73. ON ELECTION
It is very dangerous to indulge a spirit of curiosity respecting the deep
things of God. There are mysteries in the kingdom of grace, and in the
kingdom of nature, which surpass the highest powers of created intelligence
to comprehend. But, as in the natural world, enough is made level to our
capacity, to render us comfortable and happy with respect to food, clothing,
and other temporal conveniences; so likewise in things pertaining to the
spiritual world, sufficient is revealed to make us wise unto salvation,
through faith in Jesus Christ.
That desire of being wise above what is written, which is the effect of a
proud, unhallowed curiosity, is strongly reprehended in the holy Scriptures.
Our blessed Lord frequently repressed this spirit of curious inquiry which
is so natural to us. When one asked him, "Lord, are there few that be
saved?" his practical answer was, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate."
As if he had said, "trouble not yourself about the secret counsels of
heaven; take heed to yourself; or you shall likewise perish."
At another time, when his disciples asked him, saying, "Lord, will you at
this time restore again the kingdom of Israel?" He replied, "It is not for
you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own
power." When Jesus had been foretelling Peter by what death he should
glorify God; Peter, seeing John, the disciple whom Jesus' loved, felt a
curiosity to know what would become of him also; and said, "Lord, and what
shall this man do?" Jesus said unto him, "If I will that he tarry until I
come, what is that to you—follow you me." Thus we see how pointedly our Lord
checked that prying into secret things, which, if indulged, would take us
from the plain path of childlike obedience, and draw us into labyrinths,
where our minds would soon be "in wandering mazes lost."
But although we cannot fathom, we are nevertheless to believe from the
heart, the mysterious truths of God. Should any of these truths seem to
contradict each other, it arises altogether from the finite nature of our
own mind. Instead, therefore, of laboring to reconcile the apparently
opposing statements of eternal truth, by systems of human invention; it is
the part of humility to receive each, in the simplicity of faith, as God has
been pleased to reveal them to us in his holy word. By adopting this mode,
we shall not be shackled by human opinion, nor be afraid of inconsistency,
while we state the simple truth as it is in Jesus.
How rich, how full, and how extensive are the blessings which Paul declared
to the Thessalonian church. They reach from everlasting to everlasting, and
are calculated to animate all true believers to works of faith, labors of
love, and patience of hope; since he, who has promised, is faithful, and
will never forsake the work of his own hands.
"We are bound to give thanks always to God, for you, brethren, beloved of
the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation,
through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, whereunto he
called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus
Christ." (2 Thess. ii, 13,14.)
Some may ask; how could the apostle know that the Thessalonians were the
chosen of God? Had he ever been favored with a view of the book of life? Had
he ever seen their names written in heaven? had he ever explored the secret
decrees and counsels or the Almighty? No. This eminent servant of Christ
searched another book, even the volume of grace, the revealed word of God.
There he discovered the clear marks and evidences of God's redeemed people.
And being himself under the immediate inspiration of the holy Spirit, he was
enabled to draw just conclusions respecting the state and character of those
who embraced the Gospel.
In the first chapter of this Epistle to the Thessalonians, the apostle
displays in glowing colors the faith, love, patience, zeal, and hope of this
infant church their readiness to receive the word; their professed
subjection to the Gospel; their cheerful waiting for Christ, and their joy
under manifold afflictions. Hence he drew the conclusion, that they were the
chosen of God; "knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." Whether
these words mean God's choice of them; or their choice of God, it comes to
the same thing; for, "if we love him, it is because he first loved us."
All, then, who truly believe in Jesus, and who are renewed in the spirit of
their minds through the power of the Holy Spirit, evidence their election of
God. "We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved
of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation,
through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."
But another work of grace is mentioned by the apostle; they were effectually
called by the Gospel. (2 Thess. ii, 13.)
Thousands are called, by the faithful preaching of the Gospel every Sabbath
day, to flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold on the hope set before
them in a crucified Savior. Yet how few obey the call, and come unto Jesus,
weary and heavy-laden with the burden of their sins.
How few are effectually called. The great mass of baptized Christians hear
the words of life, but regard them not. They love the world, and cling to
it. They love sin, and will not part with it. They love darkness rather than
light, because their deeds are evil. And if it be asked, why do they thus
act? the answer is given by Paul himself; writing under the guidance of the
Holy Spirit; "If our Gospel is hidden, it is hidden to those who are lost.
In whom the God of this world has blinded the minds of those who believe
not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of
God, should shine unto them."
We may therefore conclude, that all, who believingly obey the call of mercy,
and draw near unto God through Jesus Christ, evidence their election of God,
according to the plain, grammatical meaning of the apostle's declaration.
The other blessing mentioned by Paul, and which crowns the whole, is, the
eternal glorification of all who are thus effectually called, and evidence
their election in Christ by faith and holiness; "Whereunto he called you by
our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." Our
divine Master has declared, "He that endures unto the end, shall be saved."
Peter assured the Christian strangers who were scattered abroad, that they
were "kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation."
Hence it follows, that all who are effectually called by the Gospel, shall
finally obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, being preserved through
faith unto God's everlasting kingdom. Thus grace reigns through
righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Gospel is designed to stain the pride of human glory, and to lay man in
the dust of humiliation. "By grace are you saved through faith, and that not
of yourselves, it is the gift of God not of work; lest any man should boast;
for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which
God has before ordained that we should walk in them." Such is the humbling,
yet delightful language of the inspired apostle.
The carnal heart rises against these abasing, purifying doctrines of the
cross, which strip the sinner of all self-righteous dependence, and strike
at the root of all fleshly indulgences. The proud sinner must become a fool
in his own estimation, and feel himself to be nothing, before he can receive
with gratitude these stupendous blessings offered for his acceptance in the
Divine grace alone can effect this mighty change. But what cannot the power
of Omnipotence accomplish? "From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can
oppose what I do. No one can reverse my actions" is the voice of a
Sovereign, "who works all things after the counsel of his own will;" who has
said, "my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."
Man, if left to himself, would never seek after God. His language is, "I
have loved strangers, and after them I will go." But when God says,
"LIVE;"—the soul shall as assuredly live, as when at the creation he said,
"Let there be light, and there was light." The chaotic mass was formed to
order and beauty, when the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the deep;
and so shall the disordered soul be transformed after the divine image, when
Almighty Grace puts forth its new creating power. "This people have I formed
for myself; they shall show forth my praise."
When the leper said, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean;" Jesus
replied, "I will, be clean; and immediately his leprosy departed from him."
In Jesus, we behold "the mighty God"—"God manifest in the flesh," exerting
his benevolent power in healing diseases, in stilling the raging elements,
in casting out devils, in multiplying provisions, in raising the dead, in
revealing men's thoughts, in forgiving sin.
And now that he is in glory, and reigns as sovereign Lord; no darkness of
the understanding, no hardness of the heart, no rebellion of the will, no
alienation of the affection, no outward opposition, or inward repugnance to
the truth, can prevent the conversion and final salvation of that soul, whom
God loves with an everlasting love, and draws with loving-kindness to the
cross of Christ.
"This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and
sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins." This is the wonderful
announcement of the messengers of peace.
As believers in Jesus are declared to be "chosen in him before the
foundation of the world, that they should be holy, arid without blame before
him in love;" so the change which passes upon the soul when brought by the
Spirit to the love and practice of holiness, as evidential of its election
in Christ, is described in Scripture by the boldest figures.
"And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." "We know
that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."
"You were once darkness, but now are you light in the Lord." "Giving thanks
unto the Father, who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has
translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son, that you should show forth
the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous
light." "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter
into the kingdom of God." "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;
old things are passed away, and behold, all things are become new."
This blessed conversion from sin to holiness is thus declared by the apostle
to the Romans; "You were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the
heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you." To the Thessalonians;
"You turned from idols to serve the living and true God." To the
Corinthians; "Know you not, that the unrighteous shall not inherit the
kingdom of God? and such were some of you; but you are washed; but you are
sanctified; but you are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the
Spirit of our God."
The way and means of the church's salvation were also foreordained. Jesus is
declared to be the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Faith is the
divinely-appointed instrument, by which the sinner is enabled to lay hold on
Christ. The Holy Spirit is promised to all who ask for this unspeakable
gift. "Ho, every one that thirsts, come to the waters," is the gracious
The Gospel is designed to be a universal blessing; for the command is, "Go
into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." The invitation
is general—the command to preach the Gospel is unlimited. None are excluded
but such as, through unbelief, exclude themselves; for "God desires not the
death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and
live;" "he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come
to repentance;" "he will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the
knowledge of the truth."
Such are the views which Infinite Wisdom and Love has given us in the pages
of inspired truth. Eternal misery is there declared to be the fruit of man's
willful apostasy and rebellion; and eternal happiness the free gift of
sovereign grace through Jesus Christ. Thrice happy, then, are they who
experience the saving grace of God; who hear in faith; who obey the call of
mercy; and who follow the Lord fully and perseveringly in filial obedience.
These are the objects of the Savior's love and care; theirs are the
promises; and to them belong the glories which shall shortly be revealed. Oh
happy people! saved by the Lord.
"Blessed Savior, draw my heart sweetly and powerfully to yourself. Oh make
me your temple! May your word reach my heart, and your love constrain my
soul to love and obedience. Like Matthew, may I cheerfully obey your call,
leave all, and follow you. Subdue every rebellious inclination; and let
nothing dwell within me that is contrary to your will. Root out of my heart
all evil affections, and fill me with the fruits of righteousness. May my
happy position ever be at the foot of the cross. There wean my heart from
earthly things, and bind me to yourself by cords of everlasting love. Oh let
me never, never wander from you; but preserve me to your kingdom and glory
for your infinite mercies' sake."
Dear Shepherd of the chosen flock,
I love to hear your voice;
When full of kind redeeming love,
You bid my heart rejoice.
Oh, let me never leave the road,
That leads to your abode!
Oh, suffer not my feet to stray
From you, the living God!
It is your delightful work to save,
Your pleasure and your joy;
Then let your praise each fleeting hour
My grateful thoughts employ.
A stranger, Lord, I will not know,
Through your preserving grace;
But follow you with cheerful steps
To heaven, your dwelling-place.