1. MANY large volumes have been already published on this important subject. But the very length of them makes them hard to be understood, or even purchased, by common readers. A short, plain treatise on this head is what serious men have long desired, and what is here offered to those whom God has endowed with love and meekness of wisdom.
2. By the saints, I understand, those who are holy or righteous in the judgment of God himself; those who are endued with the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience; those who are grafted into the good olive-tree, the spiritual, invisible Church; those who are branches of the true vine, of whom Christ says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches;” those who so effectually know Christ, as by that knowledge to have escaped the pollutions of the world; those who see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and who have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, of the witness and the fruits of the Spirit; those who live by faith in the Son of God; those who are sanctified by the blood of the covenant; those to whom all or any of these characters belong, I mean by the term saints.
3. Can any of these fall away? By falling away, we mean, not barely falling into sin. This, it is granted, they may. But can they fall totally? Can any of these so fall from God as to perish everlastingly?
4. I am sensible either side of this question is attended with great difficulties; such as reason alone could never remove. Therefore, “to the law and to the testimony.” Let the living oracles decide: And if these speak for us, we neither seek nor want farther witness.
5. On this authority, I believe a saint may fall away; that one who is holy or righteous in the judgment of God himself may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly.
I. For thus saith the Lord: “When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity; in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.” (Ezek. xviii. 24.)
That this is to be understood of eternal death appears 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 he shall die.” (Here is death eternal.)
It appears farther from the whole scope of the chapter, which is to prove, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (Verse 4.)
If you say, “The soul here means the body,” I answer, That will die whether you sin or no.
6. Again, thus saith the Lord: “When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness,” (yea, or to that promise as absolute and unconditional,) “and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for the iniquity that he hath committed shall he die.” (xxxiii. 13.)
Again: “When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.” (Verse 18.)
Therefore, one who is holy and righteous in the judgment of God himself may yet so fall as to perish everlastingly.
7. “But how is this consistent with what God declared elsewhere: ‘If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments,— I will visit their offences with the rod, and their sin with scourges. Nevertheless, my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my truth to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. I have sworn once by my holiness, that I will not fail David.’” (Psalm lxxxix. 30-35.)
I answer, There is no manner of inconsistency between one declaration and the other. The Prophet declares the just judgment of God against every righteous man who falls from his righteousness. The Psalmist declares the old lovingkindnesses which God sware unto David in his truth. “I have found,” saith he, “David, my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him. My hand shall hold him fast, and my arm shall strengthen him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.” (Verses 20,21,29.) It follows: “But if his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments;—nevertheless, my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my truth to fail. My covenant will I not break. I will not fail David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.” (Verse 30, &c.)
May not every man see, that the covenant here spoken of relates wholly to David and his seed or children? Where then is the inconsistency between the most absolute promise made to a particular family, and that solemn account which God has here given of his way of dealing with all mankind?
Besides, the very covenant mentioned in these words is not absolute, but conditional. The condition of repentance in case of forsaking God’s law was implied, though not expressed; and so strongly implied, that, this condition failing, not being performed, God did also fail David. He did “alter the thing that had gone out of his lips,” and yet without any impeachment of his truth. He “abhorred and forsook his anointed,” (verse 38,) the seed of David, whose throne, if they had repented, should have been “as the days of heaven.” He did “break the covenant of his servant, and cast his crown to the ground.” (Verse 39.) So vainly are these words of the Psalmist brought to contradict the plain, full testimony of the Prophet!
8. Nor is there any contradiction between this testimony of God by Ezekiel, and those words which he spake by Jeremiah: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” For do these words assert, that no righteous man ever turns from his righteousness? No such thing. They do not touch the question, but simply declare God’s love to the Jewish Church. To see this in the clearest light, you need only read over the whole sentence: “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 caused him to rest. The Lord hath appeared of old unto me,” saith the Prophet, speaking in the person of Israel, “saying, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: Therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel.” (xxxi. 1-4.)
Suffer me here to observe, once for all, a fallacy which is constantly used by almost all writers on this point. They perpetually beg the question, by applying to particular persons assertions, or prophecies, which relate only to the Church in general; and some of them only to the Jewish Church and nation, as distinguished from all other people.
If you say, “But it was particularly revealed to me, that God had loved me with an everlasting love;” I answer, Suppose it was, (which might bear a dispute,) it proves no more, at the most, than that you in particular shall persevere; but does not affect the general question, whether others shall, or shall not.
9. Secondly. One who is endued with the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience, may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly. For thus saith the inspired Apostle, “War a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.” (1 Tim. i. 18, 19.)
Observe, (1.) These men (such as Hymeneus and Alexander) had once the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience; which they once had, or they could not have “put it away.”
Observe, (2.) They “made shipwreck” of the faith, which necessarily implies the total and final loss of it. For a vessel once wrecked can never be recovered. It is totally and finally lost.
And the Apostle himself, in his Second Epistle to Timothy, mentions one of these two as irrecoverably lost. “Alexander,” says he, “did me much evil: The Lord shall reward him according to his works.” (2 Tim. iv. 14.) Therefore one who is endued with the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience, may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly.
10. “But how can this be reconciled with the words of our Lord, ‘He that believeth shall be saved?’”
Do you think these words mean, “he that believes” at this moment “shall” certainly and inevitably “be saved?”
If this interpretation be good, then, by all the rules of speech, the other part of the sentence must mean, “He” that does “not believe” at this moment, “shall” certainly and inevitably “be damned.”
Therefore that interpretation cannot be good. The plain meaning then of the whole sentence is, “He that believeth,” if he continue in faith, “shall be saved; he that believeth not,” if he continue in unbelief, “shall be damned.”
11. “But does not Christ say elsewhere, ‘He that believeth hath everlasting life?’ (John iii. 36,) and, ‘He that believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life?’” (v. 24.)
I answer, (1.) The love of God is everlasting life. It is, in substance, the life of heaven. Now every one that believes, loves God, and therefore “hath everlasting life.”
(2.) Every one that believes “is” therefore “passed from death,” spiritual death, “unto life;” and,
(3.) “Shall not come into condemnation,” if he endureth in the faith unto the end; according to our Lord’s own words, “He that endureth to the end shall be saved;” and, “Verily I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” (John viii. 51.)
12. Thirdly. Those who are grafted into the good olive-tree, the spiritual, invisible Church, may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly.
For thus saith the Apostle: “Some of the branches are broken off, and thou art grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive-tree. Be not high-minded, but fear: If God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he spare not thee. Behold the goodness and severity of God! On them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou shalt be cut off.” (Romans xi. 17, 20-22.)
We may observe here, (1.) The persons spoken to were actually grafted into the olive-tree.
(2.) This olive-tree is not barely the outward visible Church, but the invisible, consisting of holy believers. So the text: “If the first fruit be holy, the lump is holy; and if the root be holy, so are the branches.” (Verse 16.) And, “Because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith.”
(3.) These holy believers were still liable to be cut off from the invisible Church, into which they were then grafted.
(4.) Here is not the least intimation of those who were so cut off being ever grafted in again.
Therefore, those who are grafted into the good olive-tree, the spiritual invisible Church, may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly.
13. “But how does this agree with the 29th verse, ‘The gifts and calling of God are without repentance?’”
The preceding verse shows: “As touching the election” (the unconditional election of the Jewish nation) “they are beloved for the fathers’ sake;” for the sake of their forefathers. It follows: (In proof of this, that “they are beloved for the fathers’ sake,” that God has still blessings in store for the Jewish nation:) “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance;” for God doth not repent of any blessings he hath given them, or any privileges he hath called them to. The words here referred to were originally spoken with a peculiar regard to these national blessings. “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent.” (Numb. xxiii. 19.)
14. “But do not you hereby make God changeable? Whereas ‘with Him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.’ (James i. 17.)” By no means. God is unchangeably holy: Therefore, he always “loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity.” He is unchangeably good: Therefore he pardoneth all that “repent and believe the gospel.” And he is unchangeably just: Therefore, he “rewardeth every man according to his works.” But all this hinders not his resisting, when they are proud, those to whom he gave grace when they were humble. Nay, his unchangeableness itself requires, that, if they grow high-minded, God should cut them off; that there should be a proportionable change in all the divine dispensations toward them.
15. “But how then is God faithful?” I answer, In fulfilling every promise which he hath made, to all to whom it is made, all who fulfil the condition of that promise. More particularly, (1.) “God is faithful” in that “he will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able to bear.” (1 Cor. x. 13.) (2.) “The Lord is faithful, to establish and keep you from evil;” (if you put your trust in him;) from all the evil which you might otherwise suffer, through “unreasonable and wicked men.” (2 Thess. iii. 2, 3.) (3.) “Quench not the Spirit; hold fast that which is good; abstain from all appearance of evil; and your whole spirit, soul, and body, shall 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. 19, &c.) (4.) Be not disobedient unto the heavenly calling; and “God is faithful, by whom ye were called, to confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. i. 8, 9.) Yet, notwithstanding all this, unless you fulfil the condition, you cannot attain the promise.
“Nay, but are not ‘all the promises, yea and amen?’” They are firm as the pillars of heaven. Perform the condition, and the promise is sure. Believe, and thou shalt be saved.
“But many promises are absolute and unconditional.” In many, the condition is not expressed. But this does not prove, there is none implied. No promises can be expressed in a more absolute form, than those above cited from the eighty-ninth Psalm. And yet we have seen, a condition was implied even there, though none was expressed.
16. “But there is no condition, either expressed or implied, in those words of St. Paul: ‘I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor height, nor depth, nor any creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’” (Romans viii. 38, 39.)
Suppose there is not, (which will bear a dispute,) yet what will this prove? Just thus much, — that the Apostle was at that time fully persuaded of his own perseverance. And I doubt not, but many believers at this day have the very same persuasion, termed in Scripture, “The full assurance of hope.” But this does not prove that every believer shall persevere, any more than that every believer is thus fully persuaded of his perseverance.
IV. 17. Fourthly. Those who are branches of the true vine, of whom Christ says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches,” may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly.
For thus saith our blessed Lord himself, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away. I am the vine, ye are the branches. 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.” (John xv. 1-6.)
Here we may observe, (1.) The persons spoken of were in Christ, branches of the true vine: (2.) Some of these branches abide not in Christ, but the Father taketh them away: (3.) The branches which abide not are cast forth, cast out from Christ and his Church: (4.) They are not only cast forth, but withered; consequently, never grafted in again: Nay, (5.) They are not only cast forth and withered, but also cast into the fire: And, (6.) They are burned. It is not possible for words more strongly to declare, that even those who are now branches in the true vine may yet so fall as to perish everlastingly.
18. By this clear, indisputable declaration of our Lord, we may interpret those which might be otherwise liable to dispute; wherein it is certain, whatever he meant beside, he did not mean to contradict himself. For example: “This is the Father’s will, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing.” Most sure; all that God hath given him; or, as it is expressed in the next verse, “every one which believeth on him,” namely, to the end, he “will raise up at the last day,” to reign with him for ever.
Again: “I am the living bread:—If any man eat of this bread,” (by faith,) “he shall live for ever.” (John vi. 51.) True; if he continue to eat thereof. And who can doubt of it?
Again: “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 pluck them out of my hand.” (John x. 27-29.)
In the preceding text the condition is only implied; in this it is plainly expressed. They are my sheep that hear my voice, that follow me in all holiness. And, “If ye do those things, ye shall never fall.” None shall “pluck you out of my hands.”
Again: “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” (John xiii. 1.) “Having loved his own,” namely, the Apostles, (as the very next words, “which were in the world,” evidently show,) “he loved them unto the end” of his life, and manifested that love to the last.
19. Once more: “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are one.” (John xvii. 11.)
Great stress has been laid upon this text; and it has been hence inferred, that all those whom the Father had given him (a phrase frequently occurring in this chapter) must infallibly persevere to the end.
And yet, in the very next verse, our Lord himself declares that one of those whom the Father had given him did not persevere unto 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.” (John xvii. 12.)
So one even of these was finally lost!—a demonstration that the phrase, “those whom thou hast given me,” signifies here (if not in most other places too) the twelve Apostles, and them only.
20. On this occasion, I cannot but observe another common instance of begging the question,— of taking for granted what ought to be proved. It is usually laid down as an indisputable truth, that whatever our Lord speaks to or of his Apostles is to be applied to all believers. But this cannot be allowed by any who impartially search the Scriptures. They cannot allow, without clear and particular proof, that any one of those texts which related primarily to the Apostles (as all men grant) belong to any but them.
V. 21. Fifthly. Those who so effectually know Christ, as by that knowledge to have escaped the pollutions of the world, may yet fall back into those pollutions, and perish everlastingly.
For thus saith the Apostle Peter, “If after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” (the only possible way of escaping them,) “they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” (2 Peter ii. 20, 21.)
That the knowledge of the way of righteousness, which they had attained, was an inward, experimental knowledge, is evident from that other expression,—they had “escaped the pollutions of the world;” an expression parallel to that in the preceding chapter, verse 4: “Having escaped the corruption which is in the world.” And in both chapters, this effect is ascribed to the same cause; termed in the first, “the knowledge of Him who hath called us to glory and virtue;” in the second, more explicitly, “the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
And yet they lost that experimental knowledge of Christ and the way of righteousness; they fell back into the same pollutions they had escaped, and were “again entangled therein and overcome.” They “turned from the holy commandment delivered to them,” so that their “latter end was worse than their beginning.”
Therefore, those who so effectually know Christ, as by that knowledge to have escaped the pollutions of the world, may yet fall back into those pollutions, and perish everlastingly.
22. And this is perfectly consistent with St. Peter’s words, in the first chapter of his former Epistle: “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” Undoubtedly, so are all they who ever attain eternal salvation. It is the power of God only, and not our own, by which we are kept one day or one hour.
VI. 23. Sixthly. Those who see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and who have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, of the witness and the fruits of the Spirit, may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly.
For thus saith the inspired writer to the Hebrews: “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,—if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (Heb. vi. 4, 6.)
Must not every unprejudiced person see, the expressions here used are so strong and clear, that they cannot, without gross and palpable wresting be understood of any but true believers?
They “were once enlightened;” an expression familiar with the Apostle, and never by him applied to any but believers. So, “The God of our Lord Jesus Christ give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power, to us-ward that believe.” (Ephes. i. 17-19.) So again: “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.” (2 Cor. iv. 6.) This is a light which no unbelievers have. They are utter strangers to such enlightening. “The God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them.” (Verse 4.)
“They had tasted of the heavenly gift,” (emphatically so called,) “and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” So St. Peter likewise couples them together: “Be baptized for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost;” (Acts ii. 38;) whereby the love of God was shed abroad in their hearts, with all the other fruits of the Spirit. Yea, it is remarkable, that our Lord himself in his grand commission to St. Paul (to which the Apostle probably alludes in these words) comprises all these three particulars. “I send thee to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God,” (here contracted into that one expression, “they were enlightened,”) “that they may receive forgiveness of sins,” (“the heavenly gift,”) “and an inheritance among them which are sanctified;” (Acts xxvi. 18;) which are made “partakers of the Holy Ghost,” of all the sanctifying influences of the Spirit.
The expression, “They tasted of the heavenly gift,” is taken from the Psalmist, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm xxxiv. 8.) As if he had said, Be ye as assured of his love, as of anything you see with your eyes. And let the assurance thereof be sweet to your soul, as honey is to your tongue.
And yet those who had been thus “enlightened,” had “tasted” this “gift,” and been thus “partakers of the Holy Ghost,” so “fell away” that it was “impossible to renew them again to repentance.”
“But the Apostle only makes a supposition, ‘If they shall fall away.’”
I answer: The Apostle makes no supposition at all. There is no if in the original. The words are, Αδυνατον τους απαξ φωτισθεντας, και παραπεσοντας; that is, in plain English, “It is impossible to renew again unto repentance those who were once enlightened” and have fallen away; therefore they must perish everlastingly.
24. “But if so, then farewell all my comfort.”
Then your comfort depends on a poor foundation. My comfort stands not on any opinion, either that a believer can or cannot fall away, not on the remembrance of anything wrought in me yesterday; but on what is to-day; on my present knowledge of God in Christ, reconciling me to himself; on my now beholding the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; walking in the light as he is in the light, and having fellowship with the Father and with the Son. My comfort is, that through grace I now believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that his Spirit doth bear witness with my spirit that I am a child of God. I take comfort in this and this only, that I see Jesus at the right hand of God; that I personally for myself, and not for another, have an hope full of immortality; that I feel the love of God shed abroad in my heart, being crucified to the world, and the world crucified to me. My rejoicing is this, the testimony of my conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, I have my conversation in the world.
Go and find, if you can, a more solid joy, a more blissful comfort, on this side heaven. But this comfort is not shaken, be that opinion true or false; whether the saints in general can or cannot fall.
If you take up with any comfort short of this, you lean on the staff of a broken reed, which not only will not bear your weight, but will enter into your hand and pierce you.
25. Seventhly. Those who live by faith may yet fall from God, and perish everlastingly.
For thus saith the same inspired writer, “The just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” (Heb. x. 38.) “The just,” the justified person, “shall live by faith,” even now shall he live the life which is hid with Christ in God; and if he endure unto the end, he shall live with God for ever. “But if any man draw back,” saith the Lord, “my soul shall have no pleasure in him;” that is, I will utterly cast him off; and accordingly the drawing back here spoken of is termed, in the verse immediately following, “drawing back to perdition.”
“But the person supposed to draw back is not the same with him that is said to live by faith.”
I answer, (1.) Who is it then? Can any man draw back from faith who never came to it? But,
(2.) Had the text been fairly translated, there had been no pretence for this objection. For the original runs thus: Ο δικαιος εκ πισεως ζησεται και εαν υποσειληται. If ο δικαιος, “the just man that lives by faith,” (so the expression necessarily implies, there being no other nominative of the verb,) “draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”
“But the Apostle adds: ‘We are not of them who draw back unto perdition.’” And what will you infer from thence? This is so far from contradicting what has been observed before, that it manifestly confirms it. It is a farther proof that there are those “who draw back unto perdition,” although the Apostle was not of that number. Therefore those who live by faith may yet fall from God and perish everlastingly.
26. “But does not God say to every one that lives by faith, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee?’”
The whole sentence runs thus: “Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” True; provided “your conversation be without covetousness,” and ye “be content with such things as ye have.” Then you may “boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
Do you not see, (1.) That this promise, as here recited, relates wholly to temporal things? (2.) That, even thus taken, it is not absolute, but conditional? And, (3.) That the condition is expressly mentioned in the very same sentence?
27. Eighthly. Those who are sanctified by the blood of the covenant may so fall from God as to perish everlastingly.
For thus again saith the Apostle, “If we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment 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!” (Hebrews x. 26-29.)
It is undeniably plain, (1.) That the person mentioned here was once sanctified by the blood of the covenant. (2.) That he afterwards, by known, wilful sin, trod under foot the Son of God. And, (3.) That he hereby incurred a sorer punishment than death, namely, death everlasting.
Therefore, those who are sanctified by the blood of the covenant may yet so fall as to perish everlastingly.
28. “What! Can the blood of Christ burn in hell? Or can the purchase of the blood of Christ go thither?”
I answer, (1.) The blood of Christ cannot burn in hell, no more than it can be spilled on the earth. The heavens must contain both his flesh and blood until the restitution of all things. But,
(2.) If the oracles of God are true, one who was purchased by the blood of Christ may go thither. For he that was sanctified by the blood of Christ was purchased by the blood of Christ. But one who was sanctified by the blood of Christ may nevertheless go to hell; may fall under that fiery indignation which shall for ever devour the adversaries.
29. “Can a child of God then go to hell? Or can a man be a child of God to-day, and a child of the devil to-morrow? If God is our Father once, is he not our Father always?”
I answer, (1.) A child of God, that is, a true believer, (for he that believeth is born of God,) while he continues a true believer, cannot go to hell. But, (2.) If a believer make shipwreck of the faith, he is no longer a child of God. And then he may go to hell, yea, and certainly will, if he continues in unbelief. (3.) If a believer may make shipwreck of the faith, then a man that believes now may be an unbeliever some time hence; yea, very possibly, to-morrow; but, if so, he who is a child of God to-day, may be a child of the devil to-morrow. For, (4.) God is the Father of them that believe, so long as they believe. But the devil is the father of them that believe not, whether they did once believe or no.
30. The sum of all is this: If the Scriptures are true, those who are holy or righteous in the judgment of God himself; those who are endued with the faith that purifies the heart, that produces a good conscience; those who are grafted into the good olive-tree, the spiritual, invisible Church; those who are branches of the true vine, of whom Christ says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches;” those who so effectually know Christ, as by that knowledge to have escaped the pollutions of the world; those who see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and who have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, of the witness and of the fruits of the Spirit; those who live by faith in the Son of God; those who are sanctified by the blood of the covenant, may nevertheless so fall from God as to perish everlastingly.
Therefore let him that standeth take heed lest he fall.
Holiness, godliness, righteousness, and Christ-likeness in personal and church life