By J.G. Bellet
There is much strength and blessing to the soul from the doctrine of election, but perhaps not that character of blessing which is commonly understood to flow from it. For it is commonly resorted to by a saint when he trespasses. But that is not, I believe, the use which the Holy Ghost makes of it for our souls in Scripture.
If the saint sin, he has an Advocate. The blood and intercession of Christ is for the need of his soul then: if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive. It is not, therefore, the remembrance of the doctrine of election, but it is confession--the remembrance of Jesus in heaven, which meets the need of the conscience.
The truth of the divine foreknowledge of us, of God's having elected us personally and predestinated us to most blessed destinies, is rather for the saint as he walks in uninterrupted grace before God. It is for the joy of his heart rather than for the peace of his conscience. It is for the putting of very boastful and triumphant language into his soul, by teaching him what anxious and everlasting interest God has had in all that concerns him. For it tells us (to speak after the manner of men) that we were the subject of the divine counsels--when God was all alone - before the foundation of the world; before the activities, so to speak, of creation began, we were before His thoughts. And this is the witness of our deep interests in Him. It is always so. It is always the mark of special favour, if we do but occupy the thoughts of another in solitude, or when the heart is fully at ease or at liberty to take up its own objects.
And in that place of favour with God does the doctrine of election and predestination put us. We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and were then predestinated to the adoption of children by Him, simply according to His own good pleasure, or to His purpose taken in Himself, or hid in God from the beginning. (Eph. 1.) We are the called according to His purpose, or as the fruit of His foreknowledge and predestinated purposes. (Rom. 8.) His grace was given us in Christ before the world began, though it is only now made manifest. (2 Tim. 1.) He promised us eternal life before the world began, but did not till due time manifest that word of promise to ourselves. (Titus 1.) As the Lamb slain for us foreordained before the foundation of the world, though not manifested till these last times. (1 Peter 1.) And in all these ways, we ourselves, and our glorious and happy destinies, have been the subject of the counsels of God when He was, to speak after such a manner, in the simple solitude of His own mind and affections, that we might have joy in knowing how near our interests have been brought to Him, and from what deep sources our blessings have gushed forth.
We have some expressions of this order of things in Scripture.
When the Lord smelled the savour of Noah's sacrifice, He said in His heart that He would not again curse the ground. But that was just His own purpose and grace. It was then the secret of His own bosom. In due time, however, He made His purpose and grace known to Noah, and then Noah took the blessing in a way of peculiar sweetness, for he took it as coming forth from the deep, well-advised, and thoroughly-approved counsels and affections of the heart of the Lord Himself. (Gen. 8, 9)
So afterwards in Jacob and the sons of Joseph. He adopted them ere He saw them. He gave them the place of the firstborn in the family while as yet he had not looked on them, for his eyes were dim for age. All the desire of his heart had been toward them while they were personally unmanifested. And thus, when the blessing does come, it comes with all its value. The warmth of Jacob's heart and tongue came with it. It is sealed and doubly sealed ere Ephraim and Manasseh enjoy it, so that they may know that their adoption had been the delightful theme of the father's counsel and promise, the subject of his thoughts and affections ere it is manifested to them.
Thus surely does the doctrine of election set the saint down in rich and happy pastures. The sinner need not think of it. It is not for him. Jesus, the Lamb of God, is at his door, as it were, telling of redemption.
One strikingly says,
"His purpose and his course he takes,
Treads all my reasonings down,
Commands my thoughts forth from their depths
And hides me in his own."
May 6, 1847.
MY BELOVED SISTER,
The Lord be with you and refresh your spirit. And it is simply resting on the sure and everlasting foundation of faith, which the hand of your covenant God has laid for you, by which this refreshment will come. It is not an effort of the soul after the joys of the Holy Ghost, or spiritual exercise of heart, but it is the precious repose of faith, and the bright prospects of hope which grow up therefrom, that will be our refreshment, beloved.
There is, in some deep and happy sense, more communion with those who have departed than with those who still cluster around us. I remember a dear sister saying this to me some years since, and I have often thought of her words. She spake in reference to a dear son who had then lately departed in the Lord. But it is so. We think of them only in their beauties in Christ Jesus. Our thought of them is not hindered, but there in spirit we see them, having first trusted in Christ, waiting with their beloved Saviour, for the consummation of His joy and their joy.
I thank you for your last few acceptable lines. I did not expect them from yourself, but I knew that my dear sister Ellen would let us hear of you.
The Lord bless you. The Lord comfort, in the calmness of a believing heart, your dear mother. My christian love to her and all around you. Accept my dear Mary's love. The good hand of the Lord still keeps, and our Johnny's arm, we think, is better.
Ever, beloved sister, yours affectionately,
J. G. B.
I do value the thoughts I enclose. They are by another; but this simple believing, setting of Christ above all, even above the exercises of the soul in the Holy Ghost, I do delight in. We are always, as was said, higher in our standing than in our experience. Faith alone does God, and His love, and His doings, justice.
I count on hearing again from some one. Do you know dear Gambold's hymn? "No more with trembling heart I try" Yes, indeed, whether we wake or sleep, we shall be together with Him.
1, Waterloo Road, Dublin,
March 29, 1848.
MY MUCH LOVED SISTER,
I was glad to see again your little pencil scribble. I will not now write much to you, but invite you to meditate with me on Job, as we have often and happily together meditated on other portions of God's sweet and perfect word. And Oh! the Lord forbid that there should ever be any distance between us, in these days of sad, sad estrangement, when it is as easy and as pleasant, as it sometimes appears to me, to make a brother an offender for a word, as in better days it was easy and pleasant to wish one another goodwill in the name of the Lord. Ah! it is sad. Love to dear Mrs. W . . . . . Tell her that her brethren here remember her, and that in mercy we are kept together in godly peace and unity. But we fear the importation of another mind from across the water, for the distance is short, and the poor nature is the same.
Remember us to your dear sister, and me to my dear brother Dr. T . . . . also to dear Miss W . . . . The Lord guide dear Mrs. W . . . for she puts her trust in Him. Ever, my loved sister, in much affection,
J. G. B.
(We have left Herbert Place.) Let me know that you have received this.
2, Sion Place, Bathwick Hill, Bath, Jan. 8, 1848.
MY BELOVED SISTER,
It has long been a pleasure to me to see your dear little pencil notes, and I welcomed the sight of another of them a day or two since; but I did not calculate on hearing of your renewed sorrow. It has left you, beloved, indeed more lonely in the great scene than once was counted upon--dear sister some few years since, and now dear mother removed. But, I need not add, what consolation in the thought that the blessed repairer of all breaches, the repairer of the mighty breach between God and sinners, had endeared Himself to them, and in that way made separation from you, presence with Himself, and in season He will repair the present breach between you and them.
May His comforts be much with you, my dear sister. My brotherly love to your dear physician and others around you. We are still watching our dear child. The remaining arm having become in a measure diseased, he is in a very helpless state. But this last week he is again better, and we have hope that he may recover a little more of his strength and use of it. But the result of his illness we cannot but apprehend, not doubting that the hand of the Lord in mercy has been ordering his history, very specially, for the last twelve months, and His Spirit working in company with His hand for the last five. We are likely to remain here for a while longer, and indeed until a change be recommended for him. Accept my Mary's love with mine, and remember us to your dear sister. Is dear Mrs. W . . . . near you still? If so, my love to her also. This time last year we were travelling the road together on Irish ground, and still are in mercy along Emanuel's land--may I say in spirit?
The Lord be with you, my dear, dear sister. How easy do I find it to wish you well with all my heart, and to greet you deeply in the bond of Christ Jesus. We expect dear Mrs. M . . . . here, and did look for Mr. K . . . .; but that is now given up.
Ever your affectionate brother,
J. G. B.