Page images

the difference. The real difference wasthat when both had hardened their hearts, God still bore with Israel as seeing yet much to accomplish in them, and by them, -and He ceased to bear with Pharaoh, seeing no more to be accomplished in him, and having accomplished by him, that which He proposed, through the delay of his pun. ishment.

And this difference is the thing, which the Apostle means to put forward in verse 18th.

It is surely most unreasonable to suppose that he would describe God's manner of dealing with Pharaoh, by a mark which applied with equal force to the opposite case of Israel, on the occasion referred to; and yet we must either fall into this unreasonableness, or else contradict the testimony of the record, as to the character of Israel, unless we consent to adopt the proposed interpretation of oxingura, or some one similar to it.

This interpretation seems to me to receive much support from a passage which occurs in this same argument, a little farther on, namely, in chap. xi. 22, which certainly is nearly related to the passage before us;

“ Behold then the goodness and severity of God;" where the goodness and severity, the χρηστοτης and αποτομια, which correspond to 'ελεν and oxanguva here, certainly do not consist in softening and hardening the heart, but in showing favour, and in punishing.

I am here arguing with those who would go along with me in admitting, that when God is said to harden Pharaoh's heart, the real meaning is, that He permitted him to harden his own heart; - as indeed in the chapters which relate to that history, we find it as often said, that Pharaoh hardened his heart, as that God hardened it. It is the idiom of the Hebrew language ; and we ought always to read such expressions along with this explanation, “Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.” James i. 13.

But even this modified meaning will suit neither the design nor the construction of the passage, both of which manifestly require that we should translate oxanguvei, He treats with severity, or He permits them to prove the consequences of their hardness.

As for those who even reject this common modification of the meaning of the word,

they must find a very great difficulty in our passage ; for they cannot contradict the record that Israel's heart was hardened as well as Pharaoh's, and it is impossible to suppose

that the difference which the Apostle intended to mark between the two cases was, that God had mercy on those who hardened their own hearts, and made an example of the man whose heart He Himself had hardened.

It seems to me most probable, that Paul in making use of oxangura here, has had in view to combine in one word, the idea of punishment, along with the idea of the of fence punished-κατα δε την σκληροτητα σου,-σκληρυνει,

,, He makes thee an example of the fearful consequences of hardening thy heart; (see chap. ii. 5.)

The use made of the word by the Seventy, in the history of Pharaoh, evidently suggested it to him as the proper description of the nature of the offence, but as he wished not merely to describe the offence, but also its punishment, he introduces this last idea into it, by contrasting it with énew, (to have mercy,) for thus he shows that he means to express by it, the cessation of mercy,—or more pro

perly of forbearance ;—" for His mercy endureth for ever.”

Ver. 19–21. “ Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault, for who hath opposed His purpose? Nay, but O man, who art thou that disputest against God? Shall the thing formed, say unto Him that formed it, why hast thou thus dealt with me? Hath not the potter power over the clay, out of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another.unto dishonour?"

This passage is probably the part of the sacred writings, on the authority of which the doctrine of absolute election has its chief hold on the minds of most people; and accordingly, I have observed that it is generally read with a feeling of painful perplexity, by those who do not receive that doctrine, whilst those who do receive it, are forward in quoting it, as the most full and convincing confirmation of their theological system, in general, and as a proof of the correctness of their interpretation of the preceding passage, and of the word, oxangura, in particular. This authority which the passage possesses, arises from the very general understanding and admission that the meaning of the apology

which the Apostle puts into the mouth of the Jew in verse 19th, is this :—“Why doth God find fault with men, seeing they do nothing but what they are constrained to do, by His over-ruling will ?" And indeed if this were its true meaning, the Calvinistic divines would have some ground for their high appreciation of the importance of the passage, as a support of their views; for in that case, they might with considerable plausibility argue,-as in fact they do,-in the first place, that the Apostle, by putting such an objection into the mouth of the Jew, shows, that he must either have really intended to state the common doctrine of election, in the foregoing verses, or at least that he must have felt, that he had said in them, what would naturally be interpreted into it, as otherwise he would not have supposed such an objection to be suggested by them; and, in the second place, that, by the answer which he makes to the objector, in verses. 20, 21, “Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against God,” &c., he virtually acknowledges that this is really his doctrine, inasmuch as he does not attempt to deny the substance of the objection, or to give any solution of it, but simply rebukes the ob

« PreviousContinue »