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imply that it was not to last forever. But an expression which occurs in the same chapter is alleged as decisive : · Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated,' v. 13. But how did God evince his love or hatred ? He gives his own answer, Mal. i. 2, 3. • I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste.' He evinced his love therefore to Jacob, by bringing him back again into his country from the land of Babylon ; according to the purpose of that same election by which he now calls the Gentiles, and abandons the Jews. At the same time even this text does not prove the existence of any decree of reprobation, though St. Paul subjoins it incidentally, as it were, to illustrate the former phrase, – the elder shall serve the younger ;' for the text in Mal. i. 2, 3. differs from the present passage, inasmuch as it does not speak of the children yet unborn, but of the children when they had been long dead, after the one had eagerly accepted, and the other had despised the grace of God. Nor does this derogate in the least from the freedom of grace, because Jacob himself openly confesses that he was undeserving of the favour which he had obtained ; Gen. xxxiii. 10. St. Paul therefore asserts the right of God to impart whatever grace he chooses even to the undeserving, v. 14, 15. and concludes— so then it is not of him that willeth, or of him that runneth, (not even of Jacob, who had openly confessed himself undeserving, nor of the Jews who followed after the law of righteousness) but of God that showeth mercy,' v. 16. Thus St. Paul establishes the right of God with respect to any election whatever, even of the undeserving, such as the Gentiles then seemed to be.
The apostle then proceeds to prove the same thing with regard to the rejection of the Jews, by considering God's right to exercise justice upon sinners in general; which justice, however, he does not display by means of reprobation, and hatred towards children yet unborn, but by the judicial hardening of the heart, and punishment of flagrant offenders. v. 17, 18. for the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up,' &c. He does not say, I have decreed,' but, “I have raised up ;' that is, in raising up Pharaoh he only called into action, by means of a most reasonable command, that hardness of heart, with which he was already acquainted. So Exod. iii. 19. I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go.' So too, 1 Pet. ii. (in which chapter much has been borrowed from the ninth of Romans,) v. 7, 8. • unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed,' .....&c. even to them that stumble at the word, being disobedient : whereunto also they were appointed.' They therefore first disallowed Christ, before they were disallowed by him ; they were then finally appointed for punishment, from the time that they had persisted in disobedience.
To return, however, to the chapter in Romans. It follows in the next verses, 19–21. 6thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault ?? &c.
why hast thou made me thus'—that is, hard-hearted, and a vessel unto dishonour, whilst thou showest mercy to others? In answer to which the apostle proves the reasonableness, not indeed of a decree of reprobation, but of that penal hardness of heart, which, after much long-suffering on the part of God, is generally the final punishment reserved for the more atrocious sins. v. 21. hath not the potter power over the clay ?" that is, the material fitted for his own purposes, to put honour upon whom he chooses, provided it be not on the disobedient : as it is said, 2 Tim. ii. 21. 'if a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour,' &c. whilst he hardens still more the hearts of the contumacious, that is, he punishes them, according to the next verse of this chapter—'he endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.' Whence then were they fitted, except from their own hardness of heart, whereby the measure of their iniquity was completed! See Gen. xv. 16. and Eph. v. 6. because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.' Nor does the use of the passive voice always imply the sufferance of some external force ; for we speak of one being given up to vice, or inclined to this or that propensity, meaning only that such is the bias of his own disposition. Finally, the three last verses of the chapter, which contain the conclusion of the whole question, are a convincing proof that St. Paul only intended to show the free and gratuitous mercy of God in calling the Gentiles to salvation, who should be obedient to the faith, and at the same time the justice of his judgements in hardening the hearts of the Jews and others, who obstinately adhered to the law of works. v. 30–32. • what shall we say then ? that the Gentiles..... have attained to righteousness which is of faith'--not therefore through election independent of faith : but Israel..... hath not attained : wherefore ? because they VOL. I.
sought it not by faith'—not therefore through a decree of reprobation independent of unbelief.
After having passed this difficulty, those which remain will scarcely interrupt our course. Psal. xcv. 10, 11. • forty years long was I grieved with this generation,' &c. unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.' It must be observed here how long it was before God passed his decree, and that (if we may reason by analogy respecting spiritual things, from types of this kind, as was done before in the case of Esau) he excluded from his eternal rest only those who tempted him, and whose hearts were hardened. 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, 16. and Jehovah God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers,' &c. ' because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling-place : but they mocked the messengers of God,' &c. . until the wrath of Jehovah arose against his people, till there was no remedy.' Isai. xxviii. 12, 13. to whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest,' &c. “yet they would not hear : but the word of Jehovah was unto them precept upon precept,' &c. • that they might go and fall backward,' &c. ` wherefore hear the word of Jehovah, ye scorpful men,' &c. xxix. 10. •for Jehovah hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes. The reason is given, v. 13, 14. whence it appears that it was not on account of God's decree, but of their own grievous wickedness : "forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth,' &c. • but have removed their heart far from me..... therefore the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,' &c. Matt. xi. 25, 26. 'I thank thee, O Father, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes : even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. Lest we should attribute this solely to the arbitrary will of God, the verses preceding will explain why it so seemed good, and why Christ ascribes glory to the Father on this account, v. 2123; in which it is disclosed what those wise men had first been themselves, namely, despisers of the divine grace. See also xiii. 11. • because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.' And why? the next verse subjoins the reason : whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance ; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.' It is impossible to apply this sentence otherwise, than to those who have first voluntarily rejected divine grace, in the sense in which nearly the same words are addressed, chap. xxv. 29. to the slothful servant. A passage to the same purpose occurs, chap. xiii. 13. therefore speak I to them in parables, because they seeing see not,' &c. Hence an easy solution is afforded for other texts. John vii. 43. ' ye cannot hear my word; '-because when ye were able ye would not, ye are now unable on account of your unbelief in which you are harden. ed, not on account of any decree of God; or in consequence of your pride, through which you cannot endure to hear the word; or lastly, as it is expressed in the following verse, 44, because ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.' Again, v. 46. “if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me ?: Christ himself answers the question, v. 47. oye therefore hear not, because ye are not