We have examined, the leading features of the remedial system, so far as it applies to man in his present state of being, beginning with the doctrine of atonement, and concluding with that of entire sanctification. But that Christians may understand the danger to which they are exposed, as well as the nature and. extent of that "great salvation" which is provided for them in Christ Jesus, we will now inquire whether it is possible for true believers to fall from their state of grace and perish everlastingly.
This has long been a question of debate between Calvinistic and Arminian divines; the former taking the negative, and the latter the affirmative. That we may examine the subject with all possible fairness, let us ascertain, 1. How far these contending parties agree. 2. The ground on which the Calvinistic theory is based; and, 3. The arguments by which the possibility of total, apostasy is supported.
All genuine Arminians agree with Calvinists in asserting,
1. That believers are preserved in the way of life and salvation by Divine power. Thus St. Peter asserts, that they "are kep by the power of God through faith unto salvation." I Peter 1:5. The same doctrine taught, in the doxology with which Jude closes his Epistle. "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."
2. That no adverse agency or influence shall ever be able to separate true believers from the love of God. Of such our Lord says, "They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." John 10:28. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom 8:35--39.
3. That God has promised persevering grace to all faithful believers. He will present us "holy, and unblamable, and unreprovable in his sight," if we "continue in the faith pounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel." Col. 1:2, 23. Again, St. Peter declares, that if we give all diligence to add to our "faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity," we "shall never fall." II Pet. 1:5-7, 10.
4. That true believer may fall into gross and scandalous sins. Thus Lot fell into drunkenness and incest; David, into adultery and murder; Solomon, into gross idolatry; and Peter, into a denial of his Lord, with oaths and imprecations. It is more&ver agreed on all hands, that those who commit such horrid sins are guilty in the sight of God, and unfit for the kingdom of heaven, until they are again renewed through repentance and faith. But the Calvinistic theory is, that a truly regenerate man "can neither totally nor finally fall away from a state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved." Let us then examine,
1. The doctrine is argued from the perfections of God. It is said that "God, as a being possessed of infinite love, faithfulness, wisdom, and power, can hardly be supposed to suffer any of his people finally to fall into perdition. This would be a reflection on his attributes, and argue him to be worse than a common father. His love to his people is unchangeable, and therefore, they cannot be the objects of it at one time and not at another. His faithfulness to them and to his promise is not founded upon their merit, but on his own will and goodness. This, therefore, cannot be violated. His wisdom foresees every obstacle in the way, and is capable of removing it, and of directing them in the right path. It would be a reflection on his wisdom, after choosing a right end, not to choose right means in accomplishing the same. His power is insuperable, and is absolutely and perpetually displayed in their preservation and protection.
In reply to this argument it is only necessary to remark that there is nothing in it that cannot, with equal force, be employed, against certain fact. the existence of which our opponents themselves admit. We refer to the fall of angels and of our first Parents. If such perfectly holy beings have fallen, and some of them to rise no more, how can we argue the impossibility of total apostasy from the perfections of God? Are not these perfections the same now that they were before the fall of man and angels? The argument, therefore, proves too much, as it proves the impossibility of what has taken place.
But is it indeed true, as this favorite argument assumes, that Gods creatures cannot be the objects of his love at one time and not at another? If it is, then it will follow either that God never loved "the angels which kept not their first estate," though they were at first, his holy and happy creatures, or that he loves them still, though now "reserved in everlasting chains;" both of which are too absurd to be believed. It will follow, moreover, on the same principle, that God must remain perfectly the same to those who are now his regenerate children as he was to them in their unregenerate and rebellious state. But to suppose this is a reflection on the character of God and a contradiction of his word. The key to the whole question is, that God ever loves what is morally good; and hates all moral evil. Hence, while creatures change, the love of God may be extended to them or withheld from them, according to their moral character, and yet God remain unchangeable, loving holiness and hating iniquity. But the unfrustrable perseverance of the saints is also argued,
2. From certain doctrine, peculiar to the Calvinistic scheme. These are, 1. That some men and ange1s are unconditionall predestinated to everlasting life; 2. That the covenant which God makes with his people is unconditional; 3. That all for whom Christ died shall infallibly be saved; 4. That the intercession of Christ secures the salvation of all for whom it is made; and, 5. That the Holy Spirit never forsakes any man whom he regenerates. As these are all questions of controversy, it will be time enough to receive them as so many grounds of argument when they are proved to be true. Till then they must be regarded as mere assumptions, and, consequently, as incapable of establishing the doctrine in proof of which they are adduced. But the advocates of the theory which we are considering attempt to support it,
3. By direct Scripture testimony. We will therefore proceed to an examination of the leading passages which they bring forward for this purpose.
Job 89:9: "The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger." But this is far from saying that no righteous man. shall ever become unrighteous. If the passage is to be so understood, then we may safely assert, on the same principle, that no evil doer can ever be reformed; for it is expressly said that "evil men and seducers shall wax, worse and worse."
Psalm 89:30--35: "If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, arid their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly, take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David."
Every one must see that the covenant here spoken of related wholly to David and his seed. Had it, therefore, been absolute and unconditional, this would not prove that such is Gods covenant with all his spiritual children. But that it was a conditional covenant, though expressed in absolute terms, is evident from what follows in the same connection. "But thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wroth with thin anointed. Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant; thou hast profaned his crown, by casting it to the ground." Thus God did "alter the thing that" hail "gone out of his lips," but without any impeachment of his truth.
Jeremiah 31:3: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love; there fore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." Our opponents seem to quote this passage as an evidence that those whom God loves at one time always were and always will be the objects of his love. But there is certainly a wide difference between loving "with an everlasting love," in the sense of the text, and loving everlastingly, for the passage has no reference whatever to futurity "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." Nor do these words imply that no righteous man will ever turn from his righteousness, and so perish forever. They do not touch that question, but simply declare the, strong and abiding love of God to the Jewish Church. To see this it is only necessary to read the passage in connection with the preceding context. "At the same time, saith the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people Thus saith the Lord, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest." Then the prophet adds, speaking in the person of, Israel, "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee."
Mark 16:16: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Does this mean "he that believeth" at this moment "shall" certainly and inevitably "be saved?" If this interpretation is good, then, by all the rules of speech, the other part of the sentence must mean, "he that believeth not" at this moment "shall" certainly and inevitably "be damned." This interpretation, therefore, cannot be admitted. The obvious meaning of the whole sentence is, "He that believeth," if he continue to believe, "shall be saved; but he that believeth not," if he continue in unbelief, "shall be damned."
John 5:24: "He that heareth my word, and believeth en him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." Here we remark, 1. That the present condition of true believers is called in Scripture "everlasting life," or "life eternal," first, because it is the same in nature with the life of heaven; and secondly, because, in the order of saving grace, it leads to a life of glory. "This in life eternal," said our Lord, "that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." John 17:2. 2. That all who truly believe pass from spiritual death into thin state of spiritual life; and, 3. That if they continue steadfast they "shall not come into condemnation;" for surely the passage cannot mean that, when believers fall into gross sins, like David, Solomon, and Peter; they incur no condemnation.
John 10:27-28: "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 man pluck them out of my hand." Here we have only to ask, Who "shall never perish?" The answer is, Those who hear the voice of Christ, and follow him. This promise is, therefore, so far from being unconditional, that the condition is clearly expressed.
John 13:1: "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." The passage means nothing more than that our Lord continued to love his disciples "'unto the end" Of his own life. If it were therefore true that persons once in grace must forever remain in that state the doctrine could derive no support from this passage, except by a false interpretation.
John 17:11: "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are." Calvinists have laid great stress upon this text as teaching the doctrine that all whom the Father has given to Christ in the covenant of grace must infallibly persevere to the end. And yet in the very next verse our Lord declares that one of those whom the Father had given him did not persevere to the end, but perished everlastingly. His own words are, "Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition." So, then, one of this number was finally lost, which shows very clearly that the phrase "these whom thou hast given me" signifies here, if not in most other places too, the twelve apostles, and them only.
Roman 8:38-39: "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." But what does this text prove in regard to the perseverance of the saints? It proves that the apostle was at that time fully persuaded of his own perseverance, a persuasion which no doubt many Christians have at the present day called in Scripture "the full assurance of hope." It proves that he had the most unlimited confidence in the faithfulness and power of God to support his people in all the trials of life a doctrine which we most heartily believe, for it is written, "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." Deut. 33:25. But it does not prove the absolute and unconditional perseverance of all true believers to the end, for the apostle says, "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." I Cor. 9:27.
These Scriptures, and a few others, have been pressed into the service of the Calvinistic theory of perseverance; but they utterly fail, when fairly interpreted, to establish the doctrine in support of which they are adduced. Nor is there a single passage in the Bible which, in its true import, proves the doctrine, in question. But to be fully convinced of this, let us consider,III. THE ARGUMENT BY WHICH THE POSSIBILITY OF TOTAL APOSTASY IS SUPPORTED
The simple question now before us is this: Can a true believer so fall away as to perish everlastingly? Believing the affirmative of this question to be the doctrine of the Bible, we will proceed to adduce some of the numerous arguments by which it is established. We refer,
1. To those passages of scripture in which the doctrine is expressly taught. Thus Ezekiel 18:24: "But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned. In his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he bath sinned, in them shall he die."
That this is to be understood of eternal death appears evident from the twenty-sixth verse "When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; (here is temporal death;) for his iniquity that he hath done, shall he die." (Here is death eternal.)
To evade the force of these passages some assert that the righteousness of which the prophet speaks does not imply true piety, but it a mere external or hypocritical righteousness. This, however, is a most unhappy shift, for it turns the language of the prophet into downright nonsense. Thus: When one who is hypocritically "righteous turneth away from his" hypocritical "righteousness, and committeth iniquity, shall he live?" Doubtless he shall not, as the interrogatory clearly implies. But this fact does not depend upon his turning away from his righteousness, unless it can be shown that hypocritical righteousness will secure eternal life. Again, "All his" hypocritical "righteousness that he bath done shall not be mentioned;" that is, shall not be reckoned to him. Happy circumstance! that at least so much of his hypocritical life is to be passed over in silence. But why? Because "he doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth." To escape these absurdities we must admit that one who is truly righteous may nevertheless so fell away as to perish everlastingly.
John 15:1-2, 6: "I am the true vine, and my Father in the husband. man. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."
Here we may remark, 1. That the persons spoken of are branches in the true Vine, Christ Jesus; 2. That some of these branches abide not in the Vine, but the Father taketh them away; 3. That the branches which abide not are cast forth, cast ant from Christ and his Church; 4. That they are withered, and, consequently, are never grafted in again; and, 5. That they are also cast into the fire and burned. It is not possible for words more strongly to declare that even those who are now branches of the true Vine may so fall from God as to perish forever.
Romans 11:17-18, 21-22: "If some of the branches be broken off and thou, being a wild olive-tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive-tree; boast not against the branches. For if God spared not- the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off."
Here we observe, 1. That the olive tree spoken of is the invisible and spiritual Church of God, consisting of all true believers. For, says the apostle, "If the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy; and if the met be holy, so are the branches." And again, "Because of unbelief they were broken off; and thou standest by faith." 2. The persons addressed were actually grafted into this olive-tree, and were therefore holy branches. 3. These, branches were still liable to be cut off from the olive-tree into which they were then grafted; and, 4. No intimation is given that the broken off branches were ever grafted in again. We conclude, therefore, that those who are members of the spiritual invisible Church may nevertheless so apostatize as to perish everlastingly.
I Timothy 1:18-19: "War a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck." Here it is only necessary to remark, That the persons alluded to, such as Hymeneus and Alexander, had once that faith which purifies the heart and produces a good conscience; for otherwise they could not have "put it away." 2. That of this faith they "made shipwreck," which necessarily implies that it was totally and finally lost; for a vessel once wrecked can never be recovered. The apostle himself represents one of these men at least as being irrecoverably lost. His words are, "Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil; the Lord reward him according to his works." II Tim. 4:14. Hence one who possesses faith and a good conscience may so fall away as to perish everlastingly.
Hebrews 6:4-6: "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 fell away, to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."
That the persons whom the apostle describes in this passage were true believers, cannot be denied without great absurdity; for it wou1d be a most glaring inconsistency to characterize the unregenerate by the terms and phrases which are here employed. They "were once enlightened;" an expression familiar with St. Paul, but which be never applied to those who were not true believers. "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." Eph. 1:18. And again, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." II Coin. 4:6.
They had "tasted of the heavenly gift;" which was something more than a mere intellectual or sentimental approval of the Gospel, as some would have it. For, the heavenly gift is distinguished both from the Holy Spirit, and from the word of God mentioned afterward, which leaves us no choice but to interpret it of Christ. And then, to taste Christ is to receive his grace and mercy in the remission of sins. "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." I Peter 2:3.
They "were made partakers of the Holy Ghost;" which evidently means, in the language of the New Testament, to receive the Holy Ghost in his sanctifying and comforting influences. "Repent, and be baptized-every one of you in the name of Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Acts 2:38. Again, "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." Rom. 5:5.
They "tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; "in other words; they heartily embraced the word of truth, and realized the saving power of the Gospel dispensation. And yet these persons, after possessing all these high attainments, so fell away that it was impossible "to renew them again unto repentance." Consequently, their fall was total and final.
But it will be said, the apostle only makes a supposition, "if they shall fell away." We answer, the apostle makes no supposition at all; for there is no if in the original. His words are, and having fallen away. We have, therefore, in this passage a proof almost as clear as language can make it, that those who are made the subjects of converting and sanctifying grace may nevertheless so fall away as to perish everlastingly.
Hebrews 10:26--29: "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation which shalt devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses's law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?"
Here it is undeniably plain, 1. That the person referred to as an example was once sanctified by the blood of the covenant; for, to suppose, as some have done, that it was Christ himself who was sanctified by this blood, is too absurd to need refutation. 2. That he afterward, by known and willful sin, trod under foot the Son of God; treating his person and authority with the utmost contempt, as did the Jews in his crucifixion. 3. That he counted the blood of Christ, by which the new covenant between God and man was ratified, sealed, and confirmed, "an unholy thing;" regarding it as destitute of any sacrificial or atoning merit. 4. That he insulted the Holy Spirit; and, 5. That by these means he incurred a sorer punishment than temporal -death, namely, death eternal. Therefore, those who are sanctified by the blood of Christ may yet fall away and perish forever.
There is one remark which we desire to make in regard to the last two passages quoted. It is this Though they establish, beyond successful controversy, the possibility of total and final apostasy, yet they do not prove, as seine have urged by way of objection to the doctrine, that no apostate can ever be recovered. They do not apply to back-sliders of every kind; but only to those who rejected the whole Christian system, abjured Christ, and joined with the blaspheming Jews in calling him an impostor. Thus they rendered their salvation impossible by willfully and maliciously rejecting the only means of recovery. But these passages do not apply to any apostate who still believes in Christ as the Redeemer of men, and acknowledges Christianity as a Divine revelation. To all such there remains an available "sacrifice for sins, and they may yet be recovered "out of the snare of the devil"
Many other texts of Scripture might be adduced in proof of the doctrine in question; but those which we hate quoted are quite sufficient for any present purpose. We will, therefore, proceed to argue the possibility of apostasy,
2. From Scripture examples. We now assume it as a fact, which we think the following oases will prove, that the Scriptures furnish us with examples of total and final apostasy. We refer,
(1.) To the case of Saul, king of Israel. That he was once in a state of grace and favor with God is sufficiently clear from what is recorded of him in I Samuel 10:6-7,9. Samuel said to him, "The Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee. And it was so, that when he lad turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart." Thus we see that God gave Saul "another heart;" that he was "turned into another man;" that he possessed the spirit of prophecy, and that God was with him.
But in I Samuel 28:15, Saul tells Samuel, "I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me." And in I Samuel 31:4, the sacred historian informs as that "Saul took a sword, and fell upon it;" thus destroying his own life. If, therefore, the doctrine of the apostle is true, that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him," Saul must have perished in his sins.
(2.) Solomon. It will startle some to hear the name of Solomon among those who are regarded as examples of total and final apostasy. We need not attempt to prove that he once enjoyed the Divine favor, for this is what no one will deny. But it will be asked, What evidence have we of his apostasy? This question may be answered by a reference to the eleventh chapter of the first -book of Kings, whore bit unlawful marriages with strange women and his shameful idolatry are recorded. It is, moreover, plainly declared that "the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he kept not that which the Lord commanded." True, we are often told that Solomon was reclaimed from all his backsliding; but of this we have no evidence whatever. Indeed, the inspired record seems to contradict it; for according to this, the last act of his life was an attempt to kill Jeroboam. Thus the sacred historian leaves his condition under a dark cloud, which forbids us to believe that he entered into life eternal.
(3.) Judas Iscariot. "But was not Judas a devil from the beginning? "Certainly not. On the contrary, we have reason to believe that he was, when chosen as an apostle, the firm friend of our Lord. The psalmist speaks of him thus "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, bath lifted up his heel against me." Ps.91:9 That this prophecy refers directly to Judas cannot be doubted, for it is so applied to him by Christ himself (John 13:18.) Can we, then, seriously conclude that our Lord would bold familiar friendship with a devil, that he would receive him into his own family, and that he would send him forth to preach his Gospel and to cast out devils?
But it is said that our Lord called Judas a devil, and that he was, moreover, styled a thief. This is all true; but we must remember that he also applied to Peter the term Satan, which is only another name for the same evil spirit. Are we therefore to conclude that Peter had never been in a state of grace? Certainly not. It is also to, be remembered that Judas was not called a devil until near the time when he, wickedly betrayed his Master. That he became a wicked man is a matter of the clearest record. Hence it is asserted (John 13:27) that "Satan entered into him." Moreover, St. Peter declares that "Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place." Acts 1:25. And it is also clear that he died under guilt, for he destroyed his own life.
(4.) The Israelites who fell in the wilderness. Of these we have an account in I Corinthians 10:1-5: "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptize unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink, the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness."
(5.) The last case of this kind which we will notice is that of Hymeneus and Alexander: "Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck. Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme." I Tim. 1:19-20. It is sometimes said that the faith which these persons possessed was not a true faith, and that the conscience referred to was not really a good conscience. And, therefore, though they are represented as falling from the favor of God, yet in reality they only fell from a profession of goodness. To this the only necessary reply is, 1. That the conscience spoken of is emphatically called "a good conscience;" and, 2. That St. Paul exhorts his son Timothy to hold fast the very same faith and conscience which he ascribes to Hymeneus and Alexander. It follows, therefore, that they are examples of total and final apostasy. But our doctrine may be argued,
3. From the cautions and warnings of the Scripture against unfaithfulness and apostasy. Thus: "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." I Cor. 10:12. "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip" Heb. 2:1. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." Heb. i3:12. "Let as therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." Heb. 4:1. "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which bath great recompense of reward." Heb. 10:35. "Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, (literally, if the just man draw back,) my soul shall have no pleasure in him." Heb. 10:38. "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness." II Peter 3:17.
That these Scriptures are addressed to true believers will hardly be denied; but if it is impossible for them to "fall," to "depart from the living God," to "cast away their confidence," or to "draw back unto perdition," why do the inspired writers use such warnings, cautions, and exhortations? Will the advocates of the unfrustrable perseverance of the saints tell us that this is a means by which believers are preserved from apostasy? This would certainly be in conflict with their own theory, which regards the perseverance of believers as being wholly unconditional. Or, will they say that this system of caution and warning is a means of exciting believers to watchfulness and proper Christian diligence? If so, it will be proper to inquire whether this system is based on truth. If it is, then it will necessarily follow that there is a danger of apostasy, and that our doctrine is true. But if no such danger exists, then we have the absurdity of supposing that the spiritual interests of Christians are promoted by a system of falsehood. The last argument which we will offer in support of our position is derived from the fact,
4. That the present life is a state of probation. A state of probation is one in which the character of men is formed and developed preparatory to a state of retribution. It involves obligations to obedience; commands and prohibitions; inducements to do right, and temptations to sin, with a certainty of final reward or punishment, according to the character which may be formed under the various circumstances of trial. It also enters into the very nature of a probationary state that the erring may be recovered, and that the obedient may go astray; for with out this it would not be a state of trial.
To deny that man is now in a state of probation is to deny the doctrine of a final judgment; for, in the economy of The Divine government, the one necessarily implies the other. If man has nothing to do in the formation of his own moral character, why is he required to "give account of himself to God?" and how could God say to any of our race, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire?" But if man is now in a probationary state there is no degree of saving grace which he may not forfeit; no height of holiness from which he may not fall. This is confirmed by the history of all moral beings with whom we have become acquainted. Angels fell from heaven, and Adam fell from paradisaical holiness. And such is the similarity between all moral beings in a state of trial, that the fall of angels and of our first parents is a corroborating fact in support of the doctrine that a state of probation involves the possibility of apostasy.