« PreviousContinue »
good, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose: for whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son,' &c. moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called ; and whom he called, them he also justified ; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.'
In the first place it must be remarked, that it appears from v. 28, that those who love God' are the same as those who are the called according to his purpose,' and consequently as those whom he did foreknow,' and whom he did predestinate,' for them he also called,' as is said in v. 30. Hence it is apparent that the apostle is here propounding the scheme and order of predestination in general, not of the predestination of certain individuals in preference to others. As if he had said, We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, that is, to those who believe, for those who love God believe in him. The order of this scheme is also explained. First, God foreknew those who should believe, that is, he decreed or announced it as his pleasure that it should be those alone who should find grace in his sight through Christ, that is, all men, if they would believe. These he predestinated to salvation, and to this end he, in various ways, called all mankind to believe, or in other words, to acknowledge God in truth; those who actually thus believed he justified ; and those who continued in the faith unto the end he finally glorified. But that it may be more clear who those are whom God has foreknown, it must be observed that there are three ways in which any person or thing is said to be known to God.
First, by his universal knowledge, as Acts xv. 18. • known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.' Secondly, by his approving or gracious knowledge,* which is an Hebraism, and therefore requires more explanation. Exod. xxxiii. 12. • I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight.'
in my sight.' Psal. i. 6. « Jehovah knoweth the way of the righteous.' Matt. vii. 23. * I never knew you.' Thirdly, by a knowledge attended with displeasure. Deut. xxxi. 21. • I know their imagination which they go about,' &c. 2 Kings xix. 27. • I know......thy coming in, and thy rage against me. Rev. iii. 1. I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. In the passage under discussion it is evident that the approving knowledge of God can be alone intended; but he foreknew or approved no one, except in Christ, and no one in Christ except a believer. Those therefore who were about to love, that is, to believe in God, God foreknew or approved ;t-or in general all men, if they should believe; those whom he thus foreknew, he
predestinated, and called them that they might believe; those who believed, he justified. But if God justified believers, and believers only, inasmuch as it is faith
.. when God,
Paradise Regained, III. 60.
t In the original it is--qui igitur dilecti dilecturi erant, id est, credituri, eos prænovit Deus, &c.—which scarcely seems to bave any sense, unless some allusion be intended to John xvi. 27. the Father bimself loveth you,' &c. It seems more probable that dilectė has been inserted by the carelessness of the transcriber. VOL. I.
alone that justifieth, he foreknew those only who would believe, for those whom he foreknew he justified ; those therefore whom he justified he also foreknew, namely, those alone who were about to believe. So Rom. xi. 2. • God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew,' that is, believers, as appears from v. 20. 2 Tim. ïi. 19. the Lord knoweth them that are his,' that is, all who name the name of Christ, and depart from iniquity;' or in other words, all believers. 1 Pet. i. 2. elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.' This can be applicable to none but believers, whom the Father has chosen, according to his foreknowledge and approbation of them, through the sanctification of the Spirit and faith, without which the sprinkling of the blood of Christ would avail them nothing. Hence it seems that the generality of commentators are wrong in interpreting the foreknowledge of God in these passages in the sense of prescience; since the prescience of God seems to have no connection with the principle or essence of predestination ; for God has predestinated and elected whoever believes and continues in the faith. Of what consequence is it to us to know whether the prescience of God foresees who will, or will not, subsequently believe ? for no one believes because God has foreseen his belief, but God foresees his belief because he was about to believe. Nor is it easy to understand how the prescience or foreknowledge of God with regard to particular persons can be brought to bear at all upon the doctrine of predestination, except for the purpose of raising a number of useless and utterly inapplicable questions. For why should God foreknow particular individuals, or what could he foreknow in them which should induce him to predestinate them in particular, rather than all in general, seeing that the common condition of faith had been established ? Without searching deeper into this subject, let us be contented with only knowing, that God, out of his infinite mercy and grace in Christ, has predestinated to salvation all who should believe.*
The other passage is Acts xii. 48. "when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord ; and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.' The difficulty is caused by the abrupt introduction of an opinion of the historian, in which he at first sight appears to contradict himself as well as the rest of Scripture, for he had before attributed to Peter this saying, chap. x. 34, 35. ' of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.' Accepted' certainly means chosen ; and lest it should be urged that Cornelius had already been a proselyte before, St. Paul says the same thing even of those who had never known the law, Rom. ii. 10, 14. there is no respect of persons with God,' &c. when the Gentiles which have not the law,' &c. 1 Pet. i. 17. the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work. Now those who hold
*Thy ransom paid, which man from death redeems,
Paradise Lost, XII. 424.
the doctrine that a man believes because he is ordained to eternal life, not that he is ordained to eternal life because he will believe, cannot avoid attributing to God the character of a respecter of persons, which he so constantly disclaims. Besides, if the Gentiles believed because they were ordained to eternal life, the same must have been the primary cause of the unbelief of the Jews, v. 46. which will plead greatly in their excuse, since it would seem that eternal life had only been placed in their view, not offered to their acceptance. Nor would such a dispensation be calculated to encourage the other nations, who would immediately conclude from it that there was no occasion for any will or works of their own in order to obtain eternal life, but that the whole depended on some fatal ordinance ; whereas on the contrary Scripture uniformly shows in the clearest manner, that as many as have been ordained to eternal life believe, not simply because they have been so ordained, but because they have been ordained on condition of believing.
For these reasons other interpreters of more sagacity,* according to my judgement, have thought that there is some ambiguity in the Greek word tetaquévos, which is translated ordained, and that it has the same force as εύ ήτοι μετρίως διατεθειμένοι, “well or moderately disposed or affected,' of a composed, attentive, upright, and not disorderly mind; of a different spirit from those Jews, as touching eternal life, who had put from them the word of God,' and had shown themselves unworthy of everlasting life.'
* This is the interpretation of Hammond and Whitby, and of Wolfius, Cur. Philol. in loc. See also the Commentators quoted in Mr. Horne's note, Introduction to the Critical Study of the Scriptures, Vol. II. p. 759.