Biblical Doctrine, Plainly Stated

By William S. Plumer, 1875


I. It cannot be denied that God's people have many enemies, and are surrounded with terrible dangers. There is the world, with its enchantments, riches, pleasures, and honors. Now "all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." 1 John 2:16. Then there is the flesh—the natural corruption that is in man. "The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that you cannot do the things that you would." Gal. 5:17. Then there is the great adversary, the devil, who, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Pet. 5:8.

II. No marvel, therefore, that self-deceivers, whose hearts have never been really changed, should often give up their profession. The Scriptures tell us of such people, and warn us to expect apostasies. The longest-lived apostle explains their case: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." 1 John 2:19. Divine truth made no impression at all on the "wayside" hearers. Satan "immediately took away the word that was sown in their hearts." The stony-ground hearers were different. A pleasant impression was made on them, but they "had no root in themselves, and so endured but for a time." Still another class was impressed, but the "cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word." Mark 4:15-19.

III. A godly man once said: "If through God's mercy I shall reach heaven, three things will greatly surprise me: 1. I shall find some there of whose salvation on earth I had no hope. 2. I shall meet many there of whose salvation on earth I had many fears. 3. The greatest wonder of all will be to find myself there." Every godly man regards himself as a miracle of grace. Even real saints are at first but babes in Christ. Matt. 11:25; 1 Peter 2:2. The best men on earth confess their own weakness. 2 Cor. 12:10. Their safety very much consists in knowing their own weakness. So that all of us might despair of coming off conquerors.

IV. Were it not for God's plan and gracious purpose so clearly revealed in the Scripture, all men might despair. But he has said: "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, says the Lord that has mercy on you." Isaiah 54:10. "I have loved you with an everlasting love;" "I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." Jer. 31:3; 32:40. "This is the Father's will who has sent me, that of all which he has given me I shall lose nothing, but shall raise it up again at the last day." John 6:39; compare John 17:2; Romans 8:29,30.

V. God has set his hand to this work, and he is of one mind, and who can turn him? Job 23:13. He never begins a work and gives it up because of difficulties. Paul was "confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Phil. 1:6.

VI. The saints are kept because God is their keeper. "How excellent is your loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of your wings." "The Lord loves judgment, and forsakes not his saints; they are preserved forever." Psalm 36:7; 37:28; compare John 17:11; Phil. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:5.

VII. Jesus says: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one." John 10:27-30. Christ and his Father are not divided in keeping the saints. When Paul was in great distress, did not Jesus say to him: "My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness"? Did not our Lord purchase his people at a great price, and shall he fail? "You know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." 1 Pet. 1:18, 19. But Christ has not only bought his people; he also intercedes for them, and him the Father hears always. John 11:42. "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not." Luke 22:31,32. No wonder Peter was brought to repentance under the power of such prayer. Compare John 17:1-24. Jesus "is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." Heb. 7:25.

VIII. God's word teaches that the Holy Spirit does keep and sustain Christ's people. He abides with them forever. John 14:17. "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." Romans 8:16. Surely the Holy Spirit will not allow his witness to be falsified. All the saints are strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man. Eph. 3:16. And so they are warned not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, whereby they are sealed unto the day of redemption. Eph. 4:30.

IX. Some of the passages already cited prove that saints are kept by the might, the strength of Jehovah. Other Scriptures speak the same language. Of the weak brother, Paul says: "He shall be hold up: for God is able to make him stand." Romans 14:4. Of the good man, David says: "Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds him with his hand." Psalm 37:24. And Peter says, that saints "are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." 1 Pet. 1:5; compare Eph. 3:16.

X. In the preservation of the saints the word of God has its use, and does its part. "Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." John 15:3. "Your word is very pure." Psalm 119:140. "Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth." John 17:17.

XI. God also keeps his people by stirring up their hearts to "put on the whole armor of God, that they may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Eph. 6:11. He commands us to keep ourselves pure, 1 Tim. 5:22; and to "resist the devil," with the promise, "he will flee from you." James 4:7.

XII. In preserving his saints the Lord makes much use of the gospel ministry, and so he commands: "Obey those who have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief." Heb. 13:17.

XIII. To the same end he employs the afflictions of his people. "He chastens us for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." Heb. 12:10. Compare 1 Pet. 1:6, 7.

XIV. It is by and through faith that God's people have their stability. "Whoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4, 5. Compare Psalm 125:1, 2; 1 Peter 1:5.

XV. The blessed conclusion to which all these Scripture truths lead us, is abounding triumph in God through Jesus Christ. Find and read Romans 8:35-39.