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RESTRICTION OF THE TERM.
a right to appoint, and actually exercises the right of appointing, some of the subjects of his moral government to the endurance of misery—perhaps final, eternal misery—without any reason on their part for such an appointment. I take the liberty of assuring them, in the name of my brethren, that we believe no such thing. We maintain, that conduct, such as they mistakingly imagine we set ourselves to defend, would be flagrant injustice, gross and detestable cruelty, not sovereignty. We regard it as utterly impossible, that, under any righteous moral government, the subjects of that government should either be appointed to punishment, or called actually to sustain it, but as the reward of their crimes.
“ The sovereignty of God," says Dr. Russel," should never be confounded with his supremacy. The former is the right he possesses to bestow good of any kind, in any degree, and in whatever manner he pleases, not only where there is no claim, but where there is the greatest demerit. It is as absurd, then, to speak of sovereign justice, as of equitable mercy. The sum of the whole is, that when men suffer, they do so because they have sinned, and therefore deserve punishment; and when they are saved and blessed, they are so of free and sovereign favour." (Letters, vol. ii., p. 275.)
The sovereignty of God is not, then, the arbitrary inflictor of evil, for “sovereignty never pains, never punishes at all.” It is, on the contrary, the bestower of good, to which the recipient has no claim. It is the blessed source from which the universe, together with all the life and happiness with which it abounds, has proceeded. It alleviates the evils which guilt must otherwise have superinduced, and secures to the transgressor a measure of good which the hand of equity could not have imparted; for though the establishment of a moral system lays a restraint, as we have seen, upon the exercise of this prerogative, it does not forbid its development when it can be manifested in harmony with the claims and safety of that government.
It is likely that these views of Divine sovereignty would have prevailed more extensively than they even do at present, but for an objection which has suggested itself to the minds of some, that, in thus restricting the application of the term
sovereignty, we use a freedom with it which the manner in which it is employed in reference to earthly rulers does not warrant. Now it is by no means certain that this would be a valid objection, even if the case were as it is represented to be. Divine and human governments are by no means so precisely alike as to render it safe, in all cases, to reason from one to the other. Justification with God is not the same thing with justification among men. Why might it not, then, be supposed that the Divine sovereignty is not exactly identical with human sovereignty? But it may be more than questioned whether the objection does not rest upon a false assumption. When the king signs the death-warrant, he acts in the capacity of judge; when he transmits a reprieve, he acts in the character of a sovereign. He pardons as a king; he cannot do it as a judge. Mere equity can only give that which is due; it cannot, consequently, bestow forgiveness upon a criminal.
And when subordinate judges extend mercy to an offender, it is done as an exercise of the kingly prerogative, intrusted to them for the purpose of facilitating and expediting the proceedings of the court.
Should it be alleged that, in a case wherein certain individuals are selected as proper objects of royal clemency, while others, guilty of the same general crime, are left to suffer the sentence of the law—the act of passing over the latter is as much an act of sovereignty as the act of selecting the former; I should be disposed to reply, that it will be found very difficult to support this allegation. There is doubtless an actual determination on the part of the sovereign to exempt the former from punishment, since without such determination they must share the same fate as their companions. But what is meant by the act of passing by the latter? Does there exist in the mind of the sovereign a positive volition, an actual determination that they shall suffer? Why, what need is there for such a determination? They are condemned already, and must suffer punishment, without a determination to prevent it. In what would such a determination, were it ever formed, differ from the act of condemning a man already condemned? And in cases where it may be admitted that the
ELECTION IS GOD'S PURPOSE
mode of explaining the language of the apostle, "called according to his purpose.” “The term called,” we are told, “ sometimes means invited ; at other times it means compliance with the invitation;" and this, it is said, is the sense of called here. I answer, that nothing can be a more obvious mistake. The words point out not the compliance of man, but that gracious influence of the Holy Spirit by which the compliance is secured.
By the term election, then, we mean an act of choice on the part of God. When the term is used in its most important application, in the sense which it bears in the creed of those who maintain the doctrine of eternal and personal election, (which doctrine we now proceed to unfold and establish,) it denotes, according to the statement usually given of the doctrine, God's act of choosing some members of the human family to enjoy eternal life through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth ;—the first member of the sentence exhibiting the end, and the concluding member the means, through which this end is attained. It may be wished, perhaps, that a statement of the doctrine, more entirely accordant with the facts of the case, had been substituted in lieu of this : for, in strict accuracy, it cannot be said that God directly decrees that any man shall believe the gospel, and persevere unto the end, and inherit eternal life; but that he determines to visit him with that special influence of the Holy Spirit which will certainly secure these delightful results. It is important to observe that the decrees of God are exactly co-extensive with the actions of God. They reach as far as the latter, but they do not go beyond them. “God does what he decrees, and decrees what he does.” Now God does not repent, and believe, and love, and obey; he does not accordingly decree that repentance, and faith, and love, should exist. It is man that gives credit to the Divine record—that perseveres unto the end.
That which God does, in the whole of this business, is the exertion of that special grace which leads men so to act as to secure their salvation. And this it is that God decrees to do. Election is, then, God's purpose to exert upon the minds of certain members of the human family that
TO BESTOW GOOD ONLY.
special and holy influence which will secure their ultimate salvation. Yet, as he knows perfectly what will be the result of that influence, and as he employs it to secure this result, it is in harmony with scriptural phraseology to say, that the result is both decreed and effected by Him. God withdrew from Pharaoh those restraints of his providence which, while they remained, prevented the full development of his depravity ; but as he foresaw the consequence of that withdrawment, and, as it was not, perhaps, too much to say that the withdrawment was designed to afford an opportunity for that development, he is declared "to have hardened the heart of Pharaoh.” On the same principle, he is said to have chosen some men to salvation; i. e. he has chosen them to become, in his own time and manner, the recipients of that special and holy influence which will secure their salvation. With this explanation of the common statements of the doctrine of election, they may be allowed to stand, and there will be no necessity to disturb the usual phraseology upon the subject.
In proceeding to lay before the reader a more full account of the doctrine of election, it is deemed advisable to proceed by the method of calling his attention to the following series of remarks:
1st, then, I would request him to notice that the object of the electing decree is to secure good-infinite good—to man, and not evil; in other words, it is the choice of some to salvation, (in the sense explained above,) and not the choice of any to damnation. It is the determination of God to impart converting grace to certain individuals; but it is not a counter determination to deny converting grace to the remainder; far less a determination, formed without any reference to their state and character, that they shall ultimately perish. In short, the electing decree includes none but those who will appear ultimately around "the throne of God and the Lamb.” There is no reprobating decree; none at least which can be regarded as the proper opposite of the electing decree.* I
* I must not be understood here to deny that, since God foresees who will finally reject the gospel, and since he will condemn them hereafter for rejecting it, there must have existed in his mind, from eternity, a determination to perform this specific act of condemnation equally with all other acts. But this determination, resting on foreseen impenitence, is not the proper opposite of the electing decree, which is unconditional, and, therefore, must not be regarded as that reprobating decree which is said to be inseparable from predestination.
ELECTION IS NOT NECESSARILY
found my confidence in the correctness of these important assertions upon the fact, that predestination is, by the sacred writers, uniformly represented as being connected with glorification, and not with condemnation. The elect are said to be “ chosen to salvation.” There is no election, properly so called, of any to damnation. Moreover,” says
says the apostle, “whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
It is true, indeed, that Arminians are in the habit of affirming that the doctrine of Election cannot be consistently held, without connecting with it the doctrine of Reprobation ; since a decree to save some, as they allege, necessarily implies a decree to punish, or not to save others. Mr. Watson, for instance, assures us, that “election involves necessarily the doctrine of the absolute and unconditional reprobation of all the rest of mankind.” (Vol. iii., p. 68.)
Calvin, also, in the earlier part of his life at least, held that election and reprobation are inseparably connected with one another; and many, it is admitted in the present day, who adopt generally that scheme of doctrine which is distinguished by his name, seem unable to conceive that an actual and unconditional decree to save some, can be separated from a counter actual and unconditional decree to condemn or not to save others. I am myself fully convinced that the two things are by no means inseparable—that they do not even seem necessarily to involve each other. I think so for the following reasons amongst others :
First, the proper opposite of a decree to save some of the human race only—or rather, that which such a decree necessarily involves, and without which it cannot possibly existis merely the absence or non-existence of a decree to save the rest. This I believe to be the fact of the case. There is a decree to save some members of the human family, and there