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sin, as in time, so from all eternity. And this reprobation lies not so much in the divine will, as in the obstinacy of their own minds ; it is not God who decrees it, but the reprobate themselves who determine on refusing 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. As, therefore, there is no condemnation except on account of unbelief or of sin, (John ii. 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,') so we will prove from all the passages that are alleged in confirmation of the decree of reprobation, 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. We may begin our proofs of this assertion from the instance of Jacob and Esau, Rom. ix. since in the opinion of many the question seems to turn on that
It will be seen that the subject of discussion in this
passage is not so much predestination, as the
unmerited calling of the Gentiles after the Jews had been deservedly rejected.
St. Paul shows in the sixth verse, that the word which God spake to Abraham, had not therefore taken none effect because all his posterity had not received Christ, and more had believed among the Gentiles than among the Jews; inasmuch as 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, it behoves that there be also a faith in that promise.
St. Paul then shows 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 any thing 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 his purpose of election is expressly mentioned, but to reprobation there is no allusion. St. Paul is satisfied with employing this example to establish the general principle of election to any mercy or benefit whatever. 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 measure of grace, does it follow that the elder shall be favoured with none. For this can neither 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.' Now if the servitude of Esau implied his reprobation, these words must certainly
imply that it was not to last forever. But an expression which occurs in the same chapter 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 showeth 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 thing 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 means of reprobation, and hatred towards children yet unborn, but by the judicial hardening of the heart, and punishment of flagrant offenders. v. 17, 18. for 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, from the time that they had persisted in disobedience.
To return, however, to the chapter in Romans. It follows 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 showest 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,