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Eph. i. 11.
others, we can give no other reason than that so it pleaseth Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.' The whole process of converting grace, both in its providential and spiritual operation, is a manifestation of the election of grace. Shrink as some may from this doctrine, they must at least recognize providential selection in the simple fact that to some the gospel is offered, while others never hear it. What is this but election of grace? That election, however, is not, as Calvinism teaches, the election of a few to eternal life to the exclusion of the rest, but, as I hope hereafter to show, the election of some, in the present era of Christ's kingdom, to the dignity and duty of the first-born, to become in another era, as princes and priests to God, coadjutors of the Saviour King in the recovery of a fallen world, and in the subjection of all souls to his rule. The objection to the doctrine of election, as stated by Calvinists, lies in the assumption that the operation of saving grace is restricted to the present life of man, and that consequently all souls not saved before death are eternally damned; an assumption as dishonouring to divine justice and mercy as it is revolting and repulsive to the reason and moral sense of man. The purpose of redemption is the purpose of the ages, a purpose to be wrought out and consummated in successive epochs. This subject, however, I reserve for the ensuing chapter.
To some minds a question may here very possibly present itself, in regard to those who up to the day of death have offered a determined and an unyielding resistance to the overtures of grace. Are there not it may be asked, who over and over again had
felt the strivings of the good Spirit, who had undergone pangs of conscience and convictions of sin, who had felt at times softenings of heart and drawings towards God, who had experienced visitations of mercy or of judgment calculated to allure or to alarm, and yet spite of all this resolutely set their will against God, resisted the motions of the Spirit, and to the last refused to be saved. And is it possible that such as these shall eventually be brought back to God? I dare to think so. Have not already many such been converted at the last moment, as it were, like 'brands snatched from the burning'? Does not the history of the Church afford numerous instances of flagrant, wilful, obstinate, hardened sinners, after a long course of determined resistance, so wrought upon by divine grace as at last to yield and turn? If, as in many cases, divine grace has brought this to pass only shortly before death, why may not the same grace accomplish it after death, unless it can be proved, which I entirely deny, that death terminates all action of divine grace on the soul of man ̧ Are we, then, to believe, it may be said, that God will save in spite of a man's will not to be saved? And who, I ask, have been saved, except more or less in contrariety to their own will; at all events have not many been saved, most wilful resisters of grace, saved glaringly against their own will? If these, then why not others? Let me put a case. Suppose we were to see a man trying to drown himself, should we not endeavour to rescue him, yea though he should persist in his attempt, and, in his determination to drown himself, repel ever so much our efforts to save him? If able to do it,
Matt. v. 48.
Luke vi. 36.
52 Relation to Freedom of the Human Will.
should we not feel bound to save him, even against his own will? Were we not to do so, did we say "let the man drown himself if he will," should we not deservedly be pronounced cruel and inhuman. Are we more kind and right-judging than God? Shall we account it an imperative obligation in such a case to effect a rescue, and shall we deem it a thing inconceivable that the All Merciful should save sinners from their sin, whatever their resistance to his will? If so, then how is that precept to be understood, 'Be ye merciful, be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is merciful and perfect.'
THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM TO BE
WROUGHT OUT IN SUCCESSIVE ERAS.
BOTH from the testimony of Scripture and from the reason of the case, we have been led to this conclusion that Christ, as the Son of Man, has been invested with universal dominion, with a view to the restitution of all things, that his rule shall culminate in the reconciliation and subjection of all things to God, that the final issue, the ultimate consummation, of his redemptive work and mediatorial reign will be the gathering up together all things in Him, the things which are in the heavens, and the things which are on the earth, even in Him.
I say the final issue, the ultimate consummation; it is an issue, that is to say, not to be reached, a consummation not to be brought about, until after, as Scripture intimates, the lapse of ages, the evolution of successive eras; eras of grace and eras of judgment, eras of conflict between the powers of light and the hosts of darkness; to terminate at last in the extinction of evil and the triumph of good, in the complete subdual of the whole universe unto God, and in the surrender of the mediatorial kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all.
Eph. i. 7-10.
Here, then, we advance to another point in eonnection with the kingdom of Christ, that its purpose is to be wrought out, its object accomplished, its zenith attained, through and after successive epochs. In proof of this, let the following passages be carefully noted, and then compared with other and elucidating expressions: "In whom (i.e., in the Beloved) we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our transgressions according to the riches of his grace, wherein He abounded (or, which He made to abound) toward us in all wisdom and discernment, having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself, with a view to (or, in reference to) the dispensation of the fulness of the times, to gather up together all things in Christ, the things which are in the heavens, and the things which are on the earth, even in Him.' Here, then, it will be observed, St. Paul very distinctly speaks of a dispensation or economy, the object of which is to gather up under one head, namely, Christ, all things in heaven and earth. This dispensation or economy is characterised as one of the fulness of the seasons (τοῦ πληρώματος τῶν Kaιρov), that is to say, a dispensation to be extended over successive seasons, and to be completed in the fulness of them. Further, he tells us that this dispensation was a matter of the divine will, a thing which God purposed in Himself, and that it was a mystery which He had been pleased to make known to Christian believers, thereby causing the riches of his grace to abound towards them in all wisdom and discernment. Now, what can this gathering