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

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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.

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