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ELECTION AND FINAL PERSEVERANCE,
STATED FROM SCRIPTURE,
AND SHEWN CONSISTENT WITH EXHORTATORY AND PRACTICAL PREACHING
AND CONDUCIVE TO HOLINESS OF LIFE.
PREACHED AT THE LOCK CHAPEL,
NOVEMBER 26, 1786.
THE Sermon, originally published under this title, was written on a very particular occasion, and in too great haste for the difficulty and importance of the subject. The author's mind likewise was agitated at the time, by the circumstances in which he was placed: yet, amidst these disadvantages, it was deemed necessary to print it verbatim as preached, except as some notes were added.
When therefore the occasion which required the publication was passed, and the second Edition, which had been called for in a few days, was disposed of, he dropped all thoughts of reprinting it: deeming it too personal, and too much adapted to special circumstances, to answer the permanent purposes of a calm, deliberate, matured, and impartial treatise on the deep and mysterious subject.
He finds, however, that the Sermon is frequently inquired for: and this has made him apprehensive lest the circumstance of its being out of print should be considered as a dereliction of his principles. He has, therefore, at length, determined to publish another edition : but in doing this, while he adheres strictly to the arrangement and sentiments of the original Sermon, he deems himself at liberty to omit some things personal or occasional, to revise the style, and to make several additions and alterations, in order to render it something more adequate to the ends proposed by the publication.
The reader will perceive, that the principal difference betwixt the statement here given of the doctrines in question, and that of many modern Calvinists, relates to Redemption by the death of Christ, as being of infinite sufficiency, and therefore in some respects, the common benefit of mankind. This view of the subject makes not the least difference, in respect of the entire freeness of salvation by the sovereign purpose and grace of God, made known in the effectual calling of his chosen remnant: while it gives the preacher an immense advantage in fulfilling the ministry of reconciliation, and yields the awakened sinner the greatest encouragement in applying to Christ for salvation. On this ground we may say to any human being, “ Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.” But, on the other plan, no sinner can know, previously to conversion, whether he has any more right to rely on the merits and mediation of Christ, than fallen angels have.
The Author earnestly desires the candid inquirer after truth, and all who dare to think for themselves, to examine the passages quoted from Scripture in this Sermon, and to observe accurately whether they do not fully establish his statement. Then let them weigh all the other testimonies of holy writ with the same design; and finally let them consider what immense pains and ingenuity it requires, to explain a variety of texts in consistency with the other scheme; with what confidence and plausibility opponents urge them against our doctrine; and yet how naturally they coincide with the view here given. To the author they give no trouble; they express his sentiments, and in similar circumstances he should use the same language. The statement here given, is by no means new or peculiar. He has proved that the compilers of our liturgy held the same sentiments. Many of his brethren at present coincide with him. The most eminent Calvinist divines in North America, who have lived during the present century, view the subject in the same light; and abundance of testimonies of this kind, from every quarter, might easily be adduced: but let the word of God decide.
The author is not anxious about the class of professed Christians among whom his brethren may rank him. No one of them is either right or wrong in every thing; and that which in one situation is disgraceful, in another is deemed honourable. But it appears to him of great consequence to show, that these despised doctrines are scriptural, rational, holy, consolatory, and consistent with every other part of Christianity: and that the objections commonly urged against them, originate in misapprehension of their nature and tendency: and may generally be traced back to distorted views given of them, or scandalous perversions made of them.
In some few places, however, the terms Calvinist and Calvinism, Arminian and Arminianism are retained ; not as invidious distinctions, but for convenience, and to prevent circumlocution. It is a great mistake to suppose, that self-righteous pride is peculiar to Arminians, or Antinomian laxity to Calvinists. Pride and dislike to the holy law of God are alike congenial to our fallen nature: so that every man is radically of himself both self-righteous and Antinomian. No creed, as such, will cure either of these distempers ; but regeneration renders us convalescent. Yet even true Christians frequently hold and contend for doctrines, which very inadequately influence their own hearts and lives; nay, they often maintain errors, without being proportionably injured by them. Hence many Calvinists are prone to pride and selfpreference, and many Arminians evidently humble. But the Christian temper, wherever found, even though a man express himself, as we think inaccurately, is vastly more valuable than the most exact notions without “ the mind which was in Christ Jesus.”—On the other hand, the Arminian is not at all secured from Antinomianism, nor the Calvinist exposed to it, by their several tenets ; seeing both of them are Antinomian just as far as they are unsanctified, and no further : “ because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Perhaps speculating Antinomians abound most among persons professing to be Calvinists: but Antinomians whose sentiments influence their practice, swarm among such as are really Arminians. Does the reader doubt this ? Let him ask any of those multitudes, who openly trample on God's commandments, what they think of predestination and election, and he will speedily be convinced, that they are Arminians: yet they take occasion from their notions concerning the mercy of God, to encourage themselves in impenitent wicked
It would, therefore, be unspeakably better for all parties to examine such subjects with impartiality, meekness, and brotherly love; than reciprocally to censure, despise, and condemn one another.
May 2, 1798.
John Vl. 37-40.
All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me; and him that cometh unto me I
will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
The holy Scriptures, being the word of God, are doubtless perfectly consistent. Moses and Samuel, David and Isaiah, Paul and James, being merely the penmen of the Holy Spirit, must perfectly harmonize in the truths which they inculcate. Precepts, threatenings, warnings, judgments, counsels, exhortations, invitations, promises, privileges, histories, examples, types, and parables, in divers methods, subserve the same great ends of instruction. They all display and illustrate the same character of God, and of man; and impress the same ideas of sin and of holiness, of time and of eternity, of happiness and of misery. They all concur in displaying the glory of the divine perfections in the dispensations of Providence in this world, and the final distribution of rewards and punishments in the world to come. And though these constituent parts of holy writ do not in all respects answer the same purposes, each has its distinct important use in the accomplishment of one vast and uniform design.
But though the Scriptures are in themselves completely harmonious, yet men do not readily perceive this harmony. Many imagine they see in them numerous inconsistencies and contradictions: others, judging it impracticable to reconcile the sacred writers, give a partial preference to one above another, and set them in opposition to each other, according to their several opinions. The various sects and parties professing Christianity, appeal to Scripture in proof of their discordant tenets; and multitudes, content with those passages which seem to speak the language of the favourite system, pass over all the rest as if nothing to the purpose, or nothing to them; a mere .caput mortuum * in divinity.
These things are notorious; but whence do they arise? We allow that the vastness of the design revealed in Scripture, which has relation to things
The worthless insipid mass that remains when the spirits are all drawn of by distillation ; or the mere dross left in refining metals.