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known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory."-" Because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy_sight." Rom. 11:7. 11:18.22,23. Matth. 11:25,26. See also Rom. 9 and 11, throughout. 2 Tim. 2:20. 1 Pet. 2:8. Jude 2:4.
These, and other passages of the word of God, shew that God, in the administration of his government, and the distributions of his grace, does act differently towards those who perish, from what he does towards those who are saved. And as the divine acts or operations, are only the evolutions of his purposes, he must have determined differently respecting them. We wish it to be distinctly recollected, however, that God exerts no positive influence on the wicked, leading them to sin. It is enough that he leaves them to their own hearts' lusts. They will of choice run the a downward road to destruction, and be the executioners of their own sentence. The decree of God infringes not upon the liberty of their wills, nor does it exert any constraining influence over them. So that when they shall have received their final doom, they will only be made to "eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices."
Against the whole of this doctrine, according to which a part of mankind are elected to eternal life, on the ground of sovereign grace, and a part left to perish in their sins; it is frequently objected, that it involves unjustifiable partiality on the part of God, and that, for this reason, being inconsistent with his character, it ought to be rejected. To this I would answer, 1. That we are ignorant of the reasons by which God is governed in making this discrimination, and are, therefore, incompetent to pronounce in the case. That God, as an infinitely wise, holy, just, and merciful being, must have good and sufficient reasons for every purpose which he forms, cannot be doubted. To suppose the contrary, would be to divest him of all the high attributes of his character. Without a full knowledge, therefore, of all these reasons, of which God has not seen fit to put us in possession, it is arrogance to pronounce on the partiality or injustice of that which, as we have seen, the scriptures reveal. 2. If this objection be valid against the doctrine in question, it will be equally so against all distinctions, both in the natural and moral world, the reasons of whigh are not apparent to human discernment. But it cannot have escaped the observation of any one, that both in the natural and moral world, such distinctions do obtain. In nature, there is an endless diversity, the reasons of which do not appear. There, is the fruitful valley and the barren mountain, the beautiful rose and the craggy thorn, the innocent lamb and the ravenous wolf, with a thousand other varieties of a similar kind, all involving
the principle of sovereign discrimination on the part of the Creator. Why not, then, charge God with partiality in giving favorable distinction to some of these parts of creation over others?
But lest these natural distinctions should not be thought analogous, I remark that such distinctions are to be found in the moral world, and throughout God's intelligent creation. Look at the different orders of intelligent beings. Why these distinctions of men and angels, of cherubim and seraphim? What diversity, also, is there among men? in their outward worldly circumstances, and mental endowments? And, what is more directly to our purpose, what a difference in their religious privileges, deeply affecting their eternal interests? For many ages, the Jews had exclusive possession of the oracles of God and the means of salvation. And since the wall of partition between them and the Gentiles has been broken down, how few of the nations of the earth enjoy the light of the gospel? Now, whatever may be said about the sin of the church in not imparting the gospel to those who are without it, how does it happen that we have been distinguished by having it sent to us, while millions of the heathen world have been "passed by," and left to grope in darkness without a single ray of light to direct them to Christ? Who adjusted the plan, and directed the movement which put us in possession of these rich blessings, while no train of measures was put in operation, to give these same blessings to others who were without them? None will venture to say that the hand of the Lord has not been in this matter. Let men look at these facts. Here is one part of mankind, having no superior claims on the divine bounty, in possession of high spiritual advantages, tending to promote their eternal interests, and there is another part, entirely destitute of these advantages, and left exposed to sinful influences which jeopard the salvation of their immortal souls. Now in view of these facts, what shall we say? "Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid." Yet on the principles of those who make objection, we must either deny the facts altogether, or refuse to admit that the agency of God is concerned about them. Because, to admit the other, is to admit the sovereign right of God to make such distinctions among his creatures as he sees fit, though the reasons of his proceedings may be entirely concealed from us. The objection, therefore, against the doctrine of election, as involving undue partiality on the part of God, is refuted from known and acknowledged facts, which every where obtain, both in the natural and moral world, and in which the same principle of sovereign discrimination is conclusively established.
Having given this summary statement of the doctrine of God's decrees, I would, in the conclusion, 1. Warn men to beware of
the rashness of asserting, as is too often done, that this doctrine necessarily involves partiality and injustice on the part of Jehovah towards our fallen race. If the facts be as we have stated them from the word of God, it cannot be less than presumptuous thus boldly to pronounce in relation to this deep mystery. "Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?"" Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right."
What, though men cannot understand this doctrine in all its mysterious depths? The facts in the case are sufficiently evident. These are all that God has seen fit to reveal. These we are bound to believe on the credit of the divine testimony, instead of rashly arraigning the justice of God, or refusing to acknowledge his Sovereignty. The language of God to Job is here applicable. "Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters." That God must have purposes cannot be denied, without divesting him of his wisdom and intelligence. That there is much of sovereignty in these purposes, the scriptures plainly indicate. The admission of this sovereignty, however, is that against which the pride of the human heart makes vigorous resistance. And here, perhaps, after all, is where the greatest difficulty lies. Men find it hard to allow that God has a right to act as a sovereign in his own dominions, without giving an account of any of his matters," to tho who cannot comprehend the justice of his proceedings. And when this justice is not apparent, though the fault may be in their own defect of vision, they invade the prerogatives of Jehovah, and practically disavow their belief in the decision of God's word, which affirms that "the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand." Against such rashness men should guard. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, saith the Lord."
2. Men should also guard against abusing the doctrine of the decrees, by continuing in sin. Although the decree of God is the procuring cause of all good in man, it is not the cause of sin. This belongs to man. God has decreed to punish sin, to consign to eternal misery every transgressor of his law, who lives and dies in impenitence. But he has not decreed to exert any causal influence in the production of their sinful dispositions, or their courses of transgression. The guilt of sin, therefore, rests with the sinner; the punishment of that guilt will find its certain infliction in the decree of God. The decree of God, therefore, furnishes no excuse for sin, nor any encouragement to its commission. On the contrary, it gives alarming prominence and certainty to the miserable end of the sinner, by assuring him of the disastrous issue of a sinful course. This assurance of dis
honor and wrath for their sins, ought to serve as a powerful motive to drive, men from sin, and engage them to escape to the blood of the Saviour for deliverance from its curse.
3. The doctrine of the divine decrees should be improved for our encouragement in duty. God has chosen his people to salvation. He has also chosen them that they should be holy. Hence, they ought to seek for holiness, that they may enjoy salvation. Every holy aspiration, every believing prayer, every pious effort which they make, may be traced to the divine decree, and considered as among its gracious results. When, therefore, we exercise any holy dispositions, or perform any holy acts, we are hereby furnished with evidence that we are in the chosen way of salvation, and are encouraged to hope, that in the use of the appointed means, God will carry us forward to eternal life. Indeed I can hardly conceive of a stronger motive to holiness than that arising out of the purpose of God. If we are appointed to holiness, and holiness constitutes a part of salvation, we should exert every nerve that in our hearts and lives we may have evidence that the divine purpose is receiving its accomplishment. For the decree of God, it will be recollected, does not in any way conflict with man's free-agency. This remains entire. The liberty of the will suffers no restraint from the purpose of God. On the contrary, it finds in this purpose, an additional excitement to duty, and the attainment of eternal salvation. Hence we should exert ourselves, in the use of all our powers, that we may be holy, recollecting that to this God's people are chosen, and that" without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
4. Finally, let it be recollected, that it is the commands of God, which form the rule of duty, and not his decrees. His decrees form a rule of action to himself, but not unto us, farther than they may be exhibited in his commands. Now the commands of God are, that we repent, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and obey the gospel. These are matters of vital importance. To these, then, we ought to attend. It is our duty, to which we are bound by the most solemn obligations. As far as God has revealed his purposes, let us honor the truth by believing it, however high and mysterious. But whatever the purposes of God may be, the command of God makes it the duty of all to repent of their sins and seek pardon by faith in the atoning blood of a crucified Saviour. The decrees of God exert no influence to prevent men from complying with these demands. Pray, then, that you may be enabled to comply with the commands of God, and the calls of the gospel. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure." "Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure."-And may the God of all grace bless, and assist, and save you, for the sake of his Son Jesus Christ. Amen!
PSALM 19:8. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.
THIS Psalm discloses to us the ways in which God manifests himself to his intelligent creatures. The visible creation, particularly the heavens, afford to the contemplative mind, such evidence of the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Creator, that in the want of reverence, worship and love, we are without excuse. These heralds of their Maker's praise, speak in a language intelligible to all the tribes of men, and in a voice which is heard from the rising to the setting sun. The doctrine, however, which they teach, with all its grandeur and excellence, is evidently deficient; as it affords no knowledge of the way in which 'sinners can be reconciled to God, whose law they have violated. Another way of knowing God, is by the revelation which he has given us, here called the law-the testimony-the statutes-commandments, &c. These terms are often used to express particular parts of the living Oracles, but here, it is believed, each one is used to signify the whole of divine revelation. In this exhibition of scripture excellencies the text is found: The statutes of the Lord (that is the various instructions given us in his holy word) are right, both in themselves and in their effect, and the proper use of them rejoices the heart. That the statutes of the Lord are right, and rejoice the heart, is the proposition, the illustration of which, now claims our attention.
In undertaking this task it becomes us to remember, that a revelation from God is justly expected to communicate what we did not know, and what we could not have known in any other