RPM, Volume 18, Number 17, April 17 to April 23, 2016

Sermons on John 17

Sermon XVII

By Thomas Manton

"And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee.
Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are." John17:11.

Thirdly, The matter of the prayer, for perseverance in grace.

"Keep through thine own name." —it may be rendered "in thy name," or "by thy name," or "for thy name's sake;" among the Hebrews, may be thus rendered, "by thy name;" "by which the elders obtained a good report," (Heb. 11:2). "For thy name;" "As God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you," (Eph. 4:32). So, "Receive her in the Lord," (Rom. 16:2); that is, for the Lord's sake. (1.) If it be "in thy name," then the meaning is, in the knowledge of thy truth; for by the name of God is meant anything by which he is made known. The doctrine of the gospel in this chapter is called, "his name," "I have manifested thy name to them," (John 17:6); meaning the whole doctrine of godliness. So Christ prayeth, "Keep them in thy name;" that is, in the constant profession of the truth; let them not be cheated out of it by Satan, nor affrighted out of it by persecutions; but let them constantly hold it forth, defend and propagate it to the world. (2.) "By thy name;" so God's name is himself, and himself is his name. So, "My name is in him," (Ex. 23:21); that is, he is of the same essence and glory with me. So "by thy name," is by thy self, thy power, mercy, goodness, truth, —Chrysostom; by thy gracious assistance. (3.) "For thy name's sake," to show forth thy mercy, truth, faithfulness. These expositions may be compounded—Keep them in thy truth, or the worship and profession of thy name, by thy power, for thy name's sake, to discover thy mercy and truth; thy mercy, in taking them into a state of grace; thy truth, in preserving them in the state of grace. The points are two:

1. That the perseverance of the saints, or their conservation in the state of grace, is sure and certain.

2. That we are kept in the state of grace by God's name, by his power, for his glory.

Doctrine 1. That the perseverance of the saints, or their conservation in a state of grace, is sure and certain.

1. I shall show how I build the certainty of perseverance on this place.

2. I shall handle the doctrine, confirming it by other grounds.

First, How this doctrine of the certainty of the saints' perseverance is built on this place. Christ hath begged it, and he beggeth it for all the saints. Christ hath begged it, and the prayers of Christ, who is God's beloved Son, cannot possibly return in vain, there being such an absolute conformity and consent between the will of God the Father and the Son: "I know that thou hearest me always," (John 11:42). Christ cannot be denied audience and acceptance in the court of heaven, especially in a request upon which his heart is set. His people are so wonderfully dear to him, that he would not lose one of them; and then Christ is so wonderfully dear to God, that he must needs speed in all his requests. Therefore if Christ hath mediated for the conservation of the saints, the Father will grant what he asketh. Yea, the Father himself loveth the saints; the thing is pleasing to him. It is notable that when Christ had spoken of the perseverance of the saints, he adds, "I and my Father are one," (John 10:30); as noting not only the unity of essence, but the consent of will, that was between them in this work. Well, then, look, as Christ redeemeth us because the Father required it, the Father will love us and preserve us because the Son asketh it. If Christ bear any respect to the Father's command, or the Father to Christ's prayers, the elect are sure to be saved. Christ hath engaged God's name to keep us. What can be objected against this? They say that Christ prayed conditionally, Keep them if they will. But here is no condition expressed. Christ absolutely prayeth, Keep them; and such a condition would make the gift of God to depend upon man's will; and so to persevere would rather be man's act than God's gift, the determination being on man's part. Nay, the main thing which is to be kept is our will, and so the condition would destroy the very nature of the request They say, Christ prayeth only for the apostles. I answer—It cannot be restrained to the apostles; it is the common privilege of all the saints: "Those which thou hast given me." Christ explaineth himself, and extendeth it to believers of all ages: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for those which shall believe in me through their word," (John 17:20). Christ's prayer is every way as good as a promise.

Secondly, Let me handle the doctrine itself. The doctrine of perseverance is much impugned, but the earth is never the more unsettled because to giddy brains it seemeth to run round. Let me state, and then confirm it

First, State it

1. Seeming grace may be lost: "From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath," (Matt. 25:29, compared with); "Whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have," (Luke 18:8). Blazing comets and meteors are soon spent, and may fall from heaven like lightning, while stars keep their orb and station; sandy building will totter. The hypocrites "shall be discovered before the congregation," (Prov. 26:26).

2. Initial or preparative grace may fail: "They who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, may fall away," (Heb. 6:4,5); such as illumination, external reformation, temporary faith, some good beginnings. Some die in the pangs of the new birth, and are still-born. Plenty of blossoms doth not always foretell store of fruit.

3. True grace may suffer a shrewd decay, but not an utter loss. In temptations it may be sorely shaken; the heel may be bruised as Christ's was, but "his seed remaineth in him." (1 John 3:9); as Peter denied Christ, though he did not fall from grace: "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not," (Luke 22:32). The leaves may fade when the root liveth. Chrysostom saith concerning Christ's prayer for Peter, uk erei ina mh arnhsh alla wste mhekleipein thnpistin. —He doth not say, that he might not deny him, but that his faith might not fail and altogether vanish.

4. Such grace as serves to our well-being in Christ may be taken away, joy, peace, cheerfulness. A man may be living though he be not lively; a man may have a being when his wellbeing is lost; he is a man, though a bankrupt. So a Christian, the operations of grace may be obstructed for a great while; a fit of swooning is not a state of death; there may be no acts, and yet the seed may remain, this may last; for a long time. David did not recover himself, it was near a year after his sin: "The child that is born of thee shall surely die;" (1 Sam. 12:14, compared with), "A psalm of David when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba," (Ps. 51; title).

5. Grace indeed, if left to us, would be soon lost; we showed that in innocency. But it is our advantage that our security lieth in God's promise, not our own strength, that we are not our own keepers. God would not trust this jewel but in safe hands. Perseverance is God's gift not man's act; he is engaged in Christ to maintain it: "I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hands. My Father that gave them me, is greater than I; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hands," (John 10:28,29); they neither shall nor can be taken out of God's hands. God and Christ is engaged in the keeping of them; Christ by God's command, as mediator, God by Christ's merit; and therefore he that separateth us from God must tag with Jesus Christ himself, and be too hard for him also, or else he can never pluck them out of his hands. If they should question Christ's power, because of the ignominy of the cross, the Father's hands are also engaged for our greater assurance: "None is able to pluck them out of my Father's hands." God never made a creature that should be too hard for himself.

6. We do not plead for any wild assurance and certainty of perseverance. We do not say that he that neglects means, and grieves the Spirit, do what he will, yet he is sure he shall not miscarry; that is against the nature of God's dispensation, and the nature of this assurance, and therefore but a vain cavil.

[1.] It is against the nature of God's dispensation; for whom he maketh to persevere, he maketh them persevere in the use of means. Hezekiah had assurance of life for fifteen years, yet he takes a lump of figs, and applies it as a plaster to the boil, (Isa. 38:5 compared with v. 21). Or more clearly, "There shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but only of the ship," (Acts 27:22). But yet, "Except the shipmen abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved," (v. 31). We are bound to get food and raiment, if we would live. It is the devil's divinity, Thou art sure not to fall, therefore neglect means; it was Satan's cavil against God's protection over Christ: "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down; for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone," (Matt. 4:6). Thou learnest this doctrine from the devil—Thou mayest do what thou wilt, thou art sure to be saved.

[2.] It is against the nature of assurance; he that hath tasted God's love in God's way cannot reason so. He that hath a good father, that will not see him perish, shall he waste and embezzle his estate, he cares not how? A wicked child may presume thus of his father, though it be very disingenuous, because of his natural interest and relation to his father; the kindness which he expecteth is not built on moral choice, but nature. But a child of God cannot, because he cannot grow up to this certainty but in the exercise of grace; this certainty is begotten and nourished by godly exercises. And the thing itself implieth a contradiction; this were to fall away, because we cannot fall away; you may as soon say that the fire should make a man freeze with cold, as that certainty of perseverance in grace should make a man do actions contrary to grace.

7. Again, we do not say a believer is so sure of his conservation in a state of grace as that he needeth not be wary and jealous of himself! "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall," (1 Cor. 10:12). There is a fear of caution that is warrantable. There is a difference between the weakening of the security of the flesh, and of our confidence in Christ. None more apt to suspect themselves than they that are most sure in God, lest by improvidence and unwatchfulness they should yield to corruption. Christ had prayed that Peter's faith might not fail; yet, together with the other apostles, he biddeth him watch, (Luke 22:40,46). The fear of God is a preserving grace, and taken into the covenant: "I will never depart from them to do them good," and "I will put my fear into their hearts, and they shall not depart from me," (Jer. 32:40). God's love will not let him depart from us, and fear will not let us depart from God. This is a fear that will stand with faith and certainty; it is a fruit of the same Spirit, and doth not hinder assurance, but guard it; this is a fear that maketh us watchful against all occasions to sin and spiritual distempers, that we may not give offence to God; as an ingenuous man, that hath an inheritance passed over to him by his friend in court, is careful not to offend him; there is a cautelous [wary/deceitful] and distrustful fear.

8. Again, this certainty of our standing in grace doth not exclude prayer: "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation," (Luke 22:46). Perseverance is God's gift, and it must be sought out in God's way, by Christ's intercession, to preserve the majesty of God, and by our prayer, that we constantly profess our dependence upon God, and renew our acquaintance with him. Besides, by asking blessings in prayer we are the more warned of our duty; it is a means to keep us gracious and holy. As those that speak often to kings had need be decently clad, and go neat in their apparel, so he that speaketh often to God is bound to be more holy, that he may be acceptable to him.

9. Once more, and I have done with the state of the question. It is not a discontinued, but a constant perseverance that we plead for. Not as if a child of God could be quite driven out of the state of grace; though he be saved at length, he cannot fall totus, a toto, in totum, from all grace and godliness, in the whole man, with full consent; he may sin, but not fall totally, no more than finally. There is something remaineth; a seed: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him," (1 John 3:9); an unction: "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you," (1 John 2:27). There is a root in a dry ground, that will bud and scent again.

Well, then, this we hold, that true grace shall never utterly be lost, though it be much weakened, but by the use of means shall constantly be preserved to eternal life.

Secondly, Having stated the points let me now confirm it. The grounds of perseverance are these:

1. On the Father's part, there is an everlasting love and all-sufficient power. His everlasting love; God doth not love for a fit, but for ever: "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him," (Ps. 103:17); before the world was, and when the world is no more. There can be no change in God's counsels, because they are accompanied with infinite wisdom and power. God never repented in time of what he purposed to do before time: "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance," (Rom. 11:29). By gifts are meant gifts proper to the elect, remission of sins, grace and glory, and by calling is meant effectual calling, such as is kata proysein, "according to his purpose," (Rom. 8:28). God never repented of it; he is never ashamed of nor sorry for his choice; though men be unworthy, it is the reason why he brought them under the grace of the covenant. His all-sufficient power and almightiness is engaged in the preservation of grace: "My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hands," (John 10:29). As long as God hath power we are safe; and this power is engaged by his love and will

2. Then on Christs part there is his everlasting merit and constant intercession.

[1.] For his merit: "By his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us," (Heb. 9:12). Legal expiations did but last from year to year, but Christ's is for ever and ever. The Levitical priest, once every year entered into the holy place, but Christ is once gotten into heaven, his redemption is eternal; not only as it is of use for all ages of the church, but in respect of every particular saint. Those who are once redeemed by Christ, they are eternally redeemed; not for a time, to fall away again, but to be saved for ever. So, "By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified," (Heb. 10:14). He hath not only purchased a possibility of salvation, but hath perfected them, hath made purchase of all that we need to our full perfection; it is not for a certain time, as if afterwards they could be taken out of his hands, and so perish, but for ever; and this for all those that are sanctified, separated by God's purpose and decree, and afterwards renewed and sanctified in time, set apart to be vessels of honor to God.

[2.] Then for his constant intercession, a copy of which we have in this place. It is said, "Wherefore he is able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God through him, seeing he liveth for ever to make intercession for us," (Heb. 7:25). He is interceding with God, that the merit of his death may be applied to us, and that is salvation to the uttermost The heirs of salvation need not to fear miscarrying; Jesus Christ, who is the testator, who by will and testament made over the heritage to them, he liveth for ever to see his own will executed. Though he died once to make the testament, yet he liveth for ever to see it made good. Christ is risen from the dead, and dieth no more, and therefore a believer cannot miscarry.

3. On the Spirit's part, there is a continued influence, so as to maintain the essence and seed of grace. The Father's love is continued by the merit of Christ, that he will not depart from us, and we are preserved by the Spirit of Christ, that we may not depart from him. He doth not only put into our hearts faith and fear, and other graces at first, but he maintaineth and keepeth them, that the fire may never go out. Our hearts are his temples, and he will not leave his dwelling-place. There is a continued influence. Now this he doth to preserve the honor of Christ and the comfort of believers; he glorifieth Christ, end is our comforter. It is to preserve the glory of Christ. Christ hath received a charge from the Father: "This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me. I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day," (John 6:39); nothing, neither body nor soul. In point of honor, and that he may be true to his trust, he sendeth his Spirit as his deputy or executor, that his merit may be fully applied; therefore, for the honor of Christ, wherever the work is began it is continued. Christ is called, "The author and finisher of our faith," (Heb. 12:2). Wherever the Spirit is an author he is also a finisher; when the good work is begun, he will also perfect it, and continue his grace to the end. It was said of the foolish builder, "He began, and was not able to make an end." This dishonor cannot be cast upon Christ, because of the power and faithfulness of the Spirit; he doth katergazesyai, go through with the work which he hath begun: "Being confident of this, that he that hath, begun a good work in you will perform it unto the day of Christ," (Phil. 1:6). The Spirit is to fit vessels for glory; he doth not use to leave them half carved, but finish them for the honor of Christ. The Spirit is faithful to Christ, as Christ is to the Father. The Father chooseth the vessels, Christ buyeth them, and the Spirit carveth and fitteth them, that they may be vessels of praise and honor. He is our comforter; working grace, he puts us into an expectation of comfort and glory; and therefore, to make it good, he carrieth on the work without failing: "And not only they, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit; even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body," (Rom. 8:23); "Who hath seated us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts," (2 Cor. 1:22). We have the taste and the pledge of it; it is good, it is sure. The first degree of grace is conferred as a pledge of eternal life; he giveth it as an earnest or pledge, assuring us of a more perfect enjoyment of him. It is a pledge of the whole crop; as an earnest, hereby God assureth us that he will pay the whole sum. An earnest is a pledge whereby we confirm a bargain; it is a piece of money whereby we are assured he will pay the whole. Grace, it is the livery and seisin [taking possession] of glory; as soon as a real change is wrought in us, we have a right that is indefeasible; it is engaged by promise. Therefore, that the Spirit may be faithful, when he hath given us the first-fruits, the earnest, shall he not give us the inheritance?

Use 1. It exhorteth us to persevere with the more care: "These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which you have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, you shall abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him, that when he shall appear, ye may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming," (1 John 2:26-28). Since we have so many advantages of standing, let us not fall from him. Oh! how great will your sin be if you should fall and dishonor God! We pity a child that falleth when it is not looked after; but when a froward [obstinate] child wresteth and forceth itself out of the arms of the nurse, we are angry with it. You have more ground to stand than others, being brought into an unchangeable estate of grace, being held in the arms of Christ; So that God will be very angry with your slips and fallings. Mercy holdeth you fast, and you seek to wrest yourselves out of mercy's arms. Never any can sin as you do; there is much frowardness in your sins. You disparage the Spirit's custody, the merit of Christ, and the mercy of the Father: "Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left as of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it," (Heb. 4:1). Some seem to stand, and do not; and some seem to fall utterly, and do not. A child of God indeed cannot come short, but he should not seem, nor give any appearance of coming short. Our course in religion is often interrupted, though it be not broken off; this is a seeming to come short of it. Hereby you bring a scandal upon the love of Christ, as if it were changeable; upon the merit of Christ, as if it were not a perfect merit. Though we do not fall so as to break our necks, yet we may fall so as to break our bones.

Use 2. If you fall, be not utterly discouraged. As the spinster leaveth a lock of wool to draw on the next thread, there is somewhat left when you are departed from God; you have more holdfast in him than an unregenerate sinner. A child, though a prodigal, will go to him, and say, Father: "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments," (Ps. 119:176). Through natural weakness I have gone astray like a sheep, but I seek thy commandments; there is some grace left yet: "But now, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou art the potter; we are all the work of thine hand," (Isa. 64:8). The church pleadeth thus: nay, God is angry when we do not plead so: "Wilt thou not from this time cry, My Father, thou art the guide of my youth?" (Jer. 3:4). You have an interest in God yet. Thus do, and your fall will be like them that go back to fetch their leap more commodiously.

Use 3. When you stand, let it incite you to love and thankfulness. Nothing maketh the saints more love God than his unchangeableness. His mercy made you come to him, and his truth will not suffer you to depart from him. Mercy and truth are like Jachin and Boaz: "Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers, from the days of old," (Micah 7:20). The covenant was made with Abraham, and made good to Jacob. You may rejoice notwithstanding your weakness and Satan's daily assaults; as Daniel in the lions' den, to see the lions ramping and roaring about him, yet their mouths muzzled: "By strength shall no man prevail," (2 Sam. 2:9); that is, by his own. That any of us have stood hitherto, let us ascribe it wholly to God: we might have been vile and scandalous, even as others. Many of better gifts may fall away, and thou keepest thy standing. What is the reason? We have done enough a thousand times to cause God to depart from us: "If he see any unclean thing among thee, he will turn away from thee," (Deut 23:14). And is it not strange that the Spirit of grace should yet abide with us hitherto, when there is so much uncleanness in every one of us? The great argument of the saints why they love and praise him is the constancy and unchangeableness of his love: "For his mercy endureth for ever," (Ps. 136:6); and "Praise the Lord, give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever." (Ps. 106:1). No form more frequent in the mouths of his saints.

Use 4. If any fall often, constantly, frequently, and easily, they have no interest in grace: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin," (1 John 3:9); ou poiei amartian, he maketh not a trade of sin, that is the force of that phrase. God's children slip often, but not with such a frequent constant readiness, into the same sin. Therefore he that liveth in a course of profaneness, worldliness, drunkenness, "his spot is not the spot of God's children," (Deut. 32:5). You are tried by your constant course: "That walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," (Rom. 8:1). What is your road and walk? I except only those sins which are of usual incidence, and sudden surreption [unperceived coming], as anger, vanity of thoughts; and yet for them a man should be more humble. If it be not felt, nor striven against, nor mourned for, it is a bad sign. What is your course and walk? There is a uniformity in a Christian's course. It is nothing to have some fits and good moods and motions.

Use 5. It provoketh us to get an interest in such a sure condition. Be not contented with outward happiness; things are worthy according to their duration. Nature hath such a sense of God's eternity that the more lasting things are, it accounteth them the better. The immortal soul must have an eternal good. Now all things in the world are frail and passing away, therefore they are called "uncertain riches," (1 Tim. 6:17, compared with). "Riches and honuor are with me, yea, durable riches and righteousness," (Prov. 8:18). The flower of these things perisheth, their grace passeth away; in the midst of their pride and beauty, like Herod in his royalty, they vanish and are blasted. The better part is not taken away: "Mary hath chosen the better part, which cannot be taken away from her," (Luke 10:42). A man may outlive his happiness, be stripped of the flower of all. Worldly glory is sure to end with life, that is transitory; and still they are uncertain riches, uncertain whether we shall get them, uncertain whether we shall keep them. By a care of the better part, we may have these things with a blessing: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and the righteousness thereof, and all these things shall be added to you," (Matt. 6:33). Gifts, they are for the body, rather than the person that hath them. Men may be carnal, and yet come behind in no gifts. Judas could cast out devils, and yet afterwards was cast out among devils: the apostle had discoursed largely of gifts, but saith he, "Yet I show you a more excellent way," (1 Cor. 12:31); and that is grace, that abideth. Many that have great abilities to pray, preach, discourse, yet fall away; according to the place which they sustain in the body, so they have great gifts of knowledge, utterance, to comfort, direct, instruct others, to answer their doubts, to reason in holy discourse, and yet may fall foully: "They may be once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partaken of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come," (Heb. 6:4,5). They may have a great share of church gifts. Nay, gifts themselves wither and vanish when the bodily vigor is spent: "All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass; the grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away," (1 Pet. 1:24). Whatever excellency we have by nature, wit, knowledge, strength of natural parts, nothing but what the Spirit of God worketh in us will last for ever. So for seeming, unsound grace, as false faith, such as beginneth in joy, will end in trouble; it easeth you for the present, but you shall be down in sorrow. General probabilities, loose hopes, uncertain conjectures, vanishing apprehensions of comfort, all fail. The planting of true faith is troublesome at first, but it leadeth to true joy; you may look upon the gospel with some kind of delectation. Thorns may blaze under the pot, though they cannot keep in the fire. Do not rest in "tasting the good word of God," (Heb. 6:5), in some slight and transitory comfort Hymeneus and Alexander are said to "make shipwreck of faith,"( 1 Tim. 1:19,20); that is, of a false faith. So for a formal profession, men may begin in the Spirit and end in the flesh: "Are ye so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal 3:3). A man may seem to himself, and to the church of God, to have true grace; nay, he may be enlightened, find some comfort in the word, escape the pollutions of the world, foul gross sins; yea, these good things may be the works and the effects of the Spirit of God, not of nature only, not professed out of a carnal aim; but there is no settled root, and therefore it is but of short continuance. But certainly that form that is taken up out of private aims will surely fail. God delighteth to take off the mask and disguise of hypocrites, by letting them fall into some scandalous sins. Paint is soon washed off. Therefore rest not in these things, till solid and substantial grace be wrought in your hearts.

Use 6. Is comfort to God's children. Grace is sure, and the privileges of it sure. Grace is sure; through your folly it may be nigh unto death, but it cannot die. This is the advantage of spiritual comforts, that they do not only satisfy our desires, but secure us against our fears: "The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away," (Isa. 35:10). Once in Christ, and you shall be for ever preserved. The leaven and the dough can never be severed when kneaded together, so neither can you from Christ. Grace would be little better than temporal things if it did yield but temporary refreshment. You are sure that nothing shall cut you off from enjoying God, for nothing shall altogether cause you to cease to love God. The children of God would be troubled, though their grace should not fail, if their privileges should be cut off; but you are sure of both. God will maintain a spark, and the seed remaineth, and the privileges of grace are sure too. This was figured under the law. An Israelite could never wholly alienate his title to the land: "The land shall not be sold for ever; for the land is mine, for ye were strangers and sojourners with me," (Lev. 25:23). His title to the land shall not be quite cut off," it shall not be sold for ever;" which was a type of our spiritual inheritance in Christ, which cannot be alienated from us. He might for a while alienate and pass away his inheritance, yet the property remained; he knew it would return again. So here, God's children are never disinherited. By regeneration we are made co-heirs with Christ; we have an interest in the whole patrimony of the gospel. Now God will not cut off the entail, nor take the advantage of every offence which his children commit. To insure us, he hath not only put the entail into our hands, by giving us his promise, but he hath given us earnest and seisin in part, and he hath chosen a feoffee [a person invested with a fief] in trust to keep the estate for us; our heavenly patrimony is kept safe in his hands. It is true we forfeit it by the merit of our actions, but the trust standeth still enrolled in the court of heaven, and is not cancelled. Christ is to look to that, and it being conveyed in and by him as the first heir, he is to interpose his merit; as under the law, if the person were not able to redeem the inheritance, the kinsman was to redeem it. Christ is our kinsman after the flesh, he is our God, and maketh all firm and sure between God and us. It is true we lose the evidences that are in our keeping, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost; but the estate is indefeasible, and cannot be made away from us. Well, then, you see that grace is kept, and the privileges of grace are kept. Oh, what a sweet comfort is this!

But now, because comforts are never prized but in their season, men that have not been exercised in spiritual comforts nauseate these sweet truths; they know not what it is to be left to uncertainty, when troubles come like waves, one upon the neck of another. Let us see when these truths will be sweet and seasonable.

1. In great troubles, when God seemeth to hide his face, oh! how sweet it is to hear God say, "Behold I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of," (Gen. 28:15). All this shall better thy heart or hasten thy glory. We are apt to think that God will cast us off, and will never look after us any more, though formerly we have had real experience of his grace. What a foolish creature is man, to weaken his assurance when he should come to use it, to unravel all his hopes and experiences! Times of trouble are a fit season to make use of this comfort.

2. In the hour of temptation, and hard conflicts with doubts and corruptions, when you find their power growing upon you, you are ready to say, as David did after all his experiences, "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul," (1 Sam. 27:1); and many times out of distrust ye give over the combat; then say, "Who shall separate us from the love of God? "One came to a pious woman, when she had been exercised with a long and tedious conflict, and read to her the latter part of the 8th of the Romans; she broke forth in triumph, "Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." Sin or death cannot divide you from Christ; Christ will treat Satan under your feet, and weaken the malignant influence of the world.

3. In times of great danger and defection, through terror and persecution; as Sanders trembled to think of the fire; especially when others fall fearfully that were before us in privileges and profession of zeal and piety, when the first become last, when eminent luminaries are eclipsed, and leave their orb and station; as the martyrs were troubled to hear of the revolt of some great scholars that had appeared for the gospel. When Hymeneus and Philetus, two eminent professors, fell, it was a great snaking: "Who concerning the truth have erred, saying, That the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless, the foundation of the Lord standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his," (2 Tim. 2:18,19).

4. In times of disheartening, because of the difficulties of religion, and the use of means groweth troublesome. To quicken us in our Christian course, think of the unchangeableness of God's love. All grace riseth according to the proportion and measure of faith; loose hopes weaken endeavors: "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air," (1 Cor. 9:26). As those that run at all give over when one hath overreached them, they are discouraged; when hope is broken, the edge of endeavors is blunted. Go on with confidence, ye are assured of the issue; by these endeavors God will bless you and keep you; there is a sure recompense.

5. In the hour of death, when all things fail you, God will not fail you; this is the last branch: Do but wait, I will not forsake you; notwithstanding all that I have done, all that I have promised, there is more behind than ever you have enjoyed; death shall not separate. Olevian comforted himself with that, "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee," (Isa. 54:10). In the pains of death, sight is gone, speech and hearing is departing, feeling almost but the loving-kindness of God will never depart. Oh! the Lord give us such a confidence in that day, that we may fix this comfort in our thoughts.

Doct. 2. That we are kept in the state of grace by God's name, by his power, for his glory.

God's attributes are called his name, because by them he is known, as a man by his name. I shall inquire

1. What of the name of God is engaged in the preservation of the saints.

[1.] His truth, in opposition to our fickleness and falseness: "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what ye are able to bear, but will with every temptation make a way for you to escape, that ye may be able to bear it," (1 Cor. 10:13). God cannot deny himself; his faithfulness is laid at pledge with the creatures. When difficulties and troubles are too hard for you, call him by his name: Lord, thou art faithful. When Judah was about to pass a hard sentence upon Tamar, she showed him his token, his bracelets, ring, and staff, "Whose are these?" So may God's promises be showed to him.

[2.] His mercy, in opposition to our unworthiness; mercy to pardon and pity and help us. Poor creatures! they will surely miscarry if I do not go down and help them: "Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain grace, and find mercy to help us in time of need," (Heb. iv. 16). God is not upon his tribunal of justice, but his throne of grace. When you are in spiritual straits, be not discouraged; the time of need is a time for God to show himself. God hath mercy to pardon, and grace to pity and help; mercy for the recovery of every sinner, grace as a remedy for every misery. Do but observe thy heart, what thou wouldst have, and tell God every day.

[3.] His power, against our weakness: "We are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation," (2 Pet. 1:5). This is our garrison; we cannot stand a moment longer than God upholdeth us by his power; as a staff in the hand of a man, take away the hand, and the staff falleth to the ground; or rather, as a little infant in the nurse's hand, which is God's own comparison: "I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms," (Hosea 11:3). If God should but let loose his hand, as he doth sometimes to make us sensible of our weakness, we should soon miscarry; as if God should let loose his hand of providence, all the creatures would fall into nothing.

[4.] I might mention his holiness, against our sinfulness. He is not only "the Holy One," but "the Holy One of Israel," the church's sanctifier; as the pipe would be dry if the fountain cease to run. But this is enough. Deus, quantus est! His whole name is engaged by Christ to do his people good.

2. Why we are only kept by God.

[1.] Nothing else could keep us but God's name. We should surely miscarry if our standing did depend upon the frailty of our will. We are weak, and the enemies and difficulties of our salvation are very great, corruptions within, and temptations without us; created grace would never hold out. One of the fathers bringeth in the flesh saying, Ego deficiam; the world, Ego decipiam; and Satan, Ego eripiam. But God saith, Ego custodiam, I will keep them, never fail them, nor forsake them; and there lieth our security. The world is a slippery place; it is strange that any hold their footing. We are carnal, and carnal persons are about us. It were strange for a man to keep his health in a town where every person, every house, and the air itself is infected with the plague; this is our condition. Then for the malice of Satan, he is a restless enemy, watcheth all advantages, as a dog that standeth waving his tail: it is Chrysostom's comparison. His envy and malice are bent against them that have most grace. There were two Adams, and both were tempted. In our hearts there is great deal of variableness; in the best of God's saints many ups and downs in points of grace. Our hearts are rebellions: "This people have a revolting and rebellions heart, they are revolted and gone," (Jer. 5:23); "My people have loved to wander," (Jer. 14:10). It is natural to the creature to be fickle and inconstant, especially in point of grace. It is a miracle that we, having such naughty hearts, where there is so much pride, love of pleasures, worldly cares, brutish lusts, any of us should hold out to the end. Would not we wonder to see a herb that we prize grow in the midst of weeds, a candle to burn in the water.

[2.] It is meet none else should. God will have this honor from all saints, and he will put this honor upon the saints, that he will be their guardian and keeper; not only angels, who are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them that are the heirs of salvation," (Heb. 1:14); they have a great deal of employment about God's children; but God himself will keep them: "Ye are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation," (1 Pet. 1:5). If your protection were visible, all His princes of the world would come short of your guard and attendance. God will be your watchman, your keeper, to foresee the danger and defend you from it: this honor he will have. He that is the maker of the world is the preserver of it; the keeping of the world could be trusted in no other hands but his that made it. So he is the preserver of the saints, as well as their maker: "By strength shall no man prevail," (1 Sam. 2:9); he keepeth the feet of his saints; you rob God of the honor of your salvation by other confidences.

Use. It exhorteth us

1. To a continual dependence on the name of God. All creatures have their refuges, the heirs of salvation are described to be those "that fly for refuge to lay hold upon the hope that is set before them," (Heb. 6:18). Now what is their refuge? "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe," (Prov.18:10). At Babel, to secure themselves, they would "build a high and strong tower," (Gen. 11:3,4). We have a strong tower built to our hands. We that are at continual war should have a place of retreat; here is a sure one, you have it without cost; you need in the hour of temptation to make speed to it What is this running, but pleading his faithfulness, looking up to his power, magnifying his grace in your dependence? Those that go forth in the strength of their own resolutions are sure to miscarry, as Peter was a sad instance.

2. To confidence. We may boast of his name: "All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord will I destroy them. They compassed me about, yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them. They compassed me about like bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the Lord I will destroy them," (Ps. 118:10-12). Thrice it is, "in the name of the Lord I will destroy them." When we have such a keeper as is omnipotent, why should we fear? Though thou hast so many infirmities, allurements, discouragements, corrupt inclinations, thou, standest not by thine own strength. Christ hath engaged God's name to keep thee: "I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved," (Ps. 16:8). It is well that we have so good a second: a Christian is a soldier that may triumph before the victory. It was a proverb, "Let not him that putteth on his armour boast as he that putteth it off."

3. To thankfulness. Did we believe the power of corruption, we should be more thankful: "Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God," (2 Cor. 1:21). He doth all, and being engaged with Christ, by virtue of your interest in him you shall stand. None should be proud of their standing in the state of grace; God must have all the glory: "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God: if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability that God giveth, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen," (1 Pet. 4:11).

Subscribe to RPM
RPM subscribers receive an email notification each time a new issue is published. Notifications include the title, author, and description of each article in the issue, as well as links directly to the articles. Like RPM itself, subscriptions are free. Click here to subscribe.