(lifted entirely from http://bryanlopez.com/ )
Edwards identifies six points of how God does exercise His sovereignty in our salvation:
1. God exercises His sovereignty by calling a people or a nation, and giving them the opportunities of grace, and leaving others without them.
“According to the divine appointment, salvation is bestowed in connection with the provisions of grace. God may sometimes make use of very unlikely opportunities, and bestow salvation on men who are under very great disadvantages; but He does not bestow grace wholly without any means. But God exercises His sovereignty in bestowing those means. All nations are by nature in like circumstances towards God. Yet God greatly distinguishes some nations and peoples from others by the opportunities and advantages which He bestows upon them.”
2. God exercises His sovereignty in the advantages He bestows upon individual persons.
“Everyone needs salvation, and everyone is naturally, undeserving of it; but He gives some vastly greater advantages for salvation than others. To some He assigns their place in godly Christian families, where they may be well instructed and educated, and have Christian parents to dedicate them to God, and say many prayers for them. God places some under a more powerful ministry than others, and in places where there are more of the outpourings of the Spirit of God. To some He gives much more of the strivings and the awakening influences of the Spirit, than to others. It is according to His mere sovereign pleasure.”
3. God exercises His sovereignty in sometimes bestowing salvation on the lowly and poor, and denying it to the wise and great.
“Christ in His sovereignty passes by the gates of princes and nobles, and enters some cottage and dwells there, and has communion with its obscure inhabitants. God in His sovereignty withheld salvation from the rich man, who lived luxuriously every day, and bestowed it on poor Lazarus, who sat begging at his gate. God in this way pours out contempt on princes, and on all their glittering splendor. So God sometimes passes by wise men, men of great understanding, learned and great scholars, and bestows salvation on others of weak understanding, who only comprehend some of the plainer parts of Scripture, and the fundamental principles of the Christian religion. Yes, there seem to be fewer great men called, than others. And God in ordering it thus manifests His sovereignty.”
4. God exercises His sovereignty in bestowing salvation on some who have had very few advantages in life.
“Sometimes some, who have had obvious opportunities of grace, are rejected, and left to perish, and others, under far less advantages, are saved. Thus the scribes and Pharisees, who had so much light and knowledge of the Scriptures, were mostly rejected, and the poor ignorant tax collectors saved. The greater part of those, heard Christ preach many times, and saw Him work miracles from day after day, yet they were not chosen to receive salvation; and yet the woman of Samaria was chosen for eternal life, and many other Samaritans at the same time, who only heard Christ preach, as He occasionally passed through their city. So the woman of Canaan was elected for salvation, who was not of the country of the Jews, and only once saw Jesus Christ. So the Jews, who had seen and heard Christ, and saw His miracles, and with whom the apostles labored so much, were not saved. But the Gentiles, many of them, who, as it were, only briefly heard the good news of salvation, embraced those truths, and were converted.”
5. God exercises His sovereignty in calling some to salvation, who have been dreadfully wicked, and leaving others, who have been moral and religious persons.
“The Pharisees were a very strict sect among the Jews. Their religion was extraordinary. (Luke 18:11). They were not like other men, extortioners, unjust, or adulterers-that was their morality. They fasted twice a week, and gave tithes of all that they possessed-that was their religion. But yet, for the most part, they were rejected, and the tax collectors, and prostitutes, and openly vicious sorts of people, entered into the kingdom of God before them. (Matthew 21:31). The Apostle Paul describes his righteousness while he was a Pharisee, saying, “as for legalistic righteousness, I was faultless” (Philippians 3:6). The rich young man, who fell on his knees before Christ, saying, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’”-this man was a moral person. When Christ told him keep the commandments, he said, with all sincerity, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” He had obviously been brought up in a good family, and was a youth of such agreeable manners and correct behavior, that it is said, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Still he was not chosen; while the thief on the cross, that was crucified with Christ, was chosen and called. God sometimes shows His sovereignty by showing mercy to the worst of sinners, on those who have been murderers, and blasphemers. And even when they are old, some are called at the eleventh hour. God sometimes shows the sovereignty of His grace by showing mercy to some, who have spent most of their lives in the service of Satan, and have little left to spend in the service of God.”
6. God exercises His sovereignty, in saving some of those who seek salvation, and not others.
“Some who seek salvation, as we know both from Scripture and observation, are quickly converted; while others seek for a long time, and do not obtain it. God helps some over the mountains and difficulties which are in the way; He subdues Satan, and delivers them from his temptations: but others are ruined by the temptations with which they meet. Some are never thoroughly awakened; while to others God is pleased to give thorough convictions. Some are left to backsliding hearts; others God causes to hold out to the end. Some are brought down from a confidence in their own righteousness; others never get over that obstruction in their way, as long as they live. And some are converted and saved, who never strived after salvation, as others who, in the end, perish.”