« PreviousContinue »
§ 20. This author is not a little confused when he endeavours to ascertain the scriptural doctrine of Election. Of this let the reader judge from the following specimen:
6" What • then did God choose?. For if he gives the
Holy Spirit to whom he wills, through which * love works good, how has he chosen to whom ' he gives it? For if it be given in consequence of no merit, there is no election ; for all are equal before merit; nor can it be called election, where things are exactly equal. But * because the Holy Spirit is not given except * to those who believe, God has not chosen the * works which he himself gives, when he gives " the Holy Spirit, that we may do good works
through love; but nevertheless he has chosen * faith.—Therefore God did not in his prescience choose the works of any one, which he was himself about to give; but he chose faith in his prescience; so that he chose him who he . foreknew would believe, to whom he might give his Holy Spirit; that by good works he might also obtain eternal life.” * * On this passage I would make a few remarks. And, first, if there be no election but in consequence of personal merit, (for no other is in question), how came the apostle Paul to be “a chosen vessel," and arrested in his career of sin, before
Refut. p. 424.
he had any such merit? Whereas if we view the Redeemer, on the ground of his own merit, acting the part of a surety, rescuing Paul from the power of sin and satan, giving him light and life by the operation of his Spirit, whereby he is convinced of sin, of righteousness and of judgment; and if, moreover, as the effect of this first grace, we view him full of agitation, crying out “ Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" then fervently praying from this principle of faith for more light and instruction: we behold a plain, consistent, scriptural and rational pro
And though the circumstances of this case are extraordinary, there is no reason to conclude that the nature of the divine process, as to causality, is different from other conversions : but even were the case a solitary one, in this respect, it is sufficient to overturn JEROME's maxim, “ if the Spirit be given in consequence of no merit (i. e. in the object) there is no election.”
§. 21. I remark, secondly, that the ground of his argument, “ for all are equal before merit," is fallacious for want of a distinction of the terms. We grant that “merit” is regarded in all election or choice; but what merit, or whose merit? The scripture teils us that the elect are “ chosen in Christ,” and what can this import less than for his sake, or on the ground of his
merits? He, who has the Spirit of Christ, has an interest in him, in his merits, and his federal righteousness, while he who “has not the Spirit of Christ, is none of his." Hence the term “ equal” ought to be distinguished. Two persons, one interested and the other not inte, rested in the merits of Christ by a spiritual union, are in this respect not equal, and therefore on JEROME's own maxim,“ without merit there is no election,” the one may be elected and not the other, without having recourse to personal merit by a subsequent act of believing. For, in the nature of things, the union and interest must precede a living faith. To suppose that a dead faith has merit to procure the Holy Spirit, is surely an absurdity too gross to require a refutation.
§ 22. I remark, in the third place, that though in regard to “merit” or personal worthiness, the Calvinists consider all men “equal,” it does not follow from our principles, that God sees no ground of preference. His understanding is infinite, his wisdom is to us unfathomable. He adapts means to ends, in a manner we are unable to scrutinize; and knows, with unerring precision, how to select out of the same unmeritorious lump, materials for vessels of more or of less honour. None are reserved to wrath, but for their abuse of liberty and the
means with which they were favoured; nor are any chosen in Christ without a divine reason. He is the author of our natural powers, he supports and invigorates them, he preserves and protracts our lives, and fixes the bounds of our habitations. Taking all into the account, he knows how the choice of one, rather than another, is adapted to suit his plan of wisdom, and to display “the praise of the glory of his grace.” But at the same time that distinguishing benevolence reigns, in the distribution of benefits, he is infinitely remote from wronging any man, or doing the smallest injury to the work of his hands,
§ 23. In the fourth place, by what logic could JEROME infer that faith is meritorious, while good works are not meritorious? Because, it seems, God,“ himself gives works, when he gives the Holy Spirit, that we may do good works through love." But how does it appear that “works” are the gift of God, while “faith " is not? The scripture says, “ By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that (XOL TOUTO, i. e. Qeou to ôwpov, nempe to credere, vel fides) not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,- for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." *
“For unto you
it is given in the behalf of Christ (TO EIS AUTOV HISEVEIV) to believe on him."* How decisive the evidence that faith is no less “the gift of God” than good works. The actions, both believing and doing good, are alike ours, but the spiritual as well as natural ability to act, is from God, who “ worketh in us both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.” Consequently, if it be a good reason that God does not choose works, because he gives works; it follows, from revealed evidence, that he does not choose faith, because he gives faith.
§ 24. “ He chose faith in his prescience, so that he chose him whom he foreknew would believe.” Here is a difficulty. If a man must not have any influence of the Holy Spirit to enable him to believe, lest it should take away the merit of faith, how is he to acquire it, so that it may become a meritorious ground of his election? In the sight of God, and therefore in his prescience, a dead faith can have no merit, nor can it bring the Holy Spirit into the soul; it must then be a lively faith that is chosen. But whence comes this? For supposing, with JEROME, that “no one is born without Christ," or without “the seeds of faith;" and supposing too that baptism has conveyed to the subject
* Philip. i. 29: