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Paul's manner of arguing. No part indeed of his invaluable writings has been more fatally perverted than the reasoning of this ninth chapter, but more particularly that expression of the eleventh verse, " that the purpose of God according to election might stánd, not of works, but of Him that calleth.” These expressions have been so grossly mistaken, as if they implied that the Almighty, by some arbitrary and immutable decree, had selected certain individuals of the human race for the purpose of bestowing upon moral conduct and fitness for such a blessinon. while as them eternal life, without any reference to their capriciously He had doomed others, with an equal disregard of their actual behaviour and qualifications, to everlasting perdition. It should seem that the mere statement of such a supposition proves at once its untruth; for it is at variance with the benign attributes of the Deity, while it is most discouraging to the virtuous exertions of His creatures. To every sober-minded and attentive reader it will be immediately apparent; that the election here spoken of, by the absolute decree and purpose of God, cannot be that of individuals to eternal life; nor the reprobation, by a like absolute decree, to eternal misery; but the election of communities to the present privileges, and external advantages of the kingdom of God in this world ; and reprobation, or rejection, as it signifies the not being favoured with those privileges and advantages. Those who wish to follow a chain of close and satisfactory reasoning upon this important point, will do well to consult the Commen: taries of Locke and of Taylor, as well as of Wesley, who is equally decided in his opposition to this sad perversion of Gospel doctrine. I will only mention one of the many arguments, which have been brought forward in this much debated question. “Agreeably to the purpose of God according to election, it was said unto Rebecca, “ The elder shall serve the younger ;' meaning the posterity of the elder and the younger. For the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels: and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.'
a See Taylor, p. 329.
These are the words, which signifiy the purpose of God according to election. Therefore, the election refers to Jacob's posterity, or the whole nation of Israel. But all the nation of Israel were not absolutely elected to eternal life. Therefore the election of Jacob's posterity to those privileges, was not absolute election to eternal
From this summary of the Apostle's argument, we have seen that it is confined to the rejection of the once favoured people of God, and the admission of the Gentiles to the privileges of the Gospel. The chapters before us are occupied with a consideration of the reasons assigned by the Jews against the justice, or even possibility, of such a proceeding on the part of their Almighty Lawgiver, and with the answers which the Apostle urges against the validity
a Gen. xxv. 23.
b Taylor, p. 330.
The whole discussion turns upon matters, which have long ceased to have any practical effect; except they be employed as so many arguments against Jews of our own time, whom it may be wished to convert to our faith. It is clear therefore that the expressions and arguments of the Apostle cannot, with the least propriety, be applied to questions agitated among Christians as matter either of faith or conduct. Far better then would it be for the peace of the Catholic Church of Christ; far more conducive to the comfort of individuals; if those, who embark in religious controversy, or who are entrusted with the sacred office of religious instruction, would cease to bring forward, in support of their erring conceptions, texts, which belong to a widely different state of things; and if, instead of disturbing the minds and consciences of their fellow Christians by a continual reference to passages, obscure or intricate, they would bestow their time and attention upon the more easy and practical lessons of the New Testament; such, as would at one and the same time tend to their own godly edifying, and promote more effectually the good work of peace and of charity among all men.
of those reasons.
THE CALL OF THE GENTILES INTO THE CHURCH, AND PASSAGES IN SCRIPTURE RELATING TO IT, EXPLAINED.
Rom. IX. 13.
AS IT IS WRITTEN, JACOB HAVE I LOVED, BUT ESAU HAVE
In my last Discourse, I took a general view of the reasoning pursued throughout this ninth and the following chapter ; and I now invite your attention to some observations upon particular passages. The explanations, into which I propose to enter, may be found useful, not only as throwing light upon what may otherwise have appeared dark and difficult; but also as giving an insight into the principles, by which the interpretation of many other parts of Holy Scripture may be regulated and assisted.
Perhaps I cannot fix upon any passage in the first instance, which is more useful in elucidating the phraseology of Holy Writ, than the words selected for the text: “ As it is written; Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."
When we recollect that this application of a passage in the prophet Malachi refers to a solemn declaration of the Almighty; while the Apostle expressly alleges that the children, of whom it was spoken,
were not yet born, neither had done any good or evil ; it is plain that the words cannot be taken in their literal acceptation. It is inconsistent with every feeling of piety and of good sense to impute a noxious or vindictive quality to the ineffable purity and goodness of the Almighty Ruler of the Universe. The gross impropriety of any such imputation would be aggravated, by supposing such hatred to be extended towards creatures, not only not offending, but not even in existence. The inconsistency and impropriety will however be completely removed, if we attend to the usages of the Hebrew language, both in the structure of sentences, and in the meaning of particular words. When I say, the Hebrew language; I allude to its properties, as transfused into the Hellenistic idiom of the Septuagint Version and New Testament.-Now this language has a difficulty in expressing what grammarians term, the comparative degree. So that, “ when the sacred writers mention two things or persons, with the intention of signifying that one of them is to be preferred before the other, they convey their meaning in the form of two distinct and opposite propositions.”a In Hosea, vi. 6. our version supplies an instance both of the common and of the Hebrew form of expression.
- For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” In Matt. X. 20, . “ For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you," the meaning evidently must be,“ not so much as.” In St. Mark
a See my Sermons, Vol. I. p. 447. II. p. 23, with the respective notes.