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The doctrine of
creed to sanctify any of the human race. regeneration depends upon the doctrine of election, or the divine decrees. To deny this doctrine, amounts to the denial that God ever has renewed, and that he ever will renew, one of the depraved children of men. If God has not decreed to renew any person, it can be demonstrated that no person ever has been or ever will be renewed. But if God has decreed to save some of the human race, then it may be demonstrated that he will renew those whom he has determined to save. Accordingly the apostle says, "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called." The doctrine of regeneration is therefore founded upon the doctrine of election.
5. It is a doctrine of the gospel, that they who are renewed shall certainly persevere in holiness, and be conducted to heaven. Unto the saints at Philippi the apostle says, "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." They who are once renewed shall, according to the gospel, be kept by the mighty power of God unto salvation. But this doctrine of the gospel depends upon the eternal purpose of God to save a certain number of mankind. For if this purpose be denied, it amounts to a denial that any saint will finally persevere. Without the doctrine of election, it cannot be proved that God will conduct a single saint to heaven. But it can be demonstrated that he will not do it. For certainly he will never conduct a saint to heaven without determining to do it. And it is now too late for a being of infinite wisdom to form any new purpose. But if God has decreed to save a certain number of mankind, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, then those whom he has renewed and caused to believe the truth, he will conduct to the kingdom of heaven. The doctrine of divine decrees is the only and the complete foundation for the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints.
6. It is a doctrine of the gospel, that they who persevere in holiness shall be completely and for ever happy. But the complete and eternal happiness of saints in a future state depends upon the doctrine of divine decrees. If God has not decreed what their state shall be in eternity, it cannot be proved that the happiness of heaven will not come to a final end. God does not know, nor can any creature know, that saints shall be happy in heaven for ever, unless God has decreed it. But if he has decreed that all things in heaven and earth and all worlds shall work together for good to them that love him and are called according to his purpose, then it can be known that the joys of heaven will never cease. Hence the certainty of the
future and eternal happiness of holy creatures depends entirely upon the doctrine of divine decrees.
7. It is a plain doctrine of the gospel, that they who die in their sins shall be finally and eternally lost. But this doctrine depends upon their being ordained to eternal destruction. For if God has not decreed that the finally impenitent shall be eternally miserable, it cannot be proved that their punishment will never cease. Nor does even God himself know but he may release them from the pains of hell and raise them to the joys of heaven in some future period. But if they shall be condemned to that everlasting punishment to which they were appointed from eternity, then it is certain that their miseries will never end. The doctrine of eternal punishment, therefore, depends upon the doctrine of the divine decrees.
8. The general resurrection is clearly taught in the gospel. But this doctrine is founded upon the decrees of God. Hymeneus and Philetus denied the general resurrection; and all must deny it who deny the doctrine of divine decrees. For how can it be proved that, in some distant period, God will raise all who are in their graves to a reunion of soul and body, unless he has decreed to do it? This great doctrine of the gospel depends upon the divine decrees, which alone render it worthy of universal belief.
9. The gospel abundantly teaches us that all things shall eventually terminate in the glory of God, and in the highest good of the universe. But the truth of this doctrine depends upon the decrees of God. For if he has not decreed all things in the universe, and absolutely fixed every event, it cannot be certain that all things will terminate either in his glory or in the highest happiness of moral beings. Indeed, upon this supposition it is absolutely uncertain how things will terminate. They may, for aught that can be known by God or man, terminate in the complete and endless misery of the universe. But if God has decreed all things, and made all things for himself, then it is certain that "of him, and through him, and to him, are all things;" and they shall be to his eternal glory. It is the doctrine of divine decrees which supports the joyful doctrine that all things in the universe shall terminate well. I will only add,
10. That it is a duty enjoined upon all men to confide and rejoice in the divine government. But the decrees of God are the only proper foundation of this duty. It is written: "The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof." But what foundation can there be for this injunction, if God has not determined to govern the universe in the wisest and best manner? If he reigns without
law and without design, if he does not direct all things to his own glory and the greatest good, what just cause have any of mankind to rejoice that he rules in the armies of heaven, and among the nations of the earth? It is certainly a just cause for mourning rather than rejoicing, that the Lord reigns, unless he has foreordained all things to promote his glory, and the highest good of his rational creatures; and, in his universal providence, seeks that great and noble design. But if God has decreed all things for his own glory, and the highest good of the universe, then he is a worthy object of supreme affection, confidence and delight. Then all his creatures have infinite reason to rejoice that God reigns and will for ever reign. Thus the decrees of God are the foundation of all his works, and the foundation of all the doctrines of the gospel, and the foundation of all the happiness of saints and angels. The whole gospel and the whole happiness of the universe depend upon the doctrine that God has, according to the counsel of his own will, for his own glory foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. This very important and interesting subject, suggests the following remarks.
1. Ministers of the gospel ought, plainly and fully, to preach the doctrine of divine decrees. It is impossible to explain the doctrines and duties of the gospel, without explaining the decrees of God, which are their foundation and support. The doctrine of divine decrees is the light, strength and glory of the whole gospel. With this doctrine the whole system of divine truth must stand or fall. This doctrine, then, is to be plainly and fully preached, if ministers would teach their hearers any thing of the gospel in its real design, origin, connections and consequences. It is exceedingly important that preachers and hearers should, in their views and feelings, ascend to the infinite and eternal fountain from which all the blessings of the gospel flow. This fountain is the purpose of God, which he purposed in Christ Jesus. If pastors would lead their flocks to the purest and sweetest waters of life, they must in their instructions trace every thing to the decrees of God. In his decrees they will perceive the union of infinite knowledge, wisdom, power and goodness engaged for the accomplishment of the greatest, wisest and best objects. And the knowledge of his decrees will spread a bright and pleasant light over all the dark and painful scenes of earth and time. It will give importance and beauty to the existence of every object and event in the universe. It gives to the gospel a magnitude and sublimity, that extend from eternity to eternity. If then the ministers of the gospel would promote their own knowledge, holiness and happiness, the instruction and edification of real christians, and 36
the repentance and salvation of sinners, they must plainly and fully exhibit the doctrine of divine decrees, which are the eternal and immutable foundation of the whole gospel. This doctrine had the first and highest place in the instructions of the apostle. In his epistle to the saints at Rome, he ascends from stream to stream, until he reaches the fountain of divine knowledge, wisdom and goodness in the eternal purposes of God. And there his spirit rests and triumphs, in the face of every foe. "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" With what enlargement, purity and gratitude of affections does he begin his epistle to the saints at Ephesus: "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; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace;-being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." It is when the apostle dwells on the doctrine of the divine decrees, that he appears to comprehend what is the breadth and length, and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge; to be filled with all the fulness of God. And now, if the preachers of the gospel would strip error of every deceitful appearance, give their instructions a divine importance and energy, establish the children of God upon the foundation of everlasting consolation and happiness, and destroy every dangerous and destructive refuge of sinners, they must not shun to declare the whole counsel of God. They must plainly and fully exhibit the greatness, the wisdom, and the goodness of the divine decrees; and by the light of those decrees show their hearers that the whole earth is filled with the glory of God; and that God will be exalted and glorified by every creature and every event in the universe.
2. If the doctrine of divine decrees is the fundamental doctrine of the gospel, then it is easy to understand the gospel. This first principle of the gospel is perfectly simple and plain. The doctrine of God's decrees is as evident, as rational, and as scriptural, as any doctrine that respects his existence, perfections, agency and blessedness. And certainly there is no other doctrine of the gospel that is more easily explained and understood than the doctrine of divine decrees. Indeed, while this
doctrine is not explained and understood, it is impossible to understand, explain, or even to support, any other doctrine of the gospel. But let this doctrine, which is perfectly simple and plain, be understood, and it is easy to understand all the other doctrines of divine truth. This doctrine is light itself, and it casts a clear and pleasant light upon the whole gospel, and upon all the works and ways of God. They who cannot understand the gospel upon the foundation of divine decrees, cannot understand it upon any other foundation; for the gospel has no other foundation. It is by disregarding, obscuring, denying and opposing this doctrine, which is the foundation of the gospel, that ignorance of divine subjects has so rapidly increased, and extensively prevailed in this land, for a number of years. And by the same means the way has been opened for the increasing and prevailing floods of error, which still rise and spread, and sweep such multitudes, with high hopes of heaven, into the broad way to endless wo and despair. They who refuse to understand the doctrine of divine decrees, on which the whole gospel rests, cannot possibly understand any of its doctrines, duties, or blessings. But they will be involved in the darkness of ignorance, or be bewildered in the labyrinths of error and deceit. But they who are in such a state, choose darkness rather than light; for it is easy to understand the gospel, which is wholly founded on the plain and simple fact that God has, for his own glory, foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.
3. Every scheme of religion, which excludes the doctrine of divine decrees, is essentially and fundamentally erroneous. No two schemes of doctrine can be more opposite than these two; one that includes, and one that excludes, the doctrine of divine decrees. If God has not decreed all things, it is abundantly evident that the gospel has no foundation. Since the decrees of God are the foundation of the gospel, every scheme of religion which excludes and rejects the doctrine of decrees is fundamentally erroneous and deceitful. If God did not decree all things in the eternal counsel of his own will, there is no reason to believe that he has ever done any thing. For it is absurd to suppose that he should act without a determination to act. The first Cause of all things must have decreed all things. If God has not decreed, he has not caused all things. And if he has not caused all things, what reason is there to believe that he has caused any thing? If he has not caused any thing and every thing, what reason is there to believe that he exists? And if God does not exist, what reason is there to believe that any thing exists? There is no rational and consistent medium between the doctrine of the divine decrees, and universal skepticism. If this doctrine be not true, what is true?