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THE PRIVILEGES OF JEWS AND CHRISTIANS
Romans 9:1-4. I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I hare great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises.
IT is generally thought an office of love to conceal from persons any truths, the recital of which will afford them pain: but true love will rather stimulate us to declare such truths as are necessary to be known, though it will incline us to declare them with the greatest tenderness and circumspection. An admirable pattern presents itself before us in the text. The Apostle was about to enter on a subject most offensive to the Jews, but a subject that ought in no wise to be concealed from them, namely, the determination of God to cast off their nation, and to engraft the Gentiles on their stock. But, as it would be thought that he was actuated only by a spirit of revenge, he declares to them, in the most solemn manner, and appeals to God for the truth of it, that so far from wishing their hurt, he was affected with the deepest sorrow on their account; and that there was nothing he would not do or suffer, if it might but be the means of saving them from the impending ruin.
His enumeration of the privileges which they abused, and his pathetic lamentation over them, may well lead us to consider,
The exalted privileges enjoyed by true Israelites—
The Jews, as a nation, were favoured beyond all the nations upon earth—
[God honoured them with an adoption into his family, he regarded them as his children [Note: Exodus 4:22-23.Jeremiah 31:9-10; Jeremiah 31:9-10.], and acted towards them as a father [Note: Deuteronomy 32:6; Deuteronomy 32:10; Deuteronomy 32:13-14.]. He vouchsafed to them a symbol of his presence: the ark, and the shechinah, or bright cloud, upon it, were visible tokens of his presence, and were regarded as the “principal glory” of that distinguished people [Note: 1 Samuel 4:21-22.Psalms 80:1; Psalms 80:1.]. He “gave” them also from heaven a revelation of his will: “the” moral “Jaw” he promulged in the form of “a covenant,” and wrote with his own finger on two tables of stone [Note: The covenant was but one: but it is spoken of in the plural number, either because it was given on two tables, or because it was repeatedly published in different forms.]; the judicial law he formed as a code, according to which he himself, and all the magistrates under him, were to govern them; and the ceremonial law he instituted for “the service” of his temple, that they might worship him in a becoming manner [Note: Because the sacred oracles were so great a blessing, (Deuteronomy 4:7-8. Romans 3:1-2.) the Apostle speaks of them in three different views.]. To all these he added “a promise” of his rest, and a continued enjoyment of it, unless they should provoke him by their iniquities to deprive them of it [Note: Deuteronomy 30:15-20.].]
But their privileges were only a shadow of those enjoyed by true Israelites—
[As, under the Jewish dispensation, “all were not Israel who where of Israel [Note: Romans 9:6.],” so, under the Gospel, “they, who are Christ’s, are the true seed of Abraham, and heirs according to the promise [Note: Galatians 3:29.].” Now to those who are “Israelites indeed” belong those infinitely rich blessings, which, in a figure, were enjoyed by the carnal Jews. They are really the sons of God, as soon as ever they believe in Christ [Note: John 1:12. 1 John 3:1-2.Ephesians 2:19; Ephesians 2:19.], and have a spirit of “adoption” given them whereby they cry, Abba, Father [Note: Romans 8:14-15.]. They have God, not merely residing in a bright cloud, but dwelling in their own hearts [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:16.], and displaying to them his “glory” in the face of Jesus [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6.]. To them is revealed that “covenant,” which is “ordered in all things and sure [Note: 2 Samuel 23:5.],” together with the whole of their duty both to God and man; so that, by adhering to his directions, they are sure to prove both duteous citizens, and accepted worshippers. Lastly, they have also exceeding great and precious “promises,” comprehending every thing that is good for body and for soul, in time and in eternity [Note: 1 Timothy 4:8.].]
But, by how much the more exalted our condition under the Gospel is, by so much the more may we see,
The disposition we should manifest towards those who despise these privileges—
The expressions used by the Apostle admit of different interpretations [Note: Some consider him as saying that he was willing to be excommunicated from the church of God, and to he treated by them, even as he was by his enemies: and others, as saying, that he was willing to suffer for them ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, after the example of Christ. But if we take ηὐχόμην in the past tense, instead of obliging the Apostle to say, εὐχοίμην ἂν, and if we comprehend the words ηὐχόμην γὰρ αὐτὸς έγὼ ἀνάθεμα εἶναι ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ in a parenthesis, the sense will be far more clear, and all the difficulties that occur on the other construction will be avoided. The sense will then be, I am sorry (for I myself was once in their very condition, and wished to have nothing to do with Christ, which, in fact, was to be accursed from Christ, as much as any of them now do) fur my brethren, &c. Compare Galatians 4:12. in the Greek, “Be ye as I am, for I was as ye are.” The same idea is more fully expressed Acts 26:9-11. According to this interpretation, the Apostle’s words are a plain and obvious reason for his excessive grief: for, having been in their situation, and knowing from bitter experience the evil of it, he could never think of them without the keenest sensations of sorrow and compassion. If the strength of the expression, “I wished myself accursed from Christ,” appear to militate against this interpretation, we observe, that the Apostle puts the effect for the cause, that is, the ultimate effect of his aversion to Christ for the aversion itself. A similar mode of expression repeatedly occurs in Scripture. See Isaiah 28:15; Isaiah 30:10. See also Act 13:46 and Revelation 2:24. where the depths of Satan import what those depths were in reality, and not what the people themselves called them.]. But, in whatever sense they be taken, they certainly import that,
We should be deeply concerned about their state—
[There were various things which grieved and wounded the Apostle’s mind, yea, that occasioned him great heaviness, and continual pangs, like those of a woman in her travail [Note: Ὀδύνη, compare Galatians 4:19.]: he was much affected, not only with the numbers of those that were rejecting his message, but with the peculiar advantages they had for knowing the truth, the strong obligations which their very profession, as God’s Israel, laid them under to receive it, and the aggravated guilt under which they must speedily and eternally perish. All these reasons are incomparably stronger as applied to those, who while they call themselves Christians, are unmindful of the privileges they enjoy. Who can think of the many thousands that bear the Christian name, who yet never draw nigh to God with filial affection, never behold the light of his countenance, never lay hold on his covenant of grace, never stay themselves in truth upon his promised mercy; who, I say, can think of these, and not wish that his “head were a fountain of tears to run down for them night and day [Note: Jeremiah 9:1.]?” If one soul be of such value, that the whole world can never compensate for the loss of it, how shocking is the thought of millions of souls perishing under such an accumulated load of guilt! Surely no heaviness can be too great, no anguish too abiding, when we are surrounded with such objects, objects despising their own mercies, and “treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath.”]
We should account nothing too much to do or suffer for their salvation—
[When God threatened to destroy the whole Jewish nation, and offered to raise up from Moses a nation in their stead, Moses begged, that he himself might be blotted out of the list of God’s visible church, rather than that tremendous threatening should be executed [Note: Exodus 32:32.]. And certainly the Apostle Paul, whose labours and sufferings for the good of his fellow-creatures were unparalleled [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:23-27.], would gladly have submitted to any temporal calamity, if it might but operate for the salvation of Israel. And who, that considers what Jesus has done for the salvation of men, does not see the reasonableness of such a disposition? Who does not condemn himself for his want of love to his fellow-immortals, and his want of zeal in their service? If we condemn the world for their supineness, methinks the people of God have yet more occasion to blush for their own: for, what the world do, they do ignorantly; but they, who are taught of God, can see the state of those around them, and yet too often look upon them, either with cold indifference, or inactive pity. But let every Christian cultivate a better spirit; nor ever be satisfied, till he can appeal to God, and say, “I would endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory [Note: 2 Timothy 2:10.].”]
How far are they from a Christian spirit, who not only use no means for the salvation of others, but oppose and thwart them that do!
[If a faithful servant of God exert himself for the good of mankind, how many will cry out against him as officious and fanatical, ostentatious and uncharitable! Who, among the Prophets, or Apostles, or who, even in the present day, has ever shewn, in the smallest degree, the disposition manifested in the text, without exposing himself to much calumny and contempt? But let the opposers of vital godliness and holy zeal, compare themselves with the Apostle, and ask, whether they breathe any thing of his spirit? And let them no longer persist in fighting against God, and destroying their fellow-creatures; but rather turn unto God, that they themselves may be partakers of his proffered mercy.]
How earnest should every Christian be in seeking his own salvation!
[If we ought to be deeply concerned about the souls of others, and to be willing either to do or suffer any thing, in order to promote their welfare, how much more should we lay to heart our own state, and exercise self-denial for the good of our own souls! If we duly estimated the privileges which God has given us, if we considered the happiness to which an improvement of those privileges would lead, and the misery that will infallibly result from the neglect of them, we should engage with incomparably greater zeal in the work of our salvation; we should make it our meat and drink to do God’s will; nor would life with all its joys, or death with all its terrors, be suffered to divert us from the prosecution of our purpose.]
OUR DUTY TOWARDS THE JEWS
Romans 9:1-5. I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
FIDELITY in ministers is absolutely indispensable. Without it we cannot approve ourselves either to God or man. Yet in the exercise of it we should maintain a tenderness of spirit, “speaking the truth” indeed, but speaking it “in love.” When at any time, as frequently we must, we bring painful truths to the ears of our hearers, we should convince them, that we are not actuated by any thing but a spirit of love. St. Paul was especially careful upon this head; as may be seen in all his epistles, but especially in this which is before us [Note: See in Paley’s “HorζPaulinζ” what he says on the Epistle to the Romans. It is pre-eminently deserving the attention of ministers.]. He is constrained to declare to the Jews, God’s determination to reject the Jews from being his people, and to admit the Gentiles in their stead to those privileges which the Jews had hitherto exclusively enjoyed. But, as this was a topic which must of necessity be most painful to their feelings, he labours to convince them, that, in all which he should declare respecting it, he was actuated only by a sense of duty, and not by any unkind feelings towards them; and that, so far from wishing them this evil, he would submit to any thing to deliver them from it. He calls God to witness, that he had nothing more sincerely at heart, than that, as they had already possessed, so they should ever continue to possess, the most distinguished tokens of God’s love and favour.
In the words which we have just read, we may see,
The distinguished privileges of the Jewish people—
In setting these forth, the Apostle addresses them, not as strangers, but as “his brethren, his kinsmen, according to the flesh;” and then records the distinctions that had been conferred upon them; specifying both those which had been bestowed for their own personal benefit, and those which had been conferred for the benefit of the whole world.
[They were “Israelites,” descended from Jacob, who, in remembrance of his wrestling with the angel, and prevailing with God in prayer, was honoured with the name of Israel. “To them pertained the adoption,” they, as a nation, being regarded as “God’s first-born.” To them had been vouchsafed “the glory,” even that bright cloud, which was the symbol of the Deity; which guided their forefathers through the wilderness, and afterwards abode both in the tabernacle and the temple, resting upon the ark, and residing between the cherubims, till the temple itself was destroyed by the Chaldean army. Theirs also were “the covenants;” both the covenant of grace, which was given to Abraham, and the national covenant, which was made with them in the time of Moses. To them had God also “given the law,” proclaiming it with an audible voice from Mount Sinai, and delivering it to them written with his own finger upon tables of stone. To them also was vouchsafed the ceremonial law, comprehending every minute particular respecting “the service of God;” so that in no case whatever were they left in doubt how they should approach him with acceptance. The promises also were theirs, both those which related to the sending of the Messiah, and those which related to the possession of Canaan. “Theirs too were the fathers,” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, than whom none of the children of men had ever been more highly favoured with divine and heavenly communications. But to these benefits, which may be considered as personal, we must add that which infinitely exceeds them all, and in which the whole world are interested, namely, that “of them, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever.” Yes, when the ever-blessed, the co-equal, the co-eternal Son of God came into the world, that by his own obedience unto death, he might accomplish the redemption of sinful man, he assumed his human nature from them, even from a Jewish Virgin; so that, in a more strict and appropriate sense than any other person, a Jew may say of him, He is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.
Consider now how glorious these distinctions were. To what other nation was any one of them ever vouchsafed? or what has the greatest monarch upon earth that can be in any degree compared with them? The honours which come of man are lighter than vanity itself, when compared with those which come of God: and when weighed in this scale, the highest monarchs in the universe are not so elevated above a slave, as the meanest Jew is exalted above them. But what shall we say to the giving birth to the Messiah, who was “the mighty God,” “Emmanuel, God with us?” Here all words fail us: in vain does the imagination attempt to grasp so wonderful an event. “God manifest in the flesh!” How “great this mystery of godliness!” and how infinitely ennobled are that people, to whom the ever-blessed God is so nearly related!]
The more we contemplate the privileges of the Jewish people, the more we see,
The deep concern which we should feel for them—
The Apostle declares his compassion for them in the strongest terms; in considering which, it will be proper to notice,
What is implied in them—
[It is plain that St. Paul did not approve of that spurious charity which is so prevalent in our day. We cannot endure to think that any should finally be left to perish. We regard it as the summit of uncharitableness, to suppose that Jews and Gentiles are all in a state of guilt and condemnation, and that they can be saved only by their conversion to the faith of Christ. But let any one refer to our text, and he will see at once what St. Paul’s opinion was on this most interesting subject. If the Jews in their unconverted state were safe, why was St. Paul so grieved on their account? Would he have felt such “great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart” for them, or made such solemn appeals to God respecting his anxiety for them, if they had been in a state of favour and acceptance with God? There cannot possibly be a doubt on this subject: he regarded them all as perishing in their sins, according to that declaration of our blessed Lord, “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins [Note: John 8:24.].” Let this then be borne in mind in reference to that unhappy people, yes, and in reference to ourselves also, if we be not truly and unfeignedly devoted to God, as a penitent, believing, and obedient people — — —]
What is expressed—
[The terms, especially those in the third verse of our text, are so strong, that commentators have been at a loss to explain them, so as to render them consistent with what may reasonably be supposed to have been the actual experience of St. Paul. As for his wishing himself eternally banished from God for his brethren’s sake, it could not be: though he might, like Moses, be contented to be blotted out from the list of God’s people here in this world [Note: Exodus 32:32.], or even to be treated as accursed after the example of Christ, for his brethren’s sake. But we need not have recourse to either of these interpretations; for by only putting a part of the Apostle’s words into a parenthesis, the sense will be perfectly simple. He once was as full of enmity against Christ, and determined to have no connexion with him, as any of his brethren: and he knew that, in effect, this was to “wish himself accursed from Christ [Note: See Isaiah 28:15. where the effect is put for the cause precisely in a similar way.].” He tells them therefore, that, having been in the same perilous circumstances with themselves, he felt the more deeply for them. Thus by putting into a parenthesis those words, “I once wished myself accursed from Christ,” the sense will exactly accord with what the Apostle says in his Epistle to the Galatians, “Be ye as I am: for I was as ye are [Note: Galatians 4:12. For a fuller explanation of the text, see the preceding Discourse.].”
But though by this explanation of the text we get rid of that from whence it seems to derive its greatest force, enough remains in it to serve as an example to the whole world. St. Paul knowing that his brethren, whilst they continued in unbelief, were perishing in their sins, “had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart on their account,” and regarded nothing too much to do or suffer, if by any means he might be instrumental to their salvation. This is what every Christian should feel; and it is a shame to the whole Christian world that so little of it is felt amongst us. How few can truly join in the solemn appeal which is here made to the heart-searching God! Instead of an appeal to God respecting the greatness and continuance of our sorrow on behalf of the Jewish nation, does not conscience rather call for a confession, that we have had no more heaviness or sorrow of heart for them, than if they had been in a state of perfect safety? Alas! when have we spent one single hour in prayer for them? What sacrifices have we made, or what exertions, for the enlightening of their minds, and the saving of their souls? If we should say, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved,” would not our daily experience give the lie to our profession? Surely we have need to blush and be ashamed, every one of us. Had we seen a vessel wrecked, and all the crew perishing in the ocean, there is not one amongst us so inhuman, but he would be filled with the tenderest concern for them, and exert himself to the uttermost, if by any means he might save some of them. But we have seen millions of God’s ancient people perishing for ever, and have had the means of saving them within our own reach, and yet have made no efforts for their welfare, nor felt a pang on account of their destruction. O brethren! let it not be thus with us any longer: but let us cultivate the spirit of the Apostle, and labour henceforth as he did, for the restoration and salvation of our Jewish brethren.
It will be in vain, however, to urge you to exertions for others, if you begin not with your own souls. Here is, in reality, the root of all our neglect of others: we are not truly and thoroughly concerned even about ourselves. Alas! if we were to make, respecting our own souls, the appeal to God which the Apostle made respecting his Jewish brethren, how few could utter it in truth! Let us try it one moment: “O my God, I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart” on account of my own sins; I feel them as a heavy burthen, too heavy for me to bear; and I find no rest in my soul, but by coming weary and heavy-laden to my Lord and Saviour. Beloved brethren, is this true of you? can you say it and “not lie?” Does your conscience attest the truth of it? and does the Holy Ghost, the heart-searching God, bear witness to it? What a fearful state must you then be in, if, with your superior advantages, you are yet impenitent and unbelieving, like the Jews themselves? Surely there is need that your brethren in Christ, who once were in your perilous condition, but have been converted by the grace of God, should weep and mourn over you, even as the Apostle did over the unbelieving Jews.
Will you say, that there is no occasion for you to fear, since in your baptism you were made “members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven?” True, you have by baptism all that the Jews derived from circumcision [Note: See the Church Catechism, which with great propriety represents us as enjoying by baptism all the privileges which the Jews enjoyed by circumcision. But notwithstanding those privileges, we must perish for ever, if we believe not in the Lord Jesus Christ. The external title to those blessings we obtain as soon as by baptism we are admitted into covenant with God: but the actual enjoyment of them we can obtain only by the exercise of faith in Christ.] — — — But this is the very reason why you should weep the more for your sins; because, when you already possess such glorious advantages, even as the Jews did by circumcision, you should lose them all, instead of securing the everlasting possession of them through the exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle acknowledges the exalted privileges of the Jews, “to whom pertained the adoption” into God’s family: but he had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart for them notwithstanding, because their guilt was the greater, and their condemnation would be the heavier on account of their impenitence and unbelief. And so, whilst you are exalted to heaven, even like Bethsaida and Capernaum, in the privileges you enjoy, there is reason to fear that you will be cast the deeper into hell for your misimprovement of them, and that in the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, yea, and for Sodom and Gomorrha, than for you.
Begin then, all of you, with your own souls; and then extend your concern to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And think not that your labours for them will be in vain; for the same power which can convert and save you, is able to effect the same blessed work for them. Less than omnipotence will not suffice for you: and to omnipotence all things are alike easy. See what God did for the Jews in the first ages — — — See what he did for the benighted Gentiles, who were quite as far from God as the Jews at this hour can be — — — Think of our forefathers once bowing down to stocks and stones, and see what Britain now is — — — Or, if you are yourselves renewed by divine grace, see what wonders have been wrought for you — — — At all events, do what you can to serve your God, and to benefit your fellow-creatures, fully confiding in that gracious declaration, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy [Note: This subject being important in reference to the Jews, a short and easy mode of treating it is here subjoined:—
The distinguished, &c.—
Those which were vouchsafed to them for their own personal benefit.
Those which were conferred on them for the benefit of the whole world: (God assuming their flesh into union with himself.)
The deep, &c.—
What is implied.
What is expressed: (We should be able to make a similar appeal.)
What have we felt for our own souls?—(We possess by baptism what they enjoyed by circumcision; yet are we, like them,in a perishing condition, till we believe in Christ. Till we believe in Christ, “we are accursed from Christ,” and can be saved only through faith in our incarnate God.)
What have we felt in reference to our Jewish brethren?—(We should feel as the Apostle did. But, could we adopt his appeal, and “not lie?” Have we not rather been disposed to deride strong feelings and great exertions in others, than to weep over them, and labour for them ourselves? Rest not till you can make St. Paul’s appeal your own.)].”]
ISRAEL IN THE MIDST OF ISRAEL
Romans 9:6. They are not all Israel who are of Israel.
EVIL as have been the dispositions of those who have set themselves against the doctrines of the Gospel, we have been greatly indebted to them: since they have called forth statements which we should never otherwise have received; and have drawn from the Apostles of our Lord a disclosure of their inward motives and principles, which nothing but an absolute necessity for the vindication of their own character could ever have elicited. The epistle before us is full of objections, started against every doctrine which the writer of it maintained. In the former part of the third chapter the objections are urged with a pertinacity and boldness, which compelled the Apostle to say respecting the persons who so urged them, that “their damnation was just [Note: Romans 3:8.].” In the sixth and seventh chapters, the objections against both the Law and the Gospel gave rise to an elucidation of them, so clear, that there can be no doubt entertained respecting their proper use, or their transcendent excellence. In the chapter which we are about to consider, the Apostle begins with expressing his deep and continual sorrow on account of the judgments impending over the Jews for their obstinate rejection of their Messiah. He then anticipates an objection which would be brought against him; namely, that if, as he had supposed, the Jews were to be cast off, the word of God, which had promised all manner of blessings to Abraham and his seed, would be made void. But to this he replies, that the promises were made to Abraham and his spiritual seed: and that all others, however they might be descended from him after the flesh, would assuredly be cast off, since “all were not Israel, who were of Israel;” neither, because they were the natural seed of Abraham, were they necessarily to be numbered amongst the children to whom the promises were made [Note: ver. 6, 7.].
Now, in considering this reply, I shall notice,
The affirmation itself—
It is here supposed that the whole nation of Israel possessed the same advantages, and, in appearance, enjoyed the same blessings. Yet the Apostle distinguishes between some of them and others; and affirms, that some had claims and privileges, to which the others were not entitled. This was true respecting them: and it is true at this time, also, in relation to ourselves. For, as then, so now also,
All are not objects of the same electing love—
[It is undeniable, that God chose Abraham out of an idolatrous world, and gave to him a promise of blessings which were withheld from others of the human race, and which had never been merited by him. To his seed also were these blessings promised; but not to Ishmael, who was then alive: no; they were entailed on a son who should afterwards be born, and should be born too after that neither the father nor the mother could, by reason of their advanced age, expect any progeny. Here, then, was the same sovereignty manifested as in the selection of Abraham himself. In the children of Israel, too, was the same sovereignty displayed: for, even whilst the twins were in their mother’s womb, God’s determination respecting them was made known; and it was appointed that the blessings of the covenant should descend to the younger in preference to the elder: as it is written, “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 [Note: ver. 11, 12.].” In this, the intention of God to display his sovereignty in the disposal of his blessings is expressly asserted, as the end for which he made the appointment at that precise time: for it was impossible that they should have done either good or evil previous to their birth; and, consequently, nothing of theirs could be the ground of God’s dispensation towards them.
The same point is no less clearly seen in the objections which are urged against it.
The objector replies, that, if this doctrine be true, God must be unrighteous, since he withholds from one, what he gives to another [Note: ver. 14.]. Now, what room can there be for any such objection as this, except on the supposition that the Apostle has been mantaining the sovereignty of God in the disposal of his favours? On any other supposition, it would be impossible for the idea to arise, that there was, or could be, “unrighteousness with God.” The Apostle’s answer shews the same: for he proves that the doctrine which he had maintained was declared to Moses, when God said to him, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion [Note: ver. 15.].” And the conclusion which the Apostle draws from the whole clearly confirms the same: “So, then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy [Note: ver. 16.].” I ask again, What room could there be for such an answer, and such a conclusion, if the Apostle had not asserted and maintained the doctrine of election as exercised by God according to his own sovereign will and pleasure?
But the same is pursued still farther.
St. Paul, not contented with having established his point, prosecutes it yet farther; and declares that God had exercised the same sovereignty in raising Pharaoh to the throne of Egypt, and in making use of the pride and obduracy of that haughty monarch as the means of displaying his own almighty power, and of confirming the word which he had previously declared to Moses [Note: ver. 17, 18.]. And this calls forth another objection: “Thou wilt say, then, unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will [Note: ver. 19.]?” Here again, you will perceive, is an objection which could not possibly arise, but on the supposition that the Apostle is maintaining the absolute sovereignty of God. And his answer to it proves the same: “Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour [Note: ver. 20, 21.]?” Of all the images that could ever be thought of, it would not be possible to find one which could more strongly illustrate the sovereignty of God than this. It is here indeed supposed, that all men are alike corrupt and sinful, all one mass of sin; no part of which has any greater claim upon God for mercy, than the potter’s clay has on him for distinguishing favours at his hands.
Let this reasoning be candidly considered, and the inference from it will be clear. Nothing but our high thoughts of self, and our low thoughts of God, could ever make us entertain a doubt about the truth which is here maintained. Indeed, we see it at this day, as well as in former ages. God chose the Jews of old, and distinguished them above the rest of the world: so he has done with the Christians now. Moreover, he had an Israel in the midst of an Israel then: and so he has now: a people within a people; a Church within a Church; an elect within a mass who are partakers only of external privileges. Yes, as then, even so at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace [Note: Romans 11:6.].]
All are not partakers of the same converting grace—
[The Jews had all the same ordinances of grace; but did not all make the same improvement of them. In the ministry of John the Baptist, those who were the least likely to receive his word were the most effectually impressed with it: “The publicans justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John; but the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him [Note: Luke 7:29-30.].” The twelve Apostles were chosen by our blessed Lord according to his sovereign will and pleasure; and for them were reserved advantages, not known to any others. To them our Lord explained in private the parables he delivered in public; saying to them, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; but to others, in parables; that seeing, they may not see; and hearing, they may not understand [Note: Luke 8:10.].” To them, in like manner, was peculiar favour shewn after our Lord’s resurrection; for “then opened he their understandings to understand the Scriptures [Note: Luke 24:45.].” But see this matter yet more plainly in the Apostle Paul. He was full of wrath, “breathing out threatenings and slaughter” against the whole Church of Christ; and yet, whilst pursuing his murderous career, he was stopped, and converted by the grace of God; the Lord Jesus Christ himself appearing to him in the way, and revealing himself to him; whilst, of all who were present, not one except himself was permitted to hear the words that were spoken to him. Was here no proof of God’s electing love? Take the ministry of this Apostle: some received his testimony, and others rejected it. And whence was it, that, at Philippi, a poor woman, named Lydia, embraced the truth, whilst the magistrates and a great mass of the inhabitants joined in persecuting the ministers who proclaimed it? We are told, that “the Lord opened her heart to attend to the things that were spoken by Paul [Note: Acts 16:14-15.].” The same words made one cry out, “Paul, thou art beside thyself;” and another, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian [Note: Acts 26:22; Acts 26:28.].” And is it not so at the present day? Are not still, as formerly, “many called, and few chosen?” Does not the Saviour himself, as preached unto men, still become a sanctuary to some, whilst he proves a stumbling-block and a rock of offence to others [Note: 1 Peter 2:6-8.]? And whence is this? To what must it be traced, but to God’s electing love? Assuredly, to that does the Apostle trace it, in the case of his Thessalonian converts: for, in his first epistle to them he says, “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God; for our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance [Note: 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5.].” So then it is in every instance, where persons are enabled to receive the word aright: “it is given them to believe [Note: Philippians 1:29.];” and “they believe through grace [Note: Acts 18:27.];” or, in other words, they are “quickened from the dead [Note: Ephesians 2:1.],” and “made willing in the day of God’s power [Note: Psalms 110:3.]:” and to God must they trace their new creation, as entirely and exclusively as the creation of the world [Note: Ephesians 2:10.]. To these “the word becomes a savour of life unto life; whilst to others it is made a savour of death,” to their deeper condemnation [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:16.].]
All are not heirs of the same eternal glory—
[All are not vessels unto honour. But this, however, must be remembered, that whilst it is God alone who prepares any to glory, the wicked fit themselves for destruction. This is marked, in a peculiar manner, in the chapter from whence my text is taken [Note: ver. 22, 23. See the Greek.]; and we must never forget it: for though the salvation of man is altogether of God, his condemnation is of himself alone, the fruit of his own wilful perseverance in sin. That those who are saved owe their happiness to God’s electing love, is clear from hence, that “God hath from the beginning chosen them to salvation [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:13.];” and “called them unto his eternal glory [Note: 1 Peter 5:10.].” The process, as ordained in God’s mind, and executed in his dispensations, is thus declared in the chapter preceding that which we have been considering: “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified [Note: Romans 8:30.].” And, among those who are exalted to glory, there will be no difference in relation to this matter: they will all acknowledge that “they did not choose God, but God them [Note: John 15:16.];” and that “they loved him because he first loved them [Note: 1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:19.]:” and, in ascribing glory to his name, they will remember this saying, “To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and the Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen [Note: Revelation 1:5-6.].”]
Having shewn, I trust, the truth of the affirmation, I proceed to state,
The improvement to be made of it—
Amongst the diversified uses to be made of it, I will mention three:
It should teach us,
A holy fear and jealousy respecting ourselves—
[It is here admitted that we are of Israel: that, as the Jews had all been admitted into covenant with God by circumcision, so have we by baptism; and that, as “to them belonged the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises,” so do all the blessings of the Gospel belong to us [Note: Romans 9:4-5.], precisely in the same manner and to the same extent that the privileges of God’s ancient people belonged to them. But as, then, “all were not Israel who were of Israel,” so now all are not Christians indeed who are called by the name of Christ. Our descent from Christian parents will do no more than the descent of Israel from Abraham did for them. We are expressly told on this head, that the unconverted among them were not the true circumcision: they were only “the concision:” “the circumcision were those who worshipped God in the Spirit, and rejoiced in Christ Jesus, and had no confidence in the flesh [Note: Philippians 3:3.].” And this is the description of the true Christian: no one deserving that name who does not answer to that character. The Apostle further confirms this, when he says, “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart; in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God [Note: Romans 2:28-29.].” Should we not then fear, lest we deceive ourselves, just as the Jews of old did? Should we not carefully “examine ourselves, and prove our ownselves, whether we be in the faith [Note: 2 Corinthians 13:5.]?” Should we not compare our character with that of the saints of old, to see whether we be “Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile [Note: John 1:47.]?” Let it be well settled in our minds, that we are not indeed children of Abraham, unless we “walk in the steps of Abraham [Note: Romans 4:12.],” and “do his works [Note: John 8:39.].”]
A humble acquiescence in reference to God—
[We are extremely prone to rise against the sovereignty of God, and to deny him the right of disposing of things according to his own will and pleasure. Yet we arrogate that right to ourselves; and if we were called unjust for bestowing our alms on one and not on another, we should indignantly reply, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own [Note: Matthew 20:15.]?” But do what we will, we cannot deny the election of God in Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob? We cannot deny that there were given to the Jews means of grace, which were withheld from all the world besides. We cannot deny the same in reference to Christians at this day: for we have in our hands the blessed Gospel, which reveals unto us the way of salvation, whilst five-sixths of the world never so much as heard of Christ. Nay, more: of those who most dispute against the doctrine of election generally, it may be doubted, whether one can be found who, when deeply convinced of his own guilt and misery, will not go to God, and implore mercy for mercy’s sake, as much as the most zealous advocate of that offensive doctrine. He will scarcely venture to claim mercy on account of his own merits, whether past, present, or future. And, if he obtain a sense of God’s pardoning love, I much doubt whether he will deliberately refuse to make that acknowledgment, “By the grace of God I am what I am [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:10.].” That there are depths in this doctrine which we cannot comprehend, I readily admit. But, would the denial of it involve us in no depths? or is there any other doctrine of our holy religion which we can fully fathom? Let us know this, that whether we can comprehend God’s ways or not, “the Judge of all the earth will do right [Note: Genesis 18:25.];” and whether we are pleased to acquiesce in them or not, “He will be justified in his sayings, and be clear when he is judged [Note: Romans 3:4.].” Let us, then, not presume to sit in judgment upon God, or dare to “charge him foolishly:” but let us make our supplication to him, assured that “none shall seek his face in vain;” and that “not one who shall come to him in his Son’s name shall ever be cast out [Note: John 6:37.].”]
An adoring gratitude, if we have been made partakers of his mercy—
[We cannot but see, whether the doctrine of election be true or not, that there is an Israel within an Israel; and that, whilst a small remnant only are truly alive to God, the great mass of the Christian world are as careless about salvation as even the Jews themselves. If, then, God has in mercy favoured us, and made us partakers of his grace, shall we “sacrifice to our own net, and burn incense to our own drag [Note: Habakkuk 1:16.]?” God forbid. Let us rather bow with humble adoration before our God; saying, “Why me, Lord? Why am I taken, when so many others are left [Note: Luke 17:34-36.]?” In truth, this is the spirit that becomes us. Even for the favours conferred upon us in providence, it becomes us to bless and magnify our God, with a deep sense of our own unworthiness, and with a lively gratitude for such undeserved bounties. But for the blessings of his grace, O what thanks should we render unto the Lord! Hear the Psalmist, when contemplating these things: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul! and forget not all his benefits!” Let such be the state of our minds. Surely, the more we are sensible of our obligations to God, for his free, unmerited, and sovereign grace, the more profoundly we shall adore him, and the more determinately shall we serve him.]
GOD’S SOVEREIGN MERCY THE SOURCE OF ALL OUR BLESSINGS
Romans 9:16. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
THE Apostle, being about to declare the rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles, introduces his subject with a most solemn appeal to God, that he had “continual sorrow and heaviness in his heart,” on account of the unhappy state of his Jewish brethren. He knew that the subject would be very painful to the Jews; and yet he could not, consistently with his duty to God, conceal it from them: but he strove as much as possible to lessen the offence it would occasion, by assuring them of his unbounded affection for them, and his willingness to endure any thing, if it might but be subservient to their eternal welfare.
The subject as treated by the Apostle is no less offensive to the great mass of nominal Christians, than it was to the Jews: for he insists so strongly on God’s right to dispense the blessings of his Gospel according to his own sovereign will, that the proud heart of man cannot endure it. We are apt to think we have a claim upon God; and that he is bound to do for us all that he has at anytime done for his most favoured servants: and, when we are told, that he has a right to do what he will with his own, we deny him that right, and accuse him of injustice, precisely as the Jews themselves did. But the servant of God must speak, whether men will hear, or whether they forbear: he must declare to men the whole counsel of God, “even though briers and thorns be with him, and he dwell among scorpions.” At the same time, it should be his most anxious endeavour to “speak the truth in love.” This we would do. God knoweth that it is painful to us to give offence; yet not so much on our own account, as on account of those who are not able to receive our word. We would gladly do, yea, and suffer too, whatever should be necessary for their welfare: but still we cannot conceal the truth, or “keep back any thing that is profitable unto men.” We entreat however, that, if we speak any thing which may not at first approve itself to those who hear it, they will give us credit for seeking conscientiously their best interests, according to the light that God hath given us.
The words of our text are evidently a conclusion drawn from a preceding argument. To view them therefore aright, we must consider,
The statement on which the conclusion is founded—
Having intimated the danger to which his countrymen were exposed of perishing in unbelief, he anticipates an objection which they were disposed to make; namely, That they were in no danger, because, as descendants of Abraham, they were interested in the covenant made with him, and were heirs of all the blessings which were promised to him and to his seed: and that, consequently, if they were to perish, “the word of God would have been of no effect [Note: ver. 6.].” To this the Apostle replies, that the promises were not made to Abraham’s natural seed, but to his spiritual seed, who should be partakers of Abraham’s faith: and that, as they were yet in unbelief, they had no part or lot in Abraham’s blessings [Note: ver. 7, 8.]. This he proceeds to prove to them,
From undeniable and acknowledged facts—
[The blessings of the covenant were not given to all Abranam’s natural seed, even in the very first instance. Ishmael, who was born according to the course of nature, had no part in that covenant; the blessings of which were restricted to Isaac, who was born many years afterwards, not according to the common course of nature, but solely by virtue of an express promise. Here then was a proof, even in the immediate children of Abraham, that persons might be lineally descended from him, and yet be left without any interest in the covenant made with him.
But a further, and still stronger, proof of this took place in the children of this very Isaac, to whom the promise was restricted. His wife Rebecca bare him twins: and whilst these children were yet in the womb, and “before they could possibly have done either good or evil, it was said to her, The elder shall serve the younger [Note: ver. 9–12.]:” which prophecy was accomplished to their latest posterity, as the Prophet Malachi attests, saying, “Jacob have I loved; but Esau have I hated [Note: ver. 13. with Malachi 1:2-3.].” Now if they should think that in the former instance respect was bad to the character of the two children, Ishmael and Isaac, and that the decree was founded on that, such a notion is altogether excluded from the present instance, because the children had done neither good nor evil; and the reason of the decree is expressly said to be, “that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.”
Here then an exclusion of a part of the natural seed is further proved, and that too by the sovereign disposal of God himself, irrespective of the characters of the persons respecting whom the decree was made. How much more therefore might those of Abraham’s descendants who should continue obstinate in unbelief, be excluded from the blessings of that covenant, which they themselves were so averse to embrace.]
From the express declarations of God himself—
[The Jews in the Apostle’s days trusted in the words of Moses, which they interpreted as comprehending all the Jewish nation without exception within the bonds of the covenant. To Moses therefore the Apostle has recourse; and appeals to what God himself had spoken to him. As in the foregoing instances God had exercised his own sovereign will in appointing who should, and who should not, be partakers of his covenant, so, in his communications with Moses also he had claimed to himself the same right, and declared that he would act in the same sovereign way: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion [Note: ver. 15. with Exodus 33:19.].” Here God considers all the human race as in a state of guilt and misery, no one of them having any claim on him for mercy, or any thing that could entitle him to a preference beyond his brethren: and he declares, that as he would exercise his own sovereign will in dispensing his blessings to them, so he would have his sovereign grace and mercy acknowledged by all who should receive them.
This point is further confirmed by the Apostle’s adducing what God had spoken also to Pharaoh. God had exalted Pharaoh to the throne of Egypt, and had invested him with the most arbitrary and unbounded power. Such power was necessary, in order that there might be full scope for the rebellion of man, and the consequent triumphs of God over him. God knew that there were in the heart of Pharaoh all those dispositions which would resist him to the uttermost; and that he would thus call forth eventually those judgments which God, for his own glory, had determined to inflict on the oppressors of his people: and, whilst Pharaoh was in the very act of rebellion, and hardening himself more and more against his God, God said to him, “For this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” The Apostle, having cited this in confirmation of what he had said respecting Moses, asserts in yet stronger language than before, “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”
Thus the Apostle has proved beyond all contradiction the unquestionable right of God to give, or to withhold, his blessings, according to his own sovereign will and pleasure.
But before we proceed to the conclusion which the Apostle draws from hence, we would guard what has been already spoken from any misconstruction. Though God’s right to give or to withhold his blessings is asserted, together with the actual bestowment of them according to his sovereign will, yet he never withholds his blessing from any creature who humbly seeks it at his hands; much less does he ever infuse evil into the mind of any man in order to glorify himself in his destruction. His hardening of Pharaoh’s heart consisted in leaving him to himself, and to the unrestrained exercise of his own evil dispositions: and if we were all left as Pharaoh was, we should harden our own hearts precisely as Pharaoh did. In a word, God’s blessings are never dispensed but in a way of grace; his judgments are never executed but in a way of righteous retribution.]
Having thus stated the argument on which the Apostle’s conclusion is founded, we come to the consideration of,
The conclusion itself—
The conclusion is justly formed from the premises. It is indeed a humiliating conclusion, and a truth which our proud hearts are very averse to acknowledge; but still we must join issue with the Apostle, and say, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”
Let not this however be understood, as though it sanctioned any want of exertion on our part—
[God does not here forbid us to will or to run, nor does he exempt us from the duty of both willing and running: no such thing is here expressed, nor can any such thing be deduced from it. How grievous is it that any should be found impious enough to cite this passage as discountenancing exertions on our part! In the whole sacred records, from the beginning to the end, there is not to be found one single word that can warrant such an idea as this. On the contrary, God always complains of us for not exerting ourselves, and refers our final condemnation to this as its proper ground and cause: “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life,” says our Lord. “How often would I have gathered you together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” As for those who say, “I can do nothing without God, and therefore, till God come, I may as well sit still, and attempt nothing;” God, so far from giving occasion for such a sentiment and such conduct, calls us most earnestly to exertion, and promises that we shall not exert ourselves in vain: “Ask and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” and, “Whosoever cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out:” and, “When said I ever to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain?” Know then, that to found any such sentiment on the words of the Apostle, is a gross perversion of the word of God, and an impious plea for antinomian licentiousness. But, that you may have a just view of this assertion,]
Its plain import is, that God’s free grace and mercy are the true and only sources of all good—
[Whatever be our success in the divine life, we must not refer it to our own volitions, or our own exertions. For, what inclination has the natural man to that which is truly good? None at all: there is not one good thought or desire in the heart of an unregenerate man: his will is altogether towards what is evil [Note: Genesis 6:5.]: and if a good inclination be manifested by any one of us, it has been previously put into our hearts by Him who “giveth us to will and to do, of his own good pleasure [Note: Philippians 2:13.].” Nor can any exertions of ours in our natural state be of themselves effectual; for our blessed Lord expressly says, “Without me, or separate from me, ye can do nothing.” We must therefore “never sacrifice to our own net, or burn incense to our own drag.” God must have all the glory: it is “he who worketh all our works in us:” “Of him is our fruit found:” and to all eternity our song must be, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise.” It is impossible for us ever to be too jealous upon this head. We are told, that “of him are all things, and for him are all things:” and therefore to him we must look for every thing that we need; and to him, even to his sovereign grace and mercy, must we ascribe every thing that we have received. If we differ, either from others, or from our former selves, we must never forget, one moment, “who it is that hath made us to differ:” and if we be able to say with the Apostle, “I have laboured more abundantly than others,” we must instantly correct ourselves, and add, “Yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me [Note: There are some who put a totally different construction on our text, and interpret it as though the Apostle had said, “It is not of him only that willeth, &c.” Thus, by their interpolation, they expressly contradict the Apostle, and subvert the whole train of his reasoning. If this were the meaning of the Apostle, what occasion would there be for the objections of his adversaries in ver. 14 and ver. 19.? Alas! that ever such liberties should be taken with the word of God!].”]
It remains only now that we shew you,
How these sentiments are to be maintained—
[We confess with grief and shame that many carry these sentiments too far, and maintain them in a very unhallowed way. But, whilst we maintain what God has so plainly taught, we would lift our voice without ceasing against every abuse of these doctrines. To those who accord with these views of divine truth, we most affectionately suggest the following cautions. Take heed to the manner in which you maintain these truths. Let none of you maintain them presumptuously, as though you could fathom the depths contained in them, or as though they gave you any licence for sloth and supineness. They contain mysteries, which God alone can fully comprehend, and difficulties which he alone can fully reconcile: but be it remembered, that there are far more and greater difficulties involved in a denial of them: and that our wisdom is, to receive every word of God with child-like simplicity, and to say, “What I know not now, I shall know hereafter.”
Nor let any hold them irreverently. Some will speak of these deep things of God as familiarly as if there were no mystery at all in them, or as if they were the uninspired dogmas of some ancient philosopher. But when we enter on “such holy ground,” we should, as Moses, “take off our shoes,” and proceed with reverential awe. “God is in heaven, and we upon earth; therefore should our words be few,” and diffident, and humble.
Nor should they be maintained uncharitably. Many there are who cannot see these truths, who yet are in a state truly pleasing to God; yea many, at whose feet the best of us may be glad to be found in heaven. It is a great evil, when these doctrines are made a ground of separation one from another, and when the advocates of different systems anathematize each other. Let all such dispositions be banished from the Church of God. Whoever may be wrong, they never can be right who violate charity, or refuse to others the right of judging for themselves. For the fundamental truths of Christianity, we must contend to the uttermost, (though even for them with meekness and love:) but in reference to truths which are involved in so much obscurity as those which relate to the sovereignty of God, mutual kindness and concession are far better than vehement argumentation and uncharitable discussion.
Lastly, let not these truths be maintained exclusively. Many are so partial to these deeper truths, that they can hardly condescend to speak of repentance and faith; and, as for exhortations to duty, they are apt to think such things legal and carnal. O beloved! flee from such a spirit, as you would from the plague: wherever it exists, it betrays a sad want of humility. Be ye as little children: let every word of God be dear to you; and be as ready to dwell upon the invitations, and precepts, and exhortations of the Gospel, as on these deeper mysteries, which may easily be strained too far, and may give occasion for inferences, plausible indeed, but erroneous, and contrary to the analogy of faith.]
How they are to be improved—
[The proper use of these deeper truths is to abase us with humility, as creatures destitute of all good; and at the same time to exalt us, as creatures infinitely indebted to the grace of God. Make this improvement of them, and they can never do you any harm: yea, receive them for these ends, and there are no other truths whatever that will operate to an equal extent. Who ever maintained the doctrines of grace more strenuously than the Apostle Paul? yet who ever so laboured in the cause of his adorable Redeemer? Take him then for your pattern, both in your sentiments and conduct; and then you will shew, that nothing so “constrains, as the love of Christ;” nothing so stimulates to a compliance with God’s will, as a sense of obligation to the riches of his grace.]
GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY NOT TO BE ARRAIGNED BY MEN
Romans 9:19-24. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made we thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
THERE are some persons so partial to, what we may call, the high doctrines of the Gospel, that they can scarcely endure to hear any thing else: they are like persons whose taste is vitiated by strong drink or highly-seasoned food; they have no appetite for any thing which does not savour of their favourite opinions. This is a great evil in the Church, not only as injuring the souls in whom it exists, but as tending exceedingly to strengthen the prejudices of others against the doctrines which are so abused. Those who are thus disposed towards “the deep things of God,” fancy themselves edified, merely because their corrupt taste is gratified: but their edification is not real and scriptural; for, if it were, it would incline them to receive with meekness and humility every word of God; whereas they treat with contempt every thing which seems to savour of plain practical religion. We regret exceedingly that such persons exist: but we must not, on their account, run into an opposite extreme, and keep these doctrines altogether out of sight: we must “not shun to declare unto men the whole counsel of God.” Whatsoever is revealed in the sacred records must be brought forth in its season: nor are we at liberty to “withhold from men any thing that may be profitable unto them.” We therefore address ourselves to every subject in its place: though on such subjects as that which is before us, we would do it with fear and trembling, conscious how unable we are to do justice to it, and fearful lest by any means we should make it an occasion of offence to those who are not prepared for the investigation of it. The sovereignty of God is to the proud heart of man an unpalatable subject; but in the passage before us we are called to vindicate it against the objections of those who are disposed, like the Jew in our text, to contend against it.
To place the matter in its true light, we shall consider,
The point at issue between the objector and St. Paul—
[St. Paul had strongly intimated, that the Jews were now to be rejected from the Church of God, and that the Gentiles were to be admitted into it. This he knew was a most offensive subject to the Jews; and therefore he had shewn, both from God’s word to Moses, and his dealings with Pharaoh, that God had a right to communicate his blessings, or execute his judgments, in such a way as should conduce most to his own glory. The Jew, not convinced, is represented as declaring, that, if God exercise his sovereignty in this way, the blame of man’s condemnation must be transferred to God himself, since it was impossible for man to resist his will.
That this was the jet of the question between them, is evident; for to this end St. Paul’s arguments had tended; and nothing less than this could have given rise to such an objection: to this also the answer of the Apostle directly applies. The objection, it is true, did not fairly arise out of St. Paul’s statement: but the Jew took occasion from his statement to found his objection upon it: and to the question, thus stated, we must now reply.]
The Apostle’s determination of it—
St. Paul hearing such a blasphemous objection as this, “Why doth God yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will?” replies to it,
In a way of just reprehension—
[“Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?” Consider thyself as a creature; What right hast thou to sit in judgment upon God? Dost thou understand all his counsels? Art thou able to fathom the depth of his wisdom? Canst thou “find out the Almighty to perfection?” How canst thou presume thus to arraign the conduct of thy God, and to “condemn him that thou mayest be justified?” What wouldest thou think of thine own child, if he, whilst yet a child, should stand up and accuse thee as unwise and unjust, in the most deliberate exercise of thy counsels? or, What wouldest thou think of a peasant who should presume thus to sit in judgment upon the counsels of a minister of state? Art thou then authorized to arraign the conduct of thy God?
But consider thyself as a sinner, and how atrocious does thy conduct then appear! Thou who mightest justly have been consigned over to perdition the first moment thou hadst sinned, dost thou complain of thy God as unjust and tyrannical, if he dispense to others the blessings which thou hast refused to accept? Impious wretch! As well might the clay rise up against the potter, and condemn him for having fashioned it according to his own will.]
In a way of sound argument—
[Two things St. Paul proceeds to substantiate against his objector: the one was, That God had a right to dispose of every thing according to his own sovereign will and pleasure: and the other was, That in the way he had hitherto disposed of them, and had determined still to dispose of them, he was fully justified.]
Let us consider these assertions more fully—
[A potter, it is acknowledged, has a sovereign right over his clay: and so has God over all the works of his hands. When he formed angels, was he bound to furnish them with all the faculties they possess? and, having formed them, might he not have annihilated them again, and consigned them over again to their former non-existence? When he formed man and beast of the same clay, might he not have given higher faculties to the brute creation, and less to man? or might he not have reduced man immediately to the state of the beasts, without doing any injury to man? Is not this, in reality, what God is doing every day, as it were, before our eyes; bereaving one and another of his mental faculties, and reducing him to a state far below the beasts? It is evident, that God may of the same lump make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour, either in their first creation, or in their subsequent use and destination.
The same also we may say in relation to the eternal states of men, if only we consider them, as they really are, one vast mass of guilt and corruption. When Adam fell, God was at liberty to leave him as he was, in all his guilt and corruption, or to redeem him from it, and to make him a vessel of honour by his new-creating power. When God chose Abraham out of the whole world of idolaters, he was at liberty to have chosen others besides him, if he had been pleased so to do, or to have restricted the blessings of his covenant to Ishmael and Esau, instead of limiting them to Isaac and Jacob. If he had seen fit to do this, whom would he have injured? or who would have had any right to complain? Whom did he injure when he chose the Jews? Did he by separating them from the rest of mankind, and granting exclusively to them the ordinances of his grace, do any injustice to the Gentile world? or, now that he is pleased to send his Gospel to the Gentiles, does he do any injustice to the Jews? In favouring us with the full light of revelation, does he injure the millions of Mahometans and Pagans who are less favoured than ourselves? In like manner, if he send to some of us fuller opportunities of instruction than to others, or richer communications of his grace, is he not at liberty to do so?
Let it be remembered, that the question is not, Whether God shall punish an innocent person, or a guilty person beyond his deserts? That could receive no other answer than that given by the Apostle, “Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.” But the question is, Whether, when all mankind are in a state of guilt and condemnation, God may not “have mercy on whom he will have mercy?” And to this question we reply by asking another, “May He not do what he will with his own [Note: Matthew 20:15.]?”
But let us turn to the latter part of the Apostle’s answer; wherein he asserts confidently, that if we attend carefully to the way in which God has disposed of men, and has determined still to dispose of them, he is, and ever must be, justified.
God has determined to get himself glory upon all mankind, whether they will it, or not. He will be glorified both in them that are saved, and in them that perish.
“What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and make his power known, endure the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?” is he not at liberty to do so? Take, for instance, Pharaoh. If God had pleased, he might have cut off Pharaoh on his first refusal to let the people of Israel go; or at any one of the ten successive plagues: but he was not obliged to do so: he was surely at liberty to spare him, and exercise forbearance towards him, and to remove in succession the different plagues from him, and to give him space for repentance, till he had filled up the measure of his iniquities, and was quite ripe for those signal judgments that had been denounced against him. In like manner, the Jews might justly have been cut off, when they renounced their allegiance to God, and worshipped the golden calf. God might, without any impeachment of his justice, have executed then the threatened judgment of destroying instantly that rebellious nation, and raising up another from the loins of Moses. But he saw fit to exercise mercy towards them, and to impart to them yet more abundant communications of his grace and favour. Surely in this he did them no injury. So also under all their provocations in the wilderness, during the space of forty years, and under all their apostasies from him in the land of Canaan for the space of fifteen hundred years, he might, if he had seen fit, have destroyed them: and, to say the least, he did them no injury in bearing with them, till, by the crucifixion of their Messiah, they had “filled up the measure of their own and their fathers’ iniquities.” God’s fore-knowing how much they would abuse his mercies, was no reason why he should not exercise mercy towards them: for by his forbearance his mercy was displayed; and by their accumulated guilt and aggravated condemnation his indignation against sin, and his power to avenge it, were more conspicuously displayed. The same we may say in reference to any person or number of persons; God is not bound to cut them off the moment they sin against him: he may continue to cultivate the barren fig-tree year after year, if he be pleased to do so, in order to shew more clearly its incurable sterility, and his own justice in its final excision. Thus, I say, He may act towards “the vessels of his wrath.”
So also he may pursue a similar line of conduct towards “the vessels of mercy,” in order ultimately to “make known upon them the riches of his glory.” He was not compelled to bring out Abraham from his family and his country, while he was yet a child: he was at liberty to leave him bowing down to stocks and stones, like all the rest around him, till the hour which he in his secret counsels had appointed for his effectual calling was arrived. Nor, when God called Abraham, was he compelled to call all other Gentiles at the same time: he was at liberty to “leave them to their own ways” till the times of the Messiah, in order to shew more fully, that “the world by wisdom knew not God,” and that, if left to themselves, nothing but universal ruin must ensue. St. Paul tells us, that God, in his secret counsels, had “separated him as a chosen vessel, even from his mother’s womb:” yet had God left him for many years to his own heart’s lusts, and to the perpetration of the most enormous wickedness. Was God unjust in this? Was God bound to convert him before? Was he not at liberty to leave this man to the dictates of his own deceived conscience, that he might gain the more glory in his conversion, and “shew forth in him all long-suffering, for a pattern to all who should hereafter believe in him to life everlasting [Note: 1 Timothy 1:16.]?” The dying thief too,—Was not God at liberty to let him go on as he did to the latest hour of his life, that he might shew in him what divine grace and mercy could effect, even at the eleventh hour? God would have done no injury to any of these, if he had never so distinguished them by his power and grace: nor, in having so distinguished them, has he done any injury to others, either to Paul’s companions in his journey, or to the other thief upon the cross. It was thus that our blessed Lord acted in reference to Lazarus. When called to come and heal him, he staid till he had been dead four days on purpose that, by raising him after so long a time, his own power might be the more abundantly glorified [Note: John 11:6; John 11:15; John 11:40.]. And did he any wrong in this?
But if our proud hearts be yet disposed to rise up against God, and reply against him, the extraordinary caution with which St. Paul gives his answer must silence us for ever. Between the vessels of wrath and the vessels of mercy he makes this striking distinction; that the vessels of wrath fit themselves for destruction, but the vessels of mercy are prepared for glory by their God [Note: See the Greek.]. The judgments executed on the ungodly, at whatever period they are inflicted, are brought on them, not by any absolute decree of God, but by their own wilful and obstinate continuance in sin: but the blessings imparted to the godly are solely the fruit of God’s sovereign grace and mercy. They who perish must take all the shame to themselves; and those who are saved must give all the glory to their God.
The manner in which the Apostle states his argument, should not be altogether unnoticed. “What if” so and so? Who has any thing to reply against it? Is there any thing in it contrary to reason? let him bring it to the test of reason. Is there any thing contrary to Scripture? let him consult the passages to which I now refer him, and he shall see, that this very mode of dealing towards all mankind, whether Jews or Gentiles, is precisely that which all the prophets have taught us to expect at the hands of God [Note: ver. 25–27.]. He has, for his own glory, left the Gentiles for two thousand years, and taken the Jews for his peculiar people; and now, for his own glory also, will he for a season leave the Jews, and take the Gentiles. In this matter, neither the one nor the other have any claim upon him: in taking the one and leaving the other, he did no injustice formerly: and in now abandoning those whom he formerly took, (more especially since they have filled up the measure of their iniquities,) and in taking those whom he then left, he does no injustice now: but in both he is, and will be, glorified: he even in this world glorifies, both in the one and in the other, his patience and long-suffering, and forbearance; but, in the world to come, he will glorify his perfections upon both of them in a more appropriate way;—on the vessels of wrath, his power; but on the vessels of mercy, his free, and sovereign, and unbounded grace.]
Having investigated with care the Apostle’s answer, we will conclude with suggesting,
The proper improvement of the subject—
The subject offers many important hints,
[These, alas! are a very numerous body, even in the Christian world. Favoured as we are above the rest of the world, it might be hoped that we should be the last to arraign the sovereignty of Almighty God. Yet amongst us there are many who will dispute against the doctrines of grace, precisely in the way that the unbelieving Jew is represented as doing in our text. One would be ready to suppose, from the confidence with which they urge their impious objections, that they had been the secret counsellors of the Most High. They determine, without any hesitation or doubt, what will, and what will not, consist with the Divine attributes.
Beloved brethren, this is not the way in which it becomes frail dust and ashes to proceed: and if you will presume thus to reprove God, you must “answer it” at your cost [Note: Job 40:2.]. Be assured that such conduct ill becomes you, and is most offensive to your God [Note: Job 40:8.]: and your wisdom is to forbear all such impiety in future [Note: Job 40:5.]. Go to any person deeply versed in sciences of any kind; and he will tell you paradoxes without number which you cannot understand, which yet he knows to be true, and is able to prove, if you had sufficient knowledge of that particular science to comprehend him. Know then, that God also, if he have revealed what appears paradoxical to you, can fully reconcile his own declarations, and will do so in the eternal world; though, if he were now to do it, you would not have capacity sufficient to discern the truth and excellence of his communications. Be assured, that, “as the heavens are high above the earth, so are his thoughts and ways high above yours.”
But there are many among those who pretend to vindicate the ways of God, who are scarcely less worthy of reproof than those who presume to condemn them. There are many who speak of “the deep things of God,” as if they were as plain and easy and intelligible as the simplest truth that can be mentioned. They dwell exclusively on these great and hidden mysteries, and leave all the plainer doctrines of repentance, faith, and obedience, as low matters, unworthy of their attention, and as unprofitable to any good end. Nothing pleases them but what brings immediately to their view the Divine decrees: and of these they speak in a way that the Scriptures by no means authorize. They draw conclusions from partial statements, without giving due weight to things which God himself has spoken on the opposite side: and then they vindicate with unhallowed boldness and confidence what they themselves have put, as it were, into the mouth of God. This was the very conduct of Job’s friends; and justly were they rebuked by God for their presumption. They took partial declarations of God, and then put their own unqualified construction upon them, and deduced from them inferences which they were never intended to bear. In this way they bore down righteous Job as an ignorant self-deceiver. But God declared that they had not spoken the thing that was right, as his servant Job had done; and required them to humble themselves for their folly and impiety. Let not any of you ever subject yourselves to the same reproof: for “Woe to him,” saith God, “that striveth with his Maker [Note: Isaiah 45:9.].” It becomes you, doubtless, to investigate, and as far as possible to understand, every truth of God: but, in things so infinitely beyond the reach of human intellect, it becomes you to be humble, modest, diffident: and in things respecting which the most pious men may differ in their judgment, it becomes you cheerfully to concede to others the liberty which you arrogate to yourselves. And we are well persuaded, that mutual candour and forbearance among those of opposite principles, would do infinitely more towards the bringing all to just views, than all the angry contentions of violent partisans.]
To all persons without exception—
[You, brethren, have other things to do than to be wasting your time about unprofitable disputes. You are all at this very moment vessels of wrath, or vessels of mercy: you are now, even whilst I am speaking to you, under the hands of the Potter. You are actually upon the lathes, preparing and fashioning, either for vessels of honour, or vessels of dishonour. The question that most concerns you is, for which you are preparing? and how you may know for which you are destined? In order to ascertain this, you need not look into the book of God’s decrees, but simply examine the state of your own hearts. For what are you preparing? Are you diligently seeking after God from day to day? Are you living by faith upon the Lord Jesus Christ, washing daily in the fountain of his blood, and renewed daily by the operations of his Spirit? Are you progressively advancing in the enjoyment of his presence, the performance of his will, and the attainment of his image? Are you, in a word, beginning to live the life of heaven upon earth? This will mark you vessels of honour: and the want of this is sufficient to stamp you vessels unto dishonour. It is not necessary that you should be committing any flagrant sins in order to constitute you vessels of wrath: it is quite sufficient that you are not growing up into Christ as your living Head, and devoted altogether to his service and glory. Let these inquiries then occupy your mind, and trouble not yourselves about the “secret things which belong only to your God.” Whether you are pleased with the Potter or not, he is going on with his work; and in a short time he will cut you from the lathe, and fix your everlasting destinies. But, blessed be his name! He is able to change both your form and use: and, if you call upon him, he will do it; and he can do it as easily as a potter can mar the clay which has been formed only for a degraded use, and fashion it into a vessel of the most dignified description. Whilst you are upon the lathe, nothing is impossible: and who can tell but that you have been suffered, even to this hour, to fit yourselves for vessels of wrath, in order that God may be the more glorified in the change that shall be wrought in you? Yes, perhaps the hour is now come for Saul’s conversion: perhaps this is the hour when he has decreed to humble you in the dust before him, and to make you a vessel of honour that shall display, almost beyond all others, the riches of his glory? O lift up your hearts to him, and pray, that at this time his grace may be magnified in you, and that you may be monuments of his love and mercy to all eternity.
But perhaps with others the hour is come, when the measure of your iniquities shall be filled, and when, like Pharaoh, you shall be made signal monuments of God’s wrath and indignation. What a fearful thought! The Lord grant that it may not be realized in any of you. But beware! His mercy and forbearance will have an end; and that end may be much nearer than you expect. Let not one hour more pass unimproved: but “seek ye the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him whilst he is near.”
As for you who have reason to hope that you are already vessels of mercy, O! bless and praise your God. Remember, ye were taken from the same mass of clay, as others, who bear a very different shape. Remember, too, to whom you owe the distinction that has been conferred upon you. Had you been left to yourselves, you would have been in as degraded a state as any. It is God, and God alone, who has made you to differ, either from others, or from your former selves. Give him then the glory of his rich and sovereign grace, and seek daily to become more and more “vessels of honour, meet for your Master’s use [Note: 2 Timothy 2:20-21.].”]
CHRIST REJECTED BY THE JEWS, AND BELIEVED ON BY THE GENTILES
Romans 9:30-33. What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling-stone; as it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling-stone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
A VERY great proportion of the controversies which exist in the Christian world, arise from an overstraining of just principles, and carrying them to an undue extent. Many are not contented with maintaining what God has plainly declared; but they will found on his declarations every thing that appears to be deducible from them. But, however legitimate any deduction may appear to us, we should make a great difference between it and the word on which it is founded; more especially if there be in the Holy Scriptures other passages directly opposed to our deductions. We should remember, that our finite faculties are incapable of comprehending all that the infinitely wise God has seen fit to reveal: and therefore, when we advance even an hair’s breadth beyond what God has expressly authorized, we should proceed with the utmost caution and diffidence. A rash and presumptuous mind will, without hesitation, build the doctrine of reprobation upon the declarations of St. Paul in this chapter. But St. Paul forbare to press his principles so far, because, however such an inference might appear just in the eyes of fallible man, it would have been in direct opposition to other declarations of Almighty God. His moderation is beautifully exhibited in this chapter. In order to silence the blasphemous cavils of an objector, he had been constrained to occupy high ground, and to assert God’s sovereign right to dispose of all his creatures, even as the potter has power over the clay, which he has prepared for his own use. But when he comes to sum up his argument, he does not refer the rejection of the Jews to the mere sovereign will of God, but to their own obstinate pride and unbelief: thereby shewing us, that, whilst we properly refer all good to God, we must trace all evil to ourselves: if we are saved, it is God who saves us, from first to last; but, if we perish, we perish through our own fault alone.
For the further elucidation of our text, we shall consider,
The fact here stated—
It was a plain and undeniable fact, that the Gentiles had embraced the Gospel, and the Jews had rejected it—
[The Gentiles, till they heard the Gospel, were in a most deplorable state of wickedness [Note: See Romans 1:0. throughout.]: nor did they, at least with very few exceptions, at all think of seeking after God. Having but little sense of their guilt, and no idea whatever of any way in which their guilt might be removed, they concerned not themselves about a future state. The sentiment of the great mass among them was, “Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die.” But, on the first proclamation of the Gospel to them, they received it gladly, and experienced, throughout all the Roman empire, its saving benefits. Thus was fulfilled in them that prophecy, “I am sought of them that asked not for me: I am found of them that sought me not [Note: Isaiah 65:1.].”
The Jews, on the other hand, many of them at least, had a considerable desire after a righteousness that should justify them before God: and they actually sought after such a righteousness, by conforming to the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law. But through their undue attachment to that law, which was now fulfilled and abrogated in Christ Jesus, they set themselves against the Gospel, and thereby cut themselves off from all participation of its benefits. The offer of salvation, through the merits of another, was a stumbling-block to them: they thought, that if they observed the duties of the moral law, and compensated for their defects by a strict attention to the ceremonial law, all would be well: and being persuaded of this, they would not hear of a salvation, which dispensed with the observances on which they placed so great a dependence. It was to this alone, and not to any secret and irresistible decrees of God, that they were thus left to perish. Thus it was that the Gentiles embraced the Gospel, and were saved by it; whilst the Jews, with all their superior advantages, rejected it, and perished.]
But this fact only verified what had been long since predicted by the prophets—
[Christ had been represented as “a foundation-stone,” on which whosoever should build should live for ever [Note: Isaiah 28:16.]. On the other hand, he had been represented as a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, over which many would fall to their heavier condemnation [Note: Isaiah 8:14-15.]. Thus the very Scriptures that announced his advent, declared that he should be “set for the fall, as well as for the rising again, of many in Israel [Note: Luke 2:34.].” This, if viewed abstractedly, was a very improbable event: for, however he might be disregarded by the Gentiles, the probability was, that the Jews, of whose nation he was, who expected his advent, and, from their own prophecies, might have learned his character; who actually saw all his miracles, and heard all his discourses; who, moreover, were assured on the most infallible testimony respecting his resurrection from the dead; who saw also the very same miracles wrought by his followers as had before been wrought by himself; I say, the probability was, that the Jews would have immediately become his most devoted followers. But the conduct of this infatuated people was altogether contrary to all such expectations; and they fulfilled the prophecies which they did not understand.]
Such was the fact stated by St. Paul. Let us now attend to,
The instruction to be gathered from it—
Surely, in this fact, we may see the following truths:
That how earnest soever we may be after salvation, we never shall attain it, if we seek it in a self-righteous way—
[Some of the Jews, we know, were very earnest in their endeavours to fulfil their law. Paul’s description of himself in his unconverted state, abundantly proves this [Note: Philippians 3:5-6.]. So at this time many are very studious to approve themselves to God, according to the light that is in them: but they know not in what way to come to him. They do not see the nature and extent of the moral law; which, having been once violated, can never justify an immortal soul [Note: Galatians 3:10.]. They do not see that there is a new and living way opened for them into the holy of holies by the sacrifice of the Son of God [Note: Hebrews 10:19-20.]. They know not what our blessed Lord has so plainly told them, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me [Note: John 14:6.].” But we must declare to all such persons, that they are fatally deluded: “their zeal is not according to knowledge:” whilst they go about to establish a righteousness of their own, and refuse to submit to the righteousness provided for them by God, they cut themselves off from all the blessings of the Gospel [Note: Romans 10:2-4.]. Nor is it only by an avowed reliance on their works alone that they bring this evil on themselves: they do it with equal certainty by blending their own works in any measure, or in any degree, with the merits of Christ [Note: Galatians 5:2; Galatians 5:4. with Romans 11:6.] — — — Know then, all of you, that, if ever you would be partakers of Christ and of his salvation, you must seek to be found in Christ, not relying in any respect on your own righteousness, but trusting altogether in his alone [Note: Philippians 3:9.] — — — If you would gain the prize, you must not only strive, but “strive lawfully,” according to the rules that have been prescribed [Note: 2 Timothy 2:5.].]
That how regardless soever we have been about salvation hitherto, we shall attain to it the very instant we believe in Christ—
[The Gentiles at large give us a very just, but awful, picture of man’s depravity: yet, when they were altogether dead, God “passed by them, and bade them live [Note: Ezekiel 16:6. with Ephesians 2:4-5.].” Thus, if his voice in the Gospel reach our ears, and enter into our hearts, we also shall live before him. There was no interval between the obedience of Zaccheus to the Saviour’s call, and “the coming of salvation to his house.” The converts on the day of Pentecost were justified, the very instant they believed; and in like manner shall “all who believe be justified from all things.” The most perfect representation of this truth may be found in the ordinance of the brazen serpent which shadowed it forth. There was but one way of cure for all that were dying of their wounds; and that was, a sight of the brazen serpent. On the other hand, there was no interval between their use of that remedy, and their experience of the cure. Thus, then, the Lord Jesus Christ says to us, “Look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth:” and, if we will in a full reliance on his word direct our eyes unto him, “we shall never be ashamed” of our hope — — —]
That how calumniated soever this way of salvation is, the very calumnies that are raised against it, attest its truth—
[We must not be understood to say, that the mere circumstance of any plan of salvation giving offence proves that plan to be true and scriptural: for even the Gospel itself may be so crudely and injudiciously stated, as to give just offence; but this we say, that any plan of salvation which gives no offence to self-righteous men, is certainly not of God. Objections without number were made against St. Paul’s statements. When he said that salvation was altogether of grace, his enemies replied, that in that case God must be partial and unjust. When he said it was by faith, then they replied, that he dispensed with good works. The same objections even to this hour are universally brought against the same statements: and we may be infallibly sure, that, if no objections of the same kind be urged against us, we do not state the Gospel as Paul did: we are accommodating ourselves to the pride and prejudice of an ignorant world, instead of preaching the Gospel as freely and as fully as we ought. Let none then be discouraged when they hear the Gospel evil spoken of; neither let them wonder if it be “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness,” as in the days of old. It is so, and it must be so, as long as man shall continue unhumbled before God: and if you find it so amongst the circle in which you move, know that, as far as that circumstance goes, it is no proof whatever that what you hear is erroneous, but a strong presumptive evidence, that the word you hear is the very truth of God, the same glorious salvation which Paul preached. Only be truly willing to have God exalted, and your own souls humbled in the dust before him, and then you will find, that the Gospel offers you precisely such a remedy as you want, and that “it is the power of God unto salvation to all them that believe.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Romans 9". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter