Verses 33–36

The apostle having insisted so largely, through the greatest part of this chapter, upon reconciling the rejection of the Jews with the divine goodness, he concludes here with the acknowledgment and admiration of the divine wisdom and sovereignty in all this. Here the apostle does with great affection and awe adore,

I. The secrecy of the divine counsels: O the depth! in these proceedings towards the Jews and Gentiles; or, in general, the whole mystery of the gospel, which we cannot fully comprehend.—The riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, the abundant instances of his wisdom and knowledge in contriving and carrying on the work of our redemption by Christ, a depth which the angels pry into, 1 Pet. 1:12. Much more may it puzzle any human understanding to give an account of the methods, and reasons, and designs, and compass of it. Paul was as well acquainted with the mysteries of the kingdom of God as ever any mere man was; and yet he confesses himself at a loss in the contemplation, and, despairing to find the bottom, he humbly sits down at the brink, and adores the depth. Those that know most in this state of imperfection cannot but be most sensible of their own weakness and short-sightedness, and that after all their researches, and all their attainments in those researches, while they are here they cannot order their speech by reason of darkness. Praise is silent to thee, Ps. 65:1.—The depth of the riches. Men’s riches of all kinds are shallow, you may soon see the bottom; but God’s riches are deep (Ps. 36:6): Thy judgments are a great deep. There is not only depth in the divine counsels, but riches too, which denotes an abundance of that which is precious and valuable, so complete are the dimensions of the divine counsels; they have not only depth and height, but breadth and length (Eph. 3:18), and that passing knowledge, Rom. 11:19.—Riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. His seeing all things by one clear, and certain, and infallible view—all things that are, or ever were, or ever shall be,—that all is naked and open before him: there is his knowledge. His ruling and ordering all things, directing and disposing them to his own glory, and bringing about his own purposes and counsels in all; this is his wisdom. And the vast extent of both these is such a depth as is past our fathoming, and we may soon lose ourselves in the contemplation of them. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, Ps. 139:6. Compare Rom. 11:17, 18.—How unsearchable are his judgments! that is, his counsels and purposes: and his ways, that is, the execution of these counsels and purposes. We know not what he designs. When the wheels are set in motion, and Providence has begun to work, yet we know not what he has in view; it is past finding out. This does not only overturn all our positive conclusions about the divine counsels, but it also checks all our curious enquiries. Secret things belong not to us, Deut. 29:29. God’s way is in the sea, Ps. 77:19. Compare Job 23:8, 9; Ps. 97:2. What he does we know not now, John 13:7. We cannot give a reason of God’s proceedings, nor by searching find out God. See Job 5:9; 9:10. The judgments of his mouth, and the way of our duty, blessed be God, are plain and easy, it is a high-way; but the judgments of his hands, and the ways of his providence, are dark and mysterious, which therefore we must not pry into, but silently adore and acquiesce in. The apostle speaks this especially with reference to that strange turn, the casting off of the Jews and the entertainment of the Gentiles, with a purpose to take in the Jews again in due time; these were strange proceedings, the choosing of some, the refusing of others, and neither according to the probabilities of human conjecture. Even so, Father, because it seemed good in thing eyes. These are methods unaccountable, concerning which we must say, O the depth!--Past finding out, anexichniastoicannot be traced. God leaves no prints nor footsteps behind him, does not make a path to shine after him; but his paths of providence are new every morning. He does not go the same way so often as to make a track of it. How little a portion is heard of him! Job 26:14. It follows (Rom. 11:34), For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Isa. there any creature made of his cabinet-council, or laid, as Christ was, in the bosom of the Father? Isa. there any to whom he has imparted his counsels, or that is able, upon the view of his providences, to know the way that he takes? There is so vast a distance and disproportion between God and man, between the Creator and the creature, as for ever excludes the thought of such an intimacy and familiarity. The apostle makes the same challenge (1 Cor. 2:16): For who hath known the mind of the Lord? And yet there he adds, But we have the mind of Christ, which intimates that through Christ true believers, who have his Spirit, know so much of the mind of God as is necessary to their happiness. He that knew the mind of the Lord has declared him, John 1:18. And so, though we know not the mind of the Lord, yet, if we have the mind of Christ, we have enough. The secret of the Lord is with those that fear him, Ps. 25:14. Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do? See John 15:15.—Or who has been his counsellor? He needs no counsellor, for he is infinitely wise; nor is any creature capable of being his counsellor; this would be like lighting a candle to the sun. This seems to refer to that scripture (Isa. 40:13, 14), Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or, being his counsellor, hath taught him? With whom took he counsel? etc. It is the substance of God’s challenge to Job concerning the work of creation (Job 38:1-41), and is applicable to all the methods of his providence. It is nonsense for any man to prescribe to God, or to teach him how to govern the world.

II. The sovereignty of the divine counsels. In all these things God acts as a free agent, does what he will, because he will, and gives not account of any of his matters (Job 23:13; 33:13), and yet there is no unrighteousness with him. To clear which,

1. He challenges any to prove God a debtor to him (Rom. 11:35): Who hath first given to him? Who is there of all the creatures that can prove God is beholden to him? Whatever we do for him, or devote to him, it must be with that acknowledgment, which is for ever a bar to such demands (1 Chron. 29:14): Of thine own we have given thee. All the duties we can perform are not requitals, but rather restitutions. If any can prove that God is his debtor, the apostle here stands bound for the payment, and proclaims, in God’s name, that payment is ready: It shall be recompensed to him again. It is certain God will let nobody lose by him; but never any one yet durst make a demand of this kind, or attempt to prove it. This is here suggested, (1.) To silence the clamours of the Jews. When God took away their visible church-privileges from them, he did but take his own: and may he not do what he will with his own—give or withhold his grace where and when he pleases? (2.) To silence the insultings of the Gentiles. When God sent the gospel among them, and gave so many of them grace and wisdom to accept of it, it was not because he owed them so much favour, or that they could challenge it as a debt, but of his own good pleasure.

2. He resolves all into the sovereignty of God (Rom. 11:36): For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things, that is, God is all in all. All things in heaven and earth (especially those things which relate to our salvation, the things which belong to our peace) are of him by way of creation, through him by way of providential influence, that they may be to him in their final tendency and result. Of God as the spring and fountain of all, through Christ, God-man, as the conveyance, to God as the ultimate end. These three include, in general, all God’s causal relations to his creatures: of him as the first efficient cause, through him as the supreme directing cause, to him as the ultimate final cause; for the Lord hath made all for himself, Rev. 4:11. If all be of him and through him, there is all the reason in the world that all should be to him and for him. It is a necessary circulation; if the rivers received their waters from the sea, they return them to the sea again, Eccl. 1:7. To do all to the glory of God is to make a virtue of necessity; for all shall in the end be to him, whether we will or no. And so he concludes with a short doxology: To whom be glory for ever, Amen. God’s universal agency as the first cause, the sovereign ruler, and the last end, ought to be the matter of our adoration. Thus all his works do praise him objectively; but his saints do bless him actively; they hand that praise to him which all the creatures do minister matter for, Ps. 145:10. Paul had been discoursing at large of the counsels of God concerning man, sifting the point with a great deal of accuracy; but, after all, he concludes with the acknowledgment of the divine sovereignty, as that into which all these things must be ultimately resolved, and in which alone the mind can safely and sweetly rest. This is, if not the scholastic way, yet the Christian way, of disputation. Whatever are the premises, let god’s glory be the conclusion; especially when we come to talk of the divine counsels and actings, it is best for us to turn our arguments into awful and serious adorations. The glorified saints, that see furthest into these mysteries, never dispute, but praise to eternity.