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On the Doctrine of Election.
WHAT has been said in the fourth chapter of the first part, on the decrees of God, includes and establishes the doctrine of particular election; and this doctrine has been supposed, and in a measure brought into view, a number of times, in the foregoing sections: But it is thought expedient, and of importance, that it should be more particularly considered, explained and vindicated. And this will be most properly done in the chapter on 143the application of redemption, as this limits the application, and points out the subjects to whom it is effectually applied, and who, in the issue, receive the whole benefit of redemption.
The doctrine of election imports, that God, in his eternal decree, by which he determined all his works, and fixed every thing, and every event, that shall take place to eternity, has chosen a certain number of mankind to be redeemed, fixing on every particular person, whom he will save, and giving up the rest to final impenitence, and endless destruction.
This doctrine may be explained, and the evidence of the truth of it produced, by attending to the following propositions;
1. Mankind are entirely dependent on God, on his determination, and sovereign mercy for salvation. All creatures depend on God, for all the good they have.—Their existence, and all their enjoyments, are the fruit of his determination and appointment, which has made the difference between one and another, in every respect. But man is, in a peculiar sense and degree, dependent on the sovereign will and pleasure of God for salvation. He is utterly lost in sin; not only infinitely guilty, and deserving to be destroyed forever; but wholly inclined to rebellion, and fixed in a disposition to oppose God in every method he can take to recover and save him, unless his heart be renewed by almighty power and grace; to which favour none have the least claim, or can have, but are infinitely unworthy of it. And when the way was open for the pardon and salvation of sinful man, by what the Mediator had done and suffered, consistent with the divine law and righteousness: yet none could be saved, unless they be renewed by the Spirit of God, and made willing in the day of his power. This therefore depends on the determination and purpose of God; and he “has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will, he hardeneth.” God being under no obligation to save any one of mankind, it must depend on his sovereign will, whether any should be saved: And if any, whether all, or only a part of mankind: And if only some of them, how many, and the particular persons that should be subjects of 144this favour. This must be determined by God; for there is no other being that has a right to determine it, or that can do it; and it is impossible that God should not determine it. He is infinitely powerful and wise, he knew what was best to be done, and it wholly depended on him to determine and do that which is on the whole wisest and best. It belonged to him to decide and fix every thing respecting this matter, “who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will.”
II. It is infinitely best, and most desirable, that this should be determined by God. He only is infinitely wise and good; therefore, whatever he determines shall be done, and take place, is perfectly right, most wise and best. It is therefore infinitely desirable, that he should order every thing that takes place, and all events; but more especially those things that relate to the eternal existence and endless happiness or misery of man, whether any shall be saved, or all lost; and if only a part of mankind be saved, how many, and what particular persons, shall be included in this number. This is a matter of great importance, and not of indifference, whether this person shall be saved, rather than another, and it requires infinite wisdom to determine it right, so as to answer the best ends. Were any creature to determine it, in any one instance, especially, apostate man, the event might be undesirable, and of infinitely evil consequence. Were man to decide it, independent of God, and were this possible, it would be most undesirable and infinitely dreadful to the wise and good; and they rejoice that this important affair, with all others, is in the hand of him who is infinitely wise and good; who has a right, and to whom it belongs to decide the state of every man, whether he shall be saved or not; and that he has done it, by an unalterable decree.
III. It is certain from the scripture, that God has determined not to save all mankind; but only a part, and a particular number of them. The Redeemer himself has declared this expressly, and it is abundantly asserted in the Old Testament, and in the New. A number are to go away into everlasting punishment, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is unquenchable: 145And the smoke of their torment shall ascend up forever and ever, &c. &c.224224 This has been particularly considered, and proved, by a number of authors. See Dr. Edwards against Dr. Chauncy. And. an Inquiry concerning the future state of those who die in their sins. Had not God revealed this, it could not have been known what would be the event of redemption, whether all will be saved, or not: But God has made it known.
We are not told in the scripture, the precise number that shall be saved; nor what proportion of mankind will be of this number; but from what is revealed, respecting this matter, it is reasonable to suppose, that many more will be saved than lost, perhaps some thousands to one.225225 See Dr. Bellamy, on the Millennium. And the forementioned Inquiry. Page 167, &c. But, be this as it may, we are certain that the number that shall be saved is fixed by infinite wisdom and goodness, and every one of these is known unto God, and their names are written in the book of life, before the foundation of the world. We are also certain, that it is not owing to the want of goodness in God, or the insufficiency of the atonement and merit of Christ, that all mankind are not saved; for the latter is as sufficient to save the whole human race, as part of them, or one individual; and the only reason why all are not saved, is, because it is inconsistent with infinite wisdom and goodness; that is, it is not for the greatest general good. Infinite goodness, in all cases, and forever, opposes and forbids that to. take place, which is not for the greatest general good, be that what it may; and approves and effects that which will answer the best ends, and produce the greatest good, in all cases. We are as certain of this, as we can be, that there is an infinitely wise, good, and omnipotent Being. Therefore, since God has declared, that he has determined, not to save all mankind, we know that this is not consistent with his goodness; that is, that it is not wisest and best, or which is the same, it is not for the greatest good of the whole, that all should be saved. God does not delight in the destruction of sinners, in itself considered, or for its own sake; and not one would be suffered to perish, if it were consistent with wisdom and goodness, to save 146them all; or if this were consistent with the glory of God, or the greatest good of the universe. Nothing can be more certain, than that all will be saved, that can be saved by Omnipotence, clothed with infinite wisdom and goodness; that is, that can be saved consistent with these.—What is inconsistent with infinite wisdom and goodness, cannot be done by a Being infinitely wise and good, though omnipotent. It is morally impossible; for he cannot deny himself, and act contrary to wisdom and goodness. Any man may be absolutely sure that he shall be saved, if it be not inconsistent with the goodness of God, to save him, and in this sense impossible; or if it be consistent with the greatest glory of God, or the general good. And who, in his senses, that is, who that is wise and benevolent, would desire to be saved, or could ask for the salvation of any of his fellow men, unless this might be consistent with the glory of God, and the greatest good of the universe?
As we know not what number of mankind can be saved, consistent with infinite wisdom and goodness, so we are utterly incapable of judging, what particular persons can be saved, consistent with these: But God has determined this, without a possibility of any mistake. He knows what individuals of the human race can be saved, consistent with his glory, and the greatest good of his eternal kingdom; and who cannot be saved consistent with this, and has determined, and does act accordingly. In this he acts as a sovereign, as being under obligation to none, or not to one, more than to another; but not arbitrarily, without any wisdom or reason. There is a good reason why one should be saved rather than another. There is a good reason, why every one of those should be saved, who are, or shall be saved; and why every one of the rest should not be saved; from the different natural formation, or capacity, or the different circumstances to us unknown, and undescribable, which render it wisest and best, most for the glory of God, and the good of his kingdom, that the former should be saved, and the latter lost. This difference in circumstances, &c. originates in the divine decree, and is ordered by God, according to the infinitely wise counsel of his own will; but it is as real a difference, as if it had not this origin.147
IV. We learn from the holy scriptures, that a particular number of individuals are chosen from among mankind, on whom the divine love and sovereign grace are to be displayed in their salvation.
Reason teaches us, that this must be so, as has been observed; for it must be determined by God, and lie makes the distinction between those who are saved, and those who are lost, as it cannot be done by any one else; and if it were possible, not to be determined by infinite wisdom and goodness, it would be infinitely disagreeable and dreadful to all the wise and good: And God determines all his works, all he will do from eternity. Accordingly the scripture asserts this most expressly and abundantly, in the following passages, and in many others, which it will be needless to mention. The Redeemer often speaks of those who were given to him by the Father, to be redeemed and saved, as being a number selected from the rest of mankind; and says they shall come to him, and he will keep and save them; and his words strongly imply, that they only shall be saved; and that there never was a design to save any, but those who are thus selected and chosen, and given to him, to be saved by him. Therefore he declares, that he does not pray for the salvation of any, except these elect ones, who were given to him. He says, “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me: And him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”226226 John vi. 37, 39. “I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: Them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them to me, is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”227227 John x. 15, 16, 27, 28, 29. “Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee; as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many 148as thou hast given him. I pray not for the world; but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them. Holy Father, keep through thine own name, those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are. Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me, where I am, that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me.”228228 John xvii. 1, 2, 9, 10, 11, 21. Could the doctrine of election be expressed more fully and in a stronger manner, by any words whatever? That a particular number of mankind, with every individual of that number, are chosen and selected from the rest, and in the covenant of redemption given to Christ, to be redeemed and saved by him; and that these alone are to be saved? Agreeably to this, Christ repeatedly speaks of the elect, whose salvation is secured; and for whose sake, he orders the great events in the world. “And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: But for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the very elect. And then he shall send his angels, and shall gather together his elect, from the four winds.”229229 Mark xiii. 20, 22, 27.
The apostle Paul represents the salvation of the redeemed, as originating in the eternal purpose of God, by which they are selected from others; and who, in consequence of this choice and appointment, are saved. “We know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are the called, according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, (that is, whom he fixed upon, and chose to salvation,) he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of his Son. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: And whom he called, them he also justified: And whom he justified, them he also glorified. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect: It is God that justifieth.”230230 Rom. viii. 28, 29, 30, 33. “For the children not being yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand, not of 149works, but of him that calleth. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. Therefore, he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”231231 Rom. ix. 11, 15, 18.
The doctrine of election, as stated above, is implied in these last words, and they are sufficient to prove it, were there nothing more said of it in the Bible: For if the will of God determines who shall be the subjects of divine mercy and be saved, and who shall not, as is here asserted; then God determined from eternity whom he would save, and whom he would not save, and fixed upon, and chose a particular number of persons, to be the subjects of his mercy, in their salvation, exclusive of the rest of mankind; for what God wills to do, he does not begin to will to do it in time; but his determinations and will, respecting all his works, are without beginning: His will is unchangeable. “He is of one mind, and none can turn him.”
This apostle brings the doctrine of election again into view, and most expressly asserts it, in the following words, “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.232232 The foreknowledge of God is mentioned here, and in other places, as implying his purpose and decree of election. See Acts ii. 23. xv. 18. Rom. viii. 29. 1 Peter i. 2. The reason why this word is used to denote the divine determination, is because the foreknowledge of God does necessarily imply his purpose or decree, with respect to the thing foreknown; for God foreknows what will be, only by determining what shall be. Therefore, foreknowledge and decrees cannot be separated; for they imply each other, if they he not one and the same. “Grotius, as well as Beza, observes, that προγνωσις = must here signify decree; and Eisner has shown, it has that signification in approved Greek writers.”— Doddridge’s Note on Acts ii. 23. Even so then, at this present time also, there is a remnant, according to the election of grace. What then?—Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.”233233 Rom. xi. 2, 5, 7.—And in his letter to the saints at Ephesus, he considers their election, or being chosen by God, before the foundation of the world; that is, from eternity, by his eternal purpose and decree, as the source and cause of their becoming christians, and of their salvation. “Blessed be the God and Father of 150our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places in Christ. 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. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”234234 Eph. i. 3, 4, 5.—He speaks the same language in his letter to Timothy: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus, before the world began.”235235 2 Tim. i. 9. He also says, “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”236236 Chap. ii. 10. The apostle had no expectation or desire of the salvation of any but the elect, whom God hath chosen to salvation from eternity. Therefore, when he had evidence that any person was a true believer and made holy, he considered it as the consequence and fruit of election, of his being chosen by God, from the beginning, that is, from eternity. This is his language to the christians at Thessalonica: “We are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the spirit, and belief of the truth.”237237 2 Thess. ii. 13.
The apostle Peter sets this matter in the same light with Paul, and considers true christians, as elected to this privilege, and to eternal life, by the counsel and purpose of God, as the origin and foundation of all this good to them. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the> foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the spirit, unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”238238 1 Pet. i. 1, 2.
Whoever well considers these passages of scripture, with others of the same tenor, and observes how consistent this doctrine is with the whole of the scripture, which represents man as lost in sin, and wholly dependent on God for salvation; and therefore, that their 151salvation must all originate in the sovereign purpose and grace of God; and how consistent this is with reason, and that it is, indeed, impossible it should be otherwise: Whoever takes a proper view of all this, must believe, and rest satisfied in the truth, that all the redeemed were chosen to salvation, by the eternal purpose of God, as the origin and foundation of their salvation; and that they who are not thus elected, do perish in their sins. And he who does not see this doctrine plainly revealed in the Bible, must be supposed to read it with strong prejudices against the truth, or with very wrong and false conceptions respecting the subject. To obviate and remove these, is the design of some part of the following.
V. The elect are not chosen to salvation rather than others, because of any moral excellence in them, or out of respect to any foreseen faith and repentance; or because their moral character is in any respect better than others. The difference between them and others, in this respect, whenever it takes place, is the fruit and consequence of their election, and not the ground and reason of it. All mankind are totally sinful, wholly lost and undone, in themselves, infinitely guilty and ill-deserving. And all must perish forever, were it not for electing grace; were they not selected from the rest, and given to the Redeemer, to be saved by him, and so made vessels of mercy, prepared unto glory. This is abundantly declared in scripture. This is strongly asserted in a passage which has been mentioned. “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.” In their election, they are predestinated to be conformed to Christ, in true holiness, and not because it is foreseen they will, of their own accord, be holy, and chosen to salvation for the sake of this. They are elected, through sanctification of the spirit, unto obedience. Sanctification and obedience are the consequence of their election, and the privilege to which they are chosen; and not that out of regard to which they are chosen to salvation. The Apostle tells the elect at Ephesus, that electing love found them dead in trespasses and sins, as 152sinful as others, and as much the children of wrath. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for the great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them.”239239 Eph. ii. 1-10. Election is a doctrine of grace; it is therefore called “The election of grace.” “Even so then at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works: Otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: Otherwise work is no more work.”240240 Rom. xi. 5, 6.
VI. The elect are not chosen to salvation, without holiness and obedience, or whether they be holy, and obey Christ, or not. This is asserted in the passages which have been quoted. Those who are chosen to salvation are predestinated, or ordained, to be conformed to Christ. They are elected to salvation through sanctification of the spirit, unto obedience. Holiness is part of the salvation to which they are elected, and they cannot be saved without it, which consists in activity and obedience. Therefore, no person can have any evidence that he is elected, in any other way, but by making it evident that he is holy and obedient.
This therefore detects the great mistake and delusion, in which they are, who say, if they be elected, they shall be saved, let them do what they will, and live and die in a course of allowed sin. No proposition can be more false than this: It is as contrary to the truth, as it would be for a man to say, if it be appointed that I should live seven years, I shall live, though I die tomorrow. Or if it be appointed that I shall go to such a city, I shall go, though I do not go, and never move out of the place in which I now am.
This doctrine, therefore, affords no encouragement to bin, or to be indifferent and careless about holiness, obedience and salvation: For this is as certainly the road to hell, if continued in, as if there were none elected to salvation; 153and holiness and care, watchfulness and diligence, in active obedience, are as reasonable, important, and necessary, as if this doctrine were not true.
VII. The use of proper means is as necessary in order to the salvation of the elect, as it would be, were none elected to salvation. As none are elected to salvation, without holiness, or whether they be holy or not, because this is a contradiction, and impossible; so none can exercise holiness, and be obedient, without means; for this is as great a contradiction as the other; for it is the same, as to suppose that a person may be holy and obedient, without knowledge, attention, and activity; or without holiness and obedience. Means are as necessary in order to convert and save the elect, and their persevering in holiness, as they would be if they were not elected.
This is illustrated in the story of the shipwreck of Paul, and those with him. They were all elected to be saved from being lost at sea, and to arrive safe on shore. God had determined this in their favour, and revealed it to Paul, and he had published it to them who were with him in the ship. Yet when the seamen were about to leave the ship, who only had skill to manage it, “Paul said to the Centurion, and to the soldiers, except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.”241241 Acts xxvii. 31. They were elected to that salvation, and it was hereby made sure to them; but this did not render means, and their activity useless, for they were elected to be saved in this way, and in no other; and therefore their salvation was not possible in any other way. And if the Centurion had said to Paul, “If we are elected to be saved, though the seamen leave the ship, or if we use no means to get to the land, and take no care or thought about it, and though every one of us do what he can, or what he please, to drown himself, and all the rest,” he would have spoken contrary to reason and truth.
And there is as much encouragement to use means for the salvation of sinners, as if there were none elected to salvation, and much more: For there would indeed be no encouragement to use any means, or to do any thing, for the salvation of any one, if none were elected 154to be saved: For if that were true, there would be no salvation for any. St. Paul, therefore, took his encouragement to travel round the world and preach, and go through great labours and sufferings, from the doctrine of election, that he might be the means of saving some of the elect. He says, “Therefore, I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus.”242242 1 Tim. ii. 10. And the Lord Jesus Christ encouraged him to persevere in preaching at Corinth, because he had much people in that city; that is, there were many elected to salvation in that city.243243 Acts xviii. 9, 10. And there would be no reason or encouragement for any person to use any means, or do anything, in order to be saved, if none were elected to salvation.
VIII. The doctrine of election, as it has been stated, does not represent God as a respecter of persons, as some have supposed.
To have respect to persons is to regard and treat them differently, on the account of some supposed or real difference in them or their circumstances, which is no real ground or good reason of such different regard and treatment: As when a judge regards, justifies and rewards one, rather than another, because he is rich and the other poor, or has given him a bribe, or is a near relation of his, or his particular friend; when the other is as really worthy of regard, and his cause more just. This character, of a respecter of persons, belongs rather to a judge, or one who is to regard and reward others, according to their different characters, which are the real ground, and a good reason of making a difference. And is not applicable to a benefactor, in his granting favours, and free, undeserved gifts, to one, rather than another, where there is no desert of such favour, in one more than another; and the favour is not granted under any such notion or pretence. The benefactor, in this case, has a right to do what he will with his own, and bestow his gifts in such a manner, and on such persons, as will best promote his own benevolent purposes and the general good. And he who is neglected, and does not receive any favour, as he has no claim to any, has no reason to complain. This leads to observe,155
IX. No injury is done to those who are not elected, by the election of others to salvation. No one of mankind has any desert of the least favour; but all the human race might justly have been left in a state of ruin, to be lost and miserable forever, and no injury would have been done to any. In this case, the showing favour to one, and saving him, is no injury to the other, who has no favour, and is left to perish; he deserves this as much as if none were saved, and his case is not rendered the worse, in any respect, merely because others do not suffer with him, who deserve it as much as he does. And if the actually making this difference, and saving so ne, and leaving others to perish, be no injury to the latter, and they have no cause to complain, any more than if others perished with them; then the determination to do this, and electing some to salvation from eternity, and not electing all, is in no respect injurious to the non-elect, and is no ground of complaint. If a king pardon a certain number of those criminals who are justly condemned to be put to death, and give the rest up to be executed, they all, equally deserving to die, he does no injury to the latter; they deserve to die as much, and their execution is as just, as if all were put to death. Mercy being showed to others, gives them no claim to it, and they have no cause of complaint, that the same undeserved favour is not showed to them. And it alters not the case, though the king had determined long before it took place, to save some of the criminals alive, and fixed on the individuals, on whom he would bestow this favour, in distinction from the rest.
X. Salvation may be offered to all men, though only a certain number of them are chosen to salvation, and will be finally saved.
It is not necessary that all should certainly be saved, and that this should be known to be the event of making the offer of salvation to men, in order to make the offer of it to them, with propriety. Men may have the offer of salvation, or of any other good thing, though they refuse to accept of it, and so never obtain it. This, it is presumed, none will deny.
Salvation may be offered to men, though it be certain, and known to God who makes the offer, that they will 156reject it, and so never be saved. If salvation may be offered to men, though they refuse to accept of it, and their rejecting it be not inconsistent with the offer being made, or their having die offer; then such offer may be made, though it be known, and certain, that they will reject it, and perish; for this being known, does not alter the case with respect to the offer; it is as really made, and as really rejected, as if it were not known, but it were wholly uncertain what the event would be. A rich man may offer an estate to a poor man, though he be certain that he will reject the offer, and die in poverty, as the consequence of his refusal to accept of the favour which is offered.
And if the offer of salvation may be truly and properly made, when it is known to him who makes the offer that it will be rejected; then it may be so made and rejected, though the knowledge of this imply the divine purpose and decree, respecting the matter, or be founded upon it. The sinner is disposed to reject the offer of salvation, and will certainly reject it, unless his heart be renewed by the Spirit of God: But he being under no obligation to the sinner to do this, in any instance; and his making the offer of salvation does not lay him under any such obligation, or infer it; he may determine not to do it, by which it is certain, the sinner will not accept of it, and be saved. Notwithstanding this, the offer is really made, and the sinner really rejects it, and is as voluntary and criminal, as if nothing were determined and foreknown, respecting the event. Though God have power to renew every sinner’s heart to whom the gospel is preached, and bring them all to embrace the gospel, and be saved: yet he has determined not to do it: And his making the offer of salvation does not imply that he will do it.
Though a rich man offer an estate to one that is poor, and it is in his power by some extraordinary means and exertions to persuade him to accept it; yet his making the offer lays him under no obligation to effect it, though he know the consequence will be his rejecting it, and dying in poverty. He may have good reason not to make those extraordinary exertions, and yet be sincere in the offer, on condition he is willing to accept 157it; and the poor man has the estate really offered to him, and he as really rejects it, and is as foolish and criminal in doing it, and as justly suffers the evil consequence, as if the rich man knew not what would be the consequence of making the offer, whether it would be rejected or not; and had no power by any means, to persuade him, and make him willing to accept of it.
It is wise and important, that salvation by Christ should be offered indiscriminately to all, in the publishing and preaching of the gospel, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. It has been observed, that the gospel cannot be preached to any, to whom the offer of salvation is not made, upon their acceptance of it. They who will comply with the offer, or the elect, who shall come to Christ, live promiscuously, intermixed with others; and are not to be distinguished by men from others, until they have the gospel preached to them, and thereby salvation is offered to them, and they believe and embrace the offer. Therefore the gospel cannot be preached to them, unless it be preached to all. And, as it may be properly preached to all, and salvation be really offered to every one, whether he will accept of it, or not; and the provision made for the salvation of sinners in the gospel, is as sufficient for one as another, and it is offered as a free gift, to every one who believeth, or will receive it: And none can fail of salvation, and perish under the gospel, but by constantly rejecting it to the end of life. Therefore, it is important and necessary, that this offer should be made to all, without any distinction, in order to the salvation of any, even the elect. Besides, this is necessary in order to set in the clearest light, and even to discover, the following important truths.
1. That mankind are so fixed in their rebellion, and such obstinate opposers and enemies of God, and all moral good, that they are disposed constantly, and with all their hearts, to reject mercy and salvation, though freely offered to them. Nothing is, or perhaps can be, more suited, effectually to bring out and discover the exceeding wickedness and obstinacy of the heart of man, than this. It is of great importance, that a clear and full discovery of this should be made, in order to manifest to their consciences, and to all, the justice and propriety 158of the awful sentence which will be pronounced against the wicked at the last day.
2. That every one who fails of salvation under the gospel, perishes by his own fault and aggravated wickedness, obstinately persisted in through life: And must ascribe his loss of eternal life, and his falling into endless destruction, wholly to his own folly, constantly and voluntarily rejecting salvation, freely offered to him: That he has destroyed himself, and nothing could have prevented his salvation, and have brought endless destruction upon him; no decree of Heaven, nor satan, nor any of his fellow men; nor his outward circumstances; poverty or riches; honours and high stations; or a mean and low condition in the world; health or sickness; or any temptation and trying situation in life whatsoever; had he not with all his heart rejected the gospel, and constantly, through his whole life, refused to accept of the salvation which was offered to him; for which folly and sin he has not the least possible excuse.
This coincides with the preceding particular, and serves to show, how important and necessary it is, that they who perish from under the gospel should have salvation offered to them, as by this it will appear more clearly, than otherwise it could, that sinners perish by their own fault, and can lay the blame of it to none but themselves; and that they are justly cast into endless destruction, however infinitely awful and dreadful it be.
And this will serve effectually to confute an assertion which many now make, and show the falsehood of it, viz. that if they be not elected they must be damned, whatever they may do. It will appear, when the real truth comes to light, that they perish by rejecting the salvation offered to them; and that if they had believed, and been willing to be saved by Christ, they would not have been lost. Their destruction is the consequence of their great, inexcusable wickedness, in slighting Christ, and neglecting the great salvation; by which they have brought it on themselves; which could not have come upon them, had they not done this; but accepted of the kind offer which they had.
3. The offer of salvation to all serves more clearly to display and discover to the redeemed, the riches of that 159sovereign grace, by which they are saved. It is of great importance, that this should be seen by the redeemed, in the clearest light, and to the best advantage, that God may have the glory of it, and they the greatest benefit possible. While they see others perish under the same advantages which they have enjoyed; they see what they should have done, had they not been distinguished by sovereign grace, and made willing in the day of divine power. They see the human heart acted out in the unbeliever, and the awful consequence in his perishing; and know this would have been their case, had not God created in them a new heart, and given them to believe on Christ, in consequence of his electing love. They see this, and give all the glory to sovereign grace, and in a greater degree, are happy in the enjoyment of the love of God. St. Paul was sensible of the importance of christians seeing and enjoying the great and distinguishing love of God to them; and of their giving all the glory to him; and, therefore, labours to set this in the strongest light, in the two first chapters of his letter to the church at Ephesus, as he also does in most of his other epistles, which the attentive reader of the Bible must have observed.
That the offer of salvation is in fact made to all to whom the gospel is revealed, has been before proved.244244 See Part II. Sect. VIII. Page 93, &c. And it may be added here, to the evidence there produced, that if there were no other proof of this, but the parables of Christ, recorded in Matt. xxii. and Luke xiv. these are sufficient to put it beyond dispute. There our Saviour represents the gospel, by a feast which is made, to which numbers are invited, who refuse to come, and consequently never taste of the supper. The invitation is, “Come to the feast, come to the marriage, for all things are ready.” How can this represent the gospel, if salvation be not offered to those who never accept of the offer? But to return; salvation is in fact offered to all, wherever the gospel is published. Some have supposed this to be inconsistent with the doctrine of election as it has been stated; but it is hoped, that what has been offered, has sufficiently proved that they are both consistent with each other.160
XI. The doctrine of election is so far from being a discouraging doctrine, that it affords the only ground of all true encouragement and hope.
Many have been so grossly mistaken, as to think this a gloomy, discouraging doctrine, and that it tends to lead persons to despair; whereas, it is the only well grounded support against despair, and the sole foundation of all reasonable hope of salvation. It does indeed, tend to cut off all their hopes of salvation, who build them upon themselves, their own good disposition, will and exertions, independent of God; supposing they shall determine it in their own favour, and, in this sense, save themselves. The doctrine of election demolishes this foundation, and destroys such a hope; as it teaches, that man is absolutely dependent on God for his salvation, and he must determine whether he shall be saved or not. As this, therefore, is a false hope, and dangerous delusion, it is desirable it should be destroyed; and it affords an argument in favour of this doctrine, that it tends to take away all such hope from man.
When persons are brought to know themselves, in some measure, and see how guilty and lost they are, how sinful and obstinate their hearts are, being wholly corrupt, and so strongly indisposed to any thing that is right, and inclined to evil, that if left to themselves, they never shall repent and embrace the gospel, but shall go on to certain destruction: Therefore, if God, who has mercy on whom he will have mercy, have not determined in their favour, that he will give them a new heart, and save them by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, they shall not be saved, but be certainly lost forever. They despair of distinguishing themselves, so as to render themselves more deserving of the favour of God, and of salvation, or less ill-deserving, than others. They know of no greater sinners than themselves, or more deserving of endless destruction, or farther from embracing the gospel, than they are, and always shall be, if left to themselves. Their only hope, therefore, is in the revealed purpose of God to save some of mankind, without any regard to their desert of it, or their distinguishing themselves from others, not being so great sinners, or being less unworthy; 161but has mercy on whom he will have mercy: And they have no reason to conclude, they are not of this number; but may hope they are elected to salvation, though utterly lost in themselves, and the most guilty and vile of all others.
It is true, that some have abused this doctrine, and improved it to bad purposes to themselves, through their ignorance, the perverseness of their own hearts, and the cunning agency of satan, the deceiver. They have not been willing to be in the hand of God, and wholly dependent on him; and the thought that they are so, has irritated and galled their spirits; they have been such enemies to God, that they have concluded he will decide against them, if it be left to him to determine, whether they shall be saved or not; and knowing they have greatly offended him, they conclude they are not among the number of the elect, and so sink into despair. It is not the doctrine of election, or the belief of it, which produces this despair, or has any tendency to it; but the opposition of the heart to it, and drawing a wrong and false conclusion from it: For this doctrine has a direct contrary tendency and effect, when properly improved, as has been shown.
XII. The doctrine of election is perfectly consistent with the greatest possible degree of human liberty.
This has been particularly considered, in the chapter upon the decrees of God, and need not be repeated here. Many have entertained such wrong notions of this doctrine, and of liberty, or the freedom of the will, as to suppose, if this were true, the non-elect are chained down to destruction; and the elect fixed in a state of salvation, inconsistent with their exercising any freedom of choice. The divine purpose of election does not affect the liberty of any man, unless the certainty of events be inconsistent with it. It is certain it is not, if liberty consists in acting voluntarily, or in volition; which it is presumed has been proved; and that there can be no other or higher liberty in nature. The elect are perfectly free, in embracing the gospel, and in all their exercises, and in every step they take, in order to obtain complete salvation. This is necessarily supposed in their election to eternal life; for they can be saved in no other way, but by their free choice, which is, therefore, 162secured in their election, that they shall go to heaven by their own free consent, in the full exercise of perfect liberty, in opposition to any compulsion. Whatever God decrees or does, respecting their salvation, does not interfere with their freedom; but infallibly secures and establishes it.—He worketh in them. to will and to do; therefore, does nothing inconsistent with their willing and doing, but promotes and effects it; in which all their freedom and moral agency consist.
The non-elect go to destruction by their own choice. When salvation is offered to them, they reject it with their whole heart, and most freely choose to have no part in it. They will not come to Christ, that they might be saved. The election of others to salvation does not affect them, or alter their case, or circumstances, in the least.—They go to destruction just as freely, and as much by their own choice, as they would, or could do, were there none elected to be saved; and their destruction is not made any more necessary, or certain, by the election of some of mankind to salvation, than it would have been, were there no election.
XIII. Though it be known, that a certain number of mankind are elected by God, to salvation, in distinction from others; because it is revealed, and the reason of the thing teaches it must be so; yet it cannot be known to men in this world, who they are that are elected, and shall be saved, any farther than there is evidence that they embrace the gospel, and are become true christians. This is otherwise known to God alone. He knows them by name, and they are given to Christ, to be saved. “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his.”245245 2 Tim. ii. 19. But this cannot be known to men, nor can there be the least real evidence, till they come to Christ, nor any appearance of it, any farther than they appear to be real christians. In this way, the apostle Paul judged of the election of persons. “Knowing, brethren, beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. And ye became followers of me, and of the Lord, having received the word in 163much affliction, with joy m the Holy Ghost.”246246 1 Thess. i. 4, 5, 6. It is in this way alone that believers can come to the knowledge of their election, or get the least evidence of it. This evidence will be perfectly established, when they are actually saved, and shall abide so forever. Every one of the redeemed will know his own election of God, and that of all others who are saved; and will lock to this, as the source and foundation of their redemption.
While the elect are in a state of unbelief, none in this world, neither they themselves, nor any one else, can know they are elected, and shall be saved: And the non-elect cannot know that they are not elected, nor can any one else know this of them, while they are in this world, unless it be known that they have committed the unpardonable sin.
I. The doctrine of election, as it has now been stated and explained, is suited to stain and humble the pride of man.
The pride of man prompts him to lift himself above his Maker; and he would do it, were it possible; and many fondly think themselves, in a measure, independent of him; especially in matters of die greatest importance, respecting their moral character, and their eternal interest and happiness; that their life is in their own hands, so far that they can determine whether they shall be virtuous and holy, and be saved, or not, without any determination of God, respecting it, or his unpromised, undeserved, special influence, or assistance, to turn the point in their favour. And nothing can be more crossing and mortifying to this pride, than to be absolutely dependent on God for all moral good, as a free undeserved gift from him; and for salvation, so that the whole must be determined by God, and not by man, any farther than it is the effect of the divine determination. Such absolute dependence on God, for holiness and salvation, is implied and held forth in the doctrine of election; and no man can understandingly, 164and cordially receive it, so as to have the feelings of his heart conformable to it, without “humbling himself in the sight of the Lord.”
Every doctrine of the gospel, and the whole system of revealed truth, is levelled directly at the pride of the human heart, and suited to humble man; and when it has its proper effect, and is cordially received, this pride is slain and relinquished; and what God, by Isaiah foretold, should be the effect of it, takes place in a very sensible, conspicuous degree. “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted, in that day.”247247 Isaiah ii. 11, 12. Therefore, humility, in opposition to pride and self exaltation, was frequently mentioned by our Divine Teacher, as essential to a christian: and he often said, “Every one that exalteth himself, shall be abased: And he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.”248248 See Matt. xviii. 4. xxiii. 12. Luke xiv. 11. xviii. 14. And the apostle James says to sinners, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”249249 James iv. 10.
This is an evidence, among others, that the doctrine of election, is a doctrine of the gospel, in that it coincides, in this respect, with all the peculiar doctrines of divine revelation, in being suited to humble the pride of man, and exalt the sovereign grace of God; and therefore must be agreeable to the heart of every humble christian.—In this view, it is no wonder that it should be so strongly opposed and rejected with great abhorrence and confidence, by men, with all the other most humble doctrines of the gospel; and a scheme of sentiments be introduced in their room, which are really subversive of the gospel, and suited not to abase, but to flatter and gratify the pride of man; according to which he has something, which he did not receive, even true virtue and holiness, the highest excellence and glory of man; and by this has made himself to differ from others, without any special distinguishing influence of God; and in this respect is independent of him; which he therefore ascribes not to the grace of God, but to himself, and glories in it. The following sentence of St. Paul is levelled at this pride and haughtiness 165of man, and if properly regarded, sufficient to demolish it. “Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory us if thou hadst not received it?”250250 1 Cor. iv. 7.
The humbling doctrine of election may be, indeed, abused, and so improved as to gratify the pride of man, while it is not really understood, nor in truth cordially received. A man may be led to conclude, even from the pride of his heart, and without any reason, that he is elected to salvation, and herein distinguished by God, from most others; and this may be very pleasing to his pride, while he does not understand, and in his heart admit the only ground of this distinction, when made by God: And he, at bottom, feels as if he was distinguished from others, and had received this peculiar favour, out of respect to some good thing in him, by which he differed from others. Or he attends only to the distinction itself, without considering the ground of it, and is pleased with this, and becomes a zealous, proud advocate for the doctrine of election. Therefore, many of the opposers of this doctrine suppose, that all who are advocates for it, are pleased with it, only from selfishness and pride, because they consider themselves as the elect of God, and hereby distinguished and favoured above others. And there is, perhaps, no other way for pride to account for it, or to be reconciled to it. The true christian receives it, as glorious to God, and exalting sovereign grace, and humbling man, while he considers himself as infinitely guilty and vile, and wholly lost in his sins, and if he be saved, it must be by the distinguishing, sovereign grace of God, who has mercy on whom he will have mercy, according to his decree of election, which affords the only ground of hope to man.
II. What has been said in this section on the doctrine of particular election, may serve to discover and state the character of a true christian, so fir as his views and exercises relate to this doctrine, and those connected with it.
1. This is not a discouraging doctrine to him, nor disagreeable, though he do not know that he is a christian, 165or is elected to salvation; but has great and prevailing doubts of this. He knows that if he were left to himself, he should not determine the point in his own favour; but his impenitent, unbelieving heart, would reject Christ, and he go on to destruction. That he is wholly dependent on God for salvation, and if he do not determine in his favour, and have not elected him. to salvation, and do not distinguish him from others, by granting him those influences, and that renovation, which they who perish have not, he shall not be saved, but perish forever. Therefore, the doctrine of election can be no matter of discouragement to him, it cannot render his case worse that it would be if none were elected: for then he could have no hope of salvation; and the only hope he can have is grounded on this doctrine, and that he may be one of the elect. And his hope rises or sinks according to the evidence he has of this, by perceiving himself to be the subject of the regenerating, sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit: Or the contrary.
2. The true believer is pleased, with being entirely dependent on God for his salvation, and that he should determine whether he shall be saved or not; and does not desire, that he himself or others should be saved in any other way, but according to the eternal purpose of God. It is most disagreeable to him, that any creature should determine this, in any one instance. He knows it belongs to God, to decide this important matter; that he has a right to do it, and he only is able to determine it perfectly right, agreeable to infinite wisdom and goodness, so as shall be most for his glory, and promote the interest of his kingdom. He is pleased, that in this way, God is exalted, in the exercise of sovereign grace, and the sinner humbled, and the most important interest forever secured and promoted in the best manner. He desires no other salvation, for himself or others, but that which is the free gift of God, and the fruit of his electing love; and which infinite wisdom sees will be most for the glory of God, and the general good; and that without knowing whether his salvation be consistent with this, or not, and whether he be one of the elect, or not.167
3. All the christian’s prayers and devotions are upon this plan, and agreeable to this doctrine. They contain in them, either an express or implicit acknowledgment of his entire dependence on God for salvation, and every thing, for which he prays or gives thanks; and that all the good he desires must be the fruit of the determination of him, who changes not in his purpose and design; and express, or imply, an unconditional, implicit resignation to his wise and holy will.
The opposers of this doctrine, in heart and words, do often really acknowledge it in words, in their prayers to God for salvation, &c. But the real christian does it with his heart. He may indeed, through the prejudices of education, or otherwise, by not understanding the doctrine in theory, and entertaining wrong conceptions of it, and of other points, which are connected with it, be led to oppose it, in speculation; but so far as his heart is renewed, all his religious exercises and devotions are agreeable to the doctrine of election, and an acknowledgment of it. And so far as it appears, that any person is at heart an enemy to that doctrine; there is just so much evidence that he is an enemy to him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
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