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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Perseverance

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The apostolic doctrine of perseverance is (a) conceived in a purely practical experiential sense, and (b) comprises three parts: a religious persuasion, a moral endeavour, and the entire dependence of the latter on the former.

The former consideration distinguishes it at once from subsequent theological formulae whether of mediaeval or reformed Christendom; the latter exhibits its characteristic contents. There was little special interest directed to the subject, and no controversy, till the time of St. Augustine, who, impelled by his predestinarian idea, explicitly affirmed a ‘donum perseverantiae’ to the justified, a supernatural gift of grace to the elect by which they are kept indefectible._ The gift was solely of the Divine mercy, unconditional; it followed as a necessary sequence from personal election. All who are predestinated receive the Divine grace, are born again of the Spirit, shall certainly persevere to the end, and can never fall away either totally or finally from the state of grace. Their possession of the gift is further the source of assurance of final salvation. The ‘final perseverance of the saints’ is gratuitous, irresistible, inamissible, and certain.

The Augustinian positions continued throughout the Middle Ages to agitate, in the way of action and reaction, the thought of theologians. The Council of Orange_ dealt with current perplexity, but in a superficial manner. The constructive genius of St. Thomas Aquinas systematized the general idea of St. Augustine in consistency with numerous points of doctrine that had emerged between St. Augustine’s day and his._ Of the Reforming divines both Luther and Calvin held to its strict statement: Calvin, like St. Augustine, treats of it particularly._ The Council of Trent, ostensibly opposing the Reformed heresies, departed widely from genuine Augustinianism. While condemning Pelagianism in asserting that the justified cannot persevere without a special help of God, but with it can, it yet makes the power of perseverance to reside in the human will co-operative with Divine grace. The Divine gift, while wholly of God’s grace, is neither irresistible nor indefectible: it may be lost not only partially and temporarily but totally and finally. Lost grace may be restored. Of final perseverance there never can be full assurance. The one certainty open to the saint is the obligation to the steadfast use of the whole ensemble of spiritual means whereby the human will is enabled to persevere unto the end and so be preserved in the state of grace. Of such means the chief are the impetrative power of prayer and the sacraments. The ‘final perseverance of the saints,’ while of Divine gratuity, is not irresistible nor inamissible, nor certain._

Within Protestantism strict Calvinism suffered various mitigations at the hands of Calvinists themselves;_ and direct attack from the Arminians (later, Wesleyans), who opposed the doctrine on its unconditional side,_ arguing that those who were once regenerated may by grieving the Spirit of God fall away and perish everlastingly. The Synod of Dort condemned Arminianism and reaffirmed ‘high’ Calvinism._

The controversy has in modern theology lost its force. Its vitality is seen to depend on a facile confusion of the two factors entering into the experience it seeks to explain: viz. the religious and the moral. It is part of the religious consciousness to ascribe sovereignty to God and to trace the causation of everything to the eternal purpose. This is a definite experience which can be seen in every prophet. He knows that there is nothing haphazard in his life; that everything in it is caused not casual; that the cause came as a call to which his soul responds; that this, true in the smaller things of life, is equally true of the great things of the soul, in which, as it seems, the spirit of man is more a passive recipient than an active agent, for all the higher reserves of the religious life are mystical. This religious conviction is distinctive of all the supreme spiritual personalities. In their view there is no hint of a dual causality of the soul’s life of grace. The religious consciousness is constituted by the sense of dependence upon God. The moral life is as truly constituted by the invincible exercise of independent force of character, and the more dependent the spiritual sense the more intense the moral independence. For grace and faith are ‘lively’-vital: they have moral energy impelling to action, not repose. Thus in the actual experience of the Christian life a firm belief in the doctrine of perseverance excludes all carnal security and laxity: it is ever accompanied by a deep sense of the possibility of failure and of the absolute necessity of using the utmost effort in order to win final success. There is no perseverance without conscious determined persevering. These two constituent features are not to be separated, since they have neither independent origin nor independent exercise._ It is not that the one is of God’s gift, the other of man’s effort and initiative. It is that the Divine grace besetting man’s heart, when turned to Him, engirds and subdues every interior faculty and quality (Philippians 3:21), implanting in each the dynamic of Divine affection unto constant, increasing ethical issue, ‘working mightily unto every good word and work.’ The Christian faith and ethics co-exist in inseparable unity. The steady tendency of religion is towards holiness; the grace of God in Christ is wholly regulated by the inner purpose to make good men. It is not just, therefore, to minds of the predestinarian type to charge them with ‘austerity of logic’_ or ‘false supernaturalism,’_ as if their doctrine were a simple immediate deduction from an absolute idea having no living reference to inner emotion. The great predestinationists were ‘the most Christian men of their generation’;_ their theology was the expression of its dominant conception in interpreting the relation of man to God. They are not ignorant of the sphere of man’s effort: they insist upon it with impressive ‘austerity.’_ But to them it is a sphere, concentric with, but smaller than, that of reliance upon God, in which true religion consists, and in which it does truly consist as an energy, spiritual, eternal, persistent, inspiring indefinite advance in righteousness, and delivering the growing soul from all trembling uncertainties as to resources and equipment, prospects, final goal. This is the absolute datum (not idea) set forth in the predestinarian definitions of election and perseverance: it is a datum of soul perception and persuasion induced by the soul’s experience of the Power that holds it and guides and guards it, the only adequate equivalent of the profound apostolic intuition: ‘in God we live, and move, and have our being’ (Acts 17:28)._

1. The religious persuasion.-The religious persuasion has deep roots; the only attainments of which it is the inspiration are so high that nothing short of the recesses of richest truth suffice for the soil of their growth-the heavenliest forces known to the apostles. These are: (1) the will of God, (2) the pattern of Christ, (3) the life of the Spirit, (4) the fellowship of faith, (5) the heavenly inheritance.

(1) The will of God is the strongest, as it is the most comprehensive, support of the assurance of salvation: there can be none more secure or ample. The will of God holds the primacy in ‘all creation’ (Romans 11:36, etc.). In the natural world it is central; all the forces of nature are but manifestations or outgoings of the force of will, and of one will-that of the Creator. His will is also central in the realm of spiritual life, wherever that is true and progressive; the higher life of humanity is simply the will of God realizing itself according to its own purpose, not only in spite of the resistance of the countless hostile wills of men, but by means of that resistance, as the will of a perfect righteousness. Because of its primacy, there is no reasonable relation to it but that of obedience: there is no hope of successful life except in conformity to it, since it must in the end be done, God having of necessity by His own being to work always towards His own end. There is no other purpose of God for men (Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 1:11) but that which is embraced within His all-wise, all-righteous designs (Romans 12:1-2, Galatians 1:4, Ephesians 2:10, Colossians 1:9-10, Hebrews 10:10; 1 Peter 2:15, 1 Timothy 2:4). Moreover, a resolute renunciation of man’s will in self-surrender to God’s has for result the new nature like His, increase in strength, triumph in effort after holiness. It is the mightiest forge of personality (Romans 5:1-6; Romans 8:2; Romans 8:13, Galatians 5:22-26, Ephesians 3:16-19; Ephesians 5:9-10; Ephesians 5:17, etc.), thereby evidencing that it is of God (Philippians 2:13, 2 Timothy 2:19) and His will (1 Timothy 2:4, Hebrews 2:4, etc.). We are thus assured that His will is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3), a fact of indubitable certitude warranted by the Divine promises, which are of life (2 Timothy 1:1, 1 John 2:25) to all men (Acts 2:39; 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Peter 3:13) from a faithful God (Hebrews 6:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:24, 1 Corinthians 1:9, 2 Thessalonians 3:3, Hebrews 10:23; 1 Peter 4:19, Titus 1:2) and fulfilled in Christ (Acts 13:32-33, 2 Corinthians 1:20, Romans 15:8, Revelation 5:5), who as the Word liveth in the saved (Romans 1:16, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23); by the Divine power, appearing in Christ (Acts 3:12; Acts 3:16, Romans 16:25, 1 Corinthians 2:5; 1 Corinthians 3:9, 2 Corinthians 4:7), producing in believers in Him the selfsame richness of character as is in Him (Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 3:20, Colossians 1:11; Colossians 1:29, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Peter 1:3); and by the Divine love (Romans 8:28; Romans 8:38-39), which is invincible. God’s promises are the expression of spiritual laws, the controlling forces of His power. Herein rests their reliable character. Their content furnishes everything requisite for the fullness of the sanctified life. He who has founded and begun all has also provided all for its complete advance to perfection and accomplishment. In His arrangements there can be no possible room for defect or caprice: there need be no dubiety in the expectation that what is needed for the ripening of the redeemed character is present. As a matter of fact it is present in the Son, communion with whom is the indispensable condition, as He is the sole ground, of growing personality. Accepting that condition, saints need have no fear; they are kept by the power of God through that same goodness that made the beginning. The Spirit who redeems will also sanctify (1 Corinthians 1:8, 2 Corinthians 1:20-21; 2 Corinthians 5:5, Philippians 1:6; Philippians 3:21; Philippians 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 2:17, 2 Timothy 1:12; 1 Peter 5:10, 1 John 2:20).

(2) The pattern of Christ is a second principle of perseverance. The resources and exemplar of the new life are in Him. He is the Prince of Saints_ and their Sanctifier (Ephesians 5:26). He is made of God unto them sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30). His glory is their standard, contemplation of which is the influence of transformation and renewal (2 Corinthians 3:18). The graces of His character, mental and emotional, are reproduced in them by His might (Colossians 1:9-11), and confirmed in them by communion with Him (Colossians 2:6 f., Colossians 3:13; Colossians 3:16-17). His fidelity they imitate (Hebrews 3:2; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:12; Hebrews 3:14). His love constrains them (2 Corinthians 5:14), bringing them to all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). In His might they fight the devil (Ephesians 6:10-18) and stand. In His patience they run the race set before them (Hebrews 12:1-2). As their Forerunner He has attained the hope of the heavenly inheritance and entered within the veil (Hebrews 6:19-20). By the Divine power and symmetry of His godly life they partake of the Divine nature itself (2 Peter 1:2-4) in all moral and spiritual excellence (2 Peter 1:5-8). All this is accomplished by faith in Him.

The important features here are, firstly, the perfection of Christ’s Person, His completeness of character, its self-consistency. It is a living whole, in which the facts form, as it were, a co-operative brotherhood, interpervasive each of the others, each lending energy and colour to the whole, and combining in the highest cultivation of the moral and spiritual senses. As character it was made possible by His perfect love of the Father and consequent perfect union with Him. The second feature is the steadfastness of His striving, the devotion of Himself to the will of God to the uttermost, the absolute dependence of His heart on the Divine intimations of duty-a devotion and dependence that rendered Him always acceptable to the Father. It was a constancy never for a moment shadowed by even a thought of disaffection, fainting, or failure. It was a standing that was also a withstanding, a race that was also a continuous unceasing progress. Thirdly, we have the justification of His confidence. Having committed Himself to the Father, He was by the Father raised again, and exalted to His right hand in power and glory. Having given Himself to obedience, He was purified; to suffering, He was perfected. He had entered into the inheritance of life eternal. The prize was won, the goal was reached. The saint, persistent after the same manner, will achieve the same success. As Christ rested on God, the Christian rests on Christ, reposing on His Person, trusting in His companionship, relying on His Spirit, and so attains the end of his faith.

(3) The life of the Spirit is a third immediate evidence of perseverance; for the life of perseverance is just the Spirit in the soul, the life of God, and that brings with it its own self-witness. It is a life of freedom from sin (Romans 8:1-17, 2 Corinthians 3:17), strength (Romans 8:26), sanctification (Romans 15:16; 1 Peter 1:2), new walk (Galatians 5:16), spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-11), spiritual discernment (1 John 2:20), spiritual blessings inconceivable to the natural understanding (1 Corinthians 2:10-14), faith and the moral virtues (1 Corinthians 12:3, Galatians 5:22-26; 1 Peter 1, 2), and the love of God (Romans 5:5), as well as that repentance which must daily testify to its existence in the Christian life (Acts 5:31-32) as necessary, not simply as being preparatory to regeneration but as belonging to daily renewal. By the Spirit saints are sealed as God’s (Romans 8:16, Ephesians 1:13). He further is the earnest of the ultimate inheritance (Ephesians 1:14) in the hope of which He keeps the saved life in actual obedience and growth in grace. By the Spirit believers know for certain (οἴδαμεν, 1 John 3:24) that God abideth in them. The life of the Spirit is thus one under the compulsion of (a) a lofty ideal, (b) ever-growing spiritual apprehension, (c) moral discrimination, (d) deepening gravity and fecundity of emotional force, (e) larger and more spontaneous obedience. But what are these, if not the essential unmistakable notes of the holy soul?

(4) The fellowship of faith is a fourth conviction of perseverance. ‘By this shall all men know,’ said Christ, ‘that ye are my disciples, that ye love one another’ (John 13:35). That vindication of their standing in grace is never absent from the apostolic assurance. ‘Love the brotherhood,’ enjoins St. Peter (1 Peter 2:17). ‘Beloved, let us love one another,’ urges St. John (1 John 4:7). ‘Brethren, speak not evil one of another,’ pleads St. James (James 4:11); ‘Have not the faith with respect of persons’ (James 2:1); ‘Make perfect your faith in works to the brethren’ (James 2:14; James 2:22). ‘Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,’ teaches Hebrews (Hebrews 10:24-25; Hebrews 13:1). St. Paul asserts that sin against brethren is sin against Christ (1 Corinthians 8:12; cf. Romans 12:10), that disregard of one another is division of the Body and the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 12:25), that the household of God must in unity keep itself fitly framed together (Ephesians 2:19; Ephesians 2:22; cf. Acts 2:42). Saintly experience is not all in one mould, but all differences, however great, may serve to manifest the power and the plenitude of the sanctifying Spirit of grace, the innumerable varieties corroborating one another, and in their cumulative effect enhancing the impression made by each. ‘The glorious company of the Apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of the martyrs, the milder bands of the mystics’ perfect each other (cf. Hebrews 11:40), as each proves ‘his conversation to be in heaven’ (Philippians 3:20),_ and the fellowship of believers to be truly ‘the fellowship with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ’ (1 John 1:3).

(5) The heavenly inheritance provides a fifth support. It occupies a remarkable space on the apostolic horizon. It gives definite body to thought, purpose, and desire as the great hope (Romans 5:2, Ephesians 1:18-19; Ephesians 4:4, Colossians 1:5; Colossians 1:27, 1 Thessalonians 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:8, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17, Titus 1:2; Titus 2:13-14, Hebrews 6:18-19; Hebrews 7:19; 1 Peter 1:3-4; 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 3:15, 1 John 3:2-3) in which the disciple rejoices, since it is life eternal (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:14, 2 Timothy 4:8, Titus 3:7, Hebrews 6:5), the long-striven-for and appropriate culmination and consummation of this present life, according to God’s will (1 Corinthians 9:25, 2 Timothy 4:8, James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4, Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:11, ‘crown of life’), life eternal which stands de facto realized in Christ, ‘which is our hope’ (1 Timothy 1:1), who is crowned with glory and honour (Hebrews 2:9-10), with many crowns (Revelation 19:12). Through the ascension of Christ Christian hope has a limitless reach._ It reaches outwardly into eternity, inwardly into the sanctuary on high. It looks to a hidden Kingdom of Glory-‘a salvation yet to be revealed’-into which it casts its anchor, keeping the soul firm and tranquil. It contemplates Him who wears its crown and sees in Him its own surety. His being there and thus renders the hope of entrance a certainty. It is a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), yielding vital stimulus to the whole nature it inhabits-sentiment, thought, will. The purpose of God, the character of Christ, the soul’s growth in goodness, the varieties of saintly experience, the hope of heaven-these are the dynamics of the redeemed and regenerated life, the pledges of holy attainment. Can we wonder if those who most felt their attraction and learned their strength claimed to possess in them a five-fold cord that could not be broken, a basis of spiritual existence irremovable and unshakable, whose sufficiency was wholly of God and filled life itself with an unquenchable joy (cf. Romans 5:3, Philippians 4:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:16; 1 Peter 1:8, Hebrews 3:6, Revelation 12:12) or that any attempt to claim for man ability or sufficiency should not appear other than religious illiteracy?

2. The moral endeavour.-The principles of perseverance, in virtue of their very nature as active impulse in union with fixed conviction, are pregnant with moral life. They are the reservoirs of the highest moral life and inspiration; they reveal to the persevering soul its exalted moral ideal and the rigorous method of realizing it; the acceptance of which is the probation of faith in steadfastness; its rejection, apostasy.

(1) The moral ideal regulating the virtue of perseverance is not vague; it is definite. The life of perseverance is a specific culture of the positive contents of the will of God, and that throughout their whole extent. To this the saints are ‘called’; it is the ‘heavenly calling’ of which they are partakers (1 Corinthians 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 4:7, Galatians 5:13; 2 Peter 1:3, 2 Thessalonians 2:14, Hebrews 3:1). Their κλῆσις is into a Kingdom of the Divine design, of positive order, ruled in righteousness by and according to His will, a sovereignty in fact as well as in idea, not a domain but a dominion, through its citizens growing in righteousness (Romans 5:17; Romans 8:10, Ephesians 5:9; Ephesians 6:14, 1 Timothy 6:11, 1 John 2:29; 1 Peter 1:15, Revelation 19:8). Its content is Christ, and the righteousness is His actual life (1 Corinthians 1:30, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9). Its end is ‘to be found in him’ (Philippians 3:9) and ‘by him to be presented blameless, unreproached, without spot’ in the end (1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Peter 3:14, Colossians 1:28). There is then a Divine order of life in which the Divine aim is fulfilled, its cardinal power being God’s holiness. That holiness, manifested in Christ’s Person, presents man’s nature in Him as it is in that order. Consequently, all moral effort of believers must be directed towards realizing His mind, imitating His example. His relation to God expresses the whole fullness of the human spirit’s energy of which it is competent. Out of His strength of belief in God’s holy sovereignty was born His dauntless perseverance. His path His saints pursue. They contemplate the holiness of God in Him, and ‘perfect themselves in holiness in the fear of God’ (2 Corinthians 7:1); they ‘obey the truth’ (1 Peter 1:22), they ‘abide in the light’ (1 John 1:6-7) and in the love (1 John 4:16).

These terms of themselves point to further features of the ideal law: it is not only righteous; it is personal, spiritual, progressive. Its excellency is that it is righteousness primarily and wholly: its highest excellency, that that righteousness is spirit not form, quality not a quantum, and of illimitable outlook-illimitable as God Himself. Its realization partakes of the process of a deepening friendship; the Divine Spirit donates itself to the responsive spirit of man, quickening its growing exercise of faculty, gradually and throughout the whole circumference of the spirit’s possible activity. The stronger personality does not override but inspires. As it succeeds increasingly in transferring its own powers to man’s, man is conscious of both revelation and regeneration, fresh knowledge and new character. Is it a process of conscious effort, a careful fulfilment of already known arrangements?-Scarcely. An acquaintance is not the product of certain rules, but the unconscious result of much association. The Divine life in man’s heart is largely an unconscious growth._ The main factor is association with God in self-surrender. At least His best gifts so come, by ‘waiting upon Him.’ The deliberate seeking of great experiences for their own sake is unwise, and likely to be unavailing. It follows further that religious duty is a given task, a ‘burden’ laid on the heart,_ which is straitened_ till it be accomplished. It does not come by subjective calculations but is put upon man as the objective task of doing God’s will in that lot and at that moment, even as the thinker devoted to the spirit of truth learns truths, or the artist in love with beauty paints pictures.

A second consequence is that the ideal life is to be found in the moral and spiritual realm. God is a Spirit, and they that seek His life in perseverance must seek Him in the spirit. There is a constant tendency to ‘seek Him’ by ‘searching the Almighty unto perfection’ in the grandiose constructions of the speculative intellect. It is imperative to have all speculative intimidations_ removed from the path of perseverance; like Bunyan’s lions, they only frighten the pilgrim.

A third consequence is that the ideal life works itself in the orderly, not in the abnormal. The will of God is essentially law. The life of God is not above law, whether in Himself or in His manifestation. His life in the soul of man is not inconsistent with Himself. When He works in us, He works according to law; for which reason His working calls for all our effort. It is His own order of life that He transfers to man; this can be done only through the laws of man’s nature of which He is Himself the author. Spiritual blessing is therefore not conferred in any scenic fashion but by power moving along the lines of normal life, and manifesting itself in its products. This is the best of all exaggerated psychological and mystical states: they have no value apart from their moral content and moral effect, they are subject to the law of righteousness.

A fourth consequence is that the ideal life is a principle for all living, not apart from living interests._ Religion that is true is not a technicality; it is the Divine presence and agency in life as a whole. It is not a speciality; it is the loyal, loving effort to make the will of God triumphant in all fields of human interest and activity-the soul, the family, society, art, letters. The difference between the elect and non-elect lies not in their sphere of work: they differ in their spirit. The worldling loses himself in the life of sense-things; the believer relates his life to God’s order of life and glorifies it by filling it with heroic devotion. To sum up, the life of perseverance is the life of conscience: a life of communion with God through the conscience and its steady enlightenment by His law. All exaltations of inner feeling, raptures, anomalous experiences must pale before the orderly interaction of religious thought, feeling, moral will which this education of conscience entails. Man’s predestinarian days are days of conscience,_ and aim not at ‘religious experiences’ but at righteousness._ They lay unchallengeable insistence on the truth that the changed life, the clean heart, the strengthened will, the deeper moral insight, the spirit of uprightness, are alone acceptable to God, the noblest fruits of faith, the prime factors of holiness. This ideal is laid upon men by God, not to impose a harder law, but from His consuming passion to bring them to the fullest life.

(2) Corresponding to the exalted character of the ideal itself is the method of its fulfilment. Its rigour is uncompromising. Its exhortation is incessant. The earnestness with which it is urged and the importance attached to it by each apostle are conspicuous in every Epistle. Remarkable are the energy of the metaphors and the extent and solemnity of the terms employed to characterize it. It is fundamentally the holding fast of a position. Its most notable description is given in Ephesians 6:10-18, an analysis of which will disclose all the parts that here follow, gathered from the other NT writings. Saints are saints-they occupy the position; they are in the state of grace; their whole attention, devotion, labour, is to keep it, and to stand (Romans 14:4, 1 Corinthians 16:13, 2 Corinthians 1:24, Ephesians 6:13, Philippians 1:27; Philippians 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 3:8; 1 Peter 5:12). St. John’s word is ‘abide in’ (1 John 2:24; 1 John 3:6; 1 John 4:12; 1 John 4:16, 2 John 1:2); in Hebrews there are various words (Hebrews 2:1; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:12; Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:2; Hebrews 10:23; Hebrews 10:35); St. James’ word is ‘unstable,’ ‘wavering’ (James 1:6-8); in Revelation it is ‘hold fast’ (Revelation 2:25; Revelation 3:11; cf. Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 10:23).

This holding fast involves a two-fold strenuousness: (a) in fighting evil; (b) in reaching out to the goal (the good fight of the faith, the racing in the arena, 1 Timothy 6:12, Hebrews 12:1; cf. 1 Corinthians 9:26, 2 Timothy 4:7, 2 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 6:14, Ephesians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 9:26, Philippians 2:16, 1 Peter 5:8, etc.). The effort is an appeal to every power of the soul: to sobriety (1 Thessalonians 5:8, Titus 2:2; Titus 2:4; Titus 2:6; 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8, 1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:15), to watchfulness (Colossians 4:2, 1 Corinthians 16:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8, 2 Timothy 4:5, Revelation 3:2; Revelation 16:15, 2 Corinthians 6:5, Ephesians 6:18), to diligence (Hebrews 12:15; Hebrews 12 :2 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 1:10, 1 Corinthians 15:58, Galatians 6:9, Philippians 3:14, 2 Thessalonians 3:13, Hebrews 6:12; 2 Peter 3:14), and to progress (Hebrews 6:1, etc.); above all to patience and steadfastness (1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 2 Thessalonians 1:4, 1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 3:10, Titus 2:2, Hebrews 10:36; Hebrews 10 :2 Peter 1:6, Revelation 1:9; Revelation 2:2; Revelation 2:19, 1 Corinthians 15:58, Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 6:19; 1 Peter 5:9, Colossians 2:5; 2 Peter 3:17). It is a steadfastness in faith, truth, hope, love, in the gospel, in all duty, but particularly under trial (Romans 5:4; Romans 12:12, James 1:3-4; James 5:7-8; James 5:10; 1 Peter 1:1-8; 1 Peter 2:20, Revelation 13:10; Revelation 14:12). Of so much patience and steadfastness there is need, because the life and the truth in the disciple will be, as in Christ, hated of the world, with a hatred enhanced both by the circumstances of life itself and by the potency of ‘the flesh’ in themselves. Their loyalty to truth will be confronted by persecution; their loyalty to faith will be confronted by the powers of the world; their loyalty to righteousness will be confronted by the malice of the devil. In meeting these, patience, firmness, persistency, exertion of mind, of heart, of will are absolute requisites. Let them maintain themselves in them; as appointed of God for the ‘trial of faith.’

Here two points should be specially noted-first, the large sense in which all these terms are used; secondly, the inwardness of trial. What is so briety?-It applies to the whole nature-every part of which is to be awake; it really means awakeness._ What is watchfulness?-Again it applies to the whole nature; it is perceptiveness. What is patience?-It is that great-spiritedness which combines eagerness in striving with endurance in suffering. And suffering, what is it?-It at once reveals, confirms, develops faith. The spirit of the true Christian agonistes is slack in no element of its manifold nature; it hesitates at no sacrifice, is ready for all self-denial; it eagerly stretches and strains itself in self-discipline, above all in keeping itself disentangled, to follow after the prize of its high calling in Christ, which the persevering saint knows is within his grasp (2 Timothy 4:8), for God can keep him to it (Romans 14:4)._ Slackness in wrestling, on the other hand, involves a loosening of all the parts of the nature which by the grace of perseverance have been girded up, and, according as it is indulged, leads by a variety of stages of lapsing to final apostasy, the total abandonment of the position._

3. The maintenance of perseverance by God.-(1) The life of perseverance construed as above implies the sole maintenance of its actual activity by God Himself. It is a life whose beginning, medium, and consummation proceed from Him, as its ground, motive, and goal. It is the life for man that alone provides the proper meaning to the lower worlds of nature and history-the life for which these are propaedeutic and preparatory. It is the life for humanity which alone is adequate to its natural capacities, satisfactory to its native aspirations, and provocative of its noblest heroisms. The modern mind may have moved away from the theological formulation of this persuasion: but not from the persuasion itself. It is learning eagerly the truth of the Divine Immanence in human nature as the key to the interpretation of God’s relation to man. How does that idea aid us intellectually in understanding the grace of perseverance?-It unquestionably contains suggestions of real cogency in its conceptions of God and man that render the relation between them more vital than ever and acceptable to modern thought. God is self-impartation;_ man is receptivity. Man therefore cannot be himself except in entire dependence on God. The dependence, too, is irresistible and inalienable: even the evil in man’s rejection of it is dependent.

(2) The religious persuasion of ‘being in perseverance’ is the firm assurance that we ‘have tasted of the heavenly gift and the powers of the world to come’ (Hebrews 6:4-5). The assurance of eternity in us and for all future life is not an easy assurance when we seek to present the intellectual grounds of it. It is comparatively simple when we turn to the instincts of immortality which spring from the conquest of evil in us. Nothing can rob a man of his sense of individuality, which comes upon him as he passes from a moral victory and his conscience grows. Now that growth is steadfastly maintained in the probation of faith. Every moral conquest brings fresh impulses of moral vigour and hope. Every moral conquest brings fresh revolt against the old forces. Every moral conquest brings fresh certainty of ultimate success. Such results point infallibly to the besetting power being righteous. It is an inescapable environment: even in the instance when not receptivity on man’s part, but hostility, is offered, there follows hurt and loss. It is the same power which, obeyed, blesses; disobeyed, blasts.

(3) Let the idea be abandoned that the Divine indwelling is something sensuously presentable or emotionally definable, and it follows that the assurance of God’s operation in us is just the inner sense of reality that comes to us in moral living. Nature and grace are not so antithetic as to be incapable of mutual penetration: the step is easy to discover the need of grace to the best nature-that at least is the predestinarian’s plea. Holy love or righteousness, he argues, is the root of all life. For it all Nature is foreordained, prepared. For human life it is the one true formative force. In communion with God the springs of true life are unsealed. But holy love is of a higher nature than emotion: it denotes that quality in the nature of God that impels Him irresistibly to give Himself to His creatures. Hence in every spiritual fact attending on communion with Him, there is a momentum to moral duty. Thus here we stand. God, besetting all, moves all. His movement invites response from every single will; He waits on the start of our effort. That is not to take away from Him the initiative in salvation. Our effort is the beginning of His gift, the first stirring of ‘the grace that is in us’ from Him, and which can be ours in no other way. And so, after the start, throughout the whole of our moral growth, every new stirring in us is of our effort and of His gift and increase (Philippians 2:12). We are never from first to last simple quietistic receivers of something infused. So indissolubly has God made us for Himself that we are the bearers (θεοφόροι), because incorporators, of a growing life which God quickens, as light awakes Nature and love the heart. Can such a condition be conceived of as intermittent?

Literature.-Besides the works referred to in the body of the article, the reader should consult theological text-books in connexion with Grace. There are articles in Schaff-Herzog_ (C. A. Beckwith), CE_ (J. F. Sollier), HDB_ (G. Ferries). On modern views consult R. Eucken, Christianity and the New Idealism, Eng. tr._, London and New York, 1909; J. R. Illingworth, Christian Character, London, 1904.

A. S. Martin.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Perseverance'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/p/perseverance.html. 1906-1918.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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