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But no man can know, or scripturally conclude himself to be elect, except by his faith. This the apostle calls "like precious faith with us." He therefore addressed none but those who had the "same precious faith" which he himself had; and, consequently, they who had a dead and worthless faith are not included. The apostle Paul calls this precious faith," the faith of God's elect." None, we think, have it but the elect. It is precious in its nature, in the blessings which it appropriates, and in its holy fruits. It is "our most holy faith.”2
'When the Christians of these five extensive 'countries' are spoken of, a superficial reader might suppose that the population of these regions was in general professed Christians, as that of England now is: whereas, in fact, the Christians, were only a small company in the several cities and districts, amidst an immense majority of gentiles or Jews; and this small company generally from among the lower orders in society: even as, at present, a few hundreds in a town or city appear in earnest about the concerns of religion, while the bulk of their neighbours, though called Christians, do not so much as seem to be real Christians, and make no pretensions to the title of "saints." -The words, while other nations were still wandering in the darkness of heathenism,'3 still further uphold the supposition of national churches existing at that time: as if the bulk of the inhabitants of these regions, in which Christian churches had been planted, were not as much wandering in the darkness of heathenism,' as those of any other countries!
* Jude 20.
See Book I. chap. i. sect. 4. On the Case of the Gentiles.
Among other precepts and exhortations he says, "Give diligence to make your calling and 'election sure;" "for if ye do these things, ye 'shall never fall:" therefore the salvation of these elect, of this chosen generation, was so far from being certain, that it depended upon their own diligence;" their "not falling" was so far from being infallibly decreed, that it depended upon 'their doing those things which the apostle com'manded and he even predicts, that "false 'teachers, who would bring in damnable here'sies, denying the Lord that bought them, should 'make merchandize of some of them;" that is, 'should seduce them from the true faith in Christ, ' and consequently defeat their salvation: some 'therefore of these elect persons were not saved.'1
The salvation of all who might read the epistle was not sure, either as infallibly decreed,' or in any other way: but Calvinists think that the salvation of all, who had "obtained like precious "faith" with the apostle, was sure in itself. Yet, even in respect of these, their personal assurance of salvation, and the comfort arising from it, must depend on their own diligence in the use of the appointed means.2 Indeed the salvation of true Christians is so connected with diligence in the means of grace, and in all holy duties, that every confidence of a happy event must be suspected, if not absolutely condemned, which is not obtained and preserved by it. In respect of what is said of false teachers, and their success, it may suffice to say with our Lord, "If it were possible, they would "deceive the very elect:" and with his apostle, "They went out from us, but they were not of
1 Ref. 205.
2 Heb. vi. 10-12.
us; for, if they had been of us, no doubt they "would have continued with us: but they went "out, that they might be made manifest that they (6 were not all of us.'1
Election in the Calvinistic sense includes an 'infallible decree; but the apostle could not call upon the Christian converts to make an infallible 'decree sure.'2
By "calling," in this exhortation, 3 Calvinists understand effectual calling, or regeneration and conversion. Thus our Article: They be called ' according to God's purpose, by his Spirit, work'ing in due season; they through grace obey the 'call; they be justified freely; they be made the sons of God by adoption; they be made like to 'the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length by God's mercy they attain to everlasting felicity.'4 'An infallible decree' cannot be made more sure in itself; but it may be made more sure to a man's own mind, that "God has from "the beginning chosen him unto salvation;" and that, in consequence, " he hath called him according to his purpose." This "full assurance of
hope," this inward satisfaction of our election to eternal life, must be sought by diligence: and, the more evidently we love God, and “ keep his "commandments" with alacrity and delight; and love the brethren and all men, and take pleasure in every work and labour of love; the more full assurance of our eternal salvation, and consequently of our election, we scripturally attain.
'John ii. 19.
4 Art. xvii.
Note, Ref. 205.
3.2 Pet. i. 10. Heb. vi. 11.
Negligence brings a man's interest in the promises of God into doubt, as well as his personal election but the promises of God are sure, and will infallibly be fulfilled to those who are interested in them. "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful, he cannot deny himself." Our diligence cannot make his promises more sure in themselves than they really are; any more than it can make an infallible decree' more sure:' but it may lead us to the assurance that the promises will be fulfilled to us.2 The apostle did not call on those whom he addressed to make an 'infallible decree sure;' but to make it sure to their own consciences that they were true believers; and thence to infer their election. But, if calling only mean the outward invitation of the gospel; and election, only a choice of collective bodies to means of grace; the "calling and elec"tion" of these persons, in this sense, was a fact, notorious and acknowledged: and the apostle 'could not call upon them to make an indubitable 'fact sure.'
"The church that is at Babylon, elected toge"ther with you, &c."3-The word church is not found in this passage. Ἡ ἐν Βαβυλῶνι συνεκλεκτή. "She in Babylon who is elected together." It is probable, however, that a church, and not a person, was intended; though we read no where else of a church in that neighbourhood. The whole 'church of Babylon, &c.' Some may be led by this language to conceive of the church of Baby
' 2 Tim. ii. 13.
2 Book I. chap. ii. sect. 16. On Assurance. 31 Pet. v. 13. Ref. 205.
'lon' as including the bulk of the inhabitants of those regions, like the whole church of England,’ or, 'the whole church of Scotland,' or, 'the whole 'church of Rome : yet probably "the church at "Babylon" consisted only of a remnant of believers, collected together by the apostle's ministry, and inconsiderable in number, compared with the multitudes among whom they lived. A company thus collected and circumstanced, it may be supposed, consisted in general of true believers; and entirely of such as made a credible and intelligent profession of faith, which their conduct did not invalidate. They were therefore spoken of as true Christians, in the judgment of charity; as being what they professed to be; and so elected together with other Christians in different parts of the world.-Yet possibly there might be, unperceived by man, some hypocrites among them.
It is not confined to individuals who must 'necessarily be saved, or who were predestinated by God to certain salvation, or even to those who will actually be saved.'1
Calvinists do not hold, that all who think themselves, or are thought by others, even by the most discerning ministers, to be true Christians," the "elect of God, holy, and beloved," will necessarily be saved: but only all whom God, who " searches "the heart," knows to be true believers. His decrees are wholly unknown to man, till manifested by the event. When any person or persons become, as far as we can see, true believers, shewing their faith by their works;" we con
1 Ref. 206.