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the altar of the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac ? No, never ! And as no man, in his right mind, can for one moment suppose that the Lord, in reference to the same subject, would in one place speak of nations, and in another, by the mouth of the apostle, speak of indi. viduals, it undeniably follows, that the loving and hating spoken of by the apostle in this verse are of nations and not individuals, under the names of their respective heads, Jacob and Esau.
5. “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God ?" verse 14. Will any one dare to charge God with unrighteousness, because he has chosen Jacob, the younger son of Isaac, and his posterity, to be the people and nation on whom he has been pleased to bestow great and peculiar privileges, instead of Esau, and his posterity, though Esau was the elder son ? “God forbid.” He is sovereign of his own ways; and he will not give account of himself to his creatures!
6. “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 compassion," verse 15. These words are a quotation from Exod. xxxiii. 19. This verse is quoted by the apostle to justify the righteous proceedings of the rightful Sovereign and Governor of the universe, in the election of Jacob and his descendants, to be his peculiar people, and bestowing upon them those great favors from which Esau and his descendants were reprobated. This election was unconditional, and had no refer. ence to the good works of the one, or to the evil works of the otherto the salvation of the one, or to the damnation of the other ; but had respect to privileges of a national character. For, saith the apostle, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of cir. cumcision? Much every way; chiefly because that unto them were committed the oracles of God," chap. iii, 1, 2. Hence, besides other privileges conferred, he chose to bestow upon them the privilege of being the depositaries of his holy word. So the Lord in like manner chose to exercise his sovereign prerogative in sparing and continuing the children of Israel to be his visible church and people, instead of cutting them off, notwithstanding they had been guilty of idolatry in worshiping the golden calf. Not, indeed, because they did not de. serve to be cut off, nor because Moses had prayed for them, but because he chose to have mercy and compassion upon them, by forgiving them this national sin, and in continuing them his elect people and nation, in order that the promise of God might be fulfilled which he made to Abraham, saying, “ In thee and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;" which could not have been fulfilled if he had cut off the whole body of the Jews. Thus it must be.
7. “ So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy,” ver. 16. This text is an inference drawn from the case of Isaac desiring to bestow the patriarchal blessing upon Esau; which blessing was not only of an individual, but also of a national character; but which was, finally, by the mercy of God, bestowed upon Jacob, contrary to the desire of Isaac. The blessing runs thus : “ Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee; be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee; cursed is every one that curseth thee; and blessed be he that blesseth thee,” Gen. xxvii, 29. The account begins thus : “ And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau, his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold here am I. And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death: now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver, and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; and make me savory meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat, that my soul may bless thee before I die," Gen. xxvii, 1–5. But Rebekah, who heard the conver. sation which passed between Isaac and Esau, was determined that the blessing should be conferred upon Jacob, and not upon Esau. Hence preparations were made to provide Jacob with savory meat such as Isaac loved. And when prepared, it was brought by Jacob to his fa. ther Isaac; and he took it, and did eat thereof, and blessed him. “ And it came to pass as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac, his father, that Esau, his brother, came in from his hunting. And he also had made savory meat and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son's venison, that thy soul may bless me. And Isaac, his father, said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy first-born, Esau. And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? Where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it to me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him ? yea, and he shall be blessed. And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. And he said, Thy brother came with subtlety, and hath taken away thy blessing. And he said, Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he hath supplanted me these two times : he took away my birth-right; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast not thou reserved a blessing for me? And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants, and with corn and wine have I sustained him; and what shall I do now unto thee, my son? And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father ? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept,” ver. 30–38. Hence the apostle, referring to this circumstance, saith, “ So then, it is not of him (Isaac) that willeth," that Esau should have the patriarchal blessing; “nor of him (Esau) that runneth,” that took his quiver and bow, and ran into the field to get venison to make savory meat, such as his father loved, that his soul might bless him before he should die; “but of God that showeth mercy” to Jacob. Now this patriarchal blessing is another argument in favor of the position we have taken, that the apostle in the ninth chapter of Romans is speaking of nations, and national election; for it is an historical fact, that Esau in person never did serve Jacob: and as people and nations are mentioned in the blessing pronounced upon Jacob by his father Isaac, it cannot be restricted to Jacob and Esau as individuals, but must be applied to Jacob, the Israelites; and Esau, the Edomites.
Once more: the apostle ends this chapter by discussing the subject in a national point of view.
1. From ver. 17–21 the apostle vindicates and illustrates the “pur. pose” of God in electing Isaac and Jacob, and their descendants, to be his visible church and people, to whom “ pertained” those great and exalted privileges, which are mentioned by the apostle in the 4th and 5th verses of this chapter, and from which Ishmael and Esau, and their descendants, were reprobated; and in his now rejecting the Jews as his visible church and people. This the apostle does by referring to the case of the Lord's raising up Pharaoh and his people from under those plagues which he had sent upon them in answer to the prayer of Moses. And what was the “purpose” of God in raising him and his people up from under those plagues, and that too for ten successive times? It was that he might show his power in him, and that his name might be declared throughout all the earth. For Pharaoh had boastingly and wickedly said, “ Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice, and should let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go," Exod. v, 2. Pharaoh did not believe that there was any God greater or more powerful than his gods, or, perhaps, even himself. Therefore he was not disposed to let Israel go at the command of the God of the Hebrews. Hence the Lord sends one plague after another upon him and his people; and then raises them up from under them, in order to show in him his power, and that his name might be declared throughout all the earth. This was the “purpose” of God in raising him and his people up from under these plagues. Therefore we are to understand this subject in a national point of view ; for it is an historical fact, that both Pharaoh and his people were included in the judgment of the plagues. For thus saith the Lord to Pharaoh, “ For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth,” Exod. ix, 14. And who was the most powerful, Pharaoh and his gods, or the God of the Hebrews ? Let the overthrow of Pharaoh and his people in the Red Sea answer! Now we would ask, What was the “purpose” of God in electing Isaac and Jacob, with their posterity, to be his visible church, from which Ishmael and Esau, with their
posterity, were reprobated? The apostle answers the question in this quotation in the clearest possible manner : “ That I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” And the object of the apostle in quoting these words was to make known and illustrate the “purpose” of God in electing Isaac and Jacob, with their descendants, to be his visible church and people, instead of Ishmael and Esau, with their descendants. And never was there a happier quotation. There was not a text in all the Bible which would prove and illustrate the purpose" of God in electing Jacob, (the Israelites,) and in reprobating Esau, (the Edomites, so clearly and fully as this text. There is no case in all the word of God to which the apostle could refer that would so fully illustrate the “purpose” of God in the election of the one, and in the rejection of the other, as the case of Pharaoh and the plagues. This the 18th verse, which is the conclusion of the apostle drawn from the 17th verse, clearly proves : “ Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth ;"—that is, he leaves them to themselves, for this is its meaning here. Hence God according to his “purpose" elected Isaac and Jacob, with their posterity, to be his
visible church and people, and left Ishmael and Esau, with their poste. rity, out of this his “ purpose” of national election.
Again: a reference being made to Pharaoh, and his overthrow in the Red Sea, was a two-edged sword in the hand of the apostle. For by it he not only illustrates the “purpose” of God in electing Jacob and his descendants to be the visible church and people of God; but also his righteous “purpose” in his now rejecting the Jews as his visi. ble church on account of their unbelief and rejection of Christ. As Pharaoh and his people manifested their wickedness and cruelty, in putting burdens upon the children of Israel which they were not able to bear, and in refusing to let Israel go at the command of God, for which he overthrew them in the Red Sea ; so the Jews manifested their wickedness and unbelief in rejecting and crucifying the Lord of life and glory, for which God has righteously rejected them as his visible church and people, and destroyed their civil and religious po. lity; and he has elected the Gentiles to the great and exalted privi. leges of the gospel dispensation. He destroyed Pharaoh and his people for their wickedness. So also he has rejected the Jews from being his church and people, and destroyed their civil and religious polity, for their wickedness and unbelief. Thus we see, in the first place, how clearly and fully the apostle illustrates the “ purpose" of God in electing Jacob (the Israelites) to be his visible church and people to enjoy those great und exalted national privileges from which Esau (the Edomites) were reprobated; and, in the second place, how he illustrates his righteous “purpose” in now rejecting the Jews as his visible church and people on account of their wickedness and unbelief, and in electing the Gentiles to the great and exalted privileges of the gospel dispensation.
2. The apostle vindicates the righteous proceedings of God in choos. ing Isaac and Jacob, with their descendants, instead of Ishmael and Esau, with their descendants, to be his visible church and people ; be. cause, as the rightful sovereign and arbiter of the universe, he had a perfect right so to do, independent of his creatures. Who can doubt his right to make one man more honorable than another? And has he not also a perfect right to bestow greater privileges upon one people than upon another? • Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus ?" See Isa. xlv, 9. Answer, thou that strivest against thy Maker !—thou that opposest or challengest the authority of the God of the universe! 6 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor ?" —or less honorable when he re. quireth only the improvement of what he has given ? " For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” For of those to whom he has given one talent, he will require the improvement of but one ; and of those to whom he has given two talents, he will require the improvement of two. We ask again, Had not God a perfect right to make Jacob more honorable than Esau? And had he not a perfect right to extend this honor to his posterity also ? Who that believes in the sovereignty of God, as taught in the Bible, doubts this? Again : Who can charge the God of the Hebrews with cruelty or injustice for overthrowing Pharaoh and his people in the Red Sea, when they had so cruelly oppressed the children of Israel, refused to let them go at the com
mand of their God, and finally pursued them, in order to destroy them, after he had commanded them to go? No one. We ask, then, what was the object of the apostle in referring to the case of the potter and the clay, and to Pharaoh and the plagues, and his overthrow ? it to prove that God had made Esau and Pharaoh, with others, on “ purpose" for damnation? Such a sentiment would be a horrible re. flection upon the character of the God of justice and mercy! There is no such sentiment taught by the holy apostle. He could have no such object in view ; it never entered into his heart. What was his object then? It was, in the first place, to justify God's ways in electing Isaac and Jacob, with their descendants, to be his peculiar people, and in his rejecting Ishmael and Esau, with their descendants, from those privileges, as a nation ; and, in the second place, to vindi. cate and justify his righteous “ purpose” in his now rejecting the Jews as his visible church and people, for their unbelief and rejection of Christ, and in his electing the Gentiles to the privileges of the gospel dispensation. For if God could, on the principle of righteousness, elect Jacob and his descendants to be his visible church and people, and reject Esau and his descendants from these privileges of a national character, before they had “done either good or evil,” with how much justice may he now reject the Jews from being his visible church and people as a nation, on account of their unbelief and rejection of Christ, and elect the Gentiles to the privileges of the gospel dispensation.
But to suppose that by the words “ to make one vessel unto honor," we are to understand the eternal and unconditional election of Jacob and others to life and salvation; and by the words “and another to dishonor,” and “ even for this same purpose have I raised thee up,” to the eternal and unconditional reprobation of Esau and Pharaoh, and others, to death and damnation, is as directly opposed to what the apostle intended, in our apprehension, as darkness is to light.
3. In the verses from 22 to 29, the apostle more fully speaks of the rejection of the Jews, and the election” of the Gentiles, to those great and exalted church and national privileges which the Jews once enjoyed. It is evident that the apostle in the 21st verse is speaking of people and nations ; for it is a quotation from Jer. xviii, 6, where the Lord is speaking only of nations: “O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter ? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concern. ing a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them." And as the potter had the power and right over the clay of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor, or less honorable, and to place one in a more conspicuous or honorable place than another ; so God had the power and perfect right to make Jacob and his posterity more honorable than Esau and his, and to confer greater privi. leges upon the former than upon the latter, as we have before stated. Vol. X.-Oct., 1839.