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BRETHREN, GIVE DILIGENCE TO MAKE YOUR CALIING AND ELECTION SURE. 2 PET. i. 10.
A. HERE is not a more plain precept than this in the Gospel; even a child that has heen christened, and has learned the catechism of the church, is taught to be thankful to God, who by baptism has called it to a state of salvation: and to pray and to hope, that with the help of God's grace which he promises in that sacrament, it may continue in the same state unto its life's end,
This, I say, is plain doctrine, and I am sure it is true; we may also safely say, it is the doctrine of the Church of England; which tells us in the 27th article, that baptism is a sign of regeneration, or new birth, whereby we are ingrafted into the Church, and by which the promises of forgiveness of sin ,and of our adoption to be sons of God by the Spirit are sealed; faith is confirmed, and grace increased.
If the Church of England (as some contend) is not a Church of Christ, I know not what to say more; if it is, then all the promises made to baptism in the Scripture are ensured to all the members of it; and the sign will be attended with the thing signified; supposing that the baptism is administered according to the will and command of Jesus Christ. But to this another doctrine is preferred by Christians of a new fashion; which doctrine supposes the election of God to signify only the election of single independent persons; whom God, by an eternal purpose and secret decree, hath chosen out of others (either in a Church or out of a Church, I know not which, nor do they know themselves) : and that for this we have no other reason, but that absolute will, that sovereign power, which God exercises over all his creatures, whether heathens or Christians, to save some, and cast others away.
This notion some have carried so far (for when people are out of the road they never know where to stop) as to affirm, that persons elected can never fall away; and that persons rejected can never be received: I shall therefore undertake to shew'you, first, that this is a frightful doctrine; next, that it is a dangerous doctrine, and answers a very bad purpose; and lastly, that it is not a scriptural doctrine, taught by the Apostles of Jesus Christ: after which I shall think it my duty to warn you against it. It will do you no good, because )'ou have all you can want without it; you have the promises of God, made to Churches, and to single persons; and if you insist on more, you fall into that dreadful sin of tempting God; you would know what cannot be known. It may do you much harm; it may lift you up with spiritual pride, or disturb you with vain fears; and discourage those prayers, in which every Christian should persevere to the last gasp; never giving up his prayers, till he gives up his breath.
According to the plain sense of the text, you will understand, that the Christian life is a Calling, or Profession; not like to the callings and professions that are of this world; but of an hi^h and heavenlv nature, to which God has called us out of the ziorld, and confirmed our calling by the sign of baptism. Thus was Abraham called and elected, and all his children in him; and their calling was confirmed by the sign of circumcision. Every Jew, as such, was a child of Abraham, and an elected heir to the promises of Gcd; even under their blindness and apostacy, the Apostle speaks of them as still beloved, still capable of being again received, for their father's sake; for though men may change, God doth not change; his gifts and callings are without repentance *.
In like manner, we Christians, by our profession, are called out of the world, and taken into the Church of God by baptism; with allusions to which, the New Testament, when it speaks of God's elect, means baptized Christians: this you may see at the 13th verse of the 5th chapter of St. Peter's first Episle; and it seems most probable, that St. John, by the Elect Lady mentioned in his second Epistle, means some particular Church; and by her Elect Sister with her children, he means that Church, and its sons, with which he was then present at the writing of this Epistle. The text admonishes Christians to make their calling and election sure; that is, to persevere in the course of the Christian life, as they began it rightly in baptism. But to teach, as many have done, and that with great confidence, that some are saved, and that others are lost, by a decree, which we can never pretend to know without laying ourselves open to the delusions of Satan: to teach this is to teach a doctrine i,S5 ti deceitful to some, and frightful to others: for must it h]«h c not terrify any many man in his sober senses, when he outt, is told, that the Creator gives being to his creatures, sm, but with this difference; that some of them are brought cted i into tne world as vessels of his pleasure, made for salvation; others as vessels of his wrath, made for destruction, without any hope or possibility of fleeing from the wrath to come? Let us allow that all mankind in their natural state are sold and lost under sin, and can never receive any thing but of God's free and unmerited grace in Christ Jesus: that he may give and take away as he pleases, and none can contradict his will: but all this we must allow to the power of God; still his promises demonstrate that these are not the terms to which he hath called his people: they are the terms under which he hath left heathens. Does he not appeal to his Church by a prophet in the Old Tes-" tament, that his ways are equal, and that the ways of man are unequal, unjust, uncertain; while his own ways are always consistent with that goodness and mercy, which willeth not the death of any one sinner? Does he not therefore appeal to his people, and ask them %vhy they will die? suggesting by those words, that if a sinner dies who has been under his covenant and among his elect people, to whom the prophet speaks, it is not according to the will of God, but according to his own will *. For God hath set before him life and death, that he may chuse which he will take. This choice is not given to the heathens, and the like question could not be put to them; there must be a sense therefore in which, and circumstances under which man may be said to chuse: for it would be a cruel sort of mockery for God to tell his people
* Repentance here signifies change of mind in God; as in the passage respecting peace. See Hex. xii. 17.
that their destruction is from themselves, if it be ordered from his own sovereign will! Would he ask "why they will die?'' when they are not within his covenant, and it is impossible for them to live? There must here be some great misunderstanding in our method of conceiving and stating the ways of God: his counsels may be deep and mysterious, but they cannot be cruel and unjust
Suppose a poor prisoner to be shut up within massy .walls; and one were to look through the iron gate of his cell, and tell him, that the prison was about to be set on fire, that he must fly for his life, and lose no time; that the delay of one moment is an argument of his infatuation; would not this be to trifle with the misery of a poor wretch devoted to destruction? It has therefore been well said of those who believe that God can speak and act upon those principles, that they have given to him the nature of the destroyer; yea, that they have actually turned the Author of all good into the Author of all evil.
Predestination is also a very dangerous doctrine; it brings a snare upon others; it intrusts every man with an office for which no man is fit, by making him an arbitrary judge of his own spiritual state. None but the Searcher of all hearts can fathom the depth of deceit to which the human heart is subject; therefore the Scripture takes this judgment out of our own hands, and gives it, first to other men, but ultimately to God: "not he that commendeth himself is approved, but "whom the Lord commendeth." He'that ha.th the judgment of himself in his own hands will naturally despise the judgment of other men, and set it at defiance; yet the Scripture pronounces that other men shall know by their fruit what we may ourselves be ignorant of; and that whatever our inward testimony