Scriptures Ascribe To God Pity Towards Lost.

This view1 has a great advantage in that it reveals and enables us to receive those precious declarations of Scripture which declare the compassion of God towards even lost sinners. The glory of these representations is that they show us God’s benevolence as an infinite attribute, like all His other perfection’s. Even where it is rationally restrained, it exists. The fact that there is a lost order of angels, and that there are persons in our guilty race, who are objects of God’s decree of preterition, does not arise from any stint or failure of this infinite benevolence. It is as infinite, viewed as it qualifies God’s nature only as though He had given expression to it in the salvation of all the devils and lost men. We can now receive, without any abatement, such blessed declarations as Ps. 81:13; Ezek. 18:32; Luke 19:41, 42. We have no occasion for such questionable, and even perilous exegesis, as even Calvin2 and Turretin feel themselves constrained to apply to the last. Afraid lest God’s principle of compassion (not purpose of rescue), towards sinners non elect, should find any expression, and thus mar the symmetry of their logic, they say that it was not Messiah the God man and Mediator, who wept over reprobate Jerusalem; but only the humanity of Jesus, our pattern. I ask. Is it competent to a mere humanity to say, “How often would I have gathered your children?” And to pronounce a final doom, “Your house is left unto you desolate?” The Calvinist should have paused, when he found himself wresting these Scriptures from the same point of view adopted by the ultra Arminian. But this is not the first time we have seen “extremes meet.” Thus argues the Arminian, “Since God is sovereign and omnipotent, if He has a propension, He indulges it, of course, in volition and action. Therefore, as He declares He had a propension of pity towards contumacious Israel, I conclude that He also had a volition to redeem them, and that He did whatever omnipotence could do against the obstinate contingency of their wills. Here then, I find the bulwark of my doctrine, that even omnipotence cannot certainly determine a free will.” And thus argues the ultra Calvinist. “Since God is sovereign and omnipotent, if He has any propension, He indulges it, of course, in volition and action. But if He had willed to convert reprobate Israel, He would infallibly have succeeded. Therefore He never had any propension of pity at all towards them.” And so this reasoner sets himself to explain away, by unscrupulous exegesis, the most precious revelations of God’s nature! Should not this fact, that two opposite conclusions are thus drawn from the same premises have suggested error in the premises? And the error of both extremists is just here. It is not true that if God has an active principle looking towards a given object, He will always express it in volition and action. This, as I have shown, is no more true of God than of a righteous and wise man. And as the good man, who was touched with a case of destitution, and yet determined that it was his duty not to use the money he had in giving alms, might consistently express what he truly felt of pity, by a kind word; so God consistently reveals the principle of compassion as to those whom, for wise reasons, He is determined not to save. We know that God’s omnipotence surely accomplishes every purpose of His grace. Hence, we know that He did not purposely design Christ’s sacrifice to effect the redemption of any others than the elect. But we hold it perfectly consistent with this truth, that the expiation of Christ for sin expiation of infinite value and universal fitness should be held forth to the whole world, elect and non elect, as a manifestation of the benevolence of God’s nature. God here exhibits a provision which is so related to the sin of the race, that by it, all those obstacles to every sinner’s return to his love, which his guilt and the law presents, are ready to be taken out of the way. But in every sinner, another class of obstacles exists; those, namely, arising out of the sinner’s own depraved will. As to the elect, God takes these obstacles also out of the way, by His omnipotent calling, in pursuance of the covenant of redemption made with, and fulfilled for them by their Mediator. As to the non elect, God has judged it best not to take this class of obstacles out of the way, the men therefore go on to indulge their own will in neglecting or rejecting Christ.  Dabney, Lectures, 532-533. [Footnotes mine and underlining mine.]


1The view that ascribes to God a disposition of pity towards the lost.

2Here, for some reason, Dabney is misataken in that Calvin adopts the reading of these verses in line with Dabney’s. The idea that in Matthew 23:37, Christ merely as a man desires to gather the “children” of the city is foreign to Calvin. For Calvin on Matthew 23:37 see here. Dabney is correct, however, on identifying Turretin’s position on this.

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