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free agency, an end was at once put to the morality and immorality of human actions; for a being, whose conduct is determined by an over-ruling power, cannot be an accountable one. Thus a corrupt doctrine made way for a fpecies of fatalifm, which, under an imposing title, tends to deprive rational Chriftianity of its firmeft fupport.
But, thank Gon, the bible is before me. The word election is in it, it is true; but as I would not be governed by the found of a word, but by its relative fignification, I examine the paffages where it is to be met with; and am thereby fatisfied, that it does not mean the personal election of individuals to eternal life, but the election of nations to the bleffings and privileges of the Gofpel difpenfation. Where it is faid, " JACOB have I loved, and ESAU have I hated;" it only means, (as I trust it is generally underftood) that GOD preferred JACOB to ESAU, to inherit and convey the bleffing which had been pronounced to faithful ABRAHAM. And nothing but. a vain defire to force texts of fcripture into the fupport of an ill-founded scheme of a particular election. and reprobation to eternal life and eternal mifery, could induce any one to prefs the inftance of JACOB and ESAU into their service.*
*See Note at the end of this Difcourfe.
With refpect to abfolute decrees, determining the future falvation of individuals, I fee nothing in fcripture that leads me to conclude that there are any fuch; on the contrary, I fee all through the bible general promifes of mercy fufpended upon particular conditions.
On the fuppofition, then, that any decrees may have been established in the Divine councils, (a fubject on which I prefume not to pronounce) my comfort is, that they must be conformable to God's revealed will; becaufe a GOD of truth cannot contradict himself. Without perplexing myfélf, therefore, with an ufelefs enquiry with refpect to what God may do by an abfolute act of power, I confider what He hath done, and what stands with his wisdom, justice, and goodnefs to do. And feeing myfelf called upon by his Apoftle to make my calling and election fure, I conclude, as I conceive every reasonable man muft do, that there can be no abfolute decree in a cafe, the certainty of which depends in fome measure upon myself. Confining myfelf, Confining myfelf, confequently, to the revealed will of God, which was given for my inftruction in righteoufnefs, and by which I am to be judged; my fole endeavour is, by Divine grace, to conform myself to it; being well affured, from the
general tenour of fcripture, that no fanctified perfon will be shut out of heaven, and no unfantified one: admitted into it: "for, without holiness no man "fhall fee the LORD."
And happy is that meeknefs and poverty of spirit, which industriously declines the rugged thorny paths of controversy and captious difpute, and walks in the plain smooth way of duty and practical religion; which ftudies God's commands, and labours to understand things of a fize with its capacity. Too many in-: stances there are of daring men, who, by prefuming to found the deep things of religion, have cavilled and argued themselves out of all religion. These men mistake their bufinefs. For what CHRIST requires of those who profess his religion is, not pene tration or subtlety of wit; nice diftinctions, or fublime notions; but victorious faith, and an honeft holy life; fobriety, temperance, and chastity; justice and charity, piety and devotion. Let the Chriftian fubmit his reason to revelation, and let humility and deference to God recommend his faith; and then, though there may be knowledge too wonderful for him, and fo high that he cannot attain unto it, yet he will be fure not to want any that is neceffary or profitable for him.
"JACOB have I loved, but ESAU have I hated." Rom. ix. 13. The Apostle quotes the foregoing text from the prophet MALACHI, cap. i. 2, 3. By attending to the context it will plainly appear, that what has been haftily concluded · from it, respecting the personal election of one party, and the perfonal reprobation of the other, was not the idea meant to be conveyed by the prophet. "I loved JACOB," faith the LORD," and I hated ESAU." The account of the manner in which this divine love and hatred were manifefted is immediately fubjoined. "I loved JACOB, and I hated ESAU; and laid his mountains and his heritage waste, for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas EDOм faith, we are impoverished, but we will return and build the defolate, places. Thus faith the LORD of Hofts; they fhall build, but I will pull down; and they fhall call them the border of wickedness, and the people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever. And your eyes fhall fee, and ye fhall fay, the LORD will be magnified from the border of Ifrael." The latter words in the foregoing paffage refer to the circumftance of the MESSIAH being to come from JACOB, and not from ESAU. In which refpect JACOB is faid to be loved, and ESAU to be hated; that is, the line of JACOB was preferred by GOD to that of ESAU for the conveyance of the bleffing promised to ABRAHAM. The promise to ABRAHAM was, that" in his feed all the nations of the earth. fhould be bleffed." But it was no part of this promise, that the bleffing should be conveyed through the elder branch of his family; and it could pass only through one branch of it;: it remained, therefore, with God to choose which branch he thought proper. According to his will, then, the blefling of the promised feed paffed through ISAAC, not through
ISHMAEL; through JACOB, and not through ESAU; through JUDAH, not through either of the other fons of JACOB; and through DAVID, in preference to his elder brethren.
With a view to the preference given upon this occafion, ISAAC, JACOB, JUDAH, and DAVID may be faid, in the strong language of fcripture, to have been loved of God; that is, preferred by Him; whilft ISHMAEL, ESAU, and the brethren of JUDAH and DAVID, were bated or rejected. In the fame fense the Virgin MARY may be faid to have been loved by GOD, and all other women in the world hated; because the was chofen or preferred, before all other women, to be the mother of the promised MESSIAH.
The expreffions, therefore, of loving and hating, as applied to JACOB and ESAU, are to be taken in the fenfe in which our SAVIOUR Used the latter, when he faid, that "if any man came to him, and hated not his father and mother, &c. he could not be his difciple." LUKE xiv. 26. That is, he that preferred his father and mother, &c. before him, and was not willing to facrifice every worldly confideration, rather than renounce him, was not worthy to be his difciple.
And that this text, quoted from the Prophet, referred not to the perfonal condition of the parties mentioned in it, but to that of their respective pofterities, the argument of the Apoftle furnishes a proof. "For the children," ESAU and JACOB, fays he, "being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election, might ftand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was faid, the elder shall serve the younger." Rom. ix. 11. But ESAU the elder, as appears from the history, never did ferve JACOB. Perfonally, JACOB seems ever to have been the inferior. The word of the LORD, therefore, in this remark able paffage, not being verified in the perfons of ESAU and JACOB, the accomplishment of it must be referred to their pofterity; and upon this head no doubt can be entertained