‘I will be gracious upon whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy upon whom I will show mercy.’ Exodus 33:19
Suggested Further Reading: Romans 9:14–26
Our opponents put the case thus: suppose a father should condemn some of his children to extreme misery, and make others supremely happy, out of his own arbitrary will, would it be right and just? Would it not be brutal and detestable? My answer is, of course, it would; it would be detestable in the highest degree, and far, very far be it from us to impute such a course of action to the Judge of all the earth. But the case stated is not at all the one under consideration, but one as opposite from it as light from darkness. Sinful man is not now in the position of a well-deserving or innocent child, neither does God occupy the place of a complacent parent. We will suppose another case far nearer the mark, indeed, it is no supposition, but an exact description of the whole matter. A number of criminals, guilty of the most aggravated and detestable crimes, are righteously condemned to die, and die they must, unless the king shall exercise the prerogative vested in him, and give them a free pardon. If for good and sufficient reasons, known only to himself, the king chooses to forgive a certain number, and to leave the rest for execution, is there anything cruel or unrighteous here? If, by some wise means, the ends of justice can be even better answered by the sparing of the pardoned ones, than by their condemnation, while at the same time, the punishment of some tends to honour the justice of the lawgiver, who shall dare to find fault? None, I venture to say, but those who are the enemies of the state and of the king. And so may we well ask, ‘Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.’
For meditation: Our accusations of injustice against God arise from mistaken assumptions. Against the Lord Jesus Christ the Jews argued that they were all free and children of God (John 8:33,41); whereas the truth is that by nature they and we are all slaves of sin and children of the devil (John 8:34,44). What should amaze us is not that God would punish us for our sin, but that he chooses to have mercy upon any of us at all!
Sermon no. 553
7 February (1864)