by Jonathan Edwards
Where [grace] does truly exist in the heart, all its enemies cannot destroy it, and all the opposition made against it cannot crush it. It endures all things, and stands all shocks, and remains notwithstanding all opposers. And the reason of this may be seen in these two things:
1. That there is so much more in the nature of true grace that tends to perseverance than in false grace. — False grace is a superficial thing, consisting in mere outward show, or in superficial affections, and not in any change of nature. But true grace reaches to the very bottom of the heart. It consists in a new nature, and therefore it is lasting and enduring. Where there is nothing but counterfeit grace, corruption is unmortified; and whatever wounds may seem to be given it, they are but slight wounds, that do not at all reach its life, or diminish the strength of its principle, but leave sin in its full strength in the soul, so that it is no wonder that it ultimately prevails, and bears down all before it. But true grace really mortifies sin in the heart. It strikes at its vitals, and gives it a wound that is mortal, sending its stroke to the very heart. When it first enters the soul, it begins a never-ceasing conflict with sin, and therefore it is no wonder that it keeps possession, and finally prevails over its enemy. Counterfeit grace never dispossesses sin of the dominion of the soul, nor destroys its reigning power there, and therefore it is no wonder that it does not itself remain. But true grace is of such a nature that it is inconsistent with the reigning power of sin, and dispossesses the heart of it as it enters, and takes the throne from it, and therefore is the more likely to keep its seat there, and finally to prevail entirely against it. Counterfeit grace, though it may affect the heart, yet is not founded on any real conviction of the soul. But true grace begins in real and thorough conviction, and, having such a foundation, has so much the greater tendency to perseverance. Counterfeit grace is not diligent in prayer; but true grace is prayerful, and thus lays hold on the divine strength to support it, and indeed becomes divine itself, so that the life of God is, as it were, imparted to it. Counterfeit grace is careless whether it perseveres to the end or not; but the grace naturally causes earnest desires for perseverance, and leads to hungerings and thirstings for it. It also makes men sensible of the dangers they are encompassed with, and has a tendency to excite them to watchfulness, and to care and diligence that they may persevere, and to look to God for help, and trust in him for preservation from the many enemies that oppose it. And,
2. God will uphold true grace, when he has once implanted it in the heart, against all opposition. — He will never suffer it to be overthrown by all the force that may be brought against it. Though there be much more in true grace that tends to perseverance than there is in counterfeit grace, yet nothing that is in the nature of grace, considered by itself and apart from God's purpose to uphold it, would be sufficient to make sure its continuance, or effectually to keep it from final overthrow. We are kept from falling, not by the inherent power of grace itself, but, as the apostle Peter tells us (1 Pet. 1:5), "by the power of God through faith." The principle of holiness in the hearts of our first parents, where it had no corruption to contend with, was overthrown; and much more might we expect the seed of grace in the hearts of fallen men, in the midst of so much corruption, and exposed to such active and constant opposition, would be overthrown, did not God uphold it. He has undertaken to defend it from all its enemies, and to give it the victory at last, and therefore it shall never be overthrown. And here I would briefly show how it is evident that God will uphold true grace, and not suffer it to be overthrown, and then show some reasons why he will not suffer it.
First. I would show how it is evident that God will uphold true grace in the heart. And, in one word, it is evident from his promise. God has explicitly and often promised that true grace shall never be overthrown. It is promised in that declaration concerning the good man (Psa. 37:24), that "though he fall, he shall not he utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand;" and again in the words, Jer. 32:40,"I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me;" and again, in those words of Christ (Mat. 18:14), that "it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." And in accordance with these various declarations, Christ has promised concerning grace (John 4:14), that it shall be in the soul "as a well of water, springing up into everlasting life." And again he says (John 6:39), "This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." And in other places it is said, that Christ's sheep "shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of his hand" (John 10:28); that whom God "did foreknow, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified;" and that nothing "shall separate" Christians "from the love of Christ" (Rom. 8:29, 30, 35); and again, that "he which hath begun a good work" in us, "will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6); and again, that Christ "shall confirm" his people "unto the end, that" they "may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:8); and still again, that "he is to able to keep" them "from falling, and to present" them "faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). And many other similar promises might be mentioned, all of which declare that God will uphold grace in the heart in which he has once implanted it, and that he will keep to the end those who put their trust in him. But,
Second I would briefly show some reasons why God will uphold the principle of grace, and keep it from being overthrown.
REASON 1. Unless the redemption provided by Christ secured our perseverance through all opposition, it would not be a complete redemption. Christ died to redeem us from the evil we were subject to under the law, and to bring us to glory. But if he brought us no further than the state we were in at first, and left us as liable to fall as before, then all his redemption might be made void, and come to nothing. Man, before the fall, being left to the freedom of his own will, fell from his steadfastness, and lost his grace when he was comparatively strong, and not exposed to the enemies that now beset him. What then could he do in his present fallen state, and with such imperfect grace, in the midst of his powerful and manifold enemies, if his perseverance depended on himself alone? He would utterly fall and perish; and the redemption provided by Christ, if it did not secure him from thus falling, would be a very imperfect redemption .
REASON 2. The covenant of grace was introduced to supply what was wanting in the first covenant, and a sure ground of perseverance was the main thing that was wanting in it. The first covenant had no defect on the part of God who constructed it; in that respect it was most holy and just, and wise and perfect. But the result proved that on our part it was wanting, and needed something more in order to its being effectual for our happiness; and the thing needed was something that should be a sure ground of our perseverance. All the ground we had under the first covenant was the freedom of our own will; and this was found not to be depended on; and therefore God has made another covenant. The first was liable to fail, and therefore another was ordained more enduring than the first, and that could not fail, and which therefore is called "all everlasting covenant." The things that could be shaken are removed, to make way for those that cannot be shaken. The first covenant had a head and surety that was liable to fail, even the father of our race; and therefore God has provided, as the head and surety of the new covenant, one that cannot fail, even Christ, with whom, as the head and representative of all his people, the new covenant is made, and ordered in all things and sure.
REASON 3. It is not fit that, in a covenant of mercy and saving grace, the reward of life should be suspended on man's perseverance, as depending on the strength and steadfastness of his own will. It is a covenant of works, and not a covenant of grace, that suspends eternal life on that which is the fruit of a man's own strength, to keep him from falling. If all is of free and sovereign grace, then free grace has undertaken the matter to complete and finish it, and has not left it to men themselves, and to the power of their own wills, as it was under the first covenant. As divine grace has commenced the work, it will finish it; and therefore we shall be kept to the end.
REASON 4. Our second surety has already persevered, and done what our first surety failed of doing; and therefore we shall surely persevere. Adam, our first surety, did not persevere, and so all fell with him. But if he had persevered, all would have stood with him, and never would have fallen. But our second surety has already persevered, and therefore all that have him for their surety will persevere with him. When Adam fell, he was condemned, and all his posterity was condemned with him, and fell with him. But if he had stood, he would have been justified, and so would have partaken of the tree of life, and been confirmed in a state of life, and all his posterity would have been confirmed. And, by parity of reason, now that Christ, the second Adam, has stood and persevered, and is justified, and confirmed in life, all who are in Christ and represented by him, are also accepted, and justified, and confirmed in him. The fact that he, as the covenant-head of his people, has fulfilled the terms of that covenant, makes it sure that they shall persevere.
REASON 5. The believer is already actually justified, and thus entitled, through the promise of mercy, to eternal life, and therefore God will not suffer him to fail and come short of it. Justification is the actual acquittal of the sinner. It is a full acquittance from guilt, and freedom from condemnation, and deliverance from hell, and acceptance to a full title to eternal life. And all this is plainly inconsistent with the idea that deliverance from hell, and the attainment of eternal life, are yet suspended on an uncertain perseverance.
REASON 6. The Scriptures teach us, that the believer's grace and spiritual life are a partaking of the life of Christ in his resurrection, which is an immortal and unfading life. This is plainly taught by the apostle, when he says (Col. 2:13), "You hath he quickened together with him," that is, with Christ; and again (Eph. 2:4-6), "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus;" and still again (Gal 2:20), "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." These expressions show that the believer's spiritual life cannot fail; for Christ says (Rev. 1:18), "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore;" and the apostle says (Rom. 6:9), "Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him." Our spiritual life being his life, as truly as the life of the branch is the life of the tree, cannot but continue.
REASON 7. Grace is that which God hath implanted in the heart against the great opposition of enemies, and therefore he will doubtless maintain it there against their continued and combined efforts to root it out. The enemies of God and the soul used their utmost endeavors to prevent grace being implanted in the heart that possesses it. But God manifested his all-conquering and glorious power in introducing it there in spite of them all. And therefore he will not at last suffer himself to be conquered by their expelling that which he by his mighty power has so triumphantly brought in. From all which it is plain, that God will uphold the principle of grace in the heart of the Christian, so that it shall never be overthrown or fail.
EXCERPT: Charity and Its Fruits, chapter 14 Charity, Or True Grace, Not To Be Overthrown By Opposition by Jonathan Edwards