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made a few observations, with a view to refute the error of those who suppose the generality of the promises to belong equally to all mankind. But the discriminating election of God, which is otherwise concealed within himself, he manifests only by his calling, which may therefore with propriety be termed the testification or evidence of it. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified,” in order to their essential glorification. (u) Though by choosing his people, the Lord hath adopted them as his children, yet we see that they enter not on the possession of so great a blessing till they are called; on the other hand, as soon as they are called, they immediately enjoy some communication of his election. On this account Paul calls the Spirit received by them both “the Spirit of adoption, and the seal and earnest of the future inheritance;” (x) because, by his testimony, he confirms and seals to their hearts the certainty of their future adoption. For though the preaching of the gospel is a stream from the source of election, yet, being common also to the reprobate, it would of itself be no solid proof of it. For God effectually teaches his elect, to bring them to faith, as we have already cited from the words of Christ; “He which is of God, he’’ and he alone “hath seen the Father.” (y) Again, “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me.” (z) For he says in another place, “No man can come to me, except the Father draw him.” (a) This passage is judiciously explained by Augustine in the following words: “If, according to the declaration of truth, every one that hath learned cometh; whosoever cometh not, certainly hath not learned. It does not necessarily follow that he who can come actually comes, unless he has both willed and done it; but every one that hath learned of the Father, not only can come, but also actually comes; where there is an immediate union of the advantage of possibility, the inclination of the will, and the consequent action.” In another place he is still clearer: “Every one that hath heard and learned of
(u) Rom. viii. 29, 30. (r) Rom viii. 15, 16. Ephes. i. 13, 14.
the Father, cometh unto me. Is not this saying, There is no one that heareth and learneth of the Father, and cometh not unto me? For if every one that hath heard and learned of the Father cometh, certainly every one that cometh not hath neither heard nor learned of the Father: for if he had heard and learned, he would come. Very remote from carnal observation is this school, in which men hear and learn of the Father to come to the Son.” Just after he says; “This grace, which is secretly communicated to the hearts of men, is received by no hard heart; for the first object of its communication is, that hardness of heart may be taken away. When the Father is heard within therefore, he taketh away the heart of stone and giveth a heart of flesh. For thus he forms children of promise and vessels of mercy whom he hath prepared for glory. Why then does he not teach all, that they may come to Christ, but because all whom he teaches, he teaches in mercy? but whom he teaches not, he teaches not in judgment: for he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he harden
eth.” Those whom God hath chosen, therefore, he designates - -
as his children, and determines himself to be their Father. By calling, he introduces them into his family, and unites them to himself, that they may be one. By connecting calling with election, the Scripture evidently suggests, that nothing is requisite to it but the free mercy of God. For if we inquire whom he calls, and for what reason, the answer is, those whom he had elected. But when we come to election, we see nothing but mercy on every side. And so that observation of Paul is very applicable here, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy;” but not as it is commonly understood by those who make a distribution between the grace of God, and the will and exertion of man. For they say, that human desires and endeavours have no efficacy of themselves, unless they are rendered successful by the grace of God; but maintain that, with the assistance of his blessing, these things have also their share in procuring salvation. To refute their cavil, I prefer Augustine's words to my own. “If the apostle only meant that it is not of him that willeth, or of him that runneth, without the assistance of the merciful Lord; we may retort the converse proposition, that it is not of mercy
alone, without the assistance of willing and running.” If this be manifestly impious, we may be certain that the apostle ascribes every thing to the Lord's mercy, and leaves nothing to our wills or exertions. This was the opinion of that holy man. Nor is the least regard due to their paltry sophism, that Paul would not have expressed himself so, if we had no exertion or will. For he considered not what was in man; but seeing some persons attribute salvation partly to human industry, he simply condemned their error in the former part of the sentence, and in the latter, vindicated the claim of Divine mercy to the whole accomplishment of salvation. And what do the prophets, but perpetually proclaim the gratuitous calling of God?
II. This point is farther demonstrated by the very nature and dispensation of calling, which consists not in the mere preaching of the word, but in the accompanying illumination of the Spirit.)To whom God offers his word, we are informed in the prophet; “I am sought of them that asked not for me: I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.”(b) And lest the Jews should suppose that this clemency extended only to the Gentiles, he recals to their remembrance the situation from which he took their Father Abraham, when he deigned to draw him to himself; that was from the midst of idolatry, in which he and all his family were sunk. (c) When he first shines upon the undeserving with the light of his word, he thereby exhibits a most brilliant specimen of his free goodness. Here then the infinite goodness of God is displayed, but not to the salvation of all; for heavier judgment awaits the reprobate, because they reject the testimony of Divine love. And God also, to to manifest his glory, withdraws from them the efficacious influence of his Spirit. This internal call therefore is a pledge of salvation, which cannot possibly deceive. To this purpose is that passage of John, “Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” (d) And lest the flesh should glory in having answered at least to his call, and accepted his free offers, he affirms that men have no ears to hear,
(b) Isaiah Ixv. 1. (c) Joshua xxiv. 2,3. (d) 1 John iii. 24.
or eyes to see, but such as he has formed; and that he acts in this, not according to individual gratitude, but according to his own election. Of this fact Luke gives us an eminent example, where Jews and Gentiles in common heard the preaching of Paul and Barnabas. Though they were all instructed on that occasion with the same discourse, it is narrated that “as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” (e) With what face then can we deny the freeness of calling, in which election reigns alone, even to the last? III. Here two errors are to be avoided. For some suppose man to be a co-operator with God, so that the validity of election depends on his consent; thus according to them the will of man is superior to the counsel of God. As though the Scripture taught, that we are only given an ability to believe, and not faith itself. Others, not thus enervating the grace of the Holy Spirit, yet induced by I know not what mode of reasoning, suspend election on that which is subsequent to it; as though it were doubtful and ineffectual till it is confirmed by faith. That this is its confirmation to us, is very clear; that it is the manifestation of God’s secret counsel before concealed, we have already seen; but all that we are to understand by this, is that what was before unknown is verified, and as it were ratified with a seal. But it is contrary to the truth to assert, that election has no efficacy till after we have embraced the gospel, and that this circumstance gives it als its energy. The certainty of it, indeed, we are to seek here; for if we attempt to penetrate to the eternal decree of God, we shall be ingulfed in the profound abyss. But when God has discovered it to us, we must ascend to loftier heights, that the cause may not be lost in the effect. For what can be more absurd and inconsistent, when the Scripture teaches that we are illuminated according as God has chosen us, than our eyes being so dazzled with the blaze of this light as to refuse to contemplate election? At the same time I admit that, in order to attain an assurance of our salvation, we ought to begin with the word, and that with it our confidence ought to be satisfied, so as to call upon God as our Father. For some persons, to obtain certainty respecting the counsel of God, “which is nigh unto us, in our mouth and in our heart,” (f) pre
(e) Acts xiii. 48. (f) Deut. xxx. 14.
posterously wish to soar above the clouds. Such temerity, therefore, should be restrained by the sobriety of faith, that we may be satisfied with the testimony of God in his external word respecting his secret grace; only the channel, which conveys to us such a copious stream to satisfy our thirst, must not deprive the fountain-head of the honour which belongs to it. IV. As it is erroneous, therefore, to suspend the efficacy of election upon the faith of the gospel, by which we discover our interest in election; so we shall observe the best order, if, in seeking an assurance of our election, we confine our attention to those subsequent signs which are certain attestations of it. Satan never attacks the faithful with a more grievous or dangerous temptation, than when he disquiets them with doubts of their election, and stimulates to an improper desire of seeking it in a wrong way. I call it seeking in a wrong way, when miserable man endeavours to force his way into the secret recesses of Divine wisdom, and to penetrate even to the highest eternity, that he may discover what is determined concerning him at the tribunal of God, Then he precipitates himself to be absorbed in the profound of an unfathomable gulf; then he entangles himself in numberless and inextricable snares; then he sinks himself in an abyss of total darkness. For it is right that the folly of the human mind should be thus punished with horrible destruction, when it attempts by its own ability to rise to the summit of Divine wisdom. This temptation is the more fatal, because there is no other to which men in general have a stronger propensity. For there is scarcely a person to be found, whose mind is not sometimes struck with this thought, Whence can you obtain salvation but from the election of God? And what revelation have you received of election? If this has once impressed a man, it either perpetually excruciates the unhappy being with dreadful torments, or altogether stupefies him with astonishment. Indeed, I should desire no stronger argument to prove how extremely erroneous the conceptions of such persons are respecting predestination, than experience itself; since no error can affect the mind, more pestilent than such as disturbs the conscience, and destroys its peace and tranquillity towards God. Therefore, if we dread shipwreck, let us anxiously beware of this rock, on which none ever strike without being de