Effects of Sound Doctrine
MY DEAR FRIENDS,
I ought to have written to you long before this, but I have been travelling very fast, and I do not feel at all in an industrious state when I arrive at an hotel late at night. We have had the very best of weather, and the journey has surpassed all my expectations: we are now in lovely Venice. At Geneva I had a noble time. Only think of the Baptist in a Cathedral— an unpolluted High Church pulpit, wherein never stood Dissenter before. I wore the Calvinistic gown and bands for the first time, and I fancied that my figure was unsightly; nevertheless the Word was joyfully received and I felt glad. I have been into churches innumerable, and have seen sights which will never be forgotten by me; and really I cannot get the Popery enough out of my mind to attempt any poetical description of rock, river, or mountain. I shall be more glad to return than to have come hither, which is saying very much, since it hath been one of the gems of my life. There are no buildings like “the Tabernacle,” no songs like ours, no people like my Church, no days like Sabbath-days at home. My journey has refreshed my mind, instructed my soul, fired my imagination, and rejoiced my spirit. Thank God for all his mercies. I trust there will be some enquirers when I return, and those not a few, to shew that the labours of my brethren have been blessed in my absence. With kindest regards to all dear friends, and love to all the saints,
I am, yours very truly in the gospel of Christ,
Venice, Hotel de la Ville, July 21st, 1860
“ For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders;
insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”— Matt, xxiv 24
I AM not about to enter upon any argument in proof of the doctrine of election tonight. That I have done at other times, and am prepared to do so yet again. I purpose rather to speak of some of the practical effects which result from this article of the believer’s faith. We cannot however pass over the text, without observing that it is very certain there is an elect, and that these elect are a special people; for they are here defined as being “the very elect”— those who are such in deed and in truth. It is equally clear that these elect ones cannot be deceived. The text informs us that if it were possible, those deceivers who had gone to the full stretch of great signs and wonders, doubtless adding thereto all kinds of eloquence and persuasion, were not able to deceive the elect; the simple reason being that it was not possible. They would have deceived them if there had been a possibility, but the elect were a people who could not possibly be turned from the stedfastness of their faith and deceived. Moreover, we may add that in the twenty-second verse, these same elect people are spoken of as being those for whose sake the rigour of God’s punishments is abated. “Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time; no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened.” God did not temper the rigour of his dispensations for the sake of all flesh, but for the elect’s sake. The piteous wail of manhood moveth not the Almighty to spare his righteous dispensation of punishment upon the nations; it is the cry of the elect that moveth his heart. For their sake he promises to shorten those days, and sheath, as it were, his sword before its time.
We simply make these remarks to show, that in the dealings of God’s providence, and surely also in the dealings of his grace, God has a special regard for his chosen and justified ones. For the elect’s sake, he does many things which otherwise would not enter into the plan of his government. If our Bibles were read by us in the original, we should be exceedingly struck with the prominence which is given to the doctrine of election; and if, my brethren, you were at all acquainted with the manners of the early Christian Church, or had read any of the letters which have been preserved of the first age of Christianity, you would be astonished to find how conspicuously this great doctrine appears; so much so that Christians were accustomed to address each other as elect ones. The term far from being recondite was common in daily conversion, and the doctrine far from being kept back— I do not hesitate to say, that next to the doctrine of the crucifixion and the resurrection of our most blessed Lord— no doctrine had such prominence in the early Christian Church as the doctrine of the election of grace. The word “elect” recurred so frequently in conversation, and was so mixed up with all their preaching, with all their assembling together, and with all their church acts, that it is impossible to conceive that its meaning could be obscured, or held in disesteem. Upon that matter, however, as I said before, it is not my present intention to enlarge. My simple endeavour will be to clear the doctrine of sundry aspersions which have been cast upon it, by showing its proper practical influence— an influence which I hope as a church, we do not merely show in words by the lips of our minister, but in our daily life and conversation as a people.
It has often been objected to those that hold the doctrine of election, that it it restricts ministers from earnestly preaching to sinners. Now, we are compelled to confess with the greatest sorrow, and I may add also with no little indignation, that there have been some men who have never been able to grasp the gospel in its integrity, and present the grace of God to men's minds at once in its sovereignty and in its freeness. Though their sermons sometimes ring with the clear melodious note of grace, they are too often bent on qualifying the extent of its welcome, and inventing explanations of their own, to wrest the simple meaning of Scriptures. Calvinists, such men may call themselves, but, unlike the Reformer, whose name they adopt, they bring a system of divinity to the Bible to interpret it, instead of making every system, be its merits what they may, yield, and give place to the pure and unadulterated Word of God. They will not imitate their Master in inviting all men to Christ— they dare not preach a full Christ to empty sinners— they are ashamed to say, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the water they have been obliged to cover up such a passage as this, because they could not understand it: — “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wing, but ye would not.” They durst not preach upon such a text as this: — “As I live saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but had rather that he should turn unto me and live.” They are ashamed to say to men, “Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die.” They dare not come out and preach as Peter did— “Repent ye, and be converted that your sins may be blotted out.” This, they say, would be to deny the doctrine of election at once. But, beloved, we have not so learned Christ. I trust we have learned to prove practically by our ministry, that it is possible to have all the bowels of compassion which a man can feel for dying souls, and yet grasp with a firm hand, the standard of the doctrine of grace. It has been our aim and object— at least I can speak for myself— it has been my aim and object in my ministry, to show that while I believe the Lord knoweth them that are his, it is at the same time, written over the fountain of living waters, “Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.”
Sometimes also has it been said, that the doctrine of election leads naturally to carelessness, and to hard-heartedness in sin— that it acts as a bugbear to frighten penitents, and as a drug which sinks the impenitent into deeper sleep. Here again, I must confess, for it is but the duty of candour to acknowledge it, that the preaching of some men has had this tendency, this doctrine has been used too frequently for the destruction of men’s souls. But what argument is this against its truth. What truth has not been perverted? Are there not on the other hand, those who teach God’s universal mercy, and has not that damned men’s souls? You may teach, and teach rightly too, that God is long-suffering, and that at the eleventh hour he still invites a sinner to himself; but has not that very fact of God’s longsuffering helped to lull sinners to sleep, and weaken the power of that tremendous word, “To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” There is no passage of Scripture which may not be the means of a man’s destruction, if he wills to make it so. From the very pinnacle of the temple ye may cast yourselves down, saying at the moment you commit suicide, “He hath given his angels charge over me, to keep me in all my ways.” If ye will be foolish enough to destroy yourselves at the foot of the cross, ye may do it. There are many ways to hell, and when a man would commit self-murder on his soul, he need be at no loss to distil from the most wholesome truths in Scriptures poison to his spirit. I say therefore it proves nothing whatever against the doctrine that men have so perverted it.
This doctrine has likewise often been charged with a tendency to cut off the sympathies of Christian men from their fellows. “Surely,” saith one, “if you believe yourself to be an elect one, and if I cannot receive the doctrine, but, nevertheless, put my humble trust in Christ, there is a tendency in the doctrine to make you exclusive, and separate yourself from all the rest of men.” And I must again make confession; too many hold the doctrines of grace in bitterness. An old Puritan at St. Paul’s Cross, complained of a set of ministers that were like bitterns— using the old English word, — they were like a bittern, as he called it. They had no song, they could make but hootings. They had not a sweet note to sing. Alas! there are some such. Their style always seems to be— “If you hold what I preach you shall go to heaven: if you do not, I warn you very solemnly as the part of a faithful man, it is all up with you.” It does not matter though there be but a shade of difference, though the unlearned cannot tell where there is any point of divergence, yet, according to these good brethren, we are for ever to be destroyed, because we cannot sit down at their feet and exclusively receive all the dogmas they teach. But, 'my dear friends, if any of you are labouring under the idea that the doctrine of election fosters such a spirit, allow me to disabuse you. On the contrary, it has been the desire of the true Calvinist, — not of the hyper-Calvinists, I cannot defend them— to feel that if he has received more light than another man, it is due to God ’s grace, and not to his merits. Therefore charity is inculcated, while boasting is excluded. We give our hand to every man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ, be he what he may or who he may. The doctrine of election, like the great act of election itself, is intended to divide not between Israel and Israel, but between Israel and the Egyptians, — not between saint and saint, but between saints and the children of this world. A man may be evidently of God’s chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold that there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe the doctrine of final perseverance. We do hope that the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We set not their fallacies down to any willful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus, even though as yet the ministering spirit has not led all of us into all the lengths and breadths of the truth.
Having thus cleared the way by cutting down a few of the trees that have been standing in my track, I proceed to notice the real effect of the doctrine of election upon the true Christian. I shall divide my subject thus. — The influence he has upon our opinions, our emotions, our experience, our devotions and our action I conceive that these five embrace the whole of the Christian life.
I. THE BELIEF IN THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION HAS A HIGHLY SALUTARY EFFECT UPON OUR OPINIONS.
Any observer who has looked through the history of the church, will not fail to have discovered that there has been a salting influence exercised by the doctrine of grace upon the minds of those who have been rooted and grounded in its strong and fruitful soil. At the present time, Lutheranism on the continent is scarcely better than infidelity. I have been informed by those who are capable of judging, that too many of the followers of Luther have become degenerate, have cast aside spirituality, and have really returned to the beggarly elements of Romanism, even though they persist in their Protestant profession. But, my brethren, the like cannot be said of the followers of Calvin. The Dutch Reformed Church, albeit that there may be much in it over which we might mourn, has never departed from the truth as it is in Jesus. Enter the place of worship where the Reformed occupy the pulpit, and you need not be at any loss to discover the way to heaven. There may be too much dryness in their prayers, and too much dulness in their mode of preaching, but the truth, the vital truth is there, and God still owns it in the salvation of sinners. They may not bear so high a fame or exert so wide an influence as their noble ancestors, but they have rot turned aside to heresy, or perverted the truths of the gospel of Christ. And with all the defections of the present age, albeit that Sectarians of all classes have seceded to the Church of Rome, I can scarcely remember a solitary instance, where any man who has once embraced that “form of sound words” called the doctrines of grace, has ever forsaken them— at least, to turn aside to the desperate heresy of that false Church. The truth is that the doctrine of election, with the sister truths linked with it, acts as a great anchor. It holds fast the soul, and through the influence of the Holy Spirit, a man is brought to feel that he has something stable to rely upon, which he cannot and will not leave to be tossed about upon a sea, without chart or compass, at the mercy of every wind of doctrine. There is something in the doctrine, which as it were digs up the earth, and lets the soul strike its roots down deep. that girds us about as with a triple belt of steel, and leaves no place in which the arrow of infidelity or false doctrine can find a place to wound us. As a Church and as a people banded together in the fear of the Lord, I hope we shall prove to the world in our experience, that though other churches may step aside gradually from their simplicity and steadfastness, we, forswearing everything which is not consistent with the naked simplicity and beauteousness of unclothed truth, will hold fast to the form of truth which we have received, and which has been taught us by the Spirit of God in his most Holy Book. Nor is this all. Election I take it— and I am here speaking of the whole set of truths which group around this as their central sun— has not only & salting power, but exercises a flavouring and seasoning power over all our other doctrines. The purest Evangelism springs from this truth. I will not say that the Arminian teaches that salvation is by works; this is so continually denied by the Arminian, that I will not charge a falsehood upon him, at which he professes to shudder; but at the same time, I do say, that the tendency of Arminianism is towards legality; it is nothing but legality which lays at the root of Arminianism. Any one doctrine of the Arminian which differs from the orthodox, let it be carefully dissected, will prove that after all his ground of difference is legality. I received but the other day, a letter from an earnest Arminian anxious to correct my opinions. He says, “If God has chosen some men from before the foundation of the world, is it not more consistent with his justice to conceive that he chose those who through life have used their best endeavours to serve him, rather than that he should choose the drunkard, or the harlot, to give them salvation?” Of course it is more consistent Moses proves it — if salvation be by the law or by works; but with the gospel it is totally inconsistent, for Christ declares “The publicans and the harlots enter into the kingdom of heaven before you”— that is, before you Pharisees— before the very men who in their own blind way had striven to win salvation by works.
My dear friends, after all, the kicking against the doctrine of election, is a kicking against the gospel, because this doctrine is a first principle in the divine plan of mercy, and when rightly known, it prepares our minds to receive all the other doctrines. Or on the contrary, misunderstand this, and you are pretty sure to make mistakes about all the rest. Take for instance final perseverance; some men say, “If we continue in faith, and if we continue in holiness, we shall certainly be saved at last.” Do you not see at once that this is legality— that this is hanging our salvation upon our work— that this is making our eternal life to depend on something we do? Nay, the doctrine of justification itself, as preached by an Arminian, is nothing but the doctrine of salvation by works, after all; for he always thinks faith is a work of the creature, and a condition of his acceptance. It is as false to say that man is saved by faith as a work, as that he is saved by the deeds of the law. We are saved by faith as the gift of God, and as the first token of his eternal favour to us; but it is not faith as our work that saves, otherwise we are saved by works, and not by grace at all. If you need any argument upon this point, I refer you to our great apostle Paul, who so constantly combats the idea that works and grace can ever be united together, for he argues, “If it be of grace, then it is no more of works otherwise grace were no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more of grace, otherwise work is no more work.”
You will I think, perceive, if you look through the roll of mighty preachers, that all those who have been great in the simple preaching of the doctrine of salvation by faith, have been men who held the doctrine of election; you cannot find, that I am aware of, but one or two old Puritanical works written by any but those who held this truth. You cannot discover a great divine— look back through centuries— who has not held it. There have been some small ones in modern times, and some earnest ones too, but the ages past have been all utterly destitute of anything like a great preacher who has not held this doctrine. I might make exception of Wesley, and Fletcher, of Madely, among modern divines— but in the olden times there was nothing like any great and successful preacher, who has not held the doctrine of election. This doctrine has always had an evangelizing power on the souls of men, so that those who have held it, have preached more clearly than any others, the simple truth that we are saved by grace, and not by works. And I would add, that I have also observed that the doctrine of election exercises another influence upon men's opinions; it renders them more clear and lucid. Out of hundreds of young persons who continually come to join our church, from all bodies of Christians, I have always discovered that those who have the best idea of Scripture— not simply looking at it from my own point of view, but allowing other people to be judges— are those who have held this doctrine. Without it there is a lack of unity of thought, and generally speaking they have no idea whatever of a system of divinity. It is almost impossible to make a man a theologian unless you begin with this. You may if you please put a young believer to college for years, but unless you shew him this ground-plan of the everlasting covenant, he will make little progress, because his studies do not cohere, he does not see how one truth fits with another, and how all truths must harmonize together. Once let him get a clear idea that salvation is by grace, let him discover the difference between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace; let him clearly understand the meaning of election, as shewing the purpose of God, and its bearing upon other doctrines which shew the accomplishment of that purpose, and from that moment he is on the high road to become an instructive believer. He will always be ready to give a reason of the hope that is in him with meekness and with fear. The proof is palpable. Take any county throughout England, you will find poor men hedging and ditching that have a better knowledge of divinity than one half of those who come from our academies and colleges, for the reason simply and entirely that these men have first learned in their youth the system of which election is a centre, and have afterwards found their own experience exactly square with it. They have built upon that good foundation a temple of holy knowledge, which - has made them fathers in the Church of God. Every other scheme is as nothing to build with, they are but wood, hay, and stubble. Pile what you will upon them, and they will fall. They have no system of architecture; they belong to no order of reason or revelation. A disjointed system makes its topstone bigger than its foundation; it makes one part of the covenant to disagree with another; it makes Christ’s mystical body to be of no shape whatever; it gives Christ a bride whom he does not know and does not choose, and it puts him up in the world to be married to any one who will have him; but he is to have no choice himself. It spoils every figure that is used with reference to Christ and his Church. The good old plan of the doctrine of grace is a system which whence once received is seldom given up; when rightly learned, it moulds the thoughts of the heart, and it gives a sacred stamp to the characters of those who have once discovered its power.
II. In the second place, I come to notice THE INFLUENCE OF THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION UPON OUR EMOTIONS.
Here we speak not of matter of opinion, but of effect. The man who sighs for some divine witness that he is chosen of God is, I should think, necessarily humble. But the man who knows by gracious evidences that this seal is set upon him, is one from whose eyes every selfish pretension is for ever hid. If he could suppose that God had chosen him by the foresight and foreknowledge of some good qualities he possessed, he might be puffed up with unbearable conceit, but he knows God has chosen the foolish things, the weak things, the base things, the things that are not, things too worthless for notice in this world He must take his place, therefore, down there among the offscouring of earth, before he can be lifted up by grace to sit among the adopted heirs of glory. There are some who profess to believe the doctrine of election who are as proud as Lucifer, but it is not the doctrine of election which makes them so; it is their own evil hearts that can misturn everything good into evil. Such men, methinks, are rather fatalists in judgment, than believers in God the Father’s love at heart. The doctrine itself, if it were rightly construed, would tend to humble such and keep them, humble. Can you conceive a more contrite spirit than that expressed in these lines: —
“Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter where there’s room,
While thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?
'Twas the same love that spread the feast,
That sweetly forced me in;
Else I’d still refused to taste,
And perished in my sin.”
I ask whether such a hymn, which has in it the very gist of the doctrine, is not the meek utterance of a chastened soul? Can the haughty unsubdued heart entertain a sentiment like this?
“What was there in me to merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
’Tis even so, Father, we even must say,
For so it seemed good in thy sight.”
The language of this hymn ought to be in harmony with our daily life. If we are elect and precious, we must bow humbly before the throne and give God the glory of our salvation.
Take the doctrine again, with regard to another emotion of the soul, not simply of prostration, but the emotion of gratitude. There is a common bounty of God that appeals to common gratitude. Too often alas we pass by these ordinary mercies and slight the goodness that bestows them. “He maketh his sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.” You may go abroad into the fields and see the liberal providence of the Creator; and when you do so, it behoves you to lift up your hearts and adore. But tell me, is there not a sweeter sense of gratifude to the soul that experiences his particular favour? Hath he brought thee into the banquetting house? Hath the banner of his love waved over thy bead? Doth he place his left hand under thy head, and his right hand embrace thee? What gratitude will such choice attentions to his chosen ones stir up! This surely will put some stanzas into thy psalm of praise that never echoed through the gladsome mountains and fruitful valleys— a music too soft for the outer world and suited only to the inner chamber of affection. Boaz spake with a goodly salutation to the reapers. He was bountiful to the maidens that were gathering the sheaves. But greater kindness shewed he to Ruth. The gratitude she felt was more than theirs— “She fell on her face and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, why have I found grace in thine eyes that thou sholdest take knowledge of me seeing I am a stranger?” This electing favour, this choice comfort, this friendly speech, these words to the heart, — these are the things that awaken devout gratitude in the believer; — distinguishing and discriminating love wakes the echo of soul-stirring gratitude.
Then, again, it is sometimes said that this is a very gloomy doctrine. John Calvin is often described by those who bate the doctrines which he clarified and preached— for he is not the author of them any more than I am— he is described as being such a terrible ascetic, of forbidding countenance, preaching the destruction of infants, and revelling in other hideous sentiments, which in his soul he loathed, and none of his writings ever inculcate. These are the inventions of falsehood. John Calvin certainly was a sickly man and looked ill, and well he might. If an Arminian had to go through half the difficulties and trials, he must have been in his grave ten years before, he would have had no stamina in his soul to bear up against the bodily diseases which poor John Calvin had to endure. Yet there was he seen every morning going up to the divinity college, and delivering his lectures in the halls before his students, and we have the result of his labours in about fifty-six large volumes of most extraordinary divinity, which those who rage against him had better read before they open their mouths again. That man was preserved in the midst of troubles, perils, and woes, still a joyous man in his heart, with gleams of sunshine in his soul, the flash of which I have seen in his Commentary, and discovered in his Institutes continually. The tendency of the doctrine of election is not gloomy, but it is joyous. I know there have been times with me when my spirit has been so low that nothing could elevate it but this precious truth. I have even taken down old Elisha Coles’ book on God’s Sovereignty and read a chapter out of that as a tonic, and I have felt all the happier and better. Next to the Bible, such books tend to cheer one’s soul more than any books I know. In my bright and happy days let me have other things, trifles if you will, but I must come to solidities when I lie on my couch, and especially when I come near to the graves mouth, and I am ready to look into eternity. I know not what you will discover to comfort you, there is nothing but the doctrine of grace that satisfies me, nothing but that will give me any comfort. This doctrine hath filled our souls sometimes with joy that we knew scarcely how to contain; we have mounted as on the wings of eagles up to our God, who has made us to rejoice in him by reason of his distinguishing favour. What was it that made David dance before the ark? The doctrine of election; for what said he to the woman who mocked him for his dancing? He said, “God hath chosen me before thy father!” That truth moved him to mirth; and many an heir of heaven has danced before God’s ark when the Spirit has revealed to him that his name is enrolled among the chosen ones of Jehovah.
III. Having shown the effect of this doctrine upon our emotions, in humbling us and in stirring us up, and carrying us away in holy joy and rapture, let us now ask WHAT EFFECT IT HAS ON OUR EXPERIENCE?
This is its effect upon the Christian’s experience, it causes him to rejoice in the midst of deep despondency: and again, it sobers him in the midst of worldly joy. It seems to say to him — Nevertheless rejoice not in this, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” On this I will not dwell, but perhaps this thought it is only fair to add, the doctrine of election has had in its raw misstated form a very painful influence upon the experience of many a young believer. There are many who have grace enough to convince them of sin, but not light enough to see the Saviour, who for a long time are kept in darkness, and the valley of the shadow of death through fear that they could not come to Christ rightly without they first knew their election. I had this matter brought before me this afternoon by one out of a numerous body of converts with whom I had the pleasure of conversing. Some good woman said to me, “I had a period of something like hope after I was brought to seek the Lord. Then suddenly the doctrine of election crossed my path, and I was for a long time in great distress about it.” I was not surprised at her anxiety, but I was gratified to find that she had obtained the true solution of her knotty point. It was not by shutting her eyes to the truth as recorded in the Bible, but by having it commended to her conscience with the power of the Spirit that she found peace. And now the doctrine which once appeared to her dark bodings as an iron fence or a brazen wall to exclude sinners from coming to CHRIST is made clear to her faith as an open door to admit saints into the FATHER S presence. Do you understand this my brethren? If I speak of doctrine in the divine order, the purpose of God the Father went before the work of God the Son. That is to say, we were inscribed as saints in the Book of Life before we were accounted sinners, and before the sentence of death passed upon us in Adam. When, however, I come to speak of experience, the order is reversed. We are brought to a knowledge of our sinfulness in the flesh before we learn our acceptance in the Beloved. If without seeming to forget the eternal Unity of the Three Persons in the Godhead I might venture to illustrate my meaning, I would put it to you in this way. God the Father first loved us, and gave us to Christ— that is the doctrine of the ancient covenant. But in showing you the doctrine of Redemption, Jesus Christ first finds us as lost sheep, and then having sanctified us by his one offering, he presents us to the Father. Or again, the decree of election is more ancient than the fact of our calling, as it stands in the councils of eternity. Not so in the ministration of the Holy Ghost. Here our calling is opened first, and the knowledge of our election follows after. And why? I answer for this reason: because in the call of grace we are always viewed as sinners, and invited and wooed as sinners; while in the election of grace we are always viewed as saints, as sanctified persons in the highest sense of the word. Well, then, it is as lost sinners we are invited to Christ; but it is as elect and precious ones we are presented to the Father without blame in love. Election shouts as loudly as any other doctrine — “Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.” And if election be called to account for this, it replies— “Those that will come, God wills shall come, and those who hunger to come, God has made them hungry, and there is the proof of their election.” Those that seek must find him, for election itself decrees, that he that seeks shall find, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
IV. And now I must be very brief indeed upon the next point, which is THE EFFECT WHICH ELECTION HAS UPON OUR DEVOTIONS.
Strange to say, this effect is discovered in a Christian, whatever his religious creed may be. My brother in Christ, thou that hast had thine eyes blinded for a long time with wrong doing, come and let us hear thee pray, — “Our Father, who art in heaven, we bless thee for thy grace which sought us when we were estranged from thee, for thy love which was forced upon us when we loved not thee. We praise thee, Lord, that thou didst call us, and didst bring us into the fold.” There the man, you see, is acknowledging the free-grace of God in his prayers. He goes on, “O Lord, when we look on those round about us who are still dead in sin, we weep over them, and we are compelled to say, ‘O Lord, it is of thy grace that we are what we are; thou hast made us to differ. Lord, take those others as brands from the burning, and stretch out thine hand to save them.’” Why, my dear man, you are not leaving it to their free-will at all, you are not leaving it to them, but asking God to choose them. You are talking Calvinism of the highest order; a man may preach Arminianism, but pray it he cannot; it would be blasphemy in prayer if he did. And so the doctrine of grace is the very inspiration of song. Kent’s hymns are, I think, about as destitute of any poetry as any hymns I ever read, yet they roll with the full tide of melody. They give a simple statement of good sound high doctrine, and that is poetry, it is essential poetry, for poetry is, after all, the grandest form of truth. There will always be an effect produced in the loving child of God in his worship, by his belief, his instinctive though perhaps denied belief in the doctrine of election, — a belief which must exist in the faith of every child of God, however strenuously he may deny it a place in his creed. Then, again, does this doctrine mar the Christian’s watchfulness? Surely not. Believing himself to be chosen of God he is always watching unto prayer that he may not stain his garments, and bring dishonour upon the God who has honoured him. Or will this prevent him from searching the Scriptures, do you fancy, when he knows that in every line of Scripture he has a special interest? The devotion of those men who have held this great truth are beyond comparison. Not the ardour of the most enthusiastic believer in good works has ever rivalled the holy ardour of the man who has nothing to move him in his prayer, instrumentally beyond the grateful recognition of his election by God in Christ Jesus.
V. Then to conclude, WHAT EFFECT DOES ELECTION HAVE ON OUR ACTIONS?
If this doctrine be fully received and known, it breathes with all gratitude to God, an earnest desire to show forth his praise. It leads to all kinds of holy activity, and a hearty endeavour for the service of God. We are told continually by philosophic writers, that the idea of necessity, — the idea that anything is fixed or decreed— tends at once to damp activity. Never was there a grosser misrepresentation. Look abroad, everything that has been great in the spirit of the age has had a Necessitarian at the bottom of it. When Mahomet preached predestination, he took a necessitarian view. Did that doctrine of predestination make his followers idle? Did it not make them dash into the battle, declaring they must die when the appointed time came, and while they lived they must fight, and earnestly defend their faith? Or to take an instance from the history of our own country. Did the Calvinism of Oliver Cromwell make his Ironsides idle? Did they not keep their powder dry? They believed that they were chosen men of God, and were they not men of valour? Did this doctrine mar their energy? So in every good enterprise our churches are never behind. Are we backward in Missionary enterprize? Are we slow to send forth men of God to preach in foreign lands? Are we deficient in our efforts? Are we the people who would preach to a select few?— who would erect buildings for worship that the poor scarcely dare to enter? Are we the people who would keep our religious services for a privileged circle? The fact is, the most zealous, the most earnest, and the most successful of men, have been those Who have held this truth, and therefore it cannot be true that this tends to damp our energies or thwart our zeal. But the best proof of this is especially in our lives. In the midst of God’s holy congregation let us pledge ourselves to-night, that holding this truth, it makes us neither unholy nor inactive. It is our anxious endeavour to be clean as men chosen to bear the vessels of the Lord. It is our hearty prayer that in season and out of season we may labour for the winning of men’s souls, knowing that to God’s churches is committed the work of gathering in those sheep who are not of his fold, but who must be brought in, that there may be one flock and one Shepherd.
I have gone a great way into controversy to-night, it is not often I do so; but every builder in these times must have his sword upon his thigh, and I have shown you the sword to-night. May God lead every one of us to this glorious Book, to lay hold upon the truths taught us. And when we have seen a truth let us not be backward to declare it. Be sure that those who honour Christ in his Word shall be honoured by Christ in his glory. Oh that you here present, who have as yet never sought Christ, and know nothing of him, instead of being frightened by this doctrine, would now come to Christ and say, “Lord, take me as I am and save me, for thou canst do it, and unto thee shall be all the glory!” It would be well if some of you could say what a convert now present said when driven almost to despair. He said in his prayer, “Jesus, if thou wilt not have me, I will have thee;” so he laid hold upon Jesus. Presently he had a clear view of Christ and his cross, and could personally discern that if he would have Christ, then certainly Christ had already got him. Such a desire and resolution as that would never otherwise have sprung up in his soul. May God add a blessing on these remarks, for Jesu’s sake! Amen.