ON THE INEVITABLE AND ETERNAL SECURITY OF THE CHURCH.
THE doctrine of the certain and everlasting security of all the children of God has often been blended with that of the final perseverance of the saints: but these doctrines are certainly distinct from each other; they are not identical; and it is well that we should keep the distinction in view while we are inquiring into the great plan of salvation through Christ. Both doctrines lead to the same final result, and both establish the same great truth, but each has its own peculiar place in the great scheme of our eternal redemption. In our perseverance we ourselves are agentswe persevere; but the certain and infallible security of God’s people belongs to the unalterable purpose of God. We have no agency in it. It is wholly independent of us, and is an essential part of the foundation upon which our salvation is based. Eternal salvation is an end to be accomplished, and our perseverance is a part of the means by which this end is to be attained.
It is not always safe to rely on arguments drawn from general principles, because there may be a latent fallacy in the process of deduction which may lead to an erroneous conclusion; and this will be the case sometimes when the principle from which we reason is known to be sound, and also when we are unable to detect any flaw in the process of reasoning. If, therefore, on the subject before us, I should reason from general truths, I shall endeavor to compare the conclusion with what is clearly taught in the Holy Scriptures; and I ask no greater weight to be given to my arguments than a candid and unprejudiced consideration will justify.
I lay it down as an axiom that God never does any thing but what He designs to do. This is too evident to admit of debate. And I think it should not be denied that He actually does everything that He purposes. The design or intention must necessarily precede the accomplishment of it; and with Him, who sees the end from the beginning, the performance must inevitably follow the design. I suppose I shall meet no opposition here, for I presume there are few, if any, who have any proper respect for the Divine character, or for the truth of His word, that would controvert these positions. If, therefore, He has purposed the salvation of those whom He saves, He must change His purpose, or their salvation is infallibly certain. As to the particular period of time in God’s eternal existence, when He first purposed their salvation, that is not the present question. The particular point now before us is the certainty that He will effectually execute the purpose; and this can depend upon nothing but His sovereign will. To argue against this certainty is the very next thing to controverting self-evident truth; therefore, taking no notice of any objection that might be deduced by reasoning from principles of abstract truthbecause one scientific truth can not overthrow another, and is not to be admitted in opposition to the testimony of the Biblewe will refer to other objections. Those who can not accept our doctrine rely upon arguments drawn from other doctrines, which are revealed in Scripture. However plausible this mode of reasoning may appear at first sight, it will be found utterly impotent in its application to this subject; for it is useless to resort for objections to any thing intermediate between the first original purpose and its final consummation, and every other doctrine must of necessity have its place in the arrangement between these two. Everything pertaining to the plan of salvation must have its place between the beginning and the end; and He who sees the end from the beginning must have foreseen all that should, or possibly could, intervene between the purpose and its ultimate execution. It is expressly affirmed that God’s purposes shall stand, and it is nowhere expressly contradicted; but that which is alleged as objection is their inferences from what is taught in the Bible. But there is nothing in the arrangements of God’s plan of saving His people but what He has placed there. And when He purposed salvation as an end, did He introduce other matters into the plan of execution which would, or possibly might, defeat the object in view? There is no way to avoid the certain salvation of the glorified church but to deny that God purposed her salvation, and then we are compelled to admit that God saves sinners without having any specific design to do it. I do not advance this argument as being peculiar to the plan of salvation, for it is equally true in respect to everything that God does and designs to do.
God saves His people by covenant, and not a covenant by which provision is made for them to save themselves, but a covenant by which He has bound Himself by promise and by oath to save them Himself. The certain salvation of His people, therefore, is secured by covenant. This covenant is confirmed in Christ. He, as the surety of His people, has already performed the whole condition on their part, and is accepted and confirmed by His resurrection from the dead, and made eternally sure and unchangeable by His glorification.
The condition of the covenant being thus fulfilled, the only possible contingency must be whether He will faithfully perform His covenant engagementswhether He will perform a promise which He has ratified by an oath. The security of the Church stands upon this very foundation, and the certainty of the eternal salvation of His covenant people rests upon the inviolable truth of God’s oath. The stipulations of the covenant, as it respects His people, are most explicitly laid down by the apostle, as they had been previously by the prophet. This is the covenant: ‘I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest: for I will be merciful to their unrighteousness and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”
Moreover the Church of Christ is His inheritance. If the salvation of the Church is not secure and certain, then Christ has no assurance of His inheritance though he has purchased it with His own blood. The Church is not only spoken of as the inheritance of Christ, but the riches of the glory of His inheritance, and as His fullness: “The Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” Thus we see that His mystical body is not complete without the Church. I must object to any theory which defeats the Son of God of His inheritancewhich deprives Him of that inheritance which He has purchased with His own blood. His people are joint heirs with Him, and if the inheritance is sure to Him, it is equally sure to them; and not merely because the inheritance is reserved in heaven for them, but because as Christ is a Son, so they also are the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. They both have the same inheritance, and both inherit on the same principle, and the inheritance is equally sure to both.
The inevitable certainty of the final salvation of the Church appears to be inseparable from that union which subsists between Him and His people. This doctrine of the union of Christ and His believing people is so abundantly taught in the Holy Scriptures, that to deny it would be to ignore the authority of the Bible. It is expressed not only by multiplied reiteration, but in such a variety of forms and illustrations that we must admit the doctrine or reject the written word; for the manner in which it is exhibited precludes all evasion. Leaving out of notice, for the present, the original purpose which God purposed in Himself; let us, as it were trace this union in a kind of historical line, confining ourselves to explicit Scripture statements. We are said to suffer with Him; to be crucified with Him; to be dead with Him; to be raised together with Him; to be quickened together with Him; and to sit together in heavenly places. The scriptures here alluded to are easily found; and except this bond of union should be broken, it must insure the infallible security and certain salvation of the Church. But we see that it has passed intact through the ordeal of sufferingsdeath and the resurrectioninto the life and exaltation, to the heavenly place; so that, having survived these conflicts, there can be no danger of dissolution.
But we are also said to be one with Christ. This is identity; but we are not to consider Christ and His Church as identical in every respect. Yet, unless we will impute to the language of inspiration a vagueness which would render it almost useless as a source of Divine instruction, we are forced to concede that, in the economy of redemption, there is a point of view in which Christ and the Church are one. I will refer to some scriptures: “As Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us.” “I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.“