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ble 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 ?' The same 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, might 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. hold-/ ing 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 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 ye be my 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 ji. 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 would 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 its 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 réal 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, will be shown by 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 when they went out from the church, they were not then real believers. 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)
* Sed inquies, vulgo dicitur de amico, eum nunquam fuisse verum amicum, qui tandem desiit esse. Respondeo, id non esse usquequaque et secuper verum. Potest forsan id de aliquibus dici, sedi non de' omnibus,' &c. Curcellaj Instit. VII. 10, 12.
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 us 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 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 have 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.t In this sense it is said, Luke xi. 7. • I can
* 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.
t' Apostoli mens est, illum qui ex Deo natus est, quatenus ex principio regeneratiouis suæ operatur, non posse peccato servire ; sicut dicimus eum qui liberalis est, non posse sordide se gerere ; qui temperans, non posse gulæ