« VorigeDoorgaan »
abominable, miserable creatures. It appears, in choosing that he should be of such a branch of mankind, in selecting the posterity of David, a mean person originally, and the youngest of the family. And as he was the seed of the woman, so his sovereignty appears in his being the seed of such particular woman; as of Leah, the uncomely wife of Jacob, whom her husband had not chosen, &c. And his sovereignty appears in the choice of that individual female of whom Christ was born.
$31. It was owing to this election of God, that the man Jesus was not one of the corrupt race of mankind; so that his freedom from sin is owing to the free, sovereign, electing love of God in him, as well as in the rest of elect men. All holiness, all obedience and good works, and perseverance in him, was owing to the electing love of God, as well as in his elect members. For if he had failed ; if his courage, resolution, and love, had been conquered by his sufferings, he never could have been delivered from them ; for then he would have failed in his obedience to God; and his love to God failing, and being overcome by sufferings, these sufferings would have failed of the nature of an acceptable sacrifice to God; and the infinite value of his sufferings would have failed, and so must be made up in infinite duration, to atone for his own deficiency. But God having chosen Christ, he could not fail in this work, and so was delivered from his sufferings, from the eternity of them, by the electing love of God. Justification and glorifica- . tion were fruits of God's foreknowledge and predestination in him, as well as in his elect members. So Christ's election is the foundation of ours, as much as his justification and glorification are the foundation of ours.
§ 32. 2 Thess. ii. 13. “But we are bound to give thanks alway 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.” Concerning this scripture I observe the following things :- 1. The word translated chosen, is a word that signifies to choose or pick out from many others. 2. That this choosing is given as a reason, why those differ from others, that believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness, as an instance of the distinguishing grace of God; and therefore the apostle mentions their being chosen, their election, as the ground of their sancti. fications by the Spirit and belief of the truth. 3. The apostle speaks of their being chosen to salvation, as a ground of their perseverance, or the reason why they never shall fall away, as others spoken of before, whereby they failed of salvation. See the preceding verses. Compare Heb. vi. 9-14. They are spoken of as thus chosen from the beginning.–And that place, Matt. xx. 21, 22, 23. “Grant that these my two sons may sit
one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy kingdom ;-it shall be given to them, for whom it is prepared of my Father;" affords an invincible argument for particular personal predestination.
$33. There were many absolute promises of old, that salvation should actually be accomplished, and that it should be of great extent, or extended to great multitudes of mankind; as, that “the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head." " In thee, and in thy seed, shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Psalm cx. “ Sit thou at my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power :" and innumerable others. And if there were absoluto promises of this, then there were absolute purposes of it; for that which is sincerely absolutely promised, is with an absolute purpose of fulfilling the promise. But how can it be devised, that there should be an absolute, determinate, infallible, unchangeable purpose, that Christ should actually save vast multitudes of mankind; and yet it be not absolutely purposed that he should save any one single person, but that, with regard to every individual soul, this was left to be determined by man's contingent will, which might determine for salvation, or against it, there being nothing to render it impossible, concerning any one, that his will would not finally determine against it ? Observe, these prophecies are not merely predictions, but are of the nature of promises, and are often so called :—" which he hath promised by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began,” &c. God takes care to fulfil his own promises ; but, according to this scheme, it is not God that fulfils these promises ; but men, left to themselves, to their contingent wills, fulfil them. Man's will, which God does not determine, determines itself in exclusion of God.
§ 34. Concerning that grand objection, that this doctrine supposes partiality in God, and is very dishonourable to him, being quite contrary to God's extensive and universal benevolence to his creatures: it may be shown, that the Arminian notions and principles, in this matter, lead directly to Deism ; and that, on these principles, it is utterly impossible to answer Tindal's objections against revealed religion, especially in his 14th chapter. Besides, unjustifiable partiality is not imputable to a sovereign distribution of his favours, though ever so unequally, unless it be done unwisely, and so as to infringe the common good. God has regard to conditions in his decrees, as he has regard to a wise order and connexion of things. Such is his wisdom in his decrees and all his acts and operations, that, if it were not for wise connexion that is regarded, many things would not be decreed. One part of the wise system of events would not have been decreed, unless the other parts had been decreed also. Vol. VII.
$ 35. God, in the decree of election, is justly to be considered as decreeing the creature's eternal happiness, antecedently to any foresight of good works, in a sense wherein he does not in reprobation decree the creature's eternal misery, antecedently to any foresight of sin; because the being of sin is supposed, in the first place, in order in the decree of reprobation, which is, that God will glorify his vindictive justice; and the very notion of revenging justice, simply considered, supposes a fault to be revenged. But faith and good works are not supposed in the first place in order to the decree of election. The first things in order in this decree are, that God will communicate his happiness, and glorify his grace; (for these two seem to be coordinate.) But in neither of these are faith and good works supposed. For, when God decrees, and seeks to communicate his own happiness in the creature's happiness, the notion of this, simply considered, supposes or implies nothing of faith or good works ; nor does the notion of grace, in itself, suppose any such thing. It does not necessarily follow, from the very nature of grace, or God's communicativeness of his own happiness, that there must be faith and good works.
$36. What divines intend by prior and posterior, in the affair of God's decrees, is, not that one is before another in the order of time; for all are from eternity ; but that we must conceive the view or consideration of one decree to be before another, inasmuch as God decrees one thing out of respect to another decree, so that one decree must be conceived of as in some sort to be the ground of another; or that God decrees one because of another ; or that he would not have decreed one, had he not decreed that other. Now, there are two ways in which divine decrees may be said to be, in this sense, prior one to another. 1. When one thing decreed, is the end of another, this must, in some respect, be conceived of as prior to that other. The good to be obtained, is, in some respect, prior in the consideration of him who decrees and disposes, to the means of obtaining it. 2. When one thing decreed is the ground on which the disposer goes, in seeking such an end by another thing decreed, as being the foundation of the ca. pableness or fitness that there is in that other thing decreed, to obtain such an end. Thus, the sinfulness of the reprobate is the ground on which God goes in determining to glorify his justice in the punishment of his sinfulness; because his sinfulness is the foundation of the possibility of obtaining that end by such means. His having sin, is the foundation of both the fitness and possibility of justice being glorified in the punishment of his sin; and, therefore, the
consideration of the being of sin in the subject, must, in some respect, be prior in the mind of the disposer, to the determination to glorify his justice in the punishment of sin. For the disposer must first consider the capableness and aptness of such means for such an end, before he determines them to such an end. Thus God must be conceived of, as first considering Adonibezek's cruelty in cutting off the thumbs and great toes of threescore and ten kings, as that which was to be, before he decreed to glorify his justice in punishing that cruelty, by the cutting off his thumbs and great toes.
But this aptness depends on the nature of that sin that was punished. Therefore the disposer, in fixing on those means for this end, must be conceived of as having that sin in view. Because sinfulness is necessarily supposed as already existing in the decree of punishing sinfulness. That which stands in the place of the ultimate end, in a decree, i. e. that which is a mere end, and not a means to any thing further or higher, viz. the shining forth of God's glory, and the communication of his goodness, must, indeed, be considered as prior, in the consideration of the Supreme Disposer, to every thing, excepting the mere possibility of it. But this must, in some respects, be conceived of as prior to that, be. cause possibility is necessarily supposed in his decree. But, if we descend lower than the highest end; if we come down to other events decreed, that be not mere ends, but means to obtain that end ; then we must necessarily bring in more things, as in some respect prior, in the same manner as mere possi. bility is in this highest decree. The vindictive justice of God is not to be considered as a mere or ultimate end, but as a means to an end. Indeed, God's glorifying his justice, or rather his glorifying his holiness and greatness, has the place of a mere and ultimate end. But his glorifying his justice in punishing sin, (or in exercising vindictive justice, which is the same,) is not to be considered as a mere end, but a certain way or means of obtaining an end. Vindictive justice is not to be considered as a certain distinct attribute to be glorified, but as a certain way and means for the glorifying an attribute. Every distinct way of God's glorifying or exercising an attribute, might as well be called a distinct attribute as this. It is but giving a distinct name to it, and so we might multiply attributes without end. The considering of the glorifying of vin. dictive justice as a mere end, has led to great misrepresentations, and undue and unhappy expressions, about the decree of reprobation. Hence the glorifying of God's vindictive justice on such particular persons has been considered as altogether prior in the decree to their sinfulness, yea to their very beings. Whereas it being only a means to an end, those things that are necessarily presupposed, in order to the fitness and possibility of this means of obtaining the end, must be conceived of as prior to it.
$37. Hence God's decree of the eternal damnation of the reprobate, is not to be conceived of as prior to the fall, yea, and to the very being of the persons, as the decree of the eternal glory of the elect is. For God's glorifying his love, and communicating his goodness, stands in the place of a mere or ultimate end; and therefore is prior in thegmind of the eternal disposer to the very being of the subject, and to every thing but mere possibility. The goodness of God gives the being, as well as the happiness of the creature, and does not presup. pose it. Indeed, the glorifying of God's mercy, as it presupposes the subject to be miserable, and the glorifying his grace, as it presupposes the subject to be sinful, unworthy and ill-deserving, are not to be conceived of as ultimate ends, but only as certain ways and means for the glorifying the exceeding abundance and overflowing fulness of God's goodness and love ; therefore these decrees are not to be considered as prior to the decree of the being of the subject. And the decree of election, as it implies a decree of glorifying God's mercy and grace, considers men as being cursed and fallen; because the very notion of such a decree supposes sin and misery. Hence we may learn, how much in the decree of predestination is to be considered as prior to the creation and fall of man, and how much as posterior viz. that God's decree to glorify his love and communicate his goodness, and to glorify his greatness and holiness, is to be considered as prior to creation and the fall of man. And because the glory of God's love, and the communication of his goodness, necessarily imply the happiness of the creature, and give both their being and happiness ; hence the design to communicate and glorify his goodness and love externally to a certain number, is to be considered as prior, in both those mentioned respects, to their being and fall. For such a design, in the notion of it, presupposes neither. But nothing in the decree of reprobation is to be looked upon as antecedent to man's being and fall.
§ 38. The decrees of God must be conceived of in the same order, and as antecedent to, and consequent on one another, in the same manner as God's act in the execution of those decrees. They depend on one another, and are grounded on one another, in the same manner as the decrees that these are the execution of, and in no other. For, the decrees of God are no other than his eternal doing what is done, acted, or executed by him in time. God's acts themselves, in executing, can be conceived of no otherwise, than as decrees for a present effect. They are acts of God's will. God brings things to pass only by acts of his will. He speaks, and it is done. His will says, let it be, and it is. And this act of his will that now is, cannot be looked upon as really different from that act of will that was in him before, and from eternity, in decreeing that this thing should be at this time. It differs only relatively. Here is no new act of the will in God, but only the same acts