Page images

it ; and the poor man has the estate really offered to him, and he as really rejects it, and is as foolish and criminal in doing it, and as justly suffers the evil conse. quence, as if the rich man knew not what would be the consequence of making the offer, whether it would be rejected or not; and had no power by any means, to persuade him, and make him willing to accept of it.

It is wise and important, that salvation by Christ should be offered indiscriminately to all, in the publishing and preaching of the gospel, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. It has been observed, that the gospel cannot be preached to any, to whom the offer of salvation is not made, upon their acceptance of it. They who will comply with the offer, or the elect, who shall come to Christ, live promiscuously, intermixed with others; and are not to be distinguished by men from others, until they have the gospel preached to them, and thereby salvation is offered to them, and they believe and embrace the offer. Therefore the gospel cannot be preached to them, unless it be preached to all. And, as it may be properly preached to all, and salvation be really offered to every one, whether he will accept of it, or not ; and the provision made for the salvation of sinners in the gospel, is as sufficient for one as another, and it is offered as a free gift, to every one who believeth, or will receive it : And none can fail of salvation, and perish under the gospel, but by constantly rejecting it to the end of life. Therefore, it is important and necessary, that this offer should be made to all, without any distinction, in order to the salvation of any, even the elect. Besides, this is necessary in order to set in the clearest light, and even to discover, the following important truths.

1. That mankind are so fixed in their rebellion, and such obstinate opposers and enemies of God, and all moral good, that they are disposed constantly, and with all their hearts, to reject mercy and salvation, though freely offered to them. Nothing is, or perhaps can be, more suited, effectually to bring out and discover the ex. ceeding wickedness and obstinacy of the heart of man, than this. It is of great importance, that a clear and full discovery of this should be made, in order to manifest to their consciences, and to all, the justice and propriety



of the awful sentence which will be pronounced against the wicked at the last Jay.

2. That every one who fails of salvation under the gospel, perishes by his own fault and aggravated wickedness, obstinately persisted in through life : And must ascribe his loss of eternal life, and his falling into endless destruction, wholly to his own folly, constantly and voluntarily rejecting salvation, freely offered to him: That he has destroyed himself, and nothing could have prevented his salvation, and have brought endless destruction upon him ; no decree of Heaven, nor satan, nor any of his fellow men ; nor his outward circumstances ; poverty or riches ; honours and high stations ; or a mean and low condition in the world ; health or sickness ; or any temptation and trying situation in life whatsoever ; had he not with all his heart rejected the gospel, and constantly, through his whole life, refused to accept of the salvation which was offered to him ; for which folly and sin he has not the least possible excuse.

This coincides with the preceding particular, and serves to show, how important and necessary it is, that they who perish from under the gospel should have salvation offered to them, as by this it will appear more clearly, than otherwise it could, that sinners perish by their own fault, and can lay the blame of it to none but themselves ; and that they are justly cast into endless destruction, however infinitely awful and dreadful it be.

And this will serve effectually to confute an assertion which many now make, and show the falsehood of it, viz. that if they be not elected they must be damned, whatever they may do. It will appear, when the real truth comes to light, that they perish by rejecting the salvation offered to them ; and that if they had believed, and been willing to be saved by Christ, they would not have been lost. Their destruction is the consequence of their great, inexcusable wickedness, in slighting Christ, and neglecting the great salvation ; by which they have brought it on themselves; which could not have come upon them, had they not done this; but accepted of the kind offer which they had.

3. The offer of salvation to all serves more clearly to display and discover to the redeemed, the riches of that

sovereign grace, by which they are saved. It is of great importance, that this should be seen by the redeemed, in the clearest light, and to the best advantage, that God may have the glory of it, and they the greatest benefit possible. While they see others perish under the same advantages which they have enjoyed ; they see what they should have done, had they not been distinguished by sovereign grace, and made willing in the day of divine power. They see the human heart acted out in the unbeliever, and the awful consequence in his perishing ; and know this would have been their case, had not God created in them a new heart, and given them to believe on Christ, in consequence of his electing love. They see this, and give all the glory to sovereign grace, and in a greater degree, are happy in the enjoyment of the love of God. St. Paul was sensible of the importance of christians seeing and enjoying the great and distinguishing love of God to them ; and of their giving all the glory to him ; and, therefore, labours to set this in the strongest light, in the two first chapters of his letter to the church at Ephesus, as he also does in most of his other epistles, which the attentive reader of the Bible must have observed,

That the offer of salvation is in fact made to all to whom the gospel is revealed, has been before proved. * And it may be added here, to the evidence there produced, that if there were no other proof of this, but the parables of Christ, recorded in Matt. xxii. and Luke xiv. these are sufficient to put it beyond dispute. There our Saviour represents the gospel, by a feast which is made, to which numbers are invited, who refuse to come, and consequently never taste of the supper. The invitation is, " Come to the feast, come to the marriage, for all things are ready.” How can this represent the gospel, if salvation be not offered to those who never accept of the offer? But to return; salvation is in fact offered to all, wherever the gospel is published. Some have supposed this to be inconsistent with the doctrine of election as it has been stated ; but it is hoped, that what has been offered, has sufficiently proved that they are both consistent with each other.

* See Part II. Sect. VIII. Page 93, &c.

[ocr errors]

XI. The doctrine of election is so far from being a discouraging doctrine, that it affords the only ground of all true encouragement and hope.

Many have been so grossly mistaken, as to think this à gloomy, discouraging doctrine, and that it tends to lead persons to despair ; whereas, it is the only well grounded support against despair, and the sole founda. tion of all reasonable hope of salvation. It does indeed, tend to cut off all their hopes of salvation, who build them upon themselves, their own good disposition, will and exertions, independent of God; supposing they shall determine it in their own favour, and, in this sense, save themselves. The doctrine of election demolishes this foundation, and destroys such a hope ; as it teaches, that man is absolutely dependent on God for his salvation, and he must determine whether he shall be saved or not. As this, therefore, is a false hope, and danger. ous delusion, it is desirable it should be destroyed ; and it affords an argument in favour of this doctrine, that it tends to take away all such hope from man.

When persons are brought to kuow themselves, in some measure, and see how guilty and lost they are, how sinful and obstinate their hearts are, being wholly corrupt, and so strongly indisposed to any thing that is right, and inclined to evil, that if left to themselves, they never shall repent and embrace the gospel, but shall go on to certain destruction : Therefore, if God, who has mercy on whom he will have mercy, have not determined in their favour, that he will give them a new heart, and save them by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, they shall not be saved, but be certainly lost forever. They despair of distinguishing themselves, so as to render themselves more deserving of the favour of God, and of salyation, or less ill-deserving, than others. They know of no greater sinners than themselves, or more deserving of endless destruction, or farther from embracing the gospel, than they are, and always shall be, if left to themselves. Their only hope, therefore, is in the revealed purpose of God to save some of mankind, without any regard to their desert of it, or their distinguishing themselves from others, not being so great sinners, or being less un.

worthy ; but has mercy on whom he will have mercy : And they have no reason to conclude, they are not of this number; but may hope they are elected to salvation, though utterly lost in themselves, and the most guilty and vile of all others.

It is true, that some have abused this doctrine, and improved it to bad purposes to themselves, through their ignorance, the perverseness of their own hearts, and the cunning agency of satan, the deceiver. They have not been willing to be in the hand of God, and wholly dependent on him; and the thought that they are so, has irritated and galled their spirits; they have been such enemies to God, that they have concluded he will de. cide against them, if it be left to him to determine, whether they shall be saved or not; and knowing they have greatly offended him, they conclude they are not among the number of the elect, and so sink into despair. It is not the doctrine of election, or the belief of it, which produces this despair, or has any tendency to it; but the opposition of the heart to it, and drawing a wrong and false conclusion from it: For this doctrine has a di. rect contrary tendency and effect, when properly improved, as has been shown.

XII. The doctrine of election is perfectly consistent with the greatest possible degree of human liberty.

This has been particularly considered, in the chapter upon the decrees of God, and need not be repeated here.

Many have entertained such wrong notions of this doctrine, and of liberty, or the freedom of the will, as to suppose, if this were true, the non-elect are chained down to destruction; and the elect fixed in a state of salvation, inconsistent with their exercising any freedom of choice. The divine purpose of election does not af. fect the liberty of any man, unless the certainty of events be inconsistent with it. It is certain it is not, if liberty consists in acting voluntarily, or in volition; which it is presumed has been proved; and that there can be no other or higher liberty in nature.

The elect are perfectly free, in embracing the gospel, and in all their ex. ercises, and in every step they take, in order to obtain complete salvation. This is necessarily supposed in their election to eternal life ; for they can be saved in no other

way, but by their free choice, which is, therefore,

« PreviousContinue »