The Rev. CHARLES G. FINNEY’S SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY (1851)
2.) I remark, that God is able to preserve and keep the true saints from apostacy, in consistency with their liberty: 2Ti_1:12 : “For the which cause I also suffer these things; nevertheless, I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” Here the apostle expresses the fullest confidence in the ability of Christ to keep him: and indeed, as has been said, it is most manifest that the apostles expected to persevere and be saved only because they believed in the ability and willingness of God to keep them from falling. Again: Rom_14:4 : “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant; to his own master he standeth or falleth; yea, he shall be holden up, for God is able to make him stand.” Again, Phi_3:21 : “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” Again, Eph_3:20 : “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” Again, Jud_1:24 : “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” Again, 2Co_9:8 : “And God is able to make all grace abound towards you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” Eph_1:18-20 : “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” Again, Heb_7:25 : “Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” These and many other passages prove beyond a doubt that God is able to preserve his saints.
(3.) God is not only able to keep all that come to Christ, or all true Christians, but he is also willing. But Christ has settled this question, as we have seen.
Joh_6:37-40 : “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me; And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Here, then, we have just seen these two points settled, namely–
(i.) That God is able to save all saints, or all who at any time truly believe and come to Christ; and,
(ii.) That he is willing, or wills to do it. Now if he is both able and willing to keep and save all the saints, he certainly will do it.
But here I know it will be objected, that by this course of argument, the doctrine of universal salvation may be established. The Bible, it is said, represents God as both able and willing to save all men, and if his being both able and willing to save the saints, proves that they will all be saved, it follows that his being able and willing to save all men proves that all men will be saved. But the cases are not parallel; for God no where professes ability to save all men, but on the contrary, disclaims such ability, and professes to be unable to save all men; that is, he cannot, under the circumstances, wisely save them, nor can he wisely do any more for saints or sinners than he does. No passage can be found in the Bible, in which God asserts his ability to save all men. The passages that affirm that “God can do all things,” and that “nothing is too hard for the Lord,” and the like, cannot be understood as affirming God’s ability to save all men. They do imply, that he has power to do whatever is an object of physical omnipotence; but to save sinners is not an object of physical power. Their salvation, if accomplished at all, must be brought about by a moral and persuasive influence, and not by the exercise of physical omnipotence. In the sense in which we can justly apply the terms ability and inability to this subject, God is really unable to do what it is unwise for him to do. He has an end in view. This end is the highest good and blessedness of universal being. This end can be accomplished only by the appropriate means, or upon certain conditions. These conditions include the perfect holiness of moral agents. If God cannot wisely use such means as will secure the conversion and sanctification of sinners, he cannot save them. That is, he is unable to save them. This he repeatedly professes to be unable to do.
Eze_18:23, Eze_18:32 : “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God; and not that he should return from his ways, and live? 32. For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God; wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.”
Eze_33:11 : “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
Isa_5:4 : “What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?”
Hos_11:8 : “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? My heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.”
These are only specimens of the manner in which God speaks of his ability to save sinners, and to do more for the church or the world than he does. From such professions on the part of God, we are to understand him, as disclaiming ability to do more or otherwise than he does, in consistency with the highest good of being in general. Since the highest good of being in general is the end which he is aiming to secure, he “may justly be said to be unable to do whatever he cannot do in consistency with the use of those means that will secure this end.” God, therefore, does not affirm his ability to save all men, but fully disclaims any such ability, and professes to do, and to be doing, all that he can to save them. He professes to be perfectly benevolent and infinitely wise, and to be doing all that infinite wisdom and benevolence can do for sinners and for all men, and complains, that all he can do does not save, and will not save many of them.
But with respect to the saints, he does expressly affirm his ability to keep them, in a sense that will secure their salvation. This we have seen. He does for them all that he wisely can, and does enough, as he expressly affirms, to secure their salvation. No one can attentively read and consider the passages relating to God’s ability to save all men, and his ability to save his people, without perceiving, that the two cases are not parallel, but that in fact they are contrasts. He expressly affirms his ability to keep, to sanctify, and to save his elect children, whilst he repeatedly, either expressly, or by implication, disclaims ability to save all men.
Again: the Bible no where represents God as willing the salvation of all men, in the same sense in which it represents him as willing the salvation of Christians, or of his elect. Such passages as the following are specimens of God’s professions of willingness to save all men.
1Ti_2:4 : “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
Joh_3:16-17 : “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
2Pe_3:9 : “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
These and similar passages teach that God wills the salvation of all men, only in the sense of desiring it. This we know from the fact, that he nowhere intimates a willingness, in the sense of a design or intention, to save all men; but on the contrary, plainly reveals an opposite purpose or design; that is, he reveals the fact, that he cannot, shall not, and of course, does not, expect or design to save all men. By the profession of a willingness to save all men, we can therefore justly understand him to mean, only that he desires the salvation of all men, and that he would secure their salvation if he wisely could. This is all that we can understand him as affirming, unless we would accuse him of self-contradiction.
But he professes a willingness to save his elect, or in other words, all regenerate persons, or all believers in Christ, and all whoever will truly believe in him, in the sense of purposing or designing to save them. This is most manifest from the scriptures we have already examined, and this will still further appear from the passages to be examined.
We have seen that the Father has given a certain number to Christ, with express design to secure their salvation; that he has committed to him all the requisite power and influences to save them, and that they will actually be saved. Nothing like this can be found in the Bible, respecting any other class of men whatever. This objection, then, is without foundation, and the argument from the ability and willingness of God to save his saints, remains in full force and conclusiveness.
(4.) Again: Christ expressly prayed for all believers, and in a manner that secures their being kept and saved:–
Joh_17:2, Joh_17:6-14, Joh_17:20-24 : “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 6. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me; and they have kept thy word. 7. Now they have known that all things, whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee; 8. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. 9. I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine. 10. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 11. 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, that they may be one, as we are. 12. 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 scripture might be fulfilled. 13. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 20. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word. 21. That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22. And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. 23. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me. 24. Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”
Now observe, that in this most affecting prayer Christ says,–
(i.) Joh_17:2, “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.”
We have seen, that, in the 6th chapter of this book, Christ expressly teaches, that all are given to him that come to him, and that all shall come to him who were given to him by the Father.
(ii.) He proceeds to affirm, that he had in the exercise of this power kept in his Father’s name all who had been given, and had come to him, and had lost none.
(iii.) He asks the Father henceforth to keep them in his own name, as he was about to leave them, as to his bodily presence. He says, Joh_17:15, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” Again, he says, Joh_17:20-24 : “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word. That they all may be one; as thou, Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”
Now, as surely as Christ’s prayer is answered, all believers will be saved; that is, at least all who ever have believed, or ever will believe, subsequent to the offering of this prayer. But Christ’s prayers are always answered.
To this it is objected, that a part of this same prayer is not answered, and of course never will be. It is said, for example, that in the 21st verse he prays for the union of all believers, which has been far enough from having been answered. The verse reads, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” Here he explains the sense in which he prays that all believers may be one, not that they should be all of one denomination or creed, but that they should possess one and the same spirit; that the same spirit that united the Father and the Son, that is, the Holy Spirit, who is in the Father and the Son, might also be in all Christians. This is plainly his meaning; and that this is true of all real Christians, that they possess the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit that dwells in the Father and the Son, no one can doubt who understands and believes his Bible.
But it is objected again, that Christ prayed to be delivered from crucifixion, and his prayer was not answered.
I reply, that he did not pray for this, if at all, unqualifiedly. He says, “If it be possible, nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” If it were the pains of the cross from which his soul shrunk in the garden, and from which he desired, if possible, to be excused, it is plain that he did not pray unqualifiedly to be delivered; but, on the contrary, submitted the question to the will of his Father. But in the prayer, in John 17, he made no such condition. He knew that in this case it was his Father’s will to grant his request. Of this he had expressly informed his disciples, as we have seen; that is, that it was his Father’s will to keep and save all who were given to Christ, and had been drawn by the Father to Christ. The Spirit of this petition accords precisely with his teaching upon the subject. He had taught before that all believers would be kept and saved, and that this was his Father’s will; now, could he, either expressly or impliedly, in this prayer, put in the condition that was in the prayer just referred to, namely, “If it be thy will?” But, although what has been said is a full answer to the assertion that Christ’s prayers are not always answered, it may be, for some minds, important to say, that it is far from being certain that Christ prayed to be delivered from crucifixion.
Joh_12:23-28 : “And Jesus answered them, saying, the hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life, shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be; if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
Here Christ plainly intimates, that he did not pray to escape the death to which he was appointed, and for which he had come to that hour. But it may be asked, against what did Jesus pray in the garden? I reply, against being overcome by the agony of his soul, and crushed to death before he came to the cross. The following passages may throw some light upon this question: Joh_14:30 : “Hereafter I will not talk much with you; for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.”
Here he informs his disciples, that he must soon break off the conversation with them, for he was just entering into a severe conflict with Satan. Matthew records the conflict through which the Saviour passed, and of which he advised his disciples.
Mat_26:37-46 : “And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What! could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.”
Here it appears, that Christ had his last and great conflict with Satan. Satan set on him, as it appears, to kill him outright with anguish.
Luke, in recording this transaction, says, Luk_22:39-46 : “And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the Mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done. And there appeared an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, And said to them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.”
It is, I think, plain, that this struggle in the garden was a sore and overwhelming temptation, and that an angel was sent to assist him, by resisting and putting away Satan; that is, it was by sending an angel, that his Father answered his prayer. This prayer appears to have been heard and answered for from this time his mind remained calm. There is a passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that I think evidently refers to this scene.
Heb_5:7 : “Who, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.”
To what does this refer, if not to the death he feared in the garden? He said on that occasion, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death.” He then offered up prayer with strong crying and tears, and was heard, &c. To my mind all these circumstances taken together make it very evident, that Christ did not pray against the cross, in the petition under consideration, but that, on the contrary, he prayed to be delivered from temptation, and was heard and answered.
But be this as it may, we are to remember that Christ expressly affirms, that his Father always hears, that is, answers his prayers.
Joh_11:42 : “And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”
Again, Paul says of Christ, Heb_7:25 : “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
Here he asserts, that Christ is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by him, seeing he always lives to make intercession for them. This, as plainly as possible, implies, that his intercessions are all-prevailing. Indeed, as he is the mediator, they must be.
Now let us consider how far we have advanced in establishing the perseverance and final salvation of all believers.
(i.) We have seen, that all the elect to salvation will be saved.
(ii.) That all true believers are of this number.
(iii.) That God and Christ are able to keep them from apostacy, and save them.
(iv.) That he is willing or wills to do it.
(v.) That Christ expressly prayed for the perseverance and final salvation of all believers.
(vi.) That he prayed in express accordance with the revealed will of his Father; and–
(vii.) That his prayers always prevail and are answered.
In Christ’s prayer in John, chap. xvii., he expressly affirms, that he did not pray for the world, that is, for all men. He prayed only for those whom the Father had given him. For these he prayed, not merely that God would save them upon condition of their perseverance, but that God would keep them from the evil that is in the world, and save them, and make them one, in the sense, that one Spirit should be in them all. He asked manifestly the same things for all that in future believe, that he asked for those who had already believed.
Should I proceed no further the argument is complete, and the proof conclusive. But since this doctrine is so abundantly taught, either expressly or impliedly, in the Bible, I proceed to the consideration of a number of other passages which will throw still further light on the subject.
(5.) Christ expressly and designedly teaches this doctrine.
Joh_6:39-40, Joh_6:47, Joh_6:51 : “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. 47. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. 51. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Here he expressly teaches, as we have before seen, that it is his Father’s will, that all believers, or all who at any time believe, (for this is plainly his meaning,) shall be saved; that he should lose none of them, but as we have seen, John xvii. 2, should give them eternal life. Then he claims ability to keep and save them, agreeably to his Father’s will. This, remember, respects all believers, or all who are given to Christ, who, we have learned, are the same persons.
Again: Joh_10:27-29 : “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me, is greater than all: and none is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”
The whole connexion shows, that Christ intended to teach the certainty of the salvation of all his sheep, or of all the elect, or, which is the same, of all true believers. But, to this it is objected, that none are sheep any longer than they remain obedient, and therefore the assertion that he will save the sheep, does not secure those who at any time sin. But I reply, that Christ recognizes all the elect as his sheep, whether converted, or whether in a state of temporary backsliding, or not. He represents his sheep as hearing his voice, and as following him, and those who are not of his sheep as not hearing his voice, and as not following him: Joh_10:16, Joh_10:26 : “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. 26. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.”
Again, Mat_18:12-14 : “How think ye? If a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.”
The design of this parable is to teach the doctrine I am defending. If not, what is its design? This is a full answer to the objection, that no one is recognized as a sheep who has gone astray.
But again, it is said, that although no one else can pluck the sheep out of the Father’s hand, yet we can do it ourselves. I grant, that we can, by natural possibility; but this objection is good for nothing, for Christ expressly says, Joh_10:27-29 : “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”
Not only is no one able to pluck them out of his Father’s hand, but Christ gives unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish. This implies, that while they might or are able to apostatize and be lost, yet, as a matter of fact, they never will. What could be made out of all he says of himself as a shepherd in this passage, if, after all, he loses some of his sheep? Let any one ponder the whole chapter, and see.
(6.) Another argument, in support of the doctrine under consideration, I deduce from the fact, that Paul, an inspired apostle, believed it.
Phi_1:1-6 : “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons; Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, (Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,) For your fellowship in the gospel, from the first day until now. Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Here the apostle represents himself as giving thanks for all the saints at Philippi, upon the ground of his confidence that he who had begun a good work in them would perform, or perfect it, until the day of Christ. His confidence did not rest in them, but in the faithfulness of Christ. He did not express a confidence, that they would of themselves persevere, but that he who had begun a good work in them, would carry it on: that is, that he would so work in them as to keep them, and as to secure their perseverance to the end. This he expected with respect to all the saints at Philippi. But if he believed this of all the saints at that place, it is plainly and fairly inferable that he believed it, simply because he expected this, as to all true saints. He does not intimate, that he expected this because of any peculiarity in their case,–that is, not because they were better than other saints, or that God would do more for them than for others. He seems plainly to have expressed this confidence, upon the ground of his expectation, that he who begins a good work in any saint, will carry it on and perfect it until the day of Christ. Should it be said, that Paul intended merely to express the conviction or opinion of a good man, that the Philippian saints would be saved, but that he did not intend to utter this as the voice of inspiration; I reply, that Paul plainly expresses a confidence that they would all be saved, and that God would perfect the work which he had begun. Now, how came he by this confidence? He was an inspired man. If inspiration had taught him that real saints do fall away and are lost, how could he consistently express so thorough a persuasion, that all the saints at Philippi would be saved? If Paul believed in the perseverance of the saints, it must be true, or he was deceived in respect to this important doctrine. But is it not safe to trust Paul’s opinion of this doctrine? If any one is disposed to contend, that we cannot with strict justice infer that Paul believed the same in respect to God’s perfecting the work in all saints, that he believed in respect to the Philippians, I will not contend with him with respect to this. It is, however, clear, that Paul no where in this epistle, nor elsewhere, intimates that he had higher expectations in regard to the salvation of the Philippians, than he had in respect to the salvation of all true saints. In writing to the churches, the apostles appear to have regarded and spoken of all true saints as the elect-children of God. They seem to represent the salvation of all such persons as certain, but always keeping in mind and holding forth, either expressly or by way of implication, the nature of this certainty, that it was conditioned upon the right and persevering use of their own agency. They consequently constantly endeavour to guard the churches against delusion, in regard to their being real saints, and admonish them to prove themselves in this respect, and also warn them against the supposition, that they can be saved, without actual perseverance in faith and obedience to the end of life.
(7.) The apostles seemed to have regarded the conversion of sinners as an evidence that God designed to save them, or that they were of the elect:–
Act_2:47 : “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
Act_13:48 : “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.”
In these passages as elsewhere, the conversion of sinners is spoken of as settling the question of their salvation. But if true saints do fall from grace and perish, why should the inspired writers so often express themselves, as if they regarded the regeneration of a person as an indication that he is one of the elect, and as securing his salvation?
So common is it for Christ and the apostles to speak of regeneration as settling the question of the salvation of those who are regenerated, that great multitudes have overlooked the fact, that there was any other condition of salvation insisted on in the Bible. When the jailor demanded of Paul and Silas what he should do to be saved, Paul replied to him “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
Here, as is common in the Bible, faith is spoken of as if it were the sole condition of salvation. Repentance, faith, regeneration, &c., are often, as every student of the Bible knows, spoken of as if they were the only conditions of salvation. Now, it seems to me, that this could not, and ought not to be, if there is not a certain connexion of some sort between real conversion and eternal salvation. It is true, the necessity of perseverance to the end is often mentioned and insisted upon in the Bible as a condition of salvation, just as might be expected when we consider the nature of the certainty in question. If there is not, however, a certain connexion between true regeneration, or faith, or repentance and salvation, it seems to me incredible, that we should so often find faith, and repentance, and conversion spoken of as if they secured salvation.
Those who believe are represented as already having eternal life, as not coming into condemnation, but as having passed from death unto life. The following passages are specimens of the manner in which the scriptures speak upon this subject.
Joh_1:12-13 : “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Joh_3:36, Joh_3:16, Joh_3:18 : “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. 16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 18. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Joh_4:14 : “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst: but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Joh_5:24 : “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
Joh_6:37, Joh_6:40, Joh_6:45, Joh_6:47 : “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 40. And this is the will of him that sent me, That every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. 45. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. 47. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”
Act_2:38 : “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Act_13:48 : “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.”
Act_16:31 : “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
Mar_16:15-16 : “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Now it seems to me, that this numerous class of passages strongly imply that there is a certain connexion of some sort between coming to Christ, receiving Christ, &c., and eternal life. Observe, I do not contend that perseverance in faith and obedience is not also a condition of salvation, but on the contrary, that it actually is. Nor do I contend that such like representations as the above, settle the question that all who at any time repent, believe, or come to Christ, will be saved. The thing which I here intend is, that this class of texts is just what we might expect, if the fact of regeneration were certainly connected with salvation, and just what it seems they ought not to be, in case this were not true.
To this it is objected, that many who attended on Christ’s ministry are represented from time to time as believing, of whom it is almost immediately said, that they turned back and walked no more with him. I answer, that the Bible manifestly recognizes different kinds of faith, such as an intellectual faith, a faith of miracles, and the faith of the heart. The following are specimens of the Bible treatment of this subject:
Act_8:13, Act_8:21, Act_8:37 : “Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. 21. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 37. And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
Jam_2:19 : “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble.”
These and many other passages manifestly speak of an intellectual faith, or of a simple conviction of the truth.
Mat_7:22-23; 1Co_13:1-2, are specimens of the manner in which the faith of miracles is represented.
See Rom_10:9-11; Act_8:37; Gal_5:6. These and such like passages speak of evangelical faith, or the faith of the heart. When the multitude are spoken of as believing under Christ’s instruction, or in view of his miracles, and then as going back and walking no more with him, we are doubtless to understand those passages as teaching simply, that they were at the time convinced of his Messiahship, and that they intellectually believed that he was what he professed to be. But their history seems to forbid the conclusion that they were truly regenerated, or that they had the true faith of the gospel.
Again: John speaks of those who openly apostasized as if they had not been true Christians: 1Jo_2:19 : “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: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” Observe the force of the expressions, “They went out from us, but they were not of us;” that is, were not truly Christians. Why does he say so? He assigns the reason for this assertion: “for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us, but they went out from us that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” That is, a part of the professed disciples went out from the rest and returned to the world, that it might be made manifest who were and who were not Christians. I do not say, however, that this is indubitably taught in this passage; but it cannot be denied, that this is its most natural construction.