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For non-election is not a punishment, it is only the withholding of a free favour, which the sovereign Lord of all may bestow on whomsoever he pleases.
When the whole world is considered as ' guilty before God,' we must allow that he had an unlimited right to determine about the final state of men, just as he pleased. He was at perfect liberty to determine whether he would save any or not. He might have left all to perish, or he might have decreed the salvation of all; or he might purpose to save some, and reject others; and so determining, he might love and save, he might condemn and destroy, whom he pleased. Surely, then, it cannot be absurd in reason, or inconsistent with the divine character, to suppose that he actually has chosen some to infinite glory, and determined to punish others with everlasting torment. To acknowledge that all have sinned against God, forfeited his favour, and deserve to perish, and at the same time to suppose that he might not leave what number he pleased to condemnation and wrath, imply a contradiction. For they who might not be rejected, whether more or fewer, must have a claim on Jehovah's favour; consequently not justly liable to perish, which is contrary to the supposition.
It is eternally fit that God should order all things according to his own pleasure. His infinite greatness, majesty, and glory certainly entitle him to act as an incontrollable Sovereign, and that his will should in all things take place. He is worthy, supremely worthy, of making his own glory the end of all that he does; and that he should make nothing but the dictates of his own wisdom, and the determinations of his own will, his rule in pursuing that end, without asking leave or counsel of any creature, and without giving an account of any of his matters.' It is perfectly agreeable that He who is infinitely wise and absolutely perfect, should order all things according to his own will-even things of the greatest importance, such as the complete salvation or the eternal
damnation of sinners. It is right that he should thus be sovereign, because he is the first, the eternal Being, and the fountain of existence. He is the Creator of all things, and they are absolutely and universally dependent upon him; it is therefore entirely consistent with his character, that he should act as the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth.
Further If this objection were founded in truth, God could not exercise mercy in his own right, nor would the blessings of his grace be his own to give. That of which he may not dispose as he pleases, is not his own if not his own, he cannot make a present of it to any of his creatures, they having a claim upon it; for it is absurd to talk of giving to any one that to which he had a right in equity. But what would this objection make of God? Must the High and Lofty One be so circumscribed in the exercise of his grace, that he must not manifest it at his own pleasure in bestowing his gifts; but if he dispense them to one, must be obliged to give them to another, or be obnoxious to the charge of partialityand cruelty? Shocking to think! The very thought is blasphemy. This impious imagination arises, absurd as it is, from the high opinion we form of ourselves, and the diminutive thoughts we entertain of our Maker.*
But why should the objector be so much concerned about the honour of divine justice in the conduct of God towards mankind, on the supposition that he has chosen some and rejected others? Why should he not be as much concerned lest the glory of his Maker should suffer a stain by the final rejection of all the angels who sinned and fell from their first estate? Certainly there is equal if not superior reason. Why, then, does he not plead the cause of those old apostates, those damned spirits, and quarrel with God because he has shown more regard to fallen men than fallen angels? Yet he is under no pain on their account, nor so much as once suspects that the divine character will lose any part of its glory, because they
* Mr. Jon. Edwards' Disc. on Imp. Sub. p. 203, 204. edit. Bost.
are all, without one exception, the objects of Jehovah's eternal vengeance. But, very likely, he concludes that they deserve to be damned. True; and do not men? If not-how shall I speak it ?—the law of God is unrighteous, for it denounces damnation as the desert of sin. The death of Christ was an unnecessary and shocking event, the capital parts of the Bible unworthy of the least regard, and the distinguishing doctrines of Christianity no better than a dream, a fable-a gross imposition on all who believe them. Without admitting this fundamental truth,that men, considered as sinners, deserve to perish for ever, we can behold neither equity in the law, nor grace in the gospel. The eternal rectitude of the great Lawgiver, and the amiable glories of the wonderful Saviour, are quite obscured; while the whole economy of redemption, as revealed in scripture, is thrown into the utmost confusion. Consequently the objector has no alternative, but either to give up his point, or blaspheme his Maker.
The truth maintained may be considered, by way of improvement, as it respects the careless sinner and the real Christian.-As it respects the careless sinner. Is this your character, reader? If so, it is happily adapted to strike your conscience and alarm your fears, to arouse your lethargic soul, and awaken your inquiries about eternal things. You have seen that it is a righteous thing with God to execute justice on all who are guilty; and that if he had left all mankind to perish, none would have had a right to complain. Now, though he has, of his mere grace, chosen a number of the fallen race, and determined to bring them to glory, yet millious are left to suffer the awful desert of their crimes. How, then, do you know but this may be your case? Remember, thoughtless mortal! that if you be rejected of God, you are lost for ever. And are you still unconcerned about your soul? then you are a condemned creature. The sentence of a broken law, and the wrath of an awful Judge, abide you. You are in the hands of an offended God; and,
shocking to think! you are dreadfully uncertain what he will do with you. It may be, you are sometimes afraid what will become of you-afraid lest you should have your portion in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. Yes, and be it known to you, that while you are habitually careless about your eternal interests, and love pleasure more than God, you have reason to fear-your apprehensions of eternal punishment have a real foundation-you have reason to tremble every moment. But you will do well to remember, that though you be ever so much afraid of the final event, though everlasting damnation be 'ever so dreadful, yet it is what you have justly deserved. Your injured Maker and affronted Sovereign may inflict it upon you, and still be righteous, and holy, and glorious in it. However dreadful it now is in your apprehension, or however intolerable it would be in the execution on your part as a criminal, neither the one nor the other can render it the less righteous on the part of God. You should remember, sinner, that your Maker sustains the character of an universal Sovereign and righteous Judge. His honour, therefore, is deeply concerned in punishing the guilty. Though damnation be worse than the loss of being, yet you have no reason to complain of injustice, unless you can form a perfect estimate of what degree of guilt attends innumerable acts of rebellion against unlimited authority, infinite majesty, and boundless perfection; and, upon a just comparison of the degree of guilt with the intenseness and duration of the punishment, can pronounce them unequal. But who can tell to what an enormous height the guilt of one single act of rebellion against infinite Majesty must arise in the boundless empire of God? We may boldly affirm that none but the Omniscient, noue but He who is possessed of that peerless majesty, can solve the question. Meditate on these awful truths, and may the Lord enable you to flee from the wrath to come!'*
* Hence it appears, that as the doctrine of God's general and equal love to mankind, and the sentiment of universal redemption, are too
Does my reader profess to believe and embrace this divine truth? Has he tasted that the Lord is gracious, and is he a real Christian? This doctrine informs him whence his happiness flows, and to whom the glory is due. By it he is taught, that Grace is an absolute Sovereign; that she dispenses her favours to whomsoever she pleases, without being subject to the least control. Here she appears maintaining her rights, and asserting her honours, with a grandeur becoming herself. Yes, reader, this doctrine presents you with Grace on the throne; while, like an herald, with a friendly importunity and commanding voice, it cries in your ear, Bow the knee!--And as this doctrine presents you with a view of grace in its sovereign glory, so it points out the objects of eternal love as in a state of the utmost security. For, who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?' To know your interest, therefore, in the election of grace, is a matter of great importance; and that such a knowledge is attainable, is evident from that exhortation of the Holy Ghost,' Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure;' sure to your own mind, and satisfactory to your own conscience. That such a persuasion, grounded on truth, is intimately connected with a Christian's peace and joy, is beyond a doubt. Nor is there any other difficulty in attaining the certainty, than what attends an undoubted persuasion of our being called by grace.' Whoever has a right to conclude that he is called by the gospel and converted to Christ, may, from the very same premises, infer his election. For none but those that were chosen to life and happiness, are born of God, or believe in Christ. If, then, you espouse the doctrine, you should not be satisfied with merely avowing the senevidently calculated to lull the conscience asleep, under a false presumption and delusory hope of interest in the Redeemer, and happiness by him, where there are no evidences of regeneration, nor any proofs of love to God and his ways; so the doctrine of eternal, distinguishing grace, and of the Mediator's substitution in the stead of the chosen seed, have an obvious tendency to alarm the careless sinner, and awaken the drowsy formalist.