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Learned Discourse on Justification
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ETERNAL SECURITY IN CHRIST

I might, if I had not otherwhere largely done it already, show by sundry manifest and clear proofs how the motions and operations of life are sometimes so undiscernible and secret, that they seem stone-dead who notwithstanding are still alive unto God in Christ.

For as long as that abideth in us which animateth, quickeneth, and giveth life, so long we live; and we know that the cause of our life abideth in us for ever. If Christ, the fountain of life, may flit and leave the habitation where once he dwelleth, what shall become of his promise, "I am with you to the world's end"? [Mt 28:20] If the seed of God, which containeth Christ, may be first conceived and then cast out, how doth St. Peter term it immortal? [1 Pet 1:23] How doth St. John affirm it abideth? [1 Jn 3:9] If the Spirit, which is given to cherish and preserve the seed of life, may be given and taken away, how is it the earnest of our inheritance until redemption, [Eph 1:14; 2 Cor 1:22] how doth it continue with us for ever?" [Jn 14:16f] If therefore the man who is once just by faith shall live by faith and live for ever, it followeth that he who once doth believe the foundation must needs believe the foundation for ever. If he believe it for ever, how can he ever directly deny it? Faith holding the direct affirmation, the direct negation, so long as faith continueth, is excluded.

But ye will say that, as he who today is holy may tomorrow forsake his holiness and become impure, as a friend may change his mind and become an enemy, as hope may wither, so faith may die in the heart of man, the Spirit may be quenched, [1 Thess 5:19] grace may be extinguished, they who believe may be quite turned away from the truth. The case is clear, long experience hath made this manifest, it needs no proof.

I grant that we are apt, prone, and ready to forsake God; but is God as ready to forsake us? Our minds are changeable; is his so likewise? Whom God hath justified hath not Christ assured that it is his Father's will to give them a kingdom? [Lk 12:32] Which kingdom, notwithstanding, shall not otherwise be given them than "if they continue grounded and established in the faith and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel", [Col 1:23] "if they abide in love and holiness."[1 Tim 2:15] Our Saviour therefore, when he spake of the sheep effectually called and truly gathered into his fold, "I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand," [Jn 10:28] in promising to save them, promised, no doubt, to preserve them in that without which there can be no salvation, as also from that whereby salvation is irremediably lost. Every error in things appertaining to God is repugnant unto faith; every fearful cogitation, unto hope; unto love, every straggling inordinate desire; unto holiness, every blemish whereby either the inward thoughts of our minds or the outward actions of our lives are stained. But heresy, such as that of Ebion, Cerinthus, and others, against whom the Apostles were forced to bend themselves, both by word and also by writing; that repining discouragement of heart which tempteth God, whereof we have Israel in the desert for a pattern; [1 Cor 10:6ff; Heb 3:7ff] coldness, such as that in the angel of Ephesus; [Rev 2:4] foul sins known to be expressly against the first or the second table of the law, such as Noah, Manasses, David, Solomon, and Peter committed: these are each in their kind so opposite to the former virtues that they leave no place for salvation without an actual repentance. But infidelity, extreme despair, hatred of God and all godliness, obduration in sin, cannot stand where there is the least spark of faith, hope, love, or sanctity, even as cold in the lowest degree cannot be where heat in the first degree is found.

Whereupon I conclude that, although in the first kind no man liveth that sinneth not, and in, the second, as perfect as any do live may sin, yet since the man who is born of God hath a promise that in him the seed of God shall abide, [1 Jn 3:9] which seed is a sure preservative against the sins of the third suit, greater and clearer assurance we cannot have of anything than of this, that from such sins God shall preserve the righteous, as the apple of his eye, for ever. [Dt 32:10; Ps 17:80] Directly we deny the foundation of faith, is plain infidelity. Where faith is entered, there infidelity is for ever excluded. Therefore by him who hath once sincerely believed in Christ the foundation of Christian faith can never be directly denied. Did not Peter [Mt 26:69ff], did not Marcellinus [see Keble, p 519], did not many others both directly deny Christ after they had believed and again believe after they had denied? No doubt, as they may confess in word whose condemnation nevertheless is their not believing (for example we have Judas), so likewise they may believe in heart whose condemnation, without repentance, is their not confessing. Although therefore Peter and the rest, for whose faith Christ had prayed that it might not fail,[Lk 22:31f] did not by denial sin the sin of infidelity, which is an inward abnegation of Christ (for if they had done this their faith had clearly failed); yet, because they sinned notoriously and grievously, committing that which they knew to be so expressly forbidden by the law, which saith, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve, [Dt 6:13; Mt 4:10] necessary it was that he who purposed to save their souls should, as he did, touch their hearts with true unfeigned repentance, that his mercy might restore them again to life whom sin had made the children of death and condemnation.

Touching this point, therefore, I hope I may safely set it down that if the justified err, as he may, and never come to understand his error, God doth save him through general repentance; but if he fall into heresy, he calleth him either at one time or other by actual repentance; but from infidelity, which is an inward direct denial of the foundation, preserveth him by special providence for ever. Whereby we may easily know what to think of those Galatians whose hearts were so possessed with love of the truth that, if it had been possible, they would have plucked out their very eyes to bestow upon their teachers. [Gal 4:15] It is true that they were afterwards greatly changed, both in persuasion and affection, so that the Galatians, when St. Paul wrote unto them, were not now the Galatians which they had been in former times, for that through error they wandered, although they were his sheep. [Gal 1:6] I do not deny, but I should deny that they were his sheep, if I should grant that through error they perished. It was a perilous opinion which they held, in them who held it only as an error, because it overthroweth the foundation by consequent. But in them who obstinately maintained it I cannot think it less than a damnable heresy.

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