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And as the potter had a perfect right to remove the vessel of honor from its honorable place, as he made it, and put it there of his own good will and pleasure; so God had a perfect right to reject the Jews from being his visible church and people, and to elect the Gentiles in their place to enjoy the more exalted privileges of the gospel dispensation. Again; as this vessel of honor, the Jewish nation, had, by its unbelief and crucifixion of Christ, become a " vessel of wrath fitted for destruction," with whom God had " endured much long-suffering," he may now with strict justice remove it out of its honorable place, and make room for the Gentiles," the vessels of mercy which he had afore prepared unto glory"-for the gospel dispensation, or the glorious gospel church. This is evidently its meaning here. What a stupendous act of mercy! O may we, Gentiles, " praise God for his mercy!" We who were once strangers and foreigners are now, by the mercy of God, made "fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." “Hal.
"praise him all ye Gentiles, and laud him all ye people!" lelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!" While I write, I feel a glow of glory thrilling through my soul! Olet every thing that hath breath praise God" for his mercy to the Gentiles! "Ye angels of his that excel in strength," praise him! "And ye ministers of his that do his pleasure," praise him! praise him!
But to return. We say, the term "glory," in the 23d verse, means the gospel dispensation and its glorious privileges—the privileges of the Christian Church. Hence the apostle in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, chap. iii, verses 9-11, says: "But if the ministration of death, (the law,) written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away; how shall not the ministration of the Spirit (the gospel dispensation) be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation (the law) be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness (the gos. pel dispensation) exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which was done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious." And this preparation of the Gentiles for the "glorious gospel of the blessed God" is what the apostle calls "the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ." And Paul, being the apostle to the Gentiles, now makes known this mystery, which had "been hid in God" for ages and for generations. As the Jews had been for a long time fitting themselves for destruction, so God had, by his mercy, been preparing the Gentiles to become "the vessels of mercy" fitted "unto glory," to be received into the glorious gospel church, as well as the believing Jews. Hence says the apostle, "Even us whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles," ver. 24, who" should be fellow-heirs and of the same body, (the church,) and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel." To confirm and settle this truth in their minds, he appeals to the Prophet Osee, who had foretold of those things, saying, "I will call them (the Gentiles) my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, (the Gentiles,) Ye are not my people,
there shall they be called the children of the living God," ver. 25, 26. And "Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved" -all those who should receive Christ, and those only; a small number, as is well known. "For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness;" he will cut off the Jews in justice from being his visible church and people; "because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.” Well did Esaias say, "Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrah," ver. 27-29, entirely cut off. But "a remnant," a few, the believing Jews," shall be saved." of which, with the believing Gentiles, the glorious gospel church is constituted.
4. From the 30th verse to the end of the chapter, the apostle shows that the cause of the rejection of the Jews was their unbelief; and that the "election" of the Gentiles to the privileges of the gospel was an act of boundless mercy. Hence he says, "What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law: for they stumbled at that stumbling stone, as it is written, Behold I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and a rock of offence; and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."
Thus we see, that the apostle begins, continues, and ends this chap. ter in treating of the subject in a national point of view. Therefore it irresistibly follows that the election spoken of in the ninth chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans is not an individual and personal election to salvation; but a national election to great and exalted privileges.
5. The apostle also begins and ends the tenth chapter in a way to show that he speaks of nations, and not of individuals as such. He begins thus: "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved," verse 1. And ends thus: "But Esaias is very bold and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people," verses 20, 21.
6. In the eleventh chapter the apostle speaks more clearly of the cause of the rejection of the Jews, and the election of the Gentiles, than he does in the latter part of the ninth chapter. Hence he says, "Well; because of unbelief they," the Jews, "were broken off; and thou," the Gentiles, "standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear; for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell," the Jews, "severity; but toward thee," the Gen. tiles, "goodness; if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off," ver. 20-22. And as the election and reprobation are national, and not individual, the Jews may yet enjoy those forfeited privileges, if they continue not in unbelief. For, saith the apostle, "And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again," verse 23.
Having therefore proved, that the "election," spoken of in the ninth chapter of Romans is not a personal and individual "election" to sal. vation, but is a national election to great and exalted privileges, we shall proceed in the next place to speak of personal and individual "election" to salvation.
But, before we proceed to speak directly of this kind of "election," we would say, that we do not design to be understood that this second "national election" of the Gentiles is precisely the same as that first "national election" of the Jews; or that it is exactly a substitute for it. The Jewish "election" included privileges both of a civil and of a religious nature. Church and state privileges were united. A natural born Jew was a proper subject of church membership, and entitled to all its immunities, under the Abrahamic and Mosaic dispensation, and the ordinance of circumcision was the rite of initiation. On the contrary, the Gentiles were, like wild olive-branches, ingrafted into the true vine, in covenant with God, and visible church membership; and the initiatory rite into the church is baptism. It is a spiritual institution, furnishing spiritual privileges to those who will avail themselves of its benefits. The church is consequently no longer a theocracy. It is so far separated from the affairs of the world that He who is made to be "Head over all things to the Church" says, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews." No fighting with carnal weapons, no marshaling of armies, no raging of chariots, no rattling of spears, no thunderings of cannon, are to be seen or heard in the peaceable kingdom of the Prince of Zion! No; "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal," as saith the apostle, "but they are mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds," Such were some of the peculiar privileges to which the Gentiles were "elected," and from which the Jews were reprobated, on the account of their unbelief and rejection of Christ. Hence says the apostle," It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but, seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth," Acts xiii, 46, 47. All, therefore, who are obedient to the requisitions of the gospel-that is, who repent and believe in Christ with a heart unto righteousness are proper subjects of these gospel privileges, whether they be Jews or Gentiles.
With these remarks, we enter more directly upon the subject of individual and personal election to salvation. In order that we may make this subject as plain and easy to be understood as possible, we shall, in the first place, show how individuals are personally "elected."
1. The Spirit of God is the efficient agent in commencing this work. The words of St. Peter are clear and full in reference to this point. For the apostle says, " Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit," 1 Pet. i, 2. And such is the deep depravity of the human heart, that no man would ever seek, or think of seeking the salvation of his soul, unless the Spirit of God first called up his attention to this subject. Man of himself can do nothing. He is a helpless, dependent creature. He is
not only helpless and dependant; but the whole moral man is opposed to God, and to the government of God. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Again: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Hence every one must see the necessity of the operation of the Holy Spirit to call up the mind to this all-important subject. And he is faithful to his office. He does "reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment." He is the grand agent to apply the word preached to the hearts of those that hear. He speaks by his word, and says, "Come, for all things are now ready." "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else." "Behold I stand at the door and knock." “Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die." Thus we are invited, and called upon to come to the Lord, that we may have life. And if we would have life, we must be obedient to the heavenly calling. For, says my text, in the second place,
2. "Unto obedience." Now, if we would become the "elect" of God, we must comply with the calls and invitations of the word and Spirit of God. For "If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." Again: the term "obedience," in the text, to which reference has been made, includes the ideas both of repentance and faith. Hence, "except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." So" he that believeth not shall be damned." Thus the apostle also preached: "I have taught you publicly," said he, "and from house to house;" and the substance of his preaching was, "repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." Here then is the "obedience," spoken of by the apostle, which we are to perform by the assistance of the Holy Spirit that is vouchsafed unto us.
3. "Unto the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." Those who comply with the calls and invitations of the gospel, and follow the dictates of the Holy Spirit-who are obedient to the heavenly callingthat is, repent and believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, will be sprinkled with the blood of the everlasting covenant; "the blood of Jesus Christ." Then will they enjoy the "grace," the approving favor, of God; and their "peace" will "be multiplied." Thus it appears how we are "elected" personally.
Should any still doubt, and ask for more proof, we have more at hand. Hear what the Apostle Paul says on this part of our subject: "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth," 2 Thess. ii, 13. "What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." God has connected our personal "election" to salva. tion with our "obedience" to the calls and invitations of his word and Spirit; so that whosoever is "obedient" will become an "elect" child of God, and none else. But this part of our subject is so clearly and plainly taught in the word of God, "that a wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err" respecting it.
We shall, in the next place, show when we are personally "elected." This point Mr. Wesley places in the clearest light, in the following extract from his Works::
"1. The Scripture saith, Eph. i, 4, God hath chosen us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.' And St. Peter calls the saints, 1 Pet. i, 2, elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience.' And St. Paul saith unto them, 2 Thess. ii, 13, God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth; whereunto he hath called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.'
2. From all these places of Scripture, it is plain that God hath chosen some to life and glory before, or from the foundation of the world. And the wisdom of all Christians is, to labor that their judg. ments may be informed herein, according to the Scripture. And to that end, let us consider the manner of God's speaking to the sons of
"3. God saith to Abraham, Rom. iv, 17: As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations, before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth things that are not as though they were.' Observe, God speaks then, at the present time, to Abraham, saying, 'I have made thee a father of many nations;' notwithstanding Abraham was not, at that time, the father of one child but Ishmael. How then must we understand, 'I have made thee a father of many nations?'
"4. The apostle tells us plainly it is so, before God, who calleth things that are not as though they were.' And so he calleth Abraham the father of many nations,' though he was not as yet the father even of Isaac, in whom his seed was to be called.
"5. God useth the same manner of speaking when he calleth Christ, Rev. xiii, 8, The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world;' although indeed he was not slain for some thousand years after. Hence, therefore, we may easily understand what he speaketh of 'electing us from the foundation of the world.'
"6. God calleth Abraham a father of many nations,' though not so at that time, He calleth Christ the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,' though not slain till he was a man in the flesh. Even so he calleth men elected from the foundation of the world,' though not elected till they were men in the flesh. Yet it is all so before God, who knowing all things from eternity, calleth things that are not as though they were.'
7. By all which it is clear, that as Christ was called 'the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,' and yet not slain till some thousand years after, till the day of his death; so also men are called 'elect from the foundation of the world,' and yet not elected, perhaps, till some thousand years after, till the day of their conversion to God.
"8. And indeed this is plain, without going further, from those words of St. Peter, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience.'
"For if the elect are chosen through sanctification of the Spirit, then they were not chosen before they were sanctified by the Spirit.