Romans 9:13
So it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
Arrogance of Arraigning GodJohn Collinges.Romans 9:13
Esau Hated and Jacob LovedJ. Morison, D.D.Romans 9:13
Esau Hated and Jacob LovedProf. Godet.Romans 9:13
God Righteous in All His WaysT. De Witt Talmage.Romans 9:13
God's Will and Man's WillC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 9:13
Jacob and EsauC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 9:13
Jacob LovedT. Robinson, D.D.Romans 9:13
Jacob Loved and Esau HatedJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 9:13
Jacob Loved, But Esau HatedJ. Vaughan, M.A.Romans 9:13
Justification by Free Grace VindicatedJohn Goodwin.Romans 9:13
Mercy AbusedT. Watson.Romans 9:13
Mercy IsJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 9:13
Mercy, Alternative OfRomans 9:13
Mercy, Importance OfJ. Hamilton, D.D.Romans 9:13
Mercy, ManifoldC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 9:13
Moses and PharaohJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 9:13
Not of Him that Willeth, nor of Him that RunnethD. Thomas, D.D.Romans 9:13
Not of Him that Willeth, nor of Him that RunnethB. Field.Romans 9:13
Righteousness of the Divine AdministrationH. W. Beecher.Romans 9:13
The Divine SovereigntyJ. Morison, D.D.Romans 9:13
The Divine Sovereignty: its Infinite GraciousnessS. Charnock, B.D.Romans 9:13
The Divine Sovereignty: Real and MercifulW. Arnot, D.D.Romans 9:13
The Mystery of God's LoveN. T. AnecdotesRomans 9:13
The Sovereignty of Divine MercyJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 9:13
The Unimpeachable Righteousness of God in the Dispensations of His Mercy and JusticeJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 9:13
Unrighteousness with God is a ThingJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 9:13
ChildrenT. Robinson, D.D.Romans 9:6-13
Children of the Flesh and of the PromiseJ. Morison, D.D.Romans 9:6-13
Election not the Ground of Our FaithW. Gurnall.Romans 9:6-13
God's Faithfulness VindicatedJ. Morison, D.D.Romans 9:6-13
God's Word of PromiseJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 9:6-13
Israel's Rejection no Violation of the Divine PromiseC.H. Irwin Romans 9:6-13
The .Freedom of God's ElectionT. F. Lockyer, B.A.Romans 9:6-13
The Children of the PromiseR. M. Edgar, D.D.Romans 9:6-13
The Distinction Between the External and the True ChurchJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 9:6-13
The Election of GraceJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 9:6-13
The Freedom of God's ElectionT.F. Lockyer Romans 9:6-13
The True Children of AbrahamJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 9:6-13
The True Heirs of GraceJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 9:6-13
The True Seed of Abraham is CalledJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 9:6-13
The Word of God Taking EffectBp. Ellicott.Romans 9:6-13
The Word of God Taking no EffectJ. Lyth, D.D., J. Lyth, D.D.Romans 9:6-13
The Work of God's WordS. Martin.Romans 9:6-13
The Children of the PromiseR.M. Edgar Romans 9:6-18
God's Sovereignty and Man's ResponsibilityC.H. Irwin Romans 9:13-24

Here is one of the most difficult problems touched on in the whole of this Epistle, and one of the most difficult problems in the whole range of human thought. It cannot be said that the apostle fully explains it. He does indeed suggest arguments which are sufficient to meet some of its difficulties. But how to reconcile human responsibility with Divine sovereignty remains a problem as difficult as that of reconciling the existence of evil with the power and righteousness and benevolence of a merciful God. Our wisdom is to bow with reverence in presence of these great mysteries, and to say, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"


1. God's sovereignty is exercised in righteousness. The objection is commonly made that to choose some and reject others would be an unrighteous act on the part of the Almighty. But God's choice of any one is not on the ground of deserving at all, but on the ground of his own mercy. It is not of works, but of grace. "For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I wilt have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (vers. 15, 16). God's choice of the Jews was free, and therefore he was free to reject them and to choose others. But if the Jews were rejected, they were rejected because of their own unbelief.

2. God's sovereignty is exercised in mercy. While the apostle takes a high view of the sovereignty of God, and asks, "Hath not the potter power over the clay?" (ver. 21), yet at the same time he shows that God uses that sovereignty, not with arbitrary power, but with mercy. "What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known" - that is, God who must vindicate his own character, who will by no means clear the guilty, who must punish sin, what if he nevertheless - " endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?" In other words, "You who would question the justice of God's dealings with Israel forget how much endurance and patience and forbearance he exhibited towards them." If we consider God's dealings with ourselves must we not all admit that he has not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities?

II. MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY. Another very common objection to the doctrines of Divine sovereignty and election is that, if these be true, man is not responsible. "Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?" (ver. 19). But here comes in the great truth of the freedom of the will. Human responsibility is there, whether we admit it or not. We are free agents, to choose between the good and the evil. Our conscience tells us this when it accuses us of guilt. The very condemnation of conscience is in itself a testimony to the freedom of the will and human responsibility. There would be no accusing voice within if we did not feel that we were free agents. Daniel Webster, the great American statesman, was once dining with a few friends in New York. In the course of the evening he was asked by the gentleman who sat next to him, "Mr. Webster, what is the greatest thought that has ever occupied your mind?" Pausing for a moment, he replied, "The most solemn thought that ever occupied my mind is the thought of man's responsibility to God." - C.H.I.

Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
It is evident that to the writer it was a mystery why God should "love" Jacob more than Esau. He even goes so far as to imply that, at first sight, it has the character of "unrighteousness" in God. But he instantly crushes the thought (ver. 14). St. Paul makes it the basis of some thoughts about "election." It would be impossible that there should be a God of infinite knowledge and no "election." But there are only two right uses of it — viz., to humble and leave God in His unapproachable greatness, and to comfort the tried and harassed believer.


1. Esau's picture is well drawn. He "was a clever hunter, a man of the field" — what we should call "a man of the world." He loved pleasure, and had a clear eye for any present advantage. We could not call him immoral, and, by the side of Jacob, he stands up the better man. He was far more sinned against than sinning. He had some fine traits. He was irritable, even to the point of saying that he would kill his brother! But he was forgiving, and his passion quite passed away. He bought what he might, probably, have taken by force. He never once deceived his father and mother. He spoke to his father respectfully and reverently. If he thought lightly of "the birthright" at one time, he was very earnest about it at another. He showed consideration at least the second time, in the selection of his wives (Genesis 28:8, 9). And Esau was most generous afterwards, at Peniel, e.g., even at the moment when Jacob was treating him with suspicion, fear, and cunning (Genesis 33.) He was unwilling to take anything at Jacob's hand, but, with great delicacy, when Jacob urged him to take it, he took it, and added, "Let us go, and I will go before thee." And when Jacob declined it, he said, "Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me." And the last thing we read of him is an act of modest thoughtfulness (Genesis 36:7).

2. The patient life of Jacob is a sad contrast. His besetting sin is deceitfulness. He takes advantage of his brother's hunger, and gets "the birthright" by what was almost cheating. To his apparently dying father, he tells, acts, asserts, and re-asserts a lie! And before he goes away he makes no confession or apology. He deceives his master and father-in-law, Laban, and runs away and outrages his feelings. And even to his generous brother he acts trickily.

II. WHERE, THEN, IS THE SOLUTION OF THE VERDICT, "Jacob have I loved," etc.? We go down into the sanctuary of a man's real life.

1. Esau seems to have never cared for God at all. He had no crime; but he certainly had no grace. There is not a prayer, nor any recognition of the fatherhood or the sovereignty of the Almighty. His "birthright" is little or nothing to him; and a present gratification comes before any future advantage. He tries, even with "tears," to change his father's resolve that Jacob should have the property. But there is no repentance. The "birthright" is valuable to him in a secular point of view; but he is utterly indifferent to its spiritual nature.

2. Jacob seeks the blessing by wrong means; but he values it. He makes his peace with God the very night after. His life at Syria is such that Laban was constrained to say, "I have learned by experience that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake." He traces everything he had to God. He wrestles all night in prayer. He goes up to Bethel, and renews his covenant when God bids him. He puts away all his wives' strange gods before he goes there. He secures God's permission and blessing before he ventures to go down into Egypt. He is careful when there to separate his family from idolators, and he makes good confession before Pharaoh. In his last act he talks to his children with grandeur, and most piously, and shows his faith by charging his sons to bury him in the land of promise.Conclusion:

1. Jacob had great sins, but they were falls! He rose; he repented; and he was forgiven. The child of God comes out, and grace prevails.

2. Esau was, in a worldly sense, moral, but godless. Not very wrong with man, but never right with God.

3. Suppose you had two sons. The one lived a perfectly correct life; but you were nothing to him. The other often grieved you; but he loved you, and was sorry when he hurt you. Which would be the one you loved?

4. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. Then how is it with ourselves? The world is very much made up of "Esaus" and "Jacobs." Some lead very correct lives. What is God? A cypher. Where is God? Nowhere. Others are really religious. They love God. But they do many, many inconsistent and very bad things. They repent; they are forgiven. And the correct, moral people of the world see the sins of the religious people, and suspect and despise them. And the religious people scarcely remember how very inferior they are in many things to the world.

5. Then what will be to the Jacobs? They will be punished, as Jacob was, by a retributive justice. They will go through several ordeals of purification. They will suffer even to the fire! But they will be saved! And what to the Esaus who live and die Esaus? A retributive justice too. No God in them; then no God for them! No birthright! No blessin! No repentance!

(J. Vaughan, M.A.)


1. Comparatively, not absolutely.

2. As representatives of a race, not as individuals.

3. In reference to earthly, not heavenly privileges.

II. HOW IS GOD'S JUSTICE AND MERCY VINDICATED IN THIS ORDINATION? He is the Supreme Sovereign, who specially privileges some, but blesses all.


1. Nothing as to its possibility, for all may be saved.

2. Nothing as to its conditions, for all must be saved by grace through faith.

3. Yet much as to special privilege and increased responsibility.

(J. Lyth, D.D.) .

Some light is thrown on the strong verb "hated" by other passages in which it is employed (Matthew 6:24; Luke 14:26; John 12:25). In these statements there is certainly no intention of conveying an idea of malice. There is in them, just as in the Saviour's remark regarding the camel and the needle's eye, something of bold hyperbolism. Such hyperbolisms are common and rife enough, in the language both of literature and every-day life. They give piquancy to speech, and are relished by "all the world." So "Esau I hated" is comparative, not absolute; and there is really more in the representation than in the reality, just because a phraseological foil was wanted. The idea is, that in the treatment accorded to the Edomites there was a conspicuous absence of that favour which distinguished the Divine treatment of the Hebrews and vindicated the expression, "Jacob I loved." In truth, there was now no room for national forgiveness to Edom. The cup of their iniquity they had filled to the brim, and it was now time that they should be compelled to drain to its dregs the cup of merited retribution. It was otherwise with Jacob in the days of Malachi (chap. Malachi 1.). God, although greatly provoked, had not dealt with that people according to their desert. In wrath, He had remembered mercy. Through the influence of Ezra and Nehemiah over the kings of Babylon, many families were encouraged to return to the desolated city. The streets were restored. The walls were rebuilt. The temple was reconstructed, and an appreciable amount of prosperity once more rolled over the land. "God loved Jacob"; for with all the waywardness and faithlessness of the peculiar people, they were still, in virtue of their Messianic destination, like a peculiar treasure to God. They were the casket which contained the heavenly jewel; and, for the jewel's sake, the casket was carefully kept and guarded. It was otherwise with Edom. Like many surrounding peoples, they had a time of merciful visitation. Their local habitation had many advantages; they were blessed in "the fatness of the earth and the dew of heaven," and were sheltered within the munition of rocks; and, had they been willing to be good, they might have had a constant flow of prosperity. But they became highminded, aggressive, selfish, morally rank to heaven with rottenness, and were involved at last in the overflow of Babylonian devastation (Malachi 1:4, cf. in contrast the case of Israel, ver. 5). We have additional evidence in these statements of the prophet's reference to peoples as distinguished from individuals in the plural "we," "ye," etc. The apostle's argument is irrefragable. Pure patriarchal descent on the part of Israel was insufficient to ensure everlasting Messianic blessings; for it was utterly insufficient on the part of Edom to secure those temporal advantages which were conferred on the Hebrews till the fulness of time.

(J. Morison, D.D.)

Note that —

1. In speaking of Jacob or Esau, either as men or as nations, neither Genesis nor Malachi nor St. Paul have eternal salvation in view; the matter in question is the part they play regarded from the theocratic standpoint, as is proved by the words "to serve."

2. Esau, though deprived of the promise and the inheritance, nevertheless obtained a blessing and an inheritance for his descendants.

3. The national character inherited from the father of the race is not so impressed on his descendants that they cannot escape it. As there were in Israel many Edomites, profane hearts, there may also have been many Israelites, spiritual hearts in Edom. Compare what is said of the wise men of Teman (Jeremiah 49:7), and the very respectable personage Eliphaz (notwithstanding his error) in the book of Job.

(Prof. Godet.)

This is seen all through his history.

1. In the promise made before his birth.

2. The vision of Bethel (Genesis 28:12, etc.).

3. The blessing in Padanaram (Genesis 31:5, 9).

4. The vision there (ver. 11-13).

5. The command given to Laban concerning him (ver. 24).

6. The blessing given him at Peniel (Genesis 32:28, 29).

7. The command to go to Bethel and the vision there (Genesis 35:1, 9, 11).

(T. Robinson, D.D.)

Why was it that God loved Jacob and hated Esau?

I. THIS IS A FACT. Ask an Arminian about election, and at once he begins to sharpen the knife of controversy. But say to him, "Ah, brother I was it not Divine grace that made you to differ? Was it not the Lord who called you out of your natural state and made you what you are? "Oh, yes," he says, "I quite agree with you there." Well, then, why is it that one man has been converted, and not another? "Oh, the Spirit of God has been at work in this man," that God does treat one man better than another is not very wonderful. It is a fact we recognise every day. There is a man that, work as hard as he likes, he cannot earn more than fifteen shillings a week; and here is another that gets a thousand a year? One is born in a palace, while another draws his first breath in a hovel. Here is a man whose head cannot hold two thoughts together; here is another who can dive into the deepest of questions; what is the reason of it? God has done it. He has made some eagles, and some worms; some He has made lions, and some creeping lizards; He has made some men kings, and some are born beggars. Do you murmur at God for it? No. What is the use of kicking against facts? God does in matters of religion give to one man more than to another. He gives to me opportunities of hearing the Word which He does not give to the Hottentot. He gives to me parents who trained me in the fear of the Lord. He does not give that to many of you. He places me afterwards in situations where I am restrained from sin. Other men are cast into places where their sinful passions are developed. Again, He brings one man under the sound of a powerful ministry, while another sits and listens to a preacher whose drowsiness is only exceeded by that of his hearers. And even when they are hearing the gospel the fact is God works in one heart when He does not in another.

1. Look at Jacob's life. You are compelled to say that from the first hour that he left his father's house God loved him. Why, he has not gone far before he has the Bethel experience. Laban tries to cheat him and God suffers it not, but multiplies the cattle that Laban gives him. When he fled God charges Laban not to speak to Jacob either good or bad. When his sons had committed murder in Shechem, and Jacob is afraid that he will be destroyed, God puts a fear upon the people, and says to them, "Touch not Mine anointed, and do My prophet no harm." And when a famine comes over the land, God has sent Joseph into Egypt to provide for him and his brethren. And see the happy end of Jacob. It was that of "a man that God loved."

2. On the other hand, God did not love Esau. He permitted him to become the father of princes, but He had not blessed his generation. Where is the house of Esau now? Edom has perished.


1. Why did God love Jacob? There was nothing in Jacob that could make God love him, but much that might have made God hate him. it was because God was infinitely gracious, and because He was sovereign in His dispensation of this grace. Let us look at Jacob's character. As a natural man he was always a bargain-maker. Read what he says after the glorious experience and promise at Bethel (Genesis 28:20, 22). While he lived with Laban what miserable work it was! He had got into the hands of a man of the world, and whenever a covetous Christian gets into such company, a terrible scene ensues. The whole way through we are ashamed of Jacob; we cannot help it. Now, if the character of Jacob be all this there could have been nothing in him that made God love him, and the only reason why God loved him must have been because "He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy."

2. Why did God hate Esau? The two questions are entirely distinct, so one answer will not do for both. Why does God hate any man? Because that man deserves it; no reply but that can ever be true. There are some who answer Divine sovereignty; but I challenge them to look that doctrine in the face. Do you believe that God created man and arbitrarily, and for no other reason than that of destroying him for ever? Well, if you can believe it, I pity you that you should think so meanly of God, whose mercy endureth for ever. Sovereignty holds the scale of love, it is justice holds the other scale. Who can put that into the hand of sovereignty? That were to libel God. Did Esau deserve that God should cast him away? Yes, what we know of Esau's character clearly proves it. Esau lost his birthright; but he sold it himself and for a mess of pottage. Oh, Esau, it is in vain for thee to say, "I lost my birthright by decree." God is not the author of sin. And the doctrine is that every man who loses heaven gives it up himself. God denies it not to him. He will not come that he may have life. But, says one, "Esau repented." Yes, but what sort of a repentance was it? As soon as he found that his brother had got the birthright he sought it again with tears, but he did not get it back. He sold it for a mess of pottage, and he thought he would buy it back by giving his father a mess of pottage. So sinners say, "I have lost heaven by my evil works; I will easily get it again by reforming." No, you may sell heaven for carnal pleasures, but you cannot buy heaven by merely giving them up. You can get heaven only on another ground, viz: the ground of free grace. You think that Esau was a sincere penitent; but when he failed to get the blessing, what did he say? "I will slay my brother Jacob." That is not the repentance that comes from the Holy Spirit. But there are some men like that. They say they are very sorry and then they go and do the same that they did before. On this whole matter read ver. 22. Observe that God had nothing to do with fitting men for destruction. They do that. God only fits men for salvation. At the last day the righteous shall inherit the kingdom prepared for them; but the wicked shall go "into everlasting fire, prepared" — not for you but — "for the devil and his angels."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

N. T. Anecdotes.
A gentleman who thought Christianity was merely a heap of puzzling problems, said to an old minister, "That is a very strange statement 'Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.'" "Very strange" replied the minister; "but what is it that you see most strange about it?" "Oh, that part of course about hating Esau." "Well, sir," said the minister, "how wonderfully are we made and how differently constituted. The strangest part of all to me is that He could ever have loved Jacob. There is no mystery so glorious as the mystery of God's love."

(N. T. Anecdotes.)

What shall

1. These principles are fixed (ver. 15).

2. Are independent of human will and action (ver. 16).

3. Respect both mercy and justice (ver. 17).

4. Are the same in application to all. He has mercy on the penitent, withdraws His Spirit from the impenitent (ver. 18).


1. Men are apt to complain (ver. 19).

2. But unreasonably, because God is the Supreme Sovereign (ver. 20). He can mould as He pleases, whether to honour or dishonour.


1. Even vessels fitted for wrath are endured with much long-suffering, affording ample room for repentance.

2. While the riches of His glory are displayed in the vessels of mercy.

3. And there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for the righteousness of faith is unto and upon all that believe.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)


1. We could then have no confidence in Him.

2. There would be no security for moral order and happiness.

3. No hope in the future.

II. INCONCEIVABLE. Because opposed to all our notions of Divine perfection, whether derived from revelation, conscience, or reason.


1. Either in the dispensations of His mercy or justice.

2. Because contrary to His nature.

3. Hence seeming injustice, where. ever it occurs, must be referred to human ignorance.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

All the unutterable woes of the depraved residuums of our great cities are taking place under the administration of a God of kindness and love. There is provision in New York for food and raiment, and thousands there are that wander through the streets hungry and naked. There is provision in New York for health and strength, and thousands there are that writhe in anguish on beds of sickness. There is provision also in the heart of God for every miserable creature that has erred, and thousands there are that curse and blaspheme with remorse in hospitals or in lazar-houses, or in the midst of the vermin and filth at the bottom of society. All that takes place, though God, who is God of love and benevolence sees it; all this takes place though nature is ordained to promote happiness; all this takes place, though the structure of society and the structure of individual men are designed to promote happiness; all this takes place, though God's government is for the promotion of happiness; all this takes: place, though the interior nature of God and His everlasting decree aim: at happiness. And yet, men are found who, with these facts staring them in the face, rise up and say, "God is too good to punish men!" Why, there never was an assertion so flung in the face of facts. The administration of God is full of goodness; but goodness in the Divine administration is employed according to law.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Going up among the White Mountains some years ago, I thought of that passage in the Bible that speaks of God as weighing mountains in a balance. As I looked at those great mountains, I thought: Can it be possible that God can put those great mountains in scales? It was an idea too great for me to grasp; but when I saw a bluebell down by the mule's foot on my way up Mount Washington, then I understood the kindness and goodness of God. It is not so much of God in great things I can understand, but of God in little things. Here is a man who says: "That doctrine cannot be true, because things do go so very wrong." I reply: "It is no inconsistency on the part of God, but a lack of understanding on our part." I hear that men are making very fine shawls in some factory. I go in on the first floor and see only the raw material, and I ask: "Are these the shawls I hear about?" "No," says the manufacturer, "go up to the next floor"; and I go up, and there I begin to see the design. But the man says: "Do not stop here, go to the top floor of the factory, and you will see the idea fully carried out." I do so, and having come to the top, see the complete pattern of an exquisite shawl. So in our life, standing down on a low level of Christian experience, we do not understand God's dealings. He tells us to go up higher if we would know. We go up higher and higher until we begin to understand the Divine meaning with respect to us. God says, Go up higher, and we advance until we stand at the very gate of heaven, and there see God's idea all wrought out — a perfect idea of mercy, of love, of kindness, and we say: "Just and true are all Thy ways." It is all right at the top; all right at the bottom. Remember, there is no inconsistency on the part of God, but it is only our mental and spiritual incapacity.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy
I.MOSES an example of God's mercy and grace.

II.PHARAOH an example of God's justice.

III.BOTH examples of God's righteousness.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)





(J. Lyth, D.D.)

To sin because mercy abounds is the devil's logic. He that sins because of mercy is like one that wounds his head because he hath a plaster, he that sins because of God's mercy shall have judgment without mercy. Mercy abused turns to fury. Nothing sweeter than mercy when it is improved, nothing fiercer when it is abused; nothing colder than lead when it is taken out of the mine, nothing more scalding than lead when it is heated; nothing blunter than iron, nothing sharper when it is whetted. "The mercy of the Lord is upon them that fear Him." Mercy is not for them that sin, and fear not; but for them that fear, and sin not.

(T. Watson.)

When the Romans attacked a city it was sometimes their custom to set up a white flag at the city gate. If the garrison surrendered while the white flag was up, their lives were spared; after that the black flag was run up, and every man was put to the sword. Sinner, to-day the white flag of mercy is out. Surrender to Christ and live before the black flag of death and doom takes its place.

Mercy is in the air we breathe, the daily light which shines upon us, the gracious ram of God's inheritance. It is the public spring for all the thirsty, the common hospital for all the needy. It is mercy that takes us out of the womb, feeds us in the days of our pilgrimage, furnishes us with spiritual provision, closes our eyes in peace, and translates us to a secure resting-place. It is the first petitioner's suit, and the first believer's article, the contemplation of Enoch, the confidence of Abraham, the burden of the prophetic songs, and the glory of all the apostles, the plea of the penitent, the ecstasies of the reconciled, the believer's hosanna, the angel's hallelujah. Ordinances, oracles, altars, pulpits, the gates of the grave, and the gates of heaven, do all depend upon mercy. It is the load-star of the wandering, the ransom of the captive, the antidote of the tempted, the prophet of the living, and the effectual comfort of the dying: there would not be one regenerate saint upon earth, nor one glorified saint in heaven, if it were not for mercy.

(J. Hamilton, D.D.)

As John Bunyan says, all the flowers in God's garden are double; there is no single mercy: nay, they are not only double flowers, but they are manifold flowers. There are many flowers upon one stalk, and many flowers in one flower. You shall think you have but one mercy; but you shall find it to be a whole flock of mercies. Our beloved is unto us a bundle of myrrh, a cluster of camphor. When you lay hold upon one golden link of the chain of grace, you pull, pull, pull; but lo! as long as your hand can draw there are fresh "linked sweetnesses" of love still to come. Manifold mercies! Like the drops of a lustre, which reflect a rainbow of colours when the sun is glittering upon them, and each one, when turned in different ways, from its prismatic form shows all the varieties of colour; so the mercy of God is one and yet many; the same, yet ever changing; a combination of all the beauties of love blended harmoniously together.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Observe —

I. THE TEXT DOES NOT MEAN that God is not merciful to all —

1. Favours some to the disadvantage of others.

2. Is not disposed to save all.

3. Distributes His favours capriciously.

4. Saves any without the co-operation of their own will.

II. IT MEANS that God's purpose in redemption is independent of man.

1. That its conditions are fixed without the will of man.

2. That the will or efforts of man cannot supersede these conditions.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

When it is affirmed that the sovereignty of God is absolute, it is simply meant that He is a Being who can do whatever He pleases. "None can stay His hand, or say to Him, what doest Thou?" He is not accountable for His deeds to any superior. "He giveth not account of any of His matters." But as He can do whatever He pleases, so He will fulfil His pleasure. He "does according to His will in the army of heaven," etc. "My counsel shall stand," etc. But while God is thus absolute sovereign, this absolute sovereignty does not determine for Him what it is right that He should please to do. Something else is indispensable, viz., His peculiar intelligence. In it, and in it alone, does God find the idea of right, an idea without which there could be no ethical imperative uttering itself in the affirmative "I ought." It is the highest glory of God, that He should, and that He always does please, to do only what is right. In Him is no darkness at all. He exercises His sovereignty in doing only what is "holy and just and good." His sovereignty is itself "holy and just and good." The apostle's adduction of the oracle addressed to Moses is a decided argumentative success. Men, without exception, are the subjects of God's sovereign sway. It cannot be disputed. So therefore are the Jews in particular; universally so. And yet "all have come short of the glory of God"; so that there is unless there supervene some great change or new creation, overhanging all, both Gentiles and Jews, a lurid thundercloud of doom. Is there room for hope? The asseverations, "I shall have mercy," etc., seem to assume that there is forgiveness with God, that He may be had in reverence (Psalm 130:4). But there are limits to His pardoning grace. He "keeps mercy indeed for thousands" (Exodus 34:7), but He will by no means clear those whose guilt has deepened into impenitence. There is a sin that never hath forgiveness (Mark 3:29). Who then shall be pardoned? Just those whom it pleases God to pardon — "He will have pardoning mercy on whomsoever," etc. And who are these? Under the Old Testament the category of the pardonable was not clearly revealed. Under the new none need walk in uncertainty. Those who put their trust in Christ shall be pardoned. And as regards those who are destitute of this revelation, see Romans 2:13-15. Their responsibility is measured by their opportunity. And it lies entirely with God's sovereignty to determine who shall be the recipients of His bounty. In the statements "On whomsoever I have," or am having, "mercy," etc., there seems to be the conveyance of the idea that God was already in absolute spontaneity at work forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. The favourite work of Divine grace, however, is so great, august, and far-reaching in its ethical influence that none but the Highest could reasonably undertake it, or carry it through. "There is none who can forgive sins but God only." There is hence, on the part of God, the well-grounded assumption of a very lofty prerogative, which is tantamount to an assertion that He will not suffer any one, not even Moses, to interfere with the administration of His bounty. He is resolved to dispense His bounty to whomsoever He pleases.

(J. Morison, D.D.)

As God's throne is a throne of holiness, so it is a throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). A throne encircled with a rainbow, "in sight, like an emerald" (Revelation 4:3); an emblem of the covenant, betokening mercy. Though His nature be infinitely excellent above us, and His power infinitely transcendent over us, yet the majesty of His government is tempered with an unspeakable goodness. He acts not so much as an absolute lord as a gracious sovereign and obliging benefactor. He delights not to make His subjects slaves; exacts not of them any servile or fearful, but a generous and cheerful obedience. He requires them not to fear or worship Him so much for His power as His goodness. He requires not of a rational creature anything repugnant to the honour, dignity, and principles of such a nature; nor anything that may make it weary of its own being, or of the service it owes its sovereign. He draws it by the cords of a man; His goodness renders His laws as sweet as honey and the honeycomb to an unvitiated palate and a renewed mind. And though it be granted He hath full disposal of His creature as the potter of His vessel, yet His goodness will never permit Him to use this sovereign right to the hurt of a creature that deserves it not. As not to punish the sinner would be a denial of His justice, so to torment the innocent would be a denial of His goodness. It is as much against the nature of God to punish one eternally who hath not deserved it as it is to deny Himself and act anything foolishly, and unbecoming His other perfections which render Him majestical and adorable.

(S. Charnock, B.D.)

Conspiracies have at various times sprung up to deprive the Supreme of this peculiar glory — to deny Him a will. Men would fain substitute a law of nature for the living God. They conceive of an unthinkable principle like gravitation; they think of a power like the sea, lashing itself and raging and advancing without a purpose or a plan, floating a ship and sinking a stone with equal indifference, and continuing afterwards its unmeaning roar. I love this chapter; it is a sublime protest against an atheistic human philosophy. I can have no communion with a mere mechanical omnipotence — a sort of infinite ocean that heaves eternally by laws to which it is subject; saving me if I continue to make myself sufficiently buoyant before I am cast on its cold, uncaring bosom; and swallowing me up with the same relentless regularity if I make the leap before I be light enough. This omnipotent principle is not my Saviour; I need as my Saviour the living God who loves me, and whom I may love in return — the God who looked on me when I was lost, and loved me when I was worthless — who saved me from hell and made me His child. I need from my God not merely a general aspect of benevolence towards the world, under which some of the most vigorous agonisers may struggle into heaven; I need not only permission to save myself, but a hope that the Infinite sees me, knows me, pities me, loves me, grasps me, and holds me in the hollow of His hand, safe against all dangers, until He bring me safe to His eternal rest.

(W. Arnot, D.D.)

"For He saith to Moses, I will," etc. As if He should have said, "My doctrine of justification, by the free grace and pleasure of God through believing, is so far from rendering Him unrighteous, that Himself plainly asserteth the substance of it in saying thus unto Moses. Meaning that inasmuch as all men having sinned are become obnoxious unto Me, I am resolved to use my prerogative, and to show mercy unto whom I please, not upon such who shall be obtruded upon Me by men, or who shall judge themselves worthy. The repetitions are very emphatical, and import in the highest degree a resolvedness in God to dispense His favour according to His own pleasure, and not according to the thoughts of men. When the clouds pour out rain in abundance it is a sign they were full of water. In like manner, when a man reiterates any purpose, it argueth a fulness of that which is thus uttered, and that the heart could not discharge itself by one expression. Now we know who those are on whom God is everlastingly resolved to show mercy, viz., those who believe in His Son (2 Corinthians 1:19, 20). And upon this account the gospel, which asserteth this purpose of God, is termed the everlasting gospel (Revelation 14:6), i.e., one the tenor and contents whereof shall never be altered. Here God fully declares who they are on whom He will have mercy, viz., believers. Neither are all the angels in heaven nor men upon earth able to take Him off from this His purpose. For that is to be considered by the way that the apostle clearly speaketh here of that grace or mercy of God which relateth to the salvation of men. But whereas the Scripture speaks of two sorts or degrees of grace, one which precedes faith, and consists partly in the gift of His Son, partly in calling them by the gospel, and vouchsafing means and opportunities unto them for repenting and believing; and another, which is subsequent. The question may be, of which the apostle speaks. I answer of the latter.

1. God makes no such difference or distinction of men in His preventing grace as the words before us manifestly imply (Hebrews 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:6; Acts 17:30; Matthew 20:16, etc.).

2. The whole discourse of the apostle in the context is not concerning preventing grace or mercy, but subsequent, as, viz., concerning justification, adoption, etc.

3. And evident it is that the apostle's intent is to declare the Jews to be excluded from that grace and mercy, as in telling them that the children of the flesh are not the children of God, but the children of the promise (ver. 8), that "the elder should serve the younger," and that the "purpose of God stands not of works," etc. Certain it is that these Jews were not excluded from preventing grace, for they were called of God by the apostles, yea, and by Christ Himself, and this by means so efficacious that our Saviour affirmeth that even the men of Tyre and Sidon might or would have been converted by them (Matthew 11:21). Therefore the grace or mercy spoken of in the words in hand must needs be subsequent. And if so it cannot be understood of any such mercy in God towards men by which men, yet unregenerate, are enabled, much less necessitated, to repent or believe, but of that mercy which is vouchsafed unto them who do now repent and believe. So that the meaning of the words, "I will have mercy on whom," etc., is as if God should have said, I will justify, adopt, and glorify persons under what qualifications soever I Myself please, and will not be ordered or taught by men what I have to do, or what becometh Me to do, in this kind. As regards what God actually said to Moses (Exodus 33:16), it appears that Moses (Exodus 33:13, 16)had desired of God that He would consider that the Jews were His people, and that He would please lead them that so it might be known in the world that both he and his people had found grace in His sight. This God grants. Upon this Moses makes a further request, viz., that God would show him His glory (Exodus 33:18). To this God answers, "I will make all My goodness pass before thee," etc., giving the reason hereof in the words cited by the apostle, "Let no man take offence that I should do that in a way of favour for thee, which I neither shall do to any of the people besides, nor ever did to any of thy fathers, nor to any man after thee; nor do thou imagine that I am anyways a debtor unto thee of that grace which I deny unto others, for I am debtor unto no man, and will dispense My favours, and so My mercies, only unto such persons as I please." Now many of those whom God decreed upon their believing from eternity to justify, and adopt, apostatise from, and make shipwreck of their faith (as the Scripture in many places testifieth), from whom He hath peremptorily threatened to take away the grace of justification which before He had conferred upon them. Therefore the emphatical import of the apostle's expression, "I will have mercy on whom I have" (now or at present) "mercy," respects the same species, not the same persons of men; being as if He had said, To that sort or kind of men to whom at this day I show mercy (viz., in pardoning their sin and justifying their persons, meaning believers), I will show the like mercy at all times hereafter to the world's end. Or rather thus, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy," i.e., I will not be taken off by men or by angels from showing the grace or mercy of justification and adoption unto those (i.e., that kind of men) to whom I at this day show this grace or mercy, and these are such who believe.

(John Goodwin.)

They say the head of the great river Nilus could never yet be found. It has been sought for, and many have travelled possibly some thousands of miles, but yet it cannot be found. But the head of Nilus will be found before men find any cause of Divine love beyond the Divine will. It speaketh a wonderful arrogance in men to make God accountable for His acts of Divine grace; what greater arrogance and vanity can be imagined than this? When a poor creature will not himself be brought to an account why he gives one beggar money and not another, or why he giveth to one child a greater portion than to another (though they both be the acknowledged fruit of his body), that yet this worm should dream that God must be accountable to his reason, why He showeth mercy to this man and not to another, when they are both the work of His hands. It is certainly enough to say, "He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy; and extend compassion to whom He will extend compassion." What pride, what arrogance is this, not to allow to God, whom we confess to be the supreme and most free agent, the liberty which we will yet claim and challenge for another! This is flat rebellion against the Lord of all, whose sovereignty it dares to question.

(John Collinges.)

So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy
For ages this chapter has been a battle-ground for theological dispute. Doctrines have been raised here most degrading to man — most derogatory to God. The first thing, therefore, is to brush away the clouds of false opinions with which theological polemics have enveloped it. The verse is not meant to express the idea —

1. That the Great Father does not show mercy to all mankind. This would be contrary to facts. Reason, consciousness, and the Bible unite in declaring that it is "of the Lord's mercy that we have not been consumed." Man's existence is to be traced to the fact that he lives every moment by mercy, and mercy bears him up from hell.

2. That God gives to some men favours that He withholds from others, which is a truth too obvious for debate. You see this unequal distribution of the Divine favour —

(1)In natural endowments. No two men are alike in natural endowment.

(2)In our secular condition.

(3)In the means of spiritual improvement.Some are" born heathens, etc., So that however humbling to our pride it may be, yet God does bestow favours on some which He withholds from others. But here Paul would not argue a point so palpable to his opponents.

3. That the Infinite Father is not disposed to save all. This is opposed to His own most positive and frequent declarations. "I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner." "Let the wicked forsake his way," etc. This is also contrary to the universality of His remedial provisions. "God so loved the world," etc. "He is a propitiation... for the sins of the whole world."

4. That the Infinite Father distributes His favours capriciously. We are unable to discover them, but that He has the highest reasons for His conduct we are bound to believe. The Infinite intellect never acts without reason, and Infinite love never acts unkindly. His mighty operations are under the sway of intellect; His intellect is under the sway of love.

5. That willing and running, or human efforts, are not essential to salvation.(1) There are blessings bestowed upon us independent of our willing and running. This is the case, e.g., with natural endowments. If we have inferior powers the blame is not with us; if we are above the average the credit is not ours. It is sometimes the case too with our temporal condition. Sometimes riches come to a man without any effort or will of his own, and with poverty the same, but not always.(2) It is ever true, however, of mental and moral excellence. We do not say that God cannot make a man intelligent and virtuous irrespective of his own conduct, but we have never heard of such cases. God's regular method to enlighten the ignorant, to reform the depraved, etc., is by the earnest use of their own faculties. The Bible gives us to understand —(a) That without my willing and running I cannot be saved. The work of a man in obtaining his salvation is compared to husbandry, building, battle, racing; all laborious occupations. In one word, so far from willing and running not being required, we must agonise to enter in.(b) That when there are the right running and willing, salvation is sure to be obtained. Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened." "He that cometh to Him He will on no account cast out." Running and willing therefore cannot be dispensed with. What then does it mean? Simply this — that the original reason of salvation is in God and not in man. A truth this which is no sooner propounded than adopted by universal intelligence as an axiom. If there be a God He must be the primordial cause not only of all existence, but of all good throughout His vast and ever-extending universe. Then "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth" —

I. THAT GOD'S DETERMINATION TO SAVE MANKIND CAME. Human effort had nothing to do in starting the eternal idea. "Who being His counsellor hath taught Him?" God's ideas are as old as Himself. There is no succession of thought in the Eternal Mind. One all-seeing, all-embracing, infinite thought is His. "Known unto God are all His works, redemption included, from the beginning of the world." We are saved, then, "not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace," etc. Had He not determined to save humanity we never could have been saved, and His determination is entirely independent of all "willing and running."


1. It is God's plan to work by means. The principle of mediation fills and rules the universe.(1) It is so in the material world. God acts upon one thing through the instrumentality of another. One body is moved, one life is produced, one creature is supported by another.(2) It is so in the mental world. One mind guides, educates, moulds another.(3) In the moral world God's method here is to save the world by Christ. He is in Christ "reconciling the world unto Himself." "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son,"etc. "What the law could not, do," etc. This is a settled condition. "There is no other name," etc.

2. Now what has human "willing or running" to do with this plan of salvation? Nothing.(1) The plan is eternal, and therefore no creature could have had an influence in its formation. "The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world."(2) The plan transcends all finite thought. It could not have "entered into the heart of man to conceive" of such a thing.

III. TO SUPERSEDE GOD'S ESTABLISHED METHOD OF SALVATION. Perhaps this passage especially refers to the Jew, who had an idea that he should be saved on the ground of patriarchal descent. And Paul wishes to impress him with the fact that no amount of effort on that condition would save him. He might will and run intensely and for ever, but it would be of no service. There is a Divine way to reach Divine results. There is a Divine way to cultivate the soil, to navigate the ocean, to build houses, to get a well-informed and well-disciplined intellect, and if these are not observed labour will be lost. It is so in man's salvation. There is a Divine way, which, if not observed, all the willing and the running will go for nothing. The heathen, the Mahometan, the Jew, the Deist, may will and run, but their labour must prove futile, since they observe not the way.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

Abraham willed that the blessing should be given to Ishmael; Isaac willed that it should be given to Esau; and Esau ran to hunt for venison that it might be regularly conveyed to him. But they were all disappointed; for it was God's will that it should be given to Isaac and Jacob.

(B. Field.)

(Text and Revelation 22:17): —

1. The great controversy which has divided the Church upon the question of "the will" has been fraught with incalculable usefulness, for it has thrust forward the two great doctrines of human responsibility and Divine sovereignty.

2. In this controversy, however, mistakes have arisen from two reasons. Some have altogether forgotten one order of truths. Like Nelson they have put the telescope to the blind eye, and then protested that they could not see. On the other hand, others have pushed a truth too far. You know how often things are injured by over-praise; how a good medicine comes to be despised because a quack has advertised it as an universal cure. So puffery in doctrine leads to its dishonour. You have seen those crystal globes, in which, as you walk up to them, your head is ten times as large as your body, and in another position your feet are monstrous and the rest of your body small. Many go to work with God's truth upon the model of this toy; they magnify one capital truth till it becomes monstrous; they minify another till it becomes forgotten. Let us note that —

I. SALVATION HINGES UPON THE WILL OF GOD, AND NOT UPON THE WILL OF MAN. " It is not of him that willeth," etc.

1. This may be argued from analogy. There is a certain likeness between all God's works. If a painter shall paint three pictures, or an author write three books, there will be certain qualities running through the whole which will lead you to see that they are the same man's "work." Now turn your thoughts —(1) To the works of creation. There was a time when these works had no existence. With whom did God then take counsel? Did it not rest with His own will whether He would make or not? And when He willed to create, did He not still use His own discretion as to what and how He would make? You see running through creation, from the tiny animalculae up to the tall archangel, this working of God's own will. Well, then, does He reign in creation and not in grace?(2) The works of Providence (Daniel 4:35). From the first moment of human history to the last God's will shall be done. And as surely as God's will is the axle of the universe and the great heart of Providence, so in grace, despite man's hardness of heart, His own purposes will be fulfilled.

2. The difficulties which surround the opposite theory are tremendous. The theory that salvation depends upon our own will —(1) Makes the purpose of God contingent. Christ may die, but it is not certain that He will redeem any, since the efficacy of the redemption rests not in its own intrinsic power, but in the will of man accepting it.(2) Makes man, practically, the supreme being. The Lord intends good, but He must wait on His own creature to know what his intention is.

3. Ponder the known condition of man. On the theory that man comes to Christ of his own will, what do you with texts which say that he is dead?

4. It is consistent with the universal experience of all God's people that salvation is of God's will. I have never yet met with a man even professing to be a Christian who ever said that his coming to God was the result of his unassisted nature. Universally the people of God will say it was the Holy Spirit that made them what they are.

5. To the law and to the testimony. Each part of the whole process of salvation is attributed to God's will.

(1)The preparation (Ephesians 1:3, 9, 11).

(2)Regeneration (John 1:13; James 1:18).

(3)Sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

(4)Preservation, perseverance, resurrection, and eternal glory (John 6:39).


1. According to this and many other texts it is clear that men are not saved by compulsion. When a man receives the grace of Christ he does not receive it against his will.

2. Nor is the will taken away, for God does not come and convert the intelligent free-agent into a machine. We are as free under grace as ever we were under sin; nay, we were slaves when we were under sin, and when the Son makes us free we are free indeed.

3. But though the will of man is not ignored, the work of the Spirit, which is the effect of the will of God, is to change the human will, and so make men willing in the day of God's power, working in them to will and to do of His own good pleasure. The work of the Spirit is consistent with the original laws and constitution of human nature. Now, how is the heart changed in any matter? Generally by persuasion. A friend sets before us a certain truth in a new light, pleads with us, and our hearts are changed towards it. So the Spirit makes a revelation of truth to the soul, whereby it seeth things in a different light, and then the will cheerfully bows that neck which once was stiff as iron.

4. This gives the renewed soul a most blessed sign of grace. If thou art willing, depend upon it that God is willing.

5. Then, when a man has any willingness given to him, he has a special promise. Before he had that willingness he had an invitation. My text is a special call to some of you. Are you willing to be saved? Then the Lord says to you, "Whosoever will, let him come." You cannot say this does not mean you. You are willing, then come and take the water of life freely. "Had not I better pray?" It does not say so; it says, take the water of life. "But had not I better go home and get better?" No, take the water of life, and take it now. God says, "Here is a special invitation for you; you are willing; come and drink." Don't say, "I must go home and wash my pitcher." No preparation is wanted. When the crusaders heard Peter the hermit, they cried out at once, "Dens vult! and every man plucked his sword from its scabbard, and set out to reach the holy sepulchre. So come and drink, sinner; God wills it.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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