The present elect, to whom the Kingdom will be given, is the continuation of the previous election, chiefly in another engrafted people.
PROPOSITION 63. The present elect, to whom the Kingdom will be given, is the continuation of the previous election, chiefly in another engrafted people.
This follows from what has preceded, and is thus thrown into a Proposition to impress it upon the mind. The previous, and the present, election is founded on the promises and oath to Abraham.
Obs. 1. Both elect are the seed, the children of Abraham; both sets of branches are on the same stock, on the same root, on the same olive tree; both constitute the same Israel of God, the members of the same body, fellow-citizens of the same commonwealth; both are “Jews inwardly” (Rom. 2:29), and of the true “circumcision” (Phil. 3:3), forming the same “peculiar people,” “holy nation,” and “royal priesthood;” both are interested in the same promises, covenants, and kingdom; both inherit and realize the same blessings at the same time. From these and other considerations, involving identity, we find this election a continuous one, by which the faithfulness of God shall be exhibited to the Patriarchs, to their obedient descendants, and to the engrafted believers taken from other nations.[*]
Note. This meets the objection of Williamson (Letters to a Millenarian), which rests upon an entire misapprehension of Millenarian teaching. No Millenarian makes the Jewish nation, as such, an heir of the Kingdom; all, without exception, make the believing Jew in the elect Abrahamic line (hence identified with, and included in, the nation), and the believing Gentile (engrafted by faith), in their totality the heir. We carefully distinguish between the heir and the subjects (Props. 124, 128, 153, etc.). Besides the nation itself, before restored and securing its covenanted supremacy, must be penitent and converted in order to obtain its distinguished position among the nations of the earth. The nation, as such, is brought into nearness with the Theocratic Kingdom, as already explained; as a nation it can abuse, pervert, and reject it, as already shown; but as a nation it can and will (as we will prove in its place) be restored, God foreseeing the same, as predicted, and hence forming His determinate Purpose in view of it. But this nation, thus restored to high Theocratic privileges, as covenanted and predicted, is only exalted because it stands associated with the immortal rulers, e.g. the twelve apostles, etc. We receive with him the same heirs, only that we insist upon their being Abraham’s seed, consequently engrafted and adopted as such, in view of the elect covenanted relationship of the nation, in which the Theocracy is based fundamentally.
Obs. 2. This continuous election of the same body is manifested not only in the predictions of the prophets, in the reigning with the twelve tribes, in participating with the Patriarchs in the blessings of the Kingdom, etc., but it is surprisingly represented even in the description of the New Jerusalem, which has the names of “the twelve tribes of the children of Israel” (Rev. 21:12), showing that only those who are the children of Abraham have the privilege of constant association therewith. It is remarkably delineated as a filling up a predetermined number (Rev. 7:4–9) in each one of the twelve tribes, and after that chosen number is taken out (as we shall show in the proper place), then comes in the multitude, which corresponds with God’s Plan.
Note 1. This may serve to explain James’ epistle addressed “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” or “which are in, or of, the dispersion.” Critics find it difficult, in view of the contents of the epistle and its being addressed to believers, to reconcile this passage with the literal twelve tribes. Yet two opinions prevail, viz.: that James wrote to believing Jews (Beza, Grotius, etc.), or that he addressed all Jews (Lardner, etc). But if we keep in view the engrafting and adoption, the continuous election and incorporation, James forcibly employs this phraseology to designate believers, and their being the elect people of God, who also were scattered or dispersed abroad among the nations.
Note 2. We may only add, if somewhat premature in the argument, that the election has not merely reference to the Kingdom itself, but to a certain position—one of distinguished, pre-eminent honor and dignity, viz.: Kingship and priesthood, in that Kingdom. Hence arises the exceeding preciousness of this election, bringing to us the glory of associated Rulership with Christ in His Theocratic dominion. “The Plymouth Brethren” define (Art. “Plymouth Brethrenism,” Brit. Quarterly, Oct. 1873) “the Church of God,” or, as they prefer to call it, “the Assembly of God:” “it is the actual living unity with Christ, and with each other, of those who, since Christ’s resurrection, are formed into this unity by the Holy Ghost.” This definition excludes the Old Test. saints, which is erroneous and derogatory to those saints, who also are saved through Christ. The apostles do not call the Church a new thing or a mystery, but that Gentiles could be introduced and put on the same ground (“fellow heirs,” Eph. 3:6) with the Old Test. members. The same glory awaits both; both inherit with Abraham; both form the Church purchased by His blood; both look for and enter the same city, etc. This error is found in many of their works.
Obs. 3. This engrafting and continued election confirms what has already been said respecting “the wall of partition” being broken down, not between the Jewish nation and Gentile nations (Pressense, Early Days of Christianity, p. 292), but, between Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ (comp. Props. 24, 30, 49, 50, etc.).[*]
Note. The election is not removed from the Jewish nation, the seed of Abraham, for it continues, as has been proven, unbroken (comp. Rom. 11:28, 29, 26, 25, 23). No Gentile nation has been chosen in place of the Jewish, for such a procedure would violate and vitiate the solemnly given covenants. Even the covenanted Davidic throne and Kingdom, the Messiah’s special inheritance as David’s Son, indicates the continued necessity of such election. That God’s purposes may not be defeated in erecting the contemplated Theocratic dominion with the elect nation for its basis, He continues the election in incorporating Gentiles. For the accomplishment of His Purpose He requires a certain determined number (known only to Him), and as the chosen nation in its membership made itself unworthy through the baseness of its depravity (in rejecting the Messiah), and but few remain “Jews inwardly,” the true Israel of God, it becomes necessary to raise up a seed identified with that nation; this is done by calling all Gentiles to repentance and faith, and choosing individuals out of the nations, who, by virtue of their repentance and faith, are adopted and become the elect. By this adoption, no distinction exists between them and the believing natural descendants of Abraham, and hence that distinction which once arose between them as a barrier, called “the wall of partition,” is removed between such believers. This election is something very different, as will be seen as the argument progresses, from the reception of the Gospel and the enjoyment of the blessings of the Kingdom in the future under the Messianic reign by the nations of the earth. These elect are then in the actual enjoyment of Rulership, etc. The offer now is indeed freely made to all, but all, as yet, do not accept of the same. The Gospel is freely preached to both Jew and Gentile, and by faith they become one in Christ Jesus, the wall of separation being broken down between them because of faith. Hence Oosterzee (Theol. N. Test.) is wrong when he says, “the wall of separation between Israel and the Gentile world is already fallen,” which is true only as to the call, but not as to election, the latter being the result of faith.
Obs. 4. In various works, the theory is advocated that the Christian Church is so entirely new in its institution, etc., that it is no continuation of the old order. Thus e.g. Alex. Campbell (Strictures, Ap. to Debate on Baptism, p. 225), says: “the Jews were the typical congregation or church of God, but Christians are the real congregation or church of God.” This, however, is hostile to the entire tenor of the Divine Plan as unfolded, and antagonistic to the covenants and election. The reply to this has already been given. It would be surpassing strange indeed to require engrafting upon a mere “typical” stock or olive-tree, and to promise us an inheritance with previous “typical” members of the church. Admitting that there is a newness in the arrangement by which Gentiles are embraced on the principle of faith, thus causing, through the defection of the Jews and the sacrifice of Jesus, a change in ordinances, etc., yet the expressive language by which it is carefully guarded, warns us to regard the past and the present church of God as one grand, continuous reality in the progress of the fulfilment of covenanted blessings.
Obs. 5. The quite early church view, as seen in the writings of the Fathers, made no such unjust discrimination between the ancient and modern elect. Both were regarded in the same light and as belonging to the same body, and such persons as Barnabas, Irenĉus, Justin Martyr, and others pointedly traced the election of believers to their being grafted into the elect Jewish nation, i.e. that portion of the natural seed of Abraham which also believed and rendered obedience, and thus becoming, through adoption, members of the elect nation. We have already quoted language of theirs, illustrative of this feature, under previous Propositions. It may be added, that so identified, through faith in Jesus, did they feel themselves with the Patriarchs to whom the covenants were given, that (as e.g. Lactantius, Div. Insti., B. 4, ch. 10), they called them “our ancestors,” and vividly expressed the hope, in virtue of being adopted as their seed, of finally inheriting with them.
Obs. 6. While in relation to “the times of the Gentiles” and their calling, this might be named, as some do, a “Gentile dispensation,” yet it is a phrase not strictly correct, because it implies that the Jews were not also called and eligible to the Kingdom, that the Gentiles stood in a position independent of the Jews (i.e. were not grafted in, etc.), and that there is an unjust (to the Jews) discrimination in behalf of the Gentiles. Hence, careful writers avoid the phrase.
Obs. 7. This adoption and continued election, materially aids in throwing light upon the difficult question, why it was that the apostles and first Christians, with their faith and hope in Jesus Christ, continued faithful Jews, attending the religious services in the temple and synagogue; and that we have no distinctive utterance from the apostles, even when in council together considering the admission and circumcision of the Gentiles, respecting the abrogation of the Mosaic ceremonial law, etc., excepting by Paul afterward. The views entertained respecting virtual adoption, incorporation, and election caused them to occupy such a posture.[*]
Note. The opinions generally expressed concerning this are various, such as, that it was an accommodation, provisional, temporary concession, necessary transition state, lack of knowledge, and even inconsistency. But we see in it a deeper reason: the Jewish nation was the elect nation, and until God showed clearly, by the destruction of the temple and dispersion of the nation, that it was for a time rejected (there being no commensurate repentance for its contracted guilt), it was right and proper for Jews to observe the institutions nationally connected with the nation. When these were abrogated by the manifested judgments befalling the nation—and for which Paul forewarned and prepared the Jews in Hebrews—the same reason existed no longer. It was then the covenanted relationship that the nation, as a nation, sustained to the Kingdom of God, that influenced believing Jews to manifest a regard for everything nationally connected. With their ideas of the covenants, inseparably connected, as they yet are, with the nation in the Theocratic relationship instituted, and allied with the restoration of the Davidic throne and Kingdom inseparably identified with the nation, it would have been premature in them to have turned away from the nation thus favored, until they were clearly taught, both by inspiration and the providence of God, that the nation, as such, had indeed fallen, and that others, even Gentiles, were engrafted. This clinging so tenaciously and persistently to the nation (as e.g. see even statement of Sulpitius Severus, Mosheim’s Eccl. His., vol. 1, p. 138, footnote 2) is evidence—the highest—of their faith in this very election, incorporation, adoption, and that salvation is truly identified with the Jewish nation. This very feature which multitudes deem so defective in early Christianity, and which infidels scoffingly deride, is honorable to those believers. Distinguishing between those who made circumcision and the observance of the Mosaic ritual essential, and those who, discarding the same as superseded by faith in Jesus, etc., still held to a union made requisite by covenanted relation, we observe a logical consistency. Even Gibbon (Decl. and Fall, vol. 2, p. 14) observes this feature: “The Gentile converts, who by a spiritual adoption had been associated to the hope of Israel, were likewise confounded under the garb and appearance of Jews;” and in a note adds: “An obscure passage in Suetonius (in Claud. c. 25) may seem to offer a proof how strangely the Jews and Christians of Rome were confounded with each other.” This is explained by the simple fact that so long as the Early Church clung to the literal belief of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, there was much that was common to both (however they disagreed respecting the Mosaic ritual being still binding), but as the Gentile believers drifted from this belief, an antagonism sprung up and continued.