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wretches as we are, who should have been so infinitely miserable without it, is a cordial that will so cheer and rejoice the heart of him that has a due apprehension of the dismal condition he was in before, as utterly to drive out all gloomy, sullen, discontented thoughts, and make him perfectly easy and satisfied in his blessed change.
So that the doctrine of election, if rightly understood, and nothing else of a worse nature added to it, has nothing in it that can justly offend or startle any man. There is no injury done by it to any one, no injustice or hardship in it in the least ; nothing but what is highly reasonable and fitting, and what is so far from lessening, that it very much exalts the mercy and goodness of God, and increases the happiness of mankind, and adds to the glory and beauty of the church.
Every good Christian is elect and precious, chosen out of the world, redeemed from its vain and filthy conversation, and made one of God's holy ones, and peculiar people; and the saints, or the elect, signify in scripture those that have given themselves up to the faith and obedience of Christ. But some of these are more eminently so than others, the choice jewels of the kingdom, the bright ornaments of our holy religion, the great lights of the world, and shining examples of an extraordinary piety, and peculiar instruments in God's hand, some in a public, others in a more private capacity, of advancing his honour and the interest of his kingdom, and doing good to mankind.
Thus, when the Christian church was first established, though every sincere disciple of Jesus was very dear to him, and one of his chosen ones, and
an heir of eternal glory; yet all were not apostles or prophets, or pastors and teachers b, and intrusted with a share in the government and edification of the church. And those that were, had diversities of gifts and operations, and different administrations in it, as God was pleased to divide to every man severally as his divine wisdom saw most conducive to the benefit and advantage of the whole. And it is but necessary that in every society there should be such a distinction of one member from another; some employed this way, some that, some placed in a higher station, some in a lower; and (as St. Paul argues to this very purpose) each member is useful in his place, and each have need of other: so that, as in the natural body, the eye or the head, the noblest and ruling members, cannot say to the hands or the feet, the inferior and working, drudging parts, We have no need of youk; just so it is in the spiritual body of Christ, which is his church.
Now, if it be so necessary to the good government and edification of the church, and so conducive to God's honour and the salvation of mankind, that there should be divers orders of men in it, of different excellency and ability, according to the different services he shall please to employ them in; what more reasonable, than that God should make choice of whom he pleases for those several employments, and confer proportionable degrees of honour upon them, and endow them with suitable gifts? And when they have faithfully discharged their trust, what more congruous and fitting, than for him to reward them in a more extraordinary manner in the church triumphant above? 1 Cor. xii. 29. i i Cor. xii. 4, 5, 6.
ki Cor. xii. 17, &c.
Here is a manifest preference indeed of one before another, and some that are first in their own esteem may be last in God's, and the last may be first; but God designs it not to the prejudice of any, but rather to every one's advantage; so that no man has reason to complain of such a particular election as this, (which is all that can be proved relating to it from this parable,) and it will be very displeasing to God if our eye is evil, when his is so very merciful and good.
Thus, many are called, but few chosen ; that is, (as I conceive it signifies in this place,) among the great numbers that are invited to the gospel, and heartily embrace it too, but few are chosen to be the peculiar favourites, and as it were ministers of state to the Majesty of heaven. But yet all shall have the labourer's penny, that do their duty faithfully and diligently in their station, how low and mean soever it may be. Whatever is right, our great and good Master will certainly give to us all ; and so boundless is his bounty, that eternity can never exhaust it, to those that sincerely love him, and obey from the heart that form of doctrine which he delivered to them! And even the lowest degree of that happiness which he hath prepared for his servants in heaven, is such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither can it now enter into the heart of man to conceive. Wherefore, let us be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.
1 Rom. vi. 17.
I. And thou, most gracious God! the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hast blessed us Gentiles with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ, and hast chosen us in himm, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; and hast called us to the adoption of children to thyself, according to the good pleasure of thy will, and to the eternal praise and glory of thy grace, whereby thou hast made us accepted in the beloved; we humbly bow our knees unto thee, beseeching thee to give unto us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of thee; that the eyes of our understanding being enlightened, we may know what is the hope of our calling, and what the riches of the glory of the inheritance of the saints, and how great thy compassion and mercy hath been towards us, who hast quickened us, when we were dead in trespasses and sins n.
And do thou strengthen us with might by thy Spirit in the inner mano, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, and being rooted and grounded in love, we may be able to comprehend what is the breadth and length, and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fulness of God! And to thee be glory in the church, by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end! Amen.
II. And thou, O blessed Jesus, who art the great Lord of the vineyard, the Head and Governor of the Christian church, and in whose hands are the hearts of all men, to turn them whithersoever thou pleasest, have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics; take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word; that at length they may effectually hear and obey thy gracious call, and come in unanimously, and submit to thy sceptre, and all the world may see the salvation of God; that so thou, who in infinite mercy hast been a light to lighten the Gentiles, mayest be the glory of thy people Israel. And grant, O blessed Lord! that I who had the happiness to be sent into thy vineyard in my tender years, and called betimes to thy faith and service, and have been fully instructed in all things necessary to be believed and done in order to my favourable acceptance with thee, and have wanted no manner of encouragement to a sincere performance of my duty; O grant that all this goodness may have its due effect upon me, and bind me inseparably to thee by the cords of love! But what shall I say in excuse for my past negligence and sloth, and even worse, much worse! How unaccountably have I trifled away abundance of my precious time, and spent it in the market rather than my closet, or the temple, in vain and worldly, rather than heavenly pursuits; and stupidly took but very little care about the one thing needful! O my compassionate Redeemer, with pity look upon me; and though it be the ninth or eleventh hour, the decline, or the evening of my life, yet call me so powerfully by thy prevailing grace, that I may apply myself in earnest to work out my salvation with fear and trembling; and through thy unspeakable mercy, may at last receive that inestimable reward, which
m Ephes. i. 3, &c. n Ephes. ii. 1. • Ephes. iii. 16, &c.