Body of Divinity

By Thomas Watson

The Application of Redemption



"May grace and peace be multiplied to you." 1 Peter 1:2

Having spoken of the first fruit of sanctification, assurance, I proceed to the second, namely, Peace. "May peace be multiplied to you."

What are the several KINDS of peace?

I. There is an external peace, and that is,

(1.) Domestic—or peace in a family.

(2.) Political—or peace in the state. Peace is the nurse of plenty. How pleasant it is, when the waters of blood begin to assuage, and we can see the windows of our ark open, and the dove returning with an olive branch of peace!

(3.) Ecclesiastical—or peace in the church. Unity in truth, is the greatest mercy on earth. Ecclesiastical peace stands in opposition to schism and persecution.

II. There is a spiritual peace, which is twofold; peace above us, or peace with God; and peace within us, or peace with conscience, which is superlative: other peace may be lasting—but this is everlasting.

Where does this peace come from?

It has the whole Trinity for its author. God the Father is "the God of peace." God the Son is the "Prince of peace." Peace is said to be the "fruit of the Spirit."

(1.) God the Father is the God of peace. As he is the God of order, so he is the God of peace. I Cor 14:33, and Phil 4:9. This was the form of the priest's blessing upon the people. "May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace." Numbers 6:26.

(2.) God the Son is the purchaser of peace. He made peace by his blood. "Having made peace by the blood of his cross." The atonement which Aaron made for the people, when he entered into the holy of holies, with blood, was a type of Christ our high priest, who by his sacrifice pacified his angry Father, and made atonement for us. Christ purchased our peace upon hard terms; for his soul was in an agony, while he was travailing to bring forth peace to the world.

(3.) Peace is a fruit of the Spirit. He seals up peace to the conscience. The Spirit clears up the work of grace in the heart, from whence arises peace. There was a well of water near Hagar—but she did not see it, therefore she wept. A Christian has grace—but does not see it, therefore he weeps. Now the Spirit discovers this well of water; he enables conscience to witness to a man who has the real work of grace, and so peace flows into the soul.

Thus you see whence this peace comes—
the Father decrees it,
the Son purchases it,
the Holy Spirit applies it.

May such as are destitute of grace, have peace?

No! Peace flows from sanctification—but they being unregenerate, have nothing to do with peace. "There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked." Isaiah 57:21. They may have a truce—but no peace. God may forbear the wicked a while, and stop the roaring of his cannon; but though there be a truce—yet there is no peace. The wicked may have something which looks like peace—but it is not. They may be fearless and stupid; but there is a great difference between a stupified conscience, and a pacified conscience. "When a strong man armed keeps his palace, his goods are in peace." This is the devil's peace; he rocks men to sleep in the cradle of carnal security; he cries, "Peace, peace!" when men are on the precipice of hell. The seeming peace, which a sinner has, is not from the knowledge of his eternal happiness—but the ignorance of his danger.

What are the signs of a false peace?

(1.) A false peace has much confidence in it—but this confidence is a false hope. The sinner does not doubt of God's mercy; and from this presumptuous confidence arises some kind of quiet in the mind. The same word in the Hebrew, cassal, signifies both confidence and folly. Indeed a sinner's confidence is folly. How confident were the foolish virgins!

(2.) False peace separates those things which God has joined together. God joins holiness and peace—but he who has a false peace, separates the two. He lays claim to peace—but banishes holiness. "I shall have peace, even though I am walking in my own stubborn way." The wicked are loose and vain, and yet thank God that they have peace; what a delusion! You may as well suck health out of poison—as peace out of sin!

(3.) False peace is not willing to be tried. It is a sign they are bad wares—which will not endure the light. It is a sign a man has stolen goods—when he will not have his house searched. A false peace cannot endure to be tried by the word. The word speaks of a humbling and refining work upon the soul, before peace; but false peace cannot endure to hear of this. The least trouble will shake this peace; it will end in despair. In a false peace, conscience is asleep; but when this lion of conscience shall be awakened at death, it will roar upon a man; he will be a terror to himself, and be ready to lay violent hands upon himself.

How shall we know that ours is a true peace?

(1.) True peace flows from union with Christ. The branch must first be ingrafted into the tree, before it can receive sap or nourishment from it. Just so, we must first be ingrafted into Christ, before we can receive peace from him. Have we faith? By holiness we are made like Christ; by believing we are made one with Christ, and being in Christ we have peace. John 16:33.

(2.) True peace flows from subjection to Christ. Where Christ gives peace, there he sets up his government in the heart. "Of his government and peace, there shall be no end." Christ is called "a priest upon his throne." Christ as a priest makes peace; but he will be a priest upon his throne—he brings the heart in subjection to him. If Christ is our peace in salvation, he is our prince to rule us! Isa 9:6. Whenever Christ pacifies the conscience, he subdues the lust!

(3.) True peace is after trouble. First, God lets loose a spirit of bondage, he convinces and humbles the soul; then he speaks peace. Many say they have peace—but is this peace before a storm, or after it? True peace is after trouble. First there was the earthquake, and then the fire, and then the still small voice. I Kings 19:12. You who never had any legal bruisings, may suspect your peace. God pours the golden oil of peace, into broken hearts.

Have all sanctified people this peace?

They have a title to it; they have the ground of it. Grace is the seed of peace, and it will in time turn to peace; as the blossoms of a tree turn into fruit, or as milk turns to cream. They have a promise of it. "The Lord will bless his people with peace." They may have peace with God, though not peace in their own conscience; they have the principle and beginnings of peace. There is a secret peace which the heart has in serving God; such meltings and enlargements in duty as revive the soul, and bear it up from sinking.

But why have not all believers the full enjoyment and possession of peace? Why is not this flower of peace, fully ripe and fruit-bearing?

Some of the godly may not have so full a degree of peace.

(1.) Through the fury of temptation. Though the devil cannot destroy us, he will disturb us. He disputes against our adoption; he would make us question the work of grace in our hearts, and so disturb the waters of our peace. He is like a subtle cheater, who, if he cannot make a man's title to his land void—yet will put him to many troublesome suits in law. If Satan cannot make us ungodly, he will make us unquiet. Violent winds make the sea rough and stormy. Just so, the winds of temptation blowing, disturb peace of spirit, and put the soul into a commotion.

(2.) The godly may not enjoy peace—through mistake and misapprehension about sin. They find so much corruption, that they think surely, if there were grace, there would not be such strong working of corruption. Whereas this should be so far from discouraging Christians, and hindering their peace, that it is an argument for them. Let me ask, Whence is it—that you feel sin? No man can feel sin—but by grace. A wicked man is insensible. Lay a hundred pound weight upon a dead man, he does not complain. Being sensible of corruption, argues a gracious principle. Rom 7:21. Again, Whence is it—that there is a combat with sin—but from the life of grace? Gal 5:17. Dead things cannot combat. Whence is it—that the saints weep for sin? What are these tears, but seeds of faith? The not understanding of this principle, hinders a Christian's peace.

(3.) The godly may not enjoy peace—through remissness in duty; they may leave their first love. When Christians abate their fervency—God abates their peace. If you slacken the strings of a violin—the music is spoiled. Just so, if Christians slacken in duty, they spoil the sweet music of peace in their souls. As the fire decays—the cold increases. Just so, as fervency in duty abates—our peace cools.

Use one: Labor for this blessed peace—peace with God and conscience. Peace with neighbor-nations is sweet. One peace is better than innumerable triumphs. The Hebrew word shalom, peace, comprehends all blessings. Peace is the glory of a kingdom. A prince's crown is more beautiful, when it is hung with the white lily of peace, than when it is set with the red roses of a bloody war. Oh, then, how sweet is peace of conscience! It is a bulwark against the enemy. Phil 4:7. Peace shall keep you as in a garrison; you may throw down the gauntlet, and bid defiance to enemies. Peace is the golden pot and the manna. It is the first fruits of paradise. It is quiet music, for lack of which, a Christian is in continual fear, and does not take comfort in ordinances. Hannah went up to the feast at Jerusalem—but she wept and did not eat. I Sam 1:7; so, a poor dejected soul goes to an ordinance—but does not eat of the feast; he weeps and does not eat. He cannot take comfort in worldly blessings, health, estate, relations; he lacks that inward peace, which should be a sauce to sweeten his comforts. Oh, therefore, labor for this blessed peace. Consider the noble and excellent EFFECTS of peace.

(1.) It gives boldness at the throne of grace. Guilt of conscience clips the wings of prayer, it makes the face blush, and the heart faint! But when a Christian has some lively apprehensions of God's love, and the Spirit whispers 'peace,' he goes to God with boldness, as a child to his father. "Unto you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul." Time was, when David's soul was bowed down. "I am bowed down greatly." Psalm 38:8. Now the case is altered, and he will lift up his soul to God in a way of triumph. Whence was this? God has spoken peace to his soul. "Your loving-kindness is before my eyes."

(2.) This divine peace fires the heart with love to Christ. True peace, is the result of pardon. He who has a pardon sealed, cannot choose but love his prince. How endeared is Christ to the soul! Now Christ is precious indeed. "Oh," says the soul, "how sweet is this Rose of Sharon! Has Christ waded through a sea of blood and wrath, to purchase my peace? Has he not only made peace—but spoken peace to me? How should my heart ascend in a fiery chariot of love! How willing should I be to live and suffer for Christ!"

(3.) This peace quiets the heart in trouble. "This man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land, and when he shall tread in our palaces." The enemy may invade our palaces—but not our peace; this man Christ shall be the peace. When the head aches, the heart may be well; and when worldly troubles assault a Christian, his mind may be in peace and quiet. "I will lay me down in peace, and sleep." It was a sad time with David, he was fleeing for his life from Absalom; it was no small affliction to think that his own son should seek to take away his father's life and crown. David wept and covered his head. Yet at this time he says, "I will lay me down in peace, and sleep." He had trouble from his son—but peace from his conscience. David could sleep upon the soft pillow of a good conscience. This is a peace worth getting.

What shall we do to attain this blessed peace?

(1.) Let us ask it of God. He is the God of peace; he beats back the roaring lion; he stills the raging of conscience. If we could call all the angels out of heaven, they could not speak peace without God. The stars cannot make day without the sun; none can make day in a dark deserted soul—but the Sun of Righteousness. As the wilderness cannot water itself—but remains dry and parched until the clouds drop their moisture; so our hearts cannot have peace, until God infuses it, and drops it upon us by his Spirit. Therefore pray, "Lord, you who are the God of peace, create peace; you who are the Prince of peace, command it. Give me that peace which may sweeten trouble, yes, even the bitter cup of death."

(2.) If you would have peace, make war with sin. Sin is the Achan which troubles us. Sin is the Trojan horse which brings trouble with it. "King Joram demanded, "Do you come in peace, Jehu?" Jehu replied, "How can there be peace as long as the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother, Jezebel, are all around us?" 2 Kings 9:22. What peace can there be—so long as sin remains unmortified? If you would have peace with God, break the league with sin; give battle to sin, for it is a most just war. God has proclaimed it: nay, he has promised us victory. "Sin shall not have dominion over you." No way to peace—but by maintaining a war with sin. "Our peace is a war against the Devil," Tertullian. When Samson had slain the lion—honey came out of the lion. Just so, by slaying sin—we get the honey of peace.

(3.) Go to Christ's blood for peace. Some go to fetch their peace from their own righteousness—not Christ's righteousness. They go for peace to their holy life—not Christ's death. If conscience is troubled, they strive to quiet it with their duties. This is not the right way to peace. Duties must neither be neglected—nor idolized. Look to the blood of sprinkling. Heb 12:24. That blood of Christ which pacified God, must pacify conscience. Christ's blood being sucked in by faith, gives peace. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God." No balm to cure a wounded conscience—but the blood of Christ!

(4.) Walk closely with God. Peace flows from purity. "As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them." In the text, grace and peace are put together; grace is the root—and peace is the flower. Divine peace is distilled out of a gracious heart. Walk very holily. God's Spirit is a refiner, before a comforter.

Use two: You who have this peace, peace above, peace within— labor to keep it. Peace is a precious jewel—do not lose it. It is dreadful to have the league of national peace broken—but it is worse to have the peace of conscience broken. Oh, preserve this peace!

First, take heed of relapses. Has God spoken peace? Do not turn again to folly. "I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for he speaks peace to his people, his faithful ones. But let them not return to their foolish ways." Psalm 85:8. Besides ingratitude, there is folly in relapses. It was long before God was reconciled and the breach made up—and will you again eclipse and forfeit your peace? Has God healed the wound of conscience—and will you tear it open again? Will you cut a new artery? This is returning indeed to folly. What madness is it to meddle again with that sin—which will breed the worm of conscience!

Secondly, make up your spiritual accounts daily; see how matters stand between God and your souls. "I commune with my own heart." Frequent reckonings keep God and conscience friends. Do with your hearts as you do with your watches—wind them up every morning by prayer, and at night examine whether your hearts have gone true all that day, whether the wheels of your affections have moved swiftly towards heaven. Oh, call yourselves often to account! Keep your reckonings even—for that is the way to keep your peace.


8. JOY

"The fruit of the Spirit is joy." Gal 5:22.

The third fruit of justification, adoption, and sanctification—is joy in the Holy Spirit. Joy is setting the soul upon the top of a pinnacle—it is the cream of the sincere milk of the word. Spiritual joy is a sweet and delightful passion, arising from the apprehension and feeling of some good, whereby the soul is supported under present troubles, and fenced against future fear.

I. Joy is a delightful passion. It is contrary to sorrow, which is a perturbation of mind, whereby the heart is perplexed and cast down. Joy is a sweet and pleasant affection—which eases the mind, and exhilarates and comforts the spirits.

II. Joy arises from the feeling of some good. Joy is not a mere imagination; but is rational, and arises from the feeling of some good, as the sense of God's love and favor. Joy is so real a thing, that it makes a sudden change in a person; and turns mourning into melody. As in the spring-time, when the sun comes to our horizon, it makes a sudden alteration in the face of the universe—the birds sing, the flowers appear, the fig-tree puts forth her green figs; everything seems to rejoice and put off its mourning, as being revived with the sweet influence of the sun. Just so, when the Sun of Righteousness arises on the soul, it makes a sudden alteration, and the soul is infinitely rejoiced with the golden beams of God's love.

III. By joy, the soul is supported under present troubles. Joy stupefies and swallows up troubles; it carries the heart above them, as the oil swims above the water.

IV. By joy, the heart is fenced against future fear. Joy is both a cordial and an antidote. It is a cordial which gives present relief to the spirits when they are sad; and an antidote, which fences off the fear of approaching danger. "I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me."

How is this joy wrought?

(1.) It arises partly from the promise. As the bee lies at the breast of the flower, and sucks out its sweetness; just so, faith lies at the breast of a promise, and sucks out the quintessence of joy. "Your comforts delight my soul;" that is, the comforts which distill from the promises.

(2.) The Spirit of God who is called the 'Comforter', sometimes drops this golden oil of joy into the soul. John 14:26. The Spirit whispers the remission of his sin to a believer—and sheds God's love abroad in the heart, whence flows infinite joy and delight. Rom 5:5.

What are the SEASONS in which God usually gives his people divine joys? There are five Seasons.

(1.) Sometimes at the blessed Supper. The soul comes weeping after Christ in the Lord's Supper, and God sends it away weeping for joy. The Jews had a custom at their feasts, of pouring ointment on their guests and kissing them; in the Lord's Supper, God often pours the oil of gladness on the saints, and kisses them with the kisses of his lips. There are two grand ends of the Lord's Supper—the strengthening of faith, and the flourishing of joy. Here, in this ordinance, God displays the banner of his love; here believers taste not only sacramental bread—but hidden manna. Not that God always meets the soul with joy. He may give increase of grace, when not increase of joy. But oftentimes he pours in the oil of gladness, and gives the soul a secret seal of his love; as Christ made himself known in the breaking of bread to the two disciples.

(2.) Before God calls his people to suffering. "Be of good cheer, Paul." Acts 23:11. When God was about to give Paul a cup of blood to drink—he spiced it with joy. "As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds." 2 Cor 1:5. This made the martyrs' flames, to be beds of roses to them. When Stephen was being stoned he saw heaven open, and the Sun of Righteousness shone upon his face. God candies our wormwood, with sugar.

(3.) After sore conflicts with Satan. He is the red dragon who troubles the waters; he puts the soul into frights, makes it believe that it has no grace, and that God does not love it. Though he cannot blot out a Christian's evidence for heaven—yet he may cast such a mist before his eyes, that he cannot read it. When the soul has been bruised with temptations, God will comfort the bruised reed by giving joy—to confirm a Christian's title to heaven. After Satan's fiery darts, comes the white stone. No better balm to heal a tempted soul, than the oil of gladness! After Christ was tempted, an angel came to comfort him.

(4.) After spiritual desertion. Desertion is a poisoned arrow which shoots to the heart. "For the Almighty has struck me down with his arrows. He has sent his poisoned arrows deep within my spirit. All God's terrors are arrayed against me!" Job 6:4. God is called a fire and a light: the deserted soul feels the fire—but does not see the light; it cries out, as Asaph, "Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again show me favor? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be kind? Has he slammed the door on his compassion?" Psalms 77:7-9. When the soul is in this case, and ready to faint away in despair, God shines upon it, and gives it some apprehension of his favor, and turns the shadow of death into the light of the morning. God keeps his cordials for a time of fainting. Joy after a time of desertion, is like a resurrection from the dead.

(5.) At the hour of death. Of those even who have had no joy in their lifetime. God puts this sugar in the bottom of the cup—to make their death sweet. At the last hour, when all other comforts are gone, God sends the Comforter; and when their appetite to food fails, he feeds them with hidden manna. As the wicked before they die, have some apprehensions of hell and wrath in their conscience; so the godly have some foretastes of God's everlasting favor, though sometimes their diseases may be such, and their bodies so oppressed, that they cannot express what they feel. Jacob laid himself to sleep on a stone and saw a vision of a ladder, and the angels ascending and descending upon it. Just so, when saints lay themselves down to sleep the sleep of death, they have often a vision—they see the light of God's face, and have the evidences of his love sealed up to them forever.

What are the differences between worldly joys and spiritual joys? The gleanings of spiritual joys, are better than the vintage of the worldly joys.

(1.) Spiritual joys help to make us BETTER, worldly joys often make us worse. "I spoke unto you in your prosperity—but you said, I will not hear." Jer 22:21. Pride and luxury are the two worms which are bred from worldly pleasures. Wine is the inflamer of lust. As Satan entered in the sop, so often in the cup. But spiritual joy makes one better; it is like cordial medicine, which, as physicians say, not only cheers the heart—but purges out the noxious humours. Just so, divine joy is cordial medicine, which not only comforts but purifies; it makes a Christian more holy; it causes an antipathy against sin; it infuses strength to live and suffer for Christ. "The joy of the Lord is your strength." Some colors not only delight the eye—but strengthen the sight. Just so, the joys of God not only refresh the soul—but strengthen it.

(2.) Spiritual joys are INWARD, they are heart joys. "Your heart shall rejoice." John 16:22. True joy is hidden within, worldly joy lies on the outside, like the dew which wets the leaf. We read of those who "rejoice in appearance," in the Greek, in the face. 2 Cor 5:12. It goes no farther than the face, it is not within. "Laughter can conceal a heavy heart; when the laughter ends, the grief remains." Proverbs 14:13. Like a house which has a gilded frontispiece—but all the rooms within are hung in mourning. But spiritual joy lies most within. "Your heart shall rejoice." Divine joy is like a spring of water which runs underground! Others can see the sufferings of a Christian—but they see not his joy. "Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy." Prov 14:10. His joy is hidden manna—hidden from the eye of the world; he has joyful music which others cannot hear. The marrow lies within, the best joy is within the heart.

(3.) Spiritual joys are SWEETER than worldly joys. "Your love is sweeter than wine!" Song of Songs 1:2. Spiritual joys are a Christian's festival; they are the golden pot and the sweet manna, they are so sweet, that they make everything else sweet! Spiritual joys sweeten health and estate, as sweet water poured on flowers makes them more fragrant and aromatic. Divine joys are so delicious and ravishing, that they put our mouth out of taste for earthly delights; just as he who has been drinking cordials tastes little sweetness in water. Paul had so tasted these divine joys, that his mouth was out of taste for worldly things; the world was crucified to him, it was like a dead thing, he could find no sweetness in it. Gal 6:14.

(4.) Spiritual joys are more PURE, they are not tempered with any bitter ingredients. A sinner's joy is mixed with dregs, it is embittered with fear and guilt—he drinks wormwood wine. But spiritual joy is not muddied with guilt—but like a crystal stream, it runs pure. It is a rose without prickles; it is honey without wax.

(5.) Spiritual joys are SATISFYING joys. "Ask, that your joy may be full." Worldly joys can no more fill the heart than a drop can fill an ocean; they may please the palate or imagination—but cannot satisfy the soul. "No matter how much we see—we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear—we are not content." Ecclesiastes 1:8. But the joys of God satisfy. "Your comforts delight my soul." Psalm 94:19. There is as much difference between spiritual joys and earthly joys—as between a banquet which is eaten—and one which is painted on the wall!

(6.) Spiritual joys are STRONGER joys than worldly joys. "Strong consolation." Heb 6:18. They are strong joys indeed, which can bear up a Christian's heart in trials and afflictions. "Having received the word in much affliction, with joy." These joys are roses which grow in winter! These joys can sweeten the bitter waters of Marah! He who has these joys, can gather grapes from thorns, and fetch honey out of the carcass of a lion! "As sorrowing—yet always rejoicing." 2 Cor 6: 10. At the end of the rod—a Christian tastes honey!

(7.) Spiritual joys are UNWEARIED joys. Other joys, when in excess, often cause loathing; too much honey nauseates. One may be tired of pleasure, as well as labor. King Xerxes offered a reward to him who could find out a new pleasure! But the joys of God, though they satisfy—yet they never glut. A drop of joy is sweet—but the more of this wine the better! Such as drink of the joys of heaven—are never glutted. Their satiety is without loathing, because they still desire more of the joy with which they are satiated.

(8.) Spiritual joys are ABIDING joys. Worldly joys are soon gone. Such as crown themselves with rosebuds, and bathe in the perfumed waters of pleasure—may have joys which seem to be sweet—but they are swift. They are like meteors, which give a bright and sudden flash, and then disappear. But the joys which believers have are abiding; they are a blossom of eternity—a pledge of those rivers of pleasure which run at God's right hand! "In Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures!" Psalm 16:11

Why is this joy to be labored for?

(1.) Because it is self-existent. Spiritual joy can exist in the absence of all other carnal joy. This joy does not depend upon outward things. As the philosophers said, when the musicians came to them, "Philosophers can be merry without music;" so he who has this spiritual joy can be cheerful in the deficiency of carnal joys; he can rejoice in God, in sure hope of glory! "Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!" Habakkuk 3:17-18. Spiritual joy can go without silver crutches to support it. Spiritual joy is built higher, than upon creatures, for it is built on the love of God, on the promises of Scripture, and on the blood of Christ.

(2.) Because spiritual joy carries the soul through duty cheerfully. Religion becomes a recreation. Fear and sorrow hinder us in the discharge of duty; but a Christian serves God with activity, when he serves him with joy. The oil of joy makes the wheels of obedience move faster. How fervently did they pray, whom God made joyful in the house of prayer! "I will bring them also to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer." Isaiah 56:7.

(3.) It is called the kingdom of God, because it is a taste of that which the saints have in the kingdom of God. "For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Romans 14:17. What is the heaven of the angels—but the smiles of God's face, the sensible perception and feeling of those joys which are infinitely ravishing and full of glory!

To encourage and quicken us in seeking after them, consider, that Christ died to purchase this joy for his saints. He was a man of sorrows—that we might be full of joy; he prayed that the saints might have this divine joy. "And now I am coming to you. I have told them many things while I was with them so they would be filled with my joy." John 17:13. Christ knows we never love him so much—as when we feel his love; which may encourage us to seek after this joy. We pray for that which Christ himself is praying for, when we pray that his joy may be fulfilled in us.

What shall we do to obtain this spiritual joy?

Walk consistently and spiritually. God gives joy after long and close walking with him.

(1.) Observe your hours. Set time every day apart for God.

(2.) Mourn for sin. "Mourning is the seed," as Basil says, "out of which the flower of spiritual joy grows." "I will comfort those who mourn." Isa 57:18.

(3.) Keep the book of conscience fair written. Do not by presumptuous sins, blur your evidences. A good conscience is the ark in which God puts the hidden manna!

(4.) Be often upon your knees—pray with life and fervency. The same Spirit who fills the heart with sighs—fills it with joys. The same Spirit who inspires the prayer—seals it. When Hannah had prayed, her countenance was no longer sad. I Sam 1:18. Praying Christians have much fellowship with God; and none are so likely to have the secrets of his love imparted, as those who hold correspondence with him. By close walking with God, we get clusters of Eshcol's grapes along the way, which are the pledge of future happiness.

How shall we comfort those who lack joy?

Such as walk in close communion with God, have more joy than others.

(1.) Initial joy, joy in the seed. "Light is shed upon the righteous, and joy on the upright in heart." Psalm 97:11. Grace in the heart, is a seed of joy. Though a Christian lacks the sun, he has a day-star in his heart.

(2.) A believer has real joy—though not royal comforts. He has, as Aquinas says, "joy in God, though not from God." Joy in God, is the delight and pleasure the soul takes in God. "My soul shall be glad in the Lord." He who is truly gracious, is so far joyful as to take comfort in God. Though he cannot say that God rejoices in him; he can say that he rejoices in God.

(3.) He has supporting joy—though not transporting comforts. He has as much as keeps him from sinking. "You strengthen me with strength in my soul." Psalm 138:3. If a Christian has not God's arm to embrace him—yet he has it to uphold him. Thus a Christian who walks with God has something which bears up his heart from sinking; and it is but waiting awhile, and he is sure of those eternal joys which are unspeakable and full of glory!

Use one: See that true religion is no melancholy thing—it brings joy. The fruit of the Spirit is joy. Joy may vary—but it is never totally destroyed. A poor Christian who exists on bread and water, may have purer joy than the greatest monarch. Though he fares hard—he feeds high. He has a table spread from heaven—angels' food, and the hidden manna. He has sometimes sweet raptures of joy—which cause jubilation of spirit; he has that which is better felt—than can be expressed. "But I do know that I was caught up into paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be told." 2 Corinthians 12:4.

Use two: If God gives his people such joy in this life, oh! then, what glorious joy will he give them in heaven! "Enter into the joy of your Lord!" Matt 25:21. Here on earth—joy begins to enter into us; there in heaven—we shall enter into joy. God keeps his best wine until last. Heliogabalus bathed himself in sweet perfumed waters. What joy will that be—when the soul shall forever bathe itself in the pure and pleasant fountain of God's love! What joy will that be—to see the orient brightness of Christ's face, and have the kisses of those lips which drop sweet-smelling myrrh! "The Bride will rejoice in the embrace of her Lord," Augustine. Oh! if a cluster of grapes here is so sweet, what will the full vintage be! How may this set us all longing for that place where sorrow cannot live—and where joy cannot die!


9. Growth in Grace

"But grow in grace." 2 Peter 3:18

True grace is progressive—of a spreading and growing nature. It is with grace as with light; first, there is the daybreak; then it shines brighter to the full meridian. A good Christian is like the crocodile—which continues to grow as long as it lives. The saints are not only compared to stars for their light—but to trees for their growth. Isa 61:3, and Hos 14:5. A good Christian is not like Hezekiah's sun, which went backwards, nor Joshua's sun that stood still—but is always advancing in holiness, and increasing with the increase of God.

In how many ways may a Christian be said to grow in grace?

(1.) He grows in the exercise of grace. His lamp is burning and shining; therefore we read of a living hope. I Pet 1:1. Here is the activity of grace. The church prays for the blowing of the Spirit, that her spices (that is—her graces) might flow forth. Cant 4:16.

(2.) A Christian grows in the degree of grace. He goes from strength to strength, from one degree of grace to another. Psalm 84:7. A saint goes from faith to faith. Rom 1:17. His love abounds more and more. Phil 1:9.

What is the right manner of a Christian's growth?

(1.) It is to grow less in one's own eyes. "I am a worm, and no man." Psalm 22:6. The sight of his corruption and ignorance, makes a Christian grow into a dislike of himself; he vanishes in his own eyes. Job abhorred himself in the dust. Job 42:6. It is good to grow out of conceit with one's self.

(2.) The right manner of growth is to grow proportionately, to grow in one grace as well as another. 2 Pet 1:5. To grow in knowledge—but not meekness, brotherly love, or good works—is not the right growth. A thing may swell and not grow; a man may be swelled with knowledge—yet may have no spiritual growth. The right manner of growth is uniform, growing in one grace as well as another. As the beauty of the body consists in a symmetry of parts, in which not only the head grows—but the arms and legs. Just so, spiritual growth is most beautiful, when there is symmetry and proportion, and every grace thrives.

(3.) The right manner of growth is, when a Christian has grace suitable to his several employments and occasions. When corruptions are strong—and he has grace able to give check to them. When burdens are heavy—and he has patience able to bear them. When temptations are fierce—and he has faith able to resist them. Then grace grows in the right manner.

Whence is it, that true grace must grow?

(1.) It is proper for grace to grow; it is an enduring seed, the seed of God. I John 3:9. It is the nature of seed to grow: grace does not lie in the heart, as a stone in the earth—but as seed in the earth, which will spring up, first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear.

(2.) Grace must grow—from its sweetness and excellence. He who has grace is never weary of it—but would have more. The delight he has in it causes thirst. Grace is the image of God, and a Christian thinks he can never be enough like God. Grace instills peace; a Christian, therefore, strives to grow in grace, that he may grow in peace.

(3.) Grace must grow—from a believer's ingrafting into Christ. He who is a scion, ingrafted into this noble, generous stock, cannot but grow. Christ is so full of sap, and vivifying influence, that he makes all who are grafted into him, grow fruitful. "From me is your fruit found."

What MOTIVES or INCENTIVES are there to make us grow in grace?

(1.) Growth is the end of the ordinances. Why does a man lay out cost on ground, fertilize and water it—but that it may grow? The sincere milk of the word is given, that we may grow thereby. 1 Pet 2:2. The table of the Lord is on purpose for our spiritual nourishment and increase of grace.

(2.) The growth of grace—is the best evidence of the truth of it. Things that have no life will not grow: a picture will not grow, a stake in the hedge will not grow; but a plant that has a vegetative life grows. The growing of grace shows it to be alive in the soul.

(3.) Growth in grace is the beauty of a Christian. The more a child grows, the more it comes to its maturity, and looks more ruddy. Just so, the more a Christian grows in grace, the more he comes to his spiritual maturity, and looks fairer. Abraham's faith was beautiful when in its infancy—but at last it grew so vigorous and eminent, that God himself was in love with it, and crowned Abraham with this honor, to be the "father of the faithful."

(4.) The more we grow in grace—the more glory we bring to God. God's glory is more worth than the salvation of all men's souls. This should be our design—to raise the trophies of God's glory; and how can we better do it, than by growing in grace? "Hereby is my Father glorified—if you bring forth much fruit." Though the least grain of grace will bring salvation to us—yet it will not bring so much glory to God. "Filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are to the praise of his glory." It commends the skill of the farmer—when his plants grow and thrive; it is a praise and honor to God—when we thrive in grace.

(5.) The more we grow in grace—the more will God love us. Is it not that which we pray for? The more growth, the more God will love us. The farmer loves his thriving plants; the thriving Christian is God's Hephzibah, or chief delight. Christ loves to see the vine flourishing, and the pomegranates budding. Cant 6:11: He accepts the truth of grace—but commends the growth of grace. "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." Would you be as the beloved disciple, who lay in Christ's bosom? Would you have much love from Christ? Labor for much growth, let faith flourish with good works, and love increase into zeal.

(6.) We need to grow in grace. There is still something lacking in our faith. 1 Thess 3:10. Grace is but in its infancy and minority, and we must still be adding an inch to our spiritual stature. The apostles said, "Lord, increase our faith." Luke 17:5. Grace is but weak. "I am this day weak, though anointed king." So, though we are anointed with grace—yet we are but weak, and had need arrive at further degrees of sanctity.

(7.) The growth of grace—will hinder the growth of corruption. The more health grows, the more the distempers of the body abate. Just so, in spirituals—the more humility grows, the more the swelling of pride is assuaged. The more purity of heart grows—the more the fire of lust is abated. The growth of flowers in the garden does not hinder the growing of weeds—but the growing of the flower of grace does hinder the sprouting of corruption. As some plants have an antipathy, and will not thrive if they grow near together, as the vine and the bay tree; just so, where grace grows, sin will not thrive so fast.

(8.) We cannot grow too much in grace; there is no excess there. The body may grow too great, as in the dropsy; but faith cannot grow too great. "Your faith grows exceedingly." Here was exceeding—yet not excess. As a man cannot have too much health; just so—he cannot have not too much grace. Grace is the beauty of holiness. Ps 110:3. We cannot have too much spiritual beauty; it will be the only trouble at death, that we have grown no more in grace.

(9.) Such as do not grow in grace—decay in grace. "Not to go forward in the Christian life is to turn back," Bernard. There is no standing still in piety—either we go forward or backward. If faith does not grow, unbelief will. If heavenly-mindedness does not grow, covetousness will. A man who does not increase his stock, diminishes it. Just so, if you do not improve your stock of grace, your stock will decay. The angels on Jacob's ladder were either ascending or descending. Just so, if you do not ascend in true religion, you descend.

(10.) The more we grow in grace—the more we shall flourish in glory. Though every vessel of glory shall be full—yet some vessels hold more than others. He whose pound gained ten, was made ruler over ten cities. Luke 19:17. Such as do not grow much, though they lose not their glory, they lessen it. If any shall follow the Lamb in whiter and larger robes of glory than others, they shall be such as have shone most in grace here.

Use: Lament the lack of growth. Religion in many, has grown into a form and profession only; this is to grow in leaves—not in fruit. Many Christians are like a body in an atrophy, which does not thrive. They are not nourished by the sermons they hear. Like the angels who assumed bodies, they ate—but did not grow. It is to be suspected where there is no growth—that a vital principle is lacking. Some instead of growing better, grow worse; they grow more earthly, more profane. "Evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse." 2 Tim 3:13. Many grow hell-ward; they grow past shame. Zeph 3:5. They grow more rotten.

How shall we know whether we grow in grace? For deciding this question, I shall show:

1. The signs of our not growing;

2. The signs of our growing.

I. The signs of our NOT growing in grace—but rather falling into a spiritual decline.

[1] We are a spiritual decline—when we have lost our spiritual appetite. A consumptive person does not have that appetite for his food, as formerly. Perhaps, Christian, you can remember the time when you hungered and thirsted after righteousness, you came to the ordinances with such an appetite, as to a feast; but now it is otherwise, Christ is not so prized, nor his ordinances so loved. This is a dreadful presage that grace is on the decline; and you are in a deep decline. It was a sign that David was near his grave when they covered him with clothes, and he got no warmth, 1 Kings 1:1. Just so, when a person is covered with the warm clothes of ordinances, and yet has no warmth of affection to spiritual things, it is a sign that he is declining in grace.

[2] We are a spiritual decline—when we grow more worldly. Perhaps we once mounted into higher orbs, we set our hearts on things above, and spoke the language of Canaan; but now our minds are taken off from heaven, we dig our comfort out of the lower mines, and like Satan, we compass the earth. This is a sign we are going down the hill apace, and our grace is in a decline. It is observable when nature decays, and people are near dying, they grow more stooping; and truly, when men's hearts grow more stooping to the earth, and they can hardly lift up themselves to a heavenly thought, if grace is not dead—yet it is ready to die. Rev 3:2.

[3] We are a spiritual decline—when we are less troubled about sin. Time was, when the least sin grieved us, as the least hair makes the eye weep; but now we can commit sin without remorse. Time was, when we were troubled if we neglected closet prayer; now we can omit family-prayer. Time was, when vain thoughts troubled us; now we are not troubled for loose practices. Here is a sad declension in piety; and truly grace is so far from growing, that we can hardly perceive its pulse to beat!

II. The SIGNS of our growing in grace.

[1] When we have got beyond our former measures of grace. It is a sign a child thrives, when he has outgrown his clothes. That knowledge which would serve us before, will not serve us now; we have a deeper insight into Scripture, our light is clearer, our spark of love is increased into a flame; there is a sign of growth. That competency of grace we once had, is too scanty for us now; we have outgrown ourselves!

[2] When we are more firmly rooted in piety. "Rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith." Col 2:7. The spreading of the root, shows the growth of the tree. When we are so strongly fastened on Christ, that we cannot be blown down with the breath of heretics, it is a blessed sign of growth. Athanasius was called Adamas ecclesiae [the Adamant of the Church,] an adamant that could not be removed from the love of the truth.

[3] When we have a more spiritual frame of heart.

(1.) When we are more spiritual in our principles; when we oppose sin out of love to God, and because it strikes at his holiness.

(2.) When we are more spiritual in our affections. We grieve for the first rising of corruption, for the bubbling up of vain thoughts, and for the hidden spring which runs underground. We mourn not only for the penalty of sin—but for its pollution. Sin is a coal which not only burns—but which blackens.

(3.) When we are spiritual in the performance of duty. We are more serious, reverent, fervent; we have more life in prayer, we put fire to the sacrifice. "Fervent in spirit." We serve God with more love, which ripens and mellows our duty, and makes it come off with a better relish.

[4] When grace gains ground by opposition. The fire burns hottest, in the coldest season. Peter's courage increased, by the opposition of the high priest and the rulers. Acts 4:8, 11. The martyr's zeal was increased by persecution. Here was grace of the first magnitude.

What shall we do to grow in grace?

(1.) Take heed of that which will hinder growth, as the love of any sin. The body may as well thrive in a fever, as grace can where any sin is cherished.

(2.) Use all means for growth in grace.

First. "Exercise yourselves unto godliness." The body grows stronger by exercise. Trading of money makes men grow rich. Just so, the more we trade our faith in the promises, the richer in faith we grow.

Secondly. If you would be growing Christians, be humble Christians. It is observed in some countries, as in France, the best and largest grapes, which make wine, grow on the lower sort of vines. Just so, the humble saints grow most in grace. "God gives grace to the humble."

Thirdly. Pray to God for spiritual growth. Some pray that they may grow in gifts. It is better to grow in grace, than gifts. Gifts are for ornament, grace is for nourishment. Gifts edify others; grace saves ourselves. Some pray that they may grow rich; but a fruitful heart is better than a full purse. Pray that God would make you grow in grace, though it be by affliction. Heb 12:10. The vine grows by pruning. God's pruning-knife is to make us grow more in grace!

How may we comfort such as complain that they do not grow in grace?

They make mistake; for they may grow, when they think they do not. "There is that makes himself poor—yet has great riches." Prov 13:7. The sight Christians have of their defects in grace, and their thirst after greater measures of grace—make them think they do not grow, when they actually are growing. He who covets a great estate, because he has not so much as he desires, thinks himself to be poor. Indeed Christians should seek after the grace they lack—but they must not therefore overlook the grace they have. Let Christians be thankful for the least growth. If you do not grow so much in assurance, bless God if you grow in sincerity; if you do not grow so much in knowledge, bless God if you grow in humility. If a tree grows in the root, it is a true growth. Just so, if you grow in the root-grace of humility—that is as needful for you as any other growth.



"Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." I Peter 1:5.

The fifth and last fruit of sanctification, is perseverance in grace. The heavenly inheritance is kept for the saints—and they are kept for the inheritance. The apostle asserts a saint's stability and permanence in grace. The saint's perseverance is much opposed by Papists and Arminians; but it is not the less true because it is opposed. A Christian's main comfort, depends upon this doctrine of perseverance. Take this away, and you harm piety, and cut the sinews of all cheerful endeavors. Before I come to the full handling and discussing of this great point, let me first clear the sense of it.

I. The NATURE of perseverance.

[1] I grant, that such as are so only in mere profession, may fall away. "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world." Blazing comets soon evaporate. A building on sand will fall. Matt 7:26. Seeming grace may be lost. It is no wonder to see a branch fall from a tree, which has only been tied on. Hypocrites are only tied on Christ by an external profession, they are not ingrafted. Who ever thought artificial motions would hold long? The hypocrite's motion is only artificial, not vital. All blossoms do not ripen into fruit.

[2] I grant that if believers were left to stand on their own legs, they might fall finally. Some of the angels, who were stars full of light and glory, actually lost their grace! And if those pure angels fell from grace, much more would the godly, who have so much sin to betray them—if they were not upheld by a superior power!

[3] I grant that, although true believers do not fall away actually, and lose all their grace—yet their grace may fail in degree, and they may make a great breach upon their sanctification. Grace may be dying—but not dead. "Strengthen the things which are ready to die." Grace may be like fire in the embers; though not quenched—yet the flame has gone out. This decay of grace I shall show in two particulars.

(1.) The lively actings of grace may be suspended. "You have left your first love." Grace may be like a sleepy habit; the godly may act faintly in piety, the pulse of their affections may beat low. The wise virgins slumbered. Matt 25:5. The exercise of grace may be hindered; as when the course of water is stopped.

(2.) Instead of grace working in the godly, corruption may work; instead of patience, murmuring; instead of heavenliness, earthliness. How did pride put forth itself in the disciples, when they strove who should be the greatest! How did lust put forth itself in David! Corruption may be so lively and vigorous in the regenerate, that they may fall into enormous sins! But though all this is granted—yet they do not finally fall away from grace. David did not quite lose his grace: for then, why did he pray, "Do not take your Holy Spirit from me." He had not quite lost the Spirit. As Eutychus, when he fell from a window (Acts 20) and all thought he was dead—"No, says Paul, there is life in him!" So David fell foully—but there was the life of grace in him. Though the saints may come to that point where they have but little faith—yet cannot come to that point where have no faith. Though their grace may be drawn low—yet it is not drawn dry; though grace may be abated, it is not abolished; though the wise virgins slumbered—yet their lamps were not quite gone out. Grace, when at the lowest, shall revive and flourish; just as when Samson had lost his strength—his hair grew again, and his strength was renewed. Having thus explained the proposition, I come now to amplify this great doctrine of the saint's perseverance.

II. By what MEANS do Christians come to persevere?

[1] We persevere by the help of ORDINANCES, as of prayer, the word, and the sacraments. Christians do not arrive at perseverance when they sit still and do nothing. It is not with us as with passengers in a ship, who are carried to the end of their voyage while they sit still in the ship; or, as it is with noblemen, who have their rents brought in without their toil or labor. But we arrive at salvation in the use of means; as a man comes to the end of a race by running; or to a victory by fighting. "Watch and pray." As Paul said, "unless you remain in the ship, you cannot be saved." Acts 27:31. Believers shall come to shore at last, arrive at heaven; but "unless they remain in the ship," namely," in the use of ordinances, "they cannot be saved." The ordinances nourish grace; as they beget grace, so they are the breast-milk by which grace is nourished and preserved to eternity.

[2] We persevere by the sacred influence and concurrence of the SPIRIT. The Spirit of God is continually at work in the heart of a believer, to carry on grace to perfection. He drops in fresh oil, to keep the lamp of grace burning. The Spirit excites, strengthens, increases grace—and makes a Christian go from one step of faith to another, until he comes to the end of his faith, which is salvation. I Pet 1:9. It is a fine expression of the apostle, "The Holy Spirit who dwells in us." He who dwells in a house, keeps the house in repair. Just so, the Spirit dwelling in a believer, keeps grace in repair. Grace is compared to a river of the water of life. John 7:38. This river can never be dried up, because God's Spirit is the spring that continually feeds it.

[3] Grace is carried on to perfection by Christ's daily INTERCESSION. As the Spirit is at work in the heart, so is Christ at work in heaven. Christ is ever praying that the saint's grace may hold out. "Father, keep those whom you have given me." Keep them as the stars in their orbs: keep them as jewels, that they may not be lost. "Father keep them." John 17:2. That prayer which Christ made for Peter, was the copy of the prayer he now makes for believers. "I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not," that it be not totally eclipsed. How can the children of such prayers perish?

III. Arguments to prove the saint's perseverance.

[1] From the TRUTH of God. God has both asserted it, and promised it.

(1.) God has asserted it. "His seed remains in him." "The anointing you have received from him abides in you."

(2.) As God has asserted it, so he has promised it. The truth of God, the most orient pearl of his crown, is laid as a pawn in the promise. "I will give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish!" "I will make with them an everlasting covenant: I will never turn away from doing good to them, and I will put fear of Me in their hearts so they will never again turn away from Me." Jeremiah 32:40. God will so love his people, that he will not forsake them; and they shall so fear him, that they shall not forsake him. If a believer should not persevere, God would break his promise. "I will betroth you unto me forever, in righteousness and loving-kindness." God does not marry his people unto himself, and then divorce them; he hates divorce. Mal 2:16. God's love ties the marriage-knot so fast, that neither death nor hell can break it asunder!

[2] The second argument is from the POWER of God. The text says, we "are kept by the power of God unto salvation." Each Person in the Trinity has a hand in making a believer persevere. God the Father establishes salvation, 2 Cor 1:21. God the Son confirms salvation, 1 Cor 1:8. God the Holy Spirit seals salvation, Eph 1:13. So it is the power of God which keeps us. We are not kept by our own power. The Pelagians held that man by his own power might overcome temptation and persevere. Augustine confutes them. "Man," says he, "prays unto God for perseverance, which would be absurd, if he had power of himself to persevere." "And," says Augustine, "if all the power is inherent in a man's self, then why should not one persevere as well as another? Why not Judas as well as Peter?" So that it is not by any other than the power of God, that we are kept. The Lord preserved Israel from perishing in the wilderness, until he brought them to Canaan; and the same care will he take, if not in a miraculous manner—yet in a spiritual invisible manner—in preserving his people in a state of grace, until he brings them to the celestial Canaan. As the heathens feigned of Atlas—that he bears up the heavens from falling; so the power of God is that Atlas which bears up the saints from falling. It is disputed, whether grace of itself may not perish, as Adam's; yet I am sure that grace kept by the power of God cannot perish.

[3] The third argument is taken from God's ELECTING LOVE. Such as God has from all eternity elected to glory, cannot fall away finally! Every true believer is elected to glory, therefore he cannot fall away. What can frustrate election, or make God's decree void? This argument stands like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved. "The foundation of God stands sure, having this seal, the Lord knows those who are his." The foundation of God is nothing else but God's decree in election; and this stands sure; God will not alter it, and others can not.

[4] The fourth argument is taken from believers' UNION WITH CHRIST. They are knit to Christ as the members to the head, by the nerves and ligaments of faith, so that they cannot be broken off. Eph 5:23. What was once said of Christ's natural body is true of his mystical body—"A bone of it shall not be broken." As it is not possible to sever the leaven and the dough when they are once mingled and kneaded together; so it is impossible for Christ and believers, when once united, ever to be separated. Christ and his members make one body. Now, is it possible that any part of Christ should perish? How can Christ lose any member of his mystic body, and remain perfect? If one believer may be broken off from Christ, then, by the same rule—why not another? Why not all? And so Christ would be a head without a body!

[5] The fifth argument is taken from the nature of a PURCHASE. A man will not lay down his money for a purchase which will be lost. Christ died that he might purchase us as a people to himself forever. "Having obtained eternal redemption for us." Would Christ have shed his blood, that we might believe in him for a while, and then fall away? Do we think Christ will lose his purchase?

[6] The sixth argument is from a believer's victory over the WORLD. The argument stands thus: He who overcomes the world perseveres in grace; a believer overcomes the world; therefore a believer perseveres in grace. "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith." A man may lose a single battle in the field—yet win the victory at last. A child of God may be foiled in a single battle against temptation, as Peter was—but he is victorious at last. Now, if a saint is crowned victor, if the world is conquered by him—he must needs persevere.

IV. I come next to answer some OBJECTIONS of the Arminians.

[1] The first objection of Arminians is—If a believer shall persevere in grace, to what purpose are admonitions in Scripture, such as "Let him take heed lest he fall;" and, "Let us fear, lest any of you seem to come short." Such admonitions seem to be superfluous, if a saint shall certainly persevere.

These admonitions are necessary to caution believers against carelessness; they are as goads and spurs to quicken them to greater diligence in working out their salvation. They do not imply the saints can fall away—but are preservatives to keep them from falling away. Christ told some of his disciples they would abide in him—yet he exhorts them to abide in him. John 15:4. His exhorting them was not in the least to question their abiding in him—but to awaken their diligence, and make them pray the harder, that they might abide in him.

[2] The second objection is—"It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace." Hebrews 6:4-6.

This place of Scripture has no force in it, for the apostle here speaks of hypocrites; he shows how far they may go, and yet fall away.

(1.) They who were once enlightened. Men may have great illuminations—yet fall away. Was not Judas enlightened?

(2.) They have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit; the common gifts of the Spirit, not the special grace.

(3.) They have tasted the good word of God. Tasting here is opposed to eating: the hypocrite may have a kind of taste of the sweetness of religion—but his taste does not nourish. There is a great deal of difference between one who takes a gargle, and a one who takes a cordial. The gargle only washes his mouth—he tastes it, and spits it out again; but a cordial is drunk down, which nourishes and cherishes the spirits. The hypocrite, who has only some smack or taste of true religion—as one tastes a gargle—may fall away.

(4.) And have felt the powers of the world to come; that is, they may have such apprehensions of the glory of heaven as to be affected with it, and seem to have some joy in the thoughts of it—yet fall away; as in the parable of the stony ground. Matt 13:20.

All this is spoken of the hypocrite; but it does not therefore prove that the true believer, who is effectually wrought upon, can fall away. Though comets fall, it does not follow that true stars fall. That this Scripture does not speak of sound believers, is clear from verse 9: "But we are persuaded better things of you—and things which accompany salvation."


(1.) See the excellence of grace. It perseveres. Other things are but for a season; health and riches are sweet—but they are but for a season. But grace is the blossom of eternity. The seed of God remains. I John 3:9. Grace may suffer an eclipse, not a dissolution. It is called substance, for its solidity, Prov 8:21; and durable riches, for its permanence. Prov 8:18. It lasts as long as the soul. It lasts as long as heaven lasts. Grace is not like a lease which soon expires—but it runs parallel with eternity.

(2.) See here that which may excite everlasting love and gratitude to God in the saints. What can make us love God more than the fixedness of his love to us? He is not only the author of grace—but finisher; his love is perpetual and carried on to our salvation. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish." John 10:27-28. "My sheep"—there is election; "hear my voice"—there is effectual calling; "I know them"—there is justification; "and they follow me"—there is sanctification; "I give them eternal life"—there is glorification; "they shall never perish"—there is preservation. How may this make us love God, and set up the monuments and trophies of his praise! How much have we done to cause God to withdraw his Spirit, and allow us to fall finally! Yet that he should keep us—let his name be blessed, and his memorial eternalized, who keeps the feet of his saints. I Sam 2:9.

(3.) See whence it is, that saints persevere in holiness. It is to be ascribed solely to the power of God; we are kept by his power, kept as in a garrison. It is a wonder that any Christian perseveres, if you consider:

(1:) Corruption within. The tares are mingled with the wheat; there is more sin than grace—yet grace is habitually predominant. Grace is like a spark in the sea—it is a wonder that it is not quenched! It is a wonder that sin does not destroy grace.

(2:) Temptations without. Satan envies us happiness, and he raises his militia, and stirs up persecution. He shoots his fiery darts of temptations, which are called darts for their swiftness, fiery for their terribleness. We are every day beset with devils. As it was a wonder that Daniel was kept alive in the midst of the roaring lions, so there are many roaring devils around us, and yet we are not torn in pieces. Now, whence is it that we stand against these powerful temptations? We are kept by the power of God!

(3:) The world's old snares—riches and pleasure. "How hard it is for rich people to get into the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!" Luke 18:24-25. How many have been shipwrecked upon these golden rocks! "Demas has deserted me, because he loved this present world." 2 Timothy 4:10. What a wonder any soul perseveres in holiness—that the earth does not choke the fire of all holy affections! Whence is this—but from the power of God? We are kept by his power.

Use two: For CONSOLATION. This doctrine of perseverance is as a magic stone; it is a sovereign cordial to keep up the spirits of the godly from fainting.

(1.) There is nothing that more troubles a child of God, than that he fears he shall never hold out. "These weak legs of mine," he says, "will never carry me to heaven." But perseverance is an inseparable fruit of sanctification. Once in Christ—forever in Christ. A believer may fall from some degrees of grace—but not from the state of grace. An Israelite could never wholly sell or alienate his inheritance. Lev 25:23. So our heavenly inheritance cannot be wholly alienated from us. How despairing is the Arminian doctrine of falling from grace! Today a saint—tomorrow a reprobate; today a Peter—tomorrow a Judas. This must needs cut the sinews of a Christian's endeavor, and be like boring a hole in a vessel—to make all the wine of his joy run out. Were the Arminian doctrine true, how could the apostle say that the seed of God remains in him, and the anointing of God abides? I John 3:9; I John 2:27. What comfort would it be—to have one's name written in the book of life—if it might be blotted out again? But be assured, for your comfort—that grace, if it is true, though ever so weak, shall persevere. Though a Christian has but little grace to trade with—yet he need not fear breaking, because God not only gives him a stock of grace—but will keep his stock for him. Augustine, "Grace may be shaken with fears and doubts—but it cannot be plucked up by the roots."

Do not fear of finally falling away. If anything should hinder the saints' perseverance, it must be either sin or temptation; but neither of these can.

(1:) Not the sin of believers. Their sins humble them. That which humbles them shall not damn them. They gather grapes off thorns; from the thorn of sin they gather the grape of humility.

(2:) Not temptation. The devil lays his temptation to blow up the fort of a saint's grace; but he cannot do it. Temptation is a medicine for security; the more Satan tempts—the more the saints pray! When Paul had the messenger of Satan to buffet him, he said, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me." 2 Corinthians 12:8. Thus nothing can break off a believer from Christ, or hinder his perseverance. Let this wine be given to such as are of a heavy heart.

(2.) This perseverance is comfort:

(1:) In the loss of worldly comforts. While our goods may be taken away—our grace cannot. "Mary has chosen the better part, which cannot be taken from her."

(2:) In the hour of death. When all things fail, and friends take their farewell of us—yet still grace remains. Death may separate all things from us—except for grace. A Christian may say on his death-bed, "Sight is gone, speech and hearing are departing—but the loving-kindness of God will never depart."

Use three: For EXHORTATION. What MOTIVES and incentives are there to make Christians persevere?

(1.) It is the crown and glory of a Christian to persevere. It is not the beginning of the Christian life which gets glory, but the end of it. "Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life." Prov 16:31. When grey hairs shine with golden virtues, it is a crown of glory! The church of Thyatira was best at last. "I know your works—your love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. Your last works are greater than the first." Rev 2:19. The excellence of a building is not in having the first stone laid—but when it is finished. Just so, the glory and excellence of a Christian is when he has finished the work of faith.

(2.) You are within a few days' march of heaven. Salvation is near to you. "Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." Romans 13:11. Christians, it is but a little while, and you will have done weeping and praying—and be triumphing! You shall put off your mourning garments, and put on white robes! You shall put off your battle armor, and put on a victorious crown! You who have made a good progress in piety, you are almost ready to commence and take your degree of glory! "Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." When a man is almost at the end of a race, will he tire, or faint away? O labor to persevere, your salvation is now nearer; you have but a little way to go—and you will set your foot in heaven! Though the way is up-hill and full of thorns—yet you have gone the greatest part of your way, and shortly shall rest from your labors! "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom!" Luke 12:32.

(3.) How sad is it not to persevere in holiness! You expose yourself to the reproaches of men, and the rebukes of God.

First, to the reproaches of men. They will deride both you and your profession. "This man began to build, and was not able to finish." Such is he who begins in religion, and does not persevere: he is the ridicule and derision of all.

Secondly, to the rebukes of God. God is most severe against such as fall away, because they bring an evil report upon true religion. Apostasy breeds a bitter worm in the conscience; and it brings swift damnation; it is a drawing back to perdition. "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." Hebrews 10:36. God will make his sword drunk with the blood of apostates.

(4.) The promises of mercy are annexed only to perseverance. "He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels." Revelation 3:5. The promise is not to him who fights—but who overcomes. "You are those who have continued with me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom." Luke 22:28, 29. "The promise of a kingdom," says Chrysostom, "is not made to those who merely heard Christ—but to those who continued with him. Perseverance carries away the garland! No man has the crown set upon his head—but he who holds out to the end of the race. O therefore, be persuaded by all this, to persevere. God does not receive those who do not persevere. Who values corn which withers before harvest; or fruit which falls from the tree before it is ripe?

What expedients or MEANS may be used for a Christian's perseverance?

(1.) Take heed of those things which will make you stumble and fall away.

First. Take heed of PRESUMPTION. Do not presume upon your own strength; exercise a holy fear and jealousy over your own hearts. "Be not high-minded—but fear." "Let him that thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall." It was Peter's sin that he leaned more upon his grace, than upon Christ—and then he fell. A Christian has cause to fear lest the lust and deceit of his heart betray him. Take heed of presuming. Fear begets prayer, prayer begets strength, and strength begets steadfastness.

Secondly. Take heed of HYPOCRISY. Judas was first a sly hypocrite—and then a traitor. "Their heart was not right with God, neither were they steadfast in his covenant." If there is any venom or malignity in the blood—it will break forth into a plague-sore. The venom of hypocrisy is in danger of breaking out into the plague-sore of scandal.

Thirdly. Beware of a vile heart of UNBELIEF. "Take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God." Whence is apostasy—but from unbelief? Men do not believe the truth, and therefore they fall from the truth. Unbelieving and unstable, go together. "They believed not in God." "They turned back."

(2.) If you would be pillars in the temple of God, and persevere in sanctity:

(1) See that you enter into religion upon a right ground; be well grounded in the foundational truths of Scripture. You must know the love of the Father, the merit of the Son, and the efficacy of the Holy Spirit. Such as know not God aright will by degrees fall away. The Samaritans sided with the dews when they were in favor—but disclaimed all kindred with them when Antiochus persecuted the Jews. No wonder they were no more fixed in true religion, if you consider what Christ says of them: "You worship, you know not what." They were ignorant of the true God. Let your knowledge of God be clear, and serve him purely out of choice, and then you will persevere. "I have chosen the way of truth. I have stuck unto your testimonies."

(2) Get a real work of grace in your heart. "It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace." Nothing will hold out, but true grace; it is only this anointing which abides; paint will fall off. Get a heart-changing work. "But you are washed—but you are sanctified." Do not be content with baptism of water, without baptism of the Spirit. The reason men persevere not in true religion, is for lack of a vital principle; that branch must wither, which has no root to grow upon.

(3) If you would persevere, be very SINCERE. Perseverance grows only upon the root of sincerity. "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me.". The breastplate of sincerity can never be shot through. How many storms was Job in! The devil set against him; his wife tempted him to curse God; his friends accused him of being a hypocrite. Here was enough, one would think, to have made him desist from piety! But for all this, he perseveres. What preserved him? It was his sincerity. "I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live." Job 27:5-6.

(4) If you would persevere, be HUMBLE. Chrysostom calls humility the mother of all the graces. God lets a poor, humble Christian stand, when others of higher abilities, and who have higher thoughts of themselves, fall off by apostasy. They are most likely to persevere, to whom God gives most grace. "He gives grace to the humble." They are most likely to persevere, who have God dwelling in them. "God dwells in the humble soul." "The Holy Spirit will only come to rest over a humble soul," Bernard. The lower the tree roots in the earth—the firmer it is. Just so, the more the soul is rooted in humility—the more established it is, and is in less danger of falling away.

(5) Would you persevere? Nourish the grace of FAITH. Faith is our support. "By faith you stand." Faith knits us to Christ, as the members are knit to the head by nerves and sinews. Faith fills us with love to God. "Faith works by love." He who loves God will rather die than desert him; as the soldier who loves his general will die in his service. Faith gives us a glimpse of heaven; it shows us the invisible glory! He who has Christ in his heart, and a crown in his eye—will not faint away. O nourish faith! Keep your faith—and your faith will keep you. While the pilot keeps his ship—his ship keeps him.

(6) Would we persevere? Let us seek God's power to help us. We are kept by the power of God. The child is safest when it is held in the father's arms. Just so, we are safest, when we are held in the arms of free grace! It is not our holding God—but his holding us, which preserves us. When a boat is tied to a rock, it is secure. Just so—when we are fast tied to the Rock of Ages, we are impregnable. O engage God's power to help you to persevere. We engage his power by prayer. Let us pray to him to keep us. "Hold up my goings in your path, that my footsteps slip not." "Hold me up—and I shall be safe!" Psalm 119:117. It was a good prayer of Beza, "Lord, perfect what you have begun in me, that I may not suffer shipwreck when I am almost at the haven."

(7) If you would persevere, set before your eyes the noble examples of those who have persevered in piety. How many martyrs, how many faithful souls are even now rejoicing in Heaven! What a glorious army of saints and martyrs have gone before us! How constant to the death, was Paul! "Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! For I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but also to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus." Acts 21:13. How persevering in the faith were Ignatius, Polycarp, and Athanasius! They were stars in their orbs, pillars in the temple of God. Let us look on their zeal and courage, and be animated. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us." Hebrews 12:1. The crown is set at the end of the race! If we finish the race—we shall wear the crown!