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by any one who reads the whole paffage as it ftands, Gen. xxv, 23: "And the LORD faid unto REBEKAH," as fhe was upon the point of being delivered of the two fons in question, "Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people fhall be ftronger than the other people; and the elder shall ferve the younger."
This circumftance of the elder ferving the younger not ha ving then taken place in the persons of ESAU and JACOB, we must look for some spiritual fenfe, in order to perceive the completion of this bleffing to JACOB; and this will lead us to that person promised to ABRAHAM and to ISAAC, as the bleffing of all nations, even JESUS CHRIST.
The original promife to ABRAHAM implied, that all nations of the earth fhould have an equal right in the bleffing of the MESSIAH; yet the church of GOD, of which the MESSIAH is head and king, was for a time confined to the defcendants of JACOB. In this state of the church, did the posterity of ESAU serve, or was inferior to, that of JACOB. At length the dif tinction was taken away. The church of God was opened to all nations, and Gentiles as well as Jews became the people of GOD. Then did ESAU the Gentile break the yoke of JACOB the Jew from off his neck, and became his equal.
An attention to the Apoftle's argument will convince the reader, that it was St. PAUL's object on the occafion, not to fupport the doctrine of predeftination, or the personal election of individuals to the Divine favour; but to reconcile the Jews, to whom it was addreffed, to the Divine difpenfation in the promulgation of the Gospel.
The Gospel was to be first preached to the loft sheep of the houfe of Ifrael; and upon their rejection of it, to the Gentiles. "It was neceffary" (faid the Apoftles to the Jews) "" that the word of God fhould firft have been spoken to you; but feeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy
of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles: for fo hath the LORD commanded us.” Acts xiii. 46, 47.
The Jews, the peculiar people of GoD, were at this time to lose that diftinction. The middle wall of partition, which heretofore separated the Jewish from the Gentile worshipper in the temple, is therefore said, by the Apostle, to have been broken down by CHRIST; that both Jew and Gentile might thereby understand, that they were now to be admitted into the church upon the fame footing; the object of JESUS CHRIST'S coming into the world being, "that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross." Ephef. ii. 16. In allufion to this part of the Divine difpenfation refpecting the admiffion of the Gentiles into the church, the Apoftle refers to the prophet HoSEA, where he says in the name of the LORD, "I will call them my people, which were not my people, and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it fhall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there fhall they be called, The children of the living God." Rom. ix. 25, 26.
This circumstance respecting the admiffion of the Gentiles into the Christian church proved a great ftumbling-block in the way of the Jews, at the first preaching the oGfpel. To reconcile them to it, the Apostle tells them, they might as well afk, why God at first chofe the Jews to be his elect and peculiar people; to which no reason was to be given, but that it was his will fo to do. "I will have mercy (fays GoD) on whom I will have mercy." In like manner they might ask, why GoD chofe that the MESSIAH should defcend from the line of JACOB, in preference to that of ESAU; to which a fimilar anfwer was to be given; It was God's will that so it should be. In this cafe, of preferring one nation before another, the Creator of man hath exercised the fame power which the potter exercises over the clay of the same lump, to make one veffel unto honour, and another unto difhonour; and the
thing formed is not to fay to him that formed it, Why haft thou made me thus?
Taken in this fenfe then, not as referring to the personal election of individuals to Divine favour in exclufion of others, but to the election of nations to particular and temporary privileges, for the purpose of carrying into effe&t the great myftery of godliness for the more general benefit of mankind, the argument here made use of by the Apostle is. plain, regular, and confiftent: and to press an argument beyond the fubject to which it was originally applied, is to take the way most likely to lead into error.
[The Reader will fee this fubject more largely, and, I flatter myself, more conclufively treated, in the Fourth Letter of the Appendix.]
On the SACRAMENT of BAPTISM, considered as furnishing a Plea for Separation from the Church.
"O the two pleas already advanced, a third is to be added, respecting the SACRAMENT of BAPTISM; which, as it is administered in the church, is by fome maintained to be invalid, for the following reafons: First, because children are incapable of being fubjects of it; and fecondly, becaufe, after the example of our SAVIOUR, who was baptized in Jordan, it ought to be administered by the immerfion of grown persons in a river. Did this plea stand upon firm ground, it ought, as relating to an effential service of the church, to have weight; but standing as it does, according to our ideas, on no foundation, can, in our judgment, have no weight at all. But as this constitutes one of the mafter-prejudices against the church, it may be proper to give it fome confideration.