Brother Beebe: If it is not too much trouble, please give your views on Romans 9:11-13, and thereby oblige your sister in the Lord, if a sister at all.
Sarah J. Oneal
Palmetto, Tenn., June 7, 1869.
Reply: The words on which we are requested to write are as follows: “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
The great theme of the apostle, in vindication and illustration of which he used the words proposed for consideration was the Righteousness of God, of which his Hebrew kindred after the flesh were so profoundly ignorant, as to excite his passionate sympathy as a man; for he says, They being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have thereby repudiated the righteousness of God.
The righteousness of God, especially as it is demonstrated in his absolute sovereignty in the election, redemption, and everlasting salvation of his people, has never been palatable to the depraved taste of men in their fallen state; for the carnal mind is enmity against God, and they have a much more exalted appreciation of their own fancied righteousness than they have of the righteousness of God. In vindication of the supreme sovereignty of God, Paul did not attempt to apologize for God, or to soften down what God had said upon the subject, in order to make it seem less objectionable to carnal reason. Knowing perfectly well what would be the caviling and blasphemy of men, he could even anticipate their very words, which have been reiterated thousands of times since he foretold, “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?” Such outbreaking blasphemy fully and fearfully demonstrate that they esteem their own righteousness as far superior to that of God, while they would arraign him at the bar of their carnal judgment and condemn his government, inconsiderate of who, and what they are; “things formed saying to him that formed them, Why hast thou formed me thus?” They are ignorant of God’s righteousness, nor can they ever understand it but by immediate revelation. Should they be humbled under his mighty hand, and reconciled to him, by the death of his Son, then will they with all the sanctified gaze, admire and adore and praise him, and with humble reverence confess that, as the heavens are higher than the earth, even so God’s ways and thoughts transcend our ways and thoughts. The righteousness of the sovereignty of God appears to the enlightened child of grace, in all his works, of creation, providence and grace; for it is right that he shall work all things after the counsel of his own will. This must be right unless it can be made to appear that he is bound to work all things after the counsel of some other will. How blindly infatuated must he be who fancies himself capable of suggesting an improvement upon the will or works of the supreme God. A more sublime subject than this, of the righteous sovereignty of God, has never been contemplated by men or angels. Go back with us, in thought, into the ancients of eternity, strike from existence all created beings and things, and what would remain? Only the self-existent, independent and eternal God. There being none with whom to take counsel, was it possible that he should consult any but his own will in creating all beings and worlds that he has called forth into being? Being alone, and having the power and the wisdom, was it his right to create all things? If so, can we deny that he had a right to create just such worlds and things as were in accordance with the counsel of his will? We are told that “For his pleasure all things are and were created.” Was it right or wrong that he should work all things after the counsel of his own will? If it was right, then he is a rightful Sovereign. But if we say it was wrong, what law has he violated, and who shall call him to account? “Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, to form one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?”
“Shall the vile race of flesh and blood,
Contend with their Creator, God?
Shall mortal man presume to be,
More holy, wise, or just than he”
If the righteousness of God’s sovereignty shines in such resplendence in creating all things. If it be admitted that God had a sovereign and unquestionable right to make all beings and things just as seemed right to him, then let every mouth be sealed in silence that would complain because men were not angels, and angels were not Gods.
Waving for this time, for lack of time and space, a discussion of the righteous sovereignty of the Supreme Ruler of the universe, in his works of providence, we will come to the subject more immediately embraced in the scriptures on which our views are solicited. The righteousness of God’s sovereignty cannot shine with less resplendence in the economy of grace, than it shines in creation and providence.
In the purpose of God according to election, the discrimination set forth by the apostle in our context, in the family of Abraham, between the children of the flesh, and the children of promise, and between the twin sons of Isaac, clearly shows the sovereignty of God in election, and rejection or reprobation. “For the children” [namely, Jacob and Esau] “being not yet born,” [that is, they were not born when God told Rebecca that] “the elder of them should serve the younger.” God’s decision therefore was not influenced either by the good or bad works of the children, but upon his own unbiased decree. “That the purpose of God according to election might stand.” If we admit then that God had a purpose in the matter, and that his purpose was not influenced by the good or bad works of either the elected or the rejected, we cannot avoid the inevitable conclusion that God’s purpose was a sovereign purpose. But here arises the enmity of the carnal mind of man. If God had rested the destiny of these two children on the purpose of their own will, Arminians would have been satisfied; but in resting his decision on the counsel of his own will, they rage and blaspheme.
In this part of our text, marked by parenthesis, as explanatory of the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty, the decree of God fixing the irrevocable destiny of Jacob and Esau before they were born, or had done good or evil, was, and is a purpose of God according to election, and therefore a divinely established exemplification, or illustration of God’s sovereign and immutable purpose in the election of his people in Christ Jesus, irrespective of their works, as influencing his choice of them.
2. As the purpose of God controlling the birthright privileges of Jacob and Esau was according to election, even so God’s purpose which he purposed in himself before the world began, controls the election of grace, otherwise the case referred to could not be according to election.
3. The irrevocability of the purpose of God in assigning to Jacob and Esau respectively their place and position in the family of Isaac, was cited to illustrate the inflexible perpetuity of the purpose of God in the election of his people to salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ. “That the purpose of God according to election might stand.” God has provided against any or all opposing powers or influences, so that his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure. He is of one mind, and none can turn him; his purpose of election therefore must and will stand.
4. It is also infallibly provided as to how God’s purpose in the election of his people shall stand, both negatively and positively. Negatively, “not of works.” Neither the willing of Isaac, nor the vigorous running of Esau could shake or disturb the standing of God’s purpose concerning them; and as the infallible standing of his purpose in their case is “according to election,” so the election of grace shall stand unaffected by the will or works of men. “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth; but of God that sheweth mercy.”
In the affirmative, it is positively asserted that the purpose of God in election stands, and its unshaken standing is “of him that calleth.” “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” - Chapter 8:29,30. All is of him that calleth, their predestination to be conformed to a conformity to the Son of God, their justification and ultimate glory, is of him “who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” - II Timothy 1:9. That which was done before the world began, could not have been induced by anything done by us after the world began. Then let earth rebel, and hell despair, the purpose of God in and according to election stands firmly as stands the throne and government of the eternal God, nor can the gates of hell prevail against it.
In further confirmation the apostle repeats what is written of what God has said, in Malachi chapter 1. It is addressed to Jacob, as the type of his elect people. “I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and I laid his mountain and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath indignation forever.” Here the discriminating love of God to his children or Israel is strikingly contrasted with his hatred to the persistent workmongrel Edomites, or children of Esau, at which they murmur, and complain that they are impoverished, but not disinclined to build up the works which God abhors and which he will ultimately and forever throw down.
In answering the request of sister Oneal, it has not been our aim to palliate or apologize for the Supreme Potentate of the Universe, nor dare we. God will vindicate the righteousness of eternal sovereignty, and crush beneath his wrath all opposing powers. His secret is with them that fear him, and to them he will show his covenant. They who love this doctrine and rejoice that the Lord absolutely reigns, have the unmistakable evidence that God has chosen them to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. He has reconciled them to himself, [not become reconciled to them; for there is no change in him] and being reconciled to him, he cannot be exalted too high, nor invested with too much power and majesty to suit them. The doctrine that exalts their God and Savior and abases the creature, feeds and feasts their spiritual appetites; and their most exalted theme is to exclaim with all the heaven-born saints, “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord, God Almighty: just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Signs of the Times
July 15, 1869.