Again. We naturally hate efforts to promote the interests of our enemies. We are very apt to cavil at the measures which they use; call their motives in question; and find a great deal of fault with the spirit, and manner of their efforts; when we are opposed to the end which they have in view. If it be to promote the interests of our enemy, we are naturally watching for objections, and are captious, and ill-natured, in regard to their movements. We are apt to ridicule, and oppose such efforts; and any thing like zeal, in such a case, is looked upon by us, as enthusiasm and madness. Witness the conduct of impenitent sinners, on the subject of religion. If any efforts are made to promote the interests of the kingdom of God; to honour and glorify him, they are offended. They get up an opposition. They not unfrequently ridicule their meetings. Speak evil of those that are engaged in them. Denounce their zeal, as enthusiasm, and madness; and something for which they deserve the execration of all their neighbours. People may get together, and dance all night, and impenitent sinners do not think it objectionable. The theatre may be opened, every night, at great expense, and the actors and multitudes of others, may be engaged all day in preparing for the entertainment of the evening; and thus the devil may get up a protracted meeting, and continue it for years, and they see no harm in it: no enthusiasm in all this. Ladies may go, and stay till midnight, every evening. Poor people may go, and spend their time and money, and waste their health and lives, and ruin their souls; and there is no harm in all this. But let Christians do any thing like this, and exercise one tenth part of this zeal in promoting the honour of God, and the salvation of souls; why, it would be talked of from Dan to Beersheba. Sinners may go to a ball, or party, and stay nearly all night; but excessively indecorous it is for ladies to go out to evening meetings. For Christians to have protracted meetings, and to pray till 10 o'clock at night. Abominable! Why, such things are spoken against in the newspapers. They are the subjects of remark and reprobation in steamboats, and stage-coaches, and bar-rooms, and wherever impenitent sinners are assembled. Politicians, may manifest the greatest zeal on the subject of politics. May hold their caucuses; post up their handbills; blaze away in the public journals; appoint their ward-committees; ransack every nook and corner; parade through the streetsar with their music; fire their guns, show their flags, transport their frigates through the streets on wheels, send their coaches up and down the streets with hand-bills posted on their sides, to bring men to the polls, hundreds of thousands of dollars may be expended to carry an election, and all this is well enough. But, O, let Christians but begin to serve God with such zeal, and make such efforts to build up his kingdom, and save the souls of men; and ten to one, if the wicked did not absolutely mob them, and cry out that such efforts would ruin the nation. They would brand such proceedings as the most arrant (throughgoing) enthusiasm, and downright madness. But is it because politics are of so much more importance than the salvation of souls? Is it, because no effort is necessary to arouse a slumbering world, and bring sinners to act, and think, and feel, as they ought on the subject of salvation. No, there is reason enough for the highest possible degree of Christian effort, and sinners know it very well; but their enmity against God is so great, that such efforts cannot be made without arousing all the hell there is within them.
Suppose the business in which your steward was employed, required that he should entertain right notions concerning the manner of doing it, and the principles involved in it; of your will and of his duty. And suppose you had given him, in writing, a set of rules for the government of his conduct, in relation to all the affairs with which he was intrusted; then if he should neglect to examine those rules, or should pervert their plain meaning, and should thus pervert his own conduct, and be instrumental in deceiving others, and leading them in the way of disobedience, would you not look upon this as criminal and deserving the severest reprobation?
Lastly, God requires you to give all diligence to make your calling and election sure. In choosing his elect, you must understand, that he has thrown the responsibility of their being saved upon them, that the whole is suspended upon their consent to the terms; you are all perfectly able to give your consent, and this moment to lay hold on eternal life. Irrespective of your own choice no election can save you, and no reprobation can damn you. The spirit and the bride say Come, let him that heareth say Come, let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take the waters of life freely. The responsibility is yours. God does all that he wisely can, and challenges you to show what more he could do that he has not done. If you go to hell, you must go stained with your own blood. God is clear, angels are clear. To your own master your stand or fall; mercy waits, the Spirit strives; Jesus stands at the door and knocks; do not then pervert this doctrine, and make it an occasion of stumbling till you are in the depth of hell.
You will perceive that my present object is to discuss the doctrine of REPROBATION. The following is the order in which I shall present the subject:
8th. That the doctrine of reprobation is just.
1st. What is the doctrine of reprobation.
2. They are not reprobated because the glory of God or the interest of the universe require their damnation, if they will repent. Some have represented the reprobation and damnation of a part of mankind, as indispensable to the glory of God and the good of the universe. They have supposed that God's whole moral character could in no other way be displayed. They suppose that sin was the necessary means of the greatest good, and that God decreed the sins, the reprobacy, and damnation of the finally impenitent as the only means of developing before the universe the whole circle of divine attributes, and producing upon the whole the greatest amount of good. That consequently, he really prefers the existence of sin to it's non-existence, rebellion to obedience, the damnation of a part of mankind, to the salvation of the whole. Now I look upon this to be a dangerous error, to be highly dishonorable to God, injurious to his government, and in a high degree calculated to stir up rebellion against his throne. I do not suppose that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, and I look upon punishment as rendered necessary only because moral agents have not been, and will not be, obedient without witnessing execution of law. If all the subjects of God's government had continued obedient, a practical illustration of Divine justice had been uncalled for. If without the infliction of the penalty, all God's subjects had continued to obey, it would not have been to the glory of God, but to the infinite dishonor of God, to have sent any one to hell. Such strong measures as the execution of the infinite penalty of God's law, so far from being called for in the abstract, and essential to his glory, are only warrantable and appear glorious in him, when all milder means fail to procure and perpetuate obedience. I would ask, what is the particular use in developing the attribute of justice, but to procure respect for God's authority, and thus secure obedience? But if men were obedient without this practical illustration or exhibition of justice, certainly punishment would be uncalled for.
1st. As it respects God, from eternity. But as it respects men they are reprobated when they become refuse and good for nothing. As God knew from eternity how every event would be; how every sinner in the universe would behave himself--as this was always present to his mind as much as it ever will be--his decision upon it all, must have been from eternity just what it always will be. So far as the making up of his own mind is concerned, he needs only to have all the evidence in the case, and this he has always had, as much as he ever will have. If, at the day of judgment, he will see cause to reprobate them, and send them to hell, he has always seen this cause, and always been of one mind upon this subject. But so far as the reprobates themselves are concerned, they become reprobates when they pertinaciously, and finally refuse to accept eternal life on the terms of the Gospel. The doctrine of reprobation is just like the doctrine of election, in this respect, as existing in the mind of God; like all other purposes of the Divine mind, it is eternal. He has no new thoughts, nor new knowledge, nor purposes, nor designs. But as it respects us, reprobation is just like election, conditional, a contingency. It is just so on every other subject; man's life and death are all fixed, and his days are numbered. God has set the bounds of his habitation that he cannot pass, and all the circumstances of his life and death are settled; yet, who does not know that the time of every man's death, so far as he himself is concerned, is a matter of entire contingency; that his days may be lengthened or shortened by his own conduct; that years, and scores of years, may be added to, or subtracted from his life, through the instrumentality of his own agency. The fact of its being settled in the mind of God does not alter the contingency with regard to us. It is to us just as much a matter of contingency as if neither God nor any being in the universe had any fore-knowledge of the event. So in regard to our salvation or damnation; although God is perfectly acquainted with what the result will be, still the event is to us, just as contingent and just as much suspended upon our own voluntary agency, as if God knew nothing about it. The event alone develops to us what was before a certainty in the mind of God.
VI. I am to show that men are not lost because they are reprobated. That is, their reprobation is not the reason why they are lost. God does not condemn them because they are reprobated, but because they are wicked. It is their own act that leads him to send them to hell, and not his act in reprobating them. He reprobates and punishes them for their sins, because that, in spite of all he could wisely do to reclaim them, they would remain in their sins. He always foresaw how wicked they would be, and always designed to treat them accordingly.
VIII. Reprobation is just.
Is it not just in God to let men have their own choice, especially when the highest possible motives are held out to them as inducements to choose eternal life? What! is it not just to reprobate men when they obstinately refuse salvation? When every thing has been done that is consistent with infinite wisdom and benevolence to save them? Shall not men be willing to be either saved or lost? What shall God do with you? You are unwilling to be saved; why then should you object to being damned. If reprobation under these circumstances is not just, I challenge you, sinner, to tell what is just.
IX. Reprobation is impartial.
It has always been found convenient, by the opposers of election and reprobation, to represent them as partial. If by partial be meant that some are elected and not others, that some are reprobated and not others; in other words, that a part of mankind only are elected or reprobated; I have no objections to the term. But if by partial we are to understand any undue favor towards one, or want of favor to the other; if by partiality be meant that God reprobated some rather than others, on account of any prejudice, or improper bias against them, or on account of any particular dislike which he felt towards them more than towards the elect; if this be what is meant by a partial reprobation, I utterly deny it, and maintain that reprobation is entirely impartial. That it is an impartial act that takes into view all the circumstances of the case, and acts for the general good without any undue bias in favor or against any one. I have already endeavored to show the reasons for reprobating sinners relate entirely to their own wickedness, and the public interest; the public interest requiring their reprobation and damnation, because they refuse to obey God.
X. Reprobation is benevolent.
XI. Reprobation is the best thing that can be done for the universe, all things considered.
Since the penalty of the law, although infinite, under the wisest possible administration of moral government, could not secure universal obedience; and since multitudes of sinners will not be reclaimed and saved by the Gospel, one of three things must be done: either moral government must be given up, or the wicked must be annihilated, or they must be reprobated and sent to hell. Now, that moral government should be given up, will not be pretended; annihilation would not be just, inasmuch as it would not be visiting sin with what it justly deserves. Now, as sinners really deserve eternal death, and as their punishment may be of real value to the universe, in creating a respect for the authority of God, and thus strengthening his government, it is plain that their reprobation and damnation is for the general good, and making the best use of the wicked that can be made.
It may be difficult for us to ascertain with certainty in this world, who are reprobates; but there are so many marks of reprobation given in the Bible, that by a sober and judicious investigation, we may form a pretty correct opinion whether we or those around us are reprobates or not.
1st. One evidence of reprobation, is a long course of prosperity in sin. The psalmist lays it down as such in the 93d Psalm:--"When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed for ever." God often gives the wicked their portion in this world, and lets them prosper and wax fat like a stalled ox, and then brings them forth to the slaughter. "The wicked are reserved unto the day of wrath." Where, therefore, you see an individual for a long time prospering in his sins, there is fearful reason to fear that man is a reprobate.
2d. Habitual neglect of the means of grace is a mark of reprobation. If men are to be saved at all, it is through the sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth; and it will probably be found to be true, that not one in ten thousand is saved of those who habitually absent themselves from places where God presents his claims. Sometimes, I know, a tract, or the conversation or prayer of some friend, may awaken an individual and lead him to the house of God; but, as a general fact, if a man stays away from the means of grace, and neglects his Bible, it is a fearful sign of reprobacy, and that he will die in his sins. He is voluntary in it, and he does not neglect the means of grace because he is reprobated, but was reprobated because God foresaw that he would take this course. Suppose a pestilence were prevailing, that was certain to prove fatal in every instance where the appropriate remedy was not applied. Now, if you wish to know whose days were numbered and finished, and who among the sick were certain to die with the disease, if you found any among them neglecting and despising the only appropriate remedy, you would know that they are the persons.
6th. Absence of chastisements is a sign of reprobation. God says in the epistle to the Hebrews, "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou are rebuked of him; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth; if ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons, for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not; but if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons."
7th. When men are chastened, and not reformed by it, it is a mark of reprobation. A poet has said, "When pain cannot bless, heaven quits us in despair." God says of such, "Why should ye be stricken any more, ye will revolt more and more." When your afflictions are unsanctified, when you harden yourselves under his stripes, why should he not leave you to fill up the measure of your iniquity.
8th. Embracing damnable heresies is another mark of reprobation.
Probably there are individuals here, to whom I have been preaching, that have not been in the least benefited by any thing I have said, or could say. You have set yourselves to oppose God, and have taken such an attitude, that truth never reaches you to do you good. Now, sinner, if you do this, and go home in this state of mind, tonight you will have additional evidence that God has given you up, and that you are a reprobate. Now, will you go away in your sins, under these circumstances? Don't talk of the doctrine of election or reprobation as being in your way. No man is ever reprobated for any other reason than that he is an obstinate sinner.
What has the common sense of mankind decided on this point? Look at the common sense of mankind in regard to what is called patriotism. No man was ever regarded as a true patriot, in fighting for his country, if his object was to subserve his own interest. Suppose it should appear that his object in fighting was to get himself crowned king; would anybody give him credit for patriotism? No. All men agree that it is patriotism when a man is disinterested, like Washington; and fights for his country, for his country's sake. The common sense of mankind has written reprobation on that spirit that seeks its own things, and prefers its own interest, to the greater interests of others. It is evident that all men so regard it. Otherwise, how is it that every one is anxious to appear disinterested?
Nor does it require or permit us to lend money to speculators, or for speculating purposes, or in any way to encourage selfishness.
(c) But by equal love is meant, I have said, the same love in kind and degree, which it is lawful for us to exercise towards ourselves. It is lawful, nay, it is our duty to exercise a suitable regard to our own happiness. This is benevolence to self, or what is commonly called self-love. The same, both in kind and degree, we are required to exercise to all our fellow men..
Now observe that this test must always be applied to the kind of love we exercise to our fellow men, in order to understand its genuineness.--God's love is love to enemies. It was for his enemies that he gave his Son. Our love must be the same in kind--it must extend to enemies, as well as friends. And if it does not, it is partial and selfish.III. I am to notice several mistakes into which men have fallen on this subject.
1. It seems to be a very general opinion among men that love to God and men may be genuine in kind, but deficient in degree; i.e. that we may have some true love to God, that is not supreme love.
Now this cannot be true. For God lays great stress, in his law, upon the degree of love. Besides it is perfectly plain, if it be not supreme in degree that the mind loves something else more, and is consequently in a state of idolatry, instead of having any degree of holy love.
2. It seems to be a very general opinion that there is such a thing as imperfect obedience to God; i.e. as it respects one and the same act.
Obedience may be imperfect in respect to its constancy. An individual may obey at one time, and disobey at another. But I cannot see how an imperfect obedience, relating to one and the same act, can be possible. Imperfect OBEDIENCE! What can be meant by this but disobedient OBEDIENCE! a sinful HOLINESS!
5. Another difference is, that perfect obedience to human laws, would not necessarily secure one particle of happiness. It would only lessen the amount of misery. As we have just seen, there might be perfect obedience to human laws, and yet supreme selfishness exist in every mind. So that perfect obedience, to the wisest and best of human enactments, may consist with a vast amount of individual and public misery.
But, on the other hand, perfect and universal obedience to the law of God, as we have seen, would secure the greatest amount of individual, and public happiness.VI. I am to show, that every violation of this rule is fraud, and injustice.
1. Because this is the only rule of right. Remember that it is not by human law, but by his own law, that God will judge the world. The question is not, what is fraud, and dishonesty, in the light of human laws; but what is real fraud--what is real injustice? This can only be known, by a reference to the law of God. And every violation of this rule wears upon its front the seal of God's eternal reprobation. It is not enough, in the light of the law of God, that you abstain from trespassing upon your neighbor's possessions. If you do not actually love him, and love him as you do yourself, you as actually invade his rights and deny him that which is his due, as if you should steal his property. He has as absolute a right to your equal love, as he has to any article of property, which he may have in possession. And you have no more right to withhold the one, than to take the other. You are as much bound to consult his interest, in your dealings with him, as your own; and he has as actual a right to expect you to consult his interests, as well as to consult your own, as he has to expect that you will not steal his money. And to omit the former, is as absolute fraud, and injustice, as to do the latter.
Every violation of this law is injustice, fraud, and dishonesty towards God, and toward every individual in the universe. It is setting aside the rights, and authority of God, and trampling upon the rights of our neighbor. And as all mankind are one family, and have one common interest, to defraud one, is to injure the whole.VII. I am to show, that the public, and private conscience, is formed on the principles of commercial justice.
and then contend that this is in keeping with the law of God, which, on pain of death, requires that every man should love his neighbor as himself! This is certainly, to my mind, one of the most monstrous and ridiculous assertions ever made. It is no wonder that slaveholders are opposed to the discussion of this subject. It cannot bear the light-- it retires from the gaze, and inspection, and reprobation of the law of God, as darkness retires before the light.
Suppose there were a famine in this land, and a multitude of vessels should be freighted with flour, and sail from Europe to supply the starving population. Suppose the owners to instruct their captains to sell it for five dollars per barrel. And now, suppose certain speculators in New York should receive advices of the arrival of the fleet upon our coast--they charter a boat, and go out and purchase all the flour. And when the fleet comes in sight, the docks, and every passage in the city is thronged with starving people, with their bags, and whatever money they can command to supply their starving families. But on the fleet's coming to anchor, they are informed, that the speculator demands seventy-five dollars per barrel for the flour. In this case, no doubt, the public would set the seal of reprobation, on such an outrage. But how does this differ, in principle, from that which is becoming so common, even among professed Christians, to secure as far as possible, and so as by all means to control the market, the bread stuffs, and to a great extent, the other provisions, throughout the length and breadth of the land, and then enrich themselves, by selling them at their own prices? Is this loving their neighbor, or is it supreme and horrible selfishness?
12. Speaking evil of your brethren or of any human being, or even of the devil himself, grieves the Holy Spirit. By evil speaking I do not mean speaking the truth when manifestly called to speak it. But speaking falsehood is always evil speaking, or telling truth in regard to the faults of others, when uncalled for, is also evil speaking. God is love. He exercises infinite benevolence toward all his creatures whether holy or unholy. He is infinitely far from consenting to injustice in any case. And he is infinitely opposed to all injurious treatment of his friends or his foes. He would as fully resent, as sternly rebuke, and as promptly punish injustice done to the devil as to any soul on earth or in heaven. He will not, cannot, connive nor consent to any abusive treatment of the vilest sinners in the universe. You, therefore, as greatly grieve him, when you trifle with the name, the reputation, or the feelings of the wickedest sinner on earth or even the devil in hell, as if you were guilty of the same conduct toward any of his friends. He is infinitely unlike sinful man in this respect. Wicked men will connive at the abuse of their enemies, and even secretly acquiesce in it. But it is infinitely otherwise with God. There is a great and universal mistake upon this subject. There are few if any who do not consider it wicked to speak evil of a brother. But how many there are who throw up the rein when speaking of others than their brethren, and are guilty of absolute railing at and shocking abuse of the enemies of God; and perhaps also of the professed friends of God. Now let me ask, what are your habits in this respect? Woman, when you have company, do you sit down and serve up a dish of slander? Do you dissect and mangle the character of your neighbor? Man, are you a railer? Have you forgotten that God has said, "Speak evil of no man,"--"be no brawler, but be gentle showing all meekness unto all men"? Ah, but perhaps you are speaking of a political opponent, or of a competitor in business, or some opponent of religious views and practices. You think him very wicked--an enemy of God, of truth, and righteousness, and perhaps think yourself "doing God service" in giving him over to all the curses of reprobation. Now stop! O stop! Pause as upon the brink of eternity! What are you saying? Of whom are you speaking? Of a man "made in the image of God." Suppose he is as bad or even immeasurably worse than you think he is; can the Holy Spirit be otherwise than grieved to hear such language as this? Remember that there is a sense in which all mankind are the children of God. Suppose they do sin and rebel; will this afford an apology think you, in his view, for your abuse of them? I tell you nay. Infinitely far from it! And every time you do it, you grieve and provoke the Holy Spirit. And it is wonderful, that he does not turn away his face from you forever.
Nor does it require or permit us to lend money to speculators, or for speculating purposes, or in any way to encourage selfishness.
(c) But by equal love is meant, as I have said, the same love in kind and degree, which it is lawful for us to exercise towards ourselves. It is lawful, nay, it is our duty to exercise a suitable regard to our own happiness. This is benevolence to self, or what is commonly called self-love. The same, both in kind and degree, we are required to exercise to all our fellow men.
2. Entire Sanctification implies, entire conformity of heart and life to all the known will of God however it may be made known-- to both physical and moral law so far as they are known.
3. It consists in devoting the whole being to this end, for the same reasons for which God devotes Himself to the promotion of this end. Suppose you employ a servant who labors only for his wages, and feels no interest in the end which you are aiming to promote. He takes no interest in your business, for its own sake--has no disinterested desire to promote the end at which you aim; but simply labors for his wages. He begins as late in the morning, rests as long at noon, labors as sparingly, and breaks off as early at night as will possibly do, without being curtailed in his wages. Now you rightly say this man is serving himself and not you. He is a mere eye-servant. He is entirely selfish, and has an entirely different end in view, from what you have. And now suppose the end you have in view is not selfish, is not your own aggrandizement, the promotion of your own interests of happiness, but the promotion of the general good--would you not blame such a servant for not taking an interest in the end itself? Would you not regard his selfishness with abhorrence? Would you not regard him as engaged in self-service, and as deserving the severest reprobation? Suppose a king to be entirely disinterested, and engaging all his attributes, and all his wealth, and all his time, in the disinterested promotion of the public interests--suppose him to say to his subjects, "Here, lay hold and help me to forward this great work, and as your individual interests are parts of the public interest, I will see that you have your reward. But the thing I require of you is, that you take an interest in the end for its own sake. If you do not take an interest in the end for its own sake, your labor will all be selfishness and slavery. If you do not love the work on its own account, it will of course make you miserable. It will hang heavily on your hands, and you will long for the going down of the sun. But let your heart be deeply imbued with the spirit of doing good; let this be the grand object of your life--love it for its own sake, and your labor will be to you a continual feast." Now suppose that the subjects should take hold of the work as mere mercenaries, caring for nothing but their wages, taking no interest in the public happiness and well-being; but simply serving for reward. This would be a selfish, eye-service, and not heart-service. This would be serving self, and not the king.
Now the true service of God consists, not only in devoting the whole being to the promotion of the same end, but also with the same motives, or for the same reasons; that is, from supreme benevolence, or an absorbing disposition to do good for its own sake, and because it is good.
4. It consists in doing all this with the same feelings with which God engages in this work. If the heart is fully devoted to this work--if the whole being is given up to it, as God's being is given up to it--and if this is done for the same reasons, and from disinterested love to the work itself, the feelings with which we engage in it will naturally and necessarily be the same in kind as those in which God engages in it . The feelings with which we engage in it and pursue it, must depend upon our motives for engaging in it. If our motives are the same with God's, our feelings will be the same in kind with his.IV. What is implied in acceptable service to God.
1. This kind of service in sinners, implies a radical change of heart, from selfishness to disinterested benevolence. Here let me be understood. By disinterested benevolence I do not mean, that the mind feels no interest in it; but I mean the direct opposite of this--that the mind does take the deepest, nay, a supreme interest, in promoting the good of being, for its own sake and on its own account.
37. A generally seared conscience is a fearful evidence of a state of hopeless reprobation.
4. His honor demands that He should keep the soul when thus committed to Him in well doing. Moral beings, from the very constitution of their natures, regard a breach of sacred confidence, or trust, as a most dishonorable and hateful offense, as deserving the severest reprobation. What an infinite dishonor it would be to God, to suffer a soul to be lost which was committed to Him upon his own conditions for safe keeping.
Another danger of most fearful sort awaits those who abuse this ordinance. It is reprobation. They are in the greatest peril of being given up of God. When the best means which the Lord can use to melt the heart prove unavailing, it only remains to give over the helpless reprobate to his fit doom. If the view of his crucified Lord, dying for his sins fails to move and melt his soul, there is little if any hope of his ever being brought to repentance. In the judgment day we shall find a great many professors at the left hand of the Judge--because of their hypocrisy at the table of their Lord, and of the judicial blindness and hardness of heart thus produced. Hence followed reprobation, and their place on the left hand. They may plead--"We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence and Thou hast taught in our streets;" but He shall say, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity.
Election and Reprobation
November 24, 1852
From these texts you will perceive that I have chosen for my subject ELECTION AND REPROBATION. In discussing it, I propose
I. To define the terms.
III. State the reasons for Election and also for Reprobation
First of all, let me admonish you not to be frightened at the terms, Election and Reprobation. They are Bible terms, and therefore need not alarm any but those who contend against the truth. They are Bible terms, yet have been greatly abused, so that my first business must be to define them, and then in my subsequent remarks, to illustrate them, in order to remove the stumbling-blocks occasioned by their abuse.
But if we see that an individual is being cursed by the gospel--if it only serves to harden his heart and make him more obstinate, more wicked, more the child of hell than before, we see conclusive marks of his reprobation.
And are not such men reprobates? Of course they are--unless they speedily repent. Of course this must be a mark of reprobation, because men are reprobated for these very things. In time they manifest their evil captious hearts, just as God foresaw they would.
1. Men truly decide in time their own election or reprobation. Now do not misapprehend me. Mistakes on this subject are far too common. Some suppose that God has decided man's destiny, as absolutely, and fatally, as if He had nailed it down with iron nails, and man had no power to determine or change it. Whereas, the fact is, that man as really decides his own destiny, as if God had known nothing about it.
4. Ministers whose hearts are set on doing their work, cannot help watching the course of things, to see the indications that show who are the elect, and who the reprobate. If their hearts are really on saving souls, of course they will watch with most intense solicitude. Like a faithful physician who sees his patient in peril, he nerves are on the rock, his lips quiver and turn white, for his soul is full of unutterable sympathy and anxiety; or as the lawyer with a case on hand in which life trembles in the balance, and his sympathies are wrought up to agony: so the honest man of God, who labors for souls as one who must give account, has the sympathies of his heart taxed to their utmost depth, and cannot but watch every indication, that at last his account for each or any soul will be with joy and not with grief. As he sees the evidences of election developing themselves here, or of reprobation there, his soul swells with the varied emotions of hope and of fear; and as those evidences ripen to their maturity, and he stands by the bedside of the dying Christian conqueror, why should he not shout, "Glory to God in the highest!"? The destiny of one more soul for heaven, always known to God, is now made manifest before his eyes, and why should he not give utterance to his devout thanksgivings to all conquering grace?
4. Selfishness is always spoken of in terms of reprobation in the Bible.
This objection proceeds upon the assumption, that election must be unconditional to be election at all. That election must be so defined, as to be the cause of the difference in the eternal state of the elect and non-elect. But I see not why election may not be conditionated upon the foreseen fact, that the wisest possible administration of moral government would secure the free concurrence of some, and not of others. What could be wisely done being foreseen, the purpose that so it should be done would be election. No man has a right to define the terms election and reprobation in such a sense, as to exclude all conditions, and then insist that conditional election is no election at all.
10. Lastly, God requires you to give all diligence to make your calling and election sure. In choosing his elect, you must understand that he has thrown the responsibility of their being saved upon them; that the whole is suspended upon their consent to the terms; you are all perfectly able to give your consent, and this moment to lay hold on eternal life. Irrespective of your own choice, no election could save you, and no reprobation can damn you. The "Spirit and the Bride say, Come: let him that heareth say, Come; let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." The responsibility is yours. God does all that he wisely can, and challenges you to show what more he could do that he has not done. If you go to hell, you must go stained with your own blood. God is clear, angels are clear. To your own Master you stand or fall; mercy waits; the Spirit strives; Jesus stands at the door and knocks. Do not then pervert this doctrine, and make it an occasion of stumbling, till you are in the depths of hell.
I. WHAT THE TRUE DOCTRINE OF REPROBATION IS NOT.
VII. REPROBATION IS JUST.
VIII. REPROBATION IS BENEVOLENT.
IX. REPROBATION IS THE BEST THING THAT CAN BE DONE, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
I. What the true doctrine of reprobation is not.
2. The doctrine is not that any will be lost or miserable to all eternity, do what they can to be saved, or in spite of themselves. It is not only a libel upon the character of God, but a gross misrepresentation of the true doctrine of reprobation, to exhibit God as deciding to send sinners to hell in spite of themselves, or notwithstanding their endeavours to please God and obtain salvation.
3. Nor is this the true doctrine of reprobation, to wit: that the purpose or decree of reprobation is the procuring cause of the destruction of reprobates. God may design to destroy a soul because of its foreseen wickedness; but his design to destroy him for this reason does not cause his wickedness, and consequently does not prove his destruction.
4. The doctrine is not, that any decree or purpose of reprobation throws any obstacle in the way of the salvation of any one. It is not that God has purposed the damnation of any one in such sense as that the decree opposes any obstacle to the salvation of any soul under heaven.
8. Nor does it imply, that the decree of reprobation presents or opposes any obstacle to their compliance with the necessary conditions of salvation.
II. What the true doctrine of reprobation is.
The term reprobation, both in the Old and New Testament, signifies refuse, cast away. Jer. vi. 30: "Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them." The doctrine is, that certain individuals of mankind are, in the fixed purpose of God, cast away, rejected and finally lost.
Again, it follows from the doctrine of election. If God designs to save the elect, and the elect only, as has been shown, not for the reason, but upon condition of their foreseen repentance and faith in Christ, it must be that he designs, or purposes to cast away the wicked, for their foreseen wickedness. He purposes to do something with those whom he foresees will finally be impenitent. He certainly does not purpose to save them. What he will ever do with them he now knows that he shall do with them. What he will intend to do with them he now intends to do with them, or he were not unchangeable. But we have seen that immutability or unchangeableness is an attribute of God. Therefore the present reprobation of those who will be finally cast away or lost, is a doctrine of reason.
The doctrine of reprobation is not the election of a part of mankind to damnation, in the same sense that the elect unto salvation are elected to be saved. The latter are chosen or elected, not only to salvation, but to holiness. Election with those who are saved, extends not only to the end, salvation, but also to the condition or means; to wit, the sanctification of the Spirit, and the belief of the truth. This has been shown. God has not only chosen them to salvation, but to be conformed to the image of his Son. Accordingly, he uses means with them, with the design to sanctify and save them. But he has not elected the reprobate to wickedness, and does not use means to make them wicked, with the ultimate design to destroy them. He knows, indeed, that his creating them, together with his providential dispensations, will be the occasion, not the cause, of their sin and consequent destruction. But their sin and consequent destruction are not the ultimate end God had in view in their creation, and in the train of providences that thus result. His ultimate end must in all cases be benevolent, or must be the promotion of good. Their sin and damnation are only an incidental result, and not a thing intended as an end, or for its own sake. God can have no pleasure, in either their sin or consequent misery for its own sake; but on the contrary, he must regard both as in themselves evils of enormous magnitude. He does not, and cannot therefore elect the reprobate to sin and damnation, in the same sense in which he elects the saints to holiness and salvation. The elect unto salvation he chooses to this end, from regard to, or delight in the end. But the reprobate he chooses to destroy, not for the sake of their destruction as an end, or from delight in it for its own sake; but he has determined to destroy them for the public good, since their foreseen sinfulness demanded it. He does not use means to make them sinful, or with this design; but his providence is directed to another end, which end is good; and the destruction of the reprobate is, as has been said, only an incidental and an unavoidable result. That is, God cannot wisely prevent this result.
1. That the reprobation and destruction of the sinner is not an end, in the sense that God delights in misery, and destroys sinners to gratify a thirst for destruction. Since God is benevolent, it is impossible that this should be.
2. In respect to the purpose of reprobation, they are in the purpose of God reprobated or rejected from eternity. This follows irresistibly from the omniscience and immutability of God. He has certainly and necessarily had from eternity all the knowledge he ever can or will have of the character of all men, and must have designed from all eternity all things respecting them which he ever will design. This follows from his unchangeableness. If he ever does cast off sinners, he must do it designedly or undesignedly. He cannot do it without any design. He must therefore do it designedly. But if he does it designedly, it must be either that he eternally entertained this design, or that he has changed. But change of purpose or design is inconsistent with the moral immutability of God. Therefore the purpose of reprobation is eternal; or the reprobates were in the fixed purpose of God cast off and rejected from eternity.
VII. Reprobation is just.
Is it not just in God to let men have their own choice, especially when the highest possible motives are held out to them as inducements to choose eternal life. What! is it not just to reprobate men when they obstinately refuse salvation--when every thing has been done that is consistent with infinite wisdom and benevolence to save them? Shall not men be willing to be either saved or lost? What shall God do with you? You are unwilling to be saved; why then should you object to being damned? If reprobation under these circumstances is not just, I challenge you, sinner, to tell what is just.
VIII. Reprobation is benevolent.
IX. Reprobation is the best thing that can be done, all things considered.
Since the penalty of the law, although infinite, under the wisest possible administration of moral government, could not secure universal obedience; and since multitudes of sinners will not be reclaimed and saved by the gospel, one of three things must be done; either moral government must be given up; or the wicked must be annihilated, or they must be reprobated and sent to hell. Now, that moral government should be given up, will not be pretended; annihilation would not be just, inasmuch as it would not be an adequate expression of the abhorrence with which the divine ruler regards the violation of his law, and consequently it would not meet the demands of public justice. Now, as sinners really deserve eternal death, and as their punishment may be of real value to the universe, in creating a respect for the authority of God, and thus strengthening his government, it is plain that their reprobation and damnation is for the general good, making the best use of the wicked that can be made.
It may be difficult for us to ascertain with certainty in this world, who are reprobates; but there are so many marks of reprobation given in the Bible, that by a sober and judicious investigation, we may form a pretty correct opinion, whether we or those around us are reprobates or not.
1. One evidence of reprobation, is a long course of prosperity in sin. The Psalmist lays it down as such in Psa. xcii. 7: "When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed for ever." God often gives the wicked their portion in this world, and lets them prosper and wax fat like a stalled ox, and then brings them forth to the slaughter. "The wicked are reserved unto the day of wrath." When therefore you see an individual for a long time prospering in his sins, there is great reason to fear that man is a reprobate. In this passage inspiration assumes the truth of the distinction between evidence and proof. The Psalmist does not mean to be understood as affirming a universal truth. He did not intend, that prosperity in sin was proof conclusive that the prosperous sinner is a reprobate. But the least that could have been intended was, that such prosperity in sin affords alarming evidence of reprobation. It may be called presumptive evidence. Those who deny the distinction between evidence and proof, as some have done, must either deny the truth of this assertion of the Psalmist, or maintain that prosperity in sin does in all cases render it certain, that the prosperous sinner is a reprobate.
2. Habitual neglect of the means of grace is a mark of reprobation. If men are to be saved at all, it is through the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth; and it will probably be found to be true, that not one in ten thousand is saved of those who habitually absent themselves from places where God presents his claims. Sometimes, I know, a tract, or the conversation or prayer of some friend, may awaken an individual, and lead him to the house of God; but, as a general fact, if a man stays away from the means of grace, and neglects his Bible, it is a fearful sign of reprobation, and that he will die in his sins. He is voluntary in it, and he does not neglect the means of grace because he is reprobated, but was reprobated because God foresaw that he would take this course. Suppose a pestilence were prevailing, that was certain to prove fatal in every instance where the appropriate remedy was not applied. Now, if you wish to know whose days were numbered and finished, and who among the sick were certain to die with the disease, if you found any among them neglecting and despising the only appropriate remedy, you would know that they were the persons.
6. Absence of chastisements is a sign of reprobation. God says in the epistle to the Hebrews: "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth; if ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not; but if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons."
7. When men are chastened and not reformed by it, it is a mark of reprobation. A poet has said, "When pain can't bless, heaven quits us in despair." God says of such, "Why should ye be stricken any more; ye will revolt more and more." When your afflictions are unsanctified, when you harden yourselves under his stripes, why should he not leave you to fill up the measure of your iniquity?
8. Embracing damnable heresies, is another mark of reprobation. Where persons seem to be given up to believe a lie, there is solemn reason for fearing that they are among that number upon whom God sends strong delusions, that they may believe a lie, and be damned, because they obey not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness. Where you see persons giving themselves up to such delusions, the more certainly they believe them, the greater reason there is for believing that they are reprobates. The truth is so plain, that with the Bible in your hands, it is next to impossible to believe a fundamental heresy, without being given up to the judicial curse of God. It is so hard to believe a lie, with the truth of the Bible before you, that the devil cannot do it. If therefore you reject your Bible, and embrace a fundamental falsehood, you are more stupid and benighted than the devil is. When a man professes to believe a lie, almost the only hope of his salvation that remains, is, that he does not cordially believe it. Sinner, beware how you trifle with God's truth. How often have individuals begun to argue in favour of heresy, for the sake of argument, and because they loved debate, until they have finally come to believe their own lie, and are lost for ever.
Why not also apply this objection to everything, and settle down in despair of ever doing or being anything, but what an irresistible fate makes you? The fact is, that the true doctrine, whether of election or reprobation, affords not the least countenance to such a conclusion. The foreknowledge and designs of God respecting our conduct or our destiny, do not in the least degree interfere with our free agency. We, in every case, act just as freely as if God neither knew nor designed anything about our conduct. Suppose the farmer should make the same objection to sowing his seed, and to doing anything to secure a crop; what would be thought of him? And yet he might with as much reason, since he can plead the foreknowledge and designs of God, as an excuse for doing nothing to secure his salvation. God as really knows now whether you will sow and whether you will have a crop, and has from eternity known this, as perfectly as he ever will. He has either designed that you shall, or that you shall not, have a crop this year, from all eternity; and it will infallibly come to pass just as he has foreseen and designed. Yet you are really just as free to raise a crop, or to neglect to do so, as if he neither knew nor designed anything about it.
The man who will stumble either at the doctrine of election or reprobation, as defined and maintained in these lectures, should, to be consistent, stumble at everything that takes place, and never try to accomplish any thing whatever; because the designs and the foreknowledge of God extend equally to everything; and unless he has expressly revealed how it will be, we are left in the dark, in respect to any event, and are left to use means to accomplish what we desire, or to prevent what we dread, as if God knew and designed nothing about it.
(2.) The proper statement, explanation, and defence of the doctrines of election and reprobation, are important to a proper understanding of the nature and attributes of God.
Perhaps, reader, you have not been in the least benefited by anything I have said, or could say. You have set yourself to oppose God, and have taken such an attitude, that truth never reaches you to do you good. Now, sinner, if you do this, and close this book in this state of mind, you will have additional evidence that God has given you up, and that you are a reprobate. Now, will you go on in your sins, under these circumstances? Do not talk of the doctrine of election or reprobation as being in your way. No man is ever reprobated for any other reason, than that he is an obstinate sinner.