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to pass an unrighteous sentence. So that, according to the scripture sense of respecting persons, this objection comes to the same as the former, and hath been already answered.
But in any sense of the phrase, there is no respect of persons in God's having mercy on whom he will have mercy, and hardening whom he will. It is not any thing which God respects in one, more than in another, that is the cause of his giving him a better disposition. The reverse of this, is the very doctrine itself. The subjects of God's special grace, are those who were most hateful in his holy eyes, as well as those who were least so. It cannot therefore be from a partial love of complacency, certainly, that he is induced to make these differences. Nor need it be supposed to proceed from a partial love of be. nevolence. A rich man may help one needy person more than another, and yet feel alike benevolent to both : he may think that giving to one of them will some way answer better purposes, than giving to the other. A parent, in the disposal of his estate, may settle a larger inheritance on one child than on some of the rest, and yet have an equal affection for them all. He may have a view to the honorable support of his own name, or to the good of his family taken collectively, or to the public good. And may not the supreme Parent and Benefactor, have equally wise inducements for the various differences he makes among his creatures, in creation, provi. dence and grace ?
His having mercy on some, and hardening some, of every description among natural men, is so far from indicating any respect of persons, that it clearly evinces the very reverse. It plainly proves that the election of the subjects of his special grace, is “ not for their sakes, but for his own name's sake :" or that, not a partial kindness for individuals, but a view to the greater general good, is the ground of all this variety of distribution. But,
3. Perhaps it will be said, we can conceive no adequate reasons why there should be such differences; or why it would not be better—more for the glory of God and the universal good, if all men were saved, and made equally happy. To this, however, the answer is at hand. What if we, who “ are of yesterday, and know nothing,” cannot comprehend the reasons of the ways of the only wise God ? does it thence follow that they must be arbitrary and without reason? Let us not be so vain as to imagine that we can find out the Almighty unto perfection. Shall a worm of the dust, assume the seat of universal judgment, and condemn the eternal counsels of heaven as unwise, because the wisdom of them is beyond his shallow comprehension ! Had God revealed no reasons why he does not save all men, or why he makes one man to differ from another, and could we conceive of none; yet a very small degree of modesty would lead us to conclude, that He may see sufficient reasons.
The reasons why he hath mercy on this person rather than on that, in particular instances, it may well be supposed, are secret things which belong to Him, and of which it does not concern us to be informed : but some of the general reasons of his singling out the objects of his mercy in such a sovereign manner, are revealed ; and are such as we may in some good measure understand.
One reason is, that he may hide pride from man, and that the freeness of his grace may be duly manifested. Isa. ii. 17, “ The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted.” And Rom. ix. 11, “ That the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth."
Another reason is, that his glory may be more conspicuous, in the punishmenť of all sorts of sinners, according to their respective deeds and descit.
See in the context, ver. 22,“ What if God, willing to shew his wrath and to make his power known, en. dured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. In the future misery of the finally impenitent, the holiness and justice, as well as the power and wrath of God, will be conspicuous. And by his leaving some to perish whose sins have been attended with all the different circumstances and degrees of aggravation, and alleviation, opportunity will be given for a more full display of exact remunerating righteousness,
Hereby also, it will be made more fully manifest, that the atonement and righteousness of Christ, are the alone meritorious ground of any man's being saved from wrath, and inheriting the kingdom of heaven. When it shall be seen that all who have an interest in Christ by faith, are justified; and all who have not, are condemned, and that both the one and the other, consist of young and old, wise and unwise, those who have sinned without law, and under the law; of the circumcision and uncircumcision, Barbarians, Cythians, bond and free; it will then most fully appear, that “ Christ is all in all.” That his merit is all-sufficient; and the only foundation of a ti, tle to eternal life, or of deliverance from eternal death.
Again ; by a part of mankind's being saved, and a part left to perish, and by its being seen what they both once were ; namely, of all characters, from the greatest to the least of sinners, the most moral and the most profligate, the most thoughtful and the most careless and hardened ; the work and grace of the Holy Ghost, will be most illustriously evident. If only the better sort were saved, or if all were made holy and happy, it might be thought that they became good of their own mere motion; or were made so by mere moral suasion, and the renewing work of the Divine Spirit would not be so manifest to all. But when, as the apostle says,
“ Such were some of you ;” infidels, fornicators, drunkards, thieves,
murderers ; “ but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified ;” all must acknowledge, “ This is the finger of God.” Accordingly, the design of God in quickening those who had notoriously walked according to the prince of the power of the air, is said to be, that, in the ages to come, he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, as well as the working of his mighty power.
These reasons are revealed; and many others there may be, why only a part of mankind are saved, and why it seemeth good in the sight of God, to choose the subjects of his mercy with such sove. reign variety. Still,
4. It is objected, that this doctrine of divine sovereignty, will have a tendency to discourage from duty, and from being in the use of the means of grace ; and to embolden the unconverted in the ways of sin. That if, as the apostle says in the context, “ It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy :” and if it be true, that " he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy,” not respecting any antecedent qualifications or doings of sinners, then it is all one what the unregenerate do, or whether any means are used with them, as to the probability of their obtaining mercy, or the danger of their being hardened unto perdition.
But, I answer; It is not necessarily implied in this doctrine, nor do I believe it is true, that the externally moral, and those who are in the diligent use of the outward and ordinary means of grace, are no more likely to be saved, than the immoral, the careless and inattentive. It has been said, that God is under no obligation in justice, or by his word, to have mercy on awakened, reformed, convicted sinners; or not to have mercy on those of the most opposite characters. That he is not so angry with any impenitent sinner, but that he can have mercy on him ; nor so well pleased with any, but that he may leave them to final hardness and destruction : And that there is nothing in the antecedent characters of persons, whereby it can be known, by us, that they will be converted and saved, or that they will not. But none of these things imply, that there is as great a human probability of the salvation of one unregenerate sinner as of another.
All these things are true with respect to the acquisition of earthly good things. In regard even to these, “ The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; neither yet bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” No man is certain that he shall have a crop, however carefully he cultivates and sows his ground. “ One piece is rained upon, and the piece whereupon it raineth not withereth.” Nothing is merited, nothing is promised, nothing is certain, as to success in our worldly pursuits. Nevertheless, those who apply themselves with prudent diligence, commonly succeed best. Though the plowing of the wicked is sin, yet, in general, that tilleth his land is satisfied with bread; and “ the sluggard, who will not plow, begs in harvest, and has nothing.” And in regard to diligence or slothfulness in seeking eternal salvation, the probable consequences may be much the same, consistently with the doctrine of divine sovereignty, as now explained. Between any seeking of the unregenerate, and obtaining mercy, the connection may not be so constant, indeed, as between sowing and reaping ; but in both cases there is a hopeful, though not an infallible connection. When the outward and ordinary means of instruction and conversion are used with persons, or by them, as well as in the case of laboring for the comforts of the bodily life, there is more reason to hope for a blessing, than when those means are neglected.