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lar attention to these rules. It has often been alleged, on the one hand, to give countenance to the Calvinistic doctrine of God's absolute election or reprobation of particular persons ; and, on the other hand, it has no less frequently been scoffed at by unbelievers, as implicating the Supreme Being in the encouragement of deceit and falsehood. For the removal of such injurious reflections it will be necessary to consider the whole transaction with a view more especially to St. Paul's application of it, first, as it relates to the Divine purpose, secondly, as it concerns the parties themselves.
1. That we may fully understand both the history itself and St. Paul's application of it, it is necessary to observe, that before the birth of Esau and Jacob, the Almighty had expressly revealed His will in favour of Jacob, the
younger son. 66 The Lord said unto Rebekah, Two nations are in thy womb, and “ two manner of people shall be separated “ from thy bowels; and the one people shall “ be stronger than the other people, and the “ elder shall serve the youngera.” On this passage St. Paul observes, that “ the children
being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God ac
a Genesis xxv. 23.
cording to election might stand, not of “ works, but of him that calleth, it was said “ unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.” He then quotes a passage from the prophet Malachi ;-“ As it is written, Jacob have I “ loved, but Esau have I hated." and he adds, “ What shall we say then? Is there un“ righteousness with God ? God forbid. 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 compas“ sion. So then it is not of him that willeth, “nor of him that runneth, but of God that “ sheweth mercy.”
Upon this interpretation by St. Paul, I have already observed that attempts have been made to establish the doctrine of absolute or unconditional election and predestination, with reference to the salvation of individual persons; a doctrine altogether irrelevant to the history itself, and irrelevant also to the purpose for which St. Paul refers to it. For the Apostle, throughout this chapter, and throughout the greater part of the Epistle, is occupied solely in producing arguments to prove the calling of the Gentiles to the Christian covenant, and the rejection of the Jews through their unbelief. And since the Jews rested their pretensions to the exclusive favour of God chiefly upon the special privileges they had enjoyed as his chosen people, he shews that these privileges were only of a temporary nature; and that they were bestowed, not from any claim either of merit or of primogenitureship which they or their ancestors could pretend to, but from the mere good-will and pleasure of the Almighty in choosing this or that people, or individual, through whom the promised blessing should be conveyed to mankind.
b Malachi i. 2, 3.
This is the general tenor of the Apostle's reasoning; and the reference to Jacob and Esau is in illustration of this view of the subject. The privilege of being progenitors of the promised seed was conferred upon such branches of the patriarchal families as God saw fit. Isaac was preferred to Ishmael ; Jacob to Esau ; and this without assigning the grounds of preference; just as “the potter “ hath power over the clay, of the same lump “ to make one vessel to honour, and another
to dishonour.” But this has no reference to the gift of eternal life ; much less to any arbitrary election of particular persons to salvation, without regard to their personal qualifications. Not a word is said respecting the
c Romans ix. 21.
spiritual condition of either of the parties, or of their posterity. The whole relates to predictions declaring from whose seed the promised Messiah should spring. Now such distinctions and privileges are unquestionably at the absolute disposal of Him“ whose
kingdom ruleth over alld,” who “putteth “ down one, and setteth up another°,” and who, in His providential administration of human affairs, “ giveth not account of any of “ his matters!” To some particular nations or individuals these distinctions must necessarily have been confined. Why the Jewish nation, rather than any other, was selected to be His peculiar people; why the promised seed was to spring from Isaac rather than Ishmael, and from Jacob rather than from Esau; are questions with which we have no concern. The proper answer to them is this:
Nay but, О man, who art thou that repliest against Gods”? It is sufficient that such was the Divine will, and that no injury was done to those on whom these peculiar marks of favour were not bestowed; none being entitled to claim them as of especial right, and none being excluded from the
general benefits ultimately resulting from them.
e P's. lxxv. 7.
f Job xxxiii. 13.
d Ps. ciii. 19. 8 Rom. ix. 20.
That these distinctions were not in
any wise connected with the personal salvation of the respective parties is evident from the very terms in which they were prophetically announced. It was predicted that from the issue of Isaac two nations should proceed, and that the one should be stronger than the other, and the elder serve the younger.
This was amply verified both with regard to Esau and Jacob themselves, and to their posterity. But when it is said, that the Lord “ loved “ Jacob and hated Esau,” the expressions denote only (according to a mode of speech not unusual in the sacred writings) that a greater degree of favour was shewn to Jacob than to his brother, by limiting to his posterity the promise made to Abraham. Thus when it is said in Hosea, “ I will have mercy, and not “ sacrificeb;" the meaning is not, that sacrifice was to be omitted, but that merey was to be preferred before it, where both could not be performed. And so again, when our Lord says, “ He who hateth not father, and mother, 6 and wife, and children, and brethren, and
sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot “ be my disciple';" this cannot possibly be understood in any other sense, than that the faithful Christian must be prepared to make h Hosea vi. 6.
i Luke xiv. 26.