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3. It is objected, that the Bible speaks of the saints as if there were real danger of their being lost. It requires them to spend the time of their sojourning here in fear, and abounds with cautions, and warnings, and threatenings, that are certainly out of place, and not at all to be regarded, if the salvation of the saints is a revealed certainty. How, it is inquired, can we fear, if God has revealed the certainty of our salvation? Is not fear in such a case a result of unbelief? Can God reveal to us the fact, that we shall certainly be saved, and then call on us or exhort us to fear that we shall not be saved? Can He require us to doubt His word and His oath? If God has revealed the certainty of the salvation of all true saints, can any saint fear that he shall not be saved without downright unbelief? And can God approve and even enjoin such fears? If a person is conscious of possessing the character ascribed to the true saints in the Bible, is he not bound upon the supposition that this doctrine is true, to have and to entertain the most unwavering assurance that he shall be saved? Has he any right to doubt it, or to fear that he shall not be saved?
I answer, that no true saint who has an evidence or an earnest of his acceptance with God, such as the true saint may have, has a right to doubt for a moment that he shall be saved, nor has he a right to fear, that he shall not be saved. I also add, that the Bible nowhere encourages, or calls upon the saints to fear, that they shall not be saved, or that they shall be lost. It calls on them to fear something else, to fear to sin or apostatize, lest they should be lost, but not that they shall sin and be lost. The following are specimens of the exhortations and warnings given to the saints:
"Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41).
"Take ye heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore; for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at cock-crowing, or in the morning; Lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch" (Mark 13:33-37).
"Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh, shall find watching; verily I say unto you, That He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to eat, and will come forth and serve them" (Luke 12:37).
"Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 5:12).
"See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:15, 16).
"Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ; that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries; which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God" (Phil. 1:27, 28).
"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Tim. 2:3).
"Who will render to every man according to his deeds; To them who, by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life" (Romans 2:6-7).
"But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Cor. 9:27).
"We, then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain" (2 Cor. 6:1).
"If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which we have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven: whereof I Paul am made a minister" (Col. 1:23).
"But Christ as a Son over His own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end" (Heb. 3:6, 12-14).
"Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Heb. 4:1, 11).
"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Peter 1:10).
"Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer; behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days; be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; he that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it. And he that overcometh, and keepeth My words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations" (Rev. 2:10, 11, 17, 26).
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son" (Rev. 21:7).
I find no instance in the Bible in which the saints are enjoined or exhorted to fear that they shall actually be lost; but, on the contrary, this kind of fear is everywhere, in the word of God, discountenanced and rebuked, and the saints are exhorted to the utmost assurance that Christ will keep and preserve them to the end, and finally bestow on them eternal life. They are warned against sin and apostasy, and are informed that if they do apostatize they shall be lost. They are expressly informed, that their salvation is conditionated upon their perseverance in holiness to the end. They are also called upon to watch against sin and apostasy; to fear both, lest they should be lost.
"Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it" (Heb. 9:1).
"Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptism, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost; And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame" (Heb. 6:1-6).
"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end" (Heb. 3:12-14).
They are required to fear to sin, but not to fear that they shall sin in any sense that implies any expectation of sinning. They are to fear to apostatize, but not to expect, or fear that they shall apostatize. They are to fear to be lost, but not that they shall be lost. To fear to sin lest we should be lost, is a very different thing from fearing that we shall sin and shall be lost. There is just as much need of our fearing to sin, and of fearing to be lost, as there would be if there were no certainty of our salvation. When we consider the nature of the certainty of the salvation of the saints, that it is only a moral and conditional certainty, we can see the propriety and the necessity of the warnings and threatenings which we find addressed to them in the Bible. The language of the Bible is just what it might be expected to be, in case the salvation of the saints were certain, with a moral and conditional certainty.
But again: this objection is based upon a gross error in respect to the philosophy of moral government. Moral law exists with its sanctions as really in heaven as on earth, and its sanctions have in heaven the very influence that they ought to have on earth. It is as true in heaven as on earth, that the soul that sinneth shall die. Now, can the sanctions of law exert no influence in heaven? I suppose no reasonable person will doubt the certainty, and the known certainty of the perseverance of all saints there. But if they are certain that they shall not sin and fall, can they not be the subjects of fear in any sense? I answer, yes. They are naturally able to sin, and may be sometimes placed under circumstances where they are tempted to selfishness. Indeed, the very nature of mind renders it certain, that the saints will always have need of watchfulness against temptation and sin.
Now, it is the design of the sanctions of law in all worlds to produce hope on the one hand, and fear on the other; in holy beings the hope of reward, and the fear to sin lest they should perish. This hope and fear in a being duly influenced by them, is not selfishness. It is madness and desperate wickedness not to be influenced by them. Our reason affirms that we ought to be influenced by them, that our own salvation is of infinite value, and that our damnation were an infinite evil. It therefore affirms that we ought to secure the one and to avoid the other. This is law both on earth and in heaven. This we are not to do selfishly, that is, to seek our own salvation, or to avoid our own damnation, exclusively or only, but to seek to save as many as possible; to love our neighbor as ourselves, and ourselves as our neighbor. In all worlds the sanctions of law ought to have their influence, and with holy beings they have. Holy beings are really subjects of fear to sin, and to be lost, and are the only beings who have the kind of fear which God requires, and which it is the design of the sanctions of law and of the gospel to inspire. What! Are we to be told that a certainty of safety is wholly inconsistent with every kind and degree of fear? What, then, is the use of law in heaven? Must a man on earth or in heaven doubt whether he shall have eternal life, in order to leave room for the influence of moral law, and of hope, and of fear, or in order to leave play for the motives of moral government? There is room for the same fear in heaven that ought to be on earth. No one has a right to expect to violate the precept, and thereby incur the penalty of law. But every one is bound to fear to do so. The penalty was never designed on earth, any more than it is in heaven, to beget a slavish fear, or a fear that we shall sin and be damned; but only a fear to sin and be damned. A fear to sin and to be lost, will, to all eternity, no doubt, be a means of confirming holy beings in heaven. The law will be the same there as here. Free agency will be the same there as here. Perseverance in holiness will be a condition of continued salvation there as really as here. There may, and doubtless will, be temptations there as well as here. They will, therefore, need there substantially the same motives to keep them that they need and have here. There will there be laws and conditions of continued bliss as here. There will be the same place, and in kind, if not in degree, the same occasion for fear there that there is here. I say again, that the objection we are considering, overlooks both the true philosophy of mind, and of the influence of the sanctions of moral law.