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own glory he has decreed to rescue any from destruction, he does no injury to any, nor is accountable to any for this display of his grace.
I well know that this doctrine is controverted by many. But the very persons who deny the doctrine of election, as applied to individuals, are constrained to acknowledge it in reference to nations. But where is the difference? if it is unjust in the one case, it is unjust in the other: if it is unjust to elect any to salvation, it is unjust to elect them to the means of salvation; those from whom he withholds the means, have the same ground of complaint as those from whom he withholds the end. It is nothing to say, that the injury is less in the one case than in the other: for if it be injurious at all, God would never have done it: but if it be not injurious at all
, then does all opposition to the doctrine fall to the ground. The principle must be conceded or denied altogether. Denied it cannot be, because it is an unquestionable fact that God has exercised his sovereignty, and does still exercise it, in instances without number: and, if it be conceded, then is the objector silenced; and he must admit that God has a right to do what he will with his own.
Perhaps it may be said that election is, and has always been, conditional. But this is not true. As far as related to the possession of Canaan, the election of the Jews might be said to be conditional: but on what conditions was the election of Abraham, or of Isaac, or of Jacob, suspended? On what was the election of their posterity to the means of salvation suspended? On what conditions has God chosen us to enjoy the sound of the Gospel, in preference to millions of heathens, who have never been blessed with the light of revelation? The truth is, we know nothing of the doctrines of grace but as God has revealed them : and his choice of some to salvation now stands on the very same authority as his choice of others to the means of salvation in the days of old. If such an exercise of sovereignty was wrong then, it is wrong now: if it was right then, it is right now: and if it was right in respect to nations, it cannot be wrong in reference to individuals. The same principle which vindicates or condemns it in the one case, must hold good in the other also. The extent of the benefits conferred cannot change the nature of the act that confers them: it may cause the measure of good or evil that is in the act to vary: but the intrinsic quality of the act must in either case remain the same.]
That this doctrine may not appear injurious to morality, I proceed to observe, II. That the circumstance of God's exercising this
sovereignty is so far from weakening our obligation to good works, that it binds us the more
strongly to the performance of them. Moses says,
« God has chosen you ;" “ circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart.” Here
observe, 1. The duty enjoined
[We are all by nature a rebellious and stiff-necked people. We wonder at the conduct of the Israelites in the wilderness : but in that we may see a perfect image of our own: we have not been obedient to God's revealed will. We have been alike rebellious, whether loaded with mercies, or visited with judgments. Light and easy as the yoke of Christ is, we have not taken it upon us, but have lived to the flesh and not to the Spirit, to ourselves, and not unto our God. But we must no longer proceed in this impious career: it is high time that we
weapons of our rebellion, and humble ourselves before God. We must be no more stiff-necked," but humble, penitent, obedient. Nor is it an outward obedience only that we must render to our God; we must “ circumcise the foreskin of our hearts," mortifying every corrupt propensity, and “crucifying the flesh with the affections and lusts." It must not be grievous to us to part with sin, however painful may be the act of cutting it off: we must cut off a right hand, and pluck out a right eye, and retain nothing that is displeasing to our God. There is no measure of holiness with which we should be satisfied: we should seek to “ be pure even as Christ himself is pure," and to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."] 2. The motive to the performance of it
[To this duty the Jews are urged by the consideration of God's electing love, and of the distinguishing favours which he of his own sovereign grace and mercy had vouchsafed unto them.
And what more powerful motive could Moses urge than this? It was not to make them happy in a way of sin that God had chosen them, but to make them“ a holy nation, a peculiar people, zealous of good works:” and, if they did not follow after universal holiness, they would counteract the designs of his providence and grace. They would deprive themselves also of the blessings provided for them. For it was only in the way of obedience that God could ever finally accept them. And thus it is with us also: we are “chosen unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them :" and it is only " by a patient continuance in well-doing that we can ever attain eternal life." We are “ chosen to salvation,” it is true; but it is “ through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:” and it is in that way only that we can ever attain the end.
But there is another view in which the consideration of God's electing love should operate powerfully on our hearts to the production of universal holiness; namely, by filling our souls with lively gratitude to him, and an ardent desire to requite him in the way that he himself directs. There is nothing under heaven that can constrain a pious soul like a sense of redeeming love. Let any one that has been “ brought out of darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel, and been turned from the power of Satan unto God,” look around him, and see how many, not of heathens only, but of professed Christians also, are yet in the darkness of nature and the bonds of sin; and then let him recollect who it is that has made him to differ both from them and from his former self; and will not that make him cry out, “ What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits he has done unto me?” Yes, that view of his obligations to God will so inflame and penetrate his soul, that its utmost energies will from thenceforth be employed in honouring his adorable Benefactor.
This we say is the true and proper tendency of the doctrine in our text. The Jews, if they had justly appreciated the favours vouchsafed to them, would have been the holiest of all people upon earth: and so will Christians be, if once they be sensible of the obligations conferred upon them by God's electing and redeeming love.]
1. Let those who are zealous about duties, not be forgetful of their obligations
[It is frequently found that persons altogether hostile to all the doctrines of grace, profess a great regard for the interests of morality. I stop not at present to inquire how far their professions are realized in practice : all I intend, is, simply to suggest, that high and holy affections are necessary to all acceptable obedience; and that those affections can only be excited in us by a sense of our obligations to God. If we attempt to lessen those obligations, we weaken and paralyse our own exertions. If we have been forgiven much, we shall love much: if we have received much, we shall return the more. If then it be only for the sake of that morality about which you profess so much concern, we would say to the moralist, Search into the mysteries of sovereign grace, and of redeeming love. If without the knowledge of them you may walk to a certain degree uprightly, you can never soar into the regions of love and peace and joy : your obedience will be rather that of a servant, than a son ; and you will never acquire that delight in God, which is the duty and privilege of the believing soul.]
2. Let those who boast of their obligations to God not be inattentive to their duties
[They who “cry, Lord, Lord, and neglect to do the things which he commands," miserably deceive their own souls. And it must be confessed that such self-deceivers do exist, and ever have existed in the Church of God. But let those who glory in the deeper doctrines of religion bear in mind, that nothing can supersede an observance of its duties : for “ He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of Goda." That is a solemn admonition which God has given to us all : “ Circumcise yourselves unto the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench ite.” It is not by our professions, but by our practice, that we shall be judged in the last day. We may say to our Lord in the last day, that we have not only gloried in him, but“ in his name done many wonderful works;" yet will he say to us, “ Depart from me, I never knew you,” if we shall then be found to have been workers of iniquity. To all then who account themselves the elect of God, I say, Let the truth of your principles be seen in the excellence of your works: and, as you profess to be more indebted to God than others, let the heavenliness of your minds and the holiness of your lives be proportionably sublime and manifest: for it is in this that you can approve yourselves to God, or justify your professions in the sight of man.
d Rom. ii. 28, 29.
e Jer. iv. 4.
THE SCRIPTURES RECOMMENDED TO US.
Deut. xi. 18—21. Therefore shall ye lay up these my words
heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest
way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thine house, and upon thy gates : that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.
TO have the holy oracles in our hands is one of the greatest advantages that we enjoy above the heatheno: a due improvement of them therefore will be expected
The Jews, who were in like manner distinguished above all other nations upon earth, were required to shew the most affectionate, obediential regard to the writings of Moses. But the injunctions given to them with respect to the revelation they possessed, are still more obligatory on us, who have The sacred canon completed, and, by the superior light of the New Testament, are enabled to enter more fully into its mysterious import.
The words which we have just read, point out to us, I. Our duty with respect to the word of God
A revelation from heaven cannot but demand our most serious attention1. We should treasure it up in our hearts
[It is not sufficient to study the Scriptures merely as we read other books; we must search into them for hid treasures , and lay up “ in our hearts,” yea, in our inmost “ souls,” the glorious truths which they unfold to our view; and be careful never to let them slip. They should be our delight, and our meditation all the day".]
2. We should make it a frequent subject of our conversation
[It is to be regretted that there is no other subject so universally proscribed and banished, as that of religion. But, if we loved God as we ought, we could not but love to speak of his word, that word which is our light in this dark world, and the one foundation of all our hopes. When Moses and Elias came from heaven to converse with our Lord, the prophecies relating to the sufferings and glory of Christ were their one topic of discourse. Thus at all times and places should our conversation be seasoned with salt', and tend to the use of edifying. If it were thus with us, God would listen to us with approbation", and Jesus would often come and unite himself to our company'.]
3. We should bring it on all occasions to our remembrance
a Rom. iii. 2.
b Prov. ii. 1—4.
c Heb. i. 1.