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A VINDICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF PERSONAL ELECTION, BEING A RETLT TO OBJECTIONS RAISES AGAINST THIS DOCTRINE PARTICULARLY IN MR, BANGS' THIRD LETTER.
MR. BANGS' Third Letter is designed to expose my erroneous sentiments on the doctrine of election, or, as it is otherwise termed, Predestination. The text which was taken to bring into view this doctrine, was Rom. ix. 11, For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the fiurpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth. The doctrinal proposition which was supposed to be contained in this text, was thus expressed; The fiurfiose of God, in choosing some creatures to enjoy eternal hafifiiness, in distinction from others, is not founded u/ion their good works, and will therefore invariably stand. In handling the doctrine, it was attempted to be shown, I. That election is not founded on works; II. That God's purpose of election will never in a single instance, be frustrated, but will always stand.
Mr. B. in the commencement of this Letter says, "Your laboring to prove that election is not founded upon works foreseen, is calculated to impress the reader with an idea that we believe it is." Certainly I did suppose that Arminians, whether in the MetUodist, or Presbyterian church, believed that election was founded on worku foreseen; nor did I hear any thing offered by Mr. B. in the public Debate ; nor do I see any thing in his Letters, to lead me to alter the opinion which I had formed. I would turn the readers attention to one or two sentences on the IfOih page: "He also knew that the Gentiles would believe in Jesus Christ, and therefore he determined before the foundation of the world, to call them by the gospel, and give them an offer of salvation." "Those among the Jews whom he foreknew would embrace the Lord Jesus, he did not 'reject, any more than he did the believing Gentiles" Introductory to these sentences he had said; "To this objection the apostle opposes his doctrine of election, predicated of God's prescience." Now pot these sentences together, and is it not clear, that Mr. B. makes the election of seme sinners to eternal life, whether Jews or Gentiles, to turn on the point of their foreseen works, by which they will distinguish themselves from their fellow sinners?
By works in the controversy tibout election, we do not tnean merit. In this sense, works are excluded from the whole of a sinner's salvation. In the eye of the law, the sinner who is perfectly sanctified, is nevertheless without works, and as such he is justified fiee)y through the redemption which there is in Christ Jesus. But when works are considered as the fruit of the operations af the Holy Spirit, all the regenerate have good works. Repentance and faith are holy exercises, and may be called good works. A life of prayer and obedience to the commands of God, it is sctipturally proper to call good works. Now the question is whether these good things which are within us, or done by us, are the reason of our being put into the number of God's elect. We believe, that the reason why one sinner is forgiven, in distinction from another, is that he repents; and why one sinner is justified in distinction from another, is that he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ: He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned. Repentance and faith' are not meritorioue, but they are nevertheless conditions of our being forgiven and accepted in the Beloved. But are these al-o conditions of our being chosen in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy? Are they the conditions on which God predestinates sinners to be conformed to the image of his Son? The gracious work of renovating our hearts, is not suspended upon conditions, God does not say, If sinners will repent and believe, I will change their hearts. The apostle to the Ephesians declares, that it was when they were dead in sin that God quickened them. That he might effectually cut off boasting and lay them all in the dust before God, he lets them know, that their good works were subsequent to their new creation, and were wholly the fruit of it: M>t of works, lest any man should boast : for we are his workmanshi/i, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. By works in this text the apostle does not mean merit, but those holy fruits which all real christians bring forth. So that it is obvious, that the apostle designed to teach those to whom he wrote, that there was nothing good or holy in them, which was the reason why they were created anew in Christ Jesus, since all their good works were posterior to their conversion, and wholly the fruit of it. We can all see that it would be altogether unsuitable for God to forgive an impenitent sinner, and be at peace with one in a state of unbelief j but there is nothing unsuitable in God's giving repentance to an impenitent sinner, and working faith in an unbeliever; or, in the words of the apostle, in creating them in Christ Jesus unto these good works. So there is nothing incongruous in God's electing sinners unto salvation, considered as entirely depraved and destitute of all good distinctions. And to us it is apparent, that this is the view which the scripture gives of the doctrine; while it is equally apparent, that this is not the view which the Arminians entertain of it.*
'* L,et us look for a moment at the bock of Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This book most manifestly builds electing love on good works foreseen; else, what is meant by the following sentence > "The scripture tells us plainly what predestination is j it is God's fore-appointing obedient believers to salvation, not without, but according to his foreknowledge of all their works from the foundation cf the world." Doct. and Discip. p. 75. Mr. Wesley, who is the acknowledged penman of these remarks on predestination, says; "If the elect are chosen through sanctification of the Spirit, then they were not chqsen before they were sanctified by the Spirit." Again, " If the saints are chosen to salvation, through believing- the truth, then they were not chosen before they believed the.truth." p. "4. How can it be, that Mr. 'Wesley anil his followers, should understand that passage in 2 Thess. ii.
Let it be remembered, that all the sinners whom God has chosen to salvaiion, are, according to the economy of redemption, to be made partakers of his holiness. They are chosen- through sanctiScaiion of the
so differently from us! To us the passage has no appearance of giving an idea, that sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, precede election, as the cause precedes the effect ; of as the motive precedes the action produced by it. Here follows the passage : "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth." Can any one, who has not previously made up his mind on this subject, entertain the thought, that the apostle meant to say, That God from the beginning chose these persons to salvation, because he foresaw they would be sanctified by the Spirit, and that they would believe the truth? Is it not much more natural to understand the apostle to say, That God from the beginning chose them to enjoy eternal salvation in heaven; and, as means to prepare them for this everlasting rest, determined to sanctify them by his word and Spirit, and thus bring them to love and obey the truth? The plan of God is perfect and consistent. He has not chosen the eleet to salvation, without determining to prepare them for that salvation. The vessels of mercy are to be admitted to heaven; but they are to be afore prepared unto glory. Rom. ix. 25.
On the s:ime page with the sentences last quoted, Mr. Wesley says, "How plain is it, where St. Paul saith, thatthey whom God did predestinate, according to the counsel of his cwn KtU< to Le the praise of his can glory, were such as did first trust in Christ? And in the very next verse he saith, that they trusted in Christ after they Iteard the Kord of truth, not before. But they did not hear the word before they were born. Therefore it is plain, that the act of electing is in tivie, tho' known to God before; who according to his knowledge, often speaketh of the things which are not as tho'' they were.'' The passage which Mr, Wesley refers to, is in the first chapter of Paul's epistle to the Ephesians. To us it is not at all plain that those, whom Cod is here said to have chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, having predestinated them unto the adoption of children, accordingto the good pleasure of his will, and according to the purpose of his wise counsel; were such as trusted in Christ before they were predestinated ; so that this trusting in Christ was the reason why they were chosen in him. It is true, that after the apostle had spoken of Cod's ilecting love, and predestinating purpose, he adds, "That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted iiv Christ. In whom ye also trusted, alter that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation." Eph.i. 12, 13. Did the Ephesians on reading this epistle obtain the idea, that the apostle meant to tell them, tharthey fc-usted in Christ first. spirit, an J belief of the truth. But this sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth, are not what drew forth the electing love of Gjd, but are produced by electing love, canied into operation. That this is the
before they were.choseh in liim (hat they should be holy? Dies not the apostle rather speak of two companies of believers, as both hiving an interest in the same Almighty Saviour; but that one company obtained this blessed privilege at an earlier perioJ than the other, having first trusted in Christ: in whom the others also trusted afterwards The Jewish converts, of whom the apostle was one, belonged to the first class of believers ; and then unto the Gentiles also was granted reentance unto life. They both trusted in the same Redeemer; it the Jewish converts trusted in him firs: ,'—— ifterwards the Gentiles trusted in him when tluy were made acquainted with the gospel. It seems as if our opponents could not help discovering, upon a review of this passage, that Mr. Wesley did mistake when he made the vioril,first: in the 12th verse, to give to their trusting in Christ an earlier date than to the predestinating purpose of God concerning their salvation. However tenacious they may still be of their peculiar sentiment, it is hoped they will candidly acknowledge, that it is not strengthened by this particular passage.
But it is objected by our theological antagonists, That there is mora than one passage, where predestination is explicitly ascribed to foreknowUdge, and made to rest upon it. The first passage objected to us, is Rom. viii. 29, For whom he did foreknovj, he alsa did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. Another passage is 1 Pet. i. 2. Elect according to the foreknov>\fdge of God the Father, through sanctification nf the spirit unto obedience, and sprinkling rf the blood of Jesus Christ. I think it is evident, that in neither of these passage's is predestination, or election, made to depend on the foreknowledge of any thing good in us, as the cause of our being chosen. In, '.he one passage we are said to be predestinated to be conformed, and not because it was foreseen that we should'be conformed. In the other we are said to be elect, or chosen, unto obedience. There is nothing appears in either of these passages, which indicates a design in the inspired writer, to oppose good works foreseen to the sovereignty of grace in predestination. But there arc passages, where there is an evident design, to oppose sovereign electing grace to all the works of men. As a specimen of such passages, tak-, the following: Rom. ix. 11. " For the children being not yet b >rn ; neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth:" v. If,, " So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God who sheweth mercy." 2 Tim. i. 9, " Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, nor according to our writ, but ac