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Obj. 1st. If foreordination be true, what encouragement have we to pray? I answer; a thousand times more than if the events of life depended on creatures or chance. It was a part of his eternal plan to answer the prayer of faith. He has so arranged all events as that every effectual fervent prayer of the righteous shall be fulfilled, and that without resorting to a miracle, or interfering with any other of his purposes.
Now take away this doctrine, and see what encouragement you will have to pray. You ask God to save the life of a sick friend; but God must not interfere, for he has left it to creatures or to chance whether he lives or dies. You pray for the conversion of a sinner, but you pray in vain, for God has left it to chance or to his own natural inclination to decide the question. Thus you see that the denial of the doctrine, and not the maintaining of it, discourages prayer.
Obj. 2d. If the certainty of men's actions is determined, how can they act otherwise than they do? Ans. They can if they will. They have the power. A man is able to commit a wicked action which it is certain he will not commit. And he has power to refrain from an act, which it is still absolutely certain he will perform. “But if I had done otherwise than I did today, would not God have been disappointed?”. No: If you had done otherwise, the certainty would have been otherwise.
Obj. 3d. Why was not language so unpopular and so liable to abuse, as that on the subject of the decrees, left out of our standards? Ans. Why is such language found in the scriptures? Why did Paul say, “predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will”? Why did he not leave out the whole of his first chapter to the Ephesians, and the 8th and 9th to the Romans? No doubt there are many who would gladly have omitted them, and who would now expunge them from the Bible if it were in their power. The scriptures con. tain abundance of language as unpopular, and as liable to abuse as any used in our Confession. Indeed I have often thought that there are many passages, which, if adopted verbatim in our standards, would have excited even more “ wrath” than is at present indulged against us.
II. God's SPECIAL purpose of mercy.
Perhaps there is no doctrine which has occasionied so much “ wrath" against our church, as the doctrine of God's special purpose of mercy, or, to use a scriptural term, that of “ election.” And inasmuch as this is a truth very clearly and distinctly taught in the word of God, great labor and ingenuity have been thought necessary in order to overthrow it. One very com. mon expedient, employed for this purpose, has been to hold up false and distorted views of it, by which it may be brought into discredit. It will, therefore, be highly necessary in entering upon the subject, to guard it against the misrepresentations of its enemies, and to define it as clearly and accurately as possible. I remark then,
1. That it is no part of the doctrine of election, that God made a part of mankind merely to damn them. This is an aspersion cast upon it by its enemies. But it is not true. Election, properly speaking, has nothing to do with the damnation of a single sinner. It is a mere purpose of love and mercy, proceeding from that God who affirms with an oath, that he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. If he destroys sinners, it is because their perdition is inseparably connected with his own glory and the highest good of the universe. At the same time, in itself considered, he desires the happiness of all his creatures.
2. It is no part of election, that the elect will be saved, let them do what they may. It is certain that “ without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” The elect cannot be saved unless they come to Christ, and experience the renewing influences of his Spirit. They can no more enter heaven without a preparation for it, than the non-elect. If a man is never concerned about the salvation of his soul, if he does not repent and flee to the Saviour, there is nothing in election that will save him. “ Chosen," says the apostle, « through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”
3. It is no part of election, that the non-elect will not be saved let them do what they may. If they would repent and believe the gospel, there is nothing in election that would destroy them. If they would come to Christ he would " in nowise cast them out.” What hinders them? No decree of God; nothing but their own aversion to holiness and their love of sin. Election does not stand in their way. Election merely says that some shall be made willing; but if any are willing to come without it, God has solemnly promised to save them. The non-elect will not be lost unless they voluntarily persist in impenitence to the last.
What then is the doctrine of Election? I shall endeavor to exhibit our views of it by an easy illustration.
Suppose the monarch of some mighty empire hears that a small province of his dominions has rebelled against him. Having no pleasure in their death, he sends them an offer of pardon on consistent terms. They all to a man refuse to accept of it. Still inclining to mercy, he sends out ambassa. dors, commissioned to use every entreaty with the rebels. These go forth and use every effort in vain. The rebels exclaim, “ our cause is just and we will die rather than submit.” The compassionate monarch, hearing of this, cries out, “ how shall I give up all these my subjects to suffer death! “ I will go myself, and by my personal influence will prevail on the greater “ part to accept of my proposal of pardon; and inasmuch as such signal “ obstinacy ought not to go unpunished, I will execute the sentence of the “ law upon the rest of them, that they may serve as ensamples to all my sub“ jects." This determination he carries into effect. The greater part are reconciled, and the remainder punished.*
* It is generally admitted that God from eternity determined to punish all the finally impenitent, knowing, at the same time, who the finally impenitent would be. The Cal. vinist only adds to this, that God is able to overcome their wilful obstinacy, and bring them to an acquiescence in the terms of salvation, but, for wise reasons, permits them to continue in sin, and become to the universe appalling monuments of his justice. And herein consists the sovereignty of his dispensations towards them. Thus their destruction is of themselves; and their refusal of mercy was, in the order in which it stood in
the only reason why the non-elect cannot be saved, that “they do not truly come to Christ." Chap. X. XIV.
But let us now make a slight alteration in the case, and suppose that this monarch, being a prophet, clearly foresees the rebellion before it will take place. He reasons with himself, and makes up his determinations. Does the circumstance that all his determinations were formed previously to the rebellion, alter their moral character? Does it detract at all from the glory of his wisdom, justice, and mercy? Can you condemn him for pursuing the very course he ought to have taken if his purposes had never been formed until the time? Can you censure him for resolving to make a desperate effort to save some of his rebellious subjects? This were to blame him for being merciful. Will you condemn him because he determined to be before. hand to make a public example of some of the rejecters of his mercy? Can you say that he fixed their condition by his decree, and thus rendered it impossible to accept his pardon? No. They fixed their condition themselves. They were “ ordained to wrath and dishonor for their sins.” The monarch's determination to punish was, in the order in which it stood in his mind, subsequent to their refusal of a pardon.
Finally; will you censure him for not constraining all to submit to his proposals? This is to allow him no room for the exercise of discretion. The good of his empire might, for aught you know, require that he should make examples of some of the obstinate rebels.
Now although no illustration will exactly meet the case; yet, I think, I - have, in every material point, exhibited the Calvinistic view of election.
1. God is the sovereign Lord of the universe. This little spot of his do. minions has rebelled against him. All mankind are in a state of sin and condemnation; all are exposed to his wrath and curse.
2. God, in infinite mercy, has offered a pardon to rebels of Adam's race, through the Redeemer. His language is, “Whosoever will, let him come;" and “ him that cometh unto me I wili in nowise cast out.” But notwithstande ing the free offer, mankind continue in their rebellion, and “ will not come" to Christ that they might have life. Like the persons mentioned by our Lord in the parable of the supper; “they all with one consent began to make excuse." Left to himself, every individual will reject the offer of a Saviour, and sink to endless ruin. If God does not interpose, in the omnipotency of his grace, to subdue the obstinacy of the sinner's heart, all will perish in the resusal of his mercy, and Christ will have bled and died in vain.
3. God has determined that so distressing a result shall not take place. He was not willing to see the whole human family perish, as they inevitably would, if left to themselves. He did not intend that his Son should bleed and die in vain. He has not committed the question of man's salvation to the decision of chance or human depravity. He has determined to save some. By the special influence of his Spirit, he renews their hearts, and sweetly constrains them to yield. Thus he “ calls them according to his purpose," justifies, and glorifies them. What proportion of the human family are included in this his purpose of mercy, we are not informed. But in view of the future days of unclouded prosperity promised to the church, it may be inferred, that by far the greater part of the descendants of Adam, will at last be found among the elect of God. And although the number of them is indefinite in the view of man, yet, with God it is so certain and definite that he cannot be disappointed. Having thus explained what is meant by Election, I proceed now to establish the doctrine,
1. By the FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD. · It is admitted that God changes the hearts of some sinners and saves them through Christ; and that he does so of his own accord. Now, did he fore. know that he would do this? Did he know it from eternity? How did he know it, if it was uncertain? If his purpose was not already fixed; if his resolution was at all wavering; how could he know with certainty that he would change the hearts of some sinners and save them? Let any candid man look at this, and he must believe the doctrine of election. It may be further evinced,
2. By the HOLY SCRIPTURES.
You admit the Bible to be the word of God. If so, its statements are all entitled to implicit confidence. Here there can be no error or mistake. Let us then go to the Bible; and let us go, not to alter, to pervert, or to wrest it from its natural meaning; but with a sincere desire to know what the Lord hath spoken, and determined to acquiesce in all his decisions, however repugnant to our pride or our prejudices.
Turn to the 1st chapter to the Ephesians, and in the 3d and 4th-verses you will read thus: “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love." That his meaning might be still more evident, the apostle adds immediately, verse 4. “ Having PREDESTINATED us unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ to himsell, according to the good pleasure of his will.” What is this but the doctrine of election? Look now at the 11th verse of the same chapter. " In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being PREDESTINATED according to the PURPOSE of him who worketh all things after the COUNSEL of his own will.” Does not this look like election?
Turn now to the eighth chapter to the Romans. At verse 28, the apostle asserts that “ all things shall work together for good to them that love God." And how does he prove it? By a reference to the eternal purpose of God in election. “ And we know,” says he, “ that all things shall work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be con. formed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate them he also called, and whom he called them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified." Noy if the doctrine of election be not true, what force is there in his argument?
In 2 Thess. 2:13, we have this declaration: “ We are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning CHOSEN you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” And in 2 Tim. 1:9. we read, 6 God hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but ac. cording to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” Surely, language has no meaning, unless these
passages assert the doctrine of personal election to holiness and salvation.
When Paul preached the gospel at Antioch in Pisidia, we are informed, that " as many as were ORDAINED to ETERNAL LIFE believed.” Acts 13:48. And at the commencement of a Christian church at Corinth, God looked on the heathen inhabitants and said to Paul, “ I have much people in this city.”
Let us now hear what Jesus, our divine teacher, has said on this subject. He “ was foreordained before the foundation of the world” to be a Mediator; and entered into an engagement to give his life as a ransom for sinners. But would he undertake the painful task on an uncertainty? Would he con. sent to endure the sorrows of Gethsemane, and the anguish of Calvary, leaving it to chance, or to the depraved heart of man to decide, whether any should ever be redeemed by his blood ? No: he well knew, that in such an event not one soul would ever be saved: and that he would reap no reward of his death. Hence it was rendered certain that some should come to him, and experience the saving benefits of his sufferings. We read of a promise of eternal life before the world began. Tit. 1:1,2: “ Paul-an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect-in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began." To whom was it promised! Not to creatures, for they were not yet in existence; but to the Lord Jesus. The ancient prophets frequently refer to this promise made to the Messiah, and say, “a seed shall serve him.” “He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied.” “ Thy people shall be WILLING IN THE DAY OF THY POWER.” The Lord Jesus frequently spake of those who were promised him, with inexpressible affection, as his 6 SHEEP,” and as those that were GIVEN him, by the Father. “I lay down my life for the sheep." Elect Gentiles were counted as sheep before their conversion. “ And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice.” John 10:16. Again, he says to the Jews, verse 26, “ Ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep.” And alluding to the promise of the everlasting covenant, “all that the Father giveth me SHALL COME to me.” John 6:37. “ Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life, TO AS MANY AS THOU HAST GIVEN HIM.” John 17:2. To the mother of Zebedee's chil. dren, he says, “ To sit on my right hand and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father." Matth. 20:23. And again; in his prayer in the garden, “I pray for them, I pray not for the world, but for them whom THOU HAST GIVEN ME.” John 17:9. Once more, he says, “ No man can come to me except it were GIVEN UNTO HIM of my Father." Chap. 6:65. Many of our Lord's hearers were highly offended at this last declaration, and“ went back and walked with him no more." Let me ask you, my hearers, in the words of your Saviour, “ Will ve also go away!" Are any of you “ ashamed of Christ or of his WORDS”? Remember they are the words by which you will be condemned or acquitted at the last day. You may wrest, pervert, or oppose them, but .. you cannot alter their meaning, or cause one jot or tittle of them to pass away, You may now refuse to believe them, but the time is corning when convic. tion will be pressed upon you with an eloquence, infinitely surpassing that of human or angelic tongues. The day is approaching that shall behold the Son of man bursting forth in dreadful glory from amid the clouds of heaven. He shall - send forth his angels and gather his ELECT from the four