Covington, GA., March 15, 1859.
This essential principle of doctrine is a part of our religious belief. In early life, we were opposed to it, as all men are, in their graceless state. In after life we were taught in our experience, to believe, and love it. As we entered upon the stage of action in our religious course, our character was formed to contend for the doctrine of grace. As we profess to be recognized among the number of those who are set for the defense of the gospel, we will endeavor to enter into a scriptural elucidation of this principle of God’s truth.
In the first place, however, we will state that many suppose that election is conditional, and consequently not eternal. They say, or affirm that sinners must take the first step, and accept of offered mercy, as they call it, and then they are elected. And their election continues so long as they continue to be faithful. And if they are faithful unto the end, they will then be saved. But if they cease to be faithful, they will fail of eternal salvation. This, in substance, is the view of a large majority of the religionists of the present time.
But when we consider that the Scriptures abundantly testify to the contrary, inasmuch as the fallen condition of the human family renders it utterly impossible for them, or any of them to make choice of that which they absolutely hate, we discover that election is based upon something more firm and abiding, than the mere volition of finite creatures. We are aware, however, that the view above expressed is more congenial with the selfish feelings of men, but when we examine the Scriptures upon the point, we have to submit to their testimony.
Every person of intelligence has a choice of something which he loves; and rejects, or passes by that which he does not love, or is not an object of choice with him. Election is choice. This choice is based upon, and inseparably connected with principle, love, or regard. If the citizens of this Republic elect a President, or the citizens of Georgia elect State officers, or the citizens of Newton county, elect County officers, they are governed by some principle in their choice. If a gentleman chooses a lady for his wife, he should be governed by the love and regard he has for her. She should reciprocate upon the same principle.
Upon the first view it might appear singular that men should be opposed to Election, or God’s choice, as it is the only channel through which sinners can be saved, but when we consider that it conflicts with men’s choice and ways, we are no longer surprised. The human family are in a state of sin, and death. They have a choice. But is it to love, and serve God? Certainly not. They love the service of sin and Satan. We could quote an abundance of Scripture as proof.
In Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, he boldly affirms eternal unconditional election, and refutes the objections of cavilers, and opposers. “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.” Rom. 9:11-13. The objector is now ready to charge God of injustice, partiality, and unrighteousness, as a certain man once said several years ago. “If this doctrine is true, and I am never saved, I can look up in hell and charge God of being an Almighty tyrant.” Let us hear Paul upon the subject in the 14th and 15th verses. “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion upon whom I will have compassion.” Paul wrote by inspiration, and testified God’s truth, therefore cavilers and opposers are at issue with revealed truth.
We will make some remarks in relation to Jacob, as the Apostle has spoken of him relative to God’s purpose according to election. His name signifies the supplanter. He supplanted Esau, and obtained the blessing of the first born. Israel blessed him as follows: Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee; be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee; cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee. Gen. 27:28,29. This had its literal fulfillment to a considerable extent when his natural posterity came in possession of the land of Canaan, for God loved Israel for Jacob’s sake; but we do understand there is a typical application to Christ and the church. A type is a sign; an emblem of something – a figure of something to come. God loved the church for Christ’s sake, and that before time began. We believe that Jacob was a graceless man, until God appeared to him in a vision of the night, as recorded in Gen. 28:10-22. Moses speaks of it in Deut. 32:9-14. What a beautiful and clear representation and expression of the calling, experience, and exaltation of God’s chosen people in Christ Jesus! How admirable and glorious! He was surnamed Israel, “For as a prince hast thou power with God, and with men, and hast prevailed.” Gen. 32:28. Here is another representation of Jesus Christ, and the typical embodiment of the church of Christ in Him as we understand it. Acts 5:31. When Balaam was requested to curse Israel, he could not do it, though it was in his heart to do it for the reward of divination. He says, “How shall I curse, when God hath not cursed? Or how shall I defy whom the Lord hath not defied?” Num.23:8. He says further, “Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel,” &c. Num. 23:23. No device, no scheme, no weapon that is formed, or raised up against the people of God’s choice, can prosper. The Lord hath spoken it, and it will stand. The glory, safety, and triumphant exaltation of the church in her head and husband, is expressed by Moses in Deut. 33:26-29. The spiritual dominion of Israel, or Christ’s kingdom is clearly expressed in the Scriptures. We have entered somewhat largely into a description of the people of God’s choice, but we have still further remarks to present in tracing this subject through in its connection.
National Israel were under a national covenant, and were entitled to the temporal blessings of the land of Canaan, according to the oath and promise of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The spiritual Israel of God, embracing believing Jews and Gentiles throughout the world, are entitled to all the blessings of the new and everlasting covenant, upon the principle of everlasting love and mercy. As Jacob’s natural seed after development was national Israel, so our Lord Jesus Christ, who was made of the seed of Jacob according to the flesh is God’s only begotten Son, the spiritual embodiment of that seed spoken of by the Psalmist: “A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.” Psa. 22:30. That generation are the foreknown, predestined, and chosen people of God. In Adam, by natural generation, they are the children of wrath, even as others, a seed of evil doers, but being born of incorruptible seed, they are manifest as the children of God. Hence Peter could say, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” I Pet. 1:2. Also, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him that called you out of darkness, into his marvelous light.” I Pet. 2:9. When Christ was chosen, and set up as the seminal Head, and spiritual embodiment of the elect of God, all of their individual persons, not yet created, and manifested by ordinary generation, were foreknown, and chosen of God. The Ephesian church being thus manifested with a holy calling, Paul says, “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.” Eph. 1:3,4. In accordance therewith, he says in another place, “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you brethren beloved of the Lord; because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” II Thes. 2:13. The predictions of the prophets relative to Christ, and the church, are in accordance with God’s choice of his people, which is corroborated by the testimony of Christ and his apostles. We could transcribe an abundance of other Scripture in the Old and New Testaments, but we have already quoted enough to establish our views of eternal unconditional election.
We maintain, therefore, that election is eternal because of the existence of Christ as the chosen Head and life of his people, from everlasting. And identically with the same period, so to speak, when Christ stood as God’s elect, were all the saints elected, or chosen. And grace was given them in Christ before Adam’s dust was fashioned to a man, or they had fallen under the curse of God’s righteous law. He loved them before time began in the person of Jesus Christ, and he loved them when dead in sin, and also when called by grace, and continues forever the same unchangeable love. Election, also, is unconditional, for it is not of any works, good or bad, that were foreseen of God in them. God did not love Jacob because he was, as a man, any better than Esau, for the children were not yet born, when it was said, “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated.” Therefore, “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” Rom. 9:16.
While the subject is now before us, and upon our mind, we will call the attention of our readers to the character of Esau, who, though the first-born, was supplanted by Jacob, and only obtained a temporal blessing. Gen. 27:39,40. As we have already stated, God loved Jacob and hated Esau, not on account of any good or evil that either of them had done, for they were not yet born, but that the purpose of God according to election, in the case of Jacob, might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth. Esau was not God’s choice, but that did not do Esau any injury; he was only permitted to have his own choice in selling his birthright, and by trying to accomplish his own plans, and thereby fulfill the purpose of God in the case of Jacob, and also accomplish what God designed in the case of Esau. “The elder shall serve the younger.” As Isaac had blessed Jacob, he could not countermand the blessing for Esau. Esau may represent, in this instance, those whom God does not love, who are not the objects of God’s choice. The law of God, represented in Isaac, could not change, nor curtail its demands. Sorrow, tears, nor lamentations are of any avail. No spiritual blessings belong to Esau, or those whom he may represent. Esau’s rejection may represent the rejection by the law of all the cries, prayers, and tears of sinners in their attempt to be accepted by their own righteousness before God. Upon this principle the tribe of Judah, or the Jews, were rejected, though they were preserved as a people until Shiloh come. Gen. 49:10. As a nation they despised their birthright, and rejected the promised Messiah, who was to them a stone of stumbling and rock of offence.
Esau is synonymous with Edom, which signifies red, earthly, bloody. Idumea has the same meaning. His kingdom and domain is one of war and blood. Yet Jacob’s dominion over him is expressed by Balaam. He says, “There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel,” &c. Literally in the type, the “Star of Jacob” has reference to David, king of Israel, and the “Sceptre that shall rise out of Israel,” has reference to the regal or kingly government of national Israel, in the days of David. And, “Edom shall be a possession, Seir, also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly.” Num. 24:18. For a literal fulfillment of this prophecy see II Sam. 8:14, Psa. 60:8-12. When we view the “Star out of Jacob” as Christ in his kingly office, and the Sceptre that shall rise out of Israel, to be the royal power and authority of Christ as King, we see something expressive of dominion over the enemies of the church. The building of the tabernacle of David, referred to, and spoken of in Acts 15:16,17, which Simeon quoted from one of the prophets, is expressive of dominion. “That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this.” Amos 9:12. The overthrow and destruction of Edom is foretold. See Obadiah’s prophecy. The following is very expressive. “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. Whereas Edom said, we are impoverished, but we will return, and build the desolate places. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them the border of wickedness, and the people against whom the Lord hath indignation forever.” Mal. 1:2-4.
The kingdom of Anti-Christ is strikingly typified by Edom or Idumea. Anti-Christ, signifies the adversary of Christ, the man of sin spoken of in II Thes. 2:3-11. Violence, war, and blood is their escutcheon. Hatred to the church of God and truth, has marked their footsteps in all ages. It is still manifest, and can be seen by any close and critical observer of the movements of the age, who has an interest in the welfare of Zion. But their overthrow is inevitable for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
But there is still another view we wish to express concerning Jacob and Esau. It is said, the elder shall serve the younger. The fallen and sinful nature, or disposition of the saints in the order of birth, or manifestation, is the eldest, or first-born. In their condemned state, they are enemies to God by wicked works. In the second birth, or when born again, Esau is supplanted by our spiritual Jacob, the younger in the order of manifestation. Where sin abounded, grace does much more abound. Grace reigns; the new, or inner man obtains the heavenly or spiritual blessing, represented by Jacob. Esau still lives, and his hatred to Jacob still continues. The earth is his home, and there he must abide. But Jacob has the dominion and makes Esau serve him. The heaven born principle of love to God, faith in Christ, and a good hope through grace, enables the saints to obey Christ, and brings the old man or Esau disposition to serve Jacob.
We have rather digressed from the subject at the head of this article, but we will return to it again, and offer some concluding remarks. Graceless men view this principle of doctrine as a selfish, narrow, contracted, and bigoted system. They consider the people who believe it in the same manner. Yet God manifests the riches of his grace towards sinners on this principle only. Many of the saints are sometimes difficultied in their minds upon it, or in relation to it, yet they have to acknowledge it to be the only way of salvation. Election is in Jesus Christ for the exhibition of God’s power, glory, and grace in the salvation of sinners. Some suppose if election is true, a portion of the human family can not be saved, because they are not elected. We will simply remark that the election of grace includes all, and every one that has a true desire to be saved in God’s way; to be saved, not in, but from their sins. It includes all that have, or ever will be saved manifestively with an everlasting salvation. All those that are saved ascribe the glory to God alone; and those that are left to perish, cannot justly complain, as they love darkness rather than the light, and are permitted to have their own choice. It is upon the principle of mercy that any are saved, and as an individual, we can say, if ever saved, it is by grace alone; if lost, God is just.
We will remark that, we use the words saved and salvation here in their common acceptation in the experience of the saints. Strictly speaking, the church and people of God are already saved in Christ, but in a manifest sense they yet experience this salvation. We view that the soul and body of the saints are embraced in the election of grace, and partake of this salvation.
Some think that election leads to licentiousness, but the Scriptures teach different. Peter says plainly to the contrary, and so does Paul. Finally, we will say Election is a Bible truth, and no Scripture can be found that militates against, or that contradicts ETERNAL UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION.
Joseph L. Purington.