« السابقةمتابعة »
As JEHOVAH is the former of universal nature, the supporter and governor of all worlds; and as it is not consistent with the perfection of an infinite Agent to act without the highest and noblest design; so the adored Creator, before he imparted existence, or time commenced, proposed and appointed an end worthy of Himself, in all he determined to do. This was his own glory. This was his grand design in all the various ranks of existence to which his almighty fiat gave birth. Not a single creature in the vast scale of dependent being, but is connected with this as its ultimate end. The loftiest seraph that surrounds the throne, and the meanest insect that crawls in the dust, have the same original Parent, and are designed to answer the same exalted end in different ways. To deny this, or to suppose that the most perfect Agent did not act for the most worthy purpose, is highly derogatory to the dignity of the First Cause.
Nobly conspicuous, among the various orders of animate and inanimate existence in this lower creation, was man when first formed, and recent from the hands of his Maker. Man, therefore, as bearing the lively impress of his great Creator's image; possessing such elevated faculties and large capacities for operation and enjoyment, was designed, in a peculiar manner, to answer this highest of all purposes. Nor was the entrance of sin subversive of the grand design, but made subservient to it in various ways. It was impossible that such an event should bring confusion into the stupendous plan of divine operation which consummate wisdom had formed. For, known to omniscient God are all his works, and all events from the beginning of the world.' All that is comprehended in what men call contingent, is absolute certainty with Him who is perfect in knowledge. The entrance of sin, therefore, among the moral agents, whe ther angels or men, could not possibly frustrate Jehovah's purpose, or render his original designs abortive. 'The counsel of the Lord shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure.' And though the entrance of moral
evil among mankind was an awful event; though Adam and every individual of his numerous offspring were contaminated, injured, and ruined by it; yet it appears from divine revelation, that He who declares the end from the beginning,' not only foresaw it, but from eternity determined to display his perfections, and promote his glory by it. His determination was, to glorify himself in the complete salvation and endless felicity of some of the apostate race, and in the righteous condemnation of others; so that a revenue of glory shall arise to the great Supreme from all mankind. This glory shall arise, as well from that haughty Egyptian monarch who renounced God's dominion, and said,' Who is JEHOVAH, that I should obey him?" as from the king of Israel, whose exalted character is, 'A man after God's own heart.' As well from a traitorous Judas, who sold his Master's blood; as from a faithful Paul, who counted not his very life dear, so that he might finish his course with joy, and promote the Saviour's honour. These shall be the monuments of sovereign grace! those of righteous vengeance, and both for the glory of God to all eternity. Nor is any thing more agreeable to right reason, or the sacred scripture, than to conclude, that as JEHOVAH is the First Cause, so he should be the last end; and that he should be at the most perfect liberty to dispose of his offending creatures in what way he pleases, for his own glory. To dispute this, is to deny his divine supremacy, and, with Pharaoh, to renounce his eternal dominion.
Such being the final cause of the creation in general, and of mankind in particular, that sovereign Being, who has an absolute right to do what he will with his own, having determined to create man and to leave him to the freedom of his own will, foreseeing he would certainly fall; of his free distinguishing love, chose a certain number out of the apostate race of Adam, and ordained them to a participation of grace here, and to the enjoyment of glory hereafter. In the execution of which purpose, by means every way becoming the
Deity, he determined to display and to glorify all his infinite excellencies, Such is that immanent act of God, which is commonly called Election, and the subject of this chapter.
The doctrine of election, or, which is the same thing, the doctrine of distinguishing grace, is now generally exploded by our modern, rational, and polite divines. It is deemed unworthy of serious notice by the learned and philosophic gentlemen of the present age. And though it cannot be denied to have made a considerable figure in those systems of divinity that were adopted by men of eminence for piety and learning in former ages, and particularly by our first reformers from Popery; yet now it is ranked, by many, among the rash opinions of a credulous antiquity. It is cashiered as a doctrine abhorrent to reason, and as at eternal war with the moral perfections of God. It is consigned over to oblivion, as worthy of no more regard than the bold inquiries and wild conclusions, the laborious, trifling, and learned lumber of the ancient, doting, Popish schoolmen. It is traduced also as a declared enemy to practical piety, and as highly injurious to the comfort and hope of mankind. This being the case, we need not wonder that it is now become quite unfashionable.
But what is the reason of this tragical outcry against it? IfI be not greatly deceived, it is as follows. This doctrine lays the axe at the root of all our boasted moral excellence. This doctrine, in its native consequences, demolishes every subterfuge of human pride; as it leaves not the shadow of a difference between one man and another, why the Deity should regard and save this person rather than that; but teaches all who know and all who embrace it, to rest in that memorable maxim, Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight;' resolving the whole into divine grace and divine sovereignty. Without paying the least compliment to the learning, sagacity, or character of any who dare to arraign the divine conduct, it repels their insolence in the following
blunt manner, Nay, but, O man! who art thou that repliest against God? It further teaches, that as unmerited kindness and sovereign favour began the work of salvation, so the same grace must carry it on and complete the vast design; while the Most High, ever jealous ofhis honour, is determined to have all the glory. Other reasons might be mentioned, but these may suffice to show that the spirit ofindependence, which is natural to man, and reigns in the unregenerate, must be fired with resentment by such an attack upon it. Hence the few votaries of this unpopular doctrine must expect reproach and ridicule, if not something more severe, to attend the profession of a tenet so impolite.
It is not, however, my present design to enter upon a laboured defence of this offensive doctrine. I shall leave that to the friends of truth, who have more leisure and greater abilities; which, indeed, has been already often performed with great advantage to the church of God. I shall, therefore, content myself with taking a short view of the principal branches of this article of the Christian faith; with proposing a few arguments, which appear to me plain and pertinent, in vindication of it; and with pointing out its proper improvement.
That they who are called the elect, in the volume of inspiration, are a people distinguished from others, and that all mankind are not included under that denomination, are truths so evident as scarcely to need any proof. These things are so obvious, from the allowed signification of the term, and the tenor of divine revelation, as to leave no room for dispute. From the signification of the term: For where all, whether persons or things, are equally accepted, there is no preference given; there is no choice made; there are none left. But to elect and to choose are the same thingWhere any are chosen, others must be refused. From the tenor of divine revelation: As it is written, 'I speak not of you all; I know whom I have chosenI have chosen you out of the world-the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded."
That they who are so denominated, are not churches or collective bodies, appears with superior evidence from what is asserted concerning them, in the same infallible rule of our faith and practice. They are described as having their names written in hea ven,' ' and in the book of life.' They are said to be' ordained to eternal life,' and chosen to salvation. And in the boldest manner imaginable it is asked by one who was thoroughly acquainted with their state and privileges,' who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?' Now, a small degree of discernment will enable us to conclude, that these things cannot be affirmed with truth concerning nations, churches, or communities of any sort, considered as such. But, on the contrary, they strongly imply, that the elect are particular persons, whose names are in a peculiar manner known to God, as distinguished from others; that election relates to spiritual blessings and eternal enjoyments; and that the objects of it are dear to God, and for ever precious in his sight.
That the objects of election are particular persons, may further appear from hence: From the beginning Jehovah designed to manifest his love in the salvation of sinners. The damnation inflicted on many puts it beyond a doubt, that this design extended only to some, for all are not saved, and the divine purpose cannot be rendered void. This salvation was to be wrought by his own Son, as invested with the character, and performing the work, of a Mediator and Surety. As a Mediator and Substitute, he was to obey, and bleed, and die; die, under a charge of the blackest guilt, and feeling the weight of the heaviest curse. It was necessary, therefore, to be determined, how many, and who in particular, should be interested in this wonderful work, and saved by it. Their persons, as well as their situation and wants, must be known to him, and distinguished from others. For it is absurd to suppose, that he should engage as a substitute to perform obedience and pour his blood; to lay down his life as a ransom to satisfy justice, and all this B