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most of their correspondents, were Jews. It was, therefore, natural, and at that time very proper, that the principal terms, employed in the Old Testament, should be adopted in the New, as the most expressive and best understood. For this reason, it would be very desirable, that we should put ourselves in the place of the primitive disciples, when we read the Apostolic Epistles; and consider how they understood those peculiar expressions. This is not easily done by the generality of people; and, accordingly, the phraseology of those writings is often misunderstood; and men content themselves with any signification, that they have learned from their parents, or that their teachers have been pleased to assign to the words of Scripture. Unfortunately their teachers themselves have frequently imbibed the same prejudices; and afterwards finding this interpretation to agree with the system of theology, which they have been led to adopt, they are not disposed to take a more enlarged view of the subject.
A principal cause of error is, that we generally read only a small portion of Scripture at a time; which must necessarily break the connexion, and occasion obscurity; and too often only select a sentence here and there, to answer a purpose; a practice which must always pervert the sense. In this mode of studying Scripture, we can never embrace the whole scope and intention of the
writer. Another prevailing fault is, the applica tion of these short unconnected sentences to individuals, when they are intended to include large communities, or whole nations; and to apply to modern Christians, what was intended only for the Apostles and their contemporaries. Thus, when the children of Jacob are called "God's chosen ones," it is not meant that every one of the Israelites was chosen, but that they were members of the chosen nation. When Peter styles "the strangers scattered through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia and Bithynia, elect, through the fore-knowledge of the Father," he does not pass any encomium on this mixed multitude: the phrase signifies only, that they were members of that Church, which had been foreseen and preordained by God. Thus too, when Paul says, "whom he did foreknow, he did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son," he speaks of the Christian church at large. In like manner, he describes the Gentile converts in Ephesus, as being "chosen before the foundation of the world, to be holy, predestinated unto the adoption of children;" meaning only, that God had intended, from the earliest times, that the Gentiles should be called into the Christian church.
Others select some unconnected words of ominous import, and apply them in a manner totally different from the design of the author. Of this
kind are "vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction; and vessels of mercy, prepared for glory." But in this passage the Apostle is not treating of the destiny of individual Christians; but of God's right to admit the Gentiles into the church, and to reject the unbelieving Jews, without assigning any reason for his conduct. Again; the free grace of God in the mission of Christ, and "the remission of the past sins" of the first converts, committed in their former state of Pagan darkness, or Jewish prejudice, is often transferred to those, who have been born and educated in the Christian church, and have defiled their profession by an obstinate course of depravity and crimes; who are accordingly encouraged, in their last moments, and often at the foot of the gallows, to rely on some fanatical profession of faith, and to exult in the prospect of an instantaneous tránsition to the bosom of their Redeemer; to the scandal of religion, and the ruin of many who hear them.
The Jews were styled the chosen people; and the Christians are denominated the elect, a word of similar import;* merely because they were separated and selected from the world; and, for the same reason, the former were called holy, and the latter saints, without any reference to the characters or destinies of individuals. They are
* 2 Tim. ii. 10. + 1 Pet. ii. 2.-Acts ix. 32, 41.-2 Cor. i. 1.-Phil. iv. 22.-Col. 1. 2.
both said to be bought, purchased, ransomed, and redeemed; meaning only, that they were delivered by the grace and power of God, as the Israelites had been rescued from the Egyptians, without implying, that any price was paid for them.* From the change, that should ensue on their conversion, Christians are said to be regenerated, born again, created anew, to be the Sons of God; heirs of life, and of an eternal inheritance; and all these: figures of speech have been made the ground of many erroneous doctrines and fanatical fancies. Regeneration, adoption, justification, sanctification, calling, election, have been indued with such mysterious significations, and are so assiduously dinned in the ears of the people, as to perplex and confound many, who are little inclined to those "foolish questions, strifes of words, and perverse disputings;" but we have no concern with Calvinistic technicalities and scholastic distinétions.
To return to predestination, which is the subject of this discourse. The texts most confidently relied on in this controversy are to be found in the eighth and ninth chapters of Romans, and the first of Ephesians. If I can explain these, it will not be necessary to occupy your time with any others. If we cannot inter
* Deut. xxxii. 6, &c.-Isaiah lv. 1: lv. 2.-Ps. lxxiv. 2: lxxviii. 54.-Hosea xiii. 14.-Isaiah xxxv. 10: li. 10.-Jer. xxx. ii.-Exod. vi. 6.—2 Sam. vii. 23.—Job v. 20: vi. 23, &c.
pret them conformably to our Saviour's doctrine, we should rather abandon them as unintelligible, than prefer the lower authority to the higher, and what we cannot understand to what we do.
St. Paul, having consoled his correspondents under their afflictions, by an assurance, that "all things work together for good, to those who love God,"* especially" to those who have been called, and invited into the Christian Church, according to his purpose," in pursuance of his original design, declared to Abraham, that in his seed all nations should be blessed, confirms this assurance by reciting what had been done, and is still intended, in their favour. That body of people, or portion of mankind, "whom he thus foreknew," (for the Scripture doctrine of predestination is founded on fore-knowledge) and contemplated as his peculiar church and people, he also determined to endow with singular blessings and privileges. He "predestinated" or intended "them to be conformed to the image of his Son," in his resurrection and subsequent glory, "that he might be the first born among many brethren;" that he might have many followers, who should partake of resurrection to eternal life. "Moreover, those whom he did thus predestinate, them he also called," by the preaching of Jesus and his Apostles; "and whom he called, he also
* Rom. viii. 28.