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his sermons, there was never any bar- to comfort, as the case might require. renness of good and profitable matter. He had a good knowledge of the mediHis sermons were regularly divided, so cal art, and at the desire of those who that his hearers might know where he were labouring under affliction) he was, and what he was about to do; but would gratuitously prescribe the treatthey were not like trees in winter, ex- ment which he conceived should be hibiting only an assemblage of trunks adopted ; generally to the benefit and and branches, without leaves and fruit; often to the cure of the patients ; so nor were they ever characterised by a that, according to his ability, it might circuitous, tiresome, or unmeaning ver- be said of him, as it was said of the bosity, “stale, flat, and unprofitable,” Master whom he served, “ he went about which falls uselessly to the ground, like doing good,” and “healing all manner of an arrow which misses its mark. Some- sickness and all manner of disease among times, when he had said all he could in the people.” He was a staunch Disthe way of argument, when he could add
senter, from principle, and a firm beno more, as a dernier resort he would liever in the scriptural constitution of weep. Well did he answer the descrip- churches of the Congregational order. tion of the poet; he was
His sickness was short and severe, for "Simple, grave, sincere ;
there were not many days between his In doctrine uncorrupt; in language plain, being in great pain in this world, and in And plain in manner; decent, solemn, chaste, great happiness in another. Having And natural in gesture; much impress'd Himself, as conscious of his awful charge,
walked in the way of uprightness, his And anxious mainly that the flock he feeds
latter end was peace.
He bore his May feel it too: affectionate in look,
affliction with exemplary patience, for: And tender in address, as well becomes A messenger of grace to guilty men.”
titude, and resignation. Having finished
his work, his mind was at rest. A few In his pulpit ministrations, he never days before his death, one of his memseemed concerned that the ambassador
bers in the course of some conversation should appear greater than the prince; with him) said, “Well, Mr. Ashton, I or that the majesty of the latter should
trust that those truths which you have be eclipsed in the official pomp and cir
so often preached to others are now cumstance of the former. On every oc
the support of your own mind." To casion he desired to stoop, that his audi- which he replied, “Yes, all is well." ence might look over the servant's head
On the morning of the first Sabbath in to see the Master's face.
September, 1836, he preached his last He was not an idler in the vineyard of the Lord. For many years he preached
sermon, from Psalm cxix. 32, when he
declared himself to be in much pain, thrice every Sabbath, and once on the and that few persons, feeling
as he did, week night; and in addition to this, he
would attempt to preach at all.
His son itinerated in the neighbouring villages, preached in the afternoon, and at the namely, Hazle Grove, Woodley, Hea- close of the service this venerable and ton, Mersey, &c.; and there is reason to faithful minister of Christ administered believe, that in these places his labours the ordinance of the Lord's Supper to were not in vain.
the church, which was the last public He was punctual in the time of his
service he performed. On the followattendance on the services of the sanc
ing day he went out of doors for the last tuary, as well as to the duties connected
time, after which he was for the most with the management of his household.
part confined to his bed, labouring under He was very careful to keep a proper
great weakness and pain, and sinking register of all the children he baptised, rapidly under the disease with which he and of all the dead he buried; and in
was afflicted. At last, lifting up his eyes, culcated upon parents the duty of teach- and clasping his hands together, as if in ing their children the principles of the the act of devotion, he died without a Christian religion, as laid down in the struggle or a sigh, about half-past one in Assembly's Catechism, which at stated
the afternoon of Wednesday, September times he heard the children repeat. He made weekly visits in a friendly way, at
the 14th, 1836. Thus realising the words
of the poetthe houses of his members and hearers; his stay was short, his conversation was “Prayer is the Christian's vital breath, familiar, and his object to do good; be
The Christian's native air,
His watch-word at the gates of death, ing ever ready to caution, to advise, or
He enters heaven will prayer.”
He has left a widow and three sons to also may share in his heavenly reward, lament his loss.
and be as well spoken of by those who During the course of his ministry at come after us. Amen. T. S. A. Stockport, though his character was un
Stockport, March 14, 1837. impeachable, his remuneration small, and his official services were highly cre- Note.—His funeral was attended by a ditable, yet he had not unfrequently to great concourse of people, principally suffer from the wounds he received from composed of the members of his own the shafts of malice and misrepresenta- church, and the Independent ministers tion, forged and shot by those who pro- of the town and neighbourhood. The fessed the name of Christ, and from Rev. Charles Lowndes, of Gatley, (browhom better things might have been ther of the missionary,) read suitable reasonably expected. But now his war- portions of Scripture; and the Rev. fare is past, and his troubles are over, Ivy, of Duckenfield, prayed ; after and he is where “there shall be no more which the Rev. John Adamson, of death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither Charlesworth, (a fellow-student of the shall there be any more pain: for the deceased,) gave an excellent address. former things are passed away."
On the 9th of October, 1836, the Rev. It is not for mortal man to sit in judg- S. Bradley, of Manchester, preached ment on the dispensations of the Eternal,
his funeral sermon. The Committee of or to ask him, why he removes distin- the Stockport Sunday-school kindly guished ministers from the Church, granted the use of their large room for when their labours are most needed. the service, and at least four thousand His thoughts are not our thoughts, persons were present, and many hunneither are his ways our ways. It is so. dreds were obliged to go away who May we consider it well, and receive could not obtain admittance. The disinstruction, and through grace enabling course was founded on the words, “ How Us, may we follow his footsteps, so far as unsearchable are his judgments, and his he followed Christ, that ultimately we ways past finding out!”
OBJECTIONS TO THE DOCTRINE CONSIDERED, AND ITS MORAL
Rom, ix. 20. Is a former essay we endeavoured, Adam can be restored to the friendship with as much simplicity as possible, to and likeness of his Maker. state and enforce the doctrine of Scrip- Every justified and renewed sinner, ture, on the subject of an “election of then, is a monument of God's pardoning grace.” If man be fallen from original and quickening grace,
He has neither integrity, and is “ dead in trespasses and justified nor renewed himself; but if sins," it cannot surely be doubted, that God has performed these gracious acts salvation is not of himself, but of God. on his behalf, it is demonstratively cerTo suppose that an apostate creature tain, that they have been performed as can, in any sense, become his own Sa- the result of a purpose or decree on the viour, is to pronounce the whole scheme part of the Most High, to show mercy of Divine interposition, through a Re- to a guilty and outcast rebel. The very deemner, a useless expenditure of Divine circumstances which rendered a Divine wisdom, power, and benevolence. But interposition necessary in order to the if it be once admitted that the sinner salvation of sinners, forbid the supposicannot save himself, it will follow as a tion, that the election of grace" fixed consequence, that unless God himself on men considered as partakers of faith shall undertake the work, no child of and holiness; for, as these qualities are
the sole results of a Divine and gracious operation, there must have been a purpose in the mind of God to effect them in the sinner's heart. And thus it is, that election is the parent of faith, and not faith the parent of election.
And does not this view of our subject correspond, in the strictest manner, with the experience of every child of God ? Theories aside, does he not acknowledge, with humility and adoring gratitude, that it is God who worketh in him both to will and to do of his good pleasure ? Nay, is he not conscious, from a review of the enmity of his own heart against God, that he must have remained the subject of that enmity, if God had not taken away “the hard and stony heart, and given him a heart of flesh ?"
The doctrine of election, then, is composed of these two grand elements : first, the utter inability of man to become his own saviour ; and, secondly, the purpose of God, from all eternity, to raise a portion of an apostate race from the ruins of the fall, and infallibly to conduct them to the possession of eternal life. In this purpose the means and the end are alike embraced; and the grand result of the whole scheme will be an eternal demonstration of the sovereignty of God in the salvation of a redeemed and glorified Church.
It may be edifying to examine some of the objections which have been urged against the doctrine of election, and to present a just and scriptural view of its moral tendency.
I. We shall examine some of the objections which have been urged against the doctrine of election.
If we have succeeded in proving that it is the doctrine of God's holy word, this ought to be sufficient to silence all objection, and to create a feeling of humble and adoring submission. Still it proper, for the purpose
of aiding weak faith, and rescuing the truth of God from unwarrantable suspicions, to glance at some of the pleas ordinarily advanced against the doctrine under discussion. And,
1. It has been objected to this doctrine, That it is too profoundly mysterious to admit of belief.
To affirm that it is not mysterious would be the height of extravagance. It is, indeed, awfully mysterious. But in what does the mystery consist ? Not in the fact that God has revealed a purpose
of election, nor in the fact that if such a purpose had not been formed none of Adam's race could have been saved; but in the single point, that God has seen fit to conceal from mortals the reasons of his elective purpose. “He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy;" but the ground on which he thus acts is, and must remain, among the secret things which belong to his own inscrutable mind. The mystery, then, of this doctrine can be no reason for its rejection, inasmuch as God is under no obligation to disclose to feeble and erring creatures the ultimate reasons which dictate his all-wise and holy procedure. But because the secret reason of God's election is a profound mystery-a thing utterly hid from the eye of man-does it follow, that it is a reason unworthy of himself, that it stands opposed to his eternal attributes, or that it is inconsistent with any of the essential principles of his moral government ? Assuredly not. The mere circumstance of concealment argues nothing against the wisdom, holiness, and goodness of the motives which influenced God in his eternal purpose of grace. To his own mind there is no mystery in his elective purpose ; and, for aught we know to the contrary, the light of eternity may unravel the whole scheme of mercy, and unfold to a redeemed church the reasons of the election of grace. But whether such shall be the case or not, let us rest contented in what God has seen fit to reveal, leaving the secrets of his counsel to be then disclosed or concealed, as may seem good in his sight.
2. It has been objected to the doctrine of election, That it presents the Almighty in an arbitrary and forbidding light to the contemplation of mortals.
This objection is equally feeble as the preceding one. It proceeds upon the assumption, that we are capable of pronouncing, in every given instance, what would or would not be arbitrary or capricious on the part of God; an assumption as unsound in principle as it would be injurious in its effects. That God is neither arbitrary nor capricious, may be asserted with unhesitating confidence. His holiness, his goodness, his justice, forbid us to think of him as ever acting in a way unsuitable to his own perfect character. But till we are capable, by searching, of finding out God, till we
can find out the Almighty to perfec- reign favour."* A decree to punishtion, there must be much in his pro- ment, irrespective of human guilt and cedure upon which we dare not attempt transgression, is such an anomaly as can to pronounce. If it could have been any never exist under the government of real benefit for us to know the principle an infinitely holy and righteous Being. of God's government which led him to The decree of God to save some, of choose some men to life and not others, mere sovereignty, implies only the abwe may assure ourselves that God would sence of a decree to save the rest ; in not have left us in ignorance on this part other words, God has a decree to save of his conduct; but our simple igno- some, but he has no decree not to save rance can surely be no reason for our others. The ruin, therefore, of those imputing any thing like caprice to the whom he has not decreed to save, is not Divine Being in this matter, any more the result of sovereign determination, than in thousands of other instances in but of equitable procedure. Though which we are equally at a loss to deter- there doubtless was a decree to save mine the grounds of the Divine conduct. some,
there was no actual decree not to ** Let us, learn,” observes an enlight- save others.
Such a decree is quite ened divine, "to exercise that confi- unnecessary; for the whole human fadence in God's wisdom and goodness, in mily were contemplated by God in a this bigh exercise of his sovereignty, to state of guilty rebellion against his gowhich all those parts of his conduct vernment. There might be a purpose in which he has been pleased to explain the Divine mind to show mercy to men, have already entitled him; and sit down irrespective of human desert; yea, notcontented with the assurance, that the withstanding the greatest unworthiness ; Judge of all the earth will do that which but there could be no purpose in the is right."*
Holy One of Irsael to inflict punishment 3. It has been objected to the doctrine upon any of the human race, irrespective of election, That it necessarily involves of the guilt and pollution of sin, which a decree of reprobation.
were its just and equitable occasion. A That some who have professed to hold decree of salvation was indispensably the doctrine of election, have encum- necessary if any were to be saved, since bered it with this fearful appendage, all were considered as lost; but a decree must be admitted; but that it necessarily of reprobation could only be founded involves any such consequence cannot on foreseen transgression, and could be be too earnestly denied. To purpose the nothing more or less than God's deterunconditional salvation of some, is one mination to inflict deserved punishment thing; to purpose the unconditional ruin upon men considered as guilty. In one of others, is quite another. The sove- word, the salvation of sinners is the rereignty of God, indeed, is the only ade- sult of sovereign choice ; while the conquate source to which we can trace the demnation of sinners is the result of salvation of any lost and ruined crea- God's decree of righteous retribution. ture ; but it is not sovereignty, but The reprobation of men, except as the equity, and terminates on the punish- just consequence for sin, is a doctrine so ment of transgressors. The decree of revolting to every notion of equitable election is the source of good only, and procedure, that the very mention of it not of evil. “The sovereignty of God is an affront to reason and common should never be confounded with his sense, and a daring libel on the characsupremacy. The former is the right he ter of the eternal God. possesses to bestow good of any kind, 4. It has been objected to the doctrine in any degree, and in whatever manner of election, That it is inconsistent with he pleases, not only where there is no man's free agency and accountableness. claim, but where there is the greatest Such an objection as this to the docdemerit. It is absurd, then, to speak of trine is utterly groundless. What is free sovereign justice as of equitable mercy. agency in man, but a liberty to act as he The sum of the whole is, that when men pleases, without being coerced by physuffer, they do so because they have sical force to do that which he does not sipned, and therefore deserve punish- choose, and without being restrained by ment; and when they are saved and physical force from doing that which he blessed, they are so of free and sove- does choose ? Every man is a free agent, • Dr. Payne's Lectures on Divine Sovereignty, &c. • Dr. Russell's Letters, &c., p. 275.
who is at liberty do what he chooses, rit of those exhortations of Scripture whatever he may choose to do.
which urge Christians to diligence, But how, then, can man's free agency watchfulness, and perseverance ; and in any way be interfered with by God's which guard them against the sin of decree of election ? Does it compel apostacy, and the danger of drawing wicked men to act wickedly, without any back even to perdition. choice of their own ? Or does it compel There are many ways of answering good men to perform holy actions, with- this objection to the doctrine of election. out, or contrary to, their own volitions ?
It proceeds upon an obvious fallacy, viz., Assuredly not. Election is God's pur- that God decrees the end without referpose to save sinners, or, at least, his ence to the means. Whereas the very purpose to exert an influence by which reverse of this is the case. The Chris. they will be saved in his own appointed tian graces and duties which compose time and way. But are the elect, there- the character of a real child of God, are fore, compelled to be saved ? Are they as surely embraced in God's decree of driven to the cross of Christ, without election, as is that eternal felicity to any choice or volition of their own ? which they conduct. When the inspired By no means. All that the doctrine writers, then, urge men
to give dilisupposes is, that a Divine influence is
gence to make their calling and election exerted upon the minds of the elect, sure;" when they exhort them to "hold by which their corrupt dispositions are the beginning of their confidence stedeffectually changed, and they are sweetly fast unto the end ;” when they declare and voluntarily drawn to the feet of Him that " he that endureth unto the end, who gave himself a ransom for the the same shall be saved,” they proceed guilty. With regard to the finally lost, simply upon the principle, that the elect the decree of election can exert no in- people of God can only be saved in fluence whatever hostile to their freedom, the use of means; yea, that the decree as it has no actual bearing whatever on of God does not more certainly emtheir case.
brace eternal life as the end, than it In a similar way it might easily be does faith and progressive holiness as shown, that election leaves man in full the means. possession of his accountableness, whe- The exhortations to Christians to the ther he belong to the elect or non-elect. diligent cultivation of every holy duty, If we refer to the elect, the decree of are as little contrary to the decree of God does not annihilate the moral worth God's eternal love, as the intimation of of their several actions ; inasmuch as it Paul to the mariners, when shipwrecked does not constrain them to the involun- on their way to Rome, that they could tary performance of what is good, but not be saved except they abode in the secures, by a Divine energy, a right ship, was contrary to the Divine decree principle of action. In the accomplish- that none of them were to perish. They inent of his gracious purpose, God ope- were to be saved, indeed, but it was in rates upon the dispositions of his child- the use of means; and the obvious conren, as the true sources of moral con- clusion must be, that the decree to save, duct; so that their conduct is morally as announced by the angel, embraced excellent as flowing from a right prin- not only the preservation of the mariciple, though it be the offspring of God's ners' lives, but also the appointed means predestinating love. If we refer to the of that preservation, viz., their abiding finally lost, they are not lost by reason in the ship. Now, could we be as sure of God's decree of election, which is a of the eternal life of any individual or purpose of good, and not of evil; but individuals of the human race, as Paul simply by reason of their own sinful. was of the fact that none of the mariners ness, voluntarily indulged, under the should perish-a thing utterly impossible influence of a depraved and rebellious -it would, nevertheless, be our imperadisposition. As God exerts no evil in- tive duty to proclaim, with unflinching fluence upon any of the children of men, fidelity, the solemn truth, that he only it must follow that the worst of men are who endureth to the end can be saved ; accountable to him for their actions, as just upon this simple principle, that the much as if no decree of election had end can never be obtained without the ever existed.
means. The Scripture doctrine of elec5. It is objected to the doctrine of tion, instead of presenting a bare abstracelection, That it is contrary to the spi- tion to the mind, and encouraging men