Pride Humbled, and Grace Exalted
James Smith, 1861
"You have not chosen me — but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain." John 15:16
One design of the gospel is to humble the pride of man, and exalt God's grace. Its doctrines are very humbling to the proud heart — for they require us to become as little children, receiving truth as from God's mouth, and to believe it simply on his authority. It calls for faith — not reasoning; for meekness — not argument. It always places God first, and traces up all good to him — and so lays the creature in the dust. But that which humbles us — also exalts; that which lays us low — fills us with comfort. It was humbling to the disciples, to be told by Jesus, "You have not chosen me — but I have chosen you." But while it humbled, it was full of comfort. O how blessed, to be told by the Lord's own mouth, "I have chosen you!" Here we have,
A Denial."You have not chosen me." Not one of the apostles came to Christ — until he went after them and called them. Not one of them chose Christ first, or naturally. Nor does anyone choose Christ naturally. No sinner will ever come to Christ — unless the Father draws him — and then he chooses Christ.
In order to choose Christ — one must feel one's need of him — but this no natural man ever does. He knows he needs something, he wishes to escape wrath, he may desire deliverance from his uncomfortable state — but he does not perceive, nor feel, that he needs just such a Savior as Jesus is. No one will acknowledge his need of a physician, until he feels that he is sick; no one will sigh for a deliverer, until he feels that he is in prison, or in difficulties. Just so, no one will choose Jesus — until he feels that he is utterly lost without him.
In order to choose Christ — we must conceive of him as lovely; but the natural man sees no beauty in Christ. To him he is like a root out of a dry ground, having no form nor loveliness. He can see beauty in his fellow sinners — but he sees no beauty in Christ. He can see beauty in the world — but not in the Son of God. He is blind to all the excellencies, beauties, and glories of Immanuel; and therefore he will not choose him. He tries every way he can to do without Christ. He will do any work, suffer any privation, or endure any pain, rather than come to Christ — until the Holy Spirit sways his will. He will trust in sacraments, services, priests, the virgin Mary, anything, or anyone — rather than trust in Christ alone; and in such a state of mind, it is impossible that he should choose Christ.
The sinner's heart is enmity against Christ, and enmity cannot love; as to choose, therefore, is expressive of love; man, while carnal, cannot choose Christ. No words can he plainer than those of the apostle, "The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Against Christ, as the revealer and representative of God — the enmity of man is displayed; and while this is the case, he cannot choose Christ. The fact is, no one ever did choose Jesus in his natural state, and no one ever will. Hence,
The Assertion."I have chosen you." Jesus chooses all his disciples. He made his own selection. So in every instance, the choice is Christ's. He chooses each, and he chooses all his people. He chose them before they believed on him, knew him, or had any real care about him. Just so in our case: we had no faith — until he gave it; we had no knowledge of him — 'until he imparted it; nor did we care anything about him — until he led us to feel our deep and utter need of him. He chose his people from the beginning, even before the foundation of the world — and therefore they could not choose him first.
His choice of them was out of pure love. Not because of anything they would be, or do; but out of pure, unselfish love, the Lord chose them for his own.
His choice was an act of sovereignty — a manifestation of his right to do as he will with his own — a proof that he delighted in mercy.
In our election to eternal life, Jesus shows himself to be God. He had a right to choose. He exercised that right. He had wisdom to direct him in the exercise of that right, and therefore he chose wisely. Believer, Jesus says to you, and to me, "You have not chosen me," nor did we choose him — but as the effect of his choosing us. He says, "I have chosen you," and he did so, or else we should never have chosen him. Let this humble us, and let it also fill us with love to, and zeal for Jesus. Which leads us to,
The Design."That you should go and bring forth fruit." Jesus ordained his disciples to be his witnesses, his ambassadors, and representatives, and he said, "Go and bring forth fruit." Just so, he has ordained us, and bids us go into the world and represent him, and bear witness for him, and beseech men in his name to be reconciled to God.
He chose us to be his servants, and it it is our imperative duty to serve him. To serve him out of love. To serve him from gratitude, for the favor he has shown us.
He chose us to go and bring forth fruit. Fruit as his ministers — converts to the truth. Fruit as his members — even the fruits of the Spirit, as love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith.
He chose us to bear permanent fruit. Fruit that will count before God, and be valued by him. Fruit that will benefit man, and wring a verdict of approval from him. Fruit that will adorn the gospel, and win converts to his cause. Fruit that will honor himself, as the teacher and example of all that is good.
See — who are elected. The fruitful, those who continue in the word and ways of Jesus. We cannot read the book of life — but we can read the conduct of men; and by their fruits we are to know them.
See — who must have the glory of our fruit, of our salvation, of all. He who chose us, chose us to bear fruit, chose us to be saved in himself with an everlasting salvation, chose us to both grace and glory.
See — that the love of Christ is pure and unselfish. He could see nothing in us, why he should choose us — but of his own pure love, he chose us, and ordained us, that we may bring forth fruit.
See — the folly of cavilers. Someone must choose, either God or man, for religion, on our part, is choosing God, yielding to his will, and obeying his commands — and on God's part, it is God choosing us, setting us apart for his glory, and conferring grace upon us. Who then shall choose — the Sovereign or the subject? The infinitely wise God — or poor foolish man? The infinitely good and gracious One — or the evil, depraved, and degraded one? But the dispute is settled, caviling is vain, objecting is folly, for Jesus says, "You have not chosen me — but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain."