William Bradford Institute
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Early Settlement of America

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Wrath and Mercy: Sermon 3


by Christopher Love

"For God hath not appointed us unto wrath, but to obtain salvation
by our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 5:9


In order to further prosecute this great doctrine of predestination,
I shall lay down eight doctrinal conclusions concerning it:
1. A man who is ordained and appointed by God from all eternity to
obtain salvation may know that he is so appointed and ordained; not
only the Lord knows who are His, but also man may certainly know
that he is appointed by God to obtain salvation. But the papists are
of another judgment, and look upon this truth (that a man may be
certainly sure of his salvation) as very pernicious and presumptuous
doctrine. They hold that he can only have a conjectural faith, and
not a faith of assurance. But that is a manifest untruth. For why
should our Savior bid His disciples "rejoice not so much because the
spirits were subject to them, as because their names were written
in heaven" (Luke 10:20)? How could they rejoice in this privilege if
they i were ignorant of it, or could not know that their names were
written in the Book of Life? So the apostle says, "having
predestinated us unto the adoption of children" (they were assured
of their adoption) (Ephesians 1:5). So "to him that overcometh I
will give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white
stone, and the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving
he that receiveth it" (Revelation 2:17). The new name here is
"regeneration," and the white stone is absolution. They shall have
a white stone given them; that is, the Lord shall give them a seal,
a pledge in their own hearts, that their sins are forgiven, and that
they are brought into a state of grace and salvation, and he who has
this white stone shall know that he has it.

But I shall prove and clear this further to you by demonstrating
that a man may be assured of his election, and that for these
reasons: (1) Because God commands and enjoins men to labor to make
their calling and election sure. "Wherefore the rather, brethren,"
says the apostle, "give all diligence to make your calling and
election sure" (2 Peter 1:10), not sure on God's part, but sure in
reference to your knowledge of it; and if it were not a thing
attainable, the apostle would never enjoin us to do it. Therefore,
it is not a thing impossible, but which may be obtained, and has
been obtained by many of God's precious servants.

(2) Other men may have conjectural knowledge of our salvation, as in
"knowing brethren beloved, your election of God" (1 Thessalonians
1:4). Paul gave a strong conjecture that the Thessalonians were
elect of God. Why, now, if another man may guess so rightly of us,
then much more may we be assured of it ourselves. So again, Paul
speaking of some of his fellow laborers, says "whose names are in
the book of life" (Philippians 4:3). If others may know that our
names are in the book of life, then much more ourselves. We may be
sure of our vocation, and, if so, then may we also be sure of our
election. For effectual vocation is an infallible mark of our
election (Romans 8:30). And that we may be sure of our vocation the
Scripture often mentions, and this is the first doctrinal
conclusion: those who are elected and appointed by God to obtain
salvation may know and be fully assured that they are so appointed.
2. No man can assuredly know that he is elected and appointed by God
to obtain salvation by climbing and searching into the decrees and
secrets of God. For "who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who
hath been His counselor?" (Romans 11:34). But we are to search and
find it out by the efficacy of the decrees of God upon our hearts.
If we find those fruits and effects of election upon our hearts that
accompany those who are elected, then we may conclude that we are
elected. The Apostle Peter says, "give all diligence to make your
calling and election sure." Election was before calling, but here
calling is put before election to note that, though election is
before vocation, yet a man cannot prove his election by his
vocation; and therefore if you have or feel in your own heart your
effectual vocation, from thence you may undoubtedly conclude your
election, "for whom He did predestinate, them He hath also called"
(Romans 8:30). We may know our election as it is operative and
efficacious upon our hearts in carrying us on in all the ways of
new obedience. We must first prove our vocation, and then by that
our election. If you do not try your election, and prove it by your
sanctification, your feelings that you are elect are at best the
wild conjectures, fond persuasions, enthusiastic delusions, and
bold presumptions of a deceived heart.

3. Though a man may know, and ought to know, that he is elected and
appointed by God to obtain salvation, yet he ought not to know, nay,
he cannot know that he is appointed unto wrath. A man may make his
election sure, but he cannot make his reprobation and damnation
sure. We find some men in Scripture who have been sure of their
election, but none who have been sure of their damnation. A man who
runs on in wicked and sinful courses may say that he is not called,
but he cannot say he is not elect; no, not the wickedest man in the
world (unless he has sinned the sin against ( the Holy Ghost), for
though he may run on a long time in sinful and pernicious courses,
yet God may at last call him home to Himself.

4. God's decrees and appointments touching men's future estates and
conditions are irrevocable and unalterable. "The foundation of God
standeth sure" (2 Timothy 2:19), that is, the decrees and purpose of
God touching man's salvation are unchangeable; they stand sure. If
the law of the Medes and Persians was so absolute that it could not
be reversed, then much less can the decrees of God be reversed. No
man who is not elect can be elect, and no man who is elect can be
damned. "This is the Father's will which hath sent Me, that of all
those which He hath given Me I should lose none" (John 6:39). There
is not one of them lost who were given unto Christ by God's decree
(Romans 11:22). God has not cast away His people which He foreknew;
those whom God first purposed to bring to eternal life He cast away
none of them.

But the papists and others strongly oppose this doctrine, and look
upon the decrees of God as mutable and various; and at this day this
opinion breaks out among us. There are many who hold that the
decrees of God are changeable, and there are three places of
Scripture they allege to prove it. The first is that in John where
Christ says to His disciples, "Have not I chosen twelve, and one of
you is a devil?" From this they argue that all those who are chosen
of God shall not obtain salvation by Him.

There is a twofold choosing: There is an external and an internal
choosing, and between these you must distinguish. Where Christ says,
"Have not I chosen twelve?" He speaks there of an external choosing
to the office of the apostleship. Judas was not chosen in God's
eternal decree of election, for he was the son of perdition, and
hell was his own place, but only externally to be an apostle.

Another place of Scripture they allege against the
immutability of God's decrees is that in Exodus 32:32, where Moses
prays that if God would not forgive the sins of the people He should
"blot out his name out of his book. And the Lord said unto him,
'Whoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out My book' "
(Exodus 32:33). Now, they say, if the names of those who are written
in God's book of life may be blotted out, then the decrees of God
are changeable. So it is said, "that if any man shall take from the
words of the book of this prophecy God shall take away his part out
of the book of life" (Revelation 22:19).

I shall answer this objection very briefly. Divines observe that
there are several sorts of books attributed to God in Scripture:
There is a book of providence: "In Thy book were all my members
written" (Psalm 139:16), that is, the book of God's providence.
There is a book of God's judgment: "And I saw the dead, small and
great stand before God, and the books were opened, and the dead were
judged out of those things that were written in the books"

(Revelation 20:12). When Christ shall come to judgment, there shall
be a great book of accounts opened wherein all things that are done
here upon the earth are recorded. There is a book of life, wherein
when any man's name is once written it can never be blotted out
again. But the book of life mentioned in Scripture has a double
significance. Sometimes by the book of life is meant the eternal
decree and purpose of God touching those who shall be saved by Him;
and in this sense it is to be taken: in "whose names are in the book
of life" (Philippians 4:3). And so "rejoice because your names are
written in the book of life" (Luke 10:20). And ordinarily, in the
New Testament, the book of life is to be taken for the eternal
decree and purpose of God touching those who shall be saved.
There is also a book of life in Scripture which is to be taken not
for the eternal decree of God, but for the providences of God, and
the special care and preservation of God over His church, the
preserving of His people under the wings of His providence. This is
called the book of life as in, "whosoever hath sinned against Me,
Him will I blot out of My book" (Exodus 32:33); that is, "That man
who shall go on in sin perniciously, obstinately, and
presumptuously, I will blot his name out of My book"; that is, "I
will cast him out of My protection and providence. He shall be an
excommunicated man." And in this sense it is taken by Moses when he
desired God to blot his name out of His book.

So says God in Ezekiel, "My hand shall be upon the prophets that see
vanity, and that divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of
My people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house
of Israel" (Ezekiel 13:9), which is as if He had said, "They shall
not be written in the book of life." In this sense, this is to be
excommunicated out of the church.

I shall confirm this doctrine to you further by demonstrating that
the decrees of God are unchangeable and irrevocable. For were it
otherwise. God must be a mutable God, which is directly contrary to
what the Scripture affirms of Him, namely that with Him "there is no
variableness, nor shadow of turning" (James 1:17).

Jesus Christ (may I say it with reverence) would be a liar and
falsify His word if this were not true. For He says, "I give unto My
sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any
man pluck them out of My hand" (John 10:28). Christ would not be as
good as His word if any of these who are given Him by His Father
should be lost, or any of those who are appointed to salvation
should come short of it.

If the decrees of God were mutable, then Paul's golden chain in
Romans 8:30 would be broken; "Whom He did predestinate them also
called, and whom He called, them He also justified, and whom He
justified, them He also glorified."

5. The decrees of God in reference to salvation runs but to the
smallest number of mankind in the world. God's decrees touching the
ordaining of men to life runs but to a very small remnant. The world
of unbelievers is like a flock of goats, very numerous, whereas the
elect of God are but like sheep scattered here and there upon the
mountains. The wicked are like weeds that grow everywhere, but the
godly are trees of righteousness of Christ's own planting, planted
but very sparingly in the world. Christ's flock is but a very little
flock in comparison of the world. There is but a remnant according
to the election of grace, a very small remnant that shall obtain
salvation; the rest are hardened.

6. Though the decrees of God in reference to men's
salvation extend but to a very few, yet this is no ground at all for
us to have hard thoughts of God, or to look upon Him as cruel and
unmerciful. The reasons of this were in part hinted at before: (1)
Because God is not bound to save any, and therefore it is no act of
cruelty or injustice in Him that He saves so few. (2) God has a
sovereignty over all His creatures. He may do with them what He
pleases, and none can say unto Him, "What doest Thou?" (3) The Lord
would have shown more mercy when He saved but one man in the world
than He would have done rigor of justice had He condemned all,
because all have sinned and thereby deserved damnation, and God is
not bound to save any of them. (4) God has dealt better with us
than He did with the angels that sinned. For you know all the angels
in heaven that sinned, in aspiring to be like the Most High, were
all thrown down and damned, not one of them being saved, but all
reserved in chains of darkness to the judgment of the great day.
But yet, notwithstanding, though all mankind had sinned, and so
fell short of the glory of God, yet they were not all condemned,
and that because Jesus Christ took upon Himself not the nature of
angels, but of man; and therefore, though all the angels that sinned
perished, yet though we have all sinned, we do not all perish, but
there is a remnant rescued from death and damnation and appointed to
obtain salvation.

7. The world fares the better for those very persons who are within
the decrees of God to obtain salvation. For, were it not so, God's
decree of election that such a number of men should be saved, the
world should not have continued to this day, and it shall continue
no longer than till the number of the elect are fulfilled. And then
the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth and all
that is therein shall be burned up. God gives deliverance, safety,
and preservation to the world for the elect's sake. We are beholding
to the decrees of God, in reference to the elect, that the world
continues to this very day. The men of the world fare better, in
regard of the comforts of this life, for the sake of God's elect.
The days of affliction that came upon Jerusalem and all Judea was
shortened for the elect's sake (Mark 13:20). For their sakes it was
that Israel was not made as Sodom, and like unto Gomorrah, that a
remnant was left (Isaiah 1:9). So it was, "Thus saith the Lord, 'As
the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, "Destroy it not
for a blessing is in it," so will I do for My servants' sakes, that
I may not destroy them all' " (Isaiah 65:8). And Job witnesses that
an island is delivered by the pureness of the hands (Job 22:30).
8. Last, observe this conclusion: though you are bound to pray for
the remission of your sins and the sanctification of your nature,
yet you are not bound by God to pray for your election. Why? Because
this work is perfectly done already. As we are not to pray for the
creation of the world (because that work is perfected), so neither
are we to pray for our election, because that work is fully done
already. Works perfectly done we are not to pray for. But we must
pray for those effects and fruits of predestination and election,
such as vocation, sanctification, remission, regeneration, and the
like, but not for election.

Application

We come now to the application, and the use that I shall make of
what has been said shall be first by way of information and trial,
that you may know whether you are in the number of those that are
appointed by God to salvation or not, and then by way of consolation
and comfort in the next sermon.

If you are within the decrees of God for salvation, then
sooner or later God will cause the power of His Word to come with
authority and conviction upon your conscience, as in "knowing
brethren beloved, (says the apostle) your election of God, for our
gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power and in the
Holy Ghost" (1 Thessalonians 1:45). The Word will come with power
and conviction upon your consciences sooner or later if you belong
to the election of grace.

You shall sooner or later be effectually called, for whom God has
predestinated, them He will also call (Romans 8:30).

If the Lord has ordained you unto salvation, He will beget and
increase sanctification in you. Likewise, you are "elect according
to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of
the Spirit unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus" (1
Peter 1:2). All the elect of God shall have the sanctification of
the Spirit unto obedience, and the sprinkling of the blood of Christ
upon their hearts, sooner or later.

 

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