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THE following sections contain a reply to Dr. Whitby’s exceptions in the third chapter of is Discourse, concerning absolute election, of our arguments for it, taken from some of he more principal passages of Scripture used by us in favor of it, with a particular consideration of Romans 5:19, and the doctrine of he imputation of Adam’s sin, which the doctor, in the fourth chapter of the said discourse, makes to be the foundation of the decree of election. As I have nothing to object to his stating our sense of predestination, or the absolute election of some particular persons to eternal life, I shall immediately attend to what he has to object to the Scriptures, produced in proof of it.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priest-hood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should shew forth the praises of him, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. — Peter 2:9; together with 2 John 1:13; James 2:5; Matthew 20:16, and Matthew 24:22,25,31; Luke 18:7; Romans 11:5.
It is said, “That the election, mentioned in the holy Scriptures, is not that of particular persons, but only of churches and nations; and imports rather their being chosen to the enjoyment of the means of grace, than to a certainty of being saved by those men. For the proof of this, several passages are cited out of the Old Testament, showing what will not be tried by any, and so might have been all spared, that the whole Jewish nation, good and bad, were styled the elect of God: but then, though that whole nation was chosen to external means and privileges, yet there were some particular persons among them who were also chosen to grace itself, and to certain salvation; and, accordingly, in the writings of the Old Testament, mention is made of the election of particular persons, as Moses, Aaron, David, and others, <19A623> Psalm 106:23, and <19A526> Psalm 105:26, and Psalm 89:3,19, and Psalm 4:3. And, also, of some among the Gentiles, distinct from the Jews, Isaiah 43:20, and Isaiah 65:15,29. And, of the latter, even before they were called by grace. It is, moreover, observed, that when the word elect is, in the New Testament, applied to Christians, it plainly doth include as many as were converted to the Christian faith; for, when it is applied to the Jewish converts, it plainly signifies all n that had been converted to the Christian faith.” It is certain, that Christians are such as are converted to the Christian faith, and Jewish converts made be such, and those, who are really converted, are the elect of God; I but then, they are not elected because they are converted, but they are converted because they are elected; and conversion being a sure and certain fruit of election, becomes the evidence of it. Now, to prove this sense of the word, when applied to Jewish converts, 1st. This passage of the apostle Peter is produced, though it rather seems to regard the Gentiles, as appears not only from the place in Isaiah, ( Isaiah 43:20,21.) out of which it is taken, where this chosen people are distinguished from the Jews, the posterity of Jacob and Israel; but, also, from the words following the text, which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God; which had not; obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy, being a citation from Hosea 1:23, and applied to the Gentiles by the apostle Paul, in Romans 9:25. However, their election was not of them as a nation, or a church, since they were neither, being strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Nor was it barely to means of grace and outward privileges, but both to grace and glory, seeing they are said to be elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, though sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. ( 1 Peter 1:1-5.)
And in consequence of this, were regenerated by the grace of God, and were kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation, and so must be men absolutely designed for eternal happiness. But, to this are excepted, f238 1. That the apostle “exhorts these elect, in 1 Peter 1:14, and 1 Peter 2:10,11, and 4:2,3,15, to avoid offenses which are not incident to men elected to salvation, whilst they continue so to be.” To which I reply, that such, who are elected to salvation, always continue to be so; nor are there any sins, excepting the sin against the Holy Ghost, which God’s elect, before or after conversion, may not be guilty of. And the offenses which the apostle here exhorts them to avoid, are such as are incident to men elected to salvation, as the cases of David, Peter, and others, do abundantly declare. 2. “That he affirms the same thing of the whole church of Babylon, chapter 5:13. Now, it was more than he could know, that all the members of that great church were absolutely elected to salvation.” What church is meant by the church of Babylon, and how great it was, is not easy to know; and it is equally as difficult to say what an ins fired apostle could or could not know. However, without a revelation, though that is no absurdity to suppose, he might affirm of that church in general, that it was elected together with these, as he did affirm, in a judgment of charity, that the churches at Colosse and Thessalonica were the elect of God, though every member of it, in particular, was not elected to salvation, without any prejudice to the doctrine of eternal absolute election, since all the members of this church were under a visible profession of religion, and, no doubt, the far greater part, at least, were true believers in Christ. 3. “That, whereas this epistle is inscribed to the elect, the second epistle, sent to the same persons, beginneth thus: To them who have obtained like precious faith with us; and speaks of some who had forsaken, the right way; and prophesies, that false teachers should make merchandise of some of them.” Be it so, that the elect, and who have obtained like precious faith with the apostles, are the same persons, which must be allowed; their having the same faith with them is a strong evidence of their being men absolutely designed for eternal happiness, and not barely chosen to the means of grace, or external privileges; yet, it is not true that the apostle speaks of any of the elect he writes to, that they had forsaken the rigid way, but of some other persons who are distinguished from them; and, though he prophesies that false teachers should make merchandise of some of them, hi s meaning is, that they should be able to draw their money out of their pockets, not that they should destroy the grace of God in their hearts. 4. That “these words are plainly taken from Isaiah 43:20,21. Now, though the whole Jewish nation are styled God’s chosen generation, and peculiar people, it is as sure, that they were not all elected to salvation; we then may reasonably conclude, that the same words applied by St. Peter to all these Christian churches, do not imply that all their particular members were elected to salvation, but only, that they were all members of the church of Christ.” I answer, that the apostle takes these words out of Isaiah 43:20,21, or at least, refers to that place, will be allowed; but then the words of that prophecy do not regard the whole Jewish nation, who though styled, yet not there, God’s chosen on and people, but a set of persons the Gentiles, whom God had chosen, for himself, to show forth his praise; who are distinguished from the Jews, the posterity of Jacob and Israel; opposed to them, verse 22, But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel. Besides, these words are not applied to several Christian churches; for the apostle did not write to churches, as such, but to strangers scattered about the world, whether Jews or Gentiles; though, upon the consideration of their being church members, he night, in a judgment of charity, pronounce them elect. And whereas it is owned, that the words imply that they were members of the church of Christ; which, if understood of the general assembly, and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven, is the same as to be elected to salvation. For, to be a member of this church, and to be an elect person, one absolutely designed for happiness, is the same thing and that these persons were such is evident, from their being called out of darkness into marvelous light. 2ndly Another instance of the word deer, when applied to Jewish converts, signifying .such as are converted to the Christian faith, is in 2 John 1:13, where we read of the elect lady, and her elect sister, that is, says our author, the Christian lady and sister. That these were Christian ladies is certain, but that they were Jewish converts to the Christian faith is not so certain. However, it is most certain that these are no instances of the election of nations or churches, but of particular persons, whom the apostle, in a judgment of charity, and from a thorough persuasion of their having received the grace of God, might address under this title and character; though I rather think it is here used as a term of civil honor and respect, than in a religious sense, and so has no concern in this controversy. 3rdly When St. James says, God has chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom, it: is said, His meaning is, that they were called out of the world to the profession of the faith, which, if they lived according to it, world make them heirs of his heavenly kingdom.
Now, though the apostle James wrote to the twelve tribes, and so chiefly designs Jewish converts, yet he neither writes to them as a nation, or as a church, seeing they were scattered abroad. Nor can these words be applied to them, or any other, under either of these considerations; since all the individuals of a nation, and all the members of churches, are not the poor of this world, but are to be understood of some particular persons, in such circumstances, on whom God, in consequence of their eternal election, bestows the precious grace of faith, which receives the blessing of free justification, by the righteousness of Christ, when they openly become the heirs of glory; for, being justified by his grace, they are made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ( Titus 3:7.)
This, and this only, and not a profess on of the faith, no, nor a life according to it makes them heirs of the heavenly kingdom. 4thly. “When Christ saith, ( Matthew 20:16.) many are called, but few chosen, it is said these parables plainly relate to the Jews; and the import of them is, that though many of them were called by Christ and his apostles to faith in him, yet few did or would accept of him as their Savior, or embrace the faith of Christ; so that here the elect and the believers of the Christian faith are the same persons;” But, though these words may primarily relate to the Jews, yet they are also of the Gentiles to this day, and the plain import of them is, that many of them are externally called, by the preaching of the Gospel, but few are, or appear to be, chosen unto eternal life. Were embracing the faith of Christ, and accepting of him as a Savior, intended by the words, it should rather have been said, many are called but few choose, that is, Christ and salvation by him, as Mary is said ( Luke 10:42.) to choose that good part which shall not be taken away; and not as it is, many are called, but few chosen; which does not express any act of man’s, such as accepting Christ, and embracing the faith of him, but God’s act, to whom alone, and not man, election is always ascribed in scripture; and, therefore, the elect are called God’s elect, and his own elect.
Besides, though election sometimes intends effectual vocation, yet never when calling and election are mentioned together in the same verse, for then they are to be distinguished one from another. Moreover, were true believers here meant, this would not militate against eternal election, since, their, being believers is an evidence of it; and, after all, the few chosen must design particular persons, and not either nations or churches, no, nor mere nominal believers of the Christian faith. 5thly. “When he (Christ) says, ( Matthew 24:22.) that for the elects sake those days shall be shortened, it is said, he styles the faithful, left in the midst of the unbelieving Jews, the elect.
So that believers are intended: be it so; then not whole nations, or churches, or communities, are designed, but particular persons; though they seem rather to be such who were unconverted, to be the people among the Jews whom God had foreknown, who were a remnant according to the election of grace, and therefore should obtain, whilst the rest were blinded; for whose sake, the days of affliction and trouble in the Jewish nation should be shortened, or there should be some respite given, that so there might be art opportunity of preaching the Gospel, which should become the power of God unto salvation to his chosen people; just as, on the other hand, the day of Christ’s second coming is deferred until all the elect are gathered in, God being unwilling that any one of them should perish, but that they should all come to repentance. 6thly. “When he (Christ) adds, verse 24, that the false christs and false prophets should do as much as in them lay, by signs, and wonders, to deceive the elect; it is said, There also are we to understand the persevering Christians.” I reply, that such who are converted or are true believers are, and will be persevering Christians, and such are certainly the elect of God; but then the reason why they are elected is not because they are converted, or are true believers, or are persevering Christians; but, on the contrary, the reason why they are converted, become true believers, and so persevering Christians, is, be. cause they are elected; conversion, faith, and perseverance, being not causes and conditions, but fruits and effects of election. 7thly. “When he saith, verse 31, that God (it should be the Son of Man) shall send his angels to gather his elect front the four winds, it is said, the meaning may be, either that he would send his angels to warn the Christians in all the quarters of Judea, to gather together from the unbelieving Jews, that they might be preserved from ruin; or, that he would send his messengers with the Gospel, to gather together as many as did, or would believe, from among the nations of the earth.” But the first of these cannot be the meaning of the words; these elect cannot be the Christians in Judea; since they were to be gathered, not from all the quarters of Judea, but from the four winds, from one end of the heaven to the other; and if any from among the nations of the earth, or Gentiles, are in tended by the elect, who, after the destruction of Jerusalem, were to be gathered by Christ’s ministers, his angels to himself, with the sound of the Gospel trumpet, God having resolved to take out of them a people of his name, ( Acts 15:14) when the Jews were rejected and cut off; yet these are not such as did believe the Gospel, or would of themselves believe it, but uncoverted persons who were destitute of faith, on whom God, of his free grace, would bestow it ,as a fruit of his electing love: or else, all the chosen vessels of mercy are meant by the elect, even the dead in Christ, who shall rise first, when the Lord descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, ( 1 Thessalonians 4:16) even all those who will be gathered together, and placed at his right hand; to whom he will say, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; ( Matthew 25:34) a character aptly descriptive of persons absolutely chosen to eternal salvation. 8thly. “The elect, in Luke 18:7, are said, to be the whole body of true believers; and it is suggested, that die faith of many of these should fail.” Be it so, that the whole body of true believers are intended, this no ways prejudices the doctrine of eternal election; since they are styled elect, not from their faith, but from God’s choice of them to everlasting life; whence they are called his own elect. Nor does the inquiry in ver. 8, show that the faith of many, or any of these elect, should fail at the coming of the Son of Man; for though, when he comes, the doctrine of faith will be greatly departed from, ,and the grace of faith Will be very rare, and at a low ebb, yet Christ prays for the faith of all his elect, as he did for Peter’s, that it fail not. 9thly. It is observed, that “the election according to grace, mentioned Romans 11:5, doth, in like manner, signify the whole, body of the Jewish converts, even all that did embrace the Christian faith. A great number of these turned afterwards apostates, and renounced the Christian faith; and St. Paul was afraid that some of these elect would afterwards draw back unto perdition. From all which, it is extremely evident, that the apostle neither did, nor could speak of this remnant according to the election of grace, as persons absolutely elected to salvation.” I answer, that though the Jewish converts, such as were true believers, were the remnant in being at that time, according to the election of grace, before the world began; yet all that bore the name of converts, or externally embraced the Christian faith, were not of that number: nor did any of the remnant turn apostates, renounce the Christian faith, and so come short of heaven; otherwise, how could it be said, the election hath obtained it? nor was the apostle Paul afraid that any of these elect: should draw back to perdition; but affirms the reverse, we are not of them that draw back to perdition ( Hebrews 10:39) nor do any of the passages, cited from the epistle to the Hebrews, suppose that any of these elect might, or did apostatize, or draw back unto perdition; as has been made to appear in the former part of this work.
And not only this, but where Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac, (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth) it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger; as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. — Romans 9:10-13. With Romans 8:33.
The design of the apostle, in this chapter, is to show, that though the Israelites in general were a chosen people, had peculiar privileges, to whom the promises were made; yet, the word of God was not made void, or took no effect; notwithstanding few of them believed in Christ, the greater part were rejected of God, and the Gentiles shared the blessings of the new covenant; seeing there were then, as there always had been, two sorts among them; the one were children of the flesh, the natural descendants of Abraham only; the other also children of the promise, who were counted for the spiritual seed. To the latter of which the promises were always made good; and these always shared, as they then did, the spiritual blessings of grace; wherefore, the word of God had its designed accomplishment. And, lest this should seem any new, or strange thing, the apostle instances in the immediate offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael; the one was born after the Spirit, the other after the flesh; the one was the son of the free, the other of the bond-woman; the one continued in the house, the other was cast out. And to prevent any objection that might be taken from Ishmael’s being born, not of the lawful wife, but of the bond-woman, as being the reason of his rejection, the apostle proceeds, to mention the case of Jacob and Esau, who not only had the same father, but the same mother, Isaac’s lawful wife; these were conceived at once, were in the womb together, were twins; and if any had the preference, Esau by birth had it, being born first; and a yet a difference was made between these two by God himself; who said to the mother of them, The elder shall serve the younger; which is interpreted of God’s loving the one, and hating the other; and this was notified to her, in consequence of an eternal purpose, before the children were born, and when they had done neither good nor evil; so that it could not be said, that Jacob was loved for his good works, nor Esau hated for his evil ones; wherefore the purpose of God, respecting the election of Jacob, fully appears to depend not of works, but of the grace of him that calleth. From all this we conclude, that the predestination of men, either to life or death, is personal: that the objects of either branch of predestination are alike, or are considered in the same situation or condition, whether, in the pure, or corrupt mass, or in both; that God was not influenced or moved, in the election of the one, by their good works, or in the rejection of the other, by their bad ones; that God’s decree of election stands firm and immoveable, not upon the feet of works, but of the grace of God; and, that love and hatred are the real springs and source of predestination in its respective branches. But the grand exception to this instance and example of personal election and rejection, is, that these words do not “respect the persons of Jacob and Esau, but their whole nation and posterity; and this is said to be plain,” f246 1. From the words of God to Rebecca, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger. To which I reply, that this oracle primarily respects the persons of Jacob and Esau as the roots of their respective offspring; and only, secondarily, their posterity, as branches that should sprout from them; it properly regards their persons, and only in an improper, figurative, and metonymical sense, their seed; for, in no other sense could two nations, or two manner of people, be in Rebecca’s womb, than as there were two persons there, who would be the authors of two nations and people; and, admitting that their respective posterities are in ever so strict and close a sense intended, this can never be understood to the exclusion of their persons; any more than they can be thought to be personally excluded from any concern in the loss or enjoyment of the birthright and blessing; for, were the posterity of Esau only deprived of the birthright and blessing?
Was not he himself personally supplanted with respect to both? Did the posterity of Jacob only enjoy the birthright and the blessing? Did not Jacob himself, in his own person, purchase the birthright, and receive the blessing? 2. This is said to be plain, “from this observation, that, as to the persons of Jacob and Esau, this was never true, that the elder did serve the younger; but only, as to their posterity, when the Edomites became tributaries to David, 2 Samuel 8:14.” But this observation supposes that this is to be understood of outward temporal servitude; and, indeed, in this sense, it was never true of their persons; so far from being so, that Jacob, as soon as he had got the birthright and the blessing, was obliged to flee from Esau; and when, after many years, he returned, he sends messengers to his brother, in a very submissive manner, charging them, saying, Thus shall ye say to my lord Esau, thus etc. And, when he found that his brother was coming to meet him, it threw him into a panic fear, lest he should smite him, and the mother with the children; he prepares presents for him; and when he came to him, bowed himself to the ground seven times, and so his wives and children all bowed to him; and the language in which he addressed him, while they conversed together, was that of my lord. ( Genesis 27:43; 32:3, 4, 11, 13; 33:5-8, 13-15.) Now it is not credible, that if this oracle is to be understood of temporal servitude, that it should have no appearance, nor the least shadow of an accomplishment, in their persons, supposing it was to have a greater in their posterity; and, indeed, the completion of it in this sense, in their posterity, is not so exceeding evident. It is certain, that there was a long train of dukes and kings in Esau’s posterity before there was any king in Israel. ( Genesis 36:31) They were in lordly grandeur and splendor, when the children of Israel were oppressed with hard bondage in Egypt. The single instance referred to, when the Edomites became tributaries to David, was near a thousand years after the giving out of this oracle: and this servitude did not continue long; for, in Joram’s time, they revolted, ( 2 Kings 8:22.) and so continued; and it is plain, that, at the time of the Babylonish captivity, the children of Edom were prosperous and triumphant; who said, ( <19D707> Psalm 137:7) concerning Jerusalem, Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof. This servitude, therefore is to be understood in a spiritual sense of Esau’s exclusion from the favor of God, and the blessings of grace: for these two phrases, The elder shall serve the younger, and Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated, are of the same signification: the one is explanative of the other. When Jacob got the birth-right, and received the blessing, this oracle began to have a visible accomplishment, Esau then appeared not to be the son and heir of promise, who was to abide in the house; and therefore departs, and pitches his dwelling elsewhere; all which showed he had no interest in spiritual adoption – no right to the blessings of the covenant of grace – nor was he an heir of heaven; these belonged to Jacob. Esau was a servant of sin, under the dominion of it, and in bondage to it; whilst Jacob was the Lord’s freeman, and, as a prince, had power with God, and with men, and prevailed. Esau was serviceable to Jacob, even in spiritual things, as reprobates are to the elect; for all things are for their sake, and all things work together for their good. Jacob’s being obliged to flee from his brother, was for his good; by this providence, he got him a suitable wife, and large substance. His brother’s meeting him on his return, which gave him so much pain and uneasiness, issued in his spiritual good; this sent him to the throne of grace, to humble himself before God, acknowledge his mercies and dependence on him, to implore his help, and plead his promises. And thus the oracle was verified in the persons of Jacob and Esau. 3. It is urged, that “what is here offered, as a proof or confirmation of this, is cited from the prophet Malachi, who prophesied long after Jacob and Esau were personally dead, and speaks expressly of the nation of the Edomites.” It is very true, that Malachi prophesied long after Jacob and Esau were dead personally; and it is as true, that what God there says by Malachi so long after they were dead, is only an explanation of what he had said to Rebecca before they were born; as appears from the apostle’s citing both passages as of like import, and the one as interpreting the other. It is plain that the Lord, in the prophecy of Malachi directs the murmuring Jews to the personal regard he had to Jacob and Esau; and which had continued in numberless instances to their respective posterities, in order to stop their mouths, and reprove their ingratitude: and though he speaks of the nation of the Edomites, and also to the posterity of Israel, yet it is evident that he has a respect to the persons of Jacob and Esau, from whence they sprung, when he says, was not Esau Jacob’s brother? Now, though an Edomite may be said to be brother to an Israelite, yet Esau is never said, nor can he, with any propriety, be said to be the brother of Jacob’s posterity. 4. That the persons, and not the posterity of Jacob and Esau, are here designed, is evident from the personal account that is given of them; for whatever may be said for their taking their rise from one common father, Isaac, or for their being chosen or rejected as nations before they were born, or had done good or evil; yet it cannot be said with any propriety at all, that Rebecca conceived their respective posterities by one, even by our father Isaac. Moreover, the Scriptural account of these two accords with a personal rejection of the one, and an election of the other. Esau is represented as a profane person ; yea, is expressly ( Hebrews 12:17.) said to be apedokimasqh, rejected, that is, from inheriting the blessing.
Besides, this sense of the words only agrees with the scope and design of the apostle, which is to prove, that all were not Israel which were of Israel, and that all the natural seed of Abraham were not the children of God: this he could not better exemplify, than in the persons of Jacob and Esau; for to have instanced in the posterity of Esau, would have been foreign to his purpose. Add to all this, that the apostle continues his discourse, in the following verses, upon the subject of personal election and rejection; he observes, verse 15, 18, that God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will, he hardeneth; which respects persons, and not nations; and instances in Pharaoh, which surely cannot be understood of the posterity, but of the person of Pharaoh; and in ver. 22, 23, speaks of vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, and of vessels of mercy afore prepared for glory; which design, neither nations, nor churches, nor Jewish converts only, but particular persons among Jews and Gentiles; which latter appear to be the people and beloved of God, and vessels of mercy, by their being called by grace. Hence, 5. It does not clearly follow, as is said, that the apostle cannot here discourse of any personal election to eternal life, or of any personal love or hatred with respect to eternal interests; since he manifestly speaks of the persons, and not the posterity of Jacob and Esau: and did he, it would not follow, as is suggested, that according to this opinion, the whole nation of Israel must be elected to eternal lifts, and the whole posterity of Esau he the objects of God’s hatred and reprobation; since the people of Israel in general might be said to be loved and chosen of God, the far greater part of them being so, the line of election running among them as it did for many hundreds of years; and yet some of them be instances of God’s displeasure and hatred: and on the other hand, the posterity of Esau in general might be said to be rejected, the far greater part being so, the line of rejection running among them as it did for many hundreds of years; and yet some of them, as Job and his friends, be chosen vessels of mercy. Nor, 6. “Is it certain, That the apostle here only speaks of the election of one seed and nation before another, to be accounted and treated by him as the seed of Abraham, or owned for his peculiar people. For nothing is more certain than that the apostle here speaks of the election of some of the same seed, and of the same nation, before others, who were to be accounted and treated as the spiritual seed of Abraham; and owned for God’s peculiar, special people, before others who were, equally with them, the natural seed of Abraham. 7. The last instance of the sense of the word elect, when applied to Jewish converts, is in Romans 8:33, Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? And, “here again it is said, that the elect and true believers are the same.” I see no reason why the elect here should be confined to Jewish converts; for though the apostle speaks of himself and others, he is writing to the Romans. And be it so, that the elect design true believers, it is plain they were such who were predestinated before they were called; and so were the elect of God antecedent to their being true believers, and therefore are not denominated God’s elect from their being so; and besides, they were such as were chosen not barely to external means of grace, and outward privileges, but to grace here and glory hereafter, verse 30, and so were not whole nations, or churches, or communities, but particular persons.
Our author goes on to observe, “that suitable to this notion of the word election, where it respects the Jewish nation, or the Jewish converts, is the import of it in these epistles, where whole nations, communities, or churches, are styled the elect;” that is, that it means converts to the Christian faith, or true believers. But surely, whole nations are never styled the elect in such a sense; and, indeed, this author does not attempt to propose one instance of it, and only takes notice of churches or communities. And, 1. Observes, that “all the faithful brethren in Colosse, are styled ( Colossians 3:12.) the elect of God;” and the same apostle saith to the whole church of Thessalonica, Knowing your election of God; ( 1 Thessalonians 1:4.) and in his second epistle, he saith, We ought to give thanks for you, that God hath elected you from the beginning to salvation” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:18.)
All which he might say without a special revelation, in a judgment of charity; for, though every individual member of these churches were not chosen to salvation, yet, inasmuch as they were all under a visible profession of religion, and the major part of them were truly believers, he might write to them as such: nor do the cautions, exhortation, care and fear, expressed by him, militate against this their character; since these might be all designed, and be made use of for their perseverance as such in grace unto glory. 2. Another instance is in 2 Timothy 2:10, where the apostle says, I endure all things for the elect’s sake; And we are told that “if we compare this with a parallel place in Colossians 1:24,25, we shall find the elect to be no other than the whole church of Christ, of which he was a minister.” But by comparing this text with that in Colossians, it appears that the church of which the apostle was a minister, is no other than the body of Christ; and intends the general assembly and church of the first-born which are written in heaven, ( Hebrews 12:28.) and not any particular society, or community of men, under a profession of Christianity; for of such a particular church the apostle was no minister.
Nor would this have been agreeable to his character as an apostle, who was not fixed with any particular church, but had the care of all the churches upon him. Besides, the elect here were such who were not yet called by grace, for whose sake the apostle endured, and was willing to endure, reproach and persecution, in preaching the Gospel; that they also , as well as such as were already converted, might obtain that salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 3. The apostle in Titus 1:1, styles himself an apostle according to the faith of God’s elect; which is interpreted of the faith of Christians in general. But this interpretation will not hold good of nominal, only of real Christians, who become so because they are God’s elect, to whom true saving faith in Christ is peculiar; for all men have not faith ; to the elect only is it given, whilst others believe not in him, because they are not of his sheep.
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love. — Ephesians 1:4.
These words are, indeed, a strong proof of the doctrine of an eternal, personal, and unconditional election of men to grace and glory; yet the whole strength of the doctrine is not placed in them, as is suggested: f255 we have other strengthening proofs of the proof of it; though we readily own this to be a very considerable one. This passage of Scripture proves, that the choice of men to holiness and happiness, is an eternal act of God the Father, or what passed before the world began; since it is expressly said, that he hath chosen us in him, that is, in Christ, as the head of the elect, before the foundation of the world; and not as the author f256 attended to, either through inadvertency, or with design, cites the words, from the foundation of the world. For the phrase is not apo katabolhv kosmou , as in Revelation 8:8, but pro katabolhv kosmou, and is expressive of the eternity of it, agreeable to other scriptures; as Timothy 1:9, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, compared with Proverbs 8:29, 93. It also proves, that this choice is of particular persons, he hath chosen us, and not of nations, or churches; seeing the apostle is not writing to, nor speaking of a nation: nor is it very evident that he is writing to a church; for he expresses himself with much caution and distinction, when he inscribes his epistle to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus. And it is still less evident, that he is speaking of these same persons, or of them as a church; yea, it is manifest, that he is speaking of himself and others, as partakers of the several blessings of grace mentioned in the context; who first trusted in Christ, and were not members of this particular church. These are distinctly spoken of from verse 3, to verse inclusive; and then the apostle addresses himself to the Ephesians in verse 13, and says in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation . Besides, admitting that these words are spoken of the saints and faithful at Ephesus and of them as a church; they are not said to be chosen as a church, or chosen to be one, but that they should be holy, and without blame; who might be called by the apostle chosen in Christ, or the elect of God, as the churches of Colosse and Thessalonica are from their visible profession of religion, and from the majority among them of such as were truly so. Wherefore these words still continue a proof of personal election. Add to this, the phrase of being chosen in Christ, is sometimes used of a single person, as in Romans 16:13. Once more, this text proves that this eternal election of particular persons to salvation is absolute, unconditional, and irrespective of faith, holiness, good works, and perseverance, as the moving causes or conditions of it; all which are the fruits and effects of electing grace, but not causes and. conditions of it; since these are said to be chosen, not because they were holy, but that they should be so. And supposing that the apostle, is here speaking of the saints and faithful in Christ, they are not said to be chosen, as such, or because they were such: nor does it follow that they were so antecedent to their election, because they were so when the apostle wrote this epistle, any more than they were so antecedent to their redemption and effectual vocation; since these same persons are said to have redemption in Christ, and the mystery of God’s will made known unto them; which would imply this contradiction, that they were saints before they were called with an holy calling, and faithful before they were believers. And whereas it is said, that these persons “were not all infallibly predestinated to salvation, but only to the adoption of children,” verse 5. It may be replied that if they were infallibly predestinated to the adoption of children, which adoption does not so much design the blessing itself prepared in divine predestination, or the grace received in effectual vocation, as he inheritance to which the saints are adopted, even the heavenly glory, see Romans 8:23, then they were infallibly predestinated to salvation; and what short of salvation can be meant by being holy, and without blame before him in love? But that these words are spoken of such as were chosen out of the world to be God’s church and people, and not of persons, infallibly predestinated to salvation, is thought to be exceeding evident. f259 1. “From the exhortations and cautions given to these persons in this very epistle; such as in Ephesians 4:17, and Ephesians 5:6, and Ephesians 6:13. All which are inconsistent with the character of the elect, that is, of persons infallibly predestinated to salvation.” I reply, That the exhortations not to walk as other Gentiles, and to take to themselves the whole armor of God, though the former seems rather a testimonial of their pious walk than an exhortation to it; these, I say, are so far from being inconsistent with their character as elect, that nothing could be more pertinent to them who were chosen to be holy, and which were designed, and doubtless were blessed, as means of their perseverance in grace and holiness. And as for the caution given them, that no man deceive them into the commission of sins there mentioned, with this very good reason, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience; nothing could be more proper to give them a just idea of the evil nature of sin, and the resentment of it by God, in order to their avoiding it; and yet no ways prejudice their absolute and infallible election to salvation, nor their faith and hope in it; seeing the wrath of God cometh not upon them, but upon the children of disobedience. 2. “From the apostle’s prediction, Acts 20:29,39.” But though the apostle prophesies, that after his departure either from them, or out of the world, grievous wolves should enter among them, and of themselves men should arise speaking perverse things ; yet not that any of them who were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, be such or act in this manner. For these words, as has been already shown, are not spoken of the members of the church at Ephesus; and were they spoken of them, the apostle in his prediction could never design any of the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus, who then constituted the church at Ephesus, but others that should creep in, and rise up among them in some time to come. 3. “From his advertisement to Timothy, in 2 Timothy 1:15, and Timothy 2:18, and 2 Timothy 4:3,4; 1 Timothy 1:19, and Timothy 5:15, and 1 Timothy 6:21, that some had or should turn away; all which is inconsistent with the character of the elect.” I reply that some of these passages do not seem to have any immediate relation to the members of the church at Ephesus, nor any of them to them who were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world; some of them speak not of men’s turning from the faith, but from the apostle slighting and neglecting him when he was in necessity; and others not of what was then done, but what should be hereafter; and though some then present instances of apostacy are mentioned, yet it is also affirmed, that nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his. So that these instances carry in them nothing inconsistent with the character of the elect, that is, of persons infallibly predestinated to salvation, nor prove what they are produced for.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called, kata proqesin , according to his purpose; for whom proegnw , he did foreknow, he also prowrise , did predestinate. — Romans 8:28,29.
These three words prognosiv, the foreknowledge, proqesiv, the purpose, and prowrismov, the foreappointment God, are used in the New Testament to express the doctrine of election; which show that the predestination of men to eternal life, according to the foreknowledge and purpose of God, is a special, unchangeable, and eternal act of his grace.
Though, 1. It is affirmed, “that none of them relate to particular or individual persons (save only when they are used of our blessed Lord and his sufferings for us), but only to churches and nations in the general.” But surely they do not relate to churches and nations in the general, in the text before us; for then it would unavoidably follow, that whole churches and nations in general are conformed to the image of Christ, justified and glorified, seeing these things are said of those whom God foreknows and predestinates; nor do the instances alleged prove the assertion; not Ephesians 1:5,11, where the apostle speaks of some whom God had proorisav , predestinated to the adoption of sons, and who were proorisqentev kata proqesin, predestinated according to the purpose of God, which passages regard not nations or churches, but particular persons, as has been shown under the foregoing section; nor 1 Peter 1:2, where some are said to be elect, not kata proqesin, according to the purpose, as Dr. Whitby very wrongly cites the words, kata prognwsin, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, which intend particular persons, and not nations or churches; for not to such does the apostle write, but to strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia; nor Romans 9:11, where the h kat ekloghn tou qeou proqesiv , purpose of God according to election, concerns not the posterity of Jacob and Esau, but the single person of Jacob only, as has been made to appear in a preceding section. 2. It is said, “that this foreknowledge, purpose, or appointment, is only that of calling men to the knowledge of salvation by Christ Jesus.” But, if by calling men to the knowledge of salvation by Christ Jesus is only meant, as it seems to be by what follows, a bare external call by the ministry of the gospel; it must be denied that foreknowledge, purpose, and appointment, only regard this; seeing many are called according to the purpose of God, with an holy calling, such an one as is powerful, and effectual to their real sanctification, and which is secured to them by God’s foreknowledge, purpose, and appointment, though it is something distinct from them, being an act of God’s grace in time, whereas the other respects his knowledge and will from all eternity. 3. It is farther said, that “this calling is by God designed epi touto , that they who are thus called might obtain salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth; all Christians being chosen to this end, that they might be holy, and unblameable before God in love. But hence it cannot reasonably be argued, that this election is no larger than the holiness designed to be produced by it.” I reply, that effectual calling by the grace of God, which is the calling according to purpose the Scriptures speak of, is not only designed by God, that such who are thus called might obtain salvation, but is really and infallibly succeeded to such an end; though it would be more proper, and more agreeable to the Scriptures to say, that such obtain salvation by Jesus Christ, being chosen to it through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth; which holiness is not only designed to be produced in consequence of electing grace, but is really produced. Nor is this election larger, nor it does not extend to more persons than holiness; just as many persons are made holy in time as were chosen to be so from eternity: holiness is a certain fruit and effect of election. The instances of God’s general goodness, the mission of the Baptist, and the outward ministry of the gospel of grace, not always having a good effect, upon men, are not to be put upon a level with the purposes and counsel of God, which shall certainly stand; for he will always do his pleasure. As to the end of the Messiah’s coming, to save his people from their sins,, that ought not. to have been mentioned with the former instances; since that is fully answered, and has had its sure effect and accomplishment. 4. It is observed, that “as men were appointed to be called from the beginning, and the gospel is that hn prowrisen , which God had foreappointed to be preached to them for that end, 1 Corinthians 2:7; so by virtue of this purpose and fore-appointment men were in time called by the gospel to faith in Christ, where they are said to be called according to purpose, Romans 8:28, 2 Timothy 1:9. And the purpose of sending Christ to die for the remission of sins, being the ground of this calling, he is said to be given up to death, according to the foreknowledge of God and his foreappointed counsel, Acts 2:23. And they who slew him are said to have done only what his counsel had foreappointed to be done, Acts 4:28.” Which observations are very just; but are so far from militating against the doctrine of absolute election, that they establish it; since, according to them, not only the end but the means, the death of Christ, the preaching of the gospel, and calling men by it, are appointed and fixed, which infallibly succeed to bring about the end, eternal salvation.
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. — John 6:37.
These words contain three of the most glorious truths of the Gospel, namely, the doctrines of particular election, efficacious grace in conversion, and the final perseverance of the saints. 1st. The doctrine of particular election. The all, pan, design not the apostles only, who were given to Christ as such; for these did not all, in a spiritual manner, come to him, and believe in him, one of them was a devil; much less every individual of mankind. These are in some sense given to Christ, to subserve some ends of his mediatorial kingdom, and are subject to his power and control; yet do not come to him, believe in him, ( Thessalonians 3:8.) all men have not faith; but the whole body of the elect, who, when they were chosen by God the Father, were given, and put into the hands of Christ, and therefore are said to be chosen in him: ( Ephesians 1:4.) he was chosen as head, and they as members of him.
God made a covenant with him, as the head of the election of grace; in which he gave his chosen people to him as his seed, his spouse, his sheep, his portion and inheritance, and to be saved by him with an everlasting salvation. This was done before time; otherwise how could these persons be blessed with all spiritual blessings, and have grace given to them in Christ, before the world began; if their persons had not also been given to Christ, and secured in him? And though Christ here expresses this act of his Father’s in the present tense, all that the Father didwsi, giveth me, perhaps to express the continuance and unchangeableness of it; yet he expresses it in verse 39, in the past tense, all that dedwle, he hath given me, and respects an act of God, antecedent to coming to Christ, and believing in him; which is the faith of God’s elect, the fruit and effect of electing love; for as many as were ordained unto eternal life believed. ( Acts 13:48.)
Now to this sense of the words the following things are objected. 1. “That to be given of the Father, cannot signify to be absolutely chosen by God to eternal life; for then the Jews could not be reasonably accused for not coming to Christ, or not believing on him; much less could it be imputed to them as their great crime, that they would not come to him, or believe in him; since upon this supposition none could come but whom God had chosen.” I answer, There is a difference between coming to Christ, and believing on him as the Messiah, or giving a bare assent to him as such, and coming to him as a Savior, or believing in him for life and salvation. The Jews might be reasonably accused for not believing on him as the Messiah, whom the Father had sent; since they had such a demonstration of his being so from his character, miracles, and doctrines; though none but those among them, whom the Father had given to Christ, could believe in him to the saving of their souls. And even not coming to Christ, and believing in him, in this spiritual manner, when he is revealed in the external ministry of the word, as God’s way of salvation, is criminal and blameworthy, notwithstanding men’s want of both will and power; since this does not arise from any decree of God, but from the corruption of nature through sin: and this being blameworthy, what follows upon it, or is the effect of it, must be so too. 2. “Hence it must follow (it is said) that Christ could not reasonably have invited them to come to him, or called them to believe in him, who were not given him of the Father; since he well knew they could never come.”
I reply, that Christ, as a preacher of the Gospel, and a minister of the circumcision, might exhort the Jews in general to labor for, that is use the means of obtaining the meat which endures unto eternal life; he might inform them, that this is the work of God, which he himself works, as well as commands, that they believe in him whom he hath sent; he might say to them, My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven, since he, who is the Bread of life, was come down from heaven, and was among them; and these things he might say unto them, that they might be saved, without any prejudice to the doctrine of particular election, and with a special view to the good of those among them his Father had given to him. And after all, it will not be easily proved, that Christ ever invited any to come in a spiritual way to him, and believe in him savingly, but such as the Father had given him. The words in Matthew 9:28, are directed, not to unconverted sinners, much less reprobates, but to such who were under a work of the Spirit of God, laboring, and being heavy laden, with a sense of sin, and breathing and seeking after spiritual rest. 3. It is further objected, that “were this so, the Jews must have just occasion to complain of Christ and of his doctrine, as being that which revealed to them their eternal and inevitable reprobation, and made it; not only necessary, but even equitable to reject him; because the blessings which he tendered belonged not to them in general, but only to some few, who by the Father should be given to him.” It is true, indeed, that the doctrine of Christ was oftentimes very expressive of God’s special and distinguishing grace, which raised loud complaints, and even indignation, (See Luke 4:25-28.) in the Jews against him, but without any just occasion or reason; since the grace of God is his own, and he may do with it as he pleases, and give it to whom he will. And as for their destruction, it was wholly owing to themselves; nor had they any just occasion, by Christ’s doctrine, to complain of any but themselves, who ought to have been received by them as the Messiah; by whom it was necessary and equitable he should be received, and not rejected, even by those who were not given of the Father to him. Though Christ did not offer or tender the blessings of grace to any, much less to them in general; but as a preacher of the Gospel, published the truths of it to all; and as the Mediator of the new covenant, dispensed the blessings of it to those who were (not should be) given him by the Father. 4. It is observed, that “Christ here gives a reason why they believed not, namely, Ye have seen, and believed not; because ye are not given to me of my Father. Now it is reasonable to conceive this reason should agree with all the other reasons assigned of their infidelity; which yet are manifestly founded, not on anything wanting on the part of God, but in themselves.”
But it should be observed, that Christ is not here giving a reason why some believed not, but rather why others did, and would believe, while some remained unbelievers in him, who saw his miracles; when others, even all those the Father had given to him, should come to him, and believe in him, and so never perish. But admitting that Christ here gives a reason of the infidelity of some; it is such an one in the sense of it contended for, that is agreeable to other reasons of infidelity elsewhere assigned; such as, Ye therefore hear not, because ye are not of God, ( John 8:47.) do not belong to him, are none of his, neither chosen of him, nor born of him: and in another place, Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, ( John 10:26) whom the Father has given me, and made my care and charge. 5. It is said, that “the true import of this phrase, To be given of the Father, ” is, (1.) To be convinced by the miracles which God wrought by Christ, that he was the Messiah; which appears from the description Christ gives of the persons the Father had given him, John 17:8, and from a like expression in the book of Deuteronomy. On which I observe, that as the miracles Christ wrought were by the Spirit of God, so the conviction which came by them, was by the same hand. Hence such who denied Jesus to be the Messiah, against such conviction, sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost, which is unpardonable; whence it follows, that since conviction by miracles that Jesus was the Messiah, is not the act of the Father, but the work of the Spirit; therefore to be so convinced, is not the true import of this phrase.
And admitting such conviction to be the act of God the Father; yet this is what is wrought internally in the consciences of men, and not an act towards them, or concerning them, as this of giving them to Christ is. Add to this, that some persons were convinced by miracles, that Jesus was the Messiah, who never came to him in a spiritual saving way, or believed in him to the saving of their souls, though they might give their assent to his being the Messiah; whereas these words declare, that all that the Father giveth to Christ shall come to him , and never be cast out, or perish. Nor does this sense of the phrase appear from the description of those who were given to Christ in John 17:8, which is spoken of Christ’s disciples; for though these saw his miracles, and believed on him, and knew that he came from God, and was sent by him, yet this was not all: Christ manifested his Father’s name, person and glory, mind and will, his love and grace, to these men which he gave him out of the world; which donation of them to him was made antecedent to their seeing of his miracles, and believing in him, to the manifestation of his Father’s name unto them. The passage referred to in Deuteronomy ( Deuteronomy 29:3,4.) is not all to the purpose; since it appears from thence that miracles may be wrought, and yet not be taken notice of, or men may not be convinced by them: which was the case of the Israelites, to whom. the Lord did not give an heart to perceive, and eyes to see. For to read the words with an interrogation, is contrary to the ancient and modern versions; and still more impertinent is this passage alleged to prove this to be the import of the phrase under consideration. (2.) It is also urged, that such “are said to be given of the Father to Christ, who are so convinced by his miracles of the truth of the promise or eternal life, as to expect to receive it by faith in him, and obedience to his doctrine; and were so affected with it, as to esteem it above all other things; and so were willing to apply themselves to those duties by which this life might be acquired, and to reject and quit those things which might obstruct them in the prosecution of it.” This sense of the phrase not only makes eternal life to be acquired by men’s duties, contrary to its being both a promise of grace, and a gift by it, but also makes this act of the Father’s to consist in a revelation of the promise of eternal life, and in a conviction of the truth of it by the miracles of Christ; when such a revelation and conviction of the truth of it by the miracles of Christ; when such a revelation and conviction are to be ascribed not to the Father of Christ, but to the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, whose proper business it is to convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; ( Ephesians 1:17; John 16:8.) and so of the truth of the promise, and of their need of enjoyment of eternal life by Christ. And, supposing all this to be done by the Father, yet this regards something internal in the minds and consciences of men; and not an act concerning them, as is the giving of them to Christ; which is no other than interesting him in them, putting them into his hands, and him into the possession of them, making them his care and charge; which was done when they were chosen in him unto eternal life before the foundation of the world. To this I take leave to add the two following observations; though they do not properly fall under this head of discourse. That, 2ndly The doctrine of efficacious grace in conversion is strongly asserted in these words; for such who are given in eternal election, and in the everlasting covenant of grace to Christ, shall in time come unto him, that is, believe in him. Which is not to be ascribed to any power and will in them, but to the power and grace of God; for there is not in them naturally, any will, desire, or inclination, to come to Christ for life; they had rather go any where else, than to him for it; for no man can come to Christ except the Father draw him. ( John 6:44.)
It is not here said, that such who are given to Christ have a power to come to him, or may come if they will; but they shall come, efficacious grace will bring them to Christ as poor perishing sinners, to venture on him for life and salvation. 3rdly The doctrine of the saints’ final perseverance may be established on this text; for such who come to Christ in a spiritual manner, and are brought to believe in him truly and really, he not only receives them kindly, but keeps and preserves them, and will not east them out. The words are very strongly and emphatically expressed in the original, ou mh ekbalw exw, I will not, not, or never, never, we render it in nowise cast out without, or cast out of doors. Christ will never cast them out of his affections, nor out of his arms, nor out of that family that is named of him, nor out of or from his church, which is his body, and of which they are members, nor out of a state of justification and salvation; and therefore they shall never perish, but have everlasting life.
This act of ordination to eternal life, is no other than God’s act of predestination of some persons to glory, or his eternal choice and appointment of them to life and salvation by Jesus Christ, which the scriptures frequently speak of. Now, seeing that as many as were ordained to eternal life, did in the times of the apostles, and do in all ages, believe in consequence thereof, election must be an act of God’s grace, irrespective of faith, is not on account of the foresight of it; faith being not the cause, but a fruit and effect of it; and it must also relate to particular persons only; since all men have not faith, nor will enjoy eternal life; both which are firmly and infallibly secured by this act of grace to all those who are interested in it. To which is objected, 1. That these words speak not of preordination, much less of divine preordination. The persons spoken of are not said to be protetagmenoi foreordained, but tetagmenoi, ordained; and not said to be ordained by God, but were such who disposed themselves unto eternal life. To which I reply, that the words are rendered both by the Vulgate Latin, and by Arias Montanus, quotquot erant praeordinati, as many as were preordained. And it is certain, that they speak of an ordination to what is future, eternal life, and to that antecedent to believing, and why not then before the foundation of the world, agreeable to other scriptures? especially since there was a promise (and therefore why not a purpose?) of eternal life made by God before the world began. ( Titus 1:2.) And though here is no mention made of God, yet who can ordain to eternal life, or dispose of it but God?
For we are not sufficient of ourselves, to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God. ( 2 Corinthians 3:5.) 2. It is said, “That these words cannot signify that there is a fixed number of persons absolutely by God ordained to eternal life, is evident from this consideration, that if the reason why these men believed were only this, that they were men ordained to eternal life, the reason why the rest believed not can be this only, that they were not by God ordained to eternal life. And if so, what necessity could there be, that the word of God should be first preached to them? as we read verse 46. Was it only that their damnation might be the greater? This seems to charge the Lover of souls with the greatest cruelty; what could even their most malicious and enraged enemy do more? This is to make God as instrumental to their ruin as he very devil.” To which may be replied, that though faith is a fruit of, and what follows upon, electing grace, and therefore is called the faith of God’s elect, yet election is not the immediate cause of it, but the grace and power of God: hence it is said to be the gift, and of the operation of God, ( Ephesians 2:8; Colossians 2:12; Romans 10:17.) and comes by hearing the word, as an instrumental means. So, likewise, though unbelief follows upon God’s denying his grace, which is agreeable to a previous determination, yet neither the denial of his grace, nor his determination to deny it, is the cause of unbelief, but the vitiosity and corruption of nature, and, therefore not to be charged on God’s not ordaining them to eternal life, which is no instance either of cruelty or injustice, for then it would have been both cruel and unjust with God to deny and determine to deny his grace to fallen angels. And whereas it is asked, to what purpose was the word of God preached to them; was it for their greater damnation? I answer, that the preaching of the Gospel to men is not to aggravate the damnation of any; for, though the condemnation of men becomes the greater by it, yet this is only accidental to it or owing to the wickedness of men, but is not the end and design of God in it, which is partly to gather out his elect from among them, and partly to leave the rest inexcusable, who would be apt to say, Had we heard of Christ, we should have embraced him; had the Gospel been preached to us, as unto others, we had believed, even as they. 3. It is observed, that “the apostle gives this reason why he turned from the Jews to the Gentiles, because the Jews thrust away, the word of God from them, and judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life, verse 46.
Whereas, according to this supposition, that could be no sufficient reason; for it was only they among the Jews, who were not ordained to eternal life, that refused to believe and obey the word of God; and as many among the Gentiles, who were not thus ordained, must necessarily do the same.” I reply, that the reason was a sufficient one; for these Jews, as a body of men, rejected the Gospel; not one gave heed unto it; wherefore the apostles rightly concluded, that God had no more work for them to do among them; that there were no more of his elect to be gathered out from them, and therefore, they turned to the Gentiles, as the Lord had commanded them; expecting and believing that God would take out of them, through their ministry, a people for his name and glory. And it is easy to observe, that this was the rule of their conduct among the Gentiles; for, according as they were directed by the Spirit of God, or were able to make a judgment, whether God had a people to be called by grace or not, they continued, or departed, or turned aside. Thus they were forbidden by the Holy Ghost, at a certain time, to preach the word of God in Asia; and when they assayed to go into Bithynia, the Spirit suffered them not; and passing by Mysia, they carne down to Troas, ( Acts 16:6-10.) where by a vision, they were directed to Macedonia; from whence they assuredly gathered, that the Lord had called them to preach the Gospel to them, and that some persons were to be converted there, and not in the other places at that time where they were not permitted to go. The apostle Paul, when he went to Corinth, first preached among the Jews; but they opposing, themselves, and blaspheming, he turned to the Gentiles, and had this encouragement from the Lord to continue in his ministrations to them, from this consideration, ( Acts 18:10.) that he had much people in that city. 4. Whereas the apostle preached the doctrines of remission of sins, and justification to the Jews, and exhorted them to beware, lest what was spoken of in the prophets should come upon them. It is asked, “Could God have determined that these very persons should not believe to life eternal, and yet commission his apostles to tell them these things? Could it be revealed to St. Paul that they could not believe to life eternal, as being not by God ordained to it; and yet would he so passionately exhort them to that faith in Jesus which he well knew, by virtue of this revelation, belonged not to them, nor could they possibly exert?” But who says that God had determined they should not believe, or that it was revealed to St.
Paul that they could not believe to life eternal, as being not by God ordained to it? The apostle Paul, with the rest of the apostles, had a commission to preach the gospel to all nations, beginning with the Jews, which, as it was designed to gather in the elect of God among them, so it was faithfully executed by them. They preached these doctrines of grace promiscuously to all, not knowing who were ordained to eternal life and who were not, or who would believe and who would not; the judgment they were able to form in anywise of these things, did not arise from any special or extraordinary revelation, but from the success of their ministry.
Thus, from the Jews rejecting the gospel, and thereby judging themselves unworthy of everlasting life, they might justly fear they were left of God, and did not belong to him, and might rightly conclude that many among the Gentiles were ordained to eternal life, from their believing in Christ; and, therefore, in perfect consistence both with the design of God and the nature of their commission, could, and did preach and propose these things to them. 5. It is urged, that “the words will very well admit of this sense, as many as were disposed for eternal life believed. ” Which sense is pleaded for from the use of the word tetagmenov , in this very book of the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Son of Sirach, from some passages in Philo the Jew, from Simplicius on Epictetus, and from the opposition in the context between the indisposed Jews and the disposed Gentiles. To which I reply, that the place referred to in this book is no proof of such a sense of the word; for it is not the same word in the same simple form with this here that is there used, but as in composition with the preposition dia ; it is not tetagmenov , but diatetagmenov ; nor does that signify disposition of mind, but determination and foreappointment. The words are these, ( Acts 20:13.) We went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul, outw gar hn diatetagmenos , for so had he appointed, not as Dr. Whitby renders it, for so was he disposed: the disposition of his mind is expressed by the following phrase, minding himself to go afoot. It is plain that it was a determined case, which had been concerted and agreed upon between Paul and his associates, that they should go with the ship to Assos, and he would go afoot thither, where they should take him in; so that this place, instead of making for, makes against the sense of the word contended for. The Son of Sirach says, ( Ecclesiastes 10:1.) that the government, or principality of a wise man, is tetagmenh, which the Vulgate Latin renders stabilis erit, shall be stable or firm. The reason is, because it is ordained by God; for, as the apostle Paul says, ( Romans 13:1) the powers that be are tetagmenai, ordained by God, which is an instance of the use of the word in favor of our sense of it. The passages out of Philo are no proof of the word signifying an internal disposition of mind, being allusions to the marshalling and ordering of persons in a military form, which is the frequent use of tattw , in Xenophon and other writers. Though Simplicius interprets tetagmenov upo qeou, in Epictetus, by protrepomenov upo qeou , yet both the one and the other phrase signify the force and power of the fatal decree, ordaining things; which is made use of as an argument with the philosopher, why he should choose and retain them. For in another place, says Epictetus, Lead me, O Jupiter, and thou fate, opoi poq umin eimi diatetagmenov whither I am by you appointed, and I will cheerfully follow. So wra tetagmenh , is used by him for a stated hour, just as hmera tetagmenh is by Porphyry, for a fixed day , or appointed time.
But, after all, to settle the true sense of the word in the text, it will be proper to inquire in what sense it is used by the historian Luke, in this book of the Acts of the Apostles, where we shall always find it signifies determination and appointment, and not disposition of mind. So in Acts 15:9, When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, etaxan, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain others of them, should go up to Jerusalem. Again, in Acts 22:10, The Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus, and there it shall be told thee of all things which, tetatkai, are appointed for thee to do. Once more, in Acts 28:23, And when taxamenoi autw hmeran, they had appointed him a day, there came many to him. By these instances we may judge of the sense and translation of our text. Besides, both the ancient and modern versions agree in favoring the translation and sense we contend for; nor does the opposition in the context favor the other; for the comparison is not between the blaspheming Jews and the believing Gentiles, but between one part of the Gentiles and the other; the one believing, and the other not; the one being ordained unto eternal life, and the other not ordained to it. Add to this, that the phrase of being disposed to, or for eternal life, is a very unusual, if not a very improper, and an inaccurate one. Men are said to be disposed to a habit or an action, as to vice or virtue; but not to reward or punishment, as to heaven or hell. Nor does it appear that these Gentiles had any good dispositions to eternal life, antecedent to their believing; for, though they are said, in verse 49, to beseech the apostles to preach the same things to them the next sabbath, yet the words may be rendered more agreeable to the order in which they lie in the original text thus: They , that is, the apostles, parekaloun ta eqnh , besought the Gentiles, that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath; that is, they entreated them that they would come and hear them again at such a time. And as for their being glad, and glorifying the word of the Lord, it is not evident that it was before their believing; and suppose it was, this has been found in persons who have had no true, real, inward dispositions to spiritual things, as in many of our Lord’s hearers; and, indeed, there are no such dispositions in men previous to faith in Christ, for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Before believing, men are dead in trespasses and sins, given up unto them, live in them, and fulfill the lusts of the flesh, and are insufficient either to think well or do well. Besides, admitting that there are in some persons good dispositions to eternal fife, previous to faith in Christ; and that desiring eternal life, and seeking after it, be accounted such; yet these may be, where faith does not follow. The young man in the Gospel had as many dispositions of this sort, perhaps, as ever any had, who were destitute of faith; and yet was so far from believing in Christ, that he went away from him sorrowful. As many, therefore, as are so disposed unto eternal life do not always believe, faith does not always follow such dispositions. And, after all, one would have thought that the Jews themselves, who were externally religious, and were looking for the Messiah, though they did not believe that Jesus was the Christ; and especially the devout and honorable women, were more disposed unto eternal life than the ignorant and idolatrous Gentiles; and yet the latter believed, and the former did not. It follows, then, that their faith did not arise from previous dispositions to eternal life, but was the fruit and effect of divine ordination. 6. Another sense which these words are said to be capable of, is, that as many as were well disposed, believed unto eternal life . But it has been already proved, that tetagmenoi, does not signify well disposed; and as for joining the phrase eternal life, to the word episteusan, believed; that stands at too great a distance to admit of such a construction: and should it be allowed, it would make no considerable alteration in the sense of the text; which would be read thus, as many as were ordained, believed unto eternal life ; that is, as many as were chosen of God, and appointed by him to obtain salvation by Jesus Christ, believed in him to the saving of their souls. Let the words be placed in construction either way, the sense is the same.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed 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. — Romans 8:29,30.
The meaning of these words is, that those whom God foreknew, or loved with an everlasting love, he predestinated to conformity to his Son; which conformity begins in grace, and will be finished in glory; and whom he has thus predestinated to grace and glory, he in time calls unto both; and whom he calls by his powerful and efficacious grace, he justifies by the righteousness of his Son, revealed to them by his Spirit, and received by faith; and whom he justifies, he will glorify, with the enjoyment of himself to all eternity. Whence it follows, that those, and none but those who are called, justified, and are loved by God with an everlasting love, and appointed unto salvation by Christ: and that all those, and none but those who are foreknown, or loved by God with a special love, and are predetermined to grace and glory, shall certainly be called with a holy calling, be completely justified by Christ’s righteousness, and at last be eternally glorified. So that these words confirm the doctrine of the eternal predestination, or election of particular persons to salvation. Now to set aside this sense of the words, and the argument upon it in favor of this doctrine, the Arminians have given us another sense of them, which is this: that those whom God foresaw would be true lovers of him, and devoted to his service, and whom he approved of as persons fit to be received into his favor, he foreappointed to be like to his Son in sufferings; and whom he thus predestinated, he in due time called to suffer; and whom he thus called to suffer, upon their faith and patience under their sufferings, he approved of as sincere and faithful servants; and whom he justified or approved of, he gave them a glorious reward of all their sufferings; or he made them glorious under sufferings by the Spirit of glory and of God resting on them; or by giving them his Holy Spirit, to enable them to work the greatest miracles. But, 1. The foreknowledge here spoken of, is not of men’s works or graces, as the cause and reason of their predestination; since these are fruits and effects of it, and what follow from it; and therefore can never be the causes of it. It is true that God foreknew who would believe and love him, and be devoted to him; he having determined to bestow these graces on them, and ordained or prepared good works for them, that they should walk in them.
The text does not say, that those whom God foreknew would be lovers of him, or fit for his kingdom, or devoted for his service, he predestinated; these are additions to it, and neither expressed nor implied in it; it only says, whom he foreknew; and which is owned to relate to God’s affectionate knowledge of these persons, as his chosen generation, his peculiar people:” words of knowledge being often expressive of affection, Psalm 1:6, Jeremiah 1:5, 2 Timothy 2:7, Matthew 7:23. And it may be justly added, that it relates to God’s affectionate knowledge of them from all eternity: since they were so early his chosen generation, and peculiar people, and as early loved by him with an everlasting love; to which, and to which alone, their predestination, or election to eternal life, is owing, and is the true meaning of the phrase here; whom God thus foreknow, or affectionately loved before the world began, them he predetermined, or foreappointed, to everlasting happiness. Hence, 2. The predestination of these persons to be conformed to the image of Christ, is not a foreappointment of them to be like him in sufferings: for though the saints are appointed unto sufferings, and sufferings or afflictions are appointed them; and though there is some likeness between Christ the head and the members of his body in suffering; yet this cannot be intended here: since the image of Christ, to which they are predestinated to be conformed, always designs something great and glorious, and not mean and abject; it is the image of the heavenly, in opposition to the image of the earthly; and is no other than the glory of the Lord, into which the saints are changed from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. ( 1 Corinthians 15:47; 2 Corinthians3:18.)
Besides, Christ is never said to be the first-born with respect to afflictions, but with respect to preeminence, honor, and glory; see Psalm 89:28, Colossians 1:18, Revelation 1:5. This conformity to the image of Christ, to which they are predestinated who are loved by God, seems rather to be a spiritual likeness to Christ, which is begun in this world upon believers, and will be finished in the other; when they shall he like him both in soul and body, as perfectly as they will be capable of; when the great ends of predestinating grace will be fully answered upon them; or rather, particularly, this conformity is to be understood of a likeness to the filiation of Christ, or a likeness to the image of Christ as the Son of God; for though the saints are not in the same class of sonship with Christ, yet their, sonship bears some resemblance to his; as he is the Son of God by nature, they are the sons of God by grace; as he is the dear Son of God, they are the dear children of God; as w he is the first-born among many brethren, they are the first-born with respect to the angels; and as he has an inheritance, being heir of all things, so have they, being heirs of God,. and joint-heirs with Christ;. which likeness of sonship will more fully appear hereafter; for though now are we the sons of God, it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. ( 1 John 3:2.)
This sense of the words is strengthened by a parallel place, Ephesians 1:5. Having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. Besides, it is owned, that “according to the received interpretation of the ancient Fathers, the import of these words is this; that whom God foreknew, he predetermined to render conformable to the image of his Son, that is, to be like him in glory:” or as in another place “he predestinated, or foreappointed them to be conformed to the image of his Son, their elder brother; that is, to be sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ; and the f286 author I am concerned with, after he had considered the text in every light: “conceives the sense of it to be this; those whom he hath so foreknown as to make them his elect, and peculiar people; for them he hath designed the choicest blessings, even the adoption of sons, and their being co-heirs with Christ.” Wherefore, 3. The calling here intended, is not of persons to suffering in this life: for though such who are called by grace, are generally an afflicted people, they meet with many afflictions between their call to glory, and the enjoyment of it; yet they are not properly called to them, but to faith and patience under them: which is the meaning of the words of the apostle; If when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God; for even hereunto were ye called, ( 1 Peter 2:20,21.) that, is, not so much to sufferings, as to patience under them. And when in other places the saints are said to be called, it is either to grace or glory; thus they are called unto marvelous light, unto liberty, to the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ, to peace and holiness, to a kingdom and glory, even to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ; ( 1 Peter 2:9; Galatians 5:13; 1 Corinthians 1:9; Romans 1:7; Colossians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:14.) and here, in the context, they are said to be ( Romans 8:28.) called according to his purpose ; which is the same with being called with an holy calling, according to the grace which was given us in Christ before the world began. ( 2 Timothy 1:9.)
Besides, all that are called to afflictions, or sufferings, are not justified and glorified; as for instance, the young man in the Gospel, to whom Christ said, Take up the cross and follow me , who was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: and all such professors, who, when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by are offended. ( Mark 10:21,22; Matthew 13:21.)
Add to this, that according to the received interpretation of the ancient fathers, the sense of the phrase is, that “whom God foreappointed to be the sons of God, the method he used to bring them to this adoption was this; to call them to the faith of Christ; or as elsewhere expressed, “them also, in due time, he called to the salvation promised and offered in the gospel.” And our author himself, at last conceives this to be the sense of it: “that in order to this adoption designed for them, it is that he hath chosen them out of the world to be his church, an holy nation, and peculiar people to himself.” And therefore, 4. When God is said to have justified the persons whom he foreknew, predestinated, and called; the meaning is not, that he approved of them as sincere and faithful, on the account of their faith and patience in suffering: for though God does approve of, and is well pleased with the faith and patience of his people under afflictions, yet no instance can he produced of the use of the word in this sense: not James 2:21,25, where Abraham and Rahab are said to be justified by works; the meaning of which is, not that they were approved of by Christ, or accepted by him on account of their works, but that their faith, was evidenced to the world, their cause vindicated, and they cleared by them from all false charges and imputations: nor Matthew 11:19, where wisdom is said to be justified of her children; that is, not barely approved of by them, but vindicated, and acquitted from the charge of libertinism: nor Matthew 12:37, where it is said, by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou I shalt be condemned; since justification stands directly opposite to condemnation, and is used in a forensic sense, as it is throughout this epistle to the Romans, and in this very chapter and context. Besides, according to the above-mentioned received interpretation of the ancient fathers, the sense of the expression is, that “whom God in due time called, and they believing in Christ upon this call, he justified them from, and remitted all their past sins. And according to our author’s last conception of it, the meaning is, “he hath justified them, or given them a full remission of their sins.” Hence, 5. The glorification of them is not a making them glorious under sufferings; much less by them the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit to enable them to work miracles. The word is never used in this sense: not in Corinthians 3:8-11, where the Gospel ministration is said to be en doxh in glory; but not on the account of the extraordinary gifts and miracles of the Holy Ghost, but because it is the ministration of the spirit of righteousness, and of life, in opposition to the law, the ministration of condemnation and death; and because it remains when the law is done away; and is attended with evidence, clearness, and perspicuity, when the legal dispensation had a great deal of darkness and obscurity in it: nor John 17:29, where our Lord says, The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; which is not to be understood of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit; since the words are spoken not of the apostles only, but of all them that should believe in Christ through their word, verse 20, but rather of the glorious gospel of the blessed God, and the excellent truths and doctrines of it; see verse 8: nor Acts 3:13, where it is said, that God hath glorified his Son Jesus Christ; which was done, not by bestowing the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit on him, nor merely the miracle then wrought, by the raising him from the dead, verse 15; the thing he prayed for under this expression, John 17:1, and firmly believed, John 13:31,32. Moreover, God is never said to glorify his people in this way. It is true, indeed, miracles were wrought, that the Son of God might be glorified, John xi:5. And in this way the Father did honor the Son, John 8:54. And Christ was glorified of all on this account Luke 4:15. And the Spirit of God now glorifies Christ by receiving of his, and showing them to his people, John 16:15. But God is never said to glorify them by these gifts. Indeed some of the members of Christ’s body are honored with gifts and graces more than others, 1 Corinthians 12:26. And should it be allowed, that extraordinary gifts are intended in this last-cited passage; yet this cannot be the meaning of the word here: since the apostle is speaking not of particular persons, but of all the saints in general, who were the sons and heirs of God, verse 17; had received the first-fruits of the Spirit, and were waiting for the adoption, verse 23; all who loved God, and were his called according to his purpose, verse 28; even all God’s elect, verse 33. Now all these are not glorified in this sense; besides, were this the meaning of the phrase, then none would he predestinated, called, and justified, but such as have the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit: and on the other hand, none would have the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit but such as are predestinated, called, and justified: whereas, it is certain, that many might have, and had in the apostles’ days, such gifts, and yet were destitute of the grace of God. It is much more agreeable to the context, and to the analogy of faith, to understand this phrase of eternal glory; since it is what the apostle speaks of in verse 17, 18, 21, 23, and is what God’s elect are predestinated and called unto; and what the righteousness of Christ, by which they are justified, gives them a right and title to; and which they shall certainly enjoy. The main objection to this sense of the phrase is, “That when the apostle speaks of our final justification (glorification it should be) in this chapter, he still speaks of it as a thing future; saying, We shall be glorified with him, verse 17, 18, 21. Whereas here he speaks of it as a thing past; saying, Whom he hath justified, them he hath also glorified .” To which may be replied, Not to insist upon the change of tense, the past for the future, which is no unusual thing in scripture; this is strictly true of that part of the body of God’s elect, who are already in heaven, called the family in heaven, and the things in heaven; who through faith and patience have inherited the promises: ( Ephesians 3:15; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 6:12.) and is in some sense true also of the other part on earth, who are called and justified; since they are made glorious both by the robe of Christ’s righteousness put upon them, and by the grace of Christ wrought in them; which makes them all glorious within, and is the beginning of eternal glory; for a saving knowledge of God in Christ is life eternal. Nor ought this sense of the phrase to be objected to by our opponents; seeing if such may be said to be glorified, who had the gifts of working miracles, much more may they be said to be so, who have the true grace of the Spirit, which is superior to all other gifts. Besides, God’s elect may be said to be glorified, because of the certainty of their glorification. It is a kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world; which Christ has gone afresh to prepare by his presence and mediation in our nature; which he is in the possession of on the behalf of his people, and which is ascertained to their faith and hope: hence they are said to be saved by hope, and by grace through faith. ( Romans 8:24; Ephesians 2:8.) Add to this, that they are in the same sense glorified in Christ, their representative head; in which they are said to be raised together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in him. ( Ephesians 2:6.)
If the Lord knows them that are his, in distinction from others who are not his, and loves them with a special, peculiar, and everasting love; then there is a select number, whom God has chosen to be his by a firm, immutable, and unalterable act of his grace, which stands sure and inviolable. But, the Lord knows them that are his: therefore, in answer to this argument, 1. It is observed, “That by the foundation of God, we are to understand the doctrine of the resurrection; which is the foundation of the church, Matthew 16:18; of our faith and hope, 1 Corinthians 15:19, Thessalonians 4:13, 14, styled to qemelion, the foundation of the doctrine of the resurrection, Hebrews 6:1,2; the faithful saying, verse 11, by denying of which the Christian faith is overturned, verse 18, to which fundamental doctrine God hath set this seal, for confirmation of it, The Lord knoweth them that are his; that is, loveth and approveth of them, so as to reward them at the resurrection.” To which may be replied, that it will easily be granted that the doctrine of the future resurrection of the dead is spoken of in the context: nor will it be denied, that it was a fundamental article a the Jewish creed, Hebrews 6:1,2; or of the Christian faith, 1 Corinthians 15:13,14,19. though it does not seem to be the foundation of the church, Matthew 16:18, but the doctrine of Christ’s deity and sonship, owned by Peter, or rather the person of Christ himself, whom he confessed: nor does it seem to be intended here; seeing the seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his, which regards particular, persons, cannot well agree with it; since the resurrection will be both of the just and unjust. And if only the doctrine of the resurrection to eternal life is intended; and the meaning is, that God stands so kindly affected to his people, his sheep, whom he has given to Christ, that though they die, he will raise them up to eternal life; this is so far from militating against, that it rather establishes the doctrine of absolute election. Besides, the foundation of God standing sure, here spoken of, is opposed not to the error and heresy of Hymeneus and Philetus; but to the persons of them, and others, who through them apostatized from the faith: so that by the foundation of God, is to be understood the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth, ( 1 Timothy 3:15.) which holds it forth, supports, and maintains it; even the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven; ( Hebrews 12:23.) the whole body of the elect; that church which is built upon a rock, the immoveable foundation, Jesus Christ, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail; ( Matthew 16:18.) who every one of them are brought in time to possess, and exercise the faith which is ( Hebrews 11:1.) the substance of things hoped for, and will never fail: to these persons this seal is annexed, the Lord knoweth them that are his , he knows whom he has chosen, he loves them with a peculiar affection, takes care of them, provides for them, protects them, so as that they shall never perish. 2. It is also observed, “That these words are taken from Numb, xvi:5, where, as it is declared, that God knoweth them that are his, that are separated to his service, and will maintain their cause and calling, against all opposers; so here, that God will own his apostles and ministers, against all those that set up against them.” Be it so, that the apostle refers to the place cited; yet as there Moses speaks of persons, whom God had chosen to be priests, whom he would stand by and preserve, whilst the earth swallowed up their opposers, from whose tents the Israelites were bid to depart; so here the apostle speaks of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, who were made kings and priests: titles under the gospeldispensation, not peculiar to ministers, but common to them, with all the saints; who are opposed not only to Hymeneus and Philetus, but to those whose faith was subverted by them; and who should stand, though they fell, being under the special notice and care of God; and are therefore bid to depart from apostates, their doctrines, and practices; let every one , not only ministers, but all that name the name of Christ, depart from iniquity, as an evidence of their election, and the means of their final perseverance.
The simile the apostle uses in verse 20, 21, of vessels of gold and silver, and also of wood and of earth, some being to honor, and some to dishonor, is much the same with that he uses in Romans ix.22, 23, and manifestly shows that he is speaking of elect persons, in opposition to others. Nor does Theodoret’s descant upon these words, mentioned by our author, contradict the doctrine of absolute election, when he says, God foreknoweth both them that believe, and those who openly fight against the truth.
The reason why this text comes to be considered in this discourse of election is, because it is said, that the “foundation of this decree is laid in the sin of Adam, imputed by God’s arbitrary will to his posterity.”
Though this author must needs have known, that the Supralapsarians especially consider the decree of election as antecedent to and irrespective of the fall of Adam; and therefore the sin of Adam, and the imputation of it to his posterity could not be the foundation of such a decree which has no other foundation than the sovereign will and pleasure of God. However, I shall consider the objections made to this doctrine. 1st. As to the objections made against “Adam’s sin being every man’s personal sin and consented to by every man’s personal will; because it is said, in Adam there was not only the will of one singular man but the universal will of all mankind, and of every, singular person,” I have no concern with; let such who fall in with these assertions defend them: for I must own, that if Adam’s sin is every man’s personal sin, then every man must have personally existed in Adam, and personally sinned in him; and then this sin being personal with respect to them, must also be actual; and so the distinction between original and actual sin must drop. Moreover, if this is every man’s personal sin, it must be their own; and then they are not made sinners by another, but by their own disobedience; and not by the sin of one, but by the sin of many. Besides, this seems repugnant to the doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity: since, if it is their personal sin, then not theirs by imputation, in the sense we use the word, and which is the doctrine we undertake to defend. But, 2ndly It is said, that it “cannot truly be affirmed that we all sinned in Adam, and by his disobedience were made sinners; because his sin and disobedience was, by God’s arbitrary will, imputed to us. For, 1. “The Scripture nowhere maketh mention of anything of another’s imputed to any man for reward or guilt, but only of some personal thing or action of his own.” To which I reply, that the imputation of Adam’s sin is not to be placed to the mere arbitrary will of God; but the ground and foundation of it is the law, or covenant of works, made with Adam, and broken by him, as the federal head of his posterity: the constitution and tenor of which was, that what, he did as such, either in a way of sin, or righteousness, should be imputed to his posterity. And when we use the word imputation, we use it not in a moral sense, as when a man’s own personal action, good or bad, is accounted to him: but in a forensic sense, as when the debts of one man are in a legal way transferred, and placed to the account of another. And in this sense, the Scripture makes mention of the things of one imputed to another for guilt, or for obligation to payment in punishment; as when Paul said ( Philemon 1:18.) to Philemon. concerning Onesimus, if he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee anything, put that on my account, touto emoi ellogoi, let that be imputed to me; in this sense God laid on Christ, made to meet upon him, and imputed to him, the iniquity of us all; and he, by imputation was made sin for us: and on the other hand God imputeth to us his righteousness, without any consideration of our works. ( Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:6.) 2. It, is argued, “either this imputation makes the sin of Adam truly ours, or it does not; if it does not, how can we be made sinners by it? if it does, then death came upon us for our sin; and so not for the sin of one, but for the sin of all.” I answer, the imputation of Adam’s sin makes it truly ours in the same sense as the imputation of Christ’s righteousness makes that truly ours. Now the imputation of Christ’s obedience and righteousness, though it makes it truly ours, gives us an interest in it, so as that we have the benefit of it, and it is styled the righteousness of the saints; yet it does not make Christ’s obedience our act, nor so ours, but, that it is still another’s, and distinct from our righteousness, and is in Christ as its proper subject and author, though put upon us, and imputed to us.
So the imputation of Adam’s sin, though it makes it truly ours, so that we are involved in the guilt; and punishment of it through the federal relation he stood in to us; yet it does not make it our act, or so ours, but, that it is his act, and is distinct from our actual transgressions, and is only ours by imputation; and so we are mane sinners by, and death comes upon us for, not our sin, nor the sin of all, but of one. 3. It is asked, “Whether this imputation made the posterity of Adam sinners, or whether it found them so before? If the latter, it was plainly needless, for they might have been condemned to death without it; if the former, then, since this imputation is the act of God, and not of man, it, plainly follows that God must be the author of this sin.” I reply, that though this act makes them sinners, yet not inherently, only imputatively; it puts sin upon them, and reckons it to them, but does not put any sin in them. And though this imputation is God’s act, it does not follow that therefore he is the author of this sin: the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is God’s act, yet not he but Christ is the author of that righteousness; so, though the imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity is God’s act, yet not God but Adam is the author of the sin. And whereas it is insinuated, that this “imputation must be false, as charging them with sin whom he did not find sinners;” it should be observed, what has been already said, that; imputation is to be taken not in a moral but forensic sense; and does not imply any false measure taken, or wrong judgment passed, any more than when the debts of one man are by agreement reckoned to another, who previous to that imputation owed the creditor nothing And whereas it is further urged, that “if Adam’s sin becomes ours only by imputation it deserves condemnation only by the same to which action of God it is to be ascribed whence, according to this opinion, man’s destruction must be of God.” It may be replied, that as the placing of one man’s debt to another’s account by agreement which is no criminal action, is not that for which the other man is cast into prison and suffers, but the debt itself; so it is not the imputation of Adam’s sin, but the sin imputed, for which condemnation and death passed upon men. 4. It is observed, that “we are not guilt of any other sin of Adam; therefore we are not guilty of the first sin of Adam.” But this does not follow, the reason for the one and the other not being the same: when Adam committed his first sin, he stood as a federal head to his posterity, which is the true reason of their being involved in it; but upon his commission of this sin, he ceased to stand in this relation, the covenant was broken, and it was hereafter impossible for him to perform sinless obedience, and in that way convey life to his offspring. He ceasing to be their covenant-head, they have no farther concern with him, or what he did afterwards; hence neither his after sins, nor his repentance, nor good works, are imputed to them; and this may be an answer to such queries, f304 why “should they be charged only with his first, and not with his following transgressions? or, why should his guilt rather be imputed to them than his repentance?” But, 3rdly The covenant, or “compact made with Adam, is represented as forged, exceeding cruel, and plainly inconsistent with the justice, wisdom, and goodness of our gracious God; and invented to excuse him from cruelty, in subjecting myriads of men and infants to the most direful lasting torments, which without this imaginary pact he could not with the least pretense of justice do.” That Adam was a covenant-head to his posterity may be proved, which he could not be if there was no covenant subsisting; besides, those words of God to Adam, ( Genesis 2:15,17.)
Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shall not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die, are expressive of a covenant. The threatening of death in a case of disobedience implied and included a promise of life in case of obedience.
This being proposed to Adam, and he consenting to it, formally constituted a covenant; in which he was considered not as a private but public person, having all his posterity in his loins. This compact therefore is no forgery; and where is the cruelty of it? since had Adam stood, his posterity had been partakers of his righteousness, and of all the benefits and advantages arising from it. Yes, but then it is said, his righteousness was a defectible one, liable to be lost, either afterwards by himself, or some one of his posterity, which would have put them in the same sad case they are now.
But why should it be thought that Adam’s righteousness would have been any more defectible than that of the angels? Why may it not as well be concluded, that has Adam stood upon the trial of his obedience, that he and his posterity would have been secured from after-falling, or been made impeccable as the angels are? And where is the inconsistence of this compact with the justice, wisdom, and goodness of God. Did not God make a covenant with Abraham, and by it obliged his posterity in future ages to the observance of circumcision? Is it any unusual thing, or an unjust, or an unwise action, for men to make covenants, and bind their children unborn to the performance of them. Has it not been reckoned just both with God and men, that in some cases children should be punished for their parents’ sins? Does not God say, that he will visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him? ( Exodus 20:5.)
Does not the treason of a nobleman taint his blood, and involve his posterity, until restored? Is not such a procedure according to the law of nature and nations, and justified by the sense and practice of mankind? 4thly. It is said, that the words of the apostle, by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, must have a metonymical sense; and the meaning is, that they were obnoxious to death for his sin, or that they become sinners by a metonymy of the effect, by suffering the punishment God had threatened to Adam for it. But this is to depart from the proper signification of the phrase; no instance can be produced of the apostle’s using it in this sense, either in the context or elsewhere: the word amartwloi always signifies persons guilty of a fault, and only obnoxious to death for that fault. This sense of the words is contrary to the apostle’s scope and design, which is, to give an account of the original of sin, and how condemnation and death came upon men through Adam’s sin, and their being made sinners by it, is contrary to the distinction he all along makes between sin and death, the one being the cause, the other the effect, and is to be disproved by the sense of the opposite part of the text, by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. The active obedience of Christ is opposed to Adam’s act of disobedience; the righteous are opposed to sinners; and a being made righteous by the one, is opposed to a being made sinners by the other. Now, by the rule of opposition, as to be made righteous by Christ’s obedience, is to be formally constituted and accounted so for the sake of his obedience and righteousness; and, in consequence of it, such become partakers of freedom from condemnation and death. So to be made sinners by Adam’s disobedience, is to be formally constituted and esteemed sinners on the account of it; and, in consequence thereof, become obnoxious to condemnation and death. Nor will the parallel of Christ bearing our sins, and being made sin for us, at all help this sense of the words; since Christ bore our sins, and was made sin for us, not barely by bearing and suffering the punishment of sins, but by the imputation of them to him; in consequence of which imputation he was made a curse, and bore and suffered the punishment due to sin. And, after all, it will not be easy to reconcile this with the justice of God, that men should be obnoxious to death for Adam’s sin, and suffer the punishment threatened him, when they are no ways chargeable with the guilt of it; what reason can be given, why they should suffer death for that sin of which they are in no sense guilty?