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XIII. I am to show how it may be known who are elected.
Those of the elect that are already converted are known by their character and conduct. They demonstrate the reality of their election by their obedience to God. Those that are unconverted may settle the question each one for himself whether he is elected or not, so as to have the most satisfactory evidence whether he is of that happy number. If you will now submit yourselves to God, you many know that you are elected. But every hour you put off submission, increases the evidence that you are not elected. INFERENCES AND REMARKS I. Foreknowledge and election are not inconsistent with free agency, but are founded upon it. The elect were chosen to eternal life, because God foresaw that in perfect exercise of their freedom, they could be induced to repent and embrace the Gospel.
II. You see why many persons are opposed to the doctrine of election, and try to explain it away; 1st they misunderstand it, and 2d. they deduce unwarrantable inferences from it. They suppose it to mean, that the elect will be saved at all events, whatever their conduct may be; and again they infer from the doctrine that there is no possibility of the salvation of the non-elect. Their understanding of the doctrine would be an encouragement to the elect to persevere in sin, knowing that their salvation was sure, and their inference would drive the non-elect to desperation, on the ground that for them to make efforts to be saved would be of no avail. But both the doctrine, as they understand it, and the inference are false. For election does not secure the salvation of the elect irrespective of their character and conduct; nor, as we have seen, does it throw any obstacle in the way of the salvation of the non-elect.
III. This view of the subject affords no ground for presumption on the one hand, nor for despair upon the other. No one can justly say, If i am to be saved, I shall be saved, do what I will, Nor can any one say, if I am to be damned, I shall be damned, do what I will. But the question is left, so far as they are concerned, as a matter of entire contingency. Sinners, your salvation or damnation is as absolutely suspended upon your own choice, as if God neither knew or designed any thing about it.
IV. This doctrine lays no foundation for a controversy with God. But on the other hand it does lay a broad foundation for gratitude, both on the part of the elect and the non-elect. The elect certainly have great reason for thankfulness that they are thus distinguished. Oh what a thought, to have your name written in the book of life, to be chosen of God an heir of eternal salvation, to be adopted into his family, to be destined to enjoy his presence, and to bathe your soul in the boundless ocean of his love forever and ever. Nor are the non-elect without obligations of thankfulness. You ought to be grateful if any of your brethren of the human family are saved. If all were lost, God would be just. And if any of your neighbors or friends, or any of this dying world receive the gift of eternal life, you ought to be grateful and render everlasting thanks to God.
V. The non-elect often enjoy as great or greater privileges than the elect. Many men have lived and died under the sound of the gospel, have enjoyed all the means of salvation during a long life, and have at last died in their sins, while others have been converted upon their first hearing the Gospel of God. Nor is this difference owing to the fact that the elect always have more of the strivings of the Spirit than the non-elect. Many who die in their sins appear to have had conviction for a great part of their lives; have often been deeply impressed with a sense of their sins and the value of their souls, but have strongly intrenched themselves under the refuge of lies, have loved the world and hated God, and fought their way through all the obstacles that were thrown around them to hedge up their way to death, and have literally forced their passage to the gates of hell.
VI. Why should the doctrine of election be made a stumbling block in the way of sinners. In nothing else do they make the same use of the purposes and designs of God, as on the subject of religion; any yet in every thing else God's purposes and designs are as much settled and have as absolute an influence. God as certainly designed the day and circumstances of your death as whether your soul shall be saved. It is not only expressly declared in the Bible, but is plainly the doctrine of reason. What would you say on going home from meeting, if you should be called in to see a neighbor who was sick, and on inquiry you should find he would neither eat nor drink, and that he was nearly starved to death: on expostulating with him upon his conduct, he should calmly reply, that he believed in the sovereignty of God, in foreknowledge, election, and decrees; that his days were numbered, that the time and circumstances of his death were settled, that he could not die before his time, and that all the efforts he could make would not enable him to live a moment beyond his time. If you attempted to remonstrate against his inference, and such an abuse and perversion of the doctrine of decreed, he should accuse you of being a heretic, of not believing in divine sovereignty. Now should you see a man on worldly subjects reasoning and acting thus, you would pronounce him crazy. Should farmers, mechanics, and merchants reason in this way in regard to their worldly business, they would be considered fit subjects for bedlam.
VII. How forcibly the perversion and abuse of this doctrine illustrate the madness of the human heart, and its utter opposition to the terms of salvation. The fact that God foreknows and has designs in regard to every other event, is not made an excuse for remaining idle or worse than idle on these subjects. But where their duty to God is concerned, and here alone, they seize the Scriptures and wrest them to their own destruction. How impressively does this fact bring out the demonstration that sinners want an excuse for disobeying God, that they desire an apology for living in sin, that they seek an occasion for making war upon their Maker.
VIII. I have said that the question is as much open for your decision, that you are left as perfectly to the exercise of your freedom, as if God neither knew nor designed any thing in regard to your salvation. Suppose there was a great famine in this city, and that John Jacob Astor alone had provisions in great abundance, that he was a benevolent and liberal-minded man, and willing to supply the whole city with provisions free of expense, and suppose there existed a universal and most unreasonable prejudice against him, insomuch that when he advertised in the daily papers that his store-houses were open, that whosoever would might come and receive provisions, without money and without price, they all with one accord began to make excuse and obstinately refused to accept the offers. Now suppose that he should employ all the cartmen to carry provisions around the city, and stop at every door. But still they strengthened each others hands, and would rather die that be indebted to him for food. Many had said so much against him that they were utterly ashamed to feel and acknowledge their dependence upon him. Others were so much under their influence, as to be unwilling to offend them, and so strong was the tide of public sentiment, as that no one had the moral courage to break loose from the multitude and accept of life. Now suppose that Mr. Astor knew beforehand the state of the public mind, and that all the citizens hated him, and had rather die than be indebted to him for life. Suppose he also knew from the beginning that there were certain arguments that he could bring to bear upon certain individuals that would change their minds, and that he should proceed to press them with these considerations until they had given up their opposition, had most thankfully accepted his provisions, and were saved from death. Suppose he used all the arguments and means that he wisely could to persuade the rest, but that nevertheless all his benevolent efforts they adhered to the resolution and preferred death to submission to his proposals. Now suppose he had perfect knowledge from the beginning, of the issue of this whole matter; would not the question of life and death be as entirely open for the decision of every individual as if he knew nothing about it.
IX. Some may ask why, does God use means with the non-elect, provided he is certain they will not accept? I answer because he designs that they shall be without excuse. He will demonstrate his willingness and their obstinacy before the universe. He will rid his garments of their blood; and although he knows that their rejection of the offer will only enhance their guilt and aggravate their deep damnation, still he will make the offer, as there is no other way in which to illustrate his infinite willingness to save them, and their perverse rejection of his grace.
Lastly, God requires you to give all diligence to make your calling and election sure. In choosing his elect, you must understand, that he has thrown the responsibility of their being saved upon them, that the whole is suspended upon their consent to the terms; you are all perfectly able to give your consent, and this moment to lay hold on eternal life. Irrespective of your own choice no election can save you, and no reprobation can damn you. The spirit and the bride say Come, let him that heareth say Come, let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take the waters of life freely. The responsibility is yours. God does all that he wisely can, and challenges you to show what more he could do that he has not done. If you go to hell, you must go stained with your own blood. God is clear, angels are clear. To your own master your stand or fall; mercy waits, the Spirit strives; Jesus stands at the door and knocks; do not then pervert this doctrine, and make it an occasion of stumbling till you are in the depth of hell. This lecture was typed in by Valerie Mitchell. REPROBATION Jeremiah vi. 30 - Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them.
These words were spoken of a generation of Israel with whom God had used every suitable means to reclaim and save them; and who had withstood them all, and had remained obstinate and unrepentant to the last. God says to them, O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes; make thee mourning as for an only son, most bitter lamentations, for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us.
I have set thee, he says to the prophet, for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and try their ways. They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders; they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters. The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire, the founder melteth in vain, for the wicked are not plucked away. Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them.: This is a striking instance of the use of figurative languages in the Bible, as the best possible means of conveying truth. Literal language may vary its meaning; may be understood differently by different individuals, and change with the lapse of years. But figurative language always remains the same, conveys the same ideas, in all ages and to all nations. Here the people of Israel were compared to metal which a refiner was trying to purify in the fire. The means which God had used to sanctify them, are compared to fire, and the refiner is represented as having raised his heat to such a degree as to burn the bellows, and, as it were, to consume the metal itself by the intensity of the heat; and yet could not succeed in separating the dross from the silver. He then pronounces it reprobate, or refuse silver, fit only to be thrown away. That is, the house of Israel were incorrigible; and the more strenuously God pressed the means of their sanctification, the more did their reprobacy and obstinacy manifest itself. God therefore declared that men should call them reprobate, and should understand and say that the Lord had rejected them.
You will perceive that my present object is to discuss the doctrine of REPROBATION. The following is the order in which I shall present the subject:
1st. Show what I understand by the doctrine.
2d. What are not the reasons on which this doctrine is founded.
3d. What are the reasons.
4th. When men are reprobated.
5th. Why the reprobate were created.
6th. That the reprobate are not lost because they were reprobated.
7th. That the salvation of the reprobate is still suspended upon their own choice, and put within their own power.
8th. That the doctrine of reprobation is just.
9th. That it is impartial.
10th. That it is benevolent.
11th. It is the best thing that can be done for the universe, all things considered.
12th. How it may be known who are reprobates.
You will see that I must very much condense what I design to say under each of these heads, and content myself with giving but an outline of this important doctrine. The subject is so copious, that in looking over it, my mind has been embarrassed to know what to leave out, rather than what to say. It is like a mine of gold, the deeper you go the richer the vein.
1st. What is the doctrine of reprobation.
The term signifies something refuse, good for nothing, rejected as of no use. To reprobate a thing is to pronounce it good for nothing, rejected, cast away. The reprobate among mankind are they who are to be lost, to be cast out from the presence of God, and the glory of his power for ever. It is not part of my present design to prove that any part of mankind will be finally lost. I am preaching to a congregation who admit this to be true. To attempt to prove this therefore is unnecessary and irrelevant on the present occasion. It is only necessary now to say that those who will be finally rejected and lost are the reprobates.
2d. I am to show what are not the reasons upon which this doctrine is founded. In other words, what are not the reasons that reprobates are lost.
1. Not because God has any malevolent feelings to gratify or any ill-will towards all his creatures. He never feels malevolently towards the most wicked beings in the universe. He blames them, and feels grieved and indignant at their conduct, but he is never malevolent. God is often represented in the Bible as being angry with the wicked; and these representations are just, and the Bible means as it says. He is angry, but his anger is not malevolent. He has the feelings of a good governor, who sees rebels arrayed against the government, introducing disorder, and destroying public and private happiness. God feels a benevolent opposition to such conduct, a holy indignation, in degree equal to his love of virtue and happiness. His love to the public good makes him resolute and firm in executing the laws against them.
2. They are not reprobated because the glory of God or the interest of the universe require their damnation, if they will repent. Some have represented the reprobation and damnation of a part of mankind, as indispensable to the glory of God and the good of the universe. They have supposed that God's whole moral character could in no other way be displayed. They suppose that sin was the necessary means of the greatest good, and that God decreed the sins, the reprobacy, and damnation of the finally unrepentant as the only means of developing before the universe the whole circle of divine attributes, and producing upon the whole the greatest amount of good. That consequently, he really prefers the existence of sin to it's non-existence, rebellion to obedience, the damnation of a part of mankind, to the salvation of the whole. Now I look upon this to be a dangerous error, to be highly dishonorable to God, injurious to his government, and in a high degree calculated to stir up rebellion against his throne. I do not suppose that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, and I look upon punishment as rendered necessary only because moral agents have not been, and will not be, obedient without witnessing execution of law. If all the subjects of God's government had continued obedient, a practical illustration of Divine justice had been uncalled for. If without the infliction of the penalty, all God's subjects had continued to obey, it would not have been to the glory of God, but to the infinite dishonor of God, to have sent any one to hell. Such strong measures as the execution of the infinite penalty of God's law, so far from being called for in the abstract, and essential to his glory, are only warrantable and appear glorious in him, when all milder means fail to procure and perpetuate obedience. I would ask, what is the particular use in developing the attribute of justice, but to procure respect for God's authority, and thus secure obedience? But if men were obedient without this practical illustration or exhibition of justice, certainly punishment would be uncalled for.
God's glory required that men should be reprobated and damned simply in view of the fact, that they would sin and persist in rebellion; not that his glory required both their rebellion and damnation, in preference to their obedience and salvation.
3. Men are not reprobated for want of any sufficiency in the atonement. That is an injurious representation of the atonement, which exhibits it simply as a commercial transaction; as if the persons in the God head had made a bargain, in which the Son agreed to pay the Father so much suffering for so much sin committed, like the payment of a promissory note, the exact amount of suffering paid by the surety which was due to the guilty. This is injurious in many respects.
First, it excludes the idea of mercy from the government of God; for what grace or mercy is there in discharging an obligation when the debt is paid? Furthermore, it is gaining nothing, if Christ must have suffered just as much as sinners would have suffered had they been sent to hell; there is just as much suffering in the universe as if the penalty of the law had been visited upon the head of every sinner. Some who have maintained this idea of the atonement, to avoid the inevitable conclusion, that if the debt were literally paid for all, then all would be saved, have maintained that no atonement was made but for the elect, and represent the non-elect as entirely unprovided for in the atonement as the devils are. This represents God as having sold the elect to his Son for so much, and as leaving the rest to go to hell without any chance for salvation. Neither my Bible, my intellect, my conscience, nor my heart, will for one moment admit such a view of the atonement to be true. The atonement is a transaction of such a nature as to render the salvation of every sinner possible, but not calculated nor designed so to pay the debt of any sinner as to make his salvation an act of justice. It provides for the salvation of all men; but of itself makes sure the salvation of no man. If not one had been saved, it would have reflected infinite glory on the character of God; displayed, in the most striking and impressive manner, his whole heart on the subject of his law, its precepts, penalty, and the desert of sin; and if all men should reject it, it would still be glorious, and throw a radiance around the sceptre of his justice that would light their footsteps to the gates of hell.
But III. What are the reasons why reprobates are rejected and lost?
1. Because they are unwilling to be saved; that is, they are unwilling to be saved on the terms upon which alone God can consistently save them. Ask sinners whether they are willing to be saved, and they all say yes; and with perfect sincerity they may say this, if they can be saved upon their own terms. But when you propose to them the terms of salvation upon which the Gospel proposes to save them; when they are required to repent and believe the gospel, to forsake their sins, and give themselves up to the service of God, they will with one consent begin to make excuse. Now, to accept these terms, is heartily and practically to consent to them. For them to say that they are willing to accept salvation while they actually do not accept it, is to utter an infamous falsehood. To be willing is to accept it; and the fact that they do not heartily consent to, and embrace the terms of salvation , is demonstration absolute, that they are unwilling. Yes, sinners, the only terms on which you can possibly be saved, you reject. Is it not then an insult to God for you to pretend that you are willing? The only true reason that any of you are not Christians, is that you are unwilling; you are not made unwilling by any act of God, because you are a reprobate; but if you are a reprobate, it is because you are unwilling.
But do any of you object and say, why does not God make us willing? Is it not because he has reprobated us, that he does not change our hearts and make us willing? No, sinner, it is not because he has reprobated you; but because you are so obstinate that he cannot, wisely, and consistency with the public good, take such measures as will convert you. Here you are waiting for God to make you willing to go to heaven, and all the while you are diligently using the means to get to hell. Yes, exerting yourself with greater diligence to get to hell, than it would cost to insure you salvation, if applied with equal zeal in the service of your God. You tempt God, and then turn round and ask him why he does not make you willing! Now, sinner, let me ask you, do you think you are a reprobate? If so, what do you think the reason is that has led the infinitely benevolent God to reprobate you? There must be some reason, what do you suppose it is? Did you ever seriously ask yourself, what is the reason that a wise and infinitely benevolent God has never made me willing to accept salvation? It must be for one of the following reasons; either
He is a malevolent being, and desires your damnation for its own sake;
Or, he cannot make you willing if he would;
Or, you behave in such a manner that, to his infinitely benevolent mind it appears unwise to take such a course as would bring you to repentance.
Now, which of these do you think it is? You will not probably take the ground that he is malevolent, and desires your damnation because he delights in misery; nor will you, I suppose, take the ground that he could not covert you if he would.
The other, then, must be the reason, to wit: that your heart, and conduct, and stubbornness, are so abominable in his sight that, every thing considered, he sees that to use such further means with you as to secure your conversion, would, upon the whole, do more hurt than good to his kingdom. I have not time tonight to agitate the question whether you, as a moral agent, could not resist any possible amount of moral influence that could be brought to bear upon you, consistently with your moral freedom. That subject I design to discuss on a future occasion.
Do you ask, how I know that the reason why God does not make you willing is, that he sees that it would be unwise in him to do so? I answer, that it is an irresistible inference, from these two facts, that he is infinitely benevolent, and that he does not actually make you willing. I do not believe that God would neglect anything that he saw to be wise and benevolent in the great matter of man's salvation. Who can believe that he can give his only begotten and well beloved son to die for sinners, and then neglect any other benevolent means for their salvation? No, sinner, if you are reprobate, it is because God foresaw that you would do just as you are doing; that you would be so wicked as to defeat all the efforts that he could wisely make for your salvation. What a variety of means he has used with you. At one time he has thrown you into the furnace of affliction; and when this has not softened you, he has turned round and loaded you with benefits. He has sent you his word, he has striven by his Spirit, he has allured you by the cross; he has tried to melt you by the groanings of Calvary, and tried to drive you back from the way to death by rolling in your ears the thunders of damnation. At one time clouds and darkness have been round about you; the heavens have thundered over your head, divine vengeance has hung out all around your horizon the portentous clouds of coming wrath. At another time mercy has smiled upon you from above like the noon-days sun, breaking through an ocean of storms. He urges every motive; he lays heaven, earth and hell under perpetual contributions for considerations to move your stony heart. But you deafen your ears, and close your eyes, and harden your heart, and say, cause the holy one of Israel to cease from before us. And what is the inference from all this? how must all this end? Reprobate silver shall men call thee, because the Lord hath rejected them.