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is generally the final punishment reserved for the more atrocious sins. v. 21. • hath not the potter power over the clay ?' that is, the material fitted for his own purposes, to put honour upon whom he chooses, provided it be not on the disobedient : as it is said, 2 Tim. ii. 21. if a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour,' &c. whilst he hardens still more the hearts of the contumacious, that is, he punishes them, according to the next verse of this chapter— he endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.' Whence then were they fitted, except from their own hardness of heart, whereby the measure of their iniquity was completed! See Gen. xv. 16. and Eph. v. 6. because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Nor does the use of the passive voice always imply the sufferance of some external force ; for we speak of one being given up to vice, or inclined to this or that propensity, meaning only that such is the bias of his own disposition. Finally, the three last verses of the chapter, which contain the conclusion of the whole question, are a convincing proof that St. Paul only intended to show the free and gratuitous mercy of God in calling the Gentiles to salvation, who should be obedient to the faith, and at the same time the justice of his judgements in hardening the hearts of the Jews and others, who obstinately adhered to the law of works. v. 30–32. 'what shall we say then ? that the Gentiles..... have attained to righteousness which is of faith’-not therefore through election independent of faith : . but Israel..... hath not attained : wherefore ? because they
sought it not by faith'-not therefore through a decree of reprobation independent of unbelief.
After having passed this difficulty, those which remain will scarcely interrupt our course.
Psal. xcv. 10, 11. • forty years long was I grieved with this generation,' &c. unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.' It must be observed here how long it was before God passed his decree, and that if we may reason by analogy respecting spiritual things, from types of this kind, as was done before in the case of Esau) he excluded from his eternal rest only those who tempted him, and whose hearts were hardened. 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, 16. and Jehovah God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers,' &c. because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling-place : but they mocked the messengers of God,' &c. until the wrath of Jehovah arose against his people, till there was no remedy.' Isai. xxviij. 12, 13. to whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest,' &c. ' yet they would not hear : but the word of Jehovah was unto them precept upon precept,' &c.
that they might go and fall backward, &c. ' wherefore hear the word of Jehovah, ye scornful men,' &c. xxix. 10. • for Jehovah hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes.' The reason is given, v. 13, 14. whence it appears that it was not on account of God's decree, but of their own grievous wickedness: 'forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth,' &c. but have removed their heart far from me.....therefore the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,' &c. Matt. xi. 25, 26. '] thank thee, O Father, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes : even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.' Lest we should attribute this solely to the arbitrary will of God, the verses preceding will explain why it so seemed good, and why Christ ascribes glory to the Father on this account, v. 2123; in which it is disclosed what those wise men had first been themselves, namely, despisers of the divine grace. See also xiii. 11. . because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.' And why ? the next verse subjoins the reason : whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance ; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.' It is impossible to apply this sentence otherwise, than to those who have first voluntarily rejected divine grace, in the sense in which nearly the same words are addressed, chap. xxv. 29. to the slothful servant. A passage to the same purpose occurs, chap. xiii. 13. therefore speak I to them in parables, because they seeing see not,' &c. Hence an easy solution is afforded for other texts. John viii. 43. 'ye cannot hear my word;'—because when ye were able ye would not, ye are now unable on account of your unbelief in which you are hardened, not on account of any decree of God; or in consequence of your pride, through which you cannot endure to hear the word; or lastly, as it is expressed in the following verse, 44, because ye are of your
father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.' Again, v. 46. if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me ? Christ himself answers the question, v. 47. 'ye therefore hear not, because ye are not of God.' What is the meaning of “ye are not of God?' not surely, ye are not elect; it implies the same as * to be of the devil,' v. 44, that is, to follow the devil rather than God. So too, x. 26. “ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep.' Why not of my sheep ? Because it was
so decreed ? By no means,—but because ye do not hear the word ; because ye do not follow me; 'my sheep hear my voice, and they follow me,' v. 27.
Ye, as I repeatedly tell you, do not believe, v. 25, 26. ' I told you, and ye believed not; the works that I do in my
Father's name, they bear witness of me: but ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you'. The argument runs thus-ye do not believe, because ye are not of my sheep; ye are not of my sheep, because ye neither hear my word nor follow
Christ certainly intended to give some such reason for their unbelief as would throw the fault of it upon
themselves, not such a one as would exempt them from blame ; but if not to be of his sheep, be interpreted to mean not to be of the elect, a privilege which had never been within their option, his words would contain an excuse for their conduct, rather than a reproof, which would be contrary to his obvious purpose. Again, xii. 39, 40, compared with Isai. vi. 10. • therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias saith again, He hath blinded their eyes,' &c. Not because the words of Isaiah, or the decree of God delivered by his mouth, had previously taken away from them the power or grace of belief irrespectively; but according to the reason declared by the prophet why they could not believe, namely, because God had blinded their eyes. And why he had thus
blinded their eyes, the preceding chapter explains, v. 4, &c. because nothing more remained to be done to his unfruitful vineyard, but to cut it down. This appears still more clearly Luke xiii. 21, 25. many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able : when once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door.' xiv. 24. • I say unto you that none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper. xix. 42. if thou hadst known at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.' Rom. i. 21, 24, 26, “because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God,' &c. wherefore God also gave them up,' &c. ' for this cause God gave them up,' &c. 2 Thes. ii. 10–12. with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish ; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved : and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie : that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.' iii. 2. .for all men have not faith ;' that is, obstinate and unreasonable sinners have it not; which the context shows is the sense intended. 1 Pet. ii. 7, 8. the stone which the builders disallowed,' &c. •and a stone of stumbling and rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed,'—that is, to be disobedient. And why? Because they had disallowed that stone, and had stumbled upon it, disallowing Christ themselves before they were disallowed by him. Whoever has paid attention to what has been urged, will easily perceive that the difficulties respecting this doctrine