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confirms, by a still stronger testimony, how much the promise made to Rebecca relates to the present subject, since the spiritual condition of Jacob is witnessed by his dominion, and that of Esau by his slavery. Jacob also obtained this favour by the kindness of the Lord, without any merit of his own. This testimony of the prophet shows the reason why Jehovah bestowed the birthright on Jacob. The passage is taken from the first chapter of Malachi, where the Lord declares his great kindness to the Jews, before he reproaches them on account of their ingratitude. You have I loved, says the God of Jacob; and he immediately adds the beginning of his love, Was not Jacob Esau's brother? What right or claim had your father, the patriarch, from whom you are descended, for being preferred to his brother? Their right was equal, except that the younger ought, by the law of nature, to have been subject to the older; “Yet I chose Jacob and rejected Esau, induced by my mercy alone, without any regard to the dignity of his works. And now I had adopted you for my people, that I might still continue to show the same kindness towards the seed of Jacob; but I had cast off the Edomites, descended from Esau. You are, therefore, worse than the Edomites, since you cannot be induced to worship me, the God of Hosts, from the remembrance of so great kindness." The prophet, indeed, enumerates the earthly blessings which God had bestowed on the Israelites, but they cannot be understood in any other sense than as symbols of his goodness. Where the wrath of God is, death immediately follows; where his love is manifested, life is the necessary consequence.
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he saith
to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. 17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will be hardeneth.
What shall we say then ?— The flesh never hears any thing concerning God's wisdom, but it immediately distresses itself with perplexing questions, and endeavours, in some measure, to call God to account. We find the apostle, in treating concerning any sublime mystery, answering many absurd objections, which he well knew would agitate and perplex the human mind. Many trifling difficulties hinder the students of Scripture from carefully examining the subject of predestination.* For the predestination, of God is truly a labyrinth, from which the human mind cannot easily extricate itself; and so unjust is the curiosity of man, that it bursts with greater boldness through every opposition, in proportion to the danger which accompanies the inquiry. When the
* What are we to consider in God's kingdom ?
First, the decree made from all eternity; and then the execution thereof accomplished in time.
How was the decree made ?
with every small circumstance appertaining therennto, was dained to be so from all eternitie, by God's certaine and unchangeable counsell.-Brief Method of Christian Religion. London, 1650.
subject of predestination is discussed, because the mind cannot limit itself within proper bounds, it immediately, in the height of presumptuous rashness, plunges into the abyss of the greatest difficulties. What remedy shall the pious find for a scene of disorder like this? shall they dismiss from their minds all thoughts about a subject attended with such danger ? Surely not. The Holy Scripture has only taught us such subjects as it is our interest to be acquainted with, and every kind of knowledge, which shall limit itself by the boundaries prescribed by the word of God, will be undoubtedly useful. Let us treasure the following observation in our minds,- ,-never to feel the least desire to attain any other knowledge concerning this doctrine, save what is taught us in the Scripture. Where the Lord shuts his sacred mouth, let us also stop our thoughts from advancing one step farther in our inquiries. Since, however, these questions will naturally engage our attention as men, let us attend to Paul, where he shows us how we are to meet the difficulties connected with this subject. Is there unrighteousness with God-How prodigious is the frenzy of the human mind, which rather accuses God of injustice, than convicts itself of being influenced by blindness. For Paul did not seek for a subject calculated to excite the opposition of his readers, but immediately commenced the consideration of an impious doubt, which gradually takes possession of the minds of a large portion of mankind, when they hear that God determines the state and condition of every
individual of the human race, according to his own will. The kind of injustice imagined by the flesh is, that God has respect to one human being, while he passes by another. Paul, in solving this difficulty, divides the whole subject into two parts ; in the first, he treats concerning the elect; in the second, considers the reprobates. He is desirous that we should meditate on the mercy and kindness of God displayed by the former, while we acknowledge his just judgment towards the latter. In the first place he answers, that the thought deserves the utmost execration, which believes injustice to exist in the Fountain of all righteousness; and, in the second place, Paul makes it plain in what way no injustice can be manifested either towards the elect or reprobate. The very
objection, without going any farther, clearly proves that the cause why God elects some, and rejects others, is to be sought for merely in his will and purpose ; for if the difference between these two characters depended upon a regard to their works, Paul would have discussed the question concerning God's injustice in a very unnecessary manner, since no suspicion could possibly arise against the perfect justice of the Disposer of all things, if he treats every son and daughter of Adam according to their works. It is worthy of notice also, that Paul discussed this subject with freedom and candour, although he knew very well that violent railings and horrible blasphemies would be immediately raised against this part of divine truth. He does not conceal the occasion it would afford for rage and tumultuous opposition, on hearing that each individual had his own lot assigned by the secret will of the Most High. He still proceeds, and, without hesitation or circumlocution, declares the doctrine which he had learned from the Holy Spirit. Hence it follows, that no allowance can be made for the delicacy of those, who affect greater prudence than the Spirit of truth in answering the difficulties or removing the stumbling-blocks occasioned by this doctrine. The modesty and sobriety of this class of divines would merit approbation, should they restrain their minds from too great curiosity, and bridle their tongues
from indulging in immoderate licentiousness in their attacks. What presumptuous boldness is it to impose a check upon the Spirit of holiness, and upon Paul, the apostle of the gentiles ? May there continue to flourish in the church of God sufficient magnanimity in all ages to prevent the teachers of piety from being ashamed of the simple profession of the true doctrine, however much it may be hated; and may they refute, with boldness and Christian love, all the calumnies of impiety. For he saith to Moses-None accuse God of any injustice with respect to the elect, for he deigns to show them pity according to the good pleasure of his will. Yet the flesh finds cause for murmuring even in this case, for it cannot allow the Sovereign of infinite justice to condescend to show favour to one in preference to another without assigning a cause. A certain class of theologians, because they consider it absurd that some men should be preferred to others, enter into controversy with God, in the effrontery of pride, as if he showed more respect to some persons than was right. Let us consider in what way Paul defends the justiee of God. In the first place, he does not endeavour to involve in obscurity a doctrine which excited hatred, but persists in asserting it with inflexible constancy. He takes no pains in seeking for reasons which are calculated to diminish the harshness of predestination, but is content to restrain the impure barkings
* How doth Christ rule his subjects ?
By making the redemption which he hath wrought effectuall in the elect, calling those whom by his propheticall office he hath taught to embrace the benefits offered unto them, and governing them, being called both by these outward ordi. nances which he hath instituted in the church, and by the inward operation of his blessed Spirit.--Archbishop Usher's Brief Method of Christian Religion.