32512 A path for us.....
The Bible brings it forward; and it is not for us, the interpreters of the Bible, to keep it back from you. God could, if it pleased Him, read out at this moment, the names of those in this congregation, who are ordained to eternal life, and are written in his book. In reference to their deliverance from shipwreck, He enabled Paul to say of the whole ship's company, that they were to be saved. In reference to your deliverance from wrath and from punishment, He could reveal to us the names of the elect among you, and enable us to say of them that they are certainly to be saved. But again, the same God who ordains the end, ordains also the means which go before it. In virtue of the end being ordained and made known to him, Paul could say that all the men's lives were to be saved.
And in virtue of the means being ordained and made known to him, he could also say, that unless the sailors abode in the ship, they should not be saved. In the same manner, if the ordained end were made known to us, we could, perhaps, say of some individual among you, that you are certainly to be saved. And if the ordained means were made known to us, we could say, that unless you are rendered meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, you shall not be saved. Now the ordination of the end God has not been pleased to reveal to us. He has not told us who among you are to be saved, as He told Paul of the deliverance of his ship's company. This is one of the secret things which belong to Him, and we dare not meddle with it. But He has told us about the ordained means; and we know, through the medium of the Bible, that unless you do such and such things, you shall not be saved.
This is one of the revealed things which belongs to us; and with as great truth and practical urgency as Paul made use of, when he said to the centurion and soldiers, that unless these men abide in the ship, ye shall not be saved, do we say to one and to all of you, unless ye repent ye shall not be saved - unless ye do works meet for repentance, ye shall not be saved - unless ye believe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, ye shall not be saved - unless ye are born again, ye shall not be saved - unless the deeds done in your body be good deeds, and ye bring forth those fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God, ye shall not be saved. Mark the difference between the situation of Paul urging upon the people of the ship the immediate adoption of the only way by which their lives could be saved, and the situation of an ordinary minister urging it upon the people of his church, to take to that way of faith and repentance, by which alone they can save their souls from the wrath that is now abiding on them. Paul did know that the people were certainly to escape with their lives, and that did not prevent him from pressing upon them the measures which they ought to adopt for their preservation.
Even then, though a minister did know those of his people whose names are written in the book of life, that ought not to hinder him from pressing it upon them to lay hold of eternal life - to lay up their treasure in heaven - to follow after that holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord - to be strong in the faith, and such a faith too as availed, even faith which worked by love; and of which we may say, even to those whom we assuredly know to be the chosen heirs of immortality, that unless this faith abided in them, they shall not be saved. But it so happens, that we do not know who are, and who are not, the children of election. This is a secret thing belonging to God, and which is not imparted to us.
Even though it were imparted to us, still it would be our part to say to those of whose final salvation we were assured, believe the Gospel, or you shall not be saved - repent, or you shall not be saved - purify yourselves even as God is pure, or you shall not be saved. But we are not in possession of the secret - and how much more then does it lie upon us to ply with earnestness the fears and the consciences of our hearers, by those revealed things which God hath been pleased to make known to us? What! if Paul, though assured by an angel from heaven of the final deliverance of his ship's company, still persists in telling them, that if they leave certain things undone, their deliverance will be impossible - shall we, utterly in the dark about the final state of a single hearer we are addressing, let down for a single instant the practical urgency of the New Testament? The predestination of God respecting the final escape of Paul and his fellow-travellers from shipwreck, though made known to the Apostle, did not betray him into the indolence which is ascribed, and falsely ascribed, to the belief of this doctrine; nor did it restrain Him from spiriting on the people to the most strenuous and fatiguing exertions.
And shall we, who only know in general that God does predestines, but cannot carry it home with assurance to a single individual, convert this doctrine into a plea for indolence and security? Even should we see the mark of God upon their foreheads, it would be our duty to urge on them the necessity of doings those things, which, if left undone, will exclude from the kingdom of God. But, we make no such pretensions. We see no mark upon any of your foreheads. We possess no more than the Bible, and access through the Mediator to Him, who, by His Spirit, can open our understandings to understand it. The revealed things which we find there belong to us, and we press them upon you - “Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish."
"If you believe not in the Son of God, the wrath of God abided in you, be not deceived, neither covetous, nor thieves, nor extortionist, nor drunkards, shall inherit the kingdom of God." "He, who forsakes not all, shall not be a disciple of Christ." "The fearful, and the unbelieving, and the abominable, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burned with fire and brimstone." These are plain declarations, and apart from the doctrine of predestination altogether, they ought, and if they are believed and listened to, they will have a practical influence upon you. We call upon you not to resist this influence but to cherish it. If any of you are the children of election, it is by the right influence of revealed things upon your understandings and your consciences that this secret thing will be brought to pass. Paul said as much to the centurion and the soldiers, as that if you do the things I call upon you to do, you will certainly be saved. They did what he bade them; and the decree of God respecting their deliverance from shipwreck, a decree which Paul had the previous knowledge of, was accomplished. We also feel ourselves warranted to say to one and to all of you, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall be saved."
Repent and be converted, and your sins shall be forgiven you. Return unto God, and He will be reconciled. If you do as we bid you, God's decree respecting your deliverance from hell, a decree which we have not the previous knowledge of, will be made knows by its accomplishment. Again, we call upon you, our hearers, to compare your situation with that of the centurion and the soldiers. They were told by a prophet that they were to be saved; and when that prophet told them what they were to do for the purpose of saving themselves, they obeyed him. They did not say, "O it is all pre destination, and we may give up our anxieties, and do nothing." They were just as strenuous and as active, as if there had been no predestination in the matter. Paul's previous assurance, that all was to end well, had no effect in lulling them to indolence.
It did end well, not however without their exertions, but by their exertions. How much more does it lie upon you to enter with earnestness upon the business of doing! We can give you no assurance of its being the decree of God, that any of you shall be saved. But we can give you the assurance, that you will be saved, if you do such and such things. Surely, if the people whom Paul addressed, did not feel themselves exempted by their knowledge of God's decree, from practically entering upon those measures which carried forward its accomplishment, you, who have no such knowledge, must feel doubly impelled by the uncertainty which hangs over you, to the work of making your calling and your election sure. You know in general, that predestination is a doctrine of the Bible; but there is not one of you who can say of himself, that God has made known his decrees to me, and given me directly to understand, that I am the object of a blessed predestination.