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Objecting to revealed truth,is replying against Gods
ROMANS, ix. 20.
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?
IN this part of his epistle to the Ro
mans, the apostle is considering objections to his doctrine, and making replies to them; which supposes two things, first, that plain gospel truth is liable to be objected to, and secondly, that it ought to be vindicated against this kind of opposition, whenever and in whomsoever it appears. The cause of truth, which is always the cause of God, he was arguing with the church, with profes sors of religion, which indicates, that among men of this description he met with those, who did not implicitly imbibe that for truth, which was dispensed to them by an inspired apostle. He probably would not have stated his propositions and reasonings in the
form of a dispute, had he not been apprised of real disaffection towards important gospela sentiments in the body of professed christians, to which he wrote.. He writes, as if manag.. ing an important controversy with men, ac-. tually stirred up to opposition, and placing themselves in as formidable a posture as might be, effectually to gainsay what they did not consent to and approve. Could we find, what principle the apostle was defending,. when he wrote as in the words of our text, we should be certain of one thing at least, that might be considered as a reply against.: God. And from the style of the apostle's. address we may well conclude, that such an error is no trifling offence in the sight of God.. Men do not receive it as a slight affront to, be contradicted, especially in that, which they deliver for most important truth. To reply against God, is to contradict him; to reject as error what he has inculcated in his word,, as interesting and solemn truth. And what is that reply against God, which the apostle reprimands with so much pious warmth and decision, in the words of our text? In so plain and pertinent a writer as Paul, we might calculate to get the sentiments of the objector from the answer he receives. But, in the present case, the whole matter is laid be-fore us, in direct and explicit terms. The apostle states a doctrine; the objector draws a consequence from it with a view to make it appear absurd and inconsistent; and then the apostle repels the insinuation it contains,
as fraught, in the highest degree, with blas phemous impiety. God had said unto Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will," and to Pharaoh, "For this same purposehave I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth." Now, what is the exact amount of these divine de-. clarations to Moses and Pharaoh? The apos-tle sums it up in the next verse. "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." Here is the doctrine which gives offence, and which the objector thinks he can overthrow with a word. "Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? for who. hath resisted his will?" Does God, indeed, shew mercy to some and harden others; because it is his will that men should be instru ments of his glory, some in the one way, and some in the other? What then has he to say to the sinner, the hardened unbeliever, but: that he has done well in coming up to the: end, for which he was made? Though he has acted the part of a hardened sinner, yet God hardened him, and the divine will is accomplished in this way. Shall Jehovah, therefore, find fault, when his will is not resisted? when the sinner does no other than what was eternally counselled and ordained in heaven? What right has the Deity to call men to an account, and treat them as sinners, when it is asserted, that they are, but the instruments of his will, which could not be
brought to pass only in the way of their rebelling as they do? Does not this, my hearers, look like very plausible, and fair reasoning? The objector here takes hold of plain scripture statements; first, that some men are saved, because it is the will of God they should be; and secondly, that some are hardened in sin, and consequently perish, and this, because it is the will of God it should be so; and then argues from them against the justice of God in the punishment of the wicked. If such be the divine will, the event happens according to it, and it is not resisted; why doth he yet find fault? What an inconsistent and absurd being do such scriptures, as the foregoing, make the Almighty to be! Nay but, O man, who art thou, that reasonest after this sort? that presumest against a right, an eternal prerogative, of the Deity to effect his own purposes in the ungodly, and at the same time hold them guilty? This is none other than replying against God. It is like denying, that the potter has power over the clay of the same lump to. make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour. This appears to be an exact literal account of that sin of replying against God, which the apostle execrates and condemns with so much zeal in our text. put any other construction upon the apostle's language and manner of handling the controversy, must effectually do away the whole, and leave him acting over a farce, with the christians at Rome, as frivolous and unmean
ing, as was ever performed at an opera, or play-house. If Paul was a sober man when he wrote the things, at which we have been looking, no doubt his object was to expose the sophistry and wickedness of those, who object against the sovereignty of God, in appointing some to wrath, and others to ob tain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, for his own glory, that it makes him a tyrant and an unreasonable being. To carry his point against such objectors, the apostle does not answer them as if they were indebted to a misunderstanding of the scriptures for the principle which gave them such offence. If he had had only to rectify their understandings, in order to set them right, he would certainly have treated the case differently. from what he did. He would have told them, that their drawing a conclusion so dishonourable to God was not to be attributed. to any unfriendliness to the truth itself; but solely to a misapprehension of what is the real meaning of the scriptures. must be a very pleasant and satisfactory method of terminating a dissention which is wholly grounded upon ignorance or mistake. But the apostle takes a different course to bring the matter to a crisis. He assumes the countenance and airs of stern rebuke, and condemns the rashness of undertaking to dictate to Heaven, and to prescribe rules. to infinite wisdom and uprightness. The truth is before you in clear view; but be.. cause you love it not, you would fain bring