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THE FAVOURED PEOPLE.
2 Thess. ii. 13.
But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord; because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.
1.HE works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein." There is a real beauty, a lovely harmony, in all his plans and procedure, particularly in what relates to the salvation of sinful men. If we consult the volume of revealed truth, we find that one doctrine is dependant on another; each has a holy tendency; and the whole taken together admirably secures the happiness of man, and displays the glory of God.
We have frequent occasion, in reading the New Testament, to notice the affectionate manner in which the Apostles address the primitive churches. The text is an instance in point. Paul here addresses the church at Thessalonica as "brethren," dear to each other doubtless, and beloved by himself But this was not all—" beloved of the Lord!" as such, they were brethren in the best sense; they were children of one Father, partakers of one spirit; they were redeemed by the same blood, interested in the same salvation, and expectants of the same glorious inheritance. The Apostle writes to them in the most tender and feeling manner: he is not ashamed of them, but rejoices in them; and he cannot even call them to mind without expressing his heart-felt pleasure and gratitude on their account. He begins his First Epistle thus; "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God, and our Father." His Second Epistle he begins with these words; "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all towards each other aboundeth." And the text breathes a sentiment exactly of the same kind: "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord; because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."
It is evident the persons here addressed were considered as true Christians; not Christians in name and profession only, but in deed and in truth.
Concerning all such we observe three things:— They are the objects of a Special Choice—They are persons of a Peculiar Character—They furnish cause of Lively Thanksgiving.
Let us attend to these things with that seriousness which their importance demands, and in that spirit of faith and prayer which may secure to us the best effects!
I. True Christians are the objects of a Special
"God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation." We notice, in regard to this choice, its Author—its date—its end.
1. The Author of it. "God hath chosen you."— These Christians were a people predestinated by the Most High, and distinguished by the communication of his special grace. This requires no laboured proof. Near the beginning of the former Epistle we read thus; "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." This was their privilege: but how did it appear? The evidence of it is given in what immediately follows; "For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake." In all cases, "by their fruit ye shall know them;" end by our fruit we are to know ourselves!
We cannot, without contradicting Scripture, dispute the fact, that true Christians are a chosen people, chosen of God. Do not object to the term; remember where you find it; seek rather to-understand the subject, and objections will subside. Who dare question the right of the Most High to make this choice? May he not do what he will with his own? We are his; the creatures of his power, the subjects of his government; entirely dependent on him for being, for immortality, for our rational spirit, with all its capacities and all its prospects. Whilst he injures none, for this is utterly impossible, surely he may, if he please, confer special benefits on some. Let it be admitted that the choice of some implies that others are not chosen: yet hear the language
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of an inspired Apostle on this head; "Nay but, O man. who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay*?" When Abraham was pleading with God in behalf of guilty Sodom, what did he say? "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Doubtless he shall! Whatever, therefore, be the Divine dispensations towards the sons of men, of this we may rest assured, and in this we may confidently rejoice; "The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works." "Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful."—We notice,
2. The date of this choice. "God hath from the beginning chosen you."—The expression " from the beginning," must be explained by similar passages, which relate to the same subject. Peter says to those whom he addressed, "Ye are a chosen generation;" and also " elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father f." And Paul observes, writing to the Romans; "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate %," or set apart to a special purpose. Foreknowledge leads us back to some period previous to the existence of those persons: and there is no text more explicit on the subject than that to the Ephesians: "According as he (God) hath chosen us in him (Christ), before the foundation of the world §." Now that which was " before the foundation of the world" must have been in eternity; for we can properly conceive of no point of time before time commenced. Time is a sort of
* Rom. ix. 20, 21. tl Pet. ii. 8; i. 2.
J Rom. viii. 29. § Ephes. i. 4.
parenthesis in eternity: it is limited duration which regards creatures. When we pass, therefore, in tracing backward, the narrow limits of time, we enter a boundless eternity, and of the periods of its transactions can have no just conception.
Here, then, is taught us the entire Jreeness of this choice. If it was, as stated in the text, "from the beginning," or " before the foundation of the world," it must have been before man had his being: consequently, there could be no worthiness in us, or any of our race, influencing the Most High to such a choice. And what was foreseen but our fall—the guilt and ruin into which, by transgression, we should plunge ourselves? Yet, believers, " God hath from the beginning chosen you:" he set his love on you when there was in you nothing lovely. He says to each that knows his grace; "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee."—This brings us to notice,
3. The end of this choice. "God hath chosen you to salvation"—This determines its true nature, and sets forth its supreme excellency. The Israelites, as a nation, were chosen of God, but not all of them to salvation, for many fell; and we are admonished to take heed, lest we " fall after the same example of unbelief." The twelve were chosen to the office of Apostleship; but not all of them to salvation, for Judas was of their number. "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" The choice mentioned in the text is "to salvation;" or, as in the verse immediately following, "to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." Do you ask, What is this glory? What is salvation? It