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ON THE DOCTRINE OF PERSONAL ELECTION.
ROMANS XI. 5.
Even so then, at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
IN the two chapters next preceding this, the apostle had spoken of God's calling the Gentiles, and rejection of the Jews; and had expressed, in strong terms, the extreme anxiety he felt for the latter, who were his kinsmen according to the flesh. But in this chapter he consoles himself with the assurance, that the reprobation of Israel was far from being universal. That a happy number of this once chosen nation, were still the objects of God's electing love, and the subjects of his special grace: ver. 1-4, "I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who
have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal." The apostle adds, Even so then, at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the clection of
My intended subject of discourse, is the doctrine of personal election to eternal life: a doctrine which is often spoken against, and not always well understood; which is a stumbling-block to many, and from which false inferences of a very dangerous tendency are frequently drawn. It is now proposed,
I. Briefly to state and prove this doctrine :
II. To guard against misconceptions of it; and,
III. To answer objections against it.
The scripture doctrine of election I understand to be this: That a certain number of mankind, including all who will actually be saved, were chosen of God to salvation from all eternity; in such an absolute manner, that it is impossible any one of them should finally be lost.
I mean not to enter largely into the proof of this point, at present; but only to give a concise view of the texts and arguments, on which my belief of it mainly rests.
We often read of an elect number of the fallen race of man, who were given to Christ in the covenant of redemption; and whom, in that covenant, he engaged effectually to save. These are promised him as the reward of his voluntary sufferings, Isa. liii. 10, 11, 12, "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him
a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death." Of this chosen number our Saviour himself speaks; John xvii. 2, "Father, the hour is come: glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee; as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." And ver. 6, "I have manifested thy name unto the men whom thou gavest me out of the world." And ver. 9, "I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me; for they are thine."
That the election of these was from eternity; out of many other proofs, see Eph. i. 3, 4, "Blessed be God, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ, according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world." And 2 Tim. i. 9, Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began."
That none of those thus chosen, shall in anywise fail of salvation, is fully implied in the words of our Saviour, Matt. xxiv. 22, "Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." And ver. 24, "For there shall be false Christs, and false prophets, who shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch that, (if it were possible) they should deceive the very elect."
And as this doctrine of the eternal election, to infallible salvation, of all such as will eventually be saved, is very expressly taught in the holy scriptures; so it may be infered, with great certainty, from the perfections of God. A being who is infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in wisdom and power, must be supposed to have designed from eternity, whatever he brings to pass in time. This is laid down as an undoubted maxim, Acts xv. 28th;
"Known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the world." If, therefore, the salvation of men be a work of God, he must have known from the beginning whom he would save; and this implies his determining to save them. For to say he knew that he should do what he had not determined to do, is a plain contradiction. And we have the application of this argument, to the eternal election of all who will be saved, in Rom. viii. 29, 30, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified." And in Eph. i. 11, "Being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." In these In these passages, the apostle concludes the salvation of all the saved, to have been predestinated and infallible, from the foreknowledge of God, and from his uncontrolable government of all events.
Thus the doctrine of election, however much disputed, stands upon the strong ground of the eternal covenant of redemption, the immutable perfections of God, and the express declarations of scripture.
II. We proceed to take notice of some misconceptions of this doctrine. And here,
1. It is certainly a wrong notion of it, to imagine that persons were chosen to salvation as the end; without being chosen to faith and holiness, as the necessary way and means. That" without holiness no man shall see the Lord;" and that "he that believeth not shall be damned," are the revealed decrees of heaven; and to suppose God hath any secret decrees, directly contrary to those which he has declared to us, is manifestly absurd. Accordingly,
the connection in which God always executes his decrees respecting the salvation of men, to prevent illusive hopes from this doctrine, is carefully ascertained to us in the holy scriptures. See Acts xiii. 48, "As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed." Rom. viii. 30, "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called." And 2 Thes. ii. 13, "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth." In vain do any expect to find hereafter their names written in heaven, unless they are created unto good works while here on earth. 'Christwill be the author of eternal salvation to them that obey him,' and to none else. Yet,
2. It is a wrong idea of this doctrine, to understand by it only a conditional election. We are not to think that God's electing persons to salvation, is nothing more than merely his determining that all those shall be saved who believe in Christ, and do the things which he says. If this were all, then, before saving faith, one sinner would be no more achosen vessel of mercy than another. If this were all, it would, at best, have been left at utter uncertainty, whether a single soul of man would actually be saved. Christ might have no seed to serve him, and to reap the benefits of his obedience and death, notwithstanding such a mere conditional election. In that case, it is true, all to whom the gospel should come, would, in a sense, have been put into a salvable state: that is, under circumstances that they might be saved, unless it were their own fault. But, to what purpose is there a price in the hand of a fool, who hath no heart to improve it? The reprobate have such a price. If they were willing to be saved from their sins; and, in point of merit, to be wholly indebted to Christ, they might have life. To Jerusalem, when given over to destruction, our Saviour said, "How often would I have gathered thy chil