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The Perseverance of Believers

The Perseverance of Believers

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Published by glennpease

BY THE REV. DAVID SMITH, M.A., D.D.

Professor of Theology in Magee College, Londonderry



" I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish,
neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."

St. John x. 28.

" The gifts and calling of God are without repentance."

Romans xi. 29.

BY THE REV. DAVID SMITH, M.A., D.D.

Professor of Theology in Magee College, Londonderry



" I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish,
neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."

St. John x. 28.

" The gifts and calling of God are without repentance."

Romans xi. 29.

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Published by: glennpease on Sep 17, 2013
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THE PERSEVERACE OF BELIEVERSBY THE REV. DAVID SMITH, M.A., D.D.Professor of Theology in Magee College, Londonderry" I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish,neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."St. John x. 28." The gifts and calling of God are without repentance."Romans xi. 29.I WISH to speak to you this morning of a ques-tion which touches the very roots of our Christianlife and which, I find, exercises many mindsand costs them no little concern — the questionwhether it is possible for a believer, after hehas once put his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ,to fall from grace and finally perish.If you know the history of theological thought,you will remember that there are two answerswhich have been given to the question and whichstand in direct opposition. First, there is theCalvinistic answer : Once we truly believe, ourfinal salvation is assured ; we are as certainof reaching Heaven as though we were alreadythere, had already passed " through thegate into the City " and were already walking70 THE PERSEVERACE OF BELIEVERS
 
the golden street. Then there is the Arminiananswer : We may fall from grace ; we maybe saved to-day and lost to-morrow ; we cannever be sure of Heaven until we are there.You see how one's attitude towards this ques-tion is determined by one's starting-point, one'sinitial position. The Calvinist starts fromDivine Sovereignty, and he believes in Perse-verance ; the Arminian starts from human free-dom, and he believes in the possibiHty of fallingfrom grace. In the one case salvation is God'spurpose from first to last, and God's purposeis immutable and invincible; in the other itdepends on man's will, and man's will is fickleand weak. And here is an example of the twoattitudes. Anglican theology is Arminian, andyou remember this verse in the Anglican Keble'spoem ** The Disobedient Prophet " :"The grey-hair'd saint may fail at last,The surest guide a wanderer prove ;Death only binds us fastTo the bright shore of love."Contrast that with this stanza of the CalvinisticJohn Kent's hymn beginning, ** Sovereign graceo'er sin abounding " :THE PERSEVERACE OF BELIEVERS 71"What from Christ that soul shall severBound by everlasting bands ?Once in Him, in Him for ever — Thus the eternal covenant stands — one shall pluck thee
 
From the Strength of Israel's hands."I believe in Perseverance because I believe inthe Sovereignty of God, and I believe in theSovereignty of God because I see it in historyand experience* And thus I am persuaded thatit is impossible for a true believer, since he isin the grip of God*s purpose of grace, ever tofall away and at last be lost. It is SovereignGrace that first moves us to repent and believe,and it will carry us invincibly through all weak-ness and disloyalty to the final consummation.This faith is a splendid encouragement, yet itis open to serious criticism, and I wish now toconsider the main objections which have beenurged against it and to show you that, as it seemsto me, they spring from misunderstanding of the doctrine.I, The doctrine, it is alleged, is contradictedby experience. Have we not all known menwho lost their early faith and relapsed intoirreligion?Yes, and it would be a poor evasion to suggest72 THE PERSEVERACE OF BELIEVERSthat there never was any reality in their faith,and that they did not fall from grace inasmuchas they had never been in it. My answer is thatwe must distinguish between falling from graceand backsliding. A believer, by reason of in-dwelling sin, is liable to the latter — witness Davidand Peter and all the saints in every generation ;but, by reason of the faithfulness of God, he isensured against the former.

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