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of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace."* This glowing language might at first seem, and has been frequently interpreted as meaning the predestination of the particular persons thus addressed, to the certainty of happiness in a future state. But attention to the context shows that it designates Christians, not separately, but collectively, as possessing certain distinctive characters and privileges belonging to them in their collective capacity, referring immediately and distinctly to their conversion from heathenism, and their admission into the Christian church, according to the eternal purpose of God, to extend at this time the blessings of redemption to all who would believe in Christ. The context clearly proves this to be the meaning of the apostle, who declares ; “ that in thus conferring on them redemption according to the riches of his grace, God had abounded towards them in all wisdom, having made known unto them the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fulness of time, he might gather together all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth ; even in him in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."

This last passage is quoted as exclusively referring to the final appointment of the predestinated to eternal life ; though the very next words prove, that it refers primarily and directly to their admission into the church on earth. For he explains the counsel of the divine will to be, “that we who first trusted in Christ, should be to the praise of his glory, in whom ye also trusted, (adds the apostle,) after that ye had heard the word of truth; the Gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of his glory.” Nothing can be clearer than that the purpose of God was primarily executed, when they “first trusted in Christ,” after having “ heard the Gospel,” and thence “believed on him ;” and that the Spirit poured out was a seal of God's extending to them the promise of his mercy, not immediately putting them into possession of their heavenly inheritance, but giving an earnest of their title to it, and of its being purchased and prepared for their future enjoyment_only, however, on the implied condition, that from thenceforward they should make due progress in their holy profession. For the apostle proceeds to implore the assistance of the divine grace, that they may thus advance with steady step in the path of life. “I also, (says he,) after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and your love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward, who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, and who hath put all things under his feet, and given him to be the head over all to the church which is his body, the fulness of him which filleth all in all."*

* Ephes. i. 3, 7.

It seems clear, that the distinguished change in the divine economy, by which the Gentiles were called into the church of God, constituted that eternal purpose of God, now made known by the church of Christ; and that this was the predestination affecting the Ephesian converts, by which they obtained redemption and forgiveness of their sins that were past, and became accepted to God and saved through faith, not of themselves nor by their own works, but of the gift of God; for they had, until their conversion, been dead in trespasses and sins. All this relates to their being converted from idolatry to the pure and holy religion of the Gospel; turned from darkness

• Ephes. i. 15, et seq.

unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God; their understandings illuminated by the knowledge of the true God and Jesus Christ, whom he had sent; their repentance accepted, and their pardon for their past sins atoned for by the atoning blood of Christ; their souls purified, and their virtue strengthened by the secret but ever-present influence of the Holy Spirit ; and the immediate co-operation of God, attested by his miraculous gifts, and especially by the gift of the Spirit, poured on the Gentile converts as abundantly as on the parent church at Jerusalem.

Still, however, this implied merely initial, and not final salvation—a state of high religious advancement, attended with signal advantages in preparing for futurity, holding out the most encouraging promises, the most glorious rewards, the most well-founded hopes, the most powerful assistances. And these advantages also arose not from any previous exertions or merits of their own, but from the free choice, the unmerited favour, the tender mercy of God, which they gained, and, as it were, appropriated to themselves, not by works, but by faith. But still these advantages might be rendered ineffectual ; this state of acceptance and sanctification might be forfeited by deliberate and unrepented crimes. Still the apostle judges it necessary to warn them against relapsing into the crimes prevailing amongst their heathen neighbours. “Let no man (says he) deceive you with vain words : for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience ; be not ye therefore partakers with them.” Still he warns them “ to walk as children of the light, proving what is acceptable unto the Lord :" to “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise ; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”*

Still he most solemnly warns them, “to put on that new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness;" to avoid falsehood, and anger, and dishonesty, to permit no corrupt communication to proceed out of their mouth, to put away all bitterness, and wrath, and clamour, and evil speaking. And, what is still more deserving our attention, he calls on them to take care not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God" whereby they were sealed to the day of redemp

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tion,”* he exhorts them to do the will of God from the heart, knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.” And he closes with this solemn statement of the dangers to which they were exposed, and the necessity of guarding against them: “ Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.”+ Now let me ask, what meaning can be annexed to all these solemn exhortations and warnings, if the persons to whom they were addressed were so unalterably sanctified, so unassailably secure, that no temptations could reach, no guilt endanger them—if there was no possibility of their sinking into carelessness and sloth, into coldness or thanklessness of heart, no possibility of their being tempted by vicious pleasure or unholy gain to break the divine command, or driven by shame or terror “ to make shipwreck of their faith,” yielding to the fear of man rather than the fear of God? Why call on them to be circumspect, and redeem the time,” if eternal wisdom had already fixed by its unalterable decrees every step of their progress from earth to heaven? Why warn them not to grieve the Spirit of God, if that Spirit was, by an irrevocable predestination, to remain for ever the abiding inmate of their souls ? Why rouse them to combat against sin and Satan, and to take unto them for this purpose the whole armour of God, that “they might be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand," if with respect to them, sin was already dead, Satan subdued, victory secure, and fall impossible ?

I have dwelt the longer upon these celebrated epistles to the Romans and the Ephesians, because they are plainly the stronghold of those who contend for absolute predestination. If this doctrine cannot be proved from these parts of holy writ, no Scripture exists by which it can be proved. And yet it appears to me that the doctrinal part of these epistles can be clearly and

* Ephes. iv. 24, 30.

+ Ephes, vi, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13.

consistently explained, without admitting this doctrine; and that the precepts, warnings, and the fears of failure they contain, would be unintelligible, and contradictory with it. I infer that this is not the doctrine of St. Paul. No: he certainly argues in unison with St. Peter, from whom I have taken the text, and who has, in a few verses, condensed the whole substance of St. Paul's reasonings and of the scriptural doctrine on this important subject* _when he addresses his Christian brethren, “who had obtained like precious faith with us, through the righteousness of God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” in terms calculated to raise the sincerest gratitude for the present blessings which the Gospel communicated, and the glorious prospects it held out. “ Grace and peace be multiplied unto you (says the affectionate pastor) through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue; whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

Surely it is impossible to speak more highly of the hopes and the exaltation of Christians in the present life, than to represent them as having escaped the corruptions of the world, and risen to a participation of the divine nature itself. But the apostle does not therefore employ the less earnestness to impress upon them the necessity of continued and vigorous exertion, and practical improvement; nor does he express less strongly the danger of relapse into guilt. “Besides this (says he) giving all diligence, , add to your faith virtue (rather fortitude); and,to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherlykindness; and to brotherly-kindness, charity.” These are essential qualities, which if we do not endeavour to acquire and cultivate, humbly imploring the ever-present aid of the Holy Spirit to guide and assist us, our calling will prove ineffectual, our election will be annulled, and all the privileges of our Christianity be for ever forfeited. “For (continues the apostle) if

* 2 Pet. i, 1 to 12,

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