showed, in answer to it, that there is not, in those words, a plain indication that they, who truly think they stand, may fall; but that such, who seem to themselves and others to stand, may fall: and that, supposing them spoken to true believers, such exhortations may be useful to them, to preserve them from partial falls to which they are subject, and be blessed to them as means of their final perseverance.

3. To the words cited from Philippians 1:6, it is answered,[4]

(1.) "That it is evident the apostle speaks not out of any opinion of the election of any, much less of all the Philippians to eternal life, or of the certainty of their perseverance to the end; for why then doth he exhort them as he does in Philippians 2:12, 16, and Philippians 4:1?" I answer, that these exhortations are so far from militating against either their election of God, or perseverance to the end, that they express the fruits and effects of those things, through which men are chosen unto salvation; and which, as has been before observed, are made use of, and blessed as the means of the saints' final perseverance.

(2.) It is affirmed,[5] that "he (the apostle) speaks this from a judgment of charity; because, says he, it is just or fit for me to conceive thus of you,by reason of that great affection you have for me, and your patience under the like sufferings." I reply, that the apostle does, indeed, speak from a judgment of charity in verse 7,when he says, Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all;where the word all is used, which is not in verse 6, and seems to be carefully omitted by our author in his citation of verse 7. Now the apostle, from a judgment of charity, did say this of them all; but with the strongest confidence of them in whom the good work was begun. A judgment of charity is precarious and uncertain; but the persuasion of the apostle was sure and firm, and which lie expresses with a view to encourage a like persuasion of their own salvation in the hearts of those he writes to; which surely must be more than a judgment of charity concerning themselves, and their own state and condition. Besides, a judgment of charity proceeds upon external signs; whereas the apostle's confidence and firm persuasion was grounded, not on their affection to him, or patience under suffering, but upon the nature, of the good work of grace begun, in them, and upon the promise and power of God to perform it; and was greatly encouraged by their continuance in an inward, spiritual fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now (v.5).

4. It is said,[6] that "those words (1 Thess. 5:23, 14), and for the same reason the words cited from 2 Thessalonians 3:3, do only signify that he (God)will not be wanting, on his part, towards sanctifying and preserving them blameless unto the end; for it the fidelity of God required he should do this without their care and industry, or should work in them certainly and absolutely that care, and the apostle believed this; how could he fear, lest these Thessalonians should be so overcome by Satan's temptations, as that his labor with them might have been in rain?"To which I reply, that the care and industry of God's people, in the use of means, are very proper and requisite, and what the grace of God wrought in their souls will put them upon: nor are they set aside, or rendered useless, by the promise and faithfulness of God in keeping them; but rather made more necessary and useful thereby. But then it should be observed, that God's fidelity is engaged to sanctify them wholly,and to preserve their whole spirit, soul, and body, blameless;so that the work is entirely his own; and that until the coming of Christ;after which there will be no danger nor fear of apostasy; whence it must needs follow, that the saints shall certainly persevere to the end; nor do the fears expressed by the apostle, concerning the Thessalonians, contradict it; since these fears do not concern their eternal salvation; but lest, through the afflictions that attended the gospel, their faith should be in any measure weakened though not dropped; or lest they should be any way corrupted from the simplicity of the Gospel; and so his labor, in instructing and establishing them in gospel truths, be so far in vain.


ENDNOTES:

[1] Whitby, p. 477, 478; ed. 2.450, 457.

[2] Whitby, p. 478, 479; ed. 2.458.

[3] Whitby, p. 479. 480; ed. 2.459.

[4] Whitby, p. 480; ed. 2. 459.460.

[5] Ibid., Remonstr. Colossians Hag. Art. 5: p. 80.

[6] Whitby, p. 481; ed. 2.460.


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