Mell, Predestination and the Saints' Perseverence: Section IV.
Our author's second sermon is an assault upon the doctrine of the Saints' Perserverance. As a production it is a little more creditable than the first, though it is distinguished, in some degree, by the same characteristic chaos and want of arrangement. The same ignorance of his antagonists' sentiments which is so glaring in the first sermon, is not doubtfully manifested in this. It would give us much pleasure to go into a full discussion of the doctrine assailed; but we waive it for the sake of brevity. An extended discussion however, after what has been said on the subject of predestination, is really not necessary; since if it be true, perseverance, follows as a necessary consequence. We shall confine ourselves strictly then to the arguments of our author.
The confession of faith from which he quoted, states the doctrine thus: "Those whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.
This perserverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election." (Pres. Confession of faith, Chap.17).
This asserts two things: 1. Christians do not totally fall; 2. Christians do not finally fall. The chief part of our author's attack is levelled at the first proposition. Let us take them up separately:
1. Those whom God hath accepted in Christ effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, cannot totally fall from grace. Against this our author cites the case of David, who, after having been a child of God, was guilty of murder and adultery, and asks, in substance: Did David continue in a gracious state? Did he not totally fall? Did not God withdraw from him all gracious influences? "If not then Christianity almost tolerates adultery and murder." p. 15. "Then one of God's elect can do as he pleases, and God will punish him for it in this world, Universalism-like." p. 14. "Then God has abandoned all government over the elect, has absolved them from all responsibility for their conduct, and His grace is designed merely to remove from them the danger of being judged for their crimes" p. 16. Our author supplies from his imagination the gross circumstances connected with this case of David; and enlarges upon it with a seeming relish and a disgusting fulness of detail that do not prove it to be a subject uncongenial to his taste. The consequences above, he advances with an air of triumph, as if he thought they cannot be met: but it all results from confounding with the issue things that are entirely irrelevant. Let us see whether we cannot aid him in making the proper discrimination. The question then as he has presented it, illustrated by example, is: Could David commit murder and adultery and not totally fall from grace? It is important that we have a clear idea of what is the true point at issue:
1. The question is not whether Christians ever commit sin. That Calvinists grant -- nay, maintain it against Mr. Reneau and those who think with him. We deny the doctrine of Christian perfection, and insist that both scripture and experience teach that every Christian has an evil heart of unbelief that is prone to wander from the living God. We not only grant, therefore, that David committed sin, but maintain furthermore that there is no man that liveth and sinneth not.
2. Nor is the question whether Christians ever backslide. Mr. Reneau may deny that there is such a thing as Christian backsliding, and, to be consistent, he should do so; but Calvinists (and, we think, the generality of Arminians) grant and maintain that Christians are sometimes permitted to wander for a time far from God.
3. Nor is the question whether the transgressions of those sanctified by the Spirit are less heinous in the sight of God than the transgressions of impenitent sinners. On the contrary, Calvinists hold them to be more aggravated, and, consequently, more deserving of God's disapprobation. The law as a rule of life, is as much binding upon Christians as upon sinners, and the gospel and the grace of God do not relieve His people from the obligation to obey it. God requires them to love Him with all the heart, and their neighbors as themselves; and to show their love to Him by their obedience to His commandments.
4. The question between us is not whether, while committing sin, all the graces of the Christian continue in active exercise. A Christian cannot experience love, and joy, and hope, and peace, while indulging in a known sin. If his heart condemn him, God is greater than his heart and knoweth all things.
5. Nor, finally is the question whether while indulging in sin, he has evidence that he is in a gracious state or affords that evidence to others. While in this condition he makes his calling and election sure neither to himself nor to those who know him.
What then is the question? This: Did David, while in sin, totally lose the grace that was given him in regeneration? Our author maintains the affirmative and Calvinists the negative? Before taking up his objections, we will present two considerations, which, to our mind, are conclusive that the Calvinistic view is correct.
l. That David did not totally lose the grace given him in regeneration is evident from the fact that his state of sin was of temporary duration and that he was speedily rescued from it by repentance and forgiveness. Many others besides David have been guilt of murder and adultery, who have continued hardened and impenitent after detection and reproof but David, as soon as reproved in God's name by the prophet, repented -- why? Because there was a principle within him that temptation had, for the time, overwhelmed, but which asserted its accustomed influence as soon as the evil tide was checked. The powerful monarch, destitute of grace, when rebuked as he was, would more likely have punished the faithful prophet than trembled before him.
2. That a renewed man does not totally lose the grace bestowed, is evident from the declaration of scripture: (1 John 3:9) "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; (or apostatise) for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, (i. e. continue in it) because he is born of God." The Apostle is speaking of the habit of sinning. The children of God, says he are distinguished from the servants of the Devil in the fact that the one like their master continue in sin, and the other like their gracious heavenly Father works righteousness and are habitually holy; and if they, by the force of temptation, are enticed into sin, they do not continue in it, because the seed of grace remaineth in them and they cannot continue habitually in sin because they are horn of God. That this is the true meaning to be attached to the word sin as the apostle uses it here, is evident from another remark (1 John 1:8) "If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." That the constant habit of sin is what he refers to in the first quotation is evident, otherwise he is made to contradict himself. If the word in both connections means the same thing, then there never was any one who was born of God; for if it be true that all commit sin, and those born of God do not commit sin, then it follows that none are born of God. Again, the evidence contained in David's prayer which he uttered while writing under remorse at the time, is also conclusive: "Take not thy Holy Spirit from me." Not give again, but take not away; implying that His influences were, in some degree, still felt. Finally, Peter's sin was just as aggravated as David's, and his fall was just as signal; but was God's grace totally removed from him? What does the Saviour say? "Satan hath desired to have you that he might sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not." If there was efficacy in the intercession of Christ, Peter's faith did not fail -- all of God's grace was not removed from him. Consequently, when the Saviour turned and looked upon Peter, he went out and wept bitterly. Those same meek and forgiving eyes were turned to many of the hardened wretches that thronged the judgment hall. Why did their mild gaze inspire Peter only with Godly sorrow? Because the seed of God's grace was in him alone.
But says our author: "If David did not totally fall from Grace, then Christianity almost tolerates adultery and murder." But Calvinists says God was displeased with, and punished him for his crimes. "But how? -- by sending him to Hell?" No, "The amount of it is then that God's elect can do as they please, and He will punish them for it in this world. Universalism -- like" "God absolves His elect from all responsibility for their conduct, and His grace is designed simple to remove from them the danger of being judged for their crimes; and God has abandoned all government over his elect" But not so fast. Let us reason a little, and see if we cannot answer you out of your own mouth. Let us ask you a few questions about this case of David, your favorite example. Before his connection with Uriah's wife, David was a regenerated man was he not? You have already, in your pamphlet, answered this in the affirmative. He committed the crimes of murder and adultery; did God not punish him for them? If yes- how? by sending him to hell? If no; then according to your principles, He punished him for them in this world, Universalism -- like. Do you say God forgave him because of his subsequent repentance? We say the same. Do you say God's long-suffering was manifested to him in not cutting him down while in a state of sin? We say the same. What then is the difference between us? We both agree that David had been a child of God, that he committed crimes of a dark dye, that God did not immediately send him to Hell, and that subsequently he repented, was forgiven and restored. The precise question between us is, whether, in the commission of these crimes, he totally fell, i.e. lost entirely the grace of God? This you affirm, and we deny. Now, you perceive, it will not do for you to use an argument, with or without an air of triumph, which will apply with as much force against yourself as against us. We both of us say that David, if punished at all, was punished only in this world, and we both of us disclaim Universalism. "But grace" you say "is favor bestowed without compensation." p. 13. How then can God consistently continue this favor to David while his conduct made him so undeserving it? In the same way that he bestowed it upon others and upon David in the first instance whose conduct was undeserving it. David did not merit it, we grant; and if he had, it would not have been grace but debt. It was grace, because it was undeserved. "But," you say, "in the very act of continuing His grace to David while guilty of these crimes, did God not abandon all government over him, and give him full license to sin against him with impunity?" No; unless it can be shown that the grace of God has a hardening influence, and that its tendency is to embolden men in transgression. Now we grant that forebearance towards the sinner does frequently tend to harden. The Bible states that: "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in them to do evil." If therefore, you substitute in your question the word forebearance for the word grace it would have some pertinence. But that question you cannot propound to us; since you, no less than we acknowledge that God exhibited forebearance towards David. The tendency of God's grace is not to harden but to soften the heart, not to encourage in sin but to bring to repentance, and consequently, we find it producing that effect speedily in the case of David. "But was not David's offence most flagrant? How then could God omit to inflict eternal punishment upon him (or at least subject him to the danger of it) without, at the same time, abandoning all government over the elect?" Upon the same principles, my dear sir, upon which he was able, without this consequence, to forgive you and me, (as I trust He has, when our sins had been so flagrant and aggravated against Him, previous to our repentance.) We have found the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ sufficient for us, and the same great atonement was sufficient for David. God's plan is such that He is just while he justifies the ungodly. His justice is not impugned because He forgave us, nor is it to be impugned in the case of David. We find when we sin that we have an advocate with the Father Jesus Christ, the righteous, and David believed and acted upon the same blessed assurance. The objection rests upon the supposition that the honor of God requires that He should condemn to Hell the sinner, immediately upon the commission at least of (what we would call) great crimes; but is it necessary for us to remind the minister of the Gospel whose views we are controverting, that, in consequence of the sacrifice of the cross, God deals with us not according to our sins, nor rewards us according to our transgressions -- that one of the glorious features of the Gospel of Christ, is, that it represents God as "the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and slow to anger?" God does not cut men down as soon as they transgress His law, and both we and our antagonist have reason, from our hearts, to thank Him that He has devised a more gracious way to maintain the honor of His law. His own honor and the authority of His law are maintained while He gives transgressors time and space for repentance.
Our author compares Calvinists to Universalists, because they say that the elect are punished only in this world; but the Holy Spirit asserts the same: (Ps. 89:29,30-33), "His (the spiritual David's) seed also will I make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven. If his children forsake my law and walk not in my judgments. Then will I visit their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him nor suffer my faithfulness to fail."
Our author's view of the Christian's sin is peculiar, differing even from the generality of Arminian's "The idea" he says, "that a man can be a child of God and commit sin, is preposterous" p.23. Consequently, whenever a Christian commits sin he falls from grace, and God, for the time being abandons him entirely. Now as all men, through the weakness of the flesh, and through manifold temptations are constantly liable to sin, and as all Christians perhaps do sin daily, it follows that every Christian totally falls from grace and apostatizes many times every day! And it follows that there is no such thing as backsliding among Christians; they are either elevated to the condition of perfect sanctification or fallen into the state, as far as they know, of hopeless apostasy. Our author may not be aware of it, but this opinion of his places him in the ranks of Hopkinsians -- the very people that he came so near killing by mistake!
Those whom God hath accepted in Christ, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, cannot finally fall from grace. Calvinists argue this from the perfections of God; from the immutability of His decrees; from the covenant of redemption between the Divine Persons of the Trinity; from the covenant of grace which God has made with His people; from the atonement of Christ by which He paid the full price for the redemption of His people; from Christ's intercession; from the inhabitation of the Spirit; and from the distinct and explicit declarations of the scriptures. Only two of these our author refers to, viz: 1. The covenant of grace; and 2. The atonement of Christ, but in such terms as not to render it necessary for us (confining ourselves strictly, as we profess to do, to his arguments) to notice them at length.
1. He would seem to maintain that God never made any covenants with man -- that there was no covenant of works before the fall, and no covenant of grace since. He says, "Calvinist teach that the elect have been placed under a covenant of grace where they received a benefit which relieves them from obedience to any law (!) But the poor reprobate is left under the covenant of works, the requirements of which, since the fall, are of such a character that neither they, nor the elect are able to comply." p. 16. He gives this not as an inference which he draws from our teaching, but as the very teaching itself! We have already said, in a previous number, that Calvinist maintain that it is the duty of all, elect or non-elect, to observe the moral law as rule of life, i.e. to love God supremely and their neighbors as themselves; and we had thought that every smatterer in Theology knew that all who hold a covenant of works believe that it was abrogated as soon as it was violated, i.e. when Adam sinned. While all since the fall are commanded to observe the moral law as a rule of life, all are told that by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified; and that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. The commandment to all is not, Do this and live; but, Repent and believe the Gospel. Now the Covenant of Grace which God has made with His people, and which constitutes the present argument, stands thus: "And I will make an everlasting Covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me" (Jer. 32:40).
2. From the hints our author throws out in reference to the atonement, it would seem that he is not only in part a Hopkinsian, as we showed in the last number, but in part a Socinian also. He seems to deny that Christ's sufferings were vicarious. "Calvinists hold," says he, "that the sins of the elect are not transferred to Christ, but they are so imputed to him that he suffered the penalty without being guilty of the crimes committed by his people; and they hold that Christ's righteousness is not really transferred to the elect, but that it so imputed to them that they will stand justified in the day of judgment, their crimes to the contrary notwithstanding(!). We must say we think this a distinction without a difference." p.17. He says this is a "silly notion of transferred punishment without the transfer of the crimes for which it was inflicted." This would seem to imply that, in his opinion, Christ was not our substitute; that our guilt was not so charged to his account as that he was made answerable for it. Yet the Scriptures state: That "He was made sin for us;" that our "iniquities were laid upon him;" that "he bore our sins in his body upon the tree;" that "we are made the righteousness of God in him," and that "by his stripes we are healed." Our author has left this point so obscure that we know not whether we are required to answer an Arminian or a Socinian argument. Calvinist maintain that Christ is the surety for His people; and having, in the atonement, paid all their debt, He has released them from the obligation to pay it themselves. If Christ made satisfaction for the sins of His people, they are forever exempted from the necessity of suffering the punishment due to their sins. "In consequence of the atonement of Christ, then, will the elect be taken to heaven, their crimes to the contrary notwithstanding?" No, they will be purified from these, and thus prepared for heaven; for Christ is elevated a prince and a Saviour to give repentance to Israel and remission of sins.
To prove that Christians can finally fall, our author, in the next place, quotes a number of passages from the Scriptures. Let us see if these will avail him any more than his other arguments:
And first, the passage which he has selected for his text: "We then as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain" (2 Cor. 6:1). Now even an English reader, by noticing the context, can see that this exhortation is addressed to the ministers in the Corinthian church. Dr. McKnight translates correctly from the original thus, "Now, fellow-laborers, we also beseech you not to receive the grace of God in vain." "The grace of God in this passage signifies, not only the office of the ministry, but the spiritual gifts bestowed upon the ministers at Corinth to fit them for their office." (1 Cor. 3:10). But even if it be granted that the exhortation is more general: the grace of God even then would not mean regeneration, and sanctification but "the gospel offers of reconciliation" (See 5:18-21).
The next three passages quoted are taken from parables and metaphors. Now there is no doctrine, however unscriptural, which cannot be plausibly supported by arguments drawn from the phraseology of parables and metaphors when they are taken out of their connection. A parable should be used merely as the illustration of the particular point with which it is connected. Its dress and embellishments are designed only to make it a complete parable, and for no other purpose. A controversialist is "hard pressed" when he has to sustain his system of theology by a resort to parables taken out of their connection. Does our author say we take this ground because they testify against us? We shall see if he will not be disposed to take the same ground for his protection before we are done.
His first is (Matt. 5:13) "Ye are the salt of the earth." &c. The phrase which, in his opinion, proves falling from grace, is: If the salt have lost his savor, &c. Now, if this clause proves his doctrine, the next proves too much for him; since it asserts, according to his method of interpretation, that those who sin can never be recovered: Wherewith shall it be salted? And to prove that those who have received the grace of regeneration may perish in Hell, he cites: Is it thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out &c. Out of what? Why not with as much reason, out of the church as out of heaven? The literal meaning of the passage is this: It is designed that the professed followers of Christ should exert a salutary influence upon the world, but if, in doctrine, or in life, they exert a contrary influence, they are to be expelled from the communion of the faithful, and treated as other ungodly men.
His second is (Matt. 12:43, & c) "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man," &c. Dr. Adam Clarke, (good authority we suppose with Mr. Reneau) acknowledges that the design of parables was "to point out the real state of the Jewish people, and their approaching desolation." But suppose it refers to individuals: It is then designed to describe the case of those who are convinced of the truth, partly reformed, but not truly converted. The unclean spirit had gone out of the man, but his heart had not become the habitation of the Spirit: it was empty. When its former occupant returned, he found it
His third is (John 15:1-11) "I am the true vine, and my father is the husbandman," &c. Over this he exults as much as over any other, and thinks he has made it so plain that "further comment is needless;" but so little effect have his remarks upon us, by way of conviction, that we would choose this as a passage to prove perserverance. Let us see: "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." (v. 2). Here we are told 1. That there are two kinds of branches in Christ, those that bear no fruit, i.e. those nominally, by profession, united to Him; and those that bear fruit, i.e. those spiritually united to Him; and we are told, 2. What is done to each of these two classes of professors. The former are taken away: the latter are purged that they may bring forth more fruit. Genuine Christians then (fruitful branches) are in the hands of the Father (the Husbandman), and He prunes them or removes from them all those things which hinder their fruitfulness with the design that they may continue increasing in fruitfulness to the end. If this is not perseverance, we know not what is. Our author, however, denies that mere nominal professors are referred to at all; for such, says he, cannot be said to be in Christ. All that are in Him have been united to Him by faith. But the Apostle Paul thought differently. He says that all the members of the church in Thessalonica (1 Thes. 1:1) and all the members of the churches in Judea were in Christ (Gal. 1:22), meaning, of course, in a judgment of charity and by profession. But, says our author, Christ says (v.3) to the disciples, Now ye are clean, and subsequently "teaches that they may become unfruitful branches, and be cast into the fire." The truth of this is not as evident to us as it seems to be to Mr. Reneau. In the first quotation, the emphatic word in now. In a previous chapter (13:10,11), He had said to them, "And ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, ye are not all clean." After the departure of Judas, the exception was no longer made; and He testified, Now ye are clean. After this testimony He does not, even in hypothesis, suggest the possibility that His disciples could fall away. "What, does he not say, If ye abide not in me ye are cast forth and burned?" No; He says if a man abide not in me, &c. applicable not to the disciples but a general remark applicable to those who are in Him only by profession. We take the liberty, therefore, to suggest to our author that, in order that he may sustain his position by this passage, "further comment is needed."
The passage (1 Cor. 10:1-12) "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant how that all our fathers were under the cloud," &c., we are willing to submit to the reader with the briefest possible comment. Our author assumes that all the Israelites that came out of Egypt were Christians, because they all eat the same spiritual meat and drank the same spiritual drink! Now we beg our readers pardon for explaining a thing so obvious. The meat referred to was manna which was a type of the spiritual bread from heaven (John 6:5,8), and the water was that which gushed forth from the rock, which was a type of Christ. After the interpretation, which makes all the Israelites Christians, he prepares us for any thing, however extravagant; we are not surprised, therefore, when we learn from him that the apostle meant by the word fell, not only that the three and twenty-thousand died, but fell from grace in one day! pp. 20, 24. "Further comment is needless."
His next quotation is, (2 Pet. 2:20, 22) "For if after they have escaped the pollutions," &c. He argues that these were genuine Christians: 1st. "because they knew the way of righteousness." To this we answer that it is applicable to all who know the theory of the Gospel, or as the Apostle Paul expresses it, who have "received (in theory) the knowledge of the truth." 2nd. "They had escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of Christ." This can, with the strictest propriety, be said of nominal professors, who have not been savingly renewed in the spirit and the temper of their minds. Through the influence of the truth, they may, for a time, reform, and thus escape the pollutions of the world, and yet very naturally become again entangled therein; for it happens, to those whose natures are not thoroughly changed, according to the proverb: "The dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire." 3rd. "They walked by the holy commandment delivered unto them." Peter does not say so. He says they knew, (i.e. understood) the commandment, but turned from (i.e., refused to walk by) it.
The next quotation (1 Chron. 28:9) we refer to the reader without comment.
His last proof text is (Ez. 18:24), "When the righteous turneth away," &c. Now the question is, does the prophet speak of one who is truly righteous -- who is clothed with the righteousness which is of God through faith in Christ? The Bible must not be so interpreted as to make it contradict itself. Can a truly righteous man permanently turn away from his righteousness? John answers in the negative (1 John 2:19): "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." The person spoken of by the Prophet is one who passes for a righteous man and thinks himself one but is not really so. The general proposition, that when any man continues to the end doing the abominations that the wicked man doeth he shall die, is denied by no one and least of all by Calvinists. But God's people will not do so; for we are told that they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Our author's last argument is drawn from examples given in the Scriptures. Adam and David and Judas and Hymeneus and Alexander were Christians and fell; therefore, says he, others also may fall. The first two are acknowledged to have been recovered again and may, therefore, be left out of the account since they did not finally. Before he can cite Judas as a case of final apostasy, it is incumbent upon him to prove that he ever was a genuine Christian; and it is sufficient for our argument to show that he has failed to do this. He says: "1st. Judas was given to Christ. To be given to Christ is a distinguishing characteristic of the elect." "Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:12). Now the context shows that "Judas is not mentioned here as an exception, but by way of opposition or distraction: as the woman of Sarepta is distinguished from the widows of Israel, and Naaman, the Syrian, from the lepers in Israel" (Luke 4:25-27). In v. 6, the Saviour says, "I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world, shine they were, and thou gavest me, and they have kept thy word." Now if in v. 12 Judas is mentioned as an exception, the Saviour contradicts himself; for in v. 6, he testified that those given to him had, without exception, kept God's word. The true rendering of the passage is none of them is lost, but the son of perdition is lost. Our Saviour's prayer affirms that those given him by the Father, he kept; but Judas was not kept -- that none of those given to him was lost; but Judas was lost -- that those given to him kept God's word; but Judas did not keep God's word; therefore, so far from showing that Judas was given to Christ, in the sense referred to, it implies very strongly the contrary.
2nd. "Judas was regenerated." To prove this, he cites Matt 19:28, "Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall come in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Now the thing to be proved here, (even reading the passage as our author does), but which is assumed, is that Judas followed Christ in faith and love and obedience. The passage, if it testifies any thing at all on this point, like the others cited above testifies that Judas was not regenerated. All that followed Christ were to sit upon thrones; but Judas was not to sit upon a throne; the inference therefore is very strong, that Judas never did follow Christ in faith and love and obedience. Besides, it is thought that the proper reading of the passage is, verily, I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration, i.e. when the Son of man shall come, &c.
3rd. "Judas was the familiar friend of Christ and the Saviour trusted in Him" (Ps. 41:9). If by this is meant that he was the bosom friend of Christ and that He confided in him, it cannot be true; for we are told (John 6:64), "Jesus knew from the beginning who should betray him." The specific testimony of Christ goes rather to show that Judas never was a Christian and that He never confided in him. "Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon," &c. (John 6:70,71). And the character, which the evangelist John ascribes to him, does not accord with that of a Christian. "This he (Judas) said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief," &c. (John 12:6). Besides, it is said that he was "the son of perdition" and that he "went to his own place." It must first be proved that Judas ever was a Christian before he can be cited as one who finally fell.
Hymeneus and Alexander, then, are the only examples left to prove final apostasy. What evidence have we that these were truly regenerated men? Our author says they had faith and a good conscience (1 Tim. 1:18-20). But Simon the sorcerer "believed", while "his heart" was "not right in the sight of God;" and he was "in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity;" (Acts 8:13-23), and Paul possessed a good conscience before he was regenerated (23:1). The faith referred to here was not the grace but the doctrine of faith, (see ch. 3:9 and 4:1 and 5:8) and men destitute of the grace of God may have a good conscience as it relates to their general conduct among men. The doctrine of faith made shipwreck of by Hymeneus was the doctrine of the resurrection (2 Tim. 2:17, 18) and Alexander the coppersmith did the Apostle much evil. But granting that faith and a good conscience are to be taken in the highest sense; the evidence that these ever possessed them is not to be found in the phrase, having put away; since we can not put away that which we have never had. The Jews (Acts 13:46) put from them the word of God, where the sense is, they rejected or refused to receive. And the word is the same (in the original) in both passages.
We have thus performed the task we have undertaken, with what success the reader will judge. If we have succeeded in teaching our author and others like him a profitable lesson and if what we have written shall tend to confirm the wavering or to establish our brethren in the faith once delivered to the Saints, we shall not consider that our time and labor have been spent in vain.