« PreviousContinue »
ourselves; he hath granted us the light and motives of the gospel for our fuller instruction and persuasion; he is ever present with us and ready to aslist our sincere endeavours to know and to do his will : surely then, it is unjust and ungrateful to him to fay that we are still without firength; and if we be finners, it is wholly our own fault. As for the gentiles, even the worst of them, the apostle no where ascribes their want of strength, to their not having received from their maker sufficient abilities to know and do his will acceptably, but to their having voluntarily corrupted themfelves and one another, and thereby loft the abilities which God had given them, and become dead in trespasses and fins. . Rom. vii. 7, 8. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God. · It appears to me that the apostle speaks here only of personal character and conduct, and the effects of them in producing governing habits : but not at all of any corruption or depravity of the nature of man effected by Adam's fin, whereby he is become incapable of doing that which is good, or of pleasing God. Adam, or his fin, is not mentioned by the apostle in treating of this subject. It is readily acknowledged, that a person who attaches himself to the gratification of his carnal or sensual appetites and paffions cannot perform the will of God, but must daily become more and more alienated from bim and from his duty: but this is saying no more than that a wicked man cannot be a good man, or please God so long as he continues wicked. But it by no means follows that this man is unable to hear, understand, and receive salutary convictions from the truths of God, revealed by his Son Jesus Christ, and thereby become changed in his sentiments, dispofitions, and conduct, and from carnally-minded become spiritually-minded. The various forms of speech which the apostle uses in the preceding and following verses seem only to express one and the same thing, viz. the change produced in the dispositions and conduct of men by preaching the gospel to them, and their attention to it, and firicere reception of it, together with the happy effects and consequences of it. - Ephesians ii. 3. And were by nature children of wrath even as others.
: If we compare the passages in which the apostle uses the word nature, we shall find that he did not mean by it that internal frame, constitution, or condition of being wherewith God our maker hath formed us; but that external condition, or those outward circumstances (especially with relation to God and religious concerns) in which divine providence hath caused us ta be born and live. Human nature, in our sense of the phrase, is the same in all mankind; but different persons may be
brought brought forth into life, and spend it under very dif ferent natural circumstances, in the apostle's sense of the word nature. Thus Rom. ii. 14. He says, when the gentiles, which have not the law, do by nar ture the things contained in the law, and v. 27. Shall not uncircumcision, which is by nature, if it fulfill. the law, judge thee, &c. He here plainly speaks not of an internal frame, constitution, or powers, or what we call: a nature, which the gentiles had, different from that of the jews; but of their exter nal, moral, and religious state and circumstances, as destitute of the instructions and affistances of the law of Moses, by which they were much below the jews. Again, in the remonftrance which he tells us he made to Peter, we find these words, Gal. ii. 15. We who are jews by nature, and not finners of the gentiles; when certainly he doth not mean to inti. mate that the jews had a different sort of nature; or internal constitution, whereby they were jews ; but only we who are natural-born jews, and have all along enjoyed the privileges of that people. So likewise in the text under confideration, having spoken of the Ephesians, as formerly dead in trespasses and firs, wherein, in time past, ye walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; he adds, V. 3. among whom also we all had our conversation in times past, in the luft of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the
Mesh and of the mind. Observe, hitherto he speaks of external condition and circumstances, and of personal character and actual vices, and not at all of internal constitution, or a nature corrupted by the effects of Adam's fin. He adds : and were by nature children of wrath, even as others. i. e. (conformable to his use of the word nature in other places) in consequence of our birth and situation among children of disobedience, where we were kept ignorant of the truth, deceived by false principles, and misled by bad examples, we ourselves were children of wrath, as others about us were, and many still continue. By children of wrath I apprehend the apostle does not mean here objects of the wrath and displeasure of God, but only describes further the personal character of those whom he lo denominates. As in the close of the former verse he had mentioned children, or fons of disobedience, i. e, disobedient children, (and Peter, 1 Ep. i. 14. speaks of obedient children, in the original it is children of obedience) fo here he mentions children of wrath, i. e, wrathful, furious, malignant, and milchievous persons. In a striking and beautiful figure, he represents disobedience and wrath under the persons of two fruitful mothers, whose offspring they had been. Accordingly, when the apostle comes in the beginning of the fourth chapter to exhort the Ephesian christians to a conversation conformable to the vocation wherewith they were called, and quite
the reverse of the description he gives in this verse of their former character and conduct, he begins with describing it thus, v. 2, 3. With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love. Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. He also concludes the chapter thus ; Let all bitterness and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from jou with all malice. And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Chrijt hath forgiven you. Do we not see a greater propriety and, force in these exhortations, when we consider them as addressed to persons who had formerly been children of wrath?
III. OF ELECTION AND REPROBATION. Rom. ix, 11, &c. For the children being riot yet born, neither having clone 'any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to elettiin might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said unto her, The elder mall serve the younger; as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Efau have I hated. What Shall we say then, is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid; for he faith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion an whom I will have compasion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God. that speweth mercy, &C.