Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

these things be in you and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." All the blessings, therefore, which would have followed our first calling and election by Christ, may be totally lost by our wilful disobedience and corruption, by our wanting those virtues which alone prove our faith permanent and effective. “Wherefore (concludes the apostle) give diligence to make your calling and election sure: 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.”* Surely if there is meaning in words, or truth in revelation, the calling and election here described are not founded on unconditional and irrevocable decrees, or necessarily productive of indefectible obedience, of secure and unforfeitable final salvation. On the contrary, this statement of the apostle supposes that Christians, who “had been called to glory and virtue,” and had enjoyed all things which pertain to life and godliness, so as to have escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust,” might fall from this glorious and happy state. It supposes, that for want of due diligence in acquiring and cultivating the essential graces and virtues of the Christian character, “they might become barren und unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ,” blind and improvident as to the consequences of this wretched degeneracy-it supposes that though they had (at baptism) been "purged from their old sins," they might forget “ they had been so purged ;” and thus, forgetting the obligations to renounce sin and Satan, might again be plunged in guilt, and forfeit all the privileges at baptism confirmed.

From this and other declarations of Scripture, it seems to me most evident that no period in the Christian's progress through this scene of trial can be assigned, after which a fall from grace and godliness cannot take place by his own wilful and obstinate transgression. On the contrary, St. Paul declares that the greater the degree of progress which has preceded such a fall, the more inexcusable is its guilt, the more fatal and irremediable

* 2 Pet. i, 1 to 12.

its consequences. Animating his converts to advance with steady step from the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, to the highest degrees of religious perfection, he at the same time warns them in terms the most awful, of the constant danger which attends their course. “ It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost; and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance ; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."*

Surely no words can more strongly describe the advanced state of grace and virtue, from which yet it is supposed Christians may totally and finally fall, by their own wilful apostacy, or their deliberate and audacious guilt ; no words can more clearly prove, that admission to heaven is opened to us, not by an absolute divine decree, fixing on us individually antecedent to our existence, and independent of our own exertions, in consequence of which our perseverance is certain, and our salvation sure. No, my friends; to the last moment of our lives we are exposed to temptation and hazard; to the last moment of our lives must we implore the assisting grace of God to support our frail virtue, to fix our erring resolves, and lead us forward in the path of humble self-distrust, and circumspection, and self-denial, the path of devotion, faith and charity. “ Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if ye do these things ye shall never fall.”

* Heb. vi. 4, 5, 6.

DISCOURSE XI.

ELECTION, AS APPLIED IN SCRIPTURE TO INDIVIDUALS,

CONSIDERED.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Of the various passages which on a first view appear to support the doctrine of absolute predestination, perhaps none seem to do so more decisively than those which speak of the objects of divine favour as having their names written in heaven, or, as it is otherwise expressed, written in the book of life; because it is self-evident that such a description can apply only to individuals. It would be absurd and unintelligible to talk of entire nations, or of any collective bodies of men, as all indiscriminately thus written in the book of life. Let us, then, carefully consider, what does revelation disclose to us of the particulars of this most awful record, preserved by eternal wisdom to display the eternal justice of God.

This expression first occurs in the interview of the Hebrew law-giver with the God of Israel, after the first great transgression of the chosen people; when, wearied with the protracted absence of Moses on the mount, and seduced by the idolatrous example of Egypt, they formed and worshipped the golden calf, as the emblem and representative of their guardian god; a crime which so offended God, that he declared to Moses his indignation in terms the most severe. “I have seen this people; and behold it is a stiff-necked people : now, therefore, let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them, and I will make of thee a great nation."* In his earnest .expostulation with God to avert this

• Exod. xxxii. 9, 10;

terrific punishment, the disinterested and patriotic law-giver is hurried away by such ardent zeal, as to offer himself up, if it were possible, thus to atone for and preserve his offending countrymen; for “he returned unto the Lord and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold! yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sins; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.”*

Now, what does the Judge of all the earth reply? According to the tenets of those who maintain absolute predestination, the answer, it should seem, ought to have been, “ To blot out of that book is impossible ; the names there written must remain for ever.” The record of God's decreed election admits no change; it has no reference to human conduct; it cannot be altered by any human act ; for thus the execution of God's decree would be dependent on man! an assertion inconsistent with the divine nature, and degrading to the divine glory!! But what is the answer? “And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.”+

What, then, does this solemn declaration reveal ? Even that the record, in which are written the names of those who stand the most favoured candidates for eternal life, is alterable in consequence of human misconduct. “ Those who sin against God will be blotted out of it.” Here, then, appears a direct contradiction from the mouth of God himself, to the doctrine of unconditional election, irresistible grace, and indefectible perseverance.

In further confirmation of this conclusion, I will not hesitate to affirm, that all other passages in which this eternal record of omniscient justice is referred to, breathe the same spirit, and establish the same inference.

When the inspired psalmist is led from the retrospect of his own sufferings, inflicted by the malice of his enemies, to a prophetic view of the still greater sufferings of the Messiah from the malice of still more inveterate persecutors, and to denounce the punishments which God would inflict on such malignity, the most severe is, “ That they should fall from one wickedness to another, and not come into the righteousness of God: that they should be wiped out of the book of the living, and not be written among the righteous.”* Here again, being blotted out of the book of life, far from being unconditional and irrespective, is connected with, and the consequence of the most atrocious guilt.

* Exod. xxxii. 31, 32.,'.

+ Ibid. 33.

Thus also, when the prophet Isaiah predicted the blessings which in the last period of Israel's depravity and suffering should arise from the appearance of the Messiah, that “ branch of the Lord,” which should spring up, “beautiful and glorious for them that are escaped of Israel:" he declares, “ It shall come to pass that he that is left in Sion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem.”+ Here it is evident, to be written among the living is a privilege not unconditionally and arbitrarily bestowed, but connected with superior holiness. In the same spirit, when the prophet Daniel describes the process of the great day, when “ The judgment shall be set, and the book shall be opened :" He declares, “ At that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame, and everlasting contempt.”¥ Now the tremendous difference of these opposite adjudications must arise, according to the predestinarian scheme, not from any difference in the conduct of the persons thus saved or condemned, but from the unconditional election or reprobation of God. Not so the prophet: he represents this discrimination as perfectly suited to the differences of character. He declares “the wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."

Correspondent to this is the language of St. Paul, when he calls on the Philippians to “help his fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life;" he exhorts them to “ Rejoice in the Lord, to be careful for nothing ; but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all

• Ps. lxix. 28, 29.

+ Isaiah iv. 2, 3.

Dan. vii. 10, and xii. 1,4.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »