« AnteriorContinuar »
meant who 'called themselves Christians,' and appeared to be such even to the apostle, they 'might or might not be saved;' for they might not all be true believers; and might not belong to " the election who obtain " the blessing: but it does not appear from these premises, that' the 'passage is irreconcilable to the notion, that the 'elect are persons infallibly destined to salvation,' whether that notion be well grounded or not.
"There shall be great tribulation, such as was "not from 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." l
The words "for the elect's sake," in this text, are wholly inapplicable to the case of the Christians who lived in those times. The Jewish converts to Christianity were not exposed to any peculiar dangers by those calamities which befel the nation; they separated from the body of their countrymen before the desolations began, believing the word, and observing the directions of their Lord; and they were generally exempted from the miseries which followed. But, had not those " days of "tribulation been shortened," the nation of the Jews must soon have been extirpated. Yet, as God had purposed to bring forth an elect people from among them in after ages, he was pleased to shorten those days, and to preserve a remnant, who continue a separate people to this day, but who shall at length be "grafted into their own olive tree." This accords to the prophecy of Isaiah: "Thus saith "the Lord, As the new wine is in the cluster, "and one saith, Destroy it not for a blessing is in "it: so will I do for my servant's sake, that I may "not destroy them all. And I will bring forth a "seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor "of my holy mountains; and mine elect shall "inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there."' The extirpation of the whole nation of unbelieving Jews could not have hindered the eternal salvation of one true Christian, any more than of one person who was "chosen to salvation;" and therefore to interpret the words concerning either of them must be erroneous. But, in the nation of Israel, even when rejected and most dreadfully punished for crucifying Christ, persecuting his church, and opposing his gospel,2 there was "an election," on account of which, as well as "for the father's "sake," the seed of Jacob is yet "beloved."3 Millions, I speak with confidence, many millions, of that scattered race will yet become true Christians, and blessings to the world at large. Upon what other interpretation of the passage could the preservation of a remnant of the unbelieving Jews from death be " for the elect's sake, whom God "hath chosen ?" *
1 Matt. xxiv. 21, 22. Ref. 213. 1 Isa. lxv. 8, 9. See also Isa. vi. 13. * 1 Thess. ii. 15, 16. 'Rom. xi. 28. 'Mark xiii. 20.
'It appears from the context, that the word '" saved" does not here relate to eternal salva'tion, but to preservation in this world.'5
This remark seems very well founded: but how
• Note, Ref. 213.
can it agree with the elect here signifying the Christians of those times? for the calamities which befel the Jews, not the persecutions which awaited Christians, were evidently meant; indeed this is allowed in ' The Refutation.' The preserving of a remnant of Jews was entirely a distinct thing from the temporal preservation of Christians.
'The words of the original, it twain, Matt. xxiv. '24. do not imply physical impossibility, but only a 'great degree of difficulty: thus St. Paul "hasted, 'if it were possible for him, h twaVwvp dvlf, to be 'at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost," Acts xx. 16. * The thing itself was possible, but it required 'exertion, and St. Paul did all he could to ac'complish it. In like manner it was possible for 'the elect to be deceived, and it was here predicted 'by our Saviour, that the false prophets would do 'all they could to effect it, " to bewitch those, that 'they should not obey the truth, before whose 'eyes Jesus Christ had been evidently set forth." i
The words, "the elect," in this verse must mean either true Christians, or those "chosen "to salvation ;" for the context evidently does not relate to those who destroyed men's lives, but to those who seduced and deceived them with false doctrines, and lying pretences and miracles. The words rendered " if it were pos"sible" may not always mean a physical and absolute impossibility; but that they here imply 'only a great degree of difficulty,' is a mere assumption, even if the passage brought to support it were more decisive than it is. It might be, or it might not be, physically impossible for St. Paul, 'Note, Ref. 213, 214.
to reach Jerusalem before Pentecost: so that he doubted whether all his exertion would enable him to accomplish it. It was possible in itself, if winds and waves, or pirates, or unforeseen hindrances, did not prevent it. He must do his best ; but a storm or a shipwreck might defeat his purpose. It was also possible for the elect to be deceived, nay, they would be deceived, if God did not prevent it. But the words of our Lord shew, as we think, that God had engaged to prevent it; and therefore it was not " possible" for the seducers to deceive the "very elect;" even as, if God had engaged to give the apostle a safe and speedy voyage and journey to Jerusalem, he could not possibly have been prevented by any hindrance. St. Paul thus says, "With all deceivableness of "unrighteousness in them that perish, because "they received not the love of the truth, that "they might be saved :—who believed not the "truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." l It was possible and easy to deceive persons of this character: but not to deceive those who had "received the love of the truth, that they might "be saved ;" who believed the truth, who hated sin, and loved righteousness: because God would preserve such from fatal delusion.
'Immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem 'he will send his messengers or ministers into 'every quarter of the world to preach his religion, 'who will gather into one holy catholic church 'all who shall embrace and sincerely believe it.'2
"The elect" in the text referred to 3 most ob
1 2 Thess. ii. 9—14. 'Ref. 214.
'Matt. xxiv. 28—31.
viously denotes those who were previously chosen, and, in consequence, were called by the preaching of the gospel. In what other sense could they be " his elect," before they were actually gathered into the church ?—" He should gather together "in one the children of God that were scattered "abroad:"' that is, those whom he had " pre"destinated to the adoption of children by Jesus "Christ unto himself, according to the good plea"sure of his will."2 'They who be endued with 'so excellent a benefit of God be called, aecord'ing to God's purpose, by his Spirit working in 'due season.' 3 So that there is firm 'ground for 'considering the elect, here spoken of, as persons 'selected by an irreversible decree of God for sal'vation in the life to come:' and it has been repeatedly shewn that such an idea is perfectly 'reconcilable with the cautions which our Saviour 'gave his disciples on this occasion;' for he who purposes the end appoints also the means by which it shall be attained: and his precept, not his decree, is the rule of our duty.
'Not the slightest intimation is given of any 'decree of God by which their salvation was 'made certain: but, on the contrary, their salva'tion is represented as depending upon themselves, 'upon their " continuing in the faith, grounded 'and settled, and not moved away from the hope 'of the gospel."'4
No intimation of the decree of God is here given,
1 John xi. 52. 'Eph. i. 5.—See also John x. 16. Acts
xviii. 10. 2 Thess. ii. 13, 14. * Art. xvii.