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THE FIFTH HEAD OF DOCTRINE.
Concerning the Perseverance of the Saints.
1. Those whom God, according to his purpose, calleth to the fellowship of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by the Holy Spirit, he indeed sets free from the dominion and slavery of sin, but not entirely in this life from the flesh and the body of sin.1
2. Hence daily sins of infirmity arise, and blemishes (nævi) cleave to the best works even of the saints which furnish to them continual cause (materiam) of humbling themselves before God, of fleeing to Christ crucified, of mortifying the flesh more and more by the spirit of prayers, and the holy exercises of piety, and of panting after the goal of perfection, (ad perfectionis metam suspirandi,) until the time when, delivered from this
-They who constitute the true church-Such a mark of them is the faith, by which, Christ as their only Saviour being ⚫ apprehended, they flee from sin and follow after righteousness; they love the true God and their neighbours, neither turning ⚫ aside to the right hand nor to the left: they crucify the flesh. with its affections; but by no means this indeed as if there
⚫ were not in them any longer infirmity; but that they fight ' against it through the whole time of their life, by the energy ' (virtutem) of the Holy Spirit; and in the mean time flee to the blood, the death, and the sufferings and obedience of our Lord Christ, as their most safe protection.' Belgic Confession, Art. xxix. Rom. vii. 21-25. viii. 1, 2. Gal. v. 16, 17. 24. See Art. ix. Ch. Eng. The Remonstrants or Arminians of those days held, it seems, the doctrine of sinless perfection in this life more generally than Anticalvinists do at present.
body of death, they shall reign with the Lamb of God in the heavens.1
3. Because of these remains of indwelling sin, and moreover also because of the temptations of the world and of Satan, the converted could not continue (perstare) in this grace, if they were left to their own strength. But God is faithful, who confirms them in the grace once mercifully conferred on them, and powerfully preserves them in the same even unto the end.2
4. But, though that power or God, confirming the truly faithful (vere fideles) in grace, and preserving them, is greater than what can be overcome by the flesh; yet the converted are not always so influenced and moved by God, that they cannot depart, in certain particular actions, from the leading of grace, and be seduced by the desires (concupiscentiis) of the flesh, and obey them. Wherefore they must continually watch and pray, lest they should be led into temptations. Which when they do not, they may be not only violently carried away by the flesh, and the world, and Satan, unto grievous and atrocious sins; but they are sometimes even thus violently carried away, by the righteous permission of God; which the mournful falls of David and Peter, and of other saints recorded in scripture, demonstrate.3
Not that they should slumber, trusting in this remission, 'but that the feeling of this corruption may excite in the faithful
more frequent groans; and that they may wish more ardently 'to be freed from this body of death. Rom. vii. 18, 24.' Belgic Confession, Art. xv.
2 Prov. xxviii. 26.
Ps. cxix. 116, 117. Jude 20. 21, 24.
Jer. xvii. 9. Luke xxii. 31, 32. 1 Pet. i. 5.
Matt. xxvi. 40, 41, 69-75. 1 Pet. v. 8.
5. But by such enormous sins they exceedingly offend God; they incur the guilt of death; they grieve the Holy Spirit; they interrupt the exercise of faith; they most grievously wound conscience; and they sometimes lose, for a time, the perception of grace; until by serious repentance returning into the way, the paternal countenance of God again shines upon them.1
6. For God, who is rich in mercy, from his immutable purpose of election, does not wholly take away his own, even in lamentable falls; nor does he permit them to glide down (prolabi) so far, as that they should fall from the grace of adoption and the state of justification, or commit the sin unto death, or against the Holy Spirit; and, being utterly deserted by him, cast themselves headlong into eternal destruction.2
7. For, in the first place, he preserves in them, in these falls, that immortal seed, by which they were regenerated, (or begotten again, regeniti,) that it should not perish or be shaken out.3 Then, by his own word and Spirit, he assuredly and efficaciously renews them to repentance; that from the soul they may mourn according to God, for the sins committed; may seek remission in the blood of the Mediator by faith, with a contrite heart, and obtain it; may again feel the favour of a reconciled God; may adore his mercies by faith ; and finally work out their salvation more earnestly with fear and trembling.4
' Ps. li. 11, 12.
Luke xxii. 32. John iv. 14. 1 John v. 16-18.
' 1 Pet. i. 23. 1 John iii. 9.
Can any thing be guarded in a more wise, holy, and scriptural manner, than this statement of the means by which God preserves and restores his offending children? Ps. lxxxix. 30-34. Jer.
8. So that, not by their own merits or strength, but by the gratuitous mercy of God they obtain, that they neither totally fall from faith and grace, nor finally continue in their falls and perish. Which, as far as they themselves are concerned, (quoad ipsos) not only might easily be done, but would without doubt be done; but, in respect of God, cannot at all be done; (or take place, fieri ;) as neither can his counsel be changed, his promise fall, their vocation according to his purpose be recalled, the merit, intercession, and guardianship of Christ be rendered void, nor the sealing of the Holy Spirit become vain, or be blotted out.1
9. Of this guarding of the elect to salvation, and the perseverance in the faith of the truly faithful, (vere fidelium,) the faithful themselves may become certain, (assured,) and are, according to the measure of their faith; by which they certainly believe themselves to be, and that they shall perpetually remain, true and living members of the church, have remission of sins and eternal life.2
10. And therefore (proinde) this certainly is not from any peculiar revelation, made beyond, or without, the word of God; but from the belief of the promises, which God hath most copiously revealed in his own word, for our comfort; by the testimony "of the Holy Spirit witnessing with "our spirit, that we are the sons and heirs of God."
xxxii. 40. 8.
iv. 7. v.
1 Cor. xi. 32. Matt. xxvi. 75. John xxi. 17. 1 Pet.
27-30. xiii. 36. xiv. 19. xvii. 24.
viii. 16, 17. 22-39. 2 Cor. i. 2.
Rom. v. 9, 10.
Eph. i. 13, 14. v. 30.
2 May become certain, not, are all of them, or at all times, certain. Heb. vi. 10, 11. 2 Pet. i. 10, 11. 1 John v. 11-13. 19, 20.
(Rom. viii. 16.) Finally, from the earnest, (or serious, serio) and holy desire (or pursuit, studio) of a good conscience and good works. And of this substantial consolation of the victory to be obtained, and the infallible earnest of eternal glory, if the elect of God could be deprived in this world, "they would be of all men the most miserable."
11. In the mean while, the scripture testifies, that the faithful in this life, are assaulted (conflictari) with various doubtings of the flesh, and, being placed under heavy temptation, do not always feel this full assurance of faith and certainty of perseverance. But God, the Father of all consolation, does not "suffer them to be tempted "above their strength, but with the temptation "makes some way of escape:" (præstat evasionem :)2 1 Cor. x. 13: and, by the Holy Spirit, he excites again in them the certainty of perseverance.
12. But so far is this certainty of perseverance from rendering the truly faithful proud and carnally secure, that, on the contrary, it is the true root of humility, of filial reverential fear, of true piety, of patience in every conflict, of ardent prayers, of constancy under the cross, and in the confession of the truth, and of solid joy in God: and the consideration of this benefit is the spur (stimulus) to the serious and continual exercise of gratitude and good works: as appears by the
'Surely this has the stamp of holiness deeply impressed upon it! It is evangelical truth, in that part of it, which is most vehemently accused as tending to laxity of practice, and most frequently misstated by the injudicious, and perverted by enthusiasts and hypocrites, set forth in its genuine and inseparable connexion with good works. 1 Cor. xv. 58. 2 ποιήσει τὴν ἔκβασιν.