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THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION
ILLUSTRATED AND ESTABLISHED.
WHATEVER may be our views concerning the doctrine of Election, in whatever perplexity and darkness it may to our minds be enveloped, or however strenuously we may deny it; it is involved in no such perplexity as is sometimes imagined. It is one of those important, plain, practical truths, which must be believed and loved.
In endeavoring to give as scriptural and intelligible view of this subject as I can, I propose
To illustrate the doctrine ;
I. I am to illustrate, or explain the doctrine of Election.
This is the more needful, because it is sometimes identified with things that are not true, and often confounded with things that are true, but which are foreign to the subject. Let it be observed, therefore,
1. That it is no part of the doctrine of Election, that God created a part of mankind merely to damn them. This is often said by those who wish to bring the doctrine into contempt. But it is not true. The ultimate object for which God created all men is the advancement of his own glory. He will punish multitudes of the human race with everlasting destruction from his presence ;” but he did not bring them into being merely for the sake of punishing them. 6. God is love." There is not one malevolent emotion rankling in his bosom. It is one of the foulest stains that was ever cast upon his spotless character, to admit the thought that he brought creatures into being merely for the purpose of making them forever miserable. In itself, he desires the salvation of every living man. We have his oath, “ that he has no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.” If hc destroys the wicked, it is because their perdition is inseparable from the promotion of his own glory, and the highest good of his kingdom, and not because it is well pleasing to his benevolent mind, or the ultimate object of their creation.
2. It is no part of the doctrine of Election, that Christ died exclusively for the Elect. Such a representation is an unjustifiable perversion of the doctrine, and exposes it to unanswerable objections. Though there would have been no atonement but for God's design to save the elect, and though there could have been no designs of mercy toward the elect without an atonement; yet the doctrine of atonement and election are two distinct things. Much idle breath and illiberal crimination might have been spared, by giving them that place in the Christian system which they hold in the word of God. It has never yet been proved that Christ died exclusively for the elect. If language has any meaning, we are bound to believe that " he tasted death for every man." One would imagine that if the apostle had intended to put this question forever at rest, he could not have said more than he has in these memorable words : “ And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world,”
3. It is no part of the doctrine of Election, that the Elect will be saved let them do what they will. The immutable law of the divine kingdom has made personal holiness essential to eternal life. It is not less certain that no man will see the Lord without holiness,” than that no man will see the Lord unless he be of the selection of grace.
The elect cannot be saved unless they possess supreme love to God, sincere contrition for all their sins, and faith unfeigned in the Lord Jesus Christ. The elect can no more enter heaven without being prepared for it than the non-elect. If a man continues stupid and secure, if he never reads the scriptures, if he never attends upon the word and ordinances, if he is never anxious for the salvation of his soul, if he never repents and believes the gospel, if he never becomes the follower of the meek and lowly Jesus; he may rest assured there is nothing in the doctrine of election that will save him. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
4. It is no part of Election, that the non-elect will not be saved if they do as well as they can. If they would
repent and believe the gospel,” there is nothing in the doctrine of Election that would destroy them. If they would become reconciled to God, he would regard them with favor. If they would “ come to Christ,” they should " in no wise be cast out." Let the non-elect do their duty, and they will be saved. Nay, let them possess one holy desire, and they will be saved. And if they will not do this, it does not become them to wrest the doctrine of Election and say, it is an essential part of it that, do what they will, they must be lost. Not une of the non-elect will be lost, unless he persist in impenitence, reject the offers of mercy to the last, and die in his sins.
5. It is no part of the doctrine of Election, that the non-elect cannot comply with the terms of the gospel. The efforts to vindicate the doctrine of election without separating it from this unscriptura! notion, have not only proved futile, but done harm. There is but one thing that prevents the non-elect from accepting the offers of mercy, and that is their cherished enmity against God. We are well aware that the scriptures represent it to be impossible for men to do what they are unwilling to do. Hence says our Saviour, “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him.” His idea doubtless is, that men cannot come to him, because they are unwilling to come ; for he had just said, in the course of the same address, “ And ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” He supposes that mere unwillingness renders it impossible for them to come. This mode of speaking not orly runs through the Bible, but is agreeable to the plainest dictates of reason and common
All the inability of the non-elect therefore to comply with the terms of the gospel, arises from their unwillingness to comply. Their inability is of a moral, and not a physical nature. It is a criminal impotence. It consists in nothing but their own voluntary wickedness. While, therefore, it is proper to say, that men cannot do what they are unwilling to do, it is also proper to say, that they can do what they are willing to do. It is no perversion of language to say, that a knave can be honest, or that a drunkard can be temperate ; for every one knows that they could be, if they would. Hence it is no perversion to say, that a sinful man can become holy, or that the non-elect can comply with the terms of the gospel. Their unwillingness lays them under no natural inability, and may at any time be removed by their being willing. The non-elect are just as able to repent and believe the gospel as the elect, if they were but disposed to do so. They are as capable of doing right as of doing wrong. The doctrine of election leaves them in full possession of all their powers as moral agents, and all possible liberty to choose or refuse the offers of mercy. But for his voluntary wickedness, Judas was as able to accept the gospel as Paul. The non-elect are able to comply with the terms of the gospel, if they choose to do it. It is therefore their own choice, and not the decree of election, that shuts them out of the kingdom of heaven. All representations of the doctrine of election, therefore, that deny the non-elect natural power to comply with the overtures of mercy, form no part of that doctrine as it is exhibited in the Bible.
But if none of these things belong to the doctrine of election, what is it ? For the sake of a clear understanding of the subject, several things must be particularly observed.
1. All mankind are by nature in a state of sin and condemnation. They are “ estranged from the womb."; The " imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.” By the apostacy of their first parents, sin and the curse are the birth-right of all their natural descendants from generation to generation ; so that by their offence, all their posterity come into the world with a corrupt nature, and under the wrath of God.
2. Notwithstanding the native corruption of the human heart, and the lost condition of all mankind by nature, God has provided a full and complete atonement for all their sins. The atonement was made, not for the elect or non-elect, as such, but all men as sinners. loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him, might not perish, but have everlasting life.” The atonement of Christ is sufficient for ali, adapted to all, offered to all, and irrespective of
66 God so
the divine purpose as to its effectual application, made as much for one man as another.
3. Notwithstanding the unlimited provision of the gos pel, all with one consent reject the overtures of mercy, and will not come unto Christ that they might have life. Left to himself, every individual of the human race will reject the Saviour and plunge to perdition. No sense of guilt and danger, no consciousness of obligation and duty, no pressure of motives will constrain a living man to lay down the arms of rebellion and be reconciled to God. If the Spirit of God does not appear in the glory of his grace to wrest the weapons of revolt from his hands and make the sinner willing in the day of his power, all are lost and Christ is dead in vain.
4. This sad result God has determined to prevent. He does not mean that all mankind shall finally perish. He does not intend that they shall rob him of his glory, nor his Son of the reward of his death. Some he saves. There is a part he rescues from themselves and from perdition. This number is definite. His eye is upon them. When in the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity, he sends his Spirit to convince them of their lost condition, to show them their need of mercy, to make his word quick and powerful, to create them anew in Christ Jesus, and to make them meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. He begins, carries on, and completes the work, and receives them at last to “ the glory which is to be revealed."
5. God does this from design. Who are saved and who lost, is not with him a matter of indifference. He has not committed the destiny of souls to the obscure omnipotency of chance. He formed a purpose to renew, and sanctify, and justify, and glorify a certain part of our fallen race. He formed this purpose from eternity. This design is an eternal design, this determination an eternal, irrevocable decree.
6. In doing this, it is important to remark, that God is governed by a wise regard to his own good pleasure. He does not sanctify and save one part of mankind rather than another, because one part is better than another. The elect are no more worthy of being made the objects of regenerating and redeeming grace, than the non-elect.