Page images
PDF
EPUB

part in it.

secured in their election, that they shall go to heaven by their own free consent, in the full exercise of perfect liberty, in opposition to any compulsion. Whatever God decrees or does, respecting their salvation, does not interfere with their freedom ; but infallibly secures and establishes it. He worketh in them, to will and 10 do ; therefore, does nothing inconsistent with their willing and doing, but promotes and effects it; in which all their freedom and moral agency consist.

The non-elect go to destruction by their own choice. When salvation is offered to them, they reject it with their whole heart, and most freely choose to have no

They will not come to Christ, that they might be saved. The election of others to salvation does not affect them, or alter their case, or circumstances, in the least.-—They go to destruction just as freely, and as much by their own choice, as they would, or could do, were there none elected to be saved ; and their destruction is not made any more necessary, or certain, by the election of some of mankind to salvation, than it would have been, were there no election.

XIII. Though it be known, that a certain number of mankind are elected by God, to salvation, in distinction from others; because it is revealed, and the reason of the thing teaches it must be so; yet it cannot be known to men in this world, who they are that are elected, and shall be saved, any farther than there is evidence that they embrace the gospel, and are become true christians. This is otherwise known to God alone. He knows them by name, and they are given to Christ, to be saved. " The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are bis."* But this cannot be known to men, nor can there be the least real evidence, till they come to Christ, nor any appearance of it, any farther than they appear to be real christians. In this way, the apostle Paul judged of the election of persons. Knowing, brethren, beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. And ye became followers of me, and of the Lord, having received the word in

• 2 Tim. ü. 19.

much affliction, with joy in the Holy Ghost."* It is in this way alone that believers can come to the knowledge of their election, or get the least evidence of it. This evidence will be perfectly established, when they are actually saved, and shall abide so forever. Every one of the redeemed will know his own election of God, and that of all others who are saved ; and will look to this, as the source and foundation of their redemption.

While the elect are in a state of unbelief, none in this world, neither they themselves, nor any one else, can know they are elected, and shall be saved : And the non-elect cannot know that they are not elected, nor can any one else know this of them, while they are in this world, unless it be known that they have committed the unpardonable sin.

IMPROVEMENT.

I. The doctrine of election, as it has now been stated and explained, is suited to stain and humble the pride of man.

The pride of man prompts him to lift himself above his Maker ; and he would do it, were it possible ; and many fondly think themselves, in a measure, independent of him ; especially in matters of the greatest importance, respecting their moral character, and their eternal interest and happiness; that their life is in their own hands, so far that they can determine whether they shall be virtuous and holy, and be saved, or not, with out any determination of God, respecting it, or his unpromised, undeserved, special influence, or assistance, to turn the point in their favour. And nothing can be more crossing and mortifying to this pride, than to be absolutely dependent on God for all moral good, as a free undeserved gift from him ; and for salvation, so that the whole must be determined by God, and not by man, any farther than it is the effect of the divine determination. Such absolute dependence on God, for holiness and salvation, is implied and held forth in the doctrine of election ; and no man can understandingly,

• 1 Thess. i. 4, 5, 6.

and cordially receive it, so as to have the feelings of his heart conformable to it, without “ humbling himself in the sight of the Lord.”

Every doctrine of the gospel, and the whole system of revealed truth, is levelled directly at the pride of the hu. man heart; and suited to humble man ; and when it has its proper effect, and is cordially received, this pride is slain and relinquished ; and what God, by Isaiah foretold, should be the effect of it, takes place in a very sensible, conspicuous degree. “ The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted, in that day.”* Therefore, humility, in opposition to pride and self exaltation, was frequently mentioned by our Divine Teacher, as essential to a christian : and he often said, “ Every one that exalteth himself, shall be abased : And he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.”+ And · the apostle James says to sinners, “ Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”I.

This is an evidence, among others, that the doctrine of election, is a doctrine of the gospel, in that it coincides, in this respect, with all the peculiar doctrines of divine revelation, in being suited to humble the pride of man, and exalt the sovereign grace of God; and therefore must be agreeable to the heart of every humble christian.-- In this view, it is no wonder that it should be so strongly opposed and rejected with great abhorrence and confidence, by men, with all the other most humble doctrines of the gospel ; and a scheme of sentiments be introduced in their room, which are really subversive of the gospel, and suited not to abase, but to Aatter and gratify the pride of man; according to which he has something, which he did not receive, even true virtue and holiness, the highest excellence and glory of man; and by this has made himself to differ from others, without any special distinguishing infu. ence of God; and in this respect is independent of him ; which he therefore ascribes not to the grace of God, but to himself, and glories in it. The following sentence of St. Paul is levelled at this pride and haugh. • Isaiah ï. 11, 12.

See Matt. xviii. 4. xxii. 12. Luke xiv. 11. xviii. 14.

# James iv. 10.

tiness of man, and if properly regarded, sufficient to de. molish it. " Who maketh thee to differ from another ? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive ? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it ?»*

The humbling doctrine of election may be, indeed, abused, and so improved as to gratify the pride of man, while it is not really understood, nor in truth cordially received. A man may be led to conclude, even from the pride of his heart, and without any reason, that he is elected to salvation, and herein distinguished by God, from most others ; and this may be very pleasing to his pride, while he does not understand, and in his heart admit the only ground of this distinction, when made by God : And he, at bottom, feels as if he was distinguished from others, and had received this peculiar favour, out of respect to some good thing in him, by which he differed from others. Or he attends only to the distinction itself, without considering the ground of it, and is pleased with this, and becomes a zealous, proud advocate for the doctrine of election. Therefore, many of. the opposers of this doctrine suppose, that all who are advocates for it, are pleased with it, only from selfishness and pride, because they consider themselves as the elect of God, and hereby distinguished and favoured above others. And there is, perhaps, no other way for pride to account for it, or to be reconciled to it. The true christian receives it, as glorious to God, and exalting sovereign grace, and humbling man, while he considers himself as infinitely guilty and vile, and wholly lost in his sins, and if he be saved, it must be by the distinguishing, sovereign grace of God, who has mercy on whom he will have mercy, according to his decree of election, which affords the only ground of hope to man.

II. What has been said in this section on the doctrine of particular election, may serve to discover and state the character of a true christian, so far as his views and exercises relate to this doctrine, and those connected with it.

1. This is not a discouraging doctrine to him, nor disagreeable, though he do not know that he is a chrisVOL. II,

22 * 1 Cor. iv, 7.

tian, or is elected to salvation ; but has great and prevailing doubts of this. He knows that if he were left to himself, he should not determine the point in his own favour ; but his impenitent, unbelieving heart, would reject Christ, and he go on to destruction. That he is wholly dependent on God for salvation, and if he do not determine in his favour, and have not elected him to salvation, and do not distinguish him from others, by granting him those influences, and that renovation, which they who perish have not, he shall not he saved, but perish forever. Therefore, the doctrine of election can be no matter of discouragement to him, it cannot render his case worse that it would be if none were elected: for then he could have no hope of salvation ; and the only hope he can have is grounded on this doctrine, and that he may be one of the elect. And his hope rises or sinks according to the evidence he has of this, by perceiving himself to be the subject of the regenerating, sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit : Or the contrary.

2. The true believer is pleased, with being entirely dependent on God for his salvation, and that he should determine whether he shall be saved or not; and does not desire, that he himself or others should be saved in any other way, but according to the eternal purpose of God. It is most disagreeable to him, that any creature should determine this, in any one instance. He knows it belongs to God, to decide this important matter ; that he has a right to do it, and he only is able to determine it perfectly right, agreeable to infinite wisdom and goodness, so as shall be most for his glory, and promote the interest of his kingdom. He is pleased, that in this way, God is exalted, in the exercise of sovereign grace, and the sinner humbled, and the most important interest for. ever secured and promoted in the best manner. He desires no other salvation, for himself or others, but that which is the free gift of God, and the fruit of his electing love; and which infinite wisdom sees will be most for the glory of God, and the general good; and that without knowing whether his salvation be consistent with this, or not, and whether he be one of the elect, or not.

« PreviousContinue »