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3. But that He regards their destruction as a less evil to the universe, than would be such a change in the administration and arrangements of His government as would secure their salvation. Therefore, for their foreseen wickedness and perseverance in rebellion, under circumstances the most favorable to their virtue and salvation, in which He can wisely place them, He is resolved upon their destruction; and has already in purpose cast them off for ever.
This has been already substantially answered. But to avoid misapprehension upon a subject so open to cavil, I repeat:
1. That the reprobation and destruction of the sinner is not an end, in the sense that God delights in misery, and destroys sinners to gratify a thirst for destruction. Since God is benevolent, it is impossible that this should be.
2. It is not because of any partiality in God, or because He loves the elect, and hates the reprobate, in any sense implying partiality. His benevolence is disinterested, and cannot of course be partial.
3. It is not from any want of interest in, and desire to save them, on the part of God. This He often affirms, and abundantly attests by His dealings with them, and the provision He has made for their salvation.
4. But the reprobates are reprobated for their foreseen iniquities:
"Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, honor, and immortality, eternal life; But unto them 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; But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God" (Romans 2:6-11).
"Behold all souls are Mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is Mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. Yet say ye, Why? Doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all My statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" (Ezek. 18:4, 19-20).
"For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).
"Knowing that whatever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free" (Eph. 6:8).
"Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ" (Col. 3:24).
"And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rev. 22:12).
These passages show the teachings of inspiration on this subject. Be it remembered, then, that the reason why any are reprobated, is because they are unwilling to be saved; that is, they are unwilling to be saved on the terms upon which alone God can consistently save them. Ask sinners whether they are willing to be saved, and they all say, yes; and with perfect sincerity they may say this, if they can be saved upon their own terms. But when you propose to them the terms of salvation upon which the gospel proposes to save them; when they are required to repent and believe the gospel, to forsake their sins, and give themselves up to the service of God, they will with one consent begin to make excuse. Now, to accept these terms, is heartily and practically to consent to them. For them to say, that they are willing to accept salvation, while they actually do not accept it, is either to deceive themselves, or to utter an infamous falsehood. To be willing is to accept it; and the fact, that they do not heartily consent to, and embrace the terms of salvation, is demonstration absolute, that they are unwilling. Yes, sinners, the only terms on which you can possibly be saved, you reject. Is it not then an insult to God for you to pretend that you are willing? The only true reason why all of you are not Christians, is that you are unwilling. You are not made unwilling by any act of God, or because you are reprobate; but if you are reprobate, it is because you are unwilling.
But do any of you object and say, why does not God make us willing? Is it not because He has reprobated us, that He does not change our hearts and make us willing? No, sinner, it is not because He has reprobated you; but because you are so obstinate that He cannot, wisely, and in consistency with the public good; take such measures as will convert you. Here you are waiting for God to make you willing to go to heaven, and all the while you are diligently using the means to get to hell yes, exerting yourself with greater diligence to get to hell, than it would cost to insure your salvation, if applied with equal zeal in the service of your God. You tempt God, and then turn round and ask Him why He does not make you willing? Now, sinner, let me ask you, do you think you are a reprobate? It so, what do you think the reason is that has led the infinitely benevolent God to reprobate you? There must be some reason; what do you suppose it is? Did you ever seriously ask yourself, what is the reason that a wise and infinitely benevolent God has never made me willing to accept salvation? It must be for one of the following reasons. Either:
(1.) He is a malevolent being, and wills your damnation for its own sake; or:
(2.) He cannot make you willing if He would; or
(3.) You behave in such a manner in the circumstances in which you are, that, to His infinitely benevolent mind it appears unwise to take such a course as would bring you to repentance. Such a change in the administration of His government as would make you willing, would not, upon the whole, be wise.
Now, which of these do you think it is? You will not probably take the ground that He is malevolent, and desires your damnation because He delights in misery; nor will you, I suppose, take the ground that He could not convert you if He would, that is, if He thought it wise to do so.
The other, then, must be the reason, to wit: that your heart, and conduct, and stubbornness, are so abominable in His sight, that, every thing considered, He sees that to use such further means with you as to secure your conversion, would, on the whole, do more hurt than good to His kingdom. I have not time at present to agitate the question whether you, as a moral agent, could not resist any possible amount of moral influence that could be brought to bear upon you, consistently with your moral freedom.
Do you ask how I know that the reason why God does not make you willing is, that He sees that it would be unwise in Him to do so? I answer, that it is an irresistible inference, from these two facts, that He is infinitely benevolent, and that He does not actually make you willing. I do not believe that God would neglect anything that He saw to be wise and benevolent, in the great matter of man's salvation. Who can believe that He could give His only-begotten and well-beloved Son to die for sinners, and then neglect any wise and benevolent means for their salvation? No, sinner, if you are a reprobate, it is because God foresaw that you would do just as you are doing; that you would be so wicked as to defeat all the efforts that He could wisely make for your salvation. What a variety of means He has used with you. At one time He has thrown you into the furnace of affliction; and when this has not softened you, He has turned round and loaded you with favors. He has sent you His word, he has striven by His Spirit, He has allured you by the cross; He has tried to melt you by the groanings of Calvary; and tried to drive you back from the way to death, by rolling in your ears the thunders of damnation. At one time clouds and darkness have been round about you; the heavens have thundered over your head; divine vengeance has hung out, all around your horizon, the portentous clouds of coming wrath. At another time mercy has smiled upon you from above like the noonday sun, breaking through an ocean of storms. He urges every motive; He lays heaven, earth and hell, under perpetual contributions for considerations to move your stony heart. But you deafen your ears, and close your eyes, and harden your heart, and say, "Cause the holy one of Israel to cease from before us" (Isaiah 30:11). And what is the inference from all this? How must all this end? "Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord has rejected them" (Jerem. 6:30).