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The fact therefore is, that God delayed cutting off the Egyptian sovereign, and bore with long-suffering his continued abuse of the repeated respites from the divine judgments, granted to his repeated prayers and renewed promises of submission, so that it appeared by the event, that these instances of divine forbearance contributed to harden him in his pride, disobedience, and impiety. And here, in order to rescue the chosen people from the yoke, under which they groaned by the oppression of Pharaoh and of the whole nation, whose head and representative he was, and who supported their monarch in his obstinate defiance of Jehovah, it became necessary to inflict on him and them the most signal punishments; and thus his conduct gave occasion to the God of Israel to display the greatness of his power, to magnify his name, and to prove his sovereignty over all the earth. But assuredly, this part of the divine dispensations has not the remotest tendency to prove, that every individual of the human race, is predestined to happiness or misery in a future world by an irreversible decree, according to which the elect are finally converted and saved, let them do what they may; while the rest of mankind are permitted to remain dead in sin, without any possibility of escaping from its power; or rather are reprobated, hardened and condemned, let them do what they can.
The progress of the apostle's reasoning appears decidedly to confirm the conclusion, that he meant to apply the ideas of predestination and election, which he has here advanced, not to individuals, but to the collective body of Jews in the first instance, and of Christians in the next. The election of Jacob and the reprobation of Esau before they were born, evidently was an instance of God's freely choosing the Jews for his peculiar people, and excluding the Edomites from the privileges which that choice conferred, independently of any previous merit in the nation thus selected. And this the apostle adduces, to show the credibility, that God should now by a similar election show mercy to the Gentiles, however previously undeserving. While the preservation of Pharaoh and his people under so many judgments, until they so abused the forbearance of God as to be . irretrievably hardened and finally cut off
, supplied a strict parallel to the obstinacy of the Jews in despising all the warnings of Christ, resisting all the evidence of his mission, pursuing him even to death, and afterwards persecuting his followers with unappeäsable hatred-thus excluding themselves from the church of Christ; and rendering it indispensably necessary to punish their guilty and obstinate nation by the signal overthrow and total dispersion, which the apostle knew was approaching. And since the Jews so uncharitably despised the Gentiles, as to reject and resist the Gospel of Christ rather than admit them to participate the privileges of God's chosen people, it became necessary to transfer to this despised race those blessings, which the Israelites had thus undervalued and spurned. It is with reference to this undoubted right of God, consistent with perfect equity, to employ nations as instruments of his providential dispensations, that the apostle silences the presumptuous objector with the question, “ hath not the potter power over the clay, to make one vessel to honour and another to dishonour;" a passage so often, but as we have already shown so erroneously quoted, to prove God's sovereign right, not only to create some individuals for certain and eternal happiness, but also to predestine others to certain and eternal destruction, of his own arbitrary will; a mode of conduct utterly abhorrent from the attributes of justice and mercy, which as we have already proved, * the Scripture so decidedly and so universally ascribes to God, and also interpreting this very expression in a sense totally different from that which it has been shown really belongs to it.t
It is with reference to the same national rejection and punishment of the Jews, and admission of the Gentiles into the church of Christ, that the apostle argues from, and applies the prophetic writings; “What,” says he, “ if God, willing to show his wrath and make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” (undoubtedly meaning the obstinate and rebellious Jews ;) and “ that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared unto glory even us;" certainly meaning Christians collectively; "whom he hath called not of the Jews
only, but also of the Gentiles; as he saith also in Hosea, I will call them my people who were not my people, and her beloved which was not beloved ; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, ye are not my people, there shall they be called the children of the living God."* From a view of all these passages, it seems to me most evident, that all the apostle's arguments and examples apply to the rejection of the Jews from the church of Christ, and the election of the Gentiles into it-not at all to the election or reprobation of individuals, as to a future world.
Rom. ix. 22 to 27.
THE REAL NATURE OF ELECTION, AS DESCRIBED IN THE
NEW TESTAMENT, FURTHER CONSIDERED.
2 PETER, 1. 10.
" Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if
ye do these things, ye shall never fall."
In the last discourse I examined what I judged the most important passages of Scripture relating to the economy of Providence towards the Jews, usually adduced to support the doctrine of absolute predestination, which supposes that an eternal and unconditional decree predetermines the eternal happiness or misery of all the individuals of the human race in a future world; and it appeared to me, that such an interpretation was erroneous, and such an inference unfounded: because the election or exclusion described in these passages in most instances belonged to nations, not to individuals, and implied merely admission to, or exclusion from, certain religious privileges and advantages in the present world ; not a certainty of happiness or misery in a future life, except as these advantages were neglected or improved ; and that when such preference or election were 'applicable to individuals, it was plain these were gifted by God with various powers and capacities qualifying them for their particular functions in the progress of the divine administration, but not securing to them eternal happiness, except in proportion as they discharged these various functions with fidelity, piety, and zeal. While in all cases such arrangements in the economy of Providence were plainly consistent with human freedom and accountableness, as well as with the most impartial equity, and the most extended mercy in the moral government of God; condemning no man for offences not his own, and judging each according to his use or abuse of the talents entrusted to him-and therefore in no degree sanctioning the doctrine of absolute predestination and unconditional irreversible decrees.
It remains to inquire, whether when from the dispensation under the law we pass to that under the Gospel, any indication appears of a change of system in the principles on which the divine economy was conducted, and its blessings of religious light and eternal happiness distributed. In a word, we are to inquire whether we can discover that the calling and admission of Christians into the church and kingdom of God on earth, implied an election unto eternal life, regulated by absolute predestination and unconditional decrees, having no reference in the divine foreknowledge to the diligence and exertions, the character and the conduct of those who were thus called and elected.
In pursuing this inquiry, we discover clearly that the Gospel scheme introduced a great change indeed in the distribution of religious instruction, and the clearness of the encouragement held out to the sincere followers of God. The blessings of true religion, wherever the Gospel was preached, were offered alike to all men of every nation under heaven, who would accept the gracious terms of divine mercy : “Go
ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”* Whosoever believeth and is baptised, shall be saved.”+ Such was the gracious command of our divine Lord to the apostles, whom he delegated to instruct and reform mankind.
This extension to all nations of the privileges which the chosen people hitherto had almost exclusively enjoyed, combined with the rejection of the Jews for their obstinate incredulity, is dwelt on by the great apostle of the Gentiles, (who was the most effective agent in this ministry,) with singular emphasis, as a distinguished era in the dispensations of Providence, a wonderful and mysterious display of divine wisdom and mercy, which those to whom this new calling and election was extended, should receive with the most prompt submission and the most heartfelt gratitude. The converted Gentiles were called to exchange the abominations and the vices of heathenism for the reasonableness and the holiness of the Christian faith: they
* Matt. xxviii, 19.
+ Mark xvi. 16.