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his being anointed king, that the Lord gave him other heart. It is said that he was among the prophets, and that he prophesied. It is said, in the latter part of his life, that the Spirit of the Lord departed from him. But all these amount to no proof that he was ever a subject of renewing and sanctifying grace. By the other heart said to be given him, may be meant no more than a spirit suited to the dignified station to which he was advanced. There is no necessity of understanding by it a truly pious and benevolent heart. His prophesying was no more than Balaam, and many other wicked men have done. The Spirit of the Lord departing from him, may mean only the withdrawment of those divine influences which are frequently given, for a time, to the unregenerate. From the whole scripture history of Saul, the probability is, that he was never a truly righteous man.
But Judas is the great instance insisted on, of falling finally from a state of grace.
That Judas fell from a high profession, and from an eminent visible relation to Christ, cannot be denied. That he fell finally, there is no reason to doubt. He is said, indeed, to have repented; when he brought again the thirty pieces of silver, “saying I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.” But it is added, that when he had done this, “ he departed, and hanged himself.” And Christ calls him the son of perdition, and says expressly that he was lost. His, however, cannot be made out as an instance of falling from grace. He was doubtless never any thing more than a specious hypocrite. Our Saviour says to his professed disciples, John vi. 64, “ There are some of you that believe not.” The evangelist adds, “ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.” We never read that Judas fell from grace. From the ministry and apostleship it is said he fell : and it is added, “ that he might go to
his own place.” Whereby is intimated, that he always belonged to the kingdom of darkness, and was a child of hell.
There is indeed one text respecting Judas, which, at first view, may appear favorable to the present objection. It is John xvii. 12, where Christ, in his last prayer with his disciples, says to the Father; “ Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition.” Whence it may be thought that Judas was given to Christ in the covenant of redemption, and by effectual calling, though he was lost. Some who hold the doctrine of the saints' perseverance, to obviate the objection from this text, understand the particle but, to be here used in way of opposition, and not of exception. As opposing Judas to those given, and not as except. ing him, as one of them that had not been kept. Thus : Those whom thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost; but the son of perdition is ; he not being one of them. But there is another way of explaining the words, which appears to me more easy and natural : namely, by supposing our Saviour is there speaking of those given to him as his apostles. In some parts of his prayer he evidently speaks of the whole number given to him to save ; but from the 11-20 ver. of the chapter, I apprehend he is to be understood as speaking of his disciples who were then present.
“ And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name : those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition ; that the scriptures might be fulfilled.” It seems natural to understand him here as speaking of his apos. tles—his visible church-his immediate attendants, whom he had been with so long, and was now about to leave. One of these was lost.
Not a single instance can be produced, I presume, of an evidently true saint, who has, that we have any certain evidence, finally, or totally, aposta. tized. And that such apostacy proves persons to have been only in the visible church, and not real christians, appears from 1 John ii. 19, “ They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us."
3. There are several passages of scripture which have been thought to imply a possibility of the total falling away, and final perdition, of those who were once in a state of
grace. One of these texts, is Ezek. xviii. 24, “ When the righteous man turneth away from his righteous. ness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abomination that the wicked man doeth, shall he live ? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned : in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die."
The common answer to the objection grounded on these words, against the certain perseverance and salvation of saints, has been, that by the righteous man is here meant, only one who had that external righteousness which entitled to outward prosper. ity, according to the peculiar covenant which God made with the nation of Israel. And the whole chapter plainly shows, that it was respecting God's temporal dispensations towards that people, that he was there arguing and expostulating with them.
Another text supposed to imply that true believers may fall finally, is Heb. vi. 4, 5, 6, “ For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and liave tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance."
Expositors who hold the doctrine now insisted on, have generally supposed that the persons here described, were only such as the stony ground hearers in our Saviour's parable of the sower, who had never the root of true holiness in their hearts ; though they might have had the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, as well as great convictions, and much subsequent comfort and joy, from a false hope. And what the apostle says a few verses after seems favorable, I think, to this supposition : for he tells the Hebrew christians that he was persuaded better things of them, and things that accompany salvation.
But there is no need of insisting upon this con. struction, nor upon that of the passage in Ezekiel already mentioned, with a view to obviate the present objection ; since there is another answer, and since there are some texts to which this answer will not apply. Our Saviour says, John xv. 6, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” And the apostle, Heb. x. 38, speaks of God as saying, “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”
To show that such texts as any of these are not inconsistent with the infallible salvation of all true believers, it is sufficient to observe that there is an if in them. That the assertion they contain is merely hypothetical, or conditional. That they only state a certain connection between apostacy and perdition; and do not say that either the one or the other will ever actually come to pass, in the case of true christians. Now, it is not the true doctrine of the saints' perseverance, that they will be saved whether they persevere or not. Nor doth its being said, If any do not persevere, they will fail of salvation, at all imply that good men may be left not to persevere. We readily grant, If a righteous man should wholly turn from his righteousness; If a holy man should lose all his holiness; If the best christians should fall totally from the faith and obedience of the gospel, they would have no more part or lot in the cove. nant of grace, than any other wicked men and unbelievers : and their condition might be of all men the most hopeless. But that any true child of God, by regeneration, and adoption through Christ, ever was or will be left thus to fall away, we utterly deny. Accordingly the apostle, after the last quoted text, “ If any man draw back my soul shall have no pleasure in him,” immediately adds, “ But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition ; but of them who believe to the saving of the soul.” True believers are kept unto salvation by the power of God; yet it is through perseverance in faith and holiness, that they are so kept. An event may be ccrtain ; and yet it may be certain that it will not be brought to pass except in one particular way. Of this we have a plain instance in the case of the shipwreck, related in the twenty-seventh chapter of Acts. Paul had said to those with him, “Be of good cheer ; for there shall be no loss of any man's life. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul ; for thou must be brought before Cesar : and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” Yet afterwards, when the mariners were about secretly to make their escape in the boat, “ Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved.” In like manner, though all true believers have the absolute promise of God, that not a soul of them shall perish; yet they cannot be saved except they abide in Christ. And there is the same need of their being warned of this, as the means of their safety; as in that case there was of the warning given to the centurion and the soldiers.