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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 9 - Verse 11

Verse 11. For the children being not yet born. It was not, therefore, by any works of theirs. It was not because they had formed a character and manifested qualities which made this distinction proper. It was laid back of any such character, and therefore had its foundation in the purpose or plan of God.

Neither having done any good or evil. That is, when the declaration (Ro 9:12) was made to Rebecca. This is a very important passage in regard to the question about the purposes of God.

(1.) They had done nothing good or bad; and when that is the case, there can be, properly speaking, no moral character, for "a character is not formed when the person has not acquired stable and distinctive qualities." Webster.

(2.) That the period of moral agency had not yet commenced. Comp. Ge 25:22,23. When that agency commences we do not know; but here is a case of which it is affirmed that it had not commenced.

(3.) The purpose of God is antecedent to the formation of character, or the performance of any actions, good or bad.

(4.) It is not a purpose formed because he sees anything in the individuals as a ground for his choice, but for some reason which he has not explained, and which in the Scripture is simply called purpose, and good pleasure, Eph 1:5.

(5.) If it existed in this case, it does in others. If it was right then, it is now. And if God then dispensed his favours on this principle, he will now. But

(6) this affirmation respecting Jacob and Esau does not prove that they had not a nature inclined to evil; or a corrupt and sensual propensity; or that they would not sin as soon as they became moral agents. It proves merely that they had not yet committed actual sin. That they, as well as all others, would certainly sin as soon as they committed moral acts at all, is proved everywhere in the sacred Scriptures.

The purpose of God. See Barnes "Ro 8:28.


According to election. To dispense his favours according to his sovereign will and pleasure. Those favours were not conferred in consequence of the merits of the individuals, but according to a wise plan lying back of the formation of their characters, and before they had done good or evil. The favours were thus conferred according to his choice, or election.

Might stand. Might be confirmed; or might be proved to be true. The case shows that God dispenses his favours as a sovereign. The purpose of God was thus proved to have been formed without respect to the merits of either.

Not of works. Not by anything which they had done either to merit his favour or to forfeit it. It was formed on other principles than a reference to their works. So it is in relation to all who shall be saved. God has good reasons for saving those who shall be saved. What the reasons are for choosing some to life he has not revealed; but he has revealed to us that it is not on account of their works, either performed or foreseen.

But of him that calleth. According to the will and purpose of him that chooses to dispense those favours in this manner. It is not by the merit of man, but it is by a purpose having its origin with God, and formed and executed according to his good pleasure. It is also implied here, that it is formed in such a way as to secure his glory as the primary consideration.

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