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free agency, an end was at once put to'the morality and immorality of human actions; for a being; whole conduct is determined by an over-ruling power, cannot be an accountable one. Thus a corrupt doctrine made way for a species of fatalism, which, under an, impofing title, tends to deprive rational Christianity of its firmest support.
But, thank God, the bible is before me. The word election is in it, it is true; but as I would not be governed by the sound of a word, but by its relative signification, I examine the passages where it iş to be met with; and am thereby satisfied, that it does not mean the personal election of individuals to eternal life, but the election of nations to the blessings and privileges of the Gospel dispensation. Where it. is said, “ JACOB have I loved, and Esau have I hated;" it only means, (as I trust it is generally una derstood that God preferred JACOB to Esau, to inherit and convey the blessing which had been pronounced to faithful ABRAHAM. And nothing but a vain desire to force texts of fcripture into the supe port of an ill-founded scheme of a particular ele&tion and reprobation to eternal life and eternal misery, could induce any one to press the instance of JACOB and Esau into their service.*
* See Note at the end of this Discourse.
With respect to absolute decrees, determining the future falvation of individuals, I see nothing in fcripture that leads me to conclude that there are any such; on the contrary, I see all through the bible general promises of mercy fufpended upon particular conditions.
On the fuppofition, then, that any decrees may have been established in the Divine councils, (a subject on which I presume not to pronounce) my comfort is, that they must be conformable to God's revealed will; because a God of truth cannot contradict himself. Without perplexing myself, therefore, with an useless enquiry with respect to what God may do . by an absolute act of power, I consider what He hath done, and wlrat stands with his wisdom, justice, and goodness to do. And seeing myfelf called upon by his Apostle to make my calling and election sure, I conclude, as I conceive every reasonable man must do, that there can be no absolute decree in a cafe, the certainty of which depends in some measure upon myself. Confining myself, consequently, to the revealed will of God, which was given for my instruction in righteousness, and by which I am to be judged; my sole endeavour is, by Divine grace, to conform myself to it; being well affured, from the
general tenour of scripture, that no fanctified perlon will be shut out of heaven, and no unfančtified one admitted into it: “ for without holiness no man « shall see the LORD."
And happy is that meekness and poverty of spirit, which industriously declines the rugged thorny paths. of controversy and captious dispute, and walks in the plain smooth way of duty and practical religion; which studies God's commands, and labours to understand. things of a size with its capacity. Too many instances there are of daring men, who, by presuming to found the deep things of religion, have cavilled. and argued themselves out of all religion. These men mistake their business. For what CHRIST re. quires of those who profess his religion is, 'not penea tration or subtlety of wit; nice distinctions, or sublime notions; but victorious faith, and an honest holy life; sobriety, temperance, and chastity; justice and charity, piety and devotion. Let the Christian submit 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 so high that he cannot attain unto it, yet he will be sure not to want any that is necessary 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 personal reprobation of the other, was not the idea meant to be conveyed by the prophet. " I loved JACOB," saith the LORD, “ and I hated Esau.” The account of the manner in which this divine love and hatred were manifested is immediately subjoined. “I loved JACOB, and I hated Esau; and laid his mountains and his heritage waste, for the dragons of the wilderness.
Whereas Edom saith, we impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate, places. Thus faith the LORD of Hofts; they shall build, but I will pull down; and they shall call them the border of wickedness, and the people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever. And your eyes shall fee, and ye shall say, the LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.” The latter words in the foregoing passage refer to the circumstance of the Messias being to come from JACOB, and not from EsAv. In which respect Jacob is faid to be loved, and Esau to be hated; that is, the line of JACOB was preferred by God to that of Esay for the conveyance of the blefling promised to ABRAHAM. The promise to ABRAHAM was, that " in his feed all the nations of the earth should be blessed.” But it was no part of this promise, that the blessing 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 seed passed through Isaac, not through
ISHMABL; through JACOB, and not through Esav; through JUDAH, not through either of the other sons 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 said, in the strong language of scripture, 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 same sense the Virgin MARY may be said to have been loved by God, and all other women in the world hated ; becaufe fhe was, chofen or preferred, before all other womén, to be the mother of the promised Messia.
The exprefsions, therefore, of loving and bating, as applied to JACOB and Esau, are to be taken in the sense in which our SAVIOUR used the latter, when he said, that “ if any man came to him, and bated not his father and mother, &c. he could not be his disciple." LUKE xiv. 26. That is, he that preferred his father and mother, &c. before him, and was not willing to sacrifice every worldly consideration, rather than renounce him, was not worthy to be his difciple.
And that this text, quoted from the Prophet, referred not to the personal condition of the parties mentioned in it, but to that of their respective pofterities, the argument of the Apostle furnishes a proof. “ For the children," Esau and JACOB, says he, “ being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of GOD, aceording to election, might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said, the elder shall serve the younger." Rom. ix. 11. But Esau the elder, as appears from the history, never did serve JACOB. Personally, JACOB seems ever to have been the inferior. The word of the LORD, therefore, in this remarkable passage, not being verified in the persons of Esau and JACOB, the accomplishment of it must be referred to their pofterity; and upon this head no doubt can be entertained