Anthony Tuckney (1599-1670) on Christ as the causa finalis of a Christian’s life

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Anthony Tuckney (1599-1670) was a divine of the Westminster Assembly, successively master of Emmanuel and St John’s colleges in Cambridge, and Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, before being removed from his positions at the Restoration (1660).

In a 1658 sermon in the University Church of St Mary before the University of Cambridge, Tuckney preached on Phil. 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”, in which he touched on Christ as the causa finalis of a Christian’s life:

Christ is a Christian’s life, when he is causa finalis, when he, his honour and service is the main end and scope, at which in the course of his life he chiefly aimeth and labours to promote, as knowing or designing no end of his life than to live to God, according to Ps. 119:17, Deal bountifully with thy servant that I may live and keep thy Word. This is that, which interpreters generally agree in to be principal thing intended by the Apostle in this expression [i.e. for me to live is Christ] which diverse of them diversely paraphrase, but to the same purpose.

If I live it is to Christ, so the Æthiopick reads it. Non alia causa volui vivere, nisi Christi, I would not live for any cause else, but Christ’s. So Hierom [i.e. Jerome], I have consecrated my life to Christ and his Gospel. So Estius, He is the scope of my life. So Piscator, Si vixero, nihil aliud mihi proposui, non alia mercede vivo, &c. I propound nothing else in my whole life, I desire no other stipend or wages for all my work and warfare, but only to honour and serve Christ in the Gospel. So Calvin. Aquinas (methinks) well resolveth it. Life importeth motion, and is the active principle of it; and therefore as in other cases, the end that moves the agent to act he properly calls his life (Ut venatores venationem, amici amicum): So Christ and his glory (as being that, which as his main end, setteth the Christian on working) may well be called his life, in which he liveth, and in the design and prosecution whereof the strength of his life is spent and exercised.

Christ is his A and Ω, all he hath or is, he hath from him, and all he is, hath, or can do, is all for him. All manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, I have laid up for thee, O my beloved, saith the spouse (Song of Songs 7:13). The best, the all of a Christian’s abilities, gifts, graces whatsoever, and how precious soever they be, they are all for Christ, ready prest to serve him, paid in as a tribute to him. As of him, so to him are all things (Rom. 11:36). As there is one God the Father of whom are all things, and we εἰς αὐτόν for Him, so one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (1 Cor. 8:6), yea, and to him and for him: for of him it’s elsewhere said, Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord; and so whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (Rom. 14:8). And these last words give a sufficient reason of the former: if we are the Lord’s, then we should live to the Lord; if we be not our own men, but Christ’s ransomed servants, then, as the Master’s service, honour, and advantage is or ought to be the servant’s aim and scope in his whole employment, so Christ’s should be ours, and so he becomes our life.

For we live much in our ends and designs which we project and endeavour to promote, and according to them, though not only yet especially, our lives are to be judged of. As in other cases, so in this particular, if the constant tendencies and real intentions of our souls be seriously for Christ, to please, honour, and serve him, this is to have Christ for our life, and thus to live (in the Apostle’s phrase here) is Christ, when (as he spake in the verse foregoing) our ἀποκαραδοκίαν, the earnestest outlookings of our souls are, that Christ may be glorified by us, whether by life or by death. And this is best, when it is in our more frequent actual thoughts and intentions of it; however it must be in our inward general and habitual disposition, frame, and purpose of heart, and constant course of life, as a traveller’s resolved intention of his journey’s end at his first setting out, and after progress in the way to it, though at every step he maketh he do not actually think of it.

In a word, when we own no other interests but Christ’s, or at least none that are contrary, but only such as are reducible and subordinate to it, when we neither start nor pursue any other false games, which (adversa fronte) broadly look and run counter contrary to him, no nor with a squint eye look aside to these golden apples of pleasure, profit, or other self-advantage cast in our way, when we seem to take never so speedy and straight course to him: but when our eyes look right on, and our eyelids look straight before us, as Solomon speaketh (Prov. 4:25), as they (Jer. 50:5) who asked the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, and as it’s said of our Saviour, τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ἦν πορευόμενον, that his face was going, or, as though he would go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:53), so when with a single eye and heart we directly and indeclinably eye and look at Christ and his glory, so that all that observe us may well take notice which way our eye and heart look, this is to have Christ indeed fully both in our eye and heart, and so Christ is our life, when thus in our heart, the seat of life.

– Anthony Tuckney (1599-1670), Forty Sermons upon Several Occasions (1676), p. 655-657.

John Pearson (1613-1686): Christ was most unmerciful to himself, that he might be most merciful unto us

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John Pearson (1613-1686) was widely regarded in his own day and long afterwards as the premier theologian within the later seventeenth-century Church of England. Pearson was the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Master of Trinity College in Cambridge before becoming Bishop of Chester. He was widely esteemed for the depth of his expertise in patristics and the oriental languages, and his renown was particularly due to his Exposition of the Creed (first edition 1659), which was the dominant theological textbook in the Church of England during the later Stuart period.

In his discussion of the fourth article of the Apostle’s Creed (“He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried”), Pearson first discusses the suffering which Christ experienced bodily during his passion, before focusing on the suffering which he underwent in his soul, making it clear that “as our Saviour took upon him both parts of the nature of man [viz., body and soul], so he suffered in them both, that he might be a Saviour of the whole.” The following extract, in which he discusses the depths of Christ’s suffering in the soul, is from the 4th edition (1676), p. 190-193:

We ought… to endeavour to reach, if it were possible, the knowledge how far and in what degree [Christ] suffered; how bitter that grief, how great that sorrow and that anguish was. Which though we can never fully and exactly measure, yet we may infallibly know thus much, both from the expression of the Spirit of God, and from the occasion of his sufferings, that the griefs and sorrows which he felt, and the anguish which he underwent, were most incomparably far beyond all sorrows of which any person here was sensible or capable.

The Evangelists have in such language expressed his agony, as cannot but raise in us the highest admiration at the bitterness of that passion. He began to be sorrowful, saith S. Matthew (26:37); He began to be sore amazed, saith S. Mark (14:33); and to be very heavy, saith both: and yet these words in our translation come far short of the original expression, which render him suddenly, upon a present and immediate apprehension, possessed with fear, horror and amazement, encompassed with grief, and overwhelmed with sorrow, pressed down with consternation and dejection of mind, tormented with anxiety and disquietude of spirit.

This he first expressed to his disciples, saying, My soul is exceeding sorrowful; and, lest they should not fully apprehend the excess, adding, even unto death; as if the pangs of death had already encompassed him, and, as the Psalmist speaks, the pain of hell had got hold upon him. He went but a little farther before he expressed the same to his Father, falling on his face and praying, even with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death (Heb. 5:7). Nor were his cries or tears sufficient evidences of his inward sufferings, nor could the sorrows of his breast be poured forth either at his lips or eyes; the innumerable pores of all his body must give a passage to more lively representations of the bitter anguish of his soul: and therefore while he prayed more earnestly, in that agony his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. As the Psalmist had before declared, I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint my heart is like wax it is melted in the midst of my bowels (Ps. 22:14). The heart of our Saviour was as it were melted with fear and astonishment, and all the parts of his body at the same time inflamed with anguish and agony: well then might that melting produce a sweat and that inflamed and rarified blood force a passage through the numerous pores.

And as the evangelists’ expressions, so the occasion of the grief will manifest the height and bitterness thereof. For God laid on his own Son the iniquities of us all; and as we are obliged to be sorry for our particular sins, so was he grieved for the sins of us all. If then we consider the perfection and latitude of his knowledge, he understood all the sins of men for which he suffered, all the evil and the guilt, all the offence against the Majesty, and ingratitude against the goodness of God, which was contained in all those sins. If we look upon his absolute conformity to the will of God, he was inflamed with most ardent love, he was most zealous of his glory, and most studious to preserve that right which was so highly violated by those sins. If we look upon his relation to the sons of men, he loved them all far more than any did themselves, he knew those sins were of themselves sufficient to bring eternal destruction on their souls and bodies, he considered them whom he so much loved as lying under the wrath of God whom he so truly worshipped. If we reflect upon those graces which were without measure diffused through his soul, and caused him with the greatest habitual detestation to abhor all sin: If we consider all these circumstances, we cannot wonder at that grief and sorrow. For if the true contrition of one single sinner, bleeding under the sting of the law only for his own iniquities, all which notwithstanding he knoweth not, cannot be performed without great bitterness of sorrow and remorse, what bounds can we set unto that grief, what measures to that anguish, which proceedeth from a full apprehension of all the transgressions of so many millions of sinners?

Add unto all these present apprehensions the immediate hand of God pressing upon him all this load, laying on his shoulders at once an heap of the sorrows which can happen unto any of the saints of God; that he, being touched with the feeling of our infirmities, might become a merciful high priest, able and willing to succour them that are tempted (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:15). Thus may we behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto that sorrow which was done unto him, wherewith the Lord afflicted him in the day of his fierce anger (Lam. 1:12). And from hence we may and must conclude, that the Saviour of man, as he took the whole nature of man, so he suffered in whatsoever he took, in his body by infirmities and external injuries, in his soul by fears and sorrows, by unknown and inexpressible anguishes…

That our Saviour did thus suffer is most necessary to believe. First, that thereby we may be assured of the verity of his human nature. For if he were not man, then could not man be redeemed by him; and if that nature in which he appeared were not truly human then could he not be truly man. But we may be well assured that he took on him our nature, when we see him subject unto our infirmities. We know the Godhead is of infinite perfection, and therefore is exalted far above all possibility of molestation. When therefore we see our Saviour truly suffer, we know his divine essence suffered not, and thence acknowledge the addition of his human nature as the proper subject of his passion. And from hence we may infallibly conclude: surely that Mediator between God and man was truly man, as we are men, who when he fasted was hungry, when he travelled was thirsty and weary as we are, who being grieved wept, being in an agony sweat[ed], being scourged bled, and being crucified died.

Secondly, it was necessary Christ should suffer for the redemption of lapsed men, and their reconciliation unto God; which was not otherwise to be performed than by a plenary satisfaction to his will. He therefore was by all his sufferings made an expiation, atonement and propitiation for all our sins. For salvation is impossible unto sinners without remission of sin, and remission in the decree of God impossible without effusion of blood. Our redemption therefore could not be wrought but by the blood of the redeemer, but by a Lamb slain, but by a suffering Saviour.

Thirdly, it behoved Christ to suffer that he might purchase thereby eternal happiness in the heavens both for himself the head, and for the members of his body. He drunk of the brook in the way, therefore hath he lift up his head (Ps. 110:7). Ought not Christ to suffer, and so to enter into his own glory? (Luk. 24:26) And doth he not by the same right by which he entered into it, confer that glory upon us? The recompense of the reward was set before him, and through an intuition of it he cheerfully underwent whatsoever was laid upon him. He must therefore necessarily suffer to obtain that happiness, who is therefore happy because he suffered.

Fourthly, it was necessary Christ should suffer, that we might be assured that he is truly affected with a most tender compassion of our afflictions. For this end was he subjected to misery, that he might become prone unto mercy: for this purpose was he made a sacrifice, that he might be a compassionate high priest: and therefore was he most unmerciful to himself, that he might be most merciful unto us.

Fifthly, it was necessary the Son of man should suffer, thereby to shew us that we are to suffer, and to teach us how we are to suffer. For if these things were done to the green tree, what shall be done to the dry? Nay, if God spared not his natural, his eternal, his only-begotten Son, how shall he spare his adopted sons, who are best known to be children because they are chastised, and appear to be in his paternal affection because they lie under his fatherly correction? We are therefore heirs only because coheirs with Christ, and we shall be kings only because we shall reign together with him. It is a certain and infallible consequence, If Christ be risen, then shall we also rise; and we must look for as strong a coherence in this other, If Christ hath suffered then must we expect to suffer. And as he taught the necessity of, so he left us the direction in, our sufferings. Great was the example of Job, but far short of absolute perfection: the pattern beyond all exception is alone our Saviour, who hath taught us in all our afflictions the exercise of admirable humility, perfect patience, and absolute submission unto the will of God.

And now we may perceive the full importance of this part of the Article, and every Christian may thereby understand what he is to believe, and what he is conceived to profess, when he makes this confession of his faith: He suffered. For hereby everyone is obliged to intend thus much: I am really persuaded within myself, and do make a sincere profession of this as a most necessary, certain, and infallible truth, that the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father, and of the same essence with the Father, did for the redemption of mankind really and truly suffer, not in his divinity, which was impassible, but in his humanity, which in the days of his humiliation was subject unto our infirmities. That as he is a perfect redeemer of the whole man, so he was a complete sufferer in the whole: in his body, by such dolorous infirmities as arise internally from human frailties, and by such pains as are inflicted by external injuries; in his soul, by fearful apprehensions, by unknown sorrows, by anguish inexpressible. And in this latitude and propriety I believe our Saviour suffered.

George Abbot (1562-1633): This is the Christian’s surest anchor

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George Abbot (1562-1633) was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1611 to 1633. He had previously been master of University College, Oxford, bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, and bishop of London. He was furthermore part of the translation committee which translated the Gospels, Acts, and the Book of Revelation for the Authorized Version of the Bible (a.k.a. the King James Version).

In 1600, Abbot published his Exposition upon the Prophet Jonah, which consisted of sermons/lectures preached to the University of Oxford in the University Church (St Mary’s). In Lecture XII Abbot preached on Jonah 2:5-6, culminating with Jonah’s calling upon the LORD as “LORD my God”:

20 The only thing now remaining, is the confident appellation, which he useth to the Lord, Jehovah o my God. This sheweth a faith beyond faith, and a hope beyond hope: when he knew that the Lord was angry, and extremely wrathful at him, yet to cling in so to his mercy, as to appropriate to himself a portion in his maker. For what greater insinuation of confidence can there be, than by particular application to apprehend God’s mercy: to lay hold upon him as on a father; and that not as we say, with a reference to the communion of saints, Our father which art in heaven (Matt. 6:9), but my father and my God. This hath been the perfect trust of the faithful in all ages, which hath encouraged them to approach with boldness, unto the throne of grace. My God, my Godsaith David (Ps. 22:1). And, thou that art the God of my salvation(Ps. 51:14). And Job, I am sure that my Redeemer liveth(Job 19:25). My spiritsaith the Virgin Mary, doth rejoice in God my Saviour(Luk. 1:47). My Lord and my God, saith Thomas (Joh. 20:28). Paul saith of himself, I live by faith in the Son of God, who hath loved me and given himself for me(Gal. 2:20). This true faith doth close with God, and incorporateth itself into the body of the Redeemer.

21 And this is it, which bringeth comfort unto the wounded soul, and afflicted conscience, not that Christ is a Saviour, for what am I the better for that? but a Saviour unto me. That I am one of the adoption, reconciled and brought into favour, sealed up against that day, when the quick and dead shall be judged: my portion is with the Highest, mine inheritance with the Saints. How could flesh and blood ever bear the heat of strong temptation, without this firm persuasion? What is it to my belly, that bread is prepared for [an]other, unless I be assured that my part is therein? What is it to my soul, that Christ hath died for [an]other, unless I know that my sins are washed away in his blood? It may be good for Moses, it may be good for Paul, or Peter, or James, or Stephen, but what is it unto me? It is Meusthen and Tuus, as Luther did well teach, it is my God and thy Saviourwhich doth satisfy thirsty consciences (Luther in Epist. ad Galatas). There is the joy of the Spirit, when men come to that measure. Then it is a blessed doctrine which instilleth that faith into us; and in that, if in anything, doth appear the fruit of the Gospel, which is preached in our days: that people sick and dying, being taught before in their health, can give [the] most divine words, and right admirable speeches, in this behalf whereof I speak, sayings full of holy trust and assurance; which as it is a thing most comfortable to themselves (beyond all gold and treasure, which are but as dung and dross to a man yielding up the ghost), so it bringeth good meditations unto the standers by, in causing them to acknowledge very evident and plain arguments of election in the other, whom they see to be so possessed with joy in the holy Ghost, and so rapt up, as if they had already one foot within the heaven.

22 But it is otherwise with the ignorant; they lie grovelling upon the ground, and cannot mount up with the eagle. So is it in that doctrine which the Church of Rome doth maintain, when their people are taught, that they must believe in general, that some shall go to heaven, that some belong to God: but to say or think, that [they] themselves shall be certainly of that number, or constantly to hope it, that is boldness overmuch, that is over-weening presumption. They are to wish and pray, that it may be so with them, but yet it appertaineth to them evermore to doubt because they know not the worthiness of their merits: a most uncomfortable opinion, which cannot choose but distract the heart of a dying man, that he must not dare to believe with confidence, that he shall go to God: that Jesus is his Saviour, & the pardoner of his faults. No marvel if the life and death of such who hearken unto them, be full of sighs and sobs, & groans, and fears, and doubts, since quietness and settled rest cannot be in their hearts. They have a way to walk, but what is the end they know not. They are sure of their departure, but whither they cannot tell. A lamentable taking, and wherein of necessity must be small joy. How contrary hereunto doth Saint Paul speak, being justified by faith we have peace toward God, through our Lord Jesus Christ(Rom. 5:1). How contrary to this doth Saint John speak in the name of the faithful, we know that we are of God(1 Joh. 5:19). How doth dejected Jonah yet keep him fast to this tackling, when he crieth o Lord my God?

23 And this is the surest anchor, whereunto a Christian man may possibly know how to trust. This is it which in the blasts of adversity, will keep him fast at the root; which in the waves of temptation, will hold him fast by the chin, which in the greatest discomforts, and very pangs of death, will bring him to life again: To ground himself upon this, as on a rock assured, that his God is his father, that Jesus is his redeemer, that the holy Ghost doth sanctify him, that although he sin oft-times, yet evermore he is forgiven; and albeit he do transgress daily, yet it is still forgotten; that whether he live or die, yet ever he is the Lord’s. Good father lead us so by thy most blessed Spirit, that we never do fall from this. But although sin hang upon us, as it did upon the Prophet, yet raise us so by thy love, that laying hold on thy promises, and the sweetness of thy favour, we may reap eternal life, to the which o blessed Lord bring us for thine own Son Christ his sake, to whom with thee and thy Spirit, be laud for evermore.

Hilary of Poitiers (c. 300–368) on the Incarnation

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For the past few years during Advent or on Christmas day, I have been in the habit of reading and reflecting on Augustine’s famous sermon on the Feast of the Nativity, in which this immensely profound passage on Christ’s Incarnation can be found. For Christmastide this year, we reflect on a similar passage from Hilary of Poitiers (c. 300–368) in his De Trinitate, II.24-25, on how the Incarnation and Christ’s life on earth – from Virgin birth to descensus ad inferos – was for our benefit and salvation:

The Virgin, the birth, the Body, then the Cross, the death, [the descent into] hell; these things are our salvation. For the sake of mankind the Son of God was born of the Virgin and of the Holy Ghost. In this process He ministered to Himself; by His own power—the power of God—which overshadowed her, He sowed the beginning of His Body, and entered on the first stage of His life in the flesh. He did it that by His Incarnation He might take to Himself from the Virgin the fleshly nature, and that through this commingling there might come into being a hallowed Body of all humanity; that so through that Body which He was pleased to assume all mankind might be hid in Him, and He in return, through His unseen existence, be reproduced in all. Thus the invisible Image of God scorned not the shame which marks the beginnings of human life, and, by his conception, birth, wailing, and cradle, he passed through all the successive humiliations of our nature.

What worthy return can we make for so great a condescension? The One Only-begotten God, ineffably born of God, entered the holy Virgin’s womb and grew and took the frame of poor humanity. He Who contains everything, within Whom and through Whom are all things, was brought forth by common childbirth; He at Whose voice Archangels and Angels tremble, and heaven and earth and all the elements of this world are melted, was heard in childish wailing. The Invisible and Incomprehensible, Whom sight and feeling and touch cannot gauge, was wrapped in a cradle. If any man deem all this unworthy of God, then the less such condescension befits the majesty of God, the greater must he own his debt for the benefit conferred. He by Whom man was made had nothing to gain by becoming Man; it was our gain that God was incarnate and dwelt among us, making all flesh His home by taking upon Him the flesh of One. His humiliation is our exaltation; his shame is our honour. He, being God, made flesh His residence, and we in return are lifted anew from the flesh to God.

John Edwards (1637-1716) on Christ’s silence before his tribunal

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In a broader discussion on and defence of the doctrine of the imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ on the cross, John Edwards (1637-1716) cites Christ’s behaviour before his tribunal as pointing to and affirming this doctrine, particularly Christ’s silence in the face of the multitude of accusations against him. This excerpt is from his The Doctrin [sic] of Faith and Justification set in a True Light, p. 269-271:

I argue further [for the imputation of our sins to Christ] from Christ’s behaviour, and first from his deportment before his judges: when he was arraign’d and indited, and when the witnesses produced their testimonies against him, he took no notice of their accusations, and never endeavour’d to clear himself of them, but behaved himself like a guilty person.

When he was brought before the Sanhedrin, whereof Caiaphaswas the chief and president, who provoked him to speak for himself, and with a more than ordinary emotion and concernedness, arose from his seat, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? What is it that these witness against thee?(Matt. 26:62). It is expressly recorded that Jesus held his peace(v. 63). And when he was led from Caiaphasto Pontius Pilate, his behaviour was still the same: when he was accused of the chief priests and elders,(who belonged to the Sanhedrin, and had sent in their depositions and accusations which they had taken against Christ, when he appeared before Caiaphas) he answered nothing(Matt. 27:12). And tho’ Pilate(as Caiaphashad done before) blamed him for his silence, and smartly accosted him after this manner, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?(v. 13), yet he was not in the least moved to make any apology for himself, he answered him to never a word(v. 14). And a third time, that is, when he was brought before Herod, ‘tis particularly recorded, that he answered nothing(Luke 23:9).

The reason that is generally assign’d by divines of this profound silence is that our Saviour knew, that the false witnesses wou’d say what they pleased against him, and therefore it was to no purpose to make his defence: and his enemies were resolved to take away his life: and besides, he was willing to lay it down, for this was the design of his coming into the world. But it may easily be answer’d to this, that tho’ Christ knew that his enemies resolv’d to pursue him to death, and to that purpose would produce witnesses to say and swear any thing against him, and tho’ he came to lay down his life for the elect, yet these things were not inconsistent with his pleading for himself, and asserting his innocence in open court, where his silence might be interpreted to be no other than a confession of his guilt, and a confirmation of the truth of all that the witnesses alledged against him.

Wherefore I conceive there was a higher reason of this our Lord’s behaviour: he acted thus to let us know that he bore our sins, that he took upon him our guilt. It is certain that if he had pleased, he could have confuted and baffled his accusers in the face of the court, he could have struck all his witnesses dumb. And indeed the charge that was brought against him was easie to be repell’d, because of its weakness and improbability, and the apparent malice that was discernable in it. So that he had then a just and fair occasion to baffle the suborned witnesses, and to clear his own innocency in the face of the world, especially when his disciples and all that before shewed respect and kindness to him forsook him, and one of them solemnly denied him. Yet he rather chose to be silent, and to suffer both witnesses and judges to insult him: and he did not shew himself concerned at all to defend his innocence, and to reply to the accusations which were brought against him. Yea, and which is very remarkable, tho’ he was free to answer to any otherquestions that were put to him (as we read in the history of his trial) yet as to the crimes alledg’d against him by his accusers, he was pleas’d to answer nothing.

This strange and wonderful silence at such a time I cannot but attribute to the cause before mentioned [i.e. the weight of guilt that was Christ’s by imputation]. Christ having undertaken to appear in our stead, there was to be a mutual exchange of conditions. He answer’d nothing, because we have nothing to answer for ourselves, when accused by the law of God. Tho’ he had no sin of his own, yet he substituted himself in our room, who were guilty of all sins, and accordingly he appeared as guilty, he stood silent when he was accused. Wonder not at it when you remember that he was to be in the likeness of sinful flesh, and was to assume our transgressions, and to be reckon’d a sinner. This carriage of our Lord was foretold by the evangelical prophet (Isa. 53:7) he opened not his mouth, he stood silent before the tribunal. Which is mention’d again in the same verse, to let us know that it is of great significancy and importance: As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. Which unexpected and extraordinary behaviour of Christ I cannot resolve into any thing but his susception of our sins upon himself, and his designing by this action to convince us that he was a reputed sinner.

George Barker (d. 1684): Sermon on the perseverance of the saints in a rural Yorkshire parish church

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George Barker (d. 1684) was a Reformed conforming churchman. He studied at St Catharine’s Hall, Cambridge (known today as St Catharine’s College), where he took a BA, MA, and BD, and where he also served as a fellow of St Catharine’s for ten years from 1649 until 1659. The masters of St Catharine’s during Barker’s studies and fellowship there were the two Westminster divines William Spurstowe and John Lightfoot. Barker departed St Catharine’s in 1659 to become the rector of Danby Wiske in rural Yorkshire (parish church pictured below), where he diligently ministered for the rest of his life, preaching twice every Sunday despite having such a small rural parish.

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A number of Barker’s sermons were collected and published posthumously as Sermons upon Several Texts of Scripture (1697). One of these sermons, preached to his parish at Danby Wiske, was based on Matthew 7:25, “…and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock.” From this text, Barker preached a ripper of a sermon on the perseverance of the saints which is worthy of being reproduced for modern readers. Accordingly, this post is significantly longer than usual, but I believe the read will be worth the reader’s while. Skipping the initial parts, the core of the sermon (p. 198-218) is given below, where Barker proclaims that a person who is “built upon the Rock Christ, can never fall totally, or finally”:

By a total fall I mean, such a fall as would be incurr’d by the Christian, should he be supposed to be removed off the foundation, and to lose his union to Christ. The consequence whereof, must necessarily be the loss of all saving grace; so that though he still retained some gifts and common graces, which might render him tolerable in the world, yea serviceable, yet he was wholly without saving grace: which might make his heart good, bent for God and holiness.

Now thus fall he cannot, though he may commit some sins, yea and gross sins; and also neglect some considerable duties, and come under the tyranny of some lust, which he was unacquainted with before, and little exercise such graces as formerly were stirring in him, yet still he can never be so, but he’ll have the root of grace in him, and still the bent of his heart will be heavenwards, though as to any actual motions of his soul that way, he be either diverted from them by some deceit, or hindr’d in them by some violence. Thus the stone has an inclination towards the center, though it move not that way so long as some hand interposes to stop its motion. The fountain has a strong tendency to send out streams of fresh water, though so long as the spring is stopt with stones, or mud, no water at all appears.

A Christian then may fall partially but he cannot fall totally.

By a final fall I understand such a fall as he will never recover out of, nor shake off the prejudice of.

Now a partial fall may be supposed, where there is no total. As there may be a final death, where there is no total. As when a man dies as to one part, be it a leg or an arm, which is so seized on by the palsey, as to lose all sense and motion, which he never recovers again; in this case he dies finally, as to one part, though he die not totally as to his whole body.

Now this we say of one, who is built on the Rock Christ, and is a Christian. As he can neither fall totally, so as to lose his whole new life, root and branch; so neither can he fall finally, so as never to recover that measure of life and grace, which he is supposed to lose. Indeed he may lie some while in his fall, without rising again by repentance, as it was with St. Peter, who after he had denied Christ once, went on to deny him again, and again more grievously, and continued in this sin without repentance for about three hours, (as divines by comparing together several circumstances of the history, do compute) from nine, till about midnight, though he was admonished of his sin, by the cock crowing twice (Luke. 22: 61). That St. Peter did not remember what Christ had told him about his denying him thrice, before the cock crew twice, till Christ looked upon him; and much more in David, who after he had defiled Bathsheba, and murdered Uriah, continued in his sin about a year not repenting, for he repented not till Nathan reproved him, and Nathan reproved him not, till a child was born of his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12:14). But God will order it so, that by some ordinance, or some providence he shall be excited, and enabled, to recover himself again, either during his lifetime, or however at his death; he shall recover himself so, as to be able and ready to forsake every sin he has lived in, to discharge every duty he has neglected, to overcome every lust he has been kept under by, to exercise every grace he has been deficient in.

But how do’s it appear, that those, who are built on Christ, neither do, nor can fall, either totally or finally?

I shall not go about to evidence either of these distinctly, but shall handle them conjointly.

1st, That life and grace, which Christians receive upon their union to Christ as their foundation, head and root, are resembled to such things as abide, if they do not grow and flourish. It is like a well of water, which usually is not dried up, though the summer be very droughty (John 4:14). A well of water, springing up into everlasting life. It is like a tree planted by the waters, which lives, and grows, and flourishes, when others are quite dead for want of rain (Jer. 17:8). It is like seed, which has taken root in good ground and therefore abides, and thrives, and brings forth fruit (Matt. 13:23; Luk. 8:15).

But you will say all these things have their end, few fountains but in time they quite fail: No trees, how commodiously soever planted, but in time die: No seed, but when it has brought forth as much fruit as it will, dies itself, and its fruit will in time decay.

Yet let it be considered that all these last full as long as it could be expected they should do according to their nature, and if they last not always, it is because their nature is but to continue for a time.

Now it’s the nature of saving grace to continue forever, for it is everlasting life as it is called (Jn. 3:36). He that believes on the Son hath everlasting life (1 Jn. 5:11). God hath given to us eternal life.

2dly. Those who are thus united unto Christ are such as God has chosen to salvation, and therefore they cannot fall away totally & finally; if they could, they would miss of that salvation which they are chosen to, and so God’s election would be frustrated.

Whoever are united to Christ are chosen of God, is evident, because all those are effectually called, (union to Christ being the immediate result of effectual vocation) and none are thus called by God, but such as he has chosen (Rom. 8:30). Whoever are chosen of God are chosen to salvation, is as evident, for this is the end, which God designs to advance to, when he culls out such from the world, as he judges fit for his purpose (2 Thess. 2:13). God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation &c. That whoever fall away from grace must assuredly miss of salvation, is evident to all, who understand and consider.

1st, What those, who are saved, are mainly saved from, and this is their lusts and sins (Matt. 1:21). He shall save his people from their sins, and this they cannot be, if they fall away from grace.

2dly. What they are mainly saved to, or for, and that is glory. Now those, who have lost grace, are incapable of glory, grace differing not at all from glory but in degrees, grace is but glory in its infancy, and glory is but grace in its full growth.

Now that those, who are elected by God unto salvation, cannot miss of it, is evident, whether we consider Scripture or reason. Scripture saith, it’s not possible for the elect to be seduced, i.e. into such errors or sins whereby they may miss salvation (Matt. 24:24). In so much that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Whoever are blinded, so as to miss salvation, the election obtains it, i.e. those who are elected by virtue of their election (Rom. 11:7). And reason shews, that whoever are chosen by God unto salvation must certainly attain it, unless God want either power, effectually to pursue his purpose till he have brought it about, or will, to do what he is able, neither of which can be supposed, granting but that which none can with any shew of reason deny, that God is omnipotent on the one hand, and all-wise on the other.

If he be almighty, he can effect whatever he has a mind to bring about; and if he be all-wise, he can never alter from what he purposes.

The only reason why men change and give over pursuing what once they intended, when still it is in their power so to pursue it as to attain it, is because they are now of another mind than once they were, and that because they find inconveniencies now, which formerly they never thought of; but this is their foolishness, which is not to be supposed in the all-wise God, who perfectly discerns whatever might be like to induce him to wave his choice before he makes it.

3dly. Those who are thus united unto Christ, are such as are apprehended by Christ for some end, and will not be let go by Christ till that end be attained. As St. Paul was apprehended by Christ, so are all that are in Christ (Phil. 3:12). At our first union unto Christ, Christ takes hold of us by the hand of his Spirit, and we take hold of him by the hand of our faith.

Now that which Christ takes hold of us for, is to bring us unto that, which a Christian by his inclination is carried out to reach after; I follow after, that I may apprehend that, for which also I am apprehended &c. Now there is no attaining this, which is holiness, and righteousness, in their perfection, with the peace, joy and glory, which is the necessary result of these, without holding fast grace, and holding on in good works, in obedience, patience, and self-denial.

Now they being in Christ’s hand, to be brought unto this end, unless Christ want either power to keep them in his hand, or power while he does keep them in his hand, to bring them unto that salvation he designs them for, how can those miss eternal life, of whom Christ saith, I give unto them eternal life (Jn. 10:28)? Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation (1 Pet. 1:5). They are come unto Christ, got into his hand, and such Christ will not cast out (Jn. 6:36). It is his Father’s will that he should lose none of them (v. 39). While he was on earth he kept those God gave him (Jn. 17:12). Those that thou gavest me I have kept &c.

4ly. Those who are thus united unto Christ, are such as have a love to God and Christ, and Christ has a love to them; now such no temptations can separate, it is Christ’s love to them, that makes him join himself to them, it is their love to Christ which makes them close with him. Now these Christ will always love, for his love is an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). Whom he loves he loves to the end (Jn. 13:1). And this love of Christ engages his wisdom, and power for their protection, and no temptations be they never so great are able to prevail against these (Rom. 8:35, 39). God will not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able &c (1 Cor. 10:13). These, by God’s help shall never overcome them so far, as to make them willing to leave Christ, and Christ will not leave them, though they should be willing to leave him, much less when they are not.

5ly. They are sealed by the Spirit unto salvation (2 Cor. 1). Who hath also sealed us. Ye are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest, &c. Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God. God by giving them his Spirit, does that to them which men do by setting to their seals, or by giving earnest, they do confirm the bargain, and make sure the performance of it; so that hereby God’s truth and faithfulness is engaged to make good the salvation which he by the seal and earnest, has obliged himself unto; which he cannot do without keeping them from total and final apostasy (1 Thess. 5:24). Faithful is he who has called you (1 Cor. 1:8-9). Who shall confirm you unto the end &c. God is faithful by whom ye were called.

6ly. Uniting a soul unto Christ as to its foundation is God’s work, which he begins with a design to complete, for this is an imperfect work in itself; the laying of a foundation is good to nothing unless their follow a building on the foundation, and a perfecting the building you shall not meet with any man who is in his wits, that lets his work rest immediately after he has laid the foundation, unless he be diverted by more urgent business, or hindered by downright violence, as the Jews were in the building of the Temple.

Now this being God’s work, he’ll perfect as well as begin it, for all God’s works are perfect (Deut. 32:4). He leaves them not half done. This made St. Paul confident of the Philippians doing well (Phil. 1:6). God had begun and he could not believe but he would go on.

7ly. For all such as are united to Christ, Christ did pray on earth, and still intercedes in heaven. What he prayed for Peter, he presses God for all, that their faith may not fail, however Satan be let out to tempt them (Luk. 22:32). He prays that God would keep them from evil (Jn. 17:5). And this he begs not only for his disciples that then attended him. But for all that should believe on him through their words (v. 2). Therefore it cannot be pretended that this prayer was made for some few and not for all Christ’s members. Now if the prayer of a righteous man be so effectual (Jam. 5:6), shall we think that the prayer of Christ, who is the holy one of God, the Son of God, that it shall prevail nothing? May Christians be confident that if they ask any thing according to God’s will he hears them (1 Jn. 5:14), and may they not be as confident that if Christ ask anything he shall not be denied? He himself was so (Jn. 11:41-42). I know that thou hearest me always. And St. Paul upon this account was very confident that none could rise up against him to condemn him, or otherwise hurt him, because Christ interceded for him, among others (Rom. 8:34).

8ly. This is the great thing which those who are united to Christ do most prize, love, and desire, seek, and pray for, that they may be established in what is good (1 Pet. 5:10). Peter begged no more for the dispersed Jews, than every sincere Christian begs for himself, that they may be kept from the evil of temptations (Matt. 6:13), Christ teaches them thus to pray by his Spirit that they may be made to go in the paths of his commandments (Ps. 119:35). Make me to go &c. Incline mine heart &c. Turn away mine eyes &c. Now shall not he who fulfills the desire of such as fear him (Ps. 145:19) answer them in these which are so every way agreeable to his will? When they desire to be kept close to God, and God desires it too; shall the devil, or the world, or the flesh be able to hinder it? When God bids them ask, seek, knock, and encourages them to this, by telling them they shall receive, find, and get opened (Matt. 7:7)? And when they follow his counsel, and obey his commands and take heart by his encouragements, will he disappoint them?

9ly. God is engaged by covenant to keep them from falling, and therefore he is engaged to do his utmost towards this, and he is able to do what he has engaged to do (Jude 24). Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling &c. This is the tenure of the new covenant which God has entered into with everyone who is really united to Christ, to put his law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts &c (Jer. 31:33). That he’ll neither depart from them nor they from him (Jer. 32:39-40). They shall fear him forever &c. That he’ll cause them to walk in his statutes and keep his judgments and do them (Ezek. 36:27). That he’ll betroth them to himself for ever &c (Hos. 2:19-20). That the mountains should sooner depart, and the hills be removed &c (Is. 54:9-10). That his Spirit shall not depart from them, nor their seed (Is. 59:11). Indeed these promises seem to be made unto Israel after the flesh, but they were designed for Israel after the Spirit; the Jews literal are but a type of the Jews mystical, and the promises, which were made to them in the letter, according to their more spiritual and high meaning belong to the true Israel of God. And we have the very same things promised in the New Testament, though in other terms, that God will build his Church so on a rock that hell’s gates, with all the power and policy of hell, cannot prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). And that the Spirit, which God gives his people, shall abide with them forever (Jn. 14:16). It’s true also, that these promises are not sensibly made good to his people of a long while, yet even then they are really made good, though not so fully as they shall be; they cleave to God, when their hearts seem to wander from him, they fear God, when their hearts seem most hardened from his fear.

10ly. In those, who are truly united unto Christ, sin is so mortified as never to recover life again, and the soul is so quicken’d as never to die again, no more than Christ died after he once rose; those who are really united unto Christ, are baptized into his death, so as they begin to die unto sin, and though sin does not die forthwith in them, no more than Christ dies immediately after he was nailed on the cross, yet they continue dying by degrees, as Christ did, until they be quite dead, and they are baptized into his resurrection, so as to be raised to a new life which shall no more die than Christ did, after he was once raised. And this is the importance of Rom. 6:3, 11, Know ye not that so many of us, as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Likewise reckon yourselves dead unto sin, but alive to God. And those whom it is thus with, can never fall either totally or finally.

11ly. Those who thus fall, evidence that whatever they seemed, they never really were united unto Christ, for if they had been, they would have kept to him. It will appear, that we are Christ’s house, if we hold on to the end (Heb. 3:6). We are partakers of Christ, if we hold to the end (v. 14). It will appear that we are disciples indeed, if we continue in Christ’s words (Jn. 8:31). He saith not, we shall be partakers of Christ, or we shall be Christ’s disciples; but we are already, if we have that in us, which will make us steadfast. It will appear that we are sons, if we abide in God’s house forever (v. 35). ‘Tis a certain sign that those were never of the true church of Christ, who at any time go out from it (1 Jn. 2:19).

But, you will say, what reason is there, why those who are thus built on Christ, cannot fall neither totally nor finally?

I answer first, because the foundation itself cannot fail, it being the Rock of Ages (Ps. 26). Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). He is a sure foundation (Is. 28:16).

2ly. The union between the soul and Christ the foundation cannot be dissolved. On Christ’s part it cannot, because he is altogether unchangeable: On the soul’s part it cannot, because tho’ it be mutable in itself, yet it is established in Christ. There is a double reason of its establishment.

1st. From the nature of that life, which springs up in it from the foundation of life, Christ, unto whom it is united. This continually springing up keeps the will, which otherwise would be fickle enough, steadily bent for God the same way heavenwards; hence it is that he, who is born of God, cannot sin (Jn. 3:9). For there is no sin, but what is voluntary, now their will is already engaged for God: They may do, what ought not to be done, through ignorance or weakness, being overpowered by temptations, transported by lusts and passions, but their will cannot fully consent to sin, because it is otherwise pre-engaged. Thus a weather-cock is very mutable of itself, but if there be a wind, that blows on it continually, that keeps continually in the same quarter, the weather-cock itself will keep immoveable; thus a cork  or some such light thing is easily moveable this way or that way, but if it be cast into a stream, which continually moves the same way, it is determined to a certain motion.

2ly. From the power of God, which helps it against whatever would move it.

To make this help God is inclined both by his infinite goodness, and his peculiar love to them; he is obliged by his faithful promise, he having said, I will strengthen thee, I will help thee, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness (Is. 41:10).

He is concerned, as he consults his own honour, which is engaged to bring those into Canaan, whom he has brought out of Egypt, and suffer not them to perish in the wilderness: He is enabled by his unsearchable wisdom, his irresistible power, and his being everywhere present, and continuing to eternity, so that in no time or place can there any temptation befall his people, which he is not acquainted with, and which he is not every way able to secure them against.

As for the exceptions against this truth, they are several.

1st. Those, who should best understand this, if it were so, seem to doubt of it, as St. Paul (1 Cor. 9:27), Lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway; (Phil. 3:11) If by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead.

Ans. If this instance were brought of any other, besides St. Paul and some of like eminent graces with him, or if it was brought of St. Paul when he lay under some great temptation, we might answer, that tho’ this were never so certain a truth, yet those who lie under much darkness (as even these, who are called into the marvelous light of God, during the disadvantages of this life do) may question it. But I rather say, St. Paul there does not declare, that he doubts lest he should become a reprobate, or lest he should come short of that eminent grace, which he expresses by the periphrasis of the resurrection of the dead; but he declares, that if he did not use due means to avoid being a reprobate, and to attain the resurrection of the dead, he might be a reprobate and miss that resurrection; and therefore he could not but bestir himself in the use of means, that he might avoid this danger. He who says, he puts on hard, lest he should not get to his journey’s end that night, does not declare, that he doubts he shall not get to his journey’s end, though he should ride never so hard: he only declares, that without riding hard he expects it not, and if he do but ride hard, he fears it not.

Obj. 2. But what need there any caution, when there is no danger? Thou standest by faith, be not high-minded, but fear (Rom. 11:20). Let him, that thinketh he standeth, take heed least he fall (1 Cor. 10:12).

Ans. 1. Though there be no falling from saving grace, yet there may be from common grace. He that has the talent and improves it not, may lose it. There are none that deny, but common grace, which is only the workings of the Spirit upon a man, may be lost. And it is a disadvantage to lose it (tho’ of itself it is not sufficient to salvation) both because those, who have common grace are nearer to salvation than those, who have it not, and also because, if they should miss of salvation, they are however even by common grace restrained from many sins, which otherwise they would run into, and thereby aggravate their own guilt and increase their misery. Seeing therefore, many of those the Apostle wrote to, were such as had but a common work of grace upon them, (as the generality of the visible church ordinarily have no more) such cautions as these might be of use to them.

2ly. Tho’ one who has saving grace, cannot fall totally and finally from grace, yet they may fall in part, and for a while; they may lose much of their light and strength, and thereby be less holy, & unblameable, and exemplary in their lives, and have less comfort in their hearts, God may be less pleased and honoured by them, and others less edified. Now this is so considerable a disadvantage, that they may well be concerned to take heed of incurring it.

3ly. Tho’ those, who have saving grace, be in no danger of falling quite from it, yet it is not to be expected, they should be preserved without their own watchfulness and wariness. That which is the great security of God’s people in their grace is, that one part of their grace is a fear of God, and a jealousy of themselves, and that which does excite this fear, and awaken this jealousy in them is the being cautioned of their danger. This makes them work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). Though the nurse have such hold of the child, as to keep it from falling, yet to make it more cautious in its walking, she may fright it by minding it of the danger it is in of falling, if it be left to itself, and this fear of falling may be one means to keep it on its legs.

Obj. 3. But does not this open a door to all licentiousness, to tell men that they cannot fall away from Christ? May they not then say we may do as we list?

Ans. 1st. Those, whom we assert to be past this danger, are only such, whose hearts are firmly principled with a love to holiness and righteousness, and an hatred of all impurity and iniquity; and those who are such, would not allow themselves in sin, though they should not apprehend any disadvantage by it.

2ly. Those know well that what mainly secures them against this great danger of falling away, is that principle of fear, which God has implanted in them, and that it is the exercise of this, which is the means to preserve them.

3ly. Even those know, that should they give way unto corruptions and temptations, tho’ they do not fall away, yet they may incur other inconveniences, whereby their sorrows may be multiplied, and God’s judgments may be heaped upon them. None can expect to gain by presuming to sin, because they are so joined to Christ as they cannot be separated from him; God will follow them with such inward terrors, and outward pressures, as will weary them out of all these sinful courses.

Use. 1st. This shews the Excellent state, to which Christians (such as are so indeed) are arrived. They have got grace, which is the most precious thing in the world, for it is the seed of glory.

They are got into God’s favour, that favour, which is the original of all blessings whatsoever both of soul and body: They are sons of God, brethren of Christ, temples of the Holy Ghost, heirs of Heaven, objects of God’s love and care, the charge of his providence. And what makes all these advantages complete is, that they are so firmly stated in them, that they can never wholly lose them; whereas all worldly enjoyments and accomplishments are exposed to variety of hazards, even the firmest and surest of them. What reason then have those, who are advanced thus high, to give thanks to their good God for what he has already done for them and further intends them? What need they care, though they want many of the conveniences of the world which others have, when they have that, which is incomparably of greater worth, which the generality of the world are without?

2ly. Take heed of taking up with such attainments in grace, as may be lost again; that which may be lost, can never everlastingly advantage us; we are not rooted and grounded in it. We are not born again of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever (1 Pet. 1:23). Indeed common grace is better than no grace, as it is a step nearer saving grace, and as it restrains from such extravagances as would increase our misery in hell, but it is not to be rested in, how specious soever it be, because it cannot assure us of heaven, nor secure us from hell.

We should therefore be much in examining ourselves, whether that grace, which we please ourselves in, have a root and a spring within us; if not, it will not last long, it will never abide the trials, it shall meet with in life and death. If it be not a new nature in us, altering the very bent and inclinations of our hearts, it will never continue. If the living Word be not ingrafted in us, it will never stay long with us.

Whoever they be that think, that saving grace may be so easily lost, it is much to be doubted, whether ever they knew the power of it, what a great alteration it works in the soul.

Thomas Allen (1681-1755) on the perseverance of the saints

ThomasAllen

 

Thomas Allen (1681-1755) was a Reformed conforming churchman and rector of Kettering, Northamptonshire, for a sturdy innings of 41 years from 1714 until his death. Prior to his long ministry at Kettering, Allen studied at Wadham College, Oxford, and served as rector of Irchester, Northamptonshire. He died in his parish church (St Peter and St Paul’s, Kettering) as he was reading prayers.

Allen published a number of works during his lifetime, one of which is his devotional book The Practice of a Holy Life; or, the Christian’s Daily Exercise, in Meditations, Prayers, and Rules of Holy Living (1716). One of the “daily exercises” in this book treats the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Allen writes that, if it were possible for the faith of a true regenerate Christian to be overthrown, then it must be overthrown “either by God, or by some inferior cause.” Yet “God will not, and no inferior [cause] can overthrow it.”

God will not overthrow the faith of regenerate believers because:

he has made an everlasting covenant with them, never to turn from them, to do them good; but will put his fear into their hearts, that they shall not depart from him (Jer. 32:40); that is, his fear shall be the cement whereby they shall adhere and cleave unto him forever. Whom he loves in Christ Jesus, he always loves unto the end (John 13:1). They that trust in him, are like Mount Sion, which cannot be removed (Ps. 125:1). They are sheep, which no man can pluck out of his hands (John 10:29), chosen ones, whom it is not possible to seduce: Neither shall they be tempted above what they are able to bear (Matt. 24:24; 1 Cor. 10:3). And tho’ they fall, yet shall they not utterly be cast down; for the Lord upholdeth them with his hand (Ps. 37:24). Christ Jesus will not undermine their happy state; for he is the prince of their salvation, has washed them in his own blood (Rev. 7:14), has engaged himself to advance them to his glory, and, of all the Father giveth him, he loseth not one (John 6:39). The Holy Ghost will not alter it; for he it is that enables them to do the will of God, seals them unto the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30), and is not come to stay a day or two, but abide in them forever (John 14:16).

Allen hence concludes that “[s]ince it cannot be by God, it must be by some inferior cause, either the Devil, or by the loss of faith, or by some great sin, that their estate is vanquishable, or not at all.” He accordingly goes through these three inferior causes to determine whether it is possible for them to cause the falling away of a believer, and argues:

Not by the Devil; for though he be a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, and his wrath is increased, because his time is short (1 Pet. 5:8), yet his head is broken (Rev. 12:12), his main strength is gone (Gen. 3:15), and greater is he that is in them, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).” And tho’ he marcheth after the sons of God, as Pharaoh did after Israel, with all his strength, yet they go forth with an high hand (Ex. 14:8) and mighty is he that defends their cause against him.

Neither can they hazard their estate by the loss of faith. This indeed is the very bond of adoption: and if [there was a way] it could be lost, there were danger; but, blessed be God, there is none. Faith is the gift of God, begotten in them by the Holy Ghost, independent of the will of the flesh, or of man (John 1:13), and therefore must partake of the nature of God, which is, to be unchangeable (Mal. 3:6) and without repentance (Rom. 11:29). And though it may be much weakened, and for a time be without fruit, as trees in winter, and seemingly lifeless, and dead; yet that it should finally miscarry, is impossible: for Christ, in the person of St. Peter, has prayed for the faith of all his elect (Luke 22:31). And God cannot but hear, and answer, a prayer so agreeable to his own will: otherwise, if but one could perish, then may all; for one has no more privilege than another: and if all, then Christ may have died in vain, which is a gross absurdity.

Neither, lastly, can sin dispossess the sons of God from their inheritance: Nothing can separate them from the love of God (Rom. 8:35), therefore not sin: All things shall work together for their good (v. 28) and therefore sin, among the rest, though contrary to its own nature, shall promote it: much wariness, fear, humility, thankfulness to God, and charity to men, is wrought by it. And though God permits them to fall into it, to shew them their weakness, he will not let them lye in it, to shew them his power. The promise of God to Solomon, is the freehold of all his children: I will be his Father, and he shall be my son: if he sin, I will chasten him with the rod; but my mercy shall not depart from him (2 Sam. 7:14). And they are bidden daily to pray, lead us not into temptation (Matt. 6:13), which were to no purpose, if it were not his will to hear them, and to establish, strengthen, and settle them in every good word, and work, till he has brought them to his heavenly kingdom.

Stable therefore is the adoption of sons by faith in Christ, which, whosoever is possess’d of, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters; new graces, and new assurances of that eternal life which he is hastening to; such a I know, whom I have believed. I am persuaded, that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him, against that day; that he will deliver me from all evil, and preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom. Who will lay anything to my charge? Who will separate me from the love of God in Jesus my Lord? I have fought a good fight; I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.

Thomas Allen (1681-1755), The practice of a holy life; or, the Christian’s daily exercise, in meditations, prayers, and rules of holy living (1716), p. 265-267.