Page images
PDF
EPUB

tinues in the faith. Of what consequence is it to us to know whether the prescience of God foresees who will, or will not, subsequently believe ? for no one believes because God has foreseen his belief, but God foresees his belief because he was about to believe. Nor is it easy to understand how the prescience or foreknowledge of God with regard to particular persons can be brought to bear at all upon the doctrine of predestination, except for the purpose of raising a number of useless and utterly inapplicable questions. For why should God foreknow particular individuals, or what could he foreknow in them which should induce him to predestinate them in particular, rather than all in general, when the condition of faith, which was common to all mankind, had been once laid down. Without searching deeper into this subject, let us be contented to know nothing more than that God, out of his infinite mercy

and grace in Christ, has predestinated to salvation all who should believe.9

The other passage is Acts xiii. 48. “when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” The difficulty is caused by the abrupt manner in which the sacred historian introduces an assertion, which appears at first sight to contradict himself as well as the rest of Scripture, for he had before attributed to Peter this saying, chap. x. 34, 35. “ of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons ; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Accepted certainly means chosen ; and lest it should be urged that Cornelius was a proselyte previously, St. Paul says the same even of those who had never known the law, Rom. ii. 10, 14. “.

'there is no respect of persons with God, &c. when the Gentiles which have not the law,” &c. 1 Pet. i. 17. “the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work.” Now those who hold the doctrine that a man believes because he is ordained to eternal life, not that he is ordained to eternal life because he will believe, cannot avoid attributing to God the character of a respecter of persons, which he so con

9 Thy ransom paid, which man from death redeems,

His death for man, as many as offer'd life
Neglect not, and the benefit embrace
By faith not void of works.

Paradise Lost, XII. 424. See on this text Whitby On the Five Points, chap. iii. sect. 6.

ور

or

stantly disclaims. Besides, if the Gentiles believed because they were ordained to eternal life, the same must have been the primary cause of the unbelief of the Jews, v. 46, which will plead greatly in their excuse, since it would seem that eternal life had only been placed in their view, not offered to their acceptance. Nor would such a dispensation be calculated to encourage the other nations, who would immediately conclude from it that there was no occasion for

any

will works of their own in order to obtain eternal life, but that the whole depended on some appointed decree, whereas, on the contrary, Scripture uniformly shows in the clearest manner, that as many as have been ordained to eternal life believe, not simply because they have been so ordained, but because they have been ordained on condition of believing.

For these reasons other interpreters of more sagacity, according to my judgment, have thought that there is some ambiguity in the Greek word hetaquéval

, which is translated ordained, and that it has the same force as sů Řtoi jetgíws dlarida yasvot, well or moderately disposed or affected, of a composed, attentive, upright, and not disorderly mind; of a different spirit from those Jews, as touching eternal life, who had put from them the word of God, and had shown themselves unworthy of everlasting life. The Greeks use the word in a similar sense, as in Plutarch, and 2 Thess. iii. 6, 11. “there are some which walk disorderly,” certainly with reference to eternal life. This sense of the word, and even the particular application which is here intended, frequently occurs in Scripture in other terms. Luke ix. 62. “ εύθετος, well disposed or fit for the kingdom of God.” Mark xii. 31.

not far from the kingdom of God.” 2 Tim. ii. 21. “ vessel ... meet for the master's use, and prepared for every

2 This is the interpretation of Hammond, Whitby, Archb. Sharp, Hey, Parkhurst, Taylor (Works, vol. ix. 140.), Clarke (Sermon on I Cor. i. 21), and Wolfius, Cur. Philol. in loc. See also the Commentators quoted in Mr. Horne's note, Introduction to the Critical Study of the Scriptures, vol. ii. p. 759.

3 φύσει γάρ ήν σώφρων και τεταγμένος ταϊς επιθυμίαις. Plu. tarch. in Pompeio. Dr. Townshend, in his Chronological Arra ement of the New Testament, also brings together the senses given to the word by various divines. See his note on the passage. Derivatives from this word are used with the same metaphorical signification. όστις παραλαβών πολεμουμένας τας πόλεις, έξωθεν μέν υπό πλήθους και μανίας βαρβαρικής' ένδοθεν δε υπό στρατιωτικής αταξίας, και της των ταξιαρχών πλεονεξίας.---Synes. Epist. 62. νουθετείτε τους ατάκτους. 1 Thess. v. 14.

а

"4

is re

good work.' For, as will be shown hereafter, there are some remnants of the divine image left in man, the union of which in one individual renders him more fit and disposed for the kingdom of God than another. Since therefore we are not merely senseless stocks, some cause at least must be discovered in the nature of man himself, why divine grace jected by some and embraced by others. One thing appears certain, that though all men be dead in sin and children of wrath, yet some are worse than others; and this difference may not only be perceived daily in the nature, disposition, and habits of those who are most alienated from the grace of God, but may also be inferred from the expressions used in the parable, Matt. xiii. where the nature of the soil is variously described in three or four ways, part as stony ground, part overrun with thorns, part good ground, at least in comparison of the rest, before it had as yet received any seed. See also Matt. x. 11, &c. “ inquire who in it is worthy, &c... and if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it.' How could any one be worthy before the Gospel had been preached, unless on account of his being ordained, that is, well inclined or disposed, to eternal life? a truth which Christ teaches will be made evident to others by the measure of their own punishment after death ; Matt. xi. 22. “ it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.” Luke xii. 47, 48. “ that servant which knew his Lord's will.... shall be beaten with many stripes : but he that knew not .... shall be beaten with few stripes.” And, lastly, the gift of reason has been implanted in all, by which they may of themselves resist had desires, so that no one can complain of, or allege in excuse, the depravity of his own nature compared with that of others.

ور

5

4 Milton employs the word fitted in a similar sense in his llist. of Britain, Book V. c. l. “But when God hath decreed servitude on a sinful nation, fitted by their own vices for no condition but servile, all estates of government are alike unable to avoid it.' See also infra, p. 73.

Why should not man
Retaining still divine similitude
In part, from such deformities be free,
And for his Maker's image sake, exempt.

Paradise Lost, XI. 511. See also Tetrachordon. For there are left some remains of God's image in man, as he is merely man.' Prose Works, III. 327.

[ocr errors]

But, it is objected, God has no regard to the less depraved among the wicked in his choice, but often selects the worse rather than the better. Deut. ix. 5. “not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land."

Luke x. 13. “if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. I answer, that it cannot be determined from these passages, what God regards in those whom he chooses; for in the first place, I have not argued that he has regarded righteousness even in the least degree. Secondly, in the former passage the question is not respecting election to life eternal, but concerning the gift of the land of Canaan to the Israelites, a gift assigned them for other reasons than those for which eternal life would have been given,-partly on account of the wickedness of the original inhabitants, and partly that the promise might be fulfilled which had been ratified by an oath to their forefathers; wherein there is nothing that contradicts my doctrine. In the latter passage, it is not the elect who are compared with the reprobate, but the reprobate who are compared with each other, the Tyrians with the unbelieving Jews, neither of which nations had repented. Nor would the Tyrians ever have truly repented, even if those mighty works had been wrought among them, for if God had foreseen that they would have repented, he would never have forsaken them; but the expression is to be understood in the same sense as Matt. xxi. 31. “the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.”

Lastly, it will be objected that "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy,' Rom. ix. 16. I answer, that my argument does not presuppose one that willeth or that runneth, but one that is less reluctant, less backward, less resisting than another—though it is God, nevertheless, that showeth mercy, and is at once infinitely wise and just. On the other hand, whoever affirms that “it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth,"

6

thou oft,
Amidst their height of noon,
Changed thy countenance, and thy hand, with no regard
Of highest favours past
From thee on them, or them to thee of service.

Samson Agonistes, 682.

admits that there is one who wills, and one who runs, but only guards against assigning him any portion of merit or praise. When, however, God determined to restore mankind, he also without doubt decreed that the liberty of will which they had lost should be at least partially regained, which was but reasonable. Whomsoever therefore in the exercise of that degree of freedom which their will had acquired either previously to their call, or by reason of the call itself, God had seen in any respect willing or running, (who it is probable are here meant by the ordained) to them he gave a greater power of willing and running, that is, of believing. Thus it is said, 1 Sam. xvi. 7. “ Jehovah looketh on the heart," namely, on the disposition of men either as it is by nature, or after grace has been received from him that calleth them. To the same purport is that well-known saying, “to him that hath shall be given.” This

may be illustrated by example, as in the case of the centurion, Matt. viii. 10. “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel,”-in that of the woman of Canaan, Matt. xv. 28. O woman, great is thy faith,”_in that of the father of the demoniac, Mark ix. 24. “ Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief,”—and in that of Zaccheus, Luke xix. 3. “he sought to see Jesus who he was,” whence, v. 9.“ Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house." Zacchens therefore had not been ordained from all eternity, but from the time when he had shown himself eagerly desirous of knowing Christ.

Nor is it less on this account “of God that showeth mercy, since the principal is often not improperly put for the sole cause by logicians themselves as well as in common discourse ; and it is certain that unless God had first shown mercy, it would have been in the power of no one either to will or to

Philipp. ii. 13. “it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” 2 Cor. iii. 5. “not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God," without whose mercy he that willeth or he that runneth would gain nothing.

run.

7 All hast thou spoken as my thoughts are, all

As my eternal purpose hath decreed ;
Man shall not quite be lost, but sav'd who will ;
Yet not of will in him, but grace in me
Freely vouchsaf'd;

that he may know how frail

« PreviousContinue »