The believer, kept by the Power of God,
EVEN after the believer has made a great progress in his walk, and has been very successful in his warfare, yet he is not out of the reach of any temptation. He is still liable to be stopped in the way of his duty. His enemies may cheat him by some stratagem, or gain some advantage over him by open force. While he is attending to these things, as they come before him in his daily experience, a thought will often arise:
No believer is absolutely free from such an attack; and there are seasons very favourable to it. If his mind be in heaviness through manifold temptations, and by reasoning legally upon them: if he be under the hidings of the Lord's countenance, or in a time of desertion; if he be fallen into any great sin, perhaps his old besetting sin; if the guilt of it be upon his conscience, and the indignation of God be heavy upon him; then such thoughts find easy admittance; and if they be indulged, they greatly distress the believer; for they directly assault his faith, and strike at the very being of his hope. As these graces are weakened, he moves slowly; and if unbelief prevail, there is a stop put to his progress in the heavenly road.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who has made ample provision for victory over this temptation. The principles before insisted on are now to be brought into practice. Here is a fresh occasion to try their power and influence, and to make it appear that in these distressing circumstances the Father has given His children good ground to rely upon His unchangeable love. He has revealed to them the immutability of His counsel and of His oath, that when they have fled to Jesus for refuge, they may comfort their hearts and say — I have been afraid of falling away, but it is without reason; for I have still immutable things to trust in — although to my sense and feeling everything seems to make against me, yet God has promised not to leave me nor forsake me. O that I may honour His promise, and without doubting rely upon His faithful arm to make it good!
Consider then, O my soul, the principles of the doctrine of Christ. Review them carefully. Thou seest what influence they have upon every step of thy walk, and how mighty they are, through God, to carry thee through all thy difficulties. O study then the perfect freeness and the absolute sufficiency of the salvation of Jesus. Read and mark the bonds and securities which a faithful God has given thee to trust in, and not to be afraid. The time to honour them most is to believe them when thou hast the least sensible evidence, for that is the strongest faith. If thou canst believe upon His bare word, and it is a very good warrant, thy feet shall stand firm upon the rock, and thy goings shall be well ordered: and that thou mayest believe this in the hardest trials, God informs thee that thy continuance in grace does not depend on thyself “Thou standest by faith:” and faith should direct thee to what God has undertaken and has promised to do for thee. He would have thee to place the confidence of thy heart upon His tried word, which is a never-failing foundation, and if thou wast to build all thy hopes of persevering upon it, it would quiet thy fears and comfort thy heart. Thou wouldst then see that God has not left thee to thyself to stand or fall, but has engaged never to leave thee nor forsake thee. He has declared He will not turn away from thee to do thee good, and He will put His fear into thy heart, and thou shalt not turn away from Him. View thy case in this comfortable light, and while thou art considering the safety of thy persevering, as revealed in Scripture for the ground of thy faith, may every promise lead thee to trust more in God, and to trust less to thyself, and then the snare which was laid for thee will be broken, and thou wilt be delivered.
But take heed of carrying thine opinions to Scripture, and of forcing it to speak for them. Beware of that common mistake, and beware of human systems. Pay no regard to men or names. Simply attend to the promises of God concerning thy persevering. Thy present trial has convinced thee that thou canst not depend on thy own faithfulness; this therefore is the time to learn practically the faithfulness of God, and to improve thy faith in it from such Scripture arguments as these
First, the nature of the divine covenant, which is not only the unchangeable will of the eternal Three, but is also Their agreement, confirmed by oath, concerning the heirs of promise.
The Father loved them as His children, freely, with an everlasting love. He chose them, and gave them to His Son. He engaged to keep them by His power, through faith unto salvation.
The Son accepted them, and wrote all their names in His book (not one of them therefore can be lost); He undertook to be made man, and to live and die for them; to rise from the dead, to ascend, and to intercede for them; and He sitteth as King-Mediator upon the throne, till every one of them be brought to glory.
The Holy Spirit covenanted to carry into execution the purposes of the Father's love, and to apply the blessings of the Son's salvation. He undertook to quicken the heirs of promise, to call them effectually, to guide, to strengthen, to sanctify, and to comfort them; yea, He is not to leave them, till the number of the elect be perfected. Therefore, He abides with them for ever.
In this covenant the eternal Three have undertaken for every heir of promise — to do all for him, and all in him, for the means and for the end, so that not one of them can perish; for faithfulness to the covenant is one of the highest honours of the Godhead: “I am Jehovah, your Alehim, which keepeth covenant; I will ever be mindful of My covenant. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out of My mouth.” What strong consolation is there in these words! Study them, O my soul, that by them thy faith may be established, and they may do thee good, like a medicine.
Thou art afraid of falling away; but the blessed Trinity have undertaken to hold thee up, and Their covenant engagements are to be the ground of thy believing that They will fulfil what They have promised. Observe and adore the goodness of God. See how He meets thy doubts and answers thy objections: “An oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife: wherein God, willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge” to Jesus. Thy faith should run parallel with this promise, and should safely trust as far as it warrants thee; now it gives thee sufficient reason to conclude that thy state before God is immutable, and that He has determined thou shalt not fall away and perish. For observe,
Secondly, His design in the covenant. He knew thy frame, thy infirmities, and thy temptation, and therefore He provided the covenant, and promised the blessings of it upon oath for thy sake, to end all strife in thy conscience, and to give thee strong consolation. This was His mind and will. He revealed it for thee, to settle thy heart in believing, and to administer to thee great comfort. Weigh attentively each of these particulars, and then say what more could have been done to satisfy thee of thine immutable persevering.
But thou thinkest such trials as thine are uncommon, and perhaps not provided for in the covenant, and therefore it can be no disparagement to the divine faithfulness if thou shouldst fall away. How can this be, since the everlasting covenant is ordered in all things, and on the part of God is absolutely sure? Nothing that concerns thee is left out of it — not a single hair of thy head; thy trials are all appointed and ordered, and the end also which they are to answer.
Perhaps, from the clear evidence of the divine Record, thou art convinced of the covenant of God to save the heir of promise, and of His engaging to keep them that they shall never perish; but thou art afraid thou art not in the covenant, nor an heir of promise. From whence arise thy fears? From Scripture? No! All Scripture is on thy side. Hast thou not fled as a poor sinner to Jesus for refuge? Hast thou not acknowledged His divine nature, and His all-sufficient work? And though thou art now tempted to doubt, yet some faith is still fighting against unbelief. These are covenant blessings. O look up, then, to Jesus — why not thy Jesus? But, however, look to Him, keep looking on and He will give thee reason to be ashamed of thy doubts and fears.
“But the Lord hides Himself from me, and therefore I fear I am not in His favour.” This objection is answered in the charter of grace: “I will not turn away from doing thee good.” He has hidden His face, and thou art troubled; this trouble is for good. It should put thee upon inquiring into the reason for God's hiding Himself. It should humble thee, and should exercise thy faith upon such a scripture as this: “For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth; and smote him; I hid Me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways and will heal him; I will lead him also, and will restore comforts to him and to his mourners.” Although He hid Himself, yet He had love to His people; although He smote them, yet it was with a Fatherly correction. But,
Thou fearest God not only hides His face, but has also quite forsaken thee. He may, as to thy sense and feeling, but not as to His own purpose, which changeth not. Hear how He speaks to thee, and silences thy doubts: “For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee: in a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord Thy Redeemer.” How gracious is thy God! What infinite mercy is it, that He should give thee such promises, so suited to the trials of thy faith, to preserve thee under them, and to bring thee out of them! Read carefully over and over again these promises, and may every reading of them disperse the cloud of unbelief, until thy soul be enlivened with the light of the Lord's loving countenance.
But perhaps thou art in a worse case as to thine own apprehension. Thou thinkest: “God is incensed against me, and justly; He has cast me off, and I can expect no more favour at His hand. Once, indeed, I thought He loved me, but I have fallen into a great sin — an old besetting sin; my conscience accuses me of committing it against light and conviction — it is a foul, black spot, such as is not to be found upon the children of God.”
Thou art fallen, and wilt thou lie there, and not be raised up again? Thou art under guilt, and wilt thou nurse it, and add sin to sin? Aggravate the sinfulness of thy fall as much as thou wilt, yet thou canst not be truly humbled for it but by returning to God, and by trusting in the plenteous redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Then thy heart will be softened and melted into love, for grace will have its due honour, and thou wilt see what the Scripture says of thy case, in its divine truth and majesty. Thou wilt feel thyself exactly what the Word of God says of thee — a fallen sinful creature; in thee (that is, in thy flesh) dwelleth no good thing; so that there is not any sin but thou art capable of falling into it, through the strength of temptation. So long as thou art in the body, the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; in this conflict thou mayest fall, but the covenant secures thee from perishing. Abraham, the father of the faithful, fell — the friend of God fell into the same sin again and again. Moses fell; so did David. Peter, forewarned, fell; so did all the apostles. Yet they were believers, and they recovered themselves out of the snare of the devil. For whatever sin thou art fallen into may be pardoned, as theirs was. “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin:” there is in it an infinite virtue to wash away every spot and stain; it is a public fountain; — it stands open for daily use, that believers may wash and be clean; it is always, at every given moment, effectual; it cleanseth, in the present tense, now, today, while it is called today, for there is nothing new to be suffered on the part of Christ, in order to take away sin. He put it away by the sacrifice of Himself, the Father accepted it, and thus proclaims the free forgiveness of all the trespasses for which the atonement was made: “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Why dost thou reject the comfort of this promise? It is suited to thy present distress, and is the remedy for it. Thou art fallen into unrighteousness; God says, I will be merciful to it. Thou art fallen into sins and iniquities; He says, I will remember them no more. Thou mayest remember thy fall, but let it be in order to rise from it by faith. It should teach thee thy need of the blood of the Lamb. It should bring thee to sprinkle it afresh upon thy conscience, and to live safe and happy under the protection of it. Thus apply it to thy fall, and thou wilt repent aright; thou wilt be truly humbled and made more watchful. Thou wilt live more by faith in thy covenant God, wilt glorify more the infinitely perfect salvation of Jesus, and wilt be more dependent upon the grace and keeping of the eternal Spirit.
Consider then, O my soul, the rich, abounding, super-abounding grace of thy God, in making such a provision for raising thee up when fallen into sin. He intended the promises in the covenant should be the means of thy recovery, as they give thee good ground still to trust in a covenant God, and in His immutable counsel and oath. O lie not then in guilt, rest not in unbelief, give not place to the devil. The Lord has put words into thy mouth, may He help thee, in the faith of thy heart, to take them up and say, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall he a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him, until He plead my cause, and execute judgment for me; He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold His righteousness.” If the Lord open to thee the rich treasury of grace in this scripture, and enable thee to depend on the ample security here given for raising thee from thy fall, then consider, in the
Third place, the express promises made in the covenant, that the believer shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. These promises are not conditional, made to the believer upon certain terms, as if upon doing his part God would do His also; for he does not stand by his own will, or strength, or faithfulness; he does not hold out to the end by his own diligence and watchfulness in means, or receive the crown of glory as the merited reward of any works of righteousness done by him; the promises are all of free grace, not dependent on man's will, but on God's; not yea and nay, but of absolutely certain fulfilment. They were all made in the covenant to Christ the Head, and are already made good to Christ, as the Head, for the use of His members. “For all the promises of God are in Him, yea, and in Him amen.” He was given for the covenant of His people, and as such He undertook to do all their works for them and in them, and therefore all the promised blessings of the covenant are laid up in His fulness. “In Him they are yea” — and laid up, as the head has the fulness of the senses for the use of its members, “in Him they are Amen.” He communicates the promised blessings freely, not conditionally; by believing, and not for working. “Therefore,” says the apostle, speaking of Christ's righteousness, “it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed.”
In this sovereign manner and style runs the covenant, and every promise in it: I will be their God, of Mine own mere motion and grace, and according to the good pleasure of Mine own will, and they shall be My people. My will shall make them willing in the day of My power: for I will work in them both to will and to do; yea, I will be a Father unto them, and they shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. The word Father relates to His children, and expresses the unchangeable love of His heart towards them; it is a dear covenant name, and denotes the inseparable connection between Him and His children; whenever they hear it, it should always excite in them an idea of His everlasting affection. He loves His family as a Father, and loves everyone of them with the same almighty love. He cannot change. He cannot cease to be a Father, and they cannot cease to be His children. His name is a security to them, that they cannot perish, for if one of them could, they all might. And then His covenant purpose to bring many sons unto glory would be defeated, His relation to them as a Father would be broken, He would be a Father without children, He would deny them the promised blessings, He would forget to be gracious to them, His will concerning them would change, or would be overruled by some opposite will, and His great plan in the covenant would come to nothing. But these things cannot possibly be. He is the Father of His children, and He has engaged, by promise and oath, to love, to bless, and to keep them for ever. Out of perfect love He gave them to His Son, who undertook to be their Saviour; He came and was made man, Jehovah incarnate, to live and die for them. He was so delighted with them (for He has all their names written in His book), and with the work, that He was straitened till it was accomplished. Blessings on Him for ever! it is finished. The royal Saviour is upon the throne, almighty to save His dear redeemed. He would lose His name, which is above every name, the honours of His salvation would fade away upon His head, and the glories of His offices would come to nothing, if one, whom Jesus lived and died to save, should perish. But it is not possible. Whom He loves, He loves unto the end. “I give unto them,” says He, “eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand.” They are His seed, and it was covenanted that He should see His seed. They are the travail of His soul, and He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied. How can He be satisfied, if any one of them should be lost? He prayed, “Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as We are One.” And the Father always heard Him. He prayed that they might be with Him where He is, to see His glory: and the Holy Spirit covenanted to bring them to it — He undertook, as His name, Spirit, imports, to breathe life into them, to call, to convert them, to keep them, and to give them everything needful for their spiritual life. How can they fail of coming to glory, being thus kept for it by the power of God? The Holy Spirit would lose His name, Spirit, or breath of life, and His office, which is to abide with, and to dwell for ever in, the elect people of God, if any one of them should die from God, and perish. Thus there is full security given by the names and offices of the Trinity, that believers shall be kept from falling away. The Father cannot be without His children. The glory of Jesus would fade away if one of His redeemed was plucked out of His hand. The divine honours of the Spirit of life would be eclipsed if He was to forsake His charge, and suffer any of the redeemed to fall into hell. But these things cannot be. The will of the Father, Son, and Spirit is the same concerning the salvation of the elect, which is as secure as covenant bonds and oaths can make it.
Art thou then, O my soul, established in this great truth? Dost thou yield to the power of the evidence which the blessed Trinity have vouchsafed to give thee? Meditate carefully upon it for the growth of thy faith. Search the Scriptures, and observe how clearly God declares His fixed purpose to keep His people, and to hold them up unto the end. The great preacher of the gospel in the Old Testament Church speaks thus of the unchangeable will of a covenant God: “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” A great preacher in the New Testament Church has confirmed the same precious truth. He is speaking of the golden chain of salvation, and showing how inseparable every link of it is, and in this prospect he triumphs: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” By the mouth of these two infallible witnesses the truth is established. They depose that the covenant is immutable, and that nothing can separate believers from the love wherewith God loves them in His Son. O most comfortable doctrine! How encouraging is it in any undertaking to set about it with certain hope of success. How animating in our Christian walk, how reviving in the dark and difficult path of it, to have God's promise that He will keep us, and bring us to a happy end. How pleasing is it to go on by faith in our warfare, casting all our care upon Him who careth for us. How delightful is it to trust His promise, and daily to find it made good: “Ye are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto eternal salvation.” Here, O my soul, thou art to seek for strong consolation amidst the trials and difficulties of thy walk. Thou art afraid of falling—God has engaged to hold thee up. Thou hast been tempted to think thou shouldst fall quite away, and come to nothing — but God says, thou art preserved in Christ Jesus. His covenant and oath are made to confirm the faith of thy persevering. Thou standest by faith, and thy faith should lead thee to rest safely on what God says about thy standing; and for thy faith itself, its continuing, its increasing, thou hast His infallible faithfulness to depend upon. Thou art weak, but He keeps thee by His power. Thine enemies are strong — but none of them shall pluck thee out of His hand. Thou art willing to join them, and to depart from the living God, but He has promised to put His fear into thy heart, and thou shalt not depart from Him. He meets with thy doubts, and answers all thine objections in a word: “For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
Be of good courage, then, O my soul, and go forward, strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, and He will bring thee safe to the end of thy journey. He has promised it. Put thyself into His hands, and give Him the glory of keeping thee. He will hold up thy goings in His paths, that thy footsteps slip not. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in, from this time forth, and even for evermore. How then canst thou miscarry, safe under His guidance and keeping? Commit thy ways unto the Lord. Do it simply. Look up by faith to His promise, and then lean on His arm. Thus going on thou mayest rejoice at every step in the Lord thy God. He has left thee a sweet hymn upon the subject, with which the weary travellers to Zion have oft refreshed their spirits. Take it up, and sing it after them. Study it; mix faith with it, and with perfect reliance on what God, who cannot lie, has promised in it to do for thee, sing and make melody with it in thy heart unto the Lord:
O my good God and faithful keeper, I do believe these precious promises; help mine unbelief. Forgive my distrusting Thy faithfulness, and enable me steadfastly to rely upon it for the future. What return can I make unto Thee for grafting me into the true vine? O Lord, this love surpasseth knowledge. I was fit for nothing but the fire, and Thou hast brought me into the vineyard of red wine, and hast enabled me to trust in that blood of the Lamb which cheereth God and man. On this my soul lives, and is refreshed; and being through grace in Him, and living upon Him, I bless Thee, holy Father, for Thy faithful promise to keep me unto the end. I am still an easy prey to all those who seek the hurt of my soul, but Thou hast given me Thy word that, lest any hurt me, Thou wilt keep me night and day. I confess, gracious God, that I have dishonoured thee by doubting of thy love, and by questioning its unchangeableness, but now I believe that fury is not in Thee to any one branch in the true Vine. There is love, and nothing but love, in all Thy dealings with Christ, and with His. Forgive my guilty fears and suspicions of Thy forsaking me, arising from my weakness, and from the strength of mine enemies. I now see that Thou canst as easily consume them as fire can briars and thorns. Lord, increase my faith in Thy promised strength, that I may lay hold of it for peace, and may keep fast hold of it for maintaining peace with Thee, always and by all means. O grant me this, my good God, that my faith may work more by love. Let me take deeper root in Jesus, and grow up more into Him, blossoming and budding and flourishing in His vineyard. I depend upon Thee to keep me a branch in Him, and to make me a fruitful branch bringing forth plentifully the fruits of righteousness, which are by Christ Jesus to the glory and praise of God. I believe the work is Thine; Thou hast begun it, and Thou wilt carry it on until the day of the Lord Jesus. Thou art faithful to Thy Word and work. In dependence upon Thy faithfulness I hope to persevere. Let it be done unto me according to Thy promises, wherein Thou hast caused me to put my trust. Hear, Lord, and answer for Thy mercies' sake in Jesus, to Whom, with Thee and the Eternal Spirit, three Persons in one Godhead, be equal glory and praise, for ever and ever. Amen.
William Romaine was an English Evangelical divine who was born at Hartlepool, England on September 25, 1714. He was educated at Hart Hall and Christ Church, Oxford, receiving his B.A. in 1734 and M.A. in 1737. He was ordained a deacon in 1736, a priest in 1738; and was curate for many years at Baustead, Surrey and Horton, Middlesex. Drawn into the Evangelical revival, he first adhered to John Wesley, but in 1755 passed to the side of George Whitefield and remained the ablest exponent among the Evangelicals of the highest Calvinistic doctrine.
After a turbulent career, he obtained the living at St. Anne's Blackfriars and St. Andrew of the Wardrobe in 1764 where he continued as a great popular attraction until his death, July 26, 1795. As a preacher he exercised great power and his theology and views on the spiritual life are best contained in the long-popular works: The Life of Faith (London, 17640; The Walk of Faith (1771); and The Triumph of Faith (1795).
This article is reproduced here courtesy of Mt. Zion Publications and appeared in their free magazine Free Grace Broadcaster.
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