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suggested silently by their own consciences; for no one could be at a loss to perceive either that their own stubbornness must have been the principal cause, if to that day God had not given them an understanding heart, or, on the contrary, that God, who had wrought so many miracles for their sakes, had abundantly given them a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, but that they had refused to make use of these gifts.
Thus much, therefore, may be considered as a certain and irrefragable truth-that God excludes no one from the pale of repentance and eternal salvation, till he has despised and rejected the propositions of sufficient grace, offered even to a late hour, for the sake of manifesting the glory of his longsuffering and justice. So far from God having anywhere declared in direct and precise terms that reprobation is the effect of his arbitrary will, the reasons which influence him in cases of this kind, are frequently stated,—namely, the grievous sins of the reprobate previously committed, or foreseen before actual commission,-want of repentance,-contempt of grace, -deafness to the repeated calls of God. For reprobation must not be attributed, like the election of grace, to the divine will alone. Deut. ix. 5. "not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations Jehovah thy God doth drive them out before thee." For the exercise of mercy requires no vindication; it is unnecessary to assign any cause for it, except God's own merciful will; whereas before reprobation, which is followed by punishment, can be looked upon as just, the sin of the individual, not the arbitrary will of God, must be its primary cause-sin, that is to say, either committed or foreseen, grace having been repeatedly rejected, or sought at length too late, and only through fear of punishment, when the prescribed time was already past. For God does not reprobate for one cause, and condemn or assign to death for another, according to the distinction commonly made; but those whom he has condemned on account of sin, he has also reprobated on account of sin, as in time, so from all eternity. And this reprobation lies
2 See note. p. 47.
not so much in the divine will, as in the obstinacy of their own minds; nor is it the decree of God, but rather of the reprobate themselves, by their refusal to repent while it is in their power. Acts xiii. 46. "ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life." Matt. xxi. 43. " the stone which the builders rejected, &c. therefore the kingdom of God shall be taken from you.' See also 1 Pet. ii. 7, 8. Matt. xxiii. 37. "how often would I have gathered thy children together, &c. and ye would not." Nor would it be less unjust to decree reprobation, than to condemn for any other cause than sin. Inasmuch, therefore, as there is no condemnation except on account of unbelief or of sin, (John iii. 18, 19. "he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed, &c. this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light:" xii. 48. "he that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken," &c. 2 Thess. ii. 12. "that they all might be damned who believed not the truth,") the texts themselves which are produced in confirmation of the decree of reprobation will prove that no one is excluded by any decree of God from the pale of repentance and eternal salvation, unless it be after the contempt and rejection of grace, and that at a very late hour.
I will begin with the case of Jacob and Esau, Rom. ix., because many are of opinion that it is decisive respecting the question at issue. It will be seen that predestination is not so much the subject of discussion in this passage as the unmerited calling of the Gentiles after the Jews had been deservedly rejected.
St. Paul shews in the sixth verse that the word which God spake to Abraham had not been frustrated, though so far from the whole of his posterity having received Christ, more had believed among the Gentiles than among the Jews. For the promise was not made in all the children of Abraham, but in Isaac, v. 7; that is to say, "they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed." v. 8. The promise therefore was not made to the children of Abraham according to the flesh, but to the children of God, who are therefore
called the children of the promise. But since Paul does not say in this passage who are the children of God, an explanation must be sought from John i. 11, 12. where this very promise is briefly referred to; "he came unto his own, and his own received him not: but as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." The promise, therefore, is not to the children of Abraham in the flesh, but to as many of the children of his faith as received Christ, namely, to the children of God and of the promise, that is, to believers; for where there is a promise, there must be also a faith in that promise.
St. Paul then shews by another example, that God did not grant mercy in the same degree to all the posterity even of Isaac, but much more abundantly to the children of the promise, that is, to believers; and that this difference originates in his own will: lest any one should arrogate anything to himself on the score of his own merits. v. 11, 12. " for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said unto
her, The elder shall serve the younger.' The purpose of God, according to what election? Doubtless according to the election to some benefit, to some privilege, and in this instance specially to the right of primogeniture transferred from the elder to the younger of the sons or of the nations; whence it arises that God now prefers the Gentiles to the Jews. Here then I acknowledge that his purpose of election is expressly mentioned, but not of reprobation. St. Paul contents himself with establishing the general principle of election to any mercy or benefit whatever from this single example. Why should we endeavour to extort from the words a harsh and severe meaning, which does not belong to them? If the elder shall serve the younger, whether the individual or the people be intended, (and in this case it certainly applies best to the people) it does not therefore follow that the elder shall be reprobated by a perpetual decree; nor, if the younger be favoured with a larger amount of grace, that the elder shall be favoured with none. For this cannot be said of Esau, who was taught the true worship of God in the house of his father,
nor of his posterity, whom we know to have been called to the faith with the rest of the Gentiles. Hence this clause is added in Esau's blessing, Gen. xxvii. 40. "it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck;" which, if the servitude of Esau implies his reprobation, must certainly imply that it was not to last for ever. There is, however, an expression in the same chapter which is alleged as decisive; "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated," v. 13. But how did God evince his love or hatred? He gives his own answer, Mal. i. 2, 3. "I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste.” He evinced his love therefore to Jacob, by bringing him back again into his country from the land of Babylon; according to the purpose of that same election by which he now calls the Gentiles, and abandons the Jews. At the same time even this text does not prove the existence of any decree of reprobation, though St. Paul subjoins it incidentally, as it were, to illustrate the former phrase," the elder shall serve the younger;" for the text in Mal. i. 2, 3. differs from the present passage, inasmuch as it does not speak of the children yet unborn, but of the children when they had been long dead, after the one had eagerly accepted, and the other had despised the grace of God. Nor does this derogate in the least from the freedom of grace, because Jacob himself openly confesses that he was undeserving of the favour which he had obtained; Gen. xxxiii. 10. St. Paul therefore asserts the right of God to impart whatever grace he chooses even to the undeserving, v. 14, 15. and concludes-" so then it is not of him that willeth, or of him that runneth, (not even of Jacob, who had openly confessed himself undeserving, nor of the Jews who followed after the law of righteousness) but of God that sheweth mercy," v. 16. Thus St. Paul establishes the right of God with respect to any election whatever, even of the undeserving, such as the Gentiles then seemed to be.
The apostle then proceeds to prove the same with regard to the rejection of the Jews, by considering God's right to exercise justice upon sinners in general: which justice, however, he does not display by reprobation, and hatred towards the children yet unborn, but by judicially hardening the
heart, and punishing flagrant offenders. v. 17, 18. "the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up," &c. He does not say, "I have decreed," but, "I have raised up;" that is, in raising up Pharaoh, he only called into action, by means of a most reasonable command, that hardness of heart, with which he was already acquainted. So Exod. iii. 19. "I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go." So too 1 Pet. ii. (in which chapter much has been borrowed from the ninth of Romans,) v. 7, 8. "unt: them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed.... &c. even to them that stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed." They therefore first disallowed Christ, before they were disallowed by him; they were then finally appointed for punishment, when they persisted in disobedience.
To return, however, to the chapter in Romans. We read in the next verses, 19-21. thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? &c. why hast thou made me thus"-that is, hard-hearted, and a vessel unto dishonour, whilst thou shewest mercy to others? In answer to which the apostle proves the reasonableness, not indeed of a decree of reprobation, but of that penal hardness of heart, which, after much long-suffering on the part of God, is generally the final punishment reserved for the more atrocious sins.7 v. 21. "hath not the potter power over the clay?" that is, the material fitted for his own purposes, to put honour upon whom he chooses, provided it be not on the disobedient; as it is said 2 Tim. ii. 21. "if a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour," &c. whilst he hardens still more the hearts of the contumacious, that is, he punishes them, according to the next verse of this chapter-" he endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction." Whence then were they fitted, except from their own hardness of heart, whereby the measure of their iniquity was completed!
7 This is seen in the often penitence of those that suffer, who, had they escaped, had gone on sinning to an immeasurable heap, which is one of the extremest punishments.'-Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty. Prose Works, II. 491.