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full force, shall bring everlasting honours to God the Father, and his Son Jesus, and for ever establish all the children of God in holiness and joy.
There are yet four things that remain to be done, with relation to this great doctrine of the election of sinners in Christ to be made holy and happy. There are some difficulties attend the belief of it, which ought to be relieved. There are some proper uses to which this doctrine should be applied. There are some practical abuses of it, against which we must set a guard; and there are some remarks or inferences which be formed upon may the whole discourse.
First, As for the difficulties which attend it, and the many cavils and objections which are raised against it, I shall not interrupt this half-hour with controversy, so far as to take notice of any of them in the body of my discourse*. I proceed therefore
There is one objection of the greatest importance and weight, and therefore I would say something to relieve it in the margin.
Some persons have argued thus; If God has chosen a certain number to be made holy and happy by Jesus Christ, the Mediator, while others are left out of this choice, and go on in sin to their final destruction, will they not justly complain of God, at the last day, as having laid a bar against their salvation, by not chusing them? Will they not say, there was no Mediator to undertake their cause, no pardon, no salvation provided for them; and therefore the offers of pardon and salvation, which are made to them in common with other sinners in the gospel, are mere delusive words, and have no truth in them? But far be this imputation from the God of grace and truth!
Answer I. The offers of salvation by a Mediator, are made in general terms to all sinners wheresoever the gospel is preached, and every one that applies himself to Christ in the appointed way, and is sincerely willing to receive this salvation, shall have it bestowed upon him. John iii. 16. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him, should not perish, but should have everlasting life. So far was our blessed Lord appointed the common Mediator of mankind that none shall be able to complain in the day of judgment, that they perish for want of a Mediator. This is the will of God who sent kim, or the grand commission with which he came into the world, not only that he should take care of those whom the Father had given him, but it runs in general, that he should receive all that come to him, and he will by no means cast them out; See John vii. 37-40. None shall complain, that their sins are unpardoned for want of a sufficiency in the merit or atonement of Christ. And though it is confessed, that his blood and life were paid down as a price for the certain redemption and salvation of all that the Father had given him, yet the blood of him who was God manifest in the flesh, had a sufficient value in it to procure pardon, heaven and happiness, for a whole world of sinful men : And the reason why unbelievers and impenitent sinners are condemned is, because they did not apply themselves sincerely to this Mediator, they did not chuse to lay hold of this salvation, which consists in a likeness to God, as well as in his favour, in holiness as well as happiness.
II. Nor shall any be able to say at that day, that they missed of the salvation of Christ, for want of sufficient natural powers to lay hold of it, and receive it. Sinners who hear the gospel bave a natural understanding to take in the meaning of the word preached: they have also a will to accept or refuse the proposals of grace, to receive or reject this all-sufficient Saviour: But there is an aversion in them to attend to and obey the gospel, through the corruption of their nature by original sin; their minds will not learn divine things, because they shut
immediately to the second thing 1 proposed, which was to shew what are the proper uses of this doctrine of God's election of sinners to salvation, and giving them into the hands of his Son.
their eyes; their wills refuse to receive the grace of the gospel, they shut it out of their own hearts: they have a delight in sin, a dislike of Christ, and of his salvation, which consists in holiness and the love of God; they have a rooted obstinacy of will against the methods of divine mercy. This is their condemnafion; John iii. 19. that light came into the world, and they loved darkness rather than light; and therefore they must die in their sins, because they would not come unto Christ, that they might have life; John v. 40.
I confess this aversion, this obstinacy of mind and will against the gospel may be called natural, or rather native, as it comes to us by nature in its present corrupted state; and in scripture it is sometimes represented as impotence or inability to repent, to return to God, to receive Christ, and his grace; John vi. 65. No man can come to me, except it were given him of my Father. And it is termed blindness of mind and hardness of heart, and a death in sin; not that there is really such a natural incapacity in their mind and will to receive this grace, as there is in a blind or dead carcase; but it is a moral impotency, as it is well expressed by our divines, because the aversion is so strong and so rooted in their bearts, that they will never renounce sin, and receive the salvation of Christ, without the powerful influences of divine grace.
And that it is a moral impotence and not properly natural, appears by the moral remedies applied to cure it, viz. commands, promises, threatenings, &c. which it would be useless, and ridiculous to apply to natural impotence, that is, to make the blind see, or the dead arise.
Both the first and second answer to this objection, may be represented by a very fair similitude. Suppose God has decreed, that he will make the rising sunbeams shine so effectually on a thousand certain persons, that they shall be roused thereby to their morning work, and enjoy the pleasure of it; May we not say,/ the sun has beams sufficient to enlighten the whole nation, and they have all natural power to behold and enjoy this light; though perhaps only that thousand will see the sun rising, because their sloth confines the rest to their beds, they have an aversion to the early business of the morning; and this lazy humour bangs so heavy upon them, that they cry, they cannot rise. Thus though the Sun of Righteousness has light and grace enough in him to save all mankind, yet their own sloth and obstinacy, and evil inclinations, exclude them from this sal. vation. Both these events arise without a just complaint against the God of nature, who called up the morning sun to enlighten the nations, or against the God of grace, who sent forth the Sun of Righteousness, to bless the dark and sinful world.
III. No condemned sinner shall have reason to say, that there was any bar or hinderance laid in the way of his salvation, by this decree of God, or by his chu sing some sinners, and giving them to Christ, for though he provided effectual grace for those whom he choose to certain salvation, yet he only left others to their own natural state, as corrupted by the fall of Adam; he left them to the wilful blindness of their own minds, and the wilful hardness of their own hearts. While this original counsel of God, this decree of election provides and secures grace and glory to some, it does not in the least hinder others from receiving and obeying the gospel.
IV. None shall be condemned at last, because they were not chosen in Christ, but because they were impenitent sinners, who in some measure have resisted the light of their own consciences, under whatsoever dispensation they have lived, whether under the law of nature, the law of Moses, or the gospel of Christ. These conscienees of theirs shall lay them under a dreadful and unanswerable conviction of their own guilt, shall give sentence against them, and confirm the condemning sentence of Jesus, the Judge of all.
There are other difficulties which are started against this doctrine, which
Abuse II. Another abuse of this doctrine is, when persons indulge despairing thoughts under this pretence: "If I am never so watchful, never so diligent I cannot be saved unless I am elected; and therefore it is in vain for me to seek after salvation for the scripture tells me; Rom. ix. 16. "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."
Answer. But remember also, O tempted and despairing souls that there was never any one who had a will to obey the gospel, and who did run the christian race, but that he obtained the blessed prize of salvation. It is granted indeed that the Holy Spirit is the first, but secret agent in this important affair: Pray earnestly then for the Holy Spirit, and set thyself in a course of duty according to the appointment of Christ in his gospel, and thou hast many promises to support thy hope, that such prayers shall be answered. Luke xi. 13. "Your heavenly Father will give his Holy Spirit to them who ask him." Thy first business is not to enquire after thy election which is a secret thing, but hearken to the public call of the gospel, repent of every sin and receive the grace that is there offered; and when thou art become a lover of God and a believer in Christ, thou mayest then trace up these graces to their original spring, even to thy election in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world.
The last thing I proposed is to make some few remarks on this subject.
Remark I. I infer that there are some doctrines wherein the reason of man finds many difficulties, and which the folly of man would abuse to unhappy purposes which yet are plain and express truths asserted in the word of God. Among these we place the great doctrine of the election of sinners in Christ to be made holy and happy. We intreat our brethren who differ from us in this point, to be so candid as to suppose that we feel the difficulties as well as they, and we see the awful consequences which seem to affright them from receiving it; we have had our doubts about it, and found our reasoning powers a little perplexed and unwilling to receive it lest God should be represented as partial in his favours, and lest man should cavil against his proceedings: But we feel ourselves overpowered with evidence and conviction when we see the doctrine so plainly and frequently asserted in scripture, that we cannot resist the light and force of it: The express words of God demand our submission and constrain our belief, and we are persuaded our brethren would believe it too, if they saw it in the same light.
We are sensible also of the abuses of this doctrine, and the sinful purposes to which it is sometimes perverted; yet since it is a truth God has seen fit to reveal in several parts of his
Borrow who have the holy evidences of election upon me, who am chosen and prepared of God for everlasting happiness?" Let us walk in this daily practice, in this joy of the Holy Spirit, and wait for a rich and abundant entrance into the kingdom and glory of our Lord and Saviour.
The third thing I proposed to mention was the abuses of this awful doctrine. There is nothing so true, so sacred and so divine, but it may be abused through the wickedness, or the weakness of the hearts of men and the temptations of the evil one.
Abuse I. One abuse of this doctrine is when we pervert it to nourish presumption, and to indulge our sloth and negligence, when we sit with folded hands like the sluggard in the neglect of duty, or allow ourselves in a course of sin upon this pretence, "That if I am elected I shall be called and sanctified, and saved; the grace of God will take hold of me some time or other, and bring me to faith, and holiness, and eternal life."
Answer I. Do you dare venture to argue thus foolishly in the common affairs of this life, or to act under the influence of such arguments? You believe that God has determined the time of your continuance in this world, and do you live idle and refuse to procure food, or to partake of it on this pretence, that God will prolong your life to his appointed hour, and that he will provide food for you, and make you eat and drink if he design you shall live? No: You apply yourselves with diligence to obtain your daily bread, and to partake of it; you take care to make use of the appointed means to preserve natural life notwithstanding God's decree; and why do you not practise the same with regard to your salvation, and seek after faith and holiness as the appointed means? But it is a sign you value eternal life at a very low rate, if you will venture the loss of it upon such a weak pretence as you dare not trust to in the things of this life. That man that goes down to the grave, or goes down to hell upon these principles perishes like a fool, and deserves to perish.
II. Electing grace as it works in calling and converting us to faith and holiness, generally operates in so gentle, so imperceptible a manner, and so suitable to our natural faculties by awakening them to seek after heaven, that we can hardly distinguish it from the operation of our own spirits, but by the blessed effects of it; and if we will never stir up ourselves and our natural powers to seek after the salvation of Christ, it is a dangerous sign that we are not elected. For though divine grace be really the first agent in our salvation, yet it never doth violence to our natural powers, nor will it ever save us without our own activity and diligence in duty.
very foundation of it: And when the top-stone of this blessed building shall be laid in heaven, the inhabitants of that world shall join all their voices, and shout together to the honour of Christ and grace. And that I may conclude this awful subject with the language of sincere charity, I am persuaded there will be found many holy souls there, whose voices shall join in this triumph, and this song of glory to electing love, who had not learned this doctrine till they came to heaven, nor knew the eternal spring of their own salvation till they were made possessors of the blessing. Amen.