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1. To the idea that God rejected the reprobate for their foreseen wickedness, it is replied that "The Lord hath made all things for Himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil" (Prov. 16:4), teaches another doctrine; that this passage teaches, that God made the reprobates for the day of evil, or for the purpose of destroying them.
To this I reply, that if He did create them to destroy them, or with a design when He created them to destroy them, it does not follow that their destruction was an ultimate end, or a thing in which He delighted for its own sake. It must be true, as has been said, that He designed from eternity to destroy them, in view, and in consequence, of their foreseen wickedness; and of course, He designed their destruction when be created them. In one sense then, it was true, that He created them for the day of evil, that is, in the sense that He knew how they would behave, and designed as a consequence to destroy them when, and before, He created them. But this is not the same as His creating them for the sake of their destruction as an ultimate end. He had another and a higher ultimate end, which end was a benevolent one. He says "I have created all things for Myself, even the wicked for the day of evil" (Prov. 16:4), that is, He had some great and good end to accomplish by them, and by their destruction. He foresaw that He could use them for some good purpose, nevertheless their foreseen wickedness; and even that He could overrule their sin and destruction to manifest His justice, and thus show forth His glory, and thereby strengthen His government. He must have foreseen that the good that might thus, from His overruling providence, result to Himself and to the universe, would more than compensate for the evil of their rebellion and destruction; and therefore, and upon this condition, He created them, knowing that He should destroy and intending to destroy them. That destruction was not the ultimate end of their creation, must follow from such scriptures as the following:
"Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezek. 33:11).
"Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die; saith the Lord God; and not that he should return from his ways and live?" (Ezek. 18:23).
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering to us ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
"He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:8, 16).
2. Another objection to the doctrine of this lecture is founded on: "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? 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 shew His wrath, and 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 before prepared unto glory" (Romans 9:20-23).
From this passage it has been inferred, that God creates the character and disposes of the destinies of both saints and sinners with as absolute and as irresistible a sovereignty as that exercised by the potter over his clay; that He creates the elect for salvation, and the reprobate for damnation, and forms the character of both so as to fit them for their respective destinies, with an absolutely irresistible and efficient sovereignty; that His ultimate end was in both cases His own glory, and that the value of the end justifies the use of the means, that is, of such means. To this I reply:
(1.) That it is absurd and nonsensical, as we have abundantly seen, to talk of creating moral character, either good or bad, by an irresistible efficient sovereignty. This is naturally impossible, as it implies a contradiction. Moral character must be the result of proper, voluntary action, and the moral character of the vessels of wrath or of mercy neither is, nor can be, formed by any irresistible influence whatever.
(2.) It is not said nor implied in the passage under consideration, that the character of the vessels of wrath was created, or that God had any such agency in procuring their character, as He has in forming the character of the vessels of mercy. Of the vessels of wrath it is only said they are "fitted to destruction," that is, that their characters are adapted for hell; while of the vessels of mercy it is said "which He had before prepared unto glory." The vessels of wrath are fitted, or had fitted themselves to destruction, under the light and influence that should have made them holy. The vessels of mercy God had, by the special grace and influence of the Holy Spirit, engaging and directing their voluntary agency, before prepared for glory.
(3.) But the lump spoken of in the text contemplates, not the original creation of men, nor the forming or creating in them of a wicked character. But it manifestly contemplates them as already existing as the potter's clay exists; and not only as existing, but also as being sinners. God may reasonably proceed to form out of this lump vessels of wrath or of mercy, as seems wise and good unto Him. He may appoint one portion to honor and another to dishonor, as is seen by Him to be demanded by the highest good.
(4.) The passage under consideration cannot, in any event, be pressed into the service of those who would insist, that the destruction of the reprobate is chosen for its own sake, and therefore implies malevolence in God. Hear what it says: "What if God, willing to show His wrath, and 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 before prepared unto glory?" Here it appears, that He designed to show and make known His attributes. This cannot have been an ultimate, but must have been a proximate, end. The ultimate end must have been the highest glory of Himself, and the highest good of the universe, as a whole. If God willed thus to make known His holiness and His mercy, for the purpose of securing the highest good of the universe, who has a right to say, What doest Thou? or Why doest Thou thus?
3. Another objection is, if God knew that they would be reprobate or lost, why did He create them? If He knew that such would be the result, and yet created them, it follows that He created them to destroy them. I reply:
This objection has been already answered, but for the sake of perspicuity I choose here to answer it again.
From the admitted fact, that God knew when He created them just what their destiny would be, it does not follow that their destruction was the end for which He created them. He created them, not for their sin and destruction as an ultimate end, but for another and a good end, nevertheless His foreknowledge of their sin and ultimate ruin.
4. It is further objected, that if God designed to make known His attributes, in the salvation of the vessels of mercy, and in the destruction of the vessels of wrath, He must have designed their characters as well as their end, inasmuch as their characters are indispensable conditions of this result.
I reply, that it is true, that the characters of both the vessels of wrath and of mercy must have been in some sense purposed or designed by God. But it does not follow that He designed them both in the same sense. The character of the righteous He designed to beget, or induce by His own agency; the character of the wicked He designed to suffer him to form for himself. He doubtless designed to suffer the one rather than to interfere, in such manner and form as would prevent sin, seeing as He did, that, hateful as it was in itself, it could be overruled for good. The other He designed to produce, or rather induce, both on account of the pleasure He has in holiness, and also for the sake of its bearings on the subject of it, and upon the universe.
5. To the doctrine of this lecture it is further objected, that if one is a reprobate it is of no use for him to try to be saved. If God knows what he will be in character, and designs his destruction, it is impossible that it should be otherwise than as God knows and designs, and therefore one may as well give up in despair first as last.
(1.) To such an objector I would say, you do not know that you are a reprobate, and therefore you need not despair.
(2.) If God designs to cast you off, though you cannot know this, it is only because He foresees that you will not repent and believe the gospel; or in other words, for your voluntary wickedness. He foreknows that you will be wicked simply because you will be, and not because His foreknowledge makes you so. Neither His foreknowledge respecting your character, nor His design to cast you off, in consequence of your character, has any agency in making you wicked. You are therefore perfectly free to obey and be saved, and the fact that you will not, is no reason why you should not.
(3.) You might just as reasonably make the same objection to every thing that takes place in the universe. Everything that did, or will, or can occur, is as infallibly known to God, as the fact of your wickedness and destruction is. He also has a fixed and eternal design about everything that ever did or will occur. He knows how long you will live, where you will live, and when and where you will die. His purposes respecting these and all other events are fixed, eternal, and unchangeable. Why, then, do you not live without food and say, I cannot make one hair black or white; I cannot die before my time, nor can I prolong my days beyond the appointed time, do what I will; therefore, I will take no care of my health? No this would be unreasonable.
Why not also apply this objection to everything, and settle down in despair of ever doing or being anything, but what an irresistible fate makes you? The fact is, that the true doctrine, whether of election or reprobation, affords not the least countenance to such a conclusion. The foreknowledge and designs of God respecting our conduct or our destiny, do not in the least degree interfere with our free agency. We, in every case, act just as freely as if God neither knew nor designed anything about our conduct. Suppose the farmer should make the same objection to sowing his seed, and to doing anything to secure a crop; what would be thought of him? And yet he might with as much reason, since he can plead the foreknowledge and designs of God, as an excuse for doing nothing to secure his salvation. God as really knows now whether you will sow and whether you will have a crop, and has from eternity known this, as perfectly as He ever will. He has either designed that you shall, or that you shall not, have a crop this year, from all eternity; and it will infallibly come to pass just as He has foreseen and designed. Yet you are really just as free to raise a crop, or to neglect to do so, as if He neither knew nor designed anything about it.
The man who will stumble either at the doctrine of election or reprobation, as defined and maintained in these lectures, should, to be consistent, stumble at everything that takes place, and never try to accomplish anything whatever; because the designs and the foreknowledge of God extend equally to everything; and unless He has expressly revealed how it will be, we are left in the dark, in respect to any event, and are left to use means to accomplish what we desire, or to prevent what we dread, as if God knew and designed nothing about it.
6. But it is objected, that this is a discouraging doctrine, and liable to be a stumbling-block, and therefore should not be inculcated. I answer:
(1.) It is taught in the Bible, and plainly follows also from the attributes of God, as revealed in the reason. The scriptures that teach it are not less likely to be a snare and a stumbling-block, than are the definition and explanation of the doctrine.
(3.) The scriptures that teach these doctrines are often subjects of cavil, and sometimes of real difficulty. Religious teachers should, therefore, state these doctrines and explain them, so as to aid the inquirer after truth, and stop the mouths of gainsayers.
(4.) Again, these doctrines have often been so misstated and perverted as to make them amount to an iron system of fatalism. Many souls have heard or read these perversions, and greatly need to be enlightened upon the subject. It is therefore all the more important, that these truths should find a place in religious instruction. Let them be understood, properly stated, explained, and defended, and they can no more be a stumbling-block, than the fact of God's omniscience can be so.