Images de page
PDF
ePub

case.

sons, of whom he here speaks as “ given him of the Father," in language implying, that they might “abide in him, and bring forth much fruit,” or failing to abide in him, might be taken away, cast forth, cast into the fire and burned." As those who, though chosen and ordained, might or might not keep the commands, and abide in the love of him, who had thus chosen and ordained them. But according to the doctrine in question, there could be no such contingency in the

All who are thus given, chosen, ordained, and those only, are to bring forth fruit, to keep his commands, to abide in his love, to have eternal life.

In this same discourse, again, (ch. xvi. 27) we meet with the following sentence. 66 For the Father himself loveth you because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." Here the love of God is represented, not as the cause, but the consequence, of the faith and love of the disciples, and the plain and obvious meaning of the texts in question, in their connexion with this is, that they were given to Christ, not by an arbitrary selection of them from the mass of Jews, without any thing in their character and disposition leading to the choice; but, because they were seen to be fit subjects for the kingdom of God, ready to receive the faith of the Gospel when offered to them, having already something of the Christian disposition and character, already manifesting an obedient temper, as expressed (ch. xvii. 6), they were already children of God, and were given to Christ, and came to him, because they were God's in a sense, in which the rest

of the world were not ; and were then chosen, and ordained to partake in the final benefits of the Gospel, because of their faith and fidelity. This interpretation renders the whole discourse and the following prayer consistent throughout in the several parts, and consistent with the moral character of God, and the moral state of man, as a free and accountable being. With the other interpretation, I do not perceive how the texts that have been mentioned can be fairly reconciled. If by those given to Christ, we are to understand, as Dr. Woods asserts, (p. 54)” a certain part of the human race, who are to have eternal life, and those, denoting all, to whom Christ will actually give eternal life," and as his argument requires, and as he elsewhere states with sufficient distinctness, this choice and appointment to Christian faith, obedience, and eternal life, is wholly independent of any thing in them as the ground of this distinction from the rest of the world ; it is impossible to see with what propriety it could be said, that “God loved them, because of their faith and love to Christ,” for his distinguishing love was, by that supposition, the cause of their faith, &c.; or how any intimations could be given, that something was yet depending upon themselves ; that it yet depended on themselves, whether they should abide in Christ, keep his commandments, continue in his love, and share in the great salvation ; for the appointment to all this was absolute, and without any condition on their part, as the ground of it. Besides, I observe that other language of our Saviour in the discourses recorded by

this same Evangelist, is equally favourable to the supposition, “ that coming to Christ, believing on him, and having eternal life,” are events, not flowing from a sovereign unconditional appointment, but the result of a faithful use of means, in the exercise of a right disposition ; and that the difference of character thus appearing between them, and others who neglect to come, who refuse to believe and obey, and fail of eternal life, is the ground and not the consequence of their being chosen, given to Christ, and ordained to eternal life. Thus, (John iii. 19) the ground of men's condemnation is, not an irrespective decree of God, “ but their hating the light, loving the darkness, because their deeds are evil.” It is their being in character and disposition opposite to those, who escape the condemnation, because they do the truth, and willingly come to the light.

Thus it is, that the reason assigned, and as is clear: ly implied, the criminal reason why the unbelieving Jews rejected the Gospel (John v. 40) was, not that they were ordained to this condemnation without any thing in them, by which they were distinguished from those, who accepted the invitation; but because they wilfully rejected the Gospel, and refused the eternal life it offered. “ Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” Again, the same great moral ground of distinction appears in the declaration, (John vii. 17) “ If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” Those, who are given to Christ, chosen, ordained, who are to know of

[ocr errors]

his doctrine, to believe in him, and thus to obtain eternal life, are those, who are well disposed to it, who have an obedient temper, who are willing to do his will.

The observations which have been applied to this text are equally applicable to the other text under consideration. (John vi. 27) “ All that the Father giveth me shall come to me;" that is, those only are given to him of the Father, those only are to receive the final blessings of the Gospel, who come to Christ. It was so when the Gospel was first promulgated. The humble, the pious, the teachable received the Gospel ; all those who were of God. The proud, the irreligious rejected it; those who were not of God, but of the world. It has been so in every subsequent age.

And none of those who thus come, bringing with them the spirit of the Gospel, abiding in it, and bringing forth the fruits of righteousness, none of these will he cast off. Of all those, thus given to him, thus coming to him, thus abiding in him, thus bringing forth fruit, it is the Father's will that he should lose nothing.

From this expression in the text, however, as well as the other, an unwarrantable inference is probably drawn ; that of the absolute certainty of the final salvation of all those persons, concerning whom it is spoken. But this form of words was evidently intended to express, not the particular decree, but the general purpose of heaven; not the specific effect, which is without fail to be produced, but the object and design of the divine dispensation ; to be understood with similar limitations with those, which we apply to the expres

sion, (1 Tim. ii. 4) “who will have all men to be saved." Not that every human being will be actually saved, in the sense in which saved is here used, but that the salvation of all was the object and design; that the offer of it was made to all, an offer which yet might be rejected. Again, (Col. i. 23) “the gospel, which was preached to every creature which is under heaven." Here the literal meaning of the sentence is not the true meaning. The Gospel had not been preached to every living creature. But the direction of the Saviour to his disciples was to preach it to every creature, that is, to all men. It was intended in general for all. None were excepted in the commission ; none were passed by in the execution. As far as the design of the commission had been accomplished, it had been done agreeably to the direction of the Saviour. To these instances many others might be added to show, that expressions of universal import are often, as in the text in question, to be interpreted only in a general sense ; and that they are frequently used to express, not an absolute decree, but a purpose or design depending on contingences, and which may in fact be either universal or only general. And that the example we are considering is clearly of this kind, and that it does not warrant the use, that has been made of it, we have the farther positive proof in this circumstance; that notwithstanding this unqualified expression, one of the persons given to Christ had been lost. 66 Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition.” The son of perdition, it is

« PrécédentContinuer »