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virtue ; or, as another apostle expresses it, that they had been created unto good works. The election of particular persons to eternal life, is made evident to themselves and others, only by their begun sanctification, in effectual calling Phil. i. 6, “ Being confident of this very thing, that he who liath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Before regeneration there is no ground for confidence, concerning any; that they will ever be saved.
Peradventure, God will give them repentance;" but, very possibly he may not. In this matter, “ he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy.”
2. Those only of whom we have any certaiñty that they will be kept unto salvation, are true believers in Christ.
Heb. x. 39, “ We are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” None but those who thus believe, are entitled to the promises of persevering grace. 2 Cor. i. 20, 21, 22, “ For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen, unto the glory of God. Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, is God : Who hath also sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” And Eph. i. 13, “ In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.
Persons may make a profession of the christian faith, and may have a strong conviction for a time that the gospel is true, and yet afterwards wholly apostatize, and become infidels. To believe to the saving of the soul, is to see the glory, as well as truth of the gospel, and cordially to embrace it: to embrace it, not only as true, but also as good..“ With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” A hearty willingness to be saved from sin, and to be saved from wrath, and
entitled to the rewards of the righteous, in the gospel way, is essential to that faith by which alone a man is justified. And those only who are thus in a state of justification, have any promise of being kept from final perdition. Rom. v. 1, 2, “ Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ : By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
II. Let us consider from what, and how far, all regenerate believers are kept. Certainly, not from all evil.
To the natural evils of this life, they are liable, in common with others. Yea, they have many times a double portion of temporal afflictions. The apostle, after having in our text, told his christian breth. ren of their perfect safety in regard to another world ; “ wherein,” says he, “ye greatly rejoice ;” immediately adds, “ Though now for a season (if need be) ye are in heaviness, through manifold temptations ;" that is, trials. It is only when they have need of it, as well as deserve it, that those who are in the covenant of grace, meet with grievous troubles. But it is often needful, for the mortification of remaining corruptions, and for their furtherance in faith and holiness, that they should be visited with sore afflictions in this world. As God led his chosen people of old, forty years, wandering, by crooked marches, in a barren, howling wilderness, to humble them, and prove them, and to discover what was in their hearts; so, and for the same reasons, it is often through much tribulation that christians enter into the kingdom of heaven. And, as was said in that case, “ He led them by the right way ;” notwithstanding the tediousness, and tiresomeness of it ; so it is in regard to the hard race set before the followers of Christ.
It is the right way to make them
sensible of their sins, and to keep them humble. It is the right way to mortify their earthly and carnal affections, and to further their sanctification. It is the right way to give them an experimental knowledge that the grace of Christ is sufficient for them ; as his strength is made more perfectly manifest, by their weakness. It is the right way to discover to them the reality of holiness, as well as the remainder of depravity in their hearts. See the next verse but one after our text: “ That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold, though it be tried in the fire, might be found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” The apostle Paul also says, “ Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope.” For these reasons the godly are not preserved from natural evils in this life, any more than other men.
Nor are true christians kept from all moral evil, while here below. In many things the best offend ; and in all things they come far short of sinless perfection. Nor are they always kept from falling into very gross sins.
But the doctrine of the saints' safety and perseverance is, that they shall infallibly be preserved from final, and from total apostacy. They are kept from the power of Satan, so that he cannot destroy them; when, as a roaring lion, he goeth about seeking whom he may devour. 1 John v. 18, “ He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” They are kept from the reigning power of sin : Rom. vi. 14,“ Sin shall not have dominion over you ; for ye are not under the law, but under grace." They are kept from the fatal influence of the world. 1 John v. 4, “ What. soever," or whosoever, “is born of God, overcometh the world : and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
III. It was proposed to consider how, or by what influence and in what manner, believers are thus kept.
1. They are kept by the power of God. Their own exertions are necessary indeed; but to these they are divinely excited, They must work out their own salvation ; but it is God that worketh in them to will and to do.. « Not that we are sufficient of ourselves,” says the apostle Paul, “ to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” As it is by the working of God's mighty power that a principle of holiness is created in the heart of man at first; so it is by his continual operation, though not in the same supernatural manner, that this principle is kept alive in good men, and that they bring forth the fruits of righteousness. There is the same difference between regeneration, and progressive sanctification, as between the production of the original seeds or roots of all kinds, and their being preserved, and caused to increase and multiply. It was by the immediate power of God that the first man, the first animal, the first plant and tree of every species, was brought into existence: but it is by his power co-operating with means, that all these kinds of creatures and things are kept in being, are propagated, and made to grow. And thus it is with respect to every radical faculty, or instinct, or law of nature. Thus it is in the spiritual, as well as in the natural world. Believers have been created unto good works, that they should walk in them, In or. der to this they need being created but once. They do not go on in good works, however, without assistance; nor does the implanted good principle in them increase in strength, or even continue what it was, without constant influence from above.
It is by the power of God, that the graces of good men are enlivened from time to time. Psal. cxix.
My soul cleaveth unto the dust : quicken thou mc according to thy word.” It is by the power
of God, that christians are kept from being quite overcome by the temptations and conflicts which they meet with in the spiritual warfare. 1 Cor. x. 12, 13, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but 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.” And 2 Cor. xii. 7, 8, 9, “ There was given me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee : for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” It is by the power God, that his people are supported under the heavy afflictions which they of. ten meet with in the world. Isa. xliii. 2, “ Where thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burnt; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." Thus are the godly supported and preserved by the power of God.
2 It is through faith, that christians are kept unto salvation.
To this purpose we have many other texts. 66 Thou standest by faith,” says the apostle to the Gentile believer ; " be not high-minded but fear.” And, “ The just shall live by faith,” is a scripture saying often repeated.
It is through faith in God, that good men are supported, and kept from despondency and impatience, amidst all the dark scenes exhibited on the present stage, of confusion and disorder, of sin and misery. Isa. xxvi. 3, “ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee." And chap. 1. 10, “ Who is