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selfish motives, they are entitled to no promises of converting grace. Nor does any sin, (unless we must except the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost,) exclude a person from the possibility of obtaining this mercy. God may grant repentance unto life, to the greatest sinner; or he may not grant it to one who has committed the fewest and least aggravated sins, notwithstanding any thing in his word. This, I think, is implied in the doctrine of his having mercy on whom he will have mercy, and hardening whom he will.
3. It may imply, that he is free from all those feelings towards sinners, which might bias his mind, or render him incapable of dealing with them according to the most perfect counsel of his own wisdom. That he is never so influenced by love or hatred, tenderness or anger, as to be unable to save, or to destroy, any sinner, when he judges it will be for the best.
Divine mercy is infinite; but it is always guided by divine wisdom. It can pass over the highest provocations ; but it will never lead to such lenity, in par. ticular instances, as would do hurt upon the whole. “ God is angry with the wicked every day ;” and in proportion, no doubt, to the greatness of their wickedness; but he is never so angry as to be implacable and unmerciful. His anger will never burn to the lowest hell, only when it is absolutely necessary, for important ends. The goodness of God is an infinite inclination to promote the highest possible good of the universe; and, as far as is consistent with this, the best good of every individual, however despicable, however ill-deserving. And as to that wrath which is cruel, such fury is not in him. God is not subject to any thing like those ungovernable emotions of weak mortals, which often obstruct proper
exercises of pity ; and which often render the operations of it indiscreet. Neither his complacency nor displeasure-neither his anger nor com
passion, should be conceived of as resembling our irregular passions. He is therefore calmly free, to exercise unerring wisdom, in softening or hardening, the rebellious children of men. Hence,
4. Such is the sovereignty of God, that it cannot be foreknown, by any rules of human probability, who will be the subjects of his renewing grace. This I take to be one thing implied in our Saviour's saying to Nicodemus; “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth ; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
The parentage or education of persons, is nothing whereby it can be certainly determined, whether they will be truly virtuous or not. Sometimes those descended from the most pious ancestors, are profli. gate, hardened wretches; and sometimes those born of most ungodly parents, are the regenerate children of God. Abraham had a wild and mocking Ishmael; Isaac, a profane Esau ; and Eli, and David, had very wicked sons. On the other hand, Abijah, in whom there was found some good thing toward the Lord, descended immediately from Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. The good king Hez. ekiah, was son to an idolatrous Ahaz; and Josiah, whose heart was tender, and whose piety and virtue were so eminent, was the son of Ammon, who did evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done.
The outward condition of persons, whether high or low, affluent or indigent, is not any thing whence it can be known, what their state will be relative to another world. Our Saviour indeed says, “ It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven ;” but he adds, “ With God all things are possible.” In the days of the apostles, we are told, “ Not many wise men after the flesh, not many
mighty, not many noble were called :” some nevertheless, of the great, and powerful, and learned, then were, and have been in every succeeding age, good christians. And certainly, all the poor of this world, are not rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven.
No external morality or immorality of persons, makes it certain whether they will be saved, or left to perish in sin and self-righteousness. The young ruler who came running to our Saviour, addressed him so respectfully, and inquired of him with so much earnestness what he should do that he might have eternal life, it seems, had been very exact in keeping the commandments from his youth up; yet he lacked one thing, and after all had not a heart to relinquish his earthly possessions, and take up his cross, and become a follower of Christ. But Mary Magdalene, and one of the thieves crucified with our Saviour, were made true penitents, and had their sins forgiven them.
Lastly ; Neither the greatest present security in sin renders the case of a person hopeless, in regard to obtaining mercy ; nor do the greatest awakenings or convictions of natural men, remove all grounds of fear, that they may still fail of the special grace of God. Those who have been most stout-hearted, as well as farthest from righteousness, are sometimes suddenly smitten to the ground, and brought to be of a humble and contrite spirit. And on the other hand, there is no stage of convictions, perhaps, from which some have not relapsed into insensibility of conscience, and final hardness of heart. After regeneration, we may be confident that he who hath begun a good work will perform it, until it is perfected ; but previously to this, all is uncertainty. An unbeliever, having not complied with the covenant of grace, is unentitled to any of its promises. All these promises of God, are Yea and Amen, only in Christ; and they belong to none but those who belong to him. When a sinner's convictions are most deep and genuine, still he may be left, and be lost : as in the case of the most obstinate opposers of all religion, there is a peradventure that they may be brought to repentance. God is sometimes found of them that sought him not ; and many shall seek to enter in at the strait gate, and shall not be able,
: We proceed now, as was proposed,
III. To consider the objections which have been made, and which are apt to arise in the minds of persons, against this doctrine.
One of the most common objections, and the first which I shall mention, is, that such divine sovereignty is unjust.
This objection is introduced in our context, after the instance of Esau and Jacob : “ What shall we say then ? Is there unrighteousness with God ?”
The apostle answers, “ God forbid;” or, far be it. Be it far from any man, thus to reply against his Maker; or to harbor in his heart such a bold and injurious suggestion.
And after what has been said, for explaining how God acts as a sovereign, in having mercy on sinners, and in hardening them, it may easily be seen, that his justice herein is unimpeachable : and that any objection against it, thence arising, is unfounded, and without the least color of reason.
This divine sovereignty respects, only the bestowment or withholding of undeserved favors. There is no claim, on the part of man, in point of equity. In matters of free gift, even men are not wont to be accused of injustice, though they single out some, . in preference to others, as the objects of their beneficence : And shall man be thought to have a juster right than God, to act the sovereign in such cases ! The answer of the householder to one of his mur
muring laborers, in our Saviour's parable of the vineyard, is enough, in all reason, for ever to silence this objection. "Friend, I do thee no wrong: Take that thine is, and go thy way :-Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? is thine eye evil because I am good ?" We may as reasonably dispute the right of the Supreme Being to make any differences among men, in the gifts of nature or Providence, as his right to afford the infiuences of his special grace, with sovereign diversity. Yea, we may as well dispute the justice of his making any creatures inferior to men; or men not equal to the highest angels. In matters of unmerited favor, sovereign discriminations may surely be made, without any interference with the claims of justice. Let sinners only be convinced that they deserve nothing from God but everlasting destruction, and their mouths will be stopped. They will see that they lie at sovereign mercy. And what else can those deserve at the hand of God, who have been guilty of numberless transgressions of his holy law, and who are still of that carnal mind which is enmity against him? But
2. It is objected, that if the doctrine of divine sovereignty, in making these infinite differences, does not suppose that there is unrighteousness with God; yet it supposes, at least, that he is partial, and a respecter of persons. We read, “There is no respect of persons with God :" but if it be true, that he leaves some sinners to final impenitence, and changes the hearts of others, who were equally unworthy, or more ill-deserving, must he not be the greatest respecter of persons in the universe ?
To this I answer; That respect of persons which the Bible condemns, and any thing of which is de nied to be in God, has reference only tó matters of judgment and retribution. It means that favor or disaffection which may bias a judge, and cause him