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In discussing this subject,
1. It is agreed that eternity is a natural attribute of God in the sense that He grows no older. He was just as old before the world or universe was made, as He is now, or as He will be at the day of judgment.
3. That He has necessarily and eternally possessed this knowledge, so that He never has, and never can have, any accession to His knowledge. Every possible thing that ever was, or will be, or can be an object of knowledge, has been necessarily and eternally known to God. If this were not true, God would be neither infinite nor omniscient.
4. It is agreed also that God exercises an universal providence, embracing all events that ever did or ever will occur in all worlds. Some of these events He secures by His own agency, and others occur under His providence, in the sense that He permits or suffers them to occur rather than interpose to prevent them. They may be truly said to occur under His providence, because His plan of government in some sense embraces them all. He made provision to secure those that are good, that is, the holy intentions of moral agents, and to overrule for good those that are evil, that is, the selfish intentions of moral agents. These intentions are events, and may be said to occur under Divine Providence, because all events that do, or ever will, occur, are and must be foreseen results of God's own agency, or of the work of creation.
5. It is agreed that infinite benevolence is the sum of the moral attributes of God.
6. That God is both naturally and morally immutable; that in His natural attributes He is necessarily so, and in His moral attributes is certainly so.
7. It is agreed that all who are converted, sanctified and saved, are converted, sanctified, and saved by God's own agency; that is, God saves them by securing, by His own agency, their personal and individual holiness.
What the Bible doctrine of election is not.
1. The Bible doctrine of election is not that any are chosen to salvation, in such a sense, that they will or can be saved without repentance, faith, and sanctification.
2. Nor is it that some are chosen to salvation, in such a sense, that they will be saved irrespective of their being regenerated, and persevering in holiness to the end of life. The Bible most plainly teaches, that these are naturally indispensable conditions of salvation, and of course election cannot dispense with them.
3. Nor is it that any are chosen to salvation for, or on account of their own foreseen merits, or good works. "Who hath saved us, and 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 world began" (2 Tim. 1:9). The foreseen fact, that by the wisest governmental arrangement God could convert and sanctify and fit them for heaven, must have been a condition in the sense of a sine qua non, of their election to salvation, but could not have been the fundamental reason for it, as we shall see. God did not elect them to salvation, for or on account of their foreseen good works, but upon condition of their foreseen repentance, faith and perseverance.
4. The Bible doctrine of election is not that God elected some to salvation, upon such conditions that it is really uncertain whether they will comply with those conditions, and be finally saved. The Bible does not leave the question of the final salvation of the elect as a matter of real uncertainty. This we shall see in its place. The elect were chosen to salvation, upon condition that God foresaw that He could secure their repentance, faith, and final perseverance.
What the Bible doctrine of election is.
It is, that all of Adam's race, who are or ever will be saved, were from eternity chosen by God to eternal salvation, through the sanctification of their hearts by faith in Christ. In other words, they are chosen to salvation by means of sanctification. Their salvation is the end their sanctification is a means. Both the end and the means are elected, appointed, chosen; the means as really as the end, and for the sake of the end. The election of some individuals and nations to certain privileges, and to do certain things, is not the kind of election of which I treat at this time; but I am to consider the doctrine of election as it respects election unto salvation, as just explained.
I am to prove the doctrine as I have stated it to be true.
1. It is plainly implied in the teaching of the Bible: the Bible everywhere assumes and implies the truth of this doctrine just as might be expected, since it so irresistibly follows from the known and admitted attributes of God. Instead of formally revealing it as a truth unknown to, or unknowable by, the human reason, the scriptures in a great variety of ways speak of the elect, of election, etc., as a truth known by irresistible inference from His known attributes. To deny it involves a denial of the attributes of God. I have been surprised at the labored and learned efforts to show that this doctrine is not expressly taught in the Bible. Suppose it were not, what then? Other truths are taught and reason irresistibly affirms truths, from which the doctrine of election, as I have stated it, must follow. It is common for the inspired writers to treat truths of this class in the same manner in which this is, for the most part, treated. Suppose it were possible so to explain every passage of scripture as that no one of them should unequivocally assert the doctrine in question, this would be to no purpose; the doctrine would still be irresistibly inferrible from the attributes of God. It would still be true, that the Bible assumes the truth of the doctrine, and incidentally speaks of it as a truth of reason, and as following of course from the attributes of God. It is thus treated throughout the entire scriptures. The Bible as really assumes the truth of this doctrine, as it does the existence of God. It asserts it just as it does the attributes of God. The learned and labored efforts to show that this doctrine is not expressly asserted in the Bible, are of no value, since it would follow as a certain truth from the attributes of God, and from the revealed facts, that some will be saved, and that God will save them, even had the Bible been silent on the subject. I shall therefore only introduce a few passages for the purpose of showing that the inspired writers repeatedly recognize the truth of this doctrine, and thus preserve their own consistency. But I shall not attempt by labored criticism to prove it from scripture, for reasons just mentioned.
"So the last shall be first, and the first last, for many be called, but few chosen" (Matt. 20:16).
"And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" (Matt. 24:22).
"I speak not of you all; I know whom I have chosen" (John 8:18).
"Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you. If ye were of the world, the world would love His own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:16, 19).
"And we know that all things work together for good for them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He 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" (Romans 8:28-29).
"And not only this, but when Rebecca had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth.) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (Romans 9:10-15).
"Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded" (Romans 11:5, 7).
"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. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. 1:4, 11).
"Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God" (1 Thess. 1:4).
"For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:9).
"But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth" (2 Thess. 2:13).
"Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:2).
"The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, (whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world), when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is" (Rev. 17:8). This doctrine is expressly asserted, or indirectly assumed and implied in every part of the Bible, and in ways and instances too numerous to be quoted in these lectures. The above are only specimens of the scripture treatment of this subject.