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his glory is the end secured,--and how? on vessels of mercy which he before prepares for glory. Preparing vessels for glory, surely, is the very way of making known the riches of his glory. The clause, therefore, clearly implies, that in order to such an end as making known his glory, by such an act as previously preparing vessels of mercy for eternal glory,—that in order both to the means and end,- he does something else. And what is that? The first reading suggests, that he calls them. But that is preparing them. The clause implies, that he does something else besides preparing them, in order that he may carry forward the whole system of preparation itself
. And what is this, but the act of which Paul had just spoken,—the only act about which he makes any direct assertion, --that God endures, with much long-suffering, vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction, xai—iva etc., and does this for the sake of carrying forward the system of preparation. Besides: the whole clause expressly includes calling, in the very preparation of the vessels of mercy.
In order to make known the riches of his glory on vessels of mercy, prepared beforehand for glory, whom he hath called, etc. In order to all this, God does something. What is it? The first reading says, He calls them. But that would be as much as to assert, that in order to prepare and call them, he calls them. The whole clause, therefore, throws us back on something asserted as done, or, by ellipsis, implied to be done, preparatory and subservient to the whole work of showing mercy, and preparing and calling vessels of mercy. And what is that, but the act suggested in the second reading the only act of which Paul had made any direct assertion,—God endured vessels of wrath fitted to destruction ?
2. The next reason which I alledge, is, that the second reading only is consistent with the purpose Paul had in view at the time. He was meeting an objector, who replied to his statement of divine sovereignty,—that sinners could not be blamed,—that God, in thus disposing of sinners, could not find fault. The design of Paul, therefore, was to meet the objector on this very point,the conduct of God in his disposal of sinners. After rebuking the objector for his presumption in replying against God,-a creature refusing to be at the disposal of God his creator,-he then seeks to coinmend the truth to his conscience. You concede to a potter the right to dispose of his clay, and mold from it vessels for honor or dishonor. Will you not concede to God the right to dispose of sinners, if, while willing to show wrath, he endures them, though fitted for wrath, with much long-suffering; and does it purely for the sake of carrying forward a system of recovering mercy? The design of the apostle, therefore, could not have been to assert, that God was engaged in two works,—in making mere creatures into sinners, and making mere creatures into VOL. VII.
saints. To meet the case and conscience of the objector, he could have spoken only of those who by sin were already fitted for wrath, and of the disposal God makes of them in his providence, -among them hardening whom he will, and having mercy on whom he will. What other way, then, could he adopt, to commend such a truth to the conscience, than to assert, that though some sinners were hardened under the providence of God, yet the process of providence itself, under which their hardening took place, was designed only for good,--that God was bearing, with great long-suffering, the sin of a world, that deserved death; and, that he was exercising this forbearance in order to redeem many unto glory? Does not this commend itself to the conscience of the objecior,—that if any sinners are hardened yet more under this process, this hardening took place on their abuse of a system of forbearance and mercy designed for good ; that God is good in carrying forward such a system of forbearance notwithstanding; and that the mere aggravation of ruin, that will be consequent upon it, to those who are finally lost, is to be chosen of God, rather than the ruin of the whole ?
3. The next reason which I alledge, is, that the second reading only agrees with the bistory of the times. For, Paul makes this statement apply to the very case of Israel and the Gentiles, as is existed at that time. The rejection of Israel and the call of the Gentiles, is the very subject with reference to which he introduced the whole section about God's sovereignty; and he closes the section and this very reply to the objector, with referring expressly to the case of Israel and the Gentiles,-preparing beforehand for glory, vessels “whom he hath called, even us, not only of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles.” Now at the time Paul wrote this, if we adopt the first reading, we shall make him assert, that all those who had rejected Christ up to that time, God was enduring in order to punish; and, that the ones then called, were all that would be called from that generation. For the vessels of mercy then existing, were those who were called from the Jews and Gentiles, and all but the vessels of mercy were, of course, the vessels of wrath. These, says the first reading, were endured only for punishment. These, says the second reading, were endured by a God who was willing to punish for the sake of carrying forward bis work of mercy, and preparing from among them vessels of mercy. Now, which agrees with the history of the times ? Were none but those who were called at the time Paul wrote this epistle, ever called from that generation ? Were none of the unbelieving Jews or the ignorant Gentiles then living, afterwards ingrafted, by faith, into the true olive?
4. The next reason which I alledge, is, that the second reading only agrees with the manifest design of God's forbearance. The first reading asserts, that God, in order to punish vessels of wrath, endures them with long-suffering; and makes the very end and design of forbearance terminate on sin and punishment. The second reading asserts, that God, though willing to punish sinners fit for wrath, nevertheless forbears, with great patience, and to many lengths of their sin, in order to promote his work of salvation, and prepare from them vessels of mercy. Now, the forbearance of God cannot have the first end in view: it evidently has the last. Is forbearance a means to secure punishment? But forbearance implies the subjects of it to be already deserving of punishment: and if God is represented as wishing for the existence of a case of punishment, he evidently must have it before he exercises any forbearance, otherwise, there would be no room for forbearance itself. Why, then, should he be represented as forbearing in order to punish? But reason shows, that forbearance has only mercy in view. For, forbearance is an appeal of goodness to the beart, in its very nature favoring the repentance of sinners; and if all are not actually recovered by its appeals, the excepted cases arise from abuses of it, and become, in their greater guilt and punishment, warnings to others to comply with the end of forbearing goodness.
The scripture asserts, that the forbearance of God is exercised only in favor of salvation. Paul, in this very epistle, says, that this is the end of God in forbearance. “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance; but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up to thyself wrath." Would Paul, after thus chiding opposers for their disregard of the reclaiming intention of God's forbearance, turn round in the very same epistle, and assert, point blank, that this goodness was designed only for their destruction, and not to promote salvation ; and thus bring down upon himself the very rebuke he had just administered to others ?
Nor is it to be seen, how God could carry on a system of redemption from sin, that should be effectual to the recovery of a part, without forbearing punishment. For either he must forbear In no case whatever, and then all are punished and none redeemed; or, he must forbear only in case of those who will be redeemed. But that would break up the very existence of families and nations
, and thus render a system of redemption impossible ; and it would destroy the very system of redemption itself. For all that lived would be infallibly assured, from that very fact, that they were to be redeemed; and some of the most powerful motives which are used in a system of redemption, and grow out of the unoral government of God, would be necessarily destroyed. If, therefore, any are borne with who will not be redeemed, it is a
necessary accompaniment of the system; and if any are borne with after they are given over to a reprobate mind, their case may be used as a solemn admonition and warning, to enforce compliance with offered salvation, and thus to promote the end of God's mercy.
5. Finally, the apostle Peter has, I think, settled the reading of this very passage. After representing scoffers as taking occasion, from the delay of judgment, to deny the intention of God to fulfill his engagements, Peter gives his brethren an exposition of the delay of God,--that it did not take place because God was slack to his engagement, and absolutely unwilling ever to punish sinners; but that it originated in bis will, under a system of salvation, that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance. To close this exposition, he says, “ account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation : even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you. As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood.”
Now, if I look over the epistles of Paul, I can find no place in any of them where the design of forbearance so directly comes up in its real aspects and relations, as in this, durvóntov cpistle, and in this, δυσνόητων passage.
The passage on which the above comment is offered, was intended by the apostle to vindicate the character of God, with respect to his diverse treatment of mankind, and his sovereign decisions of wrath and mercy. The appeal is made by the apostle to the conscience and common-sense of mankind. For he puts it even to the sturdiest objector to decide: if the conduct of God, in the concerns of wrath and mercy, is so and so, based on such and such elementary principles, has he not the right? Is there any thing in such conduct, that does not commend it as right to the conscience and common apprehensions of mankind? With this view of the passage, I offer the following remarks.
1. The will of God is not arbitrary, but wise in its sovereign decisions.
The simple attribute of sovereignty is represented by some, as swallowing up all considerations of wisdom, righteousness or goodness. Enough, say they, that a sovereign God wills. True: reverential piety will say amen to all his decisions, even in its own utmost darkness and ignorance; yet always, be it understood, with unquestioning confidence, that his decisions are based on the everlasting rock of righteousness and wisdom.
The attribute of sovereignty belongs to the divine will, because his will is supreme over all, and takes counsel of no others. His will is thus exalted : so that all good results in his kingdom shall be ascribed to the deep and well-laid schemes of his own wisdom and goodness, and not to mere willers and runners in his kingdom.
But in his sovereign will, though supreme over creatures, and uncounseled by them, he is not supreme over wisdomn and goodness, and uncounseled by them.
For a testimony to this, hear Paul speaking in vindication of the sovereign will of God, in the passage now commented on. He had declared the sovereign will of God in this manner :
« He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” How now does he vindicate God? Does he rest the vindication on the simple fact, that God wills? If we stop at the mere commencement of his reply to the objector, it might seem so; but he goes on to show, that God's will terminates on good alone, and combines the elements of authority, righteousness, forbearance, mercy, into one system of wisdom for securing the end. This all might be shown to be contained in the passage which we have considered, and with which he closes the reply.
2. The sovereign decisions of God are formed in subservience to his moral government. Or, his moral government being the indispensable means of gaining the ends he would secure in his moral kingdom, his sovereignty decides on the particular mode of dispensing and carrying forward the measures of that government, in a way best to secure those ends.
Thus the whole world, Jews and Gentiles, having by their own sin fallen under the penalty of the divine law, as the apostle had shown in a previous part of the chapter, and being utterly without excuse, there was opportunity, under the moral government of God, to introduce a system of grace, which should be carried on by moral means and influences, congruous and consonant to such a moral government: and in his decisions, as to the particular mode of carrying forward, in such a world, the measures of grace, his sovereign will is manifested in regard to the particular results,—the calling of some, and ultimate hardening of others,-as being the results he chooses, rather than depart from a system leading to the best possible results on the whole.
Is it not so ? According to the passage, there are those who are fitted to wrath. Now, if you will allow the apostle to speak as he has done through the whole epistle till he comes to this passage, the whole world are originally fitted to wrath, and in no other way than by their own voluntary disobedience of God's law and government. “They have all gone astray.” Again : “God is willing to show wrath.” This is a necessary element in the constitution and influence of his moral government. Not a desire to show wrath for wrath's sake, but twv, a willingness to show it, that will not shrink from upholding the authority of his law and government, by inflicting the penalty when it is requisite. Again : “ He endures with much long-suffering, and for the sake of calling a people to salvation.” Could a moral governor, if he would re