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consequence, relative to their being saved or not; and has a direct tendency, therefore, to encourage them in carelessness and sin. Some seem to think, that if this doctrine be true a man may well say, Whether I read and hear the word, and ever so ear. nestly implore divine mercy, or cast off fear and restrain prayer, and live in the total neglect of all the means of grace and duties of religion: whether I be honest and just, chaste and temperate, or lie and steal, and indulge myself in all the pleasures of licentiousness and debauchery, it will make no alteration. If I am elected, I shall certainly be saved, do what I will: if I am of the non-elect, I shall inevitably be damned, do what I can. I will therefore get what I am able of this world's goods, lawfully or unlawfully, taking no thought for the world to come.
This looks self-evident and unanswerable: in reply to it, however, it may be observed,
(1.) Few draw a similar inference from the gener al doctrine of divine decrees, and venture to act upon it, in things pertaining to the present life. Men will labor hard for the meat which perisheth, and give themselves no rest that they may join house to house, and lay field to field; they will be careful to keep out of danger, and to use means for the recovery or preservation of their health; though they are told and believe, that the bounds of their habitations and the number of their days are determined, over which they cannot pass. Why then should the doctrine of election make men careless respecting the salvation of their souls? If it has such an effect upon any, it must be because they have little faith respecting a future state; or because religion is a business from any serious attention to which they desire to be excused. It may be answered,
(2.) If men believe the Bible, whether they be lieve the doctrine of election or not, they must be
persuaded that it is not all one, do what they will or can, in regard to their being saved or lost for ever. Nothing is more plainly revealed in the word of God, than that life and death are now set before us; and that, as we choose and conduct here, so it will fare with us hereafter. Out of a multitude of texts express to this purpose, See Gal. vi. 7, 8, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." And 2 Cor. v. 10, "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." I answer,
(3.) It no more follows from the doctrine of election, than from the doctrine of God's universal foreknowledge, that whatever men do can make no alteration in regard to their being saved. What is foreknown, will as inevitably come to pass, as what is decreed. A divine decree cannot make an event more certain, than it must be if infallibly foreknown. What was objected in the former case, may just as truly be said in this: If God knows I shall be saved, I certainly shall. If he knows I shall not be saved, certainly I shall not. We answer, therefore,
(4.) It doth not follow from either of these doctrines, that a man will be saved, let him do ever so ill, all his days; or that any one will be damned, let him do ever so well. It follows indeed from the doctrine of election, and equally from that of divine foreknowledge, that there is an absolute certainty who will be saved, and who will not: but from neither of these doctrines doth it follow, that it is all one whether men properly attend to, or wholly neglect the means of their salvation. An event may,
be certain, and yet the use of proper means in order to it, be not at all the less necessary. An event may be certain, and yet it may be certain that it will never come to pass, except in one particular way. And this, we are expressly told, is the case respecting the elect's being saved. They are chosen to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. Certainly, therefore, it is not all one whether they believe the truth, and are sanctified; or believe a lie, and are hardened in sin. Nor is it a matter of no consequence, whether they use or neglect, the appointed means of faith and sanctification. Let it only be well remembered that the end is not decreed, unconnectedly with the way and means; and any one may easily see, that there is no just encouragement from the doctrine of election, to iniquity or negligence; nor any discouragement from seeking the kingdom of God, and striving to enter in at the strait gate.
It only remains that we consider how this doctrine should be treated, and to what good purposes it may be improved.
Certainly, we ought not to treat it with silent contempt, or total neglect. "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong to us, and to our children for ever." Whose names were written in the Lamb's book of life from the foundation of the world, is one of the former things. Who are of the election of grace, until their effectual calling make it sure, is a secret which we cannot by searching find out; and concerning which we have no business to form any judg ment or conjecture. For persons to frighten and discourage themselves with gloomy apprehensions that they are not of the elect; or, on the other hand, for any to make themselves easy with the fond imagination of their being of that happy number, is to
exercise themselves in matters too high for them; and will be likely to do them hurt, rather than any good. But the general doctrine, that God hath elected some to everlasting life, and not others, is a thing plainly revealed. This therefore, it belongs to us to understand and believe.
Some, who acknowledge that this is a scripture doctrine, seem yet to be of opinion that it should not be preached; because many are apt to be stumbled and offended at it, and many others may be in danger of wresting it, to their destruction. It may possibly be insisted upon too often, I admit, to the neglect of other subjects equally important. It may doubtless be thrown out in too unguarded a manner; in a manner tending only to disgust, without instructing them that oppose themselves; or in a manner that will be likely to lead the believers of it into misconcep tions, or wrong inferences. It may, perhaps, be sometimes discoursed upon without being thoroughly understood, or sufficiently studied. But that any who believe it a doctrine of the Bible, and a true doctrine, should think it ought never to be preached, however convincingly, however guardedly, appears strange! How such can reconcile the total omission of it, with the duty of an able minister of the NewTestament, I do not readily conceive. Paul says, "Necessity is laid upon me; yca, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel." He means, undoubtedly, the whole gospel, as well as nothing but the gospel : for he said to the elders of Ephesus, "I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men; for I have not shunned to declare all the counsel of God." Why then should ministers nowadays be thought at liberty to insist only on such doctrines of scripture as they judge to be of good tendency; omitting wholly those hard sayings which the carnal mind may be ready to dispute, or likely to pervert and misimprove!
It hath now been fully shown, I apprehend, that the election of grace is a part, and, from the frequent repetition of it, we have reason to suppose it an essential part, of the revealed counsel of God. It may also be observed, that there is the more need of its being insisted upon, for the very reason why some would not have it ever handled; viz. because it is so apt to stumble and offend people, or to be wrested by them to bad purposes. The admonition of God to his prophets of old, applies with particular force to this difficult point; Isa. lvii. 14," Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people." Those who search the scriptures, will find this doctrine there, whether it be ever preached to them or not; and may be in danger of wresting it, or rejecting revelation on account of it. The unstable and unlearned, may not know how to get over the difficulties attending it, and to guard against the supposed consequences of it, which have really a fatal tendency, except some man should guide them.
But it is not a doctrine which needs to be preached upon, merely to prevent its doing hurt. It was doubtless revealed for doing some good and, according to what has now been said, there are several useful purposes to which it is capable of being improved. Particularly,
1. Christians may hence be taught humility and self-abasement. The natural tendency of it is to hide pride from man, and to advance the glory of divine grace. God reminded his ancient covenant people, that he did not choose them for their sakes; that is, because of any thing inviting in them, or because they were great and honorable; for they were the least and most despised of all nations. And in like manner it should ever be remembered by christians, that when God elected them to be his redeemed ones, they were absolutely nothing; and that when he be