תמונות בעמוד

Let me observe,

2. That the proof of the fact and of the doctrine of Election, does not rest on a few insulated texts of Scripture.

A minister of the gospel, lately deceased, who was distinguished by no common share of mental energy,* discovered, on one occasion, that he had armed against himself the strongest prejudices of a very intelligent hearer, by preaching the doctrine of Election. In his private writings he thus records the conversation which ensued :

-“ I told her that I had no choice; the doctrine was not mine; nor did the evidence rest on the words 'elect and election. I advised her to read the fifth and sixth chapters of the Gospel of John, in which the word election does not once occur, but which are full of the doctrine itself. She followed my advice, and in a few days she was confirmed in the belief of this truth. I then advised her to read the seventeenth chapter of John; and she acknowledged, that it was full of the same truth. I asked her, to what conclusion her experience led her on the subject ;-whether she had chosen Christ, as the Saviour of her soul ? “ Yes," she exclaimed.

“ And do

you think he has chosen you ?” “Yes, I do," she replied. If you chose him first, I rejoined, you made yourself to differ, and salvation is of works : if the divine choice was first, your choice of Christ was the effect of it, and salvation is of grace.

This,” she added, “is the fact.” Then, I concluded, fact, matter of fact, establishes the doctrine of Election. Her

peace now flowed like a river, bearing all objections before it, and her blessedness was as the waves of the sea.

3. This doctrine does not in the least restrict the free invitations of the gospel.

That it does not, in point of fact, is evident from the unlimited overtures, appeals and persuasives, of which I have already adduced some specimens, and with which the word of God abounds. Now if I found myself incapable of reconciling these unrestricted invitations, with the divine purposes and decrees, how ought I to act ? Precisely as the man of experimental science acts, when he has ascertained two facts, or discovered two principles, which he is unable to harmonize under any theory. He has evidence of both. He therefore admits both, and he waits for further light upon a science which he acknowledges to be but imperfectly understood. But in the case before us, let us not unduly magnify the difficulty supposed. Let us not imagine it to be greater than it really is. God has given to men unrestricted invitations to embrace the gospel



• The Rev. John Cooke, of Maidenhead.

and to receive its benefits. God has given these invitations in full sincerity. He has given them on the ground of the finished and accepted redemption of his beloved Son. That redemption being complete, there remains no obstacle to the salvation of any human being to whom the gospel is addressed, except such as may exist in his own heart. If he accept the invitation, he is saved. There is no impediment to its acceptance on the part of the blessed God. There is no hindrance except it arise from the disinclination of the mind itself. The only barrier between the sinner and salvation is his cherished unbelief.

4. This doctrine does not, in the slightest degree, affect man's obligation to repent and to believe the gospel.

Man's responsibility arises out of his rational and moral nature, and his relation to the God that made him. He does not cease be accountable, because he has made himself sinful; for were this the case, a man would only have to become a depraved and abandoned transgressor, in order to exonerate himself from all further obligation to obey the Author of his existence. Every human being to whom the gospel is sent, is under an obligation immediately to receive and obey it, because it is a communication from the God of truth; because it is the testimony of Him who cannot lie; and because it is accompanied by a direct and peremptory command to believe. How then can any man maintain, in excuse for unbelief or impenitence, a plea of inability ? Into what did our blessed Lord himself resolve that inability ? Into nothing more or less than disinclination and disaffection. “ Ye will not come unto me,” said the Saviour, " that ye may have life.”

5. This fact,—that there is a divine Election, does not create an obstacle to the salvation of any human being.

From the remarks already made, it is apparent, that if any man perish, he must perish in consequence of his own unbelief. In the investigation of the word of God, I discover no traces of any decree involving an appointment to wrath irrespective of guilt. Throughout the Bible, the perdition of the soul is ascribed, not to God's decree, but to man's transgression. No human being will be condemned at the last day, on the ground of not being included in the election of grace.

Even those who are not included in this purpose are only in the situation in which all men, without exception, must have been, had there been no election. But no one, whilst an inhabitant of earth, can be authorized to arrive at the conclusion, that he is not included in the election of God. There may be indeed, at present, the absence of all evidence in favour of an individual. It may be awfully evident that he is still in impenitence; but who can, by any possibility, ascertain the undeveloped purpose of God? Who can close against him the door of hope, or declare him to be no object of the divine compassion ? Let not then the mind of any anxious inquirer after salvation be distracted by continually agitating the question-"Am I one of the elect?" Let such be persuaded to wave, for the present, an inquiry which belongs rather to a more advanced stage of progress in religion. Other solicitudes are more imperative and more momentous.

Let the first inquiry be—“ How shall I escape the wrath to come e?And let the apostolic direction give repose to the spirit : "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

6. This doctrine, rightly understood, has no tendency unfavourable to the interests of practical religion.

It has been justly observed, that the Epistle, from which the text is taken, is one of the most practical parts of the word of God. Nearly one half of this Epistle is occupied with the enforcement of practical duties; yet, in the very commencement, the apostle was directed, by the Holy Spirit, to give a prominence to the doctrine of election. But observe attentively the traces of divine wisdom in consulting and securing the interests of holiness, even in the doctrinal statement itself. In the passage before us, the apostle asserts, that God has not only chosen his people that they may be saved, but also that they may be “ holy and without blame before him in love.” Now if God has chosen them to salvation “through sanctification of the Spirit,” which is elsewhere explicitly asserted, nothing can be more absurd or extravagant, than to expect salvation without the sanctification of the Spirit. Will any man then venture to say, in defiance alike of scripture and common sense,—“ If I am one of the elect I shall be saved, let me live as I please !”– Ought he not to be recalled from his infatuation, by simply reminding him, that, according to the scripture doctrine of election, he cannot be saved without being holy? Will any one say,—“ If I am one of the elect, I must be saved, but if I am not one of the elect, I cannot be saved ; therefore I need give myself no concern about my salvation !” Is there a man willing to beguile his soul, and to lose his soul, by such wretched sophistry ? man hazard his claim to rationality, by acting on such principles, in the affairs of the present life? Will any man say,—“If I am to be rich, I shall be rich, therefore I will give myself no trouble to increase my property? If I am to be supported, I shall be supported, therefore I will submit to no labour to obtain the means of subsistence ?” Will any man say,—“ If I am to recover from my disorder, I shall recover, therefore I will consult no physician, I will

Will any

take no medicine ?” Does not every man at once admit, and act on the admission, that the means and the end are to be associated together, in all our arrangements, and in all our anticipations? If common sense then be important in the concerns of this life, why should its dictates be set at defiance in the concerns of the life to come?

Let me now ask, what is the practical effect of endeavouring, by scriptural methods, to ascertain the fact of our election?

Hear the inculcation of this endeavour by the apostle Peter : “ Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure (that is, evident and certain in your own view); for if ye do these things ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” *

Now what are the things to which the apostle here refers, as the satisfactory evidences of being the objects of the divine choice? What are the things which he urges them diligently to pursue, in order that the evidence might be fully before their minds? “Giving all diligence," said the apostle, “add to your faith virtue (or fortitude); and to fortitude, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly-kindness; and to brotherly-kindness, charity." These fruits of righteousness then—these fruits of the Spirit, would be the satisfactory evidence that they were renewed in heart, that they were united to Christ, that they were led by the Spirit, that they were the children of God, and consequently that they must have been chosen in Christ, “before the foundation of the world, that they might be holy and without blame before him in love." Is it not then distinctly apparent, that the very effort to ascertain, by scriptural methods, the fact of our election, is conducive to the cultivation of holiness?

Having then endeavoured to present a scriptural view of the doctrine in question, and to guard against injurious misconceptions of its nature and tendency, it only remains for me,

III. To exhibit the effects, which a correct view and a cordial reception of this doctrine are calculated to produce on the mind and heart of the believer.

1. The belief of this doctrine is calculated to extend and to elevate our views of the character of God.

What a stupendous manifestation is given, in the covenant of grace, of God's unmerited, unbounded and eternal love! In the

. 2 Pet. i. 10, 11.


prospect of man's apostasy, in the distinct foreknowledge of the multitude and the malignity of the sins of innumerable transgressors, did the God of love not only arrange


but also secure its signal triumphs, in favour of every individual of the vast aggregate of those who should be redeemed by the blood of his Son, and should eternally encircle the throne of his glory. It is true, that in this wondrous economy of redeeming love, divine sovereignty is as conspicuous as divine compassion. But in these blended glories, is there any thing which should offend us? Is the divine sovereignty either at variance with equity, or at variance with love? If the justice of God would have been unimpeachable, had all the guilty been consigned to perdition, shall the sovereignty of God be impeached, because, without assigning the reasons of its selection, it imparts to many the blessings deserved by none ? Shall we murmur because the God of wisdom and the God of love reigns as a sovereign on the throne of heaven, refusing to none their due, but giving to many that on which they have no claim ? “ Is thine eye evil because he is good ?” Art thou, in thine heart, unwilling that God should reign ? Among the ends to be answered by the disclosure of the doctrine before us, is not this one—that it may be a test of loyal and dutiful attachment to the Sovereign of the universe ? Does it not, in many instances, detect a spirit of disaffection and hostility to heaven's Lord ? Ought it not to produce an effect precisely the reverse ? Is there any thing unamiable or repulsive or discouraging in the aspect under which this doctrine exhibits the character of God? Can He be reluctant to shew mercy who formed the original design, and arranged the harmonious system, and established the eternal covenant of redeeming love ? Can He be reluctant to shew mercy, who chose in Christ Jesus a countless multitude of the unworthy and the vile, and gave them to the Son of his love, that they might be redeemed by his blood and renewed by his grace ? Can He be reluctant to shew mercy, who has removed every obstacle to the return of the repentant sinner, and given utterance to his benignant compassion in the following edict of mercy: “ Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."*

of mercy,

* Isa. lv. 7-9.

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