The Apostle opens this chapter by removing an objection which might be supposed to arise out of what he had said at the close of the preceding chapter. Read the last verse: "To Israel He saith, 'All day long I have stretched forth My Hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.'" The Apostle then asks the following question, and answers it: "I say then, 'Hath God cast away His people?'" He meets any such question or objection with a "God forbid." He then proves that God's people are not cast away. He instances himself: "For I also am an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin." Paul was a Jew, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; no foreign blood ran in his veins, and God had not cast Him away, but on the contrary, He had called him by His grace. "God hath not cast away His people which he foreknew." A national rejection does not imply a spiritual rejection of His people. He then reminds them of a circumstance which occurred in the time of Elias. "Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying, Lord, they have killed Thy prophets, and digged down Thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life." Elias made a mistake in thinking that he was the only true follower of God in his day. Indeed the children of God frequently make mistakes, and upon no point more than the one to which the Apostle refers. How often it happens that the child of God is tossed hither and thither and finds no one that he can speak to about spiritual things! And then it is that he arrives at an erroneous conclusion like Elias, and says: "I am left alone." But what was the answer of God unto Elias? "I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal." This was a large number in comparison. Elias said one; the Lord said seven thousand. The Lord knew His own, both where they were, and what they were doing, and how they would best manifest that grace which He had magnified upon them. The Apostle uses this as an argument to show that whatever mistakes the children of God may make as to those who are His people, yet He knows them all, their number, and their end. There was a remnant reserved in the time of Elias of which he was ignorant until it pleased God to inform him. The Apostle reasoned that it was so even in his own day: "Even so then at this present time also"--as in the time of Elias--"there is a remnant"--the Lord's reserve, but then it is "according to the Election of Grace." There has always been a remnant upon the earth since man fell, and there always will be until the Lord Jesus Christ comes from heaven to receive the last elect vessel of mercy unto Himself. This is the seed which shall serve Him; and it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. This is the Lord's generation which has been washed from its filthiness, and which is saved "according to the election of grace." In the verse which follows our text the Apostle is very careful to exclude all works in the election of a sinner to salvation. He magnifies Grace therein, but he cannot do with a mixture of grace and works. A mixture is the fashionable preaching of the present day; but a fashionable mixture cannot save a soul. Mixtures may please the world, carnal men, and formal professors, but such will never meet the necessities of the living family of the living God. Paul would not, and could not tolerate for a moment such "messes." With him, salvation must be either the result of grace or of works. Israel had sought it by works and failed. "What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for." (Romans 11:7) Some, however, did obtain it. But how? By grace, for it is said: "the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." It is not my intention this evening to review the dark side of the picture, but to speak to you upon a subject which is either brought before us, or at least suggested by the words of our text. I shall have to ask your careful consideration of what I say, and I hope I shall speak only in keeping with the oracles of truth.
I shall throw my subject under three heads: First, that the doctrine of election runs through the entire Scriptures of God: this I shall show you by example and illustration. Secondly, that there is an election unto salvation, and to all the means thereof. And thirdly, that our election unto salvation, and to all the means thereof, is rooted in God's good pleasure, and is the result of His sovereign grace. "The election of grace."
Consider first, that the doctrine of election runs through the entire Scriptures of God. This I intend to show you by example and illustration.
There is one passage of Scripture which I wish you to look at before I proceed, for it contains, to my mind, four important doctrines. It is the 62nd chapter of Isaiah, the last verse: "And they shall call them, 'the holy people'"--this is election. "The redeemed of the Lord"--this is redemption. "And thou shalt be called, 'sought out'"--this is effectual calling by the Word and by the Spirit. "A city not forsaken"--this is final preservation. In this verse you will see the four doctrines named. The verse will serve as a little sermon for you to think over, and to reflect upon at another time.
I remember that about eleven years ago I preached a sermon upon the subject of election in my own church in Sheffield. My text, on that occasion, was that which is written in the 1st chapter of the 1st Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians: "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God" (verse 4). That sermon, to some, was offensive, and they resolved never to hear me again. I fancy that some of them have carried out their resolution, others have not. About four years ago I was walking in a public thoroughfare when a gentleman touched me on the shoulder, and said: "Do you remember me?" I said, "No." "Well," he said, "I used to attend your church, and I heard you preach the doctrines of grace, but I did not believe them. I had to go to the ends of the earth to learn the truth of them, and now, I can assure you, that I know something about them for myself." That gentleman I have never seen since; where he is, or whether living or dead, I know not. He may be in this church tonight for aught I know; and if so I shall have a word of comfort for him. It is just possible, beloved, that some of you who may hear what I say tonight may resolve in your own minds never to hear me again. But there is one thing I rejoice in, which is this, that if God has a purpose of grace towards any such, He will send His Word home at the right time, and make it not only the word of grace, but the word of life and of power to their souls! Amen!
Let us now proceed with the argument, to show you that the doctrine of election runs through the entire Scriptures of God. Let it be understood that by election we understand one or more chosen by God out of many for any end He pleases. I know of no doctrine which is calculated to give more offence to those who are called professors, and especially great professors of religion; but this is of no consequence to me. If I find it to be a truth of God, whether it be for me or against me, I feel bound to state it. My argument is a very simple one. If we begin with our first parents, we find that a separation took place very soon. In the book of Genesis we read of Cain and Abel. Well, the election ran not in the eldest son, but in Abel. He was a worshipper of the true God, and offered his excellent sacrifice in faith. It cost him his life, it is true. He was the fist martyr to true religion, and the first elect vessel of mercy, as far as we know, that ever entered into glory. When Abel was slain, God showed that He had not chosen Cain, for He appointed another seed. In due time Seth is born, as you read in the latter part of the 4th chapter of the book of Genesis, and to him Enos. Then it was that men began to call upon the Name of the Lord, and to worship the true God. The election was to run in the family of Seth, and not in the family of Cain. In the 5th chapter of Genesis you have a list of the elect worthies, for it is the election of grace that is spoken of there. In the time of Noah, he and his family, being "the election of grace," entered the Ark at God's command, and the door was shut by the Lord Himself, and they were saved. Noah had three sons, and the election of grace continued with Shem, whence the Saviour should spring. And it is from Shem that Abraham descends, who is in due time called to be "the father of the faithful." The promise to Abraham is that in him and his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed. Here is election. Then Abraham has two sons, Ishamel and Isaac. But the election runs not in the eldest son, but in Isaac, the son of promise. There appeared many difficulties in the way, but there is nothing too hard for the Lord. Isaac is the one chosen of God to be in the royal line. Isaac has two sons--and the Apostle is very clear and distinct upon this point--Jacob and Esau. Esau is the eldest, but he is not of "the election of grace." Jacob is the chosen one; but there was nothing in him why he should be preferred above Esau; but so it was, Jacob is God's chosen one (Romans 9:11). Again, Jacob has twelve sons, and it is from one of these that the Saviour must come, it is not from the eldest, nor from the youngest, nor yet from that eminent servant of God, Joseph; but Judah is the chosen one, and in the fullness of time the Lord Jesus Christ appears as the "Lion of the tribe of Judah." To pass on to the account of Jesse's eight sons. Seven of them passed before Samuel, but he said unto Jesse: "The Lord hath not chosen these." There was one, a ruddy youth, which had not passed before him, and he is sent for, and it turns out that the Lord had chosen him to be the great ancestor of our Saviour. The reason is given, "The Lord seeth not as man seeth" (1 Samuel 16:7). With David's "root and offspring" (Revelation 22:16) Jehovah made His covenant. "I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant. I have exalted one chosen out of the people" (Psalm 89:3,19). This is the elect one of whom the Prophet Isaiah sings: "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles" (Isaiah 42:1). We know that these words refer to Christ, the chosen head of the Church of God, when we compare them with what the Holy Ghost says in the 12th chapter of Matthew's Gospel. I have now shown you election in succession which shall serve as the first part of my argument.
There was a national election. One nation elected or chosen out of many or all nations. It was Jacob and his seed, and they are spoken of thus in the 7th Chapter of Deuteronomy: "For thou art a holy people unto the Lord Thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people (verses 6,7). And what the Lord did for this people, as a nation, we are told in the verse that follows. And here, I may observe, by the way, that the word translated "chosen," is the same as "elect," or "election." "Thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto Himself above all the nations that are upon the earth" (Deuteronomy 14:2). Have chosen the nation in which the election of grace should run, we find also that the Lord chose the very place where they should worship Him. In the 12th chapter of Deuteronomy this expression occurs no fewer than six times: "The place which the Lord shall choose to put His Name there." In this very place Israel must worship the Lord his God. "The Lord chose Zion for His dwelling place" (Psalm 132:13). Notice how this election is carried on. The nation is chosen, the place is chosen, and then one particular family out of twelve is chosen to minister before the Lord. "The Levites are chosen out of all the tribes, to stand to minister in the name of the Lord for ever and ever" (Deuteronomy 18:5). Hence the Levites are told that they are to have no inheritance, for they are chosen by the Lord to minister in holy things before Him. This is the second part of my argument in favor of the doctrine of election.
I shall now show you that God chooses persons for different purposes as He pleases. When He wished to deliver Israel at various times out of troubles, He has elect instruments for the purpose. they are called deliverers. Moses was chosen of the Lord to deliver Israel out of Egypt (Psalm 106:23). Aaron was chosen to be High Priest (Psalm 105:26) Joshua to lead them into Canaan; David to be a king; Cyrus, a man who knew not the Lord, to take Babylon (Isaiah 45:1-5) Jeremiah to be a prophet (Jeremiah 1:5,6); John the Baptist to be the forerunner of Christ (Luke 3:4); and Paul to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). Our Lord chose twelve Apostles (John 6:70). And our Lord Himself was God the Father's Elect One. And there are the "elect angels." When Paul wrote to Timothy, he said: "I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels" (1 Timothy 5:21). And who were elect angels but those who had never sinned, being preserved by and established in the electing grace of God. I have passed over some instances of election, but I scarcely think it is necessary for me to give you any more examples and illustrations in confirmation of our first statement, "That the doctrine of election runs through the entire Scriptures of God."
There is yet one thing that I must mention before I leave this first head, and it is this. I have taken some trouble to examine the original words. You may think that this is of but little importance, and perhaps it is not worth the trouble I have taken. The original word for elect, election, chose, and chosen, occurs no fewer than one hundred and fifty-seven times in the Old Testament. And the original word for elect, election, chose, and chosen, occurs in the New Testament fifty or fifty-one times. Thus you have the very word, which is so despised by some, and spoken against by others, occurring, as uttered by the mouth of God, no fewer than two hundred and seven times. He would, indeed, be a bold man who would say that there is no doctrine of election running through the Scriptures. And he would, indeed, be an ignorant man who would say that if there be the doctrine of election in the Scriptures that it is according to the works of men. I find that those persons who are opposed to God's election will admit an election of their own. They are full of conceit about their own power and will, and speak as if God could do nothing without their permission. They are gods to themselves. May the God of Hosts smite them to the ground, and make them lie in dust and ashes before Him crying for mercy! Then they will understand what it is for the Lord alone to be exalted in the salvation of His people.
I shall now proceed to consider, in the Second place, that there is an election unto salvation, and to all the means thereof. Here I shall have to point you carefully to the Scriptures. Read the 2nd Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, the 2nd chapter and the 13th verse: "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto He called you by our Gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." You will see from these words that if I gave you no other Scripture you have the truth of the proposition established, that there is an election unto salvation, and to all the means thereof. Salvation is the end of election, and the means are "sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." The truth is the Gospel of God, and you believe it by the power of the Holy Ghost; and you are called effectually the same Spirit to the obtaining of that glory which is in and through Christ Jesus. The Apostle had said in the Epistle which goes before this: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:9). God's appointment is the foundation of salvation, the end of all is His own glory, the means which bind these together from first to last are in Christ Jesus. Peter says: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:2). There are two or three doctrines here stated. First, election, this is the Father's work. Then sanctification by the Spirit, which is the third person's work. And then they are brought "unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. I think you will see that there is an election unto salvation, and to all the means thereof.
There is a marked difference between some who preach and myself upon this particular point. Some believe that we are elected because God fore-saw that we would believe, and repent, and obey the gospel. This is not my idea. Mine stands the other way. By election on the part of our God--we are elected unto glory, unto salvation, unto eternal life, unto the blood of sprinkling, unto regeneration by the Holy Ghost, unto repentance and unto faith in Him, unto obedience, and unto every good word and work,--thus tracing everything with which the child of God is blessed withal to its proper source. "The eternal covenant ordered in all things, and sure, which is all my salvation, and all my desire" (2 Samuel 23:5). The difference between me and those who disagree with me may be expressed by two little words, "to" and "for." I contend that election is to life and to grace here upon earth, and to salvation and to eternal glory hereafter. My opponents contend that God elected us for our faith, for our repentance, and for our perseverance in grace to glory. As to which of the two views is most in keeping with God's Word, judge ye. Election to everything magnifies God's grace. Election for foreseen obedience magnifies fallen humanity above that, which I can admit with an open Bible in my hands.
This election is both a blessed and an eternal election. When I speak of its being an eternal election, I mean that God the Father chose His people in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world. As eternal is the election of the children of God as Christ Himself, Who is their Elect Head. If I could put it stronger I would do so. Christ is the Head of all His spiritual seed, and His members are all one in Him, and having had their eternal standing given them in Him before the foundation of the world they are indeed the blessed of the Lord. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 1:3) All the blessings that you and I enjoy in spiritual and eternal things have been made over to us in our Head, and have come down to us as members of His body, so that whatever we have is not our own, except so far as we are one with Christ, and Christ with us. Read the 65th Psalm, and the 4th verse: "Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causeth to approach unto Thee, that he may dwell in Thy courts: "We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Thy House, even of Thy holy Temple." I look upon this verse, in the first place, as referring to our Lord Jesus Christ; and in the second place to all His family, who have approached and do approach God in Him. We have been blessed in Christ, and are still blessed in Him. We shall abide in His courts for ever, and we shall be satisfied with His abounding goodness which flows from on high into our earthen vessels. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance" (Psalm 33:12). "Happy is the people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord" (Psalm 144:15)
There is another feature connected with this subject which I wish you to notice. This election is a personal one, a particular and personal one. I am always fond of personal and particular things in religion. And now allow me to show you what I mean by election being particular and personal. It means in other words, that the Lord has not only chosen His sheep but that He knows them all by name. The Lord knew Adam by name. He called him and said: "Adam, where art thou?" God called Abram by name when He told him to leave the country of the Chaldees and go into the land of Canaan. And again, when he was offering up his son Isaac. "Abraham! Abraham!" stay thine hand. The Lord spoke to Moses by name on Mount Horeb: "Moses! Moses! the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." Afterwards, He said of him: "Moses, I have known by name" (Exodus 33:12). He knew David by name. The Lord called Elijah by name. "What doest thou here Elijah?" The Lord has a book in which all the names of His children are written. And only those whose names are written in this Book will enter into glory. We find that all the rest are kept out of the city, and only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life enter there into (Revelation 20:15). The names of all the elect are known to the Lord. "In Thy Book all my members were written when as yet there were none of them" (Psalm 139:16). This is Christ speaking of His members as being written in His Father's book from everlasting. And then in the fullness of time they come into existence and serve the Lord their God. When our Lord appeared upon the earth, "He called His own sheep by name"--Matthew, Thomas, Nathaniel, Peter, or Paul. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:3,27). Now when we speak of any one by name, we mean something distinctive, personal, and particular. And this is the truth when God sets before us in His blessed Book. When we think of this and reflect for a moment that God cares for each one of His children, that He knows all their groans, their sighs, and their sobs, and that in due time He heals their wounds, and drives away their fears. Hidden indeed they may be to the world, but known and cared for by Him. What comfort and consolation to the tried and afflicted ones of the Lord's family. Their names like Clement and others are all in the book of life; therefore, let them rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 4:3,4).
I shall now hastily show you in the third place that our election to salvation and to all the means thereof, is rooted in God's good pleasure, and is the result of His sovereign grace. That election is rooted in God's good pleasure. What scriptures can we refer to? I might take one out of the 46th chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, where we read that God's purpose or counsel shall stand, and He will do all His pleasure (verse 10). Compare this with Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians where it is said that God "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will; that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ" (verses 11 and 12). But when we look to the 9th chapter of this Epistle to the Romans, and read the 11th verse, the question is settled. "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth." This is God's good pleasure: "It was said unto her, 'The elder shall serve the younger' as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God?"--"Yes." I have heard many say that God would be unjust to act in such a way. But what says the Apostle? "God forbid." No! God hath a right to do as He pleases with His own. Then for the comfort and consolation of His people. "He saith to Moses, I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." And if He will, who shall hinder Him? "Who hath resisted His will?" Corrupt nature will do its best to resist His will until overwhelmed by the power of Divine grace. Man has to be made willing in the day of God's power (Psalm 110:3), and when this takes place he is brought into the obedience of Christ. Election to salvation is rooted in God's good pleasure. "The Lord taketh pleasure in His people" (Psalm 149:4). He has appointed our end "according to the good pleasure of His will." "He works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Ephesians 1:5). "And He gives us the kingdom according to His good pleasure."
Election to salvation is the result of grace when you consider the objects of it. Read the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, the 1st chapter and the 26th verse: "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish of the world to confound the wise." There is a peculiarity about this word "chosen." In the original it is in the middle voice, which notes that there is no cause outside of God Himself for His having chosen anyone to salvation. Now, read on: "And God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are." And why? "That no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, 'He that glorieth, let Him glory in the Lord.'" James says much the same thing in his 2nd chapter: "God has chosen the poor of this world," not because they were poor, nor because they were "rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love Him," but because He had a favor unto them in Christ Jesus. Our Lord informs us that He chose His disciples: "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you," and consequently the world will hate you (John 15:16,19).
In the verse which follows our text, the Apostle declares that election to salvation is either the result of grace or of works. If it be of grace, it cannot be of works, and if it be of works it cannot be of grace. Election is not the result of works and grace. It is the result of either the one or the other. He settles it to be of grace, and that "the election hath obtained it." I intended quoting a portion of a hymn bearing upon this subject, but I forbear because of the time.
Before I conclude I wish to throw out a few words in the way of evidences. Some of you may have thought my sermon very dry. Well, I have not been preaching to feelings, for our feelings are unsafe guides and very changeable. I have been addressing myself to the enlightened understandings of the children of God. For the comfort of believers take three evidences from Micah, the 6th chapter and the 8th verse: "What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." To do justly, like Noah, and Abraham, and Moses, and Job, who were first made just and righteous in Christ, and then acted justly as the result. "And to love mercy." And why? Because they have been made sensible partakers of God's sure mercies, and now desire to be merciful to others. "And to walk humbly with thy God." He walks because of the spiritual life which is in him. He walks in Christ the way, and according to the rule of God's word. He is a humble soul, and so walks humbly before God. He is like a little child, he cries for help and for guidance. Lord hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe. Keep me, and preserve me and then I shall continue to the end. I would ask you to examine a few verses in the New Testament (2 Peter 1:4-11). The Apostle is speaking of those in the 4th verse, who have been made "partakers of the divine nature," that is, of the Holy Ghost, for the Holy Ghost dwells in believers. What graces have they? They have faith, and faith is one of the first graces of the Spirit to show itself. And then follows a number of graces. It is an addition sum: "Add to faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge temperance, to temperance patience, to patience godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity." What does the Apostle say about these things as evidences: If these things be in you, and abound in you through the power of the Holy Ghost." I do not know how it is with you in your own souls, and I am no priest to try you, but to declare unto you the fruits of the Spirit as they are wrought in the hearts of believers. Let us read the words carefully: "If these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind" (2 Peter 1:8,9). If this is spoken of a believer, it is of one in whom the graces of the Spirit are not very manifest. "He cannot see afar off." He cannot see the kingdom of heaven and the glories laid up in Christ. Being comparatively blind, he sees and knows little of experimental religion. "He forgets that he has been purged from his old sins by the blood of Christ." But if this 9th verse be spoken of an unregenerate person, then we are bold to affirm that he sees and knows not the things which be of the Spirit of God, for they are spiritually discerned. The Apostle counsels his brethren to diligence. "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10),--not sure to God, for He knows all about everyone whom He has chosen,--but you are to "give diligence to make your calling and election sure" to yourselves and to others. In other words, see if you possess the evidences, and lively exercise of the fruits of the Spirit. "For if ye do these things ye shall never fall" (2 Peter 1:10). You shall never fall out of the covenant of grace, nor out of the hands of God, nor out of the love of Christ: "For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly," like a ship in full sail, "into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:11). My beloved brethren, consider these things as God may enable you. And may He send His Holy Spirit into our hearts, that we may be guided aright into the glorious truths of His glorious Gospel; and unto the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost be all honor and praise both now and for evermore. Amen.