Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

edge are the same; the difference is only with respect to us, with whom things exist by succession.

The word election, or choosing, is, in scripture, used in various senses.

Sometimes it signifies the appointment of a person to some eminent office or service. Christ says to his disciples, " I have chosen you twelve;" i. e. I have chosen you to be my disciples, and preachers of my gospel. He does not mean that he had chosen them all to salvation, for one of them was a son of perdition. In this sense Paul was a chosen vessel to bear Christ's name among the Gentiles. And Cyrus, Saul, and David are called God's chosen, because they were designated to be kings, for the execution of some great purposes of providence.

The word sometimes intends approbation; as when Christ says, "Many are called, but few are chosen ;" i. e. few are accepted and approved.

Often the word is used in a large sense, to comprehend the whole body of God's professing people, whom he has chosen out of the world to be a peculiar people to himself. The whole nation of the Jews are styled God's elect, and his chosen. The Christian church, the whole number of professed believers, are called a chosen generation, a peculiar people.

But this general sense of the word implies a more particular sense. If God has chosen some nations rather than others, to enjoy the means of salvation, then he gives some an advantage above others to obtain salvation; and this is as much an act of sovereignty as the election of particular persons. And, without question, some, in the nation, chosen to these privileges, will thereby eventually be made partakers of the salvation revealed. And there are some expressions, in scripture, which seem to import an appointment of persons to obtain this salvation, as well as to enjoy the means of it. Paul says to the Thessalonians, "God hath chosen you to salvation through sanctification of VOL. III.

F

the spirit and belief of the truth, whereunto he hath also called you by our gospel." The Apostle Peter calls Christians, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God, through sanctification of the spirit." Election, in these passages, cannot be understood merely of an appointment to external privileges, for the subjects of it are said to be chosen through sanctification and faith. Now they were not brought to the enjoyment of the gospel by their faith and holiness, but they were brought to these by the gospel. They were called to spiritual privileges while they were in impenitence and unbelief. The gospel was not the fruit, but the mean of their faith.

That there is an election to salvation, Christians are generally agreed: In their manner of explaining it, is the chief difference. Some suppose it to be absolute and without regard to personal qualifications; others suppose it to be conditional, and grounded on a foresight of faith in the persons chosen.

In all questions of this kind there are two great points, which we must keep in view-our dependence on the grace of God; and our moral agency. On the one hand, we must not so conceive of God's election, and the influence of his grace, as to set aside our free agency and final accountableness; nor, on the other hand, must we so explain away God's sovereignty and grace, as to exalt man to a state of independence. While we shun these extremes, we shall not danger. ously err in the doctrine before us.

It is manifest from reason, as well as scripture, that God exercises a moral government in the world, and that his providence extends to particular persons, to all circumstances of their condition, and to all the actions of their lives; for we cannot conceive it possible, that he should govern the world in general, and yet overlook particular persons; or that he should order their circumstances, and yet have no superintendancy or control of their actions.

[ocr errors]

It it also certain, that the grace of God operates in the conversion of sinners, in such a manner and degree, that they are saved by him, not of themselves.

Now so far as the grace of God, in the salvation of sinners, is absolute and unconditional, election or predestination is so, and no farther. They run parallel to each other. We are to conceive of election, in the same manner as we conceive of the influence of grace; for election can be nothing more, than God's fore knowing and predetermining (to speak according to our way of conception) that he will exercise his grace in such a manner, as shall prove effectual. And his counsels and decrees are only the plan of his providential government. If the latter is not inconsistent with human liberty, the former cannot be so. If the thing done does not control our agency, the previous purpose cannot control it.

The question, whether election is conditional, will easily be solved by considering the end which it respects.

If we consider it as respecting the original plan of salvation, it must be absolute and unconditional. It could not be owing to any foreseen worthiness in fallen creatures, that God chose and determined to send them a Saviour, and to propose such a particular meth. od of salvation; but merely to his selfmoving, sover

eign grace. Their guilt and impotence were the reasons why such a method of salvation was necessary, and therefore their foreseen holiness and worthiness could not be the reasons why such a method was adopted.

If we consider election as respecting the means of salvation, it is unconditional. It was not owing to the virtue and goodness of the human race, that a revelation was given them. It was not owing to the previous desires, prayers and endeavors of the Ephesians or other Gentile nations, that they were brought unto a church state, and to the knowledge of the way of sal

vation. It is not owing to any thing which we had
done, that the gospel is sent to us, and that we were
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 i:: 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 prevent mistakes, I would qualify this observation.

The gospel comes to men accompanied with the 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 ordiparily precede conversion. And as sinners more

1

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 Imit, 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 benefits 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

« FöregåendeFortsätt »