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this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." John xvii. 2.
This fixed and established rule of righteous retribution, does indeed, at first sight, seem to limit God, and to be opposed to all received ideas as to his sovereignty in the government of His creatures; but it is not so in truth; for the basis on which this retributive rule rests, is God's own sovereign gift of spiritual life in Jesus Christ,-a gracious appointment, altogether independent of any thing in us which could give us a claim to it, in any shape. And, besides this, as a sovereign He appoints to all creatures the conditions of their being—as a sovereign he has made us responsible creatures, for we had no right to fill one place in creation, rather than another. He does not enter into explanation with us, why He has thus constituted us, but he enters into dealing with us at once, as creatures so constituted. And although it be true that the condition of man, and the sufferings consequent on the fall, when considered as penal, cannot properly be said to be appointed in sovereignty, but in righteous judgment, being the reward of transgression; yet, in so far as they
are considered as constituting a system of spiritual discipline and training, fitted to bring man back to God, they do certainly belong to the class of sovereign appointments. And thus we may farther say, that as a sovereign, He appoints not only the various talents, but also the various circumstances, and opportunities, and trials, inward and outward, of every individual. As a sovereign, He brings one man under the sound of the gospel, and leaves another to the law written in his heart—as a sovereign, He calls one to fill one place, and another to fill another, and provides all with the means of meeting the call, and filling the appointed place aright. These things constitute our condition here; and they constitute the basis on which our trial or probation rests—and when we look into them, and enquire why they are so, and not otherwise, the only answer that can be given is, “ that God hath so ordered them.” But surely it would be contrary to reason, and conscience, as well as to the whole tenor of the Bible, if we were to give the same answer in explanation of the use or misuse which we make of our circumstances.
It is right, surely, to attribute Adam's creation in such a condition, and with such cap
acities, and opportunities of holiness and blessedness, as he had, to God's sovereignty ; but we all feel that it would not be right to attribute his misuse of these things to God's sovereignty. His condition, and capacities, and opportunities, were the basis on which his probation rested. And, “ blessed is the man that endureth temptation ; for, when he hath passed through it, he shall receive the crown of life.” Adam put from him this blessedness, by not enduring his trial. His fall put an end to his probation for the crown of life, for by it he forfeited his life, and along with life, his condition, and capacities, and circumstances.
There was nothing of sovereignty in this: it was righteous retribution. But, after the fall, sovereignty again appeared in behalf of ruined man. Through the promised seed, God again put him on probation for the crown of life, and furnished him for the trial. sovereignty, but the use which man makes of this advantagè, is not to be attributed to sovereignty, but to the exercise of that principle in himself, on which his responsibility is founded. Thus, retribution proceeds on the basis laid by sovereignty. I am responsible for the use which I make of the advan
tage of being born in a land of Bibles—but I could not be held responsible for the circumstance of being born out of the reach of a Bible; though, in such a situation, I should still be responsible for the use I made of the law written in my heart. In all situations, my trial or probation is marked out by my circumstances. God's sovereignty has ordered them, but it does not order my use of them. God's sovereignty is exercised towards a particular end, in regard to man, namely, that of putting him on probation for the crown of life, and providing him with a condition and capacity, to meet and pass through his probation; and sovereignty would be defeating its own end and purpose, and would be destroying the very principle of probation, if it not only ordered man his circumstances, but also his use of them.
Thus, both Jeremiah and Balaam, by the sovereignty of God, were appointed to be prophets, sanctified or set apart to that office from the womb; (Jer. i. 5;) but their own personal probation lay in the use which they made of the appointment. The sovereignty of God appointed for Balaam the temptation of Balak’s gold, but it did not appoint his yielding to the temptation. Nor can it be truly said that God's sovereignty prevented Jeremiah from yielding to the threatening of the king and princes, although it appointed that temptation for him. Had Jeremiah or Balaam prided himself on being a prophet, or on the power and beauty of his prophecies, the right answer would have been that which is supplied by 1 Cor. iv. 2, 7, “ It is required of stewards, that a man be found faithful :" and thou art but a steward, “ for who maketh thee to differ from another, and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?"
I mention this passage, because I have heard it quoted in support of the common view of the doctrince of election, and I wish to show, from a consideration of the whole context, that it has nothing to do with it. The Cor. inthians esteemed themselves and others, according to their abilities, and eloquence, and gifts. “ The Jews who lived amongst them, required a sign, and the Greeks sought after wisdom;" and the demand for these things existed to a considerable extent in the church. This led them to put a false value on both supernatural and natural gifts, and to feel a carnal pride in having for their teachers such