MR. MALLARY’S SERMON ON THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION
For the Christian Index.
Bro. EDITOR The substance of the following discourse, on the doctrine of Election, was delivered at a Minister’s Meeting some time since, in accordance with a previous appointment: as I have been requested at different times to contribute something to the pages of the Index, I have concluded to submit this manuscript to your disposal; the contents of which, if you think proper, you are a liberty to insert in your paper.
Dec. 1, 1842.
C. D. MALLARY
Ephesians 1: 3, 4.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our 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.”
Nothing is more difficult in our investigations of the truth than to avoid all unreasonable extremes. To maintain a just balance amidst warmly controverted opinions is one of the noblest achievements of the human mind. Many powerful causes combine their influence to betray men into error upon almost every subject that engages their inquiry. One cause is to be found in the limited powers of the human mind. How difficult, with the feeble and beclouded faculties which we posses, so to investigate important and intricate subjects in all their various relations and tendencies as to defend ourselves against mistake. With the imbecility of the human mind, how many other things co-operate. Indolence checks investigation; early education warps the judgment; the opinions of revered associates, public sentiment and the authority of great manes, often rear their formidable ramparts against the truth.
And how strong are the manacles which the depraved heart of man rivets upon his understanding. Pride dictates opinions with amazing power; prejudice darkens the mental eye; passion clamors for a verdict in accordance with its blind impulse; and self-interest seizes the scales of judgment and casts in her unequal weights. All these influences have deeply affected the religious opinions of men, and given origin and perpetuity to innumerable errors. Where truth has not been wholly extinguished, how often it is sadly beclouded; and even when it seems to shine forth with full-orbed brightness, prayerful and patient scrutiny may reveal upon the disk many an unseemly spot. In relation to the same point, men have entrenched themselves at a distance from each other almost infinite. Nor is it certain when we correct ourselves in one extreme, that we shall not fall into another equally absurd. How often does the human mind, when routed from one mistake, swing off like the pendulum to an opposite position just as distant from the truth, and as dangerous to the cause of Christ. The strongest intellects have put forth their might in the defense of error, and wit and learning have gathered many costly materials to embalm and consecrate the most futile delusions. And as error is often united to great intellectual attainments, so is it sometimes associated with eminent piety. It is not strange that considerations like these should suggest discouragement and fear, and induce the honest inquirer after truth to exclaim, “who can understand his errors,” how shall I arrive to the right knowledge of divine things? Can I hope to go right where the wisest and best have wandered; can I hope to stand firm, where the mightiest have stumbled? We would say, let no man’s heart fail him for fear: the views which we have presented should inspire watchfulness and self-distrust; but they should not induce despair. We have in our possession, (thanks to the Great Father of lights,) an infallible standard of truth; and there is a way in which its most important instructions may be learned. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the sour; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”And that word which stands before us as the rich storehouse of eternal truth, reveals to us in its very portal the sacred key by which we may unlock its golden gates, and enter in and be wise. “Wherefore laying aside all malice and all guile, and hypocrisies and envies and all evil speaking, as new born babes desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. The meek will be guide in judgment, and the meek will He teach His way. Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me.” We cannot mistake the purport of these instructionsit is plainly this, that a sincere desire to know the truth, connected with a meek, gentle, obedient and teachable temper, will render us successful and profitable students in the Oracles of God. Such a spirit as this is always needful, but never more so than when we come to the investigation of those doctrines which particularly involve the sovereignty of Jehovah. They are revealed, and are therefore to be contemplated and believed; yet they are mysterious and awful, and should never therefore be approached in the spirit of caviling, of levity and pride. With what sacred awe, with what holy reverence, with what deep humility should we gaze at those grand revelations which exhibit God in the sovereignty of His grace and the glory of His dominion, having mercy on whom he will have mercy, doing according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. Without this disposition of soul, we shall be likely to object and contend and err as thousands have done; or if we should render a formal assent to the truth, we shall come short of those inestimable benefits which a devout, humble and reverential consideration of it will never fail to impart. In our investigations upon those subjects we must be carefully guarded against those two great errors which in all ages have so much dishonored God, and impede his righteous cause; on the one hand, such views of His character and judgment as would annihilate the obligations of His creatures and tend to soothe the sinner in his rebellion and the professed Christian in his antinomian indolence; and on the other such, views of the creature’s power and worthiness as tend to encourage his pride and self-righteous presumption; and by exalting man, to invade the sovereign prerogatives of Heaven.
In accordance with the appointment of the last Ministers’ Meeting, I propose in this discourse to present some views in defense and illustration of what is commonly called the Doctrine of Election, and have taken for my text the passage there designated, being one which was supposed to embrace the doctrine in question.
To elect means to choose: election is the act of choosing. These terms, or their equivalents, are variously applied in the Word of God. We some times read of a national election. Israel were an elect or chosen people, carefully and solemnly separated from all other nations; and honored by the Lord with His peculiar favors. “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” Deut. 7: 6. Election sometimes means a designation to office, either of a civil or sacred character. Thus Saul was chosen to be King of Israel. “And Samuel said to all the people, see ye him whom the Lord hath chosen.” 1 Sam. 10: 24. Christ is called God’s Elect, because he was chosen and set apart to the great work of mediation and redemption. Christ ways with reference to His apostles, “have I not chosen, or elected you twelve, and one of you is a devil.” John 6: 70. Election is sometimes used as equivalent to what is denominated effectual calling, in which the Lord, by giving efficacy to His word, separates His people from the world. “Because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen, or elected you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” John 15: 19.
But election, is the acceptation in which we design at present to consider it, is God’s free, sovereign, eternal and unchangeable purpose to glorify the perfections of His character in the salvation of a definite number of the human family by Jesus Christ, without regard to any foreseen merit or good works on their part, as the ground or condition of this choice. This is the choice to which we conceive there is reference in the words of our text.
I am aware that to many this is an unpalatable theme. Scarcely any doctrine has been doomed to encounter a more general, lasting and determined opposition. Unregenerate men are almost invariably found arrayed against it; and many whom, on the whole, we are constrained to regard as excellent Christians, have opposed it with great vehemence, and, in some instances, with a bitterness wholly unbecoming religious discussion. It would be well to inquire whether this almost universal disrelish for the doctrine does not afford some presumptive evidence of its truth; whether it is the fruit of a candid and prayerful investigation of the subject, or whether it may not be traced to some strong inherent reluctance in our nature to assent to that which robs man of all his glorying, and resolves his salvation into the sovereign and unmerited grace of God. That the present discussion should be satisfactory to all who may listen to me at this time, might be more than I could reasonably expect; yet I may confidently hope that I shall not be denied an attentive and patient hearing.
Before entering upon the more direct illustration of the subject, I beg leave to make one or two remarks, which I desire to be kept distinctly in view during the subsequent part of the discussion.
1. Whatever God does, is performed in accordance with His own good pleasure, His own sovereign will. God cannot act without volition, without purpose, without plan. To act without some previous purpose as the guide and basis of his conduct, would be to act without wisdom. Is not that individual the last person whom we honor with the attribute of wisdom, who surrenders himself up to blind and uninstructed impulse, and allows himself to be borne on hither and thither without any definite or preconcerted arrangement? And if such a course would stigmatize a finite mortal with folly, would it greatly exalt the character of Jehovah in the estimation of intelligent beings? Such a God would be no God to me. On this point the Scriptures are explicit: “But one God is in the heavens, He hath done whatsoever he pleased.” Ps. 115: 3. “He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.” Dan. 4: 35. He “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” Eph. 1: 11. These passages, taken in connection, indicate that what God does in the fruit of His own counsel; in other words, that whatever God performs, He wills, counsels, purposes to do; and also that His purpose is irresistible and almighty, and cannot fail of its exact and full accomplishment. But here it is proper to remark that there is a clear and scriptural distinction between God’s will of purpose and His will of command. The former is the rule by which He regulates His own conduct; the latter, is the will which He has revealed in the precepts of His word for the regulation of the conduct of His creatures. In His word, He wills or commands men to repent, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and live holy lives. And in a sense, probably somewhat similar to this, it is said that God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” God’s perceptive will is most reasonable and excellent; he requires nothing but what is in itself infinitely proper for his creatures to perform. This will, however, is resisted by multitudes; many do not repent and are not saved; but God’s will of sovereign purpose is not suspended upon the volitions of his creatures; the universe combined could not frustrate one jot or tittle; and in accordance with this will does he carry forward all his divine and glorious operations.
2. God’s purposes are eternal. What God purposes now, he purposed yesterday, he purposed at the foundation of the world, he purposed from eternity. This is necessarily involved in his immutability. An eternal purpose is no more absurd than an eternal God. If every purpose of God had a beginning, then there was a time when Jehovah existed without any counsel or design; nay, without volition, since his decrees are nothing more than the volitions of his own infinite and eternal mind. If God has one single purpose to-day, which he had not from eternity, then has there been a modification, a change in the operations of his mind, a circumstance entirely inconsistent with the declarations of the Scriptures”he is in one mind, and who can turn him; I am the Lord, I change not; the same yesterday, to-day and forever.” These things premised, we now proceed to the more direct discussion of the subject before us.
I. The doctrine of Election is necessarily involved in the doctrine of human depravity, as it is taught in the Word of God. What a melancholy picture is there exhibited of the moral condition of mankind! The scriptural doctrine of depravity is not that every man is as bad as he possibly can be, for there may be indefinite progression in guilt: nor that one man is necessarily as wicked as anotherfor there may be many shades of depravity as there are sinners in the universe. But it teaches us that man, by nature, is destitute of all holy principles and desires, that there is nothing in his character which is pleasing in the sight of God; that being alienated in his heart from God, corrupt in the very fountain of action, in the temper and spirit of his mind, all the actions that he performs, even those which are in themselves excellent and lovely, are still the service of an alien and a rebel, and consequently an abomination in the sight of heaven. Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually. The following is an awful, yet inspired declaration of the native character and condition of Jews and Gentiles, of the world of mankind: “And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins, wherein in times past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Eph. 2: 13. In Paul’s Epistle to the Romans we have this strong and remarkable declaration: the “carnal mind,” i. e. the mind of the flesh, of unsanctified human nature “is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” How resistless the conclusion of the apostle from such a position, that “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Every man that is not regenerated, born of the Spirit of God, is in the flesh, under the control of a depraved and rebellious heart, and therefore what thought can he indulge, what action can he perform, what sacrifice present which will be acceptable in the sight of infinite purity? The parable of the supper, whilst it affords a cheering and glorious illustration of the excellency and fullness of the Gospel salvation, presents also a fearful portraiture of the corruption of the human heart: “and they all with one consent began to make excuse.” What but the most entire, obstinate and hopeless depravity, can reject for a single moment the appeals of infinite love as exhibited in the “glorious Gospel of the blessed God.”Mark the testimony which the Saviour bears again to the incurable obstinacy of the sinner. “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” John 6: 44. And shortly after, to account for the unbelief of those who rejected his message, he repeats, in substance, the same unwelcome sentiment, “therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” v. 65. What less can the Saviour mean in such declarations as these than that such is the unrelenting depravity of sinful man, he will assuredly wander on in unbelief and rebellion, unless arrested by the special exercise of efficacious, almighty grace.
Let me here drop a word of solemn caution to the sinner. Do not for a moment suppose my friend, that the inability to which the Saviour refers, involves in it any thing which furnishes a just excuse for rejecting him. Its real nature is explained in another declaration, “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.”Nothing is more common than for men to say that they cannot do that which they will not do. The Scriptures no where say that men cannot come to Christ, if they would; on the contrary their language is, “whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” The want of power is the want of will. Therefore he is utterly inexcusable. Does any one think of excusing the violation of the laws of the land, because the offender has no disposition to obey them? NO: this very perverseness is plead as the last possible reason why the culprit should be brought to justice, and made to feel the penalty of insulted law. And shall we lay aside this just principle of reasoning, when we consider the relations between man and his Maker? Whatever may be the caviling of the heart, it still remains an undeniable truth, that the sinner’s inability, is the sinner’s crimeand the greater his inability, the greater his crime; and that he is most justly condemned for that very disposition which leads him on to certain ruin, and which renders the interference of sovereign mercy so absolutely needful.
But it may be inquired, does not God give to all men a certain measure of grace, which they may improve to the salvation of the soul? It is certain that all men possess those natural faculties, the right and proper use of which would enable them to walk in the way of God’s commandments: it is very easy for that person to do right, who is willing to do right. What additional power of favor may or may not have been bestowed upon men as sinners, I would not now undertake to explain; but this much I will say, that whatever power may be granted, or whatever influence may be exerted upon the hearts of men, if it does not rise higher than the rebellion of the human bosom, and so operate on the perverse will as to determine it to that which is good, this influence never will be rightly improved, nor result in the salvation of one single soul. The man that possesses this incipient grace is either a friend or enemy to God: if he is a friend to God, then he is truly regenerated, then all must be regenerated; since upon the supposition all men possess it: but if he is still an enemy to God, he is in an unconverted state, he is still in the flesh, under the control of the mind of the flesh; and if the word of God bears decisive testimony to anything, it is to the doctrine that such an individual will not of himself come to the Lord Jesus Christ, that he cannot please God. If God has suspended the salvation of the soul upon the volitions of his enemies, or the improvement which they of themselves will make of any of his favors, then is it inevitably certain that all men must perish. They will that which is sinful. The prevailing and ceaseless tenor of their mind is enmity. They do not choose to retain God in their knowledge, they will not have the Lord Jesus Christ to reign over them. If, therefore, such a soul ever draws near to God, will it not be because God wrought in him to will and to do of his good pleasure. The stronger than the strong man must come; Jehovah must put forth the energies of his Spirit, and by giving pungency to truth and force to the notions of the Gospel, bring down the rebellious will to sweet and cheerful submission, and plant in the bosom those pure and gracious affections which it is the duty of all to possess and exercise, but from which all alike, if left to themselves, will remain totally and forever estranged. The substance of our argument is this: man is corrupt, fallen, totally depraved: if a sinner ever becomes willing, it is because he is made willing in the day of God’s power: the Lord of Hosts must save him, and without reference to any foreseen good work or holy volition as the cause why he is made the object of divine favor rather than another. But if the Lord saves one rebellious sinner, he intended to do it; if he intended to do it, there never was a time when he did not purpose thus to dohe intended from eternity to save him, since all his purposes as we have seen must necessarily be eternal. Hence, then, we are driven by the doctrine of human depravity into the doctrine of sovereign, particular, unconditional and eternal election.
(To be continued.)
THE CHRISTIAN INDEX
JANUARY 27, 1843
MR. MALLARY’S SERMON ON THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION,
Ephesians 1: 3, 4.
II. The Covenant of Redemption, in some of its glorious features, establishes the doctrine of Election. It is not my intention at this time to enter fully into the discussion of the doctrine of the Covenant, but that there was some divine agreement or arrangement between the Father and the Son, in the execution of which, a portion of the human family are infallibly saved, is a position which I think admits of scriptural proof. None can deny that it was the will of the Father that Jesus Christ should come into the world to save sinners by the offering of himself a sacrifice to God. And it is equally plain that Christ accepted of the appointment of Mediator, for he said, “Lo I come (in the volume of the book it is written to me) to do thy will O God.”It is equally certain also that the Father promised a glorious reward to the obedience of his Son. “He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he hath poured out his soul unto death.” Isa. 53: 11, 12. Christ accepted of the promised reward, and “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.” The work of expiation completed, Christ entered into the promised glory: God “highly exalted him, and gave him a name which is above every name.” In this manifestation of the Father’s will, and the voluntary obedience of Christ; in the promise so cheerfully made and so readily accepted, in part at least already fulfilled in the exaltation of Christ, who does not see the clear developments of divine counsel, of covenant purpose.
We think it evident from the scriptures that the Father was pleased in the exercises of his own right and sovereign good pleasure, to give to the Son a portion of the human family, of whom he was to be the spiritual head, who should share with him his ineffable joy and glorious exaltation, and who were to constitute an essential and important part of his divine reward. “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed.” Isa. 53. 10. “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” Ps. 2. 8. How often does the Saviour speak of those whom the Father had given him. “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.” John 6. 39. Speaking of his disciples he says, “my Father which gave them me is greater than all.” 10. 29. And again: “I pray not for the world, but for those which thou hast given me.” 17. 9. “I will that they also which thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.” v. 24. Some therefore have absolutely been given to Christ as his inheritance. But here an important question arises, the solution of which must determine the bearing of this subject upon the doctrine we are considering, nay which must determine the truth or falsehood of the doctrine itself. Has God in the grant of immortal souls which he has made to Christ, given him such as he foresaw would believe, and upon condition of their faith, holiness and perseverance; or foreseeing that all alike would despise and wander and perish, has he selected a portion of mankind, who in due time were to be brought to the exercise of faith, and be infallibly kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. Or in fewer words, did the Father give certain persons to Christ, because they would believe; or do certain persons believe because they are given to Christ? Is faith the condition, or the consequence of the gift? Let this vital point be well considered. If Christ’s inheritance is suspended upon the faith of man as the antecedent condition, a condition that may or may not be performed as the creature himself may determine, what assurance could have cheered the Son of God that he should not labor in vain, and spend his strength for naught? Can it be, that when he quit the bosom of his Father to sojourn in this region of sin and death, here to become a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, here to make bare his back to the smiter, and his soul to the envenomed cruse of sin, a curse that called for blood and agonies and death, his hope of compensation was suspended on the contingent faith of those that pierced him, the uncertain obedience of his enemieseven bound in the chains of satan and clad in trespasses and sins? The tenor of the divine pledge inspired a stronger hope than this. “He shall see the travail of his soulhe shall see his seed.”
It cannot be denied that believers as such are the property of the Lord Jesus Christ; but this is not the whole truth: It is evident, we think, that the Saviour regarded a certain portion of mankind as his, in some peculiar sense, antecedent to their faith. “Other sheep,” says the Redeemer, “I have which are not of this fold; them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” John 10.16. These other sheep were of the Gentile nations to whom the gospel had not yet been sent, and who were at the time these words were uttered under the dominion of the prince of the power of the air, children of wrath even as others. He called them his sheep, not because at present he approved their character, but as those in whom he had a special interest, and who in due time should gladly hear his voice, and under the influence of his gracious power be lead willingly to the fold of salvation. There is still another declaration of Christ which is of a most decisive character”All that the Father giveth to me, shall come unto me, and him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6. 37. Will it be said that believers as such, and none beside, are given to Christ? Then the meaning of the passage is this, those that believe on me, shall come unto me. But is not coming to Christ believing on Christ? “He that cometh to me,” says the Son of God, “shall never hunger;” and he immediately adds an equivalent declaration, “and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” If faith then is the condition of the gift, the passage above quoted (v. 37) is to be interpreted as follows: all that the Father giveth to me, i.e. all that believe on meall that come to meshall believe on meshall come to me. This certainly is a forced interpretation, confounding both language and argument. Let us see if we cannot find a more natural and consistent rendering. The Father has promised his Son an ample recompense for his sufferings. A portion of mankind are included in this inheritance. As yet, multitudes of them are in the gall of bitterness and bounds of iniquity; many of them are yet unborn, and when they come into existence, like all others, they will delight in sin, and exalt themselves against God. But Christ knows them all: their names are written in the Book of Life. But as none, in consequence of the depravity of their hearts, will come to Christ, except the Father draw them, God will see to it, that the necessary means are provided, that they may all be taught of God in a manner so effectual that they will come to the Saviour, and coming to him, in the exercise of faith and godly repentance, they shall not be cast out. This appears to me to be the only construction which the passage will bear.
The bearing of all this upon our main subject must now be obvious. God has promised to his Son a definite number of mankind. Christ as the suffering, sin-atoning Lamb, “was foreordained before the foundation of the world.” 1 Pet. 1. 19, 20. Consequently the definite reward in consideration of which he was to undertake the stupendous work of magnifying the law and making it honorable, of making reconciliation for iniquity, must have been arranged in the purpose of God before the foundation of the worldand this is God’s eternal purpose of election.
III. The account which the Scriptures give of the manner in which the work of salvation is commenced and perfected in the soul, involves necessarily the doctrine of election. The sum and substance of the whole is that salvation is entirely of the Lord. It is not on account of any excellency in character or conduct that one man is brought into a state of salvation rather than another. The door is effectually closed against all human merit; the claims of works are forever silenced. “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.” Eph. 2. 8, 9. When men are dead in trespasses and sins, and there is no holy movement towards himself, God approaches, draws, vanquishes and gives life. “But God who is rich in mercy for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.” Eph. 2. 4, 5. In no sense are we our own workmanship: nor are we God’s workmanship in consequence of any good work previously performed; but “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus,” not for or subsequent to good works, but “unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Eph. 2. 10. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the son’s of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1. 12, 13. Those who are recognized as the sons of God are here represented as having been the subjects of a spiritual birth: a birth which is not inherited from parents however pious, from ancestors however illustrious; that flows not from any effort, desire or volition of their own carnal mind, nor is it the product of the will, or effort of any other human being. That sovereign God who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, is the sole and undivided Author of this great work. In perfect accordance with this is the testimony of James, ”Of his own will begat he us with the world of truth.” Jas. 1. 18. Equally explicit is the testimony of Paul in his Epistle to Titus, “For we ourselves were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” Gloomy pictures of depraved man! By what power is such power is such enmity subdued? In what fountain is such pollution washed away? “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Tit. 3. 35. Can clearer testimony be required that the beginning of salvation in the soul is the work of God? But that same Divine Agent who commences the work, maintains, carries forward and perfects it. Every holy thought, desire and action are the fruits of grace. Without me, says the Saviour, ye can do nothing. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.” We “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.”
But is it not affirmed that without faith and repentance we must perish, and is not salvation promised to the penitent and believing? Most assuredly: God will not people his Kingdom with the lovers of sin, and the despisers of his Son. The immutable demand of the Gospel is, repent, believe: This demand is most reasonable, nothing renders obedience difficult by the guilty enmity of the heart, and yet the work must be done, and thousands do repent and do believe. How comes it to pass? The word of God explains the mystery. Christ is exalted a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance. Acts 5. 31. “If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” 2 Tim. 2. 25. Faith as well as repentance are of divine origin. It is of the operation of GodCol. 2. 12. It is the fruit of the SpiritGal. 5. 22. “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to belive [sic] on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” Phil. 1. 29. As we have already seen, coming to Christ includes believing on him: but says Christ, “no man can come unto me except it were given him of my Father.” John 6. 65. Faith and repentance are holy principles. God will not and cannot require of us any exercise or act which is not holy. But man is wholly defiled, and who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? God does not stand back and suspend his efficacious grace till men exercise repentance and faith: the existence of these graces in the heart proves that the work of salvation is already begun. They do not precede regeneration, but are the fruits of it. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God”1 John 5.1. To those who believe on the name of Christ, is power given to become the sons of God, and these are they who are also represented as born of GodJohn 1. 12, 13. And as Christ is the author, so is he the finisher of every holy virtue.
And yet faith and repentance are the acts of the creature: it is man that believes and not God; it is man that repents and not his Maker. But how can this be reconciled to the positions already established. In this way, God gives spiritual strength, and the creature exercises it: God works in us to will and to do, and then we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. God exerts upon the powers of the soul a sweet, constraining and effectual influence; an influence which does no violence to the will, and in no proper sense annihilates human agency, and under the guidance and control of this gracious and almighty influence, the soul freely repents, believes and obeys.
Thus it appears that salvation is of the Lord from first to last. Our regeneration, pardon, justification and adoption; our holiness, faith, repentance and perseverance are the fruits of the riches of Jehovah’s grace, of the exceeding greatness of his power and love. In confirmation of all this, my Christian brother, let me come home to your own experience. Did you first love God? Did you make your approach to him before he first smote your flinty heart? And after some measure of concern had been awakened in your bosom, if God had left you to yourself, would you not most certainly have gone backward to sin and perdition? And if you prove faithful to the end, and obtain the promised crown, do you really and in truth believe that this faithfulness will be the fruit of your own purpose and strength, and not rather of the continued operation of the grace of God upon your heart, nourishing your holy desires, and perpetuating that spiritual conflict which results in victory? You answer, “grace, grace, by the grace of God I am what what [sic] I am.
“Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God.”
I love him, because he first loved me: He turned me, and I was turned; he drew me, and I ran after him; he quickened me, and I called upon his name; and if my feet are kept from falling and my soul from death, the power of God must defend me, grace must consummate the work which it has begun.” Again, we come back to the grand point, that salvation is wholly of the Lord; and some are actually saved, and the Lord saves them. A certain, definite number are savedno more, no less. All that finally pass the threshold of heaven, and enter into their everlasting rest, may be counted one by one. Then salvation is an individual, personal matter; and God saves men one by one, individually, personally. But as we have already shown, if God saves a soul, he purposed to do it: and surely if this work be glorious, the purpose which secured its accomplishment must be glorious; and does it detract from the glory of the work, or the glory of the purpose, that all this has been resolved in the mind of God from the distant ages of eternity. Here then we cast anchor once more upon the doctrine of Election. Election is nothing more nor less than God’s sovereign, eternal purpose to do the very work in the salvation of souls which the Scriptures and our own experience declare he does assuredly and actually perform.
IV. We now invite your attention to some of those passages of the word of God which afford more direct testimony in favor of the doctrine of Election. Our text is unequivocal and explicit. In the opening of the Epistle, the apostle addresses himself to the saints which are at Ephesus and to the faithful in Christ Jesus, and invokes for them the blessings of spiritual peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He then rises into a lofty and energetic stain of thanksgiving to the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ for those rich and abundant blessings which he had bestowed upon his people. By substituting the pronoun us in the third verse, for you in the second, the apostle evidently associates himself and other believers with the Ephesians saints; and thus gives a plain intimation that he is speaking of the privileges of believers generally, both from amongst the Jews and Gentiles. The blessings to which he refers are said to be granted in heavenly places. This expression may denote that pure and exalted church state which is enjoyed under the gospel dispensation, or it may mean, according to the reading in the margin, the heavenly things, showing that the blessings so graciously bestowed consist of things most elevated in their characterbenefits precious, spiritual, heavenly and eternal. The channel through which the blessings of salvation flow to the children of God is distinctly notedthey are blessed in Christ. And in accordance with what rule or principle are they thus blessed? Evidently, the apostle’s words are intelligible, in accordance with God’s eternal choice. The very persons who are said to be blessed with all spiritual blessings, are those who have been chosen or elected in Christ; not only so, they were thus elected before the foundation of the world, or in other words, from eternity. And how plainly is it further unfolded that this choice was not made in view of any foreseen merit, holiness or obedience on the part of those who are the objects of it; but that those who were encompassed in its blessed embrace, should be holy, and without blame before God in love. Most clearly holiness is here exhibited as the end and not the cause, the consequence and not the condition of Election. And it is further clear that all this must be a matter of particular and personal application, for with what propriety could the language of the text and context be applied to nations and communities as such? They are not in any sense which accords with the sanctification of the Gospel dispensation, holy and without blame before God in love; they as collective bodies do not obtain the adoption of children by Christ Jesus, (v. 5,) nor the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace, (v. 7,) nor the peculiar inheritance of the redeemed; these are benefits which can only be possessed by men in their personal character, and those who secure them have been predestinated to these high honors “according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own willl [sic].” v. 5. 11.
In Paul’s Epistle to the Thesalonians [sic], there is a passage which runs in delightful parallel with the words of our text, ”But we are bound to give thanks always 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.” 2 Thes. 2. 13. The whole subject is here unfolded. The persons addressed were chosen or elected of God. They were chosen “from the beginning.”This expression is equivalent to the one in our text”from before the foundation of the world.” They were chosen unto salvation as the glorious end which God in his sovereign mercy and good pleasure had proposed. This choice did not rest on foreseen faith and sanctification as the antecedent conditions, but they were chosen to the end, through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth as the divinely appointed means. The decree which regulates the result is no more definite and fixed than that which marks out the way which leads to that result. It is just as true that he which believeth not shall be damned, and that without holiness no man shall see God, as that God’s elect shall obtain everlasting life.
The following declaration of the apostle in one of his Epistles to Timothy, brings additional support to our argument: ”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 us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” 2 Tim. 1. 9. In Romans 8. 29, 30, the arrangements of grace are conspicuously revealed, embracing the origin, the issue and the grand intermediate parts of the soul’s salvation. The apostle had previously asserted the soul-animating truth that “all things work together for good to those that love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” Let it here be distinctly noticed, that according to his purpose, are represented as the same, and they can of course be none other than regenerated souls, those who have a particular and personal interest in the Lord Jesus Christ. There can be no possible reference here to Jews and Gentiles in a collective or natural sense. But what is the ground of this blessed assurance that all things work together for good to those who love God? In the passage above referred to, the apostle proclaims it”For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren; 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.” Nothing can be more plain than that the very individuals who are here represented as glorified, i. e. brought into the full possession of their heavenly inheritance, were the objects in a peculiar sense of God’s foreknowledge and predestination. This foreknowledge cannot mean simple prescience; else all men, as being in this sense foreknown of God, would be predestinated, and finally called, justified, and saved. The original word here rendered fore-know, sometimes means to fore-ordain; and the term fore-knowledge is sometimes equivalent to fore-ordination. Thus Christ was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge, or predetermination of God.” The same expression used by Paul is used by Peter, 1 Pet. 1. 20, and is very properly rendered fore-ordained: “Who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world.” The meaning of the apostle need not therefore be mistaken. The persons foreknown, are those who are enriched in God’s eternal purpose of love and mercy. He foreknew them with a determinate and gracious design, whose salvation should be rendered infallibly secure, and for whom consequently all things should work together for good. The objects of this foreknowledge were not selected from the great mass of the human family in consequence of any foreseen excellence; for it is said that “whom he did foreknow, them he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Does not this most clearly teach us that holiness, that conformity to the character of Christ, is the consequence of predestination, and that of course it cannot be the condition or the cause. It is observable that in the passage we are now considering the past term is used throughout, which may intimate to us the unshaken confidence with which faith and hope contemplate the final results of God’s purpose in relation to his people, regarding that purpose in all its fullness and glory, as it were, already accomplished. In this connection it might be proper to adduce the testimony of Peter, which it would seem most beautifully harmonizes with that of the apostle PaulElect according to the foreknowledge (or predetermination, as it might be rendered,) of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet. 1. 2.
In the 9th chapter of Romans, the apostle most boldly asserts and triumphantly vindicates the uncontrolled purpose and sovereignty of God in the bestowments of the saving benefits of his grace. He illustrates the method of God’s providence by the manner in which Isaac and his seed, rather than Ishmael, were brought within the line of promise; and more particularly by the preference which God gave to Jacob over Esau, a preference not based upon the foreseen actions of either, but God’s own good pleasure, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand. As a further illustration of the subject, the case of Pharaoh is introduced: He is specified as one whom God had raised up that he might show his power in him, and that his name might be declared throughout all the earth. These were marked instances of God’s sovereignty in the bestowment and withholding of his favors, as in the apostle’s judgment afforded appropriate illustrations of principle upon which some are arrested by the grace of God, and others permitted to work out their own destruction.Hear the conclusion of his argument: “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” v. 16. “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and upon whom he will he hardeneth.” v. 18. In all this matter God asks not counsel of his creatures, nor giveth account to them of his proceedings. He acts like himselfhe acts as an independent and almighty Sovereign. If any obtain mercy, Jehovah wills it: if any go downward to ruin and perish, for reasons infinitely wise and satisfactory to his own mind, he gives them up to their own willful hardness and chosen delusions. But these, say many, are hard sayings, who can hear them. They are nevertheless the true sayings of the Oracles of God.Paul anticipates an objection, the very objection which has been repeated a thousand times in every successive age; the natural and spontaneous murmur of the human heart: “why doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will?If Paul did not seem to vindicate the sovereignty of God in doing as he pleases with his own, what ground for this objection? and if he did not in solemn earnest mean what he seemed to say, why did he not soften down his expressions, rectify mistakes and thus soothe the mind of the disquieted objector? Instead of this, he rebukes the arrogance of the complainer; and in language still more emphatic and unequivocal, vindicates the sovereign rights of the Eternal: “Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against God?shall the thing formed, say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus? hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, (not fitted by God, but by their own sins,) and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” v. 20-24.
In the 11th of Romans, the declarations of the apostle are equally decisive. The Jews as a nation had been rejected for their unbelief; but in this chapter we are assured that their rejection was not to be final; and that at the very time of which he speaks, there were a portion whom the Lord had not disowned. The Jews had been a peculiar people to the Lord, and in a sense as we have seen, an elect people; yet in this election there was still another election whom in a more interesting and peculiar sense were called the people of the Most High. The apostle himself was one of them. None of these had been rejected”God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.” v. 1, 2. Now, as in ancient days, (the apostle proceeds to show,) the Lord had reserved for himself a remnant. Elias mourned over the sad corruption of Israel, and complained that he was left alone, to vindicate the cause of God. But the answer of Jehovah was calculated to soothe the despairing prophet: “I have reserved for myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.Even so them,” continues the apostle, “at this present time, also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” v. 4, 5. This election, we are informed, obtained the divine favor, (v. 7,) whilst the rest who followed after the law of righteousness with blinded eyes and hardened hearts, were left by the just judgment of God, and in accordance with ancient prophecy, to stumble at the stumbling stone, and perish in their rebellion.
When Paul and Barnabas visited Antioch in Pisidia, they first proclaimed the gospel to the Jews; but as they judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, these holy and indefatigable laborers addressed their message of love to the listening Gentiles; the result of their efforts among the Gentiles is stated in the following words: “and as many as were ordained unto eternal life believed.” Acts 13. 48.
The Scriptures testify that there are those whose names are “written in heavenin the book of lifein the Lamb’s book of life.” Luke 10. 20; Phil. 4. 8; Rev. 21. 27. There are other scriptures which inform us that this is a very ancient record, and that those whose names are not there recorded will be given up to delusion and ruin. “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, (the beast,) whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Rev. 13.8. “And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names are not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” Rev. 17. 8.
Thus we conceive that we have proved the doctrine of particular, personal and eternal election to be a scriptural truth; necessarily involved in other important and fundamental doctrines, and unfolded in clear, direct and intelligible declarations.
(To be concluded.)
THE CHRISTIAN INDEX
FEBRUARY 3, 1843
MR. MALLARY’S SERMON ON THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION,
Ephesians 1: 3, 4.
In conclusion, I beg leave to notice a few objections to this doctrine.
1. It is said that the execution of God’s eternal purpose of election destroys the free-agency of the creature and reduces him to a mere machine. This is a great mistake. We may not be able to understand the harmony between the sovereign purpose of God and the free-agency of man; but the Scriptures that assert the one, maintain also the other. They must, therefore, in the divine mind, appear perfectly consistent; and if infinite wisdom perceives their harmony, it seems rather presumptive for infinite ignorance to assert that this cannot be. God in maintaining his government over matter and mind does no violence to the laws which he has established: in the former case, he acts according to the laws of matter; in the latter, according to the laws ordained for the regulation of intelligent accountable beings. Cannot God send showers and drought and tempests at his pleasure, and yet neither suspend nor violate the established laws of nature? And dare we assert that he cannot so operate on the minds and hearts of men as effectually to incline them to that which is good, without annihilating the established laws of intellect, conscience and will? Under the operations of grace, as we have before intimated, the individual freely repents and obeys, just as freely as before he rejected the calls of mercy. The believer is conscious of thisthe Scriptures bear testimony to the same.Now if God cannot render certain the faith and holiness of an individual consistent with his free-agency, then has he created beings which he cannot govern, then he cannot render infallibly certain the salvation of one single soul; nor can he render certain one single event which depends upon the faith and sacrifices of his people. And surely if God does not do violence to the wills of some in making him penitent, believing and holy, he does no violence to others in leaving them to their own perverted choice; nor are they in the least degree removed from the most powerful obligations to do right, because God permits them freely to do wrong.Nor does it at all encroach upon their freedom, that he uses as he pleases their own voluntary rebellion to promote his sovereign designs, and thus make the wrath of man to praise him. If the above positions be not true, I do not see how God can infallibly accomplish one single design which is connected with the actions of voluntary agents; the fulfillment of prophecy, the overthrow of Anti-Christ, the conversion of the Jews, the universal establishment of the Redeemer’s Kingdom on earth sink down into matters of the most dark and uncertain contingency;man is left without a ruler, the Church without a head, the universe without a King.
2. But is not God partial and unjust in determining the salvation of some and leaving others to perish?This objection originates in the want of a full and proper conviction that all men in consequence of sin deserve the wrath of God. If all merit destruction, what ground is there for the objection? If we deny this position, then the doctrine of salvation by grace is utterly overthrown; for there can be no grace in saving those whom it would be unjust to destroy. Let us look once more at the condition of mankind. They have all sinned, and the just wages of sin is death. God has found a ransom equal to human guilt, sufficient as to its own inherent worth to save any, to save all. On the ground of the Saviour’s merits, the gospel goes forth to dying sinners as good news;the sweet and gracious proclamation is, “come for all things are now readyhe everyone that thirstethwhosoever will let him take of the water of life freely.” God commands with authority, invites with much long-suffering, entreats with bleeding tenderness. Nothing hinders a compliance with the requisitions of the gospel but the sinner’s rebellious will. That will remains inexorable. All rush madly on to the brink of death. God foresaw that this would be the character and condition of his creatures. What was to be done? Must Christ lose the travail of his soul and die in vain? Having arranged a glorious plan by which he can be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly, is Jehovah under obligations to let all his revolting subjects move on to the place of execution? Or, if he resolve to save one who deserves eternal death, is he thereby brought under obligation to save the rest, though thy are deserving of wrath of God? Or, in permitting a part to sink down to merited wrath, as the violators of his law, does his justice in punishing them wax into injury and oppression, because he does not suffer all to come into this place of torment? Is one man injured in suffering his just deserts, because another receives a favor to which he has no claim? Those who perish, be they few or many, suffer nothing but merited vengeance; if any are saved, it is infinite, unmerited, almighty grace that interposes. And shall any dare to impugn their maker for this? Election harms no man, Election damns no man. It does not pursue the criminal and force him down the precipice of ruin; but it plucks multitudes from that fatal brink and plants them on the rock of ages. In the execution of its merciful and eternal designs, it gathers out from the guilt, polluted, dying mass, an hundred and forty-four thousand, nay, a great multitude which no man can number, of all nations, kindred and people and tongues, sweetly draws, graciously subdues, washes out their stains in the blood of the Lamb, guides them safely through all their perils and conflicts, and with them peoples the shores and fills the thrones of the celestial Canaan. If all had been left to perish, God’s throne had been guiltless; that some are saved, shall redound to the honor of his name, and proclaim the riches of his grace through eternal ages. Why quarrel with that purpose which results in blessings like these?Why fall out with that arrangement which unfolds nothing but pure, unmixed and effectual mercy, and without which not one ray of saving light had ever pierced the dark night which sin had rolled upon the prospects of mortals? Why one culprit should be savingly pitied rather than another, may never be fully explained to finite minds; but infinite wisdom has the best of reasons for all its acts: let mortals bow in holy adoration, and exclaim, “even so Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight.”
But still the objector replies, unsatisfied and unsubdued, “it is unreasonable that God should make this discrimination, and do for one what he does not for another.” And where, complaining man, will your contention end? Is not the whole administration of God marked with inequality of favor? Is it not thus in heaven, is it not thus on earth? One man is born the heir of wealth, another of poverty; one man inherits a vigorous constitution, another imbecility and disease; one man is blessed with a lofty intellect, whilst another from the cradle is enveloped in the mists of metal weakness and stupidity. And the same inequality is manifest in our religious privileges. Who separated Israel from all nations, set up amongst them the worship of the true God, and deposited in their hands the lively oracles?This certainly was Jehovah’s work; he did it because he chose to do so; he did it for his own glory. And who that believes in the records of God’s word and in the doctrine of a heaven and hell will deny that in the enjoyment of these religious opportunities multitudes of the chosen tribes were eternally saved, whilst the great mass of the nations around were given up to idolatry and ruin? Is it not better to live in a Christian than in a heathen land? in the family of the pious, than in the habitations of the drunken, the profligate and the blasphemous? And who hath appointed us our heritage?A sovereign God. Man has no more control over his own birth than he has over omnipotence. So then it is an indisputable fact that God does actually, in the exercise of his own uncontrolled authority, place men under circumstances that variously affect their eternal interests; circumstances which he assuredly foreknew would tend in some instances to ruin, and in others to everlasting life. Let the objector met these difficulties, and then he will be able to account for those which are involved in the doctrine of particular election. Here are mysteries equally as formidable, equally as confounding to the speculations of finite minds; and yet here are facts which none can deny. The truth is we shall not rise above mystery until we rise to the possession of omniscience; nor will the carnal heart rise above all its cavils until Jehovah surrenders up his throne, and allows his little creature man to reign supreme. If to avoid the perplexities of Calvanism [sic], we take shelter in armenianism [sic], we may have shifted the ground of difficulty but have not found the relief which the discontented heart seeks. According to this system it is admitted that some are eternally saved and some are actually and eternally lost. The objector may still inquire, “why should this be so? Why should God create beings which he foresaw would plunge into sin and perish forever? Or when they were actually formed, why did not infinite love and infinite power throw around them such barriers as could infallibly prevent their falling?” In further search for satisfaction he launches into Universalism: but it is soon evident to him that this system and the Bible cannot both be true; and Deism is the next refuge to which he flees. But here all is uncertain, contradictory and vexatious; and what now remains for the chafed and indignant fugitive, but to plunge into Atheism, that last, cold, dreary vortex of madness and delusion.
3. But does not the doctrine encourage the neglect of our spiritual interests? If a man is elect he will be saved do as wickedly as he can; and if he be non-elect, he will be damned, do as well as he may. This is a gross perversion. Election does not say that any man will be saved that lives wickedly, or that any will be damned that does well. The soul that perishes is destroyed for his sins. The man that is saved is delivered from his sins, and proves his election by living soberly and righteously and godly in this present evil world. The individual that takes encouragement to sin from an assurance of his election, proves that he is the victim of a most dangerous deception. An important end of election is that we should be holy and without blame before God in love. How can that purpose, which, with a fixed and unwavering aim demands holiness, and in its execution infallibly secures it, be unfavorable to piety? As we have seen, men are not chosen to salvation through carnality, unbelief and rebellion, but “through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” How did the apostle know that his Thessalonian brethren were elected of God? by their work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope; by the fact that the gospel came to them not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost, and that they were effectually turned from idols to serve the living and true God. See 1 Thes. 1. 3, 4, 5, 9. Let the wicked tremble: let the professor of religion that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. No man has any further evidence of his election of God, than he mortifies the deeds of the body, becomes crucified to the world, and possesses the mind that was in our Lord Jesus Christ.
As it is a doctrine by no means hostile to personal piety, so it does not discourage efforts for the conversion of the ungodly. Upon what ground does it discourage effort? Because God has certain definite ends to accomplish, and it is absurd to toil for that which he has made sure? Then how absurd to eat and drink to preserve life, for nothing is more certain than that our days are all numbered. Then it is absurd to plough and sow, for God has determined whether or not we shall reap a harvest. Then it was wholly useless for Moses and Aaron to labor for the deliverance of their brethren from Egyptian bondage, for God had assured Abraham that at the end of four hundred years his posterity should be delivered from their oppressors. Then were Daniel’s fasting & prayers and tears in behalf of the captive tribes useless, for he had learned from the infallible word of God that deliverance was to come at the end of seventy years. Then how strange was the declaration of Paul, “except these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved,” when he had already declared his message from God, that none in the vessel should perish. Election unfavorable to efforts for the salvation of men? The farthest from it possible. It lies beneath the eternal rock of confidence and hope. If it were not true, we might well despair. But it is true, and therefore our labor shall not be in vain in the Lord. The end is certain. God has not suspended the salvation of souls, the reward promised to his Son, upon any frail contingency, but he has taken it into his own almighty hands. His word shall not return unto him void; vast multitudes are to be rescued from the jaws of the prowling lion, all Israel shall be saved. The heathen are to be given to Christ for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession. But for all these things God will be inquired of: there must be faith, and prayer, and preaching, and tears, and toil. Without these things men cannot be saved, no more than Paul and his companions in the weather beaten ship could be saved, except the seamen remained in it. But as God has fixed upon definite results, and has prescribed the means which will infallibly conduct to the certain issue, with what joy may the spiritual husbandman thrust in his ploughshare and sow seed. With what immovable confidence may the missionary of the cross, in obedience to his ascended Saviour, fly to distant lands, and proclaim in every valley and on every hill, “O ye dry bones hear ye the word of the Lord.” Victory he knows will sooner or later come; and the assurance of victory nerves his arm and gladdens his heart amidst at the terrors of the battlefield. It is not for God’s ambassador to know who will repent and believe the Gospel: duty is his; the issue is with heaven. He is not to preach to men as elect or non-elect, but as needy, guilty, perishing sinners; he is to warn, rebuke and exhort them with ceaseless importunity and affection, and having sowed his seed in love, and watered it with his tears and prayers, he is to commend his prayers, his message and his hearers to that God who alone can give the increase, and who will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.And whilst the doctrine affords such sweet encouragement to the saints of God to labor for the salvation of souls, rightly considered it lays the only foundation of hope to perishing sinners. Fellow sinner, if God has determined to save none, you are as eternally ruined as you have a being:–your heart, your perverse, corrupt and rebellious heart will destroy you. But if Christ shall assuredly see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied, if in spite of sin and earth and devils his Kingdom shall move on, and many ransomed souls shall return to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their head, you need not despair. Who can tell but what there is a blessing for you. Certain it is that if your come to Christ you will be graciously accepted; and certain it is that if you keep back from his arms it is your own deliberate choice; and should God in indignation withhold from you that grace which you are too proud and obstinate to seek, though now you cavil at his truth, and quarrel with the high prerogatives of his throne, yet in the judgment your mouth will be stopped, and in hell you will see his justice, eternal justice mingled with the terrors which consume you.
But admitting the doctrine to be true, is it important to investigate it, and to proclaim it? If it is a part of God’s word, it should be diligently studied and properly taught. Is it a light matter to pass by any portion of the counsel of God? The doctrine has no doubt been abused. Incompetent teachers have torn it from its proper connections, mixed it with much of their own imaginings, and held it up in a distorted light, to the injury of the cause of truth. Antinomianism has been one of the deadly fruits of this perversion. Now much our own denomination has suffered from this spiritual malady, I need not say. The spell I trust has been broken. But are there no other evils to fear? Happy indeed shall we be, if in disengaging ourselves from, this dangerous extreme, we do not hurry on to its opposite fritter down the doctrines of grace, and give countenance, by our faith and teaching, to self-righteous presumption. If I do not mistake, there is a tendency in some portion of our brethren to this very evil.
Every truth is essential in its place. We need the sanctifying influence of all which God has revealed for us to study and believe. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2. Tim. 3. 16, 17. A man may believe the doctrine of this discourse, and yet be but little profited; or he may in some of its features reject it, and yet be a good man; but if it be the truth of God, the cordial belief of it, and the prayerful improvement of it is necessary to the formation of a complete Christian Church. It cannot perform the work of any other doctrine, nor can any other truth supply the place of this. It must fall upon the mind, it must touch the heart, it must form a part of our spiritual nourishment, or there will be a corresponding deficiency in the spiritual man. Is it not a doctrine that strikes at human pride, and brings the creature low at the footstool of Jehovah? It stripes him of all boasting, nourishes a meek and lowly sense of dependence, whilst it tills the soul with adoring thoughts of the matchless, sovereign, eternal love of God.when the believer reflects that he has been blessed with all spiritual blessings according to God’s eternal purpose, with what holy joy does he repeat the thanksgiving of our text”blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” With what profound wonder does he exclaim, “O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God: how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” Melting into tenderness and grateful affection as he dwells upon that peculiar mercy which rescued him from death and gave him a place at the Gospel feast, he exclaims with the poet,
“Why was I made to hear thy voice
And enter while there’s room?
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come.
‘Twas the same love that spread the feast,
That sweetly forced us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.”
The holiest men that have ever lived have believed, loved and proclaimed the doctrine. It was the doctrine of the Apostle. It was the doctrine of the reformation. It was the doctrine of Owen, and Watts, and Whitfield, and Fuller, and Scott. Modern times cannot boast of a more holy man than President Edwards, and yet no man more ardently loved, more firmly believed, more profoundly investigated the doctrines of sovereign, distinguishing grace.The sovereignty of God was to him a theme unspeakably sweet and awfully glorious; and no doubt his frequent and profound contemplation of it contributed much to the amazing depth, the delightful symmetry and perfection of his purity.
The doctrine when appropriately unfolded has not only been profitable to believers, but has been blessed of God to the conversion of sinners. It has torn away their pride and fancied strength, revealed them as naked and undone, at the disposal of their insulted, yet gracious Sovereign, and driven them weeping and penitent to the Saviour’s feet, there in their last extremity to cry out, “Lord save or we perish.” It is still a delicate and awful theme: it should be pondered with much diligence and proclaimed with prayerful solemnity. It should be exhibited in its proper perfection, and in its just connection with the other truths of revelation; and also in it’s practical bearing upon the hopes; the duties and characters of men.