1Pe_1:1-2. Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
CONTEMPTIBLE as Christians often appear in the eyes of men, they are of high estimation in the sight of God. Many glorious descriptions are given of them in the inspired volume: but in no part of it have we more exalted views of them than in the words before us; where, at the same time that they are represented as treated by man with all manner of cruelties and indignities, they are spoken of as most dear to every person in the Godhead, having been elected by God the Father, redeemed by the Lord Jesus, and sanctified by the operations of the Holy Ghost. This is a great mystery,—the union of the Sacred Three in the redemption and salvation of fallen man. But the consideration of this mystery is of peculiar importance; not only as establishing the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, but as shewing the connexion of that doctrine with every part of our salvation; which originates with God the Father, is carried on by God the Son, and is perfected by God the Holy Ghost.
Let us, under a deep sense of our own ignorance, and with a humble dependence upon God for his guidance and direction, proceed to a calm, dispassionate, and candid consideration of this all-important subject.
The Father elects—
The doctrine of election is here, as in many other passages, plainly asserted—
[Christians are “elect, according to the foreknowledge of God.” By “the foreknowledge of God” I understand, God’s infallible discernment of future things, how contingent soever they may appear to us. That he possesses this perfection is unquestionable: for if he did not, how could he ever have inspired his prophets to foretell such distant and improbable events? It is not possible to read the life of our Lord, and to compare the predictions concerning him with the events by which they were fulfilled, and not to say, “Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world [Note: Act_15:8.].” Indeed a man who denies this truth must “think God to be even such an one as himself,” ignorant of the future, and made wiser by the occurrences of every succeeding day;—a supposition from which the mind revolts with utter abhorrence.
Considering then the foreknowledge of God as comprising every thing relating to the salvation of man, we are constrained to view all that relates to man’s salvation as ordained of God. For though we may easily distinguish in idea between foreknowledge and fore-ordination, we cannot separate them in fact; since if God foreknow every thing, he foreknows it, not as probable, but as certain; and therefore certain, because it has been fore-ordained by him “before the foundation of the world,” and is “wrought by him in time according to the counsel of his own will [Note: Eph_1:4; Eph_1:11.].”
Hence to God’s electing love we refer all the grace and mercy that we have ever experienced; and thankfully acknowledge, that “by the grace of God we are what we are [Note: 1Co_15:10.];” and that, if ever we be saved at all, it will be, “not according to our works, but according to his purpose and grace which were given us in Christ Jesus before the world began [Note: 2Ti_1:9.].”]
The objections which are usually brought against this doctrine, by no means disprove its truth—
[Many affirm, that, if the doctrine of election be true, that of reprobation, of absolute reprobation, must be true also. In answer to this, I would say, that we know nothing, either of the one or of the other, but from the revelation which God has given us; and that, if that revelation affirm the one and deny the other, we must receive that which it affirms, and reject that which it denies. That it does deny the doctrine of absolute reprobation, I think is clear as the light itself. If when Almighty God swears by his own life and immortal perfections, that “he has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live;” and then founds on that oath this gracious invitation, “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel [Note: Eze_33:11.]?” I am constrained to say, that the doctrine of absolute reprobation, that is, of God’s forming any persons with an express determination to destroy them, irrespectively of any works of theirs, cannot be true. But must I therefore deny the doctrine of election, which the whole Scriptures uniformly assert, merely because I know not how to reconcile the two opinions? Surely not. My sentiments are formed on Scripture, and not on the fallible deductions of human reason: and if I cannot reconcile the two, it is no reason that God cannot. I cannot reconcile the existence of sin with the holiness of God: but do I therefore deny, or doubt, either the one or the other? Certainly not; so neither do I doubt God’s exercise of sovereign grace towards his elect, because my weak and fallible reason would be ready to connect with it an arbitrary decree against the non-elect. Sure I am, that the Judge of all the earth will do right; and that, whilst all the saved will ascribe their salvation simply and solely to the grace of God, there will not be found one amongst those who perish, who will not confirm God’s sentence of condemnation upon him, saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments [Note: Rev_16:7.].”
Another objection against this doctrine is, That the elect will be saved, though they never should strive at all; and the non-elect will perish, however earnestly they may strive. But God has united the end with the means: and to attempt to separate them will be in vain. Who the elect are, we know not, till they themselves discover it by the effects produced upon them: nor will it ever be known who the non-elect are, till the day of judgment shall reveal it. But this we know,—and this we affirm for the comfort of all,—that “every one who asketh, receiveth; and every one that seeketh, findeth; and that to every one that knocketh, shall the gate of heaven be opened [Note: Mat_7:7-8.].” What can the most determined opposer of the doctrine of election say more than this, or wish for more than this?
Some will yet further urge, That, if this doctrine be true, men may be saved without any regard to holiness. This objection is of the same kind with the former: and that there is no just ground for it, our text itself sufficiently declares: for we are “elect unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ;”—elect, not to salvation only, but to obedience also;—to the one as the means, and to the other as the end.]
What is spoken respecting our being elect “to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” will lead me to shew, that whom the Father has elected,
On the subject of obedience being an end to which we are elect, we shall speak under the next head: at present, we confine ourselves to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
That the elect are sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ, is certain—
[Moses, when he confirmed the covenant which the Israelites entered into with their God, sprinkled both the altar and the people with the blood of the sacrifices [Note: Exo_24:6; Exo_24:8.]: and in like manner we, when we embrace the covenant of grace, are sprinkled with the blood of our Great Sacrifice, which purges us from the guilt of all our former sins, and sanctifies us as an holy people unto the Lord: “We come to the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel [Note: Heb_12:24.].”
And here it is particularly to be noticed, that it is not by the shedding of the Redeemer’s blood that any are saved, but by the application of it to their souls. Millions “perish for whom Christ died [Note: 1Co_8:11.]:” but no one ever perished, whose “heart had been sprinkled from an evil conscience,” and “purged from dead works to serve the living God [Note: Heb_9:14; Heb_10:22.].”]
To this they are elected, as to the necessary means of their acceptance with God—
[None, however elect by God the Father, could come to God, unless a sacrifice were provided for them. All are sinners: all need pardon for their multiplied iniquities: no man could make satisfaction for his own sins. One sacrifice was provided of God for the whole world, even the sacrifice of God’s only-begotten Son. Through that, God determined from all eternity to accept them: and in due time he reveals it to them, as the way opened for their access to him. Thus they are brought to see Christ, as “the way, the truth, and the life:” and thus they receive “redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of all their sins.”
We must not however imagine that God elects any in a way inconsistent with his own honour. He does not by a mere absolute decree forgive them: he does not so overlook the honour of his own law, or disregard the demands of his own truth and justice. On the contrary, he provides for them a Saviour, through whose atoning blood they may be forgiven, and in whose obedience they may find a justifying righteousness. If he elected them simply to salvation without any regard to an atonement, he would exercise one attribute at the expense of all the rest: but in electing them to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, he provides for the honour of his broken law, and maintains in united and harmonious exercise the glory of all his perfections: he provides, that “Mercy and truth should meet together, and righteousness and peace should kiss each other [Note: Psa_85:10.].”]
As Christ redeems whom the Father has elected, so those, whom Christ has redeemed,
The Spirit sanctifies—
It is in reality through the influence of the Holy Ghost that the souls of the elect are sprinkled with the blood of Christ: because it is He who reveals Christ unto them, and enables them to believe on him. But, besides this, “The Spirit sanctifies them to obedience”—
To this are the elect chosen, as to the means whereby their ultimate salvation shall be attained—
[It would be dishonourable to God if an unholy creature were admitted to a participation of his throne: nor, if we could suppose such a creature admitted into heaven, could he be happy there; because he would want all the dispositions which were necessary to qualify him for the enjoyment of that holy place. On this account God has ordained to sanctify his elect in body, soul, and spirit, and to “transform them into his own image in righteousness and true holiness.”]
And this work he has committed to the Holy Spirit—
[The Spirit originally breathed upon the face of the waters, and reduced the chaotic mass to order and beauty. So does he move upon the believer’s soul. Whatever is corrupt, he mortifies; whatever is wanting, he supplies. Above all, he reveals the Saviour to the soul, and thereby changes the soul progressively into the Saviour’s image [Note: 2Co_3:18.]. This is precisely what St. Paul also has spoken in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians: “We are bound to give thanks to God for you all, brethren, beloved, because God hath chosen you to salvation (there is the end) through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Here are the means to that end, even faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his atoning blood; and the sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit upon the soul [Note: 2Th_2:13.].]
Of what infinite value are the souls of men!
[Every one carries about him a treasure which God himself covets. The Father has given his only dear Son to redeem it: and Christ has shed his own blood to purchase it: and the Holy Ghost is ever striving with us, to make us surrender it up willingly to God — — — O that men would view their souls in this light, and bestow upon them the care which they so richly deserve! — — —]
What encouragement has every man to seek after salvation!
[The doctrines of election, of faith in Christ, and of the influences of the Holy Spirit, are supposed by many to create despondency. But, if duly considered, they afford the best possible antidote to despair. Suppose a person to be bowed down under a sense of his own guilt and weakness, is it no comfort to him to reflect, that the Father may elect whomsoever he will; that the blood of Christ is sufficient to cleanse from guilt even of the deepest dye; and that the Holy Spirit can renew and sanctify a soul, however inverate its corruptions be? Let this then be the improvement made of these doctrines; and they will soon commend themselves by their cheering and transforming efficacy — — —]