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IV. In the Epistle to the Romans, where he goes to the bottom of this argument, and pursues it more at length, he says, “They are not all Israel which are” born“ of Israel:"(0) because though all were blessed by hereditary right, yet the succession did not pass to all alike. This controversy originated in the pride and vain-glorying of the Jewish people, who claiming for themselves the title of the Church, would make the faith of the gospel to depend on their decision. Just as in the present day, the Papists with this false pretext would substitute themselves in the place of God. Paul, though he admits the posterity of Abraham to be holy in consequence of the covenant, yet contends that most of them are strangers to it; and that not only because they degenerate, from legitimate children becoming spurious ones; but because the pre-eminence and sovereignty belong to God's special election, which is the sole foundation of the validity of their adoption. If some were established in the hope of salvation by their own piety, and the rejection of others were owing wholly to their own defection; Paul's reference of his readers to the secret election would indeed be weak and absurd. Now if the will of God, of which no cause appears or must be sought out of himself, discriminates some from others, so that the children of Israel are not all true Israelites, it is in vain pretended that the condition of every individual originates with himself. He pursues the subject further under the example of Jacob and Esau; for being both children of Abraham, and both enclosed in their mother's womb, the transfer of the honour of primogeniture to Jacob was by a preternatural change, which Paul, however, contends indicated the election of the one and the reprobation of the other. The origin and the cause are inquired, which the champions of foreknowledge maintain to be exhibited in the virtues and the vices of men. For this is their short and easy doctrine, That God hath shewed in the person of Jacob, that he elects such as are worthy of his grace; and in the person of Esau, that he rejects those whom he foresees to be unworthy. This indeed they assert with confidence; but what is the testimony of Paul? “The children being not yet born, neither having done any
good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said, The elder shall serve the younger: as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau haye I hated.” () If this distinction between the brothers was influenced by foreknowledge, the mention of the time must certainly be unnecessary. On the supposition that Jacob was elected, because that honour was acquired by his future virtues, to what purpose could Paul remark that he was not yet born? It would not have been so proper to add, that he had not yet done any good: for it will be immediately replied, that nothing is concealed from God, and therefore the piety of Jacob must have been present before him. If grace be the reward of works, they ought to have had their just value attributed to them before Jacob was born, as much as if he were already grown to maturity. But the apostle proceeds in unravelling the difficulty, and teaches that the adoption of Jacob Aowed not from works, but from the calling of God. In speaking of works, he introduces no time, future or past, but positively opposes them to the calling of God, intending the establishment of the one, and the absolute subversion of the other: as though he had said, We must consider the good pleasure of God, and not the productions of men. Lastly, the very terms, election and purpose, certainly exclude from this subject all the causes frequently invented by men, independently of God's secret counsel.
y. Now what pretexts will be urged to obscure these arguments, by those who attribute to works, either past or future, any influence on election? For this is nothing but an evasion of the apostle's argument, that the distinction between the two brothers depends not on any consideration of works, but on the mere calling of God, because it was fixed between them when they were not yet born. Nor would their subtilty have escaped him, if there had been any solidity in it: but well knowing the impossibility of God's foreseeing any good in man, except what he had first determined to bestow by the benefit of his election, he resorts not to the preposterous order of placing good works before their cause. We have the apostle's
() Rom. ix. 11-13.
authority that the salvation of the faithful is founded solely on the decision of Divine election, and that that favour is not procured by works, but proceeds from gratuitous calling. We have also a lively exhibition of this truth in a particular example. Jacob and Esau are brothers, begotten of the same parents, still enclosed in the same womb, not yet brought forth into light; there is in all respects a perfect equality between them; yet the judgment of God concerning them is different. For he takes one, and rejects the other. The primogeniture was the only thing that gave one a right of priority to the other. But that also is passed by, and on the younger is bestowed what is refused to the elder. In other instances, also, God appears always to have treated primogeniture with designed and decided contempt, to cut off from the flesh all occasion of boasting. He rejects Ishmael, and favours Isaac. He degrades Manasseh, and honours Ephraim.
VI. If it be objected, that from these inferior and inconsiderable benefits, it must not be concluded respecting the life to come, that he who has been raised to the honour of primogeniture is therefore to be considered as adopted to the inheritance of heaven; for there are many who spare not Paul, as though in his citation of Scripture testimonies he had perverted them from their genuine meaning; I answer as before, that the apostle has neither erred through inadvertency, nor wilfully perverted testimonies of Scripture. But he saw, what they cannot bear to consider, that God intended by an earthly symbol to declare the spiritual election of Jacob, which otherwise lay concealed behind his inaccessible tribunal. For unless the primogeniture granted him had reference to the future world, it was a vain and ridiculous kind of blessing, which produced him nothing but various afflictions and adversities, grievous exile, numerous cares, and bitter sorrows. Discerning, beyond all doubt, that God's external blessing was an indication of the spiritual and permanent blessing he had prepared for his servant in his kingdom, Paul hesitated not to argue from the former in proof of the latter. It must also be remembered, that to the land of Canaan was annexed the pledge of the celestial residence; so that it ought not to be doubted that Jacob was ingrafted with angels into the body of Christ, that he might be a partaker of the same life. While Esau is rejected, therefore, Jacob is elected, and distinguished from him by God's predestination, without any difference of merit. If you inquire the cause, the apostle assigns the following; “ For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." (9) And what is this but a plain declaration of the Lord, that he finds no cause in men to induce him to shew favour to them, but derives it solely from his own mercy; and therefore that the salvation of his people is his work? When God fixes your salvation in himself alone, why will you descend into yourself? When he assigns you his mere mercy, why will you have recourse to your own merits? When he confines all your attention to his mercy, why will you divert part of it to the contemplation of your own works? We must therefore come to that more select people, whom Paul in another place tells us “God foreknew," (v) not using this word according to the fancy of our opponents, to signify a prospect from a place of idle observation, of things which he has no part in transacting, but in the sense in which it is frequently used. For certainly, when Peter says that Christ was “ delivered” to death “by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,” (s) he introduces God not as a mere spectator, but as the Author of our salvation. So the same apostle, by calling the faithful to whom he writes, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God,” (t) properly expresses that'secret predestination by which God hath marked out whom he would as his children. And the word purpose, which is added as a synonymous term, and in common speech is always expressive of fixed determination, undoubtedly implies that God, as the Author of our salvation, does not go out of himself. In this sense Christ is called, in the same chapter, the “Lamb foreknown before the foundation of the world.” For what can be more absurd or uninteresting, than God's looking from on high to see from what quarter salvation would come to man. kind? The people therefore whom Paul describes as “foreknown,” (u) are no other than a small number scattered among
the multitude, who falsely pretend to be the people of God. In another place also, to repress the boasting of hypocrites assuming before the world the pre-eminence among the faithful, Paul declares, “ The Lord knoweth them that are his." (x) 1.astly, by this expression Paul designates two classes of people, one consisting of the whole race of Abraham, the other separated from it, reserved under the eyes of God, and concealed from the view of men. And this without doubt he gathered from Moses, who asserts that God will be merciful to whom he will be merciful; though he is speaking of the chosen people, whose condition was to outward appearance all alike; as though he had said, that the common adoption includes in it peculiar grace towards some, who resemble a more sacred treasure: that the common covenant prevents not this small number being exempted from the common lot; and that, determined to represent himself as the uncontrolled dispenser and arbiter in this affair, he positively denies that he will have mercy on one rather than another, from any other motive than his own pleasure: because when mercy meets a person who seeks it, though he suffers no repulse, yet he either anticipates or in some degree obtains for himself that favour, of which God claims to himself all the praise.
VII. Now let the supreme Master and Judge decide the whole matter. Beholding in his hearers such extreme obduracy, that his discourses were scattered among the multitude almost without any effect, to obviate this offence, he exclaims, “ All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me. And this is the Father's will, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing." (y) Observe, the origin is from the donation of the Father, that we may be given into the custody and protection of Christ. Here perhaps some one may argue in a circle, and object, that none are considered as the Father's peculiar people, but those whose surrender has been voluntary, arising from faith. But Christ only insists on this point; that notwithsanding the defections of vast multitudes, shaking the whole world, yet the counsel of God will be stable and firmer than the heavens, so that election can never fail. They are said to have been the