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THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION,
ROMANS, xi. 7.
What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
The design in view which has led to the choice of this portion of divine truth, as a subject of our present lecture, is to investigate the scripture doctrine of election, to show the strict sovereignty, of God in electing some and binding others, the righteousness of God in the exercise of his sovereignty, and to disprove the common doctrine of election which supposes, that our heavenly Father, from eternity, elected some to everlasting life, and predestinated others to a state of endless misery.
Our subject is one in which every christian must feel deeply interested, as it essentially concerns the divine character, his revealed will concerning the final state of mankind, together with the ultimate object of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is therefore hoped that due attention and impartial candor will contribute to their utmost to a correct understanding of the weighty subject under consideration.
By " the election” in our text the Apostle means a remnant of the house of Israel, who had obtained what the whole had sought for, but of which the greatest part had come short, being blinded. In the preceding chapters the Author had spoken of the failure of the house of Israel in their endeavors to attain to the law of righteousness, and of the more favorable condition of the Gentiles, who though they did not follow after righteousness, yet had“ attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.” To the Gentiles he applies a prophesy of Esaias as follows; “I was found of them that sought me not; 1 was made manifest to them that asked not after me." But concerning the house of Israel he uses the following words : “But to Israel he saith, all day long, I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." In the commencement of this chapter his attention seems to be directed to make it appear that, notwithstanding all which he had said, God had by no means, cast away the whole of his people, the Jews. The following is his reasoning on the subject : " I say then, hath God cast away his people ? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of ihe tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias, how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone and they seek my life ? But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then, at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace." That is, as in the days of Elijah it pleased God to reserve seven thousand of the Israelites to be true worshippers of himself, while the rest bowed the knee to Paal, so now, while the general mass of the stock of Abraham are blinded, have stumbled at the stumbling stone laid in Sion, and are broken off through unbelief, there is a remnant still preserved, who have escaped the general calamity, and have by grace obtained what the others sought for but found not; of this remnant, the Apostle reckons himself as one.
The hearer is now called on to direct his attention to understand, that this election was not made with the least reference to the works of the chosen. This the Apostle is careful to notice in a most plain and positive manner. See his observation in the 6th verse. “ And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace ; otherwise work is no more work.” This argument supposes that if this election had been according to works, grace would have been entirely excluded; but as it was by grace, works were excluded. In the 9th chapter the author in describing the sovereignty of God in the election of Jacob in preference to Esau, says; " For the children being not yet born; 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.” And in further arguing on this subject he adds; “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. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scriptures saith unto Pharaoh, even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” To confirm his divine sovereignty still further the inspired Apostle adds the following significant query ;
“Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, 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 afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles ?”
Not only does the Apostle labour to show that the remnant of the house of Israel, which he calls the election, were elected according to the strict sovereignty of God and called by the riches of sovereign grace, and made vessels of mercy according to the same unconditional grace of God, but he also directs his argument to prove that the blindness of the Jews in general, their hardness of heart, &c., was effected also by the sovereign will and pleasure of God, “ According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear. And David saith, let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.” On the same subject we read in the prophecy of Isaiah as follows; “And he said, go, and tell this people, hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes ; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert and be healed.” And that this work of hardening and blinding the house of Israel was effectually done we have the assurance in the 12th chapter of the gospel of St. John: “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed ? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, he hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias when he saw his glory and spake of him.” In this passage it is stated that they could not believe." It is therefore evident that they were effectually blinded, and to all intents hardened so that to believe in Jesus was not in their power. It appears furthermore, that the Saviour himself regarded this blindness of the Jews with peculiar caution, and delivered his doctrine in parables on purpose that they might not understand. Of this we are informed in Matthew 13th—“And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables ? He answered and said unto them, because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” And because God saw fit to hide the things of the kingdom of his grace from the Jews, Jesus expressed his thanks to the Father as recorded in Matthew 11th—“at that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father ; for so it seemed good in thy sight.” The reason here given why the Father had hidden these things from the Jews was that it seemed good in his sight so to do.
Let us attend, in the next place, to see if we can learn from the divine testimony, the special GOOD which was brought about by the exercise of the divine sovereignty in the instances which have been noticed. This is a subject of vast concern, for the sentiment we embrace respecting it directly affects the moral character of the divine Being: If we consent to the opinion, that the elect which we have noticed are elected unto eternal life, to enjoy endless felicity, while those who are not of the elect are predestinated to everlasting destruction in the future, eternal world, we thereby charge God with partiality ; and it is utterly in vain to attempt to clear the divine Being of this partiality while we admit such a sentiment. It is true, our christian doctors have contended, that some were elected from all eternity unto eternal life, and the rest of mankind were reprobated to endless misery for the glory of God; and they are therefore unwilling to allow that there is any partiality in God in thus disposing of his creatures for his own glory. But if we allow ourselves to be more particular on this subject, is it not evident according to this sentiment that the glory of God requires him to be good and merciful to some men, but utterly unmerciful to others ? As this must be granted, it follows of necessary consequence, that the glory of God requires him to be partial. Nor does it alter the case in the least to say, that the greatest possible good of the whole, requires the endless misery of some; for this amounts to the same thing, viz. the greatest possible good of the whole consists in partial goodness, which is an absurdity. If we are able to find out what it is that the righteousness of God, according to