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2. It is plainly the doctrine of reason. (1.) It is admitted that God by His own agency secures the conversion, sanctification, and salvation of all that ever were or will be saved.
(2.) Whatever volitions or actions God puts forth to convert and save men, He puts forth designing to secure that end; that is, He does it in accordance with a previous design to do as and what He does. This must be an universal truth, to wit, that whatever God does for the salvation of men, He does with the design to secure the salvation of all who ever will be saved, or of all whose salvation He foresees that He can secure, and with the certain knowledge that He shall secure their salvation. He also does much for the non-elect, in the sense of using such means with them as might secure, and ought to secure, their salvation. But as He knows He shall not succeed in securing their salvation, on account of their voluntary and persevering wickedness, it cannot be truly said, that He uses these means with design to save them, but for other, and good, and wise reasons. Although He foresees, that He cannot secure their salvation because of their wilful and persevering unbelief, yet He sees it important under His government to manifest a readiness to save them, and to use such means as He wisely can to save them, and such as will ultimately be seen to leave them wholly without excuse.
But with respect to those whom He foresees that He can and shall save, it must be true, since He is a good being, that He uses means for their salvation, with the design to save them. And since, as we have seen, He is an omniscient being, He must use these means, not only with a design to save them, but also with the certainty that He shall save them. With respect to them, He uses these means for the sake of this end; that is, for the sake of their salvation.
(3.) But if God ever chooses to save any human beings, He must always have chosen to do so, or else He has changed. If He now has, or ever will have, any design about it, He must always have had this design; for He never has, and never can have, any new design. If He ever does, or will, elect any human being to salvation, He must always have chosen or elected him, or He has, or will form some new purpose, which is inconsistent with His immutability.
(4.) If He will ever know who will be saved, He must always have known it, or He will obtain some new knowledge, which is contrary to His omniscience.
(5.) We are told by Christ, that at the day of judgment He will say to the righteous, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 25:34), that is, from eternity. Now, has the Judge at that time any new knowledge or design respecting those individuals? Certainly not.
(6.) Since God of necessity eternally knew all about the elect that will ever be true, He must of necessity have chosen something in respect to them; for it is naturally impossible, that He should have had no choice about, or in respect to, them and their salvation.
(7.) Since God must of necessity from eternity have had some choice in respect to their salvation, it follows, that He must have chosen that they should be saved, or that He would not use such means as He foresaw would save them. If He chose not to use those means that He foresaw would save them, but afterwards saves them, He has changed, which is contrary to His immutability. If He always chose that they should be saved, this is the very thing for which we are contending.
(8.) It must therefore be true, that all whom God will ever save were from eternity chosen to salvation by Him; and since He saves them by means of sanctification, and does this designedly, it must be that this also was eternally designed or intended by Him.
To deny the doctrine of election, therefore, involves a denial of the attributes of God.
(9.) It must also be true, that God foreknew all that ever will be true of the non-elect, and must have eternally had some design respecting their final destiny. And also that He has from eternity had the same, and the only design that He ever will have in respect to them. But this will come up for consideration in its place.
What could not have been the reasons for election.
1. It is admitted that God is infinitely benevolent and wise.
It must follow that election is founded in some reason or reasons; and that these reasons are good and sufficient; reasons that rendered it obligatory upon God to choose just as He did, in election. Assuming, as we must, that God is wise and good, we are safe in affirming that He could have had none but benevolent reasons for His election of some to eternal life in preference to others. Hence we are bound to affirm, that election was not based upon, nor does it imply partiality in God, in any bad sense of that term. Partiality in any being, consists in preferring one to another without any good or sufficient reason, or in opposition to good and sufficient reasons. It being admitted that God is infinitely wise and good, it follows, that He cannot be partial; that He cannot have elected some to eternal salvation and passed others by, without some good and sufficient reason. That is, He cannot have done it arbitrarily. The great objection that is felt and urged by opposers of this doctrine is, that it implies partiality in God, and represents Him as deciding the eternal destiny of moral agents by an arbitrary sovereignty. But this objection is a sheer and altogether unwarrantable assumption. It assumes, that God could have had no good and sufficient reasons for the election. It has been settled, that good is the end upon which God set His heart; that is, the highest well-being of Himself and the universe of creatures. This end must be accomplished by means. If God is infinitely wise and good, He must have chosen the best practicable means. But He has chosen the best means for that end, and there can be no partiality in that.
In support of the assumption, that election implies partiality, and the exercise of an arbitrary sovereignty in God, it has been affirmed, that there might have been divers systems of means for securing the same end in every respect equal to each other; that is, that no reason existed for preferring any one, to many others; that therefore in choosing the present, God must have been partial, or must have exercised an arbitrary sovereignty. To this I answer:
(1.) There is no ground for the assumption, that there are or can be divers systems of means of precisely equal value in all respects, in such a sense, that there could have been no good reason for preferring one to the other.
(2.) I reply, that if there were divers such systems, choosing the one, and not any other, would not imply preference. Choice of any one in such case must have proceeded upon the following ground; to wit, the value of the end demanded, that one should be chosen. There being no difference between the various systems of means, God chooses one without reference to the other, and makes no choice respecting it, any more than if it did not exist. He must choose one, He has no reason for preference, and consequently He cannot prefer one to the offer. His benevolence leads Him to choose one because the end demands it. He therefore takes any one of many exact equals, indifferently, without preferring it to any of the others. This implies no partiality in God in any bad sense of the term. For upon the supposition, He was shut up to the necessity of choosing one among many exact equals. If He is partial in choosing the one He does, He would have been equally so had He chosen any other. If this is partiality, it is a partiality arising out of the necessity of the case, and cannot imply anything objectionable in God.
That there is no preference in this case is plain, because there is no ground or reason for preference whatever, according to the supposition. But there can be no choice or preference, when there is absolutely no reason for the choice or preference. We have seen on a former occasion, that the reason that determines choice, or the reason in view of which, or in obedience to which, or for the sake of which, the mind chooses, and the object or end chosen, are identical. When there is absolutely no reason for a choice, there is absolutely no object of choice, nothing to choose, and of course there can be no choice. Choice must have an object; that is, choice must terminate upon something. If choice exists, something must be chosen. If there are divers systems of means, between which there is no possible ground of preference, there can absolutely be no such thing as preferring one to the other, for this would be the same as to choose without any object of choice, or without choosing anything, which is a contradiction.
If it be said, that there may be absolutely no difference in the system of means, so far as the accomplishment of the end is concerned, but that one may be preferred or preferable to another, on some other account, I ask on what other account? According to the supposition, it is only valued or regarded as an object of choice at all, because of its relation to the end. God can absolutely choose it only as a means, a condition, or an end; for all choice must respect these. The inquiry now respects means. Now, if as a means, there is absolutely no difference between diverse systems in their relation to the end, and the value of the end is the sole reason for choosing them, it follows, that to prefer one to another is a natural impossibility. But one must be chosen for the sake of the end, it matters not which; any one is taken indifferently so far as others are concerned. This is no partiality, and no exercise of arbitrary sovereignty in any objectionable sense.
But as I said, there is no ground for the assumption, that there are various systems of means for accomplishing the great end of benevolence in all respects equal. There must have been a best way, a best system, and if God is infinitely wise and good, He must have chosen that for that reason; and this is as far as possible from partiality. Neither we nor any other creature may be able now to discover any good reasons for preferring the present to any other system, or for electing those who are elected, in preference to any other. Nevertheless, such reasons must have been apparent to the Divine mind, or no such election could have taken place.
2. Election was not an exercise of arbitrary sovereignty. By arbitrary sovereignty is intended the choosing and acting from mere will, without consulting moral obligation or the public good. It is admitted that God is infinitely wise and good. It is therefore impossible that He should choose or act arbitrarily in any case whatever. He must have good and sufficient reasons for every choice and every act.
Some seem to have represented God, in the purpose or act of election, as electing some and not others, merely because He could or would, or in other words, to exhibit His own sovereignty, without any other reasons than because so He would have it. But it is impossible for God to act arbitrarily, or from any but a good and sufficient reason; that is, it is impossible for Him to do so, and continue to be benevolent. We have said that God has one, and but one end in view; that is, He does, and says, and suffers all for one and the same reason, namely, to promote the highest good of being. He has but one ultimate end, and all His volitions are only efforts to secure that end. The highest well-being of the universe, including His own, is the end on which His supreme and ultimate choice terminates. All His volitions are designed to secure this end, and in all things He is and must be directed by His infinite intelligence, in respect not only to His ultimate end, but also in the choice and use of the means of accomplishing this end. It is impossible that this should not be true, if He is good. In election then He cannot possibly have exercised any arbitrary sovereignty, but must have had the best of reasons for the election. His intelligence must have had good reasons for the choice of some and not of others to salvation, and have affirmed His obligation in view of those reasons to elect just as and whom He did. So good must the reasons have been, that to have done otherwise, would have been sin in Him; that is, to have done otherwise would not have been wise and good.