God does foreknow or foresee, but this foreseeing does not force our will to choose or refuse salvation. 1. God foresaw the ruin entailed by the fall; and he foresaw the means by which man could be redeemed from its curse. Here is God's foreknowledge. 2. He determines or purposes to adopt it: - here is his eternal and immutable purpose, predestination. 3. He declares this purpose: - here is his eternal decree. 4. He makes choice of the means - "the seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent;" the person - his own Son, the time and circumstances - who shall announce his coming, and who shall be his apostles: - here we see God's sovereign, unconditional, personal, and particular election. To descend to particulars, Christ is to be made of a woman - made under the law. Now some particular nation must be chosen, from which he is to spring, and through which the knowledge and blessings of this sacrifice can be brought nigh and enjoyed. Of all the patriarchs of the east, Abraham is chosen. Why he was selected in preference to Melchizedec, none can tell. Abraham has two sons, Isaac and Ishmael; Isaac is chosen. Isaac has two sons, Esau and Jacob; Jacob is chosen in preference to Esau, which is the meaning of that Scripture, "Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated;" though Esau seems to have been the better character of the two. Here is particular, personal election. Jacob has twelve sons; these are chosen to be the progenitors of a large and peculiar nation. Twelve, and not thirteen, was God's favorite number.
Let us notice another eternal purpose of God. He foresaw that it was necessary or fit that this chosen people should suffer a cruel bondage, and then to be brought out of it with an outstretched hand, in order to impress most forcibly his glorious attributes upon their minds and memories to the latest generation. Foreseeing this, he determines or purposes it. He declares this purpose, - this is his decree. We read it in Genesis xv. 13: "Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a strange land, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation whom they serve will I judge; and afterwards they shall come out with great substance." Now this was God's decree, made known hundreds of years before its accomplishment, and it must needs come to pass just as he determined it. He accordingly elects or chooses the means, - that is, time, persons, nations and circumstances. In due time Joseph is sold into Egypt, - God preserves and raises him to the second place in the kingdom. Famine is brought upon the land. This ultimately brings Jacob and his family into Egypt, where he is finally enslaved. At the expiration of the four hundred years, Moses is born, preserved, raised and educated a prince. God reveals his purpose to him - and finally redeems Israel, overthrowing Pharaoh in the sea. The descendants of the twelve sons become a great nation, divided into twelve tribes, - from one of these tribes is the Messiah to be born. Judah is chosen. From all the families of Judah, Jesse's family is selected; of all his sons, David; of all David's sons, Solomon; - and when the time had fully come when Christ should appear, of all the villages of Judea, Bethlehem is chosen; and of all the virgins of the line of Jesse, Mary alone found grace in the sight of the Lord to be the mother of Immanuel. Thus have we seen, by simply citing one event, eternal, absolute, particular, unconditional, personal
election, which no one can deny. God determining to bring it about, none could "stay his hand" - He governed and controlled the circumstances which brought it all forward, just as he willed it. It all pertained to his sovereignty, and he accomplished it. Christ died by the determinate will and purpose of God - to bring in a new and better covenant, which God decreed from the beginning; and is it not rational to suppose that he, from the beginning, also fixed, determined, or decreed the conditions of that covenant, in and through which lost man might be saved? We have thus seen that God can act the part of a sovereign, rule and direct his own affairs, without infringing upon the moral will of the creature, - that is, compel the creature to love or hate him.
[From By Joseph Belcher, editor, The Baptist Pulpit of the United States: Eloquent and Instructive Passages . . ., 2nd edition, 1853, pp. 9-11. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More on J. R. Graves
Baptist History Homepage