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CALLING AND ELECTION.
EVIL is not yet established by law in this country; but good and evil have been growing up together so long, that they will never more be separated, unless it shall be in some small remnant of Christians. By means of predestination falsely stated, the sights of God and his ministry are so far forgotten, that we are getting every day nearer to Babel, and further from Jerusalem. In the last century, this Calvinistic corruption swallowed up both Church and State, and it threatens to do so again, if it be not guarded against, more than I expect it will be. It will not work directly and with the same violence as before, but slowly and by way of sap, under the name, appearance and intention of good, as evil always does, when most mischief is intended. We cannot wonder, that it is so unmerciful now in consigning the souls of men to perdition, when we remember how cruelly it treated their bodies and estates formerly. God, who saved us before, cannot be expected to save us again, by any equally extraordinary interposition, where the error is the same as before; I have therefore drawn up these few hints to set wise men on thinking: if I had been in health, I would have carried them much farther: I pray God to turn them to good, to the end that old apostolical faith, that piety and peace, may still remain among us.
BRETHREN, GIVE DILIGENCE TO MAKE YOUR CALL
ING AND ELECTION SURE. 2 PET, i. 10.
THERE is not a more plain precept than this in the Gospel; even a child that has been christened, and has learned the catechism of the church, is taught to be thankful to God, who by baptism has called it to a state of salvation : and to pray and to hope, that with the help of God's grace which he promises in that sacrament, it may continue in the same state unto its life's end.
This, I say, is plain doctrine, and I am sure it is true; we may also safely say, it is the doctrine of the Church of England; which tells us in the 27th article, that baptism is a sign of regeneration, or new birth, wherehy we are ingrafted into the Church, and by which the promises of forgiveness of sin and of our adoption to be sons of God by the Spirit are sealed; faith is confirmed, and grace increased.
If the Church of England (as some contend) is not a Church of Christ, I know not what to say more; if it is, then all the promises made to baptism in the Scripture are ensured to all the members of it; and the sign will on of single section of God to?; which doc
be attended with the thing signified; supposing that the baptism is administered according to the will and command of Jesus Christ. But to this another doctrine is preferred by Christians of a new fashion; which doctrine supposes the election of God to signify only the election of single independent persons; whom God, by an eternal purpose and secret decree, hath chosen out of others (either in a Church or out of a Church, I know not which, nor do they know themselves): and that for this we have no other reason, but that absolute will, that sovereign power, which God exercises over all his creatures, wheiher heathens or Christians, to save some, and cast others away.
This notion some have carried so far (for when people are out of the road they never know where to stop) as to affirm, that persons elected can never fall away; and that persons rejected can never be received: I shall therefore undertake to shew you, first, that this is a frightful doctrine ; next, that it is a dangerous doctrine, and answers a very bad purpose; and lastly, that it is not a scriptural doctrine, taught by the Apostles of Jesus Christ : after which I shall think it my duty to warn you against it. It will do you no good, because you have all you can want without it; you have the proinises of God, made to Churches, and to single persons; and if you insist on more, you fall into that dreadful sin of tempting God; you would know what cannot be known. It may do.' you much harm; it may lift you up with spiritual pride, or disturb you with vain fears; and discourage those prayers, in which every Christian should persevere to the last gasp; never giving up his prayers, till he gives up his breath.
According to the plain sense of the text, you will understand, that the Christian life is a Calling, or
Profession; not like to the callings and professions that are of this world ; but of an high and heavenly nature, to which God has called us out of the world, and confirmed our calling by the sign of haptism. Thus was Abraham called and elected, and all his children in him; and their calling was confirmed by the sign of circumcision. Every Jew, as such, was a child of Abraham, and an elected heir to the promises of God; even under their blindness and apostacy, the Apostle speaks of them as still beloved, still capable of being again received, for their father's sake; for though men may change, God doth not change; his gifts and callings are without repentance *
In like manner, we Christians, by our profession, are called out of the world, and taken into the Church of God by baptism; with allusions to which, the New Testament, when it speaks of God's elect, means bap. tized Christians : this you may see at the 13th verse of the 5th chapter of St. Peter's first Episle ; and it seems most probable, that St. John, by the Elect Lady mentioned in his second Epistle, means some particular Church; and by her Elect Sister with her chil. dren, he means that Church, and its sons, with which he was then present at the writing of this Epistle. The text admonishes Christians to make their calling and election sure; that is, to persevere in the course of the Christian life, as they began it rightly in baptism. But to teach, as many have done, and that with great confidence, that some are saved, and that others are lost, by a decree, which we can never pretend to know without laying ourselves open to the delusions of Satan: to teach this is to teach a doctrine
* Repentance bere signifies change of mind in God; as in the passage respecting peace. See Hek, xii. 17.