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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" (Matt. 26:39). 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 were 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.
But be this as it may, we are to remember that Christ expressly affirms, that His Father always hears, that is, answers His prayers.
"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" (John 11:42).
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.
(1.) We have seen, that all the elect to salvation will be saved. (2.) That all true believers are of this number. (3.) That God and Christ are able to keep them from apostasy, and save them. (4.) That He is willing or wills to do it. (5.) That Christ expressly prayed for the perseverance and final salvation of
all believers. (6.) That He prayed in express accordance with the revealed will of His Father;
and: (7.) That His prayers always prevail and are answered.
In Christ's prayer in John 17., 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: "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. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:39, 40, 47, 51).
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 17:2, 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.
"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" (John 10:27-29).
The whole connection 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, "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. But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you" (John 10:16, 26).
Again, "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" (Matt. 18:12-14).
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, "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" (John 10:27-29).
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.
"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" (Phil. 1:1-6).
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 respecting 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 conditionated upon the right and persevering use of their own agency. They consequently constantly endeavor 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.
"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" (Acts 13:48).
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" (Acts 16:31).
Here, as is common in the Bible, faith is spoken of as if it were the sole condition of salvation. Repentance, faith, regeneration, etc., 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 connection 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, certain connection 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.
"But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in His name; Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12).
"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. 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. 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" (John 3:36, 16, 18).