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SORIPTURE ACCOUNT OF ELECTION,
Secondly, we proceed to adduce the testimony of Scripture in support of the doctrine of election.
To elect, is to determine that certain persons shall be brought to the enjoyment of certain blessings; and it must be carefully distinguished from the putting of them into actual possession of the blessings. Thus, the actual separation of the Israelites from the Gentile world, that they might become the depositaries of Divine revelation, was not God's election of them. His previous purpose to introduce them into that special and honourable relation to himself was their election; of which purpose their separation from other nations was the accomplishment. The actual introduction into the Christian church of those Jews and Gentiles who received the gospel was not their election. They constituted the remnant, according to the election of grace; but the state of high privilege to which they were admitted by God, necessarily implied a previous determination to admit them to its enjoyment. That determination was their election. Were it admitted, for the sake of argument, that this determination was a conditional one, or founded on their foreseen faith, I should still maintain that their election was the purpose of God to admit them to the enjoyment of this privilege, and was not their actual entrance upon the possession of it.
I am more especially induced to offer these explanatory remarks, because, in the work of the Rev. R. Watson, there is obviously, in my apprehension at least, a want of due discrimination between the purpose of God, and the accomplishment of that purpose ; or, rather, a total confounding of the one with the other. Election, according to his statements, is the actual separation of the people of God from the men of the world; it is, in fact, their calling and sanctification. “To be elected is,” he says, “ to be separated from the world, and to be sanctified by the Spirit and by the blood of Christ.” (Vol. iii. p. 64.) I answer, that this is incorrect. Calling and sanctification are the results of election, but it is a great mistake to identify them with it. They are God's choice visibly and practically developed, but they are not the choice itself. To prove that I am not wrong in the charge I now bring
CONTRASTED WITH THAT OF MR. WATSON.
against Mr. Watson, of having, either from heedlessness, or with the insidious intention of throwing a degree of obscurity over the subject which may render it more difficult for an opponent to grapple with him, identified election with effectual calling, and sanctification, I quote the following paragraph: “Actual election cannot be eternal; for, from eternity, the elect were not actually chosen out of the world, and from eternity they could not be sanctified unto obedience:" (i. e. as he must mean, they were not actually separated from the world by a change of views, feelings, hopes, desires, &c., and were not actually sanctified ; because there is nothing to forbid the supposition that they were chosen from eternity to be thus actually separated and sanctified in time.) He adds, “The phrases, eternal election, and eternal decree of election, so often in the lips of Calvinists, can, in common sense, therefore, mean only an eternal purpose to elect; or a purpose formed in eternity to elect, or choose out of the world, and sanctify in time, by the Spirit and blood of Jesus.” (Vol. iii. pp. 64-5.) I reply, that this eternal purpose to sanctify is election. Mr. Watson could never have charged our principles with maintaining the absurdity that eternal election is an eternal purpose to elect, unless he had identified election with sanctification, i. e, confounded the cause with the effect. Besides, it became Mr. Watson to prove that there is not an eternal purpose to sanctify those who are actually sanctified in time. If God gives the new heart, and the right spirit, i. e, if he sanctifies, then he must have designed to sanctify; which is, in fact, our election. I hold it to be a moral axiom, that “God does what he decrees, and decrees what he does." The Arminian is impaled on the horns of the dilemma, from which no power in the universe can extricate him; “Either God does not sanctify man,--or, if he does, he does it as the result of a decree to sanctify."
Election is not then the actual bestowment of certain blessings upon men, but it is the design or purpose of God to bring them to their enjoyment. The blessings are actually enjoyed in time—the purpose to bestow them may have existed, and we think must have existed, from eternity. Now
PROOF AFFORDED BY SCRIPTURE.
that the Scriptures do speak of a Divine purpose to communicate blessings of some description unto men, and of a remnant—a remnant according to the election of grace, who will of course ultimately enjoy them---will, I suppose, be admitted by all. Were it possible for any doubt to exist on this point, the following passages, as well as others, must put it to flight. “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, according as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world.” (Ephes. i. 3, 4.) If words have any meaning, it is affirmed, in this passage, that the saints at Ephesus enjoyed the spiritual blessings (it is of no consequence to our present argument what was their nature) to which the apostle alludes, in consequence of, and in conformity with, a previous choice, or purpose, or determination of God, that they should be thus highly distinguished. Again, writing to the church at Thessalonica, he says, “Knowing,
, brethren, beloved, your election of God;" and, in a second letter addressed to the same body, he adds, “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation.” Peter also, adopting the strain of his beloved brother Paul, denominates the strangers of the dispersion, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” &c. The whole of these statements, it will be observed, are in entire harmony with the words of Christ, who prayed not for the world, but those whom his Father had given him out of the world.
It is thus placed beyond all reasonable doubt that there was, in the Divine mind, a purpose to bestow certain blessings upon certain individuals. Now it will be found that there is only one question, or at most two, which can be raised in reference to this purpose. There can be no question in regard to its date, for that is, and must be, eternal; all the decrees of God are so.
How can it be otherwise if he be immutable? Nor can there be any question in regard to the persons contemplated in this purpose ; for they must be particular individuals. “ The personality of election," as it has been justly
THE EXCLUSIVE QUESTION.
said, “arises out of its very nature.” Pelagians, indeed, to whom the notion of personal election is offensive, are in the habit of telling us that the subjects of this purpose are bodies of men, or nations. But are not nations composed of individuals? What is a nation but a collection of persons, as a mountain is a collection of particles? The mountain is not distinct from the atoms that compose it, the nation is not distinct from the individuals who constitute it. In fact, the nation is nothing in itself: it is a mere abstraction of the mind; not a thing, but a general term invented by us to designate the living and rational beings (who only have real existence) that are to be found within certain geographical boundaries,--as an animal is not a thing, but a general term. To attempt to overthrow the doctrine, that God's election is the choice of individuals, by representing it as a purpose to confer blessings upon nations, is an error of precisely the same character with that of those who represent Jehovah as having established general laws, in his providential government, without foreseeing the reach and operation of these laws, and without intending to produce the individual results which flow, as we popularly say, from their operation. I again assert, therefore, that the only questions which can be raised on this subject, are the two following: “What is the nature of the blessings which the elect are chosen to enjoy ?---are they external privileges merely, or spiritual and eternal blessings ?”
And, if the latter, on what ground are they chosen to enjoy them? Is it a conditional, or, as far as it relates to them, an unconditional decree?" In other words, are they chosen to enjoy the blessings of eternal life (or, which is the same thing, to experience that special and holy influence which will certainly issue in their enjoyment of eternal life) on the ground of foreseen faith, or on some other ground (not in them) which God has not been pleased to reveal ? Is faith, in short, the root or the fruit of election? We propose to establish, in opposition to Pelagians and Arminians, that the elect are chosen to enjoy spiritual and eternal blessings (not intending to deny, let it be observed, that there is also an election to
ELECTION IS TO SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS.
inferior blessings ;) and that they are not chosen to enjoy them on the ground of foreseen faith and obedience.
First, our first object then is, to prove that the Scriptures speak of an election to the enjoyment of spiritual and eternal blessings. Our opponents here are the Pelagians, who affirm that election is merely the appointment of bodies of men to the enjoyment of external privileges. Through the influence of a groundless fear, that the doctrines of criminality and accountability must be overturned, if it be once admitted that the eternal destinies of men are in any respect fixed by decree, they deny that any of the Divine decrees have the least relation to a future state of existence; and affirm, not merely that none are appointed to wrath, but that none are destined to ultimate salvation. This is precisely the statement of Bishop Tomline, in his “ Elements of Theology.” “God is represented,” he says, “ in Scripture, as having predestinated the redemption of mankind, through Christ, before the foundation of the world; and, when the fulness of the time was come, he sent forth his Son to execute his gracious purpose. But it has pleased our Almighty Father, in the inscrutable councils of his wisdom, to confine the knowledge of this merciful dispensation,” [how has God confined it? Did he not command the church to convey it to the whole world? Ought it not then to be said, that the church has confined it?] “even to this day, to a portion of the human race, and by his prescience he foresaw” (though a learned prelate expresses himself thus, is it not something like saying, that by his foreknowledge he foreknew?] “ to whom these glad tidings should be communicated. Those who are blessed with the glorious light of the gospel, according to this scheme of Divine providence, may be said to be predestinated to life, because they enjoy the appointed means of salvation. Those whom God hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, are that part of mankind to whom God has decreed to make known the gospel; and, consequently, to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, does not mean actually saving them,” [it would certainly puzzle a common man to discover how a person could be brought to