Page images

of his mere sovereign grace, should first choose us to life and salvation by Jesus Christ, decreeing immutably to save us out of the perishing multitude of mankind, from whom we could not make ourselves in the least to differ? What impression does this make on our souls? What conclusion do we educe as to our practice? Why,' saith one, • If God has thus chosen me, I may then live in sin as I please; all will be well in the end; which is all I need care for.' But this is the language of a Devil, and not of a man. Suggestions like this may possibly be injected into a believer's mind (as what may not be so?)-but he that shall embrace, and act practically according to this inference, is such a monster of impiety as Hell itself cannot parallel! I shall use some boldness in this matter. He who is not sensible that an apprehension of God's electing love has a natural and powerful influence upon the souls of believers to the love of God and holy obedience, is utterly unacquainted with the whole nature and actings of faith. Is it possible to suppose that believers can be such stupid and ungrateful monsters, so devoid of holy ingenuity and filial affections towards God, as merely out of despite to him, to cast poison into the spring of all their own mercies? Many have I known complain, that they could not attain a comfortable persuasion of their own election; never any who, when they had received it in a due way and manner, that it proved a snare to them, that it tended to ingenerate in them looseness of life, unholiness, or contempt of God.

Besides, in the Scripture it is always proposed for other ends; and God himself makes use of it as his principal argument to stir up the people to holy obedience, Deut. vii. 6, &c. and a supposition hereof lies at the bottom of that blessed exhortation of our apostle, Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness,' &c. Col. iii. 12. These things become the elect of God, and are required of them on account of their interest in electing love and grace. Further to confirm this truth, I shall instance in some special graces, duties, and parts of holiness, which this consideration is suited to promote.

(1.) Humility. For what were we when he thus set his heart upon us, to choose us, and to do us good for ever? Poor, lost, undone creatures, who lay perishing under the

guilt of our apostacy from him.-What did he see in us to move him so to choose us? Nothing but sin and misery.-What did he foresee that we would do of ourselves more than others, if he wrought not in us by his effectual grace? Nothing but continue in sin and rebellion against him, and that for ever.-How should the thoughts hereof keep our souls in all humility and self-abasement!

(2.) Submission to the sovereign will of God in the disposal of all our concerns. This is an eminent part of holiness, and peculiarly called for in this day. God has taken all pretences of security from the earth, by what some men feel, and others fear. Where, then, shall we betake ourselves for quietness and repose? It can only be obtained in a resignation of ourselves, and all our concerns, into the sovereign pleasure of God. And what greater motive can we have thereto than this? The first act of divine sovereign pleasure concerning us was, the choosing us from all eternity to holiness and happiness. This was done when we were not, when we had no contrivances of our own; and shall we not now put all our temporal concerns into the same hand? Can the same fountain send out sweet and bitter water? Can the same sovereign pleasure of God be the free cause of all our blessedness, and can it do that which is really evil to us? Our souls, our persons, were provided for as to grace and glory in the sovereign will of God; and what a prodigious impiety it isnot to trust all other things in the same hand, to be disposed of freely and absolutely!

(3.) Love, kindness, compassion, forbearance towards all the saints, are made indispensably necessary to us, and pressed on us from the same consideration; for, if God have chosen them from all eternity, should not we love them also? How dare we entertain unkind thoughts, or maintain animosities against any of these whom God has eternally chosen to grace and glory? Such things too of ten happen upon provocations, and clashing of secular interests; but they are all contrary to that influence which the consideration of God's electing love ought to have upon ús. We ought to receive him whom God has received, and because God has received him; we ought to choose and love all those whom God has chosen and loved. I endure all things,' saith our apostle, not for the Jews or Gentiles; not for the weak or strong in the faith; not for

[ocr errors]

those of this or that way, but for the elect's sake. This should regulate our love, and powerfully excite us to all acts of kindness and forgiveness.

(4.) Contempt of the world will proceed from hence. Did God set his heart upon some from eternity? Did he choose them to be his own peculiar? Doth he design to give them the best fruits of his love? What, then, will he do for them? Will he make them all Kings and Emperors? Will he make them all rich and honourable ?. Or, at least, will he keep them from all difficulties and trials in the world? Alas! none of these things were in the heart of God concerning them. They deserve not to be named on the same day (as we used to speak) with the least of those things which God has chosen his unto. On the contrary, he has appointed the generality of his elect to a poor and afflicted condition in this world. Wherefore, let those who are poor and despised, learn to be satisfied with their condition: had God seen it good for you to have been other wise, he would not have passed it by when he was acting eternal love towards you; and let those who are rich, not set their hearts on uncertain riches; do but think with yourselves, that these are not the things that God had any regard unto when he chose you to grace and glory; and it will abate your cares about them, and take off your hearts from them, which is your holiness.

2. Electing love is a motive and encouragement to holiness, because of the enabling supplies of grace which we may thence expect by Jesus Christ. The difficulties we meet with in a course of holiness, are great and many. Here Satan, the world, and sin, put forth their utmost strength; the best are sometimes foiled, discouraged, and ready to give over. It requires a good spiritual courage to take a prospect of the lions, serpents, and snares that lie in our way-but it is no small encouragement that the fountain of electing grace will never fail us, but continually afford fresh supplies of spiritual strength and refreshment. Hence we may take courage to rise again when we have been foiled, to abide when the shock of temptation is violent, and to persevere in those duties which are most wearisome to the flesh and they are un acquainted with a course of holy obedience, who know not how needful this consideration is to a tinuance therein.


3. It has the same tendency and effect in the assurance we have from thence, that notwithstanding all the opposition we meet with, we shall not utterly and finally miscarry ;- God's election will at last obtain:' his foundation standeth sure:' his purpose, which is according to election,' is unchangeable; and, therefore, the final perseverance and salvation of those concerned in it, are everlastingly secured; and there is no greater encouragement to persist in holiness than what is administered by this assurance of a blessed end and issue of it.

Some think that this assurance tends only to carelessness; and that to be always in fear and uncertainty is the only means to make us watchful unto holiness. It is true, were there no difference between faith and presumption, between the spirit of bondage and the spirit of adoption, there might be something in this objection-but if the nature of faith, and of the new creature, the operations of the one and disposition of the other, are such as they are declared to be in the Gospel, men do but bewray their ignorance while they contend that the assurance of God's unchangeable love in Christ doth any way impeach, or doth not effectually promote the industry of believers in all duties of obedience.

Suppose a man on his journey, knowing himself to be in his right way, and that going on therein he shall certainly come to his journey's end, especially if he quicken his pace as occasion shall require, will you say, that this is enough to make such a man careless and negligent, and that it would be much more to his advantage to be lost and bewildered, not knowing whither he goes, nor whether he shall ever arrive at his journey's end? Common experience proves the contrary; as also, how momentary and useless are those violent fits of endeavours which proceed from uncertainty, both in things temporal and spiritual! In general, it is that person who has a comfortable assurance of God's electing love, and thence of the blessed end of his course, who goes on constantly and evenly in the ways of holiness, quickening his pace, and doubling his speed, as he has occasion from trials and op


It appears from hence, that the electing love of God is a powerful constraining motive to holiness; and that which invincibly proves the necessity of it to all who intend the

eternal enjoyment of God:-but it will be said, that if this be granted with respect to believers, yet, as to the unconverted, nothing can be so discouraging as this doctrine of election: Can they make any other conclusion from it, but that if they are not elected, all their endeavours are vain; if they are elected, then they are needless?' I


(2.) We have already shewn that this doctrine is revealed in the Scripture, principally to acquaint believers with their safety, and the fountaion of their comforts. Hav ing, therefore, proved its usefulness to them, I have discharged all that is absolutely needful to my present purpose. But I shall, moreover, shew, that it has its proper benefit towards others also. For,

(2.) Suppose the doctrine of personal election be preached; two conclusions may possibly be drawn from it:first, That as this is a matter of great and eternal moment to our souls, and there is no way to secure our interest in it but by the possession of its fruits and effects, which are faith and holiness, we will, we must use our utmost endeavours, by attaining them, to make our elction sure. Others may conclude, that if those who shall be saved are chosen thereto before the foundation of the world, then it is to no purpose to believe or to obey, seeing all things must be as they were fore-ordained. Now, I ask, Which of these conclusions is the most rational, and most suitable to the principles of sober self-love, and care of our im mortal condition? Nothing is more certain than that the latter resolution will be infalliby destructive, if pursued: but in the other way, it is possible, at least, that a man may be found to be the object of God's electing love, and so be saved. But why do I say it is possible? There is nothing more certain, than that he who sincerely and diligently pursues the ways of faith and obedience (which are the fruits of election) shall obtain in the end everlasting blessedness. This, therefore, on all accounts, and towards all sorts of persons, is an invincible argument for the necessity of holiness, and a prevailing motive thereto: for it is unavoidable, that if there be such a thing as personal election, and that the fruits of it are sanctification, faith, and obedience, it is utterly impossible that, without holiness, any one should see God: the reason of which consequence is apparent to all.

« PreviousContinue »