Page images
PDF
EPUB

2

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 or 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 tetayévol

, which is translated ordained, and that it has the same force as sů ñtoi jetgíws dutelarevol, 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. “güderos, well disposed or fit for the kingdom of God." Mark xii. 34. “not far from the kingdom of God.” 2 Tim. ii. 21. " vessel ... meet for the master's use, and prepared for every

This is the interpretation of Hammond, Whitby, Archb. Sharp, Hey, Parkhurst, Taylor (Works, vol. ix, 140.), Clarke (Sermon on 1 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, voi. ii. p. 759.

3 φύσει γάρ ήν σώφρων και τεταγμένος ταϊς επιθυμίαις. Ρlu. tarch. in Pompeio. Dr. Townshend, in his Chronological Arrangement 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. OOTiS napalaßwe ολεμουμένας τας πόλεις, έξωθεν μέν υπό πλήθους και μανίας αρικήςένδοθεν δε υπό στρατιωτικής αταξίας, και της των ών πλεονεξίας.--Synes. Epist. 62. νουθετείτε τους «άκτους.

14.

3

a

good work."4

5

re

[ocr errors]

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

is 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 bad desires, so that no one can complain of, or allege in excuse, the depravity of his own nature compared with that of others.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Milton employs the word fitted in a similar sense in his Hist. of Britain, Book V. c. 1. • 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 aiso Tetrachordon. •For there are left some remains of God's imatge in 1121, as he is merely man. Prose Works. III, 327.

1

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 re. luctant, 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, 689

a

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.” Zaccheus 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 run. 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

that willeth or he that runneth would gain nothing.

1

all

All hast thou spoken as my thoughts are,
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

On a re

Reasoning, therefore, from the analogy of all the other passages of Scripture, I think there can he no difficulty in determining who those are that are said in the verse quoted from the Acts to have been ordained to eternal life. view of the whole subject, I should conclude that Lukse did not intend to advance in so abrupt a manner any new doctrine, but simply to confirm by a fresh example the saying of Peter respecting Cornelius, Acts x. 34, 35. Cornelius and the Gentiles with him believed, as many at least as feared God and worked righteousness, for such were accepted of God in every nation. So in the other passage, those of the Gentiles whose thoughts were already devoted to serious subjects, worthy the attention of men, believed, and gave themselves up to instruction with docility and gladness of heart, glorifying the word of the Lord. Such Pctror declared were accepted of God in every nation, and such Luke, in conformity with Peter's opinion, asserts to be ordained to, that is, qualified for eternal life, even though they were Gentiles.

But an objection of another kind may perhaps be made. If God be said to have predestinated men only on condition that they believe and continue in the faith, predestination will not be altogether of grace, but must depend on the will and belief of mankind ; which is derogatory to the exclusive efficacy of divine grace. I maintain on the contrary that, so far from the doctrine of grace being impugned, it is thus placed in a much clearer light than by the theory of those who make the objection. For the grace of God is seen to be infinite, in the first place, by his showing any pity at all for man whose fall was to happen through his own fault.) Secondly, by his "" so loving the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” for its salvation. Thirdly, by his granting us again the power of volition, that is, of acting freely, in consequence of recovering the liberty of the will by the renewing of the Spirit. It was thus that he opened the heart of

of Xydia,

His fall'n condition is, and to me owe
All his deliverance, and to none but me.

aradise Lost, 1. 171. See also Glocester Rider's Sixth Senmon to the Holy Spirit

where the ane of argument pursued by Milton is beautifully and pow fully enforced.

« PreviousContinue »