“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.”Â—Eph. 1.4,5.
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn 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.” -Rom. 8.29,30.
Man is not in the original state in which he came from the hands of his Creator, but is fallen, ruined, spiritually dead, i.e. estranged from and at enmity with God.
Poor man is truly “carnal, sold under sin,” not only without power but without inclination to move towards God; ay, and what is more awful still, an actual rebel, a presumptuous, blas-phemous rival of the great Jehovah’s!
Satan’s accursed lie, “Ye shall be as gods,” is still ringing in man’s ears, inciting him to thoughts, acts, and deeds, repudiating all submission to his Creator, and secretly or openly questioning His right of dominion.
Will a man then seek that which he does not want? Will a man pray for that which he does not like? Surely no! If a man then does really pray to God for that which by nature he hates, if he really loves God whom by nature he dislikes, a marvellous change must have come upon him. Something must have been done in him or for him by a power altogether outside of himself. Now if all men experienced this marvellous change, WE should trace it or attribute it to God’s universal grace or love; but as all men do not experience it, we must trace it or attribute it to God’s electing or distinguishing grace or love.
Yes, it is to electing grace we are to trace the change from death to life, from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God. And would now prove to you by the Scriptures that this is the grand basis upon which God builds His Church, Jesus Christ being the chief corner-stone; subsequently answer some objections, and point out a few absurdities arising from the opposite scheme.
I.Â—Election, from eternity, of a peculiar people to salvation, is the doctrine of the Scriptures.
The texts that I have chosen for the foundation of this discourse clearly establish election. Can unbelieving ingenuity twist and warp the passage in Ephesians to mean something conditional, uncertain, or contingent? Can men have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, whose salvation depended on their own will to be holy and without blame before God in love? Then who would be holy? Who would or could be without blame before God in love? Can men have been predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will, and yet be left to their own choice whether they be children or not? Surely the idea is monstrous! Man is fallen, ruined, by nature at enmity with God, and how could he choose to be a child of the all holy God? And how could his salvation ever be attained if it were left to his own will? But some one says. But God does not leave it to man’s self to choose; He puts the Holy Spirit in him to give him good thoughts and desires, and this Spirit, working in man, induces him to be holy and without blame before God.
Now we want to be informed, does the Spirit thus work in every man? And if so, why is not every man “induced to be holy?” Is the resisting principle stronger in some men than in
others? If so, then it is not true that all men are alike fallen. And if the Spirit does not work in every man, the question of election or predestination is at an endÂ—that which we would maintain is granted.
The text from the 8th of Romans is still clearer. These words have been called “the Golden Chain of Salvation,” and it was manifestly the doctrine announced by them that caused the apostle to break out in such rapture in the concluding portion of the chapter. He there seems to range through all creation for an antagonist to dispute the point, and is fully persuaded that nothing could ever separate the elect soul from God!
Let us examine this text. Mark the foreknowledge here alluded to. This is the foundation upon which the whole frame of the amazing work of man’s redemption stands.
Two questions here present themselves, viz.: 1. As God foreknows all things, does the apostle mean here that God merely thus foreknew all men? 2. Could God have foreknown any inherent goodness in any, so as to induce Him to make choice of them?
I answer both questions with a decided negative. For 1st, the individuals foreknown in the text are glorified, and all are not, or will not be glorified. 2nd. Where all without exception are ruined and at enmity with God, it is impossible that He could have seen good in one and not in another.
The foreknowledge is evidently a foreknowledge of choice, and a foreknowledge of choice of the particular parties to be glorified.
You see also this scripture, that those whom God thus foreknew. He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.
Now observe, it is not said God foreknew they would be conformed, and so predestinated them; but He predestinated them to be conformed.
It is vain to object, “God predestinated them to be conformed, but after all they may not be,” for it is written, “Whom He did predestinate, them He also called,” not only with an external call, as the many are called but few chosen, but with an internal and effectual call. “Whom He called, them He also justified.” He absolved them from all guilt, and owned and loved them as friends and favourites Â— “And whom He justified, them He also GLORIFIED.”
This fact of glorifying all the objects of His choice, to my mind, puts an end to all vain reasoning in this connection. If that link of the chain had been left out, we should have had more trouble with God’s enemies than we have now; but as it is there, we may defy them with this scripture alone.
But what say other scriptures? Time will not permit me to speak at large upon the case of Abraham, who was an idolater when God called him; of Isaac, who was chosen instead of Ishmael; of Jacob, who was chosen instead of Esau; of the Jews, who were chosen instead of the Egyptians or Assyrians;
of David, who was chosen to be king, though the most unlikely of all Jesse’s sons; or of Cyrus, or Jeremiah, or Paul, or a host of others, who were manifestly pitched upon by God as favourites, not through mere caprice, but by His sovereign will.
Men, doubtless, will object and say, “This is no proof of election to eternal life, but only to temporal privileges, and for temporal uses.” But I ask, are these cases to be regarded merely as historical facts? Was there no designÂ—no manifestation of sovereign choice in all this? Granted that these instances display an election to temporal things, will it not follow that there is an election to things of a spiritual and eternal nature? If God is known to have gone out of the ordinary method in things temporal, is it unlikely that He will go out of the ordinary method in things spiritual and eternal?
But the Scriptures afford abundant evidence of personal election to eternal life.
The Lord began His ministry with a broad hint at it, see Luke 4.25,27; and He closed His ministry with an unmistakable declaration of it, see John 17.
At your leisure you can read Matt. 11.25,26; Matt. 13.10,11;
20.15,16Â—20,23; Mark 13.19,20; John 6.36Â—39; 10.15,16, 26,28; John 13.18. The choice spoken of in this last passage must refer to salvation, and not to apostleship, for to the latter Judas was chosen, as well as the others, John 7.70.
The apostles unreservedly preached the doctrine of election to eternal life. At your leisure, you can consult Acts 13.48, and 4.14; Rom. 9.pass/m: 2 Thess.2.13; 2 Tim. 1.8,9, and 2.19;
James 1.13; 1 Pet. 1.2; 2 Pet. 1.1.
II.Â—Many objections have been made to the doctrine of election; but this is not surprising. As long as there are fallen men upon earth or devils in hell, the reign of a Sovereign God will find opponents. I will now proceed to notice some of those objections.
OBJECTION.Â—We are elected or predestinated to eternal life, according to God’s foreknowledge of our faith, and repentance, and perseverance.
ANSWER.Â—Such an election would involve us in a covenant of works, and place God’s purposes in time instead of eternity. This would not be pre-destination, but post-destination, and an inverting of the Scriptures, which place faith and holiness
as the consequents, and not as the antecedents of election. Eph. 1.4; John 15.16; 2 Thess. 2.13.
“Some object,” observes an old divine, “that we are predestinated and elected according to the foreknowledge of our faith, and repentance, and perseverance; but if that were Paul’s foreknowledge, why then would he say that those that
he did foreknow. He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son? (Rom. 8.29). If God did foreknow them thus conformed, why did He then predestinate them to be conformed? And if that were Peter’s foreknowledge, why then would he say that they were elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father unto obedience?”
We may be certain that wherever the pure gospel is preached, there are some to be gathered in by it,
OBJECTION.Â—These things are secrets with GodÂ—we have no business meddling with them.
ANSWER.Â—This is a mistake. The objects of election are secret to us; but the doctrine is not. It is plainly revealed.
OBJECTION.Â—If God has predestinated some to eternal life, why damn the man whom He has not predestinated?
ANSWER.Â—No man will be damned because he is not predestinated, but because of his sins. God may show favour to those to whom it is not due, and withhold it from others without a shadow of injustice. No man has any reason to find fault with God for the denial of a mercy until he can lay some claim to it.
OBJECTION.Â—It is unjust of God to save some and not all, when all are alike sinful.
ANSWER.Â—God might justly have left all to perish, as He has left the fallen angels. Shall not God have liberty to dispose of
His own grace and glory as He pleases?
OBJECTION.Â—God hath no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but will have all to come to repentance.
ANSWER.Â—The death of a sinner affords God no pleasure, as it is the misery of His creature; nevertheless. His terrible attribute of justice must be glorified.
And as for God being willing for all to come to repentance, we must take care to notice, 1st, that God’s will, whatever it is, cannot be frustrated, and then we shall understand that this willingness is in reference to the elect; 2nd, that all such expressions as this, and the expostulations of Scripture in general, are means in God’s hands for speaking peace and giving encouragement to His poor timid people, who, were it not for such, would hardly dare to look up to an all holy God.
OBJECTION.Â—The doctrine is unmerciful.
ANSWER.Â—It is not so unmerciful as its opposite; for this makes the salvation of millions secure. Rev. 7.9; whilst the other makes salvation only a possibility.
OBJECTION.Â—This doctrine discourages people in the use of means, and tends to despair; for if I am not predestinated to life, there is no use in me seeking.
ANSWER.Â—This is carnal reasoning; for the end and the means are in the same decree. A beautiful illustration of this is in Acts 27.23Â—5. The way to everlasting life is through holiness and faith, a conformity to Christ’s image.
OBJECTION.Â—What use of the judgment then?
ANSWER.Â—That must necessarily be, for the display and glorification of God’s justice. Nothing will be done in a corner;
every mouth must be stopped: the whole world must be intellectually convinced that God is true, and that Christ and His people are one. This evidently is the solution of John 17.21 and 23. The world will be made to believe intellectually in the power and designs of God.
III.Â—I would now proceed to point out some of the obsurdities that must follow from the opposite scheme; and in conclusion, say a few words upon the whole.
1. If there is nothing fixed or predetermined in the matter, then it follows that the will of God in an affair wherein His own glory is so greatly concerned is dependent upon the will of the creature.
2. Without predestination. God might be wholly disappointed in His saving design, and the precious blood of Christ might have been shed in vain!
3. Without predestination, man’s salvation is a thousand times more difficult under the new covenant than it was under the first.
Man’s standing under the first depended upon his free-will.We all know the consequences. Now if free-will ruined man when he was upright, what will it now do since he is fallen? Ah! blessed be God! He puts no trust in his saints! Job 15.15; but he has taken the matter into His own hands!
4. Without predestination, the salvation of every man originates in himself, or is divided between God and the creature. Hence man may boast, and give the lie to Scripture, 1 Cor. 1.29; Eph.2.9; Isa. 2.17. Hence the saved man is furnished with a ready answer to the question, “Who maketh thee to differ from another?” (1 Cor. 4.7).
And now to bring this subject to a close. Some may be inclined to ask, “What is the good of all this elaborate disquisition? Can’t we get to heaven without a knowledge of
this doctrine? To which I reply, it augurs badly for the state of the soul to make such objections. I cannot believe that any awakened child of God has ever murmured thus. I cannot believe that any awakened minister of God has ever attempted to keep back the wonderful intelligence revealed through election from the souls entrusted to his care.
But I’ll tell you what good comes of all this elaboration. First, it finds out where a man is. This doctrine is a terrible searcher of the heart. The loftiness of that man who kicks against it has never been brought down. His haughtiness has never been laid low. Secondly, without a knowledge of this doctrine, we cannot have right conceptions of the attributes of God. His sovereignty, goodness, mercy, and love are never so much displayed as in His everlasting purpose to deliver so many of the children of Adam from misery. To deliver some and not all (though this will seem strange to the superficial), renders the divine goodness towards the subjects of this deliverance more conspicuous and glorious.
Thirdly, without election we cannot have right conceptions of the covenant of redemption between Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The atonement is rendered a vague and uncertain thing. Free-will, which stands in competition with and opposition to the grace of God, can never, without election, be thrown to the ground as it ought to be. Fourthly, it is the foundation and perpetual spring of consolation to believers. When once a man gets to know that all things are ordered and sure, and that he is a recipient of grace, his happiness is begun!
“IN CHRIST-ONCE, IN CHRIST FOR EVER!”
is his song day and night; and so far from the belief leading him to negligence and riot, it is his chief argument to holiness and obedience.