14. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
14. Quid ergo dicemus? num in-justitia est apud Deum? Absit:
15. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
15. Moses enim dicit, Miserebor cujus miserebor, et miserebor quem miseratus fuero.
16. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
16. Ergo non volentis neque cur-rentis, sed miserentis est Dei.
17. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
17. Dieit enim Scriptura Phara-oni, In hoc ipsum excitavi te, ut os-tendam in te potentiam meam, et ut praedicetur nomen meum in universa terra.
18. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
18. Ergo cujus vult miseretur, et quem vult indurat.
The predestination of God is indeed in reality a labyrinth, from which the mind of man can by no means extricate itself: but so unreasonable is the curiosity of man, that the more perilous the examination of a subject is, the more boldly he proceeds; so that when predestination is discussed, as he cannot restrain himself within due limits, he immediately, through his rashness, plunges himself, as it were, into the depth of the sea. What remedy then is there for the godly? Must they avoid every thought of predestination? By no means: for as the Holy Spirit has taught us nothing but what it behoves us to know, the knowledge of this would no doubt be useful, provided it be confined to the word of God. Let this then be our sacred rule, to seek to know nothing concerning it, except what Scripture teaches us: when the Lord closes his holy mouth, let us also stop the way, that we may not go farther. But as we are men, to whom foolish questions naturally occur, let us hear from Paul how they are to be met.
In order to remove this difficulty, Paul divides his subject into two parts; in the, former of which he speaks of the elect, and in the latter of the reprobate; and in the one he would have us to contemplate the mercy of God, and in the other to acknowledge his righteous judgment. His first reply is, that the thought that there is injustice with God deserves to be abhorred, and then he shows that with regard to the two parties, there can be none.
But before we proceed further, we may observe that this very objection clearly proves, that inasmuch as God elects some and passes by others, the cause is not to be found in anything else but in his own purpose; for if the difference had been based on works, Paul would have to no purpose mentioned this question respecting the unrighteousness of God, no suspicion could have been entertained concerning it if' God dealt with every one according to his merit. It may also, in the second place, be noticed, that though he saw that this doctrine could not be touched without exciting instant clamours and dreadful blasphemies, he yet freely and openly brought it forward; nay, he does not conceal how much occasion for murmuring and clamour is given to us, when we hear that before men are born their lot is assigned to each by the secret will of God; and yet, notwithstanding all this, he proceeds, and without any subterfuges, declares what he had learned from the Holy Spirit. It hence follows, that their fancies are by no means to be endured, who aim to appear wiser than the Holy Spirit, in removing and. pacifying offences. That they may not criminate God, they ought honestly to confess that the salvation or the perdition of men depends on. his free election. Were they to restrain their minds from unholy curiosity, and to bridle their tongues from immoderate liberty, their modesty and sobriety would be deserving of approbation; but to put a restraint on the Holy Spirit and on Paul, what audacity it is! Let then such magnanimity ever prevail in the Church of God, as that godly teachers may not be ashamed to make an honest profession of the true doctrine, however hated it may be, and also to refute whatever calumnies the ungodly may bring forward.
In the first place, he does by no means conceal or hide what he saw would be disliked, but proceeds to maintain it with inflexible firmness. And in the second place, he labours not to seek out reasons to soften its asperity, but considers it enough to check vile barkings by the testimonies of Scripture.
It may indeed appear a frigid defence that God is not unjust, because he is merciful to whom he pleases; but as God regards his own authority alone as abundantly sufficient, so that he needs the defence of none, Paul thought it enough to appoint him the vindicator of his own right. Now Paul brings forward here the answer which Moses received from the Lord, when he prayed for the salvation of the whole people, "I will show mercy," was God's answer, "on whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." By this oracle the Lord declared that he is a debtor to none of mankind, and that whatever he gives is a gratuitous benefit, and then that his kindness is free, so that he can confer it on whom he pleases; and lastly, that no cause higher than his own will can be thought of, why he does good and shows favor to some men but not to all. The words indeed mean as much as though he had said, "From him to whom I have once purposed to show mercy, I will never take it away; and with perpetual kindness will I follow him to whom I have determined to be kind." And thus he assigns the highest reason for imparting grace, even his own voluntary purpose, and also intimates that he has designed his mercy peculiarly :for some; for it is a way of speaking which excludes all outward causes, as when we claim to ourselves the free power of acting, we say, "I will do what I mean to do." The relative pronoun also expressly intimates, that mercy is not to all indiscriminately. His freedom is taken away from God, when his election is bound to external causes
The only true cause of salvation is expressed in the two words used by Moses. The first is
They are, however, to be condemned who remain secure and idle on the pretence of giving place to the grace of God; for though nothing is done by their own striving, yet that effort which is influenced by God is not ineffectual. These things, then, are not said that we may quench the Spirit of God, while kindling ;sparks within us, by our waywardness and sloth; but that we may understand that everything we have is from him, and that we may hence learn to ask all things of him, to hope for all things from him, and to ascribe all things to him, while we are prosecuting the work of our salvation with :fear and trembling.
Pelagius has attempted by another sophistical and worthless cavil to evade this declaration of Paul, that it is not only of him who wills and runs, because the mercy of God assists. But Augustine, not less solidly than acutely, thus refuted him, "If the will of man is denied to be the cause of election, because it is not the sole cause, but only in part; so also we may say that it is not of mercy but of him who wills and runs, for where there is a mutual co-operation, there ought to be a reciprocal commendation: but unquestionably the latter sentiment falls through its own absurdity." Let us then feel assured that the salvation of those whom God is pleased to save, is thus ascribed to his mercy, that nothing may remain to the contrivance of man. 3
Nor is there much more colour for what some advance, who think that. these things are said in the person of the ungodly; for how can it be right to turn passages of Scripture in which the justice of God is asserted, for the purpose of reproaching him with tyranny? and then is it probable that Paul, when the refutation was at hand and easy, would have suffered the Scripture to be treated with gross mockery? But such subterfuges have they laid hold on, who absurdly measured this incomparable mystery of God by their own judgment. To their delicate and tender ears this doctrine was more grating than that they could think it worthy of an Apostle. But they ought rather to have bent their own stubbornness to the obedience of the Spirit, that they might not surrender themselves up to their gross inventions.
There are here two things to be considered, -- the predestination of Pharaoh to ruin, which is to be referred to the past and yet the hidden counsel of God, -- and then, the design of this, which was to make known the name of God; and on this does Paul primarily dwell: for if this hardening was of such a kind, that on its account the name of God deserved to be made known, it is an impious thing, according to evidence derived from the contrary effect, to charge him with any unrighteousness.
But as many interpreters, striving to modify this passage, pervert it,, we must first observe, that for the word, "I have raised," or stirred up, (excitavi,) the Hebrew is, "I have appointed," (constitui,) by which it appears, that God, designing' to show, that the contumacy of Pharaoh would not prevent him to deliver his people, not only affirms, that his fury had been foreseen by him, and that he had prepared means for restraining' it, but that he had also thus designedly ordained it, and indeed for this end, -- that he might exhibit a more illustrious evidence of his own power. 5 Absurdly then do some render this passage, -- that Pharaoh was preserved for a time; for his beginning is what is spoken of here. For, seeing many tilings from various quarters happen to men, which retard their purposes and impede the course of their actions, God says, that Pharaoh proceeded from him, and that his condition was by himself assigned to him: and with this view agrees the verb,
But the word
1 The quotation is from Exodus 33:19, and literally from the Septuagint. The verb
2 These two words clearly show that election regards man as fallen; for favour is what is shown to the undeserving, and mercy to the wretehed and miserable, so that the choice that is made is out of the corrupted mass of mankind, contemplated in that state, and not as in a state of innocency. Augustine says, "Deus alios facit vasa irae secundum meritus; alios vasa miserieordiae secundum gratiam -- God makes some vessels of wrath accord~ ing to their merit; others vessels of mercy according to his grace." In another place he says, "Deus ex eadem massa damnata originaliter, tan-quam figulus, fecit aliud vas ad honorem, aliud in contumeliam -- God, as a potter, made of the same originally condemned mass, one vessel to honor, another to dishonor." "Two sorts of vessels God forms out of the great lump of fallen mankind." -- Henry.
3 The terms "willing" and "running" are evidently derived from the circumstances connected with the history of Esau. "In vain," says Turrettin, "did Esau seek the blessing. In vain did Isaac hasten to grant it, and in vain did Esau run to procure venison for his father; neither the father's willingness nor the running of the son availed anything; God's favour overruled the whole." But the subject handled is God's sovereignty in the manifestation of his favour and grace. Esau was but a type of the unbelieving Jews, when the gospel was proclaimed, and of thousands of such as are in name Christians. There is some sort of "willing," and a great deal of "running," and yet the blessing is not attained. There was much of apparent willing, and running in the strict formality and zeal of Pharisaism, and there is much of the same kind still in the austerities and mechanical worship of superstition, and also in the toils and devotions of self-righteousness. The word or the revealed will of God is in all these instances misunderstood and neglected.
Isaac's "willingness" to give the blessing to Esau, notwithstanding the announcement made at his birth, and Rebecca's conduct in securing it to Jacob, are singular instances of man's imperfections, and of the overruling power of God. Isaac acted as though he had forgotten what God had expressed as his will; and Rebecca acted as though God could not effect his purpose without her interference, and an interference, too, in a way highly improper and sinful. It was the trial of faith, and the faith of both halted exceedingly; yet the purpose of God was still fulfilled, but the improper manner in which it was fulfilled was afterwards visited with God's displeasure. -- Ed.
4 "For," at the beginning of this verse, connects it with Romans 9:14; it is the second reason given for what that verse contains: this is in accordance with Paul's manner of writing, and it may be rendered here, moreover, or besides, or farther. Macknight renders it "besides." Were
5 It is somewhat remarkable, that Paul, in quoting this passage, Exodus 9:16, substitutes a clause for the first that is given by the Septuagint: instead of "
Venema, as well as Stuart, thought that the idea of exciting, rousing in to action, or stimulating, is to be ascribed to the verbs here used, and that what is meant is, that God by his plagues awakened and excited all the evil that was in Pharaoh's heart for the purposes here described, and that by this process he "hardened" him; and the conclusion of Romans 9:28 seems to favour this view, for the hardening mentioned there can have no reference to anything in the context except to what is said in this verse.
But the simpler view is that mentioned by Wolfius -- that reference is made to the dangers which Pharaoh had already escaped. God says, "I have made thee to stand," i.e., to remain alive in the midst of them. We hence see the reason why Paul changed the verb; for "preserve," used by the Septuagint, did not fully express the meaning; but to "raise up," as it were from the jaws of death, conveys more fully what is meant by the original. -- Ed.
6 Much has been unnecessarily written on this subject of hardening. Pharaoh is several times said to have hardened his own heart, and God is said also several times to have hardened him too. The Scripture in many instances makes no minute distinctions, for these may be easily gathered from the general tenor of its teaching. God is in his nature holy, and therefore hardening as his act cannot be sinful: and as he is holy, he hates sin and punishes it; and for this purpose he employs wicked men, and even Satan himself, as in the case of Ahab. As a punishment, he affords occasions and opportunities to the obstinate even to increase their sins, and thus in an indirect way hardens them in their rebellion and resistance to his will; and this was exactly the case with Pharaoh. This, as Calvin says, was the operation or working of his wrath. The history of Pharaoh is a sufficient explanation of what is said here. He was a cruel tyrant and oppressor; and God in his first message to Moses said, "I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand." God might indeed have softened his heart and disposed him to allow them to depart: but it pleased him to act otherwise, and to manifest his power and his greatness in another way: so that "whom he wills, he favours, and whom he wills, he hardens;" and for reasons known only to himself.
Reference is at the end of this section made to Proverbs 16:4. The creation mentioned can be understood in no other sense than the continued exercise of divine power in bringing into existence human beings in their present fallen state. But "creation" is not the word.used, nor is the pas sage correctly rendered. It is not
Every work of Jehovah is for its (or, his) purpose,
And even the wicked is for the day of calamity.
The Rev. G. Holden is very indignant that this text has been applied 'to support the doctrine of reprobation. Be it, that it has been misap plied; yet the doctrine does not thereby fall to the ground. If Paul does not maintain it in this chapter anti in other passages, we must hold that words have no meaning. The history of God's providence is an obvious confirmation of the same awful truth. -- Ed.