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here clearly implied, had been given to Christ in the sense of the passage, and yet had been lost. The declaration then, “ It is the Father's will that he should lose nothing,” is manifestly designed to express, not a specific personal decree, but the general purpose and design.
The next passage quoted by Dr. Woods to prove an absolute personal election to salvation is Ephesians i. 3—11. “ Blessed be the God and Father,” &c. To all the observations made by Dr. Woods on this passage, I give my entire concurrence; yet have no hesi
I tation in asserting, what I hope satisfactorily to prove, that it has no relation to the doctrine, which he has brought it to support.
It refers not to individuals as such, but to the Christian community. Not to final salvation, but to Christian privileges. In the first place, the Epistle is addressed to the whole Christian community at Ephesus, without any intimation, that any expressions in it are applicable to some and not to others. The terms, saints and faithful in Christ Jesus, (ver. 1) are applied alike to all, and are evidently to be understood as terms which designate the whole company of believers, and external professors, without any reference to the personal character of any, as individuals. It is again in the name of the whole Christian community, Jews and Gentiles, that the Apostle speaks, when he says, that “God hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings, chosen us in him [that is, Christ] before the foundation of the world, predestinated us to the adoption
of children, predestinated us according to the purpose of him, who worketh -all things after the couns sel of his own will.” (ver. 3, 4, 5, 11) That this choice or predestination was not that of individuals to eternal life, but of all, who received the Christian faith, to the profession and privileges of the Gospel, (besides its being thus generally addressed, and in the name of Christians at large and universally) appears still further from other expressions, addressed in the same
It is for these same persons, saints, faithful, chosen, predestinated, that the Apostle thought it needful very devoutly and earnestly to pray to God, 6 that they might be strengthened with might by his spirit in the inner man, that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith, that they might be rooted and grounded in love;" very suitable to be addressed to professed believers as a promiscuous body: but such as we should hardly expect, if the persons designated were by the very designation understood to consist only of persons certainly chosen to eternal life, and were already certainly grounded in love, were already strengthened in the inner man, had already Christ dwelling in their hearts by love.
Further, these same persons, he thinks it proper to exhort, (ch.iv. 1) “ to walk worthy of the vocation with which they were called,” “ to walk henceforth, not as other Gentiles walk,” (ver. 17)“ but to put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of their mind, and to put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,” and “ not to grieve the holy spirit of God.” (ver. 22, 23, 24, 30.) Implying, that they are liable to retain still their heathen character, notwithstanding their Christian profession; that they may still pursue the former conversation, which, by their profession, they have renounced ; that they are in danger of failing to put off the old man, and to be, as their Christian profession requires, “ renewed in righteousness and true holiness;" that they finally may, instead of following the guidance of the spirit of God, grieve it. Very suitable, therefore, to be addressed to the promiscuous body of professing Christians ; very suitable if by saints, chosen, predestinated, this only were meant; but certainly not so, if by these terms were designated persons chosen from eternity to final salvation, and already saints and faithful in the highest and literal sense of the words. Such, as distinguished from the rest of the world, are not the proper subjects of exhortation to walk worthy of their Christian vocation; for the very terms applied to them imply that they cannot fail to do so ; being certainly predestinated to life, they are as certainly predestinated to that character and state, to which life is promised. They cannot be exhorted to be renewed and to put on the new man ;-for by the supposition against which I am contending, their renewal is already certain. It is what they have no power, either to prevent, or to bring about, or even to accelerate. Their renewal has indeed already taken place; for they are addressed,
not only as chosen and predestinated, but as saints and Christians, which, according to the scheme under consideration, they were not, till they were renewed. And with what propriety can such be exhorted “ not to grieve the holy spirit of God ?”
The next, and only other passage, to which Dr. Woods has referred for the direct proof of the doctrine of sovereign personal election to eternal life, is that contained in Romans ix. 11–24. A similar method of investigation to that, which was applied to the passage in Ephesians, will convince you, I think,
I that this is as little to the purpose as the other; and that it has no relation to an election to eternal life, but only to the privileges of the Gospel.
This will appear to you in the first place by an attention to the general scope and design of the Epistle, the subject of which was suggested by the great controversy of that age, respecting the extension of Christianity to the Gentiles, and their admission to its privileges and hopes, without being subjected to the observance of the Mosaic ritual. The Apostle combats the exclusive spirit of his Jewish brethren, by showing them, that those distinctions, on which they so valued themselves, as the chosen people of God, were done away ; that Gentiles were admitted to the same rights, and to the opportunity of securing the final favour of Heaven on the same terms with them.
The Jews, as descendants of Abraham, disciples of Moses, children of the covenant and of the promises, enjoyed a high distinction and valuable privileges.
But these privileges were no security of their final acceptance with God. They were disciplinary and conditional. The knowledge of the law would be of no avail to those, who did not faithfully observe it. The sign of the covenant would not save those, who should violate it. The oracles of God, which were committed to them, would but enhance the guilt and the condemnation of those, who, with all their superior light and motives, lived no better than ignorant heathen.
On the other hand, the Gentiles, without the light of the written law, and without the sign of the covenant, the external mark of being the people of God; if, guided by the light they had, (Rom. ii26, 27, 29) they fulfilled the law by a virtuous life, thus showing practically “ the work of the law written in the heart," (ver. 15) would secure that acceptance of God, of Him, 66 with whom is no respect of persons,” (ver. 11) and 66 who will render to every man according to his deeds,” (ver. 6) which the Jew must lose, who being “a Jew outwardly” only, (ver. 28) and relying on the letter and circumcision, was emboldened to neglect its moral design, and to live as a heathen. The final condition of every individual, whether Jew or Gentile, was to depend on individual personal character. (ver. 5-10) “Indignation and wrath to every soul of man that doth evil : glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew and also to the Gentile."
Now with this general scope and design of the first