Imágenes de páginas

of its opponents by testimonies of Scripture. The apology produced by Paul to show God was not unjust, because he is merciful to whom he thinks fit, might appear cold ; but because God's own authority, as it requires the aid and support of no other, is abundantly sufficient of itself, Paul was content to leave the judge of quick and dead to avenge his own right. The answer adduced by Paul is that which the Lord gave Moses, when he offered supplications for the salvation of the whole people : I will have mercy, said Jehovah, on whom I will have mercy, and have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (Exod. xxxiii. 15.) God, by this very declaration, proved that he is himself a debtor to none; that every blessing bestowed upon the elect flows from gratuitous kindness, and is freely granted to whom he pleases; that no cause, which is superior to his own will, can be conceived or devised, why he entertains kind feelings or manifests kind actions to some of the children of Adam, and not to all. The import of the passage appears to be the following: “I, Jehovah, will never deprive that person to whom I have once decreed to extend it, and I will follow with perpetual kindness that child of Adam on whom I have resolved, by my purpose, to confer such compassion." The Lord thus assigns the supreme cause of his bestowing grace to be his own voluntary decree, and intimates, at the same time, that he has peculiarly destined his mercy to certain individuals; for the very precise nature of the language used on this occasion excludes all foreign causes, as when we assert our freedom to act, we say we will do whatever action we intend to perform. He expressly uses the relative pronoun, to show that pity would not be extended promiscuously to all. The uncaused Cause of all effects is deprived of this liberty, if election is entirely


my pity, bound down by external causes.

The alone cause of salvation is expressed in the two words made use of by Moses; for one imports the gratuitous and liberal bestowment of a favour or kindness, the other means to be affected with pity. Paul thus clearly establishes the point to be proved,—the mercy of God is not forced or bound under any restriction, but pursues whatever direction it chooses, and follows merely its own inclination, because it is altogether gratuitous.

Therefore it is not of him that willethThe apostle deduces from this testimony, the incontrovertible conclusion, that our election is to be attributed to no industry, no zeal, no exertion and effort of our own, but is to be entirely ascribed to the decree of God. Away with the thought that the elect are chosen on account of their own deserts, or because they have secured by any means the favour of God to themselves, or are possessed of the smallest grain of dignity which might be calculated to draw the attention of Infinite Wisdom to their personal characters. The word running means zeal and contention. Let us simply consider, that our being reckoned among the elect does not arise from any power in our will, from any zeal or effort, however ardent, of our own, but must be entirely attributed to the goodness of God, which elects of its own free choice, as the children of an eternal Father, such as have not exhibited either freedom of will, or persevering exertion, or even a single thought for the attainment of so glorious a privilege. There is great folly in the argument, that we are possessed of a certain energy in our zeal, but of scuh a kind as can effect nothing of itself unless aided by the mercy of Jehovah, since the apostle shows that we possess nothing of our own by excluding all our efforts. To infer that we have the power either of running or willing is a mere

cavil, which Paul denies, and plainly asserts our will, or ardour in the race, has not the smallest influence in procuring our election. Those divines, on the other hand, merit the severest reproof, who continue to indulge in drowsiness and sloth, that they may afford room and opportunity for the grace of God to act; since, although their own ardour can accomplish nothing, yet the heavenly zeal, inspired by the Father of lights, is endowed with active efficacy. We do not make these observations for the purpose of choking or smothering, by means of our own stiff-necked obstinacy and indolence, the sparks of divine light and life inspired into us by the Spirit of truth ; but with a view to make us know that every possession, every power, and every boon we have, spring from the giver of all good; and we may hence be taught to ask and hope for all things from his hands, and to confess and acknowledge that every blessing we enjoy is his gift, while, with filial fear and trembling, we earnestly endeavour, with all diligence and study, to secure our salvation.

Pelagius has endeavoured, by another sophistical but mean cavil, to escape from adopting the opinion of Paul, and has asserted our election not to depend merely on our willing and running, since the mercy of God assists our powers. Augustine answers this writer with great acuteness and solidity ; for if it is asserted that election does not depend on the will of man, because it is a partial, not sole cause; it may, on the contrary, be stated, with equal truth, that election does not arise from the mercy of God, which is only a partial cause, but from the will and the zeal of the elected. For if the co-operation is mutual, the praise must be reciprocal; but this supposition, by assigning election to the power of man, involves an incontrovertible absurdity, and we must, therefore, determine so to ascribe the salvation of the elect,

whom God has decreed to save, to the divine mercy alone, as to leave nothing to the industry of man. The opinion entertained of this passage by some, has no more plausibility than the former interpretations, for they consider it to be spoken in the character of the impious; since, what consistency is there in perverting passages of Scripture, which clearly assert the righteousness of God, to the purpose of upbraiding him with tyranny? Is it probable that Paul would have patiently suffered the Scriptures to be turned into gross mockery, when he could so easily have refuted his opponents ? Such are the artifices contrived by interpreters, who foolishly measure this incomparable mystery of God by their own sense and judgment. This doctrine was too harsh for their fine and delicate ears to be considered worthy of our apostle. It would, however, have been more to their honour to bend their own stubbornness in obedience to the Spirit of love, than to be so completely devoted to their own gross imaginations.

For the Scripture saithPaul now comes to the second branch of his subject—the rejection of the wicked-and as the absurdity appears to be greater in this divine procedure, he exerts himself the more to prove that God, so far from meriting blame in reprobating whomsoever he choses, displays admirable wisdom and equity. Paul quotes his testimony from Exod ix. 16, where the Lord says he had raised up Pharaoh for to show the unconquerable nature of Divine power, which completely overcame and subdued the Egyptian monarch, while he obstinately endeavoured to resist the Lord of Hosts; and left an undoubted proof that no human power, however great, can bear, much less break, the arm of Omnipotence. Behold a specimen of what the Lord willed to accomplish in Pharaoh. Two things must


be here taken into consideration —first, the predestination of Pharaoh to his destruction, which is referred to the just and secret counsel of the Lord ; secondly, the end and design intended by it,--that the name of Jehovah may be declared throughout all the earth. For if the very hardening of Pharaoh was the cause of God's name being declared, it is impious to bring any accusation of injustice against infinite holiness. Many interpreters, from a desire to soften this passage, corrupt it. I observe, the word here translated raised thee up, means, in Hebrew, made thee stand, or appointed thee. God is here desirous to show that Pharaoh's obstinacy was obstacle to prevent the deliverance of his people from bondage ; that his fury was foreseen, and plans contrived, by the Lord of all glory, for restraining his violence; that God had, on purpose, raised Pharaoh up, with the express design of making him a distinguished monument of his insuperable power. It is folly to draw any argument from Pharaoh's preservation having been continued for a considerable time, since the question now under consideration relates to the cause of the commencement of his career. Many circumstances may befall men, from various quarters, to retard their counsels, and prevent the onward course of their actions; but God says, Pharaoh was raised up by his divine hand, and went out from him ; nay, the very character of the Egyptian monarch was given him by the Lord. To prevent the vain imagination, that Pharaoh had been driven on from Heaven, by some universal and confused impulse, to rush into the fury by which he was actuated, the cause or design is specified, showing, that God had known the conduct Pharaoh would adopt, and he designedly destined and appointed him for the very use and purpose to which he was devoted. The folly of disputing with God is hence apparent ;

« AnteriorContinuar »