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and belief of the truth, which were common to ' every true convert, are here denominated the ““ being chosen to salvation :” that is, the Thessalonians, by embracing Christianity, were now enabled to obtain salvation ; but that this salva
tion was not certain and infallible is evident ' from the numerous exhortations and precepts
contained in these epistles, and particularly from the following earnest entreaty; “ Furthermore 'then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that, as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more :” a continual progress in obedience to the instructions which St. Paul had given to the Thessalonians was therefore necessary on their part to secure their salvation.''
The apostle had predicted the grand apostacy from true Christianity; and he then spoke of those “ who received not the love of the truth, that they “ might be saved : ” and “ for this cause,” he says, “ God shall send them strong delusion that they “ should believe a lie that they all might be “ damned, who believed not the truth, but had
pleasure in unrighteousness.” He then contrasts his beloved children with these persons, in the words here quoted; but he adds at the close, “ to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus “ Christ.” 2—“ Chosen from the beginning, " through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief “ of the truth.” This sanctification and belief
were common to every true convert;' (they could indeed be predicated of none but true con
Ref. 210. See on p. 204, 205. of Refutation.
verts ;) (and are here called “ being chosen unto
salvation.”—The apostle says, “ God hath chosen “ you to salvation, through sanctification of the “ Spirit and belief of the truth :” and his Lordship asserts, that this sanctification and belief were
denominated being chosen unto salvation.' Are then the act of God in choosing, and their act in believing, precisely the same. Surely these things are mentioned as the intermediate predetermined steps, so to speak, between election and final salvation, indispensably necessary to that event, and included in that election, or purpose. "That is,' says his Lordship, “the Thessalonians by em
bracing Christianity were enabled to obtain sal'vation. Now, any man who hears the gospel, is "enabled to obtain salvation,' except as human depravity constitutes a moral inability. It is ac‘knowledged, that man has not the disposition,
and consequently not the ability, to do what in 'the sight of God is good, till he is influenced by
the Spirit of God.'_ But that this salvation * was not certain and infallible,' &c. Let each clause be well considered, and especially the concluding clause, “ to the obtaining of the salvation “of our Lord Jesus Christ;” and then let every impartial man determine, whether the apostle did not consider the final salvation of those who were thus “ chosen and called” as effectually secured. Is there any thing in the passage like an election of collective bodies to external privileges ? Would the apostle, if now living, use this decided language concerning the members of our national church; or of any other church, in which each
individual was not, at least in the judgment of charity, a genuine believer in Christ, shewing his faith by his works ? Was any thing like this spoken by the prophets concerning the national election of Israel? I am more decided in opposing this exposition of the passage, because it subverts all the determined rules by which the scripture can be soberly interpreted; and makes words, “ the words of the living God,” to mean whatever best suits the expositor's system ; than because it militates against the doctrine of personal election, which I firmly believe, but which many more spiritual and holy men cannot receive. By thus endeavouring to explain testimonies of holy writ, to support a favourite sentiment, in a sense which the obvious grammatical meaning will not bear, we open a door to those who “ wrest the scrip“ tures,” in the most awful manner, to the destruction of themselves and others : and, when this is done by eminent persons, no tongue can express the evils which may arise from it, though wholly undesigned by those who inadvertently gave the example. Let us, at least, adhere to the plain grammatical construction, even of those texts which seem to militate against our own sentiments. — The subject of exhortations has been repeatedly considered; and Calvinists in general find no difficulty in using them, consistently with their principles, whether those principles be well grounded or not. Especially the exhortation to “ abound more and more” is a favourite topic with many of us, even in respect of those concerning whose final salyation we have little or no doubt: because, by “ abounding more
" and more " in every good work, Christians may silence accusers, conciliate prejudiced persons, win souls, glorify God, and do good to men, in a proportionable, and almost incalculable, degree.
St. Paul was also under apprehension “lest by some means the tempter should have tempted them, and his labour be in vain ;” which could not have been the case if their election was a * proof of their salvation being irreversibly de'creed. It appears from the second Epistle to
the Thessalonians, that some of them did “ walk * disorderly," and that St. Paul doubted whether “they would obey his precepts, that is, whether they would be saved; and consequently the being
from the beginning chosen by God to salvation, *the sanctification of the Spirit, and the belief of
the gospel, did not prevent disorderly behaviour, ‘or necessarily cause obedience to the commands of an inspired apostle.'!
The apostle, in fact, wrote the epistle after his apprehensions in respect of the Thessalonians had been fully removed, and when “ Timothy had “ brought him good tidings of their faith and 6 love."2 Whatever made him doubt of their faith most certainly made him doubt of their election ; which could only be known. to men by “ the work of faith, and labour of love, and pa“ tience of hope.” “Their election' was not mentioned as a proof of their salvation being irreversibly decreed; but their holy conduct was mentioned as the evidence of their “ election of “God.” If their works evidenced that they were 'Ref. 210, 211.
? 1 Thess. iii. 5–7.
true believers, they proved also that “God had “ not appointed them to wrath, but to obtain sal“ vation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”] The grand matter was to prove their effectual calling, which could only be done by their holy conduct: this shewed their election; and that implied that their salvation was irreversibly decreed.-How perfectly natural and easy is all this way of writing, in our view of the subject! The conduct of the great - mass of them was such as to require the apostle, in the judgment of charity, to think them true believers, and, of course, according to our views, to conclude them “ elected of God," and consequently destined to salvation. In general therefore he speaks of them in that way. But then he was not sure of their faith being genuine, consequently not sure of their election and salvation ; much less would he have them take this for granted. Hence exhortations to “ make their calling “ and election sure,” addressed even to those of whom he at other times, in a charitable judgment, spoke confidently, were quite natural. But, as he was not absolutely sure of any, so there were some mixed with them of whom he felt much less satisfied: when therefore his thoughts and discourse turned towards them, how natural that it should become such as we sometimes find it, the language of jealous fear; and that perhaps without particularly excepting from it the majority, of whom he hoped well: even as in addressing the latter he had not expressly excepted those of whom he had much less confidence.-But his Lordship speaks all the way as if the existence of election, and the
' 1 Thess. v. 9.