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mankind would believe his word and obey his will: and that, in consequence of this his foreknowledge, he determined to give eternal life to these, and to no others.
But the inconsistency of this, and that it is not the scripture doctrine of election, may, I think, very easily be made evident.
(1.) It appears rational and necessary to believe, that God's foreknowledge of future events must be grounded on his decrees concerning them; and not his decreeing that things shall be, on his knowledge that they will be. To suppose otherwise, is to make the divine will dependant on creatures and events; and creatures and events independent on the divine will. It is also to suppose what is impossible, as implying a contradiction. God foreknows the voluntary actions of all creatures, because their hearts are in his hand, as much as the rivers of water, and he turneth them whithersoever he will. Were not this the case, it would be utterly inconceivable, if not evidently impossible, that God himself should foreknow how they would act. If there were not an antecedent, eternal certainty, what the actions of men would be, their actions could not be eternally foreknown for to say that is foreknown, of which there is no certainty, must be a plain contradiction. An event must be certain, or it cannot certainly be known that it will ever be but if there were an eternal certainty what the actions of creatures would be, that certainty must have had a cause; and that cause could be no other than the decree or purpose of Him who inhabits eternity; for other eternal cause, there could have been none.
Respecting the point in hand-the future faith and good works of those sinners that will be saved; there is no hypothesis on which they could possibly have been foreknown, without a divine predestination. On the supposition that men have a self-determining K k
power, to believe or not to believe; to obey or not to obey, as some hold; then, how they will be determined, and what they will do, must be previously uncertain; and therefore, not knowable. But going on the calvinistic supposition, that creatures have no such contingent, independent, selfdetermining power; and that unregenerate sinners have no moral power to believe to the saving of the soul, or to do any works truly good, by reason of the total depravity of their hearts; then, God must be supposed to foreknow that they will never any of them do these things, until he shall give them a new disposition. If he foresaw, therefore, that any number of them would cordially believe and obey the gospel, it must be because he determined to put such an heart in them. Consequently, his electing them to eternal life could not be grounded on his foreknowledge of their doing the things required in order to their salvation; but his foreknowledge that they would do these things, must have been grounded on his purpose to give them effectual grace; working in them to will and to do, of his good pleasure.
(2.) We are thus expressly taught in the holy scriptures: not that God elected some to everlasting life, because he foresaw they would become good, of their own mere motion; but that he chose the vessels of his mercy out of the common mass of fallen men, determining to make them good, by his own internal operation. See forecited Rom. viii. 29, "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." Their conformity to Christ was an essential part of their predestination; and not the moving cause of their being predestinated. See also Eph. i. 4, "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." Not because he foreknew we would, of ourselves, be thus holy and blameless.
(3.) To suppose that God's foreknowledge of the faith and holiness of the elect, was the ground of their election, is to explain away all the grace, designed to be glorified by this doctrine. The apostle in our text, you observe, speaks of a remnant according to the election of grace. And concerning Esau and Jacob, he takes notice of a declared preference given to the younger, before their birth; that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works. But if the foreknowledge of men's good works had been the ground of it, why should it be called an election of grace? or why should care be taken to inform us of its being before the persons were born? There is no more grace in choosing men to salvation because of works certainly foreseen, than because of works already done. According to this conception of the matter, God never designed any distinction between the elect and the non-elect, only in consequence of their first making themselves to differ. But if it be thus of works, surely, it is no more grace.
The scripture doctrine of election, I think, is very evidently this: That God, of his mere goodness, and not out of respect to any works of their's, done or foreseen, elected a certain number of lost men as the subjects of his saving mercy; determining to give to them, and them only, first effectual grace, and finally immortal glory.
We will now, as was proposed,
III. Attend to the objections which are apt to arise in the minds of many, and which have often been made, against this doctrine.
1. Some may perhaps be ready to think, that for God to elect one and reprobate another, without reference to any difference between them in point of merit, is hardly consistent with his being impartially just.
To this, however, the answer is obvious. The salvation of sinners is not a matter of justice; that is, of debt. Fallen men, whose damnation is just, might all of them justly have been left to perish without hope. And if God saw fit to recover a part of them to holiness and happiness, and to leave the remainder to impenitence and perdition, these last have no injustice done them, any more than if all had been so left. Yet,
2. It may be thought that this doctrine of a limited election, and of such an infinite difference made between objects alike miserable, and alike unworthy, is irreconcilable, at least, with the equal goodness of God.
But this objection, as well as the foregoing, was particularly considered in my last discourse, as made against the doctrine of divine sovereignty in effectual calling; and it is needless now to repeat the answer then given. The substance of it was, that God may have good reasons for making these differences; and for making them exactly as he does. That a man often does more for one child, or one poor neighbor than another, without being influenced by partiality of kindness. That God hath as good a right, and it may as well consist with his equal benevolence, to bestow the blessings of saving grace, as the bounties of creation and Providence, with vast diversity, when the greater beauty and happiness of the collective whole, will thereby be promoted. That we cannot find out the Almighty unto perfection; but, from our limited view of the wisdom of his works and counsels, we have no reason to conclude, that in his most sovereign discriminations, there is not perfect impartiality of goodness, as well as of justice. But,
3. The grand objection against the doctrine now insisted on is, that it makes the doings of men of no
consequence, relative to their being saved or not; and has a direct tendency, therefore, to encourage them in carelessness and sin. Some seem to think, that if this doctrine be true a man may well say, Whether I read and hear the word, and ever so earnestly implore divine mercy, or cast off fear and restrain prayer, and live in the total neglect of all the means of grace and duties of religion: whether I be honest and just, chaste and temperate, or lie and steal, and indulge myself in all the pleasures of licentiousness and debauchery, it will make no alteration. If I am elected, I shall certainly be saved, do what I will: if I am of the non-elect, I shall inevitably be damned, do what I can. I will therefore get what I am able of this world's goods, lawfully or unlawfully, taking no thought for the world to come. This looks self-evident and unanswerable: in reply to it, however, it may be observed,
(1.) Few draw a similar inference from the general doctrine of divine decrees, and venture to act upon it, in things pertaining to the present life. Men will labor hard for the meat which perisheth, and give themselves no rest that they may join house to house, and lay field to field; they will be careful to keep out of danger, and to use means for the recovery or preservation of their health; though they are told and believe, that the bounds of their habitations and the number of their days are determined, over which they cannot pass. Why then should the doctrine of election make men careless respecting the salvation of their souls? If it has such an effect upon any, it must be because they have little faith respecting a future state; or because religion is a business from any serious attention to which they desire to be excused. It may be answered,
(2.) If men believe the Bible, whether they believe the doctrine of election or not, they must be