William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)

Article 13 – Final Perseverance

Articles Of The Faith And Order Of A Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptist Church Of The Lord Jesus Christ, Based On The Declaration Of Faith And Practice Of John Gill, D. D., 1720

XIII. Final Perseverance.

We believe that all those who were chosen by the Father, and redeemed by the Son, and who have been sanctified by the Holy Ghost, shall certainly and finally persevere so that not one of them shall ever perish, but all shall attain to everlasting life hereafter.

Job 17:9; Ps 84:5,7; Prov 4:18; Matt 18:14; Jn 10:28; Rom 8:30; 11:29; 1 Cor 15:58; Eph 4:30; Phil 1:6; 2 Thess 2:13,14; Heb 10:38,39; 1 Pet 1:2-5; 1 Jn 5:18


As our convictions on this Doctrine do not differ from those of ordinary Calvinists, it will suffice to refer the reader who may wish to give it his attention, to accessible books of acknowledged merit. An Antidote to Arminianism, by Christopher Ness, A Handbook of Revealed Theology, by Rev. John Stock; Divine Sovereignty, by Elisha Coles; Hodge’s Outlines; Macpherson and Shaw on the Confession of Faith; and Paterson on the Shorter Catechism are all, in their way, admirable.

On a few passages only will remarks be made.

“And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, (better perhaps jailors,) till, eto. (Matt. 18:34.)

Quoted to prove that, just as this “certain king,” angered by the pitiless rapacity of the servant, whose debt he had forgiven, revoked his forgiveness, and consigned him to prison: so God may recall the pardons He has extended, and consign once-forgiven sinners to hell. So Whitby, in his Paraphrase and Commentary.

This, however, assumes that all the circumstances of a parable may be pressed to teach points of doctrine; whereas the comparison should be drawn only between the main drift of tho narrative, and the great spiritual lesson it is designed to illustrate. This parable is evidently intended to enforce the truth that those whom God has pardoned should themselves manifest a forgiving spirit.

It is doubtful whether the absolute and eternal forgiveness of sins is here intended at all. The reference is rather to sins committed after regeneration and conversion, which are for­ given after confession, (1 John 1:9,) and on acoount of which God may continue to frown on His children, and withhold from them the assurance of His forgiveness. (See the Author’s Manual, “A forgiving spirit shows that we are forgiven,” page 271.)

Thus a Christian, though accepted in Christ and “justified from all things,” may, if he cherishes a vindictive spirit toward a Christian brother, who, as he imagines, has sinned against him, bring his soul into fearful darkness and bondage—to which (though this exposition is not pressed,) verses 34 and 35 may be unanswerable.

If the difficulty (in the reader’s judgment) is unremoved, this principle of exposition is assuredly indisputable. Passages which are hard to understand should always be explained in the light of others which are plain and clear. The Final Preservation and Perseverance of God s people are unmistakably taught in the Bible—nor should obscure passages shake our Faith in what is clearly revealed.

Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away. (John 15:2.)

Quoted by Arminians to prove that if Christians who are vitally united to Christ relax their endeavours and become unfruitful, they will be cast off by God, and consigned to ever­ lasting burning.

Strenuous efforts have been made by Calvinists to refute this, by contending that this fruitless branch is only professedly, and not vitally in the Vine. Others suggest an inversion of the words, and read, “that bringeth not fruit in Me,”—as a mistletoe may grow on a plum tree, but produce poisonous berries. This, however, is playing with the text. The words are: “Every branch in Me not bearing fruit, or, that does not bear fruit.”

The explanation of Charles Drawbridge claims consideration. He rightly contends that the verb rendered “taketh away”[1] primarily means to “take up,” (as in Matt. 9:6;) to “lift up,” (as in Luke 17:13;) and to “bear up,” (as in Matt. 4:6;) and submits that the fruitless branch stands for a down-cast believer. Hidden from the sunlight, laid low in judgment, (2 Chron. 28:19.) through iniquities, (Psa. 79:8,) or by affliction, oppression, or sorrow, (Psa. 107:39,) —it cannot, in its present drooping condition and circumstances, bear fruit—but the Husbandman lifts it up, and places it in a position favourable to fruit-bearing.

The author submits that expositors have hitherto attempted to derive more truth from the figure of the vine here than it is designed to illustrate. Is is an allegory, (not a parable—there are no parables in John’s Gospel) illustrating—not salvation through federal and vital union with Christ—but the character and condition of effective service for Christ. The subject is fruit-bearing, and the fruitless branch stands for a Christian who has ceased to render effective testimony to the truth of the Gospel,—perhaps through sin. He is visited by God in paternal anger—is dishonoured and degraded—is removed from fellowship with the vital church, and men[2] (not God) regard him as a foul apostate who never possessed grace, and is assuredly going to hell.[3] Thus he is a “castaway,”—not from Christ and His salvation—but from the professing church. Lord Bacon in his later years was degraded for infamous conduct; so Christians have been degraded and deprived of the honour they once enenjoyed. “He that despiseth Me,” said God to Eli, “shall be lightly esteemed,” (1 Sam. 2:30.) Thus David, while assured that God was, and ever would be, the God of his salvation, prayed, “Put not Thy servant away in anger,” do not put me to the degradation of refusing to own me as Thy servant. (Psa. 37:9.)

In some texts, the Final Preservation of the saints appears to be made contingent upon the continuance of their Faith.

For example:—Col. 1:23. “If so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and stedfast, and not moved away from the hope of the Gospel.” This has been judged to state the condition upon which Christ will “present” His people “holy and without blemish and unreprovable before Him,” (verse 22,) while failure will entail loss of the Salvation once enjoyed.

The expressions “the Faith,” and[4] “the Hope,” however, do not stand for the graces of Faith and Hope in regenerated hearts, but indicate the doctrines which Faith believes, and the objects which are presented in the Gospel to the Hope of the true believer.

So-called Christians, who renounce the great truths of the Gospel, and cease to pursue the heavenly joys in which they once professed to feel such surpassing interest, make it evident that they are (and always were) destitute of the root of the matter, and never “knew the grace of God in truth,” (verse 6.) If a man does not continue in the Faith, his expectation of attaining the joy of heaven is fallacious and vain.

Heb. 3:14. “For we are made partakers of Christ, it we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.”

Far better as in R. V. “For we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm uuto the end.” The text, as it stands in ordinary Bibles, might be supposed to teach that only such professed Christians as maintain their early confidence to the end of life, will be made partakers of Chnst, and so be saved. The words, however, refer to a privilege and its proof. “We are (not ‘shall’ —a present blessing is contemplated,) become partakers of Christ, if (not in the sense of a condition imposed, but of a demonstration to follow) we hold fast the beginning of our confidence,” &c.

The word is hypostasis, which means that which is underneath us, and on which we stand firmly; and hence, “firm confidence,” “assured expectation.” The word employed in Heb. 3:6, 4:16, (boldly, or with boldness,) and 10:33, is parrhsia, which means, free-spokenness. The author is persuaded that hypostasis, rendered “confidence” in the above passage, (Heb. 3:14,) should be understood objectively as referring to the truths or facts about which Christians should be confident, and not to the gracious feeling of boldness or confidence (parrkesia) in the renewed heart, as in Heb. 10:35.

The terrible passages in Heb. 6:4-8, and 10:26-31, on which so much has been written, are almost universally believed by Strict and Particular Baptists not to refer to regenerated characters, but to persons in the early Church, who had light without life, and gifts without grace, and who lapsed into irremediable apostacy. The expositions of these and some parallel texts given by Rev. John Stock, in his Handbook of Revealed Theology, (First Edition, pages 233-5,) are on the whole fairly satisfactory.[5]

[1] Airo. (1.) To take, lift or bear up; (2) To bear away or remove; (3.) To take away, the idea of lifting, &c., being dropped.
[2] The supposition that the ‘’burning” of verse 6 refers to hell has led to error. Men gather them, eto., is surely suggestive of the explanation submitted above. Poor backsliders often feel the bitterness of the scorn and contempt of their former friends. The burning is the termination of the Christian fellowship and usefulness—not the everlasting destruction of the soul.
[3] John Hazelton’s view of the above was, however, different. He regarded verses 2 and 6 as referring to different characters, The fruitless branch of verse 2 he conceived represented infants, who, though vitally united to Christ, were not predestiued to bear fruit, and were prematurely taken away by death. The man who does not abide in Christ (verse 6,) he took to be the backslider, who loses touch with Christ, falls into sin, is rejected and despised by professing Christians, and suffers the keen pangs of isolation and degradation. Perhaps the burning has some reference to the delivery of “such to Satan for the destruction of their flesh, that their souls may be saved in the day of the Lord,” (1 Cor. 5:5.)
[4] See “‘Faith, by Israel Atkinson,’—A Critique,” in the Author’s Manual of Faith and Practice, page 160.
[5] The “He” in Heb. 10:29, refers, not to the apostate, but to Christ. “He was sanctified, (that is to say, set apart or consecrated to His present priestly office,) by the blood of the everlasting Covenant.” See A Manual of Faith and Practice, page 123.

William Styles (1842-1914) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He is the author of several works, including “A Guide To Church Fellowship As Maintained By Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptists” and “A Manual Of Faith And Practice”.

William Styles, A Guide To Church Fellowship (Complete)
William Styles, A Memoir of John Hazelton (Complete)