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would it have been consistent with God, to form the earth for a habitation of sinful man, unless that same earth was one time or other to be purged by the blood of Christ, as the sanctifier and glorifier of his Elect. For all these reasons, the slaying of Christ, and the foundation of the world, are not improperly connected. Secondly, Those words, from the foundation of the world, may be referred to what goes before, are written; to signify, whose names are not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of that lamb slain. Which appeared more simple to Junius, Piscator, Gomarus, and other great divines. And indeed, we observe, Luke iv. 5. an instance of a transposition not unlike this. And John himself is found to have so ranged these very words, as to omit entirely what is here inserted about the lamb slain, Rev. xvi. 8. “ whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” And then this phrase would denote the eternity of the divine decree, as we shewed in the foregoing paragraph it might be explained. Thirdly, and lastly, The words may be so construed, as to point to men, who have lived since the foundation of the world, and whose names are not written in the book of life. And then the usual and most common sense of that phraseology will be retained, so as to denote the first times of the world.
XVII. We are also to enquire into the genuine sense of that saying in. 2 Tim. i. 9. and which is commonly brought as a proof of the eternity of election; “ saved us according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." Two things are here especially to be enquired into. 1st. What is to be understood by the giving of grace ? Adly. What by before the world began? The saving grace of the New Covenant is given to those who are to be saved, 1. In the decree of God. 2. In the promise. 3. In the actual gift of it. The decree of God is the original source of grace: the promise is the manifestation of the decree: the actual gift is the execution of both. But because it is impossible for the decree of God to fail, or the promise of God to deceive, the person to whom God decrees and promises to give any thing, may be so certain that it shall be given, as if he was already in the actual possession of it. And, on account of that certainty of the decree and promise of God, the benefit decreed or promised, may be considered as already given. But it is plain, that the apostle speaks not here of actual bestowing: therefore it ought to be understood of giving, either in the decree or in the promise. But which of these explications is to be preferred, depends on
the meaning of the following phrase, agd xgów dlanicon before the world began.
XVIII. If there be any, who by zgóvås åsuviss, before the world began, understand absolute eternity, such refute themselyrs. For, seeing Paul here relates something done before the world began, something must be imagined more eternal than eternity itself, than which nothing can be more absurd. It is better, we thereby understand all that time, which commenced with the creation of the world (when djūves éxdíobnoar, the worlds were framed, Heb. xi. 3.) which then run on, and will run through all ages, without end and limit. But what is it, before the world began? Is it what precedes all time; and so eternal, as most divines think, who from bence di rectly conclude the eternity of our election, and interpret this giving of the giving contained in the decree ? But we are to consider, whether we can firmly maintain that exposition against the exceptions of those of the opposite opinion. Indeed, the very subtle Twiss himself, in Vindicias Gratio, lib. i. p. 1. Digress. 2. § 4. p. 64. cavils, “ that it is not necessary directly to believe, that what is said to be before the foundation of the world, signifies to be before all time; but only before many ages." But that very learned person, as frequently on other occasions, so also on this, appears to have given too much scope to his wit and fancy. If this exposition of his be retained, there is nothing of which it may not one time or other, be said that it was done before the foundation of the world, a regard being had to following ages
. Which is, in a remarkable manner, to weaken the force and majesty of the apostle's expression. And I would not willingly make such concessions to our adversaries. Since zegóvor årúvior the beginning of the world, commenced at that beginning, in which arūves éxrigonour the worlds were framed ; what was done, rgo xpówn aswviwy before the foundation of the world, seems altogether to have been done before the creation of the world, and consequently from eternity; unless we should be under a necessity to limit that phrase. And none can doubt, but in its full import it may signify this
. Why then may it not be explained in its full emphasis, if there be dothing to hinder it? But what is here said of giving grace, is no such hindrance; “ For, because all things are present to God, and that what God has decreed to be future, shall certainly come to pass ; therefore God is said to have done from eternity, what is revealed to us in its appointed time:" as the venerable Beza has well observed on Tit. 1. 2. And let this be said for those who understand this giving of the giving
[BOOK III. in the decree, and explain that expression, before the founda tion of the world, so as to mean the same thing as from eternity.
XIX. Yet other divincs explain it of the giving in the pro mise 3. or comparing Tit. i. 2. in hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised, oppé-Xgów åswvwv, before the world began. “ Hence we see, says a celebrated expositor of our day, that the promise which was made in the beginning of ages, Ísa. xli. 46. « before any age had passed away ; and so when there was no secular time, or time of this world, when the second age was not yet called forth. We see, I say, that the promise was said to be given forth before the world began. Here therefore we do not only understand a giving by decree, or purpose, but also by promise, that is, by assignation," which is given unto us, that is, “the effect of which grace is assigned to us by promise, which is almost coeval with this world." These things are much more plausible than what we just beard from Twiss. Indeed, from that passage in Titus, it seems that we might conclude, that med reovwv åswvíwy, before the world began, neither always, nor necessarily, denotes absolute eternity. For, because the apostle there treats of the promise, he does not so comprehend all ages, as to lead us beyond the creation of the world, as Calvin himself has obseryed; but he points out the beginning of the first age, in which the promise of salvation was made to our first parents immediately upon the fall, which our Dutch commentators have also adopted. Whence it appears, that they are guilty of no absurdity, who so explain this giving, as to include the promise of grace, made before the flux of any age. And then, in the apostle's discourses, there are these three things proposed in order ; first, the purpose of God, which is the source of all grace; then the promise made from the remotest antiquity, which he expresses by the term, giving; and lastly, the actual bestowing and manifestation by the glorious coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Nor would I make much opposition, if any should explain the apostle's expression in this manner.
1!!! XX. But whatever way you interpret, there is a strong argument in the said passage of Paul for the eternity of election. For if you explain the giving, of the decree, and say, that before the world began, is equivalent to eternity: you will conclude directly: and I think both may be defended. For indeed, the phrase, before the world began, in its full emphasis, signifies so much : nor can it be much weakened by Tit. i. 2. For, the subject is different ; in the one place the
335 apostle speaks of the purpose of God, and of giving from his purpose:
: in the other, of the promise. But the same predicate is often to be differently explained, according to the diversity of the subjects. For instance, when Peter says, Acts xv. 18. known unto God are all his works, árásaros, from the beginning of the world ; år drūvos, doubtless signifies from eternity. For, if all his works, certainly also that of the first creation, prior to which was nothing but eternity : but when the same apostle, Acts m. 21. says, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets, år' årūvos, since the world began; he means nothing by these words, but the most ancient times, in which the prophets existed. Why therefore may not Frigo xporw drwviwr be explained one way in 2 Tim. i. 9. and another Tit. i. 2. But let us grant, that the apostle, by the
grace before the world began, understands the promise made in the beginning of the first age; seeing he says,
be that the purpose of God was the source of it, certaioly that purpose was prior to the promise. But none, I imagine will say, that it was made when God created man: it must therefore have been from eternity.“ According to the eternal purpose,
which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Eph. iii. 11. That must certainly be an eternal purpose, since the effect of it is grace, given before the foundation of the world.
XXI. Let us add another passage of Paul, which we think is a testimony to the eternity of Election : namely, 2 Thes. ii. 18. “ but we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath ar agzás from the beginning chosen you to salvation.". The apostle distinguishes that Election, of which he speaks, from the call by the Gospel, v. 14. And therefore, with great propriety, we understand it of the Election of counsel and purpose.
purpose. This, he says was ár' a'exñs from the beginning, that is, from eternity. For that phrase is often taken in that sense: thus what John i. 1. says in his Gospel, ev ascñ ñv in the beginning was, in 1 John i. 1. he says, ár' asxis was from the beginning. But to have been already in the beginning, signifies to be from eternity. For, what was already šv'agxw in the beginning when all things were made, nust have been self-existent, and from eternity. But, lest any should cavil, that the new world of grace was here intended, John speaks of the beginning of things made, because he speaks of the existence of bim by whom the world was made, and that very world which knew him not, v. 10, By comparing the alleged passages it appears, that in the beginning and from the beginning are equivalent terms. We have this sense more clearly, Mic. v. 2. Where the prophet
describes at least a twofold going forth of the Messiah: the one from Bethlehem which is after the flesh, and relates to his being born of the virgin Mary: the other which is after the Spirit, and is expressive of his eternal generation; of which last he says, whose going forth have been from of old, from everlasting: Which the Septuagint translate, and his going forth from ke begrinning, from everlasting. What can be more evident, than that are 'agxcns there denotes eternity? The son of Sirach also Ecclesiasticus xxiv. 9. may shew us in what sense the Hel. lenists were wont to use this expression, when he joins as synonymous, ago se alovoç and 'at' 'agoxns. As then, the apostle speaks of the election of purpose, as distinct from that of exe. cution, which is made by effectual calling, and since at agxns signifies eternity, we very properly infer the eternity of election.
XXII. Here again wiss comes in our way, who confidently affirms, that there is no place in all the scripture where this word signifies eternity: nay, he thinks it may be put out of all controversy, that it never is, or can be, so used in the sacred writings, according to right reason, l..c. p. 60. And he applies the election mentioned here, to some external declaration of internal election, and thinks the apostle alludes to that remarkable promise made to Adam after the fall, of the seed of the woman bruising the serpent's head. For, says he, God himself has pointed out, in that place, a remarkable difference between the elect and the reprobate : “ and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed," &e. p. 63. I cannot but wonder at the confidence of this very
e learned person. It is, indeed, true, that from the beginning, does not always denote eternity; as John vii. 44. and 1 John i. 8. where the signification is to be determined by the sub ject treated of. But from the places above quoted it is plain, that sometimes it can admit of no other sense. And I hope, the learned person did not desire to wrest out of our hands those passages, by, which our divines have so happily defended the eternity of the logos, or Word, against the Socinians. I would rather believe, that he did not attend to the places we have mentioned. Besides, I could wish, he could shew, where in the sacred writings the first promise of grace is called election ; which I imagine, he will never be able to do: we are not to forge significations. Moreover, though in that promise there is some general indication of a difference made between the elect and reprobate; yet it is not credible the apostle here had any eye to that; who gives thanks to God, not because he chose some men; but most especially because he chose the Thessalonians. But the election of the Thessalonians cannot be infer