Page images

of God and of His love, producing, perhaps, a very joyful feeling in their souls; and some know little of such visitations. Those who are favoured with them, are often tempted to think that religion consists in having such things, and they therefore look out for them, and seem to neglect the common course of their lives which is unmarked by these lights, as if it were shut out from religion, and even seem to rest their hope before God, on the fact of their having had such manifestations. Whereas, religion does not consist in having such things at all, but in the heart giving up its own will, and yielding itself up to the will of God, known and felt in the conscience.

I do not mean to undervalue such mani. festations of the Spirit, any more than I have meant to undervalue the revelation of the outward word in the Bible; all that I mean to say is, that both the one and the other are only spiritual provision, which may be bestowed without salvation, and may be withheld without perdition. If the steward of the five talents had hid them in the earth, he would, at the judgment, have been deprived of them, and been cast out as reprobate; and if the steward of the one talent had been diligent in his little, he would have been judged faith

ful, and therefore he would have been chosen. “ The Lord's delight is in them that fear Him, in them that hope in His mercy.” He gives the gifts, but He asks the heart—and on the answer of the heart, His final judicial election is suspended. By his sovereign election He appoints to each man his provision; by His judicial election He rewards the faithful use of the provision.

With the sovereign election, man's will has nothing to do; with the judicial election, man's will has every thing to do.

Out of the confounding of these two elections, I believe has arisen, in a great measure, the common doctrine of election; and that which has led to the confounding of them, has been an inattention to, or a denial of, the fact, that there is an inward spiritual provision bestowed even on those who neglect and misuse it—according to the warning in Ps. xxxii., “be ye not like to horse and mule,” following that word, “ I will instruct thee, and teach thee,” &c.

Let us now proceed to the consideration of the Epistle to the Romans. Every verse of it is not only most important in itself, but also in its bearing on the subject of election. And although the limits within which I wish

to confine this treatise, do not permit me to enter into a full exposition of the argument of the apostle, yet I should be neglecting a chief part of my object, if I did not in some degree show how the righteousness of God, which is the great topic of the early chapters of the epistle, is connected with, and identified with, the doctrine contained in the 8th and 9th chapters.

We shall begin at the 14th verse of the 1st chapter. “I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation, unto every one that believeth: unto the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.” It is not easy to conceive words more fitted than these, to convey the idea of a general message of good to all mankind, depending for its efficiency on the single condition of its being received. Indeed, it is of this character of general applicability, that the apostle here specially boasts. He was a debtor, in

respect of the gospel, to all men—they had a claim on him for it—they had a right to it from him, because God had given them an interest in it, which they might follow out, whether they did so or not. And when he says that its saving power is limited to those who believe it, he does not mean to represent this condition of faith as an arbitrary limitation of God's making, but as the only way of profiting by the gospel, according to the nature of things ;—and he only means to point out to men the importance of not missing this way, that so they might make their interest in it secure.

When the different results of the word to them who believe, and to them who do not believe, are set forth in the Scriptures, we feel that this is done for the



persuading us to believe, and of warning us against unbelief;—we feel that it is done for the purpose of teaching us, not that there are two distinct classes into which men are originally and unalterably divided, but that there are two distinct ways in which every man may receive the word—the one way leading to salvation, and the other to condemnation.

The observations formerly made on the

different kinds of ground, in the parable of the sower, apply with equal force to the expression, “to every one that believeth.” Indeed, if we suppose, that faith is a special gift, vouchsafed only to the few who really make use of it, though without it no man can receive Christ, then we must acknowledge that the apostle's words are much larger than his meaning or his message, and that he must have had a mental reservation, limiting all that he said to those alone to whom God had given this private key. And yet, in opposition to such an idea, it is demonstrable, that through the whole New Testament, the appointment of faith as the door of access into the church, is always represented as an opening of the way to all, and as a removal of all disabilities and exclusions. The great difference, indeed, between the kingdom of God preached in the gospel, and the type of that kingdom which was shown amongst the Jews, was this, that the title to the true kingdom lay in a character attainable by every one ; whereas, the title to the typical kingdom, lay in natural birth, which was a fixed unalterable thing, unattainable by those who had it not by original appointment. Every one feels that he could not be

« PreviousContinue »