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a potter has over the vessels he forms; and he 'then declares, that, though God's power is irre
sistible, he does not act arbitrarily and caprici‘ously, but in all his dealings with the sons of 'men he never fails to display his own perfect at
tributes. Even this example of the potter proves that the apostle is speaking of this life only.
Vessels made for different purposes, for noble or 'mean uses, resemble the different ranks of society 'into which men, by divine appointment, are 'born; but this does not imply that the higher are more worthy in the sight of God than the lower, since each person will hereafter be judged “ac
cording to his deeds” in that station in which he • is placed. In like manner the election of a people 'for a peculiar purpose does not suppose the rest
of the world neglected or punished, except so far as their conduct may deserve it. The“ enduring with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath 'fitted to destruction," relates to God's forbearance (in sparing the Jews and giving them time to re
pent, although by their heinous sins and nume'rous provocations they had long deserved to be 'destroyed. “That he might make known the
riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, ' which he had afore prepared unto glory," relates
to God's gracious offer of the blessings of the gos'pel to those who he foreknew would accept them, ‘as appears from the verse immediately following.''
God exalted Pharaoh to the throne of Egypt, and gave him great authority and prosperity ; “ for “ this same purpose,--that he might shew his “ power” in his dealings with this haughty prince,
Ref. 239, 240.
and “ that his name might be known throughout “ all the earth.”] The Lord said to Moses, when he first ordered him to go into Egypt, and speak to Pharaoh, “I am sure that the king of Egypt “ will not let you go, no, not by a strong hand.” 2 Soon after he said, “ I will harden his heart, that “ he shall not let the people go."3 Yet in the subsequent history it is repeatedly said, that “ Pha“ raoh hardened his heart;” or that “ Pharaoh's “ heart was hardened :” but at length it is expressly said, “ And the Lord hardened the heart of “ Pharaoh :”4 and on this occasion the words quoted by the apostle were spoken. 5 'In the next chapter we read: “ The Lord said unto Moses, Go “in unto Pharaoh ; for I have hardened his heart, “ and the heart of his servants, that I might shew " these my signs before him.” 6 Yet just after “ Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and " said unto him: Thus saith the Lord God of the “ Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble “ thyself before me ? let my people go, that they “ may serve me.”Here it is evident that God used warnings, exhortations, and menaces to Pharaoh, after he had repeatedly stated his purpose of hardening him, and even after he had expressly declared that he had hardened him: and who will say, that this was inconsistent and superfluous ?
Again it is said : “ The Lord hardened Pharaoh's “ heart, so that he would not let the children of “ Israel go :” and also, I will harden Pharaoh's “ heart, and he shall follow after them; and I will
'Exod. ix. 16, 17. Rom. ix. 17. Exod, iï. 19, 20. • Exod. iv, 21. Exod. ix. 12. . Exod. ix. 16, 17, • Exod. x. 1. 2. Exod. x. 3, 4.
“be honoured upon Pharaoh and his host.” ? Now, whatever interpretation may be put on the words, “I will harden Pharaoh's heart;” it cannot be doubted that the event respecting Pharaoh was certainly predetermined: yet this did not interfere either with his free agency, or his responsibility. He was not compelled against his will to act as he did, nor was the glorious God the Author of his sins. Neither did he, in all this, decree or do any thing inconsistent with his own perfections of justice, holiness, goodness, and mercy. He did not punish Pharaoh, more than he deserved. On the other hand, he “ shewed mercy" to Israel, when guilty of the most abominable and aggravated idolatry; and he says, “ I will have mercy on whom I will have “ mercy.” I act as a Sovereign, without assign
ing any reasons; and without taking any of them from the merit of the criminals. These two instances the apostle contrasts, and adds as an inspired comment on them, “ Therefore hath he “ mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom “ he will he hardeneth :” and he subjoins, “ Thou “ wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find “ fault? for who hath resisted his will ? ” — Will any one maintain that Pharaoh, dying in his most daring contest with Omnipotence, was only punished with temporal vengeance? Had he no immortal soul? Was he fit for heaven? Was he not“ driven away in his wickedness : ” Or would the worshippers of the golden calf, if they had been destroyed in a moment, as one man, in the very act of idolatrous rebellion, have suffered only tem
, 'Exod. xi. 10. xiv. 4.
poral punishment? Had they no immortal souls ? Were they meet for the worship, joy, employment, and company of heaven? They were spared : and the mercy of God in sparing them gave them space for repentance; and this doubtless was eternal salvation to numbers of them. So that even the facts adduced, in illustrating the apostle's main subject, had to do with far more than the present 'world only:' much more had the subject itself. God deals with some of our fallen rebellious race, as he did with Pharaoh, in awful justice; and displays his glory in so doing. He deals with others as with rebellious Israelities; and herein glorifies his mercy in harmony with his justice. 'He hath 'constantly decreed by his counsel, secret to us, to * deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as ' vessels made to honour.'? The evil both of heart and conduct, in “ the vessels of wrath,” is wholly from themselves : but the repentance, faith, love, newness of heart, and newness of life, in " the “ vessels of mercy, whom he hath afore prepared “unto glory,” are wholly from the grace of God
by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good . will, and working with us when we have that good will.'2
These are our sentiments on the subject : and, though I have no expectation, or ambition, of rendering these sentiments general, they do not surely constitute a doctrine replete with every thing evil, and deserving of such severe philippics, as they constantly meet with ; nor are they preg. Art. xvii.
? Art. x.
nant with such dire consequences, to the cause of practical godliness, as multitudes seem to suppose.
Let any man make out to his own complete satisfaction, that the dealings of God with Pharaoh, as recorded by Moses, and adduced by the apostle, were consistent with the divine justice and goodness ; with Pharaoh's free agency and responsibility, and with the moral government of God by rewards and punishments; and he will at once perceive what we have to plead on our own behalf, on the general subject. Indeed, we are neither called, nor authorized, nor inclined, to use so strong language concerning any individuals, or collective bodies, upon the supposition that they are not the elect, as has been stated concerning Pharoah. Had Pharaoh been unjustly doomed to eternal destruction alone, how could the divine conduct towards him be justified ? But, if deservedly and justly doomed to eternal damnation, no hesitation can be reasonably admitted in respect of the dealings of God with him. For, at last, the question is not about the previous decree, about destination or predestination, but about the justice of God in what he eventually has done or will do. If what he has done or will do is wise, holy, just, and good ; no previous decree can render it unwise, unholy, unjust, and evil. While vindicating the Judge of all the earth, from a presumptuous charge of injustice, in dooming sinners to eternal punishment; we must not concede that he acts unjustly in temporal judgments: and if, in executing temporal judgments, “the wicked is driven away in his " wickedness," and is cast down into destruction, is “ God unjust who taketh vengeance?”—The