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possible, or bring them into a salvable state, but purchased and secured a certain salvation to all for whom he died.John xvii. 4; Heb. iv. 12. 2. That Christ died exclusively for the elect, and purchased redemption for them alone; in other words, that Christ made atonement only for the elect, and that in no sense did he die for the rest of the race. Our Confession first asserts, positively, that the elect are redeemed by Christ; and then, negatively, that none other are redeemed by Christ but the elect only. If this does not affirm the doctrine of particular redemption, or of a limited atonement, we know not what language could express that doctrine more explicitly. It is diametrically opposed to the system of the Arminians, who hold,“ that Jesus Christ, by his death and sufferings, made an atonement for the sins of all mankind in general, and of every individual in particular.” It is not lesy opposed to the doctrine maintained by many, that though the death of Christ had a special reference to the elect, and, in connection with the divine purpose, infallibly secures their salvation, yet that it has also a general reference, and made an equal atonement for all men. The celebrated Richard Baxter, who favoured general redemption, makes the following remark upon this and another section of our Confession :-“Chap. iii. sec. 6, and chap. viii. sec. 8, which speak against universal redemption, I understand not of all redemption, and particularly not of the mere bearing the punishment of man's sins, and satisfying God's justice, but of that special redemption proper to the elect, which was accompanied with an intention of actual application of the saving benefits in tiine. If I may not be allowed this interpretation, I must herein dissent."* The language of the Confession, in my opinion, will not admit of this interpretation; and, what is more, the Bible is silent about this general redemption, or the general reference of the death of Christ. The Saviour himself declares, “I lay down my life for the sheep;” and he affirms that the sheep for whom he laid down his life are the definite number chosen by God, and given to him in the eternal covenant, and to whom he will eventually give eternal life.—John x. 15, 28, 29. “It is true, the Christian religion being to be distinguished from the Jewish in this main point, that whereas the Jewish was restrained to Abraham's posterity, and confined within one race and nation, the Christian was to be preached to every creature, universal words are used concerning the death of Christ ; but as the words, “preaching to every creature,' and to all the world,' are not to be understood in the utmost extent,-for then they
* Baxter's Confession of his Faith, p. 21.
have never been verified, since the gospel has never yet, for aught that appears to us, been preached to every nation under heaven, but are only to be explained generally of a commission not limited to one or more nations, none being excluded from it; the apostles were to execute it, in going from city to city, as they should be inwardly moved to it by the Holy Ghost; so Calvinists' think, that those large words that are applied to the death of Christ, are to be understood in the same qualified manner; that no nation, or sort of men, are excluded from it, and that some of all kinds and sorts shall be saved by him. And this is to be carried no further, without an imputation on the justice of God; for if he has received a sufficient oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, it is not reconcileable to justice, that all should not be saved by it, or should not at least have the offer and promulgation of it made them; that so a trial may be made, whether they will accept of it or not.” *
3. We are further taught, that salvation shall be effectually applied by the Holy Spirit, to all those who were chosen of God, and redeemed by Christ; and that it shall be effectually applied to them alone. The elect are all in due time, by the power of the Spirit, effectually called unto faith in Christ. “ All that the Father giveth me shall come to me."-John vi. 37. “ As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” -Acts xiii. 48. They are all justified, adopted, sanctified, and shall be enabled to persevere in grace, and at length their salvation shall be consummated in glory. " Whom he did predestinate, them he also called ; and whom he called, them he also justified ; and whom he justified, them he also glorified."-Rom. viii. 30.
Thus our Confession, agreeably to Scripture, represents each of the divine persons as acting a distinct part in the glorious work of human redemption, and as entirely concurring in counsel and operation. The Father chose a definite number of mankind sinners to eternal life; the Son laid down his life for those who were chosen in him before the foundation of the world, and obtained for them eternal redemption; and the Holy Spirit applies the purchased redemption to them in due season. Here all is perfect harmony. The Son fulfils the will of the Father, and the Spirit's work is in entire accordance with the purpose of the Father and the mediation of the Son. But according to the scheme of general redemption, or of universal atonement, this harmony is utterly destroyed. The Son sheds his blood for multitudes whom the Father never purposed to save, and the
• Burnet on the Thirty-Nine Articles, Art. 17.
Spirit does not put forth the influence necessary to secure the application of salvation to all for whom Christ died !
SECTION VII.—The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.!?
17 Matt. xi. 25, 26. Rom. ix. 17, 18, 21, 22. 2 Tim. ii. 19, 20. Jude 4.
1 Pet. ii. 8.
EXPOSITION. This section describes what is usually called the decree of reprobation. This term is not used in the Confession, and when it occurs in Scripture, bears a different sense from the theological; but for the sake of convenience, it is used to express that act of God's will by which, when he viewed all mankind as involved in guilt and misery, he rejected some, while he chose others. Some who allow of personal and eternal election, deny any such thing as reprobation. But the one unavoidably follows from the other; for the choice of some must necessarily imply the rejection of others. “Election and rejection are co-relative terms ; and men impose upon themselves, and imagine that they conceive what it is impossible to conceive, when they admit election and deny reprobation. . . . There are many passages of Scripture in which this doctrine is taught. We read of some whose names are ‘not written,' and who, consequently, are opposed to those whose names are written, ‘in the Book of Life ;' who are
vessels of wrath fitted to destruction;' who were before of old ordained to condemnation ;' who stumble at the Word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed ; of persons whom God is said to hate, while others he loves. Let any man carefully and dispassionately read the 9th and the 11th chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, and he will entertain no more doubt that some are ordained to death, than that others are ordained to life.” *
Our Confession speaks of God's passing by some, and also ordaiping them to wrath ; and we apprehend there is an important distinction betwixt the two. If the reason be inquired why God passed by some of mankind sinners, while he
* Dick's Lectures on Theology, vol. ii., pp. 197, 198.
elected others to life, it must be resolved into the counsel of his own will, whereby he extends or withholds mercy as he pleases. No doubt those whom God passed by were considered as fallen and guilty creatures ; but if there was sin in them, there was sin also in those who were chosen to salvation ; we must, therefore, resolve their opposite allotment into the will of God: “ He hath mercy upon whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”—Rom. ix. 18. As it would have been just in God to pass by the whole of our race, and to deal with them as he did with the angels who sinned, it must be manifest that, in electing some to life, he did no injustice to the non-elect, whose case would have been just as bad as it is, even supposing the others had not been chosen at all. But if the reason be inquired why God ordained to dishonour and wrath those whom he passed by, this must be resolved into their own sin. In this act God appears as a judge, fixing beforehand the punishment of the guilty; and his decree is only a purpose of acting towards them according to the natural course of justice. Their own sin is the procuring cause of their final ruin, and therefore God does them no wrong. The salvation of the elect is wholly
to the praise of his glorious grace," and the condemnation of the non-elect is “ to the praise of his glorious justice.”
SECTION VIII.—The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, 18 that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. 19 So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation, to all that sincerely obey the gospel. 21
18 Rom. ix. 20; xi. 33. Deut. xxix.
29. 19 2 Pet. i. 10.
20 Eph. i. 6. Rom. xi. 33.
Rom. viii. 33. Luke x. 20.
The doctrine of predestination is, indeed, a high mystery -one of the deep things of God, which our feeble intellects cannot fully comprehend. In our inquiries about it, we ought to repress a vain curiosity, and not attempt to be wise above what is written. But, since the doctrine is revealed by God in his Word, it is a proper subject for sober investigation,
and ought to be published from the pulpit and the press. Calvin justly remarks, “That those things which the Lord bath laid up in secret, we may not search; those things which he hath brought openly abroad, we may not neglect; lest either on the one part we be condemned of vain curiosity, or on the other part, of unthankfulness.” Were this doctrine either dangerous or useless, God would not have revealed it; and for men to attempt to suppress it, is to arraign the wisdom of God, as though he foresaw not the danger which they would arrogantly interpose to prevent. " Whosoever," adds Calvin,“ laboureth to bring the doctrine of predestination into misliking, he openly saith evil of God; as though somewhat had unadvisedly slipped from him which is hurtful to the Church.”* This doctrine, however, ought to be handled with special judgment and prudence, avoiding human speculations, and adhering to what is plainly revealed in the Scriptures. When prudently discussed, it will neither lead to licentiousness nor to despair; but will eminently conduce to the knowledge, establishment, and comfort of Christians.
It ought ever to be remembered, that no man can know his election prior to his conversion. Wherefore, instead of prying into the secret purpose of God, he ought to attend to his revealed will, that by making sure his vocation, he may ascertain his election. The order and method in which this knowledge may be attained is pointed out by the Apostle Peter, when he exhorts Christians to "give all diligence to make their calling and election sure.”—2 Pet. i. 10. Their eternal election must remain a profound secret until it be discovered to them by their effectual calling in time ; but when they have ascertained their calling, they may thence infallibly conclude that they were elected from eternity. Election, then, gives no discouragement to any man in reference to obeying the calls and embracing the offers of the gospel. The invitations of the gospel are not addressed to men as elect, but as sinners ready to perish; all are under the same obligation to comply with these invitations, and the encouragement from Christ is the same to all,“ Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” And the doctrine of election must have a sanctifying and consoling influence on all who sincerely obey the gospel. It is calculated to inspire them with sentiments of reverence and gratitude towards God; to humble their souls in the dust before the eternal Sovereign; to excite them to diligence in the discharge of duty; to afford them strong consolation under the
* Calvin's Institutions, book iii., ch. 21, sec. 4.