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vation. It is not owing to any thing which we had done, that the gospel is sent to us, and that we werç born and have been educated under it. All this must be ascribed to the pure favor of God. He chose the Ephesians, not because they were holy, but that they might be holy. He predestinated them, and made known to them the mystery of his will, according to the good pleasure which he purposed in himself. In this sense the Apostle applies the words of the prophet, “ I am found of them who sought me not; I am made manifest to them who inquired not after me."
Farther : If we consider election as it respects the first awakening influence of the Spirit of God on the hearts of obstinate sinners, whereby they are excited to seek the mercy of God with earnestness, and to attend on the means of salvation with diligence, it is here also sovereign and unconditional. For that sinners, dead in their trespasses, should be awakened to consid. eration, inquiry, and an attendance on the means of life, must be owing, not to their own previous good dispositions, but to some special Providence, seasonable word, or internal influence, which was not of their seeking. Accordingly our Saviour says, “ Behold, I stand at the door and knock : If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come is to him and sup with him, and he with me." His knocking is from his own motion, not from the invitation of sinners : That is the occasion of their opening ; not this the occasion of his knocking.
Again : If election be considered as it respects the grace of God in the conversion of sinners, I think, it may be called sovereign and unconditional. To pre. vent mistakes, I would qualify this observation.
The gospel comes to men accompanied with thọ Spirit, which is given to convince them of sin, awaken in them an apprehension of danger and excite their attention to the means of safety. Such exercises ordi. parily precede conversion. And as sinners more
readily yield to these motions of the Spirit, and more diligently apply the means of religion, they have more reason to expect the grace which will prove effectual, “ Whosoever hath, to him shall be given.” In this sense I di'mit, that converting grace may be called conditional. But where shall we find those who have never resisted the Spirit of grace, or neglected the means of salvation ? To sinners under this guilt and forfeiture, God can be under no obligation, by justice or promise, to grant the presence of his renewing, or the return of his awakening grace, or even the prolongation of life. If the continuance of life, and the repeated excitations of the Spirit, are sovereign and unpromised mercies, converting grace is no less so. Saving bene. fits are never promised to sinners on any conditions, but those which imply a change of character.
Now if among those who have alike abused and forfeited the grace of God, some are reclaimed, and others left in a state of sin, I can see no violation of justice or of promise ; for none, on either of these grounds, had a claim to the benefit. The former must adore God's mercy ; the latter condemn their own perverseness. The mercy granted to those is no prejudice to these. Election then, in relation to converting grace, is, in this sense, absolute, that it is the result of God's good pleasure, and not the effect of any condition actually performed by the sinner, in virtue of which he could claim it.
But then, if we consider election, as it respects the final bestowment of salvation, it is plainly conditional. This God gives, and this he determines to give only to such as are made meet for it. To imagine, that he chooses some to eternal life without regard to their faith and holiness, is to suppose that some are saved without these qualifications, or saved contrary to his purpose. It is the express declaration of scripture, << Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. --God hath chosen us to salvation through sanctification of
the spirit and belief of the truth.” The terms of salvation are in the gospel clearly stated ; and we must not imagine, that, contrary to this statement, there is a secret purpose, which will open the door of salvation to the finally impenitent, against whom the gospel has shut it, or will shut the door against the sincerely penitent, to whom the gospel has opened it.
Whatever difficulties may attend this doctrine, so much is plain ; They who are chosen to salvation, are chosen to be holy. And whatever doubts we may have concerning our own election, we may make it sure, by adding to our faith the virtues and works of
“If we do these things we shall never fall."
We proceed, · II. To consider the spiritual qualifications, to which the Ephesians were chosen. "God chose them to be holy and without blame before him in love."
There is a relative or ceremonial holiness often applied to persons and things, on account of their separation from a common to a sacred use. But more usually the term denotes a real, internal purity, in opposition to moral pollution or sin. This is the sense of it in the text. To be holy is to be “ without blame in the sight of God.”
Holiness consists in the conformity of the soul to the divine nature and will; and is opposed to all moral evil. In fallen creatures it begins in the renovation of the mind after the image of God. Hence Christians are said “to be renewed in the spirit of their minds, and to be made new creatures." In this change the heart is formed to the love of God's character and will, and to a hatred of whatever appears contrary to them.
They who love the Lord, hate evil.” This renovation, though imperfect in degree, yet extends to the whole man, so that “all things become new.” And though the renewed Christian in many thirgs offends, yet he has respect to all God's commands. He desires
to be without blame before God. He contents not himself with his present imperfect measure of goodness, but is solicitous to cleanse himself from all filthiness, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God. With this view he attends on all divine institutions. He desires the pure milk of God's word that he may grow thereby. He receives with meekness the engrafted word, hoping that it may save his soul. He is not disgusted at a reproof or warning, because it comes home to his case ; he regards it as a word in season, is thankful for it, and bumbly applies it. When he hears the word, it is not that he may find matter for objection and cavil, or that he may apply what he hears to others, but that he may know himself more intimately, understand his duty more perfectly, and do God's will more acceptably.
When he comes to the ordinance of the supper, he desires there to remember and show forth the death of his Saviour. He does not expect to be accepted, merely because he eats and drinks in Christ's presence ; he considers that he must also depart from iniquity. He is not aiming at a name to live, but at real improvement in the spiritual life. He attends to the great things exhibited in this ordinance, such as the evil and danger of sin, the ruined condition of the human race, the mercy of God in providing for them a Saviour, and the love of Christ in giving bimself a sacrifice to God for the sins of men. By the contemplation of these things he strengthens his purpose of obedience, his faith in the Redeemer, his gratitude to God, and his love to all men.
We may observe farther, that the Apostle consid. ers lode as a main branch of holiness. “ God hath chosen us to be holy and without blame before him in love."
When the word love, in the sacred writings, is used indefinitely, and without limitation to a particular object, love to men, and especially to the brethren, is usually intended.
So the word is to be understood
here, as appears from the 15th verse of this chapter, and from the parallel place in the epistle to the Colossians, where the Apostle gives thanks for their faith in Christ and love to the saints.
Love is, every where in scripture, considered as a most essential part of the character of the saint. Charity out of a pure heart is the end of the commandment. Christians are above all things to put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. Believers have purified their souls in obeying the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren. Brotherly kindness and charity are the graces, which complete the Christian character.
Let us remember then, that withcut charity all our pretentions to gospel holiness are vain. We may talk with the tongue of men and angels; we may discover a fervent zeal in matters which bear some relation to religion ; we may have much knowledge of the mysteries of revelation ; we may profess a strong faith ; we may be liberal of our substance in promoting some favorite designs, which we call pious ones ; but if we have no charity, all is nothing-or nothing but glare and noise. That charity which belongs to the Christian temper, is kind and longsuffering, opposite to pride, ostentation and envy. It is humble and peaceable, meek and condescending—not easily provoked, not apt to censure. It rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. It beareth, hopeth and believeth al things.