Re: Final Perseverance
J.C. Ryle is at home now.
But while he was among the living upon this earth he left us his writings by his own hand expressing and communicating those biblical truths he so loved.
One such truth was final perseverance.
I think we'd all agree that no mere man is the final authority upon truth.
And so, my purpose here is not to say that final perseverance is true because J.C. Ryle or any other man believes it and says it's true.
The following excerpts are from his tract entitled, "Never Perish".
"I now proceed to show the Scriptural grounds on which the doctrine of perseverance is built."
I need hardly say that the Bible is the only test by which the truth of every religious doctrine can be tried.The words of the sixth Article of the Church of England deserve to be written in letters of gold: "Whatsoever is not read in the Holy Scripture, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of the faith." By that rule I am content to abide. I ask no man to believe the final perseverance of the saints, unless the doctrine can be proved of the Word of God. One plain verse of Scripture, to my mind, outweighs the most logical conclusions to which human reason can attain...I find proofs in abundance in the New Testament, and to them I shall confine myself.
I shall write down the texts which appear to me to prove final perseverance, without note or comment. I will only ask you to observe as you read them, how deep and broad is the foundation on which the doctrine rests. Observe that it is not for any strength or goodness of their own that the saints shall continue to the end and never fall away. They are in themselves weak, and frail, and liable to fall like others. Their safety is based on the promise of God, which was never yet broken,on the election of God, which cannot be in vain,on the power of the great Mediator Christ Jesus, which is Almighty,on the inward work of the Holy Ghost, which cannot be overthrown. I ask you to read the following texts carefully, and see whether it is not so.
"I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
"My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." (John x. 28, 29.)
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
"As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
"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. viii. 35-39.)
"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." (1 John ii. 19.)
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John v. 24.)
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever." (John vi. 51.)
"Because I live, ye shall live also." (John xiv. 19.)
"Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me, shall never die." (John xi. 26.)
"By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Heb. x. 14.)
"He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." (1 John ii. 17.)
"Sin shall not have dominion over you." (Rom. vi. 14.)
"The very hairs of your head are all numbered." (Rom. vi. 14.)
"A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench." (Matt. xii.20.)
"Who shall also confirm you to the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. i. 8.)
"Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Peter i. 5.)
"Preserved in Jesus Christ, and called." (Jude 1.)
"The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom ." (2 Tim. iv. 18.)
"I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it." (1 Thess. v. 23,24.)
"The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil." (2 Thess. iii.3.)
"God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Cor.x. 13.)
"God willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath;
"That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." (Heb.vi.17,18.)
"Fear not little flock; for it is your father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke xii. 32.)
"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 at the last day." (John vi. 39.)
"The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord Knoweth them that are His." (2 Tim. ii. 19)
"Whom He did predestinate, them that He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified." (Rom. viii. 30.)
"God hath not appointed us unto wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thess.v. 9.)
"God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth." (2 Thess. ii. 13.)
"The vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory." (Rom. ix. 23.)
"The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." (Rom. 11. 29.)
"If it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." (Matt. xxiv. 24.)
"He is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Heb. vii. 25.)
"Able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." (Jude 24.)
"I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." (2 Tim. i.12.)
"I have prayed for thee, That thy faith fail not." (Luke xxii. 32.)
"Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me." (John xvii. 11.)
"I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." (John xvii. 15.)
"I will that day they also whom thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am." (John xvii. 24.)
"If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." (Rom. v.10.)
"The Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." (John xiv. 17.)
"Being confident of this very thing, that He which begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. i. 6.)
"The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you; and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him." (John ii. 27.)
"The Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." (Ephes. iv. 30.)
"Ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession." (Ephes. i. 13, 14.)
"Born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible." (1 Peter i. 23.)
"He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." (Heb. xiii. 5.)
Reader, I lay before you these forty-four texts of Scripture, and ask your serious attention to them. I repeat that I will make no comment on them. I had rather leave them to the honest common sense of all who read the Bible. Some of these texts, no doubt, bring out the doctrine of final perseverance more clearly than others. About the interpretation of some of them, men's judgments may differ widely. But there are not a few of the forty-four which appear to my mind so plain, that were I to invent words to conform my views, I should despair of inventing any that would convey my meaning so unmistakably.
I am far from saying that these texts are all the Scriptural evidence that might be brought forward. I am satisfied that the doctrine maintained in this tract might be confirmed by other arguments of great might and power.
I might point to the attributes of God's character revealed in the Bible, and show how His wisdom, unchangeableness, and power, and love, and glory are all involved in the perseverance of the saints. If the elect may finally perish, what becomes of God's counsel about them in eternity, and His doings for them in time?
I might point to all the offices which the Lord Jesus fills, and show what discredit is thrown on His discharge of them, if any of His believing people can finally be lost.
What kind of Head would He be, if any of the members of His mystical body could be torn from Him? What kind of Shepherd would He be, if a single sheep of His flock was left behind in the wilderness? what kind of Physician would He be, if any patient under His hand were at length incurable? What kind of High Priest would He be, if any name once written on His heart were found wanting when He makes up His jewels? What kind of Husband would He be, if He and any soul once united to Him by faith were ever put asunder?
Finally, I might point to the great fact that there is not a single example in all Scripture of any one of God's elect ever finally making shipwreck and going to hell. We read false prophets and hypocrites. We read of fruitless branches, stony ground, and thorny ground hearers, virgins without oil in their vessels, servants who bury their talents. We read of Balaam, and Lot's wife, and Saul, and Judas Iscariot, and Ananias and Sapphira, and Demas. We see their hollow characters. We are told of their end. They have no root. They are rotten at the heart. They endure for a while. They go at last to their own place. But there is not a single instance in the whole Bible of any one falling away who ever showed unquestionable evidences of grace. Men like Abraham, and Moses, and David, and Peter, and Paul always hold on their way. They may slip. They may fall for a season. But they never entirely depart from God. They never perish. Surely if the saints of God can be cast away, it is a curious and striking fact that the Bible should not have given us one single plain example of it.
But time and space would fail me if I were to enter into the field which I have just pointed out. I think it better to rest my case on the text which I have already given. The mind to which these texts carry no conviction, is not likely to be influenced by other arguments. To myself they appear, when taken altogether, to contain such an immense mass of evidence, that I dare not, as a Christian man, deny to be true. I dare not, because I feel at this rate I might dispute the truth of any doctrine in the Gospel. I feel that if I could explain away such plain texts as some of those I have quoted, I could explain away almost all the leading truths of Christianity.
Reader, I am quite aware that there are some texts and passages of Scripture which appear at first sight to teach a contrary doctrine to that which I maintain in this tract. I know that many attach great weight to these texts, and consider them to prove that the saints of God may perish and fall away. I can also say that I have examined these texts with attention, but have found in them no reason to alter my opinion on the subject of perseverance.Their number is small. Their meaning is unquestionably more open to dispute than that of many of the forty-four I have quoted. They all of them admit of being interpreted so as not to contradict the doctrine of perseverance. I hold it to be an infallible rule in the exposition of Scripture, that when two texts seem to contradict one another, the less plain must give way to the more plain, and the weak must give way to the strong. That doctrine which reconciles most texts of Scripture is most likely to be right. That doctrine which makes most texts quarrel with one another is most likely to be wrong.
I ask you, if not convinced by all I have said hitherto, to put down the texts I have quoted on behalf of perseverance, and the texts commonly quoted against it, in two separate lists. Weigh them one against another. Judge them with fair and honest judgment. Which list contains the greatest number of positive, unmistakable assertions? Which list contains the greatest number of sentences which cannot be explained away? Which list is the strongest? Which list is the weakest? Which list is the most flexible? Which list is the most unbending? If it were possible in a world like this to have this question fairly tried by an unprejudiced, intelligent jury, I have not the least doubt which way the verdict would go. It is my own firm belief and conviction that the final perseverance of the saints is so deeply founded on Scriptural grounds, that so long as the Bible is the Judge, it cannot be overthrown.
Once admit that the saints of God may perish, and you seem to me to tear from the Gospel crown its brightest jewel. We are hanging on the edge of precipice. We are kept in awful suspense until we are dead. To tell us that there are plenty of gracious promises to encourage us, if we will only persevere, is but mockery. It is like telling the sick man that if he will only get well he will be strong. The poor patient feels no confidence that he will get well, and the poor weak believer feels nothing in him like power to persevere. Today he may be in Canaan, and tomorrow he may be in Egypt again, and in bondage. This week he may be in the narrow way; but for anything he knows, next week he may be back in the broad road. This month he may be a justified, pardoned, and forgiven man; but next month his pardon may be all revoked, and he himself in a state of condemnation. This year he may have faith, and be a child of God; next year he may be a child of the devil, and have no part or lot in Christ. Where is the good news in all this? What becomes of the glad tidings? Verily such doctrine seems to me to me to cut up the joy of the Gospel by the roots. Yet this is the doctrine we must hold, if we reject the final perseverance of the saints.
I bless God that I am able to see another kind of Gospel than this in the word of God. To my eyes the Bible seems to teach that he who once begins the life of faith in Christ, shall without doubt be preserved from apostasy, and come to a glorious end. Once made alive by the grace of God, he shall live for ever. Once raised from the grave of sin and made a new man, he shall never go back to the grave and become once more the old man dead in trespasses and sins. He shall be kept by the power of God. He shall be more than conqueror through Him that loved Him. The eternal God is his refuge; underneath Him are Everlasting Arms. The love in which he is interested is eternal. The righteousness in which he is clothed is eternal. The redemption which he enjoys is eternal. The sense and comfort of it he may lose by his own carelessness. But the thing itself, after once believing, is his for evermore.
Reader, the absence of the doctrine of perseverance appears to me to give a different colour to the whole Gospel. You cannot wonder if I regard it as of great importance."
"My sheep shall never perish" (John 10:28) John Goodwin, the famous Arminian, offers the following explanation of this text: "The promise of eternal safety made by Christ to His sheep, doth not relate to their estate in the present world, but to that of the world to come!" A man must be sorely put to straits when he can argue in such a way.
To the praise of His glorious grace
I have often thought that man excels Satan himself in rebellion against God; for though we read of him tempting Christ, and of him crying out, "What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? Art Thou come to torment us before the time?" yet we hear nothing about his calling Him a capricious tyrant, because He has not given them a chance of being saved. No, this species of rebellion appears to be the sole prerogative of ruined man. (William Gadsby)
That mind must be awfully bewildered, and that conscience dreadfully hardened, that can presumptuously dare to dictate to the Almighty, and blasphemously arraign him at its puny bar, and condemn him as a monster, not to be equaled by Satan, the father of lies, if he dare to deal out his immortal blessings in a sovereign way. Yet such men there are. (William Gadsby)
Real christian charity is swallowed up in the will of God, nor is it in its nature to extend itself one step beyond, nor desire one thing contrary to the glory of Jehovah. All the charity that we possess beyond this may be properly called fleshly charity. (William Gadsby)
"Wicked men would have God to be any thing but what he is; nothing that God is really and truly pleaseth them." - J. Owen
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