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These verses, and the whole of this chapter, relate not to the election of particular persons to eternal life, but to the calling of the gentiles, and the rejection of the jews from the privileges of the gospel; and it is manifelt that the apostle is not speaking in this place of the final state, or indeed of the persons of Efau and Jacob, but of their posterity, and that only with a view to temporal privileges and prerogatives.
The whole body of chriftians, confifting of jews, and gentiles, are frequently stiled the chofen, and elect of God, on account of their external privileges, as the whole jewish nation had been so named before, on the fame account. This is an easy and plain sense of ele&tion, reflects not at all on the perfections of God, is consistent with the offers and exhortations of scripture, and preserves a harmony between the language of the old and new teftament.
It must be acknowledged, however, that in order to vindicate the divine conduct in the calling of the gentiles, the apostle alledges some facts, in which not whole nations, but particular per fons are spoken of, and which seem to imply, that their minds were under supernatural influence in forming bad as well as good resolutions; and there are other para sages of scripture which at first fight seem to look the same way.
The hardness of Pharaoh's heart, Exod. ix. 16. Rom. ix. 17. the obstinacy of Sihon king of Heshbon, Deut. ii. 30. and the unbelief of many of the jews, If. vi. 10. Mat. xiii. 14. Mark iv. 12. Luke viii. 10. John xii. 40. Acts xxviii. 26. Rom. xi. 8. are all ascribed to the purpose, act, or decree of God, who had important designs to answer by means of these blameable determinations of men. On the other hand, when persons believe and obey the gospel, it is ascribed to the divine influence upon their minds.
Mat. xi. 25. I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wife and prudent, and haft revealed them unte babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy light, John vi. 27. All that the Father giveth me Mall come to me. See also John 17. Acts xvi. 14. And the Lord opened the heart of Lydia, that she attended to the things that were spoken of Paul. Moreover, every thing of this nature is expressly re. ferred to the arbitrary disposition of God, in Rom. ix. 18, 23. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say, then, unto me, Why doth he yet find fault, for who hath resisted his will? Nay but, Oman, who art thou, that thou repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, why halt thou made me thus ? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vellel unto ho
nour, nour, and another unto dishonour ? What if God, wil. ling to new his wrath, and to make his power known, hath endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction ; and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared unto glory.
To understand such passages as there, we should consider, that in the language of the scriptures God is said to do those things, which come to pass according to the natural course of things, as well as to perform things of a miraculous nature ; because they take place in consequence of the laws which he has originally established. And, certainly, if God had not made men liable to be reduced by temptation, they would not have sinned, any more than they could embrace truth without the means of becoming acquainted with it; and it must depend upon the good-pleasure of God whether he will afford men more, or fewer advantages for attaining to knowledge, virtue, and happiness. But, notwithstanding this, if the means have been such as would have been effectual, provided there had been no criminal prejudice to frustrate them, men are blamed, and God is just and wise in punishing them, as well as in rewarding those whose minds are so disposed, as to 'receive adyantage from the means of virtue and knowledge which are afforded them. . . K
Now that in this sense the sacred writers considered God as just to all mankind, is evident from the many earnest exhortations and expoftulations addressed to sinners in the books of scripture, and from the blame and reproach which men are represented as incurring, when they continue in vice and ignorance. It is not possible that any persons could be so inconsistent with themselves, as to exhort finners to repent, and to blame and reproach them for not repenting, if they did not consider them as having a natural power to comply with the exhortation. Nay, in this very passage of the apostle Paul, which is, perhaps, the most favourable to the doctrine of absolute decrees of any thing in all the books of scripture, God is represented as enduring, with much long-suffering, the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, which evidently implies that they had sufficient power and time to repent, and to prevent their impending destruction; and therefore proves that their destruction was not defreed, but in case of their impenitence.
How much soever, therefore, the facred writers 'refer to God, upon particular occasions, and what
ever use they may suppose that his infinite wisdom 'will make of she errors and vices of some individuals of mankind, in order to promote the interests of truth and virtue more at large, we cannot but conclude, that they considered every man's own determination as final with respect to his future state ;
and it is to be observed that neither the obstinacy of Pharaoh, nor even the infidelity of the jews, had any necessary connection with their state after death. The former might be hard-hearted with respect to the hebrews, and either rewarded for other virtues, or punished for other vices, in a future state; and if the unbelieving jews were in other respects such men as Paul, who had a zeal for God, though not, according to knowledge, they may find mercy in the day of judgment. There is not a single passage in the scriptures which represents the future misery of any individual of mankind as determined by an. arbitrary decree of God; but a thousand passages in which it is expressly faid, that the future state of all mankind depends entirely upon their own voluntary, actions.. · After these observations, short remarks on another passage may suffice for the purpose of this section.
Rom, viii. 28. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did fore.. know, he dich also predestinate, to be conforined to the image of his fon, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called ; and whom he called, them be also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
· All that we can fairly infer from this passage is, that the end of the christian dispensation, or of the calling of mankind to the faith of the gospel, is their K2