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secondly, that if it were so, an absurd and impracticable condition is inconsistent with the character of God. Two suppositions, both of them equally possible, are here made ; v. 21. “if the wicked will turn from all his sins ;' v. 26. “when a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness;" hence v. 25. “is not the way of the Lord equal ?” mode of reasoning occurs again xxxiii. 12, 13, &c. Paul was a true believer, and yet he says, 1 Cor. ix. 27. I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” The apostle to the Hebrews, vi. 4–6. seems also to speak of the possible final apostasy of the real believer, if the concluding clause of the passage be attentively considered : “if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance;' for the state described in the fourth and fifth verses, and from which they are represented as having fallen, can scarcely have been other than a regenerate state.
Christ therefore prayed to the Father that the faith of Peter' might not fail, Luke xxii. 32. For it was possible for his faith to fail through his own fault, without any failure in the ordinary gifts of God's grace; wherefore Christ prayed, not that the grace of God, but that the faith of Peter, inight not fail ; which was to be dreaded at that time, unless he were strengthened by an extraordinary effusion of the grace of God, at the request of Christ. 1 Tim. i. 19. “holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.” It cannot be doubted that the faith and good conscience which some had put away, as well as the faith concerning which some had made shipwreck, was genuine.
· Accordingly, not the elect, but those who continue to the end, are said to obtain salvation. Matt. xxiv. 12, 13. “the love of many shall wax cold ; but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” See also x. 22. Heb. iii. 6. “whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope even to the end.” v. 14. “we are words, which, say they, assert nothing; they fly for refuge to a mern. mistake, the words in the original being not if, but beshub, šv av nuépą érintpéon, in the day that ne turns away from his righteousness. And again, when I say to the righteous he shall live, vehu, and he trust in his righteousness.' On the Five Points, p. 393.
made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” 1 John ii. 24. - if that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son.” Rev. ii. 10. “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” iii. 11. “hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. John viii. 31. “if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” From this last passage, however, our opponents draw the inverse inference, if
ту disciples indeed, ye will continue ; in other words, your continuance will be a proof of your being really my disciples ;' in support of which they quote 1 John ii. 19. “if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” I reply, that these texts do not contradict each other, inasmuch as the apostle is not here laying down a rule applicable to believers in general, formally deduced from necessary causes ; but merely giving his judgment concerning certain antichrists, which judgment, according to a common practice, he had formed from the event.
He does not say, therefore, if they had been of us, it was impossible but that they should have continued with us, nor does he mention the causes of this impossibility ; but he merely says, they woulil have continued. His argument is as follows; since it is very rare that a true disciple does not continue in the faith, it is natural to suppose that they would have continued in it, if they had been true disciples. But they went out from us. Why? Not to show that true believers could never depart from the faith, but that all who walked with the apostles were not true believers, inasmuch as true believers very rarely acted as they had done. In the same way it might be said of an individual, “if he had been a real friend, he would never have been unfaithful ;” not because it is impossible that a real friend should ever be unfaithful, but because the case very seldom happens. That the apostle could not have intended to lay down a rule of universal application, may be shewn by
7 See Calvin, Institut. III. 3. 23, and III. 24. 6, 7. Compare an answer similar to Milton's in Whitby On the Five Points, p. 411.
8 • Sed inquies, vulgo dicitur de amico, eum nunquam fuisse verun. amicum, qui tandem desiit esse. Respondeo, id non esse usquequaque et semper verum. Potest forsan id de aliquibus dici, sed non de omnibus,' &c. Curcellæi Instit. VII. 10, 12.
inverting the hypothesis ; if they had continued, they would no doubt have been of us; whereas many hypocrites continue in outward communion with the church even till their death, and never go out from it. As therefore those who continue are not known to be real believers simply from their continuing, so neither are those who do not continue proved thereby never to have been real believers; this only is certain, that they were not real believers when they went out from the church, for neither does Christ, with whom John undoubtedly agreed, argue thus; ye are my disciples indeed, if ye continue in my word, but thus ; if ye continue indeed (for this latter word must be taken with both members of the sentence) then will ye be indeed my disciples ; therefore, if ye do not continue, ye will not be my disciples.
It is said, however, in the same epistle, chap. iii. 9. “whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God;" from which they argue as follows; if he cannot sin, much less can he depart from the faith.' We are not at liberty, however, thus to separate a particular verse from its context, without carefully comparing its meaning with other verses of the same chapter and epistle, as well as with texts bearing on the same subject in other parts of Scripture ; lest the apostle should be made to contradict either himself, or the other sacred writers. He is declaring, in the verse above quoted, the strength of that internal aid with which God has provided ns against sin; having previously explained what is required on our own part, v. 3. every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure." He recurs again to the same point v. 10. “in this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil : whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother." iv. 16. “God is love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.” v. 18. “whosoever is born of God, sinneth not, but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself.” — Whosoever, therefore, is born of God, cannot sin, and therefore cannot depart from the faith, provided that he at the same time purify himself to the utmost of his power, that he do righteousness, that he love his brother, that
9 Calvin, Institut. II. 3. 10. In answer compare Whitby On the Five Points, p. 146.
he remain himself in love, in order that God and his seed may also remain in him ; that finally he keep himself. Further, in what sense is it said, he cannot sin, when the apostle has already declared, chap. i. 8. “ if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us?” Doubtless we ought to understand by this phrase that he does not easily fall into sin, not voluntarily and intentionally, not wilfully and presumptuously, but with reluctance and remorse ; and that he does not persist in the habit of sinning ; for which reasons, and above all for Christ's sake, sin is not imputed to him. If then so much caution be necessary in explaining the word sin, we ought to proceed with no less care in the interpretation of the remaining part of the verse; and not to take advantage of the simplicity of style peculiar to this apostle, for the purpose of establishing a doctrine in itself absurd. For not to be able, as the Remonstrant divines ve rightly observed,' does not always signify absolute impossibility, either in common language or in Scripture. Thus we often say that a particular thing cannot be done, meaning that it cannot be done with convenience, honour, or facility, or with a safe conscience, or consistently with modesty, or credit, or dignity, or good faith.” In this sense it is said, Luke xi. 7. “I cannot rise and give thee,” although the speaker shortly afterwards rises. So also Acts iv. 20. “we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Matt. xii. 34.
See Acta et Scripta Synodalia Dordracena, in Defensione sententiæ Remonstrantium circa Articulum V. de Perseverantia. “In communi vita nihil familiarius est, quam illud impossibile dicere, quod alicujus ingenio et naturæ repugnat; ut temperantem hominem non posse inebriari ; doctum hominem non posse ferre contemptum ; probum hominem non posse calumniari, &c. In scripturis, 2 Cor. xiii. 8. non possumus quidquam adversus veritatem. Sic Act. iv. 20. Quibus phrasibus non omnimodo impossibilitas earum rerum quæ fieri non posse dicuntur, indicatur, sed tantum moralis sive ethica, &c.' p. 320–324. See also Hey's Lectures, book iv. art. 10. sect. 25. for the use of impossible in the sense of not to be expected. The Arminians were called Remonstrants, because they remonstrated against the treatment which they experienced from their opponents the Gomarists, or Contra-remonstrants.
2 . Apostoli mens est, illum qui ex Deo natus est, quatenus ex principio regenerationis suæ operatur, non posse peccato servire ; sicut dicimus euin qui liberalis est, non posse sordide se gerere; qui temperans, non posse gulæ aut libidini indulgere ; non quod absolute non possint in talia pec cata labi, sed quia cum lapsi sunt, non se ut liberales aut temperantes solent et convenit, gesserunt.' Curcellæi Instit. VII. 3. 9.
“how can ye, being evil, speak good things ?” whereas it is easy even for hypocrites to speak good things. In like manner, when it is said in the present passage he cannot sin, the meaning is, that he cannot easily fall into sin, and therefore cannot easily depart from the faith. The same divines have displayed equal sagacity and research in their explanation of the reason assigned by the apostle, for his seed remaineth in him; where they show that to remain in him means the same as to be in him. So John xiv. 7. “he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
Thus also in the fourteenth verse of the very chapter under consideration; he that loveth not his brother, abideth in death; that is, so long as he does not love his brother; for in any other sense it would be impossible for a man to escape death who had ever been guilty of not loving his brother. Whosoever therefore is born of God cannot sin, because his seed remaineth, or is in him ; it is in him as long as he does not himself quench it, for even the Spirit can be quenched ; it remains in him, moreover, as long as he himself remains in love.
Those, however, who do not persevere in the faith, are in ordinary cases to be accounted unregenerate and devoid of genuine belief : seeing that God who keeps us is faithful, and that he has given believers so many pledges of salvation, namely, election, regeneration, justification, adoption, union and fellowship with him conjointly with Christ and the Spirit, who is the earnest and seal of the covenant : seeing also that the work of glorification is in them already begun. Prov. xxiv. 16. “a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again, but the wicked shall fall into mischief." Matt. xxv. 3.
they that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them.” Luke viii. 13. “these have no root.” 2 Pet. ii. 22. “the dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." 1 John ii. 19. “they went out from us.”
Or perhaps they are to be considered as apostates from the faith, in that sense of faith in which it is the object, not the cause of belief. Tim. iv. 1. "the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving lieed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” Gal. v. 4. · Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law : ye are fallen from grace.” How