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"The condition of man after the fall of Adam is ' such, that he cannot prepare himself, by his own 'natural strength and good works, to faith and • calling upon God.' The Lord foresaw that, by his preventing grace, he would give them faith, and incline and enable them to comply with the ordained condition upon which eternal life was offered.-No doubt'both believers and unbelievers 'act from their own free choice, and not under
the control of an irresistible destiny,' a term more suited to heathen fatalism, or to the modern necessarian system, than to the wise and righteous decrees and appointments of the eternal God: but the former, being by divine grace made free from slavery to their sinful passions, and being drawn and taught of God, most willingly embrace the gospel ; the latter, being left in righteous judgment under the power of their own prejudices, as voluntarily reject and oppose it.-All might have
believed. Certainly, if they had been so disposed. But it is acknowledged that man has not * the disposition, and consequently not the ability, 'to do what is good in the sight of God, till he is 'influenced by the Spirit of God.'2--If the general call of the gentiles, according to the appointment of God, be the same as “ ordained to eternal life,". then all the gentiles, at least all there present, being “ ordained to eternal life, believed.” But a distinction is evidently made between some of them, and others. “When the gentiles heard “ this, they were glad, and glorified the word of “ the Lord : and as many as were ordained to “ eternal life believed.”
Art. x. Ref. 61. Aets xii. 48.
' The words oor joay Telaquévoi, might have as well · been rendered, “as many as were set in order, or made ready ;” and then the context had plainly
illustrated the text. For in the same verse we ' find that this was spoken of the gentiles, who were glad and glorified God, that the words of salvation and everlasting life belonged to them
also: ver. 46, 47. But who these gentiles were 'we learn more particularly from ver. 43, namely,
that they were some rebouływy apoonaútwr, of the ! devout or worshipping proselytes, those who * believed a life to come, and sought for the hap
piness thereof, and who therefore were in a fit posture to lay hold of that great promise of the gospel, being both prepared to hear what the apostles had to say concerning the way and 'means of obtaining it, and also to make use of
such means, when once they were thoroughly instructed in them.''
As many as were set in order, or made ready.' -Should this interpretation of the original be adopted, it would not at all alter the case ; for “ the preparation of the heart in man-is from the “ Lord.” 2 “Lord, thou hast heard the desire of “ the humble; thou wilt prepare their hearts,
thou wilt cause thine ear to hear." 3 “ Every “ good gift and every perfect gift is from above." If men are made ready,' and ' are in a fit posture
to lay hold on the great promise of the gospel,' they owe this preparation of heart to the preventing grace of God. They are “ vessels of mercy, “ which God hath afore prepared unto glory.” 4 “ Giving thanks unto the Father, who hath made “ us meet to be partakers of the inheritance, of “ the saints in light; who hath delivered us from
Note, from Stebbing, Ref. 233, 234. ? Prov. xvi. 1. 3 Ps. x. 17. * Rom. ix. 23.
“ the power of darkness, and hath translated us .« into the kingdom of his dear Son."! Few will
directly say, 'I made myself ready: it was my own goodness that put me in a fit posture to lay hold on the great promise of the gospel, and I am not indebted for it to divine grace. Most men will, in words, give the glory to God, of making them thus to differ from unbelievers; and all humble Christians will do it cordially, in their own case, even though they cannot receive the doctrine called Calvinistic.-Some however of these de'vout or worshipping proselytes' were not thus 'made ready' to embrace the gospel : for “ the “ Jews stirred up the devout and honourable “ women, and the chief men of the city, and “ raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, “ and expelled them out of their coasts.” If there had been no other preparation of heart than that which was common to these devout proselytes, they would have favoured the persecutors, and not the persecuted apostles. Lydia was previously one of these worshippers ; yet her conversion is not ascribed to this, but to special grace: “The “ Lord opened the heart of Lydia, that she attended “ unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” 3— But did no gentiles at Antioch believe in Christ, except those who were before' worshipping prose‘lytes ?' If any, if numbers of the idolatrous gentiles embraced the gospel, they also “ were “ ordained unto eternal life.” “It is indeed useless,
Col. i. 12, 13. Matt. xxiii. 15. 3 Acts xvi. 14. Gr.
"highly improper and quite unnecessary, to rest the argument on a word which may perhaps admit of some other meaning: but the laboured discussions of those, who are greatly afraid that
the doctrine of gratuitous personal election to 'eternal life should be collected from it, leaves this 'impression on my mind, that these writers them
selves would have carefully avoided a term, which “needs so much guarding against misconstruc• tion.'? The word is used in the texts referred to below, and no where else in the New Testament.2
"“ We know that all things work together for • good to them that love God, to them who are the
called according to his purpose; for, whom he did 'foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conform
ed to the image of his Son, that he might be the 'first born among many brethren. Moreover ' whom he did predestinate, them he also called ; ‘and, whom he called, them he also justified, and,
whom he justified, them he also glorified.” We know thạt all things, whether adverse or prosperous, co-operate in the end for the permanent good of those who sincerely love God, of those who are called to the knowledge of the gospel accord‘ing to the eternal purpose of God; for he ordained
and decreed, that those, who he foreknew would 'believe and obey the gospel, should resemble his
blessed Son by following his example, that he might have many brethren, who would be joint heirs with him, and partakers of that happiness which he enjoyed. Moreover, those, to whom it was fore-ordained of God that the gospel should be made known, he has now actually called, and · those whom he has called he has justified from all their former sins :-'1
Note, Acts xii. 42—48, in the author's Commentary. • Matt. xxviii. 16. Luke vij. 8. Acts xiii. 48. xv. 2. xx. 13. xxii. 10, xxviii, 23. Rom. xiii. 1. I Cor. xvi. 15.
To be called to the knowledge of the gospel, 'according to the eternal purpose of God,' must mean something very different from having the mere proclamation and invitation of the gospel addressed to them, or being brought to the outward profession of the faith ; unless all who are called Christians do indeed love God, and resemble his · blessed Son, by following his example.' If, however, God did decree that some should have the means of salvation, and that others should not have them, the objections generally urged against Calvinism, as making God “a respecter of per“sons,” come in ; and may as fairly be urged against this doctrine as against Calvinism itself. None of Adam's fallen race naturally “ love God,” but all are alienated from him : and, as those who are “ the called according to his purpose” do “ love “ God,” the character described must be formed, not by nature, but by grace; and then our interpretation is established, which I cannot give in more proper language than that of our Article.
Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid,) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel, secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ unto everlasting salvation, as vessels made
Ref. 235, 236.