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from the beginning had chosen the Gentiles in Christ, and predestinated them to a place in his church, that, in the enjoyment of the gospel, they might become holy and be made meet for heaven.
In our text we may observe the following particulars.
That God had chosen and predestinated these Ephea sians.
That they were chosen to be holy and without blame before him, in love.
That they were predestinated to the adoption of children to himself.
That they were chosen in Christ Jesus.
That the reason of God's choosing them was the good pleasure of his own will.
That the purpose for which they were chosen was the praise of the glory of his grace.
I. We may, first, observe, that God chose and predestinated these Ephesian Christians before the foundation of the world.
Those spiritual privileges and blessings, which they enjoyed or expected, were the result of that glorious plan, which the infinite wisdom and abundant grace of God had formed : For, as it is said, verse 11. they were predestinated according to the purpose of him, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
When we speak of God's foreknowledge or predesļination of events, we must always keep in mind this idea, “that his thoughts are not as our thoughts, but as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his thoughts higher than ours."
This Apostle speaks of Christians, as predestinated according to God's purpose. Peter says, They are elected according to the foreknowledge of God. But this mode of speaking rather expresses things according to the imperfect manner in which we apprehend them, than according to the perfect manner in which they exist in the divine mind. God's understanding is infi.
nite. . He views things immediately and intuitively as they are. Darkness and light, past and future, are a. like to him. “He seeth not as man seeth, nor are his years as man's days. But he inhabiteth eternity ; and one day is with him as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Therefore all the phrases, 'which we meet with in scripture, concerning God's remembrance of things past, foreknowledge of things to come, and deliberation on things present, are to be understood, not as literally expressive of the real operations of his mind, but as figuratively adapted to the weak conceptions of ours. “ His knowledge is too wonderful for us ; it is high, we cannot attain to it.”
We know things past by memory, and our memory we assist by records, so God is often said to remember things, and to keep a book of remembrance. are sensible that these expressions only denote God's perfect knowledge of those things, which 10 us are past --not a laborious recollection of them, or an artificial method of assisting his memory.
So, on the other hand, God is said to foreknow things which are future, to foreordain things which shall be done, to write, in the volume of his book, things which his counsel has determined; which phrases do not signify that things are really future and distant to his view that his mind is reaching forward--that he writes down a plan of operations for his own direction ; but they represent the perfect, consummate, unerring wisdom with which he governs the universe.
Viewing the matter in this light, we shall be sensible, that our perplexity concerning God's foreknowledge and decree arises from the imperfection of our minds, and the narrowness of our comprehension ; and that there is no more inconsistency between the freedom of moral agents and God's foreknowledge, than there is between this and his present knowledge ; for with respect to him, foreknowledge and present knowl
edge are the same ; the difference is only with respect to us, with whom things exist by succession.
The word election, or choosing, is, in scripture, used in various senses.
Sometimes it signifies the appointment of a person to some eminent office or service. Christ says to his disciples, “ I have chosen you twelve ;” i. e. I have chosen you to be my disciples, and preachers of my gospel. He does not mean that he had chosen them all to salvation, for one of them was a son of perdition. In this sense Paul was a chosen vessel to bear Christ's name among the Gentiles. And Cyrus, Saul, and David are called God's chosen, because they were designated to be kings, for the execution of some great pur. poses of providence. The word sometimes intends approbation; as when
Many are called, but few are chosen;" i. e. few are accepted and approved.
Often the word is used in a large sense, to comprehend the whole body of God's professing people, whom he has chosen out of the world to be a peculiar people to himself. 'The whole nation of the Jews are styled God's elect, and his chosen. The Christian church, the whole number of professed believers, are called a chosen generation, a peculiar people.
But this general sense of the word implies a more particular sense. If God has chosen some nations rath. er than others, to enjoy the means of salvation, then he gives some an advantage above others to obtain salvation ; and this is as much an act of sovereignty as the election of particular persons. And, without question, some, in the nation, chosen to these privileges, will thereby eventually be made partakers of the salvation revealed. And there are some expressions, in scripture, which seem to import an appointment of persons to obtain this salvation, as well as to enjoy the means of it. Paul says to the Thessalonians, God hath chosen you to salvation through sanctification of Vol. III.
the spirit and belief of the truth, whereunto he hath al$o called you by our gospel.” The Apostle Peter calls Christians, “ Elect according to the foreknowl edge of God, through sanctification of the spirit.” Election, in these passages, cannot be understood mere. ly of an appointment to external privileges, for the subjects of it are said to be chosen through sanctification and faith. Now they were not brought to the enjoy. ment of the gospel by their faith and holiness, but they were brought to these by the gospel. They were called to spiritual privileges while they were in impenitence and unbelief. The gospel was not the fruit, but the mean of their faith.
That there is an election to salvation, Christians are generally agreed : In their manner of explaining it, is the chief difference. Some suppose it to be absolute and without regard to personal qualifications ; others suppose it to be conditional, and grounded on a foresight of faith in the persons chosen.
In all questions of this kind there are two great points, which we must keep in view-our dependence on the grace oí God; and our moral agency. On the one hand, we must not so conceive of God's election, and the influence of his grace, as to set aside our free agency and final accountableness ; nor, on the other hand, must we so explain away God's sovereignty and grace, as to exalt man to a state of independence. While we shun these extremes, we shall not dangerously err in the doctrine before us.
It is manifest from reason, as well as scripture, that God exercises a moral government in the world, and that his providence extends to particular persons, to all circumstances of their condition, and to all the actions of their lives ; for we cannot conceive it possible, that he should govern the world in general, and yet overlook particular persons ; or that he should order their circumstances, and yet have no superintendancy ar control of their actions.
It it also certain, that the grace of God operates in the conversion of sinners, in such a manner and degree, that they are saved by him, not of themselves.
Now so far as the grace of God, in the salvation of sinners, is absolute and unconditional, election or predestination is so, and no farther. They run parallel to each other. We are to conceive of election, in the same manner as we conceive of the influence of grace ; for election can be nothing more, than God's foreknowing and predetermining (to speak according to our way of conception) that he will exercise his grace in such a manner, as shall prove effectual. And his counsels and decrees are only the plan of his providential government. If the latter is not inconsistent with human liberty, the former cannot be so.
If the thing done does not control our agency, the previous purpose cannot control it.
The question, whether election is conditional, will easily be solved by considering the end which it re. spects.
If we consider it as respecting the original plan of salvation, it must be absolute and unconditional. It could not be owing to any foreseen worthiness in fallen creatures, that God chose and determined to send them a Saviour, and to propose such a particular meth. od of salvation ; but merely to his selfmoving, sovereign grace. Their guilt and impotence were the reasons why such a method of salvation was necessary, and therefore their foreseen holiness and worthiness could not be the reasons why such a method was adopted.
If we consider election as respecting the means of salvation, it is unconditional. It was not owing to the virtue and goodness of the human race, that a revelation was given them. It was not owing to the previous desires, prayers and endeavors of the Ephesians or other Gentile nations, that they were brought unto a church state, and to the knowledge of the way of sal.