Baptist History Homepage

Long Run Baptist Association (KY)
"Election Stated and Defended"
By Elder Thomas M. Vaughan

Dear Brethren - Is the doctrine of election taught in the New Testament? And if so, ought it not to be proclaimed from the pulpit - as "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine for reproof?" &c. We shall consider the doctrine of "Election stated and defended."

The etymology of the words, as expressed in Robinson's Greek Lexicon, is, "The benevolent purpose of God, by which any are chosen unto salvation, so that they are led to embrace and persevere in the religion of Christ, and the enjoyment of its privileges and blessings here and hereafter."

With this definition before us, we remark: First. God has elected men to particular offices and honors - Abraham to be the father of a nation which He intended to bless especially; the honored Jacob in preference to Esau, as it is written, "The elder shall serve the younger." What worthy thing did Jacob do to inherit this blessing? Took advantage of the blindness of his father, and thus stole it from his brother. Paul gives the reason, "That the purpose of God according to election might stand." Thus God chose David to be the successor of Saul, as we are informed, 1 Samuel 16:7-10. Aaron and his sons for the priesthood, and the Levitee for the service of the sanctuary were chosen of God. Paul was a chosen used for a specific purpose.

In all these cases it seems that God consulted his own will. What his reasons were for fixing upon these rather than others, we have not the means of knowing, save that it seemed good in his sight.

Second. God chose the Jews to be his peculiar people, as expressed in Deuteronomy 7:6, "The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself above all people that are upon the face of the earth." Now were they chosen because God foresaw they would be better than others? Let the 106th Psalm answer that question.

Third. God hath chosen some persons to everlasting life - spoken of under the appellation, "chosen in Christ," "elect of God." So it is expressed in 1 Thessalonians 1:4, "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." It may be attempted to explain this away by saying, that it means an election of the Gentiles to an equality with the Jews. But the apostle is not writing to Gentiles as such, but to believers. And, in speaking of their election, he says: "Our gospel came not in word only, but also in power, with the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." It came to all in word, but to the elect in power. And in Romans chapter 11, Paul speaks of the great body of the Jews as cut off, but a remnant saved according to the " election of grace."

Again. These individuals thus called are represented as given to Christ to be saved by him. In John 17:2, it is said, "As thou hast given him power over all flesh that he should give eternal life to as many as tbou hast given him.," Now, Dr. Clarke assumes that all the human race was given to Christ, that in the sacrifice of himself he should reconcile all to God, and thereby give them eternal life. This may be true or not true; but the exegesis of the passage proves that the Doctor's assumption is not true. The phrase "as many as," obviously restricts. The extent of Christ's power is declared to be universal over all flesh, but he saves just so many as the Father gives him.

Again. John 6: 27-29, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." Now if all that shall come to Christ are given to him, then it follows that as some men will not come to Christ, they are not given to Christ. For further proof of this position, read 2 Timothy 1:9, "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began."
[p. 7]
Here salvation and effectual calling are co-extensive - if all are called effectually, then all are saved - but all are not saved, therefore the effectual calling is not universal.

Again. Of the people of God it is said, "We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth, whereunto he called you by our gospel." 2 Thessalonians 2:13. The same sentiment is expressed in 1 Peter 1:2. Now who were the "brethren " here addressed. Not the Gentiles at Thessalonica as a nation, but the congregation of baptized believers who had been chosen in Christ. In Ephesians 1:4, 5, the same character of persons are declared as "predestinated to the adoption of children." Those who regard this adoption to refer to the Gentiles as a people, just as he adopted the whole of the offspring of Abraham to be his children, nationally, have failed to see the want of identity between the Jewish and Christian dispensation. Under the latter dispensation none but believers are regarded as children.

Again we say, this election is founded solely upon the good pleasure of God. We suppose he has good reasons, but, so far as it is revealed to us, the whole matter is determined by the Divine Will, uninfluenced by things extraneous. Many who grant a divine election taught in the Bible say that it begins with faith, and js become [because] of faith. Not so does the spirit speak of it. "Tis an eternal purpose and election." Some admit that the election is eternal, but that it was in view of faith foreseen, and moral character; but this calling and election is not "according to works, but according to his own purpose, and grace which was given it in Christ Jesus before the world began." We would not be understood as holding that election secured man's salvation in opposition to his moral freedom, and independently of his faith in Christ and sanctification. Christians are predestinated to be conformed to the image of God's son. They are saved and called with a holy calling.

We will now defend this doctrine against the chief objections. However, the doctrine needs no defence, as it is God's truth.

First. That in the churches addressed as elect, there were many who apostatized from a profession of the faith. We grant the fact. Now the Apostle Peter, speaking to the churches scattered abroad, says: "Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hast begotten us again with a living hope by the resurrection of the dead." Now he did not mean to say that everyone he addressed was begotten. These might have been deceived. He means by this language, that, in the judgment of charity, this being begotten again, is a predominant characteristic of the brethren. The objection argues in favor of election. The existence of a false coin argues the existence of a genuine currency.

Second. It is objected that this doctrine represents God as a respecter of persons, contrary to his word, Deuteronomy 10:34, 35, and also Acts 10:34, 35. There is no respect of persons with God, but in every land he that fearetb. God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him. This is strictly true, but are we to argue from this that there is no distinction in the conferring of the divine blessings above the claims of personal righteousness? The kingdom of nature, as well as grace, is full of distinction in the favors of God. If we object to distinctions in favors of grace, then all nature could in like manner object to distinction in favors conferred on the subjects in its realm. Animals would cry out against men, men against angels, the deformed against the sound, the poor against the rich. Fallen spirits would ascend up from hell, and raise one terrific accusation about God for his favor to sinners.

Third. It is objected that this doctrine is opposed to divine commands, and invitations, and preaching, and prayer, and the use of means in any way. This objection is leveled against the doctrine that men are elected and will be saved whatever they may do. This is not Bible election. Bible election is
[p. 8]
that God has chosen some through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth. In the use of the means, this doctrine is to receive its accomplishment. Paul in his voyage to Rome was in danger of perishing, but was told by an angel that it was the purpose of God that he should stand before Caesar; and afterwards, when the sailors were deserting the ship, he said, "Except these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved." So in the divine election the means are included - preaching, prayer, the liberal contributions of our means to send missionaries abroad, personal sacrifice, teaching in Sabbath schools, prayer meetings, Bible revisions, &c., all are the means by which the election is consummated.

Fourth. It is objected to this doctrine that it is inconsistent with the wisdom and benevolence of the deity. Well, what is the doctrine? Why, that God through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth saved as many rebels as is consistent with his own glory and the greatest good of the universe. Is there a want of wisdom in this? How would it have comported with the Divine Wisdom to suffer Christ to die, and then leave it to blind chance and the caprice of the human will as to whether any accept him.

We would submit a few interrogatories -
First. Is it not a fact that heretofore, few, compared with the great mass, have believed in Christ?
Second. Is it not a fact that God foresaw when he created man, that only this few would believe?
Third. Is it not equally true, that he purposed to save only those who believed?

Now, if it is inconsistent with the wisdom and benevolence of God to elect and save these few, it is equally inconsistent to create a world of moral beings when he foresaw that only this few and no more would be saved?

Again. It is objected that if there was no election, then all would have an equal chance, and if any perish, it would be their own fault. This is where the doctrine of election leaves all that perish. They perish because they will perish; and have we any evidence that all would not perish if God had not chosen some to salvation? The presumption is, that all would have perished.

Having answered the chief objections I now turn to the benefits.
First. It teaches us our own weakness and dependence on God for the success of all instrumentalities. And the fact that the success of all efforts is dependent upon the divine blessing should teach us to act in harmony with the Divine Will, to seek the direction of the Holy Spirit, knowing that any effort not in accordance with the divine purpose will prove abortive.

Second. It should humble us. The Christian should be much humbled when he beholds the depths of the love of Christ, in that he has passed by others, as good by nature, and taken up him, a poor vile sinner, and made him an heir of an incorruptible inheritance, and hence he should present his body a living sacrifice to God. It should exceedingly humble the sinner when he views God as a sovereign offering him salvation, though his crimes merit eternal reprobation. What if God does damn a larger portion of the human race, could rebels, with any reason, impeach the Divine benevolence? What if God comes and takes one member of your family, and leaves you? Will you murmur? "Who art thou, O vain man, that repliest against God?"

Third. Christians, in view of this divine election, ought to be holy, for we are called to holiness, chosen through sanetification of the spirit and belief of the truth. Do you claim to be the elect? Do you continue in the love and practice of sin of any kind? Then you are "in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity." The love of the Father is not in you - it is a vain delusion.

[From Long Run Baptist Association Minutes, 1857, pp. 6-8. From the Southern Baptist Seminary Library, Archives and Special Collections, Louisville, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]

More Long Run Circular Letters
Baptist History Homepage