O DEVOUT soul, as often as thou wouldst meditate upon thy predestination, look up to Christ hanging upon the cross, dying there for the sins of the whole world, and rising again for our justification (Rom. iv. 25). Let thy meditation begin with the infant Redeemer as He lay in the manger, and so let it proceed in regular order to the end.
God hath chosen us before the foundation of the world (Eph. i. 4), but that choice was made in Christ; if therefore thou art in Christ by faith, doubt not that this election of grace pertains to thee also; if thou art clinging to Christ with firm and assured confidence of heart, let no doubts distress thee as to thy being included in the number of the elect. But if passing beyond the limits of the word of God, thou desirest to pry into the profound mystery of predestination a priori, or by the light of reason alone, it is to be greatly feared that thou wilt fall into the depths of despair. Out of Christ God is a consuming fire (Deut. iv. 24; Heb. xii. 29); take heed, therefore, lest thou presumptuously approach too near this fire and be consumed. Without the satisfaction rendered by Christ as our Saviour, God accuses us all by the words of the law, aye, condemns us all; take good heed then that thou seekest not to solve the mystery of thy predestination from the law. Seek not to fathom all the reasons of the divine counsels, nor to penetrate all the secret counsels of the Most High, lest thy thoughts lead thee far away from God. “God dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto” (1 Tim. vi. 16); presume not then to approach Him rashly and without due humility.
And yet God hath revealed Himself most graciously to us in the light of the gospel; in this light thou mayst safely inquire concerning the mystery of thy election, and in this light thou wilt see the true light (Ps. xxxvi. 9).
Leave then the consideration of the profound mysteries of that eternal decree, made from all eternity, and turn thy thought to the clear manifestations of God’s will and purpose concerning thee, made in time through Christ; our justification in Christ, made in time, is a mirror, or clear exhibition to us, of God’s purpose of election made without time. See from the law how justly God’s wrath is expressed against thy sins, and repent thereof; see from the gospel how graciously God’s mercy is extended to thee because of Christ’s merit, and by faith make it thine own; comprehend the true nature of faith and exhibit it in thy godly conversation; recognize in thy cross the fatherly chastisements of God, and bear it with patience; and then, at length, thou mayst begin to discuss the doctrine of predestination. The apostle pursues this method; let the true disciple of the apostle follow it also.
In respect of this mystery three things are always to be observed: the mercy of God who loves us, the merit of Christ who suffers for us, and the grace of the Holy Spirit who calls us through the gospel. The mercy of God is all-embracing, because He loved the whole world; “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Ps. xxxiii. 5), aye, it is greater than heaven and earth, it is infinite as God is, because God is love (1 John iv. 16). He solemnly declares in His own word that He has no pleasure in the death of any one (Ez. xxxiii. 11); as if this were not enough, He confirmed it with an oath; if thou canst not believe when God promises, at least believe Him when He makes a solemn oath concerning thy salvation. God is called “the Father of mercies” (2 Cor. i. 3) because it is of His very nature to be merciful and to pardon -– His property of showing mercy He derives from Himself -– it is His own nature; but His property of judging and taking vengeance He seems to derive from another –- it seems to be foreign to His nature, so much more disposed does He seem to be to show mercy than vengeance.
The merit of Christ is also universal, because He suffered for the sins of the whole world (1 John ii. 2). What can demonstrate more clearly the mercy of God towards us than that He loved us before we had any being, because it was solely of His love that we were created? He loved us even when we were His enemies, since it was simply because of His love that He gave His Son to redeem us. To the sinner condemned to eternal torment, and utterly unable to redeem himself, God says, “Here is my only-begotten Son; take Him and offer Him for thy ransom.” The Son Himself says, “Here am I; take me, crucify me, and redeem thyself.” Christ is the flower of the open plain, not of the enclosed garden, because the odor of His grace is not limited to a few but freely belongs to all; and that thou mightest have no doubt that His merit is for all, Christ mercifully prayed, in the hour of His death, for the very men who were crucifying Him (Luke xxiii. 34), and shed His own blood for those who were then really shedding His blood. The promises of the gospel are also universal, for Christ says to all, “Come unto me all ye that labor” (Matt. xi. 28). What was performed and provided for all is freely offered to all; and of all those things which thy Saviour hath accomplished for thee by His redemption, and now offers thee, thou mayest enjoy just as much as thy faith will accept. God denies the blessing of His grace to none but those who deem themselves unworthy of it, and thus refuse it.
Consider then, O faithful soul, these three supports of the fact of thine election, and upon them rest with a firm and hearty confidence; consider the tender mercy of thy God exhibited to thee in the past, and doubt not concerning its continuance to the end.
When as yet thou hadst no being, God created thee; when through Adam’s fall thou wast condemned to eternal death, He redeemed thee; when out of the Church thou didst live in the world, He called thee; when thou wast ignorant, He instructed thee; when thou didst wander away, He led thee back again; when thou didst sin, He corrected thee; when thou stoodest, He held thee fast; when thou didst fall down, He raised thee up again; when thou didst go forward, He led thee; when thou camest to Him, He received thee; in all this He showed His long-suffering in waiting for thee and His readiness to pardon thee. The mercy of God goeth before thee; hope firmly that it will also follow thee (Ps. xxiii. 6); the mercy of God anticipates thee to heal thee of the malady of sin, it will follow thee also to glorify thee, it anticipates thee that thou mayst be enabled to live a godly life, it will follow thee that thou mayest live with Him forever. Why art thou not crushed when thou fallest? Who puts His hand under thee to stay thee? Who, but the Lord? Trust then in the mercy of thy God in the future, and firmly hope for the end of thy faith, even the salvation of thy soul (1 Pet. i. 9). In whose hands canst thou more securely and confidently rest the matter of thy salvation, than in those which formed the heavens and the earth (Is. lxvi. 2), in those which are never shortened that they cannot save (Is. lix. 1), in those from which flow forth streams of compassion, nor are ever wanting in courses through which to flow?
Consider then, O devout soul, that we are chosen of God, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love (Eph. i. 4); the blessings of election belong not to those, therefore, who desire not, and strive not for, a holy life. We are chosen in Christ (Eph. i. 4). We are in Christ by faith, and faith worketh by love (Gal. v. 6); where therefore love is absent faith cannot be present; and where faith is absent Christ cannot be; where Christ is absent there is no election. “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his; and let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim. ii. 19). No one shall ever pluck Christ’s sheep out of His hands (John x. 28), but then Christ’s sheep hear His voice (John x. 27). We are the house of God (Heb. iii. 6), but let us “hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” O Lord, do Thou, who hast given me to will, give me power also to perform. (Phil. ii. 13).