« PreviousContinue »
they were born, that acceptance will denote the purpose of communicating his goodness, not the act of communication itself, as was mentioned before from Aquinas. Beza, also, in his Commentaries on the 5th verse, has rightly observed, That the elect in due time receive wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption freely by faith; therefore they are not from eternity justified, sanctified, or reconciled, although elected and predestinated from eternity. But no one hath taught this more plainly than the Apostle himself, who demonstrates that the same persons whom he said were chosen before the foundation of the world, yet were by nature the children of wrath (Ephes. ii. 3), and long remained without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who formerly were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ, when, through the blood of Christ received by faith, they were reconciled to God (ver. 12, 13, &c.) If, therefore, we believe St. Paul, although the election and predestination of mankind proceeds from the eternal love of God, yet it is not to be said, that their eternal justifica tion and reconciliation are manifested and revealed when they believe in Christ, but that they then first take place.
Again ; The Apostle says (2 Tim. i. 9, 10), That grace was given to the elect in Christ Jesus, before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ. But God evidently appears to be reconciled to them, before the world began, to whom he then gave grace in Christ. · Reply. On account of the unchangeableness and immoveableness of the Divine purpose, that grace is said to be given to the elect before the world began, which was then destined for them. In this passage, therefore, eternal giving is eternal preparation of grace infallibly to be given to the elect in due time. Thus Augustine observes, The Apostle says that grace was given when there were not as yet persons to whom it should be given, because in the disposition and predestination of God, that was now done which was to be done in his own time. (De dootr. Christ. lib. 3, cap. 34.) VOL. II.
Thus Junius remarks on these words, He says that the grace was given from eternity, lo which we were predestinated from eternity. Nor has Calvin otherwise expounded them ; This gift of grace, says he, of which the Apostle makes mention, is nothing else than predestination, by which we are adopted among the sons of God. A little after, He gave that which, without being induced by merit, he assigned to those who were not yet born, and he had it laid up in his treasures, until he should really manifest that he had appointed nothing in vain. Therefore we rightly deduce from hence, that the grace of justification, reconciliation, and salvation were actually assigned from eternity to all the elect, and, as it were, laid up and reserved for them in the treasury of the Divine love; but it is not rightly deduced that they were actually conferred upon them before faith and conversion. The justification and reconciliation of the elect iş not said to be opened and manifested when they believe in Christ, but then given and conferred. But what is said to be then revealed and manifested, is the eternal good pleasure or purpose of God concerning the salvation of the elect; which he makes known to us when, the Spirit and faith having been given, we obtain justification and reconciliation with God.
There are some other passages brought forward to prove that our reconciliation with God is not effected at the tiine when we embrace the Mediator by faith, but that all the elect were reconciled to God from eternity. Of this kind are Rom. v. 10, When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. Ephes. ii. 4, 5, For his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. And Coloss. i. 21, 22, And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, &c. From these passages it appears that reconciliation does not follow the act of faith, but that God is reconciled to his own, even when they are unbelievers and enemies to God. For it is not a proof of God being placable and reconcileable, but of his being pacified and actually reconciled, when such benefits are conferred upon men.
Reply. If by reconciliation nothing else is meant than the inclination and propensity of the Divine will to grant. remission, and make peace with all who shall embrace the Redeemer by faith, we grant that God is reconciled to the whole human race, by virtue of the death of Christ, even while we continue enemies to him. But herein (as was stated before) a step is taken towards our actual and personal reconciliation, rather than the actual reconciliation of individuals is effected. Moreover, if by reconciliation we understand the eternal election of God, according to which he hath determined to call, justify, reconcile to himself, and save certain individuals in time, you cannot by this means make it out that God can in this sense be said to be benevolent to all the elect, even when they are living in impiety and unbelief. But this benevolence which precedes faith inspired into the hearts of the elect, contains only a purpose of making peace with them, and does not place them in a state of peace obtained and of actual reconciliation. These things being premised, I reply, that all these passages speak either of the step towards personal reconciliation, or of the elect believing and being placed in a state of actual reconciliation; which cannot take place without the intervention of faith. They therefore confirm our opinion, rather than the opposite. For that which is said Rom. v. 10, When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, &c. has no other sense than that men, from a state of enmity, are transferred into a state of actual reconciliation with God, through the death of Christ, as soon as they believe in Christ. This is plain, because the Apostle, verse 1 of this chapter, restrains this peace or reconciliation to those only who are justified by faith ; and verse 11 he speaks of the same actual reconciliation as being just made, By whom we have now received the atonement, (margin) or reconciliation, that is, now, after we have believed in Christ. With respect to the second passage, Ephes. ii. 4, 5, it is most true, that God, when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, but as he hath not actually quickened any unless by faith previously inspired, so neither hath he reconciled them;
for to be reconciled to God is to be delivered from the guilt of death, to be placed in a state of spiritual life, and to be presented with an hereditary right to eternal life; which things do not belong to the elect merely because they are elected, but when they have been effectually called and converted to God. The Apostle himself has taught this in verse 8, By grace are ye saved through faith ; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. The last passage taken from Coloss. i. 21, 22, plainly confirms our opinion, namely, that mankind are not at once justified and reconciled to God, either by God's eternal act of predestination, or by the merit of the death of Christ for his own elect. For what else do these words mean at first sight, You, that were formerly alienated, &c. yet now hath he reconciled, than that we then at length obtain, through the blood of Christ, remission of sins and actual reconciliation with God, when, being united to Christ by faith, we are admitted into an actual participation and possession of his merits and righteousness. It is unnecessary to add more for the explanation of this proposition. From what has been said, it may sufficiently appear, that those persons extend the universal efficacy of the death of Christ beyond its just limits, who think that by the mere act of the death of Christ all mankind promiscuously are restored to a state of grace; nor do they do less, who contend that all the predestinated, on account of the merit of Christ, are justified from eternity, and actually reconciled to God, even before they have believed the Gospel.
THE LAST PROPOSITION STATED AND CONFIRMEI).
WE have exhibited the universal virtue and efficacy of the death of Christ, explained in three propositions. In the first it was demonstrated, That this death of Christ was appointed by God and proposed to the human race, as an universal remedy applicable to all men individually. In the second, we have shewn in what sense Christ is said to have died for all, or in what sense the death of Christ may be acknowledged to have been established as an universal cause of salvation, for the good of the whole human race; namely, not as some assert, by reason of its mere sufficiency, or intrinsic value, in which respect the death of Christ, or the blood of the Son of God, is a price more than sufficient to redeem each and all men and angels; but by reason of the Evangelical covenant established and confirmed by this death and blood of Christ, according to the tenor of which covenant a right accrued to all men individually, on condition of faith, of claiming for themselves remission of sins and eternal life. To these two propositions we have subjoined a third, in which it was shewn, That the universal virtue of the death of Christ having been stated, and the universal covenant of the Gospel having regard to every man, yet that every individual person has indeed, by the sole benefit of this death, God under obligation to enter into peace with him, and give him life, if he should believe; but has not actual justification or reconciliation, or an actual state of grace and salvation, before he believes.
There now remains a fourth and last proposition, which may serve chiefly for removing any scruple from the minds