Arthur W. Pink
Chapter 3 - It's Nature
We purpose dealing with this theme, and particularly with that aspect of it which is now to be before us, in rather a different manner than that which was followed by most of the Calvinistic divines in the past; or rather, we propose to throw most of our emphasis upon another angle of it than what they did. Their principal object was to establish this truth, by rebutting the error of Arminians, who insist that those who have been redeemed by Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit may nevertheless totally and finally apostatize from the Faith, and so eternally perish. Our chief aim will rather be to counteract the crude manner in which this doctrine has been only too often handled in more recent times and the evil use to which an adulterous generation has put it. While Arminianism has by no means disappeared from Christendom, yet it is the more recent inroads of Antinomianism (the repudiation of the Divine Law and the turning of God’s grace into lasciviousness) which have wrought the most damage in our own lifetime.
It is not sufficiently realized by many of the Lord’s own people that far more harm than good is likely to be done by immature "Gospellers", who have more zeal than knowledge, and who expect to reap a harvest (secure "results") before the ground is ploughed and harrowed. Many an ignorant evangelist has given his hearers the impression that once they "accept Christ as their personal Savior" they need have no concern about the future, and thousands have been lulled into a fatal sleep by the soothing lullaby "once saved, always saved". To imagine that if I commit my soul and its eternal interests into the hands of the Lord henceforth relieves me of all obligation, is to accept sugar-coated poison from the father of lies. When I deposit my money in the bank for safe custody, then my responsibility is at an end: it is now their duty to protect the same. But it is far otherwise with the soul at conversion—the Christian’s responsibility to avoid temptation and shun evil, to use the means of grace and seek after good, lasts as long as he is left in this world.
If our ancestors erred on the side of prolixity their descendants have often injured the cause of Christ by their brevity. Bare statements, without qualification or amplification, are frequently most misleading. Brief generalizations may content the superficial, who lack both the incentive and the patience to make a thorough examination of any subject, but those who value the Truth sufficiently to be willing to "buy" it (Prov. 23:23) appreciate a detailed analysis, if so be that their contemplation thereof enables them to obtain an intelligent and balanced grasp of an important Scriptural theme. The man who accepts a piece of money—be it of paper or metal—after a cursory glance, is far more likely to be deceived with a counterfeit than he who scrutinizes it closely. And they who give assent to a mere summarized declaration of this doctrine are in far greater danger of being deluded than the ones who are prepared to carefully and prayerfully examine a systematic exposition thereof. It is, of course, for the latter we write.
Much confusion and misunderstanding has been caused through failure to clearly define terms. Those who assail this doctrine usually set up a "man of straw" and then suppose they have achieved a notable victory because so little difficulty was experienced in demolishing so feeble an object; and it must be confessed that only too often those who have posed as the champions of the Truth are largely to blame for this. It needs little argument to demonstrate that one who is in love with sin and drinks in iniquity like water does not have his face Heavenwards, no matter what experience of grace he claims to have had in the past. Yet it must not be concluded that the Arminian has gained the day when he appeals to the Christian’s spiritual instincts and asks: Does it comport with God’s holiness for Him to own as His dear child one who is trampling upon His commandments? The Calvinist would return a negative reply to such an iniquity as promptly and emphatically as would his opponent.
"The righteous shall hold on his way" (Job 17:9). As Spurgeon pertinently pointed out, "The Scripture does not teach that a man will reach his journey’s end without continuing to travel along the road; it is not true that one act of faith is all, and that nothing is needed of daily faith, prayer and watchfulness. Our doctrine is the very opposite, namely, that the righteous shall hold on his way: or, in other words, shall continue in faith, in repentance, in prayer, and under the influence of the grace of God. We do not believe in salvation by a physical force which treats a man as a dead log, and carries him whether he will it or not towards heaven. No, ‘he holds on his way’, he is personally active about the matter, and plods on up hill and down dale till he reaches his journey’s end. We never thought that merely because a man supposes that he once entered on this way he may therefore conclude that he is certain of salvation, even if he leaves the way immediately. No, but we say that he who truly receives the Holy Spirit, so that he believes in the. Lord Jesus Christ, shall not go back, but persevere in the way of faith. . .We detest the doctrine that a man who has once believed in Jesus will be saved even if he altogether forsook the path of obedience."
In order to define our terms we must make it quite clear who it is that perseveres and what it is in which he perseveres. It is the saints, and none other. This is evident from many passages of Scripture. "He will keep the feet of His saints" (1 Sam. 2:9). "For the Lord loveth judgment and forsaketh not His saints: they are preserved forever" (Ps. 37:28). "He preserveth the souls of His saints: He delivereth them out of the hand of the enemy" (Ps. 87:10). "He maketh intercession for the saints" (Rom. 8:27). "He shall come to be glorified in His saints" (2 Thess. 1:10). All such are preserved in God’s love and favor, and accordingly they persevere in the Faith, eschewing all damnable errors; they persevere in a life of faith, clinging to Christ like a drowning man to a life-buoy; they persevere in the path of holiness and obedience, walking by the light of God’s Word and being directed by His precepts—not perfectly so, nor without wandering, but in the general tenor of their lives.
Now a "saint" is a sanctified or separated one. First, he is one of those who were chosen by the Father before the foundation of the world and predestinated to be conformed unto the image of His Son. Second, he is one of those who were redeemed by Christ, who gave His life a ransom for them. Third, he is one who has been regenerated by a miracle of grace, brought from death unto life, and thereby set apart from those who are dead in sin. Fourth, he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, whereby he is sealed unto the day of redemption. But how may I know whether or not I am a saint? By impartially examining myself in the light of Holy Writ to see if I possess the character and conduct of one. A "saint" is one whose back is toward the world and his face toward God; whose affections are drawn unto things above, who yearns for communion with his Beloved, who grieves over that in himself which displeases God, who makes conscience of his sins and confesses them to God, who prayerfully endeavors to walk as becometh a Christian, but who daily mourns his many offences.
Only those persevere unto the end who have experienced the saving grace of God. Now grace is not only a Divine attribute inherent in His character, it is also a Divine principle which He imparts to His people. It is both objective and subjective. Objectively, it is that free favor with which God eternally and unchangingly regards His people. Subjectively, it is that which He communicates to their souls, which resists their native depravity and enables them to hold on their way. A saint is one who not only has "found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen. 6:8), but who has also received "abundance of grace" (Rom. 5:17) —"unto every one of us is grace given" (Eph. 4:7). The Lord "giveth grace unto the humble" Games 4:6), and His grace is an operative, influential, and transforming thing. The Lord Jesus is "full of grace and truth," and of His fulness do all His people receive, "and grace for grace" (John 1:14,16). That grace teaches its recipients "to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world" (Titus 2:11, 12). They come to the Throne of Grace and "find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16) and thereby prove the Divine declaration "My grace is sufficient for thee" (2 Cor. 12:9).
From all that has been pointed Out above it follows that when we affirm the final perseverance of the saints we do not mean,
1. That every professing Christian will reach Heaven. The sprinkling of a few drops of water on the head of an infant does not qualify it for the inheritance of the saints in light, for in a few years’ time that child is seen to be no different than others who received not this ordinance. Nor does an avowal of faith on the part of an adult demonstrate him to be a new creature in Christ. Many born of Papish parents have been convinced of the folly of bowing before idols, confessing their sins to a priest and other such absurdities, but conversion to Protestantism is not the same as regeneration, as many evidenced in the days of Luther. Many a Jew has been convinced of the Messianic claims of Jesus Christ and has believed on Him as such, yet this is no proof of saving grace, as John 2:23, 24; 6:66 plainly shows. Thousands more have been emotionally stirred under the hypnotic appeals of evangelists and have "taken their stand for Christ" and "joined the church", but their interest quickly evaporated and they soon returned to their wallowing in the mire.
2. Nor do we mean that seeming grace cannot be lost. Satan is a clever imitator so that his tares are indistinguishable by men from the wheat. By reading theological works and sitting under the preaching of the Word an attentive mind can soon acquire an intellectual acquaintance with the Truth and be able to discuss the mysteries of the Gospel more readily and fluently than can an unlettered child of God. Keen mentality may also be accompanied by a naturally religious disposition which expresses itself in fervent devotions, self-sacrificing effort and proselytizing zeal. But if such an one relapse and repudiates the Truth, that does not overthrow our doctrine: it simply shows he was never born of God. "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for of they had been of us, they would have continued with us" (1 John 2:19). Such characters had never been received into the fellowship of apostolic assemblies unless they gave credible appearance of possessing real grace, yet their subsequent departure was proof they had it not. "Whosoever hath not (in reality) from him shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have" (Luke 8:18).
3. Nor do we mean that initial and preparatory grace is a guarantee of glorification. What percentage of blossoms on the apple and plum trees mature and bear fruit? And that is an adumbration in the natural of what is found in the spiritual realm. Many a promising bud is nipped by the frosts of spring and never develops into a flower. In like manner there is a large number who so far from despising and rejecting it, "receive the Word with joy, yet hath not root in himself, but dureth from a while" (Matt. 13:20, 21). That was the case when Christ Himself sowed the Seed, and many a faithful servant of His has found the same thing duplicated in his own ministerial labors. How often has he seen the buds of promise appearing in the lives of some of his young people, only to be saddened later by the discovery that their "goodness was as a morning cloud and as the early dew it went away" (Hos. 6:4). "Ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light" (John 5:35) said Christ of certain ones who sat under the preaching of His forerunner; but observe He declared not that they had "sorrowed unto repentance".
Blazing comets and meteors are soon spent and fall from heaven like lightning, but the stars keep their orbits and stations—as do the spiritual "stars" held fast in Christ’s right hand (Rev. 2:1). There is an initial grace which produces a real but transient effect, and there is a saving grace which secures a permanent result. Hebrews 6:4, 5 supplies a solemn illustration of the former. There we read of those "who were once enlightened", that is, whose minds were illumined from on high, so that they perceived clearly the excellency of Divine things. They "tasted of the heavenly gift," so that for a season they lost their relish for the things of the world. They "were made partakers of the Holy Spirit," being convicted by Him of their sins and brought to say with Balaam "let me die the death of the righteous" (Num. 23:10); but thorns sprang up and choked the good Seed, so that they "bring (forth) no fruit to perfection" (Luke 8:14). Such are cast forth "like an untimely birth."
4. Nor do we mean that true grace if left in our hands would not be lost. If Adam and Eve when left to themselves lost their innocency, how much more would those who are still affected by indwelling sin destroy themselves, did not the Lord renew them in the inner man "day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16). Regeneration does not make the Christian a God—independent and self-sufficient. No, it unites him as a branch to the true Vine, as a member of Christ’s mystical body; and just as a bough detached from the tree immediately withers and as an arm or leg cut off from its body is a lifeless thing, so would the saint perish if it were possible to sever him from the Savior. But the believer is not his own keeper: "your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3) declares the apostle. At the new birth our self-righteousness received its death-wound, so that we were glad to look outside of ourselves to the righteousness of Another, and the more we grow in grace the more conscious are we of our weakness and the more are we made "strong in the Lord and in the power of His might."
5. Nor do we mean that true grace may not be hindered in its operations and suffer a relapse. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit" (Gal. 5:17): being contrary the one to the other, there is ever a warfare going on between them, one being uppermost to-day and the other so tomorrow. Christian perseverance is to be gauged not so much from single actions as by the more regular habits of the soul. As the functions of the body may be hindered by a swoon or fit, as the activities of the mind are impaired by delirium, so the stirrings of indwelling grace may be interrupted by the power of our natural corruptions. The more the saint yields to the solicitations of the flesh, the feebler become the workings of the principle of grace. That true grace may suffer a serious, though not a fatal, relapse, appears in the cases of Noah, Abraham, David and Peter, which are recorded for our warning and not for our imitation. The health of the soul varies as does that of the body, and as the latter is frequently the consequence of our own carelessness and folly, such is always the case in connection with the former.
6. Nor do we mean that the comforts of true grace cannot be eclipsed. We may indeed lose the sense of it though not the substance. Communion with Christ is lost when we experience a fall by the way, yet union with Him is not severed thereby. Mutual comforts may be suspended between man and wife though the conjugal knot be not dissolved. Believers may be separated from Christ’s smile yet not so from His heart. If they wander from the Sun of righteousness how can they expect to enjoy His light and warmth. Sin and wretchedness, holiness and happiness are inseparably joined together. The way of the transgressor is hard, but peace and joy are the portion of the upright. As a parent suffers his child to scorch his fingers at the flame that he may learn to dread the fire, so God permits His people to lose their comforts for a season that they may prove the bitterness of sin, but He draws them back again unto Himself before they are destroyed thereby.
7. Nor do we mean that the presence of indwelling grace renders it unnecessary that its possessor should persevere. Yet this is one of the silly inferences which Arminians are fond of drawing. They say, "If it is absolutely certain that God will preserve His people from total apostasy, then there is no real need why they must persevere" - as well might we argue that it is unnecessary for us to breathe because God gives us breath, or that Hezekiah needed no longer to eat and drink because God had promised he should live another fifteen years. Wherever saving grace is bestowed it is accompanied by "the spirit of a sound mind" (2 Tim. 1:6) so that the soul is preserved from trifling with God or reasoning like a madman. Christians are called upon to work out their own salvation "with fear and trembling," not to conduct themselves recklessly, and to enable them thereto God worketh in them "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil 2:12, 13). Grace does not annul our responsibility but fits us to discharge it; it relieves from no duties, but equips for the performance of them.
We turn now to the positive side: having dwelt upon what is not signified or implied by the final perseverance of the saints, let us now endeavor to show whereof it consists. And here it should be duly noted that the Holy Spirit has not restricted Himself to a single expression but has used a great variety of words to describe this duty and blessing. In matters of great spiritual importance God has employed many different terms in His Word, for the instruction, comfort and support of His people. Out of the scores which set forth the believer’s perseverance we may cite these. It is to "continue following the Lord our God" (1 Sam. 2:14), to "walk in the paths of righteousness" (Ps. 23:5), to be "steadfast in the Covenant" (Ps. 78:37), to "endure unto the end" (Matt. 24:13), to "deny self and take up the cross daily" (Luke 9:23), to "abide in Christ" (John 15:4), to "cleave unto the Lord" (Acts 1L23), to "press toward the mark" (Phil. 3:14), to "continue in the faith grounded and settled" (Col. 1:13), to "hold faith and a good conscience" (1 Tim. 1:19), to "hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Heb. 3:6), to "run with patience the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1), to "stablish our hearts" (James 5:8), to "be faithful unto death" (Rev. 2:10).
In the limited space at our disposal it is advisable to epitomize the main branches of this subject under a few heads.
1. Spiritual perseverance is the maintaining of a holy profession or a continuance in the word and doctrine of Christ. Wherever saving faith is imparted the soul receives the Scriptures as a Divine revelation, as the very Word of God. Faith is the visive faculty of the heart, by which the majesty and excellency of the Truth is perceived and by which such conviction and certainty is conveyed that the soul knows it is none other than the living God speaking to him. Faith "hath received His testimony" and thereby "hath set to his seal that God is true" (John 3:33). Henceforth he takes his stand on the impregnable rock of Holy Writ and neither man nor Devil can move him therefrom: "the voice of a stranger he will not follow" (John 10:5). While one who is not regenerated may intellectually believe and verbally profess his faith in the whole of revealed Truth, yet no regenerated person will repudiate the same.
"Some shall depart from the Faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim. 4:1). How many have done so within the memory of our older readers! Those who were looked upon as towers of orthodoxy succumbed to "evolutionism" and the "higher criticism." Those who were regarded as staunch Protestants became ensnared by Romanism. Multitudes of the rank and file who were once members of evangelical churches and teachers in the Sunday Schools, have been poisoned by infidelity and repudiated their former beliefs. But all such cases were merely the chaff being separated from the wheat, thereby causing the true to stand out more plainly from the false: "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest" (1 Cor. 11:19). When many of Christ’s disciples went back and walked no more with Him the apostles were not shaken, for when He asked them "Will ye also go away?" their spokesman answered "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life" (John 6:66, 68).
"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed" (John 8:31). That is one of the marks of those who are disciples of Christ in reality and not only in appearance. They are all "taught of the Lord" (Isa. 54:13) and not merely by men, and "I know that whatsoever God doeth it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it" (Eccl. 3:14). False Christs and false prophets may seek to beguile them, but it is not possible to deceive the elect (Matt. 24:24). Hymeneus and Philetus may err concerning the Truth, even denying the resurrection, and in consequence "overthrow the faith of some," yet we are at once assured "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His" (2 Tim. 2:17-19)—none with a saving faith can be overthrown. And why? Because they are enabled to continue in God’s Word. Uninfluenced by "current opinion" or "modern thought," the child o-f God even though the last one left on earth, would "hold fast the profession of faith without wavering" (Heb. 10:23).
2. The maintaining of holy affections and principles. It should be clearly understood that perseverance is not a distinct and particular grace, separate from all others, rather is it a virtue which crowns all virtues, a grace which sets a glory on every other grace. The first stirrings of the new life are seen in conviction of sin and contrition for the same, yet repentance is not an act to be performed once for all, but a grace to be exercised constantly. Faith is that which lays hold of Christ and obtains from Him pardon and cleansing, yet so far from that being something which needs not to be repeated, it is an experience which requires to be renewed day by day. The same holds good of love, of hope, of zeal. Perseverance is the continued exercise of holy affections and principles so that we do not merely trust for a while, love for awhile, obey for a while, and then cease; but forgetting those things which are behind we press forward to those before. "These all died in faith" (Heb. 11:13): they not only lived by faith, but they continued doing so to the very end of their earthly pilgrimage.
"Blessed are they that mourn" (Matt. 5:4). Mark well the tense: not they that mourned in the past, but who still do so. Even Pharaoh and Ahab, yea Judas also, had transient qualms of conscience, but those were nothing more than the stirrings of nature. But the child of God has within him a deeper principle, a principle of holiness which is contrary to evil, and this makes its possessor grieve over his sinfulness. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness"; not only who once hungered after righteousness, but who long ardently for it now. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation" (James 1:12): how much theology is to be found in the grammar of Scripture! "To whom coming as unto a living Stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, precious" (1 Pet. 2:4): yes "coming" for fresh supplies of grace, for further counsel and instruction, for heart-reviving communion. "Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments" (Rev. 16:15): they upon whom the benediction of God rests are not those who once ran well, but whose graces continue in exercise.
Christians are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1:5). God does not preserve His people by the mere putting forth of physical power, but by renewing their graces, particularly their faith. It is through their continued reliance upon Christ, their trusting in the Divine promises and on God’s perfections as engaged to fulfill them, their keeping of His commands and their overcoming the world (1 John 5:4) that the saints are secured from fatality. And their faith is maintained by Christ’s constant intercession — "I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not"—and God’s response thereto, who fulfills "all the good pleasure of His goodness in them and the work of faith with power" (2 Thess. 1:11). This does not mean that the Christian’s faith continues in unabated exercise all his days, for as the most fruitful tree passes through a wintertime of non-bearing so it often is in the experience of the believer, yet as the life is still in the tree though leafless so faith remains and bursts forth afresh. "Lord I believe, help Thou mine unbelief" expresses his general course.
3. The maintaining of holy conduct or good works. When a person s understanding has been supernaturally enlightened and his affections Divinely renewed there cannot but follow a radical change of conduct, though this is made more prominent and radical in some cases than in others. The difference is much more apparent in one who was thoroughly irreligious and guilty of gross outward sins before his new birth than another who was regulated by the training of pious parents and preserved from debauchery. Yet even with the latter a "new creation" must express itself in a new life: the Word will be read and meditated upon not so much as a duty but a delight, prayer will be engaged in not perfunctorily but heartily, the Lord’s people will not only be respected but loved for whatever of Christ may be seen in them, honesty and truthfulness will mark his dealings with his fellows not only because this is right but because he would not grieve the Spirit, while daily work is performed not as an irksome task which must be done but as a service gladly rendered unto Him whose providence has wisely and graciously ordered his lot.
At regeneration God imparts spiritual life to the soul, and all life is followed by motion and operation. Before the new birth the soul was spiritually dead, and at the new birth it was entirely passive, being wrought upon by God; but after the new birth the soul becomes active. Perseverance then is the endeavors of the soul to concur with God’s quickening of it. Hence it is that the Christian life is often described under the figure of walking: "for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). The motions of the body are transferred to the soul, which by faith and love is conducted along the way of God’s statutes (Ezek. 36:2 7). Walking is a voluntary action and the renewed soul has pleasure in the path of godliness. Walking is a steady and continuous action, and not a spasmodic and irregular one: so the Christian pursues an obedient course not by fits and starts but steadily and steadfastly. Walking is a progressive motion, moving onwards to a goal: so the Christian normally goes on "from strength to strength" (Ps. 84:7). Walking as such is incessant, for it ceases as soon as we sit down by the wayside: so the Christian life is a walking to the very end of his pilgrimage and until Heaven is reached perfect rest is not entered into.
"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 20, 21). It is by such exhortations that the Christian is stirred to use the means that make for constancy. Care has to be taken if there is to be spiritual growth. It is not sufficient to be established in the faith, we must daily increase therein: the foundation is laid that a house may be erected thereon, and that is built steadily, bit by bit. For this, prayer is required: this is the channel through which health and strength is obtained. Neglect of prayer is followed by arrested growth, nay by decay of graces, for if we go not forward we backslide. To pray aright the assistance of the Holy Spirit has to be sought. Further, we must keep ourselves in God’s love by avoiding everything which displeases Him and by maintaining close and regular communion with Him. Should we leave our first love, then we must repent and do the first works (Rev. 2:4). Finally, hope must be kept in exercise: the heart fixed upon the glorious prospect and consummation awaiting us.
4. Such maintaining of a holy profession, holy affections and holy action is necessary in order to salvation. The very term "salvation" clearly implies danger, and of none can it be said that they are completely saved until they are completely delivered from danger, and certainly the Christian is not so while sin remains in him and he is left in a wicked world and exposed to the assaults of the Evil One. "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh: for if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven" (Heb. 12:25). Multitudes of those who came out of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, fed on the manna and drank of the water from the smitten rock, afterward perished in the wilderness, and we are told "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition.. .wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 12:10, 11), for a holy God will no more be mocked now than He would be then.
As we have seen in an earlier paragraph 1 Pet. 1:5 places salvation in the future—as also does Rom. 13:11; 1 Tim. 4:16 — unto which the saints are kept by the power of God through faith. Heaven can only be reached by continuing along the sole path that leads thither, namely, the "Narrow Way." Those who persevere not in faith and holiness, love and obedience, will assuredly perish. Whatever temporal faith, natural love, goodly attainments, and confident assurance may appear for a while, they are a bed shorter than a man can stretch himself upon and a covering narrower than the soul can wrap itself in (Isa. 28:20). "Many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many, and because iniquity shall abound the love of many shall (not merely wane or cool off, but) wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Matt. 24:13). All temptations to deny the Faith, to forsake Christ, to go back unto the world, to give free rein to the lusts of the flesh, must be resisted to our last breath, or our profession will prove worthless.
5. Enablement for this perseverance is wrought in the saints by God. Their deliverance from a total and final falling away is not owing to any power or sufficiency in themselves. Though their moral agency be not impaired and though continuance in well doing be required of them, yet their enduring unto the end is not to be attributed unto their fidelity nor to the strength of the new nature which they received at regeneration. No, Christian perseverance depends wholly and entirely on the will and fidelity, the influence and energy of God, working in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure, making them perfect in every good work to do His will, working in them that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:21). It is God, who having begun a good work in them, will carry it on until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). If the Holy Spirit were taken from the believer, and he left to himself to stand or fall, he would immediately cease to be a believer and fall totally from a state of grace" (S. Hopkins).
Freely will any renewed person subscribe to the following lines:—
"If ever it should come to pass
6. Christian perseverance is consistent with being sanctified but in part. It is most important that this be clearly stated, lest the Lord’s people conclude they are outside the pale of the Covenant. At the new birth a holy principle or nature is imparted to them, but the old and sinful nature is not eradicated, nor is it to the slightest degree improved. Indwelling corruptions are as much opposed to God as they were before conversion, and just as active. Pray against them as he may, strive against them as he will, yet the believer is constantly overcome by them: frequently does he have to exclaim with David "iniquities prevail against me (Ps. 65:3). The experience described in Romans 7:14-25 is that of every genuine Christian. God gives no man such a measure of grace in this life as to make him sinless. "In many things we all offend" (James 3:2), and by sudden surprisals and under great temptations believers may fall into particular gross outward acts of sin, yet they will not become totally corrupt and sinful as the unregenerate are, nor do they sin with their whole heart. Christian sanctification then is the maintaining of holy affections and actions in the midst of native depravity and all its out-flows. Despite great discouragements their faith and grace never wholly fail. Sanctified but in part now, glorified in the future.
7. From all that has been before us it will thus be seen that perseverance can be predicated only of those who "know the grace of God in truth" (Col. 1:6), who experience its supernatural operations in their own souls. Not a suppositionary grace which may be held in reckless abandonment, but a spiritual grace which causes its possessor to walk cautiously. What Scripture teaches is that, there never was, never will be, and never can be such a thing as the total and final falling away of one who has really repented and trusted on Christ; that in every instance where a Divine miracle of grace has been wrought that soul shall stand when this world and all its works shall be burned up. Rightly has it been said, "The question of the perpetuity of grace is the question of a genuine Gospel. Is grace permanent, then the Gospel is a reality. Is grace temporary, then the Gospel is a will o’ the wisp, a phantom benediction, a dream of blessedness from which one may awake, to find himself bereft of all that raptured him" (G. S. Bishop).