John Henry Newman.

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the whole doctrine of Purgatory." Dissuasive, p. 2. ii. 2.


in circumstances the same, both baptized, both admitted to full Church
privileges, one turning out well, the other ill, astonished at the mystery,
they hastily say, " Here is God's secret election ! God has decreed
life to one, and has passed over the other ; else why this difference of
conduct ?" when they should bow the head, and wait till the day of the
revelation of all secrets. Again, they assume that the will is subjected
to the influence of the reason, affections, and the like, in the same uni-
form way in which material bodies obey the laws of matter ; — that,
certain inducements or a certain knowledge being presented, the mind
can but act in one way ; so that, its movements varying, on a given
rule, according to influences from without, (whether from the world or
from God,) every one's doom must be determined, either by the mere
chance of external circumstances, (which is irrational,) or else, certainly
by the determination of God. Such are their reasonings ; and it is
remarkable that they should trust to reasoning, and in so special a way,
considering they are commonly the men who speak against human
reason as fallible and corrupt, when it is brought to oppose their opinions.
Such grounds of argument, then, we may dismiss at once, except in
philosophical discussions ; certainly when we speak as Christians.

Next, let us inquire whether there be any Scripture reason, for break-
ing the chain of doctrine which the text suggests. Christ gives the
Kingdom to those for whom it is prepared of the Father ; the Father
prepares it for those who love and serve Him. Does Scripture warrant
us in reversing this order, and considering that any are chosen to love
Him by His irreversible decree ? The disputants in question maintain
that it does.

1. Scripture is supposed expressly to promise perseverance, when
men once savingly partake of grace ; as where it is said, " He which
hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus
Christ ;"* and hence it is inferred that the salvation of the individual
rests ultimately with God, and not with himself. But here I would
object in the outset to applying to individuals, promises and declarations
made to bodies, and of a general nature. The question in debate is,
not whether God carries forward bodies of men, such as the Christian
Church, to salvation, but whether He has accorded any promise of in-
defectibility to given individuals 1 Those who differ from us say, that
individuals are absolutely chosen to eternal life ; let them then reckon
up the passages in Scripture where perseverance is promised to individ-
uals. Till they can satisfy this demand, they have done nothing by
producing such a text as that just cited ; which, being spoken of the

» Phil. i. 6.

398 ST. JAMES. [Serm..

body of Christians, does but impart that same kind of encouragement,
as is contained in other general declarations, such as the statement
about God's willingness to save, His being in the midst of us, and the

But let us suppose, for argument's sake, that such passages may be
applied to individuals; for instance, as when Christ says, that no one
" shall pluck His sheep out of His Father's hand." Now, I would
maintain that here a condition is understood, as is constantly the case
in Scripture, as in other writings ; viz. that, while the sheep " follow"
Christ, and keep within the fold, none can pluck them thence. God
proclaims His name to Moses, as " forgiving iniquity, and transgression,
and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty ;"* but what would
be thought of a commentator who hence inferred that the impenitent
might be forgiven, and the repenting sinner fail of pardon ?

Ao-ain, " It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of
His good pleasure."! What is this but a declaration, that on the whole
all our sanctification is from first to last God's work ? how does it inter-
fere with this, to say that we may effectually resist that work ? Might
it not truly be said that the cure of a sick person was wholly attributa-
ble to the physician, without denying that the former, had he so chosen,
might have obstinately rejected the medicine, or that there might have
been (though there was not,) some malignant habit of body, which com-
pletely baffled the medical art? Does the chance of failure make it
less the physician's work when there is not failure ?

In truth, the two doctrines of the sovereign and overruling power of
divine grace, and man's power of resistance, need not at all interfere
with each other. They lie in different provinces, and are (as it were,)
incommensurables. Tiius St. Paul evidently accounted them ; else he
could not have introduced the text in question with the exhortation,
" Work out " or accomplish " your own salvation with fear and trem-

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 45 of 76)