When we read this passage (2 Samuel 15:1-6) we must learn not to judge our own times too harshly. The evils that we see are neither peculiar nor new.
In handling the subject of Election, there are only two things which I propose to do. Firstly, I will state the doctrine of Election, and show what it is. Secondly, I will fence the subject with cautions, and guard it against abuse.
I have firstly to state the doctrine of Election. What is it? What does it mean? Accurate statements on this point are of great importance. No doctrine of Scripture perhaps has suffered so much damage from the erroneous conceptions of foes, and the incorrect descriptions of friends, as that which is now before us. The true doctrine of Election I believe to be as follows. God has been pleased from all eternity to choose certain men and women out of mankind, whom by His counsel secret to us, He has decreed to save by Jesus Christ.
None are finally saved except those who are thus chosen. Hence the Scripture gives to God's people in several places the names of "God's Elect," and the choice or appointment of them to eternal life is called "God's election." Those men and women whom God has been pleased to choose from all eternity, He calls in time, by His Spirit working in due season. He convinces them of sin. He leads them to Christ. He works in them repentance and faith. He converts, renews, and sanctifies them. He keeps them by His grace from falling away entirely, and finally brings them safe to glory. In short God's eternal Election is the first link in that chain of a sinner's salvation of which heavenly glory is the end. None ever repent, believe, and are born again, except the Elect. The primary and original cause of salvation, is God's eternal election.
No part of the Christian religion has been so much disputed, rejected, and reviled as this. None has called forth so much of that enmity against God, which is the grand mark of the carnal mind. Thousands of so-called Christians profess to believe the Atonement, salvation by grace, and justification by faith, and yet refuse to look at the doctrine of Election.
Is the doctrine of Election plainly stated in Scripture? This is the whole question which an honest Christian has to do with. If it is not in the Book of God, let it be forever discarded, refused, and rejected by man, no matter who propounds it. If it is there, let us receive it with reverence, as a part of Divine revelation, and humbly believe, even where we are not able to understand completely or explain fully.
(Matt. 24:22; Mark 13:22; Mark 24:31; Luke 18:7; Romans 8:29-30; Romans 8:33; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:10) I place these eleven texts before my readers, and I ask them to consider them well. If words have any meaning at all, they appear to me to teach most plainly the doctrine of personal Election.
Once admit that we are all naturally dead in trespasses and sins, and have no power to turn to God. Once admit that all spiritual life in the heart of man must begin with God. Once admit that He who created the world by saying, "Let there be light," must shine into man's heart, and create light within him. Once admit that God does not enlighten all professing Christians in this manner but only some, and that He acts in this matter entirely as a Sovereign, giving no account of His mattersonce admit all this, and then see where you are. Whether you know it or not, you admit the whole doctrine of Election!
Right views of God's nature and character, as revealed in the Bible, appear to me to bring us to the same position. Do we believe that God knows all things from all eternity that He governs all things by His providence, and that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without Him? Do we believe that He works all His works by a plan, like an architect of perfect knowledge, and that nothing concerning His saints, as His choicest and most excellent work, is left to chance, accident, and luck? Well, if we believe all this, we believe the whole doctrine which this paper is meant to support. This is the doctrine of Election.
The next thing that I wish to do is to fence the doctrine of Election with cautions, and to guard it against abuse.
For one thing, the doctrine of Election was never meant to destroy man's responsibility for the state of his own soul. The Bible everywhere addresses people as free agents, as beings accountable to God, and not as mere logs, and bricks, and stones.Everywhere in Scripture it is a leading principle that man can lose his own soul, that if he is lost at last it will be his own fault, and his blood will be on his own head. The same inspired Bible which reveals this doctrine of Election is the Bible which contains the words, "Why will you die, O house of Israel?" "You will not come unto Me that you might have life." "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (Ezek. 18:31; John 5:40; 3:19.)
The doctrine of Election was never meant to prevent the fullest, freest offer of salvation to every sinner. In preaching and trying to do good we are warranted and commanded to set an open door before every man, woman, and child, and to invite everyone to come in.
We know not who are God's Elect, and whom He means to call and convert. Our duty is to invite all. To every unconverted soul without exception we ought to say, "God loves you, and Christ has died for you."
Election was never intended to prevent people making a diligent use of all means of grace. On the contrary, the neglect of means is a most suspicious symptom, and should make us very doubtful about the state of a man's soul.
Those whom the Holy Spirit draws He always draws to the written Word of God and to prayer. When there is the real grace of God in a heart, there will always be love to the means of grace.
If people begin rejecting a truth of Scripture merely because they do not like it, they are on slippery ground. There is no saying how far they may fall.
A work that was planned before the foundation of the world, by an Architect of almighty power and perfect wisdom, is a work which will never be allowed to fail and be overthrown.
If we were what we profess to be—and what we should be—we would be pictures of Christ!
Was He self-denying, never looking to His own interest? Be the same. Was He devout? Be fervent in your prayers. Had He deference to His Father’s will? So submit yourselves to Him. Was He patient? So learn to endure. And best of all, as the highest portraiture of Jesus, try to forgive your enemies, as He did; and let those sublime words of your Master, “Father, forgive them—for they know not what they do,” always ring in your ears. Forgive, as you hope to be forgiven.
A daily portion is all that a man really needs. We do not need tomorrow’s supplies; for that day has not yet dawned, and its needs are as yet unborn. The thirst which we may suffer in the month of June—does not need to be quenched in February, for we do not feel it yet.
If we have enough for each day as the days arrive—we shall never know want. Sufficient for the day—is all that we can enjoy.
Enough is not only as good as a feast—but is all that the greatest glutton can truly enjoy. Enough is all that we should expect—a craving for more than this is ungrateful.
Beloved Christian reader, in matters of grace you need a daily supply. You have no store of grace. Day by day must you seek help from above.
Heaven will be full of the ceaseless praises of Jesus.
Covetousness, discontent, and murmuring are as natural to man—as weeds are to the soil. We need not sow thistles and weeds; they come up naturally enough, because they are indigenous to earth. Just so, we need not teach men to complain; they complain fast enough without any education.
Now, contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated, as it will not grow in us by nature. It is the new nature alone which can produce contentment, and even then we must be especially careful and watchful, that we maintain and cultivate the grace which God has sown in us.
The only reason why anything virtuous or lovely survives in us is this, “the Lord is there.”
If the Lord be with us through life, we need not fear for our dying confidence; for when we come to die, we shall find that “the Lord is there”; where the billows are most tempestuous, and the water is most chill, we shall feel the bottom, and know that it is good—our feet shall stand upon the Rock of Ages when time is passing away.