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the means of grace, are apt to trust in these good things, as what will recommend them to the divine favor. But if the mind be still enmity against God, can he be pleased with such appearances of respect and duty? All such righteousnesses are as filthy rags -are dead works. Such self-righteousness is often fatal to souls, as well as open unrighteousness. Isa. 1. 11, “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow"
ON THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, IN THE EFFECTUAL CALLING OF SINNERS.
ROMANS IX. 18.
Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
THIS is a doctrine of the gospel, against which many have ever been ready to object. It is a doctrine which needs explanation. Rightly understood, as taught in the New-Testament, it will commend itself to every man's conscience, I apprehend, as unexceptionable; however displeasing it may always be, to the unhumbled and unsanctified. heart of man
God's leaving his ancient people the Jews, generally, to reject the gospel; and sending it to the Gentiles, accompanied with the efficacious operation of his Holy Spirit, was what led the apostle to insist upon this doctrine in our text and context. To silence the murmurings of the former, he observes to them that the Holy One of Israel had always claimed, and often exercised a like sovereignty, in making the first last, and the last first. To this purpose, after cursorily noticing the preference given to Isaac before Ishmael, in the family of Abraham; he men
tions more at large, the instance of Esau and Jacob, and what was revealed to their mother Rebecca concerning them, before their birth: Ver. 11-13, "For the children being not yet born, neither hav ing done any good or evil, (that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth,) it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger: as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.". To this purpose he recites a saying of God to their venerated lawgiver; ver. 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." To this end also, he refers them to what was recorded of the great oppressor of their ancestors in Egypt; ver. 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." From these examples and declarations, the apostle then draws the conclusion in our text: "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth."
For the illustration and defence of this conclusion, it is now proposed,
I. To inquire what is meant by God's hardening men, and what by his having mercy on them.
II. To explain his sovereignty in thus making men to differ: and,
III. To answer objections against the doctrine of such divine sovereignty.
What is here meant by God's hardening men, and what by his having mercy on them, we will first briefly inquire.
Sinners are said to be hardened, when they remain in impenitence and unbelief; and especially, when they grow more and more secure in sin. When they go on in the broad way to destruction, unapprehensive of guilt or danger. When neither counsels nor reproofs, mercies nor judgments, are regarded by them, or make any suitable impression on their minds. When, in addition to the stony heart, common to all natural men, which renders them incapable of all truly virtuous or religious affections; they have lost, in a great measure, the feelings of conscience, of shame, and of fear. The case of such is often described in scripture. See Job xv. 25, 26, "For he stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty. He runneth upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers." Jer. vi. 15, "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination ? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush." Eph. iv. 19, "Who, being past feeling, have given themselves over unto laciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." And 1 Tim. iv. 2, "Speaking lies in hypocrisy ; having their conscience seared with a hot iron."
But, how are we to understand that God thus hardens men?
It must be understood, at least, that he leaves them to continue in impenitence, and to grow secure in evil courses. It must be understood, also, that God orders all those outward circumstances and events, which prove the means of making sinners more and more hardened in iniquity. But any thing more, I apprehend, it need not be supposed he ever does, in this matter. Certainly, there is nothing in his word, or in his Providences, which would thus harden any, were it not for their perverse misimprovement of things good in themselves, and well adapted to do them good, had they an ear to hear, and a heart to understand. Nor need we imagine