Romans 9:19

The objectors might say - If God overrules all the conduct of men by such sovereign power, why does he reprobate any? Is not the very idea of the reprobation inconsistent with itself? He sets himself against some that he may glorify his Name; but if this tends to the working of his will, and they cannot resist, why does he set himself against them? The apostle, in reply, will indeed vindicate to them the reasons which enter into the working of the all-righteous God; but, first, he will question their competency to object to the working of such a One as God. They ask in a spirit of self-complacent Pharisaism; he will ask them how they dare presume to sit in judgment on their Maker. He shows, then, the unreasonableness and the unscripturalness of such presumptuous questioning of the ways of God.

I. AS UNREASONABLE PRESUMPTION. If it be regarded on the ground of mere right, has not God a right to do what he will with his own? It is certain that his will is wise, righteous, and merciful; but the question now is one of prerogative. And God, the Absolute One of the universe, is surely not to come to the tribunal of creaturely judgment? It is even as though the clay were to judge the action of the man that fashions it, and say, "Why didst thou make me thus?" The potter has a right over the clay; he may do as he will. He may make the vessels, some for meaner use, some for nobler; and the clay cannot question his deeds. So cannot man question God. He deals with mankind for historical purposes as the potter with the clay. God takes clay, begins to fashion it for purposes of honour, casts it aside, takes other clay and puts it to the use for which the former portion was first it)tended: are we in a position to say, "Why?" God knows best! The race of mankind is dealt with by God according to his own wisdom, and there are vessels of mercy unto glory, and vessels of wrath unto destruction. Egypt was a vessel of wrath, while Israel was taken for fashioning into a vessel of mercy; by-and-by Israel, as a nation, becomes a vessel of wrath, and a new people, of Jews and Gentiles, is the vessel unto honour. God knows what he is doing best. But all shall subserve his glory. Just as Pharaoh's stubbornness was made by God the occasion for a greater display of delivering power, so the stubbornness of the Jews, and their wickedness even unto the crucifixion of their Lord, were made subservient to the world's salvation. And while the wrath towards some was for mercy towards others, yet towards the children of wrath long-suffering was shown, not merely that the purpose of mercy towards others might be more conspicuously and effectually fulfilled, but that they, had they repented, might have mercy shown them. The very wrath is in love.

II. AN UNSCRIPTURAL PRESUMPTION. The presumption was not only unreasonable in itself, but according to their own Scriptures it was altogether unwarranted. Hosea (Hosea 2:23; Hosea 1:10) had spoken words of prophecy concerning the ten scattered tribes, which involved the same principle as that on which God was acting now - the right to reprobate for idolatry, and the right to restore. And, as they had lapsed into idolatry, and as they were furthermore so intermingled with the Gentiles that a definite separation might be impossible, theirs was not only a new election, as of Gentiles themselves, but actually involved the election of Gentiles also. Isaiah, too (Isaiah 10:22, 23), speaking of Israel, sets forth the other principle, or another aspect of the same, on which God was dealing with the world now - his right, while reprobating Israel from the great work of the world's salvation, to spare a remnant, with whom the Gentiles should be joined, and who with the Gentiles should form the new Church for the extension of the kingdom of God. So, then, their Scriptures pointed to this very selfsame, twofold principle for the formation of the new society. And all their history, as recorded in the Scriptures, had been one repeated manifestation of the same. Yes, God had the right, and he had already used it from the beginning, to take or set aside, as he would, nations or individuals, in the great economy of the redemption of the world. The apostle goes on to show (ver. 30 - Romans 10:21) that there were reasons for God's dealings in all cases, and what, in the main, these reasons were; also (ch. 11.) that the very reprobation of Israel now, in accordance with such reasons, should ultimately redound to the good of the world. Let us remember this for ourselves as a nation. We may think, "God hath not so dealt with any people." But - he does not pledge himself rigidly to deal so with us to the end. Our earnest question must be - not captiously, or he would not answer, but devoutly, and he will answer - Why are we now exalted? and how may we secure a continuance of his blessing which maketh rich? And so for ourselves, as individuals, we can ask no more important question than - How may I become "a chosen vessel," "a vessel unto honour, meet for the Master's use" (Acts 9:15; 2 Timothy 2:21)? - T.F.L.

Thou wilt say then unto me, why doth He yet find fault?
The full spirit of this part of Paul's reply may be brought out by considering it as addressed to the objector —

I. AS A MAN. Considering the appeal in this light, it impresses a lesson of great practical importance, namely, to beware of arraigning, with irreverent rashness and self-sufficiency, the procedure of the Divine Being, as represented to us by Himself. Nothing, surely, can be more unbecoming in any creature. Nothing can mere strikingly display the sad predominance in the human heart of that aspiring pride which was originally infused by the tempting assurance, "Ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil." The folly, indeed, of refusing to admit whatever does not come within the limit of our comprehension, can be equalled only by its impiety. There must be parts of the Divine procedure whose principles and reasons are beyond the depth of even archangelic intellects. It is a maxim of essential importance, on all such subjects, that we should not allow that which we do know to be displaced from our confidence by that which we do not know. We have the fullest assurance of the righteousness of the Supreme Ruler. Surely, then, we ought not to allow ourselves to be startled into scepticism because, in His revealed procedure, we may find particulars, the secret of which we are unable fully to penetrate. Shall we, then, on the one hand, question the prescience of God, because we may be at a loss fully to discern its consistency with the freedom and accountableness of man? — or, on the other hand, shall we loose men from their moral responsibility, and convert them into mere irresponsible pieces of machinery, because we may not perfectly discern the link of harmony between man's accountableness and God's foreknowledge? And especially when we recollect that the mystery of mysteries is not a doctrine, but a fact — not a discovery of revelation, but an event independent of revelation altogether — which revelation does not originate, but which it finds, and on which it proceeds — the existence of moral evil itself under the government of the infinitely Holy and Good! There is no denying the fact; but the mystery of the fact has baffled the wits of the wisest from the beginning till now. Shall we, then, refuse the remedy, because we cannot fully explain why the evil itself was permitted to exist?

II. AS A SINNER. "Who art thou?" — not only a creature, short-sighted, and ignorant, but a guilty, condemned creature. How unspeakably unreasonable and presumptuous is the language of the objector when regarded in this light? And here we might introduce anew, with augmented force, the proper terms for such a creature in presenting himself before "the God with whom he has to do." Of whom ought he, then, to think? Should it not be of himself? Of what ought he to think? Should it not be of his own transgressions and his own deserts? He has an account of his own — what to him are the accounts of others? Is he to stand out against the justice of God in his own sentence, till he sees whether God deals with others exactly as He does with him? What has he to do with others? As a sinner, he stands at the bar of heaven, charged with his own guilt, and has to answer for himself. If there be any ground on which he can impeach the righteousness of the Judge in his own sentence, let him advance his plea. But if he himself, as a sinner, is justly condemned, is not the posture that becomes him that of a suppliant for mercy? Oh, if instead of "replying against God," by presuming to pick faults in His general administration, each sinner would but "look to himself" — ponder his own guilt — and in the name of the one Divine Mediator, cast himself at the feet of his Judge with the brief petition of the publican, all then would be well. He should find mercy, as sure as God "delighteth in it"; and, because He delighteth in it, has provided for its honourable exercise.

(R. Wardlaw, D.D.)

No man has any right to make that which he believes to be the truth of God any less exacting, less sharp or clear, because he thinks his fellow-men will not accept it if he states it in its blankest and baldest form. I read an incident in a newspaper the other day that seems to illustrate this point. A tired and dusty traveller was leaning against a lamp-post in the city of Rochester, and he turned and looked around him and said, "How far is it to Farmington?" and a boy in the crowd said, "Eight miles." "Do you think it is so far as that?" said the poor tired traveller. "Well, seeing that you are so tired, I will call it seven miles." The boy, with his heart overflowing with the milk of human kindness, pitied the exhausted traveller, and chose to call it seven miles. I know that I have seen statements of the truth that have dictated the same answer. Never make the road from Rochester to Farmington seven miles when you know it is eight. Do not do a wrong to truth out of regard for men.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God
Observe —

I. THE TEMERITY OF MAN. He arraigns —

1. God's perfections.

2. Procedure.

3. Government.

II. ITS MERITED REPROOF. Such conduct is —

1. Impertinent.

2. Wicked.

3. Foolish.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

The petty sovereign of an insignificant tribe in North America every morning stalks out of his hovel, bids the sun good-morrow, and points out to him with his finger the course he is to take for the day. Is this arrogance more contemptible than ours when we would dictate to God the course of His providence, and summon Him to our bar for His dealings with us? How ridiculous does man appear when he attempts to argue with his God!

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

A gentleman examining some deaf and dumb children wrote up the question, "Does God reason?" One of the children immediately wrote underneath. "God knows and sees everything. Reasoning implies doubt and uncertainty; therefore God does not reason."

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