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winds.” Then will he preach the doctrine of election to an assembled universe, loud as the thunders of the archangel's trump. To those on his right hand, he will say,
blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom PREPARED FOR YOU FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD."
I am aware that all the passages we can bring in support of election, may be ingeniously explained away, so as to “ please men;" and so can any truth contained in the Bible. The Universalist professes to be able, in this way, to erase the idea of future punishment from its pages. The Unitarian, also, will tell you that he can explain away the doctrine of Christ's divinity. For my own part I cannot conscientiously pursue such a course, I would sooner deny the scriptures altogether, than attempt an evasion of their proper meaning. Various expedients have been employed to evade the passages which treat of election; and some have entertained unfriendly feelings towards us, because we could not adopt their expositions. Let us then examine some of them, and see whether we are so highly censurable in rejecting them.
1. Some tell us that ALL MANKIND were “ chosen in Christ." But let us try this mode of exposition upon a few passages. Eph. 1:4,5.
66 He hath chosen (all mankind) in him before the foundation of the world-Having predestinated (all mankind) unto the adoption of children.” Again, Rom. 8: 30. “He did predestinate (all mankind]-called—justified-and glorified" them. This is universal salvation without much disguise.
2. Others explain the passages quoted, of an election of nations, and not of persons. But has God ever « chosen to salvation" nations, as such? Has he“ predestinated” whole nations “ unto the adoption of children,” and given them to Christ? Well, if so, they will all come to him. Having been “ predestinated,” they will be “ called-justified-and glorified;” and as nations consist of particular persons, it is after all, a personal election.
3. Another expedient, to get rid of the doctrine, is, to explain those scriptures as meaning, that God predestinated some unto salvation, because he knew that they would believe and be saved, at all events. I cannot adopt this scheme for several reasons. The FIRST is, that it is not countenanced by the scriptures. It is true, Peter says, “ Elect according to the foreknowledge of God.” And we admit that God's election of men is according to his foresight of the fall and ruined condition of our race; and to his knowledge of the certainty, that without the interposition of his special grace, all would refuse his mercy and perish. But the inspired writer does not intimate that he chose any because he knew they would have faith. Paul also says, “Whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate.” But the verb know is often used to signify love. Thus, “ I know my sheep and am known of mine.” “ Depart from me, I never knew you.'
So in this case,
" Whom he did fore-know," or love from eternity, “ them he did predestinate," " called,” &c. agreeably to his declaration in Jeremiah, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, THEREFORE with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” 31:3.
My SECOND. difficulty, in adopting the above scheme, is, that it disagrees with the scripture. The apostle says,
“God hath chosen you-through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” So far are faith and ho liness in man, from being the moving causes of his election, that they are only the means through which God fulfils his designs of mercy. So, again,“ as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Here it is evidently the design of the sacred writer, to represent the faith of believers as proceeding from the purpose of God to save, not that purpose as proceeding from their faith. Besides, the expression, “according to the good pleasure of his will;" and “ according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will,” plainly imply sovereignty in the predestinating aci.
Thirdly. I shall mention one more difficulty in the way of adopting the expedient referred to. Faith is either the work of man in his own heart; or it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Either man or God, is the prime, moving cause of its existence. If man be that cause; if we suppose that faith owes its existence in his heart to any work of his; then, to say that God chose some to salvation, because he foresaw their faith, is to say that he chose them “ according to their works,” which the apostle denies. Besides: it represents God as moved in his designs of mercy, by something good foreseen in the creature: for faith is something good. St. Jude calls it “ holy faith.”
It would follow of course that when the apostle gave thanks to God for his own election and that of others, he is to be understood as merely ex. pressing gratitude, that the LORD had foreseen their faith; and his language is to be paraphrased as follows,
“ God, I thank thee that, as thou knewest well, I would not be as other men are; thou knewest that I would have faith whilst others would remain in unbelief. Thou' knewest there would be something in me, that would lead me to Christ and salvation. And foreseeing this good disposition of mine, thou didst choose me to salvation in preference to other Jews. And for this reason, thou didst meet me, when on my way to Damascus I was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against thy disciples.” Was this the meaning of the apostle, when he gave thanks to God for his election? No.
“ Not according to our works” says he, “but according to his own purpose, and grace.”
But faith is not of man. It is wrought in the heart by the blessed Spirit. God is its prime moving cause. The scripture assures us that it is not of ourselves,” but “the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph. 2:8,9. Jesus is said to be “the author and finisher of faith." Heb. 12:2. And it is placed among the “ fruits of the Spirit.” Gal. 5:22 If, then, God from eternity knew, that some would have faith, he knew that it would be a gift bestowed by himself; inasmuch as left to themselves, not one would ever corne to Christ. And how did he certainly know that he would bestow that gist, unless he had already resolved to bestow it? And why had he resolved to bestow it, unless he had already formed a determination to save; which is the same thing, as election?
Have we not reason to suspect the soundness of any system, which cannot be supported without elaborate criticisms, numerous evasions of scripture texts, and frequent alterations in the translation? And may not our suspi. cion be confirmed, when we see the advocates of that system plainly mani. festing a dislike to some parts of the Bible, never referring to them, except it be to do away their obvious meaning, and appearing always displeased, when they are read or quoted, even without comment, by others? Do not these things betray a lurking consciousness of holding some opinions, not easily reconciled with the word of God?
I proceed now, to reply to a few objections, which may be urged against the doctrine of election.
Obj. 1st. 66 If am not one of the elect, what good will it do if I go to Christ?"
Answ. Just as much good as if you knew you were elected. Election cannot injure you. It only touches the question whether any shall be con. strained to come. But if you are willing to come, God has solemnly promised to save you at all events.
Obj. 2d. If election be true, how can God be sincere in his invitations to all, to believe and be saved?
Answ. He is sincere, because if all men would repent and believe the gospel, they would infallibly be saved; and because he requires of them, in order to their salvation, only what it is their duty to do, and what they are blameable for not doing; and further, because he is most willing that his invitation should be accepted. Again: it is only on account of the universal rejection of his offers, that he makes any selection at all from among mankind. In eternity, when he formed his purpose of special mercy, he viewed mankind as having already refused his overtures. Their relusal, as to the order in which it stood, in the divine mind, was prior to that purpose. Election represents God as saying, “ I will make an unlimited offer of pardon to mankind, and as they will all refuse it, I shall interpose by my special grace, and constrain some to submission.” Hence it is plain that his offers are just as sincere, as they would have been, if he had not formed a purpose to save a single one of mankind. Obj. 3d.
This doctrine represents God as partial, and as a “respecter of persons."
Answ. I grant that God is discriminating in his goodness. This is visible wherever you turn your eyes. He gave nobler powers to men than to worms, to angels than to men. He passed by the rebel angels, and provided a way of mercy for Adam's race. He has passed by the heathen, and sent his gospel to us. He brings one person into being, to become the child of many prayers and instructions, while another is left to the corrupting influence of evil example. But is God therefore partial, or a “respecter of persons"? “ No;" you reply, “ because he has wise reasons for making these differences.” Very well: this is the very answer we intended giving to your objection. Partiality is an unreasonable, capricious, or unjust preference of one person above another. But God is not actuated by caprice in choosing some to eternal life, for he has wise reasons not always known to us, for what he does. He is not unjust, for he gives to no one less than he deserves. He does not respect the persons of the great, the learned, or the noble of this world, for he calls “not many” of them. He does not accept the person of the rich, on account of his wealth, but has “ chosen the poor.” He still treats them uniformly according to their moral characters, so that “ in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him."
Ohj. 4. If election be true why need I use any exertions to obtain salvation?
Answ. God's decree, instead of taking away the necessity of means, rather establishes it. He determined to save Noah by means of the ark, but that did not render the ark unnecessary. He determined to save Paul and his fellow passengers from shipwreck, by the exertions of the sailors; but did this render their exertions superfluous? God had promised to give him all that sailed with him. Yet, as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, “Paul said to the Centurion, Ercept these abide in the ship, YE CANNOT BE SAVED, Because God had determined to deliver these States from European oppression, by the instrumentality of Washington and his compatriots, does it follow that there was no need of their services? And if God has determined to bless you with a bounteous harvest, does that prove that you may safely neglect to sow the seed? So, if you leave your salvation to God's decrees, without any anxiety or exertion on your part, you will sink to hell in spite of election. Chosen," says the Apostle “ sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”
Obj. 5. The doctrine of election is discouraging.
Answ. Who is disheartened by it? Ministers of the gospel? No: it affords them the greatest encouragement they can enjoy. Was it, think you, disheartening to Paul, when visiting the corrupt city of Corinth, to be told by the Lord, “ I have much people in this city”? O, take not from us this most precious truth of the Bible! Under the burdens and trials of the ministry, we must sink without it. But is this doctrine discouraging to praying Christians? O, no. They never beg of God to convert a careless sinner without a tacit confession of its truth and preciousness, made in pleading with the Lord, that he would himself determine the question of the man's salvation, by the interposition of his own special constraining influence. believed by them, that the destiny of immortal souls had been committed to chance, or to the wayward inclinations of the natural heart, the lips of prayer would be sealed in everlasting silence. To whom, then, is the doctrine discouraging?
To the anxious sinner? No. He casts himself upon this glorious truth as his last hope. When driven from all his “refuges of lies," he is brought to feel, that " if discriminating mercy does not pluck him from the pit, he forever sinks. He feels that he must take his life in his hand, and cast himself at the footstool of sovereignty, pouring out this sum of all his hopes • Lord if thou wilt thou canst make me clean.'” No, my brethren; this doctrine takes away none but false self-righteous hopes.
Says one, " I should like this doctrine if I were a christian, but it makes me uneasy while I continue in sin.” But do you therefore wish it were false? Because you will not accept of mercy, do
wish all others to refuse it? Because you choose to continue in sin and perish, can you not be contented to perish alone? Must you have the whole world sink to despair with you? Because you will force your way to perdition, do you wish to drag down the redeemed from heaven to mingle their wailings with yours! O! who are they that indulge this spirit? Are they men? or are they devils?
Obj. 6. The doctrines of predestination and election are mysterious.
some degree, mysterious. But is that a good reason for rejecting them! Can you fully comprehend the sublime doctrine of the Trinity? Can you give a satisfactory answer to the question, how sin found an entrance into heaven? Can you explain to me the nature of the union between mind and matter? Can you tell me how the grain you cast into the earth, “ springeth up and groweth?" To say you will not believe what you do not fully comprehend, is to deny the greatest part of human knowledge, is to cast contempt upon the revelation of heaven itself.
Does any one say, “My system has no mysteries in it. I can easily reconcile all difficulties that occur.” Then, my friend, your system is most certainly false. For Peter tells us that there are some things in Paul's epistles “hard to be understood, which they that are UNLEARNED and unSTABLE, wrest”...
What those things are, it is easy to imagine. And if they were “hard” to an inspired apostle, how is it that they are all so easy to you? No, my friend, if your system has no mysteries in it, it is not the system of the Bible; for “great is the mystery of godliness.”
Obj. 7. It is objected that these doctrines do harm.
Ans. Are they doctrines of the Bible? and is it not true that “ ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God—and is profitable"? But how is it they do harm? By rendering Christians negligent? The apostle Paul was a most zealous advocate of the doctrines, and did he neglect the service of his Divine Master? Did he labor less than the other apostles? Are Calvinists, at the present day, less engaged than others in Bible, Tract, Temperance, and Missionary Societies, in Sunday Schools, and other efforts for the conversion of the world? Will it be said that the doctrines exert an injurious influence upon society? Let us appeal to fact. Which are the most moralized portions of Continental Europe; and what is their prevailing creed? What part of Great Britain is most distinguished for purity of morals; and what theological system predominates! Nay, apply these questions to our own country, and the objection will vanish.
I grant there is one way in which they may do harm. When men labor to impress the public mind with the idea, that Calvinists believe that God is the author of sin; that they deny free-agency, and consider the use of means unnecessary; I say, when efforts are used to impress such ideas upon people, some will take occasion to say, “ If all these large and respectable bodies hold such sentiments, there is a strong probability of their truth, and we may be safe in acting accordingly.” In this way harm may be, and is often done, not by the truth, but by its enemies. The doctrines have many important uses. They display, in a clear light, the total depravity and enmity of ti e human heart, in that, without the special agency of the Holy Spirit, all would have rejected the overtures of reconciliation. They shew the sinner his inexcusableness, whilst continuing in sin. They discover to the Christian what he would have been but for constraining grace; and teach him to give the glory to God alone, who " has made him to differ” from others. They make it apparent, that God is not such an one as ourselves, and thus correct those false notions of his character, which we are apt to entertain. They display the mercy of God in its most transcendently glorious point of view, as making a last desperate effort in behalf of a sinking world. They are set in the scriptures as " a sign to be spoken against-that the thoughts of many hearts