Ephesians 1:11
This is for the children, who are not only partakers of the knowledge of redemption, but heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus (Romans 8:17). Property in this world usually goes by inheritance, but it is not so with Heaven's highest blessings. They are "not of blood, neither of the will of man," but of God. The serious question suggests itself - Have we any part or lot in the great gathering together in Christ of which the apostle has just spoken? "We have obtained an inheritance."

I. THE NATURE OF THIS INHERITANCE. It is difficult to describe it, because "it doth not yet appear what we shall be;" but it is described more negatively than positively in Scripture, rather by the absence of certain things, that we may the better understand the things that are really present in it. It is "incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading;" there shall be in our future life no more death, nor curse, nor night, nor weeping, nor sin, nor transitoriness. But it is possible to gather up from Scripture some of the positive elements in our future inheritance. Man's twofold nature, as body and spirit, demands a twofold satisfaction.

1. There are many mansions in our Father's house; there are heavenly places not made with hands; there is a better and more enduring substance in store for us. The promise of Jesus, "Where I am, there ye shall be also," carries with it the assurance that our future home will be adorned with all the art and workmanship and glory our Redeemer has lavished upon this world, with all its sins and miseries. It cannot be that the Son, the Creator, will be less powerful when he stands at the head of a redeemed world, or less willing to show forth his glory as the Author of all the beauty which has been ever seen or dreamt of. Whether our future home is to be a star, or a galaxy of worlds, or a vast metropolis, it is reasonable to suppose that it will display infinitely more material glory, as the expression of his creative genius and his infinite love, than he has ever lavished upon this beautiful world, with all its deep scars and its traces of sin and sorrow.

2. But there are certain spiritual aspects of our future inheritance, concerning which we may speak with more confidence.

(1) There will be a vast increase of knowledge as well as of the capacity of knowing. We shall know even as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12). It will be a knowledge which will dispel error, disagreement, ignorance, which will make us marvel at our own past childishness.

(2) There will be holiness, for "without holiness no man shall see the Lord;" and the Church will be presented to him at last "without spot," because without a trace of corruption; "without wrinkle," because without one trace of decay, but "holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27).

(3) There will be rest and satisfaction of heart. The weary heart of man says, "I have seen an end of all perfection," but the believer can say in happy assurance, "I shall be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness" (Psalm 17:15). "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, for they shall rest," not from their works, but only "from their labors." Their rest will be that of joyful strength, of congenial employment, in a perfect world.

(4) It will be a social blessedness; for the elect shall be gathered from the four winds, that they may dwell together, seeing the same glory, singing the same songs, and rejoicing, in the presence of the same Lord. "To be with Christ" is not inaptly described as the hope of the believer, for he is the chief and central Source of the heavenly joy.

II. BELIEVERS HAVE THE INHERITANCE THROUGH CHRIST. "In whom we have obtained an inheritance." It is not a hereditary possession, like an entailed estate; for grace does not run in the blood. It comes to us through Christ. He purchased it with his blood. His righteousness gives us a title to it, as his grace gives us "a meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light;" and now he keeps possession of it for us, writing our names upon the royalties of heaven, and will put us into full and final Possession at the last day.

III. THE INHERITANCE IS ACCORDING TO THE DIVINE PURPOSE; for we are "predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his "own will." We are predestinated, not to adoption merely, but to the inheritance that it involves. The Lord provides a heavenly portion. It is a sure portion, because it is according to a purpose that cannot be frustrated. Grace is the key-note of this Epistle. Our salvation is first and last of grace.

IV. THE END OR DESIGN IS TO PROMOTE GOD'S GLORY. "That we should be to the praise of his glory." Believers are either in their lives to be "living epistles of Christ, to be known and read of all men," as instances of the power of Divine grace, or they are to set forth his praises by ascribing everything to his grace and nothing to their own merit. - T.C.







In whom also we have obtained an Inheritance, being predestinated: according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the council of His own will.
The connecting thought is the divulging of the purpose of redemption (ver. 9), in which there is development and a consummation (ver. 10).

I. THE EASIER BORN Jewish Christians are described. as those who before hoped in Christ. The hoping in Him before He came implies the trusting in Him as come, and it is as believers that they were made possessors, of the inheritance. Why were they thus the first in privilege? "To the praise of His glory." It must have been the best method by which God could accomplish the end He had in view.

II. THE LATER BORN. Gentile Christians.

III. The earlier born and the later born have CERTAIN THINGS IN COMMON.

1. A common seal.

(1)What the seal is — the Holy Spirit of promise.

(2)What is sealed on us — the Divine image.

(3)What is sealed to us — that we are the sons of God.

2. A common guarantee.

(1)To what the guarantee pertains — our inheritance.

(2)How far the guarantee extends — until the redemption of the purchased possession.

(3)In what the guarantee consists — the earnest of the Spirit.

3. They can join in a common doxology.

(R. Finlayson.)

1. It is implied in this that it is a good of a most substantial and enduring kind. It is worthy of: the soul of man with all its cravings, aspirations, and desires, when these, too, have been purified, ennobled, and strengthened in the highest degree.

2. The second reflection we would point out from the expression here used, is that our everlasting happiness is a free gift from God. It is an inheritance; and what can be less merited on our part than that which we inherit by the will and deed of another?

(W. Alves, M. A.)

In the terms of a court of law, it's theirs, not by conquest, but by heritage. Won by another arm than theirs, it presents the strongest imaginable contrast to the spectacle seen in England's palace that day when the king demanded to know of his assembled nobles, by what title they held their lands? "What title?" At the rash question a hundred swords leapt from their scabbards. Advancing on the alarmed monarch — "By these," they replied, "we won, and by these we will keep them." How different the scene which heaven presents! All eyes are fixed on Jesus; every look is love; gratitude glows in every bosom, and swells in every song.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Paul has just said that it is the Divine purpose to "sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth." This is the destiny of the universe. Unmeasured ages of imperfection, conflict, sin, and suffering lie behind us; and it may be that there are unmeasured ages of imperfection, conflict, sin, and suffering still to come. But at last the whole creation is to illustrate and fulfil the Divine thought, and is to reach its perfect unity and ideal perfection in Christ. That coarse conception of the Divine omnipotence which assumes that a Divine purpose is never obstructed or delayed, and that every Divine volition is immediately accomplished, receives no sanction either from the Jewish or the Christian Scriptures. It receives no sanction from those discoveries of God which are accessible through the physical universe and through the moral nature of man. It looks as though God did nothing at a single stroke, nothing by an immediate and irresistible exercise of mere force. It is His will that the summer should be beautiful with flowers, and that the autumn should bring the brown corn and the purple grapes; but flowers and grapes and corn are not commanded to appear suddenly, out of nothing; the Divine will accomplishes itself gradually, and by processes extremely complex and subtle. The world itself came to be a fit home for our race as the result of a history extending over vast and awful tracts of time. God intended that it should become what it now is; but His intention was accomplished by the action, through age after age, of the immense forces which are under His control. "Fire and hail, snow and vapour, and the stormy wind," have fulfilled His word. He gave a commission to millions upon millions of living creatures to build the limestone rocks. Through untold centuries vast forests grew and perished, to form the coal measures. Volcanic eruptions, frost and heat, the slow movements of glaciers, the swift rush of rivers, have all had their work to do in bringing the earth which is our home into its present condition. This seems to be the Divine manner of working. The Divine purposes are not achieved suddenly. God "fainteth not, neither is He weary." Chaos, with all its confusions, is only gradually being reduced to order; the great work is not completed yet; it will reach its term only when all things are finally summed up in Christ. The same law holds in relation to the moral and spiritual universe. We see it illustrated within narrow limits in the individual lives of good men. They only gradually approach the Divine conception of what they ought to be; their perfection is not consummated in an hour; their knowledge of God and of the will of God gradually widens and deepens; their moral and religious strength is very slowly augmented. It is God's will that they should know Him, and know their duty, but they have to be taught. It is God's will that they should be righteous, but they have to be disciplined to righteousness. The law is illustrated on a larger scale in the religious history of the race. The great revelation of God in Christ was not made in the earlier ages of the world. There was a long preparation for it. God began with the most elementary moral truths, and with the most elementary religious truths. He taught and disciplined the elect race by picture lessons, by a visible temple, a human priesthood, and a whole system of external rites and ceremonies. There were faint prophecies of the future redemption, but at first they were so obscure as to excite only the most vague and undefined hopes of a Divine deliverance from the evils by which human life was oppressed; and when they became clearer and more vivid, they were easily misunderstood. One generation of saints after another passed away, and the Divine purpose was still delayed. And even when the Christ came at last and the kingdom of heaven was set up among men, the hopes excited by that transcendent manifestation of God were not at once fulfilled. After eighteen hundred years the final triumph of the Divine righteousness and love seems still remote.

(R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

I. THE WILL OF GOD IS THE SOVEREIGN GUIDE OF ALL THINGS, BOTH NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL, IN THE WORLD AND IN THE CHURCH.

1. His sovereign rill is that His people should be saved (Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 30:10; Isaiah 49:25).

2. That they should be saved by coming to Christ (John 6:37; Romans 5:1; 1 Corinthians 15:57).

3. That they should be holy (1 Thessalonians 4:7; Hebrews 12:10, 14).

II. THE DIVINE WILL IS THE RESULT OF GOD'S COUNSEL.

1. This counsel was Divine (Psalm 89:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:9).

2. It was a wise counsel (1 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:9-11).

3. It was an efficient counsel (Isaiah 46:10; Isaiah 53:10; Psalm 105:3; Ecclesiastes 3:14).

III. THAT THE TRIUNE JEHOVAH WORKETH ALL THINGS ACCORDING TO THE PURPOSE OF HIS OWN WILL.

1. This is evident in the choice of His people (2 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 3:5).

2. He works out their new birth by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:10).

3. He works all things for the preservation of His people and their comfort by faith (Romans 8:28; John 1:12; Acts 16:31).

(T. B. Baker.)

I look upon this earth in which I live. I find it grasped and girded by God's all-embracing laws, as of gravitation, of the ebb and flow of the tides, of light, of the procession of the seasons — all utterly and absolutely beyond my control. They reach above, beneath, around, within me; I cannot touch them. There they are, unalterable, unswerving, necessitated; in its profoundest sense predestinated. And what is the issue of obedience to these laws?

(A. B. Grosart, LL. D.)

Is that no revelation of the character of the God of the universe? No revelation? I could shut my Bible, and from creation, from the meanest flower that blows, up to the stars that hang like lamps before the great white throne, find infinite proofs that my God is also my Father. Exactly so; I cannot tell how free will, choice, contingency accord with predestination, election, fore-ordination, substitution. I do not feel that I am called upon to do so. But, as we have seen, our own consciousness attests the former, while the Word of God recognizes and addresses them, recognizes and addresses man as free to think, feel, will, choose, reject. Equally does the Word of God affirm the latter. I therefore accept them also, and can defer knowing how the All-wise harmonizes them, until He is pleased to reveal them to me. Nay more, I have deepest belief that even as the physical world is grasped and girded by its great laws, so must the other and grander world of mind have underneath it — like the granite base of the everlasting hills; above it — like the dome of the sky — kindred laws. These laws I recognize and accept in predestination, election, fore-ordination, substitution. Remove the law of gravitation, and many a fair star "flaming on the forehead of the sky," yea, the big sun, and the whole stupendous universe, would rush to ruin, and wander off from the throne of God. Similarly, I believe, remove the laws of predestination, and you snap the many linked chain that binds man to God. And just as I have the power to violate God's great laws, to my destruction, so may! His laws in the plan of redemption, equally to my destruction. Obey His physical laws, and until the appointed hour I live. Obey His spiritual laws; accept "eternal life" according to His predestinated way, even in and from God the Son, as offered in the gospel — and I am saved.

(A. B. Grosart, LL. D.)

It is said, that on the eve of Napoleon's departure on his Russian campaign, he related his schemes in detail to a noble lady, with such arrogant positiveness, that she tried to check him, exclaiming, "Sire, man proposes, but God disposes." To which the emperor haughtily replied, "Madame, I propose and dispose also." We find how, but a few months later, the disastrous retreat from Moscow, and the loss of his crown, army, and liberty vindicated the power of God.

The purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.
1. Being in Christ, we find not only righteousness, but life everlasting.(1) In this life we receive the first fruits, "the earnest of the Spirit." Wards, while in their minority, have some allowance from their inheritance; and parents will prove their children with a small allowance, to see how they will behave, before they place in their charge the full estate they mean to leave them; and so does God.(2) We receive the fulness in the life to come.

(a)Prerogatives, kings and priests to God, etc.

(b)Glory put Upon our persons; the soul filled with the light of knowledge, etc.

(c)Things given us to possess. "All things are yours."

2. The ground of all these benefits is our predestination.

3. Everything which comes about is God's effectual working.

(1)He originally made all things out of nothing.

(2)He continually sustains all things by His power.

(3)He directs all things according to His own will.

4. Whatever God works or wills, He does it with counsel.

(1)Let this assure us that all things are working together for good.

(2)Let rash, self-willed persons take example by their Maker, who does nothing unadvisedly.

5. What God wills, He brings about — "effectually working." Where there is full power to work anything applied to the working of it, the thing wrought must needs follow.

(Paul Bayne.)

OF THE COUNSEL OR PURPOSE OF GOD CONCERNING ALL HIS WORKS OR ALL THINGS IN GENERAL. Here let us consider —

1. The extent or objects of God's purposes.

2. The properties of them.

I. AS TO THE EXTENT OR OBJECTS OF GOD'S PURPOSES, IT APPEAERS THAT EVERYTHING WHICH HAPPENS HAS A PLACE IN THE DIVINE DECREES IN A MANNER SUITABLE TO ITS NATURE. And, indeed, if we go about to except anything, there would be no knowing where to stop: such is the series and connection of one with another. Let us take a brief survey of some instances, especially such as relate to our world. As(1) The work of creation with all the effects of God s providence over the natural world.(2) The purpose of God has before determined all the great revolutions and events of nations, kingdoms, and societies of men.(3) All events that befall particular persons in this world were likewise settled by a Divine decree.(4) The actions of men also are not exempted from God's previous purpose.(5) The dispensation of the gospel and means of grace, the revelations of the Divine will which have had a respect all along to the economy of salvation by Christ as welt as that economy itself, were adjusted in the counsels of God. These revelations were appointed to be made in that variety of ways, and in those parts and degrees, as also to such persons, and at such and for so long a time as has since fallen and will fall out.

II. As TO THE PROPERTIES OF GOD'S DECREES.(1) They are sovereign and free acts of His will. God, though a necessary Being, is not a necessary Agent. To suppose this would be to make Him no Agent at all.(2) They are eternal. Not indeed in the same absolute sense as God's nature is, which always was, and could not but be what it is. For how would that consist with their being acts of will and liberty? But they are so eternal, as that it is impossible to assign or conceive any time when they were first formed.(3) They are infinitely wise. For they form a scheme of a prodigious compass, which reaches to endless ages, and whose various parts are all laid out and disposed together for execution in the best manner and to the best ends.(4) They are holy (Psalm 145:17). Consequently He is holy in all His purposes, which are the beginning of His ways, and which are accomplished in them. The infinite rectitude and blessedness of God is sufficient security, that He could neither design nor act anything contrary to justice and goodness. His counsels of old are faithfulness and truth (Isaiah 25:1). Let us now briefly improve this subject. And —

1. Hence we learn that there is no such thing as chance or necessary fate, or the supreme independent government of two opposite principles, good and evil, but all events are subject to the purpose and providence of one intelligent, all-knowing, infinitely wise, powerful, holy and good Being. Nothing can ever arise to surprise Him, or cast any difficulty and perplexity on His way, He having already from eternity settled the proper measures of conduct in every case that shall emerge.

2. Let us own, and let us quietly submit to the supreme will of God as fulfilled in all that befalls us. We should consider that, even when we suffer wrongfully from men, the will of God so is (1 Peter 3:17). Let us then receive all our allotments with this language of resignation, "The will of the Lord be done" (Acts 21:14).

3. This doctrine of God's decrees may inspire us with a good confidence about the final issue of all things. How securely may we trust in God for a fair account at last of the worst appearances of the most corrupt and disorderly state of the world, since they have not escaped His eternal foresight and provision!

4. What a spring is it, too, of generous, brave, and noble undertakings in the cause of God! When we believe that He has taken, even from eternity, the wisest and best care of all events, what remains for us to care about, but only to do our duty, and to apply to it so much the more vigorously, as we have no need to distract our minds about the issues of things! With what serenity and fortitude may a good man commit himself to God in well-doing! APPLICATION: What abundant cause does this excellent order which God observed in framing the world, as well as the quality of the creatures, which had all their parts fitted to a proper use, and were made subservient to one another for the good of all, afford us to break forth into that celebration of Divine wisdom! (Psalm 104:24, "O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all!"). Thus also the new creation of grace in Christ Jesus is executed gradually after the same model, which is the more from hence confirmed to be a point of wisdom and beauty. And how will the conducting it from a spiritual chaos of darkness and wild disorder through various periods and gradations to a glorious issue excite the most ravishing admiration in the saints, when they shall be able to carry their views from the beginning to the end of both these creations at once? How should we adore likewise the Divine power as infinitely great and wonderful in creation? Here, as in its proper province, omnipotence acted illustriously from first to last, and was only laid open to a more distinct survey in the wise order of its procedure.

(J. Hubbard.)

I. I am to explain THE NATURE OF A DECREE. The text calls it a purpose, a will. For God to decree is to purpose and fore-ordain, to will and appoint that a thing shall be or not be. And such decrees must needs be granted, seeing God is absolutely perfect, and therefore nothing can come to pass without His will; seeing there is an absolute and necessary dependence of all things and persons on God as the first cause. But there is a vast difference betwixt the decrees of God and men; whereof this is the principal. Men's purposes or decrees are distinct from themselves, but the decrees of God are not distinct from Himself. God's decrees are nothing else but God Himself, who is one simple act; and they are many only in respect of their objects, not as they are in God; even as the one heat of the sun melts wax and hardens clay.

II. I proceed to consider THE OBJECT OF GOD'S DECREES. This is whatsoever comes to pass. He worketh all things, says the text. We may consider the extent of the Divine decree under the three following heads.

1. God has decreed the creation of all things that have a being.

2. He has decreed to rule and govern the creatures which He was to make. He has decreed the eternal state of all His rational creatures.

III. I come to consider THE END OF GOD'S DECREES. And this is no other than His own glory. Every rational agent acts for an end; and God being the most perfect agent, and His glory the highest end, there can be no doubt but all His decrees are directed to that end.

1. This was God's end in the creation of the world. The Divine perfections are admirably glorified here, not only in regard of the greatness of the effect, which comprehends the heavens and the earth, and all things therein; but in regard of the marvellous way of its production.

2. The glory of God was His chief end and design in making men and angels. The rest of the creatures glorified God in an objective way, as they are evidences and manifestations of His infinite wisdom, goodness, and power. But this higher rank of beings are endued with rational faculties, and so are capable to glorify God actively. Hence it is said (Proverbs 16:4), "The Lord hath made all things for Himself." If all things were made for Him, then man and angels especially, who are the masterpieces of the whole creation. We have our rise and being from the pure fountain of God's infinite power and goodness; and therefore we ought to run towards that again, till we empty all our faculties and excellencies into that same ocean of Divine goodness.

3. This is likewise the end of election and predestination.

4. This was the end that God proposed in that great and astonishing work of redemption. In our redemption by Christ we have the fullest, clearest, and most delightful manifestation of the glory of God that ever was or shall be in this life.

IV. I come now to consider THE PROPERTIES OF GOD'S DECREES.

1. They are eternal. God makes no decrees in time, but they were all from eternity. So the decree of election is said to have been "before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4).

2. They are most wise, "according to the counsel of His will." God cannot properly deliberate or take counsel, as men do; for He sees all things together and at once.

3. They are most free, according to the counsel of His own will; depending on no other, but all flowing from the mere pleasure of His own will (Romans 11:34). "For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been His counsellor?"

4. They are unchangeable.

5. They are most holy and pure.

6. They are effectual. Whatever God decrees comes to pass infallibly (Isaiah 46:10).I conclude all with a few inferences.

1. Has God decreed all things that come to pass? Then there is nothing that falls out by chance, nor are we to ascribe what we meet with either to good or ill luck and fortune.

2. Hence we see God's certain knowledge of all things that happen in the world, seeing His knowledge is founded on His decree. As He sees all things possible in the glass of His own power, so He sees all things to come in the glass of His own will; of His effecting will, if He hath decreed to produce them; and of His permitting will, if He hath decreed to suffer them.

3. Whoever be the instruments of any good to us, of whatever sort, we must look above them, and eye the hand and counsel of God in it, which is the first spring, and be duly thankful to God for it. And whatever evil of crosses or afflictions befalls us, we must look above the instruments of it to God.

4. See here the evil of murmuring and complaining at our lot in the world. How apt are ye to quarrel with God, as if He were in the wrong when His dealings with you are not according to your own desires and wishes? You demand a reason, and call God to an account, Why am I thus? But you should remember that this is to defame the counsels of infinite wisdom, as if God had not ordered your affairs wisely enough in His eternal counsel.

5. There is no reason for people to excuse their sins and falls, from the doctrine of the Divine decrees. Wicked men, when they commit some villainy or atrocious crime, are apt to plead thus for their excuse, Who can help it? God would have it so; it was appointed for me before I was born, so that I could not avoid it. This is a horrid abuse of the Divine decrees, as if they did constrain men to sin: whereas the decree is an immanent act of God, and so can have no influence, physical or moral, upon the wills of men, but leaves them to the liberty and free choice of their own hearts; and what sinners do, they do most freely and of choice.

6. Let the people of God comfort themselves in all cases by this doctrine of the Divine decrees; and, amidst whatever befalls them, rest quietly and Submissively in the bosom of God, considering that whatever comes or can come to pass, proceeds from the decree of their gracious Friend and reconciled Father.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

I. TO EXPLAIN AND ESTABLISH THE DOCTRINE OF THE DIVINE DECREES. The Divine decrees are the eternal purpose, will, or plan of God, whereby He hath, for His own glory, predetermined whatsoever has, or shall come to pass.

1. This purpose is eternal. If, therefore, God has existed from eternity, He has known from eternity what is the best plan by which to govern the universe; He has from eternity had a preference for that which is best, and from eternity determined to adopt and pursue it, and that is all that is intended by His eternal purpose — the determination of God, from all eternity, to do that, in every possible case, which it appeared most desirable to Himself that He should do.

2. His purpose is immutable. It cannot alter. An alteration in the Divine purpose would necessarily imply an alteration in the Divine mind, which would be, in fact, to suppose a fickle, changeable God.

3. His purpose is sovereign — not arbitrary. There are some who always understand the word sovereign as though it were synonymous with arbitrary; and, therefore, reject the idea of the Divine sovereignty altogether. No; in the purpose of God there is an end to be secured infinitely worthy of Himself, namely, His own glory; and that purpose is nothing more than the determination to secure this end by the best possible means. The sovereignty of His purpose lies in this, that it is perfectly independent of His foreknowledge, as its cause; and that in the adoption and prosecution of it, He is not, in any way, responsible to any of His creatures.

II. TO STATE WHAT IS NECESSARY TO THE CONSTITUTION OF A FREE AGENT, OR ACCOUNTABLE CREATURE, AND TO SHEW THAT MAN IS SUCH A CREATURE.

1. To constitute an accountable creature, or a free agent, there must be intelligence.

2. The exercise of will is absolutely essential to free agency, and it is in this especially that our own consciousness informs us our free agency consists. The actions which are not the result of choice or will, but contrary to it, are not, properly speaking, our own.

3. Where actions are concerned, sufficiency of means is also requisite to the constitution of a free agent, or an accountable creature. No man can be justly chargeable with guilt, in failing to accomplish what he had not sufficiency of means to perform.

III. THAT THE DIVINE DECREES, THUS UNDERSTOOD, AND THE FREE AGENCY OF MAN, THUS DEFINED, ARE NOT INCOMPATIBLE THE ONE WITH THE OTHER; in other words, that the purpose of God does not destroy the freedom of human actions. If, indeed, the doctrine of the Divine purpose be established, and the free agency of man admitted, then the proposition is at once demonstrated. It is not the fact, but the mode of that fact which is the subject of inquiry,

1. Hypothetical reasoning, or reasoning by supposition, is a legitimate mode of argument on topics such as these, where the object is not so much to establish the truth of a doctrine or proposition, as to show the possibility of its existence, by an appeal to some supposable cases. There are only two ways in which the Divine purpose or decree can be supposed to affect the free agency of man — either by rendering his actions certain, before they take place; or by compelling or constraining those actions against his will. Now, can we not suppose a finite being in every sense perfectly free — a being under no system of moral government whatever, left in every respect to himself, and whose actions should be, in the philosophical sense of the word, contingent? Would not such a being be allowed to possess every requisite qualification of a free agent? But the circumstance that all the actions of that being, and every volition of his mind, are perfectly foreknown by God, would not render them less free.

2. But we may appeal, as another ground of argument on this difficult subject, to our own consciousness. Are we ever conscious, either in our vicious or virtuous actions, of acting against our inclination? Were we ever conscious of choosing a thing against our choice, or of preferring a line of conduct contrary to our preference?

3. But we shall finally appeal to some scriptural illustrations of the doctrine. The first we shall introduce is that furnished by the text. Now the counsel and purpose of God are infallibly certain, but faith in Christ is the voluntary act of an intelligent creature; by this we mean, an act done with the full consent of the will. It may be asked, then, "Is the will of man free to receive or free to reject Christ, so that it can as easily do the one as the other?" We answer, No; for by reason of the Fall, his will has naturally a bias to that which is evil, and would, therefore, in every case, without a Divine influence, reject Christ. Here, then, is the difference between free agency and free will. A free agent is one who has the power of willing and of acting according as his will shall dictate! but free will, in its popular sense, is an ability, in the will itself, to choose good or evil; and this is not the case with man; for the will that spontaneously and of itself chooses holiness, cannot be a depraved will; this supposition would, therefore, falsify the doctrine of human depravity, and, at the same time, annihilate the doctrine of the influence of the Holy Spirit; for the will that can choose holiness without a Divine influence, does not require a Divine influence; and, therefore, the office of the Holy Spirit is, in that case, unnecessary. The will, indeed, is uncoerced; the idea of a coerced will is absurd. But the will of a finite being is limited and bounded by the circumstances of his nature, and in man that nature being fallen, limits the exercises of his will to that only which is in harmony with his fallen nature. While the will to sin, then, is perfectly free (we use the term as opposed to coercion), he cannot, from the very necessity of his nature, will holiness without a Divine influence on the heart; and that influence is such as not to coerce the will, or render the will to holiness less free than was the previous will to sin. The one was the will of a corrupt and depraved nature — the other is the will of a renewed nature, both equally uncoerced; but, in the one instance, the principle was from within himself — in the other, it was from God.

(T. Raffles, D. D.)

When St. Paul speaks of our being predestinated or foreordained, he is speaking about this nature of ours and what it was made for? He says in effect, that the idea of a thing is in the constitution of the thing itself — but it is also in the mind of God before it is in our mind. Fore-ordination is that to which the thing was ordained before it was actually made. The idea of this building was in the mind of the architect before it was ever put on paper, before it was ever translated into material visibility. And the idea of every part of it was in other minds before it was in his. The idea of Gothic architecture was suggested to the mind of the first man who attempted it, by an avenue of trees, their branches hanging towards each other, forming a peculiar kind of arch. The idea of man and the destiny of man was in the Divine mind before this world was. Man was made according to a Divine idea, and for a definite purpose. Now, when Jesus Christ comes into the world Paul sees that there is God's idea and purpose for man fully and clearly revealed. And so he begins to speak of that for which man was predestinated; of that for which he was fore-ordained. His mind is full of it. It does not depress him; it inspires him; animates him, makes life purer and sweeter, grander and more glorious. So much so, that in speaking to the Romans with these ideas of predestination in his mind, he cries out, "If God be for us, who can be against us." Fore-ordination is God for us, according to the apostle. Predestination is God for us, according to the apostle. And there can be no room for doubt that to the mind of St. Paul these ideas had nothing in them of gloom or depression. But they have been so used as to bring gloom and depression to many minds. Predestination means purpose. It implies an end. And it implies the provision necessary to carry out that purpose and to accomplish that end. Rightly viewed, it means that the Creator does not work at random, nor blindly, but according to a preconceived idea and along the line of the law which leads up to making that idea into a fact. In every department of life there is the perfect type. The perfect thing is the complete thing — that which cannot be improved upon. To me predestination speaks of the end which God had in making man, of the type of man that the Creator intended, and of the unchangeable purpose that He has to produce that type — that type, the perfection and consummation of which we have in Jesus the Christ. A man conformed to that type is a man after God's own heart; not conformed to it he is breaking away from the destiny which God intended for him.

(Reuen Thomas.)

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