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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. "unto 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 disobe
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.,
See Gen. xv. 16. and Eph. v. 6. "because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.' Nor does the use of the passive voice always imply the sufferance of some external force; for we speak of one being given up to vice, or inclined to this or that propensity, meaning only that such is the bias of his own disposition. Finally, the three last verses of the chapter, which contain the conclusion of the whole question, are a convincing proof that St. Paul only intended to shew on the one hand, the free and gratuitous mercy of God in calling the Gentiles to salvation, who would be obedient to the faith, and, on the other, the justice of his judgments in hardening the hearts of the Jews and others, who obstinately adhered to the law of works. v. 30-32. “what shall we say then? that the Gentiles.... have attained to righteousness which is of faith"-not therefore of election independent of faith: "but Israel.... hath not attained; wherefore? because they sought it not by faith"-not therefore of a decree of reprobation independent of unbelief.
After having passed this difficulty, those which remain will scarcely interrupt our course. Psal. xcv. 10, 11. "forty years long was I grieved with this generation," &c. "unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest." Here we must observe how long it was before God passed his decree, and that (if we may reason by analogy respecting spiritual things, from types of this kind, as was done before in the case of Esau) he excluded from his eternal rest only those who tempted him, and whose hearts were hardened. 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, 16. "Jehovah God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, &c. because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling-place: but they mocked the messengers of God, &c. until the wrath of Jehovah arose against his people, till there was no remedy." Isai. xxviii. 12, 13. "to whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest, &c. yet they would not hear: but the word of Jehovah was unto them precept upon precept, &c. that they might go, and fall backward, &c. wherefore hear the word of Jehovah, ye scornful men," &c. xxix. 10. "for Jehovah hath poured out upon
you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes." The reason is given, v. 13, 14. where it appears that it was not on account of God's decree, but of their own grievous wickedness; "forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, &c. but have removed their heart far from me.... therefore the wisdom of their wise men shall perish," &c. Matt. xi. 25, 26. "I thank thee, O Father, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." Lest we should attribute this solely to the arbitrary will of God, the verses preceding will explain why it seemed good, and why Christ ascribes glory to the Father on this account, v. 21-23: where it is disclosed what those wise men had first shewn themselves to be, namely, despisers of the divine grace. See also xiii. 11. "it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." Do we ask why? the next verse subjoins the reason: "whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath." This can only be applied to those who have first voluntarily rejected. divine grace, in the sense in which nearly the same words are addressed to the slothful servant, xxv. 29. In the same manner must be explained xiii. 13. "therefore speak I to them in parables, because they seeing see not," &c. Hence an easy solution is afforded for other texts. John viii. 43. "ye cannot hear my word;"-because when ye were able, ye would not, ye are now unable, not on account of any decree of God, but through unbelief in which you are hardened, or through pride, on account of which you cannot endure to hear the word; or lastly, as it is expressed in the following verse, because " ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." Again, v. 46. "if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?" Christ himself answers the question, v. 47. "ye therefore hear not, because ye are not of God." Not to be of God cannot signify not elect, but means, as it is said in v. 44. "to be of the devil," that is, to follow the devil rather than God. 66 So too, x. 26. ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.' Why "not of my sheep?" Because it was so decreed? By no means,