Imágenes de páginas

his eyes, so that to his knowledge nothing is future or past, but all things are present: and present in such a manner, that he does not merely conceive of them from ideas formed in his mind, as things remembered by us appear present to our minds, but really beholds and sees them as if actually placed before him. And this foreknowledge extends to the whole world and to all the creatures. Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which he hath determined in himself, what he would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is fore-ordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestinated either to life or to death. This, God hath not only testified in particular persons, but hath given a specimen of it in the whole posterity of Abraham, which should evidently shew the future condition of every nation to depend upon his decision. “When the Most High divided the nations, when he separated the sons of Adam, the Lord's portion was his people; Jacob was the lot of his inheritance." (1) The separation is before the eyes of all: in the person of Abraham, as in the dry trunk of a tree, one people is peculiarly chosen to the rejection of others: no reason for this appears, except that Moses, to deprive their posterity of all occasion of glorying, teaches thein that their exaltation is wholly from God's gratuitous love. He assigns this reason for their deliverance, that “ he loved their fathers, and chose their seed after them.” (m) More fully in another chapter, “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; but because the Lord loved you.” (n) He frequently repeats the same admonition: “ Behold the heaven is the Lord's thy God, the earth also with all that therein is. Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them." (0) In another place, sanctification is enjoined upon them, because they were chosen to be a peculiar people. (p) And again elsewhere, love is asserted to be the cause of their protection. It is declared by the united voice of the faithful; “ He hath chosen our

[merged small][ocr errors]

inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved." (9) For the gifts conferred on them by God, they all ascribe to gratuitous love, not only from a consciousness that these were not obtained by any merit of theirs, but from a conviction, that the holy patriarch himself was not endued with such excellence as to acquire the privilege of so great an honour for himself and his posterity. And the more effectually to demolish all pride, he reproaches them with having deserved no favour, being “a stiffnecked and rebellious people." (r) The prophets also frequently reproach the Jews with the unwelcome mention of this election, because they had shamefully departed from it. Let them, however, now come forward, who wish to restrict the election of God to the desert of men, or the merit of works. | When they see one nation preferred to all others, when they

hear that God had no inducement to be more favourable to a few, and ignoble, and even disobedient and obstinate people; will they quarrel with him because he has chosen to give such an example of mercy? But their obstreperous clamours will not impede his work, nor will the reproaches they hurl against Heaven, injure or affect his justice; they will rather recoil upon their own heads. Tot his principle of the gracious covenant, the Israelites are also recalled whenever thanks are to be rendered to God, or their hopes are to be raised for futurity. “He hath made us, and not we ourselves,” says the Psalmist: “We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture." () It is not without reason that the negation is added, “not we ourselves,” that they may know that of all the benefits they enjoy, God is not only the Author, but derived the cause from himself, there being nothing in them deserving of such great honour. He also enjoins them to be content with the mere good pleasure of God, in these words; “O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye seed of Jacob his chosen.” And after having recounted the continual benefits bestowed by God as fruits of election, he at length concludes that he had acted with such liberality, “because he remembered his covenant.” (1) Consistent with this doctrine is the song of the whole Church; “Thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, gave our fathers the land, be

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

cause thou hadst a favour unto them." (u) It must be observed, that where mention is made of the land, it is a visible symbol of the secret separation, which comprehends adoption. David, in another place, exhorts the people to the same gratitude; “ Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord: and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” (x) Samuel animates to a good hope; “ The Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake; because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people." (y) David, when his faith is assailed, thus arms himself for the conflict; “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee; he shall dwell in thy courts." (2) But since the election hidden in God has been confirmed by the first deliverance, as well as by the second and other intermediate blessings, the word choose is transferred to it in Isaiah; “ The Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel:" (a) because, contemplating a future period, he declares that the collection of the residue of the people, whom he had appeared to have forsaken, would be a sign of the stable and sure election, which had likewise seemed to fail. When he says also, in another place, "I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away," (6) he commends the continual course of his signal liberality and paternal benevolence. The angel, in Zechariah, speaks more plainly: “The Lord shall choose Jerusalem again:"(c) as though his severe chastisement had been a rejection, or their exile had been an interruption of election; which, nevertheless, remains inviolable, though the tokens of it are not always visible.

VI. We must now proceed to a second degree of election, still more restricted, or that in which the Divine grace was displayed in a more special manner, when of the same race of Abraham God rejected some, and by nourishing others in the Church, proved that he retained them among his children. Ishmael at first obtained the same station as his brother Isaac, for the spiritual covenant was equally sealed in him by the symbol of circumcision. He is cut off; afterwards Esau; lastly, an innumerable multitude, and almost all Israel. In Isaac the seed was called: the same calling continued in Jacob. God exhi

[ocr errors]

bited a similar example in the rejection of Saul, which is mage , nificently celebrated by the Psalmist; “ He refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim; but chose the tribe of Judah:” (d) and this the sacred history frequently repeats, that the wonderful secret of Divine grace may be more manifest in that change. I grant, it was by their own crime and guilt that Ishmael, Esau, and persons of similar characters, fell from the adoption; because the condition annexed was, that they should faithfully keep the covenant of God, which they perfidiously violated. Yet it was a peculiar favour of God, that he deigned to prefer them to other nations, as it is said in the Psalms; “ He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them.” (e) But I have justly said that here are two degrees to be remark- * ed; for in the election of the whole nation, God hath already shewn that in his mere goodness he is bound by no laws, but is perfectly free, so that none can require of him an equal distribution of grace, the inequality of which demonstrates it to be truly gratuitous. Therefore Malachi aggravates the ingratitude of Israel, because, though not only elected out of the whole race of mankind, but also separated from a sacred family to be a peculiar people, they perfidiously and impiously despised God their most beneficent Father. “ Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau.(A) For God takes it for granted, since both were sons of a holy father, successors of the covenant, and branches from a sacred root, that the children of Jacob were already laid under more than common obligations by their admission to that honour; but Esau' the first-born having been rejected, and their father, though inferior by birth, having been made the heir, he proves them guilty of double ingratitude, and complains of their violating this two-fold claim.

VII. Though it is sufficiently clear, that God in his secret counsel freely chooses whom he will, and rejects others, his gratuitous election is but half displayed till we come to particuIar individuals, to whom God not only offers salvation, but assigns it in such a manner, that the certainty of the effect is


(1) Psalm lxxviii, 67, 68.

(e) Psalm clxvii. 20.

(8) Mal. i. 2, 3.

liable to no suspense or doubt. These are included in that one seed mentioned by Paul: for though the adoption was deposited in the hand of Abraham, yet many of his posterity being cut off as putrid members, in order to maintain the efficacy and stabilityof election it is necessary to ascend to the head, in whom their heavenly Father hath bound his elect to each other, and united them to himself by an indissoluble bond. Thus the adoption of the family of Abraham displayed the favour of God, which he denied to others; but in the members of Christ there is a conspicuous exhibition of the superior efficacy of grace; because, being united to their head, they never fail of salvation. Paul, therefore, justly reasons from the passage of Malachi which I have just quoted, that where God, introducing the covenant of eternal life, invites any people to himself,

there is a peculiar kind of election as to part of them, so that · he does not efficaciously choose all with indiscriminate grace.

The declaration, “ Jacob have I loved,” respects the whole posterity of the patriarch, whom the prophet there opposes to the descendants of Esau. Yet this is no objection to our having in the person of one individual a specimen of the election, which can never fail of attaining its full effect. These, who truly belong to Christ, Paul correctly observes, are called“ a remnant;" for experience proves, that of a great multitude the most part fall away and disappear, so that often only a small portion remains. That the general election of a people is not always effectual and permanent, a reason readily presents itself, because when God covenants with them, he does not also give them the spirit of regeneration to enable them to persevere in the covenant to the end; but the external change, without the internal efficacy of grace, which would be sufficient for their preservation, is a kind of medium between the rejection of all mankind and the election of the small number of the faithful.

The whole nation of Israel was called “ God's inheritance,” though many of them were strangers; but God, having firmly covenanted to be their Father and Redeemer, regards that gratuitous favour rather than the defection of multitudes; by whom his truth was not violated, because his preservation of a certain remnant to himself, made it evident that his calling was without repentance. For God's collection of a Church for himself

« AnteriorContinuar »