THE FORCE OF TRUTH
Thomas Scott (First published in 1779)
Â•Continued from Vol. 9, p.278.
Leaving therefore all difficulties of a metaphysical nature to be cleared up in that world of light and knowledge, I began to consider the abuses of this doctrine, (election) which I had always looked upon as a very formidable objection against it. But I soon discovered, that though ungodly men, who make profession of religion, will turn the grace of God into licentiousness; yet we might so explain and guard these doctrines, that none could thus abuse them, without being conscious of it, and so detecting their own hypocrisy. It still indeed appeared probable to me, that the preaching of them might at first occasion some trouble of mind to a few well-disposed persons: but I considered, that by a cautious declaration, and contrasting them with the general promises of the gospel to all who believe, this might in a great measure be prevented; at the worst, a little personal conversation with such persons would seldom, if ever, fail to satisfy them, and enable them in general to derive encouragement from them:
while the unsettling of the minds of such persons as are carelessly living in an unconverted state, is the great end of all our preaching to them; and therefore we need not fear any bad effect of this doctrine in that respect.
The great question therefore was. Are these doctrines in the bible, or not? Hitherto I had wilfully passed over or neglected, or endeavoured to put some other construction upon, all those
parts of scripture which directly speak of them; but now I began to consider, meditate, and pray over them; and I soon found that I could not support my former interpretations. They would teach predestination, election, and final perseverance, in spite of all my twisting and expounding. It also occurred to me, that these doctrines, though now in disgrace, were universally believed and maintained by our venerable reformers; that they were admitted, at the beginning of the reformation, into the creeds, catechisms, or articles, of every one of the Protestant Churches; that our articles and homilies expressly maintained them; and consequently, that a vast number of wise and sober-minded men, who in their days were burning and shining lights, had upon mature deliberation agreed, not only that they were true, but that they ought to be admitted as useful, or even as necessary articles of faith, by every one who deemed himself called to take upon him the office of a Christian minister.
In the course of this inquiry, I perceived that my system was incomplete without them. I believed that men, by nature born in sin, the children of wrath, and by wicked works the enemies of God, being in themselves ungodly and without strength, were saved of free mercy and grace, without having done any thing, more or less, to deserve it, through the Redeemer’s righteousness and atonement, received by faith, the gift and operation of God; as born again, born of God, or new created unto good works, and to the Divine image, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
It now, therefore, occurred to me to inquire, from what source these precious blessings, thus freely flowing through the channel of redemption to poor worthless sinners, could originally spring? And thus my mind was carried back from the consideration of the effects, to that of the cause; and from the promises made to fallen man, to the counsels and purposes of God which induced Him to give those promises. I was engaged in frequent meditations on the Divine omniscience, unchangeableness, and eternity; and the end which the all-sufficient God had in view in all His works, even the manifestation of the glory of His own perfections; and perceived that redemption itself, as planned by God, to whom were “known all His works from the beginning of the world,” must be the result of His eternal purpose of displaying the glory of His mercy and grace, in harmonious consistency with His most awful justice and holiness; and thus manifesting the inexhaustible resources of His manifold wisdom, in glorifying at once all these attributes, which, considered as perfect, seem to created understandings
irreconcilable to each other. I considered that, until the fall of man and his redemption had manifested the attribute of mercy to sinners, it had, as far as we can learn, been unexercised and undisplayed, and consequently unknown to any but God Himself, from all eternity; nor could He have the glory of it, but must have been considered as so perfect in justice and holiness, as to be incapable of mercy, had He not chosen some objects on whom to exercise it, and devised some method of displaying it in consistency with His other perfections. Thus I perceived redemption to be the effect of a settled design, formed in God’s eternal counsels, of manifesting Himself to His reasonable creatures, complete and full-orbed in all conceivable perfections. But as all have transgressed the Divine law, and as none are disposed of themselves to embrace His humbling and holy salvation, or even to inquire after it; so I was convinced that the merciful and gracious nature of God, the fountain of goodness, alone moved Him to choose any of them as objects of His favourable regard; that His unconstrained will and pleasure are the only assignable causes of His choosing one rather than another; and that in fact the whole work was His own; His wisdom having devised the means; His love and all-sufficiency having, in the person, offices, and work of Christ, made all things ready; His providence directing absolutely to whom the word of invitation shall be sent; and His Holy Spirit alone inclining and enabling the soul to embrace it by faith. Hence I concluded that God, who knoweth the end from the beginning, and is a Sovereign, and, when none have deserved anything, may do as He will with His own, actually “choose us” (even every Individual believer) “in Christ 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, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” Eph. 1.4-6.
In short, though my objections were many, my anxiety great, and my resistance long, yet by the evidence which, both from the word of God and from my own meditation, crowded upon my mind, I was at length constrained to submit; and. God knoweth, with fear and trembling, to allow these formerly despised doctrines a place in my creed. Accordingly, about Christmas 1777, I began cautiously to establish the truth of them, and to make use of them for the consolation of poor distressed and fearful believers. This was the only use I then (new of them, though I now see their influence on every part of
However, I would observe that, though I assuredly believe these doctrines as far as here expressed, (for I am not willing to trace them any higher, by reasonings or consequences, into the unrevealed things of God,) and though I exceedingly need them in my view of religion, both for my own consolation, and security against the consequences of a deceitful heart, an ensnaring world, and a subtle tempter, as also for the due exercise of my pastoral office; yet I would not be understood to place the acknowledgment of them upon a level with the belief of the doctrines before spoken of. I can readily conceive the character of a humble, pious, spiritual Christian, who is either an utter stranger to the doctrines in question, or who, through misapprehension or fear of consequences, cannot receive them. But I own I find a difficulty in conceiving of a humble, pious, spiritual Christian, who is a stranger to his own utterly lost condition, to the deceitfulness and depravity of his heart, to the natural alienation of his affections from God, and to the defilements of his best duties; who trusts, either in whole or in part, allowedly, to any thing for pardon and justification, except the blood and righteousness of a crucified Saviour, God manifested in the flesh; or who expects to be made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, in any other way than by being born again, created anew, converted and sanctified by the Divine power of the Holy Ghost.*
*To be continued.