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as if he was bound to give an account of his conduct; for he comes forward himself, on this occasion, anticipates the objection adduced against him, declares that reprobates issue from the secret fountain of his providence, and wills his name to be declared by them in all the earth.
Therefore on whom he will he hath compassion— The conclusion is here drawn, with respect both to the elect and the reprobate, by the apostle himself; for it is impossible to apply it to any other person, since, in the next sentence, he enters into a discussion with his opponent, and considers his objections. It is therefore undoubted, as already hinted, that Paul speaks his own sentiments in this passage, to the following effect: "God honours with mercy whomsoever he pleaseth according to his own will; and strikes with the severity of justice any person whom he chooses." Paul wishes to satisfy our minds with respect to the diversity of character between the elect and reprobate, by considering that it pleased God to enlighten some for salvation, and to blind others for destruction; nor in our inquiries are we to seek a cause higher than the divine will. He does not permit us to go beyond the sentences, on whom he will, and whom he will. The word hardening, when attributed to God in Scripture, not only means permission, (as some trifling theologians determine,) but the action of divine wrath; for all external circumstances, which contribute to blind the reprobates, are instruments of the divine indignation. Satan, also, himself, the internal efficacious agent, is so completely the servant of the Most High, as to act only by his command. The frivolous attempt of the schoolmen to avoid the difficulty by foreknowledge, is completely subverted; for Paul does not say, that the ruin of the wicked is foreseen by the Lord, but ordained by his counsel, decree, and will. Solomon, also, teaches
that the destruction of the wicked was not only foreknown, but they were made on purpose for the day of evil. (Prov. xvi. 4.)*
It is true, God would not man should perish, as touching his signified will, for he offered unto man a law, promises, threatenings, and counsels, which things, if he had embraced, he had surely lived. But, if we have respect unto that other mighty and effectual will, doubtless we cannot deny, but God would have men to perish. For, as we read in the 16th of Proverbs, 4th verse," God made all things for his own self, even the ungodly to an evil day;" and Paul teacheth us, that "God is like unto a potter, and that he maketh some vessels to honour, and some to dishonour." And this is also the same will whereby God ruleth, governeth, and moderateth the naughty desires and sins of men, at his own pleasure, as it hath been said before. By this will, God delivereth the wicked unto a reprobate sense, sendeth in the Chaldeans to lead away his people into captivity, addeth efficacy unto illusions, would have the wicked to be seduced, and is said to harden them.
We must not think that God doth so rule the world, as he should sit like an idle man in a watch-tower, and there do nothing; or that he suffereth the world and inferior things to have scope to wander at will, as doth a horse which hath the reins at liberty. Neither is that true, which is alleged by some, that God neither willeth, nor nilleth, those evils or sins, as if he thought not upon them at all; seeing what things soever are in all the world, they do belong to his care and providence.
But I would that these men did weigh with themselves, by what testimony of the Scripture they be able to confirm that permission of theirs, which they so obstinately retain. not ignorant that they allege for themselves that which is said in the 81st psalm: "I permitted them to their own hearts' lust." But, if we confer with the true Hebrew text, it will appear more feeble, and of less proof, than they be aware of. For the verb schillach, in the Hebrew, is in the conjugation Piel, which, by the force of the conjugation, signifieth a vehement action; neither is it convenient that we should abate the force thereof, through expounding of the word by permission. Nay, rather, it agrees with the phrase of Paul, wherein it is said, in the epistle to the Romans, that "God delivered the wicked to a reprobate sense ;" and it is
19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will? 20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against
rather showed, that God cast away the wicked, than permitted them. But whereto did he permit them, or cast them off? Verily to their own wicked desires, as He saith, they should be wholly possessed and governed by them. And in this sense is that Hebrew word oftentimes used in the Scriptures. In Genesis, it is showed, that "God cast man out of paradise ;" and who would there interpret the word cast out, by the word permitted, seeing he rather drave and thrust them out from thence? Moreover, in the 19th chapter, the angels say, "And the Lord hath sent us out to destroy Sodom," (Gen. xix. 13,) in which place, to send forth cannot be the selfsame that is to permit. And it is written, in Ezekiel, "It brought forth the branch," (Ezek. xvii. 6,) while, notwithstanding a vine doth not permit the branch to come forth of it, but doth rather enforce it to bud out. Wherefore let the interpreter beware, lest, in that place, he interpret the Hebrew word schillach by permitting.
The very action of man cannot be sustained, preserved, and stirred up, without the common influence of God, by which all things are governed and preserved; for truly it is said, "In God we be, we live, and are moved." Therefore, the defect, which properly is sin, proceedeth not of God; but the action, which is a natural thing, wherein the defect sticketh, cannot be drawn forth but by the common influence of God.
Many times, also, do devils know, for that they be present at the counsels of God, and are called on to execute his commandments. For so, when God was taking counsel to deceive Ahab, the devil stood forth, and promised that he would be a lying spirit in the mouth of all the prophets of Ahab; (1 Kings xxii. 22;) and a certain other spirit obtained of God to torment and trouble Job. And it is no wonder, for the devil is the minister of God to do execution. Howbeit, when devils be thus called to the counsels of God, they see what he hath appointed them to do.-Peter Martyr's Common Places.
At the first view, it seemeth an absurd thing, that some should be created of God to perish. Yet the Scripture saith this, that the potter doth make some vessels unto honour, and some to dishonour; and that God ordained Pharaoh, that he
God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus ? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to
might show his power in him. It is also said, that he, to show his wrath, suffered, with much patience, the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. Also, he maketh the ungodly for the evil day. (Prov. xvi. 4.)—Peter Martyr on Predestination.
God is the sovereign Agent and first Mover in every motion and inclination of the creature. Men, yea, angels too, are but secondary agents, subordinate causes, and, as it were, instruments to do his will. Now, the First Cause hath such a necessary influence into all the operations of second causes, that if the concurrence thereof be withheld, their operations must The providence of God, in the acting of the creatures, by his actuation of them, is like the motion of a clock, or other artificial engine, consisting of many wheels, one within another, some bigger, some lesser; but all depend upon the first great wheel, which moveth all the rest, and without which none of the rest can move. In God's hands are the hearts of the greatest kings, (and how much more those of the meanest persons!) which he turneth and bendeth which way soever he pleaseth. (Prov. xxi. 1.) Be the ax never so sharp and strong, yet can it not cut any thing unless the hand of the workman move it; and then it cutteth but where he would have it, and that more or less, as he putteth more or less strength unto it. No more can these, whatsoever strength of wit or power they are endued with, bring their own devices to pass, but when, and where, and so far forth only as the Lord thinketh fit to make use of them. Pharaoh's chariot may hurry him apace to the place of his destruction, because God had so appointed; but anon God taketh off the wheels, and the chariot can move no farther, but leaveth him helpless in the midst of the channel. So vain are all men's devices as to the serving of their own ends, and the accomplishment of their own desires! Yet doth Almighty God so order these otherwise vain things, by his over-ruling providence, as to make them subservient to his everlasting counsels. For all things serve him. (Ps. cxix. 91.) Happy, happy thrice, they that do him voluntary service! they can say with David, and in his sense, Behold, O Lord, how that I am thy servant; (Ps. cxvi. ;) that have devoted themselves faithfully; and, accordingly, bend their endeavours to do him true and laudable service, by obeying his revealed will.
make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
Thou wilt say, therefore-The flesh is thrown into great confusion, when the destruction of those, who are predestinated to death, is referred to the will of God. The apostle, therefore, has again recourse to the anticipating of the objections of his opponents, for he saw the mouths of the wicked would be all opened to assail, with the utmost violence, the justice of God; and he depicts their feeling with great elegance, for, not satisfied with defending themselves, they arraign God as guilty in their stead, and, after laying on him the blame of their own damnation, display their indignation against his invincible power. They are, indeed, obliged to yield, but with murmuring discontent, because they are unable to resist his will; and, while they ascribe power to Jehovah, advance against him a certain accusation of tyranny. In this way, the sophists, in their schools, so prate concerning what they denominate his absolute justice; as if, forgetful of this his distinguishing attribute, he was desirous to make an experiment of the force of his absolute power, dominion, and authority, by But, certainly, whether they will or no, though they think of nothing less, they shall serve him to the furtherance and accomplishment of his secret will. As we find, my servant David often, as his servant in the one kind; so we sometimes meet with my servant Nebuchadnezzar, as his servant in the other kind.
The counsels and purposes of God are secret; and thou art not to inquire with scrupulous curiosity into the dispensations and courses of his providence, which ordereth the occasions, and the seasons, and the other circumstances of God's punishments. God is the principal efficient cause and agent in all punishments and judgments: "Shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?" (Amos iii.) "I will bring the evil upon his house." Whatsoever thou doest, never make question of God's justice.-Bishop Sanderson's Sermons.