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for a sure and satisfying hope to rest upon. I proceed to make a few reflections on this discourse.
Reflection I.--Since the rational knowledge of God and natural religion has its proper uses, and especially to lay a foundation for our receiving the gospel of Christ, let it not be despised or abandoned by any of us. There may be some necessary Occasions for our recourse to it in a day of temptation, when our faith of the gospel may be tried and shaken. The gospel with all its glories is built upon it as a solid foundation; and if these foundations be destroyed or despised, we may be terribly shaken and beat off from all our hope in some evil and unhappy hour. This gives us a rational ground for our faith in God, and it is necessary in order to our faith in Christ Jesus his Son. As St. Paul made glorious use of it in his discourse with the Athenian infidels, so we may be called by providence to converse with atheists and unbelievers, and we should be furnished with the same doctrines and principles of argument: for so far as they are just and true, they are divine, since they proceed from God as the God of nature, who is the Author of our reasoning powere as well as of all the revelations of grace.
II. Since this knowledge of God which is attainable by the light of nature has so many defects, let us never venture to rest in it. Dare not content yourselves with the lessons of the book of nature, which are very imperfect and obscure in comparison of the discoveries of the book of grace. The sun in the firmament, with the moon and all the stars, can never give us that light to see God, which is derived from the Sun of Righteousness.
What a deplorable thing is it that multitudes in our nation where the glory of the blessed gospel shines with such brightness, should be running back to the glimmering light of nature, and satisfy themselves with heathenism and philosophy! That they should chuse to walk in twilight as the happiest and safest way, and refuse to be conducted by the blaze of noon, as though it were a deceitful and foolish light! What an affront against the authority and mercy of the God of heaven to renounce his brightest blessings! The God of this world hath blinded the eyes of them who believe not; 2 Cor. iv. 4. and we have reason to fear he is leading them blindfold to eternal darkness.
III. Since the nations which have only the light of nature, are forced to feel out their way to God through such dusky glimmerings, let us bless the Lord with all our souls, that we are born in Great Britain, a land of clear light, where the gospel shines in its beauty and power, and surrounded with various evidences; a land where the book of grace lies open before us, as well as the book of nature, to teach us the knowledge of God
and his salvation.
Let us say within ourselves, and why was not I born a poor ignorant African, a wild Indian ignorant of God, and averse to seek after him, and without any person near me to give me one beam of light, and point out my way to happiness? Why was not I left merely to the dumb and silent lectures of the heavens, and the earth and sea, or the instruction of the trees, and plants, and beasts of the earth, to teach me the knowledge of him that made me? Who am I, that I should be brought into being, in the midst of sun-beans, and not in a region of thick darkness under the shadow of death? Everlasting glory be given to distinguishing grace,
O how should we value the bible as our highest treasure, which gives us such blessed discoveries of God, and his wisdom and power, and his mercy in Christ; which infinitely exceeds all the doubtful twilight of nature, and our own powers of reasoning. O may the blessed bible lie next our heart, and be the companion of our bosoms! It is this lays a sure foundation for our recovery from all our guilt, and ruin and wretchedness. You that have any concern for your eternal interests, love the bible, walk by the rules of it, and live upon its promised grace; and I dare pronounce in the name of God and his Son, that you shall be for ever happy.
IV. Pity and pray for the heathen world, the dark corners of the earth, the benighted nations where the Sun of Righteousness never rose, and where they can but feel after God through the mists of ignorance and error. Let us remember those ancient times when our forefathers in this nation were led away into the same errors and gross idolatries, and exercise our compassion toward those who are still left under the same darkness. Now and then O christians, send a pathetic sigh over the nations, lift up one compassionate groan to heaven for them, and say, "When shall the day come, O Lord, that the heathens shall become thy worshippers, and Assyria and Ethiopia thy people? When wilt thou reveal thyself to the poor African idolaters, and the savagé tribes of America that know not God? When shall the ends of the earth learn to know thee, and rejoice in Jesus thy Son the Saviour? When shall all nations, people and languages begin their songs of Salvation to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, who has redeemed us with his own blood? To him be dominion and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
God's Election of a People for himself among Men, and giving them to his Son in the Covenant of Redemption.
EPH. i. 3, 4, 5.-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 hun before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
IF we enquire who are the persons thus blessed with all spiritual blessings, chosen to be holy, and predestinated to become the children of God, the little word us points plainly to the apostle Paul himself, who wrote this epistle, who was a Jew, and the converted Ephesians, to whom he wrote, who were Gentiles. These were the persons thus favoured of God. It does not seem to me to be the design of this text, to tell us what God chose part of the Ephesians, as well as other Gentiles to be an outward visible church, with mere visible privileges, as the nation of the Jews were of old, who were a type and figure of the church invisible; but that he chose some Jews and some Gentiles to be parts of his invisible church, for they are said to be blessed with spiritual blessings, with the privilege of adoption, and the real work of holiness and divine love in their hearts. All the following parts of this and the next chapter seem plainly to declare this sense.
If we ask how, or by what medium this grace was exercised, we are informed, it was all in and through Jesus the Son of God; they are blessed in Jesus Christ, they are chosen in him, and through him they are adopted, are made children and heirs. Without entering nicely into all the meanings of these words, chosen in him, I shall content myself at present in general to say, that when they were first chosen to be made holy and heirs of heaven, they were committed to the care of Christ, to have all this grace fulfilled in them, and these blessings conveyed to them. Having said thus much with relation to the text, I shall immediately apply myself to the two great branches of the subject appointed me, and which are both expres
sed in the words.
I. That God, before he made the world, chose some per
sons of his own free grace to become his children, or to be made holy and happy.-II. That God from the beginning appointed his Son Jesus Christ to be the medium of exercising all this grace, and gave his chosen people to the care of his Son, to make them partakers of these blessings. Let us consider each of those heads more at large.
First, God chose certain persons of his own free grace, before the foundation of the world, to be made holy and happy. This I shall endeavour to prove briefly in four plain propositions :
Proposition I. "There is a manifest difference between the children of men in this world." Some of them are holy and religious, they fear God, and worship him, they appear to be the children of God, for they imitate his holiness, they love and obey him, they practise virtue and goodness in this life, and are aspiring to the blessedness of heaven; while the rest go on to indulge their vicious appetites and passions, to pursue earthly things as their chief good, and are walking evidently in the road of sin to misery and destruction. I need not cite scriptures to prove this point: our daily observation abundantly confirms it.
II. This difference between men, or this distinction of the righteous from the wicked is not ascribed in scripture, originally and supremely," to the will and power of man, as the cause of it, but to the will and power of God, and to his Spirit working in them." I do not deny that the natural powers of man, his understanding, and his will concur to make this difference, but it is under the original influence and operation of God. 1 Cor. iv. 7. Who maketh thee to differ? What hast thou that thou hast not received? When St. Paul had described the Gentiles as dead in trespasses and sins; Eph. ii. 1. he ranks himself, in the third verse among the children of wrath by nature, and as walking in the lust of the flesh and the mind, and confesses himself also to have been dead in sin, verse 4. but we are quickened, saith he, to a life of holiness, by God who is rich in mercy, verses 4, 5. In themselves they were all without strength; Rom. v. 6. but they are raised to a spiritual life, by the exceeding greatness of that power which raised Christ Jesus from the dead; Eph. i. 19, 20. They were in themselves carnal and sensual, nor could they make themselves spiritual and heavenly; and therefore they must be born again, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. They must be born of the Spirit; John i. 13. and chap. iii. 5, 6. that is, they must have a mighty change pass upon their natures by the operation of the blessed Spirit. In Eph. ii. 8, 9. neither faith nor good works are originally of ourselves; faith is the gift
of God, and we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Thus you see this blessed work of conversion, of changing the heart of man, is described in such language as excludes man himself from being its original author: it is regeneration, or a new birth, it is a resurrection from the dead, it is a new creation; all proper expressions to shew that the work is divine, and must have God for the author of it,
III. "The distinction that is made by this work of God in the heart of men, is attributed in scripture, not to any merit in man, which God foresaw, but to the free grace of God toward his people and his special choice or election of them, to be partakers of these blessings." So the words of my text: We are chosen to be made holy, according to the good pleasure of his will. If some among the Jews, who were God's chosen visible church did believe in Christ, and receive this salvation, they were chosen of God, from among the rest of that nation, to become part of his invisible church by mere grace. When the greatest part of Israel rejected the Messiah, yet there was a remnant of Jews, according to the election of grace, who became christians; and if it is of grace, then no more of works, otherwise grace would be no more grace; Rom. xi. 5, 6. Works and merit are inconsistent with an election of grace. If some of the Ephesian Gentiles received the gospel, they also were chosen from among the rest that lie dead in sins, and were quickened and saved by the grace of that God, who is rich in mercy according to the great love wherewith he loved them; Eph. ii. 4, 5, 7, 8. And the apostle ascribes his own salvation, as well as that of other sinners; Tit. iii. 5. not to works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us. This is the fountain of all blessings, whether conferred on Jew or Gentile; Rom. ix. 15, 16. God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and compassion on whom he will have compassion.Time would fail me to shew how full this chapter of St. Paul is of the distinctions, which are made between men by divine grace, even before they had done good or evil, whether it be for a temporal or eternal inheritance, and the one as a type of the other. St. John concurs in the same doctrine. If we love God, the first source of it was his love towards us. 1 John iv. 10-19. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us; and if we love him, it is because he loved us first.
IV." This choice of persons to sanctification and salvation by the grace of God is represented in scripture, as before the foundation of the world, or from eternity. So my text expressly declares; and indeed it must be so in the nature of things, for whatsoever the power or the mercy of God doth in time, he decreed to do it from eternity. He has no new designs. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world; Acts