The opinion of those who take the highest ground on this point, as it is generally contained in their writings, is to this effect:
|I. God by an eternal and immutable decree has predestinated, from among men, (whom he did not consider as being then created, much less as being fallen,) certain individuals to everlasting life, and others to eternal destruction, without any regard whatever to righteousness or sin, to obedience or disobedience, but purely of his own good pleasure, to demonstrate the glory of his justice and mercy; or, (as others assert,) to demonstrate his saving grace, wisdom and free uncontrollable power.
|II. In addition to this decree, God has pre-ordained certain determinate means which pertain to its execution, and this by an eternal and immutable decree. These means necessarily follow by virtue of the preceding decree, and necessarily bring him who has been predestinated, to the end which has been fore-ordained for him. Some of these means belong in common both to the decree of election and that of rejection, and others of them are specially restricted to the one decree or to the other.
|III. The means common to both the decrees, are three: the first is, the creation of man in the upright [or erect] state of original righteousness, or after the image and likeness of God in righteousness and true holiness. The second is, the permission of the fall of Adam, or the ordination of God that man should sin, and become corrupt or vitiated. The third is, the loss or the removal of original righteousness and of the image of God, and a being concluded under sin and condemnation.
|IV. For unless God had created some men, he would not have had any upon whom he might either bestow eternal life, or superinduce everlasting death. Unless he had created them in righteousness and true holiness, he would himself have been the author of sin, and would by this means have possessed no right either to punish them to the praise of his justice, or to save them to the praise of his mercy. Unless they had themselves sinned, and by the demerit of sin had rendered themselves guilty of death, there would have been no room for the demonstration either of justice or of mercy.
|V. The means pre-ordained for the execution of the decree of election, are also these three. The first is, the pre-ordination, or the giving of Jesus Christ as a Mediator and a saviour, who might by his meet deserve, [or purchase,] for all the elect and for them only, the lost righteousness and life, and might communicate them by his own power [Or virtue]. The second is, the call [or vocation] to faith outwardly by the word, but inwardly by his Spirit, in the mind, affections and will; by an operation of such efficacy that the elect person of necessity yields assent and obedience to the vocation, in so much that it is not possible for him to do otherwise than believe and be obedient to this vocation. From hence arise justification and sanctification through the blood of Christ and his Spirit, and from them the existence of all good works. And all that, manifestly by means of the same force and necessity. The third is, that which keeps and preserves the elect in faith, holiness, and a zeal for good works; or, it is the gift of perseverance; the virtue of which is such, that believing and elect persons not only do not sin with a full and entire will, or do not fall away totally from faith and grace, but it likewise is neither possible for them to sin with a full and perfect will, nor to fall away totally or finally from faith and grace.
|VI. The two last of these means [vocation and perseverance,] belong only to the elect who are of adult age. But God employs a shorter way to salvation, by which he conducts those children of believers and saints who depart out of this life before they arrive at years of maturity; that is, provided they belong to the number of the elect, (who are known to God alone,) for God bestows on them Christ as their saviour, and gives them to Christ, to save them by his blood and Holy Spirit, without actual faith and perseverance in it [faith]; and this he does according to the promise of the covenant of grace, I will be a God unto you, and unto your seed after you.
|VII. The means pertaining to the execution of the decree of reprobation to eternal death, are partly such as peculiarly belong to all those who are rejected and reprobate, whether they ever arrive at years of maturity or die before that period; and they are partly such as are proper only to some of them. The mean that is common to all the reprobate, is desertion in sin, by denying to them that saving grace which is sufficient and necessary to the salvation of any one. This negation [or denial,] consists of two parts. For, in the first place, God did not will that Christ should die for them [the reprobate,] or become their saviour, and this neither in reference to the antecedent will of God, (as some persons call it,) nor in reference to his sufficient will, or the value of the price of reconciliation; because this price was not offered for reprobates, either with respect to the decree of God, or its virtue and efficacy. (1.) But the other part of this negation [or denial] is, that God is unwilling to communicate the Spirit of Christ to reprobates, yet without such communication they can neither be made partakers of Christ nor of his benefits.
|VIII. The mean which belongs properly only to some of the reprobates, is obduration, [or the act of hardening,] which befalls those of them who have attained to years of maturity, either because they have very frequently and enormously sinned against the law of God, or because they have rejected the grace of the gospel. (1.) To the execution of the first species of induration, or hardening, belong the illumination of their conscience by means of knowledge, and its conviction of the righteousness of the law. For it is impossible that this law should not necessarily detain them in unrighteousness, to render them inexcusable. (2.) For the execution of the second species of induration, God employs a call by the preaching of his gospel, which call is inefficacious and insufficient both in respect to the decree of God, and to its issue or event. This calling is either only an external one, which it is neither in their desire nor in their power to obey. Or it is likewise an internal one, by which some of them may be excited in their understandings to accept and believe the things which they hear; but yet it is only with such a faith as that with which the devils are endowed when they believe and tremble. Others of them are excited and conducted still further, so as to desire in a certain measure to taste the heavenly gift. But the latter are, of all others, the most unhappy, because they are raised up on high, that they may be brought down with a heavier fall. And this fate it is impossible for them to escape, for they must of necessity return to their vomit, and depart or fall away from the faith. |9.
|IX. From this decree of Divine election and reprobation, and from this administration of the means which pertain to the execution of both of them, it follows, that the elect are necessarily saved, it being impossible for them to perish -- and that the reprobate are necessarily damned, it being impossible for them to be saved; and all this from the absolute purpose [or determination] of God, which is altogether antecedent to all things, and to all those causes which are either in things themselves or can possibly result from them.|
These opinions concerning predestination are considered, by some of those who advocate them, to be the foundation of Christianity, salvation and of its certainty. On these sentiments they suppose, |is founded the sure and undoubted consolation of all believers, which is capable of rendering their consciences tranquil; and on them also depends the praise of the grace of God, so that if any contradiction be offered to this doctrine, God is necessarily deprived of the glory of his grace, and then the merit of salvation is attributed to the free will of man and to his own powers and strength, which ascription savours of Pelagianism.|
These then are the causes which are offered why the advocates of these sentiments labour with a common anxiety to retain the purity of such a doctrine in their churches and why they oppose themselves to all those innovations which are at variance with them.