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ordained some sinners to everlasting life, in due time, and by the influence of his Holy Spirit, works faith in their hearts ; and, by sanctification, prepares them for that glory, to which they were from eternity predestinated. « 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."*
Here we at once detect two errors, entertained by multitudes, in relation to the doctrine of election.
1. The first error we allude to is, that faith precedes election! There are many who assent to election; but it is an election in virtue of preceding faith and repentance. As soon as men believe, (say such) then they are elected, and not before !! This error is nearly allied to that which makes eternal election the result of foreseen faith, and good works. Both make the choice of God dependant on some excellence, real, or foreseen, in the crea ture. Now our text expressly teaches, that God's choice, so far from being influenced by any excellence in the creature, is the true cause and source of all the excellence of which the creature is ever pos-. sessed. Our text does not say, 'Because ye believe, or because it was foreseen that ye would believe, therefore hath he chosen you?' But it says expressly, · Because he hath chosen you, therefore ye believe.'-He has chosen you from the beginning; and because he has so chosen you, he has called you by the gospel, and given you his Spirit, as a spirit of faith and holiness. So God himself declares, by the Prophet Jeremiah:t... I have loved you with an everlasting love ; therefore with loving kindness bave I drawn you." We see, then, that drawing, or effectual calling, by which men are brought to the exercise of faith and repentance, is the result of eternal electing love. Faith and re:
* Rom viü. 80.
Chap. xxxi. S.
pentance are the means by which God's purpose of election is accomplished -and, of course, cannot precede, but must be consequent on that purpose. We therefore conclude, that, while it is correct and highly proper to say that no one can have evidence of his election until he believes and repents, it is a gross error to say that no one is elected until he does believe and repent.
2. The second error we have detected is this : If the doctrine of election be true, the call of the gospel-the means of grace-together with all exertions on our part to be saved-are useless, if not improper! We have already stated the connexionbetween the ends which God proposes to himself, and the means by which those ends are to be accomplished ; and have explicitly maintained, that. the preaching of the gospel is the great instrument of conversion and sanctification.
The purposes of God neither supersede the necessity of means, nor interfere with the moral agency and accountability of man.* Mao, notwithstanding the decree of God, is conscious that motives influence him--and, consequently, that he acts freely. The brethren of Joseph acted freely, although their design in this transaction was widely different from that of Jehovah. “ They meant it for evil; but the Lord meant it for good.”+ The crucifiers of our Saviour acted freely, when, with wicked hands, they
* This probably presents the greatest difficulty connected with the doctrine of Divine decrees. How the moral agency of man can consist with the predeterminations of Jehovah, we acknowledge ourselves unable to explain! But, while we make this acknowledgment, we are utterly unwilling to surrender up the truth of either. The Bible plainly asserts the doctrine of divine decrees. Our own consciousness testifies that we act from motives, and are accountable beings. Shall we then reject either, because creatures of such lunited capacities as ours cannot reconcile them?---because clouds and darkness rest between them? Surely we ought not.
& Gen. l. 20:
slew the Lord of glory. But they did no more than “ God's hand and counsel had before determined to be done.”* Saul of Tarsus acted freely when he persecuted the saints; and Paul the Apostle acted just as freely when he preached Christ, and him crucified.
The gospel is, therefore, with the greatest propriety addressed to the understandings and consciences of men ; with the utmost propriety are they urged to seek the salvation of their souls, by a faithful iinprovement of all the means of grace. God thus deals with men as rational creatures : His decree secures salvation to somewe know not to whom, or to how many: His word holds out to all a proper inducement to exert themselves to obtain the prize; and the blessing of God applied to the means gathers to himself a people, and prepares them for glory. - Mercy is thus offered to all who desire, and seek it, which none do but those whom he has enligintened; and he enlightens all whom he has predestinated to salvation.”+ Hence the propriety of all the exhortations, promises, and threatenings of the Bible : Hence the necessity of engagedness on our part, that, through divine assistance, we may « work out our own salvation with fear and trembling," and thus “ make our calling and our election sure.”
Many, disposed to wrest the Scriptures to their destruction, are indeed ready to tell us what they would do, if they believed this doctrine. "They would give themselves no solicitude : They would patiently wait for the day of grace-or else silently and sullenly sink into hell!
But, hearers, what say experience and observation on this point? Is it usual for those who believe the doctrine to act so? Do they cast off fear, and restrain prayer? Are they less engaged is
* Acts iv. 28. Calvin's Inst. vol. ii. p. 482, xvil
seeking the favour and blessing of God, in the ways. of his appointment, than others? We presume not. We know the contrary. We are not afraid to make the assertion, that those who believe the doctrine of predestination are as diligent in the use of means, and as active and faithful in the discharge of duty, as any class of men in Christendom.
And suffer me to add, that, notwithstanding all that the opposers of this doctrine may say at present, they know not how they would act if they sincerely believed it. A great change probably must take place before they will embrace this 'truth: That change will bring with it different views; and convince them of the necessity of conduct, far different from what they are at present aware of. I am not at all apprehensive, that submission in heart to the sovereignty of Jehovah will, in the smallest degree, lead to a practical denial of his authority, or an indifference about his glory and his favour. ;)
It is true, that some will urge the doctrine as a pretext for indulgence in sin. They plead the doctrine, barely to abuse it. This is the most abominable of all conduct; that those who at heart disbelieve a doctrine, should still make that doctrine a plea for continuance in sin! “ The preacher declares the doctrine of predestination to be true and then it is of no consequence how we live !" But did you believe the preacher when he asserted the truth of this doctrine ? If not; why do you suffer his declaration to influence your conduct? If you do not believe the doctrine, you certainly have no right to abuse it! “Go not about to palliate (says an author,)* nor think to extenuate your sin, by arguments fetched from God's decree. That sin of the Jews, in " crucifying the Lord of glory," was in no wise lessened, because the counsel of God had determined the thing to be done; for they perpe
* Coles' Practical Discourse, p. 38. Caution it.
wated it with wicked hands!' Nor is men's unbelief ever the less culpable, from God's eternal disposement of their conditions ; for it is not upon that consideration that they stumble at the word, or turn a deaf ear to it, or resist it; but from their own natural blindness, and enmity against it.”
Let me then, in concluding this part of the discussion, again remind you, that the doctrine, as exbibited from the pulpit, and in the lives of those who cordially embrace it, is not, and cannot be prejudicial to morality and religion ; but, on the contrary, must be highly favourable to both : For, as before stated, we never assert, that in consequence of election, unholy sinners may be saved. No; we assert, in the words of our text, that the elect are to be saved, " through sanetification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth,” and “ that they are called to this by the gospel.” “ 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."* “Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Chrisı.” “ Ye have not chosen me ; but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.”I
The doctrine of election injurious to the cause of holiness ? It is impossible. It is the spring of all holiness in men. Ti the doctrine of election were not true-if God had not determined to save some sioners, and here to train them up for heaven-there would be no more holiness on earth than there is in the abodes of darkness! So far, therefore, from opposing the doctrine of election, we have cause to rejoice and give thanks that the doctrine is true.
* Eph. i. 4..
I John xv. 16.