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renders needless all the subsequent labor he expends and employs to carry it into execution. Means certainly are not rendered useless by being made subservient to a plan. As God's plan concerning the tabernacle included every board and socket, every curtain and loop, and the labor requisite to complete the whole ; so it is with his purpose in relation to the redeemed church; it embraces every thing which is requisite to be done. Much is to be effected by human instrumentality; but it is all comprehended in the consistent counsel of His will, who has the sovereign control of all the actions of men. Paul did not con. sider the purpose of election as rendering it needless to preach the gospel to unbelievers. If he had, we should not have heard him say, “Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Tim. ii. 10.
But does not this doctrine free the non-elect from blame; and thus prove itself to be utterly incapable of a scriptural defense ? If the doctrine be first condemned, as possessing a character so vile as to make it a crime to speak a word in its behalf, there will be no possi. bility of preventing its condemnation, though a host of plain texts of scripture should witness in its favor. I now demand proof of the alle. gation, that this doctrine frees from blame such as are not elected. Is not this plea invented by those who wish to sin, and yet hate to be blamed for it? Let it be remembered, it is the very nature of sin to seek to rid itself of the blame it incurs. The slothful servant in the parable evidently wished to clear himself from the guilt attached to slothfulness, though he had done nothing. To clear himself, he con. demned his Master : “ Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man.”
The children of the wicked one act agreeably to their ungodly na. ture, when, on finding
out that God is fulfilling his purposes by their sins, they exclaim,“ Why doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will?”—and when they say concerning those abominations, which they would no sooner part with than with their right eye, “ We are delivered to do all these abominations.' The great difficulty of reasoning with men on this subject, arises from this circumstance; that they seem to require that their hearts should be pleased, before they will suffer their understandings to be convinced.
The non-elect are chargeable with guilt, and the elect too, for all their unregenerate obstinacy. When this obstinacy is removed from the hearts of any, they condemn it as a criminal thing: and it is not the less criminal where it remains. If the demand be made of the fool in whose hand a price is put to get wisdom, why he does not be. come wise; he must own, it is because he has no heart to it. This disinclination of heart to get wisdom is highly criminal. Nor can its coincidence with the purposes of God destroy or lessen its criminality. This coincidence was what Joseph very distinctly placed before his brethren, at the very time he was using every expedient in his power to bring them to exercise a godly sorrow for their sin. The same was done by Peter, in that memorable sermon on the day of Pentecost, the object of which was to bring the crucifiers of Christ to unfeigned re. pentance. Gen, xlv. 5–8. Acts ii. 23.
How, it may be asked, can a knowledge of the fact, that our wick. edness has not frustrated, but fulfilled the decrees of God, have any
tendency to increase our conviction of guilt for the commission of that wickedness? To this I reply in few words: While a knowledge of this fact does nothing to destroy in our minds a consciousness of crimi. nality for voluntary wickedness, it is calculated to promote repentance, by exalting our views of the greatness and holiness of that God against whom all our sin has been committed. It shows us that he is so great as to be able to rule his enemies, and even their enmity itself; and that he is so holy as to make a good use of their sin, causing it to further the designs of his benevolence. It shows that the efect will be to the praise of the glory of his grace, and the reprobate to the praise of the glory of his justice. Rom. ix. 21-23. Could the enemies of God believe they had already frustrated his designs, they might hope to do it in future; and in that case I am persuaded he would not appear so terrible to them as he now does. There would not be all the motives that now exist, to urge their immediate and unconditional submission to his holy and uncontrollable sovereignty.
But it is unnecessary further to pursue this train of thought. What has been already said will serve to show, that the doctrine of this Arti. cle is not only true, and in harmony with the whole scheme of grace, but also that it is a doctrine which is capable of exerting a practical and salutary influence.
1. Predestination, or a divine purpose, presents no more of an obstacle to our salvation, than it does to our acquisition of temporal good. The purpose of God extends to the one as much as to the other. If it is a discouragement to our making an effort to be saved, it is equally so in relation to those efforts which we make to gain property, health, or any other temporal good. Yet it so happens, that the same man, who considers a divine purpose as a sufficient reason for his neglecting the means of grace and the concerns of his soul, does not think of its being any reason at all, why he should neglect the appointed means of procuring property, or preserving the health of his body. How shall we account for this marked difference in the two cases ? It is ac. counted for by that entire aversion which the natural heart has to holi. ness, and to the use of those means by which it is obtained and increa. sed. Had men been as willing to labor for the meat that endureth to everlasting life, as for that which perisheth, predestination would never have been thought of as presenting an obstacle in their way, in the one case more than in the other.
2. From the view which we have taken of the election of grace, we do not perceive how the prospect of salvation to a world of sinners would be at all brightened by striking this doctrine from our creeds. Were it stricken out, there would still be no hope of salvation to any but those who, by accepting the gospel offer, become meet for the hea. venly inheritance. And surely this doctrine does not throw the least obstacle in the way of any sinner of this character. When the Savior had said, “ All the Father giveth me shall come unto me;" lest some poor broken-hearted sinner should be afraid he was not comprehended
in the number which was given to him, he adds, " and him that cometh
3. Under this Article I would take occasion to remark upon the sin and folly of a practice, which is not uncommon in our world, of spend. ing our life in caviling at the doctrines of God's word. Among those who admit the inspiration of the Bible, there are not a few who seem
spend their lives in picking flaws and raising objections against it. One would think, they supposed this would answer in the room of knowing and obeying its holy truths. While they acknowledge it to be the word of God, it would seem as if they really expected they should be able to convince its divine Author, that he had in many instances contradicted himself; and that he had introduced some doctrines into the gospel, which furnish them with a good excuse for neglecting those invitations of mercy which it proffers, and which it commands them to accept. There are many of those that do not deny the truth of the doctrine, which we are now considering, who are nevertheless always finding fault with it, and talking about it just as if it furnished them a substantial excuse for continuing impenitent. Do they not know, that if it is a doctrine of God's word, it can furnish no such excuse? How evident is it that it behooves all, whether preachers or hearers
, writers or readers, to seek to understand (not to misunderstand) and to harmonize, (not to perplex) the doctrines and precepts of that book, which we profess to receive as a revelation of the will of God. There is much force in the proverb, “ A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not ; but knowledge is easy to him that understandeth.' It was in the spirit of this proverb that Christ made the declaration, “ If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.” If a docile could take the place of a caviling spirit, it would be comparatively easy to acquire the knowledge of divine truth. Now he that murmured would learn doctrine.
Nor would there be any peculiar difficulty in leaning the doctrine of the present Article.
THE REGENERATE ARE JUSTIFIED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH IN CARIST, AND NOT FOR THE SAKE OF ANYTHING MERITORIOUS, EITHER
IN THEIR FAITH OR GOOD WORKS.
JUSTIFICATION is a law term, which, in its most natural signification, implies the acquittal of the innocent. “ If," said Moses to Israel, “there be a controversy between men, and they come into judgment, that the judges may judge them; then shall they justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked.” Deut. xxv. 1. In every case where they found the law had been broken, the judges were required to pass a sentence of condemnation, and not of justification. But in this strict sense of the term, who in this fallen world could be justified before God? Well might the man after God's own heart say, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” Ps. cxliii. 2. Yet in the evangelical sense of the word, David was a justified man; and so is every other man who is born of God. “ In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” Isa. xlv. 25.
Justification in this evangelical sense, neither implies the entire innocence of the justified, nor any such degree of it as to render them undeserving of condemnation.
The scripture pronounces the whole world guilty before God; and thence infers, that by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified in his sight. Rom. iii. 19, 20. The gospel justification does not declare us innocent; yet it effectually removes the sentence of condemnation which our transgressions had incurred. It is the province of a legal justification to absolve from the unjust charge of guilt the man who is found to be guiltless : but gos. pel justification absolves from deserved punishment him who is found guilty.
Regeneration and justification, though intimately connected, are not the same thing. The first relates to a change in the sinner's character, the last to a change in his condition. While regeneration is a work, wrought on the sinner's heart, justification is an act of divine government, exonerating him from that punishment which is due to his sins. It ought to be understood, that it is not necessary, in the very nature of things, that pardon should be connected with repentance. Certainly it is not so in human governments. Who ever imagin. ed that the repentance of the murderer served to annihilate his guilt, so as to render his punishment cruel, or even unnecessary? His repentance may be a good preparation for the reversal of his sentence : but the reversal still depends on the good pleasure of the authority in. vested with the power of extending pardons to the guilty. Under the government of the Most High, pardon is considered as a distinct thing from that renovation of heart which prepares the way for its consistent exercise. Justification follows regeneration in every instance: “Whom
he called, them he also justified”-and yet it is a thing entirely distinct from it.
Since the doctrine of justification is fundamental to the gospel system, and a mistake here has proved fatal to very many candidates for the retributions of eternity, it behooves us to proceed with great care in its investigation. Let us advance step by step, examining all the ground as we pass along. It is a matter of great consequence that we form a clear and definite idea of the contrast which the word of God makes between justification by works, and by grace, to enable us to form a definite idea of what is meant, when it declares the believer's justification to be not by works, but by grace.
Nothing is asserted with more peremptoriness, than the utter impossibility of our justifica. tion by the works of the law. “ Therefore by the deeds of the law," says Paul to the Romans, “ there shall no flesh be justified in his sight :” and to the Galatians he says, “ knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law :” and again, “ For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Rom. iii. 20. Gal. ii. 16. In opposition to a legal justification, he declares that of a believer in Christ to be invari. ably by grace : “ Being justified freely by his grace :” “That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Rom. iii. 24. Tit. ïïi. 7.
But some may ask, whether justification by the deeds of the law, and by grace, cannot unite in the same individual. It is very manifest they cannot. There is nothing in the scriptures made plainer than this. Paul said to the Galatian professors, “Christ is become of none effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law;
are fallen from grace.”
They perhaps imagined they could combine the two systems together: but the apostle assured them they could not ; since a justification by law was in such direct contrariety to a justification by grace, that an attempt to build themselves on the former, was in reality an abandonment of the latter.
It is agreeable to the common sense of mankind, that whatever is bestowed as a gratuity, cannot at the same time be considered as a merited reward. This sentiment is very accurately stated by the apostle in the following passage:
“ And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.” Rom. xi. 6. Where grace begins, work ends; and where work begins, there grace ends. They cannot both cover the same ground. If you give to the man, who has labored for you but half the day, what is equal to the wages of the whole day, half of it is the payment of a debt, and the rest is a gratuity. That which you pay him for his work is not grace; and what you bestow as a gift is no payment for his work. In pecuniary concerns, grace and debt may be intermingled, so that the same man may be both your creditor and your beneficiary.
But it is not so in governmental affairs; certainly not under the perfect government of God. That man who needs grace or mercy at all, can not claim from the hand of God the least favor as being his due.
I think it can be no very difficult task to convince every candid mind, that the justification of the believer is, in no degree, by the merit of his faith or works, but wholly of grace.
There are three distinct states,