“As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Acts 13:48
THERE can be nothing in the Bible adverse to the salvation of a sinner. The doctrine of predestination is a revealed doctrine of the Bible; therefore predestination cannot be opposed to the salvation of the sinner. So far from this being true, we hesitate not most strongly and emphatically to affirm, that we know of no doctrine of God’s word more replete with encouragement to the awakened, sin-burdened, Christ-seeking soul than this. What stronger evidence can we have of our election of God than the Spirit’s work in the heart? Are you really in earnest for the salvation of your soul? Do you feel the plague of sin? Are you sensible of the condemnation of the law? Do you come under the denomination of the “weary and heavy laden”? If so, then the fact that you are a subject of the Divine drawings—that you have a felt conviction of your sinfulness—and that you are looking wistfully for a place of refuge, affords the strongest ground for believing that you are one of those whom God has predestinated to eternal life. The very work thus begun is the Spirit’s first outline of the Divine image upon your soul—that very image to which the saints are predestinated to be conformed.
But while we thus vindicate this doctrine from being inimical to the salvation of the anxious soul, we must with all distinctness and earnestness declare, that in this stage of your Christian course you have primarily and mainly to do with another and a different doctrine. We refer to the doctrine of the Atonement. Could you look into the book of the Divine decrees, and read your name inscribed upon its pages, it would not impart the joy and peace which one believing view of Christ crucified will convey. It is not essential to your salvation that you believe in election; but it is essential to your salvation that you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. In your case, as an individual debating the momentous question how a sinner may be justified before God, your first business is with Christ, and Christ exclusively. You are to feel that you are a lost sinner, not that you are an elect saint. The doctrine which meets the present phase of your spiritual condition is, not the doctrine of predestination, but the doctrine of an atoning Savior. The truth to which you are to give the first consideration and the most simple and unquestioning credence is, that “Christ died for the ungodly”—that He came into the world to save sinners—that He came to call, not the righteous, but sinners to repentance—that in all respects, in the great business of our salvation, He stands to us in the relation of a Savior, while we stand before Him in the character of a sinner.
Oh, let one object fix your eye, and one theme fill your mind—Christ and His salvation. Absorbed in the contemplation and study of these two points, you may safely defer all further inquiry to another and a more advanced stage of your Christian course. Remember that the fact of your predestination, the certainty of your election, can only be inferred from your conversion. We must hold you firmly to this truth. It is the subtle and fatal reasoning of Satan, a species of atheistical fatalism, to argue, “If I am elected I shall be saved, whether I am regenerated or not.” The path to eternal woe is paved with arguments like this. Men have cajoled their souls with such vain excuses until they have found themselves beyond the region of hope! But we must rise to the fountain, by pursuing the stream. Conversion, and not predestination, is the end of the chain we are to grasp. We must ascend from ourselves to God, and not descend from God to ourselves, in settling this great question. We must judge of God’s objective purpose of love concerning us, by His subjective work of grace within us. In conclusion, we earnestly entreat you to lay aside all fruitless speculations, and to give yourself to prayer. Let reason bow to faith, and faith shut you up to Christ, and Christ be all in all to you. Beware that you come not short of true conversion—a changed heart, and a renewed mind, so that you become a “new creature in Christ Jesus.” And if as a poor lost sinner you repair to the Savior, all vile and guilty, unworthy and weak as you are, He will receive you and shelter you within the bosom that bled on the cross to provide an atonement and an asylum for the very chief of sinners.