God's absolute and irresistible proprietorship has been and is being displayed in the spiritual realm as manifestly as in the natural. Isaac is blessed, but Ishmael is cursed. Jacob is loved, but Esau is hated. Israel becomes God's favored people, while all other nations are suffered to remain in idolatry. Jesse's seven sons were all passed by, and David the shepherd-boy was found to be the one after God's own heart. The Saviour took on Him the "seed of Abraham" (Heb. 2:16), not the seed of Adam. His ministry was not worldward, but confined to the people chosen of God. The proud Pharisees were rejected, while publicans and harlots were sweetly compelled by sovereign grace to sit down at the Gospel feast. The rich young ruler, who from his youth up, had kept the commandments, was allowed to go away from Christ "sorrowing," even though he had sought Him with real earnestness and humility, while the fallen Samaritan woman (John 4) who sought Him not is made to rejoice in the forgiveness of her sins. Two thieves hung by Christ on the cross; they were equally guilty, equally needy, equally near to Him. One of them is moved to cry: "Lord, remember me" and is taken to Paradise, while the other is suffered to die in his sins and sink down into a hopeless eternity. Many are called, but few are chosen.
Yes, Salvation is God's sovereign work. "God does not save a man because he is a sinner, for if so He must save all men, for all are sinners. Nor because he comes to Christ, for `no man can come except the Father draw him;' nor because he repents, for `God gives repentance unto life;' nor because he believes,' for no one can believe `except it were given him from above;' nor yet because he holds out faithful to the end, for `we are kept by the power of God.' It is not because of baptism, for many are saved without it, and many are lost with it. It is not because of regeneration, for that would make the new birth a practical duty. It is not because of morality, for the moralist is the hardeth to reach, and many of the most immoral are saved - the ground of distinguishing grace is the Sovereignty of God: `Even so Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight'" (J. B. Moody).
But is God partial? We answer, Has He not a right to be? Again we quote from Mr. Spurgeon's sermon "The Royal Prerogative" -"Spiritually, too, this prerogative is with God. We are by nature under the condemnation of the law on account of our sins, and we are like criminals tried, convicted, sentenced, and left for death. It is for God, as the great Judge, to see the sentence executed, or to issue a free pardon, according as He pleases; and He will have us know that it is upon His supreme pleasure that this matter depends. Over the head of a universe of sinners, I hear this sentence thundering. "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Shut up for death, as men are by reason of their sins, it rests with God to pardon whom He may reserve: none have any claim to His favour, and it must be exercised upon mere prerogative, because He is the Lord God, merciful and gracious, and delighteth to pass by transgression and sin." How far away have the present-day admirers of Spurgeon departed from the teaching of this prince of preachers: Mark carefully the next sentences: "Our text, however, puts the prerogative upon the one sole ground of Lordship, and we prefer to come back to that. `Unto God the Lord belong the issues from death.' It is a doctrine which is very unpalatable in these days (it always has been. - A.W.P.), but one nevertheless which is to be held and taught, that God is an absolute Sovereign, and doeth as He wills. The words of Paul may not be suffered to sleep, - "Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, why hast Thou made me thus?" The Lord cannot do amiss, His perfect nature is a law unto itself. In his case Rex is Lex, the King is the Law."
Is God partial? Certainly He is. And has He not the right to be? Shall He not dispense His favours as He wills, and bestow His gifts on whom He pleases? But it is reasonable to suppose that God who is Love has created millions of creatures to be lost? seeing that His elect constitute but a "remnant." a "few," in comparison with the great multitudes who die unsaved? We reply, it is not a question of reason but of revelation. There are many things revealed in Scripture which are contrary to reason. Is it reasonable to think that God would give His only begotten Son to die for sinners? Ah, reason is ruled out entirely here. And so in many other things. If it lay within the power of the reader, would you suffer your worst enemy to be eternally tormented? And if you are honest, you will promptly answer, No! But God will deal thus with His enemies, and the sentence will be a righteous one, whether we can now discern its justice or not, for the Judge of all the earth will do right. How far asunder then is carnal reasoning from the teaching of Holy Writ concerning Eternal Punishment! Once more: would the reader "laugh at" and "mock" his worst enemy if that enemy was being severely punished before him and was entirely helpless to deliver himself from that punishment? Yet Scripture explicitly declares that God will "laugh" at the calamity of His enemies and "mock" when their fear cometh (see Ps. 2:4; Prov. 1:26). Can your reason harmonize this with your knowledge of God? And again we say, If you are honest you must reply, No! Then why prate so loudly and blatantly about the unreasonableness of Reprobation and of God's absolute Sovereignty in salvation? Once more: here is Satan, the age-long enemy of God and many, the one who has wrought incalculable evil, securely imprisoned at last in the bottomless pit. There he remains chained for a thousand years. Now would you, my reader, suggest for a moment that the Devil be released from that prison after the earth had been freed for a thousand years from his vile presence? Certainly you would not, and yet this is precisely what Divine revelation declares shall come to pass. The Scriptures of Truth make known how that God will cause the Serpent to be "loosed" for a little season, that God will suffer this even though He knows beforehand that the consequences will be the most dreadful revolt on the part of men, under Satan, revolt against God, which this earth has ever witnessed. Truly God's ways are different, very different from ours. Learn then the utter folly of man attempting to pronounce upon the reasonableness or unreasonableness of the doings and dealings of the Most High God. And now a few words by way of exhortation and we must conclude.
One of the most flagrant sins of this age is irreverence. By irreverence I am not now thinking of open blasphemy, or the taking of God's name in vain. Irreverence is, also, failure to ascribe the glory which is due the great and dreadful majesty of the Almighty. It is the limiting of His power and actions by our degrading conceptions: it is the bringing of the Lord God down to our level. There are multitudes of those who do not profess to be Christians who deny that God is the omnipotent Creator, and there are multitudes of professing Christians who deny that God is absolute Sovereign. Men boast of their free will, prate of their power, and are proud of their achievements. They know not that their lives are at the sovereign disposal of the Divine Despot. They know not that they have no more power to thwart His secret counsel than a worm has to resist the tread of an elephant. They know not that God is the Potter, and they the clay.
Ah, my reader, this is the first great lesson we have to learn: that God is the Creator, we the creature; that He is the Potter, we the clay. This is the harvest of all life's lessons, and when we think we have learnt them, we soon discover that we have need to re-learn them. God is God and has the right to dispose of me as He sees fit. It is for Him to say where I shall live - whether in America or Africa. It is for Him to say under what circumstances I shall live - whether amid riches or poverty, whether in health or in sickness. It is for Him to say how long I shall live - whether I shall be cut down in youth, like the flower of the field, or whether I shall live unto old age. Yes, and it is for Him to say where I shall spend eternity.
The first sin of man was the refusal to be clay in the Potter's hand; Adam wanted to be something more - "Ye shall be as God's was the bait which the Tempter used to hurl him to his destruction.
One of the profoundest mysteries of the Incarnation is that "the mighty God" descended from highest heaven and took upon Him the nature of the creature and came down here to show us how to wear it. That which differentiated the Life of Christ from all other lives, was His absolute and joyous submission to the Father's will - "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me" struck the keynote of the thirty-three years that He tabernacled among men. Have you profited by the example left us by the Beloved of the Father? Has Divine grace shown you how to wear your creature nature? Only if you live not in self-assertion, but in self-renunciation. Only if in the school of Christ you have been taught to say, "Not my will, but Thine be done." O may Divine grace so subdue our rebellious hearts that more and more we can say:
bow me to Thy will, O God,
And all Thy ways adore!
And every day I live I'd seek
To please Thee more and more.
will, the good, the blessed rule
Of Jesus' toil and tears:
Thy will the passion of His heart
Those three and thirty years.
love to kiss each print where Christ
Did set His pilgrim feet:
Nor can I fear that blessed path,
Whose traces are so sweet.
obstacles and trials seem
Like prison walls to be,
I do the little I can do,
And leave the rest to Thee.
know not what it is to doubt,
My heart is ever gay;
I run no risk, for, come what will,
Thou always hast Thy way."