by C. H. Spurgeon
eBooks HT: Chapel Library
"But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2Thessalonians 2:13-14).
If there were no other text in the sacred word except this one, I think we should all be bound to receive and acknowledge the truthfulness of the great and glorious doctrine of God's ancient choice of His family. But there seems to be an ongoing prejudice in the human mind against this doctrine, and although most other doctrines will be received by professing Christians, some with caution, others with pleasure, yet this one seems to be most frequently disregarded and discarded. In many of our pulpits, it would be considered a great sin and treason to preach a sermon on "election," because they could not make "practical" application of the discussion. I believe that they have clearly misjudged the truth of this subject. Whatever God has revealed, He has revealed for a purpose.
There is nothing in Scripture which cannot, under the influence of God's Spirit, be turned into a practical lesson because, "All Scripture is God- breathed and is useful for teaching," some purpose of spiritual usefulness. It is true, that it cannot be turned into a lesson on the "freewill" of man, but it can be turned into a practical sermon on the "free grace" of God. And sermons on the "free grace" of God are the best, because they bring the true doctrines of God's unchanging love to bear upon the hearts of saints and sinners.
Now, I trust this morning some of you who are startled at the very sound of this word, will say, "I will give it a fair hearing, I will lay aside my prejudices; I will just hear what this man has to say." Do not shut your ears and say, "It is extreme doctrine." Who has authorized you to call it extreme or normal? Why should you oppose God's doctrine? Remember what became of the children who found fault with God's prophet, and exclaimed, "Go on up, you baldhead!; Go on up, you baldhead!" Say nothing against God's doctrines, or some evil beast might come out of the forest and devour you also.
There are other griefs besides the open judgment of heaven--be careful that these don't fall on your head. Lay aside your prejudices; listen calmly, listen objectively: hear what Scripture says; and when you receive the truth, if God would be pleased to reveal and manifest it to your souls, do not be ashamed to confess it. To confess you were wrong yesterday, is only to acknowledge that you are a little wiser today; and instead of being a reflection on yourself, it is an honor to your judgment, and shows that you are improving in the knowledge of the truth. Do not be ashamed to learn, and to throw aside your old doctrines and views, but take up that which you more plainly see to be in the Word of God.
But if you do not see it to be here in the Bible, whatever I may say, or whatever authorities I may plead, I beg you as you love your souls, reject it; and if from this pulpit you ever hear things contrary to this sacred word, remember that the Bible must be the first, and God's minister must be subject to it. We must not stand on the Bible to preach, but we must preach with the Bible above our heads. After all we have preached, we are well aware that the mountain of truth is higher than our eyes can discern; clouds and darkness are around its summit, and we cannot discern its topmost pinnacle; yet we will try to preach it as well as we can. But since we are mortal and liable to error, exercise your judgment; "Test the spirits to see whether they are from God;" and if on mature reflection on your bended knees, you are led to disregard election--a thing which I consider utterly impossible--then forsake it, don't listen to it preached, but believe and confess whatever you see to be God's word. I can say no more than that by way of introduction.
I. The TRUTHFULNESS of Election - I will speak a little concerning the truthfulness of this doctrine: "From the beginning God chose you to be saved."
II. Election is UNCONDITIONAL - I will try to prove that this election is unconditional: "From the beginning God chose you to be saved," not "for" sanctification, but "through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth."
III. Election is ETERNAL - This election is eternal; because the text says, "'From the beginning' God chose you."
IV. Election is PERSONAL - It is personal: "God chose you."
V. The EFFECTS of Election - We will look at the effects of the doctrine--see what it does.
VI. The TENDENCIES of Election - We will look at its tendencies, and see whether it is indeed a terrible and licentious doctrine.
We will take the flower, and like true bees, see whether there be any honey in it; whether any good can come of it, or whether it is an unmixed, undiluted evil.
I. First, I must try and prove that the doctrine is TRUE.
And let me begin by using the very words and arguments of those opposed to election. I will speak to you according to your different beliefs and attitudes on the subject. There are some of you who belong to the Church of England, and I am happy to see so many of you here. Though now and then I certainly say some very firm things about the subject of church and state, yet I love the old church, for she has in her communion many godly ministers and outstanding saints. Now, I know you are great believers in what the Anglican Articles declare to be sound doctrine. I will give you a specimen of what they say concerning election, so that if you believe them, you cannot avoid receiving election. I will read a portion of the 17th article, upon Predestination and Election:
Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) He had constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He had chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honor. Wherefore those which were endowed with so excellent a benefit of God would be called according to God's purpose by His Spirit working in due season: they will through grace obey the calling: they will be justified freely: they will be made sons of God by adoption: they will be made like the image of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ: they will walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they will attain everlasting happiness.
Now, I think any churchman, if he be a sincere and honest believer in mother church, must be a thorough believer in election. True, if he turns to certain other portions of the Anglican Prayer Book, he will find things contrary to the doctrines of free grace, and altogether apart from scriptural teaching; but if he looks at the Articles, he must see that God has chosen HIs people unto eternal life. I am not so desperately in love, however, with that book as you may be, and I have only used this article to show you, that if you belong to the Establishment of England, you should at least offer no objection to this doctrine of predestination.
Another human authority that confirms the doctrine of election, is, the old Waldensian creed. If you read the creed of the old Waldenses, emanating from them in the midst of the burning heat of persecution, you will see that these renowned professors and confessors of the Christian faith did most firmly receive and embrace this doctrine as being a portion of the truth of God. I have copied from an old book one of the articles of their faith:
That God saves from corruption and damnation those whom He has chosen from the foundations of the world, not for any attitude, faith, or holiness that He foresaw in them, but of His mere mercy in Christ Jesus His Son, passing by all the rest, according to the blameless reason of His own free will and justice.
It is no wonder, then, that I am not preaching a new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, that are called by nickname "Calvinism," but which are surely the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. By this truth I make a pilgrimage into the past, and as I go, I see Church Father after Church Father, confessor after confessor, martyr after martyr, standing up to shake hands with me. If I was a Pelagian, or a believer in the doctrine of man's freewill, I would have to walk for centuries all alone. Here and there I would find a heretic, of rather dishonorable character who might rise up and call me brother. But taking these things to be the standard of my faith, I see the land of the ancients populated with my brethren. I see multitudes who confess the same as I do, and acknowledge that this is the religion of God's own church.
I also give you an extract from the old Baptist confession. We are Baptist in this congregation--the greater part of us at any rate--and we like to see what our own forefathers wrote. Some two hundred years ago the Baptist assembled together, and published their articles of faith, to put an end to certain reports against their orthodoxy which had gone forth to the world. I turn to this old book--which I have just published, and which you will soon be able to have--and I find the following as the 3rd Article:
By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace; others being left to act in their sins to their just condemnation, to the praise of His glorious justice. These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased nor decreased. Those of mankind that are predestinated to life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and unchangeable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as a condition or a cause moving Him to do so.
As for these human authorities, I don't care one bit for all three of them. I don't care what they say, pro or con, as to this doctrine. I have only used them as a kind of confirmation to your faith to show you that while I may be attacked as a heretic and as a hyper-Calvinist, I am after all backed up by antiquity. All the past stands by me. I don't care for the present. Give me the past and I will hope for the future. Let the present attack me to my face; I will not care. Though a multitude of the churches of London may have forsaken the great cardinal doctrines of God, it doesn't matter. If a handful of us stand alone in an unflinching defense of the sovereignty of our God, if we are assaulted by enemies, yes, and even by our own brethren, who ought to be our friends and helpers, it doesn't matter, if we can but count on the past; the noble army of martyrs, the glorious multitude of confessors, are our friends; the witnesses of truth stand by us. With these for us, we will not say that we stand alone; but we may cry out, "God has reserved seven thousand--all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal!" But the best of all is, God is with us.
The great truth is always the Bible, and the Bible alone. My dear listeners, you do not believe in any other book than the Bible, do you? If I could prove this from all the books in Christendom; if I could bring back the Alexandrian library, and prove it from that source, you would not believe it; but you surely will believe what is in God's Word.
I have selected a few texts to read to you. I love to give you a whole volley of texts when I am afraid you will doubt a truth, so that you may be too astonished to doubt, if you don't really believe. Just let me run through a list of passages where the people of God are called elect. Of course if the people are called ELECT, there must have been an ELECTION. If Jesus Christ and His apostles were accustomed to refer to believers by the title of elect, we must certainly believe that they were so, otherwise the term does not mean anything:
Jesus Christ says,
"If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom He has chosen, He has shorten them" (Mark 13:20).
"False Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect--if that were possible" (Mark 13:22).
"He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens" (Mark 13:27).
"And will not God bring about justice for His chosen [elect] ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off?" (Luke 18:7).
Together with many other passages which might be selected, in which either the word "elect," or "chosen," or "foreordained," or "appointed," is mentioned; or the phrase "my sheep," or some similar designation, showing that Christ's people are distinguished from the rest of mankind.
But you have concordances, and I will not trouble you with texts. Throughout the epistles, the saints are constantly called "the elect" or "the chosen." In the Book of Colossians we find Paul saying, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion." When he writes to Titus, he calls himself, "Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect." Peter says, "To God's elect, strangers in the world . . . who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." Then if you turn to John, you will find that he is very fond of the word. He says, "The elder, to the elect lady" (KJV), and he speaks of our "elect sister." And we know where it is written, "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you" (KJV).
They were not ashamed of the word in those days; they were not afraid to talk about it. Nowadays the word has been dressed up with a variety of meanings, and persons have mutilated and marred the doctrine, so that they have made it a doctrine of devils. But, why should I be ashamed of it, even though men struggle with it. We love God's truth even when it is challenged and twisted by doubters--we don't call it false. We don't love to see it perverted and twisted, but we never stop loving the truth that is being abused, because we can discern what the truth really says despite the twisting and perversions by the cruelty and inventions of men. If you will read many of the epistles of the ancient Fathers, you will find them always writing to the people of God as "the elect." In fact, the common term used in conversation among many of the early Christians to one another, was that of the "elect." They would often use the term to one another, showing that it was generally believed that all God's people were unmistakably "elect."
But now for the verses that will positively prove the doctrine. Open your Bibles and turn to John 15:16, and there you will see that Jesus Christ has chosen His people; for He says, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." Then in the 19th verse, "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."
Then in the 17th chapter and the 8th and 9th verses, "For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours." Turn to Acts 13:48, "When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed." They may try to split that passage into hairs if they like: but it says, "appointed to eternal life," as plainly as it possibly can; and we don't care about all the different commentaries that criticize election. You scarcely need to be reminded of Romans 8, because I trust you are well acquainted with that chapter, and understand it by this time. In the 29th, and following verses, it says,
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
It would be unnecessary to repeat the whole of the 9th chapter of Romans. As long as that remains in the Bible no man shall be able to prove Arminianism; so long as that is written there, not the most violent contortions of the passage will ever be able to exterminate the doctrine of election from the Scriptures. Let us read such verses as these: "Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad--in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls--she was told, 'The older will serve the younger.'" Then read the 22nd verse: "What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory." Then go to Romans 11:7, "What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened." In the 5th verse of the same chapter: "So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace." You, no doubt, all remember the passage in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29:
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.
Again, remember the passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, "God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." And then you have my text, which I think would be quite enough. But if you need more, you can find them at your leisure, if we have not quite removed your suspicions as to the doctrine being true.
My friends, I think that this overwhelming mass of Scripture testimony must stagger those who dare to laugh at this doctrine. What shall we say of those who have so often despised it, and denied its divinity, who have mocked its justice and dared to defy God and call Him an Almighty tyrant, when they have heard of His having elected only so many to eternal life. Can you, O rejecter! tear it out of the Bible? Can you take the penknife of Jehudi and cut it out of the Word of God? Would you be like the woman at the feet of Solomon, and have the child cut in halves, that you might have your half? Is it not here in Scripture? And is it not your duty to bow before it? To receive it as the truth even though you can't understand its meaning?
I will not attempt to prove the justice of God in having thus elected some and left others. It is not for me to argue with my Master. He will speak for Himself, and He does so: "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" Who is he that shall say to his father, "What have you procreated?" Or to his mother, "What have you brought forth?" I am the Lord your God, I create light and I create darkness. I the Lord do all of these things. Who are you that answers back to God? Tremble and kiss His rod; bow down and submit to His scepter; do not challenge His justice, and do not accuse His actions before your bar, O man!
But there are some who say, "It is hard for God to choose some and leave others." Now, I will ask you one question. Is there any one of you here this morning who wishes to be holy, who wishes to be regenerate, to leave their life of sin and walk in holiness? "Yes, there is," says some one, "I do." Then God has elected you. But another says, "No: I don't want to be holy; I don't want to give up my lusts and my vices." Why should you grumble, then, that God has not elected you to it? For if you were elected you would not like it, according to your own confession. If God, this morning, had chosen you to holiness, you say you would not care for it. Do you not acknowledge that you prefer drunkenness to sobriety, dishonesty to honesty? You love this world's pleasure better than religion; then why should you grumble that God has not chosen you to religion? If you love religion, He has chosen you to it. If you desire it, He has chosen you to it. If you do not, what right have you to say that God ought to have given you what you do not wish for?
Supposing I had in my hand something which you do not value, and I said I shall give it to such-and-such a person: you would have no right to grumble that I did not give it to you. You could not be so foolish as to grumble that the other has got what you did not care about. According to your own confession, many of you do not want religion, do not want a new heart and a right spirit, do not want the forgiveness of sins, do not want to be holy, you do not want to be elected to these things: then why should you grumble? You count these things as worthless, and why should you complain of God who has given them to those whom He has chosen?
If you believe them to be good, and desire them, they are there for you. God gives liberally to all those who desire; and first of all, He makes them desire, otherwise they never would. If you love these things, he has elected you to them, and you may have them; but if you do not, who are you that you should find fault with God, when it is your own headstrong will that keeps you from loving these things--your own simple self that makes you hat them? Suppose a man in the street should say, "What a shame it is I cannot have a seat in the church to hear what the preacher has to say." And suppose he says, "I hate the preacher; I can't stand his doctrine; but still it's a shame I don't have a seat." Would you expect a may to say such a thing? No: you would quickly say, "That man doesn't care for it. Why should he trouble himself about other people having what they value and he despises?" You don't like holiness, you do not like righteousness: if God has elected me to these things, has He hurt you by it?
"Ah, but," some say, "I thought it meant that God elected some to heaven and some to hell." That 's a very different matter from the gospel doctrine. He has elected men to holiness and to righteousness, and through that to heaven. You must not say that He has elected them simply to heaven, and others only to hell. He has elected you to holiness, if you love holiness. If any of you love to be saved by Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ has elected you to be saved. If any of you desire to have salvation, you are elected to have it, if you sincerely and earnestly desire it. But, if you don't desire it, why on earth should you be so incredibly foolish as to complain because God gives that which you don't like to other people?
II. Thus I have tried to say something with regard to the truth of the doctrine of election. And now briefly let me say that election is UNCONDITIONAL; that is, it does not depend on what we are.
The text says, "From the beginning God chose you to be saved;" but our opponents say, that God chooses people because they are good; that He chooses them on account of the many works which they have done. Now, we ask, in reply to this, what works are those that the "chosen" did that caused God to elect His people? Are they what we commonly call "works of law"--works of obedience which the creature can do? If so, we reply to you, if men cannot be justified by the works of the law, it seems to us pretty clear that they cannot be elected by the works of the law; if they cannot be justified by their good works, they cannot be saved by them. Then the teaching of election could not have been formed on good works.
"But," others say, "God elected them on the foresight of their faith." Now, God gives faith therefore He could not have elected them on account of faith, which He foresaw. If there were twenty beggars in the street, and I determine to give one of them a dollar, will anyone say that I determined to give that one a dollar, that I elected him to have the dollar, because I foresaw that he would have it? That would be talking nonsense. Likewise, to say that God elected men because He foresaw they would have faith, would be too absurd for us to listen to for a moment. Faith is the gift of God. Every virtue comes from Him. Therefore it cannot have caused Him to elect men, because it is His gift. Election, we are sure, is unconditional, and altogether apart from the virtues which the saints acquire after salvation. What, though a saint should be as holy and devout as Paul, what though he should be as bold as Peter, or as loving as John, yet he would claim nothing form his Maker.
I never knew a saint from any denomination who thought that God saved him because he foresaw that he would have these virtues and merits. Now, my brethren, the best jewels that the saint ever wears, if they be jewels of his own fashioning, are not pure. There is something of earth mixed with them. The highest grace we ever possess has something of earthliness about it. We feel this when we are most refined, when we are most holy; and our language must always be like Paul's:
"I am the chief of sinners; Jesus died for me."
Our only hope, our only plea, still hangs on grace, as exhibited in the person of Jesus Christ. And I am sure we must utterly reject and disregard all thought that our graces which are gifts of our Lord, which are planted by His right-hand, could have ever caused His love. And we must forever sing:
"What was there in us that could merit esteem, Or give the Creator delight? Nothing was found Father, so we must forever sing, Because it seemed good in your sight."
"God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy:" He saves because He wants to save. And if you ask me why He saves me, I can only say, because He wants to do it. Was there anything in me that should cause God to want to chose me? No; I put everything aside. I have nothing to recommend me. When God saved me, I was the most despicable, lost, and destitute of the race. I lay before Him as an infant in my blood. Truly, I had no power to help myself. Oh how wretched did I feel and know myself to be! If you had something to recommend you to God, I never had. I will be content to be saved by GRACE, undiluted, pure grace. I can boast of no goodness. If you can, then do so, I cannot. I must sing:
"Free grace alone,
from the first to the last,
Has won my affection and held my soul firm."
III. Then, thirdly, this election is ETERNAL.
"From the beginning God chose you to be saved . . . All who were appointed (elected) for eternal life believed" (2Thess 2:13, Acts 13:48). Can any man tell me when the beginning was? Years ago, we thought the beginning of this world was when Adam came upon it. But that was not the beginning; for revelation points us to a period before this world was fashioned--to the days when the morning stars were created; when, like drops of dew from the fingers of the morning, stars and constellations fell trickling from the hand of God; when, by His own lips He launched forth massive, burning stars; when, with His own hand, He sent comets, like thunderbolts, wandering through the sky, to find one day their proper sphere. We go back to years gone by, when worlds were made and systems fashioned; but we have not even approached the beginning yet.
Until we go to the time when all the universe slept in the mind of God, as yet unborn, until we enter the eternity where God, the Creator, lived alone, everything sleeping within Him, all creation resting in His mighty gigantic thought, we have not found the beginning. We may go back, back, back, ages upon ages. We may go back, if we might use strange words, whole eternities, and yet never arrive at the beginning. Our wing might be tired, our imagination would die away. Even if it could move faster than the lighting's flashing in majesty, power, and speed, it would soon weary itself before it could get to the beginning.
But God from the beginning chose His people; when the unnavigated upper regions of space was yet unfanned by the wing of a single angel, when space was shoreless, or else unborn, when universal silence reigned, and not a voice or whisper shocked the solemnity of silence; when there was no being, and no motion, no time, and no one but God Himself, alone in His eternity; when without the song of an angel, without the attendance of even the cherubim; long before the living creatures were born, or the wheels of the chariot of Jehovah were fashioned; even then, "In the beginning was the Word," and in the beginning God's people were one with the Word, and in "the beginning God chose you to be saved." Our election, then, is eternal. I will not stop to prove it; I only just run over these thoughts for the benefit of young beginners, that they may understand what we mean by eternal, absolute election.
IV. And next, the election is PERSONAL.
Here, again, our opponents have tried to overthrow election by telling us that it is an election of nations, and not of people. But here the apostle says, "From the beginning God chose YOU." It is the most wretched lie on earth to make out that God has not chosen persons, but nations; because the very same objection that lies against the choice of persons lies against the choice of a nation. If it were not just to choose a person, it would be far more unjust to choose a nation; since nations are but the union of multitudes of persons; and to chose a nation seems to be a more gigantic crime--if election were a crime--than to choose one person. Surely, to choose ten thousand would be considered to be worse than choosing one; to distinguish a whole nation from the rest of mankind does seem to be a greater production in the acts of divine sovereignty than the election of one poor mortal, and leaving out another.
But what are nations but men? What are whole people but combinations of different units? A nation is made up of that individual, and that, and that. And if you tell me that God chose the Jews, I say, then, He chose that Jew, and that Jew, and that Jew. And if you say He chooses Britain, then I say he chooses that British man, and that British man, and that British man. So it is the same thing after all. Election, then, is personal: it must be so. Everyone who reads this verse, and others like it, will see that Scripture continually speaks of God's people, one by one; and speaks of them as having been the special subjects of election. "We are sons through God's election, Who by Jesus Christ believe; By eternal destination Sovereign grace is here received." We know it is a personal election.
V. The other thought is--for my time flies too swiftly to enable me to dwell too long on these points--that election produced GOOD RESULTS.
"From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth." How many men completely misunderstand the doctrines of election! And how my soul burns and boils when I remember the terrible evils that have been accrued from all the abuses and the struggles over that glorious portion of God's glorious truth! Many have said to themselves, "I am elect," and then have sat down in laziness, and worse than that! They have said, "I am the elect of God," and with both hands they have done wickedness. They have quickly run to every unclean thing, because they have said, "I am the chosen child of God, irrespective of my works, therefore I may live as I want, and do what I like."
O, beloved! let me solemnly warn everyone of you not to carry the truth too far; or, rather not to turn the truth into error, for we cannot carry it too far. We may overstep the truth; we can make that which was meant to be sweet for our comfort, a terrible mixture for our destruction. I tell you there have been thousands of men who have been ruined by misunderstanding election; who have said, "God has elected me to heaven, and to eternal life;" but they have forgotten that it is written, God has elected them "through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth." This is God's election--election to holiness and to faith.
God chooses His people to be holy, and to be believers? How many of any congregation can say from their hearts, "I trust in God that I am sanctified?" Is there one of you who says, "I am elect"--I remind you of your sin of swearing last week. One of you says, "I believe I am elect"--but I jog your memory about some wicked act that you committed during the last six days. Another of you says, "I am elect"--but I would look you in the face and say, "Elect! you are a most cursed hypocrite! and that is all you are." Others would say, "I am elect"--but I would remind them that they neglect God's mercy and do not pray.
O beloved! never think you are elect unless you are holy. You may come to Christ as a sinner, but you may not come to Christ as an elect person until you can see your holiness. Do not misconstrue what I say--don't say, "I am elect," and yet think you can be living in sin. That is impossible. The elect of God are holy. They are not pure, they are not perfect, they are not spotless; but, taking their life as a whole, they are holy persons. They are marked, and distinct from others; and no man has the right to conclude himself elect except in his holiness. He may be elect, and yet lying in darkness, but he has no right to believe it; no one can see it, there is no evidence of it. The man may live one day, but he is dead at present. If you are walking in the fear of God, trying to please Him, and to obey His commandments, then don't doubt that you name has been written in the Lamb's Book of Life from before the foundation of the world.
And, lest this should be too high for you, note the other mark of election, which is faith, "belief in the truth." Whoever believes God's truth, and believes on Jesus Christ, is elect. I frequently meet with poor souls, who are fretting and worrying themselves about this thought--"What if I am not elect!" "Oh, sir," they say, "I know I put my trust in Jesus; I know I believe in His name and trust in His blood; but what if I am not elect?" Poor dear creature! you do not know much about the gospel, or you would not talk that way, for HE THAT BELIEVES IS ELECT. Those who are elect, are elect unto holiness and unto faith, and if you have faith you are one of God's elect; you may know it and ought to know it, for it is an absolute certainty. If you, as a sinner, look to Jesus Christ this morning, and say--
"Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to your cross I cling,"
then, you are elect. I am not afraid of election frightening poor saints or sinners. There are many preachers who tell the those seeking salvation and are wondering about election, "election has nothing to do with salvation." That is very wrong, because the poor soul is not going to be satisfied like that. He will continue to think of the idea of election, he can't help it. Say to him then, If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you are elect. If you will surrender yourself to Jesus, you are elect. I tell you--the chief of sinners--this morning, I tell you in his name, if you will come to God without any works of your own; surrender yourself to the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ; if you will come now and trust in Him, you are elect--you were loved of God from before the foundation of the world, for you could not do that unless God had given you the power, and had chosen you to do it. Now you are safe and secure if you will just come and surrender yourself to Jesus Christ, and wish to be saved and to be loved by Him.
But don't think that any man will be saved without faith and without holiness. Do not conceive, my friends, that some decree, passed in the dark ages of eternity, will save your souls, unless you believe in Christ. Do not sit down and believe that you can be saved without faith and holiness. That is a most abominable and accursed heresy, and has ruined thousands. Do not use election as a pillow for you to sleep on, or you may be ruined. God forbid that I should be giving you pillows that you may rest comfortably in your sins. Sinner! there is nothing in the Bible to excuse your sins. But if you are condemned, O man! if you are lost, O woman! you will not find in this Bible one drop to cool your tongue, or one doctrine to excuse your guilt; your damnation will be entirely your own fault, and your sin will richly deserve it. You are condemned because you do not believe. "You do not believe because you are not my sheep, and you refuse to come to me to have life."
Don't think that election excuses sin--don't dream of it--don't rock yourself in sweet complacency in the thought of your irresponsibility. You are responsible. We must give you both things. We must have divine sovereignty, and we must have man's responsibility. We must have election, but we must work on your heart, we must send God's truth to you; we must speak to you, and remind you of this, that while it is written, "In me is your help;" yet it is also written, "O Israel, you have destroyed yourself."
VI. Now, lastly, what are the CHARACTERISTICS of a right understanding of the doctrine of election.
First, I will tell you what the doctrine of election will make saints do under the blessing of God; and, secondly, what it do for sinners if God blesses them with it.
First, I think election, to a saint, is one of the most stripping doctrines in all the world--to take away all trust in the flesh, or all reliance on anything except Jesus Christ. How often do we wrap ourselves up in our own righteousness, and dress ourselves with the false pearls and gems of our own works and doings. We begin to say, "Now I am saved, because I did this or that." Instead of that, it is faith and faith alone that saves; that faith and that alone unites to the Lamb, irrespective of works, although saving faith will produce works after salvation. How often do we lean on some work, other than that of our own beloved, and trust in some power, other than what comes from on high. Now if we would have this power taken from us, then we must consider election. Stop, my soul, and consider this. God loved you before you had a being. He loved you when you were dead in disobedience and sin, and sent His Son to die for you. He purchased you with His precious blood, before you could even pronounce His name. Can you then be proud?
I know nothing, nothing again, that is more humbling for us than this doctrine of election. I have sometimes fallen prostrate before it, when endeavoring to understand it. I have stretched my wings, and, eagle-like, I have soared toward the sun. Steady has been my eye, and true my wing, for a while; but when I came near it, only one thought possessed me--"From the beginning God chose you to be saved"--I was lost in its luster, I was staggered with the mighty thought; and from the dizzy elevation down came my soul, prostrate and broken, saying, "Lord, I am nothing, I am less than nothing. Why me? Why me?"
Friends, if you want to be humbled, study election, for it will make you humble under the influence of God's Spirit. He who is proud of his election is not elect; and he who is humbled under a sense of it may believe that he is. He has every reason to believe that he is, for it is one of the most blessed effects of election, that it helps us to humble ourselves before God.
Once again. Election in the Christians should make him very FEARLESS and BOLD. No man will be so bold as he who believes that he is elect of God. What worry does he have about man, if he is chosen of his Maker? What will he care for the pitiful chirpings of some tiny sparrows when he knows that he is an eagle of the royal race? Will he care when the beggar makes fun of him, when the royal blood of heaven runs in his veins? Will he fear if all the world stands against him? If all the earth is at war, he dwells in perfect peace, for he is in the secret place of the tabernacle of the Most High, in the great pavilion of the Almighty. "I am God's," says he, "I am distinct from other men. They are of an inferior race. Am I not noble? Am I not one of the aristocrats of heaven? Is not my name written in God's book?" Does he care for the world? No: like the lion that doesn't care for the barking of the dog, he smiles at all his enemies; and when they come too near him, he moves and cuts them to pieces.
What does He care about them? He walks about them like Colossus; while little men walk under Him and do not understand Him. His brow is made of iron, His heart of flint--what does he care for man? No: if one universal hiss came up from the wide world, He would smile at it, for He would say,
"He that has made his refuge God, Shall find a most secure home."
I am one of His elect. I am chosen of God and precious; and though the world throw me out, I am not afraid. Ah! you weak professing Christians, some of you bend like the willows. There are few oaken Christians, now-a-days, that can stand the storm; and I will tell you the reason. It is because you do not believe that you are elect. The man who knows he is elect will be too proud to sin; he will not humble himself to commit the acts of the common people. The believer in this truth will say, "What, me compromise my principles? What, me change my doctrines? What, me lay aside my views? What, me hide what I believe to be true? No! since I know I am one of God's elect, in the very face of all men I shall speak God's truth, whatever men may say." Nothing makes a man so truly bold as to feel that he is God's elect. The one who knows that God has chosen him, shall not quiver nor shake.
Moreover, election will make us HOLY. Nothing under the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit can make a Christian more holy than the thought that he is chosen. "Shall I sin," he says, "after God has chosen me?" Shall I be disobedient after such love? Shall I go astray after so much loving-kindness and tender mercy? No, my God; since you have chosen me, I will live to you--
"Since you, my everlasting God, My Father, are to come,"
I will give myself to You, to be Yours forever, by election, and by redemption, casting myself on You, and solemnly consecrating myself to Your service.
And now, lastly, to the ungodly. What does election say to you?
First, you ungodly ones, I will excuse you for a moment. There are many of you who do not like election, and I cannot blame you for it, for I have heard those preach election, who have sat down, and said, "I have not one word to say to the sinner." Now, I say you OUGHT to dislike such preaching as that, and I do not blame you for it. But, I say, take courage, take hope, O you sinner, that there is election! So far from discouraging you, it is a very hopeful and joyous thing that there is an election. What if I told you that none can be saved, none are ordained to eternal life, wouldn't you tremble, and fold your hands in hopelessness, and say, "then how can I be saved, since none are elect?" But I say, there is a multitude elect, beyond all counting--a host that no mortal can number. Therefore, take heart, you poor sinner! Throw away your despondency--don't you have the same chance as being elect as the other person? For there is an innumerable host chosen. There is joy and comfort for you! Then, not only take heart, but go and try the Master. Remember, if you are not elect, you will lose nothing by asking.
What did the four Syrians say? "If we stay here, we will die. So let's go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die." O sinner! come to the throne of electing mercy. You may die where you are. Go to God; and, even supposing He should reject you, suppose His uplifted hand should drive you away--a thing impossible--yet you, will not lose anything; you will not be more damned for that. Besides, supposing you are damned, you would have the satisfaction at least of being able to lift up your eyes in hell, and say, "God, I asked for mercy from You, and You would not grant it; I sought it, but You refused it." That you shall never say, O sinner!
If you go to Him, and ask Him, you shall receive; for He never has refused anyone yet! Isn't that hope for you? Even though there is an allotted number of elect, yet it is true that all who seek belong to that number. Go and seek; and if you should be the first one to go to hell, tell the devils why you are perishing--tell the demons that you are a castaway, after having come as a guilty sinner to Jesus. I tell you it would disgrace the Eternal--with reverence to His name--and He would not allow such a thing. He is jealous of His honor, and He would not allow a sinner to say that.
But, poor soul! know that you cannot lose anything by coming; there is yet one more thought--Do you love the thought of election this morning? Are you willing to admit its justice? Do you say, "I feel that I am lost; I deserve it; and that if my brother is saved I cannot complain. If God destroys me, I deserve it; but if He saves the person sitting beside me, He has a right to do what He will with His own, and I have lost nothing because of it." Can you honestly say that from your heart? If so, then the doctrine of election has had its right effect on your spirit, and you are not far from the kingdom of heaven. You are brought to where you ought to be, where the Spirit wants you to be; and being so this morning, depart in peace; God has forgiven you sins. You would not feel that, if you were not pardoned; you would not feel that, if the Spirit of God were not working in you. Rejoice, then, in this. Let your hope rest on the cross of Christ. Don't rest on election, but on Christ Jesus. Rest on Jesus--Jesus first, middle, and without end. Amen.