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his rebellious creatures, it would lose its very nature: and, if not a debt, they who obtain mercy are under immense obligations, but no injury is done to others. And, if salvation itself be unmerited mercy, mercy in all respects contrary to our deservings, then every thing relating to it must also be mercy. The gift of the Saviour, the' means 'of grace,' the life-giving Spirit, the willing mind, as produced by special preventing grace: all, or any of these, may be withheld in perfect consistency with justice; and, where they are granted, men are laid under additional obligation to " the "God of all grace." This " grace hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence."' What God may justly withhold at the time, that he might justly decree from the beginning to withhold. The whole is directed "according to the purpose "of Him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will."2 But that is the will, or sovereign purpose, of infinite wisdom, justice, truth, and love: which always wiljeth what is most proper, and for the most satisfactory reasons; though he does not deign to inform us of them. At the same time, his secret purpose is perfectly consistent with his revealed will: being unknown to us, except by accomplishment, it is neither the rule nor the motive of our conduct: and, however we interpret the preceding words of our Lord, '* All "that the Father giveth me shall come to me," the subsequent assurance," And him that cometh unto "me, I will in no wise cast out,"3 may most confidently be depended on. "Heaven and earth shall "pass away, but his words shall not pass away."4 1 Eph. i. 8. 'Eph.i. 11. JJohnvi37. * Matt. xxiv. 35.
'The Jews first, and the Christians afterwards, 'were the elect people of God. God gave the 'law to the Jews by the hands of Moses, and the 'gospel to the Christians by his own blessed Son 'Jesus Christ, as the rule of their respective lives. 'God was pleased, both by the law and by the . 'gospel, to enter into covenant with his chosen 'people the Jews and Christians; to promise re'ward to the obedient, and to threaten punishment 'to the disobedient. But neither in the law, nor in 'the gospel, does he promise certain and infallible 'salvation, or threaten absolute and inevitable 'perdition, to any number, or to any description, 'of persons, except as they shall or shall not com'ply with the expressed conditions.'l
The whole body of professed Christians are never, throughout the New Testament, called "the elect people of God," in a national capacity, independent of personal character, as Israel of old was. The terms to this effect, when used concerning Christians, as it has been shewn, are always connected with those " things which ac"company salvation ;" or with some words which fix the meaning to true believers exclusively. The case is the same in our liturgy and authoritative books. 'God the Holy Ghost who sanctifieth me 'and all the elect people of God.' Mark the variation of language: ' God the Son, who hath 'redeemed me and all mankind: God the Holy 'Ghost, who sanctifieth me and all the elect 'people of God.'2 The former is spoken of as general, the latter as special. But arc all professed Christians, through populous nations, 'sanctified by the Holy Ghost?' If not, how can it be supposed that they are here called the elect people of God ?—Thus also we pray, ' Have mercy 'on all Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics; and 'take away from them all ignorance, hardness of 'heart, and contempt of thy word; and so fetch
'Ref. 226. 'Church Catechism.
* them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they
* may be saved among the remnant of the true
* Israelites.'l This ' remnant of the true Israel'ites' is ' the elect people of God' among professed Christians; even " a remnant according "to the election of grace." Again, ' Grant that 'this child may receive the fulness of thy grace, 'and ever remain in the number of thy faithful 'and elect children.'2 Here elect is joined with 'fulness of grace ;' with being ' faithful,' or believing; and with being ' the children of God.' And surely more is meant than continuance in the outward profession of Christianity.
The nature of the primitive churches, and the totally different state ol things at present, especially as to national churches, or nations called Christian, has been repeatedly noticed: and surely no one, after serious consideration, can think that the apostles, if now living on earth, would address the whole body of nominal Christians, belonging even to our established church, as " saints;" as"holy brethren ; " as " chosen in Christ, that they "should be holy, and without blame before him "in love ;" as " holy and beloved!" Much less then would he address the aggregate multitude belonging to the Greek church, or the church of Rome, in this language. Yet the argument equally includes all who are called Christians, however idolatrous, superstitious, heretical, wicked, or profligate. The word 'description of persons' is ambiguous. If it mean any thing except character, the proposition may be maintained; but both promises and threatenings are made to men, as bearing certain characters, and not independently of those characters. The 'condition' of the law is perfect obedience; and, "Cursed is "every one, that continueth not in all things "written in the book of the law, to do them." The gospel requires "faith which worketh by "love;" faith accompanied by repentance, and manifested by habitual unreserved obedience. These things form the character, or the 'de'scription' of men, to whom the promises are made; which promises certainly and infallibly ensure salvation to those who are interested in them. But, as " the wicked may turn from his "wickedness," and escape the threatened punishment, which yet will be certainly and infallibly inflicted on those who die in their sins; so, on the other hand, the question, the sole question is, whether they who repent, believe in Christ, love God and man, and are partakers of the Spirit of sanctification, do ever turn finally from their righteousness, and come short of the blessings which are secured to those who love God.
1 Third Col. for Good Friday. 2 Baptism of Infants.
All the hope and salvation of the Israelites were derived, properly speaking, from the gospel; of which their ceremonies were types, or prefigurative sacraments: and the holy moral law is "established" by the gospel, and is as obligatory on Christians as it ever was on Israelites. The national covenant with Israel, indeed, is not made with Christians as a collective body; and the Mosaic dispensation is changed for the Christian: but true religion is, for substance, the same as it was from the first promise of a Saviour;' and the case of nations professing Christianity very much resembles that of Israel as a nation. But " the "true Israel" always was " a remnant according "to the election of grace."
'The very idea of covenant is inconsistent with 'the Calvinistic system. Covenant implies con'ditions; absolute decrees reject all conditions. 'A covenant says, You shall have such or such a 'reward, if you act in the manner stipulated; ab'solute decrees say, that it is irreversibly deter'mined by the arbitrary will of God, that you 'shall or shall not be saved, without any respect 'to your conduct.'2
The " covenant" made with Noah and his posterity, that God would no more destroy mankind with a deluge, could not imply any conditions: if it did, what were those conditions ?3 Yet God has expressly said, that the covenant made with the true church is "like the waters of Noah "unto him." "This is as the waters of Noah "unto me; for, as I have sworn that the waters "of Noah shall no more go over the earth, so "have I sworn that I would not be wroth with "thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall "depart, and the hills be removed, but my kind"ness shall not depart from thee, neither shall
1 Book I. chap. i. sect. 3. Case of approved .characters beforeChrist. * Note, Ref. 226. 'Gen. ix. 9—17.
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