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MANIFESTATIONS OF SOVEREIGNTY.
own feebleness or worthlessness; for the throne is sometimes filled by a Nero, and the beggar's hut inhabited by one for whom the Son of God expired on the cross.
The cause the difference in this case can exist nowhere but in the Divine sovereignty. And even in other cases, where elevated rank is gained as the reward of splendid services, or signal worth, very much of sovereignty is developed. By whom were the talents necessary to the performance of such services bestowed, or the disposition which ensured their right direction and exercise? To whom must we ascribe the needed opportunity for a development of mental and moral excellence? Who cleared, for the one, the way of ascent to the very summit of the hill of distinction, while, to the other, it remained closed up with thorns and briers ? Was it not God who placed Pharaoh on the throne of Egypt?—and is it possible to ascribe his elevation to any source but goodness, to the exercise of which he had no conceivable claim ?
There is, further, great inequality among men, resulting from the different amount of property which they possess. While some, indeed, are wealthy, vast multitudes are indigent. And, though we admit that the accumulation of riches is sometimes the natural, and almost necessary result of forethought, penetration, prudence, and steady perseverance, yet this is not invariably the case. And even where it is so, it becomes us to recollect, that these virtues themselves, together with the opportunity for their vigorous and profitable exercise, are the gifts of Divine sovereignty. Without, however, dwelling upon this assertion, it may be asked, why is one man born rich and another poor? How is it to be explained, that two persons, equal in talent and moral worth, obtain such unequal measures of success ?—and especially that the scale of wealth so frequently preponderates on that side where there are fewer intellectual and moral qualities to weigh it down? The facts are clearly to be resolved into Divine sovereignty. God is here exercising his right of bestowing the bounties of his providence upon men as it seems good in his sight.
There is, finally, great inequality amongst men in regard to the measure of bodily sufferings they are called to endure. One man can scarcely recollect the period when his rest and
MANIFESTATIONS OF SOVEREIGNTY.
66 To them per
quiet were not broken in upon by the irruption of disease and pain; another cannot remember the day when he suffered a single attack from either! Now, if we had found it necessary to admit that man is the maker of his own fortune, all must allow that health is the exclusive gift of God. To what source is it, then, to be ascribed ? To equity, or sovereignty? Have transgressors any right to immunity from disease and suffering? Why. what claim upon God have they for any thing but suffering? It is impossible to account for the fact, that of two individuals, equal in point of moral worth, one is the constant subject of bodily infirmity, and the other the habitual possessor of health, but by admitting that the hand of sovereignty confers upon the latter a measure of good to which he has no claim.
Thirdly, there is room for a development of sovereignty in the degree in which religious privileges are conferred upon
Great disparity, in this point of view, is to be seen in the external condition of nations. The Jews were formerly the depositaries of Divine revelation. tained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants,” &c. Their fertile and peaceful valleys were illumined by the rising beam of Divine truth, while " darkness covered the whole earth besides, and gross darkness the people.” Nor, were they thus distinguished because they were better than other nations. If we believe the records of inspired truth, it was solely because the Lord loved them. The peculiar privileges they enjoyed were the gifts of sovereignty; and the language of acknowledgment on their part should have been, “ It is even so, Father, because so it seemeth good in thy sight.” And to what ultimate cause is it to be ascribed that some nations in the present day enjoy the revelation of Divine mercy, while others remain in the darkness of heathenism? Is it possible to assign any reason for this fact except that God, who may dispense his gifts as it pleases him, has so operated upon the hearts of his people, and so arranged the proceedings of his providence, as to make way for its introduction into one quarter, while he has permitted the barriers against its progress in another to remain ?
There is, also, a very remarkable difference in the situation
MANIFESTATIONS OF SOVEREIGNTY.
of individuals, as well as of nations, in this point of view. Some have experienced the high privilege of a godly parentage, and of early religious instruction ; while others, at an early period of life, were initiated into the mysteries of iniquity. Many there are who find ready access to the means of grace, and can avail themselves of an able, and faithful, and searching gospel ministry; while not a few are either excluded altogether, by the infelicity of their circumstances, from the ordinances of Divine worship, or have access to no ministry, save that which has never yet been the means of converting a single sinner from the error of his ways. How is this great disparity to be accounted for? It will not be denied that the hand of Divine Providence is to be traced in it. We are constrained, therefore, to think that that hand is guided in all its operations and allotments by the principle of sovereignty.
The grand and paramount display of Divine sovereignty, in reference to individuals, is, however, the exertion of that holy influence upon the minds of the chosen to salvation, by which they are brought to the knowledge and belief of the gospel ;—together with the Divine purpose to exert this influence, of which it is at once the index and the accomplishment. It would seem, accordingly, to be necessary to enter here upon an examination of the doctrine of effectual calling, as well as of eternal and personal election. Many considerations, however, induce me to confine my attention to the latter, and merely to aim at illustrating and establishing the former, as far as its elucidation and proof may be required to strengthen the chain of evidence in support of the great doctrine of eternal and personal election.
In the further prosecution of this subject, it may be expedient to adopt the following order :-First, to present the reader with a scriptural statement of the doctrine itself; Secondly, to adduce the proof which may be appealed to in support of it; and, Thirdly, to reply to the objections which have been urged against it.
STATEMENT OF THE DOCTRINE.
In the prosecution of the proposed plan, I shall, I. endeavour to lay before the reader a scriptural statement of the doctrine of Election, as illustrative of the Divine sovereignty.
The verb elect means to select, or choose. When God is said to elect an individual, the simple import of the phrase is that he chooses that individual; the ultimate end for which he chooses him, the blessings which he selects him to enjoy, are left to be gathered from the context; in reference to this point, the verb elect itself can manifestly afford us no aid.
The abstract term election denotes accordingly, either the act of electing, which may be regarded as its primary and proper meaning; or the person or persons elected, which is obviously a derivative and less proper signification. Without meaning to deny that the term election is sometimes used by the New Testament writers in the secondary or derivative sense, (though it may be well to observe that, even in the cases in which it is thus used, it necessarily implies the primary sense, as a performance implies an act of performing, -a production, an act of producing,) the reader is requested to bear in mind, that the word election will be used, in the subsequent pages, to denote the act of choice on the part of God, and not the being or beings chosen. I have been more especially induced thus to fix the sense of the term election, previously to any attempt to explain the doctrine of eternal and personal election, by the extremely vague and unsatisfactory manner in which the word is dealt with by one of the most modern and able defenders of Arminianism in this country, the Rev. Richard Watson, in his “ Theological In
VAGUE STATEMENTS OF MR. WATSON.
stitutes." He fixes upon three senses of the word election which, as he conceives, are contained in the Scriptures;
first, the election of individuals to perform some special service; second, the election of nations, or bodies of people, to eminent religious privileges; and, thirdly, the election of individuals to be the children of God, and the heirs of eternal life.” Now it is especially to be observed, that the term election, in each of the above instances, is used, and can only be used, in what I have ventured to call its primary sense. Election does not mean either the persons elected, or the blessings to the enjoyment of which they are elected, but God's act of electing or choosing them; and I have not the slightest doubt that such was the meaning which Mr. Watson, in writing these sentences, intended to convey. And yet, in the subsequent discussion, he inadvertently departs from this sense of the term—now using it to denote the persons elected, and then, again, the blessings which they are chosen to enjoy-and wandering so strangely from one sense of the term to another, that he involves the whole subject in perplexity. “ The nation of the Jews were,” he says, “ deprived of election; the ELECTION was offered to them first." Now what can be the meaning of the term election here? What was offered to the Jews ? Surely a blessing, or a privilege ;-not an act of God. They were invited to enter into the Christian church. The privilege of sonship was offered to them. Had they complied with the invitation, that compliance would have proved that God had elected them to be his sons; but he did not, and could not offer to them the act of choosing them to the enjoyment of that distinguished privilege. I do not wonder at this departure from the primary sense of the term election. It is the tendency of Arminianism to fix attention more upon
what man does when a sinner is converted to God, than upon what God does in his conversion. If the latter be brought prominently into view, then, as God's acts are inseparably connected with his decrees, (his purposes being his actions in intention, and his actions his purposes in accomplishment,) the conclusions of Calvinism can scarcely be avoided. As an instance of this tendency, I may refer to the Arminian