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from time to time from the children of Abraham, rather than from the profane nations, was in consideration of his covenant, which, being violated by the multitude, he restricted to a few, to prevent its total failure. Lastly, the general adoption of the seed of Abraham was a visible representation of a greater blessing, which God conferred on a few out of the multitude. This is the reason that Paul so carefully distinguishes the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, from his spiritual children called after the example of Isaac. Not that the mere descent from Abraham was a vain and unprofitable thing, which could not be asserted without depreciating the covenant; but because to the latter alone the immutable counsel of God, in which he predestinated whom he would, was of itself effectual to salvation. But I advise my readers to adopt no prejudice on either side, till it shall appear from adduced passages of Scripture what sentiments ought to be entertained. 'In o therefore, to the clear doctrine of the Scripture, we assert, that by an eternal and immutable counsel, God hath once for all determined, both whom he would admit to salvation, and, whom he would condemn to destruction. We affirm that this o
counsel, as far as concerns the elect, is founded on his gratuitous mercy, totally irrespective of human merit; but that to those whom he devotes to condemnation, the gate of life is closed by a just and irreprehensible, but incomprehensible, judgment. In the elect, we consider calling as an evidence of election, and justification as another token of its manifestation, till they arrive in glory, which constitutes its completion. As God seals his elect by vocation and justification, so by excluding the reprobate from the knowledge of his name and the sanctification of his Spirit, he affords an indication of the judgment that awaits them. Here I shall pass over many fictions fabricated by foolish men to overthrow predestination. It is unnecessary to refute things which, as soon as they are advanced, sufficiently prove their own falsehood. I shall dwell only on those things which are subjects of controversy among the learned, or which may occasion difficulty to simple minds, or which impiety speciously pleads in order to stigmatize the Divine justice. Vol. II. 3 H
Testimonies of Scripture in Confirmation of this Doctrine.
ALL the positions we have advanced are controverted by many, especially the gratuitous election of the faithful, which nevertheless cannot be shaken. It is a notion commonly entertained, that God, foreseeing what would be the respective merits of every individual, makes a correspondent distinction between different persons; that he adopts as his children such as he foreknows will be deserving of his grace; and devotes to the damnation of death others whose dispositions he sees will be inclined to wickedness and impiety. Thus they not only obscure election by covering it with the veil of foreknowledge, but pretend that it originates in another cause. Nor is this commonly-received notion the opinion of the vulgar only, for it has had great advocates in all ages: which I candidly confess, that no one may cherish a confidence of injuring our cause by opposing us with their names. For the truth of God on this point is too certain to be shaken, too clear to be overthrown by the authority of men. Others, neither acquainted with the Scripture, nor deserving of any attention, oppose the sound doctrine with extreme presumption and intolerable effrontery. God's sovereign election of some, and preterition of others, they make the subject of formal accusation against him. But if this is the known fact, what will they gain by quarrelling with God? We teach nothing but what experience has proved, that God hath always been at liberty to bestow his grace on whom he chooses. I will not inquire how the posterity of Abraham excelled other nations, unless it was by that favour, the cause of which can only be found in God. Let them answer why they are men, and not oxen or asses; when it was in God’s power to create them dogs, he formed them after his own image. Will they allow the brute animals to expostulate with God respecting their condition, as though the distinction were unjust? Their enjoyment of a privilege which they have acquired by no merits, is certainly no more reasonable than God’s various distri
bution of his favours according to the measure of his judgment. If they make a transition to persons where the inequality is more offensive to them, the example of Christ at least ought to deter them from carelessly prating concerning this sublime mystery. A mortal man is conceived of the seed of David: to the merit of what virtues will they ascribe his being made, even in the womb, the Head of angels, the only-begotten Son of God, the Image and Glory of the Father, the Light of righteousness and Salvation of the world? It is judiciously remarked by Augustine, that there is the brightest example of gratuitous election in the Head of the Church himself, that it may not perplex us in the members; that he did not become the Son of God by leading a righteous life, but was gratuitously invested with this high honour, that he might afterwards render others partakers of the gifts bestowed upon him. If any one inquire, why others are not all that he was, or why we are all at such a vast distance from him; why we are all corrupt, and he purity itself; he will betray both folly and impudence. But if they persist in the wish to deprive God of the uncontrollable right of choosing and rejecting, let them also take away what is given to Christ. Now it is of importance to attend to what the Scripture declares respecting every individual. Paul's assertion, that we were “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world,” (g) certainly precludes any consideration of merit in us; for it is as though he had said; Our heavenly Father, finding nothing worthy of his choice in all the posterity of Adam, turned his views towards his Christ, to choose members from his body whom he would admit to the fellowship of life. Let the faithful, then, be satisfied with this reason, that we were adopted in Christ to the heavenly inheritance, because in ourselves we were incapable of such high dignity. He has a similar remark in another place, where he exhorts the Colossians to “give things unto the Father, who had made then, meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints.” (h) If election precedes this grace of God, which makes us meet to obtain the glory of the life to come, what will God find in us to induce him to elect us? Another passage from this apostle will still
(g) Ephes. i. 4. (h) Col. i. 12.
more clearly express my meaning; “He hath chosen us,” he says, “before the foundation of the world, according to the good pleasure of his will, that we should be holy, and without blame before him:” (i) where he opposes the good pleasure of God to all our merits whatsoever. II. To render the proof more complete, it will be useful to notice all the clauses of that passage, which, taken in connection, leave no room for doubt. By the appellation of the elect, or chosen, he certainly designates the faithful, as he soon after declares: wherefore it is corrupting the term by a shameful fiction to restrict it to the age in which the gospel was published. By saying that they were elected before the creation of the world, he precludes every consideration of merit. For what could be the reason for discrimination between those who yet had no existence, and whose condition was afterwards to be the same in Adam? Now if they are chosen in Christ, it follows, not only that each individual is chosen out of himself, but also that some are separated from others; for it is evident, that all are not members of Christ. The next clause, stating them to have been “chosen that they might be holy,” fully refutes the error which derives election from foreknowledge; since Paul, on the contrary, declares that all the virtue discovered in men is the effect of election. If any inquiry be made after a superior cause, Paul replies that God thus “predestinated,” and that it was “according to the good pleasure of his will.” This overturns any means of election which men imagine in themselves; for all the benefits conferred by God for the spiritual life, he represents as flowing from this one source, that God elected whom he would, and, before they were born, laid up in reserve for them the grace with which he determined to favour them. III. Wherever this decree of God reigns, there can be no consideration of any works. The antithesis, indeed, is not pursued here; but it must be understood, as amplified by the same writer in another place. “Who hath called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the
(i) Ephes. i. 4, 5.
world began.” (#) And we have already shewn that the following clause, “that we should be holy,” removes every difficulty. For say, Because he foresaw they would be holy, therefore he chose them, and you will invert the order of Paul. We may safely infer, then; If he chose us that we should be holy, his foresight of our future holiness was not the cause of his choice. For these two propositions, That the holiness of the faithful is the fruit of election, and That they attain it by means of works, are incompatible with each other. Nor is there any force in the cavil to which they frequently resort, that the grace of election was not God's reward of antecedent works, but his gift to future ones. For when it is said, that the faithful were elected that they should be holy, it is fully implied, that the holiness they were in future to possess had its origin in election. And what consistency would there be in asserting, that things derived from election were the causes of election. A subsequent clause seems farther to confirm what he had said, “according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in himself.” (!) For the assertion, that God purposed in himself, is equivalent to saying, that he considered nothing out of himself, with any view to influence his determination. Therefore he immediately subjoins, that the great and only object of our election is, “that we should be to the praise of ’’Divine “grace.” Certainly the grace of God deserves not the sole praise of our election, unless this election be gratuitous. Now it could not be gratuitous, if, in choosing his people, God himself considered what would be the nature of their respective works. The declaration of Christ to his disciples, therefore, is universally applicable to all the faithful; “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” (m) which not only excludes past merits, but signifies that they had nothing in themselves to cause their election, independently of his preventing mercy. This also is the meaning of that passage of Paul, “Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” (n) For his design is to shew, that God's goodness altogether anticipates men, finding nothing in them, either past or future, to conciliate his favour towards them.