By James Kennedy
Preached at Dingwall
“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling election sure.” 2 Peter l:10
This counsel is in the form of a practical conclusion drawn from the preceding context. We must not, therefore, attempt directly to alight upon it; for it can properly be reached only after a careful consideration of what precedes. Those who search for gems in mines are careful only to remove as rubbish all that lies in between them and their coveted prize. Quite a contrast to this should be our way of reaching the tenth verse of this chapter through the nine that are before it; for though it be this one that we desire specially to consider, we require, in order to do this successfully, all the light of those which precede. It will be all through gems we pass in course of this moving towards that one which it is our special object to examine; and we require to gather them up as we go on, that, in the combined brilliance of them all, we may be enabled to discern the lustre of that which it is our main object to appreciate and to exhibit.
This epistle was written by “Simon Peter.” Even when writing under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, he is not allowed to forget that he is “Simon,” and what he was when that alone was his name. But his master allowed him to u se the name “Peter” after all he had done to prove how unworthy he was of it. He could not write the first name without humbling recollections of his guilty past, and he could not write the second without melting memories of his Master’s grace. And he justly claims to be “an apostle” while loyally choosing to be “a servant.” “A servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ” he declares himself to be. As “a servant” he takes his place lovingly beside all who truly serve his Master, however obscure their station, and however humble their share of work. But he magnifies his office as “an apostle,” and brings its authority to bear on the message, which eh affectionately addresses “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us, through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Their faith and his were alike, and they were equally “precious..” From the same fountain, through the same channel, by the same power, having the same warrant, bearing on the same object, and with the same saving and eternal results, was his faith and theirs. His faith and theirs came from God, through the righteousness of a divine Saviour, by the power of the Holy Ghost, its exercise bore on Christ as presented in the gospel, and everlasting salvation from all sin, and from all sin’s consequences, was alike sure to him and to them.
He salutes in the form of prayer those to whom he writes. And most ample is the prayer. And how could it fail to be so when he greatly loved them as his brethren, and knew their poverty through knowing his own? And why should it not be a large prayer, when he was looking in their behalf to the grace of God? Well might he ask that “grace and peace be multiplied unto” them. “Grace” he first asks, for if that place be not given to “grace,” there can no place be found for “peace.” But let “grace” first come, and “peace”–spiritual prosperity–shall surely follow. Grace to know God and Jesus the Lord once given, there will be more grace through that knowledge, and thus “grace for grace” will bring fort fruit in “peace.” There can be no transacting for grace with God on the mercy-seat, without a spiritual acquaintance with Him through Jesus our Lord; there can be no such knowledge of Him as leads to the exercise of faith, without “more grace” being received; the truth in the light of which God is known, will bear transformingly on the soul; and thus “through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,” shall “grace and peace be multiplied” to all who have received the grace of faith “through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
And well might this be asked in faith, for it was asked “according as His divine power hath” already “given all things that pertain to life and godliness.” This divine power is that of Jesus the Lord. It is because it is His there is a reason for its being called “divine.” He exercised “divine power” in sustaining His human nature till the work, by which all these things were secured, was finished. He has now all power in heaven and earth put into His hands, a power which is divine, and which only one who is divine can wield. His place of power is in the midst of the throne of God; and His work in communicating “all things: to His mystical body is accomplished by the “divine power” of the Holy Ghost, who hath given to the blood-bought people “a heart to know the Lord,” and who shall more and more enlighten them with the knowledge of God, who “called” them “to glory and virtue.” Of these last words three rendering have been proposed–”to glory and virtue,” pointing to the terminus of their call; “by His own glory and virtue,” pointing to that on God’s side which He displays in the work of their effectual calling’ and through glory and virtue,” which can scarcely be seen at all to differ from what is implied in the work being done by the “glory and virtue” of God. If the terminus of the call be indicated here, then by “glory and virtue” we are just to understand the eternal glory of the heavenly state, and the moral excellence required as preparation for the enjoyment of it. If the manifestation of God in the work of effectual calling be referred to, “glory and virtue” tell us of His omnipotence, grace, and holiness.
Through this manifestation of God there have been given to all the called “exceeding great and precious promises” of receiving all covenant grace; and these become the means, by their fulfilment in connection with a life of faith, of making all believers “partakers of the divine nature,” the Lord having, by His renewing grace, at the outset overcome worldly lusting in their souls, so that it no longer reigns over them, and thus secured that they “escaped the corruption that is in the world.”
“And beside this”–or, on this account–having all these resources to fall back upon, the advantage of such a start as the work of God in your effectual calling gave you, having before you such a prospect as that to which, as called, you may direct the eye of hope, being already under such obligation to the grace of God, and having received the knowledge of the glory of God, in His holiness as well as in His grace–apply yourselves with all diligence to the attainment of growth in grace. “Add to your faith virtue,” for your faith will not be alone if it be living. See to it that in your exercise of faith there be what will make it productive of “virtue”–true uprightness towards both the gospel and the law of God–such as will move you to an unreserved profession of your faith, taking humbly, but boldly, your stand, as a lover of truth and righteousness, on the Lord’s side, and in the face of all opposing powers. “And to virtue knowledge,” for you will require this to direct all expressions of your zeal. Be careful lest your zeal be enkindled by mistaken views of God, instead of by true Spirit-given acquaintance with Him, and lest your movements, under the influence of your zeal, be not in accordance with the rule of God’s Word. “And to knowledge temperance,” for at each step there is a danger of the linking required to form the requisite chain being omitted. Be careful that in acquiring the knowledge required for the wise direction of your zeal, you have in it such an element, as will have an outcome in watchfulness, against what might have an injurious effect on your own soul in the influence of the work around you. how prone are we all to fail at this point–substituting the knowledge required for the conduct of our work for that which tends to advance the spiritual welfare of our souls! “And to temperance patience,” for if there be true “temperance” you must be exposed to persecution. You cannot desert the world, and testify against its “corruption,” without having to bear its anger. But under all your experience of this be patient, because hopeful, humble, loving. “And to patience godliness.” There is need of counsel here; for we are too prone to be too much taken up with thinking of our trials and of how we bear them. But let our patience be such and be so sustained, that our desire for fellowship with God is thereby strengthened, as well as our resolution to discharge the duties which we owe to Him and to the cause of His glory. “And to godliness brotherly kindness,” for you are in danger sometimes of devoting yourselves to seeking enjoyment in secret intercourse with God, forgetful of doing “good to them that are of the household of faith.” Let there be no monachism [monasticism, Ed.] in the Church of Christ. And though you find sweet enjoyment in the fellowship of the brethren, and in rendering loving service to them, do not forget those who are without. Add “to brotherly kindness charity,” pitying love towards those who are yet unconverted, moving you to “spend and be spent” with a view to their ingathering into the fold of Christ; and forgiving love towards those who have proved themselves to be your enemies, inclining you to pray for them and to do them good.
The apostle then sets before believers the advantage of following, and the disadvantage of rejecting, the counsels addressed to them. “If these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall be neither barren” or idle, “nor unfruitful in” or unto “the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”–proving that there was true spiritual life and activity in your souls in acquainting yourselves with Jesus, productive of fruit that was evidence of your effectual calling, and was profitable to the Church of God. “But he that lacketh these things is blind” to his present condition,and cannot see afar off,” the prospect of the future being darkened by the lack of evidence of his being an heir of glory; “and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins,” having no effective remembrance of his conversion from all sin to God, and of the vow he then took upon him to “keep himself,” by the help of grace, “unspotted from the world.”
What immense force all this gives to the “wherefore” which is the first word of the text! How overpowering we ought to feel it to be! How unreservedly ought the “brethren” to allow it to carry them into a course of diligence “to make” their “calling and election sure!”
In addressing you from this text, I would call your attention–1. To the two things which have to be made sure. 2. To what making these sure implies. And 3. To the reasons why, in attempting this, there should be diligence.
I. “CALLING AND ELECTION.” It is not “calling” alone, nor is it “election” alone, neither is it election and calling–it is “calling and election”–we must have both before us and in that order. Nor is it the “calling and election” of others to which he directs the anxious diligent search of the brethren, but to their won —”your calling and election.”
When we connect the “calling” with a work, and the “election” with a purpose of god, we must invert the order in which they stand in the text. Thus viewed, “election” has an eternal precedence. But when we consider them, in relation to the diligence recommended in the text, the calling must come first. It is only as that is made sure the other can possibly be ascertained. In directing attention to these now, let us begin where God began, and speak fist of “the purpose of God according to election.”
I. ELECTION. There must be much that is divine in this word, because of how it has been loved and hated on the earth. If it were not a word, through which much divine glory shone forth, the enemies of God would not be so incensed against it. No one need trouble himself to say to me that it may be hated by them that fear God, because it dishonours Him, and loved by others, because it has this effect, for I know that it is from what is “enmity against God’ that opposition to this word and its meaning springs. True, there are many in the Church who greatly dislike it–yea, there especially it is hated. But so it was, as to the feeling within the Church, towards Him, who was “the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of His Person.” It might be expected that a word, through which shines forth the glory of Jehovah’s sovereignty, and which traces to His will and grace all salvation, should share in the dislike with which Jehovah the Saviour was regarded. This work is as a “red rag” to all “the bulls of Bashan.” Some there are, however, who have inherited this dislike, and who continue to cherish this feeling because they associate much that is objectionable with it which enemies have insisted to be inseparable from it, and they do so while constrained to receive as true all that is really involved in its meaning, and to assent to all the necessary consequences of the purpose to which it refers. One of our northern worthies once said, that “there is one bone in the skeleton of a sheep that is called thedog-choker. It is very hard and its edges are very sharp, and the dog can neither break nor swallow it, the attempt to swallow usually resulting in choking, for it is sure to stick in the throat. “Thus,” he said, “is the doctrine of election to all but the ‘children’ who are ‘taught of God,’ who alone are wise to feed on the word in which it is found, and on the marrow which it contains.”
The word “Election” signifies choice. It refers to a purpose of God by which He has set some of mankind apart, as objects of a love that moves Him to provide salvation for them. These are elected or chosen apart from others who are of the same race, and who are in precisely the same relation to Him as their Creator, Sovereign, and Judge. This election is an unconditional election of individuals, each one of whom is an object on whom the infinite love of Jehovah undividedly bears, and on whom bears also the unchangeable purpose of salvation. Thus it is represented in the text when the apostle says “your election.” And the purpose of election, as well as the sovereign love which accounts for it, was from everlasting, for they who were elected were “chosen” “before the foundation of the world.” And they were not chosen because they werechoice specimens of the race, for one of them tells us, “we were by nature the children of wrath even as others.” On individual persons, and not because of any association, either of good or evil with them, as determining their election, bore the grace and purpose of Jehovah–and on each with as thorough a concentration of love and design as if there were no one besides. [Rom. 9:11-13 .] And on what ground can exception be taken to this sovereign electing purpose of God? Was He not entitled to do what He pleased with the creatures of his hand? Under what obligation was He to purpose the salvation of all? Does not the very word salvation, specially with the light shed by the cross shining upon it, tell that all were sinners deserving to die? If so, on what ground can exception be taken to His passing by those who were not elected? If their end is to “die for their sins, to the praise of His glorious justice,: we cannot trace this to the purpose of election, but to the judicial appointment of death, by God, to all who, because of their sin, have merited this at His hand; and even from this we must pass to the sin, of which they themselves are guilty, ere we reach what originally accounts for their condemnation.
Surely, the, “election,” your own and mine, Brother, is something which we ought to give “diligence” to “make sure.” Is it not so? For,
(1.) If you make “your election sure,” then you ascertain that you yourself were from everlasting an object of God’s infinite love. O, the unspeakable ecstacy of such a discovery! When the electing love of God comes, invested with the glory of His sovereignty, which shines upon it from His eternal throne as Jehovah, and tenderly closes its embrace around me, with my remembrances of a guilty past and my consciousness of present corruption, how overpowering is the gladness, and how overwhelming the solemnity, as I hear Him say “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore, with loving-kindness I have drawn thee.” Friend, never expect that God can tell thee of His love without impressing thee with the glory of His majesty and holiness. He will not say “I have loved thee” without persuading thee of the sovereignty of His love, and making thee well assured that thou, its object, art a hell-deserving sinner, and this can only be secured by His revealing to thee His majesty to humble thee, as well as His love to delight thee, without His impressing thee with His holiness, to shut thee more up to the cross, that through the flesh there rent, and through that alone, thou mayest look to His eternal, sovereign, infinite, and holy love as the fountain of all salvation. if there is a loathsome thing on this earth it is the lightness with which many can use the language of assurance as to an interest in the love of God, as if it were the affection of an inferior to which they were referring, and as if the friendship of divine love were less profitable than that of the world. And how men can be intelligent and honest, as in their place they are specially bound to be, when speaking in the name of a congregation, in which there can only be some who are the children of God, and in which sometimes there are none such, and speak to God with words of faith and thanksgiving, as if all were the objects of His fatherly love, and might lay claim to all that he provided for His chosen.
(2.) If you make “your election sure,” then you may think of God as having made sufficient provision for your salvation, as well as having purposed to effect it. the divine provision for your salvation must have been such as the bounty of infinite love was disposed to afford. To the Father, as representing both the love and authority of the Godhead, I trace this provision. And when I think of the mode of His provision, I look to His everlasting covenant of grace entered into with His Son, who was “set up from everlasting,” in order to be the Head of all the elect of God among men, and I see the whole work of redemption entrusted to Him who was thus set up, and the whole work of applying that redemption committed to the Holy Ghost. I thus see Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as the God of salvation, in His infinite resources and grace, pledged to be to me “the fountain of living waters,” for the supply of every want which sin has occasioned, and for satisfying every desire which the Lord Himself has begotten. O what rest a wearied soul enjoys when a Covenant God is reached, and all the provision of His love is claimed as a stock of salvation! Surely this is rest worthy of all the diligence which can be put forth in order to reach it.
(3.) If I make my “election sure,” then I may look forward with an assured expectation of a perfect and eternal salvation from all sin, of deliverance from all trouble, of victory over all enemies, of rest, and bliss, and glory in the Father’s house. What a pitiable object one is who, because his soul sleeps, cares not what is before him. he, at his ease as he is, can dispense with all conscious exercise of hope! What a miserable being he is who cannot sleep and who cannot hope! All is guilt that is his in the past, all is corruption that is presently within him, and all is dark and frowning in the aspect of his future. But what a happy man is he who knows that all his sins have been blotted out, that all his present wants shall be supplied, and that when he passes through death he shall receive “a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” And this happiness is his who has made “his calling and election sure.” And what a strange happiness it is, for it subsists in the midst of manifold tribulation, and, stranger still, in the midst of manifold sorrow! But God alone can give it, and He alone can preserve it.
2. “YOUR CALLING.” It is not to the universal call of the gospel this refers. It requires no diligence to make that sure. It is to the special work of the Holy Ghost, in making the call of the gospel effectual, that it directs our attention. That work makes the gospel call effectual, in bringing a soul into union, in order to fellowship, with the Son Jesus Christ. It requires such a work, as can be accomplished only by His gracious power, to bring a sinner to close with Christ on the terms proposed in the gospel. For he is disposed to think of himself as one who can dispense with Christ and salvation, and needs therefore to be awakened; he is averse to submit to the righteousness of God, and a work of conviction is necessary to tear his own righteousness into the rags again of which it was made up; he is quite blind to the glory of Christ, and requires therefore to be enlightened to know Him; he is rebellious against the claims of the law and the terms of the gospel, and is an enemy to Christ, to grace, and to salvation from sin, and must therefore be renewed ere he can be willing to be either the patient or the subject of Jesus Christ the Lord; he is prone to yield himself to the power of unbelief when he discovers his condition as a sinner, and is ready to think when gospel grace is discovered that it is too much for him to expect it, and he therefore must be “persuaded and enabled to embrace Jesus Christ as He is freely offered to us in the gospel.” All this work has to be done ere there can be any exercise of true faith; and what the text requires the brethren to do is to make sure that they were the subjects of such a work as this.
And surely this is something which it would be well to “make sure.” For if you make “your calling sure,” then you know that you are in Christ, and that you are “the righteousness of God in Him,” and therefore freely, fully, nd finally justified; that, having received Christ, to you “gave He power to become” one of “the sons of God;” that having been “called into the fellowship of the Son” you are in vital union to Him as your Head, in communication with all His fulness of grace, and having in you the presence, and on you the seal of the Spirit “unto the day of redemption,” and that you, as called, are an heir of God and of glory.
Effectual calling is the fruit of election. It comes therefore after election, in the course of the heavenly Husbandman’s work. This is just the reason why your diligence must first bear on it. It is not by laying bare the root, but by examining the fruit that a tree is known. You can never discover yourself to be one of the elect, till you first have evidence sufficient to prove that you have been effectually called, but if you have “your calling” certified, then you may be certain that it has sprung from the good root of “your election.”
II. WHAT IS MEANT BY MAKING ONE’S “CALLING AND ELECTION SURE?” This does not mean that you are to labour with a view to securing that you shall be called and elected. Election cannot be a thing if the future, for if you are one of the elect, then you were “chosen in “ Christ “before the foundation of the world.” And this word is addressed to those “that have obtained like precious faith with” Peter, and who have therefore been already called.
Nor does this mean that they are, in the first instance, to labour with a view of being assured of their calling and election. The context makes it evident that what they must first aim at is to accredit their profession of having been called and elected of God, by bearing the fruits which are the prior evidence of this. You will labour in vain, Friend, if you endeavour, when the shame of barrenness, as the result of backsliding, is on you, to ascertain, for your soul’s enjoyment, that you have been called and elected. You may be content then with remembering that you once had the hope of this, or you may whine because former joys are quite away from your heart, but do not imagine that on your withered breast you can ever hug, as a present joy, the assurance of being an heir of salvation. Be not more careful as to your comfort than as to your spiritual prosperity. In the first instance seek to “add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity.” Let it be yours to seek grace–to be panting for holiness–and leave to God to dispense the comfort. Receive grace to make you fruitful, and God will see to it that you lack no comfort that it would be well for you to enjoy.
Friend, if your soul is in a backsliding condition, what you first need is to be brought back, with a heart broken for and from your sin to God, in the exercise of living faith. Then is the time to be careful to “add to your faith” all those graces which flow from the faith which is “the gift of God.” And in order to your return, and to your fruitfulness, how urgently you need the gracious aid of the Holy Ghost. Not till He has secured both these to you is there an opportunity of giving you the comfort of knowing that you have been called. His work must be certified by the production of its fruits, ere He can assure you that work has been done.
More is needed than that “your calling and election” should be certified by their appropriate fruits, in order that you may be assured that you are of the “chosen generation.” The Spirit must shine on His own revived work within you as evidenced by its fruits, in order to your discovering what can be a good reason to hope that you have “known the grace of God in truth.” He must, in the light of truth, show to you the correspondence of your exercise with that of the saints and of their Head, and by the divine authority of applied truth seal that before the bar of your conscience, as evidence of “your calling and election.” He must help you against all that would distort your judgment, and would shut you out from the comfort of being assured as to your salvation. And He can accompany this with such an application of the work of promise, as shall give you, from the throne of God, an overwhelmingly sweet assurance of your having been loved “from the beginning,” and therefore of your being loved “to the end.” What besides all this is implied in “the Spirit Himself” bearing “witness with” the “spirit” of the believer that he is a child of God, I am not to attempt at present to indicate. But on His love, child of God, you may leave yourself, in order that of all you need, and that would promote your spiritual health, with all necessary comfort, you may have enough during your wilderness life and preparation for enjoying to the full the feast that awaits you when at last you go home.
III. REASONS FOR DILIGENCE IN THE DISCHARGE OF THE DUTY ENJOINED IN THE TEXT. No one will care to be diligent in a work which does not appear to him to lead to any desirable result. Such a view of the desirableness of making his “calling and election sure” as will stir his whole soul into activity is required in order to the “diligence” which is enjoined in the text. And what are the considerations which are fitted to stir up the “brethren” to be diligent in this work.
(1.) A wise regard to their own eternal interests is a lawful motive to diligence. Are you not required to “take heed to thyself? “Does not the command to “love thy neighbour as thyself” imply that you ought to have a regard to your own interests, and very specially to those which are spiritual and eternal? And what is the question which the text call you to decide? It is the solemn question, Have I been called and elected by God, or am I still away from Christ, with the wrath of God lying on me, and having no reason to hope that I shall not be left to perish for ever? Surely it would be a made thing to thrust such a question under your pillow and rest a sluggard’s sleepy head upon it. Let the weight of eternity so press you that you cannot sleep on with this question unsettled, and let the awfulness of being lost so affect you that it shall banish all vain anxieties from your soul; and let the loss of what the called have obtained be so tremendous in your view, that you cannot for a moment rest, till you have a good hope of fellowship with the saints.
(2.) A regard to their own comfort should move the brethren to be diligent. Not merely because of the joy which they would have for their own hearts, but because of the liberty and boldness this would give them as witnesses for God in the world. Without making “your calling and election sure” you can have no spiritual comfort. The lack of this is apt to make one a skulking coward in the day of battle, and each day of the believer’s life is a day of battle. But what reason for fear has the man who knows that he has been called and elected, and how much does this knowledge bring to bear on his heart, to constrain him to be faithful to the Lord, at whatever cost of suffering to himself.
(3.) A regard to the honour of grace, and to the glory of “the God of all grace,” ought to be a motive to the commanded diligence. How can you show what the grace of God really is? Is it not by exhibiting the fruits of it, which are the evidence of your calling and election? And how can you show forth the praises of Him who hath called you but by exhibiting to others, in a life fruitful of good works, what must be His name when such are the fruits of His grace? A live spark of zeal for the glory of God in your heart will not allow you to lie on the bed of the sluggard.
(4.) A regard to what is desirable in the solemn hours of dying should be motive to diligence. Beware, Friend, of carrying to your deathbed the burdened conscience, the slumbering soul, and the barren life of the backslider. O, Friend, you will require at that critical time all the evidence you can have of your having been called and elected by God. To be haunted, then, with the fear of being an outcast is something from which it is lawful to shrink, for though the sun often goes down with his face veiled all over with clouds, who does not enjoy a brilliant sunset? O, how glad a thing it would be, in consequence of following the injunction of the text, to be assured that you “shall never fall,” and to have “an entrance” “ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
l. This text counsels all the brethren to be more careful about their fruitfulness than about their comfort. If you invert this order you will fail in attaining either of them. But if you seek and attain to be fruitful, you will have the Lord to care for your comfort. He has no consolations for you if you are “barren and unfruitful,” and his way of restoring comfort is by turning you to Himself, and then causing the dew to rest upon you, by which you may be refreshed and made fruitful. This is the counsel of the text and context, for you are called by both to see to it, that “your calling and election” are certified by fruit-bearing, in the first instance, and only thereafter are you led to expect that you can be assured of them for your comfort.
2. Let no one reverse the order in which “calling and election” are placed in the text in his endeavours to make them sure. We are always prone to put first what the Lord puts last, and there are many instances of this being actually done in connection with “calling and election.”
(1.) There are not a few who have been accustomed to hear the doctrine of election preached, and who are quite indisposed to nay anxious care about the salvation of their souls, who presumptuously refer to “the purpose of God according to election,” as a reason why they are justified in continuing to sleep as their float down “the course of this world” to eternity. If we are elected, they say, then at the appointed time the Lord will come to save us; if not, then no anxiety or effort of ours can be of any avail–which is just saying I do not care whether God loves me or not, and if I am going to hell I will go lightly on to meet its awful woe. That indicates a state of feeling which nothing can justify or excuse. Is not God telling you what you are and whither you are going? Does he not appeal to your reason and conscience when he speaks to you of your danger, and of the way of escape from it, which He has been pleased to open? Does he not speak with an authority which you have no right to question? Is it not what He sets before you that you ought to attend to? Have you any right to refer to divine secrets as a reason for your action, or rather inaction? Is it reasonable that you should determine your feeling and conduct by a reference to something which you cannot possibly know? And yet this is what you are doing. What presumption it evinces to refuse to act according to what God prescribes, because there is a secret which He is pleased to hide from you. Friend, you will never, till you come to Christ, know aught of your relations to God, except those which subsist between you and Him as your Lawgiver and Judge. These are made known to you, and these you are called carefully to consider. It is at your peril you neglect to attend to what God tells you regarding yourself, as a sinful creature who has rebelled against His authority, by transgressing His law, and who has to render an account to Him, as judge of all. And He who tells you all this, declares to you His way of salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ, call calls you to come as you are to Christ that you may be saved, and assures you of an everlasting salvation if you come. These are the things to which God urgently calls you to attend, and in doing so, he rebukes your presumption in trying to break through into a secret which it is His glory to conceal.
There are some who are disposed to counsel the withholding of the doctrine of election, as the way of preventing the abuse of it. But if all is to be withheld that is abused, then no doctrine which is “according to godliness” can be preached. The Master, whom we are bound to follow, did not withhold this doctrine when he preached, and we therefore dare not to suppress it. What is required in order to an assertion of Jehovah’s sovereignty, and to the praise of His grace, is to be declared because His glory must be the first end in view in all that is done or spoken. And the Church of God must not be starved lest the dogs should be choked. The children must have the food prepared for them, however it may fare with others. The Lord will have it so, and His servants must do His bidding.
(2.) Often to anxious souls is the temptation presented of putting first what the Lord puts last. It is suggested to them that their anxiety is all in vain, for if they are not elected, then there can be no hope for them. This is done in order to cause them to have done with all care about their eternal interests, and to persuade them to return into the ways of the world, or in order to drive them to despair. There are very few earnest inquirers who have been without an experience, in some form, of such a temptation as this. And out of this trial various have been the issues evolved. But all are prone to desire to know, in another than the Lord’s way, that divine thoughts regarding them are “thoughts of peace.” They would fain learn the mind of God regarding them in some other way than by studying what is set before them in the word. There they learn what the judgment of God is regarding them as sinners, as His law reveals this to them, and their pride of heart rebels against knowing only that they are sinners, till, as such, they come to Christ, according to the call of the gospel. They try, therefore, either to discover, from the providence of God, some tokens of His goodwill towards the, or from their experience under a work of conviction, or from some manifestation, through dream or vision, of the favour of God towards them. Thus they are trying to discover whether they are elected before being called. But this labour is in vain. providence is dark, experience utterly depressing, and apart from the Bible there is an awful silence above them. They are allowed to know that they are sinners, that while they are unbelievers “the wrath of God abideth on them,: and that there is in the Bible a God-given warrant of faith to all, and therefore to them. This, and no more, is given them as a guiding light from heaven. And at the moment when the poor sinner first found rest in Christ he was, in his own view and in his feeling, more like the very “chief of sinners” than ever he judged himself to be before. It was only when he had closed with the call of the gospel that he began to have any hope of a place in the heart–an interest in the love–of God.
(3.) There are others who quite deny the doctrine of election, and yet act, in another form, exactly like those to whom I have already referred. They must, forsooth, know that God loves them without their coming to Christ in response to the call of the gospel. If they do not seek to know this in the same way as those others, still they do desire to know this first. They are not disposed to let God deal with them by means of His law, through which “is the knowledge of sin,” nor to take the place which that law assigns to them in relation to God as judge. They must be above this–they must know that God loves them. They see no reason why He should not love them as well as any others. But they dare not take their place among the saints, and so they choose another way than that which would require them at once to do so. They take for granted instead that God loves all, and that therefore He love them, and , settling themselves on this conclusion they care to go no further. They can hope as they are and where they are, and care not to reach Christ, and to pass in through His rent flesh to the mercy-seat, where alone the love of God may embrace the sinner–where alone God can say to any sinner, “I have loved thee.” How much there is nowadays that passes under the name of faith that is no more and no better than this, and how many are content with it, and are ready to attest it, though it avails only to keep a poor sinner away from Emmanuel, from the cross, and from God. Such as these, though they know it not, take to do with a hidden secret, and evade a commanded duty.
3. Let no one separate what the Lord has joined. Let no one say if I am called I care not as to election. But it is rather remarkable that those who seem to make so much of the calling do in reality make nothing of it. For it is no great thing at best, if it be anything at all to make their calling sure, when, in their view, it is but a thing that may become invalid and unavailing, as not securing salvation as its consequence. And a sillier mistake and a fouler calumny there never was than is involved in the idea, that this uncertainty, operating on the selfish principle, is the only guarantee against unwatchfulness.
4. Let not one evade all that the Lord hath enjoined. “Calling and election” are not things to which to give the go by. God accounts these important, and if you differ from Him in your judgment you must share in the portion of fools. Brother, beware of the listlessness that keeps you from being in earnest in making “your calling and election sure.” And my dear fellow-sinner, have done with trifling with what God makes much of. Your fist business is to see to it that you be effectually called to Christ, that you may escape out of your state of sin and misery–that you maynow escape–and find in Him a place among them who are heirs of everlasting life.