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LECTURES
ON THE
NINTH OF ROMANS;
ELECTION,
AND THE
INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

BY REV ASA MAHAN, A. M.,


LECTURE III.

RECAPITULATION
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 19—24,
REMARKS.

VERSES 19—24.

RECAPITULATION.

A FEW words may be requisite in developing the exposition given in the last lecture, of the 14th—18th verses of this chapter, before proceeding to the explanation of the passage which is to occupy our attention on the present occasion. The apostle, having most fully demonstrated, by an induction of undeniable facts—facts bearing directly and decisively upon the subject—that the Jew could not be secure of God's favor, and curse-proof in respect to God's word of threatening against those who reject his righteousness, simply on the ground of patriarchal descent, asks the question, v. 14, "What shall we say unto these things?" that is, what conclusion shall we draw from them? Shall we conclude that if God does not save the Jew, however wicked, and reprobate to eternal death the Gentile, however holy, that God is unrighteous in his dispensations! "God forbid!"

That God is not unrighteous in his dispensations holding his word of threatening over the Jew as was over the Gentile, while he continues to reject God's righteousness, and to save all alike, whether Jew or Gentile, who accept that righteousness, the apostle now makes a direct appeal to the writings of Moses, whose authority the Jew himself acknowledged as divine. God is not unrighteous, is the argument of the apostle, in treating men according to the principle which I have laid down. This is evident from his declaration to Moses. God, in answer to the prayer of Moses, had averted his threatening of destroying the people from the earth, and, while he spared them, to take his presence from them. But when Moses prayed that God would pardon the people, they being yet in their sins, and expressed a willingness, as a means of securing this blessing to the people, that God should blot him out of his book, God refused to answer his request. He would neither forgive the sinner remaining in his sins, nor would he blot out of his book those who had repented. On the other hand, his principles of administration were fixed and changeless. "He would have mercy on whom he would have mercy, and have compassion on whom he would have compassion." The prayer of no individual, or any other considerations, could avail to induce any change in the divine administration, in this respect. This declaration of God to Moses, the apostle proceeds to show, v. 16, clearly establishes one great principle of God's administration, to wit, that the condition on which God will dispense mercy to man does not depend upon the will of him who seeks it, nor upon the will of him who uses means to obtain it, but upon the will of God who bestows it. If it belongs to God to exercise mercy, it belongs to him to say upon what condition he will dispense it. The creature, then, instead of prescribing for God the condition of mercy, should humbly inquire of God what his condition is, and, by compliance with that condition, enjoy it himself. "So, then," that is, it follows from the declaration of God to Moses, just cited, that "it," the condition on which pardon is bestowed by God, "is not of him that willeth (seeks) nor of him that runneth;" that is, it is not for men, in seeking mercy and using means to obtain it, to say on what condition they shall receive it, "but of God that showeth mercy;" that is, it is for God, who is to show mercy, to say on what condition he will confer it. The Jew was prescribing for God. Paul informs him that God himself has revealed the fact that it belongs to God to prescribe conditions to him. If, therefore, he would not fail of heaven, he must humbly learn of God what the condition of life prescribed by him is, and by compliance render his salvation sure.

The same great truth, the apostle goes on to say, is confirmed still further by the divine declaration to Pharaoh. God had afflicted that self-hardened sinner with successive judgments of the most awful kind. He had especially just raised him up from, a disease of the most fearful character—that of "boils breaking out with blains upon man and upon beast." God now sends his divinely-inspired servants, Moses and Aaron, to him, to inform him, that to convince him and his servants that "there was none like him in all the earth," he would still go on bringing one plague upon them after an other, adding that "if he should go on, as he might do, and smite him and his people with pestilence, they would be cut off from the earth," and thereby their probation cease, and their salvation become impossible. God had, however, acted upon a different principle. For the sake of saving him from the doom that was impending over him, and doing it by showing him his power, he "had raised him up" from the fearful disease from which he had just been restored. That was God's first design in regard to him. He had also an ulterior purpose. By him, as a monument of grace, should he repent, or a monument of wrath, should he refuse to repent, God designed to bring about a consummation in which "His name should be declared throughout all the earth," that by means of that revelation, men might everywhere be brought to a saving knowledge of the truth. "For this cause," to give you additional opportunities, and bring additional influences upon you to secure your salvation, "I have raised thee up," restored thee from thy recent sickness, "that I might show my power in thee," (show thee my power according to the Hebrew;) that is, by a revelation of myself to thee, and in thee, to secure thy salvation, and succeeding or failing in this, and treating you accordingly, as a monument of grace or wrath, to bring about such a result; that is, my name shall be "declared throughout all the earth."

From these two sayings of God, the one to Moses and the other to Pharaoh, in the first of which God refused to forgive the impenitent Jew, though even Moses prayed for his forgiveness; and in the second, God promised to forgive even Pharaoh, if he would repent, how evident is the apostle's conclusion, that God has his own changeless principles, on which he will dispense mercy on the one hand, and punish the incorrigible on the other; and that, in selecting his vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath according to these principles, he is not, as the Jew supposed, confined to any people or nation. "Therefore," that is, it undeniably results from all that I have said, "hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth;" that is, God is gracious towards, or pardons, whom he will, and is hard towards reprobates, or inflicts the penalty of the law upon whom he will. The object of the apostle here is, and this is the principle, and only principle, in which his whole previous argument culminates;—his object, I say, is to affirm that God,—in opposition to the idea of the Jew, that God, in the exercise of mercy, was confined to the Jews, and in the exercise of judgment to the Gentiles,—had his own fixed and unalterable principles of administration, and that, in conformity to those principles, he selected his vessels of honor and dishonor, without respect to the will of man, or his mere relations as a Jew or a Gentile. Paul affirms, and designs to affirm, no such principle as this, that God makes holy whom he will, and makes sinful whom he will. The apostle is not speaking at all of God's agency in the production of moral character in man, but exclusively of the principles of his administration in dispensing mercy or judgment in view of character already formed. The position of the Jew was, that mercy and wrath should both alike be dispensed with exclusive reference to external condition, and not at all with reference to character. Paul maintains, on the contrary, that they are bestowed exclusively, not with reference to mere national descent at all, but according to character, as sinful or holy. The sovereignty for which the Jew contended was one which confined God's electing grace to the Jew, and His reprobating wrath to the Gentile. The sovereignty for which Paul contended, was God's high prerogative to select his vessels of honor and dishonor, according to his own revealed, fixed, and changeless principle of treating men in conformity to moral character, and to select them from the Jews and Gentiles indiscriminately. To deny, as the result of his previous demonstrations, the Jewish principle of partialism, and affirm God's principle of universal and impartial love and justice, is Paul's exclusive object, when he says, "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth."

Explanation of Romans ix. 19—24.

"Thou wilt say them unto me, why doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will? Nay, but, oh man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power, over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?"

Verse 19 requires very special consideration, as it is the stronghold in which the advocate of unconditional predestination entrenches himself. His explanation of the passage is this:— Paul having established the doctrine, that all events, the actions of men, and consequently their character and eternal destiny among the rest, are rendered fixed, certain, and unalterable by an eternal and all-necessitating decree, the Jew comes forward with this objection against the doctrine, to wit, that as God's will determines the actions of men irresistibly, and as no man consequently can resist it, God, therefore, has no right to blame men for what they do. This is supposed to be the objection of the Jew to the doctrine of election and reprobation which Paul had presented. In reply, I would direct special attention to the following considerations:—

1. Let us suppose that Paul had really taught this doctrine, to wit, that God, by an eternal all-necessitating decree, has rendered it impossible for those who sin to be holy in the circumstances in which he has placed them, and then dooms them to eternal death, for doing what he himself has rendered it impossible for them not to do. Let us then suppose the Jew had seriously asked the question, on what grounds can God blame me for doing what himself has rendered it impossible for me not to do? What answer, satisfactory to a reasonable mind, could be given to such a question? There are some things which the Bible itself teaches us it would not be right in God to do; as, for example, to forgive the sinner without an atonement. So we are taught, Rom. iii. 26, "That God has set forth Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, that God might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus;" clearly implying that it would be unjust in God to forgive sin without the atonement. Now, if it would be unjust in God to forgive sin, but for the sacrifice of Christ, how could it be just in him to punish creatures eternally for doing, what he himself, in the fulfilment of an eternal decree, has rendered it impossible for them not to do? You may, if you please, say that it would be right, and charge the objector with replying against God. But can you tell us, or can you yourself see, how it can be right? You may say that God has the power to do it; he has power, as far as mere ability is concerned, to forgive the sinner without an atonement. To have the power, and to possess the right, to do a certain act, are quite different things. Can you yourself, hearer, see how it would be right in God to send creatures to hell eternally for not performing what is to them, and what has been rendered to them by the eternal all-necessitating decree of God, an absolute impossibility? If this would not be wrong in God, will any one tell us what would be? Say not that this is replying against God. First prove that God does this, and that he himself has not so constituted us, that we cannot but pronounce such a doctrine wrong, and then we will consider the charge of replying against God. I say that this doctrine cannot be true, for the obvious reason that, as God himself has constituted us, we cannot but know that such a doctrine imputes to the Most High the most flagrant form of tyranny of which the human mind can conceive.

2. The high Calvinist explanation of this verse presents Paul to our contemplation as having affirmed the doctrine of eternal and unconditional election and reprobation, and the Jew as an opposer of this same doctrine, and as bringing this objection to the principle of election and reprobation, that it renders it unjust in God to blame the sinner for what he does. Suppose, now, that it should turn out that the Jew himself was an advocate, and a very strenuous advocate, of this very doctrine. On the supposition that Paul had affirmed this doctrine, how could the Jew, being himself a stern predestinarian, appear as an objector against it? That the Jew was a predestinarian I will now proceed to show. The main sect of the Jews, as is well known,—the sect to which Paul belonged, and which he referred to in all his writings,—was the Pharisees. What were their views on the doctrine under consideration? "They," (the Pharisees,) says the learned Jahn, in his Biblical Archaeology, "agreed with the Stoics in teaching the doctrine of fate, or an immutable order of things, fixed by the decree of God. Perhaps it may be more agreeable to some, if we should denominate their opinions, in this respect, the doctrine of Divine Providence, i. e., that superintendence of the superior Being which rules and cooperates with all events in such a manner as to prevent, at least, their being left entirely dependent on the will of man, since the actions of man himself are dependent on the eternal purpose of God. Josephus, Antiq. xiii. 5, 9, xviii. 1, 3, Jewish War ii. 8, 14." How could the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination be more correctly stated than it is in the above extract, containing the doctrine as held by the Pharisees? That they did hold this doctrine in this very form, I will now show by citing one of the passages referred to in Josephus. "They," (the Pharisees,) says Josephus, Jewish Wars ii. 8, 14, "ascribe all to fate, (or Providence,) and to God; and yet allow that to act right, or the contrary, is principally in the power of man; although fate does cooperate in every action." If, then, Paul held and taught the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation, there could have been no difference between him and the Jew, as far as the principle of election and reprobation is concerned. The only question that could have arisen, would have pertained to this one, who are the elect and who are the reprobate? In respect to the principle itself, there would have been a perfect agreement between them. But the Calvinistic explanation of the verse under consideration presents the Jew as an objector to the principle or doctrine itself, and not to PAUL'S view of its applications. This explanation, then, cannot be the true one. Paul, in the declaration "Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault: for who hath resisted his will?" does not present himself as having previously affirmed the doctrine of eternal and unconditional election, and the Jew as an objector to this doctrine; for the Jew, as a matter of fact, was not an objector to it, but an advocate of it. Some other explanation, then, must be sought of the verse under consideration. This leads me to inquire—

3. After the real explanation. What does a wicked man, holding the doctrine of predestination, always do, when pressed with a conviction of obligation to do or admit what he is unwilling to do or admit? He always falls back, in self-justification, upon his own doctrine. This is, and ever has been, his invariable resort. Why do you blame me? is his reply. How can I help being what I am, or doing what I do? A conscientious predestinarian will not do this. But a wicked man, such as the reprobate Jew, to whom Paul was writing, was, always does it. This, then, is the real meaning of this much perverted saying of inspiration. The principle which the apostle had established, is this. The destiny of man turns wholly, not as the Jew maintained, upon patriarchal descent, but upon moral character, an acceptance or rejection of God's "righteousness." When pressed with unanswerable arguments in favor of this great truth, the Jew, in self-justification, falls back upon his own, not Paul's, doctrine of predestination. "Why do you pretend," he exclaims, "that I, as a sinner, deserve perdition? My actions are all predetermined by the irresistible will of God. I have never done anything opposed to God's will or eternal purpose." The Jew, then, I repeat, is not objecting to the doctrine of predestination, stated by Paul; but, on the other hand, to shield his conscience against the point of Paul's irresistible argument in favor of a doctrine denied by the Jew, the latter falls back, in self-defence, upon his own doctrine of predestination. I know, is the language of Paul to him, what you will do, under the pressure of my argument, that the destiny of men depends not upon patriarchal descent, in other words, upon fate, or the eternal decree of God, as must be true; according to the doctrine of the Jew, but upon moral character, or acceptance, or rejection, of God's righteousness. You will fall back, as a last resort, upon your own doctrine of predestination.

In the early part of the epistle the Jew is represented as resorting, in similar manner, to his own predestination, to shield himself from the pressure of the apostle's argument on the doctrine of justification. In the second chapter, the apostle lays down the doctrine that the destiny of men turns wholly upon one principle—moral character.

"Who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who, by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but unto those that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile."

The cavil of the Jew against this doctrine, and Paul's demonstrations of its truth, and that under the influence of his ideas of predestinarianism, we meet with in the next chapter. "What," he exclaims, "if some (of the Jews) did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?" God has promised to save our nation, is the argument of the Jew, and shall sin in us prevent God fulfilling that promise? Paul admits that God will be true, though all men be found liars. He then cites a passage to prove that a Jew may deserve eternal death and can escape it only by repentance and faith in God's mercy, both of which are implied in David's confession. "God forbid; yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say then?" continues the cavilling Jew, under the influence of his own predestinarianism. "Is God," or rather, as Mr. Barnes shows it should be rendered, "Is not God unrighteous who taketh vengeance?" That is, if we should continue in sin, and God, according to his promise, saves us, then our sin would render God's faithfulness to his promise the more conspicuous: how, then, could God properly take vengeance on me?" "I speak as a man," says the apostle, that is, I present the cavil, just as the reprobate Jew, under the influence of his own idea of predestination, is accustomed to do it. "God forbid," replies the apostle; "how, then, shall God judge the world?" The Jew admitted that he would do this, but had just presented a cavil which, if admitted, would render such judgment unjust. "For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory, why yet am I also judged as a sinner?" To this predestinarian cavil, the apostle replies by asking the Jew why he does not push his principle to its legitimate consequences, and say, as some slanderously reported that even the Christians, identifying them with the Jews, did say, "let us do evil that good may come." Here we have a striking example of the resort of all wicked men who hold the doctrine of predestination, when pressed upon in any direction whatever. They always fall back, in sell-justification, upon the doctrine of decrees. Paul has said nothing in the second chapter to occasion the predestinarian cavil which we meet with in the third. Nor has he said anything in the ninth, to give rise to the same cavil which we meet with in the verse under consideration. The common error, in the explanation of this verse, is this: Paul, it is supposed, must have previously taught some doctrine which would naturally give rise to this objection; and, as no doctrine conceivable could do this but that of decrees, that must have been the doctrine affirmed in the prior part of the chapter. The truth of the case is this. Neither in chapter second, nor in chapter nine, (for he has asserted the same in both,) has he said any such thing. In both alike, however, the Jew falls back, in self-justification, upon his own doctrine of predestination. The true meaning of the verse, then, is this. I know well the cavil that you will present against all appeals to your conscience in opposition to any form of error which you hold. You will fall back upon your own doctrine of irresistible fate or decrees, and deny that God has any right, inasmuch as his will irresistibly determines all your actions, to blame you at all.

Such is the cavil of the Jew expressed in verse 19. This cavil the apostle meets, or rather rebukes, by putting four important questions to the caviller. In the first, he charges him with the impiety of replying against God. The Jew himself admitted the divine authority of the Scriptures. For him, then, when confronted with their plain and positive declarations, the meaning of which he could neither mistake nor deny,—for him, then, to throw himself back upon his own sentiments, and on their authority to deny his desert of judgments which he could not deny that God himself had threatened to inflict, was certainly to be guilty of replying against God; it was the same as for the "thing formed to say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" Paul had shown the Jew, from his own divinely acknowledged Scriptures, that God had made him a moral agent, and would deal with him as such. Against this great fundamental principle of the divine government, the Jew urged his predestinarian cavils. This, certainly, was for "the thing formed to say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" Such flagrant impiety the apostle rebukes, in the most withering terms, in the two questions contained in verse 20: "Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" According to the high Calvinist's explanation of this passage, the Jew replies against God, by objecting to the doctrine of predestination established by Paul, that it destroys human accountability. According to the true explanation, he replies against God, by denying the doctrine of moral agency and accountability, proved, by Paul, by an appeal to the Jewish Scriptures, and denying this great fundamental principle of God's eternal government, on the authority of his own predestinarianism. According to the high Calvinist's explanation, "the thing formed says to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" by affirming that the doctrine of eternal and unconditional election and reprobation, maintained by Paul, destroys human accountability. According to the true explanation, "the thing formed" perpetrates this horrid impiety, by denying the moral agency of man and the doctrine of human accountability, on the authority of a self-assumed predestinarianism.

Verse 21 next claims our attention. "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?" In this verse, the apostle rebukes the impiety of the Jew in the cavil under consideration, and proves the reasonableness of his own doctrine, by a direct appeal to the consciousness of the Jew himself. That the apostle, in this illustration, refers to Jer. xviii. 1—10, designing thereby to keep the eye of the Jew upon his own Scriptures, and thus, if possible, silence his cavils, no one can doubt. To obtain a correct view of his real meaning, then, we must recur to the original passage itself. "The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter's house, and behold he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he had made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hands, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them." In what sense are nations, and, consequently, individuals, in the hands of God, as the clay is in those of the potter, according to this passage? Is it in this sense, as the high Calvinist affirms, that God claims the prerogative of rendering, by his own resistless agency, the character of one holy and the other sinful, and then, saving the one and destroying the other, for becoming what he himself has rendered it impossible for them not to become? A more false and impious construction cannot possibly be put upon the passage. This, on the other hand, is the true explanation. As the potter, after mingling his clay, claims the right to mould its diverse parts into vessels of honor or dishonor, as shall suit his purposes; so God, after doing all he wisely can to render all pure and holy, and thus fitting them to become vessels of honor, claims the sovereign prerogative, should he still find a part of them sinful and a part holy, to select his vessels of honor and dishonor accordingly, and that, wholly independent of any external relations whatever. In this sense, and in this only, are we, according to this passage, in God's hands, as the clay in the hands of the potter. That this is the very doctrine maintained by Paul in the verse under consideration, is perfectly evident— 1. From the fact that such, a as we have seen, is the undeniable meaning of the passage in the Old Testament, from which he takes his illustration. 2. This was the point, and in truth the only point, at issue between him and the Jew. The question which Paul is debating with the Jew, is whether God has a right to make moral character, when formed, the basis of his treatment of men, and reward or punish Jew or Gentile according to character, irrespective of all other considerations. The Jew affirmed that all Jews, whatever their character, must be formed into vessels of mercy, and all Gentiles into vessels of wrath. God had no right, of the same mass, however diverse in character, to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor. The apostle maintained the opposite doctrine. Here, and on this point only, as far as the present chapter is concerned, does he join issue with the Jew. We must understand the apostle, then, as using the illustration of the potter and clay for this purpose exclusively. 3. The nature of the apostle's illustration shows that this is his meaning. The original term here rendered "lump," does not mean the clay as first taken from the bed, but after it has been mingled and ready to be placed on the wheel to be formed into vessels. Where it is said, John ix. 6, that "Christ spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle," the word there rendered "clay" is the same as the one here rendered "lump." The figure, then, is not at all adapted to express the high Calvinistic notion, of first moulding character, and then awarding and punishing accordingly; but that of treating—creatures, after character has been consummated, according to their respective deserts. In this sense, then, and in this only, are we, according to this passage, in the hands of God, as clay in the hands of the potter. The question put to the Jew, then, is this Has not God the same right to treat men according to their moral deserts, and that whether Jew or Gentile, that the potter has of the same mass of clay to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?2

Verses 22—24 now admit of a ready explanation. In the preceding part of the epistle, as Well as in this particular chapter, the apostle had established the following truths: l. God is determined, if men will not repent, after all his efforts to secure it, to show his wrath against sin, and make his power to punish it known in their destruction. "Indignation and wrath upon every soul of man that doeth evil, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile." 2. To prevent such a consummation, he endures with much long-suffering with sinners, even though, in their character, they are "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:" "the goodness of God leadeth them to repentance." 3. He endures this for the purpose of rendering them fitted to become vessels of mercy, and then making known upon them, as such, "the riches of his glory." "But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that doeth good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile." All these great truths the apostle blends together into this one passage, and asks the Jew what he has to object, on the supposition that God treats men according to these principles. "What (that is, what have you to object) if God, willing (being determined) to show his wrath, and to make his power known, (in case sinners will not turn from their sins,) endured (to prevent their destruction) with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction," and thus endured them, that, on their becoming fit to be rendered vessels of mercy, "he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, whom he had afore (before admitting them to life) prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" What, the Jew is asked, can he object, if God, after having done all he wisely can to render all alike fit to be made vessels of mercy, treats Jews and Gentiles according to their character thus formed? And who, in the wide universe, can object to such principles of administration as these? But suppose that God first determines, past the possibility of change or modification, what the character of men shall be, and then saves a part and dooms the rest to the endurance of his eternal wrath, for being what, and not otherwise, than he himself rendered it impossible for them not to become? What must be the verdict of the universal conscience in respect to the character of such an administration? How is it possible for a being, perfectly wise and righteous, to be filled with eternal "indignation and wrath," against creatures, for simply becoming what he himself rendered it impossible for them not to become? Can you, reader, show that this is possible?

REMARKS.

1. The fundamental error in the high Calvinist explanation of Romans ix. now becomes perfectly manifest. That explanation rests wholly upon this one assumption, and can be sustained on no other, to wit, that Paul throughout the chapter, as a predestinarian, is arguing with the Jew as an anti-predestinarian. This assumption is the basis of this explanation of all the most material verses of the chanter. In v. 16, "It is not of him that willeth," &c., the Calvinistic explanation makes Paul, as a predestinarian, affirm that conversion, and consequently salvation, in no sense depend on the will of man, but wholly upon the sovereign, irresistible will of God, and presents the Jew as an anti-predestinarian, affirming that conversion, and consequently final salvation or destruction do depend upon the will or choice of man. The Calvinistic explanation makes Paul, as a predestinarian, affirm, in verse 18, "Therefore, hath he mercy," &c., that God, in the fulfilment of an eternal, all-necessitating decree, makes men sinful or holy according to his own sovereign pleasure; and presents the Jew, as an anti-predestinarian, as denying this doctrine. The explanation under consideration makes the Jew, in v. 19, "Thou will say unto me, Why doth he yet find fault?" &c., as an anti-predestinarian, object to the doctrine of predestination on the ground that it destroys human accountability; and presents Paul, in the verse following, as a predestinarian, charging the Jew, with replying against God, in thus objecting to this doctrine. The high Calvinist explanation can, by no possibility, be sustained on any other supposition. Now, such an opposition never could have existed, if Paul himself was a predestinarian, and argued with the Jew as such. The Jew, himself a high predestinarian, could not have been at issue with Paul, as the high Calvinist explanation makes him, in respect to the doctrine itself. He could have differed with him only in respect to the application of the doctrine. Paul, knowing as he could not but have done, the real sentiments of the Jew, would have been a dishonest man, had he presented the Jew, as the Calvinistic explanation makes him present his countrymen, as opposed to the doctrine of predestination.

2. Here, also, I notice a common mistake in reference to the relations of Christ and his apostles, and the Primitive Church to the world, as far as the doctrine of necessity and predestination is concerned. The common impression is, that they went everywhere preaching this doctrine, and that the world arrayed itself in opposition to them in reference to it. Now, no such opposition did or could have existed; for the obvious reason that all the world, as a matter of fact, with almost no exceptions, held the doctrine of necessity, and stood opposed to that of free-will. The Primitive Church, as it came out from under the direct teachings of Christ and his apostles, stood in unbroken columns in opposition to the opinions of the world in reference to these doctrines. In other words, the Primitive Church, with one voice, stood before the world in opposition to the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination, and in favor of the opposite doctrine. To show this, I will now present the following extract from a work of my own on the Will:—

"But the testimony of the early Christian fathers themselves leaves no doubt upon this point. I will cite the declarations of a few of them. 'If it happen by fate,' (or necessity,) says Justin Martyr, who lived in the second century, 'that men were either good or wicked, the good were not good, nor should the wicked be wicked.' In another place he says, 'Every created being is so constituted as to be capable of vice and virtue. For he can do nothing praiseworthy, if he had not the power of turning either way.' Again, he says, 'Unless we suppose man has the power to choose the good and refuse the evil, no one can be accountable for any action whatever.' Once more: 'God has not made man, like trees and brutes, without the power of election.' 'No reward,' says Tertullian, who flourished in the same century, 'can justly be bestowed, no punishment can justly be inflicted, upon him who is good or bad by necessity, and not by his own choice.' Again he says, that 'Man being appointed for God's judgment, it was necessary to the justice of God's sentence, that man should be judged according to the deserts of his free-will.'

"Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, and of the same century, says, 'Man, a reasonable being, and in that respect like God, is made free in his will, and having, power over himself, is the cause that sometimes he becomes wheat and sometimes chaff.' Again: 'They who do good shall obtain honor and glory, because they have done good when they could forbear doing it. And they who do it not, shall receive just judgment of our God, because they have not done good when they could have done it.' 'What is forced,' says Basil, one of the most distinguished of the ancient fathers, 'is not pleasing to God, but what comes from a purely virtuous motive; and virtue comes from the will, not from necessity.' Again: 'The will depends on what is within us, and within us is free-will.'

"'Forasmuch as God has put good and evil in our own power,' says Chrysostom, 'he has given us a free power to choose one or the other; and, as he does not retain us against our will, so he embraces us when we are willing.' Again: 'After a wicked man, if he will, is changed into a good man, and a good man, through sloth, falls away and becomes wicked; because God hath endowed us with free agency; nor does he make us to do things necessarily, but he places proper remedies before us, and suffers all to be done according to the will of the patient.'

"'God,' says Jerome, 'hath endowed us with freewill. We are not necessarily drawn either to virtue or sin. For when necessity rules, there is no room left either for damnation or the crown.' Again: 'Even to those who shall be wicked, God gives power to repent and turn w him.' In another place, be says 'Our will is kept free to turn either way, that God may dispense his rewards and punishments, not according to his own pre-judgment, but according to the merits of every one.' Once more: 'Let him who condemns it (free will) be himself condemned.'

"'It would be more just,' says Epiphanius, I to punish the stars, which make a wicked action necessary,' (this was said in reference to the heathen notion that the stars determine destiny,) 'than to punish the poor man, who does that wicked action by necessity.'

"'The soul,' says Origen, 'does not incline to either part out of necessity, for then neither vice nor virtue could be ascribed to it; not would its choice of virtue deserve reward; nor its declination to vice, punishment.' Again: 'How could God require that of man, which he (man) had not power to offer him?'

"''Ten thousand things,' says Theodoret, 'may be found, both in the gospels and authorities of the apostles, clearly manifesting the liberty and self-election of man.' Again, 'For how can he (God) punish a nature (with endless torments) which had no power to do good, but was bound in the bands of wickedness?'

"'Neither promises nor reprehensions, rewards nor punishments, are just,' says Clemens of Alexandria, 'if the soul has not the power of choosing or abstaining; but evil is involuntary,' that is, necessary. Eusebius, of the fourth century, declares, that 'This opinion,' the doctrine of fate or necessity, 'absolves sinners, as doing nothing of their own accord, which was evil; and would cast all the blame of all wickedness committed in the world, upon God and upon his Providence.'

"Didymue, also of the fourth century, after asserting the doctrine of liberty, says, 'And this is not only ours, but the opinion of all those who speak orthodoxly (according to the opinion of tire Universal Church) of rational beings.'

"Even Augustine-the first necessitarian, I believe, known in the church-is often constrained by the force of the universal opinion of the church, in his own and the preceding ages, to assert, though in strange inconsistency with himself, the doctrine of liberty, 'They that come to Christ,' he says, 'ought not to impute it to themselves, because they come, being'—called; and they that would not some, ought not to impute it to another, but only to themselves, because, when they are called, it was in the power of their free will to come."'

3. In the portion of this chapter which has occupied our attention in the present lecture, God is represented as exercising great forbearance and long-suffering towards all sinners. Of the object of such forbearance we are most clearly informed in other parts of the Bible. It is the actual salvation of the sinner. According to the high Calvinist doctrine, forbearance can never be exercised towards the non-elect for any such end; because that, in conformity to a sovereign eternal decree of God, they are left in circumstance in which their salvation is an absolute impossibility Nor does the lengthening out of life serve any purpose, so far as they are concerned, but to increase their quilt and consequent wretchedness to eternity. To call this forbearance and long-suffering, is to reverse all the ideas which such words are adapted and designed to convey. If this doctrine is true, forbearance and long-suffering can have no place in God's treatment of the non-elect. They can have been brought into being, and their so-called probation can he lengthened out, for no other purpose, as far as they, as individuals, are concerned, but their eternal damnation, and that in its most aggravated form; the very reverse of all God's designs and intentions in respect to them, according to the express teachings of the Scriptures.


2 "I saw from the inspired application and interpretation of the action which the prophet witnessed in the potter's house, that what to a superficial reader appears to be the meaning of the passage, is not its real meaning; I saw that it contained a meaning not only different from, but opposed to, the ordinary doctrine of election: for it declared that the future prospects of men were placed by God in their own hands; and that, as God's promises and threatenings were addressed not to individuals but to characters, a man, by chancing his character, might change God's dealing towards him. I saw that it was adduced for the purpose of maintaining, not that the potter had a right to make a vessel good or bad according to his own pleasure, but that he had a right, if a vessel turned out ill in his hands, to reject that vessel, and break it down, and make it up anew into another vessel. The right of making a thing bad is not contemplated at all in the passage; the matter considered is, whether the potter, after having once made a vessel, is bound to preserve it, although it turns out quite unfit for the purpose for which it was made: or whether, in such a case, he has the right of rejecting it. And as the exercise of the right of rejection on the part of the potter is unquestioned, ALTHROUGH HIS WORKS DO NOT GO WRONG BY THEIR OWN FAULT, much more does God claim to himself the right of rejecting a people whom he had set up for a particular purpose, if they refused to answer that purpose."—Thomas Erskine, Esq., Advocate.



FORWARD BY THE EDITOR.

INTRODUCTORY PREFACE

LECTURE I.
PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 1—13,

LECTURE II.
RECAPITULATION
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 14—18,

LECTURE III.
RECAPITULATION
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 19—24,

LECTURE IV.
GENERAL RECAPITULATION
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 25—33,
REMARKS.

LECTURE V.
ELECTION.

PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS,
PASSAGES IN WHICH THE TERMS "ELECT," "ELECTION," ETC., ARE FOUND EXPLAINED,
OTHER PASSAGES SUPPOSED TO TEACH THIS DOCTRINE EXPLAINED

LECTURE VI.
THE SPIRIT'S INFLUENCES.
DIFFERENT THEORIES STATED,
FIRST THEORY,
SECOND THEORY,
THIRD THEORY,
FOURTH THEORY,
FIFTH THEORY,
SIXTH THEORY.
REMARKS.


Copyright 2002 Alethea In Heart Ministries

Eposition of Romans IX., Etc. By Asa Mahan - Romans 9 Commentary