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perishes by his own fault and aggravated wickedness, obstinately persisted in through life, and must ascribe his loss of eternal life, and his falling into endless destruction, wholly to his own folly, - constantly and voluntarily rejecting salvation freely offered to him, — that he has destroyed himself, and nothing could have prevented his salvation, and have brought endless destruotion upon him, - no decree of Heaven, nor Satan, nor any of his fellow-men, nor his outward circumstances, poverty or riches, honors and high stations, or a mean and low condition in the world, health or sickness, nor any temptation and trying situation in life whatsoever, — had he not, with all his heart, rejected the gospel, and constantly, through his whole life, refused to accept of the salvation which was offered to him, for which folly and sin he has not the least possible excuse.
This coincides with the preceding particular, and serves to show how important and necessary it is that they who perish from under the gospel should have salvation offered to them, as by this it will appear more clearly than otherwise it could, that sinners perish by their own fault, and can lay the blame of it to none but themselves, and that they are justly cast into endless destruction, however infinitely awful and dreadful it be.
And this will serve effectually to confute an assertion which many now make, and show the falsehood of it, viz., that if they be not elected, they must be damned, whatever they may do. It will appear, when the real truth comes to light, that they perish by rejecting the salvation offered to them, and that, if they had believed and been willing to be saved by Christ, they would not have been lost. Their destruction is the consequence of their great, inexcusable wickedness, in slighting Christ and neglecting the great salvation, - by which they have brought it on themselves, — which could not have come upon them had they not done this, but accepted of the kind offer which they had.
3. The offer of salvation to all serves more clearly to display and discover to the redeemed the riches of that sovereign grace by which they are saved. It is of great importance that this should be seen by the redeemed in the clearest light, and to the best advantage, that God may have the glory of it, and they the greatest benefit possible. While they see others perish under the same advantages which they have enjoyed, they see what they should have done had they not been distinguished by sovereign grace, and made willing in the day of divine power. They see the human heart acted out in the unbeliever, and the awful consequence in his perishing, and know this would have been their case had not God created in them a new heart, and given them to believe on Christ, in consequence of his electing love. They see this, and give all the glory to sovereign grace, and, in a greater degree, are happy in the enjoyment of the love of God. St. Paul was sensible of the importance of Christians seeing and enjoying the great and distinguishing love of God to them, and of their giving all the glory to him, and, therefore, labors to set this in the strongest light in the first two chapters of his letter to the church at Ephesus, as he also does in most of his other epistles, which the attentive reader of the Bible must have observed.
That the offer of salvation is, in fact, made to all to whom the gospel is revealed, has been before proved;* and it may be added here, to the evidence there produced, that, if there were no other proof of this but the parables of Christ, recorded in Matt. xxii. and Luke xiv., these are sufficient to put it beyond dispute. There our Savior represents the gospel by a feast which is made, to which numbers are invited who refuse to come, and consequently never taste of the supper. The invitation is, “ Come to the feast, come to the marriage, for all things are ready.” How can this represent the gospel
, if salvation be not offered to those who never accept of the offer? But to return: salvation is, in fact, offered to all, wherever the gospel is published. Some have supposed this to be inconsistent with the doctrine of election, as it has been stated; but it is hoped that what has been offered has sufficiently proved, that they are both consistent with each other.
XI. The doctrine of election is so far from being a discouraging doctrine, that it affords the only ground of all true encouragement and hope.
Many have been so grossly mistaken as to think this a gloomy, discouraging doctrine, and that it tends to lead persons to despair; whereas, it is the only well-grounded support against despair, and the sole foundation of all reasonable hope of salvation. It does, indeed, tend to cut off all their hopes of salvation, who build them upon themselves, — their own good disposition, will, and exertions, independent of God, -supposing they shall determine it in their own favor, and, in this sense, save themselves. The doctrine of election demolishes this foundation, and destroys such a hope, as it teaches that man is absolutely dependent on God for his salvation, and he must determine whether he shall be saved or not. As this, therefore, is a false hope, and dangerous delusion, it is desira. ble it should be destroyed; and it affords an argument in favor of this doctrine that it tends to take away all such hope from man.
* See Vol. I. p. 493, etc.
When persons are brought to know themselves in some measure, and see how guilty and lost they are, how sinful and obstinate their hearts are, being wholly corrupt, and so strongly indisposed to any thing that is right, and inclined to evil, that if left to themselves, they never shall repent and embrace the gospel, but shall go on to certain destruction, therefore, if God, who has mercy on whom he will have mercy, have not determined in their favor that he will give them a new heart, and save them by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, they shall not be saved, but be certainly lost forever, — they despair of distinguishing themselves, so as to render themselves more deserving of the favor of God, and of salvation, or less ill deserving than others; they know of no greater sinners than themselves, or more deserving of endless destruction, or farther from embracing the gospel, than they are, and always shall be, if left to themselves. Their only hope, therefore, is in the revealed purpose of God to save some of mankind, without any regard to their desert of it, or their distinguishing themselves from others, not being so great sinners, or being less unworthy; but God has mercy on whom he will have mercy; and they have no reason to conclude they are not of this number, but may hope they are elected to salvation, though utterly lost in themselves, and the most guilty and vile of all others.
It is true, that some have abused this doctrine, and improved it to bad purposes to themselves, through their ignorance, the perverseness of their own hearts, and the cunning agency of Satan, the deceiver. They have not been willing to be in the hand of God, and wholly dependent on him; and the thought that they are so has irritated and galled their spirits; they have been such enemies to God that they have concluded he will decide against them, if it be left to him to determine whether they shall be saved or not; and knowing they have greatly offended him, they conclude that they are not among the number of the elect, and so sink into despair. It is not the doctrine of election, or the belief of it, which produces this despair, or has any tendency to it, but the opposition of the heart to it, and drawing a wrong and false conclusion from it; for this doctrine has a direct contrary tendency and effect, when properly improved, as has been shown.
XII. The doctrine of election is perfectly consistent with the greatest possible degree of human liberty.
This has been particularly considered in the chapter upon the decrees of God, and need not be repeated here. Many have entertained such wrong notions of this doctrine, and of
liberty, or the freedom of the will, as to suppose, if this were true, the non-elect are chained down to destruction, and the elect fixed in a state of salvation, inconsistent with their exercising any freedom of choice. The divine purpose of election does not affect the liberty of any man, unless the certainty of events be inconsistent with it. It is certain it is not, if liberty consists in acting voluntarily, or in volition, which it is presumed has been proved; and that there can be no other or higher liberty in nature. The elect are perfectly free in embracing the gospel, and in all their exercises, and in every step they take, in order to obtain complete salvation. This is necessarily supposed in their election to eternal life; for they can be saved in no other way but by their free choice, which is, therefore, secured in their election, that they shall go to heaven by their own free consent, in the full exercise of perfect liberty, in opposition to any compulsion. Whatever God decrees or does, respecting their salvation, does not interfere with their freedom, but infallibly secures and establishes it. He worketh in them, to will and to do; therefore, does nothing inconsistent with their willing and doing, but promotes and effects it, in which all their freedom and moral agency consist.
The non-elect go to destruction by their own choice. When salvation is offered to them, they reject it with their whole heart, and most freely choose to have no part in it. They will not come to Christ, that they might be saved. The election of others to salvation does not affect them, or alter their case or circumstances in the least. They go to destruction just as freely, and as much by their own choice, as they would or could do were there none elected to be saved; and their destruction is not made any more necessary or certain, by the election of some of mankind to salvation, than it would have been were there no election.
XIII. Though it be known that a certain number of mankind are elected by God to salvation, in distinction from others, because it is revealed, and the reason of the thing teaches it must be so, yet it cannot be known to men in this world who they are that are elected and shall be saved, any farther than there is evidence that they embrace the gospel, and are become true Christians. This is otherwise known to God alone. He knows them by name, and they are given to Christ to be saved. 66 The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal: the Lord knoweth them that are his.” (2 Tim. ii. 19.) But this cannot be known to men, nor can there be the least real evidence, till they come to Christ, nor any appearance of it, any farther than they appear to be real Čhristians. In this way, the apostle Paul judged of the election of persons. “ Knowing, brethren, beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. And ye became followers of me, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy in the Holy Ghost." (1 Thess. i. 4–6.) It is in this way alone that believers can come to the knowledge of their election, or get the least evidence of it. This evidence will be perfectly established when they are actually saved, and shall abide so forever. Every one of the redeemed will know his own election of God, and that of all others who are saved, and will look to this as the source and foundation of their redemption.
While the elect are in a state of unbelief, none in this world, neither they themselves, nor any one else, can know they are elected and shall be saved. And the non-elect cannot know that they are not elected, nor can any one else know this of them, while they are in this world, unless it be known that they have committed the unpardonable sin.
I. The doctrine of election, as it has now been stated and explained, is suited to stain and humble the pride of man.
The pride of man prompts him to lift himself above his Maker, and he would do it, were it possible; and many fondly think themselves, in a measure, independent of him, especially in matters of the greatest importance, respecting their moral character, and their eternal interest and happiness; that their life is in their own hands, so far that they can determine whether they shall be virtuous and holy, and be saved, or not, without any determination of God respecting it, or his unpromised, undeserved, special influence or assistance, to turn the point in their favor. And nothing can be more crossing and mortifying to this pride, than to be absolutely dependent on God for all moral good, as a free, undeserved gift from him, and for salvation, so that the whole must be determined by God, and not by man, any farther than it is the effect of the divine determination. Such absolute dependence on God for holiness and salvation is implied and held forth in the doctrine of election, and no man can understandingly and cordially receive it, so as to have the feelings of his heart conformable to it, without “ humbling himself in the sight of the Lord."
Every doctrine of the gospel, and the whole system of revealed truth, is levelled directly at the pride of the human