[blocks in formation]

4th, The last general remark, explanatory of the doctrine of Election, is the following, viz., that we must be careful not to imagine that no cause exists for the sovereign favour conferred upon the vessels of mercy, because that cause is not to be found in them. To maintain the latter or that the purpose of God is uncaused by any thing in the saved themselves—is necessary to secure to Divine sovereignty the honour of man's salvation. To suppose the former, is to charge capriciousness and folly upon the Great Eternal. “It is one thing for there to be no reason in the creature for the purpose of mercy concerning him ; it is another thing for there to be no reason at all.It is one thing,” says Dr. Burder, “to have a reason, and another, and a very different thing, to assign a reason." The latter God has not seen fit to do; yet, though he has drawn a veil of impenetrable mystery over them, he has reasons for his conduct. Our opponents, for the sake of gaining an advantage, may represent our views of election as charging capriciousness upon God. We maintain that there is, and can be, no capriciousness; but merely the absence of revelation. And the absence of revelation on this point, being in harmony with the Divine conduct in relation to other matters, is what might have been expected. How can we imagine that the great God would unfold the reasons of his proceedings to men, except where the disclosure might prove essential to their welfare? And how do we know that a revelation of the reasons which led him to choose some men to life, and not others, would be of any benefit to us? Had he taken us into his councils in reference to other things, we should have been more entitled to expect a similar communication on this point. But has he done it? Why did he select the present universe, and not create others? Has he told us? Why did he give rationality to man, and not confer it upon the beast? Has he given us "any account of these matters ?” Why did he choose some to life? The question is, doubtless, unanswerable, but not more so than ten thousand others. Where God does not please to give us light, we may be assured that it is best for us to remain in dark


[blocks in formation]


Let us learn to exercise that confidence in his wisdom and goodness, in this the highest exercise of his sovereignty, to which all those parts of his conduct which he has been pleased to explain have clearly entitled him; and sit down contented with the assurance, that the Judge of all the earth will do that which is right.




II. We advance now to the second main division of this great subject, in which we are to state the evidence to which we appeal in support of the doctrine of eternal and personal election. Is there any foundation in reason, or in Scripture, to sustain the confidence we cherish, that all who shall appear at length around the throne of God, in the heavenly temple, were destined, in the eternal purpose of God, to occupy that exalted station? or-according to that more precise view which we have given of the doctrine-were chosen to be the recipients of that special and saving influence of the Holy Spirit which secures their admission into this temple ? Our reply is, that both reason and revelation supply a solid basis for our confidence. I proceed, therefore,

First, to adduce the testimony of reason in reference to this point. And here I cannot but think that the answer which reason gives to the question just stated, must depend upon the reply which is truly given to another, viz., “ Is God the cause or author of man's salvation, or is man the author of his own salvation ?" If the latter should be found to be the case, it would be needless to inquire concerning the Divine purpose in reference to human salvation. What God does not do, he does not decree to do. On the supposition that man extricates himself from the blindness and depravity of his natural state, the purpose of God—if there were any purpose of God in reference to his deliverance-could only be a decree to permit him to work out his own salvation.



Now to suppose the existence of any such decree is little less than absurd. Can a being of boundless benevolence be supposed to be so inveterate an enemy to the ultimate and eternal happiness of his creatures that he must bind himself by decree not to throw any obstacle in the way of its attainment? Most manifestly not. If Jehovah be not the efficient cause of man's salvation, we may rest assured that that event is not the subject of decree. But if he be, the case is essentially different. I may be permitted to take for granted the fact, that he is the cause of human salvation, since it is at least professedly admitted by those with whom the present controversy is carried on. Assuming then that this is the case—that it is by special Divine agency that a sinner is brought to believe in Christ, the proof that this event is the subject of a previous purpose, or decree, is based upon the moral axiom, that every wise being acts upon a plan previously digested and arranged. I call this a moral axiom, for, in point of fact, to act thus is the great point of distinction between wisdom and folly. The latter exercises no forethought. Its conduct is left to the direction of accident, or caprice. Wisdom, on the contrary, looks all around, and before her ; considers what is right and best to be done, in all the contemplated possible variety of circumstances in which she may be placed; and acts in harmony with a previous plan, or determination, formed on a cool, and cautious, and full investigation of all the facts of the case. It is true, indeed, in reference to man, that much must be left to the decision of the moment, because circumstances may arise which no human sagacity can foresee. But, in all cases where it is possible for a wise man to look before him, he never takes a step of importance without doing so. Can we suppose the fact to be otherwise in the case of the perfection of wisdom?—that Jehovah put his hand originally to the formation of the material universe, or that he put it subsequently to the more illustrious work of the new creation, without any previous thought(to speak after the manner of men) upon the subjectwithout previously determining to act as he ultimately did act? Is it to be conceived for a moment, that the creation of



a moral system, pre-eminently developing his character, and the transformation of a vast multitude of immortal beings into his holy image, exhibiting the power and plenitude of his grace, was the work of accident? Let those believe it who will, or can. I frankly say that I cannot. Whatever difficulties attend the admission of the, in many respects, inscrutable doctrine of election, (and no one who has thought maturely upon the subject will venture to deny that there are difficulties,) I am constrained to think that others of far more alarming magnitude follow its rejection. Erasing the doctrine from our creed, we may possibly escape Scylla, but the question is, do we not fall into Charybdis ?

Further, on the same assumption, the basis of our present reasoning, viz. that God is the efficient agent in the salvation of man, the doctrine of election follows as a necessary consequence of the Divine foreknowledge. Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world, yea, from eternity. Since there is no distinction of time, as past, present, and future, with God, this must be the case. If then God saves the elect, in the sense formerly explained, the work performed by him in effecting their salvation must, like all his other works, have been foreseen from eternity. In other words, he must have foreseen the exertion of that special influence which secures their salvation. But how could he foresee the exertion of this influence unless he had determined to employ it? What foundation of pre-knowledge.could there be but pre-appointment? The case might have been otherwise if the salvation of man were effected by himself, or by any one else. Then I am ready to acknowledge foreknowledge, on the part of God, might exist without decree; as he might foresee that exertion of power—whether their own, or of some one else—which saved them. But, since God actually saves the elect, the certain operation of his saving power upon them is the only ground of his certain knowledge of their salvation. Now there is nothing but his own determination to exert that power, to render its operation certain. Election is thus the ground of certainty and foreknowledge; and, on our present assumption, the only ground.

« VorigeDoorgaan »