« PreviousContinue »
any man whatever to be a reprobate. That there are reprobate persons is very evident from scripture, (as we shall presently shew ;) but who they are, is known alone to him who alone can tell who and what men are not written in the Lamb's book of life. I grant that there are some particular
persons mentioned in the divine word, of whose reprobation no doubt can be made, such as Esau and Judas : but now the canon of scripture is completed, we dare not, we must not pronounce any man living, to be non-elect, be he at present ever so wicked. The vilest sinner may, for aught we can tell, appertain to the election of grace, and be one day wrought upon by the Spirit of God. This we know that those who die in unbelief, and are finally unsanctified, cannot be saved : because God in his word tells us so, and has represented these as marks of reprobation: but, to say that such and such individuals, whom perhaps we now see dead in sins, shall never be converted to Christ, would be a most presumtuous assertion, as well as an inexcusable breach of the charity which hopeth all things.
OF REPROBATION; OR PREDESTINATION, 'AS IT
RESPECTS THE UNGODLY.
FROM what has been said in the preceding chapter concerning the election of some, it would unavoidably follow, even supposing the scriptures had been silent about it, that there must be a rejection of others; as every choice does most evidently and necessarily imply a refusal : for, where there is no leaving out there can be no choice. But, beside the testimony of reason, the divine word is full and express to our purpose : it frequently, and in terms too clear to be misunderstood, and too strong to be evaded by any who are not proof against the most cogent evidence, attests this tremendous truth, that some
of old foreordained to condemnation. I shall, in the discussion of this awful subject, follow the method hitherto observed, and throw what I have to say into several distinct positions, supported by scripture.
Pos. 1. God did from all eternity decree to leave some of Adam's fallen posterity in their sins, and to exclude them from the participation of Christ and his benefits.
For the clearing of this, let it be observed, that in all ages the much greater part of man. kind have been destitute even of the external means of grace ; have not been favoured with
the preaching of God's word, or any revelation of his will. Thus, anciently, the Jews, who were in number the fewest of all people, were nevertheless, for a long series of ages, the only nation to whom the Deity was pleased to make any special discovery of himself: and it is observable, that our Lord himself principally confined the advantages of his public ministry to that people ; nay, he forbad his disciples to go among any others, Mat. X. 5, 6. and did not commission them to preach the gospel indiscriminately to Jews and Gentiles till after his resurrection, Mark xvi. 15. Luke xxiv. 47. Hence, many nations and communities never had the advantage of hearing the word preached ; and consequently were strangers to the faith that cometh thereby. It is not indeed improbable but some individuals, in these unenlightened countries, might belong to the secret election of grace ; and the habit of faith might be wrought in these : however, be that as it will, our argument is not affected by it; it is evident that the nations of the world were generally ignorant, not only of God himself, but likewise of the way to please him, the true manner of acceptance with him, and the means of arriving at the everlasting enjoyment of him. Now if God had been pleased to have saved those people, would he not have vouchsafed them the ordinary means of salvation ? would he not have given them all things necessary in order to the end ? but it is undeniable matter of fact, that he did not; and to very many nations of the earth, does not, at this day. If then, the Deity can, consistently with his attributes, deny to some the means of grace, and shut them up in gross darkness and unbelief; why should it be thought incompatible with his immensely glorious perfections, to exclude some
persons from grace itself, and from that eternal life which is connected with it; especially, seeing he is equally the Lord and sovereign disposer of the end to which the means lead; as of the means which lead to that end? both one and the other are his; and he most justly may, as he most assuredly will, do what he pleases with his own.
Besides, it being also evident, that many, even of them who live in places where the gospel is preached, as well as of those among whom it never was preached, die strangers to God and holiness, and without experiencing any thing of the gracious influences of his Spirit: we may reasonably and safely conclude, that one cause of their so doing, is because it was not the divine will to communicate his grace unto them : since, had it been his will, he would actually have made them partakers thereof; and had they been partakers of it, they could not have died without it. Now, if it was the will of God in time to refuse them this grace; it must have been his will from eternity, since his will is, as himself, the same yesterday, to-day, and for
The actions of God being thus fruits of his eternal purpose, we may safely, and without any danger of mistake, argue from them to that; and infer, that God therefore does such and such things because he decreed to do them; his own will being the sole cause of all his works. So that from his actually leaving some men in final impenitency and unbelief, we assuredly gather, that it was his everlasting determination so to do: and, consequently, that he reprobated some from before the foundation of the world.
And, as this inference is strictly rational, so is it perfectly scriptural. Thus, the judge will in
“ I never,
the last day, declare to those on the left hand, I never knew you. Mat. vii. 23. i. e. no, not from eternity, loved, approved, or acknowledged you for mine :” or, in other words, “ I always hated you.” Our Lord, in John xvii. divides the whole human race into two great classes : one he calls the world; the other, the men who were given him out of the world. The latter, it is said, the Father loved even as he loved Christ himself, verse 23. but he loved Christ before the foundation of the world, verse 24. i. e. from everlasting ; therefore, he loved the elect so too : and if he loved these from eterni. ty, it follows, by all the rules of antithesis, that he hated the others as early. So, Rom. ix. “ The children not being yet born, neither having done good or evil, that the purpose of God,” &c. From the example of the twins, Jacob and Esau, the apostle infers the eternal election of some men, and the eternal rejection of all the rest.
Pos. 2. Some men were from all eternity, rot only negatively excepted from a participation of Christ and his salvation ; but positively ordained to continue in their natural blindness, hardness of heart, &c. and that, by the just judgment of God. See Exod. ix. 1 Sam. ii. 25. 2 Sam. xyii. 14. Isa. vk 9, 10, 11. 2 Thess. ii. 11, 12. Nor can these places of scripture, with many others of like import, be understood of an involuntary permission on the
part of God; as if God barely suffered it to be so, quasi invitus, as it were by constraint, and against his.* will; for he permits nothing which he did not resolve and determine to permit. His permission is a positive, determinate act of his will; as Austin, Luther, and Bucer, justly observe: therefore, if it be the will of God, in time, to permit such and such men to continue in their natural state of ignorance and