THE BIBLICAL DOCTRINE OF VOCATIONAL ELECTION
By Forrest L. Keener
This morning, I am going to bring a message on a subject that you probably, most of you at least, have never heard preached upon. You probably know that this truth exists, and many of you have learned the doctrine in Sunday evening Bible class, but it is a subject that you may never have heard a message on in your life. It is the subject of The Biblical Doctrine Of Vocational Election. Doesn’t that sound like a mouthful? I do not think it will be boring or dry. It ought to be interesting. Turn to the gospel of Mark, chapter 3, and we will begin to read with verse 9 and read down through verse 15.
„And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.” (Isn’t that strange, that He forbade these to make Him known?) „And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:” And then, he goes on in the following verses and tells us the names of those men, which we will not read this morning.
My text out of this passage is Mark 3:13 and 14. „And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.” What a wonderful word is election. Sometimes when it finds itself in a context that involves God, the natural man tends to withdraw from it, but if we think of it outside of that, we love the word election. A synonym to election is choose. We choose to do something, or we elect to do something. We like to choose what we eat. I trust that most of you men out there feel that you got to choose your wife. You are glad that one was not just assigned to you by lot. And you ladies are glad that you got to choose your husband. Now, some of you may feel like the one you really wanted got away, but you know the Lord works in those things, and I hope that you feel like you got to choose. We love to choose. Sometimes when natural men think of God choosing, they want to rob Him of that right. But it does not make any difference, we cannot do that, and God does, indeed, choose. We are familiar with the doctrine of soteriological election, that is, God choosing men unto salvation. The Bible very, very clearly, and repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly teaches that. Not all agree on the basis of that choice but if you do not see election in your Bible, you are not reading your Bible. It is just unavoidably there. But there are other kinds of election. For instance, there is national election. The Bible very clearly shows us and teaches us over, and over, that God chose the nation of Israel. There is also Messianic, or Christological election, that means that God, the trinity, chose Jesus Christ to be the Lamb of God, the Messiah. He was chosen for that office. And it is certainly revealed in the Bible that God deliberately chose Him and Him alone for that work. There is angelic election. The Bible speaks of the elect angels. I do not have time today to enlarge upon any of those subjects, but they are all very clearly set forth in your Bible, and in every one of those places, it is very clearly God who does the choosing, not just the ratifying of someone else’s choice, as some men would like to believe. It is God’s choosing.
Now there is another kind of election that is very important, and that is vocational election. Now you know what a vocation is. That means a job, or an assignment. It means what you do. The Bible teaches us, very clearly, that God has chosen certain men to do certain jobs. They are not all preachers, they are not all pastors. Now, I do not believe that the call to teach a Sunday School class is the same thing as a call to preach. For instance, I believe that God may choose a person, and direct a person to teach a class and later on that direction may be removed. I believe that when God calls a man to preach that does not go away. That is going to stay with him throughout his life, as far as I know. No doubt he may disqualify himself, but that is not a change of divine calling but of qualification. I have never felt any inclination that I had any reason to anticipate ever being released from that call. But it is an important thing that we realize this choice and appointment of God, and
that we study to understand it. As we learn that God has an eternal purpose in which He chose a nation called Israel, and in which He chose a people, called them, predestinated them to be conformed to the image of His Son, as Romans chapter 8, verses 29 and 30, and a lot of other passages, very clearly teach, we should also consider this doctrine of vocational election, or of God calling men to do certain jobs. He calls men to preach. He calls men to go to various mission fields. He called men to be apostles. You will remember that He called twelve men for that purpose. We read about that in the foregoing passage. In the Gospel of Luke chapter 10, we find that He chose and called 70 others, and gave them essentially the same charge as He gave the twelve, then He sent them out to preach. From them came Barnabas, who was directly called an apostle in the Bible, also came Stephen, and Philip the evangelist, and Mathias, who later was named as one of the 12 apostles. There are many others that I could name, that obviously, very clearly, unquestionably came out of that 70 in Luke chapter 10. And then, finally, as Paul describes his call as being one out of due season, God called the Apostle Paul. There were 83 men that the Lord Jesus Christ called to do this apostolic work. It was to them that He gave power to raise the dead, to heal the sick, and to cast out demons. Now that is not a general gift that God gave to everybody who might volunteer to appropriate it. You will never find in your Bible an account of Timothy, or Titus, or any of those men healing a sick person. They did not have that gift. They did not have that authority. They were not told to do that. A lot of people today are going about trying to do things for God, that God has never told them to do. They have the propensity of Simon the Sorcerer.
VOCATIONAL ELECTION IS SOVEREIGN
As we approach this doctrine, we should see first of all, that vocational election is absolutely sovereign. Notice as we read in the text, verses 13 and 14, the Bible says, He called whom He would. What does that mean? It means He called whom He wanted to call, and they came. And from those whom He chose, for there were more there on the mountain than the twelve, He drew out twelve, and, in effect, He said, this is the assignment that I have for you. And so these men were sovereignly chosen individuals out of sovereignly chosen material. This same pattern is seen in the Old Testament. Notice in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 1 and verse 4. These are short verses, so just look with me, and read down through verse 10: Then” the word of the lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” You see God doesn’t give Jeremiah any credit here for his assignment. God did it. He was not a volunteer. „Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” God did that with Jeremiah. God did that with Isaiah. You can go on through the Bible and consistently find that pattern. You will remember that Amos said, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son. I was just a lowly herdsman. God called me. God drew me out of that. In the book of First Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 25 and following, the Scripture tells us how that God has not chosen many wise, He has not chosen many mighty, He has not chosen many noble, but He has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the mighty. Now, I want you to know that there is a sense in which I misused those verses. Because the context of First Corinthians chapter 1 is not talking about vocational election. It is not talking about God calling preachers. It is talking about soteriological election. It is talking about God choosing believers and calling believers. Read the last verses of the chapter, you will clearly see that I am telling you the truth about that, and salvation is clearly what it is talking about. But it, nevertheless, applies to vocational election. As God has not chosen wise, and mighty, and noble in His call to salvation, so He has not chosen wise, and mighty, and noble in His call to the ministry. He called fishermen. He called a publican, Matthew. He called men who were considered to be the off-scouring of the earth. He did this sovereignly. I want to tell you something else. It is not just positive, it is also negative. What do I mean by that? I mean there are no volunteers. You had better not be volunteering for the ministry. Don’t do that! Now, I know when you come, you come willingly. I am not taking away from that, but you had better have a call of God. Bro. Steve showed me a card one time, and it said something about being a missionary recruiter, and I laughed. We do not need missionary recruiters. In fact, if there is anything in the world that we do not need, it is missionary recruiters. We do not need preacher recruiters. God must do that! It is a sovereign call of God. It comes from God! This is so very important. Notice in your Bible, in Acts chapter 8 and verse 18.
There was a man by the name of Simon the Sorcerer. Now, you may wonder if Simon the Sorcerer was saved. And whichever side you take, I can take the other side and probably give you a good argument in the other direction, and probably could win the argument. That would not mean that I was right. Just winning an argument does not mean you are right, you know. Sometimes the person who is the poorest arguer may be right. A good arguer may win because of his skill, that does not mean he is right. The Bible says that Simon the Sorcerer believed, and he continued with Philip. But Simon had an idea that was not at all approved of God. Please notice these words in verse number 18 of Acts chapter 8: „And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money. Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” Now, he had committed a sin of wanting to buy this with money. But fundamentally he had committed a sin of trying to insinuate himself into something that God had not ordained him to. The apostles had already been called. They had already been chosen, and God had ordained this. You may see a bumper-sticker hanging on the back of some person’s car that says: „There are no draftees in God’s army, they are all volunteers.” That is simply not so. The fact of the matter is that probably, quite the opposite is true. They are all draftees. You be careful about volunteering in God’s army. I do not mean sit back and not do anything. Because there are some things that God has told every single individual in His church to do. Everyone of us has a job to do. I do not have time to get into that, but I mean you don’t try to choose what to do. You let God do His choosing, because He will, and He will do it perfectly.
You know, if I had been calling an apostle to the Gentiles, I sure would not have called Paul. Would you? I mean, think about it, when they stoned Stephen to death, Paul was saying `Away with this man. Kill him!’ He was holding their coats and saying, kill him. Stephen had the credentials, he had the knowledge, he had the attitude and the burden. He had everything that I can think of that would have made him an ideal apostle to the Gentiles. He had the gifts. You can read the 6th chapter and the 7th chapter of Acts, they are all there. But God allowed Stephen to be killed, and yes, God was in control. God did not throw any stones, but He did not kill anybody who was throwing stones. He let them throw the stones. And He could have killed everyone of them, just like He opened the ground and Korah and his whole family fell in. He could have done the very same thing with those people that wanted to stone Stephen. But God allowed it to happen. And the man that was holding the coats of those that stoned Stephen, God called to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Why? He does not tell us why. It is a Sovereign choice on the part of God. This is illustrated as we look at Paul, I am talking about the sovereignty displayed there. Acts chapter 9 and verse 13: „Then Ananias…” Do you know who Ananias was? Not the one who was killed for stealing money, or lying about money, but the one who baptized Paul. „Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:” Isn’t that a smart statement? God said, `Ananias, I want you to go down, to this man by the name of Saul, he is praying, and I want you to baptize him.’ And Ananias said, in effect, `Lord, I don’t guess you have heard about this, but I guess I had better clue you in.’ He said, `I heard about this and I thought I just ought to pass this on to you.’ It is amazing how many people don’t know that God knows. I asked a young preacher, one time, that had just been four years in Bible college, „You do know that God knows everything do you not?” And he said, „I don’t guess I had thought about it.” Isn’t that smart? Four years in Bible college: „I don’t guess I had thought about it.” What are those Bible Colleges teaching? I am not against them but they need to wake-up and teach some fundamental things that these poor students need to know. „I don’t guess I had thought about it.” Well, Yes, He does, He knows everything. He doesn’t learn anything. God never looks and learns. And so Ananias was telling God about this. But notice what the Lord said. Ananias said, `And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.’ But the Lord said unto him, `Go thy way: (Go do what I told you.) For he, (Now notice this,) he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.’ Isn’t that simple? Ananias, you don’t know anything. Forrest Keener, you don’t know anything. Marcos Rivera, you don’t know anything. All you can know is what God tells you. That’s all! We don’t know anything. We do not know anything. Sometimes I am so amazed and so sad over human presumption. I was reading just yesterday an argument between a couple of preachers on my e-mail, and it was amazing. I think one of these men knew, but the other man was talking about how wrong his opponent was. And the fact of the matter was that he did not even know what the other man was saying. You could listen to his argument and you could tell he does not perceive, he does not understand, he is like somebody that is walking in the dark, he does not understand. And the other man actually believed exactly what this man was arguing for. He believed everything this man was saying. But this man was presenting it as an attack upon what the other man believed, being ignorant of what was being said there. So many times we are like that. God formed us in the womb. And after we came forth He chose us: some to honor and some to dishonor. God chose us vocationally. Now I have to move along very quickly here. I started late, I am going to get through late, but I am going to try to finish the message.
THERE IS A GREAT IMPORTANCE IN VOCATIONAL ELECTION
Secondly, there is a great importance in vocational election. You see what I have given you this morning, I have only given you the fact of vocational election. But it is not just a cold fact. I do not preach much that is intended to just be cold, hard fact. Bible truths are intended to have spiritual application, and implications to them. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and for 6 days we find God acting alone. He did not use anybody else, or anything else. He did not use evolution. He did not use anything else. He did not use time. He did not use anything in the process of that creation for 6 days, and the 7th day God rested. After the 7th day God has very frequently acted vicariously. For instance, God could build an ark better than Noah could, but God did not build an ark. He chose Noah to build the ark. Do you follow what I am talking about? He did not have to have Noah, but He chose Noah to build an ark, and to save him for seed. And He did that sovereignly. Now, you might say that Noah was better than the other men around him. I have news for you, you had better read your Bible. Because the Bible says that Lamech lived after he begat Noah, he lived so many years and he begat sons and daughters. Now, the Bible says that Noah was perfect in his generations. What does that mean? It comes from two Hebrew words that simply mean undefiled descent. Do you know what it means? It means that he was not mixed with the Cainish descendants. He was a Sethite, and was usable as seed, for Christ the true Seed. That is what it means. I do not have time to get into all of that, but that is exactly what it means. Now, I want to ask you something, weren’t the younger brothers and sisters the same way? They were of the same parentage. Noah was not a polygamist. He only had one wife. And his father, Lamech, was not a polygamist. There was a Lamech in the Cainish line that was a polygamist, but not this Lamech. He only had one wife. And these children were just as undefiled in their descent as Noah, but they drowned in the flood. He chose Noah, and Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Why? He does not tell us why, so we do not know why, and I cannot figure out why nor should I speculate on it. If I gave you some virtue in Noah, that justified God’s grace and God’s call, I would prove salvation by works.
God called, chose, and used Abraham, spiritually, to be our father. Abraham had brothers also. Why did God choose Abraham? He does not tell us why. You do not find anything about Abraham’s character, before his call from God, which sets him apart as being different. God sovereignly chose and called him. He used him to father Isaac, and Jacob, and Jacob fathered Judah to be, according to the flesh, the family by which Jesus Christ would become the Son of man. But did you know Jesus was also Abraham’s seed? He was Abraham’s promised seed. God worked that out. He chose him. Notice over in the book of Galatians, Paul says: „…He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” What seed? Abraham’s seed. That is what Paul is talking about there. It is very clear in the context. You can read it at your leisure. He says this seed of Abraham was Jesus Christ. How very important Abraham was in God’s scheme of vocational election.
God chose and made John the Baptist. He had him borne of Elisabeth, who was a barren woman. God chose him. And John the Baptist was chosen to lay the groundwork for God’s church. Don’t ever apologize to anybody for calling your name Baptist. It is a good name: John the Baptist. Don’t let somebody tell you it means John the baptizer. It means just what it says it means. If I were not a Baptist, I would be ashamed. Oh yes, I mean that seriously, but it is by the grace of God that I am a Christian and a Baptist, so I certainly do not have anything to brag about or to be proud of.
He used the 12, I mentioned earlier, and He used the 70, and the Apostle Paul. He chooses men today to carry out His work or to preach His word. God calls out His elect by the use of those He chooses vocationally. A man said to me the other day, down in Little Rock, „You know, my church could never send me to the Philippines, or anything like that, but it seems to me like it would be so wonderful to go, and be able to do a work like that.” I did not really know what to say about it, because it is kind of wonderful and it is also kind of horrible. It is a dreadful thing to leave my wife and family and church and home like that. I mean the three weeks get very long though they happen so fast. This will be the fifth three-week trip that I have taken to the Philippines, and they are torture. They are literally, physical torture, and yet at the same time, it is a wonderful thing. But the fact of the matter is that it is not an issue of my choice, as to whether it is nice, or whether it is not nice. Whether it is comfortable, whether I like the food, whether I like the cow manure in India, whether I like dead fish all over the place, has nothing to do with it. I have no business being there unless God has called me there. And if God has directed me to go there and do a work, I had better not stay away. It is God’s choice. It is sovereignly done. Vocational election is a sovereign appointment of God and a wonderful thing. I must now come to a final point.
THERE IS GREAT COMFORT IN VOCATIONAL ELECTION
That may seem a little strange at first. God chose Stephen, and he was stoned to death. God chose Paul, and he got his head cut off. God chose Peter. and he was, reportedly, crucified upside down. God chose James and he had his head cut off with a sword. Vocational election does not sound like much fun does it? We might think of Stephen, who was stoned to death, we might think of his suffering, or we might think of Paul’s suffering, and we might tend to despair. But I want to tell you something. I feel a lot of comfort in knowing that I am called to preach. I was 25 years old when God called me to preach, just over 25. I was still 24 when God called me, but I was 25 when I made it known openly. And you know, since that time I have to be honest with you, within the first 3 or 4 years of that time, I questioned things about my salvation. I did not doubt for a moment that I was saved at that point in time, but I questioned the time when I had actually been saved. That question existed because of a very sad period of time in my life. But before God, I can truly say, that through all of that I never, nor have I have ever questioned that call to preach. It was the most clear and compelling direction of my life. I could not believe it, for a while, before it was settled and crystalized in my heart. Would God really call a scum-bag like me to preach? Could my wife ever believe that God would call this nothing of a so-called husband that she had married? Could my friends, and my neighbors, and my working acquaintances, ever believe my testimony of a call? But since I settled it I have never for a moment doubted it. Maybe God would call me somewhere where nobody knew me. That would be very wise of Him. Would you believe He left me in the same town, all of my ministry, where I had lived my sinful, wicked life for five years? Yes, God did it, and I know He did it. But do you know something, it means that with my life, by the grace of God, I can do something more important than my life. I do not like to make bad deals. Do you? I hate to go buy a car, or a loaf of bread, I do not care what it is, and walk down the street and see the same thing for less money. I do not like that. I like to feel like that when I put down a price or an investment, that I get back more than it is worth, or at least what it is worth. Because of the call of God, I know that, by His grace, I will get back more than my life is worth. I am not wasting it. It is comforting to me because I know that I am not spending my life for something worth less than my life. Paul said, `Neither count I my life dear unto myself, that I may finish my course with joy.’ I feel no great danger in going to the Philippine Islands, but I will be honest with you, if I believed that I would never get on a plane and fly back out of Manila, I would still have to go. I just do not feel like I would have any real choice. I would just have to go, because I believe God has directed me to do that. `Neither count I my life dear to myself,’ there is comfort in that. That should not be an alarming thing. With Paul we should say, `that I may finish my course with joy.’ When God has given us something to do, and when we have settled with God in that matter, it is alright. It is just okay, because whatever happens, you just cannot lose.
Joseph said, `I die, but God will visit you. He will bring you out of Egypt, and when He does, take my bones with you.’ I am dying too, and so are you. We are going down the valley one by one. We are all going to die. But isn’t it wonderful if we can know that when we do, our life was not wasted. It will be good to know it was not spent on the flesh, it was not thrown away on things that go into the ground with us. All of us are going to die. But if we are chosen to a service for God, and in some sense all Christians are, we cannot possibly lose. Isn’t it nice to know, you cannot lose? You can only win! Stephen did not lose his life. Did you know that? He did not lose his life. He did not lose his life! He invested it in a wonderful way. And down through thousands of years now, almost two thousand years, this man’s testimony has inspired, and stayed and stabilized millions of people. He did not lose his life, he invested it. And so it is with you and me, when God has called us to something, we invest our lives, we are not throwing our lives away.
How many of you folks know who Adoniram Judson was? Adoniram Judson was the first missionary that was ever sent from the shores of the United states to a foreign country. Incidently, Adoniram Judson was a strict sovereign grace man, as was William Cary, as was Hudson Taylor, as was David Brainard, the man who burned his life up working with the American Indians. He was Jonathan Edward’s son-in-law. But Adoniram Judson left the United States and he went to a country called Burma. There he worked all the rest of his life. His wife, after years of faithful service, lost her health, their children died, and soon his wife died. He came back to the United States and stayed just a short time. He took another wife back to the field with him, and she died. He came back and took another wife back to the field with him but she did not die on the field, he did. He became very, very sick after many, many years of service there. And because of the corruption of the whole land, because of the filth and everything of that land, his lungs were infected, and in desperation, at the doctor’s advice, he took a voyage. He went to sea to try to get some clean air, hoping that his lungs would clear, but they did not, and he died. He died alone with no family present. They took his body and wrapped it in a blanket, and a little before daylight one morning they just pushed his body out of a porthole and let it fall into the sea. Nobody but God knows exactly where he fell. It was just wherever the ship was at that given time. But Adoniram Judson did not lose his life, he invested it. God used it in a tremendous way.
Consider Paul, he preached Christ faithfully, and every time he opened his mouth, somebody slapped him in it. They put him in jail. They beat him. He was whipped like a horse. But do you know something? From those stripes came praise, echoing through those prisons. From those prisons came First and Second Corinthians, and I could go on and give you many other books of our Bible that came out of Paul’s persecution. John, the Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, was exiled to an island. He was really put out to die of starvation, on the Isle of Patmos. For what reason? For preaching the gospel. But from the Isle of Patmos came the book of Revelation. What I am saying is this, that in these cases there is great comfort because we who are called of God can neither live or die in vain. Isn’t that good? We do not live in vain, we do not die in vain, when we are walking in the vocation wherein the Lord has called us.
Now listen, we are different vessels, we are not all alike. Everyone of us has clay feet. Everyone of us has weaknesses, but everyone of us also has strengths that are ordained of God. We need to understand that God has purposes for us, and if we want to get the most out of life, if we want to be the happiest we can be, if we want to be the most productive we can be, we do not need to have a lot of psychological training and a lot of ideas from men. We need to have one simple thing and that is a submissive question in our heart and mind, „Lord what will thou have me to do?” That is simple enough isn’t it? There is not a lot of figuring out, not a lot of getting other men’s advice, but Lord what will thou have me to do?
We need to do something else along the way. I was thinking about this while I was preparing this message. I noticed in the book of Psalms, passage to which I have heard preacher after preacher, appeal on his own behalf, for instance, when the congregation, or someone in it, was giving him a hard time. I praise God you folks are not accustomed to do that to me. You are constantly so gracious, and you have been a loving, wonderful people for so many years now. But I have heard so many preachers, when the congregation was giving them a hard time, quote that Scripture that says, „Touch not my anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” Oh yes, they are right and it applies to that very thing which they are talking about, and they are using it rightly. But something that has devastated me through the last several years is that I see preachers who would appeal to that for self-defense, who some how never seem to apply it to themselves. Who should hear that any more than the preacher? „Touch not my anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” God help Forrest Keener never again to be the critic of other men whom God has called. Now if I can say in my heart, I am fully persuaded that the man is a heretic, and that God has not called him to preach, and that he is not God’s man, then I may criticize him to my heart’s content. But as long as I must say, „With all of his failures, and all of his flaws, he is a God- called man,” I had better keep my voice silent about him, and so had we all. But that is not true just with preachers, that is true with everyone of us. God has made us differing vessels. We are different. We are all earthen vessels. We are all made out of the same old clay. He has chosen different ones to do different things. Thus He has sovereignly bestowed individual strengths, and permitted certain weaknesses. If God is God, all that is within divine ordination. If we respect the choices and callings of God in these matters, then we had better respect the chosen of God in our churches. I am talking about everybody in the pew. I am talking about everyone in the pulpit. We need to respect God’s vocational election, for if we rebel against that, we rebel against God. May God guide us into humility and right conduct in these matters. Let us stand together with our heads bowed.
Arhive pe categorii: Election
THE BIBLICAL DOCTRINE OF VOCATIONAL ELECTION
Two Kinds of Vessels
„Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory” (Rom. 9:20-23).
Very few preachers living today will ever dare to read these verses in their churches, much less give an honest exposition of them to their people. If their members inquire about these verses most preachers will try to explain away their plain sense. We live in a time when Arminianism has gained the upperhand of the theological world. Very few preachers can be found who really and truly believe in sovereign grace and will preach it to their people. Even most so-called sovereign gracers are in truth Calminians.
Those who fear God and take the words of the Bible seriously can see that these verses teach election and reprobation according to Gods sovereignty. Here is seen the greatness of the Creator and the nothingness of the creature. Gods will is supreme and right in eternity and time. In an unusual manner, Paul clears God from any charge of cruelty and unmercifulness by observing His conduct in time toward both the elect and the reprobate.
VESSELS OF WRATH
In the first two verses God is represented as the Potter, and men as clay in His hands (Isa. 64:8; Jer. 18:1-6). As the potter has power over the clay to shape it in what form he pleases, so God has unlimited power over His creatures to make from the same lump of human clay vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy. No truly saved person challenges that right of God. Rather, he most reverently bows to it as the Scripture of truth. What would the ability to fashion be worth, if God were under the dictation of that which is to be fashioned?
I understand by „vessels of wrath” vessels which are destined to be objects of wrath, or vessels to be filled up with Gods wrath (Isa. 51:20). In I Thessalonians 5:9 Paul said: „For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” These words suggest that God did appoint some to wrath who are called in my text „vessels of wrath.”
Here is seen the doctrine of reprobation or rejection. Although this doctrine is sparingly mentioned in the Bible, it most assuredly is taught in my text and in other places. If God chose some to salvation (II Thess. 2:13), then common sense teaches us that others were unchosen. In Romans 11:7 Paul said: „. . .the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” In John 13:18 Christ said: „I speak not of you all; I know whom I have chosen,” implying some were not chosen. According to John 17:6 the Father gave Christ a people „out of the world.” Then there must be a world not given to Christ (II Peter 2:5; I John 5:19), and for which He will not pray (John 17:9). There can be no election without reprobation, for reprobation is the negative side of election.
The Divine decree of the rejection of some men is twofold: preterition and predamnation. Preterition is a mere leaving of the creature out of the bounds of Gods election. Predamnation is Gods appointment of the non-elect to everlasting wrath. Preterition is negative; predamnation is positive. Preterition is God withholding His grace to which no man has a claim. Predamnation is God considering man as a guilty sinner who deserved condemnation and wrath.
The words, „the same lump,” speaks of man as lying in the mere mass of creatorship, pictured by unformed clay before being put into shape. While in this state some were rejected. God left them as He found them in the pure mass before they had done either good or evil (Rom. 9:11). This was an act of Gods sovereign will and pleasure. That is why Paul starts out by saying: „What if God, willing to shew his wrath. . .” God had a greater right to do this than any earthly potter.
Predamnation is Gods appointment of men Who He passed over to punishment for their sins (Jude 4). God gave some „over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Rom. 1:28). In Psalm 81:12 God said He „gave them up unto their own hearts lusts.” The reprobate God left in their natural condition of enmity against God. He denied these the grace that could have cured their depraved hearts (Ezek. 36:26-27; Matt. 11:25-26). These are given up to believe a lie and be damned (II Thess. 2:10-12). Such wicked persons are „reserved to the day of destruction” and „shall be brought forth to the day of wrath” (Job 21:30). Job 20:29 says: „This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God.”
FITTED TO DESTRUCTION
Some make the words, „fitted to destruction,” to be a verbal adjective, or to mean fit for destruction. This leaves undetermined the agency by which this fitness is effected. This allows man to fit himself for destruction. It also permits one to escape supralapsarianism.
It cannot be denied that there is a sense in which men fit themselves for destruction. Hosea 13:9 says: „O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself. . .” Proverbs 6:32 reads: „But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.” In Romans 2:5 we are told: „But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (cf. Hos. 14:1; I Thess. 2:16). There is also a sense in which Satan fits men for destruction (Luke 8:12; II Cor. 4:3-4). But I do not believe that Romans 9:22 points to the sinner or Satan.
The best interpretation is to allow the full participal force which makes the vessels of wrath prepared by God for destruction. The word „fitted” in the Greek is katartizo, and it means „to fit, to frame, to prepare.” This sense is demanded by the context. God is compared to a potter who makes one vessel to honor and another to dishonor. The vessels do not make themselves. So it is God who prepares some for wrath and some for mercy. As I have already shown, the object of predestination is man as lying in the mere mass of creatorship, signified by unformed clay before being put into shape. There is probably an allusion to the creation of Adam out of the dust of the ground. The word „Adam” means „red earth” or clay.
The words, „the same lump,” points to men not created, much less viewed as fallen creatures. If men were viewed here as fallen creatures, they could not be said to be made out of the same lump both to honor and dishonor. Rather, it would have been said that all were dishonorable and some were left in dishonor and some were made honorable. But this is not what the passage says. Paul tells us God made out of „the same lump” some to honor and others to dishonor.
We must not suppose that God created man without a purpose. This is contrary to His attribute of wisdom. God first fixed the end for mans creation and then determined the means to create him. No wise potter would first make his pots and then decide for what use he made them. The truth in my text is that God made some of His creatures to honor and some to dishonor out of „the same lump” of human kind for His own glory. This glory He determined to bring about by different means. With respect to the vessels of honor, He determined to create them, to permit them to fall in Adam, to recover them by the obedience and sufferings of Christ, and to bring them to glory. This glorified His mercy and grace in a way consistent with His own glory. With respect to the vessels of wrath, He determined to create them, to suffer them to fall in Adam, to leave them in their sins, to condemn them in their sins, and to punish them with wrath. This was designed to glorify His justice and longsuffering without the least blemish on His mercy and goodness.
No right-thinking person denies that an earthly potter of the same lump of clay can make one vessel to ornament the house and another for some base use. Originally the two were the same thing–clay. The potter determined their destination. If an earthly potter has the power to make out of the same clay the kind of vessels he pleases, much more God has this power, out of the same lump of creatorship, to appoint creatures He determined to make for His own glory, to be vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy.
In what sense did God fit the wicked to destruction? He did not by positive action infuse sin into the vessels of wrath. This would be contrary to His holiness and purity. This would make Him the author of sin. God certainly did not infuse hardness and rebellion into the hearts of the vessels of wrath. God may be said to have fitted men to destruction in a twofold sense only. First, by leaving them outside of the bounds of His election. Second, by appointing before hand to punish them for their sins. If there is no injustice in God punishing sins, it cannot be unjust for Him to determine to do this before hand.
God did not appoint any unto destruction but for sin. Nevertheless, though sin is the cause of damnation and death, the thing decreed, it is not the cause of the decree itself. It is the cause of the thing willed, but not the moving cause of Gods will. Nothing outside of God can move His will. Therefore, His decree of reprobation is traceable to His good pleasure. If sin were the cause of the decree, then all would have been rejected because all fell in Adam!
„Destruction” does not mean cessation of being as false prophets teach. It is the end of all hopes and enjoyment. It means eternal imprisonment in Hell and being shut up to everlasting darkness. It means to be the companions of the Devil and demons for eternity. It points to an eternal visitation of Divine anger in flaming fire from the presence of the Lord Himself (II Thess. 1:7-9). It involves a final withdrawal of all long suffering as well as everlasting punishment upon the bodies of the damned!
THE PURPOSE OF THIS
Two reasons are given as to why God shows His wrath upon some. First, it was because God is willing to show His wrath. The punishment upon these vessels of wrath will be made an occasion of Gods exhibition of His holy anger againt sin. His hatred of sin is absolute, and the vessels of wrath will be made to experience it to the fullest extent. The entrance of sin into the world was necessary to manifest Gods wrath and hatred for sin. He tolerates sin in the world for the very purpose of glorifying Himself in its punishment.
Second, it was to „make his power known.” This truth is illustrated in the case of Pharoah (Rom. 9:17). The power of God is what punishes men for their sins. Their destruction proceeds from „the glory of his power” (II Thess. 1:9). The eternal damnation of some sinners will demonstrate to the universe the power of God. Sin in its nature is a dishonor to God, but He overrules it so as to turn the destruction of the wicked to His glory. This is a most wonderful display of Divine power to men and angels.
LONGSUFFERING WITH THE NON-ELECT
The words, „endured with much longsuffering,” reveal the patience of God with the reprobate. He suffers these ungrateful rebels to live while they deserve to die. He prolongs their lives and gives them space to repent though they are fitted to destruction. Short-sighted mortals believe God should cut off the wicked in childhoods. But God in His longsuffering endures them to old age until they are ripe for ruin. In their condemnation and punishment God will be glorified.
The Scripture says in Proverbs 16:4: „The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” „For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. . . .Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Rom. 9:15,18).
VESSELS OF MERCY
Verse 23 of Romans 9 mentions „vessels of mercy.” This means men toward whom Gods mercy was to be displayed. These vessels would receive mercy when in a miserable state of sin and wickedness. They were destined to be objects of Gods mercy, not because they deserved mercy more than others, but because God had purposed to fill them with His mercy. This mercy is an act of Gods sovereignty because He says: „I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy. . . .So then it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:15-16). The vessels of wrath „shall have judgment without mercy” (Jas. 2:13), but the vessels of mercy have „obtained mercy of the Lord” (I Cor. 7:25; cf. I Tim. 1:16; II Tim. 1:18; I Pet. 2:10). These vessels of mercy are not saved by their good works, but they are saved „according to his mercy” (Tit. 3:5). They can approach the throne of grace and „obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Their hope of everlasting happiness is the hope that they „may find mercy of the Lord in that day” (II Tim. 1:18).
BEFORE PREPARED TO GLORY
God Himself has prepared them to glory, or predestined them to glory (Rom. 8:29-30). None of the elect will enter glory until they are prepared for it by God in a way consistent with His holiness and justice. God, as the Master Potter, fashions the vessels of mercy unto glory. They were given by the Father to Christ, and Christ will bring „many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10). This is why the elect „obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (II Tim. 2:10). Even their afflictions suffered in this world works for them „an eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17). It is in this hope of glory that they now rejoice (Rom. 5:2).
Mark carefully the word „afore” or „before.” In time God creates them in Christ Jesus; He renews their hearts; He sanctifies their souls by His mercy, making them fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. He prepares men for Heaven before they reach Heaven. In all of this God is free of blame and censure.
THE RICHES OF HIS GLORY
To the vessels of wrath God makes „his power known,” but to the vessels of mercy He makes „known the riches of his glory.” To them He reveals the glorious riches of the perfections of His nature and in His arranging for their salvation in Christ. With much longsuffering God restrains His wrath against the wicked that He might make known by calling and justification the riches of His glory on the elect which He has prepared to eternal glory. The awful ruin of the reprobate is necessary for the full display of the riches of Divine mercy in saving the elect.
1. In the context there are two examples of vessels of mercy: Jacob (Rom. 9:11-13) and Moses (Rom. 9:15). There are two examples of vessels of wrath: Esau (Rom. 9:13) and Pharaoh (Rom. 9:17).
2. Men are not passed over by God because of their sins, for if this be true all would have been passed over. Both election and reprobation are owing to Gods good pleasure. „(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:11-13).
3. The reprobates have no right to complain because they were not chosen to salvation but appointed to wrath. God is under no obligation to exercise mercy toward any person. He could have justly left the elect as well as the non-elect to perish in their sins. Had He been pleased to do so, He would have still been the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The wicked are treated as they deserve to be treated. All are ill-deserving and undeserving. None have any claim on God, for His will is the only rule for His mercy. God in His sovereignty has power to dispose of His creature according to His good pleasure, either to choose or refuse, according to the counsel of His own will. Job 33:13 says: „. . .for he giveth not account of any of his matters.”
4. The only reason that any are saved from the destruction of sin and Hell and brought to glory is the mercy of God. It is not due to education or the power of religious example. It is not by some acts of righteousness such as baptism or the Lords Supper. It is because the Lord delights in mercy, not because any deserve it. The elect do not fit themselves for glory. They are not only before prepared unto glory, but it is God who prepares them!
5. All the heathen religions in the world and all forms of Arminian Christianity teach that man is his own savior and that he is the determiner of his own destiny. The Bible teaches that God determines mans destiny and that salvation is owing to the mercy and will of God so that no flesh can glory in the Lords presence. Man can only throw himself upon Gods mercy. He can only say: „God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). I believe that I heard some person say, „I hate such a doctrine. It is damnable heresy. It deprives man of any glory in his own salvation.” To such an objector I would ask as did the Apostle Paul: „Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?”
The following article was Appendix A from A. W. Pink’s book on the Sovereignty of God. Here Pink explains the Greek word kosmos (world) and its various uses in the New Testament. The intent of the article is to show that in the Greek, the word „world,” does not necessarily mean the „whole” world [bold script by the Baptist Trumpeter] (ed.).
THE MEANING OF „KOSMOS” IN JOHN 3:16
A. W. Pink
It may appear to some of our readers that the exposition we have given of John 3:16 in the chapter on „Difficulties and Objections” is a forced and unnatural one, inasmuch as our definition of the term „world” seems to be out of harmony with the meaning and scope of this word in other passages, where, to supply the world of believers (God’s elect) as a definition of „world” would make no sense. Many have said to us, „Surely, ‘world’ means world, that is, you, me, and everybody.” In reply we would say: We know from experience how difficult it is to set aside the „traditions of men” and come to a passage which we have heard explained in a certain way scores of times, and study it carefully for ourselves without bias Nevertheless, this is essential if we would learn the mind of God.
Many people suppose they already know the simple meaning of John 3:16, and therefore they conclude that no diligent study is required of them to discover the precise teaching of this verse. Needless to say, such an attitude shuts out any further light which they otherwise might obtain on the passage. Yet, if anyone will take a Concordance and read carefully the various passages in which the term „world” (as a translation of „kosmos”) occurs, he will quickly perceive that to ascertain the precise meaning of, the word „world” in any given passage is not nearly so easy as is popularly supposed. The word „kosmos,” and its English equivalent „world,” is not used with a uniform significance in the New Testament. Very far from it. It is used in quite a number of different ways. Below we will refer to a few passages where this term occurs, suggesting a tentative definition in each case:
„Kosmos” is used of the Universe as a whole: Acts 17: 24 – „God that made the world and all things therein seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth.” is used of the Universe as a whole: Acts 17: 24 – „God that made the world and all things therein seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth.”
„Kosmos” is used of the earth: John 13:1; Eph. 1:4, etc., etc.- „When Jesus knew that his hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world He loved them unto the end.” „Depart out of this world” signifies, leave this earth. „According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” This expression signifies, before the earth was founded—compare Job 38:4 etc.
„Kosmos” is used of the world-system: John 12:31 etc. „Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the Prince of this world be cast out”— compare Matt. 4:8 and I John 5:19, R. V.
„Kosmos” is used of the whole human race: Rom. 3: 19, etc.—”Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”
„Kosmos” is used of humanity minus believers: John 15:18; Rom. 3:6 „If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.” Believers do not „hate” Christ, so that „the world” here must signify the world of unbelievers in contrast from believers who love Christ. „God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world.” Here is another passage where „the world” cannot mean „you, me, and everybody,” for believers will not be „judged” by God, see John 5:24. So that here, too, it must be the world of unbelievers which is in view. is used of humanity minus believers: John 15:18; Rom. 3:6 „If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.” Believers do not „hate” Christ, so that „the world” here must signify the world of unbelievers in contrast from believers who love Christ. „God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world.” Here is another passage where „the world” cannot mean „you, me, and everybody,” for believers will not be „judged” by God, see John 5:24. So that here, too, it must be the world of unbelievers which is in view.
„Kosmos” is used of Gentiles in contrast from Jews: Rom. 11:12 etc. „Now if the fall of them (Israel) be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them (Israel) the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their (Israel’s) fullness.” Note how the first clause in italics is defined by the latter clause placed in italics. Here, again, „the world” cannot signify all humanity for it excludes Israel!
„Kosmos” is used of believers only: John 1:29; 3:16, 17; 6:33; 12;47; I Cor. 4:9; 2 Cor. 5:19. We leave our readers to turn to these passages, asking them to note, carefully, exactly what is said and predicated of „the world” in each place. is used of believers only: John 1:29; 3:16, 17; 6:33; 12;47; I Cor. 4:9; 2 Cor. 5:19. We leave our readers to turn to these passages, asking them to note, carefully, exactly what is said and predicated of „the world” in each place.
Thus it will be seen that „kosmos” has at least seven clearly defined different meanings in the New Testament. It may be asked, Has then God used a word thus to confuse and confound those who read the Scriptures? We answer, No! nor has He written His Word for lazy people who are too dilatory, or too busy with the things of this world, or, like Martha, so much occupied with „serving,” they have no time and no heart to „search” and „study” Holy Writ! Should it be asked further, But how is a searcher of the Scriptures to know which of the above meanings the term „world” has in any given passage? The answer is: This may be ascertained by a careful study of the context, by diligently noting what is predicated of „the world” in each passage, and by prayer fully consulting other parallel passages to the one being studied. The principal subject of John 3:16 is Christ as the Gift of God. The first clause tells us what moved God to „give” His only begotten Son, and that was His great „love;” the second clause informs us for whom God „gave” His Son, and that is for, „whosoever (or, better, ‘every one’) believeth;” while the last clause makes known why God „gave” His Son (His purpose), and that is, that everyone that believeth „should not perish but have everlasting life.” That „the world” in John 3:16 refers to the world of believers (God’s elect), in contradistinction from „the world of the ungodly” (2 Pet. 2:5), is established, unequivocally established, by a comparison of the other passages which speak of God’s „love.” „God commendeth His love toward US”—the saints, Rom. 5:8. „Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth”—every son, Heb. 12:6. „We love Him, because He first loved US”—believers, I John 4:19. The wicked God „pities” (see Matt. 18:33). Unto the unthankful and evil God is „kind” (see Luke 6:35). The vessels of wrath He endures „with much long-suffering” (see Rom. 9:22). But „His own” God „loves”!!
THE BIBLE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION
By JAMES PETEGRU BOYCE (1827-1888)
Founder and first president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville); president of the Southern Baptist Convention 1872 – 1879, 1888. Boyce is regarded as one of the outstanding Baptist theologians of the nineteenth century.
THE CALVINISTIC THEORY
1. THEORY STATED. The theory of Calvinists as to election is that God (not man) of to his own purpose (in accordance with his will, and not from any obligation man, nor because of any will of man), has from eternity (the period of God’s action, not in time in which man acts), determined to save (not has actually saved, but simply determined so to do, and to save, not merely to confer gospel or church privileges upon) a definite number of mankind (not the whole race, nor indefinitely merely some of them, nor indefinitely a certain proportionate part; but a definite number), as individuals (not the whole or part of the race, nor of a nation, nor of a church, nor of a class, as of believers or the pious; but individuals), not for or merit or work of theirs, nor of any value to him of them (not because of any for their good works, or their holiness, or excellence, or their faith, or their spiritual sanctification, although the choice is to a salvation attained through faith and sanctification; nor for their value to him, though their salvation tends greatly to the manifested glory of his grace); was but of his good pleasure (simply because he pleased so to choose).
An analysis of the foregoing statement will show that this theory holds as to election, that:
1. It is an act of God, and not in any sense the result of the choice of the elect.
2. It has been with God an eternal purpose.
3. It is an election to salvation, and not to outward privileges.
4. This election, or choice, is one of individuals and not of classes.
5. It was made without respect to the action or merits of the persons elected.
6. It was made simply according to God’s own good pleasure.
2. PROOF. Whether we should believe this doctrine or not depends entirely upon whether it is taught in the Scriptures. We have no other possible way of knowing anything upon the subject. We must therefore look to the Scriptures alone for the truth.
Before proceeding, however, with the direct proof that the doctrine of election, as stated above, is taught in the Scriptures it should be remarked that the words election and elect are used in the word of God in various senses. They sometimes signify a choice to office, whether made by man or God. Compare: Luke 16: 13 (Christ’s choice of the twelve apostles), Acts 1:21-26 (the selection of an apostle in the place of Judas), Acts 9:15 (Saul as a chosen vessel), I Peter 2:6-3 (Christ spoken of as the cornerstone, elect, precious, etc.). They sometimes signify the choice of Israel to their peculiar national privilege of being the chosen, or separated, people of God: „The God of this people Israel chose our fathers” (Acts 13:17). Again they are used of a choice of salvation made by an individual: „Mary hath chosen the good part which shall not be taken from her” (Luke 10:42).
But in a large majority of cases these words have reference to the choice of salvation either in the purpose of God or the act of choice by God.
We will now take up the proof that the words are used in this last sense. Our aim will be to sustain, point by point, the doctrine of election as stated above.
Election an act of God, and not in any sense the result of the choice of the elect. The inquiry here is not an inquiry into the reason for the election, but simply as to the agent. The simple question now is, Does God choose the elect? We are not concerned at this point whether it is of his own purpose, or because he foresees that they will believe, or for any other reason. The sole question now is, Is the election an act of God? The fact on this point would appear more clearly if we were to exchange the common word choice or chosen with the equivalent word elect. The following passages are sufficient, although the examples are far more numerous.
• John 13: 18: „I know whom I have chosen.”
• John 15:16: „Ye did not choose me but I chose you” (not to their offices as apostles but) „that ye should go and bear fruit.”
• Rom. 8:33: „Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s chosen ones?”
• Rom. 9:15: „I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.”
• Eph. 1:4: „Even as he chose us in him.”
• Eph. 1:11: „Having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will.”
• 2 Thess. 2:13: „God chose you from the beginning unto salvation.”
(2) Election and eternal purpose or choice, on God’s part. Another important fact to be shown is the eternity of election in opposition to the idea that it was in time. The proof on this point is two fold. There are passages which show that the election took place before existence in this world or before the world began, and there are those which actually declare that it was eternal. Between the two classes of passages there is really, however, very little difference, as from the nature of the case, what took place before time must have been in eternity, and besides, the object of proof of an eternal election is simply to show that it was not dependent on human action, but simply on the will of God alone.
a. Those which show that the election took place before man’s existence, or before the world began:
• Jer. 1:5: „Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee.”
• Matt. 25:34: „Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
• Eph: 1:4: „Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”
• 2 Thess. 2:13: „But we are bound to give thanks to God alway for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto Salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”
• Compare also the language used as to the names written in the Lamb’s book of life. Rev. 13:8: „And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him (that is the beast), every one whose name has not been written in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain from the foundation of the world.”
• Rev. 17:8: „And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, they whose name hath not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast how that he was, and is not, and shall come.”
• Referring to the adherents of the Lamb as persons „with him,” it is said in verse 14, „They that are with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
• Rev. 21:27: „And there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
b. The passages which distinctly declare that this, which may be thus inferred to have been an eternal election, is really such:
• Eph. 3:11: „According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
• 2 Tirn. 1:9: „Who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal.”
(3) Election to salvation, and not to mere external privileges. The next point to be proved is that this is an election to salvation, and not to mere external privileges. This is proved by such passages as the following:
• John 10:26: „Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.” Verse 27: „My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
• Rom. 3:28-30: „We know that to them that love God al1 things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose.” Paul now proceeds to tell who these are. „For whom he foreknew he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren: and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” This passage shows that foreknowledge foreordination to holiness, calling, justification, and a state of glory, are inseparably connected, and hence that the election from which they proceed is to salvation.
• Eph. 1:4-9: This passage speaks of our being chosen before the foundation of the vorld, „That we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved: in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him.”
• 2 Thess. 2:13: After referring to others who were to have the same outward privileges, but upon whom God would send strong delusion, the apostle says in this verse, „For we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, for that God chosen you from the beginning unto salvation” etc.
• I Peter 5:10: „The God of all grace who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ,” etc. Here the apostle is speaking of that effectual calling, which is the result of election, and tells us that it is a call unto eternal glory.
(4) An election of individuals and not of classes. This position needs to be explained. It is not denied that the elect that are to be true believers, and that true believers are the elect. The character of the elect does not, therefore, enter into this question. The issue is simply, Does God choose all who shall believe? and are they as such his elect? or, Does he choose his elect, and will they, as such, believe? Is belief the result of God’s election, or is God’s election the result of man’s faith? Upon this point the proof is very clear:
• Acts 14:48: „As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” This is a historical statement made subsequent to the event, not by man’s knowledge, but by inspiration.
• Eph: 1:4, 5: „Even as he chose us in him . . . having foreordained us unto adoption as sons.”
• 2 Thess. 2:13: „But we are bound to give thanks to God alway for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, for that God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Here the choice is made to salvation, and the means to salvation, sanctification and faith are indicated, no prerequisite or means being stated as to election. It is not as believers that they are elected, but as elected, that they are saved.
• Rom. 8:29: „Whom he foreknew he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son.” The foreknowledge here is of persons, not of personal acts, not of those whose faith he fore-knew, nor, as would be essential to their theory, is it of the class of believers as such. The Arminian theory would require the substitution of the words „as believers,” or „you as believers,” instead of those which are used.
It is not, therefore, to the class of believers, but to individuals, that election refers. But, it may be asked, does it not refer to them in that character? Did not God choose those whose faith he foresaw? This will be fully answered before this discussion is closed.
(5) Without respect to the action or merits of the persons elected. This is merely a negative form of the same fact stated by the next point affirmatively. It is better therefore, to unite this with the succeeding one, which is,
(6) Simply according to God’s own good pleasure. The last point to be noticed in this theory is that the election was made through the mere good pleasure of God. Of course it is not meant that God acted arbitrarily or capriciously in electing certain persons out of the universal ruin to make them objects of his special constraining grace. God never acts without good and sufficient reasons. And if God had seen fit to tell us why he chose some, with the purpose that whatever the rest might do, these at least should certainly be brought to salvation, we should, doubtless magnify and extol his wisdom in so electing. But he has not seen fit thus to explain. He has acted of his own sovereign will, according to his own good pleasure. One thing we do know. he has not made the election because of any action or merits of the persons elected. He has made it because, as sovereign, he had the right so to make it, and because, for reasons satisfactory to himself, it was his good pleasure to do so.
Several classes of passages may be cited in proof of this point. Some of these simply affirm a choice by God’s sovereign will; others, while asserting this, also deny merit in those elected; and still others represent the fact of sovereignty by asserting a choice of such persons as would not ordinarily be chosen. The following are some of the passages which prove these points:
a. Such as simply assert sovereign will.
• Such are Matt. 24:40-41 and Luke 17:33-36. These declare the sovereign choice of God by showing such choice exercised as to persons in the same situation, so that the one shall be taken and the other left; „two men on one bed”; „two women grinding at the mill”; „two men shall be in the field”; one of each shall be taken and the other left.
• John 3:3-8: Regeneration is here spoken of as essential to entrance into the kingdom of God. This precedes any act on which election is said by any to depend Yet the sovereignty of God in this is declared in verse 8: „The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
• John 6:37, 39, 44, 64, 65: „All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me . . This is the will of him that sent me, that of all that which he hath given me I should lose nothing No man can come to me except the Father which sent me draw him…. Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who it was that should betray him. And he said, For this cause have I said unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it be given unto him of the Father.”
• John 15:16: „Ye did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that ye should go and bear fruit.” The object to be attained cannot be the cause.
• John 17:2: „As thou gavest him authority over all flesh, that whatsoever thou hast given him to them he should give eternal life.” (See also verse 6-12).
• Acts 22:14: Ananias says to Paul, „The God of our fathers bath appointed thee to know his will.”
• Eph. 1:5: In the fourth verse having referred to God’s choice of us before the foundation of the world, he says in this fifth verse: „Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace.” In verse 11 we are said to be predestinated to our inheritance „according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will.”
• James 1:18: „Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth.”
b. Such as deny merit in the persons elected as well as assert the sovereign choice of God. Ezek. 36:32: In this passage after describing the blessings connect ed with the new dispensation and the gift of the Spirit and the new heart which he would give them, gifts which the Calvinistic theory regards as the result of election, but which the Arminian maintains to be its cause, God adds: „Not for your sakes do I this saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your ways, 0 house of Israel.”
• John 1:11-13: „He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
• In Rom. 9:11-16 election is illustrated by the case of the twins „The children being not yet born, neither having done anything, good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth . . . So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”
• Rom. 11:5, 6: „Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. But if it is by grace, it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace.”
c. Such as so describe the persons chosen. as to imply this. Matt. 11:25, 26: „At that season Jesus answered and said, I thank thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and under-standing and didst reveal them unto babes; yea, Father, for so it was well pleasing in thy sight.”
• Luke 4:25-27: Christ illustrates this sovereignty of God by mentioning that many widows had been in Israel, yet had only a heathen widow been blessed; and again many lepers cured. „Of a truth I say unto you, There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah . . . and unto none of them was Elijah sent, but only to Zarepath in the land of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
• Acts 26:12-23: Paul’s description of his personal condition at his conversion shows that God chose him not for his merits but from his own good pleasure.
• I Cor. 1:26-30: „For behold your calling, brethren, how that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; but God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world that he might put to shame the things that are strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea, and the things that are not, that he might bring to naught the things that are, that no flesh should glory before God. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus,” etc.
• Gal. 1:15, 16: Paul says, „When it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me even from my mother’s womb, and called me through his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach,” etc.
• Eph. 2:1-13: The desciption of the condition of those who were dead in trespasses ,and sins, and in that state were quickened, proves that the quickening and salvation was due to no merit of their own.
The tests thus exhibited under these three classes prove conclusively that not on account of their own merits, but because of the good pleasure of God, does he choose men. They have been presented at some length, because this is after all the point upon which all that is important in this controversy turns. For, although other matters are equally essential to the doctrine, the whole opposition arises from an unwillingness on the part of man to recognize the sovereignty of God, and to ascribe salvation entirely to grace.
This proof, however, has been by no means exhausted, the attempt having been to select some only of the numerous passages, and mainly such as from their conciseness allow of presentation in full. Let the Scriptures be read with reference to this doctrine, and every passage marked which indicates God’s dealing with men as an absolute sovereign, and also every declaration which ascribes election or the fruits of it to his choice and not to the will or acts of men, and every illustration afforded that this is God’s usual method, and it will appear that scarcely any book of Scripture will fail to furnish testimony to the fact that in the acts of grace, no less than those of providence, God „doeth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.” (Dan. 4:3-5)
(Taken from ABSTRACT OF SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY by J. P. Boyce, now out of print.)
Editors Note: This article, in it’s entirty, was copied from „The Biblical and Historical Faith of Baptists on God’s Sovereignty”
THE DOCTRINE OF ETERNAL ELECTION AND REPROBATION PROMISCUOUSLY HANDLED, IN ELEVEN CHAPTERS.
WHEREIN THE MOST MATERIAL OBJECTIONS MADE BY THE OPPOSERS OF THIS DOCTRINE, ARE FULLY ANSWERED; SEVERAL DOUBTS REMOVED, AND SUNDRY CASES OF CONSCIENCE RESOLVED.
BY JOHN BUNYAN OF BEDFORD, A LOVER OF PEACE AND TRUTH.
‘What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.’—Romans 11:7
London: Printed for G. L., and are to be sold in Turn-stile-alley,
in Holbourn. Small 4to, 44 pages.
This valuable tract was first published without a date, but according to Doe’s List, about the year 1674, and has never been reprinted in a separate volume; it appeared in only one edition of the collected works of John Bunyan—that with the notes by Ryland and Mason; and in his select works, published in America in 1832. No man could have been better qualified to write upon the subject of reprobation than Bunyan.—His extraordinary knowledge of, and fervent attachment to, the holy oracles, peculiarly fitted him with unwavering verity to display this doctrine of divine truth. He was incapable of any misrepresentation with a view of concealing what fallen reason might deem a deformity, or to render the doctrines of the cross palatable to mankind. His object is to display the truth, and then humbly to submit to the wisdom of God, and zealously to vindicate it. There is no subject which more fully displays our fallen nature, than that of reprobation. All mankind agree in opinion, that there ever has been an elect, or good class of society; and a reprobate, or worthless and bad class; varying in turpitude or in goodness to a great extent and in almost imperceptible degrees. All must unite in ascribing to God that divine foreknowledge that renders ten thousand years but as one day, or hour, or moment in his sight. All ascribe to his omnipotence the power to ordain or decree what shall come to pass—and where is the spirit that can demonstrate a shade of difference between such foreknowledge and preordination. All agree that in the lower class of animals some of the same species pass their lives in luxury and comfort, while others are cruelly tormented, this world comprising their whole term of existence; and will those who refuse to submit to the sovereignty of God in the doctrine of election dare to arraign his conduct in leaving some out of his electing love? The reprobate or worthless lose nothing by the happiness of others. It is inscrutably hid from mankind who are the elect, until the Holy Spirit influences them with the love of God in Christ Jesus, and this sometimes in the last moments of life. There is every encouragement, nay incentive, to the sinner who feels the burthen of guilt to fly for refuge to the hope set before him in the gospel. ‘It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save SINNERS’; even the chief of sinners. The glad tidings are addressed to ALL sin-sick souls; and Bunyan’s statement of this truth is clear, scriptural, and reasonable. Very different is the account of the reprobation given by R. Resburie in his Stop to the Gangrene of Arminianism, 1651. ‘For the reprobate God decrees the permitting of sin in order to hardening, and their hardening in it, in order to their condemnation.’ p. 69. ‘As election is the book of life, so reprobation of death; the names of the reprobate are there registered for destruction.’ p. 73. It is much to be regretted that sentiments like these have been too commonly uttered. It is as an antidote to such ideas that this little work was written; but, unfortunately, it has never been widely circulated and read. May the divine blessing follow this attempt to spread these important, although to many, unpalatable, doctrines.
That there is a Reprobation.
In my discourse upon this subject, I shall study as much brevity as clearness and edification will allow me; not adding words to make the volume swell, but contracting myself within the bounds of few lines, for the profit and commodity of those that shall take the pains to read my labours. And though I might abundantly multiply arguments for the evincing and vindicating this conclusion, yet I shall content myself with some few scripture demonstrations: the first of which I shall gather out of the ninth of the Romans, from that discourse of the apostle’s, touching the children of the flesh, and the children of the promise.
1. At the beginning of this chapter, we find the apostle grievously lamenting and bemoaning of the Jews, at the consideration of their miserable state: ‘I say the truth in Christ, [saith he] I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh’: Poor hearts, saith he, they will perish; they are a miserable sad and helpless people; their eyes are darkened that they may not see, and their back is bowed down alway (Rom 11:10). Wherefore? Have they not the means of grace? Yes verily, and that in goodly measure. First they ‘are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.’ What then should be the reason? Why saith he, though they be the children of Abraham according to the flesh, yet they are the children of Abraham BUT according to the flesh: ‘For they are not all Israel [in the best sense] which are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called.’ That is, they that are the children of the flesh, they are not the children of God; but the children of the promise shall be counted for the seed. So then, here you see that they that are only the children of the flesh, as the greatest part of Israel were, they are those that are neither counted for the seed, the children of promise, nor the children of God; but are rejected, and of the reprobation. This therefore shall at this time serve for the first scripture-demonstration.
2. Another scripture you have in the eleventh chapter of this epistle, from these words, ‘The election hath obtained it, and the REST were blinded’ (Rom 11:7). These words are shedding words, they sever between men and men; the election, the rest; the chosen, the left; the embraced, the refused: ‘The election have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.’ By rest here, must needs be understood those not elect, because set one in opposition to the other; and if not elect, what then but reprobate?
3. A third scripture is that in the Acts of the Apostles, ‘And as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed’ (13:48). ‘And as many’; by these words, as by the former, you may see how the Holy Ghost distinguisheth or divideth between men and men; the sons, and the sons of Adam. ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed’: If by many here, we are to understand every individual, then not only the whole world must at least believe the gospel, of which we see the most fall short, but they must be ordained to eternal life; which other scriptures contradict: for there is the rest, besides the elect; the stubble and chaff, as well as wheat: many therefore must here include but some; ‘For though – Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved’ (Rom 9:27; Isa 1:9, 10:22,23).
I might here multiply many other texts, but in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. Let these therefore for this, suffice to prove that there is a reprobation. For this I say, though the children of the flesh, the rest besides the election, and the like, were not mentioned in the word; yet seeing there is such a thing as the children of the promise, the seed, the children of God, and the like, and that too under several other phrases, as predestinated, foreknown, chosen in Christ, and written in the Book of life, and appointed unto life, with many others: I say seeing these things are thus apparent, it is without doubt, that there is such a thing as a reprobation also (Rom 8; Eph 1:3,4; 1 Thess 5:9).
Nay, further, From the very word election, it followeth unavoidably; for whether you take it as relating to this, of distinguishing between persons as touching the world to come, or with reference to God’s acts of choosing this or that man to this or that office, work, or employment in this world, it still signifieth such a choosing, as that but some are therein concerned, and that therefore some are thence excluded. Are all the elect, the seed, the saved, the vessels of mercy, the chosen and peculiar? Are not some, yea the most, the children of the flesh, the rest, the lost, the vessels of wrath, of dishonour, and the children of perdition? (Rom 11:9; 1 Peter 2:8,9; Matt 10:16; 2 Sam 6:21; Psa 78:67,68; John 15:16; 2 Cor 4:3; Rom 9:21,22; John 17:12).
What Reprobation is.
Having thus shewed you that there is such a thing as a reprobation, I come now to shew you what it is. Which that I may do to your edification, I shall First shew you what this word reprobation signifieth in the general, as it concerneth persons temporary and visibly reprobate: Second, more particularly, as it concerneth persons that are eternally and invisibly reprobate.
First, Generally, As it concerneth persons temporarily and visibly reprobate, thus: To be reprobate is to be disapproved, void of judgment, and rejected, &c. To be disapproved, that is, when the word condemns them, either as touching the faith or the holiness of the gospel; the which they must needs be, that are void of spiritual and heavenly judgment in the mysteries of the kingdom; a manifest token [that] they are rejected. And hence it is that they are said to be reprobate or void of judgment concerning the faith; reprobate or void of judgment touching every good work; having a reprobate mind, to do those things that are not convenient, either as to faith or manners. And hence it is again, that they are also said to be rejected of God, cast away, and the like (2 Cor 13:6,7; 2 Tim 3:8; Titus 1:16; Rom 1:28; Jer 6:30; 1 Cor 9:27).
I call this temporary visible reprobation, because these appear, and are detected by the word as such that are found under the above-named errors, and so adjudged without the grace of God. Yet it is possible for some of these, however for the present disapproved, through the blessed acts and dispensations of grace, not only to become visible saints, but also saved for ever. Who doubts but that he who now by examining himself, concerning faith, doth find himself, though under profession, graceless, may after that, he seeing his woeful state, not only cry to God for mercy, but find grace, and obtain mercy to help in time of need? though it is true, that for the most part the contrary is fulfilled on them.
Second, But to pass this, and more particularly to touch the eternal invisible reprobation, which I shall thus hold forth: It is to be passed by in, or left out of, God’s election; yet so, as considered upright. In which position you have these four things considerable: 1. The act of God’s election. 2. The negative of that act. 3. The persons reached by that negative. And, 4. Their qualification when thus reached by it.
1. For the first. This act of God in electing, it is a choosing or fore-appointing of some infallibly unto eternal life, which he also hath determined shall be brought to pass by the means that should be made manifest and efficacious to that very end (Eph 1:3-5; 1 Peter 1:2).
2. Now the negative of this act is, a passing by, or a leaving of those not concerned in this act; a leaving of them, I say, without the bounds, and so the saving privileges of this act; as it followeth by natural consequence, that because a man chooseth but some, therefore he chooseth not all, but leaveth, as the negative of that act, all others whatsoever. Wherefore, as I said before, those not contained within this blessed act, are called the rest besides the election. ‘The election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.’
3. The persons then that are contained under the negative of this act, they are those, and those only, that pass through this wicked world without the saving grace of God’s elect; those, I say, that miss the most holy faith, which they in time are blest withal, who are fore-appointed unto glory.
4. And now for the qualification they were considered under, when this act of reprobation laid hold upon them; to wit, They were considered upright.
This is evident, From this consideration, that reprobation is God’s act, even the negative of his choosing or electing, and none of the acts of God make any man a sinner. It is further evident by the similitude that is taken from the carriage of the potter in his making of his pots; for by this comparison the God of heaven is pleased to shew unto us the nature of his determining in the act of reprobation. ‘Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump?’ &c. (Rom 9:21). Consider a little, and you shall see that these three things do necessarily fall in, to complete the potter’s action in every pot he makes.
(1.) A determination in his own mind what pot to make of this or that piece of clay; a determination, I say, precedent to the fashion of the pot; the which is true in the highest degree, in him that is excellent in working; he determines the end, before the beginning is perfected (Isa 41:22, 46:10). ‘For this cause [very purpose] have I raised thee up’ (Exo 9:16).
(2.) The next thing considerable in the potter; it is the so making of the pot, even as he determined; a vessel to honour, or a vessel to dishonour. There is no confusion nor disappointment under the hand of this eternal God, his work is perfect, and every way doth answer to what he hath determined (Deut 32:4).
(3.) Observe again, That whether the vessel be to honour or to dishonour, yet the potter makes it good, sound, and fit for service; his fore-determining to make this a vessel to dishonour, hath no persuasion at all with him to break or mar the pot: Which very thing doth well resemble the state of man as under the act of eternal reprobation, for ‘God made man upright’ (Eccl 7:29).
From these conclusions then,
Consider, 1. That the simple act of reprobation, it is a
leaving or passing by, not a cursing of the creature.
Consider, 2. Neither doth this act alienate the heart of God from the reprobate, nor tie him up from loving, favouring, or blessing of him; no, not from blessing of him with the gift of Christ, of faith, of hope, and many other benefits. It only denieth them that benefit, that will infallibly bring them to eternal life, and that in despite of all opposition; it only denieth so to bless them as the elect themselves are blessed. Abraham loved all the children he had by all his wives, and gave them portions also; but his choice blessing, as the fruit of his chiefest love, he reserved for chosen Isaac (Gen 25:5,6).
Consider Lastly, The act of reprobation doth harm to no man, neither means him any; nay, it rather decrees him upright, lets him be made upright, and so be turned into the world.
Of the Antiquity of Reprobation.
Having now proceeded so far as to shew you what reprobation is, it will not be amiss if in this place I briefly shew you its antiquity, even when it began its rise; the which you may gather by these following particulars.
First, Reprobation is before the person cometh into the world, or hath done good or evil: This is evident by that of Paul to the Romans: ‘For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto Rebecca, The elder shall serve the younger’ (9:11). Here you find twain in their mother’s womb, and both receiving their destiny, not only before they had done good or evil, but before they were in a capacity to do it, they being yet unborn; their destiny, I say, the one unto, the other not unto, the blessing of eternal life; the one chose, the other refused; the one elect, the other reprobate. The same also might be said of Ishmael and his brother Isaac, both which did also receive their destiny before they came into the world: for the promise that this Isaac should be the heir, it was also before Ishmael was born, though he was elder by fourteen years, or more, than his brother (Gen 15:4,5, 16:4,5,16, 17:25, 21:5). And it is yet further evident,
1. Because election is an act of grace; ‘There is a remnant according to the election of grace’ (Rom 11:5). Which act of grace saw no way so fit to discover its purity and independency, as by fastening on the object before it came into the world; that being the state in which at least no good were done, either to procure good from God, or to eclipse and darken this precious act of grace. For though it is true that no good thing that we have done before conversion, can obtain the grace of election; yet the grace of election then appeareth most, when it prevents our doing good, that we might be loved therefore: wherefore he saith again, ‘That the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger’ (Rom 9:11,12).
2. This is most agreeable to the nature of the promise of giving seed to Abraham; which promise, as it was made before the child was conceived, so it was fulfilled at the best time, for the discovery of the act of grace, that could have been pitched upon: At this time will I come (saith God) ‘and Sarah shall have a son’ (Gen 18:14); which promise, because it carried in its bowels the very grace of electing love, therefore it left out Ishmael, with the children of Keturah: ‘For in Isaac shall thy seed be called’ (Rom 4:16-19, 9:7).
3. This was the best and fittest way for the decrees to receive sound bottom, even for God both to choose and refuse, before the creature had done good or evil, and so before they came into the world: ‘That the purpose of God according to election might stand,’ saith he, therefore before the children were yet born, or had done any good or evil, it was said unto her, &c. God’s decree would for ever want foundation, should it depend at all upon the goodness and holiness either of men or angels; especially if it were to stand upon that good that is wrought before conversion, yea, or after conversion either. We find, by daily experience, how hard and difficult it is, for even the holiest in the world, to bear up and maintain their faith and love to God; yea, so hard, as not at all to do it without continual supplies from heaven. How then is it possible for any so to carry it before God, as to lay, by this his holiness, a foundation for election, as to maintain that foundation, and thereby to procure all those graces that infallibly saveth the sinner? But now the choice, I say, being a choice of grace, as is manifest, it being acted before the creature’s birth; here grace hath laid the cornerstone, and determined the means to bring the work to perfection. Thus ‘the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his’ (2 Tim 2:19). That is, who he hath chosen, having excluded works, both good and bad, and founded all in an unchangeable act of grace; the negative whereof, is this harmless reprobation.
Second, But secondly, To step a little backward, and so to make all sure: This act of reprobation was before the world began; which therefore must needs confirm that which was said but now, that they were, before they were born, both destinated before they had done good or evil. This is manifest by that of Paul to the Ephesians, at the beginning of his epistle; where, speaking of Election, whose negative is reprobation, he saith, ‘God hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world.’ Nay further, if you please, consider, that as Christ was ordained to suffer before the foundation of the world, and as we that are elected were chosen in him before the foundation of the world; so it was also ordained we should know him, before the foundation of the world; ordained that we should be holy before him in love, before the foundation of the world; and that we in time should be created in him to good works, and ordained before that we should walk in them. Wherefore reprobation also, it being the negative of electing love; that is, because God elected but some, therefore he left the rest: these rest therefore must needs be of as ancient standing under reprobation, as the chosen are under election; both which, it is also evident, was before the world began. Which serveth yet further to prove that reprobation could not be with respect to this or the other sin, it being only a leaving them, and that before the world, out of that free choice which he was pleased to bless the other with. Even as the clay with which the dishonourable vessel is made, did not provoke the potter, for the sake of this or that impediment, therefore to make it so; but the potter of his own will, of the clay of the same lump, of the clay that is full as good as that of which he hath made the vessel to honour, did make this and the other a vessel of dishonour, &c. (1 Peter 1:20,21; 1 Cor 2:7; Eph 1:3,4, 2:10).
Of the causes of Reprobation.
Having thus in a word or two shewed the antiquity of Reprobation, I now come in this place to shew you the cause thereof; for doubtless this must stand a truth, That whatever God doth, there is sufficient ground therefore, whether by us apprehended, or else without our reach.
First then, It is caused from the very nature of God. There are two things in God, from which, or by the virtue of which, all things have their rise, to wit, the eternity of God in general, and the eternal perfection of every one of his attributes in particular: for as by the first, he must needs be before all things; so by virtue of the second, must all things consist. And as he is before all things, they having consistence by him; so also is he before all states, or their causes, be they either good or bad, of continuance or otherwise, he being the first without beginning, &c., whereas all other things, with their causes, have rise, dependance, or toleration of being from him (Col 1:17).
Hence it follows, that nothing, either person or cause, &c., can by any means have a being, but first he knows thereof, allows thereof, and decrees it shall be so. ‘Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?’ (Lam 3:37). Now then, because that reprobation, as well as election, are subordinate to God; his will also, which is eternally perfect, being most immediately herein concerned; it was impossible that any should be reprobate, before God had both willed and decreed it should be so. It is not the being of a thing that administers matter of knowledge or foresight thereof to God, but the perfection of his knowledge, wisdom, and power, &c., that giveth the thing its being: God did not fore-decree there should be a world, because he foresaw there would be one; but there must be one, because he had before decreed there should be one. The same is true as touching the case in hand: ‘For this cause [very purpose] have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power’ (Exo 9:16; Rom 9:17).
Second, A second cause of eternal reprobation, is the exercise of God’s sovereignty; for if this is true, that there is nothing either visible or invisible, whether in heaven or earth, but hath its being from him: then it must most reasonably follow, that he is therefore sovereign Lord, &c., and may also according to his own will, as he pleaseth himself, both exercise and manifest the same; being every whit absolute; and can do and may do whatsoever his soul desireth: and indeed, good reason, for he hath not only made them all, but ‘for his pleasure they both were and are created’ (Rev 4:11).
Now the very exercise of this sovereignty produceth reprobation: ‘Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth’ (Rom 9:18). ‘Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump?’ And doth he not make his pots according to his pleasure? Here therefore the mercy, justice, wisdom and power of God, take liberty to do what they will; saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure’ (Isa 46:10; Job 23:13; Dan 4:35; Isa 43:13).
Third, Another cause of eternal reprobation, is the act and working of distinguishing love, and everlasting grace. God hath universal love, and particular love; general love, and distinguishing love; and so accordingly doth decree, purpose, and determine: from general love, the extension of general grace and mercy: but from that love that is distinguishing, peculiar grace and mercy: ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ saith the Lord, ‘yet I loved Jacob’ (Mal 1:2). Yet I loved Jacob, that is, with a better love, or a love that is more distinguishing. As he further makes appear in his answer to our father Abraham, when he prayed to God for Ishmael: ‘As for Ishmael, [saith he] I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee’ (Gen 17:20,21). Touching which words, there are these things observable.
1. That God had better love for Isaac, than he had for his brother Ishmael. Yet,
2. Not because Isaac had done more worthy and goodly deeds, for Isaac was yet unborn.
3. This choice blessing could not be denied to Ishmael, because he had disinherited himself by sin; for this blessing was entailed to Isaac, before Ishmael had a being also (Rom 4:16-19; Gen 15:4,5, chapter 16).
4. These things therefore must needs fall out through the working of distinguishing love and mercy, which had so cast the business, ‘that the purpose of God according to election might stand.’
Further, Should not God decree to shew distinguishing love and mercy, as well as that which is general and common, he must not discover his best love at all to the sons of men. Again, if he should reveal and extend his best love to all the world in general, then there would not be such a thing as love that doth distinguish; for distinguishing love appeareth in separating between Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, the many called, and the few chosen. Thus by virtue of distinguishing love, some must be reprobate: for distinguishing love must leave some, both of the angels in heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth; wherefore the decree also that doth establish it, must needs leave some.
Fourth, Another cause of reprobation, Is God’s willingness to shew his wrath, and to make his power known. This is one of those arguments that the holy apostle setteth against the most knotty and strong objection that ever was framed against the doctrine of eternal reprobation: ‘Thou wilt say then unto me, [saith he] Why doth he yet find fault?’ For if it be his will that some should be rejected, hardened, and perish, why then is he offended that any sin against him; ‘for who hath resisted his will?’ Hold, saith the apostle; stay a little here; first remember this, Is it meet to say unto God, What doest thou? ‘Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump,’ &c. Besides, when you have thought your worst, to wit, that the effects of reprobation must needs be consummate in the eternal perdition of the creature; yet again consider, ‘What if God, willing to shew his wrath,’ as well as grace and mercy? And what if he, that he may so do, exclude some from having share in that grace that would infallibly, against all resistance, bring us safe unto eternal life? What then? Is he therefore the author of your perishing, or his eternal reprobation either? Do you not know that he may refuse to elect who he will, without abusing of them? Also that he may deny to give them that grace that would preserve them from sin, without being guilty of their damnation? May he not, to shew his wrath, suffer ‘with much long-suffering’ all that are ‘the vessels of wrath,’ by their own voluntary will, to fit themselves for wrath and for destruction? (Rom 9:19-22). Yea, might he not even in the act of reprobation, conclude also to suffer them thus left, to fall from the state he left them in, that is, as they were considered upright; and when fallen, to bind them fast in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day, but he must needs be charged foolishly? You shall see in that day what a harmony and what a glory there will be found in all God’s judgments in the overthrow of the sinner; also how clear the Lord will shew himself of having any working hand in that which causeth eternal ruin; notwithstanding he hath reprobated such, doth suffer them to sin, and that too, that he might shew his wrath on the vessels of his wrath; the which I also, after this next chapter, shall further clear up to you. As ‘the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations,’ without approving of their miscarriages; so he also knoweth how ‘to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished’ (2 Peter 2:9): yet never to deserve the least of blame for his so reserving of them; though none herein can see his way, for he alone knows how to do it.
Of the Unchangeableness of Eternal Reprobation.
Many opinions have passed through the hearts of the sons of men concerning reprobation; most of them endeavouring so to hold it forth, as therewith they might, if not heal their conscience slightly, yet maintain their own opinion, in their judgment, of other things; still wringing, now the word this way, and anon again that, for their purpose; also framing within their soul such an imagination of God and his acts in eternity, as would suit with such opinions, and so present all to the world. And the rather they have with greatest labour strained unweariedly at this above many other truths, because of the grim and dreadful face it carrieth in most men’s apprehensions. But none of these things, however they may please the creature, can by any means in any measure, either cause God to undo, unsay, or undetermine what he hath concerning this, decreed and established.
First, Because they suit not with his nature, especially in these foundation-acts: ‘The foundation of God standeth sure’ (2 Tim 2:19), even touching reprobation, ‘that the purpose of God according to election might stand’ (Rom 9:11). ‘I know [saith Solomon] that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it,’ &c. (Eccl 3:14). ‘Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall not make it good?’ (Num 23:19). His decrees are composed according to his eternal wisdom, established upon his unchangeable will, governed by his knowledge, prudence, power, justice, and mercy, and are brought to conclusion, on his part, in perfect holiness, through the abiding of his most blessed truth and faithfulness: ‘He is the rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he’ (Deut 32:4).
Second, This decree is made sure by the number, measure, and bounds of election; for election and reprobation do inclose all reasonable creatures; that is, either the one or the other; election, those that are set apart for glory; and reprobation, those left out of this choice.
Now as touching the elect, they are by this decree confined to that limited number of persons that must amount to the complete making up the fulness of the mystical body of Christ; yea so confined by this eternal purpose, that nothing can be diminished from or added thereunto: and hence it is that they are called his body and members in particular, ‘the fulness of him that filleth all in all’ (Eph 1:23) and ‘the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’ (Eph 4:13). Which body, considering him as the head thereof, in conclusion maketh up one perfect man, and holy temple for the Lord. These are called Christ’s substance, inheritance and lot (Psa 16); and are said to be booked, marked, and sealed with God’s most excellent knowledge, approbation and liking (2 Tim 2:19). As Christ said to his Father, ‘Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them’ (Psa 139:16). This being thus, I say, it is in the first place impossible that any of those members should miscarry, for ‘Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?’ (Rom 8:33) and because they are as to number every way sufficient, being his body, and so by their completing to be made a perfect man: therefore all others are rejected, that the ‘purpose of God according to election might stand’ (Rom 9:11). Besides, it would not only argue weakness in the decree, but monstrousness in the body, if after this, any appointed should miscarry, or any besides them be added to them (Matt 24:24).
Thirdly, Nay further, that all may see how punctual, exact, and to a tittle this decree of election is, God hath not only as to number and quantity confined the persons, but also determined and measured, and that before the world, the number of the gifts and graces that are to be bestowed on these members in general; and also what graces and gifts to be bestowed on this or that member in particular: He ‘hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings – in Christ, according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the word’ (Eph 1:3,4). And bestoweth them in time upon us, ‘According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Eph 3:11). He hath given to the eye, the grace that belongeth to the eye; and to the hand that which he also hath appointed for it. And so to every other member of the body elect, he doth deal out to them their determined measure of grace and gifts most fit for their place and office. Thus is the decree established, both of the saved, and also the non-elect (Rom 12:3; Eph 4:16; Col 2:19; Eph 4:12,13).
Fourth, But again, another thing that doth establish this decree of eternal reprobation, is the weakness that sin, in the fall, and since, hath brought all reprobates into: For though it be most true, that sin is no cause of eternal reprobation; yet seeing sin hath seized on the reprobate, it cannot be but thereby the decree must needs be the faster fixed. If the king, for this or the other weighty reason, doth decree not to give this or that man, who yet did never offend him, a place in his privy chamber; if this man after this shall be infected with the plague, this rather fastens than loosens the king’s decree. As the angels that were left out of God’s election, by reason of the sin they committed after, are so far off from being by that received into God’s decree, that they are therefore bound for it in chains of everlasting darkness to the judgment of the great day.
Whether to be reprobated be the same with being appointed before-hand unto eternal condemnation? If not, how do they differ? Also whether reprobation be the cause of condemnation?
It hath been the custom of ignorant men much to quarrel at eternal reprobation, concluding, for want of knowledge in the mystery of God’s will, that if he reprobate any from eternity, he had as good have said, I will make this man to damn him; I will decree this man, without any consideration, to the everlasting pains of hell. When in very deed, for God to reprobate, and to appoint before-hand to eternal condemnation, are two distinct things, properly relating to two distinct attributes, arising from two distinct causes.
First, They are two distinct things: Reprobation, a simple leaving of the creature out of the bounds of God’s election; but to appoint to condemnation is to bind them over to everlasting punishment. Now there is a great difference between my refusing to make of such a tree a pillar in my house, and of condemning it unto the fire to be burned.
Second, As to the attributes; reprobation respects God’s sovereignty; but to appoint to condemnation, his justice (Rom 9:18; Gen 18:25).
Third, As to the causes; sovereignty being according to the will of God, but justice according to the sin of man. For God, though he be the only sovereign Lord, and that to the height of perfection; yet he appointeth no man to the pains of everlasting fire, merely from sovereignty, but by the rule of justice: God damneth not the man because he is a man, but a sinner; and fore-appoints him to that place and state, by fore-seeing of him wicked (Rom 1:18,19; Col 3:6).
Again, As reprobation is not the same with fore-appointing to eternal condemnation; so neither is it the cause thereof.
If it be the cause, then it must either, 1. Leave him infirm. Or, 2. Infuse sin into him. Or, 3. Take from him something that otherwise would keep him upright. 4. Or both license Satan to tempt, and the reprobate to close in with the temptation. But it doth none of these; therefore it is not the cause of the condemnation of the creature.
That it is not the cause of sin, it is evident,
1. Because the elect are as much involved therein, as those that are passed by.
2. It leaveth him not infirm; for he is by an after-act, to wit, of creation, formed perfectly upright.
3. That reprobation infuseth no sin, appeareth, because it is the act of God.
4. That it taketh nothing, that good is, from him, is also manifest, it being only a leaving of him.
5. And that it is not by this act that Satan is permitted to tempt, or the reprobate to sin, is manifest; because as Christ was tempted, so the elect fall as much into the temptation, at least many of them, as many of those that are reprobate: whereas if these things came by reprobation, then the reprobate would be only concerned therein. All which will be further handled in these questions yet behind.
Object. From what hath been said, there is concluded this at least, That God hath infallibly determined, and that before the world, the infallible damnation of some of his creatures: for if God hath before the world [was made] bound some over to eternal punishment, and that as you say, for sin; then this determination must either be fallible or infallible; not fallible, for then your other position of the certainty of the number of God’s elect, is shaken; unless you hold that there may be a number that shall neither go to heaven nor hell. Well then, if God hath indeed determined, fore-determined, that some must infallibly perish; doth not this his determination lay a necessity on the reprobate to sin, that he may be damned; for, no sin, no damnation; that is your own argument.
Ans. That God hath ordained (Jude 4), the damnation of some of his creatures, it is evident; but whether this his determination be positive and absolute, there is the question: for the better understanding whereof, I shall open unto you the variety of God’s determinations, and their nature, as also rise.
The determinations of God touching the destruction of the creature, they are either ordinary or extraordinary: those I count ordinary that were commonly pronounced by the prophets and apostles, &c., in their ordinary way of preaching; to the end men might be affected with the love of their own salvation: now these either bound or loosed, but as the condition or qualification was answered by the creature under sentence, and no otherwise (1 Sam 12:25; Isa 1:20; Matt 18:3; Luke 13:1-3; Rom 2:8,9, 8:13, 11:23; 1 Cor 6:9-11).
Again, These extraordinary, though they respect the same conditions, yet they are not grounded immediately upon them, but upon the infallible fore-knowledge and fore-sight of God, and are thus distinguished. First the ordinary determination, it stands but at best upon a supposition that the creature may continue in sin, and admits of a possibility that it may not; but the extraordinary stands upon an infallible fore-sight that the creature will continue in sin; wherefore this must needs be positive, and as infallible as God himself.
Again, These two determinations are also distinguished thus: the ordinary is applicable to the elect as well as to the reprobate, but the other to the reprobate only. It is proper to say even to the elect themselves, ‘He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned’; but not to say to them, These are appointed to UTTER destruction, or that they shall utterly perish in their own corruptions; or that for them is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever (1 Kings 20:42; 2 Peter 2:12; Jude 13).
So then, though God by these determinations doth not lay some under irrecoverable condemnation, yet by one of them he doth; as is further made out thus:
1. God most perfectly foreseeth the final impenitency of those that so die, from the beginning to the end of the world (Prov 15:11; Psa 139:2; Isa 46:10).
2. Now from this infallible foresight, it is most easy and rational to conclude, and that positively, the infallible overthrow of every such creature. Did I infallibly foresee that this or that man would cut out his heart in the morning, I might infallibly determine his death before night.
Object. But still the question is, Whether God by this his determination doth not lay a necessity on the creature to sin? For, no sin, no condemnation: this is true by your own assertion.
Ans. No, by no means: for,
1. Though it be true, that sin must of absolute necessity go before the infallible condemnation and overthrow of the sinner; and that it must also be pre-considered by God; yet it needs not lay a necessity upon him to sin: for let him but alone to do what he will, and the determination cannot be more infallible than the sin, which is the cause of its execution.
2. As it needs not, so it doth not: for this positive determination is not grounded upon what God will effect, but on what the creature will; and that not through the instigation of God, but the instigation of the devil. What? might not I, if I most undoubtedly foresaw that such a tree in my garden would only cumber the ground, notwithstanding reasonable means, might not I, I say, from hence determine, seven years before, to cut it down, and burn it in the fire, but I must, by so determining, necessitate this tree to be fruitless? the case in hand is the very same. God therefore may most positively determine the infallible damnation of his creature, and yet not at all necessitate the creature to sin, that he might be damned.
Object. But how is this similitude pertinent? For God did not only foresee sin would be the destruction of the creature, but let it come into the world, and so destroy the creature. If you, as you foresee the fruitlessness of your tree, should withal see that which makes it so, and that too before it makes it so, and yet let the impediment come and make it so; are not you now the cause of the unfruitfulness of that tree which you have before condemned to the fire to be burned? for God might have chose whether he would have let Adam sin, and so sin to have got into the world by him.
Ans. Similitudes never answer every way; if they be pertinent to that for which they are intended, it is enough; and to that it answereth well, being brought to prove no more but the natural consequence of a true and infallible foresight. And now as to what is objected further, as that God might have chose whether sin should have come into the world by Adam, to the destruction of so many: to that I shall answer,
1. That sin could not have come into the world without God’s permission, it is evident, both from the perfection of his foresight and power.
2. Therefore all the means, motives, and inducements thereunto, must also by him be not only foreseen, but permitted.
3. Yet so, that God will have the timing, proceeding, bounding, and ordering thereof, at his disposal: ‘Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee, and the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain’ (Psa 76:10; 1 Kings 22:20-22; John 8:20; Luke 22:51,52).
4. Therefore it must needs come into the world, not without, but by the knowledge of God; not in despite of him, but by his suffering of it.
Object. But how then is he clear from having a hand in the death of him that perisheth?
Ans. Nothing is more sure than that God could have kept sin out of the world, if it had been his will; and this is also as true, that it never came into the world with his liking and compliance; and for this, you must consider that sin came into the world by two steps:
1. By being offered. 2. By prevailing.
Touching the first of these, God without the least injury to any creature in heaven or earth, might not only suffer it, but so far countenance the same: that is, so far forth as for trial only: as it is said of Abraham; ‘God tempted Abraham’ to slay his only son (Gen 22:1), and led Christ by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1). This is done without any harm at all; nay, it rather produceth good; for it tends to discover sincerity, to exercise faith in, and love to his Creator; also to put him in mind of the continual need he hath of depending on his God for the continuation of help and strength, and to provoke to prayers to God, whenever so engaged (Deut 8:1-3; 1 Peter 1:7; Heb 5:7; Matt 26:22,41).
Object. But God did not only admit that sin should be offered for trial, and there to stay; but did suffer it to prevail, and overcome the world.
Ans. Well, this is granted: but yet consider,
1. God did neither suffer it, nor yet consent it should, but under this consideration; If Adam, upright Adam, gave way thereto, by forsaking his command, ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die’ (Gen 2:17, 3:3). Which Adam did, not because God did compel him or persuade him to it, but voluntarily of his own mind, contrary to his God’s command: so then, God by suffering sin to break into the world, did it rather in judgment, as disliking Adam’s act, and as a punishment to man for listening to the tempter; and as a discovery of his anger at man’s disobedience; than to prove that he is guilty of the misery of his creature.
2. Consider also, that when God permitted sin for trial, it was, when offered first, to them only who were upright, and had sufficient strength to resist it.
3. They were by God’s command to the contrary, driven to no strait to tempt them to incline to Satan: ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely at,’ saith God; only let this alone.
4. As touching the beauty and goodness that was in the object unto which they were allured; What was it? Was it better than God? Yea, was it better than the tree of life? For from that they were not exempted till after they had sinned. Did not God know best what was best to do them good?
5. Touching him that persuaded them to do this wicked act; was his word more to be valued for truth, more to be ventured on for safety, or more to be honoured for the worthiness of him that spake, than was his that had forbad it? The one being the devil, with a lie, and to kill them; the other being God, with his truth, and to preserve them safe.
Quest. But was not Adam unexpectedly surprised? Had he notice beforehand, and warning of the danger? For God foresaw the business.
Ans. Doubtless God was fair and faithful to his creature in this thing also; as clearly doth appear from these considerations.
1. The very commandment that God gave him, fore-bespake him well to look about him; and did indeed insinuate that he was likely to be tempted.
2. It is yet more evident, because God doth even tell him of the danger; ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’
3. Nay God by speaking to him of the very tree that was to be forborn, telling him also where it stood, that he might the better know it; did in effect expressly say unto him, Adam, if thou be tempted, it will be about that tree, and the fruit thereof: wherefore if thou findest the tempter there, then beware thy life.
(1.) To conclude then: though sin did not come into the world without God’s sufferance, yet it did without his liking: God suffered also Cain to kill his brother, and Ishmael to mock at Isaac, but he did not like the same (Gen 4:9-11; Gal 4:30).
(2.) Therefore though God was first in concluding sin should be offered to the world; yet man was the first that consented to a being overcome thereby.
(3.) Then, Though God did fore-determine that sin should enter, yet it was not but with respect to certain terms and conditions, which yet was not to be enforced by virtue of the determination, but permitted to be completed by the voluntary inclination of a perfect and upright man. And in that the determination was most perfectly infallible, it was through the foresight of the undoubted inclination of this good and upright person.
Quest. But might not God have kept Adam from inclining, if he would?
Ans. What more certain? But yet consider,
1. Adam being now an upright man, he was able to have kept himself, had he but looked to it as he should and might.
2. This being so, if God had here stept in, he had either added that which had been needless, and so had not obtained thankfulness; or else had made the strength of Adam useless, yea his own workmanship in so creating him, superfluous; or else by consequence imperfect.
(3.) If he had done so, he had taken Adam from his duty, which was to trust and believe his Maker; he had also made void the end of the commandment, which was to persuade to watchfulness, diligence, sobriety, and contentedness; yea, and by so doing would not only himself have tempted Adam to transgression, even to lay aside the exercise of that strength that God had already given him; but should have become the pattern, or the first father to all looseness, idleness, and neglect of duty. Which would also not only have been an ill example to Adam to continue to neglect so reasonable and wholesome duties, but would have been to himself an argument of defence to retort upon his God, when he had come at another time to reckon with him for his misdemeanours.
Many other weighty reasons might here be further added for God’s vindication in this particular, but at this time let these suffice.
Whether any under Eternal Reprobation have just cause to quarrel with God for not electing of them?
That the answer to this question may be to edification, recall again what I have before asserted; to wit, That for a man to be left out of God’s election, and to be made a sinner, is two things; and again, For a man to be not elect, and to be condemned to hell-fire, is two things also. Now I say, if non-election makes no man a sinner, and if it appoints no man to condemnation neither, then what ground hath any reprobate to quarrel with God for not electing of him? Nay, further, reprobation considereth him upright, leaveth him upright, and so turneth him into the world; what wrong doth God do him, though he hath not elected him? What reason hath he that is left in this case to quarrel against his Maker?
If thou say, because God hath not chosen them, as well as chosen others: I answer, ‘Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?’ (Rom 9:20). ‘Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel,’ saith the Lord God (Jer 18:6). So then, if I should say no more but that God is the only Lord and Creator, and that by his sovereignty he hath power to dispose of them according to his pleasure, either to choose or to refuse, according to the counsel of his own will, who could object against him and be guiltless? ‘He giveth not account of any of his matters’ (Job 33:13). ‘And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth’ (Job 23:13).
Again, God is wiser than man, and therefore can shew a reason for what he acts and does, both when and where at present thou seest none. Shall God the only wise, be arraigned at the bar of thy blind reason, and there be judged and condemned for his acts done in eternity? Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, ‘or who hath been his counsellor?’ (Rom 11:34). Do you not know that he is far more above us, than we are above our horse or mule that is without understanding? ‘Great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend’ (Job 37:5). ‘Great things and unsearchable, marvellous things without number’ (Job 5:9).
But, I say, should we take it well if our beast should call us to account for this and the other righteous act, and judge us unrighteous, and our acts ridiculous, and all because it sees no reason for our so doing? Why, we are as beasts before God (Psa 73:22).
But again, to come yet more close to the point: the reprobate quarrels with God, because he hath not elected him; well, but is not God the master of his own love? And is not his will the only rule of his mercy? And may he not, without he give offence to thee, lay hold by electing love and mercy on whom himself pleaseth? Must thy reason, nay, thy lust, be the ruler, orderer, and disposer of his grace? ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?’ saith he, ‘Is thine eye evil, because I am good?’ (Matt 20:15).
Further, What harm doth God to any reprobate, by not electing of him; he was, as hath been said, considered upright, so formed in the act of creation, and so turned into the world: indeed he was not elected, but hath that taken anything from him? No, verily, but leaveth him in good condition: there is good, and better, and best of all; he that is in a good estate, though others through free grace are in a far better, hath not any cause to murmur either with him that gave him such a place, or at him that is placed above him. In a word, reprobation maketh no man personally a sinner, neither doth election make any man personally righteous. It is the consenting to sin that makes a man a sinner; and the imputation of grace and righteousness that makes [men] gospelly and personally just and holy.
But again, seeing it is God’s act to leave some out of the bounds of his election, it must needs be, therefore, positively good: Is that then which is good in itself made sin unto thee? God forbid: God doth not evil by leaving this or that man out of his electing grace, though he choose others to eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Wherefore there is not a reprobate that hath any cause, and therefore no just cause, to quarrel with his Maker, for not electing of him.
And that, besides what hath been spoken, if you consider,
1. For God to elect, is an act of sovereign grace; but to pass by, or to refuse so to do, is an act of sovereign power, not of injustice.
2. God might therefore have chosen whether he would have elected any, or so many or few; and also which and where he would.
3. Seeing then that all things are at his dispose, he may fasten electing mercy where he pleaseth; and other mercy, if he will, to whom and when he will.
4. Seeing also that the least of mercies are not deserved by the best of sinners; men, instead of quarrelling against the God of grace, because they have not what they list, should acknowledge they are unworthy of their breath; and also should confess that God may give mercy where he pleaseth, and that too, both which or what, as also to whom, and when he will; and yet be good, and just, and very gracious still: Nay, Job saith, ‘He taketh away, who can hinder him? Who will say unto him, What doest thou?’ (Job 9:12).
The will of God is the rule of all righteousness, neither knoweth he any other way by which he governeth and ordereth any of his actions. Whatsoever God doth, it is good because he doth it; whether it be to give grace, or to detain it; whether in choosing or refusing. The consideration of this, made the holy men of old ascribe righteousness to their Maker, even then when yet they could not see the reason of his actions. They would rather stand amazed, and wonder at the heights and depths of his unsearchable judgments, than quarrel at the strange and most obscure of them (Job 34:10-12, 36:3, 37:23; Jer 12:1; Rom 11:33).
God did not intend that all that ever he would do, should be known to every man, no nor yet to the wise and prudent. It is as much a duty sometimes to stay ourselves and wonder, and to confess our ignorance in many things of God, as it is to do other things that are duty without dispute. So then, let poor dust and ashes forbear to condemn the Lord, because he goeth beyond them; and also they should beware they speak not wickedly for him, though it be, as they think, to justify his actions. ‘The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works’ (Psa 145:17; Matt 11:25; 1 Cor 2:8; Job 13:6-8).
Whether Eternal reprobation in itself, or in its doctrine, be in very deed an hindrance to any man in seeking the salvation of his soul.
In my discourse upon this question, I must entreat the reader to mind well what is premised in the beginning of the former chapter, which is, That reprobation makes no man a sinner, appoints no man to condemnation, but leaveth him upright after all. So then, though God doth leave this most of men without the bounds of his election, his so doing is neither in itself, nor yet its doctrine, in very deed, an hindrance to any man in seeking the salvation of his soul.
First, It hindreth not in itself, as is clear by the ensuing considerations:—
1. That which hindreth him is the weakness that came upon him by reason of sin. Now God only made the man, but man’s listening to Satan made him a sinner, which is the cause of all his weakness: this therefore is it that hindreth him, and that also disenableth him in seeking the salvation of his soul. ‘Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man’ (James 1:13). ‘God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions’ (Eccl 7:29; Eze 16:30; Hosea 13:9, 14:1; Gen 3:8-11).
2. It hindreth not in itself, for it taketh not anything from a man that would help him, might it continue with him; it takes not away the least part of his strength, wisdom, courage, innocency, or will to good; all these were lost by the fall, in that day when he died the death. Nay, reprobation under some consideration did rather establish all these upon the reprobate; for as it decrees him left, so left upright. Wherefore man’s hindrance cometh on him from other means, even by the fall, and not by the simple act of eternal reprobation (Gen 3).
3. As reprobation hindreth not either of these two ways, so neither is it from this simple act that Satan is permitted either to tempt them, that they might be tried, or that they might be overthrown.
(1.) It is not by this act that Satan is permitted to tempt them that they might be tried; because then the Son of God himself must be reached by this reprobation; he being tempted by the devil as much, if not more than any. Yea, and then must every one of the elect be under eternal reprobation; for they also, and that after their conversion, are greatly assaulted by him. ‘Many are the troubles of the righteous,’ &c. (Matt 4:1,2; Heb 2:17, 4:15).
(2.) Neither is it from the act of reprobation that sin hath entered the world, no more than from election, because those under the power of election did not only fall at first, but do still generally as foully, before conversion, as the reprobate himself. Whereas, if either the temptation, or the fall, were by virtue of reprobation, then the reprobates, and they only, should have been tempted, and have fallen. The temptation then, and the fall, doth come from other means, and so the hindrance of the reprobate, than from eternal reprobation. For the temptation, the fall and hindrance being universal, but the act of reprobation particular, the hindrance must needs come from such a cause as taketh hold on all men, which indeed is the fall; the cause of which was neither election nor reprobation, but man’s voluntary listening to the tempter (Rom 3:9).
(3.) It is yet far more evident that reprobation hindreth no man from seeking the salvation of his soul: because notwithstanding all that reprobation doth, yet God giveth to divers of the reprobates great encouragements thereto; to wit, the tenders of the gospel in general, not excluding any; great light also to understand it, with many a sweet taste of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; he maketh them sometimes also to be partakers of the Holy Ghost, and admitteth many of them into fellowship with his elect; yea, some of them to be rulers, teachers, and governors in his house: all which, without doubt, both are and ought to be great encouragements even to the reprobates themselves, to seek the salvation of their souls (Matt 11:28; Rev 22:17; Heb 6:4,5; Matt 25:1,2; Acts 1:16,17).
Second, As it hindreth not in itself, so it hindreth not by its doctrine: for, all that this doctrine saith is, that some are left out of God’s election, as considered upright. Now this doctrine cannot hinder any man. For,
1. No man still stands upright.
2. Though it saith some are left, yet it points at no man, it nameth no man, it binds all faces in secret. So then, if it hinder, it hindreth all, even the elect as well as reprobate; for the reprobate hath as much ground to judge himself elect, as the very elect himself hath, before he be converted, being both alike in a state of nature and unbelief, and both alike visibly liable to the curse, for the breach of the commandment. Again, As they are equals here, so also have they ground alike to close in with Christ and live; even the open, free, and full invitation of the gospel, and promise of life and salvation, by the faith of Jesus Christ (Eph 2:1,2; Rom 3:9; John 3:16; 2 Cor 5:19-21; Rev 21:6, 22:17).
3. It is evident also by experience, that this doctrine doth not, in deed, neither can it hinder any (this doctrine I mean, when both rightly stated and rightly used) because many who have been greatly afflicted about this matter, have yet at last had comfort; which comfort, when they have received it, hath been to them as an argument that the thing they feared before, was not because of reprobation rightly stated; but its doctrine much abused was the cause of their affliction: and had they had the same light at first they received afterwards, their troubles then would soon have fled, as also now they do. Wherefore discouragement comes from want of light, because they are not skilful in the word of righteousness: for had the discouragement at first been true, which yet it could not be, unless the person knew by name himself under eternal reprobation, which is indeed impossible, then his light would have pinched him harder; light would rather have fastened this his fear, than at all have rid him of it (Heb 5:12-14).
Indeed the scripture saith, the word is to some the savour of death unto death, when to others the savour of life unto life. But mark, it is not this doctrine in particular, if so much as some other, that doth destroy the reprobate. It was respited at which Pharaoh hardened his heart; and the grace of God that the reprobates of old did turn into lasciviousness. Yea, Christ the Saviour of the world, is a stumbling-block unto some, and a rock of offence unto others. But yet again, consider that neither HE, nor any of God’s doctrines, are so simply, and in their own true natural force and drift: for they beget no unbelief, they provoke to no wantonness, neither do they in the least encourage to impenitency; all this comes from that ignorance and wickedness that came by the fall: Wherefore it is by reason of that also, that they stumble, and fall, and grow weak, and are discouraged, and split themselves, either at the doctrine of reprobation, or at any other truth of God (Exo 8:15; Jude 4:1; 1 Peter 2:8).
Lastly, To conclude as I began, there is no man while in this world, that doth certainly know that he is left out of the electing love of the great God; neither hath he any word in the whole bible, to persuade him so to conclude and believe; for the scriptures hold forth salvation to the greatest of sinners. Wherefore, though the act of reprobation were far more harsh, and its doctrine also more sharp and severe, yet it cannot properly be said to hinder any. It is a foolish thing in any to be troubled with those things which they have no ground to believe concerns themselves; especially when the latitude of their discouragement is touching their own persons only. ‘The secret things belong unto the Lord our God’ (Deut 29:29). Indeed every one of the words of God ought to put us upon examination, and into a serious enquiry of our present state and condition, and how we now do stand for eternity; to wit, whether we are ready to meet the Lord, or how it is with us. Yet, when search is fully made, and the worst come unto the worst, the party can find himself no more than the chief of sinners, not excluded from the grace of God tendered in the gospel; not from an invitation, nay a promise, to be embraced and blest, if he comes to Jesus Christ. Wherefore he hath no ground to be discouraged by the doctrine of reprobation (1 Tim 1:15; Acts 3:19; 2 Chron 33; John 7:37, 6:37; Mark 2:17).
Whether God would indeed and in truth, that the gospel, with the grace thereof, should be tendered to those that yet he hath bound up under Eternal Reprobation?
To this question I shall answer,
First, In the language of our Lord, ‘Go preach the gospel unto every creature’ (Mark 16:15); and again, ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved; all ye ends of the earth’ (Isa 45:22). ‘And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely’ (Rev 22:17). And the reason is, because Christ died for all, ‘tasted death for every man’ (2 Cor 5:15; Heb 2:9); is ‘the Saviour of the world’ (1 John 4:14), and the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.
Second, I gather it from those several censures that even every one goeth under, that doth not receive Christ, when offered in the general tenders of the gospel; ‘He that believeth not, – shall be damned’ (Mark 16:16); ‘He that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his son’ (1 John 5:10); and, Woe unto thee Capernaum, ‘Woe unto thee Chorazin! woe unto thee Bethsaida!’ (Matt 11:21) with many other sayings, all which words, with many other of the same nature, carry in them a very great argument to this very purpose; for if those that perish in the days of the gospel, shall have, at least, their damnation heightened, because they have neglected and refused to receive the gospel, it must needs be that the gospel was with all faithfulness to be tendered unto them; the which it could not be, unless the death of Christ did extend itself unto them (John 3:16; Heb 2:3); for the offer of the gospel cannot, with God’s allowance, be offered any further than the death of Jesus Christ doth go; because if that be taken away, there is indeed no gospel, nor grace to be extended. Besides, if by every creature, and the like, should be meant only the elect, then are all the persuasions of the gospel to no effect at all; for still the unconverted, who are here condemned for refusing of it, they return it as fast again: I do not know I am elect, and therefore dare not come to Jesus Christ; for if the death of Jesus Christ, and so the general tender of the gospel, concern the elect alone; I, not knowing myself to be one of that number, am at a mighty plunge; nor know I whether is the greater sin, to believe, or to despair: for I say again, if Christ died only for the elect, &c. then, I not knowing myself to be one of that number, dare not believe the gospel, that holds forth his blood to save me; nay, I think with safety may not, until I first do know I am elect of God, and appointed thereunto.
Third, God the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son, would have all men whatever, invited by the gospel to lay hold of life by Christ, whether elect or reprobate; for though it be true, that there is such a thing as election and reprobation, yet God, by the tenders of the gospel in the ministry of his word, looks upon men under another consideration, to wit, as sinners; and as sinners invites them to believe, lay hold of, and embrace the same. He saith not to his ministers, Go preach to the elect, because they are elect; and shut out others, because they are not so: But, Go preach the gospel to sinners as sinners; and as they are such, go bid them come to me and live. And it must needs be so, otherwise the preacher could neither speak in faith, nor the people hear in faith. First, the preacher could not speak in faith, because he knoweth not the elect from the reprobate; nor they again hear in faith, because, as unconverted, they would be always ignorant of that also. So then, the minister neither knowing whom he should offer life unto, nor yet the people which of them are to receive it; how could the word now be preached in faith with power? And how could the people believe and embrace it? But now the preacher offering mercy in the gospel to sinners, as they are sinners, here is way made for the word to be spoke in faith, because his hearers are sinners; yea, and encouragement also for the people to receive and close therewith, they understanding they are sinners: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Tim 1:15; Luke 24:46,47).
Fourth, The gospel must be preached to sinners as they are sinners, without distinction of elect or reprobate; because neither the one nor yet the other, as considered under these simple acts, are fit subjects to embrace the gospel: for neither the one act, nor yet the other, doth make either of them sinners; but the gospel is to be tendered to men as they are sinners, and personally under the curse of God for sin: wherefore to proffer grace to the elect because they are elect, it is to proffer grace and mercy to them, as not considering them as sinners. And, I say, to deny it to the reprobate, because he is not elected, it is not only a denial of grace to them that have no need thereof, but also before occasion is given on their part, for such a dispensation. And I say again, therefore, to offer Christ and grace to man elect, as simply so considered, this administers to him no comfort at all, he being here no sinner; and so engageth not the heart at all to Jesus Christ; for that comes in, and is effected on them as they are sinners. Yea, to deny the gospel also to the reprobate, because he is not elect, it will not trouble him at all; for saith he, So I am not a sinner, and so do not need a Saviour. But now, because the elect have no need of grace in Christ by the gospel, but as they are sinners; nor the reprobates cause to refuse it, but as they are sinners; therefore Christ by the word of the gospel, is to be proffered to both, without considering elect or reprobate, even as they are sinners. ‘The whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’ (Mark 2:17; 2 Cor 5:14,15; Luke 7:47).
Thus you see the gospel is to be tendered to all in general, as well to the reprobate as to the elect, TO SINNERS AS SINNERS; and so are they to receive it, and to close with the tenders thereof.
Seeing then that the grace of God in the gospel, is by that to be proffered to sinners, as sinners; as well to the reprobate as the elect; Is it possible for those who indeed are not elect, to receive it, and be saved?
To this question I shall answer several things: but first I shall shew you what that grace is, that is tendered in the gospel; and secondly, what it is to receive it and be saved.
First then, The grace that is offered to sinners as sinners, without respect to this or that person, it is a sufficiency of righteousness, pardoning grace, and life, laid up in the person of Christ, held forth in the exhortation and word of the gospel, and promised to be theirs that receive it; yea, I say, in so universal a tender, that not one is by it excluded or checked in the least, but rather encouraged, if he hath the least desire to life; yea, it is held forth to beget both desires and longings after the life thus laid up in Christ, and held forth by the gospel (John 1:16; Col 1:19,23; 1 John 5:11,12; Acts 13:38,39; Rom 10:12-14, 16:25,26).
Secondly, To receive this grace thus tendered by the gospel, it is,
1. To believe it is true.
2. To receive it heartily and unfeignedly through faith. And,
3. To let it have its natural sway, course and authority in the soul, and that in that measure, as to bring forth the fruits of good living in heart, word, and life, both before God and man.
Now then to the question.
Is it possible that this tender, thus offered to the reprobate, should by him be thus received and embraced, and he live thereby?
To which I answer in the negative. Nor yet for the elect themselves, I mean as considered dead in trespasses and sins, which is the state of all men, elect as well as reprobate. So then, though there be a sufficiency of life and righteousness laid up in Christ for all men, and this tendered by the gospel to them without exception; yet sin coming in between the soul and the tender of this grace, it hath in truth disabled all men, and so, notwithstanding this tender, they continue to be dead. For the gospel, I say, coming in word only, saveth no man, because of man’s impediment; wherefore those that indeed are saved by this gospel, the word comes not to them in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost; is mixed with faith even with the faith of the operation of God, by whose exceeding great and mighty power they are raised from this death of sin, and enabled to embrace the gospel. Doubtless, all men being dead in trespasses and sins, and so captivated under the power of the devil, the curse of the law, and shut up in unbelief; it must be the power of God, yea the exceeding greatness of that power that raiseth the soul from this condition, to receive the holy gospel (Eph 2:1-3; 1 Thess 1:5,6; Col 2:12; Heb 4:1,2; Eph 1:18,19, &c.).
For man by nature, (consider him at best), can see no more, nor do no more than what the principles of nature understands and helps to do; which nature being below the discerning of things truly, spiritually, and savingly good, it must needs fall short of receiving, loving and delighting in them. ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor 2:14). Now I say, if the natural man at best (for the elect before conversion are no more, if quite so much) cannot do this, how shall they attain thereto, being now not only corrupted and infected, but depraved, bewitched and dead; swallowed up of unbelief, ignorance, confusion, hardness of heart, hatred of God, and the like? When a thorn by nature beareth grapes, and a thistle beareth figs, then may this thing be (Matt 7:16-18). To lay hold of and receive the gospel by a true and saving faith, it is an act of the soul as made a new creature, which is the workmanship of God: ‘Now he that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God’ (2 Cor 5:5). ‘For a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit’ (Luke 6:43-45). ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin?’ (Jer 13:23).
But yet the cause of this impossibility.
1. Lieth not in reprobation, the elect themselves being as much unable to receive it as the other.
2. Neither is it because the reprobate is excluded in the tender, for that is universal.
3. Neither is it because there wanteth arguments in the tenders of the gospel, for there is not only plenty, but such as be persuasive, clear, and full of rationality.
4. Neither is it because these creatures have no need thereof, for they have broken the law.
5. Wherefore it is, because indeed they are by sin dead, captivated, mad, self-opposers, blind, alienated in their minds, and haters of the Lord. Behold the ruins that sin hath made!
Wherefore whoever receiveth the grace that is tendered in the gospel, they must be quickened by the power of God, their eyes must be opened, their understandings illuminated, their ears unstopped, their hearts circumcised, their wills also rectified, and the Son of God revealed in them. Yet as I said, not because there wanteth argument in these tenders, but because men are dead, and blind, and cannot hear the word. ‘Why do ye not understand my speech [saith Christ]; Even because ye cannot hear my word’ (John 8:43; Acts 9:15, 26:9,10; Psa 110:3; Gal 1:15; Matt 11:27).
For otherwise, as I said but now, there is, 1. Rationality enough in the tenders of the gospel. 2. Persuasions of weight enough to provoke to faith. And, 3. Arguments enough to persuade to continue therein.
1. Is it not reasonable that man should believe God in the proffer of the gospel and life by it? Is there not reason, I say, both from the truth and faithfulness of God, from the sufficiency of the merits of Christ, as also from the freeness and fullness of the promise? What unreasonable thing doth the gospel bid thee credit? Or what falsehood doth it command thee to receive for truth? Indeed in many points the gospel is above reason, but yet in never a one against it; especially in those things wherein it beginneth with the sinner, in order to eternal life.
2. Again, touching its persuasions to provoke to faith: With how many signs and wonders, miracles and mighty deeds, hath it been once and again confirmed, and that to this very end? (Heb 1:1-3; 1 Cor 14:22). With how many oaths, declarations, attestations, and proclamations, is it avouched, confirmed, and established? (Heb 6:17,18; Acts 13:32; Jer 3:12; Gal 3:15). And why should not credence be given to that gospel that is confirmed by blood, the blood of the Son of God himself? Yea, that gospel that did never yet fail any that in truth hath cast themselves upon it, since the foundation of the world (Heb 9:16-18, 12:1-3).
3. Again, as there is rationality enough, and persuasions sufficient, so there is also argument most prevalent to persuade to continue therein, and that to heartily, cheerfully, and unfeignedly, unto the end: did not, as I have said, blindness, madness, deadness, and willful rebellion, carry them away in the vanity of their minds, and overcome them (Eph 4:17-19).
(1.) For, first, if they could but consider how they have sinned, how they have provoked God, &c., if they could but consider what a dismal state the state of the damned is, and also, that in a moment their condition is like to be the same, would they not cleave to the gospel and live?
(2.) The enjoyment of God, and Christ, and saints, and angels, being the sweetest; the pleasures of heaven the most comfortable, and to live always in the greatest height of light, life, joy, and gladness imaginable, one would think were enough to persuade the very damned now in hell.
There is no man then perisheth for want of sufficient reason in the tenders of the gospel, nor any for want of persuasions to faith; nor yet because there wanteth arguments to provoke to continue therein. But the truth is, the gospel in this hath to do with unreasonable creatures; with such as will not believe it, and that because it is truth: ‘And because I tell you the truth, [saith Christ] therefore ye believe me not’ (John 8:45).
Quest. Well, but if this in truth be thus, how then comes it to pass that some receive it and live for ever? For you have said before, that the elect are as dead as the reprobate, and full as unable as they, as men, to close with these tenders, and live.
Answ. Doubtless this is true, and were the elect left to themselves, they, through the wickedness of their heart, would perish as do others. Neither could all the reasonable persuasive prevalent arguments of the gospel of God in Christ, prevail to make any receive it, and live. Wherefore here you must consider, that as there is mercy proclaimed in the general tenders of the gospel, so there is also the grace of election; which grace kindly over-ruleth and winneth the spirit of the chosen, working in them that unfeigned closing therewith, that makes it effectual to their undoubted salvation; which indeed is the cause that not only in other ages, but also to this day, there is a remnant that receive this grace; they being appointed, I say, thereto, before the world began; preserved in time from that which would undo them, and enabled to embrace the glorious gospel of grace, and peace, and life (1 Kings 19:18; Rom 11:5; 1 Thess 5:9).
Now there is a great difference between the grace of election, and the grace that is wrapped up in the general tenders of the gospel a difference, I say, and that both as to its timing, latituding, and working.
1. Touching its timing; it is before, yea long before, there was either tender of the grace wrapped up in the gospel to any, or any need of such a tender (Eph 1:4,5).
2. They also differ in latitude; the tenders of grace in the gospel are common and universal to all, but the extension of that of election special and peculiar to some. ‘There is a remnant according to the election of grace’ (Rom 11:5).
3. Touching the working of the grace of election; it differs much in some things from the working of the grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel. As is manifest in these particulars:
(1.). The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel, calleth for faith to lay hold upon, and accept thereof; but the special grace of election, worketh that faith which doth lay hold thereof (Acts 16:31, 13:48; Phil 1:29; 2 Thess 1:11).
(2.) The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel, calleth for faith, as a condition in us, without which there is no life; but the special grace of election worketh faith in us without any such condition (Mark 16:15,16; Rom 11:5,6).
(3.) The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel, promiseth happiness upon the condition of persevering in the faith only; but the special grace of election causeth this perseverance (Col 1:23; Eph 2:10; Rom 11:7; 1 Peter 1:5-7).
(4.) The grace offered in the general tenders of the gospel, when it sparkleth most, leaveth the greatest part of men behind it; but the special grace of election, when it shineth least, doth infallibly bring every soul therein concerned to everlasting life (Rom 10:16, 8:33-35).
(5.) A man may overcome and put out all the light and life that is begotten in him by the general tenders of the gospel; but none shall overcome, or make void, or frustrate the grace of election (Jude 4; 2 Peter 2:20-22; Matt 24:24; Rom 11:1-3, &c.).
(6.) The general tenders of the gospel, considered without a concurrence of the grace of election, helps not the elect himself, when sadly fallen. Wherefore, when I say the grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel, I mean that grace when offered, as not being accompanied with a special operation of God’s eternal love, by way of conjunction therewith. Otherwise the grace that is tendered in the general offers of the gospel, is that which saveth the sinner now, and that brings him to everlasting life; that is, when conjoined with that grace that blesseth and maketh this general tender effectually efficacious. The grace of election worketh not without, but by these tenders generally; neither doth the grace thus tendered, effectually work, but by and with the grace of election: ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed’ (Acts 13:48): The word being then effectual to life, when the hand of the Lord is effectually therewith to that end (Mark 16:20). They ‘spake [saith the text] unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them; and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord’ (Acts 11:20,21).
We must always put difference between the word of the gospel, and the power that manageth that word; we must put difference between the common and more special operations of that power also; even as there is evidently a difference to be put between those words of Christ that were effectual to do what was said, and of those words of his which were but words only, or at least not so accompanied with power. As for instance: that same Jesus that said to the Leper, ‘Say nothing to any man,’ said also to Lazarus, ‘Come forth’; yet the one obeyed, the other did not; though he that obeyed was least in a capacity to do it, he being now dead, and stunk in his grave. Indeed unbelief hath hindered Christ much, yet not when he putteth forth himself as Almighty, but when he doth suffer himself by them to be abused who are to be dealt with by ordinary means: Otherwise legions of devils, with ten thousand impediments, must fall down before him, and give way unto him. There is a speaking, and a so speaking: ‘They so spake, that a great multitude, both of the Jews, and also of the Greeks, believed’ (Acts 14:1). Even as I have hinted already, there is a difference between the coming of the word when it is in power (1 Thess 1:5), and when it is in word only. So then, the blessed grace of election chooseth this man to good, not because he is good; it chooseth him to believe, not because he doth believe; it chooseth him to persevere, not because he doth so; it fore-ordains that this man shall be created in Christ Jesus unto good works (Eph 1:4-6), not if a man will create himself thereto (1 Peter 1:2; Eph 2:10).
What shall we say then? Is the fault in God, if any perish? Doubtless no; nor yet in his act of eternal reprobation neither: it is grace that saveth the elect, but sin that damns the rest: it is superabundant grace that causeth the elect to close with the tenders of life, and live; and it is the aboundings of sin that holds off the reprobate from the rational, necessary, and absolute tenders, of grace. To conclude then; the gospel calleth for credence as a condition, and that both from the elect and reprobate; but because none of them both, as dead in sin, will close therewith, and live; therefore grace, by virtue of electing love, puts forth itself to work and do for some beyond reason; and justice cuts off others, for slighting so good, so gracious, and necessary a means of salvation, so full both of kindness, mercy and reason.
Seeing [that] it is not possible that the reprobate should receive this grace and live, and also seeing [that] this is infallibly foreseen of God; and again, seeing God hath fore-determined to suffer it so to be; Why doth he yet will and command that the gospel, and so grace in the general tenders thereof, should be proffered unto them?
Why then is the gospel offered them? Well, that there is such a thing as eternal reprobation, I have shewed you; also what this eternal reprobation is, I have opened unto you: and shall now shew you also, that though these reprobates will infallibly perish, which God not only foresaw, but fore-determined to suffer them most assuredly so to do; yet there is reason, great reason, why the gospel, and so the grace of God thereby, should be tendered, and that in general terms, to them as well as others.
But before I come to lay the reasons before you, I must mind you afresh of these particulars:
1. That eternal reprobation makes no man a sinner.
2. That the fore-knowledge of God that the reprobate would perish makes no man a sinner.
3. That God’s infallibly determining upon the damnation of him that perisheth, makes no man a sinner.
4. God’s patience and long-suffering, and forbearance, until the reprobate fits himself for eternal destruction, makes no man a sinner.
So then, God may reprobate, may suffer the reprobate to sin, may pre-determine his infallible damnation, through the pre-consideration of him in sin, and may also forbear to work that effectual work in his soul that would infallibly bring him out of this condition, and yet neither be the author, contriver, nor means of man’s sin and misery.
Again, God may infallibly foresee that this reprobate, when he hath sinned, will be an unreasonable opposer of his own salvation; and may also determine to suffer him to sin, and be thus unreasonable to the end, yet be gracious, yea very gracious, if he offer him life, and that only upon reasonable terms, which yet he denieth to close with (Isa 1:18; 55:12).
The reasons are,
1. Because not God, but sin, hath made him unreasonable; without which, reasonable terms had done his work for him: for reasonable terms are the most equal and righteous terms that can be propounded between parties at difference; yea the terms that most suiteth and agreeth with a reasonable creature, such as man; nay, reasonable terms are, for terms, the most apt to work with that man whose reason is brought into and held captive by very sense itself (Eze 18; 33).
2. God goeth yet further, he addeth promises of mercy, as those that are inseparable to the terms he offereth, even to pour forth his Spirit unto them; ‘Turn at my reproof, and behold I will pour forth of my Spirit unto you, and incline your ear; come unto me, hear and your soul shall live’ (Prov 1:23-27).
Now then to the question itself, to wit, that seeing it is impossible the reprobate should be saved; seeing also this is infallibly foreseen of God, and seeing also that God hath beforehand determined to suffer it so to be; yet I shall shew you it is requisite, yea very requisite, that he should both will and command that the gospel, and so grace in the general tenders thereof should be proffered unto them.
FIRST REASON.—And that first, to shew that this reprobation doth not in itself make any man absolutely incapable of salvation: for if God had intended that by the act of reprobation, the persons therein concerned should also by that only act have been made incapable of everlasting life, then this act must also have tied up all the means from them, that tendeth to that end; or at least have debarred the gospel’s being offered to them by God’s command, for that intent; otherwise who is there but would have charged the Holy One as guilty of guile, and worthy of blame, for commanding that the gospel of grace and salvation should be offered unto this or that man, whom yet he hath made incapable to receive it, by his act of reprobation. Wherefore this very thing, to wit, that the gospel is yet to be tendered to these eternally reprobated, sheweth that it is not simply the act of God’s reprobation, but sin, that incapacitateth the creature of life everlasting. Which sin is no branch of this reprobation, as is evident, because the elect and reprobate are both alike defiled therewith.
SECOND REASON.—God also sheweth by this, that the reprobate do not perish for want of the offers of salvation, though he hath offended God, and that upon most righteous terms; according to what is written, ‘As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live’ (Eze 33:11, 18:31,32). ‘Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of Hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts’ (Zech 1:3). So then, here lieth the point between God and the reprobate, I mean the reprobate since he hath sinned, God is willing to save him upon reasonable terms, but not upon terms above reason; but not reasonable terms will [go] down with the reprobate, therefore he must perish for his unreasonableness.
That God is willing to save even those that perish for ever, is apparent, both from the consideration of the goodness of his nature (Psa 145:9), of man’s being his creature, and indeed in a miserable state (Job 14:15, 3:16). But I say, as I have also said already, there is a great difference between his being willing to save them, through their complying with these his reasonable terms, and his being resolved to save them, whether they, as men, will close therewith, or no; so only he saveth the elect themselves, even ‘according to the riches of his grace’ (Eph 1:7). Even ‘according to his riches in glory, by Christ Jesus’ (Phil 4:19). Working effectually in them, what the gospel, as a condition, calleth for from them. And hence it is that he is said to give faith (Phil 1:29), yea the most holy faith, for that is the faith of God’s elect, to give repentance (Acts 5:31), to give a new heart, to give his fear, even that fear that may keep them for ever from everlasting ruin (Eph 1:4); still engaging his mercy and goodness to follow them all the days of their lives (Jer 32:40; Eze 36:26,27), that they may dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psa 23:6), and as another scripture saith, ‘Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing, is God’ (2 Cor 5:5; Rom 8:26, &c.).
But I say, his denying to do thus for every man in the world, cannot properly be said to be because he is not heartily willing they should close with the tenders of the grace held forth in the gospel, and live. Wherefore you must consider that there is a distinction to be put between God’s denying grace on reasonable terms, and denying it absolutely; and also that there is a difference between his withholding further grace, and of hindering men from closing with the grace at present offered; also that God may withhold much, when he taketh away nothing; yea, take away much, when once abused, and yet be just and righteous still. Further, God may deny to do this or that absolutely, when yet he hath promised to do, not only that, but more, conditionally. Which things considered, you may with ease conclude, that he may be willing to save those not elect, upon reasonable terms, though not without them.
It is no unrighteousness in God to offer grace unto the world, though but on these terms only, that they are also foreseen by him infallibly to reject; both because to reject it is unreasonable, especially the terms being so reasonable, as to believe the truth and live; and also because it is grace and mercy in God, so much as once to offer means of reconciliation to a sinner, he being the offender; but the Lord, the God offended; they being but dust and ashes, he the heavenly Majesty. If God, when man had broke the law, had yet with all severity kept the world to the utmost condition of it, had he then been unjust? Had he injured man at all? Was not every tittle of the law reasonable, both in the first and second table? How much more then is he merciful and gracious, even in but mentioning terms of reconciliation? especially seeing he is also willing so to condescend, if they will believe his word, and receive the love of the truth. Though the reprobate then doth voluntarily, and against all strength of reason, run himself upon the rocks of eternal misery, and split himself thereon, he perisheth in his own corruption, by rejecting terms of life (2 Thess 2:10; 2 Peter 2:12,13).
Object. But the reprobate is not now in a capacity to fulfil these reasonable terms.
Ans. But I say, suppose it should be granted, is it because reprobation made him incapable, or sin? Not reprobation, but sin: if sin, then before he quarrel, let him consider the case aright, where, in the result, he will find sin, being consented to by his voluntary mind, hath thus disabled him: and because, I say, it was sin by his voluntary consent that did it, let him quarrel with himself for consenting, so as to make himself incapable to close with reasonable terms; yea, with those terms because reasonable, therefore most suitable, as terms, for him notwithstanding his wickedness. And I say again, forasmuch as those reasonable terms have annexed unto them, as their inseperable companions, such wonderful mercy and grace as indeed there is, let even them that perish, yet justify God; yea cry, ‘His goodness endureth for ever’; though they, through the wretchedness of their hearts, get no benefit by it.
THIRD REASON.— God may will and command that his gospel, and so the grace thereof, be tendered to those that shall never be saved, (besides what hath been said) to shew to all spectators what an enemy sin, being once embraced, is to the salvation of man. Sin, without the tenders of the grace of the gospel, could never have appeared so exceeding sinful, as by that it both hath and doth: ‘If I had not come and spoken unto them, [saith Christ] they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin’ (John 15:22). As sins that oppose the law, are discovered by the law, that is, by the goodness, and justness, and holiness of the law (Rom 7); so the sins that oppose the gospel, are made manifest by that, even by the love, and mercy, and forgiveness of the gospel: If ‘he that despised Moses’ law died without mercy, – of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?’ (Heb 10:28,29). Who could have thought that sin would have opposed that which is just, but especially mercy and grace, had we not seen it with our eyes? And how could we have seen it to purpose, had not God left some to themselves? Here indeed is sin made manifest: ‘For all he had done so many miracles amongst them,’ (to wit, to persuade them to mercy) ‘yet they believed not on him’ (John 12:37). Sin, where it reigneth, is a mortal enemy to the soul; it blinds the eyes, holds the hands, ties the legs, and stops the ears, and makes the heart implacable to resist the Saviour of souls. That man will neither obey the law nor the gospel, who is left unto his sin: which also God is willing should be discovered and made manifest, though it cost the damnation of some: For this very purpose, saith God to Pharaoh, ‘have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared in all the earth’ (Exo 9:16; Rom 9:17). For God, by raising up Pharaoh to his kingdom, and suffering him to walk to the height, according as his sin did prompt him forward, shewed unto all beholders what a dreadful thing sin is; and that without the special assistance of his Holy Spirit, sin would neither be charmed by law nor gospel. This reason, though it be no profit unto those that are damned; yet it is for the honour of God, and the good of those he hath chosen.
It is for the honour of God, even for the honour of his power and mercy: for his power is now discovered indeed, when nothing can tame sin but that; and his mercy is here seen indeed; because that doth engage him to do it. Read Romans 9:22,23.
FOURTH REASON.—God commandeth that the tender of the gospel, and the grace thereof, be in general offered to all, that means thereby might be sufficiently provided for the elect, both to beget them to faith, and to maintain it in them to the end, in what place, or state, or condition soever they are (Eph 1). God, through the operation of his manifold wisdom, hath an end and an end in his acts and doings amongst the children of men: and, so in that he commandeth that his gospel be tendered to all, an end, I say, to leave the damned without excuse, and to provide sufficiency of means for the gathering all his elect. ‘Oh that God would speak, [saith Zophar] and open his lips against thee; and -shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is’ (Job 11:5,6). For though God worketh with and upon the elect, otherwise than with and upon the reprobate; yet he worketh with and upon the elect, with and by the same word he commandeth should be held forth and offered to the reprobate. Now the text thus running in most free and universal terms, the elect then hearing thereof, do through the mighty power of God close in with the tenders therein held forth, and are saved. Thus that word that was offered to the reprobate Jews, and by them most fiercely rejected, even that word became yet effectual to the chosen, and they were saved thereby. They gladly received the word, ‘and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed’ (Acts 13:48). ‘Not as though the word of God had taken none effect’ (Rom 9:6). ‘God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew’ (11:2). The word shall accomplish the thing for which God hath sent it, even the salvation of the few that are chosen, when tendered to all; though rejected by most, through the rebellion of their hearts (Acts 28:28; Heb 4:1-3).
Object. But if God hath elected, as you have said, what need he lay a foundation so general for the begetting faith in his chosen particulars, seeing the same Spirit that worketh in them by such means, could also work in them by other, even by a word, excluding the most, in the first tenders thereof, amongst men?
Ans. I told you before, that though this be a principal reason of the general tenders of the grace of the gospel, yet it is not all the reason why the tender should be so general, as the three former reasons shew.
But again, in the bowels of God’s decree of election, is contained the means that are also ordained for the effectual bringing of those elected to that glory for which they were fore-appointed; even to gather together in one, all the children of God (John 11:52). ‘Whereunto he called you, [saith Paul] by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Thess 2:14). God’s decree of election then, destroyeth not the means which his wisdom hath prepared, it rather establisheth, yea ordains and establisheth it; and maketh that means which in the outward sound is indefinite and general, effectual to this and that man, through a special and particular application (Gal 2:20,21): thus that Christ that in general was offered to all, is by a special act of faith applied to Paul in particular; ‘He loved me, and gave himself for me.’
Further, As the design of the Heavenly Majesty is to bring his elect to glory by means, so by the means thus universal and general, as most behooveful and fit; if we consider not only the way it doth please him to work with some of his chosen, in order to this their glory, but also the trials, temptations, and other calamities they must go through thereto.
1. Touching his working with some, how invisible is it to these in whose souls it is yet begun? How is the word buried under the clods of their hearts for months, yea years together? Only thus much is discovered thereof, it sheweth the soul its sin, the which it doth also so aggravate and apply to the conscience (Jesus still refraining, like Joseph, to make himself known to his brethren) that were there not general tenders of mercy, and that to the worst of sinners, they would soon miscarry, and perish, as do the sons of perdition. But by these the Lord upholdeth and helpeth them, that they stand, when others fall for ever (Psa 119:49).
2. And so likewise for their trials, temptations, and other calamities, because God will not bring them to heaven without, but by them; therefore he hath also provided a word so large, as to lie fair for the support of the soul in all conditions, that it may not die for thirst.
3. I might add also in this place, their imperfect state after grace received, doth call for such a word; yea, many other things which might be named: which God, only wise, hath thought fit should accompany us to the ship, yea in the sea, to our desired haven.
FIFTH REASON.—God willeth and commandeth the gospel should be offered to all, that thereby distinguishing love, as to an inward and spiritual work, might the more appear to be indeed the fruit of special and peculiar love. For in that the gospel is tendered to all in general, when yet but some do receive it; yea, and seeing these some are as unable, unwilling, and by nature, as much averse thereto, as those that refuse it, and perish; it is evident that something more of heaven and the operation of the Spirit of God doth accompany the word thus tendered for their life and salvation that enjoy it (1 Thess 1:4-7). Not now as a word barely tendered, but backed by the strength of heaven: ‘Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!’ (1 John 3:1) even we who believe ‘according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead’ (Eph 1:20). This provoketh to distinguishing admiration, yea, and also to a love like that which hath fastened on the called, the preserved, and the glorified: ‘He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord’ (Psa 147:20). Now are the sacrifices bound even to the horns of the altar, with a ‘Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world!’ (John 14:22). He ‘sent from above, he took me; he drew me out of many waters; he delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that hated me; for they were too strong for me’ (2 Sam 22:17; Psa 18:16).
For thus the elect considereth: though we all came alike into the world, and are the children of wrath by nature (Eph 2:1-3); yea, though we have alike so weakened ourselves by sin (Rom 3:9), that the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint (Isa 1:5), being altogether gone out of the way, and every one become altogether unprofitable, both to God and ourselves (Rom 3:12); yet that God should open mine eyes, convert my soul, give me faith, forgive my sins, raise me, when I fall; fetch me again, when I am gone astray; this is wonderful! (Psa 37:23). Yea, that he should prepare eternal mansions for me (Psa 23:6); and also keep me by his blessed and mighty power for that; and that in a way of believing, which without his assistance I am no way able to perform! (2 Cor 5:5). That he should do this notwithstanding my sins, though I had no righteousness! (Deut 9:5-7). Yea, that he should do it according to the riches of his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ our Lord! Even according to an everlasting covenant of grace, which yet the greatest part of the world are void of, and will for ever miss and fall short of! (Eze 16:60-63). Besides, that he should mollify my heart! break it, and then delight in it (Psa 51:17); put his fear in it, and then look to me (Isa 66:2; Psa 138:6), and keep me as the apple of his eye (Deut 32:10); yea, resolve to guide me with his counsel, and then receive me to glory! Further, that all this should be the effect of unthought of, undeserved, and undesired love! (Mal 1:2; Deut 7:7,8). That the Lord should think on this before he made the world (Jer 31:3), and sufficiently ordain the means before he had laid the foundation of the hills! For this he is worthy to be praised (1 Cor 2:9): yea, ‘Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord; praise ye the Lord.’
Object. But you have said before, that the reprobate is also blessed with many gospel mercies, as with the knowledge of Christ, faith, light, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the tastes or relish of the powers of the world to come: if so, then what should be the reason that yet he perisheth? Is it because the grace that he receiveth differeth from the grace that the elect are saved by? If they differ, where lieth the difference? Whether in the nature, or in the degree, or in the management thereof?
Ans. To this objection I might answer many things; but, for brevity, take this reply: That the non-elect may travel very far both in the knowledge, faith, light, and sweetness of Jesus Christ, and may also attain to the partaking of the Holy Ghost; yea, and by the very operation of these things also, escape the pollutions of the world, and become a visible saint, join in church-communion, and be as chief amongst the very elect themselves. This the scriptures every where do shew us.
The question then is, whether the elect and reprobate receive a differing grace? To which I answer, Yes, in some respects, both as to the nature thereof, and also the degree.
1. To begin then with the nature of it.
(1.) The faith that the chosen are blessed with, it goeth under another name than any faith besides, even the faith of God’s elect (Titus 1:1), as of a faith belonging to them only, of which none others do partake; which faith also, for the nature of it, is called faith most holy (Jude 20); to shew it goes beyond all other, and can be fitly matched no where else, but with their most blessed faith who infallibly attain eternal glory: even ‘like precious faith with us,’ saith Peter (2 Peter 1:1); with his elect companions. And so of other things. For if this be true, that they differ in their faith, they must needs therewith differ in other things: for faith being the mother grace, produceth all the rest according to its own nature, to wit, love that abounds, that never fails, and that is never contented till it attain the resurrection of the dead, &c. (2 Thess 1:3; 1 Cor 13:8; Phil 3).
(2.) They differ as to the nature, in this; the faith, and hope, and love, that the chosen receive, it is that which floweth from election itself; he hath blessed us ‘according as he hath chosen us’ (Eph 1:4,5), even with those graces he set apart for us, when he in eternity did appoint us to life before the foundation of the world: which graces, because the decree in itself is most absolute and infallible, they also, that they may completely answer the end, will do the work infallibly likewise, still through the management of Christ: ‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not’ (Luke 22:32). But,
2. As they differ in nature, they differ also in degree: for though it be true that the reprobate is blessed with grace, yet this is also as true, that the elect are blessed with more grace. It is the privilege only of those that are chosen, to be blessed with ALL spiritual blessings, and to have ALL the good pleasure of the goodness of God fulfilled in and upon them. Those who are blessed with ALL spiritual blessings must needs be blessed with eternal life; and those in whom the Lord, not only works all his good pleasure, but fulfilleth all the good pleasure of his goodness upon them, they must needs be preserved to his heavenly kingdom (Eph 1:4,5; 1 Thess 1:10); but none of the non-elect have these things conferred upon them; therefore the grace bestowed upon the one, doth differ both in nature and degree from the other.
3. There is a difference as to the management also. The reprobate is principal for the management of the grace he receiveth, but Jesus Christ is principal for the management of the grace the elect receiveth. When I say principal, I mean chief; for though the reprobate is to have the greatest hand in the management of what mercy and goodness the Lord bestoweth on him, yet not so as that the Lord will not help him at all; nay contrariwise he will, if first the reprobate do truly the duty that lieth on him: ‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? but if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door’ (Gen 4:7). Thus it was also with Saul, who was rejected of God upon this account (1 Sam 13:11-14, 15:26). And I say, as to the elect themselves, though Jesus Christ our blessed Saviour be chief, as to the management of the grace bestowed on his chosen, yet not so as that he quite excludeth them from ‘striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily’ (Col 1:29). Nay contrariwise, if those who in truth are elect, shall yet be remiss, and do wickedly, they shall feel the stroke of God’s rod, it may be till their bones do break. But because the work doth not lie at their door to manage as chief, but as Christ’s, therefore though he may perform his work with much bitterness and grief to them; yet he being engaged as the principal, will perform that which concerneth them, even until the day (the coming) of Jesus Christ (Psa 138:8; Phil 1:6).
From what hath been said, there ariseth this conclusion:
The elect are always under eternal mercy, but those not elect always under eternal justice; for you must consider this: there is eternal mercy and eternal justice, and there is present mercy and present justice. So then, for a man to be in a state of mercy, it may be either a state of mercy present, or both present and eternal also. And so again for a man to be in a state under justice, it may be understood either of present justice only, or of both present and eternal also.
That this may yet further be opened, I shall somewhat enlarge.
I begin with present mercy and present justice. That which I call present mercy, is that faith, light, knowledge, and taste of the good word of God, that a man may have, and perish. This is called in scripture, Believing for a while, during for a while, and rejoicing in the light for a season (Heb 6:4,5; 2 Peter 2:20; Matt 13:22; Luke 8:13). Now I call this mercy, both because none, as men, can deserve it, and also because the proper end thereof is to do good to those that have it. But I call it present mercy, because those that are only blessed with that, may sin it away, and perish; as did some of the Galatians, Hebrews, Alexandrians, with the Asians, and others (Gal 5:4; Heb 12:15,16; 1 Tim 1:20; 2 Tim 2:18, 1:15; Heb 12:15). But yet observe again, I do not call this present mercy, because God hath determined it shall last but a while absolutely; but because it is possible for man to lose it, yea determined he shall, conditionally (John 5:35; 1 Cor 12:7).
Again, as to present justice, it is that which lasteth but a while also; and as present mercy is properly the portion of those left out of God’s election, so present justice chiefly hath to do with God’s beloved; who yet at that time are also under eternal mercy. This is that justice that afflicted Job (6:4), David (Psa 88, 38:3), Heman, and the godly, who notwithstanding do infallibly attain, by virtue of this mercy, eternal life and glory (Amos 3:2; 1 Cor 11:30,31; Psa 30:5, 103:9; 1 Peter 1:6). I call this justice, because in some sense God dealeth with his children according to the quality of their transgressions; and I call it also present justice, because though the hand of God for the present be never so heavy on those that are his by election, yet it lasteth but a while; wherefore though this indeed be called wrath, yet is but a little wrath, wrath for a moment, time, or season. ‘In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer’ (Isa 54:8).
Thus you see there is present mercy and present justice; also that the elect may be under present justice, when the rest may be under present mercy.
Again, As there is present mercy and present justice, so there is eternal mercy and eternal justice: and I say, as the elect may be under present justice, when the non-elect may be under present mercy; so the elect at that time are also under eternal mercy, but the other under eternal justice.
That the elect are under eternal mercy, and that when under present justice, is evident from what hath been said before, namely, from their being chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world; as also from the consideration of their sound conversion, and safe preservation quite through this wicked world, even safe unto eternal life; as he also saith by the prophet Jeremiah, ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee’ (31:3). And hence it is that he calleth the elect his sheep (John 10:16), his children (11:52), and people (Acts 18:9,10), and that before conversion; for though none of them as yet were his children by calling, yet were they his according to election.
Now the elect being under this eternal grace and mercy, they must needs be under it both before present justice seizeth upon them, while it seizeth them, and also continueth with them longer than present justice can, it being from everlasting to everlasting. This being so, here is the reason why no sin, nor yet temptation of the enemy, with any other evil, can hurt or destroy those thus elect of God: yea this is that which maketh even those things that in themselves are the very bane of men, yet prove very much for good to those within this purpose (Rom 8:28). And as David saith, ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted’ (Psa 119:71). And again, ‘But when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world’ (1 Cor 11:32). Now afflictions, &c., in themselves are not only fruitless and unprofitable, but, being unsanctified, are destructive; ‘I smote him, and he went on frowardly’ (Isa 57:17). But now eternal mercy working with this or that affliction, makes it profitable to the chosen; ‘I have seen his ways, and will heal him, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners’ (v 18). As he saith in another place, ‘Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, and teachest him out of thy law’ (Psa 94:12). For eternal mercy doth not look on those who are the elect and chosen of God, as poor sinful creatures only, but also as the generation whom the Lord hath blessed, in whom he hath designed to magnify his mercy to the utmost, by pardoning the transgressions of the remnant of his heritage (1 Peter 2:9; Micah 7:18,19). ‘Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, – wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved’ (Eph 1:6). Wherefore, I say, the elect, as they do also receive that grace and mercy that may be sinned away, so they have that grace and mercy which cannot be lost, and that sin cannot deprive them of, even mercy that abounds, and goeth beyond all sin; such mercy as hath engaged the power of God, the intercession of Christ, and the communication of the blessed Spirit of adoption, which Spirit also engageth the heart, directs it into the love of God, that it may not depart from God after that rate as the reprobates do (Eph 5:29,30). ‘I will make an everlasting covenant with them, [saith God] that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me’ (Jer 32:40).
But now I say, God’s dealing with the non-elect, is far otherwise, they being under the consideration of eternal justice, even then when in the enjoyment of present grace and mercy. And hence it is that as to their standing before the God of heaven, they are counted dogs, and sows, and devils, even then when before the elect of God themselves they are counted saints and brethren: ‘The dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire’ (2 Peter 2:22). And the reason is, because notwithstanding all their shew before the world, their old nature and corruptions do still bear sway within, which in time also, according to the ordinary judgment of God, is suffered so to shew itself, that they are visible to saints that are elect, as was the case of Simon Magus, and that wicked apostate Judas, who ‘went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us’ (1 John 2:19). They were not elect as we, nor were they sanctified as the elect of God themselves; wherefore eternal justice counts them the sons of perdition, when under their profession. And I say, they being under this eternal justice, it must needs have to do with them in the midst of their profession; and because also it is much offended with them for conniving with their lust, it taketh away from them, and that most righteously, those gifts and graces, and benefits and privileges that present mercy gave them; and not only so, but cuts them off for their iniquity, and layeth them under wrath for ever. They ‘have forsaken the right way, [saith God] – following the way of Baalam the son of Bosor; – these are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest’; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots, ‘for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever’ (2 Peter 2:5,16,17; Jude 11-13; John 17:12; Matt 13:12, 25:29; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18).
These things thus considered, you see,
1. That there is present grace and present mercy, eternal grace and eternal mercy.
2. That the elect are under eternal mercy, and THAT, when under present justice; and that the reprobate is under eternal justice, and THAT when under present mercy.
3. Thus you see again, that the non-elect perish by reason of sin, notwithstanding present mercy, because of eternal justice; and that the elect are preserved from the death, though they sin and are obnoxious to the strokes of present justice, by reason of eternal mercy. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid: ‘He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and compassion on whom he will have compassion’ (Rom 9:15).
 ‘Shedding words’ means ‘scattering or spreading words,’ as in Acts 2:33; now obsolete.—Ed.
 As election took place before the creation of man—all men in Adam were decreed, made and turned into the world upright.—Ed.
 ‘Prevents our doing good.’ Few words in the English language have more altered in their meaning than ‘prevent’; it is derived from ‘praevenio,’ to go before. In Bunyan’s time, it meant ‘to go before,’ ‘clear the way,’ ‘make the way easy’ for our doing good. Its present meaning is ‘to obstruct,’ by going or standing before us.—Ed.
 They who diligently attend to the scriptures, will find throughout the whole a vein of election and reprobation. The holy seed may be traced in many instances, and in divers families, in the Bible, from Adam to the birth of our Saviour, whose ancestors, according to the flesh, were of the line of election or the godly; which those who are only born after the flesh, and not after the Spirit, namely, the reprobate, have always despised and persecuted, and will do so to the end of time—Mason and Ryland.
 It is of God’s mere mercy and grace that any sinners are called and admitted to the privilege of justification and adoption, upon God’s own terms. The reason why the sinful and unworthy heathen (of whom Britain is a part) were called to be a people, who were not a people, while the Jews were left out and cast off for their obstinate unbelief, was not because the Gentiles were either more worthy or more willing (for they were all dead in trespasses and sins), but from God’s discriminating grace and mercy.—Mason and Ryland.
 The final condemnation of the wicked does not spring from God’s sovereign will to destroy any of his rational creatures; this is evident from the many pressing invitations, declarations, and promises in the word of God: for Jehovah swears by his great self, that he desires not the death of a sinner. Our Lord assigns the cause of reprobation in these words, (John 5:40) ‘Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life’; wherefore Christ, the only remedy for their cure, being rejected, the sinner is condemned, and rendered the object of wrath and punishment by the law and justice of God; because the same word of truth which says, ‘Whosoever will, let him come, and take of the water of life freely,’ also says, ‘The soul that sinneth [or lives and dies in sin unpardoned] shall die.’ Thus sin is the object of God’s hatred, and not the man, abstractedly considered. May we therefore each of us have grace to look to Christ for full and complete salvation, who hath put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, whereby he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified!—Ryland and Mason.
 ‘Secret things belong to God, but those that are revealed belong to us.’ It is a vain thing for men to cavil at the doctrine of peculiar election, and to quarrel with God for choosing some, and passing by others. Their best way would be to assure themselves of their own election, by using the means, and walking in the ways of God’s appointment, as laid down in the word, and then they will find that God cannot deny himself, but will make good to them every promise therein; and thus, by scripture evidence, they will find that they are elected unto life, and will be thankful and humble. They will then find that an hearty affectionate trusting in Christ for all his salvation, as freely promised to us, hath naturally enough in it to work in our souls a natural bent and inclination to, and ability for, the practice of all holiness.—Ryland and Mason.
 None are excluded the benefit of the great and precious salvation procured and finished by the Lord Jesus Christ, but they, who by perverseness, unbelief, and impenitency, exclude themselves. Sinners,—miserable, helpless, and hopeless sinners, are the objects of this salvation: whosoever is enabled to see, in the light of God’s Spirit, their wretched and forlorn state; to feel their want of Christ as a suitable Saviour, and to repent and forsake their sins, shall find mercy; for ‘God is no respecter of persons’ (Acts 10:34).—Ryland and Mason.
 As the same sun which softens the wax, hardens the clay, so it is with the preached gospel, which is to some ‘the savour of death unto death, and to others the savour of life unto life’ (2 Cor 2:16). The gospel is ineffectual to any saving purpose respecting the reprobate; partly through pride, and in not enduring to be reproved by it; partly through slothfulness, in not coming under the sound of it; and principally through cursed infidelity, in not believing the gracious message it brings. Let it be well attended to, that all who hear the gospel, are obliged to the duty of believing, as well as to all the duties of the moral law, and that before they know their particular election; for we cannot have a certain knowledge of our election to eternal life before we do believe: it is a thing hidden in the unsearchable counsel of God, until it be manifest by our effectual calling, and believing on Christ; therefore we must believe on Christ before we know our election; or else we shall never know it, and shall never believe. All joy, peace, comfort, assurances, are communicated to the soul in the way of believing. May the Lord give and increase saving faith!—Mason and Ryland.
EXPLAINED AND VINDICATED
By Isaac Backus,
PASTOR OF A CHURCH IN MIDDLEBOROUGH.
Yea, let God be true, but every Man a Liar. –
The Election obtained it, and the Rest were blinded.
Rom. iii 4; xi 7.
Printed and sold by SAMUEL H ALL at No. 53, Cornhill.
Teachers who turn grace into lasciviousness have men’s persons in admiration because of advantage, Jude 4, 16. With such, nothing can be too bad to say of any who expose their darling errors, while they will not allow us to be charitable if we cannot think them all to be good men, whom they admire. But in what follows I have endeavored to open principles and facts plainly and to leave every reader to judge of men by their fruits and not by their plausible pretences.
Middleboro, July 25, 1789.
Controversy is generally complained of and peace is earnestly sought, but often in a way which denies to all others the liberty we claim for ourselves. The revealed will of God is the only perfect law of liberty, but how little is it believed and obeyed by mankind. Both the Hebrew and Christian churches were to be wholly governed by it, and when the first King of Israel presumed to violate a plain command of God, and then thought to atone for it by acts of worship, he was guilty of rebellion, which is as the sin of witchcraft, 1. Sam. xv, 23. And in like way Mystery Babylon by her sorceries has deceived all nations, and in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth, Rev. xviii, 23, 24. Yet these extensive terms are so limited by carnal reasoners that none of them, in any nation, will allow themselves to be of that bloody city. And at the same time they are for extending general words of grace beyond any limits and are ready to accuse us with making God deceitful if we hold that he did not design the merits of his Son equally for all mankind. If we inquire then, why all are not saved? the general answer is that they would not receive that salvation, or if they did for awhile, and then turned away from it, God rejects and destroys them therefor. We readily grant that God always rewards the righteous and never destroys any for anything but sin and iniquity, but this cannot content many without we will allow that grace hath put power into the wills of all mankind to become righteous and to obtain salvation when they shall please to set about it in earnest. The fruit of which is that men neglect the great salvation because they love darkness rather than light. Yea, everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, Heb. ii, 3; John iii, 19, 20. And when any are brought to obey the truth and so come to the light, every art is made use of to get them into darkness again if possible.
This has been remarkably the case in the southern parts of America. Many of their teachers were so dark as to swear profanely, drink to excess, and follow gaming and at the same time to preach up do and live to their people. But the light of the pure Gospel produced some reformation among them above forty years ago, and it has greatly increased since 1768, as I was well informed when I was called to travel and preach in Virginia and North Carolina last winter. But after this reformation had spread extensively, the followers of Mr. John Wesley introduced his writings against particular election and final perseverance and thereby greatly obstructed the work. I was therefore requested to publish a brief answer thereto. His first piece on that subject was published above fifty years ago under the title of Free Grace, and it was closed with a hymn called Universal Redemption, and therein he says,
Thine eye surveyed the fallen race,
When sunk in sin they lay,
Their misery called for all thy grace,
But justice stopped the way.
Mercy the fatal bar removed,
Thy only Son it gave,
To save a world so dearly loved,
A sinful world to save.
For every man he tasted death,
He suffered once for all,
He calls as many souls as breathe,
And all may hear the call.
A power to choose, a will t’ obey,
Freely his grace restores;
We all may find the living way,
And call the Savior ours.
He denied that man had any natural liberty of will left after the fall until it was restored by grace. This he more explicitly did in a pamphlet on predestination, election, and reprobation published in 1776; and said upon it, „We believe, that in the moment Adam fell he had no freedom of will left but that God, when of his own free grace he gave the promise of a Savior to him and his posterity, graciously restored to mankind a liberty and power to accept of proffered salvation,” p. 16. But if the fall took all natural liberty of choice from man until grace restored it, then the fall released him from the authority of the law of God as it was first given to him, and he never hath been under it since, but under grace. The beasts are not under that law because they never had the powers of thinking and choice as rational creatures have, and if men are not under that law, what are they better than beasts? Yea, do they not corrupt themselves more than brute beasts that know and obey their owners? Jude 10; Isai. i, 2-4. And if all freedom of will is from grace, then it is only by grace that any have power to sin against God, as none can sin against him who have no natural liberty of will. This opinion is most plainly confuted by the case of the fallen angels who never had any grace revealed to them. Yet the Devil sinneth from the beginning, and all wilful sinners are children of the Devil in opposition to all those who are born of God, John iii, 8-10. In the same book Mr. Wesley says, „1. God’s love was the cause of his sending his Son to die for sinners. 2. Christ’s dying for sinners is the cause of the Gospel’s being preached. 3. The preaching of the Gospel is the cause (or means) of our believing. 4. Our believing is the cause or condition of our justification. 5. The knowing ourselves justified through his blood is the cause of our love to Christ. 6. Our love to Christ is the cause of our obedience to him. 7. Our obedience to Christ is the cause of his becoming the author of eternal salvation to us,” p. 8.
And is not this going about to establish our own righteousness? For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man who doth those things, shall live by them. This is a zeal of God but not according to knomledge, Rom. x, 2-5. Mr. Wesley goes on to say, „I shall now briefly show the dreadful absurdities that follow from saying Christ died only for the elect. If Christ died not for all, then unbelief is no sin in them that finally perish, seeing there is not anything for those men to believe unto salvation for whom Christ died not. 2. If Christ died not for all men then it would be a sin in the greatest part of mankind to believe he died for them, seeing it would be to believe a lie. 3. If Christ died not for those that are damned, then they are not damned for unbelief, otherwise you say, that they are damned for not believing a lie. 4. If Christ died not for all, then those who obey Christ by going and preaching the Gospel to every creature as glad tidings of grace and peace, of great joy to all people, do sin thereby, in that they go to most people with a lie in their mouth. 5. If Christ died not for all men, then God is not in earnest in calling all men everywhere to repent, for what good could repentance do those for whom Christ died not? 6. If Christ died not for all, then why does he say, He is not willing that any should perish? Surely he is willing, yea, resolved that most men should perish, else he would have died for them also. 7. How shall God judge the world by the man Christ Jesus if Christ did not die for the world or how shall he judge them according to the Gospel when there was never any Gospel or mercy for them?” p.14.
Answer. If Christ died with a design to save all men, why are not all saved? Can the Devil cheat him of a great part of his purchase? Or can men defeat his merciful designs? No, say many, he died for all, and he will finally save all. Others go farther and conclude that a God of infinite goodness could not give existence to any creature that shall be miserable without end, but that he will finally deliver every child of Adam from Hell, though many of them will be tormented therein for ages of ages. But how is their deceit here discovered? Fallen angels were as really the creatures of God as fallen men, yet no salvation was ever revealed for them, but they are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. And this is a clear evidence against ungodly men who turn grace into lasciviousness, Jude 4, 6. God was so far from ever proclaiming atonement to all men, without any exception, that he said, The soul that doth ought presumptuously, the same reproacheth the Lord and that soul shall be cut of from among his people. And for such presumption, Korah and his company perished most terribly, Num. xv, 30; xvi, 1-3, 31-34. And teachers who privily brought damnable heresies into the Christian Church were presumptuous and self-willed under the name of liberty. They despised government and perished in the gainsaying of Core, 2 Pet. ii, 1, 10, 19; Jude 11. For if the inability of debtors and criminals could release them from the authority of the laws, until rulers would give them power to bring the government to their own terms, how would all dominion be despised! These filthy dreamers have now filled the world with Babylonian confusion, Jude 8. The Jews called it heresy in Paul to believe in and obey Jesus as a lawgiver above Moses, Acts xxiv, 14 And this is the first place where the word heresy is used in the Bible, and if we observe what is said in the last chapter in it of every man who shall add to or take from its words, must we not conclude that all men who do so and violently impose their inventions upon others are guilty of heresy? The head of the Church of Rome assumed God’s place in the Church, and exalted himself above God, who never could violate his promise or his oath or entice any into sin, and how justly are all those given up to strong delusion who practice either of these evils? 2 Thess. ii, 3-12; Heb. vi, 18; James i, 13-15. And how happy should we soon be if these iniquities were excluded from our land?
True believers are so far from presuming upon the secret designs of God that when the same are revealed, they dare not make his designs but his laws the rule of their conduct. Though his design of removing Saul and making David King over Israel was clearly revealed, yet David refused to kill Saul when greatly provoked thereto because he had no direction to do it. Neither did David assume the regal power over Israel until each tribe freely received him as their King by a solemn covenant. But the envious Jews no sooner had it declared to them that Jesus was to die for that nation than from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death, John xi, 53. Hereby we may see the plain difference between true believers and reprobates. For unto the pure all things are pure but unto the defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient and unto every good work reprobate, Titus i, 15, 16. In this way, teachers who turn grace into lasciviousness deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ, Jude 4. But many are deceived by them because in words they profess to know him. Since Christ was exalted to the right hand of the Father his only priests upon earth are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. Being born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, by the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever. These are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that they should show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light, 1 Pet. i, 2, 23; ii, 5, 9. But Mr. Wesley, in his piece on predestination, election, and reprobation, says, „They were chosen through belief of the truth and called to believe it by the Gospel; therefore they were not chosen before they believed, much less before they had a being,” p. 5. And in his sermon from Rom. viii, 29, 30, he says, „God looking on all ages from the creation to the consummation as a moment and seeing at once whatever is in the hearts of all the children of men knows every one that does or does not believe in every age or nation. Yet what he knows, whether faith or unbelief, is in no wise caused by his knowledge. Men are as free in believing or not believing, as if he did not know it at all,” p. 6.
I readily grant that his knowledge does not cause any sin, which is altogether of the creature. The angels who fell kept not the first estate but left their own habitation, Jude 6. And those who stood were elect angels, i Tim. v, 21. And sin came into human nature by violating a known command. And Adam was a figure of Jesus Christ, and therefore death reigned over all his posterity, many of whom never committed any actual transgression, as he did. And the word as, so often used in this affair, cannot be true in any sense if both Adam and Christ were not heads and representatives of all the seed of each. It is certain that Adam was not a figure of Christ, as he conveyed death and ruin to his posterity by a just sentence of law; for Christ conveys life and salvation to souls by a free gift of grace. Neither could Adam be a figure of Christ in the great things that he did by one offence, for Christ atoned for many offences; therefore where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, Rom. v, 12-21. Even to the resurrection of the dead, i Cor. xv, 21, 22. I say the word as cannot be true in all these places unless those two men acted for all their seed. Many would have it, that this word cannot be true unless Christ atoned for as many as fell in Adam, but certain death came upon all Adam’s race while multitudes hold that salvation by Christ is uncertain and depends upon the wills of individuals. In this view they would make Christ vastly inferior to Adam whose doings were efficacious, and the doings of Christ exceeding precarious, upon their plan. And they who hold that Christ will finally save all the race of Adam from Hell yet imagine that the creature’s suffering must save them and not the efficacy of the death and grace of Christ. Or if they hold that he will save all from future sufferings, they hold also that he hath now saved them from the authority of the law of God, which Adam never did. By the sentence of it every child of Adam returns to the dust, the righteous as well as the wicked, so that if the doings of Christ are not efficacious for the final salvation of his seed, it cannot truly be said that as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. Adam was made upright, but Solomon could not tell how many inventions his children would seek out, Eccl. vii, 29. A darling one in our day is that a man cannot be worthy of reward or punishment unless he hath power in his will to become righteous when he pleaseth. And if so, then faith would be of himself and not the gift of God, directly against the truth of his Word, Eph. ii, 8. Boasting could not be excluded in such a case, as it is by the law of faith, Rom. iii, 27. So that this controversy is not with poor worms but with the eternal God. His will was as really exercised in raising up Pharaoh and others and suffering them to go far in their rebellion and in oppressing the saints, as it was in finally destroying the former and saving the latter. But the objection against this doctrine was and is, Why doth he yet find fault? for who hath ever resisted his will? This was the language of those who followed after the law of righteousness but did not attain to it because they sought it not by faith but as it were by the works of the law, Rom. ix, 16-32. Yea, and those who do so are exceeding partial in the law.
Mr. Wesley in his book called Predestination Calmly Considered says, „I believe election to be conditional, as well as the reprobation opposite thereto. I believe the eternal decree concerning both is expressed in those words, He that believeth shall be saved; he that believeth not, shall be damned. And this decree without doubt God will not change, and man cannot resist,” p. 10. But where did he make any such decree? In the Gospel commission, he says, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, Mark xvi, 16. But men have presumed to alter that decree ever since the third century, before which no man hath proved that infant baptism was ever named in the world. By baptism believers put on Christ, Gal. iii, 27. Which no one can do for another any more than one can be saved or damned for another in eternity. Christ is the only lawgiver to his Church, and when Kings shall become nursing fathers to her they will bow down to his authority therein, Isai. xlix, 23. And how great is the difference betwixt a nurse and a whoremaster. The good tidings to Zion is, Thy God reigneth. And with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, Isai. iii, 7; Rom. x, 10, 15. And none will be owned by him in the last day who are now ashamed to confess him before men, Matt. x, 32, 33. And if God looked on all ages as a moment, how could he elect persons and then reject them again in that moment? Yet Wesley says, „One who is a true believer or, in other words, one who is holy or righteous in the judgment of God himself, may nevertheless finally fall from grace,” p. 49.
His first argument to prove this assertion is taken from God’s saying, When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness and committeth iniquity, in his trespass that he hath trespassed and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die, Ezek. xviii, 24. From whence Wesley says, „One who is righteous in the judgment of God himself may finally fall from grace,” p. 51. Answer, God never promised to support any one in an unrighteous way, neither will he destroy any true penitent for his own sins or for the iniquity of his fathers. And if God cannot speak of these things in a conditional way without having the final event uncertain in his own infinite mind until the creature decides it, then this argument may stand, and not else. And if the creature could disappoint the Creator, then we should fear man more than God. A horrible evil! A second argument is drawn from 1 Tim. i, 18, 19, from whence it is said, „Observe, 1. These men had once the faith that produceth a good conscience, which they had or they could not have put it away. 2. They made shipwreck of the faith, which necessarily implies the total and final loss of it,” p. 51. But in the same chapter it is said, „The end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned; from which some having swerved, have turned aside unto vain jangling, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm.” And if men cannot be greatly enlightened and reformed by the Spirit of truth and yet afterwards swerve from it and put it away, without ever being born again, then this argument may stand and not otherwise. His third argument is framed from Rom. xi, 17, etc. Upon which he says, „Those who are grafted into the spiritual, invisible church may nevertheless finally fail,” p. 53. To which I reply that the unbelieving Jews failed from the visible church, and saving faith was necessary to graft the Gentiles into it, who ought not to be high-minded but fear, as is very evident from this passage, and God says, I will put my fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me, Jer. xxxii, 40. And who will dare to contradict him! Mr. Wesley takes his fourth argument from John xv, 1-6, from whence he infers, „That true believers, who are branches of the true vine, may nevertheless finally fail,” p. 55. But as Christ is the only head of the true church, many may be visible branches in him and yet be cast into the fire for their unfruitfulness while living branches are purged and made more fruitful. And to such Christ said in the same chapter, Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit and your fruit should remain. Afterwards he said to the Father, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none, John xviii, 9. Yet, fifthly, Mr. Wesley brings 2 Pet. ii, 20, 21, to prove that „Those who by the inward knowledge of Christ have escaped the pollutions of the world, may yet fall back into those pollutions and perish everlastingly,” p. 56. But all ought to know that the dog who returns to his vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire, never had their natures changed, though their behavior was so for awhile. Therefore we are warned against giving the holy things of the church to dogs, swine, or wolves as far as we can discover them by their fruits, Matt. vii, 6, 15. His sixth argument is taken from Heb. vi, 4-8, p. 56. But we may see that the persons here spoken of are like ground which beareth thorns and briars and are entirely distinct from souls who receive the seed into good ground, Matt. xiii, 23. Our author takes his seventh argument from Heb. x, 38, which he says, if rightly translated, is, „If the just man that lives by faith draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him,” p. 58. But we ought to know that living by faith and drawing back are two opposite things, and the first is here urged as an effectual guard against the last. Eighthly, our opponent brings Heb. x, 26-29, to prove „That those who are sanctified by the blood of the new covenant may yet perish everlastingly,” p. 62. But though persons who sin willfully against the laws, blood, and Spirit of Christ will have a much sorer punishment than they who died without mercy under the law of Moses, yet this cannot prove that any such person was ever truly regenerated. However, after quoting many more Scripture warnings against disobedience and apostasy, Mr. Wesley lets us know that he would not have us consider this doctrine by itself „but as it stands in connection with unconditional reprobation, that millstone which hangs about the neck of your whole hypothesis,” p. 65.
From whence we may see that the plain language of revelation is of no avail with him against his horrid ideas of reprobation. When any try to put that terrible word out of their minds, he says, „To think about a certain number of souls, whom alone God hath decreed to save, in that very thought reprobation lurks; it entered your heart the moment that entered; it stays as long as that stays, and you cannot speak that thought, without speaking reprobation. True, it is covered with fig leaves so that a heedless eye may not observe it to be there. But if you narrowly observe, unconditional election cannot appear without the cloven foot of reprobation,” p. 9. Answer, we well know that the doctrine of particular election implies that the rest of mankind are left to perish in their sins as God might justly have dealt with us all. But this idea is rejected by Mr. Wesley. And when it was said, „You know in your own conscience that God might justly have passed by you,” he said, „I deny it. That God might justly, for my unfaithfulness to his grace, have given me up long ago, I grant, but this concession supposes me to have had that grace which you say a reprobate never had,” p. 18. Answer, We are far from believing that all the natural liberty of men is by grace, as he hath asserted, for God says, In the last days perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of their ownselves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof. From such men turn away. These resist the truth; reprobate concerning the faith, 2 Tim. iii, 1-8. This is a most exact description of the reprobates of our day. But I am far from thinking that grace gave them a power to love themselves above God and their neighbors and to run into all this wickedness under a form of Godliness, while they deny the power thereof. Yea, do not all those deny the power of it who deny particular election and final perseverance? Mr. Wesley says, „I have heard that God the Father made a covenant with his Son before the world began wherein the Son agreed to suffer such and such things and the Father to give him such and such souls for a recompense; that in consequence of this those souls must be saved, and those only, so that all others must be damned.” This idea of the covenant he rejects and says, „The tenor of it is this, Whosoever believeth unto the end, so as to show his faith by his works, I the Lord will reward that soul eternally. But whosoever will not believe, and consequently dieth in his sins, I will punish him with everlasting destruction,” pp. 44, 45. And what difference is there between this and saying, The man that doth them shall live in them? They who turn the Gospel into this sense are bewitched, Gal. iii, 1, 12. As to the covenant, Jesus said, I lay down my life for the sheep. Ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father who gave them me is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. Jesus lifted up his eyes to Heaven and said, 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, John x, 15, 26-29; xvii, 1, 2. If particular election and final perseverance are not contained in these passages, I know not what can be intended therein. And as Mr. Wesley and his followers are so vehement against that doctrine and tell of showing their faith by their works, it is needful to examine some of their works concerning America.
In November 1763, Mr. Wesley said in his Journal, „Many have been convinced of sin, many justified, and many backsliders healed. But the peculiar work of this season has been what St. Paul calls The perfecting of the saints. Many persons in London, in Bristol, in York, and in various parts both of England and Ireland have experienced so deep and universal a change as it had not before entered into their hearts to conceive. After a deep conviction of inbred sin, of their total fall from God, they have been so filled with faith and love (and generally in a moment) that sin vanished, and they found from that time no pride, anger, desire or unbelief. They could rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks. Now whether we call this the destruction or suspension of sin, it is a glorious work of God. Such work as considering both the depth and extent of it, we never saw in these kingdoms before. It is possible some who spoke in this manner were mistaken, and it is certain some have lost what they then received.” That many of them were mistaken can easily be believed; much easier than to believe that any of them were perfect and then fell from it. For as long as their controversy in Britain about taxing America was carried on by words Mr. Wesley openly appeared in our favor, but when they came to blows, he shifted sides and exerted all his extensive influence in that bloody cause, and so did Mr. John Fletcher, an author much esteemed by that sect. Mr. Wesley was in the city of Bristol in September 1774, and highly recommended to his friends a pamphlet wrote by M. P. entitled An Argument in Defence of the Exclusive Right Claimed by the Colonies to Tax Themselevs. But when the sword was drawn the next year, Mr. Wesley took out the substance of a piece wrote by Dr. J. entitled, Taxation no Tyranny and added some warm reflections of his own and published the whole as his own to inflame all his followers against us. Therefore a Baptist minister in Bristol published a brief answer to him with a mention of these facts under the name of Americanus. Hereupon Wesley reprinted his pamphlet, with a preface in which he said, „The book which this writer says I so strongly recommended, I never yet saw with my eyes. The words which he says I spoke never came out of my lips.” Two of his friends in Bristol each wrote to him that they knew he herein wronged the truth, yet he refused to make any public retraction until Mr. Caleb Evans, the said Baptist minister, published a letter to him in a newspaper, and then he said,
You affirm, 1. That I once doubted whether the measures taken in respect to America could be defended either on the foot of law, equity, or prudence. I did doubt of this five years, nay indeed five months ago. You affirm, 2. That I declared last year the Americans were oppressed, injured people. I do not remember that I did, but possibly I might. You affirm, 3. That I then strongly recommended an argument for the exclusive right of the colonies to tax themselves. I believe I did, but I am now of another mind. You affirm, 4. You say in the preface I never saw that book. I did say so; the plain case was I had so entirely forgotten it that even when I saw it again I recollected nothing of it till I had read several pages. If I had, I might have observed that you borrowed more from Mr. P. than I did from Dr. J. If you please to advance any new arguments (personal reflections I let go) you may perhaps receive a further reply from your humble servant,
London, December 9, 1775.
But did he let go personal reflections? Mr. Evans’ reply is before me wherein he says, „Your insinuating that I have taken more from Mr. P. than you have from Dr. J. is an artifice to cover your own plagiarism, too thin not to be seen through by the most superficial. It is not fact. I have not taken a line from that or any other author without acknowledging it. But when you published your address you gave not even a hint of having taken any part of it from Dr. J. or any other writer.” Thus did Mr. Wesley exert all his influence to assist Great Britain in her attempts to bind us in all cases whatever. And had they succeeded therein we should have been in as bad a case as he says Adam was before a Savior was revealed to him. Yea, as much worse as falling into the hands of unmerciful men is worse than being in the hands of a merciful God. And these men are still pursuing us with attempts to rob us of our only hope in Christ and also of the liberty wherewith he hath made us free. For in 1784 Mr. Wesley and his followers published a book in England, which they call, The Sunday Service in North America. Three orders of ministers are prescribed therein who are to have the whole power of receiving and excluding church members without calling any vote of the brethren. And when the lowest order of those ministers is to be ordained they say to him, „Will you reverently obey them to whom the charge and government over you is committed, following with a glad mind and will their Godly admonitions? Answer, I will endeavor so to do, the Lord being my helper,” p. 283. Soon after which they published a pamphlet entitled, „A Form of Discipline for the Ministers, Preachers, and Members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America Considered and Approved at a Conference held at Baltimore in the State of Maryland, on Monday the 27th of December 1784, in which the Reverend Thomas Coke, LL.D. and the Reverend Francis Asbury presided.” In their first section they say,
Question 1. What was the rise of Methodism, so called, in Europe? Answer. In 1729 two young men, reading the Bible, saw they could not be saved without holiness, followed after it, and incited others so to do. In 1737 they saw likewise that men are justified before they are sanctified, but still holiness was their object. God then thrust them out to raise an holy people. Question 2. What was the rise of Methodism, so called, in America? Answer. During the space of thirty years past, certain persons, members of the society, emigrated from England and Ireland, and settled in various parts of this country. About twenty years ago Philip Embary, a local preacher from Ireland, began to preach in the city of New York and formed a society of his own countrymen and the citizens. About the same time Robert Strawbridge, a local preacher from Ireland, settled in Frederick County in the State of Maryland, and preaching there, formed some societies. In 1769 Richard Boardman and Joseph Pilmoor came to New York who were the first regular Methodist preachers on the continent. In the latter end of the year 1771, Francis Asbury and Richard Wright of the same order came over. Question 3. What may we reasonably believe to be God’s design in raising up the preachers called Methodists? Answer. To reform the continent and spread Scripture holiness over these lands. As a proof hereof we have seen in the course of fifteen years a great and glorious work of God from New York through the Jerseys, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, even to Georgia.
And before they admit any man to preach in their society, they say to him, „Have you faith in Christ? Are you going on to perfection? Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?” After which they say, „We are all agreed, that we may be saved from all sin before death,” pp. 13, 30. Thus a society, many of whose laws are contrary to the laws of Christ and whose head is in Great Britain are spreading their influence in America and have already tried to get some of their leaders elected into the State Legislature in Virginia, if not in other States.
The law of Christ puts all Elders in the church upon a level and says to the whole community, All of you be subject one to another and be clothed with humility, for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace unto the humble, 1 Pet. v, 1-5. And when Christ came a light into the world the only persons that believed on him were born, not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God. Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God, John i, 12, 13; iii, 3. But ever since the rise of the man of sin teachers have claimed a power of office above the church which none could convey to others but officers and also a power in their wills to bring children into the kingdom of God without their own knowledge or choice. And to this day men are exceeding tenacious of this arbitrary power. The followers of Mr. Wesley say in their form of discipline, „Question 1. How is a bishop constituted? Answer. By the election of the majority of the conference and the laying on of hands of a bishop and the elders present. Question 5. If by death, expulsion, or otherwise there be no bishop remaining in our church, what method shall be pursued? Answer. Let the conference immediately elect a bishop, and let the elders, or any three of them, consecrate him to his office.” The Presbyterians hold bishops and elders to be equal but both above the church, and in this way many hold their succession of office from the old bishops in England. The President of their university in Connecticut, in a sermon before the legislature of that State, said of the first ministers in New England, „The induction of the ministers of the first churches was performed by lay brethren, and this was called ordination but should be considered what in reality it was, only induction or instalment of those who were vested with official power. These were all ordained before by the bishops in England.”1 Another of their noted ministers said to the Baptists in the same year, „To be consistent with yourselves you cannot look on any of us as Christians or any church in the world but your own denomination to be a Church of Christ; all the world but yourselves, are in a state of paganism; not one baptized person in it except yourselves; not one minister of the Gospel but your own, and when you rebaptize those in adult years, which we have baptized in their infancy, you and they jointly renounce that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost whom we adore and worship as the only living and true God and on whom we depend for all our salvation.”2 And a Presbyterian minister in North Carolina, though more charitable, yet says of the Baptists, „They made their appearance in Germany soon after the reformation began, but the present race of Baptists are happily very unlike the furious and blood-thirsty bigots who wore the name at that time. Considering that they have no written standard of orthodoxy and that their preachers are men without a liberal education, I have often sat with wonder and pleasure to hear them so sound in doctrine as they really are.”3
Indeed, it may justly be matter of thankful wonder to all considering the errors of learned ministers on every hand. For if our civil rulers should now declare, that they derived their office power from Great Britain and that the people of America had only inducted them into their offices to which they had a prior right, what a confusion should we soon be in! But this is not the worst of our case, for all who have renounced the only living and true God are pagans and the covenant of circumcision, on which infant baptism is built, required Israel to destroy all the pagans in Canaan and to seize upon their estates. And from the bloody imagination that Christians had a right to do the like came the late war. The Church of Rome acted upon this bloody imagination until England revolted from her in 1533 and set up their King as the head of their church. The inhabitants of Munster in Germany did the like in the same year. Yet the madness of Munster, because it was soon defeated, hath been cast upon all believers through the world who refused to put baptism before faith in Christ. And it is now said, „In church government the Baptists have adopted the independent plan, the inconveniency of which they often experience as it provides no final and decisive judge of controversy nor tribunal to pronounce in heresy or false doctrine. But the distinguishing characteristic of the Baptist profession is their excluding infant, and practicing only adult baptism and making it their great term of communion, excluding all other Christians from the Lord’s Table among them and not suffering their members to communicate with other churches. How they can acknowledge any other people to be a Church of Christ and yet continue this bar of separation is not to be accounted for, and we must leave them under the weight of this difficulty until themselves are pleased to remove it.”4
Here all may see that it is much easier to charge others with inconsistency than to act consistently ourselves. For these three last authors profess the doctrine of particular election and final perseverance, and yet they blame us because we dare not practically allow that persons may be brought into the covenant of grace without their own knowledge or choice, many of whom fall away and perish forever. They also condemn the independent plan of government in the church though they celebrate it in the State. But there can be no government in the State if officers therein are not invested with power to compel delinquents to submit to their lawful judgments, but the votes of officers in the church are no more than the votes of the brethren, and the whole community have no more power in this respect than to exclude unworthy members from their communion. And to allow ministers a power of office in any church which that church could not give and cannot take away is to make them lords over God’s heritage instead of being examples to the Rock. We are so far from denying the visible Christianity of all who do not see with us about baptism that we view it as a point of vast importance that none should be baptized but visible Christians. If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. Without it they are not Christians, yet many contend with us because we dare not say the contrary in practice. All who have received that Spirit ought to be baptized in water, Rom. vi, 4, viii, 9; Acts x, 47, 48. I believe that the dispensing with the plain laws of Christ and the forcibly imposing the inventions of men in his worship is the scarlet colored beast which supports the whore of Babylon. It was and is not, yet is. It will change into all shapes as circumstances and inclinations carry men. God hath many people in this mysterious city, but his voice from Heaven is, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and that ye receive not of her plagues. The writings of the apostles who have explained the prophets and all center in Jesus Christ is the only foundation of his church, and they will triumph over Babylon when she falls, Eph. ii, 19; Rev. xvii, 3, 5, 8; xviii, 4, 20. Early warning was given against grievous wolves and perverse schismatics to avoid whom God and the word of his grace is our only security, Acts xx, 29-30. The perfection of the Holy Scriptures is held up as what must be continued in if we would get out of the perils which love to self under a form of Godliness hath brought upon these last days, 2 Tim. iii, 1-5, 14-17. In those writings we have no mention of any instance of baptism without a personal profession of faith and repentance nor of anyone who was admitted into the Christian Church without water baptism.
The followers of George Fox, who have formed a large society without it have set up a rule in themselves above the Holy Scriptures. A late writer of theirs, after attempting to excuse George Fox for saying the soul was infinite, and trying to prove their opinion of an inward rule from the first chapter of the Gospel of John without being able clearly to do it, said, „Is not the apostle John’s Greek as ordinary as G. Fox’s English?”5 Thus he would set the leader of their sect on a level with the oracles of God! And it is well known that the majority of them held with Great Britain in her late bloody attempts against American liberty and also are strongly set against the doctrine of particular election and final perseverance. And can any men be found upon earth who deny that doctrine and yet make conscience of obeying the following plain rules of Scripture? In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision but faith which worketh by love. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision but a new creature, Gal. v, 6, 23; vi, 2, 6, 15, 16. God calls his covenant with Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham had no right to circumcise any stranger until he had bought him as a servant with money, Acts vii, 8; Gen. xvii, 13. But the Gospel says to Zion, Ye shall be redeemed without money. Thy God reigneth, Isai. lii, 3, 7; Rom. x, 15. He purchased the church with his own blood, Acts xx, 28. And after he had done it he said, Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing but the keeping of the commandments of God. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. I have written unto you not to keep company if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such an one, no not to eat, i Cor. v, 2; vii, 19, 23. Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them, Eph. v, 6, 7, 11. Every tree is known by his own fruit, for of thorns men do not gather figs nor of bramblebush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil, for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Luke vi, 43-46. When the blade sprung up and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. Let both grow together until the harvest. The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom, but the tares are the children of the wicked one, Matt. xiii, 26, 30, 38.
In these plain Scriptures, the covenant of circumcision is repealed by the name which God gave to it, and the church and world are clearly distinguished as two different judicatories, the one to exclude all who appear by their fruits to be fornicators, covetous, railers, drunkards, or extortioners, from their fellowship, the other to let them grow together with the children of the kingdom, in the world, until the end of it, only punishing such as work ill to their neighbors, Rom. xiii, 1-10. And fighting and oaths are allowed of in this latter government, John xviii, 36; Heb. vi, 16. And wars will not fully come to an end until the nations shall freely receive the law from Zion and guile shall be banished from the church. A loud cry will then be heard, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, Micah iv, 1-10; Rev. xiv, 1-8. The covenant of circumcision will no more be called the covenant of grace nor men be bewitched, as the Galatians were, with the practice of confounding works and grace together. God never injured Cain in giving saving faith to Abel, nor the Midianites, who were of the seed of Abraham, in electing Israel for his church, neither did he injure Korah, or the children of Reuben, Jacob’s first born, in electing Aaron and his lawful seed for priests. And he never injured any man in uniting the priestly and kingly offices in Jesus Christ and in souls who are born again, who are only the kings and priests in the Gospel-church, Heb. v, 4-6; Rev. i, 5, 6; v, 10. And no others have any right to be members therein, and they all ought ever to be like little children instead of striving who should be the greatest, Matt. xviii, 3, 4. None can have a right in the kingdom of God who do not receive it as a little child, Mark x, 15. Such are glad of gifts. But Mr. Wesley has flatly denied that God could justly have passed him by and not have given him power in his will to believe, which is his notion of grace. Wages can be recovered by law, but a gift is bestowed on whom, and in what manner the giver pleaseth. Therefore God says, Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil because I am good? So the last shall be first and the first last, for many are called but few chosen, Matt. xx, 15, 16.
This is the true idea of election which men have an amazing quarrel against. For if it depends entirely upon the will of God whether he will save any of us or not, then we can have no encouragement to set up our wills against him. If we do so, he can blast all our schemes as he pleaseth, and when we come to die he may then choose whether he will hear our cries for mercy or not. Yea, he hath assured us that he will not hear our cries then if we now delight in scorning and hate knowledge, Prov. i, 20-29. Giving diligence in the believing pursuit of virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, Godliness, brotherly kindness and charity is the only way to make our calling and election sure; while heretics are self-willed, under the name of liberty, 2 Pet. i, 5-11, ii, 1, 10, 19. Our Lord hath set before us an example of great faith which may encourage us in this pursuit, Luke vii, l-9. Here observe, 1. That this Roman centurion took all his encouragement from God as he revealed himself in his Son and none of it from any imaginary worthiness in the creature. I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof, wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee. Yet he believed that Jesus, of his own infinite mercy would grant relief. 2. He was careful to seek it in a lawful way, and before the death of Christ it was unlawful for a member of that church to keep company with other nations, Acts x, 28. Therefore he would not violate the law of God, even to save life. 3. He believed that Jesus could do it when absent as well as if he was present. Say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. Herein his faith was much greater than the faith of Martha, Mary, or of Thomas the apostle, John xi, 22, 32; xx, 29. He clearly acted by faith and not by sight. 4. He made good use of his reason to strengthen his faith, and not to weaken or destroy it, as is the case with multitudes. He said, I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth, and to another, Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doth it. And if an unworthy sinner with a commission from a heathen power could be thus obeyed, what can be too hard for the Captain of our salvation!
He took not on him the nature of angels but the seed of Abraham, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Every discovery of sin and want should speed our flight to the throne of his grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them, Heb. ii, l4-18; iv, 16; vii, 25. His only temple here below is in them who are poor and of a contrite spirit and tremble at his word. And if their brethren pretend to regard to the glory of God in hating of them and casting them out, yet he says, I shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed, Isai. 1xvi, l-5. The first Christian martyr sealed this testimony with his blood, Acts vii, 48-51. And others overcame the great accuser by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death. And when their souls shall be raised the Devil will be bound and be cast into the bottomless pit out of which the beast came who kills the two witnesses, Rev. xi, 7; xii, 11; xx, 1-4. The Word of God, both by Moses and the Lamb, is as clear as glass and as powerful as fire; and they who obtain the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name stand and act joyfully upon the sea of glass mingled with fire, 2 Cor. iii, 18; Jer. xxiii, 29; Rev. xv, 2, 3. Covetousness is idolatry, Col. iii, 5. And to destroy idolatry Elijah said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him, and if Baal, then follow him, which point was decided by fire from Heaven, 1 Kings xviii, 21, 39. And way for the first coming of our Lord was prepared by a man who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, Mal. iv, 1, 2, 5; Luke i, 17. And way for his second coming will be prepared by the raising of the souls of the old martyrs which I think means the resurrection of their Spirit and power in the churches. For God gave them not the spirit of fear but of power, of love, and of a sound mind, 2 Tim. i, 7. Even such love as to sacrifice their lives before they would violate any rule of truth or equity.
All the world have now seen that love is a vastly more powerful principle of action than fear. For as long as the Americans were afraid of destruction or slavery their union and activity defeated all the attempts of their enemies, but no sooner was that fear removed than the love of riches, honors and pleasures prevailed over contracts and oaths and filled the land with discord, treachery, and infidelity. By the love of money vast numbers have erred from the truth and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. And our only remedy is not to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God who giveth us richly all things to enjoy. That we do good, that we be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store a good foundation against the time to come that we may lay hold on eternal life, 1 Tim. vi, 9-19.
1 Stiles’s election sermon, May 8, 1783, p. 61.
2 Huntington’s address, p. 23.
3 Pattillo’s Sermons, 1788, pp. 47, 48
4 Ibid., pp. 48, 49.
5 Phipps against Newton; reprinted at Philadelphia, 1783, pp. 191, 203.
By William Tiptaft
Editor’s note: This message was preached Christmas Day, 1829, in St. Helen’s, commonly called, from its size, „the Great Church,” Abingdon, England, before the Mayor and Corporation, on the occasion of the appointment of the Master Governors of Christ’s Hospital in that town. Though the Articles and Liturgy of the Church of England maintained the doctrine Tiptaft preached, the ministers and members of that church manifested a violent hatred and opposition to it. Such preaching caused Tiptaft and his bosom friend, J. C. Philpot, to secede from the Church of England to become leaders of the Strict Baptist churches.
„She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS; for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
I stand before you this evening either as a servant of Christ or as a servant of the devil. I must be one or the other, for he that is not with Christ is against Him (Matt. 12:30); and, „Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel” (I Cor. 9:16). Paul says: „Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). Now if I preach not the Gospel which Paul preached, a curse hangs over my head. I am sure everyone present, whose heart is not as hard as stone, will tremble to think in what an awful situation we ministers are placed. Isaiah saith: „To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20); and we are commanded not to add to, nor to diminish ought from the Word of God (Deut. 4:2). We, then, as the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God, must be faithful. I call upon you this evening to compare with the Word of God whatever I may say; I beseech you to do it; and I will be careful to advance nothing but what I fully believe, and can clearly prove to be according to the Word of God, and all who have been taught of God will acknowledge and confess.
Before I proceed farther I earnestly entreat all present who have faith in Christ to lift up their hearts to God, to ask His blessing upon the truths about to be declared, that many who are dead in trespasses and sins may be aroused, awakened, and converted; that the feeble-minded may be comforted; that the wavering may be established; that those that are „strong in the Lord” (Eph. 6:10) may have their faith strengthened; and that my discourse may be so free from error that the Spirit of truth may powerfully bear testimony to it.
Our minds are lost in wonder and admiration when we consider that Jesus Christ should come to sojourn in this world, that He should be born of a virgin, should take upon Himself the form of a servant, be so despised and rejected of men as not to have a place to lay His head, and at last suffer a most ignominious death upon the cross. „Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (I Tim. 3:16). That He should come exactly in the same manner that He did was clearly foretold by the prophets a great many years before, and has been evidently fulfilled; as Isaiah saith, „Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14); and at the time expected a virgin having conceived by the Holy Ghost, brought forth a Son, and they called His name Jesus, „for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Let us, in the first place, inquire who are meant by His people that He will save. And, secondly, how they are saved from their sins.
Now, before I say more on this important subject, I beg to remind you that except ye receive the kingdom of God as a little child, ye shall not enter therein (Mark 10:15). If you understand this text of Scripture, you will know that as long as you bring your carnal reason and human learning to judge of spiritual things, they will profit you nothing. Except the Lord give you a teachable and childlike spirit, the preaching of the cross must be foolishness to you (I Cor. 1:18); for „the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14). And Paul saith: „Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain” (I Cor. 3:18-20).
No man can learn and know the spiritual meaning of the Bible to the saving of his soul, except he be taught of God. This „offensive” truth Christ told the Jews; but whenever He said anything which He knew would hurt the pride of their hearts, He used to say: „It is written in the law, or in the prophets:” then they were not able to answer Him a word, for they professed to believe them; as He said in this instance: „It is written in the prophets. And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (John 6:45). We ministers adopt the same most excellent plan, for when we advance truths which excite the enmity of carnal minds, we appeal to the Bible for the truth of what we say; and as you profess to believe it, you must justify us.
We are first to inquire who are „his people” that He will save. We all by nature imagine that Christ died for everyone in the world, but He died only for those whom God chose in Him before the foundation of the world. But we must know that what God teaches by His Holy Spirit is true doctrine, and not what man thinks. The Word of God is our standard and our guide, and whoever speaks not according to that Word, believe him not, for there is no light in him. Now Isaiah, where he is speaking so plainly of Christ, saith: „He shall see his seed;” „he shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;” „and he bare the sin of many” (Isa. 53:10,11,12). The prophet, therefore, very clearly shows that Christ came to save a peculiar people; and Christ saith: „I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). And in the same chapter He says to some of the Jews: „But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you” (John 10:26). This very plainly shows that He did not give His life for them. Paul saith: „According as he hath chosen us in him 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” (Eph. 1:4-5). And again, „Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:25-27). And the same Apostle said: „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” (II Tim. 1:9).
These words are written in the Bible. Nor has God given these texts only. Very many others besides those which I have advanced I could bring forward; for you must know that this doctrine is not mine, but God’s. Nay we, as members of the Church of England, all profess to believe it, for the XVIIth Article of our Church fully explains it: „Predestination unto life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid), he hath constantly decreed by his counsel, secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour.” His people, therefore, in the text, are those whom He hath chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.
We, in the second place, come to consider how Christ will save His people from their sins.
All by nature are „dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1; I Tim. 5:6; I John 5:12; Rom. 8:6), with hearts at enmity against God, „deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9); and not one in this state will ever seek God; for, „The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psa. 14:2,3). And Christ saith to His disciples: „Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16); and He told them: „No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44). He also saith: „I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). Therefore, none can go to Christ but those who are chosen in Him, and are drawn.
There is nothing that man can do that will recommend him to God; for all that man does till he has faith is nothing but sin. Paul, who was one of the strictest Pharisees before his conversion, saith: „We ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Titus 3:3-5). Paul told the saints at Ephesus that God had „predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph. 1:5); and Timothy, „not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace” (II Tim. 1:9). If you believe the Scriptures, you must believe that you can do nothing to recommend yourself to God’s favour; for if you have not faith, which is the gift of God, you cannot please Him; for „they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8), and „in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18). „Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one” (Job 14:4).
Those that are „dead in trespasses and sins” must be first quickened by the Spirit before the Lord will receive anything from them. „You hath he quickened,” saith Paul, „who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). This very important doctrine is clearly stated in the XIIIth Article of our Church: „Works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace; or, (as the School-authors say) deserve grace of congruity.” This Article expressly says that without faith we cannot please God. We know that faith is the gift of God. If we read over the works of the flesh we shall not find faith among them, for it is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Faith is a precious gift; but what way has the Lord appointed to confer it upon His chosen people? By the preaching of the Gospel; for „faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Go ye and „preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15,16). The plan which the Lord hath appointed to gather His people is by sending ministers to preach His Gospel; and some of His chosen people may be persecutors of the true Church, as Paul was; or hardened sinners, like the thief, who ever reviled Christ, whilst himself in agony.
The true ministers of the Gospel humble the pride of man, and make him as nothing; they show him the wickedness and deceitfulness of his own heart, and bring his life and conduct to a comparison with the pure and holy law of God. They inquire deeply into his hope of salvation, and see what foundation he is building upon. „The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day” (Isa. 2:11). When men who are endeavouring to obtain salvation by their works, who are very charitable to the poor, very regular in attending church and sacrament, and seem very rich in what they think good works, and whose religion is such as the world highly approves and commends, hear the Gospel preached, they find that Christ is not the rock upon which they are building; and all their good works and all their pride are leveled to the ground at one stroke. „Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (I Cor. 13:3). Now charity is love, which is the gift of God.
The true ministers of Christ bring men to the law; now this condemns them, and shows them to be under the curse: He that offendeth in one point is guilty of all (James 2:10). As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them (Gal. 3:10). If, then, a man offend against the law of God in one point, either in word, thought, or deed, he is under the curse. Now it is certain that no man can keep the law of God without offense, „for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21). „Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Gal. 3:24). Thus the law of God writes death in the consciences of those who are „ordained to eternal life” (Acts 13:48). They see their sins standing in array before them; they endeavour, through ignorance, to amend their lives; they labour in vain; their hearts are broken by God; for the preparations of the heart are from the Lord (Prov. 16:1). They can find no rest nor consolation, and are almost in despair. Harassed and tormented by Satan, they know not what to do, and cry out, with the jailer at Philippi, „Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).
If they have been Pharisees, their eyes are open to see the pride and hypocrisy of their religion, and they confess that all their righteousnesses are as filthy rages (Isa. 64:6). If they have been notorious sinners, they think that the Lord never came to seek such vile wretches as they are. Thus troubled and distressed, they hear the Gospel, which is „glad tidings of good things” (Rom. 10:15) to those who feel themselves lost sinners. They hear Christ set forth in all His fullness and in all His glory; they hear that the more vile they are in their own sight, the more precious will Christ be to them; they hear that if they go to Christ naked, He will clothe them; if they go unto Him hungry, He will feed them; and if they go unto Him thirsty, He will give them of the living waters, so that they shall not thirst again.
They are unwilling to go to Christ, because they have nothing to offer Him; they hear with joy that the Lord will accept nothing from men but the sacrifices of broken and contrite hearts. Thus the Lord generally calls His people. He takes from them everything in which they trusted for salvation, and then they are obliged to fly to the refuge set before them in the Gospel; they believe in Christ, and He is made unto them „wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (I Cor. 1:30). This is very humbling doctrine to the pride of man, that Christ is to be everything and man to be nothing, yea, worse than nothing, for he will never do anything but sin. Whether we be converted or not, our flesh will never do anything good. „In my flesh dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18). They who are chosen in Christ have His Spirit to dwell in them. This Spirit of Christ dwelling in a man makes him a „new creature,” so that old things pass away, and all things become new (II Cor. 5:17).
Now, observe, we can do nothing to obtain this Spirit, for all we do, or ever shall do, in the flesh, is sin, as the Xth Article of our Church clearly states: „the condition of man, after the fall of Adam, is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works to faith, and calling upon God.” We are cautioned by Solomon not to give „the sacrifice of fools, for they consider not that they do evil” (Eccl. 5:1). We cannot turn to God of ourselves; we cannot repent of ourselves, for Christ is exalted a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance (Acts 5:31; II Tim. 2:25); and thus the Scriptures, as well as the Xth and XIIIth Articles of our Church, plainly show us all to be under the curse, without the slightest power of delivering ourselves.
We ministers of the Gospel must not deceive you; all who have not the Spirit of Christ are in this state, whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not. „By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10); and Paul saith: „There is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5). God hath loved His people with an everlasting love, and therefore with lovingkindness will He draw them (Jer. 31:3).
As long as a man believes that he can do anything of himself to prepare his heart to receive grace or merit salvation, I cannot give him any present scriptural hope of being saved. If the heart be not prepared of God to receive it „without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1), he will never have it. Whilst man thinks any good dwells in his human nature, no good ever will dwell in it; for till a man is taught of God to see himself a lost and undone sinner, his body will never be the temple of the Spirit of Christ; and if he have not Christ’s Spirit, he is none of His. All must be humbled to receive salvation as a free gift, or they will never have it: „Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15). It is God that maketh us to differ; and having Christ’s Spirit given to us, with the mind we serve the law of God, though with the flesh the law of sin (Rom. 7:25). And Paul saith: „By the grace of God I am what I am.” „I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Cor. 15:10). It is my belief, and Scripture warrants me in saying so, that no man will ever go to Heaven who is not taught of God to rest so entirely on Christ for salvation as to say: „By the grace of God, I am what I am.” This is humbling to the pride of man, but salvation is of grace, and grace alone.
I will now address myself to those of this congregation who are ignorant of Christ as the true way of salvation, who have never been taught of God the truths of the Gospel, whose hearts are at enmity against God, and who hate the true doctrines of the Gospel. God grant that the warnings I am about to give you may be instrumental in converting some present who „are ordained to eternal life.” I am thoroughly convinced that you, in your present state, hate to hear the Gospel. Your minds rise in rebellion against God’s sovereignty, and you disbelieve His Word of truth. You cannot understand it, for it is foolishness to you (I Cor. 2:14); and whilst you remain in your present state, you will fight against Christ and His true Church; and if the Lord should not convert you, you will hate Him and His Gospel to the day of your death. Now I well know that you would rather hear any other doctrine than the true Gospel. The „truth as it is in Jesus” must offend you. You love to have ministers to feed your pride and flatter your vanity, by preaching to you reformation instead of regeneration; free will instead of free grace; the righteousness of man instead of the imputed righteousness of Christ. You do not like to hear the law preached faithfully, for that condemns you; you do not like to hear the Gospel preached faithfully, for that offends you; but you like to have the law and the Gospel mixed, which spoils both, and only makes men rest contentedly in a fatal security.
You cannot be saved by your own righteousness, for „then Christ is dead in vain.” So you must be saved by either Christ’s righteousness, or your own righteousness and Christ’s mixed. Consider whether your pride is great enough to make you think that your own righteousnesses, which are „as filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6), will be required to adorn the wedding garment prepared by Christ Himself. You may be ready to say to me that Christ told the young man who asked Him, „What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” „If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:16, 17). Here Christ brought him to the law, that he might be condemned. And so I say to you: „If you will enter into life, keep the commandments,” and then you will have fulfilled the law as well as Christ; but remember, if you offend in one point you are guilty of all, and are under the curse. Therefore, bring yourselves to this test, and, like the young man, you will be convinced that you cannot gain Heaven in that way; for the law condemns every man; and Christ saith: „I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
Do you believe in Christ? Are you sure that you do? Perhaps you think that you believe, because you have never doubted. „He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself” (I John 5:10). What witness have you? „The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him” (Ps. 25:14). What secret of the Lord do you know? Christ saith: „I know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10:14). Do you know Christ? Paul saith: „All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12). What persecution have you suffered? „We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (I John 3:14). You cannot say that you have passed from death unto life, because you do not believe that man is dead in sins. Do you love the brethren? Do you love Jesus Christ? Are you willing to endure much persecution for Him? Would you die for Him? Do you love the blessed truths of the Gospel? Do you find the doctrine of predestination and election in Christ to be „full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort,” as the XVIIth Article saith it is? Do you like to hear of election and free grace, or do you like to hear ministers lower God by making Him man’s equal, so that man may make conditions with him in this manner–that man is to do all the good he can, by attending church and the sacrament, giving alms, being just in his dealings, and leading a good moral life; and that God, on his part, must grant Heaven on such terms? This is the vain religion of millions (a mere mercenary bargain for Heaven), who serve God for a slavish fear of Hell, as a hard task-master. This is what man calls a reasonable religion, and what thousands of strict professors will advocate.
I tell you plainly again, to the praise and glory of God, that He chose in Christ, before the world began, those whom He intended to deliver from curse and damnation. God so loved them that Christ died for them; but no one will come to Christ of his own free will, and yet all shall come; for Christ saith: „All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). They were ordained to do good works; the Lord calls them and sanctifies them, and prepares them for the mansions already prepared for them in Heaven; and not one will be lost.
This doctrine is not mine, but God’s; if you will read Romans 8 and 9, Ephesians 1-3, and John 10 and 17, you will acknowledge the truths are there, if you cannot believe and love them; and compare the Xth, XIth, XIIth and XVIIth Articles of our Church with them and the doctrines which I have delivered this evening, and you will be obliged to say that you, as Churchmen, profess to believe them. Satan will help you to explain them away, if it were possible. But if ye will not hear Paul, hear Solomon: „The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Prov. 16:4). Some, who know these truths to be there, but cannot love them, may be ready to say that ministers ought to guard them. God has not told me to do so, and if He did not think proper to guard His own pure Word, He does not want vain man to guard it for Him. Satan loves to have it guarded, for he well knows that Gospel-guarders never did and never will disturb his kingdom. We know that Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for keeping back part of the price. What, then, may we ministers expect if we keep back part of His blessed Gospel? Many present will say, that the true doctrines of the Gospel are foolish, unreasonable, and absurd; therefore you, whosoever you may be, bear a strong testimony to the truth of them; for „the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness.” When Paul and Silas preached the Gospel to the Thessalonians, they cried out: „These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:6). But the Bereans „searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed” (Acts 17:11, 12). Alas! you think yourselves „rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing;” and know not that you are „wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
Now I will speak a few words to you, my brethren, who know Jesus. You can bear testimony to the truth of what I have said. „We love him, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). The doctrines which the natural man hates, you love to hear; they are the comfort and delight of your souls; and when you hear self-righteous doctrines, you are grieved, and pity the preacher and his hearers. You can say with the Reformers: „That we are justified by faith only, is most wholesome doctrine” (XIth Article); for you well know that in your flesh nothing but sin dwells; you say with David to God: „All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee” (I Chron. 29:14). And if the Lord required even a single good thought of you, of yourselves, you certainly would be damned. You know that you were blind, and the Lord hath opened your eyes to see your lost state by nature, that you might be brought to Christ, and be found in Him, not having your own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith (Phil. 3:9). You acknowledge that if the Lord had not chosen you, you would never have chosen Him, and you would still have been fighting with the world and the devil against Christ. You once hated to hear of election, as natural men must do. You know when Christ preached it, it always gave offense. In Luke, when He preached election, they endeavoured to cast Him down headlong from the brow of a hill. When He preached it again, „many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:65-66). When he clearly stated it again, the Jews said: „He hath a devil, and is mad” (John 10:20). Paul, who boldly declared the truth as it is in Jesus, caused his hearers to say of him: „Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (Acts 22:22); and, „This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law” (Acts 18:13). They considered him a fool, and counted him „as the filth of the earth, and the off-scouring of all things” (I Cor. 4:10, 13). And if ministers preached as faithfully now as Paul did, would natural men like to hear them? Nature is not changed, the Gospel is not changed, and Christ is not changed. Therefore, when the Gospel is faithfully preached now, all who are not taught of God to receive it, of whatever sect or denomination they may be, will speak against and condemn it, if it be the same which Paul preached. As God said to Jeremiah: „Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her” (Jer. 12:9). Yes, everyone is against the true Church of Christ who are not of it, as Christ saith: „Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake” (Matt. 10:22); and they said to Paul, as „concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against” (Acts 28:22). Shall we grieve, my brethren, at this? No. Christ saith, „Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:12).
The Scriptures abound with words of consolation to the persecuted; for a Christian without persecution is as great a contradiction as a fire without heat. The stronger your faith is, the more you will be hated. You, my brethren, who have the Spirit of God bearing witness with your spirit that you are the children of God (Rom. 8:16), may you never be ashamed of Christ dwelling in you; for if you have not His Spirit, you are none of His; and if you have His Spirit, your salvation is as certain as if you were in Heaven. But the fruits of your faith will as evidently appear and be known as a tree is known by its fruit. If your faith does not influence your lives, and work by love, it is dead, and will profit you nothing. You are only Judases and hypocrites. „Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I John 2:3, 4). You serve God as sons, not as a task-master, like slaves. Love makes you rich in good works in Christ. Love constrains you to be holy; your joy and happiness must be great; your sins are pardoned; your righteousness and sanctification are in Christ; the work has been done for you, and Christ hath told you so when He said, with His expiring breath, „It is finished!” (John 19:30). Though you must be vile and worthless in the world’s esteem, you are precious in God’s sight, and „he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye” (Zech. 2:8). No one can injure you without God’s permission, and all things shall work together for your good (Rom. 8:28). May the world bring no other charge against you than they did against Daniel, which was his religion. If you will reign with Christ, you must first suffer with Him. You must bear the cross before you can wear the crown; but this life will soon pass away, and then you shall receive those blessed mansions which were prepared for you before the foundation of the world, and enjoy unutterable pleasures at God’s right hand for evermore.