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human systems, from a vainglorious display of theological attainments, will receive with meekness all that the Lord reveals. He may, indeed, when contemplating the mysteries of grace, be led to exclaim with Nicodemus, "How can these things be ?"* Or with Paul, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God !"+ but the declaration: "THUS SAITH THE LORD," ever satisfies his mind. This sacred seal, placed upon the most abstruse revelations of the mind of God, is quite sufficient. He wants no more. And what is the result? -He enjoys the peace of God; the sweet assurance of his love; the hope of glory, through the atoning blood of Christ.
It is then at our peril, if we add unto, or diminish ought from, the word of God. As there were "Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life:" so, lest the unhallowed hands of reasoning pride should mutilate or encumber the Scriptures of Truth, they are guarded, both by a command and a threatening: "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you."§ “If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."||
Dangerous it were for the feeble brain of man to wade far into the doings of the Most High; whom although to know be life, and joy to make mention of his name; yet our soundest knowledge is, to know that we know him not as indeed he is, neither can know him; and our safest eloquence concerning him, is our silence, when we confess without confession, that his glory is inexplicable, his greatness above our capacity and reach. He is above, and we upon earth;
John iii. 9.
+ Rom. xi. 33.
Gen. iii. 24.
Rev. xxii. 19.
therefore it behoveth our words to be wary and few."*
The humble believer, who is taught of God, will receive the mysteries of the kingdom, as the Spirit has been pleased to reveal them; and instead of endeavouring to explain them by his finite capacity, will rest satisfied with the divine assurance: "What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." This composed the mind of the inspired Paul: "Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."+
We should never meditate upon the doctrine of Election, but with the profoundest reverence, humility, and child-like dependence on the teaching of the Holy Ghost. We know nothing of this mysterious Truth but by the Scriptures. It is therefore the safest way to receive it, just as it is recorded, without endeavouring to supply, by our shallow comprehension, what Infinite Wisdom has thought fit to conceal.
From all eternity, God saw the end from the beginning. There is no before or after to the divine mind; it is one eternal present. Nothing new, nothing unforeseen, or unknown, can happen to that Omniscient Jehovah, who made all things, and by whom all things consist.
"Known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the world."§ To this fundamental truth, declared by St. James, every orthodox Christian must subscribe. He, who inhabiteth eternity; He, who filleth heaven and earth with his presence; He, in whom we live, and move, and have our being; He, who knoweth all the secrets of the heart, and beholdeth all the ways of the children of men, cannot be taken by surprise, or thwarted in his purposes and plans. If this fundamental truth be granted, then it must necessarily follow, that God foresaw the fall of our first parents, and fore-ordained
* Hooker. + John xiii. 7. 1 Cor. xiii. 12. § Acts xv. 18.
his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, as God manifest in the flesh, to become the Saviour of our fallen race. The sin of Adam was his own. It sprang from a wilful disobedience to the divine command. Justice pronounced the sentence of death on the guilty pair; but mercy proclaimed pardon through the seed of the woman who should bruise the serpent's head. How inconceivably great are the riches of sovereign grace. This was a redemption as unexpected, as it was unsought. Truly, mercy rejoiced against judgment. The Almighty declared himself to be a just God, and yet a Saviour. His own arm brought salvation.
From Genesis to the Revelation, salvation is revealed as the free unmerited work of God. The Fountain of Grace is in Himself:-The copious streams flow down to us through Jesus Christ, and all our services ascend with acceptance only by, and through Him. We are not redeemed with corruptible things,.....but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world."* And true believers are said to have their "written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."+
St. Paul broke out into an anthem of praise on this account: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." He told the Roman converts that, whom God "did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren."S And to the Thessalonians he said: "We are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren...... because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and Eph. i. 3, 4.
* 1 Pet. i. 18-20.
+ Rev. xiii. 8. § Rom. viii. 29.
belief of the truth."* To Timothy, his beloved son in the faith, St. Paul thus writes: "Be not thou ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began; but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."+ To Titus, his "own son after the common faith," the Apostle expresses his view of the divine sovereignty: "Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; but hath in due times manifested his word through preaching."§
St. Peter also addressed the strangers scattered abroad by the rude hand of persecution, as "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."||
If we receive these inspired declarations, which contain the will of God respecting his redeemed people, in their plain grammatical meaning, apart from prejudice and unwarped by system, surely we cannot fail to acknowledge the sovereignty of God in his acts of grace.
But alas! the pride of fallen reason rises against the sovereignty of Jehovah. The natural heart cannot stoop so low, as to accept of salvation through the righteousness of another, and irrespective of any foreseen goodness in the recipient. But, however wretched man may oppose the freeness of divine the Apostles declare, in unequivocal language, that
+ 2 Tim. i. 8-10.
* 2 Thes. ii. 13.
|| 1 Pet. i. 2.
Tit. i. 4.
God in Christ is the Author of Salvation; that his gifts are sovereign, flowing from everlasting to everlasting; that he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, to the praise of the glory of his grace. He is debtor to none, “for all have sinned, and come short of his glory ;"* all, therefore, deserve to perish. If any are saved, it is not through any righteousness of their own, "for there is none righteous, no, not one," but through the unspeakable love of God. None can claim salvation as a right; all may, and must sue for it, as an unmerited gift. None who seek for it through the merits of Christ, with earnest prayer, and by humble faith, shall be rejected. The promise is full and clear: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Humility will embrace this great salvation; when pride expires at the foot of the Cross.
Our destruction is altogether from ourselves. The Omniscient Jehovah foresaw the issue of Satan's temptation, and in his inscrutable wisdom permitted man to fall, but in doing so, he remained the same holy and good Being, and can be in no wise chargeable with his creature's transgression. To believe otherwise would be blasphemy in the extreme.§
Man was created a rational being, a free agent. When he eat of the forbidden fruit he did it with the consent of his own will. Satan could not force our first parents to eat. The act was their own. presented the alluring bait; he proposed specious arguments; he threw in doubtful insinuations respecting the divine prohibition; the poison operated, the temptation succeeded, and they fell through yielding to Satan's infidel suggestions. They disbelieved the words of their Creator, and fell from the heights of holiness and happiness, into the depths of sin and woe! As a child partakes of the nature of the parent, so, when Adam fell, all his posterity fell in him. He became the head of a fallen race. Original
* Rom. iii. 23. † Psa. xiv. 1-3., liii. 1—3.; Rom. iii. 10-12. § Eccles. vii. 29.
Acts xvi. 31.