The following, extracted from the Memoir of Dr. Nettleton, is from a sermon founded on Acts, xviii. 10. From this subject we may infer the mistake of those who consider the doctrine of election a discouraging doctrine. Are there not many present. who are still without God, and without hope in the world? They have spent the best part of their days in sin. All means have hitherto proved ineffectual. So many years of their probation are gone, and they are still enemies to God. They have heard the gospel and rejected it. Permit me to summon these individuals to the bar of their own consciences. I would ask you, what reason have you to believe that the gospel which you have heard in vain for many years will take effect when your hearts are still more hardened? I would that you might feel the difficulty. We have no more powerful means than those which [blurred 3 words] . Now if you deny the doctrine of election, where is your hope? We will suppose that the doctrine is not true - that God will leave you to do just as you have done, and leave the means to operate just as they have done. Is this encouraging? Deny the doctrine of election, and there is not a sinner in this assembly who has the least reason to conclude that he shall ever be saved. Perhaps some are displeased with this doctrine, and hope it is not true. Then let me address you on your own ground. Whether this doctrine be true or false, it is an eternal truth, acknowledged by all. 'that except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.' Strike out the doctrine of election, yet the doctrine of regeneration is true. 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Strike out the doctrine of election, and let the means operate as they have done, and yet the doctrine of faith is true. 'He that believeth not shall be damned.' Here is a given character which all the heirs of salvation must possess. Now you are at liberty to become Christians on the easiest plan you can. If you will repent, and believe and be born again, you shall be saved, whatever becomes of the doctrine of election. But why have you not repented, and believed, and become Christians already? Why do you stand disputing about the doctrine: when you know that unless you repent, and believe, and be born again, you are lost? What will your disputing accomplish? If it be true, disputing will not alter it. Is it necessary for you to prove the doctrine false, before you can repent? If you will repent the doctrine of election will not hurl you if it be true. But if it be not true, then you have got to repent, and believe, and be born again without it, and it is high time you were in earnest upon the subject.
If you say that you cannot repent, unless God grant you repentance - that is the same as to say, you cannot repent unless the doctrine of election is true. For if the doctrine of election is not true, it is certain God has not determined to grant repentance to one of the human race. And if it is not true, it is certain that God has not determined to grant you repentance. Instead of troubling yourselves about this doctrine, I will show you a more excellent way. Begin to trouble yourselves about your own wicked hearts. The day of salvation is drawing to a close - and what have you done? and where are you now? Hitherto you have rejected all the melting invitations of a bleeding Savior; and where are you now? Hitherto yon have rejected the Holy Ghost, and where are you now ? In spite of the offers of heaven, the calls of the bleeding Savior, the invitations, commands and threatenings of Almighty God, you have hitherto resisted, and will you continue to force your way down to hell! There is but a gleam of hope. 'Turn ye, turn ye for while will ye die.'
A certain individual once said to him, "I cannot get along with the doctrine of election."
"Then," said he, "get along without it. You are at liberty to get to heaven the easiest way you can. Whether the doctrine is true or not, it is true that you must repent, and believe, and love God. Now what we tell you is, that you never will do these things unless God has determined to renew your heart. If you do not believe your heart is so wicked, make it manifest, by complying with the terms of salvation. Suppose yon prove it false, what have you gained? You must repent and believe in Christ after all. Why do you not immediately comply with the terms of the Gospel? When you have done this, we shall still believe that the doctrine of election lies at the foundation of all hope in your case. "
So he preached, and so he taught. In a letter in the [blurred – some paper] from a minister with whose people he had labored, it is said, “He preached from his well-filled treasure the doctrine of total depravity, personal election reprobation, the sovereignty of divine grace, the universal government of God in working all things after the council of his own will. All these doctrines do not paralyze, but greatly promoted the good work. Never had brother Nettleton such power over my congregation as when he poured forth in torrents, those awful truths. And at no time were converts multiplied so rapidly, and convictions so deep, as when these doctrines were [blurred – 2 words] on the conscience.”
[From the Tennessee Baptist, February 23, 1856, p. 1. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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