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wrath and displeasure of God, but only describesfurther the personal character of those whom he so denominates. As in the close of the former verse he had mentioned children, or sons of disobedience, i. e. disobedient children, (and Peter, 1 Epist. i. 14. speaks of obedient children, in the original it is children of obedience) so here he mentions children of wrath, i. e. wrathful, furious, .malignant, and mischievous persons. In a striking and beautiful figure, he represents disobedience and wrath under the persons of two fruitful mothers, whose offspring they had been. Accordingly, when the apostle comes in the beginning of the fourth chapter to exhort the Ephesian christians to a conversation conformable to the vocation wherewith they were called, and quite the reverse of the description lie gives in this verse of their former character and conduct, he begins with describing it thus, ver. 2, 3. “ with all lowliness and meekness; with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” He also concludes the chapter thus: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you; with all malice : and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgive ing one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath for• given you.” Do we not see a greater propriety and force in these exhortations, when we consider them as addressed to persons who had forinerly been children of wrath ?
Roin. ix. ll, &c. “ For the children being not yet horn, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger; as it is written, Jacob have I loved, . but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there uprighteousness with God? God forbid! For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will bave mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy," &c. 1. These verses, and ihe whole of this chapter, relate
pot to the election of pariicular persons to eternal life, but to the calling of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jews from the privileges of the gospel; and it is manifest that the apostle is not speaking in this place of the final state, or indeed of the persons, of Easu and Jacob, but of their posterity, and that only with a view to temporal privileges and prerogatives. · The whole body of christians, consisting of Jew's and Gentiles, are frequently styled the chosen and elect of God, on account of their external privileges, as the whole Jewish nation had been so namied before on the same account. This is an easy and plain sense of election, reflects not at all on the perfections of God, is consistent with ibe offers and exhortations of
scripture, and preserves a harmony between the language of the Old and New Testament.
It must be acknowledged; however, that in order to vindicate the divine conduct in the calling of the Gentiles, the apostle alleges some facts, in which not whole nations but particular persons are spoken of, and which seem to imply that their minds were under supernatural influence in forming bad as well as good resolutions; and there are other passages of scrip. ture which at first sight seem to look the same way.
The hardness of Pharaoh's heart, Exod. ix. 16. Rom. ix. 17. the obstinacy of Sihon king of Heshbon, Deut. ii. 30. and the unbelief of many of the Jews, Isa. vi. 10. Matt. xiii. 14. Mark iv. 12. Luke viii. 10. John xii. 40. Acts xxviii. 26. Rom xi. 8. are all ascribed to the purpose, act, or decree of God, who had important designs to answer by means of these blameable determinations of men. On the other hand, when persons believe and obey the gospel, it is ascribed the divine influence upon their minds.
Matt. xi. 25. “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earih, hecause thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudeni, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even si), Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” John vi. 37. “ All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” See also John xvii. Acts xvi 14. " And the Lord opened the heart of Lydia, that she attended to the things that were spoken of Paul.” Moreover, every thing of this nature is expressly referred to the arbitrary disposition of God,
in Rom. ix. 18, 23. “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say, then, unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted bis will? Nay but, О man, who are thou, that thou repliest against God ? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power knownr, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared unto glory.”
To understand such passages as these, we should · consider that, in the language of the scriptures, God
is said to do those things which come to pass according to the natural course of things, as well as to perform things of a miraculous nature ; because they take place in consequence of the laws which he has originally established. And certainly, if God had not made men liable to be seduced by temptation, they would not have sinned, any more than they could embrace truth without the means of becoming acquainted with it; and it must depend upon the good pleasure of God, whether he will afford men more or fewer advantages for attaining to knowledge, virtue, and happiness. But, notwithstanding this, if the means have been such as would have been effectual, provided
there had been no criminal prejudice to frustrate them, men are blamed, and God is just and wise in punishing them, as well as in rewarding those whose minds are so disposed as to receive advantage from the means of virtue and knowledge wbich are afforded them.
Now, that in this sense the sacred writers considered God as just to all inankind, is evident from the many earnest exhortations and expostulations address. ed to sinners in the books of scripture, and from the blame and reproach which men are represented as incurring when they continue in vice and ignorance. It is not possible that any persons could be so inconsistent with themselves, as to exhort sinners to repent, and to blame and reproach them for not repenting, if they did not consider them as having a natural power. to comply with the exhortation. Nay, in this very passage of the apostle Paul, which is, perhaps, the most fayourable to the doctrine of absolute decrees of any thing in all the books of scripture, God is represented as.“ enduring, with much long-suffering, the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction;!' which evidently implies that they had sufficient power and time to repent, and to prevent their impending destruction ; and therefore proves that their destruction was not decreed, but in case of their impenitence.
How much soever, therefore, the sacred writers refer to God, upon particular occasions, and whatever use they may suppose that his 'infinite wisdom will, make of the errors and vices of some individuals of mankind, in order to promote the interests of truth B 5