I Have seasons of musing, at times only a few moments in duration, when wrapped up in contemplations of God, and his ways unsearchable, such sacred sweetness is my portion, that language can never tell it. I see myself a tiny speck, my God so great, so infinite! Glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders; almighty, eternal unchangeable, his understanding infinite. Then his judgments and mercy, his justice and grace, and his love in Christ Jesus our Lord, are fields of meditation so vast, so high, so glorious, exceeding all my thoughts, that I lose myself in adoring wonder, and worship at his footstool. Holy and reverend is his name, and he is to be had in reverence of all them that are about him. So in such moments how sacred is every revelation the Lord has made of himself! How desirable is that posture, to sit as a little child at the feet of our God, to receive the words of his mouth! Those who are born of the Spirit learn, and in due time will confess that the Holy Spirit is the only guide into the truth. The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. I have often trembled lest I should have wrong thoughts of God – lest I should be taken captive by divers and strange doctrines. The very thought that I should be moved away from the simplicity of Christ, and teach what is not the doctrine of God, has so pained me that I have cried, “O Lord, have mercy upon me.” Why do we experience such trouble of soul? It is because God is dear to our hearts, and we want no thought or doctrine to intrude that would dishonor his great and gracious name. The doctrine of election and predestination is embraced in the deep things of God, and though ever so much misunderstood and hated by men of corrupt minds, destitute of the truth, and though among the churches there arise vain janglings over the doctrine, and though some dear children of God are much tossed about by such contentions, nevertheless the doctrine of election and predestination testified of in the Scriptures, is very precious and comforting in the heart of those to whom it is revealed by the Spirit of truth. God’s glory therein is wondrously made known, and as from time to time the Holy Spirit gives us glimpses of God’s glory and grace therein, our admiration of the God of electing love will not a whit diminish. O no! but our God and the revelation of his truth will be more and more precious. In our contemplations upon the deep things of God, it is well for us to ever remember that “His understanding is infinite.” – Psalm cxlvii. 5. He made the world to be inhabited; he formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. But before the worlds were framed by the word of God, all creation from the loftiest aspect of it, to its tiniest atom, with all that should transpire therein, whether it were earthquakes or floods, the revolutions among the nations of the earth, or the falling of a sparrow to the ground, or the thoughts in the hearts of mankind, all was present in the counsel of his own will. For God is revealed unto us, “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” Our God therefore whose understanding is infinite, is revealed as speaking of things that are not as though they be. David speaks of God, saying, “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, .which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”—Psalm cxxxix. 15, 16. God speaks to Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Before the foundation of the world, God speaks of his creatures, the offspring of Adam. He beholds them as his creatures, and in his infinite wisdom, and for his own glory, he makes choice of a number of his creatures, so considered a people unto himself, “the election of grace,” “ his own elect.” He beholds the election, and the rest fallen in sin; he appoints to salvation his elect, and the non-elect to wrath. (1 Thess. v. 9.) “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” – Romans ix. 22-24. The lot, the portion, the eternal destiny of all mankind, was determined in the everlasting counsel of Jehovah’s will. The sovereign acts of God in election, as recorded in the Scriptures, do not all set forth the same event. There are various manifestations of election that it is instructive for us to observe, and not to confound the distinctions. Thus of the apostle Paul, who was one of the chosen in Christ Jesus, God declares, “He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel.” The people of God are “chosen in Christ,” and again they are spoken of as “chosen in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah xlviii. 10.) The one revelation of God’s election has relation to them in regard to eternity, and the other has reference to the estate of his chosen during the time of their sojourn in the world. Keeping these scriptural distinctions in view, of which the foregoing are examples, let us pursue our contemplation of this subject. In the minds of some there is only a partial, imperfect understanding of this glorious doctrine, the election of grace. Though I write this, I do not claim to have that full and infallible understanding, therefore if any child of God discovers anything in what I may pen upon the subject that is not according to the teaching of the word of God, utterly refuse it, and have mercy upon me, and shew me from the Scriptures wherein I err. The highest view wherein the crowning glories of God’s election are revealed, (and wherein there is a lack and confusion of understanding, even among those who profess to believe the doctrine,) is recorded in Eph. i. 3, 4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” Some who very sweetly and comfortingly dwell upon the theme that God hath from the beginning chosen his people to salvation, (2 Thess. ii. 13,) have not as yet entered into the depths of grace and glory revealed in the doctrine that God the Father hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Jehovah’s eternal election of his people was not apart from, but in Christ Jesus. It is upon what is embraced in this aspect of the election of grace, that I desire particularly to dwell. Our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the Father hath chosen us, is the Son of God—the Word, who in the beginning was with God, and is God. He is equal and one with the Father. (Phil. ii. 6.) He is a man also, the seed of Abraham according to the flesh. Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. (Matt. i. 23.) The man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts. (Zech. xiii. 7.) In arriving at the peculiar signification of being “chosen in him,” we are led to seek how, and in what relationship, are we chosen in Christ, and yet new fields of delightful meditation will open to our view in considering what is the purpose and end of God in the election of grace in Christ Jesus. The church is Christ’s body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. (Eph. i. 23.) “The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the church: and he is the Savior of the body.” – Eph. v. 23. In Christ as the Head and Husband, the church was chosen. All other relationships (revealed in the Scriptures) subsisting between Christ and the church, are related to and proceed from this highest revelation of the oneness of Christ and his people. “We are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones.” The election of grace are the members of Christ’s body, which is his fullness, and he is the chosen Head of the election of grace. Those rulers that derided the Son of God knew not what they said when they exclaimed, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.” – Luke xxiii. 35. The Lord speaks of Christ, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth.” – Isa. xlii. 1. The Lord hath chosen Zion. (Psalm cxxxii. 13.) He hath chosen Jerusalem. (Zech. iii. 2.) This represents the church, the election of grace. Christ is the foundation, chosen of God and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter ii. 4, 5.)
“Would you the church of God survey –
Its beauty, strength and harmony?
Then Christ Emmanuel see!
Where all perfections in him meet,
There is the church of God complete;
The sum of all is he.
Christ is the precious corner-stone
Which all his church is built upon,
Nor can it ever fall.
The prophets and apostles, too,
Other foundation never knew,
Than Jesus, Lord of all.”
From the whole connection of the doctrine recorded in Ephesians i., it is most preciously evident that as members in the head, the church was chosen in our Lord Jesus Christ
“Ere angels fell, or time had birth,
Or God to being spake the earth;
In Christ, the Head, the saints were chose,
One glorious body to compose.”
Christ is the Father’s elect, in whom his soul delighteth. “When he appointed the foundations of the earth; then was I by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable parts of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.” – Prov. viii. 29-31. The highest and greatest grace ever bestowed upon the creature, was the election of the man Jesus, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, in the womb of his mother, the Virgin Mary, unto union with the Word. For the Son of God verily took upon him the seed of Abraham. This is bestowing the highest dignity upon the creature man, and is the most exalted view of the election of grace. Our Lord Jesus Christ in all things hath the pre-eminence. He is the Word made flesh, and thus considered is the Head of the body, the church. “Mine elect in whom my soul delighteth.” Abraham was the father of the children of Israel, and is an eminent illustration of the election of grace; and in his election we can trace a type of the election of Christ as Head of the church, and the election of the church in him. “God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.” – Gen. xvii. 4; Romans iv. 17, 18. God chose Abram personally, and in his election he was constituted the head of his seed, the whole nation of Israel. “Thou art the Lord the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham.” – Neh. ix. 7. I called him alone and blessed him, “Because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt.” Again, the Word says, “Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,] to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.” – Deut. x. 15. Muse upon the meaning of that word “only,” which God assigns as the sole cause of the election of his people. “Thou Israel art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham, my friend.” – Isaiah xli. 8. To Abraham, and to his seed in him, pertained the promises and the covenant. The Lord said unto Abram, “All the land that thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.” (See also Gen. xvii. 1-8.) Thus in Abraham his seed was blessed, and chosen unto the possession of the land of Canaan, while as yet there was none of them. All this was secured unto the tribes of the Lord in Abraham as the head, and this without regard to their going down into Egypt, their servitude, afflictions, evil treatment and idolatry therein. This could not disannul the immutable covenant of their God, which was secured in their election in Abraham unto the promised inheritance. “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee, and so after he had patiently endured he obtained the promise.” – Heb. vi. 13. The going down of Israel into Egypt, their cruel bondage, the duration of their sufferings, their deliverance and coming forth in the time appointed, was all ordained of God for the declaration of his own glory, and it was all the predestinated pathway to the fulfillment of his promises and covenant. (Acts vii. 5, 7, 17, 36.) All was embraced in the eternal purpose of God as the channel through which his love and mercy, and the exceeding riches of his grace unto Israel, should be displayed.
Having considered the election of the head of the church, let us further consider the election of the members of the body in Christ Jesus. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” Mankind were created in Adam before he fell by transgression, and they were in him when he sinned. While he remained unfallen they were in him as creatures simply considered, and when Adam sinned they were sinners in him. Levi is said to have paid tithes in Abraham unto Melchisedec, for he was yet in the loins of his father when Melchisedec met him. (Hebrews vii. 9,10.) When God made choice of his people, was it upon the view of them as creatures, or as sinners, that they were chosen? In the order of the revelation of the doctrine of eternal election, it was upon the view of mankind as yet unfallen that God’s decree of election and non-election passed upon all the human race. Then relatively being viewed as having sinned, the elect in Christ were chosen to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ to salvation, and “the rest,” were appointed to wrath. Before proceeding any further suffer a digression, an explanation. God ere time began in one infinite, eternal thought, embraced all creation, and all that should transpire therein until the end of time. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” Therefore, though in the revelation of the doctrine of God’s decrees of eternal election, there seems to be a succession of acts, we need not entertain the thought as though there were any interval or time between the distinct manifestations in which God has been pleased to make known the doctrine. Thus in the election of Christ as the Head, it has the aspect to us that he was first chosen, then his members chosen and given to him (“Thine they were, thou gavest them me,”) and thus one with him as the body and fullness of Christ, blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, chosen in him unto eternal glory. Having in remembrance Jehovah’s infinite understanding, and the eternity of his purpose in Christ Jesus, I do not contemplate the election of Christ as the Head to be prior to the election of the members of his body, which is his fullness, the fullness of him that filleth all in all; but that the distinct manifestation (in which it hath pleased the Holy Ghost to reveal the doctrine in the inspired Scriptures) are all one eternal purpose and act of God. You will bear this explanation in mind, dear brethren, while reading what I may yet write concerning the election of grace. We have seen that in the election of Abraham, the covenant head of Israel, God blessed his seed, and gave them possession of Canaan while they were yet in the loins of their father. That it was not with respect to their bondage in Egypt (which was typical of the lost and fallen condition of his people) that they were chosen, and blessed, and had given them the promised land; but it was “that the Lord thy God may perform the word which the Lord sware onto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Consider yet another illustration of election. “I have loved you, saith the Lord: yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother! saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.” – Mai. i. 2, 3. “When Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac, (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is their unrighteousness with God? God forbid.” – Romans ix. 10-14. The children, twin brothers, conceived by the same act of generation, yet unborn, considered simply as creatures. God in the counsel of his will chose Jacob, and left Esau. This was purely an election of grace; for in God’s election it was not that God beheld them as having done works either good or evil. The election is the election of grace, and grace is not to be restricted to favor shewn to sinful creatures, for the highest, the most transcendent grace is shewn in the Word taking unto union with himself the seed of Abraham, that first-born son (conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb) of the Virgin Mary. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. God’s election of his people was not upon the view of works, either good or evil. It was not upon the view of works done while mankind were yet in innocency, neither was it upon the view of works done by mankind as sinners; but here it is absolute grace – the unconditional election of grace. Esau and Jacob are presented as an illustration of God’s election, as in their case they were viewed simply as creatures. So God in his act of election considered all the seed of Adam as neither having done any good or evil; he beheld them as his creatures. A more ample view of this is presented in contemplating the purpose and end of God in the election of his people in Christ Jesus. To what end were they chosen in him? First and highest. His own glory and praise, his own delight was the purpose and end of their election in his dear Son. “I have created him for my glory, I have formed: yea, I have made him.” – Isaiah xliii. 7. My chosen have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise. “Israel my glory.” (Isaiah xlvi. 13.) “Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them.” “I was daily his delight.” – Prov. viii. 30. “Hephzibah.” (Isa. lxii. 4.) Then related to this as the highest, the purpose and end was to take the creature man unto union with himself, unto immutable holiness, unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, unto eternal life and glory. Also the elect being viewed as having sinned, their election was unto obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ to salvation; that is to those blessings that have relation to the estate of the elect while sojourners and pilgrims on the earth. As to what concerns us, the utmost end of God in election was to exalt his chosen creatures to an higher glory than was attainable in the creation of man; that is, that they should be “one with Incarnate Deity.” This is the height of our exaltation and glory to which we are secured and predestinated according as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world. I have already dwelt upon the transcendent glory and grace of the personal union of the man Jesus with the Son of God. In this he hath the pre-eminence above his fellows, and stands distinct in infinite exaltation. Though the union of Christ in God transcends our union to God (for no other creature save that “holy thing” that was conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, hath such union with the Godhead,) yet that union is the pattern of the union of the election of grace to our Lord Jesus Christ; the Word made flesh. “Ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” – 1 Cor. iii. 23. “Your life is hid with Christ in God.” – Col. iii. 3. “The Head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the Head of Christ is God.” – 1 Cor. xi. 3. This is the order of the revelation. Will my language convey to you my meaning if I say that Jesus is in immediate union with God, and that the elect are mediately in union with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ? The God-man, the Word made flesh, is the medium of our union with God. Thus so often in the Scriptures we find the words by, in and through Christ Jesus. It is in this union with Christ that we have communion with God. “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.” In all this he speaks of the elect. “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.” – John xvii. 6-10. As the union of the person of the Son of God with the seed of Abraham is indissolvable, so the union of Christ and the church cannot be dissolved. “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
“Since Christ is my Head, this with joy I remember,
His body to which with affection I glow,
Although I’m the most insignificant member,
Can’t be full without me, ah never, O no!”
(Continued next number.)
Fred W. Keene
Signs Of The Times
Volume 66., No. 9
May 1, 1898.